Friday, 22 October 2021

Humanoid=Animal Pairings

Last night, I watched a documentary that featured a segment on chimpanzees. When you see the raw power, belligerence and sadism of male chimps - the sense they give off even in repose that in a split second they could explode into violence - it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they would make great orcs.

For me, goblins are like magpies. There is something cruel about the acquisitiveness and greed of a magpie. They are constantly on the look out for food, but they also give the impression that, all things considered, they also like to inflict misery and pain while doing so. (Eating carrion is good, but eating baby sparrows alive while listening to the impotent cries of their parents is better.)

Elves work well as cats. Slinky, inscrutable, lazy, and lacking in all empathy. There is no meaningful distinction between the aesthetically pleasing and the moral; murder is justified so long as it is done beautifully.

Dwarves are badgers. Industrious, gruff, reliant on tried-and-tested heuristics rather than creative flair.

Ogres are like elephant seals. They imbue strength, size, power and aggression with religious significance; one reaches fulfilment in both inflicting and receiving suffering and pain. 

Halflings are beavers. Self-reliant and deriving pleasure only from a job well done. 

Suggest your own. 

18 comments:

  1. Someone on the /r/OSR discord posted images of possums as goblins a while ago. seemed appropriate.

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  2. Not much of a documentary viewer, so this is experience only. Can't throw in any facts about herd behaviour or what have you.

    Wood Elf (if we're willing to engage in subtypes) = Deer
    Elusive, fleet of foot - but not without grace, or weapons, or a sense of display.

    Satyrs=Ibex, Fauns=Domestic goat
    Satyr implies to me a greater wildness and size compared with the faun; environment follows that (crags and forests vs groves and glades).

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    1. The satyr/faun distinction is a profoundly important topic in need of theorizing.

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  3. Gnolls are hyenas: female lead with literal penis-like-organ-measuring contests to see who's going to be in charge.

    Bugbears are like wolves: tenacious pack hunters who wear down their prey through long-distance chases.

    Kobolds are like rats: prone to mass-huddles for warmth and sleep, with very simple social structures between any two rats that grow more complex the more rats get involved, and the young males and females feel a compulsive need to extend and improve their living space, especially by digging into the earth.

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    1. Yup, gnolls as hyenas open up lots of ideas. Their "laugh" sound fits if you gove them internet troll senses of humor and love for horrible pranks.

      Also the matriarchical bit makes make gnolls get kicked out of home so bands of young male gnolls have to travel and make a name for themselves as hunters/raiders/mercenaries to get accepted by some matriarchs.

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  4. Gods are like whales: did I capsize your boat? oops!

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  5. You and your animal people.
    ; )

    In my 5AK game, I used the idea of humanoids as the descendants of giants (not only does it work with Biblical apocrypha, but it goes hand-in-hand with the whole "giant-type" thing of AD&D). Still, I have always been a fan of the Island of Dr. Moreau (book and films).

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    1. 5AK?

      I like Dr Moreau as well - it would make a great little module in its own right.

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  6. Not on topic but very much relevant to your interests: crab minis! https://scontent-sea1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.6435-9/247085038_1312634652587948_3811191520053008800_n.jpg?_nc_cat=111&ccb=1-5&_nc_sid=0debeb&_nc_ohc=XIJH-EPnWhYAX8262IX&_nc_ht=scontent-sea1-1.xx&oh=f209e109b4809838d04418fe9959db89&oe=6198AFD0

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    1. Crab demons would work for most of the chaos gods, I think.

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  7. Related article: https://dreamingdragonslayer.com/2020/07/16/playing-with-youngers-animal-kingdom/

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    1. More animals means more excitement. Words to live by.

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  8. Not entirely on-topic, but I really like the many animalmen that you deploy in your campaign, because they’re instantly grokkable: you know what a man is? You know what an earwig is? You have a pretty good idea of what an earwig man is. There are so many monsters out there which seem to have been invented purely for the purpose of trying to invent a new monster; to my mind, it’s usually better to stick to something more universally comprehensible.

    Due to my allergy to high fantasy (Mike Harrison’s fault, again) my own perverted preference is to avoid all fantasy humanoids - even elves, orcs, dwarves and goblins (I do make an exception for fairy-folk). Instead I am slowly working up a family tree of hominids which split off from homo-sapiens and evolved to adapt to more specific niches, while us humans remained the generalists - you’ve already seen my Fisher Folk, which is where this idea sprang from.

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