This article originally appeared in Issue #009 of the downloadable PDF magazine.
|Classic Traveller Statistics
|1 Carnivore Hunter/Siren
Wounds and Weapons
Stinger (Quills): The quills do 1D3 physical damage each (roll 1D6 to see how many quills are contacted) and the venom does 1D6 temporary damage per quill. Each combat round the target must roll END or less on 3D6 to avoid being rendered unconscious. If the total amount of damage from the venom exceeds at least two attributes, then the target will die from respiratory paralysis unless an antidote is given. The temporary venom damage wears off in 1 hour per point inflicted during which the victim experiences excruciating pain and difficulty breathing due to extreme rigidity of the abdominal muscles.
Teeth: The bite of the Red Spiny Runner does 2D6 physical damage, with no other effects.
The Red Spiny Runner is a large mammal-like reptile that is found living in the giant trees on the planet of Gehenna where it primarily preys on the ubiquitous Devil Squirrels and similar small prey items. They lay eggs in clutches of 4 and are a high-energy burning, hot-blooded predator. As carnivores they prefer live prey, but in captivity they can be conditioned to eat dead prey items that have been warmed up and moved about as if they were alive.
The Red Spiny Runner has a leathery skin under a coat of fine, brown-green feathers. The broad head, with the mouth that almost splits the head in half when gaping, is covered with a heavy, bright green bone “helmet”. The reason for the coloration is not known and both males and females have it. The eyes are deeply set within the bony covering and well protected. The animal has three nostrils and long, prehensile clawed toes on its feet which help it move at high speed through the branches.
Under the feathers of the Runner are 20cm bright red quills that the animal can erect at will – usually when alarmed or defending its territory. When warning off a threat or rival the animal will violently shake its torso, rattling the quills. As an interesting side note on adaptations, the Rattlerat (which lives in the same areas as the Runner) mimics the rattle of the Runner’s quills while creeping through the underbrush in order to frighten away predators it senses are nearby.
The hollow quills are attached to muscle-encased bulbs of venom in groups of three. When the quill is pressed against the bulb discharges its load of toxin, but the Runner has no control of how much is used – it’s all or nothing. The toxin is created by the Runner when it licks the poisonous sap of the Doro Tree, which is then metabolized into a morphine analog. The toxin is for defense and doesn’t usually kill the animal stung, but instead leaves it in a daze and uninterested in continuing the attack due to the “high” from the toxin. Too much toxin can, however, cause respiratory paralysis, and humans stung suffer anaphylactic shock and extreme pain from the allergens contained within the venom. Without access to the sap the Runner has no means to produce venom and the animal is relatively harmless – except for the nasty bite.
A nocturnal hunter, the Red Spiny Runner’s hunting techniques are twofold: the primary method is to search about with its especially sensitive sense of smell until it finds a nest of Devil Squirrels inside a branch or log, then it digs them out. The bony covering of the skull protects it from the squirrels’ poison spurs.
The second method involves hiding in a dense thicket of vines and leaves along a path used by the squirrels and mimicking the croaking call of the male squirrel attempting to attract a mate. A male or female will then come along to investigate and the Runner will lunge out and eat it.
The only sexual dimorphism among the Red Spiny Runners is the fantastically long and brilliant tail feathers the males grow during a one month mating season. The male slowly waves his tail towards any females while releasing a pheromone to attract her. The males will mate with more than one female, and after the season is over the feathers are shed.
The Red Spiny Runner can be domesticated, and while not exactly affectionate they are tolerant of handling (though it is advised to keep small children and pets away from them), and highly curious about their surroundings. Its northern cousin, the Black-Quill Runner is smaller, non-poisonous, and can be kept as an affectionate pet since it seems to actually enjoy human company.
The commercial uses of the Red Spiny Runner are both the venom and the feathers. The feathers shed by the male retain fragrant oils that are used in high end perfumes and can fetch as much as 500Cr per gram of crushed feathers (about the amount found from 3 Runners).
The toxin is used in pharmaceuticals because of its non-addictive quality as a painkiller. It also finds its way into the illegal narcotic market where it costs as much as 1000Cr per dose. For both of these effects the toxin must be processed to distill its morphine analog and remove the pain-inducing allergens.
While the Red Spiny Runner was discovered and first identified by the Lady Victoria Challenger of the Imperial Scout Service during the initial survey of Gehenna, its northern cousin was discovered by the eminent Prof. Manuel Dombrowski, famous for not only having discovered the magnificent chameleon Dombrowski’s Lion on Kimpali (also known as the “Kimpali Cheshire Cat”), but for having been devoured by his most famous discovery.