View Full Version : DM <3 Monsters

2008-08-07, 04:51 AM
Do you have a particular type of monster you love to use in your campaigns? Do you get a warm, tingly feeling every time you pick up Lords of Madness, or Libris Mortis? Do you mourn the end of 3.5 publications for the sole reason that Libris Mechanus (the book of contructs) was never produced? Have your players voiced specific dreads about you using particular types of creatures?

This is the thread to talk about these...things. Tell us your favorite kinds of beasties and/or stories about how the characters (almost?) met their horrible demise at the hands of your favorite critter(s). Post stats for homebrew beasties if you so desire, or links to your thread(s) in Homebrew for the entertainment/disgust of your fellow xenophiles.


My favorite kinds of creatures are aberrations or Far Realm monstrocities. I can't help but get a sadistic grin on my face when I pick up my copy of Lords of Madness, even if I'm not planning for a game and I'm just looking for something to read. One of my players tries to hide the book when he knows I'm getting ready to start planning a game.

One of my fondest encounters using an aberration was also one of the easiest to set up. I started the last game I ran (3rd-level characters) with the party being tracked through some woods by an athach (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Athach). The characters could hear it slowly drawing closer as they traveled, not knowing what it was that was hunting them (and not really knowing what to expect as some of them had never played with me before).

Finally, as it was beginning to close and they were starting to catch glimpses of it through the trees as they peeked back over their shoulders, they decided to make their stand at the edge of a clearing.

I had swapped out the creature's Alertness feat for Improved Initiative and Weapon Focus (bite) for Ability Focus (poison), but otherwise I left the creature's stats as-is.

The combat started dramatically, the trees providing the creature cover until its turn came up and it was able to dramatically burst into the clearing, waving clubs and swinging madly at the largest opponent it faced.

The largest (and most broken) of the PCs was a half-ogre/orc heading for Hulking Hurler whose player had somehow convinced me to use the 1d6/50 lb. rules for thrown weapon damage...and then had his character dragging around a bag with three gigantic bolders (the character was Large with somewhere around a 28-30 Str).

After having spent most of the first round wasting their actions firing ranged weapons idly into the trees and the few characters who acted after the athach hacked meagerly at its thighs, the party didn't fare much better in round #2.

The fight was mostly a case of chipping away at the creature's monstrous (to the PCs) number of hit points while trying to keep from being smashed to a pulp by clubs. Since the creature kept the half-ogre/orc engaged in melee, the boulders never came into play. In fact, within a couple rounds, the half-ogre/orc had been poisoned and found his strength quickly failing and eventually had to leave his bag of boulders behind when the party continued after the fight.

In the end, the PCs prevailed with no casualties and were rewarded with some healthy XP as well as a nice chunk of cash in the form of some dirty but otherwise high-quality gems the athach had been carrying.

I was rewarded with seeing the looks of horror on their faces. :smallamused:

2008-08-07, 04:58 AM
Kobolds, who couldn't love the little buggers with their "Becoming a God For Dummies" Books.

2008-08-07, 05:02 AM
Visages. Not only do they look like what they killed, they're able to dominate people to further their work AND they can warp their target's perception of reality. They're extremely creepy and the PCs will never realize what's going on until the plot should be furthered when used effectively.

2008-08-07, 05:09 AM
My favorite is palette-swapping anything. For example, (slightly morbid)

I take a zombie centaur, lop off his head, and have it replaced by a baby's head with it's eyes and mouth sewn shut. I don't think the centaurs ever posed a threat to my PCs, but they remember that combat more than quite a few others with core monsters. The same babies would come back later as well (part of a dark ritual which allowed for lower level casters to raise permanent undead).
But from core: Goblins all the way. I've loved the greenskins (or greyskins) since day 1, and they have transformed from comedic relief in which a single character could handle 5 or 6 (ah second edition and 7.5xp gobbos) to a core part of my world-story who are quite dark and dangerous. I had already been toying with the idea of shamanistic magics for them when Dragon magazine dropped the article about alchemically enhanced goblins in my lap. Blamzo, I'm excited to get to using them.

2008-08-07, 05:58 AM
Reptilian humanoids. Particularly when a Sarrukh is leading them from behind the scenes. What's more fun than a foe with 40 feats?

That, plus the variety of tactics of having the party get pulled down into a sinkhole in a swamp and being drowned, or similar such things. And they still are vulnerable to crits and sneak attacks, so the party I'm currently running of a bard, rogue and druid can feel useful in combat.

2008-08-07, 07:07 AM
in AD&D, monstres don't have class levels. I love to give the monsters the equivalent, giving them maybee 5 extra hd. This is great if you first send a normal monster on the group, and then in the same encounter throw in a few with a lot of hd.

Also, I love vampires. The players are scared to death of them

Duke of URL
2008-08-07, 07:08 AM
As cliche as it is, I've always been partial to dragons, myself.

2008-08-07, 07:12 AM
Goblins rock so hard it's not funny. Down with Pun-Pun, up with Gob-gob!

2008-08-07, 07:20 AM
The memory fish (Aboleth) and the aqua-Nazis (Sahuagin) are old two favourites of mine.

Nothing quite like the reaction when you describe a horribly abused dominated whale breaching and packs of blood-slathered, screaming sea devils hurl themselves at the party out of the rents they've torn in its' shuddering flanks. A little body horror (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BodyHorror) and cute animal puppy kicking (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KickTheDog) goes a long way.

"Se-ko-lah! Se-ko-lah!"

*sigh* Good times. Good times. :smallbiggrin:

2008-08-07, 07:38 AM
Also, I love vampires. The players are scared to death of them

As a running joke, every time a certain one of my players seeks to acquire the services of a maiden of negotiable virtue, it turns out to be a vampire in disguise and hilarity ensues. :smallbiggrin:

PnP Fan
2008-08-07, 08:47 AM
I've always been partial to undead and aberrations.
Undead are fun for their creep factor, a shame that they can be so easily defeated in 3.5, it takes the scare out of them.
Aberrations can be neat as masterminds. I especially like using them to create weird or disturbing stories. I once ran a convention game where a small horde of children were controlled by an aboleth. They would run around town, find someone walking alone, kill him by mobbing him, and then deliver the snack to the aboleth. Creeped out and offended people at the table. The only thing that kept people from getting truly upset is that the whole adventure took place on this place called South East Same Street in Sharn (S.E. Same Street), so there was lots of humor leading up to the big fight. Right down to the acCOUNTant that only visited after dark, and had a strange obsession with numbers. hahaha!

2008-08-07, 08:50 AM
I like them all but Fey have a special place in my heart. Not pixes and the like really, but Thorns, Redcaps, Splinterwaifs Nymphs, Glastigs, I like em all. Unfortunatley, I hardly ever get to acually use them in my own games, as most of my players are smart enough not to have their PCs go wandering about in the enchanted forest if there is any way they can possibly avoid it.

2008-08-07, 09:35 AM
Constructs and abberations, all the way, here. I do, in fact, mourn the lack of a construct-focused book... though third-party supplements have so pretty funky stuff in them. Take the Dream Golem I threw at my party: a huge, insane monstrosity that killed the people who made it and then crashed through a wall to attack the party. I can't imagine how horrifying it'd be to fight something made out of the still-screaming bodies of people who died of fear in their sleep.

I'm also a fan of humanoids, simply because I like making funky class combos and themed encounters.

2008-08-07, 09:46 AM
One of my old staples is the displacer beast. My players always hated them, too. Thanks to templating and advancment, they were still schooled by them at 11th level (I had created 2 CR 8 Displacers that were strong enough to be CR 10-11. The 5 players (including a druid, cleric and wizard) had to flee. To this day I can't have a displacer encounter without getting dirty looks :smallbiggrin:

My all time favorite is the sylph. The developers must have been on some kind of hallucinagen when they created them (Monster Manual 2, go figure). My favorite encounter with one was when I had created a tainted sylph using Heroes of Horror and added a couple of sorc levels, and apparently created an unstoppable terror. At first the players thought they were just fighting a mysteriously conjured tainted air elemental, but when spells started raining down, they fled into a nearby forest (that they were advised to avoid). The crazy spell-slinging sylph and her pet were enough to spook the party early on in the fight. In hindsight, The players figured it was supposed to be an 'RP' fight that they couldn't win, though technically she was 3 CR less than the 5 PC party average. The players later found out why they should have avoided the forest :smallbiggrin:

Zeta Kai
2008-08-07, 09:53 AM
If there is anything you could call consistent about the games that I run, I'd say it would be the monsters. In almost every game that I run, I have 1 of 3 possible staples:

1) Undead. Vampires, Liches & Zombies, especially. I've run zombie apocalypse games, vampire intrigue games, & lich necromantic games, all great villians that refuse to die & view the living as fuel for their foul plans. With the undead, you usually have to defy the players' expectations by grafting on odd abilities (high speed, regeneration, infectious bites, horrid odors, decaying bodies, etc.), as well as shock the players with gut-wrenching descriptions. Here's a typically disturbing example of a single zombie that shook a 2nd level party:
This zombie was once the body of a middle-aged woman, with long dark hair & mottled yellowish-gray skin. She appears to have been dead for quite some time, & her flesh flakes off the bone in places. Her face is a leathery mask over her ivory skull, particularly cracked & torn around her silent rictus of a mouth. Her eyes are the only tissues that are even close to fresh-looking, & even those are glazed & bulging orbs of vitreous jelly that leaks from her sockets like tears. Her clothes must have rotted to dust long ago, for her nearly skeletal figure is nude, exposing her moldy flesh to the air to further decay. Her belly has been torn open, & the dried remains of a dead fetus dangle from the wound by a greenish-clear umbilical cord. Her hands are almost worn to the bone, with most of her nails chipped or missing entirely. She smells of fungus & tilled earth.
2) Psuedonaturals. These can be every bit as disturbing & gruesome as the undead, because they don't even follow the basic rules that govern reanimated corpses. If a Far Realm creature melts into a puddle, oozes into the 4th dimention (slowly becoming invisible), & reappears behind the party, well that's just part of their "logic". These things follow no laws, natural or otherwise. They are all insane, amoral, inscutable, indescribable atrocities that do not belong in this world. And I think that's what makes them so fun: your players can't possible predict what a psuedonatural is going to do. Are they gonna attack? Run? Gibble madly? Fall down twitching? Fly through the wall? They just don't know, & you can swiftly shake their sense of safety & security by pitting them against beings of unknowable thoughts & impossible powers.

3) People. That's right, just ordinary Humans. Often passed over for more fantastic antagonists, I find that the common people of the world can be the best villains. Players can identify with the ordinary citizen, which I think makes it all the more memorable & potent when the innkeeper turns out to be a bloodthirsty cultist, or the hirelings sold out the party to the duke's mercenaries, or assassin's stalk the caravan that the party is escorting. Bizarre monsters & inhuman creatures aren't truly necessary to telling a good story, & some players prefer situations they can more easily imagine & characters they can more easily relate to.

2008-08-07, 10:07 AM

My last plot included a hook where an important NPC's house was graffitied with "yark yark! splosive runes. kobolds never forget." It didn't actually have the explosive runes spell, just the words.

2008-08-07, 11:12 AM
Hobgoblins. Q'plah!

Actually, I'm a fan of goblinoids of all stripes (http://www.goblindefensefund.org/), usually in the form of brutal-but-effective empires as in Eberron (despite the GDF's nitpicks on the ECS's backhanded descriptions).

When I'm not using goblins, my other enemies tend to be other kinds of humanoids. Usually, the BBEG of a given plot in my mind is a humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or giant behind the scenes trying to make the PCs' lives miserable. Other monsters are frequently involved, but in the end, it comes down to "civilized" types.

Ned the undead
2008-08-07, 12:17 PM
I like them all but Fey have a special place in my heart. Not pixes and the like really, but Thorns, Redcaps, Splinterwaifs Nymphs, Glastigs, I like em all. Unfortunatley, I hardly ever get to acually use them in my own games, as most of my players are smart enough not to have their PCs go wandering about in the enchanted forest if there is any way they can possibly avoid it.

Change the organic nature of fey (trees, leaves, forests and such) to inorganic (rocks, gems, caves) and stick your players in the Underdark.

Some will have to have abilities be refalvored and rewritten of course. For instance Dryads get Stalagmites and Stalacmites instead of trees.

2008-08-07, 02:38 PM
Gibbering Mouther
Animated Object
Evil Outsider

2008-08-07, 04:04 PM
1). Constructs. My perennial favorite monster type, I wish there had been a construct book, cause I would have bought it and loved it FOREVER. My favorite constructs are actually a toss-up between the Slaughterstone Behemoth and the Grisgol (one's a gigantic bear-like... thing with massive stone arms it beats you to death with, and the other is a lich's spirit bound to humanoid form, and made up of magical trash, what's not to love?).

2). Aberrations, specifically mind flayers. The illithids have been the primary antagonists in my games more than a few times. I used the Mind Flayers of Thoon several times (bonus points for having badass constructs too). I even made up a homebrew LA +0 version of mind flayers for my campaign world, and worked them into the world's history as a main race, so players could play illithids if they wanted.

3). Pseudonatural anything. This sorta plays with the aberrations above, though Zeta Kai already said it best:

Are they gonna attack? Run? Gibble madly? Fall down twitching? Fly through the wall? They just don't know, & you can swiftly shake their sense of safety & security by pitting them against beings of unknowable thoughts & impossible powers.

4). PC races. I like using player races for two reasons. 1, I can use all the crazy builds I come up with in my spare time more easily, and 2, nothing really says vile and sickeningly twisted like humans performing truly disgusting acts of evil. Giants, goblinoids, aberrations, even fey all do the evil they do based on instinct or culture, but player races have to make the conscious choice to be evil bastards, and that's scarier than anything I could make up.

5). Dragons. Yeah, they're cliched, but damnit, it's a house sized reptile of flying doom, how are they not AWESOME?


2008-08-07, 07:20 PM
Orcs. My homebrew setting (which I really need to get around to posting.) has them as a sort of Klingon type of honorable barbarians and the players loved it. Kruk the Half-Orc was one of their favorite NPCs. (Imagine :thog: but with undertones of Worf. "Kruk will wallpaper Kruk's family room with wizards skin!")

2008-08-07, 07:38 PM
Well as a rule of thumb anything that can cast conjuration spells. I have a nasty habbit of using them to split the pc's up using battlefield control spells and then just toying with the individuals before summarily destroying them. Favorite instance was my half orc wujen of doom. pc's underestimated him and ended up in his home being sold to the highest bidder

2008-08-07, 07:59 PM
Dragons, they're cliched, but they're also damn awesome.

Gibbering mouther, a creature made of mouths and eyes. Can it become any better?

Doppelgangers. "If that isn't you, who is..."

2008-08-07, 08:07 PM
My favorite creature is the Tsochar. Aberrations that let you have all the fun of a doppleganger without being vulnerable to true sight, since they are wearing their host.

Sadly, I have yet to be able to use them. :smallsigh:

2008-08-07, 09:14 PM
Goblins rock so hard it's not funny. Down with Pun-Pun, up with Gob-gob!

Amen brother!

@AKA_Bait: I too am a lover of fey. Can't you just make them need something from the enchanted forest? Alternatively, I've had the old splinterwaifs just start stealing children in a random village for changing them into shrubberies. With the new Feywild (which was something I was just about to introduce into my campaign, cursed ingenuity), they can pop up anywhere!

@Zeta_Kai: Double amen brother. My BBEGs are pretty much all human. At the end of the day, I realize we are truly the best bad guys, because it's just so disappointing that we didn't turn out good.

2008-08-07, 09:43 PM
While I am overly fond of using PC classes and races as the BBEG and many of the "plot" encounters because of the ability to have dialog along with combat, I'd have to say that the staple enemy for my players in most of my games is the PCs.

Let me explain: I am a firm believer that "you are your own worst enemy" and so I run with certain rules that my PCs know about. The one I always make sure PCs know before hand is that "I will never seek to kill you because I'm the DM or let the character actually die simply by bad luck of the die... if you die it will be because you brought it on yourself somehow."

That said, I've had PCs die before, not many times, but often enough.

Basically I create a base world plot, and then wait for character backstories. Anything and everything they put in their backstory is fair game for my world plot (and I always try to tie them together) meaning that however "awesome" they write their backstory, the more material they give me. This works in tandem with the above rule.

I have a player currently who is writing a character for an Oriental Adventures campaign setting (modified feudal japan loosely based on the presented setting). He wishes to play a noble of almost royal lineage within one of the great clans who forsook his birthright and status to pursue the path of a drunken master. I allow him to do this, but advise him that members of his clan (and family) will occasionally come after him to take his head (or encourage him to take his own) inorder to restore the family honor. In this case, his doom is entirely wrought by his own hands.

Hense my staple antagonist is: My players... who needs a BBEG when you can just put consequences on their actions, hand them a shovel, and then watch. Of course, the bright ones always come out on top... but then, I'm of the opinion that a DM should be of the alignment: Darwinian Neutral.

2008-08-08, 12:49 AM
Oh yes. The best opponents are the ones who bring it all home to you.

And being an orphan won't save you, especially since I don't permit evil PCs in my games. Everyone makes enemies. Everyone. Just because you don't have family doesn't mean there aren't people you care about - or at least find handy to have around.

Maybe you'll be fortunate enough to make more honorable enemies. Maybe you won't. Maybe you'll offend the wrong person, make an enemy of a younger or older sibling whose brother or sister you killed / ruined / had imprisioned.

The Fair Folk ... well, they have a whole 'nother definition of relations, and what seems like a deadly bitter vendetta to you might just be an exercise in play to them - or one of them fulfilling some obscure obligation owed to another member of the Courts.

It might even be that your enemy isn't humanoid. Or even considers you an enemy so much as an obstactle. If you're lucky, they'll offer politely to have you step aside, maybe even pay you for it. If not, well good luck second-guessing the alien horror, the ancient dragon, the eternal outsider, the elemental noble...

But yes - no matter how sweet the basic monster, when it's personal, it's that much more rewarding. And that's the kind of 'monster' I like to develop for PCs - both individually and as a group.

2008-08-08, 04:40 PM
Hobgoblins. They were the first monsters in my first campaign, and there are just so many ways to make their (non-stupid, non-barbaric) warrior culture interesting.

Tadanori Oyama
2008-08-08, 04:43 PM
I put mysterious hooded figures all over the place in every adventure. Once per campaign, there's always a mind flayer under a hooded cloak. The players know this and there's a whole side quest of "find the flayer" in every campaign.

2008-08-08, 06:45 PM
Kobolds, who couldn't love the little buggers with their "Becoming a God For Dummies" Books.

My DM LOVES to use kobolds, whether they're level appropriate or not, damned unforgotten realms videos...

negativity 101
2008-08-08, 07:43 PM
personally my favorite monster is the rust monster, there's just something gratifying about it, when the big guy in the shiny armor lets out a girlish shriek of horror at the sight of this rust colored monster:smile: sadly I don't get to use it as much as I'd like to

A monster type that has recently come to my attention, is swarms
They can make for really interesting encounters, especially at lower levels.

I'm currently DM for a group who has spent the past sessions exploring an underground lair of a deceased necromancer. At one point they entered what had once been his "experiment" room. Basically I had decided that this necromancer was mainly interested in what a body could endure, so when they finally entered the room, I had my fun describing the horrible tools of the trade (torture if you hadn't guessed) that lined most of the walls of this room, an imposing bookcase filled with black books stood against one wall, opposite stood a likewise imposing bookcase, but instead of books held glass containers with various body parts (+ misc) floating in a clear liquid.
There was also three tables with different figures chained to them, one a skeleton of a human male, another the decaying remains of what had once been a child and the last, in vastly better shape than the other two, a pregnant halfling woman (also in a state of advanced decay), beside the skeleton a workstation with an open "leather bound" book, written with "red ink". Also a bubbling cauldron with a mysterious red liquid, stood in the middle of the room, beside the pregnant halfling.

As soon as I described the scene, the whole group readied for combat and advanced very slowly into the room. Since nothing happened, they eventually began to relax and explore the room, everyone interested in different aspects of the room, the wizard rushed to the bookcase as soon as he saw the glimmer of magical books, the dread necromancer began to smuggle torture instruments into her bag for later use, as she had taken proffession (torture), but didn't really have any "instruments", the sorcerer/come dragon disciple began to experiment with the bubbling red liquid, and found that it burned flesh and "destroyed" steel, the Knight stood guard at the door and that incidentally left the human cleric and dwarven barbarian standing in the middle of the room doing nothing.
The cleric notices some strange noises coming from the womb of the pregnant halfling and proceds to tell the Barbarian, who promptly proceds to take out his axe and swing it with all his might at the womb which lead to him being literally swallowed by the "fly-like creature" swarm ( a little custom made swarm) whose nest he had just sliced neatly in half. And from there it just went downhill for them.
The wizard had some time to study his newfound books, and had found that one of the books held four spells that could be cast as scrolls, unfortuneatly he didn't score high enough on his spellcraft to identify them at the spot, but he did know that all the spells was from the school of necromancy. Since he didn't have anything prepared that could be at all usefull against the swarm he proceded to just randomly read one of the spells and hope for the best. So I let him roll a d4 for which spell he used and it so happened that he ended up casting a modified bestow curse (it was ranged) at the swarm. Since the dwarf was inside it and the wizards didn't really know what he was doing, he rolled a d% with a 15% chance of hitting the dwarf, and of course he did, so the dwarf suddenly ended up with a dexterity of 7 (he was not a happy dwarf afterwards). The fight continued with me enjoying describing the gory details of how these "flies" tried to burrow into their bodies and flying down their throat (The dwarf just chewed solidly and swallowed) and at their noses and eyes.
The players kept dropping like... well... flies and kept getting patched back together again. Finally they arrive at the conclusion that normal weapons don't work and began lighting torches and pouring the contents of the cualdron (greater alchemist fire) at the swarm with more or less succes.
It was a fun fight all around, both for me (the DM) and for the players, since they couldn't just charge it and just leave it at that and because they kept making so many misshaps:smallbiggrin:

The best monsters are those that needs a little thinking to beat (and thats why evil genius clowns with oversized clownshoes of "immune to everything" is in so high demand)

I'm sorry for the rant, I didn't really plan for it to be this long, i just kep't thinking of more details to add (ahrr now i'm ranting about the rant, I better just go and get some sleep)

2008-08-08, 07:53 PM
Mind Flayers and their crazy minions. The Mind Flayers of Thoon (MM5) especially, with their horrifying creations. I made a mini-campaign that contained so many different varieties of Mind Flayer-related creatures that I think it made my players start fearing them. Ulithids, Neolithids, and a few other favourites got thrown in with Thoon stuff. Basically, they took over an area not far away from the players' town and began infiltrating with Thoon Infiltrators. Pretty standard fare, but some things in it (the things the MFs were revealed to be doing to people, as well as some of the creatures in general) seriously creeped my players out. I love it when I find good players who feel attached to their characters. They are vulnerable to fear. :smallamused: