Friday, June 4, 2010

The Gathering Storm part I: A Bridge Too Far

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Our gaming crew has been playing the new Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP 3e), and have been having a blast.  Last night we started up a new adventure campaign titled "The Gathering Storm!"

I should mention that character creation was totally random rolls for race/career/etc.  Nevertheless we ended up with three dwarves and a human, making for a lot of derogatory 'manling' jokes and general dwarfishness during play.  The classes are a reserved Huntsman (Fignor Rafflefrank), a noble Thief (Fulthor Ironbeard), a wealthy Barber/Surgeon (Drogar Hammerhand), and a bookish Agent (Gunter Von Graf).

The Barber/Surgeon, the perfect time-saving occupation that lets you keep your dwarf beard trimmed while getting your lances boiled and wounds leached at the same time.

The PCs had just returned to Ubersreik after surviving a troll hunt and escaping an ancient trap-filled crypt  [GM Note: Which I based off of the "Bonehoard" level of 'Thief: The Dark Project', and where I incorporated starvation rules into play (to limited enthusiasm).]  In this case they were flush with their 'recovered' golden artifacts and pure giddyness to be alive, and so spent quite a bit of time (one month game-time) spending their newfound gold and partying like rock stars.  Note that after they turned all their treasures into hard coin, I roughly calculated their average party 'standard of living' level (based on what wealth level they took at character creation), and demanded that they had to spend at least 2 gold crowns each in the next five (real-time) minutes, and whatever they didn't spend I said they'd lose to partying and whoring.  Then I very obviously started my stopwatch.

They had no trouble spending the money, and in fact they one-upped me by spending even more money and buying kegs of Thunderwater Ale and hearty dwarven sausages and sauerkraut to throw a huge party for all the regulars at their preferred Ubersreik dive bar, "The Drunken Troll."  The revelry lasted all night and the constabulary broke up no fewer than three fistfights and one particularly drunken contest of some kind involving a fish and a pair of very dirty pantaloons.


The next day the sole human in the party, Gunter Von Graf, decided to check in on his wealthy cousin while he was in town, the good Lord Rickard Aschaffenburg.  Lord Aschaffenburg originally hired the dwarves and Gunter to look into possible cultist activity amongst the servantry at his summer lodge in the forest to the north of Ubersreik [the PC's first Campaign - "An Eye for an Eye"], which resulted in his trusted coachman going insane, a soul-drinking daemon rampaging through the property, the lodge going up in a potato-vodka fueled inferno, and sixteen dead servants and guards.  Aschaffenburg wasn't too keen on the dwarves after that. Nevertheless, Gunter was family, so Aschaffenburg agreed to meet with him.

During their discussion Aschaffenburg mentioned to Gunter that the Merchant Guild was actively searching for one of their missing traveling merchants, Florian Weschler, who had gone missing a few weeks earlier while traveling north to Stromdorf.  This name is familiar to Gunter as Weschler was an old family friend, and he had seen him not a month before when they were returning to Ubersreik.  Gunter quickly agreed to seek out Weschler, provided the Merchant Guild was willing to fund the expedition.

The "overhead map" where we record the party's travels.  

Being a party of primarily dwarves, they didn't have any desire to ride horses or travel in boats, and so Gunter was forced to travel as dwarves do, by slowly marching along the road to Stromdorf.  During their journey, the group's hunter, Fignor Rafflefrank, caught wind of horses coming up the road.  The party took shelter in the woods and watched as infamous mercenaries belonging to Grimbold's Gutbusters stopped nearby to discuss the dwarf tracks they found.  The party quickly realized the mercs were searching for them, likely to steal their newfound (and well-advertised) wealth!  Fignor led the party cross-country through the woods, avoiding mercenary patrols, and finally to the rickety eastern Stromdorf bridge that they had to use to cross the River Tuefel and get to Stromdorf.

Unfortunately, a storm was brewing as they approached the bridge, and the light rain made the dwarves easier to track.  As they approached the bridge the party heard horses coming from behind them and saw six fully-armed and armored mercenaries riding straight towards them!  [GM Note: This is where I changed the background music to one of the "Nature sounds" storm tracks I got off of iTunes for just such an occasion, and pulled out the "Storm Tracker" card that came with the Gathering Storm boxed set.  It worked great.  One of my players, Chris, took some pictures of the subsequent combat and added some sweet rainstorm photoshop effects.]

Nothing like wet dwarves to liven up an encounter!

Gunter had no trouble deciding to run for his life (he's the one carrying the torch in the aforementioned picture series), leaving the dwarves to stomp through the muddy road behind him (and between him and the mercs).  Gunter's long human legs quickly carried him to the bridge, but the fates were against him as his hasty crossing and miserable luck (rolled a *Chaos Star!*) caused the rickety bridge the begin to buckle, and Gunter promptly fell in.  Gunter's player, Steve, is one of those dice-rollers that the GM can count on to roll the critical failure at the perfect plot-inspired time, such that I don't even need to account for any other outcome.  Steve has further described his character's harrowing adventure here.  Needless to say, Gunter fell into the river.
Gunter falls in the river right on que as the bridge starts to collapse.

The dwarves for their part tried to fight off the first couple of mercs that rode up, but being caught in the open against veteran soldiers on horseback and getting a few nasty blows to the head lead them to make the same decision as Gunter.  Two dwarves crossed the (now partially collapsed) bridge without difficulty, but Drogar was not so lucky.  Falling into the river in his newly-purchased plate-and-chain armor the poor dwarf sank like a stone, though was barely able to pull himself into the weeds just before he passed out from exhaustion (passed the Hard Athletics Check -- 3 purple dice + 1 armor penalty dice + 1 black dice that I like to call the 'dwarf-in-water' penalty, but got a couple banes).  The noble Thief quickly pulled him to safety and performed dwarven CPR (which I envision as just yelling at him to wake up).

Gunter, on the other hand, was quickly being pulled down river as the storm surge grew [each failed Hard Athletics check moved him 1 range increment down river and caused 2 fatigue].  Running alongside the river, Fignor fired a rope-arrow toward Gunter in a last-ditch effort to save the manling before he drowned.  [The presence of the rope changed the test for Gunter from a Hard Athletics (Str) to a Hard Coordination (Agility) check.]  I really thought Gunter was going to die here (3 purple dice + 2 black fatigue dice), but beyond all belief, Steve rolled 1 net success and Gunter grabbed the rope at the last minute.  Fignor pulled him into safety on the other side of the river, where the human promptly passed out. [GM Note: The random character creation rules for WFRP are fun enough for me to watch that I don't mind too much if PCs die, so I pretty much roll all dice in the open.  Its a very refreshing change of pace as a GM.  Though I do admit, I would've missed Gunter's comic-relief.]

The two conscious dwarves race to save their drowning friend ...and the manling!

Grimbold's mercenaries, unable to cross the river, turned their steeds around and headed back home, but not after firing a few stray arrows and shouting obscenities back-and-forth with the stout Thief.

The two dwarves pulled their companions over to the shelter of the watchtower, where the guards inside (who hadn't seen the fight but rushed out when they heard the bridge collapse), let them warm themselves by the fire and made some strong tea to help warm them.  Once they get dried off and their friends rested, the party will continue its journey.  With the eastern bridge collapsed the only direction for the party to head is west, toward Stromdorf and the foreboding storm...


[End of Session]

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