Sunday 3 June 2012

Lost Lands: attributes for the animals


I've always wanted to play wargames set in the Lost World, where intrepid explorers discover an unknown part of the earth that is still inhabited by prehistoric creatures.  In my case, I prefer prehistoric mammals, terror birds and the like over dinosaurs, but the principles are much the same.  Either way, a good game must involve some plausible animal behaviour and at least some threat to the humans.  This isn't easy when we're dealing with such asymmetric sides as gun-armed Victorian hunters versus unsuspecting wildlife.

Rulesets for Prehistoric Safaris

Over the years, I've collected a number of sets of rules which cover this type of game.  It's not my intention to provide a full review of each of these here, but a summary will be useful.  Each set has its own merits, but I find something lacking in every case:
  • Tusk: simple "beer and pretzels" game.  Very popular at conventions, I believe, but a bit too simple and too little variety for frequent play.
  • The Lion Sleeps Tonight: another "cheap and cheerful" game.  This one is technically for big game hunting in 19th century Africa, but could be adapted to a lost world.  I haven't tried it yet and so it wouldn't be fair to offer any opinion on how well it plays.
  • Tooth and Claw: has the most detailed rules for animal behaviours of any rules I've seen.  It's light on scenarios and has no rules at all for encountering other humanoids.  Games I've run tend to become a shooting gallery rather than a hunt and consequently lack any real sense of tension.
  • Saurian Safari: this is like Tooth and Claw in many ways, with similar advantages and disadvantages (hardly surprising, since both rulesets are written by Chris Peers).  Despite its name, it doesn't only handle dinosaurs: it also has an appendix with stats for prehistoric mammals. 
  • Adventures in the Lost Lands: part of the Two Hour Wargames stable of rules.  I'm a big fan of these in general, partly because of the reaction system and partly because of the similar mechanisms between the various THW games (so if you want your T-Rex to fight against a Panzer Mk VI Tiger tank or against a horde of zombies, it could be done relatively easily).  Lost Lands has rules for encounters between different groups of humans or hominids, extensive scenario and campaign rules and you can even play as a predator rather than a human!  However, the animal reactions are too coarse-grained for my liking.  Roughly speaking, feeders ignore you and ferocious charge you. 

Adapting "Lost Lands"

Lost Lands comes closes to providing the type of game I desire.  The main issue that I have with it is the behaviour of the different classes of animals.  So, what can we do to alter this?

In Lost Lands, a creature's reactions are determined mainly by its class, though this will be modified by its REP (roughly speaking, the lower the REP, the less aggressive the creature is within its class behaviour).  There are only 2 classes: ferocious and feeder.  With a few possible exceptions, the former covers all carnivores and the latter is for herbivores.

My house rules make 2 sets of adaptations:
  • New attributes and subclasses for animals.  To a large extent, attributes and subclasses are the same concept, though an animal must have exactly one subclass.  Attributes are optional and an animal may have as many as are appropriate.
  • Modified reaction tables for In Sight (humanoid) and Received Fire.  These new tables make use of some of the new subclasses and attributes to provide variations in behaviour; all other reaction tables stay as in the base rules.

Animal Attributes

These could be used separately from the behavioural changes, if desired.  None of them really interact with the modified reaction tables below.
  • HERD RESPONSE: roll just once for any reaction test that affects the herd (as opposed to rolling individual reactions for each creature).  What one animal does, they all do!
  • BLUFF CHARGE: when a humanoid is charged by this creature, roll the reactions as normal.  If the humanoid stands his ground then the animal tests 1d6 against REP.  Pass 1d6: the charge hits home.  Pass 0d6: the animal decides to retreat instead (i.e. it turns and moves away at normal speed until it leaves the table).
  • IMPLACABLE: Once the animal has decided to charge, it will not be distracted.  It won't change this behaviour until either it or its target is dead.
  • POISONOUS: This doesn't have any in-game effect, but does affect the chance of survival of anything that was wounded by such a creature.  After the game has finished, the injured humanoid or animal rolls d6+REP.  On a 9 or greater, he/she/it survives.  Otherwise they die from the poison.
  • ARMOURED: Attacks directed at this animal suffer a penalty of -1 to the impact of the weapon.  Note: if this reduces the weapon's impact to 0 then the attack can do no damage, though it may still cause a reaction test.
  • CLUB-TAIL: if the creature has rearward defenses then it doesn't suffer any penalty when attacked from behind; it can use its full melee dice against an attack from any direction.
  • POOR SIGHT: if it decides to charge then this animal will always attack the nearest character to its front, regardless of the direction from which any injury or threat might have come.  If there are no targets to its front then the animal will turn around instead (and will then charge anything it can see there in a future turn).  Note that such creatures often have good senses of hearing and smell; they are fully aware that there is a threat, but they're not too good at locating the precise cause.

Classes for Animals

Technically, these are subclasses, since the existing ferocious and feeder categories remain.  Each type of animal must have 1 (and only 1) of these subclasses:

Ferocious Subclasses

  • AMBUSHER: A carnivore that prefers to lie in wait for its prey, probably making a short charge to attack when the target wanders too close.
  • STALKER: A predator that will actively hunt its prey, attempting to close on it unseen before charging the last few yards.
  • SCAVENGER: These are meat-eaters that prefer to eat carrion or to steal the kills of other carnivores.  They are quite capable of fighting to defend themselves or to drive off other creatures.  Scavengers will also attack and kill small or weak animals if they come across them.

 Feeder Subclasses

  • JUMBO:  A herbivore that uses its size and/or aggressiveness as a defence against predators.  This type of creature may preempt a threat by attacking in its own right.
  • GRAZER: An animal that relies on flight to escape from danger.  Grazers are often (but not always) found in large herds.

New Reaction Tables

I suggest that the "In Sight" test is also used to determine what an animal does if it has just killed or incapacitated all its melee opponents.  This will determine whether to make further attacks or to revert to feeding or to run away.

Pass 2d6
Pass 1d6
Pass 0d6
In Sight - Humanoid
If within fast move distance of the target then charge, else:
Stalker will hide in nearest cover.
Ambusher will move towards target, using cover if possible.
Scavenger will move towards nearest carcass (or nearest cover if there is no carcass).

 Jumbo will charge (if poor sight then only charge a target to the front, else turn to face).
Grazer will carry on.
Same as Pass 2d6

Jumbo will carry on.
Grazer will retreat from humanoid within 24” (i.e. make normal moves directly away from the threat until leaving the table), else carry on.
Stalker will halt in place.
Ambusher or scavenger will hide in nearest cover.

Jumbo will retreat from humanoid within 24” (i.e. make normal moves directly away from the threat until leaving the table), else carry on.  Grazer will flee (i.e. move directly away from threat at fastest possible rate).
Received Fire

 Jumbo will charge (if poor sight then only charge a target to the front, else turn to face).
Grazer will carry on.
Carry on.

Jumbo will carry on.
Grazer will retreat from humanoid within 24” (i.e. make normal moves directly away from the threat until leaving the table), else carry on.
Carry on.

Jumbo will retreat from humanoid within 24” (i.e. make normal moves directly away from the threat until leaving the table), else carry on.  Grazer will flee (i.e. move directly away from threat at fastest possible rate).

Animal Stats

As well as the regular statistics given in the Lost Lands rulebook, here are some examples of the attributes that I give to various animals:
  • Cave Lion: STALKER
  • Smilodon: AMBUSHER
  • Andrewsarchus: SCAVENGER
  • Dire Wolf: STALKER
  • Cave Bear: SCAVENGER
  • Archaeotherium, Daedon and similar giant pigs: SCAVENGER, HERD RESPONSE
  • Megatherium: JUMBO, POOR SIGHT
  • Diatryma: AMBUSHER
  • Phorusrhacos: STALKER
  • Megaloceros: GRAZER, HERD RESPONSE

Final Thoughts

These house rules haven't been tested to any great extent.  It's possible that there will be issues with my approach, though I believe that the intent is clear enough.  I'd appreciate hearing any suggestions for refinements, discussion about my classifications or any other relevant ideas.


  1. AitLL sounds pretty good and like most THW rules easily ammended/adatped to your own need. Looking forward to a bat-rep.

    1. Indeed, one of the reasons that I like THW is that Ed (the THW guy) is very supportive of tinkering with his rules.

      As to the bat-rep, I'm sure that there will be one in due course - but you'll just have to wait! I have so many other plans as well; there just isn't time for everything :-( .

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks. Hope everyone finds them useful.

  3. This is great work. Like you, I've been interested in lost world gaming for a while (part of my whole Edwardian Science Fiction thing I guess).

    The descriptions of the different rulesets is great, as is the work on Lost Lands - I really like the variation you've introduced.

    One thing though; in the reaction tables you've used 24" as a common distance for reactions. I don't have my AitLL to hand, but from what I remember of ATZ, Nuts!, etc (which may well be wrong!) that does seem like a long distance for a 2HW game. Have you tested that, or is it a first attempt?

    1. I meant to respond sooner, but I've been preoccupied...

      The answer is: no, I hadn't tested my ideas at the time I wrote this article. However, see (especially part 2, which I've yet to publish) for a test-run.

      I tend to play Lost Lands or similar games with quite a lot of terrain. In that case, the reaction distance is somewhat academic, since line-of-sight will probably be less than 24".

      What I was trying to capture was the idea that many animals (especially the more flighty herbivores!) may well ignore humans at a distance. However, they might move away if the people get to middle distance, either at normal speed if they don't feel threatened or by fast-moving if they do.

      Of course, these are just my initial ideas; I may well make some modifications after a game or two. I'd also be interested to hear other people's thoughts on the subject.

  4. Love the dinosaur stats. Any additions to this interesting list?

    1. The animal stats that I gave were intended more as a set of examples rather than an exhaustive list. It should be fairly easy to apply appropriate attributes to the creatures of your choice, I think :-) .