Semi-Sentient Bipedal Pack Animals
This whole thing was sparked off by a strip in Knights of the Dinner Table which introduced a new Hackmaster creature. (I have a feeling I've also read an article in the same comic which formally described the thing).
The creature was called something like a "Pack Gorilla", and was exactly what it sounds like - a gorilla that could be used as a pack animal.
I was greatly taken with the idea, and decided that it was exactly what my WFRP character, Fat Gregor, required. Fat Gregor, who isn't the largest chap in the world, suffers from having two much equipment (pistols, swords, shield, armour, crossbows, clothing etc.) and not enough Gregor. My equipment list was a masterpiece of creative accounting and evasive organisation. But in the end I couldn't avoid the fact that I simply couldn't be carrying the amount of stuff that I claimed to be.
I'd had pack horses, but I always found them to be more trouble than they were worth. No sooner had you bought them than they got themselves killed. If you were on a mountain path, they'd fall off it. If you went down a dungeon, you had to leave them tethered outside, and went you came back out - they were gone! What a surprise.
And then I read that KODT article and I the answer was clear.
Consider the advantages. A bipedal pack animal doesn't require special (expensive) panniers. Instead, it can simply carry a standard backpack. Anywhere you can go, it can follow, across rope bridges, up ladders, and down dungeons. If, as well as being bipedal, it has grasping hands, it can carry things. In short, it's a far more useful animal.
There was just one problem. The Pack Gorillas were in Hackmaster, and Fat Gregor was in WFRP.
But Gregor's never been a chap to let problems get in his way, and I wasn't going to start with this one. Ignoring the derision of Ulrich and Wolfgang, I set off for an orphanage, and found one (in Altdorf) ran by the priestesses of Shallya (a kind of hippy, peacenik, healing god).
I explained very carefully what I wanted. I, Sir Gregor of Ulm, was looking to hire a strapping lad, not afraid of a bit of hard labour, to do some work for me. I explained that the work might be a bit tedious, so I felt that it was probably best suited for a simple, unsophisticated lad, who wouldn't be bored by simple hard labour. I said that I felt it was a good opportunity for someone who, having been born with sadly afflicted abilities, might otherwise find himself in dire straights.
Oh, and it would be an ideal job for someone who couldn't talk, since someone who could talk might get a bit bored.
Amazingly enough, the stupid bints bought it, and started showing me some of the teenage sprogs they had. One seemed particularly suitable, a huge strapping dwarven lad, who they assured me was mute.
I nearly blew it then by asking: "So he's an imbecile, right?" which shocked them a bit, but I was able to talk my way out of it.
And so a few minutes later, for a donation of only 50 gold crowns, I walked out of the temple with my new pack animal, who I christened "the Mule". (They had told me what it was called, but I wasn't listening and forgot).
The Mule was great. It was sentient enough to understand simple gestures, so I began to teach it hand signals for things like sit down, stand up, walk, and so on. I bought it a big backpack and loaded all my shit onto it. It was a real relief being able to reorganise my equipment list I can tell you. I had my repeating crossbow hung on the back of the backpack, so when the shit hit the fan I had only to reach for it and start firing.
There were some teething troubles, it's true. Sometimes the others got a bit confused, like when we were buying a back of horses, and I asked if we should get a horse for the Mule to ride. And it was a bit embarrassing when we bumped into a party of Dwarves, and had to frantically think of a Dwarven name for it (we weren't sure how they'd react to the whole semi-sentient pack-animal thing, but the general consensus was: "Badly").
But generally things were great. It was able to follow me everywhere, unlike our other pack-animals (horses) which were a constant problem. Even when it got one of its eyes pecked out on a mountainside somewhere, it still continued to carry my stuff, uncomplaining. (Then again, how many eyes do you need to carry a backpack?)
Finally though, as with everything in life, it had to come to an end, and when you fall several hundred feet onto a rocky hillside (as the Mule did) it comes to an end pretty quickly. All I found was a big blob of strawberry jam and a leather backpack. (Luckily, most of the stuff in the backpack wasn't breakable). It was sad. I really missed the Mule.
So did the story end on that unhappy note? No. Because at a play session this very afternoon, I walked into a temple of Shallya (at Middenheim this time, I couldn't go back to the Altdorf temple because they might want to know what happened to the last one they game me) and walked out with two pack-animals, human this time, a brother and a sister. I thought I could give the girl one to Solveg, my wife, and besides the priestesses said they couldn't be separated - and I'm actually a really nice guy.
If you're an adventurer, and you have too much stuff to carry, this is my advice. Screw horses. Go get yourself an imbecile. You won't regret it.
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