Years and years ago I was asked what exactly makes a Kreature a Kreature: what rules or limitations do I follow to keep them consistent? What are their defining traits? Since I wrote the last batch of rules I’ve grown up and my sensibilities have changed. As I’ve seen my designs become somewhat inbred I’ve become less restrictive. I still follow a set of “rules” but they aren’t set in stone.

Keep in mind that these are not guidelines for monster design in general, they pertain to my webcomic specifically. If you want to design your own monsters differently that’s perfectly valid and okay!

1. Kreatures have a consistent, unified origin

In Dimentiara, monsters (known locally as “Kreatures”) are not the stuff of myth and legend: they’re a part of everyday life. All Kreatures have a nucleus which is the source of their powers and generates a “nucleo-aura” that can be used to attack or defend. Kreatures can have incredible powers such as eyebeams, fire breath, telekinesis, etc, but these powers are best understood as expressions of their nucleo-auras rather than magic. This isn’t to say that Dimentiara has no mythology or that all of its mysteries have been solved, but Kreatures are not mystical. There are no “Legendary Kreatures” that govern the forces of nature or bullshit like that.

2. Keep them simple, but exotic

Battle Kreaturez follows an “elevator pitch” approach to monster design; something cohesive and simple that can be summed up succinctly:

Geksaur: “This one’s a composite lizard monster that loosely resembles a dinosaur!”
Koobine: “It’s a deceptively cute spheroid imp monster with pyrokinesis!”
Guillojaw: “A giant armoured fish monster with a beak like a snapping turtle!”
Trashamble: “A bipedal bug-eyed blob monster that assimilates garbage!”
Mardax: “A flying mutant marsupial monster with giant ears for wings!”
Bladetayto: “It’s a potato monster with three eyes, a big mouth and four branches tipped with scythes!”
Zictroe: “It’s a semi-mammalian winged saurian monster that absorbs energy from the moon!”

And so on and so forth. Avoid making them too gimmicky or over-designed. Mystery Kreatures can be a little more abstract, being manifestatons of pure K-Matter, but you should still be able to “elevator pitch” it. Try not to be too cliché with colour schemes. A fire breathing monster doesn’t always need to be red or orange. Aquatic monsters don’t need to be blue. Plants don’t need to be green. There’s plenty of nice tertiary colours out there; no need to cling to primaries and secondaries.

3. Tailor them for specific roles

I’ve found that a lot of my best Kreature designs have come about by specifically designing a Kreature to suit the needs of a character. For Kristy, I wanted to give her Kreatures that would present her with versatile combat options that would convey her personal tastes. To this end, I redesigned Koobine and specifically designed Silkiure and Ogofish to reflect her cheeky sense of humour, her ruthlessness, and elegance, respectively, and tied them all together with a scohesive colour scheme and a smoke/fire motif. Being custom-made for a story always results in a stronger design than just some random standalone monster.

4. Don’t forget that they’re MONSTERS

For all this talk of a lack of mysticism in this setting, let it be said that Battle Kreaturez is not a speculative zoology project. I am not Dougal Dixon. Kreatures are not animals; this is a setting where monsters are real. Feel free to draw inspiration from nature, but don’t be afraid to be whimsical or outlandish. Try to avoid the Pokémon school of design where you just draw a cartoon animal and give it a tacky colour scheme. If it looks too mundane, monster it up! Mix and match zoological or botanical features into integrated composites! I call this the “blended chimera” approach. I find it’s generally more fun and interesting when monsters are more ambiguous rather than obviously based on one specific thing.

5. Avoid anthropomorphism

Kreatures are not Pokémon or Digimon. Kreatures are sentient, but Wally is unique among them in being sapient. To reinforce this notion, avoid designing Kreatures that appear overly anthropomorphic. Kreatures do not wear clothing or jewelry or carry weapons, though fur, scales, foliage, or appendages that loosely invoke these things can work if done tastefully. Humanoid Kreatures are okay in the sense that ogres or goblins or bigfoot could be considered humanoid – just keep them bestial, or eerie in an uncanny valley sort of way, don’t make them counterintuitively sexy. Basically if it looks like a cosplay or a furry then it’s too humanoid.

6. Avoid “tributes”

I don’t care for monster designs where it’s clear that the primary appeal to them is “oh hey it’s (X) as a monster!” It just breaks the immersion of the setting to have Kreatures that exist to be a “tribute” to something else. It’s the monster design equivalent of a lazy pop culture reference. This isn’t to say that Kreatures can’t be archetypal, there’s no way to avoid being derivative when it comes to art, but it helps to at least not wear it on one’s sleeve.

7. An Addendum on Dragons

Dragon design since the 90s has gotten horrendously inbred and uninspired. If you look at fantasy artwork from before then one will notice that dragons were more than just majestic winged equine dinosaurs or ripoffs of the “Reign of Fire” dragons. These “beautiful” and “naturalistic” dragons were a rebellion against the “monstrous” dragon designs that came before but now they’ve just become the new cliché.

8. No Robots

The word “Creature” denotes some sort of living organism. One of the conceits of Battle Kreaturez is that it takes place in a world where humans and their technology do not have absolute dominion over nature. Kreature Taming is essential for society to function in this setting: if people could just build robots to WTFPWN all the monsters then the premise falls apart. Cyborgs are okay, though, since they don’t undermine the concept any more than Kreature Enhancement Armour does.

9. No Inanimate Objects

This is sort of an extension of the previous point. I won’t be making stuff like ice cream or cogs or mirrors or swords or wind chimes or chandeliers or household electronics or keychains into Kreatures. That’d be creatively bankrupt and impossibly stupid. I’d call it quits before I got that desperate for ideas. Imagine if the creators of some multi-million dollar media franchise actually paid people to come up with designs like that!

10. Metamorphosis is not Ontogeny

When Kreatures metamorphose, they should undergo significant changes. The meta form should be more than just a larger version of the previous stage in its life cycle. Otherwise it’s not metamorphosis, it’s merely an ontogenetic change. A tadpole becoming a frog is metamorphosis. A caterpillar becoming a moth is metamorphosis. A fry becoming a fish is metamorphosis. A kitten becoming a cat, or a puppy becoming a dog, or a fawn becoming a deer, is not metamorphosis, just ontogeny.

At the very LEAST, it should gain something new that alters its silhouette in a noticeable way. In biology this is “incomplete metamorphosis” (for example, a nymph grows wings and turns into a grasshopper.)

Soyeah. These are most of the guidelines I follow while designing Kreatures. I may amend this list if my tastes happen to change in the future.