Rock Leguaans in GURPS

Varanus albigularis

The rock leguaan is a potentially massive and heavy set goanna of Africa's savannas and dry lands. Southern populations are known in the west as the Cape monitor or white-throat monitor while the larger leguaans of Africa's interior are known as black-throat or Ionides monitors. Regardless, this species prefers to live in and around rock outcroppings, although trips up trees or across the grasslands or sun-baked savannas are not uncommon. It is active primarily during the wet season when food is abundant. When the rains cease, the land dries up and prey is hard to find the rock leguaan takes refuge in its burrows and rock piles to wait up to three quarters of a year for the rains to come again.

Like all of Africa's leguaans, the rock leguaan is adapted to tackle hard shelled prey. A massive, boxy head acts like a vice to magnify the force of its powerful jaw muscles. Thick peg-like teeth are needed to withstand these bite forces. It uses this nutcracker of a skull to crack eggs, beetles, snails, and other hard shelled prey. This does not stop it from attacking anything else that might be edible, however, as its bite can also crack bones and crush skulls with equal ease. This species is well known for fearlessly attacking highly venomous snakes including Gaboon vipers and cobras. Whether its thick hide protects it from the bites or whether it has a natural immunity to snake venom is unknown. In addition to snakes, rock leguaans will snap up rodents, birds, and other reptiles when the opportunity presents itself.

Rock leguaans avoid humans, prefering the wilder lands where civilization has not yet encroached. If disturbed, they take refuge in the nearest burrow, rock pile, or tree. When this is not an option they defend themselves in the typical goanna fashion, by puffing up, gaping with an open mouth and lashing with their tail. If cornered or grabbed, they bite hard. While the peg-like teeth do not cause as bad of flesh wounds as the knife teeth of other goannas, larger rock leguaans are capable of crushing fingers and hands.

Captive rock leguaans become remarkably docile. These are also a very hardy species, which do well in cpativity as long as they are provided with an enormous enclosure, the opportunity to bask in baking tropical heat, the opportunity to dig a burrow, and large quantities of food to fuel their active life style.

Rock leguaans of Central Africa reach Large size as adults, a rare few become Huge. The more southerly populations around Africa's Cape are one size class smaller.

Just south of the Sahara lives a smaller relative of the rock leguaan. This is the Bosc monitor or savanna monitor. In game terms treat it as a rock leguaan of two size classes smaller than the Central African rock leguaans. Behaviorally, it eats almost entirely invertebrates - snails, spiders, insects, millipedes, and scorpions. It is also content to stay closer to the ground than the rock leguaan and lives in burrows rather than rock piles. It is more drably colored, being a basic dun brown with faint spots on its back. This unassuming reptile is the most commonly collected monitor for the pet trade, hundreds of thousands of hatchlings are shipped to the U.S. and Europe every year. Although docile in captivity, they are difficult to keep and most die at young adulthood from liver, kidney, or heart failure. Capive individuals tend to have HT -2, Laziness, and either Fat or Very Fat.

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