Matthew Colville's Action Oriented Monsters



Hey everyone, Mathew Colville has a great youtube video on making DnD 5e monsters interesting with action triggers which can easily be converted to ICRPG.

This method works great when making single monster encounters that take on a full party of player characters.

Theres a list of community made enemies used creating this method Found Here

Popcorn Initiative - By the Angry GM

Sweet, this idea may apply to my next project actually so thanks for sharing!


I like the video and would definitely recommend it. But having had some time to consider the content, it seems to me that many ideas in the video rely on individual initiative. Letting all goblins make an extra move, for example, won’t be as impactful if they always act together. And “move, don’t attack” isn’t much of a setup if it’s on their turn. Etc. So I’m now thinking that the framework actually might need some work to fit with ICRPG… If anyone has any experience from play, I’d be very interested in hearing it!

Anyway, thanks for the list!


That specific example I could see might not be as impactful to certain groups but the concept of the villain actions, reactions, and such can easily be converted to ICRPG.

I converted the Enraged Grizzly Bear example earlier

Makes a pretty memorable Bear encounter of a party vs a single giant bear

@Alex one shot in the tomb with the party hiding in the crypt from the zombies comes to mind with the starting bear encounter.


Interesting video, I’m inspired to work through some custom monster designs in ICRPG format. Thanks for sharing this!


This is slightly off-topic but these kinds of videos make me chuckle because people keep attacking the symptoms of D&D (and its ilk) and try to fix them (which they really can’t without making the system unrecognizable), instead of determining the root cause, which is the system itself.

Listen to this video carefully and you’ll hear multiple admissions how D&D is clunky in many areas. Youtube is filled with similar videos where people try to streamline monsters, encounters, treasure, NPCs… You name it. And these people have a huge following.

Back to the topic at hand: I’d say this is unnecessarily complex for ICRPG. @James_Horn Your example is great but there are 10 actions with different rules and conditions listed there. This is way too complicated I’d say. Maul action depends on both claw attacks succeeding. Bear Slam depends on distance, Retaliate depends on enemy’s distance etc. Checking conditions each round and each hit is cumbersome.

Just give a monster 4-5 different actions (for example), and rule that only two of them can be used during its turn and the rest can be used only on somebody else’s turn (1 action/turn). This can be very interesting and way simpler.

I’m not saying you can’t do something like this, but is there really a good reason for all this complexity?

It can be argued that since this is a single monster, it can be very complex and I would accept that. But it will still slow down the game. What I’m saying is that the same effect can be created with something that is simpler.


I like Colville’s videos. When I saw this one though, it immediately just made me think of ICRPGs monster action tables, and just rolling a die on them…


Fair points. But single read through of the bear should be easy to keep track of mentally for a single enemy. Just have to do the villain actions in order.

I mean it can’t be harder to remember than the 9 things on this ICRPG core monster


Touche, yet even the monsters in core are too complicated sometimes (for me at least).

Your presentation is way simpler so kudos for that!


Love this… its what we have been doing in ICRPG for ages… … Game On!


Nicely done… I may steal this for Bear Wars … Game On!


PRESENTATION is key IMHO… I try to keep my monster entries to 2 columns of text, 2 per page (or 3 columns in landscape) so I can fold them in half and use them as big bookmarks. … This forces me to be succinct in my description, stats, and Actions … typically I give most monsters 3-4 actions in game… I may not use all of them but it gives me some options … Game On!


I think MC makes three good points in the video: focus on actions, have something unique happen each round, and make special actions reinforce some standout feature (henchmen, burrowing, fire, flying …).

It’s just that I am not sure how much of the problem MC addresses that is actually in ICRPG. Concretely:

  • In a planned boss fight, I’d probably have a monster AI. This is not exactly the same as villain actions, but it could be if I was more into planning story.
  • In any set-piece encounter, I’d probably have a round timer, or turn timer if the encounter is supposed to be more intense. This is not the same as a reaction, but for a boss-fight it could very well be. As an example, reinforcement arrive on 1d4.

I don’t mean this to disrespect anyone’s ideas, just thinking aloud. But currently, I’m leaning towards some sort of integration with four classes of actions referee actions.
Regular (ofc)
Scripted (villain/AI, things that monsters do in a set order)
Reactions (things that happen out of turn order, triggered by someone else’s action)
Timer (things that happen at some unpredictable interval).


They are just a fun jump off point to get the creative juices flowing for the ICRPG DIY game master.

Ive been having fun going down the list and converting them to ICRPG

Here is the cyclops from the list, except I made it a storm giant. Dunno if I’ll use it, but nice to have in the old GM toolbox waiting for an opportunity.


I watched this and felt like the 5e system was being explained, not innovated on.
The numbers are still reasonlessly granular, the ‘about 9 things’ issue is still there, It made wonder ‘what is a non-action oriented monster?’


I think the thing I personally took from the video was the lesson in “Battle Pacing” that myself and I’m sure other GMs have struggled with.

Pace out the battle so something different happens each ROUND

Beginning - The setup
Middle - the plan unfolds
End - dramatic conclusion

The villain actions help setup this pacing.

Just my 2 cents


Matt that also did a video years ago that basically called out 5e monsters as kind bland and basic And that they lost a lot of their cool abilities and moves from 4e that made combat with them unique and exciting.

I think this is simply an evolution of that idea to make combat more exciting and not just “the monster attacks with its…”


‘what is a non-action oriented monster?’

A monster that prefers romantic comedies.


ART FILM monster… also not big on action


Different idea, but I feel like it’s related to this topic, so I want to share my thoughts here:
In ICRPG a lot of people use timers for things to happen. I’ve seen timers only been used (I believe) to time time (rounds/turns). I am working on a list of timers today to see if I can get past my thought circles (and always do the same timers) and I realized a timer that is not often used is based on player or monster actions.
What I mean with this is the following:
A vine plant that was lay on the ground grapples the PC and restrains him/her to that space. Now it takes 1d4 movements to get out. The player can use 2 movements per turn to try and struggle out (roll against target), or one to struggle out and one to attack ranged to some enemies.
Another could be: when there are 1d4 spells cast near this ancient arcane monolith, it will summon a thunderwave that blows everyone in close range of the monolith to far (and does basic effort in damage). Spells count for both parties.
Not sure if my idea will be fun, but I give it a chance to consider and maybe even try it out. :slight_smile: