5 Ways to Create Fantastical Beasts and Peoples!: Role Playing Games

Gary Gygax
Gary Gygax (Photo credit: fd)

In Role Playing Games (RPGs), the player controls a character who lives in a fantasy world. The character acts out a role and usually follows a plot of some kind. Some of these games can be used according to the “Popular Culture” guidelines. What is really useful for writers is the degree to which some of these games let you customize your character. In extreme examples, you can create your character from scratch. I did some research of RPG board game monster guides and found that Pathfinders Role Playing Game provides templates for beasts and intelligent races. I do not have room to post those templates here and that would be plagerism anyway, so you’ll just have to check them out at your local bookstore. I’ll include their citations at the end of the blog. In this blog, you will see common elements that appeared in at least some of the four RPG monster guides that I checked out. You will see that RPGs incorporate elements from each of the earlier blogs, even though these creatures are designed for combat. One failing of intelligent races in RPGs is that they are almost all humanoid. I’ve noticed the same failing in books. For the sake of variety, you may want to break with this tradition.

  • Nonhuman: what makes this race different from humans? (mentally, physically, mindset)

  • Language: do they have their own language? Multiple languages (if so, why?)? A secret language unknown to outsiders or to only a small subgroup?

  • Physical: What is their adult size (based on gender)? Their reach? How fast are they? How strong? How nimble?

  • Mental: How intelligent are they? How clever? What is their typical mindset? How do they see the world and other people? What special skills do they have?

  • Target Stats: (since RPG races and creatures are designed for combat) amount of damage the creature can take; armor class; attack power; attack moves; spell/spell-like abilities

  • Concept: What is their role in the world? How do they fight (weapons and tactics)? Where do they live and why?; What physical adaptions to the environment?

  • Culture: What is their history (creation myth, pivotal events)? Their relations with other races (competitors, enemies, foes)?

Role Playing Games may center around combat, but they can be thorough in their construction of fantastical beasts and people. As such, they make an excellent source for someone who wants to build a detailed race. Other topics touched on in some books included culture-building but I touched on that in more depth with “Cultural Anthropology”.

Pathfinders Role Playing Game Bestiary. Paizo Publishing: Redmond, WA. 2010.

Pathfinders Role Playing Game Advanced Races. Paizo Publishing: Redmond, WA. 2000.

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