Monsters and creatures are important parts in most video games—as a GM, you need to use them to inform tales, create plot hooks, and present the lore of the world with out explaining it. We interviewed Celeste Conowitch, Senior Designer at Kobold Press, about monsters—right here’s what she needed to say!

The place to begin? Worldbuilding!

So, first issues first, it’s essential to not create monsters in isolation. As an alternative, take into consideration how the monsters you create can successfully assist the RPG setting you’re constructing and exhibit its particulars. Keep in mind the golden rule: present, don’t inform! If you need to use monsters to ratchet up the strain by stalking, threatening, or outright attacking the social gathering, that’s a lot better than having an NPC inform the gamers they’re in harmful territory.

One other essential side to contemplate is the connections between monsters and their atmosphere—what position do they play of their ecosystem? They may know one another, kind packs, be predator and prey, and even worship one other monster. Ask your self why do the monsters act the way in which they do, and why it’s essential for the world and the plot. These monstrous ecosystems could be a key component in your worldbuilding too, and can make the entire thing way more actual and interesting to your gamers.

An instance of worldbuilding via monsters is the Ravenloft marketing campaign setting. One motive it has such a darkish and mysterious environment is the truth that so lots of its creatures are tortured, darkish, and tousled on the whole. You don’t want the GM to let you know it’s a forbidding, ominous place, you’ll be able to simply really feel it.

Create monsters as plot hooks

Monsters make for nice plot hooks too! Who controls the monsters? What are the monsters doing? Why are they there? These are all questions that may result in new adventures—and also you’ll discover much more questions should you have a look at your RPG setting and your meta.

A method to do that is by exploring the connection between the monster and its lair. Lairs are often locations the place the conventional guidelines of the world don’t apply (which is why D&D has lair actions!)—it could possibly be merely environmental, like a darkish mist that covers the whole lot, or be game-changing, like amnesia! To enter a lair, the characters should go away the acquainted behind, which suggests their assumptions concerning the world will now not be right. This creates an emotional response in your gamers (they’ll really feel extra defensive or susceptible), which is strictly what you need!

One other approach to make use of monsters as plot hooks is thru the design of the dungeon. Dungeon design is a tough train, because it performs into all of those inquiries to the acute. Particularly should you’re constructing a big dungeon, it’s essential to know why would all of those monsters inhabit it. A believable clarification for his or her presence will robotically create a extra genuine environment, which can flip dungeon-delving into an precise story somewhat than only a monster-killing recreation.

Use them to bolster theme

Reinforcing the theme of a marketing campaign with monsters could be a problem, as a result of it requires balancing narrative parts with mechanics that may work. One strategy to obtain that is via using lair and regional actions—the mist and the amnesia I discussed earlier! If you wish to reinforce thriller, you’ll be able to add lair actions that make folks see issues that aren’t there, for instance.

Scary monsters are a giant a part of that, as horrifying your gamers will create that emotional response you’re on the lookout for. To attain that, ensure that the monster is all the time hidden till the ultimate confrontation. As an alternative, deal with its victims and the wake of its terrors. Your gamers will construct up a way of dread and anticipation that may make the ultimate encounter extra impactful. There’s nothing scarier than the unknown!

For extra suggestions, try our tricks to run horror campaigns!

After all, you can even make monsters friendlier than they appear if you wish to hold your gamers guessing. Give the monster a scary status or look, however guarantee that if the gamers work together with it, they notice it isn’t really evil. When you problem their assumptions, they’ll be extra paranoid about any future monsters they encounter.

How to decide on monsters

A very powerful a part of selecting monsters is selection! Utilizing the identical monsters again and again will get boring quick—so shake it up and hold issues attention-grabbing in your gamers. That stated, should you’re planning for an extended marketing campaign, it’s a good suggestion to make use of acquainted monsters to start with, like giants rats or goblins. And because the marketing campaign progresses, you’ll be able to introduce extra attention-grabbing monsters and challenges! From emotion-driven encounters with banshees to large-scale fights with dragons, your gamers can be higher geared up to take care of these later within the recreation.

Check out your participant characters’ backstories for inspiration too! Characters will generally have a darkish previous the place a horrible monster killed their household, for instance. Or take warlocks—they’re a strolling plot hook! If the warlock’s patron (or one among its servants) is a villain within the marketing campaign, that may create a really attention-grabbing battle.

Hearken to the complete interview!

Need to be taught extra about monster creation? Try the complete interview on YouTube and Spotify!

Who’s Celeste Conowitch?

Celeste Conowitch is a recreation designer in Kobold Press and the DM of the Enterprise Maidens podcast. She’s additionally the co-founder of Penwitch Studio and has labored with corporations like MCDM Productions, Wizards of the Coast, and extra. Examine her out on Twitter!

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