My Monsters Sucked Till I Found This Particular Strategy

Roleplaying Ideas E-newsletter #1130

I noticed final month I’ve been in a rut slinging boring monsters.

This troubled me as a result of boring foes = boring video games (h/t to Slapchop).

In my Terror within the Badlands marketing campaign, for instance, we had a loopy battle in a ruined underground metropolis towards a white dragon. It was tricksy with its strikes, actions, and assaults.

In that battle, gamers felt like they earned the win. And I felt completely energized.

However in battles earlier than and after, the identical vitality wasn’t there. The foes and rolls didn’t really feel particular.

I might inform the monsters have been meh as a result of the characters weren’t doing something particular.

You realize a foe is superior when it breaks gamers out of their routines they usually make particular strikes.

Making Monsters Marvelous Once more

So I noticed I used to be organising repetitive, one-dimensional, road-bump recreation critters wielded as mere distractions en path to foes twice as boring.

That modified after I began designing new creatures for my 5 Room Dungeons Zine.

I’ve a brand new system now to make sure monsters are marvelous once more.

I name it the Function Creature framework, and it plugs into my Journey Constructing Grasp Sport Plan.

I got here up with this strategy after watching Matt Coville speak about constructing monsters (h/t to RPT GM Mallidar for first pointing me to this video).

His recipe boils right down to:

  1. Perceive the Motion Economic system of your recreation system
  2. Flip additional fight motion sorts into monster talents
  3. Pores and skin related talents from spells, different monsters, and character talents for fast crunch

You may already do it this fashion, however I wasn’t.

Now I do.

For instance, the D&D 5E Motion Economic system boils down to 5 issues you are able to do every spherical:

  • Motion (assault, solid, climb, and so forth.)
  • Transfer (as much as your motion charge)
  • Response (particular triggered actions, like parry)
  • Bonus (quick actions like cantrips)
  • Free (discuss, shut a door, wave)

In Matt’s system, you create particular strikes themed across the monster for every of these classes.

This offers your monsters surprising actions.

And it buffs foes up so that they’re higher challengers.

However this recipe misses a key component….

Three-Step Function Creatures

I noodled on this awhile and began drafting up new undead in a chilly, darkish, submerged tower for 5 Room Dungeons Zine #1: The Tower of Drowned Shadows.

A creepy drowned shadow and drowned spectre later, I had my solution to make monsters marvelous once more => the Function Creature.

Right here’s my three-step Function Creature framework:

  1. Spot the Creature’s Function
  2. Amplify the Creature Function with SLA
  3. Design the Fight

Let’s do a fast delve into what every step is about.

Step 1: Spot the Creature’s Function

What makes this creature particular?

Discover that component and switch it right into a theme so when your gamers encounter it your monster oozes with flavour and journey.

Your Creature Function could possibly be hiding in:

  • Particular assaults
  • Backstory
  • Particular talents
  • Bodily trait
  • Bizarre facet
  • Behaviour

Possibly your Creature Function is eyeballs, consuming blood, or magical teleportation.

Decide one factor to deal with as your Creature Function and run with it.

For instance, I’ll choose an ooze. What a slimy GM transfer, eh?

To identify my creature’s characteristic, I’m gonna be choosey with my oozy and choose a doozy.

Let’s say it’s pseudopods. The critter can stretch out and make appendages that assault and injury foes.

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Step 2: Amplify the Creature Function With SLAY

“Slay” stands for Story Position, Lair, Actions.

Tackle every component, riffing off your Creature Function for tight theme and improved gameplay expertise.

Story Position

Why does this monster matter?

How does a win or loss towards this foe change the plot?

A easy hack reply is to provide the monster treasure and rewards the occasion must win afterward.

You may also take a look at your plot arc and see if the creature can function an inflection level within the rising motion.

For instance, if I took my ooze and made them a guardian to an essential place I’ve instantly discovered a narrative position. I’ve received plot.

Story Position means giving your monster encounter a goal in your journey.

Lair (Location)

Extrapolate out of your monster’s crunch and Creature Function cool lair particulars that amplify gameplay.

This turns into description (juicy flavour), techniques, and roleplay.

For instance, our pseudopod pal may profit from a cavern filled with stalagmites. Skinny ooze tentacles slide by means of slender gaps questing for tasty flesh….

That might be tactical.

We might additionally add the 5 senses to color a greater image of the scene to construct issues up higher in participant imaginations.

For instance:

  • Acrid smells that sting the nostril
  • Dripping sounds that echo surprisingly
  • Wetness from deep puddles, perspiring cave partitions, and dripping stalactites
  • Twisted stalagmites and stalactites solid shadows  on partitions that appear like tentacles
  • An acidic style within the air that burns the tongue and lungs

This might be flavour for description.

And since you’ve given gamers some nice particulars, they now have sufficient to roleplay with.

When we now have an essential half to play in actual life, we gown for the event.

So too ought to our encounter places mirror the character of our monsters.


Right here’s Matt’s system at play.

In case your creature has particular talents, otherwise you wish to add some (like Lair Actions in D&D 5E), use Story Position and Lair particulars to clarify these talents or give them glorious context.

Modify your monster’s guidelines to reinforce theme, problem, and story.

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Step 3: Design the Fight

Now we wish to weave in our monster’s Function theme to make fights quicker, tougher, and related to the story.

To try this, we create a Mission, design the Battlemap, and kind a 3 Spherical Fight Plan.


Make this encounter extra significant by giving it an goal.

If the PCs don’t have an goal, then give your monster one.

The fight now has which means and Stakes.


Use house, terrain, and surroundings to intensify your Creature Function and provides one or each side tasty tactical choices.

3 Spherical Fight Plan

Determine how your Function Creature may reply for biggest impact on Mission, problem, and theme.

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How Do You Make Monsters Marvelous?

The Function Creature strategy has been working superior for me.

I preserve discovering new methods to show some facet of a monster into a powerful theme that improves the story, recreation, and milieu.

I’m engaged on a brand new critter for 5RDZ#3 proper now that is likely to be my greatest iteration of the Creature Function framework but. Mr. Slime Druid.

However that’s a narrative for an additional time.

How about you?

What do you do to make your monsters extra flavourful and harmful?

Hit reply or be part of the dialog.

Johnn “Function Creature” 4


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