Coldforged: Monsters

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Each Thursday this year, I focus on a different aspect of the world I’ve created and played D&D in for over 20 years, in the hopes of honing the ideas and cementing enough in place to settle the world in my own mind. This week, I look at the monster populations in the world.

Monsters v. Enemies

In every setting, there are tons of monsters. Each of these represents a threat to the adventurer, though sometimes they can simply be creatures out in the world. There is a large difference, though, between monsters and enemies. While monsters are likely creatures with very little sense of self or a naturally distorted and twisted worldview, enemies are creatures that have chosen for themselves the path they are on. Villians are a subclass of enemies that have taken on greater proportions within the campaign. For the purpose of these discussions, I am going to include oversized and dangerous animals as monsters, for simplicities sake.

Here, I’m going to leave enemies alone, leaving those to another time. While there are plenty of evil wizards, mad warlords and overambitious thieves, these should be left for another time. There are some creatures, however, that ride the line between enemy and monster. Creatures like Hobgoblins, Ogres and many Giants, that have a perpetually destructive and dangerous. These, for the sake of argument, I am going to classify with monsters. While there may be the occasional friendly ogre or the random Lawful Good Hobgoblin, they are almost always going to be an antagonist in the games storyline.

Regions

For the discussion of monsters, I am going to divide the continent into distinct geographical regions. These are close to the populated regions, but not perfect, as they represent a territory of monsters. Sometimes there are going to be areas that are intersecting and have a combination of monsters, but many are simply going to be their own, distinct areas. There are 11 Distinct regions on the map.

  • Tundra
  • Ironarm Mountians
  • Levishan Forest
  • Northern Scrublands
  • Northern Forests
  • Thrax
  • Central Hills
  • Blood Coast
  • Imerian Peninsula
  • Southern Forests
  • Drimmak Mountains
  • Jets Swamp

Tundra – The tundra, unsurprisingly, is a cold and barren place. There are few trees, miles of ice and snow, and massive glaciers that cover much of the area. That said, there is still life, somehow, up in these regions. A few human and elven tribes live up in the area, eking out a meager existence hunting bears, Caribou, and surviving frost wolves, yeti, ice toads and the rare ice drakes and Frost Worms. Rumors of wooly elephantine people surface from time to time but never confirmed. Mastodons, Musk Oxen, and Woolly Rhino are fairly common as well, as are their natural predators, the Saber Tooth Tiger, and the greater Tundra Tiger. Its an unpleasant and cold life but some manage to make it work.

Ironarm Mountains – Just south of the Tundra, stretching from the east coast of the continent to the central portion is a large and intimidating set of mountains. Slightly lower than the Drimmak Mountains, this is still challenging terrain as its greater latitude and cooler temperatures generally make the mountains treacherous. Along the outskirts of the mountains, there are a few Thraxian tribes that live to the south, Levishans that live to the north and west, and a few Drimen enclaves on the eastern coast. On the ground, Owlbears, Mountain cats and Bears enjoy the secrecy of the many caves that dot the mountain range. Conifer treants and sasquatches wander the mountainside, as well as bands of Cyclops, native to the mountains here, and every once in a while someone will swear they saw a huge, hairless horned beast, but they persist in rumor only. The air above the mountains is dangerous as well, as the northern wyverns battle giant eagles, rocs, and griffons in the skies above the great peaks.

Forest of Lev – To the south of the tundra and stretching from the west coast to the Ironarm mountains, stretches the great forest of Lev. Throughout, the Levishans have settlements, towns and small cities, leading to a generally tame forest, in terms of wild, marauding monsters. That is not to say, however, that the forest of Lev is safe. Spirits of the land, both malevolent and benign, are plentiful here, as they have not been actively pushed out by the civilized races. Few Centaurs make their home here, and they get along with the Levishans fairly well. Dryads, Sprites, Satyrs, and Slyphs occupy the trees, glens, streams, and cliffs. Treants patrol the woods, keeping them safe. Predators, both natural and dire, stalk the woods and lynx, bobcat and dire bears are common

The Northern Scrub – Below the Forest of Lev is a small band of rough scrubland. Littered with rock outcroppings, small forest glades, and tough, hearty grasses, this area makes surviving difficult. None the less, this area, spreading from Northern Killbar and covering almost all of old Jeslith, until finally fading into the northern forests and Thrax, is home to many creatures. There are plenty of places to secret away and hide if you’re keen on being undiscovered, and many more to ambush the unwary from. Creatures like basilisk, blink dogs and displacer beasts roam the land, with hydras taking up habitation in the small swamps and slow lakes that accumulate here. Giant ants are a common nuisance, having developed colonies throughout the area and farming the giant aphids and scavenging what food they can. The two most populous humanoids are the strong and belligerent ogres and the wild and uncontrolled Gnolls. They war with each other and with any of the many settlements that exist within. While the Tundra and the northern mountains might be naturally harsh, the Northern scrub might be among the most difficult place to try and flourish.

Thrax – The Thraxian forest, or simply Thrax, is like many other lands, a harsh and brutal one. South of the Ironarm Mountains, East of the Scrublands and adjacent to Boodhunger Bay, it is surrounded by tough lands. Within, the Thraxians have carved out a niche for themselves, living in dangerous wooden cities within a forest populated by many things that wish nothing else but to consume them. Contrary to the Forest of Lev, Thrax is a hostile land to live in. Manticores and cyclops raid down from the mountains, and gnolls and ogres are constantly encroaching on the edges of the forest. Bugbears have refused all appeals to join the Thraxians, and pose a constant danger. giant ticks, giant slugs, and worgs prowl for the unwary, while in the trees stirges, ettercaps and giant spiders stalk the unwary. Thrax is not welcoming or kind, but it is home to many.

Northern Forests – Scattered across the northern portion of the Island, below the Scrubland and fairly parallel with Thrax are pockets of Northern Forest. Often dense with massive deciduous trees they create a dark and stifling environment. Many Orcs and goblins live here in a much more grim lifestyle. Unaligned with the Thraxians, they are raiders, pillagers, and warriors who take their savagery seriously. The forests are much like that of Thrax, but lack even that minor civilizing influence. Thankfully, they are not the targets of griffons, manticores, and cyclops from the mountains, but they have the dangers of the hrondring from the hills as well as Killbaran and Tyndarians seeking to exploit their land, and here the Worgs are replaced with winter wolves and death dogs, both roaming in packs across the scrub and forest.

Central Hills – The Central hills stretch from the borders of Killbar to the west down through to the greater part of Tyndaria and over to the Blood Coast. while it resembles the scrubland to the north visually, the grasses are greener and the winters a fair bit milder, so it is a much lusher and pleasant existence. That does not mean it is easy, though. All throughout here the mysterious Hrondring live their strange lives, integrating humanoid, animal and shape-shifting blood. They have many tribes, but the most renowned are the Kahuke (Boar), Yahuwa (Bear), Manitu (Wolf) and Wataga (Tiger) tribes. Dire animals are less common here than in the north, but not unheard of, with the largest common predators being bears and sabertooth tigers. Wolly rhino and Aurochs make their home here, being the primary source of food for the Hrondring and others living in the wild parts. Ankhegs are plentiful and problematic species, as well as the bulette, both of whom cause problems to potential farmers and travelers alike. The worst threats, though, are the hill giant tribes and the troll families. Ever ravenous and extremely violent, these two monsters are cause for most of the perilous lives that those within the central hills experience.

The Blood Coast – This small region, directly around Bloodhunger Bay, is separate due to its proximity to the very dangerous and monster-filled bay. while in the bay itself are dangerous giant snapping turtles, the rare kraken, and other aquatic beasts, the larger threat is that of the constant marauding sahaugin and their shark-kin. They raid small villages and town along the coast that don’t put up enough watchmen and attempt to ambush ships sailing along the river and in the bay. These same creatures are constantly at war with the fairly reasonable tritons that also populate the area. Additionally, a species of giant crabs live along the coast that finds humanoids a specific type of delicious. Rarely, there are rumors of weresharks, but this is easily dismissed as fancy by the people who manage to eke out a living here.

The Imerian Peninsula – The Killbaran land of origin, the peninsula is a fairly tame land, in terms of monstrous population. That said, it is not without its own dangers, with warlords and other civilized forms of violence. That said, however, the coast is subject to raids from both the bay in the form of various aquatic raider elves and from the ocean in the form of the Horned Empire in the western islands. Additionally, tribes of Ogres have started to make their way south from the miserable scrublands, trying to prey on the softer Killbaran center, now that the standing Legions have largely grown absent. The central mountains are the least populated, and it is known that a number of Chimera and medusa live there, and will from time to time come down into the settled lands for a plump sheep or a wayward son. Lastly, the islands across the mouth of the bay are home to a fairly large number of harpies, and leaving the bay is a treacherous, yet necessary venture.

The Southern Forests – The Southern forests stretch from the inside coast of Udine bay all the way to the Drimmak mountains. This comprises the vast majority of eastern Killbar as well as most of Tyndaria. This area, though populated, is still vast enough to harbor broad swaths of monsters, including many non-Thraxian orcs and goblins as well as territorial fey and more than a few enclaves of dire beasts, including bears, boars, and large cats. Treants are dangerous, but thankfully rare. Other types of predatory plants, though, are much more common in the deep forests than other places. These carnivorous vines, flowers, and trees pose a strong hazard to those exploring the dark places. The biggest threat to many people here, though, even given all those monsters, are other humanoids, who have build kingdoms long fallen and occupy the ruins with both living and undead. Here the dangers are much more of the civilized type than the wild type.

The Drimmak Mountains – The Drimmak mountains, once the home to many dwarves, gnomes and half-giants, is now one of the most perilous lands on the continent. Populated by winter drakes, dragonkin, and giants of all kind, these themselves are threatened by southern wyverns, chimeras, and rocs that inhabit the upper reaches and high mountains. Abominable Snowmen, always have been able to fade into the blizzards so common on the upper slopes, maintain their presences, ambushing and eating the unwary. A clan of Bear Hrondring long ago made it to these mountains, and though their Drimmen allies are gone, they still survive, living meagerly among the hills and early mountains while avoiding the attention of the ravenous giants.

Jets Swamp – The Great, unnatural swamp to the south is the home of many, many different lizardmen, Frogmen, and turtlemen tribes, collectively referred to as “Jets Children”, as well as a plethora of lizard and amphibian draconian crossbreeds. Half dragon alligators, dire frogs, and other terrifying monstrosities exist all throughout the dangerous, massive swamp. Stirges have found a home here, feasting on many of the non-draconian lizards and dire amphibians. Catoblepas are fairly common, slow and deadly though they are. Many Giant insects, as well as spiders, ticks, leeches, and other terrifying creatures, thrive here, in the unnaturally warm weather. Naturally, Jet is the most dangerous creature in the area, but only just below him are the preponderance of many-headed hydras that live within the swamp, so common that they fight for territory and can be heard from great distances as they scream in combat.

These aren’t the only monsters that live in these areas, but it gives an idea of what does live there, and what could be used both as a typical monster and as a hook for something uncommon. Having lizardmen in the north, Chimeras in the hills or Winterdrakes on the Imerian peninsula tells a very specific story about that creature and can be an easy lead into a story, if desired.

Until next time,