Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: The Thousand Thrones by Night10194
You're gonna have a bad timeOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: The Thousand Thrones
You're gonna have a bad time
I think this is no shit the worst module in Warhammer. Thousand Thrones commits almost every sin it's possible to commit in writing a Warhammer adventure. It's poorly balanced (It is entirely possible to have to fight 4 vampires, at once, as PCs in their 1st tier. Or a dozen. This is intended to be 'bruising' but see them survive), the characters are thin and poorly written, it's full of utter nonsense plotting, it's railroaded all to hell, and it tries to stuff far too many villains into a plot that's too small for them, and it potentially kills off Rik'tikk, the cool as heck Clan Eshin 'scholar' who happily told us how to poison everything in the Old World Bestiary. It is extremely, extremely bad. Under no circumstances should you expose Thousand Thrones directly to your face. Not when you can have me do it for you.
Still, I hold out the belief that a negative example can be instructive. In among all the exhortations to find ways to make sure your players' decisions all get them back on the railroad and its terrible plotting, there is actually absolutely nothing of value in this adventure. We are going to go through this mess as an example of how to absolutely not write a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign. To highlight the mechanical ridiculousness of many of the aspects of this adventure, and because I need something to keep me entertained while I work on this nonsense, we'll be creating a party of PCs for it to follow along. This is for several reasons. One, one of the major mechanical introductions made during this long campaign is the idea that classes can be split between 'Warriors', 'Rogues', 'Academics', 'Commoners', and 'Rangers'. It is recommended you let the players pick the role that pleases them and then roll for class on that role. To that end, we'd be remiss if we didn't make 5 unfortunately souls to fill all five of those slots. For two, this campaign has a firm idea of how fast your should progress EXP wise, and I want to show off how ridiculous some of the mandatory combats are against a measurable team of PCs who follows its EXP guidelines. That requires a team to measure against. For three, it's an interesting exercise to imagine the actual reasons a party continues to follow the terrible railroad before them. For four, I like doing it and God knows I'm going to need something amusing in all this.
This adventure is primarily the work of Robert Schwalb, who you will recognize from Forges of Nuln, the adventure so bad I spent most of the review talking about how it could potentially be fixed and why its 'open-ended' structure was an irritating railroad. I have to come to the conclusion he is just really, really bad at writing pre-made adventures.
Our adventure begins 200 years ago, with the sack of Praag by the forces of Asavar Kul. During the whole 'converting Praag into a living hellmouth' debacle, a Hag of the Ungol was caught up in all the bullshit and became a Chaos Champion. The Black Witch then got her skull stoved in with Ghal Maraz, though she survived long enough to die in a pool of brackish water miles from the city. For some reason, Morr himself decided not to claim her soul so the evil witch could suffer forever. This proved to be kind of a mistake, because now she's trying to drag herself back into reality through a convoluted process involving multiple vampires and a magic child. She also already manifests sometimes by demanding a nearby village send her a maiden sacrifice she can possess every ten years. She needs the boy, the blood of one of each of the five vampire bloodlines, and then she'll be able to eat the magic boy and his power and become fully real again, while also spraying thousands of hideous spiders from her gaping hellwomb. Yeah, that's about where we're going. She has somehow convinced vampires that they will get to rule the world if they come to her with the boy, by making up an 'ancient' prophecy about how they'll rule the world from a thousand thrones.
No, I don't know how that worked. You know Chaos, the instant it decides it's trying to convert someone, persuade someone, or trick someone in bad Warhammer they immediately listen to whatever it has to say and become extremely stupid. So too these vamps.
Meanwhile, the magic boy was born to Stromfel Worshippers (crazy evil shark god distortion of Maanan) in Marienburg. They got crushed by Witch Hunters, who didn't kill the child and gave young Karl to the Shallyans. One of the Shallyans realized he had weird mind control powers (which he doesn't know he has) and tried to kill him. The others stopped her because A: Shallyans and B: Mind control powers. Then another evil cult decided to use the boy as a false Sigmar and a not-Valten. They branded his chest with the twin tailed comet after kidnapping him from the Shallyans, but he got away, and grabbed a blacksmith's hammer to defend himself. A little kid with a comet birthmark and his mind control powers going full speed standing against two heavily mutated Nurglites with a hammer drove a bunch of Marienburgers into a frenzy, where they saved him and proclaimed him Sigmar Reborn. Being a lonely nine year old kid who'd just had a traumatic experience, he decided this was fine and is going along with it for now. Meanwhile, that scheming bastard Johan Esmer (the political climber who wanted to be Theoganist but was kicked back out when Volkmar came back from the wars) has seen in this magic boy his chance to become head of the Church of Sigmar, and blessed him during his exile in Marienburg. The magic child and Esmer stuff is honestly the closest the adventure comes to good ideas.
Into this, the PCs stumble their way, to get railroaded along with the Crusade of the Child and forced into a nonsense storm of body doubles, women getting mutated into hideous beasts, hellwombs, temptresses, shitloads of vampires (if you have a VAMPIRE RANDOM ENCOUNTER subset in your module, you are DOING VAMPIRES WRONG), lots of unrelated plotting, a stolen chicken, paper thin characters, poor pay, at least one child they have to murder, and an utterly miserable time.
Next Time: The Poor Dumb Bastards
MarienburgersOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Thousand Thrones
Because there's space for 5 characters with the 5 roles, we're getting every single species this time. A Halfling Criminal, a Dwarf Ranger, an Elf Academic, a Human Commoner, and a Human (Norse) Warrior, made using the Norse rules in Tome of Corruption because it's by the same author and they're common in Marienburg anyway. Our adventures begin in Marienburg, the city of dutch capitalists, which is legitimately a good starting point since it's a huge international travel hub and a great excuse to have PCs from all over. Add to it that Marienburg is still pretty Imperial despite not being in the Empire while having its own identity, and there'd be a good bit of space for fun adventures. Sadly, there will be no fun adventures for these five.
Our first hero is the Elf Academic, Syphan of Naggarythe (Actually Naggarond)
Name: Syphan of Naggarythe (Naggarond)
Species: Druchii Elf (Claims to be Asur)
Career: Apprentice Wizard
WS 40, BS 36, S 39, T 41, Agi 41, Int 31 (Shallya from 26), WP 35, Fel 34
Common Knowledge (Naggaroth)
Speak Language (Eltharin With A Canadian Accent, Reikspiel, Classical)
Speak Arcane Language (Magic)
Petty Magic (Arcane)
Hand Weapon (Elfsword)
Syphan's career path was decided by a fundamental misunderstanding of what 'Witch Elf' meant. From a young age, she was bigger and stronger than average for an elf, and had always sought to join the Brides of Khaine. Unfortunately for her, she ended up enrolled to become a Sorceress instead; she thought they were Witches. Discovering that magic was actually more interesting than stabbing people, she also quickly despaired of the quality of instruction available to a young Druchii; there was a lot of emphasis on lying to students and encouraging them into lethal traps to 'winnow out the weak', which seemed to promote a very counterproductive academic atmosphere. She eventually signed up for a slave raid and slipped away from the party in the night, deciding she wanted to seek out magical instruction elsewhere and not use highly dangerous Dark Magic 'just because it's harder'. Since then, she's lived in Marienburg, learning what magic she can from humans and the occasional oblivious High Elf. Over the course of her instruction, she's mellowed out considerably; living outside of the authoritarian nightmare realm founded by Malekith and actually interacting with a variety of people opened her eyes to just how nonsense her homeland really was. Now she seeks to hit the road with her 'powerful' magic and her trusty curved sword, to seek fortune and greater knowledge throughout the Empire. She still dearly misses maple syrup.
Syphan has hilariously weird stats. She'd be an incredible warrior, but even with Coolheaded and burning her Shallya's Mercy on Int to get it average, she's a very average wizard. She'll be working towards Light magic, because a Druchii deserter going teenage rebellion and trying to learn the holiest, shiniest, nicest magic she can is funny to me and Light is incredibly good anyway. If the Lore of Beasts worked better she'd be perfect for it, and Fire would also be a natural choice, especially if she 200ed into Soldier or something and started murdering people with fire swords, but Light is still pretty good for a potential 'warrior wizard'. Her big strength is actually that she can use Touch Spells at a whopping 60% WS with Fast Hands, which means Sleep is going to see some real use. She probably has the most ridiculous concept of any of them.
Next up is the Human Commoner, Johan Kleiner
Name: Johan Kleiner
Species: Imperial Human
WS 32, BS 33, S 39, T 31 (Shallya from 23), Agi 42, Int 38, WP 36, Fel 30
Common Knowledge (Empire)
Speak Language (Reikspiel)
Sleight of Hand
Resistant to Magic
Unnoticed (Can use Stealth skills if blending in, gets +10 to them once he has the skill)
Good Craftsmanship Clothes (With Big Hat)
Leather Jack and Helmet (AV 0 Legs, 1 Arms, 1 Body, 1 Head)
Storm Lantern w/Oil
Pewter Tankard (His ‘retirement’ gift)
Hand Weapon (Cleaver)
Johan has always had a hard lot in life. Dreaming of being a chef one day, he sought employment in a higher class inn in Marienburg that catered to business travelers. Unfortunately, no-one ever noticed his self-taught talents at cooking, nor that he'd managed to pick up reading and writing; he accidentally annoyed his boss and wound up assigned to cleaning the privies and sweeping the floors. Possessing a strong work ethic, Johan threw himself into his job, trying to come up with more efficient ways to keep the inn clean and hygenic as he tried to study janitorial science, only to be ignored whenever he made any suggestions or requests for cleaning supplies. Until he met a charming, black-haired elf-maid of enormous stature, a common customer who would come by to lean on various sea elves and passing wizards for a look at their books. The two struck up a friendship over complaining about the people they worked with (and over her actual appreciation for his cooking), until one day she suggested he'd probably make a heck of an adventurer rather than a scullery boy. He's decided to take up with his complaining buddy and see what fortune brings him.
Johan is fantastic. He's strong in the arm, quick on his feet, brave, and very sharp. And Servant is actually a pretty good 1st Career for a Commoner, especially as it goes straight into Spy. He's also got the nice bonus of being resistant to magic, which will help a lot with his high base WP and the amount of magical bullshit coming his way in this campaign. Especially once he has +35% WP from Spy. Having Dodge access and 42 Agi with Lightning Reflexes will make him a little more survivable in a fight, and will eventually help him be a great stealth character. He'll never be a 'major' warrior, but he'll be able to pitch in with roguery and fighting both. And hey, he's a good cook and can do some merchant stuff, too. This humble scullery boy can do big things in the future.
Next up is the Halfling Criminal, Shanna Applebottom
Name: Shanna Applebottom
WS 15, BS 45, S 21, T 21, Agi 49, Int 31 (Shallya from 26), WP 28, Fel 37
Common Knowledge (Halflings)
Speak Language (Halfling, Reikspiel)
Sleight of Hand
Secret Signs (Thief)
Resistant to Chaos
Special Weapons (Sling)
Leather Jerkin and Leather Leggings (AV 0 Head, 1 Body, 1 Legs, 0 Arms)
Sack (For Loots)
Lockpicks (Master of Unlocking)
10 yards of rope
Hand Weapon (Cudgel)
Shanna Applebottom was always considered an overserious and anti-social girl back in the Moot. She'd actually sometimes prefer to spend quiet time alone, working on math problems and 'doing figures', rather than joining in all of the raucous pie festivals and the constant socialization normal to halfling culture. It's hard to be a relatively introverted halfling; she's only happy to spend maybe two or three hours a day socializing, and sometimes prefers a nutritious vegetable dish to a giant greasy meat-pie. With her talent for numbers, Shanna wanted to be a merchant or clerk, but the job required too much prattle for her to take if she took it up in the Moot. She moved to Marienburg, the land of Serious Businesspeople, and quickly discovered she hated Serious Businesspeople. The constant theft, the shortchanging, the dishonesty, all of it drove the poor halfling lass mad. They were messing with the numbers! At all times! Taking up the family lockpick, she decided to get into a much more honest sort of thievery, reckoning that with all the Marienburgers lying on their ledgers there were a lot of slush funds that wouldn't be noticed if they went missing. While that worked out for awhile, the thieves' guilds of Marienburg proved to be exactly like the merchant's guilds, and now she just wants to get the hell out of town. So when a big, weird-accented elf lady and her boyfriend (she assumes they're together) were asking around on the down-low about adventuring burglars, she decided to get in on that action. An elf wizard's probably an indication of a serious adventuring party, right?
Shanna is really, really good at stealing shit, sneaking, and picking locks. She's not bad at social stuff despite having a lower than average Fel for a Halfling, either. You can go a long way on +10 Agi, +10 BS, and +10 Fel, even if a halfling's melee and durability stats tank from the -10s. She can pitch in with her sling (which is also nicely concealable) and she got the excellent bonus of rolling Sturdy for her one random Halfling advantage. Add in Resistance to Chaos so she's mutation immune (really helpful if you need to set bombs next to a ratman doomsday cannon without growing tentacles) and she's got a lot of utility for the team. She'll fold like wet paper if anyone ever fights her in melee, though, and she isn't great at stuff outside her specialty. Her Super Numerate is there because Trapfinder is usually pretty useless; Hams never really seems to use traps much the way old D&D did. Plus, Math Halfling made for a fun character concept.
Next up is Oleg Balinson, the Dwarf Ranger
Name: Oleg Balinson
WS 41 (Shallya from 37), BS 27, S 38, T 41, Agi 25, Int 38, WP 32, Fel 25
Common Knowledge (Dwarfs)
Speak Language (Khazalid, Reikspiel)
Secret Signs (Scout)
Grudge Born Fury
Oleg was never destined to be a great warrior. He's fit enough, and extremely light on his feet for a dwarf, but he was always told he was merely average. His smithing is acceptable, but nothing special. Where he excels is his incredible speed. Oleg won no small degree of fame as a young beardling when he beat an elven ambassador at a footrace during an argument back at his home hold, upholding the honor and pride of the Dwarven people by being faster than a fancy elf. His incredible legs landed him a respectable job as a Runebearer, and he quickly found he enjoyed the long runs and the challenges of navigating old holds and underways to deliver the mail. When his Hold asked for volunteers to make surface deliveries to city-dwarf communities throughout the Empire, Oleg was happy to volunteer. Unlike most dwarfs, he doesn't mind being above ground in the slightest, and as long as he had places to run and messages that needed delivering, he was happy to help out. Having finished his term of service as a Runebearer with a final delivery to Marienburg, he's begun to ponder a career as one of the famous dwarf Rangers; maybe he could help his Hold and see even more of the world if he took advantage of his unusually open mind to explore the surface even further. Oleg is surprisingly good-natured and calm for a dwarf, not prone to fits of temper or wounded pride, and his long journeys above ground have made him able to tolerate almost any companions, even elves. So he doesn't especially mind that he's thrown in with an elf, a manling, and a math-loving halfling.
Runebearer is an interesting Career. Look at Oleg's Movement. Look at it. He can potentially outrun a vampire if he's in trouble (this may be EXTREMELY RELEVANT). Combine that with getting Dodge off the bat, having good exits, Rapid Reload, and pared down but essential Rangering skills and Oleg is really solid right off the bat. His main thing is a gimmick, but a dwarf who moves as fast as an elf (and still has Sturdy to eliminate armor penalties) is a pretty good gimmick. He'll likely end up a Scout, making him decent enough at ranged weapons despite his mediocre BS and making him pretty good in a melee fight, while making him even more Rangery. His high Int helps a lot with the Perception tests Rangers expect to make. His Agi is actually good for a dwarf, as is his Fel, so he's open-minded and quick and will eventually be pretty dodgy.
Finally, Sif Gundredsdottir, the Norse Warrior
Name: Sif Gundredsdottir
Species: Norse Human (Mutant)
Mutations: Growth (+7 Str, +5 Tough, -2 Agi, +2 Wounds, +1 Mv)
WS 43, BS 30, S 43, T 40, Agi 25, Int 31 (Shallya from 23), WP 34, Fel 35
Speak Language (Norscan, Reikspiel)
Common Knowledge (Norsca, Empire)
Strike Mighty Blow
Full Leather w/Mail Shirt (AV 1 Legs, 3 Body, 1 Arms, 1 Head)
Crossbow w/10 Bolts (Sold for 25 GC)
3 Javelins (Bought for 3 GC)
Hand Weapon (Sword)
Sif has always been big. Ever since she started growing, she just didn't seem to stop until she stood well over six feet tall. Her father, mother, and both her brothers are of a similar size, so she doesn't even realize it's a mutation that breeds true in their family; she still passes for an unmutated human just fine, especially with Imperial ideas about how Norse are all tall and buff as hell. Her father was a great adventurer in his day, going south to earn several chests of gold and jewelry that let him buy a freehold from his Jarl, and old Gundred always told her that Sif would be perfect for the family business, while her brothers took more to farming and Skalding. So Sif made her way down south to Marienburg with a trading voyage, and stepped off the boat to find a job. Unfortunately for her, Norse Mercenaries are in vogue just as much because they make stylish and attractive accessories as because of their warrior's skills. Being a particularly exotic specimen (seeing as she towers over most men and women), she grew tired of being hired solely for her looks and stature, and so she's decided to spurn regular employment and follow her father's advice. "Sif, my girl, go sit in the corner of a busy inn or tavern, and look for a group of people. If you see one that's got at least one wizard or elf, plus a dwarf, those are real Adventurers and they'll get you glory and gold." She has no idea what she's getting into, but the team welcomed an enormous, reasonably well equipped Norsewoman who fights like she was born with a sword in her hand. Even if she's a little clumsy from her size.
Sif is probably the weirdest character. She rolled that she started with a Mutation, but she got a benign (honestly, very helpful) and easily hidden one. Imperials think Norse are huge anyway, nobody is going to think she's a mutant for being extremely tall. She's a huge tank of a woman, and rolling Warrior Born only makes her even better. She's about as good of a primary fighter as you could ask for, aside from her low Agi. Her mutation also gives an excellent +2 Wounds and +1 Movement in addition to the d10 S and T (and the -d10 Agi), which means she joins the Movement 5 club. This party is extremely good at chasing things or running away. Mercenary gives her an excellent start on being a soldier, and being a Norsewoman gives her Outdoor Survival so she can pitch in on the basics of Rangering. She's probably just going to slam straight up the 'kill man with sword' fighter tracks. The team has everything else covered and while the Commoner and Ranger are decent enough in a fight, she's it for people who can really stand the line with sword and shield and swing away. And the odds they'll be facing in combat don't give her time to fuck around.
So these are the poor bastards who will have to deal with this mess. The book tells you to try to avoid killing off your PCs too much and to hand out Fate liberally to prevent this, and tries to get around how badly balanced its combat is by saying 'oh, adjust it to their capabilities, what we suggest is just the defaults', but that's sort of unhelpful. Sif is a badass, yes, but Sif is not a 'fight 12 enemy soldiers with 2 Attacks, SB 4, TB 4, and WS 46 and mail armor, backed up by a vampire' badass, and won't be by the point in the campaign that happens. Honestly, almost no-one is that level of badass outside of Vampires themselves or Chaos Lords. Schwalb consistently doesn't understand that groups of enemies who can action economy you down are much, much more lethal than single enemies, and we'll be seeing a lot of that over the course of the campaign. To that end, I'm glad the party turned out pretty well; showing off how fucked a company of pretty capable adventurers is does a better job of showing the issues in the scenario balancing.
Next Time: Shark Week Begins
It offered the most moneyOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: The Thousand Thrones
It offered the most money
So our heroes come out of the tavern where they spent a not-inconsiderable amount of their money establishing their new fellowship by partying and getting to know one another. They missed the events of the last day or two thanks to their pub crawl, and thus despite all of them having spent considerable time in Marienburg they're totally unaware of the Crusade of the Child, only that it looks like a hurricane hit the poor district and hundreds, maybe thousands of citizens are missing, there are weird relic vendors running all over the place trying to make a few shillings on the emergence of a new fanatical Sigmarite movement, and the Theoganist in Exile Esmer has been seen rubbing his greedy hands together with such vigor they've threatened to catch fire and upend the public peace.
It is really bizarre that your PCs, who have presumably been in Marienburg this entire time, will start out having heard nothing about the whole fanatical Sigmarite crusade that started on the drop of a hat and set off to carry a nine-year-old boy to demand Volkmar's blessing as the scion of Sigmar. Our heroes being on a pub crawl and hammered out of their minds as the dwarf discovered the elf could hang with him and neither could beat the norsewoman while the halfling told everybody they were spending too much money and the servant delighted in not having to clean any of it up is as good of an explanation for it as any. Being PCs, they also see opportunity. Some kind of crazy crusade that popped up out of nowhere probably means there are people who want it investigated, and they've just spent almost all their collective savings on Estalian brandy (dwarfs refuse to accept you don't drink that in pints) and Bugman's beer. You get plenty of hooks for people asking them to investigate; one's a slimey, evil nobleman who wants you to find his wife and steal his illegitimate daughter from the crusade (he doesn't care about the wife). One is an elf who is curious about this mess and worried it means humans have gotten up to mischief again. One would be the old standby of 'you're all prisoners on a chain gang who get ordered to investigate for your freedom' because bad Hams adventures love PCs being drafted/forced into adventure. The final one is a Lahmian. She's got her own plans for the Crusade and the child, but she's also offering a shitton of money compared to the others and she actually ties into the main plot, so wham, our heroes end up in the estate of Selena Reiva.
She is not subtle. None of the vampires in this book are subtle. Curiously, having a PC with Magical Sense potentially derails several elements of this book, because someone who uses Magical Sense even semi-regularly is going to start spotting hidden vampires (some Lahmians might have Aethyric Cipher and thus be harder to spot, but most are one success away from unveiling) and evil magic cultists. This is never addressed, nor is there any mention of the beautiful vampiress who makes requests like 'only come in at night' and 'Karl may be important to my...people' while never drinking wine having Aethyric Cipher. She is smarter than the other vampires duped by the prophecy, though, and hit on hiring some PCs to investigate Karl and the Crusade and think about it a little before she does anything stupid. She offers 100 GC, in advance, for the PCs to investigate and report to her. This is a lot of money, a suspicious amount of money, but getting paid in advance means they can't refuse to pay you later after they turn out to be evil. Morever, the book says PCs negotiating with her are offered regular bonuses for completing objectives throughout the campaign. If you want to get the PCs to ignore that someone is shady as hell, offering the party 100 karls in advance and a generous set of performance based bonuses worked for Globex and Hank Scorpio, and it can work for you.
Which is probably how I'd end up running Selena if I was running, come to think of it. Beware of her twisted twin obsessions: Her plot to rule the world and her employees' health. It would be pretty funny to make the PCs relatively loyal to a probably evil vampire just by having her turn out to be the one good boss a WHFRP party ever gets. Players coming up with increasingly ridiculous excuses for their boss's behavior because they get paid on time and regularly would be a good bit of Hams dark comedy. This would also work with the fact that the 'separate hooks' thing gets dropped around Altdorf so Selena never actually betrays the party or anything in the written module. The few times she does pop up are exclusively moments where she sends gifts to help the players out if they're low on money and supplies, or offers the bonuses she promised. Ironically, Selena really is the best boss the PCs can pick here.
So our heroes take the money and get to work. The first step is obviously asking around. Gossip is an evergreen skill that every WHFRP character can enjoy. There's a huge host of false rumors the characters can learn (roll d10+DoS on a Gossip test on every successful Gossip test, if you get over 10 you get the true story of Karl but no indicator it's the true story). Once they learn a little more, there's a Gossip-10 To Continue Plot to hear about the people who didn't believe in Karl and how one of them was hung up from a gibbet to die of exposure for her blasphemy. This is the original Shallyan Abbess who tried to kill the boy when she realized he had powers.
While they ask around and learn about the many different miraculous emergences of Karl, Sigmar Reborn, or Karl, Scion of Sigmar (no-one can quite agree on who Karl is) they can potentially run into people whose lives were ruined by the religious mania by failing Gossip by 20 or more, at which point they need to scarper or calm things down or their asking around triggers a brawl because tempers are raw. This event is mostly resolved by Johan and Syphan pulling Sif away before she can get into a proper fistfight, which she is definitely up for, while Shanna explains things to an angry burgher and calms things down. Getting in a real fight (anyone drawing weapons) leads the everpresent Warhammer Cops, who you're going to get real familiar with, to instantly arrive and start arresting people. Every city in the Old World, despite being a broken down cesspit of violence in Schwalb's writing on the setting, has a dedicated police force that will not stop until any violent action by PCs that wasn't a major campaign setpiece is thoroughly investigated. They are also always available to be used as a revenge plot by any and all parties the PCs may have done any crimes to. One wonders how criminals make a living in the Old World with these guys around, until you notice they only seem to apply this level of attention to PCs.
My bitterness about this is going to make a lot more sense as the campaign goes on. Suffice to say most places can spare 30 armed men if they need to to annoy the PCs at the drop of a hat, but very few have those to help the PCs fight beastmen.
Anyway, the PCs also run into a shitty little relic seller, who tries to get them to buy false relics of The Child. One of his relics is real, though; the actual shirt the cultists ripped off the poor boy. He tries to charge 12 crowns for it, as much as an armored pair of pants, and the party has a thief. Shanna just steals it from him an hour or two later because c'mon. This is actually an important clue, because it's a standard-issue garment from the local Shallyan orphanage, which also confirmed the one rumor they heard about the boy being raised by the Shallyans, though they don't know if he was kidnapped by Chaos Worshipers for certain yet. The heroes also find out about the old abbess being locked up, and decide they're going to go have a talk with her, too. Since all this asking around probably takes hours, it's easier for them to go talk to the imprisoned abbess at night.
No guards are stationed at night and with a little observation, you can see patrols only pass once per half hour. Abbess Widmann has been locked up, her hands broken with a hammer (a classic Sigmarite punishment), and left to die of thirst in a gibbet like a pirate. The Abbess is easy to talk to if you just offer her some water and don't act like a dick, telling the PCs about a Witch Hunter associate of hers and insisting the boy had no hammer birthmark (it must be a later addition) and that he is some kind of strange mutant who can warp peoples' minds. That certainly fits as one possibility for the sudden mania. You're not meant to be able to free her as 'loud noises will draw the locals, then the Warhammer Cops', but...they have a Thief with Pick Lock. It makes no difference to the adventure (it assumes you'll leave the brutalized woman to die in agony, which is another unfortunate theme of this adventure) so Shanna picks the lock and the protagonists get the haggard woman out and take her somewhere to get help. They obviously can't take her to the Shallyans, since something weird is going on; her former subordinates are the ones that said she was an evil witch and should be killed in agony, which is not a very Shallyan thing to do. Though 'this baby who has done nothing actually wrong besides be born with a strange mutation should be given back to the Hunters to be murdered' also isn't very good Shallyaning by the Abbess and did in its way make things much worse. Still, the heroes now know something is up with the Shallyans, they've deposited a badly wounded woman with a local doctor to get help, and they know the Witch Hunter who originally found the boy from Widmann's testimony.
The heroes go to the Shallyans in the morning, forewarned things are fucked up. If you use the excuse that you're returning the relic of the boy, you can get in much easier (and get +20 to diplomatic skills while in), hence why they needed the shirt from the relic seller. Otherwise it takes a little Charm. Even if you didn't visit Abbess Widmann, Gerda can't hide that she's no longer really a Shallyan. She's become a devout Sigmarite, but specifically crazy devoted to Karl. She has an inner viciousness towards his enemies and has come to delight in suffering, and the one kind of subtle theme through peoples' interactions with the boy is that Karl doesn't really control how people become devoted to him. He's not a bad kid; he doesn't even know he's doing this to people. But people who become fanatical then insert what they want into what he is, and many of them that become brutal or vicious do it because this was some hidden part of their personality they were keeping down until they had an object of fanaticism they felt justified showing it off. This being Schwalb's Warhammer, this means nearly everyone who meets Karl becomes some flavor of violent or cruel psycho because everyone in the world is an evil bastard at heart. Gerda always had a sadistic streak, she just feels justified in it now.
She gives the PCs a long and rambling testimony that is mostly common knowledge (and partly bullshit) about what happened, emphasizing how holy Karl is, but the real thing to see here is that she has a cruel streak and has taken to having her sisters punished for any infractions against Karl, while having the orphans build a shrine to Sigmar (and Karl), which is fucking weird for Shallyans. This encounter is mostly to show off that something is wrong, something our heroes already knew.
Osric the Hunter is another person who failed to realize how many had fallen under Karl's spell, which is odd because you'd think the cheering crowds would clue him in. He tried to speak against the boy and say he couldn't possibly be Sigmar, like Abbess Widmann, and got the shit kicked out of him. Osric has buddies, though, and they've taken him for treatment and hidden him away. This makes finding him harder; if the PCs fail the Gossip-10 to find him, his friends show up to try to scare them off. They can talk the friends into their good intentions with Charm, and learn the friends took Osric to an opium den for his injuries. Getting past the bouncer is actually easier if you failed, met Osric's friends, and talked them into giving you a token for the den. The bouncer and his door can miraculously resist any PC attempt to force their way in, but flashing a few gold coins to show you're a customer works automatically, otherwise it takes extremely hard Intimidate or Charm tests. No word on what happens if you don't get in.
When you find Osric, he's in awful shape. There's some rigamarole in finding him but it's all time wasting since he's critical path. Despite him being totally necessary, it still takes a Charm -10 to continue the plot. Remember that Shanna is actually good at Charm (even if her Fel is below average for a Halfling) and she has a 37. Roll At -10 To Continue Plot is the marker of shitty Warhams adventure writing. Osric is able to tell them he found the boy in the marshes, rescuing him from the Stromfels cult and telling the PCs how to get to the place to investigate further. If they tell him they're going to kill the evil mutant child, he even tosses them 10 crowns from his remaining funds to help them, so we'll say our heroes read the room and tell the Witch Hunter what he wants to hear. He tells them to show no mercy to Chaos, even if it's innocent, they get their money and their next plot coupon, and they walk out of the place without further incident, leaving him to be treated. They go report that the child was found with a weird cult, and if you do this, Selena actually pays each PC 2 GC for their work so far to help them get guides and supplies for their trip into the Marsh, but only if they report they're going to do so. She likes initiative.
None of the other potential employers do anything but tell you to get in there. Again, Selena is actually the best boss you can pick. Our heroes chose wisely with the obviously evil vampiress.
Aside from the Everpresent Warhammer Cops and Roll At -10 To Continue Plot, this is a pretty standard intro investigation section. It does feature our very first brutalized woman left to die that the PCs are not expected or able to help, and I'm kind of tempted to start a counter for them because it seems to come up with some regularity, along with evil magic temptresses and beautiful women being horrifically mutated into monsters. Maybe we'll hit a bingo like with Forges by the time this is done. So far the adventure is mostly somewhat dull; it gets much worse later.
Next Time: Our First Minidungeon
Swampfight! SWAMPFIGHT!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Thousand Thrones
Hey, it's our first major combat section of the game. One of the other things I generally notice in Thousand Thrones is how long everything is. Nothing is ever 'let's get this simple bit out of the way to get on to the main event'. Everything is a production. So too going to the evil swamp temple.The PCs need a guide, and are introduced to Herr Jekil Sumpfmund, a lunatic swamper who loves the marshes and wants to show off the glory of nature to the protagonists. Buying his pamphlets on the wonders of the marsh actually gives the PCs +10 to Outdoor Survival while there, so they do so out of morbid curiosity. After Syphan, Johan, and Shanna finish reading it aloud to Sif and Oleg, the latter remarks he's an awful lot more ready to avoid anything Jekil is excited about once they get there. All in all, the three day tour and pamphlets will cost them a trivial amount of money (six shillings, 6 pence). If I'm honest, I very rarely end up tracking shillings and pence when I'm GMing because almost everything important to adventuring costs crowns and PCs mostly deal in those. When you're carrying 120 gold crowns from your job so far, and there's 24 shillings to the crown, a handful of shillings doesn't matter much.
Realizing they're heading into a dungeon, they also take accounting of their gear. I forgot about the bonuses Mercs get from Career Compendium, and this is a good chance to finally really demonstrate how useless it is, so Sif gains Frenzy (She gets a choice between it and Menacing). She knows how to play the part of a Norse Warrior for potential employers, but is understandably reluctant to actually do it since it's a good way to get yourself killed for little benefit in a real fight. She also gets a second hand weapon, in case they meet anyone who needs to be armed during their trips. The first thing they do is fill in everyone's armor to full leathers, at least; they're going into a shitty swamp, exposed surfaces invite more bullshit. This costs them 24 GC from the party funds to armor Oleg and Johan's pants; an important endeavor. I've seen Stand By Me. I know what happens to unprotected people in leech-filled hellwater. Between personal funds and stuff, they have 111 GC left in the pot. They get a shield for Johan and Oleg, in case they end up in the thick of things with their hand weapons, taking them to 91 but ensuring the two secondary fighters (they both have Dodge, it qualifies) won't just fold. Finally, they spend 55 on getting some sleeves and pants added to Sif's mail. She's not quite in full medium armor, but she's close. 36 crowns is a healthy enough reserve for expenses, and they're ready for their first combat section.
This also points out the oddity that buying a Sleeved Mail Coat is actually more expensive than a Sleeved Mail Shirt and Mail Leggings for the exact same effects. You pay 130 total for the full coat, 115 for the pieces to put together (discounting the 60 for Sif's original shirt). I don't know why it's like this, but this knocks 15 crowns off the first full major armor upgrade fighters will often get, and that's a lot of money. While Sif would like a better helmet, the team is not made of money. Shanna will be doing the team's ledgers, as it is her calling.
Thus equipped, they head into the swamps. It takes three days of rowing and journeying to get to the temple, during which they have plenty of time to have encounters. Jekil is happy to row, and the party is just as good at Outdoor Survival as he is, so Oleg will be handling any nonsense they come across while he rows through the hellish mist and points out everything around him with glee. Now, normally this doesn't actually matter unless Jekil gets eaten or something; if that happens, the random encounters get worse (and more frequent) if the PCs fail Outdoor Survival rolls, and they need Navigation checks to find the temple. If Jekil is alive, he's so competent at swamping that Navigation tests aren't needed. We'll be using the method where they determine their encounters by an Outdoor Survival test each day so Oleg gets to do something. One encounter a day, roll d10+DoF on Outdoor Survival, pushing things closer to Hideous Giant Deathsnake Encounter on 10+.
The encounters range from weird to dangerous, with Hideous Giant Deathsnake being the most lethal (A Fen Worm is a pretty nasty, if potentially doable, enemy for a party this level). Oleg fails the first, but not by much, and our heroes roll low, encountering Bog Flowers. This encounter is not dangerous unless you're stupid enough to drink squeezed nectar out of a plant growing around piles of dead birds. The nectar will make someone fall asleep for up to 5 hours, with a Tough-10 to avoid it (failure results in -10 to all stats but Toughness for the same period). So this is just a useful poison your PCs can harvest, that stays fresh for two weeks. Seeing no reason why not (it doesn't take any checks) they harvest some doses of the tranquilizer. They don't have Prepare Poison, but maybe they can sell it or figure out a way to use it anyway. On day 2, Oleg does not do well. And they rolled a 10 on the d10 anyway. So Hideous Death Snake it is.
The Fen Worm is a little dangerous for a low level party. Like many Monsters, it hits hard and attacks a lot, but has poor WS. With 4 Damage 6 Attacks that all inflict a Tough test or take 5 extra unreducable wounds, if it gets lucky, someone is dying. Because it's 'massive', it gives PCs +10 to hit it. At 23 Wounds, 4 Attacks, but only WS 30 (It has DR 7, though) this is mostly a luck check, especially as it starts by testing Silent Move against Perception. If it ambushes the party, someone is getting et. Running the combat off screen, Outnumber and Action Economy gave the heroes the opening they needed. In round 1, it missed all 4 attacks, took a Fury from Syphan that did 13 Wounds, took a bunch of other hits, and seemed to be on its way out. Round 2, failed to hit anyone again thanks to good defensive rolls, got chopped to pieces by outnumber. But missing 7 out of 8 attacks (and getting parried on the one that hit) is lucky. If its luck had gone the other direction, someone would probably be burning Fate or losing a limb or something. Like a lot of WHFRP combat, this is mostly just a numbers check; I'm fine with the combat system being such, but it's important to acknowledge it. Because it means the PCs don't really have, say, tactical play that can mitigate the danger of the Fen Worm coming at them. This is just a gear/stat check. Keep this in mind, because there will be a lot of combats where the simple numbers of battle are heavily against the PCs, and the lack of tactical options to even that up means 'good play' is not going to even out 'they have a shitload of attacks and skill and numbers'. I'll only be rolling out off-screen anything I think needs direct demonstration; most combats will just be my assessment of what the PCs could or couldn't do.
On the last day, despite Oleg's successes, they roll a 9 and run into the other actual combat encounter, a terrible hell-plant. However, despite the hell-plant's annoying grappling rules and it grabbing the bote, it has 10 wounds. And there's only a listed penalty for fighting from the boat, not for fighting from being knocked out into the water. The terrifying encounter is cut short when it's hit by Oleg's crossbow, a magic dart from Syphan, and a slingstone from Shanna, and dies on round 1 since it only has 10 wounds and made the mistake of knocking them into the water. Kind of a nothing encounter. There were others possible, like finding a bote full of supplies with a dead fisherman, or a dead body with a bunch of jewelry who shoots hallucinogenic spores at you if it's disturbed, but our heroes had an easy time due to good luck in the actual encounters. The whole '10 random encounters possible, roll as many as you like' thing is common in these early sections.
The swamp temple is not well defended. There are 9 cultists, but most aren't much of fighters. It also brings about an important problem: Whenever the game calls for Concealment/Silent Move tests, it always asks the entire party to make them if they're going anywhere. This is a problem, even if the whole party are stealth specialists somehow, because while one person making a 49% roll (with a reroll in the wings for Fortune) isn't hard, 3 people doing it is now 3 points of failure and they're probably not as good as Shanna. You also need both stealth skills AND Scale Sheer Surface (which is Str based, so even if Shanna had taken it in place of Charm she'd still struggle) to make some of the stealthy approaches, so...Look, making people roll constantly and requiring the skills to be on every character for the team to do anything with stealth just makes stealth a non-option much of the time, or at best makes things the Shanna Show for a bit while everyone else waits in the wings. There's no real awareness in this campaign that every dice roll is a significant chance of failure. The cultists won't even all be there at once, so chances are the party may be able to win a straight fight with the enemy when they arrive as it is.
The main danger in a fight is Udo and Wim, two mutant cultists with actual fighting careers. Udo is a large man described as 'idiotic' (12 Int) who is just here because his brother Wim tells him Stromfels is great and emotionally blackmails him. He's tough as hell, though Sif can probably take him one on one since she's better equipped, just as strong, and more skilled (He's a Thug, which isn't a great fighter career). His brother Wim is a slim fellow with giant ears and eyes who is a pretty skilled and vicious pirate, but TB 3 and basically unarmored, so he'll drop like a cheap sack of grain when he gets hit. The actual cult priest isn't much of a fighter, but he does have a shark head, which is sort of cool. The normal cultists are just your normal WS 30-something 1 attack unarmored fodder cultists, though they do have Strike Mighty and there can be up to 6 of them, depending on GM. If you fight all 9 foes at once things will go badly.
Still, they're split up around the cult compound (an old, crumbling watchtower and wall) and you can pretty easily engage them piecemeal, plus as noted many of them might not even be in the temple. A 'miniboss' fight with Wim, Udo, and Dahlbert the Priest should be easy enough for most groups. Potentially, Shanna could sneak in, steal the cult leader's journal, and the whole party would never have to fight anything, but most groups will probably get into a scrap with the cultists. It's cultists.
The important thing in a fight is that if Udo and Wim go down, or he's sorely pressed or badly wounded (even if they're still up), the Priest Dahlbert surrenders immediately to beg for his life and tells the PCs everything he knows. Our team (with the advantage of Fortune Points) could likely handle a fight with the six lesser cultists, then the big bosses as they're called back to guard the priest, but as the advice is not to have all 9 in the temple and low level combat is extremely swingy (AV 1 doesn't protect you much from Damage 4 enemies) it'd still be dangerous. There's no talk of, say, convincing Udo not to hurt you or something, either. Despite that being kind of setup in his description since he's not really evil and is only here because of his brother's poor influence. Somehow, the cult boss's journal takes a Read/Write test (I think 4e was correct to make Read/Write just a binary Talent, the games always struggle to excuse it as a Skill) while questioning him is easy; he thinks you were sent by the guy he's scared of anyway, a cultist named Jurgan Baer who he thinks was looking for Karl. The journal or the priest can also confirm the cult 'created' Karl to be their king and to help Stromfels rule the world, but the cult also doesn't mention any birthmarks, lending credence to the Abbess's story. The journal or priest is independent confirmation that A: The birthmark is not a birthmark, B: The boy has powers of some kind, C: Some other Chaos Cult is interested in him (which lines up with the rumor about defeating a Chaos Cultist and inspiring the crowd), and D: The general description of how the boy was taken by the Hunters and given to the Shallyans matches perfectly with what the PCs have heard from other sources. This is, as they say, a jackpot when it comes to confirming or falsifying rumors.
The PCs also search the heck out of the place to find any treasure, getting about 10 crowns worth of junk in the process. It's a living. They also gather up every enemy Hand Weapon, because hilariously, this is a much easier way to make money than most actual quest rewards. Always be taking your enemies' gear and selling it. It's the most consistent guaranteed payday.
The priest or journal also tells them where Baer can be found, so next the heroes are off to another step in their rigamarole of learning more about the boy. This is the last we ever see of the Stromfels cult, so I guess that's the end of Shark Week.
Things still haven't really gotten bad; this was all reasonable enough cult busting, and the Fen Worm was beatable, just a pretty nasty luck check encounter. Next time, we get the first point where I'd have set the module down if I was intending to run it myself.
Next Time: Sewer Fun Time
There Is Nothing You Can Do For The Abused SpouseOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Thousand Thrones
There Is Nothing You Can Do For The Abused Spouse
So the clues they have lead to the worst part of town, near the sewage runoffs. Being a Nurglite cult, Baer's buddies obviously hid down in the sewers with all the shit. There's a community around the "Dead Canal" and it's as brutal and desperate as you'd imagine. There's a lot of potential for PCs getting their money stolen or being attacked by thugs; this is one of the few parts of town the otherwise eagle-eyed Warhammer Cops don't show up. If they're smart, they keep their weapons and armor visible (don't look like an easy target) and their financial situation murky. The 46 crowns (more, if you count them selling off gear taken off the cultists, but that'll come after the job) that the team is carrying is a goddamn fortune to the people of the Canal. Looking around enough eventually turns up a thief who tells you he knows Baer and what happened to him, but he wants you to kill somebody for him first. For once, a character can be told he's trying to hold out on a unit of armed men and women who look like out of town mercenaries and this is a Really Bad Idea: A successful Intimidate (or a bribe of 4-6 shillings) skips the murder. The money's nothing, and Intimidating the little guy is easy enough for a group with a wizard and a giant norsewoman (You can also just get a bit of 'evidence' you killed the guy from the guy you're meant to kill and fob it off, or just commit the murder, no-one cares down here apparently). Once he's pliant, the thief tells the party Baer used to run with a pretty scary gang in the sewers, but had been alone lately. Apparently, he ran afoul of a gang of gamblers and just got shanked and left in the canal. The gang is well known, so now the PCs need to go get Baer's shit from the guys who knifed him.
This is actually relatively easy. Either you go when they're open, gamble with the gangsters and win Baer's purse, you kick the shit out of them (there are 10 of them, but they're pretty terrible fighters, with no capacity to Dodge or Parry and only very basic civilian stats), or you send Shanna through the back door and she robs the joint. Or you can buy the macguffin for 5 crowns, but hey. Instead, they send Shanna through the back door to rob the joint. She became a thief on the assumption she would, in fact, steal some shit. A simple Lock Pick and Sneak roll, and she's got not just Baer's purse, but a whole day's take of other purses. Stealing a bunch of purses from one central place where other thieves collected them appeals to her sense of organization, and making an extra 6 crowns appeals to her sense of profit, so it's a good night for Shanna Applebottom. It's not actually necessary to get the purse, but it helps; having it and the map inside it halves the number of random encounters in the upcoming sewer dungeon since you know where to go and don't waste time wandering around. Oleg recommends some rags soaked in herbs to deal with the smell (An old ranger trick, dwarfs know about shitty sewers) and the team heads into their very first sewer level.
There's no map of the sewers because they aren't a mapped dungeon crawl. Instead you're to 'ask your players where they're going, then just make it all up' as it's actually a linear series of encounters and time-wasting. Like with the swamp, you roll d10 X number of times to see which encounter they have on a list of 10. With the map, they have 3. You can also pick encounters, so we're going to toss them into the worst of them right away.
A little ways into the sewer, the protagonists find a door built into the sides of a passage. Locked, barred, and with someone sobbing on the other end. Looking through the grates, they see a beaten up woman in a soiled dress with no shoes sobbing in a basement. As soon as she hears someone on the other end of the locked door, she rattles it and begs for help. Before Shanna can get her lockpicks out, Sif makes the Str-10 check and kicks the door in with a crash. The woman on the other side is Katarine, an abused 18 year old girl whose two years of marriage to a petty merchant have resulted in bruises, scars, and being locked in a basement and only let out to clean and cook for her husband. The book posits you can let her out and ignore her, at which point she's horribly murdered by ghouls trying to escape the sewers. You can go up and beat the shit out of her husband, at which point she's accused of his murder/assault, you ruin her life, and 'she seeks revenge'. Or you can take her with you, which says she's a liability and the sewers will try to kill her. Those are the three options. Despite this being intended to give the PCs a way back out of the sewer to go get healing or whatever, there's no option to just, like...escort her upstairs, tell her husband to fuck himself, and let her go out the front door or something. She's given full stats, and she's actually a fantastic character; she's basically Johan if he was less strong but more sociable. This encounter is fucking awful as written, so our heroes are having none of this.
While Johan and Oleg watch the rescued woman, Sif, Syphan and Shanna go upstairs. They find her shocked husband, who yells at them to mind their own business. Sif takes the little dagger he used to cut his wife, punches him in the face once, declares that where she comes from this how divorce works (it is, actually), and takes his 5 crown purse. They walk back downstairs, toss the purse to Katarine, and offer to take her with them. She accepts, Sif hands her her spare hand-axe and her husband's dagger (and a spare pare of boots taken off a dead cultist), and they tell her to stay in the middle of the marching order until they can get her some armor. Katarine joins the party, because this is probably what my players would do. Hence forth they have a sixth member.
They then encounter the Ghoul Pack, to show off what bastards Ghouls are, but also because these were supposed to murder Katarine. The Ghouls have two really nasty powers. One, players have to make Fear tests to fight them. Two, they do poison damage and have 2 attacks. The encounter is meant to be one or two ghouls, or more if the PCs are higher level. These PCs being normal, they'll run into 2. It's a short, nasty fight, but Sif's armor, the shields on Oleg and Johan, and the rest would see them through fine. Not to mention Ghouls are living targets; Syphan's Sleep spell works on them. Her crazy WS is really good for landing that with Fast Hands. Finally, they run into some mutant smugglers who have been changed by being too close to the Nurgle temple. The mutants aren't actually hostile, and merely ask the players for food. They're trying to get into the temple, themselves, because they know it turned them and they hope it can cure them. There's a big description of all their individual hideous mutations, because Schwalb goddamn loves long descriptions of hideous and painful mutations. If the PCs agree to help, the mutants help them find the temple faster. If they don't, but don't go hostile, nothing happens. There is no cure and no way to help them (obviously), and telling them there's no cure on the way back will send them into a rage and start a fight, or send them into insanity and 'make them embrace that they are forever creatures of Chaos' and turn cultist after the PCs leave. The heroes just leave them some spare rations and water and continue on their way without a fight.
There are other encounters; you can run into a dropped Poison Wind Globe, fall into a pit that takes a -20 Scale Surface test to escape, fight a sewer lizard that only one PC at a time can engage, get caught in mould that hurts you and then grows and kills you in two days if you fail Toughness tests, or encounter REVENGE from some NPC you didn't murder yet who hates you. They're not very exciting. One of the other encounters is, if you didn't take Katarine with you or something, hearing her screaming in terror as she's ripped apart by ghouls. Yay. Katarine stands out because all the presented options in the book sucked.
Finally, the heroes find the cult lair. And encounter the boss: A lesser Beast of Nurgle. The beast isn't that dangerous (23 WS, 3 Attacks, damage 3, TB 6, 20 Wounds) but it is Frightening and anyone hit by the tentacles has to make a Tough+10 or be paralyzed, losing -1 Movement and -10 to all stat tests per round. If anyone drops to 0, the next round, the Beast swallows anyone paralyzed adjacent to it as a full round, instant-killing them. So one or two unlucky hits can take a couple PCs out in an otherwise easy fight. This team's high Movement scores effectively neutralize that threat, though, and their numbers and the beast's terrible WS make it an easy fight for them. One cultist is left behind in the icky Nurgle base, a crazed scholar named Reuban. When the cult's leader Tobias told the cult to move out and infiltrate Karl's followers, he left Baer and Reuban behind, telling Baer to kill the poor man. Baer didn't, but he also hasn't been down in awhile (being dead and all) and so Reuban is even crazier. Reuban's insane rantings are actually a bunch of hints about the Witch, but it's going to be so long before she actually factors into anything that no-one is going to remember his stuff six months down the line when they face the Black Witch, and none of what he says is really useful for fighting her anyway. There's no helping the crazed man, but he has a letter on him that tells the PCs in no uncertain terms that Nurglites are among the band following Karl and have terrible plans of some kind. The team leaves the man to his fate, coming out of the sewers and heading right for the nearest bath (and to get Katarine some new clothes and officially welcome her to the party).
Then they report to their boss. Selena tells them to go find the Crusade and protect Karl; he's 'important to her...people'. She also hands each member of the party (including the new girl) 10 gold crowns for travel expenses, which is pretty great. She's genuinely concerned about what the Nurglites are doing, and genuinely wants the protagonists to stop them. Sure, she thinks Karl might be the one prophesied to bring about the rule of night and the reign of blood, but no Nurglites! And with that, our heroes are welcoming their new member, spending their first EXP (they get about 300 EXP for this adventure), and heading off to where they'll be waylaid by absolutely and utter horseshit and the search for a stolen chiken.
Look forward to our first encounters with hostile vampires and how this book absolutely does not understand how to use vampires! Be thrilled by PCs being outnumbered by Vampires in first tier! Be amazed by 30 men being spared to force the PCs to investigate a chicken! Watch as all involved begin to question the wisdom of this 'adventure' business!
Next Time: Waylaid By Jackassery
Arise ChickenOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Thousand Thrones
First off, the heroes have upgraded some but I won't be posting their full sheets every time they get EXP or anything, just when they promote. Because the promotion guidelines for the chapters don't actually fit with the EXP awards they give, because this book keeps telling you 'go play our other exciting pre-mades in the middle of your campaign to grind more EXP!', and who knows, maybe I'll put the team through some of Plundered Vaults to show it off too. Bold move to suggest playing the entire Terror in Talabheim in the middle of this campaign, though; exposing the players directly to a better game is risky. Though I think after this next chapter, everyone will have a better idea of why Terror in Talabheim's author had to put in 'please please please don't run away from the main plot, I guarantee it isn't that bad'.
Anyway, Sif buys 2 WS advances and Rapid Reload. Now she can javelin some people or pick up a bow later if she needs to do ranged, and she's up to 53% WS at Tier 1 and 300 EXP, which is kind of nuts. Shanna just buys her Agi to 64%, which again: 1st tier character, already has a 64% on most thieving skills. Shanna's really good at her job. Oleg grabs 2 Agi advances and an Int. Now he can actually rely on Dodge a little and spot stuff better. Syphan takes 3 WP advances to be able to channel her magic and not be scared of anything. Johan buys his one Str advance, then an Agi and WP. They're all noticeably better. The only bit of important bookkeeping is
Introducing Katarine, the Rescued Abused Spouse. She had great stats, they rescued her fair and square, of course they're going to bring her along. To avoid overlapping with Johan and to show off an interesting rule, she uses the few weeks as they're on the road to try to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor, 200ing out of Servant (and actually spending her Free Advance on Read/Write) and entering Barber-Surgeon, grabbing Heal. Now they have a medic.
Class: Ex-Servant, Barber Surgeon
WS 30, BS 30, S 31, T 30, Agi 42, Int 36, WP 35, Fel 37
Common Knowledge (The Wasteland)
Sleight of Hand
Speak Language (Reikspiel)
Trade (Cook) (Man, this party has 3 good cooks)
Nice New Outfit (With Hat)
Sif's Handaxe (Hand Weapon)
Full Leather Armor (AV1)
Trade Tools (Barber Surgeon)
Anatomy Textbook (heavily annotated)
Katarine lived a pretty shitty life in the Dead Canal up until now. Growing up poor, this bright and surprisingly brave young woman was originally overjoyed to marry an actual merchant, only to find out her husband wanted a live in slave he could kick and brandish a knife at whenever he felt like it. By a twist of fate, a group of sewer-delving adventurers stumbled on her plight, kicked in the door of destiny, and secured her a divorce by the strange traditions of Norsca. Freed from her abusive husband and welcomed to a company of weirdo freebooters, she's decided to pursue an old childhood dream of studying medicine. With a little help from their thief, she's secured a textbook and learned to read it, and picked up some tools and clippers so she can help her new friends stay well groomed and keep them from bleeding to death as a barber-surgeon. Who knows where things will go from there?
There's just no getting around how badly you need a medic, Katarine's got the base stats to do it very well, and it's a good opportunity to show off the actual utility of 200ing out of a class early. She'll be a little behind as some of her EXP was spent on class changing, but skills like Dodge (and Unnoticed) from being a Servant will serve her well her whole career and she really only needs one more advance (Surgery) to qualify as a good enough doctor. She's got all kinds of options after Barber Surgeon, too. Initiate? Physician? Tradeswoman? Maybe even Vagabond and become a second scout? Lots of possibilities. And really, the team wasn't just going to leave her to die horribly or get kicked around by her shitty husband.
Our heroes set out from Marienburg, never really having had much time to have unique adventures that take advantage of that weird dutch city (which also doesn't really get a city writeup, either, which sucks). They're off to catch up to this crusade, stop the Nurglites infesting it, and try to figure out why thousands of people are following a nine year old kid around while screaming about Sigmar. Their upcoming adventure has effectively nothing to do with any of that, outside of some tangential relevance to the overstuffed vampire side of the plot. They'll be stopping in the town of Pfeifeldorf, here to see where the crusade is headed and to realize they missed it by 3 days. However, because they 'resemble a group of wanted men' (despite being 4 women, 2 men, and 4 different species among them) they will be stopped by the Omnipresent Warhammer Cops and their ability to rapidly deploy 30 men to ambush the PCs. Yes, even if you didn't do (or at least, weren't caught doing) anything illegal, this adventure still needs to railroad you with getting pressganged by bounty hunters, so there just happens to be a near-identical adventuring party to yours who have wanted posters everywhere so you get arrested anyway. Welcome to the shit, people.
The bounty hunters in question are a group of noble second sons and daughters who want to change the inheritance system away from primogenitor. The adventure centers around Lucas and Lennhardt von Spier, the two potential rulers of Pfeilfeldorf. Lennhardt is a piece of shit Imperial noble and a spoiled brat, Lucas considers himself a much more enlightened ruler (and founded this little noble militia with a friend of his) but is second in line. Lucas has plans to use a Blood Dragon vampire he stumbled on in the woods badly wounded and surrounded by 'a dozen dead Strigoi' (holy fuck, that's a hell of a Blood Dragon.) to somehow implicate his brother in a blood cult (which Lucas founded, ostensibly to help the vampire regain his strength) and/or just let the grateful vampire eat his brother. He was joined in this for a time by an ambitious peasant, until the Crusade passed through and somehow this made the ambitious peasant decide that maybe this crazy ass vampire plan was a bad idea. Which he openly told Lucas, so Lucas strangled him and then hung him from the rafters to make it look like a suicide. If you've guessed the PCs are going to uncover all of this through the course of a bunch of rigamarole, you get nothing, this adventure is godawful. Don't get me wrong, the basic structure of some ambitious second son trying to enlist a vampire to help him get rid of his brother is fine as an adventure seed, but the details are terrible.
Anyway, our heroes are walking through the woods, not expecting the 30 armed men who are following them to arrest them, because they haven't actually done anything wrong. There's a -20 Per test to hear the bounty hunters coming, but it doesn't matter. There are thirty of them, their leader is a completed 2nd tier character (Noble to Pistolier to Duelist), they have the drop on the heroes, and there's no fighting them, convincing them this is stupid, etc. Arnolt, their leader, steps out of the woods with a pistol to inform the confused six protagonists that 'he has 16 people with crossbows trained on them and even more hiding in the woods'. They suspect a robbery immediately and get ready to negotiate, but the leader launches into his 'funny' schtick of asking them to kindly cooperate because he's got a depressed buddy who could use some cheering up by making the arrest.
He's actually not kidding; his buddy Wendel lost all his inheritance on a bad business venture and his fiance left him since he's penniless, and Wendel really is genuinely depressed and Arnolt is actually trying to cheer him up by letting him heroically take these brigands in. Wendel manifests this by sighing a lot and the book directing you to play him as exceedingly self-deprecating and convinced he's an idiot. "The PCs should either hate Wendel or feel very sorry for him." Seeing as they have literally no way of fighting free of this, Katarine suggests they go along with it. This is a misunderstanding, they can probably sort it out, and she does actually feel bad for the poor sad guardsman. Syphan and Sif want to fight, but are quickly convinced not to by the others thanks to the impossible odds. Katarine tells the poor guy that things do get better sometimes, and sometimes lucky meetings give you a new path in life, and it does actually seem to cheer him up; PCs who play along and treat Wendel well earn both his and Arnolt's genuine gratitude. Being mean to Wendel gets you nothing but trouble.
I wouldn't mind a little comic scene with bounty hunters trying to cheer up their depressed buddy if it wasn't the unstoppable 30 man railroad arrest and the adventure it was leading to didn't suck so much. The Blausblut (the hunters) would potentially work fine as a comical thing for PCs to run into, and a scene where the outgoing lieutenant of a band is trying to convince the players to play along with a play-arrest (if you do play along, he doesn't have your gear taken or anything and even listens to protestations of innocence, assuring the PCs they're just going in to confirm they're not the brigands he's after) would actually be funnier if he didn't have totally overwhelming force that will completely kick your ass if you resist and were actually desperate for the players to play along a little. Resisting naturally leads to a trick this adventure likes a lot: The fight goes until the PCs suffer a crit, then they're forced to surrender. Be prepared for a lot of 'hopeless fight until you get critted', which is more of a problem than the designers think, because crits become lethal or crippling extremely quickly (Crit +3 or worse has very good odds to risk you losing an eye, limb, or Fate Point to being 'killed'). I don't mind the possibility of PCs being badly hurt during a fight they shouldn't have gotten into and that stops there, but there will be mandatory fights that do this. Losing a Fate Point or a limb to a fight that was intentionally balanced so that that would happen to someone before it stops feels like an unavoidable GM dick move and isn't the clever limiter on unwinnable fights the designers think it is.
Arnolt Schade then spends the entire walk into town talking about his thesis about how primogenitor creates a class of disenfranchised nobles who consistently fall to Chaos or heresy or scheme against their siblings, and that if more equitable noble inheritance is not instituted in the Empire, soon enough it will fall to civil strife. I suppose he's not familiar with the travails of the Byzantines and how non-primogenitor resulted in smaller and smaller land-holding throughout the Empire that were then often bought up for cash by land speculators who then became an incredibly powerful force within the Empire and ruined many, many others, but you know, you always see the flaws of the system you live under and not a different form of inheritance that exists on another planet and a completely different era of history. Tragic, really. Also, nothing about the lot of peasants ever occurs to him, and it's clear he partly does this job to have captive audiences to drone on about politics to. He naturally won't really listen to anything the PCs say while doing this, which is sort of a waste; if he was engaged in active and vigorous debate with PCs who are interested, they might end the scene without despising the guy and might actually be amused.
Then they get to Pfeifeldorf, their weapons are taken, and the local magistrate takes some time out from dealing with the chaos of Karl's crusade passing through to force them to investigate a stolen chicken because 'a troublesome woman has been bothering him about the missing chicken' and this is his chance to make somebody do the stupid job. In the course of investigating the kidnapping of Nugget, rightful 7th Chairman of the Tojo Clan and real estate manager extraordinaire, our heroes will naturally collapse the house of cards that leads to the blood cult, the vampire, Lucas's bullshit, etc. If this all seems like an incredibly forced setup for a 'comic' adventure to you, it's because it is. Our heroes sigh, agree to find the damn chicken, and get down to it.
Next Time: The Hunt for Nugget