Home > Campaign Development, Foes & Fortunes > Land of the Lost Monsters

Land of the Lost Monsters

So, a Sleestack and a Pakuni walk into a bar…

Continuing with The Land of the Lost theme this month, I thought I’d convert some of The Land’s more iconic beasties to Chimera. Now, despite the fact that I’m providing stats, I’m not suggesting you actually have to run a campaign in LotL to use these monsters. The goal here is to consider the roles these creatures play in the overall setting; stats are provided for the sake of completeness.

Dinosaurs

“Lost World” equals dinosaurs. Period. There are two kinds of dinosaurs: cool (which is any dino that eats meat) and boring (all the others). Cool dinosaurs are scary foes that can be cunning, hunt in packs, and deal out devastating attacks. Boring dinosaurs cluster in herds and eat plants, mostly to fatten themselves up for the cool dinosaurs. I strongly suggest you maintain this simple dichotomy in your campaign—as a rule, any concept universally accepted by 2nd-graders should not be tweaked in your roleplaying game.

All that said, what you can do is inject personality into your dinos. While we snicker at the cute nicknames Holly gives to each dinosaur, giving a proper name to a common creature is a good storytelling way to encapsulate a monster’s role in the setting, either as an antagonist, a foil, or an ally. For example:

Grumpy (Tyrannosaurus Rex)
Giant animal (Per 4)
Frequency: Unique (1)
Attributes: (P) CON (S) STR, DEX (T) INT, WIL, CHA
MR 16″ (16″/+5); Pr (+1); PV +6; WL 10; AL n/a
Attacks

  • Bite/11 (IM –2, Dmg 1d10, Rng 1)

Skills: Fight +1/11, Observe +2/14
Traits & Adaptations

  • Armour: Natural PV +6
  • Home Field Advantage: Improve ARs in home territory by +1
  • Hypersensitive: Observe rolls involving sight are TN 12
  • Push: Use Fight to force an opponent back up to 2″

Habitat: Tropical forests
An old and cunning T-Rex, Grumpy is one of two “alpha” predators in The Land. He is constantly on the prowl, roaring and stomping about for prey of opportunity, regardless of size or type (basically, he’ll go after anything that crosses his path). He is intimately familiar with The Land’s forests (apply +1 bonus to all ARs made in jungle terrain), and has the uncanny ability to run down and “box” prey into corners, using local terrain to his advantage. Despite his low intelligence, Grumpy has enough discretion to withdraw from an uneven match, and this has saved him from death on a few occasions (he’ll attempt retreat after sustaining 6 wounds).

Grumpy is a T-Rex like any other T-Rex: big, toothy, hungry, and dangerous. But as the only T-Rex in LotL, he’s got a lot of story value. Outside of the fact that he attacks pylons, roars at tar pits, and has a brain the size of a nectarine, he actually fits the role of Recurring Villain quite well. Plus his name is Grumpy, so you pretty much know how he’ll respond in any given situation.

Alice (Allosaurus)
Giant animal (Per 4)
Frequency: Unique (1)
Attributes: (P) STR (S) INT, DEX (T) WIL, CON, CHA
MR 16″ (16″/+6); Pr +0; PV +8; WL 10; AL n/a
Attacks

  • Bite/8 (IM –2, Dmg 1d12, Rng 1)

Skills: Fight/8, Observe +1/11, Sneak/12
Traits & Adaptations

  • Armour: Natural PV +8
  • Ferocious: Upgrade damage die to 1d12
  • Home Field Advantage: Improve ARs in home territory by +2
  • Hypersensitive: Observe rolls involving smell are TN 7

Habitat: Tropical forests
Alice is the second “alpha” predator in The Land, and her home territory consists of the Lost City ruins. She’s given deference (and a wide berth) by the sleestacks there, who consider her a guardian who protects their egg clutch within the Lost City. It’s unlikely that Alice is aware of this role—she has simply chosen the Lost City for her hunting ground, and she knows the area quite well (apply +2 bonus to all ARs made in or around the Lost City). There is an 80% chance of an encounter with Alice during any visit to the Lost City, though she may choose not to attack, preferring instead to let trespassers enter the ruins unchallenged, then post a watch on the exit and ambush them when then come out.

I like Alice because she has a role beyond that of big scary monster. Never mind that she doesn’t care about sleestack eggs—the sleestacks do, and they have a vested interest in her well being. So they’ll do their best to protect her, maybe even get her food (like leaving live prey outside the Lost City for her, just to keep her in the area). It’s not clear how the sleestacks view Alice—are they pragmatic and see her only as a deterrent against trespassers, or do they believe that she’s actually the Lost City’s guardian? Depends on how superstitious you want sleestacks to be, I guess. Of interest, too, is the possibility that Alice actually is there to protect sleestack eggs. Maybe she knows something the sleestacks don’t.

There are other dinosaurs in LotL, all of which I put in the boring category:

  • Dopey: a baby brontosaurus, whose primary role is as an emotional draw for girls who would rather watch The Care Bears. Dopey is basically a cross between the “lovable screw-up” and the “adorable child.” As such, he’s a walking plot hook, and entire stories are written about getting him out of the trouble he blunders into. I’ll go on record as having a dim view of Dopey, but his antics do motivate the protagonists to take action and engage in their environment (and, by the way, I now realise that writing this blog has forced me to make critical assertions about animated clay dinosaurs…).
  • Emily: an adult brontosaurus, implied to be Dopey’s mom. She has a small role, but saves the day in a couple of episodes, basically by being quite big and very strong.
  • Spike: a triceratops, whose fight with Grumpy in episode #8 stalls Rick’s attempts to rescue his kids from being trapped in a pylon. All you need to take from this is that enemies of your characters’ enemies can create interesting game situations.
  • Spot: a coelophysis who runs about aimlessly until Grumpy eats him in episode #8. Turns out to be OK, since there are plenty of other coelophysis around, and this leads me to believe that the role of this dino is basically as window dressing.

Humanoids

“Lost World” can also mean caveman and, in some cases, hissing lizard-bug. Consider:

Pakuni
Small humanoid (Fod 2)
Frequency: Uncommon (1d2/2d4)
Attributes: (P) WIL (S) DEX, CON (T) STR, INT, CHA
MR 4″ (4″/+0); Pr +2; PV +0; WL 2; AL N
Attacks

  • Sharp stick/20 (IM +3, Dmg 1d4, Rng 1)

Skills: Climb/12, Sneak/12
Traits & Adaptations

  • Hypersensitive: Observe rolls involving smell are TN 16
  • Nimble: Improve Parry vs. Small or larger foes by +2

Habitat: Tropical forests
Pakuni are akin to neanderthals, though smaller and and perhaps more superstitious. They congregate in small groups likely comprised of immediate family members; dwellings are constructed of hide lean-tos or caves surrounded by lashed bamboo stockades. Pakuni have a relatively advanced language and can make fire, despite their primitive appearance and apparent inability to make use of more than rudimentary tools. They are a superstitious people, easily cowed by unfamiliar technology or strangers, but they gain confidence quickly once they realise what a given tool is used for or that a certain person is not dangerous. They are prone to bold trickery to get what they want (e.g., pretending to use magic to open a pylon’s door when in fact, the opening is caused by the alignment of The Land’s three moons). While their schemes are fairly transparent, they’re indignant when caught, suggesting a strong desire to control and manipulate their environment. If a Pakuni is treated fairly and given trust, however, he is likely to become a loyal and helpful companion.

The pakuni are an interesting spin on the basic caveman. Sure, they’re primitive and hairy, but the pakuni’s superstition and sense of ritual replaces the brute strength we associate with the typical neanderthal. That provides depth and personality, and makes them the closest thing to a friend the Marshalls have in The Land. As such, pakuni fit the role of “alien race with immense cultural barriers who befriends protagonist,” which (eventually) will be necessary for a group of PCs thrust into a strange, lost world environment. Not unlike Jeriba in that wretched Enemy Mine story.

Sleestak
Large humanoid (Fod 2)
Frequency: Rare (1d3/3d6)
Attributes: (P) CON (S) STR, WIL (T) INT, DEX, CHA
MR 6″ (6″/+3); Pr +0; PV +4; WL 4; AL C
Attacks

  • Pincer/12 (IM -2, Dmg 1d8, Rng 1)
  • Crossbow/16 (IM -2, Dmg 1d6, Rng 3, RoF 1)

Skills: Fight/12, Shoot/16, Sneak/16
Traits & Adaptations

  • Armour: Natural PV +4
  • Gimp: Decrease MR to 1/2 normal
  • Infravision: See in darkness (8″)
  • Photosensitive: Stunned in light (-1 stun penalty each round)
  • Resistance: 1/2 damage from blunt, edged attacks
  • Slow: Reduce IM by -1

Habitat: Tropical forests, ruins

Sleestacks are reptilian/insect humanoids with bulging pupiless eyes, pincers for hands, and a shambling gait. They are the devolved remnants of the Altrusians, an advanced race who had mastered modes of planar and dimensional travel. Now, sleestacks are little more than primitive predators dwelling in Altrusian ruins. Sleestacks hatch from eggs and have an annual dormant period lasting several months. Occasionally, an advanced sleestack is born (1%), who has superiour intelligence and an innate memory of the “old ways.” Unfortunately, such specimens are invariably sacrificed to the unnamed deity the sleestacks worship. When encountered, sleestacks are unfriendly (DL +1 to any attempt at Diplomacy) and always target the closest foe in combat. Unless seriously threatened, Sleestacks attempt to subdue opponents for later sacrifice to their god. They have an aversion to fire, and act as if stunned (-1 penalty each round) when confronted with torches or bright light.

Admit it: this is what you came here to read. I’ll state the obvious nd assign sleestack to the role of “mysterious and repugnant foe.” They’re scary, not only in appearance, but also by what you don’t know about them. Are they lizards? Are they insects? What’s going on behind those unblinking eyes? What do they get up to all day in the Lost City? How is it they can make intricate hand crossbows but they can’t deal with someone carrying a flashlight? The perfection of the sleestack is in its role as undeniable opponent—like the relentless Borg, the cruel Sathar, or dreaded Saracens of the Christian Crusades, the sleestacks stand for everything the protagonists don’t. Best part of all is that they have a secret: they’re descended from a highly advanced race, so while the Lost City is just home to them, they’re the incidental guardians of their own past. Juicy dungeon crawls here, kids.

Final Words

The goal here wasn’t just to stat up some Land of the Lost creatures, but to show how the roles they play contribute to the setting. The trick here isn’t simply using monsters to populate your setting, but rather creating plots based on your setting’s monsters. Like characters, they have personality, goals, motivations, interests, and needs. Exploit them to compel your PCs into action, combine them to make things interesting, and don’t be afraid to use tried-and-true roles to convey the mood or flavour you want for your campaign.

  1. Chawunky
    April 15th, 2010 at 00:50 | #1

    Enjoying these little articles. The Land is indeed very gameable, and surprisingly interesting. It helped that actual sci-fi writers wrote the scripts, of course…

  2. April 15th, 2010 at 21:10 | #2

    @Chawunky : Indeed. LotL is a bit of a sleeper in that respect, as some very well established writers wrote episodes—Larry Niven, Ben Bova, Theodore Sturgeon, Donald F. Glut, and Walter Koenig (yes, “Chekov”) to name a few. Thanks for tuning in!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

s2Member®