Thursday, March 17, 2011

Instant Instant Monsters

Chris Perkins over at WotC just made this arduous post about creating monsters "in under 2 minutes."  Whew!  I didn't know it took that long.

I don't know about you, but I started reading the article and Chris's words very quickly became a buzzing sound in my head.  I couldn't finish it.

In the game I play, I can create monsters in under 5 seconds.  By my math, that's 24 times faster than Chris.  :)

Of course, I do spend time on making monsters, but it doesn't feel like a lot of time.  I spend time thinking about monsters and encounters; I don't spend much time at all creating monsters.  These complicated statblocks are kryptonite/wolvesbane to me.  Ugh.

Here's what I do.

In advance of actually needing the monster, I:

  • Think about the history of the game so far
    • What have they fought in this area?  Is this monster a "repeat" or continuity encounter?
    • What haven't they fought?  Is this a "new" encounter?
    • Is this monster "unique" or is the monster part of a theme or culture; some kind of group?
  • What kind of power level is required
    • Is this an area that the PCs can handle or are they in over their heads?
    • Big single monster, small group of monsters or a horde?
    • What kind of damage will it do?  
      • Number of attacks?  
      • Special attacks?  
      • Tactics
    • What kind of defenses does it have?
      • AC?
      • Immunities?  
      • Resistances?
Having all of that in my head, I:
  • Think about how I would like to handle the combat
    • Minis?  Battlemap?
    • Tactical?  Abstract?
Then I write down little squares/circles on my GM Adventure Log, one for every "hit" the monster has (gargoyles below; roughly HD but I tweak that up/down depending upon my whim) or for their HPs (megalocentipedes below) and then I roll "old yeller" for initiative.  As the players roll init, I might scribble down the AC or other notes so I don't contradict myself during the game.

The battle has begun.  5 seconds.

In a related vein, although I'm working on a comprehensive Monster Manual, I discovered this post, and I've been inspired to work on a "One Page Monster Manual".  The idea is this, you roll a few dice to make a random monster and then you throw it at the players.  Easy peasy.  We'll see how that turns out...


Jeff Rients said...

I think a One Page Monster Manual is a terrific idea. I can't wait to see it!

Matt said...

I second that emotion!

Greg Christopher said...

Sounds cool to me

Gaptooth said...

Gah! I am capable of enjoying 4th edition D&D, but I have to completely turn off the part of my brain that knows how easy it is to create a monster in Tunnels & Trolls. In T&T, I can create a monster in one second, make it five if I give it a special attack. T&T is brilliant.

On thing I like about 4e encounters is the idea of each monster having its own "role" (like skirmishers, minions, artillery, controllers, elites) that makes the group more tactically interesting. That idea is easy enough to swipe and use in T&T, though.