Calm Minotaurs

A shortened version of this essay appears in The Gate of Dusk PDF and VTT pack from DriveThruRPG.

The question of whether a being can go against its creation is a complex one, and of course RuneQuest has depth in the answer. Why is a duck always proud? Why is a giant always disorderly?

The Gate of Dusk has two monster NPCs, Granalk and Strike To Kill. Granalk’s name is based on a human woman’s name – Gruoch. She gets a bad press in history. You might know her as Lady Macbeth. I wanted to use the name because the stories we are told are not the same as the things that happened. As a writer I’m very much on the side of making things up, but I also have a feeling that you shouldn’t leave people’s names in the gutter when they didn’t start off there. So, Granalk is female, aggressive, and wronged by a potential King. Monsters are people too, yo.

Strike To Kill’s name is different. I could easily have given her a fantasy-syllable name, like most of the other PCs have. However, I wanted her to be different, and I like hortatory names1hortatory – it exhorts the bearer. So, in my game, manticore culture gives this kind of name. So, manticores have culture, despite their relatively low INT, and their aggressive natures.

Minotaurs and manticores, like many other beastfolk, were created in the Stitched Zoo to fill a hole in creation, so the Empire of the Wyrms Friends could recreate pre-Time conditions for a magical ritual. They had certain aspects put into them that would be required for that ritual, which had been lost in the Great Darkness, or since the Dawn. There are many problems with this. For one, the ethics committee was, uh, Delecti2If you asked, he might say he did his part, but he would say so while disassembling you. Let’s not ask him.

These new-old beings bred true as far as the EWF were concerned, but they were thought of as a set of races created and curated so that the ritual could be populated. The beast folk themselves do not think they are descended from experiments. Instead they call themselves children of Arachne Solara. The fact that these modern races resonate with their extinct non-forebears is a horror as well as a wonder. It is also a chance to play with possibilities. Some of these people have invented their own histories. Others have connected with the beings that inspired them, so hard that they cannot be told apart.

Yelm cannot have punished the Durulz with flightlessness if they were made within Time, yet the ban on duck flight has the magical force of the Emperor’s anger. Despite the fact they are put together from different parts, the new races are races, and not just sad individuals with bad stitching. The power of that is pretty terrifying. Cut a limb off a tree and graft it to a human, and you don’t get a half-elf, you get an angry tree and a human with severe post-operative infection. But if you do it right, and magically, you might just be able to call Pavis into that body, and talk to him. If you do it right, you can prove to the world that these half-man half-plant things used to exist, and whatever powers they had, you can have bestowed on your new species.3Well done. You have created a monster. Master Delecti has a reward for you.

This means that you can have multiple possible heritages, because there are multiple myths for every god-situation. Each of these species might have multiple founding myths, all of which could be correct. A minotaur might take after the Storm Bull side of its parentage, or it might take after the beautiful woman that Storm Bull loved, said by some to be a daughter of Eiritha or of Uleria. Others say she was a daughter of Grandfather Mortal, in mourning. Storm Bull comforted her without meaning to, by reminding her that she was alive. Those who tell this story give an aspect of melancholy to minotaurs, who are affected by the tears of their grandmother.

Monsters fitting their own stereotypes is not a problem, but monsters breaking out of stereotypes is a chance to show that they are people, that they have wishes and fears and motivations beyond their mere existence, and they did not come into being merely to fight the adventurers and be defeated or victorious. For every minotaur you meet, there is a chance this is the one that will surprise.

There is no single source of the magical inheritance of the beast folk, any more than there is a single correct version of the Lightbringers’ story. All of them happened, long ago, and all of them affect the modern understanding. The same is true for any of the former inhabitants of the Stitched Zoo. They can mystically prove that they are the same beings that walked on the Spike or fought in the Great Darkness or lived in the First Age. Few know now about the Stitched Zoo, and many would not believe it. After all, the Beastfolk are led by Ironhoof, an immortal hero of the centaurs incarnate in many generations. Only Lhankor Mhy’s historians talk of the the Middle World origins of the beast folk, and few listen.

For the gamemaster, this is a splendid chance to show the different sides of these strange peoples. Like humans, they might sit around a fire, telling stories of their past, as different with each telling as ours are. Their cultures are real, and as clans vary, so do centaur herds, manticore nests, and durulz towns, and the world becomes richer when adventurers discover that.

  • 1
    hortatory – it exhorts the bearer
  • 2
    If you asked, he might say he did his part, but he would say so while disassembling you. Let’s not ask him.
  • 3
    Well done. You have created a monster. Master Delecti has a reward for you.

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