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D&D 5E Making Monster Weakness Interesting

A Weakness for Weaknesses.
Fighting vampires? The locals say that garlic and crosses keep them at bay. Werewolf hunting? According to the gypsies, the smell of wolfsbane repels them. An evil fey has you trapped in an unending labor? Finding out his true name strips him of his power.

From mythology to pop culture, one of the most common fantasy tropes is the monster with a secret weakness. If you're like me, you're kinda disappointed with how this trope is handled (or not handled) in D&D. I've recently got back into the DM's chair with a Ravenloft one-shot that seems to be evolving into a campaign and one of the goals I wanted to chase is making monster hunting/fighting more strategic and tactical. What I mean by this is that I want to reward preparation and approach before taking on a monster, i.e. strategy, and decision making during encounters, i.e. tactics.

In play.
The first combat I ran once I got back behind the screen was a legendary upgrade to a monster from Volo's Guide: the banderhobb. When the books first came out, I knew I wanted to use this guy. A big, hulking brute who slinks through the darkness, teleporting silently through keyholes and eating people from their beds before slipping back into the night would be perfect for a witch-themed mystery plot. The thing I liked best about the banderhobb mechanically was that it has baked-in tactical play outside of the usual "hIgHer NuMbErS oN mY sHeEt Iz BeTteR" that the game generally encourages. Specifically, it has a move where it teleports and makes a serious bite attack that initiates a grapple (and potentially a swallow) but it cannot teleport into an area of light. What does that mean to a 5e party, tactically? If your party all has darkvision and think they're too cool for torches, they might have this guy pop next to them and eat them. If someone knows the lore of this boogeyman and holds a lantern when they approach, they are essentially immune to this specific move.

So how does set-up work? As soon as the one-shot adventure started, the party is in a country town for a festival and one of the things being peddled in the town square is a lantern to keep the boogeyman away. People are dressed up as witches and toads, et al, and one of the things being mentioned is the "bander-light" that is traditionally lit during this season to keep the banderhobb away. The party dismisses the stories as nonsense and make no serious inquires into the reality or lore of this boogeyman. They all have darkvision and think its pointless to buy a lantern. When night falls, they hear screams around the corner.

Its dark but they all have darkvision so everything it fine, right? They follow a looming mass through the fog as it shifts into and out of buildings - homes where no bander-light was lit - until it finds a child to eat. When the engagement begins, what happens first? The banderhobb teleports to the light-less party, bites the paladin and starts a grapple. Since he's now legendary, he teleports away after the next character's turn with the body in his mouth. Since no one had a light, they're vulnerable to the banderhobb's nastiest move.

The gameplay I was trying to encourage, which the group will now realize going forward with the campaign, was as follows:

  • Gather lore about a monster. (Everyone in the town knows the folklore of this thing, which turned out to be real, and this was communicated to the party.)
  • Make preparations based on the lore. (Any sort of lantern or torch is helpful.)
  • Use tactics based on the first 2 steps. (Casting light or holding a lantern changes the tactics that the banderhobb can use.)

To me, this is much more interesting narratively and mechanically than needing a magic weapon to fight every single thing in the monster manual that has a kind of resistance. Trolls are another special case where something specific allows you to overcome their unique features by using the right tactic. To me, the game would be a lot more compelling if more monsters had ways to counteract their abilities without a magic weapon always being the panacea.

Countermeasures.
I've decided to come up with a little system to help come up with tactical weakness for any monster if I feel it would make for a more interesting fight or story.

First, I need to decide what aspect of the monster is affected by its weakness.
  • Movement type or speed. (e.g. The mummy only moves half speed in bright light.)
  • Senses. (e.g. The drow has disadvantage on attacks made in bright light.)
  • Resistance or invulnerability. (e.g. The monster loses its resistance to fire if doused with the alchemical solvent.)
  • Vulnerability. (e.g. The monster takes more damage for a round after taking cold damage.)
  • A passive quality. (e.g. The ghost can't use incorporeal movement if its touched by the stinging nettle plant)
  • Global attack rolls. (e.g. The vampire has disadvantage on attack rolls against a creature brandishing a holy symbol as an action.)
  • A specific attack. (e.g. The stinging powder cloud prevents the dragon from using its breath weapon for a time.)
  • A rider effect on an attack. (e.g. Drinking an alchemical elixir makes one immune to t ghoul's paralysis.)
  • A specific action. (e.g. The demon cannot target a creature that throws salt over his shoulder as an action.)
  • Saving throw. (e.g. When presented with the type of flower her lover used to bring her in life, the ghost has disadvantage on all Intelligence, Charisma, and Wisdom saving throws.)
  • Compulsion. (e.g. The ogre must make a save or attack the creature wearing red clothes.)
Then, I figure out what the trigger of the weakness is.
  • Damage type. (e.g. Fire stops the troll's regen)
  • Substance. (e.g. Garlic debuffs the nearby vampire.)
  • Sound. (e.g. A hymn from the wraith's old church is a debuff.)
  • Symbol. (e.g. The sign of the cross repels Christopher Lee.)
  • Environmental condition. (e.g. The ooze moves at half speed in cold environments. The banderhobb cannot teleport into direct light.)
Last, I determine how it can be applied tactically.
  • Hit with a trigger. (e.g. The werewolf is hit with silver.)
  • Monster attacks a creature under a circumstance. (e.g. The zombie takes damage when it hits a creature slathered in holy oil.)
  • Area of effect. (e.g. The townsfolk set up an area of lanterns that the banderhobb cannot teleport through.)
  • Triggered as an action. (e.g. The fighter speaks the truename of the evil fey as an action to debuff him on his turn.)
There are no hard and fast rules for how this works and these lists are just ideas to facilitate a DM's homebrew concept. You could theoretically roll randomly as if these were tables and force yourself to come up with a monster modification that makes sense.

Weakness Workshop.
Lets pick a monster out and give it a go, shall we? I crack open the MM and land on Umber Hulk. First thing that jumps out is its signature feature, confusing gaze, which immediately draws me to something on the first list:
  • A Specific Attack. (e.g. The stinging powder cloud prevents the dragon from using its breath weapon for a time.)
By the RAW this feature is a straight up debuff for PCs but presents an interesting tactical choice: risk a Charisma save and attack without penalty or look away and attack with disadvantage. This itself is pretty good design, IMO, because there's a built in tactical decision point for player to make when dealing with this particular effect.

If I wanted to add a hard counter, the first thing the jumps out as a counter to gaze attack is:
  • Substance. (e.g. Garlic debuffs the nearby vampire.)
along with:
  • Hit with a trigger. (e.g. The werewolf is hit with silver.)
The old dirt-in-the-eye maneuver is an obvious thought but it seems too easy to pull off, requires no prep, and doesn't sacrifice any resources other than an action. This basic idea is sound though, so lets go with a more limited option that involves world-building an lore. We'll say that there's a creature that the umber hulk hunts that emits a powder that irritates the umber hulk's eyes, shutting off its gaze and providing just enough time to escape. The creature is relatively rare and the powder is rare, though prized by communities that live near the umber hulks. The powder works just like the old dirt-in-the-eye trick, but its a limited resource and cost an action to use in combat. A PC can choose to attack with the powder as an action, making a tactical decision that gives the party a round to attack without dealing with gaze while using up a limited resource that has no reason to be hoarded for other encounters (like potions in a video game).

Alternatively, we could go another way:
  • Area of effect. (e.g. The townsfolk set up an area of lanterns that the banderhobb cannot teleport through)
Maybe we want something that's more fun to use on a battlemat and has more tactical depth. We'll go with the same lore about a creature that generates a cloud of dust or a community that creates an anti-umber hulk powder. Instead of it being an attack that hits the creature's eyes, the dust creates an AOE cloud that dissipates after a number of round. Those within are unaffected by the umber hulk's gaze as the tiny crystalline shards of the cloud disperse its power. Tactically, its compelling because its an AOE of limited size and location, forcing the group to adopt specific positioning in order to maximize its benefit. It also a limited resource, so choosing when to use it is important. This gave us another item on the last list:

Tactical Trade-off
Doesn't this just make monsters weaker? If the party is prepared, sure. Just as with any encounter, the DM has to weigh the monsters' abilities against the PCs and decide what makes sense for the challenge they're trying to present. Allowing the PCs to exploit an additional weakness might mean you'll have to throw higher CR creatures into your plans or add more minions types. Alternatively, you can spice things up by having the new countermeasures come with drawbacks or shifts in the monster's abilities. A monster with an exploited weakness my respond by:
  • Having advantage on the following round. (e.g. your tactic worked but threw the monster into a frenzy)
  • Increasing their defense. (e.g. cold does more damage to the molten man but his AC increased)
  • Changing their attacks. (e.g. the bone golem has a piercing attack now that you've dealt bludgeoning damage and shattered its bones)
  • Changing their nature. (e.g. the cold creature has cold features until it takes fire damage and switches to fire qualities)
On the extreme end, you could pick 2 monsters out of the MM and do a sort of mash-up. Choose features and attacks from both and have a trigger from the PC shift the creature from one to another. E.g. A zombie is a zombie and you can bait it with raw meat to get past without a fight... but it gains ghoul abilities once you've used this tactic. E.g. The dragon is fire-based until it takes too much of one type of damage a becomes another dragon type.

Clues and Telegraphs
Sometimes the party is surprised by monsters that have horrible powers which confound and terrify them. Other times, they hear a novel's worth of lore from the townsfolk before ever setting foot inside the monster's lair. In any case, if you choose to use special weakness and triggers in your game, the best way to make things fun is by letting your players know that these rules are there to be exploited. When I ran the banderhobb encounter, I knew that the players weren't going to know anything about the creature or its abilities so I had the townsfolk at the festival explicitly warn them about the boogeyman folklore (and they still didn't listen!). If the party is going to confront undead, they might read up at the local temple before hitting the tunnels and get some ideas about special preparations. You could even be a little more subtle with context clues and have scorch marks along the dungeon walls where the last party escaped, telegraphing the use of fire against what's inside.

I hope you guys can find something useful here. You're certainly not going to want to try to apply this kind of mod to every monster you run. I just started coming up with this as a fully fleshed mod last week after running my game and look forward to getting some input and making it more robust and perhaps more streamlined.
 

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Thunderfoot

Adventurer
Great stuff. I love when people dig into monster lore and ecologies. In 1e and 2e kobolds were scoffed at and down played as cut rate goblins until a Dragon ecology article gave them teeth with traps ambushes and swarm tactics. Soon if one heard the chattering of kobolds one either hunkered down and defend or ran away... very quickly.
 

Great stuff. I love when people dig into monster lore and ecologies. In 1e and 2e kobolds were scoffed at and down played as cut rate goblins until a Dragon ecology article gave them teeth with traps ambushes and swarm tactics. Soon if one heard the chattering of kobolds one either hunkered down and defend or ran away... very quickly.
I feel like that kind of stuff makes the game more fun. I've been in way too many fights that were just hp sacks where the party just used the same tactics until the monsters died, so I'm hoping to find ways to make the players feel smart for using different strategies and do things with their actions other than the same attack roll or spell.
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
I feel like that kind of stuff makes the game more fun. I've been in way too many fights that were just hp sacks where the party just used the same tactics until the monsters died, so I'm hoping to find ways to make the players feel smart for using different strategies and do things with their actions other than the same attack roll or spell.
To be fair (and sri for the temporary de-rail) but dungeon design has had tropes that fall in line with movies and are just...wrong.

I remember "The Giant Netbook of Traps (Crap)"
Giant mile long slides, gold rooms, etc. No thought to how much did this cost to build and why would there be a 'big red button' to defeat it?
Traps come in two types 1)Maim, injure or slow and 2)Lethal. Booby traps and land mines are classic forms of traps. They are simple, elegant and usually deadly.

That same kind of thought should be used in monster defense/offense/tactics. Small, relatively weak monsters should use what they have to make them more formidable. The aforementioned kobolds were a mining race in the beginning and were small on the order of halflings, so open areas below a defended position with tiny crawl spaces to get behind the party near the entrance was a favorite tactic. (Think VC but better trained). Dragons using treasure hordes to buy retainers of other monsters to help defend their lair. Using green slime in pit traps with dead falls. That kind of thing.
 

I remember "The Giant Netbook of Traps (Crap)"
Giant mile long slides, gold rooms, etc. No thought to how much did this cost to build and why would there be a 'big red button' to defeat it?
Traps come in two types 1)Maim, injure or slow and 2)Lethal. Booby traps and land mines are classic forms of traps. They are simple, elegant and usually deadly.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the trap philosophy of 4e where set-pieces were a stronger element than maiming or killing "gotcha" traps. I could put a trap that shoots fire in the hallway and just toasts whoever doesn't notice it, but putting a rotating stream of fire in the center of a room that moves every round and provides a tactical element is more compelling to me than a "gotcha".
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
Personally, I'm a big fan of the trap philosophy of 4e where set-pieces were a stronger element than maiming or killing "gotcha" traps. I could put a trap that shoots fire in the hallway and just toasts whoever doesn't notice it, but putting a rotating stream of fire in the center of a room that moves every round and provides a tactical element is more compelling to me than a "gotcha".
But lets think about the cost that that would incur and then what the reward of that cost would be? Also, complicated mechanical traps require maintenance. Who is keeping it up? Logic trumps cool. Which is why a trap should be used sparingly and other situations/deterrents be used instead.
 

dave2008

Legend
But lets think about the cost that that would incur and then what the reward of that cost would be? Also, complicated mechanical traps require maintenance. Who is keeping it up? Logic trumps cool.
Does it though? I bet most people don't really care about the construction and maintenance cost of dungeons and traps, or the logic of multi-ton fly reptiles. They just want to have fun escaping dangerous dungeons and fighting deadly monsters. What is even logical in a fantasy world of magic? I dungeon could be magical and maintained through its innate magic after all.

Which is why a trap should be used sparingly and other situations/deterrents be used instead.
I do agree that traps should be used sparingly, but I don't think the OP argued otherwise.
 

MattW

Explorer
Researching the enemy's weakness is a good idea. But,of course, the SMART monsters are going to use deception and there might be some mistakes in the local folklore....

Maybe the local vampire is only affected by SILVER holy symbols, but pretends to be affected by all holy symbols. Maybe he can cross "running water".... but he just chooses to stay on his side of the river (It's a courtesy to another monster who lives on the other side).

I once did something similar with a vampire that could Polymorph. She would disguise herself as a Bard and spread songs/rumours about a rare vampiric weakness: unable to cross a threshold, or exit the coffin if a rose was placed upon it. The PCs broke into her lair and were surprised when the vampire actually loved roses .
 

dave2008

Legend
A Weakness for Weaknesses.
Fighting vampires? The locals say that garlic and crosses keep them at bay. Werewolf hunting? According to the gypsies, the smell of wolfsbane repels them. An evil fey has you trapped in an unending labor? Finding out his true name strips him of his power.

From mythology to pop culture, one of the most common fantasy tropes is the monster with a secret weakness. If you're like me, you're kinda disappointed with how this trope is handled (or not handled) in D&D. I've recently got back into the DM's chair with a Ravenloft one-shot that seems to be evolving into a campaign and one of the goals I wanted to chase is making monster hunting/fighting more strategic and tactical. What I mean by this is that I want to reward preparation and approach before taking on a monster, i.e. strategy, and decision making during encounters, i.e. tactics.

In play.
The first combat I ran once I got back behind the screen was a legendary upgrade to a monster from Volo's Guide: the banderhobb. When the books first came out, I knew I wanted to use this guy. A big, hulking brute who slinks through the darkness, teleporting silently through keyholes and eating people from their beds before slipping back into the night would be perfect for a witch-themed mystery plot. The thing I liked best about the banderhobb mechanically was that it has baked-in tactical play outside of the usual "hIgHer NuMbErS oN mY sHeEt Iz BeTteR" that the game generally encourages. Specifically, it has a move where it teleports and makes a serious bite attack that initiates a grapple (and potentially a swallow) but it cannot teleport into an area of light. What does that mean to a 5e party, tactically? If your party all has darkvision and think they're too cool for torches, they might have this guy pop next to them and eat them. If someone knows the lore of this boogeyman and holds a lantern when they approach, they are essentially immune to this specific move.

So how does set-up work? As soon as the one-shot adventure started, the party is in a country town for a festival and one of the things being peddled in the town square is a lantern to keep the boogeyman away. People are dressed up as witches and toads, et al, and one of the things being mentioned is the "bander-light" that is traditionally lit during this season to keep the banderhobb away. The party dismisses the stories as nonsense and make no serious inquires into the reality or lore of this boogeyman. They all have darkvision and think its pointless to buy a lantern. When night falls, they hear screams around the corner.

Its dark but they all have darkvision so everything it fine, right? They follow a looming mass through the fog as it shifts into and out of buildings - homes where no bander-light was lit - until it finds a child to eat. When the engagement begins, what happens first? The banderhobb teleports to the light-less party, bites the paladin and starts a grapple. Since he's now legendary, he teleports away after the next character's turn with the body in his mouth. Since no one had a light, they're vulnerable to the banderhobb's nastiest move.

The gameplay I was trying to encourage, which the group will now realize going forward with the campaign, was as follows:

  • Gather lore about a monster. (Everyone in the town knows the folklore of this thing, which turned out to be real, and this was communicated to the party.)
  • Make preparations based on the lore. (Any sort of lantern or torch is helpful.)
  • Use tactics based on the first 2 steps. (Casting light or holding a lantern changes the tactics that the banderhobb can use.)

To me, this is much more interesting narratively and mechanically than needing a magic weapon to fight every single thing in the monster manual that has a kind of resistance. Trolls are another special case where something specific allows you to overcome their unique features by using the right tactic. To me, the game would be a lot more compelling if more monsters had ways to counteract their abilities without a magic weapon always being the panacea.

Countermeasures.
I've decided to come up with a little system to help come up with tactical weakness for any monster if I feel it would make for a more interesting fight or story.

First, I need to decide what aspect of the monster is affected by its weakness.
  • Movement type or speed. (e.g. The mummy only moves half speed in bright light.)
  • Senses. (e.g. The drow has disadvantage on attacks made in bright light.)
  • Resistance or invulnerability. (e.g. The monster loses its resistance to fire if doused with the alchemical solvent.)
  • Vulnerability. (e.g. The monster takes more damage for a round after taking cold damage.)
  • A passive quality. (e.g. The ghost can't use incorporeal movement if its touched by the stinging nettle plant)
  • Global attack rolls. (e.g. The vampire has disadvantage on attack rolls against a creature brandishing a holy symbol as an action.)
  • A specific attack. (e.g. The stinging powder cloud prevents the dragon from using its breath weapon for a time.)
  • A rider effect on an attack. (e.g. Drinking an alchemical elixir makes one immune to t ghoul's paralysis.)
  • A specific action. (e.g. The demon cannot target a creature that throws salt over his shoulder as an action.)
  • Saving throw. (e.g. When presented with the type of flower her lover used to bring her in life, the ghost has disadvantage on all Intelligence, Charisma, and Wisdom saving throws.)
  • Compulsion. (e.g. The ogre must make a save or attack the creature wearing red clothes.)
Then, I figure out what the trigger of the weakness is.
  • Damage type. (e.g. Fire stops the troll's regen)
  • Substance. (e.g. Garlic debuffs the nearby vampire.)
  • Sound. (e.g. A hymn from the wraith's old church is a debuff.)
  • Symbol. (e.g. The sign of the cross repels Christopher Lee.)
  • Environmental condition. (e.g. The ooze moves at half speed in cold environments. The banderhobb cannot teleport into direct light.)
Last, I determine how it can be applied tactically.
  • Hit with a trigger. (e.g. The werewolf is hit with silver.)
  • Monster attacks a creature under a circumstance. (e.g. The zombie takes damage when it hits a creature slathered in holy oil.)
  • Area of effect. (e.g. The townsfolk set up an area of lanterns that the banderhobb cannot teleport through.)
  • Triggered as an action. (e.g. The fighter speaks the truename of the evil fey as an action to debuff him on his turn.)
There are no hard and fast rules for how this works and these lists are just ideas to facilitate a DM's homebrew concept. You could theoretically roll randomly as if these were tables and force yourself to come up with a monster modification that makes sense.

Weakness Workshop.
Lets pick a monster out and give it a go, shall we? I crack open the MM and land on Umber Hulk. First thing that jumps out is its signature feature, confusing gaze, which immediately draws me to something on the first list:
  • A Specific Attack. (e.g. The stinging powder cloud prevents the dragon from using its breath weapon for a time.)
By the RAW this feature is a straight up debuff for PCs but presents an interesting tactical choice: risk a Charisma save and attack without penalty or look away and attack with disadvantage. This itself is pretty good design, IMO, because there's a built in tactical decision point for player to make when dealing with this particular effect.

If I wanted to add a hard counter, the first thing the jumps out as a counter to gaze attack is:
  • Substance. (e.g. Garlic debuffs the nearby vampire.)
along with:
  • Hit with a trigger. (e.g. The werewolf is hit with silver.)
The old dirt-in-the-eye maneuver is an obvious thought but it seems too easy to pull off, requires no prep, and doesn't sacrifice any resources other than an action. This basic idea is sound though, so lets go with a more limited option that involves world-building an lore. We'll say that there's a creature that the umber hulk hunts that emits a powder that irritates the umber hulk's eyes, shutting off its gaze and providing just enough time to escape. The creature is relatively rare and the powder is rare, though prized by communities that live near the umber hulks. The powder works just like the old dirt-in-the-eye trick, but its a limited resource and cost an action to use in combat. A PC can choose to attack with the powder as an action, making a tactical decision that gives the party a round to attack without dealing with gaze while using up a limited resource that has no reason to be hoarded for other encounters (like potions in a video game).

Alternatively, we could go another way:
  • Area of effect. (e.g. The townsfolk set up an area of lanterns that the banderhobb cannot teleport through)
Maybe we want something that's more fun to use on a battlemat and has more tactical depth. We'll go with the same lore about a creature that generates a cloud of dust or a community that creates an anti-umber hulk powder. Instead of it being an attack that hits the creature's eyes, the dust creates an AOE cloud that dissipates after a number of round. Those within are unaffected by the umber hulk's gaze as the tiny crystalline shards of the cloud disperse its power. Tactically, its compelling because its an AOE of limited size and location, forcing the group to adopt specific positioning in order to maximize its benefit. It also a limited resource, so choosing when to use it is important. This gave us another item on the last list:

Tactical Trade-off
Doesn't this just make monsters weaker? If the party is prepared, sure. Just as with any encounter, the DM has to weigh the monsters' abilities against the PCs and decide what makes sense for the challenge they're trying to present. Allowing the PCs to exploit an additional weakness might mean you'll have to throw higher CR creatures into your plans or add more minions types. Alternatively, you can spice things up by having the new countermeasures come with drawbacks or shifts in the monster's abilities. A monster with an exploited weakness my respond by:
  • Having advantage on the following round. (e.g. your tactic worked but threw the monster into a frenzy)
  • Increasing their defense. (e.g. cold does more damage to the molten man but his AC increased)
  • Changing their attacks. (e.g. the bone golem has a piercing attack now that you've dealt bludgeoning damage and shattered its bones)
  • Changing their nature. (e.g. the cold creature has cold features until it takes fire damage and switches to fire qualities)
On the extreme end, you could pick 2 monsters out of the MM and do a sort of mash-up. Choose features and attacks from both and have a trigger from the PC shift the creature from one to another. E.g. A zombie is a zombie and you can bait it with raw meat to get past without a fight... but it gains ghoul abilities once you've used this tactic. E.g. The dragon is fire-based until it takes too much of one type of damage a becomes another dragon type.

Clues and Telegraphs
Sometimes the party is surprised by monsters that have horrible powers which confound and terrify them. Other times, they hear a novel's worth of lore from the townsfolk before ever setting foot inside the monster's lair. In any case, if you choose to use special weakness and triggers in your game, the best way to make things fun is by letting your players know that these rules are there to be exploited. When I ran the banderhobb encounter, I knew that the players weren't going to know anything about the creature or its abilities so I had the townsfolk at the festival explicitly warn them about the boogeyman folklore (and they still didn't listen!). If the party is going to confront undead, they might read up at the local temple before hitting the tunnels and get some ideas about special preparations. You could even be a little more subtle with context clues and have scorch marks along the dungeon walls where the last party escaped, telegraphing the use of fire against what's inside.

I hope you guys can find something useful here. You're certainly not going to want to try to apply this kind of mod to every monster you run. I just started coming up with this as a fully fleshed mod last week after running my game and look forward to getting some input and making it more robust and perhaps more streamlined.
In general I like the idea. However, I haven't seen it work in play. Most of the groups I have played with are not interested in riddle monsters. That being said, it would be nice if the MM contained little sidebars about creating these types of options for those who want them.
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
Does it though? I bet most people don't really care about the construction and maintenance cost of dungeons and traps, or the logic of multi-ton fly reptiles. They just want to have fun escaping dangerous dungeons and fighting deadly monsters. What is even logical in a fantasy world of magic? I dungeon could be magical and maintained through its innate magic after all.


I do agree that traps should be used sparingly, but I don't think the OP argued otherwise.
Okay maybe it SHOULD... My issue with some traps is just the ludicrousness of them when compared to the simpler more effective means. Why spend millions of gp erecting a mile long slide with a blade at end when a scything blade will do the same thing? And the saving throw was created as a way of heroically escaping in a cool manner
 

dave2008

Legend
Researching the enemy's weakness is a good idea. But,of course, the SMART monsters are going to use deception and there might be some mistakes in the local folklore....

Maybe the local vampire is only affected by SILVER holy symbols, but pretends to be affected by all holy symbols. Maybe he can cross "running water".... but he just chooses to stay on his side of the river (It's a courtesy to another monster who lives on the other side).

I once did something similar with a vampire that could Polymorph. She would disguise herself as a Bard and spread songs/rumours about a rare vampiric weakness: unable to cross a threshold, or exit the coffin if a rose was placed upon it. The PCs broke into her lair and were surprised when the vampire actually loved roses .
I another post someone mentioned that monsters in the Witcher RPG (IIRC) have two entries for lore:
  1. Folklore: what common people know about monsters and a good bit of it is wrong
  2. Hunter Lore (i.e. what the witchers know): more accurate information about strength's and weakness
I think that would be fun to add to D&D
 
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Undrave

Hero
Researching the enemy's weakness is a good idea. But,of course, the SMART monsters are going to use deception and there might be some mistakes in the local folklore....

Maybe the local vampire is only affected by SILVER holy symbols, but pretends to be affected by all holy symbols. Maybe he can cross "running water".... but he just chooses to stay on his side of the river (It's a courtesy to another monster who lives on the other side).

I once did something similar with a vampire that could Polymorph. She would disguise herself as a Bard and spread songs/rumours about a rare vampiric weakness: unable to cross a threshold, or exit the coffin if a rose was placed upon it. The PCs broke into her lair and were surprised when the vampire actually loved roses .

I another post someone mentioned that monsters in the Witcher RPG (IIRC) have two entries for lore:
  1. Folklore: what common people know about monsters and a good bit of it wrong
  2. Hunter Lore (i.e. what the witchers know): more accurate information about strength's and weakness
I think that would be fun to add to D&D
Oooh that's good stuff!
 

dave2008

Legend
Okay maybe it SHOULD... My issue with some traps is just the ludicrousness of them when compared to the simpler more effective means. Why spend millions of gp erecting a mile long slide with a blade at end when a scything blade will do the same thing?
The issue, IMO, is that almost no one cares or even thinks about the practicality of any of it. For most people, IMO, such thoughts do not even register and have no impact on their enjoyment of the game. Which is ultimately the important thing. If doing a cost benefit analysis of dungeon design is exciting to you - great, have at it. I just don't think it matters to many people. As an architect myself, I get where you are coming from, but it is not something my players care about, so I don't worry about it much myself.
 

I another post someone mentioned that monsters in the Witcher RPG (IIRC) have two entries for lore:
  1. Folklore: what common people know about monsters and a good bit of it is wrong
  2. Hunter Lore (i.e. what the witchers know): more accurate information about strength's and weakness
I think that would be fun to add to D&D
I tend to favor an approach where the folklore is just incomplete or false in a way that doesn't completely screw over PCs' plans. I used to try to be clever and sneaky with lore drops and info but over the years I've found that it's way too easy for players to completely overlook the subtle clues you're trying to drop or go off chasing red herrings instead of reality. Adding in false info is realistic and makes a lot of sense but it's one of those things that, from my experience, sounds really good in theory but weighs down the progress of a game when your players don't put things together.

If your group is really good at picking up every hint that's out there and shifting through what's false and what's true, this could work well. Personally, I've moved over the years from being subtle and frustrated that the players didn't figure out the real scenario on their own to being more overt with lore and important clues.
 

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
Researching the enemy's weakness is a good idea. But,of course, the SMART monsters are going to use deception and there might be some mistakes in the local folklore....

Maybe the local vampire is only affected by SILVER holy symbols, but pretends to be affected by all holy symbols. Maybe he can cross "running water".... but he just chooses to stay on his side of the river (It's a courtesy to another monster who lives on the other side).

I once did something similar with a vampire that could Polymorph. She would disguise herself as a Bard and spread songs/rumours about a rare vampiric weakness: unable to cross a threshold, or exit the coffin if a rose was placed upon it. The PCs broke into her lair and were surprised when the vampire actually loved roses .
"A rose? For me? How sweet! Almost as sweet as your blood will be when I drink it from your neck!"
Okay maybe it SHOULD... My issue with some traps is just the ludicrousness of them when compared to the simpler more effective means. Why spend millions of gp erecting a mile long slide with a blade at end when a scything blade will do the same thing? And the saving throw was created as a way of heroically escaping in a cool manner
If logic trumped cool, Star Wars and superheroes wouldn't be the monster hits that they are. And The Expanse would be a lot more popular.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
An inspired thread - as a player and DM, I've found that parties will try harder to find an edge before battle if they're worried a monster might be tough. And have mused at times over leaving clues around to allow people to prepare. It doesn't have to be Einstein level, but just quizzing NPCs a little bit more or observing clues. The mix of false/true leads is great as well.

And weaknesses can be made pretty easily without upsetting canon, "Hey, there's a whole field of bulette-bane growing over there!!" etc.
 

dave2008

Legend
I tend to favor an approach where the folklore is just incomplete or false in a way that doesn't completely screw over PCs' plans. I used to try to be clever and sneaky with lore drops and info but over the years I've found that it's way too easy for players to completely overlook the subtle clues you're trying to drop or go off chasing red herrings instead of reality. Adding in false info is realistic and makes a lot of sense but it's one of those things that, from my experience, sounds really good in theory but weighs down the progress of a game when your players don't put things together.

If your group is really good at picking up every hint that's out there and shifting through what's false and what's true, this could work well. Personally, I've moved over the years from being subtle and frustrated that the players didn't figure out the real scenario on their own to being more overt with lore and important clues.
Could be. I have never used the concept systemically. I was just relaying what another poster was raving about in their Witcher games. I have definitely used red herrings to good effect before, but have never used it as a baseline.

EDIT: I would also argue that it is hard to "...completely screw over PC's plans" in D&D. A little incomplete or false information is not going to do that generally.
 

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