On the Use of Ecology

How do you use an Ecology post?

I've written a series of articles (linked over on the right hand side, underneath the picture) about various monster ecologies. People have liked them, but remain unsure of how they can be useful in play.

In the article On Cultivating the Fantastic, I talk about how the wonder and the horror of creatures has been lost. Everything has become statistics and numbers.

How do we restore that wonder?

It can't be by just playing up the traditional tropes of the monster. Everyone is painfully familiar with those tropes.

How many "Noble savage" orcs have you met? How many Orcs indistinguishable from Klingons?

Even if your DM takes the time to rework one race into an interesting trope, think about all the background radiation of other races that remain, dull, staid, and plain.

Well, Ecology articles are here to help with that.

Let's examine an ecology article:

Quote: These are all quotes from Shalladore, one of my personal fantasy settings.

Nomenclature: Are names or variety of names these creatures are called. These names are culled from internet searches, ecology articles in Dragon Magazine, crowd-sourced suggestions, and my own brain.

Monster Ecology

Gelatinous Cube
Oozes, Slimes, Jellies, and Puddings
Collective Nouns For Fantasy Monsters

The names are often designed to be evocative or used as a counterpoint to the various other rumors in the article. If you call it a wyvern, and it's covered in feathers and doesn't appear the same way the monster illustration appears in the monster manual, you've created interest already. The same goes if it looks like a wyvern and everyone is calling it the wyrmbeak.

Description and Things that are known: When you bend something, you have to have an original shape you start from. These sections provide the baseline of what assumptions the article has going forward. I.e. in On the Ecology of the Orc, the description is "Brutish, Green Skinned Humanoids" and the known things are "They despise men and are hated by elves".

No matter what changes we make to orc, these are the thing that make them orcs and not gnolls or hobgoblins. It strips away everything down to the things we cannot change without making this into some other creature. Orcs have green skin, are brutish, they are despised by men, hated by elves, and they are humanoid. Everything else is ephemeral and subject to alteration.

Rumors and other whispers in the dark: So, if you're going to change the monsters, here's how! These can be used as actual rumors, reasons behind the monster and the way it is, ways to change up encounters and make them interesting. Obviously they all can't be true, due to the contradictory nature of the rumors, but several of them may be. Some, all, or none of this information can be available!

Finally we discuss special combat techniques or powers of the monster. Monster powers, surprisingly, are one of the most classic tropes in the game. So now not only is there some sort of interesting story behind how the monster is designed, but also they become a unique opponent to fight!

Are there other questions?

The list of ecologies on this page will not be updated, but the blog index will be!

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm curious how this relates to a conversation we had a long, long time ago.

    I proposed alternate versions of fantasy races, (http://commablank.blogspot.com/2011/11/alternative-fantasy-race-relations.html), and asked the question "Why do we always do these races the same way?"

    Your response was:

    "The reason is, of course, that every item that changes is another obstacle to a player reaching the play of the game. The tropes stay consistant to facilltate play."

    Has your opinion changed, or is there a distinction to be made between player races, and common monsters?


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