Here is a quick list of my top 10 RPG monsters, a blogpost idea lovingly stolen from npc-a-day and a host of other bloggers over the year.
- Zombies, but only in randomly spawning packs. With all the zombie, werewolf, and vampire lore around at the moment it is an obvious choice. A zombie really is moot when alone, they are too slow and too weak to both most brave folks. But spinkle a small hamlet with 30-40 of the buggers, each hidden or shambling in packs of 4 or so and you have a setting that will keep everyone guessing.
- The old Statue that comes alive. I like to think of these creatures as stop motion animated foes, akin to the old movies like Jason and the Golden Fleece. Of course it springs to life when the PCs get close enough, it just has to. An alternate of this would be the creature animating on a special condition, like a treasure being removed or completion of a strange ritual.
- The intelligent and altogether sociopathic Dragon. Especially if in some way limited by desires, which helps to explain why they’re sitting on a bunch of coins, rather than investing them and ruling an economic empire. Like a cat playing with his food, the players should be trying to get out and never see that drake again. Treasure be damned.
- A Lich is a standout for an NPC that can re-occur many times. It’s got all the potential of a major character, but not limited to being at all reasonable.
- AI. The lore about computers taking over our world, or at the very least killing somebody in an underground base while making human hybrids is everywhere. I love a good AI story, from Lawnmower Man (cry) to the Matrix (1, not 2 or 3) we’ve seen the programs rise up and kill us too many times not to respect them as a monster worth of any bad-guy list.
- Gelatinous Cube. All hail the slow creeper of marsh mellow death. The GC is not a foe you’d use all the time, but can have a high degree of variety. Perhaps it only eats dirt and filth. Perhaps it dislikes gold. Maybe it is afraid of movement, which is why it creeps so slowly through mazes, approaching only when the NPCs are sleeping…
- A town patrol, city watch, or other quasi-skilled martial unit. They can enlist the help of the locals, have a reasonable clue who is dangerous, are probably greedy, and have no desire to die. This makes them great roleplaying fodder as well as a pressure point in city games. The range of sub-characters which can be drawn from the stereotype is invaluable.
- The Doppelganger is a great rpg tool in a game. Steps: separate party members, introduce doppelganger to lone pc, take conversation into another room, return to table and then play out the rest of the session with other player doing normal stuff. The other players will never trust them again…heh.
- A Phoenix is perhaps not a classic, but I think they have a legendary appeal due to the myth and lore. They’re often not baddies, but there is no reason not to have a phoenix-ish creature motivated by its own strange goals. I’d guess that a creature with a strange form of immortality based around a dying a lot might have a strange view of morals and ethics.
- Lastly a strange one, I’d like to give kudos to falling damage as one of the great character killers in rpgs (but not a real monster, I know). This “monster” is altogether avoidable, somewhat fun to watch PCs try to avoid, and sometimes the only thing that will actually hurt a min/max’ed Warrior in Full Plate. Terrain is a wonderful tool for stretching the PCs, and falling damage has had the most affect on my toons over the years. With perhaps drowning coming in second.
Happy rolling folks, may the monsters be many, varied, and roll really badly against you.