Creature-creating - or, the philosophy behind the Arth Bestiaries.


Anyone creating a world from scratch has to generate creatures to fill its environments. I wanted to generate new animals to give the feeling of a new and foreign world. The standard fantasy gaming approach has been to generate a huge number of increasingly improbable beasts to challenge ever more heavily-armed parties of adventurers. Occasionally even players stop to wonder what these monsters eat, when they can't get adventurer - but it's best not to ask about these things, because it becomes rapidly obvious that this is purely a game device and that such an ecology simply couldn't exist. How long do you think wolves would survive in a forest prowled by trolls, which are faster, stronger, regenerate damage and are almost as intelligent as humans? And in many fantasy worlds, there are things far worse than trolls in the woods...

Obviously, I don't subscribe to such an approach. I guess I just have a basically low tolerance for silliness.

The second stigmata of fantasy worlds is the use of historical models. All fantasy worlds have dragons. Fair enough, everybody loves dragons. But they also have Rocs, and Sphinxes, and Gorgons, and... And we're back in the woods, with things worse than trolls. Certainly these monsters have a certain style, but in the legends from which they sprang they were unique monsters, or nearly so, not species mating and breeding and seething across the countryside in their hundreds or thousands.

So the approach I've tried to take is design an ecology which - while predator heavy - is not totally unbelievable. Sure - Arth has dragons. Didn't I say every fantasy world has dragons? But Arth's dragons are the size of the largest Pterosaurs, not two-tonne behemoths of the skies. And OK, so the rationale behind their firey breath is biologically, shall we say, stretching it a bit. But most players can live with logic that is stretched. Few can ignore logic that is twisted into pretzel shapes. I've tried to generate creatures with a logical route of descent, a logical ecological niche and tolerably logical biology. So while Arth is a dangerous place, and nature really is red in tooth and claw - at least you don't have to worry about being zapped with a disintegrator ray by some creature of field and forest!


Don't worry however: the place of the classic monsters has been filled - by more classic monsters. Arth has many foes for even the most powerful of adventurers - creatures summoned or constructed by mages such as the Minglers of the Blood, and creatures of fable from out of time and space. Fortunately, though, these tend to be unique beings and the natural foe of mighty swordsmen and crafty spell-casters - which is why the world is not over-run with them. You can find them here.

And this brings me to the last stigmata of fantasy games - sentient races. Any fantasy planet worth its salt has thirty or forty of them, at least. Dwarves. Halflings. Trolls. Ogres. Giants. Gnomes. Orcs. Kobolds. Dark Elves. Sea Elves. Wood Elves. Grey Elves. High Elves. You get the point, I'm sure. Passing lightly over the evolutionary impossibility of these races developing together, we then have to accept that in a medieval society, many of these races can all get along passingly well. Given that humans have cheerfully massacred each other over minor points of cultural difference, how well, do you really think humans would get along with alien races that worship alien gods, have totally alien cultures - and often have the effrontery to live many times longer?

So - out with the classic fantasy races. All the dwarves I ever saw played were basically just short vikings anyway!

Arth has two sentient races - Human and Fay - and even though they have relatively little to do with one another, as far as both sides are concerned, that's one sentient race too many. If you count the Silith, who are almost gone and are completely forgotten, it has three, and the Sillith think that's two too many.

I hope the creatures presented herein are of interest and amusement to you - I'm always interested in feedback, so drop me a line if they are (or are not!)

So what are you waiting for - go and get 'em!