Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zoat

The Warhammer world has a few defining creatures, like the beastman, the skaven, and the warriors of chaos. They also have unique creatures, or at least creatures I had not seen in my gaming experience. Some of these include the fimir, amphisbaena, and the zoat.

A zoat is a reptilian centaurish creature with the upper body of lizardman (but with more of a turtle-shaped head) and the lower body of what can probably be best described as an ankylosaurus. The rule book describes them as rare, even more so than elves, creatures mostly of legend. They are quite, reclusive, yet powerful, forest-dwelling magicians.

I have no idea what the basis is for this creature, but they are incredibly tough. They can move silently through dense undergrowth, they use magic, and they are stronger and tougher than an ogre. They cause fear in goblinoids and lizardmen. Their weapons alone sound like items of adventure:
Their characteristic weapon is a long wooden staff tipped with a metal-bound cylinder of black stone; the metal is silver and carved with strange symbols which are indecipherable by other races. These weapons are wielded as a two-handed mace, and only a Zoat can use them effectively.
Re-reading this information, I feel bad that I have never used this creature in a game. However, between my participation in this A-Z challenge and the posts of others doing the same, I have been inspired to include many new things. It's going to be a great year of gaming.

Until the next A-Z challenge, I hope to see you around here and there in the blogverse.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Z is for Zoomorph

Zoomorphic familiars, elementals and plants

Wizards are always looking for way to increase their power or reduce the logistic of running a laboratory. Some solutions involve dark magic or apprentices, but the most common one is to have a familiar. These can be an animal bound to the wizard’s psyche. Or constructs and homunculi replicating a living form. Experts in the domain explain that constructs replicating shape and partial functions of an animal are the best choice. They don’t age, don’t eat, don’t sleep and are robust given that they can be partially repaired. The process is complex but can be eased by observing and even dissecting specimen of the targeted animal. Such zoomorphic familiars are usually owned by members of the College of the Golden Order or of the College of Amethyst Order. When wizards grow in power, they have the option to enhance their familiar. Rumors tell that the mechanical monkey of the master of the golden college is now completely made of gold and even more precious material. It was constructed long time ago by a promising apprentice wizard with a lot of iron and few piece of brass and copper.

Elementalists, priests, or nature itself can produce elementals of various source, size and shape. The shape is mostly a pure manifestation of the raw element. Sometimes it take an humanoid form. In some even rarer occurrences it takes the form of an animal. This event is linked to very specific natural conditions or when summoned by a very powerful spellcaster. Several specialists in various academic circles share a common theory. Zoomorphic elementals are stronger for a reason. Either the shape gives them a power surge or the reverse. Whatever the reason is, zoomorphic elemental have a very strong bond with the physical world. So beware of fire birds, water octopus, or stone turtle elementals.

Some conscious plants also mimic animals. They do so to replicate the features they observe around them but lack. One typical example is the dangerous poisonous vines and bushes trying to replicate the shape of rodents and rabbits they eat.

Having animate things taking the shape of animals is nice way to complete this revisiting of the fauna of the Old World. Hope you enjoyed some of the articles.


Y is for Yellow Mold

Yellow mold is a projectile weapon used by the smallest form of goblinoid, the Snotling.  Much like Tucker's Kobolds, Snotlings have to use deceit, trickery, traps, and cunning to overcome foes. This cunning includes throwing dangerous items at the enemy. Since Snotlings are so small, about the most dangerous thing they can throw is Yellow Mold.

Yellow mold is found on decaying matter, and is a fungi that releases spores on contact. The spores fill a 10 yard diameter sphere and last for d6 rounds. Any creature caught in the sphere must make a toughness check or fall unconscious. Also, any creature caught in the sphere takes d3 points of damage per round, whether unconscious or not.

And the best part is? Snotlings are immune to the effects of mold.

Unfortunately there were appropriate careers to write about for the letter S, or you would have heard much more about the Snotling and it's ingenious ways.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Y is for Yak

Yaks, chamois and alpine cows - domesticated mountain animals 

The Empire is mainly about rivers crossing large forests. Hence most of the entries were related to that. This time we concentrate on the mountain ranges defining eastern and southern borders. These areas are the ancestral home of the dwarfs and lately of the greenskin tribes and clans. How do humans, dwarves and orcs interact with the chamois, mountain goats and mountain cows living at different altitudes?

Mountains can sustain a lot of life, more than what you can see and imagine. But this environment enforces survival strategies. We can define two main ones: mountainsides and cold winter. Living on mountain slopes, Yaks and mountain cows need to have a strong balance, low gravity point and strong legs. They also need to survive the winter by storing a lot of excess energy during the summer, grow protective fur, hibernate during the cold seasons, have feet allowing safe movement on the snow or migrate to lower altitude offering better conditions.

People living on or in the mountains use yak and other cattle animals as a source of food. Shepherds and herdsmen take care of these animals, protecting them, leading seasonal migrations, preparing them for winter. These professionals are the early eyes and ears of the inhabitants of the mountains. They can travel far away from their settlements, carrying news and goods. Some animals, like mules or yaks, are also workbeasts helping in trading and transport in these difficult terrains. All these domesticated animals have their wild counterparts. Some are almost impossible to domesticate, like the chamois and mountain goats. Wild yak or mountain cow can gore to death the unwary traveler.

As game master, don’t make travel in mountain areas like crossing a deserted zone. There are much more to use there than in a desert. Each encounter is not about a mountain troll or an orc warband or lurking into a cave. Add more people living or travelling. Confront your players with some tough choice like helping a caravan under attack or let them die and use this event as an opportunity to sneak around a powerful force. What happens if players come across a small herd of yaks carrying goods, messages and dead caravaneer? How will characters negotiate rights and means to travel through a very isolated area inhabited by stubborn people?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenophobia

With a complete dearth of Xs in the career, skills, bestiary, or locales section of the first edition book, I deviate to a term that is very appropriate for the WarHammer world. Xenophobia is ubiquitous in the Empire...and beyond.

Chaos is rampant in the Warhammer world. The forces of chaos are responsible for war, mutations, and cults. The person next door to you, the one you've lived beside your entire life, could be a cultist or a mutant. It's difficult enough to trust your neighbors...there's no way you can trust people you don't know. And there are plenty of people in the wide world you don't know.

For the most part town and cities are insular. Expansive travel is only for the rich and/or the daring. Those you don't know are considered 'other'. Others can be hiding any number of secrets, most likely ones that will get you killed.

And that's just other humans. Surely the other races are out to get you, too. Dwarves are about as violent a race as one could imagine. Surely they would like to do nothing more than attack the humans. They just can't because of overwhelming numbers.

Elves. The elven mindset is so completely foreign, who has any idea what they are really thinking. Surely they don't like how human have treated the forests, the fields, the waterways. And aren't elves associated with dragons? You know dragons would rather kill you and eat you than look at you. There are also rumors of dark elves. Supposedly you can't tell them apart from regular elves....

The Warhammer world breeds xenophobia, paranoia, and mental breakdown from anxiety.

When do you want to play?

Friday, April 26, 2013

X is for Xylophage

Xylophage - the beaver case

The old world is covered by dark and huge forests. These places are dangerous but they are the main source of heating to survive long winters. They also contribute to the food and furs supply required during the cold season. Any animal disrupting or helping collecting these resources from the forests is to be considered with great caution and care. Beavers and coypus are a very special case as they are both destructor and benefactor to Imperial woodmen.

Beavers are very common in the Empire. Abundance of rivers and forests supports a very large population. They are a great source of troubles but also of wealth. Their furs used for winter clothes, their meat even if not tasty is better than nothing. They can deforest or lighten large area, making them easier for forestry or to convert in farming land. On the other hand they are aggressive, sometime deadly and their huge structures change rivers flow or flood fields. The timbers they produce can escape into the navigable routes of the Empire and cause accidents like sinking barges. They somehow compete with lumberjacks or start to clear the forest of a noble causing him financial loss. In some area, local authorities offer some coins for every body brought back as a way to regulate beavers population. Beaver is an animal with serious and powerful enemies looking to exterminate it. But it has also powerful allies, mostly followers of Taal. These men and women revere the positive contributions of the beaver while minimizing the negative side. They minimize it by controlling the animals or by denying any wrong is done.

Der Kult der Kosmischen Biber (Reiklander for Cult of the Cosmical Beaver) is led by a boy named Justin. The cult use most of Taal symbols and rhetoric. But the cult is more a sect as Justin is the vocal advocacy of the great plan of the beaver spirit. The cult tries to setup prosperous communities of beavers by helping them in shaping their dams and ponds. They would spend several seasons living in area, defending the animals against trappers and other hunters. They would first ask nicely, try to negotiate, even pay for tranquility. However the cult always upsets some villagers or nobles sooner or later. Locals fight back usually with forks and torches. Justin always escapes and starts the same cult in another area.

Lately witchhunter bands are actively looking for him, they have a mission to arrest him and bring him back to the Celestial Order. Maybe ponds and clearings forming giant esoterics symbols only visible from high in the sky is the reasons of this hunt. Or the strange blinking light and shooting start in the sky above the main structure.


W is for Watchman

(Remember, I'm trying to keep to starting careers this time through, which means I can't just on W for Witch Hunter like I really want to.)

A watchman is almost like a beat cop, patrolling the cities of the Old World and keeping the peace. Theoretically. Realistically, watchmen can be drafted from the seedier citizen of the city in order to keep the peace against other seedy citizens. While it may work to recruit the Hatfields to protect against the McCoys, innocents may also be caught in the cross fire.

Watchmen are also perfect racketeers (which is actually one of their career exits). As they patrol the city, they could stop shop-to-shop demanding protection money to "guarantee nothing happens to the place." The violence, brutality, and crookedness of these types of watchmen drive honest ones from the job and into a life of adventure.

To an honest watchman character, I'd probably throw in the Law skill, too, or at least a percent chance of the character knowing general Empire laws.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

W is for Were garous

Were garous - diverge from the cliché

Warhammer and the Old World setting uses werewolves and other wolf based shapeshifters a lot. As already mentioned this is related to the overrepresented wolf in the Empire. So let’s focus on more various and rare were animals, beast garous and shapeshifters.

The moot have a very old legend about an halfling farmer. He cared so much about his giant rabbits that during an orc raid he gave his life to protect them. Or that’s what neighbours say as his body was never found. The field was filled with the eviscerated bodies of two orc bands. Since that day, when the area is attacked by orcs or bandits, an hooded halfling always warns the invaders to leave or die. All laugh at him before being killed by a giant were rabbit of doom laughing back.

The imperial regions bordering Kislev have tales of bear based shapeshifters. They are sometimes good or evil beings. Either as Ursun blessed or cursed. They are omens from the father of bears and a reminder of the powerful nature of these sacred beasts.

The swamps and marshes surrounding Marienburg are areas filled with legends of men that can shift into one eyed crocodile. Once they are seen as man, then as the mist rise they become furious warriors killing whole village.

Tilea and Estalia have legend of fox shifter, most of the time beautiful women with an urge to steal from the rich. Or at least that’s the explanation given by several victims after realizing the larceny. To their defense, beautiful women were seen in the area or even invited in the house.

Using existing background from Warhammer or other RPG allows plenty of alternatives to werewolf. Here are more ideas to use:

  • Were goose or were duck can strike fear with ease.
  • Were platypus are war machine of mass destruction.
  • Were beetle of radiant blue or armored were bat as defender of the peasants.
  • Were shark related to the cult of Stromfels.
  • Were elks or were beaver related to the cult of Taal.
  • Were wolverine as avatar of frenziness.
  • Extend with your own ideas

V is for Vermin

Technically the rule book lists them as a Swarm, but I'm going to use the term vermin*.

The vermin in today's post are small, swarming creatures such as ants, bats, beetles, frogs, lizards, rats, scorpions, snakes, spiders, or ticks. Of these, I have only really used a swarm of rats, and then only when called for by The Oldenhaller Contract, an adventure from the 1e rule book.

Really, though, a swarm is something that should scare the crap out of most characters. When hundreds of scorpions rush at you, things can look pretty grim. You know you can stomp a handful or two at a time, but many are going to get past your defenses, through your armor like it's not even there, and into your unprotected skin.

A large group of bats can distract a party who is trying to track or trying to fight. A swarm of spiders is even more uncanny, because the creatures don't usually behave with such a hive-mind. There must be something controlling them. And, you never know which ones are poisonous.

On a little less freaky note, one other time I can remember using a swarm is actually for a magical item I gave a PC. You can check it out here, the Staff of the Stinging Sphere.

*Note: Vermin can be used to talk of ratmen, too, though the Skaven are not small creatures.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

V is for Vulture

Vulture, black cat and other animal omens

The Old World is grim, perilous and highly superstitious. Omens, signs are everywhere for people skilled in divination crafts. They are everywhere for people living in fear. They are everywhere for the fanatics looking for justification to burn someone. Animals are much represented in these omens or sayings. True and wrong, here are some example to set a tone of darkness and ignorance.

Vulture, crow and raptors are typical sign of bad omens. Usually death is near or incoming. This is obviously right as these birds can be seen from far away circling above dead bodies. Their presence is always sign that somebody is going to die. If not that death magic or evil eye was watching and someone will die sooner or later. Later being always true, given enough time.

Magic practitioners have familiars like black cat or anything else. Anyway the relation between animals acting unnatural and use of magic is a fact for common folk. Given how much hate and fear of magic they have, it fueled a lot of sayings and superstitions. If cow milk is turning blue, if chicken eggshell is soft, if wild animal leave an area, if birds stop singing then it is for sure because of magic. It’s a clear sign to seek shelter, barricade doors, keep fire on and have people watch over during the night. You never know what can come after such events, so better be prepared.

Predicting the future being about love, business, travel, harvest or destiny is a tradition well implemented. Using rabbit bones, reading into chicken internal organs, observing dove flights, ants path, insect-made galleries in a dead tree, owl pellets are the most common methods. Much more exists, darker, bloodier and weirder. Divination performances are sometimes done by people and for people with an agenda. Better not be on the collateral damages side of such agendas.

Why should game master bother? Setting the tone is only the start. Superstitions are a great tool to have players’ character react. One way or another giving them signs and omens is about leading and misleading them where you need. Peasants accusing characters of evil crimes based only on omens is daily life in Warhammer. After a while players should also start using that trick. For sure agitators, charlatans and demagogues must do it. By facing and using these omens, players will experiment a new level of storytelling, less fighting, more intrigue, always observing their environment, never take anything for granted.


U is for Unicorn

In a game as deadly, grim, and perilous as WarHammer Fantasy Roleplay, why is the world is there a unicorn in the rule book? Specifically, a creature that "may permit itself to be ridden by a character who is absolutely pure in thought and deed?" That describes few, if any, characters I have ever encountered in the WarHammer world.

The creature is definitely very powerful, being almost completely immune to magical spells and having the ability to destroy an undead within 20 yards. However, I can't say I've ever had the opportunity to use a unicorn in any game I've ever played or run.

It seems like a creature that would be at home in the nearby country of Brettonia, likely somewhere in an elven forest.  I'd really be interested to hear how anyone else has ever used a unicorn in their game.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

U is for Undead animals

Undead animals - more than flesh and bones

Most of the time, undead are humanoids or mighty monsters. There are only few animals presented as undead or as only the skeleton of their former self. Let’s have a look why necromancers must invest more time on animals and why players should be worried to find an animated dog skeleton, a ghoulish cat or zombified goose.

Necromancers focus more on the animals rather than humanoids. Because that is what a truly evil and smart one would do, at the beginning.

  • Common animals are, well, common to find. Losing one is not an issue as they are so easy to replace.
  • Few people will look for missing duck. Unless they are low level, so worse case that a proper source of still required humanoid victims.
  • Animal have natural instinct that are easier to control and trigger. Their mind is less likely to resist and kickbacks are less damaging. 
  • When increasing in power, the tasks to unload on apprentices to keep them from plotting too much against self. 
Then the next question is what kind of undead to use for a given task.

  • Skeletons are great as workbeast as they can carry more weight is they have less flesh. Using them as cavalry is a typical specialization. Moreover smaller framed animals like rats, bats, cats make very good scrying units.
  • Ghouls are great when speed and ferocity are required. For instance, for guarding a lair or used for weakening enemies. They are good containment units to use while briefing more powerful or intelligent one to do the job. In that context using a base animal with a natural facility in these area is an advantage. A bear protecting a cavern, eagle or vulture protecting the outside of a tower, wild boar patrolling the fields around that same tower, rabbits patrolling pipes and vents of the tower. Lynx or wolf using hit and run tactics. Options are endless so bring a lot of variation.
  • Zombies are resistant but slow. Using a fast animal as base material can surprise your enemies. Zombified cats or dog are nice to have. Same regarding the ducks and goose you can find almost everywhere. Zombies are also good for novice and apprentice or anytime the animal is too strong or powerful. In that situation have a direct control and slow reaction is the best way not to be destroyed.
  • Ethereal are best used with animals used to move in three dimensions, like birds, fishes. A ethereal trout or nightingale is scary and nasty when properly used. Think about all the possibilities with eels or crows! 
So undead animal can be efficiently and creatively used. They offer real challenge and diversity. Check all previous entries for base animal to use.


T is for Troll Slayer

(Seriously, what else would T be for, since I'm playing a Troll Slayer in an online game?)

Dwarf culture is very...honorable. A dwarf will keep his oath even to the loss of his life. Sometimes something happens to a dwarf, or the dwarf makes a horrible choice in life, that will cause him shame. If the shame is great, the dwarf feels there is no way to redeem himself except a glorious death battling horrible racial enemies.  Enter the Troll Slayer.

The Troll Slayer is all about battle, death, and doom. The Slayer is doomed to die an epic death, fighting such creatures as trolls, giants, dragons, or daemons. A Slayer who does not find a death worthy of his shame will live the afterlife in ignominy.

Elite fighting units made up of nothing but dwarf slayers can wreak absolute havoc on an invading force. However, this unit of dwarves is about as controllable as a herd of cats. Each is stubborn, with narrow vision, focusing only on whatever they consider their own great doom. They will kill anything in the path, which is why dwarf attack forces like it when the enemy keeps the big guys in the back.

Monday, April 22, 2013

T is for Tarasque

Tarasque - a legendary river monster of the Old World

Here we will see how one legend of our world history can fit the Old World. Let’s use the tale of the tarasque as an example. Dungeon and dragon used the same legend to create the famous and deadly Tarrasque that appeared already in the first edition in 1977.

The real legend describes the tarasque as a river dragon with six short legs like bear, the body of an ox, the carapace of a turtle, the tail like a serpent ending with a scorpion’s sting. The head was like a lion with horse ears and a human face. The animal lair was in a swamp not far away from Avignon, south of France. The monster attacked anyone and anything traveling near to the river. The legend say that Saint Marthe tamed it but villagers slayed it after decades of suffering.

Now let’s adapt it to the Old World. I think nothing should be changed about the look and behavior. The first part because it means that plenty of illustration can be used. The second part because the river of the old world are important in the setting. Anything that can disrupt travel fits 100% the setting.

So now let’s find a proper place to locate it and a character to replace Saint Marthe. One easy solution would be to use the south of France reference and locate it for instance in Ferignac, Bretonia. Then we can say that Grail lady kill it centuries ago, but the beast reappears every 10 to 20 years. Each time, questing knights slay it for fame and honor.
Japan, China and native Indian legends and monsters are great game material. Never hesitate to read legends from around the world. Take notes and rearrange the legend so that it fits your game. WFRP or any other. One great advantage is that you will find plenty of illustration to use as visual during the game. As a lazy game master I do that very often.


S is for Smuggler

All that is certain in the Warhammer world are death (with the possibility of going insane first) and taxes. Toll houses along the road tax you. There is a tax for entering the city. A tax for being allowed to sell in the city, and a tax for the goods you sold in the city.  (I wouldn't be surprised if Marc's T post contains pages upon pages of way he can screw the players over with taxes.) Goods could be had at a much more reasonable cost to the common man if there was a way around the taxes.

Enter the smuggler.  The smuggler is the little entrepreneur who is tired of getting taxed out of business. Though a rogue class with some sneaky abilities, the smuggler is not necessarily a thief. He's just working outside the law in this particular venture.

The smuggler can skillfully drive across country or row into lesser-patrolled ports with his goods. He has skills to move quietly through the city or through the country. He has contacts to sell his goods to. He's a handy person to have in the party, or at least to have contact with if there isn't one in the party.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

S is for Serpent folk

Serpent folk - how to include them in the old world

Dungeons and Dragons, Legend of the Five Rings, Call of Cthulhu and many other role playing game settings have serpent folk in some way. However Warhammer fantasy setting doesn't  Let’s see how game masters can include them in the background.

Given that serpent men aren't part of the official settings we could infer several information:

  • They don’t live in the Old World
  • They aren't related to the lizardmen
  • They aren't related to the chaos coming from the north pole.
From this we could create following pieces of an alternative background:

  • Some have the torso of a human, other have the body of a snake with human arms and legs. The serpent trait could also be the one from a cobra, viper, boa and any other snakes. Pick the form and lineage you like and the illustration from previous mentioned sources.
  • Serpent folk are a civilization of serpent-like people. Serpent folk lay eggs, and they have a rather low body temperature without being cold blooded like reptiles. The form of the body and the reptile lineage are either related to different tribes or different castes. Pick whatever you like.
  • They are from the far east of the Old World being Indus or Cathay. They are reclusive as they don’t mix and doesn't appear very numerous. For instance they could fill the niche of the dwarf or the skaven.
Skaven could be the main reasons to bring serpent folk to the Old World. Clan Eshin is coming back to the Old World after leaving for the far east. On another hand there aren't many tales about skaven in these countries. What if skaven are fleeing from there or are pushed back by a natural predator like serpent folk? Then we could have serpents following the trail to find new rat nests to plunder and consume. Serpents could be some kind of good guys that could tip the balanced more in favor of the order. Or they are just neutral and would do nothing else than hunt. Or they are just as evil as skavens and will prey and hunt anything they find. Or they as diverse as humans and are a mix of all this.

This entry presents one possible story to include serpent folk on Oerth and in the Old World by adding some new perspective to the Skaven. If you don’t like that one but think that serpent folks have something to bring, then go ahead, it’s your game, your world to shape.


WFRP: Back to Groz Zorn (9th Sitting)

Thursday night was the ninth sitting of our WarHammer 2e online campaign.

Mordrin Skorkinson, Troll Slayer. Though he hasn't actually slain a troll. At least not since I've been running him. He could have done it before, after all he is 75 years old.

He now wields a two handed war-hammer taken from a slain priest of Sigmar. Don't fret; the priest deserved it.

My companions:
A Brettonian Knight Errant
A High Elf Scholar
A Human Scribe (He was unable to make the sitting.)
A Wood Elf Wizard Apprentice

Encounters and notes
We began the sitting with Mordrin charging the defaced shrine. He hopped up on the base and swung his magical warhammer directly for the head of the statue. The resulting impact apparently caused a wave of psychic power that negatively effected the wood elf and the knight. Mordrin was oblivious as he continued pounding the statue to bits.

We chased a cowardly goblin from last sitting down the ruin's stairs and into the second level. It was having a bit of trouble getting through the door at the foot of the stairs, and Mordrin smashed him with the warhammer. He then used the warhammer to "pick the lock" of the door.

There was little in the first below ground level of the ruins but goblins and a couple orcs. They met a quick demise.

One goblin went to get the "big unz" back-up crew, which were 2 12-foot tall troglodytes. These massive creatures were pounded mercilessly with bow, sword, and hammer (and Drop spell!) until they crumbled beneath our might. Mordrin can only claim the death blow on one of them.  (He does, however, claim 5 goblins and an orc under his tally.)

Our path led us to a large cavern, filled with a dark orb of pulsating evil magic (see below). Mordrin's first thought was to go whack it with his magical hammer, but he second thought was that the hammer might not survive.  This reveal was where we left off for the night.

You can watch the game, as it was recorded in an OnAir Hangout. Unfortunately, you can't also see the maps and all the typed conversation that's going on in Roll20.net. You miss a lot not being able to see that.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Ratcatcher

I write about starting in the lowest, most pathetic careers as a sort of challenge for the experience roleplayer. WarHammer's Ratcatcher seems to epitomize the bottom of the totem pole, the lowest of the working class. I have played into this stereotype myself, but I think I was wrong.

It is this character's job to catch rats. This often sees him slinking through filthy sewers and cornering starving vermin. He has nothing to protect himself but a sling and a small but vicious dog (unless you are lucky and have one of JMT's companions, a ferret).  This character is never out of work, and he is tough!

A ratcatcher has immunity to disease and poison (which, oddly enough, doesn't make you immune but give a bonus to save vs). They can hide, move silently, and set traps. Additionally, as mentioned, they come with a companion animal. Very few other careers have that bonus (I actually can't think of any right now besides the noble with his hangers-on :wink:).

A ratcatcher is a very handy companion to have in the party. They are used to hunting down rats in tight spaces. And they probably are happy to be in the companion of other humans.

Friday, April 19, 2013

R is for Rabbit

Rabbits, rams, fowls- Mascots of the Moot

Halflings have a calendar filled with special days. Being related to the gods, the ancestors or more likely food. Two of these are the pretext of festin and parade. The first one occurs at the beginning of spring, on the 14th Plufgzeit (3rd month), it is simple pie day. Not to be mixed with pie week occurring in the first week of Erntezeit (8th month). Simple pie day symbolized a poor pie when winter reserve are all gone. It’s a moment of sadness, a ritual to eat a small and very light pie before feasting without limits about that tradition. The second day occurs on 28th Vorgeheim (6th month) and is called double pie day or tau day. On that day double decked pie are eaten as a reminder of what happen during the pie week. On both days, halfling family, clan or guild parade in the street of the city they are living in. Festivities involve singing, parade, jousting and animal contest. Of course halfling aren’t doing those as any imperials would.

Parades are always lead by the mascot of the clan, family, military unit or guild. The animal is always part of the name or symbols of the group. Let it be a rabbit, a ram, a fowl, a dog, a pony, a sheep, a goat, a goose. Animals are always groomed, hair braided and decorated with colorful ribbons and bells. Some rich families or guilds would even equip the animal with precious collar, necklace or just their tool of trade like chef hat or cooking pot. At the end of parade,between one of the many main courses, the eldest and wisest of the different groups form a jury for animal contest. They will elect the most beautiful animals of the day in several categories based on the weight, size, race, etc. Following the halfling tradition, every single animals win a prize. Imperial think that it is a sign of weakness to avoid conflict. They miss the point, every prize is the pretext for a new round of drinks and snacks.

Places with a large population of halflings also have single and double pie day jousting. They involve races and acrobatics while riding rams, goats and mastiffs. The winner and its mount have a drink, the other a snack. After several races all bipeds and quadrupeds are either drunk or unable to move. The jousting tradition is also open for the children, they ride mounts requiring less ability. Like the giant rabbit or the ponies of the Moot. It again is a pretext for betting rounds and have a good time looking at these poor kids and animals doing obstacle races.


Q is for Quennells

The quest for a heading for the letter Q led me to a city I'm not overly familiar with in a country I don't interact with too often.

Quennelles is a Brettonian city, located due west from the intersection of the Grey and Black Mountains. To get there from the Empire, one must cross the mountains, facing the dangers inherent therein, and then cross the Loren forest. It's a toss up which is more dangerous.

The city itself is one of disrepair, with "generations of poor maintenance, and widespread disinterest..." The city has become a den of thieves, with the Governor and his crew being the chief thieves. The populace is poor, underfed, and unhygienic. The city is crumbling down around itself. It makes one wonder why anyone stays, and where people would go if they chose to leave.

It also makes one wonder what has the attention of the aristocracy that keeps them from fixing these problems. I smell Slaanesh.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Q is for Quetzal

Quetzal and parrots - valuable speaking birds

Commerce with Araby and Lustria colonies bring new species of birds into the Old World. All these specimens are full of color and purchased by rich merchants or nobles. Some of those birds, like parrots and quetzal, have a special and amazing ability: imitating sound and voice. Speaking parrot on the shoulder of a Sartosan pirate is cliché. Let’s see how we can use these in the Old World. The Empire climate isn't hospitable for quetzal and parrots. Therefore they must be protected by staying in building or by magical means.

Member of the Grey College are keen to choose speaking birds as familiars. Their mimicking and imitating voice and sound is a great feature, especially for wizards that specialize in sound illusion. Having what we could define as a living remote voice repeater is a must have. Few grey wizards survive magical duels or encounters thanks to their familiar. For instance when afflicted by a mute spell, they let their opponent lower its guard and suddenly make their familiar speak the vocal part of an offensive and crippling spell.

A very clever and twisted grey master wizard pushed the trick even further. He wanted to spy on his fellow wizard but using spell was too obvious. Any wizards but apprentices would have detected his spell. So instead in turned his hobby for parrots into a new level of information gathering. He selected the most talented ones and taught them how to repeat everything they could listen to. This was pure animal training and no magic was involved in the process. He would then use the parrot, fruits, flower as a rich and colorful decoration in the meeting room he wanted to spy on. Nobody thought that non magical bird could be of any danger. They were wrong, very wrong. Plenty of secrets, plots were uncovered by using a living recording device. This tale ended with the death of the wizard. A more twisted fellow understood his trick. So he spoke words of power and magic to trigger a magical explosive device. Of course the device wasn't around the bird in the meeting room. But the device was in the listening wizard’s laboratory. Preying on wizard conversation is not to be taken lightly. Ever.


P is for Pit Fighter

Pit fighters are people who fight others for fun and sport.  The fights normally occur in a ring, or pit, with a lot of gambling and carousing in the background. Pit fighters could be considered cheap, dirty, poorly trained gladiators.

However, pit fighters who actually survive a few fights may find themselves quite skilled with a variety of weapons, fist-fighting skills, and overall survival skills. These are the kind of characters that make for great adventurers. They have been in a fight or two, know how to fight to win (as opposed to fighting for show like the dandy duelist), and know when to retreat from a superior combatant.

Pit fighters are used to battling other muscle-bound fighters, medium sized animals, or even half orcs. They know how to keep their cool, and always seem to come out on top.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

P is for Platypus

Platypus show - exotic or heretic?

Travelling circus is an old tradition in the Old World. Oldest ones are century old institutions, still roaming the routes and rivers of the Empire. Circus origin is almost as ancient as Empire itself. It started in the rich city states of Tilea and moved north. Usually forced by disgrace, debts and other artistic issues.

Spectacles offered matche several categories like satirical plays, illusion, animal performance, acrobatics and so on. Animal performance include riding horses while juggling or having trained dogs racing around. But there is a sub category monstrous and freak animals performing or being exposed for curious visitors to observe. From exotic animals to mutated ones. Witch hunters tried to burns mutant animals but they are so easy to replace, that they change tactics. They force circus showing mutated animals to use them educational shows to warn about the mutant threat. Only the most innocuous animals and mutations are allowed. Like three legged snotlings, two head snakes, two tailed cats and so on.

The latest attraction from “Die außergewöhnliche Zirkus Giocchi und Spiele” is dozens of exotic animals. They have the body of beavers, the beak of duck, lay egg but are mammals. The feeding and hatching specimen are shown in cage so that visitors can admire how exotic platypus are. Another part of the show involve one or two specimen swimming in a pool. When the ringmaster throws in the pool fresh fish, platypus clumsy race toward them and miss the fast fishes. Suddenly some sparkles are seen and the fish are like stunned and float, a strange odor fill the area. Few seconds later, platypus start to devour their prey using their teethed duck like mouth. The audience scream their horror, surprise and admiration.

Zealous witch hunters questioned the innocuous aspect of platypus but they quickly backed off. After investigating, some ruled that several certificates from Nuln and Altdorf authorities were proper evidence. Others promptly claimed that as specimen bear no signs of chaos everything was fine. Finally, some hot headed situation immediately stopped when the ringmaster show his official decorations. He posses a badge offered by the magister ludis of Middelheim and the medal from the Imperial zoo of Altdorf. Both have the heraldry of their city and a drawing of platypus. How and why these gifts were received aren't clear, especially as platypus never appeared in the zoo or in the stadium. Nevertheless, witch hunters leave the circus alone and never investigate it twice. The exact reason is left to game masters.


O is for Outlaw

In WarHammer, Outlaws are the characters that are driven from society for some fell deed or dangerous accident. They take up their homes in forests or hills away from civilization. It is often convenient for these outlaws to come together in bands, for more power but also for survival.

Outlaws survive by raiding and robbing the rich, which is just about anyone compared to the outlaw. Outlaws make rural roads and paths dangerous locations, necessitating the need for Roadwardens. Travelers would do well to have a roadwarden or two around, if they have not hired mercenaries to protect them along the trail.

However, who protects the outlaw? Forests, fields, and hills aren't just dangerous for travelers, but they are dangerous to any human. The forest-based outlaw needs to be wary of beastmen or elves. Beastmen will kill, enslave, or eat any creature in their path. Elves are very secretive and territorial, and they may not treat you much better than a beastman in the end.

In the hills, the outlaw needs to be wary of orcs and goblinoids. Dwarves may be willing to be more forgiving, unless they realize the outlaw for what he really is. Goblins would prefer to torture an outlaw.

The law of the wild is the survival of the fittest. This is why outlaws will often be found congregated, defending themselves even as they seek to take advantage of others.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

O is for Octopus

Octopus - Tentacles are handy

Octopus, squids and other tentacled enemies are always giants and mostly water based. They are so big that character will only face and fight their appendices, maybe their beak if they are lucky. The Old World is so huge, so corrupted and dangerous that more tentacular challenges exist. Let’s see how game masters can use cephalopods with style to entertain players. We already see how to achieve that for other animals, most of these tricks are valid. So we will focus on how having eight tentacles is handy.

Moving. A quadruped is faster than a biped. Eight legged animal like insects and arachnids are lighting fast. Especially when you face a horse sized specimen. So make octopod very fast. Portray land based octopus locomotion as very slow at start but when all eights pods start to work in sync, it’s already almost too late.

Climbing, falling and Jumping. So octopus can move fast in water and on land. But they can also climb using their eight arms equipped suction cups. The surface is smooth that’s not a problem. The surface is rough, having several grips is handy. Now that our octopus can move in the third dimension, let’s use that opportunity. Hunting octopus can just fall on their prey. Using their mass and tentacles to knock off their victims, while their beak is starting to cut in. So if you enjoy cephalopod using third dimension on land, then make their tentacles efficient springs. Having a octopus jumping in or out is the special move you can use to advance your story.

Grappling. Eight arms that’s at least two available for throwing rocks, checking trees, using wooden sticks as weapons. That’s for basic use of natural like tools. If octopus have an higher intelligence, let them reuse the weapons they found on their prey. A specimen using a polearm, a hammer, a sword and an axe, at the same time while moving is something to use from time to time.

Armed, running, climbing, jumping octopus is a game changer. But wait, we haven’t touch how to replace the ink of water octopus by gaz for the land based one. We haven’t mentioned their chameleon abilities. Nor any kind of poison, magic or mutations. So next time you read an adventure portraying the overused spider, replace it with an octopus and have some fun.


N is for Noble

It seems half the Old World is a bloody noble of one sort or another! Too many of the cities' nobles are procreating indiscriminately, and too many people are allowed to buy the title of nobility. Various city supplements speak of noble houses, noble schools, noble sponsored businesses, armies, and magic schools. Too many nobles are thinning the stock.

Which is why it is good to see the Noble as an adventuring career. The family's fortune is only going to the firstborn son, so the rest of these dandies need to do something with their lives. Some may be found joining the church. Others may become learned scholars, helping their families become even more successful. Fewer join the ranks of Empire knights and become famous warriors, stupendous leaders of armies.  Then there are the rest.

The rest are pretty much cut off from their families, but they still see life as a game. They wish to go adventuring, making grand names for themselves...but they don't want to have to work too hard for it. In battle they hide behind their hangers-on, others from nameless families who hope to gain some notoriety by hanging around the noble and toadying to his every whim (the book actually lists d4 hangers-on under a Noble's trappings). In taverns, they loudly proclaim of the parties victories, conflating their contribution while playing down the rest of the party. They require the best food, the best drink, and the best bed, while hardly earning their share of any of it.

The greatest trial of any party containing a noble is...who can restrain the longest from berating him?

Monday, April 15, 2013

N is for Newt

Newt, frog, slug and snail - amphibians and slimy relatives for trade

Mousillon hosts large and numerous swamps and ponds. Natural home of amphibians like newt, frog or other slimy relatives like slug and snail, this area is inhabited by people living a harsh and dankly life. They must adapt to their environment and eat whatever is available to stay alive and healthy. Swampaires and frogwives are a common sight in Moussillion and have a true social status. These positions also exist in the other part of the Old World like in the Wasteland but without the same aura of importance.

Swampaires are hunters, gatherers and collectors of amphibians living in his area. It is an official job including a professional training and a nice badge to show around. Swampaires work under the authority of a local noble and only on his land. That’s the theory, as in reality almost everyone does it at various level. Conflicts and hunting swamp are managed through an informal guild. The job can be a dangerous one, all the training is about not becoming the victim of this hostile environment. Dangers are numerous: murky holes swallowing the unwary, poisonous fauna and flora, vicious predators. The worst being to guide and escort the poor bailiff in charge of the area. Inviting some relatives of a swampaire to the bailiff’s home before such visit is a sign of hospitality and respect. If that very important person doesn’t report back, swampaire family won’t either. A mutual understanding between gentlemen in service of a noble house.

Without Moussillon’s frogwives, that province of Bretonia would be deserted by humans. Frogwives are all the various hands transforming the animals into food or anything else used for trading. They have a strong knowledge of the different animals and plants of their region. They know how to prepare them to make the most out of them. Like keeping them alive when the newt must be eaten almost alive. Like cutting the frogs into piece without puncturing poisonous glands and by removing other organs. Like forcing snails to feast only on special herbs so that their flesh become edible instead of toxic. Like skinning newts for trading these colorful leather piece. Cooking and readying all parts in hot or cold dishes eaten by the poor inhabitant of Mousillon.

Swampaires and frogwives are the producer of most of the drugs, spell components used by people living in Bretonia and sometimes even farer away. For instance, they collect the eyes and tail of newt before cooking them. Both are powerful ingredients in hedgecraft and dark magic rituals related to divination. Also swampaires take a lot of risk to catch the purple tadpole of the bullfrog. This cow sized frog live in the remote part of Mousillon and is very territorial. Frogwives mixed the tadpole with alcohol of lily flower to create one of the most powerful aphrodisiac working on humans. Toothed snails are wanted as their slime is a powerful and easy to preserve soporific agent. Being produced only once a year by aggressive dog sized snail mating make it a rare and precious component.

M is for Mercenary

Let's be honest: most PCs could probably be considered mercenaries. They all work for gold, quite often for the highest bidder. The WarHammer Mercenary career isn't much different.

The book describes a mercenary as one who "fights for money, the spoils of war and the taste for blood." It is a fighter class career, able to advance martial and melee skills. The Old World constantly has a battle (or two) going on, and mercenaries are the lifeblood of the battle.

However, wise mercenaries realize that the fate they are most likely to see is death. These ones leave off hiring out to generals and seek to make their fortunes in other ways. This is where the PC comes in. A battle hardened veteran who is seeking a bit of a different life.

But in WarHammer, living means fighting. The only questions are where and who/what.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

M is for Mastiff

Mastiff - Dog is man's best friend

Warhammer world is a grim and perilous. Characters can get killed easily if they aren’t cautious or lucky. Players want the best for their characters: good equipment, good characteristics, good career, good skills and so on. Most players will maximize their armor and weapon damage but very few will look beyond that. Game master must encourage their players to tap into another dimension: henchmen and animals. These resources offer a lot of role playing and gaming materiel. Let’s use the mastiff and typical utility dogs as a sample.

If players are looking only for combat, then they should purchase war dogs. They are cheap even if not commonly trade. They could make the difference between life and death. Firstly they are sold trained so not much skills are required to handle them. Upkeep costs is not worse than the one of a horse or armor. Mastiffs fight efficiently and are expendable resources. Same as with dog, they offer all the advantages of their keen sense. Having dogs watching over a sleeping camp is a valuable defensive addition.

Players looking for other aspects can focus on hunting dog, truffle seeker, rat catcher, artist for street shows. Characters can become kennel master or anything related to the breeding and trading of dogs. Option are really endless. If players overlook dogs, game masters should give some animal to any clever NPC. Characters are hunt down, give hunting dog to the party trailing them. Guards can fall asleep, be not really reliable. But for sure characters archenemy will be protected by bodyguards and few of them will be canine handlers. 

Why should game masters let their players have animals? First, they are handled by characters so that’s not much overhead. Owners can track dog progress and manage them as side character. Secondly they offer some options when a party is too weak, having an extra fighting unit is a way to keep some balance. Finally, dogs are just animals, they are more expendable than player character. Game masters can control them for their own good or doom. How does a war dog react to a monster causing fear or terror? Use whatever behavior producing a good story. That’s a middle ground before game master directly controls a character. More options giving different leverage points are always nice to have.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Laborer

When I first played WarHammer Fantasy Roleplay and it was time for me to choose a career, I wanted the weakest looking career on the list. I wasn't new to roleplaying, and I was looking for a challenge as I started this new game. When I looked through the careers, one stood out. Laborer. The poor slob only had two advances in his advance scheme.  He came with one skill and had to roll to see if he started with any other. His starting trappings were just food, drink, and a leather vest. There is nothing in this career to attract a player.

So I created my Laborer. I called him Lothar (of the hill people) after a Saturday Night Live sketch, and I sent him out into the perilous world to make a name for himself.

Lothar the Laborer has done quite well for himself over the years, and is enjoying semi-retirement. It's not what you start with, but it's what you do with what you start with. Grab some dice, roll up any character, and have fun!

Friday, April 12, 2013

L is for Lynx

Lynx - a feline touch in a wolf world

Warhammer world highlights wolves over all. From its relation to Ulric and as a basic animals of Empire forests. Let’s face it, we have too much wolf and that’s not good. Some would even say that’s bad wolf. We already mentioned boars so this time we focus on the Lynx, bobcat, and wild cats.

Lynx are a rare sight in Empire forests because they are mostly active during the night and are solitary. They avoid humans as much as possible. However they live in all forests and are known as efficient and stealthy predators. They are very poor runners so they are master in ambush, sprinting from a hidden spot or jumping from a tree directly on their preys. The most common species is the forest lynx that can be found in most provinces of the Empire. But there are several subspecies of lynx in the Empire. The red lynx is found in the southern provinces hills and open scrubs. The marsh lynx is found in the dryer part of the Wastelands. Finally the white lynx is an extremely well adapted inhabitant of the snowy peaks of the middle mountains.

Both the body and the head of the lynx are used by few minor Hochland nobles in their heraldry. This symbol represents acuteness and insight. Few hunters catch lynx for their fur but it is an opportunity activity. Lynx are too rare and difficult to catch to make it a full time job. On another hand elves have strong bounds with the forest lynxes. Caraidh cadmorr are specialist in handling lynx as animal companion. Elven beast masters praise all the qualities of the Lynx for hunting small to medium prey. There are rumors of druids taking the oath of the lynx: to hunt down dark druids. If this is rumors is true, it would mean that the old faith have few member serving in the same role as master vigilant does for college of magic.

Game masters can use lynx to weaken a character party traveling in the wilderness. It would try to catch all small animal like familiars. A tainted lynx with several mutations is a great alternative to manticore or dire wolf. Catching a lynx for a noble tamer, zoo or for a rich merchant looking to offer a present to a noble house is a dangerous and hazardous mission. Someone can create a secret order of knight lynx. Or ask a squire character to carry a lynx hunt in order to get promoted higher in any knightly order.


K is for Kislev

WarHammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition does not have anything in the way of careers or creatures that begin with K. Though some of the supplements I have read make mention of orders of Knights, they aren't found in the core rule book. The one place where the letter K abounds in this rule book is in the locales. Most of the dwarf holds are Karak something-or-other. However, since I'm very likely to talk about dwarves once this A-Z month is over (I just finished a great book that every WarHammer fan should read...), I will instead talk about Kislev.

Kislev is the northernmost city-state of the Empire. They are the bastion between Troll Country (the beginning of the Chaos Waste) and civilization. The capitol of the city-state is the city of Kislev. The city is well defended with walls and river gates. However, since the city is so close to the chaos wastes, it is not without the corrupting influence of chaos. Stone walls bear the blisters and marks of chaos taint held at bay for many, many years.

Whenever chaos armies enter the Empire to do battle, they must travel through Kislev first. The residents of the city are trained from their youth as defenders. They are very strict in their training and in mental self-defense against the whispers of chaos. The enemy of chaos is order, and Kislevites are trained to maintain order at all costs.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

K is for Königlich Krabben

Königlich krabben - Sea of Claws crustaceans

Islands hanging along the costs of Nordland host a very special event. Every five to six years they are invaded by a myriad of crabs of all sizes. Their colors range is orange-yellowish and they all bear several spiky overgrowths circling their head as a crown. Their body is also covered by scratches, teeth marks, their spikes harpooning fishes never seen in fishermen nets. Locals have given them the name of Königlish krabben. They are rather passive and innocuous as they don’t defend themselves or attack anything. This event is referred as the orange wave or crabs great walk. It lasts a couple of weeks and occurs in fall. It is always a time of excess, tensions, question and superstition.

As crabs don't fight back, locals collect them as an easy source of food. Whole families travel to an island, install a boiling marmit and a processing bench. Within a day, dozens of foot wide crabs are captured, boiled and their meat removed from their shell. Crab meat is tasty but the one of the königlich krabben not really. But its abundance of supply, easiness to collect and winter season closing in make it an usual activity. Its common for villages with bad harvests or merchant companies to slaughter most of the wave reaching one location. Greed and gluttony fuel the fires cooking the crustaceans all days and nights.

Priests of Manann organize offices to celebrate the return of the orange wave as a sign of the god. They also warn their followers about the danger of not respecting this gift. Beliefs and needs in such time are conflicting. As a result tensions rise, tempers get hot, and words get harsh. For foreigner with a keen sense of observation, it looks like every man and woman confronted with the orange wave is changed.

Academicians have opposing views on the procession. It is a topic of intense debate between two theories. One group named naturalists claim that it is all about a natural cycle of reproduction and migration as for many other species. This theory is attacked by the group of alienists opposing several points.

  • No sign of mating has been found. Crabs reproduce in water, not on land.
  • Crabs have no reason to travel to island and avoid continental shores.
  • Animals have self preservation instinct but not köninglich krabben.
  • Extend with your own ideas.
Superstitions and mysteries regarding the orange wave are source of several rumors::

  • Cult of Stormfels kill the people slaughtering the artisans of the Seas. It is said that even offended Manann priestes are pushed to murderous behaviours.
  • Witch hunters claim that collectors of this insidious offer of chaos must be boiled to death. The procession starts during a night when Manslieb and Morrslieb are full is a sign. Scars and shells on the crabs carapace form symbols of chaos. 
  • The celestial order are forecasting the orange wave and sending member on site. They try to interpret the wave as signs without much success. They know that there is a message but they don’t know which one.
  • Extend with your own ideas.

J is for Jailer

A jailer is an ideal companion to have when exploring dungeon. Jailers work in jails or dungeons. They spend most of their waking day there. They know regular noises from irregular noises, normal smells from abnormal smells. Not only that, but they are likely already immune to any disease or poison the party happens upon.

Personality-wise, jailers tend to be rather apathetic to the whining plights of the accused, which they have to listen to daily. Jailers may be a bit sadistic, being able to treat prisoners in pretty much any way they desire. They may also acquire a bit of a god complex, since they essentially control the lives of the scum of the Empire. It is no wonder many jailers seek to advance their careers as Slavers or Torturers.

Until then, give them a club and bring them to the dungeon crawl with you. You may be surprised at how helpful the Jailer is.

Character: Liam the Jailer. (Warrior class)
Past experience: "Keeping the peace" in the Emperor's dungeon.
Personal quote: "About time for me to take this training and get rich off it, innit?"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

J is for Jellyfish

Jellyfish - itchy waters

The Empire rivers and lakes have very few jellyfish. Fact is there are some but they are difficult to spot and catch due to their tiny to small size. The cost of the Wasteland, Nordland and Ostland and the Sea of Claws host a lot of gelatinous tentacles. Few are edible, all look very alien but some have powerful effect on the human body.

One species named Botuxlia Frigidiarus is the new hype in Marienburg and Altdorf high society. Women of the high society are becoming avid consumers of Botux. This new product is an invention of Nordlander physician Dr. Justinus Kramer. He offers his miracle cure to the unpleasant signs of passing of time. In simpler words they are wrinkles making all noble lady looking older than they are. Dr. Kramer miracle is based on the localized application of trailing tentacles of the Botuxlia Frigidiarus on the face of his patient. First the skin react with reddish dots where the jellyfish stings. This cause a freezing sensation but after few minutes, skin color is back to normal and wrinkles are reduced. This treatment cost 80 gold pieces and its effect lasts 2 to 3 weeks.

The doctor offices are located on a barge he customized for his activity. The barge contains several tank of salty water storing the jellyfish, and a luxurious operation room. The barge follow a route from the Sea of Claws to catch the jellyfish and later travel to Marienburg and Altdorf for selling his service. His team is compose of a navigator used to the Reik and the sea. Two fishermen catch the jellyfish while at sea using secret recipe of baits. They act as armed guards while cruising on the Reik and docked in cities. An assistant is in charge of cleaning the tanks and feeding the animals. Finally he has a beautiful assistant that could use some Botux treatment.

Physician guide and even Sigmar clergy are suspicious about this new activity. But women of important judges or nobles prevents attempts to stop Dr. Kramer activities. Especially as it is a natural treatment producing safe and visible results. Competition is trying to reproduce Dr. Kramer’s enterprise without much success so far. Huge rewards are offered for people ensuring a regular parallel supply. Underground networks try to also have their shares, but for unknown reason they haven’t succeeded. All these events and stories are fueling more and more rumors about Botux:

  • Botux is an addictive product, people can’t stop using it
  • People using it become puppet of chaos
  • Dr. Kramer’s assistant is a cultist
  • Strange purple light are seen at night coming from within the barge
  • Dr. Kramer’s diploma is a forgery
  • Jellyfish aren’t native of the Sea of Claws
Some are true, some are just from envious people. Make your own choice.


I is for Initiate

An initiate is one who strives to enter the priesthood, to become a cleric, or a senior priest. Because “the period spent as an Initiate is often regarded as a test of the individual’s spiritual resolve and fitness for progression into the priesthood,” this is an optimal adventuring career. Having only the ability to read, speak the Classical language, and their faith, these (usually) young people are sent into deadly situations to test said faith. This is an optimal career for players who like to start with relatively low characters and work their way up.

For those who think clerical progression in D&D is too slow, this career is not for you. The initiate/apprentice/student careers are almost like a DCC zero-level funnel, attempting to see which characters are worthy of progressing into a real career. However, once onto their second careers, inequalities balance out quickly, and these characters can become some of the most powerful ones in the game.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I is for Insects

Insects - underestimated and neglected

Insects are poorly represented in the Old World books beyond the giant beetles, chaos ants and the like. Game masters are encouraged to fill the blanks and surprise veteran player with new kind of insects. One easy way is to create a new subtype of beastmen or demons with the subset of mutations fitting with an insect lineage. In this entry, we will focus on even more twisted insects.

Frankinsect is a tall and bulky humanoid formed by the aggregation of thousands of insects bound together by powerful force being magical, druidic or shamanic. Sometimes also named crawlers elemental they are very rare, always unique and very powerful. The first reported Frankinsect was cast centuries ago by a powerful druid named Frankus The Creeper. He successfully defended a sacred grove attacked by beastmen but at the cost of its own life. Each Frankinsect is one of a kind as its composition depends on the insects available in the surroundings: grasshoppers, cockroaches or carrion beetles, etc. There are reports of skaven grey seers, orcs shamans, dark druids and Nurgle priest to invoke and control those living constructs with great difficulties. Frankinsect are very resistant to physical damage while the magic involved makes them partially resistant to elements. Only high level dispelling magic can destroy them directly. If this is not possible only killing the controller will make the Frankinsect slowly becoming unstable and dissolve. But not before creating an huge havoc in their vicinity.

Dagmar zum Averland, lector at the Altdorf university, wrote a famous essay on the topic of insectaïd. Her work is based on several testimonies and old manuscripts describing nature spirit shaped as enhanced and augmented insects. Dagmar’s theory is that insectaïd are related to insect the same way dryads are related to trees. She makes the hypothesis that these entities are the tools created by nature to help cleanse and regenerate herself. Insectoïds appears to gather in small communities and cleanse and regenerate their surrounding. They perform menial works like removing tainted ground, irrigating and planting trees. They are also said to perform rituals involving exquisite choreography and humbling chants. Dagmar would finance an expedition to observe insectaïd directly.


H is for Herbalist

Physicians and their students are few and far between in the WarHammer world, especially in rural areas. Also, there are not clerics healing wounds on a daily basis. Luckily, many rural areas have an Herbalist, probably living near where her precious herbs are found.

Herbalists have many of the skills usually sought after in physicians or clerics. They have Cure Disease and Heal Wounds skills. Some can even prepare poisons. In a game as deadly as WarHammer Fantasy Roleplay, these skills are invaluable.

The curings and healings are not magical in nature, so healed characters can’t necessarily jump right back into the midst of battle. Time is needed to heal all wounds, as the saying goes. However, healing is accelerated. Also, any healing is better than no healing…which is the fate of many characters.

Monday, April 8, 2013

H is for Hedgehog

Hedgehog and porcupine - little ball of spines

Hedgehog and porcupine were the collateral victims of Rotzball in Wissenland. This traditional sport is pulling in more and more spectators and fans. Betting has never been so popular and lucrative therefore cheating is becoming a real nuisance . Severe sanctions have been taken against the poor referees and coaches that have been caught. They were sanctioned by huge fines and even few case of public humiliation. All these scandals result in an increased popularity of this noble sport.

Rotzball rules are simple, two teams of eleven players try the ball between two poles on other team side by all means possible. Snotball is a variant played in Middenheim, the most obvious difference is that the ball is replaced by a snotling. But other rules differ and cause a lot of discussion in tavern of that great city. Regional variant also change few rules making professional referee a necessity.

One of these rules is that only head, elbows and knees are protected by leather straps or piece. In old time it was a way to avoid the most damaging injuries while keeping the show attractive and spectacular. People running in armor isn’t that fun as we don’t see much blood from the audience.

Another rule is that those piece of light armor are stamped with the colors or mascot of the team. Team can’t have armory or heraldic symbols but are allowed to have animal on a blazon if that animal is also the mascot of the team.

The coach of the Pfeildorf hedgehogs find a loophole in the rules. He replaced his player protection by hedgehog skins still wearing spines. The protection naturally becoming spiked leather piece. He did this for the first time, two weeks ago during the regional derby against the Wusterbug Ducks. The opposing coach protested but the referee found nothing to rule against that play. Hedgehogs beat the Ducks and won the Wissenland cup.

This move created a precedent and teams started to change their mascot as soon as the news reached the different town and village. Wusterburg mascot died in a terrible locker accident on that same day. It was replaced by a porcupine. Spines are longer and are less likely to shed from the skin. Wusterburger fans were delighted to see their team win against Heisenberg Moose on the score of 3 dead to 1. Heisenberg coach collection of antlers shed was effective for blocking but not for scoring.

Since that day, Rotzball’s rules are modified so that all the hedgehogs and porcupine can live a peaceful life.


G is for Grave Robber

A Grave Robber can be an invaluable travelling companion when adventuring out of the city, or handy if your travels take you into the city's cemeteries. These professionals are skilled at moving silently in town our outside of town. Also, they always seem to have a spade handy.

According to the book, "The medical and magical professions create a constant demand for fresh corpses...." These guys don't shy away from a few dead bodies on a battlefield...which is a very good thing in WarHammer.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

G is for Genet

Genet, civet, ferret, marten and mink - small, vicious and stubborn

Those small animals are member of mustelidae and all have something in common: they would dare anything to reach food or shelter. Any character traveling the countryside will meet some specimen at one point.

Amber and Jade wizards choose these animals as a familiar more often than any other colleges’ members. The genet and the marten are very inventive and stubborn. They have feline agility with canine ferocity packed in a small size animal. Their diet is simple as they will try anything new. As wizards improve their magical link with the animal, all these qualities become a great advantage. Spellcasters are able to partially control, trigger or enhance those capacities and use them.

Few ratcatchers replace their iconic vicious dogs for a civet, ferret or a marten. These professionals are using natural rat predator with all the quality previously explained. Mustelidae anatomy is far superior to dog’s one. They have smaller, thinner frame with claws to help them progress in small conduits.

Some specie of mustelidae like mink are bred by fur traders. Hats and caps in mink fur are praised by the upper class of the Empire. They are warm and nice way to show status during the long winter. These head clothes are sometimes ornate heraldic symbols to show even more authority and power. Mink also produce strong scent used in perfumes prepared for the same upper class. This business is lucrative but highly volatile due to the change of fashion in the upper class.


Day Off: Swords & Wizardry Musings

My first day off from the April A-Z WarHammer postings has me thinking about the Swords & Wizardry (S&W) Appreciation Day, spearheaded by Tenkar's Tavern. I don't really know anything about S&W at this point, but it seems an extremely popular OSR clone. If I have a chance to look into it a bit, I just might have something ready for the 17th. With all the neat appreciation gifts (prizes) for participating, one can only hope.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Fimir

I had to take my second diversion from career-related posts to post another creature from the WarHammer bestiary. It is a creature that, as far as my experience can tell, is also unique to this game.

The book relates, "Rumored to be part Human and part Demon, the Fimir haunt bogs, fens and desolate moorlands...." They are humanoid in appearance, almost built like orcs, with one eye set low in their head and a long pointed snout like a mole. They have tails, often with mace-like
growths at the end. Some Fimir can cast wizard and demonologist spells.

These creatures are great for ambushes in marshy areas, appearing and disappearing with the mist.

They make an appearance in the 1e adventure The Dying of the Light, chapter 5: The Place of Testing. The encounter involves demon-possessed Fimir and a Meargh (Fimir wizard) of great power.

Friday, April 5, 2013

F is for Fungi

Fungi, lichen and molds - immobile friends and foes

Fungi, lichen, mushrooms and molds are a special case. They are their own domain, neither animal nor vegetable. They focus all fears and dreams about special properties ranging from deadly to healthy.

Apothecaries and pharmacists are using various kind of fungi in their preparations. Depending of the effect required, the options are usually within two or three different specimens. Effectiveness, unwanted side effects and availability define the market price. Tradesmen are looking to hire people going directly at the source to collect those. These journeys are of course risky. Skilled characters might collect some specimens during their journeys.

The game master should take this into account when players are looking for healing. That’s an easy way to add some flavor so that players aren't just shopping for health points or goods. Characters can resell their harvest or exchange it. Some fungi and molds are powerful poison or drugs. Their price are quite high on the black market. Collecting, selling or purchasing those are really dangerous. Authorities are fighting dealing but the amount of money involved make criminals involved harsh on any form of competition.

Mushrooms are much used by goblins and other green skins. This race have a strong knowledge of fungi but it is totally spoiled by traditions and superstition. Here are few sample of such facts and tales to use in any game involving goblins or humans. Tales on one side could be a fact on the other.

  • Shaman need green fungi powder to cast spell.
  • Any yearling goblin surviving ingestion of black mold will become a shaman.
  • Grey lichen eaten in the evening brings a good night of raiding.
  • Goblins are born out of mushrooms. Hence they have no women or children.
  • Yellow mold are best used against armored foes.
  • Pink lichen are good for us but bad for them.
Extend this list with your own facts or rumors.


E is for Entertainer

The reason I chose Entertainer for the letter E was all the interesting types of entertainer a person can play. There are a few careers that have multiple sub-types  another one being Thief (which I won't cover during the letter T for a couple reasons).

WarHammer allows you to start out as either an acrobat, actor, animal act, bunko artist, comic, escapologist, fire eater, fortune teller, hypnotist, impressionist, jester, juggler, knife thrower, pavement artist, poet, singer, strongman, tight rope walker, troubadour, ventriloquist, or wrestler. Each of these specialties has their own associated skills, trappings, and career exits.

Each of these sub-types is a completely different type of character, changing the play of the game. Have you ever adventured with a fire eater or a hypnotist? How could they interact, both in fights and in espionage? These are the kind of options that draw me to the game.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

E is for Eel

Eels, angler and other dangerous fishes of the Reik

The Reik is the main river of the Empire. It is the most used route for travel and commerce. The river offers a great source of fishes of all sorts. Fishermen are a common sight on the river or on its shores. But very few children are fishing on their own on the Reik. And that’s for very good reason: the Reik is hiding dangerous fishes. Most of them are left alone because they aren't worth catching given the risks of dying. However few are wanted because they are very valuable.

Eels of the Reik are known to every citizens. Large and fierce they can kill a fisherman with ease. Few knows that eels have some valuable relatives: morays eels. Zoographers from Nuln university claim that morays are new specie in the Empire. Morays are natives of seas and rivers bordering the south costs of Estalia and Tilea. They were likely introduced by ship travelling to Marienburg or barge cruising to Kreutzhofen. Compared to eels, morays are smaller but have a paralyzing slime covering their body and their mouth host various toxins. Moreover their jaws are extraordinary weapons allowing them to bite very large prey without releasing their grip. While being more dangerous than eels, morays are much appreciate to gourmet for their very tasty filet. Restaurant of Altdorf and Nuln purchase those for their rich clients.

Angler or monkfish are also a specie that can be found in the lower part of the Reik. They are living at the bottom of the river, hiding and feeding in the mud. Those alien looking fishes fill the niche of catfishes that prefer the clearer water of the upper Reik. Few angler specimen can reach 3 meters long and can swallow small animals like birds or small mammals even children. These fact gave the angler a very bad reputation. However they aren't like other fish. When properly primed, anglers produce a perfumed oil. This ingredient is sought for its properties used in medicine, engineering or body care. Flask of angler oil can easily reach 100 gold coins.


D is for Duelist

Duelists are advanced* characters who are experts at fighting, either hand-to-hand with items like fencing swords or with missile weapons such as dueling pistols. Duelist follow a specific dueling code of honor...which doesn't always translate well into the chaos of actual battle.  Duelists are great to have in a fight, though, because of their advanced training and specialty with weapons.

*Not a career you start out in, but one you work your way up to, like leveling.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

D is for Duck

Ducks and other farmyard animals

Duck pond, hen house, rabbit hutch, pig den, cow barn or other dedicated place to raise animals are common addition to Old World buildings. Inhabitants produce themselves most of the food they eat. Even when production isn't required, few animals are to eat the left-overs or produce some fresh product like eggs and milk. This entry isn't about architecture but about how these animals add some color, sound and smell to the daily life in the Empire. Game master are encouraged to use these animals in their description of place visited by characters. 

Use them to hint about meal quality, in any direction you need. For instance, let’s visit a coaching inn in the middle of nowhere having a hen house and chicken running in the inner yard. How would you players react if the innkeeper offer some fresh rabbit that his wife fatten for weeks?

Players are used to dealing with humanoid, dogs, traps and even magic but will often forget about everything else. Characters want to infiltrate a walled farm to rescue the hostage of a group of bandits. Players will try to sneak on guards but will they wake the full hen house? How will the rogue react to an upset goose quacking and honking in their direction?

Peasants and farmers most valuable resource are their livestock and tools. Characters need to evacuate and escort isolated farms. Dealing and fetching all livestock or finding the lost chicken or duck could be a fun tribute to quest system. Of course the GM must stress on how much the missing pig is his best animal, how it save him from a fire and behave like his lost son when he play in the yard.


Comment Oops

I tried to delete the last 50 spam comments on the blog, and I mistakenly deleted the last 50 legit comments. I am very sorry to everyone who left those comments. I will endeavor to make sure it never happens again.

C is for Career

Before your character decided to go adventuring, he had a day job. That job supplied him with pay (hopefully) and skills...some of which can translate into other lines of work, like adventuring and intrigue. This job is called the character's career.  Enterprising characters may still be active in their career, adventuring on the nights and weekends, so to speak. Once a character has improved withing that career as much as possible, WarHammer lists other careers that are natural progressions. Some, called advanced careers, are much more talented than mere beginners and can have a much greater effect on the world around them.

When I first read about careers I thought they were pretty ingenious. They gave a background to characters that other early roleplaying games don't really give. I knew more about my character, how he was raised, and what his everyday skills were. This can also lead to interesting points like who, or what kind of people, the character has for contacts. Is his career rural or urban? These set the stage for adventure.

Careers add to the realism of the game, something some players really enjoy. Just that one distinction, a career, provides an amazing springboard. In my mind it is an iconic part of WarHammer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

C is for Clams

Clams, oysters and other mollusks of the Empire

Rivers and lake of the Old World are full of life. Monsters or fishes are cliché. A game master can easily add some diversity by describing and using all the clams, oyster and other mollusks that live in fresh or salty, flowing or backwater. Those animals aren’t found only in the seas. Here are some ideas to use as encounters or plot hooks.

Precious shell. One specie is famous to produce shell of great beauty. Those shells are used by jewelers for ornating necklace or furniture. How easy to find and catch the animal is of course factored in the pricing.
Gourmet delicacy: The animal is used as ingredient in recipe for preparing meals for nobles and riches of the Empire. Might be a new trend related to alleged virtues like being an aphrodisiac.
Food resource: The animal is just a local food resource. Nothing special about it or make it appear like being special by it size or color.
Aggressive specie: those animals aren't passive or harmless. Use any other monstrous trait and apply it. From acid jet, poisonous spines, soporific cloud and everything else you need or want to use. For instance, one can introduce adhesive clams with a special ability to digest metal or leather. That’s a way to force character to stop by an armorsmith or leathersmith to have their equipment repaired. Of course local tradesmen price are 25% above normal.
Religious / legal complication. Some ancient tradition related to old faith, obscure laws dating from the ruling of a mad lord or local interpretation of religious tenet govern how these animals are treated. Like fishing, eating are prohibited or enforced. Or only locals can eat them on Markettag. Of course players don’t know that yet.

Illegal: these animals are addictive, invasive or tainted. They must be destroyed or not traded. Of course a black market exists and characters might become involved one way or another
Alchemical or spell component. Diving to find some component can be a perilous and challenging quest. For instance, bioluminescent compound found in some oyster but only during yearly reproduction season. Clams living in hot springs that are powerful component to cast spell protecting against fire elements.

Extend this table with your own ideas.


April A-Z Guest Blogger

While talking about the April A-Z blogging in our WarHammer G+ community, it came up that another member would like to participate. He doesn't have a website, or doesn't have one he wants to use for this purpose, so I have volunteered to post his entries.  My posts will be at 0900 USA EDT. His posts will be at 0000 GMT (maybe 0001 to make sure I don't mess something up). I'll be retro-posting his first two entries  so be sure to check the links below.

He's from Europe, so he requests that you bear with any imperfect grammar/terminology. Here's his intro:

Revisiting the Fauna of the Old World
2013 A-Z WFRP challenge


An humble attempt to merge a writing challenge and new ways to present and use some classical and iconic Warhammer fauna. Cats, dogs, horses, fish and mushrooms are part of the Old World and can be used in atypical way for challenging even veteran players. Here are entries for helping game masters in their presentation of this setting. Players aren’t the main audience but they will find some new perspective for their characters.

Each text is focused on the Empire as that’s the main starting region of WFRP. I tried to offer story hooks and plot as much as possible. Those are some hints and suggestion, they are in no way a true explanation or description. Moreover there is no system information and no reference to WFRP timeline. Therefore there are no constraints regarding WFRP versions and canon. GM are encouraged to customized all these ideas to match their game.


A is for Amoeba
B is for Boar