Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D: Dungeons and Dinosaurs?

It's time for an iconic critter! Something big, and impressive, and maybe scaly, something to give a party pause for at least a moment. What to use, what to use ...

A dragon?

Sure, dragons are great and all; I love me some dragons. But I love dinosaurs even more -- and it can be highly entertaining to fit the beasties into a game. Though it's true to say that "scaly" only describes some of them, and that not at all scaled the way snakes and lizards and dragons were scaled, dropping an ornithodiran or three can be great fun if played correctly. These weren't dull and lumbering beasts but strange and wondrous, lively creatures and a lot of gaming mileage can be gotten from them.

On the one hand you have your maniraptors (feathered, if you please! -- unless you're deliberately going for the retro Land-Before-Time look, of course) and your tyrannosaurs (send a pack of those after a party for great fun, whether a T. rex or one of the more sporty albertosaurs) ... on the other, even the herbivores can be baroque and unusual, like Stygimoloch or just about any ceratopsid ever discovered. If there's an angry herd of Achelousaurus between the party and their goal, what to do? It's like dealing with rhinos equipped with giant snapping beaks and spikety things. Have fun, folks!

Of course, one doesn't have to be obvious when introducing the beasts to a game. Don't call them "dinosaurs"; if they have familiar names, don't use those either. If the name is usual enough one might be able to get away with it -- the citipati posted here on this blog is, after all, simply the oviraptorid without being called out as a "dinosaur".

Or, taking a different tack altogether, maybe dinosaurs are the "dragons" of the game setting. Maybe certain species are intelligent, casting spells and -- if they survive past a certain point -- living effectively forever. Others might be terrifying brute beasts of elemental power (and, yes, possessing breath weapons! imagine a Trexie that breathed fire or acid), terrorizing the countryside and descending upon hapless villages, possibly in packs or herds ... even descending from the air, on two feathery wings or four (Velociraptor-sized Microraptors, anyone?), to cling and claw and bite.

And then there's the various possibilities of the undead ~

7 comments:

Jeff Rients said...

I've been thinking of putting some Eotyrannuses on the Isle of Wight in my Wessex campaign, since that's where they were discovered. I can't quite make up my mind whether to keep them as animal-predators (basically replacing wolves on the island) or to make them smart (thus taking the lizardman/troglodyte niche in th campaign) or maybe make them all undead remnants from a previous age (wights, of course). All three sound awesome. Hmmm. Maybe I'll take a page from the serpentmen of the Cthulhu Mythos and have one superintelligent holdover leading degenerate animals.

ChicagoWiz said...

You and Joesky! Hmm... did you two collaborate? :)

taichara said...

@Jeff Reints:

You could go the serpentmen route and have some undead ones? Variety is always good ~


@ChicagoWiz:

Not at all -- I'm not even particularly familiar with that blog ;3 But I brought one of my textbooks to my dental appt this morning ...

steelcaress said...

I love that idea! Sword & Sorcery stories set against a backdrop with dinosaurs are always fun. I remember a comic with Conan having a run-in with a "dragon" that didn't fly or breathe fire, it was just a particularly huge lizard with only animal intelligence. Caused a lot of destruction in that ruined city, too. :)

I always thought it would be fun to run D&D like that.

The spellcasting dinos are something I've been toying with, too. In Nephilim, in the distant past, the dinos were intelligent spellcasters, and brought about their own doom. I love that idea -- after all, who really knows how actually intelligent dinos were? They insisted for a long time that men started using tools only a certain amount of millenia ago, until the first tool-users were found to be much much older...

Mothman's Dog said...

I've found that it is better to rename and reimagine dinosaurs in a fantasy setting...

Otherwise, the dinosaur experts will spend half the game session discussing how realistic your depiction is - and I speak from experience, unfortunately

Chris said...

Don't call them "dinosaurs"; if they have familiar names, don't use those either.

Didn't the Eberron setting do this, albeit cheesily and with ears of the very finest tin?

Others might be terrifying brute beasts of elemental power (and, yes, possessing breath weapons! imagine a Trexie that breathed fire or acid)...

There was an old Dragon mag. article about time travel that had adventurers laughing about beating up on some 'big-dumb lizard', right up until it opened its mouth and blasted them for "= current hp" damage. It also suggested Ankylosaur Tarrasques though...

And then there's the various possibilities of the undead ~

Undead war-dinos? Where's the fun in that?

ClawCarver said...

... imagine a Trexie that breathed fire or acid ...

You mean, like Wexter?