Poor BBEG. That straight up sucks! I mean, do you have any idea how long it takes for a pet purple worm to grow to its full size? Neither do I actually, and I’m sure as shit not trawling through multiple editions worth of lore to come up with the answer. Judging by our dark overlord’s reaction, however, I’m guessing it was a considerable time investment.

Although I’ve never personally lost a colossal lilac annelid to the forces of Good, I do have some empathy for our grieving skele-man. Speaking as a GM, I know what it’s like to pour over a bestiary, cross-referencing abilities and applying conditional modifiers in the margins. Especially when you get to high-level play, GMs wind up sinking hours into understanding complex monster mechanics and figuring out how to make combat interesting. It’s fun work, but make no mistake: it is work. That’s why it can be such a tough pill to swallow when your precious beast gets exploded in Round 1.

The same principle applies to enemy NPCs, only more so. Sure you can throw an archmage at the party, but it’s so much more satisfying when you build that wizard from scratch! You’re shelling out for the Hero Lab subscription or D&D Beyond or whatever. Why not create a major antagonist with the PC rules? Sure it’s time-consuming, but this is an important figure in the campaign mythos! She’s got a tragic backstory and relatable motivations and everything. And hey, maybe if one of the PCs goes down in combat, she could come in as a suitable PC replacement, ready and waiting with a redemption arc for—


And just like that, it’s dead Jim. This is the most dangerous moment for a GM. Because your precious baby is lying in a growing pool of blood. You’ve only got seconds to convey that wicked-cool backstory with a few last words. And maybe, if you do well enough, the PCs will realize how much work you put into this NPC, and offer to heal them, and then they can joint the party, and then… Oh dear. It seems like I’m describing a DMPC. Hmmm….

My point here is simply this: It’s OK to put a little blood, sweat, and tears into your antagonists. If you do, it’s only natural to grow attached to them. But never forget that the PCs are the stars of the show. Learn to let your monsters go. You can always make another.

So how abut it, GMs? Have you ever grown attached to your villains? Did they manage to go out on a high note, or were you left in agony as the PCs killed ’em off before they could use their cool abilities or even-cooler story hooks? Tell us your tales of untimely monster death down in the comments!


THIS COMIC SUCKS! IT NEEDS MORE [INSERT OPINION HERE] Is your favorite class missing from the Handbook of Heroes? Maybe you want to see more dragonborn or aarakocra? Then check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. You’ll become part of the monthly vote to see which elements get featured in the comic next!