The world does not want to kill you. She made monsters to scare you from her wonders. They keep you in the village, and out of the woods. The monsters know a hundred colorful ways to scare you. Death is only the last one.

I’ve been thinking lately about what monsters want. About what a monster is willing to do to get what it wants, and how high killing you is on that list, if you get in their way.

I often put killing pretty low on the list, sometimes without even meaning to. I used to think this was a mistake, but I’ve since embraced these kinds of monsters. A monster doesn’t need to kill you to remain a monster. It just needs to threaten something you care about, such as…

  • Your stuff
  • Your time
  • Your comfort (You can think of this one as “changing the character’s life in some way they probably will find annoying at best, and horrifying at worst”. My favorite of the three.)

You’ll find the results in the table below threatens one of these three things. Multiply that by thirty-three. Here are a hundred ways a monster can hurt you:

  1. Eat all your food.
  2. Bury you, except for your head.
  3. Curse your gold. No merchant will trust you again if they catch you.
  4. Replace one of your eyes with their own.
  5. Explode in a shower of soot. It’ll take days to clean everything.
  6. Rip your bags to shreds.
  7. Give you an embarrassing nickname that sticks.
  8. Pee on all your stuff.
  9. Scream loudly. Something will surely hear.
  10. Poison your blood. You’ll begin convulsing soon.
  11. Spread a nasty rumor about you.
  12. Infect you with a disease.
  13. Give you bad luck for seven years, as if you’ve broken a mirror. All your critical successes turn to failures.
  14. Make you lose your way.
  15. Trap you in quicksand.
  16. Follow you around, waiting for a chance to cause trouble.
  17. Turn you into a tree for three days.
  18. Capture you. They’re taking you somewhere worse.
  19. Imprison you. You’re not leaving.
  20. Haunt your dreams.
  21. Make your back ache. You hunch in pain now.
  22. Tell you a bad joke. You can’t help but repeat it to the next person you meet.
  23. Maim you (hands, finger, feet, toes, legs, arms, noses, ears).
  24. Turn your bones to jelly.
  25. Make you stop feeling love.
  26. Make you stop feeling loved.
  27. Turn parts of you to stone.
  28. Entrance you. They make you love them.
  29. Sing you a very bad song for a very long time. You can’t get it out of your head. People don’t appreciate the humming.
  30. Force you to comprehend a terrible truth.
  31. Compel you to go down every road you find.
  32. Refuse to stop making small-talk.
  33. Make you swallow something disgusting.
  34. Put soot sprites in your bag. It’ll take days to clean everything.
  35. Make you lose sleep. They’re there when you close your eyes.
  36. Capture you. They’re going to teach you something.
  37. Steal your weapons. They’ve got sticky fingers.
  38. Give you something cute to take care of.
  39. Send you down the wrong path.
  40. Lead you to a trap.
  41. Tell you a safe path is trapped.
  42. Break your toes.
  43. Steal your clothes.
  44. Put you to sleep.
  45. Poison your food.
  46. Smash your things.
  47. Burn off your hair.
  48. Disintegrate your clothes. Even armor won’t fair well.
  49. Start a feud with you. Them and their family won’t forget your face or your name.
  50. Make you ugly.
  51. Take away your hearing.
  52. Swap your body with theirs. Or someone else’s.
  53. Turn your eyes witch-grey. Old people won’t trust you – they remember.
  54. Make you pee yourself.
  55. Make you pay for something you don’t need.
  56. Make you their torchbearer. Or a living torch.
  57. Burn your village.
  58. Turn you, or a parents, into a pig.
  59. Strangle you. You sound like a cigarette now.
  60. Give you a bird that won’t stop talking. It knows a lot of useful things, but it likes giving useless advice more.
  61. Entrance you with their dancing. You can’t look away.
  62. Challenge you to an endless duel.
  63. Deface something you hold dear.
  64. Put out your lights. Soak your torches.
  65. Eat your magic.
  66. Eat your memories.
  67. Make you stink like a bog. No one wants to be close to you.
  68. Cover you in oil. A spark would turn you into a torch.
  69. Swallow you whole and take you with them.
  70. Freeze you.
  71. Make you repeat yourself over, and over, and over.
  72. Make you shine brightly.
  73. Mimic someone you love, and twist it until you hate them.
  74. Steal your boots.
  75. Take your lucky charm.
  76. Turn you into a play-thing for their children.
  77. Tear apart your bags.
  78. Tell your greatest enemy where you are.
  79. Drag you under the earth.
  80. Set you on fire.
  81. Cut you one hundred tiny times.
  82. Capture you, and make you serve them.
  83. Make you do something for them. It’s probably dangerous or humiliating. Maybe both.
  84. Lock you in sweet, pleasant, psychedelic stupor.
  85. Make you sticky. Maybe they stick to you too.
  86. Eat your voice.
  87. Change your face. No one recognizes you anymore.
  88. Turn you against your closest friend.
  89. Make you sing. The voice isn’t yours.
  90. Turn your skin into a bed of fungus. It will slowly overtake you.
  91. Make all your metal rust.
  92. Leech off your blood.
  93. Die in an explosion, loud as fireworks of blood. Their blood is death itself.
  94. Nothing will ever satisfy you again.
  95. Make you very sweaty, and very moist. It’s highly uncomfortable.
  96. Put you in a maze.
  97. Tell your secrets.
  98. Do the single worst thing they possibly could in that moment.
  99. Raise you from the dead. You owe them a debt now.
  100. Kill you.

Answering “how” the monster does these things can help the threat click into place.

This table is most definitely skewed monsters that are feyish, intelligent, and tricksy because I like these monsters best. It’s easier to telegraph these threats if the monster can speak.

For more naturalistic monsters, it can take a bit of creativity to telegraph a non-lethal threat. I like thinking about what bits and bobs they have on their body that might be able to telegraph the threat. For example, “The creature in the middle of the path isn’t very large, but there’s a whiff of something the just smells terrible, and they have a flat, fluffy tail they look willing to lift at a moment’s notice.” (A skunk is a great non-lethal monster that still presents a threat. Nobody’s going to like you if you smell that bad, and it might be easier for more dangerous monsters to catch a whiff of you.)