Friday, July 20, 2018

Random wild creature

The vast wilderness of the North is home to many strange creatures, some of which haven't even been described in print yet.  Here are some tables to help you roll up an unusual creature of your own.

Jackalopes are real, I tell you.  (

Start with a Base, a real-world creature to base this strange one on.  It should be something from this climate's wildlife list (a topic for a future post), but the table also has a few suggestions.  (If you roll up a plant, be ready to get really creative.)

Base (d20)examples
1-4large land animalwolf, alligator, mountain lion, moose, bear, caribou
5-8small land mammaljackrabbit, skunk, otter, raccoon, beaver, porcupine
9-11flying creaturevulture, heron, bat, crow, chickadee, parrot
12-13bug / crawly thingleech, ant, bee, lightning bug, scorpion, tarantula
14-16reptile/amphibianbullfrog, snapping turtle, rattlesnake, salamander, lizard, poison dart frog
17-19water creatureorca, catfish, eel, crawdad, jellyfish, sea turtle
20plantpoison ivy, venus flytrap, redwood tree, sunflower, spanish moss, coconut palm

Let's roll up a new creature for a rugged mountain range (oaks and chestnuts in the lower parts, aspen higher up): 7, so it's a small land mammal.  A jackrabbit sounds good.

Roll twice for its Physical Features:

Physical Features (d20)
1-3unusual size(d8) 1-3: half the usual size, 4-7: larger than usual, 8: far larger
4-5drawing attention(d8) 1-2: brightly colored, 3-4: patterned appearance, 5-6: dance, movement, threatening display, 7-8: loud call
6-8camouflage(d8) 1-3: color/pattern matches background, 4-5: silent/stealthy movement, 6-7: changing color seasonally, 8: changing color quickly
9-10poison(d8) 1-2: venomous bite, 3-4: venomous stinger/claw, 5-6: poisonous to eat, 7: toxic/dangerous to touch, 8: tends to live/nest among poisonous/dangerous plants
11-13unusual features(d8) 1-2: porcupine quills, 3: glow like lightning bugs, 4: rattlesnake rattles, 5-6: antlers, 7: horns, 8: skunk spray
14-16movement(d8) 1: very fast-moving, 2-3: better swimmer/diver, 4-5: can leap high/far, 6-7: good at climbing, 8: can glide/fly
17-19senses(d8) 1-2: heat vision, 3-4: echolocation, 5-6: excellent sense of smell, 7-8: excellent hearing
20useful(d8) 1-3: excellent fur/hide, 4-5: made of tasty meat/food, 6-7: good for medicine, 8: can be tamed

The first roll is a 19 followed by a 1: this jackrabbit-like creature has heat vision, allowing it to see predators in the dark.  Next we have a 3 and a 2: it's tiny, half the usual size.  Sounds like they'll be hard to catch.

Roll at least twice for its Behavior:

Behavior (d20)
1impressive lairbuilds structures, dams, nests, mounds, tunnels that are especially large, complex, deep
2collects thingslong-term food storage, valuable local resource, stealing parts, decorations/toys, tools
3unexpected reachgo unexpected places: get into containers, climb trees, sneak into settlements, squeeze through tight spaces
4understandingrecognize labels to know where food is stored, knows enough words to get some idea what people are up to
5learninghas learned how to avoid traps, take cover from gunfire, avoid food that might be poisoned
6deceptionfalse lairs to confuse attackers, luring into a trap or away from their young, deceptive call
7tool usebait to attract prey, tools to reach food, making use of existing machinery
8coordinationact as a team/pack, communicate information about threats to each other
9defensive attitudepatiently waits for opportunity, pursues over long distances, holds a grudge
10charmcute, good at begging, can herd livestock, act like pets
11aggressiveeager to attack, more violent than necessary, kills people for fun
12kidnappersteals/lures away children, carries off small livestock
13playfultoys with its victims, steals things to play with, teases creatures for fun
14kindtends to the needs of lost/injured people as best it can, especially children
15unusual fooddrinks blood, chews on trees and wooden buildings, hunts/eats some even rarer special creature
16symbioticpoints out prey for predators to get some of the reward, immune to some plant's poison so it can eat the fruit, obtains food that it can't open for a large creature that can't reach it
17fearfulafraid of people, attacks and then runs away quickly, afraid of something particular without a clear reason
18territorialclaims a territory as its own, attacking anyone threatening who enters it
19mimicry (despite earlier rolls)looks/sounds almost exactly like some other Base creature, unusual footprints look like they're leading the other way
20strangehas a strange power, if such things exist in this world (a topic for a future post)

The first roll is an 8: these tiny rabbits coordinate their actions in some way.  Communicating information about threats sounds useful, especially for such tiny creatures.

Next is a 15: they eat some unusual food.  Blood sounds nice and creepy.  They're interesting, but let's make them a little more so and roll again.

It's a 6: they're good at deception.  They've evolved or learned some behavior that helps them deceive creatures around them.  Let's say they've learned to put shiny objects in the entrances of their lairs, or in hollows of trees, or sticking out from under rocks with hiding places.  People reach down to pick up the shiny thing, and a dozen little bloodsucking rabbits spring out to get a taste.

Blood-hares sounds like a perfect name.  Nasty little creatures.

That's no ordinary jackrabbit.  (Morag Gunson)

They're not a major threat (unless acting in large numbers) but they're definitely not friendly.  If you find little jackrabbit footprints or see a shiny coin tucked somewhere suspicious, this is a very bad place to sleep.

random creature
physical features

Rolling up a few more random creatures:
  • Jar-rattlers are a type of rattlesnake that shed their skins a few times a year, changing color to match the season.  They're good at biting, slithering, and squeezing their way into containers you wouldn't expect.  And they've even learned how to recognize the label on a popular elven brand of food.  They say that jar-rattlers never bite children, so the local people always have kids check the pantry first.
  • Water panthers are a fearsome predator.  With very little fur, you can see their skin, but the skin changes color quickly to match their surroundings.  Water panthers are very good swimmers and divers, sleeping up on high outcroppings or tree branches over water for a quick getaway.  They've been known to drag away small livestock and possibly even children.
  • Five-toed turkeys thrive in these woods.  They're bright orange in color, with feathers that are greatly desired by the goblins a few valleys over.  Their call sounds nothing like a regular turkey, making a haunting, plaintive sound.  Turkeys like to eat snails, but some snails are too big and tough for them to get at the tasty meat inside.  Five-toed turkeys have learned to toss tough snails into the workings of elven machinery to crack them open.  (The elves are not amused.)  When flushed out by dogs, these turkeys have learned to scatter for cover and fly through the trees, avoiding the open sky where a hunter can get a clean shot.
(Bob Zeller)

And just for fun, let's roll up a plant, making more creative use of the results.  I'll choose a mountain fern as a starting point.  Rolling it up, these ferns: change color over the long term, are poisonous to eat, have some kind of understanding, and are in a symbiotic relationship.  Let's see...
  • Copper ferns grow in shady places in mountain gullies.  They're normally a sort of coppery color, making them easy to identify.  That's good, because they're also quite poisonous.  But if their growing conditions ever become poor (usually too sunny or too dry) they use the last of their energy to turn the same green shade as the edible ferns around them, losing their poison in the process.  Creatures eat the ferns when they're green, helping propagate the species through their droppings, hopefully in shadier or wetter places.
Apparently there's already a plant called a copper fern.  (Stauden Wichmann)

Try out the tables and see what you think.  Let me know if you roll up something interesting.


  1. A silent, undersized moose that kidnaps people twice. Hmmm.

    Heck snakes:
    A rattlesnake-like reptile with unfurling quills and a loud, high-pitched and repetitive call (or rattle). They posses understanding and a territorial nature. In mating season the males display their fitness by seeking out and (very visibly) defending the best nesting spots. They set there making noise with quills extended.
    Known to camp out in pioneers' pantries, smoking sheds, overturned canoes and every other dang thing. They wake up the whole camp every morning and hopefully die soon after.

    1. Just think of the first time some expedition ran across heck snakes, waking up in the morning to some awful racket, finding these spiny rattlers everywhere.

      Not sure about that moose, though. Probably ends up in the stew pot.

    2. Serves the moose right. They're all repeat kidnappers.

  2. Spined Owl: A flying creature with quills and a defensive attitude. They burrow into the ground to sleep: if alarmed, they spiral into their attacker, release their quills, and fly away.

    Their burrows are treated almost like landmines, with signs put up near them so nobody steps on the owls.