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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

August 11, 2015 14 comments

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For me, as for most people, Dungeons & Dragons was the first roleplaying game. I started playing around 1977 and I started writing articles and adventures while I was in college. My first article was published in 1982, and my most recent adventure was published in 2010. Along the way I also wrote a D&D novel and worked on an unsuccessful pitch for a Greyhawk MMO game. Here they all are:

Products

Pathfinder Adventure Path #41: The Thousand Fangs Below, Paizo Publishing 2010 – adventure author Buy it here
Pathfinder GameMastery Guide, Paizo Publishing 2010 – contributing author Buy it here
Pathfinder Bestiary 2, Paizo Publishing 2010 – contributing author Buy it here
Moons of Arksyra, Hypernova Games 2005 – co-author/developer Buy it here
Mythic Vistas: Eternal Rome, Green Ronin Publishing 2005 – author Buy it here
Creatures of Freeport, Green Ronin Publishing 2004 – co-author Buy it here
Tales of Freeport, Green Ronin Publishing 2003 – author
Slaine: Teeth of the Moon Sow, Mongoose Publishing 2002 – author Buy it here
AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook, TSR, Inc. 1992 – author Buy it here
The Goblins’ Lair, TSR, Inc. 1992 – author Buy it here

Fiction
Blood and Honor, Wizards of the Coast 2006 Buy the audio book here

Articles
“The Tathlum,” (AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook outtake), personal blog, December 2015 Download free here
“The Ecology of the Wight,” Dragon #348, October 2006 Buy it here
“The Soul Yard,” No Quarter #8, September 2006 Buy it here
“Dead Man’s Quest,” Dungeon #107, February 2004 Buy it here
“The Rapax,” Tales of Freeport web promo, 2003 Download free here
“Lady Mijiko’s Holiday,” Pyramid #14, Jul/Aug 1995 – available free online: click here
“The King Beneath the Hill,” White Wolf Magazine #26, Apr/May 1991 Buy it here
“Race Relations,” GameMaster Publications #4, June 1986
“Nightmare in Green,” White Dwarf #75, Apr 1986
“Defenders of the Faith,” GameMaster Publications #3, March 1986
“Find the Lady,” GameMaster Publications #2, Dec 1985 Download free here
“Tongue Tied,” White Dwarf #70, Nov 1985
“Poison,” White Dwarf #69, Oct 1985
“Magic & Mayhem: Viking!” Imagine #30, Sep 1985
“Pentjak Silat: Indonesian Martial Arts,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985
“Japanese Bujutsu,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985
“Monsters from the Folklore of the Philippines,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985 Download free here
“Eye of Newt and Wing of Bat,” White Dwarf #59-63, Dec 1984-April 1985
“New Flail Types,” Imagine #20, Nov 1984 Download free here
“Magic & Mayhem: Celts,” Imagine #17, Aug 1984 Download free here
“Sethotep,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984 Download free here
“Sobek, God of Marshes and Crocodiles,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984 Download free here
“Drowning Rules,” White Dwarf #51, Apr 1984
“Seeing the Light,” White Dwarf #44, Sep 1983
“The Taking of Siandabhair,” Imagine #5, Aug 1983 Download free here
“Bujutsu,” White Dwarf #43, Aug 1983
“Extracts from the Uruk-Hai Battle Manual,” White Dwarf #38, Mar 1983
“The Tower of Babel,” Pegasus #12, Feb-Mar 1983 Buy it here
“The City in the Swamp,” White Dwarf #37, Feb 1983
“More Necromantic Abilities,” White Dwarf #36, Jan 1983
“Drug Use and Abuse,” White Dwarf #32, Aug 1982

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

 

Terror in the Darkness

December 11, 2014 9 comments

Wfrp_logo

There was a miniature painting contest at Oldhammer 2014, and one of the winners was a beautifully painted Ambull miniature. That brought back some memories, and a recent Facebook post in the Oldhammer Community finally stirred me to action.

Ambull mini

The Ambull miniature is pretty rare. The beast was created by Rick Priestley and can be found in the 1st edition Warhammer 40K rulebook along with quite a few other critters that were never used in WH40K army lists. As far as I can remember, it was the only one of these unaffiliated monsters to be made into a miniature. Since it didn’t have a home in any army list, I’m sure it didn’t sell well.

But that’s not the story I wanted to tell. I want to tell you about Compleat Encounters, and how an Ambull came to be featured in a WFRP adventure.

It was 1988, just over a year since WFRP and WH40K had been released. TSR UK’s Imagine magazine was gone by this time, but its former editor Paul Cockburn was now editing White Dwarf. One of Imagine’s many good points had been “Brief Encounters” – short, 1-2-page adventures showcasing a particular monster or situation – and Paul (or someone else in GW management) had the perfectly sensible idea of doing the same thing with short WFRP encounters in White Dwarf. They were called “Compleat Encounters.”

I loved the idea, all except for one thing. I wasn’t allowed to write any. Nor was anyone in the GW Design Studio. In a move that foreshadowed one of my greatest frustrations at GW, it was decided that all the work would be farmed out to external writers. We were to write briefs, but not encounters.

It’s already on record that I wanted every miniature in the Citadel catalogue to find a place in WFRP. As I set about churning out briefs (which, to be honest, took just as much time as if I’d written the encounters myself), I turned to the miniatures catalogue for inspiration. One of my early efforts featured a renowned sculptor who cheated using a cockatrice; it was written (by whom, I no longer remember) but as far as I know it was never published. I used another encounter brief to import the Ambull into the Warhammer Fantasy setting.

Tony Ackland's Ambull illo from the WH40K rulebook. You can see how closely the miniature followed it.

Tony Ackland’s Ambull illo from the WH40K rulebook. You can see how closely the miniature followed it.

At the time, there was a lot of discussion within the Studio about the relationship between the Warhammer world and the WH40K universe. The Ruinous Powers of Chaos were active in both settings, so there had to be a link – but what was it? Was the Terra of WH40K actually a future version of the Warhammer world? Was the Warhammer world a remote feral world in some backwater of the WH40K universe, where degenerate members of the various WH40K races lived in ignorance of the galaxy and its greater conflicts? The question was never definitively answered, and in time it was forgotten altogether – but not before several photographs had been published showing a mix of Warhammer and WH40K miniatures on the same table.

Historically, I think this was probably a stopgap measure allowing players to bulk out WH40K forces with “feral world” Warhammer miniatures until the WH40K miniatures line could be expanded. Once that happened, the whole matter was quietly dropped. I don’t know. Still, it was against that background that I started combing through the bestiary section of the WH40K rulebook for more monsters to bring across to the Warhammer world and WFRP.

Of all the WH40K creatures I looked at, the Ambull struck me as being best suited to a fantasy world. I converted the stats for WFRP, came up with an idea for an adventure to showcase it, and wrote the brief.

220px-WD108

The result can be seen in White Dwarf 108, written by Carl Sargent and titled “Terror in the Darkness”. I haven’t been able to find a scan of the original, but here’s a link to a fan-converted WFRP2 version. When I talked about this adventure at Oldhammer 2014, I wrongly said that I’d written it myself. I had completely forgotten about the Compleat Encounters and the time when WFRP staff writers weren’t allowed to write anything except briefs for freelancers.

Before Bogenhafen: My First WFRP Article

November 15, 2014 11 comments

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There was a time, when I first arrived at Games Workshop, when WFRP was still trying to find its own personality. The “Chaos spiky death” GW ethos had not yet been strongly established, even in the miniatures game. “Grimdark,” if we’d coined the word back then, would probably have been the name of an Orc warlord and not an approach to fantasy. Coop over at the Fighting Fantasist blog wrote a great article on this period of WFRP’s history a while ago, and you’ll find comments from me, Phil, and several fans. I tell you what, go and give it a read (or a re-read) right now. It’s worth getting your head around how things were back then. I’ll wait till you get back.

All clear? Good.

It was against this setting that I wrote my first article for WFRP. Orlygg over at the Realm of Chaos 80s blog just posted a copy of it, along with a very nice review and commentary.

At this point, all we really knew was that WFRP was going to be a British competitor for D&D. We knew what we didn’t like about D&D, but WFRP hadn’t really settled on the direction it would take with the Enemy Within campaign. So not surprisingly, On the Road wasn’t a prototype for Shadows Over Bogenhafen, or even for The Oldenhaller Contract.

It also wasn’t the first adventure published for WFRP. That distinction goes to Rick Priestley’s “The Web of Eldaw”, which was published in The Good Games Guide in the winter of 1985.

Good Games Guide Cover

The Good Games Guide was a one-off GW magazine/catalogue which clearly aimed to drum up trade in the run-up to Christmas. These days it’s something of a rarity. And as far as I know, it’s the first published mention anywhere of the game that would become WFRP. It’s certainly the first mention I ever saw. At the time I was struggling with a Ph.D. project (which I would later abandon) and writing a series of gamebooks along with articles for White Dwarf, Warlock, and the about-to-fold Imagine magazine. It would be another six months before GW invited me down to Nottingham for the first meeting that would lead to me working there.

“The Web of Eldaw” was a straightforward dungeon adventure using 2nd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle. You can find a copy here, but it’s almost unknown today.

Equally obscure is “The Black Knight”, a Pendragon/D&D/WFRP adventure that appeared in WD83. Honestly, I have no memory of this one at all. The author’s name, Bryan Sturdy, looks suspiciously like a pseudonym. If Bryan Sturdy is a real person, though, it’s probable that someone in the Studio (most likely Jim or Phil, but possibly WD editor Mike Brunton) took a submission for Pendragon and D&D and bolted WFRP stats onto it.

white-dwarf-85

On the Road was published in WD85. I wrote it alone, outside of work time. If memory serves, we knew we needed magazine material for WFRP but there was no planned, co-ordinated effort to produce it, and during work hours all our time was spent racing the deadline for getting the rulebook ready for the printers. We had until the end of September, allowing a month for printing and getting the book into stores in November in time for Christmas.

I chose to write a couple of road encounters for three reasons. The first was that they are always a useful way to enliven a journey within a larger adventure. Secondly, I knew they would be fairly quick to write. And finally, I already had the ideas. In fact I’d had them for some time, although up to that point I hadn’t decided on a particular game for them. And this is where you get a slightly embarrassing insight into the workings of my mind back in the 80s.

I was listening to a lot of music back then, especially the prog-rock behemoths like Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but also the Dio-era Rainbow who made extensive use of sword-and-sorcery imagery in their songs. One of my first dungeons, back when DM-created dungeons were huge and ever-growing things with an infinite number of levels, was inspired by Pink Floyd songs (I cringe when I think of it now), and I had started to create another inspired by Rainbow and its predecessor Deep Purple Mk II-III. And yes, the Black Knight was a long way from home….

“Emmaretta” was inspired by a Deep Purple single I had picked up along the way. YouTube has copies of Emmaretta, and if you listen to the lyrics I think you can see how the storyline took shape in my mind. You can find printed lyrics here if you’re not fond of either Deep Purple or YouTube.

I honestly can’t remember what inspired “A Friend in Need.” It could very well have been an idea that I didn’t use in my Call of Cthulhu article on ghosts, “Haunters of the Dark,” which appeared the previous year in WD67. I never threw an idea away back then, and had pocket files bulging with scribbled notes and out-takes torn from various typescripts. It’s quite possible that I had started to write some adventure seeds to accompany the ghosts article, decided against it, and saved the ideas in case they came in useful for something else.

As you can see, then, On the Road was based on recycled ideas and written in a hurry to fill a need for magazine fodder, at a time when WFRP still didn’t really know what it was going to be when it grew up and there was no formal plan in place for developing magazine support. Because of that, I guess it says less about WFRP than it does about my thinking and methods at that time. I found inspiration all over the place, I never threw an idea away, and I was already showing a preference for story over hack-and-slash.

Orlygg is not blind to its faults, but he still manages to say some nice things about this throwaway little article. I’ll call that a win.