Thursday, May 21, 2015

Building a Featured Creature from the Basics

NOTE: These stats have been edited to conform to the rules revisions posted on 9/8/15.
From here on out, I'm going to approach the Featured Creatures with a new strategy.  I'll be going in alphabetical order through the Monsters chapter of the Rules Cyclopedia, and converting animal monster entries there into playable character species.  I've been using the B/X rules and Rules Cyclopedia as the "DNA" of Great & Small, with the obvious tweaks and homebrews of my own creation.

Anyway, the first animal we find in the RC is "Animal Herd."  It's meant to represent statistics for various types of wild ungulates, such as caribou, deer, elk, goats, moose, and wild oxen.  It then groups the animals together by Hit Dice, with the "antelope, deer, goats" category listed as 1 to 2 Hit Dice, "wild horses, zebra" listed as 2 HD, "caribou, oxen" as 3 HD, and "elk, moose, cattle" as 4 HD.

Right away, this is problematic, because from a role-playing perspective, there is a big difference between deer and cattle, for  instance, or between oxen and zebras.

Since I already have stats for horse characters and was planning to give antelope and deer their own entries, I've decided to narrow the focus of "Animal Herd" to various types of cattle and related species like bison, buffalo, musk oxen, and oxen.

I assume that the listed HD for animals applies to adult specimens, so a beginning-level character with fewer than the listed HD is going to be an adolescent.  I have replaced the term "Hit Dice" for animal player characters with "Total Levels," but they mean essentially the same thing.  In G&S game terms, this means beginning herd animal characters will have Growth Spurt at 3rd Total Level (that is, at 3 HD), representing their finally achieving full physical maturity.

Finally, I'm left with the decision of how to assign starting hit points and hit points per level.  As I noted in a previous blog entry, I give each Featured Creature maximum possible hit points at 0-level, followed by an average value of their listed Hit Die type each consecutive level thereafter.  For herd animals, I have to choose between a 1d5 (or 1d6 if using standard dice) or a 1d7 (1d8 in standard dice), since oxen & cattle are listed with different HD choices.  I'm going to use a 1d7, since it reflects roughly the same level of hardiness as horses, who occupy the same Size category.

Finally, Rules Cyclopedia animal herds have kind of a neat special ability: they can spark a mass trample attack of the whole herd against foes, for 1d20 damage.  This is described in the original rules as  panic response with a percentage chance of occurrence. However, I'd like PC herd animals to have more agency, so I'm going to convert this attack form into a high-level special ability.

The final result looks like this:
Herd Animal
There is great strength in numbers, as any herd beast can tell you.  But this does not mean that individual members of the herd are weak.  Indeed, many herd animals -- such as bison, or male cattle -- are symbols of strength and virulence among other species, and such individuals make for powerful foes on their own terms.  Nonetheless, even such great warriors would not deny that the true strength of the Hoofed Lords (as they like to call their species) lies in their vast herds: a veritable forest of sharp horns and muscled bulk waiting to gore and trample any enemy foolish enough to attack them.  For this reason, most predators prefer herd animal stragglers -- the sick, dying, or those too foolish to stay with the rest of the herd.

These stats can be used to represent characters from the species of bison, buffalo, cattle, oxen, or other Large grazing ungulates.

     AC: 7
     AT (Dam.): Head butt (1d5 [1d6])
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Any, plains
     MV: 16
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits:
  • Gore Bonus: male herd animals get a +1 bonus to attack rolls when making a Gore attack with their horns.
  • Growth Spurt: Herd animals gain a Size category at 3rd Total Levels, going from Medium to Large Size.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Rouse The Herd: At 9th Total Level, a herd animal can release a call that sparks her entire herd into action against a single target, be it an individual or a group. This takes the form of a mass Trample attack.
  • Scent
  • +1 bonus on all Scout lore checks to hear noise or detect hidden objects
  • +2 bonus on Warrior lore checks to push, pull, drag, break, or otherwise use their raw muscle power on heavy objects.
  • Special Maneuvers: Gore, Trample
  • Suitable Niches: Healer, Runner, Scout, Seer, Warrior.

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