The Ambull: From 40K to WFRP (again)

March 14, 2020 4 comments

 

The Ambull is a beast that originally comes from the Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader rulebook. It was adapted for WFRP in an adventure called “Terror in the Darkness,” which appeared in White Dwarf 108 (December 1988). Back in 2014 I posted about this adventure, and the series which it was intended to kick off.

 

Ambull 1

The Ambull from 1988. Art by Tony Ackland from the Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader rulebook. Miniature by Citadel Miniatures.

 

 

That was the Ambull’s one and only appearance in WFRP to date, although the beast has made a comeback in a Warhammer Quest product titled The Dreaded Ambull. There’s a new and terrifying miniature to go with it, and now seems like a good time to update the Ambull for WFRP 4th edition.

 

The Ambull in 2019 (Games Workshop)

 

 

The Ambull

 

The Ambull is a large, barrel-chested creature with an ape-like stance. Both arms and legs end in iron-hard claws used for tunnelling through stone. It spends most of its time underground, preying on other subterranean creatures. As it moves, it creates vast tunnel systems·of remarkable complexity. Ambulls are uncomfortable in large, open spaces and do not enter them willingly. Stalking and ambush are their favourite tactics, closing rapidly with prey in order to minimize exposure to spells and ranged attacks.

 

The Ambull attacks with two claws and one bite. It can divide these attacks between two Average sized opponents if it wishes, attacking one target with one claw and using its other two attacks against a second target.

 

M WS BS S T I Ag Dex Int WP Fel W
6 50 50 50 50 20 20 14 43 20 38

Traits: Armour 2, Bestial, 2 Claws +8, Dark Vision, Enclosed Fighter (as Talent), Jaws +8, Size (Large), Tunneller (see below), Tunnel Rat (as Talent)

Optional: Armour 3, Belligerent, Brute, Hardy, Immunity to Psychology, Size (Enormous)

 

New Trait: Tunneller

The creature can dig through soil at 2/3 its normal M score, and rock at 1/3 normal M.

 

In “Terror in the Darkness,” the lone Ambull was said to have come to the Warhammer world from its 40K home on the Deathworld of Luther MacIntyre IX by some unknown means. At that time there was a strand of Games Workshop lore, never fully explored, which posited that the Warhammer world might be a remote feral world in the 40K universe. You can use that explanation if you like, or you might decide that Ambulls are native to the underground parts of the Old World, and the existence of their species is well known to the Dwarves, the Skaven, and other underground peoples.

 

Bling the Third: Poison Rings

March 12, 2020 3 comments

 

The poison ring. It’s one of the oldest trick rings in fiction, but who knew there were so many different designs?

 

Poison rings

Poison rings from various online sources. All images copyright of their respective owners.

 

And of course, you can put other things than poison in the secret compartment. Healing balm, perhaps (though it had better be magical for such a small amount to be effective), or even a secret message, in very fine writing on very thin paper: no bigger than the slip of paper that might be tied to the leg of a carrier pigeon. Larger cargo might be carried if it is magically shrunk down – though things could get interesting if the spell is dispelled or wears off to early!

No doubt ingenious players will be able to think of many other uses for such a tiny hidden space. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures for inspiration, and search terms like “poison ring” and “secret compartment ring” will find many more images, and quite a few vendors.

So the next time you are at a gathering, keep an eye on your drink and watch the hands of your fellow guests!

 

Poison rings 2

Poison rings from various online sources. All images copyright of their respective owners.

 

A More Serious Point

Sad to say, that last advice is as necessary in real life as it is in a roleplaying game. While you’re Googling poison rings, search for “date rape awareness,” too: I’ve added a few links below.

Date Rape Drugs: The Office on Women’s Health (U.S.)

RAINN: The largest U.S. organization campaigning against sexual violence

Sexual Assault hotlines in the U.S.

Rape Crisis England and Wales (UK)

Look after yourselves and each other, and let’s work to create a time when warnings like this – and organizations like these – will no longer be needed.

 

 

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.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.

 

Monday Maps #8: A Noble Mansion

March 9, 2020 1 comment

Many games present players with a mix of challenges, and a noble’s mansion can be as rewarding – and as dangerous, in its own way – as a dungeon or wilderness.

A mansion usually falls into three parts.

The public rooms consist of a foyer, a ballroom, a formal dining room, and one or more lesser reception rooms. These are almost always on the ground floor.

The family’s apartments are upstairs, and the suites belonging to senior family members usually include a dressing room and closet as well as a bedroom and an anteroom or study in which visitors can be received privately.

The third part of the house belongs to the servants. Servants’ quarters are usually on the very top floor, whose roofline is often constructed so that there is no sign of a floor there. A separate set of stairs communicates with the basement level, where the kitchens and storerooms are located. Hidden doors, or very discreet ones, give access to the other floors.

 

Mansion1

 

This 19th-century drawing, from the Architecture Museum of Berlin Technical University, is labeled Jagdhaus, or hunting lodge, but it would do very well for the country seat of a minor noble family or the town house of a major one. Only the ground floor is shown in plan view, but this is sufficient to show the load-bearing walls. Other floors will use the same basic plan, with additional dividing walls to create smaller rooms: cosy and private on the family’s floor, and cramped in the servant’s quarters. The small spiral staircase in the north-west corner will do very well for a servants’ stair.

 

Many more drawings from the Architecture Museum’s collection, covering a wide range of buildings, may be found on the Europeana Collections web site. Some are more useful in a fantasy game than others, but browsing through is interesting and can inspire all kinds of ideas.

 

Mansion2

 

This 19th-century lithograph, and a small selection of others, can be found at the Normany Then and Now web site, and give some other examples of how a house like this can be laid out. Search terms like “historic mansion plan” and “fantasy mansion plan” will find you plenty of others. Good hunting!

 

 

Making Monsters: Chupacabra

March 7, 2020 1 comment

Thanks to everyone for your responses to my earlier posts on the Jersey Devil and the Water Leaper. I’m continually developing my system-agnostic monster description format, and I’m grateful to everyone who has helped so far. Soon I hope to make the official #secretprojects announcement and you’ll see what my plans are, and how you can help further. Meanwhile, as always, I would love to know how you think the format could be improved. Let me know in the comments section.

The chupacabra (Spanish: “goat sucker”) is a creature with a fairly short history. According to Wikipedia, it was first reported in Puerto Rico in 1995. Since then, sightings and attacks on livestock have been reported from Maine to Chile and as far afield as Russia and India.

In the real world, the mystery has been solved. The sightings were of coyotes or dogs suffering from severe mange, which altered their normal appearance. I blogged about that some time ago: here’s a link.

In a fantasy or horror setting, though the Chupacabra could be a completely new kind of creature, just as the various reports suggest. Or one could take a middle-road approach. A Chupacabra was once a dog, a coyote, or some other kind of canid, but it was changed by exposure to toxic waste, or a virus (perhaps the dreaded zombie virus), or through exposure to particular magical energies, or some other force. The possibilities are endless, but I have tried to cover a broad range in this description.

 

The Chupacabra

 

Sometimes called goat-suckers, these predators are as big as a medium-sized dog. Their skin is grayish and slightly loose. Their backs are sharply ridged and some have spines erupting from their vertebrae.

They stalk the night, attacking livestock under cover of darkness. They retreat from bright light, and will not normally attack humans unless cornered. However, it has been known for a pack of the creatures to attack a lone child or a sick or wounded traveler.

The bite of a Chupacabra will infect any canid with a virus. Transformation will begin in 24-48 hours and last for 2-3 days. First, the unfortunate victim becomes savage and unpredictable, losing the ability to recognize its former friends and owners. Then it loses its fur and the skin of its face draws back, leaving it with a permanent snarl. Unless shut in somewhere, the new Chupacabra will abandon its former life to join its maker – or to live out the rest of its existence alone.

 

 


 

 

RANGE

chupacabra_padayachee

Image by Alvin Padayachee. Wikimedia Commons

Real World: Puerto Rico, North and South America. Normally alone.

Fantasy World: Warm temperate and high desert. Lone or pack (2d6).

 

TYPE: Animal

 

SIZE: Small (3ft/1m long)

 

MOVEMENT

Run: 50 feet (15m) per round

 

ATTRIBUTES

Strength: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

Dexterity/Agility: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

Constitution: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

Intelligence: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

Willpower: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

Hit Points/Health: Animal, small (e.g. medium dog, coyote, wolf)

 

ATTACKS

Bite: Animal, small to medium (e.g. medium dog, wolf)

 

WEAKNESSES

Light Sensitivity (Optional): Repelled by daylight and strong light sources.

 

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Spines (Optional): Sharp spines, up to 1 foot/30 cm long, erupt from the creature’s vertebrae. They confer a slight armor advantage against attacks from that direction. Any character trying to grapple the creature must make an appropriate skill or attribute test (wrestling, dexterity/agility, or similar) each round: failure means the character suffers damage as from a successful dagger or short sword attack.

Virus (Optional): Bite carries a virus, requiring the victim to make a constitution save or similar roll or suffer effects according to their species. Canids begin to transform into Chupacabras. Humans may transform into the humanoid form of the creature (see below). Other species suffer wound infection, fever, and/or other symptoms according to what the chosen game’s rules support.

Undead (Optional): The Chupacabra has all the normal traits and weaknesses associated with corporeal undead in the chosen rule system. If in doubt, use zombies as a model. Its bite carries a form of the zombie virus. If a saving throw vs. disease or other suitable test is failed, a canid will become a Chupacabra and a human or humanoid will become a zombie.

 

Humanoid Chupacabras

 

Chupacabras

Image by user LeCire. Wikimedia Commons.

A human (or humanoid) bitten by a Chupacabra may be transformed by the virus that the creature carries. All hair falls out, and the skin becomes warty, dry, and scaly – not reptilian as in some artists’ impressions, although it may appear reptilian at a distance in bad light. Eyes become deeply sunk in the sockets, giving an appearance of large, black eyes in poor light. Spines may erupt from the back.

The character’s mental attribute scores drop to the same level as those of a canid Chupacabra, and most mental skills are lost. He or she loses all memories and ceases to recognize friends or family. Fear and hunger are the only drives. All saves against fear suffer a severe penalty (-30 in a percentile system). The victim gains night vision at the same level as a dog or cat, but daylight or equivalent illumination causes severe discomfort and fear.

The unfortunate victim keeps to the shadows, avoiding all kinds of threats and surviving by scavenging and killing small livestock such as chickens, sheep, and goats.

There is no known cure for the condition, either in humans or in animals. Researching the condition and developing a cure will be a very difficult task, requiring a high level of medical and/or traditional healing skills. At the GM’s option, powerful healing or curse-removing magic may be effective.

 

 

 


 

Links

Wikipedia

Cryptid Wiki

Humanoid Chupacabra: a d20 System adaptation

A 5e adaptation

NPR discussion of the real-world answer to the mystery

 

Monday Maps #7: Another Interesting Patreon


Jon Hodgson has drawn maps for several tabletop RPGs, and now he is creating maps for everyone via his Patreon campaign. Here is just one example: the quality speaks for itself.

Click on the image to go to Jon’s Patreon page. He is well worth supporting.

Shop Downstairs Map Plain

Making Monsters: Leap Day Edition

February 29, 2020 2 comments

Thanks to everyone for your response to my earlier post on the Jersey Devil. Before too long, it will be getting and update and expansion as I work toward the ideal format for a system-agnostic monster description. Soon I hope to make the official #secretprojects announcement and you’ll see what my plans are, and how you can help.

Here’s another monster – and today being Leap Day, I’ve gone for the Water Leaper from Welsh folklore. I’ve changed the format a little, and as always I would love to know how it could be improved. Let me know in the comments section.

 

The Water Leaper

 

Water leapers, known as llamhigyn y dwr (pronounced roughly “thlamheegin uh duwr”) in their native Wales, look something like large toads with wings (sometimes bat-like, and sometimes like those of a flying fish) instead of front legs and a long, sinuous tail instead of back legs. Their broad mouths are full of very sharp teeth. Their bodies are 2-3 feet long, with tails twice as long again.

They will attack almost anything, and regularly destroy the nets and lines of local fishermen. They also attack swimmers and livestock drinking at the water’s edge.

Water leapers have been known to try to knock fishermen out of their boats by deliberately leaping at them. They can emit a piercing shriek which can startle an unwary fisherman or animal, making their attack easier. In the water, up to 12 of the creatures can attack a human-sized victim at the same time.

Their pack attacks show a rudimentary organization. For instance, they may spread out and attack a target from all sides at once. One creature may stand a little way off and shriek just as the others are swimming or leaping to the attack.

Water leapers can live on lake fish, but their appetites are so voracious that they quickly deplete the fish stocks in any lake they inhabit. They seem to prefer the meat of sheep, cattle, and humans. They have no natural enemies apart from enraged fishermen and deadlier water monsters such as lake worms and water horses.

 


 

Water_leaper

Painting by Brian Froud. Used without permission: no challenge to copyright intended.

 

RANGE

Real World: Wales: swamps and ponds. Lone or pack (3d4).

Fantasy World: Temperate marshes and ponds. Lone or pack (3d4).

 

TYPE: Animal

 

SIZE: Small (3ft/1m long)

 

MOVEMENT

Swim: 25 feet (7.5m) per round

Glide: 30 feet (9m) per round. Must spend at least 2 consecutive rounds swimming before being able to fly.

Crawl: 5 feet (1.5m) per round.

 

ATTRIBUTES

Strength: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Dexterity/Agility: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Constitution: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Intelligence: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Willpower: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Hit Points/Health: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

 

ATACKS

Bite: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Buffet: Only usable when gliding. Ignores armour. Knockdown, based on creature’s Strength, resisted by victim’s Dexterity/Agility. No damage, but the second and subsequent hits in a round cause a cumulative penalty to the victim’s Dexterity/Agility as the victim fights to keep their balance. Used to knock victims out of boats and into the water.

Shriek: Startle, based on creature’s Willpower, resisted by victim’s Willpower. Range/Area of Effect 30 yard/meter radius centered on creature’s position. Startled characters act last in the next turn and suffer a mild (e.g. 10%) penalty to all actions. Critical success on the creature’s part, or critical failure on the victim’s part, causes a Fear result in addition.

 

WEAKNESSES

No special weaknesses.

 

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Stinger (Optional): Some reports of water leapers give them a barb or stinger at the end of their tail. This gives the water leaper one additional attack per round, causing damage as a dagger. In the case of a stinger, the attack also causes mild poison damage, like the venom of a small, mildly venomous snake.

 


 

Links

Cryptid Wiki

A d20 System adaptation

A 5e adaptation

 

Another Bit of Bling

February 26, 2020 4 comments

While I was looking at images for my previous post on armillary rings, I came across this image. The ring has four secret doors covering a design inside – something like an advent calendar.

Compartment Ring

 

Here is a link to an article on compartment rings, as they are called. It seems they were quite fashionable at one time.

There are many uses for this type of ring in a fantasy roleplaying game. As well as covering the name of a lover (a secret lover, perhaps, constituting proof of an illicit affair that could get the wearer beaten, locked up, or even killed), a compartment ring might hide the insignia of a secret organization, and act as proof of membership. This organization might be a spy ring (spy ring! … oh, please yourselves), an elite secret agency serving a monarch or powerful noble, a society of forward-thinking academics whose ideas might get them into trouble – or, of course, an evil cult or a revolutionary movement.

 

Single message

 

A player character might be given an identifying ring like this by a patron, or – arguably more fun – they might loot it from a fallen foe (like Kastor Lieberung in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure Enemy in Shadowsfor instance) and find themselves plunged into a world of intrigue and deception. In the right circumstances, showing the ring’s secret may save the party’s lives; in the wrong circumstances, it might condemn them to arrest, torture, and execution.

 

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.

Poison Rings: An old classic.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.