maanantai 25. syyskuuta 2017

Were creatures in Oldhammer

When I was writing the articles about the elven shapechangers and the norse ulfwerenar I came across quite a many forum discussing about were creatures in Warhammer world. Quite a lot of people were wondering if weres do exist in the Old world. Information about their origin seemed scarce too.

This led me to doing some research on the subject. I wanted to find out how weres were presented in the different WFB editions before the great dumbing down (4th ed.) and in the WFRP of the same era. Plus anything I could find from WD and various Warhammer novels and short stories written at the time.

I think I´ve managed to find quite a lot of material on the subject. How weres are handled has evolved over the times and different editions but there is certain amount of consistence too. Hope you´ll enjoy reading.

WD132 Ironstone Pass adventure artwork.

WFB 1st Edition (1983)

In the Warhammer 1st edition - Vol 1 - Table top  battles booklet pages 47-49 there are five types of were creatures presented: weretiger, wererat, werewolf, wereboar and werebear. They are described as being humans that can attain animal or quasi-bestial forms. A dice roll is required to determine if a creature is able to change form. Each type has a were-factor that shows how likely the change is to happen.

You could mix werecreatures in with normal units of humans and then change the weres in animal or quasi-animal form for combat. The rules state that were creatures are normally highly intelligent when in human form but lose any magic capabilites or other personality characters when transformed.

Most common european form of were creatures is the werewolf. Being able to change to human, giant wolf and half man, half wolf form they too suffer from stupidity when in wolf form. In that form they can still controll and lead up to 2D6 giant wolves. Make note that it´s still european here, no mention of the Old World.

Weretigers are the common for of lycanthropy in the orient. They are able to take human, tiger or half man, half tiger form. In tiger form they suffer from stupidity.

Wererats are described as evil. They are found in packs that prey on lone travellers and small parties in either human, giant rat or half rat, half man form. Their hits are poisonous. Wererats are able to summon and control up to 2D6 giant rats each.

Wereboars that inhabit dark woods and forests are tribal and aggressive. They have the forms of human, giant boar and half man, half boar. In boar form they are subject to stupidity. But in human form there is a 25% chance of them being able to use magic with 1-3 randomly generated spells and mastery level of 1.

1st edition werebears are reasonably friendly if a little bad tempered. They have only two forms, that of a man and of a bear. They hate orcs and goblins and are subject to frenzy.

In general there is very little given about the background of the weres. We get some reference on where the different types live and how they act. Wererats are clearly evil, werebears seem to lean towards good but other types can be seen as neutral. Even the aggressive wereboars.

If you wanted to collect Citadel were models of the era you could look for C22 Creatures. There are at least wererat, werewolf, weretiger and werefox model in that series. Another series of interest would be C18 Night horrors with wolfman and werebear models.

In general the 1st edition rules for weres feel like an echo from role playing rules. They do not seem to suit large table top battles that well. In my opinion they could perhaps do in a small scale narrative battle where they serve some specific purpose but fielding them with regular army seems a bit strange.

WFB 2nd Edition (1984)

2nd edition battle bestiary recognises weres as a type of men that can change into any one shape other than their own. Usually in the Old world that is the shape of a wolf. So pretty much in line with the 1st edition but we see the change from Europe to Old world now.

 The back ground story leaves a lot for ones imagination as it is hinted that the werewolves did haunt the forests back in the day. And might still be there. Weres in Old World are feared and hunted but in Norsca they often fight alongside berserkers.

Weres in human form are no different from standard humans and a were creature might not even be aware of his true nature. By 2nd edition rules a human were can change into any other shape than their own. Wolf for Old World, jackel and tiger for south lands and Cathay are mentioned as well as werebears of Norsca.

Alignment of a were creature can be anything from law to chaos but most are neutral.

Special rules in the 2nd edition are quite interesting. There are only two forms, that of a man and that of a beast. The half man, half animal form is cut. Which is quite odd as the only picture of a were creature in the bestiary is of a wolf-man holding a sword.

In 1st edition you rolled a single dice against the werefactor of the creature to see if you can do the change. Now the rules say that weres have no absolute control over their shape-changing. Weres are subject to frenzy. Whilst in frenzy they must do a WP test at the beginning of each turn to see if they change.

All this means that two conditions have to be met:
  • Frenzy check is made when a model that is subject to frenzy comes within 15" of the enemy or starts it´s turn 15" or closer to enemy. If it rolls more than it´s CL then it goes into frenzy.
  • Then in the beginning of models next turn the WP check will be made to determine if a form change takes place.

When frenzied a were will remain in beast form. If the frenzy wears off then a failed WP test in the beginning of ones turn means that the were has changed back to human form.

In animal form a were creature is subject to all the rules that effect that creature, including psychology. Even the alignment is changed but that does not affect the gameplay.

Profile of a were is standard human and whatever animal the were changes into. Points value is human and animal combined.

 If one sticks to ´any one shape´ description some quite wild weres could be created with this set of rules. I mean weredragons, weredaemons and wereghosts just to name some. Later the rules speak about changing to animal form and because of that I would limit the animal forms to those animals you find in the Animals and monsters section. My list of possible animal forms could be something like this:
  • Bear, boar, cold one, culchan, eagle, giant bat, giant frog, giant leech, giant rat, giant snail, giant spider, giant tick, hobhound, horse, jaguar and wolf. 
 Perhaps not as crazy as werezombies but you still get some pretty sick combination if you want to.

In 2nd edition there are also shapechangers that resemble weres. But shapechangers are a type of troops and weres are a type of creatures presented in the bestiary. I´ve written a bit about elf shapechangers here.

2nd edition takes a small step away from roleplayingness but still the weres are in my opinion quite unusable in large scale battle. Both their fluff and rules don´t really support the use of units of weres. But as with 1st edition they could serve a purpose in a narrative battle.

Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 1st edition (1986)

The background description for werecreatures in the original Warhammer Fantasary Role Play is almost exactly the same as in 2nd edition WFB:

"The Old Worlders still live in fear of Werewolves, the shape-changers that haunted the forests of old and perhaps still linger there today. Werecreatures are basically humans capable of changing into the form of another creature, usually a wolf. In Norsca, these creatures are not hunted and percecuted, as they are elsewhere, but are often encouraged to join the berserkers in battle. In human form a werecreature is no different from a standard human, and may not even be aware of his true nature".

What is told about the physique of werecreatures again matches quite well with 2nd edition WFB. Human werecreatures can change into any one shape other than their own. Like in 2nd edition it is mentioned that the wolf form is most common in Old World. As rarer examples wereboars, werebears, werecats and even werebisons are listed. Werebears as again linked with Norsca but South Lands and Cathay are no longer mentioned. But as the rules say that there may be other types of werecreatures lurking around it leaves a lot room for GM:ing.

Again weres can be of any alignment but most are neutral. Changing to animal form is connected to being in frenzy. A werecreature must first enter frenzy and then make a WP test in order to change to animal form. A change back to human form is possible only after the frenzy has subsided.

In special rules there is an interesting clarification to on what animal form can be taken. Each werecreature has two forms: human and that of another non-giant, non-fantistic creature. This in effect limits the beast forms to normal animals. Having just two forms and no quasi-animal form is in line with 2nd edition WFB as is the notion that weres have no absolute control over their shape-changing.

In animal form all characteristics and abilities of the animal in question affect the werecreature, including psychology rules. Basic profile in human form is normal human profile and in animal form the profile of the animal in question.

WFB 3rd edition (1987)

3rd edition takes a step furher in making weres usable in large number on battle field. I´ve written about the gaming rules extensively in my article about the Ulfwerenar. I won´t repeat that here. In stead I´ll look into background material and how it connects with other things we know about weres in the world of Warhammer.

In 3rd edition all weres are of human origin. In all respects, except that they are able to assume the form of a wolf, either wholly or partially, thay are like humans. Their origin is left open but the text suggest mutation or Slann genetic experiment of some kind. If you read further you´ll see that the later foundings suggest that the first case could be correct and weres are influenced by forces of chaos.

The back ground text reveals that weres hunger for and need flesh, and are only comfortable if able to regularly transmute and feed in their non-human form. Whole families of weres are rumoured to live deep within the forests of the Empire. These individuals live dual lives as normal citizens by day and hunting for flesh by night. In my opinion this means that the flesh the weres need doesn´t have to be human. Why go to a remote location if you needed to eat human flesh to survive?

The fact that fank & file weres have two forms versus the three forms of were characters hints on the idea of a were learning to control his condition over the time. This idea will pop up later in this article several times.

The special rule 12 let´s weres have D3-1 dominant chaos mutations for each unit in wolf-man form. For were characters you could roll D4-1 personal mutaions in both wolf-man and giant wolf form. And these don´t have to be same for both forms! Mutations are to be used in non-competion games and under GM supervision but they are again a clue that points to the direction chaos in the question of where the weres origin from.

Slaves to Darkness (1988)

The RoC book Slaves to Darkness has Chaos were mutation that is available to chaos champions as a personal chaos attribute. Description of that mutation is on the page 118. A chaos were is not like normal weres as it´s normal form can be pretty much anything depending on what the champion is and the were form is created by rolling an instant chaos spawn.

This combination can create pretty wild weres. In my opinion chaos champions with this mutation are not to treated as normal weres. Their condidition is a `gift´ from chaos god and even if it appears that normal lycanthropy affects humans only chaos weres are an exemption to this.

The dominant attribute table does not have a were mutation in it but as there is the ´create your own´ choise you could make some were cultists if you wanted to. I that case I would limit it to human followers only and use 3rd edition were creature rules.

In any case the connection between chaos and becoming a were is there but also the rarity of were creatures is confirmed.

White Dwarf 132 (December 1990)

WD132 included a short WFRP adventure called Ironstone Pass for 2nd or 3rd career characters. One of the two main enemies in the adventure is a werewolf named Werner Silberman. Werner used to be a pretty succesful young wizard but an experiment gone horribly wrong turned him into a werewolf.

From what I have learned this is the first time something is hinted on how werecreatures are born in the Old world. In movies and folklore werewolves are most commonly created  by someone being bitten or scratched by a werewolf. But in the folklore there are multiple ways of becoming a werewolf; from simple wearing a wolf belt to having sex with a werewolf and pretty much everything in between. Check this list for different ways of becoming a werewolf. Magic gone wrong is nicely in line with that list.

Magic in the world of Warhammer has it´s origins in the realm of chaos. Therefore we can assume that Werner´s unlucky experiment had something to do with the dark powers. The connection between chaos and werecreatures is deepened in the Zavant short story Case of the Morrsliebnacht Murders that is discussed below.

In the back ground story of the Ironstone pass it is told that a group of wolves find Werner and in time accept him as their leader. This feels like an echo from the times of 1st ed. WFB where a werewolf can control 2D6 giant wolves.

Werner´s profile shows that he has some contoll over his condition and receives a bonus to checks that determine changes from one form to another. As described in the WFRP rules for weres they are not always even concious of their condition. Werner´s story also suggests that weres can in time learn to controll their situation. This too is confirmed in the Zavant story mentioned before.

Regarding alignment Werner seems neutral to me. He is put in a situation where he does his best to survive. He doesn´t kill for pleasure or riches but driven by his animal side hunts food for his pack and himself. His alliance with the dark elf lady has put him on a slippery slope that can lead to corruption but that alliance was formed with good intentions. Werner doesn´t know the elf´s true nature. If they stayed together longer Werner might turn evil or even chaotic by Syrillia´s influence. All this supports that weres can be of any alignment.

The original Ironstone pass adventure can be found here. And updated version for 2nd ed. WFRP here.

Novels and short stories

In the first Felix & Gotrek book Trollslayer published in 1999 there is a short story Ulric´s Children.

In the story Felix and Gotrek are heading through the Drakwald Forest. The forest is unnaturally quiet, but the wolves that dwell in the forest seem unnaturally active.

The story has a pair of werewolves; a daughter and her father and a sorcerer who plans of transferring his soul to a body of a werewolf by magic. During a confrontation between the socrerer and the werewolf father the spell is cast and the werewolf´s body taken over by the sorcerer´s spirit.

Felix is then forced to fight the beast with the only weapon capable of harming it: a dagger with a blade of pure warpstone. The beast is defeated. In the end the werewolf daughter is slain by Gotrek who regards her as a creature of chaos.

So here we have a were family living in a remote forest just like described in the 3rd edition WFB rule book. They are certainly shunned as Gotrek kills the daughter just for being a werewolf. The warpstone dagger being the only weapon capable of hurting the werewolf is an odd one but I take it as a side effect of a chaos sorcerer´s spirit inhabiting the body of a werewolf and not as a general quality of all weres.

2nd story of the book Zavant by Gordon Rennie is called Case of the Morrsliebnacht Murders. Originally published on march 2002 it doesn´t exactly fall into Oldhammer-category but I´ve included it as it´s one of those rare examples of weres being at least somehow explained in the World of Warhammer.

In this story we meet an ancient werewolf of incredible power. This beast is clearly evil as it enjoys killing and views humans as a lowly cattle. In the story it´s transmutation is linkid with the Morrslib the chaos moon. It´s stated that it is hiding in human form that confines it´s true nature but the full moon will set it free.

This time the were creature is hiding in the form of a witch hunter it has slain. It´s plan it to kill the sage detective Zavant Konniger, assume his form and in that form enter the royal palace possibly killing the emperor himself.

Konniger discovers the truth and is forced to fight the monster. The beast is vulnerable to silver and Konniger manages to distract it with powdered silver that burns the creature´s flesh like acid. Despite this the protagonist is almost overwhelmed by the were wolf. In the last second he is saved by the imperial assassin who throws a silver bladed dagger through the beast´s heart. A bit of an abrupt ending to the life that measured millenia.

In any case, connection to chaos, growing control over transmutation and better resistance to normal weapons over the time seem to be the were attributes confirmed by this story.

Conclusions and ideas for house rules

 Were creatures do indeed exist in the World of Warhammer but they are rare. Becoming on needs some kind of chaos involvement but the exact process remains clouded in mystery. Lycanthropy can be inherited by blood but there is no evidence that getting bitten by a were wolf would turn you into one.

Humans are the only race that are affected by normal lycanthropy. Wolf-man is the most common form for weres but there could be other forms too. Those seem to be extremely rare. A new were is unable to fully control it´s condition. Over the time it can learn more control so that very old weres can assume almost any human form. The quasi animal form seems to stay the same.

Weres can be slain with normal weapons. There is some evidence that old weres can develop some sort of immunity to normal weapons and can be hurt with silver or magic weapons only.

Weres can be of any alignment even if most are neutral. It appears to me that when the age they seem to slip towards evil or chaos.

As I wrote with ulfwerenar the 3rd edition WFB rules for were creatures are a bit clumsy. And the transmute rules make fielding weres in human form bit too uncertain to be practical. I might concider allowing the use of were characters WP bonus to affect the transmutation roll. That way LVL15 and 20 heros would give a +1 bonus to transmutation rolls and LVL25 would benefit from +2 bonus. To reflect the higher controll the older weres have over their condition I could allow the same bonuses for ´running for wild´ test. That would make it less propable for expensive were characters to run away in the middle of a battle.


If you think that I´ve overlooked some important piece of information please don´t hesitate to comment.

5 kommenttia:

  1. There was also a very short adventure/encounter in WD85, and reprinted in The Restless Dead. It involved a roadside encounter with Emmaretta, a werecat, who wants to get her lover out of jail (also a werecat), before he changes shape. She is "shadowed" by two large cats, who are her companions.
    Link here:

    I always thought it a very clever roadside encounter, since it is a gentle way to introduce a werecreature as an ordinary citizen without it being the focus of an adventure (and usually to be defeated).

    I remember using this encounter as part of The Enemy Within campaign many years ago ...

  2. Hi Phil! Than you for the link. It's a great find and adds to were fluff nicely.

  3. For those who want even more I would suggest short stories No gold in the grey mountains from Wolf Riders( and The Star Boat Ignorant Armies. The first one further verifies the weres vulnerability to silver. The sevond one has a pair of norsca ulfwerenar in it.

  4. Were's had their own team in Blood Bowl as well, I know the Star Players book from second edition had them as well

    1. Hi Bubba! And when playing against skeletons they could run away with a bone :D