I woke up like three times this morning.

The third time I woke up, I had this achy feeling from below my shoulder, through my neck, to behind my ear. It hurts when I move too quickly or turn my head.

So it’s ibuprofen to the rescue!

Now, my head is in this weird feeling-kind-of-detached-from-my-body state, which makes it really difficult to concentrate. But concentrate I must! Because I have things to do! So many things!

I wanted to write about this a week ago when the realization came to me, but the days from Friday to Sunday tend to blur together for me. There’s all these things that have to be done. So many things!

Anyway, I wanted to start building upper-tier cornerstones.

I have plenty of lower-tier cornerstones, because low-level monsters are plentiful. Goblins, ghouls, and ghosts. You know, all the good stuff. Lots of people play low-level games, so there’s a lot of material to work with.

The same can not be said for higher-level monsters.

I don’t know why, maybe people don’t stick around long for high levels, maybe they tend to face larger numbers of low-level monsters instead. As I said, I don’t know why. But it’s notable that high-level monsters show less consanguinity.

You get a lot of weird, one-shot monsters. Or families of monsters that don’t really belong to the same myth cycles. It’s weird. D&D is just weird. But let’s not dwell on that. What I need is a solution.

One example of high-level monsters with consanguinity is the giants, which probably have the Against the Giants series to thank for that.

You have hill giants, frost giants, and fire giants.

There are other giants of course, but these three segue nicely from one type into another. Again, we probably have the original Against the Giants module series to thank for this design. Frost and Fire giants even come from Norse mythology.

Not sure about “hill” giants though.

Anyway, if you throw “ettins” in there to be perfectly generic, you have a nice group of four giant-type creatures to fill one niche of your encounter table.

If you’re using 5e monsters, that’s a CR-4, CR-5, CR-8, and CR-9 creature, which falls pretty neatly into the CR 5-12 range I estimated for the upper end of cornerstones. Unfortunately, it’s like, the only one.

Seriously. The giants are the only neatly-organized creature type I could find above the early levels of the game. There are tons of monsters within little ecological niches below that. But at higher levels? Forget it.

I figure something needs to happen, and coincidentally I got the idea from the Queen of Spiders series. Zuggtmoy shows up as a Big Bad really early on. Now, she’s alone in her “category,” but she’s surrounded by fungi.

That got me thinking about demigods and demon princes that seem pretty cool — enough like you’d want to throw in a campaign — but not tough enough to represent a campaign villain. It isn’t too hard once you start looking.

Oberon and Titania are one example.

I introduced Oberon in one of my Greek campaigns. He was a middle-range antagonist of sorts. A powerful dude the party kind of pissed off, but nowhere near the power and scope of the eventual villain.

Those kinds of character need a lot of style.

They show up, knock your PCs down, and blow out of town.

When I started digging into it though, I realized there are a ton of “unique” entities in mythology — usually these are like, sorcerers and kings who feature as a sort of Ensemble Darkhorse in a particular legend — who could be used to fill precisely this niche. Like I don’t know, the Norns.

See, they fit the mold perfectly!

You want the PCs to be surprised by them (almost as much as you want to be surprised), which makes them an ideal random encounter. Maybe they predict that the Macbeth of your group will be king (at least for a little while).

It helps that there are three of them already.

In fact, a lot of deities show up in threes, and many of them have an appointed crony or guardian that works with or for them — like if you wanted to count the Hesperides and the dragon Ladon.

That last one might be too narrow and example, but I hope you get my point.