Thursday, 17 July 2014

Week of Synnibarr, Day Two: Monsters!

We're back with another installment of Week of Synnibarr. This week, in keeping with my promise to talk about good and interesting things in this game, I'll be focusing on the monster section. 

Not that the monster section is good per se, but it's definitely interesting. 

Most RPGs tend to specialise in one or two kinds of monster: your horror monsters, your fairy-tale creatures, your alien species, that sort of thing. Warhammer's main contribution is the Chaos stuff (including the Skaven); Call of Cthulhu is all about horror monsters, and so on. The big exception is, of course, D&D, which encompasses a pretty broad range of critters, which presumably is why other games tend to be comparatively limited in what new things they introduce -- because someone else already covered the basics. 

But Synnibarr -- I think this game legitimately includes a class of monster I've never really seen in a game before or even really considered. These are sort of drug-addled sci-fi fairy-tale equivalents of actual animals. It's as if the setting had been populated by someone who had been given a brief to recreate the animals of earth but who didn't have much to go on other than their names. As a result, in Synnibarr: 
  • Nurse sharks have healing powers. 
  • Tiger sharks turn into tigers. 
  • Thunder lizards shoot lightning. 
  • Antelope hooves, if struck together, generate an antigravity field. 
I feel like I'm reading some kind of medieval bestiary -- you know the kind of thing, where elephants don't have sex and antelopes bounce on their horns. Was it Aristotle who said bisons defend themselves using their flaming hot poop? It was someone anyway. 

So, regardless of all the other stuff, I think Synnibarr does actually have this one strange and unique feature. Most of the other animals are just huge, intelligent, magical versions of themselves, which if not particularly original is at least consistent with the game's "turned up to 11" aesthetic. 

There are also a lot of scenario-inspiring tidbits in this thing. Here are a selection: 

  • "If caught and tamed, the alouthrepa make good mounts, although they are a little hard to feed." (Because they are giant disease-ridden vampire bats that weigh a ton and have a 45-foot wingspan.)
  • "There is many a tale of a lone snow ape saving a doomed village with its powers". 
  • "Armapines appear similar to a cross between an armadillo and a porcupine ... their meat is one of the most sought after, having an unparalleled taste ... they can project the psi spell Intellect Annihilation six times a day."
  • "Over the centuries the mutant baboons have travelled throughout Synnibarr by hijacking ships..."
  • "The armoured bees create great hives constructed of secreted metal."
  • "Mutant hatchet buzzard". (One of the most ordinary animals in the game!)
  • "Winged cobras grow to be 25 feet long and weigh 50 to 300 pounds. They are fifth-level Dream Warriors."
  • "Cragons are the servants of Blade, the Immortal Ninja...". 
  • "Crocopedes are centipedes with the head of a crocodile and batlike wings. ... Their four eyes are on the end of stalks ... one of the few living beings that kill for fun."
  • " ... like all sharks, can transform itself into a humanoid form."
  • "The space mantas have 116 million life points...".
  • Green flies are a legitimately good monster! They just deliver painfully itchy bites; when the target is good and distracted by scratching, a nearby predator strikes. Presumably the flies feed on the corpse. 
  • "Midnight sunstone hydras have the choice between two different breath attacks: Venderant Nalaberong Black Fire or Midnight Sunstone Energy."
  • "Mutant lobsters have a nasty temperament, probably because their meat tastes so good."
  • "Scarlet Grimraver" is the name of a demigod. "The abilities of these fantastic creatures are incredible."
  • "There are two ranks of status within the Neria Bendix's militaristic society: the tech troopers and the supertroopers."
  • "Talking Raccoons are peaceful by nature."
  • "These creatures are cockroachlike, big, bright-red and, well, cockroachlike."
  • "There are seven different types of gases that the plague beast may use."
And so on and so on.

Now, just at a first glance, I am not sure how easy it would be to translate these critters into the system of your choice. The Synnnibarr system is, as I have said before, a baroque mess, and it's going to be a lot more of a nuisance sticking one of these into your Mutant Future game than if it were a more broadly compatible system. On the other hand, I defer to the knowledge of experts. 

Still, though, I think the Synnibarr monster section has a lot of things to contribute to a game. A certain type of game, I'll grant you, but I think that if you want to apply a more sophisticated filter, there's still something to get out of the crazy fairy-tale monsters. 

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