Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I discover I have surprisingly strong feelings on griffons versus hippogriffs

The most recent Dragon’s-Eye View from Wizards of the Coast took a look at hippogriffs.  The article focused on how to make hippogriffs visually distinctive from griffons.  It made me think about griffons versus hippogriffs for the first time in a long time.

Being a player from back in the AD&D First Edition days, I tend to think of griffons as cool, but hippogriffs as practical.  Griffons in first edition were both intelligent and deadly.  They could also understand common, which opened up all sorts of coordination between the rider and his mount.  So what was the down side?

Well, griffons eat horses.  They really love to eat horses.  They also love to eat things that sort of look like horses, such as pegasi and hippogriffs. This tended to be a problem unless the entire party was mounted on griffons.  Even then, you had to make sure that your griffon didn’t chow down on the king’s prize stallion when you weren’t paying attention.

Hippogriffs weren’t as cool.  They were the safe choice.  You acquired hippogriffs if you needed a flying mount, but really didn’t want all the hassle that comes with griffon ownership.  Having a hippogriff mount is a bit like owning a nice family sedan instead of a red sports car.

I suppose that is why I always preferred griffons to hippogriffs in D&D.  In real life I would probably buy the family sedan, but my badass adventurer deserves an equally badass mount.

Of course, modern literature has provided us with one badass hippogriff: Buckbeak.

Hand me my ferret, its the one that says bad motherfucker on it.

Buckbeak is a badass because he basically acts like a First Edition D&D griffon.  If you look at Buckbeak funny, he will smack you down.  It doesn’t matter if you are a child or a werewolf, you don’t mess with Buckbeak!  He never eats any horses in the Harry Potter books, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

So does any of this have any bearing on designing hippogriffs in D&D Next?  Probably not.  I can understand why game designers wouldn’t want to make griffons and hippogriffs even more indistinguishable.  There is a place for the family sedan, even in the D&D game world.

You just won’t find my character riding one.


John said...

In myth, the hippogriff was supposed to be a sort of super-griffon, the impossible scion of griffon and horse. I guess the problem is that, when you've already got eagle and lion, there's just no way that adding horse to the mix can make something cooler.

Medraut said...

@John - Yeah, I know how rare and cool hippogriffs were supposed to be in the original myth. Gary even threw a bone to that in the original Monster Manual by making griffons uncommon and hippogriffs rare.

Of course he also gave hippogriffs half the hit dice and made them semi-intelligent beasts!

John said...

Actually griffins are semi-intelligent too. Here's how I'd distinguish them, if flying mounts were likely to come up in my campaign. The hippogriff, in line with the original myth, should occupy the same niche as the pegasus. It's extremely fast, maneuverable, easily trained, intelligent, loyal, docile, and very rare and hard to come by. A good mount for a paladin.
Griffons are flying brutes. They're aggressive, wilful, hard to train, don't like strangers, expensive to feed, and have a penchant for eating horses. They're slower than hippogriffs, but also a lot bigger and more dangerous.
Pegasus can go back to being some semi-divine mythical being whose footsteps create mountain springs or whatever it was he did before Perseus got ahold of him.

Medraut said...

@John - Oops, good catch on the semi-intelligent thing. For some reason I could have sworn griffons had average intelligence.

I really like your idea for hippogriffs as a replacement for the niche pegasi currently serve as mounts.