Friday, October 16, 2020

3 Alternative Monster Biologies

In a world where magic exists, calories are overrated.

Obscurovores — Eaters of Darkness

Dungeon ecologies are a precarious balance of scavengers and fungal culture. The only resource a dungeon has an abundance of is darkness. The challenge is turning darkness into energy, and this is where the Glowpig comes in.

Glowpigs are short-legged, headless swine, like the rear ends of two pigs stuck together. They eat darkness through their skin, which causes them to shed light as a torch (light is the absence of dark, as the drow will tell you). Their meat is black and rich and, according to some, corrupts the soul.

When threatened, they stop glowing (because they’re no longer eating) and curl up into a ball, relying on their thick, cactus-bristle hair to deter predators. They excrete noxious smoke (save vs. 1d4 poison damage) which crawls over the dungeon floor like a heavy fog, extinguishing campfires and choking sleeping adventurers.

[quick note: most creatures that live in the dungeon have true darkvision, and see as well in the dark as we do in the light. When everything that wants to eat you has darkvision anyway, shedding light isn’t a negative. It can even momentarily confuse predators when the light suddenly goes out and their vision has to adjust, buying the Glowpig precious seconds to flee.] 

Chronovores — Eaters of Time 

There is no such thing as immortality, a truth belied by the timeless nature of the fae. Their secret is chronovory: the consumption of one creature’s lifespan to extend another. This explains the faerie practice of abducting humanoid children, who are likely to have many years ahead of them, and their fascination with food, which they do not need but appreciate artistically much like theatre or music.

This is also why only human children are seen living alongside faeries; they die of old age before they ever grow up. 

Fae of Wishes by Wylie Beckert

Cogitovore — Eaters of Thought

There is a whole category of spirits which draw energy not from calories or magic, but from sapient thought. Among them are angels/devils, spells, nature spirits, and (arguably) gods, all empowered and affected by the thoughts of others.

Emphin are feral cogitovores without an onus or guiding principle to align themselves by. They are sometimes believed to be proto-angeloids, and as a result many eventually ascend to angelhood. Until then, they are as cordial as you would expect a rogue spirit to be.

Emphin are shapeshifters who look like you’d expect them to. Their identity begins and ends with the expectations of others, and their bodies fluctuate as wildly as the rumors surrounding them. Only their size is fixed, scaling based on the number of people who know about them.

If your players are hunting an emphin, describe it in vague terms. The villagers will have conflicting accounts of what its appearance and abilities, and give it vague names like “the monster in the woods”. Right before they meet it, ask your players what they think the emphin looks like, then tailor its abilities to match.


Emphin Rumors
It has many mouths and can skeletonize a cow in 30 seconds.
It flies on gossamer wings, but charges like a bear.
It cries acid and bleeds saltwater. It has an insect's maw.
It’s immune to fire, and spits flames from holes in its neck.
There are thousands of wasps in its mouth.
It can command undead. It’s afraid of holy symbols.
It eats soil and silt and regurgitates locusts.
It has gorgeous plumage and a long python-like neck.
It has a bird's beak and 2d8 additional heads all over its body.
It's lean like a panther and can tunnel through the earth like a mole.
It’s invisible.
Don’t look it in the eyes, or you’ll die from fright.
It’s actually a set of triplets.
It has a rhino's horns and shines like the sun when it roars.
It has claws the size of scythes, which weep cobra venom.
Its skin is harder than stone. Its mouth is long like a crocodile's.
It has two extra pairs of arms, which are always praying (+cleric spells).
It can speak, but only in blasphemies (+wizard spells).
It’s invulnerable to attacks by mortal men.
It’s actually pretty chill. Leave it alone.

They wouldn’t be such a big problem if everyone wasn’t so convinced that all emphin are monsters.


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