Saturday, March 30, 2013

Monster Creation

Hi guys,

I was asked the other day how mathematics influences and helps me with my fantasy writing, and I talked about how once the set-up is done I just have to follow the logic and everything works itself out. It also helps with the magick system and whatnot. Let's go ahead and do something a little different with the blog today and create a new monster having no inspiration or reason for one.

There are many different ways I approach monster creation. I usually start with an impetus such as a chosen environment, location, symbiotic relationship with another species, or having my own spin on a "classic" monster.

Let's go ahead and start with an environment.

Looking over my world map,
I realize that I really haven't fleshed out the ecosystem of Oyain, the floating continent. (Please pay no attention to the fact that Ao used to be spelled IIo, that's the Draconic romanization instead of the common spelling).

So Oyain is on the table. What do we remember about Oyain off the tops of our heads? (wait, we don't speak in the royal "we"? I apologize)).

Oyain is a relatively recent addition to the geography of the world in-verse and is arguably not a continent at all (on account of it not being connected to the planet's crust). It exists in a sort of Bermuda Triangle of air currents, or maybe a black hole would be more relevant. Eventually, anything that stays afloat in the atmosphere of Ao settles in the region around Oyain. A good portion of Gaea has joined with Oyain since it began, and there are even a series of islands in the ocean beneath Oyain for those that need to be more landbound.

I've already worked out that it is the best source of hydrogen trees (name pending) which naturally produce and store hydrogen, and which has many helpful components for building airships. I've also already developed the regional subspecies of humes, high elves and dwarves.

Sky dwarves are pretty cool in that they are constantly dragging around anchors so they don't fall to the oceans below.

Now, I can't necessarily open up my brain so you see what I'm thinking, but let me try to do a quick run-through of what's caught my attention so far (edit: secondary bullets are what caught my attention while writing this list. second edit: tertiary bullets are what caught my attention while writing the second edits...third edit: well, um, you get the idea. )
  • What foreigners drift here? Are they changed by the journey?
    • Welcome? Does the journey itself change them? Would Amelia Earhart end up here? 
    • Going along the Bermuda Triangle angle, is there any malevolence or energy that is encouraging things to settle here besides the lull in the air currents?
  • Birds are too easy and cliche. Besides, if they can get to Oyain, then they can probably get to Nasila and go hang out with Ziz.
    • A bird hybrid thing that swoops down after climbing up sounds cool. Maybe like a batcat of some sort. Wyvern-y? Why can't it fly so hot? Is the atmosphere too rarefied?  Batcat is heavy and unagile. Large round head.
  • I understand how the hydrogen trees fit into the economy of Oyain, but what about the ecosystem? 
    • Their "roots" are very strong if I recall. Do things eat them? Is there something stupid enough to bite off a root of a hydrogen tree and turn itself into a stranded balloon monster?
    • If things can eat the hydrogen bubbles without puncturing them, then would they float? Stretch organs to surround the bubble?
      • Some large herbivore swallowing the bubbles and storing them inside its body as natural defense to spat out when attacked. 
        • Can do this with smaller bubbles/trees also, so can make anything on Oyain be explosive if I wanna'. 
          • Also, since the hydrogen trees don't use photosynthesis (I believe), then if swallowed whole, it's possible they can continue to grow and live inside the creature.
            • Hydrogen poisoned symbiont. Another "super-rabies". The plant entangles in nervous system and messes the creature up. 
      •  Would batcat do this?
    • The membrane over the bubble is very strong. I can imagine creatures injecting hydrogen/explosion-proof babies/eggs into the hydrogen environment inside a bubble for protection. When creature emerges from its makeshift egg, sets off explosions?
      • Note, I understand how volatile hydrogen is, but even if one tree in a hydrogen tree grove explodes, it doesn't mean that it will catch. They are *VERY* durable.
  • Can be some extant galts left over from the pieces that came from Gaea.
  • The idea of dwarves being perpetually afraid of falling into the ocean below makes me wonder what creatures live off the droppings of Oyain. Maybe some krakens messing about with surface life. Surface islands are noteworthy in that there is no gradual transition to deep sea because the islands migrated there or were too heavy for the air, but not too heavy to sink.  
So anyway, this leaves me some pretty good places to start. At this point, I'm not ready for details like final names, but I can probably start working out general behavior or niches in the ecosystem. It looks like I have 3 strong monster ideas budding up here.

Batcat

Exploding Giant Herbivore

Water Scavenger

At this point, I do a few sketches and pencil in a few extra details. It is next to impossible for me to not think about variations and connections, so almost immediately subspecies, notable creatures and exceptions are popping up. Here are pictures of the quick sketches (disclaimer: none of these are meant to be "final" drawings, and are just ironing out the details and getting the idea of the image on paper)

Batcat:
Batcat's gotten cute...ish unexpectedly. I sketch out a variant of batcat having swallowed a hydrogen tree (I hope it goes without saying that no one should swallow any sort of balloon, let alone one made of flammable gas...)
I call it...wait for it...fatbatcat!

Next up is the large herbivore, which I am referring to as "exploding lizard" before upgrading this to "explozard":
Please pay no attention to the redacted portion. There are levels of crappy drawing I sink to that even I am ashamed of :p

And finally, the watery scavenger, which I hit upon the idea of a fish mutated by eating rotten kraken:

As you might be able to make out, as I drew these, obvious questions came up that I used logic and reasoning through everything I know about the creatures, magicks and locales. I also am not afraid to apply the rule of cool to something.

One of the first things I realized with the batcat was that its eyes should migrate north. Its fatness contributed to its cute...ish-ness, and this was exacerbated by not being happy with the small beady eyes and closed mouth of the initial pic. Most of the other info about the batcat was already pretty firmly in my head (being too heavy to fly, wings being used to control the drop more than glide, it springing off a cliff face or top of a cliff to smash against someone).

What was new to the development was the idea that it had to be pretty shock resistant to survive such a fast drop. After trying to draw one sitting up, it made sense to draw one standing up (although it's practically defenseless in this position, it could make sense to frighten off predators or as a mating ritual of some sort). I also wanted the wings to be more flexible/turny, so I added some better joints to them. This goes along with justifying the rule-of-cool (although by nature, you don't need to justify the rule-of-cool, and really, maybe magic, maybe mundane should cover it or at least the shrug of god). I look at anything I want to do with my world to be cool as something that scientists in the world will have to try to figure out and explain. There's always an explanation, we just don't know it yet.

The fatbatcat was interesting, possibly inspired by a picture of a fat Welsh corgi next to two fat round stuffed animal versions of itself I saw the other day. All sorts of logical issues with fatbatcat that needed addressed (such as where do the organs go? Turns out they're shoved down into the tail mostly).

For the explozard, hitting upon the stegosaurus inspiration was lucky, but a direct result of needing the bulbous hydrogen trees to fit somewhere inside the explozard's body. The venting also seemed logical, and opened up a lot of possibilities for subspecies.

Finally, I am very happy with how the water scavenger turned out. Since it's basically a shark-piranha-squid, it's hard to imagine something worse to be in the water with. Still, it's derivative of a kraken, so it makes sense they would be terrified of kraken (which are the direct descendents of Leviathan in WotA).

Back to the overall idea here though. This has all been mathematics. As soon as the set-up is complete, the rest is following natural logic and asking "why" and "how".

This short exercise (now a little longer talking to yins about it) has just added three new creatures to WotA to help flesh out Oyain. One can even argue, because of the complexity of their creation, that they are largely original and/or unique. Clearly, they're derivative, but everything is derivative. It all stems from something. The trick is to use math so that you can easily access the next levels.

There's a reason for everything. Math helps us see those reasons.

Hope you've enjoyed the world-building exercise!

Update: This ended up spawning a series of blogs called, "Making Undead". You can read the first post in that series here.