A lovely landscape, farm or home seems empty without animal life. A few critters posed here or there turn a dimension from a still life into a living entity. Rift isn’t big on dimensional critters, limiting itself to the stuffed barghest and stuffed black armored ursin, so dimensioneers must provide their own.
The two most important characteristics to get right when building a critter are shape and posture. Matching a critter’s colour helps but we’re used to seeing creatures change colour according to the time of day. From high noon to deep night, our brains identify animals by outline first, it’s shape and posture are major cues to trigger recognition. How many animals can you identify by outline alone in this picture?
It takes a skillful eye and a deep knowledge of dimension items to select the right one for the task. When I build my own animals, I use the database, Rift Dimension Addicts, to look up items that might work and I often google for pictures of the animal in question. Between those two resources, I have a good idea of what might work before I build.
Making a critter for your dimension can be a simple or complicated task, depending on the complexity of animal and how realistic a look you want. A simple little snail can be made from 4 butter churns, an ivory menhir and 2 ribboned posts with rope. More elaborate critters can take 30 items or more to create. The white deer is made from 7 tied sacks, 4 limestone poles, 7 limestone spheres, 15 animal skulls, 2 dried sprigs, 2 puffball mushrooms and 2 human skulls, a total of 39 objects. (Made by Lils for Consortium’s Hall of Shaping on Zaviel.)
Animal recognition is helped by environment. We don’t expect to see an elephant roaming the woods of England but we do expect to see a kangaroo hopping around the plains of Australia. Niccy has created seperate environments for her animals in the ‘City Zoo’@Zaviel. The City Zoo is a great example of how the right environment can help make our animals look like they belong in the scene. Penguins and walrus have a nice chilly terrace pond and snowy rocks to keep them cool, while the pandas sit on a gently sloping hill surrounded by bamboo made with young granitwood trees.
Mythical animals can be somewhat harder to recognise, their outlines less familiar and their environments as mythical as the beastie itself. Still, most of us playing a fantasy game are primed to see pegasii and dragons wherever we go. Horse figurines from the Carnival of the Ascended and tiny glowbulbs for wings make an easy pegasus, while giant beaked flytraps and life dragon motes create a mighty fine dragon.
The best part about creating critters is making them part of a larger story. Farmstead by Spierbundel@Zaviel uses farm animals to add flavour to the steading; pigs made from orange corked jugs and sheep made with piles of snow give an agricultural feel to this dimension. Add people for instant action scenes, the farm wife is feeding chickens while fields are plowed by oxen.
Or whimsey could take over and you could hang your animals on a wall as trophies.
A dash of creativity and a lot of patience may be needed to create critters but as a reward for the effort, animals will add life to your dimension and open up a whole new world of story telling. Happy crittering!