So I was doing really well at staying focused, revising, and not starting any new projects for, oh, at least two days, when a friend used the phrase "Skaven versus Hitler."
So in Skaven Versus Hitler, obviously, character represents both you and your pack of scrawny underlings. What is a skaven without a mob of worthless minions to sacrifice? Playing a skaven who isn't some kind of high-ranking schemer is no fun because you can be arbitrarily killed at any second and don't get to do anything.
Obviously, in this game, we will be playing the murderous Chaos-magic-wielding psychotic rat-monsters. Something strange has happened! The vast brazen Warpstone Sphere in which you planned to teleport into the heart of the Empire has emerged somewhere entirely different. Still, there are still miserable humans here, they seem pretty much the same, and if (as the Seers keep mumbling) this does turn out to be a completely different reality, think of how much glory you will reap by conquering the whole world in the name of the Horned Rat!
You begin with a stack of Skaven-appropriate skills. Pleasingly, most of these are equally appropriate to stereotypical occult Nazis. For simplicity’s sake, and because it felt flavourful, I have made these rather broader than the original skills list I based them on, which is broadly Dark Heresy. But first, Attributes.
- Weapon Skill - for inflicting (or avoiding) stabby death.
- Ballistic Skill - for killing things as far away from you as possible.
- Strength - for heavy stuff
- Toughness - for shrugging off injuries and resisting poisons
- Agility - for getting a) out of the way or b) your stab in first
- Intelligence - for working stuff out
- Perception - for noticing stuff
- Willpower - for restraining your craven impulses and primal nature
FellowshipEgo - because what kind of skaven has a rapport with their alleged fellows? It’s all about charisma and manipulation.
And some skills...
- Beastmastery is used for identifying, controlling, riding and commanding animals.
- Bioscience (Int) is everything vaguely biological or medical that isn’t unthinkable.
- Browbeat (Ego) represents you ability to control the actions of others. This doesn't affect your own underlings (who are handled with Discipline) but can be used on both allies and enemies.
- Connive (Int) is used to make deals with potential allies, such as persuading, bribing and bargaining.
- Discipline (WP) is a crucial trait for panic-stricken rats, used for resisting fear or pulling off manoeuvres with your minions.
- Disguise (Per) is self-evident.
- Dodge (Ag) is self-evident.
- Drive (Ag) is self-evident.
- Forbidden Lore (Int) represents your knowledge of dark magics and mysteries. Whether it's identifying demons, using sinister artefacts or unleashing terrible magics, this covers it.
- Hide and Seek (Per) covers concealment and detection of things other than yourself.
- Human Lore (Int) is knowing stuff about humans.
- Navigation (int) is self-evident.
- Not Dying (T) is a highly useful skill, comprising not starving, not getting eaten, not drowning, not freezing to death and so on..
- Paranoia (Per) represents your sensitivity to what is going on around you. This is a combination of what you see, hear and (being skaven) smell, plus the array of secondary senses, intuition about the actions of others and general sixth-sensing.
- Physical Science (Int) is anything about physics, engineering and architecture.
- Poisons (Int) deals with toxic substances, their use, and even their countermeasures. More broadly, it covers chemical stuff.
- Rumour-Mongering (Ego) is finding out or creating rumours and gossip.
- Skittering (Ag) represents leaping across, scrabbling up and ducking under things (Acrobatics, Climb and Contortionist).
- Skullduggery (Ag) represents sneaking, lurking, spying, stealing and similar.
- Stalking (Per) covers tracking or observing potential prey.
- Tech-Use (Int) is used for any device that isn’t mad science.
- Weird Science (Int) represents your understanding the truly bizarre theories and crackpot ideas that also turn out (in this game reality) to be broadly accurate. Operating warpstone weaponry falls under this skill.
There are also a few properties that don't fit well as skills.
- Insanity represents your mental integrity, which is damaged by doing or enduring weird things, mostly occult.
- Corruption represents your physical integrity, which degrades as a result of exposure to strange substances, use of Chaos magic, drugs and so on.
- Warp represents your reserves of magical energy, and is used to cast spells or activate devices. It can be replenished with rest or, more hazardously, by consuming warpstone.
- Minions is an abstract representation of how much cannon fodder you have protecting you. In another game, this would be Hit Points, but what kind of self-respecting skaven goes around risking physical injury? That's what slaves are for!
- Fate can be invoked to change your luck, improving a die roll or surviving implausibly.
A game about skaven and Nazis is clearly nothing without minions. Your minions should be important. Their most obvious feature is that they represent your hit points, because neither party here should be making heroic last stands on their own. When your minions are dead, you either surrender, die or flee.
Secondly, the type of minions you choose should affect your abilities. Cannon fodder are numerous (and so provide a lot of hit points) but are feeble. Shock troops are dangerous, but can't take many hits. Specialists can throw out special effects due to their weird weaponry, or provide skill boosts.
During the game, you'll give orders to your troops to achieve different effects, giving temporary boosts of various kinds. This doesn't mean you're left entirely alone (you're not stupid) but represents the main focus of the minions' attention. Of course, giving those orders will require the use of Discipline.
- Kill Them All! The most common order, this has your troops joining your efforts in battle. This covers most kinds of combat, including stealthy killing, but also deals with things like breaking obstacles.
- Aid Me! The minions rush to help their master, carrying them over obstacles or rearranging furniture at their instruction.
- Get Me Out of Here! In a sticky situation, the logical solution is to sacrifice minions. You can reduce your minion magnitude in order to break from combat, escape a trap and so on.
- Over There! You can use minions to create a distraction, interact with an object for you (in simple ways) and so on.
- Hold The Line! Your minions fall close in to fend off danger, defending you.
Some types of minion you can expect to see (again, representing the chief strength of your minions rather than every single one):
- Skavenslaves are feeble but numerous. Any skaven champion can easily purchase them in droves, gaining the maximum additional Wounds but no other benefits, and with poor discipline.
- Stormvermin are tough, ferocious warriors and immensely loyal to their master. They provide an all-round boost.
- Rat Ogres are hulking, hideous brutes, immensely tough and very stupid. They are also highly expensive.
- Plague Monks are fanatical disciples of disease. They are tough, basically immune to chemical and biological weapons, and wreathed in a corrosive aura of disease that few mortals can withstand, making them lethal in melée.
- Gutter Runners are stealthy assassins and expert scouts.
- Warlock Engineers are crazed scientists, armed with motley experimental warpstone weapons.
Skaven Versus Hitler will use 2d6 rather than the usual d100 for Warhammer games, but retain the roll-under mechanic.
When you're using either Chaos Magic, Warpstone Weaponry or Weird Science, any roll of a double means something unexpected has happened. If the roll was otherwise a success, your efforts were Brilliantly Successful! If the roll was otherwise a failure, something has gone Horribly Wrong!
For our ratty "heroes", attributes begin at 4+1d3, and skills are based on your attributes. This isn't great! But you also have 30 points to distribute amongst your skills these as you wish. You will gain further bonuses from your Minions. A roll of 12 always fails, since dice should only be rolled when failure seems plausible.
Your aim is to roll equal to or under your skill. Bonuses and penalties apply as seems appropriate. For example, if you are attacking a bunch of unarmed civilians, you will have a large bonus. If you are trying to strike a pact with a group of sentries to open the gates in return for a sack of gold, you will have a penalty.
Your Warp and Minions begin at 10. Your Corruption and Insanity begin at 1, because nobody gets to be a ranking skaven warrior without going through some pretty weird stuff. You have 3 Fate Points.
- Skavenslaves grant +20 Minions, +2 Paranoia and +2 Not Dying , but impose a -2 penalty to Discipline.
- Stormvermin grant +10 Minions, +1 Weapon Skill, +1 Toughness, +2 Browbeat and +1 Discipline.
- Rat Ogres grant +5 Minions, +1 Browbeat, +2 Strength and +3 Toughness. They suffer a -2 penalty to Discipline, except when ordered to Kill Them All!
- Plague Monks grant +10 Minions, +1 Toughness and +1 Poisons. They halve damage from chemical or biological weapons, and are surrounded by a toxic fog that affects targets in melée.
- Gutter Runners grant +10 Minions, +1 Paranoia, +1 Poisons, +2 Skullduggery, +1 Skittering and +1 Stalking.
- Warlock Engineers grant +10 Minions, +1 Physical Science, +1 Bioscience, +2 Weird Science and +1 Forbidden Lore. Their weapons can pin, panic, ignite or poison enemy units.
Minions function like Wounds. You lose them by taking damage, but it's assumed that once the immediate battle is over, you may be able to recoup some of your losses by either slapping some shirkers around the chops, calling in reinforcements, performing horrific surgery on the wounded, or whatever.
Warp is burned like fuel to power spells and magical devices. You regain some when you rest, or by consuming warpstone, if you can get any. However, warpstone can increase your Corruption score due to its hideous mutating effects, and at the very least causes violent nosebleeds and mild hallucinations.