Wednesday, June 17, 2009

High Adventure Monster Listings

I'm currently working up a monster catalogue / bestiary for my Tankards and Broadswords RPG. I'm very consciously leaning away from stereotypical "fantasy monsters" or typical D&D monsters, so no orcs, no trolls, no dragons, and no gelatinous cubes. I'm instead leaning towards, dare I force myself against my better judgement to say the words - "Sword & Sorcery" monsters (I am currently preferring the term "High Adventure" because I can't honestly stomach how some people are in my opinion using terms like "Swords & Sorcery" or "Pulp Fantasy" in ways they were never meant to be used).

So what I'm looking for in you, dear readers, is a listing of must-have "High Adventure" monsters to go into the Tankards and Broadswords RPG bestiary. Sham over at Sham's Grog 'n Blog had a column a few days ago about the Four Iconic D&D Monsters, and that column was in a way the catalyst for this post, so in a way you could think of this list of "High Adventure" / "Swords & Sorcery" monsters in parallel to Sham's post.

Also, feel free to pull your suggestions from the horror or sci-fi books / movies / comic books / TV series' of your choice as well as more traditional fantasy stories (my "Xenoids" are essentially Ridley Scott's "Aliens", and the "Raptosaur" is more or less a velociraptor with the serial numbers filed off). If you can think of a creature you want me to include that's specific to a certain movie or book or TV series, if you can give me the name of said source so I can find pictures and/or descriptions of the creatures in question, that'd be doubly awesome.

Ultimately, what I'm really aiming for here is to not do what so many RPGs have done and essentially re-write the Monster Manual using Tankards and Broadswords RPG statlines. Yeah, there's going to be a few overlaps (zombies and giant snakes are pretty much a given...), but the T&B RPG system is simple enough and the combat rules are relatively abstract enough that, given a few dozen examples of various creatures, a competent GM could probably compare the statline of some other RPG's monsters and convert them on their own time to fill in any blanks for their own campaign setting.

So, let's see those must-have monster lists!


Lior said...

Two classes:

1. "Wild animals" a-la Tarzan/Sinbad/Odyssey: giant apes, direwolves, Rocs, etc.

2. Undead: skeletons, zombies and ghouls.

Timeshadows said...

1). Horned Cyclops

2). Skeletons with Scimitars

3). Horned Demon-spawn w. reticulated legs

4). Unique monsters without peer/created monsters

Badelaire said...

Lior: Already done up two kinds of "giant snake" and an ape-ish monster. I've also taken care of one undead monster and will be working on a few others.

Timeshadows: Grooving on the Sinbad theme, I'm also considering a bronze minotaur-like "golem".

What do you mean by your #4? Put in unique monsters that there's only one of per campaign setting? Or do you mean unique as in wholly my own creation?

Norman Harman said...

High fantasy means something completely different to you than me cause for me high fantasy is on the opposite spectrum of any scale containing S&S or Pulp. But here are my thoughts on S&S and pulp iconic critters.

Evil, ancient sorcerers. As mummies, as liches, as human faced snake things.

Giant things. giant apes, giant crocs, giant dragonflies, giant crabs, giant birds.


Snake men. Ape men. Cave men. Crab men. Pirate men(preferably of the Barbary type). Degenerate men aka Moorlocks.

Leeches, giant or otherwise.

Things from beyond.

L. Beau said...

1. Intelligent Gorillas - Carnivorous. May be able to speak the human tongues. Behavior may depend on tribal affiliation: some may be enlightened friends to all sentient creatures, others may be vicious man-eaters.

2. Ratfolk - not were-rats, but an odd mixing or cross-breed of giant rats and men: human-level intellect (or near), can use tools with their forepaws, good at sneaking around. 4-5 feet tall.

3. Leviathan - huge sea monster - maybe only one left in the world?

4. Wendigo - from Algonquian myth: a malevolent cannibalistic spirit into which a human could transform, or which could possess humans. N.B.: Those who indulged in cannibalism were at particular risk!

Badelaire said...

Norman -

"High Adventure" is NOT "High Fantasy", and I don't know where you're drawing that parallel, unless you're just misinterpreting or misreading the post.

In fact, I'm using the term "High Adventure" instead of "Swords & Sorcery" because some people like talking about "Swords & Sorcery" games that have Hobbits and Elves and Red Dragons and Orcs in them, thus making the term meaningless.

This is not one of those games.

I use the term "High Adventure" to mean just that - a game based around the idea that a strong sense of "Adventure!" should be the focal point of the system's goal during game play.

Also, Tankards and Broadswords is not necessarily a "fantasy RPG". The core rules, as they'll be written, don't require a supernatural or science-fiction element in the campaign setting at all. Another reason why I use the term "High Adventure" rather than "Swords & Sorcery" or "Pulp Fantasy". "High Adventure" can be Renaissance Swashbuckling or Roman Legions at War or Viking Marauders or anything in between and beyond.

So yeah, "High Fantasy" has nothing to do with what I'm looking at here. However, that being said, your suggestions, especially Automatons, are much what I'm looking for.

Anonymous said...

So it sounds like you're looking for things that could be in anything from a Conan imitator to Tarzan or Doc Savage, from a Sinbad movie to a a Cal Banks "Uncle Scrooge Adventures" comic.

I have to agree that some examples of gigantic, prehistoric critters are a must - anything from ROUSs to giant woolly walruses. Automata ranging from bronze minotaurs to atlantean androids to ED-209s would also be good, depending on how expansive you want this game to be.

Since you mentioned "xenoids," i'd also recommend "the devil that makes trophies of men," a.k.a. Predator. Such a foe could work equally well as a literal demon or as a scifi alien.

Some kind of degenerate telepathic race, similar to the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, or the people of K'n-yan in Lovecraft & Bishiop's "The Mound."

Sandworms! Dune, Tremors, even Beetlejuice - if it's a giant gnarly annelid, it belongs in an adventure game. (i guess that goes double for sea-monsters.)

The Thing, The Blob, and some kind of Saucer-men, would also be good.

Genies both mad and malign.

Some sort of insect, tiny, delicate, beautiful, and deadly.

An avatar of Cthulhu, Deep Ones, and let's say Zoogs for no good reason.

Riding-panthers. Just because.

Those hulking dog-bull things that possess Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters.

And that's all i can think of for now.

Pukako said...

NPC's of strange, indeterminate, unique races, with bat wings, strange head shapes, weird eyes, etc.

With no explanation of what they are, either.

I think I got this idea when I came across Pirates of Dark Water cartoons on youtube, and a love of things that aren't explained, to keep the mystery of the setting...

Norman Harman said...


Yep, my bad. I misread Fantasy for Adventure. Makes *much* more sense now. A couple more while I'm here.

Flying monkies.

I was thinking this in my last post and some of the entries were due to this: One thing that style of play often has is a lack of monsters. That is the antagonists are men (perhaps mutated or degenerate but mostly men). Perhaps vile twisted cultists, cutthroat corsairs, weird and ancient sorcerers, frog temple priests

I think any "monster" collection should reflect this by having a high percentage of various type of men entries. I remember old versions of D&D had entries for groups such as bandits, brigands, etc.

Rob Iannacone said...

To start with, take any animal that drinks blood (leeches, mosquitoes, ticks, vampire bats, you name it) and multiply either its size or number to taste.

And we can't leave out Nazi superscience and horrible human experiments. Cyborg Hitler worked for Wolfenstein. Oooh, and to tread further down the path of Indiana Jones (pre-refrigerator), swarms of angry pygmies. Complete with crazy voodoo witchdoctor!

And let's not forget dinosaurs. Children know this as early as six: Dinosaurs make *everything* better.

Badelaire said...

@ odrook: Yup - pretty much anything that's NOT boilerplate "D&D" monsters. They've all been statted to death dozens of times and if a savvy GM can't stat out a Troll or a Rot Grub on their own, well, that's their problem.

Beyond that, some really good suggestions, especially movie-ish monsters. What I'm typically doing is statting up monsters, but tweaking them a little so they're not quite the same exact creatures as their source material. So anyone who reads the "Xenoid" entry will know it's an "Alien", but there's still a bit of a wink and a nod.

@Norman: I've been thinking about the "men" issue a lot. One of the things I want to do is in tandem with the "Monster Book" (whatever it gets called), I want to release a "Rogue's Gallery" of both drop-in unique NPCs as well as "Berzerkers", "Myrmidons", "Sorcerers", "Pirates", etc. etc.. Like you suggest. So I'd have one monster book and one book of bad guys.

@Rob: I've already got the Raptosaur (Velociraptor). I'm also looking to stat up a generic "Really Big Thing" which could be a T-Rex, Giant Lizard, King Kong-like ape, etc. etc.. There may be more dinosaurs to come though.

As for Nazis, funny you should mention them - I just caught this movie "Outpost" last night on On Demand. People NEED to check this out. Not the greatest horror movie ever made, but serious riffs on adventure movies and gaming.

Lots of really great suggestions, folks! I'll have to post a couple of monsters I currently have statted up to see what people think soonish.

Timeshadows said...

Badelaire said: "What do you mean by your #4? Put in unique monsters that there's only one of per campaign setting? Or do you mean unique as in wholly my own creation?"

<= Well, both, actually, as I see your 4a as an extension of the 4b process.

I believe this was done to a large degree in the HARN setting, where one wizard was making monsters and unleashing them, either to harass a village, or to see what would come of the critter.

I am using my random critter stuff in lieu of regurgitating the slew of 50+ monsters found in all the simulacretroclones. It fits my setting better in that there are zoards of mutants, and it stands to reason that Gobs and 'bolds would mutate enough to become an entirely different, a-reproducible critter, rather than what I term Breed-mutants which are stable and procreate after their own kind.

Just a suggestion for inclusion, not as an overall ethic in T&B.

The Bronze Mino may want the company of the bronze Shiva, as well. :D

Badelaire said...

Ah, okay, gotcha.

(Ponders making a Random Creature Generator...)

Timeshadows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.