Monday, June 23, 2014

How Unique are Your Monsters?

I have no problem with generic orcs, goblins and the like (but even with them, I'd prefer identifiable tribes to add some differentiation) but when it comes to more powerful monsters, I prefer them to be more unique.

It doesn't have to be "The Hill Giant", but "Rodger, Hill Giant of the Fells" works quite fine for me, especially in a sandbox styled campaign.

To me, once you get beyond the basic humanoids and the like, especially in the wilderness, a small snapshot of the monster or adversary works wonders in making them unique.

Dungeons are their own style of environment, and what makes sense (or one is willing to suspend disbelief) in a dungeon environment doesn't work as well when the general populace is involved.

So, how do you handle monsters in your campaigns? Grab one from the Monster Manual, roll it up using Raggi's Random Esoteric Monster Generator, something in between?

(art courtesy of the Aenglum Blog, +Jim Magnusson )


  1. My mooks tend to be generic. Bosses tend toward individuality. Lately I've been creating more "assistants" or "sidekicks" for the bosses, who are individuals as well.

  2. I've definitely been focusing more on individual "boss" monsters. Some are unique, sometimes they're just named, even if the stats are the same.

  3. I've been using generic monsters, but the orks are members of individual tribes. I've got two main ones right now, the Black Moon clan, which is making a move for the ork throne, and the Yellow Clouds, who are necromancer.

  4. I think keeping an edge of recognition is key so I am partial to re-skinning monsters. It keeps the game fresh and makes each setting unique. And yet it is not too removed from what everybody loves to be hard to imagine.

  5. Never use any as written in Monster Manual. Prevents player knowledge from intruding.

  6. Thats how grells, aboleths and beholders started out. And now they are just regular vanilla stock...

    1. Part of why I think Monster Manual is a waste of money.

  7. Usually I don't name monsters. I don't identify them by race either. In the circumstance of Rodger and his ilk, they usually have names that don't identify what kind of monster they are. Like Rodger might be called Rodger the Crusher of the Fell Wood rather than Rodger the Hill Giant of the Fell Wood.

  8. I take 'em RAW, but I'm not above having each player privately write a fact about the monster (could be as an individual, or about the encounter, or the species) and secretly selecting one of the facts to be true. Like an instant player driven rumour table.

  9. The problem is that most people's unique monsters are just some undead variant, a giant variant, or a weird ass thing with tentacles.

    Use whatever monster works. Heroes should know how to defeat normal things, that's what being a hero entails. If nobody had any idea how to fight anything then every encounter becomes running the laundry list of tests for weaknesses rather than tactically planning how to outsmart the foe.

    If you need to make a unique monster, do it, but don't make a semi-demi glaze lich because you think a lich is ordinary.

  10. Whatever monster I use in an encounter during a game, they almost never come equipped with sub-titles, labels, GPS, bar codes, R.F.I.D. or I.D. Tags. Most of them don't even have a decent translator and a lot of them aren't particularly interested in the player characters, not right away...at least some of the time. The players get a short, succinct description and can either try to learn more, take a closer look, or move along. If they want to know what that thing is, they need to do something more than just stand there and speculate...unless they're some kind of scholar, then they can go write a paper or something as more facts would just get in the way.


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