Monday, June 14, 2010

Zero-to-One Intelligence

Early on in the game I began organizing monsters from the principal manual and other sources along biological categories, which with monsters usually meant trying to hammer a very odd beast into a particular category - which in turn would make the whole meaning of having categories a bit of a waste.  So I gave it up and moved on to other things.

But about a year ago I conceived of the tables which will follow, which represent only a small fraction of the whole ... but if I am going to wait until I have all of them, I'll be posting this sometime between 2014 and 2018.  Damn, I hope it doesn't take that long.

The tables are still based on a grouping principal, but one of behavior rather than biology.  They are presented here in the hopes that they will be helpful.  For the most part the intelligence, number appearing and dimensions correspond to the books - but not always.  I felt free to redefine something's intelligence or other characteristic as it fit my purposes, or as it seemed to more logically fit into the whole.

Diving straight into it, I'll write notes as we go along.  The first set of behavioral groups all have zero intelligence.

There is only one monster that fit this category, as anything else that bewitches things has a higher intelligence, and does so knowingly; the eye, I reason, does it without thinking at all.

'Density' would be a description of what pattern of inhabitation the creature has in a hex.  In this case, 'scattered' would mean that it would be unlikely to find more than one floating eye at a time.  The number appearing, as I've chosen to interpret it, would not be the number of eyes per encounter, but per hex - per incidence of that particular monster being rolled.  In other words, if you were to say that there were 30 types of monsters in a hex, and you rolled 30 times, each time you rolled up 'eye, floating' there would be 1-12 creatures in the hex.

The contact distance is a calculation based upon the number of creatures and the size of the creature.  Because floating eyes are so small, any distance greater than one hex (a distance of 5 feet) would be extraordinarily unlikely - particularly since they are only encountered under water.

While the 'encounter' column should be self explanatory, the 'gestation and growth' column will probably need a lot of notes.  In this case, the floating eye leaves an eggsack full of its young in an area of low shallows ... which itself could be found independently of the creature itself.  It could also be disturbed, causing many, many tiny floating eyes to emerge all at once - perhaps as many as 4-10 times the number normally appearing.  Remember that most young floating eyes would be eaten before reaching full growth.  but four dozen little ones (with a bonus to saving throw, perhaps, and each with 1 hp) would be an interesting disaster.

These would be hunters which would work together for their prey.  Groups are either loose, close or tight - which would be the difference between a group being within eyesight, or operating within six hexes of each other, or often touching each other while attacking.  In this case, the number appearing does refer to the number of creatures per encounter, since these creatures are always together.  But there might be multiple groups in a given hex.

The list gives a wide arrange of dimensions for various creatures that, in the real world, would collapse under their own weight: the 41 lb. fire beetle, for instance.  All weights were calculated exponentially from existing creatures, to the best of my ability.  Some creatures, such as the shark, actually are as large as indicated ... remembering that in all cases the maximum dimension is given.  Thus, a shark could easily be much smaller than 2 tons ... but as the shark in the monster manual has 3 to 8 hit dice, the gentle reader may assume that the largest dimension refers to 8 hit dice. (the giant shark, incidentally, has a higher intelligence and thus fits into a different behavioral category).

Note that in this case every creature's purpose in life (on this table) is to feed, and nothing else.

The progressive attack would mean that, once the melee was started, every set number of rounds another creature would join, then another, then another and so on, until the entire number is involved.  A 'swarm' means that every creature attacks at once, and at the same time.  A milling approach would mean that the creatures would move about the party without attacking for potentially forever, until provoked - like being in the room with a bee, which is aggressive but yet roams around before having a reason to sting.

Creatures may also be movement sensitive, and will strike from cover (such as the weed eel), or by simply moving at the party in a direct attack (the ochre jelly).

There are a number of eggsack types, pushed into mud, a dead carcass, or carried along with the body.  Ochre jellies obviously just split in two (fission) ... while manta rays produce live births from eggs they carry in their own bodies.

Swift growth or swift molting would mean the creature grows to full size within a season after birth, sometimes faster.

The only treasure here are the natural light glands that the fire beetles carry as part of their bodies.

(I note there is one forgotten note - a fire beetle can be seen at twice the contact distance if it is dark).

This table is probably a bit repetitive - these creatures have behaviors that are so alike.  I don't have much to say here except that the weights for humanoid-like monsters were calculated according to human size, and then multiplied by the material the creature was made of.

I should describe what I mean by 'durables'; this would be any item that could be expected to remain once a body dropped in its tracks and began to decompose.  So this would describe coins found in pouches (leather lasts a long time), weapons, armor, pieces of jewelry and so on ... because obviously the non-thinking creatures above would have no use for such things and would presumably leave the bodies where they lay.  Of course, some powerful cleric could be coming in monthly to turn back the zombies, collect the trinkets, and leave again.  (Has anyone given any thought to animating dead as a money making strategy?)

These creatures above, of course, have no interest in feeding on players, but only want to a nice warm food source for their future children.  All are so small they are encountered only at a very close distance.

And these are growing entities for which existence depends upon finding carbon-sources in order to expand - namely, the players.  They grow by killing, and then 'consuming' the victim through expanded growth.  The more they kill, the larger the growth becomes - so that a large violet fungi patch would represent many kills over a given period of time.

The 'fuzz stage' described under gestation refers to a point when the plant splits and releases great quantities of seeds into the environment, much like a cat-tail.  I once wrote about this when I redesigned my gas spore.  A detailed description of the yellow musk creeper (using zombies to spread its growth) is given in the Fiend Folio.

These would be monsters that had a very definite lair, which they defend by instinct.  Most attack progressively, though the spider uses its web as a trap.  Bats will generally ignore creatures until a first bat makes an attack, whereupon the others will swarm.

Those collecting food will hunt over a wide area, and may be encountered outside the lair.  They will not eat their victims, but will typically paralyze them or render them otherwise harmless, and carry them back to the lair.  Durables would then be found in the lair since the carried body is not stripped of its equipment before being carried away.

The distinction between 'widely scattered' from 'scattered' merely indicates that in the former case the creature is territorial, and does not cross into those regions occupied by its own kind.  When two of a kind encounter one another, they tend to combat one another (this is my world only, obviously, since I know how much many DMs love having dozens of gelatinous cubes attacking a party at one time).

Note that the weight of the gelatinous cube is slight compared with its dimension; this is because I reasoned that a transparent creature would have to have a very low specific gravity (low mass).

Not every creature is inherently violent.  The dragonfish is bothering no one when it is stepped upon and thus releases its poison; a stinkbug reacts equally defensively (whereas the bombadier beetle in the former table is aggressively meat-eating, the stinkbug is herbivorous).  The giant sea turtle is not destructive - it does make a great friend, however, if speak with animals is employed.

A very large section.  A great many monsters are designed to be party killers - that would be the primary reason for most of these.  A number of these attack by surprise, from beneath the water, by dropping from trees, from rock crevices or even from inside solid rock (thoqqua).  Beyond that, the table largely speaks for itself.

The monodron is the only non-intelligent creature that can be summoned (that I account for, anyway).  It is the first of a series, the higher examples being the duodron, the triodron and so on - the names coming from monsters presented in some book or other, I can't remember.  In my world they are bird-like creatures that become increasingly larger and more powerful with each designating number.  I would recommend that the gentle reader simply ignore any monster that they are unfamiliar with, or add their own, however they wish.

These, then, are the last group.  Each of these monsters acts as a sort of trap, waiting for their prey from a set location, rather than roaming for it, as the 'solitary hunter' does.  It is a minor distinction, but I felt worth mentioning.  The reason why there is no treasure would be that the trap-location is not kept, but changed from day to day.  The frog or crab make holes in the mud or sand; ankhkeg's do so in soft loam; plants such as witherweed, tentamorts and whipweed move very slowly from location to location if food becomes rare.

The tentamort reproduces not by fission but by duplicating itself ... thus it gains in mass first, developing four tentacles before subdividing; while a creature that gestates by fission divides, and then its multiple parts gain mass thereafter.  Again, a minor distinction, but interesting.

From this point after, I include monsters with 1 intelligence - animal intelligence.  Each monster is listed twice, as each provides two different kinds of encounter.  This is also part of the concept.  As intelligence increases, the number of possible encounters per monster also increases.  I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Again, this would be a large category.  The behavior of this group would be largely due to the size of these creatures, the smallest of which would be the ostrich at 290 lbs.  As they are not easily threatened, they will often treat others, such as the players, with indifference - thus the category.  Of course, if pushed, these creatures will push back.

Occasionally, however, certain individuals will be diseased, or driven out of their herd, and will become maddened killers.  Those individuals are then particularly dangerous.

Note that animal intelligence creatures are the first to be mated, or protective of one another, or of their offspring.  Typically, several mated pairs will exist in one group - which, to remind the reader, would mean that the number appearing here are found together, and not scattered over the hex.

As these creatures tend to be fast, these creatures do not fight when threatened, but will instead flee.  They all live as mated pairs within the group, except for those who have not 'won' mates during the breeding season.

A somewhat more threatening group of monsters, malicious hunters will often kill (or destroy) with no particular purpose, more than they can eat - such as a weasel that will kill every chicken in a coop but only eat one.  Thieving creatures will create a 'cache' of stolen goods, if given a chance to steal repeatedly, that a ranger might be able to find. 


NetherWerks said...

Very nice! And what an incredible amount of work you are doing! I try to work out some of this sort of ecological detail for my critters, but you seem to have hit upon a very clean and concise solution that eliminates a lot of trivia. I'll have to re-visit my own spreadsheets now. The types/sorts of encounters that you list near the top could be lifted out and converted into a sub-table for each group, so taht encounters might be with the leavings, the molted bits, spoor, scat, egg-sacs, etc. I use something like that in my own games and it keeps things interesting. Not every encounter is with the creature itself right then and there. Sometimes you find their den, nest, trail, tacks, etc. Other times you find them while they are eating, getting a drink, mating, birthing, or whatever. Really changes things up quite a bit...

Alexis said...

NetherWerks, that was precisely my conception. Great to see that others out there have thought of this and are going ahead with it. Any way I can help!