This is RPG-ology #26: Monster Design, for January 2020.
Not long ago a member of the Christian Gamers Guild asked for advice in designing monsters. This article has been republished from Gaming Outpost’s Game Ideas Unlimited series from August, 2001, only slightly edited for republication here, originally entitled “Game Ideas Unlimited: Monster Design.”
Sometime a couple decades ago, someone I had known over the Internet and met at a convention asked me to be a judge in a contest he was running. Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition was slated to be released in perhaps a couple of months, and there was already a lot of pre-release information about it floating around. He wanted to have people submit new monsters for use in future D&D games. Knowing of my somewhat intimate familiarity with the old Original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ rules set and acquaintance with at least three of the other versions of the game, he thought I would be able to contribute something to the judging. He also asked two other people to judge, whose skills and perspectives were very different from mine.
I took the notion very seriously. Before I looked at the first of the entries, I gave a lot of thought to what made a good monster. Some of the things I valued were contradictory—that is, it would be very difficult for a creature to score high on every quality I sought. But I reduced my consideration to eight qualities, eight aspects of creatures which I thought made them, in a general sense, well-designed monsters.
And if you’re designing monsters for your own campaign, or for some Internet contest, or for publication somewhere, you might like to give some thought to these qualities. You won’t always try to make every creature score high in every category. But if you’ve thought about the categories, you’ll be making tradeoffs that reach your goals at a reasonable “cost” in terms of what you sacrifice. Read more