WFRP: Rough an’ (Almost) Ready
Like many of you out there, I’m eagerly awaiting when Rough Nights & Hard Days is delivered to my door. I have it on good authority that it’s speeding to me as I write these words, so naturally, my mind is preoccupied with how I’m going to run it!
For those who have already read the PDF, you’ll know we included several different ways to use the five adventures it contains. For my tastes, I’m going to go with the first option the book offers: run them in sequence as a campaign, with the Characters working for the gravin!
I’m not the only one who is taking this option; I’ve seen folks online discussing how it might be done to best effect. Naturally — because I overthink everything — I’ve given this a lot of thought myself, and I thought it might be interesting to share my own plans. The following plan also serves as an example for new GMs of one possible way of structuring a campaign, so buckle up as it’s going to get rough!
(Needless to say, the following post contains SPOILERS! I’ve tried to keep them to a minimum, but there’s only so much one can do!)
Let’s begin by examining the working parts. Who are my Characters? What are the adventures? What are the campaign’s themes? Are there any threads in or out that I can exploit?
Were I picking the book up for the first time, I’d make sure to read it cover-to-cover at this stage. I’d have a notepad next to me, and a bunch of sticky notes that I can pop all over the book. Anything that takes my interest, I’d scribble down or bookmark to reference again later. But I know the book quite well, now, so I’m ready to move to the next steps.
Tailoring a Campaign to your Characters
That first question is hugely important. Are the PCs coming into this campaign pre-established? Are they new Characters? Are they being created at the table?
I like to decide, early on, as a group, if the Characters are going to come before or after the campaign has been planned.
- If the Characters are made before the campaign is planned, then the game can be perfectly suited to who the Players create… but it is likely to be more disparate, as the Players don’t have much to work with when creating their PCs.
- If the campaign is planned before the Characters are made, then the PCs can be created to tie in nicely with the story, so long as the GM pitches the campaign well to the Players.
Also remember that anything created — by a Player or the GM — isn’t set in stone! If a Player creates a Character that conflicts slightly with the campaign plan, either or both can be tweaked to fit. This is still the case with published adventures like Rough Nights & Hard Days — no one needs to know what happens at your table except the people playing at it!
For my purposes, I’m going to plan out a rough sketch of the campaign (this article), and then have a Session #0 where I pitch it to my Players, and then we all sit around and make Characters together to fit in with it. Whilst that Session #0 is ongoing, I’ll make notes and fill in the blank spaces of that rough campaign plan. A little from both options goes a long way! This is also where I’ll examine the threads going in and out to see if I can reinforce the themes of the campaign (I’ll get to that in a moment) with the Characters themselves. There are lots of NPCs across the five adventures, from all walks of the Old World, so I’m certain we can tie a few things together! Not to mention, if I have need of a few new NPCs, I can just whip them up.
I go into more detail about Session #0, what it means, and what it can do for your campaigns in the upcoming Gamemaster’s Guide, so check it out when it hits shelves!
Examining the Adventures
Rough Nights & Hard Days gives us five adventures that occur in chronological order, which are guided by an external patron, but are themselves largely open ended and freeform. This makes the campaign somewhat strange — we know what happens next because the Characters’ boss has her own agenda and schedule, but we don’t necessarily know how that next event is going to occur, and what the fall-out of the PCs’ actions are going to be. This is great fodder for a GM, because it makes the planning easy, and lets future — and intervening adventures — take on a reactive role.
This, combined with the fact that the five adventures follow similar cadences (all lovingly supporting the farcical, haphazard nature of Graeme’s first adventure in the campaign, A Rough Night at the Three Feathers means that the campaign benefits from a lot of downtime between adventures. Luckily, I have my often-talked-about favourite chapter between Adventures to keep me going!
But there is also a lot of travel following the campaign map of Rough Nights & Hard Days, and one thing that should never be overlooked is the sheer size of the Warhammer World. To get this across, I want to make sure there is a real stretch between each of the core adventures in the campaign, so I intend to throw in a few side-adventures (which I will get to later).
Assessing the Themes
I like to take a moment to assess the themes the campaign is putting forward, and to tweak them to my — and my group’s — personal tastes. Some campaigns present themselves as very dark or very light-hearted, some very violent whilst others quite restrained. One of the beauties of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is that all of these themes and styles play nicely together! But some groups favour some aspects of the setting more than others, and it’s always best to lean into your group’s preferences rather than stick with what an adventure book offers.
Remember the Golden Rule on page 149, the Great Game Rules on page 151, and the General Advice to GMs on page 259, all in the core book! If not, I suggest quickly re-reading these sections again.
Rough Nights & Hard Days plays heavily into the farce tone that WFRP often adopts, and does a wonderful job of modelling an almost Fawlty Towers-like experience. But Rough Nights also features a lot of commentary on social and political inequality — the privileges of the rich over the poor, the legal protections given to the nobility, the obligations of noble scions over their desires, the progressive vs. conservative battle when it comes to self-determination and expression, the treatment of neuro- and physically-atypical people in a society that values strict adherence to “the norm”.
Which is to say, the campaign is my cup of tea! This sort of commentary is wonderful when baked into farce, because it lets us laugh whilst dealing with very serious issues, but also lets us laugh at those serious issues in a way that allows us to see just how ridiculous our real world is. It also means we have a great chance for some truly oddball Characters! The PCs should come from the fringes, and play up those themes. This can act as an impetus for adventure, but also a reason the gravin gravitates to them — she sees a kinship, a kindred spirit of defiance, and trusts the Characters to act (perhaps not wisely, but) interestingly.
Great fodder. I’ll make a note of this, and be sure to stress it during Session #0!
Building My Plan
Alright! We know what we’re working with now, so we can get down to the actual plan. What, loosely, will this campaign look like?
First, a full read-through of the book with note-taking. During this time, I’ll record things I definitely want to riff on more, and places to tie into the Characters.
Example: The Witch Hunter Matthias Hubkind’s story is one that I find interesting, and I think my Players might enjoy, so I scribble down a note for him.
Next, run a Session #0 where I pitch the campaign with the themes outlined above, and we all make Characters. Whilst everyone is talking, I’ll make more notes, and push any of the ideas that I noted down during my read-through that make sense.
Example: Kate mentions she wants to play a Witch who was once an apprentice witch hunter who fled her master when she developed the spark of magical talent as a child many years ago. Her master never discovered the reason for her desertion, but will probably be unkind to her if he ever sees her again. I ask Kate if she minds me using her master as an NPC, and she agrees enthusiastically. I note that Matthias Hubkind was that master!
For thematic symmetry, and because I think the adventure does a wonderful job of introducing the themes of Warhammer, I’m actually going to start this campaign off in media res with the adventure Night of Blood. The Characters will be stopping off there whilst completing another job — delivering a packet of mail to the Three Feathers in the next adventure — but are waylaid and have to spend the night at the Hanged Man. This adventure takes only a few hours, so will almost certainly be over with in a single evening. Furthermore, I might tweak it slightly and change the cult — and the Daemon — to one following Slaanesh to give an early lead into the cultist sub-plot throughout Rough Nights & Hard Days. Furthermore, the packet of mail is destined for the gravin and her lawyer, and contains details for the coming campaign. If the Characters break the seals and read the letters, they gain access to some early foreshadowing. But either way, this acts as a convenient introduction to the gravin’s lawyer early in the next adventure, and sets everything up nicely.
Session #2 will be A Rough Night at the Three Feathers, with the Characters delivering the mail, then finding themselves stuck in the middle of everything. From this point, I’ll run the adventure as normal, but will make sure the gravin takes a shine to the PCs, and hires them by the end.
Then, whilst travelling to the next adventure site (Kemperbad, for A Day at the Trials), we will have a Between Adventures phase, where the Characters can spend some time in various small villages up the Reik, and engage in Endeavours.
This establishes the cadence for the rest of the campaign: side-adventure, main adventure, downtime, repeat. I’ll likely rope in a few more published adventures — such as The Madmen of Gotheim. For example, the gravin’s procession is running low on supplies, and stops three days march from the village of Gotheim. Meanwhile, the Characters are sent up a tributary river to purchase some cosmetics that are made especially in the little village, only to embroil themselves in the strife there. The gravin will be furious if they return without her goods, so they’re forced to solve whatever fresh hells plague the people of Gotheim!
Maybe later I could run a slightly modified If Looks Could Kill. I might make the timeline of the whole campaign a little more lax, with the gravin given over to fancies of staying in villages as part of her ‘holiday’ around the Empire, whilst sending the PCs out on errands. For any gaps in this rhythm, I’ll look to Adventure Afoot in the Reikland, and expand out whatever adventure hook makes sense using this method. More substantial side-adventures can also have a downtime phase after them, but only if they last more than a single session.
All in all, we’re looking at over 20 sessions of play with this campaign, which should last my group 6 to 9 months or so. Knowing how they like to go off the path a little, whilst still being leashed to the gravin, will mean there’s plenty of opportunity for other nonsense that could have this campaign continue for a lot longer than that. And that’s all before the Characters get to Ubersreik in the final adventure, and we crack open the Starter Set for the next batch of adventures!
The Best Laid Plans…
I hope you enjoyed this look at how I’m planning to run Rough Nights & Hard Days, and that it helps you with your own endeavours. And if you’re like me, sitting eagerly by the mail slot right now for your own copy of the book, then you might enjoy listening to Graeme’s podcast on the subject.
Let us know on our social media channels how you’re intending to use the campaign, and if your Players have already made a mess of things at the Three Feathers!
Until next time! (And until I get my hands on the promised tome!)
WFRP Assistant Producer
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