Cut it off!

Cut it off!

This weekend with our group numbers severely depleted by extra-curricular activities we ran a Warhammer 3 (WFRP3) one-shot, with me GMing. I dug up the Warhammer 2 supplement, Children of the Horned Rat, which is a truly excellent piece of work and contains a neat little adventure at the end, Slaves of Destiny. Of course I ran it in WFRP3, because the Warhammer 2 system, though atmospheric, sucks. My players generated a pair of Dwarven heroes, with 5xp each, who were:

  • Raknar, a pit fighter, armed with a two-handed flail and clad in piecemeal chain-and-breastplate
  • Dvumir Brick-hearted,  an Ironbreaker, of course indistinguishable from all other Ironbreakers on account of his suit of Gromril armour

These two were marching west to Nuln late in the summer, having spent the summer fighting Orc nests in the Razkar mountains. They had acquitted themselves heroically and as a consequence were due to collect a prize and be honoured in Nuln. With no particularly pressing need to be anywhere, they were marching at a comfortable Dwarven pace (12 hours a day without stopping) from settlement to settlement, mostly following the main west road but, at the time the adventure starts, detouring on a narrower local road to the south due to flooding of the main road.

They were just passing around a small embankment when they stumbled on two beastmen munching on the body of a dying man. One beastman was a wargor, one a gor. It was a scene of horror, with the smaller gor chewing on a severed hand, and the larger wargor crouched above the still-twitching body, loops of the man’s guts hanging from its snarling lips. They both turned to look at Raknar and Dvumir at the same time, and with yells and snarls battle was joined.

The larger gor charged forward but didn’t engage immediately, instead stopping to let rip a terrifying roar. Raknar and Dvumir, though shaken, were not broken by the 3m tall beast’s frenzied snarling, and fell into a pattern of battle they were well used to. Dvumir presented shield and armour to the fore, taking the blows that the beast would rain down upon them, and Raknar, partially protected by his heavier friend, unleashed furious blows with his flail[1]. He broke the smaller Gor with two swings of that mighty chain, but even with Dvumir fending off and disrupting the heavier wargor’s attacks, Raknar still took a heavy beating before he finally managed to find a weak point and smash the wargor’s thigh, bringing it down. He then smashed the thing’s head in like a huge, overripe melon, and the battle was done.

Two dwarves beating a beastman Wargor adn Gor on a country road – alone! Very impressive![2]

They searched the bodies, and found only a most repulsive bejewelled necklace festooning the Wargor’s privates; this they carefully removed and sacked, to be cleansed by a priest at a nearby town. They then searched the body of the now-dead human, finding nothing except a few supplies, a few coins, and a letter. Of course they read the letter:

Dear A,

I had plans to pay you back but my last instalment is delayed. Dotterbach is sore beset by chaos and trade nigh impossible these last days. My payments being dead, I beg of you a small extension. Pray take no harsh measures against me ’till Chaos be vanquished! Help being hard to find, I pray you show respect to a town in dire need of mortal kindness.

Yours,

Kaspar

A town in need of aid from Chaos! What more could our pair of glory hounds want on a sunny late summer’s day than to find such a missive? (Except perhaps that the letter itself be slightly less blood-splattered).

Our heroes set off to the town of Dotterbach, which was three days’ easy march from the scene of the killing. By the time they reached Dotterbach Raknar was fully recovered, and three days later they stood on the hill near the town, looking over a pleasant hamlet bathed in late afternoon sunlight, a stream running through the middle of extensive sheep fields and a small cluster of houses. As idyllic a place as any might expect in these dark days of the Late Imperium – but what horrors lurked within?

Revolting slaves

Find-find, quick-quick!

Find-find, quick-quick!

Entering the town, they noticed that even though the sun had not yet set all the residents were indoors, doors shut despite the pleasant late evening warmth, and some peering uncomfortably out from behind their blinds and curtains. The town was silent where it should have been buzzing with the bleating of sheep returning to the fold, the streets empty of children at play or the sounds of people returning from work. Something was obviously amiss. They stopped at the tavern, The Naked Sheep, to find lodgings and a meal, and here fell quickly into conversation with the tavern owner, Abelhard. They were his sole guests, and he was forced to unlock the front door to let them in, but was welcoming enough when he realized that they were adventurers in town with a purpose. He told them the sorry tale of Dottenbach’s recent woes.

About three weeks ago sheep and goats from the town began to go missing, and about two weeks ago the miller and his family all disappeared. The people of the town bore up under this threat and fear for another week or so but the sheep kept going missing, and then strange sounds began to be heard at night – scratchings and the sounds of creatures moving around, sniffing at doors and windows. Now the townsfolk are trapped inside until the sun is high in the sky, and much of the work on preparing the summer’s shearings for market has been interrupted, leaving the townsfolk worried about their winter stores. No one is willing to work in the mill – or even knows how – so the fancy wool carding machine in the basement of the mill sits idle and the flour stores are beginning to run low. Then, about three nights ago, the head of the militia, sergeant Dilmar, was killed while patrolling some fields at the edge of town. Now the militia are in disarray and the townsfolk terrified. They need heroes to rescue them from some force of chaos that stalks their lands!

A good thing our stunty team were on hand. They offered to fix everything right in the morning, and sidled off to bed. During the night Raknar had a terrifying nightmare of crows eating sheep, and in the morning he woke convinced that the evil afoot was, in fact, a-wing, and the problem lay with crows[3]. Dvumir, in contrast, slept like a log and woke none the wiser to any events that might have unfolded during the hours of darkness. Still ignorant of the true cause of the towns troubles, they set off to meet Kaspar, the merchant whose letter they held.

They met Kaspar in his small manor house, which would be considered tatty and drafty in the towns of the north but here was no doubt prized as a genuine palace. He was warm and welcoming, and explained the situation with the letter very simply: he took a debt from a shady person, Mr A, a while back, and is unable to make his final repayment due to the troubles besetting the town. He expects now that, his man having not got through to Vinsilles, Mr A will be sending some men to have a chat with Kaspar. Kaspar made clear that he would appreciate any help in dealing with those men that the PCs might be willing to offer, and also told them to go and speak with the dubious Friar Eckel if they wished to help the town. Friar Eckel was a mendicant priest of Sigmar who had moved into the house of the mayor, Hofstetter, after he died, and was now making free with the mayor’s belongings, and possibly enjoying other privileges bestowed by the mayor’s wife, as well as increasingly acting like the de facto town leader. Kaspar explained this to them in obvious distaste.

They visited Eckel, and soon confirmed that he was both a coward and a lying scoundrel, making free with the town’s wealth and probably having his wicked, lascivious, very non-Sigmarite way with the mayor’s widow. Fortunately, however, a coward and his money are easily parted when a dwarven pit fighter raises his voice, and they left the mayor’s house with the information they needed, and 40 gold coins’ advance payment on the task of saving the town.

Their first stop was the mill, which was empty as expected. A quick search of mill and stable confirmed their suspicions, that the miller and his family had fled, taking their wagon and most of their most precious possessions with them. But why? Searching the grounds they found a clue soon enough – in a goat paddock behind the mill they found a metre-wide hole that opened into a tunnel leading into the moist earth. Being dwarves, they entered it without fear, and headed down this narrow and cramped tunnel into darkness. It stank like a charnel house, and they had to wrap cloths around their faces to keep out the stench, as well as lighting a candle against the inky black.

After about 10 metres’ descent they entered a low cave, perhaps 10m in diameter, with a muddy and filth-encrusted floor that was scattered with half-devoured corpses of sheep and bones. The stench came from here, and here too were the cause of the lost sheep. Six wretched, horribly disfigured and mutated men charged out of the shadows to attack our heroes. These pathetic men bore terrible scars and hideous warpings of flesh and bone, and they keened in rage as they attacked.

Moments later they were dead.

Raknar and Dvumir were searching the few scattered possessions of this motley band when they pulled back a filthy rug to reveal a seventh man, cowering amongst bags and sacks. He sprang back at their approach and yelled “Don’t I beg you! I am a man not a monster!” Since he was speaking Reikspiel with a reasonable accent they assented to give him a few moments of life to explain himself – and thus did they hear his terrible story.

The men they had killed were skavenslaves, the mutated and warpstone-afflicted toilers of the skaven under-empire. The man had been abducted perhaps 3 months ago from the streets of Nuln by a gang of skaven clanrats, and through trade, conflict and theft he had passed through many hands until he ended up in a warren near Dotternbach. Here he had been intended as a future mutant, to be put to fighting in the slave pits or working in some hideous mine, but while he waited he was kept near these six skavenslaves. They had found a way to escape, and when they fled he came with them. At first they threatened to kill him (skavenslaves become as warped as their masters, and have no mercy for each other), but they decided to keep him alive as a bargaining chip. He now lay in fear of his life again, because recently they had seen giant rats skulking amongst the hamlet, sure proof that a skaven slave-hunting gang was nearby looking for them – had the dwarves not found him he would surely have been offered as tribute or bait by the skavenslaves. The skavenslaves had not killed anyone in the town, though – they had taken only sheep, because they were desperately hungry. Their captive suspected that the skaven slave-hunters had killed Dilmar, and worse was to come – now that the slaves were dead they would no doubt attack the town to capture replacements.

Raknar and Dvumir looked at each other in the foul, dank gloom. The town stood in great threat – and they two were all that stood between humanity and a tidal wave of chittering, ravenous rat-horror.

The time had come to act!

[And here ended the session …]

fn1: basically Dvumir is incredibly hard to hit but can’t do much damage, while Raknar is more vulnerable. So the pattern is for Dvumir to act first with Improved Guarded Position, which makes Raknar harder to hit, and then Raknar to use Thunderous Blow. With this strategy Dvumir is almost impossible to hurt – he has soak 10 and defense 3, and anyone attempting to hit him will do so against 3 challenge dice and 5 misfortune dice (once defense and specializations are taken into account). But even attempting to attack Raknar they then face an extra challenge die on all attacks. It worked quite well.

fn2: Actually indicative of a problem in WFRP3, that the monster action cards are underpowered compared to the PC cards. I should have given the Wargor the Reckless Cleave card, but I didn’t do any preparation for this session and haven’t played WFRP3 for a year, so I forgot about this problem. And anyway if Raknar had been hit once more he’d have been unconscious, which would have left Dvumir in big, big trouble …

fn3: Chaos star on the observation check!

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