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How to Customize Creatures! (GM Tips w/ Matt Mercer)

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Critical Role's Dungeonmaster Matt Mercer is here with another installment of GM Tips! Customizing the creatures and characters in your campaign can add a nice flavor to the experience. How you customize is dependent on many factors: party size, mobility, recovery ability, story relevency, and more. Subscribe to Geek and Sundry: http://goo.gl/B62jl Join our community at: http://geekandsundry.com/community Twitter: http://twitter.com/geekandsundry Facebook: http://facebook.com/geekandsundry Instagram: http://instagram.com/geekandsundry Google+: http://plus.google.com/+GeekandSundry
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Text Comments (333)
Let's Rank (6 days ago)
Smuggler used Sand-Attack, it was super effective.
Austin Wells (1 month ago)
He gets so into this and that makes watch much more fun
deathknightcrusader (2 months ago)
I need advice. The party is level 8. One player wants to bring in a level 1 monk. That’s 11 years old. And human. To develop the charecter. But she requested a “monster” companion. Any suggestions that won’t over power her. But will keep her up to party status.
GeorgeMonet (2 months ago)
2:41 I have to speak against this. Increasing the number of party members doesn't increase the hp of the individual characters in that party.
Paige Pratt (1 month ago)
it decreases the amount of active rounds that play out though, especially if you have a lot of players who are heavy damage dealers. Big enemies can often fall in one or two rounds if hit by a massive burst. Increasing HP isnt the way to go because with 7 players, rounds take a long time. I find it's better to have higher damage dealing enemies which maintains the same risk factors but keeps the encounter length to average. Less rounds but same time spent. Ive never run games with less than 7 people and it's tough to balance but long encounters are boring because it takes so long to get to each individuals turn so you need enemies that hit hard and go down fast.
GeorgeMonet (2 months ago)
No one expects to run into a group of level 20 goblins. Especially when they are the illusory creation of a level 10 goblin...
Jorden Taylor (2 months ago)
Would love to see Matt GM a Mutants and Masterminds campaign. Think he could do great with it.
Daniel Cuevas (2 months ago)
I made a cr 1/2 Tiamat for my all level one druid players and gave them loads of treasure and all the experience for not running away for seeing a Tiamat and now they all animal form into weak tiamats
υѕagι тѕυĸιno (3 months ago)
Long live mercer-sama!
KanitoKawaii (3 months ago)
This was really helpful, I am fairly new DM and I am trying my hand at creating monsters, the one I'm most excited for is the Nuckelavee. I intend to use the centaur as a base, but I will be making many changes and, while that's not exactly what this video is about it will definitely be helpful.
The Intimidation (4 months ago)
I like that he says comparable instead of comp-pruh-bull. It just seems so hard to not sound like a twat waffle when I say it that way. And indicative.. that.. I can't talk about that one.
stormRed1236 (4 months ago)
2:43 Watch this part without sound
bebop417 (5 months ago)
hero
Quinton Medlin (5 months ago)
*Pocket Sand!*
Effin Cook (6 months ago)
Fun way to increase game "fun": When the party member "misses" with a spell or an attack, you say they hit, but you don't subtract the HP.
Adventures & Hobbies (6 months ago)
Upon request I Made Yochlol monster #2 and this time I did a how to video with it, so check it out. . Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel. The table calls, keep gaming. https://youtu.be/7rtoy7OZEnc
Mad Hatman (6 months ago)
I'm not sure about scaling down creatures....it seems to break believability.
eric kern (7 months ago)
I basically have a zombies that carry a curse and blow up when they die
VoidplayLP (7 months ago)
abilities that can change terrain? did somebody say LAVAKRAKEN?
DevilJinKazama (7 months ago)
When creating or customizing things for your game.. Treat it like cooking! You can always ADD things, but it's very hard to REMOVE things once they're in there. This goes for enemies, but also for items you want to reward your players with. Err on the side of caution. It's easier to buff something that turns out to be less powerful than you intended, than it is to take away damage or abilities the players have already come to love. And probably abuse.
Sourest (9 months ago)
My level 2 Fighter, a Bard and a Rogue were pitted against a Spirit Naga and basically he took one bite at my fighter and he was 1 damage point away from perma-death so the DM had to let the magical book interfere. (My fighter had 24 HP and the Naga did 47 damage)
Jordan Albee (9 months ago)
So I helped my friend build this Hydra for one of his campaigns that was meant to be way too strong on purpose, but wasn't very fast and had a hate for magic and an extreme lack of focus as many heads tried to hit different targets making it a very easy escape if it didn't catch you in its jaws. It also got even slower in extreme heat like the volcanoes in the area near its first domain, giving them an even easier route of escape. The party decided to fight a Hydra that was 15 times the size of the half orc in their party. The wizard cast fireball into the cluster of heads. 12 pairs of eyes snapped straight to the wizard. The wizard proceeded to become the lunch of a massive multiheaded lizard as each head fought for scraps of the human, tearing him to shreds. Needless to say the rest of the party ran and escaped from the giant scaled death machine and eventually killed it later in revenge, but the moment the wizard decided to shoot fire at it and panicked as soon as it focused him was hilarious.
Lillian Crawford (9 months ago)
Nastier is always fun.
diablojobs (10 months ago)
His first suggestion is literally a bandit shouting POCKET SAND.
Ian Bailey (10 months ago)
My friend always comes up with these cool creatures. One time we had to fight a demonic invasion, and the final boss was a Lich Mindflayer that could only be defeated by harvesting the soul of a god into a hammer.
Nixitur (10 months ago)
For making bosses easier, you can also often just adjust the terrain. In our Pathfinder campaign, we were surprised by a linnorm in the morning. The spellcasters didn't have all their spells, our archer was missing and melee characters were entirely ineffective. It was easily able to fly outside of effective range and almost entirely destroyed us. An NPC's interference saved us as we fled. The next time we fought it, we were prepared. We had laid an ambush and were inside a small cave where it could not fly. As it entered, we blew up the entrance to the cave, so it could not escape, either. We killed it in a few rounds with none of us even close to death.
Mariana Mora (10 months ago)
Matt's evil laugh is the sexiest thing I've heard since well . . . ever
Lord Inquisitor (11 months ago)
Any ideas for a giant monster sized leech (not kaiju sized but bigger)
Derek C. (11 months ago)
currently DMing a Dark Souls styled campaign, and these tips have really helped plan out encounters
FlyingAce1016 (1 year ago)
maniacal DM hahahah he's great
Travis Stoll (1 year ago)
All Hail Lord Mercer!
Reiza (1 year ago)
this recording is very loud
1:07 POCKET SAND!!!
Matthew Wilkinson (1 year ago)
I love these videos. My family has started playing DnD just the other day. These videos are helpful I haven't DM'd for years.
Pressthebigredbutton (1 year ago)
3:00 a three headed hydra that gets three turns only one of which it gets a movement roll
Cj Dill (1 year ago)
my favorite thing about this video is the noises they added when Matt wiggiles his fingers
Boonslayer (1 year ago)
One thing I've done to stop TPKs in the past is always have a powerful back-up NPC that can intervene when things go to shit. I remember running a Mutants & Masterminds campaign where I had the party fighting some vampires and gargoyles, and it became a bit too much for them due to a combination of bad rolls and stupid decisions, so rather than killing everyone (because doing so at that point in the story would have sucked), I had their mentor hero sweep in and get them out of there (and also berate them for being stupids).
Lord of Grixis (1 year ago)
One thing I've found that's useful for a small or low-level party is putting an obstacle between them and what they're fighting. Putting the Dire Wolves on the other side of the river and making them swim over gives your party a chance to put a few shots in before they close. Or making the Troll climb up the side of the cliff before it can reach the party. Bolt holes and fall back positions are good too if the party is smart enough to use them. It's let me put some more interesting monsters into my games earlier than I would otherwise be able to.
Ethan Price (1 year ago)
I recently started my first home brew campaign and the first real fight the party hit was a sea monster that started as a heavily buffed pseudodragon but dies quickly to reveal that the thing they just killed was only the lure for a giant angler fish type thing with tentacles everywhere
Markus1069 (1 year ago)
Mercer is a nut job........................I love it.
Larred (1 year ago)
a favorite of mine for fun creatures was a deep one that when it was hit and didn't die it vanished into the mist of the planet and reappeared behind pc's when another died or appeared later in the turn, made for a careful and slow fight with lots of tension.
David Stairs (1 year ago)
I liked some of the advice on how to modify monsters, but most i already knew.. Though why is Matt so concerned with balancing them to the party, and avoiding TPK's??
nobody important (1 year ago)
personally, if I were about to accidentally tpko, I'd have the monster snatch up the body of the first player to die and skadoodle with it. then you have a quest to beat this thing and get the corpse so you can revive.
Felicia Steele (1 year ago)
ive been GM'ing for little over a year now, and thoroughly enjoying it; just started watching these clips, and its helped me so much with how I GM to people. It's helped me to change my style of GM'ing to match the tone, and has made a lot of it more relaxing and fun-filled, so thank you Matt!
epyjacek (1 year ago)
You're awesome Mercer. Thank you for the tips.
Sam LIttleton (1 year ago)
I think my most memorable creature I made was a boa constrictor that could use greater invisibility and then attack with a poison that would cause the delusion that they were being constricted by it which made the other players try to hack the "snake" off the player... so much fun.
James Wilson (1 year ago)
Hi there, First off, Big fan of these guide and tips. Could you do a video on Diplomacy in RP? Would love some tips on writing for encounters that are best handled with diplomacy, dealing with Diplomacy checks by PC's versus NPC's you've written for. I'm just starting a campaign in D&D 3.5 format (its what I know best) and I really like the ideas I've gotten from the series thus far. Thank you!
tim s (1 year ago)
Using the dungeon to scale the boss is great and all, if the party doesn't pacify the entire dungeon. Noteworthy monsters were a Cerberus and a Balor (both highly nerfed)with a Hierophant for the boss. The party was 2 pc's and a God that was just freed by the players. They befriended the Cerberus, and altered the summoning circle for the balor so that a winged kobold was summoned instead. They didn't even go through the goblin room! They got to the hierophant (who turned out to be a shit boss AC 15, 135 hp, party avg level 3), and they were only able to finish in under an hour because of the god's passive ability (on hit regenerate 20 hp and deal 6d6 necrotic damage to the attacker).
tyler fiesel (1 year ago)
the beast I am making is a Massive (15ft) dire bear boss who the party will need to hunt in order to gain favor of the forest dragon. a tower grey furred bear with scars along its face that look strangly like dragon claw marks...
Theonlydump (1 year ago)
One of my best received adjustments to a creature was adding some weirdness to Formians for an adventure in Mechanus. First was a pheremone marker. If struck by a Formian's bite, the character would make a save roll (poison for our 2nd edition game, but it could easily be updated to a fort.) Failing that save would see them marked by a pheremone that would draw aggro. Second was a single location modification, the Cordycepts template. Think Formian fungus zombies that spore out upon death and infect more Formians. The last trick I baked up after their frankly pretty ingenious method for eradicating the problem hive by destroying all the drones. I gave the queen parthenogenesis.
ultimateninjaboi (1 year ago)
negative status effects. best way to pump up the stress/danger factor without equally increasing the actual risk as much
Christopher (1 year ago)
Just made a Matt Mercer NPC.... hope my PC's are ready 😂
Matt G (1 year ago)
Thanks for the good tips Matt, long live Matts.
MrNop ThePandaMachine (1 year ago)
really love thise videos so clean and professional <3
William Henry (1 year ago)
I had the problem of figuring out CR on custom mobs in my World of Warcraft RPG (D&D 3.5ish). The party was fighting a mechanical construct with a whopping 600ish hp. Based on the vague wording in both WoW and 3.5 books the monster CR came out to 12. What I mean by vague is If ability give monster a major advantage add X to CR. But what if it has more then one? What if it also has X DR or X SR or X Nat Armor? Do I apply the +CR for each? Well that can't be right cause my mob is now CR "30"... The outcome of the fight seemed right for the CR12 the CR10 party beat it without any lost of life. On mobs turn I rolled a D12, if the number was odd it was reg attack. If the number was even it was one of its special attacks/abilities. So did I do it correctly by only add the +CR once or was suppose to do it for each advantage?
kjd682 (1 year ago)
God I want to play D&D with him as the DM, please
Drew (1 year ago)
at 1:20 when he says "target" you can hear a bit of Gangplank poke through
TheCandyManTeam (1 year ago)
I wish I had seen this earlier, I just wiped my party because I didn't consider their lack of offensive or AOE magic when I threw a bat swarm at them.
Neverheart (1 year ago)
I was running a very urban longer custom homebrew campaign and the class dynamic was odd. No healers but incredibly high dps and mental manipulation both in charisma and spells. So I sent an assassin who jad been studying them and had counters to most of their primary spells and abilities to remind them they were not gods as the players were starting to act like. 10 HP on one PC from a TPK. Luckily the gang they worked for was incredibly powerful and could resurrect the party
Sad Tyrant (1 year ago)
HAHa G'i'M Tips
Sean Michel-White (1 year ago)
what music is being used for these videos? I love it!
Joel Blom (1 year ago)
Silly Mc cree it's not high noon.
Razzrazz90 (1 year ago)
I've never DM'ed a game that had a party bigger than 2 players at a time. This was immensely helpful =)
Phillip Mele (1 year ago)
If your players yawn at a Tarrasque, simply give it sentience and Wizard levels. Watch as Fun! ensues.
Ephigy17 (1 year ago)
Let me crank up the volume, in preparation for being deafened by the outro.
Austin Smith (1 year ago)
And, of course, if anyone asks you the time, you must always say it's high noon.
egyptianking55 (1 year ago)
What was the outro music?
DeltaBlaZe77 (1 year ago)
I really appreciate this series, thank you all for your hard work & time!!
K Geo111 (1 year ago)
I would be eternally grateful to get the entire playlist of music that Matt uses! There is a playing here on YouTube that has most of it and it's great but not all of it. Im looking for the song in Crit Role ep 22 49:00 among others. I'm going to DM for the first time soon and I'm going all out and the music you use is so perfect.
Robert Dennison (1 year ago)
Dude mercer we have to play together sometime. You're hilarious!
Frans (1 year ago)
I need that fire breathing dragon model on the left... where can I get it?!
reaverraziel223 (1 year ago)
I wonder what the fastest and most correct way to get in touch with Mr. Mercer would be?
Michelle Robinson (1 year ago)
Yeah.....I might have to start stalking you. You're awesome
Daniel Flynn (1 year ago)
McCree!!!
Wolfie Mac (1 year ago)
love your content!
OmeletteAuBaguette (1 year ago)
it's high noon
Duncan Kennemore (1 year ago)
Matt talks about "less is more" approach and then the suggestion pops up "no survivors" hahaha
Jordan Williams (1 year ago)
what are 'layer' actions? or did they mean 'lair' actions like dragons and other high CR monsters have?
Stephen Meek (1 year ago)
Matt, you're such a ham. This is great stuff. Thanks!
Gredran (1 year ago)
@Geek & Sundry please get Matthew Mercer to do an episode on building buildings or taverns or other things specifically. Thank you the videos are awesome!
Charles Sturges (1 year ago)
lol... layer actions...
DerSonntagsHeld (1 year ago)
I always customize my creatures on the fly or even make them up in the moment I need them. So those creatures are always different and custom and allow for a nice cinematic scene in the game. ;)
Foxi! (1 year ago)
thx matt, your tips are really helpful :) i use them a lot in shadowrun 5 keep it up
This series is helping transform my whole GM style. I hope my party aren't offput by the change, because I effing love your dynamics. D&Diesel really sold me.
Jake N. (1 year ago)
Dear editor/title writer: I think he meant 'lair' not 'layer'.
Colonel Dookie (1 year ago)
As much as I love this series, I gotta give it a thumbs-down because of LOW AUDIO! At max volume, I can hardly hear him. I'd rather have the audio be too loud, because then I could lower it. :\
soulkutu (1 year ago)
I always add some sort of item that can help massively in boss fights because I trust in the players' bad luck. Unless it's d&d 3.5, there I am confident because I have a 7 page long banlist.
Martin Rumbold (1 year ago)
soulkutu In my custom world there are no gods only genies, for this sort of situation usually PCs will have a wish spare that they gain from doing cool stuff. they say the wish 'I wish this dragon was covered in flamable oil', i roll fudge dice to see how the genies will react or just choose myself if they abuse wishes. then usually the the thing happens. I find its a fun way to help along struggling parties or get an advantage after some unlucky rolls during bosses. plus it means I can kill off a charater or two, they'll jump at the chance to bring a PC back from the dead with a wish.
Ebonstone (1 year ago)
Love those Literally Sinister shots of your left, when you evil-chuckle!
Code_e Crooks (1 year ago)
for anyone playing pathfinder a quick tip. if you don't have a wizard alchemist or other AOE caster try to avoid swarm monsters. a spider swarm can kill an unprepared party by alot. if you do put one in maybe put some alchemist fires near by or acid flasks or maybe even coat the floor in oil or something
Code_e Crooks (1 year ago)
+Veng3r no i mean your bomb class ability. or did you take an archetype to get rid of it?
Veng3r (1 year ago)
Actually my Alchemists can't make Explosion Potions until Level 6... :(
Code_e Crooks (1 year ago)
+Veng3r your an alchemist. you can drop a bomb on them and that will kill most swarms right away
Veng3r (1 year ago)
All my Level 2 Alchemists can make Vermin Repellent to deal with those pesky biting low-Level creature swarms... >:)
John Bouras (1 year ago)
outro music part of an artist or?
Federico Gavioli (1 year ago)
Wait, was it "layer actions" or "lair actions"?
Federico Gavioli lair actions
giorgio tassinari (1 year ago)
i too want McCree as DM..
AtotheWESOME (1 year ago)
I once ran a campaign where the Zulkir of transmutation in Thay had disappeared and was now leading a cult of wizards who performed magical alterrations on all sorts of creatures. this really gave me a chance to customize monsters adding some new abilities, but also utilizing some of the abilities which are rarely seen. Not only this but it gave me a chance to use some of the monsters which are very circumstancial. A clearly remember the look on their faces when a giant earth-based octopus dropped from a cavern ceeling... priceless... :D
Gideon Baranda (1 year ago)
Hello! My name is Jesse Mcree. I'm a cowboy and a vigilante for Overwatch here in Route 66.
Michał Wojtas (1 year ago)
I've learned that it's good to use the same NPC's as enemies during one session and make it interesting by changing the environment of battle. If players invade heretic lair make them fight the same heretics in every encounter, but change starting conditions of a fight: let the heretics surprise players or let them surprise heretics, give the heretics advantagous position on the wall or make them numerous assaulting the wall on which players are defending. Make one group strong in numbers, but with very low morale and fleeing at first opportunity. Make the other one honorable and caring for they compatriots - healing them and carrying them out of the battle as a priority. Besides having the same stats doesn't require you to give them the same personality. And all you need for it is only one NPC sheet and set of rules. You can check out the tactics that the NPC can utilize and make the most of'em - even plan the typical behaviour for an NPC for an encounter, it's "AI". Funny thing, almost all of the rulebooks state contrary - that you should include many different NPC's in one session.
xot (1 year ago)
I'm consistently amazed by Matt's ability to create challenging encounters that take Vox Machina to the brink of TPK where they often only save themselves with clever clutch play. I always think they are in way over their head yet somehow they keep going.
Sophaurus (1 year ago)
if you want to add flavors to creatures add some notes on conditional behaviours: " will run if leader is dead", " will attack fleeing enemies at the cost of his life for the glory of his dark god" "will only use potion if it's clear he's going to die"
criyofreeze (1 year ago)
Excellent! These ideas are great, I have a large party and needed some way to provide a better challenge. He was exactly right, increasing hit points only drags it out.
stagecoachprepper (1 year ago)
fantastic series!
Kiyan (1 year ago)
This series is amazing!! Just wish there were less camera angle switching
Spencer Minton (1 year ago)
one time when my players (large group 8 players) had swept through an ancient druid cove they destroyed pretty much everything i thoguht would be challenging. but i noticed lots of my players had lower fort saves the final baddie of th edungeon was a ancient treant who was once an insane druid. they got him to half HP i had the treant try to cast a lightning bolt and it instead struck him turning him into a lightning treant and he released a shockwave that stunned ranged characters and healer. made thebattle much more intense without having to raise his HP and drag the fight on longer

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