Thursday, June 25, 2015

Back to Genesis: Spontaneous Generation

Originally my next post was going to be an analysis of the communities on the Sword Coast as they are changed by the rise in Draconic Power.  I still plan to do that next, but Josh's comment got me thinking about my philosophy of monsters (see the first comment on the previous post).  I want to get away from a human-centric view of monsters.  By that I mean: Monsters that are inherently understandable by humans, who have very similar needs, wants or even biologies.

An example is goblins.  Most of the time (almost every time when I run them) goblins are little vermin type creatures that live in little hovels or abandonded castles in the wilderness. They are ugly and dirty, and maybe unfriendly to the players, but their needs are understandable.  They want food, shelter, warmth and whatever baubles or trinkets they can get.  They're mammals, they might have women and children. This humanises them to the players, which can lead to interesting moral choices.  I've certainly run this many times, and I think it's a good way to play.  But right now I'm thinking a different direction might be what's needed.

Goblins form in caves from the wicked thoughts of men.  They live in shadows, do not eat or sleep or drink, and their only goal is to torment the virtuous.  They will go to any length to piss in a cleric's milk.  They don't have egos or a sense of self, and always refer to themselves in the plural.  If you catch one by the arm you can make it tell you three truths, this is the only time they tell the truth.  They steal and lie and make up cruel nicknames for the PCs, not because they are choosing to be evil, but because these things are as natural as breathing for them.

Why do I want to take things in this direction?  I think it makes the world stranger.  It gives monsters weird compulsions or rules they have to follow, because they are storybook creatures.  It turns up the contrast, eliminatings some shades of grey, which is what I want right now.  It takes things outside the realm of human knowledge, creatures are motivated by obscure and nonsensical ideas, which exist outside the players and will continue without them.

I'm trying to justify why I'm choosing #3, it's not just "Dragons are Evil," it's that they are alien.  They are motivated by their own desires and code of draconic conduct that does not include humans.  They almost never bother to think about humans, the way you rarely bother to think about cows.  You might eat a humburger or wear a leather jacket, but the desires and hopes of the cows are far from your mind. Who cares? 

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