Large systems often ask players to monster for a bit, to provide more crew for encounters or plot.
This is entirely reasonable.
Kitting up large numbers of monsters is hard. Especially when they all turn up looking generic. You typically want a range of looks to be able to show people a bit of variety in the world they’re currently inhabiting, and that requires planning, work and money to pull off.
One of the ways we do this is with facepaint. This happens because in a fantasy world people want to be facing fantasy enemies, and masks, are always going to cost money. If you have to put 100 people in masks it’s going to cost you thousands (at Mandala we will offer you a bulk discount and provide products tailored to your specific needs 🙂 ).
Players will ask to help. They’ll want to know what to wear etc, but actually, planning far enough ahead to be able to tell players that they’ll be ogres for monster slot one and some kind of fairy for monster slot two is really hard, and people get annoyed when you’ve said “we’ll be having celtic monsters this event” and they’ve turned up in nice celtic kit to find that they’re the group playing space marines, or that a player has pressed a button and everyone’s some kind of fish thing.
People monstering don’t want to have their faces painted. They ask you to avoid the eyes, the hairline and other bits that are hard to clean. They also tend not to paint the hands and the neckline. This results in rubbish looking monsters. The most important bits to paint are around the eyes and the mouth. Leaving the neck unpainted just looks rubbish, and draws attention to the poor quality of your monster. However, there are ways around it.
Players who don’t want their hair, or neckline painting can make an effort to cover them. We’ve used snoods made of stockinette before, but there’s a variety of ways you can hide the neck line, protect your kit and reduce the area that needs painting. It’s similar for hoods and head coverings. If we won’t be able to see the back of you neck we don’t need to paint it. Wear gloves and have paint free hands!
With monsters, if there’s a large number you need to get them made up fast. You haven’t got time for delicate shading, and that leads to more of the one colour makeup monsters. I like to think we can move on from that. Admittedly, you don’t want to be having to apply 4-5 layers to your monsters and you ideally want a sponge, not a brush. I would welcome suggestions as to how we do a variety of looks using 2-3 colours of face paint.
Giving your monsters a good look is like giving your monsters a good background. It’s as important as why they’re there and why the players are fighting with/ talking to them. You don’t want the red monsters, the green ones and the grey ones. You want the tough and crude ones, and the ones that think before they act. The ones that use mercenaries and the mercenary tribes that have grown up in their shadow. This gives the people playing them something to build on, and the player characters something to relate to.
If you’re starting an arc with 2-3 of a monster you can probably get pretty good kit. When this arc moves to having 20, 50, or 400 of the same monster at the same time you need to be able to link the kit back to its origin. You need to be able to provide enough costume that everyone can look right, and that you have enough ‘hero’ monsters who look outstanding and can be the npc face of the enemy. There is a place for back ground monsters, but there has to be a limit. There has to be a lowest acceptable monster, beyond which your token effort is just a little bit pointless.