Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Enemy Within - Death on the Reik - part 1

Death on the Reik - By Ian Miller
Death on the Reik, often considered the highpoint of The Enemy Within campaign, is lauded for its open approach. Cruise the Reik on your river boat trading as you go. An interesting premise that falls apart if your party heavily invest in a shiny new coach. Ah the joys of roleplaying.

Here is a link to the recording of part 1 of Death on the Reik. Parts 2 and 3 will follow when ready and the other parts when we resume the game in February. I think there's about 3 x 9 hour sessions worth of play in Death on the Reik.

We left the protagonists in Bogenhafen where they were treated as hero's having purged the leading merchant houses, Steinhager and Teugen, of chaos cultists.

The PC's are Walter the halfling raconteur, Esmerelda the reluctant hedge mage, Solomon the halfling smuggler, Joten the dwarf sewerjack and Herdan the odorous gravewarden.

Key points in part 1

  • 1:16 I'm shocked by the amount of gold the adventurers acquired during Shadows over Bogenhafen. Armour is bought and a coaching service launched.
  • 4:30 Herdan spent time serving at the Garden of Morr. Heinz, the High Priest of Morr, warns him a Vampire known as Graf Orlock is plaguing the Reikland. Herdan considers a Vampire Hunting career.
  • 6:30 Esmerelda donated her wealth to the Temple of Shallya. She also spends many days helping out in the soup kitchen, earning a career change to initiate.
  • 17:07 Walter needed to complete two tasks to repay the groups debt to the thieves guild. The thieves guild provided them with plenty of help in the battle against the Bogenhafen cultists. The first task was to deliver a list to a Elvyra the pharmacist in Weissbruck. The second task was to deliver a small casket to 'Luigi' at the 'Cat and Fiddle Inn' in Kemperbad.
  • 26:00 The group were summoned to an audience with the bed ridden Albrecht, High Priest of Sigmar, as he had all but recovered from his bout of Purple Brain Fever. In relating the tale of how they saved Bogenhafen the Priest seized on the name Etelka Herzan. He'd heard of her evil and encouraged the group to pursue the witch. On parting Albrecht gave the group a powerful ring forged by the dwarves and said to protect the wearer from the undead. They are also given a warrant authorising them to hunt and slay the witch Etelka Herzan.
  • 62:00 Peiter, a bored noble and his bodyguard Deiter are the first passengers of the hero's coach service. They're promised a journey full of adventure. The group head to Weissbruck and encounter a dying boatman.
    The trading boat the group left adrift?!?
  • 75:19 The boatman gurgled "Mutants" and gestured towards the river before perishing. The group split up. The fighters took a row boat and headed toward the drifting ship while the halflings remained with the coach. Esmerelda spotted a winged creature observing them from the trees, it flitted towards the coach.
  • 89:00 The halflings mounted a spirited defense against the winged mutant, hiding around and under the coach, using their small size to their advantage. As their friends raced back to save them, Solomon managed to plug the flying mutant with his crossbow, driving it off.

  • 107:00 Once again the fighters rowed toward the ship. Herdan boarded and was confronted by two mutants. Joten attempted to board next but failed to notice tentacles wrapped around his torso. He was pulled into the river where his fighting prowess was severely curtailed. 
  • 113:48 Herdan battled with a beaked mutant while the second mutant, a shaggy brute, leaped into the rowboat capsizing it and tipping Esmerlda into the river. The somewhat drunk nobleman Pieter offered support from the shore with his bow. We learn the drowning rules. Joten feels sad.
  • 138:00 Herdan butchered beak face and dove into the river to rescue Joten. The shaggy mutant is felled by arrow fire from Peiter the noble. Dieter the bodyguard waded into the water and grabbed hold of the drowning dwarf to prevent him being dragged under. Herdan speared the tentacle mutant so badly that it retreated letting go of Joten. His companions rushed him to the shore where he vomited up half the river. He's alive, embarrassed and officially hates the river.
    Renate: mutant attack survivor
  • 155:00 The boat is searched and Renate, a gypsy woman, is found hiding amongst the cargo. Despite the laws of salvage applying the group decide to leave the cargo laden vessel and continue to Weissbruck by coach. They buried the bodies of the boats former crew, took the row boat strapping it to the roof of their coach, and offered Renate a lift to the nearest town.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: The Enemy Within - Mistaken Indentity

by Jim Bambra, Phil Gallagher & Graeme Davis
GW and later republished by Hogshead Publishing
Beginning characters.

WFRP finding its identity

As the first adventure for the fledgling Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay line Mistaken identity could have gone in any direction. It could mimic the big players like D&D or Runequest in presenting the safe and familiar. It looked to be doing just that as the adventure in the Rulebook was a dungeon/sewer crawl with a likely TPK at the end. Fortunately Mistaken Identity moved away from dungeons, but not sewers, with The Enemy Within campaign breathing life into Warhammer's Old World. Mistaken Identity is solid and my group had fun, later chapters are better but this sets the tone for the campaign and does a good job at setting up the world. It's a short railroad, but if your having fun you don't notice the tracks.

It's half sourcebook

Being half sourcebook is common for the adventures in The Enemy Within campaign. Each book explores a piece of the Empire. This source book touches on the history, politics and religions in the Empire. The Holy Roman Empire influence is there if you look for it. I see that as a positive. It's great that they based the Old World loosely on the real world. Its easier to run and find inspiration for. Useful parts in the sourcebook deal with movement along the Empire's roads and rivers as well as details on the soon to clash religions of Sigmar and Ulric. There's also two pages on herbs if that's your thing. I didn't find it useful in game. There's a map of the Empire. It's crap with little marked on it. That's OK though. There are plenty of good maps online. 
A good map of the Reikland where most of The Enemy Within Campaign unfolds.

Watch out for pre-gens

The sourcebook has just the right level of detail and lays the ground work for the campaign to follow, but what about the adventure? We begin with pre-generated characters. This is a problem as your players will want to use characters they rolled themselves. Pre-gens are for tournaments and one shots, not a year long campaign. In order to link events the campaign assumes the use of pregens. Repurposing the pre-gen links to PCs is easy with the wizards apprentice potentially the trickiest to re-write. 

What's great about it.

Things kick off in a coaching inn, an iconic Warhammer location. A map of the place would have been handy. The NPC's within are well developed and full of character. They are a cross section of Warhammer society and include Urnst the irritated student with his big book on leeches, snooty Lady Isolde refusing to mix with the common folk, Gunner and Holtz the hard drinking coachmen, an ingratiatingly friendly innkeep and finally Phillipe the larger than life Bretonnian gambler. Phillipe gives you a nice opportunity to ham it up with an 'outrageous accent!' Things get interesting when the disparate group gets thrown together on the coach to Altdorf. There are plenty of opportunities for roleplay with these well realised NPCs.

Adventure highlights

  • A well planned battle with mutants that encourages tactics.
  • A surprising double identity plot providing a strong hook for the opportunistic adventurer; a plot hook that is followed throughout the campaign. 
  • An introduction to the asshattery of the nobles of Altdorf. Nobles are easy to hate and these guys are tools.
  • Amusing encounters with pantomiming cult members.
  • An attack on a burning boat by a Bounty Hunter and his friends. The set piece combat encounters sure are neat.

What's bad? 

  • Its a short string of encounters set one after the other. 
  • The NPCs are interesting but need the GM to roleplay them to the hilt. They are the crux of the adventure and if you dont bring them to life the adventure can feel flat and brief. 
  • The cultists shadowing the adventures in Altdorf are done poorly with the players given no opportunity to catch a cultist alive as they are always killed just before they are captured. The Thousand Thrones campaign did this as well with Nurgle cultists biting down on a poison boil to avoid being taken alive. This cheap tactic is a crap idea and sadly the campaign continues to take this line with cultists swallowing poison pills to avoid enlightening the adventures as to the broader plot. Bad call. 
  • The witnessed deaths of the cultists from a single crossbow bolt is rubbish in the context of the system. One Ulric's fury I can buy into, two in a row is stretching things too far. Such marksmanship raised an eyebrow or two at the table.
  • The adventure takes place momentarily in Altdorf and Weissbruck, unfortunately neither location is adequately described. 
  • Finally Max Steiner, the protagonist picking the fight in Altdorf, didn't play out well at my table. You might want to ratchet up the insults to force a fight as this better sets up following chapters.
I like this adventure a lot. The Enemy Within campaign is a classic and it starts strongly with Mistaken Identity. It's worth picking up for your 1e, 2e or 3e Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game. Even if you don't intend to run it the adventure is full of lootable NPC's and ideas. As a nice bonus you can download a 2e conversion of the stats in the adventure at Winds of Chaos.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Enemy Within - Shadows over Bogenhafen - part 5

Will everything end in chaos and flames?
And so to the conclusion of Shadows over Bogenhafen. This adventure takes a lot of prep prior to play. It's imperative that you take notes as you read it through. The note taking process helps you recall key facts, locations and plot points. By taking these notes you become familiar with the adventure, as if it was one of your own. 

The players shook the plot up, they came up with desperate plans and I scrambled to keep up. The adventure sort of followed the expected course... if you squint your eyes... maybe. The decisive assistance of the watch wasn't planned but was well earned through the players actions.

Here is a link to part 5 of our recorded play through of the classic campaign The Enemy Within. I have the initial recordings of the next chapter, Death on the Reik, and they are equally great. Links to the other recordings and write-ups are on this page here.

We last left off with the adventurers holed up in a thieves guild safe house. They feared arrest by the watch after their failed raid on the Tuegen estate. They had identified the Tuegen's as key conspirators in a chaos plot to bring down the town of Bogenhafen.

The PC's are Walter the halfling raconteur, Esmerelda the reluctant hedge mage, Solomon the halfling smuggler, Joten the dwarf sewerjack and Herdan the odorous grave warden.

Key Points from part 5

  • 3:50 Herdan and Joten were identified during the scuffle at Tuegen's house and were wanted by the watch. This limited their movement within the town.
  • 10:15 Leaving their easily identified companions behind, the group visit Franz Steinhager at the watch house. The watch sergeant tells them Franz broke when 'questioned' but he allows them to further interogate the merchant. 
  • 11:15 Franz admits some of the rituals the Ordo conducted involved the sacrifice of 'scum' that wouldn't be missed. He claimed that he didn't agree with the sacrifices but that Johannes insisted.
  • 13:30 Franz tells them the location of his safe and in return begs the adventurers to deal with his brother Heinrich, who he is sure is behind his incarceration.
  • 16:00 A remorseful Franz suggests a plan. They release him and he will wait for the Ordo to send him the location of the upcoming midnight ritual. He was told the ritual would bring great wealth to Bogenhafen but he now believes it will bring doom instead. Once he knows the rituals location he will inform the group.
  • 22:00 Watch Captain Reiner agrees to the plan and releases Franz. Reporting the conspiracy to local ruler Baron Von Saponatheim and going through official 'legal' channels will take too long. Besides Reiner wants to do things the brutal old fashioned way. 
  • 23:00 Esmerelda insists they not kill Heinrich Steinhager despite Franz's request. Heinrich may be a shady character but he wasn't an Ordo cultist. The group is happy to take Franz Steinhager's gold from his safe, despite reneging on the deal to kill Heinrich.
  • 25:00 the group realise that this adventure breaks the RPG cliche. Instead of the ritual occurring on the final night of the Shaffenfest, it occurs the following night once everyone has left. Nice one!
    Its a trap!
  • 33:02 Late that night the group receive a message telling them to visit Franz urgently. The message boy gives them a bad vibe. Everything screams trap but the group cautiously play along.
  • 37:24 Walter suspects the message boy is Gideon disguised with magic. The whole "PCs are framed for the murder of Franz Steinhager" subplot unravels. Gideon escapes to the ethereal plane as the group find Franz's body.
  • 47:14 Watch Captain Reiner and four watchmen arrive at the murder scene. They agree to accompany the group to warehouse 17. Franz's final act, prior to bleeding out, was to spell the ritual location in his own gore. It is not clear if he scrawled 'warehouse 13 or 17'. Three watchmen are sent to warehouse 13 just incase. 
  • 52:36 The heroes, Reiner and a single watchman plan a direct assault on warehouse 17. They quickly scatter the stevedore guards who had formed a ring around the warehouse. The sound of chanting force their hand before additional watchmen arrive.
  • 61:10 Warehouse 17's doors are kicked in and the cultist's ritual disrupted. The villains unleash a barrage of sorcery momentarily seizing control of Watch Captain Reiner's actions and having him hack at his former allies. Joten is stunned by tormenting visions. The group quickly surround Johannes Tuegan.
    "Hello, mighty Tzeentch? A little help here". - Johannes Tuegen.
  • 79:54 Gideon drops his human guise and reveals his true demonic form. It dawns on the meta-gaming players that the demon's flameresque arm means dire news. They are right. Soon Joten, Walter and Reiner are human torches, writhing in multi-coloured flames. <On listening back to the recording I noticed that I was so keen to use the flamer ability that I forgot how it worked. You can't move and flame, its a full round action. The rules for being on fire were hard to parse in the main book so we used the Dark Heresy rules which are crippling.>
  • 86:00 Johannes became desperate as his most dangerous spells fizzled. He contented himself with spitting burning blood at Esmerelda, who fell and began the long process of bleeding out. A fate point kept her alive despite Solomon's repeated frantic first aid attempts
  • 92:35 The three Watchmen, who had been sent to investigate warehouse 13, arrived and began to smother any human torch they found. A fate point saves Walter from permanent paralysis caused by his horrific burns.
  • 93:46 The group are confused as to why Gideon hasn't burnt the tempting group clustered around the embattled Johannes. Little do they know that Johannes is critical to Gideon's plans and must survive so the ritual can be completed.
  • 105:00 The nameless watchman who had been with them since the battle was joined, lands a critical blow to Johannes' arm, severing it and slaying the wizard. Gideon became enraged having nothing left to lose.
  • 116:00 Watch Captain Reiner had been set alight, had his mind controlled and been blasted by warping magics; he would have his revenge. Charging a battered Gideon, he dealt a savage blow knocking his foe to the ground. Herdan followed with a mighty slash which destroyed the demon's flamer arm. A final blow from the nameless watchman banished the demon to the realms of chaos. This watchman had slain both Johannes and Gideon Tuegen!
  • 126:00 More watchmen arrived on the scene and arrested the remaining cultists huddled at the back of the warehouse. The group looted Johannes and found an incriminating note. They are now widely regarded as the hero's of Boganhafen.
A note plucked from the dead hand of Johannes Tuegen.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Enemy Within - Shadows over Bogenhafen - part 4

Busy weekends mean we manage to game once a month. To make up for the gap between sessions we overcompensate on the time we game, around 7-8 hours. I've recorded the sessions for fun and to help me remember events. I break the long recordings into manageable, bloggable chunks. 

Here is a link to part 4 of our recorded play through of 'The Enemy Within' campaign. Part 5 is on its way.

We left off with the adventurers aware that there's a wide ranging conspiracy within the trade town of Bogenhafen and that key conspirators would be attending an important party that night at the Teugan household.

The PCs are: Walter the halfling raconteur, Joten the dwarf sewerjack, Esmerelda the reluctant hedge witch, Solomon the halfling smuggler and Herdan the odorous grave warden.

Key points from part 4

  • 3:54 The group encounter the watch dragging away the crazy Lady Alexa. She gibbers doom laden nonsense that seems to relate to current odd events. On seeing Herdan she freaks out, claiming the grave warden was 'marked by chaos'. She implored the group to kill Herdan before its too late. She also claimed that Bogenhafen was going to be swallowed by chaos soon. The group assumed she had Herdan confused with his doppelganger from the very first adventure 'Mistaken identity'.
  • 22:30 The band visit the watch barracks hoping to work out what happened during yesterdays fateful meeting between the now poisoned High Priest of Sigmar, the merchant Franz Steinhager and Watch Captain Reiner. The Watch Captain denied being at the meeting. The group took a chance and decided to trust him with the whole story starting with demons in the sewers and ending with Franz's revelations about the Ordo. The group speculate that magic was involved in the impersonation of the Watch Captain.
  • 27:20 Watch Captain Reiner believes their story and orders the immediate arrest and questioning of Franz. He insisted that no lawyers be involved till they learn the 'truth'. Reiner seemed intent on establishing his authority and taking the merchants down a peg or two. The group witness Franz's arrest from a discrete distance and saw Franz angrily accuse his brother Heinrich of being behind his arrest.
    Teugen's house. Scene of what can only be described as a debacle.
  • 59:30 A party is clearly being held at the heavily guarded Tuegen estate. The group wait for it to be in full swing and then scale the townhouse wall and attempt a break in.
  • 61:38 Mike demands a meal that isn't pizza. The table is shocked, roleplaying and pizza is the most sacred of combos, to have anything else would be un-Australian. We settle for kebabs which is awesome as well!
  • 76:37 Tuegen's patrolling guards spot the rope the group used to scale the wall. An alarm is raised and combat breaks out in the estate's garden. During the conflict some of the party make it to the house and do a small amount of exploring while holding the kitchen staff at bay. As more guards arrive and the call for the watch echoes through the streets of Bogenhafen, the group determine it's time to run. Windows were smashed, guards crippled and an escape is made.
  • 114:30 After the failed foray into the Tuegen estate our heroes contemplate leaving town. Their enemies know they stay at the Vexed Pig inn so they head to the bolt hole of the thieves guild, the Crossed Pikes. Feeling they can trust Franz Bauman, head of the thieves guild, the group tell him the whole story. He puts them up for the night while they ponder their next move.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Oldhammer - Skrag, the ogres and some halflings

Skrag the slaughterer is the last Jes Goodwin ogre I completed in 2013. He is almost all armour and didn't take long to finish. I used GW's new corrosion pain in the armour recesses. I think it turned out alright, I would probably do it again. The Secret Weapon blue black ink was used for the stubble. I was very hapy with the result. Finally I contemplated using the new GW blood paint on the axe but wimped out and left the slaughterer blood free. I sure he and his patron god Malal are displeased. One of these days I will have the courage to really bloody up a model.
Old sculpt Skrag is so much better than his current GW incarnation.

Group shot of the Jes Goodwin Ogres. I will buy 1 or 2 more in 2014 to round out the unit.
I painted these Perry Halflings to see if I had improved. I'd knocked out 16 last year. Sadly my painting is neater but not that much better when it comes to halflings.