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Friday, August 25, 2017

RMA: Neanderthals

I was reading through the monsters sections of Moldvay & Cook a few days ago (Shocking, I know!) and was reminded of several references to "Lost World" areas and settings. Prehistoric mammals, dinosaurs, etc. Of course this is all presented in a fantasy world/"Appendix N" manner, not with an eye toward paleontology. It's all good, though.

I was a kid in the 70's, OK?

So this got me thinking about these creatures and how they are often underused in many games. I've talked about some of these creatures before, but there are several more. So why not add to the series?

Neanderthals (Cavemen):

More Saturday AM flashbacks!

The neanderthal is a staple in time-travel and lost world stories. More advanced or "modern" characters meeting primitives. Before we get into it, true to RMA form, let's have the stats.

Neanderthal (from Moldvay)
AC: 8
HD: 2
Move: 120' (40')
Att: 1 (weapon)
Dmg: 2d4 or weapon +1
No. App: 1d10 (10d4)
Save: F2
Morale: 7
Treasure: C
AL: Lawful

They are considered demi-humans (like elves and halflings, etc.) and not humanoids or "monsters." It seems that this ups the potential for role-play and communication between the PCs and the "Clan of the Cave Bear." They are lawful, have fairly low morale. They are described as living in "family groups", and "usually not hostile unless they are attacked."

Their hit dice and damage represents their "powerful muscles" (tougher than a normal human) but they aren't insanely strong. They use stone weapons and clubs. All pretty straightforward as a fictional caveman so far.

Here's a few fun bits:

  • They keep White Apes as pets. That's weird. I mean, I like it! But it's an odd twist. Perhaps this is a nod to some fictional reference or trope that I'm missing? Having 4HD pet apes certainly ups the puissance of a neanderthal tribe. 
  • They hunt cave bears. That makes sense. The meat and pelts are useful and cave bears eat humans, so it's good to get rid of a dangerous predator. Unless of course they kill a stone giant's pet. Then things get real!
  • Neanderthals are "Friendly toward dwarves and gnomes, but hate goblins and kobolds." I assume this is taking the "cave" part of "caveman" to a semi-logical place. I like to imagine some sort of trade occurring between them and the gnomes or dwarves. A dwarf PC might get a favorable reaction roll modifier when a party encounters the cavemen,
  • "They will attack ogres on sight." Now that one needs a little looking at. It doesn't say they hate or feud with or are hostile to them. They attack on sight! There has got to be a story there, and I think it ties to the next point (or it can if you want it to).
  • Neanderthals are led not by themselves, but by "a similar race that is much larger than average Neandethal." It says they "choose" these leaders, so it implies this is a willing arrangement, not simple subjugation. The leaders are one male and one female, presumably a couple but not necessarily. That's an interesting twist as well. Compared to the "Club her drag her home by the hair" cliche, that's pretty darned enlightened. 

These leader types are ten feet tall and have 6HD. Considering normal Neanderthals are described with "squat" bodies, there is no mistaking one for the other. 

So. Ten feet tall, six hit dice. What would that sort of look like? Oh, I don't know... AN OGRE?!

Now standard ogres are eight to ten feet tall and 4+1 HD, so these are uber-ogres. Imagine some sort of split within ogredom that led to these two breeds being at constant war. The ogres' description says that the hatred is mutual between the groups. There is a lot of plot mining material there, IMO.


  1. The 10 foot tall leaders might be a nod to the Troglodyte in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

    1. Interesting idea! I don't know if I've seen all of that one.

  2. If you haven't seen it all, you should ... even though Patrick Wayne may seem like an odd choice to play Sinbad but, given that Sinbad is Egyptian, what actor who has portrayed him in American cinema would fit? Completely tangential but a Sinbad movie with Ildris Elba, Oded Fehr or Djimon Hounsou as the titular character would be cool ... assuming a good writer and director. The Trog is initially presented as a false enemy but is revealed to be an ally who dies heroically fighting a smilodon which is unfrozen by foul sorcery. Seriously, Sinbad movies, Westerns and Kaiju films probably outweigh my early introduction to Greek & Norse mythology as major influences in my gaming inspiration.