Monday, March 26, 2012

Stuff I Would Like to Run

The Student Nationals are coming up in a few weeks time and I am hastily prepping my scenario, Vessels. It's a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition scenario, and I will not say anymore about it for now, though I've some vague notion of publishing it on my site for posterity after the Nationals, along with some of the amusing PCs I created.

I ran a playtest of it this weekend in lieu of our regular WFRP 3E game and it was a lot of fun despite the fact only 1/2 the scenario was statted and written (though I was using monsters out the books, except in one case).

It overran dangerously, but our group is prone to much faffing and silliness. This session was no different, but there was significant character development for every PC, which is difficult to do in a one-off, as well as 3-4 combats - including one very memorable one where the missus managed to mind-control a very, very powerful monster in such a way as the other PCs made mince-meat of it.

The only real rub was we only had 5 players, and I had designed the scenario for 6-7, including hastily genning one of the PCs the night before.

This means I've been bitten by the DMing bug, and there are a couple of WFRP campaigns I've got real interested in running. Sadly my only outlet is our WFRP3E game, which is a lot fun, but lately I seem to count down the days til our next game. I do plan to do a review of the system here (it is a bizarre experimental hybrid of board/card game and RPG) but the following factors have prevented me:-

a) It'd be -very- long.
b) It'd be fairly negative, though I've thought of some positive things to say - most of the 3 WFRP3E scenarios I've played or read have seemed pretty good. The only real let-down was, ironically, the major campaign boxed set we played through, though it's not the first WFRP scenario to have those flaws.
c) I worry my DM might hit me with a stick as he has probably invested £200+ (seriously, this is not a cheap game) in buying most of Fantasy Flight Games's shiny but shallow boxed sets and has every right to feel defencive of the system.
d) I don't own it, beyond some pdfs I've pulled off the web.

In the mean time I've become quite keen on WFRP2E. In addition to my playtest I ran an old converted scenario, Night of Blood at one of the Derby meetups I actually managed to make. The system holds up quite well, and I've a hankering to run a proper campaign, though that may wait until I finally get a bigger place to live with a games room. But here they are:-

The Dying of the Light

Mine! Mine I say!
I won this module at the Student Nationals in the late 90s when it was held in Glasgow for being the team leader and for us coming 2nd/3rd/4th or something I've long since forgotten. I presume Hogshead provided the prize support. Since no-one else claimed it, it sat on my shelf for years until I started buying the WFRP2E line. It seems to have accumulated significant value on Ebay.

Tangent 1: Not that I plan to part with it - it's mine, MINE, and was probably the only thing I ever got, in lieu of actual gratitude for being DURPS president and organising the society's nationals trip at a time when I had no car, much less a sat-nav and the only driver in the club who'd give me a lift didn't know where Glasgow was. One fellow even wanted an impromptu election at the Nationals to take the post of president off me when it looked like we might actually win, which was gratitude for ya and cemented my "take a hike you ingrates" attitude towards any overtures to get me back on the committee. Anyway, rant over. I didn't feel bad about keeping the module.

This is actually a set of linked adventures by different authors set in Marienburg and the Wasteland, Warhammer's answer to Amsterdam and the Netherlands. It's an interesting scenario as it gives the DM a lot of free-reign in running the scenario. A lot of the text is very conversational, "You might want to do this... if they do this, consider having maguffin behave like X, Y or Z, depending on which you think is more interesting"

It's fairly short (probably it would take 3-4 months of weekly play), but relatively epic in scope. There's some weird goings on in Marienburg, some talk of an eclipse of the sun by the Chaos moon and the city being destroyed. The heroes are drafted in through a rather long prologue that tries to leave the "you meet a man in a bar and he hires you to do the scenario" cliche behind, but instead assumes you've given the PCs a hook to go look up an NPC... who begs them to do the scenario. I'd probably tinker with this - there's some good Marienburg stuff in Warpstone to kick off this campaign with.

There's some crazy stuff in this module. Very little of it is set in the city, it is mainly a wilderness trek with a few rural encounters and sinister apocolyptic tones. One long-banished Warhammer/Heroquest monster makes a welcome entry in a particularly apocolyptic chapter of the scenario that I'm amazed made it past Games Workshop's sanctioning nazis as not only does it feature these creatures but it references Malal, a chaos god that Games Workshop technically do not own copyright on.

Some of Dying of the Light's maguffins are a bit suspect. There's a NPC that certain more psychotic players will want to murder (and only vague suggested consequences for doing so). There's the old magic compass maguffin, basically leading the PCs by the nose. Aside from the fact the writers forgot the PCs might try to triangulate their intended destination it suffers from the old RPG trope of being told "this trail/map/ is the safest route to your destination" and discovering it leads you through a series of suspiciously planned encounters and ambushes. It's pretty easy to fix that plothole in the scenario though.

Another downside is that it is a WFRP1E supplement (although 1E and 2E are pretty easy to convert on the fly. Don't get me started about 3E though!). Perhaps the last disappointment is this is for 2nd career characters. In WFRP you often start with a random and often pretty lame career - such as Rat Catcher or Servant (though WFRP2E wittled this away by making most careers fairly combat-orientated, nobles were no longer fops but deadly fencers, and WFRP3E starting characters are all superpowered gurus). Your 2nd career is typically chosen by you and is a more "adventurer" career. It's also typically when you finally get spells if you are a priest, or decent spells if you are a wizard.

The Thousand Thrones

The rather spiffy cover is actually a pretty major spoiler.
The Thousand Thrones is an epic, sprawling beast of a campaign taking PCs from Marienburg into the Empire, and eventually into the distant north. It was designed to use a lot of the WFRP 2nd Edition sourcebooks, such as the Kislev sourcebook. In many ways it is the WFRP 2nd Edition to the Enemy Within - although this is one book with numerous web-enhancements, rather than a series of books.

Set shortly after the Storm of Chaos (a large wargame event that saw Chaos overwhelm the north of the Empire and a possible reincarnation of the Emperor-God Sigmar managed to defeat its leader at the cost of his own life) this is one of the few Warhammer 2nd Edition scenarios that actively builds upon the events of that campaign rather than generically paying lip-service as part of Games Workshop's edicts at the time.

Tangent: It's worth noting the designers of WFRP suggested they make the rulebook setting neutral (i.e. pre-Storm of Chaos) and release books and adventures to handle the Storm of Chaos. Lead designer Chris Pramas suggested options for letting you play before the Storm, one during and one in the Age of the Three Emperors, but no, Games Workshop knows best. Incidentally the new WFRP is set before the Storm of Chaos.

A possible new incarnation of Sigmar has come to prominence, and has been blessed by the exiled Grand Theogonist Esmer. The PCs must chase after this charismatic avatar, leading to all sorts of interesting scenarios. It's a complete 256-page campaign crammed with information (the font size is criminally small) that could easily take a year or so to play through (though the campaign could end earlier depending on player decisions). I mananged to get it for about £15 on Ebay so I'm giggling.

In many ways it calls back to Dying of the Light. It is written by several authors and each chapter is a mini-scenario in itself. It begins in Marienburg but sends the PCs away chasing a maguffin fairly early on. It is probably best not played by ultra-lawful characters (no zealots, witch hunters and fire-brand wielding priests of Sigmar) as some of the maguffins involve working with Chaos infected characters.

There is a good mix of investigation and combat, though I'm only really familiar with the first half of the campaign. The ending of the campaign is notoriously rotten, resembling a player-killer dungeon crawl. Also like Dying of the Light the beginning scenario assumes the PCs are somehow already involved in events and does not provide more than basic hooks to get the PCs involved in the scenario - it is largely left up to the Dungeon Master and the player to play ball.

I listened to this being played on the RPGMP3 website. This is run by an exasparated Brit expatriate and played by a group dominated by Texans who sound like Yosemite Sam and really, really struggle with the more intellectual and investigative aspects of the scenario. Worryingly they remind me of when I was 17 and 'trying' to play Call of Cthulhu. It also highlights to me why the DM must have razor sharp adamantium hooks to ensure the PCs remain motivated to investigate the maguffin of the scenario.

This is not a ready to run campaign on its own, unlike earlier WFRP 2nd Edition scenarios. The Thousand Thrones as provided is a reasonably interesting campaign but significant tinkering is required to keep it on track, particularly if the characters go off track.

There is substantial online support and advice on tinkering. One of the authors, Jude Hornburg, has released several online supplements for it and it's nice to see as some WFRP 2nd Edition felt a bit 'churned out' by freelancers (like the ubiquitous Robert J. Schwalb, who wrote many of the more so-so supplements as well as the much criticised end to this scenario. Though to be fair he is credited with also coming up with the interesting central concept). Jude's latest effort will include an introductory scenario that actually gives the PCs hooks to follow the rest of the campaign.

Own Stuff

For a while I've been tossing around a WFRP2E campaign idea I came up with called "The Ruinous Powers That Be" when overdosing on George RR Martin stuff. I've actually written most of the first scenario up as a full PDF, with the second scenario being . At once point I considered making the 2nd scenario my Nationals scenario, but as the category I'm running in is "Action" chasing drug-dealers and phantoms around the hills didn't really seem classically action enough.

The other campaign idea I've been tossing around is a Bretonnian campaign where the PCs all play downtrodden peasants, based on Graeme MacNeill's story, Freedom’s Home or Glory’s Grave with a smattering of Robin of Sherwood, Edgar Allen Poe and the French revolution thrown in.

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