USR Wednesdays: Animal Heroes
Not long ago, I released a series of archetypes for animal-folk, from apes to wolves. I called them animal-folk because I was thinking of bipedal creatures, basically humans in animal costumes, with maybe one or two of the real animal’s natural abilities.
But there’s another way to role play animal heroes: as actual animals who can talk. They don’t interact with humans (except maybe that one special human) but they can talk with one another. Animated movies like “Ratatoullie” and “The Secret Lives Of Pets” or novels like “Watership Down” or “Animal Farm” fit the bill. And even Aslan, the lion of “The Chronicles Of Narnia” books, is this type of character, though he’s more of a special fantasy race than part of a talking animal setting.
The animal-folk archetypes work just as well for animal hero games: strong, tough, or sneaky animals should have Action as their stat with a D10, while clever, scheming characters can make their best stat Wits or Ego. The major changes are in combat.
An animal hero only uses the highest value of its Action stat to determine its starting Hit Points (so it would be 10, 8, or 6).
Also, animals don’t normally carry equipment — yes, a knight’s warhorse wore armor and had a lance mounted on it, but it was to help the knight accomplish his goals, not for the horse to fight on its own. So animal heroes don’t get Combat Gear Points, nor the bonus Narrative Points regular heroes earn for not spending all 4 Combat Gear Points.
This means animal heroes are weaker than human adventurers, which makes sense for the genre (humans rarely enter the story, and if they do, they’re as an all-powerful master or threat). The exception to this is super-pets, like Superman’s dog Krypto or He-Man’s Battle Cat. They’re somewhere between ordinary animal heroes and normal heroes. Krypto, being a Kryptonian dog, should have a d12 Action, and the Flight Specialism. Battle Cat has +2 Magic Armor and +1 Claws.
Since the characters are weaker, the game master needs to tone down the level of challenge in the adventure, too. Crossing a rushing river might take an Action roll to leap over it, or a Wits roll to build a makeshift bridge in an ordinary game. In an animal hero game, though, lashing together a few branches is impossible! The players will have to come up with something different. And a confrontation with a wild raccoon, not even a combat encounter in an ordinary adventure game, could be a major fight sequence with animal heroes.