Thursday, December 11, 2008

Playing with ecological niches to come up with alien animals

My post on prehistoric rhinos last week got me thinking, and I came up with a way of generating new ideas for creatures that seems kind of nifty to me. This tends not to get you monsters, per se, but more like natural creatures that don't feel quite right. Some of them can be combatants - others are just color.

Step 1: Come up with a list of natural animals (giant/dire versions are fine). Include both animals that you would like to have your PCs face and animals that you know your PCs will see

Example:
Tiger, Giant Lobster, Squid, Salmon, Shark, Wolverine, Giant Spider, Giant Scorpion, Giant Parasitic Wasp, Hyenas, Vultures, Horse, Cow, Deer, Pig, Rat, Wolf, Dog, Chicken, Sparrow, Hawk, Rabbit

Step 2: Put each of those animals on a piece of paper, stick them in a hat (or whatever) and pick two.

Step 3: Create a version of one animal you picked that fills an ecological niche similar to that of the other.


Here are some examples:

Tiger and Pig: This could work either way. We could have a huge, striped, predatory boar that is surprisingly lithe and stalks its prey. That's pretty creepy. Alternately, we could have large cats that have been bred into slower omnivores kept as farm animals.

Giant Scorpion and Giant Spider: These are already pretty close and pretty creepy. What's creepier? Let's stick a giant scorpion on a web in a forested area.

Sparrow and Squid: Too easy: small, jet-propelled airborne squid.

This can also serve as a launching point for other ideas. Little harmless squid are kind of cool, but I think they'd be much cooler if they were snatching mice and small birds in their tentacles rather than seeds and things. How about (putting lobsters into the roll of rats) amphibious lobsterlike crustaceans that not only live in sewers, but dwell on city streets and rooftops? How about (combining parasitic wasps and salmon), giant, migratory, aquatic insects that go north to die? We could even say that they are eaten by bears in large numbers, but while being eaten, they transfer eggs which are incubated within the bear (and the young eat the bear from the inside out before crawling back to the river to swim south).

Fun, huh?

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