Wednesday 21 November 2012

Lost Lands: The Howling!


Ever since I obtained my copy of Adventures in the Lost Lands, I've been intrigued by the idea that we could play as the animals as well as humans or proto-humans.  Finally I got to try this out on an unsuspecting group of gamers at the Helensburgh Games Club.  This is what happened...


The players would each take 1 member of a pack of Dire Wolves.  They would have the task of hunting for food (of course) and seeing off any other predators (within reason).  To introduce a bit of character into the game, I gave them the further goal of scent-marking all the trees on the table.  They were let off from marking the forest; only the individual stands of trees needed to be treated in this way - I'm not totally unreasonable! 

Also, I did request that the players only communicate with each other by using barks, growls or whining.  One of them very sensibly pointed out to me that the wolves should be able to understand each others language, so I relented and instructed them that they could communicate in English - but only with single words at a time.

I made up individual character cards for each wolf in the pack.  All of them had some minor variations from the standard profile that I use for dire wolves:
  • Alpha is the leader: REP5, plus the Inspire attribute.
  • Fang is an up-and-coming challenger: REP5, plus ferocious.
  • Rex is a fast, strong young animal: REP4, plus Athlete.
  • Scar is past his prime: REP4, Slow
  • Fleabag is a low-ranking pack member: REP4, Clumsy
  • Fluffy is an adolescent at the bottom of the pack: REP4, Runt

The Dawn Patrol

The morning started off bright and fine as the Twin Pine wolf pack set off to patrol their territory.  Birds were singing and there was a freshness to the air that made the wolves feel glad to be alive.

Rex marking his territory
They jogged along joyfully from tree to tree, marking them as they went.  The animals spread out, so as to cover the ground better.

Fang and Scar went to investigate a strange smell that came from a small clump of vegetation near to the river.

Without warning, a large sabretooth cat came round the corner of the hill.  It seems that the cat had also been investigating the vegetation, but it certainly wasn't going to put up with the smaller predators!

Alpha came towards his pack members from the other direction, only to discover a small pack of Thylacines who had been hiding from the Smilodon (sabretooth).

The sabretooth growled and charged at the 2 wolves in front of it.  Scar backed off, leaving Fang alone to face the huge beast.  It was a very one-sided fight that quickly ended with Fang's death!

At the same time, the Thylacines split into two groups and bolted.  Alpha pursued one group, caught up with one individual and killed it efficiently.  The remaining Thylacines fled.

This left 3 wolves in the vicinity of the smilodon.  The cat immediately charged Scar and wounded him, but Fluffy came in to defend his pack-mate and the older dog was able to regain his feet.  Alpha returned quickly from his pursuit of the Thylacines and attacked the smilodon from behind.  He immediately locked on and injured the larger animal.  The combat swayed to and fro for many rounds, with both Scar and Fluffy being thrown out of the fight on occasion - but they always returned and the sabretooth gradually weakened as Alpha never released his grip.

Eventually, all 3 wolves managed to lock on to the dying cat and hold it down until it collapsed from blood loss.  It fell near the body of Fang.

And what of the other wolves, during this titanic struggle?  Rex was still running around and marking trees, oblivious to the pack leader's demands for assistance.  I suspect that he would be severely chastised afterwards.  And Fleabag was roaming the woods, looking for squirrels!

Bringing Home the Bacon

For our second game of the evening, we reset the terrain a bit, shuffled the players around and reinstated Fang ("Son of Fang"?).  This time, the wolves were hungry and there was a lot less marking of territory.  The pack had a grim and determined air about them as they moved through the land.

Immediately, before anyone had moved, we rolled doubles and another PEF was placed close to the pack, right on the edge of the map.  This was resolved very quickly as a lost, lone Chalicothere.  Alpha, Fang and Rex immediately charged up the hill and attacked the poor beast.  With nowhere to hide, it didn't stand much of a chance, though its sheer size kept it going for a while.

While the pack leaders were bringing down their prey, the other 3 wolves disturbed a small herd of Miohippus close by.  Scar, Fleabag and Fluffy chased after them and nearly caught up, but the tiny horses were too nimble and they all escaped.

The 3 disappointed hunters continued over a nearby hill, only to come face-to-face with a strange pair of  apes.  The wolves had never encountered humans before and were initially a little hesitant.  Henry Orme and Lady Constance used this opportunity to fire their rifles at the animals, but both missed wildly.  The wolves responded by charging at the noisy, bad-smelling people!

Lady Constance stood her ground and fired again as Fluffy and Scar attacked her.  Her aim was dreadful; she missed and was torn to pieces within moments!

Henry Orme turned and ran when the wolves charged.  He couldn't outpace Fleabag, though; the animal caught up with him in the middle of the river.  However, Fleabag wasn't as successful as his companions and didn't manage to injure the man.  Although the wolf grabbed hold of his opponent briefly, Henry broke free and fired another shot.  He must have been in shock or something, for his aim was just as poor as before.  Again Fleabag charged, the man fled, was caught, broke free.  This pursuit eventually took the pair of contestants quite a long way from the rest of the pack and the fight was still unresolved when we had to pack up at the end of the evening (though I'd put my money on Fleabag, I think).

Fluffy and Scar were trying to decide whether the dead woman would be good to eat when they noticed movement from behind a nearby bush.  A pair of dodos came into sight...

...and the two wolves immediately decided that they fancied poultry for dinner instead.  They charged the birds; the outcome was predictable, though Alpha (having finally finished off the Chalicothere) decided to muscle in on Fluffy's bird and was indeed the one to deliver the fatal bite.

With the blood lust running high, Alpha and Fang decided to explore further.  The rivals startled another small herd of Miohippus near the forest (or was it the same herd as before?)  Unlike their less experienced brethren, this pair of top dogs each brought down one of the little horses quite easily.


So, this was different, but the players really enjoyed it.  Indeed, some of them demanded to run the PEFs and encountered creatures, even though these all used programmed movement.

The animals involved are mostly from very different eras and geographical regions.  But that's OK - it's a Lost World, where dodos can live alongside sabretooth cats and primitive horses!  I suppose I could try to model just one time period and location, but that wouldn't be as much fun, would it?

One change that I should have made was to restrict the number of kills that the pack could make.  It seems likely that real predators would have settled down to feast, rather than continuing to run after fresh prey (yes, Alpha, Fang - I'm looking at you!)  Still, this was the first time I've run a scenario like this.

From the positive reactions of the players, I will probably do this again sometime.  Maybe I could split the gamers into teams (opposing packs)?  Or have some players as the prey, with different goals?  Or introduce my Neanderthal figures?


  1. This was great! I had ever considered running (ahem) a pack of wolves!

    Well played sir, well played.

    1. Thanks. It seemed obvious, if only because my dire wolves came in a packet of 6 miniatures!

  2. Wow! Never seen anything like that before; very imaginative and inspiring - great stuff!

    1. Inspiring, huh? You've definitely made my day with that!

  3. Sooo cute! :D

    I really enjoyed the read. Seems you got yourself a nice collection of the beasties. I also agree on mixing them all is a game so if it is fun, I say do it!

    You could probably use the feast rule from ATZ for is about the same thing, no? :)

    1. Ah, that's just a small part of my prehistoric collection!

      Yes, I did consider using the zombie feasting rule. However, I think that predators should behave a bit differently from that; they should *stop* hunting when they have eaten their fill!

  4. Great idea colgar and well reported! I agree with Mathyoo's idea on the feasting

    1. Thanks. See my response to Mathyoo; I don't think the zombie feasting rule would quite capture the correct animal behaviour.

  5. Again, thanks. I do appreciate your continued support!

  6. Well done. For some more inspiration on a dinosaur version of this, read "Age of Reptiles" put out by Dark Horse Comics. Follows a pack of raptors through their world.

    There is a wonderful RPG called "Tales From The Wood" that allows the players to play non-anthro animals.


    1. Thanks, Eli. I hadn't heard of "Age of Reptiles" or "Tales from the Wood" before. They sound interesting!

  7. Very nice stuff. Who produces the thylacines and the small horses?

    Best regards,


    1. The thylacines are from Steve Barber Models: . I don't think a direct link is possible with their website; look for "25mm Prehistoric Animals".

      The small horses are actually 15mm mules. I can't remember which company off the top of my head, though there's plenty of choice. If I were doing them again, I think I'd go for 15mm horses rather than mules, though - they'd be a bit slimmer. I suspect that 12mm or 'N' gauge model railroad horses would also work well for representing small prehistoric breeds (just don't look too closely at the toes!)

  8. One of my favourite bat-reps of yours to date.
    Great idea and a great scenario, I can only imagine the sheer pandemonium as the wolves tried to "converse" with each other, even at a single word at a time !

    1. Ah, it's a nice image, but it didn't quite work like that. The players were far too excited to remember my rules on communication and so they just spoke as normal. Mind you, they are strong-willed bunch who mostly didn't listen to each other anyway!

  9. Nice idea indeed, I've got lots of beasts and animals, now I found I real use for them, thanks! ;)