Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts on Dinosaurs.... and their Hit Dice?

Notice how those two adventurers, presumably 4th level, have a real "not going to get involved" attitude going on. "Looks like the breeze is picking up Silverleaf, let's get the fuck out of here!"

I love dinosaurs, I have since I was a child, so it makes sense that I love dinosaurs in my D&D. Whether it's The Isle of Dread, the old Warlord comics, Carcosa, or a forgotten prehistoric age of swords and sorcery, dinosaurs work for me. One interesting thing about dinosaurs in AD&D and B/XD&D is that they were absolute monsters, both hit dice and damage wise. You could totally see a Tyrannosaurs get the jump on a dragon or giant and rip it to shreds. If you incorporated them into your random encounter tables, they were going to be one of the Alpha predators.

I call this the "Skull Island Effect," reflective how, in both the original and the Peter Jackson versions of King Kong (speaking of dragon killing Tyrannosaurs!), dinosaurs were bad-ass. A group of tough adventurers were going to have to be large, well organized and willing to take casualties to take one of these behemoths down. Reminiscent of old giant monster movies as well as Lin Carter's city-block sized "Thongor" dinosaurs.

Hohoho! I think that poor dumb bastard is going to get shredded by a cute ole' brontosaur! How humiliating. "It was hell! Joe got disemboweled by a triceratops, Sam was swallowed whole by a tyrannosaur, Pete was carried off by a pterodactyl, and Mike, well um, a brontosaurus bit Mike's head off. He wasn't even messing with it, just hiding in a tree. Yeah, I dunno, I thought they ate plants too. Maybe it though Mike was a tasty shoot or some kind of fruit?"

As an aside, one of things I love about Carcosa is that when you get into the hex descriptions you've got all these cthuloid monstrosities, war-machine robots, whacked out cyborgs and packs of dinosaurs, many with mutations like tentacles or blasting radiation beams out of their eyes, suddenly Carcosa makes me think of
Kaiju and especially Monster Island! Think of all of those Spawn of Shub-Niggurath, robots, cyborgs and dinosaurs as giant fucking building crushers in rubber suits shooting radioactive laser blasts. It certainly works with the bucked load of hit and damage dice that AD&D and B/XD&D dinosaurs have.
Oh this? Just one of my snapshots from that vacation to Carcosa. Just another boring day watching mutant dinosaurs fight from a village of funny colored people with a dictator named "The Ultimate Warrior" or some shit.

The original, scrapped cover for Supplement V: Carcosa. Brink of destruction? This crazy shit's going to continue for billions of years on Carcosa!

On the other hand, there is a different, yet "genre appropriate" view, taken in works like the Carcosan Grimoire and Athanor. In these works dinosaurs are tough, but not the upper tier behemoths of classic D&D. I call this the "Warlord Comic Book" effect.
"For fuck's sake! Every time I get some one-on-one time with a hot chick in a crazy bikini one of you scaled cockblockers has to jump out of the bushes!"

Sure, when a slavering carnosaur comes bursting out of the jungle at the party it's no walk in the park, but Travis Morgan and company are able to easily dispatch the beast without any casualties. Hell, Travis Morgan can usually kill a dinosaur without wasting any of his pistol ammunition!

These lower hit dice dinosaurs are a different, interesting approach than the 20 hit dice tyrannosaurs of the classics, and I think it would work, especially to emulate a classic "comic book" style, or a campaign where the player characters are supposed to be kicking dinosaur ass left and right, such as a Turok inspired game...
Think that Indian is in trouble? He did that shit day-in, day-out for 28 years, this is his equivalent of a morning jog.


  1. The first bit perfectly summarizes why I bought Carcosa. Especially the Destroy All Monsters poster and the Carcosa vacation snapshot.

    I'm getting ready to spring Mckinney's Carcosa on some unsuspecing Call of Cthulhu players.

  2. Hoho, those poor investigators when they stumble across 9 mutant Tyrannosaurs that shoot black pudding out of their nostrils! Carcosa, the SAN loss, the SAN loss...

  3. RE: the Brontosaurus in Kong. Herbivores can be really fucking violent and aggressive when their territory is invaded. Hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa- or at least that's what my friends who work there tell me.
    BTW, I dig your blog/setting.

  4. Thanks Aos! I'm with you on the herbivore danger, my characters stay the fuck away from Hippos, Rhinos, Mammoths, etc. Nevermind that a herd animal stampede in AD&D will kill you no matter what level you are or how many hot points you have.