Keiran MacLaurin looked to his sword sheathed at his side. He raised his head and watched his own breath mist up as he exhaled in the winter air. Twenty yards below the gnome mage Bogi was in earnest discussion with the goblins; his oversized bear cloak in stark contrast to the goblin’s white garments, woven of snow hare skins. Keiran knew they didn’t have much time until the next storm would hit this slope. He dearly hoped that Bogi could persuade these skittish, fur covered creatures to guide the party across this pass and into the shelter of the valley beyond. If not it will be a long night indeed, Keiran checked his gloves and shivered: Come on Bogi, charm these little buggers so we can get out of these frigid, hoary mountains.
After exploding a quarter of my spleen on my previous rant, I realized that perhaps I should go into a little detail about making critters in a fantasy RPG a little more interesting than being just cannon fodder for the PCs (or sword bait whichever you prefer).
Monsters should have just as much personality as the PCs; at least some of them anyway. The snow goblin tribe briefly mentioned above is an example. Rather than being a direct confrontation with blade and spell, the little guys can endeavor to open a dialog with the players. In this case, the players are opening a dialog with the goblins to negotiate a guide to get them out of the mountain range which they’re endeavoring to pass through.
Give monsters motivations, principles (sometimes albeit twisted ones), and some intelligence so that these critters are living, breathing beings that can be spoken to and perhaps even befriend the PCs. For example, the snow goblins above are involved in a range war with some ice trolls. The goblins had some of their food stores pillaged by the trolls. In exchange for guiding the PCs across the mountains, the goblins require that the PCs go into the ice trolls lair and liberate the stolen food stores.
Just spice up your critters, make them something memorable… better yet make them something that the PCs will enjoy dealing with on a sociable level. And if you can make some of your monsters creatures that your PCs actually care about, you’ve done a phenomenal job. I wish I could do that! : P