Flavor Text -- Iconic Creatures Repackaged


I’ve been tossing this idea around in my head for a while, and was inspired by @Naphretes post on different dragon behavior to spell/spill it out here.

In the interest of making iconic and mythical creatures (dragons, giants, gryphons, and so on) more, well, iconic and mythical, there should be more to them than monster-of-the-week. As such, I like the idea that they are essential beings, embodying some elemental, cosmic, fundamental, or mythological aspect, concept, principle, and so on. D&D touched on this with giants being more elemental forces than just big people, but it can go so much farther than that.

For example, that giant over there might be the Giant of the Hearth’s Warmth, the Titan of the Stars’; Cold Beauty, the Behemoth of Justice, the Colossus of Fate, or the Ogre of Rage. All of which would make for very different encounters than just another rock-chucker.

Similarly, instead of just another fire-breathing (or other-unhealthy-substance-breathing) winglizard, consider the Dragon of Inspiration, or the Wyrm of Inner Sight. Instead of some random mixture of bird and cat, what would the Gryphon of Spring’s Growth be like? Or, for that matter, the Chimera of Endless Rebirth?

Even in less absolute and primal forms, these classic creatures deserve to recapture the feel of awe, folklore, and impact from the myths and legends that inspired them. At a more modest but pervasive level, this sort of worldbuilding enhancement can level up a setting that lends itself to a mythological feel. (For my money, “the Stormgate Gnolls, entrusted with the secrets of the lost lightning goddess”, are a lot more engaging than “roving gnoll bandit band number seven.”

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.


This reminds me, oddly enough, of an old Tom Waits quote, about putting street names into his songs, and other little specific details, to make them feel grounded in reality. I feel like this is the same sort of thing; there’s no generic dragon, manticore, or even goblin. They are all specific to a place, or an ancient and known individual with a history and reputation. Of course, the trick is coming up with this quickly as a DM, and seeding the world with this information in an organic way.


Exactly! I think this is one of the places where a collaborative-narration approach to building characters and worlds shines. Someone mentions a connection to “the goblins of the Twisted Keep,” someone else comes up with how the keep got twisted, and it snowballs from there. Once those broad strokes are in place, it’s much easier to tie in something new with just a couple suggestive words.