The Three Minute Monster

Picture the scene: You’re in the middle of running a hectic game of Dungeons & Dragons, and the party is getting along well with Bunky, your ad-hoc monster NPC. Suddenly, one of the players springs an idea: “I wait until we rest, then kill Bunky.”

Suddenly, you need stats for your off-the-cuff creature. You have three minutes.

Rule 1: Generate only as much as you need.
Don’t bother calculating skill points, ability scores or anything you don’t think the monster will use. Some creatures only need a hit point total, attack bonus and damage, and perhaps Fort/Ref/Will.

Rule 2: Estimate!
Third edition has detailed and specific rules for how to calculate hit dice and ability score modifiers. You have three minutes. Borrow the hit points from a similar monster or guesstimate the stats; say, +10 to attack, 1d8+4 bite damage and 6x9 = 54 HP.

Rule 3: Stick to the rules
You have three minutes, not three seconds. Pay at least some attention to the way the game builds monsters. The third edition Monster Manual and fourth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide can give you some insights on this.

Comments (3)

jonathan (July 27th, 2008)

HAHA! Nice entry, seems like there’s something going around about this because I just posted about a similar topic - basically, monsters are just numbers on a page, the fastest way to make a monster in a pinch is to just borrow, beg, and steal from other monster statblocks in the MM.

Bryan (July 30th, 2008)

I like the topic.

When I am under pressure I use Monster Forge (uses Excel). It will quick advance a creature and can use several different statblock styles. It can be found here:

I have been experimenting with 4e monster roles and minions in my 3.5 campaign. I will prolly adapt the concept of Solo monsters to my 3.5 campaign. My players loved the minion rules last session. It challenged them and gave everyone something to smack around during combat. Since I have 7 players this is very hard to do with 3.5 encounter construction rules.

RPG Ike (August 6th, 2008)

Good advice.

In the past I’ve completely off-the-cuffed a doomed critter NPC and focused on the descriptions and dialog to keep the fighting more personal and dramatic—it’s usually pretty easy because you have an established relationship with the critter, and the players don’t care as long as everything seems in order and they’re having fun.

That won’t quite do the trick if your critter is known as a total badass and shouldn’t be pushed over without taking a bite out of the PCs, but you can always cheat in favour of the players without hurting the game.

Comments for this article are closed.