The Monsters Know What They're Doing: an RPG sourcebook for DMs who want to imbue monsters with deep, smart tactics
For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.
Ammann organizes his monsters into several broad categories ("Humanoids" from goblinoids to githzerai; "Monstrosities" from ettercaps to krakens; "Celestials" from angels to pegasi; etc) and then proceeds from a set of basic premises: every creature wants to survive; physical abilities define fighting styles; intelligence determines tactical nous; wisdom determines self-preservation instincts; etc.
Each monster is then given a set of tactical notes that nudge DMs into creating combat encounters that are different for every kind of adversary, with explanations of how the monsters will roleplay as well, creating a springboard for some really rich play.
This is a massive and ambitious project that I'm frankly in awe of. A companion volume, Live to Tell the Tale: Combat Tactics for Player Characters, will come out in June, is aimed at players, rather than DMs, and explains how to use combat as part of your role-playing.
Like all good RPG sourcebooks, The Monsters Know What They're Doing is a hoot just to read, and transported me back to my days of poring over the Monster Manual and the Fiend Folio. I can only imagine how much fun it is to play a session with a DM who's using it to guide their work.
The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters [Keith Ammann/Saga Press]
An appropriate book for this time, Soviet-era dystopian fiction grandmasters Boris and Arkady Strugatski considered Snail On The Slope “the most perfect and the most valuable of their works.” Snail on The Slope is comprised of two separate storylines, taking place in and on the edge of The Forest. Together they paint a vivid picture […]
My buddy Ken Goldberg, a UC Berkeley professor of robotics, his 10-year-old daughter Blooma, and science communicator Ashley Chase wrote a delightful children’s book called How to Train Your Robot! Illustrated by Dave Clegg, the story, about a fourth grade robotics club, is a fun and understandable introduction to how deep learning can help robots […]
Andy Greene literally wrote the book on The Office. His book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History is released today! Vulture has an excerpt from the book telling the behind-the-scenes story of “Stress Relief,” the two-part “fire drill” episode. Here’s a snip: Ben Silverman [producer]: The […]
In case you’re one of those computer shoppers who instinctively turns up their nose at the very mention of the word refurbished, here are a couple myths worth dispelling. Refurbished equals junk somebody didn’t want. While desktops, laptops, notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets marked as refurbished may have been unboxed at some point, meaning they can […]
Rad Power Bikes want to get the world out of their cars and they just may have figured out how to do it
Electric bikes aren’t toys. And they aren’t a fad. In fact, more and more communities are starting to catch on that e-bikes are a lot more than an amusing gadget for the tech geek. Following a six-month study, Johnson County, Kansas, home to many Kansas City suburbs, became just the latest U.S. community to allow […]
Whether you’re living in a city that has already taken measures to reduce plastic bag use, the small silver lining of the pandemic has inspired you to make changes, or you’ve already started living a greener lifestyle, reusable produce bags are a great addition to your shopping routine. And if you’re going to invest in […]