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

   Our next group includes a variety of insectivores, including the various anteaters, the aardvark, numbat, echidna, and pangolin, the hedgehog, and the armadillo. Most of these creatures have basic passive defenses in the form of spines, quills, or armor, are good diggers (sometimes having fairly formidable claws which they use to dig and tear apart rotting wood), good senses of smell, relatively poor eyesight, and a tendency to deal with most dangerous situations by hiding. On the other hand, they aren’t much superior to the herbivores physically, although they usually have better claws and tougher hide; bugs do fight back and run away somewhat more actively than plants, but rarely all that effectively when they’re up against creatures who are vastly larger and have the proper adaptions.

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Aardvark 43 1 Str +6, Dex +0, Con +2 +2 1d8 Yes +4 Listen, Scent Perception, Hide. Adept.
Armadillo 47 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +4 +6 1d4 Yes +4 Jump, Hide, Move Silently, Swim. Adept.
Anteater 43 1 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +4 +2 1d8 Yes +4 Climb, Scent Perception, Escape Artist. Adept.
Echidna 42 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +2 +4 1d6 Yes +4 Balance, Climb, Escape Artist. Adept, Reflex Action (free attack with it’s own natural weapons on anyone who attacks it with a natural weapon).
Hedgehog 40 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +2 +4 1d4 Yes +8 Hide, Move Silently, Survival. Adept.
Pangolin 45 1 Str +4, Dex +0, Con +2 +6 1d6 Yes +4 Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Scent Perception. Adept, Stinking Cloud with +4 Bonus Uses

   “You’re a were-WHAT? How did that happen? Can those things even bite a person? Did it, like, hit you with a claw and then lick the wound?”

   Second to last, we have the Kangaroo and Opossum – a couple of animals that were simply an awkward fit in any of the other groups. No, they aren’t an especially good fit with each other either – but they’ll just have to get along.

   Kangaroos are notable for the remarkable efficiency of their movement. They don’t run or even jump as it’s commonly understood; instead they bounce – storing the energy of their descent in elastic ligaments. A human can run a four-minute mile. A Kangaroo can travel at that speed with ease, and keep it up for hours – or run a one-and-a-half minute mile as the equivalent of a sprint. On the other hand, non-anthropomorphic kangaroos have trouble moving slowly.

   Opossums are notable for being adaptable, willing to eat all kinds of things – and having a remarkably well-developed immune system. They’re immune to a variety of venoms and are highly resistant to most diseases.

Creature CP HD Attribute Adjustments: NA NW Scent Move Skills and Special Modifiers
Kangaroo 46 1 Str +4, Dex +2, Con +2 1d6 Yes +20 +8 Jump, +4 Swim. Adept, Tireless.
Opossum 46 1 Str +2, Dex +2, Con +4 +2 1d4 Yes +10 Bluff (Specialized in playing dead), +8 Balance, Climb, Adept, Immunity/Disease, +4 on saves versus Poison.

   “How did you make it here that fast? It’s two hundred miles!”

   Our final group includes all those animals with adaptions that no player character in their right mind would want. Ergo, I won’t be bothering with providing statistics. Negative ECL races are rarely a good idea…

   Sloths are adapted for being slow. So slow that it requires a month for their digestive processes to complete, that they can live most of their lives in a single tree, and that their metabolism is glacial. They give few signs of their presence and can sit still for days at a time. Thus they can get along with about a quarter the muscle tissue typical of a more active animal of similar weight. Unfortunately, a low-energy lifestyle is pretty much the opposite of what adventurers do, and only works when you have a private environment that’s virtually free of predation and which produces enough food for a low-energy lifestyle with virtually no effort. Thus sloths typically stick reasonably close to the trunks of a small group of trees – or even a single tree – where they’re too big for small predators to take, large predators can’t get to them, and where sufficient food is available within easy reach. Sloths often miss opportunities to become parents simply because they don’t move far enough – such as to another cluster of trees – to find a mate. Now THAT’S lazy.

   Koalas are cute, but they’re actually a lot like Sloths – although they go even further in some areas. Even Sloths haven’t given up large portions of their brain capacity to save energy, which Koala’s apparently have. That sort of thing may be why Koalas can be somewhat more active than Sloths are.

   Manatees and Dugongs survive because they’re too large for an unspecialized small predator to take, because they inhabit a habitat that’s too limited to support large predators, and because there aren’t enough of them to support a specialized predator population. While any creature may be taken during some special period of vulnerability on an opportunistic basis, the only predators that can afford to spend time hunting these creatures are the ones that can easily take on the necessary adaptions and which can easily shift environments to hunt for something else when these things are scarce. In practice, that generally limits things to sapient tool users – against whom few natural animal adaptions suffice. That’s why Manatees and Dugongs can afford to be slow, drifting, blobs that do very little except swallow huge quantities of soft vegetation.

   As for a couple of questions…

   No mental attribute or charisma modifiers are provided in this article. In part, that’s because the d20 system defines “animals” as having an Intelligence score of 1-2 and gives most of them a small bonus to Wisdom simply to represent sharp senses – which are awkward to allow for in the game except with a die roll bonus. Given that wisdom represents rather more than sharp senses in sapient creatures, a Wisdom bonus wouldn’t work very well.

   In part it’s because these modifiers don’t define how our putative anthropomorphs achieved sapience.

  • Was it through genetic engineering? There’s no real reason to expect much of the base animals instinctive behavior, differences in intelligence, or other mental factors to carry over. If you’re grafting physical attributes to a more-or-less human base, why use the vastly-inferior mental attributes of an animal? If you’re uplifting an animal, you’re going to be totally redesigning it’s brain in any case. Either way, mental modifiers are going to be dependent on the engineers skills and goals, not the animal type.
  • Was it through magic? Perhaps through deific creation? In that case, any mental modifiers are just as likely to be based on the mythic attributes of the animal in question as on anything grounded in it’s actual abilities.
  • Was it natural? Evolved somehow? OK, now your modifiers could be pretty much ANYTHING. We’ve got no information at all to go on as to how a totally speculative evolutionary path might have worked out.

   Why no Dire Animals? Because, while “Dire Animals” were originally intended to represent real, if prehistoric, animals – much like the listings for the various Dinosaurs – there actually isn’t any reason to expect them to be any more formidable than current animals. In fact, we might argue for the reverse; they are, after all, less-evolved. Quite a lot of the ones most game masters are interested in (after all, they usually want a challenge for their players) are simply larger than their current relatives – so, in general, if you want a “dire” animal, all you really need to do is take the statistics for a normal animal and increase it’s size.

   Why are we really only considering one phylum – Chordata – when there are twenty times as many animals – many of them quite fascinating – in the other phyla? Well, that’s because Worms, Jellys, Sponges, Starfish, Water Bears, Shellfish, and Rhotifers really don’t have many features suitable for player characters. Arthropods – with more than a million species (roughly half of all existing animal species) might offer some suitable inspiration, but – as noted earlier – any arthropod suitable as a player character is a thing of fantasy (or radically different biology).

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One Response

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

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