Contributing author Ryk Perry takes us on a tour of the vastly improved D&D Insider Monster Builder. Create enemies from scratch, or customize any creature in the entire pantheon of 4E monsters. Plus, an updated version of Ryk’s home-brew Famine Spirit.
A while back (kind of a long while actually) I reviewed the Monster Builder 1.06 that was part of the D&D Insider Bonus Tools. Soon after, Wizards released its new Monster Builder as part of the Adventure Tools suite. As I had thought at the time, this new version does indeed fix the drawbacks that 1.06 had. It’s pretty excellent.
For one thing, there is a full library of monsters from official D&D products ranging from the monster manuals to published adventures. It is not quite as complete as the library that exists on the Compendium, but it still boasts over 2500 monsters currently. Plus it is supported by monthly updates just like the Character Builder. Now you can start from scratch or edit an existing monster and save it to your own database. Elite, solo, pesky minion? All supported by the new Monster Builder.
So, how does it work?
You can start with either a brand new design or edit an already existing monster. The new monster template is quite empty so I would suggest editing existing monsters until you get the hang of the formats. Whichever way you start, the Builder puts the monster you are working on in the left window. From there you can edit the various blocks of information, ‘name & role,’ ‘HP & defenses,’ ‘powers,’ ‘ability scores’ and ‘tactics.’
When you click on one of these the center window is filled with text fields and drop down menus that relate to the stats for the specific block. The editor will make general calculations based on the monster’s level and role which you can then edit. You can choose to modify the values as low, average, high or very high, or you can instead type in your own value. Pretty much everything can be edited. Do you find yourself in need of an elite goblin? No problem. Minion dragon? You can do that too. If you create custom damage rather than the suggested values based on power type and level, the editor won’t automatically revamp it when you change levels for the monster, but otherwise, the sky’s the limit.
Another neat feature is the Holding Pen. There you can search for another monster or even power without affecting the monster you’re currently working on. Whether it’s just for reference or to swipe a cool power from an official monster (or even a previously saved custom monster) the holding pen is a neat tool. Do you want to give that solo goblin a white dragon’s breath weapon? Just search for white dragon in the holding pen and drag the power over to the goblin on the left. No fuss no muss.
When you save your creation it joins the ranks of the official monsters in the library, but its name is written in green rather than blue to differentiate it. Then you can edit it later or use your custom monster as the basis for another edit in the future. The new Monster Builder is definitely a time saver for DMs who want to go even a little outside what is already available in the sourcebooks. Even if all you want to do is make the human guard 2 levels higher or elite, a couple quick clicks and you’re done.
There are only a few drawbacks in my mind to the new builder. First, it’s a beta, so you might find some bugs. Aside from one crash that might well have been my computer’s fault, I haven’t encountered any though. Also, it’s part of D&D Insider, so you can’t get it unless you’re a subscriber. But really, the Character Builder is so cool that it justifies the insider subscription by itself. The magazines and the Monster Builder are just gravy.
The exporting of monsters to another document is not particularly intuitive. You have to save and exit from your monster then right click on the name of the monster in the library to copy it to a clipboard. Then you can paste it into another document. It took me about 10 -15 minutes of trial and error (all error) before I finally resorted to reading the help pop-ups to figure out how to do it. The result is that I can offer a sample based on the ‘famine spirit’ from July. Unfortunately it seems famine spirit made it into 4e in Open Grave, so I had to do some quick renaming, but here he is: