Saturday, March 2, 2019

Not a fan of "gotcha" monsters

A long time ago, I did a "beast of the week" series here on the blog, where I created new monsters for Classic D&D based on a variety of myths, legends, pop culture, and etc. references. Someone somewhere once commented that an OSR blogger had made a generic monster out of Sauron from Lord of the Rings. That was me in this series.

When I completed it, I created a bestiary document for my home games that included all of the monsters in BE plus most of CM from BECMI (left out a few I thought I didn't need) plus all of the BotW series monsters, and a few critters from the 3E SRD that weren't in AD&D (to my knowledge).

Well, with my new conversion of the 5E game to Classic, I'm now revising that document. I took out a few of the joke/gimmick monsters I'd created in BotW (Sauron's still in there though!), and I'm adding in a few more AD&D and 5E monsters that I like.

Going through the original Monster Manual, I notice there are quite a few monsters where I'm just instantly saying NO, I don't want that in my game. And for the most part, they're the "gotcha" or "fuck you" monsters. Rot grubs, ear seekers, lurkers above, trappers. I understand that they were a big part of Gary's games. Players do things like search a wall for secret doors or search a door for traps -- surprise! The wall is actually a monster that will suffocate you.

That's not the style of game I want to play, though. I've had way to many players over the years that spend way too much time paranoid that the dungeon itself is out to get them. And while a little of that can be a good thing, it's not something I want to do often.

Maybe I'll make a room in a dungeon sometime where each wall is a trapper, the ceiling is a lurker above, the treasure chest inside is a mimic (I did decide to keep that one just for fun), and every door is infested with rot grubs and ear seekers and there's a brain mole waiting inside the mimic. Maybe the floor can have a pit trap full of green slime, too! Just get them all out into one horrible encounter. Then be done with them. :D


  1. It's good to make the game your own. It's not 1974 anymore. Some things have gotten much better even though other things you can't improve on.

    I'm also no fan of gotcha monsters. They are not fun like, say, offering the Deck of Many Things can be because the players don't have a lot of agency with the gotcha monsters.

  2. My players did find the Deck of Many things in Castle Ravenloft, actually, and yes, it was fun. After two players tried it, the rest are afraid to touch it!

  3. Gotcha encounters remind me of the party-decimating Tower of Gygax event at Gencon. You get a ribbon for dying within, and its only fun if your DM makes it fun (instead of cruel).