Friday Links, December 4, 2009
Another week of awesome posts in the gaming blog community means I'm back with a…
What is it about monsters that get us going as gamers? Whether we see them in movies, on television, or read about them in books and comics, every new creature gives us something new to dread, exploit, and plot as GMs…
But it’s left me wondering… What exactly makes a monster “monstrous”? I set out to figure that out and came up with this mind map you can see to the right of this post… There’s all sorts of things in that mess, but I think it boils down to four main things:
Each of these describes a different part of the monster’s context, basically explaining where they came from and how they fit into the world. It’s less about what they can do. Sure, how many teeth and claws and eye stalks they may have is cool – but why are they there? I’ve never been a big fan of generic random monster tables except as a way to help flesh an area out and offer some ideas on what might be stalking the characters… But how do you take one of those random monsters and turn it into something more?
Or even if it’s not a monster in the traditional fantasy world sense… Look at Khan from Star Trek. He’s just a monster at heart. A guy with some superhuman abilities. But it’s the backstory and his goals that make him interesting as a figure in those stories.
So what can you do with these qualities as a GM?
Let’s take an example of where you might go. If you take a lowly goblin, what do you see? According to the Hypertext d20 SRD…
“A goblin stands 3 to 3½ feet tall and weigh 40 to 45 pounds. Its eyes are usually dull and glazed, varying in color from red to yellow. A goblin’s skin color ranges from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red; usually all members of a single tribe are about the same color. Goblins wear clothing of dark leather, tending toward drab, soiled-looking colors. Goblins speak Goblin; those with Intelligence scores of 12 or higher also speak Common.“
They’re everywhere in standard fantasy worlds and seem to breed like rabbits in dark places. But how do you make your goblins stand out?
Immediately this is a more compelling band of goblins than the ones you might run into normally in a D&D world. But they still can use the basic stats and skills for the existing creatures. We’ve just taken them and reskinned them a bit to give them a reason for causing trouble.
Ultimately this approach could be used to add some flavor to just about any monster, from the lowly henchman to the most vicious giant beast. Why not give an old monster some new paint and see what comes of it?