Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Odd D&D part V; making gnarly pulpish dinosaurs

One of the conceits of the game is that various reptilian monsters rule most of the continent.  Mostly, what this means is that I'll have nations of lizardmen (including the big ogre-sized blackscale lizardmen) warring against nations of yuan-ti, with the "mammalian" PC races pushed to the fringes, caught in the crossfire, or otherwise downtrodden and afraid.  In particular, the lizardmen use a lot of ferocious and dangerous wildlife as domesticated beasts of burden and war (while those same animals make cross-country travel particularly hazardous.)  Looking at the Warhammer Lizardmen armies as inspiration, we see a lot of "fake" dinosaurs--creatures that are basically dinosaur-like, but "pulped up" if you will; made gratuitously more spiky, toothy and dangerous looking than even actual dinosaurs would have been.  For example (and this isn't necessarily meant to be complete) we've got:
  • Bastilodon, an elephant-sized ankylosaur, with even sharper armor, and a horned head.  Its teeth look, well--maybe not carnivorous, but certainly dangerous.
  • Carnosaur - A T. rex sized animal with raptor claws on its feet and long arms.  Greatest hits of features from big carnosaurs and fast raptor-type dinosaurs (dromeosaurs, for the curious, is the technical name for this group of dinosaurs.  Although I'm being a little fast and loose with my dinosaur terminology, I'm actually a fairly technical paleontology nerd.)
  • Cold One - a horse-sized dromeosaur, capable of being ridden into battle.
  • Terradon - a mean, chunky and robust Pteranodon, with a stronger, meaner bite and stronger meaner claws.  Also capable of being ridden by skinks, the small-sized lizardmen.
  • Ripperdactyl - Uglier, meaner pterodsaur-like creatures, with sharp teeth and big heads.
  • Stegadon - A Triceratops-like creature, with a lot more spikes on its head (basically, it's got every spike every ceratopsian ever had, all jammed into one head.)  As if that wasn't enough, it's also got a Stegosaurus style tail, complete with "thagomizer" and sharp teeth in its hooked beaked mouth.
  • Salamandars look a bit like more reptilian dimetrodons, but shoot a biological Greek fire of sorts.
  • Troglodons are carnosaur-sized animals that shoot venomous spit.
  • Razordons are lion-sized lizards that are covered in spines which they can, apparently, shoot out of their body in large numbers to impale enemies.
See, that's what I'm talking about when I say that dinosaurs need to be even more over-the-top than they already are in ODD D&D in order to conform to a gratuitous pulp aesthetic.  And although taking a scary-sounding English word and addiing -don to the end of it doesn't exactly make an animal sound like a dinosaur exactly (-don is a portion of the Graeco-Roman scientific naming convention that means tooth.  So, Iguanadon, for instance, means iguana-tooth) it still beats the heck out of whatever Wizards of the Coast were thinking when they tried to do a little bit of this in the Monster Manual III and had dinosaurs called battle-titans and fleshrakers, and stuff.  Frankly, I'd rather than a Terradon or a Stegadon than a battle-titan, if I need to come up with names here.

D&D already has a lot of stats for various dinosaurs.  Frankly, I think it's overkill.  I'd rather see stats for a few "types" of dinosaurs, and then a few a la carte options to over-the-top them a bit.  So, from the SRD (or PRD) or other monster listings of dinosaurs in d20, I'd go with the following as my basics:
  • A big-headed meat-eater.  Use stats for Tyrannosaurus, which is a huge animal.
  • A faster, but big meat-eater.  Use stats for Megaraptor, which is a large animal.
  • A ceratopsian.  Use stats for Triceratops, which is a huge animal.
  • An armored herbivore.  Use stats for Ankylosaurus (MM2) which is a huge animal. 
  • A big sauropod.  Use stats for Seismosaurus (MM2) which is a colossal animal.
  • A large pterosaur.  Use stats for Quetzalcoatlus (MM2) which is a huge animal.
  • A big swimmer, like a Elasmosaurus, which is a huge animal.
  • The Giant crocodile.
Now, you add extra attacks.  Take each base statline, and make sure that they have two major attack forms.  For example, if you have a T. rex, you really only have a big bite attack (complete with swallow whole.)  Give it another attack option; either a crushing tail attack like an ankylosaur, or a gore attack like a Triceratops, or--if you want to make it like the carnosaur mentioned above--give it also claw attacks (like a Huge-sized megaraptor) in addition to it's T. rex bite attack.  If you want to be really nasty, give it Pounce and Rake.

Or, you could make any of these animals venomous, including having the ability to spit venom as a ranged touch attack.

If you pay attention to such things, no doubt, this will increase the CR by 1 or 2, or possibly even 3 in some cases--although keep in mind that most animals can only take advantage of so many new abilities in a single combat, so it doesn't necessarily make them more difficult to defeat.

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