Content of the article: "How to make encounters feel unique and mysterious even for veteran players, without reworking whole star locks."
As DM’s we constantly want to challenge our players with difficult, nuanced, and interesting encounters. I for one have spent hours meticulous tweaking and changing a monsters stat block to get the theme I want for an encounter, only to have players say “oh it’s just an ogre guys no need to worry” and completely take the punch out of revealing a cool creature.
While I think that players should be rewarded if they pay attention to clues, hints, and descriptions to better prepare for specific encounters, I also don’t think they should know 100%.
So here goes the actual advice part of this. When describing creatures, especially through eyewitness accounts from NPC’s, call a creature by a different name. Have them call it something the players OOC have never heard of for example:
DM (as the town bartender): “yea dontchya go out at night, lest you wanna get robbed by a bunch of them Aazoks”
PC’s “why what is an Aazok?”
DM: “little devilish creatures, sharp teeth, black bugging eyes, usually catchin’ folks unawares, usually pretty small things. I mean Borok and the town guard just took out a nest of em just a week ago but they never seem to stop multiplyin”
Now if you had to guess what is that creature. Goblin? Kobold? Imp? As for a dm it actually doesn’t matter! Choose what you like or what feels or fits in the moment giving you flexibility for how difficult you want an encounter while keeping a cohesive theme!
I personally use this in my games to also give my players the joy of discovering what monsters can do even if they’ve read the MM cover to cover. This even helps that accidental meta gaming that some players try to avoid. The age old argument of you as a player know that trolls regenerate unless they do some fire damage but does your PC know?
All in all this is a very small change, but if you’re running this for a group of players that plays a lot of DnD or is familiar with fantasy tropes this can help keep the excitement of discovery without a whole mess of home brewing statblocks.
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