As the name implies an architectural grotesque is an ugly or threatening decorative feature serving as part of a building. Some, like the European gargoyle, have additional, useful functions (such as roof drainage), but others are purely decorative and, typically, apotropaic, serving to ward off hostile influences from the structure and its occupants.
Besides generic monsters and demons, grotesques may be carved as caricatures of specific people (usually those who upset the mason responsible for them), dangerous animals, significant figures out of local folklore and things like the Green Man (a surprisingly common grotesque on European church buildings given his pagan roots). The gorgoneion was a similarly popular grotesque in the classical world and the image of the Mesopotamian demon Pazuzu was commonly held to ward off many lesser evils.
Game and Story Use
- Presumably, these things would be keystones for any magical warding placed upon a building.
- Likewise, some or all of them might serve as fetishes for guardian spirits.
- Properly prepared grotesques might simply frighten or distract attacking entities, making them less effective.
- To a certain extent, this is the magical equivalent of a scarecrow or using a stuffed hawk or owl to scare away pigeons.