by Chris McCubbin
GURPS Fantasy Folk includes two races of "Enhanced Beasts" – that is, otherwise-normal animals with the intelligence of humans. These are the Great Eagles (after the Eagles of The Hobbit) and Exalted Horses (inspired by, once again, Tolkien, as well as The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, countless mythological examples and old cowboy movies). Dolphins were also developed as a character race, as an adjunct to the Merfolk civilization.
There are many more possibilities for enhanced animals – as unique and interesting characters, as opponents, NPC encounters, or even as player characters for those wanting a new roleplaying challenge. They're not limited to fantasy campaigns; as products of genetic engineering, they can enter science fiction backgrounds as well.
Enhanced beasts are among the simplest character races to create, particularly if the GM already has a copy of the GURPS Bestiary. If not, there are also stats for several animals on pp. B141-144. The GM merely needs to set the race's base IQ at 8, 9 or 10, then figure the point cost for the other attributes, and finally translate the animals' normal natural abilities into existing advantages and disadvantages. Most enhanced animals will get the disadvantages Mute, No Fine Manipulators, Poverty and Social Stigma (humans will be reluctant to treat an animal, no matter how intelligent, as an equal). Most animal races will be Primitive as well; the descriptions below assume that the race is three TLs below the campaign norm. Ignore this for an animal character that will use high-tech equipment.
Players with animal PCs should be freely allowed to buy off some or all of the poverty and primitive disadvantages, if the character has the points to spare. The GM should seriously consider allowing the character to buy off the Mute disadvantage as well. A talking snake or ferret would be considered freakish by its own people, but that would merely provide it with an incentive to go and live among humanity.
Generally, animal mages are possible, even to mute characters. Such races are considered to have developed alternate ways to manipulate mana, other than invocations and hand movements. However, it is recommended that the GM assess Unusual Background charges against magic-using characters of very high-strength races. This is simply necessary for balance, as very strong characters have more fatigue than average, and consequently can cast many more spells than a normal human mage could before tiring. For races with a base ST of 15 or more, an Unusual Background of about 20 points is suggested. Characters with a ST of more than 20 should pay at least 50 points to be mages.
Below are brief descriptions for several sorts of enhanced beast, including complete stats according to the Fantasy Folk / Aliens racial creation system. If the GM introduces any of these races, he should come up with an interesting name . . . but they are listed here under the animal name, for simplicity.
Bears are friendly, level-headed, clever and very tough. An intelligent Bear would be an inestimable asset to an adventuring party. Deciding whether a bear's paws are "fine manipulators" or not is a bit of a judgment call. Here, they are treated as not being as good as hands, but individual GMs are free to disagree. Of course, if the Bears don't have the "no fine manipulators" disadvantage they should be allowed to use their paws to swing a sword, build a fire, repair a wagon or any other task a human could be expected to perform . . . though this would also increase the cost of their higher ST to 50 points! The Bear set forth below is based on the Grizzly.
Bears have ST +2 (20 points), and the Increased ST advantage (30 points) for a net starting ST of 24. They also have DX +3 (30 points), HT +4 (45 points) and 4 additional Extra Hit Points (32 points). They have the advantages Claws (15 points), Damage Resistance +2 (10 points) and Passive Defense +1 (25 points). Bears have the disadvantages Inconvenient Size (-10 points), Mute (-25 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Dead Broke Poverty (-25 points), Primitive -3 TL (-15 points) and Social Stigma (-15 points). They have the racially learned skills Climbing at DX (2 points) and Scrounging at IQ (1 point).
Most gaming groups have at least one cat lover, who would be delighted at the chance to play an intelligent cat. The Cats' very low ST and hit points give them a very low point cost. This does mean, however, that Cats won't be much good in combat, since they do only two points of damage and can be easily killed with a single blow. They still make great spies, scouts and thieves, and a talking, magic-using cat would be extremely easy to design in even a 100-point campaign.
Although they are very small, they have not been given the Inconvenient Size disadvantage; cats seem very comfortable in the human world, and have no inconve-niences from their size that aren't already covered by its ST and low hit points. Thus, the disadvantage would have been free points.
Cats have ST -8 (-70 points), DX +4 (45 points), HT +3 (30 points) and Reduced Hit Points -10 (-50 points). They have the advantages Alertness +3 (15 points), Appearance (Attractive, 5 points), Catfall (30 points), Claws (15 points), Combat Reflexes (15 points), Double Jointed (5 points), 4 Legs (5 points) and Night Vision (10 points). They have the disadvantages Laziness (-10 points), Mute (-25 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Phobia (Fear of Water, Mild) (-5 points), Poverty (-25 points), Primitive -3 TL (-15 points) and Stubbornness (-5 points). All cats have the skills Acrobatics at DX (4 points), Jump-ng at DX (1 point), Stealth at DX +2 (8 points) and Climbing at DX (2 points). Cats' Climbing skill has a unique special effect. . . they're at +3 when climbing up, but -3 when climbing down!
These are large predator cats. A Leopard is an almost perfect hunter, and would make a devastating addition to an adventuring party.
Leopards have Increased ST (30 points), DX +4 (45 points) and HT +4 (45 points). Their advantages are Alertness + 8 (40 points), Appearance (Attractive, 5 points), Claws (15 points), Combat Reflexes (15 points), Double-Jointed (5 points), DR +1(5 points), 4 Legs (5 points), Night Vision (10 points), PD +1 (25 points) and Silence x3 (15 points).
Their disadvantages are Bad Temper (-10 points), Bloodlust (-10 points), Intolerance (-10 points), Laziness (-10 points), Mute (-25 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Phobia: Fear of Water – mild (-5 points), Primitive (-15 points), Stubbornness (-5 points) and Poverty (-25 points). Leopards have the skills Brawling at DX +1 (2 points), Climbing at DX (2 points), Stealth at DX +1(4 points) and Survival at IQ (2 points).
An intelligent cross between an Elk and the extinct Irish Deer, these huge and shy beasts aren't really suited for PC use, but they make good adventure objects or NPC encounters. The enhanced Stags (there are enhanced Does, of course, but they're so shy and reclusive they're almost never seen) are considered the ultimate challenge by human hunters. Those who truly hunt only for the sport will chase the Stag until it's brought to bay, then let it go with nothing more than a touch with a blunted spear – and some Stags seem to enjoy this game as much as the huntsmen. Not all hunters, sadly, are so civilized, It's no wonder that the Stags are almost never seen.
Stags get ST +2 (20 points) and Increased ST (30 points), DX +3 (30 points) and HT +4 (45 points). They have the advantages Alertness +4 (20 points), DR 1(5 points), Enhanced Move (10 points), 4 Legs (5 points), PD 1 (25 points) and Impaling Striker (Antlers) (40 points). They have the disadvantages Inconvenient Size (-10 points), Intolerance (-10 points), Mute (-25 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Primitive (-15 points), Poverty (-25 points), Shyness (-10 points) and Social Stigma (-15 points). All Stags have the skills Brawling at DX +1 (2 points), Camouflage at IQ +1 (4 points), Stealth at DX (2 points) and Survival at DX (2 points).
These Wolves are wild, but basically good (they could just as easily be used for large dogs). If the GM wants evil Wolves to act as servants for Orcs, Vampires, evil wizards or what have you, he can insert any psychological disadvantages he deems appropriate. Note that if the GM wants his evil Wolves to be able to bear even a small fully-armed Orc into battle (as in The Hobbit), he will need a race of Wolves with a ST of at least 16.
Wolves have DX +3 (30 points), IQ -1 (-10 points), HT + 1 (10 points). They have the advantages Alertness +5 (25 points), Claws (15 points), DR + 1(5 points), 4 Legs (5 points), PD + 1 (25 points). Their disadvantages are Color Blind (-10 points), Gluttony (-5 points), Mute (-25 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Primitive (-15 points), Social Stigma (-15 points), Poverty (-25 points). Skills: Brawling at DX (1 point), Running at DX (4 points), Stealth at DX (2 points) and Tracking at IQ +3 (8 points).
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