Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Monsters

You may have noticed that I don’t write many posts introducing new species of monster. There are reasons for this – for one, I don’t think it very interesting reading. I gave up on new monsters twenty years ago, with the arrival of the new Monster Manuals, I & II. They had nothing but a tepid reworking of already existing monsters ... and that is mostly all I see today, on websites, on blogs or down at the local gameshop.

This one is a golem shaped as a horse, this one is yet another giant of a different shape and size and having the features of a mage or an assassin; that one is yet one more race with a sadly cliched historical background, and that other one is one more low-level jinxkin designed to steal magic weapons from players.

Using the same old monsters all these years doesn’t seem to bore the parties I run. Yes, they’re goblins, and yes the party knows all there is to know about goblins – their weapons, their armor, the ease with which they are killed.

But what the party doesn’t know, and what is for me the only relevant thing when it comes to how interesting the adventure seems, is what exactly these particular goblins want. Or just what they are doing. What is their motivation?

Different monsters are presumably invented so that campaigns do not become stale and dull. Throw another monster, watch the party figure out the puzzle that monster represents. The puzzle? How do you kill the thing ...

Two criticisms spring to mind. The first, if the only way you can think to change the texture of your campaign is to replace fangs with barbs with various stabby things and ultimately with spells and breath weapons, your campaign is obviously all about the fighting. I get the feeling that it is always the same routine: ‘stand up and fight the new thing.’ This is variety? This is not stale and dull?

Besides, are your players really getting a whole lot out of discovering their hard-earned +2 sword doesn’t work on this monster? Isn’t it just another way to screw them over ... you thought you were tough, but wait until you run up against this monster!

Sounds like a DM with confrontation issues.

On the other hand, if you are coming up with profound new motivations for all these monsters, what do you need new monsters for? The suspense is in the motive and the conflict, not in the material. Cakes don’t get boring because they’re made with the same old flour. There are thousands of ways to make cakes with relatively few ingredients. There are 350 monsters in the original monster manual. You can combine any two to make 122,500 combinations. And you are not limited to two.

But coming up with plots and motivations is much harder work than coming up with a monster that has a breath weapon and sprays acid. Kewl.

I know that many of you just find new monsters ‘kewl’. So for you, for a special treat, I offer a brand new monster I’m sure hasn’t been done before:


Frequency: common or very rare; see below
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: -10
Hit Dice: 14
% in Lair: 100%
Treasure Type: J (under cushions)
No. of Attacks: none
Damage/Attack: none
Special Attacks: sleep charm; successful save vs. fear allows 8 hours sleep
Special Defenses: immune to spells & cold; suffers double damage from fire
Magic Resistance: 0%
Intelligence: variable
Size: L

Found extensively in urban environments, and very rarely in nuclear-wasted environments. Can exist through the careful design of architects and house framers, or may result as the mutation of a radiation-infected human spontaneously. When found in non-urban circumstances, will stand out very plainly among the ruined landscape. In urban environments, tends to remain out of sight until encountered. For this reason, encounter distance indoors is rarely greater than ten to fifteen feet.

Outdoor varieties have the ability to speak and comprehend information as their original selves, but lose any spellcasting abilities they may have had. They tend to be quite depressed.

Bed sitting rooms make suitable hirelings, gaining loyalty very quickly, but can have a high upkeep depending on their market value. They do not have offspring, but other creatures are known to make their lairs within the sitting room’s body. These creatures can sometimes attack without warning.


Zzarchov said...

1.) The bed-sitting room is awesome

2.) I think there is a definitive place for new monsters. As long as they are truly new. Few are, but I have a handful I've crafted over the years I think qualify. I think I'll post one for Halloween.

Alexis said...

I admit, I've thrown together a few myself, tailored for a campaign. I only think that all to often the process is too much 'monster of the week.'

Zzarchov said...

Because you so inspired me, I decided to post what I think is a new monster (correct me if Im wrong)

I admit it is definately a horror creature, but it has a place in a fantasy world, as something truly terrifying to remove.

JB said...

Regaring your sentiments regarding new monsters...I agree. When I ran an AD&D campaign, I never used monsters from Dragon Magazines, or any other place besides the standard Monster Manuals (and not all of those). Most opponents were simply NPCs that were far more challenging.

My own writing project for B/X D&D will include new monsters not found in the original Basic and Expert set, but are generally creatures taken from historical mythology and some fiction...monsters not standard to that edition of D&D.