Welcome to Exilian! We're one of the friendliest communities on the internet, democratically run and existing to help facilitate a range of projects in fields including game modding/content creation, programming, drama, music, debating, writing, RPG and wargame design, e-learning, and more. You can also come here to chat, discuss the news, post poetry, play forum games, and just to meet a diverse range of people from all over the world.

Enjoy your stay!

Social Media

Latest Posts

Word Association
comrade_general Today at 05:51:57 PM

The Exile Princes
Jubal Today at 04:25:53 PM

Guess Who Will Post Next... II!
comrade_general Today at 12:45:24 PM

Post your best extracts
Quinn_Inuit June 24, 2018, 12:51:08 PM

Would you rather?
Caradìlis June 23, 2018, 06:31:08 PM


Posted on May 26, 2018, 11:11:02 PM by Jubal
Race or Species: The Humanisation of Monsters

Race or Species: The Humanisation of Monsters
By Jubal

This article is based on some thoughts after a Kalamazoo 2018 panel on problematizing the medievalisms of D&D. It was done as a format experiment; the panel played through a starter-set type game, and the audience then chipped in discussions of what was going on from a medievalist perspective. The main downside to the format was that far too much time was spent with people stating the obvious – for example, that many common monsters have racially coded elements in their presentation, that there’s a lot of gender-norms stuff written into pulp D&D settings that doesn’t need to be there – and so I don’t think people got to use their expertise as effectively on the topic as might have been nice. Nonetheless, one interesting point that came out was on the use of the term “race” to describe the different monsters of D&D.

Of course, in technical terms being a goblin is not merely a race. Goblins, at least in most settings (and we’ll use them as our main monster for this article) are a species in their own right, one that looks and acts quite differently to our own. Nonetheless, their presentation in modern literature and gaming has elements pulled in that have their roots in human presentations of race and racial difference. Goblins, like most monsters, are often not permitted the sort of range of personality and characteristics that humans do: they conform to a single social stereotype with consistent markers like dialect, social structure, and social status and attitudes, which are often features of racial power dynamics and demarcations among humans. Of course this is part of the point. Humans, which are variable, always need introduction – monster species do not, meaning they can be deployed much more simply by a GM. This, however, blurs the boundaries of whether we can treat goblins simply as a species. Despite being biologically in a different category to humans, they have a set of archetypal characteristics that we think of as being more “racial” in style.

That there are issues (that is, heavy reflections of real-word power dynamics) with the portrayal of many or most monster species when treated as “races” is fairly uncontentious to suggest. Monster races like goblins often speak in broken, slang-heavy dialects which are heavily coded to suggest lower social status groups, and their appearance and dress codes are often coded through nineteenth to mid twentieth century colonial-era archetypes of colonised peoples. Even for races portrayed more positively, Tolkien’s dwarves were, by his own admission, heavily influenced by Jewish culture, a feature which has carried forwards into other settings (note how “dwarf languages” in different settings often include a lot of ks and zs, which originates from Tolkien using semitic languages as a basis for Khuzdul, and how dwarfs often have a lost homeland/disaspora culture in fantasy literature). The implicit understanding that fantasy creatures are races is strong enough that one can write a satirical book about race and racism using them as the archetypes instead of actually races (Terry Pratchett’s Thud).

And so we come to the question of how we think about and deal with these issues and handle race in our games, for which there are a number of possibilities. We can accept and underline the current terminology under the assumption that it forms its own, new technical lexicon, we can accept the portrayal of fantasy creatures as races, or we can attempt to break the race-species lock we have in fantasy.

The first option is the simplest, and arguably the one people do anyway – we just accept that “race” has a different meaning in fantasy settings and games that encompasses simplified aspects of both species and culture for narrative convenience, and that this is fundamentally different to the way we use the word “race” in reality. In general, I think this works better than some people tend to expect it to; people are well aware that fantasy and reality differ, and I have a mild scepticism of the school of thought that suggests that, for example, the portrayal of “races” as having inherent characteristics of intelligence or strength or whatever in a D&D game will leave young gamers with the idea that races in human society function similarly (I’ve heard this contention made, but I’d very much like to see survey/statistical evidence for it and haven’t seen any as of yet). The problem with just relying on a lexicon distinction, though, is that it doesn’t do anything with the fact that a lot of the material we draw upon as game designers and DMs comes with a weighty historical legacy, one that I think it’s unwise to ignore. I think that good writing can solve a lot of these issues – having diverse casts of human characters to help stop the monsters being treated as racial analogues, for example – but handling that well, especially for DMs/GMs who don’t have a lot of experience of writing diverse characters, can be tricky too. It might be nice if GM handbooks included some well-written guidance on this sort of area.

A race-centric fantasy setting is another alternative: one in which one more or less accepts that “we’re all human” with all that comes with that. The difficulty with this is that doing so requires accepting a level of humanity on the part of non-human enemies in gaming settings that is difficult to sustain whilst still retaining the sort of clear markers of good and evil that pulp-style fantasy settings often rely on to function. If a goblin or an orc is mentally and morally equivalent to a human, it’s no longer mentally or morally an easy decision to go and beat a bunch of them up. Certainly one can no longer maintain the “always evil” categorisations of D&D rulebook styles. Modern fantasy works have often started exploring this area – Rich Burlew’s goblins suffering from years of slaughter by human paladins, and books looking at things from Orc perspectives – but in doing so, something is both gained and lost from what we can do with fantasy. We lose the ability to present, via fantasy races, our own ideas of what uncomplicated evil looks like, and are forced to present players with a less escapist, less morally simplified view of the beings they live alongside.

Our final option is to more firmly build settings that try to break the race/species connection. The way to do this, in essence, is to provide cultural/racial divisions and a lot more depth within each species you’re going to be dealing with. The problem with that is that firstly it’s a lot of work, and secondly it risks erasing the contributions and stereotypes in older variants of a particular archetype. If you have orcs, say, that are culturally as varied as humans in their styles, visuals, languages, etc, then you’re… in some ways no longer using an “orc” as we’ve come to know it. This also, I suspect, could risk erasing the contributions of real cultural groups to fantasy archetypes. Diversifying or editing things to the point where one loses these older racial archetypes entirely may absolve a creator from problems around moral complication, but potentially loses clarity in setting design aspects, requiring a much wider, deeper level of world-building before a campaign can begin, that may not be accessible to gamers in more casual settings or indeed gamers who lack the time resources to work on their setting in that way.

I’m not going to come to a “X is the right path, ignore Y” style conclusion for this article – there’s too much still to be discussed that I can’t get to here, and it’s an area that one writer who’s not even an experienced DM is hardly a decisive voice upon. I think that there are things to be gained from mentally unpacking the backgrounds to our ideas of race and species though, and working out what we think we mean by use of those words and how they should be reflected in our games.

Posted on April 06, 2018, 09:25:23 PM by Jubal
Axes and Arithmetic 1: Percentages and Probability

Axes and Arithmetic 1: Percentages and Probability
By Jubal

These Chaos Dwarves may not care where their rocket lands, but you might do.

I originally wrote this article under the title "Math-hammer" for the now defunct e-zine A Call To Arms, which I ran in 2010 and 2011, and was based at my high school's gaming club, covering wargaming news, the club's internal news, and a wide range of articles mostly covering Warhammer and related topics. As the e-zine is long since nonfunctional, I figured it was time to give some of the articles I wrote a new lease of life, and as such I'm re-publishing this series under the new title of Axes and Arithmetic. It starts pretty basic, but ultimately covers a good deal of A Level mathematics topics including statistics, mechanics, and decision maths in a way that should hopefully be useful to gamers and game designers alike.

Many wargames, ultimately, are games of chance. It’s all the luck of the dice. Or is it? The factors that determine whether you’ll win or lose are all based, in some way, on probability – if it was pure luck, the game would of course be boring. Instead, it’s a case of army composition, picking your fights, and so on. These things (combat calculations in particular) can all be based on simple mathematical tools that can let you work out where you want to be fighting, and can help with factors such as weapon selection going into combats no end. Of course, chances are you guesstimate such things anyway; but have you got the mental distinction between “big choppy axe” and “two little choppy axes” mathematically nailed down? If not, here’s how you do it.

Probability and Fractions

A fraction, as we probably all know, is just a representation of a number divided by another number, usually used when the lower number (the denominator) is higher than the upper one (the numerator), and thus the result is less than one. We’ll be dealing only with fractions in that normal form, since we’re using them to express probability. A probability, put simply, is the likelihood that something will happen. One, or a one hundred percent chance, is a certainty – something that will happen no matter what you do. Zero is also a certainty, but a negative one – whatever you do, that thing will not happen. The numbers in between are probabilities, the higher the more likely.

I’m going to use fractions for this for a simple reason; we’re working in sixths almost entirely. Whilst there are lots of possibilities for polyhedrals, and computer game designers can have much freer choice on their random number generators, it's still basically the case that a large percentage of wargaming rolls are done on a humble D6 - a cubic, six-sided die. As such, the probability of many useful numbers or rolls is something over 6. Remember, the probability is the number of possible “good” results. So a 4+ roll succeeds on a 4, 5, or 6; the probability is 3 over 6. If you have the choice between that or a 5+ roll, (5 or 6, probability 2 over 6), you’ll obviously go for the 4+, since the higher probability has a higher chance of success. But what about when you have multiple dice rolls to do?

Multiple Rounds

Ok, let’s get some gaming into this - we'll be using old-school Warhammer rules as a vaguely representative gaming system. I’m facing an Orc, and I’ve got the option of attacking with a human swordsman or another human with a flail (we’ll keep them singular for now, doing calculations for whole units of different sizes will be a future article). I want to decide which of my two men will take on the beast. The Orc is Weapon Skill (WS) 3, and Toughness (T) 4, with a 4+ Armour Save. My swordsman is WS4, and Strength (S) 3 with a sword; my flailer has WS3, but S5 with his flail.

And here comes the maths. Rolling to hit, the rulebook chart shows us that the swordsman only needs a 3+. That means a 3, 4, 5, or 6 will succeed and the chance is thus 4/6. The flailer needs a 4+, and so only has a 3/6 chance. From here it looks like the swordsman is the better option. However, we still need to factor in the second "To Wound" roll and the armour save. We do this by multiplying across the tops AND bottoms of the fractions. The flailer needs a 3+ to wound, so that’s 4/6. We multiply the 4/6 to wound by his previous 3/6 to hit making a 12/36 chance to wound across both rolls. The swordsman now needs a 5+, so 2/6 by 4/6 means he only has an 8/36 chance to wound across both rolls. Because we multiplied both in the same way, as you can see, the numbers are still comparable. Finally, the armour save. Since we want the Orc to fail his save we count as "ours" the scores he fails on. The S5 flail is a high strength weapon that leaves him just a 6+ chance to save, so that’s 5/6 chance of him failing, final total 60/216. The sword gives no armour bonuses so the Orc has only a 3/6 chance of failure, final total 24/216. Whilst it’s clear already who the better candidate is, remember that you can divide the top and bottom of fractions by the same number to “cancel” them and make them easier to look at, and that to compare 2 fractions at a glance the denominator (bottom number) should be the same. In this case both can be divided by 12; the flail-man has a 5/18 chance (27.8%) of wounding the orc, his sword-armed counterpart just 2/18 (11.1%).


See, we're just one article in and maths can already help kill orcs with a big spiky flail! You can also use exactly this technique for working out the likelihood of causing a wound from a shooting attack, or in reverse for the chance of surviving (not being wounded by) an attack. If you're a game designer, of course, you can work in reverse - work out how likely you want something to be, and then see if your current requirements and die rolls actually facilitate that.

But what happens with multiple attacks, and when you want to know about rolling lots of dice? You can’t just add the probabilities, since that could end up with a number like 20/18 if the above flailman had 4 attacks (and probabilities can’t be higher than 1). The answer has to be to distribute the probabilities somehow... and that’s what I’ll be going on to next article. Stay tuned!

Posted on March 23, 2018, 11:03:53 PM by Jubal
The Bones of Earth 4: Making Maps

The Bones of Earth 4: Making Maps
By Jubal

Whilst the first three parts of "The Bones of Earth" have dealt with features and how to make them realistic, this will deal with some of the first steps towards actually creating a map for a fictional setting, specifically the overall layouts one could go for.

Single Countries

For some condensed settings, you only need a map of a single country, county, principality, island, or similar. Of course this is very setting-dependent, and it risks restricting your room for maneuver if you're literally not going to plan out more than the absolute minimum land area you need, but there's also something to be said for having a neat, compact setting that's proportionally much easier for your reader/user to get their head around. If it's a pre-modern setting you may need to cover for why national borders are where they are. Rivers, mountains, and coasts are all traditional, though in the case of rivers it's also worth remembering that river valleys often grow fairly culturally similar on both sides: maintaining a really hard border down the middle of a valley may not make a lot of sense for the people living immediately on either side. For a map of this scale, you're more likely to want to work out details of settlement and road positioning carefully - something we'll come back to in future articles.

The East-Facing/West-Facing Generic Continent

The principle here is simple; you have the continent on one side of the map, bounded by mountains or an impassable desert or unknown lands, and on the other it’s bounded by sea (usually with further desert/mountains in the south and ice/mountains in the north. Examples of this include Narnia, Middle Earth, Calradia (in Mount & Blade), Memory/Sorrow/Thorn by Tad Williams, Guns, Swords and Steam (my RPG), The Inheritance Cycle, Bletsungia (another world of mine), and the list goes on. Europe, the USA, and China can all pretty much fit this in the real world, which explains its popularity partly. Historically having the sea in the west (Tolkien style) seems to be more traditional, though the east (Narnia) isn’t uncommon either. I'm not sure I've ever seen a north/south faced variant on this, though I don't see any particular reason why one shouldn't exist.

The advantage of this generic continent style is that it combines a sizeable land area with effective, natural-looking boundaries that prevent characters from needing or wanting to go far beyond the compact setting. This is somewhat unrealistic, of course, but not entirely so - large barriers like the Sahara have historically been difficult for most people to traverse, though it's worth noting that trade still very much existed and that the presence of large mountains or some tundra certainly doesn't mean that you'll end up with ethnic monocultures on either side.

The Archipelago

This is a pretty good alternative to a continent with a particular facing. Earthsea is the most prominent example, though there are large numbers of others. The major advantage of archipelagos is that they allow for very restricted geographical biomes and areas; this is excellent if lots of small political units are desired, or if large variations in wildlife or plantlife are needed in the setting. Of course, the requirement for transport is also a factor; if you want huge tribes of horsemen sweeping across wide open plains they’re going to have trouble on a landmass five miles wide. Conversely, if you want naval journeys and warfare to feature in a setting, an archipelago really lets you go to town and make those a major part of your world in a way that's less plausible in more continental settings.

The Central Sea or the Great Plains

These are another two continental possibilities, both probably under-used. A Great Plains setting, with little water and no obvious sea, runs the risk that such areas rarely had much in the way of settled city-based cultures for much of their history. That said, nomads are pretty damn cool, and a setting that had more of a focus on areas where there weren’t the resources for larger settlement could work well. A Central Sea setting, with water surrounded by land, is another interesting idea; essentially most of fantasy writing focuses on inland cultures which happen to eventually reach the sea, but a setting where the sea was in itself the major resource needed would mean that the divide between inland cultures and those on the shore (littoral cultures) would become more prominent.

The Planetary Map

A planetary map is a fairly large undertaking, and in many traditional fantasy settings doesn’t necessarily make all that much sense – if there’s no reasonable way for your heroic queen with her army to get to the other side of the world, there’s no need to focus your reader on a ton of places they don’t in any sense need to know about whilst losing detail on the places you really want. Nevertheless, for characters going on Marco Polo-like quests or in sci-fi worlds where air travel is easy it can certainly be useful. Generally the number of continents is up to you; you can end up with a bizarre super-archipelago if there are too many. Remember that if there are too few, you probably will end up with some inland seas etc or at least huge deserts in the centre of your vast landmasses. Thinking in plate tectonics terms is far more important at this scale; mountain ranges will go in long lines, ultimately landmasses will border each other at some sort of plate boundary. Looking at maps of prehistoric earth and the different forms the landmasses took is a really good plan here.

Real World Plus

Something I haven’t really talked about in the other articles is the fairly obvious fact that you don’t need to change the fundamental geography of the real world at all if you don’t want to. This can still lead to a number of possibilities – for example, major climatic change, adding wasteland or megacity areas, moving bits of landscape, simply wiping all the cities off the map and putting new ones in instead, etc etc. Sea level rise is an interesting one which can lead to an eerie “familiar yet different” feel for a map, as is the obliteration of large parts of it in nuclear wars. These ideas are used in a lot of sci-fi (Judge Dredd, for example) and Steampunk (Girl Genius includes Paris and Britain, and is primarily set in what is presumably roughly Germany) stories, and some fantasy too though this is a little rarer compared to a “hole in the world” idea where fantasy stuff invades our world or vice versa.

Star Mapping

Star maps are in some ways easier and in others more difficult than a planetary or terrestrial map. The bad news is that it’s harder to know where to start; the good news is that it matters very little! All interstellar distances are so large it makes little real difference as far as the world’s inhabitants are concerned. Generally the only advice I can give is to not be too regular or too spread out; have clumps (which will probably be the areas where interstellar civilisations can expand) and also gulfs.

With star maps the other thing to consider is size and depth per planet/location. Authors often spend years if not a lifetime mapping the detail of, say, a continent or even a country, let alone a whole planet. If you’re taking on the job of literally constructing a whole galaxy, you’re going to need to cut corners. Ways to do this; firstly, have very low population densities (this is surprisingly uncommon but I did it with Cepheida). This means that you only need to deal with a small inhabited area on each planet and many planets won’t have inhabitants at all. Good for exploration-based ideas, but less good for giant interplanetary war scenarios where billions die each day blah blah etc. The second solution is to assume that a planet is just one biome. I did that with Cepheida as well, but it’s also been done in pretty much all the big sci-fis such as Star Wars (Tatooine is a “desert planet”, Coruscant a “city planet”, Dagobah a “swamp planet”, with little indication of variation, unlike on earth which happily has deserts AND swamps AND cities AND icecaps). It works well as long as you don’t question it too much, but if you want something believable it may not always be the best plan. Solution three is just to not ask tricksy questions or, depending on the project, to do the “you can make YOUR OWN world, dear reader/player/etc” option.

So there you have it - a range of basic options and ideas for how to lay out your maps. I'm not sure what the next article in this series will be exactly, so do comment if you have preferences - either one on settlement growth and placement, or the importance of rivers and water systems, might be a good next step I think. As ever, I hope you enjoyed this, and do stay tuned for more!

Posted on March 18, 2018, 05:37:27 PM by Jubal
An Unexpected Bestiary: The Second Parchment

An Unexpected Bestiary: The Second Parchment
By Jubal

So, I was hoping to get a few more bonus articles than we're going to end up with today, but hopefully this will be a reasonable offering - moving on from An Unexpected Bestiary, my previous article discussing some interesting and lesser known real creatures and thoughts on how they could inspire creativity in game design, creative writing, and beyond, I can now proudly present The Second Parchment, a continuation of that article with seven more bizarre and wonderful creatures. Some of these you may never have heard of: others you'll be familiar with, but hopefully I can show them to you in a different light. Read on to discover more...


The quoll is a marsupial (well, one of six species of marsupial) roughly similar in build and ecological niche to the mustelids of the rest of the world. The name has aboriginal roots – early settler names like “spotted marten” or “marsupial cat” were dropped in favour of the more distinctive word. Solitary hunters and scavengers with a powerful bite, the smaller species eat small mammals and frogs, whereas the larger ones can take on birds and slightly larger mammals like echidnas.

The quoll could have a lot of fictional uses similar to a weasel or stoat – they’re a good “exotic mage’s familiar” option, and their spotted appearance gives them a very particular and striking look that differentiates them from a marten or polecat. If you’re willing to play around with their behaviour, size, or biology, there’s a lot more you could do with them – a giant one, or a pack of large ones, could be a pretty interesting threat to a character. Whilst I’m not aware that you can train real quolls very easily, I can imagine they’d also present a fun twist on “sneaky animal sent in with enough smarts to steal keys and pick locks”, if you’ve used monkeys one time too many for that.

Saiga Antelopes

The Saiga is a small, critically endangered species of antelope from the central Asian steppes – only around 50,000 are left after a major population crash in the past few years. They are best known for their bizarrely shaped face, with bloated nostrils that help filter out dust and cool the animals down in the summer months. Males have impressive horns, and the species lives in large, highly mobile herds – their main defence against predators and natural disasters is simply to move on to literal pastures new.

The Saiga have traditionally been hunted – the Chinese population has now been entirely wiped out – both for their meat, and for their horns, which are used in Chinese “traditional medicine” much like rhinoceros horns are and can sell for large sums of money. Steppe antelopes like this are definitely an option for hunted beasts. I think the distinctive look and relatively small size of the Saigas could make them a fun mount for some sort of little folk in a fantasy setting: unlike a lot of antelopes, they look sufficiently different and alien to creatures we know better that it could really mark out riders as otherworldly.

Mata mata

The Mata mata is one of the most bizarre looking vertebrates on the planet. It’s a South American freshwater turtle with a huge head triangular and exceptionally long neck, and an extremely knobbly skin. Its feeding method is pretty simple. It sits under the surface of a pool, with its up-pointed nose allowing it to breathe as if through a snorkel; thanks to its less than elegant appearance, it just looks like floating detritus, fooling predator and prey alike. It sits there and waits for a fish to come past – then simply opens its huge mouth and throat and sucks, dragging fish and water alike in and swallowing the lot.

I think the above – and the species’ unique appearance – speaks for itself when it comes to using the Mata mata in games or writing. A giant one would make a ready-made “trap-type monster”, waiting to just suddenly gulp down an unsuspecting player or even boat, depending on how big you made one. They’re also not hard to keep as pets, especially since they don’t tend to move around much, so they’d be a good exotic pet for… well, I leave the imagination of the sorts of characters who’d want to keep a Mata mata up to you!



Desmans are essentially aquatic moles, which is a pretty cool starting point for an animal. There are two species of desman: a southwestern European species found in the Pyrenees and northern Spain, and a Russian species found in the Urals. They have extremely sensitive snouts, and their paws are adapted more for swimming than digging: they rootle around for small creatures on the edge of mountain streams.

The desman has some pretty cool features like echolocation, and has been hunted and trapped for furs in the past, which gives it a baseline of relations with humans. I think there are some other interesting ways one could use them in stories, though: I quite like the idea of desmans as message carriers, perhaps with a little waterproofed bag tied to their leg and trained to slip out through a castle or mill’s stream to carry messages to a partner in crime or spy in the enemy camp. They’d also of course make endearing children’s characters much as water-voles and other semiaquatic creatures seem to in many actual works of childrens’ fiction. A story of how the desman learned to swim could be a nice Just So Stories style idea to work on. In general, I think it’s nice to have animals for fiction that are alike enough to a well-known creature for people to relate to, but with a twist to make them sufficiently different to be interesting, and so the desman’s position as a water-mole is a nice one to play around with.


Few birds have so rich a literary and mythic tradition as the hoopoe, yet so little showtime in modern writing. These little birds have extremely distinctive Mohican-style crests, and orange colouration which makes them very noticeable and distinctive. They’re found across much of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

From the earliest times, hoopoes have been noticed and. They eat a number of insect species including agricultural pests, which gives them some positive attributes, and in many middle-Eastern and early cultures they had royal connotations. In ancient Egypt the symbol of the hoopoe was related to legitimacy in birth; in Aristophanes, the hoopoe was the king of the birds, and in the medieval Persian Conference of the Birds, the hoopoe becomes the birds’ leader as they attempt to find the Simurgh, their king. In Abrahamic and European folklore they have less positive connotations: they are not kosher in Judaism (though this didn’t stop them being named the national animal of Israel in 2008), and they have associations with thievery and death across parts of central and northern Europe. In Scandinavia they were once seen as harbingers of war, and in Estonia their song is said to foretell death; meanwhile in medieval ritual magic, they had further death associations, with the sacrifice of a hoopoe called for in magic books to aid in the summoning of demons.

With so many associations, and their extremely striking appearance, it’s very surprising to me that we don’t see more hoopoes. Whether you’re writing a Middle-eastern ruler, a Minoan trying to claim your birthright, a Viking looking for portents of the future, or a medieval German necromancer, give these little guys some thought – they may be more important than you know.

Sorting Hat Spiders

So, these guys, Eriovixia gryffindori, are mostly being included here for the name, but there’s some interesting discussion to be had around that. The sorting hat spider was discovered in 2016 in India, and its distinctively shaped cephalothorax (the back half of the body) is thought to have developed in order to make it easier for the spider to mimic leaf litter and hide from predators. Both the common and Latin names were given based on its similarity to the Sorting Hat in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books – originally owned by Godric Gryffindor.
Invertebrates and other animals, especially ones added anew into an existing language, are often named after existing forms, animals, ideas, or cultural phenomena, and when making up fantasy creatures for your worlds and settings that’s something to take into account. The idea of having animals that are seen as reflecting the human world in their shape, style, and form is something that’s a pretty interesting one to play around with too – in a fictional setting, there actually could be some sort of symbolism in the creation of such animals, or alternatively one could play around with giving animals very different connotations to the ones our own culture has come up with.



The walrus is certainly a well known animal but, I think, one that gets underplayed in fiction. I think a lot of people have the same issue I do with them, which is that I basically think of them as “those seal things with the tusks”, and then mentally assume they can’t be that much bigger than a regular seal… whereas in fact a pacific bull walrus can weigh in at two thousand kilos, about equivalent in weight to a white rhinoceros and not far off the bulk of an Asian elephant. These things are biiiig. And pretty dangerous as a result, of course – though the amount of blubber and ivory that can be gained by hunting one made it worthwhile for many throughout human history. Walrus ivory has been a particularly major part of creations across the arctic and subarctic world - the Lewis Chessmen are mostly carved from walrus tusks, and they've been an important basic carving medium for cultures across that part of the world.

I’m admittedly not well read in fantasy generally, but I really can’t think of many settings that involve a walrus – but as a serious level opponent, they’re as dangerous as a bear or shark. Metre long tusks are a formidable threat, to say the least, and they come in literal herds rather than just being solitary. Their semiaquatic nature can make them a potential target/threat on both land and sea, as well, which adds to their potential versatility. In the wild, only orcas and polar bears ever seriously attempt to hunt them, and even then mostly only older or infirm individuals. If you want a really heavy-duty opponent in a snow-bound adventure, think about the walrus – its size and power alone make it a genuinely formidable beast to include in any sort of writing or game design.


And there you have it, seven more unexpected creatures and some thoughts on their potential roles in your creative works! I defintiely have more than enough animals left for a part three, so let me know if you want that to happen sometime - and I hope you found this a good bonus article to have for Exilian's tenth birthday today!

Posted on March 18, 2018, 05:37:16 PM by Jubal
The Two Cows (Llamas?) Theory: Exilian Edition

The Two Cows Llamas Theory: Exilian Edition
By Jubal

A special 10th anniversary edition of the Two Cows theory! I'm not sure that trying to explain anything about Exilian makes any more sense when done this way, but given none of it made sense to start with... well, why not? As such, I present to you the Two Cows Llamas Theory: The Exilian Edition!

The Church of Bunneh
You have two llamas. You put them in your signature in an attempt to achieve world domination. The two llamas fall out in a terrifying religious schism.

Cyril & Methodius
You have two llamas. You invent an alphabet perfectly attuned to llama noises and teach them to write.

Exilian Democratic Union
You have two llamas. You attempt to abolish the concept of ownership.
Forums for Internet Freedoms
You have two llamas. You give them the vote.

The House of Generals
You have two cows. They are armed with a disconcerting number of rifles, and at least one thermal pod.

The House of Glaurung
You have two llamas. You sell them and hoard the gold.

The House of the Phoenix
You have two llamas. You’re convinced that one of them is a guanaco.

The House of Scholars (Jubal)
You have two llamas. You also have two golden moles, two echidnas, two owlbears, forty-one penguins, and an extremely large number of pangolins. This is as it should be.

Internet Democrats of Exilian
You have two llamas. You pledge to do something different with them in a way that is also exactly the same as all the other systems listed here.
The Krishnabots
You have two llamas. You attempt to preach the word of Krishna to them, and are disappointed when they spit in your face and short out your bot-circuits.

Mixed Mods
You had two llamas, but that was many, many years ago…

The SOTK Clan
You have two llamas and a soup dragon. You clone them. One falls from a high place.

Vance Miller
You have two llamas. You attempt to sell them a badly made second-hand kitchen from China. They are unimpressed.

You have two llamas. You get them drunk on bootlegged alcohol.