Megan Maricle shares Kobold Press’ deadliest catch for dungeon delvers everywhere!
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Megan Maricle: At first it just looks like a room with a treasure chest in it. So it’s more like, Hey look, there’s cool treasure over there. You open the door, just step right into it. It’s fine, it’s fine. There’s no trap at all. Cause you know, when they see the treasure chest, they’re gonna expect ya know the treasure chest is either a mimic or it’s trapped or something. They’re not gonna expect that the ooze is filling the room and they just stepped into the ooze. Now you’re inside of a, an ooze that has a shark that swims around and bites people!
Lucas: Hello and welcome back to Making a Monster. I’m your host, Lucas Zellers, author of Book of Extinction now on pre-order and coming soon in hardcover from Mage Hand Press. I’m going to Gen Con again this year! The best four days in gaming are in Indianapolis from August 3rd through sixth, and if you’re coming to the convention, I’d love to meet you. Just stop by the Mage Hand Press booth number 2563. I’ll probably be there.
In honor of my second year at the Con, I wanted to share this episode I recorded during Gen Con 2022, where I was introduced to Megan Markle.
Megan Maricle: Hi. I am Megan Maricle and I’m one of the editors at Kobold Press. I first came on board working on their Monster books, doing the editing for those.
Lucas: We connected over the Creature Codex, literally I held a mic over the book. Kobold Press has published three volumes of the Creature Codex since 2013. I asked Megan, which of her monsters made her most proud.
Megan Maricle: Well, I’m proud of all of them. I worked a lot. That’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child, like that is not fair. I mean, every parent has a favorite, but you can’t actually ask them that. Like, goodness gracious. Um, well, let’s see if we’re looking at things that are kind of underrepresented, the Creature Codex has the giant Shark Bowl ooze, which is a lot of fun. I know this is like audio only, but you can at least see the picture.
Lucas: I can. If you don’t know, oozes are one of 13 creature types in the fifth edition Monster manual, which describes them as gelatinous [00:02:00] creatures that rarely have aff fixed shape. They’re mostly subterranean dwelling in caves and dungeons, and feeding on refuse carrying or creatures unlucky enough to get in their way.
The most famous ooze, I would argue, is the one that conforms its shape to occupy the most volume possible. In dungeons with rectangular corridors, it assumes its most recognizable form the gelatinous cube. In sewers, it would become a cylinder as it pushes through pipes. However, it might also respond to strange magic and form a kind of aquarium for another large predator.
I asked Megan where oozes generally fit in the structure of a Dungeons and Dragons game.
Megan Maricle: Well, a lot of people I know use oozes kind of as traps, right? Because oozes are not very intelligent creatures, generally. We do have one ooze that’s kind of smart, but for the most part, yeah, they’re meant to be this kind of force of nature. They’re kind of like the garbage disposals of the dungeons and stuff like that, but they’re usually in, in a kind of like trap oriented type thing.
You’re usually used them as a, Oh, this thing is here. you stumble into it or it falls from the ceiling, or something like that, because they’re not the brightest and they’re usually predators, but in that kind of slow walking towards you death, like, you know, Jason Vorhees or something, they’re not, they’re not like the cat that’s gonna pounce around you from the corner, you know?
So if I remember correctly, 2018 was when this book came out. So please forgive my terrible memory, but I believe the Giant Sharks was actually something a backer submitted. And we’re Kobold Press, we don’t do a ton of goofy monsters, but we do like some fun ones occasionally, right?
We have a “swol-bold,”, so, We do like some, some goofy stuff occasionally, but yeah, so the giant shark bowl ooze just made the whole judge’s panel chuckle. Uh, so they’re like, All right, you made us all chuckle. Fine. You’ll put it in the book.
Lucas: Writing the mechanics for this Monster followed exactly the template you would expect Fusing two existing stat blocks to create a symbiotic relationship.
Megan Maricle: It has to have everything crunched up first, and that’s what the shark is for. It does all the crunching. We’ve had some people make miniatures of it, so it’s very impactful for [00:04:00] some, if they make like fishbowls and they put like resin and stuff in it with the shark inside of it.
Lucas: What was the first edition of D&D that you played?
Megan Maricle: First edition that I played? I played second edition, Dungeons and Dragons. I played in 1994. I was, oh gosh, eight years old. And uh, my parents both played, my mom and my stepdad both played and they were big fans of D&D.
They had a big group with their college friends. And, uh, I thought that it was just that boring, grown up game, you know, in the same way that like, when you’re watching movies, you see like the dudes around the poker table, smoking and drinking and just playing poker, and you’re like, Oh, that’s the boring part of the movie.
Right. Uh, and I was like, D&D just have boring things that my parents do. But then a book released that year, um, it was either 94 or 95 that it released. It was called Council of Wyrms. And my, yeah, my parents were like, Hey, because we move, we had moved further out in the country, so they were away from their friends and they’re like, Okay, well let’s get the kids to play.
And we were both like, That’s the boring, grown up thing that’s like just as boring as poker. Why would do that? Um, and they were like, Well, you could play a baby dragon. And I was like, There’s dragons in this game. Uh, so I’ve been playing ever since myself.
So part of the reason I ask is that I have heard in older editions that there was a more adversarial relationship between Dungeon Master and player. Is that part of your experience and do you think that oozes are indicative of that in any way?
I don’t think that that is edition based. I actually think that’s more of the age of the players based. Cause when I played as a kid, my parents were in college and they were playing with kids. So we never had an adversarial relationship. It was all about telling a fun story. Right. One of my first encounters in D&D was I was a dragon, polymorphed, attempting to go help a village. But I had to pretend that I didn’t know anything about human customs. And that was the kind of fun we had. We never had an adversarial relationship or anything like that. It was all meant to just be what story we wanna tell, the fun we wanna have. [00:06:00]
But later, when I played in high school with my high school friends, it did become much more adversarial, much more us versus them. Let’s try and like beat up whatever we can. And I think that’s, and I think that’s part of the growth of D&D, right? Like, I don’t wanna say teenagers are more adversarial, right? But it’s, competitive thing. You wanna, you know, be the best at something or you wanna do the most damage at something. You see it in video games and stuff too, when you’ve got like leaderboards and everything, it’s no different. So I really just think it’s kind of a life stage thing rather than an edition thing.
The giant Shark Bowl ooze moves its whole genre of Monster away from a sort of gotcha style of running the game into a comedy piece.
Yeah, cuz it’s like the dungeon master gotcha. But then you’re also like, I can’t be mad. It’s a shark inside of a news and the shark is eating me right now. Like I did literally just fall for that. Um, and I think that’s kind of what we like to do with Kobold Press is a lot of our monsters is we like them to be fun and flavorful. So you can kind of like, so even the ones that aren’t the goofy giant sharks, right? You can still see kind of the story of it. You can see the place that they fit in the world and they’re just gonna be fun and challenging encounters. Right?
Lucas: In just a minute, Megan will give you her best advice as an editor of Monster books on Using Monsters Better in Your Game. But first, let me say thank you for listening to Making a Monster.
If you like what you’ve heard and you wanna support the show, please leave a rating or a review on the podcast app of your choice. Spotify recently introduced a five star rating system to its interface. You can find it on the podcast page just under the show description. It’s a small thing, but it does help new listeners discover the show and really makes a difference for me moving forward as a creator.
And if you really appreciate my approach to Monster Design, you can check out my book, Book of Extinction, resurrecting Extinct Animals as Monsters for your Fifth Edition Tabletop Game. You can pre-order now and get the first 130 pages of it immediately when you order at MageHandPress.com/extinction.
And lastly, if you’re at [00:08:00] Gen Con this year, don’t forget to visit. I’ll be at the Mage Hand Press booth number 2563. See you there!
Now Megan, what’s the number one thing you want Dungeon Masters to do to use monsters better?
Megan Maricle: I mean, I’m not the pioneer of this. There’s a guy who wrote a whole book on it, but think like the Monster, like what do the monsters think about,? You know, cuz they’re not just bags of hip points. They’re not just teeth that’s hungry. Right. You know? Sure. It might be a lion coming after you, but it also might have not eaten in a day or it might have cubs nearby.
Right. You know, bears that attack people don’t just attack people randomly. It’s usually cuz there’s cubs nearby. Right. And I think people forget that with monsters cuz they see it as just something big and scary. So really just think about what the monsters think. And I, I know there’s a gentleman that wrote a book on it and I cannot remember his name for the life of me, uh, Keith Ahman.
Yes, Yes. The monsters know what they’re doing. Right, Exactly. It’s, it’s wonderful and it’s a great concept to think about. Right. Like, cuz the monsters do, they are living, breathing creatures. I mean, oozes are kind of, and undead don’t breathe, but yeah. You understand what I mean? You get it. You get it.