Thursday, June 21, 2012

Monster Ecologies and Invasive Species

In Gygaxian Naturalism, monsters form an internally consistent ecosystem. When the PC's aren't there, the monsters lead rich, full lives—weaving baskets, cultivating mushrooms, raising families, etc.

Monsters of the Mythic Underworld coalesce out of darkness and nightmares. What are the goblins doing when the PC's aren't there? They're don't exist at all, or they're just sitting in the darkness waiting for a PC to open the door, or they're doing something completely alien to human experience. It doesn't matter. Monsters are just an expression of the mystical underworld's primal animosity to the player characters.

I recently articulated to myself a slightly different ecology that I favor. It's a decontextualized alien ecology. Such monsters are natural, but not naturally occurring on this world. They lead lives when the PC aren't around, but their activates are not familiar to men. These are visitors from outside—invaders, castaways, refugees, and fugitives. They're the invasive species of the dungeon.


  1. This is where my B/X campaign setting has been trending--any overtly weird creature is more than likely a transplant from another world entirely, probably during the apocalyptic wars of millennia past. "Naturally occurring" creatures include prehistoric beasts and less paradigm-shattering animals such as griffins or giant versions of normal animals.

    Oh, and owlbears are completely natural. They've always seemed so to me, somehow, regardless of the flavor text. :)

  2. invaders, castaways, refugees, and fugitives.
    That exactly describes the incursions into the weirdlands of my Tartary: the green martians are there because they chased some Githyanki through a gate that got shut behind them, the grease monkeys wound up there hiding out either from ultratech slavers or Butlerian jihadists, and the mi-go are there because mi-go are everywhere there's a large shiftless migrant population that can't count its missing. And then there are the refugees and fugitives from the overworld, who actually cause most of the trouble, indirectly.


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