Wednesday 1 November 2017

ZWEIHÄNDER Session #2: The Oldenhaller Contract

After the first session's mayhem I introduced some optional and house rules to speed things up. First, cannon fodder foes will follow the underling rules: they can't save action points for reactions, and after a serious or bleeding wound they will die or retreat. Second, good old swift attack makes a return, so players can attack multiple times with an increasing penalty to their attack rolls. Third, following the rules about opposing skill tests (a bonus to your skill check means a penalty to the opposing check, and vice versa) leads to petty spells being harder to dispel or resist than greater spells. I changed that by giving the dispel or resist test the exact bonus or penalty the caster gets to his invocation test. I also promised my players I won't use Misfortune Points until they learn the rules properly, but in truth I just simply keep forgetting about them.

These changes worked like a charm - the game run much smoother. Unfortunately two players couldn't come, so the group for the session held on the 8th of October was:
  • Agonia Gimdinasdotr, a dwarf adherent of Valaya, who turned into a fucking warmachine.
  • Blitzkrieg, a dwarf slayer, still suffering from his broken ribs, and a glutton for punishment.
  • Päther von Sternwart, a human astrologer looking for a proper master.
  • Sternchen, an ogre hedgewise, who plans to write a gastro journal.
After an exhausting journey with the roadwardens the party finally reached Nuln. There they wasted half a day with passing the gate, and answering the roadwardens on the interrogation. When the four of them were released Hans Ernst, a roadwarden they befriended on their journey told them that someone is trying to bribe some big dogs to blame the whole incident on them, and put a bounty on their heads. He asked them to meet him next morning in the Reaver's Return, where the innkeeper still owes him a favor.

On their way to the inn a man named Grolsch van Eyke invited the party to an elegant club, but after some discussion they ignored him and moved on. In a dirty alley they found the Reaver's Return. After accidentally breaking through the stuck door they met the angry innkeeper, Rudolf Grasser. Mentioning Hans Ernst calmed him down. Rudolf gave them dinner, and showed them the best room he could offer - with a nice view of the canal. Someone noticed the bolts weren't fastened, which was quickly fixed. Closing the dirty windows turned out to be a good idea: during the night a cat burglar tried to break in, but had to flee when he realized the windows are bolted, and someone is awake.

Good old Oldenhaller, the first employer of many WFRP characters.
Hans arrived during the breakfast, and told the group a councillor called Albrecht Oldenhaller might be able to help, in exchange of some services. Oldenhaller lived in the fancy Altestadt, and knew everything about his new employees already. He offered 100 crowns each and information about who wants to frame the group for recovering a long lost family artifact: a red ring held by the Schatzenhaimer gang, who didn't deliver it to Oldenhaller. A servant lead the adventurers to the entrance of the Asylum, an underground complex made of interconnected cellars and sewers, and inhabited by three bands.

The Schatzenheimer door had a notice asking visitors to knock and wait. Following the advice had no results, so Blitzkrieg opened the door, and fell into the pit trap under the carpet. The Schatzenheimer HQ was full of corpses. After some search the party found a wounded man called Ulrich Vogel, who almost attacked them with his crossbow. While Agonia took care of his wounds, Ulrich told the visitors about how the tilean Valantina gang raided the Schatzenheimers not so long ago. He also remembered his boss, Kurt Holger wearing a red ring, but he couldn't recall any deals with Oldenhaller. In Kurt's room the party found a small box with a layer of lead within, and the corpse of Kurt, which showed the signs of the Red Death, and was missing a finger. The party took the box, and a notice from a Valantina corpse, which had today's password.

Entering the Valantina territory was easy: not only did the guards accept the password, but they were awaiting for some workers, because they were busy moving. The notorious Yellow Fang gang showed up and attacked the neighbouring Huydermans base. The Valantinas quickly killed the Huydermans messenger who asked for help, built a barricade, and wanted to leave as soon as possible. The Yellow Fangs are weird people they don't want to mess with. After asking around a bit more the adventurers met Emilio Valantina's bodyguard, Sebastiano Sansovini. He told them to wait until Emilio finishes his prayers, but after some waiting he got nervous and opened Emilio's office. The Valantina's leader was dead. The ring was missing, his head was missing, and blood trails lead to a secret door that opened to the sewers.

Following the sewers the party found a large area with mine carts and rails leading down. Someone was lying in one of the carts. It was the fresh corpse of Emilio's assassin. He had the ring and the head with him, and was full of rat bites. Seeing the growing and closing swarm of chittering rats the adventurers got into the carts, and released the breaks. The rails went down to the loading bay, and the carts hit the buffer thanks to the broken breaks. There our heroes met the wastelander Huydermans, who greeted them as friends.

Their leader Dirck Huydermans told them how they were attacked by the Yellow Fangs, who are waiting at the cove for something at the moment. There were two options for escape: through the Valantinas, or through the Yellow Fangs. The first offense through the Valantinas was a failure: the tileans used explosive barrels to seal the tunnel.

The second had more planning, and included the group using another mine cart to roll into the cove, attack the Yellow Fangs, while the wastelanders covered them from behind. In the meantime the party eavesdropped some discussion between a foe and their leader about an incoming reinforcement. The skirmish started with rather amusing results. Agonia jumped off the cart and killed one of the ragged bandits with ease, Blitzkrieg hurt himself while jumping off but killed another, a third one was hit by the cart, and Sternchen fell into the sewers after the cart hit the buffer.

Hits like a truck, loyal as a dog, dumb as a brick.
Soon the adventurers realised the Yellow Fangs weren't mere criminals: they spoke strangely, acted crazy, and were lead by a ratlike beastman wearing gasmask, a metal tank, and two pistols connected to the tank. Blitzkrieg immediately recognized the skaven and attacked with frenzy, only to get burned by warpfire, and suffer a deadly blow to the shoulder from behind. Fortunately he had a Fate Point to burn... Agonia charged the skaven, who burned her before suffering a deadly injury to the head. While the rest of the cultists were taken care of Päther heard the sounds of struggle from behind. The reinforcements have arrived: a rat ogre charged mindlessly into the chamber! He rushed through the ogre, into the sewage, and continued running forward, into the dark...

With the rat ogre gone the struggle didn't end. Rats swarmed into the cove. Päther took down the tank from the skaven engineer, then with Sternchen's help they tried to start the engines of the weird skaven boat they found, while Agonia was throwing rats out of the vessel. Finally the engine whirred, and the boat bursted out of the cove with insane speed. The sewers ended, the boat jumped out unto the Reik, and almost collided with a ship.

After the exciting boat trip the adventurers drowned the boat, put the barely living Blitzkrieg in the Reaver's Return, then visited Oldenhaller. They told their employer that the ring is infected, asked for their rewards, has some chit-chat, then went back to the inn. During the night they learned that Hans Ernst was probably helpful out of remorse: secretly he and his friends took the bounty for Hans Jinkerst, who was actually killed by our heroes. They also learned that Ulrich Vogel's head is worth a few crowns too (whom they saved), and there are crime leaders who will gladly have the head of Emilio on their walls (which is rotting in one of their backpacks).

And somewhere in the sewers of Nuln there is a rat ogre still charging forward, following his last order...

The Oldenhaller Contract is a classic Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure. It is the introductory adventure at the end of the 1st edition core rulebook, and thus it was the first experience of many WFRP Game Masters and players. It might be a bit dated, it might be rather linear, but it introduces many of the Warhammer Fantasy tropes I love, and quickly teaches you that the Old World is not Faerûn. It is also an urban adventure, so I thought it would be ideal as the second part of our campaign. I made some changes to it of course: I replaced the Nurgle cultists with skaven and their slaves, I changed when the ring's powers are revealed along with the protective device, and altered the beginning to link it to Night of Blood. I was satisfied with the results: we had fun, and a lot of hooks were introduced I can use in the future.