What’s a good way to con­cept­ing an orig­i­nal fan­tasy hu­manoid?

Gerry Ley­land, US

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Dave replies

In­vent­ing new hu­manoids is great fun, but an aware­ness of real-world crea­tures and anatomies can make them much more con­vinc­ing.

I re­cently came across Dun­kleosteus, a pow­er­ful ar­moured fish from the Late Devo­nian pe­riod with a beak-like ar­range­ment of bone blades in place of teeth. Dun­kleosteus had a great face, so I con­sider how to adapt it into a hu­manoid. Preda­tors tend to have for­ward­fac­ing eyes, while prey have widely spaced vi­sion on the sides of their heads. For my new Dunkeloid, I set the eyes slightly apart, but still for­ward-fac­ing. Dun­kleosteus even had ar­moured eye rings, which look very strik­ing on my new chap! I nar­row the wide jaw plates to cre­ate more of a chin ef­fect.

With the pow­er­ful jaw mech­a­nism that Dun­kleosteus pos­sessed, I fig­ure that Dunkeloid would have mas­sive jaw mus­cu­la­ture. How­ever, to in­tro­duce some vul­ner­a­bil­ity to the character, I look at the long necks of tor­toises. Us­ing softer, thin­ner neck folds cre­ates tex­tu­ral con­trast to all that bone and cara­pace, and I use tor­toise-in­spired pat­terns across the shoul­ders.

By bor­row­ing in­ter­est­ing ideas from th­ese two ac­tual crea­tures, my new fan­tasy character now has more be­liev­abil­ity. Take a look into the less-trav­elled cor­ners of the an­i­mal world, and let your­self be in­spired by the un­usual denizens wait­ing there!

My hu­manoid ver­sion of a large, im­pos­ing pre­his­toric ar­moured fish is now able to wear a hat or drive a car!

A Dun­kleosteus skull at the Queens­land Mu­seum in Bris­bane. The fish had un­be­liev­able jaw power, and could bite through bone.

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