Monday 24 October 2016

Thinking About WarBeasts

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I opened a post on g+ to talk about ludicrous warbeasts and I'm still thinking about them:

Thinking about the problem of having someone or thing super into killing but still caring about fellow army members and the chain of command. 

(Which has been the biggest barrier to the creation of "war-drugs" . You increase anything that makes a solider better at killing you also advance the "will shoot own troops and disregard orders slider" )

So you breed a war-goat , and its fearless and will fight anyone ; how to you get it not to fight your own troops, or even advance in the right direction?

 If you train the animal to have a trigger response to certain stimulus , it risks discovery and exploitation by the enemy.

 Dumb animals are more easy to have doing stuff reflexively and ignoring context , a giant beetle will charge when the pheromone flag is waved near it regardless of the presented danger of the enemy. 

However if the rider is unable to wave the corresponding Halt pheromone flag the beetle will keep advancing off the battlefield , into fires or even off cliffs. 

A smart animal will integrate context into its commands, however it will have to be more motivated by the training than its sense of self preservation.
 At some point it could be more afraid of the enemy than its learned fear of the rider.

 Fear isn't the only motivator however.

 Hunger and Caring are the other big motivators in animal attacks. 

Hunger is presents some problems because predators do not take unnecessary risks. You hear about people fighting off a bear or a lion with a couple of punches to the snoot because of this. 

Most predator attacks on prey animals result in the prey getting away, predators won't push a fight that doesn't immediately go their way. They can't afford to 

. If you've ever had a pet cat that gets into fights , you'll have had to go to vet at some point to get infected bites and scratches and seen how disabling they can be.

 In the wild there is no vet, a predator gets a broken tooth, a puffed up face obscuring an eye, a cracked rib, there's a high chance they won't be able to feed themselves and then starve to death 
(unless they can survive on scavenging kills and smaller normal substandard food like insects or lizards) 

So a warbeast motivated by hunger isn't necessary going to ignore its self preservation , unless its starting to get hungry enough to weaken it.
 Also once it kills something , it is likely to want to eat it right away. 
And then there's the ever present threat of it choosing to eat something closer. 

There's a couple of interesting and d&dable work-around that could happen here though:

The attached army is could be just not food , skeletons have no meat, treemen or funguys neither, or might be exploiting a known allegory; the kuo-toa use thorny-tigers , and thorny-tigers are allergic to seafood . 

Which is something they would want to keep secret , to prevent the enemy hacking up kuo-toa and throwing them into the maw of the Kuo-toa .

 Another is the attached army to the war beast coats themselves with scent that the war beast has learned to never want to eat. 
Stealing (and using) and/ or replacing the scent would be an tremendously effective sabotage .

The scent could be instead be an attractant, thrown on or previously associated with the enemy to make the enemy perceived as food. 

Insects are a good subject for this, being extremely controlled by pheromones. 

Leading on from this and into another hunger solution is using a beast that doesn't eat meat and making it believe the enemy isn't made of meat and instead the food of the beast. So the subtle scents of dry and rotting wood are applied sneakily to the enemy army . 

Then the giant termite warbeast would mindlessly chew through their troops , spitting out the mangled carcasses just as soon as it swallows them . Or a half lobotomised starving great ape tearing up these delicious smelling "fruits" but unable to find the source to satisfy its hunger 

Stupid beasts or highly drugged /motivated are needed for this strategy , otherwise they would get frustrated and stop

Expanding on this  “Tantalus”  strategy is preventing satisfaction by making a hole in the throat or stomach so the bolus tumbles out as quickly as its eaten.

Some plasticity in the beast, disposable attitude toward it , or fleshy magiks/sciences are required for this. Also again, the  animal to be dumb, drugged or brutalised enough to not be aware of the futility . Or not be an animal that is happy to immediately eat its own vomit.

Some war beasts could have such a prestigious appetite that the typical killing they will do on a battlefield wouldn’t threaten to gorge them to the point of physical impairment 

Alternatively to cutting holes in the valuable war-beast is having it vomit up what (who) it just ate , which could be an additional weaponised behaviour (via acid, temperature of the  bolus,  or just the sheer force of the projection)  .
The vomiting could be the result of drugs, modifying the stomach to not accept solid food , or a mechanic device triggering the gag reflex.
Example of that last  one could be some poor bastard who has to hang off the neck of the beast and jam a long rod down its throat, a festering bit of wire jutting out of the flesh leading to the muscle group that a minor shock is applied to, or a gross polyp that is caressed.

Excessive vomiting might tax the creature's stomach acid and/or cause teeth corrosion, which could be exploited as an attrition strategy by an opponent; sending waves of cannon folder or even domestic animals repeatedly at the war-beasts so they eat and puke until they lose their teeth and become unable to digest food .

A really simple solution to all of this that I could of said at the start but I just remembered  about now is “Surplus Killing” .  If a war-beast behaves likes  this when excessive prey is in front of them they will kill without eating or only eating the choicest bits.
( aka “fox in the henhouse” )
The concept of a warbeast that carves its way into enemy lines , stopping to quickly pluck out livers or hearts is a striking one.

Caring is the other motivator. I’m jamming together territory  defending , mate /kids protection and dominance displays all in this character.
In all these there is something that the beast is prepared to risk or even sacrifice itself for.

In the wild this can make herbivores or otherwise not hostile animals even more dangerous than predators. Hippopotamus and wildebeest are some of the biggest killers in Africa because of this. 

The hippopotamus doesn’t get “full” and not interested in killing you. As soon as you are threatening its territory (or babies) it wants to kill you. It wants to kill your boat , it wants to kill your dog , it wants to kill you. 

Territorialness could be exploited by an army if the war-beast understands its territorial by smell , everyone in the army anoints themselves in pungent fragrance and the war-beast thinks of the army as “it’s”.  A better fit would be for the smell to mean the that the army was the young of the warbeast. 

The scent could be just thrown into an area, the warbeast then staying in that area and menacing everyone coming near it. Only when the scent disperses could the warbeast be approached and rejoined into the army. (Its own scent glands would be removed so it can’t reapply a scent)

Getting more ludicrous there could be an actual structure or section of land carried by the army to trigger the warbeast territory. 

It might be impossible or logistically prohibitive to have the entire army believed to be the warbeasts young, so maybe just a bonded rider or solider. Which is an obvious weakness and macguffinable. 

If the attached army is to be seen as mates to protect , some poor bastard might have to wear custom costume/armour and have the warbeast mount them , the rest of the army can get by in just being soaked in the urine of a in-heat female. 
 Unless large fake animals are made for this purpose , perhaps being formerly a religious statue or totem carried by the army for divine protection, before its other use was discovered and awkwardly religiously explained as not terrible.

Dominance: something about the enemy could trigger the warbeast to attack to prove its bestness. Most dominance conflicts don’t involve the full capacity of the creatures involved, stags rarely try and gut each other or kick out eyes. But the reduced aggression is most likely more than enough to kill and maim, such as an headbutting goat or stag or a neck whipping giraffe.

In-order to have the attached army not be seen as a threat the uniform of the attached army could some how appear to be showing a submissive posture; helmets with the toward pointing horns of a losing giant stag beetle for example. Or a ritual rolling on the ground and showing the belly before the beast, disguised as ritual madness as not to be understood and copied by the enemy army.

Repeating myself a little here but if the warbeast is just so fucked up on drugs, brain surgery, psionic control or parasites,  it could be made to see the enemy as something desirable to it , either food , mates, or even an environment; panicked burrowing beasts seeing troops flesh as soft soil or making  giant parasites choose hosts that are far smaller than usual.

Otherwise placid beasts could become terrifying warbeasts this way , the giant sloth lumbering towards those "delicious leafs surrounded by troublesome thorns"

This might be very unstable way of manipulating the beast, requiring highly trained and knowledgeable individuals and/or luck.

It's worth noting that in a way an animal should always be considered to be in an altered state.
A dog does not see the world and is responding to very different information than you are in the same situation. War-elephants were recorded as afraid of the scent of camel.

Understanding how the warbeast perceives the world could open up exploitations. Ruiner-Crabs will ignore anything red, glyptodonts poor vision means they can't make out spears and are unafraid of charging a pike formation , battleworms move toward high pitch noises.  

some of the best ideas from the thread are:


Advanced force of burrowing animals, turning a plane in a treacherous field of foot/hoof sized pot holes. Attached army uses giant centipedes as warmounts so they don't care

Huge Knife Ball pushed by giant scarabs. the knife ball has some necromantic device inside it so it crudely animates any corpses stuck to it.

The corpses cling and stab and the ball katamari-damacys to frightening sizes as the battle progresses

Skeleton elephant full of poison snakes, strike out at anyone coming near it

Rust monsters with wasps nests grown all over them.

matryoshka war dogs: they contain consecutively (wet , fleshy, viscerally coloured smaller dogs. They can do a reaching bite where the dogs telescope out from the biggest ones mouth, exchange brute force for numerically superiority, or survive otherwise lethal blows that fail to reach the inner dogs

"ratmen" actually made of rats, that pile up on top of each other until they make a plausible at a distance human shape. More for information warfare than anything as they can show up near anywhere and be mistaken for an actual military unit. Can even steal clothing and armour and disguise themselves further

Advanced version could be a rat army that travels as rats , carrying some building materials and small tools. Then using whatever is around they make walking rat operated warmachines , for example a horse size quadruped formed of tied together bone with farm tool tusks and damp leather hide

A army of intelligent rats would prob do far more damage just fouling supplies, sabotaging equipment, and starting fires, but these rats have this thing about proving they are more than vermin and so do this weird shit with rat junk-mecha

Ian Reily:

I still think an animated wicker man is the most fun siege weapon. Not strong enough to batter down walls, it probably has to clamber over them, setting things alight. You shoot it to put your guys trapped inside out of their misery, or bring in fire hoses to try and de-animate it

Beloch Shrike:

Massive behemoth beasts with acidic semen. Jacked off by teams using a system of canvases and pulleys until they fire their ejaculate artillery across the battlefield.

Here's the thread anyway: