Did you know that there are dragons in Dungeons & Dragons? I know, I know, I was surprised as well. Not just a few dragons either. The world of Harry Potter has some dragons to deal with too.
They come in all shapes – from babies the size of a horse to elders thirty feet in length – and all sorts of colours. The ‘good’ dragons are all shiny colours, golds and silvers, whilst the ‘bad’ dudes are standard colours like red and blue. Not only does the colour inform their general behaviour and habits, but different breath weapons.
(I’ll never forget the first time a new player confidentially stated, pre-fight: “Don’t worry guys, I’ve got this. I’m resistant to fire damage!” only to watch in horror as the green dragon unleashed an intense cloud of poison on their fledgling character. Priceless.)
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If a fantasy writer created the Chimaera today, you might accuse them of laziness:
“Yeah, so the monster has a lion body and a lion head but it has goat hooves and the tail of a dragon!”
“So you just stuck different animals together? Is that it? And wouldn’t a lion be less dangerous if it doesn’t have claws?”
“Okay…okay, what about a lion with three heads, one is a goat head and one is-“
“a dragon head, and it has wings and the tail is actually a snake and…”
And yet, the Chimaera is a staple of fantasy and myth. It such a significant idea, that the word is used as medical and scientific jargon.
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We don’t always play the video game in front of us. Control is often wrested from us, and we are obliged to watch closely. Cutscenes and Quick Time Events interrupt the flow, to push the plot forwards or to steer us down a very specific track. When a game shifts into a lower gear, and player agency is restricted, it is hopefully for a very good reason.
One of the particular reasons a game does this is because the protagonist has suffered a severe, sometimes mortal, wound.
Lot’s of games have this moment. a dramatic scene in which the player-character is reduced to a slow, lumbering mess, desperately dragging themselves to safety or performing one last heroic deed. Sometimes, it creates a deliberately heart-wrenching moment. It’s also a very strange moment from a game logic perspective. Having walked off so many terrible, violent attacks, we are told that this wound is the one that could be our downfall.
Continue reading “This Wound Matters: Video Game Storytelling”
An easy one this week. Centaurs are another beastie that exists in the Potterverse and Dungeons & Dragons. You could definitely create a Potter-fied D&D game and use the standard Centaur monster stats as written.
If you want something more authentic – or maybe a centaur that’s slightly more interesting – well, I’ve got a modified version for you.
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If there’s one type of monster that I’ve barely used in D&D, it’s the ‘Oozes’. Living, wriggling puddles of acidic goop that seep into the walls of dungeons and tombs. The ‘Gelatinous Cube’ is the most infamous of the Ooze-kind. One has a cameo in Disney’s Beyond.
They are some fun applications, but they are never the masterminds (or even side characters) of a evil plan or scheme. They make good fodder for adventure, but I’ve never built a campaign around them. It would be a pretty short campaign.
The Bundimun from Fantastic Beasts is definitely an ooze. Acid texture, amorphous body. It likes to chew through houses and get really problematic when it teams up with its mates.
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A bonus post for this week. I was planning to convert one Fantastic Beast into a D&D monster every week, but the Bowtruckle was an easy construction. A cute creature that has a great deal of charm in the movies, but its essentially a magical stick insect with slightly sharped claws:
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At first I thought the Billywig was going to take two minutes to turn into a D&D monster. It certainly looks weird – essentially a chubby mosquito with helicopter wings on the top of its head – but I thought it would just be a simple stat block for a tiny insect.
Then I had a proper read of what that sting does:
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I’m pretty fickle when it comes to horror. I’ll happily skip most scary movies, but ever now and then I hit on one that I really enjoy, but it won’t convince me to get more into the genre. When it comes to role-playing games, the horror centric stuff is interesting but only in short bursts. My fondness for horror in video games is even more fleeting.
I like scary stories, but I’m just not fussed about spooky games with limited agency. Most horror games put you in a scenario where you feel helpless, which is what enhances the scariness, but they also often strip you of any self defence. You can walk around the map, and when the monster comes you can hide, but you can’t kick or struggle when it gets you. You can take pictures or scoop up documents, but don’t even think about picking up any sharp or heavy to fight the bogeyman off.
Continue reading “I Miss Dead Space”
This one’s a tricky monster. For one thing, the Basilisk appears in D&D already. In that case, it’s a many-legged, angry-looking reptile. Imagine a blue Komodo Dragon with extra legs and spikes and the ability to turn those that look their way to stone.
The second issue is that the Fantastic Beasts Basilisk is a tough
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little gigantic monster. Harry Potter obviously has the ultimate plot armour when he goes up against the big snake in the basement, but oh boy, was he stupidly lucky. A stare that kills instantly, venom that kills in minutes, and scales that reflect spells…
Beast number three is an easy one. The Augurey is essentially an emaciated, noisy vulture and there’s already monster stats for Vultures in the Monster Manual. It does have a couple of neat features though. Well, I say neat, it has some slightly impressive abilities that are worth adding to its stats.
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