Hello readers. You may recall that at the end of my last world building post, I spoke of my keenness to flesh out the fauna of Orthrus (that was the name given to our planet) and despite this not being the logical next step in world building, I simply couldn’t resist. The idea of fleshing out the monstrous beasts that make this a death world of note, was just too enticing, so I’ve strayed from the original path a bit to have some fun, and in this post, hopefully I’ll give you some ideas when it comes to creating your own fantasy monsters too.
When it comes to Orthrus, we know we have a varied world in terms of environments and I knew I wanted a diverse menagerie of monsters. Wild and very much extra terrestrial creatures, yet there is a need for them to not be too “out there” as we need humans to survive on this Death World and not be overwhelmed by the beasts in the uninhabited areas of the planet. But this all does lead us to a strange question for one to have to attempt to answer…
How do you invent an animal?
I mean… it’s not an easy question to answer! Not many people have had to try and answer that one either. Where do you even start? Does one consider the single-celled organism, then try and chart the variations and mutations over millions of years, eventually bringing one to the evolved form that inhabits Orthrus today? I tried that idea and my brain collapsed several times before I even reached vertebrates. But that’s a question too – do they have vertebrates? Do backbones exist on this world? Maybe it’s a world where silicon filled sacks and nodules support the complex structures. Perhaps the animals here typically have 7 backbones. Do they use the same senses? Do any of them have eyes? Or limbs? And don’t even get me started on the lobster problem…
I tossed and turned one night as I tried to consider this, my eyes clenched shut in the darkness as my brain toyed with all of these questions. It was only in the annoyingly chirpy light of 5am, as I stood with the fridge door open chugging orange juice straight from the carton that I had my revelation – it’s all my choice. I am the creator of Orthrus and if I want the entire planet filled with pink cats, that’s fine (I don’t want it filled with pink cats, but that would be kind of cool – maybe for the next world). This revelation led to another – this is very much an Earth-like planet. We know that an “alien Earth” planet (Earth 2.0 as many think of it) probably exists and many astrologers are looking for it – so why not Orthrus? And if this is the case, given what we know of the nature of evolution, we can say without any great degree of fantasy, that there is a likelihood that the animals on this planet may have evolved in a similar way to those on Earth. We know that eyes work, teeth work, wings work… so the logic behind evolution dictates that as they would be efficient on Earth, they would also be efficient on Orthrus. That was a very helpful conclusion to arrive at as it allows us to play with the tools with which we’re familiar.
My seas will be water, the trees in the forests will eat carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, and that leads us further to the reason the planet was settled in the first place. If I was making some bonkers world where the ground is made of diamonds, the trees spew argon and the sees were made of ice cream, we’d go more bonkers with the animals, but it’s not, so we won’t. This is an Earth-like planet. It’s just that it’s home to a lot of monsters.
As with the name of the planet itself, I decided to lean on mythology for a bit of inspiration. I didn’t want dragons, giants and the kraken kicking around, but when looking at some mythological creatures I was given an idea. Consider the chimera (not the tank), the mermaid, the griffin and the pegasus. All of those (and many more) are combinations of other animals that actually exist, rather than being totally new creatures. So how about some combos? As I sat in my dressing gown, eating marmite covered toast, I wrote some lists, and reached for these heroes…
…and then I started rolling. I made a set of rules and stared in stunned horror with the occasional giggle thrown in at many of the results I rolled, but even with the strangest combinations, I got some inspiring results. And it lead me to some interesting evolutionary quirks too but I’ll be telling you more about those tomorrow when the next post comes out (I have some creative writing to do). But when you see what I had to work with, you’ll hopefully be at least intrigued. One thing’s for sure, this planet has some real monsters roaming around and boy do they look terrifying.
How I Created My Monsters
First off, we need to work out how many combinations we’re going to be doing. For this, I rolled a D4 ignoring results of a 1, meaning I would at most have to try and combine 4 creatures and I’m glad I had this as a limit – those were the hardest ones to try and conjure up.
So, let’s say you rolled a 3 – that means you’re going to have to roll 3 times on the below table:
You rolled a 1, a 3, and a 6. That means we need a mammal, an insect and a reptile. Here are the tables you’ll be rolling on for these results (as well as the other choices too):
I did some test rolls and on this occasion, I got a Bear, a Butterfly and a Skink. But before trying to combine these creatures, it’s worth working out how big the creature I’ll be creating will be. Grab your D4 and roll on this:
Let’s say I got a 1 and therefore decided the scale should be along the lines of a house cat. That would certainly be an interesting combo.
You can test your skills with a pencil and your imagination as well. I didn’t use the above example in the 10 I’ve already done. But to give you an idea of what’s coming tomorrow, here’s the list of the combinations I did get:
- Bee / Tiger / Otter
- Toad / Gecko / Condor
- Cassowary / Gecko / Frog / Puffin
- Elephant / Grasshopper / Alligator / Salamander
- Piranha / Komodo Dragon
- Lion / Gar
- Whale Shark / Newt
- Eagle / Snail
- Salmon / Newt / Flea
- N/A (?)
So, that should make for some interesting beasts, right? Well, as I said, you’ll be able to read about them all tomorrow. And I hope those charts are useful to anyone else who wants to create their own fantasy creatures. I went with creatures that had some quite different looks, but of course, if you want to get your own in there, why not change things up? Replace Amphibians* with “Dinosaurs” or add Terrapins, Gorillas, Eels or whatever else to the appropriate lists. It’s been a very fun project with some… intriguing results.
And if you need any more inspiration, I do have a couple of other resources. Firstly, there’s the excellent “Alien Worlds” documentary series which is on Netflix which has some fascinating ideas on alien evolution and the creatures it would create. And last night, a friend recommended (slightly too late for me) the book Principles of Creature Design by Terryl Whitlatch which I have now ordered and I’m really looking forward to reading (this is apparently a very useful book).
There you have it – how I created my monsters. As mentioned, there’ll be a post tomorrow featuring all of my bizarre creations. And once we’ve got that out of the way, we can get back to the aspects of World Building that Orthrus needs to go through to become a “real” world. So look out for a Sunday bestiary from me, and until then, have a very happy hobbying weekend. Onwards!