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 is classified as plant!) isn’t very accurate when it comes to dinosaurs, at the very least the section should have been called “prehistoric creatures”.
- 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 non-extinct dinosaurs.
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)