Sunday, June 19, 2016

What I'm Reading - Part 1: Taxonomy of Monsters

One of the best non-book yet literary experiences I've had recently is a video game called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It's the closest thing to feeling like you're the protagonist in a novel, ever.

The game's quests are like a series of mystery novels, and you are the detective. You go into a mission, look at the clues and evidence, and draw conclusions. Sometimes it was a monster that did the crime, sometimes a person, and sometimes a person unleashed a monster. It's really great, and sometimes the quests have big twists.

Like, your character rides into an abandoned town. As you approach, you hear shrieking and moaning. Then, out of nowhere, a ghost appears and attacks you. You, as a monster hunter, kill it. However, the ghost returns for some reason. You begin to explore the surrounding abandoned buildings, and you read notes and find tokens that allow you to piece together what happened. A woman was killed, and a curse was set upon her. An object you found binds her to the town, to forever haunted and attack anyone near. You discover that she's a noonwraith, a specific type of ghost, and then you brew potions and oil your blade with specific items to prepare. Then, you must then break the curse and kill the ghost one last time. As you do, her human soul calls to you and thanks you for setting her free.

This is one of the quests I remember, and it was so awesome to figure it all out like a detective.

What makes the game's stories so great is probably that it is based on writings by Andrzej Sapkowski. I began reading his short story collection, The Last Wish. I've finished the first story, and it is really great. It's a monster mystery. 

If you want to see my review of The Witcher 3, click this sentence!


Monster Manual

One of the things that inspires me about the game and the writings are the way monsters and beasts are classified. There are subgroups, laws and rules that the world stands by for how the monsters look, how curses are laid out. Noonwraiths appear at noon and are bound to the world by objects. Nekkers have warrior leaders. Trolls can be intelligent and persuaded to give up their actions and avoid fighting whatsoever. 

The game has a system of classification. Giants, trolls, and nekkers are Ogroids. They share weaknesses and similarities. The same blade isn't effective against Katakans as it is on werewolves, because katakans are classified as vampires and werewolves are classified as cursed.

Ever since I played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, I always wanted to make my own Monster Manual, filled with my own designs. I've actually started one for my novel, and it is inspired by the idea of monster taxonomy. Each monster is sorted into a system. Monsters in one group share similar physical attributes, weaknesses, organs, etc. I like it when magical worlds are forced to conform to a set system of laws and logic, and that's one of my goals with my writing. Anything magical needs to be bound by rules, otherwise magic becomes a deus ex machina.

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