Description vs. Naming

My home group’s Avalon game is, as most of you know, made up of gamers with many decades of D&D/overall gaming experience. I’ve found that if I lean into the DCC idea of describing the creatures instead of naming them, I’m still able to shock/surprise them and keep them guessing what exactly is is that they are fighting.

Those who played in my BS’er one shot Avalon game months back will recall the Kuo-toa planting eggs in people and such. So I’m totally ripping off Lovecraft’s descriptions of Deep Ones (hopping, braying, bleating, fish-frog creatures wearing hats and pants), doing everything I can to avoid naming the creatures. And it’s working wonderfully - The group isn’t sure what they are ever after three sessions of dealing with them.

I ask them and they thought, “Slaad?” Which made me happy that I can still surprise them :slight_smile:


I think the fact that I’m running Theatre of the Mind helps as well - no minis or figs on the table to give anything away. It’s all verbal descriptions only.


I use figs - LOTS of figs - but go out of my way to use “non standard” minis.
I love using tyrannids from warhammer for demons - that make my players go “What the F^&% is THAT!”

Warhammer, Hordes, anything lovecraftean, and I rarely name the creature unless there is a reason for the character to know what it is, unless it’s a giant or troll where it’s a creature from story that they would know.

That growling dog headed beastie: is it a gnolls / werewolf / jackawere / werehyena/ some sort of demon or devil / yeenogou himself??
You can’t tell in this crappy torchlight - but it’s growling loudly and advancing - and there is movement behind it and the crape of claws on stone - what do you do???

I also try & go out of my way to NOT confirm the creature type (again unless they would KNOW) - I find it keeps the players immersed in the campaign world - NOT at the gaming table going - “gnoll, 2 hd, probably 8-11 hp - we got this!!

I like to break out the visual & not explain…


My brother ran a 2e dungeon crawl where he kept the monster stats but changed the description of them. I’m still not sure what some of the things were originally. It definitely kept things fresh since we weren’t playing a side game of Monster manual trivia.