Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo

There are some animals which really hog the fantasy-monster-beast limelight. Wolves (werewolves, wolfweres, dire wolves), bears (werebears, cave bears, owl bears), snakes (yuan-ti, medusae), lions (lamia, manticores), eagles (rocs, griffins). Enough with these trite creatures of cliche! Instead, what about:

  • Seagulls. Herring gulls and black-backed gulls are mean, noisy, vicious and cocky. They swagger about picking fights and causing trouble. Humans don't scare them - as you'll know if you've ever had one stare you down as you walk past with your shopping in a busy city street. They have sharp, strong beaks and powerful wings. Imagine one eight foot tall and the damage it could do to you. Now imagine a dozen of them.

  • Chameleons. Colour-changing lizards with spooky independently moving eyes, eerily smooth movement, and hyper-fast extendable tongues which can grab prey at a distance. Endless patience in ambush. They swallow you alive and let their digestive juices do the rest.

  • Walrus. A walrus is big, heavy, fat, and can scare off a polar bear with its turks. A giant walrus would be able to crush you like a flea, and unknowingly capsize a ship in its wake - then gobble up the survivors, floating helpless in the sea, as if they were plankton.

I also think there is mileage in dugongs, beetles, turkeys and ostriches.


  1. I agree completely. There are so many fascinating creatures that, made giant and ornery, could be chewing on adventurers.

  2. Hitchcock sure made seagulls scary.

    As for ostriches ... they make for trippy mounts ...

  3. I'm in Brighton, so I have to agree about the seagulls. They really do swagger, too. I recall seeing one in the Pavilion gardens trying to get its beak into a picnic. Since the humans were sitting there, the gull conducted this elaborate ruse in which it wandered about with its head in the air, looking away from the picnic, yet at the same time inching closer each time, just like someone sneaking about in a cartoon. I don't think I've ever seen an animal consciously pretending like that before.

  4. Wasn't there a Harryhausen film that featured a giant walrus chasing sailors or Greeks or explorers?

    Or did I just dream that one?

  5. @ Michael Curtis
    That would be "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger", wherein' our plucky crew of Arabian sailors were menaced by a giant stop motion walrus.


    Walrus' are a decent monster, if you can keep your players from making "bukkit" jokes...

  6. This is bizarre timing. I'm watching a show on National Geographic channel about a guy who eats roadkill. He just pulled a big gull out of the freezer. He called it a Herring Gull and I had now idea what that was. Now that I've read your blog, I do.

  7. Halflings make great Chameleon-Folk. Halfling stealth comes from their camouflaging ability, their proficiency with ranged weapons comes from their amazing depth perception (independent eyes), and chameleons can be rather jumpy, hence their improved initiative,

    As for walrus don't forget Maguma: http://www.tohokingdom.com/kaiju/maguma.htm

  8. I have been planning on introducing my players to a Hyperborean Giant Walrus for some time now.

  9. seagulls would make good swarm animals.

    I saw an animal doco in which a polar bear attacked a mob of walruses (I think - could have been elephant seals, whatever, big fat bastards they were). The bear was fresh out of hibernation so very hungry. The walruses turned on it, and in attacking them it broke a leg. Then it just lay down and gave up - you could see it knew it was dead.

    That's about the only time I've been able to feel sorry for a polar bear. Vicious bastards!

  10. Any kind of insect or arachnid becomes a terrifyingly alien foe when blown up huge. Take it a step further and meld them with humans or other animals, and you have a fearsome cornucopia of monsters at hand.

    Imagine an amalgam of praying mantis and herring gull...

  11. One favorite avian critter native to my 25+ year campaign world is the 'Storm Gull'.

    These medium to charcoal grey seagulls appear right before and/or right after storms at sea or near the shore to feed.

    They're interesting because I can use them as background color that attentive player's can use to note when the weather will be a hazard to them. In addition, if you are caught in a storm and didn't see Storm Gulls you know that storm wasn't natural. Neither Storm Gulls nor the fish they hunt appear if the weather was magical in origin.

  12. Barking Alien: very cool level of detail. That's the kind of stuff that make players really pay attention ;)

  13. Last I checked, Mythus has two giant walruses; one of them a marsupial.