Designer's Notes: GURPS Monsters

by Hunter Johnson

I had a few revisions under my belt (GURPS Japan, GURPS Bestiary) when I hashed out what would go into the book originally envisioned as GURPS Horror Bestiary. I felt that a horror bestiary in the same style as GURPS Fantasy Bestiary or GURPS Space Bestiary would feel too much like GURPS Creatures of the Night. The vision of the book morphed along the way, settling finally on a GURPS Villains style -- individual monsters in fine detail.

The original plan also included the idea that the monsters should be divided into ten chapters. Those ten chapters would correspond to the sections in the monsters chapter of the new edition of GURPS Horror. Two things lead to the current division (four chapters, corresponding to the origins of the creatures): diverging schedules for the two books, and the fact that more monsters can be included if there are fewer chapter splash pages.

With the vision and outline in place (but subject to change), the remaining hurdle was to get submissions that fit both the vision and the outline. Conveying that GURPS Monsters was not going to be a catalog of creatures nor a clearinghouse for mundane villains was a bit of a problem, it turns out. Now, some exceptions were made in the final product (the Phantom of the Opera is not unnatural, but he was included as a classic movie "monster") and some submissions were sent back to the submitters with suggestions to make them fit (Tamok the Conqueror was originally a race a creatures, not an individual from that race), but some of the good characters that were submitted would have been wrecked by shoehorning them into this book's vision.

Happily, the designer's notes feature here in Pyramid has a long and glorious tradition of providing an outlet for such things. Bill Stoddard sent in this monstrous creature, which was eventually cut because she is wholly natural, as scary as that may be. It went through the playtesting process, but the changes from the original submission were only cosmetic in nature.

Asuri Ranee

Total Points: 257

Age 9; 8' long; 410 lbs.; a tiger of moderate size but with an intimidating air of fierceness.

Racial Package: Tiger [172].

ST: 35 [0]; DX: 16 [20]; IQ: 6 [20]; HT: 20/25 [60]

Advantages: Animal Empathy [5]; Chameleon (only in natural cover, -20%) 1 [6]; Charisma +1 [5]; Reputation +1 (Cunning predator, most people/most of the jungle, all the time) [3]; Single-Minded [5].

Disadvantages: Bad Temper [-10]; Enemy (Sir Roderick Jameson, on a 6 or less) [-5]; Migraine (Mild) [-5]; Odious Personal Habit (Man- Eater) [-15]; Reputation -4 (as a Man-Eating Tiger, in India, on a 7 or less) [-6]; Sadism [-15].

Quirks: Afraid of fire; Really likes fish. [-2]

Skills: Area Knowledge (Jungles of the Himalayan foothills)-10 [8]; Fishing-8 [4]; Tracking-18 [2].

Notes: Asuri Ranee's Migraine disadvantage actually represents recurrent toothaches; during one of these toothaches she is likely to attack unpredictably. It was during the aftermath of such an attack that she developed a taste for human flesh. Her Sadism is the common feline trait "plays with her food" in exaggerated form.

Asuri Ranee ("the devil queen") is an Indian tiger and the dominant predator of her particular jungle. She has an extraordinarily good constitution and has lived to an unusual age. She was above average in cunning to start with and has grown more so with the years. Her depredations have so terrified the nearby villagers that she is widely considered to be a demon in the guise of a beast, the source of her name. More than one hunter has failed to kill her.

Asuri Ranee's motives are quite straightforward: she wants to eat regularly, preferably meals such as fish or human flesh; she wants to hold her territory against other tigers; and, occasionally, she wants to mate and raise cubs. But her strategies for accomplishing these are unusually sophisticated; as an NPC, play her with exceptional Craftiness (p. BE84). She is certainly clever enough to circle back and approach an unwary hunter from behind. If she is among trees, her stripes give her +2 to Stealth if still, +1 if moving. Her tactics are the classic tiger technique of leaping from concealment to seize the neck (p. BE79) and snap it (p. CI170). If this doesn't work, she will switch to raking attacks with her back legs to disembowel her prey.

As happens to cats, her teeth are going bad and occasionally cause her pain, which makes her restless and irritable. When this happens, she is dangerously unpredictable, likely to respond to any challenge or threat with a direct attack. This is a weakness that could get her killed, but it has cost the lives of a few hunters who weren't prepared for her speed and ferocity. She can sprint a quarter mile in just over 30 seconds. Her HT is high enough so that it will take more than one shot to finish her off.

Sir Roderick Jameson has made a name for himself killing man-eaters around the world. He has been trying to add Asuri's pelt to his collection for three years. She has killed two of his crew since he started, the first fatalities in all of his hunts. His quest may be turning into an obsessionů

Racial Package

Tiger

172 points

Attributes: Enhanced ST +25 (No Fine Manipulators) [107]; DX +4 [45]; IQ -6 [-50]; HT +5 [60].

Advantages: Alertness +14 [70]; Attractive [5]; Claws [15]; Combat Reflexes [15]; Double-Jointed [5]; Enhanced Move +50% [5]; ; Extra Hit Points +5 [25]; Faz Sense (3-hex range, -20%) [8]; Four Legs [5]; Longevity [5]; Night Vision [10]; Sharp Teeth [5]; Silence x3 [15]; Thick Fur [29].

Disadvantages: Attentive [-1]; Bestial [-10]; Dead Broke [-25]; Dull [- 1]; Horizontal [-10]; Innumerate [-5]; Mute [-25]; No Fine Manipulators [-30]; Presentient [-20]; Short Arms [-10]; Short Lifespan x5 [-50]; Sleepy (50%) [-10]; Social Stigma (Barbarian) [- 15]; Staid [-1]; Stubbornness [-5].

Skills: Climbing at DX [2]; Jumping at DX [1]; Stealth at DX [2]; Survival (Jungle, specialized) at IQ+2/+8 [8]; Swimming at DX [1].

Maneuver: Neck Snap at ST-2 [2].

Other Places and Times

Tigers are widespread geographically and formerly were even more so. Adventurers in a variety of lands might encounter Asuri Ranee under a suitable local name. For example, a Japanese tiger might plausibly be called Mononoke Hime (angry ghost princess).

In the Stone Age

With a few changes to her racial template, Asuri Ranee could become a sabertooth or smilodon (see p. BE54 or D76) and the nemesis of a band of early hominids. The hunt that finally rids the tribe of her might be a suitable epic adventure, or the occasional seizure of a relative could provide a sense of Paleolithic horror.

For the sabertooth package, reduce Enhanced ST to +16 [90] and buy Sharp Teeth up to Fangs [10]. The skill of Swimming and the Neck Snap maneuver can be dropped, for a net -15 point cost.

Avatar

In an Indian campaign, especially one set in ancient India, Asuri Ranee may be literally what her name implies, a demonic enemy of the gods walking the earth in tiger form. This version could have even higher IQ and the ability to speak Sanskrit; other supernatural powers would be appropriate as well, especially if her human enemy were an avatar of one or another god. Consider making her Unaging [15] or even giving her Immortality [140].

Alien

Certain biological designs are highly efficient for certain survival strategies and thus likely to evolve independently in different lineages. In an outer space campaign, some other planet's evolutionary history might have turned up its own huge feline predators who would view human explorers as an intriguing new source of meat. The creatures might be almost identical to earthly tigers or might have exotic powers, as in Van Vogt's classic "Black Destroyer."

* * *

And here's one from David Morgan-Mar, lying somewhere between the Cryptozoo and Original Monsters.

The Bunyip

Total Points: 284

A huge brawny man with a bestial appearance. He is 6'7" tall, but stooped over somewhat, with a heavy frame filled out more with muscle than fat. His matted brown hair and beard are unkempt and he has a wild animal glow to his green eyes. He is unnaturally hairy and his uncut nails have hardened into short claws. He wears ragged clothing, scavenged from his victims.

ST: 20 [110]; DX: 13 [30]; IQ: 8 [-15]; HT: 14 [45].

Advantages: Alertness +6 [30]; Cast Iron Stomach [15]; Claws [15]; Combat Reflexes [15]; Damage Resistance +4 [12]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Immunity to Disease [10]; Patron (Bunyip Dreaming, powerful individual with special powers, almost all the time) [60]; Penetrating Call [5]; Very Rapid Healing [15].

Disadvantages: Bloodlust [-10]; Dead Broke [-25]; Delusion (I am a bunyip) [-15]; Illiteracy [-10]; Lecherousness [-15]; Odious Personal Habit (Eats Humans) [-15]; Reputation -3 (fearsome beast, to people of nearby town all the time) [-5]; Secret (Murderer) [-30]; Status -3 [-15]; Ugly [-10]; Uneducated [-5].

Quirks: Doesn't know his own strength [-1].

Skills: Brawling-18 [24]; Pickpocket-12 [2]; Riding-12 [1]; Scrounging-9 [2]; Stealth-18 [32]; Streetwise-9 [4]; Survival (Woodlands)-16 [18].

Languages: English (native)-8 [0].

The Bunyip Dreaming

The Bunyip Dreaming which serves as Dan's patron is a powerful spirit entity, built on the Spirit of Place template in GURPS Spirits (p. SPI61). It keeps its Water Breathing and Swim spells permanently on Dan.

Bunyip Dreaming

Total Points: 271

Attributes: ST 10 [0]; DX 10 [0]; IQ 8 [-15]; HT 16 [80].

Advantages: Innate Magic: Water Breathing-16 [18]; Innate Magic: Swim-16 [18]; Magery 1 (Innate Magic Only) [8]; Spirit of Place [182].

Disadvantages: Bestial [-10]; Bloodlust [-10].

Biography

As a youngster, Dan Saunders was a societal misfit in colonial Australia. An orphan who found himself on the streets of Victorian-era Sydney, he spent a tough childhood picking pockets and eating scraps or whatever he could steal from markets. By necessity, he developed a taste for raw meat. He spent several years living this way, on the edges of society and out of sight of most people.

Reaching adulthood, Saunders developed an appreciation for female company. An attempted abduction of a young woman went wrong and Saunders killed her without realizing his overpowering strength. Fearing capture (and the gallows), he stole a horse and fled the city for the relative safety of the bush.

Saunders rode for several days, bypassing towns he came across. Eventually, at a billabong by the road, his hunger got the better of him and he killed and ate the horse. A few days later he ambushed his first human prey. He carved a leg bone into a snorkel and used it to lie in wait underwater for future ambushes. Before long, the road became notorious for the disappearances but, being the only road between two large towns, traffic never died down enough to bother Dan. He especially enjoyed catching young women, at first for their company but later just for the taste of their flesh.

Over time, a local bunyip Dreaming has become attached to Saunders because of the sympathetic activities he pursues. This malicious spirit grants him unnatural strength and bloodthirstiness, at the cost of slowly making him less human. His urban survival skills are being replaced by more bestial ones. In his mind, Saunders is now a bunyip, the local settlers and Aborigines refer to him as one, and to all intents and purposes he is one.

Motivations

Saunders is now motivated almost completely by two desires: food and women. He attempts to ravish any women he captures, but before he gets the chance most are dead of wounds or pure shock, at which point they become simply food. Saunders retains a knowledge of English, and if any potential victims think to speak to him he may hesitate as the human and bunyip within him compete for control. He is not entirely given over to his monstrous side yet, and he could possibly be lured back to society with promises of all the things he never had as a child. It is unlikely that anyone would think to offer such things though, and any glimpse of humanity in Saunders should serve merely to highlight the horror of his corruption.

Encountered

Typically, Saunders will be encountered by weary travelers stopping along the road for water. The first person to approach the billabong will be dragged in and quickly dispatched. If young ladies are present in the traveling party, Saunders will leap out to drag one away, otherwise he will probably lie hidden with his prize.

If enough people go missing, authorities may be called in to investigate. Local Aborigines will warn of the impossibility of capturing or killing a bunyip. An armed force may scare Saunders into hiding, or force him to adopt stealth raid tactics on camps, increasing any tension. If actually captured alive, the "wild man" will create a sensation. He may be transported back to Sydney for study, where all hell will break loose when he inevitably escapes.

Another possibility is that eventually Dan's billabong becomes so shunned that he has to move on. The trail of destruction as he crosses the countryside should be enough to scare local farmers witless and present a golden opportunity for brave young souls seeking their fortune. Note that with his animal stealth and human cunning, Dan will not be easy prey for anyone with a gun.

Variations

Since bunyip Dreamings are immortal and society will always produce dregs like Dan, he can easily be moved forward as far as the present day or even beyond to a fantastic Cyberpunk world. Dreamings are usually attached to an area of land, but if one somehow gets stranded on a ship bound for London it will find plenty of people like Dan to infect. In a non- Australian setting, Saunders could be possessed by any local variety of a malignant spirit, slowly sapping what remains of his humanity as he terrorizes the locals. In a fantasy campaign, rumors of a local troll lurking under a bridge and eating passers-by could turn up a version of the bunyip, recognizable as a man missing from the local village and now corrupted by magical or spiritual forces.

What is a Bunyip?

Bunyips are traditional creatures of Australian Aboriginal legend. They are large, fierce, and semi-aquatic, living in creeks, swamps, and billabongs (from an Aboriginal word meaning a waterhole). Physical descriptions are as varied as the many Aboriginal tribes -- bunyips are described as either scaled or furry, horned or not, tailed or not, having clawed or webbed feet, and being anywhere from human- to elephant-sized. What they have in common is a fearsome, spine-chilling call and an appetite for humans, especially young women.

These legends were truly believed by the Aborigines, not treated merely as stories to scare children. When Europeans arrived, Aborigines told them of bunyips as fact, resulting in many superstitious and uncertain settlers spreading wild stories based on weird sounds heard in the bush. To tradition-minded Aborigines, even if bunyips have died out in modern times their spirits still exist as bunyip Dreamings, capable of interacting with people who invoke them through rituals.

What were Bunyips?

Paleontological evidence shows that megafauna populated Australia recently enough to have co-existed with Aborigines. Two examples are Megalania, a 23-foot lizard, and Diprotodon, a two-ton marsupial resembling a rhinoceros-sized wombat. Both of these have been suggested as the source of bunyip legends. Another theory has been proposed for more recent bunyip reports: Down-and-outs in colonial times and as recently as the Great Depression may have taken to ambushing people by hiding in shallow water with breathing tubes, resulting in spates of disappearances at local waterholes. A fondness of lonely men for female companionship is blamed for the tendency for victims to be women.




Article publication date: November 23, 2001


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