01 December, 2014

Worldbuilding 101 - Part 24: Things that go Bump in the Night

In the last post, we left our possible monsters in a pretty abstract state. That was fairly deliberate, but to integrate monsters into the setting and make them easy to use, it would be better if we gave them some more specific details, perhaps naming them according to traditional terminology, or applying the Spanish and Maori equivalents. In fact, since we’re looking at a new world that is a bit of a pseudo-Caribbean blend with the South Pacific, it might be fun to pull in a few traditional mythical beings from the legends of these lands.

For the moment, I’ll start coming up with specific ideas for monsters in the setting by working out which sources, locations and agendas go together in a way that makes sense. I’ll combine each source (7 options) with a possible location (5 options, we’ll add a new location of “other”, and make every creature source type unlikely to be found in one of the locations), that makes a total of 35 different creature types. But since a typical monster manual or bestiary has a hundred or more creatures in it, it might be an idea to create an extra creature for each combination, one of low power and one of high power.

Here we go…   

Undead
Underground/Ruins – Skeleton (low power) and Mummy (high power)
Urban – Vampire (low power) and Blood Elder (high power)
Jungle – Places of vibrant life aren’t very hospitable to the undead.
Aquatic – Drowned (low power) and Blood Navy (high power)
Mystic Locations (Graveyards) – Shambler (low power) and Lich (high power)
Other – Zombies work some of the plantations and more sinister ships

Lycanthropes
Underground/Ruins – (werebats) and (werespiders - ananasi)
Urban – (wererats) and (werebulls - minotaur)
Jungle – (werejaguars) and (wereserpents)
Aquatic – (wereseals - selkie) and (weresharks)
Mystic Locations– No particular lycanthrope is predominantly found at a mystic location, they are all drawn equally.
Other – Rare Werewolves from the old world on ships
Despite the variety of Lycanthropes, these are quite rare (only a few of each). Each is considered to have a high power level.  

Faeries
Underground/Ruins – Dwarves and Shadows
Urban – Fae don’t particularly like the confinement and banality of urban areas  
Jungle – Elves and Dryads
Aquatic – Merfolk and Sirens
Mystic Locations – No particular faerie is predominantly found at a mystic location, they are all drawn equally.
Other– Will-o-the-Wisp (swamp) and Gnome (farmland)

Most faeries would be considered low power, but there would be a couple of high powered members in each group.

Elementals
Underground/Ruins - Earth and Darkness
Urban – Fire and Metal
Jungle – Wood and Totems (which aren’t elementals per se, but are spiritual beings aligned to concepts)
Aquatic – Water and Air
Mystic Locations (Xxx) – Light and Totems 
Other – There are dozens of other lesser elemental types scattered across the islands.

For each flavour of elemental, there would be a few levels: imps (low level), ifrit (high level) and djinn (extreme level)…maybe.

Elementals exist in a natural spiritual continuum, orbiting the sentient races of the world, some closer to the characters, others completely alien (but still tenuously linked to the physical realm). Those most capable of dealing with the characters are closets to them in terms of appearance and thought patterns, those further away tend to be incredibly powerful forces of nature. Elementals who deal regularly with the mortal world may infuse their essence with hosts, if a mortal engages in physical intercourse while the infusion is active, the offspring are always “Incarnates”.    

Angels
Angelic beings tend to appear where the faith in them in strong. This applies to beings worshipped, as well as those who are feared. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to their appearances beyond this. Despite the name “angels” this group encompasses all sorts of demigods and semi-divine beings; most angels would be considered high or extreme level creatures. 

The angelic beings of this setting are more like the flying wheels covered in eyes, the multi-headed monstrosities enshrouded in wings of flame and other unfathomable monstrous entities halfway between the book of Revelation and the Cthulhu mythos. Angels may choose to take on a humanoid form; in the process gaining free will, but breaking their connection with the celestial order (and reducing their power). These angels have a short half-life before fading away into oblivion, and often spread a longer lasting legacy in the mortal world by mating with the character races of the setting, the offspring of such pairings are “Avatars” (who are basically nephilim/half-blood angels).    

Awakened Beasts
Awakened beasts would probably follow much the same distribution as lycanthropes, but in this category we might include things like “dire animals” enchanted in some way by mystical effects, and even regular animals that might simply prove dangerous to people. Depending on your interpretation of the “Kraken” this might be a dire giant squid, or some other kind of awakened undersea mutated beast.

Golems
Underground/Ruins – Ancient Defenders and Stone Golems
Urban – Clockwork Golems and Flesh Golems
Jungle – Wood Golems and Mutant Monstrosities
Aquatic – Golems don’t naturally occur in aquatic environments, except for a few who work on ships.
Mystic Locations (Wizard Towers) – Crystalline Golems
Levels of golem power are generally determined by their size, small ones (homunculi) would have low power, human sized (automaton) would have high power, and large ones (juggernaut) would have extreme power levels.  

Since this whole game environment is more about the people than the monsters, I’d be looking at only one or two low powered creatures per story (at most), they might appear as a part of short term story events. A high powered creature would only appear every few games (as a part of a medium term story event), such creatures would easily be a match for a few starting characters or a good level of opposition for an experienced character. Extreme creatures would only appear as a part of long term story events, a single creature of this power would make a solid opponent to several experienced characters (and that’s not counting the followers and lesser creatures they often gather to their side).


I think we’ve got plenty of potential in the options described here. Getting into further detail would certainly require attachment to one system of game mechanisms or another.
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