Monday, September 20, 2021

Grognard's Grimoire: Thedlani

Thedlani (Horned Lumberer)

Thedlani are large horned animals that stand 12–14 feet tall at the shoulder and support their 5–7 ton weight on four thick legs. Originating in the subtropical forests of Chametkani, domesticated thedlani can now be found across sha-Arthan, where they are used as both mounts and pack animals. Generally docile, these creatures will fight fiercely if attacked.

AC 5 [14], HD 9 (40hp), Att 1 × bite (2d4) or 1 × trample (4d8), THAC0 12 [+7], MV 120’ (40’), SV D10 V11 P12 B13 S14 (5), ML 8, XP 900, NA 0 (1d20), TT Horns

  • Trample: 3-in-4 chance of trampling each round. +4 to hit human-sized or smaller creatures.
  • Maronma: The horns of the thedlani are made of a bone-like substance called maronma much valued in many lands. Each horn is worth 1d6 × 100dm.


  1. Some thoughts from a comparative biology POV:

    Put in perspective, these approximate the size to the largest African elephants (ie much larger than the often-domesticated Indian variety) and possess a proportionately long neck and tail, although their head itself is much smaller. If they keep their brain in their skull (likely, given that their sensory organs appear clustered on the head) the smaller braincase indicates they might be significantly less intelligent than elephants are. They probably have lower ground pressure than an elephant of similar weight due to their much broader foot structure, but I'd expect their top speeds to be lower even if they can manage difficult terrain (eg mud, slopes) better. Body structure suggests they might be decent swimmers, and perhaps there are related species that lead an amphibious lifestye as swamp grazers?

    The long neck and original jungle habitat suggests they feed from trees, and if their physiology is about as efficient as an elephant's is they'd be consuming somewhere around 250-300 pounds of foliage per day while active, more if extreme exertion is called for like travelling steadily or carrying heavy loads. Those numbers might come down significantly if they're being fed fodder with better nutritional content than what they'd find in their (eg hay and cultivated grains), or if the ecosystem has more energy-rich, easier-to-digest vegetation than Earth generally does.

    In the wild these things would (like elephants) spend much of their time looking for food, and they'd be pretty damaging to the local flora over time so most likely migratory over some distance. Domesticated ones would require considerable amounts of feed (or impractical amounts of foraging time) each day, as well as more water than their wild kin would need since most fodder has far less water content than fresh foliage and grasses. That's exacerbated by the fact that "tame" thedlani will be doing more work each day than a wild one would, since foraging and grazing are fairly low-energy activities, just time-consuming.

    OTOH, they probably don't sleep much (elephants operate fine on 4-6 hours per day, spending the rest of it looking for food) and could be expected to keep going longer than their mahouts/handlers if need be. A caravan of these things trying to make best time over long distances might have extra "crew" to work in shifts so they can keep going 16-18 hours a day.

    The retention of what look like armored plates, scutes, or scales on the dorsal surface suggests that there's something out there big enough to prey on these things from above. Either there are truly gigantic land predators around, or there are smaller but very aggressive arboreal or airborne species that are a danger even to thedlani. The former seem seem more likely given their jungle habitat. Perhaps something akin to a tree-climbing sabertooth tiger with natural weapons specialized to kill such oversized prey, or even an arboreal tool-user species that's learned to attack from above with crude spears?

    Of course, those predators might be extinct (perhaps hunted to death by humans, etc, following the domestication of the thedlani?) and the armor is just an evolutionary holdover that hasn't been shed yet.

    1. Wow.

      I think you put more thought into this than I did :)

      Kidding aside, this is actually helpful. Thank you!

    2. Thanks. I've been binging a lot of "speculative ecology" vids on Youtube the last week or so. Has me thinking about the implications of observed characteristics in animals more than usual. Plus I was curious about how much upkeep a domesticated elephant-sized animal really needs and went to the trivial effort of looking up some numbers.

      Of course, you could come to completely different conclusions with a little mental wriggling. Maybe the thedlani's ancestors were apex predators who evolved into an omnivorous lifestyle after depleting the populations of sufficiently large prey, then further adapted to grow even larger and increasingly herbivorous over time as the climate changed and the jungles grew? They'd grow more passive over time with no major predation threats but might still be opportunistic omnivores who won't balk at eating a bit of meat if an incautious animal (or mahout) presents the opportunity and they're hungry enough.

      That sort of radical shift from carnivore to (mostly) herbivore might indicate that some local vegetation is easier to digest and higher in nutritional value than Earth plants generally are, making the thedlani easier to feed, less destructive to the environment in the wild. But they'd also need to spend less time and energy foraging, so maybe they spend more time asleep to further conserve energy and aren't as good at long forced marches.

      Nice thing about fictional animals, they can be what you want them to be as long as you put a little effort into your justifications. :)