Dungeons and Dragons creates really great monsters, detailed descriptions, histories and motivations, different styles of living, and many really cool powers. Which just makes it more frustrating how difficult it is to use those monsters. It’s hard to find monsters that can be used together, the players can defeat most powers in the same 2-3 ways, and those cool backstories get in the way of your game at least as often as they help.
I’m writing this blog with the aim of accomplishing 3-4 things.
- Give me minions: It can be really hard to find monsters in the monster manual that go along with many [most] of the monsters. I’ve seen kobold dungeons that consist of kobolds and one or two beasts, gnoll dungeons that consist of gnolls and one or two beasts, etc’. Those rare monsters that are given minions [the aboleth and the mind flayer], are given exactly one each. Plus, you’ll need familarity with the monster manual the find them. They aren’t mentioned in the boss monster’s entry.
I’m working to change that. I intend to give four encounters to each monster, which can be used as given or taken as a list of minion suggestions. This will give each monster 4-6 monsters that go along with it, and will hopefully allow DMs to add a bit more variety to their dungeons. I will also be working to keep each of the battles different, using different monsters, and I will avoid using other monsters of the same type, or at least try to bring in other types as well. (For example, I won’t be building combats for demons by combining that demon with other demons. You don’t need me for that idea.)
(For even more selection, look at the monsters I suggested to go along with the original monster. For example, for more monsters to go along with the aboleth, look at the chuul page, the water elemental page, and the rest. At least some of the monsters on those pages should work.)
(A note on difficulty rating. I’m going to give each battle a number, indicating its difficulty. I’m choosing that number by adding together the XP of all the monsters (without any multipliers), and then rounding the total to the nearest CR. See also my note at the end of 2.)
- The monster goes rooaar, and … attacks, I suppose. I will be providing at least one combat encounter to go with each monster. These encounters will be kept as general and without plot as possible in order to make them usable in any campaign, with no more than [hopefully] minor changes to the campaign. The encounters will take advantage of terrain, traps, and the monsters’ natural abilities, in order to create epic fights for you to use when you want them. [I envision them being used for when you want an especially epic fight, not for every single run-of-the-mill type fight. You can also take ideas from them without using my fights in their entirety.]
[Note: I am going to give them difficulty ratings. These difficulty rating are based entirely on my own estimations, but I aim to match CR as best I can. That said, CR is set to give easy fights. I’ve seen it estimated that the players should be able to win 8 battles against their CR per long rest. For memorable battles, and especially when you want a battle to be epic, I recommend you set the difficulty 25-50% higher that the CR of the party’s level. Personally, I do it any time I want a real battle. (As opposed to posting guards for the sake of the setting.)]
- What the heck to I do with this? As mentioned above, while the descriptions of the flavor text have much variety and are very interesting to read through, they don’t always lead easily to gameplay. Many monsters have backstory that ranges from difficult to use (such as the riddles of the sphinx. In almost any given party, 1-2 players are somewhat interested and everybody else is bored,) to virtually impossible (such as the “persuasions” of the succubus.)
I plan to discuss what can be done with such monsters, how best to use them in your game without completely rewriting their descriptions.
[I also plan to discuss using good-alignment monsters while avoiding the question of why aren’t these monsters taking care of the villains themselves, if they’re good? How to use dragons more than once when the monster manual provides forty stat blocks for them that are all virtually identical, tips for making the most famous monsters (vampires, T-rex, Lich, Werewolf, Unicorn, etc.’) seem suitably epic, monsters whose backstory seems to preclude them from being used for anything besides random encounters (the bulette and the nothic, for example), and much more.)
- Now it’s your turn! I’m hoping to share many ideas, but in the end of the day I am only one person. Have you ever run a monster in an original and interesting way, or been in a game where the DM did that? Or perhaps you simply have ideas that you would like to share. I’m inviting you to share them here.
There are already several forums for D&D, and I’m not creating another one. What I would like to make is a collection of ideas for the running of the various monsters. I hope to gather together any ideas given to me that I find at all worthy [I.e., potentially useful for another DM running that monster.] Any idea given to me will be highlighted as such, and I will present them under the name [or pseudonym, for those who prefer] of the one who submitted them.