Bling IV: This Time It’s War


 

It’s a funny thing about Pinterest – well, it’s probably a carefully planned, algorithm-driven, site stickiness enhancing sort of thing – but once I started looking at trick rings and other jewelry there, my feed filled up with more and more of the same. So here’s another type of cunning ring. I can see them appealing to Dwarves in particular.

 

Rings inspired by the American Civil War, by Patrick C. Walter. Sadly his website has gone offline. Image borrowed from The Carrotbox jewelry blog.

 

Gun Rings

Images from around the Internet. Copyright original owners.

 

Cased French pinfire pistol ring, 19th century. From imgur. Click image for link.

 

 

In a blackpowder fantasy setting like Warhammer, rings like these could be practical weapons. They can give an enemy a nasty surprise, though between their tiny caliber and short barrel length it’s not certain that they could do very much damage. Still, they are exactly the sort of unusual item that a group of PCs might find a Dwarf gunsmith tinkering with, and if you like a James Bond pastiche they might be issued to Imperial secret agents by their equivalent of Q Branch.

 

Just for fun, here is a quick set of weapon stats for WFRP4. Feel free to add a comment with any feedback, suggestions, or playtest experiences.

 

 

Gun Ring Stats

 

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

If you like this kind of post, you’ll also want to see these:

Armillary Rings: Handy for astronomers, astrologers, and navigators.

Compartment Rings: Hide your true allegiance, or carry a secret message.

Poison Rings: An old classic.

Monday Maps #11: A Forge

March 30, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Today’s #MondayMap comes from the ArtStation page of the very talented Guillaume Tavernier. Unlike some of the building plans I’ve shared in recent weeks, his work is all fantasy, and ideal for gaming. Use the following links to check his work out and support him:

ArtStation

Patreon

Kickstarter

Guillaume’s Fantasy Maps blog

 

Copyright Guillaume Tavernier. Use the links above to support his work.

 

Guillaume’s map keys are in French, but we Anglophones can figure them out with a little help from Google Translate or a French-English dictionary. For example, the key above reads as follows:

  1. (Main) room
  2. Foyer (possibly a typo for fourneau, “furnace”)
  3. Storeroom
  4. Stables
  5. Smith’s bedroom
  6. Storeroom (although réserve can also mean “sanctuary,” so perhaps this private balcony is the smith’s relaxation area)
  7. Apprentices’ rooms

 

A forge or smithy is a common location in fantasy adventures, where Our Heroes might go to have equipment repaired or to have some custom piece made. The village smith was a respected member of the community, and can be a useful friend to make. He (or she – there were plenty of female smiths in history, and there should be even more in fantasy settings) will know plenty about what goes on locally, and can provide introductions to everyone important in the local area.

 

And of course, it’s not just player characters who engage a smith’s services. Here are a few ideas for adventure hooks, and I’m sure you can come up with more. If you do, why not share them with the other readers by dropping them in the Comments section at the bottom of the page?

 

  • The villain’s evil plan requires an unusual piece of equipment, and the local smith has been engaged to make it. Designs, prototypes, and work in progress are clues that may help Our Heroes anticipate the plan and take steps to thwart it.

 

  • The greatest smiths in most fantasy worlds are the dwarves, and they are very protective of their secrets. Stolen designs or techniques could make a human or halfling smith rich, and the local dwarven community very angry. Adventurers might be hired to find stolen manuals, materials, and designs or other evidence in advance of a court case or some more direct punitive action.

 

  • Medieval guilds defended their members’ rights fiercely – or, to look at it another way, they established a closed monopoly of their particular craft or trade in a city, town, or county. The same could very well be true in a fantasy world, especially a low fantasy setting such as the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. A smith’s forge could become a battle zone if he had the support of the local community and either refused to join the guild or refused their orders to shut down. The guild might mount a campaign of harassment or hire rogues to sabotage the illicit forge. If matters come to a head, the PCs might find themselves involved in a Seven Samurai style defense against a mob of hired thugs.

 

Whatever the story may be, a forge is an interesting place to stage a combat, full of unusual hazards and weapons of opportunity such as shovels of hot coals. For inspiration, watch the forge fight scene in the 2003 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

 

I’ll be back next Monday with another map, or possibly something else. Until then, have a good week, and may you and yours stay healthy.

 

 

Zoats: From Warhammer to 40K (and back again)

March 28, 2020 6 comments

 

 

A little while ago, I wrote a post about the Ambull, a Warhammer 40,000 creature that had a (very) short career in WFRP. I was inspired in part by the Ambull’s reappearance in Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress, and back in January Games Workshop revealed a new Zoat miniature for the same game.

 

The Zoat’s history in Warhammer and 40K is a troubled one. Its origins are tied up with those of the Fimir, which the excellent Luke Maciak discussed in a post on his Terminally Incoherent blog a few years ago.

 

In short, Bryan Ansell came in one day with a sketch of a Zoat, and wanted the creatures added to WFRP as a new race which would be distinctive and unique to Warhammer. We already had Warriors of Chaos and the recently-released Skaven, so we writers thought Warhammer and WFRP were pretty safe on that score, and to be honest we didn’t find the sketch too inspiring. By the way, I vaguely remember that Bryan put a note on the sketch giving the pronunciation as “Zow-at.” I don’t know if anyone else spotted that at the time, but we all pronounced the name to rhyme with “goat” and as far as I know everyone else has done the same ever since.

 

Bryan was not discouraged by our lukewarm response to his idea. He told us that Zoats would have to go in, or we would have to come up with something else that satisfied the same requirements. That was when Jes Goodwin, Tony Ackland, and I began to develop the Fimir.

 

 

WFRP1

Zoats from the WFRP 1st edition rulebook. Left: Bob Naismith. Right: Tony Ackland.

 

To be on the safe side, I also wrote Zoats up for the WFRP 1st edition rulebook. Perhaps some memory of The Dark Crystal was rattling about in my brain at the time, because I ended up making them reclusive forest mystics and possible Wood Elf allies. Rules for Zoat allied contingents appeared in Ravening Hordes for Warhammer 2nd edition and Warhammer Armies for 3rd edition, but they never really caught on and by 4th edition Warhammer they were gone. They reappeared in the Storm of Magic supplement for Warhammer 8th edition in 2011, but never re-established themselves firmly in the lore of the Old World.

 

Warhammer Armies

Zoats from Warhammer Armies.

 

 

Zoats did rather better in Warhammer 40,000. The masters for the slow-selling fantasy miniatures were given face masks and futuristic weapons, and they got a new backstory making them a servitor race of the Tyranids. More on their 40K career can be found on the Warhammer 40,000 wiki, and of course that is how they came to Blackstone Fortress, in the form of a single miniature.

 

zoat-2020-1

The new Blackstone Fortress Zoat.

 

 

I don’t expect Zoats will reappear in Game Workshop’s reboot of the Old World setting, or in anything Cubicle 7 publishes for WFRP. Still, for those who may be interested I have done a quick WFRP 4th edition profile for them, based on the entry in the WFRP 1st edition rulebook. Let me have your thoughts. Also let me know if you feel inspired to use Zoats in a WFRP adventure, or if you know of any appearance in an official Warhammer or WFRP publication that I have missed.

 

Needless to say, what follows is in no way official and should be considered a fan work. No challenge is intended to copyrights or trademarks held by Games Workshop, Cubicle 7, or anyone else.

 


 

ZOATS

 

WFRP1_RulebookIn many parts of the Old World, Zoats are regarded as creatures of legend. They are solitary by nature, living in the depths of the most ancient forests. Despite their bulk, they are quiet and reclusive, and can move through the densest undergrowth with hardly a sound. Occasionally, they have dealings with the Wood Elves, and on rare occasions they have been known to make contact with Humans. It is said that they strive to keep the forests free of monsters such as Beastmen and Goblinoids. Ancient Elvish songs tell of single Zoats coming to the aid of beleaguered Wood Elf settlements.

 

Zoats are centauroid in appearance, standing some six feet high and eight feet long. Heavy plates of fused scales cover their shoulders, back, and hindquarters. Their heads are reptilian in appearance, with a broad, slightly domed skull, large eyes, and a wide mouth that gives them a wry expression. Colour ranges from dark brown through maroon to purple. They do not wear clothing or armour.

 

Their characteristic weapon is a long, two-handed mace whose tip is a cylinder of black stone bound in a silvery metal. The head is carved with strange runes that are indecipherable by other races. All Zoats seem to speak a common grinding, rumbling tongue; they may also speak Eltharin and occasionally the local Human language.

 

M WS BS S T I Ag Dex Int WP Fel W
7 59 25 50 50 50 25 43 45 43 40 19

 

Traits: Arboreal, Armour 3 (body/hindquarters, Armour 1 (elsewhere), Night Vision, Size (Large), Stride, Tracker, Weapon +8

 

Optional: Spellcaster (Amber)

 

Zoat Mace

Price Enc Availability Reach Damage Qualities and Flaws
N/A 3 Exotic 3 +SB+6 Damaging, Impact1, Pummel, Unbreakable, Tiring2

 

1. A Zoat Mace wielded by a spellcaster is normally inscribed with a mystical rune that gives it the Impact Quality.

 

2. Only if the wielder’s SB is 3 or less.

 

Detlef Sierck Presents: Mostellaria (The Haunted House), by Plautus

March 25, 2020 2 comments

Borrowed from the Long Island Press. Uncredited.

 

You have probably never heard of Titus Maccius Plautus. He lived in Rome in the second century BCE, when it was still a republic, and he wrote farces. Shakespeare stole his play The Brothers Menaechmus and called it A Comedy of Errors, and Molière stole The Pot of Gold for his play L’Avare (“The Miser”). The musical (and movie) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum combined elements from several of Plautus’s plays, and the 1963 London production starred Frankie Howerd, whose TV comedy series Up Pompeii was almost certainly inspired by it.

 

I discovered Plautus in the mid-70s, reading his plays in translation as part of a side-project from my Latin class. It was a golden age for farce and low comedy in Britain, with the Carry On films on television every weekend, or so it seemed, and TV shows like Up Pompeii, Are You Being Served?, On the Buses, and others holding out against the more surreal comedy stylings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies. Discovering Plautus and his fellow Classical farceurs Terence and Menander was an eye-opening experience, proving that farce is eternal – and that there’s no such thing as a new story.

 

Mostellaria (“The Haunted House”) has a timeless setup. With his father out of town, young Philolaches is hosting an epic rager – and Dad returns early. There’s no time to stop the party and clear everyone out, so it carries on unabated while a resourceful servant named Tranio intercepts his master.

 

Tranio spins the best lie he can think of: the house is haunted. The merry din from inside is really the moans and screams of tortured souls, and the sounds of breaking crockery and furniture are violent poltergeist manifestations. An inconvenient money-lender has to be explained away, and other obstacles are overcome before the truth comes out.

 

Many English translations of Mostellaria are available, including this free one from Project Gutenberg. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is available on multiple streaming services, and among its many other attractions it features the immortal Buster Keaton in one of his last roles as the returning father, Erronius.

 

While A Funny Thing combined it with plots and characters from several of Plautus’s other plays, the basic idea of Mostellaria could make an entertaining one-shot adventure in an urban setting. The PCs are friends of a young noble, or they need to curry favor with him for some reason. As the party rages on, ever louder and more obvious, they must devise an explanation to save their patron from his father’s wrath, and maintain it in the face of all manner of problems from late-arriving guests to impatient creditors. In a fantasy setting, a real ghost might provide a plot twist, as the party literally wakes the dead and the outraged spirits of family ancestors must be pacified.

 

What other plots and incidents would you add to turn The Haunted House into a full-fledged “Rough Nights” adventure? Drop your ideas in the comments section below. Meanwhile, Monday Maps #8 has some plans and elevations of noble mansions that you might find useful.

 

Other Detlef Sierck Productions

The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson

 

About Detlef Sierck

Detlef Sierck, the greatest dramatist of his day, was created by Kim Newman (under the pesudonym Jack Yeovil) for the Warhammer novel DrachenfelsHe made guest appearances in Jack Yeovil’s Genevieve Undead and William King’s Skavenslayer, and has appeared in two products for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: the Warhammer Companion for  WFRP 1st edition and Rough Nights and Hard Days for WFRP 4th edition.

Although Sierck is a part of Warhammer’s Old World, the plays and other sources in this series can serve as inspiration for almost any roleplaying game, in almost any kind of setting.

Monday Maps #10: Bridge and Toll Houses

March 23, 2020 2 comments

 

The Enemy in Shadows Companion for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay includes a chapter on the Road Wardens who protect the Empire’s highways and collect tolls. Road travel can be an entertaining and challenging part of adventuring in almost any fantasy world, and toll houses are an interesting class of location.

 

They are hybrid buildings, partly accommodation for the toll keeper and their family and partly a stronghold built to withstand attacks by bandits and others who want to get their hands on the cash inside. In heavily-frequented areas, they can be the size of small castles, able to house a garrison or to act as a waystation and supply base for local forces, perhaps including a cell or two for arrested miscreants on their way to the local town for trial and execution.

 

Toll houses are most often placed in strategic locations such as road junctions or river bridges. Here is one from 19th century Germany, on one end of a bridge. Click the image for a larger version.

 

 

From the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin, via Europeana.eu

 

Some toll houses may incorporate arches over the road like city gates, which I covered in an earlier post. Here is a more rustic-looking building:

 

By Park Hwanhee, via Artstation.

 

Some may form part of a city’s walls and gates, like the Monnow Bridge that protects one of the entrances into the Welsh town of Monmouth. This arrangement makes a perfect customs barrier, although it may lead to serious delays at busy times, such as a market day when nearby farmers bring their crops and livestock to market.

 

monnowbridge

 

An encounter at a toll house can take many forms: here are a few ideas, but I’m sure you can think of many more.

  • Heroic outlaws might try to liberate taxes wrung from the oppressed local peasants, or lawful adventurers might help the beleaguered officials fight off an attack by bandits or monsters.
  • Perhaps bandits have already taken the place over, added some improvised upgrades to its fortification, and started imposing their own “unofficial” taxes on all who pass by.
  • Someone might need to be rescued from the cells.
  • If the toll keepers are corrupt, a second set of books would provide proof and help Our Heroes restore justice – if they can be found and brought to a sympathetic magistrate or local lord.
  • Perhaps the toll keepers are prejudiced, overtaxing those of a particular race, nation, or other class, and the PCs have been sent to investigate after complains were made to the local lord.
  • Cultists might have intercepted a vital treasure on the road and turned the toll house into a makeshift temple for an unspeakable ritual.

 

I’ll be back next Monday with another map – or something else. Have a good week!

Great Cats and Elven Beastfriends for WFRP4

March 19, 2020 5 comments

Those of you who have seen the Enemy in Shadows Companion for WFRP 4th edition will have seen a mention of “great cats” in the chapter “On the Road.” This little encounter features a werecat as well – a creature never seen before or since in Warhammer. It all dates back to the very first days of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in late 1986.

I’ve blogged about “On the Road” before, and if you are interested in why and how I wrote this piece you can read all about it here. As the Warhammer setting developed, werewolves and other were-creatures disappeared: to the best of my knowledge, the last mention of a lycanthrope in an official Warhammer publication was in a WFRP 1st edition adventure called “The Howling Season,” published in the Warhammer Companion (which Cubicle 7 has just made available in electronic form). That was published by Flame in 1990.

Lycanthropes in the Old World are a subject for another day, when I have more time than I do today. But since Andy Law just posted an intriguing short article on cats in the Old World – complete with a Henchman career – I thought I’d take a moment to tell you what I know about the great cats of the Old World’s forests.

It started, like most things Warhammer, with a miniatures ad in White Dwarf.

Image result for citadel elf animal keepers

Game stats for Warhammer 3rd edition appeared in Warhammer Armies, with a name doubtless inspired by a fantasy movie from 1982.

Beastmasters

I made sure that the 1st edition WFRP rulebook covered all of these beasts, including the cats. I imagined markings like those of a European wildcat (Felis silvestris), but a size and shape somewhere between cheetah and mountain lion, like the miniatures.

WFRP1 cat

…and I wrote up a Beastfriend career for Wood Elves which appeared in the Warhammer Companion (did I mention that you can get this rarest of WFRP supplements in PDF form? I’m sure I did.) which was reprinted in Apocrypha Now.

Beastfriend illo

And there it ended. The great cats disappeared from Warhammer lore and were forgotten. When the Enemy in Shadows Companion went to Games Workshop for approval, the mention of great cats raised some eyebrows because no one remembered them. A small text box was added to the 4th edition version of “On the Road” for the benefit of surprised readers, along with a stat box for the cats themselves. (Sorry, I’m not going to violate copyright and show it here, but then you’ll already have it in your copy of the Enemy in Shadows Companion – or the one you’ve been meaning to buy, right? Right?)

Well, then, all this is very interesting, but who cares, really? I suppose it depends on whether you like cats, or Wood Elf careers, or both. One day I hope I’ll get round to writing up a Beastfriend career for WFRP 4th edition, but until then you can improvise one.

Start by creating a Wood Elf Scout or Hunter character (or some other career, at the GM’s option) with suitably high scores in Animal Training and possible Charm Animal and Animal Care. If these skills are not available within the career path, follow the Training rules on page 199 of the WFRP rulebook.

Next, create the beast using the stat block from the Enemy in Shadows Companion (What? You still haven’t got a copy? Do I have to stop being subtle?) and run it through the Henchman career in Andy’s blog post.

If you prefer a Beastfriend with a hound, Andy’s got dogs pretty well covered here. For bears and boars, you can find base stats in the Bestiary of the WFRP rulebook. After that, you can either design your own Henchman career, or use the Trained Trait to cover the beast’s abilities.

What do you think? If you design and/or play a Beastfriend using these improvised rules, comment below and let me know how well it worked – or didn’t work. Meanwhile, I will add a 4th edition version of the Beastfriend to my long, long list of things to get round to when I have the time.

Monday Maps #9: A Town Hall

March 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Across most of medieval Europe, the towns and their guilds won a long fight for independence from the feudal nobility. As trade began to drive economies and the merchant class grew richer, some towns were able to buy royal charters from the king, exempting them from the feudal pyramid and placing them directly under royal jurisdiction. Instead of a feudal lord, these towns were ruled by a council made up of senior guild members, and instead of a ducal palace, the grandest building in town was usually the council house, also known as the town hall.

Just like a ducal palace, a town hall was designed to show off the wealth and power of its owners – in this case, the town council and the trade guilds that underpin it. Tall towers and lavish architectural decoration are the order of the day.

 

town_hall_complete_plan_by_built4ever_d5mtci2-fullview

A medieval town hall by Francois Beauregard, from Built4Ever on DeviantArt.com. Click to link to the Deviant Art page.

 

Within a typical town hall one might find to expect two council chambers, one large and open to the public and one smaller and private. There would be offices for the council members, each with a couple of smaller adjoining offices for their clerks and other staff. The town’s archives would occupy a good-sized room, part library and part document store. A lobby and reception area would be staffed by one or more doorkeepers who act as a first line of defense, telling visitors that they need to make an appointment and directing those with appointments to the appropriate office. The town’s bureaucratic apparatus can be expanded as necessary, with more offices in proportion.

In most small to medium-sized towns, the town hall also accommodated the town’s courts and judiciary, with one or two courtrooms, judges’ chambers, offices for the clerks of court, an archive for the court records, and perhaps even a couple of cells. “A Day at The Trials,” the second chapter in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplement Rough Nights and Hard Daysincludes a map of a town courthouse.

rathaus

 

Town halls and town councils can be important in urban adventures,presenting Our Heroes with a web of politics to negotiate as they seek the necessary authorization or information to pursue whatever adventure has brought them to town. Small-town politics can be every bit as vicious, corrupt, and self-serving as those of a nation, which is why I have always found it grimly satisfying that the German word for council house is “Rathaus.” True, “Rat” does mean “council” rather than “rodent” (deriving from the same ancient root as the Old English word “rede,” meaning advice or discussion) – but even so….

Tune in next week for another #MondayMap – or perhaps a Monday Something Else Entirely – and follow my blog so you are automatically notified when a new post goes up.

 

Have a good week!