Friday, February 4, 2011

What about Arnold from Green Acres?

Okay Darnit! My GF is blogging about her personal endeavors and it has inspired me to get this aborted brainchild up and running again!

It's Friday. I had a great game session last night, and my creative juices are still whirling in an undirected maelstrom of ideas. I've had several amusing/awesome character ideas and I want to lay down some of my brain-stormage here.

To start, these are the characters I have come up with in the past 12 hours.

  • Gnollish Air Pirate named Dog-Faced DeGuerre. He is notorious for actually managing to hijack an airship owned by the gnomish government. He now uses it as a platform for terrorizing the countryside.
  • A humanoid-eating group of were-elk known for grinding their victims into sausage... led by someone named Donner.
  • A halfling, gnomish, or even pixie werebear... I can't figure out if it would be funnier if his/her bear form was the same size as a regular werebear, or if it was tiny... but just as full of rage.
  • A lich whose primary studies revolve around creating artwork which depicts single heiroglyphic images of heroic tales painted with evenly spaced dots made from various creatures' bodily fluids. His name... Roy Lichtenstein.

I think there is something that can be taken from the above ridiculousness. In the realm of high-fantasy RPGs, your players deal with the strange and bizarre on a regular basis. The odd and grotesque becomes almost normal as the PCs slowly become desensitized to the novelty of dragons, hovering eyeballs that shoot lasers, and Cthulu-like squid people who eat brains. It's sort of like riding the bus or subway.

So, in order to make an encounter, or character stand out amid all the weird, I find that it is helpful to push the inherent oddity of a monster or character to the next level by simultaneously anchoring it in something familiar, and above all, giving the character a purpose!


A bit on tying things to the familiar... Most of the players in my gaming group -myself included- are movie buffs. As such, I frequently draw upon (read: rip-off) elements of my favorite movies, TV shows or books when creating an NPC. When doing this, I find that drawing from non-fantasy material actually creates more memorable fantasy encounters. Adding a fantasy trope to a fantasy trope causes the two to blend together, but blending fantasy with other familiar tropes makes the creature or encouter stand out as unique.

The following are some of the creatures and characters my players still talk about. Note: all of these were only encountered briefly, but months or years later are still remembered fondly:

  • The kobold mariachi band - The name says it all. While running into a bunch of yappy dog-lizard men seems mundane in the world of D&D... when they stand before you ready to inspire their fellow kobolds to attack with a stirring bolero, it sticks. It also helps when the in-game encounter plays out something like this.
  • Ba'art, the reluctant dark-elf sheriff of a human town. He brought everyone together during a time of crisis and gained acceptance through the process.
  • Peg-leg Ram'Kil, The dwarven tavern keeper who fights repeated battles with the giant crab that took his leg, because it's not fair that a crab's claw grows back.

Now, as the above character examples illustrate, this process doesn't require a great deal of writing. One or two sentences will suffice. Giving your creations a goal makes them more than just monsters. They suddenly have personality, reason for being. A reason to be remembered.

It's going to be a long...and weird day. TGIF!

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