Friday, February 27, 2015

Comments on Shadows over Bogenhafen (Enemy Within pt2)

Continuing with the Enemy Within theme, I am going to discuss part two of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Shadows Over Bogenhafen by Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra, and Phil Gallagher. This adventure takes place entirely within a city.

The adventure starts with an extended opener where the players explore a fair. Eventually, a mutant escapes and runs into the sewers. The PCs are made to chase down the mutant and on the way they run into some unexpected demonic activity. From there, the adventure changes format from fairly linear/forced to an open cityscape. There is a large, labeled map of all the possibly important sites for the adventure.

The adventure details Bogenhafen in much greater detail than the how Altdorf was described in Mistaken Identity. Additionally, I feel the adventure actually takes advantage how well described the city is. The different labeled locations are spread widely about, which helps building city atmosphere while also providing ample opportunity for the many non-location based encounters surrounding the strange Chaos cult.

This turns out to allows for a really fun and interesting structure used in this adventure for keeping the "plot" going. There is a long list of timed or possible encounters to keep the players interested in the actual mystery at hand. I really enjoy this as a way of allowing for non-static location-tied hooks/encounters to be integrated with the easier to run location-based adventures. These essentially fill in the space normally occupied by random combat encounters.

One of the best parts inspiration-wise from this adventure was the total number of labeled map parts. Following a similar execution approach as an earlier Dark Heresy game I ran, this is a great example of how to set up a much more extended investigation game.

This strategy for running an adventure is akin to an adventure video game or well labeled sandbox game. Essentially, the PCs know everywhere they might want to go but they don't necessarily begin with any reason why. This is totally how I'm running the basic structure of my next game. It is very similar, ultimately, to the pointcrawl approach that is best represented by the Slumbering Ursine Dunes.

A final cute touch at the end of the module is the extended section on what to do if the players fail to stop the cults activities and Bogenhafen gets destroyed.

Here's another pretty picture from the module.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My reject LotFP item

Donvel leipertand

This item is a tooth. It is a dull grey human- or bear-like molar covered in fine black indecipherable scroll work. When the scroll work is observed by a hallucinating person it appears to be a mass of ever moving and dilating squiggles that appear to crawl from the tooth onto anything touching it.

To attempt to harness the power of the tooth it must be inserted into the bloody socket of a freshly extracted molar (upper or lower). When first inserted, the user must make a save versus poison (at -2) or suddenly start rotting dramatically as their gums start melting, their facial skin starts drooping slightly, and their tongue begins to putrefy. Once inserted, the tooth cannot be removed until the bearer dies.

Every week with the tooth in place, the bearer must make a save versus poison. On failure, the bearer takes 2d4+1 damage and continue to rots and decays as above with the corrupting influence growing outward from the tooth. On success, half damage and the corruption is less obvious/extensive.

If the bearer has failed 5 saves and is not yet dead, they melt and transforms into a boneless blob of flesh. They loose all class levels, XP, and abilities. The blob is a large lumpy mass the color of the bearers flesh. They loose all features except for a large weeping eye. The blob is able to move around by is all but unable to interact with its environment. The life of the blob is one of pure misery.

If the bearer has succeeded at 5 saves and is not yet dead, they transform into a demon from the outer realms. Their eyes are replaced by obsidian spheres, their hands turn to claws (1d8 natural attack, counts as magic), their skin thickens and hardens (+2 AC), and they grow large horns from their head. Their skin is now a shell surrounding pure void space. They no longer take wounds in the same way, and instead all damage manifests as cracks in their surface.

When the tooth is inserted, the bearer gains a couple powers. First, they can speak in the form of pure darkness which scars and destroys humanoid flesh. All humanoids that can hear the bearer's voice must make a save versus breath weapon. On a failed save, listeners must take 2d4+2 damage as their skin is almost evaporates from their body. On a successful save listeners take half damage.

Second, the bearer can corrupt humanoid flesh via touch. Once per week, when the bearer touches a humanoid the target must make save versus spell or suffer a permanent mutation. Use the following table to randomly generate the mutation or as inspiration.
1d8 Mutation
1 Eyes melt and are replaced with compound insect eyes.
2 Skin begins to sag, turns putrid green, and emits a horrible smell.
3 Left or right hand transforms into a crab claw.
4 Leg becomes tentacle. Can still support weight.
5 Large but weak month's wings grow out of their back.
6 Target losses all their hair. Their head grows a smattering of black scales.
7 Teeth fall out and entire mouth replaced by a flat beak.
8 Hands turn black, develop thick leathery skin with webbed fingers.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Enemy Within (WFRP) module commentary

A few months ago I picked up a copy of the first two chapters in the Enemy Within module series for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition. My copy is the 1988 hardback combining the two adventures that I picked off of Ebay.

While I haven't run either of these adventures, my plan was to provide a few comments and design ideas I realized while reading through them. First, The Enemy Within.
I love the layout of the WFRP 1st modules. The module is broken into
  • GM advice and travel information
  • History
  • Political structure
  • Religion
  • Geography
  • Military
  • Dress/Herbs
  • Adventure
  • Mutants
  • Calendar
All in 56 pages! And it even comes with 6 pre-gen characters and 7 handouts (my favorite).

Cover of the Enemy Within! So gorgeous!

The adventure (PCs are mistaken for someone and tracked by bounty hunter) is rather lackluster as a "main plot". I would much rather use something like this as the "B Plot" that crops up time to time and makes the PCs lives more complicated. A lot of this adventure requires the PCs not being able to catch the bounty hunter or some degree of distraction to make it really work (the PCs aren't supposed to figure out why the bounty hunter is hunting the mistaken identity).

It is, though, a great example of a how to run that kind of sub-plot. I've had a hard time pulling off multiple story lines with different weights simultaneously. What is happening in Planescape right now is that there are essentially two main goals: find the receptacle of modron knowledge and destroy the Ring of Lot-Var, both in the Mines of Marseillan on Acheron. Though the ring will need to be recovered from a different plane first.

The emotional weight of both these plots are approximately equal. This adventure provides an example of how to write a low emotional investment adventure that can act as a great way of annoying the PCs during an important moment. For example, the PCs might be trying to sneak in to some temple when suddenly hired arms attack them for some completely unknown reason. Or the bounty hunter has some kind of trap set up from them in their rooms at the inn when they really need a long rest. This might even be a great way of including some amount of faction or political group intrigue without getting in the way of the main story or thing of interest.

This is something I'm going to try and include in a future game.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Brief forays into the grim darkness of the 41st millenium

Recently, we played two sessions of Dark Heresy 1st edition. One adventure was a mystery scenario, and the other was an investigate scenario. The first adventure only had two players plus me as GM, and the second had 3 plus me as GM.
I've played Dark Heresy a few times back when I lived in Australia 3-4 years ago. It was really nice breaking out the book again. The players loved the incredible amount of art present in the book along with the general feel. Dark Heresy is extremely effective at producing genre feel. All players, for the most part, know what is going on.

Reading a 40k description aloud.

I started both sessions with reading the 3-4 paragraph universe description present in the main book. It is a great bit of fluff/text that with every word the players are brought one more step deeper into the universe. I found doing this really helped with creating the mood. I also spent a lot of time at the beginning of the adventure describing the different locations and travel, though this shifted into more standard descriptions as soon as the actual "adventure" started.
The mystery adventure worked a lot better than the investigation. The former involved a lot of player choice in a small freedom zone while the later felt very linear in player action. I found the success in the mystery adventure came from using a map.
When the players arrived in the section of interest in the Hive, I gave the group a map with all the locations of potential interest labeled. This meant that the players could go anywhere that mattered right away and I could always be prepared. This also meant that the breadcrumbs were inherently non-linear, meaning a clue might not have meant anything until multiple encounters later. And not by design! This is totally something I'm using again.
When I ran a more tactical game, I know I made huge maps so that the players were essentially doing a round by round dungeon crawl, fighting all of it simultaneously. It sped a lot up. It also coincided to when I started just giving the players the "to-hit" values of all enemies, something I've kept doing for 5 years now.
Have you ever just given the adventure map to the players at the start of the active adventuring period?