Wednesday 26 June 2013

High-Concept Monster Suites

How many movies owe their existence to fevered high-concept pitches like:

"It's like Dracula, but with a soul brother!"
"Like Jaws, but with a squid!"
"Like Deliverance, but with mutants!"

This suggests a technique I find myself using more and more, to rescue adventure locations from the same old, dull, "ogres and gray oozes and rust monsters" dungeon crew. The critters do the same things as the classic monsters, even with the same stats, but the look and feel is different - which may change the special abilities as well.

"Like zoo animals, but X-treme!*"

I'm doing this right now in my party's current dungeon, but I can't spoil the exact details. So here are a few  examples, rolled up on the spot using my dungeon encounter table (to the right). You can take the first monster or the most distinctive one as the basis for the theme.


Original rolls: Necrophidius, giant rats, kenku, minor devil
Now: Skeletal rats, necrophidius as is, bony bird-men, lesser bone devil.


Original rolls: Grell, ogres, winter wolf, giant lizards
Now: Grell, brain ogres with extra pair of tentacles (2 weapon attacks), cryo-psychic brain hound with ice attack, lizards who move on 4 snake bodies (tentacles).


Original rolls: Homunculus, purple worm, bat swarm, giant spider
Now: Homunculus; summoning circle that "slinkies" out into a purple-worm-like monster if disturbed; book that, if opened, creates a stream of origami bats from its pages (beware paper cuts); formerly itsy bitsy spider that wandered into an enlargement ray.

* I hereby motion to replace all uses of the term "dire" in Wizards D&D with "X-treme"


  1. _YES_

    I really, really like this and see an enormous amount of potential, especially if coupled with some longer meditations on how to really make these ad hoc skins sing.


  2. * I hereby motion to replace all uses of the term "dire" in Wizards D&D with "X-treme"

    I think that's the big reveal for D&D 5e

  3. I like the idea for something different to spice up the palate of jaded players.

    Who makes the dire wolf mini in your illustration?

    1. Those are all Wizards' D&D miniatures. "3rd edition, where even the woodland animals have spikes!"

    2. Thanks for the info Roger.

      Luckily they aren't Games Workshop minis as then it would be obligatory for them to be called "Chaos Critters" and have even more spikes :-)