A New Use For Monster Parts
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0880
A table of encounters by Zack S. inspired me. Goblins using glass vials of green slime as a weapon? Pure gold.
So why not have monsters in your campaign use parts of other monsters? Consider it a nefarious recycling program.
Step 1: Slop Your Monster Parts Into Buckets
The first thing I’d do is group the parts supply into buckets. That helps me think of ideas and keep stuff organized.
Here are some potential monster part buckets:
- Armour and weapons
- Building and crafting materials
- Pets, steeds, slaves
- Herbal and alchemical boons
If you have Campaign Logger, simply create a new Campaign Log to hold and organize your ideas. Go to preferences and change tag labels to match the list above for a fully custom brainstorming tool.
Step 2: Monster Parts Research
Next thing I’d do is comb my Monster Manual. I’m looking mostly for ideas for mundane and natural parts and their uses.
I’ll leave magic item creation, ritual ingredients, and other esoteric uses aside because they’d be so rare.
I want hobgoblins using lacquered giant cobra scales for shields, and ogres with tasty pouches of flattened and dried beastman leg-jerky.
Look at the pictures and backgrounds and special ability write-ups. All offer potential sources of novel monster parts or uses. Next, look at your game rules and the real world for pests, vermin, diseases, flora, and fauna.
Like Zak’s ideas, what could monsters eat, roll in, or cover themselves with that gives them an edge for day-to-day survival?
You might be tempted to customise monsters to make things work. Feel free to do so, but I encourage you to look for natural combos within the given rules first, before creating edge cases and outliers just to make an idea work.
Goblins with risky flamethrowers using fire lizard glands feels like better verisimilitude to me than goblins who just happened to evolve an immunity to green slime and cover themselves with it before grappling foes.
Step 3: Relations & Conflicts
Next, take a look at your region’s ecosystem.
Start with the intelligent critters. They’ll take advantage of every opportunity afforded them. They can build, tame, and test. They can outwit or dominate the dumb creatures.
Then turn to your apex predators and work your way down the food chain.
Goblins with hollowed rat skins sewn shut filled with angry bees or red ants that break open on impact.
Ghouls that turn victims’ bones into eerie flutes they play to attract prey at night.
Giants riding bred hydras covered in cured dwarf-skin armour.
Constrictor snakes with decaying goblin skulls on their tails swaying in the bushes as bait.
A nice approach to avoid overwhelm might be to mine your local wandering monster tables. Those represent a mini ecosystem right there. What does roll 13 do with the body part of roll 6?
Step 4: Balance & Economy
Give thought to what will happen when players get their hands on these parts and lear their uses.
Will they gain an unfair advantage? Will any of your planned encounters get trashed? You can balance things out with rarity and scarcity, difficulty in fabrication or storage or usage, or limited lifespan.
Perhaps the E. Coli catapults infect the users half the time, hence the orcs’ perpetual need of new slaves.
Or the poison-curing salve made from the blood of fire mephits who gather at the steam vents only works when a new batch reaches a boil.
And just where do the green slime vial throwers get their glassware from? Cavemart?
Step 5: Mine For Plots
So now you’ve got monsters using monster parts to kill and subjugate other monsters.
Such is the cycle of life in the wilderness and ruins.
Look for ways to turn your ideas into new continuity elements for your campaigns. Plot hooks, that is.
Hinted above with the glassware example.
What happens when an important creature gets hunted to near extinction in the region?
Will the new fashion for batwing kobold helms result in more spiders growing to horrific sizes?
What happens when the green slime vial explodes onto a victim? That’s, like, now a bigger green slime isn’t it? How do castle defenders cope when a hunting pack 74 huge green slimes reaches the walls?
Look for cause-and-effect, and effect, and effect, and effect…