I received a copy of the Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games for Christmas last year. I flipped through it and put it on the shelf, hoping that it would go unnoticed -- as I did not want to have to get rid of an old game book to be able to keep this one (severe space limits mean I usually get PDFs). Last week, however, I need couple of completely new monsters for my Sunday game. My post on generating monsters from the Random Monsters article in The Dragon #10 reminded me that the second section of the Tome of Adventure Design had table for creating monsters, I decided to give them a try.
For those not familiar with the Tome of Adventure Design, it is a huge 350 page collection of tables for designing adventures -- or more accurately to help the user design adventures. The first section details with adventure ideas and plots: missions, villains, locations, etc. As I've already mentioned, the second section deals with creating monsters. The third section covers dungeon adventures, including the dungeon itself, tricks, traps, dungeon dressing, etc. The final sections covers adventures outside the dungeons, on land, sea, in other planes, in the wilderness, in cities, etc. While there are some pages of adventure design advice, particularly in the first and third sections, the majority of the book is tables upon tables that you can roll on or just peruse for ideas.
My initial reaction on flipping through the Tome of Adventure Design, was "meh". However, after actually using the book, I'm very impressed. A lot of thought -- and many strange and interesting ideas -- have gone into this book and it will probably become one of the most useful -- and most used -- books in my collection. I rank it right up there with Judges' Guild's Ready Ref Sheets which has been one of my most used books since I bought it in the 1970s.
For example, for one of my monsters, I selected the "Horrors" type and rolled on a few tables:
* Horror out of the realms of nightmare and dreams (I basically ended up ignoring this.)
* Barely intelligent – can be trained by powerful creatures or brute force over time
* Basic Form: Snake
* Attributes of: Bat
* Skin: Spikes
* Other feature: Multiple eyes
* Physical Attack: Body Attack: slam with spikes (selected, not rolled)
The info on Horrors suggested that they almost always have at least one special attack and one special defense, so I decided there would be one of each. I did not want multiples as I need a low-level monster.
* Special Attack: Stun. "The attack uses some kind of 'special effect' to stun its victims. Possibilities include noise, electric shock, an ugly appearance, mystical rays, visions of the future, hallucinations, powerful emotions, a floating symbol, light, and the old standby … a powerful physical impact." I decided that a successful hit does damage (1d4 from spikes) and requires a save vs paralysis or a spike has broken off in the wound which stuns the victim. The spikes quickly dissolve when separated from the creature -- a new save may be made each round, when the save is made the stun effect ends because the spike has dissolved.
* Special Defense: Immune to sharp weapons. I decided that bladed weapons get diverted by the spikes and do no damage. Blunt and crushing weapons do normal damage.
I made the creature an horrible-looking spiked worm about 3-5 feet long with spikes 8-12 inches long, each spike acts a visual sensor meaning the worm sees in all directions but underneath itself. It does not see so much as use sonar to visualize its surroundings. While it looks awful, it is only a 2 HD creature. Last game, the party encountered 5 of these and defeated them after a hard fight. The stun effect was not nearly as bad as the paralysis effect of a ghoul, but it definitely surprised the party and required a hasty retreat to regroup and find a way around these creatures. They don't have a name yet -- unless it is "those awful worms."