Chapter 13: Planetary Wilderness Encounters
Characters in the uncivilized areas on the planet’s surface quickly find out that they are not alone. So long as a world can support life, animal encounters and other natural events are common, regardless of the current terrain. This chapter discusses various encounters that can occur in the wilderness on a planet’s surface.
Animals in any ecological system interact with each other, forming food chains, obeying instincts, defending territory, and generally living out their lives. When people enter such an ecological system, they will encounter the animals of the system, prompting natural reactions, such as attack or flight.
Although the precise nature of animals may change, and they may prove quite alien to ordinary experience, most will conform to the broad classifications given below. A Referee may choose to establish his own ecological system on a specific world, ignoring the encounter system outlined here. This system, however, is intended to allow broad latitude in both animal types and attack/defense mechanisms, while remaining essentially logical and reasonable.
Animal Types: Nearly all animals may be classified into four basic categories: herbivore, omnivore, carnivore, and scavenger. Specific definitions for these terms are provided in a later section of these rules, and differ from the precise scientific definitions in current use. Within each category, a variety of animal types exist, based on specific feeding/hunting habits; examples of this concept are grazers, chasers, and pouncers.
Animals which are encountered may be further classified into various categories and types, and specific attack and defense mechanisms determined. The resulting description indicates the actions an animal will take without resorting to such confining labels as bear or tiger. While a Referee may well elect to use such names, this system also allows the players freedom to encounter truly alien beasts as well.
Animals and Characteristics
Animals have a similar range of characteristics to humans, but there are several differences:
- Instinct is the animal equivalent of Education. Animals apply their Instinct DM to tasks such as sensing prey or solving problems.
- Pack is the animal equivalent of Social Standing. The higher a creature’s Pack score, the larger the group that it is associated with, and the more standing the creature has in that group.
A world's ecology can be extremely diverse. However, the Referee may elect to implement specific themes on a planetary basis, to create consistency and flavor in presentation. Distinctive features help make each world stand out to the players as unique experiences. These could range from basic symmetry to reproductive methods (and the associated genders), from the number of limb pairs to the common sensory organs. The implementation of a planetary theme lies at the discretion of the Referee.
Step One: Choose a Terrain
Terrain has an impact on the type of animals one might encounter. Giant aquatic creatures are not found in forests, after all, nor are feathered flying creatures found flying at the bottom of the ocean. The first step in the rules for creating animals in the Cepheus Engine is to choose the creature’s terrain, as terrain can have a significant impact on an animal’s statistics.
The Terrain DM Chart details modifiers for animal subtypes and sizes, In addition, the result of 1D6 determines the basic movement for a given creature (A for Amphibious, F for Flight, S for Swimming, and W for Walking). Some movement codes have a number after them; these are an additional Size DM for the animal.
|Terrain||Subtype DM||Size DM||1||2||3||4||5||6|
|Clear||+3||—||W||W||W||W||W +2||F –6|
|Plain or Prairie||+4||—||W||W||W||W +2||W +4||F –6|
|Desert (hot or cold)||+3||–3||W||W||W||W||F –4||F –6|
|Hills, Foothills||—||—||W||W||W||W +2||F –4||F –6|
|Mountain||—||—||W||W||W||F –2||F –4||F –6|
|Forest||–4||–4||W||W||W||W||F –4||F –6|
|Jungle||–4||–3||W||W||W||W||W +2||F –6|
|Rainforest||–2||–2||W||W||W||W +2||W +4||F –6|
|Rough, Broken||–3||–3||W||W||W||W +2||F –4||F –6|
|Swamp, Marsh||–2||+4||S –6||A +2||W||W||F –4||F –6|
|Beach, Shore||+3||+2||S +1||A +2||W||W||F –4||F –6|
|Riverbank||+1||+1||S –4||A||W||W||W||F –6|
|Ocean shallows||+4||+1||S +4||S +2||S||S||F –4||F –6|
|Open ocean||+4||–4||S +6||S +4||S +2||S||F –4||F –6|
|Deep ocean||+4||+2||S +8||S +6||S +4||S +2||S||S –2|
Step Two: Determine the Animal’s Type and Subtype
The Referee should then determine the animal’s type and subtype. If the Referee is building up an encounter table, the animal’s type is obvious: the type necessary to fill in this entry on the encounter table. Otherwise, the Referee must choose an appropriate type: Carnivore, Herbivore, Omnivore or Scavenger. The Referee might also roll on the 1D6 Animal Encounter Table Template to randomly choose an animal type.
Once the animal type has been determined, the Referee rolls 2D6, and add in the terrain’s Subtype DM. After that, the Referee consults the Subtype by Animal Type table under the column of the animal’s type to determine the animal’s subtype.
|1 or less||Filter||Gatherer||Pouncer||Carrion-Eater|
|13 or more||Grazer||Gatherer||Chaser||Intimidator|
Step Three: Note Modifiers and Skills by Subtype
Terran creatures that exemplify these specific subtypes are noted in brackets after the name. The Referee should make note of the characteristic modifiers and skills that are noted after the description – the exact level of skills varies depending on the particular creature.
- Carrion-Eater (vulture)
- Scavengers which wait for all other threats to disperse before beginning. Carrion-eaters have Recon. Instinct +2.
- Chaser (wolf)
- Animals which kill their prey by attacking and exhausting it after a chase. Chasers have Athletics. Dexterity +4, Instinct +2, Pack +2.
- Eater (army ant)
- Eaters will eat anything they encounter, including characters. Endurance +4. Pack +2.
- Filter (earthworm)
- Herbivores which pass their environment through their bodies are termed filters. Unlike grazers, which move to food, filters move a flow of matter through themselves and filter out the food. Endurance +4.
- Gatherer (raccoon, chimpanzee)
- Gatherers are herbivores that collect and store food. Gatherers have Recon. Pack +2.
- Grazer (antelope)
- Grazers move from food source to food source, often in large packs. Their primary form of defense tends to be fleeing danger. Instinct +2, Pack +4.
- Hijacker (lion)
- Scavengers which steal the kills of others through brute force or weight of numbers are hijackers. Strength +2, Pack +2.
- Hunter (baboon)
- Opportunistic predators that stalk easy prey. Hunters have Survival. Instinct +2.
- Intermittent (elephant)
- Herbivores that do not devote their entire time to searching for food. Intermittents have Pack +4.
- Intimidator (coyote)
- Scavengers which establish their claim to food by frightening or intimidating other creatures.
- Killer (shark)
- Carnivores that possess a raw killing instinct, attacking in a frenzied manner. Killers have Natural Weapons and either Strength or Dexterity +4, Instinct +4, Pack –2.
- Pouncer (cat)
- Pouncers kill by stalking and ambushing their prey. Pouncers have Recon and Athletics. Dexterity +4, Instinct +4.
- Reducer (vermin)
- Reducers are scavengers that act constantly on all available food, devouring even the remains left by other scavengers. Pack +4
- Siren (venus fly-trap)
- Sirens create a lure to attract prey. Usually, this lure will be specific to the species the siren preys on, but some rare lures are universal. Pack –4.
- Trapper (spider)
- An animal which allows its prey to enter a trap. Generally, any creature surprised by a trapper is caught in its trap. Pack –2.
Step Four: Determine Animal Size and Characteristics
For each creature, roll 2D6 for its Size and apply any Size DMs based on terrain and movement. The creature’s Size determines its Weight, Strength, Dexterity and Endurance – for example, a roll of 7 means that the creature has a mass of 100kg, a Strength score of 3D6, a Dexterity score of 3D6 and an Endurance of 3D6.
Intelligence for most animals is 0 or 1. Roll 2D6+DMs for the animal’s Instinct and Pack. To determine the number appearing value, consult the Number Appearing by Pack Characteristic Score table.
|1 or less||1||1||1D6||1|
Step Five: Determine Animal’s Weapons, Armor and Base Speed
Roll 2D6 separately for the animal’s Weapons and Armor.
- When generating weapons, roll 2D6 and consult the Animal Weapons table. Add a +8 DM if the animal is a Carnivore, and a +4 if it is an Omnivore; subtract a –6 DM if the animal is a Herbivore. Scavengers automatically have Teeth in addition to any other weapons. If a number is present after the Weapons type, then add that number to the number of damage dice the creature rolls. Damage from attacks depends on the creature’s Strength score, as shown in the Damage by Strength table.
- When generating an animal’s armor, roll 2D6-7, and add the animal’s Size result (the die roll result that determined the animal’s size, not the actual weight of the animal.) Add a +4 DM when rolling for armor if the animal is a Herbivore, and a +2 if it is an Scavenger; apply a –2 DM if the animal is a Carnivore. Also, Flyers suffer a –2 DM when determining armor. Consult the Animal Armor table for the animal’s armor rating.
- Base Speed
- An animal’s base speed is determined by generating a Speed Multiplier, as per the Animal Speed Multiplier by Subtype table, and multiplying that by 6, which is the average speed of a human in meters per minor action. If an Animal Speed Multiplier value falls below the value found in the Minimum Speed column, round it up to the Minimum Speed value.
|1 or less||Hooves|
|2||Hooves and Horns|
|4||Hooves and Teeth|
|5||Horns and Teeth|
|9||Claws and Teeth|
|13||Claws +1 and Teeth +1|
|14||Claws +1 and Stinger +1|
|17||Claws +2 and Teeth +2|
|18||Claws +2 and Stinger +2|
|1 or less||0|
|Type||Speed Multiplier||Minimum Speed|
Universal Animal Format
The following format is used to represent animal’s basic game statistics in the Cepheus Engine rules.
[Animal Name; optional] [Size]kg [Subtype] ([Type]), [Terrain] [Locomotion], [Animal UPP, replacing Education with Instinct and Social Standing with Pack], #App: [Number Appearing] [Animal Skill List, in alphabetical order, with skill levels listed after skill names] [Animal weapons]; [Animal armor]; Speed: [Speed]m [Animal Description; optional]
For example, this creature could represent a tough little flying alien pest that loves to shred things and eat them:
6kg Eater (Omnivore), Hill Flyer, 6A5168, #App: 2d6 Athletics-0, Melee(Natural Weapons)-1, Recon-1, Survival-2 Claws (2d6); Hide (1); Speed: 6m
Animals in Combat
Unless otherwise noted, animals operate just like characters in combat. The range category of an animal’s weapons can be found in the Animal Weapon Ranges table.
|Claws||melee (extended reach)|
|Hooves||melee (extended reach)|
|Horns||melee (extended reach)|
|Stinger||melee (close quarters)|
|Teeth||melee (close quarters)|
|Thrasher||melee (close quarters)|
Creating Encounter Tables
The system for creating animals in the Cepheus Engine rules can be used to generate creatures on the fly. However, the system works best when the Referee prepares an encounter table for each terrain likely to be encountered. This not only gives the Referee statistics for wilderness adventuring, but also provided a large amount of potential background data for expanding the world within the universe the Referee has created.
To create an encounter table, first the Referee should select a table format. Although an encounter table can be in whatever format the Referee desires, the two formats most commonly used are represented in these rules as the 1D6 Animal Encounter Table Template and the 2D6 Animal Encounter Table Template. Note that the Templates only provide an animal's type (carnivore, herbivore, omnivore or scavenger), and in the case of the 2D6 table, event.
Each entry should be generated in turn. When an encounter table indicates that an event will occur, the Referee should create an event appropriate to the world and terrain. An event may be almost anything, including a natural disaster or seismic event, an interesting terrain feature or curiosity, unusual flora or weather. The Hills Terrain Encounter Table is an example of a completed encounter table.
|2||2D6||100kg||Hijacker (S)||W 12m||9H91A7||Teeth (1d6)||Fur (2)|
|3||4D6||200kg||Gatherer (O)||W 6m||CC816D||Teeth (2d6)||Scales (3)|
|4||1D6||25kg||Intimidator (S)||W 6m||995174||Claws (1d6), teeth (1d6)||Hide (3)|
|5||3D6||100kg||Hunter (O)||W 6m||D94184||Stinger (2d6)||Hide (2)|
|6||3D6||25kg||Grazer (H)||W 12m||34A1DB||Hooves (1d6), horns (1d6)||Shell (2)|
|7||3D6||6kg||Intermittent (H)||F 6m||38217B||Horns (1d6)||Fur (1)|
|8||3D6||5,000kg||Grazer (H)||W 12m||N3M16B||Hooves (3d6), horns (3d6)||Shell (7)|
|9||4D6||400kg||Chaser (C)||W 12m||E8B1AE||Claws (3d6), stinger (3d6)||Fur (1)|
|10||Event||Cliff, standing 1d6x5 meters tall (Randomly determine if group is at top or bottom)|
|11||2D6||800kg||Chaser (C)||W 12m||AAD1A6||Projectile (2d6)||Hide (2)|
|12||1D6||3,200kg||Killer (C)||W 12m||B7G18A||Teeth (3d6)||Fur (3)|
Using the Encounter Tables
Each day an adventuring band may possibly have one or more encounters with some animal life forms. As a general rule, the Referee will check for an encounter once while the band is travelling and once while the band is halted (for rest, exercise, encampment, or whatever). There is a one-third chance (5+ on 1D6) that an animal encounter will occur in any of the specified terrain types. The Referee may choose to modify this frequency depending on planetary or local conditions.
In addition, specific encounters at specific locations are always possible. For example, the Referee may already have populated a location (perhaps a ruin) with specific animals. These are not subject to normal random encounter rules.
By their lifeless nature, vacuum worlds (and any other world without life) tend to have encounter tables comprised primarily of events. On an airless world, events could include silt pools that operate like quicksand, magnetic anomalies, solar flares, or possibly tracks left by previous explorers.
Animal Reactions in Encounters
When characters disturb an animal or otherwise draw attention to themselves while within its territory roll 2D6 and consult the Animal Reactions by Subtype table. If the result on the table is neither attack nor flee, then the animal stands still until provoked again, in which case roll again.
|Chaser||If the chasers outnumber the characters, they attack.||5-|
|Pouncer||If the pouncer has surprise, it attacks.||If the pouncer is surprised, it flees.|
|Siren||If the siren has surprise, it attacks.||4-|
|Trapper||If the trapper has surprise, it attacks.||5-|
|Filter||10+ if possible||5-|
|Hunter||If the hunter is bigger than at least one character, then it attacks on a 6+. Otherwise, it attacks on a 10+||5-|