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Monster Submission Guide

New monsters need to make the game better -- because hey, why would we want to make it worse?

Here's how to get your monster accepted.
Updated, end of 2015, by Sessine.

The Big Questions

The ones that you should ask yourself when you submit a monster.

  • Is this funny?
  • If it isn't funny, is it exciting?
  • Is it different from other monsters in the game?
  • Does it tell a little story?
  • Does it paint a vivid word-picture?
  • Is the win-message part of the story?1)2)

Good advice

  • Instead of submitting immediately, wait a bit and read through your description again. Then read it again, aloud.

Remember the audience

Improbable Island's player base is diverse. Don't submit ideas that only work if the reader is a certain gender, or a certain age.

Don't submit monsters that will make some players feel the game is being nasty about them personally, either. That's an automatic Reject right there.

There are about 400 monsters in the game. Players can rack up monster kills in the tens or hundreds of thousands. You do the math! Think about how your monster will look on first reading, sure, but also how it'll stand up to repeated exposure.

If it is accepted, players are going to see it many thousands of times -- and even more, if it's at a lower level. They're not going to read the description every time, you can't expect that. Your goal is to make them smile when they see your monster's name flash by, and occasionally stop to enjoy the description again. If you can do that, you've got a winner!

Polish your first line until it's shiny

  • You're walking through the Jungle, minding your own business, when suddenly.. .
  • You hear a noise behind you, and spin around only to find.. .
  • As you wander through the Jungle looking for something to kill.. .

The player already knows that they're wandering through the Jungle. They determined that when they clicked on the "Look for Trouble" link. Just leave it out! Start with something that will catch the player's eye.

If you don't, and yet the rest of your monster is otherwise good enough to be accepted, we3) will delete the redundant beginning anyway before we put it into the game. Hey, it's happened. But you're taking your chances.

Most of the monsters that are still in limbo, neither accepted or rejected, are there because they have something, they're making us go hmm, maybe... but we haven't been able to think of how to fix them. Don't wait for us to come up with a snappy beginning. Fix your monster yourself! Never be afraid to submit a re-write.

Tighten up your prose

A monster description should contain all the words it needs to create its intended effect -- and not one word more. Do a pass over your description making sure every part of every sentence is pulling its weight.

Format it to be readable

Yes, we'll read all submissions. And yes, we'll edit submissions that nearly make the grade to work better on the Island, including but not limited to edits in punctuation, spelling, and formatting. You'll still have a better chance of us even noticing that your monster is funny if it's already looking good when we see it.

Don't use a word processor to draft your monster

If you use a word processor to draft your monster and then copy-paste it into the submission box, we'll just end up having to go through it to change all the 'helpful' special characters the word processor has inserted (smart quotes, single-character ellipses, stuff like that).

Use this instead...

The Island now has a very handy Preview page that you can use without being logged in. It understands colour codes and everything. Bookmark the link! You can find it here!

This is how to format

Use `n for new lines (generally we do double newlines to indicate paragraph breaks (ie `n`n)). Don't use 'n instead of `n (use the same key you use for colour codes, not the apostrophe). Don't put a carriage return anywhere in your submission - it should be one long line of text (use a large hammer to disable your Enter key if that's what it takes). Don't put a space before or after `n. Don't put a space in between two `n's. Don't begin or end your submission with `n. Player dialogue uses `#, monster dialogue uses `5, win/defeat message automatically start with `&, everything else is `0. (Very important: That last code is zero, not the lower-case letter 'o' which is an invalid colour code that will mess up your monster description.) Dialogue is colour-coded within the quotation marks.

Here is an example of a well-formatted monster submission:

You tread carefully through the Jungle, knowing that all monster submissions start off with our hero going about their business in the Jungle. Abruptly you hear a voice.`n`n"`5Oi mate!`0"`n`nYou spin around. A little man sits on a rock, smoking a pipe.`n`n"`5Don't you know this'll never get accepted?`0"`n`n"`#Why not?!`0" you demand.`n`n"`5Because it's just like all the other bloody submissions we get - player minds their own business, hears a voice, spins around, has a conversation, engages in battle against a fairly mundane foe for no good reason.`0"`n`nHis smart-arse grin enrages you. "`#AAAAARGH!`0" You attack!

All on one line. No smart quotes or special characters. Correct colour codes in the right places. Doesn't begin or end with a `n. This is the right formatting. Try pasting it into the Preview page linked above. See? Magic!

It'll still get rejected, mind, 'cause it's one of many.. .

Terrible Monster Suggestions!

When we opened up the Monster Submission Hut in Season One, we did so with the caveat that we would only accept a maximum of half the submissions we received. The actual ratio turned out to be more like one in thirty, because folks kept submitting the same damn things. Things that are not funny, not Improbable, and not particularly interesting. Here is a partial list of things that will never, ever be accepted:4)

  • Your annoying homework.
  • Your annoying teacher or college lecturer.
  • Your annoying parent.
  • Your annoying relative.
  • Your annoying boss.
  • Your annoying co-worker.
  • Your annoying flatmate.
  • Your annoying ex.

Things that are annoying aren't funny, they're just annoying. Things that relate to you in particular are both annoying and bewildering to other players.

  • Random Attack Hedgehog
  • Random Attack Squirrel
  • Random Attack Joker
  • Random Attack *
  • Random *

Random != funny. Random just = random. Random * 100 = boring.

  • Server lag.
  • Computer viruses.
  • The blue screen of death.
  • Windows Vista.5)6)
  • Hitler.
  • People who post XKCD references in an official wiki guide.7)
  • badnav.php

Before you submit a monster, ask yourself: Is it funny, or is it just another thing to be knocked down? If it's just a target, then it's not interesting.

  • Cats that can't spell.
  • Cakes that lie or that are lies.
  • Gentlemen that quietly inform you that all your base are belong to them.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android
  • Cross-Dressing Lumberjack
  • Daffyd, the Only Gay in the Village
  • Basil Fawlty
  • Chun Li
  • Pokemon

We have more than enough pop culture references as it is. Some players won't get them because they're not familiar with that part of culture. Others are going to go, "Ho-hum." They also go stale, really fast. And if the only reason they're there is to be knocked down because they're annoying, well, see above: Annoying.

If you are bound and determined to submit a pop culture reference anyway, we're setting the bar high. You're going to have to write something that would still work as a monster even if the thing you're referencing had never existed. "Huh, that's a really weird monster," is an okay reaction from someone who doesn't get the reference, as long as it's followed by, "But hey, it's fun."

In other words, you can't just invoke the coolness or funniness of something by alluding to it. You have to re-create it, in miniature, in your monster description. Or at least write it so that it still works for someone who's never heard of the original.

  • Evil Republican
  • Wimpy Democrat
  • Unrealistic Libertarian
  • Cowardly Non-Voter
  • Insane Westborough Baptist Church Member

Leaving aside the politics for the moment, Improbable Island is set in a post-EMP-disaster future. After such a world-shaking event (and after sixty or seventy years of time passing), these concepts either no longer exist, are no longer relevant, or have changed so dramatically from present times that you wouldn't recognise them.

  • Slightly Different Lion
  • Other Self, Yet Again
  • Minor Variation on Some Existing Monster
  • Reference to Yet Another Island Feature

The Sneaky Bastard Lions were written as a connected series of encounters by CMJ himself. We're not going to diminish their impact by accepting imitators. That category is closed.8)

We also have as many Other Self monsters as the game can handle.

For a while, we've been adding new monsters that link to other monsters, or to features of the game, or to common player reactions to the game. These can be amusing, but we're starting to feel that this category is just about full up, too. If that's the only point to the monster, the joke is getting less and less funny. Additional encounters along those lines are now being squinted at quite a bit more critically.

Still, do try to make your monster in some way connected to the Island.

Other Points

  • Improbability can create anything as a monster. This is true. However, remember that the player character comes from a post-EMP future where much of our current technology and infrastructure no longer exists. Write science fiction, not fantasy.
  • The monster submission hut asks you what level the monster is. Don't worry if you don't know. What you say here is only a suggestion -- if accepted, your monster will be put wherever it fits best, taking into account the general feel, any prerequisites, and which level is currently most in need of new monsters.
  • The hut doesn't ask you for targets -- the specific parts of the monster that can attack you and be attacked. This means we have to make all of these up ourselves, which can be fun, but takes time. If you have ideas for amusing targets, by all means append them as a note at the end of your monster description! Targets need to be very short, at most 18 characters, to show up properly in the coloured bars.
  • We also do want to keep the meat system in some sort of balance. Mechanical, plant, and abstract monsters don't have any meat, and if the player-win message says the monster survives... no meat, either. This is not a major consideration, but it's something to keep in mind as you write.

Note: There are monsters in the game that don't fit these current guidelines and wouldn't be accepted as a new submission today. If you love them anyway, don't worry. They're grandfathered in; they won't be going away. Just look at them as encouragement. Think: "Oh hey, I can do way better than that!"


Think about player reactions.

  • What we don't want: "Oh no, not that tired old idea again. Boring."
  • What we would love: *blink* "Wow, that's different!"

Surprise and delight us... make us laugh out loud... tell us an engaging new story... and your monster will be accepted!

The End

1) Players will see win-messages a lot.
2) They often won't even read lose-messages -- too busy thinking "Rats, not again! How much favour do I have?"
3) "We" here is an Editorial We. It means Admin CavemanJoe, with ultimate authority over all monsters, together with whoever is the current day-to-day Editorial Assistant, doing all the work, in the true tradition of Editorial Assistants everywhere. Right now this person is Sessine. In the beginning, CMJ handled all monster submissions himself. For a while it was Zolotisty who did this job, did it well, and established that it was a job he could delegate. In the future it may be someone else -- who will probably rewrite these guidelines.
4) As with everything on the Island, if you make it funny enough you can get away with almost anything. But we're pretty sure most of these would require physically impossible levels of humour to make the cut.
5) See also; annoying.
6) This also now illustrates how fast jokes about issues of the day stop being funny.
7) Okay, that is kind of funny.
8) What? No, the Lamp Disguised as a Lion is a Lampshade.
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