Friday, 30 March 2007

Help wanted (5)

"Greta, I have to see you again. My bethroted suspects foul play. Contact me at The Priest's Rest so that we can finish our business before the wedding."

- Note pinned to a door of a disreputable tavern in the Reikhoch Bezirk.

Not all help wanted signs are posted because someone is looking for help from the characters. You can use notes and posters to give your players clues into what is going on in the capital and to foreshadow coming events. Notes like the one above can also raise a lot of questions that makes the players think and to pay attention to what's happening around them. Is someone planning a wedding? Can they find out who's getting married? Can they profit from the information gleaned from the note?


Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Horror is not a monster

Today I woke to the distant cries of terrified men and women. The killer the news sheets have named Heartless Jochen has struck again. Now his morbid collection of human hearts number six; three men and three women have fallen to his blade. All have been killed in the Friedwang Bezirk, and all within the month of Nachexen of this year of Chaos. Why does he crave the hearts of other men and women? What is he doing with his trophies? And who is he, this cold blooded murderer? A mutant? A follower of Kaine? Or the Blood God? I hope and pray that the City Watch will find this man ... before someone else loses his heart to Heartless Jochen.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Nachexen 18, 2522 IC

On the BI forums, Whymme asked for input for a horror adventure he is putting together. You can read the thread here. There are many great ideas in the thread, so it's well worth a read. Basically the question was; what could possess someone to commit six gruesome murders, and harvest the victims' hearts in order to perform a ritual of some kind? I posted to the thread, but then decided to post my answer here as well, and expand somewhat on it.

Lets look at little bit at the horror element. One of my favourite roleplaying games is Call of Cthulhu. The structure of the game as well as the rules seems to be a perfect fit for my style of writing adventures and my style of game mastering. I'm probably a better game master for Cthulhu than for WFRP. So I try to carry much of that style over into my WFRP campaigns, which means an extensive use of common and ordinary NPCs with trivial and even petty motivations.

It is when these motivations lead to actions that are disproportional to the severity of any events experienced by the NPC that a potential for close and personal horror is created. For example, if an NPC's motive is to get drunk, and he is refused a tankard of beer at his local pub because he looks like he's already had enough, and this in turn leads to him kidnapping and torturing the pub owner and his family, that is inexplicable horror in its purest essence.

It can't be easily explained and it can't simply be blamed on Chaos, demons or monsters that come from the sewers. Sure, there are monsters in WFRP and in Call of Cthulhu, horrible and evil monsters ... but we already know that they do horrible and evil things. So the horror of their actions is less effective at creating a sense of dread than similar actions committed by a perfectly normal person, for trivial reasons.

So for the hypothetical situation mentioned in the beginning, I'd base the motive behind the murders and the harvesting of the hearts on an unfortunate sequence of trivialities. The motive is revenge, and this craving for revenge comes from a number of slights against the murderers pride and honour. Most of the offenses are imagined but some are real, and have been going on for many years. Finally, the imagined humiliation has become too much, and now only bloody revenge will wipe the slate clean.

For this, our villain needs the hearts of seven people; three men and three women who has affronted him and one innocent child to close the deal, and all under a dying moon. So all killings must occur under the span of a waxing and waning moon. If the last killing is done under specific circumstances, the ritual will be fulfilled and a plague of demons will descend on the town. Under one night the murderer will be given free command of the horde to wreak his revenge ... and then he will be given to the lord of slaughter. The killer is aware of the price he has to pay, and will gladly lay down his life for bloody revenge.

So what could have offended a person enough to hatch a scheme like this?

Just about anything trivial. Getting short changed at the market, buying a pig that turned ill and died the next day, being refused a tankard of beer at the local tavern, even just getting an odd look or a taunt from a child, or a request for a romantic meeting declined ... there are thousands of trivial things that might be eternally important for a person like our murderer. And which might be enough to push him over the edge.

For the plot like this to work I think it would have to be set in a fairly large city, like Altdorf, Middenheim or Nuln. The reason for this is that there should be a logical possibility for the murderer to aquire texts on demon summonings from a university, bookshop or a library without getting too much exposure. At the same time this will serve as a path of clues for the characters to find the villain as well as a logical explanation as to where his knowledge of the occult came from. Of course, you can always use demonic influence to explain his new found knowledge, but I prefer his actions to be an active choice, rather than an outside corrupting influence. This makes the crimes more horrible, in my mind.

As I mentioned earlier I think that having lots of NPCs for the characters to interact with is important. For a scenario like this it becomes even more important, since basically the only way the characters can find the murderer is by talking to lots of people, each giving them a small piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Paradoxically this means that the plot should be set in an easily defined area of a town or city, such as a district in Altdorf or Middenheim, to give the characters a sporting chance of encountering all these people. It’s only through painstaking investigation that the truth about Heartless Jochen can be known, and the horror of the dance macabre be averted.


Monday, 26 March 2007

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Gossips and Rumour Mongers

I am giddy with excitement! I have found an indespensible source of information on Altdorf life! She is called Alte Elsa and lives in the Drecksack Slums where she spends her days gossiping with each and every person that gets within earshot. She’s been sitting in the same place for as long as anyone can remember, and probably knows more about the inhabitants of the slums than any other person alive, and can be a fountain of information about the current goings on as well as the history of the neighbourhood. If you can understand her ramblings and stand her insane cackling, that is. I find myself drawn to her as a moth to fire, and have made it a habit of visiting her once or twice every week for new information about the inhabitants of the slums and their seedier practices.

Adolphus Altdorfer, 2522 IC

For an academic such as Altdorfer, the discovery of Alte Elsa must be a gift from the gods. But she can be a useful source of information for most characters as well. And even though she is situated in the slums, she can often provide information about the noble class as well as they make their illicit affairs far away from the bright lights of the court.


Thursday, 22 March 2007

Help wanted (4)

"Do you know Paul von Meier? Ten crowns for salicious information. Contact Hermann Fœgel at The Ruddy Wench, Niederhafen Bezirk."

- Poster passed around in the taverns of the Werksviertel Bezirk.

There is always someone looking for information about someone else, or about their affairs of various sundry natures. They might offer rewards for gossip, or employ spies or bounty hunters. What the people do with the information varies, but blackmail for favours is fairly common among the aristocracy of Altdorf, as is using information to thwart business competitors.


Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Gossip (4)

"Perfume hides the reek of mutation. A good stench keeps Chaos away! And you know who use a lot of perfume, don't you? Yes, that's right, the nobles!"

- An exchange between a pig farmer and a butcher at the Fuhrmarkt. Judging from the smell the farmer was not at risk of being accused of being in league with Chaos ...

Contrary to popular myth many inhabitants of the Old World tries to keep themselves reasonably clean. Soap is readily available, and can be scented or plain. There are even public bathhouses in the major cities, such as The Marble Baths in Altdorf.

But of course, this being the Old World, there are other ideas as well, such as the one expressed by the pig farmer above. And who knows, it might be true. Stranger things are part of common day life in the Old World.


Update to Garibaldi and Fahber

Those of you who downloaded the write up of Grim Garibaldi and Thomas Fahber might want to download them again. I've corrected two mistakes I discovered while creating the stats. Grim Garibaldi didn't have the bonus to S that his Very Strong talent gives him and Fahber had a skill misspelled.


Friday, 16 March 2007

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Beer in Altdorf

One of the most common beverages in the Empire is beer. In the old times the most common place of manufacture was in the homes of farmers and others with ready access to the basic ingredients water, barley and hops. During the last hundred years or so this tradition has changed, and as the cities of the Empire grow the process of brewing beer changes. Now it is far more common to find larger breweries in the cities delivering beer to nearby inns and taverns, or innkeepers with the necessary skills brewing their own beer. There are over a thousand dedicated breweries in the Empire, and a dozen in Altdorf.

Altdorf Brewery

One of the major changes to the brewing of beers was the Reinheitsgebot, passed by Emperor Luitpold in 2499 in celebration of his enlightened rule and the coming decennium. The new controversial purity law dictated that beer must be made up of water, barley and hops and no other ingredients and quickly divided the Empire in two schools of thought; urban and rural. In the countryside the law is considered a dictatorial whim of the ruling elite, whereas people in the cities embrace it as an important step in the development of the art of brewing beer.

Some of the secrets of the dwarfs have been revealed to the Imperial beer makers, but much of the dwarfish knowledge of the process of brewing beer is a closely guarded secret. Even though I have made enquiries with the dwarfen community I have been met solely by silence laced with hostility. Suffice it to say that true dwarfish beer is only served in the dwarfish taverns in Altdorf.

There are a variety of different styles of beer in the Empire and in Altdorf. Some of the most famous are of course the Bugman varieties, Seamu's Lager, Korben's Finest and Keigel's Natural Pig Swill but the most popular brands in the capital are Burgomeister's Brew (a pale, light-bodied, top-fermented beer), Altdorfer Alt (dark amber, hoppy), Imperial Stout (which is imported from the Moot), Altdorfer Weisse (pale, very sour, top-fermented wheat beer), Dunkel Schwarzbier (bottom-fermented, dark lager), Wissenland Hefeweizen (creamy texture and sweet flavour), Marienburger Alt (clean, crisp flavour), Kaiser Franz Märzen (malty flavor balance, an amber range of colour) and Border Princes Lager (bottom-fermented and very dark). The alcohol content is usually between 5% and 6% for most traditional brews, but some brands (most notably Dunkel Schwarzbier) have an alcohol content of up to 15%, making them stronger than many wines.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Festag, Nachexen 12, 2522 IC

Monday, 12 March 2007

Regarding NPCs

There is much hidden beneath the surface of Altdorf. Many people are not what they seem to be, and something is amiss in the capital. Maybe it is fear of the Storm of Chaos that haunts us and turns our thoughts to survival ... towards betrayal. "Save me ... save me, but take the rest" seems to be the prevailing theme that rears its ugly head late at night when the wretched gather over a tankard of beer or a glass of sherry. We all have our secrets and maybe, just maybe this will be our downfall. For who knows which hand holds the dagger, and who knows when the blow will fall ... all I know is that The Enemy Within will be our downfall. Tomorrow, next week or next year. It will be our downfall!

Adolphus Altdorfer
Konistag, Nachexen 10, 2522 IC

When I add NPCs to the blog I expand the gallery of potential allies for the characters. But it is important to also note that almost every NPC can instead become an enemy. Even though nothing tangible is mentioned regarding this in the descriptions of the NPCs so far, of those presented three are liaised with the Chaos Lords or the Skaven Vermin in my campaign. For my style of play this is something subtle, something that lurks in the background only to be discovered after the characters have formed a connection to a person. Only then is it possible to shock and surprise the players. If everyone is an obvious cultist, then much of what makes WFRP my favourite game is lost.

So who are the culprits? Well except for Old Hattie it's up to you to decide for now. I will reveal more about the shadier dealings of my supporting cast as my blog continues, but remember one thing; just because they are bad people does not necessarily mean that they are allied with the Chaos Storm ...

Well, at least not knowingly allied, that is.


Saturday, 10 March 2007

Thank you Grim Jesta!

Few things are as fulfilling as knowing that what I create will be used by other gamers at their tables. So when Grim Jesta yoinked one of my NPCs and left a comment, I really felt that this blogging thing could work out. So as a thanks to Grim Jesta for being the first person to leave a comment at my blog, I created Grim Garibaldi Narrmeister to bring the grim jester into my campaign. Hope you enjoy the NPC, Grim!


Grim Garibaldi Narrmeister

Grim Garibaldi Narrmeister