Ecosystems and mapping
Recently, I've decided that once and for all, I want to create unique creatures for my fantasy world. To that end... Does anyone have any tips or resources that might be helpful? I like hands-on resources; templates to fill out, generators to randomly create creature bases I can build upon (the more options in the generator the better!), and so on. Reading huge articles and the like often uninspires me because it takes too much time away from actually getting into the meat of the situation. But hints and tips would be helpful!
(Note: I realize this isn't a question about cartography in its purest form... but ecosystems are very much a part of a mapped world, right? Haha, I hope this is relevant enough to ask about...)
I don't know of any generators or random tables for cross-referencing things together to make hybrid creatures or any sort of "push a few buttons and something pops out". I just think about what sort of things live in a certain type of place. I've talked about this elsewhere but I don't remember where so I'll try to condense it again. Tink about what sort of creatures live in a swamp...frogs, lizards, snakes, gators, crocs, bugs, birds, and fish. If you want some sort of unique creature then start with those as a base and modify them to whatever you want. I like to have lizardmen and bugmen. In a desert you'll have snakes, scorpions, spiders so you could just make those oversized or make them into scorpion people, shrug. On a mountain you'll have cougars, bears, mountain goats, birds of prey, and small animals like raccoons and bunnies so take one of those and morph into what ya want. You're not going to find scorpion people in the arctic because the ecology doesn't support their primal ancestor the scorpion. If you're wanting more fantastical then think about combining two things like the way centaurs were created...some god impregnates some lady in the shape of (insert creature here) and her offspring come out looking like (two things combined). Of course, you could always just add more legs or arms or eyes or give them special powers like heightened smell or hearing so they'd have to have bigger noses or ears. There is a game, don't know what it's called, where you can be your own god/geneticist and combine different parts of animals together and see how they'll survive.
If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)
My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps
If it helps, think about the vision you have for the landscapes when creating creatures,and remember that all creatures in an ecosystem have evolved with each other, and as Ascension said - its helpful to base it off of reality to some degree, and work from there, ie. lizards and scorpions in the desert, not in the arctic, etctera.
Maybe you envision a certain forest with gigantic trees. Think about what types of creatures usually live in forests, then consider the scale; larger animals can climb up and live in those trees. So you may see the development of large sloth-like creatures eating the fruits of the trees, different pollinators flying or crawling around to the flowers, different kinds of amphibians, spiders, and birds/bats that eat the pollinators, and then other animals like bigger birds/bats or snake-like creatures that eat them. Maybe the top predator is a fire-breathing dragon, and you replace tapirs with those giant hammerhead herbivores from Avatar.
That's basically how the creatures of every detailed sci-fi / fantasy world are created.
Screw around with existing animals, combine them, and there you are; a wonderfully strange ecosystem that seems plausible.
I sometimes enjoy putting a creature in a completely opposite environment than it would otherwise be. ie: fish - men in a desert.
That said, LS's last sentence is your best bet.
See, I would go entirely against combining animals for one reason: it's boring and unoriginal. It's like the easiest possibly route you coud go down, and so many thigns have been done in that vein anyway, most of them not very well either.
Instead I will point you to a good resource: http://www.elfwood.com/farp/thewriti...animalash.html