So I’m working my way through Oblivion, which is an incredibly rich game, and I was mildly disappointed that the first thing I got to fight was giant rats. You know, just like every other fantasy RPG, whether video game or tabletop.

Sure, that won’t spoil what I expect to be a great game — and it won’t spoil what your players expect to be a great campaign. But even though it can be a bit of a challenge to get out of this somewhat comfortable rut, it’s worth it.

Every genre has its own stock, straight-off-the shelf weenie monsters: rats, giant bugs and skeletons in fantasy games, human cultists in Call of Cthulhu, street punks in a cyberpunk game, etc. Next time you’re sketching out an adventure for new PCs, or running a published scenario, spend half an hour adding some zip to the baddies — and if possible, avoid the giant rats entirely.