Discussion – Making Monsters

Today, I have been making monsters.

When I’m not working on D&D, I am supposed to be studying Biological Sciences! I’m currently a MRes, having just finished a BSc in Zoology, which might explain my addiction to creating monsters in D&D. From a very young age I was obsessed with fantasy creatures, and I’m from the ‘Harry Potter Generation’ which further stoked my interest. If you look back at my childhood drawings they’re all aberrations and monstrosities.

When I started playing D&D, I tore through the Monster Manual (MM) in about a week. I’ve read it cover to cover around 5 times, and I dive into it on a daily basis, not only to look up monster stats, but to check out lore, pictures, the lot. The first thing I ever make public about D&D were monsters. I used to publish them on r/dndnext among other places, and they often got good feedback.

Nowadays, I don’t get quite as much time to create random cryptozoological  nightmares, so anything I do create is normally linked to my home campaign or an adventure I am about to publish. The latter is my cause for creation today. As I (think) I mentioned in my last blog, I am working on an expansion for an adventure  wrote called Serpent Isle. A few reviewers said that they’d be interested to hear more about the island itself, as well as the dungeon in the adventure, so I am attempting to create this. It’ll be an adventure akin to Princess of the Apocalypse or Lost Mines of Phandelver with numerous parts spanning the different tiers of play.

As you might imagine, Serpent Isle is filled with snakes. There are a few snakey type things in the MM, which I’ve put to good use, but I needed more. The first place I looked for inspiration is the 4th Edition MMs. I’ve updated creatures from here before, such as in my Beast of ShadowGate adventure. So from there, I pinched the Shadow Snake, a serpent writhed in darkness with the ability to teleport. I also created another snake, which I called the Hypnoboa, for one of the introductory scenarios.
I had a clear idea in mind of what I wanted from this creature (you guessed it, hypnotism) so leafed through the MM to find some fitting abilities. Eventually, I reworked the Aboleth’s Enslave ability, as well as a generic stun that you can find on a variety of monsters.
I then have to work out the Challenge Rating (CR) of the monsters using the advice in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG). This is really helpful, but doesn’t necessarily work 100% of the time, so I give it a tweak here and there, as you can usually tell what abilities are going to affect a creature’s CR.

As always, I’m curious to see what other creators have made! I loved the r/MonsterADay thread on reddit, but sadly it’s no longer active. I’ll throw a few links here, here and here to monsters I’ve released previously. If you’ve made anything cool yourself, or found something you think might help me out for Serpent Isle, please comment it!

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