Update: I reworked this a bit, submitted to the Fight On! Fantasy Table Contest and…
Re-Update: Download MOSTROTRON here.
What stuck me most while reading early supplements, like Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign, is that monsters often got only described with a name, a number and their level.
For example: 20 x Orcs (1HD)
This got me thinking big time, especially taking into account that the 3E monster entries is, at least from a game stats standpoint, the most extensive and complete and hence my favourite in all D&D. Just kidding: it used to be my favourite when I was playing 3E, because of all the problems i perceived with 2E and, since I’d rather not show how mislead I was 12 years ago, I’ll just close the subtopic here.
Anyway, the point here is that the stats must be enough to convey what monsters can do, while avoiding to consume too much space. But a lot of things are assumed, such as orcs being humanoids, wielding weapons and wearing armours, can talk orc and love rape, arson, mutilating prisoners and eating intelligent species, indulging in all four at the same time as often as possible.
So a lot of information is known already, and stuff like THAC0 can be derived from hit dice. What’s missing?
First thing, damage and AC. Weapon damage is either fixed or weapon dependent, and AC depends on what the guys are wearing this morning. It’s interesting to note not only that in B/X armor type dictates maximum speed, but the same correlation is often kept for monsters: if a monster has “a thick hide” it will have leather equivalent AC and a matching speed. Often, but not always.
Then, morale; that is, if you actually use it. Number encountered is provided. Treasure too. What’s left?
Picture me stroking my awesome beard with a thoughtful expression in my eyes.
Monsters are defined by HD. HD that vary from 1/4 (cats, rats and tree pangolins) to the sky, with variations in AC and movement depending on AC. Some of them pounce and hide, other give you diseases, others can curl up in their mighty armour. Or breathe fire, have no mind so behave straight all the way, can drain levels, can summon daemons, or have mighty jaws and do tons of attacks. Poison. Collective cursing. Dodging blows. Casting spells.
Do we really need monster manuals? Or we just need to pick hit dice, decide the AC and maybe, maybe, slap on a power or two, then decorate with fluff. For gameplay reasons we might want to have a continuous spread of hit dice to populate our worlds, and for other, better gameplay reasons we might want to subvert the “spread of power” trope.
Here’s my monster generator
HD: 1d6 + fudge factor (in a dungeon, level – 3). Negative results mean less than 1HD.
Movement: pick the movement from the encumbrance table according to the AC.
Special: Roll 2d6 – 7 times 1d50 on this table. Effects are taken from S&W Whitebox, covering completely all the monsters in the handbook (except a handful) plus some added.
- shriek (or some other action) kills people (saves neg.)
- immune to magic (1d6): 1-2 all magic (1d6*15%); 3-5 all effects of some type; 6 all spells of level 1d6 and lower.
- gaze or bite (50% either) petrifies
- a random body part sheds light
- destroys weapons and armors (rust, acid, vetrifies, chews leucrotta style, etc)
- blinks, possibly evading attacks and backstabbing
- 50% chances of surprising (ambush expert or camouflage or sudden ghost-like appearance)
- (1d6+4)*10% faster! (many legs, wings, magic)
- poison! paralysis or death or something else, possibly (1-2 on 1d6) with an 1d1000 rounds onset time.
- multiple attacks (1d3): 1-multiple appendices; 2-multiple heads (so possibly multiple spells as well); 3-simply really fast. Possibly (30%) damage can be dealt to the relative appendix to incapacitate it.
- flies! burrows! swims! jumps! (1d4)
- snatch and pull close (frog sticky tongue or balrog whip or kusari-kama).
- hazardous emanation within 3 meters or (10%) 3d100 meters: 1d4: 1 -2 to hit or ST or damage; 2 1d6 damage per round from fire/cold/radiation/depression; 3 energy drain; 4 plants die and animals run away
- create stuff! through either resources, crafts or magic
- conjure illusions
- fulfill other people’s wishes (magically or because of being REALLY good, think djinni or Leonardo da Vinci)
- alternate form (1d4): flame, gaseous, horde of tiny animals (roaches, bats, etc), liquid
- create whirlwind
- breathe fire/cold/acid/poison for 3d6, 10% to inflict instead 1 hp per remaining hp (save halves).
- spellcaster of level (1d10): 1: same as HD; 2: half HD; 3: double HD. Wizardly (50%), clerical (40%) or both (10%).
- acute observer (dwarven stonetelling or elven secret door detection)
- appear really badass. Can scare low level opponents on sight or at will (ST or flee).
- set shit on fire
- chocking attack (either physically, or by drowning or something else)
- resemble an inoffensive location feature (a-la gargoyle or treant)
- Double damage! Roll 1 dice more for damage (like giants)
- missile attack
- immune to non-silver (20%), non-magical (70%) or (10%) metal weapons.
- immune to (1d4) piercing/slashing/blunt/magic damage.
- matter conversion (grey goo or green slime)
- +2 to attack or damage due to fervor (fanatics or berserkers or fanbois)
- MTD: monstruous transmissible disease like vampirism or theriantropy
- double damage when charging
- rotting disease
- Swallow whole! hitting with a 20.
- energy drain
- summons allies
- awake objects (like a treant animating trees)
- controls a bunch of minions
- hive-mind (no surprise, +1 initiative per member)
- Science! (reroll, but using alien technology)
- being disgustingly rich
- being completely despicable/lovable by every player
- tastes really, really, really good
- it seems like (reroll), but actually it’s (reroll)