GRENDEL MENDEL II: An Applied Example of Punnett Squares For Monster Design

Good enemy design, enviornmental complications,
& NPC goals make for good fights

Here is a practical application of my Punnett Squares For Monster Design idea.

In a few posts I have alluded to trying to design a dungeon called The Black Keep. The first level of that dungeon is a classic ruined moat-house-turned-bandit-camp. So there is a lot of opportunity for bandits to appear and and a lot of opportunities make them a bit better than the standard stat block below:

Bandit: AC 13, HD 1, 1 x weapon (1d6), MV 40, ML 8

Looking back at the Punnet Square post we have four categories again: melee x damage, melee x special, ranged x damage, ranged x special

Right off the bat I don't want to have to think about making groups bandits. I want to be able to roll 3-6 d8's for hit-points and go from there. How about hit points rolled determine the catagory on the Punnet Square?

Given that ranged enemies require extra effort for PCs to get to them and melee enemies need some extra HP to get to survive first contact, we can arrange things like so that "ranged" is the lower 50% of hit die and "melee" is the upper 50%. I like putting the "specials" on the end of the hit die, upper and lower 25%, allowing for a strong flavor in those catagories with them appearing too frequently.

Developing "mobs" and the "leader"

The Rot Hounds are people overtaxed, pushed off lands, and/or former rank-and-file military who have been screwed by nobility. They also have a supply of carnivorous frogs. So this can inform the square.

Rot Hounds Punnet Square 
Behavior: Can be bribed; capture magic-users for Henry

1-2 hp Ranged x Special: AC 10 Spear +Frogling 1x attack 
3-4 hp Ranged x Damage: AC 12 Short Bow & Dagger; will stay at range then run if able
5-6 hp Melee x Damage: AC 12 Sickles & Spears
7-8 hp Melee x Special: AC 14 Two-handed axe, +1 HD

The leader of this group is Henry Hounds-Head, a cursed former pikeman who blames the nobility for his ruin. Now robs the rich to build an army and seeks to undo the curse.

Like the Hounds, I tried to conceptualize around a known D&D monsters. For Henry Hounds-Head, I chose the beserker.

Beserker: AC 12, HD 1+1*, 1 x weapon (1d8), MV 40, ML 12;
Rage: +2 to-hit against humanoids

I was particularly drawn to the to-hit bonus as a way to express Henry's rage again the nobility. But we can make this leader a little more dynamic in both personality and behavior on the field. When creating a singular monster, I like to each cross as a reminder to include melee, range, and specials in a singular creatures. This is because they have to face off against generally a party of 4-6 PCs with some combination of melee, range, and magic and an HD total of 4-6!

Henry Hounds-Head
Behavior: Wants to recruit & will capture magic-users; hates nobility & connected to The Order

AC 14, HD 4, 1x as weapon, MV 40, ML 10

Melee x Damage: Two-handed Axe (1d8), not "slow"
Melee x Special:  On a "1" damage, weapon is stripped from PCs hands
Ranged x Damage: Spear (1d6)
Ranged x Special: On a miss of 11+, PC saves vs Paralysis or be knocked prone

RAGE: +2 to-hit against humanoids
KEEN SENSES: Animal-headed & suprised only on a 1-in-6
SOUND of BATTLE: 4 Bandits in the area after 1 round of battle

I chose 4 HD because by OD&D standards this confers "hero" status. I guess I could add some +X hp in order to keep him out of range of Sleep, but I am writing a 1st level adventure so maybe don't want to go too hard.

Related to the "hero" staus, I could either give Henry an additional attack per round or could even go so far has allowing a division of attacks equal to HD among non-hero targets. But I dunno, if I got that route he might be too tough.

WHAT DO YOU REPRESENT?: A Good Collection of OSR PC Miniatures


Just as there are differences in the OSR vs 5E aesthetic in terms of art and adventure design, the same is true for miniatures that represent PCs. This in part is due to the increase of cheap, but sturdy plastics which allow for very dynamic poses. These dynamic poses are great for singular display, but sometimes provide too much action when moving around exploring. PC miniatures for 5E are in a perpetual state of charging or a swirl of magical energy. This just cuts against my desire for a more classical feel. 

I have some other qualifications for miniatures. Monster miniatures are the best when they can represent a sorta range of monsters not just the one specified on lists on the box. Or PC miniatures that can represent a variety of classes. A hooded figure with a staff could be a magic-user, elf, or druid. A figure in helmet, full plate, and a sword could be a variety of class types from fighter to paladin, elf, and any mix of gender.

Basically, the most archetypical the miniature is, the more bang for your buck I think you can pull out of it. Because it just needs to be a good representation, not a perfect replication. This also prevents the miniature from interfering with your world-building and means you have to haul around fewer plastics. This last bit is especially important with terrain (hint: use aquarium plants from pet shops)

Human Fighter by Bobby Jackson

Elf Wizard by Bobby Jackson


I think I've found some in the Henchmen & Hirelings pack, again, from Reaper Miniatures and by Bobby Jackson (see a trend). Which seem to sell for $40 for 13 miniatures or ~$3 each. But looks like shopping around you can get some cheaper. 

The first awesome thing about this set is that many of the characters are holding both a weapon and equipment! A couple of minis even have 10ft. poles.

The second thing is that despite this set being billed as mainly hirelings, these miniatures look like first or second-level characters. The equipment is not perfect and a lot of the characters seem to me to have vestiges of former (failed) professions. And there is enough variety that you can see that magic-users, thieves, and fighters are represented. True there is no strong cleric or demi-human character but its a good collection. This would also be perfect for DCC.

The third thing is that the expression on each character's face and their stance is more of a mix of wariness, fear, and uncertainty than heroic bravado. This, combined with their gear, gives the set a bit of a Black Adder feel which is kinda how I like to frame my games. Kinda like you're a former pig farmer in a fairy tale setting who is pretty sure this talking fish you just caught is trying to screw you over. But you really need the cash so you're gonna go along with the fish's stupid plan anyway. Maybe get a title out of it.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 19


Country Roads...corrected

Previously in Nightwick...

Corfu (Dwarf 1)

Mayfly (Magic-user 3)
Ianthi (Changling 1)
Grant (Fighter 1)
Sotar (Cleric 2)

At the Medusa's Head...

A bounty has gone out:

A daring frogling who calls himself Hoppin in the Hood has attacked several caravans with his band of happy frogs. The van Toad trading house has offered 150 knots (1500 SP) for his capture or proof of slaying.

The party is interested in this coin because being rich is second only to being alive as a preferred state in the Dark Country. Or maybe that is just Mayfly's feelings about the matter. Actually, Mayfly would prefer "power" over "riches".

Silver is tossed about by Ianthi and Sotar to gather information pertaining to this bachtrachian brigand. And they uncover the following rumors and tales:

"He's got a band of 30 happy frogs, but don't be fooled, he's a sadist and look my ear clean off!"

 "Given the where the attacks happen, I am sure he is based 'round the hamlett of Vollage"

And what does the party know about the hamlet of Vollage? Corfu knows a bit about the world and remembered that not long ago (by dwarf standards) a tower was being constructed by a knight of Lychgate but The White Lady, a powerful witch, attacked and burned it to the ground. Those who died inside became ghosts that haunt the ruins.  

(PC NOTE: Dwarves in Nightwick have a unique ability called There When the World Was Made which is a 2-in-6 chance to know lore about a place or events. Nice way to provide lore without a dump.)


THE DECISION- FIGHT AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF IMMORTALS or A KNOWN 30 MORTALS? The party figures that there is no way they are going to be able to take on 30 "happy frogs" with a penchant for ear removal. So, they decide to travel to the hamlet of Vollage to check out the ruins. Why not go "up" in a cursed tower instead of "down" in a cursed abbey for a change. So they hit the road.

THE SWINE HERDER...or SOMETHING ELSE?: About midday on the road, they run across a swine herder who offers up that rain is due soon and there will be no doubt strange things that await the party. That earned some side-eye, but Mayfly flips the herder a silver, just in case he was something in disguise.

THREE DISCARDED...SKINS?: The drizzle turns to rain as the party come upon three sets of clothing in the road. Grant makes a closer inspection and confirms they are in fact human skins, but removed as if clothing, and with such a deft execution the whole piece seems to be uncut or unruined by removal. Although a clear congealed mass and black hairs around the mouth confirm one thing...werewolves. 

Mayfly wanted to take the skins as leverage to use them again the frog bandit. Sotar commented that to apply that leverage, the party would have to come up with a way to make getting the skins more difficult f to get rather than straight-up murdering us. Point Sotar.

A ROADSIDE SHRINE with... SPRITE CRUCIFIXION? With the rain now a downpour and visibility nil, Mayfly casts ESP given the prior two ominous encounters. A 60' range, but better than being set upon by werewolves at 0' feet. Soon the party sees a small light bobbing up and down at an unknown distance. Drawing within the range of the spell, Mayfly is overcome with a strong sense of sadness. Will-o'-Wisp?

Imploring the party to stop, the group sees the light is in fact a sobbing sprite. The spite is floating in front of an obvious shrine to The Lady but adorned with two small sprite skeletons with tiny wooden halos (Sotar the cleric: That is f------d).

Mayfly asks what can be done to help. Bleed from the ESP maybe? The sprite perks up.

"Oh yes! You can eat them! I'll help you take the halos off!!"

Corfu speaks up, "I'll eat one"

"No! Not you" the sprite shouts, "nor you either" pointing at Ianthi. Clearly only those not of farie blood can consume the skeletons.

"Well first what is your name?", asks Mayfly

Amused the sprite replies: "I can't tell you that silly"

"Okay well, how about 'Raindrop'?"

The sprite repeats this over and over, until turning back to the questions of skeleton eating.

Hard "no" comes from Sotar and Grant, but Mayfly has heard stories about men gaining power through the consumption of magical beings and/or their organs. Any studying has been painfully slow. 

(PC NOTE: Also, Mayfly's WIS is 07 (-1) so impulsiveness and lack of patience is a trait)

"Sure, I'll do it." and Mayfly swallows the first skeleton goes down with surprising and disturbing ease.

(PC NOTE: Along with a failed save throw)

THE FIRST BARGAIN: Mayfly remembered tails of faerie bargains. Maybe not as powerful as those made with the infernal creatures of The Pit, but less likely to completely lose your soul.

"Now, since I did you a favor, I should get a favor in return. It is only fair," states Mayfly

"Ugh. Fine." Raindrop says with an eye-roll

A discussion follows that establishes (in the pouring rain) Raindrop knows who "Hoppin' Hood" is and where he lives. So Mayfly states the following: 

"Bring me the smallest thing he values the most."

"Done!" And Raindrop flies off.

(PC NOTE: Any people think old-school D&D is just grey corridors and hack & slash. Here we have a prime example of diplomacy and necrophagy. What's not to love! This was a great situation as a player. A creepy ask by an NPC combined with a drop of in-world knowledge about what could be an outcome: power. Already Mayfly has used soul-coins to gain a tutor, so why not eat a sprite skeleton? But this situation is another nice example of using IRL myths and stories about creatures to govern their in-game behavior. So, I chose to try and deal with this creature as a thing of myth not a "D&D monster on pg XX". Finally, the bargain we were able to make was also to help us with another problem- the frog bandits. So PCs, factions, verbal deals, and the mixing of IRL myth and in-game lore all smashes together. Perfect D&D cocktail.)

THE SECOND BARGAIN: The party makes it to the hamlet of Vollage, soaked through, but with dry silver. The local inn provides the party with plates of cooked cabbage and cooked eel- the majority go with the cooked eel. Not much is learned from the locals and the party decides to bunk down in the common room for the night along with to men-at-arms of the bishop (PC NOTE- sus).

One of these men-at-arms wakes the party up screaming... at Mayfly's glowing chest. Mayfly feels the glow moving up into his throat like an overactive glob of cabbage. Mayfly begins scrambling for wine, water, or anything to swallow this thing.

Adding to the panic and confusion, a small glow starts loudly rapping at the window so the party and a gagging Mayfly scramble out of the common room and into the storm. Two almost simultaneous things happen:

Mayfly hits the ground and coughs up... another faerie while feeling all the new magic he's learned recently drain from him!

Raindrop then informs the party of what "smallest and most valuable thing" has been taken... Hoppin Hood's remaining eye!

"You owe me!" Mayfly horsely barks at the new faerie. "I gave you life by my own essence and you owe me an equal favor in return! The eye was *just* for eating the skeleton."

"Ugh" the new sprite said with a stamp of a tiny foot.

It was discussed that the favor was to be determined later. The new sprite, named by Mayfly for the spell now lost to him- Espy, handed over a small flute made from her own rib. Then Raindrop tries once more.

"Okay who wants to eat the other skeleton?!"

...End Scene

(PC NOTE: What happened when the faerie was coughed up? Level drain
Yes, that feared and hated, in equal amounts, old school mechanic of the undead. Did I feel "cheated", naw. I could have chosen Mayfly to not have eaten the skeleton in the first place. Then, I could have said my character was gonna do everything to keep this high-in-calcium snack down. Instead, I chose to have Mayfly cough it up like a hairball because he was in the presence of the faerie who held its end of the bargain. Might be bad to double-cross a being who could be useful. Also, I thought level drain was really well employed in the moment by a creature not normally known for that sorta thing. It was a very interesting, entertaining session and what drove that-- educated risk-taking and "endangering" the PC. And despite being level-drained, I feel like my character still has gained a lot through this set of actions-- the character is building strong in-game history through action.