Sunday, June 16, 2013

Keeping the Mystery in the Monster Manual

Well, I made it through finals and I got my BA in history, and tomorrow I leave on a whirlwind trip through Iceland, Scotland, and Italy, so now is as good of a time as any to squeeze in a blog update.

One of the first things I noticed about Dungeons & Dragons, while I was browsing through the books at my buddy Marc’s house way back in jr. high, was the vast array of crazy monsters.  I recognized some of them from Baldur’s Gate and some of them from mythology, but most of them I was honestly baffled by.  Beholders? Locathah? Those cheesy ice-skating dragons from Monster Manual IV? As I became more acquainted with the game, I quickly grew more appreciative of (some) of these monsters because of their history, their abilities, or the niche they fill in the game world. 

But familiarity can sap some of the mystery and marvel from the monsters themselves.  This is a problem many GMs face, even if they don't realize it.  For the most part, experienced players and GMs alike are pretty familiar with the contents of the monster manual.  Even players who are usually quite good at separating player knowledge from character knowledge can fall into the trap of recognizing a monster their characters have never encountered and immediately shifting tactics to account for what they know of the beast from the Monster Manual.