Making monsters is hard work. It’s always more complex than you think, and understanding how all the parts fit together requires careful study and arcane expertise. That happens to be true whether you’re a necromancer or that far more evil occupation: a GM.

My first experience making monsters was back in Exalted 2e. I figured that I could just throw together a few health levels, a combo attack, and make up a ridiculous sounding name. When you’re not the most experienced person at the table, however, that fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach doesn’t work out so well.

“Your soulsteel daiklave arcs down towards Forsaken Misery and Blossom Face Princess,” I said, enjoying my first turn as an Exalted ST. “But the moment before it touches her perfect hair, she vanishes from sight.”

Laurel looked at me in baffled silence for a moment. “I thought you said that Forsaken Misery and Blossom Face Princess was a Dragon-Blooded?”

“She is,” I replied. “She just activated her perfect dodge.”

“Um,” said my then-girlfriend. “You do know that Dragon-Blooded don’t have access to perfect defenses?” She then made the customary gesture of superior knowledge. I have since learned my lesson.

These days, when I’m creating an NPC for Pathfinder, you can bet that I’m relying on Hero Lab. When it’s time to populate one of my mini-dungeons, I’m linking straight to the SRD, and even then I only trust certain sources. That’s part of the reason why I appreciate Starfinder’s template system. As a designer, getting the basic stat array down to a formula frees me up worry about the actually-interesting custom abilities. And as for Exalted… Well, there’s a reason I picked up the Storyteller’s Companion a few years back. It’s every bit as clunky and hard to use as the game itself, but Laurel hasn’t complained about my setting-breaking charm choices since.

How about the rest of you guys? When you’re brewing up a custom monster, do you worry about dotting your T’s and crossing your I’s, or do you just give your NPCs power attack and quicken magic, prerequisites be damned? Tell us all about your labor-saving monster building best practices down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.