Today’s blog post from WFRP Producer Pádraig Murphy concerns monsters – why they are still worth pursuing and how to hunt them! Pádraig offers examples of unusual and insidious beasts GMs can utilise to surprise and delight players and raise their expectations!
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Hunting Monsters for Fun and Profit
Hi All, hunting monsters is, in many ways, the low-hanging fruit of roleplaying games of every stripe. Much like kicking off an adventure in a tavern, or clearing a basement of giant rats, it’s very much a case of been there, slew that. Below are three arguments for pursuing this kind of adventure in your game all the same.
The Best Part of a Trope is Subverting It
A small village, poorly travelled and rarely recalled in the halls of power, has a problem. A monster terrorises the village — killing livestock and frightening locals. Perhaps it has already killed travellers on the road. Who can help them, save perhaps the slightly grubby party of suspiciously well-armed strangers who just happened to wander by?
It is precisely because players are so familiar with this type of adventure that we have the opportunity to subvert their expectations. Perhaps there’s no monster at all, but a band of brigands taking care to cover their tracks? Perhaps the monster is real, but was released by a local noble to introduce more challenging game to their estate? Perhaps the monster is not the source of local ills at all, but the scapegoat for the fears and superstitions of the Empire’s peasantry. The opportunities are endless.
We Can be Heroes (Just for One Day)
Sometimes, it makes more sense to simply play things straight. There are rarely clean cut heroes anywhere in the Old World, and the Characters are no exception. WFRP thrives in telling nuanced stories, often without a clear right and wrong. Saving a village from a ravening monster can provide a pleasant palate cleanser between more difficult tales. This is not to say the Characters’ motivations need to be pure — they may have been swayed only by the offer of a sizable reward — but they can at least enjoy their coin secure in the knowledge that the world is just a touch safer because of them.
Monsters Are Fun!
While the Old World is dark and full of terror, players may begin to take certain threats for granted simply because they understand them so well. Skaven are a terrifying threat barely understood by most denizens of the Empire, but your players may well have read and understood the entirety of the Skaven army book. They may know more about these insidious ratmen than you do! However, one-off monsters, the spawn of magic, Chaos, or even older forces, provide a GM with the opportunity to introduce genuinely unknown and mysterious threats.
You will find that many creatures listed in the WFRP rulebook possess a good number of optional Traits — use them! They not only make the creature more challenging, but harder to predict as well. Feel free to create your own creatures — who can say what fresh horror might claw its way out of the Drakwald, the Worlds Edge Mountains, or from the catacombs beneath the ancient and razed city of Mordheim?
He Who Fights Monsters…
There is ample reason for most wandering adventurers to become wrapped up in hunting a monster, but some Careers are especially suited to it. Hunters and Witch Hunters are perhaps the most obvious candidates, but many Scholars might also venture out from their stacks of tomes, hoping to discover something to make their claim. Road Wardens and Riverwardens may find some creatures as much a hazard as any bandit or wrecker, and wandering Knights may find their skills called upon to deal with some of the most hazardous monstrosities. Hedge Witches were once the first port of call for any peasant fearing an incursion from beyond the Hedge, but in recent times this practice has faltered. Still, the Hedge Witches keep careful eye on the ancient border between the Empire and the wilds beyond, and are often the first to note when something threatens the safety of marginal communities.
Beginning the Hunt
While many creatures need to be slain simply because of the threat they pose to civilisation, there are a multitude of reasons the Characters might wish to hunt a beast. Some creatures, or rather certain parts of some creatures, are powerful reagents for apothecaries and Wizards alike. Potions of Shape Changing require the blood, hair, scale, or horn from the creature whose form is to be taken, for example, and the blood of dragons is said to be essential to the creation of many lasting enchantments. While it is rumoured that the toenails of certain squigs have powerful medicinal properties, in most cases the squigs themselves are as hazardous as any malady.
Aside from outright slaying beasts, there is often value in capturing a creature alive. The Imperial Zoo in Altdorf has standing bounties on many creatures, several of which may actually exist. Demigryphys, griffons, and even bears have value to certain military orders as mounts, and there are a bevy of travelling carnivals, zoos, and more esoteric organisations who will pay well for healthy specimens of all sorts.
Where Do I Put the Stake?
When it comes to monsters, their weaknesses are often far more defining than their strengths. Is a physically powerful creature that drinks blood, but has no weakness to sunlight, silver, or garlic, still recognisably a Vampire? Characters should have a chance to discover and exploit these weaknesses, rewarding a more thoughtful approach than simply blindly rushing in.
These weaknesses might be discovered by interviewing witnesses — perhaps the creature avoided entering any home bearing a symbol of holy Sigmar above the door, or in which the owner has been burning hawthorn in their hearth all winter and an old, rambling crone took notice? They may also discover such information in ancient texts about the creature, or from living experts who spent their better years hunting monsters. It is said that Markus Wulfhart, Huntmarshal of the Empire, has stalked and learned the weakness of every creature beneath the sun, though the man himself is far too humble to make such a claim.
For taking a creature alive, a net, lasso, or bloas (WFRP 295) may prove essential. Drugging a creature, using poisons or herbs, such as Mandrake Root or Nightshade (WFRP 306), may also be a useful strategy, if the creature can be somehow dosed with the concoction.
Silver for Monsters
The Witch Hunter’s trappings (WFRP 92) include a ‘Silvered Blade’, which is detailed below. What does a silver weapon do? They are particularly effective against Vampires, gaining the Damaging Quality when used against these terrors of the night. Certain Witch Hunters claim they are just as effective against other Undead as well. But while these creatures might also be defeated by traditional weapons and a little more effort, some monstrosities are entirely immune to weapons that have not been properly enchanted or blessed. Against such beasts using a Silvered Blade is a proven tactic.
Trait – Immunity (Mundane Weapons)
The creature is immune to damage, including critical wounds, from any mundane weapon. This does not apply to damage from Silvered or Magic weapons, or from creatures with the Magical Trait.
Creating Silvered Weapons
The amount of silver required for a Silvered Blade is actually not very much — about 1GCs worth is enough for a basic hand weapon, 10/– for a dagger or knife, or 2-3 GC for larger blades.
Any blacksmith can create silver versions of suitable bladed weapons for the above cost, in addition to the usual cost of such a weapon. For example, a Silvered Hand Weapon would cost 2 GC.
Silvered weapons are easily dulled. Any failed Test involving a silvered weapon which rolls a double causes the weapon to become Undamaging until you resharpen it. A basic whetstone, costing 3/–, along with a few minutes of effort is usually sufficient.
True, lasting Silvered weapons without this flaw can also be had, for a price. Properly silvering a weapon requires the efforts of a skilled blacksmith to produce the correct alloy of silver, copper, and a third and secret ingredient. The resulting blade is sharp enough to keep an edge, but contains enough silver to burn the flesh of Vampires and other foulness.
Only expert blacksmiths, such as the very best Human smiths or an accomplished Dwarf, are capable of this; experienced Witch Hunters are sure to befriend such talented individuals. These experts are typically quite aware of how valuable their skills are, and charge accordingly. Such an expertly made Silvered Hand Weapon may cost upwards of 30 GC. Occasionally, a smith may have need of a Witch Hunter’s services, and could be convinced to create the weapon in return for some favour.
Silver ammunition is a simpler matter, as longevity is of little concern. Silver arrows can be had for 5 GC per dozen, each of which can only be used a single time as they are easily blunted. Silver bullets are easier to create, and can be had for 3 GC per dozen, though most find that lead is quite sufficient. In the case of a Blunderbuss, there is little need to prepare special shot at all — a handful of silver coins stuffed in the barrel makes for an expedient deterrent to any Vampire, or at least many Coachmen so claim.
Where the Wild Things Were
Hopefully you now have some ideas for setting your Characters on the path to hunting a few of the Old World’s most threatening denizens. In doing so they may be showered in gold and glory, and perhaps with a little luck retain their life and most of their limbs in the process. If you are looking for some inspiration on unusual creatures to throw at your players, the alternative Fenbeast below makes for a fun hunt. As an added bonus, even if the creature is defeated, the mystery of who exactly created it can remain as a hook for inquisitive adventurers.
Fenbeasts are creatures of mud, marsh, and magic, typically assembled from materials found in swamps where many have died in a great battle. The monsters have some connection to the mythic isle of Albion, but the details of this have only been guessed at by the most informed scholars of the Empire. The presence of a Fenbeast in the Old World typically indicates the presence of a magic user of some sort, though the full means and agenda of their creators remains a mystery.
There is rumour of at least one Fenbeast in the Reikland, near the village of Havelfurt on the western edge of The Habercrybs, which the locals have taken to calling ‘The Hollowed Old Son’ for reasons unclear. The marshes there were the site of a great battle during the time of Magnus the Pious, in which thousands are said to have been slaughtered. Along with the bones of dead soldiers, the Fenbeast’s fetid form is pitted throughout with weapons and armour from that period, at least one of which is suspiciously well-preserved for a blade which has spent centuries languishing in a swamp…
Traits: Dark Vision, Size (Large), Construct, Territorial, Fear (1), Immunity (Lore of Life), Immunity to Psychology, Infestation, Swamp-strider, Weapon +9
Special: While in a swamp or marsh, the Fenbeast gains the Regenerate and Die Hard Traits. If the Fenbeast can be tempted out of its marsh for at least an hour, it begins to dry out — reducing its size to Average. This will reduce its Wounds by 22, to a minimum of 1, and cause the creature to gain 5 Ablaze Conditions (1D10+4 damage per turn) if it is exposed to any source of flame. Notes: Because of its Large size, the Fenbeast’s attacks gain the Damaging Quality against Elves, Dwarfs, and Humans, and additionally have its damage doubled against Halflings. Defending against it using Melee incurs a penalty of –2 SL, and it may expend 1 Advantage to make a Stomp attack (+5) against smaller creatures. It will also gain Deathblow, allowing it to attack up to 4 different Characters each round so long as its attacks are successful. A truly terrifying creature to face up close!
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