Spineback 4 (12)
The spineback is a typical plains herd animal except when it comes to defense. Defense in the herd is very ritualized, as if it might have been programmed.
Motive: Defense of the herd and grazing.
Environment: A common site on various plains, savannahs and grasslands of the Ninth World, the spineback is even known to range into the grassy lowlands of certain mountain ranges, with minimal fear from predators such as broken hounds, ravage bears or even hontri. Herds typically count 4-24 head of mixed maturity. Herds sometimes number in the low hundreds during migration, while in search of new pastures or during mating season.
Health: 20 or 30 (Matriarch)
Damage Inflicted: 4
Armor: Underside 1; Flank 2; Back Spines and Bony Head 3 – Will always try to present a front aspect or head and spines to opponent(s).
Modifications: Level 5 for perception of approaching threats from all quarters, including subterranean and aerial adversaries (Matriarch). Bound, charge or stampede as level 6 against any targets in path.
Combat: If forced into combat, or if encountered during mating season, a male spineback will first attempt to ram or gore an opponent with their bony head or down-curved horns. If it is particularly successful with either of these attacks (player rolls 1 or 2) it will combine both at once, doubling the total damage, while forcing and pinning the target to the ground. A pinned target can make a speed defense roll to escape this crushing force of nature. The next round and every round thereafter, the hapless soul takes triple damage from the ramming, gouging and trampling throws of the spineback until they escape or until the spineback is itself killed. As a final resort, if the threat is not deterred (running away from one will suffice as a deterrent), the herd will stampede, moving through the threat, blending the bulk of their mass and thorny clawed feet to mangle any opposition.
Interaction: As herd animals go, spinebacks are fairly docile creatures of animal intelligence and are known to tolerate other non-threatening creatures in close proximity to their herd, except during mating season. If a matriarch senses a threat she will call the herd with her bellow, with males forming a tight protective ring around the matriarch and the calves. Front legs down, heads and horns out and spikes up. If the threat persists the closest male in the outer ring will wait until it has a chance at a short bound or charge to take down a threat as previously described in combat. If the threat is greater than the defense offered by one male the herd will stampede the target(s) in their attempt to escape. If spinebacks are seen or heard to be butting heads and mating, it’s not time to be anywhere near the herd. Spinebacks can be domesticated but easily return to the wild if set free. Domesticated spinebacks remain unapproachable during mating season and require very strong corrals. One matriarch will bear 1d6 calves each year.
Use: Smart nomads have been known to follow and camp in proximity to these creatures, knowing that the matriarch’s distinct warning bellow will act as an alarm for themselves as well as the herd. On occasion, nomads get lucky and hunt one down for meat, armour and weapons or capture one to domesticate and breed. Nomads revere matriarchs and it is generally taboo to knowingly kill one. Spinebacks can be domesticated to be used as livestock (level 4), beasts of burden (level 5) or steeds (level 6), each requiring a level of effort in animal handling more difficult than the last. For steeds, a section of spikes can be shorn with some ingenuity and sturdy cutting tools, allowing for a riding blanket or saddle to be hitched on the creature’s wide shoulders. A nomad warlord is an impressive site on the shoulders of a war-painted spineback. Matriarchs will take to domestication in rare instances but will never work as a beast of burden or a steed. Matriarchs will only allow calves to milk them. Bets are off on all other takers, unless you are an idiot.
Loot: The hide of a spineback, when properly skinned and prepared by a knowledgeable tanner or armorer, can produce one set each of light and medium armors. The thick long hollow spines can be fashioned into 1d6 useable pointed weapons such as spear tips or javelins. The remainders are too brittle or misshaped to be of utility. The spines have also been utilized for static defense and small fortifications. Smaller spines are typically used as adornments on armour or as nomadic jewelry. The horns can be transformed into battle claws (light weapons) and the bony skull counts as an asset when transformed into a battering ram. Alternatively, it can be crafted into a maul. The skull cannot normally be used as a helm, as the bony material is too hard and densely packed to make for efficient or easy crafting.
Jurok: Level 3 Nomad, Follower of Herds, Level 4 for tracking, hunting and trapping, Level 5 for animal handling.
The Sport. The dominant sire in the herd is slightly mutated. It is more massive, is always aggressive and has heavily armored flanks (3) and a spiny head vice horns. Damage Inflicted: 6
Low Couture Poachers and Diplomacy. The characters come across a situation were a hunting party from a town or village nearest their current location and that of a not too distant herd intersect. The “townies” have decided to head out and slaughter the herd wholesale, more for sport than for their own survival (good luck to them just the same.) Nomads, faithfully following the heard, have little resources in comparison to the transport and weapons of the townies. Players may accept or even counter with a player intrusion to get involved, offering to enter the fray and defend the Nomads and the herd or to mediate some other non-violent solution. If they walk away from, contribute to the slaughter or avoid the intrusion they can pay their XP.
Evening Watch. One of the characters gets drowsy on their watch, fading in and out due to the hardships of the past day. If they accept the intrusion at this point, they regain full consciousness realizing that they are surrounded by the plodding and gentle steps of many large beasts and the snuffling sounds of grass and sod being ripped up all around the camp. The fire or other light source, if they had one, has died down to embers, been turn off or covered inadvertently. What the character sees, how they react and awake the other members of the party should be taken into consideration. If the intrusion is refused, the character is awoken by the pop of a log on the fire and realizes it’s time to change watch.