Thursday, September 23, 2010

Convenient Explanations

Based on the comments and emails stemming from my latest Dwimmermount session recap, people seem really taken with my unabashedly Burroughsian portrayal of the Eld, the Red Elves of Areon. I must confess that, while I regularly extol the virtues of not planning too far ahead and making stuff up on the fly, I have been thinking about the Eld for quite some time now -- over two years, judging by the date of the post linked above. They have their origins in the fact that the LBBs are filled with references to Barsoom, which led me to believe that the tales of John Carter had a great deal more influence over OD&D than is generally acknowledged. So, as I was thinking about starting up an OD&D campaign of my own, I decided to find a place for "Barsoom," or at least a pastiche of it (Amtor's there too, as some perspicacious readers have already noted).

Since the PCs haven't yet stepped foot on the Red Planet, I have only very vague notions of what the place is like, but one thing I do know is that many of D&D's weirder monsters have their origins on Areon. A few examples:
  • Carrion Crawler: The larval form of a weird moth-like creature native to Areon, whom the Eld regard as pests.
  • Displacer Beast: A predator from the Red Planet, kept as pets and guard animals by many Eldritch aristocrats.
  • Doppelganger: Shapeshifters with some strange relationship to the Eld, who routinely employ them as spies and assassins.
  • Rust Monster: An Areonese (?) beastie used by the Eld as living azoth detectors; that they also destroy ferrous metals, including enchanted examples of such, is just a bonus.
As I've said before, I prefer to use only a very limited subset of the available stable of D&D monsters in most sessions in the interests of presenting something vaguely like a plausible ecology. But I can't deny that I miss the weirdo creatures and that's why I long ago established that, in the past, there was regular travel and commerce between the campaign setting and several other worlds, like Areon and Kythirea. These other worlds thus provide me with convenient explanations for where all this freakish stuff comes from. Plus, by varying the array of creatures on each world, they all feel different while still tapping into the same D&D "vibe."

11 comments:

  1. Those Eld would have to be pretty badass to regard carrion crawlers as a pest.

    And that's coming from a DM who would glad send ogres and owlbears up against a 1st level party, but seriously considers rerolling crawler encounters. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the "science fiction" style "explanation" of where some of the weird monsters come from. I've always avoided including a lot of those types of monsters in my world because I couldn't reasonably explain their ecology. I don't use a lot of the planar cosmology from standard D&D, so I tend to default to only including lots of dragons, demons/devils, undead, and humanoids. It does start to make things a little stale after a while, but I can easily explain all of those types of creatures in my world.

    You start to add in things like beholders and mind flayers and stuff like that and things start to spin out of control for me.

    But, again, I like how you've put a unique spin on it, and also left things open to include other beasties in the future if you want. Who's to say there isn't another planet that has a gate to Earth, where new and different monsters come from?

    Very cool!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is one reason I vaguely detailed the planets in my Wilderlands solar system very early. Figured the setting's "Ancients" didn't stop with Earth.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really like the way you're taking the odder monsters of D&D and giving them believable reasons to be in your setting. (Even the Rust Monster, a critter I hate normally.) Like you, I only used a subset of the D&D "canon of critters" in order to avoid a nonsensical "smorgasbord" feel. Reading these Dwimmermount posts is really giving me an urge to run my own game.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1. I want to go to Areaon.
    2. I've done something similar by altering existing monsters until they work for me within the context of my setting. I imagine Gelatinous Cubes, for instance, as synthetic biological cleaning machines, with huge glowing runes/numbers/upc symbols branded upon their sides.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like these sort of "scientific" explanations for monsters, even if they player's may never discover them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is one reason I vaguely detailed the planets in my Wilderlands solar system very early. Figured the setting's "Ancients" didn't stop with Earth.

    Precisely!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Reading these Dwimmermount posts is really giving me an urge to run my own game.

    That's the idea. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I imagine Gelatinous Cubes, for instance, as synthetic biological cleaning machines, with huge glowing runes/numbers/upc symbols branded upon their sides.

    That's really awesome.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.