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Friday, 18 May 2018

Positively the last RuneRites

If you were a fan of the RuneRites column in White Dwarf thirty-five years ago - indeed, if you were even born then - here's a very late addition to the files. I had this lined up to run alongside Oliver's "Wrecker Island" scenario for Questworld. But then Questworld fell through, Games Workshop stopped pushing Runequest, and RuneRites got shifted back to bimonthly. Since the scenario was never used in WD, neither was this column, although the former later appeared in Dragon Warriors book 3: The Elven Crystals. It had changed quite a bit - the original scenario was set in tropical seas, the DW version was rainswept and wintry - and the RQ monster stats here were never needed. So, for the RQ completists out there...

A selection of sea creatures
By Oliver Johnson

When adventuring in a marine setting, be sure you are familiar with the drowning rules (Runequest Appendix E). Also, Borderlands explains how difficult it is for humans and other air-breathers to fight underwater: Air-breathers don’t get their damage bonus underwater. Except for metal-strung crossbows, missile weapons cannot be used. Armour reduces combat skills by 5% per ENC point unless specially designed for use underwater. Attack chances (except for thrusting weapons) are halved after making the ENC reduction. So if the drowning don’t get you the monsters sure will! Talk about being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. -- DM

Barnacle men
These undead creatures come up from the ocean depths during storms and cling to the hulls of ships and coral reefs. Their bodies are completely covered with barnacles, and anyone succeeding in hacking one apart will find only a calcified white skeleton beneath this near impervious layer. Using their massive strength, barnacle men break through the bottom of ships to search the holds for jewels. If there is no plunder to be had, they will then stalk the ship terrorizing its crew. Barnacle men are frequently found with stolen precious stones embedded in their shell covering; assume a 20% chance of 1-8 gems.

Folklore: If you wander round the bars and taverns of Deliverance, you will find many an old salt with tales to tell of barnacle men, but few who can claim to have actually seen one. The popular belief among sailors is that these creatures are the liches of pirates so rapacious and malign that they cannot rest in death, but rise up from their sunken ships to torment the living. Most sailors know that disruption is a good way to deal with barnacle men.

Giant electric eel
Any character who hits an eel suffers an electric shock. This is resolved as a 2d8 attack to CON, like a systemic poison attack except that the lost CON recovers at the rate of 1 point per full turn. Additionally, a character receiving an electric shock is reduced 1d6 points in STR for two minutes.

Dead men’s sighs
Said to be the dying breath of sailors killed on rocks and reefs, these blue, wraith-like spirits appear at dusk and dawn, drifting out of the waves to attack the unwary. Normal weapons (even Runic metals) will not harm them, but any magical damage immediately disperses them like mist. They attack by closing with their opponent and matching POW vs POW. If the sigh wins, the victim takes 2d3 damage (a chilling numbness) directly to a random location, and the sigh then dissipates.

Rays will always attempt to avoid melee, and will only fight if cornered or attacked in the lair. Rays should be treated as though they have shimmer 2 at all times. This is not a spell-effect, but instead derives from the ray’s camouflage ability to fan up an obscuring cloud of fine sand from the sea bed when threatened.

Giant clam
You encounter a clam by stepping onto it, so any encounter must be checked against the character’s Spot Hidden. A character trapped by a clam takes 2d6 on the first round, then 3d6 on the next, and so on. The damage does not go on increasing after the sixth round. Armour will protect until it is crushed. Clams can be forced open by combined STR equal to the clam’s own STR (4d6+8) – if a character can improvise a lever of some kind he gets a 50% STR bonus.
Sharks vary quite a bit in size and ferocity. The sort described here average about 2.3m in length, and are well known to the sailors who ply the southern seas to trade in Gradisti. Sharks will attack anyone who is bleeding or thrashing about, and such is the terror that these creatures instil that I suggest an MDFx5 roll is required for any character who spots them while in the water. If the character fails this roll, he or she panics and cannot help shouting and struggling. If a shark’s tail is reduced to 0 hit points it will start to “drown” as sharks must move forward to breathe. Reducing its head to 0 hit points will halve its Attack chance but the shark will fight on for 2-6 rounds before dying.

Hungry Morguss
Hungry Morguss is a legend among sailors, a monster of folklore spoken of by those who have somehow survived when their ships went down in maelstroms or violent storms. Such mariners will sometimes whisper of having looked down into the ocean’s depths at the moment of disaster and seeing in the waters below a huge, mad, staring face with a gaping mouth, bigger than three large ships, sucking the doomed vessel down in a whirlpool. This evil visage is believed by sailors to be Hungry Morguss, a marine aspect of the devil. We may speculate at leisure as to other explanations. The face of Death himself? A monster, demon or forgotten god from Questworld’s antiquity? A mere phantasm created in the mind of sailors when disaster is imminent? How shall the truth be known?


  1. I though for a moment this was a menu for a WEIRD seafood restaurant... “I’ll have the Giant Clams, with a portion of Dead Men’s Sighs, and a Hungry Morguss for dessert...does that come with ice cream by the way ?”

    1. Your Harmonize spell worked, John. I just bought ten huge succulent-looking prawns for tomorrow night's dinner.

    2. Excellent ! And washed down with some Wrecker’s Island rum I hope

    3. That or any old port...

    4. I didn’t get that joke at first, but now it’s sunk in
      ; )

    5. I didn't mean it littorally, of course.

    6. I've run out of puns. Guess I'm out of my depth.

    7. It was the best way to wave goodbye to RuneRites though !

    8. Yep, that was RuneRites, time to get kraken on a new post!

  2. Hi, I just noticed that the Serpent King Domain is already available on Amazon. I hope my KS book didn't get lost in the treacherous waters!

    Also, Dave, I wanted to ask a few months ago (long time reader). Did you and Jamie take part of the signature of the book? I know Paul Gresty is the author but based on the KS, I had the impression that the book was developed with the notes and guidance of the authors.

    Thanks, and I'm glad to be back reading your blog!

    1. Hi Ikaros -- I've seen on Facebook that KS backers are getting their copies, so Megara are sending them out. It just takes time.

      Jamie and I are meant to be getting a batch of bookplates to sign, which I assume Megara will then send out to those backers who asked for signatures. So it does seem to be happening, just as not as fast as we had hoped.

  3. Hi Dave - Thank you so much for the answer. Waiting for the signature is ok by me. I consider it time well spent!

  4. I remember the one bit in FL3 where Barnacle men would board my ship and carry off some of my crew to get drowned/eaten. Which meant I'd have to go hire more crew in a large port city, which was inconvenient. I mean, sure, horrifying fate for the crew, but still inconvenient for me.

    1. Ah, the things a ship's captain has to deal with... :-)

  5. Well, overall it still wasn't as bad as the secretly pregnant crew-person. That forced me to divert to the Island of Fire, which lived up to its name by erupting, which meant I had to dump 2 units of Spices and one of Metals to save the villagers and still came within an inch of capsizing. Barnacle men are a blessing compared to that.