Crocodilians in GURPS

Crocodiles, alligators, caiman, and gavails.

Crocodilians are water lurking ambush predators found around the world's tropics. They are heavily armored and equiped with bone-crushing, tooth studded jaws. Uniformly large, they range from two meter "dwarfs" to enormous man-eating six meter giants.

The crocodilians are supremely adapted for their lifestyle, and their appearance shows it. A long, heavy tail is flattened side to side to act as an oar. On the other end, massive trap-like jaws lined with sharp conical teeth define the major element of the head, with the eyes set at the back end of this elongated maw and the nostrils at the fore. Eyes and nostrils sit atop the head, projecting above the top level such that the crocodilian can rest almost entirely underwater with only these two sets of organs protruding to see and breathe. In between the head and the tail lies a muscular tube-like body equipped with four stout but stubby limbs. The skin is studded with heavy scales, becoming armor plates on the back. Flat spikes project from the back and tail scales to complete the fearsome appearance. Most crocodilians are brown to green-brown in color, few have any patterns to speak of.

Crocodilians are excellent swimmers. A few strokes of their tail sends them gliding effortlessly across the water. Subtle movements of their webbed feet aid them in keeping their balance and orientation. In a hurry, sinuous wriggles propell them quickly for safety. A sudden outburst of power can send these creatures lunging far out of the water in an eyeblink to snatch prey well up the banks or from overhanging branches. On land, crocodilians usually crawl along on their belly, pushing with their legs. At high speeds, this becomes an energetic wriggling run rather than a crawl. Crocs can also stand up to walk high on all fours, lifting its bulk above the ground to negotiate obstacles and reduce ground friction. A few species can even gallop for short distances, more a series of bounds than a gait we normally associate with the grace of a horse at full run, but enough to get them to safety.

Crocodilians have acute vision, but little capability to recognize objects by sight. They primarily react to motion, and use their eyesight to alert them to potential prey or predators, or for final targeting before an attack. Their vision is well adpated for seeing in darkness, allowing them to hunt day and night. For sensory discrimination, they rely on scent. Their sense of smell is very well developed. It draws them to prey, tells them what is edible, and lets them know the health, status, and availability of other crocs. Their hearing is acute, but is only responsive to low to mid frequency sounds. They can hear footsteps and splashes, but cannot make out human speech. When crocodilians "speak" to each other, however, they use low frequency calls which other crocodilians can pick up quite well. Under water, a flap of skin covers the croc's ears to a mere slit. In addition to the senses with which we are familiar, crocodilians have pits on their scales that are sensitive to pressure and aquatic vibrations. These pits let them detect and locate other things moving underwater.

Crocodilians are regarded as among the most intelligent of the reptiles. They learn quickly and their behavior is among the most complex. However, like all reptiles, crocodilians have no understanding of emotions. Not only do they have no remorse, they have no conception of anything they should be remorseful about.

A threatened crocodilian will dive into the water and swim away. If escape is not possible, it will hiss, gape, and lash its tail at its aggressor. They can lunge extremely fast to grab an assailant with bone-crushing force, frequently striking sideways with blinding speed at the same time they club with their tail in the other direction so as to knock an antagonist into their jaws. If you are lucky, the croc does not want to get into a tangle with you and just delivers a quick nip. Otherwise, it holds on with a vice like grip, often rolling and twisting to rip off whatever it has ahold of. Like all animals, the bite of a crocodilian is potentially septic, its diet of meat and inability to brush its teeth make this all the worse. Roll for infection from any bite as if infected material (crocodillian spit) was introduced into the wound, giving a net HT+1 to resist. If attacked, the thick scales of crocs provide protection from most wounds. Plates of bone underlie the skin for even more protection. These animals are incredibly strong, crocodilians over 1.5 meters generally require two people to restrain and 2 meter crocodilians have been known to throw three grown men from their back. Fortunately, for all their biting power, crocodilians cannot exert nearly so much force to open their mouths. It is relatively easy to hold the jaws shut with your hands or a simple mechanical contrivance, such as rope or duct tape. Use half the crocodilian's ST in contests of ST where the croc is trying to force open its jaws which are being held closed, or for breaking bindings that close its mouth. Do not include its Jaw ST.

In game terms, the puncture wounds caused by a crocodilian's teeth are treated as crushing damage; they have high penetration for not all that significant of a wound, so a wound multiplier of ×1 is appropriate. While piercing damage is conceptually a better fit to the type of wound caused, the croc's attack cannot target eyes or vitals, while causing extra damage to the throat and the sheer crushing force of the jaws causes more blunt trauma, making crushing damage a better fit in terms of game mechanics.

Crocodilians are ambush predators, hunting in and from the water. Most subsist on a diet of fish, turtles, and waterfowl. Aquatic prey is taken with a quick sideways snap, turtles are crushed in their shells, and water birds are suprized by jaws that clamp shut on them from underneath. Crocs also take prey near the banks of the water. The crocodilian is an expert at remaining unseen, hiding mostly submerged with only its eyes and nostrils protruding, if that. It gets close, waits, and when its quarry is in range, explodes from the water's edge with blinding speed. Their victims have no time to react before they are clenched in the jaws and being dragged back into the water. Rolling and twisting can tear off limbs and rip the prey to pieces, other victims are simply held underwater and drowned. Crocodilians are not adverse to carrion, and will scavenge corpses that are washed downriver. They are also cannibals, and will snap up their own kind if there is sufficient size difference. Crocs also eat rocks. This is not for nutrition, but rather for balast to counter their natural buyancy when swimming. Swallowed rocks are kept in the gizzard, and may be regurgitated when not needed.

When not hunting, crocodilians will either be basking on the banks or resting in the water. Like all reptiles, they cannot generate heat internally, and so must regulate their body temperature with the baking tropical sun or the cool waters. They often gather to sunbathe in groups, but only in groups of about the same size. Anyone too small in such an aggregation is likely to end up as lunch. When the weather turns inclement or prey is scarce, crocodilians can wait months without food. They often spend this time in burrows. There are even crocodilians that have been frozen in ice all winter only to revive come the spring thaw.

Crocodilians communicate with low frequency bellows. In the mating season, males use these roars in courtship. After mating, a female will construct a nest, either scraping a hole in sandy soil or piling up a mound of rotting vegetation, depending on the species. The eggs are layed, the nest covered up, and then the female guards her nest ferociously until the babies hatch. Even then, she will care for the hatchlings, carrying them to the water and protecting them for a few months until her offspring are able to venture out on their own.

Crocodilians and humans rarely get along. Large crocs eat people and their livestock. Even moderate sized crocs cause a bad name for themselves by devouring dogs, cats, chickens, and the occasional child. In addition, the belly skin of most species of crocodilian makes excellent leather (the rest of the skin is studded with boney nodules, making it worthless). This usually leads to human persecution when the two meet. Compound this with human destruction of ideal croc habitat by draining marshes for cropland or housing, and you end up with bad news for the crocodilians. In this day and age, crocs can sometimes gain a reprieve when some are farmed for their hide and meat, taking the pressure off their wild bretheren. Couple this with conservation laws and these ancient reptiles can sometimes make a comeback, living in an uneasy peace with their human neighbors.

Game Statistics

choose a species:
Species miniscule
1 kg
4 kg
10 kg
25 kg
45 kg
100 kg
200 kg
350 kg
500 kg
1000 kg
2000 kg
4000 kg
enter weight
American Alligator

Chinese Alligator

Deinosuchus (extinct)

Black Caiman

Broad-snouted Caiman

Jacaré Caiman

Smooth-fronted Caiman

Spectacled Caiman

American Crocodile
Cuban Crocodile
Dwarf Crocodile

"Freshie" Crocodile
Morelet's Crocodile
Mugger Crocodile
New Guinea Crocodile
Nile Crocodile
Orinoco Crocodile
Philippene Crocodile
Salt Water Crocodile
Siamese Crocodile

Slender-snouted Crocodile


False Gharial

Mekosuchines (all extinct)


Primitive Crocodylia (all extinct)

Pholidosaurs (all extinct)

Sebecosuchians (all extinct)

The radio button entries in the table above give realistic sizes of the crocodilian species of that row. If you want a specimen outside that range, enter the weight in kg manually.

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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