Category Archives: Miscreated Creatures

Miscreated Creatures: Arraku Arraku Arraku

One last peek into Miscreated Creatures. I hope you all have been enjoying these posts. As of now my life should be a little more under control, and I should finally be able to dedicate a more reasonable amount of my time to writing work. These last few months have really torn through my post buffer, and I haven’t been able to do much to replenish it.

Arraku Arraku Arraku


AC 0, 8 HD + 32HP, Move 120’(40’), 1 Atk for 1d6, Morale 12
Head AC: 13

It is unclear if the body of Arraku Arraku Arraku is infinite, or merely surrounded with a complex series of undetectable portals. If one were to find her body and walk beside its length away from her head, they would find themselves back where they started before they found her tail. Yet they would detect no sudden change in the environment suggesting magical teleportation. And no one has ever stumbled upon her tail to begin with, ever.

Arraku Arraku Arraku (This is her name. To shorten it would not be her name. To call her by a name which is not hers would be a grave insult), is a snake-like creature with a flat, 5’ wide body. She secretes a sticky, viscous fluid which pools on her back to a 1” depth. She slides slowly through subterranean passages, her long body trailing behind her, never stopping even to sleep. She has an uncanny knack not to be noticed by anyone who isn’t actively searching the floor for danger. And anyone who carelessly walks over her back will be stuck.

Upon feeling the familiar tugs of struggle on her back, Arraku Arraku Arraku will fold back over herself, flipping her head onto her own back, and sliding along her length upside-down with her mouth open, ready to swallow whomever has succumbed to her trap.

  • If the lead character is not testing the floor when Arraku^3 is encountered, they will step on her back and become stuck. Arraku Arraku Arraku detects this, and her head will arrive in 1d10 rounds.
  • Hitting her body is as easy as hitting a rug on the floor, it’s an automatic success. However, any weapons used to attack her will become stuck after dealing damage, and can’t be used again.
  • When her head arrives, she will begin to twist her body back and forth, slamming any stuck characters into the walls and floor for 1d6 damage each round, + Save v. Paralyzation to avoid losing hold of any held weapons or items. If there are other characters in melee range, Arraku^3 may attempt to hit them with their companion using an attack roll. On success, 1d6 damage is dealt to both characters.
  • Once a stuck character is properly subdued and weaponless, Arraku^3 will slide forward and distend her jaw to swallow her victim whole.
  • If she is so inclined for whatever reason, her breath neutralizes the sticky substance on her back, so she can free any stuck characters by breathing on their feet, which is accompanied by an overpowering peppermint scent.

Whomever delivers the killing blow to Arraku Arraku Arraku is granted immunity to the next sticky trap they encounter, be it a web, or some other goo. The character can walk through it as though it isn’t even there.

Upon her death, the sticky goo will become inert and watery. It will overflow onto the floors as her body becomes a brown and withered husk. So brittle it will break under any pressure. But even in death, you’ll never find her tail.

Miscreated Creatures: Buzzbeard

Another entry from Miscreated Creatures:


Armor 15, Move 120’ (40’), 4hd , 2 Antennae 2d4, Morale 9

Some gods really aren’t supposed to be creating anything. It’s beyond their purview. But, like us, sometimes the gods break the rules. The Buzzbeard should not exist. The god that created them should never have made any creature, but he defied that dictate of the universe, and, predictably, an abomination resulted. The god was destroyed in the act, and forgotten by all who worshiped him. Only the Buzzbeards remember his name, and only as a foolish, arrogant sinner.

There are 18 Buzzbeards in total, and everything about them is grotesque. As though they were made to intentionally flout any sense of aesthetics. Their rudimentary language is composed entirely of croaking, and the buzzing of their insect-wing beards. They smell of mildew.

  • With its eyes glowing a dull red color, the Buzzbeard can mark everyone in a 60’ arc each round. No save is allowed unless a character is already behind partial cover, in which case they may attempt a save versus Breath to avoid being marked. Marked characters glow the same shade of dull red as the Buzzbeard’s eyes, including their clothing and any equipment they have. This glow illuminates up to a 60’ radius, and requires that an additional encounter die must be rolled every exploration turn per marked character. The mark will disappear if the character is touched by natural sunlight.
  • Buzzbeards always know where everyone they’ve marked is. They will ambush marked characters at the most inopportune times they can.
  • The Buzzbeard has four antennae-like appendages on their heads, which function like spears. These appendages attack in pairs, and a pair deals 2d4 damage. On a successful hit, if the antennae deal 4 or more damage, they become lodged in the target and cannot be removed without dealing an additional 1d8 damage.
  • The Buzzbeard’s main goal is to spread disease via its bite. But the shape of its face makes biting difficult. Once the creature is attached to their prey via their lodged antennae-spears, they can make a bite attack at +2. The bite deals no damage, but requires a save versus Poison. Once they’ve successfully bitten, they will dislodge themselves and retreat until they can attempt to surprise their prey once again. Characters who fail their save gain a disease called Yellow Flux.
  • Yellow Flux causes a banana-yellow pus to ooze from the bite wound. Every day after the bite the character should randomly determine one ability score, and permanently lose 1 point from that score, and must save versus Poison a second time. After the first failed save, the flow will increase and the ability score loss will increase to 3 a day. After the second failed save, the pus will begin to spray from the wound like a firehose, with enough force to knock someone off their feet. This process is excruciatingly painful as all of the fluids are drained from the dying character’s body. After a minute or so the spray will stop, leaving only a dry, withered husk behind. Cure Disease is sufficient to end the process. It is also worthy of note that the pus itself is absolutely delicious. It can be enjoyed plain, mixed with salt or liquor, and it’s also a superb marinade for both chicken and pork. (This is why the disease is sometimes referred to as “sweet flux”)

Buzzbeards are intelligent, but their intelligence is broken. They were created knowing everything that they can know. While their range of knowledge is impressive, they can never learn anything new. They might be able to understand a sentence, and they could respond to it, but they would be unable to repeat it.

One of the most important things they know that a Buzzbeard should always be the supreme being in its own environment. This is why two Buzzbeards will always retreat from one another, in acknowledgement that neither’s supremacy should be challenged by the other. There is a fairly exhaustive list in their minds of which creatures are greater than them, and which creatures are lesser. Humans, Dwarfs, and Halflings are most certainly superior to Buzzbeards, which is why the presence of humans is so enraging. The presence of a human forces the Buzzbeard to be an inferior creature. Elves, notably, are considered an inferior creature and may pass through a Buzzbeard’s presence peacefully.

If two Buzzbeards are forced into the same environment, they will tear each other to pieces. If a Buzzbeard can somehow be tricked into looking directly at the sun, a fire ignites within its brain, and it immolates from the inside out.

Whomever delivers a killing blow to a Buzzbeard will briefly know the location of every other Buzzbeard in existence. There are only 18 total, and they all live and hunt within a 15’ mile radius. Likewise, each of the remaining Buzzbeards will know the face of the creature that slew one of their number.

Miscreated Creatures: Revisiting the Rotocula

At some point, as a young college student, I heard some quote or other about how it was impossible for humans to imagine a truly unique creature. All the various mythological beasts are just combinations of different animals: the head of a this, the body of a that, and the tail of another thing. I don’t recall where this quote came from. It might have been something Rene Descartes said while trying to provide rational evidence of god, but google isn’t backing me up on that.

Regardless, as a young man who had always prided himself on his ability to come up with new creatures, I took this as a challenge. Could I come up with a body part for a creature that had no analogue in the natural world?

After some thought, I came up with an orb which would spin in a fleshy socket, allowing a creature to roll on a kind of organic wheel. I was proud of myself for the originality, despite failing to actually disprove the proposition. All I had really done is take an eyeball, sever the optic nerve, and make it a foot. I could claim creativity, but not originality.

Anyway, the idea stuck with me, and five years ago when this blog was just starting to hit its stride, I used the idea to create a sexually dimorphic creature called The Rotocula. The Male Rotocula was my 11th entry in the Merciless Monsters series, and the Female Rotocula was the 12th. Both are dragged down by being Pathfinder monsters. Lots of pointless statblocks and mechanical information, without any real life to them beyond a clever idea.

When I got started on Miscreated Creatures, I knew I wanted to revisit the idea to see what could be done better. Here is the result:

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrie

Rotocula (Female)


Armor 12, 10 HD + 35 HP, Move 420’(140’), 1 Atk for 1d12/Xd6, Morale 9

Rotocula are a sexually dimorphic species. The females and males have significant differences in their anatomy, requiring separate entries for the genders.

Female rotocula appear to be an elongated lump of sagging blue skin, with a head on one end and a short tail on the other. On its back is a white diamond shape, matched by the white underside of the tail. The female rotocula has a vertical mouth which completely bisects its head, and can be opened wide enough for the tongue and tonsils to be in front of the teeth.

Rotocula move on a set of wet, rotating orbs. Alzazi the Bloody Hand, a wizard who captured and dissected a number of these creatures, wrote:

“These strange appendages–I hesitates to term them ‘feet’–are not (as heretofore suspected) completely unique. Upon vivisection, it cannot be ignored that these spheres closely resemble an organ found in our own bodies: the eye. Without the binding tassel of the optic nerve, it is allowed to roll freely, lending the creature a remarkable level of speed and silence of movement, but denying it the ability to travel outside the flatlands of its home.” -Alzazi the Bloody Hand, Archmage of the First Rank, from his seminal work, “Aberrant Anatomy”

    • Female rotocula prefer to attack victims which are fleeing by keeping pace with them, and moving forward to envelop them in their jaws. On a successful attack roll, the target takes 1d12 damage and is swallowed whole. (Standard swallowed whole rules apply)
    • If the female rotocula’s prey is standing still or moving towards her, she tends to clumsily slam into her target with force. On a successful attack roll, this deals 1d6 damage for each 30’ of movement traveled this round to both the target and the rotocula. (1d6 if the rotocula/target moved 30’ this round, 2d6 if they moved 60’, etc.)
    • Due to their high rate of speed, poor stopping power, and leading with the soft tissue of their mouths, female rotocula take x4 damage from weapons which have been set to receive a charge, and have a 5-in-6 chance to break any such weapon into pieces.
    • Female rotocula have a 5-in-6 stealth skill for the purposes of moving silently over flat terrain. If they must also hide from visual detection while moving, their stealth skill is only 1-in-6.
    • While the female rotocula is perfectly adapted to movement through the flatlands of its home, any kind of rough terrain provides a significant obstacle. Underbrush or trees do not hinder them, but any attempt to enter rocky terrain puts them in danger of getting stuck without purchase for their ‘wheels.’
    • The first time the referee would normally roll the female rotocula’s morale, she instead raises her tail and bellows a mating chirp that echoes loudly. There is a one-time chance that there are male rotocula nearby who will respond to the call and come defend their potential mate. Roll 1d20:
      • 1-13: No male Rotocula nearby.
      • 14-17: A single male rotocula comes to assist in 1d6 rounds.
      • 18-19: Two male rotocula come to assist, roll 1d6 for each.
      • 20: Three male rotocula come to assist, roll 1d6 for each

Whether or not any male rotocula are around, the next time the referee would check for morale they should do so normally.

While there is a kind of skull on each side of the female’s bisected head, only one side has a brain. Which side varies between individual specimens. There is a noticeable visual weakness from the eye on the non-brain side. It only vaguely sees hints of color and motion. If the weaker visual side is identified, it could be exploited by characters wishing to slay or trap the creature.

When mating, the female opens her mouth to its maximum degree. The male must place his snout in her throat. Once the act is complete, the female’s jaws snap closed, killing her mate.

While not ‘minions’ per se, it is notable that female rotocula don’t view insect people as prey. Often, small groups of insect people will climb on the backs of a rotocula to spend days feeding on the parasites that live there. If the rotocula is threatened while they are present, they attack with bows or by spitting acid.

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrieRotocula (Male)

(Animal Intelligence)(Solitary, or Mounds of 1d4 + 1)

AC 16, 6 HD, Move 360’(120’), 1 Atk for Xd8, Morale 7

Male Rotocula have sagging, reddish-brown skin. When they draw their three trunk-like legs up inside their bodies, it’s easy to mistake them for a pile of mud or dirt. They spend much of their time concealed like this, waiting for prey to wander into their territory. When they spring up, they move by rolling the three spheres at the end of their legs, much like the female does. Allowing them to move incredible speeds over flat terrain, but limiting them significantly elsewhere. The male’s mouth, filled with yellow teeth, is at the end of a fatty snout appendage dangling from beneath its body.

  • Characters who do not notice a hiding male Rotocula have a 4-in-6 chance of being surprised when it attacks.
  • Rotocula have a 6-in-6 stealth skill for the purposes of moving silently over flat terrain, or disguising themselves as a pile of dirt. If they must also hide from visual detection while moving, their stealth skill is only 2-in-6.
  • Thanks to their legs, male Rotocula are less hindered by rough terrain than the females are. They can move up to 90’(30’) in any terrain which they cannot reasonably roll through.
  • Male Rotocula attack by slamming their heavy bodies into targets, dealing 1d8 damage for every 30’ of movement between themselves and their target at the start of the round. (1d8 if they must travel 30’ to attack, 2d8 if they must travel 60’ to attack, and so on, to a maximum of 4d8). A successful hit roll is required for this attack to succeed.
  • Due to their high rate of speed and poor stopping power, male Rotocula take x2 damage from weapons which have been set to receive a charge, and have a 5-in-6 chance to break any such weapon into pieces.

Duchess Annabelle Drocellia, a student of the anatomical sciences, once successfully removed the creature’s brain and most of its internal organs and rode it around from the inside like a kind of carriage by pulling at the creature’s various ligaments. The body quickly atrophied and ceased to function further, and her notes on her methodology are spotty. But it is theoretically possible to turn the male’s corpse into a kind of rudimentary automobile.

Miscreated Creatures: The Ugly Thing

Remember that monster book I’ve been writing for like…five years now? I’ve mostly been playing it pretty close to my chest, but I don’t have time to get a proper post written, so lucky you, here’s one of my monsters. I hope you enjoy it.

And now I’m writing a second introductory paragraph, because I really want to alight that image to the right, given its dimensions, but the header refuses to alight properly, and it’ll just be easier if I make up something to go in this space.

The Ugly Thing

(As intelligent as a severely developmentally disabled human)

Armor 14, Move 120’ (40’), 4 Hit Dice, 2 Bites 1d8, Morale 5

Its eye is too big, it has too many mouths, it produces a rancid smell and a variety of strange fluids from incorrect places. This thing is an ugly thing, and no one could ever love it. That is the strongly held belief of The Ugly Thing, and much as one might be moved to pity its body image issues, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a convincing counter-argument.

  • The The Ugly Thing is obsessed with the forms of beautiful humans, and expresses this obsession through taxidermy. It’s probably the foremost expert on human taxidermy in the world, but even still the process is ugly, and never really produces perfect results.
  • The creature can temporarily alleviate its self loathing by shrouding itself beneath an illusion. Each of these false forms matches the appearance of one of the taxidermied humans back in its lair, complete with lumpy skin and stitches. Given the odd appearance of these forms, anyone specifically paying attention to The Ugly Thing within 15’ can automatically disbelieve the illusion. Anyone standing further away must make a save versus Magic. Because of the ease with which its illusions can be shattered, The Ugly Thing does its best to avoid attention when it moves in public.
  • If discovered, the The Ugly Thing will charge, spinning its arms like windmills. Hollows in its jaws cause a eerie, high-pitched whistling sound that strikes hard at the fear center of the human brain. Any human NPCs must make an immediate loyalty check or flee.
  • When attacking from surprise, the The Ugly Thing gets a +4 to its attack roll, and deals x4 damage.
  • In addition to normal damage, the creature’s right arm deals 1 point of Intelligence damage on a successful hit, and the left arm deals 1 point of Wisdom damage.
  • Anyone struck by both hands must make a save versus Poison as the creature’s venoms combines within their system. On failure, their brain begins to heat up. Veins bulge, and the character seizes for a few rounds before falling unconscious for the next hour. In this state, it’s easy to drag them off to become their attacker’s next taxidermy project, if they’re attractive enough to deserve it.
  • By focusing its eye on a location for 1 round, the The Ugly Thing can teleport to that location.

A wizard with more money than charm or sense wished to make a perfect mate for himself. A demure creature of radiant beauty. Instead The Ugly Thing crawled from his vats. A being cursed with strong aesthetic sensibilities, but no aesthetic beauty of its own.

The Ugly Thing killed its ‘lover’ when the wizard decided to put his monstrosity out of its misery. In an emotional frenzy, the poor creature then used the wizard’s laboratory to haphazardly summon a demon and beg for beauty. But The Ugly Thing is a stupid creature. It did a poor job of its summoning, and if its plight had not so amused the demon it might have been destroyed. Instead it was given its strange powers. Given the ability to wear whatever beauty it could steal, but only unconvincingly.

The Ugly Thing inherited its lair from its creator, filled with poorly tended magical oddities. Most of these have withered, or rotted, or run out of fuel in the years they’ve been left untended. In their place are dozens upon dozens of taxidermied humans, the menagerie of forms The Ugly Thing may take. The lair is a building in the midst of a thick copse of buildings. The doors and windows beneath the 3rd floor are fakeries, and the only access is via a secret door 3 blocks away, which leads into a tunnel. If found, the contents of the lair will resolve dozens of local missing persons cases.

At some point the The Ugly Thing met the Xepolon, who felt some pity for this lesser being whose very existence was like a cruel cosmic joke. Xepolon crafted a pair of mechanical wooden hands of remarkable quality, which The Ugly Thing could operate with its twin mouths. They are delicate contraptions, kept in a velvet lined box in The Ugly Thing’s lair. It wears them only to perform its taxidermy. In exchange for a few private tasks, the Xepolon also gave The Ugly Thing a pair of its 3 ½’ tall wooden automota, to assist it in the activities of daily living.

If any of the PCs have a Charisma score of 15 or higher, and aren’t an uggo for some reason, The Ugly Thing will covet their beauty. It will attempt to capture them and drag them back to its lair, where it can kill them and taxidermy their fresh corpse. If all the players’ Charsimas are lower than that, The Ugly Thing will have no particular quarrel with them. It may even be willing to deal magical oddities in exchange for subjects of exceptional beauty.

Unsurprisingly, Charisma is important to the creature. It has 4 Charisma itself. 1 point of Charisma damage dealt to the creature translates into horrible physical and psychological harm, dealing 20 points of hp damage. If its Charisma is somehow raised to 15, then the failures of the wizard are undone. The creature transforms into a beautiful and demure… (1-5. Man, 6-10. Woman 11-12. Hermaphrodite)

The mechanical hands of The Ugly Thing are superb quality treasure, and if a character replaces their own hands with the wooden ones, it will improve their dexterity by 1. The hands are lacquered and resistant to fire, though if the character takes more than 10 damage from fire, they’ll have to make a save versus Paralyzation to protect their hands.

Whomever makes the killing blow against The Ugly Thing briefly inherits its obsession with its own appearance, which affects their morale for good or ill. The character adds their Charisma modifier to their attacks for the next week of game time.


The Miscreated Creatures Questions Applied to the Axe Beak

Axe_beakAs an exercise, I’m going to use  the monster development questions I posted yesterday to flesh out a classic D&D monster. Hopefully this will make the way I use the questions a little more clear.

I’m using the Axe Beak for a few reasons. First off, it’s kinda interesting, but is overall boring enough that it needs further development. Second, I’m almost completely unfamiliar with this monster. I never really read its entries in later editions of the game, and I’ve certainly never read any ecology articles or anything written about it. All I know is what’s written in the AD&D Monster Manual. Which is:

Axe beaks are prehistoric carnivorous flightless birds. They are very fast runners and aggressively hunt during daylight. An axe beak resembles an ostrich in its lower portions, with a strong neck and a heavy, sharp beak.

Can it be unique?
The monster is designed around encountering a herd of 1-6. Best not to make it entirely unique.

If it can’t be unique, can it be a small group?
Yeah, it can easily be a small group. Perhaps when you roll 1d6 to determine how many you encounter, you’re also determining how many exist in the whole world? They’re a dying breed. A darwinian loser, or perhaps something that was never very numerous in the first place? A small group created by some unusual means. Perhaps they’re unaging creatures, some 100 or so created in ages past, now reduced by the occasional violent death to a mere handful?

Can it be smart?
Each Axe Beak makes every other Axe Beak a little smarter. When there was 100+, they were geniuses. Now, with only a few left, they’re barely literate simpletons. They scratch simple symbols in the dirt with their claws to communicate with non-Axe Beaks. They’re also capable of using a roughly 500 word vocabulary of some appropriate human-learnable language.

If it is not unique, what is its culture?
Once, Axe Beaks practiced a kind of utilitarian artwork using the medium of trees. With their beaks, they’d carve still living trunks into complex patterns, leaving enough of the tree intact for it to survive and for the patterns to remain. These patterns carried messages to other groups of Axe Beaks, claimed territory, or told stories of events that had happened. here. Given the now much reduced mental abilities of Axe Beaks, they tend to simply feel the urge to hack at trees every now and again, which they do until the tree falls over.

What is its worldview?
Axe Beaks have always been brutish and aggressive. Confident in their own superiority over other creatures, who they view as ugly. They particularly look down on any creature that can fly. They’re deeply jealous, but that’s not something they would ever admit to an outsider.

Wooden structures made by humans are offensive to them, and will be destroyed with gusto.

Can it be an inverse swarm?

What does it do?
The remaining Axe Beaks believe that they simply need to breed more of their own kind in order to reclaim their greatness. To this end, they obsessively mate with any creature they can. They’ve already determined that mating with one another doesn’t work, and they’re willing to try pretty much anything.

The Axe Beaks have never seen an ostrich. I don’t know if mating with an ostrich would be successful for them or not, but they’d certainly be interested in the extreme.

Why does it do what it does?
Because it knows it’s not smart, and it wants to be smart.

How does it do what it does?
They do what comes naturally. Generally speaking they pursue animals of similar size, or other birds. Though most birds are too small.

Does it make anything?
Axe Beaks are actually pretty good at making simple bridges of wood. They don’t like to get wet at all. Due to their decreased intelligence, they can only cross small rivers with a nearby source of trees. But at their height, they built some marvelous bridges that were studied by human engineers.

Anyone tracking the Axe Beaks will probably come across a simple bridge at some point.

Might it deal peacefully with the characters?
They’re easily agitated and easily insulted, and they’re predisposed to think humans are troublesome and annoying. But they also know that there’s much easier prey than humans. They’re generally willing to parley unless they’re ravenously hungry.

Does it have minions?
Not at present.

What is the creature’s lair like?
Axe Beaks are nomads. They range far and wide in search of mates, marking trees as they go. When it rains, they find what shelter they can until it’s time to move on.

Does the creature’s presence affect its environment?
Not by itself, no.

Does it have any special treasures?
There is a pair of saddle bags which gets passed around between the Axe Beaks. Everyone takes their turn carrying it. Within its pouches are smooth stones, shiny rocks, bits of metal, seashells, and a variety of other things which the Axe Beaks have deemed valuable. There may be a number of gems and coins in the pouch.

How did the creature come to exist?
They don’t know it, but all of the Axe Beaks were once axes, wielded by woodsmen who encroached into the forest of Hellena the Kyphotic, a druid with a wicked temperament. With the first blow of each axe, the roots rose up to strangle the woodsmen. The trees grew tall and strong on their blood. The axes were eventually enveloped by the growing wood, and when the trees grew old and toppled over, the Axebeaks emerged from the rotted wood.

What are the portents of its arrival?
There are none.

What happens to the creature’s victims?
The creatures are carnivores. If a meat-creature is their victim, then they will be eaten.

Does the creature have any special weakness?
They find touching water incredibly uncomfortable. They take no damage from being wet, but they react to being wet the way you might expect them to react to being on fire.

Does anything special occur upon the killing blow being made against the monster?
Each Axe Beak that dies makes the whole dumber. When there is only one Axe Beak left, it will simply topple over. Brain dead.

When the creature dies, what happens?
It has a very boring, natural death. Followed by a boring, natural decay.

Is the dead body useful for anything?
Each creature actually has a woodsman’s axe inside of its body. The head of the axe is at the center of its beak, and their spinal column has taken the place of the shaft. If the spine is reinforced with a metal or wooden rod, then the the axe can be wielded as a +2 battle axe against druids. If used to chop down a tree, the tree will always fall in exactly the direction you want it to fall in.

Related Posts:

The questions themselves.

The Miscreated Creatures Questions

106_Tentacle Latcher_Art ConceptAs I briefly mentioned a couple posts back, earlier this year I hit a stumbling block with I when I realized I’d been focusing my creativity in all the wrong places. What inspired me to take up this project in the first place were the mind-bending mechanics of the monsters in Better Than Any Man. I wanted every monster to be mechanically bizarre, so that was my primary goal: make really weird mechanics. What I ended up doing was creating a few really cool mechanics that I’m excited to share, and a lot of needlessly complex, over designed, try-hard nonsense. When I stepped back to look at all I had wrought, I realized that a shameful amount of my monsters were basically an interesting idea coupled with some bad rulecraft.

I spent time reading my favorite monster entries and asking “why do I like  this?” Most of the time, the answer to that question wasn’t “It has weird awesome mechanics.” The answer was something like “Because it makes art out of people’s disassembled bodies,” or “Because its consciousness is in another dimension and it has no idea that its actions harm anybody.” Clearly, I’d fucked up. I needed to reassess my monsters to figure out what made each one great, then build on that. To facilitate that process, I wrote a list of questions to ask myself about each monster. I’ve found the questions to be a reasonably reliable process to help me take an interesting idea and turn it into something that I’m proud of.

Can it be unique?
As a rule, unique monsters are more interesting than species of monsters. So does the monster need to be a member of a larger group in order to reach its full potential?

If it is not unique, what is its culture?
More than one of this creature exist, so they must have some relationship to one another. What binds them together? What are their common feelings and beliefs?

If it can’t be unique, can it be a small group?
A single tribe of similar monsters is more interesting than a globe spanning species. If there’s only a few hundred of something, perhaps they can occupy a single valley or island. Or perhaps there are only a few, and they never or rarely have contact with one another.

Can it be an inverse swarm?
(I’d really like to implement this idea at least a couple times, but so far I haven’t found a good opportunity.)

Can it be smart?
Intelligent monsters can have more complex motivations. They can parley with the party. If it can be smart without losing what makes it cool, then it should probably be smart.

What is its worldview?
Does it have a philosophy? How does it regard us? How does it regard nature, or the divine, or concepts like love and hate?

What does it do?
Certainly it must do something more than simply kill and eat people. What does it do when there’s no one to kill and eat? Is that thing that it does interesting to the players? Does it set traps, or write books, or dig tunnels, or pray? Are the things that it does even a problem? Are they beneficial?

Does it make anything?
Can the players buy what it makes? Is it useful or interesting? What does it do with the things that it makes?

Why does it do what it does?
Does it enjoy the thing it does, or is it a hated necessity? Is it willing, compelled, or even aware of the things that it is doing?

How does it do what it does?
Does it force others to do the work for it? Does it make people watch while it does the work itself? Is the thing that it does a ceremonial act performed with pomp, or is it merely a task to be completed?

Might it deal peacefully with the characters?
Does it have to default to hostility, or can it start out as neutral or friendly? Will it be willing to bargain? Does it want something the players can give it? Does it have anything to offer them? Can the monster serve as a questgiver?

Does it have minions?
Are there creatures attending the monster? Are they willing? Are they happy? Are they similar to itself, or are they different? How loyal are they? Why do they serve it?

What is the creature’s lair like?
Does it have a home? Is it a simple cave or dirt hole, or is it constructed? Does it have a specific appearance? Does it contain any specific objects? Are there any specific hazards? Did it adopt a lair, or build its own? Is its lair in our world? Is its lair difficult to reach?

Does the creature’s presence affect its environment?
Is the area surrounding the creature’s lair affected? How does nature, or children, or animals react to being in the creature’s presence? Does it have an aura of any kind? How does magic react to its presence?

Does it have any special treasures?
What has this creature hoarded or taken from others?

How did the creature come to exist?
Did it evolve? Was it created in its current form by gods? Was it created by a wizard? Was it created by a curse, or a lingering energy? Did it originate as another kind of creature?

What are the portents of its arrival?
When the creature is coming, or being summoned, or thinking about going somewhere, is there a sign of its imminent arrival? Any weather phenomena or unexplained oddities?

What happens to the creature’s victims?
Do they all necessarily die? Are they kept alive? Are they changed?

Does the creature have any special weakness?
Does its weakness hurt or kill it? Does it simply weaken it, or allow it to be hurt more easily? Does the weakness restrict the creature’s options or movement? Is the weakness logical, or is it something completely oblique that only random chance or an ancient sage will be able to reveal?

Does anything special occur upon the killing blow being made against the monster?
Is there a blessing or a curse? Is it on the one who made the killing blow, or on someone they love, or on their player?

When the creature dies, what happens?
Does its body explode, or decay, or simply lie dead normally? Is any evil inside of it released, are any of its deeds undone? Was its life sealing away any good or evil that is now released? Is there any cool effect like everybody in 100 miles going blind, or the sun being brighter for a day?

Is the dead body useful for anything?
Do the bones make good weapons? Are there any spell components to be found among its remains? Is the body part ready-to-use as soon as its removed, or must it be crafted by an artisan? Is it a permanent item? A temporary boost? Does it have an expiration date?

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Wherein I apply these questions to the AD&D Axe Beak monster.

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