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You Wanna Fight?

My Monster's Motivation

Bryan Jonker
October 8, 2001  


As I said before, I feel alignment is a crutch to justify killing monsters and creating an artificial "us good them bad" situation. If we step back from this stance, we can see an additional problem of a generic "evil." On one hand, we say "vampires kill humans without remorse, so vampires are evil." Yet, we also say "humans kill cows without remorse, but that doesn't make humans evil."

Without going into huge discussions about sanctity of life, the point I'm trying to make is we as humans put creatures in categories: livestock, pets, sentient beings, etc. These categories are fluid even among humans - one culture may place cows in livestock, while another culture may place cows in pets or holy creatures. Is it unreasonable to assume that monsters would also put creatures in categories as well, and that humans may not make the "sentient beings" mark? Yes, that's creepy, and yes, that causes problems for humans, but it's no different from what we as humans do.

So, what does this mean? Monsters, by defining humans as something other than sentient, will act certain ways towards humans. Depending on what type of game you want to run, this can either help or hinder the action. Below is a list of categories, and the implications for each choice.

Humans as Food

One of the most popular choices, the "humans as food" motif ranges from normal predatory animals to vampires and werewolves to flesh-eating zombies. One main advantages of this is it's simple - we all understand eating. Plus, everyone's got to eat, so it's fairly easy to start the fight. Monster gets peckish, so he wanders out and runs into the adventurers. If you add a touch of overconfidence to the monster's psyche, the monster won't back off if there's a little resistance (as I'm sure there will be).

However, that resistance is the weak point in this motif. For example, in a city of 10,000 people and 10 monsters, each monster has its pick of 1000 people. If the adventurers are the 1% of the population that is going to cause trouble, why attack the adventurers? If you're going to choose between a docile cow and an angry bull, which would you choose? This could be good or bad, depending on what the GM wants. If the GM wants to have a monster-fest, then the GM needs to either change the scenario or make the percentage of monsters to humans more equivalent. However, it could be challenging to have the monsters avoid the PCs, and have the players devise all sorts of traps and tricks to lure monsters. "Hey, Bobby, you look pretty harmless - stand in this deserted cemetery and scream while the rest of us hide behind all these gravestones."

Humans as Resource

This is similar to "humans as food," but the monsters' strategy changed from hunting-gathering to farming. We are the crops. The most recent example of this is The Matrix, where humans are kept for energy.

As resource, humans will not be treated well. There may be a few who care for the humans (the Temple Grandin of monsters, perhaps), but most will see them not for them but what they can do. Strict controls will be kept on people, although they may be so taken for granted that those controls are relaxed at times. Adventurers who refuse to do what is expected will be seen as defective and eliminated. If humans are, if you excuse the phrase, dehumanized to this level, it may be the player characters versus the world. Rather bleak, but gaming scenarios don't happen in Paradise.

An additional thought: if humans are resources, then some may be bred specifically for certain traits. Different races may occur, not because of unplanned evolution, but because the monsters planned the races.

Humans as Pest

With this motif, the humans are being exterminated, a la Independence Day, because both humans and monsters are using the same resources. This allows another easy way to start fights, because the monsters will attack any humans immediately. Strong players as well as weak players will be attacked, because in the end all the humans must be removed.

However, several caveats need to be made. The population of both the humans and the monsters need to be high enough that they are noticed - an individual tribe probably won't use up enough resources. The humans and the monsters cannot have any weapons of mass destruction, or those weapons for some reason cannot be used immediately (otherwise, it's a short adventure). To use Independence Day again as an example, the aliens' weapons had to be put into place, and that took time. Furthermore, the monsters for some reason cannot compromise with humans. For example, humans cannot communicate with the monsters, or something in the monsters' culture/psyche prevents them from compromising. Finally, the monsters have to be roughly equivalent to humans. They have to want the same thing, so a methane-based grass-eating monster won't really be interested in the same area that humans are.

Humans as Animal/Pet

Again, this changes the outlook of the campaign. Not all humans are attacked - cooperating, "monster-friendly" NPCs are valued, while characters that attack the monsters are put down. Again, there will be a sub-population within the monster community that may be pro-human, and some monster/human pairs may bond very closely. However, the general society of monsters will see humans as expendable, and any human harming a monster will be destroyed.

How does this differ from the "human as resource" motif? Unlike that motif, the humans aren't consumed, or even mistreated. This scenario brings to mind the old Fantastic Voyage movie, where only a sense of freedom will trigger adventures. Moral ambiguities may surface as the players try to rescue people that aren't willing to be rescued.

Again, just as different breeds of dogs exist, different breeds of humans may exist as well. Some of the breeds may be bred for show, or combat. Monsters may breed humans and fight them in combat - a twisted version of Pokemon.

Taking this to the extreme, there's nothing saying that the player characters have to be against the monsters. Picture a campaign where the PCs are working for the monsters, hunting other renegades. Slowly, some of the characters realize that they should be helping the renegades, not hunting them. Other characters may not feel the same way. Chaotic and difficult to run, but interesting

Humans as Big Game

Now, this has possibilities. As food, resources, or whatever, most monsters avoid the adventurers because the adventurers are dangerous. A few tough souls, drawn by the danger, actively pursue the adventurers. Because not all monsters are attracted to danger, the number of fights won't be as high as some GMs or players may like. However, the monsters that attack will be the best and most prepared of the lot. An extended adventure could be built out of one master vampire hunting the party, and the party either escaping or taking the attack to the vampire.

Humans as Predator

The monster may simply be preserving his life, fighting in self-defense. Most animals fall into this category, and that will be the topic of the next article...

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What do you think?

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Wanna Fight by Bryan Jonker