There are approximately 92,955,807 monster books in the tabletop roleplaying ecosystem. That’s one for every mile between the Earth and the sun. Spacing them apart like that is the only way to make it feel like there’s not a glut. A lot of other books offer up advice on how to crunch numbers for the system of your choice to create new monsters. The last thing I wanted to do was write another monster book. So I didn’t.
“The best monsters are our anxieties given form. They make sense on the level of a dream – or a nightmare.”
Victor LaValle, New York Times interview (Aug 29, 2012)
I Wrote a Thing: Building Monsters
Building Monsters is actually about creating villains. I didn’t title it “Building Villains” because there’s a reason why so many monster books exist: they tend to sell well. You’ve got to lean into that recognition factory. It’s not a book about crunching numbers. The aim is to help you develop monsters as characters, with backgrounds, motivations, and objectives. There’s nothing scarier than a villain with a plan. We don’t need more advice on how to create mindless killing machines; that’s sort of the default position.
As with all of the books in the Building series, it’s system-agnostic. That means it wasn’t written specifically for Dungeons & Dragons, or any other tabletop roleplaying system. You can use it with anything. Take what already exists in your favorite thing, and make the monsters more interesting by giving them personalities and goals. Pretty simple concept, but I explain how to do it in a fair amount of detail.
I wrote a thing. Go buy a copy. Tell your friends.