Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tuesday Tangent: Humanoids
This is another D&D related post- though it applies to pretty much any fantasy setting. In these kind of worlds, one of the things I enjoy are a variety of beasts and beings, both magical and mundane. But on the other hand, I like a little ‘realism’ to my fantasy (other Old School gamers have termed that ‘Gygaxian Naturalism). In short, I like to have my beasties make some kind of ‘sense’- even if it is a convoluted sense I have made up. What I didn’t like about the line of monster books produced for the D&D game was the abandonment of ‘classic’ monsters in favor of the ‘flavor of the week’ new monsters. To me, this was very prevalent in the introduction of various humanoid races in the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II.
This explosion of humanoid races seems all the more strange when you consider how ‘sub-races’ of Elves and Dwarves and the like were handled- not as their own distinct species- but rather as a variation of a ‘stock’ species, with different cultures and perhaps some minor physical differences.
For my own fantasy world, I would go down this road when handling humanoid creatures. Below are some examples of this:
The Goblin Family.
I see goblins as the ‘basic’ D&D villain, especially for low-level beginner groups. They are dangerous enough in numbers, but weak individually- thus, they make a good ‘cowardly villain’ type. There would be variations of these humanoids mostly based upon what environment they have adapted to:
Stone Goblins: These represent the ‘typical’ goblins, evolved to live in caves located in hilly or mountainous regions. They partner with Worgs and survive by raiding other tribes or settlements nearby. They are short but wirey and deceptively strong for their size.
Forest Goblins: These are lankier versions of the typical goblin- evolved to living in the deepest, darkest parts of forests. Though many tribes continue to ally themselves with Worgs, some groups actually form partnerships with giant spiders, even riding them into battle.
Dark Goblins: These pale-skinned creatures visually resemble the ‘Dark Creeper’ monster of Fiend Folio fame. They are very sensitive to light and typically live in dark caves deep underground. They are masters of stealth- even moreso than your typical goblins. Where possible, groups in large cave systems partner with Giant bats to use in battle and raiding. Some groups who live closer to the surface use these bats as well, riding them out for raids on moonless nights.
Jungle Goblins: These are based off the Tasloi, from the Monster Manual II. They are skinny goblins evolved to living in Jungle canopies. They typically partner with giant insects such as wasps or other jungle types.
Swamp Goblins: These are based off the Bulluwugs from the Fiend Folio. Instead of actually being ‘Frog Men’, they would be bug-eyed, lanky swamp dwellers adept at swimming and jumping. They would also utilize giant frogs as guard and attack beasts.
Gibberlings: Typically found only in the remotest wilderness or caverns, Gibberlings represent Goblins pushed beyond sanity by their desperate situations. They are mad, gibbering things who think only of eating. They would be without the sharp swords specified in the Fiend Folio, however. That never did make much sense to me. In appearance, they would be like ‘normal’ Goblins, only crazed, unkempt and naked.
Hobgoblins: These represent an evolved ‘high’ species of Goblins, larger and more intelligent than their bretheren. They tend to construct their own villages or cave system/fortresses. Depending on the terrain in which they live, they might still ally themselves with any of the ‘beast companions’ the lesser tribes do- such as Worgs or Giant Spiders, etc.
Bugbears: These are huge versions of standard goblins- they are barbarians by nature, taking what they want from any ‘lesser’ (i.e. smaller) species. Again, they might have racial traits and animal companions similar to any of the base goblin tribes.
The Orc Family
There is a bit less variety here as Orcs seem to me to be more ubiquitous than goblins- just as humans are among the ‘good’ races of the surface. Your typical orc is beast-faced (with squinty eyes, protruding brows, blunt noses and pronounced fangs). Their bodies are powerfully built but typically hunched, with long arms and stocky legs.
Grimlocks: This is a variety of Orc adapted to living deep underground. They are albino in nature and blind. They make up for this by having acute senses of hearing and smell.
Orog: These are large orcs- said to be a hybrid between Orcs and Ogres. While not much more intelligent than the base variety, they are quite a bit more powerful.
These represent humanoids that display the distinct traits of various beasts. In most cases, these races were brought about by dark magics and the twisting of humanoid species into unholy ‘man-beast’ hybrids. They are not related to eachother except for this origin. Beast-man tribes include:
Gnolls: Hyena men of desert/arid regions (similar to Northern Africa)- however, they could have spread beyond this to colder regions in search of food. They are fierce fighters, but (like their Hyena stock) are opportunists- preferring the easiest route to prey. They sometimes partner with actual Hyenas.
Ratlings: Rat/Man hybrids, they dwell in swamps or sewers or other places where they can live off the resfuse of others. I see them based somewhat on the Skaven from Warhammer.
Wolfen: Wolf men- essentially like Gnolls, only more prevalent in temperate regions. I see them as being more beastial than the wolfen presented in the Palladium RPG.
Anyway, its time to get back to work. These are just a few ideas I had and wanted to get down in writing.