3C-How do the monsters and players meet.
"Big one I,
One big eye.
—Traditional cyclops chant
Unlike most games out there, monsters don't just pop out of nowhere. Well, some do, like outsiders with teleport but you get the point. Here's the main ways of satisfying batman's killing urges while keeping your world flavourful!
Wild life, raiders, local angry habitants, forces of nature, and the ocasional wandering titan of DOOM, they're everywhere, and they're bound to cross batman's path now and then out of pure chance. They're the reason why batman is needed, because people need to be desesperate to get out of their towns in a world where colossal centipedes lurk aroud the corner.
The classic way, but can really slow down the campaign. You need to make random tables, and then you get a lot of fights not related to the plot. I've spent entire sessions of nothing but random ecounters as the party struggled to go from point A to point B.
So keep in mind the following guidelines when using random ecounters.
Extra: Free Online Ecounter generators!
0-Keep the tables simple. Rolling for chance and then for a hundred diferent monster combinations is horrible. Restrict yourself to 3-6 diferent kinds of monsters tops, all able to properly challenge the party. Keep the possible number of monsters in each ecounter also stable.
1-Keep the chances low. Something around 10-20% is best in the open, but consider increasing it up to 50% in an place of heavy enemy concentration, like a fortress, or a kython hatchery.
2-Make beforehand a max number of possible random ecounters. For example, inside a dungeon, there's a chance every minute a random number of rats apears and atacks the party. But the total number of rats in the dungeon is limited. Keep count on how many are slaughtered, and when the party has killed them all, no more rats. But if the party is lucky, they may not meet all the rats at all.
3-Give the party a way to "disable" the random ecounters in the area. The monsters aren't spawning out of thin air. If it's wildlife, they may destroy their nest, if they're humanoids, they may "persuade" their leader to keep quiet for some years. It may just be needed to block a gate/passage. If it isn't part of the main plot, make this side quest simple and of medium dificulty. You won't need to roll random ecounters anymore, and Batman will enjoy retelling the tale of how he stoped the local infestation problem.
4-Not all random ecounters are hostile. Merchants with special items, possible allies, scared peasants, or neutral entities may also pop up, making your world much more interesting. Better if you have a more roleplaying focused group, not so good if your group shoots first and asks questions later.
5(optional)-For extra fun, create special super-random ecounters. They have a really low chance of hapening (never more than 5%, normaly only a natural 100), but they can happen pretty much anywhere, and will put the party against a specialy tough enemy. Give them the chance to run if they wish, but hint that defeating your super monster may result in great rewards, like making the characters remember the legend of Barkay the wandering titan filled with fat loot.
Some nice people around the web took the work of writing programs to quickly present a random bunch of CR-apropriate monsters for the party to face. You're still advised to tweak some feats and stats here and there, but they're still wonderfull tools when you're feeling lazy and the party is itching for combat.Donjon gives us one ecounter generator that calculates exp, gives you the monster stats right away and lets you pick from diferent terrain types but only has core monsters.Random monster advancer include a monster ecounter generator that includes some splatbook material and agives you some control over alignments, number of creatures and templates. Also gives stats right away!Sulerin offers a tool wich lets you pick monsters from a wide array of splatbooks, control type, number and aligment, can exclude templates and unique creatures automatically, but doesn't give you the monster stats automatically. It does give you the book source and page of the book however. Use Ctrl to pick multiple creature types/alignment/books/climates at once.Defenders
Once he'd worked out which end of the spear was sharp, he was promoted to guard duty.
The game is called dungeons and dragons after all. And a dungeon is only as hard as the monsters defending it. Or fortress, or dark forest, or mansion. Altough there may be random ecounters inside it, there will also be static/patroling guards, or lurkers in ambush waiting for a meal.
These are the simplest kind of monster meeting. It is in one place, and when the party enters that place they engage with either pointy sticks or words, depending on the monster and the party's mood.
They come in two main flavors:Guards
-Guards won't go to great lenghts to hide themselves. They stand at a place and make sure nobody crosses. Thus, guards should optimize their defensive and detection capacities. They also need to hit hard, either with magic or more physical means. Mobility is expendable, as long as they can hurt enemies at range somehow. They always come in multiples backing each other up, and never sit too near of each other because they're perfectly aware the D&D world is filled with dangerous area effects. And also because batman can and will take the time to prepare before engaging them, making himself much more dangerous. Random ecounter tables combine well with guards for the chance of reinforcments apearing once the alarm is raised.
Smart guards will normaly take their free time making the terrain around them more defensable. Barricades to provide cover, hard terrain to slow atackers, traps, etc, etc. See the terrain and traps section (coming soon) for more detailed sugestions.
If nothing else, the guards dying screams will warn their allies to the presence of the party.
-Ambushers hide in a place batman will have to cross, and then jump out to try to get some bits either with magic or more physical means. Optimized hide skill+darkstalker+natural cover/invisibility/etherealness are their main tools. They also need to hit hard (but not too hard. You don't want to kill batman too quickly do you?). Of course, give the party a chance of actualy detecting the ambush if they're extra carefull.
Guards and ambushers work well togheter, with the guards playing as bait, and then the ambushers ju
mping out of cover to corner the party. In this kind of situation, it works well for the ambushers to have someway to slow down the party instead of hiting hard, so the guards can reach them and gank them togheter.
Either way, remember again that defenders rarely don't get time for last-minute buffs, so they'll usually compensate for it by seting up the terrain around them in a favourable way, making sure it suits their special abilities.
I trust no orc that refuses a fight-Gork, orc warlord.
Sometimes, its the monsters coming after the party, wich probably is defending some important place or pissed off the wrong group. Since they're the ones taking the iniative, they can take their sweet time buffing up, but on the other hand won't benefit from terrain defense. Like defenders, attackers come in two main varieties.Assassin-
Rely on stealth and trickery to get near the party, then start stabbing/nuking. They're basically like ambushers, but will probably need better stealth powers to get near the party instead of the party going near them.Vanguard-
Those are the dudes that charge at you head on the open and then smash you in the face. Brutes are basically like guards, except they need really good mobility to quickly close up with the party besides powerfull defenses, otherwise they have a really big risk of being shot to death while advancing.
Assassins and Vanguard work well togheter with the vanguard providing a big target to catch the party's focus while the assassins get in position and start stabbing.
Either way, remember again that attackers get to drink last-minute potions and other buffs like crazy, but need some way to track down the party and geting to them fast.Mobile Elites.
“We tecnically ran away from every engagement, but we also killed half of them whitout taking a single casuality”-Lord Gramster
The cream of the crop, those monsters are capable of switching from defense to attack as needed. Normally have some teleportation SLA, are casters, can turn ethereal to disapear trough the ground or have high speed movement
They focus on wearing down the party, harassing them with long-range attacks, keeping a safe distance and overall making their life hell. If outgunned, they try to retreat to attack again when the party is busy with some other trouble. Dragons are an excellent example of this, with their high speed and breath weapons they can strafing run the party forever, forcing them to find a creative counter against an enemy that refuses to face them head on.
And don't forget, monsters that run away are monsters that don't drop loot!3D-Monster groups and organizations“We are legion!”-unknown demon.
Now a lot of monsters may act alone, but even more will belong to some kind of organization. Cults, cities, races, tribes, armies, overlords, they all get monsters togheter and give them a sense of unity. They scratch each other backs and share intelegence and resources. This implies several things for monsters that belong to some kind of organization:
-They have someone to back them up in terms of hideouts.
-There's someone out there to avenge their deaths.
-They're working for some higher purpose.
-It's an excellent way of providing quests for the party.Quick organization generation method:
-Pick up a theme. Like necromancers or demons or lychantropes.
-Pick up some monsters directly tied to the theme.
-Pick up some monsters undirectly tied to the theme as backup to fill holes, like mercenary casters and traitor spies. A organization must be self-sufficient.
-Decide numbers of the organization. How many of each do they have?
-Make some important NPCs for the organization, at least one top leader.
-Decide if the organization is independent or they work for some higher power (if yes, decide who)
-Decide plot points of the group. Are they just killing for the lulz? Trying to release some dark deity?
-Decide what other organizations they hate/like/don't care.
-Decide area of the campaign world where they have their main base of activities, and some secondary locations where they have forces deployed.
-Choose how many are there in each area.
-Decide a cool catchy name to get the party's atention.
Notice that an “organization” should be relatively small (between a couple dozen to a couple hundred dudes tops). Now bigger groups may exist, but there's not much use to stat them up since the probability of the party fully wiping them out are nill, and they basically have unlimited resources compared to the party.
If you want such bigger groups, organizations should be subfactions of the bigger group. So if the party is participating on a war against an evil country, you could represent it with three organizations like the vast “Iron Warriors” that faces the party head on, the sneakish “Viper Fangs” that go after the party after they inflict too much damage to the Iron Warriors, and the small “Black Guard” that includes the evil tyrant and his elite bodyguards/advisors. The party first face the Iron Warriors, eventually atracts the Viper Fangs atention, and eventually topples the evil country by wiping out the Black Guard. The evil country tecnically has much more resources, but they were busy taking care of other stuff, and will colapse once their leadership is gone.
Demons are endless, but a demonic assault would be composed of a relatively limited group of demons who manage to organize themselves in order to orderly go trough the portal and work togheter.
You can also state that the organization has virtually limitless mooks, aka members who aren't a threat to the party even in large numbers and thus can be easily fitted on the background whitout actually being able to hinder them. Killing the organization top members makes the mooks scatter and flee in terror (or desactivate in the case of robots/artificial abominations for some variety).
In the end, each organization should be at most composed of around half a dozen diferent types of creatures (excluding unique NPCs) for simplicity's sake. You can add some extra variety by tweaking feats and equipment between members of the same type.
Having several organization helps spice up the campaign world, and also will make victory much sweeter for the party when they slay Evil Overlord Laharl and end his reign of terror than killing some random dude with a sword.3D-Terrain and traps
“Life is a maze. This is one of its dead ends.”-Archivist Norrius, before finishing the invaders of his tower.
Now the monsters and party aren't fighting in a featurless enviroment. A good terrain is an important part of a good combat.
First rule, put stuff in the battlefield. Doesn't matter much what stuff, as long as there's stuff for players to interact. Trees, crates, columns, statues, choke points, pools, open pits, murder holes, all things that will make the players and monsters move around to try to get a better positioning.
Now a problem here it's that as players get higher level, they get more and more ways to simply ignore terrain. In particular because of flight, and eventually etherealness.
So that's the time for geting creative. Floating rocks, strong winds, lava, giant trees that stretch to the skies, great characters deserve great battlefields!
Like already mentioned, monsters should seek to be in terrains that favour them. Small kobolds? Lots of small craped passages. Ogres? Better have some large passages so they don't get stuck. Slow mummies/zombies? Twisting maze full of corners where they can suddenly show up in front of the party. Ranged monsters? Difficult terrain to slow down party melees and cover to hide behind. Also be sure to be prepared when the party starts to try things to blow up the battlefield.Traps
“It's a... Ok, this joke is overused”- Codmore, Mind Flayer Admiral
Traps are a staple of D&D. It's not only the monsters that are out to kill you. It's the terrain itself that it's out to kill you! And they also come in a wide variety of flavours. First make sure to check out the SRD section about them.
A trap has four main statistics:
-Effect (wich may or may not include attack rolls and saves).
Basically, you need to know the condition that triggers the trap, the effect that it produces, how the party can stop it from blowing up on their faces, and if the trap can then reset itself to catch them by suprise when they pass by it again.
Now the main problem with traps it's that they're usually one-shot and immobile. So they may put some hurt on the party, but if nobody dies, then they can just spend some minutes patching up and go on with their lives. The traps has no back up tricks, can't retreat or pursue, so a single trap isn't really much of a challenge.
Thus traps should be combined with other traps and/or monsters. A trap could for example block the way the party came in the room where the monster is waiting, or the trap could lead them to the monster (like hidden pits). On the other hand, monsters can push party members into traps, or feign retreat and lead the party into traps (wich they know how to avoid or are plain immune to them). Even something as simple as softening up or dividing the party can give a big advantage to team monster.
But keep things fair. Traps have a CR of their own, and if used in conjuction with other traps and/or monsters, you should count for it when hading out exp and treasure.
The two main kinds of traps are mechanical
ones. They're both expensive as hell, but luckily you don't need to worry about it at all!
listed only go to CR10, but the DMG provides some guidelines to creating your own traps from scratch, and tecnically allow you to create higher level ones. Altough at that point high level characters will probably have plenty of ways to avoiding them. They can still be relevant when backed up by magic stuff that blocks teleportation and other usual magic escape tricks.Magic
traps are basically spells that auto-launch themselves whitout need of a caster of monster. Their DCs will be pitifully low (just 10+spell level+minimum stat modifier needed to cast the spell), but on the other hand, the CR of a trap launching a high level spell is much lower than the CR of a spellcaster strong enough to cast that spell. A wail of the bashee trap for example is for example just CR 10, and an Earthquake trap just CR 8. This allows you to threaten the party with big flashy effects much sooner than they would normally expect it and be fair about it!
Plus Magic traps can create multiple spell effects at once. The DMG provides the example of locking a player in a forcecage with a summoned monster, but feel free to create your own mini-combos. Personally I like any kind of movement impairing effect+area damage, but feel free to use/offer your own sugestions.Special terrain features
“The land itself will fight with us”- Broz, orc druid.
This ones are quasi-magic terrain properties beyond simple cover and static obstacles. They may even directly hurt the party, but unlike traps, they're (usually) in plain sight and don't need any specific trigger to activate. They're literally part of the scenergy. Their stats are scattered among the books, but can provide a quite nice touch for battlefields. For extra punch make sure the monsters are ready to take full advantage of them. Notice however the party can also turn most of them to their advantage with some improvisation and imagination. Here's the ones that caught my eye, feel free to sugest others you found:
3E-Monster tactics and mentality Anti-teleportation zones:
like already mentioned zones of great power block teleport. Basically irrelevant at low levels, quite the game changer at higher levels. Ossra:
Page 150 of serpent kingdoms has basically a poison gas clouds, they also buff serpent folk instead of damaging them.Permanent spells:
Permancy allows you to stick a wide variety of spells on an area forever. Altough it only works with some spells, it still offers a wide variety.Planar traits:
From Manual of the Planes, altough normally present on other planes, they can “spill” on other places trough portals and whatnot. They can empower, maximize, block or disrupt sertain kinds of spells depending on alignment and magic schools. A large selection of them available, many times will benefit some kind of magic while hindering another. Or boost everything up or down. Or make stuff fly. Lots to choose from.Stronghold builder's guide:
This book could be said to be dedicated mostly to this aspect. Includes LOTS of nice stuff including how to use exotic materials, mobile fortresses, traps and plenty of other nice stuff. If you have it, definetely check it out. Below are two sections that I specially like.Wall Augmentations:
from Stronghold builder's guide, those allow you to add special effects to walls, like granting SR/cover to those nearby, or hurting those nearby with blades/fire/poison or blocking special ways of travel. Wondrous Architecture:
Also from Stronghold builder's guide, these are basically a collection of large wondrous items that can't be equiped but can be put in an area. Of course, nobody says you can't fit them in a closed chariot/floating plataform and have it transported around. Those that stand out more are
-Brazier of Bright bursts, low DC, but area blindness activated by word and also raises the alarm is pretty nice.
-Cabinet of stasis is a no-save no-anything you-lose effect, as long as team monster finds a way to make a player enter it. And it tecnically isn't a trap so the rogue can't even search for it. Very evil. Very nice.
-Chamber of climbing grants spider climb to everybody inside. Cheap way of increasing minion mobility.
-Chamber of the Earthbound supresses most magical flying. Get back on the ground and fight like a man batman!
-Chamber of guidance is dirt cheap and grants a +1 bonus on a single roll for those who know the command word.
-Chamber of Hidden Character supresses alignment detections, more usefull for team monster than you may think.
-Chamber of seeing ends invisibility effects. Stop sneaking around Batman!
-Chamber of sloth causes slow on those who enter. Keep team monster out and lure the party in somehow.
-Chamber of speed gives haste to those inside. Keep the party out and keep the monsters in shooting ranged attacks.
-Chamber of the unliving is basically a permanencied Antilife Shell.
-Cloudgathering orb messes the weather around the area.
-Desecrated Shrine is a large area Desecrate.
-Engraved Circle of Protection(Alignment) is a permanent Magic Circle of Protection.
-Guardian Statue is a nice way to rise the alarm.
-Hall of Bable messes up the ability to speak, wich can be devastating against batman.
-Hall of (insert spell name here) come in diferent styles replicating diferent spells.
-Hole of Hiding is a permanent Rope trick, pretty usefull for hiding ambushers.
-Hurricane's eye creates a permanent Hurricane around an area. Available in weaker wind forms.
-Inscriptions of concealment hides non-living stuff from all divinations. And also vision. A must have for powerfull undead organizations.
-Inscriptions of Falsehood blocks scrying and normal vision, but allows a Will save for the second.
-Inscription of Privacy just blocks scrying, but it's considerably cheaper.
-Platform of Jaunting is basically a mini-teleport pad. The greater version has unlimited range.
-Platform of Healing uses Heal on anyone steping on it. Perfect for hit and runs.
-Plataform of telekinesis. Remember those floating rooms I mentioned? Here they are. Fit them with cover and siege engines for improvised airships.
-Prison of (insert element here): rooms whose walls, ceiling and floor are covered in dangerous magic stuff. The prismatic version allows for the creator to go trough safely. For the others, find a way to give your monsters immunity so they can safely pass.
-Secure chamber grants mindblank to all those inside. No Batman you can't mindrape the king or his advisors on his own throne room.
-Sigils of anti-magic is your basic dead magic zone, replicating an AMF inside.
-Sigils of Supression duplicate the always usefull Globe of Invulnerability, wich stops new spells of 4th level of lower from having effect but doesn't supresses ones already in existence. Also available in lesser version.
-Touchstone of Faith gives a deflection bonus to one creature standing over it.
-Tree of Jaunting looks like a normal tree, but replicates Tree Stride on any who enter it. Available in greater version.
From Heroes of Horror, some places are so evil they slowly corrupt you by themselves by giving you taint, wich then inflicts all kind of penalties. Better suited for darker campaigns If you're using them however, make sure to ban tained scholar Prc, wich is very very easily abused.Dread Effects:
Also from Heroes of Horror, a bunch of dark evil area effects. Bloodgrass hinders healing, bloodstones increase the critical threat range of everybody in the area, and charnel bog disrupts good and healing spellcasting, make characters wake up fatigued from rest and can also inflict diseases trough the air. Finally Night Stone simply deals negative energy damage around it (hint:undeads are healed by negative energy damage).Haunted Locations:
Continuing the trend from Heroes of Horror, undeads can attach themselves to a location for a variety of nasty effects, including keeping to come back if destroyed, making stuff move by itself, illusions and some others. Frostburn:
This supplement gives out rules on a series of cold-related hazards, from simply extreme cold weather dealing cold damage, to chances of thin ice breaking, hypothermia, thawning, flash floods and several other hazards expected in cold enviroments. Sleet, slow blindness, plenty of effects to challenge the party. Aurora polaris in particular deals a whooping 20d6 electrecity damage to everybody in the area! If your campaign is in a cold region, definetely check this out! Even if it's not in a cold region, heck, you can get some other reason to mess up with the weather in a region to use this rules.
Also from Frostburn. As the party levels up and starts to be easily able to ignore the mundane weather problems, throw them this ones!
-Acid sleet and Razor sleet deal bigger damage.
-Bloodsnow deals Con damage.
-Death Hail deals Str and Con damage
-Howl of the North are even nastier winds
-Negation Flurry dispels stuff.
-Rust Flurry destroys equipment.
And several of them can leave patches of magic snow that replicate those effects even after the dire weather calmed down.Magical Terrain:
More nice stuff from Frostburn,
-Ebony Ice boosts undeads.
-Faery Frost dazes people.
- Lighting Pillars shoot lighting bolts to anybody nearby.
-Snow Geysers randomly explode dealing damage to those nearby.
-Also fields of bloodsnow, negation flurry and Rust Flurry.Supernatural Manifestation:
yet more stuff From Frostburn, Coldfire is a liquid that doesn't give a damn about gravity, meaning you can totally make walls of it, or all kind of nasty traps. It deals coldfire damage that can't be healed in cold regions. Also snowflake lichen looks like snow and deals cold and Dex damage depending on how close the party is.Frostburn terrain:
This book enviroment section ends up with diferent kinds of terrain, but what really stands out here are skybergs. Floating icebergs. Just think of the possibilities!Sandstorm:
The counterpart from Frostburn, Sandstorm focuses on hot enviroments. Heatstrokes, hot enviroments, dehydration, all the kind of stuff you expect when you go into a desert, volcano or plane of fire. If your campaign is going ttrough this kind of terrain, you want to check out this book.
Sandstorm Waste Hazards:
Like Frostburn, the mundane hazards of Sandstorm are easily countered by medium-high level players, so time to throw the bigger guns!
-Black sand sucks light creating darkness and deals negative energy damage.
-A Devil Dune is a mountain of sand that moves on it's own to cover up people and is pretty hard to stop.
-Flamestorm is literally a rain of fire.
-Flaywinds deal damage, and can be combined with Black sand for even more lethal effects.
-Furnace wind deals fire damage togheter with wind effects, and furnace zones simply deal fire damage whitout save.
-Leech salt makes creature get dehydrated that much faster (altough easily countered by a flask of endless water).
-Mirror sand makes people blinded just by trying to make spot/search checks.
-Moondust suffocates people unless they have a specific counter.
-Plains of glass are harder to travel by, and release showers of shards when nearby explosions happen.
-Red sea is liquid salt that deal the nasty dessication damage to both creatures and metal equipment.
-Slipsand is a quicksand in steroids.
-Slumber sand makes people asleep just by going over it.
-Wailing Waste makes creature on the area go insane.Stormwrack:
The third book of the “enviroment” series, Stormwrack focuses on water campaigns. Honestly I have little experience with this one as I mostly do adventures on dry land, but if you like this kind of stuff, definetely check it out as it has plenty of cool water-related stuff! Also gunpowder siege weapons as already mentioned.
I see their bravery. I see their determination. I see their power. I see our victory-M'Ksur, Mind Flayer
So now you have monsters, organizations and terrain, only thing left it's how to best use them. And by “best”, I don't necessarily mean “carefully calculate battle odds and mercilessly crush the enemy”. That's what batman does, but honestly it would be kinda boring if your monsters always acted that way. Sure stuff like Mind Flayers and Dragons and Devils will just try to be as nasty as possible, but you need to leave space for bersek orcs and ramapaging giant beasts and whatnot. You should not only challenge the party, you must do so in creative and fun ways (disclaimer: fun for both sides). You make the party struggle, but they eventually win, everybody gets happy.
“Stone! Fire! Ice! Storm! Cloud! Hill! By your powers combined I am Captain Giant!”
Now as already mentioned it's best to send multiple monsters than a single one. This way they can support each other with their variety of powers. The whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and all that teamwork talk. Here's the “formations” that work best:
Tag Team-Simple and a good start with new DMs, a couple of monsters with oposite themes support each other, like a big brute covering for a caster, or a fast skirmisher being pimped by a slow support monster. Extra points if you make the smaller one ride the other.
Monster Party-same number of monsters as the party, with the monsters filling the iconic roles of tank, offensive caster, support caster, and skirmisher/glass cannon.
Minion Lord-big monster surrounded by minions, wich the “Lord” focuses on buffing while hiding behind them and striking at the party's weak points.
Champion- the same as above, but instead of a Lord buffing the minions, you have a big tough monster charging ahead and the minions supporting it from behind while striking at the party's weak points.
Horde-lots of diferent minions by themselves, supporting each other as needed.
Company-complex, but pretty fun if done right, you have one “boss” monster, then two powerfull “lieutenants”, two-four “supports” and then a dozen or so of lowly minions, all supporting each other with a wide variety of powers. The best choice for “final” bosses.
“Screw all of this, they don't pay me enough for this kind of thing. Bye!”- Herebet, human mercenary.
Now one of the problems of using team monster it's that you many times reach a point where the party has killed/nullified most of team monster, and the remaining members have no hope of winning. The combat tecnically isn't over, but finishing off the final members is now just a triviality. In this situation most monsters should either atempt to run away for their own dear lifes or surrender. It adds flavour, it speeds things up, will give a sense of satisfaction to the party, and monsters who retreat sucessfully take their treasure with them, wich gives the party some incentive for not slacking off when there's just a few oponents standing.
If the party uses intimidate/diplomacy/bluff well or is really curbstomping Team Monster, you may make some of them turn coat to the party's side!
On the other hand, good retreat tactics are essential for any recurring villain.
Extra points if the monster is a Fiend of possession mind controling other people. When they destroy it's body, it simply escapes and gets a new one, then next time it meets the party it presents itself, then lets them wondering how exactly did it come back. Extra:
Something I do now and then is throw an over-CRd ecounter at the party, but there's a catch. There's a clear leader on Team Monster, and if said leader goes down, the rest of the ecounter breaks and runs for it/surrender. Of course don't say so directly to the party, but give strong hints, like the other monsters being mind-controled, or rumors of how the tyrant keeps his troops togheter just by constant intimidation.Monster Reaction to the party“Why are we fighting to the death again?”-Brirk, Halfling warlock.
D&D isn't suposed to just be a bunch of dudes hacking at each other. Even if just a paper railroad plot, there must be some story and sense to why monsters are attacking the party. Are they hungry? Do they want the party's shineys? For the evulz? Extra-
Monster target selection-One hard thing sometimes as a DM is decide wich monsters attacks who. Sometimes there's only one tactical viable answer, but several times the monster can strike at diferent party members, but aren't suposed to know wich one is most vulnerable to their attack. In this case, let dice decide wich party members get attacked. Simple and fair.
The final touch, don't forget to add some fluff points to the party's oponents. Describe how spiky their armors are, how they have blood dripping from their weapons, heads on the point of skulls, demonic heraldies, giant tusks/claws/horns, scars. Then make them provoke the party during combat (or just roar and release battlecries), but not revealing their secret plans (unless they're lies of part of a bigger evil scheme of course). Here's some ideas on basic monster mentalities :
Mindless-”Destroy! Destroy!”- The most simple, the monster simply attacks the target untill it goes away or one of them stops moving.
Berseker-”WWWAAARRRGGHHH”-This monsters also charge ahead right on, but randomly changes targets depending on its whims. Works better if it can inflict some non-stackable nasty effect.
Mercenary-”Everybody has to earn a living”-This monster works for somebody else for the right price, but its own life is priceless, so it fights cautiously, but only retreats if things look really bad.
Honorable-”I challenge you!”-This monster seeks a worthy oponent, so it attacks the toughest-looking party member. That doesn't necessarily means he will refuse help from teammates or resort to dirty tricks, but it means it doesn't retreat whitout making sure its allies wich can still move can also retreat, or that at least he did some lasting damage to the party.
Coward-”Don't blame me, blame the society that made me like this”-This monster hides behind other monsters, innocents, takes hostages and overall plays as dirty as possible. It strikes the weakest-looking party members, and doesn't hesitate in running at soon as things start geting sour.
Schemer-”Just as planned”-This monster plans ahead. If it retreats, it is only to come back later with a new nastier tactic. It seeks to order/manipulate its teammates around, may feign surrender, and will usually lure the party to traps, or even actually get them to do its own dirty work. Like leading them to kill the good guardian protecting super evil relic from the schemer.
Fanatic-”For the goddess!”-This monster has great faith on one of the other monster, or perhaps some idol/feature on the battlezone. It will blindly follow its orders, and do its best to protect and support it. It only seeks to retreat when the object of it's fanatism has either been destroyed, altough may also just break down and surrender.
Brainwashed-”It wasn't me!” -This monster isn't exactly fighting of his own will. Lies, magic charms or unfortonate circumstances may have made it turn against the party. If they notice this and set things straight, they remove an oponent from battle and may even get an ally.
Oportunist-”I'm here just for the money”-this monster is fighting just for self profit. Unlike a mercenary, it doesn't have a reputation to worry about, so retreats as soon as things get sour. If the party makes them a good counter offer may change sides during battle.
Sacrificer-”We have reserves”-This monster has minions, and doesn't hesitate to use them to cover up himself, including set of traps and area spells at their expense . May have actual abilities depedant on sacrificing others. And heck, you may actually give it unlimited reserves for the evulz! Retreats when out of minions, but it's assured to come back with more.
Of course, feel free to mix diferent monster mentalities!