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Many mythologies across the world independently devised monsters with similar appearances and/or modus operandi. Many modern encyclopedias of mythological monsters often include cross references between similar monsters from different mythologies (e.g. compare lilith and lamia, hippogriff and simurgh, etc).

A modern subgenre of fantasy known facetiously as "kitchen sink" fantasy (from the expression "everything but the kitchen sink") includes elements from all world mythologies and usually makes no attempt to reconcile them.

If one wanted to avoid this and write a kitchen sink fantasy where similar mythological monsters are different manifestations of the same archetype, what would be good resources?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for a lit of similar creatures or are you looking for other kitchen sink fantasies with a similar idea to yours? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Aug 24 '16 at 15:35
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You might want to check this page out: List of legendary creatures by type

It gets kind of fuzzy when you're trying to define exactly what counts as a "legendary creature" though. Do creatures unique to modern sci-fi/fantasy literature, TV, or RPGs count? What about those invented by writers from the 1800s? How about the "fearsome critters" of North American folklore? Medieval literature also had plenty of books with more types of weird demons than you can shake a stick at.

For the older creatures, though, you can definitely discern clear archetypes which are often mixed together in various ways. Blood-drinkers, animal shapeshifters, literal sexual predators, and child-eating bogeys are pretty much universal. These may be mixed together in almost any combination. Lilith and her ilk get extra points for having all four.

Let's not forget water-dwelling predators, which can be found in almost any non-desert culture and typically have one or more of the above qualities. It is telling that the "associated with water" section is by far the largest on the Wikipedia page.

Giant humanoids, restless dead, witches with vaguely-defined magical powers, creatures that are an omen of death, creatures that can kill you by looking at you, and mischievous spirits that may be either helpful or harmful depending on how they are treated are extremely common as well. Cultures that valued either wisdom or piousness (both East and West) often had monsters that represented a more subtle threat than the ones who would simply eat you, like tengu or demons. The idea of automatons made by magic or technology is also more common in ancient stories than a modern reader might expect.

Then you have the weird ones, like the dream eating Baku, the mind-reading Satori, the Rokurokubi, a woman with a floating head... actually 90% of Japanese monsters can probably be thought of as 'weird' to Western audiences, though no weirder than the aforementioned medieval demons from the west (like wheels covered in legs...seriously). And of course, creatures that are just mash-ups of other creatures are fairly typical, especially among Mediterranean cultures. We might be accustomed to Greek creatures like the Chimera and the Hydra, but from a standpoint of common mythological archetypes they are no less mold-breaking than the wackiest of Japanese yokai.

Some archetypes may be more common in certain cultures than others - for instance, Celtic culture tended to have a lot of unpredictable but sometimes-benevolent fae, while most Greek monsters are Always Chaotic Evil. Certain concepts are also culture-specific and may spawn many unique monsters; for instance the idea of mundane creatures or inanimate objects 'advancing' into magical creatures or animated spirits (kitsune, carp -> dragons, tsukumogami) when they get old enough is a common idea in Japan, while Western monsters are typically born monstrous (except when they are ghosts).

Keep in mind that many archetypes may be blended unpredictably, even within the same "creature". For example, while modern culture tends to separate vampires and werewolves, many cultures view bloodsucking and animal shapeshifting typical habits of the same creature.

There are also some weaknesses shared by many different monsters - sunlight, silver, an inability to cross running water, obsessive-compulsive counting, and occasionally salt are shared by several members of the nebulous werewolf/vampire/witch family and their relatives, depending on the particular legend. Iron is a common weakness among various fae. A lot of spirits and demons are susceptible to certain incantations, and wherever Christianity touched you'll find stories of monsters that are repelled by faith or holy symbols. Yokai can sometimes be outsmarted by separating them from the source of their power (the kitsune's ball, the kappa's water).

In fact, the very idea of a mythical 'bestiary' might not be the best way of going about classifying monsters in a "fantasy kitchen sink" setting, given their tendency to blur together. Classifying the archetypes themselves and making each individual creature an unpredictable blend of said archetypes might be a better idea. But that's just my two cents.

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Dungeons & Dragons's Monster Manual.

For anyone who doesn't know D&D: it's a tabletop RPG, which has regained some popularity thanks to Stranger Things. Think MMORPG but with one person (the Dungeon Master) serving as the server, and you use your imagination, and a lot of pen, paper and dice to play - overall the best fun a geek can ever know in a life.

The Monster Manual is the source for data on monsters, which the Dungeon Master uses for reference on the creatures they wish to bring into play. Such data is not limited to combat statistics - the entries will usually contain historical, political, economical and psychological data on the monster species therein.

There are, from my last count, at least five editions of D&D. Each one is a whole different beast (no pun intended). My favorite is the second edition (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, or AD&D for short). I suggest you look its Monster Manual index up on Wikipedia - you will find a wealth of data there for your research, with lots of cross references to make your job easier. But do look for the books proper, so you can see drawings of each monster.

Every mythical being from the most popular folklores and some obscure ones has already made its way into D&D at some point. I will give you the classical example: most dragons in the D&D universe(s) are variations on the dragons of european legends and myths, but the "Lung Dragons" and the Mist Dragons species are based on dragons from the far east. Yet they all have a common origin and a common deity (Tiamat, which in D&D is a multi headed dragon, but which ultimately originates from sumerian and babylonian myth).

D&D also does a lot of kitchen sink fantasy mixing when it comes to the undead, giants, demi-humans, lycanthropes, shapeshifters, celestial beings and demons. As long as you have a keen eye for folklore, you can often spot the origins of each creature, and also see what they have borrowed from other cultures.

One word of advice, though. For geeks in general and worldbuilders in particular, D&D books (specially the monster manual) have the potential to be more adictive than meth. Be careful or you will spend the rest of your life reading and re-reading those books. I know firsthand how hard it is to detox from that!

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest an encyclopedia of world mythology of some sort (there are quite a few), since it would give a nice quick overview... but I think this is a far more entertaining version. $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Aug 24 '16 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan, +1 Excellent Answer. You might also note for the O.P. that there is an entire stack exchange forum on role playing games where they can get further clarification on any questions they have while reading the Monster Manual, or any of the supplimental AD&D II monster books: Monster Manual II, Legends & Lore, The Monstrous Compendium,... $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 25 '16 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ The monster manual is the problem that I want to avoid. It mixes up the names of different monsters (e.g. catoblepas vs gorgon vs medusa) and makes arbitrary distinctions between different subsets of the same monster (e.g. angel vs archon, demon vs devil). $\endgroup$ – Anonymous Aug 25 '16 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ "...overall the most drama a geek can ever know in a life..." FTFY :( $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Aug 25 '16 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a way to play this online with other people? $\endgroup$ – Skye Aug 28 '16 at 7:12
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I always liked the idea of having the monsters appear and interact within particular areas more than another, because the monsters that appear in an area are actually created by the fears, and thus beliefs, of the people living there. That's playing off the old D&D Planescape setting, of course. Wherein getting enough people to believe in, or fear, a thing hard enough could actually Tulpa-ing the thing into existence, or changing it to suite the vision. Even the planes themselves.

Thus the separation and differences between them are caused by the same reason as real life. Different cultures creating different monsters. But once they're there. Once they're real? They can still butcher your community just fine and, of course, once something starts killing you, even if you didn't believe in this other culture's monster originally? Well you sure as shoot believe in it now. It has a life of its own. It can reproduce, and spread.

Which actually has some interesting implications on trade and boarder guards in a fantasy setting using that outlook.

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