Currently I have a campaign where the highly capable antagonist has a weak spot: A very beautiful, highly intelligent, jocund and unfortunately pretty spoiled raven which is also able to speak. The antagonist is forced to leave his home and I expect that the players will...erm..."visit" his house and find the bird.

In preparation I asked myself how the raven will react to the group and how to best play him (I wondered e.g. if birds are able to cry for manipulating others and the answer is that at least normal birds cannot do that). This developed into a general question:

Do you have any hints how to play convincingly the interaction between the player characters and intelligent non-humanoids (Humanoid = looks like a human with modifications: other head (Illithid, Orc), an attachment (tail, third eye) or whatever) ?

Do you or your players care at all ?

I also mastered horror adventures and I also asked myself how I can best transmit the alienness of a monster which cannot (or will not) speak together with the revelation that this thing is capable of understanding human behavior.


closed as primarily opinion-based by user27327, ShadowKras, Oblivious Sage, Longspeak, Wibbs Jun 20 '17 at 18:22

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This helps people relate to non-human things. A personified object or creature encourages interaction, and helps people get thinking about what's going on in its "head." Once they're there, though, they may make the mistake of thinking of the personified creature or object as human. This is where the next point comes into effect.

Different Goals / Morality / Overall Viewpoint

It seems that most humanoids in RPGs have very similar social needs. Animals (and objects) may not have those needs. Many animals, as part of their natural lifecycle, don't experience the same social structure as humans. (Some creatures like spiders even end up eating their mothers, and that's normal.) It is therefore possible that they don't ascribe to human morality. Even if the animal cares for humans and has some social bond with them, they certainly would have a different viewpoint.

For instance, think of a cat and a dog whose owner has recently died. How do the pets react? Most cats are very solitary, so its owner's death may be sad, but not as devastating as it would be to a dog. It's not that the cat didn't care or isn't sad, but that the health of their master was not a major priority to them, and they can (and often do) get along fine without them. The dog, on the other hand, would care more about his human because dogs are not solitary animals; they like their "pack" and social principles are better ingrained into them.

If you figure out what the animal would care about and how they generally interact with humans, you can get a good idea of how interactions with the party ought to go, and play the creature well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have marked it as best answer so far because it also added different goals. \$\endgroup\$ – Thorsten S. Sep 6 '14 at 23:11

Simple literary device: Personification. Tell the players what the creature is doing and explain what it looks like to them.

"The bird caws rapidly and bounces back and forth, head looking over its wing as if to notion there is danger ahead"

"The fox regards them coldly as they step into its domain before turning away, uninterested."

"The cat dashes between their legs, its tail twisting and whipping behind it....almost taunting the adventures to try and keep up"

If you keep things simple, most players will pay attention to the cues you are giving them. Sans personification and explicit clues to behavior, most players will ignore such encounters unless they have strong reason otherwise.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Disney/Pixar/Ghibli can provide a lot of inspiration \$\endgroup\$ – Cristol.GdM Sep 5 '14 at 19:55

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