There’s a peculiar thing that happens with long-time players. After you’ve been playing in the same system for years and years, you begin to get a sense for the monsters. When you first started out you were properly scared by dragons. You said, “What the hell is that thing?” when you ran into leucrottas. You blundered into gelatinous cubes, stood in the beholder’s anti-magic field, and were actually surprised when the troll got back up and kept fighting. Your foes were new and interesting then, and you were never sure whether you were walking through a deadly encounter or a pack of low-level mooks. There’s a sense of excitement in that kind of uncertainty. When you’ve fought everything in the book though, the magic begins to fade.

You don’t necessarily have to be one of these guys that studies the bestiary like it’s going to be on the SAT to run into this issue. Simple exposure to a diet of CR-appropriate encounters will do the trick. If any of you guys have ever played L4D2 (one of my all-time favorite shooters), I think of this as the difference between getting slimed with bile as a new player (panicking and running around like a muppet) and calmly bashing away the horde as a pro. You’re no longer back-pedaling furiously and laughing at the hilariousness of the situation when you’re a long-time gamer. You’re trying to figure out how to most efficiently solve the encounter. The novelty wears off, and so you’re left with samey-feeling combats.

In order to solve this problem, some players turn towards Gygaxian Naturalism, a deadly style where high-CR monsters can be found even at “inappropriate” levels. Only clever play and quick thinking will save the day there! Developers try to solve the problem by printing new and different monsters, preserving the sense of novelty for as long as possible. GMs with a flair for home brew may try the solution in today’s comic, making classic monsters deceptively difficult by adding templates, class levels, or bizarre abilities.

This of course brings us to the question of the day. Have you ever dealt with the problem of players (maybe even yourself) knowing too much about the monsters? How do you keep the game fresh when you’ve already fought everything twice? Let’s hear about your clever strats and modified monsters down in the comments!


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