Almost every time I come up with a monster encounter–improvised or not–I tend to try my darnedest to make different monsters use different weapons, abilities and tactics. Sometimes it’s easy. Creatures with inherently exotic abilities–or mastery of one college of magic–are perfect subjects. But mostly, it’s hard, and it involves me stressing over details. You can make goblins use javelins and bugbears use maces, but give bugbears javelins as well and they just feel like… big goblins.
There’s the simple solution of finding what separates similar subtypes–my post on aarakocra subraces is a great example of that! Designing goblins with a desire for destruction, making bugbears more greedy, and engineering hobgoblins as diabolical bureaucrats, you’ll have the makings of unique monster encounters that feel different each time!
Sometimes, making sure that Human Mercenary Brown doesn’t use the same tactics and wield the same equipment as Human Mercenary Tan can get a bit… frustrating. Some creatures are similar, and it’s hard to add enough mercenary-flavored ramen packets into an NPC to make them taste different than another.
So I ask you all: In adventures where there’s more than one group of tactically similar “mobs”, how do you make everyone stand out and seem unique?