Monday, March 4, 2019

Monster Lists & Mapping

As everyone who has read this blog for any time knows, my system of choice is GURPS, mostly out of laziness. Yes laziness. GURPS can handle any play style and genre pretty well, even if specialized systems might potentially outshine it on a case-by-case scenario. So what that means for me is that, while I might not get optimal performance for each genre I enjoy, I only need to know one system. That is valuable to me. It doesn't hurt that GURPS handles my two favorite genres pretty well, too!

This post isn't a plug for GURPS, though, so I'll get to the point. I use GURPS. I am lazy. These are sometimes at odds. GURPS does not have a dedicated bestiary in the way that Dungeons & Dragons does. There's no single book I can open and get my hands on hundreds of premade monsters. Sure, Dungeon Fantasy has four books of monsters, now, and I use them, but two are toolkits for making specific types of monsters - oozes and dragons, and the other two have 60 monsters combined, at most. My point here is that as a GM, if I want monsters, I very regularly have to make them myself.

Of course, I've been doing this for a while and have my own repository of monsters at this point. I've even posted some of them on this blog. So that helps, but that doesn't mean I always have the monsters I need on hand when I start placing them on maps. So this is what I do.

As I map, I jot down notes of what goes where and keep a running list of every monster I've placed. This includes different flavors - e.g., Goblin Archer, Goblin Mook, Goblin Priest, Goblin Fighter, Goblin Kamikaze (don't ask), etc. I also jot down monsters with affix combinations - e.g., Possessed Berserk Killer Minotaur of the Juggernaut and such. Some of these will eventually turn into monsters in and of themselves. Lastly, I jot down any monsters that might be traps or traps that might be monsters. Sometimes there are gray areas.

This list becomes my To Do List for monster creation. Anything that doesn't come in flavors or with affixes are just base monsters. Those that have flavors get a base monster and then flavors built on those base monsters. The same goes for monsters with affixes. Finally, those that blur the lines with traps get a final sorting at this stage, and those that make the monster cut get statted. Usually, inspiration or tangents grab me during this process and spawn a few other monsters for the ever-growing folder of That-Which-Paper-Men-Were-Not-Meant-to-Survive.

So if you're mapping and have an idea for a monster, jot it down on a list. Keep that list handy. It's nice to know what's in your dungeon or wilderness area. It's also nice to have a ready-made list of stuff to do when you find some down time.

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