Wednesday, April 7, 2010

TnB RPG: Monsters and Minions

When I began creating monsters and minion-type bad guys for the RPG, I found myself facing something of a quandary. Most RPGs, especially those that at least in part cater to "fantasy role-playing game" genre conventions, have a stable of what you might call "stock monsters", and pretty much every FRPG or RPG that caters in some way to the fantasy genre has these monsters statted up. We're talking zombies, skeletons, orcs, goblins, ogres, trolls, vampires, werewolves, dragons, etc....very standard D&D-esque monsters that make it into pretty much every FRPG "monster book".

When it came time to start statting out monsters for the T&B RPG, I asked myself if I wanted to go down that road or not, and the answer was...kinda, but not really. On the one hand, using the same standard list of monsters allows one to "benchmark" against other systems. In system A, here's a goblin and it's power level as can be compared to starting characters. In system B, here's another goblin, and you could see that it's more or less dangerous to starting characters, so someone making a decision on the sort of game they want to run in terms of monster power levels has some comparisons they can work with to make that decision.

On the other hand, I feel that once you start including the usual suspects, you are implicitly pigeon-holing your game into a pseudo-D&D or D&D alternative. It becomes just another FRPG with dragons and orcs and ogres and trolls. At that point, why bother? A while ago, a bit of discussion on trying new games / systems came up in our gaming circle, and one of my neophyte players stated "I can chop the heads off goblins in this game, why would I want to do the same thing, but have to learn another system?". The way I see it, offering at least slightly more unconventional monsters than your usual go-to list allows your game a chance to offer something that is, if not unique, at least outside of the usual "do I kill ogres and dragons in System A or do I kill ogres and dragons in System B?".

But again, you don't want to create a creatures list of monsters so bizarre and off the wall that anything approaching a semi-traditional fantasy campaign setting is impossible. If your creatures are too unique and too eclectic, you're narrowing the potential player base almost too much. So, a balance has to be struck in your creature design; you need to offer up monsters that fulfill the roles of the old stand-bys, but with a twist to keep things from just being generic FRPG boilerplate.

Last summer I posted two columns containing examples of monsters and minions using my T&B monster/minion "template". I also had a "request for monsters" post a little before that, which got some good feedback.

Here's four non-human monsters I statted up, and here are several human "minion" types for consideration.

Right now, I've got about forty monsters and minions written up. I hope over the next few months to create some more, hopefully having around sixty entries in the monster book when it's all said and done.

I'm curious to see what people think; should one try to avoid most or all of the "usual suspects" when creating monsters and try to keep things more unique, or should one stick to the "tried and true" for the sake of comparison and familiarity?

1 comment:

Trey said...

Commercially, tried and true seems to to better.

In most of my games I tend to stick to human adversaries or vague not terribly stereotypical monsters, but I do have some appreciation for games/setting that try to feel the standard "niches" withc different creatures. Harn does this a little. Tekumel does it with its Ssu and Hluss instead of orcs and goblins. I think this would be the approach I would take.