Friday 15 February 2013

Make Vanilla Monsters Scary

That first level dungeon needn't be a complete borefest.

Giant Spiders are apex predators, hiding in dark cracks until they pounce on you. They come with a Save or Die bite as standard.

Trolls regenerate from any amount of damage. Limbs can drag themselves back to torsos and reassemble. The reason they're so ugly is that you're not the first person to try burning them.

Orcs aren't much different from humans, physiologically. The scary part is that they're complete bastards and there are hundreds of them. The room with four orcs is a trap. The rest of the gang is waiting behind the door with firebombs and a complete lack of morals.

Goblins are innately magical and just want to screw with you. They'll turn your water into piss, wake up the sleeping dragon and pack your firewood full of exploding fairydust. If you chop one in half you'll spawn two smaller, squeakier goblins. If you set one on fire he'll turn into a mini-elemental. When they hide under a rock you'll lift it to find nothing but a stinkbomb. Just hope you never run into one of these creatures.

Giant Rats are completely filthy. Even if you don't get bitten you're not getting out of a giant rat nest without something. Ticks, fleas, general itchiness. Your digestive system won't be quite right for days afterwards. Oh, and remember how Orcs are never alone? If you see a lone Giant Rat prepare for company.

Gnolls will eat you. This is Plan A and they don't have much of a backup. Once they get your scent they'll gang up on the weakest in the herd and try to pin him down so they can start dinner. If the rest of the party puts up a fight they'll make sure their meal gets dragged with them while they retreat.

When your players tire of dying and running away perhaps they'll think of a better way to get the treasure.


  1. Wow, these are spectacular ways to spice up standard monsters! *takes notes* Ready to finish up my modern game now so I can get back to fantasy :-)

  2. Good stuff to fill the Pit with, thanks!

  3. This is brilliant. I think the root of the problem with monsters (in general) feeling "boring" is people stopped looking at what these creatures actually were supposed to be and started looking at them as set of stats. This helps create the sense that they are more than just HP and damage dice.

  4. I found it useful to describe the creature without giving it's name. The players might know every monster that is, but that doesn't mean the character has encountered them before. "What do you mean 'it ate my sword', why didn't you tell me it was a Rust Monster?"

    You can also do the same with creatures that have been polymorphed, shapechanged, or glamoured. Is it a Mind-Flayer disguised as an hobbit, or the other way around?