Action Oriented Monsters | Running the Game #84 -

Action Oriented Monsters | Running the Game #84

Matthew Colville
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Here’s the scratch pad I used to make these. My next step would be plugging in attack and damage numbers, and cleaning it up to be usable on the night.

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  1. OK yah I'm late to this, but this is one of the most useful videos ever. Thanks Matt! (PS one of my favorite Creatures is the Ankheg, so thanks!

  2. I ran my first session today. The combat fit this rsndom encounter type pretty well. It had one big monster and two minions (cockatrice and 2 blood hawks at lv 1). The Cockatrice didn't roll above an 8 and never hit once. One of the characters just sat in fog waiting for combat to end (homebrew he has something bad happen on a nat 1 and his backstory had that happen, he hurt his brother, so he ran away)

  3. I have run the goblin boss as a supplement to cragmaw hideout in LMoP, 9.9/1.00. the entire group loved it, whenever yemerick would get pinged you could hear the group was loud. big fan!!!!!

  4. In the claw-claw-bite actually being prone would be really nasty if the bug knocked someone down and then bit them with advantage.

  5. im two minutes in and all i can think is A C T I O N E C O N O M Y

  6. I’ve always homebrewed my huge solo monsters with multiple ‘action initiatives’ meaning that they end up rolling for each one of their actions and go at different points during the battle.

    It could lay out the order as such:


    So that way it allows the boss to make choices during the combat encounter. I took inspiration from the dark souls board game and my players have always found these boss fights challenging, fair; and epic to scale due to how much they are moving, what they are doing, and what phase they are at. Even my 20th level party barely survived their final boss fight from a one shot and they all agreed that it was one of the best fights they’ve ever had in D&D

  7. How much would anyone recommend this for a pretty new DM? I really love this type of encounter building, but I’m a bit afraid that I might under- or overdo abilities and such, since I don’t have a lot if experience with encounters and fights yet 🤔

  8. Picture this: A goblin boss that is just a bigger goblin that throws other goblins as attacks and uses his “Get In Here” ability to generate more goblins to throw.

  9. I love this build philosophy. I ran the Ankheg against a level 3 party and it was one of my favorite fights so far in the game. The Barbarian got nabbed and the Paladin and Sorcerer hopped down after it. So far it was the only monster that's actually knocked a pc unconscious. It was a fun challenge. I've since designed an Action Oriented Water Weird. It has a bonus action Water Gun, a reaction to cast shield(pull up a wall of water to protect itself), and the ability to slam a constricted character into a wall for a bunch of damage. It also has a repositioning villain action and a villain action to cast Tidal Wave. I've also given it the special feature where if it would take at least 10 poison or acid damage, it becomes Polluted and becomes a Poison Weird, now adding Poison damage to it's attacks. I can't wait to throw it at them.

  10. I'm runnin a solo game and my player is obsessed with bug creatures so I was scratching my head on how to tweak the ankheg into a good solo challenge for them and I'm 100% stealing these ideas! Thanks man

  11. With the insect monster. What about an exoskeleton ability. All damage it takes goes into an small hp pool for the exoskeleton and once it drops to zero it shatters away after that round finishes leaving it vulnerable from that point on without making it that much more tanky or damaging.

  12. I have my money ready for MCDM: Bosses and Bad Guys
    Just more of this. Lots more.

  13. Tribe of mystic goblins with misty step, 2x backstab and improved stealth… absolutley tormented a party for months and ended with a truce.

  14. I've often used the "Villain Action" concepts.

  15. Gotta disagree on this one. Get some good buildup, and put players up against a CR appropriate fight where you've just quintupled the HP? It works. Players like to hit. They like to see their big attacks pulling down dozens of hit points, there's tension when the monk has used all his flurry of blows and the paladin has used all their smite and the wizard has used their big spells and the beast is clearly wounded, but also clearly still standing and ready to fight.

  16. my party at probably level 4 went on a quest to find a missing farmer and guards who went looking. it turned out the farmer was cursed into a werewolf and when they discovered him after searching in the woods. he had a bonus action of rolling a 1d4 to summon some weaker wolves i made. i dont know why buy it quickly became their favorite encounter and i think its because of how interesting and also nerve racking combat was becoming over time.

  17. This makes me realize that enemies need to be able to match the party in stuff they can do in a round, not in a single turn, that makes a fight interesting.

    If an enemy can do something after each player's turn then they can always respond to the party and everything feels a lot more real-time

  18. I feel like the designers at Paizo were watching this video when making Pathfinder 2e.

  19. Nearly two years after this I still refer to this video every now and then, while also suggesting it and all Matt's work to everyone who will listen to me.

  20. I like to design challenging single enemies by taking a stronger CR enemy and slightly nerfing their attack abilities to do as much as half damage or even less

  21. Man! The Ankheg design is GREAT! It’s so very in tune with what a creature hunting a group of people, it thought it could take on, would do. All abilities of survival of a true predator.

  22. Just used this last session when my party tracked down a member of a notorious thieves guild. The fight with the temperance was real nasty.

    He was a green dragonborn with a particularly bad reputation. A real slippery bastard. One of his abilities let him spit in the players eyes giving opportunity attacks disadvantage against him and as he slipped in and out he'd drop poisoned caltrops they took him down but everyone HATED him. (In the good way) definitely stashing him as a villain to use again

  23. Good tips. I applied in a Rug of smothering and it became an excellent encounter.

  24. Holy MOLY this is so good man! What a great platform to develop enemies off of. In the most flattering way possible – this reminded me of the scene from Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal is challenging Clarice to think more deeply about WHO Buffalo Bill is and how she should be shifting her perspective. "Read Marcus Aurelius– 'For any particular thing, ask 'What is it in itself? What is its nature?'… what does he DO, this man you seek…. what NEEDS does he serve by killing – he COVETS. That is his naturree. And how do we begin to covet?…" Such a fantastic (and extremely well acted by both parties) and enlightening clip!

  25. I love the perspective you bring to the table as a DM. I have pretty bad ADD, so I get so caught up in all the details and wanting to make everything perfect!

    Your advice has calmed a lot of my anxiety

  26. Have you done any PDF or online books about this? I absolutely loves this and want more for inspiration. Hope you are seeing this 😉
    Cheers form Denmark

  27. Legendary or Villain actions are absolutely key to make battles feel fun. I really like the Villain Action structure you have here. It helps enormously to have monsters not feel like bullet sponges or just pure damage dealers.

    One thing I often do with opportunistic predators (lions, bears, hook horrors, etc.) is make them really mean but have them nope out when they get to about half hit points. That makes them threatening on the initial strike but also gives the PCs incentive to hit hard to drive them back. Other monsters are much more prone to fighting to the death.

    I've done a goblin boss who was unthreatening itself but had an action to command other goblins to attack. It also had a reaction to sacrifice one of its goblins to take a PC blow. Eventually the PCs managed to fry most of the goblin allies and at that point the boss was pretty well useless, but they really didn't like him.

  28. Pretty bog standard boss monster… Is that a worthikids reference?

  29. where can i watch the battle vs the black iron pack?

  30. I just ran 2 ankhegs this past weekend and I'm crushed that I didn't see this video earlier. They destroyed both in 3 rounds at level 2 with summoned Wolves (3.5e).

  31. YO! I loved this! I loved the idea for the goblin boss, I'm putting it in the build for Boilgut who's the level 1 bad guy for my PCs, it'll be great to flavor him as a cowardly goblin king that runs but since he's bigger than other goblins and can hurl acid he bullies them into working for him.

  32. 3 yrs late to the party here, but… If I could throw my hat into the ring, I think heavy casters can work as bosses. If this is a boss fight, it probably means you've given it some planning and forethought. What I like to do is before the session, write out a list of which spells they will cast in what order. If I'm ever at a loss as to what my caster NPC should do, I just cast the top spell off the list without thinking about it, and cross it off. If I see a different spell lower on the list that fits that situation much better, I cast&cross that one instead. It may not work for everyone, but this has done wonders to lower the analysis paralysis I run into with caster monsters and NPCs

  33. Would love more info on crafting pvp like scenarios

  34. Back again. Almost ritualistic for me to come back to this video before important fights. This really is some of the finest content you’ve ever made, matt.

  35. If the Ankheg has to burrow down, and it's a Large creature, wouldn't it need 10ft of burrow just to head down? I thought a Large creature is essentially 10x10x10, not just 10×10. I just see this giant bug digging until it's halfway into the ground, then making a 5ft deep, 10ft long trench, and then jumping back out xD

  36. I also recommend puzzle monsters; monsters who the PCs have to think about how to deal with, not because their stateblock says so, but because the standard tactic just doesn't make sense when fighting them. Maybe it makes use of special terrain to make it hard for the PCs to strait up move and attack them, such as by flying, or going bellow ground or water. Maybe they are not really affected by normal weapons (I can imagine it being hard to hurt a water elemental with swords and bows). Maybe they are holding a hostage, and you have to find a way to deal with them without allowing them to also hurt the hostage. Maybe there is an alarm bell in the room and they could call reinforcements if they get spooked, so it becomes a much higher priority to prevent specific monster actions than actually just take them down. There are tons of options for encounters which are not purely based on it being difficulty because of statblocks.

  37. A damage reduction for bosses or stronger monsters is something I use very often aswell . That way you can keep the hp. Spell immunity for spells the players use often works like a charm…making them find other spells to use or use the specific ones more creative. I tend to make my bosses even stronger but give the players some terrain options for compensation. The Table could be kicked underneat the goblin boss to get him loose a round or drop the chandelier above him…damage and grapple by the "ring"…maybe clothing catching fire? A nearby grapling hook to tear out the body armor of the ankeg dropping its AC… Forcing payers to think out of the box is fun >:)…and you could reward inspiration for cool ideas.

  38. "I am not here to make more work for myself" is such a great line and I think could help some DMs. It is more important that a thing happens than how it works in the mechanics of the game. I struggle with that with Magic. I should focus more on making it magical and less about how mechanically that magic works

  39. This is so creative. I love how you approach the game!

  40. This reminds me of something I did ages ago in 3.5, I had giant scorpions and when they died, I'd roll a d4 and the bugs would thrash and flail even as they were dead for that many rounds. They turned the spaces around them into difficult terrain and had a chance to hurt anyone who tried to slip past.

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