I was about six years old when I decided to ditch my flesh-and-blood friends in favor of my indistinguishable and unfamiliar ones. I came home from school one day and asked if my three new friends could come over and play.
"Did they get permission from their mothers?" Judy asked.
I could tell she was happy I had ditched that trio of bullies I was hell-bent on chumming up with. Perhaps these new friends would even be interested in riding bikes or playing dress-up rather than watching me organize my stuffed animals by height or play with an imaginary dog.
Mom was waiting on the front porch for me (I wasn't allowed to cross the street without an adult), handed me my after-school snack (Ring Dings), and proceeded to wait 25 minutes on the porch for my new friends to show up. When they failed to appear, she offered a comforting arm around my shoulders and an extra pack of Ring Dings.
"I'm sorry, sweetie," she said. "I don't think your new friends are coming today."
I grabbed the Ring Dings box and proceeded to lay them out on the step. "What do you mean? They're right here!"
Enter Monster with the Glasses, Red Monster, Bee Monster, and an exasperated mother who rolled her eyes, shook her head, and told me she'd be in the kitchen if we needed her.
I played with my monsters for many years. I pointed out their houses on our street and could sometimes be found on Mrs. Gimble's front porch chatting up Red Monster or lying in the sun on Bee Monster's expansive front lawn. Sometimes I was Monster with the Glasses. You could tell the difference between us because MwtG (for short) would wear his frames upside down. And he always brought my mother dandelions. He was a charmer, that Monster with the Glasses.
But mostly we just hung out in my room and talked. A lot. My monster friends were a loquacious bunch. We talked about the other kids at school and what books we wanted to read when we finally knew how. We talked about my mother and my father and my brother and how I wished I had a sister, freckles, and a different name (Toby).
When my mom knocked on my bedroom door for the third time just to make sure I really was alone, I requested more Ring Dings for Monster with the Glasses and Red Monster and an apple for Bee Monster.
"It turns out he's allergic to chocolate," I explained.
My mom never told me to stop talking to myself and get some real friends. She banked on the fact that this was a phase, and like my desire to be a waitress at Friendly's, this too would pass. She did make me tell her everything I knew about my monster friends so she could write it down on a legal pad she kept in the junk drawer. She was just trying to "get to know them," she said, in case I grew up to be a serial killer. "We want to have something to aid the police when questioning you."
It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally asked her what she really wanted with those notebooks.
"The way you described that one with the glasses made him sound eerily like your father's great-uncle Fabrezio, who supposedly died in the 60s. I always thought he faked his death to get out of paying decades of bad debt. We thought he was going to kidnap you for ransom money."
"Wow, sorry to scare you like that."
"Oh, we weren't scared," she said. "He owed us a lot of money, and I was determined to collect."
Looking back, I realize two things. (OK, three if you count the fact that I am not a serial killer.)
- My penchant for designing monsters and befriending them was most likely a result of being terrified of them. Is this not a juvenile version of "keeping your enemies close?" Pretty smart, huh?
- Someone should have introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons a lot sooner.
"Oh god yes," Judy said, when I told her my findings. "A game you play with actual people where it's okay to talk to imaginary animals and pretend to be elves and wizards? We should have sent you to Dungeons & Dragons camp."
She then went on to tell me that if no such camp exists, it should, because surely there are other parents going through the same struggles I put her through.
"Look into that, would you?" she suggested. "I could be a guest speaker."
I like to think that I was a "creative" child, like a junior game designer with bellbottoms and pigtails. I'm sure many D&D players grew up with similar stories. Isn't making up monsters and characters and backstories why we like the game?
Maybe it was all the fan letters Oso de la Fez received. (And yes, I do pass them on. That doesn't make me feel inadequate at all.) But after bringing that old bear to life, I was feeling a little design happy. I was missing the days of hanging with my monster pals and was dangerously close to inviting them over to dinner.
Imagine my delight when in a team meeting, I heard rumblings about something called the "D&D Monster Builder." At first I thought this was a new position in R&D. What a fun job that would be.
"Who is the new Monster Builder?" I asked Scott after the meeting.
"Not who, dum-dum," he said. "What."
He went on to explain this new tool was still in development, but it promised to do for DMs what the D&D Character Builder did for PCs.
"Make it so much fun to use you kind of hope your character bites it so you can build another one?"
In reality, the D&D Monster Builder is exactly what its name states: A digital tool used to customize old favorite monsters and create brand new ones.
"Custom monsters?" I asked. "Like anything you want?"
"That's the idea."
"Like maybe recreate some old friends?"
Scott shuddered. "Your friends might be too scary even for D&D."
Ignoring his last comment, I went on a mission. I needed to find this D&D Monster Builder. If anyone can come up with scary monsters, it's a woman. Like the monster that comes into your house in the middle of the night and replaces all your clothes with the same ones, only one size smaller -- EVIL!
I sent an email to R&D informing them that the Player-in-Chief needed a D&D Monster Builder tutorial ASAP. I left off the part about how it wasn't fair to the players that I discovered its existence as it approaches beta stage. Shouldn't I be in on these developments earlier? They must still be getting used to my new role.
The weird thing was that all of R&D seemed to be taking a vacation at the same time. Or so they claimed. All, that is, except Peter Schaefer, who is thankfully susceptible to promises of baked goods in exchange for favors. He agreed to let me take over his computer during lunch one Friday and tutor me in monster design.
After the program loaded, I scanned the list of monsters from the D&D Compendium, noting several monsters were left out.
"Nothing against the work you guys have already done, but I'd like to design my own." I told Peter about my clothes-shrinking monster.
"It's like constantly struggling into jeans fresh from the dryer," I explained. "Only without that warm, fabric-scented feeling."
"I would never let a monster like that get past development," he argued. "We need more women in the hobby, not fewer. Besides, my wife would kill me."
"Au contraire," I said. "That is exactly the kind of monster a woman would want to defeat."
And I'm not finished.
"What about the dysmorphic monster that casts disguise self right before you leave your house, causing you to think you look just fine until you get to work and realize you're wearing brown shoes with black pants."
"Or a Kiki!"
Peter slapped his palm against his cheek. "Not a Kiki! Wait. What's a Kiki?"
"She's the worst!" I said. "She's like a ventriloquist who makes me shout things at waiters like goat cheese ravioli in butter cream sauce when I mean to say field green salad, dressing on the side!
"And she keeps chocolate chips and Heath bars in my pantry just in case Bobby Flay shows up and wants to throw down with me!"
"I'm pretty sure Kiki is insubstantial and discorporates when bloodied, ensuring that she can return to plague you another time. A monster with discorporation can only be defeated under specific, usually epic, conditions. I bet those conditions include sticking with a healthy diet or becoming a nun or something terrible."
"I don't want her to have discorporation! I want her to go away for good! Kiki must be defeated!"
"You must quest to discover the Kiki's weaknesses. Armed with this knowledge, you can confront her with these vulnerabilities and, should you prevail in combat, defeat the Kiki for all time."
"Or you could stat her out like a minion and let me bring her down just by giving her the stinkeye," I offered.
Peter nodded. "I guess it is supposed to be fantasy."
Oh, don't worry. I'm not going to waste my one-on-one tutorial with R&D on sissy monsters like Kiki or the clothes-shrinker. I've got bigger monsters in my stable.
"His name is Monster with the Glasses," I told Peter. "And he's badass."
"Oh, wow, a monster who wears glasses?" Peter asked. "Is he defeated by drawing a moustache on his Princess Leia poster and stuffing him in a locker?"
I hope Peter isn't speaking from experience. He does wear glasses.
"Looks can be deceiving. One might remember a cuddly circus bear in a red fez, for example?"
"Fine," Peter conceded. "It's your monster. Who am I to mock?"
Let the creation begin!
First we determine MwtG's level. I chose level 7 because I want my group take him on. His hit points are calculated automatically.
Next we decided on his role. Because I told Peter about Bee Monster and Red Monster, he said MwtG shouldn't be a solo. Because he's also tougher than your average monster, though, we settled on making him elite.
"They're a tight-knit group, right? They probably like traveling together."
No doubt. At least that's how I've always seen them.
His origin is natural and, because he looks like an average guy with a monster's head, I clicked on "humanoid" under type.
Next we came to his role.
"He's very literary," I explained. Hence the glasses. "He looks like a college English professor."
"With a myopic monster head?" Peter asked.
"He wears a blazer with patches on the elbows."
"And a tweed newsboy cap."
"For sure. And he has a trusty English setter as a familiar."
"So his role," Peter said, bringing us back to the task at hand, "is determined by his power. How does he bring down his victims?"
Maybe by blowing pipe smoke in your face? I almost took out some guy outside Barnes & Noble for causing me to walk through his cloud of Burly Delight. But even secondhand smoke seems too aggressive for MwtG.
I thought of an old English professor I had who put the entire class into REM sleep just by writing Langston Hughes on the chalkboard.
"He bores you to death with bad poetry readings," I suggested. We named this power poetry slam.
"Ahh," Peter said. "He's a controller."
Phase one completed, we moved onto ability scores and skills. Monster with the Glasses no doubt has studied up on History. And because he was always in tune with how I felt as a kid, we gave him Insight as well.
His hit points and defenses were auto-generated based on his ability scores, but again, I had the option to customize them. Peter suggested we boost his Reflex defense, because someone with the intellect possessed by Monster with the Glasses clearly has the ability to think quickly on his feet.
"Is he resistant to anything?" Peter asked.
"Sticks and stones?" I suggested. Monster with the Glasses was the one to teach me to "p'shaw" Mara, Cara, and Tara's snarky insults. I loved those white pleather boots that they so viciously attacked. Anyway, Peter didn't think PCs use sticks and stones very often in combat. Clearly he's never seen my group play.
"Actually, it seems more appropriate that he's not resistant to anything," I suggested. "He's sensitive and scholarly."
"We should give him a ponytail that doubles as a shield," Peter suggested.
Because my monster friends were invisible but could see one another, MwtG was granted truesight, which gives him the ability to see invisible foes and allies up to 6 squares away.
Then we got to the real meat of my bespectacled monster pal. While his speed is normal, MwtG has studied quantum physics for many years.
"Can he teleport?" I asked.
"Absolutely," Peter said. "He should probably be able to teleport Bee Monster and Red Monster as well."
We called this quantum tunneling.
Peter showed me how to power up MwtG.
"This is the fun part," he promised.
Again I had the option of choosing from an a la carte menu, customizing anything from the list, or winging it on my own. It was really as simple as dragging from the power list to my personal monster menu. Knowing MwtG was going to be an illusionist, we searched the database using the key word "illusion."
"Anything you think might work, you can add to your holding pen and save it for use later," Peter explained. The holding pen is a feature of the D&D Monster Builder that is exactly what the name implies.
Monster with the Glasses was a bit unconventional already, so we opted to customize his powers using the ones from the D&D Compendium as inspiration. Anyone who's nearsighted has probably come face to doorframe on a nighttime trip to the bathroom and thought, "How did that doorframe get there?" Perhaps Monster with the Glasses put it there with his new at-will power, quick illusion. Not only does it deal psychic damage, but it knocks his target prone. Rapid illusion allows him to make two basic attacks. He is an elite monster, after all. And then there's my favorite -- shared astigmatism. When struck, a target can't see anything more than 2 squares away until the end of Monster with the Glasses' next turn.
With that, Monster with the Glasses got added to the list of monsters in Peter's monster database, which in theory means Peter can use MwtG in future encounters he designs. I should charge him royalties. How could he not use Monster with the Glasses in every encounter?
Creating my childhood pal took about an hour, but that's only because I asked so many questions and interrupted with tales of our adventures together. I know ... poor Peter. And this was supposed to be a favor. What can I say? Creating monsters for some of us is therapeutic. Just imagine how excited my mom will be when I tell her Monster with the Glasses really exists!
"Can we do Red Monster and Bee Monster another time?" I asked, not wanting to wear out my welcome.
"Of course," Peter said, probably blinded by visions of Paula Deen's Gooey Toffee Butter Cake (a surefire way to catch a Kiki monster).
I thought of Red Monster and Bee monster and Kiki and the Shrinker and all the other monsters I could conjure just waiting to be created ... and then slaughtered by vengeful characters. OK, maybe not the first two, but Kiki's definitely on my short list. Then a most puzzling feeling flooded through my veins. Uh oh. Looks like R&D has created another monster.
Monster with the Glasses
Level 7 Elite Controller
Medium natural humanoid
Initiative +4; Senses Perception +6; truesight
Charming Wit aura 1; enemies grant combat advantage while in the aura.
HP 154; Bloodied 77
AC 21; Fortitude 18; Reflex 20; Will 19
Saving Throws +2
Action Points 1
+11 vs. Will; 1d6 + 5 Psychic damage and the target is knocked prone.
Ranged 10; +11 vs. Will; 2d6 + 5 Psychic damage and the target cannot see anything more than 2 squares away until the end of the Monster with the Glasses' next turn.
The Monster with the Glasses makes two basic attacks.
Area burst 1 within 10 squares; +11 vs. Will; the target is slowed (save ends). First Failed Saving Throw: The target becomes unconscious (save ends).
The Monster with the Glasses and up to 2 allies within 10 squares of it can teleport up to 4 squares.
Alignment Unaligned; Languages --
Skills History +12, Insight +11
Str 13 (+4); Dex 13 (+4); Wis 16 (+6)
Con 13 (+4); Int 19 (+7); Cha 16 (+6)
About the Author
Shelly Mazzanoble's mother is mortified that her daughter chooses to share these humiliating childhood snippets. She wishes to remind everyone that Shelly was raised in the 70s, when things were a lot more relaxed, and she would never get away with this crap today.