About Monsters...

When we make up a monster, what if we defined it less by what it does and more by how to fight it? 

Monster manifests in corebooks tend to look something like:

  • STR: a lot 
  • INT: not much 
  • CHA: scary and hideous 
  • AC: a whole lot (except against sonic) 
  • Can hear PCs through walls so always has +x initiative 
  • Claws deal 2d6+6 damage, plus Large-scale knockback (see table on page xvii) 
  • Can spit acid balls that deal 2d4 damage, 
  • [insert long paragraph describing monster’s strategy and behavior: it likes to set this kind of ambush, and will attack that kind of PC first.] 

The purpose of this monster summary is to tell the GM what the monster does in a fight scene. We might not think about it, but writing it this way sends the message that a fight scene is primarily about the monster.

But I want the game to be about the player. If we change the writing subtly, we can talk about the same monster in a way that tells the GM what the players would be doing in a fight scene with it. (and that’s what the players are most interested in anyway – that, and how cool it would look).

A player centered monster summary might look something like this:

  • Claw attack: 2d6+6 damage and throws PC five hexes because it’s big and strong. 
  • Tricks, feints, illusions have a +4 against it because it’s very dumb. 
  • Looks scary so only PCs with x-amount of Will can charge at it. 
  • Sound attacks get +3 against it. 
  • Uses super-hearing to make silent surprise attack out of the dark (encounter opening) 
  • Charges through group (everyone roll AGI 15 to avoid being bowled over) and then chases individual members down. (easy for one fast PC to draw its attention) 
  • Uses its size to split up the party (push party into 2 handicapped groups at GM discretion) 
  • Too big to fit through a single-hex passage 
  • Acid attack: 2d4 damage 
I think this monster summary tells a GM, right off, whether this monster will give him the kind of action scene his group would be into – it lets him be the genie.

So that’s my random thought about monsters. Highly-developed stats can be great, but the only details you’ll actually use are the ones that affect the players – particularly the ones that will affect them in this fight scene. So why not clear everything else out of your notes and make room in your head for more story?