Rats in the Ranks

Fantasy Flight Games have announced the completion of the Warhamer Fantasy Role-playing Game 3rd Edition (WFRP 3) “line,” i.e. they’ve decided to stop producing any material for it and move on. I suspect this is at least partly because it was not very popular or successful – it’s a somewhat unusual form for a role-playing game, and also very expensive. I suspect a lot of people gave up trying to get the whole experience to work, and it didn’t sell as well as it needed to given its huge production requirements.

I played one and a half campaigns of WFRP 3, in English and Japanese, and from my experience I think that in many ways WFRP 3 was a revolutionary and exciting game. It imported a lot of ideas from board-gaming to provide improved ways to manage PC resources, skills and powers, and used a really interesting dice mechanic to generate rich and complex results for PC actions. Unfortunately, the mechanics are complex and fiddly in practice, requiring lots of space, huge amounts of tokens and a lot of fiddling. The dice mechanic is also just that little bit too complex for GMs to intuitively understand, making it hard for them to design and run adventures, and I don’t believe that Fantasy Flight Games ever came  up with a good way of handling monsters and providing GMs the proper resource- and system-management tools and tips they need to make the game work. I think this is likely a killer in a role-playing game – if you can’t make the complexity accessible and manageable to the GM, you alienate the central 20% of the gaming population that are essential to making the game sell (since players won’t bother buying books for games they can’t find GMs to play with!)

After WFRP 3 Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars system, which uses a stripped down and simplified version of both the action system and the dice system from WFRP 3. The Star Wars system seems to be much more accessible and easy to play, and has better introductory material, and may be more practical as a novel game system. I haven’t tried it yet but expect to soon. I have also simplified WFRP 3 and GMd a really cut-down system in a different world, and I found that once it is stripped down to just the dice and skill system it becomes a really neat little system. It is my hope that Fantasy Flight Games will use their experience of Star Wars to develop a simplified, stream-lined classic fantasy RPG based on the WFRP system without all the bells and whistles, using all their experience to date. If they do that, I think it could be a really good way to play fantasy.

In the meantime I hope to use the simplified version of WFRP 3 for more adventures in the Compromise and Conceit world, where I think it works as a system. I won’t be buying more WFRP 3 stuff, but I will be continuing to play around with what I think was a very promising and innovative way of gaming. Let’s hope for more reports in the future …

The final session continued where the previous session left off, with our heroes standing on a pile of corpses… again.Having looted their victims, but none the wiser as to the purpose of the rat-catchers’ guild they were so efficiently destroying, they decided to go back to the start of the sewer complex and explore every room. Amongst the pile of recently-dead they found a map of the sewers in full detail, though it didn’t tell them that a nest of giant spiders was waiting for them near the entrance, or that the warehouse for normal sewer workers was situated perilously close to a Giant Toad’s lair, but inevitably they would deal with these obstacles in the time-honoured fashion. They returned to the entrance from the safe-house above, and set about exploring the remaining spaces in the sewers.

The Giant Spiders

Some distance from the rat-catchers they had previously killed the PCs stumbled into a room containing 4 giant spiders. The spiders’ attempt at a stealthy ambush was only partially successful, and in the ensuing battle three of them died very quickly. Several of the PCs were bitten, but no venomous effects ensued, and the remaining spider panicked and fled. The PCs discovered that its lair hid an entrance to an ancient jeweller’s workshop, and looted it accordingly[1]. This old gem cutters room seemed to have been long forgotten by the sewer’s other denizens, and the last person to stumble into this room was now enshrouded in webs, his last healing potion unused and free for the PCs to take. They marked the location of the remaining spider, and retreated to the main causeway.


They crossed from the main causeway back past the entry to the sewers, to another causeway that placed them roughly diametrically opposite the location of the spiders. Here the causeway flowed deeper into the sewers, but first it passed a storage room for sewer workers, the stairs from which led up to a perfectly normal city building, such as sewer workers might occasionally use to prepare for their work. This room contained nothing of interest, but at one end there was a closed door, which the characters wanted to enter. Next to it a rough note had been scrawled on the wall:

Be careful of Frogs

Assuming this to be a warning against some kind of giant beast, the PCs girded themselves and opened the door. They passed through into a large cave-like room, the floor of which was flooded with stagnant water. One of them threw a rock into the middle of the pool but nothing happened. They decided to what PCs throughout time and space always do in this situation, and press forward. Sure enough, as soon as they were into the pool, a massive toad lunged from the water and struck out with its tongue, which wrapped up Heinze the soldier and started dragging him into the pool. This toad was big enough to eat a grumpy Reikland soldier whole[2], so everyone charged recklessly into the fray. The wizard, unfortunately, had to pause to draw power, and Suzette the Disciple was also somewhat under powered. While Aruson the thief fired arrows into the toad’s repulsive, warty hide, Suzette grabbed its tongue and tried to help Heinze free his sword arm. She offered him just enough assistance to be able to get in one good strike, and he managed to stick his spear right through the toad’s mouth and out one eye. It gargled horribly and died. The PCs continued through the room to a rough-hewn tunnel on the other side, and stumbled on the secret they had been searching for.

The Rat-catchers’ Secret

Beyond the abode of the hungry toad was a dark corridor, at the end of which was perhaps a vague light. Aruson crept forward and found himself facing an opening into a larger cave, guarded by two rat-catcher sewer guards. He couldn’t pass them easily into the room and couldn’t see inside, but voices inside the room carried easily to his hiding place. He listened to a conversation between a frightened-sounding man and a strange, sibilant voice that was surely not human:

  • [Sibilant Monster]: Have you opened the entrance?
  • [Frightened Man]:Yes, it has been opened. Since we kidnapped the nobleman’s daughter he has been very helpful in teaching us how to open it. He still believes his daughter will be returned after we execute the plan.
  • [Sibilant Monster]: Good… but, recently your activities have been discovered, have they not?
  • [Frightened Man]: I’m sorry to say that we have been discovered by some new adventurers
  • [Sibilant Monster]: Do you think they’re servants of the nobleman?
  • [Frightened Man]: I don’t think that’s the case. The nobleman is too scared of losing his daughter to employ any adventurers. We don’t know why these adventurers have become involved. We’re moving against them, but the task has consumed many of my rat-catchers
  • [Sibilant Monster]: I don’t care to hear the excuses for your failure. If your organization is no longer convenient to me I don’t need you, and if evidence of your relationship to me is discovered before the attack, I will have to remove all evidence of it. Do you understand me?
  • [Frightened Man]: I understand. We will resolve this problem with the adventurers soon. Then my remaining rat-catchers will help you in the attack.
  • [Sibilant Monster]: That would be best. Your assistance in this plan has made it easier to carry out, but if you fail your organization will no longer be useful to me.
  • [Frightened Man]: (gulps)
  • [Sibilant Monster]: Okay, I’m returning. I leave this in your hands. Don’t fail me.
  • [Frightened Man]: We will put all our efforts in!

This was followed by the sound of light footsteps, and a door being opened and closed. The Frightened man began calling in guards from other parts of the cave system, and the PCs realized it was time to act. Aruson picked off the two guards nearest to the PCs with a single volley of shots, and the group charged into the main cave. Here they found the boss of the rat-catchers’ guild, a bodyguard and 6 sewer guards. The battle that followed was brief and brutal, but soon finished with minimal injury to the PCs. They took the sewer lord captive, and offered him a simple choice – tell them everything or spend the last few hours of his life in the spider’s lair.

With this option before him, and looking at the bodies of the last 8 members of his organization, the rat-catcher leader realized that his only safety lay in betraying his monstrous master, and he told the PCs everything. His rat-catcher’s guild was working as spies for a group of monsters that lived below the city, and had been doing their bidding for a little while. Most members of the guild didn’t know about these monsters and believed they were doing the bidding of a local nobleman. In fact the nobleman in question was doing what the rat-catchers told him, because they had abducted his daughter and were holding her prisoner as security against his good behaviour. In fact, his good behaviour was essential to the monster’s plan. They had uncovered an ancient entrance from the sewers to the Temple of Sigmar, but the door could only be opened by a specific key – a key that was a long forgotten heirloom for an Ubersreik noble family. This nobleman was from that family, and had found the key for the rat-catchers. Now they were biding their time, clearing out the area around the door and preparing for a large force of the monsters to attack Sigmar’s Temple from the sewers. Apparently there was something in the temple that they wanted, and they intended to slay all of Sigmar’s servants while they sought it. They knew that the High Priest of Sigmar would be away in Altdorf within a month, and so they were going to attack then, when she and her strongest bodyguards were away.

The rat-catcher the PCs had found all those weeks ago when travelling to Ubersreik had been on a mission for the monsters. Apparently these monsters had been having difficulty with an orc tribe whose territory abutted their own somewhere underground, and had asked the rat-catchers to send a spy aboveground to find out if the orc tribe were connected to any other tribes or groups that would make it dangerous to attack. He had somehow failed, and the Orcs had been trying to dump his body in a way that hid their presence in the area when the PCs found him. It was purely through happenstance that the PCs had become entangled in the rat-catchers’ plans at all.

When asked to describe the monsters, the sewer lord told them that they were a kind of twisted, monstrous hybrid of rats and humans.


The Rat Ogre

The PCs demanded he take them to the nobleman’s daughter to free her, and he duly did, leading them down a long, dark tunnel. He didn’t mention, however, that the room at the end was guarded by a rat ogre. The PCs almost blundered straight into this beast’s grasp but were sensible enough to scout ahead. When they saw it they roughed up their captive a bit, then set out to ambush the Rat Ogre. Though fearsome in aspect, this thing fell quickly and easily to their combined forces, and they were able to rescue the girl from her captivity at the edge of the room. From there, having eliminated the rat-catchers’ guild, caught its leader, looted its possessions and uncovered its plans, there was nothing for it but to go to the Temple of Sigmar and explain the situation.

Resolution and Rewards

The High Priest of Sigmar was very interested in this news, and together they set a trap. The sewer lord was put under a geas and forced to return to the skaven and tell them that he had destroyed the adventurers, and that rumours abroad in town suggested the High Priest was moving a dangerous and evil item to Altdorf within days. The skaven would have to attack sooner than expected. This he did, and the Priests and soldiers of the town set a trap for them in the basement of the temple. A force of maybe 50 Skaven emerged from the sewers a few days later, and were set upon in a vicious battle that claimed many lives. The skaven quickly withdrew, but were unable to take all their dead with them, and so the town of Ubersreik were able to find physical evidence of those beasts that were previously only an evil rumour. The High Priest quickly took these bodies and their possessions away, “to do research in Altdorf,” and all that remained of the battle in Ubersreik was rumour and hearsay. The PCs were able to find out that the Skaven had entered the temple to steal a piece of warpstone that was being held there under guard while the Priests of Sigmar sought ways to destroy it.

As a reward for their efforts, the PCs were given some money, and a deed of land title over Black Rock Keep, in nearby Heideldorf, where recently they had vanquished some mutants and uncovered a cannibalism ring. None of the players viewed this as a particularly good reward…


Because of my sudden move to Tokyo this campaign had to be wrapped up quicker than expected, so the truth of the guild and the skaven had to be revealed in a sudden ending rather than dripping out piece by piece. In my next post I will give some final thoughts about Warhammer 3, GMing in Japanese, and Skaven.

fn1: In case you know it, I’m using an entry from the One-Page Dungeon for this adventure’s map…

fn2: If you’re wondering how a toad that big can hide in a pond, try visiting an Australian crocodile farm sometime. In those places, beasts big enough to be dinosaurs can hide from view in a foot of water. They are truly loathsome beasts…

Would you risk your fate with this man?

On Tuesday I start working at the Tokyo University Department of Global Health Policy as an Assistant Professor, which means that on Sunday I am moving from Steamy Beppu to the City of Light. I will also be returning to full time work after a year working part time and being a househusband.

This means that my Japanese Warhammer 3rd Edition group has broken up, and my Japanese role-playing plans in general have to go on hold until I can find a suitable group in Tokyo. I don’t know how easy that will be. It also means that I’ll have a lot less time for, and material to put into, long posts, so my posting frequency will go down, which is a shame because I’ve been on a bit of a roll recently.

To keep my posting frequency up I may add a new posting series, about bars and restaurants in Tokyo, because I will be exploring them. I may also put in some taste-testing of various Japanese sake, which I’m becoming interested in… we’ll see. It’s a bit off topic but when I go searching for information about Tokyo night life I appreciate other peoples’ views, so maybe someone will appreciate it being here… also there may be some general aspects of Tokyo life to comment on, so the blog may open a little beyond nerd culture to include general big city culture.

I will of course be trying to expand my role-playing horizons in Tokyo – who knows, I may even play in English! – and exploring nerd life a little. There may also be some Harajuku-related material on here too… we’ll see how busy I am. But the move to Tokyo may well indicate a move to a broader focus on Japanese otaku life, hopefully from the perspective of someone at least slightly involved in it. We’ll see. But for the meantime, expect me to post slightly less frequently, and don’t be disheartened.

The miniature at the top of this post was painted by one of my players, Tencho-san. It’s a likeness of me. You can’t see it in the photo but the book has “Master” written on it’s cover, and on the back of the wizard’s jacket is written (混沌東大), which is Japanese shorthand for “Tokyo University Chaos!” This was part of my going-away present, along with the game Make You Fortress and a collection of cards for the game Make You Kingdom, which contain colour cardboard cutouts of all the cute monsters from the game. I really need to play this game at some point…

A report of the last session of the Rats in the Ranks campaign will be going up soon. In the meantime, any particular requests for investigation you would like to see conducted in Tokyo, please let me know in comments (and yes, if I find a used underwear vending machine I will post a photo!)



  • 組合は、1ヶ月以内に、大きい事件を期待している
  • PC達が組合メンバーの人数を減らしたから、組合はPC達について心配していて、PC達を扱うために8人の傭兵を契約した
  • 明日、組合の大尉はPC達と連絡して、貴族としてものまねしながら狂言冒険の契約を提案する。PC達は、この狂言冒険を従ったら、傭兵に伏せられて、殺される
  • PC達が見つけたアジトの下にある下水の地図がある
  • 組合の人数は20人+上士メンバー








Having finished their activities in the town of Heideldorf (which the PCs refer to as “Sausageville”), the PCs were given minor rewards by the (rapidly) departing nobles. These rewards added up in total to 160 Silver Shillings, which upon their return to Ubersreik the PCs immediately spent on healing and healing potions, leaving them a mere 10 Silver Shillings better off than they were when they were last in Ubersreik. “At last I can give up this life of crime…”

Having attended to some basic housekeeping, the PCs received a note from the rat-catcher who had wisely decided to work as a spy for them in the mysterious rat-catchers’ guild of Ubersreik. They met him in the park north of the castle, and he told them some useful information about the situation within the rat-catchers’ guild:

  • The guild was expecting some kind of big “event” within a month
  • The PCs had significantly reduced the guild’s numbers, and so they were beginning to worry about the PCs. To this end they had hired 8 mercenaries to deal with the PCs
  • Tomorrow, a senior figure in the guild would meet the PCs disguised as a noble, and offer them a fake adventure, an adventure which would end with them being ambushed by the mercenaries and slaughtered
  • He had a map of the sewers underneath the safe house the PCs had found previously
  • About 20 rat-catchers remained in the guild, plus senior leaders

So, now the PCs knew what to do … they would catch this “senior figure,” and administer some “enhanced interrogation” until he coughed up everything they needed to know. Then they would break into the safe house and kill everyone until they got an answer to the question “what are you lot up to?”

Captain Rat-catcher’s End

The meeting with the captain was due to take place in the Sad Shield, the rat-catcher guild’s tame local pub, where any trouble would go unreported. They were to meet the captain and his two bodyguards in a private room. The PCs didn’t mess around here; as soon as they entered the room they launched to the attack, with Aruson the thief unleashing a volley of arrows into the captain, Heinze letting fly with his magic dart, and Suzette unleashing weakening curses on all present. After battle was joined a group of 4 rat-catcher sewer guards burst in from a rear door, and the Captain leapt onto the table, drawing his rapier and laying about him with gleeful abandon; but after perhaps 4 or 5 rounds the entire squad were subdued by Heinze’s lightning bolt spell, which suffused the entire room in a ball of lightning that wiped out the entire rat-catcher squad. The PCs quickly looted the bodies, then dragged the unconscious and badly injured captain out the back door and away to their safe house.

Here they interrogated him for a few hours, but nothing they did would work. He wasn’t willing to disclose any information, so they abandoned him – in a possibly not very clearly-stated manner – and set off to pursue their next line of inquiry. They would infiltrate the sewers beneath the rat-catcher’s safe house and kill the remaining 14 members in their quest to uncover the truth of the Guild’s plans.

The Safe House and The Sewers

The PCs went straight to the warehouse that served as a safe house for the rat-catchers, and finding no one inside they went straight through the secret door and down into the sewers. Following the basic map they had been given, Aruson the thief snuck ahead to a guardroom near the entryway, and killed the two guards there in a surprise attack. Rather than wade through the main causeways to the rat-catchers’ nest, the PCs took a narrow, not-quite-so-smelly side corridor that led to the same destination. In amongst the muck of this corridor Aruson managed to spot a fiendishly well-hidden wire trap that would have sprung an alarm, and the PCs were able to sneak up on the main body of rat-catchers undetected. Here they found 8 sewer guards, a rat-catcher captain and his bodyguard. They sequestered themselves in the entry to the corridor, and opened fire with magic, bow and pistol on the group of rat-catchers. The rat-catchers charged forward, and battle was joined.

During this battle, Heinze made heavy use of the prism he had found in Heideldorf, in order to bolster his powers. Unfortunately, he was unaware of its sinister curse, and before the end of the battle he had incurred Tzeentch’s wrath – his first mutation. His skin was changed so that it glowed with a faint and sickly white light, a clear sign to anyone viewing him that there was something wrong about him. Realizing that the prism was a dangerous curse, Heinze stopped using it, and so was able to contribute less to the battle. Nonetheless, the PCs prevailed with only minor injuries to themselves, their position in the mouth of the corridor guaranteeing that their missile weapon users were safe from attack and able to rain death on their opponents. They had defeated more than half of the remaining rat-catchers, and now were free to chase down the leader of the Guild without having to fight many of his underlings.

The secret of the Guild lies tantalizingly before them, and soon all its machinations must surely be revealed to them…

This is a magic item from the Warhammer 1st Edition adventure Fear the Worst, which I converted to 3rd Edition recently, and ran for my group as a side adventure over two sessions. After they killed the mutants in the castle the PCs discovered that the mutant leader, a wizard of Tzeentch (the chaos god of mutation and change) had a magical prism in his possession, which he appeared to be doing some kind of research on. They couldn’t identify it at the time, but after they took it back to Ubersreik and paid a mate, they learnt its powers – or so they thought.

Pedro’s Corrupting Prism

This magical prism is an unprepossessing, ordinary-looking glass prism, but if viewed with magical sight clearly holds a strong, neutral magic aura. Ordinary bright light (e.g. daylight) shone through it will split into the 7 colours of the rainbow just as it would through any normal, properly-used prism; but if a (mostly) pure member of the Bright or Celestial Orders shines a magical light through it, a much more sinister effect obtains. The light will split into bizarre, sickening patterns that give off a disturbing, dark magic aura. This is the only hint that any magic user can obtain that the prism is, in fact, powerfully cursed in the service of Tzeentch. The prism confers a powerful boon on its user, but comes with a secret and ultimately deadly curse.

Enhanced Energy Summoning: When carried, the prism enables a wizard of any order to use the Channel Energy action as a free action without any penalty, once per round. This is an enormously seductive power, since it enables the wizard to draw energy and cast a spell every round, without suffering the usual penalties on the use of the spell that obtain from the usual quick-casting process.

Corruption Curse: Every time a Wizard who is not a servant of Tzeentch uses this prism, have the player roll a dice pool consisting entirely of a number of challenge dice equal to the number of times the prism has been used in that encounter. That is, the first time the player uses the prism in an encounter, he or she rolls one challenge die; the second time, 2 challenge dice; and so on. If any chaos stars appear in the results, the player must immediately make an easy (1 challenge die) Resilience check. If this check fails, the player must immediately draw a single mutation from the mutation card deck.

Optional extra evil: If the GM wishes, he or she may roll the challenge dice secretly, to make it more difficult for the player to identify the cause of the mutations. Because there is a 12.5% chance of a chaos star on a single challenge die, this optional way of resolving the curse is likely to lead to the destruction of the PC, as they will incur multiple mutations before they realize the cause, and is only recommended for GMs who themselves serve the Lord of Change.










  • 怪しいネズミ捕り組合が存在する
  • 遺体の男性はその組合のメンバーだった
  • その組合が秘密な組合だし、彼女が秘密にするためにお金をあげた
  • 組合はたくさんお金を持っている





  • 組合はいる貴族の人の私設組合である
  • その貴族の悪い使命をする責任である:スパイ、暗殺など
  • 捕まったネズミ捕りの責任は基本的に、下水の警備
  • 組合の人数は30人くらい足す数人の上級メンバー
  • かれの同僚がシグマー祭殿に入って、何か神格なアイテムを結んだことがある
  • PC達が発見した巣から、他の組合の倉庫や巣に行ける。





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