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Monsters and their relationship with nature

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
Elemental – purified nature
Giant – power of nature
Nymph – beauty of nature
Hag – destructive nature
Dryad – nature (oak)
Treant – nature (tree)
Nixie – nature (fresh water)
Savage humanoid – bestial man
Lycanthrope – bestial man within civilised man
Undead – rejection of nature
Aberration – outside nature
Golem – man’s use of nature
Outsider – human concepts
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
I do not know what you are angling at here. Is there a discussion?
I'm trying to understand the D&D monster categories mostly so that if I come up with a concept, I have a better idea where to put it.

Are my categories correct? Frex do giants really represent the power of nature or do they represent only unliving natural forces? Would it be appropriate to create a plague giant or a sun giant for example? Would the notion of plague be better associated with demons, for instance, rather than giants? Do these ideas fit with those already established in D&D?
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
And what's missing? It seems to me that D&D has sufficient highly magical representatives of nonliving natural forces - giants, elementals - but lacks plant and animal spirits. Dryads are hella specific. So is the cat lord. I'm thinking of beings that are below gods in power and stature, but aren't just animal or plant people like gnolls and myconids.

Though it could be argued that giants aren't terribly magical, and are basically just big people, until you get up to cloud giants. D&D has a strong tendency to de-magic its monsters relative to the source material, making almost all of them just people - mortal, tangible - with limited magic powers.
 
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Tony Vargas

Adventurer
And what's missing? It seems to me that D&D has sufficient highly magical representatives of nonliving natural forces - giants, elementals - but lacks plant and animal spirits. Dryads are hella specific. So is the cat lord. I'm thinking of beings that are below gods in power and stature, but aren't just animal or plant people like gnolls and myconids.
So like the idea of the primal spirits, but with actual stats?

Though it could be argued that giants aren't terribly magical, and are basically just big people, until you get up to cloud giants.
They do have clear elemental connections - Stone, Frost, Fire, Cloud/Storm, but for the lowly Hill Giant and some of the other variations.

D&D has a strong tendency to de-magic its monsters relative to the source material, making almost all of them just people - mortal, tangible - with limited magic powers.
Really?
I mean, Demons et al are mortal/tangible, when visiting the prime material in what are essentially astral bodies, but kill 'em and they reform on their home plane.
 

77IM

Explorer
The one that stands out to me as a bad fit is "Hag – destructive nature." Hags are hateful, deceptive, and insidious, but they're not overtly destructive. I might equate them with something like "Lure of Nature." (Using "lure" in the sense of fishing. You are the fish.) Maybe they are like diseases, or a force of decay?

For "Destructive Nature" I would turn to the biggest, baddest monsters of all -- the ones that brought earthquakes, thunderstorms, and pestilence in their wake; the ones that could trigger a panic just by flying over a city; the ones frequently prophesied to destroy the world; the ones who trigger species-memory of our ancient reptilian predators; the ultimate monster featured in so many myths and legends...
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
For "Destructive Nature" I would turn to the biggest, baddest monsters of all -- the ones that brought earthquakes, thunderstorms, and pestilence in their wake; the ones that could trigger a panic just by flying over a city; the ones frequently prophesied to destroy the world; the ones who trigger species-memory of our ancient reptilian predators; the ultimate monster featured in so many myths and legends...
Godzilla?
 
I'm trying to understand the D&D monster categories mostly so that if I come up with a concept, I have a better idea where to put it.
Well, it's your cosmology. What a monster category represents is campaign specific.

Are my categories correct? Frex do giants really represent the power of nature or do they represent only unliving natural forces?
For example, in my campaign giants are the offspring of the interbreeding of the gods and the jinn. So Storm Giants for example have a divine parent and a Marid parent. So your question is meaningless within my campaign. There are certainly plague spirits that would be a sort of demon in traditional D&D terms. And it would be more than possible to have a plague giant with a divine parent associated with disease and some jinn paramour, possibly a Makhluqtin the slime jinn from the plane of ooze. But I'd probably just stat up such a being as a unique Formorian and give it some levels in sorcerer or other spellcaster and a template.

The point is that I don't define things by their philosophical representation, but by how they were made. And if they are literally a philosophical incarnation of something and that is their origin, they are always Outsiders because that is pretty much how Outsiders are defined in my game. Nothing else explicitly stands for anything. They just have an origin story of some sort. For example, beasts and aberrations in my game are the product of magical tinkering of two different sorts, what you might call natural magical tinkering (genetics in our world) and unnatural magical tinkering to bring in things from outside the universe (or multiverse if you prefer the term).
 
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And what's missing? It seems to me that D&D has sufficient highly magical representatives of nonliving natural forces - giants, elementals - but lacks plant and animal spirits. Dryads are hella specific. So is the cat lord. I'm thinking of beings that are below gods in power and stature, but aren't just animal or plant people like gnolls and myconids.
Ok, yes. I have a TON of these things in my game. For inspiration in this area, I'd suggest starting out with Green Ronin's 'Shaman's Handbook' book for 3.0. I have 4 tiers of animal spirits for example: least, lesser, greater and Lord. I have elemental spirits that are embodiments of elementals. I have different sorts of spirits that represent ideas. I have different sorts of nature spirits covering areas outside the usual nymph, sylph, and dryad.

I concur with you that D&D tends to humanize everything and that there are big gaps in the world if it is to be a believable magical, animistic world.
 
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77IM

Explorer
Godzilla?
I'm sure he was going for 'dragon.'

But, D&D's resident Kaiju is the Terrasque.
Right. Godzilla's basically a dragon; he even breathes fire*. Dragons in folklore basically functioned like Godzilla. And the Tarasque from folklore could be considered a type of dragon (monsters in folklore frequently defy easy categorization).



* Technically, it is "Atomic Heat Breath," but whatevs, the symbolism works.
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
Dragon - colours

As a whole they don't fit into any other categories. Some have natural breath weapons, some don't. I think they were derived from the conceptual associations with their various colours. Red = heat, white = cold, green = poison, blue = sky, gold and silver = noble metals.

The reason they're essentially meaningless is that the colour-coded dragons have shallow roots, being created for D&D, while the D&D giants frex are mostly from Norse myth and elementals are ultimately from Greek natural philosophy and Paracelsus.
 
I'm developing a taxonomy based on Indo-European mythologies, as that is the primary inspiration for D&D rules. It's more difficult than it should be since D&D has more categories than needed, but I manage. In contrast to the rules as written, I allow monsters to have multiple types as needed for their concept.
 

dave2008

Explorer
Dragon - colours

As a whole they don't fit into any other categories. Some have natural breath weapons, some don't. I think they were derived from the conceptual associations with their various colours. Red = heat, white = cold, green = poison, blue = sky, gold and silver = noble metals.

The reason they're essentially meaningless is that the colour-coded dragons have shallow roots, being created for D&D, while the D&D giants frex are mostly from Norse myth and elementals are ultimately from Greek natural philosophy and Paracelsus.
I don't agree with that assessment, but your not going with "canon" anyways, so make the dragons what you want. I'm just proposing that your system is flawed if you don't have an answer for dragons. This is Dungeons and Dragons after all. So how about one or more of the following:


  • the destruction of nature
  • destruction of the unnatural
  • the destruction of human (or human made)
  • the destruction of civilization
  • the destructive force of nature.
 

dave2008

Explorer
Some have natural breath weapons, some don't.
There are no natural breath weapons. Yes poison and acid (which you didn't mention) could plausibly be "natural," but there is no "natural" creature the exhales acid or poison gas like dragons. There are things that are similar though (spiting cobra, horned toads, bombadier beetles, ants, etc.). Of course I don't what that has to do with your argument (giants have similar issues).
 

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