Thursday, 5 December 2013

Welcome to the Farm - Zoology in the Iron Kingdoms

The Iron Kingdoms is an interesting world. We have magic augmenting science to give us steamjacks and warjacks. Alchemy does what normal chemistry cannot. Prayers to gods translate into divine powers. Magic of course is used by those with the gift - some of those people end up being able to control warjacks, while others can tap into the innate energy, the fury, of their beasts.

And that is what we shall discuss today - beasts, monsters, and other races.

Because of the level of education and science in the Iron Kingdoms, the technical insight and research into the differences between different civilized races, and beasts, is an active field, and an important one. Many of the differences between creatures and races comes down to either biology and alchemy (bioalchemy I guess is a field of science), and to a degree magic, since a good number of creatures have come into being due to the way magic and such powers have interacted with the world. The catch all term for these interests is Zoology.

Zoology can be described as the study of the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of animals. For the people of the Iron Kingdoms, this sort of information is critical for so many aspects of life.

First of all is food. The Iron Kingdoms of course has sheep, cows, pigs, all those mundane animals from our world, but there are of course distinct versions of these creatures (Razor Boars), and so these differences are important for when it comes to making food and farming. Some of these animals may well be hardier creatures to farm, and so better suited for colder climates. Also for wilderness survival it can be critical to know which parts of an animal not to eat - you don't want to be chomping down on a poisonous gland.

Related to food, and perhaps more pertinent to the Iron Kingdoms, is the extraction of certain materials and chemical from animals, and the stranger ones especially. In our world, the everyday pig is rendered down into all manner of components, some of which end up in things like car breaks, rubbers, bullets. Things that are definitely not for consumption. Now given the Iron Kingdoms is on the verge of a industrial revolution, it is not crazy to think that the animals that are farmed, and those that are hunted, have their parts put to use for all manner of things. Maybe the stomach acids of a particular troll are useful for etching metals. Maybe a beast in the deserts of the Protectorate has a oil that is a component of making the incense that they cleanse their temples with. Another beast's hide may well make excellent leather that is resistant to magic. Of course the alchemists may well fund hunting parties and farms so that these animals can be sourced for their particular products. A Llaelese perfume may well rely on a certain musk  from the type of deer. Or an insect may provided the key component of a dangerous poison.

Rather than killing these beasts many of them may serve military purposes. And so understanding their temperament, how they breed, how they can be trained and coerced, is critical for using wild animals in war, and perhaps to a degree eventually domesticating them. We can look to Khador and the Butcher's recent acquisition of a pair of Argus as an example of this.

Of course of greater military importance if how to kill beasts. Many of the strange beasts of the Iron Kingdoms are just dangerous. And some of them are particular weaknesses, natural weaponry, and of course methods to how they hunt. When dealing with the Trollkin and their Troll allies, the druids of the Circle of Orboros, the Legion of Everblight, the Skorne Empire, and the beasts of the Farrow and Gatormen, it pays to know what your are dealing with. Some breath fire, other corrosive acid. Some can regenerate horrific injuries, others are aquatic. Beasts have all manner of biological, and magic abilities, and they are not things to be trifled with.

So if Zoology is a big thing, how can we represent that in Iron Kingdoms RPG?

Adventuring companies based around the need for Zoological expeditions, monster hunting and capturing. These companies could be funded by a university as they seek new animals to experiment on or to keep in their zoos. Perhaps they work for an alchemical guild, their target being a rare animal and the enzyme that is produced in its eyes. May be they work for an army, and they are tasked with capturing an animal for training purposes. Or perhaps they are hunting for more selfish concerns. Monsters provide great  sport, both for big game hunters or those how run bloodsport arenas.

What careers would work for such a company?

Alchemist - they make essential medics on the team, plus who else do you turn to for gutting your prized kill? Alchemists can perform the role of  doctor, zoological surgeon, taxidermist.

Arcanist - if the group is working for a particular magical order a Arcanist is a good fit. Plus there are times you need magic to solve some problems or eliminate some weapons a creature has.

Aristocrat - this career along with a number of others can represent all manner of things. The Aristocrat could be the one bankrolling the whole expedition, or just be another scholar of Zoology. Maybe they are a big game hunter?

Bounty Hunter - easy, hired thug for monster killing, or perhaps a better trained game keeper. Coupled with the Ranger career you have quite the outdoor explorer and hunter.

Explorer - again this is more than likely the Zoologist academic who is more interested in the habitats of the creatures and how they act,  rather than the biology.

Pirate - useful if what you are hunting lives at sea.... KRAKEN!!!

Ranger - speaks for itself.

Rifleman - ideal marksman for shooting down monsters. Coupled with the Ranger career and you have an excellent hunter.

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