I’ll be straight with you, I’m not great at home-brewing (that is to say, creating new content following the rules of a given RPG system). What’s lucky for me is that the internet exists, and there are lots of people who are really good at homebrewing interesting classes and monsters and such… So I don’t have to.
The reason I’m not great at it is, I think, because of the rules. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not a big fan of rules. They get… finicky. Fun is more important to me than rules. I don’t mean I cheat, I just selectively ignore some things to make sure I, and anyone playing with me, has a better time. It’s not a system that would work for everyone, but it works for me and mine.
Anyways, my casual disregard for rules led me to occasionally want monsters to do something that existing monsters just… can’t. So I would make up new monsters, to fit what I needed. Starting with a general idea of it, I would eventually work my way towards some mechanics, even if that meant having to make up new mechanics to do it.
This leads me to this “Brew outside the Box” series. In it, I’ll be giving you some examples of monsters I created to have a specific effect or impact. It’ll look something like this:
Description: [What characters see.]
Idea: [What I wanted the monster to be.]
Mechanics: [Any unique or invented mechanics of the monster.]
Statistics: [If I have stats for the example monster, I’ll list them here.]
Make sense? Of course it does, it’s simple. Let’s try.
The Shadow Men
Description: Shadow Men are humanoid creatures of pure darkness. The height of a human, but with all the wrong proportions: too-long legs and arms splay from a bulbous, round body, with a head set forward on a neck that looks too thin to support it. More than anything, though, what stands out are the faces: white masks, like some mockery of old theatrical costume pieces, hover an inch or so in front of where their faces should be. Wide eye-holes and gaping mouths, stretched into grotesque smiles and frowns, open to the black void beneath the mask. As they glide towards you, feet just above the ground, a sickening, giggling chortle rolls from the darkness beneath their masks.
Idea: Shadow Men were created to fill a very specific void: agents of a greater power of darkness and destruction (called The Null), shadow men were physically weak but could inhabit and possess other beings. Incapable of speech in their natural form, Shadow Men could perform any actions that their possessed host was capable of while in their body, and so could mimic them nearly perfectly. In that way, Shadow Men were infiltrators, spies, and (when in possession of an appropriate host) shock troops.
Mechanics: The most notable aspect of the Shadow Men was their possession abilities. For the sake of story, they could possess non-player characters off-screen fairly easily. If the character is more powerful, or if it was a player, the Shadow Men need to make physical contact with the character, who would then get to make an appropriate attempt to resist (I created them for D&D 3.5, so it was a Will save).
They were also, as beings of darkness, weak to light. In their natural forms, they would be destroyed if exposed to direct sunlight. Though they could stand the light for longer (minutes at a time) while possessing someone, prolonged exposure to natural light would eventually burn them out of their hosts (it was one of the only way, aside from appropriately power magic spells, to get them out of a host).
Stats: Since they tended to only fight while in possession of a host, I never created a full set of stats for the Shadow Men (and instead used their host stats). In their natural form, they had very little health, and their only attack was a touch possession attempt, with a Will save to resist.