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Let Us Bling: A Ring for Clerics

June 29, 2020 6 comments

I haven’t put up a bling post for a while, so here’s something that Pinterest randomly threw my way: a ring that unfolds into a tiny portable shrine.

Clearly, any cleric in a fantasy rpg would want one of these (with the iconography of their own religion, of course), but what might it do? Here are some thoughts:

When the ring is opened and the wearer is praying – including casting divine magic and using other clerical abilities – they gain any benefits from being at a shrine or temple. These vary from one game to another, but when a game allows them they often take the form of a bonus to prayer rolls and/or a boost to the effectiveness of spells and miracles.

Extending this thinking, the wearer might also gain the benefits of being on consecrated ground while the ring is open. This is equivalent to a protection spell against evil creatures, demons and devils, undead, and servants of the deity’s rival gods.

Opening the ring takes a full action, and is a delicate process. If the character is wearing gloves, or is being attacked or is otherwise under stress, a Dexterity check might be required to open the ring. The test can be repeated each round until successful, but a critical or other serious failure might damage the ring, rendering it useless until it is repaired and re-consecrated. The ring might offer some lesser protections when it is closed, and when it is worn by a character who is not a cleric.

In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, this kind of ring might have the following effects:

Open or Closed: Armour 1 (Divine) against attacks by any creature with the Daemonic or Undead Traits.

Open Only:

+1 bonus to Bless and Invoke (lore of the ring’s deity). If the wearer lacks either or both of these Talents, it is gained with a score of 1.

+10 bonus to Pray Tests addressed to the ring’s patron deity.

Fear 2 to followers of Chaos and other enemies of the ring’s patron deity.

It’s possible to design variants for a specific deity, which offer specific abilities and protections according to the deity’s particular interests.

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.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.

Eye Rings: Protection, divination, gaze weapons, and more.

Miscellany: No theme, but lots of possibilities.

Monday Gun Day Part 3: Hidden Weapons

May 25, 2020 2 comments

Any roleplayer who has seen any of Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexico trilogy” (El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico) has probably longed for a character who carries an arsenal of hidden weapons. They are not the first. Just as much ingenuity has been devoted to finding ways of concealing and disguising firearms as went into the development of the combination weapons covered in the last instalment of this series. Here are a few examples:

It seems that key guns were quite popular with jailers for a while. In addition to unlocking a cell door – for the key was quite functional – they gave one-shot protection against any prisoner who tried to overpower the guard and break out.

Here is a 19th-century gun disguised as a pocket watch.

These small-caliber weapons are designed for use at very close range and their damage ratings are lower than those of the smallest pistols in the average rules set.

Larger guns can be built into walking sticks, like these:

These weapons can be larger caliber – say, up to .50″ without looking unusually thick for a walking stick. They are reasonably effective at short range, but lacking sights and shoulder stocks their performance drops off sharply as distance increases. And before the late 19th century, they are all single-shot weapons, awkward to reload. For these reasons, most gentlemen preferred a sword-cane or a simple “loaded stick” with a lead-weighted pommel that turned it into a light mace. I may post about weapons like these some time in the future.

The spies of the Cold War, both real and fictional, were equipped with guns disguised as a wide range of everyday items. Pens were popular, and so were cigarette packets, lighters, and purses – like the Frankenau purse revolver from the 1880s, for example:

These later weapons were usually .22 caliber, sometimes .22 magnum, and again they were for use at very short range.

There’s one more hidden gun that I saw in a book, years ago, but try as I might I have been unable to find a picture of it online. That’s a shame, because it would be perfect for a game like WFRP, or any other game set in a world with a 17th-century level of technology. On the outside, it looks exactly like a Bible or any other heavy tome. But each cover has a pistol fixed to the inside, so you can just open the book and fire. I can only imagine the pithy lines a badass preacher or scholar character might deliver as they fire such a weapon.


More Like This

Multi-Barrel Weapons: What’s better than a gun? Lots of guns.
Combi-Weapons: Now you can bring a knife to a gunfight.

The Devil Eel, a New Monster for WFRP4

May 23, 2020 20 comments

A little while ago, I came across an intriguing story online. Someone in Australia caught a very odd-looking fish with no eyes and an almost human-looking face. I immediately thought it would be just the sort of thing that might be encountered in Chaos-affected waters, such as the River Reik below Castle Wittgenstein.

Sadly, this inspiration came too late to include the creature in the Director’s Cut of Death on the Reik or the Death on the Reik Companion, but with the second instalment in the Enemy Within campaign about to be released as a PDF, now seems like a good time.


Devil Eel Swarm

Image

Where the waters of a river or lake are polluted by the influence of Chaos, small freshwater eels may be mutated into Devil Eels. With no eyes and a bestial face, they are a disturbing sight, though few get to see them. Gathering in swarms, they attack any prey they can find with mindless savagery, and it is said they can strip a carcass to the bone in mere minutes.

MWSBSSTIAgDexIntWPFelW
44501135455

Traits: Aquatic (see below), Bestial, Bite +0, Corrupted (Minor), Fast, Frenzy, Hungry, Immunity to Psychology, Night Vision, Painless, Size (Tiny), Swarm

Optional: Infected, Mutation, Territorial, Venom (Challenging)

New Trait: Aquatic

The creature can breathe underwater, and moves at its full Movement rate in water. It cannot move on land.


More Like This

Zoats: From Warhammer to 40K (and back again)
The Ambull: From 40K to WFRP (again)
Viydagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mardagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mabrothrax: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Jabberwock: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Gargoyle: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
The Toad Dragon: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Spectral Claw: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Mud Elemental: Two Old Monsters Combined for WFRP4
Ngaaranh Spawn of Chaos: A Very Old Citadel Miniature for WFRP4
Leaping Slomm Two-Face, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Zygor Snake-Arms, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Independent Daemons for WFRP 4th Edition
Chaos Snakemen – A Forgotten Warhammer Race
Menfish – Another Lost Warhammer Race
Golems in Warhammer

Monday Maps #13: A Quick Tutorial on Caves

May 18, 2020 1 comment

Happy Monday! I hope you and yours are all staying safe.

 

I haven’t posted a Monday Map in a little while, but I came across this YouTube tutorial that is worth seeing. If you’re like me and the only things you can draw are a breath, a bath, and a conclusion, invest 1 minute and 14 seconds of your time and take a look.

 

 

Hammers and Dragons has a Facebook page here with links to a free downloadable maps, including this one. Of interest to Warhammer and WFRP fans will be the Skaven temple posted on May 7th. Here’s a small-scale preview:

 

Skaven Temple Small

 

One of the things I especially like about Hammers and Dragons is that artist Tomasz Ratajczak is teaching himself to draw, so he’s not presenting some lofty masterclass that makes the rest of us feel like idiots. And yet, his simple techniques produce results that would not look out of place in a professional publication. He’s only just getting started, but I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.

 

Links

Hammers and Dragons YouTube Channel
Hammers and Dragons Facebook page

 

Jabberwock: A Forgotten WFRP Monster

May 16, 2020 43 comments

Well, it’s not original to WFRP, of course. The beast was born in Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwockyand its image was established for all time by Sir John Tenniel’s illustration from 1897.

Nick Bibby’s Jabberwock miniature was advertised in the first Citadel Journal, which was published in Spring 1985. Following my policy of covering every Citadel miniature I could find, I wrote it up for the Bestiary chapter of the WFRP first edition rulebook.

Journal 1

Nick Bibby’s Jabberwock (right), with a Ral Partha Jabberwock mini of similar vintage.

I don’t think the Jabberwock appeared in any official Warhammer publication outside of the WFRP 1st edition rulebook, the Warhammer 3rd edition rulebook, and a handful of miniatures ads – but if you know better, drop me a comment!

Here is my re-imagining of the beast for WFRP 4th edition. Needless to say, what follows is extremely unofficial, completely optional, and does not constitute any challenge to copyrights held by Games Workshop, Cubicle 7, or anyone else.


The Jabberwock

WFRP Jabberwock

The Incursions of Chaos have produced thousands of strange creatures. Living in the deepest forests, the Jabberwock is little seen – at least, by those who live to tell of it – and it is known mainly through local rumours and the distant sound of its burbling cry.
The Jabberwock stands over 12 feet high, and can move by running on all fours or walking on its hind legs. All four limbs are equipped with sharp claws, and its mouth is armed with long, chisel-like teeth. They are very aggressive, but rather stupid.
The Jabberwock’s wings are too small to allow it to fly. It can only bounce along or jump a few feet into the air. Their flapping makes a thrumming, whiffling sound which can be disconcerting.

M WS BS S T I Ag Dex Int WP Fel W
6 79 0 55 65 20 40 15 15 85 100

Traits: Arboreal, Belligerent, Bite +9, Bounce, Claws (2) +10, Distracting (Noise), Hungry, Night Vision, Size (Enormous), Stride, Stupid, Tail +8

Optional: Corruption (Minor), Fear 1, Horns +6, Mutation, Regenerate, Stomp, Territorial, Venom (Challenging)


More Like This

Zoats: From Warhammer to 40K (and back again)
The Ambull: From 40K to WFRP (again)
Viydagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mardagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mabrothrax: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Devil Eel: A New Monster for WFRP4
Gargoyle: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
The Toad Dragon: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Spectral Claw: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Mud Elemental: Two Old Monsters Combined for WFRP4
Ngaaranh Spawn of Chaos: A Very Old Citadel Miniature for WFRP4
Leaping Slomm Two-Face, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Zygor Snake-Arms, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Independent Daemons for WFRP 4th Edition
Chaos Snakemen – A Forgotten Warhammer Race
Menfish – Another Lost Warhammer Race
Golems in Warhammer

Monday Gun Day, Part 2: Combi-Weapons

May 11, 2020 3 comments

There’s an old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight, but the painfully slow reload rates of black-powder firearms made it advisable to have a backup weapon. Some attempts were made to combine the two: bayonets became the most popular solution, but there were quite a few attempts to build pistols into melee weapons of various kinds.

These included swords:

Sword Gun

Daggers:

Dagger Gun

Axes:

Axe Gun

And warhammers.

Hammer Gun

In a roleplaying game, a combi-weapon is a one-shot firearm. Most would be pistols, though some, attached to two-handed weapons, might count as larger firearms. They reduce the time needed to switch weapons, perhaps to no time at all. However, they have some significant drawbacks:

In the first place, they are not generally available. Almost all will have to be made to order, which takes both time and money. The cost will be at least twice the sum of the cost of the two base weapons, and the same is true of the time needed.

An artisan charged with making a combi-weapon must be skilled as a gunsmith as well as a bladesmith. All skill rolls involved in making a combi-weapon carry a significant penalty.

The finished article represents the worst of both worlds. It is heavy and awkward to aim, and ill-balanced for close combat. In game terms, the very best combi-weapons, made by master artificers (even Dwarves!) can never be better than average quality. Most are inferior, and if your game system has a way to rate quality, a combi-weapon is at least two quality steps below the normal level of quality produced by the artisan who made it. There are attack penalties, an increased chance of misfires, and the weapon is weaker overall, meaning that it is more easily damaged in combat if your rules set covers damage to weapons.

That said, though, it can give a wielder the advantage of surprise. An unexpected gunshot at the start of a fight can unnerve the enemy, who will be left wondering what other tricks the character might have up his or her sleeve. Enemies will be warier, even if they don’t mean to be, adopting a more defensive, cautious stance. How this is handled in a game’s rules is a matter for the GM to decide. Especially skittish foes may have to make Fear checks to get over the surprise of a combi-weapon firing, running away if they fail.

So there you have it – and you can see why they didn’t really catch on. Still, I can imagine some players’ eyes lighting up at the thought of a sword that is also a gun, and you can have a lot of fun if the party decides to track down an artisan capable of making such a weapon and persuade them to try.

More Like This

Multi-Barrel Weapons: What’s better than a gun? Lots of guns.
Hidden Weapons: Pay attention, 007!

Mabrothrax: A Forgotten WFRP Monster

May 2, 2020 18 comments

This post completes my re-imagining of the three odd Elementals that appeared in the Third Citadel Compendium in 1985: the Life Elemental, the Death Elemental, and the Plague Elemental. In the WFRP 1st edition rulebook, I gave them different names and backstories, making them Demons (the “Daemon” spelling did not appear until Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness in 1988) affiliated with the yet-to-be-organized gods of Law and Chaos.

Plague Elemental - Compendium 3

Plague Elemental Write-up

Oddly, the Plague Elemental was put in the C29 Large Monsters range, while the other two were in C34 Elementals and Demons. However, it was written up alongside the Life and Death Elementals in that issue’s “Bellicose Bestiary” column.

For WFRP 1st edition, I invented the name Mabrothrax and gave the beast to Nurgle, the Chaos God of plagues and pestilence. It made sense at the time, but when Realms of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned defined the Daemons and followers of Nurgle in 1990, the Mabrothrax was not among them.

The Mabrothrax reappeared in 2005’s Tome of Corruption for WFRP 2nd edition as an Apparition linked to Nurgle. Visions rather than monsters, Apparitions could not be fought or stopped, existing only to warn spellcasters that they are being too reckless in their use of magic.

So that is the history of the Mabrothrax in a nutshell (apart from this metal track that turned up in the Google search). Here is my suggestion for using the creature in WFRP 4th edition. Needless to say, what follows is extremely unofficial, completely optional, and does not constitute any challenge to copyrights held by Games Workshop, Cubicle 7, or anyone else.


The MabrothraxWFRP Mabrothrax

Also known as the Steward of Filth and Nurgle’s Handmaiden, the Mabrothrax is a favoured servant of the Plaguefather, and stands outside the normal hierarchy of his Daemons.

Its origins are obscure. According to some scholars it was once a Plaguebearer, raised up by Nurgle’s favour in the same way as the Masque of Slaanesh was elevated from the ranks of the Daemonettes. Others have suggested that it was a mortal Cult Magus who was elevated for his or her devotion.

The Mabrothrax is a large, hulking humanoid with thin, spindly arms and legs equipped with razor-sharp claws. Its body is a thin bag of skin filled with a soupy mess of entrails, excrement, and decay. Its head is dominated by a massive maw filled with sharp, jutting teeth.

M WS BS S T I Ag Dex Int WP Fel W
6 90 93 100 120 100 105 90 90 120 100 92

Traits: Bite +11, Claws (2) +9, Corruption (Major), Daemonic 7+, Dark Vision, Distracting (Stench), Disease (All), Fetid Blast (see below), Infected, Size (Large), Spellcaster (Nurgle), Terror 2, Unstable

Traits

Disease (All)

As a favored one of Nurgle, the Mabrothrax carries all diseases. Whenever a victim must Test for Contraction (WFRP, page 186), roll a D100 to choose a disease randomly:

01-10 – Black Plague
11-30 – Blood Rot
31-50 – Bloody Flux
51-70 – Packer’s Pox
71-80 – Ratte Fever
81-00 – Other or roll again (GM’s choice)

Fetid Blast

Once per round, the creature can unleash a blast of pestilential air (Range 10 yards, Damage +10, Blast 5, Distract, Ignores Armour). This attack is Infected. All living creatures affected by the blast must make a Hard (-20) Willpower Test or gain one Broken Condition – two if the victim has the Acute Sense (Smell) Trait.


More Like This

Zoats: From Warhammer to 40K (and back again)
The Ambull: From 40K to WFRP (again)
Viydagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mardagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Jabberwock: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Devil Eel: A New Monster for WFRP4
Gargoyle: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
The Toad Dragon: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Spectral Claw: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Mud Elemental: Two Old Monsters Combined for WFRP4
Ngaaranh Spawn of Chaos: A Very Old Citadel Miniature for WFRP4
Leaping Slomm Two-Face, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Zygor Snake-Arms, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Independent Daemons for WFRP 4th Edition
Chaos Snakemen – A Forgotten Warhammer Race
Menfish – Another Lost Warhammer Race
Golems in Warhammer

Monday Gun Day: Multi-Barrel Weapons

April 27, 2020 4 comments

The “Bling” post on ring guns was well received, so here are a few more interesting and surprising guns for your black-powder fantasy games.

 

Before metal cartridges were invented in the 19th century, reloading was a major limiting factor on a gun’s usefulness. One idea to mitigate the problem was the development of multi-barreled weapons. They fall into two broad classes: volley guns, where all the barrels fire at once; and single-fire guns.

 

Volley Guns

 

Volley guns can do a lot of damage, but reloading takes a very long time and the recoil of so many barrels firing at once can injure the user. To make things worse, some designs allow misfires to cascade from one barrel to the others, turning the weapon into a fragmentation grenade held right by the user’s cheek. A few years ago I wrote an article on the 19th-century Nock Volley Gun for Pyramid magazine, which includes rules for GURPS.

 

Here is a video of a Nock gun firing.

 

The Nock volley gun: The seven shot 'sea-sweeper'

 

 

Duck-Foot Pistols

True to their name, duck-foot pistols have 3-5 barrels that splay out like the toes of a duck’s foot. They may be useful in a one-against-many situation – for example, a ship’s captain faced with a mutinous crew – but historically they were more intimidating than deadly. The recoil from three to five barrels whose caliber could be as much as .50 was considerable.

 

Here is a typical duck-foot, listed as .52 caliber.

Rare Flintlock "Duckfoot" 4-Barrel Pistol, c.1780 with two inch barrels in .52 calibre

Here is a video that goes into more detail.

 

With eight barrels, a mini-bayonet, and a spiked club pommel, this duck-foot certainly gives its user a lot of options!

Pin on art

 

Single-Fire Guns

 

Some single-fire guns (I don’t know if there’s a better term for a multi-barrelled firearm where the barrels fire one at a time, but if there is, please let me know!) have multiple triggers like a double-barrelled shotgun, if there are not too many barrels. They can be fired one at a time or in a both-barrels volley.

 

This pistol is three guns in one.

 

 

 

Others anticipate the design of the revolver by having a single trigger and firing mechanism, and rotating the cluster of barrels to fire them in succession. Depending on the game system, the act of moving a new barrel into line may require a short action, or it may be free. “Pepperbox” pistols, as they were called, were first made in the 1500s and by the 19th century they could have as many as 24 barrels.

 

 

While their recoil is not as dangerous as that of a volley gun, these weapons were still heavier than their single-barrelled counterparts, making them harder to raise and aim. Depending on the rules set you use, some kind of strength check might be required to avoid a penalty to hit.

 


 

For WFRP fans, Cubicle 7 recently re-released the 1st edition Warhammer Companion, which includes an article on duck-foot and other interesting gunpowder weapons. You can get it from DriveThruRPG.com. Maybe one day when I have a little more time I’ll do a new version for WFRP 4th edition.

 

More Like This

Combi-Weapons: Now you can bring a knife to a gunfight.
Hidden Weapons: Pay attention, 007!

Mardagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster

April 25, 2020 21 comments

Last week I posted about an obscure Warhammer monster called the Viydagg, also known as the Life Elemental. When the miniature was first released in 1985, it was packaged with its counterpart, the Death Elemental. Rules and stats for Warhammer 2nd edition were published in the Third Citadel Compendium, and I adapted them for WFRP in the 1st edition rulebook.

Mardagg - Compendium 3

I was writing at a time before the Warhammer mythos had become really coherent, with specific Daemons serving the four Ruinous Powers of Chaos. Like its companions, the Life Elemental and the Plague Elemental, the Death Elemental clearly couldn’t be an Elemental in the classical sense, so I renamed it the Mardagg and gave it as backstory as a servant of Khorne the Blood God. At the time, he seemed like the most logical patron.

Just two years later, though, Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness began the process of developing and organizing the lore of Chaos in Warhammer, and the Mardagg did not find a place alongside the Bloodthirsters, Bloodletters, and other servants of brass-throned Khorne. Like the Viydagg, the Mardagg spent the next thirty years in obscurity. True, there was an Incarnate Elemental of Death in the 2012 Monstrous Arcanum from Warhammer Forge, but it was a quite different beast from the Mardagg.

People seemed to like my re-imagining of the Viydagg for WRFP 4th edition, and quite a few asked if I would do the same for Mardagg as well. So here it is. Needless to say, what follows is extremely unofficial, completely optional, and does not constitute any challenge to copyrights held by Games Workshop, Cubicle 7, or anyone else.


The Mardagg

Mardagg - Warhammer - The Old World - Lexicanum

The theologians of the Old World argue over the status of the being known as Nagash. It is no secret that he has spent millennia gathering power and trying to ascend to godhood, but the question of whether he has succeeded is a contentious issue.

Those who argue for his divinity often cite the existence of the Mardagg as proof, claiming that it is a an avatar  of Nagash just as the Viydagg is an avatar of the nature goddess Rhya. Others argue that it serves another, such as murderous Khaine or dread Morai-Heg, or some unnamed and ancient god of the Khemrian Liche-Priests.

The Mardagg appears as a hooded, skeletal figure, standing some ten feet tall and armed with a great scythe. Few have seen it at close quarters, though it has been sighted from a distance stalking across battlefields or striding through the night on some enigmatic business. Wherever it goes, death follows.

M WS BS S T I Ag Dex Int WP Fel W
6 90 93 100 120 100 105 90 90 120 100 92

Traits: Armour 2, Chill Grasp, Daemonic 7+, Immunity (Magic: Lore of Death, Lore of Necromancy), Night Vision, Size (Large), Spellcaster (Lore of Death, Lore of Necromancy), Squeeze of Death (see below), Terror 2, Tracker, Zone of Death (see below), Weapon +14

Optional: Blessed (Nagash or Khaine or Morai-Heg), Invoke (Nagash or Khaine or Morai-Heg). (There are no officially published Blessings or Miracles for these deities at the time of posting, so the GM should feel free to improvise.)

New Traits

Squeeze of Death

This is a ranged version of the Chill Grasp Trait. The creature points at a single living target within line of sight, then turns the hand over and closes the fist. Perform an Opposed Willpower Test. If the creature wins, the icy force of death crushes the target’s heart, causing 1d10+SL Wounds with no modification for Toughness Bonus or Armour Points. This attack is Magical.

Zone of Death

The creature is wreathed in an aura of death and decay that extends in a radius of 12 yards. Any living creature must make a Hard (-20) Willpower Test each round while within the zone, gaining one Fatigued Condition for each failure.

In addition, the wind of Shyish blows so strongly within the zone that all spells and magical effects powered by Shyish gain a +30 bonus to all relevant Tests, while all  spells and effects powered by Ghyran or Hyish suffer a -30 penalty.


More Like This

Zoats: From Warhammer to 40K (and back again)
The Ambull: From 40K to WFRP (again)
Viydagg: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Mabrothrax: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Jabberwock: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
Devil Eel: A New Monster for WFRP4
Gargoyle: A Forgotten WFRP Monster
The Toad Dragon: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Spectral Claw: An Old Citadel Miniature Described for WFRP4
The Mud Elemental: Two Old Monsters Combined for WFRP4
Ngaaranh Spawn of Chaos: A Very Old Citadel Miniature for WFRP4
Leaping Slomm Two-Face, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Zygor Snake-Arms, Another Old Citadel Miniature
Independent Daemons for WFRP 4th Edition
Chaos Snakemen – A Forgotten Warhammer Race
Menfish – Another Lost Warhammer Race
Golems in Warhammer

Monday Maps #12: Castles

April 20, 2020 4 comments

 

Castles are a huge and complex subject. The European castles that inspire those of the Old World developed over a thousand years or more. They vary widely in size and shape, according to the time and place when they were built. They have a dizzying array of parts and features with strange-sounding names (this article is an excellent introduction) – but don’t panic.

 

Don't Panic, May 25th is Towel Day | WIRED

 

All castles, whenever and wherever they were built, share a number of key characteristics, and when you understand those, you can design a castle of any size, in any place.

Concentric defense is the watchword. All castles are built around a fortified tower called a keep, which houses the family. The keep is an island, able to hold out against attackers even if the rest of the castle falls. In early medieval castles of the motte and bailey type, the keep stood on an artificial mount called the motte (not to be confused with “moat”).

 

Photographic Print: Keep of Rochester Castle Built in 1127 by William De Corbeil : 24x16in

The keep of Rochester Castle in England.

 

The keep is surrounded by a curtain wall, which is fortified with several towers. The area within is called the bailey, or ward. In the center is an open courtyard that can act as a killing zone, with attackers exposed to fire from multiple towers as well as from the keep. Around the edge of the bailey are non-essential buildings like the chapel (there is normally a private family chapel in the keep), the kitchens (even in stone castles, these were separate to minimize the risk of accidental fires spreading), as well as stables, a smithy, kennels, and the like. There may also be a postern gate, a small and sometimes hidden rear exit.

The bailey was entered through the gatehouse, which was the most heavily fortified part of the castle. Town and city gates, which were covered in an earlier post, had a similar design and function. A heavily-fortified gatehouse, or barbican, could become a small castle in its own right.

Goodrich Castle, England. Borrowed from British History Online; click for link.                            The keep is against one side to take advantage of the cliff. The barbican was built to create a killing zone by the adjacent cliffs

 

Larger castles may have two or more sets of curtain walls, creating an outer bailey which acted as a first killing zone where enemies assaulting the inner curtain wall would come under fire.

 

fantasy castle 3d model https://static.turbosquid.com/Preview/000266/491/G1/fantasy-castle-3d-model_D.jpg

This castle is large, but has a simple design. It would probably have at least one more ring of fortifications. Notice the steps leading to the keep entrance: as well as looking impressive, they make it harder to use a battering ram and they limit the number of attackers who can approach the door. Image borrowed from TurboSquid. Click for link.

 

Neuschwanstein Castle in the fall | Autumn in Germany

High ground is a good place for a castle, as Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany demonstrates.

 

Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna

Water also provides a useful defense, whether it is natural, as at Olavinlinna Castle in Finland. . .

 

. . .or artificial, as at Bodiam Castle in England. Note the lack of a keep: the wide moat takes the place of a bailey and curtain walls, so the whole castle is effectively a keep.

 

Moats around castles were less common than movies would have us believe, and comparatively few were routinely filled with water. Instead, they were broad, steep-sided ditches intended to hamper attackers’s attempts to bring up heavy equipment to attack the walls and trap them in yet another crossfire zone as they tried to approach.

 

Château de Vincennes is a 14th century French royal castle located in the town of Vincennes, now a suburb of Paris.  This castle constructed during 1340 - 1410 A.D.  The castle is surrounded by a 7-meter dry moat and accessed over stone bridges.  During the 18th century, after the castle was abandoned by the royal family, it was used for a time as a porcelain factory, then as a prison, and later as a military fortress and arsenal.

The dry moat at the Château de Vincennes in France has been lined with a vertical stone wall, making it even more challenging.

 

Castles are large building complexes, and a GM may feel intimidated when setting out to design one for the first time – but there’s no need. Once you understand the basic principles of how they work, a castle of any size is easy to lay out.


 

If you’ve enjoyed this, click here to check out the other #MondayMaps.

 

Have a good week, and next Monday I’ll be back with another map, or possibly something else.

 

Oh, and if you’d like a re-usable castle plan for WFRP, the 4th edition adventure collection Rough Nights and Hard Days includes a chapter set in Castle Grauenberg, overlooking the mighty River Reik.