Sunday, December 08, 2013

It Shouldn't Be a Surprise; The Game Is Called Warhammer After All

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has a reputation for favouring investigation over combat so it felt a bit odd when my group's most recent session of The Enemy Within II: The Quickening was more or less fighting from start to finish. Part of this was the result of unlucky dice rolls but part of it was because these players seem to go out of their way to get into fights sometimes. Too much Pathfinder, I suspect.

Rudiger had just graduated from thief to tomb robber so on their way to Middenheim on a mission for Luminary Mauer -- to destroy the tainted bell clapper they found in the skaven lair -- the party decided to stop off in a part of western Stirland known to be scattered with the burial mounds of the ancient Styrigen tribal kings. This expedition went much as expected; traps sent piles of rocks bouncing off Magnar's tough skull to no effect and Thorek went around smashing burial urns and sending clouds of corpse dust into the air and into everyone's lungs, so now everyone is worried that they've contracted some kind of tomb rot.

Ho ho. As if.

The barrow was of course infested with the undead. The party faced only wights and skeletons but most large or supernatural monsters cause fear in WFRP, which can be quite dangerous as a character affected is paralysed and unable to flee or defend themselves, let alone attack. The griffon at the garden party and the large skaven mutant both proved to be tough opponents for this very reason but the risen inhabitants of the barrow didn't make much of an impression on the party and didn't last long. Alas for the tomb raiders, bashing skeletons wasn't as lucrative as they'd hoped and so with only minor loot to show for their troubles -- some old swords, a bag of Reman coins, a couple of bits of not-mysterious-at-all jewellery -- they returned to the road and headed for Middenheim.

They stopped off at a coaching inn and while most of the group retired to bed the two dwarves decided to have a drinking competition in which the loser would be the first one to fall unconscious. It was something of a draw and as such, the two toughest fighters in the party were out of action when a skaven assassin sneaked into the player-characters' room during the night to steal the artefact. Drandruel leaped through the small bedroom window and across a few metres of open space, to land on the narrow top of the inn's surrounding wall right next to the fleeing thief, a feat so implausible that the other player-characters were as surprised as the skaven. With Rudiger and Aelric in support, the rat man did not get far -- by "not get far" I mean "was blasted into atoms by Aelric's magic" -- and the bell clapper was recovered. Meanwhile, the dwarves dreamed of gold under the mountains as they snored in sticky puddles of their own vomit.

The rest of the session was made up of random encounters along the road to Middenheim. The Enemy Within II: Havana Nights is written for the third edition of WFRP but I've been running it in the second edition of the game and it's been easy to convert as there isn't a great deal of rules material in the adventures. The main exceptions are the little bits about travelling between cities; there's all sorts of stuff about building dice pools and counting symbols and the like but I simplified it into:

On the Road Again: Half-Arsed Travel Encounters in WFRP2

For each leg of the journey the party should make a single roll against a value chosen based on their method of travel. If the party are travelling by foot, then they should use Toughness or Navigate; Ride or Drive if travelling by coach or wagon; Ride if on horseback; Row if using a boat; or Navigate or Outdoor Survival if avoiding the roads and going cross-country. It's not an exhaustive list and I tend to let them use any skill they like if they can make a good argument for it being appropriate in the context. The difficulty of the roll should be modified by conditions so for example if the road is in poor repair there may be a -10 penalty.

The key bit is that one roll is made for the entire party so the player-characters should choose the highest value among the lot of them if they want to succeed. My group missed out on a sub-quest that would have given them a carriage and a professional driver for the trip so had to rely on their own resources and skills.

If the roll succeeds then that leg of the journey goes without a hitch but if it fails then the trip has been rough and tiring and each member of the party is at -10 to all rolls until they have rested. If the roll succeeds by 10 or more -- we call this a "raise" because Savage Worlds has corrupted us -- then the party has a friendly encounter but if it's failed by 10 or more then there is a less friendly encounter.

My players fumbled every travelling roll except for one -- meeting a group of Strigoni travellers -- and even that turned a bit ugly when they started bullying an old lady for being a stereotype. At another point, they were assaulted by a giant spider -- and this time the fear effect was more, er, effective -- but managed to get rid of it before it could harm anyone except for their plucky halfing surgeon, Poddo Bayleaf, who got poisoned and was rigid with paralysis for hours.

The last roll of the evening was one more travelling test to cover the last stretch of road before Middenheim and relative safety. Of course they fluffed this roll too and we ended the session with a band of mounted marauders bursting from the trees, led by a platemail-clad warrior of Chaos.


  1. Drandruel was all sorts of awesomeness in this episode - jumping in the dark across four meters to land on a six inch wall and then hit a fleeing skaven with a crossbow in the dark while perched on said wall. And a saddle shot at the giant spider in a melee for 20+ damage with said crossbow again. Not bad.

  2. Great entry - I have enjoyed reading these... when do you all play again?

    1. Thanks THSPhotoGuy! We play most Friday evenings; it's a great way to blow off the steam from a week's work!