You guys remember the time a T-Rex tried to eat my party’s treasure? It was a session of general hilarity and wacky hijinks. The encounter wasn’t just a big bad vs. the party though. There was also a baby T-Rex in the mix. The l’il guy spent the better part of the encounter chasing our sorcerer around like a cat with a laser pointer. And it’s this game of baby dino keep away that I’d like to talk about today.

Here’s the setup. Imagine that you’re a momma Tyrannosaurus. As a hard-working single dino parent, you’re relieved to finally find a free weekend for some quality time with your kiddosaurus. So there you are in the great outdoors, taking in a little sun and fun at the local beach. All of a sudden, what should be a pleasant day of roaring at  Jeff Goldblum is ruined. A party of bullying adventurers have come to kick sand in your face and ruin your kid’s day. And if you’re going by a strict reading of the T-Rex stat block, there’s not much your can do but pick up your beach blanket and go home.

You see, if you want to torment a gargantuan animal with a 20-foot reach, all you have to do is cast fly. This is precisely what the sorcerer player did. Dude ascended to a cruising altitude of 45 feet, then began casting all of his shiniest and most distracting spells. One Handle Animal check later and the dangerous encounter had become a farce. Thanks to the famously walnut-sized brains of dinosaurs, it wasn’t hard for the rest of the party to get to the quest objective while the lizards were distracted. Happily, as a student of popular culture, I knew that dinosaurs make excellent parents.

“OK,” says I. “We’re back to the dinos’ turn. The momma dino stomps on the sand. She gestures up at the sorcerer with her head, and then adopts an odd stance. With her tail straight out behind her and nose pointed up into the air, she looks almost like a ramp.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” says the Sorcerer.

“Taking a cue from its mom, the baby leaps atop its parent, scrabbles up the incline of her body, and then vaults from her head. That’s a flying grapple attack at you, Sorc.”

“I ain’t even mad,” says the mage. And friends? That’s exactly the reaction you’re shooting for.

As a general rule, it’s better for a GM’s monsters to go by the book. While you want to encourage improvisation and stunting amongst PCs, monsters should stick to their default shtick. This way a GM can encourage creative play without accusations of “breaking the rules” in a monster’s favor. But every once in a while, allowing monster  creativity can produce its own brand of fun. In my case, the rest of the party had to choose between defending the sorcerer or going for quest objectives, and the encounter was suddenly interesting again.

Be careful though! As Wizard so ably demonstrates in today’s comic, it’s possible to go too far with this sort of thing. For example, I recently pit my party against a bhole. These freaky giant worms come with a slimy, entangling breath weapon. And when the party’s bloodrager tried to activate his boots of speed by clicking his heels together, I had to think long and hard whether or not to allow it.

“You’re entangled in a thick layer of worm slime. How exactly are you clicking your heels?”

To my player’s credit, he quickly agreed that it didn’t make sense within the fiction and moved on with his turn. But it was still enough to make me leery. And that in turn brings us to our question of the day! When it comes to a GM making creative calls, how much is too much? When is the guy behind the screen punishing players or giving monsters too much credit, and how do you know when an interesting bit of improv crosses the line into unfair GMing? Ain’t no one wanna be the “bury your water guy” after all. Sound off with your own unique calls and unfair monster actions 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. Thrice 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.