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Animal Encounters in Classic Traveller

This article originally appeared on the author’s blog, and was reprinted with permission in the May/June 2016 issue. Freelance Traveller extends our apologies to the author for failing to note the original publication in the PDF issue.

What could be more fun for your players than to be in a wilderness situation and to be confronted by a giant mutant insect?

How Dangerous Is That Bug, Anyway?

The animal encounter tables give two numbers expressed in xD for the animal’s fighting ability. The first is hits to unconsciousness, the second is [additional] hits to kill.

I have consulted the http://anydice.com site for averages on die rolls.

A 50 kg animal (such as an aardvark or wolf) has hits of 4D/2D On average that makes for 14 hits (to unconsciousness) plus 7 additional hits (to death), for 21 total – this is equal to the 777 stats of an average human PC. So, that’s pretty reasonable. Creatures this size may have tough (jack equivalent) hides but don’t have the mass to support significant armoring.

At 100 kg, the next step up, (such as a St Bernard dog) hits go to 5D/2D or 18 plus 7, or 25. For a doubling of mass, that’s not a big step up in toughness. A 100 kg critter could still be taken down with two rifle shots or one laser bolt. At this size it’s time for creatures to start sporting tougher hides (mesh equivalent or better)

At 800 kg (such as the largest bears) the average hits are 7D/3D, or 24 plus 10 for 34. By this point, the critter can take a laser rifle bolt and keep walking. Possibly two, but probably not three. With bullet fire, it could probably take three before falling, maybe four.

The animal size column of the creation tables keeps going up, and so does the Hits column. Rhinoceros- or elephant-sized animals and larger are possible, and correspondingly tougher. After 400 kg, the animals have damage bonuses. Extra-large animals have damage multipliers to reflect greater attack power. That 800 kg ursinoid? Its claws can do 4D+3 damage, average 17. Yeah, that’ll be the end of your PC in one go if it gets close enough.

Once a critter is down, of course, the PCs are likely to make sure it stays down by shooting it again. So the hits to death part isn’t really useful information. The coup de grace rule in the combat section makes that second number irrelevant.

Does the Animal Creation System Need A Change?

I suggest we change things to where the first number represents the bulk of the creature's health, the point at which its desire to attack will be overcome by self-preservation and the creature flees. Even a carnivore on the hunt isn’t likely to commit suicide by continuing to attack a foe that’s demonstrated an ability to hurt it. If the PCs keep shooting at it until the second number is exhausted, then the beast dies.

As an alternative for hunters, the first number is the point at which the creature can’t recover on its own. It will continue to lose strength, like 1 point per 30 seconds until the second number is exhausted and the creature dies. An animal hunted for food might flee after being wounded, necessitating a chase.

Another possibility is to assign maximum wound points to a critter based on its size, rather than leaving it to random die rolls. As each 1D adds on average 3 points to the critter's total, bigger things are not that much tougher. If a critter battle is going to be an adventure climax, giving the thing Battledress-tough hide can make it a big challenge.

Thoughts On Running An Encounter

The ‘Attack if’ and ‘Flee if’ numbers provided by the animal encounter tables are used only at the start of the encounter. The numbers in the table are the target for a 2D roll. Roll for Attack and Flee in the order presented. If the first target is not met, then roll the second. If neither target is met, the creature remains in place, either hidden or in sight of the PCs. It might move around (stalking) but takes no decisive action until the PCs do. Once the PCs act, then the referee should roll for Attack or Flee again.

Once a creature has been wounded, it will respond with whichever action is listed first on the table—herbivores will flee, while the other types will attack. If the referee decides that the creature can tell which character attacked it, the creature will attack that character. Otherwise, the creature will likely attack the nearest character to it.