Monsters Are NPCs Too – A Short Monster Personality Stat Block
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0944
When monsters become meat bags you lose a big opportunity for roleplay and storytelling.
I’m guilty of queuing up encounters with 2d6 orcs in a 10′ x 10′ room. Big time wasters. Pointless. And boring.
I know players love to use their characters’ powers. And crushing a foe is fun. But after a few times of beating down groups of mindless monsters, they’ll get bored too.
However, what if we added a little personality? What if we roleplayed monsters and made them unique?
Whether meeting single creatures (Tinder for green slimes?) or confronting them in numbers, players will enjoy the extra dimension you’ve added to gameplay.
And the little bit of personality you provide could dovetail into all kinds of gameplay possibilities.
Here’s a simple and unique approach to creating monsters that should help everyone have more fun:
Just one word.
That’s all it takes to turn a creature from stat block into NPC.
Suddenly the weeping critter becomes a mystery.
“I draw my sword and!”
“Fireball coming online!”
“Sneaking around for stabby-stabby!”
“Wait, what’s it doing?”
“Are those tears?”
“Is this thing crying?”
“Oh for Pelor’s sake. I abort my charge.”
“Why are you crying? Can you understand me?”
“What’s the matter big guy?”
Every monster need not become a parley. Whatever your group wants. But even during fierce fights, giving foes a one-word personality trait will help you colour your descriptions of their actions.
Common advice is to use all senses in your descriptions.
Monsters give you the perfect medium to do this.
Pick one sense and how the monster makes it weird.
Maybe it roars like two boulders smashing together as it attacks. Perhaps its skin feels like sandpaper while it grapples or pushes PCs back. Maybe it smells like ozone or liquorice.
Again, the goal is to quickly make monsters unique and memorable, even if they remain meat bags.
Give each a styled attack, ability, or defence. Call it their Signature Move.
In an over-the-top moment, I once had monsters carve a Z on PCs with their attacks as it was their leader’s symbol.
The green slime forms a three-finger appendage for each attack (gang sign optional).
Mambo Snake #5 rears back for a dramatic moment before lunging.
The cowardly hobgoblin whines “don’t hurt me!” before each vicious lunge.
Those 10×10 rooms get boring after a while. Why not break out the bones?
When the PCs crash through the door (knocking is just for special occasions) and catch a goblin triumphantly rolling dub-sixes with a pair of human metacarpals and scooping up all the dead rat heads in victory, the other gobbos might turn to help the party whack the victor….
The world is not frozen waiting for the PCs to thaw it. Make the characters interrupt monsters doing something.
This might lead you to new ideas, such as “Why is that monster digging there?” or “That looks like a sword wound its licking clean….”
You can be sure mamma didn’t name him Mambo Snake #5.
For intelligent foes, they’ll have names the PCs can learn and use.
For non-intelligent meat bags, even giving them a fun name other than their initiative number will lend them personality.
There’s A Generator For That
Generator Sage ELF has crafted a monster generator for us using these tips as a guide.
Powered by the Campaign Logger WordPress plugin, his Monsters Are Individuals generator is free to use on his blog.
And he’s created a JSON file for Campaign Logger users to create custom generators with, as well.
Check out the monster generator. [https://randomcreation.net/monsters-are-individuals/]
Get the monster generator source file. [https://github.com/open-campaign-logger/generator-library/blob/evesala/json/monster.json]
Monsters Are NPCs Too
Use the simple stat block outlined above to help roleplay your monsters.
- Personality Trait
- Weird Sense
- Signature Move