Sunday, December 15, 2013

Combination Animals - There are more than just the platypus

How often can I dip into the well that is Cracked's articles on animals. This time, it is from 9 animals that are just lazy combinations of other animals. These might work well with my Animal Planet idea to use Avatar-the-Last-Airbender-style combo animals ("I love you, my little turtle-duck") to differentiate the anthropomorphic player races from "regular" fauna.

9. Chevrotain

This is a combination deer and mouse about the size of a rabbit. It has the body and head of a mouse with the long, thin legs and hooves of a deer. Oh, and the males have saber-teeth. I can totally see a larger version of these serving as mounts and/or game for small races (like a pony-sized chevrotain for a halfling knight). The deer-mouse combination has a heavy fairy influence and so would also be very at home with pixies and other fae, in which case the smaller, rabbit-sized versions would work well. A full, clydesdale-sized version would be freaky weird with a fae hunter riding on its back (the type of elven-esque fae that stand like 7 feet tall).

8. Pichiciego (pink fairy armadillo)

A combination prairie dog and armadillo. The claws on these guys are wicked sick. They are quite small and eat ants. I can see an obvious giant version that eats giant ants or other large vermin. I can also see rat to guinea pig to rabbit-sized ones serving as wizard familiars or dwarven/gnomish pets.

7. Piglet Squid

Guess. This squid swims upside down with curly tentacles, a bulbous growth (snout) beneath its large, twinkling (literally; it has light-emitting organs in its eyes), anime-like eyes, and a bloated "head" that looks like a round little piggy body. It also has skin coloration that makes it look like a big smiley face when viewed head on. Given the cutesy appearance, it is more difficult to imagine this as a threat. And I am not interested in an anime mascot creature. I think I would make them larger, about the size of a seal up to walrus/manatee territory, and they would serve as a source of food. Because it swims upside down and the tentacles point up, it must travel along the bottom of the water and hide among seaweed and such to disguise the tentacles until something swims by, at which point it strikes.

6. Colugo

Bat + monkey. The colugo *is* Momo from Avatar (it is even called a flying lemur and lives in Southeast Asia). As with the pichiciego, this could totally be a wizard's familiar. It would also be super creepy to have a  troop (monkey) or colony (bat) of colugo screaming and jumping and gliding and chasing after you through a dense tropical jungle like a giant black cloud of fur and fangs. They offer all the high pitched shrieking and too-human eyes and nasty sharp fangs as monkeys as well as the unsettling wing-skin and nasty sharp fangs and blood-drinking connotations as bats. I think they work best at real size in large groups until you get to the point of a truly humongous one.

5. Saiga

When a goat and an elephant fall in love ... Despite the elephant part, the trunk is very, very short and looks like a bit of a bulbous nose. I imagine in real life they are larger than goats but in-game they would be moose-sized or maybe a bit larger. I would also make the nose longer; not quite elephantine in length but enough that they could reach the ground to pull up grass or reach up to pull down leaves without moving the head too far either way. They have large, straight-to-slightly-curved goat horns but no tusks. They might need tusks. One of the best things about them is that they can eat otherwise poisonous plants. I would take this to mean that their meat is more or less poisonous as well, depending on how often they have to dine on the poison plants.

4. Bilby

Body of a kangaroo, ears of a rabbit, face of a possum - by your powers combined, I am ADORABLE. The bilby is another small mammal that would not offer much by way of an antagonist. Again, wizard's familiar is on the potential job list. Otherwise, they are too cute to leave out. Bonus fact: they are endangered because the bilby gets its butt kicked by cats ... and RABBITS.

3. Honduran White Bat

The article says hamster plus pig but these guys look like furry white bats. They do have the ran-into-a-wall bat nose that looks like a spade-shaped pig snout, I guess. They are also cotton-ball white (like real cotton, so a dirty white rather than bleachy-clean white), furry, and cute. They also carry ALL the diseases. I think keeping them small and in swarms like stirges works well. They swoop in, bite, and fly away. In real life they eat fruit and they form "tents" by bending over the broad leaves of the fruit trees where they sleep during the day. I think, given the white coloration, it would be more fun if they were vampire bats and the locals know that white bats mean danger while red bats mean peace (they are red from all the blood of their latest meal and they only feed every few nights). Another idea is to have the disease they carry cause multiple weeping wounds, a foul smell, and severe fatigue. It would have a fast onset and the bats would make a brief initial attack to infect their prey then they would wait until the target succumbed to the disease. The foul smell would aid the bats in tracking the meal, the large weeping wounds would provide easier access to the blood (these are tiny little bats after all), and the fatigue would leave the afflicted unable to ward off the bats when they finally came to feed.

2. Velvet Ant

A wasp that looks like an ant and a bee (they are fuzzy and their coloration ranges from black&yellow to brown to red). The females are wingless and so they crawl about like ants on the ground, but much bigger. They make honey, too. The males have two pairs of transparent black wings, because why the hell not. However, what is awesome is that they have terribly painful stings that have earned them the nickname "cow killer." Their stingers are over an inch long and pierce like a needle. As with all vermin, giant versions are just as awesome. As a technical issue, they are mostly solitary, so you should not be encountering a whole colony of them as you would with ants. However, they are much bigger than ants and the stinger is likely much more dangerous than an ant's bite. Of course, there is no reason why you could not have a large beehive of winged males and a large anthill of wingless females forming a double-pronged "why I hate bugs" murder machine.

1. Pangolin

Snake + Anteater = Dragon scales. This creature looks like an anteater with some of the heaviest armor-looking scales in the animal kingdom (they are actually similar to human nails) and a long, serpentine body. It also has a forked snake tongue that can be longer than its entire body. It is able to roll up into a fully armored ball and can roll along the ground that way. These are definitely creatures that you would want to make larger. The pictures also have a very draconic aspect to the scales that really want to shout "give me a breath weapon".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two Quotes

First, some good advice via Cracked regarding advice:

"If someone tells you what they wish they would have done, listen. If they only tell you things they wouldn't have done, ignore them, because they've confused regret with wisdom. When someone fantasizes about having achieved less in life instead of figuring out how to make things better, that's more of a review of the life than the problem. Even when they're right about the problem, they're the wrong person to help you solve it."

Second, the rifle prayer from Full Metal Jacket (or something very similar):

"This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bugs Bugs and More Gross Bugs

Another article on Cracked, another post of creepy bugs.

Malaria apparently makes human hosts more attractive to mosquitoes. Humans carrying malaria at all are more attractive than non-malarial humans but the most attractive are those who carry malaria in its contagious or transmittable state. How about a disease that, if caught, makes a PC more attractive to the local beasties? In old school, this could be any monsters (as it fits with mythical underworld) and increase the rolls on wandering monster checks. A more realistic vein would be to attract one type (insects/rodents) or subtype (giant caterpillars/rats) of monster that is known to live in the area. The PC would emit a scent (perhaps perceptible by the PCs themselves, perhaps not) that attracts the monsters and the infected PC(s) would be preferentially targeted. Somewhat similar to a shrieker, I suppose.

Gall wasps form galls on certain plants (usually oak trees). The eggs are laid on an oak blossom (or other part of the tree) and they signal the formation of a gall, or ball-like outgrowth, that encases the eggs and protects and feeds the larvae when they hatch. This by itself is an idea for a forest (or cavern) encounter where the landscape has numerous gall growths on trees (or outcroppings of rocks) that, if disturbed, burst open and pour forth regular-to-giant-sized wasps. On top of the galls, there are a number of other wasps that specifically prey upon gall wasps. These wasps have a metallic appearance and an extra-long ovipositor (egg laying spike/tube) that is used to penetrate the gall and lay their own eggs within, which then pray upon the gall wasp larva. As a further counter to this, some gall wasps actually develop a sweet-smelling gall that attracts ants. The ants then serve as defense against the hyperparasitoid wasps. For this, the PCs would need to be seeking out the gall and hoping to kill the larva (or otherwise retrieve something from inside) and the giant ant guardians (or whatever creature it attracts) are just an extra layer of defense.

Baculovirus preys upon gypsy moth caterpillars. The virus infects the caterpillar through contact or ingestion and forces the caterpillar to climb up to the top of a tree or branch and hang upside down, all the while replicating within the caterpillar's tissues. Once the caterpillar is in position, the virus begins replicating digestive proteins that liquefy the caterpillar's body and rains its infectious tissue down on other caterpillars, spreading the virus further. The idea is somewhat similar to the infectious troll idea posted earlier. It works best as a way to spread disease to the PCs, perhaps the malaria-smell virus from above or a more demonic strain (literally demonic).

Xenos vesparum is an insect that infects wasps and literally controls them from the inside. This might work to make a wild giant wasp nest more dangerous. In a sandbox style game, the PCs encounter the wasps and steer clear. When X vesparum shows up, it specifically makes wasps antisocial and leads them away from the nest to mate with other X vesparum (who arrive in their own possessed wasps). This would allow a giant wasp attack away from the site of the giant wasp nest and, if PCs investigate the bodies (who knows? maybe it swallowed a jewel) they would find another large insect literally living inside the wasp. And maybe if the wasp stings a PC, one of the X vesparum eggs end up inside them ... mwahahahah!!!

The final insect on the list in the article is a wasp that preys upon a special butterfly caterpillar. The caterpillar smells just like an ant larva, so after feeding on leaves for a few weeks, it falls to the ground and foraging ants, thinking it is one of their larva, take it back to the nursery in the ant hill. They then feed and protect it while it finishes fattening up and turning into a pupa. The wasp is somehow able to tell which ant hills have the butterfly larva engineers a distraction to get inside and lay its eggs in the caterpillars. It enters the ant hill and, after getting attacked by the ants, sprays a pheromone that drives the ants to attack each other (ignoring the wasp). It lays its eggs in the caterpillars and leaves. The wasp egg hatches after the caterpillar forms a chrysalis (which also smells like an ant pupa, so it remains protected by the ants) and develops within while eating the caterpillar. Both the hatching butterflies and wasps then leave the ant hill without incident (perhaps still smelling like ants due to the chrysalises). I am not as certain how to use that idea.