Saturday, September 1, 2018

30 Minutes: Monsters

(Okay, I actually spent 60 minutes writing...)

CW: death, drowning, body horror.

I'm updating the seed to 2d6, aka 11 possibilities!  Better bell curve.

2: Essay: "Concerning ________" (roll again; on this result, Concerning Players) 
3: Dungeons
4: Tricks
5: Treasure
6: Npcs
7: Gods
8: Adventure Hooks
9: Monsters
10: Traps
11: Dungeon Rooms
12: Diseases or Poisons

The Dice Roll:

2d6 result: 9: Monsters

Incrementing the Chart

For next time:

2: Diseases or Poisons
3: Essay: "Concerning ________" (roll again; on this result, Concerning Players) 
4: Dungeons
5: Tricks
6: Treasure
7: Npcs
8: Gods
9: Adventure Hooks
10: Monsters
11: Traps
12: Dungeon Rooms


The average monster stat block fails to inspire me pretty significantly.  The average monster description isn't much better.  I've been trying to think about what it is about some monsters that light my fire, while many don't!  I think perhaps the thing about monsters is they're only as scary as their fictional positioning- and most modern Monster Manuals don't deliver on the promise of the Monster, from a fictional positioning perspective.  Slender Man isn't scary because he has 15' reach and if he hits he strangles for 2d6 damage each round.  Slender Man is scary because of where he lives, and how he expresses threat, and the targets he chooses- because of his fictional positioning.

Especially when so many monsters are just... intelligent races that attack the "Good" races?  Why am I killing these goblins and orcs again?  Shouldn't we send some emissaries to negotiate with them?  Establish trade?  Help relieve their environmental pressures so they stop attacking us?

Is a goblin just a "short green humanoid with sharp teeth, sharp nose, sharp ears, and sharp eyes?  They favor sharp daggers and love to pretend they're surrendering, before redoubling the attack?"  

"They shout Bree-Yark?"


Or is a goblin the manifestation of greed- the greed humans feel for the things other humans own?  Living things, mostly.  First they come for small working animals- cats, dogs.  Vanished in the night, stolen from the edges of civilized land.  Sometimes they show up later, slain- a warning.  The first sign of goblin infestation is often, in fact, rats- an overabundance of rats, where cats and small dogs would once have kept them at bay.  But goblins don't stop there.  An untreated goblin infestation grows- one goblin is a threat, five an atrocity.  

After pets, livestock are stolen away at night- prized cows, sheep, goats disappeared or slain, their meat spoiled.  After livestock... children... and then adults.  You might catch glimpses of them in the woods- their pale white almost translucent skin flashing as they duck into the brush.  At night, the glow of their eyes can make you think that lost pet is just lurking out of sight, maybe a bit feral now.  You might approach, hand held out, a treat extended to coax Whiskers back to you... this is a mistake.

Goblins never attack unless they are sure of the kill, and they are excellent at staying hidden.  Their needle sharp fangs drive straight for the throat, their claws razor sharp to rend skin.  They don't eat or drink from what they kill- nobody knows how they subsist.  The infest the dark crevices of the earth, yes, but where possible, they prefer the abandoned remnants of humanity.  They act out mock plays of life in there, small rituals, cooking eating, spats and feuds, ritual without substance, almost like clockwork.  If they are ever seen engaging in this, they fly into a frenzy- they will accept no evidence of their secret pantomimes.

"Okay" you might say.  "So a cat goes missing, the town gets their torches, and flushes the goblin out of the woods and slay it.  No big threat."


Only, Goblins have an instinct for choosing their targets.  The farmer who had a bad year, the one everyone looks down on?  The man trying to raise his two boys, who everyone whispers about?  The hedge witch whose services everyone needs, and resents needing?  When these people run through town, tears on their face, pleading and panicked... who listens?

The pain of the Goblin is that they target those who are the most genuinely attached to what they hold dear- and also the least likely to elicit sympathy from their peers.  In this way the Goblins grow, drip fed, until it is too late...

There are rumors of occasional towns who have had Goblin infestations vanish- usually after some wide-spread common outcry, mock trial, and sentencing of someone very well established and connected.  Usually the person who, for some reason or other, is benefiting the most as a byproduct of the attacks and uncertainty.  The Coveter In Chief.

But we all know how likely that is.


Monsters, then, aren't just "apex predators" or "bad people-things"- monsters are inextricably tied to our humanity.

The Tentacleel

There is a stream in the woods where once lovers lay.  They would meet there, and whisper sweet songs into each others ears.  A popular spot, spoken of behind hands, in shadow.  Where the sun shines bright on the banks, and a strong tree grows out over the swift and deep currents- perhaps a rope hangs from its bough.

We all know the place.

Swift, cold water hides many dangers, but is it not the folly of youth to believe their invincibility?

"You should have been more careful"

"I warned you that boy was nothing but heartbreak"

"I told you not to go to the stream"

The tentacleel wants nothing so much as warmth and companionship.  It is drawn to the places where such things are on display, and it waits.  It waits, until that joyous moment when a companion deigns to join it, deep in the dark waters, so warm and soft.  The tentacleel holds on tight, as long as it can- days, certainly- sometimes weeks.  Until there's nothing left to hold, until everything has sifted out, washing downstream.  

But that's okay.  Mourners so often pay it visits, that it's just a matter of time, really.

Death Adder

It is a fact of life that life is finite- and this the Death Adder understands above all.

A hunter may occasionally come across the carcass of some wild beast, slain or fallen as a result of its natural circumstances.  At first glance, everything may seem normal- but a sharp eye will spot a pool of shadow under the creature's mouth.  A thick, scaled skin, shed- winding back into the corpse.  The Death Adder's leavings, coated in a contact venom that causes a hot, searing pain, and leaves behind a wicked burn, small at first, which grows with the years.

The Death Adder is no threat, unless accosted.  Its bite is an aging venom- the skin dries, the hair greys, the eyes wrinkle.  But it bites only under duress.  Humanity hates the Death Adder, because humanity hates death.

The Death Adder finds comfort in the presence of those who are near to death.  It will often be found coiled underneath a newborn's crib, an invalid's bed.  Around the bell of a church's tower; in the dark corner of an infirmary basement.  Wallowing in the mud of an impending battlefield.

Those who have seen it insist that the doomed can be saved if the Adder is removed... but this is rarely achieved.  It is a stubborn beast.  Many make the attempt- fire, sword, axe, pitchfork... the sick bed is moved, the invalid encouraged to take air.  The Death Adder desires nothing so much as to remain in its chosen locale... waiting.

After the beloved passes beyond the veil, the only sign that remains of the beast is often a long, gossamer skin, dried and crinkly.

Of course, humanity hates the Death Adder for a second reason as well.

Nobody enjoys watching a newborn serpent shedding, sliding out of the mouth of a recently deceased loved one.


  1. These are amazing! I love how there isnt a single word of actual physical description in these incredible monsters :)

  2. Where did you get the CW aspect? My wife and I have been doing this in the evenings and having a little more direction would be awesome

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question! What are you wondering about?

    2. CW: death, drowning, body horror.

      But now I realize that that was probably a content warning, not an additional idea seed . Sorry about that!

    3. Haha! Yes, that’s what it was.