Thursday, June 30, 2022

Prince Valiant (24-05-21)


 

Just finished reading today and generally super impressed with. I bought it in Forbidden Planet on my first walk into town (Newcastle) this year, 2 weeks after having covid jag one. The first I actually heard of it was in the same shop last year sometime, I picked it up and put it back; it was sealed so I couldn’t leaf through it and it looked more like an old Comic Book annual than a game. Then I started coming across references to it, hearing that it was the first proper storytelling focused rpg and revolutionary for the time, the first edition being created by Greg Stafford in 1989!

It’s clearly aimed at younger players, or at least people new to the hobby (interesting that it follows his considerably more complex Pendragon which we actually played back in the day), I think its notable even in the way that it approaches that, it reminds me of Ben Milton’s obsession with usable presentation. The first page says ‘try play this’ then presents ‘Encounter in the Perilous Forest’ to run immediately and uses this to explain the key concepts of roleplaying games. A few pages further on it provides a simple sample adventure to provide more depth, before getting into character creation. In that first encounter you are a Knight, and that is really enough information to start playing with. Then the Basic game rules (the first 50 pages or so) explain how to make up a Knight in more detail. You have only 2 stats Brawn & Presence, between which you allocate 7 points, then have 10 points to spend on 6 skills from a list of 14. Once you're ready for the Advanced rules you can choose to be something else; Merchant, Monk, Viking etc.

The game seems really elegant, it is in effect a dice pool system like VtM, except it simply uses coins! The difficulty of a task is how many heads you need to get, then you throw a number of coins equal to the relevant stat + skill. In combat it’s opposed throws with weapons, armour and potentially strategic advantage adding extra coins to the mix. The difference between you and your opponent's throw is subtracted from the loser's coin pool, then their Brawn once the coin pool is consumed, incapacitating them once this is depleted too.

Fame takes the place of XP and is awarded for your achievements, but since it is also actually fame it can potentially provide a bonus in social contests. At every 1000 Fame you get to increase a skill by one point or take a new one.

That pretty much rounds out the Basic game. The Advanced game adds a few more significant elements and prefigures much later games. Player’s can pick Traits for their character; Greedy, Loyal etc. These reward the player with Fame when expressed in action, the amount of Fame depends on the specific trait, so Chivalrous nets much more than Cowardly. I can’t remember who it was that I first heard say attach XP to the thing you want players to do in your game, but here is a perfect example. It also says players should initially keep these secret from each other and have them come out in play proper. You can also choose to make a trait an Obsession for double Fame, and encouraged to specify a target for the trait (so Lancelot has Love of Queen Guenevere (Obsession)).

Perhaps the most radical idea in the Advanced game is that players should take turns at being the GM or ‘Storyteller’ (although I think Ars Magica may suggest this too?) and it provides a mechanic to facilitate this somewhat akin to Apocalypse World’s Moves; Special Effects.  These are actions that an NPC can do without requiring a dice roll (albeit with some kind of frequency limit), from Incite Lust to Escape Bonds, Terrify to Find Something Hidden. Special Effects do actually exist in the Basic game, but in the Advanced game a player gets one for having taken a turn at being Storyteller; their character can now perform this as a one off action.

The book also contains loads of great GM advice and although there are no actual random tables - the game doesn’t use dice after all - there are 20 pages of ‘Episodes’, or short adventures at the back of the book, each laid out in a super useful format and containing suggestions for how they might be linked to get you playing with minimal prep in no time.

Print copies of Prince Valiant can be ordered in the UK here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Microscope (24-05-21)

 

Like Universalis this is as much a communal world building tool as it is a GM-less game.
I was led to it by watching my first Matt Colville video where he suggested using it to create the setting for, then running a West Marches style campaign D&D (which the Microscope designer Ben Robbins coined or at least has written extensive guidelines on).

The big difference with Universalis is that the players decide what the game will be about and how it begins and ends, then they take it in turns to fill in everything between, with each person in their turn adding a new period, an event within a period or a scene within an event (an actual scene in which everybody roleplays). 

There are less gamey features and rules than Universalis, there are no tokens for example and no dice in sight (not that there are in Universalis either). The rules take up  just over half of the small 80 page book, it is all very succinct. I would very much like to try it,  I especially like Matt Colville’s idea of using it to generate a setting, then playing another RPG within that setting, this sounds like it would be a great match for the whole FKR thing which I stumbled on recently...

 Microscope can be ordered from the developer's website.


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Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Enemy Within 4

Sessions 14 to 18

Session 14 - The Golden Trout

Leaving Magirius shaking in his office they head back to the street, Gunther attempts to scope out the Golden Trout and discovers its a private members club. Raquel spots Sigmund of the Watch and hails him - inspired by Traitor he has bought a dog (Brandy) at the Schaffenfest. When he mentions the corpse found torn apart in the lane behind Garten Weg Raquel tells him that its Adolphus Kuftsos, a Witch Hunter - they came across the corpse and read a letter found on it, but no longer have.

Just after he heads off Pea appears, slightly hungover but thrilled to have her new fiddle, she insists on buying them lunch and pints for having helped her out at the card game. Then eager to make the most of the last day of the Schaffenfest with her new fiddle, she skips off down to the festivities.

They see the actual Mutant Decree, then just as they are about to leave the Inn they are passed a note which arrived for them that morning - its from Magistrate Richter and asks that they come visit him to clear up some details, apparently Dr Malthusius has been bombarding him with stories about his goblin being killed in the sewers. They go to the festival court to hear that they’ve just missed the Magistrate, he left with the Captain of the Watch a short while before.

A little while later they return to the Festival Court, this time hearing that Richter went home ill. They travel to his house and persuade his distraught old housekeeper to let them in just as the doctor leaves. Richter looks in a bad way, face swollen and discoloured, he is unable to talk.

They return to The Journey’s End and while Gunther gets bathed (in preparation for this evening's meal at The Golden Trout) Raquel sits in the yard to clean and oil Gunther's’ sewer soiled chainmail. While there, an excitable stable hand rushes in with news that Dr Malthusius was killed by his long haired ape during the final Zoocopia performance of the festival.

As Morrslieb rises huge and high over the town, bathing everything in an eerie green light, Gunther in Kastor guise and Raquel make for their dinner rendezvous with Magirius, only to find Johannes Teugen and his nephew Preston waiting at the restaurant instead. Teugen explains that Ordo Septenarius is a secret club within the Merchants Guild, that he founded to reverse the flagging fortunes of his family and make Bogenhafen the greatest trade hub in the Empire. He asks them what they want, Raquel says 300 gold crowns and points out that Kastor desires a barge. Teugen agrees to 100 gold and a barge with half a cargo of wool, provided that they leave town by the day after tomorrow. 

Session 15 - The Grey Lady

Raquel and Gunther are woken from disturbing dreams by Pea banging on the door and offering to buy them breakfast. She has been up all night, her fiddling went down well at the Grand Melee and she was invited to entertain at the noble party at Sapontheim ‘Castle’ by the Grand Countess of Averland! When that got too knighty for her tastes she wangled her way into Kleinwald manner and regaled the debauched Kleinwalds and their decadent party with her piano and fiddle skills. Here she was reunited with Von Arkenstein and witnessed Constantino serving, dressed as a maid as punishment for abandoning his post in order to watch the Grand Melee.

This Pea tells them over breakfast, in an Inn bustling with activity and excitement. Josef appears and thrusts before them the latest Imperial Edict - Ubersreik has been seized from the ruling Jungfreud family (the head of which was here until yesterday) by the emperor. Josef is preparing to leave as soon as he can, knowing that this event will throw all into disarray and that barges like his will be in danger of seizure by nobles or military. He offers them paid work again, but they tell him that Gunther has acquired a barge, so they’ll be taking to the river anyway, perhaps they can sail to Altdorf together.

Raquel and Gunther pay a visit to the Teugen Mansion to chase up their loot but are told they will be contacted later. The chaos that Josef anticipated is evident in the town as word of the Ubersreik Decree spreads. They run into Sigmund again, he and his unit are being mustered out to the borders of the Duchy. He tells them that he has since learned that Adolphus Kuftsos was actually a bounty hunter on the trail of a chaos cult called the Purple Hand, and says its such a shame they no longer have that letter, but either way it's yesterday's news now, what with all thats going on. The story being told around town is that the infamous Witch Hunter Faberguz Heinzdork was ripped apart in the back streets of Bogenhafen by a Demon that lives in the sewers.

On the way back to the Inn they are accosted by a well dressed young man who introduces himself as Hans-Peter Schiller, apprentice to Herr Blitzen, a wizard in Weissbruck. Hans-Peter has just booked passage on The Bererbeli with Josef and learned from him that they are the ones who encountered a Demon in the sewers, he knows his master will want to know more, so what can they tell him? Raquel obliges, including drawing the Octogram and a crude map of the sewers.

Around mid afternoon a Teugen servant appears bearing a note, a sealed letter and a bag of gold coins. The note says that Kastor must meet with the legal secretary at the Merchants Guild at 4pm to sign the deeds for the barge, then show these signed papers to the harbour master before sunset to be shown to his new property. The bag contains 25 gold coins and the note says the other 75 can be got by delivering the sealed letter to the Grubers of Weissbruck no later than 5 days hence.

They head to the Merchants Guild as instructed. There are now guards at the door and after signing the papers for The Grey Lady they encounter a nervous Magirius to whom Raquel apologizes for her violent behaviour the previous day.

From there it's on to the Harbour Master (where they learn berthing costs are paid up until lunchtime tomorrow) and then The Grey Lady, a medium barge with half a holds worth of wool. They fetch their belongings from the Inn and along with Pea spend the night on the barge.

After another night of disturbing dreams they awake to find a frantic Magirius imploring them to let him aboard. He confesses all that he knows, that tonight Teugen along with the inner circle of Ordo Septenarius plan to sacrifice someone in a ceremony that will bring great wealth to Bogenhafen. The human sacrifice is too much for Magirius, he begs the party to stop Teugen, and says he’ll send word of where the ritual is to take place as soon as he finds out.

Session 16 - "MG"

They decide to sail the barge out of town to make it appear as though they’ve kept up their end of the deal, meanwhile Pea will pay a visit to Lori to try enlist some help, then see if she can find Von Arkenstein.

A few hours later they dock downriver at Herzhald, pay the berthing fee for a day, load Gunther’s wheelbarrow up with pots of oil and head back to Bogenhafen on foot. They re-enter the town on its west side, cutting through ‘The Pit’ for the first time and take the ferry back across the river.

At the Half Measure tavern they meet with Lori who agrees to lend them some of her rogues in return for delivering a cargo for her on their new barge. She sends Ade with them to go pay Magirius a visit and find out where this ritual is to take place.

It is by now early evening and Morrsleib once more rises full, bloated and menacing, hanging over the town as though it might drop and crush everything.

Magirius lives in a 4 story terraced town house on the Adel Ring. There is no answer at the front door and as it is locked the party go round and try the back door with better luck. There is not a sound within so they split up and search room by room, floor by floor.

Magirius’ corpse is found behind his desk in the office on the first floor, lying in a pool of blood, his throat torn open. The letters MG scrawled on the side of the desk in blood mark his last act. They leave swiftly by the back door. Ade leads them through the back streets towards the Half Measure, plotting a course past the Merchants’ Guild in case this is where Magirius was trying to point them.

The building is locked and mostly dark, though some light can be seen between the shutters. While they are scoping out the area, a house Teugen carriage arrives and 2 men get out and enter the building. They send Ade to fetch the backup while they continue to stake out the location.

Session 17 - The Calm

The door entered by the coach occupants is unlocked, so Gunther sneaks in and creeps upstairs. He steals a map from the Charts room, then from an unlit balcony looks down on what during their previous visit was the trading floor; the chalk boards and tables have been pushed back and an octogram with candles set at each point now dominates the chamber. Red robed cultists greet more of their number who have just arrived. Hearing the name ‘Kastor Lieberung’ mentioned Gunther edges forwards on to a creaky floorboard. The voices suddenly cease, but as luck would have it the bells on the High Church of Sigmar ring out marking 9 o’clock, he seizes this opportunity to flee downstairs and hide in a room near the door where he entered.

 

As soon as Guther made his way inside Raquel began walking a slow circuit of the Guild. As she completes her first lap she sees a figure standing, waiting in the doorway taken by Gunther. She walks on past and finds a position to observe from round the corner. A group of thugs arrive and speak with the figure at the door who directs them to take up positions at the either end of the alley.


Raquel moves to the other side of the street, into the shadow of the Temple of Verena and waits and watches for Ade. In her impatience she is seen and 2 thugs approach, she steps out to meet them, and at the same time sees Ade approaching. She confronts the thugs, making out that she is some bodyguard of Teugen's and that they should go and let her do this job. They are not convinced so she tries buying them off, and succeeds to the extent that 4 of them take her gold and leave the area.

Ade has brought 5 halflings with him, Traitor and Gunther’s wheelbarrow with the oil. A quick plan is hatched to have 3 halflings try to draw off as many of the guards as possible while the remainder rush the building with Raquel. Just as they put this plan into action a wagon draws up behind the guild…

Session 18 - The Storm

Two of the thugs chase Ade and the first group of Halflings while Raquel, Traitor and the others rush the one remaining. He is cut down in seconds, but 2 more jump from the wagon, and another rushes from the end of the street.

Meanwhile Gunther, hiding within the building hears the commotion outside and decides to take this opportunity to regain his advantageous position upstairs, but as soon as he steps from the room he sees  the backdoor open and a big man carrying a wriggling sack rush into the building. He crouches behind the statue of Bogenauer, and as the figure goes past leaps out and cuts him down with his axe.

In the street the thugs don’t fare well against halfling sling stones and Nordland steel, but another opponent, the one seen directing from the doorway earlier, steps into the alley, into a shimmering magical haze they conjure. From here they work further magic, sending vivid pink lightning arcing at Raquel. It misses, and as the one thug still standing decides to flee it hurls a ball of blue fire at the group. It strikes one halfling taking him down and splashes infernal fire onto a grievously injured Traitor, Raquel and another halfling. As they fight to extinguish the flames, Lobwillow, their sling-armed comrade at the rear, strikes this magical opponent with a critical, breaking ribs and stunning them…

Gunther finishes his big foe with another swing of the axe, but the cultists within, knowing nothing of the violence close by, hear this noise and Johannes Teugen steps into the other end of the hallway calling out ‘Gideon, what’s that? Gideon?’
Gunther snuffs out the one candle illuminating the corridor, sweeps up the wriggling, person sized sack on the floor, and dives for the back door.

As soon as she’s able Raquel surges forwards, loading her crossbow as she runs. Penetrating the swirling, sorcerous haze she fires at point blank range, but the bolt passes clean through her stunned target without so much as leaving a mark. He staggers back towards the door, attempting to escape the onslaught, but it bursts open as Gunther comes barreling through.
The sorcerer hits the ground and in shower of pink and blue sparks reveals his true form; the demon Gideon, a tentacle headed, razor mouthed monstrosity, but stunned and impotent in the swirling storm of sword and axe that come crashing down upon it.

‘Gideon!’ howls Teugen from the passageway, as he sees his diabolic companion disintegrate. He calls upon his blasphemous masters and attempts to hurl a bolt of infernal energy at Gunther, but something goes hideously wrong, and he is left winded and staggering. Within seconds he meets the same fate as the Demon, as Gunther and Raquel rush into the building, blades swinging.


Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Enemy Within 3

Sessions 6 to 13

Session 6 - To Altdorf

They journey out of the Drakwald and across the Altdorf Flats with Gunther riding shotgun (as Ernst fumbled healing Gunnar), arriving at the vast white walled capitol of the Empire via the Wolftor gate by sunset. They see a great parade with the Emperor at its head in the Konigplatz and Pea's fiddle is stolen in the commotion. Raquel and Traitor fail to catch the thief and Pea heads off to the Grinning Moon somewhat dejected.
Meanwhile Gunther finds himself being signaled at oddly by two strangers, who follow another who signals back to them, into a bar. This third individual turns out to be the bounty hunter Adolfus Kuftsos, although this is a detail they will not discover till much later. An attempt to catch up with them proves no more fruitful than that to catch the fiddle thief, so they head on to the Grinning Moon, though the confusion of Altdorf's teetering streets ensures that this takes longer than they would like. When they arrive they hear that Pea has gone to try find her cousin Bart who disappeared a few days ago (he was last seen playing cards in some tavern down by the docks).
They spend the night in the inn common room and in the morning go to the docks to try find Pea or her cousin. No joy on the Pea front, but they do run into Josef, a barge captain and old friend of Raquel's, who they arrange to meet for drinks in The Boatman tavern later.

Session 7 - The Big Smoke

A trip to the market finds them a fence willing to buy their ill-gotten gains from Erinsclaw (it just so happens Jimmy One-eye knows Gunther's family back in Middenheim).

Their social rendezvous with Josef turns out both useful and eventful, he is traveling to Bogenhaffen with a full cargo of wine for selling at the Schaffenfest and offers to take them on as help, to which they readily agree (they want to get to Bogenhaffen anyway to follow up on the inheritance). Then a couple of pissed nobles create a scene involving Max Ernst, a notorious local protagonist. Raquel, provoked, kills Max Ernst in dramatic fashion and Traitor takes a chunk out Monty Von Ostbrun's face. 

On the way back to the barge (where they will spend the night, the plan being to depart at first light) they are followed by two unfortunates who wind murdered up by some unseen third party armed with a crossbow.

Session 8 - Altdorf to Weissbruck

Following a night of intense dreams they awake on the barge to discover that Raquel's shirt has inexplicably turned pink overnight.

The voyage to Bogenhafen begins, the Berebeli sails out into the Reiksport, threads through the waterways of the Altdorf Flats then joins the canal to Weissbruck. Gunther decides to take this opportunity to begin a new career as a boatman under Josef's expert tutelage. From a passing road warden patrol they hear that a noble and two artisans were killed in the Altdorf docks last night.

Three days later they arrive at Weissbruck, as Gunther ties up the barge he spots Kuftsos for the second time, watching them from the doorway of a riverside inn.


Session 9 - Weisbruck to Bogenhafen

Enquiring at the Inn they hear that Kuftsos is a bounty hunter who arrived the previous day. They check at the other Inns of Weissbruck; The Happy Man and Trumpet Inn but find sign of him.
The next morning their departure is delayed by a River Warden patrol who come aboard and apparently find a cache of Ranalds Delight on the barge. It takes till lunchtime to get underway.

Finally they are on the river Bogen, it is a four day journey to Bogenhafen which takes them past the impressive castle Grauenberg and pillars of thick black smoke from what they later hear is the village of Stust being sacked by Beastmen (they catch a glimpse of a winged humanoid among the trees close to the smoke).


Session 10 - The Schaffenfest

More strange dreams then they arrive in Bogenhafen on the first day of the Schaffenfest.
Gunther purchases smart clothes from a high class tailor and they check in to The Journey’s End.
They head into the festival, an ill-fated beggar advises them to see Mystic Megret who reads Raquel’s fortune: a dark watery place with death.
They visit the Festival Court to pay the fine to have Gottri Gurnisson (a very drunk alcoholic dwarf) released from the stocks.
They see Primus Von Bildhoffen, heir to Middenland, have a beggar beaten to death.
Raquel spots the Zweinhilde coat of arms (an enemy from her past) among the pennants at the Jousting.
They watch Dr Malthusius’ Zoocopia show, Raquel catches his 3 legged Goblin on its first escape attempt.
The Goblin manages to escape on its second attempt, and our northern duo are swept up by the Watch and taken to Festival Court. Dr Malthusias offers to pay 5GC for safe return of the Goblin, Magistrate Richter says the town will match it, Raquel and Gunther accept the commission...

Session 11 - A Dark Watery Place with Death

Racquel leaves Traitor with Sigmund the Watchman and they descend into the sewers.
After hours of wading through and falling in sewage they track their quarry to a bolted chamber.
They break in to find goblin remains in the middle of a octogram inscribed with the words ‘Ordo Septenarius’, bloodstains are pooled around a metal cabinet at the back of the room.
In a gout of thick black smoke flecked with pink and blue a demon manifests in the chamber.
Raquel fires her crossbow at it before feeling in terror.
They retrace their steps and leave the sewers.

Session 12 - The Inheritance

The following morning they head back into the Schaffenfest and visit Dr Malthusias who tells them that Snotty was killed in some warehouse, Raquel tells him that no, the goblin was eaten by a demon in the sewers, giving him the 3 socket pelvis found in the octogram as proof. Then forces him to (partially) pay up  at sword point.

They then call in on Magistrate Richter. He tells them that yes the goblin was killed under falling goods crates in Steinhager warehouse #4. He says he cannot pay them but on request writes a letter for them to present to the council.

A visit to the Council chambers yields another partial reward, while Gunther waits Raquel goes to scope out Garten Weg where Lock, Stock & Barl are located (the lawyers handling the inheritance) - a narrow street of run down houses in the Altstadt, an unlikely locale.

Gunther gets a tattoo of a Purple Hand on his chest, then dresses in his recently acquired finery and they head to the lawyers office where Raquel announces Kastor Lieberung to the secretary. The secretary leaves with the letters and the doors and windows are suddenly bolted from without.

Kuftsos has them in a trap, he arrests Kastor Lieberung, Magister Impedimente of the cult of the Purple Hand in the name of the Emperor, for crimes of consorting with Chaos, murder and kidnapping! Or he would, if he hadn’t been suddenly torn to pieces by something in the street. They find a letter on what remains of his corpse (explaining that this was all a set up to catch a senior chaos cultist), then hasten back to the Inn where they drown their sorrows, until they are unexpectedly reunited with Pea. She has come here wasting time before doing a job that she requests their help with…

Session 13 - The Kleinwald Caper

Morrslieb has risen full, bathing the town in green light as Raquel, Gunther (dressed as Kastor) and Pea head to Kleinwald Manor in the Adel Ring.
Pea has to steal a key while a card game takes place between the servants. She is doing this for Lori Lowhaven as payment for a new fiddle, and is nervous about the whole affair.
The Kleinwalds are not at home, and the servants take full advantage of their absence, only tonight they don't have as many players as usual due to all the Noble and Merchant parties taking place on account of the Schaffenfest.
Raquel wins the game and Pea manages to steal a key.

Fabienne the Steinhager housekeeper, on hearing of Ordo Septenarius tells them they should go speak to Magirius at the Merchants Guild, that's what her master always tells enquirers. She says it's something to do with the Merchant guild and is horrified at their tale of a Demon in the sewers.

Ade, a halfling at the game sent by Lori insists that they all go visit his boss. He and Pea enter the Half Measure Tavern by its low front door, telling the Raquel and Guther to wait by the docks and he’ll come get them.

At the docks they spot the Steinhager warehouse where the Goblin was apparently killed and question the watchmen who claims he beat the Goblin to death with his club. Anton the Goblin Slayer.

Ade then leads them into the Half Measure by an elaborate back entrance through another building and several locked doors.
They meet Lori Lowhaven, 'Aunty', a matronly halfling gangland boss, in her low ceiling office. She offers to pay them to ingratiate themselves at the Crossed Pikes (where the Watch drink she says) and they accept.

The next morning they go visit Magirius at the Merchants Guild, confronting him with the story of  the demon in the sewers and Ordo Septenarius. He offers to take them to dinner this evening where he will explain everything. Raquel puts her sword to his throat and  demands to know the names of the seven inner members of the organization. Terrified, he blurts out Johan Teugen and Franz Steinhager before somehow convincing them to leave.

Part 4


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Enemy Within 2

Sessions 4 & 5, Blood on the Road

Raquel & Gunthar arrive at the Coach and Horses.
They pay to join a Ratchet Lines of Altdorf coach which is staying over at the coaching inn on route to Altdorf.
They meet, to varying degrees their fellow passengers;

  • Isolde von Strudeldorf a young, stuck up Drakwalder noblewoman traveling with her maid and bodyguard.
  • Ernst a studious young physician’s apprentice returning to his studies at Altdorf University
  • Pandora ‘Pea’ Lostpocket, a halfling fiddle player and entertainer on the way to the Schaffenfest, an annual festival in Bogenhafen.


They also meet Harken Rouge, a bounty hunter on the trail of Maud Shay, leader of some gang of thieves who murdered Baron Fielbach’s heir while robbing an Altdorf jewelers. Believing his quarry to have headed north along quieter trails he is journeying next to Erinsclaw, when he overhears that Raquel and Gunthar have just come from there he joins them to see if they have any useful intelligence. Raquel tells the tale of their bloody exploits to the evident horror of Gustav the landlord who absents himself for the remainder of the evening.

It's a late start the next day as Gunnar and Hultz, the two coachmen over indulged the night before and now suffer mighty hangovers. Heavy rain christens the journey along with heavy bickering from Isolde who is affronted at having to share the interior of the coach with commoners. Raquel joins Gunthar on the roof and charges Pea to look after Traitor inside.

Mid-afternoon they round a bend to see the grisly sight of a leprous like mutant feasting on a coachmen laying dead on the road. He springs up on to the coach, the horses panic and manage to break their traces and drag Hultz off with them into the trees, a stunned Gunnar is stabbed by the mutant as the coach veers wildly and crashes on its side.

Raquel is fast to her feet and dispatches the mutated assailant in 2 blows. An awful bestial howling can be heard from around the bend as the disheveled occupants clamber out of the coach. Raquel instructs Ernst to help Gunnar, then she, Gunther and Pandora (equipping herself with Gunnar’s blunderbuss) head off to investigate the cries. They cut through the trees, up the hill that forces the bend to see a scene of mayhem and carnage.

A Four Seasons coach lies on its side, its 2 horses are still trapped in their harness, one contributes to the cacophony of pain as a huge mutant with the head of a baby cuts it with his axe. Another dog faced abomination sits on the ground by the coach, screaming as blood pours from his leg while a third mutant with a weird conical head attempts to stem the flow with rags. The bodies of the passengers are scattered across the road and being searched by a fourth figure, who at range looks human, but close up displays skin formed of thorny scales. This one carries a crossbow.

Raquel and Traitor rush as quietly as they can towards the one armed with the crossbow, while Gunthar lopes towards the acting medic. Pea curves around the scene to approach it from the opposite direction.

Cone-head turns on hearing Traitor’s chain being loosed and yells a warning before a great swing of Gunthar’s axe removes his left arm in a spray of blood. A blow from Racquel’s sword knocks her target down, just before a ferocious bite from Traitor finishes him off.

Dog-face dies where he lies, a chop from Guthar’s axe shedding fingers and splitting bone. Baby-face tries to run, and gets about eight yards away before Raquel, sweeping up the fallen crossbow, takes him down with a quarrel.

The searching of the bodies begins. Gunthar starts on that furthest from the coach, a burgher judging by the clothes, face down with a bolt through the neck and another in the back. He turns the body over and manages to stifle his reaction; the corpse looks exactly like himself, as though it were his twin. A better dressed twin. He searches the pockets of the coat to find a letter from a Lawyer explaining that Kastor Lieberung has come into an inheritance, and finds another note, a signed affidavit declaring the bearer to be Kastor. Gunthar shows Raquel, then thrusts the papers in his pockets as a patrol of Road Wardens arrives.

Raquel quickly convinces them of what took place. Magnus their leader says he’ll need to take sworn statements, but at the next Inn down the road. The coaches are righted, the bolted horses recovered and split between the coaches with all of the corpses piled into one.

By nightfall they reach the Seven Spokes, an inn much like the Coach & Horses, but busier as there are 3 coaches worth of travelers here, not to mention the posse of Road Wardens. News of the carnage spreads quickly around the bar, helped on by Pea with her fiddle, regaling the clientele with the tale of Gunthar the limb lopper and Raquel true shot’s derring-do. There is much talk of mutants and ill things abroad, and rumours that Faberguz Heinzdork put Erinsclaw to the sword and flame as folk there were in league with mutants. Magnus takes down the statements and the bodies of the mutants are burned, whilst those of the victims are prepared for the arrival of a Doomsayer.

Part 3

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Enemy Within 1


 After a 25 year or so hiatus I GM'd my first RPG in October 2021, launching into the recently published 'Directors Cut' of The Enemy Within for Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 4th edition. I added a short intro, more as a way for me to gently re-introduce myself to running a game and learning a rule system than anything. 

In retrospect it was a ridiculously presumptive choice, The Enemy Within is a complex campaign, probably more-so than anything I ever ran back in the day, nevermind doing so after such a long break.

 We completed Enemy In Shadows, the first and generally regarded as the shortest part of the 5 part campaign in 19, 3 hour sessions played weekly (at the table) with one or two breaks, in January 2022. I wrote up these play reports for 18 of those sessions, some are really just notes, others (especially the early sessions) are more full described. 

We are now 10+ sessions into Death on the Reik (part 2 of the campaign), but I've stopped writing play reports as it takes long enough just to prep for each session as it is...

Sessions 1 to 3, an Intro

Raquel, a disgraced knight and Gunther a grave robber arrive at the riverside hamlet of Erinsclaw on a boat carrying spirits from Kislev. They have fled from Middenheim where they are wanted for various crimes and misdemeanors, heading south in search of riches at the heart of the empire, avoiding the main roads to avoid trouble.

Erinsclaw is a hamlet providing a crossing point on the Agensfell river, a dozen buildings huddled behind a wooden wall on the south bank close to a bend providing a mooring point for boats plying river trade. Peder’s public house is a low ramshackle building that combines the functions of pub, inn and trading post. There is a smithy worked by Greta, a hefty, amputee ex-soldier and her son Berthold. A rarely used shrine to Sigmar squats on the one low hill behind the wall, and over everything the eponymous rock, Erinsclaw casts its crooked shadow, curling out over the river like some twisted witches finger.

Not long after Raquel and Gunther take up seats at Peder’s public table, drinking soup and meeting him, Greta and his skivvies (Josh and his mute twin Dumdum), the bell tolls on the farside of the river to call the ferry. Thul Abenzein has arrived, a young Witch Hunter. He toasts the unusual painting of the Emperor on the pub wall and seeing that there are other outsiders here, especially those of a martial cast, announces he is here to purge a nest of chaos close to the hamlet.

Greta and Peder maintain that they have heard nothing of such, nor of any beastmen or mutant attacks on travelers on the road south - the only news of corruption heard hereabouts is the tale of the burning of Teufelfeuer, by the infamous Witch Hunter Faberguz Heinzdork. A grim and uncomfortable looking Thul says the people of Teufelfeuer were consorting with demons and indulging in cannibalism, that they had to be put to the flame. So who here will help him? Raquel says for a price they can lend force of arms and so they take to the cold bright moonlight to share a pipe and discuss.

There are disciples of chaos in the settlement, maintains Thul, and that likely they will go warn their blighted brethren that a witch hunter has arrived. He suggests they take turns on watch; the settlement is small and any movement is likely to be seen especially on such a clear bright Jahrdrung eve.

So they draw straws and as luck would have it Gunther goes first. He sits by the window while the other 2 sleep in the crude common-room palette beds. Gunther is blessed with night vision, he clearly sees someone exit from the inn and head towards the claw. Waking Thull and Raquel he launches into a stealthy pursuit.

Their quarry climbs up onto the claw and around it, thus circumventing the need to use the barred hamlet gates. They follow, on along the riverbank, then away from the river, south into the trees, the ground rising slowly up into the depths of the forest. Without Gunther’s eyesight they would have little chance.

The route threads between a narrow valley, then up a steep hill, for an hour and a half they stalk through the dark, then close to the top of one hill Gunther loses their prey. They forage ahead on the basis of a best guess, then some few minutes later hear the barking of a dog somewhere off to their left and a little behind.

This new sign leads them to the top of the hill, they find themselves on an escarpment looking down on a shack built against the cliff face on ground 20 feet below. There is a dog chained up outside.

They creep back along the edge of the cliff and approach the structure, Raquel close to the wall heading for the dog (she is gifted with animals), the other 2 arching around for a view on the door.

Raquel whispers soothingly to the dog, it takes to her immediately and she advances with care to unchain it from its post. Just as she lifts the chain, the door to the shack swings open and Peder walks out, saying something to someone behind him. ‘For the Emperor!’ cries Thul and comes charging out of the trees followed by axe wielding Gunther. Raquel leaps into action, Peder stunned in surprise and staring at Thul is struck down from behind.

Thul ignores Peder and launches himself at the big figure in the doorway, backlit by another still within carrying a torch.

The melee is short. The dog in fevered excitement attacks Peder, the big guy in the doorway is soon slain by Thul and Gunther, and the last one, an unarmed young woman with tentacles for arms is cut down while trying to flee.

Raquel notices, tentacles aside, the familial resemblance between Peder and the girl. Somewhat later she conjectures that the hulking lad may be Greta’s son. It takes Thul some time to regain his composure after the fight, which he never really entirely does. Gunther with his night vision sets to investigating the structure.

The shack is a crude affair, essentially built around the mouth of a cave. Other than the paraphernalia of everyday living, a basic bed, fireplace and cooking utensils the only items of interest are a simple shrine to Ranald, the Trickster god, featuring a rough hewn, black painted wooden icon of a smiling cat with green eyes, and several paintings and the home-made materials for the production of such. One painting is of the Emperor on his Griffon, just like the one in the hamlet pub, there is another similar unfinished painting, plus one of the dog.

Thul is dismayed that there are no other signs of Chaos, and that these people could not be the ones preying on travelers, they were barely really armed. But she was an abomination nonetheless and proof must be taken.

They drag the bodies in and one by one heave them onto the bed. The dog howls outside as Raquel takes up Peder’s axe, decapitating each of the corpses in turn and severing the arms from the girl. These gory members are stuffed into sacks.

Before torching the shack while intoning prayers to Sigmar, they search it thoroughly once more. Gunther finds a compartment in the shrine to Ranald containing carefully wrapped sets of lockpicks and throwing knifes, a half full jar of pale herbs, a brass ring sporting a cross like symbol and 2 maps, one of Bogenhafen and the other a floorplan of some building.

The plan is to return to Erinsclaw before the people arise and confront them with this horror, to try flush out any other conspirators of chaos and threaten the settlement with burning, as was done at Teufelfeuer. Raquel teases out of Thul that he was there, that he is in fact apprenticed to Faberguz Heinzdork and that he fled the burning. He can’t be much older than the mutant girl. Only by dissolving these memories in a pub in Virrenhof did he regain his composure, then an opportunity presented itself that might enable him to return to his fearsome master. He was offered information (at a price) about mutants in Erinsclaw and attacks on travelers south of there…

Thul and Guther climb around the claw rock once more in the cold gray dawn, then let Raquel in with her dog (she’s christened it Traitor) by the settlement gates. It is just past 6am, and people are barely awake, nevermind ready for what they are to face.

Raquel strides between the buildings, tolling the bell taken from the gate while Thul torches the closest building shouting for all to come before them now.

Who else is in league with this chaos he demands to know, spilling the tentacles and girls head to the frostbitten ground. The people are terrified, but to most of them these grisly tokens are not a complete surprise. Huge Greta, shouts what have you done! This is but Peder’s daughter, she was no harm to anyone! Dumdum tries to head for her smithy, but Raquel sees and sets Traitor on the boy, soon he is also on the ground, his arm half torn off.

Then Thul deposits the second sack’s contents and Greta howls in rage. It was her son. Chaos reigns.

She lurches at Thul with the head of her boy, trying to batter him, but his blade is joined by that of Raquel and even Gunther. The big woman falls.

More buildings are put to flame and villagers slain. Some escape and some fall to Raquel’s pitiless sword, but none who survive will forget the horror of Erinsclaw.

When the slaughter ends Thul gathers up the heads, pays Gunther and Raquel for their gory work, then rides north to seek out his master, promising to commend Raquel and Guther to him, tell him we’re heading for Altdorf, says Raquel.

Part 2

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WFRP 4e House Rules

 Luck

  • Replaces Fate, Fortune, Resilience and Resolve.
  • Roll d100 for starting Luck
  • A character can spend their Luck to modify any skill or opposed roll they make after the dice are rolled, to push it up or down (by the amount spent).
  • Luck can also be used in applicable circumstance as the basis of a test (is there an armorer in this town, do I know anyone in the local underworld etc)
  • At the start of each session you may re-roll your luck, the new roll replaces the current value.
  • Luck cannot be used to prevent or create a Critical or Fumble
  • In instances where the game requires a Fate Point to be spent (i.e highest roll on Wrath of the Gods), 1 Fate Point = 35 Luck
  • Critical, Fumble and other such table rolls can also be modified, but at a cost of 10 Luck/point changed.
  • Luck cannot be spent to change another character’s roll, unless a Destiny Token is spent. 

 

Destiny Tokens

  • The player’s receive a Destiny Token whenever the GM decides something by fiat rather than dice roll, in cases where a die roll would normally be used, i.e. “a crossbow bolt thunks into Egbert’s chest, killing him instantly!”
  • Players may spend a Destiny Token, provided they agree unanimously on the following:
    • In order to spend their luck points on a roll relating to another character
    • To gain an extra action in combat
    • To establish a Scene Detail
  • Destiny Tokens do not carry over between sessions
  • Establishing a Scene Detail could mean anything like; ‘this tavern has a back door’ to ‘I know the landlord’ provided it does not contradict anything already established. Ultimately the GM decides if the Scene Detail can be established or not. 

 

Initiative

A character can spend Advantage to gain initiative in any round, 1 point of advantage = +10 initiative (this round only) 

 

Stunned (Condition)

As per the rules (p169) except:

  • When an entity receives a stunned condition make a Challenging Endurance roll;
    • if they succeed they are stunned for a number of rounds equal to the number of stunned conditions they received
    • if they fail add as many rounds as failure levels.
  • The condition ends as soon as the number of stunned rounds expired without the need for another Endurance test.

 

NPC Wounds & Death

In combat involving more than 2 NPCs, unless an NPC is some kind of boss, reducing them to less than 0 Wounds knocks them down and out, and they will die in a number of minutes equal to their Toughness bonus unless they receive medical/magical help. 

 

Critical Wounds

For criticals inflicted as a result of being reduced to less than 0 Wounds ignore the table entries marked with highlighter, go instead to the next nearest unmarked entry, whichever is numerical closer to the die roll.

 

Disengaging from Combat

Use Advantage works as per the rules p165
Use Dodge:

  • Make an opposed Dodge vs Melee test against the opponent with the highest Initiative (with modifiers for outnumbering)
  • If you succeed move Run distance + success level (yards) away from opponent
  • If you fail take a hit as though this was an opposed melee test, then if capable move Run distance + ‘success’ level yards away from opponent

 

Fleeing from Combat

This is simply a Use Dodge Disengage but the opponent gains 1 point of advantage before the roll. 

 

Corruption

A character can only take on corruption for the purposes of a re-roll if they have already gained corruption, or potentially if they make a Difficult Intuition roll on having successfully resisted taking on corruption.

 

Traits

  • Characters have 3 traits rolled or picked from the Trait Table
  • Any session where they do something which expresses that trait gains them 5 to 10 xp or removes a ‘strike’
  • If they do something which contradicts one of their traits the trait takes a strike
  • XP cannot be gained from a trait while there is a strike on it
  • Potentially if a character gains 3 strikes on a trait they lose it
  • A character with less than 3 traits can gain new ones in play, ideally in reaction to something which would express that trait

 

XP Gained For

  • Catching a disease: 50, then half again each time
  • Acquiring a permanent disfigurement: 50, then half again each time
  • Acquiring a mutation: 50
  • Uncovering a Chaos Cult: 100

 

Career Changing

A character can change career so long as they can find someone to teach them and pay either money or do some side quest (rather than pay the xp penalty stipulated in WFRP 4e). 

 

Non-Career Skill Tuition

  • A character can waive the xp penalty for learning non-career skills if taught by another character who has at least twice their advances in the skill (with a minimum of 1)
  • Once per week spent learning the teacher makes a roll on the desired skill, if they succeed the student can attempt to learn by rolling under the appropriate characteristic with a bonus of +10 for every success level achieved by the teacher.
  • A fumble by either party inflicts a one week cooldown before an attempt can be made again.
  • A critical rolled by the teacher waives the requirement for the student’s roll.
  • Some skills may expend resources to learn (arrows, shot, paper etc)

 

Learning Non-Career Lore Skills

When acquiring non-career Lore Skills characters do not get the characteristic (usually Intelligence) as a basis, the skill is equal only to the number of advances.

 

Skill: Haggle

On a successful Haggle roll a character gets 5% off of the disputed price, +5% for every success level to a maximum of 25%