Monsters and creatures are important parts in most video games—as a GM, you need to use them to inform tales, create plot hooks, and present the lore of the world with out explaining it. We interviewed Celeste Conowitch, Senior Designer at Kobold Press, about monsters—right here’s what she needed to say!
The place to start out? Worldbuilding!
So, first issues first, it’s necessary to not create monsters in isolation. As a substitute, take into consideration how the monsters you create can successfully help the RPG setting you’re constructing and showcase its particulars. Keep in mind the golden rule: present, don’t inform! If you need to use monsters to ratchet up the stress by stalking, threatening, or outright attacking the celebration, that’s a lot better than having an NPC inform the gamers they’re in harmful territory.
One other necessary side to contemplate is the connections between monsters and their setting—what position do they play of their ecosystem? They might know one another, type packs, be predator and prey, and even worship one other monster. Ask your self why do the monsters act the way in which they do, and why it’s necessary for the world and the plot. These monstrous ecosystems could be a key ingredient in your worldbuilding too, and can make the entire thing far more actual and interesting to your gamers.
An instance of worldbuilding by means of monsters is the Ravenloft marketing campaign setting. One purpose it has such a darkish and mysterious ambiance is the truth that so a lot of its creatures are tortured, darkish, and tousled typically. You don’t want the GM to let you know it’s a forbidding, ominous place, you’ll be able to simply really feel it.
Create monsters as plot hooks
Monsters make for excellent plot hooks too! Who controls the monsters? What are the monsters doing? Why are they there? These are all questions that may result in new adventures—and also you’ll discover much more questions should you have a look at your RPG setting and your meta.
A method to do that is by exploring the connection between the monster and its lair. Lairs are often locations the place the traditional guidelines of the world don’t apply (which is why D&D has lair actions!)—it may very well be merely environmental, like a darkish mist that covers every little thing, or be game-changing, like amnesia! To enter a lair, the characters should depart the acquainted behind, which implies their assumptions concerning the world will now not be appropriate. This creates an emotional response in your gamers (they’ll really feel extra defensive or susceptible), which is precisely what you need!
One other approach to make use of monsters as plot hooks is thru the design of the dungeon. Dungeon design is a tough train, because it performs into all of those inquiries to the intense. Particularly should you’re constructing a big dungeon, it’s essential to know why would all of those monsters inhabit it. A believable clarification for his or her presence will routinely create a extra genuine ambiance, which is able to flip dungeon-delving into an precise story somewhat than only a monster-killing recreation.
Use them to bolster theme
Reinforcing the theme of a marketing campaign with monsters could be a problem, as a result of it requires balancing narrative parts with mechanics that may work. One strategy to obtain that is by means of using lair and regional actions—the mist and the amnesia I discussed earlier! If you wish to reinforce thriller, you’ll be able to add lair actions that make individuals see issues that aren’t there, for instance.
Scary monsters are a giant a part of that, as scary your gamers will create that emotional response you’re searching for. To attain that, make sure that the monster is all the time hidden till the ultimate confrontation. As a substitute, give attention to its victims and the wake of its terrors. Your gamers will construct up a way of dread and anticipation that may make the ultimate encounter extra impactful. There’s nothing scarier than the unknown!
For extra suggestions, take a look at our tricks to run horror campaigns!
In fact, it’s also possible to make monsters friendlier than they appear if you wish to preserve your gamers guessing. Give the monster a scary status or look, however make it possible for if the gamers work together with it, they understand it isn’t truly evil. Should you problem their assumptions, they’ll be extra paranoid about any future monsters they encounter.
How to decide on monsters
A very powerful a part of selecting monsters is selection! Utilizing the identical monsters again and again will get boring quick—so shake it up and preserve issues attention-grabbing on your gamers. That stated, should you’re planning for an extended marketing campaign, it’s a good suggestion to make use of acquainted monsters at first, like giants rats or goblins. And because the marketing campaign progresses, you’ll be able to introduce extra attention-grabbing monsters and challenges! From emotion-driven encounters with banshees to large-scale fights with dragons, your gamers might be higher geared up to take care of these later within the recreation.
Check out your participant characters’ backstories for inspiration too! Characters will generally have a darkish previous the place a horrible monster killed their household, for instance. Or take warlocks—they’re a strolling plot hook! If the warlock’s patron (or one among its servants) is a villain within the marketing campaign, that may create a really attention-grabbing battle.
Take heed to the complete interview!
Wish to study extra about monster creation? Take a look at the complete interview on YouTube and Spotify!
Who’s Celeste Conowitch?
Celeste Conowitch is a recreation designer in Kobold Press and the DM of the Enterprise Maidens podcast. She’s additionally the co-founder of Penwitch Studio and has labored with firms like MCDM Productions, Wizards of the Coast, and extra. Examine her out on Twitter!
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