A number of folks have asked for some guidelines to making monsters. Here’s a quick and dirty stab at breaking down my process. Feel free to attempt to refine it. Let me know what you think:
Quick and Dirty Monster Creation Guidelines
- Concept. Pick an idea for your monster. We have nearly 40 years of monster books for games from which to get inspiration, so this shouldn’t be hard.
- Use the Order of Might chart on page 150 to pick an Order of Might for your monster. High Might could indicate a creature of significant size and mass, but it could also reflect things like immunity to non-magical weapons.
- Based on your concept, choose three Nature descriptors for your monster. Descriptors should be things your monster does, not things it is. Be as evocative and flavorful as you can and try to encompass the totality of the creature in those three descriptors. These descriptors will serve as cues for playing the creature to any GM who uses it.
- Pick a Nature for your creature. Keep in mind that this is the base number of dice a monster will be flinging before adjusting for weapons and adding dice for help.
- Between 3 and 5 is normal for human (or dwarf, elf or Halfling) NPCs.
- It’s a pretty good range for monsters too, +/-1.
- In general, if your monster is found in groups (like giant rats or kobolds), steer toward the lower end of the range. Even a group of 7 measly kobolds with a Might 2 will be flinging 8D in a conflict until the players start whittling down their numbers.
- If it’s something that tends to be solitary or found in groups of two, go higher. If it’s meant to be incredibly dangerous, like a red dragon, you can go as high as 12. Note that even though a group of 8 kobolds throw the same number of dice (to begin with) as a black dragon, the black dragon is far more dangerous. Not only does it have a high Might (which means it will get a default +3s on tied and successful actions against starting parties), but it will keep throwing those 9D even when the players have greatly reduced its disposition.
- Reserve the high Nature option (7-12) for very dangerous monsters, typically challenges for high-level parties.
- Choose 3 to 5 conflicts that you imagine as the most likely for the creature to engage in. One of them should reflect the monster’s weakness (i.e., if it’s cowardly, then it’s easy to drive off. If it’s slow and lumbering, it’s easy to flee, etc.). Look to your concept for inspiration.
- Give it weapons for these conflicts: claws, teeth, spears, a mesmerizing gaze or sonorous voice. Use the concept for inspiration. Generally, weapons give +1D or +2D to one or two actions. Sometimes they also provide a penalty to other actions.
- Determine dispositions for the conflicts you’ve chosen using the Disposition Breakdown section on page 150.
- Note any conflicts that a creature is incapable of participating in. You can’t Convince a Guardian Statue, for instance. It doesn’t have the capacity for speech.
- For any other conflicts, use Nature + Nature roll for the disposition.
- Note whether your monster has armor, and if so, what sort?
- Give it an Instinct. This is entirely about roleplay, so make it evocative. What does the monster instinctively do?
- If the monster has some sort of special ability (immunity to mind affecting spells, paralyzing touch, etc.) list it.