Sunday 23 October 2011

A database of old-school monsters?

I've recently been musing on the possibility of creating encounter tables for specific dungeon environments -- in the same way as there are tons of tables for various types of wilderness environments, from swamps to arctic tundra, I thought it'd be very useful to have tables for things like fungoid caverns, volcanic rifts, lost tombs, etc. There's loads of prototypical dungeon environments which could easily have their own table.

I had in mind using these tables as an aid while stocking dungeons, for which I often use the normal dungeon encounter tables. I tend to find these a little limited and generic though, hence the idea of different tables for different types of dungeon.

But: I just had what seems like an even better idea, and one that could be immensely useful for all sorts of things.

An online old-school monster database, with tags.

The tags are the important thing. The fact that monsters are usually only indexed by name is what makes coming up with suitably themed collections of them tricky. I realised this when looking at the extensive monster lists in the AD&D Monster Manual II. There's this huge list of monster names, sorted alphabetically or by hit dice or by wilderness environment. But to use the lists successfully you really need to know what the monsters are like, just from their names. For instance, I came across quite a few stumbling blocks in the list of 1st level dungeon monsters: rothe, vilstrak, vulchling, tween...? A lookup in the fiend folio and I now know what these things are, but it's slow work.

But what if there were a database where you could just search for monsters of 1 to 3 HD with the tags "fungus" or "whimsical"? Such a tool could be used to whip up encounter tables in a jiffy, or to get quick inspiration for encounters of any sort. I think this could be a seriously useful tool, if set up right.

So, a couple of questions:
  1. Does anyone know if anything like this already exists? (I've never heard of anything like it, but you never know... I imagine possibly a resource like this may exist for 3.5th or 4th edition.)
  2. Any thoughts on what software / system would be good for something like this? A freely available, easy to use, multi-user, wiki-style, online system would be perfect, but something that works as a database as opposed to a page / post based wiki or blog.
I'd imagine including a foundation of monsters from the OSR clone books (LL, AEC, S&W, OSRIC), supplemented with links to any freely available old-school OGL stuff that could be found online. (Possibly also stuff from the AD&D monster books, though that's not freely available.) The idea is that at the beginning it'd simply be a list of all the monsters (their names, hit dice and source -- either a url or a page reference in a book), but that then people could add tags to them, gradually increasing the worth of the database.

Any thoughts?


  1. The sulerin Encounter Maker has Monsters from second edition up to 3.5.

    The Monstrous Index lists all sourcebooks where these beasts have been seen, even bevore 2e, with short descriptions but without stats.

    Don't know if this helps.

  2. I'd be willing to help set up a wiki with a page per monster, tags, and pages listing monsters by tags. It would end up on I'm sure I could seed it with LL monsters from the source files. What do you think?

  3. How about this? I stayed up way too long. What it needs is volunteers going through the monsters and tagging them.
    And people adding more monsters.

  4. :D !!! Alex that is awesome! Thanks so much! I'll send you an email to chat about it...

  5. This is a great idea. Stumbled across it in the Links to Wisdom wiki.


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