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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Frugal gaming: some notes toward a book of cheap monsters

OK, so here's the promised two-dollar monster thinkpost. I'm not wedded to the two-dollar monster title. Pocket-change monsters? Anyway.

So, by now we all know that in the early years of fantasy gaming there were not many miniature figures of appropriate style out there. The founders of the hobby were forced to improvise, either by using or converting rough equivalents (here Gary Gygax discusses making dragons out of dinosaur toys and clipping hair for giants from his kids' dolls) or by coming up with monsters that resembled toys they bought at the dime store (as described in this excellent post about the origin of the rust monster, the bulette and the owlbear).

The point is that owlbears are fun but that the process of bricolage that created the owlbear is also fun. That's what I hope the appeal of this series is going to be. There are three principles underlying this process. 

This first figure illustrates the first principle -- substitution. I want a dragon in my game and I don't have a lot of money; Poundland two-pack toy to the rescue. I am going to talk about substitution in this text, just in terms of where to find inspiration, but it is only part of the larger picture.

This second figure illustrates the second principle -- inspiration. I buy a toy because it looks great, and I think "what kind of monster could I make out of this?" A lot of the series will be about inspiration, naturally!

The third principle is really just a combination of the previous two -- modification. That's where you take a toy and think "what kind of monster could I make out of this, with a little work?" A certain amount of the series will be about that -- including some basic conversion techniques for people who aren't experienced modellers. You don't have to be an expert to make this kind of thing work. This figure is an example of modification:

So, in short, that's what this series is going to be: some quick discussion of the principles, and then a bunch of monsters as worked examples, with stats mainly for 5th edition D&D (although if anyone wants to propose them for other games they're very welcome to) plus a simple guide to modelling. By the end of the series of blog posts, I'm hoping to have enough to compile into a little monster book that I can PDF-ify.

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