Friday, March 17, 2017

Frightening Animal Encounters

Animal Encounters should be exciting. And when I say exciting, I also mean terrifying. It is the referee's job to make what happens in the game memorable, so storytelling and descriptiveness are key skills. It also helps to have critters that are imposing in their potential to do harm. Encountering a bunny rabbit is not exciting. Encountering something like this should be.

Take a look at what's on the cover of Planet Stories, Summer 1942. No, not the Amazon. She's fine. I mean, fine. I mean the thing grabbing her and being shot in the non-face for its trouble. Yes. Look at that.

Shoot that thing in it's non-face brave Amazon! Teach it some manners!
Imagine your players' reactions if a half dozen or so of these awfuls came tromping out of the mist or the trees while on some remote and forsaken backwater planet. Either they'll panic or think “thank God we recently restocked the rocket launchers!” In both cases, what ensues should be an epic fight.

800 kg Omnivore Hunters
25/12 Cloth-1, Claws (x2) dmg: 5D A3 F5 S2  # appearing: 3
A three-meter humaniform shape emerges from the undergrowth. It probably masses close on a ton. It's gray-skinned, hairless with a featureless lump atop its shoulders where its face should be. The arms end in 4-fingered frying pans with 10-cm claws. I suggest you run.”

I've been browsing through Supplement 2: Animal Encounters, and there are some doozies in here. I list the world profile and terrain type in case you want to look them up. The extra descriptions and the planets named are mine. 

On Stavanger (small world/standard atmo) we find, in the wastes of the Desert of Desolation, the phenomenon of drum sand. This feature causes reverberations below ground. These vibrations are the “let's eat!” noise for this thing:
'Desolation Worm' 64,000 kg Pouncer (burrowing creature) # appearing:1
85/30 armor: BD attack: thrasher damage 2Dx6 A3 F9 S2

This 64 ton thing is about the size of a North Pacific Right Whale. It could be as much as 17 meters long. Picture this bursting out from the below ground right in front of your PC's ATV. The referee needs only throw 3+ for this thing to attack, and it can move at human running speed on its scores of leg-like tentacles.
"Dorsal turret number one, FIRE ALREADY!"
(BTW, the Leigh Brackett story "The Big Jump" is a good read, too.)

In the marshes of Worosha (medium world/standard atmo) you can encounter the Velotrebax:
800 kg Carnivore pouncer
22/9 armor: none-1, attacks as pistol, damage 6D A0 F0 S4 # appearing:1

You might meet one, but you can't outrun it. It has a whip-like tail appendage that extends only to Short range, but with its incredible speed, it can get to Short very quickly. The tail ends in a smooth sharp point that makes a loud sonic boomlet when flicked towards its prey.

On Glauden,(medium world/standard atmo) in the rolling grasslands, you might encounter a herd of Gladonasum, or 'sword-noses':
3,200 kg Carnivore chasers
24/17 armor none, attacks as sword, damage 7D A0 F8 S2 # appearing: 10

These hairy brutes have a sharp edged & pointy bone structure growing from the forehead. They in fact have little 'nose' or olfactory sense at all. They rely on keen hearing to detect prey, which they chase and then spear with the bony protrusion. The grazers that make up their usual diet are more often lamed than killed outright, but smaller ones have been run through, carried along and tossed into the air by their massive predators.

The planet Turgenev (large world/thin atmo) is home to the Persequaris, found in the foothills of the Selden mountain range.
32,000 kg Carnivore chaser
87/13 armor: cloth, attack: thrasher, damage 2Dx4 A0 F0 S3 # appearing: 1

The persequaris is long, wide, multi-legged, tentacled horror fifteen meters in length. It relies on speed since its bulk is incapable of being quiet and surprising anything. The front end is an olfactory cluster surrounded by grabbing tentacles which pull food into the creature's mouth. It is easy to track; its body drags along the ground and its many feet trample and crush whatever it walks over. At its size, it can walk over nearly anything.

Belloc (small world/dense atmo) has few animal species, none of which are edible by humans, owing to the high levels of thallium in the atmosphere. One of its species is the Venecornua, a moderate sized quadruped.
200 kg herbivore grazer
16/12 armor cloth, attack: horns, damage 3D F4 A8 S2 # appearing: 44

The venecornua do not look dangerous. Their horns are not large, multi-pronged or sharp. They eat only grasses and ferns. The danger is in their very skittish nature. At the least provocation they will startle and run. In a mass of 40 or more. In a perverse form of group defense, they will stampede directly towards whatever startled them, trampling it in a wave of poorly-aimed attacks. Herds have destroyed vehicles, smashed buildings, and killed people.

To help you get a handle on how big these creatures are, I've prepared a simple size chart:

Animal Size Equivalents
Cottontail rabbit
house cat
Labrador retriever
Sea otter
Russian wolf
Black bear
Nile crocodile
Kodiak bear
White rhinoceros
African forest elephant
African bush elephant
Humpback whale

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