OSR: The Heavenly Leech and Viper Treacle

It is difficult to make medicine gameable.
Actually, I should clarify. It is difficult to make medieval medicine gameable in an OSR context. Systems of diagnosis and treatment are too complex to replicate without pages and pages of explanatory text on historical or fictional notions. Adding complexity to the healing process in RPGs seems to just slow down access the "interesting" part of games. Nobody turns up to game to roll on the "hemorrhoid treatment progress" table.

So instead of trying to come up with a "Doctor" class, I've put a few miscellaneous and interesting quotes and observations in this article. Enjoy!

Chirurgia, Roger of Salerno. Christ the Physician applies several treatments.

The Nature of Suffering

Suffering purifies the soul, or so Christian theology said. The body is a corrupt vessel. Why bother maintaining it, clothing it in soft cloth, feeding it delicious food, and gratifying carnal desires when they might impede progress towards eternal bliss? If you become diseased, it's because you are being tested or punished. Accept it.

On the other hand, Christ - the heavenly leech of the title - healed the sick, so clearly suffering isn't entirely laudable. And aside from a few saints, most people, when faced with disease or injury, sought treatment of some sort. Virtuous suffering is easy until you have to pass a kidney stone.

If treatment was unavailable or ineffectual, victims could console themselves with theology.
But if we not only hear this word "death," but also let sink into our hearts the very fantasy and deep imagination thereof, we shall perceive thereby that we were never so greatly moved by the beholding of the Dance of Death pictured in Paul's, as we shall feel ourselves stirred and altered by the feeling of that imagination in our hearts. And no marvel. For those pictures express only the loathly figure of our dead bony bodies, bitten away the flesh; which though it be ugly to behold, yet neither the light thereof, nor the sight of all the dead heads in the charnel house, nor the apparition of a very ghost, is half so grisly as the deep conceived fantasy of death in his nature, by the lively imagination graven in thine own heart. For there seest thou, not one plain grievous sight of the bare bones hanging by the sinews, but thou seest (if thou fantasy thine own death, for so art thou by this counsel advised), thou seest, I say, thyself, if thou die no worse death, yet at the leastwise lying in thy bed, thy head shooting, thy back aching, thy veins beating, thine heart panting, thy throat rattling, thy flesh trembling, thy mouth gaping, thy nose sharping, thy legs cooling, thy fingers fumbling, thy breath shortening, all thy strength fainting, thy life vanishing, and thy death drawing on.
If thou couldst now call to thy remembrance some of those sicknesses that have most grieved thee and tormented thee in thy days, as every man hath felt some, and then findest thou that some one disease in some one part of thy body, as percase the stone or the strangury, have put thee to thine own mind to no less torment than thou shouldst have felt if one had put up a knife into the same place, and wouldst, as thee then seemed, have been content with such a change -- think what it will be then when thou shalt feel so many such pains in every part of thy body, breaking thy veins and thy life strings, with like pain and grief as though as many knives as thy body might receive should everywhere enter and meet in the midst.

A stroke of a staff, a cut of a knife, the flesh singed with fire, the pain of sundry sickness, many men have essayed in themselves; and they that have not yet, somewhat have heard by them that felt it. But what manner dolor and pain, what manner of grievous pangs, what intolerable torment, the silly creature feeleth in the dissolution and severance of the soul from the body, never was there body that yet could tell the tale.
-Thomas More's Last Things.
Side Note: I normally use translated or transliterated primary sources on this blog, but the original text is worth reading:
I saye, thy selfe yf thou dye no worse death, yet at the least lying in thy bedde, thy hed shooting, thy backe akyng, thy vaynes beating, thine heart panting, thy throte ratelyng, thy fleshe trembling, thy mouth gaping, thy nose sharping, thy legges coling, thy fingers fimbling, thy breath shorting, all thy strength fainting, thy lyfe vanishing, and thy death drawyng on.
The next time you're ill, be sure to describe your symptoms in these terms.
Since immorality and selfishness caused disease, it followed logically that righteous living would not only be good for the immortal soul but also likely offer immunity against earthly pestilence. As San Bernardino urged his Italian congregations in the early fifteenth century, charity rather than physic should be there first resort during epidemics; there could be no better preventative medicine than almsgiving, which pleased God and disposed him, in turn, to show compassion. But knowing from personal experience that generosity alone could not guarantee survival, or ease the spots and stains of sin, medieval men and women also sought to safeguard their physical, as well as spiritual health, through prayer and pilgrimage.
The rich might choose to pay for special masses to be said during epidemics; or secure for themselves the promise of a year free from the malign effects of 'want, emptiness, loss of cattle, fumes and evil vapours, cramps, dropsy, cancer, leprosy, asthma, unclean spirits, shame, bad luck... water, fire, lightning, tempest, plague, and sudden death' simply by fasting on bread and water and having a mass of St Anthony said on their behalf.
-Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe

High Mortality

The myth of 40 being old age has been so thoroughly demolished it's barely a myth anymore. Infant mortality skews the average downwards, and infants died in all sorts of horrible ways. Aside from the usual infections, poisons, and fires, anyone who raised both pigs and children took a chance. Open wells, mad dogs, ponds, woodpiles, and wagons claimed their share.

Chances are good your everyone in your class on your first day of school was/will be alive when you turn/turned 20. Death, in the modern west, is a rare and tragic event. In medieval Europe, death was a constant companion, even in periods without sweeping epidemics. PCs in OSR-type games are often a bit blase about the tragic demise of their companions. I'm not sure that's a problem.

Pain Relief

There's a persistent idea that pain relief, aside from alcohol, wasn't available in medieval Europe. This isn't true. It was easy, even trivial to make sleeping draughts and soporifics.

It was very difficult to make sleeping draughts and soporifics that didn't kill their victims.

The two main ingredient of powerful medieval soporifics, opium and hemlock, could easily be lethal. Proportions were given in widely varying measures. Freshness of ingredients, or even their local name, also defied standardization. But there's a sort of brilliant logic to medieval draughts. They typically contained a soporific (alcohol, henbane, opium, lettuce, and/or hemlock) and a laxative or emetic (henbane, briony, gall, wine). The patient would be rendered insensible by the potent soporific, but, ideally, the drug would pass from their system one way or another before permanent harm resulted.

Side Note: yes, lettuce used to be mildly soporific.
Wound Man, the medieval superhero.

Oof Ouch My Bones

Medieval medical theories (below) might be obtuse, but battlefield surgery tends to sweep away theories and focus on practical results.

Removing a dart or arrowhead before the wound became critically infected was a difficult task. Hammers, tongs, and curses were commonly employed. If possible, removal was postponed until a natural cyst formed around the foreign body. Styptics of dried egg and resin helped with external bleeding where cauterization was not possible, and stitches helped close wounds, but serious internal injuries were often beyond a surgeon's power.

Skilled medieval surgeons managed to perform cataract surgery without anesthetic, bright artificial lights, or stainless steel. Thick ropes and strong servants, recommended by medical textbooks, helped.

The Death and Dismemberment and Disfigurement Table

A classic Death and Dismemberment table should include some hideous wounds.
An examination of the skeletal remains of Sigh Hugh Hastings, a Norfolk Landowner who died in 1347 aged less than forty, reveals that he suffered from osteoarthritis, probably caused by continuous practice with a broad-sword or other heavy weapon, and compounded by the physical wear and tear of military campaigns in France. Although he was the son of a nobleman and had spent time at Court, he evidently consumed coarse bread containing particles of grit (of the sort eaten by the peasantry), which had caused progressive dental deterioration. A blow to the mouth had, moreover, deprived him of at least five or six front teeth, so that by the time of his death he must have found eating very difficult indeed.

Facial disfigurements were by no means uncommon during this period: the heroes of one of the most popular chivalric romances of the fifteenth century, Le Mort d'Arthur, regularly identify each other by their most recent wounds; and in this respect, at least, the author (who must have sustained quite a few cuts and bruises during the course of his own turbulent career) seems to have been drawing on personal experience. We know that in 1374 a quarter of recruits serving in the Provencal army were badly scarred on the hands or face; and that many English soldiers mutilated in the wars with France returned home in a parlous condition to beg. Even allowing for the exaggeration common in such cases, we cannot but marvel at the powers of survival mustered by one Thomas Hostell, whose misfortunes had begun in 1415 at the siege of Harfleur. There he had been

smyten with a springolt through the hede, lesing his oon ye, and his cheke boon broken; also at the bataille of Agingcourt, and after at the takyng of the carrakes on the see, there with a gadd of yren his plates smyten in sondre, and sore hurt, maymed and wounded; by meane wherof he being sore febeled and debrused, now falle to great age and poverty, gretly endetted, and may not helpe himself.
-Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe
Or if you'd prefer a modern source:
A lot of rural people in Iowa in the fifties had arresting physical features - wooden legs, stumpy arms, outstandingly dented heads, hands without fingers, mouths without tongues, sockets without eyes, scars that ran for feet, sometimes going in one sleeve and out the other. Goodness knows what people got up to back then, but they suffered some mishaps, that's for sure.
-The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson

The 4 Humours

Straight from Wikipedia:

Humour Season Ages Element Organ Qualities Temperament
Blood spring infancy air liver warm and moist sanguine
Yellow bile summer youth fire gallbladder warm and dry choleric
Black bile autumn adulthood earth spleen cold and dry melancholic
Phlegm winter old age water brain/lungs cold and moist phlegmatic

But that's boring and dry. Instead:
Of yiftes large, in love hath grete delite,
Iocunde and gladde, ay of laughing chiere
Of ruddy colour meyne somdel with white;
Disposed by kynde to be a champioun
Hardy i-nough, manly, and bold of chiere.
Of the sangwyne also it is a signe,
To be demure, right curteys, and benynge.

The coleryk: froward and of disceyte,
Irous in hert, prodigal in expence,
Hady also, and worchith ay by sleyght.
Sklendre and smalle, ful light in existence,
Right drye of nature for the grete fervence
Of heet; and the coleryk hath this signe,
He is comunely of colour cytryne.
The flewmatyk is sompnelent and slowe,
With humours grosse, replete, ay habundaunt,
To spitte invenons the flewmatic is knowe,
By dulle conceyte and voyde, unsufficiaunt
The sutill art to complice or haunt;

Fat of kynde, teh flewmous, men may trace,
And know hym best by whitness of his face.

The malencolicus thus men espie:
He is thought and sette in covetise,
Replenysshith full of fretyng envye;
His hert servith hym to spende in no wise,

Trayterous frawde full wele can he devise;
Coward of kynde when he shuld be a man,
Thow shalt hym knowe by visage pale and wan.
-The Four Complexions
Humorial theory was the core of theories about the body. Diseases caused an imbalance in the body's humours; a physician could, by applying the correct treatment, drug, diet, or environment, correct this balance. It was rarely as simple as an excess or defect of one humour. Instead, the complex interplay of age, location, organ, diet, and personal balance contributed to the balance and dictated the necessary treatment.

Since virtually every condition and treatment could be described in these terms, humorial theory flourished. It is a perfect self-contained paradigm; any challenges are absorbed without disturbance. Since the human body can recover from many injuries without (or in spite of) the aid of dubious medicines, the theory seemed to be successful.

Practical preventative medicine focused on simple and recognizable advice: eating sensible portions with fresh vegetables and fruit, regular sleep and exercise, avoiding conflict and stress, moderate drinking, and quiet living. Then as now, people tended to ignore this advice and do whatever they wanted.

Off To See The Whizzard

Most medieval illustrations of physicians have them examining a flask of urine. Uroscopy was, for centuries, the defining trait of physicians, and an easy target for satirists. Charts linking urine's colour, texture, sediment, and odour to a variety of diseases were readily available.
Now in every man is body is foure qualitees: hete and colde, moyste and drye. Hete and colde they ben causers of colours. Drynes and moystene they ben causes of substance. Hete is cause of rede colour; drynes is cause of thyn substance; moystenes is cause of thycke substaunce. And thus, if the uryn of the pacient be rede and thicke it signifieth that blode is hote and moyste. If it be rede and thyne hit sheweth that colere hath dominacioun, ffor why colere is hote and drye. If the uryn appere white and thicke hit betokeneth fleume, ffor fleume is colde and moyste. If the uryn appere white and thynne, it signifieth malencoly, ffor malencoly is colde and drye. Then thu hast considerid wel as this, then beholde the diversite of colours of the uryns.. . 
-Wellcome Library, Western Ms, 537 ff. 16-16v, quoted from Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe

Uroscopy allowed discreet analysis at a distance. Rich patients dispatched daily urine samples to distant physicians, who sent back daily advice or reassuring notes. Fortified with charts and frequent practice, physicians felt reasonably confident in their diagnoses, and experienced practitioners probably drew reasonable conclusions about the heath of their patients. Analysis of blood, feces, and sweat was also encouraged.

If anyone feels like making this gameable, they're on their own.

Practical Medicine

Treating humorial imbalance according to the complex instructions of medical authorities was rarely practical or affordable. Physicians used their judgement, and a healthy dose of practical folk remedies, where more complex cures failed.

Some cures seemed worse than the disease.

Note, it is necessary for lethargics, that people talk loudly in their presence. Tie their extremities tightly, rub their palms and soles hard; and let their feet be put in salt water up to the middle of their shins, and pull the hair and nose, and squeeze the toes and fingers tightly, and cause pigs to squeal in his ears; give him a sharp clyster [enema] at the beginning... and open the vein of the head, or nose, or forehead, and draw blood from the nose with the bristles of a boar. Put a feather, or a straw in his nose to compel him to sneeze, and do not ever desist from hindering him from sleeping; and let human hair, or other evil-smelling thing, be burnt under the nose. Apply moreover the cupping horn between the shoulders, and let a feather be put down the throat, to cause vomiting, and shave the back of the head, and rub oil of roses and vinegar, and smallage juice thereon.

-Rosa Anglica
That'll cure your lethargy, if only to get away from your physician.

Bloodletting, as a preventative measure as well as a cure, was very popular. Unlicensed and lightly trained phlebotomists were widely available. Healthy and hearty people chose auspicious days for bloodletting; the sick, aged, or infirm sought it as a last resort. As no effective methods for stopping blood flow existed, accidental deaths were common, but the practice seemed to carry significant benefits. It's well known that the more invasive and impressive a placebo is, the greater its effects. A placebo injection carries more weight than a placebo pill.

At the Augustinian priory of Barnwell, in Cambridgeshire, for instance, the brothers were bled on average seven times a year, being allowed to take three days' rest in the infirmary on each occasion. Since they were exempted from the punishing round of liturgical practice, allowed a more generous and nourishing diet than usual and permitted to take as much gentle exercise as they wished, it is easy to see why they felt much better afterwards.

-Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe
If direct bloodletting was too dangerous, leeches or cupping were available. Cauterization, burning infected flesh or creating new wounds to remove superfluous cold or moist humours, was also common. A treatment for "stubborn headaches, dropsy, epilepsy, disorders of the eyes, throat, nose and ears, coughs, nosebleeds, and 'flux of the wombe that cometh of the reume' went as follows:
bid the patient open the bowels with an evacuant which will also clear his head, for three or four nights, according to the strength, age, and habits of the patient. Then tell him to have his head shaved; then seat him cross-legged before you, with his hands on his breast. Then place the lower part of your palm on the root of his nose between his eyes; and where your middle finger reaches mark that place with ink. Then heat an olivary cautery. Then bring it down upon the marked place with one downward stroke of gentle pressure, revolving the cautery; then quickly take your hand away while observing the place. If you see that some bone is exposed, the size of the head of a skewer or a grain of vetch, then take your hand away; otherwise repeat with the same iron or, if that has gone cold, with another, till the amount of bone I have mentioned is exposed. Then take a little salt in water; soak some cotton in it, apply it to the place, then leave it for three days.
-Albucasis, quoted in Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe
Cauterizing the head or limbs was merely agonizing. Cauterizing the neck or torso was more dangerous, and could, if done improperly, cause the patient to burst.
The Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells


To most people, "treacle" is molasses or golden syrup; a thick sugary liquid that belongs in the kitchen, not the pharmacy.

But in late medieval Europe, treacle (or theriac), was the most potent cure on the market. It was hailed as a panacea, a universal cure. Applied internally or externally, in small or large doses, it was the preferred treatment of anyone who could afford it.

Treacle was compounded and aged according to a variety of ancient recipes. On the principle of opposition, treacle was made partially of known poisons, so better to counteract other poisons. The flesh of vipers was a common ingredient, but the general principle seemed to be to be to mix every known medical or pseudomedical ingredient in honey. Like the ingredient list of a modern energy drink or some fictitious drugs, a little bit of everything was thought to help.

Transport from its point of origin in Italy or Greece to Europe afforded many opportunities for adulteration or dilution, so any lack of effect could be blamed on the age or concentration of the cure-all. Treacle's mistique and association with ancient esoteric texts may have helped its reputation. Honey and opium can't be entirely unpleasant, even if mixed with bitumen and roast viper.


Knowledge of practical astrology was vital for medieval physicians. The time and place of treatment could only be determined by careful examination of the stars and their effects on the humours of mankind. Using astrology for medical purposes was tolerated. Using it for predictive purposes was dangerously close to witchcraft.

Since astrology is also a total system - it is self-contained, difficult to directly disprove, and willing to absorb criticism - it is difficult to use in RPGs. Making up new constellations and their attributes, then adding fake planets, tends to result in pages of tedious background information. Using "real" astrology for a fictional world seems anachronistic, like having Wales next to Faerun.

It's difficult enough to remember to use weather in D&D-type games. Astrology seems like one more thing to forget to track.

Retroactive Identification of Causes

In October 1348 Phillip VI of France requested the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris provide him with a consultative document explaining the causes of the Black Death, then endemic throughout his kingdom. The ensuing report, which was drawn up by some of the leading medical authorities of the day, and represented the most scientific thinking in Europe, unequivocally - and perhaps conveniently - attributed the outbreak and severity of the disease to circumstances beyond the control of any human agency. Indeed, the fate of its victims had already been decided at one o'clock on the afternoon of 20 March 1345, when there took place
an important conjunciton of three higher planets in the sign of Aquarius, which, with other conjunctions and eclipses, is the cause of the pernicous corruption of the surrounding air, as well as a sign of mortality, famine, and other catastrophes...The conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter brings about the death of peoples and the depopulation of kingdoms, great accidents occuring on account of the changes of the two stars themselves... The conjunction of Mars and Jupiter causes great pestilence in the air, especially when it takes place in a warm and humid sign, as occured in this instance. For... Jupiter, a warm and humid planet, drew up evil vapours from earth and water, and Mars, being excessively hot and dry, set fire to these vapours. Whence there were in the air flashes of lightning, lights, pestilential vapours and fires, espeically since Mars, a malevolent planet generating choler and wars, was from the sixth of October 1347 to the end of May of the present year in the Lion together with the head of the dragon. Not only did all of them, as they are warm, attract many vapours, but Mars, being on the wane, was very active in this respect, and also, turning towards Jupiter in its evil aspect, engendered a disposition or quality hostile to human life.
-The Black Death and Men of Learning, A.M. Campbell, quoted in Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, Carole Rawcliffe

Since we are currently in the middle of an epidemic, I'd like to commission any bored individuals with knowledge of astrology to check for unwholesome conjunctions in Wuhan between 6 October 2019 – 11 December 2019.

I've tried using sites like this one, but they require a degree of specialized knowledge I can't be bothered to obtain. COVID-19 is obviously a phlegmatic disease (cold, wet, associated with the lungs and lethargy), so that's a good starting point.  It is extremely odd that these two plagues are both associated with the 6th of October. The only other plague I can find that began on October 6th is Instagram.


Yes, coincidence. But still. I'll send a free PDF of MIR to the person who produces the most coherent, fully cited, and comprehensive astrological origin for COVID-19.


40k: Esoteric Baneblade Variants

Archivist Quail to Adjunct Elismuir of the Lord General Caskbrane, greetings.

Some years ago, our master commissioned a list of all super-heavy armoured vehicles derived from the Baneblade chassis, and to elaborate on their use in warfare, their spiritual implications, and legends of their origin, for the edification of junior commanders and the greater glory of the Departmento Munitorum. I have scoured the library-stacks of nine worlds and requested information from dozens more. I pray that you will forgive the incomplete state of this work. It is my sincere wish that my position-heir will continue, and perhaps complete, this noble document.

Section the First: Armoured Vehicles of Undoubted Provenance


Before elucidating the individual vehicles, we should examine the chart above, noting several patterns. Categorization by name is a very dubious art. Individual designations vary across the Imperium. Names are assigned by tradition, by necessity, or regrettably, through ignorance of other patterns.

Vehicles with the suffix -Blade are described as "main battle tanks", balancing speed, armour, and firepower, capable of attacking other vehicles or infantry with equal ease.

Vehicles with the suffix -Hammer are described as "assault tanks", focusing on purely offensive firepower at the expense of accuracy and possibly speed. While a -Blade variant cuts through an enemy formation with elegant maneuvers and coordinated firepower, -Hammer variants smash and overrun.

Vehicles with the suffix -Lord are described as "heavy transports", capable of carrying several squads of infantry. Only one vehicle of unquestioned canonicity exists in this category.

Vehicles with the suffix -Sword are described as "self-propelled artillery" or, with a touch of irreverence, "titan-killers". They carry the heaviest weapons available, focusing on overwhelming single-target firepower at the expense of almost every other factor. In the archives of the Adeptus Mechanicus, these vehicles are sometimes classed as "Ordinatus Minoris", though this designation is not used by the Departmento Munitorum.

Vehicle prefixes are a matter of tradition and taste. Few patterns exist. Of special note is the Fell- prefix, which designates vehicles of unquestioned canonicity but unverifiable details assigned to the Adeptus Astartes.


What praises can I sing which have not already been sung? The motto translated by the ignorant as "undecim doliis infernum", "eleven barrels of hell", describes both the Baneblade's armament and war-spirit. With eleven weapons of various calibres, from the rocket-propelled main cannon to six heavy bolters, the Baneblade is a mobile fortress of destruction.

The morale effect of a Baneblade's advance cannot be understated. In memoir after memoir, soldiers of the Imperium recount with vivid detail how a Baneblade's appearance turned the tide of battle. "As it lumbered forward, we realized that the enemy's positions, which had only a moment before seemed impossible to assault, were as insubstantial as cobwebs; their suppressing fire no more dangerous than light rain. With the Sword of the Righteous leading, we charged from the trenches without waiting for the order to be repeated." So reads an account from the Dneb Wars.

Of all the tanks built on the Baneblade chassis, the true and original Baneblade exemplifies the virtues and minimizes the shortcomings, or apparent shortcomings, of the design. There is no scenario a Baneblade cannot meet, no foe it cannot challenge. It is a microcosm of the Imperium itself. Just as Man's own design reflects the design of the Imperium, so too does the Baneblade.


As this vehicle falls outside Departmento Munitorum control, primary records are scarce. Secondary records, though widely distributed, show that this vehicle existed. The great triumphal mural at the Penultimate Cathedral of Scolex Binary shows three Fellblade tanks advancing in close formation. Their domed turrets and twin-barreled weapons, painted in the bright livery of the Adeptus Astartes, are unmistakable.

In the Apochrypha of Derwen, the fragment, "mounting twin accelerator cannons, much like the Fellblade of old" appears. While the identity of the tank's two primary weapons, or their capabilities, cannot be objectively confirmed, a pict-capture of an armour penetration test index in the archives of Mortus Secundus lists "cannon, accelerator, Astartes" as ranked second to none among conventional projectile weapons. Who can say, in this fallen age, how this weqapon performed when the Imperium was young?

"Fell" means both "fierce" and "cruel". Cruelty to enemies can only be exalted, but occasionally, the Fellblade and other tanks of this family are depicted in a way that seems to evoke a mocking pity for their foes. The Verse Logrim states, "The Wynds of thatte Felle Blade / Fell Alike on Friend and Foe", but whether this is an accurate summation of the tank's potency, a poetic reflection on the nature of war, or merely some self-indulgent wordplay, is left for the reader to judge.


Some commanders prefer to class this vehicle as a "titan-hunter". However, the most ancient Imperial records indicate it was originally designed as a main battle tank, using its sponson weapons as well as its main Plasma Blastgun to simply evaporate sections of the battlefield. Weapon traversal is not an issue when each blast can reduce a formation of vehicles to molten slag.

Yet the vehicle's rarity in this age make many commanders unwilling to risk its loss on the front line, preferring to use it as a close-range assassin or a mid-range bombard, or screening it with other vehicles. Thus, in the annals of the
Departmento Munitorum, it is no longer classed among other main battle tanks, despite bearing the -Blade suffix.


The Banehammer's Tremor Cannon deploys a burrowing shell, which disrupts the earth and hinders the advance of enemy troops. Some commentators hint the Banehammer is favoured by "armchair generals" who, in their quest for cunning stratagems, forget the realities of war. As Lord Solar Macharius once said, "We have not come to inconvenience the enemy but to destroy them."

As conventionally deployed, the Banehammer is largely immobile, remaining where it can best slow advancing waves of enemy infantry. It has been  criticized for encouraging a defensive mindset in Imperial commanders. Some siege regiments refer to the command variant of the Banehammer as the "Coward's Fortress". Though I would hesitate to cast aspersions on commanders long-dead, the Glorybringer, a command Banehammer used by an unnamed regiment, was modified to contain a full banquet hall and advanced holoprojectors, the better to serve a commander confident in the inviolability of their defensive line.

It is still classed as an assault tank, for that was its original role, and one it can still fulfill today. Pinning the enemy in place while carrying troops directly through the gap opened in their lines is commendable, but the Banehammer fails in respects. First, its transport capacity is limited compared to the -Lord series. Second, its main gun creates areas of treacherous ground directly in the path it must traverse; hardly an ideal situation.


The Doomhammer is another "compromise" assault tank. While the Banehammer's weapon is designed to target infantry, the Doomhammer's weapon, the Magma Cannon, is a miniature "titan-killer". It is notable that no classes of Titan, in the declassified Index Titanicus, carry Magma Cannons. The weapon is, I strongly suspect, simply not powerful enough for its ostensible purpose. In records of combat, Titan-kills associated with the Doomhammer are both rare and notable events. Even direct hits are recorded, in contrast to the Shadowsword, where hits that do not kill or damage are taken as a mark of shame.

Charging forward while firing at large targets, the Doomhammer also transports troops into combat, though placing troops within short range of a Titan is rarely wise. Retaliatory fire tends to evaporate both the Doomhammer and its troop compliment.


The Hellhammer is a true assault tank. Identical to the Baneblade in most ways, the Hellhammer mounts a shorter-range Hellhammer Cannon instead of the Mega Battle Cannon, trading accuracy and range for pure destructive power.

In urban environments, shock assaults, or surprise flanking maneuvers, the Hellhammer excels. If caught in the open, it is often unable to return fire, and its sheer bulk and slow speed make it an easy target for tank hunters.

The Baneblade and Hellhammer exemplify the two types of attack tactics open to Imperial commanders; a balanced mix of short and long-range weapons or a focus on power over range. To duel, or to brawl.

Fellhammer - "Glaive"

The Apochrypha of Derwen makes only one reference to this vehicle. "The Fellhammer, that is called Glaive, cut through..." It seems to have been a rare and ill-omened vehicle in the armory of the Astartes. According to some commentaries, a section depicting "a lone vehicle" on triumphal mural at the Penultimate Cathedral of Scolex Binary was blacked out and repainted shortly after completion, "at the request of a visiting legate of the Adeptus Astartes". Who this legate was, and why they wished the section removed, will remain forever a mystery.

The Fellhammer, or Glaive as it is sometimes called, seems to have mounted a single weapon of unknown name and terrifying potency. On Wormspine Tertius, the great pilgrimage route still passes through the shattered fields and corroded stones where "the Glaive-Dragon slew the enemies of the Emperor". Despite the uncounted centuries since that battle, no plants grow there, and all life seems to wither and sicken. A commentary by an errant Tech-Adept on the ruins suggests "the air itself burned. Stone, flesh, steel, water; all burned, all ran molten."
Perhaps its well that no weapons of this type are seen today.



Another legend from the dawn of the Imperium, the Stormhammer was once a common make of heavy assault tank. Some records say the Stormhammer carried twin Battle Cannons and twin Demolisher Cannons. Other say four Battle Cannons, or two Vanquisher Cannons and two Battle Cannons, or even a pair of Vulcan Megabolters. Perhaps multiple variants once existed, or perhaps the records are incomplete. In any case, all records insist the vehicle carried two main turrets as well as multiple sponson weapons.

Unlike other Baneblade-derived vehicles, the Stormblade was designed to act independently, as a true "land battleship." Perhaps this is why Jeswell, in his famous series of paintings, depicted the Stormhammer at sea. I could find no evidence that the Stormhammer was amphibious, though the campaign records of the Drookian Fen Guard indicate it could perform admirably when fully submerged and fitted with air intake snorkels.


The only unquestionably canonical "heavy transport" Baneblade variant, the Stormlord carries an impressive Vulcan Megabolter and several squads of infantry into battle. It is used as a mobile fortress, and in that role, excels. It has a higher capacity than either the Banehammer or Doomhammer, its primary weapon is unequaled in its role, and it is equally at ease in offensive or defensive modes.

The limited traversal of the tank's primary weapon is a significant issue, though additional sponsons and infantry-fired weapons can provide some support. Devoting an entire Baneblade chassis to infantry transport is, in the view of some commanders, excessive. Lighter transports allow for more flexible deployment, while purpose-built transports, such as the Macharius-derived Gorgon, focus almost entirely on capacity instead of offensive power.


The Banesword is a direct-firing anti-fortification artillery piece. As such, it earns far less glory than its more mobile predecessors, but a decapitating strike from a Banesword's Quake Cannon can turn the tide of a campaign.

Some commanders favour indirect artillery; the Basilisk, the Bombard, and even orbital strikes can prove more cost-effective than a Banesword, particularly against subterranean targets. But for smashing a fortress' gates or leveling a spire, nothing compares to the Banesword. But its record against Titans and other heavy vehicles is less satisfactory. The tank's rate of fire is superb; its accuracy leaves much to be desired.

Fellsword - "Falchion"

The third and final vehicle of the Adeptus Astartes to appear on this list, the Falchion is perhaps the least believable. According to the official chronicler of Six Moon Crusade, it carried two Volcano Cannons. The Verse Logrim states "The Shadowsword struck once, the Falchion twice", lending further support to this claim.

How one vehicle, even one based on the Baneblade, could mount two such weapons and still function surpasses belief, yet a brief sketch in the margins of the Index Eusoveritan shows a weapon unlike any other, labelled "Falkion". The twin Volcanon Cannons were hull mounted, though whether they fired together or separately, or whether the vehicle could move while firing, are unknown.  


The mirror of the Baneblade. A Baneblade charges; the Shadowsword waits. The Baneblade mounts many weapons; the Shadowsword sacrifices weapons for additional targeters and augers. Before firing, the tank must remain almost immobile as the grand capacitors powering the Volcano Cannon rely on the vehicle's engine. A Baneblade protects itself; a Shadosword must be protected while it prepares its one devastating blow.

Some say the Machine Spirits of Shadowswords are the most cunning of all. Tales of tanks "awaking thier cruews" before an ambush, delaying fire until an enemy's void shields flickered, or performing other acts of supernatural awareness are common. Who is to say these are mere legends? As one Shadowsword commander famously put it, "If you would aim at a God-Machine, you had best not miss."


A tank of muddled origins, the Stormsword is a reluctant field conversion of a damaged Shadowsword. Many weapons can be mounted on the hull. The armour penetration test index in the archives of Mortus Secundus lists a Stormsword mounting a "Stormhammer Cannon". Other archives say it carries a unique Stormsword cannon. Still others merely list a "Cannon, Unknown". It seems the Stormsword carries, in a fixed hull mount, the largest artillery piece available at the time of field conversion, and is used as an ad-hoc tank hunter, "titan-killer", or fortification bombard.

The Stormsword, therefore, serves as an exemplar of adaptability. As a wounded soldier returns to the field, so does a Shadowsword return as a Stormsword. Perhaps less capable, but with any deficiencies filled by an excess of valour.

Part the Second: Armoured Vehicles of Doubtful Provenance

Magos Godot's Completeness Theorum states that in any consistent formal list, all entries on the list must be populated, for the Omnissiah abhors a vacuum. If a chart of prefixes and suffixes is prepared, many gaps emerge, gaps which both Imperial doctrine and the Laws of Necessity seek to fill.

We can rule out the existence of a "Hell-Lord and "Fell-Lord" as violating the laws of grammar.


The Records of the Duros Sector, Volume XI, contain a full account of the so-called "Doomblade" main battle tank. To combat hordes of Orkish Titan-class vehicles, the leaders of the 134th Reclamation Crusade commissioned a field-conversion of a damaged Shadowsword. The Melta Cannon from a Reaver Titan was mounted on the vehicle's hull, to provide a short-range but utterly devastating blast. Initial tests were disastrous. The heat from the weapon, so easily dissapated in the air around a Titan, was injected into the vehicle's hull. Treads melted and crew suffocated. Extra ceramite plating was added to the hull, with the added effect of protecting the Doomblade against enemy melta weapons, but reducing its top speed to a crawl. Though they acquited themselves well in battle, the three Doomblades created did not see action after the 134th Reclamation Crusade. Their eventual fate is unknown.

It is astonishing that nine centuries later, in the Ullanor Sector, the same conversion was attempted, with the same results. The Imperium moves in fixed patterns, as dicated by the will of the God-Emperor. Perhaps Doomblades will become a common sight in Imperial divisions.
Hellblade (aka Firesword)


The Hellblade has a turret-mounted Inferno Cannon, commonly mounted on Warhound Scout Titans, as its primary weapon. Unlike the much-lamented Malcador Infernus, the Hellblade not only carries sufficient fuel to use the weapon continuously, but can pivot its turret to bathe entire sections of a battlefield in flame. It typically carries sponson-mounted heavy flamers as well as four hull-mounted heavy bolters.

Some regiments swear by their Hellhounds, painting them in glorious colours or ritually cleaning them between battles. It seems the vehicle is not common for a simple reason. The loss of a single Hellhound can be easily borne; the loss of a Hellblade raises an inferno which lasts for days.


The Shadowblade main battle tank appears only once, in an untitled painting by Constance Eugoxia IV, found among the battle-treasures of the Mordian 9th Heavy Infantry. The commentary on the painting, of unknown but ancient date, says it depicts a "Shadew-Blade Tanke" mounting "Magnus Las-Cannones Foure". Cross-referencing the painting with various pict-captures of Imperial Knights, it appears the "Magna Lascannons" are drawn from life, and not from fancy.

Astonishingly for a Baneblade-derived vehicle, two of the Magna Lascannons are mounted on the vehicle's sponsons, while the other two are turret mounted, making the Shadowblade a larger and more formidable version of the Leman Russ Executioner.


The identity of the Shadowhammer Assault Tank is unknown. It is best not to speculate on this gap in Imperial records. Perhaps my successor will identify this vehicle; perhaps it was deliberately expunged. No records of a Stealth Assault Tank exist, if such a thing is even conceivable.


The Banelord appears to be sanctioned a field conversion of a damaged Stormlord transport. The vehicle's Vulcan Megabolter is replaced with two Heavy Chem Cannons, similar to the Banewolf tank. Troops mounted inside must wear full respirators and other protective gear, for they are expected to charge before the hideously caustic fumes of the Chem Cannons have dissipated.

Though the battle record of Banelord tanks would mark them for regular production, regiments which produce them seem to meet with misfortune soon after, as if the design were somehow ill-fated. Time and time again, a Banelord performs well in battle, then is swiftly captured by treachery or open assault, vanishing from Imperial records.


A fully enclosed transport with an assault ramp, the Doomlord trades firepower for survivability. The Baneblade's engines, normally used to move an artillery piece or enclosed turret, instead ram the Doomlord through all but the heaviest of obstacles. The Doomlord's primary weapon is a twin-linked Punisher cannon normally mounted on the Leman Russ Punisher or fighters of the Imperial Navy. Though still impressive, the weapon lacks the sheer explosive rate of fire of the Vulcan Megabolter, and its limited firing arc means it merely suppresses enemy infantry instead of directly targeting them.


Project Shadowlord was a lone spark of grim amusement in the compilation of this work. The 9th Akrian Siege Regiment attempted to create a "heavy infantry transport" with more firepower than a typical Stormlord. They requisitioned a Gatling Blaster from a Reaver titan and mounted it on a Banehammer chassis. The weapon proved too large, so transport capacity was reduced to a single squad.

A Techpriest Engiseeer assigned to the regiment observed the first test for the official record. "The recoil pushed the tank backwards and to starboard, despite full brakes and hydraulic supports. Firing accuracy was rated "very poor". One shell in fifty fell near the target, with some landing up to nine hundred yards away. Shell casings vented from the vehicle caused severe injuries to three observers. The undamped vibration caused damage to virtually every system inside the vehicle and incapacitated several crew members."

At this time, the 9th Akrian Siege Regiment still lists "one Shadowlord transport" among their arsenal. It is unknown if the vehicle's deficiencies were eventually remedied or if they were considered acceptable to the Akrians and their commanders.


An archaic vehicle, the Doomsword is said, according to the Review of Valdor and Valdor-Variants, Volume II, to carry two Neutron Lasers. As the notorious feedback effect of a single Neutron Laser has rendered the Valdor Tank Hunter a second-line vehicle, the Doomsword, if any still remain in Imperial service, must be even more ill-favoured.

It may be worth noting that Valdor crews as drilled in the motto "non transi flumina", "never cross the streams". Firing a single Neutron Laser at a target is acceptable; firing two at once risks catastrophic feedback to both vehicles. Perhaps the Doomsword took advantage of the unpredictable effects of coordinated fire; perhaps it suffered because of them.


The Adeptus Mechanicus class the Hellsword as an "Ordinatus Minoris, Golgotha-Pattern", though what that designation means is beyond the scope of this document. The vehicle mounts a single Apocalypse Missile Launcher, and is capable of attacking both Titans, lesser vehicles, infantry, and fortifications.

Mounting such a weapon on a Baneblade instead of a void-shielded fortification seems contrary to Imperial doctrine. Hellswords seem to be field modifications, long-sanctioned but rarely used. The infinite variety of missile and launcher patterns means that no two Hellswords are alike.

Part the Third: Armoured Vehicles Which Break All Patterns

Would that all vehicles derived from the Baneblade fit the list above. Alas, it is not so. As the maxim says, "The work of the righteous is never complete".


An anti-aircraft variant of the Baneblade, the Skyhammer carries a twin Punisher cannon turret with dual sponson-mounted Hydra turrets. In theory, any aircraft passing near a Skyhammer is doomed. In practice, the overlapping fields of fire do not provide additional accuracy, and make the vehicle a clear and distinct target. In emergencies, the Skyhammer can be deployed against infantry, though the weapons are reportedly to be wildly inaccurate.
One Craneblade variant. Many others exist.


A "Baneblade-derived support vehicle" often accompanies superheavy tank regiments. A Baneblade's hull divides treads and engine from other components with thick armoured firewalls; a devastating blast can leave the chassis mostly intact. Fitted with STC-derived components, it can become useful once again, replacing half a dozen Trojan or Atlas support vehicles and catering to the specific needs of a regiment.
Mining Drill

Solomon-Pattern Mining Drill

On some rich and profitable worlds, Baneblade-derived heavy mining vehicles of ancient provenance are known to operate, for STC technology reaches all aspects of Imperial life. Though it may pain an Imperial commander to think of a noble vehicle serving as a menial workhorse, it is comforting to think that the ore for ten thousand vehicles may be mined with the labour of one.
Source Unknown


A fragmentary pict-capture uncovered during research into the Stormsword depicts a Baneblade-derived vehicle with three Earthshakre cannons. Whether such a vehicle is practical is unknown. Until a formal name is assigned by the Departmento Munitorum, the vehicle has been designated "Trident".

Other Vehicles

Who can count the derivations, alterations, and field conversions of Baneblades? Mordian 58th have a Baneblade-derived support vehicle equipped with a field kitchen and medicae facility. There are hints of Baneblades fitted with quad-mortar launch systems, self-contained trench-digging systems, and portable bridges. And, of course, the armories of the Adeptus Mechanicus are filled with esoteric and ancient vehicles. 

I hope this humble document has shed some light on this most noble design, and I beg you will forgive any lapses in judgement or errors in armoured taxonomy.

Your servant,
Archivist Quail


OSR: The Monster Overhaul: Limes and the Art of Categorization

Let's pretend you're at one of those hellish Silicon Valley lateral-thinking job interviews.

The interviewer gives you 3 categories: A: Yellow, B: Green, C: Fruit

And 6 items: 1: School Busses, 2: Grass, 3: Strawberries, 4. Lemons, 5. Limes, 6. Bananas

And tells you to sort them. Each category must contain exactly 2 items.

A: Yellow gets 1: School Busses
B: Green gets 2: Grass
C: Fruit gets 3: Strawberries

That much is trivial. The objects fit in no other category (OK, some School Busses aren't yellow, Strawberries might start off green or white, and pedants might argue that they're not fruits, but it'll do).

Lemons are Yellow and Fruits.
Limes are Green and Fruits.

And then we get to Bananas. They are Yellow and Fruits, and start off distinctly and Green. So one of the last 3 items will need to not be in Fruit, despite being a fruit. A compromise will need to be made. "Lime Green" and "Lemon Yellow" are common enough colours in English, so they might fit in those respective categories.

But if someone was told, without knowing the contents of any category, to locate Lemons or Bananas, would their first guess be correct?

Anyway, this is the problem facing the Monster Overhaul. Initial categorization is easy, but as categories are filled, the remaining categories encounter problems and compromises, far more serious compromises than Lemons and Bananas.
Art from the Hostile Forests chapter by Nadhir.

Monster Overhaul Progress Update

If you've missed previous updates, the Monster Overhaul is my next book. It's a generic, systemless monster manual designed for use at the table. It's full of tools, not text. Big fancy PDF and a big fancy hardcover... assuming everything works.

All entries in black are complete (or very nearly complete; the Dungeon chapter will be posted this week). They're available on my Patreon. You can see previews here or on twitter.

Entries in grey have some sort of draft or sketch, even if it's only a few words. The names aren't finalized. In fact, nothing about the incomplete chapters is finalized, even the titles.

9/20 chapters complete is good, but there's still a long way to go. The Dungeon chapter was the hardest one yet. It's only 23 pages long, but those pages are completely full of useful tools.

Various artists are hammering away at their respective chapters. I think giving each artist their own chapter has lead to some excellent results, but it does induce moderate anxiety; if I need to switch out a monster later, I may also need to get new art.

If you don't see a monster on this list and think it's absolutely vital I include it, leave a comment. I might already have a plan, but as the chapter fill in, the consequences of missing something critical become more dire. Monsters I'm not entirely sure about haven't been included; most chapters with grey entries have a list of 5-20 potential candidates.

1 2 3 4 5

People Sci-Fi Dungeon Dragon Primeval
1 Adventurer Alien Invader Giant Spider Kobolds Cave People
2 Barbarian Alien Visitor Goblin Wyvern Flying Dinosaur
3 Cultist Alpha Brain Lich Young Dragon Herd Dinosaur
4 Knight Doppleganger Mimic Ancient Dragon Lizard People
5 Mercenary Giant Insect Monstrous Vermin Tyrant Lizard
6 Peasant Perfect Predator Mummy

7 Pilgrim Robot Hound Myconid

8 Merchant Robot Servant Ooze

9 Townsfolk Robot Titan Orc

10 Wizard Veggie-Mite Skeleton

6 7 8 9 10

Elemental Spring Summer Fall Winter
1 Elemental Centaur Beithir Dark Fair Blizzard Eel
2 Elemental Spirit Faun / Satyr Ccoa / Raithu Dullahan Snow Golem
3 Elemental Tyrant Hateful Goose
Harvest Avatar
4 Firebat

Iron Fulmination
5 Gargoyle

6 Grue

Murderous Crows
7 Living Gem

8 Sandwalker

9 Spitling

Shofar Ram
10 Will-o-the-Wisp

Tempest Hag

11 12 13 14 15

Hot Plains Hostile Forests Mysterious Mountains Thinking Beasts Heraldic Beasts
1 Baboon Bear Ape Harpy Basilisk
2 Crocodile Boar Couatl Kappa Catoblepas
3 Elephant Dryad Giant Lamia Chimera
4 Flightless  Bird Fairy Ki-rin Lammasu Cockatrice
5 Hive Insects Giant Snake Panther Manticore Griffon
6 Hippopotamus Tiger Roc Medusa Hydra
7 Hyena Treeant
Minotaur Owlbear
8 Jinn Troll
Naga Questing Beast
9 Lion Unicorn
Peryton Strong Toad
10 Rhinoceros Wolf
Sphinx Wurm

16 17 18 19 20

Dark and Malign A Wizard Did It Water Strange Water Divine
1 Ghost Beholder Evil Icelandic Whale Tardigrade Angel
2 Ghoul Blink Dog Merfolk
Beast of Creation
3 Hag Brain Mole Pirate
4 Ogre Dispacer Beast Sea Hag
5 Vampire Golem Shark
6 Werewolf Homunculus

Greater Angel
7 Wight Rust Monster

Hell Hound
8 Zombie


Prophet / Saint

Art for the Hot Plains chapter by Lil_Tachyon

Table of Contents and the Index

There will be a "normal" Table of Contents: each chapter and entry, in order, with a page number. A useful tool to see the book at a glance, but potentially not the best tool to find a given monster (given the Lemons and Limes problem).

If you need a specific monster, the Index will be your friend. In this list, every monster in the book will appear in alphabetical order, plus every monster I can think of that could use the stats in the book. Synonyms and overlapping concepts. Ways you could potentially reflavour an entry. Obscure names, alternative spellings. I'll try to avoid setting-specific monsters, but the real world is fair game.
Art from the Thinking Beasts chapter by Lucas Roussel.

Lumpers and Splitters

Should Ape and Gorilla have separate entries? Should Sasquatch? White Four-Armed Ape of Mars? Yeti?

Or what about the dozens of half-horse-half-bird-type things. Griffons, Hippogriffs, etc. Should they get separate entries, or should they be condensed into one? I've gone with the second option.

I have to decide at what point are two creatures sufficiently different mechanically or conceptually to warrant an entirely separate entry. Just being bigger or smaller or in a different environment isn't necessarily enough. What do they do that's sufficiently different? Do they require separate tools?

The Index and other tools should help GMs find any monsters that are "missing".

Art for the Sci-Fi chapter by Frenden

Cross-References Encounters

Each chapter has 20 monsters. Each chapter also has a d10 table of "combined encounters"; a random encounter with 1 monster from the chapter and 1 monster from a different chapter. So half the monsters in each chapter will appear in their own chapter with a visting monster, the other half will visit another chapter. This lets me combine interesting ideas (Angel + Lamassu), allies or enemies (Harpy + Wind Elemental), or reflavour monsters (putting Storm Giants into the Sci-Fi chapter's combined encounter table as biomechanical war-titans).

Outside of the combined encounter tables, I've tried to minimize cross-referencing and page flipping. If a table is referenced, it's ideally on the same page, acceptably on the facing page, less optimally on the next page, or, if all else fails, elsewhere in the book. The entry for "Goblin" won't tell you to reference Treasure Table 14 on pg. 209, it'll contain a highly flavourful Goblin-specific loot table.



I'm also going to include a very compressed section on general tactics for different kinds of creatures, split into categories. Ambush Predators. Armed Warriors. etc. Including a "Tactics" section in each entry would pad the book unnecessarily, because many creatures share similar tactics.

It will probably go in the back of the book, along with a Phylogenetic Tree, The Origin of Species, alternative ways to categorize monsters, and other useful tools.