Runequest Thursday #126 - A Creature - The Gorgonopsid!

Clint Staples

It has been a while since I wrote of a creature for Runequest Thursday.

Currently, I am beginning a sculpting commission for someone, and the subject matter is something that I find fascinating. In my other life, I sculpt figures, mostly for gaming companies, but sometimes for other interests as well. If you are interested in looking at my work, you can find a selection of it at Baelor Miniatures.

In any event, I thought the thing I am undertaking to sculpt might make a good creature for this week's post. Thus, I present you with the Gorgonopsid, statted out for Runequest.

The gorgonopsid is a therapsid, an extinct order of animals that are antecedent to mammals. Perhaps fortunately for us, they did not survive the Triassic/ Jurassic Extinction Event, about 200 million years ago, that cleared away whole ecosystems of fauna, making way for the dinosaurs, and eventually, it could be argued (after another extinction event that removed those pesky dinos) for humans.

You can use gorgo in many RQ settings: Monster-hunting, monsters hunting, pulpy adventure, post-apocalyptic survival, time travel. Even Glorantha, normally replete with dinosaurs, has got to have room in there somewhere for therapsids.

If you want to expand on Gorgo:

  • You can increase the variety and size of therapsids available. There were many historically, and they occupied a number or roles in the ecosystems of the time. Some were about the size of housecats, while others, like the one here, would have been in the 10 to 12 foot long range and weighing something in the range of 500 to 900 pounds. they were pretty much all predators, so you could have an entire ecosystem in your campaign dominated by various sizes of therapsids, if you are of a mind to.
  • You can run gorgo as part of a pack. I have included notes in the statblock for Major Wounds and total Hits for 4 gorgos. So a pack of four could attack, and each individual would flee if they took a single hit that did 12 damage or more. But be aware, these guys are devastating alone, more so in a pack.

Given that they bear some resemblance in art to komodo dragons and other monitors, and that they have impressive dentition, I decided that they might do the "Death Roll" if they got a hold of something. You might have seen this done in nature specials by crocodiles too. Essentially, If a gorgo gets a special hit with its bite, it can establish a grip, immobilizing the location until the target escapes. On the next round, if the target is still gripped, the gorgo will "Death Roll", whirling its body, and twisting the location savagely, ideally (at least form gorgo's limited perspective) tearing the location right off the body of its prey.

As ancestors to us mamals, however far removed in time, it might come as no surprise that therapsids might have had fur. In this day and age, with images of brightly plumed tyrannosaurs and such, maybe that is not a big stretch. But the traditional image of gorgonopsids has shown them without, except perhaps for whiskers. So I have gone with that here. I have to say, would love to see a cool image of a furry gorgo though.

The image used in this post is available through Wikimedia Commons and was created by the talented Mr. Dmitri Bogdanov.