Roleplayer #7, November 1987

The Dire Wolf and Pack Tactics

A Preview of the GURPS Bestiary

by Steffan O'Sullivan

The Dire Wolf

ST:16Move/Dodge:7/6Size:1 hex
DX:12PD/DR:1/1Weight:150-200 lbs.
IQ:4Damage:1 die cutOrigin:Ice Age
HT:17Reach:CHabitats:Plains, Forest, Arctic, Mountain

The dire wolf is the sturdy but slow precursor of the modern wolf. Dire wolves are active both day and night, traveling in packs ranging from four to forty animals. Scavengers by nature, dire wolves prey upon animals in distress – the injured, the old, the abandoned young. They often attack animals trapped in mires, rock slides and tar pits. The La Brea tar pits contain more skeletons of dire wolves than of any other mammal.

Dire wolves have no fear of humans. Should a party encounter them, the wolves will attack using pack tactics (see below). They will not be driven off until they have suffered at least 50% casualties.

Pack Tactics

Pack animals like wolves and lions hunt using clearly recognizable tactics. First, they select a single animal – usually a weak or sick individual – to cut off from a herd. They seldom attack healthy animals – even the biggest predators have difficulty bringing down large prey. Most adult herd animals can outrun pack predators over any significant distance, and if they do get cornered, they put up more of a fight than predators are willing to deal with.

Once the prey has been separated from the herd, the pack will chase and harass it for some time before attacking in earnest. Members of the pack take turns snapping at its heels and sides, keeping the quarry running while their fellow hunters rest. This constant pursuit weakens the prey for the final attack. Once the beast is on the brink of exhaustion, the pack can bring it down easily.

If the prey chooses to stand rather than flee, the pack will rapidly surround it. A few hunters will feint to draw its attention – then the others rush in, attacking from the sides and rear. If the beast turns, the former attackers will withdraw while the one-time feinters rush it from behind. The victim is quickly overwhelmed by the numerical superiority of its attackers. Pack predators will rarely attack a large animal head-on – individuals which use this suicidal tactic quickly drop out of the gene pool.

Pack hunters will attack humans just as they do other animals – by chasing them until they drop, or by surrounding them and attacking from the flanks. If a party stands its ground, but the pack is unable to surround it – or if the humans stand back-to-back, leaving no flanks exposed – the pack will be hesitant to attack. Instead, the hunters will try to keep the party pinned down, waiting to exploit any opening. If the pack is desperate, some members may charge the party in an attempt to overwhelm them in a frontal assault. The other pack members will be quick to take advantage of any ensuing chaos.

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