Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Predation

Go To

Predation is a Tabletop RPG setting designed for the Cypher System by Monte Cook Games, adapted to bring in dinosaurs and science by stranding players in the Mesozoic era and allowing them to play as both humans and dinosaurs.

Welcome to the Cretaceous.

A megacorporation from the future known as SATI starts sending people to the late Cretaceous period. But time travel stopped working: those commuters are stranded in the past, with dangerous predators, no access to future technology, and as the colony was settled from the future, everyone knows that an asteroid heading for Earth would cause an unavoidable cataclysm. Predation is set about a century after the Last Commute: there are some very old commuters still alive, but the player characters are likely third generation.

The dinosaurs aren't just there for scenery or as monsters to be killed. The commuters learned how to domesticate dinosaurs, so each PC has a pet (usually a dinosaur). The player, however, does not control the companion; it is controlled by another player, and the rules treat the companion as a player character with its own personality.


Predation is compatible with all other Cypher games, so if you need a bioengineered dinosaur to show up in the Ninth World, or want to step into a Cretaceous recursion in The Strange you can easily pull from here, and there is a crossover guide that allows you to use Predation with Numenera and The Strange or both.

This game contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: The dakotaraptor's long rear legs boast a massive sharp 25-cm long sickle claw.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The katcha bandits seem to have developed a tolerance for the bacteria in their namesake lizards, perhaps because the lizard meat is their main source of protein.
  • Action Pet: Every PC has their own creature companion (usually a dinosaur, but there are other options) that helps them in combat. They do more than just run around next to the humans: they have their own stats, personalities and abilities and are considered player characters as well.
  • Advertisement:
  • All Crimes Are Equal: There's no court system in Kelaino. The venators basically wait until someone comes to them and advocates for the release of a prisoner.
  • And Man Grew Proud: The Genesix Fellowship believes that their ancestors were sent to the past to find the Garden of Eden and their failure caused God to destroy time travel and trap them in the past as punishment. The genesi believe that if they can succeed where their ancestors did not by finding the Garden, God will repair time travel and allow them to go to the future.
  • Animals Not to Scale: Both the 3-metre long carnosuchus (a wild pliosaur) and the 10-metre long pygmy sauroposeidon (a domesticated and specifically bred sauropod) are far smaller than real pliosaurs or sauropods ought to be.
  • Attack Drone: Some types of cyberdrones are equipped with various weapons for use as attack robots.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Supersauri were designed by SATI as a creature too large to have natural predators, created from the genes of the strongest dinosaurs, and hand-raised so that it was always controllable. It turns out they were expensive and time consuming to create and raise, unpredictable, uncontrollable, nearly impossible to feed, and rarely survived to adulthood, forcing SATI to cancel their Project Kaiju after 5 years.
  • Beast Man: Silverbacks are humans who have undergone some form of predacious changes to become more dinosaur-like. They may have claws, tails, or both and more.
  • Beast of Battle: The shoreline of Coareas is protected by half a dozen thalassomedons controlled using remotely operated brain implants.
  • Big Eater: The giant sauropods don't seem to care about much beyond food.
  • Blindfolded Trip: Someone invited to Chrysalis is typically guided there by guards while wearing a thick blindfold.
  • Booby Trap: The Butterflies' main base is a cavern rigged with mechanical traps, puzzles, devices, protective creatures and explosive gases.
  • Breeding Slave: Some people tell stories of forced impregnation by SATI during the early, dark years after the Last Commute.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The Butterflies believe in this, and want the incoming asteroid to kill all humans so they don't screw up even more of the timeline.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Guess what animal a 'ghasthound' is? It is a prehistoric pig-like mammal part of the entelodont family.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: A katcha can lie camouflaged against the soil for as long as it takes for an unwitting victim to get close.
  • City on the Water: Located about halfway between the eastern shore of Laramidia and the western shore of Appalachia lies the Floating City of Coareas.
  • Clamshell Currency: Many new nautil 'coins' are real nautilus shells, harvested, dried and preserved.
  • Closed Circle: There is no way to go back to the future or communicate, which is a big problem considering that Grevakc has its days counted.
  • Company Town: SATI has traditionally controlled the majority of cities and towns in Grevakc, but their current hold is tenuous at best.
  • The Cretaceous Is Always Doomed: Grevakc is Earth, 65 millions of years ago, at the very tail end of the Cretaceous. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a cataclysm would wipe out almost all life, including the humans who'd travelled through time to get there.
  • Cyborg: Most people and many dinosaurs have been upgraded with cybernetic limbs, integrated weaponry or armour.
  • Death Seeker: The Butterflies believe that humans shouldn't try to fix the time machine, that they should die out in the upcoming cataclysmic event so they don't screw up even more of the evolutionary time path.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Doing something that the venators of Kelaino don't like, like saying hello to Grerock Prison, might earn you a life imprisonment, unless if you have a friend or colleague who asks for your release.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: The commuters learned how to domesticate dinosaurs, and they can be found everywhere there are humans.
  • Dying Town: Aello was already falling into ruin prior to the Last Commute. The air in the city was dust-ridden, sinkholes were common, it was too far from a consistently clean water source, and giant pterosaurs nested nearby.
  • Eco-Terrorist: The Butterflies are a subversive guerrilla group that believe that dinosaurs, not humans, are the right and true beings of this time and want all humans to die so the timeline wouldn't be altered too much.
  • Elephant Graveyard: Bonehaven is one of the few towns with an actual graveyard, causing some people to come there to die, in the hopes that they too will become part of it.
  • Enemy Scan: An osteoscan can scan the bones of living or dead creatures and learn a great deal about them, including what type of creature they are, their level, whether they have any illnesses or weak spots, and anything else the GM deems reasonable.
  • Feathered Fiend:
    • The dakotaraptor's arms are covered in long wing feathers, and it's one of the most feared predators of Grevakc (standing at level 9), even without upgrades.
    • The feathered lythronax grows to a size of more than 26 feet (8 m) long and weighs in at 2.75 tons: already designed to be a killer with no cybernetic augmentations. Everything they do is focused on ripping, tearing, chewing and consuming.
  • Fed to the Beast: Slipping the secret to the abundant nautil supply of Coareas to an outsider is punishable by a slow and torturous death at the mouths of the Pariah King's two giant crocodile-like Machimosaurus rexes.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: A dragonbreath creates a chemical reaction that causes a cone of flame to shoot out in an arc over a long distance.
  • Fortune Teller: Some Osteons have actually found ways to tap into the weird energies of the time anomalies in order to see the past, portend the future, and twist the present.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider: Orb weaver spiders are known to have unique and engaging personalities and rarely bite.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: The Apatosaurus eros is a mostly docile and slow-moving herbivore that is more likely to do damage by trying to move through a space than by direct attack. When threatened, however, it typically does not back down and will fight to the death.
  • Ghost Town: All shadow towns along the Torotix have the same characteristics: they're in heavily jungled areas, they disappear abruptly, they rarely show signs of destruction or carnage, and most of the inhabitants' belongings are left behind.
  • Giant Flyer: Giant pterosaurs called Hatzegopteryx nest near Aello. They quickly discovered that humans were their new favourite prey, wiping out more than half of the first group of 500 commuters in the first week.
  • Giant Spider: The genetically engineered black bullet spiders can reach 60 cm in length.
  • Gladiator Games: The main draw of the Pits of Phyrric is the pit itself, where dinosaurs and humans are pitted against each other in fights to the death. There are no rules to these fights other than those set by the pit bosses.
  • Grim Up North: Upper Laramidia is characterised by vast stretches of jungle and wide, deep rivers that no one has cared about or dared to name or explore. This is the most likely place to run into a supersauri, as well as various other large, often carnivorous dinosaurs that never stray south of the Chalk Road.
  • Hellhole Prison: Guards of Grerock Prison are often the least qualified and most poorly trained venators. Abuse, bribery and health issues are common among prisoners, and many people who land in Grerock stay there indefinitely because there's no court system in Kelaino and there's no one to advocate for their release.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The settlers of Schetullind Groves in Appalachia were sent back in time for a secret mission to record and observe the changes that occurred in one particular spot of the world due to time travel. Without any contact with the rest of the world, they and their descendants have no idea that time travel no longer works.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Chimeras (not to be confused with the Mix-and-Match Critters) are a unique type of mirage that occurs when travelling through jungly, swampy areas along the Chalk Road during hot weather. As the still, excrement-filled waters heat up, they release heavy fumes that can cause headaches, voices and hallucinations.
  • Horn Attack: Stygimolochs typically move headfirst into battle, using their dome-shaped skulls and horns as battering rams.
  • An Ice Person: When threatened, an Archelon glaciesi can release long, twisting tubes of ice known as brine icicles that freeze whatever they touch.
  • In-Series Nickname: While many of the creatures in Grevakc have scientific names, their nicknames are much more widely used. Just as most of us today don't teach our Canis lupus familiaris to sit and shake, most people who live in Grevakc don't call animals by their full names either.
  • In the Hood: Sun Mu always wears a hood of some type. Rumour has it that she's trying to hide some type of augmentation or a hideous scar, or that she's a wanted criminal.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Ninjaweaver silk reflects light in such a way that makes it almost impossible for humans and insects to discern, even when woven together. They tend to wrap themselves in their own webs, becoming almost impossible to spot.
  • It Only Works Once: Cyphers can bend or break the laws of reality wherever they're used, but they are defined as one-use items.
  • Just Before the End: It's not entirely clear how long Grevakc's inhabitants have before the asteroid hits, but most people believe that the Last Commute took place less than a few hundred interglobal years before impact. Unlike the dinosaurs, who had no idea what was about to happen, the people who live in Grevakc know a great deal about their coming end. However, not everyone believes that it will happen again in their future.
  • Killer Rabbit: The plesiosaurs near the Gold Docks in Kelaino look a bit like giant penguins which can leap out of the water, clasp you in its toothed mouth, and pull you into the depths. It doesn't help that when they're floating in the water nearby, with their fat, furry bellies to the sky, they look fairly cute and cuddly.
  • Kill Steal: Anytime a creature is killed, it's possible that ghasthounds will decide that the spoils belong to them and show up to claim their prize from the killer.
  • Klingon Promotion: Vassie Hammet became the leader of the riverbank pirates in Kelaino after she came upon the corpse of her predecessor and everyone else thought that she killed him.
  • Long-Lived: At the time of the Gre-Vakian c trials, the average lifespan on Earth was around 92 years, with people living as long as 160 years. In Grevakc, it's shorter due to the dangerous lifestyle and the lack of an established health care system. Still, a fair number of the early commuters are still alive.
  • Loud of War: The crescendo cannon shoots a contained mixture of liquefied petroleum, gas and air that detonates on impact and creates an explosion of sound that stuns everyone that hears it.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The streets of Okythoe are filled with chaos, thanks to a fierce rivalry between SATI loyalists and the King's Court. To make matters even more unstable, the Butterflies are taking their opportunities wherever they can, without caring who knows about it or who gets hurt in the process.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Supersauri are composite creatures that were created from the genetic material of any number of dinosaurs as part of SATI's Project Kaiju.
    • Another SATI creation, chimeras combine the features of many different animals, which in this setting might be a dakotaraptor and a giant crocodilian, or a primitive snake and a hadrosaur for example.
  • The Mole: The head of the biorobotics and cybernetics department in Dota Lab is Bion Robilard, a supposedly very trustworthy man as well as a secret operative for the Butterflies. Although he transmits information out daily, he never hears back and has never, in 18 years, seen or talked with another known Butterfly. He's begun to wonder if the group has forgotten him.
  • Mordor: Grey's Crater once housed one of SATI's early labs. For years after the explosion, the air around the area spun with small tornadoes and weird bits of false lightning. Now that has mostly settled down, but the ground sometimes glows neon blue and bubbles like liquid.
  • Multiple-Tailed Beast: Lashers grown in labs are often modified to have two or even three tails.
  • Nepotism: SATI is ruled by the children and grandchildren of those original scientists and higherups and recruits their venators from the children of enforcement officers.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Galloping crocodiles can grow up to 7 m long, are fast in water and on land, and have discovered that humans are easy pickings.
  • New Old West: Most of the population of Grevakc resides in Laramidia, which corresponds to the western USA and Canada. Life is Laramidia is fairly rough-and-tumble, perhaps with a frontier town feeling: there really isn't much in the way of the law around to protect folks or keep the peace.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Riverbank pirates sound a bit like a joke, for they don't leave the land and don't have a ship.
  • Old Master: The 150-year-old Amiran Rama is the only known remaining robotics expert in Grevakc. She's realised that her knowledge is going to die out with her if she doesn't do something soon.
  • One-Gender Race: Originally created in labs, all platypodes are female, but they reproduced in the wild anyway.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Watching the death of their two children at the hands of a raptor pack broke Drachen and Nina's relationship too deeply to ever be repaired. They haven't talked to each other in nearly a decade.
  • Permanent Elected Official: Coareas elects a new leader each year. About ten years ago, the Pariah King lost an election, but took control anyway. No one on the island is entirely sure how it happened, but they all agree she does a fine job, so they let it go.
  • Persona Non Grata: Workers who are caught stealing Dutchman's Pipe are punished by being evicted from Hendrickson permanently, without being given an opportunity to gather their things or say goodbye to their family.
  • Phony Psychic: Some Osteons are pure storytellers, conning others into believing that they know more than they do.
  • Poisoned Weapons: A group of bandits who call themselves katchas stake themselves out along the road, using a substance made from the bacteria in the katcha lizards' bite to poison their weapons.
  • Poverty Food: The bactogarden in Kelaino produces bacterial sustenance, which is mostly scavenged by those who have no other means to grow or hunt their own food.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The ashy soil of the Cinder Ocean is sometimes fluid like quicksand. When the ground is in its fluid state, most things that touch it end up sinking down into its depths within a matter of minutes.
  • Rapid Aging: Dinosaur ageing can be accelerated using growth hormones, genetic engineering and other techniques.
  • Raptor Attack: In addition to the classic Deinonychus, there are argoraptors, bambiraptors (both dinosaurs bred by SATI as a replacement for dogs) and dakotaraptors (a deceptively strong and deadly predator despite its human-like size).
  • Ridiculously Difficult Route: The Chalk Road is the longest, widest, and most well-travelled route on Laramidia. It's dotted with predators, bands of brigands and cutthroats, and even more dangerous elements.
  • Rite of Passage: Travelling to the Blackbone Forest is something of a rite of passage, a pilgrimage, for third- and fourth-generation youth seeking to learn more about when and where they came from. Most parents forbid it, which makes it all the more appealing.
  • Sacred Scripture: The Butterflies' beliefs are based on the 'bible' that the group's original Queen brought back in time with her, a digital copy of Ray Bradbury's story A Sound of Thunder. The current Queen has a handwritten copy, bound into a red leather book: the group's most prized possession.
  • Schizo Tech: People wear and use a mishmash of the future and the past, often without making much distinction between the two. As Grevakc was not designed to be self-sufficient and lacks the infrastructure to maintain them, most future technology is rare and wearing down with age. It's not unusual to see someone carrying a SATI-issued fingerprint-reading smart gun and a hand-hewn bone knife while wearing an outfit that is a patchwork of leathers, fur and wetweave and healing with a combination of cloth bandages and a cypher embedded in their DNA.
  • Secret Path:
    • The entrance to the Blind Iguanodon inn in Kelaino is tucked in between a variety of rotating stalls, and the door is difficult to find, marked only with a hand-painted image of an Iguanodon. It's is a hot spot for locals, but most travellers don't know that it exists, and locals try to keep it that way.
    • The front door of the Chrysalis is carved into the mountainside in such a way that it looks like the mountain itself, even to well-trained eyes. Just outside the door is a river filled with carnivores. The Butterflies keep them nearby by tossing them a bit of meat, just enough to give them a taste and an appetite.
  • Secret Underground Passage: At the very back of the Chrysalis, just off the Queen's quarters, a double-hidden escape tunnel that opens only for the Queen's fingerprints leads out from the base through the mountains to a tiny, hidden opening on the other side. That tunnel is natural and has a number of branches, many of them dead ends. One of the first tasks of those who live and work at the Chrysalis is to memorise the way out, because the tunnels are dark, small and unmarked.
  • She Is the King: Coareas is run by a woman who calls herself the Pariah King.
  • Shock and Awe: Teslasaurs were originally created by SATI scientists by injecting ankylosaurs with electric eel genetic materials. The smaller males are outfitted with electromagnetic force field generators for defence, the larger females with capacitors and voltage steppers to project electrical blasts.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Bones and Stones buys anything that comes from an animal and can be remade into wearables.
  • The Speechless: Venator commander Aitana Moya has been deaf since birth, rejecting SATI's attempts to provide her with cochlear cybernetics, and communicates with her team mostly via sign language or mentally with an artifact called Solarsong.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Over time, the original spelling Grevakc has been forgotten in some places, so it can also be written as Grevack, Greyveck, or even Gravach.
  • Spiritual Successor: It's pretty much Terra Nova: The Roleplaying Game, with some Dino-Riders and a lot of Cyber and Stone Punk.
  • The Spook: Not much is known about Caden Glass, whether their last name is given or taken. It's impossible to discern almost anything: facial features, gender or size through the black leather mask, helm and armour that Glass wears constantly.
  • Spy Bot: Some cyberdrones are equipped with a recording device that records up to 24 hours of video at a time.
  • Stripped to the Bone: The Blackbone Forest is named after the glistening bones of the dinosaurs that burnt with the forest. The fire burned in such a way that it carbonised the bones in the exact position where the creatures died, creating ghastly monuments of their death.
  • Super Supremacist: All new humans in the Kingdom of New Humans have enhancements and modifications of some type as one of the requirements to earn the new human label. They believe that they alone have adapted and evolved in all the right ways that will allow them to survive the asteroid and become the rulers of the new world. The new humans have no regard or remorse for the 'old humans' other than in terms of their usefulness.
  • Tail Slap: Acroplocerexes are armoured ankylosaurs with bone-shattering clubbed tails. Sauropods don't have said clubs, but make up for it in sheer size.
  • To Serve Man: Some communities honour the connection between humans and domesticated dinosaurs by offering some or all of the body up as food to the carnivores.
  • Trapped in the Past: The time travel process broke down, leaving the commuters stranded in the Cretaceous with the dinosaurs and whatever tech they've brought to the past with them.
  • Truly Single Parent: DNA testing reveals that each platypode only has the DNA from its mother.
  • Turtle Power: Icewall turtles were bioengineered from Archelons. They can radiate intense cold towards enemies, and are long lived; some of the original engineer's creatures still swim the oceans.
  • Underwater Base: The Niveous was once a submerged SATI labship before it exploded.
  • Urban Segregation: The Triangle of the Faithful is a small section of Kelaino that is heavily guarded by cyberdrones and venators where the elite live.
  • Useless Item: Remnants are defined as such because people in Grevakc have no context for them (like someone from the 1930s would for a video game box) or because they've been damaged to an unusable state.
  • Volcano Lair: SATI originally built a base on Betrayal Island, which has a large caldera, which SATI also surmised would provide refuge from storms and other natural disasters, not yet knowing that they were building on an active volcano. The island has erupted twice already in the known history of Grevakc, both times destroying equipment and killing all scientists.
  • Weird Weather: Time terrors are giant storms that appear suddenly and with little to no warning. Each storm seems to be self-contained, as if housed within an invisible barrier. Reports from lucky eyewitnesses outside the storm barrier talk about seeing the lightning coming right for them and then disappearing before it arrived, or seeing a strong wind devastating objects right in front of them, without ever feeling so much as a slight breeze on their own skin.
  • Whale Egg: Dracorexes are one of the few dinosaurs that give birth to live young.
  • Wretched Hive: Exedu is a stinking, raucous, wild city full of dirt, sewage and blood. No one wants to live there, but everyone is stuck there, and that makes them mean, short-tempered and aggressive. Petty thievery and drunken brawls are just the beginning; there are more murders than births there. The prison lock's been broken for ages, and there's no money to pay for law enforcement or repairs. No one wants to take on the role of leading this town out of its own misery.
  • Write Back to the Future: Piled high in the water of the Boneyard Bayou are the bones of hundreds of dinosaurs. None of the bones have flesh or are less than two years old, and the piles are carefully constructed in a perfect replica of the creature the bones belonged to, as if in an attempt to preserve them for future generations, created by someone who is no longer here.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once an old human stops being useful to the Kingdom of New Humans, they are given a choice: self-evolve into a new human or die.