There’s something weird about making monsters for Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m already aware that individual monsters … mostly lack individuality. The skirmisher you fight at 4th level isn’t terribly different from the skirmisher you fight at 24th level. Tends to be, anyhow. That I get, it makes sense from the perspective that individual creatures get so little screen time, they don’t need to be complicated.

In fact, making the monsters too complex can really drag down an encounter. (What are the players supposed to do while you’re occupied with reading and rereading the monster’s powers?) I recently realized that the monsters I was making were even more complicated than they needed to be — and that was following the normal rules of monster creation (1-2 at-wills, 1 encounter per tier, 1 daily per tier, 1 utility).

Of course, you want each creature to have more than just one at-will and one encounter power. Well, maybe. Generally. Running those plague spore creatures I designed for Escape from White Cliff showed me that some of the simplest things can make the monsters more interesting … like, the terrain for instance. As long as you have a good mix of terrain, traps, obstacles, and other distractions, the monsters just don’t have to be as … I’m going to use the word again … complicated.

I don’t know. I think one of the things I’m missing is self-confidence. I don’t trust my story-telling so I prepare intricate monsters to compensate. I’m sort of crap at tactics, so I build monsters with interesting powers that don’t require much tactical consideration. Is it necessary? Is it bad? I don’t know.