Date Posted: 12-06-2019

WFRP: By Hook or By Crook (Part #2)


C7 writer Ben Scerri has another great post for you to sink your teeth into this week, so make a cuppa and get stuck in! You can also join the chat on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to let us know what you think!

Hello, everyone! It’s time for the exciting conclusion to our last blog post where we started making a whole adventure from a short hook from the free supplement Adventure Afoot in the Reikland. Last week we covered the Starting Situation, and the Cast of Characters, so today we’re going to talk about our Scenes and Planning for the Unexpected!

Step #3: Set the Scene

Whilst I’m a big fan of improvised play, and believe you could run an adventure with what has already been written in the last post, I also enjoy prep (and I know I’m not the only one). However, some GMs aren’t comfortable winging things as much as others, and that’s fine too. There’s no right way to be a GM, so let’s set some Scenes down for this adventure we’ve been building.

There are six Scenes that are almost certain to occur:

  1. The Characters get the job
  2. The Characters investigate Dorothie Dietrich’s restaurant
  3. The Characters discover Dietrich is a Grey Wizard, and that there are Skaven in Stimmigen
  4. Haendel whips up a crowd and it turns ugly, but fizzles out
  5. The Characters track down and confront the Skaven
  6. Haendel whips up a larger crowd, and Stimmigen turns into a battlefield!

After that, we have our finale. Judging by that summary, I would expect the adventure to take between 2 and 3 sessions to play, meaning we should have a satisfying ‘Cliffhanger’ planned for Scenes 2, 3, 4, and 6.

Each Scene, broadly, needs to do three things:

  • introduce or reinforce the conflict
  • reveal more of the truth
  • demand follow-up action from the Characters.

Scene #1: Getting the Job

This first Scene is pretty simple: it’s where the Characters get the job off of Ella Langeweile, and learn about the rat-mutant thumbs in the stew. Let’s set it in Langeweile’s office in the Town Hall. So, lots of parchment, clerks, books, that sort of thing. Let’s paint the picture of a very boring bureaucrat whose job has become annoyingly complicated of late. There is a really long line to see Langeweile, with lots of overreacting merchants demanding satisfaction.

‘Look, I know she’s a busy person, but this wait is ridiculous…

When the Characters finally get into Langeweile’s office, she looks irritated and is very short with them. She offers them the job, and the pay, and is willing to haggle to get the job done quickly and quietly. 2 Gold Crowns per Character is probably a good price point. It tells the Characters that she’s serious, but a businesswoman at heart.

During the Scene, Langeweile needs to tell the Characters the following pieces of information:

  • ‘Pinny’, a Halfling, is a very successful restauranteur in town
  • Haendel discovered, ‘what looked to be a pair of human thumbs with rat-like claws floating in his stew’
  • Haendel is calling for the lynching of Pinny, and all around causing a right fuss in town, which is whipping up hysteria among the previous patrons of the restaurant (which is almost everyone in Stimmigen)
  • Finally, she wants the matter dealt with as quietly and quickly as possible.

The Characters now have two very obvious leads from this: 1) investigate the restaurant, and 2) talk to Haendel. For 1, we’ll go to Scene #2. For 2, we’ll just start Scene #4 early.

Scene #2: Investigating the Restaurant

The Characters are almost certainly going to investigate Pinny’s restaurant — whether by speaking to her directly, or, more likely, by sneaking inside. Let’s say, with all the heat Dietrich is getting, she has closed the restaurant, and refuses to see visitors. She’s trying to lay low and figure this mess out herself, so the Characters are forced to break in. She is especially concerned about word getting back to the Grey College about the Diamond Amaranth being stolen, so is doing everything she can to conceal her identity.

It’s worth having a map of the restaurant to aid play. If you have Buildings of the Reikland, The Drum and Hat works well as a stand in. Otherwise, you can just sketch up a simple restaurant and dwelling for Dietrich, or find a similar map with a quick Google search. All we really need is a room with tables and chairs, a kitchen, a cellar with sewer-access, and some private rooms for Dietrich.

‘I always wonder how taverns in the Old World get their names. Of course, some are more creative than others…’

When the Characters break in, allow them to find no evidence of any tampering in the kitchen. Everything is clean and in proper order. Allow them to find the sewer-entrance with a Test, but it shouldn’t be difficult. However, a difficult Test will reveal that it has been used recently and frequently. After a few minutes investigating around, Dietrich should get the drop on the Characters and confront them (maybe even using magic against them, assuming that they are trying to attack her).

If the Session ends here, this would be a great time to have a flash of magic go off, and to leave a cliffhanger. No one will know where it came from, and there will be a LOT of confusion (because there’s no such thing as a Halfling Wizard, right?) However, if play continues, go to Scene #3.

Scene #3: Face to Face with Dietrich

During this Scene, the Characters need to learn the truth — at least from Dietrich’s perspective. There are Skaven in town, she is trying to get her hands on the Diamond Amaranth, and that she did not put the Skaven thumbs in the stew…

This Scene should play organically. Likely, there will be a very short, non-lethal Combat, as the Characters scramble in the face of magic. Very quickly, everyone will realise that ‘Pinny’ isn’t actually a Halfling. If the Characters can explain themselves, Dietrich will reveal her identity (before quickly assuming the disguise once more), and her quest (though only enough to convince the Characters to help her). Dietrich is unwilling to risk herself too much, so will concoct as many lies as she needs to convince the Characters that only they can help her, and that she needs to maintain her cover.

‘If the Characters get too mouthy with Dietrich, don’t hesitate to hit them with a little magical incentive.’

This will mostly be a talking Scene, so it’s a good idea to interrupt it if it goes on for too long with Scene #4. This can also act as a cliffhanger, when suddenly, there is a loud smashing noise at the front of the restaurant, and chanting coming from outside!

Scene #4: Haendel is Out of Hand

Haendel has whipped up a crowd outside ‘Pinny’s’ restaurant, and they are smashing up the place, and calling for blood. It should be made apparent to the Characters that there aren’t any Halflings in the crowd, but there are a few Halflings observing the destruction with worried expressions while the Humans in the crowd throw jeers at them.

If the Characters came straight to Haendel, play this Scene before Scenes #2 and #3, otherwise, the Characters emerge with Dietrich from the restaurant, and there is a quick showdown. Haendel tries to goad the crowd into lynching Dietrich, but they’re not that riled up. Everyone is angry, but they’re not baying for blood, yet at least. Dietrich tries to calm them down, but her sardonic laughter only makes them more mad.

Likely, the Characters will try to be the voice of reason, here… Or, more likely, they’ll make everything so much worse! Either way, Dietrich should try to bring them back inside her restaurant, either because she already has them on side, or she recognises them as people who can help her. At the same time, the Watch and guards from the Cultural Concern break up the crowd, and Haendel retreats for now.

Scene #5: Hunting Skaven

However the Characters came to this point, Dietrich will tell them she needs them to go hunting for the Skaven, or ‘ratty Beastmen’ as she calls them. Only by tracking them down, and finding the Diamond Amaranth will a) the townsfolk be satisfied (when they see the dead ratman), or b) will Dietrich flee, allowing the town to ineffectually chase after her and dispel their pent up anger. Dietrich will bring the Characters to the sewers, and send them into the darkness to track the Skaven by themselves.

Again, a map of the sewers would be great, and you can feel free to stock this scene with all manner of nasty encounters. In fact, if the Characters are likely to stay in Stimmigen for a little while, this is the perfect opportunity to foreshadow adventures to come!

They say ‘as above, so below’ but if that’s the case and the streets look this terrible? I’d hate to imagine how awful the sewers are!’

Eventually, the Characters find the Skaven lair, and do battle. This is likely a brutal fight, given how many of them there are, so feel free to have some out searching for food, only to arrive half-way through the fight. Remember also that Skaven Clanrats are skittish, so are likely run away at the first sign of trouble!

Before the battle is over, Znaskot Snapspine should try surrendering, offering the Diamond Amaranth as payment for his life. If the Characters don’t yet know what it does, he explains the diamond’s magic, trying to goad them into his deal. This should be played up as a chance for the Characters to show their morals: earn an incredibly powerful magical item, or do the right thing?

Eventually, one way or another, the Characters will get the Diamond Amaranth, and will emerge from the sewers into Scene #6.

Scene #6: The Lynch Mob

When the Characters come back topside, they will discover that Haendel has whipped up a larger mob, and the Watch can’t do anything to stop them. This Scene should be played quite loose, with the action focusing on what the Characters want to do:

  • If they want to help Dietrich, this will become a combat with Haendel and some of his goons. Alternately, it could become a Pursuit, as the Characters and Dietrich attempt to flee the town.
  • If the Characters want to keep the Diamond Amaranth, and throw Dietrich under the proverbial bus, then this is likely the end of the adventure, and the Characters will just have to deal with the fallout.
Scene from WFRP4 Stater Set

However it goes, the mob will become violent towards not just Dietrich, but Stimmigen’s Halfling community as well, due to Haendel’s fiery words. For added effect, why not let the Characters in on Haendel’s corruption. Maybe an Icon of Khorne slips out from his shirt, and only the Characters see it.

And there we have it!

With these six Scenes in place, it’s just a matter of guiding the Characters through them and improvising based on how they react. It’s entirely possible that your Players will go a different route, so make sure to tailor your adventure flow in line with how your Players normally react.

But, there are a few things we can do to cover some edge cases, which can help during our preparation (especially if we’re intending to publish our adventures for other people to play through). So, let’s think critically about the Scenes, and go on to Step #4: Plan for the Unexpected!

Step #4: Plan for the Unexpected

This Step is all about reviewing what you’ve written, and poking holes in it. In writing and design circles, we call these ‘edge cases’ — AKA ‘What ifs’. Whilst there’s never going to be a time when you can cover every edge case (and honestly, reading such an adventure would give even the most fastidious Dwarf Loremaster a headache), so I’m just going to point out a couple I saw, and give you an example of what these sorts of edge cases look like:

  • Whilst Dietrich’s glamour is powerful, will it hold up to the standards of a Halfling? If a Halfling ever meets ‘Pinny’ face to face, they will be able to perform an Average (+20) Perception Test to see through the ruse and immediately know that she’s an imposter! Furthermore, Halflings care a lot about genealogy and familial ties, with most Halflings growing up learning the names of the Halfling Clans in their province and beyond. If there are any Halflings in the party, they will immediately know that ‘Applebee’ isn’t one of the known Halfling Clans in the area, so should be suspicious.
  • Any Character with the Second Sight or Magical Sense Talents should get a sense that something magical is going on inside Dietrich’s restaurant. If the Character also has Lore (Magic), they will be able to recall that there aren’t any Halfling Wizards, and that Halflings can’t cast magic! Additionally, these Talents might show off some weird signs when the Character encounters Haendel — given his Chaotic affiliations — but remember that Khorne doesn’t grant magical abilities to his followers, so keep these vague and subtle…
  • Players might have objections to agreeing to Snapspine’s bargain, and dismiss it out of hand. Whilst this is fine, it’s worth reminding any Character with the Haggle or Evaluate Skills that a magical artifact like the Diamond Amaranth could earn them enough gold to live like a noble for the rest of their days… However, a Character from the Rogue Class will know that finding a Fence for such an object would be an adventure in itself, and who knows who might come looking for the Characters if word gets out what they have!

Thinking outside the box on these sorts of edge cases will help reinforce the main adventure, even if none of them come up in play. They also might inspire you for future adventures down the line! For example, what if rumour gets around that the Characters did steal the Diamond Amaranth, even if they gave it back? Soon, all hell would rain down on the Characters’ heads.

Adventure Writing = Colliding Characters

As the above clearly shows, most of adventure writing is just throwing different Characters against each other. If you do Steps #1 and #2 well, Steps #3 and #4 pretty much write themselves. Just imagine what the NPCs would do, and what the Players will probably do, and plan around that. The more you GM for a group, the more accurate your predictions will become, but never forget that roleplaying games are about playing to find out what happens, so plan to be surprised!

Let us know on our social media channels what you think of this short adventure, and how you might have written it differently, or let us know if you’ve been expanding any hooks into full adventures since last time!