The elapids, or cobra family, include some of the deadliest and most venomous snakes known. They are typically slender, fast moving serpents with a high strung disposition. When in motion, or when curious, a small forked tonge flickers in and out of their mouths. Their long and flexible bodies with low ground pressure allow them to efficiently traverse most types of terrain, as well as climb and swim.
Elapids rely primarily on their sense of smell. It alerts them to danger or potential food, mates, or rivals; and allows them to identify individuals, track prey, and communicate with others of their kind. They smell with their tongue. When extended, the prongs of the tongue pick up scent particles, which are transferred to a scent organ on the roof of the mouth. The forks allow the snake to efficiently detect scent gradients, by sensing which side has the stronger concentration. In contrast, elapid vision is adequate if not exceptional. They lack the brain-power to process images as well as mammals, so they use their vision to alert them to moving objects and target their strikes rather than to identify things. Elapids are nearly deaf to airborne sounds, but can sense ground vibrations. They use this ability to warn them of approaching footsteps.
Some claim elapids are among the most intelligent of the snakes, although this is damning with faint praise. While they display more sophisticated behaviors than many serpents and can learn to some extent, they are behaviorally rather inflexible and locked into certain modes of action. They are incapable of understanding emotion, and thus show neither empathy nor sympathy.
Many elapids have a reputation for being aggressive. This is not entirely founded - no snake seeks out trouble, and given the choice all will retreat and hide rather than face a person. However, many species will hold their ground if surprized in the open if there is no immediate shelter or escape. This often involves striking defense displays or litteral striking. If forcibly grabbed, trod upon, or wounded, most species will immediately retaliate.
Elapids tend to be active foragers, slithering across the ground to pick up scent trails of prey. When found, prey is struck and bitten. Like most snakes, the jaws are equipped with six rows of needle sharp recurved teeth - one row on each side of the lower jaw, one row on each side of the upper jaw, and two on the pallate. These are used to seize and hold prey. Although the jaws are weak and the teeth cannot cause much damage, the teeth and cranial flexibility of these snakes makes escape from a bite difficult. Frequently, however, an elapid that strikes large or dangerous prey will release it. This minimizes the risk to the snake while letting the venom take effect. The elapid can track the scent of its venom, and will follow after its victim to consume it when it is rendered helpless by the toxins coursing through its system. Prey is swallowed whole - snakes in general are incapable of breaking their food apart but have very flexible skulls that distend to allow the snake to swallow food larger than the snake's girth.
Elapids are cold blooded animals, and must use behavior to regulate their body temperature. In order to warm up to levels needed to sustain activity or digest meals they bask in sunlight or on warm objects. If too hot, they retreat into the shade or in contact with cool surfaces. When resting, elapids prefer tight shelter that they need to squeeze into, such as a burrow or under heavy objects. If this is absent, they feel exposed and vulnerable. Ideally, shelters are also somewhat humid (but not wet) to prevent exessive dehydration.
Like all snakes, elapids will be found where there is suitable food, shelter, water, and warmth. Places strewn with rocks, or junk under which the snakes and their prey can hide, with food and water for their prey and an abundance of basking sites, are prime places to encounter these serpents. Bare, open areas where pest control practices keep prey populations in check are unlikely to harbor cobras or their relatives.
All elapid bites are extremely dangerous to humans, for some species untreated mortality is 100%. Symptoms often occur within minutes; for large doses or extremely toxic venoms, death can occur in under an hour. Elapid snakes inject a whole coctail of chemicals into their victims that affect the body in a number of diverse ways.
Each component of the venom does damage separately, and each gets a separate resistance roll (exception: use the same resistance roll for hemotoxic and necrotic venom effects since they tend to come from the same chemicals - but still roll damage separately). If the GM thinks it is worth it, he can have damage (and symptoms) build up gradually over the course of a cycle. For example, 5 points of damage in the first 10 minute cycle could be applied as 1 point every 2 minutes.
Damage listed is when the elapid injects its entire dose of venom at once. This is typical of when the elapid is stepped on or otherwise in pain and panic. However, this leaves the snake vunlerable and unable to acquire prey. Typically, the snake may deliver warning bites which inject considerably less venom. Two-thirds of a dose does -1 point per two dice of damage. One third does -1 point per die of damage. One ninth of a dose does half damage. Two ninths of a dose does half damage plus 1 per die of the reduced damage. Any other amount will round down to the nearest listed damage. Assume snakes do not have enough control to inject less than 1/9 of their venom unless they deliver a "dry" bite (no venom at all, just a warning). If a snake has multiple kinds of venom, it must always deliver the same amount of a dose from each (i.e. if a cobra with both necrotizing and neurotoxic venom delivers 1/3 of a dose, it uses up 1/3 of its neurotoxic and necrotizing venom). For elapids that can "spit" (i.e. spray) venom, each 1/9 of a dose corresponds to 1/9 of the available ROF, so that a cobra with ROF 27 which spat out 9 shots would have used up 1/3 of its available venom store and could only inject up to 2/3 of a dose. (It usually will not matter, since each snake can only inject up to one dose at a time, but if a victim is subject to multiple doses - bitten by several snakes, for example - use the rules from monstersaurs for effects of several doses at once).
If a character is envenomated and rolls a critical success on his first resistance roll against that type of venom ever, he is Resistant. He has always been resistant, but just didn't know it until now. Write down on his character sheet that he has the advantage Resistant against that particular type of venom (specific to the genus, and the variety (neurotoxic, etc. - although you can lump necrotoxic and hemotoxic effects of the same venom together). For example, Resistant (+8, cobra neurotoxins).). The level of Resistant depends on the degree of critical success - making the critical success exactly is Resistant +3, making the roll by 1 is Resistant +8, and by two or more is full-on Immunity. This only happens the first time the character is exposed to venom of this kind.
On subsequent critical successes on the resistance roll, the character's immune system reacts to the venom. He gets a similar level of Resistant, but it is temporary - the level of Resistant decreases by one per month (from Immune to +8 to +3 to no resistance bonus). This can be proplonged by further exposure to the venom - each exposure "resets the clock," so that effective permanent resistance can be obtained by the character regularly injecting himself with elapid venom.
Similarly, a critical failure the first time the character is exposed means the character has always been particularly susceptible to that venom. An exact critical failure is Susceptible -3, a critical failure by 1 is Susceptible -8, and a critical failure by more than that 1 is Susceptible -8 plus one level of Vulnerability. Subsequent critical failures represent an alergic reaction to the venom - an exact critical failure means penalties equivalent to Moderate Pain (actually itchiness, rashes, swelling and puffiness, dry throat and eyes, and difficulty breathing rather than actual pain). Critical failure by 2 or more gives anaphylactic shock - the same effect but accompanied by the Choking incapacitating condition (pg. B428).
Surviving an envenomation is a good excuse to justify buying any level of Resistant to the venom the character was exposed to.
The standard treatment for elapid bites since the early 20th century is injection with an antivenom - antibodies for the venom extracted from horses that had been injected with extracted snake venom. This should only be done at a hospital by trained medical staff. If successfully applied, antivenom gives +8 to the resistance checks. There is, however, a downside - serum sickness. Make a HT roll, on a failure the character has an alergic reaction to the antivenom - treat this as Moderate Pain (pg. B428) except instead of actual pain the penalty is caused by itchiness, rashes, aching joints, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and general malaise. The effects begin 2d days after the first dose of antivenom and last for one day plus an extra day for every point by which the roll failed. On a failure by 5 or more, the character goes into anaphylactic shock within minutes after the dose is administered - treat as Choking (pg. B428). Choking can be stopped by a dose of Epinepherin, which may be carried by people with severe alergies but is otherwise mostly available at hospitals.
The primary goal of a first aid provider should be to get the bite victim to the hospital as soon as possible. With medical treatment the prognosis for a full recovery is very good (in fact, the GM may wish to dispense with Resistance rolls altogether at a fully stocked modern hospital with trained medical staff and give automatic success). Until then, the wound should be cleaned and disinfected, the patient should be kept still, calm, and quiet, and the bitten extremity immobilized. Post 1970 (or in fantasy or alternate history worlds where the pressure immobilization technique has been developed), a successful First Aid roll by a care provider familiar with elapid envenomation will give +3 to HT for resistance checks against neurotoxic effects. Home remedies such as tournequets, cutting and sucking, or cold packs should not be used, as they do no good and can cause additional harm.
The potency listed for elapid toxins are merely suggestions. While based on the best values I could find for lethal dose and venom yield, toxicity of venom varies considerably from species to species and even from population to population, individual to individual, the time of the year, and the animal's physiological sate. Also note that toxicity is not consistent across listed elapid types, but is weighted by typical values for that type - so that two different elapid with the same weight, venom potency, and venom composition can have different venom damages because, for example, taipan venoms typically measure higher in toxicity than black snake venoms.
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