Libris Monstrum #38: Doppelgangers Revisited
The long awaited (I hope) return of the Libris Monstrum is here. Thus begins the opening of the Libris Monstrum to discuss classic monsters from D&D and where they come from. Before we get into I want to remind everyone where we are. There are currently 3 more entries left in this series, each of which is a revisit from 21-30. While normally we would look for monsters to explore the mythologies of for a new series, I think we are going to take a slightly different approach. Moving forward we will focus less on the full exploration of monster history and mover onto idea generation. Oh sure, I will look into it and mention parts of the history I find but alongside that is going to be some idea creation. I’ll have more on this later and already know the first entry topic, but for now let’s talk doppelgängers. Click here for the first entry!
While not quite doppelgängers, evil twins represent another facet of the fun that are doubles. Most of us will recognize this concept and there are many memories that are probably evoked from merely mentioning them. It’s my guess you are probably picturing goatees but your first thoughts likely include scars, distinctive (and different) clothing choices, unique haircuts, and the like. There are many things that make a double stand out from their twin and they are all noticeably memorable compared to the original “twin”.
This difference is a visual queue to match the major role an evil twin plays. As the name implies, this type of character is almost always evil, but this stems from their roles as opposite the characters they happen to be twins to. These are generally the heroes of the story. The classic goatee comes from early Star Trek episodes where the evil twins had goatees (probably because its an easily created and used bit of makeup for the time). Not all evil twins are evil though. Sometimes they are good. The key factor is that they are morally reversed from the twin. So, if you happen to have a scar, beard, or stand-out haircut watch for a plain looking double and maybe consider that you are the evil one.
The other topic we are going to cover might not be what you are thinking right now. Mimicry is, of course, the copying of something to a significant extent. Often one who can mimic will sound just like the person or noise they are trying to replicate. Many birds are known mimics in this manner. For example, the blue jay (or at least some birds with this name) is very good at mimicking the calls of other birds and you might notice that it has quite the range if you watch them closely.
But this type of mimicry is not what I am talking about. We want to consider biological mimicking of other kinds. In the evolution of so many species, some have developed features that make them nearly indistinguishable from other species. For the most part you would never even know let alone notice, you would have no reason to. Nevertheless they exist and in most cases at least one of the two are incredibly dangerous.
Just mentioning it you might have some ideas about what I am talking about. Ever heard “red touches black you’re okay Jack, red touches yellow you’re a dead fellow” or something similar? You probably have if you are from the United States. You see, milk snakes and coral snakes look incredibly similar and this is especially true to those who don’t like snakes or aren’t keen on smaller details. One of these snakes is a fairly docile, harmless creature. The other is quite venomous. I’ll give you a hint its called a coral snake and the rhyme let’s you know which is which.
Though, to be fair, we had a whole bit on mimics a long time ago that should be a pretty good example. Still, check out this Wiki page for more on mimicry in nature because it isn’t restricted to aberrant creatures looking like something else. There are many really world examples from snakes to fish to plants. Think about tomatoes which are related to nightshades and whose fruit you would not accidentally want to mix up! Use examples of real life in fantastical ways to spice up your world without making a whole bunch of mimics (save those for the dungeons).
How have you used mimicry in your game? Does your character have an evil twin? Are they the evil twin!? Let us know in the comments below. Oh, and let us know about creatures you would like to see explored for ideas on how to use. We will need to make a new list of 10 soon and exploration is going to be fun!