D&D General Should D&D feature fearsome critters and other Americana?

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
As a European medieval fantasy simulator, D&D isn't great. The TSR settings, especially, show an American mindset about population densities and modern attitudes have peeked through -- or been completely dominant -- in the game since its inception. And the region around the City of Greyhawk looks suspiciously like the region around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, plus or minus a dragon. Which is great, to be clear: I'm not interested in playing Dung Heaps and Dysentery, and I don't think many other people are, either.

But should D&D go all the way and embrace this idea of American fantasy? Should it feature monsters from tall tales like fearsome critters, actual North American myths and legends, cryptids like Bigfoot? Should it draw from distinctly American fantasy works like the Oz novels (the Harry Potter novels of their day)?

Would your players enjoy dealing with lake monsters while keeping watch to prevent getting attacked by a hidebehind? Or would that be an unwelcome flavor in your fantasy?
 

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Vaalingrade

Legend
Fearsome critters specifically are hard to translate into something actually gameable. So many of them are really there just to give a silly mental image or describe daily annoyances of frontiersmen and lumberjacks.

Don't get me wrong, I love hidebehinds and ax handle hounds, but... as a statted D&D monster? What do you do with them?
 

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
Fearsome critters specifically are hard to translate into something actually gameable. So many of them are really there just to give a silly mental image or describe daily annoyances of frontiersmen and lumberjacks.

Don't get me wrong, I love hidebehinds and ax handle hounds, but... as a statted D&D monster? What do you do with them?
I have a basic rule if it can be made gameable and will not start a massive controversy it should be included as I want more insane stuff to beat the tar out of or become friends with.

a hidebehind could be moved closer to a rustmonster or mimic a trick foe, hard alone easy to fight together, the monster who is why you do not split the party.
 



Reynard

Legend
Supporter
D&D adventurers are distinctly American thematically. They are more Old West than medieval-- which is not surprising given it was the American pulps that spawned the genre and guys like Howard wrote plenty of cowboy tales too.

It would be interesting to lean into that. Keep the medieval trappings but embrace the frontier mentality. What if Erik's voyage has sparked the colonial era 500 years earlier? (just as a thought experiment)
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
This is so easy to do as a regional setting on the planet of Toril.

Namely, Anchorhome (Canada) and North Maztica (US).


That said, these creatures can exist in any adventure for various reasons.
 

borringman

Villager
Do you mean American American, or stuff cooked up by all the immigrants & refugees that showed up starting from around the 1600s? Snark aside, I'm drawing a distinction because as anachronistic as it is, D&D is nominally about settings with Medieval tech levels, and "New World" demographics were pretty different during the Middle Ages. Anything pre-Industrial is generally going to be Native American folklore (which there is a lot of, I should point out).

I think American mythology (?) doesn't get used much because we consider it tacky. Tabloid-level stuff. It's all relatively recent, widely ridiculed from the start, and works based on them tend to be cheap. A statue of some ancient mythological beast exists to this day because it's carved from solid rock and/or is a treasured work of art. An alien mask bought in Roswell, New Mexico, might still exist 500 years from now but only because plastic is non-biodegradable.

That said, one idea that seems to get mileage in tabletop games is the "monster of the week" -- our horror/action franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Alien, Predator, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to name a few. Even more recent, but also easier to adapt.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
D&D adventurers are distinctly American thematically. They are more Old West than medieval-- which is not surprising given it was the American pulps that spawned the genre and guys like Howard wrote plenty of cowboy tales too.

It would be interesting to lean into that. Keep the medieval trappings but embrace the frontier mentality. What if Erik's voyage has sparked the colonial era 500 years earlier? (just as a thought experiment)
So the Old West metaphor might be expressed in game that, instead of it being centered around castles and castle-like objects, it could be centered on cities, with wide bands of lightly settled ranches and farms (often warring against each other or stealing horses/cattle from each other). Towns might have an armed person to keep the peace, probably elected, but reliant on traveling groups of peacekeepers who in theory are acting based on the authority of a distant regional figure, but sometimes are just well-meaning buttinskis.

Swap the guns out for swords and spells, and yeah, it both looks like a Western movie but also many games of D&D already.
 

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