I Swing the Vorpal Spork of Irony like some Hyperborean Usurper through the Hordes of the Unwashed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buiding a Better Monster (templates needed)

So I'm listening to Wotcs' Monster Builder panel from GenCon.  What's struck me most is that they are advocating doing the same things that I've been doing all along.  What does that mean?  I should be working for Wotc?  Well maybe not.  Perhaps what it means is that Monster Building is easier than you would think it is.  In my recent experience, deciding that I wanted to do it was the hardest part.  Enter Wotc's Digital tools.  Say whatever want, but the tools that they've managed to get up totally kick ass.  In the case of the Monster Builder, it's completely addictive. 
Basically what it allows you to do is edit, tweak, and create absolutely any monster you want.  Let's say you want to totally re-engineer an AD&D monster.  You can choose a random monster to change or edit, or you can find a monster that is similar to what you want to do and then change it's name and tweak that.  In the case of the Morkoth I chose the Aboleth Slime Mage as a Template, and when you are done you can save and print it.
I would be extremely interested to learn how more experienced DM's tweak monsters in 3.5 or older editions.  More to come.


  1. Lower level creatures are easy to tweak on the fly, but Epic level ones can take an extremely long time to stat up, especially if they have/use equipment. You can literally spend hours building them. For most of the rank-and-file monsters I would just handwave it. You would know the general range the stats need to fall in order to be a challenge to your players, so I usually would fill in the blanks as I went.

    However, I nearly always craft every encounter for my games, even the "random" ones come from a folder of "hand crafted" random encounters. It might seem like it its on the fly but I almost always have at least a "cheat sheet".

    Remember PC's rarely get a lock on the mechanical builds, and let's face it, they tend to be more concerned with the end results (how much damage it's doing, how hard it is to hit, and what loot it might have) rather than the specific path you took to get there, or the inconsequential tweaks you spent hours laboring over.

    This is a common theme I noticed in nearly all the games I run, I rarely get that player who "questions" my creatures authenticity. I remember a session I ran with 3.5 not to long ago for a weekend con; I had statted out a tribe of savage grimlocks; some barbarians, a shaman or two, and a crazy derro that kept throwing out illusions and mists that the grimlocks were immune to. The night before the game I pulled out my cheet sheets and recopied them into nice, neat stat-blocks-- and then forgot both sets. I showed up to the game with not one scrap of paper devoted to my main encounter for the session. So I just made it up, I knew the general range of the numbers and ran it on the fly. As long as you're in the acceptable range of what the numbers should be, the players aren't going to know or even care.

    Likewise, you can make up a few archtypical critters, and then come up with a story-based reason about who/what they are, changing their basic description completely changes the monsters in the eyes of the PC's, then if need be simply toss in an extra ability or random item to tweak them (I like to call it "Jazzing them up"). This might seem a little cookie-cutter (because it is), but this actually works in your favor-- once the PC's start to recognize monsters that they've fought before, they won't have to spend as much time trying to figure out how to fight them. And if it starts to feel rote, you can throw in some critters with templates or simple skills to keep the PC's on their toes.

    I should also mention that if you've got access to the intrawebz, you should check out HeroForge ( http://nzcomputers.net/heroforge/default35.asp ) At the same link is MonsterForge, which allows you to quickly advance monsters to ridiculous levels.

  2. Thank You for posting Chris. I'm currently just DMing 4th Ed. but, I do contribute monsters and such to Kobold Quarterly and would like to do some Pathfinder monsters as well.


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