Friday, September 23, 2016

Animal Encounter - White Apes of Barsoom

John Carter - ruling Barsoom like a Boss.
 I am having a heckuva good time reading the John Carter novels. I'm into the fourth book (Thuvia, Maid of Mars) now, and ERB has not disappointed.

Barsoom is vividly described and each book has introduced new and strange people, places and things. Today I'd like to share one of the creatures of Mars as a Traveller animal encounter. This is how John Carter describes them upon his first meeting, in A Princess of Mars:

“The creatures were about ten or fifteen feet tall, standing erect, and had,  like the green Martians, an intermediary set of arms or legs, midway between their upper and lower limbs. Their eyes were close together and non protruding; their ears were high set, but more laterally located than those of the Martians, while their snouts and teeth were strikingly like those of our African gorilla. Altogether they were not unlovely when viewed in comparison with the green Martians.”  (chapter  6)
Here he describes them at the opening of The Gods of Mars:
"They stand fifteen feet in height and walk erect upon their hind feet. Like the green Martians, they have an intermediary set of arms midway between their upper and lower limbs. Their eyes are very close set, but do not protrude as do those of the green men of Mars; their ears are high set, but more laterally located than are the green men's, while their snouts and teeth are much like those of our African gorilla. Upon their heads grows an enormous shock of bristly hair". (chapter 2).
They are, of course, the great White Apes of Barsoom.

Making a few assumptions, I take their Traveller animal stats to be as follows:

Carnivore Killer 

1600kg 8D/3D [28/10]  Claws/teeth  (+4 to hit due to size) Dmg 6D+2 
Armor: Mesh  A2 F8 S3  2 attacks/round   Number appearing: 1D

They are big,(1600 kg) they are aggressive,(Attack 2+) and they are fast (Speed: 3). Even Travellers armed with guns should have a difficult time with these beasties. When they attack, they will move at best speed to Close range and use their claws, which are more deadly than shotguns or laser rifles. PCs with melee weapons can use their skill to parry (-DM) but the apes massive size & strength gives them a big advantage. Carter, who probably has Sword-5 plus the strength bonus was able to fend them off, but most PCs won't be that capable.
At the beginning of GoM, Carter and Tars Tarkas (who's 15 feet tall) are chased by a big gang of white apes, and can't outrun them. This leads to one of my favorite quotable exchanges from the whole series so far, which I shared here.

Go read A Princess of Mars, available from Project Gutenberg and as an audio book from Librivox.

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photos are in the public domain. 


  1. According to his writeup in 1001 Characters, John Carter has Broadsword, Blade, and Dagger at 6. His physical stats are all C, and it is noted that he has extra abilities on his adopted, Size 4 world. By your calculations, that would give him an effective strength J(18), which seems reasonable to the source material.

    I would limit the strength benefit to doubling the effective strength, to prevent the "infinite strength in zero-g" problem.

  2. Oh, how I love the Barsoom books! I have often considered a Traveller or HERO system campaign there.