Making of a Monster
What makes a monster so monstrous? Whutaguy explores the question by talking to the monsters themselves. That's right, it's time for MackTalk. Today's topic: Monsters and the Adventurers Who Fear Them. With special appearances by the Alien, Freddy Krueger and He That Shall Not Be Named.
Mack: "Welcome back to MackTalk. Today's topic if you are just joining us is Monsters and the Adventurers Who Fear Them. Our first guest is Sir Deu from the Adventurer's Guild. Tell us Sir, may I call you that? What has your experience been with monsters?"
Sir Deu: "Well Mack, I've been adventuring for close to 30 years, I must have fought close to a hundred thousand monsters in that time."
Mack: "Really? Was that difficult? Weren't you scared?"
Monsters that appear in groups... very often lose their monstrous quality.
Sir Deu: "Not really. At first my player had some trepidation, but eventually he figured out that most monsters have a weakness and once you know it its easily exploited, so you see, it was mostly a matter of figuring out what to use against which. For example, I like the long sword against goblins and kobolds because I can usually kill one with each swing and the single handed weapon allows me to use the shield against their larger numbers. Against orcs and bugbears, I prefer my great sword. The beasties are a bit tougher so I need the higher damage to keep up the 1 per round kill rate, but since they are generally fewer in number I don't need the shield as much."
Monsters that appear in groups and appear frequently very often lose their monstrous quality. Many games which provide a comprehensive volume of enemy creatures fall to this problem as the players also read the volume and determine the best tactics to use against a given race. The Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, and Bigfoot allegedly appear in singles, occasionally pairs. Almost all horror books and films feature 1 antagonist (at least in the first release, the sequels may add more). If a creature appears in 3 or more it has become part of a society and loses some of its abnormality. The individuals will have leaders, communication and tactics.
Mack: "Our next guest comes to us from deep space, where I'm told no one can hear you scream. Unfortunately our guest doesn't speak English so our translation expert will help out. Please give a big welcome to Ridley Scott's Alien."
Sir Deu: "What in the nine hells is that thing? It doesn't look like any monster in my player's Cyclopedia Statistica."
Mack: "Alien, welcome to the show. Could you explain to Sir Deu and our audience what it is that makes you monstrous?"
Translator for Alien: "Thanks Mack. It's an honor to be here. What gives me credibility as a creature of horror, as I prefer to be called, or monster in the common vernacular is that I do not look generic. You can tell right away that I am not just another guy in a rubber suit. My appearance is hard and wet. I've got a bit of a saliva problem and more teeth than a trailer park. Also if you observe, I don't walk as much as skitter."
Monstrous appearance should not be typical.
Two each arms, legs and eyes with 1 head, mouth and nose is pretty typical. Monstrous appearance should not be typical. It doesn't have to be completely novel, but if certain features occur where they are unexpected, it removes much of the humanness from it. Lovecraft described a picture of Cthulhu as "A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings." Encounters can be made more monstrous by adding appendages, organs, and orifices. Skin/scales/feathers/protoplasmic membrane over a non- or semi-anthropomorphic frame should make the entity more otherworldly. Alter or remove symmetry to shake things up. Use tentacles, claws, pincers, hooves, springs or pseudo-pods rather than traditional arms and legs. Use different modes of ambulation to move about.
Sir Deu: "So...you're big and fast and uglier than my mother-in-law, but I could probably kill you with my sword, since you work alone."
Alien: "Excepting the acid blood of course"
Sir Deu: "Acid blood? Errr:"
Mack: "This brings us to our third guest. He's an anthromorph who works nights over on Elm Street. Won't you all welcome Mr. Frederick Krueger?"
Freddy: "Mr. Krueger is much too formal. Call me Freddy, all the kids do."
Mack: "Ok, Freddy it is. Alien has been telling us of the importance of appearance in gaining a reputation as a monster, but you've got quite a reputation of your own and outside of some scarring, a generally unwashed look, and that glove, you look pretty harmless to me."
Freddy: "Well Mack, that's because you are seeing me while you are awake."
Mack: "I hope we're all awake, we need the ratings. In all seriousness though, how else would we see you but when were awake.
Freddy: "I have the ability to manifest myself within a persons dream and kill them there, and we all know that if you die in a dream, you don't wake up. Like hitting the ground after falling."
Sir Deu: "Is this guy for real? It's even easier to kill things in dreams than in real life. And that glove is no match for Sweet Jeanine here." (Pats sword)
Freddy: "I'm certain that would be true, except I'm not known for following the rules of physics as you and the creatures of 'your' dreams know them. I can fly, stretch, change shape, multiply, regenerate and a host of other things you can only dream about."
Monsters can do things mortals dream about.
Monsters can do things mortals dream about. Monsters have powers, above and beyond appearance. The powers of a monster may include: Psionic effects; increased skills, attributes or abilities; immunities, resistances or recovery enhancements; and extra or special attacks; movement capabilities. Not all monsters will have all of these but almost all will have more than 1. Freddy's ability to inhabit dreams gives him power over physics, which his victims could also do, but it is his home turf, giving him a serious advantage. In theory Neo (Matrix) could do everything Agent Smith could, but Agent Smith's familiarity with the system was to his benefit.
Sir Deu: "Multiply? Regen-gen-generate? Fly? Bubububub" (begins to gibber)
Mack: "Oh my! It seems that Sir Deu is having a seizure of some sort. While our medical staff checks him out, let's talk to our final guest. Via satellite, from his tomb in Lost R'lyeh, our staff psychiatrist, Great Cthulhu. Thanks for joining us today Dr. C."
Cthulhu: "Not a problem Mack. What we're seeing here with Sir Deu is a common problem with encountering true monsters. As you know I travel to many conventions and it's really amazing, to me anyway, the number of people that think fright checks and sanity rolls are just a tool to limit the capability of their characters. They joke about 'oooh, a tentacle, I'm losing my mind' and justify these hurtful remarks with 'I just don't get the whole squid thing.' Many of these are players who are only dealing with the mechanic of the game and not the impossibility of the existence such creatures. They do not perceive the game-world shaking implications of the existence of creatures such as myself."
Mack: "Is there anything that can be done to help these poor players let their characters see beyond the meat of the monster? Is there an 800 number we can call and make a donation to some foundation to find a cure?"
Cthulhu: "Sadly no. There are no foundations dedicating to helping players understand what their character is witnessing and there will be no cure in my lifetime. And we all know that 'That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even death may die'."
Unless one witnesses the unbelievable, one will tend to discredit it...
One of the problems with unique or very rare monsters is that, people who have not experienced it will not accept it, or at least not the true horror of the nasty beast. If Matthew Broderick called you to describe his encounter with Godzilla most likely you would either think he was pulling your leg or completely insane. This, and the lack of credible witnesses, prevents a great number of monster sightings from being recorded and publicized. Characters that have experienced similar impossibility will be more sympathetic. Unless one witnesses the unbelievable, one will tend to discredit it, and unless one has been witness to this, it is hard to role-play one who has, hence the sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu and fright checks in GURPS.
Mack: "Well, that's about all we have time for today. If you are or know a familiar who has been sexually abused by his or her wizard, have them call XXX-XXX-*#*#. I leave you with this Parting Shot. Monsters are horrific, unearthly, or impossible beings and should not be confused with an evil species such as orcs or goblins, especially not a species that is a possible player race. They should have abilities or powers beyond that of normal creatures, and more is not better when it comes to number encountered or number in existence. A quality monster will be remembered by the player and repeat encounters will be avoided by the character. Thank you all for watching."
Announcer: "Guests of MackTalk stay at luxurious Arkham Asylum. Mr. Krueger's wardrobe found in the furnace."
Quotations are from The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft and Cabal by Clive Barker. Call of Cthulhu is an RPG product from Chaosium and GURPS is a product of Steve Jackson Games. Statements and opinions are those of Mr. MacKenzie and might not represent the views of anyone, ever. Celebrity guests were impersonated, like you wouldn't have guessed."