Primary, Secondary, and Popular Sources
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Primary, Secondary, and Popular Sources
So, one of the weaknesses of the deep dive of the Hams 2e line is that I haven't done this book yet. This is because the Old World Bestiary is really hard to write up in this format, because it relies a lot on the reader reading it carefully. OWB is one of my favorite examples of how to get a setting across via in-character writing and sources, and it's one of the most important books for someone running the game. If I had to recommend one book outside of the core book (and I don't, given the entire line is available as a bundle from Cubicle 7 to commemorate the release of 4e) I'd recommend this one. It gives you a good overview of many of the monsters and opponents players will face, gives them stats based on a conversion from the wargame models (which works better than you'd think it would), and gives you a lot of information on how to place them in the world.
The first half of the book is almost exclusively fluff, and the majority is written in three sections per major creature entry. These are the Common View, what 'everyone' knows about these creatures if they've never encountered them or only run into them in passing, the Scholar's Eye, what people who have studied their origins and motives might know about the creature, and Their Own Words, which is what the creature would say about itself if it's intelligent. Multiple sources are given in each, and some of the same sources will show up many times. The hardened mercenary Captain Schultz, the treacherous 'professor' (who is a Chaos Cultist in disguise) Albrecht Kinnear, the Clan Eshin 'Scholar' Rikkit'tik whose entire contribution to every entry is how to poison it, etc. By having a consistent 'cast' of voices, you get a sense of their character and biases, which helps the reader make decisions about how to interpret the fluff.
I also appreciate that they reveal Kinnear is a cultist in his first entry, because it makes it a lot easier to read the rest; it's not a hidden secret, it's a way of telling you that what he's telling the reader is what a hidden cultist would want people to believe under the guise of a respectable academic.
I'm normally not a huge fan of the 'pile of unreliable narration' strategy, but it's done well here because it's more about giving the reader options for interpretation. For instance, in the mutation section, Kinnear is all about how everyone should be working to purge the mutant and drive them from all Imperial communities. Is that because he's trying to deflect suspicion from normal-looking cultists like himself, or is that because the automatic persecution of mutants is key to how Chaos uses it as a tool to force people to join up? I'd say the latter, especially based on other sources in the line, but you're free to take the former. Having consistently written voices for the differing perspectives approach makes it much easier to decide what you, the reader, want to use in your game and what interpretations you want to go with. Instead of giving the impression of a jumble, it's more about reading a bunch of different sources and coming to a conclusion, which is fun to do.
Also, the 'Own Words' section is really, really helpful for placing characters within the world, so to speak. So is the 'common view'. Having an idea of what an untrained character would reasonably know, or what the common Watchman or soldier is going to think when your PCs breathlessly try to warn them about some horror in the sewers? Really helpful for evoking the setting. After all, not everyone knows everything about all these creatures, but most people will have heard of them. Similarly, the Own Words sections help give you a sense of the motives and personality of what you're dealing with. From the cultist justifying how they're just 'picking the winning side' to the Vampires trying to explain why they totally deserve to eat people and murder dozens because they're so damn cool, you get a lot of personality from these sections. They're also interspersed with normal authorial voice text, though this is technically supposed to be in-character as well; the whole fluff half of the book is supposedly an in-setting guide to monsters and creatures of the Old World by an Imperial Magister.
The book also introduces the idea, mechanically, of the 'slaughter margin', which is Hams equivalent of the Challenge Rating. The Slaughter Margin is based on how well a 1st tier Soldier (Named Johann Schmidt, of course) would do on average against the monster. Johan's full stat spread, gear spread, etc are given as a full character sheet; he's a Soldier focused on hand to hand combat with average starting stats and a couple hundred EXP. He's got a halberd, some light mail (I think doing him in light mail is a bit of a mistake, as a starting PC probably won't have that yet), and a sword and shield. He's a competent soldier, having Dodge, Strike Mighty, and a second attack, because a starting Soldier focusing on melee will have all of that. The most important thing to remember about Johan is that he doesn't account for Fate. Your PCs will have Fate. Trust me when I say having a pool of rerolls or extra defenses or whatever really makes a big difference when your low level party tries to take on a Chaos Warrior and his entourage of lesser Beastmen early in a campaign. Still, it's nice to have a direct mechanical benchmark for how they decided on 'how hard' an enemy is: A WS 36, Damage 4 (Or Damage 4 Impact w/Halberd) Soldier with 2 attacks, Dodge 26% (36 Agi-10 for Mail), DR 6 on Head and Body, DR 4 on limbs, and 13 Wounds.
A Very Easy creature is something Johan can kill without risk. An Easy creature is something he can kill, maybe taking a couple wounds. Routine is similar; the odds are very much in his favor, but two or three of such a creature might be a real problem. Average is an even fight that Johan will probably win in the end. Challenging means the fight could last awhile, and while Johan can still win, he's starting to be at a disadvantage. Hard means Johan has maybe 20-80 odds against the monster and probably won't even hurt it significantly. Very Hard is the upper level of what non-3rd tier PCs should take on and means that even just wounding it would make a hero of Johan. Impossible means that the odds of Johan winning a single combat with that creature are statistically insignificant; that's for Dragons, Greater Demons, etc. I've seen Impossible tier monsters taken down in direct combat in play, but they're never simple and it takes 3rd tier characters.
This is also the book that introduces Demonic Aura, which was not actually in Paths of the Damned or the Core Book, so I get the sense it was added in after people kept slaughtering demons too easily. It's a simple +2 TB for a Demon if it's struck by a non-magical weapon or attack. Demons needed the help; Daemonettes and Bloodletters are both quite fragile without that extra perk, and lesser Demons were kind of a joke without it against anyone who was actually specialized in fighting. The book also introduces Unstoppable Blows (-30% to Parry checks against this monster, due to huge strength or size), 'Scales' (Natural Armor Points), Will of Iron (Monster is immune to psychology), and Ethereal (Can't be harmed without magic attacks, can move through walls, etc, and normally can't damage physical creatures itself). Demonic Aura is probably the most interesting of the new mechanics for monsters, because again, demons badly needed the damage reduction upgrade. Without it, you have things like the 'final boss' of the 1st campaign book being like DR 4, which let me tell you is not going to last against a party action-economying that thing to death.
I get into those mechanics right now, because they're some of the more important mechanical elements of the book and we're not going to be talking about mechanics again for a long while. That's right, in normal WHFRP2e fashion, the entire first half of the book is fluff.
Next Time: The Forces of Chaos DEMAND TOP BILLING!
Hello again, Chaos
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Hello again, Chaos
I'll be introducing the recurring characters as they occur, so our first two are Albrecht Kinear and Vorster Pike. Albrecht is, as said, a Chaos Cultist and professor at the University of Nuln, who writes extensively about the threat of the monsters from the North while downplaying any sort of worries about cultists. Also makes sure to talk up how unstoppable and amazing the 'overt' forces of Chaos while he does so, but in approved language. Vorster Pike is an experienced Witch Hunter who has a serious thing about women for reasons that will come up when we get to Vampires, reasons you can probably guess. He's often in the Scholar's View, because he gives the opinion of an experienced Hunter who knows monsters.
Kinear starts us off on the Chaos Cultist entry by wondering how anyone could believe they exist. "Why would anyone join these weird and disgusting religions based around getting yourself killed? Especially successful scholars and merchants?" We all know it's because they don't tend to believe they'll be the one on the altar, but he's kind of got a point that Chaos cults seem really fucking common in the setting despite never working out for anyone. This is because they're a common low level enemy/writing crutch more than anything else (and because Chaos usually gets to cheat and just mindfuck people into joining when it can't pull off subtle). Kinear is generally in the Common View sections on matters related to Chaos, because he's giving misinformation.
Pike is here in the Scholar's View to point out Kinear is lying to you so that the reader knows to take that into account in the future entries. Also to order Kinear burned at the stake.
We also meet Captain Schultz here in the Common View. Schultz is your standard experienced mercenary captain, and a curious thing in his writing is that he usually gives solid gameplay advice. He's usually in the Common View because he doesn't know a damn thing about the origins or history of monsters, and is instead giving the common-sense 'how does a veteran soldier see these things' opinions. He gives the view that Hunters often overreact to cult rumors among the lower classes, but that the actual magi and higher ups of the cults are the worst and deserve everything they get.
We also get Drakar Neth Shyish, a Kurgan Tzeentch Chaos Warrior. Who knows how the author successfully interviewed him. He gives the opinion of the actual forces of Northern Chaos, which is that cultists are a bunch of useful idiots who will all die along with their neighbors after they help undermine the Empire. Chaos has never, ever given a shit about the Cultists, and thinks they're hilarious.
Rikkit'Tik the Skaven scholar would like to helpfully point out that hemlock is sufficient for Chaos Cultists.
In their own words, they give exactly the reasons you'd think for why they all joined cults. One wanted revenge on people she was jealous of in the village and got into Nurgle to melt their faces off. One is an indolent noble who just wanted to join a sexmurder club and got into Slaanesh. Another's a Tzeentch worshiper who just says he wants to be on the right side, because he's sure Chaos will win any day now. Good timing, buddy, it's not like Chaos didn't just get its ass handed to it at Middenheim and run off whining about it when this was written. There's no real insight in the 'In Our Words' section here, they're just what you'd expect.
Chaos Warriors and Marauders are more interesting. Kinear, of course, wants you to know they're just the mightiest and most dangerous warriors ever, though he does so in approved terms. 'Warning of their grave threat' to hide that he's bragging about their strength. Schultz gives really good advice about fighting them: The armor's thick and they're tough as hell, but the real threat is that a Warrior is a highly skilled, experienced, and trained combatant. He suggests someone with a shield keep the Warrior busy while a guy with a great weapon takes it from behind (to get through the armor). This is basically what you want to do fighting one at lower levels.
We also meet Young Hob the Farmer. He'll usually give a commoner's opinion on things. He just says he's glad the Emperor and the armies are here for these things and otherwise he doesn't want to think about them.
Rikkit'Tik wants you to know that whatever you use, you're going to want to hit a joint in the armor or an eyeslit. Mixture of warpbane root and deathvine venom works best.
Pike, being a Hunter who mostly fights cults, dismisses Khornates as the least dangerous because you'll usually see them coming and can meet them with an army. Nurglites are worse because they leave contagion in their wake and poison the fields. Slaaneshi are good at founding cults and offering people things they want, but their Warriors aren't anything special. Being a counter-intelligence agent, he's obviously most worried about Tzeentch, which would fit if Tzeentch was ever written as anything but a cardboard cutout that says 'cunning plan' on it.
We also get Drakar's opinion: He gives us the ridiculous nonsense about how it's totally fine to be a giant 8 foot kill-man in service of the god of 'subtle', because 'death is the biggest change, so I'm absolutely serving change by just acting like a Khornate'. This is because he's lame. The Khornate just says 'there is only war'. The Nurglite talks about how to strike to wound, not kill, so people will carry his God's gifts in their gangrene and injuries. They didn't get a Slaaneshi Chaos Warrior's opinion on anything, because people keep forgetting Slaaneshi can be Warriors.
Kinear gives interesting misinformation on Mutants and Beastmen: He tries to claim Beastmen are sterile, and relatively few in number. He also says absolutely every mutant has to be purged, that every Hunter should be put towards killing mutants and wiping them out as children. Given what Chaos uses mutation for, according to other books, a hidden cultist advising the authorities to be especially merciless in wiping out mutants has an obvious reason: The more isolated and afraid mutants are, and the more dead relatives and friends and loved ones there are, the more angry people or fleeing mutants will have no choice but to turn to Chaos for shelter or revenge.
We also get a little interlude on Beastmen from Graf Boris Toddbringer of Middenheim, because man does that guy hate Beastmen ever since one of the Beastlords made him his hobby. He rants about how he's 'spent half a life and all an eye' killing them, and how every mutant is their spy or slave, and you never know who's really ONE OF THEM. Khazark One Eye must be really pleased that he's nettled his rival this much.
Pike talks about Chaos Spawn, and how they're the result of the addictive nature of Chaos once someone gets started on it. He talks about how Chaos holds up successful Lords as examples where mutation made them extremely powerful and long-lived, convincing its followers to take on more and more changes in hopes of eventually becoming superhuman. Which is kind of an interesting take on it; Chaos Lords as a superhuman lure, promising 'you, too, can be 8 feet tall and hacking down greater demons and having epic adventures' to get people to take on more and more changes until they collapse into an animal-like Chaos Spawn that can't keep itself together.
Rikkit'Tik points out that Baletoad dorsal secretion deals with a Gor's endurance really neatly.
One of the Own Words guys is a mutant who was driven out of his home for his changes and forced to find shelter with the Beastmen. He talks about how he never wanted to hurt anyone, but he'd have been killed if he'd stayed. And now his new friends are willing to help him deal with the people who chased him out with pitchforks and torches. "If you think I'm a Chaos Beast, then fine. I won't argue. I'll be a Chaos Beast."
The average Beastman's Own Words is 'GWARRRRRRR!' because most of them are idiot jobbers, but they also get a Lord pointing out that not all of them are dumb. Underestimating the actual leaders or thinking you can deal with Gors easily on their home turf is a bad move. There's also a long story from Captain Schultz that points out that like everything in Chaos, the Beastlords always have a rival who wants them dead. If you can get the two to fight each other over leading the herd, they're that much easier to deal with. This strategy will usually work, but if it doesn't (as in the story) it's going to end in disaster. Still, this is a common weakpoint for Chaos: The leaders can never actually trust their followers.
Next: Minotaurs, Dragon Ogres, Chorfs, and more
Of all the creatures in this world, they are the eldest.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Of all the creatures in this world, they are the eldest.
Minotaurs are fairly simple and our narrators don't have a lot to say about them. They're big, they're tough, and they're very dangerous. This is mostly true in gameplay; you can't take a Minotaur lightly but most Beastman forces PCs encounter will only have one. 2nd tier fighters can handle them well enough, and a 1st tier party can bring one down on their own. One thing that does come across from the narration is that some Minotaurs are much smarter than others, touched by the Dark Gods, and these are the ones that become much more skilled and dangerous.
The other important thing is that Minotaurs tend shrines and 'holy' places for Chaos. When the Minotaurs talk about themselves, they say it's because they have everything Chaos wants in a person. They're big, they're strong, and they eat people. They say they'll sometimes go to war for the other, smaller Beastmen rather than tending their holy shrines and waiting for prey to come to them, but only when the lesser Beastmen fear them. Otherwise, they're happy to eat them, too. Minotaurs are also sometimes picked out and Marked as actual Champions of Chaos, and those ones are the ones to watch out for (you make these by giving Careers to a Minotaur's base stats, or by rolling one up with Tome of Corruption). Still, besides the plot hook about them being Chaos's shrine-tenders, there isn't much to say for the beefy boys.
More interesting by far are Dragon Ogres. This book gives more on the Dragon Ogres than ToC, and they're fascinating. They're huge beings, with four-legged lizard torsos and then a massive human-like torso coming out of it, and they live in the mountains and cluster around thunderstorms to feed off getting hit with lightning. The Common View of them is about the lightning-feeding and mountain-living; stories of people seeing them waking up en-masse and crawling to the summits to greet a great storm, or a story about an arrogant Heavens wizard who thought his lightning magic could kill them (it cannot, it only makes them stronger). There's also a bit from an Imperial general saying that the forces of Chaos only ever seem to call on Dragon Ogres when a campaign actually matters to them. He also likens fighting one to fighting a fully armored knight attached to their horse and with thousands of years of experience. They're quite dangerous.
The Scholar's Eye is especially interesting, and comes from a Tzeentch sorcerer who has studied under them. He claims they are the very first intelligent life of this planet, evolving well before the Old Ones even arrived. They and the Dragons both predate the Old Ones, which I've always suspected might be why the Old Ones made lizards as their primary servitor race on this planet. The Dragon Ogres call themselves Shartaks, and not a single one has been born since they bargained with Chaos for true immortality; that was the hidden cost of their eternity, never being able to have children. This is why Chaos is so 'careful' with them; it can't get more.
The largest of the Shartaks are called Shaggoths, and are the eldest of their species, having been ancient when the bargain was made. Shartaks now spend centuries asleep, their spirits roaming the world in dreams as they study the roll of ages until another great storm comes, the lightning invigorating them and waking them and sending them the God's demands that they serve. He speaks of them with genuine respect, which is very unusual for a Tzeentch Sorcerer, and says that his tutor among them was one of the greatest beings he ever met. His master told him that to the Shartak, the dreams are what matter now, and the waking world is an annoying intrusion, an obligation they have to fulfill. The Shartaks hate to be called on often, almost as if they regret their pact with Chaos, and it treats them as something it cannot afford to throw away lightly.
Their Own Words section is also really interesting. One is an ancient Shaggoth talking about how little the cause of Chaos means to him, lamenting that he has to wake and deal with this, and especially lamenting that more of his kind will inevitably die in the process. He just sounds old, and tired, and bored with existing. He wonders whether his people ever really had a choice, or if they were just tricked and dragged into this as all other followers of Chaos are. In the end, he sounds ready to die and talks of how facing someone who could kill him is the only waking thing that makes him feel alive. The other is a younger Dragon Ogre admiring the new inventions of humans and praising their inventiveness. He sounds genuinely amused and impressed, and excited to try his axe versus these new 'gun' things.
That gets at something I notice about Hams immortals: There's a lot of emphasis on how the world actually changes over time and how they no longer recognize it when they come to it. A hundred years isn't that long to an elf, or vampire, or Dragon Ogre, but in a hundred years an awful lot can happen. The world moves at the pace of years and decades, no matter how many centuries you live. I love the Dragon Ogre section, even if this is nearly all the flavor they get in the line, because I really like the idea of a people who have been ensnared by Chaos so long that they've realized it's pointless. Slowly dying out one death in battle at a time, clinging to their world of dreams and sometimes teaching people what they've seen over the entire history of the setting. There's a lot you can do with that.
The Chorfs are also good, though they got considerably more attention in ToC. What's interesting here is what people have to say about them. A dwarf loremaster calls them the greatest shame, the worst aspects of dwarfs without any of the good. A people who 'would make the world a smokey darkness, where hope and cheer are crimes.' Kinear gives us a gleeful description of how yes, even the dwarfs can fall, which he phrases as warnings against the pervasive nature of Chaos but which you can tell is really just him bragging about how no-one is immune to it. Much of the description of them focuses on how they're everything dwarfs are, just...on the other side. Where dwarfs make friends, they make slaves. Where dwarfs honor their word, the Chorfs write twisting contracts full of traps. There's also a lot of focus on their embracing magic, and their willingness to use greenskin allies, specifically the Hobgoblins (Mongol wolf-riders, basically, we'll get to them).
The Scholar's Eye also introduces Waldemarr, Scholar of Nuln. He'll be around with us a long time, and he's simply a reasonably learned scholar who knows a lot about monsters. He tells the story of how the Chorfs gene-spliced the Black Orcs, bigger, stronger, more disciplined Orcs (think Uruk-hai), to try to have a controlled subspecies of slavemasters to rule over and direct their Greenskin slaves. It didn't work, with the Black Orcs rebelling and becoming part of the normal Greenskin fight pile. The only thing that saved the Chorfs from their own former slaves was the betrayal of the Hobgoblins, who remained loyal to their dwarf masters, and the exact nature of how they betrayed their fellows and saved the Chorfs is unknown.
The Chorfs' own descriptions are dripping with bitterness. They spit on the Ancestor Gods as not 'real' Gods, nothing that could actually protect them when the Tong were breaking down their gates. They spit on their cousins for refusing their pleas for aid during their hour of need. They call the normal dwarfs traitors for refusing to help them, and justify their service to Hashut, the God of Darkness, by saying they simply did what they needed to do to survive. They exalt in the many inventions they've managed since they embraced magic and demonology, and await the time when they will show their hidebound cousins what they've learned. It's blood that greases the wheels of Hashut's great machines, after all.
Chorfs still rule as one of the other better peoples of Chaos.
Finally, we get Daemons. The Common View, interestingly, actually knows about Daemonic Instability. It's common knowledge among soldiers that if you can manage to hold together and withstand the first charge, daemons can lose their grip on the world and get dragged back to hell even if you don't kill them outright. Captain Schultz urges that you have to avoid giving in to fear and stick together; if you stay united you can beat them. If anyone runs, you're probably dead. We're also introduced to another major narrator, Elke Rabe, a Camp Follower for a Stirland regiment. She mentions that the trauma of fighting daemons makes soldiers eager for companionship after, and the scale of death usually makes for good looting and scavenging...just pray to all the Gods your regiment wins its tussle.
This actually maps to how Daemons play out in game. They've got a ton of offense, but not much staying power. Instability is also more powerful in 2e than any other incarnation of Hams RP: A daemon that fails to inflict Wounds and that takes a Wound in melee has to save with WP or die instantly. If you can hold out, they will melt away.
Rikkit'tik, who has been sadly absent for too long, pipes up with 'powdered ithmilar suspended in hellflower oil' as your solution to all daemon problems. Thanks, Rikkit'tik!
Pike talks about how daemons are (supposedly) able to draw on the secret desires of mortals, and in proper highly orthodox Sigmarite fashion, advises a life of total self denial and asceticism or a life dedicated to constant combat against them as the only real ways to defend yourself from their corruption. This would be a lot more biting if daemons didn't mostly just kill people and act like crazy automatons, but you know. We've got to pretend Chaos is more than it is sometimes.
Drakar focuses on the daemons of Tzeentch, talking about how burning down orphanages or rousing 'lazy beastmen' with forest fires makes Flamers fun. He's very fond of Horrors for how they reproduce when killed, and he'll consistently admire anything that seems 'infinite' or that regenerates; he thinks it reflects the way Chaos gets to magic up infinite armies any time it wants.
The actual 'own words' for daemons could have been interesting, but eh. It's a Horror talking about 'oh you can't fight us, we're your hopes and dreams and humanity' (which is partly true-ish, but so are a lot of other things, like the other human Gods, or the Winds of Magic, etc). The Daemonette gives a generic 'oh I'm so sexy and you can't resist let me stab you a bunch' speech. The Plaguebearer just sings a bunch of disease names. And I'm sure you can guess what the Bloodletter says. It's BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD. He loses points for forgetting to throw in SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE. If anything, it's a nice affirmation of how predictable and boring lesser daemons are.
And with that, we're done with Kahyoss.
And on to the closest thing to a Greenskin book we ever got.
Next Time: Da Orcs!
Oi! You lookin' at my choppa?
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Oi! You lookin' at my choppa?
It strikes me I almost never use Orcs in Fantasy. Part of this, I suspect, is they're a lot less necessary. The rest of the setting has more of a sense of humor about itself, and so they don't occupy the same 'only guys who remember to have fun' niche they do in 40k. The other reason? This is pretty much all the material you get on them in 2e.
No-one in Fantasy really has any idea where the giant green guys came from, or why they do what they do. They like fighting, they like taking things from people, they like enslaving people, and they like eating people. They can be found in warbands all through the Old World, and probably everywhere else besides. They aren't at all linked to Chaos, though GW liked to try to make them into Chaos's lackeys, so much as they just really like breaking shit because it's there and nobody's broken it yet. Sometimes that puts them on the same side, until they notice them spikey boys ain't broken yet and seem to think they'z the orcs bosses and the rest is history.
Our first commentator on them is Schultz, and again, he's got gameplay actionable advice from his experience as a merc. Orcs aren't so much dumb as completely undisciplined. They're always looking for an excuse for a fight, and something as simple as telling one his mate was looking at him funny can and will start an internecine brawl in addition to the orcs trying to fight you, too. They also don't really do ranged weapons besides basic bows. Or complex unit maneuvers. Their gear is also crude hunks of sharpened iron and slabs of metal armor, not well forged plate and swords. At the same time, they're bigger than you and tougher than you, and they don't like to back down from a scrap. You'll probably fight orcs if they show up in a plot, because that's sort of all they do, so direct advice on how they handle in combat is helpful to a GM or player.
Hob the Farmer feels the same, saying the Orcs are worthless beasts that just rob and kill. Most Imperials hate them with an especial passion, because Sigmar did (they did kill his mom and force him to fight a ton of grueling wars against them). A traveling merchant points out that what orcs really want is dominance, though. Lots of the tribes in the Darklands to the east will accept tribute to show that a humie knows their place rather than a fight, because they still like treasure (to show off that they earned it by being so tough) and gifts of food or weapons; he points out no caravans would ever get through from Cathay if they had to fight every Orc tribe on the way.
We also meet Heinrich Malz, a High Priest of Verena and another of our learned commentators. He tends to take a rather judgemental role on the monsters of the world, describing Orcs as what would happen if you gave a bunch of squabbling toddlers superhuman strength and the ability to wield weapons. Orc culture is based entirely around strength, with the weak bowing before the strong and taking something from someone being the only truly praiseworthy way to get it. Orcs worship two Gods, Gork and Mork, who are everything an Orc wants to be. They're big, fierce, brave, and more importantly, lucky. Orcs actually acknowledge the role of luck in everything and think it's great to take risks and get lucky; that's kind of a neat little detail. No Orc really prays to their Gods; praying means you're weak and can't do it yourself. Instead they give them tribute, as the biggest and baddest bosses, and try to be like them.
Rikkit'tik would like to add that you should use Nightshade or whatever else you'd use on a human. Double the dose. Triple it if you're after a Warboss.
An Orc lives to fight, and their warband will be shaped by their Warboss, the biggest Orc in the pack. He's in charge because he's biggest, but sometimes the biggest is also the smartest; Orcs can be surprisingly cunning because they don't do anything but war and there's nothing dishonorable or weak about using cunning tricks or skillful moves to win. Winning and taking things is what's honorable. Orcs just often don't bother because they don't feel like they need to, and they're really enthusiastic about their work. After all, crushing someone nice and direct scares their mates and shows how much stronger you are, and if you do that, everybody knows you're the biggest. Even when a Boss is cunning, they might try to stick to simpler tactics because their Boys aren't. Trying to pull off a complex feint in a battle when both regiments you're using to do it are yelling at each other about being cowards and possibly getting into a brawl over it might not work! Might be better to just go for something more direct.
Our Dwarf Loremaster from the Chorf bit, Gialar Kunst, would like to chime in to give his highly educated opinion that boils down to 'Fuck Orcs, the sooner we kill them all the better!' Dwarfs may have lost their empire to a mixture of idiot frog disaster, Greenskins, and Nazi Rats, but they mostly blame the Greenskins and want every last one of them dead.
The Own Words for the Orcs are an Orc cook describing what all the other races taste like and how the fun of roasting a dwarf's beard off makes up for how bad they taste, a normal Orc Boy yelling at one of his buddies and getting into a fight, and a Warboss promising that one day they're going to crush every last human and eat them all, then the world will belong to the Orcs. After all, if they take EVERYTHING, that guy's gonna be the baddest and biggest boss ever, right?
I'm going into a little more detail with these guys because again, this is sort of the only material on them in the line. The Orcs are supposed to be a big part of the setting, but they've always struggled a little more to stand out in Fantasy compared to 40k where the setting desperately needed anyone who remembered to be comic relief. And end of the day, they're pretty simple. They want to fight you or rob you. That's about it. Their other issue is that they kind of share space with Beastmen as marauders out to destroy things just to destroy them, and Beastmen are a lot easier to throw at lower level PCs because they aren't nearly as tough.
Next Time: Gobbos, Squigs, and more
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Kinear starts us off with the most common view of Goblins: They're just a bunch of little pests who pose no real threat to an army (He uses the opportunity to say the armies should instead fight the POWERFUL AND MIGHTY forces of Chaos instead and ignore them). The key to the common view is that normal Goblins are pests, but the forest-dwelling Night Goblins are unpredictable little psychos who like getting hopped up on mushrooms and are sometimes way more dangerous than they ought to be. Goblins are (correctly) seen as spiteful, cruel little things who love nothing more than getting a chance to kick someone else around the way the Orcs kick them. Verenans seem to have an especial hatred for Goblins; this is one of the few times Malz the Verenan High Priest actually sounds totally disgusted with his subject, saying that Goblins are the antithesis of his Goddess. The big thing with Gobbos is they love hurting things, but they're total cowards. They'll only get out their little knives when they think they have the upper hand and can get away with what they're planning to do. They fawn over their masters (be they Orc or just larger Goblin) and worship powerful figures, especially if that gets them more opportunities to put the boot into the helpless.
Rikkit'Tik suggests hiding Greenbane pulp in birch sap so that when they try to have it as delicious syrup, they all fucking die. He is a true scholar.
The Orc perspective on Gobbos is that Gork and Mork made them wrong as a joke, so that the Boys would always have a bunch of miserable little fuckers to kick around and remind them they gotta be bigger than those useless little gits. The only real use the Orc Shaman in the Scholar's Eye presents for Gobbos is that it's real funny when they catch human arrows for the Boys with their heads. It's notable that while Orcs really enjoy life, Gobbos hate it. A lot. The Gobbo perspective on themselves is all about how you need smarts or magic to gain power, because if you're ticklin' someone's guts with your stabbin' knife (they've all got stabbin' knives) they stop laughing at you. They hate their lives, they hate you, and they really want a good opportunity to hurt you. Also, they go EEEEEEEEE a lot.
They are also aided in all this by their Squigs. Squigs are basically a giant ball with legs that bounces and has teeth. The Imperial soldier in the Common View says they're the dumbest, silliest enemy he's ever seen until they bounce through a line like a couple stupid cannonballs, with little Gobbos squealing and riding on their backs. This is pretty true to gameplay: A Squig is funny up until the first time you fight a Great Cave Squig and then they're still hilarious but also really dangerous. The same traveling merchant who talked about bribing Orcs pops up to mention the Squig is the favored food crop of the Goblins and Orcs, and that they're actually delicious, good to eat, and safe for human consumption. He and others actually pay a bounty on dead Squigs and sell the carcasses to inns, who sell them under other names. They're described as a light chicken-like meat that has all the flavor of a ham. So yes, Squigs are good eats.
Waldemarr the Scholar pops up to tell us Squigs are actually fungal, not fleshy, even if they taste like meats. The Gobbos are constantly making new Squigs by poking mushrooms with warpstone. The ones that already exist breed by budding, even though they're angry, fanged cave fungus that bounces. Our Dwarf Loremaster dismisses Squigs as a 'typical Gobbo weapon, bounces everywhere, eats whatever it lands on, friend or foe' with 'no sense of craftsmanship or innovation', set right with a crossbow bolt or two. Rikkit'Tik suggests smearing caltrops with Suntree sap to get the Squig to eat them and die. The Gobbos say they gotta a symbo-whatsit relationship with the Squigs, which means sometimes they eat the Squig and sometimes the Squig eats them, same as their relationship with humies. The Gobbo Shaman is actually surprised and offended to find out from his interviewer that humans do not, in fact, eat captured Goblins. Squigs are a wonderful emblem of the Greenskins.
Hobgoblins are basically a midpoint between an Orc and a Goblin and are wolf-riding mongol-analogues. They're much more careful than is normal for a Greenskin, and work for the Chorfs, or really, anyone else. They seem to enjoy a life as mercenaries and primarily live out on the eastern steppe, and our description of fighting them comes from a Kislevite soldier and just mentions them using conventional horse-archer tactics, just on angry riding wolves instead. The actual Orc Warboss hates them, thinking of them as upjumped Gobbos and worse, Stunty Lackeys (Stunty being the Orc name for Dwarf). He even compares them to Skaven, especially as they like using poison. Kinear describes them as willing minions of Chaos and once again uses them to emphasize that yes, there are definitely Chaos dwarfs, and yes, Chaos can get anybody! Why, even Greenskins can be forced to work for it!
We're going to continue our history of getting some weird racism whenever there's anyone Asian-coded in any way in these books (It's been consistent enough with stuff like the Hung or the descriptions of the Eastern lands in the Companion that I'm now prepared to call this a pattern, 3 data points makes a line) of calling the Hobgoblins 'squinty' as code for treacherous and describing them as the worst of all Greenskins because blah blah at least Orcs fight you straight and what about the goddamn normal Goblins, guys? They use poison too. They backstab you, too. Is it really that much different when the guys you've coded as Mongol-analogues do it? The Merc Company Sergeant mentions that only the most famous Khan of the Hobgobla ever managed to die of old age, and it's considered a huge achievement in their culture if you can do that.
Rikkit'Tik actually doesn't talk about poisoning them. He says they show promise and that he kind of likes them and wants to get to know them. Silly rat.
The Chorfs talk about how the Hobgoblins took their side when the Black Orcs rose against them, recognizing that the Chorfs had way more money to offer. They hate the Chorfs, and the Chorfs hate them, but they're both well aware they're using one another and the arrangement works fine for them both so long as everyone around them hates them both more. The Hobgoblins themselves talk about how it's pointless to die for nothing, and how much fun it is to ride a really goddamn fast wolf and do sick stunts on it. They're also some of the only Greenskins who don't really care about fighting for other species; in their own words, why not get paid for what you were going to do anyway? The normal Orcs are just leaving money on the table.
I think the thing that bugs me isn't so much them being treacherous or whatever, it's that these guys are described as so much worse than, say, the normal Gobbos. It's the same thing that bothered me with the Hung. The Kurgan were described as a people and they had full rules to play them and all, and then when they get to the Hung they're like 'Oh wow these guys are so bad and such greasy liars no-one should ever play them, unlike the slaving murder-marauder guys we just finished giving you rules for'. That's where it really trips the turbo-racism alarm for me. If they were just Greenskins who really liked cavalry and skirmishing and were still described as bastard mercenary raiders, it wouldn't be as bad as describing them as the worst because 'squinty'. There's just something about anything in Asia that seems to trip up this line and when this stuff comes up it's my obligation to point it out and call it shit.
It's weird that Kinear really seems to panic when Trolls come up. Calling them all tainted and horrible and in need of burning. He is, for once, not wrong. Burning Trolls is the right move. Trolls are also our first actual 'stupid' group of critters, and that brings up another pattern I've noticed. None of the other races are ever really 'uniformly' dumb. In fact, it's usually a thing that if you assume Beastmen are all idiots that's how you actually lose to Beastmen. Same for Orcs. They aren't actually stupid, they just have a really different set of priorities. That's actually something I kind of like. Anyway, Trolls are dumb as shit, but big and nasty. They're a persistent pest for anyone working in the wilderness, but especially anyone working near swamps or certain bends of the rivers. They eat a lot of fish, but they eat a lot of anything; one of our Common View stories is a story where a charcoal burner managed to trick a Troll into swallowing part of the charcoal-making kiln when it ambushed him, then killed it with an axe. This is key to Trolls: If you don't kill them with fire or a very definitive beheading, they're going to get back up.
According to Scholars, Trolls caused a theory that all life contains some degree of Chaos, and that these are what happens when you get too much Chaos via too much life, hence the regenerating and constant eating. Despite this theory, not all Trolls serve Chaos; plenty just follow armies around and smash stuff occasionally and eat it. Rikkit'Tik suggests a randomized mix of everything you've got on hand, and as much of it as you can use, because damn are these things hard to poison. Drakar the Chaos Warrior loves Trolls; he sees them as a manifestation of how Chaos can never be stomped out because they'll regenerate and get back up no matter what you do to them unless you take their head off or burn them.
Finally, we get Snotlings. Snotlings are like even smaller Goblins. They might be baby Greenskins. No-one knows. Elke Rabe, our Camp Follower narrator, certainly thinks they are. Schultz advises that you stop laughing before they stab you in the ankle. Kinear insists that these are evidence that Greenskins reproduce via fungal budding. Malz the High Priest suggests that it might be possible to resolve the issue of whether or not these are Greenskin children by capturing a herd and raising them, but shudders at the thought. Greenskins show them no affection, but that might just be Orcish parenting, and they do resemble tiny versions of the larger ones. So who knows what the little bastards are. Rikkit'Tik is offended that anyone suggests bothering to poison one; the knife wound to deliver the poison would kill it and you'd waste the poison, damnit. The Chaos Warrior hates them, seeing them as the antithesis of strength, and we all know how Chaos worships Strength.
In their own words: "LOOK! Humie! Fight it fight it fight it! JAB JAB JAB! Get it Get it! EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
And that's as much as we're getting on Orcs and Goblins in 2e. They're a good side-dish for an adventure but there's just not enough material for them to sustain a campaign. But if you're ever lacking in action, an Orc with a Choppa crashing down the door can happen almost anywhere, and nearly as reliably as Rat Ninjas showing up out of nowhere.
Next Time: The horrors of the Hell Forest have their own section.
I kill for the trees!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
I kill for the trees!
The Loren isn't a nice place. The things that guard it act an awful lot like demons, and this is the closest we're gonna get to a sourcebook about them. I think that's one of the reasons the OWB is such a helpful book. It gives enough of an overview to latch onto for a bunch of stuff that obviously didn't get its own book, and that's really helpful for filling out the setting. Our first story about the Dryads of Athel Loren comes from a Bret peasant whose friend made the mistake of going into the woods when a beautiful woman beckoned him from inside. Three decades later, the boy comes stumbling out of the woods and then instantly ages and decays to ash in front of his horrified buddy, while the same woman beckons him from the wood. Yeah, that's about right for the hellforest.
Our buddy Pike the Hunter mistakes them for Daemonettes, thinking they're obviously another sort of Slaaneshi demon hiding among the forest and the elves. Interestingly, he's in the Common View this time, to suggest this isn't really his area of expertise. He's wrong, but given how they operate I can see how he makes the mistake. And he isn't wrong about how the best thing to do with Dryads is burn them. We also get a talk from a merc that ended up fighting them; says they approached his unit just looking like a bunch of naked elves, which he couldn't stop himself from laughing at, before turning into hellish tree monsters and shredding his buddies. They left him alive to warn others not to get near the forest, because they liked that he laughed at them. Dryads do that; they're very capricious and playful murderers.
Waldemarr the Scholar has an interesting theory. That they're some kind of automated defense system. Either for the trees or for the Asrai Wood Elves, or both, an extension of the forest designed to protect it. Though he lists other theories from other scholars. Others think they might be transformed elves, made into this by the magic of the forest, or that they might be constructs built by the Wood Elves. Waldemarr is pretty close to the mark as far as I can tell. The elves instead tell us all about their shapeshifting; Dryads are constantly changing shape. Effectively, in game terms, they pick a bonus every turn and can't pick the same one two turns in a row, because they get bored easily and need to keep changing into a different kind of tree and a different sort of war form. Their own descriptions focus on how much they enjoy sharing 'human sap' (blood), and one of the Dryads says that they are the claws and teeth of the forest. Which is a point in favor of Waldemarr's 'automatic Lorax defense unit' theory.
The Treemen are very different. Treemen seem a lot less reflexively sadistic and murderous than the Dryads. The first story about them is about a Bret Knight insisting his peasants get him wood from the Loren for a Trebuchet, only to encounter a pissed off Treeman who just yelled WHY and then smashed him. Treemen can do that. Don't fuck with Treemen. The second is from an Imperial knight's memoirs about the 2302 War Against Chaos, where his outnumbered knights were rescued from an army of Beastmen by the convenient arrival of allied forces from the Loren. When he and his knights stopped the Beastmen from setting the giant walking trees on fire, they thanked him warmly and invited him to join their Asrai allies for rest and food, with 'Durthu's blessing'. I remember Durthu from Total Hams; I believe he's the original Treeman that made the agreement with the elves. Still, from the Common View, Treemen seem less sadistic and more consistent than the Dryads, and capable of being grateful for help or allying with humans as well as elves in times of war.
Waldemarr has the theory that the Treemen are the generals of the forest's forces, directing the capricious Dryads and the allied elves in its defense. He lists some other pretty silly theories by other scholars, such as 'Treemen are all tended by harems of beautiful Dryads', but his general theory is that the Dryads are much more 'automatic' while the Treemen are the manifestation of the forest's consciousness. The ones who make the alliance with the elves and direct the efforts of the other spirits. He is, again, pretty close to on point as far as I know. The elves just give a generic description of the Treemen as slow to anger but unstoppable when they get going. They do mention that when the Treemen are really mad, the forest stops caring if it hurts elves and the Asrai have to be careful, too.
The Treemen's own description focuses more on talking about humans than themselves. They bemoan the way humans don't seem to 'know their place' and how they haven't figured out what they were made for yet. They wish the whole world would just settle down in its appointed places, as determined by the turning of the forest, and just be at peace with them. That's a very curious way of thinking about it all. They call humankind the 'scurrying of badgers and the flight of starlings', and I don't know what Treebeard's got against badgers. Starlings are assholes, though, I'll give him that.
As you can tell, obviously, Treemen are just Ents, man. But more violent.
Unicorns are magic horses with pointy heads. You know what a Unicorn is. The opinions on them in the Common View go between romantic 'Oh gosh it's the most magnificent of all horses' to 'Eh, they're a little magical but everyone says they can do so many magic things that there's no way they do them all' to an elf Wardancer going rapturous about how the Unicorns represent the power of all nature and are the best thing ever and if the last Unicorn ever cries and then keels over dead Chaos will have already won. Curious that the elf going nuts about them is in the Common View, though. The Scholar's Eye tells us they cannot be tamed, ever. They do what they want, when they want. They'll help people they judge 'pure', which does not actually mean virgins, but rather people they deem of good character. There are many stories of wounded Bretonnian knights being rescued by Unicorns, including ones with families and children, after all.
We also get a long description of them and their relations with elves from a Light Wizard, who claims their horns provide resistance against all magic and that they'll allow the occasional gifted elf maid to ride them in battle, but only with their consent. He also mentions that the huge array of powers attributed to Unicorn horns mean people keep shooting them and selling the horns to cure impotence or poison or whatever, but that the average horn for sale doesn't even come from a Unicorn. Possibly because he's magically sensitive, he notes that if you touch a real horn, you'll feel like you desecrated something. Still, there's not really much to say about shiney magic horses of holy forest power; not like they talk about themselves.
Finally, we get the Warhawks, which are symbiotic giant hawks that work with the elves of their own accord and serve as mounts. Our buddy Kinear is back to say the giant birbs are obviously creatures of Chaos, and a sign of the alliance between the Asrai and Chaos, and that their diffident nature and lack of proper taming (and their hugeness) are just a sign of mutation and constant chaotic wildness. Oh, Kinear, never change. Meanwhile, a Bret Knight has a pretty generic story about how they showed up just in time when his forces were losing to Beastmen, because the Brets and crazy fae elves are
sort of allies at times. Aside from the child stealing. And all the random murders. And the times the Asrai wear the bones of Bretonnian children who got lost in the woods as charms because they're deeply fucked up people. Our elf buddies instead talk about how they have a tremendous bond with their birbs, and made friends with them after fighting them for no reason and killing their chicks and eggs. From the story, it sounds like the elves were kind of jealous of the birds being faster than them until one elf was like 'Guys this is dumb as hell, we should make friends with the magnificent giant birbs and ride them instead'. They mention that as part of the peace, those who are going to become birb riders are raised in the mountains, by the birds, to make up for having killed their children. So an elf riding a giant hawk was, apparently, raised by giant hawks as part of a pact with them to make up for having killed their children by giving them elf children to raise. That's weird. Asrai are weird.
And unfortunately, that's all we get on the enchanted hellforest. I've an especial in it because I'm very fond of Bretonnia, but Loren is one of the weirdest parts of the setting and it's better for that. It doesn't really fit into the normal paradigms of the setting; Dryads act almost exactly like demons to be sure, and you could make an argument that Treemen are like the more complex greater demons, but that doesn't really map with how they're capable of showing much more gratitude and warmth. The Asrai have a weird relationship with the wood where they at once regard themselves as its masters, its targets, and its partners. No-one ever really knows what to expect out of the Loren, and that's what makes it interesting.
Next Time: Our Strong Rat Sons
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
As you might guess, the Skaven stuff is pretty thorough. This book came before Children of the Horned Rat or Night's Dark Masters, so it had to be the Skaven book and Vampire book for awhile, so they both get extensive sections. Still, I've covered both their full books, so not quite as much reason to be thorough as with the Loren or the Orcs. The big thing about the Common View on the ratmen is that people absolutely know they exist. Two of the four excerpts are folks saying 'Yeah, these are thing, no matter what the Priests and authorities say', and a third is Kinear yelling about how they're obviously not real while the fourth is an asylum inmate claiming they got him locked up for trying to say they exist. When every single one of the 'Common View' excerpts is about how they're definitely real and everyone actually knows it, while the only one denying it is the crazy Chaos infiltrator, it's fair to say the average person in the Old World is aware they (or something like them) exist but doesn't really know the extent of them.
Our Scholar's View opens with a dwarf miner saying that it's understandable the humans don't acknowledge them, because what could they do about them? He implies the main force keeping them secret is the Hunters, out of fear of creating a panic, and again this point has never really gone with what I know of Sigmarism. Another existential threat they can be seen fighting to get more secular power and authority should be like crack to the Sigmarites. We also get a note from an Engineer trying out a ratling gun, noted in the after-bits to have died trying to test fire it because Skaven tech is still Skaven tech. It's also very interesting that we get a lot more of the normal voice of the author here, hurriedly going over the basics of the Four Great Clans and the various info you'll need for Ratman adventures. It's significantly more thorough than the stuff on Greenskins or Athel Loren. We also get Chaos's view, from a Nurglite. The Nurglite notes they get the spirit of things a bit wrong and all but that they've come a long way for upjumped rodents. Our Hunter, Pike, is convinced the Horned Rat is just Tzeentch, because the rats keep changing all the time. It's interesting; none of the non-Skaven characters really give any credence to the idea that the Great Horned Rat could be anything but an aspect of one of the Four. I imagine the Horned Rat is very insulted.
Skaven actually get the most extensive 'in our own words' section to date, because they love to talk about themselves. This book is where the cold-brain no-fur insult comes from. I knew it was in here somewhere, and I knew it came from Thanquol. Thanquol is eager to talk about how the man-things have cold brains from not having proper fur, and he gives us a standard Fascist's look at his enemies, claiming all humans are stupid cowards who are led by idiots who don't even know to stay at the back of the battle line. When asked about dwarfs, he suddenly goes a little silent before saying you should avoid the orange-furred ones or everyone dies. Oh, Thanquol. There's also an extensive interview with an Engineer about how Warpstone can alter the physical properties of substances forged in a fire powered by it, in addition to all its other properties. He outright admits that without it the Skaven would be completely turbofucked. He spits on the religious idea that Warpstone is Horned Rat shit, saying it's obviously just meteorite fragments from the moon, because he is an enlightened and modern rat of science (he is also right).
Rikkit'Tik has a lot of experience in this one, and answers in one word: Arsenic.
The Master Moulder complains about how stupid humans are to turn out their mutants instead of studying them and trying to breed them to get six armed giant supersoldiers like would be proper. Finally, a non-Thanquol Grey Seer (who I think is the same one from Children of the Horned Rat's big 'all our Skaven units' section) has a big speech about how the Skaven aren't just hiding in their holes, they're just...letting Chaos and everyone else do all the work before they scream INHERIT INHERIT and take over the world. Yes, that's the ticket. Definitely just letting everyone else do the work. Absolutely not afraid of being shot. He also refuses to mention Nagash's name, but he does preen about the Skaven totally having beaten him. Oh, rat men.
The Roger section (Rat Ogres) sells the Rogers a lot harder than they deserve mechanically, like almost all fluff about them. They're played up as huge killing machines that are lightning fast (though extremely dumb) rather than the sort of disappointments they tend to end up being in a fight. Most of the Common View is about how something that big can't be that fast, or how they're obviously an exaggeration and someone mistaking Minotaurs for Rat Ogres because they encountered them alongside some rat-shaped Beastmen. The most interesting view comes from the Tzeentch chap who was student of a Dragon Ogre way back in the Chaos section. He loves them, and loves Moulder, claiming Moulder's existence is proof the Horned Rat is Tzeentch (Really, none of them can conceive of GREAT HORNED RAT!). He's very excited about his professional relationship with the Moulders, and claims they keep every Rat Ogre that survives 3 battles as a special, unique model to customize and study. This implies, fitting to their actual mechanical weakness, most don't make it 3 battles.
We also get an actual Ogre's opinion! He's a little annoyed they're called Ogres because they sure as hell aren't, and worse, they taste awful. They're buff enough to wrestle an Ogre, he concedes, but he calls them the only creature he's ever seen dumber than a Troll. A Master Mutator gives a full on marketing pitch for the wonderful Bio-Organic Weapon that is the Rat Ogre, BUY TODAY, the cheapest models are only a hundred Warpstone tokens! He calls them the very foundation of Clan Moulder, and he's not wrong, as we went over in Children of the Horned Rat. Still, the whole thing with Rogers is just 'big, dumb as hell, real fast, kinda clumsy, strong'. Only so much you can say about the big bastards.
There's not much to say about Giant Rats, try as they might to make a whole section out of them. They're just wolf-sized rats used as attack dogs and cheap cannon fodder, sold in huge batches by the Mutators of Moulder. There's not much to say about them but for the Ratcatcher saying you don't report these kinds of kills, and you kill 'em with a sharp knife to the neck and a torch to the schnozz. All the descriptions are just there so there can be at least 3 critters in this section rather than admitting the only one they really needed to talk about in detail was the Skaven themselves.
Next Time: Fascism Elves and their murderbuddies
Do you think they have hockey
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Do you think they have hockey
It's interesting that Dark Elf pirates and raiders get a bestiary entry. PCs are expected to fuck up some Druchii, because much like the Norse, they attack coastal villages in hit and run raids that are designed to take slaves before the Imperial Regiments can arrive and drive them off. The perfect sort of smaller scale battle and defensive operation to involve a PC party in. The Common View on them is all about how they steal the entire population of smaller villages without so much as being detected, as well as a dwarf spitting on them for being a bunch of murderous cowards.
Our first Scholar's View on them comes from an actual Ulthuani High Elf Ambassador who deigned to talk about his 'cousins' for a bit. He describes them pretty accurately, as a bunch of murderers following a rebel prince who refused to accept that he wasn't made king and who have run off to wildly embrace Chaos (while thinking they're firmly in control of it) and made Khaine (the lord of Murder) their chief God in his name. His emphasis in his description is on their spite and inability to ever move past the great Sundering of the elves. The other is a description of a ship chase where a dwarven engineer eventually chose to leave his ship in a fireboat and use it to draw off the pursuing Dark Elves, blowing several of their ships to pieces by igniting his powder when they got close. Not sure how that's a scholarly opinion, but I suppose it at least comes from a sailor who actually saw them.
Rikkit'Tik suggests using New World Black Lotus for the irony.
The real meat of this section comes from the Druchii themselves. They're all too happy to talk about their work and gloat about what they do. A simple Corsair is happy to describe his berth on a Black Arc, the enormous floating castles the Druchii use as motherships for their raids. He basically gives a recruiting pitch, about how he gets to keep a full tenth of what he steals and how it's a great honor to be a crewman on what's essentially a magical aircraft carrier. He also, of course, killed a couple other Druchii to get the posting; Druchii kill one another so often that I'm not sure how they have a population. They must have kids an awful lot faster than Asur, Eonir, or Asrai. The next is a Druchii Slaver, who whines about how weak and decadent the Asur of Ulthuan are, and how they let their great Empire and control of the seas slip away and blah blah standard fascist asshole line. He also goes on and on about how it's an honor for the 'lesser races' to be enslaved and put to their proper place by the true elven Master Race. He's very excited about his Great King Malekith and refers to non-elves as animals.
Other elves might look down on you. Asrai might skin you for being in their forest because they're crazy. But it's really only the Druchii that take it all to its extreme conclusion of 'elves should rule over everything' and then go even further into 'also a couple elves who are the most edgy and awful have THE STRENGTH to rule the other elves!!!'
Harpies are a weird throwaway monster that the Druchii field alongside their armies. In fact, up to the Hydra, everything in the next few entries is something your PCs might encounter backing up the Dark Elves; they love using tamed monsters. There's an old elven story among the Common View on them that the original harpies come from an elf priestess who committed a dread BIRD MURDER. By which I mean when the man she loved married another elf lady, she wished them well, then secretly fed her blood to birds and cast spells on them, so that when she invited the couple to have a cliffside party the now-magic birds ripped them both apart. Then, horrified by BIRD MURDER she jumped off a cliff and was not allowed to die, being turned into an angry bird-lady beast that hates sailors. That's supposedly where they come from.
Harpies are not really a big deal, BIRD MURDER aside. The Dark Elves use them as trained monsters, and are fond of them because they get along with Witch Elves (Khainite priestesses) and like to torture prey to death. That's about all there is to say about the products of BIRD MURDER.
Manticores are a nasty beast. Manticores are surprise predators who try to use terror and flight to scatter their prey, as evidenced by the story of a White Wolf company fighting one. As soon as it realized they weren't frightened by it killing one of their number in its original charge, it tried to flee. These being White Wolves and thus some of the best Knights in the Empire, they managed to kill it before it could take wing. The other Common View description of them supposes them to be some kind of Chaotic reflection of the noble
Catbird, which is a beloved monster in the Empire. It consists of a scribe denouncing the many sins of the Manticore, comparing them unfavorably to the noble Catbird, who is described as fierce and independent, while the Manticore is just a savage killer. This is because Magnus loved his riding Catbird and made them a symbol of the Empire, while Manticores are A: Way more Chaos mutated and B: Dicks.
The Scholar's Eye tells us they are sometimes mounted on Druchii pirate ships to be used as carrier aircraft, and that they can speak Beast Tongue. This also means you can run into them with Beastmen. Further, the Druchii confirm that they tame and breed Manticores as mounts and combat creatures. They really love the whole beastmaster thing, and Manticores are probably just intelligent enough that 'Hey if you do what we say you get food and things to kill' is enough to keep them working with the Dark Elves.
Hydras are absolute bastards. Giant snakes that breath fire, have a bunch of heads, and regenerate. The Common View tells you Hydras are extremely hard to kill. They're not that hard to wound; you can drive one off. They're actually ambush predators in their natural swamp environments, and prefer to get into fights they're sure they'll win, strike quick, and then leave. If they're getting hurt, they'll run off to regenerate. The thing is, if you get ambushed successfully by a Hydra, as the mercenary in one of the stories does, chances are it's going to have time to eat a couple of your soldiers and run off before you can regain your wits and try to injure the thing. All those heads act in coordination with one another, which leads us to the Scholar's Eye speculating that the brain of a Hydra is actually contained in the torso, behind its thickest plate and bone. A cannon shot to that exact spot should kill one, same for a heavy lance charge or a greatsword. Attacking the heads is mostly useless.
Hydras don't die of old age, and they keep getting bigger as they get older. They eat whatever they can, when they can, and this has actually destroyed their species. They're so voracious that they have huge territories, and smaller territory won't sustain an older, larger Hydra; they'll eventually destroy the ecosystem and need to move on. They're actually nearly extinct in the Old World because their huge range draws a large number of foes to cooperate to eventually bring the terror down. They're plentiful in the Chaos Wastes, though, where normal laws of ecology don't apply. And worse, the Druchii breed them in Naggaroth, and send tamed Hydras raised from birth into battle as living battering rams. We get an account from a Bretonnian Knight that if you ever face one with Druchii handlers, kill the handlers first. The Hydras are so accustomed to getting orders that they'll be confused and unsure what to do, giving an opportunity to kill the thing.
Next Time: A random assortment of critters, but most importantly, Ogres
Servants of the Great Maw
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Servants of the Great Maw
First we get Fenbeasts. Fenbeasts are weird. The common view talks about a strange man covered in woad paint and tattoos being followed around by a decaying bunch of plant matter hiding itself in a big cloak. The locals in an Imperial town were going to run him out of town until he and his monster stopped a Beastman raid cold. And that's really what Fenbeasts are. They're weird swamp monster constructs that seem to have a link to the crazy stone circles and old pre-historic faiths of the Reik Basin. The one thing that's clear in all the descriptions here, and there aren't many because these are a pretty minor part of the setting, is that they're constructs and they require a master or else they'll just stand in place and kill anything that gets close to what they're guarding. They're big guys, usually significantly larger than a human, but they're slow, clumsy, and not enormously dangerous to a prepared party no matter how much the fluff talks them up.
The most curious link they have is to Albion. Albion doesn't come up much in Hams, but it's a small island out in the great ocean to the west that's constantly covered in fog and rain, inhabited by primitive human tribes and a ton of those Ogham Stone circles. It is the land of mysterious druids and if I remember right, only ever came up in a campaign that awarded a bunch of sci-fi 'magic items' or something. Still, the rituals that create these things seem to come from Albion, or at least they survive in Albion while the Colleges have lost them. They're often associated with undead, and the fluff hints necromancers might be figuring out how to make swamp-things, but otherwise they're just a random swamp monster. Not much to see here.
There's considerably more on Ogres. The Common View quote for them is a peasant complaining about them eating everything and tromping through his fields as a company of Ogre mercenaries goes to join the Imperial army, wondering what the hell Karl Franz needs those
for. This is one of the reasons I'm always a little sad we never got playable Ogre rules; they're everywhere, they're mercenaries, and they're happy to fight for the Empire as long as they're fed. Ogres are big. Really big. Huge, muscular, fat human-like people who like to tromp around the world getting into fights and eating new cuisine (and enemies). The scholar Waldemarr talks about how they're a very status-conscious people, too. An Ogre's wealth, girth, scars, and achievements dictate everything about how they fit into their society. Might makes right, but Ogres are more competitive than rapacious; it's generally considered better among Ogres to accept a challenge and lose doing your best rather than refuse it outright, and their society is full of challenges. They love to sing (though it sounds horrible to most other peoples), they love to wrestle, and above all else, they love to eat.
Schultz also pops up to tell us he's had Ogre soldiers in his company before, and they're not dumb at all at their chosen trade. People think they're stupid because Ogres are always looking for gold, food, and opportunities for glory, but Ogre mercs usually know what they're doing. They're too tough to die easily, their size gives them a lot of confidence, and their culture encourages not backing down in a fight; you add those things to the sort of experience you get when you're big enough to survive a few fights and you end up with huge men and women who do, in fact, know how to stay in formation and flank a line. He does warn that while paying them is important, feeding them is even moreso. Never let food supplies run out with Ogres in your company, or they'll start eating the pack horses, or worse.
Rikkit'Tik suggests a paste of ground glass and mandrake, hidden in the strongest tasting food. There will always be food.
Ogres are also usually hired as guards. They love working for merchants, because merchants usually have a lot of money, and a lot of money translates into a lot of food. Similar, merchants love hiring Ogres because for the most part, they're good at their jobs and they're scary as hell, which means it's less likely the Ogre is actually going to need to smash anything. We get a long anecdote from a thief about how if you want to distract an Ogre guard, don't bribe them. Cook something nearby that smells good enough that it becomes an affront to their God not to come and eat it. Because it is, in fact, the central tenant of their religion that you eat what life gives you. In their own words, an Ogre soldier wonders why he'd ever bother farming and making bread when his current trade lets him get gold and meat and as much as he can drink. All he needs from life is his job and a dog on a stick.
I suspect the reason we never got playable Ogres, despite them fitting into the fiction fine, is that they'd be sort of hard to balance. One of the big traits of Ogres mechanically is they're monstrous infantry so to speak. So they have multiple attacks to represent how huge and smashy they are. I'd personally have started a playable PC Ogre at base 1 attacks anyway, but even then the stats they're good at (Strength and Toughness) are the most carefully controlled stats in the system, too. It's the kind of thing I'm sure we'd have gotten eventually if 2e had been produced for longer.
Giants are actually really interesting, because they're miserable. Old Hob the Peasant mentions the time he met one in the Common View. It stomped on up out of the forests, stopped in front of him as his fieldhands were all running away, and stood there swaying and drunk for a moment before asking him directions to Talabheim. When he told it it was on the right road, off it went with a polite thank you. The biggest, most consistent trait of Giants is that they're always drunk if they can help it. Always. Conscious thought 'seems painful to Giants', and there are several theories presented as to why. Waldemarr the scholar theorizes they're in pain from a mixture of their size and the immense growing pains of becoming so big so fast when they're children. Essentially, he thinks they suffer from all the problems of human gigantism, but on a truly massive scale and with the addition of gravity making them suffer for their sheer size and bulk. With such physical pain, he theorizes they use alcohol as a self-medicating anesthetic.
Giants often fight as mercenaries, because it's one of the ways they can keep themselves fed and drunk. They don't care who they eat, and they're often too drunk to care who they're fighting or who they're fighting for. The Greenskins love to hire them, because they're big and being bigger is obviously extremely cool. We get an Orc Warboss talking about how his lads were losing a battle until the giant he'd hired went on over and got a little carried away. Apparently they like to jump up and down when they get excited and that was enough to sort the battle (and most of his boys, but it was funny, so he thinks it's fine).
Rikkit'tik says that whatever you use, use a goddamn lot of it.
The Giants have the most interesting 'Our Own Words' so far outside of the Dragon Ogres. One of them says he drinks to ease the cold, because he can never find enough material to actually properly cover himself up and keep the wind and rain and weather from making him miserable. But another references the fact that the Giants used to have an entire civilization. The Giant tells the interviewer they used to 'shake the mountains' and that their civilization has been trampled by insects and left to slowly die in obscurity, thought of as nothing but monsters by the little races. He says that's the real, secret reason they drink or turn to the Dark Gods. To forget what they've lost and will never get back.
It's really interesting that the Giants are what they are, rather than 'just' big dumb monsters. I really appreciate the general theme that most of the 'dumb monsters' aren't dumb at all. Giants are just drunk, depressed, and in pain all the time; they aren't actually stupid.
Next Time: Why didn't they just take the Eagles to Mordor
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Great Eagles are enormous birbs who live in the great mountains of the setting. The dwarfs don't like them, thinking they all spy for the elves and steal dwarven goats, but our other Common stories about them include them warning a Bretonnian knight of ambush and helping him deal with orcs, and a general impression from people who live in mountains that the eagles are actually quite intelligent. They're correct. Great Eagles are actually fully sentient, and some of them even know human languages. They're most fond of learning and speaking Eltharin, so they deal with elves the most. They also hate orcs, because orcs eat their goats; these Eagles love eating goats. Orcs also kill their chicks and break their nests, and Great Eagles are very devoted parents who will go to any lengths to protect their chicks.
The really interesting trait isn't their intelligence or size (they're often 30 feet across at the wings). No, the really interesting bit comes to us from Waldemarr the Scholar, again. The Empire is in possession of a few golden tablets stolen from Lustria that, when translated, specifically speak of the Great Eagles. They sound like design documents, and say the Eagles are to be heralds of the Old Ones, granted great power against the forces of darkness and intelligence so they could carry out their duties. Because that's another thing people have noticed about the Eagles: They are completely immune to mutation, and even though they're an intelligent race, there is no record of any Great Eagle ever going with the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. Waldemarr isn't sure he believes the tablets, but as he says, someone thought the story of the design of the Great Eagles was worth inscribing in solid gold thousands of years ago. And it's a known fact that the Eagles are completely immune to Chaos.
It's really started to stand out to me as I've worked through all these books that the Old Ones actually come up quite a bit. They're never a real focus of the setting, but they're always there. Just what they were trying to do and why (besides the obvious bit that they hated Kahyoss), and what happened to fuck it up, is one of the big mysteries of the setting. There's certainly enough material and hints about them in 2e that you could build your own concept for them if you ever felt like having your 17th century germans and stuff run into ancient alien stuff, but they're also in the back enough that they never end up like the Syreneth of 7th Sea and risk taking over the setting. You'd have to actively decide to write a game about them to really have them come up beyond being a background mystery.
Giant Spiders don't really get much fluff. They're mostly a throwaway monster, so to speak, because c'mon you can't have fantasy without horrible giant spiders. Unlike normal spiders, they come in numbers. They hate you and want to suck out your fluids. They don't even get a full page to themselves, and it's mostly 'Fuuuuuuck these things!' and 'They ill like fire!'. They're usually the size of a very large dog, or a small horse. They generally have a paralytic venom and like to attack by ambush in heavy forest. In lean times they come out of the woods in swarms and attack livestock and people. They'd rather eat a cow than you, but they'll happily take a human if they think they can get away with it. The Hunter Pike is really freaked out about spiders and swears their corpses should be propped up to warn people that if you don't work on stamping out Chaos that's how you get huge fucking spiders that work in packs. Rikkit'Tik suggests wyvern venom mixed with salt, but also includes instructions that any dead spiders' venom glands are to be brought to him for research.
Dragons don't figure as heavily in Hams as they do in other fantasy settings because there are very, very few of them awake at any one time. They're still a big deal, though. We get an account of a soldier who served alongside an elven prince that had a Dragon in his service. He says he saw the creature take a cannon shot without flinching, and that he had a sense of humor, enjoying throwing goblins into other goblins and seeing what mischief and explosions would happen when he did. Our first dwarf voice on Dragons (and we'll get several) is that they're a bunch of goddamn overgrown flame-spewing magpies who can't build shiney things for themselves and so steal them from dwarfs. In the eyes of the world, a hero who is capable of facing and killing a dragon is the greatest of heroes. Giles d' Breton's entire reputation was first built on having slain a dragon as a young man, after all, and even Sigmar struggled to do more than wound a truly ancient wyrm. We even get a memoir account by Felix Jaeger (of the Gotrek and Felix books) of facing one, and he calls it the second worst thing he ever faced, second only to a Greater Demon.
As an aside, they really are that dangerous, too. Even without any buffs, the very standard Dragon stats have them at 6 attacks at Damage 7 AP Impact, plus AoE Damage 8 breath, with 69 Wounds and DR 11. If your party takes down a goddamn Dragon you are some of the hardest people in Hams. You're really only going to accomplish it by action-economying one down with multiple high tier fighters or by playing as a Vampire Lord or Chaos Lord. Felix isn't wrong at all, Dragons are the second-hardest enemy in the game and probably the most dangerous things PCs are expected to actually beat with the combat system at some point.
We get an extensive Scholar's section on them, too, with our Light Mage buddy from a few other entries wondering if their fire is magical or not. The reason this might matter, of course, is that if it's magic a wizard can dispel it as it comes out. You cannot do this in game because there's no 'dispel as it's cast' system in 2e, unlike the wargame. A dwarf loremaster notes that Dragons' hoards are essentially giant Bower Bird nests: They're designed to attract mates. Dragons pile up treasure and fancy things in order to show off to others of their kind and try to have kids. I wonder if they do silly bird mating dances? I bet they do. They should. He says that in the past, dwarfs used to make things for dragons in return for their fire to forge some of the most powerful Master Runes. Unfortunately, lots of Dragons betrayed dwarfs, took the treasure, and didn't provide the fire for the runes, or burned dwarf holds and robbed them. This, he says, is why some of the runes are 'lost'. It isn't that they're actually lost, it's that the dwarfs won't work with the Dragons they need to forge them anymore due to all them grudgins.
Dr. Abolas, our Tzeentch Magus, talks about how the two-headed dragons of Chaos are all descendants of an original primordial Chaos Dragon. He also notes it shouldn't be a surprise that Dragons can fall; they're intelligent creatures like anything else, they can choose to make bad decisions. Chaos Dragons are not to be trusted, even by their allies, but that's sort of par for the course for Chaos because that's how it do. Vampires also love to raise Dragon's bones and bodies from the dead, because if you're a talented enough necromancer to control such a zombie/skeleton, you now have an incredibly powerful and hideous flying mount. Also, elves used to ride Dragons as a whole, particularly in the land of Caledor out in Ulthuan (Caledorans being known as the people elves
find to be stuck up pricks, by the way). Most so-called Dragon Princes ride horses with Dragon decorations now, because most of the Dragons that live on Ulthuan are sleeping. There is a fear that if they all awaken and take to the sky again, it means the last battle with Chaos is nigh.
We get two very different opinions from the Dragons themselves. One mentions he was there when the Gates were built, and even claims to have helped the Old Ones in their labors. He then says that while he knows much of them (and other things), he doesn't feel any need to tell anyone because the only worthwhile thing humans and other do is make shiney things he can take for his lair sometimes. He's kind of a dick. The other talks about enjoying watching the smaller races go about their work and their lives, admiring the humans, elves, and dwarfs and their struggle to survive and build things in this world. He hopes his kind will be missed when they're eventually gone, and suspects this will be the case.
Dragons are odd. They're intelligent, individual, but also mostly irrelevant. There just aren't enough of them, and they feel like they lost their control of this world aeons ago. They were, after all, one of the original inhabitants of the world and were not created by the Old Ones at all; I can't imagine the planet being moved into a new orbit was particularly good for a species that adapted to living on an ice-ball. Hams Dragons are bystanders to its stories. Really, really powerful bystanders.
Next Time: The Majesty of the Catbird
Magnificent Goddamn Catbird
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Magnificent Goddamn Catbird
The Empire goddamn loves catbirds. I'm talking real catbirds, too, not the dumb wingless ones they put out in 8th edition when they wanted everyone to get some more monster models. The Empire is insistent that they've always loved Griffons and that they're an enduring symbol of the Empire and all and that's honestly not true in the least. No-one really cared much about Griffons beyond occasional experiments with using them as mounts until Emperor Magnus 200 years ago; he loved his war-Griffon and put it on everything, and now the Empire says it's been a traditional symbol of the Empire forever. They're scary as hell in battle; our first description of them is from one of our long-time merc commentators who was part of a losing flank until an Elector Count mounted on a Griffon showed up to turn the matter around. They can absolutely do that; the Griffon is often way more dangerous than the guy on their back.
The other stuff from the Common View reminds us of another important bit about Griffons, and indeed most magical monsters in Hams. They're still animals. They mention they're hard to feed because their predatory instincts are very strong and they'll occasionally go after the stableboys (apparently only Emperor Karl Franz himself can safely feed his personal Griffon, Deathclaw, who is a Good Boy). Another commentator is a huntsman who says that for all the anthropomorphizing and romanticizing of these dumb catbirds, they're still catbirds, with bird brains; you go hunting for chicks to bring down for training, it's not that hard to distract the parents and steal their eggs. The Count of Ostermark goes over why the Empire loves Griffons as a war-mount for a general: It's really nice to be able to view the battle from the air. Even better when you can dive down into a fight that's going against your men (like the above incident with the merc) and personally rally them and make a big difference. A giant catbird slamming into an engaged unit hits like a wrecking ball, after all.
Because of the association not only with Magnus the Pious, but also with the officers and nobles of the Empire, the Griffon is considered sacred in the Empire. This leads to another fun little aside from a scholar of Nuln, burned as a heretic for slandering the noble catbird; he makes the reasonable point that there's no goddamn way these things don't originate from mutation, same as almost any other magical beast. They're a stable mutation, as he says, and have been a long time, but he worries they're still originally from Chaos and might return to it. The Empire does not put up with anyone talking shit about its goddamn magnificent catbirds, though.
I will always be fond of Griffons because they're silly but cool looking, and because I was in a game that centered around raising one, but they'd unbalance the hell out of a party if you ever actually got a full strength Griffon mount. They are mean as hell, with 50% WS, 4 attacks, 48 Wounds, and doing Damage 6 while causing Terror. You do not want Cedric the Griffon pointed at you, she will fuck you up. I do really enjoy the consistent take that Hams monsters often still behave like wild (or partially domesticated) animals.
Pegasi are considerably more chill, though still pretty formidable and awesome as mounts. Pegasi are another common flying mount for Imperial officers, but they're especially common for Bretonnian knights since they have extensive nesting grounds near Parravon. To the point that instead of just officers Brets could field units of flying cavalry. They're also thought of very positively by the people; the Common View on Griffons was all about how awe inspiring but extremely dangerous they were. Pegasi are instead spoken of as intelligent, taking to training well, and generally forming strong bonds with their rider. They don't kill nearly as well as a Griffon, but a big warhorse charging you at high speeds from the sky can still crush someone's skull. Still, people see Pegasi with unabashed wonder and a generally positive attitude, which is nice to see in Hams from time to time.
We get a really interesting examination of Pegasi from a biologist who has cut a few dead ones open; she points out that they're very different from horses internally. They have bird-like, hollow bones that somehow stay strong and able to support their weight. They're omnivorous, often catching and eating fish or carrion. Even with the weight reduction from their internal structure, they shouldn't be able to fly; she theorized based on talking to a Light Wizard that Pegasi somehow catch the currents of the Winds of Magic for lift, which allows them to not only fly great distances but carry a fully armored knight without strain. There's also a really interesting talk from a Bretonnian horse breeder about how Pegasi born in the plains down below often refuse to learn to fly. He theorizes they're too smart to jump off high places unless they're actually born on a cliff, and if they don't learn as foals their wings will atrophy. Even in cases where that happens, you're still left with an unusually intelligent horse that takes well to training, and he observes that a Pegasus who never learns to fly is faster than a normal horse as it is.
I think Pegasi have one of the most interesting Scholar's Eye sections of all the monsters. They're not quite 'sapient', but they're clever, and there are a bunch of neat bits of biology to read through. One of the big impressions you get from 2e WHFRP, but especially from this book, is that the people in the Old World are actively trying to figure out the world they live in. They're not content with 'magical flying horse bird', they want to know how it differs from a horse, why it behaves how it does, and how it manages to fly and carry so much weight. It's one of my favorite differences about Fantasy compared to the 'IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH' stuff you get all the time in 40k.
Hippogriffs are the Horsebirds that the Bretonnians use as lordly mounts since they can't get at the Imperial Catbirds. They are inferior in all ways. This is mechanically true. You still don't want an angry Hippogriff pointed at you, though, and a Bretonnian peasant who manages to climb the mountains and catch a chick or egg for their Lord has a ticket to a better life. Similarly, a Knight Errant who does the same might get granted a title and lands on the spot. The Hippogriff vs. Pegasus debate is a big deal among Bretonnians, who argue endlessly over which one is the superior awesome magic flying mount. Imperials disdain the Hippogriff as a shitty offbrand Griffon (they are correct). Our burned Scholar friend is back to write about the Hippogriff and how it lives in a different mountain range than the Griffon (Griffons live in the eastern World's Edge Mountains, Hippogriffs in the Grey Mountains of the Bretonnian-Imperial border) and how whenever the two animals meet they try to kill one another.
Of course, he also calls the Hippogriff a Chaos beast, but as they are not a national symbol of the modern Empire, it's much more likely he got in trouble for shit-talking the catbird.
Hippogriffs will only ever accept a single rider, and that rider must have acquired the Hippogriff very young and hand-raised it from a chick. As you'll recall from Knights of the Grail, Hippogriffs tend to cause 'adventures' for their Knights, as they're prone to getting up to trouble, falling off things (when young), and trying to eat pets. They always seem to be hungry, and if you don't watch them that leads to trouble. As we see in the story of a Bret Knight who let his Hippogriff eat a young peasant in front of his Lord and Lady, and was ordered to put the creature to death for the affront.
Hippogriffs are still dangerous as hell, make no mistake. They're just not quite up to the level of the true catbird. The Griffon has about 10 WS and 6 Wounds on the Hippogriff, but you still don't want to fuck with something with Damage 6, 4 attacks, and 42 Wounds even if it's WS is 'only' 40. A Bretonnian Knight with a Virtue riding a Hippogriff is a huge shitwrecker that could potentially unbalance a whole campaign. Monstrous mounts are very, very strong. It doesn't change the fact that the Hippogriff still feels like a 'budget' Griffon, but I do like the detail that they inhabit totally different mountains and compete fiercely with one another when they meet.
Next Time: Wyverns: The Dickbags of the Sky
Mikhail was right, fuck wyverns
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Mikhail was right, fuck wyverns
Interestingly, the common folk think seeing a Wyvern is a curse. They're not far off. Wyverns are dicks! Also very dangerous, and very intelligent, even if they're still animals. Wyverns are often mistaken for Dragons. They are not Dragons at all, Waldemarr is sure to assure us; the best way you can tell is that a Wyvern only has 4 limbs (two wings, two legs) instead of 6 like a Dragon. They don't actually cause milk to curdle or grain to go off just by being nearby, but they're mean, asshole lizards with sharp whip-like tails and stingers. They actually get along quite well with Orcs, because they see the world in similar ways. Wyverns are natural bullies, spiteful and vicious, preferring targets that are afraid of them. When a Wyvern is raised by an Orc, they end up being excellent compliments to a Warboss the same way Griffons are great for Imperial officers. Imperials don't like to admit it but plenty of Orc commanders are smart enough to see the value of an aerial view of the battle, too.
We get a long story about a small handful of knights bringing down a Wyvern and dragging the Warboss riding it to the ground from Captain Schultz, though he's overstating the Wyvern when he says 'no Orc is ever as dangerous as their Wyvern, even Azhag the Slaughterer'. Incidentally, Azhag, the Warboss in the story? Actually kind of an important setting character, given he found the Crown of Nagash and had developed all kinds of weird magical abilities from wearing it. Captain Schultz having been a part of bringing him down and getting the Crown to the Imperial 'Shit we don't fuck with' Storage under the Grand Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf means Schultz was actually at a really important battle.
Wyverns really are pretty dangerous enemies, though. They're not as quick or offensively oriented as a noble Catbird, but as befits the favored mount of Orcs they're armored and tough as hell. They've got the DR of a Chaos Warrior (9, which is a lot for a monster) and still have monster-scale Wounds (44). They hit at Damage 7, and one of their three attacks a turn is their poisoned tail, doing +3 wounds from poison if you fail a Tough-10, and very few characters can reliably take what's effectively a Damage 10 hit without flinching. They're also pretty skilled for a monster at WS 51. Add a pissed off, huge Orc to that and you've got a nasty foe for even 3rd tier PCs.
Which makes the other bit of Wyvern fluff interesting: Even being as dangerous as they are, wild Wyverns almost never attack humans unless they're starving. They'll raid and carry off livestock, but they've long since learned you don't fuck with humans. Humans have guns. Humans have wizards. A human might be wearing armor and carrying a sword and they're just not worth it for how little meat they have. They know humans try to avenge their dead, too; they're just smart enough to understand that killing one of the soft humans might bring out the tough humans with armor and guns. Even tamed Wyverns will usually try to run if they're badly injured, too. They're not exactly cowards, they're just smart and don't think getting hurt or killed is worth it unless there's a lot of meat on the menu or they're really
pissed off. That adds a nice little detail where if players are being overwhelmed by a Wyvern, they really only have to hold out long enough to hurt it some and it might back off. Similarly, it makes actually hunting them down and getting rid of them a challenge, even once you can take one in a fight.
Rikkit'tik demands that any Wyvern killed has its venom sac brought directly to him. Also, wyrmcap mushroom squeezings applied to a long spear or arrows.
Giant Wolves are like Giant Spiders: A kind of a filler monster that exists as Thing Big. They're big, mean wolves that serve as mounts for Greenskins, or as The Children of the Night howling dramatically for Von Carsteins for ambience in their spooky castles. Our common view of them treats them like reasonably dangerous pests, with a Bret Man At Arms talking about wolf-riders outmaneuvering the knights but losing to halberds and a fishwife reminiscing about the time she and the whole town went out and killed a whole pack of them to make rugs and keep them off the cattle.
Rikkit'tik suggests using warpstone mixed with redcap for Dire Wolves, wolfsbane for Giant Wolves. The difference between a Giant Wolf and a Dire Wolf is whether or not it's still breathing; Dire Wolves are the undead hunting hounds of the Von Carsteins.
I'm not kidding about the Carsteins; one of the commentators is our generic Constantin von Carstein, whose entire character is being a totally stereotypical Vampire Count, and his entry on the wolves is literally 'The Children of the Night, what beautiful music they make!' Still, there's not much to say about them. They're not that dangerous, though an extra fighter is always a risk, especially at low levels. They're more dangerous than the Goblin riding them, generally, but that's a low bar. The real threat is that they're goddamn fast; Giant Wolves outpace even the best of horses. You get set on by gobbos riding those things and the little bastards will basically get to go wherever they want, and move quick enough to cross from longbow range to melee in a single turn of sprinting.
Were-Creatures are unusual. No-one really knows where they come from, though they seem more common in the north. The mercenary who talks about fighting Norscan berserks who seemed to turn into bear-men during a battle is certain they're creatures of Chaos, but we also get a story from a White Wolf Knight about how they're supposedly the children of Ulric and a beautiful woman named Brigit who died in childbirth bearing his son. Were-creatures are humans that can transform into half-animal half-man forms, usually in times of great stress. Some are definitely Chaos tainted, but there's an ambiguity about them that's particularly interesting.
Our scholar buddy Eckhard (who was burned for talking shit about the Catbirds) even makes the connection to the old tribe of the Cherusen, from Hochland, saying old legends call them 'shape-strong' and suggest that many of their nobles were able to transform in battle. He doesn't think this was a matter of Chaos at all, but a gift of either Taal or Ulric or some older faith that came before them entirely. There is active debate about whether these people even count as mutants, given it's possible there's no Chaos involved in what they do.
They also have an extensive 'Our Own Words' section, with a Bjornling Norscan talking about his first time turning into a bear-man in the heat of battle. He considers it a gift from Tchar, which is usually the Norscan term for Tzeentch, a sort of change from a normal man to a beast of war that accompanies the chaos of battle. He also mentions the Norse have so many of these creatures that they have policies on when and how to deploy them in battle, and that those who feel the call of 'The Beast' too strongly have to be confined until they're needed for combat. The other is an Adventurer and wandering entertainer named Renata who seems to be in complete control of her faculties. She's a normal Sigmarite and Imperial, by her own words, with no dealings with Chaos, who simply has to hide that she's also a werewolf or else she'll be killed as a mutant.
An NPC Were is mechanically a human character without Fate (I suppose a PC one might have Fate still; there's honestly nothing stopping them being playable besides the fact that they're quite powerful), who can change into a buffed were-form as a full action. They get some massive buffs when they do, on par with a Vampire, and they get a bunch of skills in their Wereform as well. If they already have those skills, those skills instead get the +10 from Skill Mastery when the Were changes. I do like the idea that these may have been one of the Hochlanders' ancient contributions to Sigmar's war machine; that's an interesting take on ancient history. The various origins and possibility that some of them have nothing to do with Chaos is also intriguing.
Next Time: Spooky Scary Skeletons
Remove the head or destroy the brain
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Remove the head or destroy the brain
I've been waiting to get to the Hams Undead. Hams has got real good Undead. They're our last general category of critters, and they're a big one. This section's going to be doing a lot of work, since it came out well before Night's Dark Masters and thus had to be the fluff book for Vampires until then. It also has a great write-up on Mummies.
But first, we're going to start with the fodder. Skeletons are some of the favored line troops of the Vampire Counts, and make up most of the remaining armies of Nehekara's Tomb Kings. Schultz leads us off with a succinct gameplay explanation, as per usual: They're faster than a zombie, still pretty hard to kill, and still scare people. He claims they're less frightening than rotting flesh, but this isn't part of the mechanics; they're all just Frightening. The same merchant who sells Squig meat to taverns pops up to note that bonemeal made out of ground Skeleton seems to be even better for crops than normal fertilizer (though he naturally doesn't tell anyone where he's getting his wares). I can't help but think that throwing dark magic tainted necromancy bones all over the crops is a bad idea, Herr Handlin.
Rikkit'tik suggests powdered warpstone in a linseed oil base. Yes, he's going to have advice on poisoning the undead. Rikkit'tik knows his shit.
We get a long section from a priest of Verena talking about how goddamn confusing these Harryhausen motherfuckers are: He can't figure out how they move. Or how they hold together. When they're killed, they just turn into normal piles of bone. They don't have any tendons or cords or anything holding the bones together, and they've got no muscle at all. He assumed there would be nerves or tendons, at least, but nothing. He concludes from this that the spark of life that animates everything is somehow completely non-physical in both Undead and humans. Seems a bit of a big conclusion to jump to. Constantin von Carstein continues to stereotypically Carstein all over the page, waxing on about how the death's head is everywhere in Imperial culture because they know to fear his mighty skellington legions and how the unrotted bone is the best symbol of death. There's also an excerpt from the Book of Vanhal, the legendary necromancer who may have been taught by Vlad and brought proper Necromancy to Sylvannia in the 1111 Skaven Crisis. He advises that you cannot flank your opponent with skeletons. They clatter and their weird synchronized marching gives them away every time. Instead, you plant the skeletons in the ground at your intended battle site and raise them up all around your enemies. Cackling madly is not
optional. He also emphasizes that Undead don't tire, so keep raising skeletons to annoy your enemy and never let them sleep.
Ghouls are unusual in that they're included among the Undead, but Ghouls aren't Undead at all. You know how one of the reasons you don't eat people is because of all them brain diseases you can get? That's basically what happens to Ghouls in Hams; they get the prions, they get the claws, they get the continual hunger for the flesh of the living. Morr's Law is absolute: Food that talks is not food. Schultz is actually kind of wrong about them not being that dangerous; they're mean little bastards in gameplay, having 2 attacks, being Frightening (you have to make a Fear test before you can start acting beyond just defending yourself when fighting them), and doing poison damage with their filthy claws. He claims they're much less frightening than they look and go down quick against proper steel, with no need for magic or tricks. Most others regard Ghouls as another of those feral monstrous pests you get all through the Old World.
Our Scholars step in to confirm Ghouls are former humans who ate human flesh. They showed up so often in Sylvania because, well, Sylvanians are more likely to be forced to resort to cannibalism because their farmland is shitty and their lords are often jerks outside of the good times with Vlad. Just tasting human flesh won't turn someone into a Ghoul; like any disease it's a bit of a roll of the dice. Weirdly, it seems to be passed on to their children, which implies Ghouls actually still have children. They follow Vampiric armies because Vampires are generally only out for the blood, and don't mind their Renfeld-looking crazy followers eating the occasional enemy soldier or scavenging the corpses of their passing. Constantin gloats about how eager these people are to serve him, but also notes he needs them; they work fine in daylight, they can cross running water, and all they ask is the chance to eat a few corpses. He'd be a fool to say no! They also get a brief Own Words section, but it's all 'I eat people, I like doin' it' and not especially interesting.
Ghouls are kind of a weird monster. They can be ruinously dangerous to a low level party and completely bounce off a higher level one, and they're really not quite mooks due to their second attack and nasty poison claws (Their claws do +2 Wounds if the target fails Tough-10). It's interesting that they're specifically the result of a disease of some kind, though.
Zombies are, well, zombies. You know zombies. I know zombies. They hunger. Schultz leads us off by suggesting you kill the Necromancer or Vampire raising the zombies in the first place, since that will kill them instantly. If you can't, shoot them. Zombies are slow and shambling, being totally unable to run, and so picking them off with bows, crossbows, and guns really is good advice. He describes close combat with zombies as exhausting, and not worth it if you can avoid it. They're not actually all that tough, or strong, or skilled; most PCs will dumpster the average zombie just fine. The issue is how many zombies there can be, and the way their master might keep raising them until you're ground down. That's the general theme, drilled in over and over again: These things are individually puny, expendable, but renewable. A proper Necromancer can even raise the corpse of the zombie you just put down as a new zombie.
Waldemarr the Scholar steps in to say that zombies aren't anything special. They're just animate matter, and the same magic would probably work on a lump of clay the same way it does a human corpse. Just the Necromancers and Vampires feel most comfortable with death and flesh, so their magic is much easier to work on dead flesh. Constantin considers them an excellent reminder to the living of what's coming, and thinks they're scarier than his skeletons even if they aren't as good at fighting.
Rikkit'tik suggests a paste of warpstone powder and deadbane. Be real, Rikkit'tik, this is a waste of warpstone. You can put these guys down with your little ninja sword way more easily.
Beyond that, there's nothing to really say about Hams zombies. They're not insanely durable like some zombies, they don't actually need to be shot in the head, they're just a lumbering wall of meat that has Frightening. They've got sub-mook stats and your PCs will probably put them down easily, as long as they don't panic or get overwhelmed.
And that's all the fodder! Next we can get into the interesting Undead.
Next Time: For SPOOKING
A spooky ghost!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
A spooky ghost!
Spirits confound the people of the Old World. Zombies and skeletons they get; they aren't the person they were before, just what remains after death. A walking corpse is just meat, you can tell yourself the spirit's gone to the realm of Morr. When a screaming spirit holding its own head in its hands comes at you, it's much harder to say that's 'just' the dead body. This is about the long and short of Captain Schultz's monologue about them; he's a hardened captain who's fought an awful lot of monsters, he's used to fighting Undead, but Spirits scare the hell out of him. This is partly because you can't kill them without magic on your side (though the majority of Spirit monsters can't hurt you back, either, just scare you. Exception for Spectres, who are extremely dangerous and CAN harm you whether or not you can hurt them back). It's also partly because the idea that a Necromancer could actually cut you off from the realm of Morr and force you to stay stuck in the real world is horrible. Most people in the Old World expect to rest when they die, damnit.
Scholars believe that spirits are merely echoes, small traces left behind when someone suffers a particularly awful death or has their rest disturbed by Necromancy. Heinrich Malz, our Verenan High Priest, seems to think that the incoherence of the average Spirit may mean that the soul is damaged when it's removed from the body and rendered insane. He jumps from here to the very weird conclusion that maybe there's no afterlife at all, and I don't really see how that follows. The Morrites know better, since this is their thing; a Priest of Morr says it's their duty to bring rest to Spirits however they can. Usually the proper rites will do it. Sometimes the Spirit's last business has to be attended. Sometimes, if the Spirit died in a particularly unjust way, they may have to call in the Templars of Morr to go on a quest to free them. Either way, being an adventuring Morrite ghost buster would be fun. Constantin considers Spirits very efficient, because you can eat a human, animate the flesh as a zombie, and then you've got a Spirit free to use in spooking as you wish. Someday he's going to say something interesting. Maybe.
Rikkit'tik suggests warpstone powder blown through a blowgun to disperse it through the Spirit's form.
Banshees are a specific kind of Spirit, always female, and their scream kills the hell out of people by sheer terror. They can't actually hurt people who are Fearless. Curiously, they don't seem actively hostile unless they're recruited and used as soldiers by the Vampire Counts. The biggest Common View story about them has one haunting the site of her death, and she only ever killed a single person. They're supposedly formed from the spirits of murderers, and Vorster Pike the Hunter seems to take the somewhat heretical position that Banshees are suffering Sigmar's justice for being 'evil women' in life. Considering that Sigmar hates the Undead, I can't really see that being the case, Pike old pal. The description on Banshees is pretty muddled, with the stories ranging from 'they just haunt spots' to 'they hate everything and are some of the only Spirits that will consistently attack the living without provocation'.
Our buddy Kinear is back to insist the Undead aren't a problem and Chaos is far more powerful, under the guise of warning that everyone needs to focus on Chaos.
Constantin wants to remind us they're cool and good at killing things because that's really all he ever does. C'mon, man! Have some actual theatrics! You're shaming your bloodline by being so cliche. If he's going to Carstein all over the place he could at least ask what a man is. Our other scholars just kind of restate that they're relatively hostile ghosts who scare people to death with their screaming.
They kinda ran out of steam on Banshees. I suspect because they're fundamentally similar to the larger Spirit category and there wasn't much to say about them.
Wights get interesting again. Schultz leads us off by telling us a Wight is an intelligent, trained warrior Undead. They're armed and armored, they know how to use them, and they're still intelligent enough for a soldier to get a sense the Wight actively wants a fight rather than just acting under the orders of a commander. They're sort of the Undead equivalent of a Chaos Warrior: Still kind of a mook, but the kind of mook that's a boss for a low level party and that nobody can take lightly. Hob the Farmer tells us there's a Wight that lives near his home, the body of 'old King Genaan', and if you leave his barrow alone he's no harm to anybody. Which is the case for most Wights not being driven to war by a Vampire or Necromancer; most of them just guard their burial site.
Proving what a prick he is, Constantin disdains some of his best soldiers, dismissing them as just 'fast, clever, skilled zombies'. He does bring up the interesting point that what gets animated when you pick up a Wight is the muscle memory of a warrior. This is why you can only make Wights out of 2nd tier or better warriors' corpses; the flesh and bones remember how to fight. He then gets to gloating about how a Wight can usually take out someone he can make into a new Wight, so they're expendable, too.
Rikkit'tik suggests a crossbow bolt smeared with pig's grease and of course, warpstone. Also standing well back and not getting in swording range. This is because the average Wight's sword is enchanted in the hands of the Wight, and will kill the heck out of the living. SB+2 counts as magical, roll twice and take the nastier crit when critting? Don't get hit by Wights.
Walemarr the Scholar confirms that Wights retain some of their intelligence. They aren't so independent that a skilled Necromancer or Vampire can't control them, but even without a controller they'll remain animate and they can act on their own. Many of them are made from the remains of ancient tribal kings and warriors, or even taken from the crypts of people long forgotten by the people of the Empire. Who knows how many ancient ruins and priceless historical sites have been defiled by the Von Carsteins in their constant quest for more of these soldiers?
I like Wights because if you encounter one without control, they're the first kind of Undead you don't necessarily need to fight. You could end up in an alliance of convenience with them against various other enemies, or you might be able to talk your way out of fighting them. A historian character might even be able to learn something of value by promising to tell the world of an ancient king's deeds and legacy, if the Wight is interested. Wights being intelligent, and sometimes naturally occurring (so to speak), gives you more range of adventures rather than just cutting them down as a dungeon crawling opponent.
Next Time: RETURN THE SLAAAAAAAAAB
Imhotep is Invisible
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Imhotep is Invisible
We don't have an official Nehekara book. There's more on them and the Tomb Kings in one of the pre-made campaigns, and I'm going to try to get my hands on it some time because they're great, but the Mummy section here is the most we're getting for some time.
Thankfully, it's also one of the best entries in the book.
The common view of Mummies is that they're like turbo-Wights, really. There are ancient barrows and ruins all through the southern Empire and Bretonnia that represent the high point of Nehekaran (not-Egypt) expansion back before Nagash did his thing and destroyed their entire civilization like the asshole he is. Thus, there are some places where an ancient king or queen sleeps, even in the Empire. The locals have long since learned not to bother these people; one example given is a lord talking about how in his grandfather's time, a Necromancer got into the tomb and tried to bind its inhabitant. The inhabitant not only killed him, but acting according to ancient law codes no-one knew anything about, went and razed an entire village that was near the mounds on the principle of collective punishment. Thus the noble's realm has firm laws that anyone poking the ancient mummy is to be captured and punished long before they can wake him up and cause havoc. Curiously, Waldemarr the Scholar is actually in the Common View here, since this isn't his area of specialty and all he can say is the ruins and barrows come from an ancient and very advanced civilization for them to have stood the test of time how they do.
Our Scholar's Eye starts with a story that's actually quite famous, and that I'm sure has been mentioned here before. In it, a wandering scholar has seen his wife poisoned with a terrible and slow-acting infection, and has gone to ancient Nehekara to try to study the ruins and learn of their healing arts in hopes of curing the terrible affliction. He's just there to study and isn't trying to disturb anything, but his guide tries to steal some of the tomb's gold. The next morning, he's awoken by heavily armed skeletons that take him and his guide captive, bringing them to the court of an eyeless man wrapped in bandages. An ancient priest, speaking in Reikspiel of all things, asks the scholar why he has come; the scholar pleads that he didn't come for gold but to try to study the wisdom of this great city of Bel Aliad, known as a place of healing, in order to save his wife from poisoning. The Mummy orders the guide (who is still holding the stolen gold) executed, then smiles at the scholar and orders the priest to take him somewhere. The priest tells him the King has ordered he be given the knowledge he seeks, and leads him to what he needed in order to save his wife. "My Lord commands me to tell you that he, too, loved once. He, too, would have gone to the ends of the earth for his love."
It's one of the best of these little vignettes in a book that has a bunch of good ones. Even if you don't know the Tomb Kings from somewhere else, it tells you the most important part about the Tomb Kings. I've said before one of the biggest strengths of the Hams Undead is that the major actors among them are 'free'. They can make their own choices about what they do and they don't even have to be hostile to the living in most cases. Well, the biggest thing about the Tomb Kings is that they're completely free. They don't even have a Vampire's thirst. They're just people. Undead people, yes, ancient people, yes, but people who are free to do as they feel is right or to do what they wish. An ancient Mummy listening to an adventuring archeologist's tale and sympathizing with him is awesome!
Their Own Words section is also cool. It's an ancient king talking about how in his life, he would defeat the 'fierce ones from the north' and the despoiling Greenskins. He was master of his domain and a Lord in a great Empire. Now, he doesn't know how long it has been. He no longer recognizes the trees and landscape around his barrow. But the fierce ones still come from the north. The Greenskins still despoil. And he has no mercy left for either.
Basically, you could have an adventure where an Imperial village accidentally wakes up its ancient Nehekaran Queen or something and she takes it upon herself to rule them properly, and suddenly you've got an ancient Mummy and her skeleton legions showing up to defend the town but none of the people know a goddamn thing about ancient Nehekara. There are all kinds of adventure seeds you can come up with for the mummies, just from what's here in this short bit. It's a very good example of how this book works, and it's really nice to see after they seemed to be running out of steam a little on some of the other fluff entries. It's not a huge entry. It doesn't take pages and pages, but what's there is evocative and really cool. You've got one case where a merciless force the Imperials don't understand has to be kept away from being disturbed, one case where diplomacy and understanding carry the day in a crisis, and one case where an ancient king is still saying he feels responsible for doing all that he did while he was alive. In only a few fluff entries you've got multiple good paths for adventure.
This is a bit of a short one because I only have 3 more entries to go after this one, and I feel like the Mummies can stand on their own.
Next Time: Bleh!
One, two, three meddling Adventurers! Ah-ha-ha!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
One, two, three meddling Adventurers! Ah-ha-ha!
Wraiths are another sort of angry ghost that wants you dead. The difference between them and the other kinds of angry ghosts is that a Wraith is going to try to kill you whether you disturb its rest or not. This is because they're the ghost of a Necromancer who tried to grasp immortality in a manner similar to Nagash and fucked up and died. They think it's total bullshit how you get to breath and eat and they take offense at all of these 'alive' things when they aren't, so they'd like to correct that. Interestingly, Kinear dismisses them and all other spiritual monsters. Given Chaos's focus on transcendence via demonhood, I suppose the existence of other soul-like non-corporeal beings that continue to persist is anathema to Chaos. We also get a Bret saying the only thing you can hope for to kill one of these things is an actual Grail Knight, since you need magic weapons or you're dead. Also a story from a peasant about how they sussed out and burned down a Necromancer lair back in the day and ever since there's been a pissed off Wraith living in the ruins; nobody goes near that place anymore. The common soldier just plain can't deal with one of these; you need Priests who can bless weapons, or Wizards.
Our Verenan priest, Heinrich Malz, talks about how Wraiths are actually more likely to come from an extremely determined but incompetent Necromancer. You see, a competent one would be able to make themselves into a free-willed Undead Lich. These ones fucked up, but they've got just enough magic and spite to hang on in the world and try to kill you. Constantin von Carstein spends his time laughing at them and boasting about how, as a Vampire, he can do all those 'alive' things when he wants to while they're stuck screaming about not having a body anymore. He also says any aspiring immortal should come to him; it's up to the Von Carsteins who gets it, in his mind.
The Wraith locked in that burned out Necromancer lair just yells at the interviewer for being alive and threatens to kill him to see if he can still be so smug about having a heartbeat or circulatory system when he's fucking dead. Wraiths! Sore losers of Necromancy!
Also extremely dangerous! Unless you have the tools to deal with them, they're basically invincible against a normal Adventurer and hit for Damage 3, but completely ignore armor. If you see one and you don't have a Wizard, Priest, or magic weapon, run.
Vampire Bats are boring. They're just giant evil bats, the same way Giant Wolves were giant evil wolves. They eat people. We don't even get anything cool about why the Von Carsteins like bats, because Constantin is determined to be one of the worst Von Carsteins since Manfred. The stories are all just variations on 'In Sylvania, bat eats you'. The only good bit of their writeup is Rikkit'tik suggesting you either treat them like a Vampire or better yet, get a subordinate high on warpstone powder and leave him to get eaten. This kills the bat.
Vampires, though? This is where you got all your Vampire fluff before they wrote Night's Dark Masters, and so they have one of the longest entries in the book. The Common View on them mixes between jealousy of their eternal youth and hotness, a desire to have their magical powers, enough sense to say 'But they're insanely dangerous, stay away!', and our good buddy Pike stepping in to say he's no more objection to burning ancient and noble Undead, no matter what they claim. Vampires loom large in the popular culture of the Old World, and they like it that way.
Waldemarr of Nuln gives us a lowdown on where they came from, which we all know from NDM already. They were first made in the great city of Lahmia, back in the ages of Nehekara, about 4000-5000 years ago. Though he concludes that as the older vampires are all more powerful, the fact that a human nation overthrew their first city and killed most of them is reason to hope that any Vampire can be beaten by sufficient skill and courage. He's completely correct; no Vamp is invincible. Rikkit'tik suggests powdered warpstone and ground silver in a garlic oil base. Rikkit'tik's approach to killing Vampires is the one taken by most successful Vampire Hunters, and it occurs to me now that Eshin would actually be quite good at the job. Assassination is the best way to deal with Vamps. Drakar the Chaos Warrior pops up after a long absence to spit on Vampires as unchanging, refusing to undertake the change between life and death or go to their rest as all things should. Before NDM made it more explicit, this is the first place in the line you really see the reasoning for why Chaos hates Undead so much; Undeath denies Chaos souls, and more important Chaos places value on transcendence into the Aethyr while Vampires persist in the physical.
We also get a long overview of all five of the major Lines of Vampires from a Priest of Verena, talking about the murderous Blood Dragons, the tyrannical Carsteins, the subtle Lahmians, the bestial Strigoi, and the bugfuck crazy nerd Necharchs. It's nothing new if you've seen the NDM review, but it's a solid overview that will tide a GM over and help suggest what kinds of plots to use these Vamps for. We'll later get actual stats for a typical mid-tier Thrall of each of the Lines, too, and it's here that they introduced the first of the Blood Gifts. Like Dragons reducing the Attacks of one of their foes by 1, or Lahmians being able to mind-whammy people but only outside of combat. All five flavors of Vampire are extremely dangerous even in 'mook' form in this book, boasting 60+ WS, good Attacks, magic, lots of Wounds, etc.
We also get a very long story from Schultz about going into Sylvania after a girl who'd gone to be bride to a Von Carstein (not, somehow, realizing the guy was almost certainly a vampire. Schultz, buddy, I know there are mortal Von Carsteins but that was a dumb move), and arriving too late to stop the wedding. To celebrate their new family member, the family told him and his men they had one day to ride out of Sylvania before they'd hunt him down and feed him to the new Von Carstein. He and his men took flight and managed to make out, and he's never taken a job going to Sylvania since.
What's really interesting is the Vampires justifying themselves in their own words. They only interviewed a Carstein (Hi, Constantin, you dick), a Lahmian, and a Blood Dragon; I'm not sure why they didn't include a Strigoi and Necharch perspective. I guess only the hot Vampires get to make their own case. Constantin once again gives exactly the spiel you'd expect, saying he's a good shepherd who keeps his humans safe from far worse predators like Chaos, so what does it matter if he occasionally eats one of them? The Dragon talks about how excellent it is to have eternity to practice and learn, knowing he won't age but will instead get stronger with each passing year. The Lahmian claims that her people are trying to guide humanity into a better future, and that without her the primitive tribes of the Empire never would have formed such a cohesive and powerful modern state. She positions herself as the champion of modernity, whose guidance will help the humans achieve something magnificent, while without her people they would be consumed by Chaos or civil war yet again.
What's interesting about this is all three talk about why they 'deserve' being Vampires. Their self-descriptions are all justifications of their immense privileges. Vampires can't resist the urge to justify themselves, one way or another. They also justify themselves as better than Chaos, which has the benefit of being true. A Vampire is a horrible bastard who eats people, but at least they don't want to unmake the world.
Hams Vampires are great partly because they embrace and enjoy being what they are. Oh, they'll indulge in tragic angst and woe when it suits their melodramatic natures, but for the most part they love their incredible power and consider what they are to be a privilege. Even if they justify themselves, it's partly because they think so highly of themselves, not because they feel a moral obligation to do so or any real guilt for who they are. Like Mummies, they're still free to act differently, but the supreme self confidence and the lack of reaction to blood, plus their thirst for delicious necks tends to push them more in the megalomaniac villain direction.
And that's it! Finally, all that fluff is done. Next we'll talk about how they derived the stats for monsters, the general categories of enemies, and some of the mechanical standouts and losers among the Bestiary in how well they work in gameplay.
Also, as to the Commentators, Rikkit'tik is obviously the best. But I'm also very fond of Captain Schultz and Albrecht Kinnear. Kinnear is important because he's an example of Chaos actually doing something clever, but knowing what Chaos wants you to know about it is actually a really cool use of this whole 'in character' perspective gimmick. I like Schultz because he's your PC after they've finished a campaign and they're writing their memoirs. Also, a lot of his advice is actually solid gameplay advice. It's neat.
Next Time: Game Mechanics!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
So, first let's talk about some general trends in creature design from a mechanically standpoint. First off, most creatures in WHFRP2e are based on their wargaming counterpart. When you see a Gor with a TB of 4, SB of 3, WS of 40 something? That's because a TT Gor is WS 4, S 3, T 4. They then add in ones digits based on how good or bad they think the thing should be at that stat. So a Gor, who is a pretty decent fighter, has a 40 WS, while a Bestigor (a better Gor, like the name says) has a 45, even though they're both WS 4 on TT. Generally, for every Wound something has on TT, it has 10+X, where X is whatever variation a designer though seemed good for this critter. So to go back to our Gor buddy, he's got 12 (like most starting PCs) while the Bestigor's got 14 (like most PCs who just finished Career 1). If you need an extra badass monster to be a boss fight, there are monster 'careers' that serve as buff packages; take as much or as little as you want and apply it to the monster's base profile.
Surprisingly, given Warhammer's general reputation on balancing issues, this actually works surprisingly well as mechanical guidance for designing monsters. Most of the monsters in the book are the sort of thing a party can eventually deal with using the combat system if they have to. You'll probably be running for the hills at the sight of a pissed off dragon for a long time, and trying to avoid head-on fights with even 'generic' vampires, but you'll get there.
To demonstrate this, and because I feel a mechanical failing of the book is its focus on Johan Schmidt, Average Schmuck, I'm going to call in two of the PCs from recent campaigns I've been in as a different sort of mechanical benchmark. One of them is a heavily focused Bretonnian monster hunter and Questing Knight, who will be showing off what a PC at the absolute edge of the PC power curve can do and helping demonstrate why I was wrong in my initial assessment and the Virtue of Heroism is actually broken as hell (in an extremely metal way). Joan of Lyonesse is a Questing Knight who has completed her Questing Knight Career and isn't sure what the hell is going to happen next. She enjoys hunting giant monsters with a two handed sword, trying to be a perfect hedge knight so that the Lady will overlook her gender, and secretly hates fighting on horseback.
She's not just a third tier PC. She's a third tier PC in an especially powerful class who has completed the career, coming in at a whopping 77% WS, 33% BS (Bretonnian), 58% Str, 59% T, 62% Agi, Int 45%, WP 58%, Fel 60%, with 20 Wounds, 3 Fate, the Lucky perk for an extra Fortune a day, 3 attacks, and a suit of plate and a greatsword. She's got a full array of combat talents, like Strike Mighty, Strike to Injure, and Sturdy to bear her armor. And she's got the Virtue of Giles d'Breton himself, Heroism. Which causes any attack that does over 10 Wounds to instantly cause a critical of a value equivalent to how high it got over 10. Joan is basically as badass as a PC fighter can get; she's in one of the strongest fighting tracks in the game, she's got decent rolled stats (Standouts in WS and Agi, everything else was average-ish at base), she's got a unique and extremely powerful Knightly Virtue and she's finished a 3rd tier career. She's here to show off that someone with all this can kill pretty much anything in this book by themselves; I'd be confident throwing her at almost anything that didn't take magic to kill short of a dragon.
Our other guest is Vinthariel, Vinny to his friends. An elven gangster who was totally ex-Lothern Sea Guard (actually officially, ever since he did a shady hit for the Elf CIA), he's a much less optimized character who meandered around being a criminal and serving as muscle for a bunch of wizard grad students. Also got kicked in the dick a bunch by a Master Assassin but showed that rat what for. At WS 59%, BS 58% (He's not a great shot for an elf, so sue him), S 45%, T 51%, Agi 55%, Int 24% (lol), WP 49% and Fel 47%, with 17 Wounds and 3 Fate, plus 3 attacks, a longbow, rapid reload, a two handed sword, and a bunch of combat talents. Vinny's no turbo-fucker like Joan, but he's a much more reasonable shot at a combat PC. He was enough to serve as muscle for an entire campaign, after all, and he was definitely a cerifiable badass. He'll be our mid-high combatant, for showing off just how far someone who's more 'average' and less specialized can go when we get to specific monster examples.
These two will only be coming up when we talk about some really stand-out monsters, but I feel like leaving everything to poor Johan means you don't get a sense of what leveled up characters are going to do to the contents of this book. It's not hyperbole to say Vinny and Joan kicked a lot of ass; both of them are actual PCs who have seen a lot of actual play, hence using them as so extra examples for comparing monster stats against. Most of the monsters in this book can reasonably be defeated by a higher level party, and a surprising amount of the book can be soloed by a sufficiently badass PC. Fate and Fury make a huge difference, and specialized fighters really do become stupendously good killing machines.
Now, let's round this out with a general discussion of the types of monsters you run into in the Old World Bestiary before we get on to the standouts.
Fodder are something like a Goblin or Zombie. Anything with a Slaughter Margin below Average (usually defined by stuff with a WS under 30, SB or TB under 3, only a few Wounds, or whatever) is going to get totally dumpstered by PCs. Remember that Johan doesn't even take into account Fate, and Fate is a huge advantage in favor of a PC. Anything like this isn't even a real threat to non-combat PCs.
Mooks are stuff like Orc Boys, Skaven Clanrats, and Beastmen. These usually have stats about on par with the rolled stats of a starting fighter, and only 1 attack. They also usually only have 9-14 Wounds and some poor equipment, if anything. They're actually pretty dangerous at low levels. Johan will kick their asses one on one, but he's a trained warrior with some good gear. Joan and Vinny don't even blink at cutting down bunches of these guys. They're usually basic infantry from the TT game and serve as your usual serious enemies throughout a campaign.
Elites are stuff like Bestigors, Black Orcs or Chaos Warriors. These guys have actual armor, which matters a lot. They often have some good talents and combat tricks, and skills in the 45-55 range. These are the monsters that serve as boss fights for an early party, spicing up a fight with a bunch of normal Beastmen or something by tossing in lone Chaos Warrior or armored Bestigor commanding them. They usually have a Slaughter Margin of Challenging, meaning Johan can take them some of the time. Again, Joan and Vinny murder these guys, though they aren't quite 'easy' enemies for Vinny; he could probably take 2-3 Chaos Warriors without too much of a problem, but more would start to break through and mess him up.
Animals/Mounts are stuff like Giant Wolves, who aren't really all that dangerous but adding an extra combatant that makes their rider move a lot faster doesn't making a fight any easier. A WS 25 Goblin that does Damage 2 is puny. A WS 25% Goblin that does Damage 2 and is Outnumbering you because his WS 36% Giant Wolf is trying to do Damage 3 to you is way more of a problem for a low level PC. Johan can probably still take most foes on basic mounts, but he'll have a tougher time of it. Even Joan and Vinny have to be a little wary of enemies who can outmaneuver them or just overwhelm them on sheer numbers; DR 10 stops a lot, but it doesn't stop everything, and enough shitty enemies with +20% to hit can wear down even heroic level characters.
Monsters are a special case. Most Monsters are really big enemies with a lot of attacks, good damage, very high Wounds, but little or no armor, few active defenses, and low Weapon Skill. This is stuff like Giants, who have 5 attacks at Damage 7 Impact (watch out for that tree) but only 33% WS. A lot of this kind of foe has Unstoppable Blows, too, a monster (and Blood Dragon, and Strigoi) ability that gives -30% to WS to Parry their attacks because of their immense size and strength. These guys are serious threats, but more vulnerable than they seem unless they get lucky. Johan is probably going to go down to bad luck and a swing of a tree against a Giant, but Joan stands a good chance of killing one in a single turn (lots of Wounds intentionally don't protect from Heroism) and Vinny can probably handle one if he gets the drop on it or a chance to shoot it first. It should be noted here, WHFRP2e does not have any Size rules. The huge size of an enemy like a Giant or Griffon is symbolized by their big wounds, big damage, and especially their big attacks. How dangerous Monsters are varies widely, but most of them will go down surprisingly quickly to a determined mid tier party.
Demons are all offense all the time, except Plaguebearers, who are tougher and slower. Most Demons are primarily a problem due to forcing a Fear check when they first come into view, and due to how much damage they can do. They're kind of glass cannons, though, especially if you can hit them with magic. They also share the unique trait of outright dying if they fail a WP test on a round when they don't manage to hurt anyone in melee but take damage themselves. This is the most severe form of Daemonic Instability any of the Warhammer lines have, and it makes Demons much more beatable by lower level parties than they'd normally be. Still, Bloodletters and Daemonettes are trouble for Johan, while Joan and Vinny can both crush them.
Those are the general categories of enemies you'll run into in the book, but I'll be talking in more detail about the big mechanical outliers like Treemen, Dragons, Hydras, etc. I'll also be going into detail about some of the really iconic enemies like Chaos Warriors, because I think the Chaos Warrior is an excellent benchmark and early miniboss for combat characters to compare themselves against. In general the actual mechanical balance of the monsters is surprisingly acceptable for them having been converted minis stats. I think Monsters can be a bit of paper tiger, but I kind of like it that way; your players often get nervous when you plonk down a Hydra, then they feel awesome when they bring it down anyway.
Next Time: Johan, Joan, and Vinny vs. The World
Proof of a Hero
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Proof of a Hero
It's time to see how well the characters fare against some of the signature beasts and terrifying threats of the Old World, as a way of covering some of the standout monsters and enemies. For purposes of these tests, I'll be reporting the number of rounds, hits, etc each of the played out fights took. And, of course, telling you the actual stats of what Joan, Vinny, and Johan are trying to take on. As you might imagine, Johan is not going to be having a good time in this post. For purposes of testing, Joan is using her greatsword exclusively, Vinny has his sword and shield, great weapon, and longbow (and will usually start with a round of missile fire before switching), and Johan has his sword and shield and halberd as options.
First up as a warm-up is the Chaos Warrior. At WS 51, BS 35, S 44, T 43, Agi 39, they've got a really good combat stat spread. They can also potentially have mutations that make them meaner, but their real signature is their heavy armor: They come with AV5. As it's Chaos Armor, it doesn't slow them down at all, but they also lack Dodge, somehow. Thus a Chaos Warrior's toughness is going to vary a lot based on if they have a Great Weapon/Flail or Hand Weapon and Shield. A Hand Weapon/Shield Chaos Warrior can Parry at 61%, after all; that's good odds. With an impressive damage reduction of 9, even if these guys are 'technically' line infantry, they're highly skilled, they hit hard, and they're the benchmark for serious warriors in the setting. You know you're a protagonist when you can take on an eight foot hellviking and win alone. They only get 1 attack standard, though, and have about 14 Wounds.
Johan faces a Warrior using a Great Weapon and does it with his Halberd. His only real chance is that he swings twice to the Warrior's one, and he's got an active defense while the Warrior doesn't. However, in the simulated combat, Sigmar is with Johan! It takes 8 rounds of the two exchanging blows, during which Johan takes 3 hits, one for 5 Wounds, one for 4, and one that luckily bounces off his helmet (that could have been a kill shot), and he delivers 5 hits to the Warrior, one for 4 Wounds, one for 4 Wounds, one for 1 Wound, one for 3 Wounds, and one for 4 Wounds, which inflicts Critical 2. That last blow to the head Stuns the Warrior for 9 Rounds, which should be more than enough time for Johan to kill him. As you see, even Johan Schmidt, 1st tier fighter with only a little EXP and gear, can potentially beat a Warrior. It was a near thing, though, and he got pretty lucky on his Impact damage rolls.
Vinny, by contrast, opens his fight up with elven archery, Furies on his first arrow, delivers 20-8=12 Wounds, misses the next shot, then hits with the third for 5 more Wounds, and Strike to Injure applies on ranged attacks. Vinny, uh, just puts two arrows into the Warrior's eye-slits like the gangster Legolas he is. Being an Outlaw Chief, Vinny's bow is a really big deal even if he's not the best shot for an elf. Damage 4 AP 1 is effectively Damage 5, and 3 attacks the Warrior can't answer or Dodge or whatever to start is big. This is going to be a theme for Vinny. Though he got lucky as hell with that first shot. You also see here a demonstration of why Fury is so powerful for PCs. You were probably already through their DR when you Furied. Now you're through and doing d10 damage, period. With the d10 still exploding.
Joan wins Init and, using Fortune to reroll one miss, hits the Warrior 3 times for Damage 6 Impact in Round 1. 5, 6, and 4 Wounds. Critical 1, +1 for Strike to Injure, doing Crit 2 and instantly stunning him just as Johan did at the end of his fight. She then puts her sword through the guy's skull on the ground, so Khorne can't have it. As you can see, what's a huge, 8 round boss-duel for Johan is a mook for Joan and Vinny. Johan should still be proud of himself, though. He killed a Chaos Warrior legit with no Fate or Fortune. Joan and Vinny also would've had a tougher time with a Warrior with a shield, and they both did really well on their damage rolls. Sure, Joan was rerolling hers with Impact, but still got 8, 9, and 7. She easily could have bounced off. Same for Vinny's arrows. Warriors are so tough that even a max tier fighter needs to put all three swings into them and get lucky on damage to put them down in one turn. I focus on the Chaos Warrior so because they're both an iconic enemy, and one of my favorite mid-level foes mechanically.
So the Warrior lost all 3 rounds handily. Let's try something scary. A Hydra. The Hydra is meant to be only a step below a dragon in terms of enemies. They do Damage 6 Impact, they have 5 attacks, 'only' 42% WS, and 5 TB with 3 Armor. And more importantly, 50 Wounds. They can also do an AoE fire breath attack at Damage 4 instead of meleeing, but that's not going to matter much in a duel. This is one of the most powerful individual monsters in the book.
Johan actually gets lucky, making his Terror test to fight the thing in the first place, then gets two hits in with his halberd, and even Furies on the second one for 22-8=14 Wounds, actually significantly injuring a Hydra. He inflicts 17 Wounds total in the first turn. This doesn't matter at all, as the Hydra then promptly kills the hell out of him on its return attacks, hitting twice for 9 and 7 Wounds and taking him out.
Vinny barely scratches it with his bow for 2. Reasoning that it's got Unstoppable, he uses his two-hander for this one. He gets in a good 8 Wounds with a Fury on his first swing, and bounces off on the second, missing his third. He ends up fighting it for 5 rounds, delivering 2 Furies in the process, one that did 8 Wounds, one that did 15. He eventually loses right at the finish line, going down after taking 6 hits himself, but he hit the creature 8 times, inflicting a total of 36 wounds. If he'd gotten a little luckier on his damage rolls he could have taken it down. He still had a chance, even if it wasn't a great one, primarily due to his slightly better DR (10 vs. 8 actually makes a big difference) and ability to use Fortune and Fury. If he'd had a few more Wounds or about 10 more points of WS he probably could have won.
Joan steps up to prove why Virtue of Heroism is broken as hell, landing 3 blows in round 1 and getting 7 Wounds, 5 Wounds, and then a Fury for 11 Wounds. With Strike to Injure, that's Crit 2 vs. the Hydra despite all its wound points. She does poorly on the critical roll, though, and only damages its armor on its body. She takes 7 Wounds in return, 3, 4 and 0, from 3 hits when it gets lucky and hits 4 times, with her Dodging 1. She delivers another 3 hits (using 1 Fortune to reroll a miss) and 14 more Wounds. The Hydra's fucked up and can't take another round of that, Heroism or no. It gets lucky and hits her 3 times, she Dodges 1, takes another 3 Wounds total. Then kills it on the next round with 3 hits (using Fortune to reroll a miss) and a second Fury. A Greatsword character delivering 3 hits a turn has a huge chance of one of those dice coming up a 10. And that's even without her Heroism crit really doing much. Her 20 or so WS on Vinny was really decisive; she didn't miss at all once Fortune came in.
Notice also how much of a difference Fortune makes. And how much Fury can swing a fight. And those are PC only advantages. A lot of monsters that 'seem' unbeatable will go down to a party of PCs whaling on them and fishing for 10s on damage, rerolling to-hit and dodge rolls, etc. The Hydra's relatively poor WS also hurts it a lot, but it was still hitting a fair amount; 42% odds aren't bad when you get to roll 5 times. You also see the value of Impact. When the d10 damage die is determining not only if you Fury, but if you get through their DR and do damage at all, it really matters that you get to reroll it.
But you all know you want to see the baddest motherfucker of them all take on these heroes. No giant lizard this, but rather a giant, angry tree. The Treeman is one of only 2 or 3 enemies in the book I'm not confident Joan can handle. He's got WS 81% somehow, unlike most monsters. He's got 6 SB, 7 TB, and 3 armor. He's got 46 Wounds and 4 Attacks. Everything he does is Impact. Treebeard is going to fuck you up.
Simulated Johan actually survived a single round of combat with him! And even hit him! For 0 damage. Somehow, Treebeard missed him 3 of 4 and Johan dodged. And then got smashed with 3 attacks for 21 wounds, total. Treebeard goes HOOM.
Vinny doesn't do much better, getting in 4 wounds with 3 arrows before the angry tree man is on him, Dodging the Charge, failing to wound him back as Treebeard pulls out Lightning Parry just to shame him, and then delivers 13 Wounds in round 1 of full melee. Vinny's sword gets in 6 wounds on round 3, before he's smashed like a bug by the 81% accurate, 4 attack return fire. Treebeard, once again, goes HOOM.
Alright, Joan, you're up, and you hate evil trees. You also have the Virtue of Heroism, and deliver a 25-10=15 Wound blow on the first swing. Which does Critical 6. Which, uh, kills Treebeard in one blow. Joan hates that goddamn hellforest. Let's try that again, now that she's so succinctly demoed why Virtue of Heroism is broken as hell. She still gets a Fury on Round 1, but only delivers 10 Wounds so her Virtue doesn't trigger. Her other two blows, uh, bounce off. Treebeard is annoyed, and delivers 3 hits (one Dodged) for 9 Wounds. Joan's counter-attack Furies him for 8, finally actually misses a swing despite Fortune, and then bounces. She then takes 4 hits in one turn, ends up eating Critical 4, and is knocked out. Treebeard, still annoyed at being one-shotted because of a poorly balanced implementation of the Table Top Killing Blow rule in the first duel, goes HOOM.
Treemen are one of the most dangerous enemies in the game. You may be noticing characters with Impact Fury an awful lot. This is because they have a 19% chance to trigger a Fury Chance every swing, if I remember my math right on the reroll. 100 possible outcomes, 19 of them include at least one 10. I use Joan partly to rescind my earlier statement about Heroism during the Knights of the Grail review: Do not allow a PC Heroism unless you're going for a really heroic feeling campaign; it's the most powerful Bret Virtue by far. The others are still good, but they don't let a character with a Greatsword potentially one-shot any foe in the game. The blow that killed Treebeard there would have one-shot a Dragon, as well. Or a Vampire Lord. Or a Chaos Lord. If you want a PC who has a chance against anything in the world and your whole group is comfortable with it, use Heroism. But be warned it's powerful as hell.
I picked the Chaos Warrior, Hydra, and Treeman to show off a few things. One, the Chaos Warrior is a great example of an enemy that starts out a boss and transitions to a mook as you go up in level. They're still dangerous and take focused fire, even from someone like Joan or Vinny, and they still hit for Damage 5 with good accuracy and skill. If you don't have Tome of Corruption, you can just toss one of the Monster careers on one to make a quick and dirty Chaos Champion boss fight, too. But they're still beatable in an epic duel by a little guy like Johan and you can throw a normal one at a starting party and expect them to win if they have a real fighter among them. They really work great as an enemy and a benchmark.
The Hydra was there to show off an especially powerful monster, but also how their low accuracy hinders them. Sure, he had a lot of swings, but even then he was only doing 0-6 damage to Joan and Vinny. Even the 'lesser' skilled combatant was able to hold his own against this thing. A full 2nd tier party (possibly with some mage support) can beat even fearsome beasts like this. Only Johan really got murdered.
The Treeman was there to show how those assumptions change when you no longer have poor accuracy mitigating the enemy's incoming damage some. Treebeard overwhelms someone's number of active defenses, he hits like a truck, and he's insanely accurate. He's also weirdly out of sync with his TT stats; I don't think Treemen were WS8. He also had the good grace to demo for me how Heroism is broken, but I thought he was an important part of showing off why most big monsters are 'good damage, high attacks, mediocre WS'. In a duel with a human-like opponent, they almost never get more than 3 attacks; a sword and shield character (or a two-handed character that activates Lightning Parry, giving up an attack to Parry right away) can fairly reliably try to answer two of those. Even a heavy armor and no shield character can usually hang for a couple rounds. Duels between skilled combatants usually last long enough for something to intervene or for an arc to develop for the fight.
Next time, rather than simulating these combats against mechanical benchmark characters, I'll just be going into some of the outliers and standouts among the monsters and talking about more of the trends in monster design and what it means for the combat system and the relative power of PCs. Still, now you've seen for yourself: Even Vinny was able to make a dent in a Hydra. Imagine what a party his level does. Especially when one of his buddies was a Bright Wizard, who are absolutely the highest damage ranged character type in the game. High tier parties can see some really epic fights with powerful monsters and big groups of dangerous enemies.
Next Time: OWB and what it means for Hams Combat
Fantastic beasts and how to kill them
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Old World Bestiary
Fantastic beasts and how to kill them
So, this is going to be a bit of an odd update for the mechanical meat of the Bestiary. Rather than listing very specific monster stats or something, I'm instead going to use this opportunity to talk about the combat system in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e in detail, and talk about some of the elements of combat balance. This will also probably be the last update for the Bestiary, because what's left is the kind of stuff that it's only really necessary if you're intending to run the game yourself and I believe it's still readily available from Cubicle 7's 2e/1e bundle. I really recommend the book; my summary is still a summary and it's one of my favorite sourcebooks, only really beaten out by Tome of Salvation and of course, Knights of the Grail.
That said, it's time to talk about why PCs seem to become so powerful in fighting careers once they hit 3rd tier. See, one of the things about Warhammer Fantasy is that PCs are always stronger than their raw numbers suggest in combat. One of the principle features of the game is that combat is meant to seem extremely dangerous (and it really is early on, before you have damage mitigation) but you often have much more of an upper hand than you think you do; Fury and Fate are huge, huge boosts to a PC. There are big, random swings of fortune, but they're in favor of the PCs; enemies don't crit. Your odds of triggering a Fury on every individual swing aren't huge, but they're not insignificant, either. More importantly, early on you will almost certainly be using rules like Aiming and outnumbering to get an edge in fights with serious enemies if your GM is balancing encounters well; you have to be aware that the early game is the most lethal part of the system. So you have these inbuilt advantages that will help you survive early, when you've got a 36% WS like poor Johan Schmidt, Empire Soldier.
Now think about what happens to those same rules and edges when he's Johan Schmidt, WS 76% 3 attack SB5 Empire Champion once he's got the EXP Joan has. One thing you notice when you run combats with a lot of the Big Scary Monsters of Warhammer is that they're deceptively...weak isn't the right term. Manageable. They often have low DR, few Active Defenses, and 40 wounds don't last long when you're losing 6-10 wounds a hit. Let's think about the effective HP of someone DR 10 (Often the DR of a high tier fighter in plate) vs. someone DR 5 (Many Big Monsters). Not only does the DR 10 guy have good odds of completely deflecting some attacks, but they're taking much less damage on attacks that get through. DR is extremely powerful as both passive defense and damage mitigation, and fighting PCs get good access to it. Add that to a pool of rerolls, and more importantly the fact that PC fighters will end up with a high skill over time, and they're shit-kickers.
One of the infamous parts of WHFRP2e combat is how unlikely it is an individual swing connects, due to multiple points of failure for an attack. You have to hit in the first place, they get an active defense (potentially), and then you have to break through armor and actually inflict wounds. Each one of these potential points of failure adjusts the odds significantly; let's say Johan the Champion at 76% WS is swinging at a Chaos Warrior with a Shield. That guy has a 61% chance to block that attack. That effectively makes Johan's chance to hit 46% on the swing the Warrior has a block for. Then he's Damage 6, and needs to get through DR 9; only a 70% chance to do Wounds at all. So on the swing the Warrior can active-defend with a shield, Johan the Badass has a 32% chance to actually injure him on an individual attack. The thing is, this is why Johan has 3 attacks at that level and a pool of rerolls, and that guy is also an unusually skilled and tanky enemy who is good at blocking with equipment designed to block; his second and third hits have 53% odds to do damage. Not only that, but each swing that got through has 10% odds to Fury, 76% chance to Confirm that Fury. This multiple points of failure design can absolutely be frustrating; I know my GM generally tries not to give early game enemies many Active Defenses specifically to avoid slowing the game down too much early on.
The thing is, this is another early game issue more than anything, and I think without it the late game would get extremely rocket-taggy. In general, there is an inordinate amount of attention paid to the balancing of the lower tiers of WHFRP2e because let's face it, the game and the culture around the game really want you to start at level 1 day 1 of your Rat Catcher's career and lots of campaigns don't go on long enough to get that guy up to being a Hero of the Empire. Which is a shame, because high tier play is actually fun as hell. If you want to start at 2nd or even 3rd tier, don't let anyone stop you by saying it's not how you're 'supposed' to play. When I played as Joan, I started as a Questing Knight, and that was one of the best Hams games I was ever in; you actually still have a ton of room for lateral advancement and a sense of character growth even if you start at a really high point. Zero to Hero is a lot of fun and the system does it well, but it isn't the only way to play.
Now, let's talk monsters and examine in depth why Treebeard was so goddamn dangerous to our heroes last time compared to a Hydra. The reason's simple: Treebeard fights like a turbo-charged PC. High Weapon Skill, higher attacks than a human PC can get, higher Strength than a human PC generally gets, Impact, Unstoppable Blows to negate one of the usual best Active Defenses (or at least make it much harder), very high Wounds, AND high DR. He's got the DR of a 3rd tier warrior in plate, he does the damage of an especially strong 3rd tier with a two-handed sword, he has the WS of an extremely strong 3rd tier, and he's got a monster's number of wounds and attacks. The only way you beat him is either to go at him with a whole party and hope your GM doesn't focus fire, or be Joan of Lyonesse and get lucky with Heroism (Either the earlier version, or the reprint updated version I was made aware of that inflicts an SB Crit whenever you roll a 10 for damage instead of Furying; either could kill him). By comparison, the Hydra only has a 42% chance to hit per swing. Sure, it bites 5 times, and does Damage 6 Impact. That hurts. It's a dangerous monster. But it fights like a monster, and effectively, a 3rd Tier with high to-hit and a pile of rerolls is going to land more strokes. The Hydra also has no active defense. Thus, a good 2nd tier party can probably bring one down.
Which gets me to another point of the combat system/monster design: Outside of outliers like Treebeard or something like a Bloodthirster (which you're meant to fight by arranging for a cannon bombardment or a conclave of wizards banishing it while you hold it off for 2 rounds or something) most monsters look more dangerous than they are. A large unit of Chaos Warriors is significantly more dangerous to a PC party than a Hydra, not just for action economy reasons but because being outnumbered boosts enemy to-hit and the more attacks you suffer, the more likely you'll be out of active defenses and having to take them on your armor. Also the more likely they can spare the guys to get around your front line and go for your non-fighters or your wizard or something. But lots of combat is designed around looking scary because at the end of the day, that's a matter of tone; WHFRP wants to convince you you're a doomed peasant who is going to die in the mud with a conscript's sword in one hand and your other having been ripped off by an 8 foot hellviking. This is because when you then shove that sword through the guy's eye-slit and kill him (or keep him busy long enough for your buddy to axe him in the back), it feels goddamn awesome.
Which is important, because 'feel' is really all combat has going for it. Combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e doesn't have a lot of deep tactical options. It's actually a really simple combat system where most of your tactics are just deciding who to focus on and whether you should run. Swift Attack is probably the single biggest design flaw in the system, because it tyrannizes all combat options as soon as you have access to it; being able to swing more than once is the most powerful option you have, with nothing else able to compete in the slightest. Which also leads to the silliness of actively hoping your opponent Charges you because now they only got one swing and you can attack back at a full attack. Similarly, while the Adventures and fiction are full of implications that most enemies will suffer morale problems and break before you kill all of them, there are no actual morale mechanics you can exploit or ways to force enemies to surrender outside of the adventure saying they do or your GM ruling they do. The combat system is mostly about rubbing numbers against one another and putting fiction to it. The good part is, the numbers work well enough to work fine in service to the fiction.
The dread secret of WHFRP2e is that the Doomed Peasant Simulator stuff is low level only, and even there if your GM is trying to balance combat properly you've got a way, way better chance than it looks like you do. Take a combat at the Siege of Middenheim where I was playing a young Sigmarite Initiate stuck in the war. He and a fellow Initiate (this one an Ulrican) were up against a Chaos Warrior as their first 'boss' after taking care of a couple piecemeal Chaos Marauders during an attack on one of the gates. Mechanically, Dieter was horribly outmatched; he was in light armor at DR 4, had 1 attack at WS 41, and only did Damage 4 to the Warrior's 5. But he and Carlott had the guy Outnumbered (+10 to both of them), and both had Fate Points. Between being able to reroll parries with my shield, hitting the guy more, and all those other added bonuses, these two sixteen year old Initiates brought down a hellviking after a significant expenditure of character resources (Fortune Points, some Wounds on Dieter the Sigmarite). There wasn't a huge amount of strategy, but the mechanics worked and fit the tone of the setting. You'll often feel outmatched and like you're narrowly muddling through, and that's part of what makes coming back later as a Veteran or Warrior Priest or whatever and just clowning on those guys great.
Like almost everything besides the Advancement rules (Careers are so goddamn good), combat and monster design are workmanlike and functional. WHFRP2e isn't a game whose rules are going to set anything on fire. But you do get enough options for customizing enemies (those Enemy Careers, mutations, books like ToC for making Chaos Lords) and a wide enough array of foes from a mechanical standpoint that you can make the tone of combat match the story you're trying to tell in the game. It's fun to play a fighter, because a fighter is really effective and fighting is often an viable solution to your problems. The monster stats in OWB back this up; when a 3rd Tier Warrior can duel and defeat arguably the 3rd nastiest monster in the bestiary, that says something. Even without Heroism, someone built like Joan could take a Hydra.
That said, there are some serious problems, and I picked Joan partly to illustrate one of them: Anything that bypasses Wounds tends to throw the combat system off a lot
. WHFRP2e combat is generally somewhat slow paced and gives you some chances to back off and try to leg it if things are going wrong. Stuff like Joan's Heroism insta-crit (Either older or newer version), or a Chimera's 'I automatically do 1 Wound on any hit no matter your DR, also if you take a Wound you have to save vs. Poison or die', or a Basilisk's petrification glare, or any of the other Save or Dies? They all throw off the pacing of combat and make things much more swingy. It brings in the chance of outrageous fortune taking your PC out in a way that damage generally doesn't, because it's normally really hard to get one-shotted by pure damage. Ethereal enemies like Wraiths are a total bastard because they can hurt you can you can't do shit to them without magic, and your chances of having magic in a randomly generated party are pretty low. Enemies built like PCs can be extremely dangerous, though often not too overbearing. Chaos Lords and Vampire Lords are nuts, but you can probably action economy them.
Another thing I must add is that balance-wise, it's also really important that Strength and Toughness advances are generally tightly controlled. On average, an endgame combat character has SB 5 or 6, TB 5 or 6. Most endgame monsters have similar. This is one of the reasons a bunch of the Dwarf Runes and other magical items can throw things off; damage and DR are usually closely controlled. When you fling +3 damage into the mix from an epic magic sword, or a Runefang that ignores all armor, or a suit of armor with +2 DR (for 7 total), you start to throw the scaling out of whack. I've played a character with DR 14 as an Exalted Lord of Chaos before. 13-14 is about the point where DR starts to get out of hand and unbalance the game, since you start to easily deflect normal gunfire and render human-scale characters with SB 4-5 obsolete. The general soft cap of 10-11 works out much better. Magic items aren't a huge deal in most campaigns, but they're another thing that can throw off the normally reasonably balanced if simple combat system, same as instant kills.
And so, from a mechanical standpoint, the actual monster stats in OWB are fine. Like most mechanics in WHFRP2e, they're workmanlike and solid. They work much better than you'd expect a conversion of wargaming units into RPG stats would, and they work well with the general tone and intent of the combat system. Monsters are big and scary and still beatable. Mooks range from pathetic to solid to elite. There are some cool and flavorful enemies and majestic creatures like catbirds. You get enough variety to construct adventures and encounters for a variety of PCs and games. The real value of the book is that in addition to all that, you get some really great setting building, adventure ideas for all these wild creatures, and a better sense of how the people of the world view their world. Encounters with the fantastical are common enough that almost everyone has one; that's part of the point of Hob the Peasant, to show off that an ordinary peasant who never left his farm still had encounters like giving a Giant directions or seeing Wyverns fly over his fields and harass his cows. Merchants sell monster bits as exotic goods. Knights train to fight all kinds of fantastic beasts. Soldiers have doctrine for how to deal with them as an army. The setting might be muddy but it's definitely fantastical and full of weird and wonderful things.
The narrators are also flavorful, and make a good source of NPCs and color-characters for a campaign; when I was playing Dieter the Initiate at Middenheim he got his basic combat training from a wounded Captain Schultz, for instance. Rikkit'Tik could always show up as a weird mercenary rat who buys whatever you're selling off that Wyvern you killed, or a cunning enemy. I used Albrecht Kinear the secret cult professor as a villain for 17th Century German Indiana Jones. The material in this book makes you excited to use it, and the mechanics are solid enough to let you do just that. If you only get 2 books for WHFRP2e in order to run it, I highly recommend this one in addition to the core; it fills out the setting really well and provides a lot of stats that save a GM a lot of time. Old World Bestiary is a great sourcebook, and one of the best Bestiaries I've seen for an RPG.
Next Time: Maybe the city portions of the campaign books? Maybe Old World Armory, for another lackluster book