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View Full Version : OK, so what *is* an Aberration?



fmitchell
08-06-2007, 02:54 AM
I'm partway through Lords of Madness, and the authors describe "aberrations" as "things that should not be". The intent I suppose is either Lovecraftian horrors or truly bizarre creatures. That works for the biggies, like Mind Flayers, Aboleths, Beholders, and the like, but Destrachans look more like magical creatures to me, and Elan are humans reborn as immortal psions.

So, is "aberration" just a catchall for "intelligent but weird"? Is anyone else bothered by this?

Moritz
08-06-2007, 07:46 AM
I was always under the impression that Aberrations were things with origins within other planes?

IE:
Beholder - Plane of Air

ajmuszkiewicz
08-06-2007, 09:50 AM
I was always under the impression that Aberrations were things with origins within other planes?

IE:
Beholder - Plane of Air

Not so. If they were sentient species, they would then be outsiders (such as when the axiomatic template is added to, say, a gnome), if non-sentient then magical beast (such as when the celestial or fiendish template is added to an animal). I wouldn't say that there are NO extraplanar aberrations (most explanations of illithids include some other reality, plane or dimension, like Xoriat in Eberron), but rather that their extraplanar nature is not what makes them aberrations.

What does make them aberrations, then? Tough question.

Examining the name, one would assume that there is some sort of aberrancy which separates them from other natural, planar, or even magical creatures. Some aberrations were previously other forms of creatures but were warped by magic, psionics or other dark powers (like the aforementioned Elan; Elans were once human, but a psionic ritual forever changes them into something else not entirely human or anything else -- they are now aberrant).

Other aberrations are species into and of themselves, like beholders or aboleths, rather than perversions of other species. What makes these creatures aberrations rather than any other creature type? First off, there is no binding descriptor which can fully encapsulate most of these creatures. Most just don't fit in any other category; beholders aren't outsiders, they aren't monstrous humanoids (or even humanoid at all), and if you called a beholder a magical beast you'd be facing every eyestalk ray it could hit you with. Similarly, mind flayers and aboleths just don't fit anywhere else. They are, in fact, aberrant from all other forms of life.

I hope that answer makes some sort of sense or is in any way accurate.

starfalconkd
08-06-2007, 09:56 AM
I'm partway through Lords of Madness, and the authors describe "aberrations" as "things that should not be". The intent I suppose is either Lovecraftian horrors or truly bizarre creatures. That works for the biggies, like Mind Flayers, Aboleths, Beholders, and the like, but Destrachans look more like magical creatures to me, and Elan are humans reborn as immortal psions.

So, is "aberration" just a catchall for "intelligent but weird"? Is anyone else bothered by this?

I thought the book did a good job summing up what and aberration is. Abberations are creatures so alien in thought and form that they can not be classified as related to anything else. The section that talks about them being from out of time, out of space, other prime material worlds, the erthereal plane, the far realm, born of magical mutations, or born from the dreams of insane gods is of particular interest.

fmitchell
08-06-2007, 10:35 AM
I thought the book did a good job summing up what and aberration is. Abberations are creatures so alien in thought and form that they can not be classified as related to anything else.

Yeah, but then I look at other aberrations and they seem more like "let's take another monster and graft on something odd". The Athach are a prime example: an ugly giant with an extra arm and poison ... ooh, bizarre. As opposed to Ettins, who have a second *head* but are still giants.

Methinks the Monster Manual authors weren't so careful in applying the template, and the Lords of Madness authors tried to retcon or gloss over those mistakes.

TheYeti1775
08-06-2007, 10:42 AM
Yeah, but then I look at other aberrations and they seem more like "let's take another monster and graft on something odd". The Athach are a prime example: an ugly giant with an extra arm and poison ... ooh, bizarre. As opposed to Ettins, who have a second *head* but are still giants.
Thought Ettins were Giant-Kin. Still of the Giant family for anything related to that though.

fmitchell
08-06-2007, 11:37 AM
Thought Ettins were Giant-Kin. Still of the Giant family for anything related to that though.

The "Giant" creature type, though.

I guess I'd like to see a distinction between "chimerical" critters and Lovecraftian eldritch horrors.

Zelgadas
08-15-2007, 07:40 AM
I guess the distinction between "aberration" and "just weird" is all in the assumptions behind the creature's origin. There are plenty of creatures that are "just weird", but are assumed to be natural parts of the fantastical ecosystem of D&D. Witness the chimera, the manticore, the medusa, et al. What makes something an "aberration" is that it is fundamentally not of nature. Yeah, the athach just has an extra arm, but why? Does that extra arm speak to an origin that places the athach outside the natural order of things? Elans may look human, but they've undergone an unnatural change that has created a fundamental shift in their worldview, creating something alien and unnatural.

I think, in most cases, "aberration" simply means "not of nature", with nature in this case being D&D nature, not real-world nature. In a metagame sense, aberrations seem to mostly be strange creatures that don't necessarily appear in popular mythology. The chimera, for example, has its origins in Greco-Roman myth, while the beholder, mind flayer, aboleth, athach, and other such creatures don't really have a mythological correlary.