Thursday, December 15, 2016

Converting Warhammer Monsters into m20 Part III: Grand Alliance of Destruction

I've really enjoyed kind of bulking up my monster list for FANTASY HACK by looking at the Warhammer miniatures catalog and finding monsters that I don't have.  Most of them are not necessarily unique to Warhammer—in fact most of what I've added has literally come from classical mythology, although some very traditional fantasy elements that are more common to the modern genre have also made their way in here and there, although occasionally with an unusual or unique twist.  I have to admit that the visuals of the excellent (although grossly overpriced) miniatures is a big part of what has inspired me, but the fact that I'm statting up things like the Minotaur, Medusa, the Chimera, etc. as well as characters that are perhaps just a bit more obscure when it comes to RPGs is pretty fun (has Scylla ever been statted up for D&D?  Probably somewhere, but I don't know where.)

And although I remain committed to the idea that Cthulhu is the most powerful adversary in my monster list, frankly beyond the ability of any group of PCs to ever fight (he's there more for reference than for any other reason) it was also fun to think about adding a kraken—not the Scandinavian folklore kraken that's informed D&Ds own monster list, but one based on the Clash of the Titans movies.  Toned down a bit, to be sure, but still.  How is that not cool?

Anyway, because I've enjoyed doing it so much and I'm really only halfway through the monster list, I'm going to, of course, keep going.  My M.O. is to open up the online catalog, click on the "Grand Alliance" that I'm covering, click on the checkbox that "shows all" and then just scroll through the list looking at potential adds.  I'm mostly ignoring characters, basic troops and warmachines and focusing on the monsters, but not completely—sometimes the basic troops are worthy additions as (less powerful) monsters in their own right.  I mean c'mon—I've got a house-cat on my monster list, right? (Besides, it might be useful as a familiar if nothing else.)  So why not add basic lizardmen or dryads or whatever if I don't already have them?  Well, I have in fact done so.

Today I've got the Grand Alliance of Destruction queued up.  This is—basically—the old orc and goblin monster list, although in more recent years, Games Workshop also created a somewhat similarly themed pseudo-Ice Age Ogre Kingdoms army which was often allied with the greenskins, and that has been added to this list as well.  Luckily for me, I've already got both Orcs and Goblins listed as not only basic monsters, but also as character options in the second appendix.  Although there are a number of troop types of both on the army list and in the miniatures, mostly these are either cultural or power level variations.  If you need a more powerful orc—say an ironjaw, or whatever they're calling black orcs these days, just modify the stats as if it were a character; i.e. give it some equipment, more hit points, higher To Hit and damage scores based on the weapons that they'd use, etc.  Treat them as if they were a character, in other words.  Although I don't have ogres as a specific line item, my entry for Thurses specifically calls them out as an option; any reaonably strong and powerful savage humanoid (moreso than an orc, I mean) can be represented with those stats.  Thurse itself is a curious word related to orcs—it appears that Tolkien invented the modern day fantasy genre orc, more or less, and when casting about for a word to describe them, he used one based on the Roman Medieval Orcus which has also given us not only the word ogre itself, but an Old English word that is found in the kenning orc-þyrs.  Þyrs also has a Norse cognate since Old Norse and Old English are so closely related: thursar or thurse.  It appears in spite of somewhat spotty attestation in various texts that thurse, or some word very similar depending on the spelling, time and specific dialect, was an alternative word for some kind of malevolent spirit, goblin, or other monster related conceptually to other words such as jotunn (Old English eoten, Middle English etten) for a savage monster hostile to humanity.  It's curious to me as a bit of trivia that orc became the go-to word that now pretty much everyone in Western civilization recognizes while thurse is one that languishes in archaic obscurity.  Especially given the original Latin derivation of orc from Orcus, and the derivation of thurse or thyrse from Germanic roots.  Usually Tolkien was very keen to focus on Northern roots and was apathetic, if not sometimes actually a bit hostile, to Romance influence.  Oh, well.

Anyway, that ability to easily modify is one of the main benefits of m20; it's so trivially easy to alter stats even on the fly without having to think about what other unforeseen consequences of doing so might be that you should never, ever feel hesitant to do so.  Personally, I think that the same is true for d20, but I realize that many people are indeed hesitant to modify d20 and do worry about the consequences of doing so, or of being "wrong" or whatever.  Bah.  If you still feel that way about d20, I'm not likely to convince you otherwise at this point, but m20 is very specifically designed so that you should feel not only free, but empowered to do so.  Anyway, I like to preface each of these with some kind of discussion about something that the activity has made me think of while doing it, and it is often somewhat stream of consciousness and not very closely related to what we're doing, but let's forego any more of that and get to the meat of it.  Just keep in mind that my orcs and goblins are considerably less "cartoon" like than Games Workshop's.  My orcs are not crook-backed hairless green-skinned gorillas with caricaturish jaws and tusks, they are just really strong humanoids with a greenish cast to their skin and big, tusk-like teeth.  For a pop culture reference, they'd look more like the orcs from the recent Lord of the Rings movies that killed Boromir than they do like Warhammer orcs.

From Grand Alliance of Destruction
  • First off we have the option of a named character, or a more "generic" megaboss on a maw krusha.  I'm not quite sure what a "maw krusha" is, but orc generals used to ride on wyverns (in fact, there's still a mini of a warboss on a wyvern) and this looks an awful lot like a wyvern that hit the gym and the 'roids until he looks like a jacked up pro-wrestler version of a wyvern,  I've already got a wyvern in FANTASY HACK and I suppose if I want to make one that's stronger, that's easy enough to do as a one-off modification.
  • The next monster we see are the gore-gruntas, which look like really big wild boars that have shards of iron sticking out of their gums in addition to really nasty tusks and teeth.  They look at least bison-sized, so they're quite a bit bigger than what my wild boar entry would probably represent, but again, making an existing entry larger and stronger is too trivially easy to bother with creating new stat-lines officially.
  • The shaggy mournfangs (with ogre riders) is next.  Looking carefully at the miniatures I can see that the horns are actually not horns at all but gigantic tusks that must be the better part of 5 scale feet long.  In any case, I have a large, charging herbivore in my rhinoceros stats, which also are specifically called out as usable for other large, charging herbivores like bison or aurochs, so they'd work quite well here too.
  • The stonehorns are strikingly awesome models; at least elephant sized, with a stone skeleton, massive horns, and a huge mouth full of very nasty teeth.  The stone skeleton is a weird idea, which in terms of rules halves all damage that it takes—a detail that makes it really specific, so I'd probably forego it, although for a true conversion, you'd want to use it.  Otherwise, use the stats for an elephant, but give it a bite attack +8 (1d10+8) as an option.
  • The kit that makes the stonehorn can instead make thundertusks, as the models are very similar.  If you spin them around, you'll see that the creature is built like a bizarre, gigantic gorilla with huge tusks and hooves on its hands and feet.  I'd also represent this with a modified elephant if I wanted to model one specifically; instead of a bite attack, it has a freezing cold breath weapon 2d8 cold damage.  
  • The arachnarok is a giant spider so large that forest goblins build a rough howdah on its back.  I've specifically allowed monstrous insects already; when I did the rot flies during the Grand Alliance of Chaos, I simply borrowed the wyvern stats to represent them.  I've actually since modified my wyvern entry by making one of my infamous NOTES on it that shows what else it can be used for.  To make it even more flexible, the poison can be delivered via bite instead of sting, and to make it into a spider, do that and then take away its flight (although you may recall that Shelob stung, not bit, Frodo).  You might want to give it the ability to spin webs too, I suppose, although the Warhammer rules don't have that.
  • The mangler squig is just two squigs chained together.  Squigs themselves are bizarre almost fungoid creatures that are little more than a gigantic mouth attached to two hopping legs.  The odd hopping movement can perhaps be seen as an Acrobatic affinity, so just use the stats for a baboon but double their bite damage.
  • The gargant (and there is also a chaos alternative for this model) is just a hill giant.  I don't actually have giants, because I've always thought that they're a little bit too weird for me to figure out how to use them in a D&D game, but I certainly probably should, because they have such a pedigree in mythology and folklore.  I don't really like the super-big giants, but one that's something like 15 feet tall makes some sense to me.  The gargant would be 15-20 scale feet, I think, and is built like a pot-bellied, skinny-limbed hillbilly.  I'd probably go for a more Northern mythological slant: jötunns (or ettens to use the Anglo-Saxon version of the word) and they could be perhaps not terribly unlike Tom, Bert and Bill from The Hobbit except without the turning to stone in sunlight "feature."

    ETTEN: AC: 19 HD: 9d8 (45 hp) AT: club +13 (2d8+8) or thrown rock (range 100 ft.) +8 (2d6+8) STR: +8 DEX: +2 MND: -1
  • Skipping over loads of orc troop types, the next monster we get to is the "Icefall Yhetee."  Although I use my thurse stats to specifically refer to savage creatures like sasquatch, gnophkeh, etc. and it would therefore probably be a yeti too, in reality, these "icefall yhetee" are probably more like a wendigo; a creature of the north with magical cold properties that feasts on the bodies of the dead.  Plus, they're pretty dang tall.  Use the stats for the etten above, but instead of a thrown rock attack, give it a cold breath weapon of 2d8; like the thundertusks and just in play have them appear mysteriously out of blizzards and disappear back into them again when the weather changes.
  • The fellwater troggoths are what happens when D&D naming conventions and an attempt to sound vaguely Lovecraftian hits what were formally the time-honored river trolls.  I'd be more inclined to have these guys lurk under bridges and ambush travelers to be more folkloric, and although I can't argue with the sound of the name troggoth, I don't know why that'd be applied to a troll.  Use the thurse stats, but give them the ability to heal 5 points of damage each round (until killed outright, of course) and a stench special ability that makes all opponents in melee operate at a -2 to all d20 rolls because they're so nauseated.  Curiously, one of the miniature head options shows it vomiting, and yet they have no vomit attack.  I think they may have used to under an older version of the rules, though.
  • Next we have tons more troops, champions and generals, most of which have no need to even think about statting, but as we get to the little goblin spider riders, we're talking about dog or wolf sized spiders (instead of elephant sized spiders like Shelob.)  I'd use the wyvern stats modified to be a spider, as described, but then halve the hit dice and hit points and the to hit bonuses as well as bonus damage.  I might lower the DC for the poison, but it's already pretty low.
  • The warmachines I generally ignore as well, but it's noteworthy that some of them, especially from the ogre army, are mounted on "rhinoxes".  These don't seem to be terribly different than the mournfangs, and since they're deliberately modeled (in appearance) on the wooly rhinos of Ice Age Europe, using the rhinoceros stats seems completely appropriate.
  • Skipping, again, loads of basic troop types like orcs, goblins, orcs on boars, goblins on wolves, and lots of ogres with class levels, etc. the gorger seems conceptually similar to the yhetee, except instead of cold magic, they are ambush hunters with an insatiable hunger.  Again; I'd use my multipurpose thurse stats (or etten stats without the rock throwing if you want a stronger one), but maybe give them a racial +4 to Subterfuge so it can sneak around easier.
  • The "rotgut troggoth" is to stone trolls what "fellwater troggoths" are to river trolls.  Rather than stench they have the ability to ignore spells; a 20% that spells targeting them are ignored.  There's also a "sourbreath troggoth" but they just use some alternate models that used to be stone trolls to represent them.  Instead of stench or magic resistance, they have death resistance and have a 20% to keep fighting every round once killed.  Once they fail this chance, they're dead normally, of course.
  • Frost sabers are already well represented by saber-tooths, of course.
Although there are plenty of monsters on this list, it's curious that I find that there's much less need to create new stats than with the other lists I've reviewed so far.  What I have done with this particular post, however, is highlight how easy it is to modify existing stats in m20 with very small changes—swapping around of special abilities, making minor modifications to the numbers, etc.  I'll probably have a mixed bag of new and modified stats for the final (and smallest) list; the Grand Alliance of Death, which I hope to complete tomorrow.  I already have, of course, a number of undead creatures on my list, and rather than convert them to work more like their Warhammer counterparts, if the abilities are different, I'll simply use them as is.  But there is a fair bit of truly unique stuff on the list—even though they appear to have done away with a lot of the really cool Tomb Kings stuff that they used to have.

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