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Friday, 30 March 2018

Monster hunt - part 1

This seems a good pick for April 1st. Not that it’s a joke as such, but it is a slightly silly knockabout scenario with a whiff of poisson. The original version used Dragon Warriors stats, and must have been written right after The Lands of Legend when we still thought Book Seven was on the cards, but it’s certainly too light on story to ever have been considered for inclusion in a DW book.

I have a feeling that Oliver and I knocked it up for White Dwarf on the basis of a casual conversation with Ian Livingstone in which he hinted that Citadel Miniatures might benefit from a scenario designed to sell figurines – “you know, like a monster hunt.” But Games Workshop wouldn’t have seen any mileage in a scenario based on Dragon Warriors rules because DW was sold in bookshops, so made no money for them.

That was around the time of the famous “sod off” issue when White Dwarf had been wrenched away from editor Ian Marsh and was in the process of transforming into a figurines catalogue. Well, Oliver and I had no illusions on that score, so with a quick edit the scenario jumped across to the Warhammer universe. Even then, though, I don’t think it was ever published. Maybe GW suggested repurposing it again for Tetsubo and by then I’d had enough of the thing.

The scenario is really just an excuse for a string of tabletop fights, first a scrap in the Tin Inn – pardon me, the Whaler’s Wassail – and then opening into a rambunctious monster hunt on Spike Island. It’s typical of the way White Dwarf was trending under the new Nottingham regime, but a little more real roleplaying fun could be squeezed out of it by encouraging some factionalism among the PCs, perhaps, or if the metamorphosis abilities of the oni and rakshah are used to stir up a little Thing-style paranoia. Otherwise just crack out the beer and pretzels and start swinging.


A scenario for Dragon Warriors and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson.

Party composition (DW)
This adventure is best suited to assassins, though any adventuring profession can take part. As a guideline, the party strength should be as follows:
If there are only a few players, the party can either consist of high-ranking characters or player-controlled NPCs can be used to bring it up to strength.

You have come to the port of Burhaven on the north-west coast of Cornumbria. Much of the last part of your journey has taken place in the sort of torrential downpour that always accompanies the arrival of spring in this part of the world. Soon all the rivers have flooded their banks and the road along which you ride has become a slough of mud. It is with some relief that you stoop under the overhanging eaves of the only inn in this small port. You are pleased to note that a ship rides at anchor in the harbour, for you have come here expressly to get passage on a ship going south. Evening settles in as you take in the scene from the shelter of the dripping eaves. Far out beyond the harbour walls, through a grey mist of rain you can just make out the sombre silhouette of an island. A wan light glimmers from a hilltop tower there.

Last night, in a terrible storm, a barque was swept onto the rocks of Spike Island. The sailors were all drowned, but their living cargo escaped from the wreck. This was an oni, an exotic monster not found in Cornumbria - or anywhere in western Legend (WFRP: the Old World).

Master Altan, the wizard who lives on Spike Island, is a collector of strange beasts. Having heard tales about oni from sailors returning from the Orient, he sent his hunters to catch one for his menagerie. His sources told him something about the oni’s magic, so he had provided them with an enchanted cage that would suppress its powers. After many months, the hunters had discovered an oni in a cave in distant Opalor (WFRP: Cathay) and managed to catch it after a fierce struggle.

They began the long haul north, back to Spike Island, to claim the reward they had earned. The voyage was fraught with many dangers, all of which they survived only to die in the shipwreck with their destination in sight. The bars of the magical cage were smashed on the jagged rocks, and the oni was set free.

It set out towards Altan’s tower and there, taking the disguise of a shipwrecked sailor, sought sanctuary. Altan was suspicious, but before he had a chance to pierce the oni’s disguise with a spell it had breathed its poisonous, mind-destroying fumes upon him. Fleeing in terror, Altan stumbled out into the storm and made a desperate escape from the island using his Ring of Far Deliverance (see below).

Making its way into the vaults below the tower, the oni was amazed to discover Altan’s menagerie: a shrieking, blood maddened collection of some of the strangest creatures in all Creation. One, a hag calling herself Annis the Spit, convinced the oni to open the cages. The creatures of Altan’s menagerie poured out wildly into the night. Annis and the oni remained in the tower, which they have quickly befouled to become a suitable lair. Annis is spiteful with petty evil and is content to let the monsters roam the island for now, though she intends to transport them all to the mainland to spread mayhem as soon as she can get hold of a ship. Although the oni is evil, it has its own intelligent goals (returning home, for one) and is not interested in such chaotic malevolence. However, being a stranger in a strange land it has decided to follow Annis’s lead for the time being.

Meanwhile, Altan has found his way to the Whaler’s Wassail tavern on the mainland. The oni’s breath has destroyed his intellect, but his personality is unchanged. Always a good man, he feels responsible for the evil that has happened and has a driving need to set things straight. Unfortunately, he is now quite befuddled and cannot remember precisely what did happen. He remembers that the monsters are free on the island, and realises that they must be rounded up or killed before they harm anyone. He cannot remember precisely what monsters there are, and has forgotten all about the oni.

As the player-characters enter the inn (see map below) Altan has just asked some whalers whether they will accompany him back to the island. They are reluctant because they are naturally a little leery of him. The wizard has always been a recluse, viewed with awe and fear by the locals. The strange cries that sometimes echo from his island have given the place a baleful reputation. He has, however, just offered them 50 Crowns a head to do the job. This represents several months’ earning to the whalers, so they are sorely tempted. They want to think carefully about the idea, and will certainly become irate if the PCs pre-empt them by offering to go with Altan in their place.

When the PCs enter, there are eleven people in the taproom. The six whalers (table B on the map) are dressed from head to toe in rank-smelling oilskins. Their greasy faces are concealed in the shadows of their oilskin hoods. They reek of the bloody charnel of their trade, and their evilly sharp harpoon-spears lean against the table where they sit.

2nd rank fighters; ATT 14; DEF 8; attack with harpoon (2d4, 4) or knife (d6, 3); special attack: can throw harpoon (d8, 4), armour bypass means it lodges in the target’s flesh causing 1 HP damage per round until pulled free, which causes 1d3 damage; AF1; HP 9, 9, 8, 10, 9, 11; MAG DEF 3; EV4; move 10m (20m); STEALTH 11; PERCEPTION 5

Skills: Sailing, Row, Fish, Orientation, Strike to Injure, Consume Alcohol, Swim.
Possessions: Harpoon (counts as javelin, but barbed: increase the value of any critical hit by +1); flensing knife; oilskin cape; 12 shillings.

In another corner (table A) sit three officers of the Temptress, the ship lying at anchor in the harbour. They wear the stiff epaulettes, voluminous capes, oak-carved gorgets and double peaked hats favoured by the sailors of Ereworn (WFRP: Kislev). The tallest of the three is Captain Flint of Salamur Port (WFRP: Erengrad). His helmsman and first mate have accompanied him so that the rough whalers don’t try any tricks. Flint intends to pay them for the whale oil he is shipping across the Glaive to Algandy (WFRP: south across the Channel).

4th rank fighters; ATT 16; DEF 10; attack with sword (d8, 4) or dagger (d4, 3); AF2; HP 16, 15, 15; MAG DEF 6; EV4; move 10m (20m); STEALTH 14; PERCEPTION 8; special item: Captain Flint has “Davy Jones’s Sparkler” (a ring of obedient parts) and a hipflask containing healing potion.

Skills: Sailing, Orientation, Fencing Sword, Left-hand Dagger, Storytelling, Dodge Blow, Astronomy, Cartography, Read/Write, Swim.
Possessions: Sword; dagger; leather jerkin; 5 Crowns; Captain Flint has two special items, Davy Jones’s Sparkler (a Protection Ring vs sea monsters) and a hipflask of enchanted rum that acts like a Potion of Healing.

Altan himself sits in deep shadows beside the hearth (table C), still in his dripping wet cloak waiting impatiently for the whalers to make up their mind about his proposition. He mutters to himself, wringing his hands and taking slurps of wine from the jug beside him. He will explain his plight to anyone who asks, and will accept their help in preference to the whalers whom he does not trust.

Altan should not be characterized as stupid. The oni’s breath which effectively reduced his intelligence has done this by destroying his power to concentrate. He now keeps forgetting things and can only carry a thought through by tremendous effort of will. Listening to him ramble away takes a lot of patience, and often it is quicker to complete his train of thought for him, but he does not give the impression of being stupid.

Altan is accompanied by his ape, Jemai, the only loyal creature from his menagerie. It too is soaked to the skin and chatters with the cold. It has a limited power of speech (instilled in it by magic) but it will only speak when spoken to. This is because Altan objected to unnecessary interruptions when he was working. If asked, Jemai will tell the player-characters about the oni ( “Strange thingy with grinning face came out of storm, ‘n’ blowed smoke in master’s face...”).

13th rank sorcerer; ATT 12; DEF 6; strikes with staff (d6,3); AF0; HP 13; MAG ATT 28; MAG DEF 18; EV5; move 9m (15m); STEALTH 16; PERCEPTION 12; special items: Ring of Far Deliverance (a ring of teleportation with 7 charges) and Cap’n Sabre’s Galoshes (boots of water walking); notes: Altan can still attempt to cast spells, but he must first roll to see if he remembers the spell (a d20 equal to or under his current Intelligence score of 5) and then has a 70% chance of miscasting it.

Skills: Arcane Language (Magick); Cast Spells; Read/Write; Scroll Lore; Secret Language (Classical); Identify Plants; Rune Lore; Magic Sense; Herb Lore; Magical Awareness; Meditation; Demon Lore; Identify Magical Artifact; Identify Undead; Mythical Beast Lore.
Possessions: Staff; robes; Ring of Far Deliverance (casts Teleport, usable once per month); Cap’n Sabre’s Galoshes (permit wearer to walk on water); pet ape
Magic Points: 33 (But Altan must test against Intelligence in order to cast a spell successfully or use any other knowledge skill.)
Spells: Petty Magic - Gift of Tongues, Glowing Light, Magic Alarm, Magic Lock, Protection from Rain; Battle Magic Level One - Cure Light Injury, Wind Blast; Battle Magic Level Two Mystic Mist, Zone of Sanctuary; Battle Magic Level Three - Cause Fear, Magic Bridge; Battle Magic Level Four - Aura of Invulnerability, Strength of Mind. (Altan didn’t manage to take any spell ingredients with him when he fled from the island.)

Jemai the ape
ATT 10; DEF 6; attacks by biting (d4,1) or throwing small objects (d3,2); AF0; HP 3; MAG DEF 3; EV6; move 12m (25m); STEALTH 17; PERCEPTION 13

Skills: Acrobatics, Concealment, Dodge Blow, Flee!, Pick Pocket, Scale Sheer Surface
Possessions: Toothpick, bag of pistachio nuts, brocade waistcoat, purse containing 12 Crowns and 3 shillings.

Jemai attacks by biting or throwing small objects. If there’s a brawl, he will climb up to the rafters out of harm’s way.

The innkeeper, Humbrol Greytooth, is behind the bar. He tolerates brawls as a way of life in Burhaven, but if his inn looks like getting seriously damaged he will use the crossbow he keeps under the counter. Otherwise, Humbrol’s only interests are serving ale and selling titbits of information to his customers.

Humbrol Greytooth
Unranked human; ATT 11; DEF 5; fights with cudgel (d3,3) or crossbow (d10,4); AF0; HP 8; MAG DEF 3; EV3; move 10m (20m); STEALTH 12; PERCEPTION 4

Skills: Blather, Brewing, Consume Alcohol, Disarm, Evaluate, Haggle, Storytelling, Strike to Stun.
Possessions: Crossbow, leather apron, cudgel
Special ability: Never surprised by anything that happens at the inn.

The taproom of the Whaler’s Wassail is mapped here in case of a brawl. (Download a larger version here.) Quite possibly such a brawl will start (like many in the past) because of the parrot. This annoying bird hears anything whispered within ten feet and will then immediately repeat it in a very loud squawk. Humbrol thinks his parrot is an exceptional bird – which it is – but does not realize that this is not a good thing. Many a muttered joke or remark about another patron has been relayed by the parrot with cawing bravado, sparking off a fight.

The standard DW or WFRP rules are adequate for any fight, but the following structured tactical rules may be preferred by those who like to brawl with precision. Attacks (including missiles and spells) must be aimed at someone in your 120° line-of-sight zone (see map). Each combat round is divided into three action phases, as below.

* Each hex represents about 1.5m, so a normal move is 6 hexes per round and a running move is 12 hexes. Alternatively you can backpedal – move backwards a total of 2 hexes. To run you must have taken a move action in the previous round and you must take a move action in the following round. When you take a move action you are not obliged to go the full distance but you must move at least 1 hex.

** In melee you can strike at an adjacent character in one of your front three hexes. You can only hit in melee if you moved no more than 2 hexes in the same round.

Within each phase, actions are first announced by all players in order of Reflexes (ie lowest first) and actions are then carried out in reverse order of Reflexes (highest first). When announcing, you only have to say which option you’ve chosen, not how you’re planning to implement it. For instance, you might say “move” but not how far or where, or you might say “hit in melee” without having to specify whom you’re going to hit.

Moving onto furniture costs a character 2 hexes from their move for the round and they must make a Reflexes test (difficulty factor 14) or fall prone. There’s no cost for moving off furniture, though. Fighting from on top of a table gives +1 ATTACK and DEFENCE. The tables and bar are immovable, but the chairs can be swung – or they can be thrown up to (Strength/4) hexes. Chairs count as (d8,3) weapons in DW rules, while the parrot's perch can be used as a staff once the parrot has been prised off it.

If an actual hand-to-hand slugfest is appealing, optional close combat rules can be used. Under he optional rules, any character can move into another's hex. It is possible to stand off a character closing with you if (i) you have a weapon and the other character doesn't and (ii) they are approaching from one of your three front hexes. Otherwise they collide with you and you both go down in the hex. Once in this situation, characters can only fight one another using unarmed combat, dagger or cudgel. They get to strike in both the first and third phases each round. DEFENCE of both characters is halved. Instead of fighting, a grappling character can spend the round trying to extricate himself and stand up; he has to roll under Reflexes on d20 to succeed (unless the other person is also trying to get up).

Getting to the island
There are a number of boats by the quayside. These belong to the whalers, and theft will result in a hot and bloody pursuit. Each boat takes up to sixteen people (minimum crew six) and the whalers are prepared to hire one of them out for 20 Florins (WFRP: shillings) a day.

Captain Flint’s ship is due to weigh anchor tomorrow morning, so if the characters intend to sail with him this will only give them the night to explore Spike Island. Flint is quite inflexible about his schedule unless bribed, and no other merchant vessel is expected in Burhaven for ten days or so. The Temptress has a crew of fifteen in addition to her three officers. These fellows have been given strict instructions not to allow anyone aboard. They have hung oiled nets over the sides to give would-be boarders a slippery climb.

Only a skilled mariner will be able to steer a ship or boat to the jetty on Spike Island. Characters with a nautical background (DW: see Book Six) might just have the appropriate expertise. If not, their craft will be seized by strong coastal currents and swept into the island in a random location: roll d12 to determine the shore zone on the island map (see next post).

Come back next week for the concluding instalment.


  1. Woo hoo, got to love the legend scenarios. Also got to love the Schwarzenegger-esq acrostic in the contents page of that issue of WD

    1. I'm not sure that it's particularly authentic a Legend scenario, mind you. Maybe if I'd done it Thing-style with all the shapeshifting paranoia...

  2. Re: the scenario - I am currently in a wet and windswept Whitby, wrapped in freezing sea- fog and suspect that if I went out tonight the pub I’d wander into would be just like “The Whaler’s Wassail”. This is a DW kind of place; especially the ruined abbey up on the cliff top !

    1. To my chagrin I've never been to Whitby, despite having read about it in Dracula when still in short trousers. High time I got myself up there!

    2. Yes, but bring a warm coat whenever you come - it’s cold up here - as I suppose it should be, in a harbour huddled between the North York Moors and the Great North Sea, with the ruined church on the headland a kind of skeletal wind- haunted reply to Westminster Abbey, on behalf of the lost kingdom of Northumbria, and its parliament of gulls. You probably have been here in spirit anyway - in Ellesland at least !

  3. And, re: White Dwarf - “well on its way to becoming a figurines catalogue” I guess the Warhammer guys were always going to win that one. Cicero (effectively) tried to take- down Mark Antony with a brilliant acrostic and... that didn’t end so well ; )

    1. Fortunately Ian Marsh wasn't beheaded as a result. Well, not yet, but perhaps Nottingham revenge is a dish served very cold indeed.

  4. I love it. Takes me right back to Lands of Legend. Thank you Dave.