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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.

 

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.

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.

 

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

Monday Maps #5: An Interesting Patreon

February 17, 2020 2 comments

Instead of just one map, or one type of building, this week I’ve found a Patreon campaign that seems worth a look.

Jerome Huguenin creates plans and isometrics under the title Architecture for Adventure. His Patreon campaign has two very affordable backer levels – $2/month and $3/month – and he gives a lot of his plans away for free. Plans like this one: Map 30, Doctor’s House.

 

https://www.patreon.com/architectureforadventure

One of the delights you’ll find for free at the Architecture for Adventure Patreon page – whether you’re a backer or not.

 

From what I’ve seen, Jerome’s work is easily as good as anything you’ll find in a professional publication – and at $2.00 or $3.00 a month, cheaper than most maps you’ll find. You won’t be sorry you checked it out.

 

And now for something a little (but not completely) different:

Patreon. It will probably play a part in my unfolding plans for two #secretprojects. I’m doing some research, but I would really love to hear from all of you.

Do you back Patreon campaigns? Would you back mine?

What would you be willing to pay per month, assuming one article per month? Or would you prefer to pay per item?

What other Patreons do you currently back? What kinds of rewards would you like to see at higher levels?

Do you have a Patreon of your own? Is there any advice you would be willing to share with me? Any tips, or warnings?

Please let me have your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you’d like to be kept in the loop, take a moment to follow this blog. I’ll be using it as the main channel for news and updates.

Thanks!

 

 

2017: The Year in Review

January 8, 2018 1 comment

2017 was not the best of years, but it still brought several things on which I look back with pride – and a few things that make me look forward to 2018. Here are the year’s professional highlights from my point of view:

HAWK: Freedom Squadron
I have blogged before about my love of aviation, so when My.com approached me to work on this bullet hell shooter game I was intrigued. I crafted the main storyline about a ragtag band of heroes coming together to help a peaceful nation resist its brutal neighbor. Released last January, the game has topped five million downloads and seen a billion enemy planes destroyed. It is available at the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store.

 

Fenix Magazine

 


This tabletop roleplaying magazine from Sweden has a mix of Swedish and English content, the latter provided by renowned writers like Kenneth Hite, Pete Nash, Will Hindmarch – and lately, me. I highly recommend checking out their all-English Best of Fenix volumes, which are available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG and other online retailers. I describe their content as “thoughtful articles for grown-up roleplayers,” and whatever games you read or play, you will find something useful and interesting within their pages. I contributed to four issues in 2017, and I have plans to continue in 2018.

  • Fenix 2/17 included a reprint of “As God is My Witness,” a systemless article on the Medieval practice of trial by ordeal which was first published in Imagine magazine in 1984, and “CSI: Fantasy,” a new article on forensic folk-magic from European tradition.
  • For Fenix 4/17, I wrote “Bloodthirsty Blades,” a review of cursed swords in myth and fantasy literature, with some ideas for the GM to make them into a major part of a roleplaying campaign.
  • Fenix 5/17 included “When is a Dragon Not a Dragon?” taking examples from myth and folklore to show how dragons can be more than just a powerful boss monster.
  • Fenix 6/17 included “Creating Cults,” an examination of cults and cultists, examining the structure, organization, and goals of six different types of cult for a fantasy campaign.

 

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 4th Edition

WFRP-4th-Logo-550Toward the end of the year, British tabletop RPG publisher Cubicle 7 announced that they had won a license from Games Workshop to produce a fourth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the game that arguably started my career thirty-odd years ago. I am not allowed to go into too much detail, but I have contributed some writing to the core rulebook and I am currently in the planning phases of a project called The Enemy Within Director’s Cut. I will be going back over the beloved campaign, making some changes based on the experience of thousands of games played over three decades, and adding some new material to bring this version more into line with the vision that Jim Bambra, Phil Gallagher, and I developed for the original. That is all I can say for now, but keep an eye on this blog and the Cubicle 7 web site for more details.

 

Colonial Horrors: Sleepy Hollow and Beyond

Another proud achievement this year was the publication of this anthology of early American horror fiction, all set in or around the Colonial era. I tracked down some great stories by writers famous (Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft), obscure (Charles Brockden Brown, John Neal), and better known for writing outside the horror genre (James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne). The book has garnered some good reviews, and I am hoping to edit more anthologies in a similar vein.

 

WFRP Memories: A Rough Night at the Three Feathers

October 27, 2017 4 comments

 

Orlygg at the Realm of Chaos 80s blog has just posted a very nice piece about “A Rough Night at the Three Feathers,” which I wrote back in 1987. I wrote it largely as an experiment, to see whether multi-plot adventures could even work: people liked it, and it has gone on to be one of the most-reprinted pieces written for WFRP. After its original publication in White Dwarf 94, it appeared in The Restless Dead, Apocrypha Now, and – with Second Edition stats – in Plundered Vaults.

I’ve returned to the same format twice for WFRP, and once for d20. “Nastassia’s Wedding” appeared in Pyramid #19 in 1996, with stats for GURPS Fantasy was well as WFRP, and the Third Edition adventure The Edge of Night included a society party where Skaven were just one of many problems. “The Last Resort” in Green Ronin’s Tales of Freeport returns to an inn location, on a night beset with mummies, assassins, loan sharks, serpent cultists, and more.

In 1987, though, all this was in the future. My initial impetus for writing “Three Feathers” was the popularity (at the time) of bar-room brawl scenarios. White Dwarf 11 started it off with “A Bar-Room Brawl – D&D Style” by Lew Pulsipher, which was reprinted in The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios. Others followed – including “Rumble at the Tin Inn” for RuneQuest – and when WFRP was published in 1986, we knew it would need some adventures and articles in White Dwarf to support it (more on that here). One possibility was a bar-room brawl scenario – they were simple in structure and should be fairly quick to write, which was just what was needed since there was no official budget and schedule for producing WFRP support material during work hours.

I set to work, coming up with the Three Feathers inn (though in my mind, the feathers were bunched together on the inn sign, like the three ostrich plumes of the Prince of Wales’ insignia) and a diverse cast of characters, each with a reason for being there and some cross-plots that would bring them into conflict with others. But, as I always do, I had way too much fun developing the characters and plots, and the concept grew beyond the needs of a simple bar-room brawl scenario. First, I thought I would pick one plot, develop it, and file the rest away for future use – but then I had an idea: why  not use all of them at once?

In my mind, the Three Feathers’ inn sign looked a little more like this – but without the crown.

As far as I knew (and still know) it had never been done in roleplaying games before, but there were strong precedents in other media. On stage, colliding plots have been an element of farces since Roman times. One commentator described “Three Feathers” as “a classic British hotel farce,” and anyone old enough to remember the names Ben Travers and Brian Rix will know exactly what he means. I wanted to capture the manic action of farces like Fawlty Towers, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum, and so on, blending it with the sneaking action of caper comedies like The Pink Panther.

I had to think quite hard about how to present the adventure. There was no way to know what might happen with all these plots taking place at once, especially when a group of PCs got involved. So I simply described the location and the NPCs, outlined each plot, and compiled a timeline of what should happen if the PCs weren’t there. A few words of encouragement for the GM (which can be summarized in Douglas Adams’ timeless words, “Don’t Panic!”) and off it went to White Dwarf.

Honestly, I had no idea whether it would work or not. I knew that I could handle it as a GM, therefore it was theoretically workable by others, but had I set things out well enough? Would it just confuse people, or would it all come crashing down mid-game leaving players and GMs dissatisfied and angry? It was a great relief when the first positive responses began to come in.

Oh, and WFRP did get a bar-room brawl scenario of its very own, just a couple of months later. Jim Bambra and Matt Connell wrote “Mayhem at the Mermaid” for White Dwarf 96. Then the fashion for bar-room brawl scenarios faded, and as far as I know people simply stopped writing them. Today, they are a largely forgotten style of adventure: perhaps a blogger somewhere will trace the history of the form and assess its lasting contribution to RPG adventure design. I would certainly be interested to read it.

Oh, and one last piece of trivia. I got the title from a Western called A Rough Night in Jericho. I have never actually seen it, but evidently it includes a bar-room brawl scene, as I saw a still somewhere or other and the title stuck in my mind until I stole it for “Three Feathers.” Make of that what you will….

More
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography
The Restless Dead: The Forgotten WFRP Campaign