Before, when I said that the next Bestiary creature we’d look at would be a return to the angelic creatures of the book, I got ahead of myself. I forgot that we’ve got a pair of persnickety primates to deal with. Given how they’re both on one page, with only a single picture, I’ll be going over both at once.
APE, GORILLA and APE, DIRE
You’ve got to give them credit – the gorillas in the midst of the game certainly have become more tame over the years. It was only a few editions ago that they were listed as “ape, carnivorous,” and attacked people because they were hungry for flesh. Nowadays, these guys aren’t so much looking to turn you into a snack as they are just seriously pissed off!
I mean, damn, look at that guy! Charging towards you, roaring and with a hand reared back…somebody is about to get seriously chimp-slapped.
The classical fear of gorillas is that they remind us of more primitive versions of ourselves. They’re bigger and stronger than us, and while not stupid per se, lack our level of cognitive sophistication – in other words, if it decides to attack you, you not only won’t be able to talk it down, but it’ll definitely kick your hairless ass.
Of course, that level of subtlety is somewhat lost in Pathfinder, where even the dire ape is only Challenge Rating 3.
Personally, I think it’d be much more fun to bust a standard gorilla down a few sizes until it approximates a chimpanzee, and then up its Stealth skill so that it can sneak into the PCs camp late at night and make off with the stuff they leave lying around.
…although, come to think of it, I said something similar about ants too. Clearly I have a thing about kleptomaniacal animals.
It does underscore a larger point, however – that for such weak and innocuous creatures (at least as far as the PCs go; most standard NPCs would run screaming from an ape), putting them into a combat role is going to be short-lived and unsatisfying.
Rather, I think it’s more fun to use them in a way where they inadvertently become annoying for the PCs, but not truly a threat. Doing so allows the PCs more leeway in how to deal with the irksome animal – will they just quickly kill it and move on, or take their time to try and resolve things peacefully since it’s just an innocent animal that doesn’t mean to be a nuisance?
That’s the sort of dilemma that can encourage the players to role-play what their characters would do (note to the DM: if they resolve the situation peacefully, give them full XP as if they had defeated the creature), which is always a good thing.