The Big Cats

Summary: Freakishly large jungle cats prowl the hex, with absolutely no fear of humanity. They’ve grown larger off of a fountain of Chaos tainted water that springs naturally from the cave where they lair.

Discovery: The party may discover the big cats in this hex by being attacked by them in the special random encounter for this hex. If a character thinks to use Survival in this hex and succeeds on a Challenging(+0) test, even if the test was for foraging or looking for shelter or otherwise not directly attempting to find local wildlife, they will discover the pawprints of enormous cats (and they haven’t been declawed), which will lead ultimately back to the cats’ lair. Survival checks made to track a wounded and retreating big cat are made at Easy(+30) difficulty. The big cats eat rather a lot and will certainly take notice if any large potential prey hangs around for a while, so if the characters stay the night here and haven’t already fended off a big cat attack, they are guaranteed to have one in the night. If they encountered the big cat randomly but fled or hid rather than killing it or wounding it until it left, they will still be attacked in the night. Only killing or scaring off a cat will convince the pride to leave the characters alone. A Very Hard(-30) Psyniscience check will reveal psyker spookiness in the hex and allow the psyniscient character to track it back to the cats’ lair.

Exploration: The cats retreat back to their lair if they are seriously damaged, but will fight to the death if tracked to their home. The cats lair in a cavern with a natural spring tainted by ancient Chaos magic that causes anything that drinks from it often enough to grow larger. There are eight big cats in the lair, one male and seven females. Subtract one for each cat successfully killed outside the jungle hex.

Confrontation: Although they’ve grown to tremendous size due to Chaos magic, the cats are not significantly warped by the magic psychologically (the amount of Corruption inflicted by the fountain doesn’t usually have any serious effects on the victim, after all). They can be tamed like all animals can if a character decides that taming cats the size of a draft horse who view human-size creatures as prey by default is a good idea. Bear in mind that creatures of this size require a tremendous amount of food to sustain themselves and it all has to be meat. There’s a reason why these things end up locating and attacking the party within twenty-four hours of their entry into the hex. The cats spend almost all of their waking time hunting to feed themselves and are in danger of totally exterminating wildlife large enough to sustain them in the surrounding area within just a few years (which is very unlikely to be fast enough to make a difference to a campaign). Enough food to feed one of the cats for one day weighs 10 kilograms and has an availability of Scarce(-10).

Failing an effort to tame them, the only way to resolve the threat is to kill them (although nothing in particular prevents the characters from just leaving the hex, especially after they’ve already scared the cats off by injuring or killing one of them).

Rewards: As mentioned above, the cats could potentially be tamed, although they require an enormous amount of meat.

The bigger prize is potentially the Chaos fountain in the cavern. It is a natural spring, the water of which maintains its potence no matter how far from the source it is taken and how long it has been since it was collected. A character must drink a full liter of water from the fountain in a single day for it to have any effect (if characters are transporting the spring water for use elsewhere, this water weighs the same as regular water, one kilogram per liter). Each day the character drinks at least one liter, they gain a point of growth from it, to a maximum of 100, and for each day they do not drink at least one liter, they will lose one growth point, to a minimum of zero. At certain amounts of growth points they will be affected in certain ways, according to the chart below.

Growth Points Size Characteristics Corruption
1 +1 Unnatural Strength/Toughness +1d5
5 +1 +2 Unnatural Strength/Toughness +1d10
15 +3 Unnatural Strength/Toughness +1d5
60 +2 +4 Unnatural Strength/Toughness +1d10

The size and characteristics effects are not cumulative, so a regular human who starts out as Medium(4) size and has no unnatural characteristics will end up as an Enormous(6) creature with Unnatural Strength(4) and Unnatural Toughness(4) after drinking at least a liter of the water for 60 continuous days. Corruption is cumulative, however, so that same human will have received a total of 2d5+2d10 Corruption. There is no ongoing Corruption for maintaining the transformation, however if a character drops below a growth point threshold and then rises back up to it, they gain Corruption again. Similarly, while the effects on size and unnatural characteristics are lost if the character’s growth points drop below the associated threshold, the Corruption remains.

On the off chance that the characters decide to investigate the stream for Warp properties (something made these cats grow to enormous size, after all), it takes a Hard(-20) Forbidden Lore (the Warp) check to recognize what it is and its properties, however it takes only an Ordinary(+10) Psyniscience check to recognize that it’s Warp-tainted at all.

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