Typography or “How a font can redefine an idea…”
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For some reason, I’ve had creature creation on the brain of late. It started out as pondering a way of randomizing mutations and morphed into something better…
Every world has its distinct flora and fauna. We’re still discovering new species of plants and animals all around the world and you have to wonder what sorts of fun critters might exist on other planets. But how do you create unique creatures for your settings? Let’s say I have a campaign set in a jungle and I want to create a few one-of-a-kind things for my PC’s to find. How do I go about that?
I suspect that everybody has their own approach, but here’s mine…
First, let’s decide what it is we’re trying to create. A quick d4 on this table will give me a place to start:
That gives me a direction to go. For a quick example, let’s go with “Magical” in this case. Perhaps I have a small free-floating ball of energy like good old “Bit” from Tron.
Next, let’s figure out the “what” of how this thing is different than other creatures in the same vein. Here’s a loose collection of things I might want to explore.
For our critter, let’s say it’s “Body” – I won’t even roll at this point. No arms, legs, or head to worry about – so it boils down to either the body or its abilities.
If I got “Head” for the area, I might add another table to determine what part of the head specifically – eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, ears, hair, etc. Or for “Abilities,” I might have a table with intelligence, psychic, observant, tracking, flight, etc.
A quick roll gives me “Rotation,” which could be very interesting. Perhaps this little ball of energy can spin quickly and create a vortex that draws things into it to be consumed by that energy. Maybe it draws magical energy away from its targets – draining the life or even spells from an unwitting caster.
If I rolled something else for another critter, I might want to know how to interpret the difference so I’d add a coin flip/odd or even die roll to determine whether it’s more or less than average. For instance, if I’m morphing an ape for my world I might say its arms are extremely long – longer than even normal apes, which might introduce some intriguing attacks from above while swinging through the trees…
Lastly, I want to know something about the critter’s behavior. Another quick table…
A roll of a d6 gives me “curious” which means perhaps these creatures check out new things in the jungle looking for magical energy to keep them alive…
I might end up with this as a description:
This small spherical creature in the jungle is a being of pure magical energy surviving by draining the magical energy of other creatures. Each orb has a special attack – Siphoning Vortex – that allows it to spin quickly, drawing magical power from a nearby target into itself. As it gets more powerful, it increases in size and brightness. Orbs range in size from 1 inch in diameter to as much as a foot or more across.
An orb may only use the vortex once every few minutes, but it can repeatedly drain a spellcaster of his daily spells over time or charges from magic items. If necessary, it will drain a small amount of life force from other jungle creatures if no magical energy is available, but will shrink to its smallest size over time and only increase in size when draining actual magical energy from targets in the area.
That’s kind of cool. 🙂
Here are a couple of others I came up with:
The Dirt Wolf (Mammal/Legs/Length/Less/Aggressive)
The Dirt Wolf, though close to the ground and smaller in size than its larger cousins, remains a serious threat to travelers and animals on the grasslands. Traveling in small groups called “clouds,” these wolves can swarm over and tear apart an unsuspecting target like a school of piranha with tiny teeth and claws. Many campers in the area have resorted to hauling portable platforms to sleep high off the ground and out of reach.
Gerod’s Blooms (Plant/Head/Eyes/More/Shy)
Gerod’s Bloom, also known as “Watchers,” grow in only one part of the world… the high plains of the area known as the Witches’ Roof. These strange flowers are used by practitioners of the arts to manufacture scrying potions among other things that utilize their one strange property. Each flower has an eyeball in the center of its petals, roughly 1″ in diameter. When they “see” trouble or feel threatened, they close quickly and resemble the poisonous Blood Lilly, which is avoided by anything who knows its reputation.
Fields of Gerod’s Bloom are usually protected by an aggressive herbivore who dines on their leaves and tends each plant almost as if it was in a garden. The Keepers as they are called resemble buffalo and have an attitude to match.
Each Bloom is worth a pretty penny to the right wizard or witch looking for such a rare object.
So there you have it. A few odd creatures to help populate a world a bit. They may not be out to kill the PCs, but they’ll certainly provide some color!