I often draw tabletop RPG inspiration from playing totally unrelated games. In the Pokemon game series, you can breed your Pokemon together for a variety of reasons. Breeders like cosmetics such as “shiny” alternative colored monsters and pokeball styles, stronger statistics, and even moves that they could not otherwise learn. Let’s focus on that last one.
What Are Egg Moves?
By breeding with a Pokemon of another species, your Pokemon can learn egg moves that they would not normally learn by leveling up. Breeding these egg moves gives the baby monster a more varied moveset that provides “coverage” against monster types they wouldn’t normally be effective against.
How can we adapt this to our tabletop? Varied options present varied tactics, which make more interesting monsters. For example, normal soldiers trained for 1-on-1 combat are less susceptible to being swarmed when they have a breath weapon. If we can combine monsters, we can shore up their weaknesses by giving them different combat options.
5th Edition D&D doesn’t really give us roadmaps for combining creatures the way they used to. For example, in 3rd Edition, there were templates for vampires and lycanthropes, celestials and fiends, all manner of undead (shadows, ghosts, skeletons, zombies, liches) and half-everything (especially dragons). These provided a great jumping off point for creating new monsters or combining existing monsters.
We get a little of this in 5th Edition. In fact, there is a half-dragon template (Monster Manual p. 180) and and NPC features table which includes some basic statistics for a few monstrous races (Dungeon Master’s Guide p. 282):
However, there aren’t many templates in the way we get for the Half-Dragon here.
Instead, the DMG provides us a roadmap for building our own monsters. In doing so, they give us an awesome spread full of egg moves! Here’s a little sample:
When combining monsters, don’t look for templates! Flip to page 280-281 of your DMG and pick out the most flavorful options that express the creature combination you want to make. If you don’t have an idea, this can be a great place to find inspiration. The chart gives you guidelines on how this will affect the Challenge Rating (CR) of your encounter, so that you don’t overtune your new monster for your party.