Continuing from – Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures – Part One.
Part Two – The Behemoth, a tyrant of the wilderness.
In terms of relevance to the medieval setting in Ars Magica the behemoth can be referenced in the bible (Job 40:15-24 apparently), and as such is appropriate to a mythic setting. The Behemoth is the more basic of the three creatures from a Hermetic magic perspective because it does not require additional thought as to how it flies or how it might swim or float in design, and therefore uses a lower level spell guideline.
The artistic references above make the behemoth massive, far in excess of a “normal” supernatural creature. A rough guess should have each of them being hundreds of yards tall, and able to crush large houses beneath their humungous limbs. This means the spell complexity which might be saved from not flying or swimming will likely be spent in the difficulty of making the form even bigger.
As a gigantic mythic creature in a supernatural game the logical limitations of maximum creature size that we know in the 21st century should not apply. I’ve seen gamers argue that a giant couldn’t actually walk on their legs as they can’t support their own weight, and while that is true in reality I do not accept that as a valid limitation in a role-playing game designed around the myths and legends of the middle ages (if you agree with taking a 21st century view I’m surprised you read this far).
In terms of physical form here are some suggestions for shapes and forms which might be interesting in addition to the massive size.
(a) Battering Ram Skull / Forehead – the area is heavily protected by resilient hide and supported by extra think bone within the skull and spine, providing a natural battering ram which can be used to thrown down gates and smash fortified walls with ease.
(b) Crushing Limbs, Feet or Tail – these appendages are shaped and reenforced specifically to crush flat everything under them.
As in game effects this aspect ensures that the form will take no damage from blows it strikes with the transformed limbs, as they are almost as resilient as stone. For combat purposes the limb can strike as an area of effect weapon, inflicting additional damage to it’s normal damage to the area affected.
Area of effect should be relative to the the size of the limb, and your SG should help adjudicate the effect and damage. A stomping foot might inflict an additional +5 damage to it’s normal attack, or a true wrecking ball limb (see the picture above) might inflict +10 to +15 or more extra damage to a group (i.e. If a normal huge creatures strikes for +15, the wrecking ball inflicts +25 damage to a set of targets). The limb should also be able to inflict structural damage, passing through traditional damage reduction effects that structures sometimes have.
This should also have a secondary side-effect of greatly reducing the form’s ability to discern details by touch with the limb, reduce manual dexterity, or fundamentally removing the sense of touch from the area in the wrecking ball example.
(c) Impregnable Hide or Armour – the creatures hide is highly resilient to weapons, so much so that it offers a very large bonus to soak against all damage. I think the natural armadillo or turtle shell is a suitable source for the effect, but this might also be expressed as scales, overlapping plates, or a bone carapace. For the bonus to be effective the physical appearance must be pronounced.
This could grant a variable degree of protection depending on where the additional armor is located on the creature. For smaller creatures it makes sense to have a single +mod to Soak, but for massive creatures I can see an option to have different locations with different Soak values.
A series of armored plates which cover the creature’s limbs, torso, and head might grant a very large bonus to soak, but also allow a targeted attack to try to pierce between those plates, or potentially strike in locations where they offer less protection.
A huge creature also will have larger and thicker armor plates than any creature we are used to in nature. A turtle shell is already formidable, and should be impenetrable for a turtle which is 10 feet high at the shoulder. The modifiers to soak should be impressive, such as +10 or +15, and then +20+ in the areas which are highly protected.
(d) Able to lift huge weight – the form can leverage it’s large size to also apply a very power dead lift ability for short periods; such as uprooting large trees, or lifting structures from their foundations. This feature adds special muscle bulk and enhanced tolerances for lifting so that the form is highly resistant to the damage that such lifting would normally incur.
(e) Swallowing Maw – the creatures mouth is a gaping maw, so large that it can swallow a man whole. It may also be lined with a terrible array of vicious teeth, a crushing jaw, or any manner of intimidating feature which makes the mouth of the beast a fearsome weapon. For this feature to be used the creature should be around 5 size ranks larger than it’s intended target, to allow for the difference in size required to swallow the target.
(f) Massive Bellow – the roar of the creature will intimidate other creatures, and force bravery personality checks. An already monstrous creature roaring in anger should be terrifying, and this ability is noted so that it can be considered in the potential mix of natural abilities. Volume should be relative to the form’s overall size (from a lion’s roar at size 2, through to a horrifying cacophony above size 6).
(g) Human Speech – for a Magus transforming into a new form, it is highly desirable for the form to still be able to speak full sentences fluently and cast spells.
(h) Resistance to Acids and suchlike – the skin of the form is highly resistant to acids and corrosion, which grants a +5 to +10 soak bonus against these types of damage sources. This style of benefit might be added multiple times for a different resistance (crushing damage, fire, lightning, etc). The creature’s description and style should match the abilities described.
(i) Sweeping Tail, or limbs – the form is granted an additional limb (or potentially many limbs) which can strike and sweep opponents like a weapon. This has the advantage of making the form more offensive at all quarters, and less likely to have a flank which cannot attack.
(j) Burst of Speed – the form can use it’s extra muscle bulk to sprint for short distances very quickly. This maybe combined with the ramming attack, or to charge through a group of mundane combatants.
In the spell design the base level must be increased to allow for the reference of many powers being animalistic in nature, which uses the Muto Corpus level 10 guideline.
Form of the Charging Behemoth
Muto Corpus / Animal 35, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Ind
The caster is transformed into a enormously large and imposing monster, up to a size +7. The form stands upright and hunched, well over 20 feet tall, with two main fore-limbs formed into crushing weapons, and a long tail capable of crushing and sweeping opponents aside. Two smaller additional limbs are below the main set, which can grasp and and use implements.
It’s hide is almost impregnable due to the overlapping carapace of scales and spikes which cover its body, the spines and spikes being especially long and sharp along the creatures upper body and tail. Two massive horns adorn it’s head, forming the basis of the creatures ramming charge. When charging it will sprint using the large forelimbs and hind legs to build momentum.
The physical form as the following aspects: a battering ram skull which can be used to charge, crushing fore limbs, sweeping tail, an impregnable hide of intersecting armor plates, quick bursts of speed, massive bellow, and human speech.
(Base 10 size change into an animal of max size +1, +1 D: Diameter, +2 for an additional 6 size ranks, +2 for a broad set of physical abilities)
The physical stats for the behemoth will be written later, where each beastie will be written up in detail. For now, its the concepts and scope.
Continue reading – Part Three.