I moved a couple weeks ago, from Bushwick to LES, but still, it's taken up a bit of my mental focus and actual time. Love the new neighborhood and new apartment, but anyway, haven't been able to blog or think creatively, although I'm starting to get back into that headspace. I've been sitting on this draft for forever, wanted to do 8+ but got stuck trying to come up with an inverted dragon that felt sufficiently equal in substance to a dragon itself, so I'm just going to post with a clean 6 and maybe pick it back up later if people are into it.
Also, in the time since I first drafted this... I think the writing could be stronger, but I'm not going to worry about that for now. However, I've also become a better game designer, so I'm now adding in a "How to Use" section. If I were to revisit it, I might rewrite them entirely with more flavorful but brief descriptions and adventure hooks rather than a "how to use" section, but for now, this is what it is.
As always, I'd be interested to see other people's ideas as well.
This post is inspired by Bastionland / Chris Mcdowall's Inverted Monsters. It's a cool, simple concept, and I thought I might take a stab at a few of them. The idea is to take a traditional fantasy creature, identify its core features, and invert them to create a new creature.
As is often the case with me, I struggle to stay within the lines, but if nothing else this should be a jumping-off point for some hopefully decent ideas.
Skeleton / Lich
- Large adult-sized toddler (full of life)
Fleshbois are evil creatures that have been purified and reincarnated. They are full of love and good intentions, but still, they have the mind of a child in a magical, powerful, nigh-impenetrable tubby body, and they are prone to violent tantrums.
How to Use:
- Fleshbois can make for good obstacles as they generally cannot be overcome through sheer force, nor through reason, and as such innocent creatures, there is a moral quandary to consider.
- There is also a risk/reward component. Upsetting them could turn them back into skeleton mages or liches, so there's a big risk. However, as a child, if they grow to love the players, they can be a powerful long-term ally.
I have no idea what tap zoo animals are but this dragon mongoose is pretty good for Shrouding Mongoose
- Petrifying stare
- Serpent-like reptile
Becomes Shrouding Mongoose
- Spotlight enshrouding
- No appendages
Shrouding mongoose slither on the ground like serpents. They create a distortion field in their entire visual range which disables and enshrouds everything except whatever they are visually focusing on.
How to Use:
- They are often used to counter basilisks; a basilisk in the range of a shrouding mongoose will have nothing to petrify so long as the shrouding mongoose focuses only on the basilisk.
- The visual distortion fields they create can also have tactical applications for other kinds of conflicts; one could imagine Shrouding Mongooses accompanying army units or scouts.
- They could also be an interesting threat in their own right, where the fight is less about rolling well, and more about figuring out how to hit the Mongoose you can't see...
- Child-like intelligence but mechanically inclined
- Advocates of the social contract
- Philosophical but narrow-minded and uncreative
The hobbes are a bugbear-like species that has developed a technologically simple but philosophically advanced civilization. Despite their chaotic or perhaps even evil nature (if you believe in such things), they are surprisingly orderly and peaceful, but this peace comes from a well-understood, borderline fascistic social contract. They have absolutely no tolerance for crime and are therefore skeptical of outsiders. While highly intellectual, it is nearly impossible for a hobbe to change their perspective, and most of their dialect is geared towards justifying their own preconceived notions.
How to Use:
- The hobbes may have some key information the party needs, or maybe the party is just passing through, but are enticed by some McGuffin. There should be some temptation or even necessity to break a rule, and so the players need to either not get caught, or figure out how to skirt the rule.
- Or maybe it's an individual hobbe or small group of hobbes that the party has to deal with within some other context.
- Grotesque toothy maw
- Carves, molds, and shapes people into things
- No mouth
- Rigid form
Potters are humanoid figures that appear to be shaped from clay or metals and carved and shaved to form. They are rigid, with limited points of articulation. They have no mouths, or their mouths are non-articulate and only aesthetic. They have a psionic knife that they can use to carve living things, and they can reshape the parts in a magic kiln or smith. They like to turn people into treasure chests, weapons, armors, trinkets, and treasures. That chest you just looted may be the last adventurer who tried to crawl this dungeon...
- Potters would work well for a horror scenario. An unassuming doll in a creepy dungeon that's psychically picking off isolated hirelings.
- The creations of the potters which stalk the dungeon may be mannequettes or like creatures.
- Jellyfish-like (amorphous, tentacles)
- Psionic-feeding / empathetic
- Urchin-like (rigid, spiny)
- Psionic-nullifying / unemotional
Roughly human-sized urchin-like neutral evil creatures. They are fixed points in the universe, and instead of a means of physical mobilization, they relocate by bending spacetime around themselves using their innate super-gravity engines. The "hpmulf" sound this super-gravity engine makes is where they get their name. Super-gravity also bends the astral plane, effectively nullifying psionics. They are incapable of linguistic communication or empathy of any kind and have few desires beyond meeting their own selfish, biological needs, so they are often mistakenly believed to be a mindless blight, but they are actually excellent problem solvers. In conflict, they will always prefer to fight rather than flee, unless the odds are unambiguously against them.
How to Use:
- They are like a superswarm. They have weird space-timey abilities, neutralize psionics and maybe some magics, are hard and spiky. There's nothing here that doesn't exist elsewhere, but they're an all-in-one obstacle / debuff / violent threat / weirdness generator.
- They are deceptively intelligent. Perhaps in the first stage, they are just a mindless superswarm, but whatever initial solution the party conceives in facing them, they then adapt.
- While an adventuring party could encounter a small group of them, I think they would work better for a domain-level game or as a threat to an entire region.
- Upper-body bull, lower-body humanoid
- Eat people
- Upper-body humanoid, lower-body bull
Although they look like large centaur, mycenaetaur are more closely related to minotaur. They are nomadic plane grazers, known for their unbreakable phalanx armies. They have advanced visuospatial skills and the innate ability to navigate complex spaces efficiently using graph theory. They unconsciously employ algorithms such as breadth-first search and A* to navigate spaces.
How to Use:
- Help a party navigate through confusing terrain or a maze.
- Potentially good allies if their planes buffer the kingdom, given their navigation skills and armies.
- Consume large quantities of vegetation; possibly zero-sum with the resource needs of the kingdom.