This afternoon I finished the first draft of a new Creature Type System, which I hope to use to define everything that appears in a game from here on out. I was previously using a Creature Type System that featured five types — mortals, undead, aliens, demons, and golems — but the system ultimately proved to be too limited.

The new system draws inspiration from biology, mythology, and other game systems, and incorporates many creatures that I imagine a typical player might either use or encounter throughout their career. Though the original system neglected gods and eldritch abominations, the new one specifically leaves them “undefined.”

There are a number reasons for defining creature types for use by players and game masters, and those mostly fall under the purview of player options and ease of use. First of all, everyone in a roleplaying game is a player, including the game master. It isn’t fun for options to only be available on one side of the DM screen or the other.

It’s one thing for monsters to use different rules than the player characters — I got into the habit over the last few years of reassuring players the fact that “Monsters cheat.” Part of that is a necessary evil. It’s difficult for the game master to effectively control monsters as masterfully as the players, and many shortcuts exist for this reason.

Also, monsters exist to challenge the players to think “in character,” not to mention “outside the box.” A monster represents an obstacle, or a problem for the players to overcome with their characters. That said, monsters are a part of the world and must act in a consistent (if occasionally predictable) way that players can recognize.

Ease of use comes into play when you talk about supernatural effects like “charm mortal,” or “summon fiend.” I remember perusing the list for a ranger’s “favored enemy” in Third Edition and being astonished that humans and elves were treated anatomically distinct, while beholders and mind flayers were culturally similar.

While you can’t really fix problems like the above (favored enemy needs an overhaul), you can certainly make things easier on people.

Creature Types:
Golem, Spirit, Undead
Archon, Fiend, Giant, Mortal
Beast, Dragon, Fungus, Plant, Raptor

When I came up with the types, I started with a basic dichotomy around which to base creatures — living and unliving. I came up with two unliving creature types first, construct (golem) and undead. I went back and added spirit later (though whether or not spirits should be considered “unliving” is completely different conversation).

The creature types beast, dragon, fungus, plant, and raptor are informed by my research into biological classification – I took some artistic liberties with some of the creatures, merging certain categories that don’t represent “obviously” dangerous creatures, with respect to a classical understanding of biology.