Acting Like Animals

by Brent Knowles

Art by andi jones

A certain amount of realism disappears from the game when the "monsters" we know from real life act incorrectly. These monsters, the lions, wolves, and sharks of this world, are portrayed as weak cannon fodder, upon which the characters can build their experience.

Consider this example:

Two warriors are crossing the great plains of the Nugelian Empire.

DM: [fumbling with dice, rolling a random monster encounter] "Uhm, four jackals come running at you, yelping and yowling."

Alfonso: "I draw my sword and start attacking."

Drake: "I do the same."

The battle proceeds for some time. All the jackals are dead, save one. The DM doesn't feel like looking up the jackal's morale. The lone jackal fights to the death, even though the morale of the jackal is only 2-4.

The DM obviously never read the entry on the jackal in the monster manual, stating they are a scavenger and not a predator. In fact, no natural animal would behave in this manner, unless it was very hungry, or the party was endangering its young.

Even the predators towards the top of the food chain are not the fierce fighters they are portrayed to be. A leopard will gladly give up a fresh kill to a pack of hyenas, to avoid a fight. It knows that it could probably win the fight, but in so doing might injure itself, or at the very least expend valuable energy.

Animals operate on the principle of conserving energy. Before engaging prey they decide whether . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: October 29, 1999

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