One of the fun things with fantasy and science-fiction is that you can play around with transportation. You may always have horses, carriages, and the always favorite dragon/dragon-like being. I have a personal preference for griffins, but pegasi, hippogriff, and almost any winged creature is fair game. Still, what about the less magical and traditional critters that a hero can ride?
You can go the route of making a unique creature like the Rancors of Star Wars or take a real animal like the ostriches of W.o.W. The fun part about making mounts for your characters is that the sky is the limit. Grow small animals into large versions or have your heroes small enough to ride them. For example, a story about pixies can allow you to use hummingbirds and chipmunks without making them bigger than normal. The key point is to make sure the mount has a level of reality in the world. By this, I mean the mount needs to make sense as a mount. A monster species should not be used if they have been established as enemies and no explanation is given to their sudden use. There are ways to do this like the monster was trained since birth or took a liking to its owner. Personally, I think these types of mounts should have a level of aggression towards anyone that isn’t their rider. You need to maintain a level of wild danger when going this route.
Another factor is the rider, which people can overlook. You may become so obsessed with putting a halfling on a rhino that you ignore the problems. How does the tiny halfling get on the large rhino? How does the rhino acknowledge the halfling who wouldn’t normally have the strength to show dominance? How would the halfling attack from the top of the rhino? This can be solved, but you have to put some effort in. As usual, I’m saying that you can’t half-ass these kinds of details. Fantasy readers can be very detail-oriented and picky.
So, think about the following when choosing a unique mount for your world:
- Does the mount make sense as a tamed animal?
- Can the mount even survive in the land you’re putting it in? This means no shark riding in the mountains.
- Are there any difficulties with the mount/rider pairing?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the mount? A unique should not be without its downsides. Aggression, difficult to stable, and challenging diet are examples of factors.
- Is the mount stronger than all the heroes? If you have your heroes riding a dragon then you need to figure out a way to prevent the dragon from killing all of their enemies.
- Does the enemy have an equally unique mount? It can be fun to give the hero and his/her nemesis a unique mount. Giant Spider versus a Diamond-Antlered Moose or Giant Electrified Hornet versus a Winged Cerberus.
Key point is to have fun, but always think these things through. Doing stuff for the sake of being quirky and cool can get you attention. So, make sure you have some depth to hold the reader and prove you’re more than an untamed imagination.