Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monsters Monsters Monsters 3: The Post That Ruins the Franchise

Here is my third and (for now) last post on monsters. Perhaps because I already showed you most of the critters I understood well, as they came to mind first, we now have left a few that I'm not sure how to use in the City of Lives (if at all). Let me explain my difficulties, and you can sound off in the comments!

Notional Construct: Yet another "evocative-name-first-concept-second," one that, if I recall correctly, popped into my head apropos of nothing. However, what it is becomes fairly obvious given thought -- it's an idea (or "notion") given physical form (or "construct"-ed). What kind of potent ideas are likely to be capable of life and form? Justice, perhaps. Hope -- or is that an emotion? The quest for knowledge. Nationalism. Even "I think, therefore I am?" These ideas-made-flesh would be the most elemental of beings, dedicated only to advancing the cause that makes up the constructs themselves. Can one kill an idea? At best, perhaps, it dissipates and reforms again -- unless you can actually change society's mind... An intriguing idea, but perhaps this is too vague, too difficult to actually run, and too frustrating for the players? Thoughts? Yea or Nay?

Sss'ch'kinsa: This is a re-used creature, from an old Alternity game I ran once upon a time. At that point, it was an alien predator/parasite, heavily inspired by Alien and Starcraft's zergling. It is a creature with both insect and lizard features -- powerful back legs like a grasshopper, a lizard-like body, mandibles, and two great spikes coming from its front legs instead of feet or paws. In order to hunt/breed, a sss'ch'kinsa makes a springing leap of up to twenty feet, piercing the prey with its spikes and pinning it to the ground. The sss'ch'kinsa then grasps the prey's skull in its mandibles, and punctures it with a proboscis, filling the skull with eggs. The predator leisurely eats the corpse, leaving its eggs to grow in the skull and feast on the brains.

For the purposes of City of Lives, the sss'ch'kinsa almost certainly comes not from the Realm of Lives but a Near Realm -- it's obviously not the same biology as horses, birds, and fish, but neither does it break physics like those creatures from the Far Realms. It seems like this critter would be best for a horror adventure, PCs trying to survive, and/or a "bug hunt"-type mission with the PCs trying to keep a sss'ch'kinsa infestation from breaking out into the City proper.

However, there's something to consider. The sss'ch'kinsa is clearly derivative, and also more of a sci-fi/horror monster than a high fantasy one. Does it have a place in the City of Lives?

Sewer Snake: This came from the opposite direction than most of my ideas -- I considered a danger for the underground, sewer-dwelling Grate-Scratchers, then looked for a name, resulting in the not-terribly-evocative but nicely alliterative "Sewer Snake." I see it as inspired by the stories of alligators in the sewers -- gigantic serpents that nearly fill the sewer tunnels, feeding off unwary Grate-Scratchers. However, there's not much particularly original about the Sewer Snake, and it begs questions as to what such a ridiculously large creature would realistically live on in a relatively food-poor environment like the sewers. Should it stay or go into the round file, gentle readers?

Thornbearers: Another evocative name derived from a random generator. What are the metaphorical implications of thorns? Pain and hurt, often emotional as well as physical (at least, in Christian symbolism related to the Crown of Thorns), and those who "bear" things carry and put up with them. So Thornbearers might well be tortured creatures, filled with pain and sorrow -- but since thorns pierce, they probably can inflict their pain on others. They sound related to the Blightbound "zombies" or the sorrow-obsessed Pariahs. Now, I already have a few mutant humans and a few zombies/spirits, so either place to put the Thornbearers might feel redundant... what do you think, dear readers?

As a final note before I leave you for another half-week, here are some evocative names with absolutely nothing to do with. Any thoughts?
Gravesons, Hevverbird, Ragman, The Withdrawn Man, Vexful, and White Rooks

Next time, join me for an examination of Religion in the City of Lives.