Sunday, February 3, 2008

Creatures: Monsters

While in many other settings the word “monster” refers to all the creatures that the players are meant to beat up on, in the world of Aarn, “monster” means something specific. A monster is a living creature created with biomancy – life channeling magic combined with wizardry. Monsters are inherently magical things – despite them not being godtouched, the magic that created them can give them magical powers. Most monsters, similar to necromantic undead, are created from well-known blueprints. Also similar to necromantic undead, monsters do not die with the death of their biomancer, and biomancers can release them from servitude at any time. Like necromany, biomancers can only exert mental domination over a limited amount of creatures at a time.

Monsters often continue to live their lives after the death of their creator, and many monsters have become creatures indigenous to an area. The breed like animals, behave like animals, and in some cases even possess sentience. The general rule is that if a living creature is not a godtouched and possesses magic, it is a monster.

Basilisk - Lizards with six legs spliced with the biological material of a medusa, Basilisks can kill people instantly with their gaze. They are normally kept as pets or as bodyguards by overambitious or paranoid individuals, and basilisk eggs, while illegal, are widely available and fetch quite a price..

Bunyip - A horrifying experiment gone wrong, bunyips are amphibious squid who can crawl on land and swing from tree to tree. Each of their tentacles eds in a wickedly sharp tooth that secrets poison. They are distinctive for their call that sounds suspiciously like a baby or a woman screaming. They will often drag prey into rivers or streams to drown them, once their poison has taken effect.

Catoblepas - A catoblepas has the body of a hippo, the armor of an armadillo, the mane of a horse, and a massive head the size of its own body that resembles a merge of a hog and a buffalo. It can breathe out a deadly poison that causes exposed skin and veins to calcify, eventually causing blood clots and heart attacks. If inhaled the gas is instantly fatal.

Cyclops - In an attempt to breed a smarter, more loyal giant that could be a decent bodyguard, the cyclops is a miserable failure. While semi-sentient, it is actually less intelligent than most giants. It will almost mindlessly follow orders and believe lies if they are given in a commanding voice - even if those orders don't come from its creator. Cyclops appearance is that of giants with a single eye and large oger-like tusks. Cyclops never blink and their eyesight is quite good, despite the lack of depth perception.

Chimera - Seven centuries ago, a biomancer named Meesha actually managed to get her hands on a mated pair of dying dragons. She subdued them and in her infinite "wisdom" immediately created this freak of nature. She combined the two dragons each with a goat, a lion and a snake, creating a four-headed flying monstrosity. She then mated the pair and the western coast of the Shanbar Province has been plagued by this menace ever since. They breed like rabbits and even the most heated government efforts to cause their extinction have failed.

Goliath - Goliaths are exceedingly large humanoids that dwarf even giants. Goliaths are typically 40 feet tall or larger - grown from much smaller forms. Biomancers typically give them channeling magic of the flame variety, red skin, and devil-like horns. Their "hellish" appearance is as much of a weapon as their size, strength and magi, being quite intimidating for those fearful of demons. While the red-skinned fire goliaths are by far the most common, there are other varieties with different elemental affinities, and slightly different shapes.

Griffin - A dog sized creature that is simply a combination of a miniaturized lion's hindquarters with the head, wings, and fore talons of an eagle. Griffins were originally created to be show animals to be bred and to compete for beauty prizes. Since then they have gone wild and often spend their time perched in trees at night, filling the same ecological niche as the owl.

Hydra - One of the most dangerous biomancy experiments ever made, the hydra was an attempt to recreate dragons using other animals as raw materials. A newt that was used as one of the base components had an unforeseen consequence; it gave the resulting hydra amazing powers of regeneration. A hydra will actively allow its heads to be severed, like a newt would shed its tail. What's worse, two new heads will grow for every head shed. As if that weren't enough, the biomancer's eforts to allow the hydra to breath flame instead caused its shed heads to explode. Hydras are not something one wants to tangle with.

Imp - A sentient (if simple minded) monster, imps make excellent familiars and laboratory assistants. Appearance-wise, they look like one-foot-tall humanoid dragons, with lizard like wings, scaley skin, long pointed ears, a blunted snout that causes their face to resemble an ugly human's, and sharp, pointed fangs. Imps come in 14 varieties, one for each element in channeling magic. Each variety of imp seems to be partially made of its element of choice, so someone procuring an imp must take care to choose a beneficial element. A librarian, for instance, would not want a fire imp helping her sort books.

Keneranik - A black bird with a 12 foot wingspan and its eyes in its chest, the keneranik is often used as a spy or as a servant. It has a natural, detachable globe in its back that shows everything its eyes see. Its master can keep this globe by his side and peer through it, as if he were the bird. Also, as if all that wasn't good enough, keneraniks can breathe fire.

Living Room - Particularly insidious, a "living room" is a large creature that was created originally out of a jellyfish. The living room is a trap more than a creature, and not very mobile. If placed in a room, it will fill that room and coat the walls with itself. Those entering the room will quickly find the exits close as the room itself begins to digest them. Suffocation usually comes first however, especially for those who use an open flame as their light source. Damaging a living room enough will usually cause its exits to open, and it will forcefully expel its occupants in order to preserve its own life. Those inside must be careful not to kill it completely however, because once killed, it will deflate without opening its exits, and those inside will be smothered.

Manticore - A cross between a scorpion, lion, bat and human, the manticore is a feared creature of the southern deserts. It can fire sharp poisonous spines from its tail, has vicious claws and its bite can be quite deadly. Despite its human features it is barely as smart as a common lion. It can fly short distances using its wings, but spends most of the time buried in sand, waiting to ambush prey. Like many biomancer experiments, it is especially fond of human flesh.

Platypus - Considered to be a long forgotten biomancer experiment by many magical scholars, there is heavy contention from the naturalist world, where most insist that the platypus is a natural creature that evolved like any other. It is so hotly debated that simply mentioning a platypus in the middle of a group of scholars invariably causes fistfights and riots to break out.

Troll - Trolls are sentient cave-dwelling monsters who are nocturnal. They heal very quickly and will often raid human towns at night, stealing away children and livestock. They hate light and fire, and do not heal from fire damage. Trolls are noteworthy for the fact that if they are exposed to direct sunlight, their skin calcifies and paralyzes them. To most, this looks like they have turned to stone. In actuality, once the sun sets, the troll's skin will soften and the horrible creature will go on its merry way.

Ugulogo - Created in the last hundred years by a crazed botanist biomancer, the ugologo is a cross between an octopus and a bunched cory cactus. It has pink flowers growing on its head, and its head and tentacles are covered in thick bristly spines, as well as the usual suction cups. Despite having difficulty finding an ecological niche, ugulogo of all sizes thrive in Cerenbaun, around the Great Barrier Sea and the inland Kresian Sea. Surprisingly, they are more happy and healthy on land than in the water, though they are slightly amphibious.

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