Tag Archives: Witch Hunter

Ch-ch-ch-changes

“So we wake up in a barn…with Isaac Newton.”
— Heather

That’s the quote that wrapped up last Friday’s Witch Hunter game.  It marked the end of a pretty tense adventure that found our heroes on the losing side of a blossoming Hell Point in northern France and the forces of a Duke Unchained who had been summoned there.  Things probably would have been more tense had we not played in nearly two months, what with conflicting schedules.  Still, in the end, it felt like a satisfactory “season finale.”

And that’s what its going to be.  The last Witch Hunter game until at least July.

Maybe it’s the two month hiatus, the kids’ schedules, or the fact that we’ve been at this campaign for three years.  But my Witch Hunter take is feeling a bit dried up.  It’s been coming.  I felt it back in the early part of the year.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, and I really want to see how they shake out.  But I feel like, as a GM, I’m at the line between phoning it in and running an inspired game.  And my players deserve the latter.

So a month ago I proposed a finite break from Witch Hunter to try out one of a couple of new games sitting on the shelf.  By a very thin margin, we settled on the new 7th Sea.

I’m excited about the change for a whole host of reasons.  For one, as I’ve stated here and elsewhere, I really feel parts of the new 7th Sea are outside of my comfort zone as a GM: the way the core mechanic is structured, the removal of roadblocks, and just the sheer level of improvisation the game really steers towards.  And while I’m very familiar with the world of Théah, I feel like the game is going to be a real challenge to run.

It also makes a great opportunity to shake some old habits.  After all, what’s the point of taking a break from an old game if you are going to do everything the same way you did before?  I’m looking to push myself in new directions and new challenges as much as recharge my creative batteries.

The biggest change I’m making is with prep!  Since my D&D 3e days, my prep has become steadily more heavy.  If you look at my adventure notes, they can get quite elaborate sometimes.  I look back at my games pre-3e and see that most of my session plans took maybe a page or two.  Post-3e, I average about 4-5 pages of prep for 2 sessions worth of play (mostly due to over prepping).

Because of the game’s emphasis on improvisation, I’m going to try something new: the Index Card method.  I’ve shied away from this method in the past because putting 5 pages of historical detail on index cards just doesn’t seem very practical.  In fact, the Index Card approach is almost the polar opposite of how I prep.  What fun!  Let’s give it a whirl!

Another technique I’m hoping to try out is Floyd Wesel’s 3x3x3 method.  In short, rather than request a detailed character background from the players, or have them fill out a questionnaire, I’m going to ask them to provide a number of contacts, allies, and rivals for their heroes.  Nothing too taxing: a name and a sentence or two should do.  Coupled with 7th Sea’s Story mechanic, these should provide plenty of grist for the mill.

So there you have it.  The next couple of months are going to be full of experimentation.  Hopefully, I can bring some of it back to our Witch Hunter game when we resume later in the year.  Hopefully I’ll learn some tricks to improve the game experience and make myself a better GM.  And you can bet I’ll be discussing all of it here.

In other news, for those of you who haven’t wandered through the downloads section lately, advanced prep work for 7th Sea is already well underway.  You’ll find an updated version of the Ship Manifest (with a corrected “death spiral”) and a Villain character sheet (both a simple and advanced version).  I’m working on a few more cheat sheets and references for the game which I hope to have in place before we launch in January.

So hey, that’s what I’ve got.  How about you?  Have you ever done a total audit of your GMing and prep style?  What did you learn about yourself?  What did you keep and what did you pitch?  Share your story in the comments section, please.

Samhain is for Witch Hunters

Tonight All Hallow’s Eve is upon us, and compared to last year there has been a complete dearth of Witch Hunter material.  Especially compared with last year!  There are a lot of excuses I could throw out there, chef among them being that my group really hasn’t played since August!  But most of it comes down to just being a bit tapped out this year.  I’ve had to focus on a lot of other things, which hasn’t meant much time scratching notes in the old notebook.

But I’m not going to let a Halloween go by without something for fellow fans of the Witch Hunter rpg.  This has been a strange year for us.  No official releases, very little ink spilled about the direction of the game.  The property has changed hands, and while there have been some promises, for the most part it’s been quiet as the grave.

j-_sprenger_and_h-_institutoris_malleus_maleficarum-_wellcome_l0000980Those of you who visit this site regularly know that since my group started play four years ago, we’ve incorporated a lot of “fixes” in our game.  Most of them I’ve posted here in various blog posts spread out over three years.  But if you are one of the two or three people who wish you could get all of our House Rules in one document, well today is your lucky day.  Now you can download the Malleus Maleficarum (the Hammer of Witches) for Witch Hunter: The Invisible World 2nd edition.  This is a compendium of all the house rules and tweaks we use in our game.  I’m adding a link to the Downloads page as well.  I’m understandably biased, but I feel these changes have really fine tuned the Witch Hunter experience for our group.  And until we get an official errata document, this may be the closest thing you are going to find for the game.  I claim no official position here, and obviously none of this is sanctioned by the Witch Hunter: Revelations campaign.  But I really hope this is useful for those of you who have been following this site for your home games.

(Yes, this is a not-so-clever play on the real Malleus Maleficarum, an actual 17th century account of witch hunting and the Invisible World.  Beyond the title, there is no relation between the two documents.)

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Making Sense of Damnation

This is the first of two articles dealing with some new House Rules I’m going to be introducing into my Witch Hunter game.  The second can be found here.

One of the parts of the Witch Hunter rules that feels a bit threadbare are the rules for Damnation.  Oh, the basics make sense.  Characters earn Damnation points for giving into their sins.  Sins grant a special benefit (like a Talent, Edge, or Advantage) when activated and damnation points can be spent just like Hero Points in play. That part is crystal clear.  The rest is sort of…vague and handwavy.

Unlike 1st edition, the GM no longer has to worry about tracking individual Damnation scores for adversaries. Instead, many Powers can be enhanced by using the PCs’ own damnation against them. But the rules are unclear how this is supposed to work. Does it eliminate the PC’s damnation point? Can a player tap into a damnation point that has been used by an adversary? When does a PC’s damnation recharge for other encounters?

After reading over the Conan Quickstart and the new edition of 7th Sea, I’m going to test out a new feature in my witch hunter game: the Damnation Pool.  I want to see how they affect the ebb and flow of the game. With the Damnation Pool, damnation becomes a limited resource for the GM to heighten the tension of an encounter or a scene. It clarifies all the above questions and gives the GM some new tools for screwing with the players. About the only big change to the rules is how the GM activates character sins (which probably needed some guidance anyway).  There’s probably some cool way to tie the damnation pool into Story Themes, but I’m not there yet.

I wanted to throw this out there for anyone interested to review and play around with. I’d really like to get some feedback on this. So dig in and don’t hold back.

The Damnation Pool

Where heroes have Hero Points, the GM has the Damnation Pool. This resource allows you to add drama to a scene, reinforce your adversaries, and boosting certain diabolical powers of the Adversary.

At the beginning of each game, the Damnation Pool has a number of points equal to the number of players, plus one point for each point of damnation possessed by the Witch Hunters.

Using Damnation

  • Activate a Hero’s Sin. Spend a Damnation Point to activate a character’s Sin.
  • Bonus Success. Spend a Damnation Point to give a Villain a free success to any action (including damage). The GM may spend multiple Damnation points on a single action in this manner.
  • Seize the Initiative. Spend a Damnation to interrupt the Initiative order and allow a lieutenant or villain (but not minions?) to act early in a combat round.
  • Enhancing Villainous Powers. Many villainous powers (such as Blast Attack, Engulf, Gestalt Body, etc.) may be enhanced with Damnation. Typically any enhancement costs 1 Damnation Point unless the power indicates otherwise.
  • Ignore a Price. Spend a Damnation point to all a Villain or Mastermind (not a minion or lieutenant) to ignore a single Price for one round or appropriate approximation thereof.
  • Ignore injury penalties. Spend a Damnation point to allow a lieutenant, villain, or mastermind to ignore any injury penalties for 1 round.

Adding to the Damnation Pool

There are two ways of increasing the Damnation Pool. The first is whenever a player uses a damnation point. This adds 1 point to the damnation pool. Likewise, any time a player voluntarily activates his Sin benefit or gains a point of damnation by his or her own actions, the Damnation Pool is increased by 1.

The Damnation pool does not increase when the GM activates a character’s Sin. This will, however, mean the starting pool will be larger on the next game session if the damnation is not eliminated through Virtuous play.

The other means of increasing the Damnation Pool is called the Devil’s Bargain. (Hat Tip: Jon Harper’s Blades in the Dark)

 The Devil’s Bargain

When a player suffers Consequences in a roll (rolling more 1s than successes), he or she has the option of taking a Devil’s Bargain. They can either ignore the consequences that accompany the action or, if the roll failed, succeed with consequences. Either choice adds 1 point to the Damnation Pool. Of course, the player may always choose to accept the consequences that accompany the roll.

 

Fey Nightmares

I began prep for the Horn & Crown story arc fresh off of Mark Chadbourn’s third Swords of Albion novel, the Devil’s Looking Glass.  As four of the seven PCs in the witch hunter game are from England, I had always planned on having part of the campaign take place in the British Isles.  And to me, that meant involving the fey.  The question became how to approach faeries in the world of Witch Hunter.

I’ve loved the imagery and spectacle of Guillermo del Toro’s take on the fey in Hellboy 2 and Pan’s Labyrinth.  But most RPGs treat the fey as beautiful wish fulfillment.  So game-able details on spooky, creepy, otherworldly fey that adhere to folklore (and the Monster Manual 12) are hard to come by.

Recently, two OSR blogs have touched on the subject: Elfmaids and Octopi and They Might be Gazebos have posted articles on making elves alien again.  Of course, they are working at something of a disadvantage, from my perspective anyway. They are trying to maintain the feys’ playability as a race.  Therefore, most of the recommendations they put forward were cosmetic at best.  With Witch Hunter, I don’t have any such restrictions.  There are no elves or dwarves.  And the fey are free to be as alien and hostile to humanity as the GM pleases.

So herein are a collection of various articles to give the fey and those who serve the Summer and Winter courts a real shot in the arm.  Apply liberally.  Most Witch Hunter players are probably coming from other RPGs that present the fey in more favorable terms.  You’ll need to shock them out of that misconception quickly.  They fey of the Invisible World are not your friends.  They have an agenda, one most of us would probably find horrifying or just downright queer.  Even their best habits should be unsettling.

The Unseelie of Swords of Albion

Mark Chadbourn does a good job of injecting the fey of his novels with unsettling creepiness.  Granted, they are the villains, monsters in vaguely human guise.  Some of his stuff works, some of it doesn’t.  But it’s a great place to cull from for our purposes.  Granted, the Seelie should hedge towards more alien beauty, which when done right can be just as unsettling as the grotesqueness of the Unseelie fey.

The voice was like the wind across snow.  In the corner of the hall, a woman stood, motionless, shoulders slightly hunched like an animal on the brink of attacking.  Her hair hung lank around a bloodless face, her eyes red-rimmed, unblinking.  There was something of the grave about her.  With excruciating slowness, she stalked towards him.

— Mark Chadbourn, The Silver Skull

xxxx

“Do you hear music?” Mayhew cocked his head.  “Like pipes playing, caught on the breeze?”  As he breathed deeply of the night air, he realized the foul odour of the city had been replaced by sweet, seductive scents that took him back to his childhood.  A tear stung his eye.  “That aroma,” he noted, “like cornfields beneath the summer moon.”  He inhaled.  “Honey, from the hive my grandfather kept.”

— Mark Chadbourn, The Silver Skull

xxxx

In the sweet places inhabited by the Unseelie Court, there is always music in the air, and beauty, and joy, and the haunting fragrance of honeysuckle.

— Mark Chadbourn, The Scar-Crow Men

xxxx

Their clothes, while of the finest material, appeared to be on the brink of rot, stained here and there with silvery mildew, the style harking back to a distant age.  A scent of loam accompanied them.  Their cheekbones were high, their hair long, their eyes pale, but there was an odd quality to their features that meant they rarely registered on the mind; once they had passed from view it was almost impossible to recall the details of their appearance.

— Mark Chadbourn, The Silver Skull

xxxx

As the doors to the State Rooms swung open, the light from the candles grew dimmer, although the flames burned as strong.  Shadows fell at strange angles, and a suffocating atmosphere descended.  Here and there across the room, blood began to drip from noses.

— Mark Chadbourn, The Silver Skull

xxxx

Fey Interests

Polemic, 10′ did an interesting article on the topic of weird fey variants.  Rather than mess with keeping dozens of variants, it was easy enough to distill them down to their base interests.  When you want to flesh out a faerie (villain, lieutenant, or hero), simply choose one from the following list or roll a d10 and assign the result.

  1. Stealing children
    These fey use their powers of persuasion to part the starving poor, or otherwise misfortunate, with their offspring.  Perhaps they steal an infant from its crib, replacing it with a grotesque (a changeling).  Either way, the fey views this as a proper exchange.
  2. Magical trinkets and relics
    These fey might collect magical devices from throughout the Invisible World (including the mortal realm), stealing them when necessary or trading and bartering for them.  Or perhaps they make mischief by circulating powerful cursed items (a monkey’s paw) among mortals.
  3. Perform “miraculous” deeds for the dispossessed and easily duped
    These fey answer the desperate cries of those in need, but at a hefty the price, whether it be a soul or firstborn son (daughter, or child).  My like a daemon, the fey will arrive to collect its prize at the appointed time without fail.
  4. The unfinished task, cut short by the bent nail or the wrong screwdriver.
    These fey become invisible to make mischief by bedeviling craftsmen with broken tools, changing measurements, and all other manners of misdeeds.  Naturally, they always fix what they have broken after the craftsman has gone to sleep.  Those whom these fey take a liking too, they sometimes aid in their craft during these times.  These fey are particularly sensitive to offers of gifts!
  5. Following after the wayward with wolfish intent.
    This fey is driven to inflict pain and mischief upon foolish women, men, or children who wander alone after dark.  The hunt, the gnawing fear of its victim, is intoxicating for the fey.  Some have learned to brew this into a tonic that is in high demand throughout both faerie courts.
  6. Visit villages on cold moonless nights, tapping thin fingers on windows as they create intricate traceries in the frost.
    This fey is an artist and graces those who please it with wondrous images born of frost traced on a window.  Of course, the subtitles and nuances of this art is sometimes too great for human perception.  Sometimes this serves as a warning of bad things to come.
  7. Yearn merely to caress the placid faces of the wayward dead. Living beings are too coarse and earthly for them.
    This fey will lead the wayward, lost, or foolish to an early death for its own romantic (or carnal) pleasures.  While usually a trait of the Unseelie fey, there are those of the Summer Court who share this trait, though not in the same malicious sense.
  8. Shambling about in the twilight seeking the unwary with groping fingers and muttering dark lullabies.
    Locks of maiden’s hair; this is a desired commodity, even a currency, for whole communities of fey.  The more pure (or more tarnished) the maid, the more valuable the hair.  This could be the Focus of the fey (Focus Bound Price).
  9. Isolation
    These fey dwell apart from their brethren, whether out of fear, grief, or animosity. Their loneliness (their tendency to drink immoderately) makes them unpredictable.  They might invite a wayward soul in out of the rain, masquerading as a simple hermit, offer him food and drink (never take food or drink offered from a faerie – it gives them power over you) and then torture the guest for their amusement.
  10. Fingers tipped with gossamer strands float down, touching skin through fabric and causing tiny itches that are all too easily scratched. Wake too soon and you might feel it crouching on your chest, trailing its subtle threads across your face and ears and throat. Hide under the covers and it will crawl in with you.
    Dreams and nightmares; this fey will steal into the home of a sleeping victim, crouch upon his chest and lay its long, delicate fingers across his sleeping face.  The victim is visited by intense and realistic dreams or nightmares.  The fey might drink from the intoxicating emotions that these dreams cause, or perhaps it is simply curious and wishes to understand humanity better.  These fey are sometimes confused with the more horrid (though not necessarily more thoroughly evil) incubus.

Weaknesses and Wards

These are culled from folklore.  They are useful as superstitions surrounding the fey.  Consider changing them up in strange, unexpected ways for the fey of your game.  Also remember, each fey is unique so no two will be exactly the same.  Still, I would settle on a few constants (like vulnerability to Cold Iron), if only to make those variations more dramatic.
Iron:
  • On entering a Fairy dwelling, a piece of steel stuck in the door, takes from the Fairies the power of closing it till the intruder comes out again.
  • A knife stuck in a deer carried home at night keeps them from laying their weight on the animal.
  • A knife or nail in one’s pocket prevents his being `lifted’ at night. Nails in the front bench of the bed keep elves from women `in the straw’, and their babes. As additional safe-guards, the smoothing iron should be put below the bed, and the reaping-hook in the window.
  • A nail in the carcass of a bull that fell over a rock was believed to preserve its flesh from them.
Bells:
  • church bells
  • the bells worn by morris dancers
  • the bells round the necks of sheeps and oxen
Water:
  • one can leap to safety across running water, particularly a southward-flowing stream.
  • descending to the shoreline below the high-tide mark. The Fairies were unable to go below that tide mark.
Fire:
  • Fire thrown into water in which the feet have been washed takes away the power of the water to admit the Fairies into the house at night
  • burning peat put in sowens to hasten their fermenting (greasadh gortachadh) kept the substance in them till ready to boil.
  • fire was carried round lying-in women, and round about children before they were christened, to keep mother and infant from the power of evil spirits.
  • When the Fairies were seen coming in at the door burning embers thrown towards them drove them away.
Oatmeal:
  • When sprinkled on one’s clothes or carried in the pocket no Fairy will venture near (it was usual with people going on journeys after nightfall to adopt the precaution of taking some with them).
  • Oatmeal, taken out of the house after dark, was sprinkled with salt, and unless this was done, the Fairies might through its instrumentality take the substance out of the farmer’s whole grain.
  • Oakmen are created when a felled oak stump sends up shoots. One should never take food offered by them since it is poisonous.
Plants:
  • Four-leafed clover: brake fairy glamour, as well as the fairy ointment, which was indeed said by Hunt to be made of four-leafed clovers.
  • St John’s Wort, the herb of Midsummer: potent against spells and the power of fairies, evil spirits and the Devil.
    • Red verbena was almost equally potent, partly because of its pure and brilliant colour.
  • Daisies, particularly the little field daisies, were protective plants, and a child wearing daisy chains was supposed to be safe from fairy kidnapping.
  • Red-berried trees were also protective, above them all rowan.
    • A staff made of rowan wood, or a rowan cross or a bunch of ripe berries were all sure protections
      • it was customary in the Highlands to plant a rowan-tree outside every house.
    • Where rowans were scarce, ash- An ashen gad was supposed to be protective of cattle.

Power & Price Descriptions and Variants

With the above guidelines, here are some Power and Price variations you can apply to fey creatures in your game.

Debilitative Aura (Veneficum/Sorcerous): Describe the suffocating aura that accompanies the fey, as if a heavy weight pressed on your chest; the instinctive urge to avert one’s eyes from their presence; the heady scent of honeysuckle or the grave; the sensation of blood dripping from your nose.

Mortal Mask (Corpus/Body): The fey know their appearance is unsettling to mortals, and will quickly shift to a less alien appearance.  A brief glimpse of their true form might be allowed to cow or intimidate the mortal(s) in their presence.  This isn’t on the official list of powers, but is simple enough to add.

Allergen (Corpus/Body): includes church bells, iron, and salt.

Atmospheric Disturbance (Veneficum/Sorcerous): The appearance of any fey is preceded by the faint sound of pipes, and a sweet, seductive aura that is as peaceful as it is unsettling.

Avoidance (Malus/Offensive): Mystical plants (oak, holly, rowan, ash, thorne, sage, sweetgrass, four-leafed clover, St. John’s Wart, daisies), oatmeal

Damage (Corpus/Body): Cold Iron

Repulsion (Malus/Offensive): Church bells, Inverted clothing

Restriction (Cursus/Movement): Hanging an iron instrument (bell, cross, fence, horse shoe, scissors, etc) above a arch or doorway will bar the passage of a fey being.  Mystical plants (see Avoidance) and salt may be used as a substitute.

Weakness (Malus/Offensive): Cold Iron

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

3bbd444bbf1f4956f13c6b9dc43c0786It began when Paradigm Concepts did an update of their website.  All the pieces seemed to be in place except…no Witch Hunter.  Huh, we thought, I guess they just haven’t finished that.  Then a month went by.  Then two months.  Lots of talk about a 5e conversion of Arcanis and plenty of organized play for Arcanis at Origins.  I even noticed an uptick of conversation in the Rotting Capes (think Marvel Zombies, the RPG) forums.  And yet any talk of Witch Hunter was quiet as the grave.  Even on the eve of Origins, there was still no word about specific Witch Hunter organized events.

There was one blip on the radar; a message from lead designer, Eric Weiner, that an update to the website would be coming soon, along with (maybe) a GM screen after Origins.  But that quickly faded into business as usual radio silence.

I’ve been down this road before.  Mythus. SAGA. Lejendary Adventure.  All dead.  Dead and buried.  Unceremoniously in most cases.  Would any of us be surprised?  The last time someone asked about Witch Hunter on TBP, it got three responses.  Three.

Then, last week, one of the people on the Witch Hunter Google+ Community noticed that all the Witch Hunter products on DrivethruRPG were now listed for sale under Alligator Alley Entertainment.  Who?  What?  I mean, it’s not like Paradigm is a BIG PLAYER in RPGs, but this company didn’t even have a website.  Is it a glitch?  A bug?  Tidings of grave peril ahead?

Well today we finally got something of an answer.  Eric Wiener has chimed in on the Witch Hunter forums with:

Alligator Alley Entertainment is my company that will be publishing Witch Hunter going forward. My website isn’t up yet so I will still be answering questions here.

This is an amicable split and PCI and AAE will often share booth space at cons and join together for events. It should allow Henry and I to focus on our individual lines and make both better.

So first of all, HAPPY DANCE!  Do not confuse all the recent gushing over 7th Sea with dissatisfaction in my Witch Hunter game.  This is a campaign storyline I would sincerely like to see through to the end.  And while I’m at it, I plan on continuing to showcase Witch Hunter here and evangelize it where I can (because I’m of that generation) and want to see as many people playing, contributing to, and building on the world of Witch Hunter as possible.  Hell, I’d love to write for it though my personal circumstances up til now have made that difficult.  Those of you stay-at-home parents know.

On the other hand, please someone send Eric a book on PR and Press Releases.  Because even if it is only 5 of us (or 49, based on the size of the Google+ community), we really don’t like twisting in the wind.  These are properties we have personally invested time, sweat, creative energy, even blood (careful with those exacto knives, kids!) into.  We want to be excited about them.  We respect that PCI is a bunch of guys doing this on the side because they love the hobby.  No one is getting rich off the residual IP rights to Arcanis, WH, or RC (yet, anyway.).  But hey, keep us in the loop.  Doing things out of order can lead to confusion, which leads to fear, which leads to…yeah, you know the rest of that quote.

fear-is-the-path-to-the-dark-side-fear-leads-to-anger-anger-leads-to-hate-hate-leads-to-suffering

So bravo Eric!  Good luck on this endeavor.  And know that there are fans of Witch Hunter that stand ready to do what we can to help you out in whatever way we can.  Except for dishes and laundry.  I do enough of those already.

 

The Devil of the Sea

Has it really been 3 weeks since I last posted here?  Sorry about that.  I blame potty training.  Let’s get back into it shall we?

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend everyone take a moment to check out The Demon Hunter’s Compendium.  It’s a very cool blog that does a great job compiling info on various monsters and legends from folklore.  It isn’t updated very often, but when it is, it’s usually a doozy.  If you are running a low-fantasy or horror game (any era), 2/3 of your monster research will be done for you by just this one blog.  This month the profiled a Scottish legend: the Nuckelavee.

According to Orcadian legend, the Nuckelavee (pronounced nuh-kel-ah-vee) is a horrible sea faery or a demon that comes out of the sea when darkness falls to bring sickness and death to humans, animals, and the very land itself. The beast then feeds upon the lifeforce of everything it has killed (Bane 220). The Nuckelavee is thought to be a member of the Unseelie Court, which is a court of evil faeries in Scottish folklore. These faeries are said to be the evil souls of the damned, and actively seek to do as much harm as they possibly can to humans, rather than just causing random mischief like other faeries (Franklin 260; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). The beast is also thought to belong to the Fuath, a collective term for a wide variety of malevolent water faeries in Scottish and Irish folklore (Franklin 102). The name nuckelavee is thought to be derived from a corruption of the Orcadian word knoggelvi which, according to Orkney resident and folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, means “Devil of the Sea” (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). In Shetland, the same creature is known as a mukkelevi(“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). The word itself may very well be a variation of the Norse word nokk or the Icelandic word nykur (“The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). But wherever the name comes from, they all more or less describe the same terrible creature.

So yeah, this has Witch Hunter monster written all over it.  So, without further adieu…

Nuckelavee (Beast)

Villain
Huge Creature

The Nuckelavee (pronounced nuh-kel-ah-vee) is a terrible abomination that comes out of the sea when darkness falls to bring sickness and death to humans, animals, and the very land itself.  They is most common to the southern coast of Scotland, though encounters have been recorded throughout the British Isles.  These creatures are associated with the Unseelie Court of the Fey, though they are not faerie spirits themselves.

Fear Rating: 4
Hell’s Favor: 3
Pace: 6

Initiative: Reflexes 6d
Melee: Claws 8d (+6 damage), Bite 6d (+8 damage), Trample 6d (+8 damage)
Ranged: None
Defenses: Avoidance 2, Discipline 2, Fortitude 5
Armor: 1
Health Track: 9/9/9/9

Talents: Grand Fury, Reel-In Attack, Slam (Sweep)

Skills:

  • 10d: Endurance, Athletics
  • 6d: Command (Intimidation), Notice,Reflexes, Resolve, Stealth

Powers/Prices:

  • Debilitative Aura (Breath) / Blocked from the World (Active at night only)
  • Durability / Vulnerability (Iron)
  • Carnivate / Obvious Appearance
  • Regeneration / Allergen (Fresh Water)
  • Shape Mask / Reveal Nature (Always casts a shadow of its true form)
  • Apparition / Restriction (Running Water)
  • Swath of Destruction (Breath) / Weakness (Burning Seaweed)

Story Ability: Nightmares / Restriction (Iron)

DESCRIPTION

The nuckelavee’s body is essentially that of a horse. Along its flanks flap vestigial fins.  Growing out from where the horse’s head should be are the head, torso and arms of a man.  The head is overly large, with a shark-like mouth filled with sharp, jagged teeth, and a single bloodshot eye that glows red in the presence of light (like a cat’s).  It’s man-like arms are long and gangly, with bony knuckles that drag the ground, and tipped in sharp, rending claws.  The beast is has no skin, and muscle, sinew and bone are all exposed.  Standing out amid these are sickly yellow veins and arteries, pumping with black blood.  The putrid stench of sulfur and decomposing fish surrounds the creature, as does the foul, black miasma steadily belching from its gaping mouth.  The dreadful smell is known to drive entire herds of animals off of cliffs to their deaths.  As the creature runs, its massive head, lolls about on its neck as though the muscles are too weak to support its weight.

DRAMATICS

While a formidable monstrosity in its own right, it is the nuckelavee’s foul breath that is the source of much of its woe.  Described by witnesses as a “foul, black reek,” it causes plants and crops to wither, animals to sicken and die on the spot (Swath of Destruction).  It infects humans with a deadly wasting disease, known as Mortasheen (Debilitative Aura).  In the most powerful specimens, this power is powerful enough to create lasting periods of drought, leading to famine.

Like most of the creatures associated with the fey, it is vulnerable to iron, steel, and Cold Iron in particular.  It has some shapeshifting capabilities, but always casts its true shadow.  Fresh water is an anathema to it.  Likewise, the stench of burning seaweed can drive it back into the sea.  Many towns and villages along the southern Scottish coast perform “kelp-burnings” on nights with new moons to dissuade predations by these creatures.

Those who survive a brush with these creatures will be visited by vivid and persistant nightmares of the encounter.  An iron cross or scissors fastened above the bed will prevent these.

 

 

 

 

The Ripple Effect

A while back, I posted a collection of homebrew talents my group uses in our game.  One of these, Weapon Mastery, was put together to get rid of a bunch of redundant talents that should have been superseded by Weapon Tricks in the new edition of Witch Hunter.

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This week, while doing some prep work for the new story arc, I noticed that by getting rid of those obnoxious talents, I’d pretty much gutted the Rank III Order Benefits for the Stalkers of the Unseen Hunt.  Easy fix, of course.  And a few email exchanges later, the Stalkers are as good as new.  Maybe even better.

For those of you following along at home, here is the revised Benefit (WH2, pg 95):

Rank III: The Stalker gains one of the above Basic or Greater Talents or one of the following Heroic Talents: Armor Piercing Shot, Grace & Speed, Lightning Draw, Lightning Reload, or Practiced Strike. The Stalker does not need to meet the Talent’s prerequisites and this talent does not count against the limitation regarding the number of Heroic Talents.

The list is a bit bigger than the other Rank Benefits.  Since Lightning Draw and Lightning Reload do essentially the same thing but apply to different weapons (firearms vs bows), it didn’t make sense to exclude one over the other. This list was approved by the players, which means there is a good chance it’s hopelessly overpowered.  But my other options, Brutal Charge and Veteran Warrior, don’t have any prerequisites.  So I decided they would be of less value as a benefit.

Wait.  You noticed that did you?  That Stab and Shoot was ditched but isn’t on the list of Talents replaced by Weapon Mastery?  You’re a sharp one, aren’t you.  Stay tuned for that.