NOTE: this post contains spoilers for the WFRP 1st Edition adventure Fear the Worst, so if you’re planning on playing it (which I recommend you badger your GM into doing) you should stop reading here.
We left our PCs in a state of near death, surrounded by the bodies of 7 vanquished mutants, with only the wizard Shultz still conscious, and himself close to death. They had been ambushed in the cellars of Black Rock Keep, and had to retreat to the stairs and fight a grim and bloody battle for their survival. Now, standing in the smoking and blood-soaked remains, Shultz had to somehow revive his fellows before reinforcements might arrive. He searched his unconscious foes and managed to find a healing potion, which he forced into Suzette; she, upon regaining consciousness, tended to Aruson, but was unable to revive the unconscious Roadwarden NPC. While they waited for her to regain consciousness they set about searching the bodies, finding nothing of interest. However, while searching they heard a small voice saying “Help me! Help me!” Further investigation revealed it was coming from inside the clothing of the pistolier mutant, Franz. They ripped his clothes off and found his mutation carefully hidden under layers of shirts: A tattoo carved on his chest, which appeared to be sentient and able to speak.
Interrogating Irezumi kun
The PCs found Irezumi kun (Master Tattoo) quite communicative, and he told them that he was not the soul of the body he occupied, but an additional thing that grew into Franz’s once normal tattoo after he mutated. Is Tzeentch’s blessing not wondrous? He never liked Franz, and would happily tell the PCs everything if they would help him gain control of the body he was carved onto. The PCs were leery of this scheme but when they realized they had no way of bargaining with a mere tattoo they agreed to his offer. Helping him gain control of the body was a gruesome task: he told them that if they chopped off its arms, legs and head, he would be able to regrow new ones that he himself controlled. Initially dubious, the PCs agreed. After some unpleasant butchery, Irezumi kun told them what they needed to know:
- The mutants had come to the castle some years ago, after they made a deal with someone in the town of Heideldorf
- The deal was that every year they would be sent a group of adventurers, who they would ambush and kill. They were to return the bodies and all their belongings to the town, and in exchange they would be protected from witch hunters and other rumours by the town elders
- Occasionally they would be given additional assassination tasks
- For example, two years ago they were not sent any adventurers, possibly because none came to Heideldorf. But they were told that two chaos mutants, old enemies of their contact in the town, were in the area and they should kill them instead
- After they killed the mutants they ate the mutated parts of their victims bodies (out of respect for Tzeentch, of course) and became even more mutated. They sent the remainder of the bodies and the items to town
- Their contact was angry with them for interfering with the bodies and made them promise never to eat another body
- Irezumi kun was at all the meetings where deals were made, because Franz was the mutants’ negotiator
- Irezumi kun never saw the people they dealt with, but would recognize their voices if he heard them
The PCs then got Aruson, who is a master of guile and mischief, to mimic the voice of Heinz Schiller the sausage maker, and a few other key figures in the town. Aruson couldn’t manage Dirk Moser but he did a good job of copying Schiller and the retired witch hunter Manfred, and Irezumi kun was able to confirm that yes, Schiller was one of the people at the meetings where they made deals.
So, the PCs wrapped Irezumi kun’s torso in a cloak from upstairs, and explored the rest of the cellars. All that remained was the mutants’ cave, where they found a magical prism belonging to the wizard Pedro, along with his notes on the mutations that the mutants underwent after they ate other mutants. From this Shultz was able to do some quick research, and glean that if people were to eat sausages made with mutant meat, there would be some small risk that they would themselves become mutants. That’s bad news… time to go to town and see Schiller nailed to a wall…
First, the PCs sent Aruson into town disguised as a juggler to find Manfred the witch hunter, who they rightly thought was not in on the conspiracy. They brought him to the woods and explained the situation, and he seemed to partially believe them but was unable or unwilling to comprehend the situation properly, so they returned him to town. They then set about finding the person who had sent them the warning of the traps in the cellars. Disguised as clowns by Aruson, they wandered into town and, while Suzette and Shultz distracted the old woman who managed the Boarding House Aruson stole her guestbook. Outside, they looked through the book and tried to match handwriting in the book to the handwriting on the map they had been sent. Fortunately for the group they had a wizard with the Education skill, i.e. someone who could read, and he was able to match the hand-writing to one Jeb Tallnose, whose name had written next to it the word “halfling.” They got his room number and went up to investigate…
Spies for Sigmar, and a small personal aside
The PCs knocked on the door of the room and were invited in, to find themselves being covered with a crossbow by a small and ferocious-looking halfling. Knowing how effective he was with that thing, they decided not to do anything rash. He was standing next to a giant of a man, over 7′ tall, who was regarding them very suspiciously. They introduced themselves and thanked Jeb for his help, and asked him who he was. He told them that he and his mate Abe were spies for the Church of Sigmar, in Heideldorf on top secret business to investigate an important matter connected to the mutants and the town, and they didn’t want the PCs killed, so thought they’d warn them of the lair so that the PCs could survive and kill the mutants. This solved one of the halfling’s problems, but left him still investigating this secret business. No, of course he couldn’t tell the PCs, but if he needed their help he would ask them.
The players seemed to believe this story, and at this point I broke one of the key rules for dealing with lies and illusions: I gave them an intuition check to notice he was lying. I wouldn’t usually do this, but a personal skill of mine is that I am very, very good at convincing people of things that aren’t true, and it didn’t seem fair to have the entire adventure’s outcome rest on my players not knowing about this bastard trait. Telling a lie like “this halfling and this dodgy giant are agents of Sigmar” is a doddle for a man who can tell the kinds of lies I have got away with. So it seemed fair that I should give them a saving throw vs. GM-is-a-bastard. Two of them succeeded, and after they left the room they told Suzette of their suspicions. They tried talking to the halfling’s third accomplice in the market area (surrounded by sausage!) but he was untalkative, and a bit suspicious, so they left it be. Nonetheless, the fact remained that whoever these people were, they had helped the PCs against the townsfolk.
Accomplices and lies
After this the PCs went to the home of Wilf Shwarzhaus, whose pipe they had found at Black Rock Keep. They got him talking long enough for Irezumi kun to hear his voice, and once they had confirmed he was indeed one of the conspirators they broke into his house, tied him up, beat him, and tortured him a little. He quickly told them all he knew – he thought that Schiller’s conspiracy was simple robbery, and had been charged with the task of selling adventurers’ items through his contacts in Altdorf, while Schiller disposed of the bodies. He had no idea that the bodies were being disposed of via the sausage festival, and was horrified at the idea. They stuffed him in a cupboard, and tried to figure out what to do next…
The Sausage Factory
All that remained was to investigate the sausage factory. Under cover of nightfall the PCs headed to the factory, sending Aruson ahead in stealth mode to investigate. Aruson, who never fails stealth rolls, fumbled this most crucial roll, and was noticed on the road to the factory by its owner, Schiller. He then tried to talk to Schiller as if he were a clown, and immediately failed his disguise roll as well. The result: Schiller now knew that his adventurers had returned and wanted to look at his factory. He called over 4 mercenaries and instructed them to take Aruson back to the marketplace and “make sure he didn’t return.” The look in his eyes seemed to suggest “sausagize the elf,” and at this point the players panicked. Suzette emerged from the shadows under the terrifying shroud of a Fearsome Visage spell, and in the mercenaries’ moment of terror Aruson slipped their grip and fled to the nearby river. He managed to hide before they came searching for him and, in a panic, Schiller had his mercenaries return with him to the marketplace. It was now only a matter of time before he returned in force to the factory, and the PCs were in bad shape already, not really in the kind of condition for taking on four mercenaries. They realized they needed to break into the factory and get incriminating evidence quickly, so they dashed there immediately, leaving the Roadwarden on watch while they searched the building. They soon uncovered the secret doors leading to the secret sausage room, and found the remains of two human corpses, preserved from the year before, and a pile of meat waiting to be sausagized for the morning’s final, most spectacular batch. They also found four empty barrels, obviously prepared for 4 new corpses… They took the barrels of remains upstairs, and before Schiller could do anything they ran to the marketplace, where the evening’s partying was in full swing. The roadwarden and Aruson hurled the remains from the barrels onto the dining tables, while Suzette yelled
Heideldorf Sausage is People!
One pickled head landed in a champagne cooler amongst a group of 4 young noblewomen, one of its pickled eyes bursting out and flopping onto a hat. Screams erupted! Pandemonium! Amongst this, Shultz stood on a table and began yelling, demanding that a group of villagers come with them to the sausage factory to see the evidence for themselves before Schiller could clear it away.
Unfortunately, Shultz was still dressed as a clown. The crowd pointed at him and yelled “But you’re a clown!”
While Shultz struggled to reveal his true magnificence as a wizard, and convince the crowd to come to the factory, the PCs realized Schiller would be rushing there to clean up the evidence. The roadwarden and Aruson dashed back to the factory, only to find two mercenaries standing at the front door. Aruson ran up to them and pointed out the uproar at the marketplace, suggesting they rush to help and implying grave danger for the town. The mercenaries hestitated, then called two more from inside and ran off to help. Thus freed from conflict, Aruson and the roadwarden jammed shut all the entrances to the factory and waited for Shultz and Suzette to arrive, which they eventually did with Dirk Moser, Manfred the witch-hunter, and a large group of angry townsfolk.
Sanity Checks All Around
At this point the PCs all drew an insanity card, but for some reason unfathomable to all but the gods of fate, they all succeeded their insanity checks. So hearty is this group of Brash Young Fools that even eating human meat, and the future possibility of becoming ghouls, does not deter them from their course! Still, they were quite exhausted and uninterested in further trouble, so they barricaded themselves inside Wilf’s house and slept until morning…
… which means they missed the events in the Dancing Dragon, and were woken at dawn by Dirk Moser, telling them that the innkeeper was missing and everyone in a state of panic.
The Mutant Frenzy
The characters agreed to help find the inkeeper, and soon discovered his body stuffed behind some barrels in the cellar of his own inn. He had been savaged by some animal, his throat ripped out and scratch marks left on his body by something with hands the size of … a halfling. The barrels he had been stuffed behind had been tampered with, and close inspection revealed some kind of powder residual around the wax seals, which had been broken. Investigating the breakfast foods revealed that they, too, had been tampered with. The PCs emerged to tell the entire assemblage of guests not to eat breakfast, because the food had been drugged, along with most of the tavern’s wine. At this point members of the crowd started pointing out that they had been drinking in the tavern until dawn, and had they drunk the poison?
The PCs soon discovered that yes, the worried punters had, as they began screaming, hallucinating and attacking each other. The PCs early intervention at breakfast had stopped the entire village from consuming the hallucinatory drug, and the few who had drunk late into the night were soon overpowered, though they still did some damage. While this was happening the PCs noticed the halfling, the giant and a third figure watching the whole affair from their room. They dashed up to the room and charged in, killing the halfling and the Giant immediately in a barrage of lightning, arrows and bullets. All that remained was a fantastically mutated human head, balanced on the windowsill on the remnants of its torso, and looking askance at them. Apparently able to speak telepathically, it offered them a huge amount of money in exchange for letting it go free, and revealed its history.
The head was once a crime boss in Altdorf, but two years ago he came to Heideldorf and ate the mutant-meat sausage served that year. He and his followers must have got an extra strong batch, because they subsequently all became chaos mutants. As his mutation progressed, the boss realized he was going to lose his former life and become a servant of Tzeentch. He and his followers decided to go to the Chaos Wastes to take on the short and brutal life of chaos mutants; but before they went, they would stop in Heideldorf and poison the town’s sausages with a specially-researched mutation powder, that would turn the entire village into mutants and cause them to destroy each other. This plot was foiled by the PCs, but then they decided to enact their fallback plan – putting a hallucinogenic drug in the party supplies and watching as everyone started killing each other. The simple reason: revenge. The crime boss wanted the entire village to be destroyed, and was willing to use the last of his mutant poison stock to do it. Then he would flee to the chaos wastes and live his life as a mutant.
He offered the PCs money to let him go. He had lots of money still in Altdorf, and contacts.
The PCs refused, and the Roadwarden shot the mutant head at point blank range, blowing it away. From outside they heard cries of rage and saw a gang of mutants cut and run – the mutant head had told the PCs the story merely as a diversion while he telepathically called his followers to his aid. The mutant head’s death gave the followers all the excuse they needed to flee and the PCs, exhausted and still badly injured, had no inclination to follow. They went downstairs and returned to the market to oversee the clean-up after the final battle, now over. They had saved the village not once but twice, killed 10 mutants, and nearly died into the bargain. A savage and gruelling adventure had drawn to its close.
This adventure could actually have been much more complex than is given here, with a whole additional sessions worth of supporting material to include. For reasons of real-world timelines I shortened it a little by leaving out a lot of stuff. The module is 56 pages of densely-packed, chaotic nasty, and well worth running if you want a realtively freeform and enjoyable but extremely unpleasant story to throw your players’ way. My players nearly failed the adventure thrice – they first thought of running away with the money once they survived the mutants; then they thought of sticking around to watch what happened for another day, in which case they would have seen the entire town mutate and turn on itself. They didn’t do this, but after they caught Schiller they nearly refused to search for the innkeeper, which would have had pretty much the same effect. So, one near TPK and three near failures in the main goal of the adventure – it’s a tough adventure, requiring a party with a good combat ability and excellent investigative powers, as well as a fairly solid commitment to catching evil plots. I think it offers a fairly solid challenge if run at a level to match the party.
Also, there’s a possibility that the PCs, the townsfolk or both will become ghouls in the future. What a great adventure!
fn1: This is a change of name from the original module, because in Japan a nose is said to be “tall,” not “long.”
fn2: These include convincing a friend whose brother lives in Japan that the Romans had extended their empire as far as Japan; convincing a student that in Beppu, Japan you can buy monkey sashimi (there are lots of monkeys here); convincing two students that I changed my hairstyle because in Australia there is a strict rule that every year men must change their hairstyle; and (this is the best!) convincing a friend of mine at a cherry-blossom-viewing party that one of the local hawks had carried off a small child, and we needed to get help. She was actually getting out her phone to call the emergency services before she realized that I was lying, and she only realized because my accomplice started laughing. I managed this particular deception despite having a reputation for this sort of thing.