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Monster cohorts: Level scaling


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So, I'm quite fond of the IDEA of monster cohorts; I'm sure there are quite a lot of people that would rather ride a pegasus or a nightmare rather then a plain horse. I've been looking into them lately, and one thing stood out to me.
"You can use the monsters on the following table as guidelines when determining effective cohort levels for monsters not on this list."

So I've been trying to get an understanding of how to use this. There are a lot of interesting monsters that could make good cohorts, and I'd like to get some feedback from others (and possibly from the devellopers themselves, if they have the time) to appropriately "scale" the proper equivalent cohort level of a monster.
Note: ECL will be the "equivalent cohort level", the starting level of your starting cohort.

1) Entry level VS X parameters

So, there are (as far as I can see) 3 things that influence the ECL:

a: CR:
Generally, higher-CR creatures have a higher ECL. I use this as the "basis" of the ECL. Since a regular "cohort" CR should be about cohort level -1 (IE, a character at level 7, has a cohort at level 5, who's equivalent CR is about CR 4 (for a normal NPC)), the "simplest" ECL is CR+1. This however needs to be adjusted by several factors.

b: Ability scores:

Higher ability scores DIRECTLY relate to a higher ECL. There are several examples , such as the shae (CR 4, ECL 7), the pegasus (CR 3, ECL 6), and the unicorn (CR 3, ECL 8). They all have very high ability scores. This would make them SIGNIFICANTLY more useful with class levels. From what I've seen this could be about a minimum of +2 to the ECL.

c: Special abilities:

These include SLAs, special attacks, extra movement modes. These are a lot harder to quantify, since the quantity/quality can vary so very much.

2) Examples

So here are a few examples (with existing monster cohorts), where I try to decompose the different elements.

Blink dog:

Its CR is 2, thus it's minimum ECL is 3. If we consider it's special abilities (constant blink+dim door), we add +1 to it's ECL for a total of 4.


Its base CR is 4, thus minimum ECL is 5. It has very high stats, thus another +1. It also has special abilities, comparable to those of the blink dog ( constant blur, lesser shadow evocation). This adds another +1, for a final ECL of 7.


Its CR is 3, so the base ECL is 4. Like the shae, it has high stats so another +1. It also has a significant amount of abilites (6 SLAs, powerfulcharge, magical natural weapons), which would account for the last +3. Which brings us to the final total of ECL 8.

So, what do you guys think? Is this decomposition of the ECL reasonable? Can it be used on other creatures? I await your feed back.

Note: this might have to be moved to hombrew. I wasnt sure, but advice seemed to fit better.

Note: there are also a few that I'm unsure of, especially the higher ECL ones. The stone giant is the highest ECL at 18, yet only has CR 8. It has high ability scores, but little else. It's with these moderately more powerful creatures that I am uncertain.


I am doing some comparisons right now, after we both commented on another thread. I will post some conclusions later.

My player also is interested in monster cohorts, we now have brownie and degenerate serpentfolk cohorts. In your opinion, how high their ECL should be?

I'll see if I can check it out tonight. Might be worth making a guide on the subject, if enough people are interested.

Brownie: CR 1 +1 (high ability scores) +2 (spell-likes)=4 (at least, could go higher depending on the quality of spell-likes)

Degen serpentfolk: CR 4 +0 (ability scores average-ish)+1 (good immunities, SR)=5 (at the least)

This is a very crude estimation though. The decision for ability scores is iffy, smae for the powers. What do you guys think?

williamoak you didn't add 1 to the CR for the minimum ECL per your own guidelines. So, following your first post, Brownie= CR 1+1+1(ability scores)+2(spelllikes)= 5. For Serpentfolk, CR 4+1+0(ability scores)+1(defenses)=6. I would probably give them +2 for defenses (+7 nat armor, SR, immune to mind effecting, poison, paralysis) under your rules for ECL 7

Comparing them to monsters on the cohort list already:

The Brownie is 1 HD and CR 1. In many ways, it is similar to the Pixie, only with less HD.

The Pixie is ECL 8. If we subtract 3 from the ECL (for the 3 HD), we get 5. We might subtract 1 more since the Pixie's SLAs are significantly better.

So, Brownie, ECL 4

Degenerate Serpentfolk are 5 HD and CR 4. This puts it around the same place as the Griffon.

The Griffon has flight, pounce and rake; and is ECL 8. The Degenerate Serpentfolk has some immunities, relatively useless SR, and poison. I would call it close enough.

So, Degenerate Serpentfok, ECL 8.

Pretty close to using williamoak's guide.

Ah crap, forgot my own guideline. Quite right samasboy. I'll try to do it for some more creatures later.

Well, since I have a previously expressed interest in Hag cohorts.

Green Hag
williamoak's method
CR 5+1+0(ability scores)+2(spell likes)= ECL 8

comparison method
Drider seems closest, both have 9 HD and CR is just 2 higher. Green Hag SLA's are a bit better better, but the Drider casts as a 6th level caster. We could subtract 2 for losing casting (same as the difference in CR).

Comes out to ECL 9

Annis Hag
williamoak's method
CR 6+1+1(ability scores)+1(spell likes)= ECL 9

comparison method
A Babau demon has the same HD and CR. The Babau has much better defenses (-1) and better spell likes (-1). The Babau is ECL 11.

So, ECL 9 seems about right.

Sea Hag
CR 4+1+1(SU abilities)+1(abilities scores)= ECL 7

comparison method
Pixie has the same HD and CR at ECL 8. -2 since Sea Hag has no SLA, +1 for SU abilities.

ECL 7 works here too.

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