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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.

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

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