I’m working on a concept I’m calling “Cornerstones.”

Cornerstones are groups of thematically-similar monsters, or monsters based on the same mythology, organized and designed in “ascending order of difficulty.” It’s the mechanical application of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil trope.

It seems like such an obvious thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has done something like it before. Honestly, if anyone knows of a similar project or product, let me know. Leave me a link in the comment section.

Now, one of the design goals of Cornerstones is modularity.

I want GMs to be able to drag-and-drop monsters of a particular theme or mythology into an encounter table. Maybe you think a GM should be able to do this themselves — I would argue not everyone has time to research.

Also, it can be hard to pick and choose what monsters you want in your encounter table. And an encounter table is an expression of your campaign, don’cha know?

I want some pretty little prepackaged monster groups.

Stuff that I can “plug and play,” as it were. I want a lot of my work already done for me, with the numbers and associations worked out ahead of time.

There are even some times when monsters work better with certain other monsters, and like . . . the connections aren’t readily available or even obvious between them. I mean, there are going to be a lot of people who don’t necessarily “get” the connection between goblins and wargs.

Reading the monster manuals, I was all, “there are a lot of dog-monsters.”

Sometimes that stuff makes it into the “ecology” section of a monster’s entry, and sometimes it doesn’t. And you know, the 3e Monster Manual 5 actually started addressing this very idea. MM4 introduced the “Spawn of Tiamat.”

There were a dozen or so monsters of vaguely dragon descent available across the entire CR spectrum — from kobold-tier, to a literal godslayer dragonkin. I mean, sometimes the connections to dragon-kind got pretty tenuous.

But. But! It was an attempt to create an entire “product line” of dragon creatures that could reasonably fill an entire campaign. MM5 introduced the “Mind flayers of Thoon,” which was uh . . . interesting. Kind of cool.

There was this one giant purple Hulk-like mind flayer, kind of playing “against type,” and there were mind flayers that ate the brains of other mind flayers. It was a freaky, “Enemy Civil War” kind of deal.

But there’s something else.

I mean, even if I get my neat organization pattern down, there’s something that needs to sit right at the center of all that — and it’s the NPC encounters.

And I’ve got something for that, too.

I finally have a method for managing factions which — while it may require a spreadsheet — can provide a lot of entertainment and recurring villains.

(Also potential allies, don’cha know!)

But yeah, before you even get into monsters, you kind of have to get into humans. Because you know, Humans Are Monsters Too.