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Friday, December 23, 2011

Quickie Dice Tool: Monsters

"Monsters", either in the general sense of dangerous creatures or the more specialized sense of unnatural beasts with freakish appearance and fantastic powers, are usually in pretty high demand. Even a GM who sticks to tried-and-true published monster lists wants a little variety every now and then, and more daring GMs want a unique monster for every dungeon or locale. In addition, animal rolls can be used to build compound meaningful names for people, towns, or taverns, or to determine the shape of a statue, or the main food source of a village, or ingredients in a potion, or many other things.

The default roll for a random beast is a single d4 or other die, with the vertical position read as the first letter of an animal name and the horizontal position read as the color variant. By default, the color of the beast is just that: color; however, some colors may be more useful as camouflage in some environments, while others may be more valuable as trophies; when looking for animals with medicinal uses, there could be a 1 in 6 chance that this particular variety can be used to heal whatever condition you are looking to cure. Also, you can link each new color of beast to a different animal behavior or immunity; the white beasts may be resistant to cold, the green beasts might live in the tops of trees. One suggestion: give a 1 in 6 chance for each color that this particular variety of beast has an ability associated with the material listed below that color.

  • Green: Arboreal, attacks by surprise from above
  • Red: Aggressive, does +1 damage
  • White: Fragile, has one less hit die
  • Gold: Tough, has improved armor class
  • Blue: Aquatic, swims at double speed
  • Black: Burrower, digs through earth at half speed.

The default d4 also indicates whether the creature is vermin, ordinary, or predatory. Ordinary beasts are exactly like their real-world base form, with herbivores being dangerous if threatened. Vermin are much smaller and more of a threat to food supplies, non-metallic equipment, or defenseless casualties. Predatory beasts can be a surprising variant, if the base animal is not normally a predator; if it *is* normally predatory, the altered version is a larger, cunning man-eater. Alternatively, use the d4 result to indicate which column to use of the four beast columns (standard, exotic, common, other) instead of picking an arbitrary column or restricting the result to a specific column.

Instead of a d4, you can also use a d6, either as a size roll (small, medium, large) or to indicate which body part is abnormal. Thus, you could get a Blue Elephant with some kind of head modification (on a 6 result,) which might mean a horned elephant; a roll of 2 for a Black Tiger might indicate ridiculously elongated legs.

All of these are fairly normal beasts; using Material instead of Color can create creatures that are borderline supernatural. Flesh as a material would indicate a standard beast of the type rolled; Wood might be a plant in the shape of a beast, or a beast with woody tendrils sprouting from its body. Liquid might represent a creature that can change into water to escape or ambush, or it can be changed into an ice creature.

The more abstract monster roll is to read the vertical position as a general monster type and the horizontal position as its attack form or other behavior. The monster types focus on general features: avians fly, enchanted creatures have magic powers, incorporeal creatures are mists or spirits, fiends are supernatural outsiders or extra-planar entities, undead are evil re-animated corpses, shapeless monsters are slimes or mimics, plants are usually mindless and stationary, hybrids are two or more beasts mixed together, golems are manufactured, reptiles are scaled and presumed to be more like dinosaurs or dragons than standard reptiles. Combined with the attack behaviors, you can get some fairly varied fantastic creatures; spirits that grapple and paralyze, plants that throw thorns, zombies that grow in size as they add corpses to their bodies.

Several of these types require additional rolls for powers or other details. For example, a hybrid creature is part of one beast mixed with part of another. One of the rolls can be a d6, interpreted as the point where the two beasts join. You can have a turtle with the head of a boar, or a toad with a snake's tail.

For an extremely varied monster, roll three dice all at once: d10, d4, and d6.

  • Read the d10 as generic monster type + material, looking up the d10 result itself as a behavior (using the numbers across the bottom of the page;)
  • Read the d4 as basic animal type (d4 result = column) plus color;
  • Read the d6 as appropriate for the monster type indicated by the d10 roll (power of enchanted creature, second animal of hybrid, extra details, (in)vulnerabilities, etc.)

Millions of monsters, at your fingertips!

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