Biological Arms Races

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RSKennan
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Biological Arms Races

Post by RSKennan » Tue Dec 17, 2002 12:52 pm

I didn't want to derail the thread where this was mentioned, but we were discussing several adaptations that were tried by different species in history, such as the numerous separate evolutions of Sabre teeth, and a time when mammals were evolving horns like crazy.
Another example is how the armored dinosaurs evolved tougher and tougher defenses, while predators developed tougher and tougher attacks. My own game world has an example of this in the area ruled by dragons.
This got me to thinking, what about fantasy? Surely certain fantasy adaptations might crop up more than the MM would have us believe. Magic or damage type resistance is one idea, but a little boring, I think. Anyone have any ideas for some interesting fantasy adaptations along the lines of horns, sabre teeth, or armor plating? I have a friend who says everything should have wings , but that's only to tick me off.

This is the Thread that inspired this one:
http://www.goodman-games.com/forums/vie ... d=78#pid78
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Post by Eggplant » Tue Dec 17, 2002 1:14 pm

I've laways been a fan of critters with biological weapons. Such as formic acid spraying ants and explosive bombardier beetles. The insects, as usual, have veeryone beat in this arena, but there are tons of cool venoms and toxins available to explore. Of course, big huge predators don't have much use for venom, since the pretty much crush everything they bite anyway. Which is why I favor smaller, but deadlier critters.

Take the textile cone for instance... It'sa freaking snail, but it has the most toxic venom on Earth. It shoots a tooth out of its mouth on a cord of filament, like a harpoon. How cool is that?

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Post by goodmangames » Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:17 pm

This is a great idea for a thread, especially since I just wrote an article for the EN World magazine about it! The article's called "Cave Elves: Natural Selection in Fantasy Worlds." It of course has rules for cave elves, the descendants of the modern elves. There's also a template for a devolved critter, plus a sample devolved rust monster (just how does a creature evolve to eat rust, anyway?). The article is more guidelines than rules, because there are so many possible ways to evolve.

Fantasy variations are a great idea. I'd thought about mundane responses to environmental changes. For example, the creatures most likely to survive in a red dragon's territory are those with a resistance to fire, so it stands to reason that over a few centuries, every creature within 10 miles of a red dragon's den would have an unusually high resistance to fire. But I never thought about magical responses. If a creature had a latent magical ability, perhaps through some long-diluted crossbreeding (for example, a half-celestial or half-dragon five generations back), could it crop up in response to changing environmental conditions?

That's a really interesting idea!
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Post by goodmangames » Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:20 pm

[quote][i]Originally posted by Eggplant[/i]
Take the textile cone for instance... It'sa freaking snail, but it has the most toxic venom on Earth. It shoots a tooth out of its mouth on a cord of filament, like a harpoon. How cool is that? [/quote]

Wow, that's really cool! That there are some whacked defenses out there. Isn't it the starfish that can regurgitate its entire stomach to distract a predator?

I have a book called "Dangerous Australians" which describes all the most venomous Australian creatures. Surprisingly, the most dangerous is the box jellyfish!

This thread also reminds me of the butterfly. When you think about it, isn't it just really far out that it can transform from a squishy caterpillar to a delicate flyer? If you made up a monster that transformed so radically when it came of age, it would seem far-fetched.
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Post by RSKennan » Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:32 pm

I know the sea cucumber can expell its organs, and as far as I know the starfish can turn inside out and then "right side in" again to envelop prey. There's an idea for a monster. I'm writing it up!
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Post by goodmangames » Mon Dec 23, 2002 7:18 am

Here are some ideas for fantasy adaptations, aside from simple resistances (to fire, magic, or whatever)...

Atmospheric (name?) - Creatures located near portals to the elemental plane of air gain limted control over air or gain some sort of air based abilities.

Eatin' the little folk - Some monsters of size Large or larger located in areas with high concentrations of Small creatures (halflings, gnomes, etc.) develop the ability to swallow whole.

Rotted - Carnivorous creatures in regions with a lot of undead have fed on corrupted, dead flesh for so long that they not only transmit disease, but prefer the taste of the dead. They prefer to attack undead over the living. They're so used to gulping off loose chunks of flesh that when they fight the living, they tend to lock on and never let go, in a futile attempt to rend off flesh (some sort of modified grab where they do bite damage every round?).

Ankheg Warriors - Creatures frequently preyed on by ankhegs develop a sharpened tail that can be used to spear deep into the ground. They spear the ground randomly as they graze, detecting burrows in this manner.

Blind - What exactly do basilisks eat? The MM says "small mammals, birds, reptiles, and similar creatures." In such regions, the blind would be king, protected as they were from their primary predator. Imagine a whole valley filled with blind wildlife, possibly having developed limited sonar, and a slowly dwindling popultion of starving basilisks. (Or what about hawks that develop mirrored feathers, reflecting the basilisk's gaze back on it?)

Just a couple ideas off the top of my head. You could design these in a couple ways... The easiest would be a special ability or feat that's added to the appropriate creature's profile. But you could also go so far as to create a template with a number of substantial modifications to anatomy, abilities, and such.
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Post by RSKennan » Tue Dec 24, 2002 12:21 am

Those are awesome!
Here are a few more:

Explosive: In regions with fire-susceptible predators, such as trolls or frost worms, certain small mammals have adapted to burst into an intense searing flame when they die. This causes several peripheral effects; these creatures are trapped by hunters in the wilderness and used to start fires, even placed in collapsing spiked cages for use as the payload in a trap. Homes on the edges of inhabited regions run the risk of burning down if one of these vermin crawls under them to die, thus most of these homes are constructed primarily of stone.

Tremormask: Certain herd animals have developed the ability to create a false subterranean echo of their surface movements, similar to the spell ventriliquism. Creatures with tremorsense beleive that the sound of the roaming herd is coming from an entirely different region than it is.

Poisonous: In a similar vein to explosive, a poisonous creature could secure its own survival by producing toxins geared toward its specific predators.

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Post by RSKennan » Tue Dec 24, 2002 12:38 am

Another one came to mind:

Monster mimic: Either through illusion or physiology, The creature appears to be some type of dangerous monster.
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Post by dkschube » Wed Jan 01, 2003 11:29 am

[quote][i]Originally posted by RSKennan[/i]
Another one came to mind:

Monster mimic: Either through illusion or physiology, The creature appears to be some type of dangerous monster. [/quote]

Has the Gas Spore (beholder look-alike) appeared in 3E yet?
Similar lookalikes could have powers that surprise the expert character (and player) -- how about a troll-shaped bipedal plant that is stimulated to divide or to release spores or seeds when subjected to fire?

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Post by Mr. Author » Wed Jan 01, 2003 4:34 pm

I've got a section of my campaign populated by organisms that evolved from bats. Two of the most common large animals are the wapaninga (a giant sloth-like bat) and the agima (a two legged, blind predator that runs on what were once its wings and has a killing claw).

The wapaninga, being the slow mover that it is, is often a favorite prey item. However, it has excellent eyesight. It is capable of using the equivalent of a silence spell on itself, making it virtually invisible to its principal predator.

However, a recent development in the agima has allowed one species to use feel light, as the psionic power, thus defeating the silence ability of the wapaninga.

I'm working on similar relationships for other animals that evolved in the presence of magic, just 'cos I love it when my players freak out.
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Post by Guest » Thu Jan 02, 2003 9:02 am

This is interesting. I thought I was in the minority in that I use evolutionary principles in my fantasy games. It's good to see I'm not. It helps me suspend disbelief better than "God X created this race, God Y created that one". Sometimes is fine, but I try not to use that rationale too much. I like to work out the logical consequnces of a world-building decision rather than invoking deus ex machina left and right.

Just a quick post, I've got to get back to work.

:)

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Post by RSKennan » Thu Jan 02, 2003 9:05 am

Oops. The above post was from me. I've got to rememeber to enter my username and password every time I post.:D

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Post by Krenshar » Mon Jan 06, 2003 4:04 pm

Or for those creatures likely to get swallowed whole-- they might develop thorns they can flare up to keep from getting swallowed, and probably get spit out in the process.

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Post by Nero's Boot » Sun Mar 13, 2005 1:30 pm

dkschube wrote:Has the Gas Spore (beholder look-alike) appeared in 3E yet?
Yes, in The Tome of Horrors I.
Similar lookalikes could have powers that surprise the expert character (and player) -- how about a troll-shaped bipedal plant that is stimulated to divide or to release spores or seeds when subjected to fire?
Now that is a damn nifty idea!

--consider it stolen for my upcoming DragonMech game NB
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Post by Derek_Holland » Fri Jun 17, 2005 3:30 am

I believe the real winners of this war are the parasites. Why not have someone else do the hard work? Of course many have evolved a precarious position- if the host dies out, then they will do so as well.
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