Wandering Monsters: Big Beasts

Where last week's Wandering Monsters pertained to giant bugs, this week we get to look at giant entries from a trio of other biological classes.

I doubt most campaign settings concern themselves much with periods of prehistory development, extinction events (except maybe Forgotten Realms), and evolution, with only a passing glance at physics, biology, and ecology, so it is a wonder that dinosaurs seem to often be restricted to remote islands or the confines of dark jungles.

Why? This is a fantasy game, and I do not think that monsters should be written under the assumption that it should or should not be a core party of anyone's game. Just put some entries for various iconic dinosaur-like monsters in the book, and let the Dungeon Master decide if/how she wants to use them in her campaign. I loved them in Eberron, and have used them as part of random encounters in games because they could do interesting things and were unexpected.

There seem to be at least two camps on how to name them. I guess I have viewed dinosaurs in Dungeons & Dragons less as exact replicas of dinosaurs from our world, and more like creatures that closely resemble them, so I also have no problem referring to them with descriptive names like macetail behemoth and swordtooth titan. I actually prefer this, as I cannot imagine a dwarf or elf calling a clawfoot a velociraptor (which is why I am glad that last time I checked, this convention was in the lead).

As for giant birds, rats, bears, wolves, dire critters, and so on, I do not think that we need entries for what amounts to basically animals of various size categories, even if a few are smarter than the norm (giant eagles and owls), can talk (worgs), or have horns glued on (dire everything). In 3rd Edition size played a more important role in helping to determine things like Armor Class, attacks, damage, grapple, Hide skill modifier, etc. In 4th Edition maybe some things had a size limitation, but nothing except maybe grabbing exploits comes to mind, and as far as I can recall the s0ame goes for 5th Edition.

If size does not matter (much, anyway), then leave it to the DM to say that this rat is Small, or Medium, or whatever. That is kind of a waste of space to basically take a monster, rewrite its size, and call it good. I mentioned giving Dungeon Masters a kind of bug toolkit last week; you give them some examples for common things, but making it simple to build their own critter. You could do something similar here by giving a collection of animals like birds, deer, wolves, etc, but provide guidelines and suggestions on making them bigger, smarter, even giving them some thematic powers.

In other words unless there are numerous fiddly mechanical differences like in 3rd Edition, I could live without a stat block for the wolf, dire wolf, and worg. If it really comes down to the size, maybe some Hit Dice, I think we can puzzle that out ourselves. At the most I would want to see an entry under Advancement or Variants that mentions dire wolves being Large wolves, and worgs being dire wolves that can speak and are ridden by goblins. Save the space for more meaningful and interesting entries.

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