Ever wondered what a fire bat, icy lion, artichoke moth or questionable enigma tastes like? A new roleplaying bestiary will answer these questions and more as it introduces a menagerie of fantastical farm animals to D&D 5E and other RPGs - and Dicebreaker has the first look at the upcoming release.
Critters & Companions includes 30 unique creatures inspired by Earth animals found on farms and ranches, spanning land, sea and air. The inventive animals range from the Hy Gief, a giant spider raised inside an abandoned museum, and the Basiok, a talking lemur that serves as a tutor for farm children unable to attend school, to the Gulve Sli, a squid-like cephalopod that has a brain in each of its ten tentacles and can rearrange any missing limbs to access new ways of thinking. Further creatures teased in two-word descriptions include the “puzzle mushroom” Puknnev, “soccer snail” Moorm and “appreciative platypus” Ddoicham.
The creatures’ descriptions and traits such as breeding, migration and personality are grounded in real-world zoology, traditional ranching and the agricultural and environmental journalism experience of writer-designer Pearse Anderson and his collaborators. In the case of the “cat octopus” Gulve Sli, Anderson told Dicebreaker that copy editor Keerthi Sridharan ensured its marine diet and fresh/saltwater niche were both biologically accurate. Illustrator Logan Stahl provides artwork for the two-dozen-plus creatures, alongside some of their human farmers and companions.
In place of defined stats for each animal, the book uses a scale of high, medium and low for traits to allow each creature to be used in the RPG of the player’s choice. The system-neutral book will be compatible with all “major systems”, including Dungeons & Dragons 5E.
Descriptive tags - such as “horse-like size" or "piercing damage if antlered" - alongside specific details, such as the “weather penguin” Renair’s habit of vomiting when fed warm-coloured foods or the trampling of fence posts by Basiok birthing stampedes, provide further mechanical guidance for GMs and players. Further information, rumours and story hooks are narrated in the bestiary by Barnkeeper Abe, who provides running commentary throughout the book.
“There's lots of conceptual information for players to absorb from each animal entry that will guide their farming/ranching of that beast that specified but can't easily transform into a system-neutral mechanic,” Anderson said. “It's up to individual tables to determine how to mechanise those elements: is that an Animal Handling roll, a Fate-style race to open the fence gate, a simple inevitability of raising the d6 animals they've chosen?”
Each creature in the book exists in an independent form detached from any unified setting or ecosystem, allowing players to simply encounter individual creatures in an existing world or even to rear animals of their choice on a ranch or farm - opening a way for players to run their own farm in-between dungeon delves and quests, á la Stardew Valley.
“Each entry can be read without needing additional context, or plugged into your world without disrupting any web of relationships,” Anderson confirmed. “Someone playing Mothership's Tidebreak might only choose our marine animals, while a dungeon-crawler could encounter the mole people's underground farms. (There's a biome map to help with this.)”
In addition to their physical traits, habitat and lore, Critters & Companions details how parts of each animal can be used as resources. In the case of the whiskered deer-elk, the joyx choga, its guts can be used for medical suture and lyre strings. The book also describes how each animal’s meat tastes, for those so inclined. (“Hopefully the book's text will inspire more thoughtful interactions,” Anderson added, optimistically.) Random tables can be used to generate harnesses, medicines and housing such as coops during play.
Anderson revealed that further “light mechanics” are planned for the upcoming book, including a minigame that simulates the extinction of animals in the players’ world based on the destruction and stewardship of its inhabitants.
Critters & Companions will launch a Kickstarter campaign on May 24th for a physical and digital release of the 80-plus-page bestiary. Among the stretch goals planned for the crowdfunder is an additional section that will include real-world animals such as the now-extinct turnspit dog and military homing pigeons.