A note on dinosaurs

I gotta say, all this nonsense of Lost World-style D&D I’ve been doing for a year now has rekindled my childhood’s interest. Not too surprisingly, the D&D Monster Manual (where fungi creatures are classified as plants!) isn’t very accurate when it comes to dinosaurs, at the very least the section should have been called « prehistoric creatures ».

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  • Pterosaur, plesiosaur and dimetrodon are not dinosaurs at all, they belong in other clades. The latter in particular became extinct 40 millions years before the first dinosaurs and is, in fact, closer to the mammals in the evolution tree.
  • Crocodiles (crocodilians) are contemporary of the dinosaurs. Some, as the deinosuchus, a 36′ long crocodilian, easily justify the use of a giant crocodile template without any stretch of imagination.
  • Many dinosaurs lived in big herds and as such, would have lived in vast plains with big meat-eaters trailing them.
  • There’s a paleontology bias for recovering bigger fossils as big bones are more likely to be preserved than smaller ones. In all likelihood, dinosaurs occupied every possible ecological niches and diminutive (gliding, tree-climbing, insect-eating, etc.) dinosaurs were abundant.
  • Birds are feathered, flying non-extinct dinosaurs.

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Dinosaurs in a fantasy world

It’s all about what we accept as tropes of the genre. Dinosaurs in a vanilla fantasy setting will readily seem awkward. Dinosaurs in a Lost World-themed setting à la Isle of Dread or Chult, now, that’s far more easy to swallow. In such a place, dinosaurs should be seen as nothing more than exotic animals (or just plain animals for the locals).

I would go further, if there is dinosaurs, lets give them (most of) the place. I mean, would there be still jaguars, elephants or whatever,  if packs of deinonychus roamed the jungles?

What about monsters? In fact, one option would be to monsterize dinosaurs from time to time, to spice things up. Here’s some basic reskinning:

  • spike-throwing stegosaur (manticore tail)
  • multi-headed plesiosaur (hydra)
  • gorgoceratop (gorgon-triceratop)
  • fire-breathing T-rex (a classic)
  • displacer raptor (deinonychus-displacer beast)

 

 

Isaac’s adventures III: Beholder at the campfire

My 6 y-o son is too young for D&D but hey, look at this!

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Two adventurers at a campfire. One exclaims in surprise: « Aaaah! Un monstre! ». His companion, sword in hand, shouts: « À l’attaque! »

 

Freshwater Dragon Turtle

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The freshwater dragon turtle is a lot smaller than its oceanic cousin. Many of these beasts have found their way in the canals of the City where they seem satisfied to operate as living rafts, transporting both people and merchandises, for a fee. Being as intelligent (int: 10) as their gargantuan relatives, these dragon turtles accept partnerships with a « pilot » (that don’t have any piloting to do) who will negociate fees and seek clients, for everyone’s convenience.

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Approaching their nesting sites, at the bottom of the Sacred Lake, is a sure way to be attacked by these otherwise peaceful creatures.

The freshwater dragon turtle is of huge size, is CR 6 (compared to 17) and  steam breath is very rarely exhibited amongst them.

Ogrenabol

The Bestiary: where I take monsters from the manual and explain them my way…

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A steroid user.

Ogres are anabolic steroids (ogrenabol) users, of course. Humanoids taking ( by ingestion) ogrenabol gain tremendous strength but it has a terrible side-effect: intense deformity.  Ogrenabol was synthetized by hobgoblin chemists almost a century ago. It’s not illegal but it’s costly.

Now, I like this concept… But I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m gonna do if a player wants to test ogrenabol for his PC… Oh well, let’s cross the bridge when we’ll come to it, I guess…

 

 

Cosmopolitan dryad

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Far from the primeval forest of its youth, amidst the housings and the bustling urban activity, lives a strange creature: a cosmopolitan dryad. The most surprising thing? It chose to be there…

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Of course, it could have had a better tree in the wild. But the crazyness of the crowd, the thousands of overheard tidbits of gossip, even the occasional surge of violence, this dryad loves it all!

Sometimes an unfolding event catch its fancy so much that it overcomes its usual shyness and asks a friendly-looking passerby about it. It rewards interesting information with some of its tree’s deliciously invigorating oranges.

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Unrelated, but cool!

Urban Myconids

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Myconids In SiT! They’re street cleaners, removing offal, dejections, basically any organic waste. Sometimes they get a little less discriminatory about the unmoving quality of their sweepings.

That’s something I came with while reading Jeff Vandermeer’s book:

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What I’m stealing for my setting is only the cruder idea of the Gray Caps of Vandermeer, who aren’t even mushroom creatures as such, but are fuzzily described as smaller humanoids with a weird civilization based on advanced fungi technology.

The total creepiness and sinister threat of the Gray Caps I leave out, only because it won’t do thematically for my setting, but it was a very good read!

Cockatrice fighting

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That’s not incredibly imaginative perhaps, but I like to sprinkle some little fantasy elements here and there in SiT.

Unlike the normal bird, the cockatrice (MM) doesn’t attack with its talons but instead, it bites (+ 3 to hit, 1d4 + 1 dmg). Upon a hit, the target must a make a DC 11 constitution check or become restrained (and petrified on their turn if failing again).

Now, let’s assume that the cockatrices are, somehow, evolved(1) creatures and as such, likely to fight each other if left to their own devices, shouldn’t they be resistant  (at least) to each other’s petrifying bite? Let’s say, to keep it simple, that they have advantage vs petrification (2).

Also:

  • their owners have thick leather gloves
  • their wings are clipped so they don’t fly away
  • champion cockatrices may have a little bonus to their attack or save or both

  1. For better uses of this : http://themonstersknow.com/
  2. Just so the combat goes on a round or two more, for the sake of bloody spectacle and gambling fever.

Monstrous City: Beholders

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Eyes everywhere (law enforcement)

It’s called The Sanction. It truly is monstrous, literally. The « policemen » are beholders. A Sheriff beholder enforce the law in the area, with a cohort of lesser spectator beholders under his baleful supervision.

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Meet your sheriff

Origin

Many beholders were brought  under the rule of the Third Tyrant. A terrifying force they were. And loyal to him. When the City freed itself from the yoke of the Third, it was decided in a special assembly that the  beholders would still serve: the power of law! A bold idea, to say the least. Now, the slimy monsters roams the streets, waiting for an opportunity to punish crime-doers.

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To serve and protect?

Law enforcement

Incorruptible (or are they?), the beholders have many powers that helps them bring down criminals. They use charm person to compel unhelpful people. They’re reaaally good at intimidating, no surprise there. The Sheriff sees through the eyes of his spectators and can send reinforcements anywhere that needs it. He can also spy inside houses, magically popping a eyed-tentacle from the walls and ceilings.

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Crimes

the list of crimes in Legacy is very short.

  • Murder (attempted murder is not)
  • Identity theft
  • Property deed fraud
  • Burglary
  • Home invasion
  • Arson
  • Restricted weapon possession
  • Trespassing
  • Criminal mischief

Apprehending

If a spectator beholder witnesses a crime (they patrol without rest) or sent after someone reported a crime, they will try to arrest the crime-doer, softening him up with eye rays if he resists. Too much resistance or a botched arrest leads to a death warrant from the sheriff. Arrested criminals are sent to Detention Island, the prison under the care of the Sphynx Warden, whom even the beholders are afraid of.