Saturday, May 31, 2014

Six Lions in Wermspittle

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.
Alexander the Great

There once were lions that prowled the mountainous regions to the West and South of Wermspittle. For a while it was fashionable to hunt the magnificent beasts, at least until there were too few lions and far too many hunters out in those wooded hills and the hunters turned their gonnes and spears against one another...

  1. Proud Zalik. Horribly scarred across his flanks, his left paw mangled by a hunter's trap, Zalik has outlasted and outwitted everyone who has ever pursued him. He is a survivor. Clever and ruthless, he has learned how to observe those who would hunt him and to learn their weaknesses, which he then exploits to destroy them.

    Proud Zalik (unique) [Huge, Adult, Male Mountain Lion; AL N, MV 180' (60'), AC 4, HD 10, #AT 3, DG 2d4/2d4/4d4, SV F10, ML 12 (fearless), Special: Zalik not only does not play fair, he uses ESP and Clairvoyance to observe his would-be hunters. All creatures under 3HD must make a Save or suffer the effects of a Cause Fear spell when Zalik roars. If confronted with Black Smoke, Zalik will make a hasty strategic withdrawal, but will make a point of killing whomever dared use it on him.]

  2. Ridolphe. Brass has made this old lion immortal. Expertly cast as the very last piece produced by Fernand Mankaullier in his grand studio, there is an almost elemental sense of majesty contained within the sleek lines and dramatic features of this restless, untamed statue. They say it prowls the old studio grounds still...

    Ridoplphe (unique) [Huge, Adult, Male Brass Lion; AL N, MV 240' (80'), AC 0, HD 12, #AT 2/1/1 (Claws/Bite/Roar), DG 4d8*/3d10/3d6+Fear, SV F10, ML 12 (fearless), Special: Ridolphe moves fast for a beast weighing well over a ton. His body is cast from a proprietary form of brass known only to Mankaullier and his three apprentices.*If Ridolphe scores a natural 20 to hit, he does an additional 4d8 damage by raking his target with his hind claws. Hold, Sleep, Charm only last for 1d4 rounds before he shakes off the effects. Ridolphe's spirit is bound to an Opal mounted on his brow, destroying the Opal (90 hit points) frees his spirit and renders the brass form inert. If the Opal is not destroyed, the brass body will flow back into its original form in 1d4 hours, however it only regains 10 hit points per day and must completely heal before Ridolphe can become animate again.]

  3. Yzgridt. An ivory amulet carved to represent a crouching lioness. It is very, very old and so is the spirit that resides within it...

    Yzgridt (unique) [Huge, Adult, Female Geist Lion; AL N, MV 180' (60'), AC 4, HD 6, #AT 3, DG 2d4/2d4/3d4, SV F6, ML 12 (fearless), Special: Yzgridt may be called forth three more times before the old amulet finally shatters into dust and fragments. She radiates an aura that combines Protection From Evil, Protection From Normal Missiles, and Remove Fear in a 20' radius for the duration of her manifestation.]

  4. Vossitelle. She was brought to this place by a group of hunters who supplied rare beasts to the exotic menageries and zoological gardens of the rich and powerful. Her distinctive speckled markings along her haunches made her a rare find and helped fetch her captors a hefty price. After the bombings, the riots and chaos, Vossitelle found herself surrounded by a host of Neomorphs, exotic animals and sheep...a flock of strangely cunning and carnivorous sheep that have since accepted her as their protector and defender...

    Vossitelle (unique) [Medium, Adult, Female Lion; AL N, MV 180' (60'), AC 4, HD 6+1, #AT 3, DG 1d4/1d4/2d4, SV F10, ML 11, Special: Vossitelle can summon 1d6 Carnivorous sheep every 4 turns. These deranged animals will fight to the death to defend her. Neither the sheep nor Vossitelle are anything more, or less, than animals. They seek only to survive in a very peculiar environment, or to escape to a better place. There is a strange pool within the old greenhouse where all the animals in this place get their water. The pool seems to be contaminated in some way, possibly with some manner of Spectral Brine or something. The longer they stay here, the smarter the beasts seem to become...]

  5. Zura. She killed dozens of hunters with those scimitar-like fangs in her brief career of infamy as a man-eater. The newspapers and promoters liked to exaggerate and say that she had devoured hundreds of unlucky hunters and their servants. She never kept a count...

    Zura (unique) [Huge, Adult, Female Sabre-Toothed Lion; AL N, MV 180' (60'), AC 5, HD 8, #AT 3, DG 3d4/3d4/5d4, SV F16, ML 12 (fearless), Special: Zura is now an Undead Zoological Specimen. She is turned as a 16HD Undead Creature. She is driven by an insatiable urge to kill.]

  6. Blackmane. A noble creature. Originally brought into the city by the commander of a Pruztian Jungle Korps unit returning to the homeland after three long years in a green hell. This beast was intended to be released on a private hunting preserve. A bomb demolished the hotel where the commander was staying. Now Blackmane prowls the alleys of Wermspittle.

    Blackmane (unique) [Huge, Adult, Male Lion; AL N, MV 180' (60'), AC 4, HD 6, #AT 3, DG 2d4/2d4/4d4, SV F14, ML 12 (fearless), Special: A wonderful specimen wandering about the streets and alleys looking for easy-pickings. He is easily distracted by shiny objects and the scent of females in heat.]

Lions | Tigers | Bears
Lesser Beasts
Red Bestiary Index

There have been conflicting and disturbing reports of some sort of gang that has taken over the old Brazgan Estate. It is unsure if the gang is some sort of group of rogue shepherds, possibly from Menillia, or whether it might in fact be some sort of autonomous flock of monstrously deformed and dangerous animals. Local Authorities have insisted on getting jurisdiction established before anyone sends anyone to investigate the matter...


  1. I like all of these, and the Tiger. Like all Wermspittle stuff they have this 'Lost Generation' Sassoon/Graves sadness about them. Specifically this:

    I have a practical question though. I note your tigers and lions are all in the 8 - 12 HD range with other stats to match. Sure these are miraculous creatures, but the hermit's mountain lion in B2 is some 3-4 Hd and while still likely to murder a 1st level party, it's nothing to these horrors. Does Wermspittle default to a higher level then the B/X it seems to use as a chassis? If so do you have the time to explain why and by how much?

  2. Thanks for the comment, the link, and for the compliment. I had not ever read that piece before, but it does fit into Wermspittle quite nicely. Thank you!

    As to the HD...the short answer is I goofed and transposed numbers from another entry I was proofing and got mixed-up. I have dropped the Lion HD down a little bit, more in keeping with the Labyrinth Lord stats. Not as far as the 'norm' but a bit lower. The tigers are meant to be intense, high HD beasts. They are the apex predators of the urban wilderness within Wermpsittle.

    I'm not too keen on comparing these beasts to the one you mention as an example from Module B2, as it is pretty much a typical specimen and these things are by definition unique and very special beasts. These are exceptional creatures. In some cases they are known, named and have been written-up in the papers. In others they are nameless terrors prowling the night and a source of much fear, consternation and escalating cries for help and demands for 'someone' to do 'something' about them.

    If I were to set a party of first-level characters on the trail of one of these beasts, I would approach it much as another DM/GM would probably approach having those characters set off to go find and kill a dragon. It is doubtful that the group would encounter the thing right off--and if they did, most likely few would live to tell of it. They would instead follow its trail, witness the aftermath of its attacks, and run into a few other things and thus gain experience, before finally cornering the creature in its lair or by trapping it or whatever.

    I want to reiterate: each of these creatures is unique, and an exceptional specimen. They are also the last of their kind. If someone kills one of them off, they are gone. Something else might well take their place, but there are no more where these came from. At least not until someone repairs the Unterrail, rebuilds the overland rail system, or restores airship service and hauls a fresh specimen into the place. If someone uncovers certain long-suppressed spells, that might also alter the situation, but there are circumstances surrounding that matter that make it even more unlikely--for the moment. [To Be Continued]

    1. Part 2
      These creatures, and the Tigers even more so, are intended to be Terrifying things. The Lions are a bit more kill-able, a bit more tragic perhaps, than the tigers, but they are still challenging beasts. I did not get into the nitty-gritty of all the possible encounter options, preferring to leave that up to the ingenuity of whomever was inclined to adapt these things to their game. I like to use tables whenever they make sense or come in handy...but tend to manage these sorts of encounters on a case-by-case basis as so much is driven by player choices and prevailing circumstances. Most first or second encounters with these things will consist of spotting tracks, signs of the creature's recent feeding, panicked mobs trying to get away from the thing, a blood curdling roar all too close for comfort...that sort of thing. [I will have to write-up something about how I manage such encounters in a future post.]

      There are no dragons prowling about within the walls of Wermspittle, but there are some really ferocious beasts on the loose. In some ways, these things are our dragons. They fulfill a role in the local ecology very similar to what dragons do in other settings--terrifying, near-mythic beasts considered incredibly dangerous and often with a good bit of folklore attached. The papers write all sorts of lurid tales about the Barnum Street Mauler, much in the way that other settings/cities would see the papers decrying the latest attack of Jack the Ripper. In this case, the Mauler's being an actual tiger only makes it more sensational and invites would-be hunters to pursue the beast, often to tragic ends. If anyone is going to slay one of these things, it is going to require sunning, planning, luck and skill...and maybe a bit more oomph than a few first-level types are likely to have on-hand...unless they gather-up a lot of reinforcements, get help from higher-ups, hire-on henchmen or specialists, acquire some real fire-power, etc.

      Thankfully there are plenty of bombed and burned-out ruins for them to prowl around in, so they aren't out in the middle of the street 24/7 chewing up the refugees and whatnot every hour of every day. They are an ever present menace, but one that only occasionally intrudes on the better patrolled or well-lit sections of the city.The presence of such things necessitates a well-armed and well-trained Street Patrol, which the Pruztians did an excellent job developing during the Second Occupation, but since then the Patrol has been allowed to slide to the point that those who can afford it go and hire their own protection. The Tigers, Lions, etc. have been running amok and eating really well for a while now, which makes for a classic untenable situation ripe for the players to Go Do Something About This Terrible Situation. And if they decide not to do anything about it, then they run the risk of eventually meeting one of these things in a dark alley, just like everyone else.

    2. Part 3
      Wermspittle doesn't automatically default to a higher level necessarily. But a first-level character *might* eventually find a way to gain or have access to fire-arms, combat solvents, 'salted' shot, Black Smoke bombs, flame-throwers, war-toxins, and other weapons that can even the odds considerably. Even so, an uneven fight is an uneven fight, so if someone insists on taking on something that clearly outclasses them, they will often pay a steep price for their folly. It is important to me that the characters always have a chance, that no matter how terrible the odds or dire the situation may appear, they always have a chance, if they use their resources and make an effort and don't simply throw up their hands and give up because it looks like things might not be balanced or fair. Each encounter is an opportunity for characters to show what they're made of, and to maybe learn something about the world around them. They don't have to be heroes. But if someone doesn't step-up, things are only going to get worse.

      A lot of the monsters appear incredibly dire, dangerous and difficult--as they should--their entries are much like a press release or an advert or the trailer from a movie--it is supposed to present them as hazards, obstacles, challenges, and to make them sound fearsome, dangerous, scary, and sometimes terrifying. That's so that the characters can stand up to these things, overcome their fear, confront the things that have everyone else pissing their pants, and have the satisfaction that comes from beating a tough opponent or conquering or outwitting something worth the effort.

      Whew. Long response. I've been mulling over a lot of these points lately as I work on the Player's Guide and have been revising some adventure-bits into expanded and more coherent this has helped me to nail down a few of these stray thoughts. Thanks for the comment & good questions!

    3. Ah I figured these beasts were only about 30% more powerful then the norm (though a B/X tiger is a total terror, having looked at the stats), but as dragon replacements I can totally see that, especially with the bronze lion. It is always tough to make a lone beast dangerous in a fun way compared to groups. I find what sets dragons apart mechanically is actually the ability to hit and run or retreat thanks to their wings.

      I've been working a lot on my Apollyon player's guide, and I think there's a lot of similarity (mostly where I've ripped off stuff from you blog I admit) so I am also in fit of wondering about these setting design. You are right that the ready availability of weapons (and more I assume the arcano-tech chemical weapons) evens the odds a lot, my own experience running Apollyon on a B/X chassis was certainly that a well equipped (and they will be if they adventure up from 1st level) party can take on some powerful lone creatures by the time they hit 4th level. I have been writing up my guide with an opposite approach to the one you lay out, flattening the power curve down rather then up, especially by limiting AC. This is a tactic I even noted in the old Dragonlance modules, where the Mary Sues you are supposed to play with all have rather bad ACs and scads of hit points - which I suppose keeps lethality down, and focuses on a predictable combat where healing if key. I wonder how the Wermspittle combat feels? I got tired of mid-level combat because it bogs down with the high HP totals, and was amazed by how swingy it was, with exploding bullet damage crits and such.

      Not sure what this means with Wermspittle and Apollyon, only that I am interested to see how we come out on similar problems of PC power creep.

    4. That's what I was aiming for, roughly 1/3 tougher than the baseline, at least in terms of HD. Once you start monkeying-about with powers, spells, gets a lot more arty, less raw math. How those things get used is every bit as important as what they have to use against opponents. Context can really matter.

      Good point about the dragons--their wings and the ability to swoop-in for a strafing run and then to flutter back out of harms way is really a big part of their 'toughness.' It isn't always sheer numbers, better AC or whatever. Sometimes what makes a critter really tough is something as simple as the ability to slip away and then sneak back in behind their opponent, or to use manuverability to trip-up or incapacitate or stymie antagonists--I like the Trip Attack that Wolves have in 3.x--really simple, but elegant and potentially a real menace.

      I'm looking forward to the Apollyon Guide. I'm very happy to know that you found some stuff here at our blog useful and are using it for your game--that's great!

      I've been digging around into various types of weapons and attack-modes, and trying to sort out how to handle power-creep and all that. I like using a variant on Prof. Barker's infamous Exploding Dice (from Empire of the Petal Throne) for damage from things like fire-arms and rays and war-toxins. I also like alternative forms of damage like Morale Damage, and the reduction/suppression of healing capacity. Critical hits are always popular as long as the PCs inflict them, never when they receive them.

      You may be onto something with limited AC like you describe. I don't like the way that can sometimes balloon all out of proportion and crap--once you pass a certain level, it becomes a comic book super-hero slugfest,, then quickly a silly cartoon. Maybe fine-tuning AC might be a good option for addressing that.

      I'm okay with a high-lethality game, especially if the characters are going into very dangerous territory and doing very risky stuff. I just dislike arbitrariness, the tyranny of too many Mary Sues, things that you cannot do anything about, etc. I want things to be set up in such a way that characters can make changes, go up against anyone they want to fight (so long as they realize that some of these things have a lot of resources or support or whatever behind them, and there are always consequences). I like unpredictable combat. I like it to remain risky, full of unexpected escalations and lasting repercussions. Healing is super important in Wermspittle--what methods you opt to employ, which healers you deal with, what potions or salves you use, etc. all matter and carry something of a lingering after-effect. Some do not work well with one another. Some are exclusive. Others might have bad side-effects if you try to mix them or push them too far too fast. That part can be a lot of fun, and has driven a few adventures in and of itself.

      Combat in Wermspittle is a dirty, dangerous thing...very unpredictable and an excellent way to get hurt, maimed, or killed. But of course, none of those things means an end to the character's career, necessarily...

      It's great to have someone to hash this sort of stuff out with! Thanks for the discussion. I am going to go re-read the combat section again with a different outlook. Limited AC might provide the right kind of structure to force other, alternative forms of defense like wards, auras, etc.--things that do not make it harder to hit them, but that diminish damage taken, or something along those lines. In any case, you've got me thinking about options...

    5. What I discovered that i liked most about limited AC is that it opens up player options. If max human AC is 2 (i.e. plate and shield), but expensive custom full plate gives an AC of 2/18 - suddenly a wealthy fighter can wield a 2HD weapon without risking anything. Likewise if Medium armor gets you up to AC 5/15 and allows dex bonuses (heavy armor doesn't without skill use) a dexterous fighter in chain (AC 4/16), can become a shield and spear fighter (AC 3/17) or (AC 2/18) with certain skills. Magic armor must also be more interesting, immunity or arrows, damage reduction or sealed against spells is what you get from magic armor, and if you want the unnatural maximum of 0/20 AC the character must either learn how to use steam powered boiler mail (with it's related weight and maintenance problems) or somehow become something that isn't human...

    6. Okay...this sounds better and better. I like how it opens up precisely the sorts of things I'd like to make more integral to the whole armor type/magic armor options --getting away from blunt math trauma and getting into effects that might be more or less useful or effective depending on character choices, skill, situation, etc. Keeping it simple in terms of AC, like what you're advocating, makes sense.

      I also like keeping the fighter/soldier someone who can really make their armor work for them, like those guys who could swim in plate armor--non-fighters would just drown because they don't know the tricks of the trade.

      This might also address one of the concerns I've had with how to handle the more peculiar forms of armor like antique suits of bronze, non-metallic stuff, and the kinds of thing that less-fightery types might adopt or find useful in their particular lines of work or leisure. you might have just given me a viable solution here--Thanks!

  3. Excellent read as always. I can already see a plot with Proud Zalik stalking down the halls of an inn to kill an engineer who had released black smoke too near to him . . . of course it would be the same in the PCs were staying at for the night.

    1. Thank you. That's exactly the sort of thing I have done in the past; sometimes the encounter isn't about the PCs but takes place around them, or they are caught in the middle of someone else's drama or confrontation. That's one very good way for a group of low-level adventurers to catch a glimpse of a creature like Proud Zalik and survive to go on to hunt the thing once they are better able and prepared. Thank you again for the comment! I am very happy to know that someone is seeing the potential in these creatures and having fun coming up with ways to put them to use in a game.

  4. More awesome Wermspittle posts that can be grabbed and plonked down in any campaign

    Really do enjoy your blog GJ, a real treasure trove of wonderment

    1. Thank you. I'm glad you like these '6 critter encounter' posts. I was hoping to achieve a balance between very setting-specific insights and something that could be ported over to another game without too much effort. I appreciate your kind words, and the excellent feedback of the other two readers above a great deal. I recently went through some very rough health issues. Continuing the blog wasn't always an option, but I got better and I have returned to it, if only to see if anyone was still interested in what I was doing. So I want to say thank you to everyone who has continued to encourage my efforts and who have continued to support the blog. I'm feeling better these days, and getting a lot done, so I can fairly say--you haven't seen anything yet! The best is definitely yet to come...


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