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DontEatRawHagis
2014-08-18, 10:36 AM
Recently I've been playing in 3 different games while DMing a 4th.(yah bachelor life)

I've noticed a couple of differences between groups.

1. the RPGA group always stick to the Monster Manual statline no matter what. In one case our group lost a guy due to RL and we were almost TPK because he didn't scale the difficulty.

2. My style - I stick to the statline a bit change the names around. Occasionally I'll through a custom built monster at the players with no real CR or Statline but usually that's few and far between.

3. No monster statline at all. This is the style of two of my DMs. One I don't really mind because the system they DM is really difficult to run(NPCs also have significant power depletion at higher levels compared to players). Another just seems to make them up on te fly without preparation. Makes me feel like my stat line doesn't mean anything to me.

How do you guys deal with monsters? Do you follow what the game says or do you make your own on the fly?

Milodiah
2014-08-18, 10:45 AM
2, obviously. And it also helps to have more than just Monster Manual 1 on hand. I've got 1,2,3, Libris Mortis, Lords of Madness, Fiend Folio (of which my PDF version is broken, so I don't use it much just because it takes 15 seconds per page to load), and more. If I want to change a stat, I damn sure will, I'm the DM and this is my world. If I want to make a new monster, refer to previous.

The last thing I want is for my players to use OOC knowledge of the creature to beat it. Strengths and weaknesses is one thing, but I expect them to keep it within limits of what their characters would know. Obviously dragons have breath attacks of which you should try to stay out of the way. But if you're sitting there doing complex math based on stats you found in the monster manual, I'm going to be inclined to change them on the spot just to show you that I discourage that style of play.

Also, if it's a particularly unique monster, or one that looks similar to other monsters, I don't give them the name right off the bat. Standardized monster manual names are for OOC, IC you see what you see and if you recognize it as something you know then good for you. A green dragon is...well...a dragon. That's green.. Sometimes it's just obvious. But when you start trying to distinguish whether you're dealing with a zombie or a wight or a bleakborn at long range in poor light, you'll probably have to take a guess.

DM Nate
2014-08-18, 10:45 AM
First, I conceptualize a few monsters that would be appropriate for the area the players are in. What their strengths are; how they attack; if they rely more on damage, tactics, toughness, status ailments, etc.

Then, I use some spreadsheets I have to search for monsters of about the right CR with similar abilities. More often than not, they're out of the first Monster Manual--there are plenty of good, diverse options in there.

If the monster isn't QUITE what I want, I add or remove an ability, apply a template, change the size and associated stats, etc. Usually I don't need to give it more than one nudge to have it exactly where I want it.

Finally, I reskin it. The creature looks and sometimes behaves nothing like the monster it was pulled from, and the party has to rediscover what it is and what it does. All with only a modicum of effort from me.

Here are a few examples I used for my current campaign. (http://darkhaunt.wormholes.info/?page_id=1715)

SgtCarnage92
2014-08-18, 10:54 AM
Generally I tend to use the in book stats. However I do like to customize my monsters with alternate feats, gear, skills and whatnot when appropriate to throw my players off and keep them guessing. Monsters are one of my favorite parts of the game, and rarely can I not find a monster that fits what i need either by using the stock "by the book" stat set or by using that as a basis and modifying for what I do need. I'm also a "plan-ahead" sort of GM and while I can run more "spur-of-the-moment" style, and have had a whole lot of fun doing so, I still find myself relying on the stats from the book to get the job done, even if it tends to slow things down some in order to do so.

draken50
2014-08-18, 11:12 AM
I tend to use the book stats, and twist a bit if I want too.

For me crafting stat-blocks really isn't fun so I do like having that pre-done.

Mark Hall
2014-08-18, 11:18 AM
I use the statlines, but sometimes create my own stuff... especially in humanoids, where I'm likely to toss class levels onto regular creatures. Even if the Hobgoblins are 1+1 like always, giving them weapon specialization (with the attendant 3/2 attacks and +1 to Hit and +2 to damage) makes them a lot tougher. Throwing in a thief who can sneak and backstab? Makes the fight a lot nastier, without having to do a lot of extra work.

Milodiah
2014-08-18, 11:19 AM
Just out of curiosity, how far do you guys go down the line of character creation when it comes to making the average humanoid NPC? Personally I just do the stat rolls, the equipment, their levels and stuff, and note any special abilities they pick up that I'd see coming up in whatever it is they're there to do in the story, whether it's fight or talk or trade, etc. I hardly ever do the skills, but I think certain skills are kind of becoming too important to ignore, like Concentration for casters, or stuff like Tumble, Escape Artist, etc.

DM Nate
2014-08-18, 11:21 AM
I often just use the charts of ready-made NPCs from the DMG.

...
2014-08-18, 01:13 PM
[QUOTE=Milodiah;17961754]2, obviously. And it also helps to have more than just Monster Manual 1 on hand. I've got 1,2,3, Libris Mortis, Lords of Madness, Fiend Folio (of which my PDF version is broken, so I don't use it much just because it takes 15 seconds per page to load), and more. -snip-dragon. That's green.-DOUBLE SNIP-.

Honestly, monster manuals 4 and 5 have some good monsters if you look hard enough (please don't hate me), same with XPH if you allow psionics. Also, it could be an Emerald Dragon...

Milodiah
2014-08-18, 01:14 PM
I just don't have the last two, sadly, or I would use them.

VoxRationis
2014-08-18, 01:19 PM
I sometimes use the Monster Manual, but most of my enemies tend to be humanoid NPCs (I have a somewhat grittier, more realistic feel to my current campaign). I feel free to invent new monsters or tweak existing ones. Most of the creatures in the Monster Manual seem hard to incorporate into a setting anyway. So many large apex predators, so many out of the blue and completely unrelated to anything else... It drives the bio major in me mad.

Milodiah
2014-08-18, 01:22 PM
See, what you need to do is take a complete and realistic food web and simply stick the word "Dire" in front of everything. Then watch the apocalypse unfold as dire deer rampage through towns fleeing from dire wolves, and dire mice rip holes in barns to hide from the dire owls. Dire bears snatch dire salmon out of the rivers, and dire vultures rip apart anything that's not at full health. Not to mention the dire mosquitoes and dire fleas.

jedipotter
2014-08-18, 01:28 PM
I do it the third way, just wing it. I'll use the book stats as a vague base, then just go from there.



Just out of curiosity, how far do you guys go down the line of character creation when it comes to making the average humanoid NPC? Personally I just do the stat rolls, the equipment, their levels and stuff, and note any special abilities they pick up that I'd see coming up in whatever it is they're there to do in the story, whether it's fight or talk or trade, etc. I hardly ever do the skills, but I think certain skills are kind of becoming too important to ignore, like Concentration for casters, or stuff like Tumble, Escape Artist, etc.

I create them all the way. But I have a huge stack of created NPCs. It is easy to build. Just set a goal of ''making one NPC a day''. And after a couple weeks you will have a bunch of them. Or take an hour on Sunday and make five NPCs. You can make low level simple ones in a couple minutes, but the ones you want are the more advanced ones.

Yora
2014-08-18, 01:41 PM
I run my campaign with an OSR game, and simplicity of monsters being one of the main reasons. (The other one being simplicity of characters.)
A monster has a numbe of Hit Dice, AC, and usually one to three attacks, and other than any special abilities, everything falls into place automatically. If it's not magic or poisonous, you can make pretty much everything up on the fly, without any real difference compared to prepared creatures.

Usually I compile my own monster books from official creature entries and my homebrew monsters,

nedz
2014-08-18, 03:19 PM
I tend to use the stat blocks most of the time, but will change things around quite a bit. Mainly adding class levels or occasionally advancement or even templates. I will occasionally write my own monsters, or completely re-work an existing one like I intend to use Gnolls in an upcoming game [3.5] so I'm going to make them half wolf (because northern part of the setting so no Hyenas) and drop them to 1 RHD so I can add class levels better.

I'm getting bored with Dragons Colour Coded for your Convenience so I intend to chop these around by adding a different Half Dragon Template. You see a Metallic Green Dragon flying above the forest half a mile hence. Is this a Half Silver / Green Dragon, a Half Green / Silver Dragon, a Half Gold / Blue Dragon, a Half Blue / Gold Dragon or something completely different ? And what's it's alignment going to be ?

icefractal
2014-08-18, 03:49 PM
For the most part, I use existing stat-blocks, often reflavored. To the degree it's needed / I have time for, I tweak them, changing the feats around or modifying abilities to better suit the role.

Occasionally, I homebrew up an entire monster. It's rare, because that takes a while and usually there's something close enough I can use already.

For NPCs that aren't supposed to be a threat, they're simple enough, just use some stock stats with adjustments for their situation. I keep a chart of skill bonuses by competence level - Joe Average, Local Expert, Renowned Expert, Master, Legendary, with or without heavy gear support - and that covers what I would need stats for 90% of the time.

For NPCs that are actually supposed to be a threat - it's a pain in the ass, at least in 3.x. Tailoring them to be seriously good at something (for their level) is a process that takes too long for a character that might only show up in one or two sessions. The kludge is to repurpose old characters I've built - but the problem with that is that I tend to lean more in the "glass cannon" direction, and an NPC that starts off by killing a PC or two then dies before taking a second action is not the kind of fight that's usually desirable. So ... I use them rarely, is the answer.

Curbstomp
2014-08-18, 10:43 PM
I generally add class levels to monsters to give them a few different abilities. Or I'll do a monster mash-up. One example of this was a monster known locally as "Frank's wife". It was a 1/2 Kraken 1/2 Hydra. Basically a tentacle monster with heads on each tentacle and a massive beak. When the PC's saw it the first time, they ran screaming. Later they became allies.

Mastikator
2014-08-19, 05:51 AM
I... avoid using monsters and use humanoid antagonists. I just give them normal stats and try to focus on making the dialog and combat tactics interesting.

valadil
2014-08-19, 08:32 AM
Depends on the system. In 3.5 I don't trust the Monster Manual. In 4e, the compendium gives me monsters that behave the way I expect them to. I know 4e isn't popular around here, but I found the DDI resources amazing.

Anyway, I prefer to stick with the book because it reduces how much time I spend on combats. I don't mind statting up monsters myself, but if I go to that effort I'm going to want to use them. If the players think of a clever way to bypass a combat, I'm more likely to let them if I spent 10 minutes copying MM stats than two hours crafting custom NPCs. Since I want to reward cleverness and player agency, I'm better served by using freebies from the MM. I reserve custom statted monsters for boss fights and BBEGs that the players won't want to bypass.

Nagash
2014-08-19, 08:51 AM
I use a mix. If its a really common monster I tend to stick to the books.

But if its something rarer I'll change a lot of stuff up and get creative. For humanoids I add class levels to them but dont worry about optimizing too much and usually just note down whatever skills I think are likely to come up.

sktarq
2014-08-19, 03:32 PM
The MM (et al) are wonderful starting points. I'll re-skin as often as I restat something. a few tweaks here and there with weapons, feats, possibly move stats up or down a few points (treat the MM stat as a modify from 10 or 11 and roll if random). But re-skining is just as common. Exception is animals....I basically decided animals need something to survive all the monsters in the DnD world. So they get 8 skill points per HD and often bonus feats. They are rogues of the natural world.