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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Waldman

Monster Monday #9: Amarok

Updated: Mar 4, 2023


Well I've certainly been a little quieter this week than I'd hoped for a lot of reasons - I'm still learning to cope with some areas of my life that I'm finding tricky right now, I've been working on some other projects when I've had the energy and have felt a bit unwell too, so we are rolling right back into a Monster Monday with plans to write some more content in the upcoming week. Keeping along the wintry theme, this week's chosen monster is the Amarok, otherwise known as the Amaroq, of Inuit myth. I stumbled upon this creature quite by accident but it's a very interesting one even if it isn't very well known! It's depicted as an extremely large wolf spirit that hunts the arctic alone rather than in packs and is known for preying on those foolish enough to travel the wilderness alone.


There are a number of legends surrounding the creature - many of them shining a positive light on it too. In one, a small boy who is physically frail calls out to the god of strength to aid him in growing stronger. An Amarok materialises and pushes him to the ground, causing a number of small bones to fall from him. The Amarok tells him that the bones prevented his growth and continues to train with him regularly until the boy is strong enough to fight bears. Another tale tells of a man mourning the death of a relative who hears report of an Amarok living nearby and travels out to hunt it. He stumbles across its lair and finds its pups, killing them instead and then attempting to hide the crime. When the Amarok returns and is unable to find it's babies, it goes too a nearby lake and drags out a humanoid form which causes the mourning murderer to collapse dead as he loses his soul. It is said that nothing can be concealed from an Amarok.


This creature is said to be closely associated with an Inuit trickster god, also a wolf, named Amaguq. It is also potentially an Inuit legend explaining the existence of Dire Wolves as its behaviour and appearance are very similar. Wolves are often a huge part of mythology from all kinds of cultures. One such famous example in Norse myth is Fenrir, son of Loki the trickster god, who was said to be the creature that would bring about the death of Odin and be heavily involved in the events of Ragnarök. Other examples include the she-wolf in Roman mythology sometimes known as Lupa, that raised the two human boys Romulus and Remus whose tale leads to the founding of Rome; and Asena, a she-wolf from Turkish folklore who supposedly rescued and then was impregnated by a young boy, giving birth to half-human, half-wolf children and establishing the Ashina clan.


Amarok specifically appears in a couple of places in pop and modern culture - notably as a weapon in the game Terraria or those that are into cars may have heard of the 'Volkswagen Amarok'. Giant wolves as a whole are very popular in pop culture too. Game Of Thrones fans will certainly remember the Dire Wolves belonging to the Stark children and hw big they become in later seasons; those that enjoy Studio Ghibli films might think of Princess Mononoke and the giant wolves found in the film; and Gmork from The Neverending Story is a villainous giant wolf that has elements of its story closely resembling Fenrir from Norse myth.

 

So now that we have some background context it's time to look at stat blocks!


I'll start with an obvious offering from Wizards Of The Coast - the Dire Wolf (Basic Rules, page 123).


On the surface this is a great stat block for low level encounters at a CR 1, and if we are looking at a giant wolf then you would want a creature that is at least the Large size category, which this is. Beyond the artwork, which is exactly the same as the Wolf (Basic Rules, page 159) and doesn't look very 'dire' at all, I have a couple of issues. Firstly it's a Beast which makes it feel very lacking in the mythical creature department. Secondly, it is ONLY a CR 1 and so feels like something that should have a pack, which the Amarok decidedly doesn't, so unless you wanted to include some cubs and use the Wolf stat block to represent them then it doesn't work out too well (especially without being able to use key abilities such as Pack Tactics). There really is very little difference between a Dire Wolf and a Wolf beyond hit points and attack/damage rolls which makes them feel a little boring...


Onto my next choice and probably a much better fit! The Winter Wolf (Basic Rules, page 159).


I like this one for a LOT of reasons. It's natural habitat is the cold and everything about this CR 3 Large Monstrosity (which feels a lot better than Beast) lends itself to that. I really love that it has Cold Breath and Snow Camouflage for this reason. It makes it a good, tough encounter for a low-level party that will actually FEEL special and magical. I also enjoy some of the lore - especially that it speaks Common as it will give the chance for a more interesting encounter with a party, and they will immediately know that there's something special about this wolf if it can talk to them! All in all, this is a great choice for this kind of encounter.


Finding stat blocks outside of Wizards Of The Coast was a little harder, which actually really surprised me. The best one I found was for the Winter Wolf Alpha in Dragonix's Monster Manual Expanded (page 311) which is a CR 7, adds a Savage Howl ability to the Winter Wolf above, as well as increasing the size category to Huge. It's a nice little stat block, though again is more suited to a creature that travels in packs rather than hunting alone. While browsing through books I did stumble across Winter Wolf Pack Leader (page 18) in Wizard Sleeve Studios' Snow & Ice, Things Nasty & Nice which is a CR 9, uses an ability called Rip And Tear and would be quite a tough encounter. I also found a cool option in Legendary Bestiary: Legendary Actions For Low-Level Monsters which gives a few options for making Dire Wolves (page 7) and Winter Wolves (page 33) a little cooler with some extra abilities. Beyond that, if you want to challenge a higher level party with an epic giant wolf battle then consider this Fenrir stat block on Depressed_monkey3's Reddit Thread as an option! It is a CR 24 which is quite the jump, and a Fey creature which feels a little odd (I would have stuck with Monstrosity personally) but with all of those abilities and some legendary actions too that are themed around ice it certainly makes an interesting variant for the creature!

 

So now we need to get the Amarok into your game with some plot hooks! Here are a few ideas.

  1. A terrified man approaches the party - he is being hunted by an Amarok because he did something terrible to it earlier in his life. Despite the man's best efforts to hide his crime, the Amarok somehow knows. He wants the party to kill it for him.

  2. While travelling the Tundra, a giant wolf springs out of nowhere and challenges one of the PCs to a test of strength. If they win, it will grant them some boon. Should they fail, they will suffer a consequence.

  3. The party encounter a pack of Werewolves that claim to be the descendant of a mythical giant wolf. Should the party get into the pack's good graces, they may introduce them to her, and gain some reward.

  4. While travelling in a cold region, the party stumble across wolf tracks far larger than any they have ever seen before. They could follow them back to its den, though it is uncertain what they will find there.

  5. During their travels, the party are attacked by bandits but then aided by a giant wolf. It then snaps up a couple of the bodies and disappears into the night. The party could choose to follow this unnatural being.

 

This creature is one I'd never heard of before. Have you ever heard of the Amarok? Have your party ever encountered giant wolves in your game? Let me know!

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Daniel Riquelme
Daniel Riquelme
Dec 14, 2021

This is another creature that I have never heard before. The Amarok is interesting to say the least and I really want to one day to use the first plot hook you provided in one of my future D&D sessions.


In my humble opinions, wolves is one of the best creatures to run against low level characters just as a random encounter. But when you talked about the Amarok, the wolf became as a more respectable creature that PCs must not understimate.


Thank you as always Kat for your blogs, I really enjoy them. Take care of yourself. (:

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Katrina Waldman
Katrina Waldman
Dec 16, 2021
Replying to

Thank you Daniel!


Writing about this one really drew my attention to how few epic wolf encounters there are (in core content AND homebrew) which surprised me as Fenrir is such a well known figure of mythology and wild be EPIC to fight! The Amarok I imagine would be a little higher CR than the stat block examples I've given here because it's a little bit more than a wolf, but that being said I think I like the idea of a Winter Wolf, maybe with an increased size category and an extra ability or two! It would certainly be


I also realised that wolf enemies in general rely HEAVILY on group attacks for abilities such as Pack Tactics and…

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