Genegrafting, Genetic Engineering, and Anthropomorphics in d20, Part III

   The mustelids and mephitidae include the badgers, otters, weasels, skunks, ferrets, minks, sables, stoats, martens, ermines, and many more. For our purposes it also includes meerkats and mongooses, which are actually more closely related to cats – but which, thanks to convergent evolution, certainly look like they belong here at first glance. Animals in this group are typically long, flexible, carnivores with relatively short, powerful, legs, dense fur, a nasty bite, and anal scent glands – which give most such animals a strong and distinctive scent. Most of them are ferocious little beasts, although quite a few of them can be quite friendly towards humans, who clearly aren’t on the list of creatures they can practically eat. Given that the scent glands of most members of this group normally taint their meat to the point of inedibility, they’re rarely preyed upon. On the other hand, they are fairly often attacked by competitors and prey. Since this greatly reduces the benefits of running away (they’ll have to settle things with competitors eventually, and if you let prey run you off readily you’ll soon starve), many of the animals in this group are quite willing to fight to the death if challenged.

   Most of them would probably qualify for a -3 CP Disadvantage – “Easily detected by scent” – but few d20 games really pay enough attention to such things to worry about it.

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Badger* 45 1 Str +4, Dex +2, Con +4 +2 1d4 Yes +4 Escape Artist, Berserker
Meerkat 50 1 Str +2, Dex +6, Con +2 1d4 Yes +10 +6 Spot, Escape Artist, and Search, Adept.
Mongoose 49 1 Str +0, Dex +8, Con +2 1d4 Yes +10 +6 Listen, +8 on Saves versus Poison
Otter 49 1 Str +4, Dex +6, Con +0 +1 1d4 Yes +10 Sw +4 Swim and Escape Artist, Hold Breath
Skunk 43 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +4 +1 1d4 Yes +8 Intimidate, Stinking Cloud with +4 Bonus Uses
Weasel 45 1 Str +4, Dex +4, Con +2 1d4 Yes +4 Move Silently, +8 Balance and Climb, Adept
Wolverine 65 3 Str +4, Dex +4, Con +8 +2 1d4 Yes +8 Climb, Berserker

   “I don’ CARE how brabe it is, someone get the #$%^&! thing OFF MY NODSE!”

   Here we have an assortment of aquatic and semi-aquatic creatures that are problematic even in game terms – do hybrid forms breathe air, water, or both? How much of their abilities are due to having an entirely different anatomy which will not be duplicated in “hybrid” forms or by genegrafting? Many of these creatures mostly aren’t even really capable of functioning on land, should the would-be user be similarly penalized?

   They’re even more problematical in physical and genetic terms, at least when it comes to realistic manipulations. They’re cold-blooded, have notably different body chemistries, often rely on extracting oxygen from water (which is almost impossible to do biologically fast enough to support a warm-blooded creature), and some aren’t even vertebrates. No matter how good the genetic engineers are, giving a near-human the physical abilities of a fish or cephalopod is really stretching it. That’s why, elsewhere, I’ve pretty much assumed that the minimum congruency required is an air-breathing vertebrate, and preferably a reptile, mammal, or avian.

   That’s also why you won’t find any entries at all – at least in this article – for arthropods, worms, and similar creatures. They simply aren’t suitable for play or for sources for major genetic patterns. You might find individual useful genes, but if you want things like that, just buy the specific ability you want and say that that’s where you’re getting it. You don’t need a package this complex for that.

   That’s not to say that you can’t have an insectile race, or telepathic and telekinetic coral-reef colony-organisms, or sapient worms that possess other animals – but if you’re going that far afield, there’s no point in looking to actual animals for anything except a vague inspiration and descriptive phrases.

   Nevertheless, in standard d20, where characters can, say, have a grandfather who was a mass of living fire and a grandmother who was a perfectly normal human, neither realism nor genetics have much to do with anything. Ergo…

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Electric Eel 35 1 Str +0, Dex +4, Con +2 1d4 Yes +10 Sw +8 Swim, Escape Artist, Innate Enchantment / Shocking Grasp and Resistance to Electricity at L1.
Manta Ray* 20 1 Str -4, Dex +2, Con -2 +1 1d4 No +10 Sw +8 to Swim
Octopus* 41 3 Str +4, Dex +4, Con +0 +2 No +10 Sw Chameleon/+4 Hide, +10 Escape Artist, +8 Swim, Adept
Salamander 41 1 Str +0, Dex +2, Con +4 1d4 Yes +10 Sw +8 Swim, Grant of Aid with +2 Bonus Uses and the Regenerative option, Amphibious.
Shark 52 3 Str +2, Dex +4, Con +2 +3 1d6 Yes +20 Sw +8 Swim, Blindsense in Water, Keen Scent
Squid 44 3 Str +4, Dex +6, Con +0 +3 No +10 Sw +8 Swim
Toad / Frog 35 1 Str +2, Dex +0, Con +4 +1 Yes +10 Sw +4 Hide, +4 Jump. Amphibious. Poisonous frogs lose the natural armor, scent, and bonus to hide, in favor of Poison with +4 Bonus Uses.

   As it stands, most of these creatures are presumed to be able to breathe air OR water, not both. If you want to be able to breathe both, and you don’t already have the “Amphibious” quality listed, it will cost you another 6 CP (3 CP after Specialization – if the GM opts to allow that).

   “Oh come off it! How on earth are you getting THAT to work on land?”

   The oceanic mammals – the Cetacea, Seals, and Walruses (but not sea otters, who go with the other otters) are somewhat awkward choices. When you come right down to it, they swim very well, many of them are have excellent sonar (which only really works well underwater), they can hold their breaths a long time, and they’re reasonably good at banging into things. On the other hand, they’re fairly helpless out of the water, and removing that penalty will mean giving up a lot of their benefits as well. I won’t get into the ways that their eyes, skin, and other physical features are optimized for an aquatic lifestyle; d20 generally doesn’t go into that much detail anyway.

   Even worse, like many really large animals in the System Reference Document, when you bring them down to medium size and remove their size modifiers, you wind up with a massive dexterity bonus and not much else. That really doesn’t work; there really isn’t any reason to expect whale DNA to turn normal people into inhumanely agile ballerinas and acrobats. In fact, whales aren’t all that strong in proportion to their weight, even if they are pretty enduring. Ergo, these creatures are going to take some adapting – unless you’re simply using “whale DNA” as an excuse for buying a larger size. Of course, if you’re doing that, you don’t need a race.

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Baleen Whale 46 3 Str +2, Dex +0, Con +6 +2 No +10 Sw Hold Breath, 120 Blindsight^, +8 Swim, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 out of water (no cost), Blubber Reserves (an Immunity, can go for a very long time without eating).
Cachalot Whale 46 3 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +4 +2 No +10 Sw Hold Breath, 120 Blindsight^, +8 Swim, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 Out of water, Blubber Reserves.
Orca 44 2 Str +4, Dex +2, Con +2 +2 No +20 Sw Hold Breath, 120 Blindsight^, +8 Swim, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 Out of water.
Porpoise 44 2 Str +2, Dex +4, Con +2 +2 No +20 Sw Hold Breath, 120 Blindsight^, +8 Swim, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 Out of water.
Seal 44 2 Str +2, Dex +4, Con +2 +2 Yes +20 Sw +8 Swim, Hold Breath, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 out of water.
Walrus 44 2 Str +2, Dex +4, Con +2 +2 Yes +20 Sw +8 Swim, Hold Breath, +4 Spot and Listen in water, -4 Out of water
                ^ Specialized for double effect, only in water.

   OK, these are pretty much identical. Of course, from the viewpoint of a d20 land-dweller, once you strip out the size modifiers they ARE pretty much identical; they live in what looks like near-identical environments, they all lack really effective limbs, they all eat things they bite or strain out of the water, and they’re all covered in blubber. Of course, seals and walruses can get around on land a bit, while the cetacea are pretty much immobile on the land – but if we’re going for anthropomorphs or genegrafts, that’s pretty much irrelevant.

   “We’ve been under for nearly a minute now. Who’s laughing now tiger?”

   The Rodents and Lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pika) include beavers, gophers, squirrels, rats, porcupines, capabyra, gerbils, flying squirrels, mice, moles, and an immense range of other animals. For our purposes, it also includes the marsupial equivalents of all those creatures, the hyrax, and a few other creatures which technically belong in other groups, but which are virtually identical in practical terms. In general, these are gnawing animals, good at climbing or digging (with their relatively small claws), and relatively prolific. Most employ active defenses – fighting back (if they must) until an opportunity arises to escape, at which point they’ll make a break for safety at the best speed they can manage.

   Sadly, like most burrowing animals, the rate at which these creatures dig doesn’t even appear on the d20 time scale – where a movement rate of a mere 5 feet per round comes to fifty feet per minute.

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Beaver 40 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +4 +1 1d4 Yes +10 Sw +4 Engineering, Swim
Capybara 41 1 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +4 +2 1d4 Yes +10 Sw +8 Swim
Flying Squirrel 46 1 Str +2, Dex +6, Con +0 1d3 Yes Glide 10 +8 Balance, Climb, Jump, Adept.
Gopher 41 1 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +4 +1 1d6 Yes +4 Listen, Spot, Hide, Move Silently, Adept.
Porcupine 40 1 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +4 +2 1d8 Yes Reflex Action (free attack with it’s own natural weapons on anyone who attacks it with a natural weapon).
Rabbit 46 1 Str +2, Dex +6, Con +0 1d3 Yes +20 +8 Listen, Jump, +4 Hide, Adept, +4 Initiative
Rat 40 1 Str +2, Dex +4, Con +2 1d4 Yes +4 Hide, Move Silently, +8 Climb, Swim. Adept.
Squirrel 43 1 Str +2, Dex +6, Con +0 1d4 Yes +8 Balance, Climb, and Hide, +4 Spot, Adept, +2 Initiative

   “Of course I got out of there! It was a bloody dragon! Simply because the idiot predators don’t know when to retreat is no reason why I should die with them!”

   Part IV will include the last groups – and some notes on animals that simply are not suitable as a basis for characters. There are some adaptions that player characters simply do NOT want.

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One Response

  1. […] Genetic Engineering, and Anthropomorphics in d20: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part […]

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