Six years ago, I surveyed the 3e Monster Manual(s), evaluating the creatures and assigning them to a “scope” system. “Scope” has been more of a design tool than a system or mechanic, but I’ve revisited monsters and the creature types again, and again, and again over the years.

A week and a half ago, I put the finishing touches on the latest revision of my creature typing system, which I hope will eventually replace the existing D&D creature types — in my campaign, anyway. In reviewing and preparing material for the typing system, I read 1e’s Deities & Demigods and BECMI’s Companions, Masters, and Immortals guides.

There was a -LOT- of material to cover, and it gets pretty abstract. At times, I reviewed 3e material on the planes (Manual of the Planes) and “paragon/epic”-level material from 3e (Epic Player’s Handbook) and 4e: Demonomicon, Manual of the Planes, Plane Above, Plane Below, Underdark, et cetera. Next to BECMI, 4e had the most support for high-level play — maybe even more support.

But some stuff has always bothered me, and other things have come to bother me more with time. For example, giants suck. At least, the way combat handles giants sucks. Certain other monsters leave a lot to be desired — dragons, among other things. There are a few notable video games that I think have attempted to address the differences in how these battles should be handled, particularly large or flying creatures: Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, and Dragon’s Dogma.

Skyrim, I think, does the minimum of depicting giants and dragons as things that are nearly impossible for mortals to fight. Dragons can effortlessly sweep away, carry off, or simply demolish adventuring groups and small buildings. Sure, they need to land… eventually. But how do you combat a dragon from the ground? Skyrim justified the player gaining access to a “Dragon Rend” spell which forces a dragon to land, thereby making them possible to engage in close quarters combat.

Meanwhile Shadow of the Colossus and Dragon’s Dogma incorporate climbing mechanics so that characters can clamber up the side of a giant, or grab onto a dragon (good luck holding on once it takes off flying) and fight from atop the creature. I want to capture that kind of experience (moreso than the Skyrim style of things, but points for trying).

Finally, I have objections to the somewhat arbitrary typing conventions of say, Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: the Gathering. Types seem more aesthetic than informative or meaningful. Like, why are humanoids like humans, elves, and orcs in an apparently biological fashion (biologically compatible…) where plants and fungi are all “plants” (hint: they aren’t biologically related). Other creatures of seemingly the same types (say, fey versus the banshee, or fey versus animated plants) are classed separately.

And why is there a creature type for oozes when there are only like… four? Honestly, these were the best examples I could come up with off the top of my head, whereas the problem is… systemic. I mean, you would expect a sliding scale of powerful entities so that a creature type might represent a theme for a campaign, or something meaningful. They just aren’t though.

So I have ten creature types, and I have defined the categories on metaphysical levels and appointed immortals as the respective “heads” of each category: Gods, Undead, Old Ones, Faeries, Demons, Giants, Angels, Spirits, Dragons, and Mortals (includes humanoids, beasts, plants, & misc. members of the animal kingdom).

Similar to 4e, I hope to supplement the creature type with a morphology typing system (4e uses “animate,” beast, humanoid, and magical beast… which are of limited utility), possibly using an adjective or two.

Example adjectives:
– Amorphous, armored (alt. hairy/scaly for some beasts), flying/winged, globular, multi-headed

Example morphology:
Beast, generally quadrupedal, animal-like shapes
Humanoid, human-shaped
Monstrosity, for shapes defying conventions
Ooze (alt. slime), self-explanatory
Serpent, long, narrow-bodied with little or no limbs
Vermin, generally insect- or rodent-like shapes

A beholder would be a, “flying globular monstrosity.” A giant would be a [size] giant humanoid. A dragon would be a “winged, scaly serpent.” The point of the morphology is to provide more useful information than 4e’s origin/type system, which was almost entirely useless when trying to discern new creatures that lacked illustrations (in what was an otherwise highly-illustrated game). It’s intended to be more cosmetic than mechanical, though it contains implications as to mechanical features a creature might possess.