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Article - 'Creature Templates' by Faust

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

Lack of imagination? tired of using the same old creatures in your RPG? Find out how to change all this!

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Creature Types



To complement the few bestiaries we have on the site, I decided to throw together a little tool you all can use to make new, unique creatures by applying templates. “Templates? What are they?” you say, and let me alert you to the possibilities! Yes, truly a genius I am! Or something.

In basic terms: these “templates” I will describe are “types” of elements you can mix into your creature to give it a new “type”. Many works of fantasy have already done this (black dragons, Fire Birds [phoenix}), so Whahay. Here we go.





Astral



When most people hear the world astral they instinctly think of Astral projection. Astral is something to do with space and dimensions and so on; the ability to push yourself through etc. Auras, Chakras, Dreams and out of body experiences all play a part in the "astral" scope. Psionic beings are astral creatures.

My good friend Bub has volunteered to be "made psychic" as an example of how to create an astral creature. Bub will possess many "psionic" powers.

Bub will probably be weaker than he was before due to the lack of emphasis placed upon physical activity. Lets give Bub some psychic type attacks, low defence, attack and HP and badaboom; he's ready to go. Give him special psionic skills to balance out though; we're improving him with a template, not weakening him.

Astral powers: Psionics, Plane Shifting, Teleportation, Mind Reading

Positive: Aforementioned "powers"
Negative: Physical stregth may decrease due to less focus, does not work un unintelligent creatures
Examples: Mindflayer, Uri Gellar!



Construct



A construct is an animated object or artificially created creature. Constructs are also called "robots" in the modern day world, or "Golems" at an earlier time.

Adding a "construct" template to something is one of the easier tasks we will encounter in this article. It can also be one of the most complex however, as you will see.

The ever faithful Bub has agreed to be our test subject for this task. Yay bub! So lets begin. Firstly we need to decide how far we're going to take the "construct" template: Is bub going to be a creature entirely artificial, or will he resemble a "cyborg" - only a construct in certain areas. If Bub is a total construct then he (as a human) will resemble a Golem or Robot, depending on the period. Bub wont be, or have ever been, a human and so wont have human experience or intelligence.

If we go the other way, we can make Bub only partly a robot. Lets give him a new construct arm to replace the one he lost fighting in the Heretical Wars. Instead of building him a basic artificial arm, let's add a few little bits and bobs: a heat seeking missile, a compass and a selection of weapons which pop out when buttons are pressed. Bub is now improved and ready to kick some ass! We can improve bub even further by replacing arms, legs, his torso or even by giving him a new Cybernetic face. Bub will surely be the belle of the ball!

When applied to other creatures the fun really begins; Golem Dragons, Cybernetic Hell-hounds and Robotic Wyverns can all play a part in creating nightmares for the heroic party, especially in a pre-victorian-esque period. Variety is the spice of life after all!

Construct Types: Stone, Rock, Iron, Gold, Diamond, Mechanical, Cybernetic

Positive: Creation of Life or improvement on pre-construct state. "Superhuman".

Negative: Rust/corrosion, emotional scarring, maintenance.

Examples: Gold Golem, Clockwork Soldier, CyberDaemon



Celestials and Daemons



The best way to describe a Celestial is: an angel. Celestials are outsider beings and, like Daemons, they are immortal creatures. They are an ultimate force for "good" and "balance", and generally fight Daemons at every oppurtunity.

Daemons are pretty much the highest form of evil; they lurk on the outskirts of reality, waiting to pervert mankind. These outsiders are the opposite of celestial creatures and are usually shunned by the pure of heart. Powerful sorcerors try to get the better of Daemons, to control them or to demand wishes. These seldom turn out right and usually end with the mage in question in eternal servitude to the daemon.

The Daemonic template can transform any creature into an ultimate force for evil. Daemons are hardly ever "lesser" enemies in role playing games; they usually take up the best spots, or at least lesser arch-villain slots. Any creature can also become a Daemon by choice, but very few powerful beings do so. Most are simply destroyed in the process

Firstly, you need to decide what kind of Daemon or Celestial you want your new creature to be. There are too many to sum up here, but Here is a pretty good page describing the basic types and certain powers they may have (It's from a game called "Darklands). Remember to give your Outsider weaknesses as well as stenghts; only Deities are all powerful.

Now we'll turn Bub's dog, Bobo, into a Daemon of the "lesser fiend" variety. A hellhound would be excellent, but a "Cerberus" would be even better. We give Bobo a few extra heads, the ability to breath fire, some spiffy powers and pow! He's daemonic. Give him a resistance to fire and darkness, the ability to inspire terror into his foes and a weakness to holy magic and pow! Bobo is fearsome!

Outsider Types: Here

Positive: Semi-ultimate force for evil/good, exceptional powers, more powerful than any mortal, terror, resistances

Negative: Varient for specific Daemons/Celestials

examples: Angels, Hell Hounds, Imps, Spawns



Elemental



Elemental creations are the most common type used in RPGs of late; Creatures such as Frost Wyrms to Rock Trolls haunt our Heroes throughout their quests. Attaching an element to a creature is a pretty simple process: Firstly you find the creature you'd like to grant this power (We'll use Bub the Human for continuity purposes). Next we choose an element from which bub will draw power from, in this case we'll choose the commonly used "fire" domain. So bub is now a "fire human".

We now have to choose how to portray bub in his new state, and we can go about this in two different ways. Firstly we could have bub take on the actual characteristics of his new power, turning him into a fire elemental. Bub is now a humanoid creature made entirely out of fire - he has become his element.

Alternatively we can grant this new form to bub in another more subtle way. Instead of making bub physically fire, we could grant him powers over fire - effectively turning him into a Pyromancer. Bub can cast fire magics, control blazes and maybe even effect temperature, but he's still in his human form. Give him a few fire magic spells like fireball and Bub is ready for a night on the town!

Taking a step away from Bub for a moment, hopefully you can see the different ways in which the "elemental" school can be used. You can create more creatures like bub the elemental (elementals are commonly used accross the genre), or even substitute a human for another animal. The Phoenix is a well known example of an elemental creature, a bird of Fire. Now try imagining an Ice Phoenix, or an Earth Phoenix.

Elemental types you can use: Air, Earth, Dark, Fire, Frost/Ice, Light, Lightning, Plant, Water, Wind

Positive: Control over an element, Adept Magics, Own Element Resistance
Negative: Weak against opposing elemental school
Examples: Earth Elementals, Lightning Lizards, Fire Hounds


Lycanthrope



Most of you probably know that a Lycanthropical being is a "were-person". This means that they have one natural form, yet revert to another hybrid or pure form depending upon certain circumstances. Werewolves are excellent examples of this (Wolf hybrid upon full moon), whereas other examples like THE INCREDIBLE HULK are often forgotten (He turns into a big green thing when he becomes enraged).

Making a Lycanthrope is another easy process, especially if using a Human as the base creature. Lycanthropes can have three basic forms: Their natural form (in bub's case: a human), the wereform (We'll make bub a werebear) and a hybrid form (in this case would be half bear, half man). You then have to decide under which circumstances "Bub" will turn into these forms.

Ok, firstly I'll decide the hybrid form. We want Bub to be a formidable foe, so let's give him the ability to change into a hybrid whenever he wants. This will give him a lot of bonus power in combat as he can switch between forms voluntarilly. His fullwere form, however, will require some kind of "switch" - let's have him turn into a bear when he comes into contact with dairy products! See the fun? Do you see?!

Positive: Added strength, special "powers"

Negative: Basic "curse of the moon", uncontrollable switching between forms sometimes,

Examples: Were-Rat, Were-bear, Were-pig, were-alligator etc. The list is pretty much endless.



Incorporeal



Incorporeal beings have no physical bodies; they are creatures of force, habit or mist. Air elementals can be Incorperal, as can ghosts and certain planar-esque daemons.

We wont bother making Bub into an Incorporeal being; he's been through enough for the moment. We'll just describe the process and "rules" of being incorporeal:

1) Incorporeal beings cannot be hurt with physical force. They can only be harmed by magic; the stronger ones can only be harmed by something greater still.

2) Incorporeal beings can attack other Incorporeal beings

3) Incorporeal beings are excellent spies as they can become invisible/totally blend in with their surroundings. Chameleon-tastic!
Positive: Ageless, stronger, terrifying

Negative: Special weaknesses, slower than usual, low metabolism, dependant upon food source

Examples: Ghosts, Mist Monsters, Spirit-Daemons



Noble



A Noble creature is undoubtably the purest creature; the creature of legend. This doesn't mean that they're necessarilly a good creature, just that they're the paragons of their kind. Humans at the present time would be "Noble" primates, having outlived the neanderthols and evolving apes (should you believe in evolution that is). Another way of looking at it would be to say that Angels would be "noble" humans. There are so many variations.

A Noble creature is a higher being, concerning itself with the important matters in life rather than the mundane. A noble being may be a creature of philosophy, ethical debating or trickery. The Sphinx was a noble creature, amusing itself with wordgames and riddles (and eating people via failure to guess said riddles). They almost always are multi-lingual, speaking a great deal of languages (their time devoted to education allows this).

It would be boring to make Bub a noble Human - he doesn't deserve it anyway. Instead we'll use a Lion.

A "lassamu" is a "noble" version of a lion. It can fly like a bird, cast powerful magics, strike down foes and is pretty much a force for good. Another version of this creature is a Lammasu, an evil variety created by dark dwarfs. Both are highly intelligent and adept in sorcery; both are fearsome foes. This shows that a "noble" creature isn't always a force of benevolance; just a "higher adaptation/evolution".

Positive: High intelligence, multi-lingual, innate sorcery, "higher evolution"
Negative: Out of touch with other creatures of it's kind, possibly elitist, narcissistical
Examples: High elves, Noble Humans, Gold Dwarfs, Deity-Dragons (Tiamat, Bahamut).


Undead



The word "undead" can have many meanings but they generally lead to the same thing in a typical fantasy setting: creatures of necromancy. From Skeletal beings to Vampiric Daemons, the undead are a scourge on the lands of mortals. Now let's create one!

Poor old Bub, will his pain ever end? Oh...now he's dead. Suicide is NO way to escape this article Bub; let's bring him back using Necromancy! Hmm...but in which form? Bub is a human so it should be pretty easy; there are a large number of paths we could take on this. On second thoughts let's leave Bub to his eternal Hell - We'll reanimate his doggy instead.

Bub's dog isn't humanoid so we can't make it a Lich unfortunately. We do have a number of other choices available to us though; let's go for a vampire. We have the subject already, so let's apply the vampire's traits. It's undead so it'll be hurt by the usually vampirey things (Stakes, sunlight, garlic), it needs blood to survive and it's a lot stronger than it's pre-death form. Whahay! Simple enough. Creating undead creatures is one of the easiest tasks as the transition between humans and other creatures on this matter isn't really that great. The end result will be just like a humanoid version, but will retain all the pre-death traits too (four legs so agile, killing jaws and so forth).

Remember to take into account the seperate weaknesses of each undead kind (Vampires - sunlight, Mummies - Fire, Skeletons - Clubs and so on).

Undead types you can use: Skeletal, Zombie, Mummified, Vampiric, Lich
Positive: Ageless, stronger, terrifying, regeneration (some)

Negative: Special weaknesses, slower than usual, low metabolism, dependant upon food source

Examples: Zombie Dragons, Mummified Humans, Vampiric Bats



Hopefully this little guide has been useful to you. Rather than take it as a set in stone work, feel free to totally experiment. I've listen all "types" I know of but I'm pretty sure that there are thousands more. Now lets see some new exciting creatures! :D. Innovative fun! Tolkein, Pratchett and the other fantasy masters didn't just mimic others. YOU can be a pokem...monster master too!

Look out for my next article: "Creating a God", featuring domains, portfolios, powers and types of God. Whahay!!