Sunday, November 27, 2011

What are the Monsters Doing?

So, If we put a relatively small number of creatures that can be randomly encountered in a particular area it will give it a flavor, a sense of verisimilitude.  But then you get to the point where your players are groaning "Ugh, not skunkbats again!"  So after one or two random encounters rolled for the same creature type roll on the following chart to add something interesting to the encounter:
Okay, some of those are not actions but states of being (trained, diseased) but you get the idea.  I wouldn't make this mean the encounter is necessarily harmless, just distracted perhaps.  And if you start taking pot shots at them it turns into your typical skunkbat strafing run.

Also, it may seem this is skewed towards simulationist creatures, but I think you could get some real weird stuff if you try to make it work.  Here are some notes and ideas:

At Play
Because you know you play D&D to imagine young beholders frolicking.

Decoy / Construct
It isn't a real skunkbat after all, someone must be hunting them.  Or it's a mechanical wonder.  If you catch it might be worth a lot.

Disoriented / Mourning
Like dolphins beaching themselves, sometimes gelatinous cubes will push themselves into the acid pools.  Or maybe it's a sabretooth lying on its dead, giant master's chest

Displaying / Singing / Calling
What would the display of a gelatinous cube be?  Iridescent colors playing across its surface?  Or maybe it fluctuates between sphere, cube, and toroid shapes.

Like mountain goats butting each other for superiority ( or flailsnails!), or maybe like crows mobbing a hawk.  You really wanted to see a dragon, right? Well, these skunkbats are trying to drive one off.

Giving Birth / Hatching
Okay, no, you play D&D to experience the miracle of beholders being born.  Happening daily this season at the beholder calving caves.

Lots of weird  possibilities here, think zombies, men and women of wounds, etc.

Ever heard of migrating tarantulas? How about grunion runs? See, these particular gelatinous cubes aren't interested in eating you, they're just trying to get up-dungeon like transparent, cubic salmon. Multiply the number encountered by 10.

Trained / Tamed
Wearing collars or ribbons, these things could be worth money, or it could mean their masters are nearby.  Maybe someone uses stirge like hunting falcons.  Also, can you train a gelatinous cube?

Same creature except it's an undead version.  What is an undead gelatinous cube?  Maybe it's got a yellowish tinge to it and is extra rubbery (read more hd)


  1. Some of this stuff is hilarious. I am so lifting this. With enough imagination, you could create just about anything out of this table. Also, if you want a similar table I found, go here:

  2. I agree that this type of table is awesome, but I feel like it is not applicable to every monster type. My wish is for every monster written up to have a personalized table of this type- maybe 1d6?

  3. Like, included in the monster manual entry that is. I think a little behavior table should just be part of creating a monster.

  4. I am so using migrating gelatinous cubes. Beautiful. Also yellow molds, lurkers above, doppelgangers.

    of course, that's why they hate the tumbling dungeon. Unless it's like a fairground ride for them.

  5. Thanks, everyone.

    Thanks a lot Elber. Depending on how you spin it as DM I think they could be odd/frightening incidents too. Imagine the party realizing they are surrounded by 20-30 slowing moving gelatinous cubes.

    Also thanks for the link. I notice I caught some of the same possibilities (pursuing/fleeing) but that chart is more aimed at sentient humanoid/demihumans. I think we might create those folk a chart of their own.

    @Harlo: You could absolutely do that. A generalized chart like this, by its very nature, will miss some of the specificities possible. But I didn't make it only to save the work of coming up with individual monster charts.

    From my experience a chart like this is generative. You take the table of things you expect goblins to do and then you overlay it onto a different monster to see if it makes sense. And in making it fit you can come up with stuff you probably would have never thought of. I never in my life thought of gelatinous cubes migrating or zombies gettin' it on before making this chart. (That's why in my examples I kept coming back to gelatinous cubes, they are so odd, that they seem a true test of whether the generic entries could be applicable across the board).

    I think it could be a good way to have our cake and eat it too, as well. You make your very rational random encounter chart, you craft it to make sense. Then you have this improv helper that comes into play after the players have encountered a couple of "normal" encounters. Heck, you can even engage the players here: "What would a roper at play look like?" get everyone involved, make stuff.

    If you are worried about those specifics that may be lost for certain monsters, you could cook them into your rational encounter chart.

    @richard: How would molds migrate? Clouds of terrible spores drifting. On the backs of rustmonsters, maybe.

    @Bard: thanks