Monday, November 30, 2009

Fram Framson's Monsternomicon

Fram Framson started as a last-minute filler name for an NPC that I wanted the party to talk to.

I had been playing plenty of the Middle Earth CCG, and the name had been bizarre enough to stick in my brain. So when the party asked for the wanderer's name, I blurted it out.

The rest is history.

Fram became one of the most prevalent characters in my campaign world for many years, providing plot exposition and party assistance, always working for the Explorer's Fraternity as he travelled the world, ending up wherever the party happened to be at the time.

So when the time came to begin drafting my Monster Manual, there was no doubt in my mind who should write it.

The idea is not totally mine, either. The Monsternomicon for Iron Kingdoms uses the adventures of a travelling scholar as well, although he covers far less area than Fram. It occurred to me that Fram should be compiling this book in a different way than either the IK Monsternomicon or the Monster Manual - I could combine the two methods, providing personal notes from Fram when these were monsters he had seen, rather than simply heard about. It seemed a good compromise, and one I could finish.

As for the manual itself, I found myself gravitating to large numbers of animals, beasts, and low-intelligence monsters. I like the idea that the primary threats in Galadran are creatures, rather than complicated societies of vicious, intelligent monsters. I have NPCs for intelligent threats, the wildreness should be populated with savagry and be ruled by the law of the jungle.

It should also have a feeling of weird fantasy as well. Owlbears, rust monsters, scorpion-men, Kyuss spawn (who will be aligned with Nimis in this world), oozes, molds, and cannibal birds. That evokes the sort of feeling I want. Once you step out of the more civilized parts of the world, expect anything.

I've also found some converted creatures from the old Magic: the Gathering CCG that I always thought would make good D&D monsters. In this case, thallids and slivers. I'll have some fun repackaging them for my world, but it was the mechanical aspects of these creatures that really attracted me to them, so I think they'll fit in just fine with the rest of the assembled weirdness that is the Wilderlands. Semi-sentient fungi allows me to use a lot of fungus-related monsters and threats that I would have had a hard time individually explaining. And slivers are just plain fun - low CR swarms that quickly become high CR challenges. Scalable for a mid-to-high level party, they are a lot of work, but worth it.

Whatever is in the book, its got to have a place. Each monster has to fit the ecology, sure, but it also has to be part of the Galadran story as well. Monsters don't just happen - animals do, even large predators, but monsters should feel like another part of a normal world that has gone wrong, like the murder of a God, or blood-drinking immortals living off the suffering of a underclass of slaves. Monsters are another part of the wrong-ness of Galadran, and they should feel that way. They should add to the feeling of anxiety and fear that adventurers feel, and a lesson about the effects of a world gone mad with blood and magic.

A world that needs fixing is the point of D&D, after all. That's what heroes are for. And the world should remind them of that.

That's it for now,friends. Excelsior!