WFRP: The Purple Hand Clarification
Caution, the following post contains spoilers for The Enemy Within campaign, including Enemy in Shadows, Death on the Reik, and the beginning of Power Behind the Throne. If you have yet to read these books, or intend to play them, you have been warned!
Home is Where the Heart Is
I’ve asked our lovely marketing team to mark this post with as many warnings as possible, but I’ve also padded this paragraph to the point where you have no excuse if you choose to read on!
Recently, dedicated WFRP community member Ralph Kruhm got in touch with us to discuss some inconsistencies on exactly where the notorious Kastor Lieberung calls home. The eagle-eyed Ralph spotted that, while Enemy in Shadows clearly states that Kastor was once a member of the Nuln branch but now calls Middenheim home. The question of where exactly the supposed fortune he inherited was due to be delivered was unclear — was it Nuln, Altdorf, or Middenheim? This also raises the question of where, exactly, the head cell of the Purple Hand calls home. Is Nuln in absolute control of the cells in Middenheim and Altdorf, or does the Purple Hand rule from the Fauschlag?
I have spoken with some of the original WFRP authors and contributors about Kastor’s allegiance, and while certain intentions are perhaps lost to the mists of time, it’s fair to say that the Purple Hand itself is an organisation that is hard to pigeonhole. Their very nature is to serve change, and it's inevitable that some of this is reflected in their structure. I suspect that, at different times and in regards to different matters, members of both the Nuln and Middenheim branches have made claims that their cell is the one truly in charge. Now, that touch of hand-waving aside, here is my own interpretation of Kastor’s allegiance.
We know that Kastor once worked for the Nuln branch, but has since moved to Middenheim in fear that his cover was blown. This is sufficient muddying of the waters that both Middenheim and Nuln feel they have a claim on Kastor’s ‘inheritance’. Matters of rank aside, 20,000 Gold Crowns is 20,000 Gold Crowns, and would be useful to any cultist’s schemes. The Altdorf faction too, while it does not have a specific claim, is quite happy to wade in given that all of this is happening in their backyard. If Kastor were to end up in their custody, I very much doubt that any trace of his fortune, if it were real, would have made it out of the city. Thus, all three cells will have spent much of Enemy in Shadows and Death on the Reik attempting to get their hands on the rogue magister — not that the players will have appreciated this diversity in the agents sent to hunt them.
However, by the end of Death on the Reik, ‘Kastor’ has caused enough trouble that both the Purple Hand in Nuln and Altdorf would be happy to see him returned to Middenheim — better that any fallout from his activities end up there. In any case, it has become quite clear that the money has either been lost, spent, or hidden away. Certainly he is not carrying it about his person, and agents sent after him have a nasty habit of turning up dead. Best to let Middenheim look after their own...
Why is this relevant?
Despite happening in the background, it could have interesting in-game effects. To the players, the Purple Hand will initially seem to be a monolithic and omnipresent group with a single mind and goal. However, during events later in the campaign, they may become aware that the Purple Hand is not of one mind on every issue. What’s the knock on effect? If players learn enough about the Purple Hand to play up these differences (for example, by having ‘Kastor’ claim to the Middenheim group that the entire affair with the inheritance is some kind of Nuln plot to smear him), I think that GMs should give grant the player a little leeway — at least until the issue rises to any higher ups who know better. This version of events is not implausible, as any Tzeentchian cult would be rife with such internal intrigue, the theory being that those most adept at navigating such Byzantine plots would be favoured by the Changer and best suited to serve him in any case.
This could lead to some interesting moments, with canny players setting one group of Purple Hand thugs against another. As most of the Purple Hand’s agents are almost as in the dark as the players about the cults specific plans and objects, there is little chance of this disrupting the game outright, and indeed may provide the opportunity to drop some hints to a struggling party. I personally enjoy this kind of intrigue in my games, and it would certainly make a change from every person in a purple vest muttering veiled threats before attempting to stab someone in the throat. Such escapades are also excellent fuel for tension, as one never knows when the ruse will fail and someone with actual authority will wander along to set things straight in the most explosive way possible.
I hope that’s somewhat satisfactory, Ralph! As you pointed out in Death on the Reik, we did miss a couple of lines that suggested Kastor being variously beholden to either Nuln or Middenheim, and also managed to suggest that the central leadership was in Altdorf! These have been adjusted prior to print, but as they hinted at an interesting aspect of the Purple Hand’s in-game power structure, I thought it was worth a few more words here.
Thanks to Ralph and the WFRP community at large for their input — while we can’t address every point, WFRP has enjoyed strong engagement from it’s community for decades, and has always been much the richer for it.
–Pádraig Murphy, WFRP Producer.
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