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Old 12-16-2020, 08:45 PM   #1
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

In the vast majority of cases, animals are little threat to an uninjured human, especially if that human possesses a big stick or a firearm. While there are exceptions when it came to megafauna in the past, nowadays humans kill vastly more animals of any given species through carelessness than animals kill through deliberate action. However, killer animals are terrifying, and they are a staple in horror stories (and horror games).

One way that I have found to make predatory animals terrifying to players (and to their PCs) is to give them Per+4, Stalker 4, and Strangler 4. In general, that means that a predatory animal will end up with a minimum of Per 16, Brawling-16, Stealth-20, Survival (X)-16, Tracking-24, and Wrestling-16. Now, imagine a bear, a tiger, or a wolf pack with such capabilities, and you can understand why they can still be terrifying.

So, how do you make animals terrifying in your games? Do you strip your PCs of their equipement? Do you give the animals supernatural powers? Or do you do something else?
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Old 12-16-2020, 09:00 PM   #2
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
? Or do you do something else?
<shrug> I treat amimals realistically. If the were supposed to e a threat to PCs I would tell the players to make 25pt characters. That'd mostly make them realistic people.

I haven't done this yet and I'm not likely to do it in the future. It doesn't really sound like fun.
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Old 12-16-2020, 11:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

Given that I'm Antipodean, omnivorous mutated rabbits will be giving my PCs some grief in my AtE campaign. Those and the cyborg'd patrol camels...
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Old 12-16-2020, 11:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

Some rare and generally exceptional animals, such as the more-accomplished man-eating tigers, probably could offer a credible threat to modestly-heroic PCs.

A realistic predator attacking humans effectively almost certainly relies on stealth and surprise. A tiger doesn't need impressive combat skills to take a human down quickly in close combat - but to do so more than once or twice it needs to get the drop on them without anybody else catching it in the act. Stealth, perception, and smart if specialized tactics. It's a furry assassin, not a frontal attack...


(And of course, large herbivores like elephants, hippos, and cape buffalo can easily be deadly to a human who fails to arrange to win the fight before it gets started - but are not too likely to launch an unprovoked attack of their own. Probably. Don't casually get close to hippos or cape buffalo though.)
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Old 12-17-2020, 08:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post

I treat amimals realistically. If the were supposed to e a threat to PCs I would tell the players to make 25pt characters. That'd mostly make them realistic people.
Pretty much this.



The issue with most real-life "scary man-eating predator" incidents is that the humans being eaten are somewhere between 0-point kids and 25-point villagers. Where suitable animals live, at least a good part of the victims' low point total is because everyone is at Struggling or even Poor wealth; has what's functionally a few levels of Low TL; and suffers from some disadvantage – like Social Stigma (Second-Class Citizen, Valuable Property, or even Subjugated) or just Status -1 or -2 – that reflects living under an oppressive local warlord or national government that enforces CR4-6 and takes all guns out of everyone's hands, even for hunting purposes. Do that and keep everybody's attributes at 9-11 due to malnutrition and undereducation, and I can promise you that your predators will eat well.

The issue with most fictional stories of this kind is that they're horror stories. The people being eaten, including the protagonists, are still somewhere between 0 and 25 points. Now this is largely due to being deliberately "kept down" by the story's author, who makes sure that all the characters are either truly helpless, functionally so because they're ordinary folks with desk jobs and no combat skills, or bundles of flaws who are taken while giving in to Addiction, Alcoholism, Lecherousness, etc. and not paying attention.

Unsurprisingly, there are precious few cases of hardened, well-fed, well-equipped combat troops being successfully killed by predators. That's because a person trained and armed to kill fellow humans who can shoot back with guns or artillery isn't going to find a big, furry killer nearly as worrisome as a squad of men with assault rifles. This is the typical "realistic" 150-point campaign.

Once you get to 250- and 300-point movie commandos – or dungeon delvers, or professional monster hunters, or Mad Max survivalists – normal animals, however large and toothy, shouldn't be a threat. They're "just" ordinary life, like the villagers I talked about a few paragraphs up. From the lofty heights of the protagonists, the difference between "villager with a stick," "big dog," and "tiger" blurs into insignificance.

So frankly, I'd change nothing about the animals in any realistic game. If you want the animals to be deadly, make the PCs at most 25-point noncombatants. That's real life for most people, and for just about all of the people who get eaten by predators. In a heroic or cinematic game, yeah, you'll have to make the animals deadlier. That's why hack 'n' slash fantasy is full of dire, giant, were-, and mutant animals . . . For these, you can add more Stealth, sure, or just decide they have ST 100 and shoot lasers.
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Old 12-17-2020, 09:10 AM   #6
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

I'll add that a frequent problem with horror games is running them at 150+ points. That suits so-called "fantasy horror" which is really hack 'n' slash with more demons and necromancy, or monster hunters who go after traditional horror monsters like vampires and werewolves . . . neither of which is horror, but rather a hack 'n' slash or action game with elements or window dressing borrowed from horror.

Actual horror pretty much depends on the protagonists being rather helpless or the horrors being cosmic enough that the protagonists are functionally helpless. GURPS Horror has some excellent discussions of this. It places the heroes of "typical" horror stories at 25-50 points, and points out that even 75 points is straying into hero territory. At 150 points, you get investigators who go looking for trouble that's more horrific for NPCs than for them, unless the horror is cosmic. Anyway, man-eaters are for "typical" horror stories; to challenge 150-point professional investigators of horror, look at what makes 150-point human opposition deadly and give animals that.
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Old 12-17-2020, 09:41 AM   #7
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

For instance, here's a typical real-world plains-dweller who lives in a preindustrial village in the modern world and has to survive by hunting, raising cattle, and avoiding lions.
My Friends Know Me As "Lion Meat"
25 points
ST 11 [10]; DX 11 [20]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 11 [10].
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs.; HP 11 [0]; Will 10 [0]; Per 12 [10]; FP 11 [0]; Basic Speed 5.50 [0]; Basic Move 5 [0].
Disadvantages: Low TL4 [-20]; Status -1 [-5]; Wealth (Poor) [-15].
Skills: Area Knowledge (Home Territory)-11 [2]; Farming-10 [2]; Running-11 [2]; Spear-11 [2]; Stealth-11 [2]; Survival (Plains)-11 [1]; Thrown Weapon (Spear)-12 [2]; Tracking-11 [1]; Weather Sense-9 [1].
And here's a typical Hollywood horror character.
Angie the Cheerleader
25 points
ST 9 [-10]; DX 11 [20]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 11 [10].
Damage 1d-2/1d-1; BL 16 lbs.; HP 9 [0]; Will 10 [0]; Per 10 [0]; FP 11 [0]; Basic Speed 5.50 [0]; Basic Move 5 [0].
Advantages: Beautiful [12]; Penetrating Voice [1].
Disadvantages: Confused (12) [-10]; Skinny [-5].
Skills: Acrobatics-11 [4]; Dancing-11 [2]; Sex Appeal-10 [1].
Toss an ordinary lion at either, even in a frontal encounter (not an ambush), and see what happens. Heck, Lion Meat can even start with a spear, and Angie with a .38 off a dead cop, if you like. Remember that the lion has Basic Speed 6.00 and acts first, and gets to close at Move 10 which ends in a pounce with Brawling-15.

Making these kinds of characters typical PCs is how I'd normally make animals deadlier.
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Old 12-17-2020, 10:26 AM   #8
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

Some of the more niche combat rules can make animals a lot more deadly. There is rule somewhere that lets bites double as grapple attempts, which makes getting back into weapons range hard and lets the animal leverage its superior strength.

Large animals can make slam attacks, which can be impossible to block and are often one sided.

Most animals are faster than people in one way or another. Use this to let them dictate the terms of the engagement. And animals are pretty good about exploiting this (when they aren't doing it, its called "being hunted").

Four adventurers in a cave vs. eight wolves shouldn't be a problem. Its when the wolves are following them home from the crawl, through the wilderness, waiting for them to go to sleep to attack that you run into problems.
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Old 12-17-2020, 10:37 AM   #9
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

What Dr. Kromm said.

I might add that if that 150 point character is unarmed, things can be very different. And some predators such as some bears can fight on and be deadly even when shot.

There's also the issue of rabies or other conditions that can radically change animal behavior (not to mention being infectious). I once saw an animal at night out here in the country that was possibly a wolf or dog-wolf cross. It could even have been a large mixed breed dog, but it was night and I wasn't going to examine it. It repeatedly leapt at a wooden gate trying to break through to get to me on my property. It actually did break some of the lattice work on the gate. I've worked with dogs, and that is definitely not normal dog behavior.

An animal with a mental/neurological disorder can be vicious--or very tame (rabies can sometimes turn wild animals into friendly ones--but don't let them bite you!)
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Old 12-17-2020, 03:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: Make Animals Threatening [Basic]

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
I'll add that a frequent problem with horror games is running them at 150+ points. That suits so-called "fantasy horror" which is really hack 'n' slash with more demons and necromancy, or monster hunters who go after traditional horror monsters like vampires and werewolves . . . neither of which is horror, but rather a hack 'n' slash or action game with elements or window dressing borrowed from horror.
Well, being 150+ points doesn't necessarily mean that the campaign can't be mostly straight Horror.

Any situation where your opponent is vastly superior to you easily turns into straight horror, whether it is a mouse avoiding a house cat, or a human trying to take on an intangible freaky demon which possesses people and possesses terrifying strength.

If the concern is stuff like someone making a "team ninja" and dodge-dancing the demon you can simply f.ex. give it an aura which drains FP based on proximity to the demon. All the guns in the world won't help either if the demon simply leaves the body after the limbs start getting shot off and chases after in smoke-form to possess the PCs. etc. (Just make sure it isn't too unfair. They should have a fair chance to take it down after all...)

Call of Cthulhu is a common example, but it doesn't have to be cosmic horror. Even classic stuff with vampires, werewolves, and witches can all be absolute horror.

Edit:
Though if people go creating Navy Seals and you throw shambling fragile zombies at them (and the like) then you are playing something quite different from "horror". Worse; if you hack 'n' slash with examples from the above you might surprise he players in a bad. They probably won't like it if they expected to just be able to shoot the werewolf and it turns out to not give a damn about silver and just kills them one by one since they keep shooting and stabbing it waiting for its "hp" to deplete (oops, guess it was wolfsbane it was weak to, shouldn't have skipped the R&D...) /Rant.
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Last edited by RedMattis; 12-17-2020 at 03:36 PM.
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