Quickly designing monsters for any occasion

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I have had a 4E campaign going for 3 years now.  The characters started from level 1 and are now level 26.  I find that throughout the campaign I needed monsters for specific themed encounters and challenges.  If you find yourself needing specific monsters or types of monsters you can just "re-skin" them. Here are some ways to design and make the monsters challenging:

1. Give them an extra action point or two.
2. Give them an extra immediate interrupt/reaction power.
3. Make one of their "encounter" powers an at-will.
4. Give them phasing and/or teleport.
5. Make powers that only activite upon being bloodied, a power that can be used when not bloodied.
6. Give them the ability to remove a debuff or three as a free action at the beginning of their turn with a saving throw, or by sacrificing a minor or move action.

These are just some examples to help your monster-design. 

If the players are embarking on an arctic adventure, at level 18 or so, and you don't like the arctic monsters provided at that level, just take any monsters that you would feel to be an appropriate challenge for your players, and turn their powers into cold powers.  That way you have re-skinned virtually any monster into an icey terror for your players.

If you need a formitable human wizard opponent, use the beholder eye powers as his magic spells and just make them shoot from his hands, maybe even add a fiery dragon breath weapon as a blast attack coming from his ruby-tipped staff, etc. 

The point is, with all the well-designed monsters in 4E, feel free to mix and match.  Make sure you describe the powers being used to your players logically. (in the above example, don't let on that the wizard is using a fiery dragon breath attack, describe his ruby-tipped staff as producing the power).  If you re-skin a perfectly happy fey creature into an undead creature, now describe its fey powers with undead descriptions (black crackling energy instead of colorful rays of light), and add the "necromatic" keyword to the power.

Any thoughts or feedback on this approach to monster-design?

That's basically what I do, and I think it was fully intended. It's pretty easy to add a couple of iconic traits to a particular monster, either directly, or via reflavoring, and make it behave like a specific monster.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've been DMing for about...a week and I already do this like crazy as I'm looking ahead.  I'm actually kind of surprised when I see people who are stumped for a particular theme at a particular level etc.
With 5170 monsters to choose from, it's not surprising many can't see the woods for the trees.

Using reskinning, I may change a few keywords around, but that's it. I don't do anything suggested in 1 through 6 above.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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[spoiler Background]
I don't know what went differently for me, compared to (apparently) many other 3rd Edition users, but -

I discovered the 3rd Edition Core Rulebooks' instructions for building monsters using more or less the same rules used for building PCs, and the  instructions for modifying PC classes, equipment, and so on to custom-build campaign settings... and then something just "clicked".

And before that, there was that thing with my 2nd Edition DM, when we were creating PCs and I decided to make a Dwarf Ranger who patrolled caverns instead of the wilderness, and the DM said "you can't do that, Dwarves can only be... wait a minute, why not?  Sure, go ahead!"  That probably would have been the actual start of it.  And the same DM invented a monster based on an abstract doodle one of the players made in the margin of a scrap sheet of paper... making up the stats on the spot for it.

But, the 3rd Edition rules probably cemented it in place: 

I concluded that the mechanics were there to support ideas and descriptions and character concepts and cool monsters and settings and so on... not the other way around.

Which is kind of a backwards conclusion for me to reach, since I'm about 95% certain that the D20 system was invented first and formost as a system of generic mechanics, and D&D was used as a popular setting to support those mechanics.

In any case, I convinced myself that the whole idea was to invent memorable "fluff" descriptions and so on, and the mechanics were secondary, and could even be stolen shamelessly from existing, generic monsters - it's not like the average player is likely to be counting hitpoints and calculating attribute scores somehow to conclude "wait a minute, the DM may be telling me this is a were-leech, but the stats are definitely an Orc!  What a rip-off!"

I freely just use existing monster stats that seem close enough, file the serial numbers off, and paint fresh descriptions on top as needed.

The hard part about creating new monsters on-the-fly, is merely in coming up with new ideas for descriptions that catch the players' imaginations.

And I totally agree with OdinTGE in being surprised at how often DMs get stumped for monsters of any specific level that fit in with a theme.  I think my response to a question like that was, "Why, EVERY SINGLE monster in any monster manual ever fits in with the theme - all you have to do is ignore the picture and write your own description!"
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
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