Creating a Monster Template
I have done a large number of Templates for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game; I have even written The Book of Monster Templates (PFRPG) so in this series I plan to discuss how I design said templates, so here we go.
This is the most important bit to come up with, especially if you want to make sure it’s not been done before the most common OGL sources are Advanced Bestiary, Book of Templates - Deluxe Edition, and the Template Trove series (This one was written by Sean K. Reynolds!)
However, let us talk about templates that have not really been done yet, and where you can get ideas.
Monsters are all about violations of cultural taboos from Godzilla (atomic bombs), Vampires (sexually transmitted disease), Frankenstein (science playing with corpses). Several of the monsters from my book fall in this category the Tax Collector Creature (Taxes), Boundfury (Treatment of prisoners), and Hatemonger (racial prejudice).
So look around at the fantasy culture your writing for and touch on its cultural taboos:
Well let us look at just three issues:
Energy Security: how about a monster that consumes coal and charcoal) does not sound dangerous but what happens if it attacks on the first day of winter in an urban environment, where firewood is not easily come by. The fall out is prices go up for coal, charcoal and firewood supplies that remain, causing the poor to freeze to death., I can see a creature based on steampunk doing this that’s for sure.
Civil War: this does not even have to be a local civil war but just a formally stable neighbor, I can easily see a monster that plays both sides against each other a war engine that gets stronger, and more power the more violence is used against it and around it.
A Storm is Coming: We have climate change happen all the time in game worlds with far more dramatic effects (A son of Ice and Fire) but how about a monster (The Others) that causes this climactic shift. Be creative, perhaps more sea storms, an Ice Age, an endless summer that causes an endless drought, a spring where nothing stops growing or the rains never end. These creatures would thrive in this environment.
The Loyal Antagonist: My country, right or wrong; My master, right or wrong; this monster is not good or evil, but it is Lawful. It bases its morality entirely on duty and honor. A monster powered by patriotism or a perhaps a bonded minion.
The Master of Strategy: This monster tugs at their strings of influence, patiently move their pieces into places that often seem harmless or pointless until the trap is closed, and get innocent unwitting pawns (Who else?) to do all the heavy lifting. Perhaps a monster that works from the background through charms, compulsions, illusions, and/or just flawlessly executed plan.
The Legacy: There are some plans perpetrated by villains that involve the villain's own demise as a crucial element. Sometimes it a contingency in the event of its death and sometimes it is just a last laugh. A template that transfers its powers or a monster that is reincarnated becoming resistant or immune to whatever killed him before
Godling: from Fenrir, the Children of Typhoeus and Echedna, or how about just Black Adam! This area is full of ideas based of the deities in your own campaign or the mythology of our own world.
Chimera: no not that, but just the mating of a creature with another of power, Owen K. C. Stephens did a lot of this as does the Amalgam template but you can get a lot more specific if you look at a specific half-breed template, what would a half- shaggoth template be like?
Revenant: there are many undead templates but here you will only be beating an undead horse, as you can make this template and its abilities specific to the circumstances of a creature’s death. From the Headless Horseman, to the Deathknight, to the Crow, these types of templates keep on giving based on the mythology of death in your setting.
So you fine folks post an idea and I will run with one as we move on to custom Special Abilities!