Proboscidians in GURPS

Proboscidians are typically very large animals with long, grasping, prehensile trunks and forward projecting tusks that support their weight with columnar legs. In tropical environments they may grow large ears to shed heat. There are three living species of proboscidians, all classified as elephants. Prehistoric proboscidians could be in many other families.

Proboscidians are land animals, and are built to support their large weight. They do not technically run since at no point are all their feet off the ground, but at high speeds they can move with a gait which is biomechanically more similar to running than walking. This not-exactly-running gait is by no means slow ... elephants can move faster than most people can run although they are by no means true speedsters of the animal world. When walking they can cover long distances. Proboscidians are capable swimmers. Climbing is right out.

Proboscidian trunks are quite dexterous, capable of picking up small objects and wielding tools. They use their trunks to grasp food and bring it to their mouth. The trunk can also suck up water, and then spray it out like a hose - a trick often used for bathing as well as drinking. Dust baths are accomplished by flinging dust over their backs. Trunks can also be used to lift moderately heavy objects and toss annoying humans some distance. To lift larger objects, they may scoop it up with their tusks.

Extant proboscidians have a good sense of smell, much better than that of humans, which they use to inform themselves of their world. Their hearing is sharp, and capable of picking up tones far lower than a person can detect. On the other hand, their eyesight is not particularly good at detecting fine details although they can see well in dim light. The sense of touch in proboscidians is centered on their trunk, making it a sensitive sesory organ for probing and manipulating.

The proboscidians are all herbivores. Depending on the species, they may be browsers or grazers. They eat large quantities of food daily. The foraging behavior of proboscidans has a large impact on the environment, for example, knocking down trees to get access to tasty leaves helps to maintain a savanna environment. They may also be important in spreading seeds and delivering fertilizer through their eating. During droughts they will dig for water, which provides water to many other species as well. Since proboscidians need to spend around 2/3 of their day foraging for food in order to sustain themselves that must be active both day and night.

Proboscidians are highly social. The females form close-knit bonds with their extended family, who travel and forage as a herd led by the matriarch - the oldest and wisest female among them. Males leave their herd soon after reaching maturity, although they may gather in loose-knit bachelor herds. Proboscidians can communicate over long distances using low frequency or entirely infrasonic rumbles. They are also known to use seismic rumbles for communication, either by percussing the ground or from infrasound that couples to ground vibrations. Seismic vibrations are detected by conduction through the feet and up the legs to the ears.

Modern elephants are among the most intelligent of animals, capable of self-awareness, problem solving, rapid learning, and creative tool use.

An angry proboscidian will trumpet through its trunk, and may charge. Among the extant species, flapping ears is a threat display and indicates a good time for the human to retreat. They will attack by goring with tusks, trampling, or even head-butting. Their large size and thick skin makes them both difficult to stop with most muscle-powered attacks and very dangerous. Males periodically enter a state called musth, when they become super-charged with testosterone, unpredictable, touchy, and sexually driven. A proboscidian in this state is exceptionally dangerous, and can be identified by wet patches on the sides of the face as secretions from glands on the temples run down the cheeks, as well as holding the head high, swinging the head, rumbling, and ear-flapping. Females are likely to attack any perceived threat to their herd, especially if there are infants or juveniles present.

Foraging elephants are a threat to human crops, often leading to conflict. In addition, their tusks are a source of valuable ivory, and consequently elephants have been heavily hunted. In prehistoric times, elephants and other proboscidians were huted for meat - evidence is that humans with atlatls or spears can kill them, which would provide a significant amount of food for the clan. In modern times, ivory hunting and expanding human populations are reducing elephant populations to the point that there is concern about their long term survival.

Game Statistics

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

African Forest Elephant

Asian Elephant


Cyprus Dwarf Elephant

Wooly Mammoth


Pygmy Mammoth

Large Stegodon

Medium Stegodon

Dwarf Stegodon


















Basal Proboscids







The radio button entries in the table above give typical sizes of the elephant 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 their wild relatives. It would be appropriate for 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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