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Friday, June 23, 2006

My little Old World: Mounting Tensions and Precipitous Anticlimaxes #1

Famous last words...
So, in my last post about my WFRP campaign, I remember writing the immortal words "so I'm not sweating plot." Hah! Silly twisted boy!

Y'see, the thing is, I'd come up with a basic idea of how I was going to spin out the plot between the point I'd reached in Ashes of Middenheim as written, and the finale as written. I'd tweaked the background events to give what I thought (and what I believe turned out to be) an interesting escalation both of the scope of the events themselves and of the main villain's nefarious evil-doing. I'd given existing NPC's a place in the scheme of things I was pretty satisfied with, and I'd introduced some new NPC's that I expected would serve my purposes rather nicely.

I even took a page out of Raymond Chandler's book, and had a man come through the door with a gun (actually, he was a dwarf, but lah de bloody dah if you're complaining!). So there the PC's were, sitting in a room at the back of the Middenpalaz, with the dread Brass Skull back in their care, wondering what the hell to do, when a dwarf comes through the door with a gun...

But no, I'm getting ahead of myself. When last seen, our intrepid party had just completed a successful assault on the Sword and Flail tavern as part of their efforts to find evidence to refute the charges of consorting with Chaos which Deputy High Priest Liebnitz had levelled against the Witch Hunter Bauer. So how did the PC's get from a seedy tavern in a sleazy corner of the Neumarket district to a room in Graf Todbringer's palace?

Events went something like this...

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For some reason the barkeep started trying to play on the fears of his two companions, hinting broadly that the PC's would have to do them in to silence them, seeing as they were witnesses to the party's assault on the Sword and Flail. Meanwhile the beggar Alane had found upstairs came to. He immediately leapt to his feet and started belabouring the barkeep with invective and a few swift kicks, accusing the man of dastardly treatment of someone who had done him a favour (which was not untrue, if a bit exaggerated).

The upshot of all this was that the PC's were left with the notion that Liebnitz had sent the beggar to warn the barkeep about them. They were also persuaded that the other 2 captives were innocent watchmen helping a pal defend his tavern against what they assumed was just going to be a regular bit of breaking and entering. This hapless pair were palpably shocked at the thought that the barkeep was in fact a Chaos cultist.

Somewhere in among all this the PC's also investigated the trapdoor hidden beneath some barrels in the cellar. Sure enough, once they (ie. mostly Siegfried) had disposed of a couple of mutants with red skulls painted on their faces, they found an crude temple of skulls, and one Johann Opfer, a prisoner of the cultists who had witnessed Bauer's attack on the cultists. Delighted at regaining his freedom, Opfer was happy to vouch for Bauer at the upcoming trial.

Thus it was that the party headed for the temple of Sigmar with a presumed Crimson Skull cultist and 4 possible witnesses in tow. The cultist was 'lost' on the way through the city streets however, when Alane cracked his skull open with her quarterstaff to prevent him from creating a stramash with a Watch patrol. Alane was as surprised as anyone else at this, although it has to be said that she had more time to savour her bemusement than did the barkeep his own.

The party were escorted to the trial in the Square of Martials as part of the Sigmarite party the next day. The players were happy to try roleplaying the trail as per the suggestions in AoM. The part of Liebnitz went to Brian; Stolz to Andy; Bauer to Donald; and Opfer to Tony (all casting carefully considered by yours truly). That left Grundi to act as the party's spokesman when it came to their part in the trial.

This little change of roles proved a great success, with much fine speechifying on all sides, and some subtle legal points-scoring between Liebnitz and Stolz. Stolz revealed Opfer as a surprise witness backing up Bauer's story, then Liebnitz played his secret: the lost icon of Sigmar that Berthold had carried all the way from the Drakwald so many months ago. It had a symbol of Khorne on its reverse. Liebnitz just had enough time to suggest that the cult of Sigmar was riddled with Chaos before the Square of Martials erupted into an all-out riot.

Schutzmann and the Watch had to escort the members of the trail, including the PC's and a few notable bystanders to the safety of the Middenpalaz. Once there, Liebnitz and Stolz got involved in a blazing row that had to be broken up by the Midden Marshal before the 2 priests came to blows. Schutzmann then turned his attention to the matter of restoring order and preventing that day's events in Middenheim from sparking an all-out religious civil war between the Ulrican and Sigmarite cults- something which many observers there present feared was Liebnitz's determined objective.

The PC's hung around for a while, feeling a bit superfluous to requirements as some of the most powerful and influential citizens of Middenheim discussed the implications of events and considered courses of action. Eventually they were shown to a room at the back of the palace where they could spend the night.

Some hours later, in the dead of night, they received a visit from Father Ranulf of the temple of Ulric, who brought with him the chest into which he had put the Brass Skull when the PC's had brought it back from the Drakwald only a few days before.

Father Ranulf was a worried man. He explained to the PC's that Deputy High Priest Liebnitz had never really put much stock in Father Odo's dreams. Nor had he held out much hope of seeing the party return from their mission into the Drakwald. Still, he had been content to see the party sent off with the blind priest. Since the party's return though, Ranulf had been growing increasingly worried about Liebnitz's attitude towards the skull, and he was beginning to have serious doubts about the Deputy High Priest's intentions regarding the evil artefact.

So Father Ranulf had taken it upon himself to sneak off with the chest. He implored the PC's to take the chest from him and to take it to a certain Albrecht Zweistein of the Collegium Theologica, a man Ranulf was sure could be relied upon to do the right thing and destroy the Brass Skull. The party were sensibly highly reluctant to have anything to do with the Skull again, and suggested that Ranulf could handle such a simple mission himself. Ranulf made some excuse about having to keep an eye on Liebnitz in the current highly explosive situation. The priest's pleadings had the desired effect, and he was able to depart leaving the chest in the care of the PC's.

Lumbered with the damnable Brass Skull yet again, the party's natural instinct was to dispose of the cursed thing as quickly as possible. The Collegium Theologica wasn't far away, but Commander Schutzmann had already upgraded the rather slack curfew across the city to a state of martial law. So everyone's first instinct was just to let Siegfried leave via the window and sneak off to deliver the chest. But as Siegfried opened the window, the sound of the strife-torn streets drifted in. Suddenly that first instinct didn't seem like such a good idea after all. What was to be done everyone wondered.

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And that seemed like a convenient place to draw that day's session to a close. Then, of course, the series fell into unexpected publishing difficulties, and it was some 6 weeks before we were able to return to the game. But more of that another time.

Related@RD/KA!
Mounting Tensions and Precipitous Anticlimaxes
- My little Old World: words better forgotten?
- #2 Back to the drawing board...
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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