Apes in GURPS

Apes are long armed, tailless primates. With one exception, they are native to Africa and South-East Asia, and primarily inhabit jungles. Much of their appearance and mannerisms are reminiscent of that of humans, but to mistake an ape for a hairy, odd looking man or woman neglects the unique and often bizarre aspects of their lives. Their expressions and reactions are often suprizingly different, and can lead to painful mistakes for those who make assumptions about these animals based on human ways.

Again with one exception, all apes are at home in the trees. Exceptional climbers, they can swing from branch to branch with ease. All four limbs can be used to grasp, and the arms are extraordinarily powerful to allow them to pull themselves along in their arboreal realm. On the ground, apes can walk on their hind legs, but many species run on all fours with the knuckles of the hands supporting their weight in front. Many of the more highly specialized tree dwellers are poor runners, but others can manage a fair turn of speed for short distances. All are capable of suprizing leaps from tree to tree or from the ground.

That one exception is a divergent line of apes that adapted to open savanna habitats in east Africa. They lost their climbing adaptations and developed an anatomy that enabled them to walk long distances, see predators and prey at long ranges in their open habitat, shed heat from the direct tropical sun, and efficiently carry tools, equipment, and infants when traveling. These apes are, of course, us. Since you, dear reader, are no doubt intimately familar with the characteristics of these peculiar apes there is not much need to further explain them, save to serve as a reference point for comparison with other animals.

The senses of the apes are nearly the same as those of humans. They are sight dominant with good color vision and an excellent capability of recognizing objects by sight. Their hearing is not up to the mammalian norm, but is every bit as good as our own. Unlike most mammals, they lack vibrissae but compensate with an excellent tactile sense located in their hands. Like other primates, however, their sense of smell is poorly developed, and is used in more of a suporting role than a primary means of detection and indentification.

The apes are the most intelligent of all the animals, rivaled only by a few other species. They can think symbolically; concieve of, make, and use tools; and conduct elaborate deceptions and social stratagems. They have an instinctive grasp of the feelings and motivations of others, which they can attempt to manipulate to their advantage but which may lead to empathetic and altruistic behavior as well. Their social lives are complex, with shifting levels of dominance and aliegance depending on a variety of factors, much like our own social bonds. The nature of their societies varies from species to species: some live mostly solitary lives or with their immediate family, others gather in moderate sized foraging groups, and yet others live in tighly bound mated pairs with their immature children. Social bonds are reinforced by grooming each other's hair.

When fighting, typical apes do not punch or kick like a human. Rather, they grab with their powerful arms and bite with enlarged canine teeth. Occasionally, they strike and beat with their arms, but they lack the finesse of human pugilists in this regard. They will throw sticks and rocks at enemies, but lack the ability to throw small objects fast and hard like humans can achieve. Sometimes they club with a stick, but to limited effect, and sticks are not typically a first choice of weapon. Apes will fight amongst themselves for dominance, and will greet predators with a hail of dirt, rocks, and sticks if they think they have the advantages. Otherwise, the apes will flee, turning to fight only if cornered. Some apes will hunt for meat, grabbing smaller animals and killing them by biting and rending, or even by skewering them in their shelters with sticks and drawing them out.

While meat may make up a small part of the diet of some species, they mostly eat shoots, tender young leaves, nuts, fruits, and tubers. Some will make a habit of consuming insects, even developing ingenious tools to collect them. Those same tool using species will also use rocks to crack nuts and sticks to dig or gather food.

Game Statistics

choose a species:
Species Male Female (optional)
enter weight (kg)
Captive? T?HR?




Modern Human

Neanderthal (extinct)

Homo heidelbergensis (extinct)

Hobbit (extinct)

Homo erectus (extinct)

Homo habilis (extinct)

Paranthropus (extinct)

Australopithecus (extinct)

Ardipithecus (extinct)



The radio button entries in the table above give typical sizes of the ape species of the selected sex. If you want a larger or smaller specimen, enter the weight in kg manually.

The Captive checkbox is for animals that have been kept in captivity all their lives, without the ability to hone their reflexes, muscles, and skills like thier wild relatives. It would be appropriate for pets and zoo animals.

Marking the T? checkbox will give you the stats in template form with all costs listed, otherwise you get a stat sheet as for a character.

Marking the HR? checkbox will print the information using all my house rules. Otherwise, the stats will be as compatable with plain vanilla GURPS as possible (although several custom advantages and disadvantages will be present, see my Traits page).

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