Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Worst Garden Party Ever

My prediction from the last session was a bit off; Rudiger Adler did not get shot. In fact, he didn't suffer a single injury, but then again all the player-characters did this session was provide security for a noble's garden party, and how dangerous can that be?

Last time, the party got in a scuffle while protecting Clothilde von Alptraum as part of a scheme to draw out some bandits; draw them out they did, and discovered that at least one band seemed to be made up of members of the Averheim city guard, or perhaps the roadwardens; the text of the adventure is a bit unclear on the name of the organisation, which is not ideal in an investigative scenario.

One of the bandits was captured alive -- another escaped, which should keep the player-characters on their toes -- and was taken back to the von Alptraum manor house, where the dwarf Magnar attempted -- torture having been forbidden by Clothilde -- to intimidate him into telling them why he was carrying equipment belonging to the city guard and who he was working for. Alas, Magnar fumbled the interrogation and all he managed to get from the prisoner was a sneer.

Returning to Averheim, the party discovered that their work for the bureaucrat Curd Weiss had been observed by Weiss' employer, Graf Friedrich von Kaufman and, pleased with their success, the Graf met with them to offer them another job. He was planning a garden party for some of his friends and contacts, in order to show off some items acquired in an expedition he'd funded to the Southlands - the Warhammer equivalent of sub-Saharan Africa -- and because of all these rumours of corrupt city guardsman he asked the party to provide security at the event. They would be joined by two other hirelings: the trollslayer Thorek and wood elf Dran Durel.

Aelric was overjoyed to be invited to a high society gathering but crestfallen when he discovered that he was to be hired muscle; this didn't stop him trying his best to ingratiate himself with the assembled nobility. Magnar noted that the party was taking place on the central lawn of a menagerie -- featuring a griffon, a rhinox, and a giant spider, amongst others -- and set about arranging defences. One could argue that Magnar was being paranoid but this is a role-playing game, so of course the monsters were going to get loose.

First though, the nobles had to engage in petty arguments with one another., and Claudia Leitdorf -- a potential heir to the throne of Averland -- excused herself from the party with "a headache". Soon after, an unnamed witch hunter turned up -- worrying Aelric enough that for the first time in the event he kept a low profile -- and caused a great deal of distress for the Light Wizard Mauer, Captain Baerfaust of the city guard, and von Kaufman himself, before leaving in as abrupt manner as she arrived. Baerfaust left the party in the witch hunter's wake and Mauer left after a blistering row with von Kaufman over some of the artefacts brought back from overseas.

To break the tension somewhat, Amalie, one of the ladies-in-waiting, suggested a game of hide-and-seek in the nearby hedge maze; Magnar again assumed the worst and insisted on following her into the maze and standing guard, although she did at least manage to convince the taciturn dwarf to stay quiet and hide around a corner so he wouldn't spoil the game.

The griffon somehow got out of its cage -- surprise! -- and plunged into the maze looking for its dinner. There was also a great explosion -- this came as more of a surprise -- and von Kaufman's exhibit of exotic treasures was engulfed in a cloud of acrid smoke. Magnar stayed where he was while Rudiger and Thorek rushed into the maze to attempt to rescue the people within. Meanwhile, Aelric and Dran Durel set about rescuing those caught in the explosion.

Once again we were reminded that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is not Pathfinder as the griffon almost killed Magnar and Thorek -- only the expenditure of Fate Points saved the two dwarfs -- but Rudiger managed to escape unscathed through the perspicacious decision to hide and crawl away when he saw the trollslayer cartwheeling through the air, blood and fluids spewing from his open belly.

Baerfaust's guardsmen arrived at last -- having been barred from the event by von Kaufman -- and finished off the griffon, and although von Kaufman's falconer and another noble's jester had been eaten by the beast, and Clothilde's bodyguard was killed in the explosion, the Graf thanked the player-characters for doing their best to save everyone.

This chapter had its challenges as a lot of it involved non-player-characters talking to each other, and there's always a danger with that of excluding the players; I hope I managed to avoid the worst of that although it did feel at times as if I was performing a one man show. The maze set-piece is also tricky as it's a bit clumsy and slow as written; I decided to make it a bit more abstract in order to speed it up and I think it worked a bit better.

Next time: the aftermath of the party and further investigations into the identity of the Black Hood.

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