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So I'm trying to tinker with a few custom monsters and decided to give one Nimble Escape.

As a reference, I tried to see how nimble escape interacts with creatures that already possess this ability: the Goblin

Now, page 280 of the DMG states that you should add 4 to the effective AC and Attack Bonus of a monster with Nimble Escape but computing for the Challenge Rating of a Goblin (which is CR 1/4) gives me between 1/2 and 1.

In comparison, a Goblin Boss (CR 1), the only other creature with Nimble Escape in the MM, does not seem to account for the Nimble Escape ability when calculating its CR.

How is this difference reconciled? Is there something I missed about Nimble Escape?

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How is this difference reconciled? Is there something I missed about Nimble Escape?

It isn't. No.

It has been said before on this site (but damned if I can find it) that the CR of the monsters in the Monster Manual were not set using the methodology set forth in the Dungeon Master's Guide - there were established by eyeballing and playtest.

Notwithstanding, the DMG does say (p. 237):

Creating a monster isn't just a number-crunching exercise. The guidelines in this chapter can help you create monsters, but the only way to know whether a monster is fun is to playtest it. After seeing your monster in action, you might want to adjust the challenge rating up or down based on your experiences.

See Ogre CR calculation: is it wrong or am I missing something? for a calculation that goes the other way.

Think of the CR calculation as trying to work out how to fly a spacecraft to the moon with calculations on the back of a napkin.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Another example of something being greater than the sum of its parts is how encounter XP is similarly calculated, with additional monsters increasing the encounter multiplier, because 2 creatures are more than twice as difficult to overcome as one of the same monster. In this way, monster's CR is calculated by adding all of their parts together, and then adding whatever feels necessary. Even if Nimble Escape could be quantified, adding it to other stats and abilities further increases the effectiveness of said ability. I hope I am making sense. It might improve your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 8 '15 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for such an awesome metaphor of flying a spacecraft with such imprecise flight plan. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 14 '16 at 2:45
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Nimble Escape should give the goblin a higher Challenge Rating than what is shown in its stat block but in the end, the goblin was knocked down to CR 1/4, as if ignoring Nimble Escape perhaps due to playtesting as mentioned in this answer by Dale M.

Meanwhile, a Goblin Boss, the only other creature with Nimble Escape in the MM does not get the buff of Nimble Escape because a Goblin Boss isn't designed to hide each round as per the DMG's instruction to handling a creature with Nimble Escape:

Increase the monster's effective AC and effective attack bonus by 4 (assuming the monster hides every round)

I found this confusing at first, I thought this meant that a creature with Nimble Escape should be assumed to hide each round. Now, comparing it to the Breath Weapon ability which says:

... assume the breath weapon hits two targets...

I realized that the latter is a clear instruction on computing the DPR of a Breath Weapon, while the former meant to say "add 4 if the monster is designed to hide every round". This brings us back to the Goblin Boss example, the Goblin Boss should have a CR of 3 with Nimble Escape but it doesn't because, as I said earlier, it wasn't designed to hide each round. Having redirect attack, a Goblin Boss is meant to be the abusive front liner who bullies other Goblins into taking hits for him.

As with the Goblin Boss, the effect of Nimble Escape all boils down to synergy. For example, if a low-dex monster with no stealth bonus is given nimble escape, it would likely have no effect on CR either.

It is unfortunate that the only creatures in the Monster Manual with Nimble Escape seemingly have not received the benefit(or if they have, it still didn't do much), so the only thing to do here is play-test, play-test, play-test. As far as calculations go, I can give a creature +4 if it has synergy, but with this tricky little ability, a lot of play-testing is needed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Gobling Boss is a high Dex monster isn't it? 14 (+2)? \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Gladwell Jun 26 '16 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused as to why you describe it as low dex? "if a low-dex monster... as with the Goblin Boss"? \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Gladwell Jun 28 '16 at 10:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ hmm. I see how you can get confused. I only meant that a low-dex creature would gain no benefit from being able to hide each round, just like the Goblin Boss. Do you have a suggestion so I can word it clearer? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jun 28 '16 at 11:13

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