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🎨 Creative Twilight Colony - D&D meets Blue Planet

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
#71
The Cockatrice is basically a naked chicken with petrification powers and too close to real world mythology. The Couatl likewise hews too closely to real world myths. Thus, the next suitable candidate is:

Darkmantle







Well, I suppose we have our native squid analogue. I like the radial eye structure on all variants. I am a bit ambivalent about the Pathfinder version - while the branching tentacles are a nice touch that makes them seem more alien, the mouth with fangs at the top would seem to make it a bit hard to disguise itself as a stalactite or stalagmite. I think it would make more sense if the mouth is at the bottom, between the tentacles, like with terrestrial squid.

One thing that distinguishes it from terrestrial squids (well, apart from the whole "can fly and lives on land in caves" thing) is that they have Echolocation like bats, which is what their blindsight is based on. I wonder what they use their many eyes for, then? Presumably they use them to gauge the boundaries of their Darkness Aura power - they need to know where it ends so that they can stay hidden within it (since their sound-based blindsight is unaffected). Since their Darkness Aura only works 1/day, they cannot rely on it all the time and they remain vulnerable to other predators - explaining why they spend most of their time in caves.

Strangely enough, despite their appearance and likely aquatic origin, darkmantles are not aberrations but monstrosities!

Variations: It's easy to imagine forest-dwelling variants like the decapus or the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus - they could have more slender builds and disguise themselves as tree branches (consider how stick insects look, and then add chameleon powers). Or there could be giant versions that hibernate during the days and emerge during True Nights, floating over the landscape while taking on the appearance of the night sky, and then picking up unsuspecting creatures from above. Let's call them "Great Anglers"...[/b]
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
#72
Demons and Devils are - some select members nonewithstanding - generally too humanoid and too linked to terrestrial mythologies to work for our project. Though I am contemplating making Demons the "big baddies" of the Final Battle of the origin world... Demons and Devils might very well make appearances on Twilight Colony, but largely because they seek to make a new home there that will allow them to survive the Final Battle - just like the other colonists.

Dinosaurs are likewise very much terrestrial animals, although GMs could reskin them for their own purposes. However, before we attempt anything like that we should develop the "baselines" for the native creatures further.

Doppelganger







While the name "doppelganger" derives from folklore (German folklore, even!), the D&D version is not the traditional fairly entity or undead, but an alien... thing that just happens to wear a human shape. How alien depends on the setting and the story in question.

One "problem" is that the doppelganger can only shift into the form of a small or medium humanoid species - yet we have already established that humanoids only appeared on the new planet within the next decade. But perhaps the "humanoid" doppleganger is only one particular expression of a larger species. This species - perhaps a kin to the mimic (which is also a monstrosity in 5E) could leave its young near members of other species similar to the terrestrial cuckoo. These young are not only raised by their host species (possibly by eliminating their fellow young, but perhaps not) but also "imprint" on them so that they learn to shapeshift into their forms, but not others (it is perhaps fortunate for the "humanoid" doppelgangers that they have access to the shapes several distinct but physically very similar humanoid races).

Variations: Of course, doppelgangers can and will easily imprint on other species as well. Any native species that doesn't have noteworthy intrinsic magical powers might have doppelgangers among their numbers. And so might other imported species - there might be doppelganger dogs, cats, horses... all with the appearance of their host species, but the intelligence of ordinary doppelgangers.
 

s/LaSH

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#73
So that's two nocturnal flying predators in a row, which makes for an interesting theme. I knew there was something dangerous in the sky.

*

The very changeable ecology makes me think that double leaves are definitely a thing. You can have plants that open and close their leaves for their favourite sun, plants that have multiple sets of leaves, plants that turn their leaves over, and plants that are symbiotes with plants that like the other sun. As the day moves along, the very colour of the forest will ripple and change. By night it may be a desolate place with bare branches, which makes everything spookier. The forests will be healthiest during the days of 24/7 sunlight, most likely.

*

Doppelgangers as cuckoos is a neat touch, and it fits in with the "ambient intelligence" ecology: they're smart enough to learn their adopted family's ways, but this is just a survival mechanism. Society is an ecological niche that many species have evolved to exploit. Also, given the youth of the colony, it changes the dynamic of doppelgangers. It takes many years to learn a society, but they haven't had that long, so anybody trying to imitate important adults will do it wrong.

The most convincing doppelgangers will still be kids, probably adopted by colonists who found a baby out in the woods and assumed it was the only survivor of some doomed homestead. And that's neat. It's not just creepy; the doppelgangers don't have a plan or anything, they're just living as part of a successful community. They could grow up to be nice people! But they instinctively keep their nature a secret; even though multicultural demihuman society is built around accepting others, doppelgangers evolved in a world where intelligent beings are still just meat. So they're genetically incapable of being honest about themselves, and may go to extreme lengths to avoid detection.

I dig that. It's a very different role for shapeshifting infiltrators: scared children. And it's tantalisingly close to allies for the colonists, but they can't quite surmount that alien barrier...
 

drrockso20

Registered User
Validated User
#74
honestly I'd suggest dropping the whole bit about the bipedal "Humanoid" Bauplan being exclusively an Old World one, the monster selection is going to be anemic enough as is(hence why I've been suggesting switching over to being primarily Pathfinder SRD/OGL derived rather than being 5e SRD derived, the latter is just too goddamn limited to be of any real use for an original setting), and throwing out one of the more common D&D ones for honestly rather arbitrary reasons is just silly at best(the setting as is, is already filled with a frankly implausible amount of convergent evolution between the biomes of two worlds that are supposed to be mostly distinct and unconnected considering you've been trying to keep magical influences on evolution to minimum)
 

s/LaSH

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#75
honestly I'd suggest dropping the whole bit about the bipedal "Humanoid" Bauplan being exclusively an Old World one, the monster selection is going to be anemic enough as is(hence why I've been suggesting switching over to being primarily Pathfinder SRD/OGL derived rather than being 5e SRD derived, the latter is just too goddamn limited to be of any real use for an original setting), and throwing out one of the more common D&D ones for honestly rather arbitrary reasons is just silly at best(the setting as is, is already filled with a frankly implausible amount of convergent evolution between the biomes of two worlds that are supposed to be mostly distinct and unconnected considering you've been trying to keep magical influences on evolution to minimum)
I very respectfully disagree; I like the idea of building up a world without the assumption that there will be evil people in a variety of prosthetic costumes to fight.

(Note to self: Sometimes there are evil costumes. Think more about Cloaker civilization.)

I would not use any old-world classifications, like "fish" or "mammal", for new-world creatures. Even "plant" is something I'm avoiding, if you've noticed - I will talk about trees and leaves and forests, but that's just because a sessile life form doing photosynthesis is pretty much vital for any recognisable biosphere. In my head the "trees" are more like the world's weirdest cross between a centipede and a barnacle and a flock of butterflies. There may be things built more like plants running around, but they're not the basis of the biosphere's energy production, and they may be literally running.

We're already starting to talk about each monster type as a category, with relatives and small "mundane" versions and larger types. There's not a great amount of variety, true, but that's prompting us to build our own.

It's a fun thought exercise for me to go utterly alien.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
#76
The darkmantle, incidentally, is canonically an evolution of the piercer with some influence from the lurker above.

(And this is just the kind of world to justify the infamous "every visible surface and object in this room is a separate disguised monster" situation. :ROFLMAO:)
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
#78
I very respectfully disagree; I like the idea of building up a world without the assumption that there will be evil people in a variety of prosthetic costumes to fight.

(Note to self: Sometimes there are evil costumes. Think more about Cloaker civilization.)

I would not use any old-world classifications, like "fish" or "mammal", for new-world creatures. Even "plant" is something I'm avoiding, if you've noticed - I will talk about trees and leaves and forests, but that's just because a sessile life form doing photosynthesis is pretty much vital for any recognisable biosphere. In my head the "trees" are more like the world's weirdest cross between a centipede and a barnacle and a flock of butterflies. There may be things built more like plants running around, but they're not the basis of the biosphere's energy production, and they may be literally running.

We're already starting to talk about each monster type as a category, with relatives and small "mundane" versions and larger types. There's not a great amount of variety, true, but that's prompting us to build our own.

It's a fun thought exercise for me to go utterly alien.
For me, "humanoid aliens" is one of the most overused tropes of "soft" science fiction. I get it why they use it in movies and tv shows like "Star Wars", "Star Trek", "Babylon 5" and so forth, since it's cheaper to slap cosmetics on a human actor than construct an alien from scratch (plus, it allows a huma character to have sex with the aliens, as in "Avatar").

But while these stories are fun, I was always fascinated by hard science fiction environments that weren't just Earth with a paint job, and that's what I am trying to replicate here. And as I have said above, we do not need to limit ourselves to the 5E SRD - that's just a starting point. There have been a multitude of alien critters published under the OGL that I feel that once we include extrapolated variants we will have far more critters than any given campaign could conceivably use.
 

Mr Teufel

Dashing
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#79
This is a speculative evolutionary table:

  • Aboleth 7
  • Ankheg 4
  • Basilisk 5
  • Behir 5
  • Bulette 4
  • Chuul 4
  • Cloaker 6
  • Cockatrice 10
  • Couatl 6
  • Darkmantle 1
  • Ettercap 4
  • Gibbering Mouther 3
  • Grick 1
  • Kraken 7
  • Mimic 3
  • Oozes 3
  • Otyugh 2
  • Remorhaz 5
  • Roper 1
  • Rust Monster 4
  • Shambling Mound 8
  • Stirge 9
  • Xorn 2
  1. invertebrate, tentacles
  2. rotational symmetry, distributed nervous system
  3. amorphous
  4. chitinous armour,"mesoskeletal?"
  5. reptiform, many-legged, "breath-weapon"
  6. 2 limbs, flight
  7. pisciform, tentacles
  8. mobile bony herbiform
  9. possibly highly evolved from 5?
  10. 4-limbed biped, 2 vestigial. Also evolved from 5?
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
#80
An interesting overview. After I finish the SRD, I should probably start that GraphViz chart.

One note, though: Xorn don't quite fit since they are not "natural" creatures - they are elementals. And I don't want to change "monster type" unless I really, really need to.

Though Xorn are high on a list of "extraplanar creatures likely to show up", since they have such an alien body structure.
 
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