Oct 262012
 

Que Viene El Cuco by Francisco De Goya

Monsters. Manuals are full of them. You know what monster I’ve yet to see in any RPG? El Cuco.

When I was a little girl growing up in NYC, I had relatives tell me if I didn’t go to bed right away or if I misbehaved, the cuco would come and get me or gobble me up. I don’t remember being terribly afraid of the cuco because I had a large trunk under my bed and I reasoned most monsters (with the obvious exception of Freddy Krueger) could not fit under my bed. Still, I kept my feet from dangling off the side of the bed when I read late into the night or found myself unable to fall asleep, an issue that plagues me to this day. Not the cuco worry. The sleeping bit.

We’re introduced to monsters early on in life, aren’t we? The Cuco or the Boogeyman. Monsters to keep us in line. Scary movies are full of horrific beings out to chase, torture, kill. Stories reach back as far as humans could write things down of terrible creatures, evil individuals, unclean spirits that kidnap. Monsters are seen as something evil, a sign that something is wrong or off balance in the way of things. They are usually terrifying to look at and generally destructive.

All cultures and all time periods have their monsters, those abhorrent symbols hinting at something else, pointing to a greater, more primal fear we as individuals house. They aren’t just the denizens of dungeons, waiting to cough up treasure and XP. They terrify us to the core of our beings. They keep us awake at night, urge us to stay together. Very often they lack reason, simply forces of nature to be avoided or escaped from.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of so many different kinds of death. Fear of being alone. Fear of never finding love Fear of failure. Fear of sex. Fear of technology or the future. Fear of chaos. Fear of helplessness. Wrapped in slick skin and sharp fangs and red eyes, waiting in the dark for you to be alone.

Halloween is upon us and its not just the dead that stalk the night. That which we dread is alive and well within us, waiting to be manifested so it can rip out our throats and drag us back to the shadows of society from whence it came.

What are you all scared of?

For GMs

  • What are the biggest fears of the culture/region/religion? How do these manifest as monsters?
  • What are the strongest or most dangerous animals in the region? Strongest natural phenomenon? How do they contribute to monster tales?
  • What areas are seen as being ominous, forbidden or twisted? What has led to their reputation?
  • Who passes on the tale of these monsters? Parents and caregivers? Teachers? Are they presented in the media? How old are the stories and how have they changed over the years?
  • Are the monsters defeatable? Or only beaten back for another generation to deal with?

For PCs

  • What are your biggest fears? How does this play into the expectations of others? Your own desires?
  • What kind of monsters were you warned of as a child or adolescent? Were you afraid of them then? Are you afraid of them now?
  • Do you try to scare other people with tales of monsters? What do you think of people who believe such things exist?
  • What types of things and activities do you see as being unnatural/abhorrent?

Plot Hooks
TRICK OR TREAT. What kinds of plot hooks can you come up with? What are your favourite iconic monsters and what do you feel they represent? Can you work that into your campaign? Do tell!

About Tristan J Tarwater

Tristan is the author of 'The Valley of Ten Crescents' series and someone who is obsessed with elves. She once gave her 3.5 elf druid 'Skill: Basketweaving' just so she could take the spell, 'Beget Bogun.' Check out more of her work at backthatelfup.com

  5 Responses to “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Monsters”

  1. Last time we had a sewer run, it was underneath a city one of the PCs had grown up in. We invented this story of why she was kinda terrified of the sewers because she had been told growing up of the monsters that lived in the sewers and dragged bad children away. It’s those little details that got the players so very invested in the game :)

    • Where’s the +1? >:(

      And you hit the nail on the head. I’m going to guess because childhood fears are super common, it’s something players can totally relate to and show in their chars.

      Cool! :D

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