Friday, August 3, 2012

Illithid Behavior

This past week I came across two things that have got me to thinking about the behavior of certain creatures in D&D. The first, was this Ted Talk by Dr. Jane Goodall.

During her research, Dr. Goodall observed many human-like qualities and forms of expression among the chimpanzees that were her subjects... or perhaps she realized that many human qualities were ape-like. Next time you go somewhere with a lot of people, especially if it is hot and not a built environment (the beach is ideal) look out over the throngs of folks in the sun and then imagine them as gorillas. Look at the way they gather and move when they are just existing (i.e. not engaged in constructed behaviors like barbecuing or volleyball) you may very well see these ape-like behaviors. Anyway, the thesis of Dr. Goodall's observations and the first supposition of this post is that humans' behavior evolved along with our physical forms from these apes.
That brings me to the next thing I encountered this week, and how this all relates to D&D. This morning, I read this article from Discover Magazine about the unusual behavior of the squid Octopoteuthis deletron. Not only does this little guy have a tendency to cover all of his fellow Squidworths in squid sperm, but it can intentionally detach one or all of its light-producing, hook-covered arms as an offensive or defensive tactic!
Now, take that observed behavior, plug it into the realm of D&D and imagine how it might affect the behavioral characteristics of this guy.
Illithid, the dreaded mind-flayer
As cephalopodic humanoids, one might presume illithids retain some of the behaviors of their cephalopodic ancestors. Perhaps their mind control abilities are an evolution of their bioluminescense. Perhaps a tool that was used to distract became one that was used to control. Maybe when they teleport away from danger, they do so in a swirling cloud of black ink. And maybe... they have indiscriminate and unsavory sexual appetites. Anyone who has encountered these guys in a game knows they are creepy, dangerous, nasty customers... fleshing out their evolved behavior could be a great and easy way to punch up that creep factor.

My example of an illithid is just that, an example. One could easily apply the concept of evolved behaviors to any of the animal-based humanoids found in the D&D bestiary. Just, be careful how you apply this exercise, because the results could end up being game-breakingly obnoxious.
Dammit, Cat! Have you checked those fish for traps!?

1 comment:

  1. Lessons and cautions in this post are equally valid for writers who build new worlds and new types of humanoids within their stories. Thanks.

    Fabulous post name. LoL.


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