From publisher blurb:
Big, dumb animals aren’t scary. Sure, they can bite and claw and do other nasty things to hurt you, but there’s no innate malice there. Those sorts of creatures are just going about their business, doing what they do, and the adventurers unfortunately get in the way. The scary monsters are the humanoids, the ones who have personalities and motivations and very specific goals. They have bad intentions. They hold grudges. They’ll actively set out to mess you up.
It’s also easier to keep the roleplaying in a roleplaying game when you can interact with a genuine villain on a level other than swinging a sword, shooting and arrow, or casting a spell at him. You can kill a big dumb animal by rote, without feeling much more than a sense of security that it won’t hurt you or anyone else ever again. You can’t kill a humanoid that’s acted with intention, that’s made it’s personal, that you’ve had an actual conversation with, and not feel something. Anger, jealousy, disgust, a craving for justice, something. Humanoids are where the juicy, character-driven stories are at.
That’s why humanoids have always been my go-to monsters. Sure, I have encounters with other types of creatures, and work to make them as thrilling and challenging as possible, but the heart of every story has a person. When I need a wandering monster, it’s usually humanoids wandering around for some logical reason. When I need to adjust a challenge rating, I add in as many humanoids as needed. They’re flexible foes, and whether you’re in a city, a forest, a swamp, under the the sea or deep below the earth, it’s always easy to find a story context for them to be there.
As a gamemaster, the problem with humanoids is the same as with any other monster — players read the books. They know what to expect, and they know how to defeat any standard-issue creature you throw at them. A band of orcs? Yawn. Drow? Soldiers or nobles? Our job as gamemasters is to mix things up, keep players on their toes and keep the game interesting. Slaughtering the 500th kobold of the current campaign doesn’t get you there.
That’s why I put together the Monster Hide series. Each of these short, no-frills PDFs brings you 5 stat blocks for variant and alternate monsters, of one humanoid type. Mix and match them with the standard-issue foes to give your players some surprises. What do you mean, I hit it with an arrow for max damage and it’s still standing? What do you mean, the orc is 9 feet tall? Hold on, did you say the drow’s eyes were glowing red?