Ack. I’ve just resorted to D20 terminology. Ack. Well, whatever works … I was wondering how to have the jungles of the Hari Ragat setting feel right and natural, and at the same time have room for some epic big beasties, and the idea of the overlaid template provided the solution.
The problem: big, dangerous predators are expected in a fantasy campaign’s environment, but filling an island ecosystem with them quickly strains suspension of disbelief. An island full of big dangerous species will soon be an island full of bones and not much else as these creatures starve. There were tigers on Palawan some 12,000 years ago, but when sea levels rose there wasn’t enough grazing room on the island to sustain the prey levels they needed so they died out. Now if we add giant pythons, giant crocodiles, giant spiders, giant fishing beetles and such, we’ve got a real mess. But I want those to be in the game. I want to throw them at my players’ characters!
I’ve thus posited four assumptions to make the island environments of Hari Ragat work for me (with a dash of magical justification):
Some creature types in this setting, reptiles and fishes in particular, may live for centuries and never stop growing. In the magically charged wilderness, they may even gain increased intelligence and supernatural powers over the centuries. Giant snakes, giant crocodiles, giant fish other than sharks, and giant arachnids will fall into this category; not new species, but only unusual and extremely ancient individuals of the base species. Interestingly, this now lets me create each giant creature as a unique, magnified in more than just size.
There are actually a lot of draconine creatures in the Hari Ragat setting, remnants and refugees from the death of the Serpent Goddess Oryol, but they’re in hiding and magical slumber most of the time. They only awaken when disturbed or hungry, or in the case of some that have met man before but could not be killed, have been imprisoned and now broken free. I think this also adds more of a kaiju eiga vibe to their presence, which I think is cool.
Some creatures like the Raksasa giants and Agta ogres don’t fully live in the material world. They may spend most of their time in the otherworldly part of their domains, thus remaining hidden and making little impact on the world of mankind. Supernatural creatures connected to trees or river bottoms or the like may spend most of their time melded into their homes. Their territories may function like dimensional tesseracts, bigger and of a different topography than the locations appear from without.
Some of the more mundane large creatures won’t be found on all islands, but only on one or a few that have habitats large enough to support them. You’ll find your tigers, and possibly elephants, on the island of Murogan, the huge island at the southernmost end of the Janggalan Archipelago; only this island is large enough, and has few enough people, for such things to exist in the wild.