I fall into this trap sometimes, where the bad guys are just armour class and a weapon. I've written a few tables for monster motivations, and I'm planning on trying to incorporate those more often.
When considering a mega dungeon (or atleast a bigger dungeon) its nice to have an idea of what the goals might be for a particular bad guy, or faction. Maybe those goals change over time? Maybe there are different goals for say the leader of the hobgoblins and his second in command?
This little post was inspired by reading the 1e DMG (and to a lesser degree some of the tables in the 5e DMG for npcs). That and I was flipping thru the monsters in B/X. What was striking me as I was skimming was not using monster typically. An example, let say the classic vampire. You can play a vampire the way we have always seen them portrayed, the angel of death, the monster masquerading as a human lord, Strahd, etc What if maybe the vampire was more like Louis from interview with the vampire? Maybe he wishes for death, and hasn't made his peace with being a vampire yet? Maybe he feeds on the local goblin populace only?
This has lead me to think about injecting a bit more personality into monsters, weather they are cannon fodder, or the "big bad".
In the adventure I'm currently writing, I'm writing tables for each of the factions within the dungeon. As an example there is a group of goblins that have been helping the local tavern owner smuggle gems out of the city for the thieves guild. (yah that's a excellent hook right!)
Now obviously the second in command goblin (let's call him Harold) wants to stop this nonsense and keep the pretty gems for themselves. At odds is the leader goblin, who is enjoying the money, and the suspense of smuggling stolen goods out of the city. What there end goal is though? hmm
Goblin Adventure Paths
1. The leader has had a change of heart and plans a big heist, taking the gems and stolen goods deep into the dungeon
2. The leader has fallen ill recently, Harold has decided to challenge him for leadership. The shaman requires someone to go off into the underground wilderness in search of a cure.
3. The settlement is going to move deeper underground, leaving their tyes to the surface world behind.
4. A raid is being planned on a dwarven kingdom
5. Some peons have found the entrance to an old human tomb.
6. The food supply has dwindled, and the goblins need to find more food, wether by stealing, or growing it.
Vampire Personality Quirks & Intrigue
1. Instead of seeking a cure for vampirism, the vampire enjoys reading stories of other vampires. Currently writing a book.
2. Enjoys finding new swimming holes.
3. Likes to communicate with the dead (even recently deceased victims). Holds seances with the local goblinoid populace.
4. Has a flair for the theatrical, and puts on one man musicals.
5. Has resigned itself to being immortal, however it's bride wants to die, or find a cure.
6. Has a pet medusa that it uses to create a wonderful maze filled with the deceased.
Obviously the above needs a bit of work, but what I've been thinking (and maybe its a bit to real world) is why are these bad guys under ground? what are they doing, how do they pass their day? what is their main goal in life? etc
Also what makes a mega dungeon a mega dungeon vs what is just a big dungeon? Probably a loaded question. I don't think 3 levels is a mega dungeon, but maybe 5? Or just lots and lots of rooms! I dunno, that's a thought for another day.
Just some thursday randomness for you.
Note: I'm currently writing an adventure. Yeah me! it's been awhile.