Tag Archives: dungeons and dragons

Dinosaurs in Dungeons & Dragons

Scan of the Tyranosauraus Rex stat block from the Expert Rules, BECMI edition of D&D

I don’t like dinosaurs in my Dungeons & Dragons and despite them being there from the very start, I know I’m not the only one (I checked). 

However, the time has arrived in our 5th edition D&D game when one of the casters has the Polymorph spell, has reached level 8 and so wants to polymorph themselves in to the most powerful beast the spell supports.  At the time of writing this post, that beast is the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  There are two other CR8 official beasts but one is a whale and the other (from an adventure, not a core rulebook) is a giant crab.  So the Rex it is.

Luckily for me, it turns out my polymorphing player also doesn’t like the idea of dinosaurs in D&D.  Before I’d broached the subject, he asked if we could do something so that during a fight he’s not declaring that he’ll be turning himself in to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As a result of this unexpected good news, I’m reskinning; so in a spark of unoriginality I’m branding all dinosaurs Tyrant reptiles and then adding descriptions or monikers to them.  My player is also working up a different physical description to go with the renamed Rex.  Maybe, when announced in-game, some players will think doesn’t he just mean the Tyrannosaurus Rex and why isn’t he using that name.  That’s fine, for me and my polymorphing player at least, it matters.

I don’t want to just dump all the dinosaurs; for a start, I’d have to find a CR8 beast to make sure the Polymorph spell doesn’t lose potency, but also if the characters ever go to Chult or any adventures set there, I don’t want to be replacing huge swathes of beasts.  The alternative I’ve chosen, thinking of new Tyrant names for them, isn’t going to be that hard.

There are other posts online (Reddit for example) with many of these suggestions, and a lot of folk saying “why bother, dinosaurs are fine in D&D“?  As I thought about it last night there are really two aspects that have irritated me since I started playing (in the 80’s).  Firstly, the names are anachronistic as far as I’m concerned.  They’re too scientific, too tied in my head to the Victorians who invented them, and I just can’t separate that out.  Secondly, when I was young, I read about the ‘real world’ which had dinosaurs, or I read fantasy books, which had dragons and magic.  I didn’t (I’m sure there are some) read any books or watch any shockingly bad TV which had magic and dinosaurs, and so I’m not able to easily assimilate the idea that dinosaurs exist in a fantasy setting.  It’s daft, and there’s no good reason for it ultimately, but in my head-canon, Dinosaurs are real, and Dragons are fantasy and D&D is a game of fantasy.

So anyway, here’s a bunch of unoriginal names for core 5th edition dinosaurs based on calling them Tyrant reptiles.  Apologies if this unintentionally rips off anyone else’s ideas.

DinosaurTyrant reptile name(s)
AllosaurusSharptooth (Tyrant)
AnkylosaurusWhiptail (Tyrant), Tyrant Juggernaut
BrontosaurusTyrant Behemoth
DeinonychusSickletalon Tyrant, Fastclaw (Tyrant), Shredder (Tyrant)
DimetrodonSpineback (Tyrant)
HadrosaurusBeaked Tyrant, Duck-billed Tyrant, Crested Tyrant.
PlesiosaurusDeep Tyrant, Tyrant of the Deep, Sawtooth (Tyrant)
PteranodonCrestwing (Tyrant)
QuetzalcoatlusSkywing (Tyrant)
StegosaurusPlateback (Tyrant)
TriceratopsRhino-tyrant, Trihorn (Tyrant), Triple-Horn (Tyrant)
TyrannosaurusTyrant Sovereign, Tyrant Alpha, Apex Tyrant, or just Tyrant.
VelociraptorTyrant Hunter

I’m not overly fond of ‘Beaked Tyrant’ (and some of the others are a bit weak) but I may come back and change that one (or more) later.  It’s a start.

Edit: All good ideas are inevitably re-inventing the wheel, and someone pointed out to me today this Eberron sourcebook on the DMs Guild which does pretty much exactly what I’ve done here but has a set of different entries.

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/248087/The-Korranberg-Chronicle-Threat-Dispatch

Evil in Dungeons and Dragons

I’m sure there are a hundred blog posts about playing evil characters in D&D games.  I’ve read some.  I just wanted to get my own theory down in writing.

Firstly, and most obviously, D&D is generally about playing heroes and heroines, and neither of those tend towards evil.  Yes, some great heroes and heroines have been a touch vengeful, and some have done things you might consider rather naughty, but they tend to get redeemed at the end.  If you’re starting out evil and your intent is to roleplay seeking redemption, congratulations, you’ve found the only time I’d be comfortable letting someone do it, and it won’t be easy.

Otherwise, I don’t think you should play evil characters in D&D.  Some people disagree.

Apart from the issue of heroes and heroines though, I think the real problem for me is that people playing evil characters don’t actually mean evil, they mean chaotic, or troublesome, or selfish, or greedy.  Those aren’t purely evil traits.  There are plenty of good people in the world who are selfish.  Plenty of greedy people who are inherently good.  Plenty of people who cause chaos but don’t have a bad bone in their body.  Yes, in the polarised D&D world most evil people tend towards being selfish and greedy, but they aren’t exclusive owners of those sins.

Evil people do evil things.  Not mean things.  Not naughty things.  Not unpleasant things.  Actual, evil things.

People who want to play evil characters should have to recount their childhood when they grew up killing the neighbouring villager’s pets.  Or, how they betrayed their own brother and threw him down a well at the age of 7.  Or you know, evil stuff.

Evil is the thing we should be fighting against.  Evil is all the shit that’s wrong in this world and every fantasy world there has ever been.  Evil is the great tyrant.  There’s no space in heroic adventuring parties for people who are pretend-evil, and actual evil people wouldn’t last long enough to make it out of the tavern with their first job.

D&D 5th Edition

wallpaper_BeholderI really wasn’t that impressed with 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  To be fair, I’d pretty much stopped playing by the time it was released, and only got to play a few fitful sessions.  I spent more time playing 3rd Edition (and 3.5), but no where near as much time as I spent playing 2nd Edition AD&D.

The MMO origins in 4th Edition were clearly evident, and the intent to ‘gamify’ the game to make it appeal to MMO players was both interesting and also frustrating.  It become more mechanical than 3rd Edition without any major advantage and utterly obscured the roleplaying aspect behind book-keeping.  Not everyone will agree, naturally.

When I heard about D&D Next, or 5th Edition I wasn’t really that excited.  We didn’t have time to play anyway, the friends we played with had mostly moved away, and I’d become a bit disillusioned.  Spending a good number of hours to prepare for a game you only played two or three times a year was hard and not doing enough prep meant the games weren’t as enjoyable for anyone as they should be.  We tried Warhammer FRP, we tried Call of Cthulhu and we tried D&D 4th Edition, but nothing had stuck, so 5th Edition seemed like it had come too late.

However, I read the freely released PDF’s when I got around to it – and they’re exciting.  They’re exciting because they garner a feeling in me similar to that when I read the original Dungeons & Dragons Basic (red) and Expert (blue) books.  Here was a light set of rules, that supported play, but encouraged roleplay.

Gone are mandatory 5 foot squares and military precision during combat, back is the option for purely narrative combat, but with the added light-weight structure if you want or need it.

At the same time, a friend introduced us to Roll20 (http://www.roll20.net), which doesn’t look perfect, but looks good enough to actually do some roleplaying without needing to be in the same room as all of the other players.

So for the first time in a long time I’m excited about roleplaying and I’m especially excited about it being Dungeons & Dragons, which is how I got into this hobby in the first place.

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