Thirteen Ways to Skin a Monster… #DnD

Okay, last time we talked about re-skinning powers and keep them balanced.  But what are you going to use those fancy new powers on?

Monsters.

BUT! Those regular old MM1-MM3 monsters won’t cut it for your campaign, and with these new powers they wouldn’t last a second anyways, so let’s beef them up a little bit, shall we?

1. Always Boost Your Damage This makes for a more hard-hitting, scene stealing sort of monster.  Even if it doesn’t hit often, a good solid hit makes your players realize this isn’t an average beastie.  This is also a great way to mod your current monsters on the fly.  Add another die worth of damage before you hit the battle and that 15 minute easy brute battle is suddenly a fight for your life, knock down drag out brawl.

2. Resistances add Character Adding a resistance or a weakness to a monster can change it’s entire nature.  Take away a salamander’s fire resistance and add an acid resistance, and suddenly you have a new race of swamp creatures to populate that living swamp we talked about a few posts back.  Remember, creatures adapt to their environments, so wherever your monster is from, it’s going to be able to live there happily, make their physiology resemble that.

3. Give them some fancy new powers too Your players have new toys, why not your monsters?  In addition to making your monsters have class levels, give them something cool to play with.  Take a good look at what you want them to do.  If you want a really nasty ground-based creature that you’re re-skinning, instead of making it be able to burrow, let it ground-shift, allowing it to dive into the ground and re-appear at a desired place a certain distance away.  This would add some drama and suspense to your game, allowing for serious surprise attacks and ambushes, especially if these beasts can carry a rider or two.

4. Crossbreeding isn’t just for dogs Open your Monster Manual.  Open another book of beasties.  Flip to a random page in each and close your eyes, touching both pages.  Open your eyes.  Make these monsters breed.  It’s how most of the monsters came about in these books anyways.  That or wizards.  You’d be surprised what can happen when you take a pair of random creatures and combine them into one.  Shadow golems, displacer oozes, fungi-infected goblin sappers. The possibilities are nearly endless.

5. Forced Monsters Hypnosis, disease, mind control, implants, hallucinogenics, evil curses.  These can take an ordinary village of peasants or a city full of dwarves and turn them into an overthrowing, hell-bent mass of destructive soldiers.  Worse yet, most true heroes dare not attack the innocent, so you now have a moral dilemma on your hands.   If you don’t want to make your players choose to kill or be killed by tiny people, you can always have the influence change them physically with growths, shadows and other changes.

6. Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory Where all those wizards failed and created awful monstrosities to unleash on the world, you shall succeed….In making WORSE monstrosities to unleash on the world.  Think of the best aspects of your favorite monsters and pick and choose.  If you like natural armor, give something bony plates or thick skin.  Fire breath?  Work into its physiology a methane gas pocket and draconic thimble in its throat.  Great bounding leaps?  Make it have big muscular legs.  The MM’s are just a big grocery store of different parts for your monsters.

Now for the fun stuff:  Make your own

7. Start with  a classification Undead, aberration, humanoid, draconic, construct, whatever.  Figure out what base traits you want your monster to have.  If you can’t decide on just one, monsterous is your friend.  A creature of monsterous nature doesn’t specifically HAVE to fall into any one category.  It can combine the traits of an undead and a tanarii, but not enough to be classified as one or the other.  As always, just have fun with it.

A quick chart for random Classifications:

1

Aberration

2

Animal

3

Construct

4

Dragon

5

Elemental

6

Fey

7

Giant

8

Humanoid

9

Magical Beast

10

Monstrous Humanoid

11

Ooze

12

Outsider

13

Plant

14

Undead

15

Vermin

16

Roll twice

17

Roll on Subtype Chart

18-20

Roll again

1

Air

2

Angel

3

Aquatic

4

Archon

5

Augmented

6

Chaotic

7

Cold

8

Earth

9

Evil

10

Fire

11

Goblinoid

12

Good

13

Incorporial

14

Lawful

15

Native

16

Reptilian

17

Shape-changer

18

Swarm

19

Water

20

Roll twice

8. Motive What drives your monster?  Is it a hell-born killing machine that adorns its lair with the bones and skin of its fallen as it drinks their blood?  Or is it a peaceful defender of its territory, only attacking when it feels threatened?  Drive and motive have a LOT of impact on the game, and your players will appreciate (hopefully) the depth it brings to your creatures.

9. Organization Is your creature one of a kind or are there hundreds of them?  Do they have a hierarchy?  A tribe-based, nomadic lifestyle with a rich history and their own creation story? Or is this monster a lone wanderer, the malformed and unwanted composite of a twisted mind and unskilled hand?  Will your players be facing a handful of these beasties or hordes of them? These are very serious questions and also can add a lot of breadth to your monster’s reactions, alignment, and can even open up story lines if you develop it correctly.

10. Appearance Again, this is crucial for your monster’s role in your game.  Is this beast a lumbering hulk or a diminutive spriteling? Scaled, furred, multi-armed, snake bodied?  Is is a taur-like half beast or an airy djinn-breed? The only thing holding you back here is your own imagination.  Likely you’ve thought up a look for your monster before you even got so far as a name, but I’ll lend you a hand with this as well.

1

Colossal

2

Huge

3

Large

4

Medium

5

Small

6

Tiny

7

Diminutive

8

Roll Again

Change up the…

1

Teeth

2

Arms

3

Legs

4

Skin

5

Eyes

6

Torso

7

Hands

8

Feet

9

Add extra (roll again)

10

Take away (roll again)

11. My mom says I’m Special So what sets this creature apart from every other Joe-gnoll down the street?  Does it read minds or project illusions?  Does it particularly like the taste of toes or does it hate the taste of flesh and just enjoy the chaos of visceral carnage?  Try to make your creation stand out as much as possible, even if it’s a new kind of shadowfiend that the players can’t see, make it special for your game.

12. Make it Fit A Great DM tip is to make sure that every encounter moves the plot forward.  While random encounters are part of D&D history and canon, meaningless battles bog down the story and make it take even longer for your dear players to get where they’re going.  Save that awesome new monster you have for a climactic battle over the last piece of the ancient keystone they’re building.  It’ll make the victory even sweeter.


13. Bring it to life
Don’t just have your beastie sit stagnant and doe standard attacks for five rounds before it dies, USE YOUR TACTICS.  Make it think, make it breathe, make it fight for it’s gods damned life! You spent time on this, make it last to the very end.

 

Next time? New Races…

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~ by darkpatu on November 9, 2011.

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