Roleplaying In A

Knowing Your Monsters

In Monsters on March 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

Monsters do not just appear out of thin air. Natural monsters will have evolved to fill an ecological niche and this gives them certain strengths and weaknesses. Monsters that have been bred or magically created by someone, for a specific purpose. This will define their mix of abilities as strongly as evolution ever did.

As a GM you need to know the story of your new monster species. A creature created to guard a wizard’s dungeon will be very different from a predator evolved to feed on wild cattle on a vast plain. 6d6 Fireball

This is particularly true for modern games. Human “monsters” come from somewhere. People don’t kill people for no frakkin’ reason – most of the time. If it is seemingly random, then there even more need to know the background because it’s going to affect combat. Effects such as cyber-psychosis, a bad drug trip and just plain being crazy are going to change how a human being reacts to pain, shoots a gun and moves around.

When you get into the realm of killer machines, genetically engineered attack animals and just plain odd stuff such as vampires, aliens and magical constructs, how and why it fits into a modern world becomes crucial.

It could be as simple as one line, “Arasaka developed and built the combat robo-dog to more cheaply guard and patrol perimeters.” A paragraph or two would suffice for the genetic development of killer plants. And you could write a whole campaign behind something as out-of-the-ordinary as the existence of vampires and aliens. Knowing these backgrounds will help you use the “monster” logically, provide plot hooks and story and help your players fit themselves into your setting.

Take a look at the story “Frankenstein”. Sure, it’s old but the lesson here is important. The good doctor is the background to the monster. A rampaging killer amoeba in downtown Dallas could well lead the party to finding the illegal gene lab that produced it – as well as the amoeba’s bigger, badder friends.

In a modern world, everything exists for a reason.

Enhanced by Zemanta
  1. Great post for “monster rationale”. Even in a fantasy campaign, I’ve tried to make sure that my monsters exist for a reason, and not rely on the “well, it’s magic” excuse. I know dungeon crawls are a popular rpg “sport”, but the weird mix of monsters that had no business being in the same area always used to drive me nuts.

  2. Agreed. Things need to make sense, for whatever value of sense exists in the campaign world. Obviously you can have crazier things in a world with magic run wild than in a modern game.

  3. @deadorcs My guilty secret is that I love random fantasy dungeons as a player lol

    @seaofstars With genetic engineering, you can make almost anything for a modern game including most “magic” creatures. It really throws your players for a loop, too. I just make sure “gengineering” is somewhere in the background for them to hang the mobs from if I’m going to do that, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: