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How many Critters?


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Quality not quantity? Or, however many you think you will need? Or even, just the ones you are going to use.

Its a difficult question to answer. If you are running a game in this world, you only need to introduce the critters/npcs that the players are going to interact with (then 100 seems like a lot), but if you are world building, then you are on an entirely different scale (and 100 might not be enough).

I wrote the Aces High monograph and that only had 33 critters in it (including both mundane and mythic). I didn't actively choose that number and it could have been substantially larger. But that was all that was needed.

Mr Jealousy has returned to reality!

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Agreed. Can you give examples of what you are thinking? A weird west setting like Aces High is different than a setting like Mystara which is different than a setting like Jorune.

Now, I love digests and stats but the appeal to me is using them as a window into the setting. I say include them if they define your setting or if you play them differently than others but remember that they are a tool to understanding the setting.


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I usually introduce critters as the plot requires; never did the random encounter thing. Now, having an ecology worked out (with appropriate and varied creatures) for a setting you're planning to publish is a good thing. But as Mr. Jealousy has said, for your own personal use, you don't necessarily have to have it all figured out in advance. Unless the PCs are big game hunters, wildlife scientists, or zookeepers seeking new specimens, you only need enough monsters and normal animals to keep them on their toes when they're in an appropriate environment. And then only when the creature's presence advances whatever story arc you're working on. ;)

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I'd prefer fewer well-developed "critters" over more, and only introduce new creatures for a particular purpose. The only purposes I can conceive of at the moment are the following:

1. Exotic wildlife, placed to emphasize the strangeness of a world or to fill a particular niche. For example, in one campaign where PCs played the "orcs" on an island continent being colonized by humans, I declared the Orc Lands had no horses but did have "destriers" (hat tip to Gene Wolfe), which were essentially big omnivorous riding lizards. Relatives filled other niches like domesticated hunting animals (dogs) and wild cousins (bears, wolves).

2. Monsters, created as "things that should not be" which the PCs must evade or vanquish. Dragons, chaos creatures, eldritch horrors, and most of the creatures in myths and legends fit here. Generally there's only one or a few extant specimens, and they may have surprising abilities.

3. Sapient races/species with cultures and languages, used as metaphorical "others" or personifications of some place or principle. Once upon a time I'd populate a world with elves, dwarfs, goblins, giants, wolf-people, and what have you, but I've gravitated toward the pre-D&D sword-and-sorcery / weird fiction / hard SF proposition that everyone's human unless there's a solid reason they can't be. Glorantha functions under this principle to an extent: elves, dwarfs, trolls, goblins, dragonewts, and the rest are really strange, and seldom venture out of their chosen environment.

I'd take it further, though. Those woodland-dwelling tribes might as well be humans unless they absolutely have to be immortal, and those howling savages over the mountains might as well be ugly humans with an uglier culture unless they literally have to spawn like ants and cannot possess even a shred of sentiment. In those two cases I'll introduce elves and orcs, respectively, but stay as far away from cliches as I can. For example, maybe the elves were once human, and gained immortality through bargains with the forces of nature; as the centuries wear on they lose their empathy for limited mortals because they can neither bear/father children, nor age, nor perhaps even die without the Powers that Be returning them to life. Maybe the orcs literally have insect-like societies, like the Gargun of Harn: one female is queen and brood-mother for the whole tribe, one or a few males fertilize the queen, and the remaining males/females/neuters are expendable workers and warriors.

As extreme as this might be, I'm tired of certain fantasy RPG cliches: the Planet of Hats (every member of a "race" has the same exaggerated characteristic that precludes distinct personalities), Always Good/Always Evil, Chaotic Stupid (e.g. D&D drow, which require divine intervention not to collapse into anarchy and self-destruction), and "races" as bundles of kewl powers rather than distinct cultures. Making everyone human by default lets the GM concentrate on interesting cultures, and makes the rare non-humans stand out.

Edited by fmitchell


"Welcome to the hottest and fastest-growing hobby of, er, 1977." -- The Laundry RPG
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My settings usually begin with the creatures required for the economy of

the setting (horses, livestock, etc.) plus up to a dozen important examples

of the setting's wildlife and perhaps one or two "monsters". These are the

creatures the characters are likely to encounter in the region where they

begin their careers in the setting, all other creatures are only introduced

as needed, depending on the activities and plans of the characters. Since

my settings are "sandboxes" I rarely know in advance what the characters

are likely to do in the future, so preparing creatures "just in case" would

almost always be a waste of time and effort.

As for races, I very much prefer humans and only rarely use other races.

Unless I spend a lot of time and effort to design a truly "alien" species, the

result is the same as in most fantasy novels anyway, a species consisting

of "humans by another name", so I can just as well use humans and give

them some unusual abilities or disabilities and a plausible culture.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Sounds like you may be creating a lot of work for yourself.

For my own burgeoning campaign, I actually did sit down with the original AD&D Monster Manual and made a list. The reason for going with the MM is that I'm building a pretty traditional fantasy world, and the MM pretty much corners the market on traditional fantasy/folklore/fairy tale creatures. The list was of anything that either was an obvious fit, felt right, or I just happened to want it in the campaign. I added in a few favorites from RQ (broos, ducks). I didn't so much convert things as simply note what I was going to use, and then use any already-existing BRP stats, perhaps making a tweak here or there as I saw fit. Again, most of the traditional creatures have already shown up in BRP or one or more of the editions of RQ.

I'll add to the list a little over time, as I come across a creature that interests me (already have a few). The main thing I look for in creatures is, aside from the stats, do they inspire and interest me in some way? Can I imagine an interesting and exciting encounter being built around them? If I can't, that's a good sign maybe I have no use for them. Another question is, how similar are they to something I've already chosen? Do they basically do the same thing, have the same powers, stats, skills, weapons as something I've already established? If so, why should I include them (there might be a reason, but its a fair question).

A last consideration is: is a monster just a variant on an already existing monster? If that's the case, do I need a whole new set of stats? A case in point for me: I liked the Ettin in the MM, but realized it's basically just a two-headed ogre, with, as I recall, some improved reflexes thanks to the double-noggins. I already have ogres. Since I already have ogres, and have incorporated the RQ concept of Chaotic features, its easy enough to say Ettins are just ogres with chaotic features, a common one being two heads. I hope that makes sense.

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You don't need to wite up every critter in the area. Nor do you have to do it all at once.

A lot of level based RPGs have lots of monsters becuase that is how those games can raise the level of challenge in a campaign. MOnsters that were a threat to begging PCs are no threat to mid or high level PCs.

BRP Is different. Since hit points do go up the way they do in other RPGs, monsters and critters are threatening for a lot longer. Even a swordsman with a skill of 100% has to worry about a bear in BRP, at least moreso that a 10th level fighter would need to worry about a bear in most level games.

You can just start small and detail up the central area the PCs will be starting in, and use broad, vague strokes for the rest and flesh it out as you go along.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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