A: Hate ‘em! Hate ‘em! Hate ‘em!
C: Well, that’s Angela’s opening salvo in this conversation! I’m so fascinated to be talking about this topic, because it’s something where Angela and I are diametrically opposed—and I simply do not understand her reasoning. I legit cannot understand it.
A: They shouldn’t exist.
C: So, I’m going to introduce what we’re talking about today, and I’m going to be totally impartial in this bit. Today we’re discussing dinosaurs in RPGs and tabletop settings. Let’s think about a fantasy setting, and now let’s add dinosaurs in there. Some people really, really like this; they think it adds this cool, fantastic—
A: They’re wrong.
C: Well. It’s clear what sides of this issue we fall upon. Would you like to give us your opening statement on the subject?
A: I hate them. They shouldn’t go in any fantasy setting. Imagine Lord of the Rings and then add a T-Rex into it. It destroys all gravitas. Also it doesn’t make any sense. In a world with dinosaurs, why haven’t they eaten everyone?
C: …Okay. I’m going to give my opening statement now. Hi, my name’s Calder Hudson. I’m a good old-fashioned RPG player just like you. I love a cold beer and love my friends—men, women, NBs, everybody—and I’m here to say that dinosaurs in Pathfinder are good. In a game with magic and with dragons, what’s one little triceratops going to do?
A: In a game with magic and dragons, dinosaurs aren’t needed.
C: The people agree with me, Angela—there’s whole books written designed to add dinosaurs and dinosaur-racing and dinosaur animal companions into Pathfinder. One of the best Wild Shapes is into a raptor, but you won’t let me get it because you think it’s illegal!
A: Oh, I’m not saying you can’t get it. I’m just saying, if you get it, there will be dire consequences. The dinosaur hunters of my world will immediately be summoned to hunt you down and destroy you.
C: I can almost zone in on your perspective with this, which is that it feels like genre-mixing. It’s like if there were aliens.
A: Right. Like, it would also feel wrong if we had more modern elements in our game, such as if there were nineteenth century cowboys drinking in saloons, and bandits holding up trains.
C: Hold up. My game has at least one cowboy in it. Do you hate his existence?
A: But he’s fitting into the world that exists. He’s not starting a gold rush or robbing trains.
C: Why don’t you think that dinosaurs would also exist in that way though?
A: Because in this analogy, they are the train.
C: Dinosaurs could have more agency in our world. There are all sorts of ways to explain it.
A: I don’t want dinosaurs to have more agency! That’s not the issue.
C: Okay, let’s move our discussion on. I’m going to say an animal, and you say whether it has the divine right to exist in a fantasy world. We’ll start easy: T-Rex?
C: Riding-dog, large enough for a human to ride?
A: Sure. It’s a magical beast, but sure.
C: Woolly mammoth?
C: Woolly mammoth, no? A no on woolly mammoth? You’re going head to head with George R.R. Martin on this one?
C: Why not a woolly mammoth? I thought we were going to get through at least, like, sabretooth cat—
C: What!? Why sabretooth cat and not mammoth? There’s no temporal distinction here. And both existed at the same time as humans…
A: Humans would have killed them all by now.
C: That’s not how it works. This is madness. Okay, hang on. Do you know what a basilosaurus is?
A: No, but it has the suffix ‘-saurus’, so I’m going to say no.
C: It’s a type of whale.
A: Oh wait, I’ll let you put whatever you want in the sea. The sea’s weird.
C: ‘The sea’s weird.’ The sea gets special pass, everybody! If your T-Rex can swim, it’s good to go!
A: Oh no, they have to breath underwater. If it has gills—
C: Okay, if you have aquatic T-Rexes, you’re fine. But at least you’ll allow me the sea. Angela, sharks existed at the same time as T-Rexes. Are you going to deny sharks? You gonna deny fucking crocodiles? I guess you’d ban big, old ones—
A: No, I’ll let you have big ones. But they’re magical beasts.
C: Would you be cool if we had a T-Rex if it was classified as a magical beast instead of an animal?
C: But… Okay, look, in a world where the dead come back to life, why can’t there be dinosaurs?
A: Because the dragons would have eaten them all! They aren’t going to let the dinosaurs muscle into their territory obviously.
C: Angela—dragons and dinosaurs are not the same thing. Just because they’re big and toothy—you’re being fucking species-ist.
A: That’s how my dragons are in our world. My dragons have eaten all the dinosaurs.
C: Fucking dinosaurs have, like, an Intelligence of 2!
A: That’s why the dragons ate them all. It was really easy to catch them.
C: But—Okay, new point: you’ve said to me—and this is where I think I get you, not to excite the audience too much as I set myself up for a complete, colossal failure—you’ve said to me that you are interested in having megatherium, which are giant ground sloths, in our game.
C: Explain this to me, right fucking now.
A: Look, I’m okay with large animals.
C: You bastard. You’re saying this because you like them! It doesn’t make any sense on your binary but you want them in the game!
A: I’m fine if you just make things large! Large elks—those are great. Large—
C: Ground sloths are not a thing anymore. They’re gone. We’re not making normal sloths bigger.
A: But we sort of are.
C: I give up.
A: I hate dinosaurs, Calder, I hate them. They don’t fit into my fantasy setting.
C: Why don’t they fit into your fantasy setting?
A: Because it makes no sense for the way the world has evolved.
C: But look, there used to be more oxygen and there were bigger fucking bugs. Are you angry about big bugs?
A: I don’t think there’s that much oxygen in our fantasy world anymore—
C: But are you angry about big bugs?
A: Well, now they’re dead.
C: Like, if we had a grasshopper that was large, which is a thing in fucking D&D I’m sure, is that off the table?
A: Well, I don’t really like it.
C: There are riding slugs that sverfneblins get—are they off the table?
A: I mean, they’re kind of ridiculous.
C: God forbid we have something ridiculous in our D&D game! Listen, at the end of the day, this is my world, and I’m bringing in dinosaurs no matter what.
A: You can bring them into your world, but I will go ham on them.
C: Angela ‘I am the extinction event’ Hicks—in our world, there was a meteorite sixty-five million years ago; in D&D world, it was Angela.
A: Yes. You’ve introduced dinosaurs into your game already, and if you think I’ll leave them in peace just because they’re small, you are wrong. I will kill them and wipe all memory of them from the face of the earth.
C: I’ve specifically let your character add their gnome’s hatred bonus to dinosaurs because of how strongly you, Angela, feel about this issue.
A: I do feel very strongly about it.
C: You are literally a creationist in fantasy settings and I don’t understand it at all.
A: I’m the opposite. I don’t want dinosaurs and humans to coexist. I don’t understand why you’re having difficulty with this.
C: What do you mean—I’m having difficulty with this!?
A: It’s is like having all the weird stages of evolution existing at once.
C: Okay, I think at some stage, we can agree to disagree. But also, Angela is a zealot about genre-blocking and refuses to do anything bold. It’s outrageous! You’re a fool! I can’t fucking stand you! But also, I love you, and I will tolerate your weird proclivities.
A: I’m giving you the ocean, Calder. Isn’t that enough? Now let me destroy those tiny, baby dinosaurs!