Friday, October 6, 2017

New Class: the Man-Ape

One thing I love about pulp fiction like Robert E. Howard's Conan series and Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books is the use of apes as enemies for the eponymous heroes to wrestle--the grey apes that Conan faces in close quarters and the four-armed white apes that dwell around the southern pole of Mars ... apes make great uncanny valley enemies, being not-quite-human, not-quite-beast, but definitely physically more powerful than human (and my wife thinks monkeys and apes are "creepy and demonic"), and all of this led me to think, "I need more apes in my D&D games."

I don't actually use apes as often as I feel like I should as monsters--when I remember, I'll add white apes, rock baboons, and hsing-hsing to my wandering monster rolls. But then again, apes don't always make sense in my dungeons; a catacombs filled with undead horrors, warped fey hounds, troglodytes, mad myconids, and a white-dragon cult doesn't necessarily have room for apes. So I figured the most reasonable way to get more ape-action in my games was to make a playable ape-class.

Hence, the MAN-APE! (and not Ape-Man, because that implies an apish man, like Tarzan, rather than a mannish ape like King Louis--from the Jungle Book, not French history!)

Level 1 -- Brute -- Hit Dice 2d8 -- 0 XP
Level 2 -- Ape -- HD 3d8 -- 2200 XP
Level 3 -- Great Ape -- HD 4d8 -- 4400 XP
Level 4 -- Grey Ape -- HD 5d8 -- 8800 XP
Level 5 -- Silverback -- HD 6d8 -- 18000 XP
Level 6 -- Beastlord -- HD 7d8 -- 36000 XP
Level 7 -- King of Monkeys // Kong -- HD 8d8 -- 72000
Level 8 -- King of the Jungle // King Kong -- HD 9d8 --150000
(no further advancement)

Yes, they start with two hit-dice, rather like AD&D rangers.

Strength is the Man-Ape's prime requisite, and 13+ will earn 5% more xps, while strength 16+ will earn 10% additional xps (not cumulatively).

Man-Apes fight and save as fighting-men of the same level. They start without any gold or possessions. Also, Man-Apes may not lead retainers until Name Level (7th, for my game ... unless the referee fiats otherwise).

Man-Apes begin with the languages of Ape and Signed Common; high intelligence might grant additional languages, assuming a forgiving referee. They also have a better ability to scent things than humans and demi-humans; this ability is intentionally left at that, to encourage unique attempts to use it.

As for armor, Man-Apes begin with a natural AC of 7, but they may only wear armor that is custom-made for them at double the normal cost. Further, if unarmored or wearing no heavier than leather armor, Man-Apes may climb anything reasonable without a check (a tree, a cliff with lots of easy handholds, etc.), or climb sheer surfaces as a thief of the same level, +5%.

When fighting, Man-Apes may use any weapon; but they may also strike with their fists in a two-attack routine (without penalty), each fist doing 1-3 damage (plus strength bonus, if applicable). If both fists hit, the Man-Ape does an additional 1-6 damage from rending (no strength bonus for this). This is only possible when fighting with fists, i.e. a sword-using Man-Ape cannot rend (though I have allowed the singular character of this class in my game to attack with his off-hand fist when wielding a weapon).

Further, Man-Apes being apes, they are capable of feats of strength that no man or demi-human could possibly emulate. That is, a Man-Ape need never "check" for normal strength-based tasks, except where the effort need be so herculean that even an ape would struggle. As a corollary to this, Man-Apes receive a +1 to their open door checks.

At Name Level (i.e. 7th for this class), a Man-Ape may acquire a troop of apes and jungle beasts--or build an urban manor and attempt to make his way in Civilization (and attempt to gather human followers). The troop of apes would be 2-12 apes; plus, if the Man-Ape (King) Kong ousts the current king of the jungle through violent combat, he receives vows of allegiance from the normal animals of the jungle (rather like the Elf Wizard-Lord's affinity for the animals within her own domain).

I don't have any rules for the urbane Man-Ape--I feel that such a course is one that must be charted on an individual basis.

Lastly, in my game and with my alignment rules (see Alignment in My Game), Man-Apes may only be of Chaotic, Good, Evil, or Natural alignment. They may not be of Lawful, Clannish, or Arcane alignment. But those are just my rules, for my alignments.


To date, I have only had one Man-Ape rolled up for any of my games--and not the Greyhame Mountain Dungeon, but my game with my wife and her brothers.

This poor creature, Zantar (see, because he's like Tarzan ...) lived a short but glorious life covering a mere two sessions. He was introduced to the party as they tried to figure out what to do about some orcs keeping watch from the tower-top above the dungeon-entrance. Along with some party members who could fly on their broomstick, and a mid-level thief, Zantar climbed the tower and participated in the assassination of the orc watchers.

But the real glory waited under the earth, on the third level of the dungeon. There, the party encountered a giant spider and several of her brood. Zantar really shone during this fight--not only did he tear one of the lesser spiders apart, but he personally slew the Shelob-type monstrosity as she lurked over another couple of party members--and because he rolled the killing blow with a rend after two hits with his fists, obviously he tore the spider's legs off and used them to beat her to death.

Alas, Zantar's glory was cut short when, despite being a first level character, the rest of the party agreed to put him up front and have him open doors (he did have that strength thing that gave him a bonus to opening doors). Well, upon opening the wrong door--one with an enemy lurking behind, an enemy who had heard the party's approach, an enemy who subsequently rolled surprise on the party--Zantar was struck by a level-draining attack and, being of mere first level, he was life-drained to death.

I keep hoping for others to roll up Man-Apes to follow in the glorious footsteps of deceased Zantar--and if I can get a coworker to show up at a Greyhame Mountain Dungeon session in a week, I might have him convinced to do just that. (and man, but I wish people would run with this and have characters like King Louis, Koko, Doctor Zaius, Caesar, Donkey (Kong) ... so many pop-culture apes and monkeys to reference!)

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