Archives of Nethys

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Appendix 1: Creating Monsters and Other NPCs

Step 6: Special Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 141
Most of the powers that set an NPC apart come in the form of special abilities. These include special actions the NPC can take, resistances against forms of attack, special modes of movement, and adjustments to their statistics.

Though you can pick any special ability for any NPC independent of its array, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. For example, special abilities that will see more use in a fight (such as certain feats and the multiattack ability) are most appropriate for a combatant creature; however, if you give a combatant too many abilities that each take an action, it might not be able to use all of those abilities during an encounter. Special abilities that increase skill bonuses or interact with skill use are most appropriate for an expert creature. Special abilities that improve a creature’s spellcasting ability are most appropriate for a spellcaster creature.

Universal Creature Rules as Special Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 142
Universal creature rules can be used as a special abilities; these rules can be found in Appendix 4, starting on page 152. Some of these require you to determine the parameters of the ability. For instance, if you give a creature a breath weapon, you need to pick its size, damage type, and frequency. Such abilities often have a Guidelines entry to assist you.

Special abilities that only adjust a NPC’s basic statistics aren’t listed in the creature’s stat block; their effects are simply calculated into the statistics.

Feats as Special Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 142
Most NPCs don’t have feats. However, you can assign them feats, such as those from the Starfinder Core Rulebook, as special abilities. Generally, if a feat just adjusts a creature’s statistics or applies all the time (such as Improved Initiative), it’s best to just include it in the NPC’s statistics and count it toward the NPC’s maximum number of special abilities if it makes a big difference (otherwise it is free). The best feats to pick for an NPC are those that give different attacks or actions most NPCs can’t do without the feat.

Free Special Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 142
Special abilities that aren’t major enough to count toward the NPC’s maximum number of special abilities are designated as free special abilities. Examples include nonstandard modes of movement (such as a burrow, climb, fly, or swim speed), certain senses (see the sidebar above), and limited telepathy (Starfinder Core Rulebook 265). In general, if an NPC needs an ability such as amphibious or water breathing to survive in its natural environment, that ability should be free.

Weaknesses: Special abilities that are actually detriments (such as a dependency or vulnerability) count as free special abilities. In fact, you might want to give a creature a weakness if you have given it many helpful special abilities. Abilities that grant a benefit but impose a drawback (such as mindless) are likewise free special abilities.

Adjustment Special Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 142
This category of abilities adjusts an NPC’s basic statistics without requiring you to reference other rules. These abilities can turn an NPC into a big bruiser or give it special defenses that affect only the statistics of the array. In general, don’t choose a single adjustment special ability more than once.

Brute: Use the low attack value for the NPC’s main attack, but determine the attack’s damage as if the NPC’s CR were 2 higher (adding the extra damage from weapon specialization). This special ability has a greater impact at higher CRs.
Extra Hit Points: Increase the NPC’s HP by 20%.
Save Boost: Increase all saving throw bonuses by 1 or one saving throw bonus by 3.
Secondary Magic: The NPC gains spell-like abilities (chosen in Step 8) according to its CR, though it gains only the once-per-day spells or one spell per unit of frequency (at will, 1/day, etc.).
Skillful: Increase all master and good skill bonuses by 1.

Creating New Abilities

Source Alien Archive pg. 142
The special abilities in this book cover common attributes and those granted by creature types and subtypes, but NPCs come in nigh-infinite variety, so at some point you’ll make an NPC that requires new abilities. When crafting an ability from scratch, look for an existing special ability or spell that is similar to it and see what types of creatures typically have that ability or what level the spell is. Use the CRs of those creatures or the spell’s level to determine whether your ability is appropriate for the CR you’ve chosen for your NPC.