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Building Monsters


Books filled with pre-generated monsters are a staple of tabletop roleplaying. And not just for fantasy, either. Modern horror needs terrifying creatures. Science fiction needs aliens and extra-dimensional beings. Even superheroes get their share of strange mutations and scientific experiments gone awry. Endless volumes exist on generating statistics for new and original creatures within the system of your choice.

Building Monsters takes a different approach. In this book, we’ll look at monsters as full-fledged characters. We’ll show you how to develop backstories and motivations for their actions. You’ll have more than something the player characters can kill to gain experience and claim treasure. You’ll have an engaging antagonist with closer ties to your worldbuilding, the events of the adventure, and the themes and topics of your campaign.

This book includes:

  • Type: The taxonomic classification of various monsters, based on that used by the world’s most famous tabletop roleplaying system but adapted for general use.
  • Subtype: Variations on the monster type, allowing a broader range of creatures to be created with distinct and engaging abilities and backgrounds.
  • Ecology: The environment where the creature dwells contributes to its background, abilities, and potential uses within an adventure.
  • Background: The fundamentals of creating a monster. Naming them. Describe their physical appearance. Determine the role they fill in story terms. Work out the personality you’ll use to roleplay them. Decide on their stance toward the overarching themes.
  • Statistics: Looking at the monster in system terms. Connecting abilities to roleplaying and story opportunities. Includes core attributes and skills. Select modifiers that provide bonuses or penalties to die rolls. Work out the resources, powers, or spells they have.
  • Life Story: All the monster’s lived experiences before the first adventure. Flesh out their personal preferences and the reasons behind them. Explore influences of cultural, religious, and political forces. Examine their past from birth through to the present day.
  • Motivations: The reasons the monster does what they do, and why they behave the way they do. Flesh out basic needs, both met and unmet. Determine their aspirational goals and influential relationships. Develop an in-story rationale behind increasing abilities and gaining new ones.
  • Characters and Monsters: A look at how the existence of monsters can influence player character backgrounds, abilities, and motivations.
  • Worlds and Monsters: Explore the influence your setting has on every monster element. Integrate canon worldbuilding material into backgrounds and personalities. Expand existing worldbuilding using the monster’s background. Make the monster an integral part of the world.
  • Adventures and Monsters: Create a monster that fits well with planned adventures. Provide a rationale for why they menace the player characters. Find reasons for them to work alongside other monsters, and pursue goals that might not always align with their objectives.
  • Systems and Monsters: Examine how the system you are using both shapes and limits the possibilities for a monster. The available selection of abilities, actions, and complications are part of their reality. These can affect monster personalities and ambitions.

System-Neutral Toolkits

Building Monsters is part of a line of system-neutral creative aids for all tabletop roleplayers. Use these bestselling books with any mechanics, genre, or setting. Adapt and apply them to any campaign. Each volume focuses on one element, like character development, worldbuilding, or adventure design.

Lightspress Media

Lightspress Media is a tabletop roleplaying company with a lo-fi approach. Utility of content takes precedence over ostentatious production value. Graphic elements should enhance the message of the text, not act as page filler and eye candy. Physical books need to be compact, portable, and sturdy. This minimalist aesthetic results in powerful toolkits that are both useful and affordable. After all, tabletop roleplaying isn’t the book. It’s the creativity and collaboration that takes place around the tabletop. Our mission is to give you as much as you need, then get out of your way.

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Discussions (3)
Customer avatar
George F August 24, 2022 1:14 pm UTC
Any chance of a hardcover version?
Customer avatar
Jason S October 09, 2020 4:05 pm UTC
I am interested in the Building and Generator products but I am unable to find a review. Can someone point me to one?
Customer avatar
Berin K October 08, 2020 1:43 pm UTC
Yes, there will be a POD option in the future. No, we can't say when. Everything is delated due to the pandemic and the ongoing USPS situation.
Customer avatar
Christopher C May 15, 2022 6:20 pm UTC
Any updates on possible POD for your products? Thanks!
Customer avatar
Berin K May 15, 2022 10:53 pm UTC
There are regular POD updates in the Lightspress Newsletter, downloadable for free on this very site.
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Product Information
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4.38 MB
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These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

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For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
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File Last Updated:
May 03, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on October 08, 2020.