Matthew Colville's Action Oriented Monsters



Sounds good! I look forward to seeing your ideas


I think that’s what really got me interested too.

The idea that the battle suddenly turn from this bland:“Attack, hit. Attack, miss.” routine to:“Every monster can become so much more dangerous.” while integrating the setup (map) as well as party members or elements of the fight more easily is exhilarating!

It makes those monsters a lot more dangerous or at least challenging!


Unless, like myself, you consider The Professional and Boondock Saints art films…


I love this video. I think there’s a secret embedded in it: The actions start as narrative. You imagine what happens, and what it looks like, then you make the mechanics. There’s an intersection between this video, the Runehammer podcast about tiered monsters, and the Dungeonworld system of narrative moves. Brainstorming in the fiction, as a list of bullets with rich evocative language, and then tying it to the mechanics seems like a way to develop monsters quickly, with richness and resonance.


Yeess! I love what I am seeing coming out of these creators and I am so glad I can start hacking away at systems to make the game more… engaging, dynamic, whatever!



For me, add that part of MC’s video is also about making sure your boss gets a chance to do the cool things. MC’s villain actions happen on specific turns: (Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3) which is different than R.A.W. legendary or lair actions provided in vanilla 5e.

I agree with the earlier comment that 1d4 timers in ICRPG create kind of a similar pacing.

I agree with the earlier comment that Monster AI in ICRPG creates similar kind of events.

I think the interesting take away is, “Hey, maybe in each of the initial rounds of an encounter, your big bad should do a scripted cool thing.” I think the difference between Monster AI and a 1d4 timer is that your players are guaranteed to see event 1 on turn 1, event 2 on turn 2, and so on.


Turn 2 or round 2? Now I’m confused! XD


@BlazingPolyhedron For scripted actions and groupwise initiative, turn 2 = monster’s second turn = round 2 (since they are normally things monsters do on their turn). But for a special monster, acting out of turn (so more than once per round) could be a speciality.



I have made monsters act on their turn… and as a reaction to the players … Game On!


So I’m running the Last Flight of the Red Sword tomorrow and thought I’d experiment with this technique. What do you think of this setup for the REPTOID GARGANTUA?

Reptoid Gargantua

  • :heart::heart::heart::heart:
  • +3 All Stats and Effort

Actions (2 per TURN)

  • Lash: A barbed tentacle attack | NEAR | STR Check or grappled | BASIC EFFORT
  • Machete Tail: A melee weapon slash | FAR | WEAPON EFFORT

Bonus Actions (1 per TURN)

  • Throw: If target is grappled, throw target in random direction for 20 ft. | BASIC DAMAGE
  • Regenerate Bio Matter: If a Mutant Reptoid is NEAR, consume to regenerate 5 HP.

Reactions (1 per ROUND on anyone’s Turn)

  • Poor Senses: Free attack on first moving NEAR target.

Villain Actions (1 per ROUND, in order)

  1. Scream: All enemies make CON save or take WEAPON DAMAGE
  2. Mutants in Hiding: All the noise causes 1d6 Mutant Reptoids to appear. Ignore 1’s
  3. Energy Cannon: Hits all targets in a straight line for MAGIC DAMAGE. DEX save to dodge. (Lose Energy Cannon if reduced to 1 :heart:)
  4. Massive Momentum: Charge forward until stopped by a wall. Any enemies pinned take WEAPON damage and make a HARD STR roll to squeeze free.

NOTE: As I was laying this out, I noticed how this could easily be done without the action oriented set up. Everything was built right into the original layout for the monster and this is simply a way of thinking through a monster.


Looks great man,

I agree the layout is easier to navigate when running it, just start from the top and work your way down and just have to remember the reaction.

Please share how it works out for you during your one shot afterwards.


Definitely let us know how it goes. When I ran this adventure I misplayed this boss so much. It was underwhelming.


I can do that. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this boss does well. If it underwhelms, I’m thinking of making a second, more beefy, one appear when the team is working away at igniting the engines at the end. But we’ll see haha.


The biggest issue I see with using this verbatim is that ICRPG doesn’t use 5E’s action economy. So if your ICRPG monster has actions, reactions, bonus actions, and legendary actions as well as lots of hearts, it’s not going to be a lot of fun for the players, who have 1 action on their turn period, unless the have gear that changes that. (Well, for my players, anyway. They complained bitterly after nearly being wiped out by a single two-heart giant solider ant.) However, the idea of looking at monster abilities as actions that the monster can take on its turn, that are triggered by a combat event (first time wounded, when a character uses a spell, etc.) and sequence breakers (anytime on any turn) makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of a sequence for legendary actions which is similar to the Runehammer AI concept. I like it better than a timer, actually. I’d say that the video is very provocative, that it gives us another way to design monsters, and that it should be implemented with ICRPG’s much simpler action economy in mind.


Might be a good opportunity to introduce another timer? Every three hits the monster receives triggers an effect (putrid gas billows from its pores, causing caustic burning to anyone who inhales it); or every time the monster successfully hits three times in a row on a single target, regardless of amount of damage, an ability is triggered (+2 to all subsequent rolls against that target?).

This might introduce more book keeping for you, but might also introduce all the desired variety of “action” monsters without slowing down the fight or overpowering the players.

The whole “action economy” business in 5E is frustrating to me. It leads to players building characters based on mechanical output, rather than story-telling reasons. It encourages players to pick from a menu of prescribed abilities looking for the best combination, rather than allowing the character to evolve based on earned experiences in the campaign.


I’d try to make it even simpler, but with a more specific trigger: every time the creature is hit with a blunt weapon, or every time it takes 5 or more hp damage, or every time anyone moves with near range, the gas is released. Then I’m not managing several timers at once, and the players get some interesting choices.

I do like the idea of legendary actions for important bosses, and the idea that they are already tied to a certain round. Someone on the thread made a great point about combat having a kind of story structure and using the legendary actions to help reinforce that.

I don’t play 5e, because I think there’s too much game in the game. I prefer ICRPG because the rounds are fast. You do your thing, it has consequences, moving on. It’s fun and it plays fast.


What monster action tables does the speak of?


page 128 in the Core book has a list of actions enemies can do for inspiration