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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:45 pm  
    Monster taxonomy

    I did very little science in my high school, but I remember animals were classfied using a specific taxonomy.
    We have the dragon names in the Monster Manual (Draco Conflagratio Horribilis) which suggest some (Oeridian?) scientist from the past started this system.
    I was considering clasifying some monsters using a sinilar system.
    I suppose all of you know better than me in this topic - would this make any sense?
    BUGBEARS
    Species: local ethic groups (or "races")
    Genre: Bugbears (buchveer is Flan, i suppose Oeridians had latin-sounding names?)
    Family: Goblinoids

    Also, shall we consider all humans in the flanaess part of the same species?
    Could be interesting to classify at least the goblin "tree".
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:46 pm  

    INC Frost and Fire Giants are two different species of the same genre (Jotni).
    GreySage

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:30 am  
    Re: Monster taxonomy

    MToscan wrote:
    Also, shall we consider all humans in the flanaess part of the same species?


    Please don't try to classify human races as different subspecies. That only feeds into racism. Wink

    Otherwise, you have a good idea. The goblinoids include goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, and xvarts, off the top of my head.

    If you are unsure about the ecological relationships between certain monsters, you can check which god they revere. This may help establish such relationships.

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    GreySage

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:44 am  

    You are barking right up my tree! Happy

    Science is my background: I have a degree in biology with a zoological emphasis. I am a high school science teacher and have taught the following life science courses: Pre-AP Biology, Zoology, and Human Anatomy & Physiology. The only non-life science I have taught was what we call Integrated Science (Freshman course), a blend of geology, basic physics, chemistry, meterology, and astronomy.

    I love this idea, personally, and if you have read any of my postings, you know that I have typically tried mixing science with fantasy. Oftentimes this is not an issue, but occasionally one runs into a roadblock where scientific reason slams dead into fantasy-based mythology. With respect towards classification and nomenclature, I don't think you'll run into too many problems.

    The traditional Linnean system of classification goes like this:

    Kingdom
    Phylum
    Class
    Order
    Family
    Genus
    Species

    Names (Genus species) are typically descriptive and based on Latin/Greek roots. When I reach taxonomy and nomenclature in my zoology class (second semester) I have my students try to 'decode' various mythology creatures based on sample Genus species names I have offered. If I can find a copy, maybe I will offer the list on this thread for all to enjoy.

    I think this is a do-able, and FUN, enterprise, MToscan, and I would be quite willing to assist on this endeavor, should you want some input.

    Just for the scientific record, ALL humans would be of the same species. We all have the same basic genetic code (with only very minor differences accounting for ALL the variety you see the world over). As one of my good friends noted to me once, "What we call race among humans is like what we call 'breeds' among dogs." I found that remark to be amusing, and rather sound. After all, ALL breeds of dog belong to the SAME species, Canis familiaris, and their basic genetic code is nearly identical! What makes a Chihuahua different from a mastiff are which genes are switched "on" and which others are "off." (Enough of the science lesson for now.)

    In game terms, 'race' applies to non-same species of intelligent bipeds (elves, dwarves, halflings, goblinoids, etc)...

    Let me know how I may be of service, if at all...

    intrigued,

    Lanthorn, DM-biologist
    Master Greytalker

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:28 pm  

    I don't have access to it now, but there was an early DRAGON article that did this with the humanoids. Basically, humans, elves, and orcs were all homo sapiens (which is why they can interbreed). Halflings were just pygmy homo sapiens. What I found interesting was that the goblinoid family was equated with australopithicus.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:47 pm  



    Last edited by BlueWitch on Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:41 pm; edited 2 times in total
    GreySage

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:06 pm  

    BlueWitch wrote:

    Why is it that when it's humans, people will cry racism more instinctively than breathing?


    It should suffice for me to remind you that humans are real and elves aren't.


    Last edited by rasgon on Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:47 pm  

    Great. What starts as an off-hand joke obviously intended to lighten the mood gets ramped up to two people. Knock it off.

    Leave off this course of discussion and stick with the purpose/topic. People have been classifying and naming things for forever. People can classify as they wish, but if somebody starts saying something like, "What you got against blink dogs? Is it because they are yellow or something?!", or anything like that, I will drop the hammer on the first person. So, everyone make a point of NOT inserting your heads in your butts, and the hammer will remain hanging on the wall.

    And don't even reply to anything that has already been said regarding anything along these lines. Just let it go, and leave it gone. If you have nothing constructive to post with regard to the topic, don't post anything.

    And apparently Flan is the accepted language among scholars for classifying things (probably because the geographical area is referred to as "The Flanaess" and not "Happy Funtime Oeridian-Suel Playground, Yeah!"), so I would recommend sticking with Flan for naming things.


    Carry on.
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    GreySage

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    Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:24 pm  

    Cebrion wrote:


    And apparently Flan is the accepted language among scholars for classifying things (probably because the geographical area is referred to as "The Flanaess" and not "Happy Funtime Oeridian-Suel Playground, Yeah!"), so I would recommend sticking with Flan for naming things.


    I think not using Latin would involve too much reinventing of the wheel. The Linnean classification system is a great starting point. Is 'Draco' Flan, Suel, or Oeridian? Or Draconic, for that matter? Are we really supposed to come up with a Flan equivalent of 'Canis?' Some 3rd edition sources suggest that Latin corresponds to Celestial. In the end it doesn't really matter; Latin wins for pragmatic reasons.

    The Flan aren't really renowned as scholars anyway, Vecna aside.

    The Orcs of That Gazetteer offered pseudo-scientific names for orcs, kobolds, gnolls, trolls, goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins, and ogres, but they were seriously awful.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 12:22 am  

    The Linnean format is fine, but I see this as an excuse to translate things into the Flan- Greyhawk specific stuff, which we already have "scholarly" examples of. Wink
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    GreySage

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:58 am  

    The 3rd edition conceptual artists created a taxonomy for lizard men, troglodytes, kobolds, and urds. Of course, half an edition later they decided that kobolds are more closely related to dragons than lizardfolk or trogs, so I wouldn't call it canon, even if I thought that word meant anything.

    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 1:11 pm  

    In italian breed and race have the same transation.
    To make things interesting, the orc entry in the mondter manual says orcs can interbreed with hobgoblins as well. That raises an interesting probem. Are hobgoblins homo sapoens too? What about ogrillons?
    GreySage

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:15 pm  

    Please bear in mind that our (humans') definition of the term "species" (coined by Charles Darwin) only reflects our basic understanding of the concept, meaning to be 'a group of genetically related organisms that successfully interbreed to produce fertile offspring.' It is our way, as scientists, to comprehend and define a perpetually ongoing natural process. However, it is not a 'perfect' term in that there are shades of grey based on the fact that certain 'defined' species can and do successfully hybridize, therefore muddying the scientific waters.

    For instance, a domestic dog can successfully mate with a coyote (or even a wolf) and produce a litter of little hybrid pups that can, in turn, reproduce without any detrimental effects. Does this mean that a dog, coyote, and wolf are the same species? Wink Undoubtedly, most folks can quite certainly tell the difference between these three 'defined' species.

    Thusly, to answer your query, I would say, "No." Orcs, humans, and all manner of demihumans and humanoids would not be the same species, but are close enough genetically (the Powers forbid!) to hybridize, barring certain exceptions.

    Again, we are trying to place scientific rules on a fantasy-based system, which sometimes gets me into heated debate with my friend(s), but, hey, I relish the challenge! Happy

    Hope this helps,

    Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:27 pm  

    It's not even clear that inheritance works the same way in the magical universe of Greyhawk that it does in the real world. If humans can mate with demons, angels, transformed dragons, fairies, elementals, and spirits, does reproduction necessarily have anything to do with DNA? Quite possibly not. I wouldn't make any assumption that creatures are closely "related" in any way just because they can successfully hybridize, particularly since they may be independent creations rather than the product of evolution.

    This gets more complicated when you consider that while humans and elves can breed, and humans and orcs can breed, it's often said to be impossible for elves and orcs to breed. Orcs and hobgoblins can produce offspring (who are essentially orcs statistically), but depending on the campaign it may be impossible for humans and hobgoblins to produce offspring. Likewise with orcs and goblins. Or perhaps in your campaign just about everything that can fit slot A into tab B can produce offspring, which would indicate that either all forms of life are the same species or species has nothing to do with the ability to successfully produce young.

    There certainly seems to be something strange where elves are concerned. Consider that (according to the Complete Book of Elves) the offspring of a half-elf and and elf is always a half-elf. There are no three-quarter elves. Once human blood has been introduced into an elven bloodline, that bloodline will never be elven again. In contrast, there are also no quarter-elves; the offspring of half-elves that don't mate with elves become simply human. They may have subtly elven features, but their children lack all half-elven abilities. According to that source, it's not even possible for half-elves to have half-elf children with other half-elves (the child of two half-elves is a human). Nor is it possible for elves to have children with anything but other elves or with humans.

    This might be related to the 1st edition idea that where humans have souls, elves have spirits that reincarnate endlessly. If someone isn't born with an elven spirit, they're not an elf, regardless of who their parents were, and elven spirits won't enter a body without at least one elven parent. A half-elf, then, would be an elven spirit whose full elven powers are diminished by a partly human body.

    It's not even possible for elven subraces to hybridize with one another (at least according to the Forgotten Realms campaign set). The child of a high elf and a gray elf would be a high elf or a gray elf. The child of a high elf and a drow would be a high elf or a drow. There are no mixed breeds. Does that make them distinct species? Does it mean they differ at the spiritual level, so that gray elven spirits always result in gray elven bodies?

    And what does it mean, for example, that the children of humans and medusae are always humans or medusae? Surely it doesn't mean that a human and a medusa belong to the same species. Likewise with humans and hags, or hags and ogre magi.

    For what it's worth, here are the "scientific" names for various humanoids in the Orcs of Thar Gazetteer.

    Bugbear: Ursus bipedis (Goblinus ursus would be better)
    Gnoll: Canis erectus (but hyenas aren't canines...)
    Goblin: Goblinus goblinus
    Hobgoblin: Goblinus grandis
    Kobold: Canis minor
    Ogre: Homo monstrum
    Orc: Orcus porcus (seriously)
    Troll: Monstrum carnivorous

    As far as non-D&D sources go, the 3rd edition Runequest game gave us the following names:

    Dwarf: Lithanthropos mostali
    Halfling: Homo minutem
    Elf: Dendro sapiens
    Dark troll: Styganthropus uzko
    Sea troll: Hydrostyganthropus mutans
    Mountain troll: Styganthropus snangus
    Cave troll: Styganthropus mutans

    Of course, Runequest dwarves are literally made of stone and Runequest elves are plants, so that may not apply.

    Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical Word Around You, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, is a fun book with taxonomical names for a variety of fantastic species. Brownies belong to the Homunculidae family. Pixies belong to the Pusillipraedonidae family. Salamanders to the Flammieuntidae family. The cockatrice family is Serpentigentidae, the elf family is Circulifestidae, the leprechaun family is Ingeniosidae, the manticore family is Bestiaedae, dryads belong to the Hamadryadidae family, unicorns to the Monoceratidae family, kelpies Equidae, merfolk Sirenidae, nixies Naiadidae, sea serpents Serpentimaridae, trolls Nocturnidae, dwarves Brevihominidae, giants Gigantidae, goblins Adentidae, ogres Stultibrutidae, dragons Draconidae, griffons Mixtidae, phoenixes Vetustidae, gargoyles Bestialapidae, will-o'-the-wisps Falsilucidae.

    So, for example, in the Spiderwick series the common house brownie is Custos domesticus, a field piskie is Hamadryas compensis, a fire salamander is Salamander flammulaticus, the European cockatrice is Basiliscus europeanus, a wood elf is Dryas nemorivagans, a leprechaun is Sutor netus, a manticore is Martigan martigan, a maple hamadryad is Hamadryas acenis, a unicorn is Unicornatus cristatus, a Pacific mermaid is Siren pacificus, a freshwater nixie is Nympha lymphae, a river troll is Vorax fluminicus, a common ground goblin is Diabolus vulgaris, an ogre is Horrifer pennaultanus, the North American griffin is Gryphon americanus, a spitting gargoyle is Ecclesiahabitans despuens, a will-o'-the-wisp Candentiphaera floccata.

    According to Dragon #150, the illithid family is Illithidae. Aboleths might conceivably be part of it.
    GreySage

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    Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:14 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    It's not even clear that inheritance works the same way in the magical universe of Greyhawk that it does in the real world. If humans can mate with demons, angels, transformed dragons, fairies, elementals, and spirits, does reproduction necessarily have anything to do with DNA? Quite possibly not. I wouldn't make any assumption that creatures are closely "related" in any way just because they can successfully hybridize, particularly since they may be independent creations rather than the product of evolution.


    But, Rasgon! The owlbear is the missing link between the Strigidae and Ursidae. It's obvious that the two species are evolutionarily related. Razz

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    GreySage

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:40 am  

    I think you'll find that owls, giant owls, bears, owlbears, winged owlbears, quaggoths, vowelbears, cowlbears, and trowelbears all descend from a common ancestor, an owl-sized scavenger with a tiny bear's head and beak that lived in the early Creteceous, evolving from more primitive mammal-like birds in the late Jurassic that also evolved in turn into griffons, hippogriffs, pegasi, horses, eagles, lions, sphinxes, manticores, wemics, winged cats, platapuses, ducks, beavers, penguins, and lammasu.

    An interesting source that I found at Barnes & Noble just now is The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. It contains detailed anatomical drawings of a variety of mythological creatures as well as complete taxonomies. For example, the sphinx belongs to phylum Verebrata, class Echidnae, order Praesidum, family Felidae, genus Sphinx and species Sphinx alatus. The book also details the mermaid, satyr, minotaur, ganesh, chimaera, cerberus, pegasus, oriental dragon, centaur, and harpy.

    Other good sources on fantasy taxonomy are Dracopedia and Dracopedia: The Great Dragons by William O'Connor.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:09 am  

    Off topic, sort of, but it just clicked for me that stirges, the scientific name for owls, and the Italian word for 'witch' are all linguistically related... probably.
    GreySage

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:29 am  

    It is true that most beings (demihumans and humanoids particularly) are derived from a Creator and do not have a common ancestor. Thus, their origins are not the products of evolution.

    What the DM will have to determine is if he/she fancies adaptive forces in his/her campaign world via natural selection. If not, the point is quite moot. If this is the case, then scientific explanations are also unnecessary.

    However, if one takes a scientific/fantasy-based blend, then such concepts as genetics, natural selection, and evolution have a basis. Magic can be used to explain those things that science cannot (this has always been true, not only in our real world past, but in our modern era, too).

    I personally am a fan of this second pathway, and have long been an avid reader of the Ecology of article series featured throughout many Dragon Magazine editions since scientific explanations are offered with respect to creature anatomy, behavior, etc.

    Ultimately, DM call, but, as a scientist myself, I enjoy the mental exercise puzzling through logical explanations for clearly illogical, fantasy-based beasts. Happy

    As a side comment, I always thought that most 'hybrid' creatures (ex: owlbear) were the magical constructs of experimenting mages, and were not the result of 'natural' processes. There is a mage kit called the Merlane that was introduced in an older Dragon Magazine. These sorcerors use special magicks (likewise introduced in this article) allowing them to alter and fuse various creatures, thus explaining and confirming this idea.

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:49 am; edited 1 time in total
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:48 am  

    That's the approach I take. When and where it can be natural, with no magic involved, it's natural. When it's unnatural... magic! In the latter case there may or may not be a hybridization of features, it all depends on what the magic says.
    GreySage

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:05 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:

    As a side comment, I always thought that most 'hybrid' creatures (ex: owlbear) were the magical constructs of experimenting mages, and were not the result of 'natural' processes. There is a mage kit called the Merlane that was introduced in an older Dragon Magazine. These sorcerors use special magicks (likewise introduced in this article) allowing them to alter and fuse various creatures, thus explaining and confirming this idea.

    -Lanthorn


    Sir Xaris and I were mostly joking, but I like to avoid "a wizard did it" as an explanation if possible. Particularly with regard to creatures from real-world mythology credited to gods and titans, explaining them with mere mortal wizards feels like a tremendous letdown. It makes what was once epic seem mundane. It's one thing crediting legendary named wizards of fearsome power or ancient civilizations with now-forgotten arts, but I would object to letting mid-level magic-users build viable, non-sterile races in their garages like amateur taxidermists usurping power once reserved for gods.
    GreySage

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:56 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    It is true that most beings (demihumans and humanoids particularly) are derived from a Creator and do not have a common ancestor. Thus, their origins are not the products of evolution.


    That's a good point, which I incorporate into my own campaign. Each god, or pantheon of gods, created their own race, or races. However, since those gods created most of those races (at least initially) in their own image and the gods themselves are related, to a degree, that explains why their creations are so similar.

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    Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:42 pm  



    Last edited by BlueWitch on Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:58 am  

    BW, that is what was written in the creature description, at least...

    -Lanthorn
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    Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:47 am  

    So how woudl we fit, for instance, bugbears, goblins and hobogbilms in this system?

    Kingdom
    Phylum
    Class
    Order
    Family = (goblinoid?)
    Genus =
    Species = bugbear

    Should we consider ethnic variations out of this system or shall we say that Flans, snow elves, Suels, Leraras are "subspecies"?
    GreySage

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    Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:39 am  

    MToscan wrote:
    Should we consider ethnic variations out of this system or shall we say that Flans, snow elves, Suels, Leraras are "subspecies"?


    Leraras and Neanderthals probably qualify as separate human subspecies. Perhaps skulks, githyanki, grimlocks, and similarly divergent human descendants as well. Ordinary humans are all Homo sapiens sapiens, the only human subspecies alive on our world today.

    Insofar as groups like the Flan, Oeridians, Baklunish, Olman, Rhennee, Suel, and Touv correspond fairly closely to real-world human races (even if we can't always agree on which correspond to which), they are not different enough to be considered subspecies. Throughout much of the Flanaess they don't even qualify as regional variations of the same subspecies, since they've long since all interbred with one another to the point of no longer existing in their ancestral forms.

    As I wrote above, elven inheritance doesn't seem to work the same way that real-world inheritance does. Members of elven subraces retain their distinctive phenotypes even after crossbreeding, so they probably count as distinct subspecies even when they share the same territory and interbreed constantly. I'm not really sure how it works when different kinds of dwarves or halflings interbreed, but since they don't correspond to anything real I don't see any reason you couldn't call hill dwarves and mountain dwarves sub-species of dwarves if you wanted to.

    As for bugbears, I'd do it this way:

    Kingdom = Animalia
    Phylum = Chordata
    Class = Mammalia
    Order = Primate
    Family = Adentidae
    Genus = Goblinus (or Jebli)
    Species = ursus (or buchveer)
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