The Laws of the Monstrous: Procedure for Creating Free Association Monstrosities


Art By Rafael Auraleón

Came up with a quick and entertaining way to create 
monsters. I point y'all towards Dan's article because it's extremely good, and while these monsters are significantly more trite than the ones he's suggesting, the fundamental nature of them remains the same; Something happened to a Man or Beast, and now we're all going to be sorry about it. There's just something very fundamentally poignant about that formula. Dan makes excellent points about addressing systems of inequality and oppression; my method will not make monsters of that same depth, but it will approximate it if you squint, and that's good enough (if you're squinting, anyway). I have a lot of fun with this method, and it's provided me with a really nice supply of interesting monsters for my OSR and FKR adjacent games. Please, give it a go if you feel so moved, and if  you do, share what you make! If not with me, with someone else. That's what it's all about, yeah?


Laws of the Monstrous
All That Is Monstrous Was Once Mortal Choose what manner of man or beast this monster once was. A Queen? A Woodsman? Lion? Hawk? Once you decide, write the first 3-5 words that come to mind when you think of your choice. 

Monsters are Made ThusWhat befell your monster to make it so? Choose what event occured to drive this being into monstrosity. A mother's dying curse? Swallowed a king? Swore an oath to a wizard? Burned? Drowned? Once you decide, write the first words that come to mind, until you have the same number that you wrote for your first entry. 

The Monster's Nature is Anathema to Itself  Both the mortal and the other are present in your monster. Choose a word from each list, trying to find two that seem at odds with each other, and amplify them both until they are combined within your monster. Then, repeat until you have exhausted all your words. 


Three Monsters Governed By These Laws

The Cauldron Wolf
A wolf the size of a wagon, ribs standing out like fingers of a clutching hand, hugely distended belly dragging on the ground. It opens its mouth, and from between its jaws, an old woman's laughter gurgles, shrieking and hacking.

Wolf: Howl, Drool, Devour
Ate A Witch: Cursed, Bloated, Sickly

Howl + Bloated: The howl of the Cauldron Wolf is intermingled with the cackling cries of the witch who still lives inside its gullet. Occasionally, her prognostications and prophecies can be heard mingled with the bitter hunting winds of night. Draw too close, and the witch's arms thrust forth from between the beasts jaws: dripping fingers, grey and wrinkled, trying to draw you into its gullet. 

Drool + Cursed: The Cauldron Wolf's spittle is mingled with the fetid tinctures the witch brews in its gut. Should this foul fluid enter your body, roll 1d6:
1. Maggot sweat: fat, writhing grubs squirm frantically from your pores
2. Hopeless devotion: become instantly enamored of the first being you see (probably the wolf).
3. Tender shoots: start putting down roots if you stand still for more than a few moments; they are blindingly painful to rip out. 
4. Long teeth: your teeth begin to grow incredibly rapidly. If you do not pare them down by filing or chewing, they will grow through your brain within minutes. 
5. Nature's mockery: you can suddenly hear the voices of plants and animals, who will incessantly mock you
6. Too much blood: your veins bulge and twist painfully. You have too much blood. If you do not expel it, you will burst. 

Devour + Sickly: The Cauldron Wolf is not well. The witch and her gut-brews keep it just barely clinging to maddened life, but it desperately wants to purge her. It hunts down dangerous/powerful beings, items, and substances and tries to eat them, hoping to kill her or force her from its stomach. 


The Murderer Queen
She towers over you. Her long knife shines like a winter star. Her smile holds all the love that has ever been denied to you, trapped behind her white, white teeth. She will not give it to you. She could, but she will not. Your fingers clutch at her skirts, numb in the frigid desolation that is her hate. You are almost grateful for the cuts when they come, for the acknowledgement contained in the knife's biting edge. 

Queen: Regal, Cold, Tall
Who killed her daughter: Butcher, Madness, Envy

Tall+Madness: No matter how tall, how grand you are, the Murderer Queen seems taller, grander. She towers over you, sole arbiter of both love and hate. Your heart aches for her approval, and trembles at her scorn. Blows from her hurt as if coming from the hand of a beloved parent, the pain of the strike amplified by the leaden weight of betrayal in your stomach. 

Butcher+Regal: The Murderer Queen's slaughter began with her child, but it did not end there. All who realized her crime were slain with the same long knife, and then those who realized these killings, and on, and on. Now the queen stalks the palace hallways alone, keening through the halls like a wicked wind.  

Envy+Cold: The Murderer Queen's envy is like a cold and seething blade. The one who has earned her obsession feels an intense and creeping cold, as their heart is severed from all it knows by a knife of wicked ice. She envies power, knowledge, joy and wealth, as do all who live, but it is beauty that haunts her above all else.


The Chosen Servant
Priest: Devout, Ashamed, Kind
Blessed by God: Divine, Healing, Light

Devout+Light: All light is God's light, but in the presence of the Chosen Servant, the sun is the eye of God itself. Should sunlight fall upon you while within eyesight of the Chosen Servant, should you fail to fall to your knees and display appropriate devotion, your skin will be shriven from you, flesh peeling back to expose baking bone. 

Ashamed+Healing: The Chosen Servant's body can be pierced a thousand times, but as long as his heart remains and his blood flows freely, he will not fall. Should you strike a blow against him, the weight of it will linger with you, guilt crushing your mind to a tiny point of loathing. You may free yourself of this feeling at any time; to taste his blood is to be healed of shame, your mind washed clean, made ready for his ministrations. 

Kind+Divine: Should the Chosen Servant perform an act of kindness for you, you are bound by holy law to repay him in kind. Should you resist this geas, you will be marked as pariah. Your friends will turn from you bitterly as all kindness towards you withers to ash within the hearts of those you hold most dear. 







Comments

  1. This is fantastic and ties in well with Into the Odd and Cairn's designs. What wonderfully horrible monsters!

    You could do with with dungeons too I suspect.
    Purpose + Ruination is the formula I would suggest.

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  2. This is a clever way to take the concept of Monster as Metaphor and turn it into something generative. Papers & Pencils' idea of the Miscreated Creatures is a kind of similar thing, although it doesn't necessarily encode the same metaphorical / subtextual elements per se: https://www.paperspencils.com/the-miscreated-creatures-questions/

    And ya as Dreaming Dragonslayer also said, these are very cool creatures! The Murderer Queen in particular I like, as it's a concept that has kind of become more popular recently, and I'm sure there are some mythological / folktale origins that if you squint kind of fit the bill, but it seems like a relatively new-ish kind of fantasy archetype, although I don't want to say that too confidently as I can imagine easily being wrong on that point.

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  3. Yeah this is very good, there's some good monsters to be made here.

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  4. Gorgeous. Elegant. Getting strong "Aesthetics of Ruin" vibes from this and Dragonslayer's suggestion. Ruins, ruins, make ruins of everything.

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