creature week

(A table of contents will be available when the series is complete. As always, new posts may be found in the posts by pear tag. This series will remain open for additional posts and the table of contents up-to-date as new posts are added.)

Part Three: Ability Checklist

Once you’ve figured out what creature is appropriate for the area and you’ve settled on what it will be, your next step is determining what it can do, specifically those directly linked with the biology of your creature.

Real-world Animals: If your companion is any kind of real-world animal, you have a wealth of information at your fingertips via the internet. Your initial research took you into environment, but now it’s time to look at the creature specifically. You need to know what this animal does:

  • Is it predator or prey? What is its dominant sense?
  • How does it defend itself and in what kinds of circumstances will it choose to either attack or defend? Does it have any camouflage? Special colorization to scare or warn others away? Armor plating? Tough hide? Scales? Shell? Spines? Tusks? Horns?
  • Talons? Claws? Hooks? Pincers?
  • Wings? Are they functioning wings or vestigial leftovers?
  • Two legs, three, more? What’s its speed like?
  • Tail? Trunk? Feelers? Whiskers?
  • What kind of teeth does it sport? Depending on what it eats, it may be very good at fighting with its mouth, or it may have the wrong kind of teeth to do tearing damage, but instead it can apply a boatload of pressure.
  • Does it have any secretions that allow it to do things? Does it produce webbing, or have secretions to help it climb easier? Acid? Stink glands? Poison?
  • How about its eyes? How much light does it need to see? Does it have other ways of seeing or understanding its environment? 

Mythical Creatures: Unfortunately, research materials that all agree on the details associated with many creatures of lore are lacking. Do the best you can with what you can find to make the clearest, most succinct definition of what your creature looks like and what its physical features afford it. The above checklist can carry over for these creatures too, but you’ll also want to add in what kinds of magic they may have access to, and any special abilities or hindrances caused by their body.

Make sure you also consider what kinds of rules govern these abilities. When do gorgons turn others to stone? Is it eye contact with the human or the snakes? Is eye contact even required, or can the gorgon simply look their direction? The rules of your world must be defined, even for the abilities of your mythical creatures, and to some extent, even more so than the rest of your world. Just like with magic, internal consistency and making sure your creatures can’t do anything they want are key to maintaining believably, tension, and good storytelling.

So What? These details seem intuitive, particularly once you’ve decided on what form your companion should take. After all, when you say, “I’m going to write a wolf into my story,” you immediately think of its fighting ability–teeth, claws, general intimidation–so why do you need to take stock of all these things, too? Simple: If you don’t know what tools you have at your disposal, you don’t know what you can (and can’t) do with them!

Plot and conflict and complication are partially driven by the characters you’re writing, their decisions, and their tactics when faced with problems. By giving yourself a quick run-down of the creature’s features, you give yourself a toolbox of things to work with, both in order to solve problems that are presented in the story, but also to create problems and build your plot with. After all, these creatures are characters, too, just in a different shape. (We’ll talk later about how you can use your companions in your narrative and how they can shape the other characters.)

Doing this quick outline of what your creature has at its disposal will also help as you’re trying to characterize them. Your research and the time you devote to thinking about how this character is put together will help to dispel any preconceived notions you had or outdated knowledge about the creature that’s no longer true (think of your research like a refresher course!), and will give you insight into aspects of the creature you may not have been familiar with previously. They say you don’t know what you don’t know, so don’t let the most basic of research like this go by the wayside. You might be in for a surprise the could play a part in your story!

Next up: Travel considerations!

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Rest In Peace Plaid.

Commander of the Week

The Many Forms of Yidris, Maelstrom Wanderer 

Out of the commander 2016 four color commanders, Yidris is probably the most interesting allowing for several different strategies. I find that the other four encourage a certain strategy and makes it very hard to deviate from that strategy. With Yidris however, It’s quite easy to come up with a pretty good list for a voltron deck, a deck made up largely of creatures and a spell-slinging deck. Yidris is a 5/4 for 4 mana with Trample, that bestows cascade to spells cast from your hand if he deals combat damage that turn. 

Creature Heavy decks 

This deck is mostly green and super easy to build, just take an old Kruphix, God of Horizons deck (minus the prophet mind you, which really hurts my Kruphix deck), that probably contains creatures like Craterhoof Behemoth, Trygon PredatorProgenitor Mimic and Avenger of Zendikar and add some of the add some mana dorks like Somberwald Sage, Bloom Tender, Gyre Sage and Birds of Paradise. Then just add some cool red and/or black spells like Stalking Vengeance, Inferno Titan, Warstorm Surge and Master of Cruelties

Spell-slinging Decks 

This deck will be mostly Red and Blue. Though this deck will have far fewer creatures, it will contain several of the same mana dorks. Though this deck will contain creatures such as Mirrorwing Dragon, Zada, Hedron Grinder, Mercurial Geists and Nivix Cyclops along with any creature that gains a bonus when instant and sorcery spells are cast. Most of the spells in this deck will be really cheap and will hopefully allow you to draw cards. These will include spells like Uncaged Fury, Distortion Strike, Giant Growth and Butcher’s Glee. Paradox Engine and Cryptolith Rite make a really good combination too allowing you to tap your creatures to produce the mana needed to cast these spells. Aetherflux Reservoir is also a good choice for this deck for life gain and a potential win condition.

Voltron Decks 

This is much like my idea for the spell-slinging deck only with more permanent methods of “powering-up” the commander and other creatures perhaps. I thought maybe auras such as Rancor, Claws of Valakut, Aqueous Form and Auramancer’s Guise. Or Equipment such as the Sword of Feast and Famine, Lashwrithe, Nim Deathmantle and Whispersilk Cloak, or a combination of both. Decimator of the Provinces and Craterhoof Behemoth are both good finishers in such a deck.

Extra Turn Decks (Please, No)

This is pretty self explanatory and not something I advocate. Spells such as Temporal Extortion, Time Stretch, Time Warp and Temporal Mastery are all common choices for such a deck and Yidris’s Cascade ability just makes it easier to run into them. I wouldn’t recommend doing too much of this or the table will quickly turn against you.  

And Finally…

Land bases for four color decks are challenging and I’m still struggling to come up with one that works well. Terramorphic Expanse, Expedition Map and anything that searches for land is sorely needed as is anything that taps for any color such as Command Tower, Ancient Ziggurat (In creature decks) and Exotic Orchard. The lands from Ravnica block like Rakdos Carnarium and Simic Growth Chamber are also very good, especially when combined with lands like Halimar Depths or Bojuka Bog allowing you to recur their abilities. I do hope you find this helpful, I have put a creature list together for Yidris but I still have to finish lists for the other decks when I finish them I will post them shortly. Until Next Week, Happy Deck Building.

GOBLIN WEEK: Well, dang, I was really excited to participate in this year’s GOBLIN WEEK, but sadly I caught the flu instead! So, as I finally creak back into the world of health, I present to you THIS SINGLE, SOLITARY GOBBO by way of recompense. This goblin is of the cave-dwelling-sort, and when it’s not battling Gelatinous Cubes, or hunting down gems, it likes to pretend to be a Spider

Pelutze: Buy me some pants
APH Luxembourg: What?
Pelutze: I just realized I’m naked, buy me some pants
APH Luxembourg: I’m not buying you pants
Pelutze: Buy me some pants
APH Luxembourg: I’m not buying you pants
Pelutze: I’m wearing your pants
APH Luxembourg: TAKE OFF MY PANTS
Pelutze: I’ve wet your pants
APH Luxembourg: You son of a BITCH

While Zugzwang LLC is predominantly anti-magic, they are not afraid to take in opportunities for research and study. During missions in the British Columbia and Sonora, the strike teams came across two separate packs of werewolves. In an attempt for peace, one member offered themselves as hostage so that the rest could live. Harriet Knight and Paulina Pierence were those two volunteers, and has helped R&D to better understand Lycian biology. 

The werewolves are probably the most expensive of the units. They require triple the rations and twice the budget on clothing. Both members wear an undergarment that expands and contracts base upon the bio-energies released during transformation, but the external clothing is replaced much more frequently. Paulina prefers to work on search and destroy tasks, while Harriet can tackle more offensive operations.

Harry Potter Art Challenge Day 9: Favorite Magical Creature

“They’re called Thestrals. They’re quite gentle, really… But people avoid them because they’re a bit…different.”

as much as i love Thestrals, this one was quite hard to draw..

Commission me

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I thought I might take a couple quick photos of the retouched reference sheets for the first round of Aequis before packing them up. Watercolor and tea wash on the top two, text only on the bottom to keep it from becoming too busy. The washes gave them a slight curve, but they will continue to flatten in their packaging.

Hopefully my handwriting isn’t too bothersome! I have been told I write backwards/upside down, as I clearly didn’t learn the proper directional strokes to forming letters. (I had no patience for that as a child, I guess.)

The next batch of three will also have sheets made in this style. I would like to get them finished before the month is over.

Creature Anatomy - Week 2

This is some of the work I did for the second week of the creature anatomy course I’m taking. Week two was focused on fish, amphibian and reptile anatomy.

I didn’t really have a strong idea for the creature I wanted to design initially so I started to research and explore the animal groups with the hope that during my studying something would spark an Idea.  I focused my attention on fish anatomy first since it’s the area I had the least experience with.  I did my first studies on a few extant species that I could easily find reference for.  I also kept my eye out for anything that caught my attention and might make a good base for a creature.  The goliath tiger fish was one of these.  I really love the big teeth and the sharply curved fins. 

I also did a couple pages of extinct species.  Here are a some studies featuring the ancient lobe finned fish eusthenopteron and and early amphibian capitosaurus. 

After doing a bunch of studies I did finally settle on an idea for my creature and began another round of sketches this time focusing specifically on those species I wanted to incorporate into my design.

I wanted the final creature design to incorporate elements form all three animal groups.  I also wanted to push the story telling in the design, so I spent some time writing a brief natural history for the creature.  I wanted it to be like something you might see in a field guide, just a quick summary explaining a bit about the world it comes from and some details regarding its behavior.  I wish I had time to get a color version and some additional studies of the creature finished. If I can I want to revisit it sometime in the future to flesh things out even more.

Daily Monster 265: Sabawaelnu

Region of origin: Mi’kmaq tribes, northeastern North America

“Water people,” otherwise known as the Halfway People, were mermaid-like water spirits who held some sway over the weather and could bring storms. Their songs could be used to predict the weather by people who had learned to understand them. The sabawaelnu were generally well-natured but could become vengeful when wronged.