Author Topic: Wendless Wolls  (Read 81 times)

Jubal

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Wendless Wolls
« on: July 11, 2018, 09:45:56 PM »
The Wendless Wolls


The Wendless Woll is a short, sentient, mammalian creature that lives in tribes, usually on the steppes and plains – hence the name “wendless”, referring to their never-ending patterns of migration. They have shaggy fur, which is thicker and coarser to the point of being almost spiny across their back: some grow rows of short stubby nodules or bone spurs around and across their back as well. They have two curious features about their face: one is that they have a short, soft beak rather than a mouth, and the other is that they have a third, central eye positioned above the beak. They are slow-moving in general, but can occasionally put on surprising turns of speed or feats of agility at need.

Their migrations are fluid and tend to follow those of herd animals – usually saiga antelopes, which they domesticate, ride, and use as baggage animals. They rarely if ever eat the Saigas, though they will at need: they prefer to grub up roots and insects with their huge digging paws. When the herds stop, they stop: when the antelopes gather for calving, the Wolls pitch tents and have huge gatherings of thousands of them just for a week or two before leaving to start their wendings once again. In more southern climes there have been reports of other small antelopes or even tapirs being domesticated as their mount of choice.

The culture of the Wolls is as fluid and shifting as the open plains they inhabit, with little differentiation in gender roles and the structures of a tribe (which can be wildly variable in size) ever changing to adapt to a shifting world around them. The primary unifying feature of their cultures is a deep reverence for the arts of singing and storytelling: they practice deep, strange sounding throat-singing and overtone singing is also a common art. Their songs are passed down generation to generation, and are frequently taken and adapted by other tellers and singers, though there is always a particular reverence for a strael – a song sung in its precise original wording by a woll whose singing masters were taught in a direct line from the original author. The straels are sometimes hundreds if not thousands of years old, and may well record information lost by other cultures along the way; they are treated with great care and more as historical record whilst other styles of song and story are used for entertainment.

Wolls do not carry many possessions: they often carry items on belts, but being naturally fur-covered wear little other clothing. They value musical instruments highly, and play and construct a wide variety of them, including drums, whistles, flutes, horns (generally made of horn not metal) and stringed instruments. These, whilst usually carefully pitched, will be otherwise very much individual: among stringed instruments some will be more similar to a lute, others to a dulcimer, others to a zither, and so on, but no particular categorisation is applied by the Wolls themselves - each one is individual and made for the player who carries it. Other than their instruments the Wolls carry tents, water, food, basic tools, and spears, which tend to be their weapon of choice.

Wolls are often curious about but mistrustful of outsiders, and will viciously protect their antelopes from any attempt at hunting. They will, if befriended, make excellent guides to crossing the open steppe; a very few make their way out into wider society, but these are very rare exceptions. They of course in particular will enjoy the company of bards, who occasionally go to seek tribes of Wolls in order to learn some of their singing arts. The tribes can be almost impossible to find though, for they wander across hundreds or even thousands of miles of open land and will mostly stay away from settled towns except at direst need. One should beware their enmity too: the Wendless Wolls hold grudges for a long time. Some of their songs whisper the still-accursed names of enemies now many hundreds of years dead, carrying them on low, warbling melodies across the open seas of grass.




MORDHEIM RULES – WENDLESS WOLL

Wendless Woll  M WSBSS T W A I Ld
333331118
Saiga Antelope  M WSBSS T W A I Ld
830231315

Hiring: If mounted, costs 30gc to hire with 15gc upkeep: increases warband rating by 15 points, plus one per point of experience. If dismounted, costs 20gc to hire with 10gc upkeep, and increases warband rating by 10 points, plus one per point of experience.

May be hired by any warband not aligned to Chaos or Undeath (so no Possessed, Skaven, Undead, etc).

Equipment: The Wendless Woll has a spear, and an instrument, and has a 6+ armour save.

Bardic Talents:
Storyteller:   Select one group of henchmen or hired sword (other than the Woll) before each battle. They will, for the duration of the battle, count rolling a double as a success on a psychology test, regardless of the score they would usually need.
Battle Drum: Models within 6" of the Woll gain +1 Ld at all times.
Strael: When you take this talent, select a particular type of enemy warband. The Woll, knowing their weaknesses, will be at +1 to hit and +1 to injury rolls against them.
Song of Past Curses: Works as for a spell, difficulty 7. A single model within 12" is targeted: if the spell succeeds, that model fears the Woll for the remainder of the battle.
Song of the Grass Sea: Works as for a spell, difficulty 7. Target one friendly OR enemy model within 8". Until your next shooting phase, they gain +1 to both toughness and initiative, but may not move and do not count as being in cover for any reason.
Song of the Wendings: Works as for a spell, difficulty 7. Target one friendly model within 8": they may make an immediate additional move, as if they had an extra movement phase. This may take them into combat, and counts as a charge if so.


Skills: If mounted, the Wendless Woll has the Ride Horse skill from the Blazing Saddles rules add-on. The Woll starts with one bardic talent. The Woll may take Speed skills, or a new Bardic Talent, when gaining a new skill. If using the Blazing Saddles mounted combat rules, the Woll may also take Cavalry skills.



Gaming Notes

I think the plot hooks for the Wolls write themselves fairly well. They're a general-purpose neutral force in a setting (open steppes) that doesn't often get a lot of look-in in fantasy settings. Fantasy often takes its inspiration from parts of Western or Southern Europe - settled areas with denser populations, river valleys, deep forests, mountains, etc - and rather less often ventures out onto the open plains that dominate parts of Eastern Europe and central Asia beyond. Perhaps it's because these areas feel so sparse - your party won't be tripping over lost towers and dungeons all the time if they're out in a huge expanse of unsettled grassland - but I think there's a lot of interest to be had from such wildernesses nonetheless, and hopefully the Wolls can potentially add something to that. In terms of stats and combat, they're not that exciting, though I think fighting a larger number of smallish fast-moving opponents has some merit to it as a tactical setup to think through.

Here are some plot hooks for using Wolls in your campaigns:
  • The party must cross an impossibly vast grassland. Finding water and food will be near-impossible without help: they must first find a way to get a Woll or a party of Wolls to guide them across.
  • Your bard learns of an immensely powerful magical song that could give your party the protection it needs to fight (Insert Enemy Here). One problem: the secret of it lies with a tribe of Wolls that are especially secretive, and it's up to you to go and navigate the society and lands of the high steppe to find them and get them to tell you.
  • No library or written record exists to say what happened to the last Queen of (Insert Country Here), for her memory was purged from the records. Only one people are likely to know: the Wolls, whose records could never be purged as they were never committed to paper to begin with.
  • A larger tribe of Wolls have appeared on the edge of the plains and have been invading human villages, forcing them to hand over water and food. You must find out what has pushed them towards human civilisation and broker peace.
  • A city on the edge of the plains is under siege. You are sent to persuade the Wolls to honour an age-old agreement to ride to the city's aid... but the fluid politics of a great Woll encampment may be more tricky than you expected to navigate.
  • Your party meets a Woll spending its days as a drunk, low-paid servant of a corrupt nobleman. You must help the Woll (by among other things freeing it and finding it an instrument again) to gain vital information for defeating the nobleman's schemes.



Designer's Notes

This entry, for the second Monster Man contest, was one of those "take a name then let's jam a bunch of things together and see if they work" setups. The starting point was to decide if "Wendless" meant "always wending" (Wend + endless) or "never wending" (Wend + less). I went for "always" because it seemed more fun. So where to start with a race always on the move? The steppes, that's where, and that had some strong influences, especially the presence of the Saiga antelopes and the use of e.g. throat-singing. I'm much less sure why the Woll ended up looking like a three-eyed humanoid echidna: I guess I wanted something weird to go with the inherent weirdness of the antelope, and somehow that just fitted well.

The final element to slot in was some kind of culture hook. Races whose core aesthetic is mighty paladins, or proud barbarians, or rangers, or wizards, are all fairly common...  bards, I figured, not so much. The idea of them being chaotic seemed to fit with both the bardic part and the nomad bit, as well. So those elements - nomad culture, steppe society, bardic training - fused together into these little guys, and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out.

Like with the Afelyn, the use of Mordheim as the system here is more because it's the one I'm comfortable with writing in than a particular "Wolls would work well in this" thing. I would like to write some Savage Worlds rules for the Wolls though and that's on my list for when I've got the hang of that system a little better. It'd also be fun to write a whole Woll warband, but I don't know that enough people play Mordheim nowadays to use it.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 10:11:46 PM by Jubal »
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...