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.

Animal Encounters

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.

Planetary Themes

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.

Table: Terrain DM Chart
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
Woods –2 –1 W W W W W 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.

Table: Subtype by Animal Type
2D6 Herbivore Omnivore Carnivore Scavenger
1 or less Filter Gatherer Pouncer Carrion-Eater
2 Filter Eater Siren Reducer
3 Intermittent Gatherer Pouncer Hijacker
4 Intermittent Eater Killer Carrion-Eater
5 Intermittent Gatherer Trapper Intimidator
6 Intermittent Hunter Pouncer Reducer
7 Grazer Hunter Chaser Carrion-Eater
8 Grazer Hunter Chaser Reducer
9 Grazer Gatherer Chaser Hijacker
10 Grazer Eater Killer Intimidator
11 Grazer Hunter Chaser Reducer
12 Grazer Gatherer Siren Hijacker
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.

All animals have at least Athletics 0, Recon 0, and Survival 0, and most will have 1D6 ranks split among these skills, Natural Weapons, and any skills listed in their behavior.

Table: Animal Size
2D6 Weight (kg) Strength Dexterity Endurance
1 or less 1 1 1D6 1
2 3 2 1D6 2
3 6 1D6 2D6 1D6
4 12 1D6 2D6 1D6
5 25 2D6 3D6 2D6
6 50 2D6 4D6 2D6
7 100 3D6 3D6 3D6
8 200 3D6 3D6 3D6
9 400 4D6 2D6 4D6
10 800 4D6 2D6 4D6
11 1,600 5D6 2D6 5D6
12 3,200 5D6 1D6 5D6
13 5,000 6D6 1D6 6D6
14 10,000 6D6 1D6 6D6
15 15,000 7D6 1D6 7D6
16 20,000 7D6 1D6 7D6
17 25,000 8D6 1D6 8D6
18 30,000 8D6 1D6 8D6
19 35,000 9D6 1D6 9D6
20+ 40,000 9D6 1D6 9D6
Table: Number Appearing by Pack Characteristic Score
Pack Number Appearing
0 1
1–2 1D3
3–5 1D6
6–8 2D6
9–11 3D6
12–14 4D6
15+ 5D6

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.
Table: Animal Weapons
2D6 Weapons
1 or less Hooves
2 Hooves and Horns
3 Horns
4 Hooves and Teeth
5 Horns and Teeth
6 Thrasher
7 Claws
8 Teeth
9 Claws and Teeth
10 Claws +1
11 Stinger
12 Teeth +1
13 Claws +1 and Teeth +1
14 Claws +1 and Stinger +1
15 Claws +2
16 Teeth +2
17 Claws +2 and Teeth +2
18 Claws +2 and Stinger +2
19+ Projectile
Table: Animal Armor
2D6 Armor
1 or less 0
2 0
3 0
4 1
5 1
6 2
7 2
8 3
9 3
10 4
11 4
12 5
13 5
14 6
15 6
16 7
17+ 7
Table: Damage by Strength
Strength Damage
1–10 1D6
11–20 2D6
21–30 3D6
31–40 4D6
41–50 5D6
51–60 6D6
61–70 7D6
71–80 8D6
81–90 9D6
91+ 10D6
Table: Animal Speed Multiplier by Subtype
Type Speed Multiplier Minimum Speed
Chaser 1D6-2 2
Killer 1D6-3 1
Pouncer 1D6-4 1
Siren 1D6-4 0
Trapper 1D6-5 0
Filter 1D6-5 0
Grazer 1D6-2 2
Intermittent 1D6-4 1
Eater 1D6-3 1
Gatherer 1D6-3 1
Hunter 1D6-4 1
Carrion-eater 1D6-3 1
Hijacker 1D6-4 1
Intimidator 1D6-4 1
Reducer 1D6-4 1

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.

Table: Animal Weapon Ranges
Weapon Range
Claws melee (extended reach)
Hooves melee (extended reach)
Horns melee (extended reach)
Projectile ranged (thrown)
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.

1D6 Animal Encounter Table Template
1D6 Animal Type
1 Scavenger
2 Herbivore
3 Herbivore
4 Herbivore
5 Omnivore
6 Carnivore
2D6 Animal Encounter Table Template
2D6 Result
2 Scavenger
3 Omnivore
4 Scavenger
5 Omnivore
6 Herbivore
7 Herbivore
8 Herbivore
9 Carnivore
10 Event
11 Carnivore
12 Carnivore
2D6 Animal Encounter Table Template
2D6 #App Size Subtype Move UPP Weapons Armor
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.

Table: Animal Reactions by Subtype
Type Attack Flee
Chaser If the chasers outnumber the characters, they attack. 5-
Killer 6+ 3-
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-
Grazer 8+ 6-
Intermittent 10+ 4-
Eater 5+ 4-
Gatherer 9+ 7-
Hunter If the hunter is bigger than at least one character, then it attacks on a 6+. Otherwise, it attacks on a 10+ 5-
Carrion-eater 11+ 7-
Hijacker 7+ 6-
Intimidator 8+ 7-
Reducer 10+ 7-