Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Darwin & Dragons

One cool thing about islands is that they're isolated.  So if you're a simulationist that want your ecosystems just so, you can really run wild and put some crazy stuff on a island and just say it can't swim, or that it needs something in that island's soil to survive.

Related to this isolation is that islands can become a kind of biological laboratory.  Something that immediately springs to my mind is Darwin's finches and how a single type of creature that ends up on an island may end up evolving to fill lots of different niches.  I'm thinking this would have the most impact if we started with some very iconic creature and then morphed it into things very different from that.  See Dougal Dixon's After Man book for that kind of familiar become strange weirdness.
So what is iconic?  You might start with:
  • Dragons
  • Unicorns
  • Elves
  • Fairies (but they're already so varied I don't know if it would have the same impact)
  • Drow (haha)
  • Hobbitses
And what would be some island niche they might fill?
  • snake
  • monkey
  • turtle
  • seed-eating bird
  • nut-eating bird
  • seal
Yeah, I'm not sure feel free to offer any ideas.  But even with that short list you might end up with an island of dragon types- fire-breathing snakes, dragon turtles (little ones), little dragon birds and the dragon-headed treeclimbers with hands, which will eventually lead to sword wielding and world domination.

You might also get beutifully pure horned monkeys (they don't throw things at you, just look on in disappointment), the ever tasty turtle hobbits, or the isle of the evil drow things all tentacles and squawking drzzz drzzz drzzzz.

It could get really weird if you start letting them morph into plant types.  Coconuts have that big floating seed so they can populate new islands.  What would elves that used this same technique be like.And what would elves that evolved to prey on those elves look like?  (hahaha.  I need to play a wizard in someone's campaign and make some of these wierdities).

What weird morph would you put on an island?


  1. Unikongs! single-horned apes. Make 'em white furred and you have that Mugato creature from Star Trek.

    Pyrets! Flame breathing beautifully plumaged birds. Polly wants that cracker, NOW! Raaaawrrr!

    Drythons: large man-eating snakes, pitchblack except for their albino white hoods and red eyes. they can also spit webs like arachnids.


  2. Drython: With apologies to Grendelwulf for stealing the name: Green and brown snakes with a leaf pattern. Bound to one tree, and becomes Enraged if it is threatened.

  3. Yeah, Drython does invoke nature.

    I'd best change mine to Dribra, like Driders.

  4. Hey, thanks good ideas. And each night Unikong wrestles the Drython.

  5. Elfonuts: The females of this species produce seeds instead of eggs. Upon successfully mating, they enter the water and give birth to a giant husk, which floats along the current. It will only begin to grow if it detects another Elfonut of the opposite gender. Elfonuts are brown, have thick skin, and are completely covered in a layer of fine hair.

    Barnacle Elves: The Barnacle Elf is produced from trees that grow by the ocean, and appear like gum for their gestation (4-6 months depending on size, gender, and climate). Afterward the hang by their hair from the tree, and are surrounded by shells in order to grow more freely (Lasts about 3 weeks). Having then grown to adolescence, they fall into the water, and sustain themselves on fish for a year. At the end of this time period, they are fully mature, and can begin to prey upon Elfonut husks, although their main diet remains sea creatures, especially shellfish, which they are well adapted to crack due to their adaptations for preying on Elfonuts. The Barnacle Elf is similar to the Aquatic Elf in appearance, but produces clutches of seed pods, which they plant on land.

    Annwn Trees: Spectral trees. Its branches will begin to creak and rustle if someone is about to die. As you get closer to the tree, the sound becomes softer. Geographically isolated; extraordinarily rare outside of the island they first appeared on.

  6. The tree-hanging phase of the Barnacle Elf's life-cycle reminds me strongly of Wakwak.

    A while ago Zak described a dragon as a snake with everything bad glued onto it. It's not very Darwinian, but I'd be intrigued to take the snake away and see what resulted.

    I just found this today, looking for Wakwak.

    For my own contribution, the Burrowing Wyrm makes its own caves out of volcanic tuff and excretes the shards of obsidian it encounters through openings in its tail. It spits acid (useful for burrowing) but its teeth are almost useless for anything except boring through the tuff and the outer layers of the shell of the island-turtle.
    On which topic, have you seen George Hutcheon's articles On the Origin of Pokemon Species? Some interesting things there.

  7. Tiny humming dragons, no longer than a finger, make holes in the shells of nutmegs and almonds so they can curl up inside. Their hot breath toasts the nuts, so that settlers have tried to cultivate them, but alas they have no taste for coffee cherries.

    The ice floe dragon looks like a pond-skater, gliding along on bony stick-like "wings" with hard, skate tips, keeping its fiery body high above the deadly frozen ground. Its claws touch down for propulsion and steering, and to grab the edge of the floe when it calves, to keep it from tipping into the deadly water below. It feeds by spitting fire into the sea, flash-frying penguins in their jackets, or dripping it onto the ice to make a fishing hole.

  8. The chest-nut is the common or dungeon chest's more dangerous brother. It starts out as a message in a bottle or plank from a wrecked ship or other common piece of flotsam until it encounters an island, where it buries itself. Along its travels it sheds clues as to its resting-place; once ensconced it secretes tattered old maps and dreams, to attract its prey, which it distributes through the chest-network, exchanging them for objects found in the other chests with which it communicates. It has a peculiar fondness for the most recondite traps, making it an efficient training or culling device for thieves, whose goods are absorbed and bodies rejected, except for their teeth, which the chest keeps under its lid, and by which it can be recognised.

    The total range and population of chest-nuts is unknown, but they are believed to be largely responsible for stories of pirates burying treasure. It is also not known if such stories were invented by the people who encountered the chests or if they were spread by the chests themselves.

  9. I think all new player elves should be barnacle elves. :) bravo C'nor.

    And chest-nuts- wierd and interesting. Who needs an industry when you two are dropping these crazy ideas. Thanks I appreciate it.

  10. Thanks! I got the idea from legends about the Barnacle Goose.