DCC: Focus on unique monsters in your game

Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) is a popular tabletop role-playing game that puts players in the shoes of classic adventurers exploring dangerous dungeons filled with deadly monsters. While there are a variety of monsters to choose from in the DCC rulebooks, many players and game masters alike may want to spice things up by creating their own unique monsters.  I recently backed the Dungeon Denizens Kickstarter that will provide me with a book of over 500 monsters for the game, but what if I wanted to make my own?  Here are some tips for making your own unique DCC monsters.

Brewing your own unique monsters is fun
Brewing your own unique monsters is fun

Start with a Concept

Before diving into the mechanics of your monster, start with a concept. Think about what makes your monster unique and how it fits into the world of DCC. Consider its backstory, motivations, and any quirks or special abilities it might have. This will help you flesh out the details and create a truly memorable creature.  In the older school monster compendium books, creatures were thought of from an ecological standpoint.  How does it fit in where it lives, and what is its purpose?  Thinking about these answers can help shape the creature and the game.  A ravenous powerful carnivore in your game may mean that it has a large territory it has to travel just to keep up with its feeding requirements leads to a plot hook that has the local farmer losing a large herd of sheep.

Draw Inspiration from Existing Monsters

While you want your monster to be unique, there’s no harm in drawing inspiration from existing DCC monsters. Look at the abilities and stats of monsters that are similar to your concept and consider how you can tweak them to make your monster stand out. Additionally, consider drawing inspiration from real-world mythological creatures or monsters from other media.  Always steal what you can.  If you know that it is going to be a ravenous carnivore, start by looking at other monster stat blocks to see what they look like and consider what you want to add or take away from that model.  Maybe it does not fit the concept you have and you want to do it all differently.  These glimpses will help the final product because it pushes you to think about how it looks statistically so you can portray it in your game accurately.

Emphasize Flavor and Descriptions

In DCC, combat is often deadly and unpredictable, so it’s important to make your monsters stand out with flavorful descriptions. Think about the monster’s appearance, how it moves, and any distinctive sounds or smells it might have. Consider how your players might react to encountering such a creature, and play up those reactions.  Much of the Monsters chapter in the DCC rulebook discusses this point exactly.  The section entitled “The” Monster vs. “A” Monster is a perfect guideline for this game.  Even in a horde of creatures that share a commonality, there is a difference between the individuals.  Lean into this.  Make each individual the monster they are facing, not just another carbon copy of the same monster.

Balance Mechanics and Flavor

While flavour and descriptions are important, mechanics are also key in creating a fun monster. Consider the monster’s hit points, attack bonus, and special abilities, and make sure they are in line with the purpose you want. I am not a Judge who leans heavily on balance.  I present my worlds as a sandbox so if the players hear of a creature (The Slavering Maw of Wolfcott Wood) that slew the mighty Henrietta, the greatest sword mistress of all time, and they are 1st level they should take the cue to keep away.  Eventually, my players may want to test themselves against The Slavering Maw of Wolfcot Wood however, and I need to make sure that the statistics I provide meet its reputation.  Of course, there may be a twist and the creature may not be what killed Henrietta, but that is a tale for another post.

Test Your Monster

Before introducing your monster to your players, make sure to playtest it. Consider running a mock combat encounter with other creatures, or Non-Player Characters to see how it performs. This will help you identify any areas where the monster might be too weak or too strong and you can make adjustments as necessary.  Providing the optional funny voices while rolling dice alone in this test is expected…

By following these tips, you can create unique and memorable monsters that will challenge your players and keep them coming back for more. So, get creative and let your imagination run wild!  And do not forget to keep on rolling!

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