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Basic Information

A Vulture is a carrion-eating scavenger bird of prey. Most species have long neck and a distinctive bald head. They are pretty gross, if scavenging wasn't bad enough, they also pee on themselves intentionally as a way of cooling off on a hot day. Their potent urine is also effective killing bacteria, as is their very strong stomach acid. Which, you may get to see some of should you spend time near a vulture, as if they get spooked they may vomit to lighten the load before they fly off. Just a truly majestic, beautiful animal.

In some cultures and religions, the proper disposal of human corpses is done by leaving them out in a sky burial for the vultures to clean up. Vultures have symbolic association with death, decay, disease, and war (but also the circle of life, and therefore balance and rebirth). Along with the wolf and raven they are one of the three animals in the beasts of battle motif (it is however, somewhat more common for an eagle to fill this role instead of the vulture). Nekhbet was the vulture-headed goddess of Egyptian Mythology, but vultures were also associated with Hathor, Isis and Mut. There are two vulture-headed demons in Etruscan mythology: Tuchulcha and Karun.


Game and Story Use

  • Iconic bird of the Wild West and deserts in general, but there are species native to just about everywhere: Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America.
  • Vultures circling overhead can be a clue to the direction to a corpse, crimescene, disaster etc that the PCs might have otherwise overlooked.
    • This is a fun thing for soldiers on garrison duty in paradise postings such as Afghanistan: when you see see the kites or vultures circling (or those miscellaneous yellow-brown dogs hanging about), someone is going to have to take a section out and have a dekko at whatever it is interesting them. For flavour, things to find included: enemy who weren't nearly as good at planting IED as they thought, enemy left over from last attack on the base, goat - no obvious cause of death (may contain IED), goat - killed by UXO/old Russian mines/other hidden fun stuff, local (civilian or Afghan forces) - bagged and dragged by Taliban and then left behind as a present (this was probably one of the least fun for a variety of reasons).
  • If your game system has real nasty critical hits, long incapacitation or a slow death spiral, the PCs could end up out in the wilderness while a bunch of these critters slowly zero in on them, growing ever bolder.
  • As mentioned above, they are sometimes one of the three animals of the beasts of battle motif, which are a series of three animals referenced in sequence in certain myths and epic poetry to foreshadow a coming battle or war. Vulture is the least common version of this, usually it's a wolf, raven and eagle… but that kind of opens the door for other variations if the author/GM is feeling cheeky. So if you ever see a crow, a vulture, and a dog (or jackal or fox) in the same afternoon, you know things are about to get exciting.
  • A vulture-as-character (whether a talking animal or just someone who has a vulture in their coat-of-arms or nickname) is likely to be patient, persistent, opportunistic, greedy, macabre, brutal, horrifying and/or revolting.
  • Blending some vulture traits into other mythological creatures could be a way to make them memorable (and gross). Stymphalian Birds already have a bit of vulture to their concept (given the nastiness they rain down), but something like a Phoenix that behaves like a firey vulture would probably subvert expectations and be a real surprise for your audience/players.
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