The War Spider from MCDM’s Monster Manual

It’s terrifying when the goblins ride a giant spider into battle, but more terrifying when they treat it better than you would.

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James Introcaso: [00:00:00] Picture Return of the King and the Ollyphants coming in and laying waste to the white city Gondor in Lord of the rings. Here’s the deal is that, it’s like that. But instead of an elephant bringing in a bunch of warriors on its back, it is a giant, enormous spider. Huge, huge spider with this platform on its back and goblins firing arrows and throwing these little rodents called skitterlings. And then the spider can also like flex its abdomen and fire goblins off like warriors off into the air. Um, the other thing is that when it dies, a swarm of baby spiders burst forth from its abdomen.

Lucas: Gross! James, why have you done this?

Hello, and welcome to Making a Monster, the bite-sized podcast where game designers show us their favorite monster and we discover how it works, why it works and what it means. I’m Lucas Zeller. Building on years of experience as a tactical dungeon master and a frankly uncanny ability to explain the nuances of the game in a single take with no audible pauses, I mean, come on, Matt Colville has created a small design company for original fifth edition content called Matt Colville Dungeon Master productions, or MCDM. Colville’s lead writer is a returning guest on the show, James Introcaso. He’s here to talk about “Flea Mortals! The MCDM Monster Book,” which is busily smashing its stretch goals on Kickstarter and has, as of the time of recording, made almost $1.3 million.

The conceit of the book is to replace the monster [00:02:00] manual you already have with new and better monsters. So I asked James about the monster I felt most needs an update: goblins.

I’m here with James Introcaso, who is the lead writer for M C D M or Matt Colville Dungeon Master productions.

He has had a long career in tabletop game design, having worked with Wizards of the Coast, Roll20, Kobold Press other awesome publishers before he came on to MCDM. And he’s been on the show before, for Burn Bryte, talking about the teleporting mischief fox the Blipp, which was a whole lot of fun and really rounded out the first season of the show.

Very well. So, James, I’m happy to have you back. Welcome back to Making a Monster!

James Introcaso: Thanks, Lucas. Thank you so much. So it’s a, it’s an honor and privilege to get to come on and talk about monsters and have some fun.

My role at MCM is basically lead designer. Matt is the design director, and he says, here’s a bunch of things I want to do. I want to make a monster book. I want to make a magazine. I want to do this. And then I go and, hire all of the people who work on those projects, you know, the contractors in terms of the people writing not in terms of art.

And then I also write myself and I edit everybody’s work and I, you know, so I sort of act as the the project lead on all those projects and bring those things together and, and sort of. The final say. So, and then Matt is there to consult with and that sort of thing. But he really wants to be able to take a step back and like big picture at some more. So that’s, day-to-day making RPG products for for MCM.

Lucas: Congratulations, man.

James Introcaso: Thank you. Thank you. It is it is still very strange sometimes that this is the case. So, but I am glad it is the case that it seems to be working.

Lucas: I wanted to talk to you about MCDM’s upcoming monster book and I wanted to park on this because, the working title for that work is, or was monsters and villains. If you’ve followed this show for any length [00:04:00] of time, or if you remember GM edition, I’ve spent quite a while parsing out the difference between a monster and a villain.

So I think I do want to address that with you, but you’ve opted for a different name, for the project. What does it now?

James Introcaso: So, yeah. So the name of the product now is flee mortals, the MCDM monster book. and we wanted to go that route because, you know, obviously we have strongholds and followers and kingdoms, and more fair are two of the other big releases that we’ve had, on Kickstarter from MCDM. But we did realize that, we’ll never own noun ampersand noun, right?

In this space that already belongs to somebody who, who who is very kindly given a open game license to us to allow us to make our things. So we thought if you want to step away and differentiate yourself, maybe we should break that mold a little bit. And and so we have gone with this because we think it’s evocative.

We think it’s fun. You see the book and it’s got a monster on the cover and flee mortals and big capital letters and everything. And you’re like, this is great. Let’s do it.

Lucas: Yeah. Well, it’s a solid business decision and it’s a solid storytelling decision as well. But part of the reason I wanted to bring it up is because there’s a really fascinating. Attitude that comes with that title that I think you’ve reflected in in the book as well. So some ground rules, or rather some, some context in, in terms of Dungeons and dragons, they define the word monster as anything with a stat block.

Which is from a technical writing standpoint, from a dungeon masters standpoint, very useful from a literary philosophical, analytical standpoint, incredibly problematic, and it makes for a rich conversation.

So by changing the title. And also you’ve kind of sidestepped this in the book, by giving a different name to monster itself in, in that context.

James Introcaso: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we, we generally agree with that. You know, we write for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, and so we use their style a lot and the word [00:06:00] monster does appear in this book. It’s right there on the cover, but we use the word creature a lot more because I think often creature is also used as like a catch all for everything from commoner to you know, gelatinous cube.

And so we wanted to do the same thing and, and we’re doing some things to sort of get the idea across that the stat blocks in this book are living creatures. And so like, you’ll notice that D and D step blocks often default to the “it” pronouns for creatures, which can be confusing because we also use it for objects.

So we use “they,” we default to “they” when we the gender of a creature in a stat block and that sort of thing. You know, we’re just sort of looking for places where we can make it more more accessible to people so that they can understand like, Hey, these are living things and they can be used in your game in many ways, right?

They’re NPCs and they’re all sorts of things, but the title “Flee, Mortals!” is also saying, this is a book to battle. And we take great pains to make sure that this is the case that we’re saying this. It doesn’t mean that because goblins are in this book, every goblin is something that is going to fight and challenge the adventures.

On the contrary we actually go, do we say most goblins, like all humanoids, are normal people and they just want to live and they’re kind to their neighbors and they’re nice to everybody else. But when there are goblins who are thieves or murderers and they’re pushed out of society, because of that this is how they act, and this might be what they would do. And you might find them with, you know, hanging out with other bandit humanoids and things like that.

And so that is sort of the idea behind the book, right? Is we don’t want to paint any ancestries or sapient creatures really with like such a broad brush. We wanna, we want to get in there and we want to give you the worst of the bunch so that you can have fun tactical encounters with.

Lucas: yeah. Yeah. Something that triggers the fight flight or freeze response. And I, and I love that. There’s that, that scifi echo in your voice calling them “sapients”. [00:08:00]

James Introcaso: Yes. Yeah. So it’s funny that comes from my Burn Bryte experience. We talked

Lucas: I remember that one.

James Introcaso: yeah, yeah. A lot about creatures. And and Darcy Ross who is a scientist and was a game designer on that said, you know, we call a lot of things sentient and a lot of creatures sentient, but sentient just means you are aware you exist in the world.

So like plants aren’t necessarily sentient, but like my dog is sentient. And, and we don’t think of it that way. Sapience is really what we mean often when we say sentience. And of course the way language works now, sentience also means sapience so, not to be too pedantic on this show.

Lucas: Right. Well, I, I mean, it is kind of my brand uh, but now, and I did want to dig into that a little bit before we got to our specific monster, because being this careful about language versus when it, especially in terms of “creature” and “monster” and “sapient” and “humanoid”, was there anything else that you had to do to kind of the core style of the way things are written for fifth edition in order to accommodate this choice to call things by the name “creature” more often?

James Introcaso: No, honestly, fifth edition does use “creature” a lot in the core rules. And in fact, in their mechanical language, they use “creature” a ton, right? If you read a spell, it says, you know, pick a creature, you can see. And, and they’ll differentiate between creature and object. So, you know, for a living thing, in a non-living thing and and they also will, we’ll use a creature outside of that context, but they’ll use monster a lot in the lore.

So it was just using creature a lot in lore, but like I said, we don’t shy away from the word “monster” either because of the way it’s used. And also I think. If people see a monster on the cover of a book, if they’re D and D players, they know what it means, they associated immediately and that sort of thing.

So we don’t want to move to the point of accessibility. And we also, you know, Wizards of the Coast is taking strides forward with what they’re doing, [00:10:00] both in terms of the, the sensitivity with which they approach these things, but also within the mechanics that that they’re creating. And so we’re just trying to also do the same thing that is happening over wizards of the coast.

You know, we’re a company of eight people that don’t have like Hasbro corporate overlords and we don’t have to answer it. So like, we can move a little bit faster in that sense. But it was interesting cause we were working on our book at the same time as, as they were working on monsters, the multi-verse and it was like, oh look, we thought of a lot of the same things that we’re we’re going to do.

So that was a fun.

Lucas: One of the places in which this approach to monster is focused very intensely is at the very bottom of the adventure. So if you get, and I believe this is still the case, that last mine’s offend delver is still part of the starter set. And it’s still the first experience that most people have with Dungeons and dragons.

And the first encounter in lost mine’s a fan delver is goblin ambush. And if you’re not careful, it is a TPK waiting to happen. Goblins occupy a remarkably influential place in the game relative to how they’re treated lore wise, to my mind. And I featured a couple of different goblins on the show, and I think designers gravitate to goblins for this reason that goblins have often been used as like the first thing you fight, you hit them and they turn you into level two and now you can fight something more interesting.

So I’ve never been entirely comfortable with goblins for that reason. Looking at goblins in that lens, what was it that drew you to add a whole bunch of goblins to flee mortals?

James Introcaso: One of the things is, we wanted to make goblins more interesting. So in terms of, foes in fifth edition, you’ve got the goblin and you’ve got the goblin boss and then, in Volos more goblins appear and that sort of thing, [00:12:00] but we wanted to make it so that goblins could be interesting.

And maybe you would stick with them as the villains of your campaign for several levels. But also to to help flesh out like this. Tactical nature of them, so that it’s not just, they charge it, you fully and wait to turn into bags of hit points and that sort of thing, and give them interesting things to do both inside of combat and out of combat so that you can really, have fun and have a memorable in counter, with goblins.

That’s why our preview document, that’s coming out for flee. Mortals has a lot of goblins in it. And the other thing is, you know, we’re, we’re famous for putting a little fourth edition into our stuff. So. For the addition has what are called roles for all of the creatures, right?

And the roles are things like soldier, which is kind of like a tank or lurker, which is sort of like a, you know, you hide in the shadows and then you pull out, you come out and attack or brute, which is your bag of hit points that hits really hard and has some other cool features. And so we’ve brought back monster roles to to use those, to help you build an encounter.

Because if you look at your thing and say, oh yeah, I’m going to use all of these creatures and you can say, okay, well, I don’t want it to just be all artillery because when my players run up into melee, The artillery won’t really be able to use their coolest things. So I’m going to have some artillery back here, and then in the frontline, I’m going to have some, soldiers and brutes to stop them and that sort of thing, and goblins have that capability now.

And so goblins are dangerous, they’re crafty, and they also can make like really good allies. So one of the things this book has is creatures that will adventure with you. And so in the goblin section, there’s a goblin retainer, which is a follower who joins your party and we’ll, we’ll come with you.

that’s a big, important thing for us is again, we wanted to say like, [00:14:00] are a bunch of different aspects of this sort of creature, particularly with humanoids. And here’s a bunch of different versions of them that you can use as allies or as foes. And you’ll create a fun and interesting encounter with them that will be memorable, but also will like increase your respect for the goblin a little bit. So that’s our hope.

Lucas: There is a conversation here about how about goblins is representations of the enemy other and,

James Introcaso: Sure.

Lucas: exotic races. And I would love to hit on that if you’re comfortable with it. But I

James Introcaso: I would. I would also like to acknowledge, that it’s two, white guys, talking about that in that sense too.

Lucas: Yeah. And again, I wear my biases on my sleeve with this show and part of the ways that I try to control for it is to talk to the people who designed the monster itself and just look at the conversation in the scope of how it’s represented in a single step block.

So there’s a lot here that we can’t do. And there’s a lot here that just relies on kind of tracing influences and seeing where this stuff has come from and being honest about what we’re working with. and actually that kind of leads me into my point because we therefore needed need to step blocks of work with, and I was particularly attracted to the idea of the goblin war spider. So paint me a picture, James, what is this thing?

James Introcaso: The war spider is if you a picture return of the king and the Ollyphants coming in, and and laying waste to the white city Gondor in, in Lord of the rings. Here’s the deal is that, it’s like that. But instead of an elephant, bringing in a bunch of warriors on its back, it is a giant, enormous spider, right?

Like bigger than a giant spider, huge, huge spider with this platform on its back and goblins firing arrows and throwing these little rodents called skitterlings And then the spider can also [00:16:00] like flex its abdomen and fire goblins off like warriors off into the air. Um, And it also has blades tied to its legs, the spider. Um, So as it’s going through it can, it can blade, blade you up. And so, yeah, so that is the, the war spider in a nutshell. The other thing is that when it dies a swarm of baby spiders burst forth from its abdomen.

Lucas: gross

James Introcaso: so, so yeah, and this

Lucas: James, why have you done this?

James Introcaso: that was Matt’s idea and but I fully endorse it. I do wanna, I do want to underline that I’m not going to, I’m not going to throw him under the bus cause I was like, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.” But so, and one of the things about me is that in real life I am an arachnophobe. And and sort of like Batman is scared of bats and wants his enemies to also fear bats, I want all players everywhere to share my fear of spiders.

And so that is what the war is spider really is, is you know, this idea of, we wanted a lot of different creatures to have like a war beast, what do they ride into war? And so the war spider is inspired by a Warhammer figure actually that, you know, D and D miniatures are very cool. But if you look at like Warhammer miniatures, there’s some weird stuff going on. And it was you

Lucas: clearly occupying a different they’re clearly playing on a different level there or

James Introcaso: Yes. Yes, exactly. Right. Well, and that’s their whole business is minis. And so that’s, there’s this miniature that is a spider with a platform on its back and a bunch of goblins. And Matt used it in one of his streamed games and we were like, we should make that an actual creature. And so that is what happens with the, with the war spider, a lot of fun.

Lucas: That’s remarkable. So there’s two influences already that we’re working with. One is just you as an author: here’s the thing that I hate. And the other is like, here is the toy that I had lying around to, to fit it onto the table itself to carry the game in the moment, which I think [00:18:00] is how we got a couple of, some of the classic D and D monsters. The rust monster is the most notable example that comes to mind.

But the other thing that I wanted to bring into this is we’re talking about roles and we’re talking about mounts in artillery, and there’s a whole lot of stuff here that has to do with the way wars are fought. And there may be there, there, there are certainly other capsules for culture and value.

And the, the things that, that Groups of people have access to., could you look back into history and I would trust Matt and MCD to do this and point to real world armies or battle tactics that relied on this kind of an engine of war?

James Introcaso: Yeah. Well, I think right when and taking the elephant comparison, right? Like thinking of Hannibal crossing the Alps on elephants to invade Rome, I think is probably like the most one of the most sort of like talked about examples. And one reason it’s talked about is I think like that’s a shock and awe tactic, right?

Elephants classically, when they get scared are like dangerous to be around, let alone try to ride somewhere. So it’s but, but that idea of like, you know, we have this really one of the things that. Many many, many people fear, right? Like arachnophobia easily is in the top three fears globally of people.

We have this thing we’re riding into battle. It’s part of the shock and awe experience. I think you see a lot, even in modern warfare, right? Like we, we want to have the biggest bombs or the biggest tank or the fastest fighter jet. A lot of that is not necessarily about it’s it’s used as a deterrent almost right.

Of like a don’t mess with us. You might think that we’re little in small, but look at, look at this. We have the biggest spider. And

Lucas: a value to it beyond the intrinsically it’s the fastest fighter and the biggest spider.

James Introcaso: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. [00:20:00] Exactly. So, you know, I think there is there’s a lot for that. And obviously we do turn to war quite a bit. And the reason we do that is because, you know, Dungeons and Dragons being the game that it is, you know, look at 90% of the class features that you get look at there’s a whole book of stat blocks for creatures, look at what most of the stats are telling you that the game is about, is a game that has a lot to do with the combat encounter and the combat experience. So we do look to that, but we want to acknowledge right in this book, that goblins. More than going to war and often they are, you know, like I said, most goblins I think are just like most people, they don’t want to go to war.

They have no desire to and when they take up arms, it’s probably to defend someone and that the goblet, but the goblins who are going to cross swords with adventurers are probably thieves and murderers and bandits and you know, all that kind of bad stuff that, you know, again, they might be working with humans, they might be working with any other elves dwarves, that kind of thing.

Lucas: Is there something that you added to the worst spider stat block that you’re really proud of?

James Introcaso: Yeah. So I I did most of the, the war spider stat block. So Matt created the baby burst, which is amazing, and that is what it’s called. But so I really love the ride launcher which is just a trait that they have that when a goblin or any allied rider, actually. So it doesn’t need to be a goblin.

You can use the war spider as you know, if you want to remove it from goblins, you totally can. And so any allied rider that jumps off the back of the spider has a long jump of 30 feet and a high jump of 15 feet. They land safely in the first melee attack that they make has advantage after leaping off the spider.

And so, yeah, and that’s like speaks to the fact that this is a mount, it’s, it’s trained to launch people off of it and and, and work with them. You know, as another trait called wide to back, which lets [00:22:00] essentially lets two creatures stand in a space instead of one, so it can carry more creatures on its back.

And then I do, you know, the bladed legs. I was really proud of just, just cause I think that’s pretty metal. That’s really all,

Lucas: Yeah, we’ve got a spider and we’ve got all,

this scrap metal lying around. We’re tying stuff to its legs, man. This is, this is happening.

James Introcaso: exactly, exactly. You know.

Lucas: Oh gosh, aesthetically, is there anything? Hmm. So the trouble with the monster manuals is that you’re trying to write this in a, in a way that any DM can use. But is there is there an aesthetic or or kind of a, kind of a look that you’re going for, or a genre that you’re pulling from, with the war spider and the way it’s laid out or the way it looks in your head?

James Introcaso: yeah, so that’s a, that is a good question. I think for me There are I used to work for National Geographic and I promise this is going to answer your question.

Lucas: All right. I’m on for this ride. Here we go.

James Introcaso: And there’s a show on National Geographic that I helped promote called Brain Games. And it’s, you know, it’s like a fun show you watch and they do games too. And, and you see how your brain reacts and they tell you about it. So one of the things they’ll do is they’ll say, alright, watch your TV. We’re going to run through a bunch of images very quickly. And they do do, do, do, do, do, do all these images at a clip. And they’ll say like, “Hey, did you see the yellow umbrella?”

No, you didn’t. The images went too fast. Did you see the, the blue pants? No, that, you know, and then they’ll say, okay, we’re going to do it again with a different series of images and they do it. And they have, again, a lot of mundane images, but within it, they put images of spiders and snakes and your brain.

I can pick those out. And the reason your brain can pick those out is because we evolved in a, in such a way that people who are already scared of snakes and spiders had a higher survival rate when we were, you know, humans who were living outside or hunting and gathering more often than we are now because we [00:24:00] avoided venomous creatures.

And so like, there is already something hardwired in evolution in our brains about spiders for us to fear them, not everybody, but, but many people like genetically fear spiders. And, and it’s a good thing because there might be less of us if we did not. So that is all to say the war spider has a look that is very similar to a real world spider. Because we wanted to invoke that, like you turn the page and you’re like, oh, what is that reaction? And I remember the first time I saw the war spider, I had like a like, whoa, what are we doing? And for a while, I actually couldn’t go into the artist chat because they were like sharing pictures of giant jury Angela’s and things like that to be like, yeah, no, the legs should look like this.

And the mandibles should look like this. And the but the thing that it has, right? Like the thing that makes it iconic is it has all of this gear on it. So it’s got this big platform on the back and that’s really iconic so that it can hold as many writers as possible. And then the legs you know, it’s not just a metal strap to the legs because the goblins.

Like the spider. They treat it well, they don’t want the spider to come eat them. And so the, the the blades are like first, she didn’t leather and tied to the leather. And then it’s, it’s almost like the spider is wearing little boots that allow its feet to be free so that it can still grip to stuff and everything, you know?

So like picture, picture of a boot that just covered your calf within a blade strapped to it. So that’s kind of the thing. Now, the goblins themselves have more of a distinct look. So we wanted to create like our own look for goblins.

Lucas: Yeah. Yeah.

James Introcaso: I think there’s some things about goblins that people can interpret certainly as like anti-Semitic right. I

Lucas: That’s been one of the big issues that came up before

James Introcaso: yeah,

Lucas: it’s fraut.

James Introcaso: It is, it is. And I certainly understand [00:26:00] it. And so one of the things that we did was like, okay, what if instead of a traditional, like goblin nose we went with goblins, have a more pronounced sort of jaw and an almost protrudes kind of like a canine thing. And their nose is actually kind of small and sits a top of that.

And then what if goblins also, like what if instead of caves all the time goblins were like arboreal, right? What, what, what would that look like if they lived more in trees? If they had evolved from creatures that had lived in trees, like maybe they have like sweet prehensile tales, or maybe they have, you know, what, maybe they have a posable toes.

And that’s where we ended up is that they have opposable toes and these like sort of longer arms that make them look more arboreal and they are also, they got fur. They have body hair. And so there and still, you can still look at them and you still know that there are goblin, they still have sort of some traditional elf ears that goblins often have.

And, and and you know, their skin is greenish, but it’s fur covered. And so, like, we wanted to make our own look for goblins. And I think it, it turned out pretty well. So, you know, you’ll see a lot of them in the packet. We, we have them, so, yeah, that’s cool.

Lucas: First of all, who did the art on this? Or, or did you have an artist that was assigned to goblins and the war spiders specifically?

James Introcaso: Yeah. So the war spider specifically was made by Nick Despain. And Nick is on staff here at MCM. So we have three artists on staff and we also work with contracted artists as well. And then the goblin look all three of our artists developed together. So, Jason Hazenauer, who is the art director, he’s the head of the art department here.

And Grace Chung and Nick Despain all work together to create the look for the goblins. And, and we went through like a concept art phase, right? Like there’s a lot of art that no one will ever see of, of our, well, I mean, you might maybe we’ll release like a concept art book or something that would be up to the art team if they wanted to do that.

But it was really fun because they would be [00:28:00] like, well, what does everybody think of this? And then the whole staff would weigh in and say, oh, I, you know, I think this, I think that. And the art team would say like, oh, okay, well, we’re going to go back where they’d say like, you’re wrong, James don’t w we’re going to keep going whatever.

And and so that was you know, that was how this all came together. And that was how the war spider came together too. There was a lot of talk about like, you know, should it be more fantastical? Should it be more, it should, it, should it itself have some of the features of the goblin we were developing.

And, and all that kind of stuff. And it turns out the answer was no, we wanted it to be like a big old spider. And it’s the worst thing possible that’s ever happened to me.

Lucas: Well, doing all this work for a new, a new look and a new design for goblins in general. Did that come with a section of lore that you guys had to write or a new take on it that ended up in a story section of this work?

James Introcaso: Yeah. So we have not a ton, you know, we have a lot of staff blocks and we have about the same amount of lore as you would expect to see in like the fifth edition monster

Lucas: So a few hundred words per.

James Introcaso: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But we do, our lore is I would say different than what you would find in the monster manual. You know, like I said, we start by, by talking really not about the goblins, you fight, but about goblins in general. And we say like all humanoid ancestries, many different goblins, many goblin cultures, each with their own ideals. We talk about that goblins you know, are one of the most numerous humanoids in the world. And they can be found in trees, ending caves and all over the place.

So we did do a little bit of our own sort of what our interpretation of the lore is and how we’d like to use it at M and our worlds and stuff like that. And then we talk, then we get into like, you know, in the third paragraph, we start talking about like, all right, so the goblins who face adventures in combat are like this, then we go down a little bit more and we talk about heroic goblins who who go on adventures themselves, what are they like?

And that sort of thing. So, and then we also get into there’s a special goblin. So Matt did a video a long time ago on [00:30:00] action-oriented creatures.

Lucas: I’ve referenced it several times on the show actually.

James Introcaso: oh, excellent. So we have an, so we have a lot of action-oriented monsters in the book. And in our preview the idea of action-oriented monsters is we wanted to give you, like, not just, Hey, here’s an action-oriented goblin, here’s an action-oriented, you know, Overmind or whatever.

We wanted to give you like, here’s the goblin boss and here is the action-oriented goblin boss. Her name is Queen Bargnott and here’s the lore about her and here’s what she’s about and that kind of thing. So we give you lore for this one specific goblin leader named Queen Bargnott then of course, you know, if you want to change Queen Bargnott into a different NPC, you’re welcome to do that and it’s and use her stat block.

Queen Bargnott as pictured in “Flee, Mortals!” Image Courtesy MCDM products

Lucas: Giant is another one of those words that gets a little bit more mileage in the monsters monster design space than it would elsewhere. So what kind of scale are we talking here? Just in terms of the monster itself and in the places in which it’s most effective?

James Introcaso: /sure. Yeah. So, so the war spider is huge in, in those terms, right? Your traditional guy giant spider is large in the monster manual. So, so huge. Our war spider is just a little bit bigger. And so, so these, again, this is this is a creature that is when used in combat, usually like being made to either defend against a law, a group of powerful people, or being used to like assault a compound or, or another army or something like that.

So you probably won’t find. War spider in every community of goblins, goblins who are invading places might have them or those who are worried about being invaded might have them. And, and that sort of thing, it’s kind of like, not everyone owns a tank or has the space

Lucas: Don’t

James Introcaso: Yeah, yeah. Or even like tanks aren’t effective in every [00:32:00] battle. That’s also the idea, right? This would be in a place that could accommodate a big creature that can run around. They have a an action called Trample where they move their speed and everything that they run over with their bladed leg, they get to attack.

And so it’s like, you, you need some room, you want some room for the spider and you ideally, you want some cool stuff that can be climbed. You know, you want ledges and, and because that’s the fun of a spider is that they can get to places that, you know, like an elephant can’t climb up the side of a cliff or a wall, but, oh man, if they had these war spiders at Helm’s Deep, let me tell you things would be a little different things would be a little different in Lord of the Rings.

Lucas: Is this meant to operate in kind of the M CDM broader theater of war? Is this like built for a thing that you guys do specifically, or do you expect people to just kind of have these big theaters built into their games already?

James Introcaso: It’s a great question. So this this book is a little different from Strongholds & Followers and Kingdoms & Warfare in that like Strongholds & Followers and Kingdoms & Warfare are these things that you can add on to your game. Probably pretty obvious from the titles, what they add to your game.

This is a book that we are pitching: you can use it in addition to your monster manual or in place of. The idea here is we’re not giving you a new, entirely new creatures, right? Every, like we said, everybody’s heard of a goblin before they’ve you probably fought them if they’ve ever played an RPG.

So the idea behind our book is that you could use it. Now there are also wholly original creatures in here as well that, to add some fun and excitement, and you can use our goblins with the goblins, from the monster manual, if you want to, right? Like you can mix match, you can do whatever you want, but the intent, our design intent is that you only need this book if you want to run the, the game as far as where are you going to get your creatures from?

So. That said it, of course does some things at differently. Because we are MCDM and we want [00:34:00] to add some things. So one of the first things that it does is we add these companion creatures retainers for humanoids that are like, you know, people who follow you around and the player who is the mentor to the retainer controls the retainer, right? Like you have a stat block, it’s much simpler to run than a character sheet, so you can run them along at the same time. And we’ve improved the retainer rules from Strongholds & Followers. And so our plan is to like revise them, you know, keep, keep going. And then when we’re happy with them, we’ll probably go back and revise, Strongholds & Followers to do there.

We also have companion creatures. And companion creatures are the same thing, but for non humanoids what you might say, sentient, but not sapient creatures. So, you know, owlbears and gelatinous cube, companion, and all that kind of stuff. We put out a bunch of companions already with our Beastheart class when that came out.

So you, you get a preview of that. We’re adding more of those to that book, new, like entirely new in this book will be minions. So we’ve been working on like it’s super fun to take on a whole. Good zombies. And so we wanted to be able to give you that feel of like cutting through a field of zombies or you know, skeletons or if you’re higher level, maybe fire giants.

And so, so this idea of minions and how do they work? Because in fifth edition, fourth edition, it was, they had one hit point, you hit them and you move on to the next blah, blah, blah. Pretty easy. Fifth edition has some rules that make that more difficult. So like, for instance, the sleep spell very effective against minions.

If everybody just has one hip point, you know, things like a wall of fire that just automatically do damage magic missile, right? Like you’re laying waste to millions in a way. It’s through play testing, we have learned is not as effective. So we have different ways of, of tackling that. And there is a, and then we have the action-oriented creatures, which are creatures meant to either be fought alone or creatures that are meant to be fought like as the [00:36:00] leader of a band in a climactic encounter.

And they have a couple of you know, underlings around them defending them and that sort of thing teammates. So, you know, that’s, those are the, those are the sort of the big things we’re bringing along with a couple of little innovations, like we’re moving CR to the top, right corner of the stat I don’t know, you know, and creature rolls and things like that. We’ll probably have some new encounter building rules to try to make encounter building a little easier and and that sort of thing, but that’s, you know, this is mostly about giving you really cool monsters to, to run in, in combat encounters so that you, you and your players.

The most enjoyment there. And one of the things that we’re doing right is we’ve learned some lessons. We tried to do that in kingdoms and warfare. We ended up with these massive, massive stack blocks that went across two pages and it was like, okay, we’re going to pair that down. We’re going to, we’re going to make it simpler.

Everything you need is on one page. But we’re also committed to like, we don’t want to give you a lot of spells. So you have to look up to shorten a stat block. So, you know, and again, this is the thing that comes up in monsters of the multi-verse. You know, we’re, we’re giving people more bespoke, custom features that are right there in the stat block.

Lucas: I want to park in the relationship to nature because we’ve, you know, you have the Beastheart, you have companions, you have mounts and you have your own work with National Geographic.

So, my work as a designer has spilled over into the intersection of, of tabletop role-playing games and natural history and how we kind of relate to those together. I wonder if the, the goblins and the war spider tell us anything to your mind and maybe to the, to the team at M CDM about how heroes and villains relate to the natural world.

James Introcaso: Yeah. I think, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, especially right now we’re living. In a time where nature is in trouble and in a way that nature is starting to hit back against humanity to, to sort of like, Hey, you got to stop [00:38:00] burning those fossil fuels or, or, or you will be wiped from the face of the earth.

And it’s scary. And I think I like, you know, so I think about every day sort of humanity’s relationship to nature in that respect, but also our relationship to nature in that. Like, I think we often think of ourselves, especially if we live in cities and, and drive cars and whatever like that, we’re separate that we are somehow not part of nature.

It’s wild because we are right. Like we’re living, breathing, farting creatures. And, and so we have this connection to this world that has made us. And I think sometimes we, we separate ourselves from that in a bad way. Like, oh, we have to save the earth. And we don’t think about like, we have to save us.

That’s what we’re talking about. It’s not like an act of good will we’re doing, it’s a it’s self preservation when we save the earth. And so I think when you think about it that way All of these things go hand in hand. And so when I think about heroes and when I like working with nature, I think often we see in fantasy movies, this idea that like the heroes are the ones who they’re not mining, right? Like they’re not pillaging the earth. And and that kind of thing, they’re, they’re going out there and they’re working with the ents to destroy Isengard for instance. That kind of thing. And I think it’s interesting to have villains who are not the ones who are doing that, who are like, Hey, see this spider? We actually treat this spider really well. And that’s why this spider works with us, not because we’re like, we’re mean to it and we’re kicking it and we’re whipping it or what, like that, that would never work a huge spider like that, that we would just eat. And so it means that goblins, even the ones who are going to be villains in this book have this relationship with nature that is deep.

And, and one that if you’re riding a war spider you understand, and is probably important because you have friends who are tied [00:40:00] to this, but it’s also something that is that, that is worth defending. And so I think you know, there’s scenarios in this book where it could be that like, Hey, you adventurers from the big city who are out here defending your mine; have you ever thought about what all of that runoff is doing to us down here in our, in our community here in the woods? And it’s like, wow, that’s, that’s cool stuff. And maybe you can get the players who are playing these heroes to think twice before they just go in with guns blazing. And so, that’s you know, I hope that answered your question.

Lucas: It did. Yeah. That kind of turn from applying a heroic attribute to, to to a creature that’s functioning in the role of the villain for the purposes of the story and all the questions that makes you ask as a player.


James Introcaso: So if you are interested in Flee Mortals, the MCDM monster book you can head on over to MCDM, where there will be more information there. Also if it’s afterwards, if you’re like, “Oh no, I missed the Kickstarter!” guess what? Backerkit’s up there, and we’re taking late pledges. So you can head on over there to to get your sweet, sweet book. It’s like an exclusive mini and stuff like that too, that people can check out, but MCDM will have all of the info you need.

Lucas: Thanks for listening to Making a Monster. If this show has earned five of your stars, please leave a rating on the podcast app of your choice and consider leaving a review as well. It’s a small thing, but it really does help new listeners find the show and take a chance on listening to a few episodes.

And I fully believe that if they get that far, I can keep them. You can learn more about the relationship between D and D and conservation by checking out Book of Extinction, a monster manual of extinct species, resurrected for D and D. Learn more at, or follow this podcast for more episodes in the Extinction series.

Thanks also to MCDM and James Introcaso for being a part of the show.

James Introcaso: Lucas, thank you so much, really for having me really, really fun.

Lucas: Yeah. I really [00:42:00] enjoyed our last interview. MCDM is, doing some really clever stuff. And you guys have your own outlook on the game and your own way of moving forward. So I was really excited to get to talk about the thing that you’re putting your efforts into.

James Introcaso: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Like, yeah, it’s just been it’s it’s this is what my life has been for a while now, this monster book. So it’s fun to be able to talk about it with somebody outside of M CDM too, and, and and see like, oh, okay. This is a good idea.

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