Also I don't know the 3,5 edition very well, because I am not a "paper-and-pencil" player and just a computer gamer, who saw this system in several games.

I am trying to build a "monster calculator" tool, which is based on mysql database as back-end and libreoffice as front-end applications. By analyzing monster statistics blocks I see that most parameters (esp. number ones) could be assigned in database quite easy, but I am stuck at the following aspect.

Is there a manual, guide or other information block, that describe monster traits in details? I mean that the player feats or skills are described in details in player's handbook (and other sources), while many general monster traits only have a name.

I will try to detail my question on example. Monsters have type and subtypes and often types and subtypes have their own traits that transferred to the creature. So I am building a database table that stores all traits (AND creature special quantities and attacks, since imho it's all the same). My trait table contains 3 columns: - trait name - trait type (ex, su or sp) - description

Lets take for an example an angel subtype - it has a strongly marked traits, which are easily posted as database records.

For example "protective aura" - trait name; Su - trait type; and descriptive text. For the angel's subtype acid immunity there is no indication what trait type is it and no descriptive text (though understandable what it does). The same goes for other immunities, resistances, racial bonus vs poison and etc. Also I don't understand what trait type it is if that isn't noted - fire immunity - ex, su or sp trait? I would assume its an "ex".

And also I am stuck while reading incorporeal subtype - there is too much descriptive text, while there is no distinctly allocated traits. While building the database I am trying to classify and itemize all things, to divide them on "buffs" or "debuffs" speaking on gamer's language and in that particular case I don't get how to do it.

Here is a block of descriptive text for incorporeal subtype:

"An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it has a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for positive energy, negative energy, force effects such as magic missile, or attacks made with ghost touch weapons). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead, but a hit with holy water has a 50% chance of not affecting an incorporeal creature."

That one. So how I should treat this? As one single trait? Or break on "small" traits? For example "immune to all nonmagical attack forms" looks to me as a physical immunity. 50% chance to ignore corporeal source damage looks to me as another trait, but in this case there is no name or trait type for it. Holy water is another and etc.

So this is my question (and not a single one as I reread my post). Sorry for its length and sorry again if here is a wrong place for it, because I don't know where else to post it. I am sure there are people here who can help me with it, but may be answer on it goes out for the border of this site, so I am ready to discuss this in private.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have an existing SQL script here, which I modified out of one provided by John H. Kim. You might find it useful. Note that I've been too lazy to normalize the monsters table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Aug 26, 2015 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, WotC has always been inconsistent in applying their [Su], [Ex] and [Sp] tags to creature special attacks and abilities.

I can recall reading somewhere (but this is a second hand information at most) that the original idea was to have a fourth tag for natural capabilities, but how is the Solar's spellcasting abilities (infamously not listed in the previously seen categories and toroughly argued to be gained when shapechanging into a Solar) "natural", when the very definition of [Ex] is along the lines of "anything not possible in real life"?

They surely made a huge mess.

Incorpopreal, however, needs to be treated as the single trait it is, despite the multitude of effects. A spell that makes you incorporeal automatically gives you everything in the description you posted.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out that the system is not consistent. The OP faces a problem similar to that faced by ecologists, psychologists, and other experts on complex natural phenomena: Not everything in their chosen field falls into clear-cut categories, so any effort that depends on those categories existing first needs to define what they are. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Aug 27, 2015 at 0:14

The missing category name is natural abilities

According to the Player's Handbook, the category natural abilities

includes abilities a creature has because of its physical nature, such as a bird’s ability to fly. Natural abilities are those not otherwise designated as extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like. (180)

So all of those things that aren't otherwise categorized as Ex, Su, and Sp are categorized as natural abilities (which is given the shorthand of no designation at all).

Some special abilities and traits are just nameless

I agree that it's frustrating, but sometimes the game just doesn't give a thing a name. For example, the traditional dwarf has several traits, some with names (e.g. stability, stonecunning) and some without (e.g. the ability to move at full speed while wearing up to heavy armor or carrying up to a heavy load, a +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class from attacks by creatures possessing the type giant), seemingly at random. Unless you are willing to name a thing, some things won't have names.

Consider working backward

As Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 is a currently closed system (with the last new releases being updated versions of the core rulebooks in 2012 and the two compendiums in 2013), and that usually newer text replaces older text unless the newer contradicts the core rules, working backward from the end of the game's run to the beginning means, for example, not needing to delete already entered text.

This, conveniently, makes the incorporeal subtype given in the Monster Manual (2012) the most recent and most accurate. It's also a lone entry, with nothing (so far as I know) looking for the individual doohickeys granted by the subtype. That is, some requirements, prerequisites and effects check if the creature possesses the incorporeal subtype, but nothing checks, for example, if the creature can move into solid objects.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, but can i ask how natural abilities are treated regarding to dispel, spell-resistance, attacks of opportunity and antimagic field. On d20srd there is a table that clearly shows how ex, su or sp work within this conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Darkloke
    Aug 26, 2015 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Darkloke The game doesn't say, but SR and the spells anti-magic fie1d and dispel magic et al. should have no effect (because they don't say they do have an effect), and, as most natural abilities are passive, few will have any interaction with the action economy at all. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26, 2015 at 9:31

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