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Mythic Greece for MERP

Supplement: Natural Fauna of Mythic Greece

Copyright 2000 By Daniel M. Myers
Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for
The Guild Companion.

1.0 Introduction

The fauna of Hellas during the Age of Heroes is diverse. The majority of Hellas and its surrounding lands are still forested and mountainous. The animals described below are a sample of the better known varieties.

Editor's note: This article is a supplement to the article "Mythic Greece for MERP" and its addendum on the Trojans, which appeared in the May 1999 and December 1999 issues of The Guild Companion, respectively.

2.0 Mammals

In the Age of Heroes, Hellas possesses numerous exotic animals that are today extinct. Where Asiatic lions once roamed Hellas and the entire Mediterranean basin and Fertile Crescent, they are now restricted to a small part of India. The European bison once roamed the plains of Thrace, much as the American bison did before the slaughters of the Nineteenth Century. Because of Hellas' location in the world, positioned at the junction of the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, it sports widely varied animals from all three continents; this is still true today. Numerous small-game mammals inhabit Hellas, such as weasels, stone martens, otters, badgers, and hares.

    2.1 Deer

    Several large-game mammals inhabit the region, and three representatives of the deer family (Cervidae) are found in Hellas. All three types of deer prefer deciduous or mixed forests, or pastured mountains.

      2.1.1 Red Deer

      The largest deer of Hellas is the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), a close cousin to the Rocky Mountain Elk (C. e. nelsoni). Adult males can weigh up to 480# (220 kg) and reach over 8' (2.4 m) in length while standing 5' (1.5 m) at the shoulders. Their coats are reddish-brown in the summer and grayish-brown in the winter. Red deer are known for well-shaped, powerful antlers, which are used as weapons when they are threatened.

      2.1.2 Fallow Deer

      The middle-sized deer is the Fallow Deer (Dama dama). Adult males can weigh up to 185# (84 kg) and stand a little over 3' (91 cm) at the shoulders. The coats of fallow deer are very similar to those of red deer; however, fallow deer differ from red deer in two respects. First, they have white spots that cover their lower torsos and hind legs. Second, their antlers have multiple points where those of red deer have several single points. Besides their graceful and "fairy-tale" appearance, fallow deer have extremely developed senses of hearing and vision. Thus, hunting fallow deer is not easy; hunters who succeed are often looked upon as experts.

      2.1.3 Roe Deer

      The smallest and most common deer of Hellas is the Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus). They are much smaller than the red deer, with males weighing only 110# (50 kg) and standing only about 2'6" (76 cm) at the shoulder.

    2.2 Wild Boars

    Another game animal is the Wild Boar (Sus scrofa). Wild boars can be a nuisance to farmers because just one boar can destroy large areas of crops and vineyards in a matter of hours. Contrary to popular belief, wild boars are social animals. Only exiled male boars or old boars live in solitude. A single pack may number as many as 20 individuals. They have been known to eat anything from roots to small deer! They inhabit deciduous and mixed forests with moors or thick flora undergrowth. These animals are often hunted for sport and pest removal. Hunters often find these evil-tempered beasts dangerous—several of Mythic Greece's best heroes have been slain by wild boars. Individual boars can grow up to 6'6" (2.0 m) long and weigh up to 750# (340 kg). Larger, perhaps supernatural, ones have been known to terrorize whole kingdoms.

    2.3 Wisest (European Bison)

    The Wisest or European Bison (Bison bonasus) was considered a dangerous animal in the Age of Heroes. Today it is almost extinct except for individuals living in a few protected areas of Russia and Poland. During the Age of Heroes, the wisest extended its range at least as far south as central Hellas and Thrace. Individuals are more slender and have larger legs than their American cousins; they can reach over 9' (2.7 m) long and can weigh up to a ton (910 kg). Like the American bison (Bison bison), they are dark brown in color with short, pointed horns that arch downward. They inhabit deciduous and mixed forests with moist clearings for grazing.

    2.4 Goats

    Of all the herbivores, goats (family Capridae) are the most common in the Age of Heroes.

      2.4.1 Wild Goats

      All the isles of Hellas are home to the Wild Goat (Capra aegagrus). Wild goats are sturdy and muscular in build with sickle-shaped horns. Females also possess horns, although they are smaller than those of the males are. Their average weight is 88# (40 kg). These animals are very adaptive to any environment and are known for their tough stomachs—they can eat almost anything. Normally they are shy of humans, but if threatened, their long horns can gore or bash a foe off a mountain.

      2.4.1 Ibex

      Another member of the goat family is the Ibex (Capra ibex). Bucks have short beards like those of wild goats and possess 3' (91 cm) saber-shaped horns that curve toward the rear. Does also have horns; however, they are only a foot (30 cm) in length. Ibex are much larger than wild goats. They can weigh anywhere from 150–260# (68–120 kg) and measure 5' (1.5 m) long. In color, they are uniformly brown. They inhabit steep, rugged, and rocky slopes where they can demonstrate their amazing feats of leaping. They are also good climbers and reach remote places with ease. Their horns are said to provide marvelous healing powers; some horns, if ground with the proper ingredients (secret, naturally), can protect a person from evil influences.

      2.4.3 Chamois

      Accompanying the ibex in the mountains is the goat-like animal called Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). Chamois enjoy the high mountains, only retreating to the wooded valleys during heavy snowfalls. They possess an amazing ability to climb that can only be believed if seen. In size, they are comparable to the wild goat. Both sexes possess small, foot-long (30 cm) horns that extend steeply upward, with the upper third bent back in a hook-like fashion. Like the ibex and the wild goat, they are brown in color and travel in herds.

    2.5 Felines

      2.5.1 Small Felines

      In the Age of Heroes, several felines (members of the cat family Felidae) both small and large wander Hellas. The smaller felines include the wild cat (Felis sylvestris), the smallest and ancestor of the domestic cat (Felis domesticus). The most notable small feline is the Spanish Lynx (Felis lynx). These lynxes are brownish gray with dark spots and a black-tipped short tail, and can grow to over 3' (91 cm) in length. Like other small felines, Spanish lynxes mainly feed on hares and their relatives, but they have been known to bring down small deer. They are spread throughout Hellas, including the Aegean isles and Crete.

      2.5.2 Barbary Lion

      The largest felines of Hellas are the lions (Panthera leo). Barbary lions are larger than their African and Asiatic cousins. They often grow over 6' (1.8 m) long and can weigh over 550# (250 kg). This Afro-European subspecies is now extinct, but during the Age of Heroes, it was found throughout Hellas, including Crete and some of the larger islands. Lions are considered the only large cats to live in social groups, called "prides." A single pride can number thirty members (mostly lionesses), although that is extreme; the normal size of a pride is anywhere from four to twelve members.

      2.5.3 Anatolian Leopard

      In the Age of Heroes, leopards are considered the female counterpart to lions. However, leopards are really a separate species (Panthera pardus). Much smaller than lions, leopards are slender and delicate. Adult males reach the average length of 5'6" (1.7 m) and can weigh about 175# (79 kg). Despite their relatively small size, leopards are fearsome predators. They hunt at night with stealth and amazing speed, and are adept tree climbers. They enjoy ambushing prey from a high tree branch by leaping onto it. During its leap, a leopard generally targets the neck of its prey, sinking its needle-sharp teeth into it, crushing the spinal cord and thereby killing the prey instantly. Once leopards kill, they generally drag their kills up trees to avoid sharing their meals with scavengers or larger predators.

      Leopards have bright tan coats with gray hues and black spots. Some leopards are prone to melanism, a recessive gene that creates an all-black coat; these melanistic leopards are commonly called "black panthers." Unlike lions, leopards are solitary except during the mating season. Leopards are very adaptive to any environment from tropical rain-forest to cold mountains and can be found in any area with reasonable amounts of cover. They range throughout Hellas; they are said to be the favorite pets of Dionysus.

    2.6 Canines

      2.6.1 Gray Wolf

      The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is found throughout the forests of Europe. They generally live in small packs of five to eight members. In rare cases, packs with twenty members have been reported. Gray wolves have short dark fur and can weigh up to 160# (73 kg). They are very adaptive and can be found all over Hellas. Their diet consists mostly of such larger animals as deer and ibex.

      2.6.2 Golden Jackal

      Other canines (members of the dog family Canidae) also inhabit Hellas. The most unusual is the Golden Jackal (Canis aureas). Basically, they look like medium-sized dogs with yellow to pale-gold fur and brown-tipped tails. They are foragers; their diet consists of fruits and small animals. They normally inhabit Asia Minor, particularly the area around Troy. Foxes also inhabit Hellas; they are thought of as being sly and witty animals.

    2.7 Brown Bears

    The Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) which live in Hellas are smaller than those from other parts of Europe are. Even so, they can reach 6' (1.8 m) high and weigh 600# (270 kg). Despite their name, brown bears can be of any color from cream to black. They are solitary except during mating season. Brown bears inhabit coniferous or mixed forests and tend to remain on the mainland of Hellas. Despite their strong build, brown bears will go out of their way to avoid contact with humans. However, brown bears can be fearsome creatures to encounter, especially during mating season. The worst are females caring for young cubs.

    2.8 Sea Mammals

    The seas around Hellas feature such seafaring mammals as monk seals and common dolphins.

      2.8.1 Monk Seals

      Monk Seals (Monachus monachus) inhabit deserted, sandy inlets throughout Hellas. They are brown with white spots and can reach 9' (2.7 m) long and weigh 880# (400 kg). They are very shy of humans.

      2.8.2 Common Dolphins

      The Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is not the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) familiar to most Americans. Common dolphins are black with hourglass markings of yellow and gray on their flanks. They have slender beaks and the classic dolphin shape, and can grow up to 6' (1.8 m) long and weigh 175–260# (79–120 kg). Traveling in herds or pods as large as 200 members, common dolphins are known for their beauty and elegance of form while displaying their acrobatics to seafarers. Often they will follow a ship for leagues, leaping in and out of the sea, demonstrating their mastery of the waters. Common dolphins has been known to swim at speeds faster than 36 mph (58 kph), faster than any seafaring ship from the Age of Heroes. A bond supposedly exists between humans and dolphins; tales of dolphins rescuing sailors from drowning have been confirmed as true. More astounding is the fact that dolphins help fishermen fish by driving schools of fish into their nets.

3.0 Reptiles

Hellas is also home to a variety of reptiles. Such lizards as chameleons and geckoes inhabit many of the Aegean islands. Many kinds of reptiles like tortoises and amphibians like frogs and salamanders inhabit the Hellas region. In the sea, loggerhead turtles and sea turtles can also be found. Additionally, Hellas hosts several venomous snakes, such as the Montpelliar snake and the blunt-nose viper. These snakes' venom is rarely fatal, but bites do induce swelling and sickness. A few notable snakes are mentioned below.

    3.1 Nose-Horned Vipers

    Nose-Horned Vipers (Vipera ammodytes) are Europe's most venomous vipers (members of the viper family Viperidae). Their venom should generally be considered a fifth-level nerve poison. Fortunately, nose-horned vipers usually provide a warning; when disturbed, they hiss. They range all over Hellas and most of the Cyclades islands, except Crete and its surrounding isles, where they inhabit dry, rocky slopes with little vegetation. Nose-horned vipers have well-defined triangular heads and are gray in color with zigzag designs on their dorsal sides. Adults grow to about 3' (91 cm) long.

    3.2 Ottoman Vipers

    Ottoman Vipers (Vipera xanthina) are found in Lydia, Lycia, Caria, parts of Thrace, and on a few eastern Aegean islands off the coast of Asia Minor, such as Rhodes. Their venom is occasionally fatal; it should be treated as a second-level muscle poison (it is actually a neurotoxin). In color, they are brownish and gray with spots running down their dorsal sides. They are active during the night and are found in a variety of habitats, including swamps, open woods, and pastures.

    3.3 Large Whip Snakes

    The Large Whip Snakes (Coluber jugularis) are among the largest snakes in Europe, reaching lengths of 8.5' (2.6 m). Stories of them reaching much larger sizes have been told. They tend to have nasty tempers and bite readily. Fortunately, they are not venomous. Large whip snakes inhabit rocky hillsides and vineyards in northern Hellas and on many Aegean islands except Crete. They are slender and a light yellowish color, with their bellies light orange or brown. They feed on small mammals that they kill by constriction.

4.0 Birds

    4.1 Golden and Imperial Eagles

    Due to Hellas' location, it is home to numerous birds of prey. The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is found all over Hellas. In appearance, golden eagles are uniformly dark, with golden feathers on the head. Adults reach about 3' (91 cm) in height. They make eyries in mountainous areas. They are said to hunt animals as large as an ibex. Other large birds of prey such as Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca) are located in northern Hellas, in the Pindus mountain range. Imperial eagles are about the same size as golden eagles; however, they are brown in color.

    4.2 Smaller Birds of Prey

    The smaller birds of prey, such as White-Tailed Eagles (Haliaetus albicilla), are located in Thrace and northern Hellas. Hellas is also home to various other smaller birds of prey, such as Lesser Spotted Eagles (Aquila pomarina), Bonelli's Eagles (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Kites (Milvus), and Hawks (Accipter).

    4.3 Black Vultures

    Additionally, Hellas houses several vultures. The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) has the trademark traits of vultures; their long necks are featherless with pinkish skin and bald heads while their bodies are covered with black to brown plumage. Their wingtips are usually white or light-colored compared to the rest of their bodies.

    4.4 Owls

    Furthermore, Hellas has several owls, such as the Small Eared Owl and the Little Owl. Only 8.5" (22 cm) in height, the little owls (Athene noctua) are among Europe's smallest owls. Their upper torsos are dark brown, spotted and barred with white stripes, while their underparts are white. Hellas is also home to Europe's largest owl. Eagle owls (Bubo bubo) can reach up to a foot (30 cm) tall and are found throughout Hellas. They roost in rocks or hollow trees. Owls are loved by Athena, who keeps a magical pet owl named Bubo.

    Finally, Hellas is home to numerous other birds, including ravens and such game birds as quail.

5.0 Natural Fauna of Mythic Greece MERP Chart

Name Lvl Size MM Hits AT DB Shld Melee OB Notes
Bear, Brown 4 L 20 160 SL 30 N 65/LGr 80/LCl
Bear, Brown, Cub 1 20 34 RL 20 N 55/MGr
Boar 3 L 30 110 SL 40 N 55/LHo
Bull 4 L 20 160 No 20 N 60LHo/55LBa
Cat, Wild 2 S 40 20 No 50 N 35MCl/40SBi Lynx and other wild cats
Chamois 2 M 40 55 No 35 N 40MHo/50MBa Goat; adept at climbing
Deer, Red 3 L 30 90 No 25 N 50LHo/40MBa Only males get antlers
Deer, Roe 2 M 35 70 No 30 N 40MHo/30MBa
Dog, Large 3 L 30 70 No 25 N 70LBi
Dog, Medium 2 M 30 50 No 25 N 50MBi
Dog, Small 1 S 30 30 No 20 N 40SBi
Eagle, Golden 4 M 30 50 No 30 N 50MCl/35SPi
Horse, Large 3 L 30 110 No 30 N 45LBa Foreign horse
Horse, Small 2 M 30 90 No 30 N 30MBa Domesticated horse
Ibex 3 L 25 105 No 25 N 60LBa/40LHo Large goat
Large Whip Snake 3 M 25 35 No 30 N 45SBi
Leopard 4 M 30 100 No 40 N 40MCl/80MBa Adept climber; Ambush +10
Lion, Barbary 6 L 25 140 SL 20 N 85LCl/90LBi Larger than African cousin
Viper 1 S 20 5 No 30 N 35SSt Venom with A crit or better
Wolf, Gray 3 M 15 95 No 30 N 65LBi Hunts in packs; smell

Editor's Note

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