Hi Fat Action Figure,
Don’t worry, you’re not alone; I’m a 4E designer, and I can’t even make sense of the inconsistencies in the Monster Manual half the time.
As you have certainly learned, monsters stats aren’t as straightforward in 4E as they were in 3.5E. There’s more wiggle room – artistic license, even. However, there are some underlying rules that form the basis of a monster’s attack bonuses, and it’s based on the monster’s role (artillery, brute, controller, skirmisher, etc.) and which defense the monster is attacking. Let me break down the basic attack bonuses for attacks against AC (the most common) for the various roles, as written in the DMG:
Artillery – Level +7
Brute – Level +3
Controller – Level +5
Lurker – Level +5
Skirmisher – Level +5
Soldier – Level +7
Now, the attack bonuses above only represent a melee or ranged attack against a single opponent; they can actually change with attacks that affect multiple opponents; and change again if the monster’s attack targets another defense (Fort, Ref, Will). In addition, these are only the base line bonuses; designers often increase or decrease them by a few points (usually decrease) if it is appropriate for the monster. Also, you’ll notice that the monster’s ability scores play no part in the determination of its attack bonus.
Okay, let’s look at the dwarf bolter you mentioned. He’s a level 4 artillery; so his basic attacks against AC should be +11 (level 4 plus 7). However, you can see that the MM designers have decided to adjust that a bit. His warhammer attack is only +8, and his crossbow attack is only +10. This is actually pretty common for monsters with the artillery role. Since they are ranged attack monsters, their melee attack is usually 2 to 3 points lower than their ranged attack. This is true in the case of the dwarf bolter; in addition, the designer saw fit to adjust the bolter’s attack bonuses down by 1 point.
factor in the monster’s ability score bonuses, and is fairly consistent throughout the Monster Manual. In the case of the dwarf bolter, his Strength of 14 gives him a +2 bonus to damage rolls with his warhammer; and his 16 Dexterity gives him a +3 bonus to damage rolls with his crossbow.
Okay, that’s the very basics. Just remember, 4E takes a more of a “get-it-in-the-ballpark” approach to monster stats, which is a huge departure from 3.5E monster stats. Once you get used to that, it’s actually a lot of fun designing monsters – and a lot less work!