What do intelligent monsters do all day?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I'm going to take Mites because I love these dudes. The standard, unmodified mite is LE with an int of 8. They get Prestidigitation at will, Doom (DC 11) 1/day, have Vermin Empathy so they can work with/train Vermin, and get a Racial +4 to Sleight of Hand and Stealth. This all helps describe how to deal with them in a fight, cool.

What do they do the rest of the day?

Do they sit around all day just waiting for adventurers to attack them? Even if they do, are they just using Sleight of Hand and Prestidigitation to entertain one another? For example:

Mite activity ideas:
Milking Venom wrote:
Milking a single dose of poison from a creature takes 10 minutes of work and requires a successful Handle Animal check (DC = 10 + the donor’s Hit Dice + the donor’s Wisdom modifier). Failure by less than 5 indicates that the venom is not collected, but the handler suffers no other ill effect. Failure by 5 or more indicates that the creature bites, stings, or otherwise injects the handler with its venom. It automatically hits the handler with one of its natural attacks that delivers its poison, and it applies the effects of the attack normally. The creature might continue to attack the handler after doing so, possibly initiating combat. Milking venom from a cooperative intelligent creature doesn’t require a Handle Animal check but presents a 5% chance of exposure to the venom.

So a single mite from the Bestiary has Handle Animal +0 as a skill. If they've trained one of their venomous vermin to be a cooperative, intelligent creature (Vermin Empathy imparts a 1 Int so mites can train their vermin to be mounts; such vermin lose the Mindless ability at that time) then they automatically succeed but need to beat the 5% chance of exposure. If the vermin ISN'T considered cooperative, that still means that you just need extra mites, working with the milker, to add Aid Another bonuses.

Could these intelligent fey creatures spare 10 minutes a day, every day, to milk their pet spiders? Then say they want to preserve the venom; this requires proper equipment for Craft: Alchemy and making a Craft: Alchemy check equal to the DC of the poison. Giant spider venom is DC 14, so a team of mites could pull it off. After all... Craft is an Untrained skill so they can attempt to do it even without a rank in it.

And if these mites are spending some time preserving poison, what else could they be doing? Sleeping, eating, going to the little mites room... certainly; raising/training new vermin, probably; sneaking around trying to case mortal settlements in the dark without being killed, entirely possible.

Craft skills are always a Class skill for fey - a mite could trade out, say, Handle Animal for a single rank in a Craft skill for a +3 in the skill. Even without that, they can use the skill untrained and up to 4 can likely work together on a specific project. A single mite using Craft untrained with 3 friends giving an Aid Another bonus means they could hit a DC 15. A suit of leather armor is a DC 12; a light crossbow and the bolts are DC 15. This team of mites hits 4.5 worth of GP crafted/day so a set of leather armor takes 3 days, 10 bolts take a day and the light crossbow to fire them requires another 7.

A crossbow is a Simple weapon; fey are proficient with all Simple weapons. Leather armor has no Armor Check penalty so even not being proficient in the stuff a mite could wear the armor with no issues.

So if a group of 9-20 mites, sitting around in their lair, has 23 hours, 45 minutes a day to wait around for a band of adventurers to take them out, what do they use that time for?


Planning their vengeance
That they will soon unfold.


An efficiency checklist found on the wall of a mite's lair:

1. Shower
2. Brush teeth with spiderwebs
3. Practice juggling
4. Stare silently into the endless darkness, seething with the eternal, burning hatred for the gnomes who torture your very soul
5. bedtime

Any other discussions or should we just close this one out?


They are training giant termites to invade the neighboring Kobold communities.

They are constantly negotiating with gremlins to maintain a semblance of freedom from their more powerful cousins.

They are always trying to undermine and impede any dwarves or gnomes in their area, even if they are only capable of sending swarms of vermin into Dwarven mines or Gnome villages.


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I really like them, too. Made them the most important low level adversary for my current homebrew campaign - did turn out well.

Don't forget the mundane stuff: Searching for food. Preparing food. Eating. Sleeping. Talking with each other. Playing games with each other. Honing the weaponary.

As soon as you add a flavor of mitish behaviour to it, it becomes more interesting: Searching for vermin to eat, below rocks. Cooking weird soups from vermin. Eating rituals where the chieftain gets the yummiest bite first. Sleeping with moderately well-organized guard shifts. Blaming other mites for the failures at last expedition vs. the gnomes. Playing "warriors vs. kobolds", as kids, but also in a variant as adults, as preparation. Endlessly repairing the single dagger each one has.


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Making, cleaning and repairing clothing takes a surprising amount of time pre-industry. There'll be a lot of that - for making there's gathering whatever source of fiber is used, preparing it, possibly dyeing it (and making the dye if so), weaving it into cloth, cutting and sewing the cloth, maybe embroidering it. For mites most of this will be done by non-specialists (unskilled in PF terms) since they have pretty small groups. Stealing clothes will only save some steps considering their small size and non-human proportions.


Well, Mites are still fey and evil. So naturally they will capture some creature and torment it. Preferably enemies, but any weak creature will do.

Groups of mites will also spend inordinately large amounts of time encouraging each other to devise plans to gain revenge against any who have slighted the mites. Mites are petty villains, and they should act as such.

Also since Mites are weak and have inferiority complexes, their revenge plots may take the form of harassing their enemies rather than direct confrontation. Stealing items, ruining food, killing livestock, attempting to kidnap children. Anything that doesn't put them into direct combat is good.

And of course, the Mites will spend time trying to capture and train new vermin. A mite is much safer with a powerful pet to take the heat for it.


Mites are especially easy to play up and add an entire background existence to...

You have 20 or so to a tribe, with a level ~4 Blight Druid chieftain. I would probably have the Chief take a Mauler Familiar that fits the theme, like a Centipede or Scorpion.

Increasing the population of the tribe should be matched with a scaling increase in the chieftain's level... probably +3 levels per additional dozen members above the original 20 (to a maximum of level 13, regardless of overall population). Add a few 4th level Nature Fang Druids as captains at a rate of one per dozen members above the original 20.

Give any number of them, or all of them, the Blighted Fey template.

The tribe resides beneath a blighted Scythe Tree in the middle of a dense, dank part of Darkwood forest where the air is heavy and the sun never shines through the canopy.

The Mites have taken over a giant termite colony, using its multiple layers of tunnels and chambers to house the ever growing population of the tribe and their army of vermin... of which, the few surviving termites are now part of.

From the depths of their subterranean lair, the Mites embark on nocturnal missions foraging for food, and to bring in prized Giant Assassin Bugs and Giant Bombardier Beetles. As well as eradicating any Giant Ground Wasp hives in the area. During the
nights, there are coming of age competitions and challenges that younglings of all genders partake in. These usually involve bringing back various types of eggs from spiders and scorpions.

Days are spent doing the mundane everyday activities like preparing food and textiles, as well as infrastructure maintenance. In addition to the mundane chores of life, the daily routine of many Mites includes trying to domesticate Assassin Bugs and Bombardier Beetles without being reduced to a steaming pool of goo in the process.

Once trained, the vermin serve as mounts for the Mite warriors, giving the tribe a significant increase in effectiveness and the ability to harass, if not outright threaten, all within their sphere of influence.

Their territory extends as far as this blighted patch of forest. No one knows if the forest blighted the Mites, or if the Mites blighted the forest... at this point, they are one in the same.


VoodistMonk wrote:

Mites are especially easy to play up and add an entire background existence to...

You have 20 or so to a tribe, with a level ~4 Blight Druid chieftain. I would probably have the Chief take a Mauler Familiar that fits the theme, like a Centipede or Scorpion.

Increasing the population of the tribe should be matched with a scaling increase in the chieftain's level... probably +3 levels per additional dozen members above the original 20 (to a maximum of level 13, regardless of overall population). Add a few 4th level Nature Fang Druids as captains at a rate of one per dozen members above the original 20.

You're mixing CR 1 fodder with CR 3 leaders and a CR 12 boss? Anything that can legitimately take on a CR 12 boss can safely ignore the rest.

The concept isn't bad, but the numbers result in most of the 'dungeon' being a disappointing one sided slaughter followed by what I can only assume is suppose to be a lethal encounter that the rest of the dungeon doesn't prep the players for. Unless the purpose was to lull the players into a false sense of security?


Honestly, I just didn't balance it correctly. I wasn't really thinking too deeply about balancing the challenge rating of Mite culture while at work waiting for Revit to load and plus other excuses...

The chieftain should probably max out around 6-7... just a little higher CR than the Scythe Tree above their lair.

So, to get the Chief to max level, say the population of the tribe is 44, plus two level 4 Nature's Fang captains, and the level 7 Blight Druid chieftain...

Half of the general population are capable warriors, and half of them have some sort of medium sized Vermin mounts... that's 22 Mite warriors, 11 of which are mounted.

Both the captains and the chieftain are going to be mounted, as well, most likely.

Giant Assassin Bugs and Giant Bombardier Beetles are each CR 3 vermin, and would be the preferred mounts, at least for the captains and chieftain.

Plus, a good number of, if not all of, the capable warriors should be given the Blighted Fey template, just for fun.

They also can direct swarms, which immediately makes the entire encounter much more interesting... insert maniacal laugh here.


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To answer the original question in a broader, less monster specific, way...

Intelligent monsters spend their time:
Finding/preparing food.
Finding/fortifying shelter.
Establishing/maintaining territory.
Creating the next generation.
Training the next generation.
Taking care of the elderly.
Nose/butt picking.
Scheming...


Generally speaking, when you are designing a dungeon you should be vaguely concerned about "dungeon ecology". At least to the point that the day to day survival of the monsters you place in it seems possible. Beyond that...just focus on your plot.

A major reason elementals, undead and outsiders are popular for ancient sealed vaults is because they don't need anything to survive. Well, at least they don't need food or sleep.

For anything more normal you probably want to include some way to escape the immediate area, a water source, a latrine, and a storage of food. Probably somewhere the food is prepared and served too.

You can spend as much effort as you want to making a back story about this lair of monsters. Just try not to read a 5 page report to your players before they begin an encounter.


So... intelligent monsters don't use Craft or Profession skills, take magic item creation feats, or in general make anything other than shirts and nefarious plans? I mean, looking at setting material back in 1e D&D the drow had whole cities, unique crossbows, specialized poison, and mined a rare ore usable only deep underground.

Actually in PF 1e kobolds have a racial bonus to Profession: Miner and Craft: Traps, so I suppose that's what occupies their time. Between fights with dwarves and other underground monsters, draconic worship and general bree-yarking, I'm guessing kobolds collect ores and stone, forge mining tools, and turn the rest of their resources into dastardly traps and hazards to keep their many foes at bay.

Goblins, using the PF model of them, are far too chaotic and silly to create much. Several other intelligent humanoid foes though...

Maybe not even humanoids. Look at the Tatzlwyrm. They are draconic but are basically snakes with arms and an Int of 5, but they are described in the fluff as using simple traps like baiting an area and waiting in ambush. So Int 5, rudimentary trapping... perhaps it could also make nests, simple tools, snares or pits?

I guess I'm looking at this too mechanically but a typical day in PF means 8 hours of activity during which a PC or NPC can use their skills. Yes, most intelligent monsters would spend most of their time on basic survival - defending their lair, fighting other monsters for resources, making absolutely basic textiles and tools for this continued bare-bones existence. But how do kobolds, one of the physically weakest monsters in the game with a starting CR of 1/4 when receiving a level in an NPC class, get the expectation of being industrious professionals with jobs they ALSO do along with survival, yet, say, mites are essentially relegated to being ugly jesters that play with vermin all day?

I think this is why my players get mad at me. In my campaigns a group of mites is called a Tradition. I don't advance them like V-Monkley upthread suggested; instead there are multiple, small Traditions (each numbering up to 20 members) all live near one another in kind of an ancient Scandinavian Jarl system - mites look to their leader for protection and guidance, the Jarls of the Traditions tend their own and then meet with other Jarls to deal with threats to all the groups, and the individual mites can leave their clan and move to another if they support another Jarl and so on.

Anyway, mites in my games do stuff. Some trade out their Ride skill or even Handle Animal skill for ranks in Crafts. They use Simple weapons... all of the simple weapons. Some use slings or even spears, even though these are fairly weak choices, but some use crossbows despite my players' protests that this makes them "WAY too powerful for their CR!" Mites in my games use the Harvest Poison rules I mentioned above even though 5% of them poison themselves.

One Tradition is led by a Wondrous Item crafting sorceress. Despite a low Cha she is still level 3 and has crafted a couple of Cloaks of Disguise to carry decently convincing disguises in. A couple of mites in her Tradition are slightly smarter, though less wise (reskinned to raise Int to 10, lower Wis to 11). These mites have learned to speak Common, wear their mistress' disguises, and go about among mortals at night or on cloudy days, gathering information.

Mostly these mite Traditions keep to themselves, nursing grudges with dwarves they likely won't ever do anything about and being petty, but they're far from dumb savages. Mites in my games read and write, keep records about the people who've wronged them, and stay pretty well organized. They have learned to be industrious and work together; they spend a LOT of time around insects after all. Aid Another is as much a way of life as Sleight of Hand and Stealth are.

When the Traditions get together for fey moots and revels, they trade among themselves. If one Tradition has cobbled together an alchemist's lab and one or two of them have traded out Ride for Craft: Alchemy, that Tradition might offer poisons, Acid or Tanglefoot Bags for food or information from their neighbors. Mite lairs often house communal libraries with REALLY tall shelves. They use Prestidigitation to conjure up unique smells that they mark everything with; one Tradition might have all their textiles smell like sulfur and brimstone, another marks their trail with the scent of wet dog and so forth.

I like to take the strengths of an intelligent monster and imagine: if they had a year, five years, 20 years to establish a lair... what would that look like? What would they be doing with all that time? And by "strengths" I don't just mean what their racial skill bonuses are, but what abilities do they have, what are their racial traits, if they're defined by their class what can that class actually DO? From there I look at the fluff, the typical alignment of the creature listed and put it all together for something a bit more than "they go out and ambush adventurers WAY more powerful than themselves on the regular or wait around their lairs to get wiped out."

Just consider one thing from this whole rant of mine - Knowledge: Local. For instance, did you know that Knowledge: Local is a Class skill for the Fey and many classes, both PC and NPC? Did you also know that Knowledge: Local can be used to identify humanoids, local traditions and notable celebrities? A Tradition of mites could, conceivably, be able to redistribute the points of one of their members or just have that skill on their leader and then identify the PCs if they're well known enough. Then later, when PCs walk into an ambush and the mites have prepped SPECIFICALLY for them and their unique abilities...


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Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
So... intelligent monsters don't use Craft or Profession skills, take magic item creation feats, or in general make anything other than shirts and nefarious plans? I mean, looking at setting material back in 1e D&D the drow had whole cities, unique crossbows, specialized poison, and mined a rare ore usable only deep underground.

And they did all of that before skills were introduced. I think that demonstrates what is wrong with the GMs of today. They depend on skills and feats and talents and rules to define what their PCs and Monsters are capable of.

Throw off the shackles of the system. Embrace the imagination that spawned these games you are playing. Together we will tell a new story. We will create a Players paradise. Throw off the shackles of the GMs and rise to become your own Game Master! Power to the People! Long live the Role Player United Front...

...ahem. Sorry about that. It just kind of happened.


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Preach!

I'm with you.

Viva la revolution!


Rilli-Ril: I AGREE with you. Monsters SHOULD be doing that kind of stuff, regardless of skills. That's kind of why I made this thread. Why don't they?

Yes, in MY games mites do all the stuff I listed above. By RAW though, having them make poison or crossbows to use technically gives them damage capability beyond what the Bestiary says so there's a suggestion under the CR section that by altering these things I should increase the CR of the monster.

This is where my players lose their minds, leading to actual heated moments with me at the table that I had to ask we take offline. See, my contention is that if 4 PCs can optimize to the nines, especially in MY games since I allow rolled stats and one of the players rolled so well his character began the game with a nearly 50 Pt Buy, I feel like throwing 4 kobold warrior 1 victims into their meatgrinder isn't very sporting.

For this reason, when the game opened on these level 1 PCs that were hitting with +7 to hit and dealing 1d12 +13 to damage on a single melee attack, even a wizard who could use one of their 4 starting scrolls of Gravity Bow to attack with a longbow at +5 to hit and deal 2d6 +1 damage from 30' away... from the WIZARD... that's when I was like "maybe the kobolds aren't just standing around with spears" and had them making shortbows for themselves.

I foreshadowed this by saying that a local bowyer had gone missing some months back; that yew trees in the wilds were cut down as the PCs explored; that Small sized arrows with black fletching were found in a corpse left looted in the bushes on the side of the road. Still, when the PCs arrived and found the kobolds' lair being a reinforced ruin in the middle of a small swamp lake and said kobolds started firing arrows at them from the walls... the players unloaded on me with both barrels.

So yes; I think folks should unshackle themselves from the constraints of RAW or whatever. If a group of mites, or kobolds, or at least non-goblin-tempered intelligent creatures have had months or even years to dig themselves into an area, I think it's silly to think they have only been picking their noses, darning their socks, fighting off other monsters in the area, and training their young to do the same for ALL of that time.

If the monster is small and stealthy, like mites, and ESPECIALLY if they get a racial bonus to Sleight of Hand checks by RAW, why is it crazy to think they've snuck into nearby mortal settlements and stolen things OTHER than clothes, food, and shiny coins? If the settlement has Simple weapon wielding, Small sized NPCs, is it so nuts to think that these mites pick-pocketed said NPC's light crossbow (which, while expensive, only weighs 2 LBs and is thus a target for Sleight of Hand) and maybe some bolts? Or stole it off a cart... or broke into a store... or mugged a lone traveler for one?

If, on the other hand, the monster is called out in it's fluff for loving to scare and torment folks like a bugbear, why wouldn't they have used stealth and intimidation to find out local information on who to target (Knowledge: Local) and start selling their info to the highest bidder? If they've learned a bit about local societies, why couldn't they have better weapons or armor to be better thugs? Why wouldn't they set up a black market among other evil humanoids to trade not only in information, or slave labor, but also in poisons, toxins, brutal potions and such?

In short... if PCs can optimize, based on their strengths and their builds, why can't intelligent monsters use their Downtime to do the same. Or, not in game terms, why can't monsters be more like 1e Drow?


I could see evil monsters having some really messed up sports. Like frost giants having seal clubbing contests.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Relevant!

As LE creatures, they probably spend good chunk of time in various organized/organizing activities: building, farming/foraging, gathering, hunting, mining, planning, scavenging, scouting, training, trapmaking, etc. They probably also have a "traditional" view on leisure (as a "reward" for higher status) and are likely to have a lot of influence trading/politicking and various dominance/submission rituals that provide mechanisms to gain/lose status (contests, duels, etc.).

Scarab Sages

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Yqatuba wrote:
I could see evil monsters having some really messed up sports. Like frost giants having seal clubbing contests.

"And we gather here today for the annual human toss. Smart money is on Flargol the mangler who set a new record last year tossing the human 649 feet before hitting the ground."


If your PCs are having issues with monsters that aren't *exactly* like in the bestiary... you may have some deeper issues on your hands to be honest.

It should be acceptable, no, *expected* for the DM to adjust the monsters to better fit the story or scenario.


"Why can't monsters be more like 1e Drow?"

Maybe it's my memory that's going, but weren't 1e drow worth more XP than say 1e orcs? Whereas now, Common Orc (1 HD humanoid warrior 1) and common Drow (also 1 HD Humanoid warrior 1) are worth the same XP?

It's certainly completely sensible to play mites to the limit of their capabilities in game, but you then are left with explaining why all the other critters aren't also played to the limit of their capabilities. If you do play your critters to the limits of their capabilities, your party is probably in terrible trouble as soon as you get to around CR7 and things like succubi... They're as intelligent as anybody you can think of (int 18 - which statistically, is likely more intelligent than the DM), and have the assorted abilities to play societies like a lute... at that the campaign tends to come apart, with PC's being crushed by all of human society...


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:


This is where my players lose their minds, leading to actual heated moments with me at the table that I had to ask we take offline. See, my contention is that if 4 PCs can optimize to the nines, especially in MY games since I allow rolled stats and one of the players rolled so well his character began the game with a nearly 50 Pt Buy, I feel like throwing 4 kobold warrior 1 victims into their meatgrinder isn't very sporting.

The monsters having a full and fufilling lifestyle and dealing with a party that over optimizes are two different things. Honestly, if all you did was have the kobolts use Shortbows and some fortifications I think your players are over reacting. I suspect you did a little bit more that we haven't been told.

Either way, if your group is seriously OP then the solution is to make the monsters more powerful. If you are going from a book, just double all of the encounters. Otherwise raise the CR by 1 or 2 for each encounter. Don't increase the treasure. Give the party full xp.


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Ironically, monsters play tabletop games all day. Adventurers are killing the hobby.

Who's the real monsters now?

The monsters. Because they're monsters, obviously.


Giving the party a nest of Goblin babies for them to Fireball is one thing, it's an easy enough choice... who has the marshmallows?

Now, have the party kick in the door to find a group of adult neck-beard Orcs huddled around a table...

The table is covered in trinkets and what-have-you's and some sort of map that cannot be identified from your position. The Orc with his back to you starts to turn, as you see his ugly face, he pushes an ugly pair of taped up glasses further up on his ugly nose. He knocks over a cup of bubbly liquid with his elbow as he adjusts his glasses. The rest of the Orcs scramble to save the map and trinkets...

What does the party do?


The average human has an Int of 10 and spends the bulk of their day browsing the internet farming, crafting, gossiping with neighbors, etc. I imagine it's the same for most intelligent critters. Not everyone is part of a raiding party.

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