The Alchemist's Bench: Game Master Advice
Beefing Up Monsters - Part 1
Special Monster Characteristics
GM Advice

by Dewayne Agin

Are your Heroes getting too strong? Do you fill the room with monsters, and the Heroes still have no trouble dealing with them? Players can quickly lose interest if the game is not challenging. One solution to this problem is to buy more figures to give the Heroes larger and more challenging monsters. A less costly alternative is to beef up your existing monsters. This article is the first of a two-part series giving ideas to help you make the game more challenging for experienced Heroes without buying any more figures.

Special Characteristics are abilities you give a monster that it does not normally have. Without changing its statistics, you can make a monster that is normally easy to destroy, such as a Goblin or a Skeleton, quite a bit harder. You can decide if you want to let the Heroes know about the monster's new characteristics when they enter the room, or if you want to surprise them.

New Weapons and/or Armor:

Giving a monster a new type of weapon or armor can make it harder to defeat. The most common example of this is to give a monster a bow. You can give the monster any of type of weapon, though. For instance maybe a special Orc, such as an Orc Chieftain, has a Battle Axe, giving it 4 attack dice. Perhaps the Zombie is wearing a suit of chain mail, giving it an extra defense die.

Magical Artifact:

Instead of having an artifact hidden somewhere in the room, a monster in the room could be using it and the Heroes must kill the monster to get the artifact. Having that magical sword wielded against the Heroes would be a real eye-opener.


Give a monster the ability to cast spells. An easy way to do this is to allow the monster to have spell scrolls and/or potions. This gives a monster that normally doesn't cast spells the ability to do so. Having the monster carry a potion of healing means that the fight will last longer. As a bonus, you could let the Heroes find the spell if the monster is killed before it is able to use it.

Two Attacks:

Give a monster the ability to make two (or more) attacks every turn. The Gargoyle figure is perfect for this; the figure is carrying a whip (attack 1) and a sword (attack 2). You can do this with any figure, though. Maybe the Heroes meet a skilled Orc Warrior, carrying two swords...

Fearsome Monster:

This is an irrational fear caused by monsters so horrible that they install terror into their enemies. Undead creatures are good candidates for being Fearsome. Anytime a Hero starts his turn in the same room as one of these monsters, he must make a 'Fear' roll at the start of his turn. The Hero rolls 1 red die, and on a roll of 5-6 he has become afraid and must move as far as possible from the monster, even if it means leaving the room. The Hero may not make any attack that turn, even against another monster, but can defend. If a Hero enters a room with a Fearsome Monster during his movement turn, he must make a Fear roll immediately. The fear only lasts one turn, but the Hero must make a fear roll every turn he is in the same room as a Fearsome Monster.


Only an intelligent monster can have the ability to Hypnotize its enemies. A monster with this ability can Hypnotize one Hero each turn. The monster gazes at the Hero with his glowing, bloody red eyes. The Hero must roll a 1-3 on a red die. If he fails, he is hypnotized and cannot attack and defends only feebly with 2 fewer defense dice than normal, but with no fewer that 1 defense die. The effects of hypnosis last only one turn. This would be a good ability to give a Chaos Sorcerer.


A monster can have the ability to heal itself. The monster regains one lost Body Point at the beginning of its turn. Some alternate rules to this one is to allow the monster to regain more Body Points per turn, or regain Body Points every second or third turn. Perhaps wounds made from magical weapons do not heal. Regeneration could be used on any of the basic HQ monsters, but you might want to come up with a reason. Maybe the monster has a spell cast on it. Maybe it is wearing a special amulet. If it is killed, do the Heroes get the amulet?


A Berserk monster has gone into a frenzied rage, fighting with above normal strength but at disregard to its own safety. A monster with this ability can attack twice, but loses half its defense dice (but it will always have at least one). Some alternate rules to this ability are to only allow the monster to go berserk after it is wounded, to round the halved defense dice up, or to round the halved defense dice down.


A Diseased monster is one that is carrying a plague which it can transmit to the Heroes. A Hero who is hit by a Diseased monster will lose the normal body points from the attack. This Hero must then roll one red die. On a roll of 1 or 2, the Hero is diseased. On the Hero's next turn he will lose a Body Point from the plague, plus another Body Point every second turn thereafter. When I play a game with a monster with this ability, I always allow the Heroes to purchase a new type of potion from the shop, a Cure potion. The only way to cure the disease is to drink a Potion of Cure. A Healing Potion or Spell will restore the Hero's Body Points, but he will still have the disease and still lose Body Points from it. If a Hero dies from the disease, he will instantly turn into a disease ridden Zombie. Replace the Hero's figure with a Zombie. The Zombie will immediately attack the other Heroes, possibly transmitting the disease to them.

If you want to be kind to the players, do not allow a Hero to contract a second disease if he already has one. On the other hand, if you want to make the game a little more challenging, try one or all of these:

  1. A Hero can contract more than one disease. The Hero will lose a Body Point every second turn for every disease he has. If you feel creative, name the different plagues and describe their effects (You have the Dripping Black Plague and lose a Body Point to rotting flesh, or you have the Red Boils of Death, etc). Depending on which turn a Hero contracts the new disease, it may fall into synch with the other disease or diseases the Hero has. He may lose two or more Body Points every second turn, or maybe he will lose one Body Point this turn, and one next.
  2. A Hero with a disease can be contagious. Roll a red dice every turn that another Hero is in the same room with the diseased one. On a roll of 1 that Hero has contracted the disease also.
  3. Any Monster that the diseased Hero successfully attacks catches the disease. While at first this may seem like a good thing for the Heroes because the monster will lose a Body Point every second turn, the monster also now has the disease. Any undiseased Hero the monster now attacks can catch it. If you feel really mean, tell the Heroes that the disease has no effect on the monster. It is a carrier, but the disease causes no ill effects on the monster.
  4. Instead of allowing a Potion of Cure to cure all diseases that a Hero has, only allow it to cure one.
  5. Instead of the Diseased Hero losing a Body Point every second turn, a virulent strain of plague could cause him to lose a Body Point every turn. If you wish to be nice, maybe the disease is less potent and the infected Hero only loses a Body Point every third or fourth turn.

Zombies are good candidates as disease carriers, but other monster could be used as well. Maybe a Chaos Sorcerer has infected a horde of Goblins and commanded them to attack the city...


A monster with this special ability can fly over obstructions in a corridor or room, including furniture and Heroes. The Gargoyle has wings, so is a good candidate for this ability. Sorcerers may have a levitate spell that they use on themselves, or other monsters in the room. You might want to allow the flying monster to attack the Heroes in flight. He swoops down, attacks the Heroes, then continues his movement - flying to a safe location.


A monster with this ability cannot be harmed by certain weapons. For instance maybe it can only be harmed by magical weapons, or is invulnerable to missile fire because of special armor, or is not affected by a certain class of spells, or is immune to all magic, both spells and artifacts.


This ability allows a monster to drain statistics from a Hero, and use them to supplement his own. Undead are good candidates for this attack (think of a vampire sucking a Hero's blood to strengthen itself). A Mummy could drain a Body Point from a Hero when it touches it, giving more life to itself. Or for each successful hit it draws strength from the Hero, causing him to roll fewer attack dice. The Mummy gains those attack dice, making it more powerful. The effects are permanent. As with the Disease ability, I sell a potion, Restore, that allows the Heroes to regain lost statistics. One alternative is to allow the potion to only restore one lost statistic, instead of all. If a Hero is drained of two Body Points, he would need to drink two potions to restore both.

Blood Frenzy:

Monsters with this characteristic will go crazy when a Hero is wounded. The smell of the blood drives them to stop any attack that they are making and attempt to destroy the wounded Hero. This ability can be used with the Berserk ability. The smell of blood could be the trigger that causes the monster to go Berserk.


Special monsters can have venom, or maybe poison blades. The potion shop sells a Venom antidote which works on either. Different poisons can work in different ways. Some may cause a Hero to lose strength, thereby losing attack dice. Others may slow him down, lose Body Points, etc. One effective way to use poison or venom is to have the Hero affected Hero lose another Body Point after a certain number of turns. For instance he could lose one every turn, every second turn, or so on. Poisoned weapons are only effective for the first Hero that they hit. If the weapon hits another Hero, all the poison has been used on the first Hero. Another way to use poison is to have character specific poisons. For instance maybe a monster has an Elf Poison on his sword. He will try to get to the Elf to poison him. If he does so, maybe the Elf loses two Body Points per turn. On the other hand if the monster is forced to defend himself and uses his poisoned weapon to hit another Hero, that Hero takes the poison. Since it is character specific, it does no damage to that Hero.

These are the special characteristics that I have used in quests. If you are using any others, I would be interested in hearing from you.

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