So first things first. I’ll pay the sum of 19,200 XP to the first person who can correctly identify that thing’s templates.

Secondly, the dialogue in today’s comic comes from an actual game. It wasn’t a dungeon crawler though. Neither D&D nor Pathfinder nor Tunnels & Trolls: Uncle Ugly’s Underground were the site of this exchange. Rather, it was the Old World of Darkness. I was a werewolf at the time.

We’d decided to run a multi-monster party, meaning that my “pack” featured exactly two werewolves: yours truly and a twitchy young Glass Walker. The rest of the group included a biker gang mage, a promethean dressed up like Superman, and a dapper little changeling entrepreneur. It was the changeling who had to face down the awkward question.

It was the opening scene of the campaign, and we were standing in the foyer of a boarding house. The changeling was the owner, my werewolf was a prospective tenant, and we’d spent the better part of half an hour playing the dramatic irony game. You suspect something is weird about this guy. He doesn’t smell right. He gives off an odd aura. You can hear the sound of tapping Tumnus hooves when he walks up stairs. 

“Alright,” I said, eying the apartment. “That answers all my questions but one.” And taking a big, dramatic sniff: “What are you?”

The Mean Girls response was appropriate given the circumstances. But I’ve thought about that move over the years. And compared to dungeon crawlers, what with their monster lore rolls and their deeply-learned wizards, it was nice to find myself struggling with a mystery. The PCs haven’t necessarily heard of every weird thing out there, and some secret knowledge can’t be found at the other end of a die roll. Getting to roleplay that out for once was a refreshing change of pace for me. In much the same way that magic items ought to feel special, I like the idea of making monsters more than common knowledge.

What do the rest of you guys think? Have you ever had to work for your monster lore? Or do you like the process of see monster > roll die > know monster’s powers and abilities? Sound off with your favorite monster ID systems and obscure critter lore down in the comments!


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