As a Dungeon Master, I love nothing more than tables for generating random stuff: random treasure, plot lines, villains, countries and more. When you trust part of your campaign to the fickle fate of the dice gods, your game can go in new and unexpected directions. Dungeon Mastering becomes even more of an act in improvisation. While it’s not for anyone, I’ve found that the results that I get from combining random results with my own imagination often exceed in fun anything than I could have come up with on my own.
Obviously, game designer James Raggi thinks so too. He recently sent me a copy of his Random Esoteric Creature Generator book, and I’ve been having a blast with it. Raggi’s philosophy is that it’s best to keep players on their toes when it comes to fighting beasts, otherwise it all becomes predictable and the sense of adventure is lost. I can completely see what he means: After over 30 years of gaming, I know exactly how to do deal with almost any critter you might encounter in a dungeon, and so do most of my players. They can pretend all they like that their newbie characters don’t know how to kill a troll, but it’s not the character’s sense of wonder that’s important, it’s the players.
Using the charts in Raggi’s book, Dungeon Masters can create any number of wild beasts to bedevil their players. Sure, my players might know how to deal with ghouls and gelatinous cubes, but what about quadrupedal bird-mutants made of living ooze? That’s sure to make them hesitate before they launch a bull rush, and that’s what the game is all about. The Random Esoteric Creature Generator is built for use with any of the “Old School Renaissance” games, but with a little extra conversion work, it could easily work for any fantasy gaming system. (I’m currently using it with Goodman Games’ excellent Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, myself.)
I thought that the best way to show you how the Random Esoteric Creature Generator works would be to walk you through a monster creation session. Let’s go!
Basic Body Shape: I rolled a 14. That’s “quadruped.” (+10 movement bonus)
Basic Characteristics: I rolled a 19: “Crustacean.” (1d6+4 armor bonus, “7”)
Crustacean type: I rolled a 1: “Barnacle.”
Size: I rolled an 8: “Human sized.”
Movement Type: I rolled a 17: “Swimming.”
Attack Method: I rolled a 6: “Bite” (increase main attack by one die type)
Distinctive Features: I rolled a 94, which says to “Roll Twice”
Distinctive Feature #1: I rolled a 62: The creature can become a living shadow.
Distinctive Feature#2: I rolled a 21: The creature has a horn, but not for combat.
Special Abilities: I rolled an 87: No special abilities.
Combat Strategy: I rolled a 94: Creature will always attack demi-humans and non-humans first.
Motivation: I rolled an 8: Spawning. Creature lays eggs inside dead characters.
I named it the added a few things into the mix, and here’s what I’ve got:
THE HORRIBLE CIRRIPOD
Number Appearing: 1 (Unique)
Armor Class: 17
Hit Dice: 4 (28 HP)
# Attacks: 1
Attack: Bite for 1d8
Movement: 40 ft/water or land.
Saves: Reflex: 12 Fortitude: 14 Will: 11
Special Ability: Once per encounter the Cirripod can phase into a shadow form for 1d6 rounds. Only magical weapons can affect it, and if can surprise unsuspecting characters on 1-5 on 1d6.
Description: An enormous, shelled creatures with thin spidery legs surrounding a beaky maw, the Horrible Cirripod lurks in saltwater marshes and stagnant bays. It is postulated that a mad wizard summoned it from the plane of shadow, for the creature has the innate ability to assume a shadowy form that it uses to ambush its favorite prey, halflings. The Cirripod will always attack any halflings in a party first, followed by dwarves, then followed by elves. Any demi-humans that it manages to slay will be carried off to its underwater lair. Safe beneath the sea, the Cirripod will implant its eggs within its victims corpses…
See? Think that any player will know how the heck to handle the Horrible Cirripod? Not likely. Unless they’re reading this. Go away! DM’s Only!
Get the Random Esoteric Creature Generator from Goodman Games.