Sunday, March 17, 2013

Digging Up Fossils

"Don't move!  He can't see us if we don't move."
- Alan Grant, Jurassic Park

Lately, my imagination has gone back to dinosaurs.  I've been a big fan of these amazing creatures since I was a child, and really enjoy the fact that they have been giving as an option in the D&D game under the term behemoth (another name for the creatures).  One of the first Lair Assault modules I was able to purchase off of ebay was Attack of the Tyrantclaw, a module I wanted specifically because I wanted some appropriate dinosaur stat blocks, and monster tokens.
As I've ready other people's blogs and comments about their games, some of them use dinosaurs in them, but as creatures that exist in magical locations, or places that have special attributes to them.  As I've worked on creating my own campaign world, I've taken this notion of dinosaurs and thrown it out of the window.  My Creationist worldviews that dinosaurs and man existed together have led me to place many of these extinct creatures in my natural world ecosystems.  (For the record, before the term dinosaur was coined, these terrible lizards were referred to as dragons in most writings.  There are many writings of dragon sightings, from Marco Polo to Alexander the Great, and the descriptions of these beasts indicate dinosaurs.  Check them out.)
And so, in my collection of dinosaur monster tokens, I've thrown them into my "Natural Creatures" bag.  The T-Rex stands at the top of the food chain there, and is easily the largest of the monster tokens in that group.

Because these creatures exist in various locations in my campaign world, they are easily accessible as mounts and beasts of burden.  What would a goblin tribe be like that ride triceratops into battle?  What would fighting among the clouds be like using pterodactyls?  The questions and the possibilities there are endless, and I think the whole concept breathes new life into the games.

As a world builder, one is seeking to create a living, breathing location for the players to interact in.  This includes natural creatures as much as it includes the fantastic ones.  So why are we limiting ourselves to thinking that extinct species could not exist again?  I think that form of thinking is incorrect, and encourage other world builders to seek new ideas.

The Vellyn campaign that I have written about extensively has sabre-tooth cats and giant mammoths that roam the landscapes with other creatures like yaks.  I plan on having some tribes ride these great beasts.  These are creatures that my players may guess exist, but I'm fairly certain that when I describe their encounters with them at the table, they will become even more excited as they picture what is going on in their minds (or when I put the monster tokens down).

My fascination with dinosaurs led me to try and pitch a few articles concerning them to Wizards of the Coast.  These ideas were shot down, but I still plan on using some of those concepts to flesh out my own designs for the great behemoths in my home campaign world, refusing to let these ideas become fossils (pun intended).

What kind of creatures are other DM's using in their campaigns?    Do you like the idea of putting more dinosaurs into your campaigns?  Please let me know if the comments below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf


  1. Ok, dinosaurs are another theme really really dear to me! :D They're even the reason I study geology right now, and plan to work in that field. :)

    I've used dinosaurs as quite common creatures in my campaigns, quite a lot. In my Chult campaign, they were right at home, and then also in a home-brew world that tried to combine all the current and past "archaeology-fiction" conspiracy theories, such as lost continents of Atlantis and Mu having incredibly advanced civilization and early Egypt and other ancient empires being just their young and less civilized colonies... In this pseudo-fantastic and pseudo-realistic Earth, I also had dinosaurs surviving in a classical and quite cheesy "hollow earth" kind of underdark. There, I also played with the fossil concept, creating creatures that were basically half-fossilized undead. Other dinosaurs had simply survived eons and eons alive instead, and also had some kind of template (D&D 3e) making them "awakened", because intelligence had developed somehow in their impossibly long lives, biut they were often imprisoned in caves that didn't allow them to move but few feet in any direction. All of this because of some kind of great magical imprisonment done by Atleantean people, or some space-dwelling "god" Stargate-style, to allow humanity to develop! :D

    In the end, these powerful creatures became creatures the players needed to find, free and of course befriend to contrast the evil empires of the world and restore a natural balance. It was quite a crazy use of dinosaurs, and I actually prefer more normal uses, such as the one you describe: imagining how a dinosaur fauna would interact with the classic races and fantasy creatures, and their place in the civilized and wild world.

    1. One of my really good friends is studying geology. He loves it.

      You have a lot of interesting uses of dinosaurs in campaigns. I haven't reached that point of using them like you yet, but I'm sure they will work their way up to that as the players start to see them as mundane creatures that are encountered every day.