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More Than Four Legs and Nasty Pointy Teeth

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

In my last post (“Animal Encounters in CT”, Freelance Traveller #075, May/June 2016), I explored the Animal Encounters part of Traveller adventure design. Yes, animals can be a danger and a challenge, but will they be memorable? A memorable encounter has to have something surprising—an “I didn’t know it could do that” or “how do we deal with this” aspect. If all carnivore chasers are leopards with different color fur, encountering them will be worse than not memorable, those encounters will be dull. So what to do?

Here’s just one example of a different way to play an animal encounter: Suppose the PCs encounter land based crabs, 6kg carnivore trappers with claws that do 1D-3 damage. Not too troublesome, you say? Here’s the twist: they migrate by the millions. Maybe it’s a new settlement on the world and no one has encountered them before. Or it may be a recognized phenomenon and the locals know to just lock up and bring everything inside for one night, then clean up the morning after. But the PCs see only a few at first, then suddenly there are waves of them, and they crawl or eat through whatever is in their way.

Animal Special Effects

Critters should be able to do surprising things. I realize that I’ve let myself be limited to the information on the table, which misses opportunities to challenge the PCs in many ways. What if the next animal the PCs encounter has one of these abilities?

Animals make sounds. These can be communication or a defense mechanism:

Referees should generate a throw to avoid effects like disorientation, fear, or deafness. INT or EDU provide a +DM.

Large creatures with claws or tentacles can pick up characters. Let us assume that an animal can lift of its own mass. If a character gets picked up, they can try to free themselves with Strength, or by severing the limb. Throw 13+ to break free of a lifting creature, DM+1 for STR of 11+ and +2 for STR of 14+. Attacking the holding limb is a normal attack, and needs to do damage equal to the creature’s initial wound points to injure the limb enough to make the creature let go.

Filters, Trappers and Sirens can have a Move rating of 0, meaning the creature is immobile. These can just as easily be (or look like) plants as animals. They function the same, but will appear as part of the local flora.


It is the unusual, the colorful and the challenging encounters that players will remember. The next time the PCs are out in the wilds, or down in subterranean caverns, have a strange creature show up to menace them. Traveller is a science fiction game, alien worlds should look and act alien.

If you want more examples of interesting animal encounters, take a click over to Felbrigg Herriott’s Behind the Claw podcast. He has a regular section called the Creature Catalog where he details strange and wondrous creatures. Enjoy!