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Developing Gargoyles for My Flintlock Fantasy Setting

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Patrick-Leigh, Jul 18, 2020.

  1. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    So, in developing the races for my flintlock fantasy setting, I've decided that I'd like to include Gargoyles as a collection of both sapient and non-sapient beings. I won't deny that I was a big fan of the Disney series Gargoyles as a kid, but my goal here isn't to rip off that show, only to pay a bit of homage to it, while coming up with my own take on the concept of Gargoyles. There is a French legend relating to Gargoyles that I'm using as one source of inspiration for my own take on these beings, but the concept of grotesques being used to "ward off evil" from a place, such as with carvings of the head of Medusa, is also a premise that I find interesting. A creature that looks frightening actually being a guardian and protector is simply brimming with story potential, as I think the show Gargoyles effectively proved.

    But, as I said, I don't want to completely rip off the show and use some of my own ideas. I believe I've come up with a few that may work, but I'm interesting in hearing what others have to say on the matter in order to gauge how an audience might react to my take on Gargoyles and refine my concepts more.

    First off, let's establish something about my story setting. it's a high-magic place with multiple Planes, Deities, and all manner of races and creatures. One very important detail is a period of conflict between the gods called the Divine War, which did a lot of damage to the Multiverse. Some races were altered into different beings, like a group of Humans becoming the first Centaurs. However, nearly all sapient races were created from the nine Core Races, Humans, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Faeries, Kobolds, and Draconians. It's that last race that's going to be the origin of Gargoyles in my story setting. However, unlike Humans being transformed into Centaurs, the first Gargoyles were not transformed by random fallout from the fighting among the gods. Instead, they were deliberately transformed.

    Origins of the Gargoyles

    My idea is that there was a group of Draconian marauders who were engaging in some very, very evil deeds. Think of the horrible things the Soviet Union did to its own people and others and you've got the basic idea of how bad these Draconians were. The superior strength and magical abilities Draconians possess made them believe they were unstoppable, so they didn't restrain themselves in any way.

    The outcry against this group of marauders was so great that a god I'm presently calling Vertazael, the Archon of Truth and Justice, could no longer ignore it. Though he had a great many things on his plate because of the Divine War, he simply could not allow these Draconians to continue hurting people in such despicable ways. He confronted them in person and gave them one chance to change for the good.

    The Draconian marauders laughed in his face. They knew he was a god, but they figured his power was spread too thin dealing with the various conflicts in which all the gods were engaged at the time. What they failed to recognize was that it wouldn't take much of his power to deal with them.

    And deal with them he did. Vertazael transformed the Draconian marauders into the first Gargoyles and the various beasts that served them into the first Bestial Gargoyles, which I'm considering calling Grotesques, since Bestial Gargoyle is a bit clunky sounding to my ears. Their forms were not the only thing to change, however. Whenever the sun rose above the horizon, the Gargoyles would transform (or appear to transform) into stone. In this state, they were rendered unconscious, meaning they were utterly powerless to defend themselves from those who wanted to take revenge on them. And even if no such people were around, there were other things that could hurt the Gargoyles. They were completely helpless unless another party defended them while they rested.

    In short, Vertazael forced the Gargoyles to form symbiotic relationships with other races. They could no longer be entirely self-sufficient. Further, he adjusted their psychology so that breaking an oath would be very, very difficult for a Gargoyle to do. Not impossible, but deliberately failing to keep their word would cause them immense distress. Even considering breaking their word would cause mental duress. Thus, it would take an incredible willpower for a Gargoyle to become an oath-breaker. (This doesn't apply to failing to keep a vow due to circumstances over which the Gargoyle has no control, mind you. If someone they've promised to protect gets struck by lightning, then it's a different matter entirely.)

    Likewise, Bestial Gargoyles, or Grotesques, were modified to have powerful instincts to form symbiotic relationships with other creatures and protect them. A lone Grotesque will seek out a person to guard and serve rather than try to fend for itself, though they generally stay close to Gargoyles, since they're doing the same thing, anyway, and have an instinctive connection to them.

    So, that's the origins of Gargoyles and Grotesques. Now let's get into my ideas for how they work.
     
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  2. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Flesh by Night, Stone by Day

    I'm thinking that Gargoyles and Grotesques do not actually transform into stone. Rather, a stone shell forms over their bodies, as well as anything they have on their person at the time (unless it's a living being.) Beneath the shell, the Gargoyle and Grotesque is very much alive, but in a state of deep, deep sleep. (Their bodies can handle sleeping in just about any position, so they can assume any pose they like and wake up without any muscle craps or other issues.) When the sun sets below the horizon, the shell shatters and evaporates, leaving no residue or debris in its wake. The Gargoyle awakens fully rejuvenated from their deep rest.

    As to what the shell is, I'm leaning toward graphene. The Gargoyle's body uses an innate Arcane process to draw carbon from the air (probably by changing CO2 into O2 and C) and arranges the carbon atoms into graphene, or something similar to it. This is why any items on the Gargoyle appear to turn to stone as well. The shell is formed over them along with the body. Regardless of whether the shell is made of graphene or not, the point is that it's made of a very durable form of carbon. The shell is not completely impregnable, nor is it immune to Arcane Magic or Psionic effects, so there are still ways that a Gargoyle can be hurt within its shell.

    When the sun rises, the Gargoyle's body uses another innate Arcane process to remove the shell (probably by causing the C atoms to bond with O2 atoms in the air around them,) which is why the shell evaporates. A Gargoyle has no control over this process and it will begin and end with the rising and setting of the sun, no matter where the Gargoyle is or in what pose.

    The one thing I'm really struggling to account for is how the Gargoyle breaths while inside the shell. I can see the shell regulating heat and moisture in various ways by being modified by innate magic in the Gargoyle's body, but if the Gargoyle cannot expand or contract its diaphragm, how exactly does it breath? Plus, I want it to be difficult to tell the difference between a real Gargoyle and a statue and listening for breathing would certainly give away which was which. I suppose they could be able to breath through their skin while in their shells thanks to some property of the shell, but I'm not sure. I'm open to suggestions on this.

    One other thing I think about the encased state of Gargoyles is that, while they're resting, their bodies are absorbing sunlight and using it to produce some kind of energy for when they're awake. It might not be exactly light photosynthesis, but the principle would be the same. They wouldn't get all of their nutrition from sunlight, however. Gargoyles do need to eat and drink, like other fauna, but their diets would not be as large as one might expect for creatures their size because they harness sunlight for energy as well.

    Flesh by Day under Some Circumstances

    There are a few ways a Gargoyle could prevent the shell from forming around its body. I'm thinking that an Arcane Device can stop sunlight from triggering the process from starting. However, while such things would enable a Gargoyle to remain flesh during the day, there would be some drawbacks to doing so. Since they can only harness sunlight for energy with the shell around their bodies, avoiding their stone state for too long would necessitate eating a lot more food, and even then, I think there might be certain nutrients they need that can only be obtained while encased. So, the longer they stay out of the stone state, the weaker they become, no matter how much food they eat.

    The second issue would be that they don't sleep as deeply outside of their stone state. I've read research on what happens to people when they don't get to enter REM sleep for extended periods and how that can mess with their mental health, so I'm thinking that something similar will happen to a Gargoyle the longer it avoids the stone state. They don't get to enter the deeper stages of sleep and reap the benefits of it. Their minds become sluggish and they have less control over their emotions. Eventually, they'll simply be too fatigued mentally to put off going into their stone state.

    Lastly, I think that the stone state allows a Gargoyle to recover from injuries quickly. It may take multiple entries into the stone state to deal with a serious wound, but that's still a faster recovery than what normal people would get. However, the regenerative abilities of Gargoyles are only active in the stone state. Wounds may seal up quickly while flesh, but they won't properly heal unless the Gargoyle is encased by the shell.

    The point is that a Gargoyle may be able to avoid the stone state with the right magical item, but they must return to their stone state eventually or suffer serious mental and physical effects.
     
  3. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Physical Characteristics of Sapient Gargoyles

    Sapient Gargoyles, being descended from Draconians, have some dragon-like features on their bodies. These include horns, a tail with a spade at the end, and wings. While I'm still figuring out wings on Draconians, such as whether they truly have them or just conjure simulacrums of wings temporarily, I do know that Gargoyle wings are parts of their bodies. I'm thinking they look less like bat wings and more like pterodactyl wings, however, in order to better differentiate them from Draconians. These wings are not capable of lifting a Gargoyle into the air. They can only glide, since they don't have the right muscles to generate sufficient force for lift. However, most Gargoyles have an innate ability to use Air Energy to manipulate air flow around their bodies so they can launch themselves into the air if necessary. This ability also lets them accelerate while gliding, though if they run out of Air Energy, they're stuck with mundane gliding and cannot lift off from the ground.

    Gargoyles would also be somewhat smaller than Draconians. The average Draconian is over seven feet tall. Gargoyles would be no more than six and a half feet tall at the most, with most averaging around six feet in height. That said, they have bulkier muscles than Draconians, who are rather lithe. In terms of physical strength, they can at least match a Draconian but rarely surpass them.

    That's about all I know for sure about their physical characteristics. I'm open to suggestion on this. While I'm okay paying tribute to Disney Gargoyles with how my Gargoyles look, I don't want them to be identical to them, so ideas for other things to do with them would be appreciated.

    Psychology of Sapient Gargoyles

    Due to the adjustments Vertazael made to the minds of the original Gargoyles, the race has always had a deep need to forge alliances with other peoples. Gargoyles are not simply compelled to have partners to protect them during the day. They do not feel fulfilled unless they are protecting and serving other people. Some Gargoyles are able to break away from this desire, but it is rare. I should stress, however, that this does not mean Gargoyles lack free will or that they are codependent on other people. They won't put up with being treated like doormats and will voice their displeasure at being taken for granted. Further, while breaking an oath is hard to do, that only applies to when the other party is upholding their end of the deal. If a Gargoyle makes an oath that he will protect you as long as you protect him and provide him with certain things, he will not have difficulty leaving if he concludes you're not holding up your end of the bargain. Gargoyle oaths are not unconditional or one-sided. Their loyalty has limits and if you're being a parasitic partner instead of a symbiotic one, they'll seek a new partner without any mental duress.

    Additionally, while protecting people is important to Gargoyles, they don't dedicate all their time to that. A group of Gargoyles will work in shifts, with some standing watch while others do other things, like preparing food, working on clothing and equipment, or pursuing hobbies. Often, if you grant them permission to do this, their loyalty will greatly increase. Further, this also enables them to assist you in other ways by being the literal night shift. They can do chores, smithing, maintenance, and other things while the rest of your work force is sleeping. Thus, any compound that pairs up with Gargoyles can be productive around the clock, not just during the day. Some Gargoyles are rarely on guard duty, in fact, serving in other roles, such as a resident Alchemist. As long as their work contributes to the symbiotic partnership, the Gargoyle will be fine.

    Lastly, I'm thinking that Gargoyles almost always work as groups. They have clans and tribes that will work for groups of people, including an entire settlement, in exchange for protection during the day, food, and material supplies. If the settlement fails to provide these things, the Gargoyle clan will seek out a new partner. Most groups of people are not dumb enough to let this happen, however, and will be careful to uphold their end of the deal.
     
  4. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Bestial Gargoyles, aka Grotesques

    Grotesques are something I'm still trying to figure out. I have a definite idea for one type of Grotesque, but I'm debating if there's more than one kind. I'll describe the variety I am sure of having, but if you have suggestions for other kinds of Grotesques, I'm all ears.

    In terms of appearance, I'm thinking that Grotesques are a blend of canine, feline, and reptilian features. The images below should give you an idea of what I'm envisioning:

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    While they can be very frightening to behold, Grotesques are actually very noble creatures. They're loyal to sapient Gargoyles but also anyone those Gargoyles choose to protect. While ferocious in battle, they're not aggressive creatures outside of it. Imagine the most faithful dog who never barks without good reason and you have the right idea of how Grotesques behave. If one of them decides to be your friend, he's going to be your best friend. He'll watch over you while you're sleeping and, if you're awake while the sun is down, be a good, obedient companion. Grotesques are also eerily quiet, both in the noise they make and how silently they can move. This allows them to get the drop on any intruders quite effectively.

    Conclusion

    So, those are all the ideas I have for my Gargoyles Are they too similar to the Gargoyles from the Disney show? Do you think there should be more than one kind of Grotesque? Should Grotesques have wings or not? Let me know what you think?
     
  5. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    Pictures 3 and 5 kind of remind me slightly of Bronx. Three is like him with wings and five the hunchback dog and draconic design. Otherwise, they don't seem too much like the Manhattan Clan. Particularly going all out like you are. Not sure what to tell you about the need to breathe while in stone, but I don't go quite as deep in my world building. Unless you just solve it by some magic or the biology of breathing through skin and porous holes in the rock. They can collect sunlight, why not breathe that way too?

    I admit to using the show for my world's own gargoyles, which are a subset of the mountain trolls. They just don't get to go to New York and fight Commander Riker and Donna Troi.
     
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  6. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Yes, my Gargoyles don't get to go to any kind of modern city, either! Ha! I'm thinking my protagonist, Perdita, has some Gargoyles protecting one of her estates and that a Grotesque called Zev is going to be one of her animal companions. He's very protective of her and stays on her bed while she's sleeping so he can guard her. I'm thinking he's also a very good judge of character, so if he doesn't like someone (indicated by a very soft growl and nothing more,) then Perdita knows that person is trouble.
     
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