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.

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