“Making the Rounds” – WFRP, Episode 2

‘You have little hope of being found innocent if you plead not guilty, as you were involved in the riot. Rather, we will make a “no contest” plea, admitting neither guilt, nor claiming total innocence, though we will hotly deny killing Fosten.’ Osanna grins at this. ‘Generally heavy fees and hard labour in the Grey Mountains would be the minimum sentence with such a plea, but I have some sway with the court, and I know they have been requested to support the Watch in these trying times, as it is severely depleted…’ – WFRP Starter Set, The Adventure Book, p. 15

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 1 – “To Market, To Market”

Our adventurers’ third full day in the fortress city of Ubersreik is highlighted by a trial, an unusual sentence, and drunken shenanigans on Wizard’s Way.

Osanna: “Maybe this is exactly where you need to be…”

Last out of their jail cell in the morning, the quartet is hauled before a judge and indicted for starting a riot, general violence, and two counts of murder (the knife-wielding thug threatening the young girl and Fosten the Fiery).

Surprisingly, prominent lawyer Osanna Winandus has been hired to represent the party. Apparently, the young girl who was saved by the party’s timely, albeit bloody, involvement at the Marktplatz is the daughter of an important merchant family in town, the Karstadt-Stampfs. Osanna advises them to plead no contest and, after being questioned individually by the judge, they do just that.

A great GM trick for new campaigns, especially with new players (or players with limited experience with rpg’s) is to force a bit of monologue. “Introduce yourselves to one another” or “tell me again how you all know each other” is the simple default way of getting your players talking, but it’s a bit more fun, and more natural in a way, if the game’s narrative prompts a different opportunity.

Here, each of the characters was put on the spot to explain to the court who he was, where he was from, and what business — other than starting a violent riot — he had in Ubersreik.

“Karl Hungus. Care to explain how an erstwhile merchant such as yourself came to develop such an adroit use of the dagger..?

“Kristoff Krowe. You’re a long way from Altdorf. And an even longer distance from the sea. Explain to the court, if you could, how your career path led you to violence in the streets of Ubersreik?

“Beaufort Phett. I don’t suppose you’d care to explain how your business in Ubersreik was served by destroying our Marktplatz?

“And… Godabert Tougan, is it? Bit of an odd name, yeah? Of course, you seem to be a bit of an odd fellow… where are you from again?”

Godabert was the one I really wanted to put on the spot. This player had come up with the most intricate and interesting background, which included a fake name that he had given himself to avoid trouble in his hometown, a little village just outside Stimmigen.

The party is sentenced to a maximum of three years working for the watch. Given the current political turmoil in Ubersreik, and the rising animosity against the “occupying” Altdorfers, the town watch needs all the help it can get.

From the courthouse, the party is led back to The Precinct to meet first with Watch Captain Andrea Pfeiffer and then with their commanding officer, Sergeant Rudi Klumpenklug. They are given light leather armor (stinky) and told to meet Rudi later that evening at The Raspy Raven to discuss their duties, which begin on the morrow.

On the way back to The Red Moon Inn, Godabert takes advantage of his new constabulary status and buys some arrows at Reiniger’s Outfitters. They stop at the Bridge House to post a letter to Jekel care of the Sprinthof coaching inn: “Following leads on Heske Glazer and the Karstadts. Send money.”

Back at the Red Moon, the party tries to strike a deal with Franz. They’ll provide security for the Inn in exchange for free room & board. Franz counters with one small room for the four of them and breakfast, but they’ll have to pay for other meals and drinks. Also — there’s another favor he needs to call in. Details forthcoming. The party agrees.

Decades removed from any kind of GM-ing, and I somehow felt confident enough to not only use the Starter Set’s “Making the Rounds” as a segue into The Enemy Within, but also weave in my own Jekel arch-nemesis storyline, and what the hell throw in the “Red Moon Burning” adventure hook. This wouldn’t be the last time I tangled up multiple plots either…

Party meets Rudi at the Raven and they go over duties: two shifts per day, one from 8 am to noon and a second shift from 10 pm to 2 am.

Then they get drunk and wander around the Artisans’ Quarter late at night looking for the wizard. Finding no way to contact him (let alone a front door), and getting no response to the calls of “Christoooophe… Christoooophe..!” Kris decides to urinate on the base of the tower. Some crazy tendrils of fog coalesce and stream forth from the alleyways threatening to ensnare the miscreants. They scream and run back to the docks.

This was how my intrepid group of investigators decided to follow up on the Glazer/Engels lead. Not at all prepared for an introduction yet (although a tour of the tower and subplots upon subplots were in the works), I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and appropriately they responded to a little shadow magic.

The next morning marks the first day on the job!

Rudi walks them through the beat in the morning and points out suspect alleyways to avoid, shifty lurkers to hassle, good places to scam a snack, etc.

At one point they chase down a pursethief near the north-western part of the Docks. Rudi reclaims the purse, pockets half, and gives the remaining half back to the protesting Tilean victim. Then he breaks the thief’s nose.

Beau loves it, and despite still being sorely aggravated by this forced conscription, starts to see the merits of this line of work. He and Karl start brainstorming ways to take full advantage of their situation and they outline a variety of angles, all at various points along the corruption continuum. Godabert and Kris, on the other hand, are a little more distressed by their sergeant’s behavior, and they privately negotiate with the thief, a young shoe-less kid named Dimzad, to act as a dockside informant. They slip him some pennies and tell him to meet them that night at the RMI.

Based on the scenario, it is important that the party grows to dislike Sergeant Rudi. After this first day on the job, however, half of the players “really like this guy!” This was fine; it just meant I was going to turn him into an even bigger dick as the adventure unfolded. It also gave me some insight into the motivations of some of the party members. That’s always useful.

So here’s what I need you guys to do…

Back at the Red Moon, Franz calls in the “favor.” He tells them about his past as a mercenary captain and officer in the Grudgebringers. Despite hanging up his shield and opting for a quieter life of innkeeping, it seems some of the enemies of his past are intent on a bit of revenge. Specifically, an angry dwarf Trollslayer; agents of a criminal organization from one of the Border Princes; some shadowy under-underworld assassins; and possibly something non-corporeal. Anwyay — Franz has a great plan. He’s going to blow up the inn on his birthday and fake his death. And the party is going to help him!

The party thinks this is ridiculous (because it is), and immediately start spitballing alternate ideas that sound a lot like double-crossing to the objective listener. Why waste a perfectly good tavern? is the prevailing theme. In any case, more insight into the group’s collective mindset proves useful.

“The ceilings are low, and the building has no windows… although most customers are Dwarfs, all folk are welcome.”

A key element of Franz’s bonkers plan is obtaining a bomb, and the party promptly makes plans to spend their afternoon exploring the Dawihafen, Ubersreik’s Dwarven district, for some day-drinking and casual explosive-shopping. They spend the afternoon getting hammered at the Axe & Hammer.

Welcomed into the august establishment after displaying a strong interest in good ale and a penchant for spending every coin they carry, the adventurers soon befriend three Dwarves named Gottri, Slugni, and Frotz. They learn about the sad fate of the once-noble Harataki clan, why you shouldn’t confuse local Borgun’s Brewery with the renowned Bugman’s, and who they should speak to about commissioning a blackpowder device appropriate for their mission.

What this group of characters lack in the healing arts, magic lore, or general innate investigative prowess, they make up for with high Fellowship stats and a knack for high rolls when Charm-ing and Gossip-ing.

More interestingly, they learn more about the fate of Sturgill Reikdrinker, the Dwarf who had been accompanying Lena Bauer before turning up dead in Ubersreik. Sturgill was a fellow Harataki and had spent some time with this trio of Dwarves leading up to his death. He had been asking around for secure passage to Parravon, in Bretonnia, for himself and a companion. When his body washed ashore, the authorities attributed it to a drunken plunge into the Teufel, but these three Dwarves don’t believe it. Sturgill wasn’t a drunk, they insist. But even the Dwarven authorities care little about the Harataki clan, let alone a member who wandered into town with suspicious intentions.

Liquored up and reasonably well-fed, the party suits up, heads to the Raspy Raven, and prepares for the evening beat.

Just shy of midnight, the patrol round a corner from the docks and encounter a building on fire. Despite Rudi’s insistence that “We don’t do fires,” the party agrees to help, quickly organizing a bucket line from the river and help rescue four people trapped inside the first-floor butcher’s shop. While Mr. Fleischman and his wife, the proprietors of the shop, are the most effusive with their thanks, the intuitive Godabert seems much more interested in talking to one Narbe Ditwin, an upstairs tenant who helped put out the blaze. Narbe is suspicious and evasive, but the party abandons that line of questioning when an eyewitness, a small boy, reports that he saw cloaked figures start the fire then get into a fight farther down the street with other shadowy figures.

Upon relaying news of suspected arson to Rudi, who observed these events unfold with a beer in his hand, perched in a nearby storefront, the party’s commanding officer repeats, “We don’t do fires.”

It’s late and all is relatively quiet back at the Red Moon Inn. Beau makes note of some strange scratches — gouges really — in the door framing at the tavern’s entrance. Inside, the party catches Franz lost in thought, standing in the middle of the taproom staring intently at an empty table. After snapping him out of his reverie, Franz mentions that he must be working too hard… keeps thinking he sees something moving around the empty bar. It’s been an eventful first day of work.

Setting the stage for both the initial Skaven attack, and the eventual arrival of a supernatural threat.

But not so fast… the party is alerted to someone or something scurrying around on the roof, and Kris spots a shadow of something dart past their window and descend to the alley below. Naturally, the four investigate…

…and, in the alley behind the Red Moon, they come face-to-furry-face with their first Skaven assassins. There are two of them, but that proves more than a match for the party. Kris narrowly avoids another fatal critical hit; Beau finds his melee rhythm; and Godabert shows off his bowskills. Two dead rat creatures liquefy into a black, stinking mass of putrescence, leaving only some sinister-looking daggers in their wake.

Using Franz as a touchstone, the debrief following this battle allowed me to introduce the players to the “Skavens don’t exist” mentality that is pervasive throughout the Empire. My players had no foreknowledge of the Warhammer world prior to this campaign, save what little they had gleaned from the core rulebook and our aborted attempt at a third-edition game. This became a fun way to explore and talk through aspects of this universe, including why Old Worlders preferred the idea of “furry beastmen” as opposed to thinking, scheming, underground rat-men. “Whatever they are,” announced the Beau player, “they’re terrifying.”

After waking up Franz, and showing him the daggers, the innkeeper confides in the party. He is one of few people who not only believe in the Skaven “myth,” but has faced them himself, most recently during a campaign in Tilea. He surmises that the two assailants were members of Clan Eshin, and the adventurers are lucky to be alive.

The next day, second on the job, proves just as eventful as the first. The morning patrol is fairly boring, save for witnessing a pie merchant getting squeezed by a trio of dockworkers. Rudi advises the party to look away. Godabert struggles mightily against the tug of his moral compass, while Beau couldn’t care less. The other two slot somewhere in-between.

In the afternoon, Kris, Karl, and Beau pick up their fancy custom-tailored leather armor from Finnucci’s, and then they head over to the Bridge House Inn to send another letter to their “real” employer, Jekel.

“Made some high-level contacts. Following magical emanations. Getting closer. Send money.”

It’s worth pointing out that, at this point, the party is intent on double-crossing Jekel by keeping the books (once they find Lena); double-crossing Franz (they would call it “exploring options”) by keeping the Red Moon after the staged death; and straight-up betraying Rudi for being a shitty CO. Plots within plots. Meanwhile, there’s still this whole powder-keg atmosphere in town that needs to be negotiated.

The evening beat is highlighted by a barroom fight. Rudi races the patrol to the Crooked Hammer where a “Conflict of Colors” has broken out: a barehanded brawl involving a group of Ubersreik watchmen, patrons, and a small squad of red-and-blue clad soldiers from Altdorf. The party cools things off by beating up some soldiers, including a pair of fanatics who seem to really love scrapping.

If I ever get around to playing the “Heart of Glass” Ubersreik Adventure, either with this group or a spin-off party, I’ll be excited to take a deeper dive into the Circle of Unmarred Flesh.

Gert Hunder, the bartender who they met the other night, appreciates the party’s timely intervention, particularly as their actions prevented any damage to the bar. Gert tells Godabert, “You have a friend with the Crosses.”

The Godabert player, who had been especially intrigued by the Cult of Ranald background in the core rulebook, had been angling for this from the jump. It’s fun when a player’s interests and motivations line up so well with a storyline.

Once off the clock, Ubersreik’s newest constables take a trip to the Boatsman’s Guild where, thanks to Kris’s smooth-talking and charming personality, the quartet is allowed entrance to the taproom for drinks, idle gossip, and juicy intel.

Sturgill the dwarf? Yeah, he had been here asking about passage to Bretonnia. Nervous little feller. Speaking of Bretonnia, did you guys hear about the attack at the Chapel of the Grail? Some rogues thrashed the place the other night; Sir Pierre was seriously wounded. Pierre? Oh he’s that Bretonnian knight who’s so chummy with the wizard. Pierre also has been working with Ernst Zimmerman on a custom barge over at the Chandler’s Guild. Who’s Zimmerman? Why, he’s the head of the Carpenter’s Guild, of course. Wow, you guys really are new in town! It’s late now, but you should come back when Karsten Rugger, the guildmaster, is around. He’d love talking to you chaps!

I know, too much information too quickly. And intel from a variety of plotlines, no less. But these guys kept nailing their gossip tests! The players may have been left with more questions than answers, but I was happy to end this session by seeding so many clues related to the disappearance of Lena.

Even just a few days on the job, and you four are beginning to develop a routine: wake up bleary-eyed before 8am; scarf down breakfast and a brew; and head out for your morning rounds with Rudi, content to mostly hassle loiterers and kick vagrants. After a midday nap, you’re fortified for the exceedingly more interesting nightly rounds, and the information-gathering that follows.

This morning you all are exceptionally foggy, and not just because of the late-night drinking at the Boatmen’s Guild. So much information to keep straight… leads on Lena’s disappearance go through Heske Glazer to the wizard, involve an expatriate dwarf and his connections to the Lost Hold of the Harataki, and may even connect to an unseen manipulator that landed you on the Watch in the first place. 

Then your landlord and patron, Franz Lohner, asked you to help him blow up the Red Moon Inn and assist in faking his death. That’s a crazy plan. But an appearance of Skaven assassins seems to discount paranoia. Who else is after him?

And who really killed the fire-breather? What are those brawl-obsessed Altdorfers up to? What’s Rudi’s deal anyway? Why is Godabert so annoying? Who’s burning butcher shops? Who fucking ransacks a chapel? Is this just how shit goes around here?

You don’t say more than a few words to each other in the morning, exhausted as you all are, but you each seem to be cognizant that you’re all similarly addled, wrestling with the same questions. There will be time to talk this through after that delicious nap. 

As you head downstairs, slowly pulling on various pieces of clothing and armor, you’re stopped by Johann, the cook. Instead of saying anything (or offering you some food), he points to one of the booths on the south side of the taproom. Sitting there, hungrily sopping up the last of his fish & potato stew with a crust of bread, is Sergeant Rudi Klumpenklug. Standing next to him, eyes on the four of you, is a steely-eyed, clean-shaven man well over two meters tall. His wide-brimmed hat, plumed with feathers in the colors of Ubersreik, and his impeccably maintained burnished leather, indicate that he is a figure of some authority. The long-barrelled polished pistols that are strapped around his ribcage indicate that he means business.

“I can see why you kids like this place. Even cold, this is a tasty stew.” Rudi wipes his face with the back of his sleeve, gulps down the last of his ale, and stands up. “Figured we’d be better off meeting here, rather that at the Custom House. My associate here is Sergeant Lief Mair, an investigator with the Watch.

“There’s been another killing along your beat, lads. Body found just outside the Hammer by the morning patrol. Particularly nasty. So Sergeant Mair and I have a few questions.

“Beginning with… what happened to you lot after the brawl last night?”