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Phaing

Who needs monsters? Dangerous annimals here-

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Before I start peppering the board with questions about the MUSH/RPG, I thought I should take a little time and put something in here that is intended to help the Storytellers that are running the thing.

My way of contributing before I start asking for your time and efforts.

Not that I would think that the players are itching for some mythological monstrosity to bash, its not that kind of milieu anyway. However, they might get tired of bashing each other, and some sort of threat that does not involve a marching army or a mad knight.

Bandit Lords cannot be everywhere at once, after all.

Animals are far, far more dangerous than people realize. I am talking about the ordinary kind that live here on Earth and apparently our fun-zone as well. Believe me, they are more of a menace to your Chars than almost anyone here would be willing to give them credit for. Yes, for us here on Earth, guns make a difference, but not nearly as much as you might think.

Not by half.

I will start with two of the ones that figure prominently as totems for major Houses on Westeros. One thing sets them apart from other animals; they are Social predators. This makes them more than a threat, they are an organized threat.

Lions

One of the most famous of man-eaters, it does not come naturally for them. However, once a Pride makes the transition, they can rack up an incredible toll, especially in a holding where the people are poorly equipped. A man-eating Lion needs to eat a minimum of 50 healthy adults per year to survive, a large male would need 150 to maintain peak condition. Some Lions can maintain themselves very well this way; for two decades a pride of 15-20 Lions terrorized the Njombe area of east Africa, killing nearly 2,000 people per year.

A Land-owner could find his Dominion ruined, stripped of living peasants by such beasts.

Lions are legendary when it comes to physical prowess. They have the strength of ten men, can leap 12 feet from a standing start or up to 36 feet in one verified case. Lions are also more intelligent than most folks will give them credit for. A tactic common to the Njombe killings was for the Pride to move on immediately after a kill. This meant that a man who has just heard of the demise of a friend of his 50 miles away could be killed later that same day by the same Lions.

Setting traps would be worthless in the face of such a group of man-eaters, and it gets worse. There is an African story of a Head Tracker involved in a hunt who wrangled time off so he could get married. In an example of genuine cunning and patience, the Rouge Male Lion being hunted tracked the tracker home, hiding in the bush during the wedding, and then crept into the hut and hauled the man off to dinner. Nobody in the village was any the wiser until the next morning, when the Bride woke up and found no trace of her husband but the blood on the pillow.

A Lion that sinks its fangs, as thick as a big man's thumbs, into your skull tends to make you dead instantly.

As a final testament to a lion's intelligence, in the La Brea tar pits, 30 Saber-tooth Tigers have been found for every Cave Lion.

Any Pride of Lions is a threat to almost any group of armed and armored men, numbers being relatively equal.

Lions once ranged across Africa, Asia (some still survive in India) and even Southern Europe... until the Romans wiped them out to feed the Gladiatorial arenas such as the Colosseum.

Wolves

What can seem scary after Lions?

Heh, my bet is on these guys.

The largest individual death-toll (altho, it has been argued that there were 2 wolves at work) was racked-up in Gevaudan, France. Yes, it inspired a movie, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, but that's WAY off from the true tale except for one detail; when it was finally brought down a King's physician examined the remains and stated that it was more like a Hyena than a Wolf. From 1764-65, over 60 people were killed, mostly women and children.

Earlier in France, the Fall of 1447 to be exact, the suburbs of Paris were terrorized by a pack lead by a large brute called Courtaud by the locals. As winter deepened and livestock & people became scarce, the Wolves actually managed the incredible feat of finding a way into the walled city itself, and killed 40 people before being wiped out in a public Plaza.

Wolves, obviously, are flat-out brilliant when it comes to dodging hunters. Even into the 1950s, there were reports of Wolves killing people in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Syria, Finland and Russia. Even soldiers could be eaten, as two were in Finland in 1946. In that case, the Finnish Army responded with aircraft, mines, and machine guns. They managed to kill two wolves.

In 1914, Wolves annihilated a caravan in the Ural Mountains. A search party following the trail told the story of the uncanny cleverness of the Wolves; the gun-totting guards were picked off first, some of which were down to bayonets in the end, or swinging rifle butts. After that, the determined Wolves chased down the livestock, and the rest of the people.

Pilovo, Siberia, 1927;

In a region starved of game, the Wolves closed in around one town. Hundreds of them, in a unique display of unity in absolute desperation. First, the watchdogs were killed and eaten. Then, a party of armed men who tried to leave for help were wiped out. These men had carried the bulk of the firearms in the village, the rest having been confiscated by Communist authorities.

After that, the Wolves swarmed into the streets, working their way into Barns to feast on the livestock. Eager for more easy meat, the bigger wolves threw themselves at the doors of the peasant homes, breaking many down.

At last, a Soviet recon Plane saw what was going on, but by the time the troops arrived there was hardly a family that had not lost at least one member. Some were simply gone, root and branch.

What Dire Wolves would be capable of in such a situation, any of the above, is the stuff nightmares are made of.

I will continue with other animals that people have been taking for granted later. There are many to talk about before I'm done here.

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BTW- I have already got the next few categories of animals in outline form in my head, so... before we get ahead of me, any comments on the ones already listed?

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To continue-

Herbivores;

When the original King Kong was made, there was some criticism of how vicious plant-eating Dinosaurs were portrayed. However, in practice, a vegetarian diet does not indicate a placid disposition in animals ay more than it does for Humans.

Rhinoceri

More feared than Elephants, they are dull-witted, touchy and thus more prone to attack. The African Black Rhino is a creature to be avoided at all costs, they have been observed to toss people 12 feet up into the air with their horns.

The most foolish myth about Rhinos is that you can avoid the attack by standing still, and then side-stepping the charge at the last moment. No, the Rhino will not wander off confused an forfeit it's attack. Despite its vast bulk, this beast is surprisingly agile, the Black Rhino can turn on the proverbial Dime. If irritated enough, the Rhino will continue it's assault until it has tossed, trampled and tossed its victim again.

One thing that might work, if you are sweaty enough, is to discard items of clothing as you try to escape. The distracted Rhino may home in on the scent and attack what you left behind, and hopefully tire of chasing ghosts before you end up naked.

For a man in armor, that's not really practical, but if you are in full armor you will probably have to make a stand and fight it out, somehow.

A note of the power of this beast's charge; a line 21 of slaves chained at the neck to each other was once charged, the Rhino hit the center man. The impact was so severe that the necks of all 20 other slaves was broken.

Cape Buffalo

Nealy all types of Cattle are capable of killing a man. This is the only species with a history of doing so on a regular basis. Not really vicious, its reputation comes from it's habit of hiding in the bush when wounded... its does not circle back to kill it's attackers like some sort of rabid Wolf. However, if you blunder into it's hiding place, the result is the same in the end.

Like a Rhino, a Cape Buffalo can toss it's victims high in the air, and is unlikely to be happy with just one toss. This is the hardest horned animal to dodge- unlike most of the rest this one keeps it's eyes on the target for the whole charge, only dipping its head at the last possible second. Advocates of the dodge-at-the-last-moment that haven't been killed by Rhinos will get it from a Cape Buffalo sooner or later.

A stampeding Herd of such beasts would strike fear in any intelligent warrior's heart, and likely blow a hole in an army's shield-wall.

I want to re-emphasize that the main reason for an attack is that the Cape Buffalo has already been wounded. In normal circumstances, one man alone can avoid being trampled by a herd on the run simply by standing still in a clearly visible place. Most animals will avoid colliding with the unknown.

And, it takes a LOT to bring down such an animal, if you fail to hit it in the right place. One on occasion, two hunters put over a dozen rounds into a Buffalo before it went down. When one of them posed for a picture with one foot on his trophy's shoulder, The "dead" animal lurched to it's feet and did a very complete job of killing him before it dropped dead.

Hippopotomi

This is an extremely irritable creature, and famous for charging anything that irritates it... from noisy people to camp-fires. A Hippo's huge jaws can chop a person on half, something it does with amazing regularity. As late as the 1960s, upwards of 200 people per year were being killed by them.

Famous for flipping boats, a Hippo is just as dangerous on land. They like to graze on land at night, and get into a rut when traveling along their favorite paths. They dislike it when their way is blocked, and if what's in their way is crunch-able, it gets crunched. Since its environment is watery, swampy ground, confronting one in full armor would probably be a self-defeating move in itself.

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Bears

As the largest land-carnivore with a famous reputation, Alaskan Brown Bears and their close cousins the Grizzly can be an extraordinarily dangerous encounter. However, an encounter is their main value. These creatures do not make a career out of being a menace to civilization, luckily for us. They only attack people when provoked.

However, as any outdoorsman will tell you, its the Bear that decides what counts as a provocation.

The smaller Black Bears in America do just as much, if not more, damage with at least half a dozen recoded cases of them killing people for food in the lower 48. In each case, a poor harvest of Berries had been reported in that area. In one case, a Black Bear killed a Lumberjack and refused to stop feeding even after being jabbed with a hook and having a 5-pound can of lard bounced off it's head. It was finally frightened off by inaccurate rifle-fire, after equally inaccurate pistol fire had failed to get its attention.

The strength of such animals is beyond belief in some cases. Grizzly Bears often kill Cattle for food, dragging full-grown steers a mile or more. They can absorb a shocking amount of damage and just keep coming; the Lewis and Clark expedition put ten rounds from 50-caliber (and above) Muskets into one before it finally keeled over.

And yes, Bears can climb trees. In one instance, a man climbed a good 20 feet up one, only to see the Bear that had spooked him climb the tree next to his and stare curiously at him for a good ten minutes. Fortunately, the man had the presence of mind to climb down and leave before the Bear tired of this game.

As is the case with most predators, running away only encourages them to chase you.

Tigers

The largest of all the great cats has been a menace to humanity since before we understood fire.

A dedicated man-eater would have to eat a minimum of 60 adults per year to live, and 180 to stay in peak condition... and some achieve that goal. The most infamous was the Champawat Tigress, killing 436 before being eliminated. Not all Tigers will kill people, but enough of them have turned man-eater to do a remarkable amount of damage.It is estimated that in the 400 years prior to the year 2000, Tigers have eaten a minimum of 500,000 people in India, and a million in all of Asia. To do that, 300-800 man-eaters would have had to be operating at any one time.

This is not so far-fetched as animal lovers will be saying right about now. Case in point; During the 1800s and the apex of Colonialism, between 600-800 people were killed by Tigers per year. 15 men were killed there in 1929. In India as late as the 1940s, 800 per year were killed, as late as the 1960s it was still 50 per year.

The strength of a Tiger is terrifying. One once killed a 1,700-pound Guar (Cow) and dragged it 15 yards. The villagers came out and drove it off, but 13 men were unable to budge the Guar. A Tiger can jump an 8' fence. When hunted by men mounted on Elephants, Tigers counter this by leaping onto the Elephant's back to maul the riders in the Howdah box on the Elephant's back. Sometimes the attack is launched with such force that the Howdah is knocked to the ground! This is why the short, two-barreled shotgun called a Howdah pistol was developed.

What people in this game could do to defend themselves in such a situation is a bit of a puzzlement to me.

Tigers have a quirk that they share with only one other big cat; they are avid swimmers. They have been known to swim out to fishing craft and other swallow-water boats to get at the men inside. If this is a night attack, the results are likely to be catastrophic.

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Leopards.

These are a particular favorite of mine. Smaller than the others, they make up for that in a number of ways by being smart.

btw- the Black Panther is the same animal, aside from the color of the pelt.

Relatively small, compared to what we have just talked about, they are still surprisingly powerful. THey have been observed to carry a 90-pound Antelope 30 feet up trees, and 12 feet with a baby 200-pound Giraffe. This cat is a "natural" man-eater, meaning that doing it once will not necessarily make it a habitual offender (unlike Lions and Tigers). However, when they do go bad, they go all-in. The Rudraprayag Leopard killed 125 people, while the Panar Leopard killed an estimated 400 people in the course of it's career, with many more assumed to have gone unreported in the remote location.

Veteran Hunters hate the Leopard with a passion for it's unsportsmanlike-like, "cowardly" conduct... meaning that it rarely wanders out into the open to be shot. One of its many tricks is to turn the tables on a stalker- WHen any great cat makes a kill it wanders off and returns later. Hunters will set up a tree blind nearby to ambush the cats from when they return. With the increased use of this tactic, Leopards have countered by circling around before returning to the feast, and their perfect night-vision allows them to locate and pounce on the ambushers from behind.

As an example of the war of nerves that a Leopard hunt can degenerate into; Jim Corbet, (who killed the Panar Leopard and other man-eaters) twice suffered nervous break-downs while stalking Leopards. The canny Leopards managed to come within just a few feet, always dodging around to keep something between themselves and the Hunter as they vectored in for the kill.

The implications for the people of Westeros should be obvious. Archers will be hard-pressed to get a shot off, and once the Leopard is in among the party the more exuberant sword-swingers could be a greater danger to their own comrades than they are to such a small, agile target.

Leopards live all over Africa and Asia, and were also in parts of Europe until about 2,000 years ago (those Romans working for the Colosseum sure were busy!). Highly adaptable, they have lived in plains, forests, jungles, deserts, mountains and ice-fields. Leopards have been captured prowling in suburbs and small cities, most recently in Israel.. yet remain elusive and rarely seen.

Killer Fish.

Sharks are very well-known, I don't have much to add that people don't already know.

But there is one thing; The famous Great White, TIgers and Makos are not the biggest killer species. Its the Bull-shark, one of the only fish that can survive in Salt or Fresh water at will, and for extended periods of time. This means that they can pop up just about anywhere, to the shock of the natives. If one wanted to swim up the Deleware river and sample the cuisine of Pennsylvania, it could do so without any real problems.

Barracudas are not real killlers, the bulk of their attacks on people consist of biting an arm or leg and then backing off once they realize that this meat is attached to a much larger creature. Piranhas are also not the threat that they are made out to be, the vast majority of attacks consist of fingers getting nipped while washing something bloody in the water..

And, the Killer Whale has an odd name, it seems to go out of it's way to avoid killing people. However... just because no attacks have been recorded, there is reason to be cautions around these massive mammals. A dead Orca was once examined that had 13 Porpoises and 14 Seals in it's stomach.

It choked do death on Seal #15.

If there was a Killer Whale that turned man-eater, there would not be much, if any, evidence remaining. It may take several Whales to sink a ship, bit it would only take one to devour the crew.

Next, I will delve into what I consider the apex predator to end my thread with. This beast can live over 100 years, go for months without a meal and still be deadly, it can threaten any creature that walks or swims and the largest specimens of the worst breed would be a menace to a land-bound Dragon. During WW2 they demonstrated the ability to slaughter hundreds of armed soldiers overnight.

See you Sunday.

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I was thinking that some folks might have made some guesses...

My choice for the ultimate natural predator;

Crocodiles.

This is another "natural" man-eater, they can take humans or leave them without getting into the habit, but they do a hell of a lot of taking.

In the 1939s and 1940s, they were averaging close to 4,000 people per year in Africa alone. The toll was about 1,000 per year into the 1960s. Hundreds are still killed in a bad year today. That's for Nile Crocs, the Mugger Crocodile of India is no longer a threat, but it was killing upwards of 250 per year in the 1930s.

Those species, as well as the Crocodiles of the Americas rarely get above 20' in length. The salt water, or "estuarine" Crocodile is something else altogether. This is a monster that regularly grows to 30', and 40'+ specimens have been entered into the record books... but I for one am having trouble picturing such a thing in my mind. Several books I have read mention that this type of Croc killed several hundred soldiers on Peleliu Island and other places during the amphibious warfare in the Pacific. Less well-know is an incident that happened in Burma in 1945. The British were pushing the Japanese out of that place, which they had conquered 3 years before... but the Brits has held the place for generations as a Colony before the Japanese came along, and they remembered....

1,000 Imperial Japanese troops were driven into a mangrove swamp. There, they prepared to mount a last-ditch defense with weapons that included machine-guns and mortars. The British did not follow, but merely formed a perimeter, hunkered down, and waited. After sunset, the Crocodiles came swimming home, and found dinner waiting for them. After a night filled with gunfire, explosions and screams, a grand total of 20 demoralized survivors staggered out to surrender.

Whatever the species, the Crocodile is a powerful foe. Nile Crocs have dragged down full-grown Lions, Rhinos, and Cape Buffalos, altho such catches are rare. The main prey of Nile Crocs are a type of predatory Catfish that feeds on the same fish that humans try to catch, so they must be tolerated to maintain a balance. Unfortunately they also feed on Livestock coming down for a drink and native women doing the laundry.

The Crocodile stalks its land-bound prey with cunning and tremendous energy. For short distances it can out-sprint a man, one is recorded to have snatched up an Antelope standing 10 yards from the water when the attack began. It was all over in a handful of seconds. It is physically impossible for a swimming Crocodile to hit a land-target with it's tail, one swipe of that tail would be a leg-breaker to something on the same level, even the leg of a war-Horse.

Crocodiles will generally drag their prey into deep water and make sure they are dead by holding them under water, and they are patient enough to eliminate the chance of making one let go by faking death. They usually let the kill rot a bit to make the process of tearing bite-size chunks off the corpse (the "death-roll" is most often preformed on things already dead). If several Crocodiles are present they will take turns tearing bits off, and if there are enough of them they will be hungry again soon.

These highly effective killers are very wide-spread, and can be found in almost any tropical waters. Until the Ice-Age they could even be found in warmer parts of Europe.

Well, that's my list, such as it is.

Comments?

The point of this, once again, is that the fantasy setting we are in has no need of any "Monsters" to provide the people of Westeros with absolutely deadly, non-human foes... should the need ever come up.

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Thanks for your thoughts. I think you should definitely stop by and look at the MUSH itself, as we handle a lot of this present. We're the only author-approved MUSH out there, and some of these things we have already extant in setting (GRRM's included lions, 'shadowcats', and lizard-lions which are pretty analogous to crocs).

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Thanks, but I think I already used up all the credit I gained here with all the help I got on that other thread!

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