Hell-Hawk

AUTHOR: Josh Kapfer (ReptileJK)

ISSUE: 13:53

 

Attributes

BRG 6 (+0)

NIM 12 (air), 6 (land)

PER 8 (+1)

STR 9 (+1)

VIT 9 (+1)

WIT 4 (+0)

Reactions

STAM +1

SWIFT +3 (air), +1 (land)

WILL +0

WIS +1

 

Defence

13 (air), 10 (land)

Size

Mammoth

Courage

 

Health

10

Move

 

Renown

 

 

Edges

none

Flaws

none

Special Abilities

Armour (3), Multiple Attacks (Talons, Maw), Natural Weapons (Talons 2d6+2, Maw 2d6), Flight, Mount: Steady (captive individuals only), Mount: War-trained (captive individuals only), Blacker than Night, Stealthy Predator, Instill Fear, Warned of Their Presence, Aversion to Servants of the Secret Fire

Skills

Armed Combat: Natural Weapons (Maw, Talons) +6, Intimidate (Fear) +3, Observe (smell, spot) +7, Stealth (Sneak; in flight only) +9

 

TN Equivalent

15

 

Note: Make the following adjustments for a juvenile hell-hawk: Nim (air) 8 (+1), Nim (land) 5 (+0), Str 8 (+1), Vit 8 (+1), Swift (air) +1, Defence (air) 11, Health 9, Size Large, Armed Combat: Natural Weapons (Maw, Talons) +5, Intimidate (Fear) +2, Observe (smell, spot) +6, Stealth (Sneak; in flight only) +8

 

Make the following adjustments for an alpha male hell-hawk or a female hell-hawk during breeding season: Nim (air) 13 (+3), Nim (land) 7 (+0), Per 10 (+2), Str 10 (+2), Vit 10 (+2), Stam +2, Swift (land) +2, Health 12, Armed Combat: Natural Weapons (Maw, Talons) +7, Observe (smell, spot) +8, Stealth (Sneak; in flight only) +10

 

Description

Hell Hawks (aka Fell-beasts) are the giant, flying beasts used by the Dark Lord that bring forth feelings of fear and disgust in many of the inhabitants of Middle Earth. They are both reptilian and avian in their appearance, but their evolutionary roots reach further back in time than both….further back even than the First Age of recorded Middle Earth history. Here their secrets, both shocking and horrifying, are revealed in detail to offer any traveler that seeks his/her fortune in the wild lands the knowledge necessary to survive the deadly ways of these terrifying creatures.

 

Hell Hawks appear, superficially, to be almost avian: having large black wings, a bipedal stance where the body rests on two muscular hind-legs equipped with sharp talons, a long crane-like neck, and a set of powerful jaws that are beak-like in appearance. Despite resembling birds, Hell Hawks also share a large number of characteristics with reptiles. These include wings that are membranous and not covered in feathers, a hide that is black and lined with thick keratin scales, and an ectothermic (i.e. Cold-blooded) metabolism.

 

 

Unique Special Abilities

Blacker than Night: Hell Hawks are able to fly deftly even on the darkest of nights, during which time they are almost imperceptible to travelers. They are also able to conceal themselves on overcast days as effectively as they are at night. This makes them incredibly difficult to see when in flight, and they can cross great expanses without anyone knowing they are there. Thus, even when a Hell Hawk is heard overhead, it is unlikely that a traveler will see it. For a PC to see a Hell Hawk in flight (unless it is swooping very low to the ground and extremely obvious) he/she must make an Observe (Spot) test (TN 15 in open habitat; TN 20 in an enclosed habitat, such as forest with a dense canopy). Furthermore, an Observe test cannot be attempted unless the PC hears the Hell (Narrator’s discretion). The potential results are as follows:

 

SUCCESS

EFFECT

Extraordinary

You see the Hell Hawk immediately

Superior

You see the Hell Hawk in 1D6-3 rounds (zero being the lowest)

Complete

You see the Hell Hawk in 1D6-1 rounds (zero being the lowest)

Marginal or worse

You have no idea that the Hell Hawk is nearby. If desired, the Narrator may now choose to employ the effects of the Stealthy Predators Special Ability listed below

 

Stealthy Predator: Hell Hawks are able to employ stealth when hunting individually, which makes them incredibly difficult to spot. This ability, however, is only available to Hell Hawks that are actively searching for prey, or attempting to attack someone by stealth as individuals. This ability is not applicable to groups of hunting Hell Hawks or Hell Hawks caught by surprise. Before a hunting Hell Hawk attacks, the beast makes an opposed Stealth (Sneak) test against the target’s Observe (Spot) test with the following results:

 

RESULT

EFFECT

Hell Hawk succeeds

The prey animal (or the PC) may not take any action during the first round of combat. During that first round, the Hell Hawk may also roll an additional 1D6-1 when determining damage for one attack (and natural weapon) of its choice.

Target succeeds

The Target sees the Hell Hawk before it can successfully ambush him/her and gains a +2 to its Defence score during the first attack from the beast.

 

Instill Fear: Upon first witnessing a Hell Hawk, all those that have seen it must make an Opposing Willpower test against the Hell Hawk’s Intimidate (Fear) skill. Use Tables 9.20 and 9.19 on pg 233 of the Core Rulebook. The test must also be performed at the start of each subsequent encounter with a Hell Hawk (but not at the start of each round during a single encounter).

 

Warned of Their Presence: Hell Hawks have a particularly foul odor associated with them. Although this odor is not potentially incapacitating, as in Dragons, it still may warn a traveler that he or she is approaching a Hell Hawk rookery. Adventurers who are nearing a rookery may roll an Observe (Smell) test (TN 10) to determine if they notice the unpleasant aroma.

 

SUCCESS

EFFECT

Extraordinary

The PC smells that Hell Hawks are nearby and receives an additional +1 to any Stealth skill test for 1D6 rounds, should he/she attempt to move about unnoticed.

Superior

The PC smells that Hell Hawks are nearby and receives an additional +1 to any Stealth skill test for 1D6-2 rounds, should he/she attempt to move about unnoticed.

Complete

The PC smells that Hell Hawks are nearby and receives an additional +1 to any Stealth skill test for 1D6-3 rounds, should he/she attempt to move about unnoticed.

Marginal or worse

The adventurer does not smell that Hell Hawks are nearby.

 

Aversion to Servants of the Secret Fire: All Hell Hawks (but especially captive individuals) have been manipulated over years by the Dark Lord to be evil. Because his hand has tainted their evolution as a species, Hell Hawks are particularly susceptible to attacks from Servants of the Secret Fire. Thus, Wizards and Magicians with the Secret Fire spell specialty have an exaggerated effect on Hell Hawks. Servants of the Secret Fire automatically obtain a +1 to all skill tests regarding combat against Hell Hawks, or Weariness tests involved in casting spells against these animals.

 

 

History

It has been suggested by several scholars that Morgoth created Hell Hawks by perverting Great Eagles. This statement is only partially true. In fact, ancestral Hell-Hawks (called Archosaurs) existed naturally in Middle Earth at the dawn of time. They were not evil, but merely one of the millions living creatures that Eru created, which populated Middle Earth before the coming of the Elves. These Archosaurs resembled small lizards with membranous wings, with which they glided (not flew) from tree to tree, hunting insects. Though they appeared completely reptilian, Archosaurs were only distantly related to true reptiles (and birds), and are sometimes referred to as being “cousins” to these groups.

 

When he appeared, Morgoth took these existing lizard-like creatures and, because he was jealous of the majesty and power possessed by the Great Eagles, perverted Archosaurs to resemble the animals that he envied. For countless years did he labor in the Pits of Utumno, selectively breeding them and manipulating their form with his sorcery until finally they superficially began resemble the Great Eagles. Thus, though he did not pervert or manipulate existing Great Eagles to create Hell Hawks, he did model these flying terrors after those noble avians of Eru.

 

When his dark task at last came to fruition (ca. The First Age of recorded history) the first true Hell Hawks were unleashed upon the Free Peoples during Morgoth’s early wars against the Elves of Beleriand. After Morgoth’s fall, many of these Hell Hawks escaped their rookeries in Utumno and Thangorodrim and fled to the mountainous regions of Middle Earth. Here they managed to survive and eek out an existence in the unforgiving lands that equaled Utumno in remorselessness. Although it took centuries, these animals eventually began to grow in numbers once more. Yet, it was not until the Third Age that reports of Hell Hawks began to spread throughout the lands again. Thus, it was not long before Sauron, after his return to power, learned of their existence and was impressed, especially with their innate ability to survive without the protection of their creator. Until that time Sauron had believed that all Hell Hawks had demised during the battles leading to Morgoth’s fall. The time soon arrived when he sent his minions to capture many of these wild Hell Hawks and force them, once more, into servitude. Sauron then picked up where his master left off, once more using selective breeding and cruelty to mold these wild beasts into weapons of war that would aid him in his endeavors. Furthermore, he needed to create mounts that could move at great speed and carry dreadful riders that caused the blood of even the most stalwart horses to curdle. Hell Hawks would be his most exceptional creation in this regard.

 

 

Habitat

Because they can fly great distances, a Hell-hawk in flight can potentially be witnessed in most areas of Middle Earth. Nesting Hell-hawks and rookeries, however, only exist in appropriate habitats. Wild Hell-hawks, like Dragons, are often found in mountainous regions, and at high elevations. Unlike Dragons, however, they avoid extreme northern latitudes and are not as common in the Withered Heath. Yet, enslaved Hell-hawks are not uncommon in more northern latitudes that are under the control of the Dark Lord. Angmar, for example, when it was under the sway of the Witch King, was rife with Hell-hawks. It must be noted that these individuals were not wild, but utilized by the Dark Lord and cared for by his minions. Under normal conditions, Hell-hawks are not reported to prefer these northern habitats. Thus, in the Third Age, Hell-hawk rookeries are more frequently encountered in the mid to lower Misty Mountains, the Blue Mountains (Ered Luin), the White Mountains (Ered Nimrais), and the Grey Mountains (Ered Mithrin) from Mount Gundabad south.

 

Occasionally, small groups of Hell-hawks (2-6 individuals) are been reported nesting in regions that are not mountainous but still contain large hills or bluffs with steep rock faces. For example, it was reported that a pair of Hell-hawks were found nesting near Amon Hen in the late Third Age. Those who reported the incident also reported killing both Hell-hawks and burning the corpses, making substantiation of the testimonial impossible. A similar account was made (also in the late Third Age) of a sighting near Amon Sűl. The person witnessing the beast said it landed on a high rock shelf and appeared to be feeding scraps of meat to nestlings. However, no attempt was made to verify this sighting until several years later, at which time, what appeared to be a nest was found, but riddled with long thin bones. Were these Hell-hawk bones? Because scholars were never able to analyze them, it was never determined. Yet the possibility of encountering Hell-hawks (if the habitat is correct) outside of mountain ranges should be considered when traveling.

 

It has been stated several times already that these beasts prefer mountainous habitats. Specifically, they are most often found nesting along sheer cliffs with large, but inaccessible (by humans) caves or crevices where the nests are sheltered from high winds. They prefer higher elevations among the mountains, and are also found near the upper reaches of the cliff faces on which they rest.

 

Generally speaking, these cliffs are sparsely vegetated, with the exception being the occasional pine or cedar that’s managed to gain a foothold in such unforgiving environments. Such trees, if large enough to support the beast, will be used as perches for basking. Often, however, an outcropping of rock or a rocky shelf will be used for perching in lieu of appropriate vegetation. These shelves need not be very wide as the talons of the Hell-hawk are designed for gripping such surfaces.

 

Another important characteristic of these preferred surroundings is that the cliffs where they are encountered are usually south to west facing. This gives these habitats the maximum amount of direct sun exposure late in the day (when it is generally hotter) and offers better basking opportunities.

 

A water source is not required, as these creatures seem to have little need to drink often. Moisture, in the form of condensation, if often licked from cliff faces, while water is also imbibed from puddles and streams that form after heavy rains.

 

 

Society

Hell-Hawk rookeries are often large expansive cliff or mountainsides that can act as a home for anywhere from 10 to 40 individuals. Hell-hawk rookeries are usually quite a sight to behold.

 

Hell-hawks do not purposefully ally themselves with anyone. They are strictly instinctual beasts that do not know love or compassion, only the will to survive. Those that serve the Dark Lord as mounts, do so because they have been forced to. There is no bond between rider and mount. All captive Hell-hawks have been either painstakingly trained to fear their masters, and thus, obey them, or taught to from birth. Hell-hawks will attempt to escape if the perfect opportunity presents itself. These escapees, however, are usually either (1) immediately brought down by arrows at the command of their riders, or (2) die in the wild due to the out-breeding of survival instinct, loss of survival instinct through training, or nonacceptance from existing wild colonies.

 

 

Usage

Hell Hawks can make great additions to your adventure or campaign. They can be encountered singly, in pairs (i.e. breeding pairs) or as large groups (i.e. in rookeries). They can also be encountered when acting as a mount for a major NPC nemesis in your campaign. A Hell Hawk encounter can be a major plot point, or a minor skirmish. There is little challenge in finding an appropriate way to use them. The biggest challenge is making sure that they are used on a level appropriate with your PCs abilities. In other words, it’s probably not a great idea to throw your PCs into the middle of a Hell Hawk rookery unless it’s pertinent to the storyline you’ve created, and you have a pre-conceived escape route for them, should they be cunning enough to find it. Furthermore, these critters, in some ways, may be a cure for (what I’ve come to call) “Dragon Fever”. I’ve been involved in campaigns where adventurers are obsessed with confronting or witnessing Dragons (they are, after all, probably one of the most intriguing fantasy creatures ever conceived). Unfortunately, such obsessions often lead to a bunch of dead PCs. Hell Hawks superficially resemble dragons in many ways. Throwing one of these creatures at a Dragon-hungry party may give them a small taste of what it’s like to be confronted with something as fearsome as a Dragon. They’ll perhaps realize that if they have trouble dealing with a Hell Hawk (which is nowhere near as powerful as a Dragon), they should perhaps reconsider plunging into every possible Dragon lair they come across looking for treasure and fame.