“To Market, To Market” – WFRP, Episode 1

The striking fortress-town of Ubersreik is situated between the gloomy Grey Mountains and the depths of the Reikwald Forest. The town guards the Grey Lady Pass through to Bretonnia, and is one of the busiest trading centres of the Empire. A mighty, Dwarf-built bridge that spans the red waters of the River Teufel stands at its centre. This impressive crossing connects important trade roads from across the Empire and beyond.WFRP 4th ed. Starter Set, The Adventure Book

Continuing recaps of our long drawn-out Enemy Within campaign. Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.

Link to Session 0 – “Let Me Buy You a Drink”

Our budding adventurers, each responding to a similar invitation by the mysterious stranger, gather at the Sprinthof Coaching Inn, just outside Auerswald. The stranger, who now identifies himself as Jekel Schroeder, is in the company of a massive Kislevite missing his left ear and a stout, armored dwarf.

Godabert is the last of the four adventurers to arrive, a wisp of a young man dressed in meager attire but somehow in possession of a bulging money purse. God emphasizes his fashionably late arrival with a stool flourish that takes a tragic turn. He tumbles to the ground and spills a bag full of rocks all over the table and onto the tavern floor.

Prior to this first in-person setting, Godabert informed me that he was going to lurk about until all parties had arrived, and he was going to fill up his money purse with stones, so as to always have a supply of improvised ballistic projectiles.

I can’t remember exactly what this initial skill test was… or why I called for it… I just know that this represented our group’s first exposure to the fumble mechanic. Godabert’s first impression was hilarious on many levels, and opened our gaming in what I kept emphasizing as a “grim and perilous world” in perfect fashion.

Jekel explains that he chose each of the adventurers for a specific reason, assembling a party of mercenary investigators uniquely suited to the mission at hand.

The group is being hired to travel to Ubersreik, and locate Lena Bauer, an apprentice Bright Order wizard and member of minor noble family in Altdorf.

Lena’s magister was found murdered in his office, and several grimoires of import were found missing. Lena is not under suspicion for the murder — at least, not yet — and her family wants to clear her name.

She was last known to be traveling in the company of a dwarf named Sturgill “Reikdrinker,” and recent intelligence from Vlad’s brother indicates that this poor dwarven dockworker was recently found dead in Ubersreik.

Jekel and his group have had trouble reaching Vlad’s brother in recent weeks. They fear the worst.

Lena Bauer was meant to be the fifth PC in this gaming group. For reasons that are lost to time, she was unavailable for the first few months of our campaign, so I conceived of this “find Lena” hook to get the players to Ubersreik and insinuate them into the “Making the Rounds” adventure until this fifth player was ready to join. This Lena subplot ended up taking on a life of its own, giving life to a wonderful conspiracy and an enigmatic nemesis who would make life interesting for the players for — literally — years of gaming sessions.

Jekel offers a very generous up-front payment for this enterprise. Despite that, the players negotiate for more silver and, after a successful gambling session, they settle on: 240/- up-front, and 100 GC to the remaining party members upon the return of Lena and the books.

Emphasis is made that this job is to retrieve Lena and the books, which are believed to be on her person. If Lena cannot be recovered, a portion of the job fee will still be paid for the safe return of those magical grimoires.

Party is instructed to send updates to Jekel in Sprinthof, regularly, from Bridge House Inn in Ubersreik. Since Reikdrinker was a dockworker, Jekel recommends party begins search at Red Moon Inn in the Teubrucke; ask for Jekel’s “friend,” Franz Lohner.

It takes three days of travel to reach Ubersreik, during which time the players gossip at coaching inns along the road and gather some rumors about Ubersreik and the Vorbergland. During this part of the journey, Karl explains that he knows who Jekel really is, and his standing in the Jungfreud family, combined with the violence and political turmoil rolling through the city at present, could explain why Jekel doesn’t just head into Ubersreik to track down Lena himself.

The Guide to Ubersreik in the 4th edition Starter Set is a trove of information, and exactly what I needed to start an rpg campaign after so many decades on ice. The players took full advantage of my invitation to have a look around the city on the evening of their arrival (knowing that they would have until tomorrow’s Marktplatz riot before they’d be forced from the sandbox somewhat). So, naturally, despite having a paid investigation gig to work towards, they gambled, boozed, and whored.

Kurlass Meingot, who the players will meet again as part of “A Secure Deal”

Party scouts the docks, and several locations along the Teufel. 

They secure board at Red Moon Inn, where Lohner reveals more of his past and offers some additional leads.

Players gamble (and avoid suspicion of cheating) at the backroom den of the Crooked Hammer, where they first meet Kurlass Meingot. Godabert uncovers leads from Gert, bartender of the Hammer. 

Beau embarrasses himself with a prostitute. 

This last detail featured the second time a player showcased a spectacular fumble. I wouldn’t even have made him roll that athletics check if Beau hadn’t insisted that he wanted to make a good impression on Lotte, the Kat House professional. Needless to say, he was spent before his breeches came down.

The next morning, the party heads to the Marktplatz to follow up on a lead regarding Heske Glazer, a glassmaker who supplies Christophe Engels, the only licensed wizard (not affiliated with the occupying Altdorf army) residing in Ubersreik.

Beau, Kris, and Karl get fitted for custom leather gear: jack, breeches, and skullcap. They seek out Fabio Finnucci’s leatherworking stall and provide exacting detail regarding the specialty stitching that they require. Good thing they came into all that silver… The custom accoutrements will be ready to pick up in three days. Godabert, forever the frugal one, opts to wait for something less expensive and off-the-rack.

Godabert buys a hunting bow and some arrows. Kris buys a sword, some herbal healing mixes, and a glass dragon statuette from Heske. Karl buys several herbal healing mixes.

Beau spends most of his pocket money on drugs. At the stall owned by Cordelia Wessenlingh, Beau flirts with Ida Vernt, the apprentice herbalist, and scores a nice little dragon-bag of wyrdroot.

Then, quite suddenly, a riot breaks out. And the party wastes little time wading into its first combat.

After a few rounds of unarmed fisticuffs, Beau, irritated after taking his first significant damage, whips outs his mace (“Windu”) and attacks a brawler from the cavalcade, crushing the poor bastard’s ankle so severely that it tears free from the rest of his body, sending a shoe — holding a foot — twirling through the market square.

First critical hit, and it was a doozy. Despite trying to impress upon the players the issues involved with drawing weapons in a street fight, the “blood was up,” so to speak, and things escalated from here.

After a few rounds of combat, the players spot three muggers taking advantage of the chaos, attacking an old woman and a young girl. They intercede, and in short order Kris is knocked out and Beau is sorely wounded. Then Karl comes in with an inspired blow.

Second crit was even more impressive.

Karl slides his dagger under the collarbone of one of the muggers, and using a combination of momentum, leverage, and divinely summoned strength, opens his opponent up from neck to belly, rending his flesh with rippling tears, like popping stitches on upholstery, and cracking through his breastbone with muffled crunches. The mugger’s torso is halved, and everyone behind that stall is bathed in blood.

And this seemed like a great spot to end the session and bring in the troops that would quell the riot and arrest the players, all of whom are covered in blood. But at least they saved that kid and her grandmother…

Altdorf soldiers march on the Platz. The Captain of the Watch silences the riot with pistol shots and arrests everyone involved. PC’s are led off, bodies are dragged off, and they spend a night in jail cells below the Watch barracks in the Precinct district.

In my game summary to the players, I concluded with a narrative interlude meant to bridge the time gaps between sessions and set up the next game. As our campaign progressed, I used these interludes to drop clues, add color, and help move certain plot elements along.

Karl, Beau, and God — you spend the better part of the afternoon languishing in a jail cell with four other rioters: two halflings who were part of the Cavalcade, and two terrified townsfolk, a man in his late-50’s and a young lad who quickly ripped off his silver-and-blue armband and hid it in a pile of straw. In the early evening, along with the arrival of a meal of watery gruel, Kris is brought in, barely conscious, but bandaged up thoroughly. When you attempt to make a comfortable sleeping area for him, gathering straw for a stone bench against the back wall, the other four prisoners immediately acquiesce, clearing space and relinquishing bedding without hesitation.

Kris suffered a deep stab wound to the upper leg, and the hilt of his assailant’s knife cracked his hip, inflicting a minor fracture (one month until it partially heals; 13 days unless re-aggravated). The crit wound is removed, and all four PC’s recover wounds per normal rest while spending the night in the cell.

As the evening drags on, you overhear a variety of whispers and rumors regarding “The Marktplatz Massacre…”

“‘At’s ‘im dere! The Butcher of Bogenhafen! I seent it with me own eyes — he cleaved that body in two with ‘is hatpin, he did!”

“Yer a fool cunt, y’are. Lookit that dandy — he no sooner could’ve killed a man as you could.”

“They say a barber surgeon worked with Finnucci to stitch Henroth’s foot back to his leg…”

“Haw! Henroth doesn’t have to pretend to be a mutant any longer… he’s growing new toes right outta his stump.”

“Henroth’s dead!”

“No he ain’t. Twat.”

“Was the Middenheim Mauler wot did it. He clubbed off both of Henny’s feets and stole his flask.”

“The carnies started the riot! Couldn’t stand the heckling, I say it true.”

“Was that gang of mercenaries — the Jungfreuds hired ‘em to cause a stir. Got outta hand.”

“No no no — the Altdorf pricks threw the first punches. It’s their fault. All their fault.”

“The Mauler and the Butcher and their gang… Them’s the ones wot started the riot. They’re all getting strung up at dawn.”

Come morning, the cells empty one by one, as prisoners are led away by guards for their court hearing. By mid-morning, you four are the only ones left in the jail…

And so were born the “Butcher of Bogenhafen” and the “Middenheim Mauler.”