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Monstrosities

Monstrosities are monsters in the strictest sense—frightening creatures that are not ordinary, not truly natural, and almost never benign. Some are the results of magical experimentation gone awry (such as owlbears), and others are the product of terrible curses (including minotaurs and yuan-ti). They defy categorization, and in some sense serve as a catch-all category for creatures that don’t fit into any other type.

All Monstrosities

Most monstrosities have a simple motivation to kill their prey, eat their fill and survive to do it again. Being left alone to indulge in these grisly pursuits satisfies their primary function. Deviating too far from these ideas is potentially confusing to players’ expectations, so you need to take care with changes.

A careful reading of the monsters’ backgrounds will reveal clues to potential tactics. Be creative with these creatures, and look for the aspects that do not stand out. Find a “hidden option” and use that to surprise your players.

It’s easy to assume an owlbear’s wicked claws and enormous beak allow it to bite and rend its foes much like a bear. You might play up the creature’s “owl mind” and the keen instincts of a silent and deadly hunter. An owlbear that patiently stalks and observes the party and attacks from overhead cliffs or trees can yield interesting encounters. Adding the subtle tactics of an owl removes character foreknowledge and ratchets up the stakes.

A minotaur encounter almost demands the inclusion of a puzzling labyrinth. Try expanding that trope to a winding hedgerow, sewer tunnels, or series of twisting caves and giving the brute a love of puzzles and traps. Take a simple idea and complicate or multiply it.

Or consider combining similar monsters to increase the variety of options. Give a roper the ability to climb, and you have added a dangerous and deadly “living stalactite” that would put any piercer to shame. Not only can it attack from above, but it might drag the unwary character into the cavern shadows silently like a cave fisher. By combining the roper, the piercer, and the cave fisher, you will leave the party scratching their’ collective heads.