Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Enemy Within - Mistaken Identity


Why The Enemy Within? 

I played a fair portion of The Enemy Within campaign in high school. Back then Pete, Optimus Prime and I were still trying to work rpgs out. It was a great deal of fun but I remember being lost as to what I was expected to do in some of the open ended scenarios, in particular the Power Behind the Throne. I have wanted to revisit these adventures partly due to nostalgia but also because they have a stellar reputation and I want to see If I can do them justice.

Finding a group to play with was my first hurdle. Good Games is too noisy and uncomfortable for a long session which ruled out the usual crowd. Besides I wanted to run a game with two mates from way back. A return to the Old World was a perfect excuse to get the band back together.

I scoured ebay to find the adventures, printed off a pdf version so I could highlight important sections, wrote myself a cheat sheet with key dot points to reference during play and listened to another groups recording of their run through the classic campaign. The recorded group tends to get bogged down in minutiae and rules discussions but I enjoy it. The GM Tim brings the characters to life and certainly inspired my own efforts. I also pre-drew the coach ambush site on a battle mat and grabbed some appropriate 1980’s Citadel lead minis. While the ambush itself would prove anticlimactic it was well prepared.

Notable Events & thoughts

The following are the notable events from last Saturday:
  • PC’s were Esmerelda the flame haired hedge wizard with no magic skills to speak of, she would prove to be a master haggler and one of the few non cultist nudists in the Empire. Walter the impeccably dressed halfling raconteur, inventor of the dubious tasting breakfast treat Mootbread and sweet talker of innkeepers everywhere. Rounding out the group were Joten the hard drinking dwarven sewer jack and Herdan the dull witted odorous Grave Warden.
  • Gustav, the owner of the Coach and Horses, was noted by all as being the friendliest and most generous innkeeper in all the Empire. The group paid for their stay, meal and a bath for Herdan through acting as serving wenches, kitchen hands and in return for keeping the patrons entertained with fine tales.
  • The group started out with almost no coin to purchase a coach ride to the Imperial capital Altdorf, but the wit and silver tongue of Walter saw them get by and turn a profit. During a night of drunken revelry Walter managed to convince the coachmen that they had agreed to take the group to Altdorf. Gunner and Holtz, the coachmen, had simply been too drunk to remember events and were fast talked into believing Walter's bluff.
  • Phillipe the Brettonian gambler and fellow coach passenger proved popular and I enjoyed playing him. Usually my accent wanders all over the place but this time I managed to maintain a decent French accent. Liking Phillipe is at odds with the scenario which paints him as a ne'er do well. He proved handy in the showdown with the coach raiding mutants, were his pistol devastated the pin headed brute and an Ulric’s fury saw him decapitate the scaly skinned crossbow wielding creature.
  • Urnst, the student passenger, received a lot of attention from Esmeralda who did not trust either him or his book on leeches. She got touchy feely in the crowded couch attempting to feel out any possible mutations he might have. It was at this point that her penchant for nudity arouse. When troubleshooting how best the disparate passengers crowded in the coach could get along she replied “I find getting naked always helps.” In a way Esmeralda reminds me of the Nursey character from Black Adder
  • When quizzed on why she had suggested nudity I had one of my own Warhammer theories thrown back at me. As a player I have lost count of the times I had been tricked into completing a mission by/for a secret cultist/mutant. It is a Warhammer cliche much like getting screwed over by Mr Johnson is expected in a Shadowrun game. To counter this my character would insist all prospective employers get naked to prove they were not marked with some cults tattoo or rocking a third arm. The war stories of my past paranoia were being used against me.
  • Herdan drove the coach in the morning as the official coachmen were nursing titanic hangovers. It lost a wheel and Holtz was flung to the ground and broke his arm. All eyes turned to Urnst the 'psychians student' who looked out of his depth in treating this simple injury. Esmerelda's suspicions grew as she bandaged the stricken coachman.
  • Esmeralda haggled up a storm at a coaching inn, convincing a merchant that he was purchasing a rare antique crossbow once owned by a famous noble, possibly Karl Franz himself. The crossbow had been plucked from the cold dead hands of a mutant. I find the haggle rules too generous as Esmerelda made out like a bandit. The merchant could not afford the price the haggle result indicated and instead offered all the coin he had on him as well as a sizable crate of cheeses.
  • The attack on the boat could have been better planned though Walter amusingly turned himself into a halfling cannon ball in an attempt to repel a boarder. The folk doing the shadowing should have been moved to Altdorf where you have a city to be followed in rather than the small town of Weissbruck. This part of the adventure came in the last hour of a seven hour session so I can forgive myself if it didn’t come off as well as the earlier parts.
  • Herdan got into a fight with Max Steiner at Altdorf's Boatman Inn. It turned into a bought of ineffectual flailing a Max couldn’t land a knockout punch. After ten rounds of flailing he gave it up much to the disappointment of the nobles cheering him on. 
  • I am tempted to implement Dagobah Dave’s (?) parry and dodge rule found at the strike to stun forums though it probably wouldn’t have helped improve the Max Steiner fight. The gist of the rule is when you parry you block the amount of damage indicated on the higher of the two die you rolled to successfully parry and on a successful dodge you avoid the damage of the two die combined. So if you dodged with a roll of 32 you dodge 5 points of incoming damage. Food for thought if combat seems to descend into flurries of ineffective dice rolling too often.

GM's summary

The group left their hometown of Delberz following up on a pamphlet recruiting adventurers for a trip into the Grey Mountains. They headed to the Coach and Horses to arrange a ride to Altdorf. On the road they came across an ambushed coach and put the mutant ambushers to the sword. A body found at the scene looked exactly like Herdan. A note on the body indicated an inheritance was waiting. Once in Altdorf Walter met his old friend the boatman Joseph. While out drinking they had a run in with a pair of nobles, one apparently later got himself murdered. The group hastily left town on Joseph's Boat. At Weissbruck the party ran into a band of armed arsonists who attacked their boat and seemed intent on killing Herdan. They are now in Bogenhafen.

Handouts

Here are the handouts from the session.









Lady Isolde Von Strudeldorf, Gustav, Holtz, Urnst, Phillipe, Joseph, Max and Adolphus

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