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Basic Information

A manticore (also known as a mantyger, martichora, or androphagos) is a creature originally from Persian mythology that later ended up in all sorts of middle ages bestiaries of Europe.

It's a man-eating carnivorous composite monster with the body of a lion or tiger, the head of a human (though sometimes sporting tusks or several rows of teeth), and a spiky tail. Depending on the author/source, the tail is described as either having a venomous stinger like a scorpion, or having a cluster of spiky quills like a porcupine that it can hurl as a ranged attack. There's no reason why you couldn't combine those variations, having way to shoot venom at range.

A few of the medieval depictions gave it spiraling horns. Some more recent depictions also give it wings.

The name "manticore" literally means "man-eater", so its appetite for human flesh is one of the creatures defining traits.

A closely related



Game and Story Use

  • A potential monster of the week or wandering monster, especially in a semi-historical fantasy setting based on either Europe or Persia (or the Middle East in general). The manticore's inherent hunger for human flesh makes it a natural threat to any nearby settlement, so it's easy to motivate the PCs to try and kill it, without requiring a very complicated scenario.
    • The tail and wing variations allow you to mix things up a bit, and/or keep the players guessing, especially if your game-system of choice has nasty poison rules that they may-or-may-not have to worry about.
  • They show up very briefly in Zelazny's Amber novels, flying in from shadow during the height of the war, so they'd be a good match for Amber Diceless Roleplay. Amber doesn't really use random monster attacks, though, given the abstract narrative system it uses in lieu of traditional combat mechanics. So you'd probably need to tie them to some major plot or conspiracy, as just a monster fight is likely to last less than a minute. They've got a human face, so perhaps they have a human capacity for scheming and factionalism as well?
  • The manticore is a device used in heraldry, and given that it's a man-eating venomous critter, that's got some un-subtle metaphor value.
    • You might blazon a manticore on the shield or flag of a really nasty murderer. Maybe a knight who engages in sneaky poisoning/assassination, or even someone who's a secret cannibal.
    • Or maybe a well-intentioned Knight, who you plan to have fall from grace later in your plot.
    • If you had another Knight who used an amphibean as a symbol on their coat of arms, you could riff on the scorpion and the frog. They have reason to work together for some mutual goal, but it's in the manticore's nature to kill the other for short-sighted immediate gain that eventually spells his own doom too.
    • History's not terribly far off the mark in terms of the metaphor, either. Two of the historical personages who had the Manticore in their arms were put to death for treason: William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings in 1483, and Anthony Babington in 1586.
      • Fictionally, George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones has the manticore (which, in universe, is actually a poisonous beetle) as the arms of Ser Amory Lorch, one of Tywin Lannister's pet monsters.
  • As a large four-legged classically mythological critter of the middle east with a big human head, you could cross-pollinate and use a manticore in places and situations where one would normally use a sphinx. Sitting at a crossroads, using it's venomous sting on anyone who fails a riddle. This probably works better if your setting/system doesn't already have traditional sphinxes, as you can then hybridize the concepts into a single trope without worrying that you're blurring the line between two different critters and making each less unique and interesting.
    • Could be a sub-species of sphinx, given all the other types in circulation.
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