Friday, April 29, 2011

Z Is for Zoo

In a fantasy city, where would all of the wondrous animals, monsters, and other unique entities be found? Why, in the zoo of course.

On one hand, in a fantasy city setting, zoos may seem incredibly dangerous. After all, some of the inhabitants there are bound to get out and cause all sorts of trouble. Well, that depends on the nature of the creatures released and how often it happens.

In C J Sansom's Soverign, while Matthew is out and about, someone opns up a bear cage in an effort to get the bear to finish him off. In a D&D campaign, perhaps someone lets out some creatures in order to take advantage of the chaos the situation brings, an indirect method of murder, or because they feel a social injustice is being done to the monster.

In some settings, the zoo may be huge. For example, in basic D&D, the Hollow Earth, is essentially one big perserve with people among its many wonders. In some ways, its whole purpose is to shelter civilizations that simply couldn't make it on the surface world.

Players may find themselves tossed up as oddities on an alien world if your game runs a little closer to the Planetary Romance that has a lot of influence on earlier editions of the game. Whole cities may be captured and put on display, such as the alien Brianic does with different civilizations to study and perseve them.

The more fantastic the setting, the more high end such zoos can be. In one campaign I ran, there were a series of islands run by mages with the entry point "Mage's Port", holding a wide variety of animals that were not native to the mainland, so that new travellers could quickly learn some of the flora and fauna about the place. In addition, the guilds offered high fees for animals brought back alive for further study, and lesser funds for those brought back dead but intact for museum pieces.

In additilon, if you just want another showpiece of how far the cilization has come, a well tended, well run zoo can be a sign of many things, and power is one of them. Who has the funds to take care of these animals? To feed them? To shelter them? To treat them when sick? To provide habitats that they can thrive in? Even in today's soceity, not all zoos are equal and not all zoos can quality as something where animals are taken care of and are not under a death sentence. You can tell a lot about a ciliziation by the way the treat their less fortunate people and their animals in captivity.