Thursday, 31 December 2020

A Virtual Year

And so, we come to the end of 2020…

Painting, modelling and wargaming have been a no-go for me this year, what with increasing stuff at work, the pandemic, home-working, home-schooling, home improvements and building work all taking up precious time, space and energy.

While Frostgrave-related activity as been virtually nil, I, like many others, have embraced the world of online gaming.

No, I don’t mean getting shot to pieces by a twelve-year-old on Call of Duty or Fortnight, but online role-playing. You’ve read (and hopefully enjoyed) some of my Call of Cthulhu exploits, but I thought I’d round off the year with something more in the realm of fantasy – my grim and perilous adventures in the world of Warhammer Fantasy Role-play (WFRP).

Oh, and, this being a post about virtual things, I shall provide illustrations, not with physical miniatures lovingly painted by me, but with virtual miniatures of our player-characters and other NPCs. We’ve been able to reproduce our characters virtually, courtesy of Heroforge (other websites are available). So far, I’ve resisted the urge to order a physical, coloured copy of my character (or find someone to print it out for me), but if I succumb, I’ll post it on here – it’d be interesting to compare it to a ‘proper’ figure.

Anyway, on with the tale of Oswald Ruckenstark (WARNING: contains spoilers!)

Oswald Ruckenstark

Here he is: all 7’ of him. In WFRP you can choose or roll randomly for your character’s race, profession and such (as you gain more XP for the latter, this is the option I chose). Going through the character generation process I ended up with Oswald: a tall, rangy, boat hook wielding Human stevedore. Strong in arm and thick in head.

Tiring of the quiet life of a small riverside village, he met another PC; a Halfling ‘entrepreneur’ called Shifty, who hired Oswald as a porter/bodyguard/general dogsbody. Wandering the Empire in search of opportunity, they eventually found themselves in the city of Ubersreik, where we attempted to establish ourselves and earn some coin.

After one particularly good week, we decided to celebrate. After a cracking pub-crawl we awoke, heads splitting, in a doss-house among the rookeries of Spittlefields. This is where the story proper began. What was that banging sound? Why was someone nailing shut all the doors and windows… from the outside?

Together with two more PCs: a messenger by the name of Staigh and Abelard von Nirgends: graverobber, we soon discovered that the building was wracked with plague! The place had been nailed up by the city authorities, and anyone who tried to escape would be met with a hail of crossbow bolts from the City Watch who ringed the tottering tenement.

Shifty the Halfling

After some amateurish detective work, we discovered that the source of the plague was a crazed vampire who lurked in the old passages below the building; attacking its victims from the ductwork that riddled the crumbling walls. Locating this feral beast, we managed to overcome it, largely by pelting it with rubbish until Abel, showing an uncanny knack for getting away with the most madcap schemes, managed to jam a piece of garlic into its mouth. Luckily this stopped the vampire from automatically healing itself, allowing us to batter it to death.

Thus established as local heroes, we took lodgings in the dilapidated tenement (pooling the few brass pfennigs we were able to earn in our modest careers). Our poverty didn’t stop us from window shopping though, and on one fateful day we took to the Marketplatz in the hope of finding a bargain. Perhaps we could make contacts among the artisans that plied their wares and improve our lot?

Alas it was not to be, for soon a scuffle broke out between the market-goers and a troupe of travelling players. We were quickly caught up in the resultant riot, throwing punches, slipping on pies and, for some, taking the opportunity to pilfer a few coins. Among the chaos we noticed a young noblewoman being threatened by some thugs. Wading through the crowd, we quickly dispatched the villains and rescued the girl!

However, alas, our gallantry went unrewarded! A popular fire-eater was shot dead during the ruckus. We did in fact spot the perpetrator: a vicious-looking crossbowman with a milky eye; but the City Watch, arriving to arrest all and sundry, accused us of the murder! Soon we stood before the judge, our pleas of innocence ignored as much as the overwhelming evidence that proved as much.

Abelard von Nirgends

Just as it looked like we were heading for the scaffold, a lawyer appeared – a very famous and expensive one at that! Hired by the noble family whose daughter we rescued, she managed to commute our sentence to three years’ unpaid indenture in the Watch, starting immediately. The next day we were marched to the Watch barracks to begin our new job.

We were put under the wing of Sergeant Rudi Klumpenklug, a seemingly jovial man, who would report on our conduct to his superiors. Failure to meet his approval would see us back on the chopping block. He eased us into our Watch duties gently at first, but, as we followed him around as he doled out ‘fines’, we realised that he was more corrupt than the rest of the Watch put together! Moreover, as we helped put out fires, stop pub brawls and apprehending thieves, it was Rudi who coolly took all the credit!

Balking under Rudi’s dominance, we made the best of the situation as we could. Although he kept the cushier patrols for himself (whilst taking his cut of any ‘fines’ we collected), our reputation among the poor of Spittlefields meant that our rounds weren’t too onerous. However, we soon began to face bigger challenges, starting off with the case of a missing father who, it transpired, had been eaten by a rampaging River Troll. The fight against this monster was a hard one, but eventually we prevailed (Oswald wears a Troll’s ear necklace to this day).

We were then called upon to help a merchant, who had suspicions about a big-money deal he had going with a Dwarf middle-man. After investigating as best we could, we discovered that the merchant was in fact a conman, working in league with the Dwarf, who was actually a big-time criminal, to swindle a handful of rich merchants! Enlisting the help of the inhabitants of the Dwarven Quarter, we exposed the plot, but were unable to save the lives of the merchants.

Thoroughly fed up with our lives in the Watch, where opportunities for honest advancement were few, we decided to prove our innocence. By owing a few favours to the local crime lord, we were able to lure the milky-eyed assassin to an empty warehouse. However, he refused to answer our questions and, after a tough fight, we had nothing to show for our efforts but his mutated corpse. At least, upon the discovery that he was a mutant, we managed to forge a wanted poster for the guy and claim a reward!

Our next job took us out of the city. We were to assist a nobleman in shaping up his recently-acquired hunting lodge and its lackadaisical staff. Travelling with his agent (and new PC) Fridolf Wechter, we fought off a Beastman ambush to reach the place and its suspiciously sleepy inhabitants.

Fridolf Wechter

Soon we unearthed an evil magic painting and the machinations of Chaos cultists, who managed to summon a demon, just as the Beastmen attacked the lodge! After a hard and bitter fight, we managed to see off the Beastmen, kill the cultists and send the demon back to the realm it was spawned from. Battered and bruised, we continued into the countryside, looking for a missing relative of Fridolf’s.

We found the relative’s village almost razed to the ground; its surviving inhabitant’s stark raving mad. After foiling the villagers’ self-destructive schemes, we traced the source of the devastation to a nearby cave, in which lurked a terrifying, gigantic Jabberslythe! The fight did not go as well as planned (thanks to the creature’s acidic blood and the terror it inflicted on its would-be assailants) but eventually we prevailed.

Wearily resuming our Watch duties in the city, we awoke one morning to fins that Staigh had mysteriously disappeared (taking one of Oswald’s boots with him). Before we could find him, we were summoned by Watch captain (word of our recent heroics having reached our superiors). Apparently, a notorious murderer had escaped execution twice. We were to escort him to the block for the third attempt (which, if failed, meant he would go free). Should we succeed, we would be freed from our bondage!

Investigating the man’s background, we discovered that the murders were in self-defence, and that his victims were actually mutants! Still, we had a job to do; but as we escorted the man to his place of execution we were ambushed by more mutants. For some reason they claimed the man as their own, despite his refusal to join them. We fought off these vile creatures and our brave actions not only persuaded the authorities to free the man, but also to pardon us! Finally, we were at liberty!

Tired of working at the docks, Oswald had for a while been spending his free time on the amateur boxing circuit, hoping to become a famous Pit Fighter. During one bout at a local inn, Shifty, Abel and Frid watched as he was soundly trounced by a female fighter. It was here that we fell in with the latest PC: a halfling thief by the name of Clepto.

Clepto the Halfling

With no Watch duties to perform, Oswald was able to continue his fighting career, earning a place in the ring at a local fayre. While the others sampled the various wares, tried a spot of pickpocketing and nearly died in the resultant brawl, Oswald (AKA 'The Boat Hook') prepared to fight. Eventually, after a tussle with a vengeful Goblin assassin, our heroes went to cheer on their friend.

Alas his opponent had eaten a dodgy pie, but rather than cancel the fight, Oswald was forced to fight the Halfling pie seller. Now she had struck up a friendship with Shifty, who leapt into the arena to defend her against his friend. Dismayed, Oswald pulled his punches, but it was the Halflings’ skill with a ladle that defeated the would-be fighter! 

Suddenly, the fight became dangerous as a pack of mutated dogs were mysteriously let into the ring. Yet another battle commenced and it was a hard slog to defeat the slavering animals. Eventually the battle was won, however, and we limped back to the city with a hefty bag of winnings (the odds of a Halfling beating a huge stevedore being rather high).

Free to roam the city, continue our trades and try to improve ourselves (clearly the Gods didn't want Oswald to become a Pit Fighter, so he continued working his way up the Stevedore's Guild), we were soon hired by the Merchant’s Guild to investigate a certain cheesemaker, who was buying all the milk he could lay his hands on. The Guild’s own investigator had mysteriously gone missing and the reward was a substantial one.

After a twisting and prolonged investigation, we uncovered a bizarre tale of kidnapping, murder, mutation and cheese which led us down into the sewers and a confrontation with a mythical race of rat-men known as Skaven! Fighting these creatures in their own environment was very risky and the threat of a violent death in the rank sewers was real. In fact, this was the last time we saw Abel: falling into the filth when his madcap schemes finally got the better of him.

Slowly we recovered from our ordeal, but other trials lay ahead. In order to defeat the mutants, we were forced to report the incident to the local Witchfinders. Alas, this put us squarely in their sights – in their fanaticism they saw us as possible Chaos worshippers ourselves! It was time to leave Ubersreik and start a new life elsewhere.

Sister Loren

Luckily, we had been hired by the representative of one of the many coaching companies to investigate a rival firm, who he suspected of sabotage. We were to travel by road towards the Imperial capital Altdorf and locate a missing coach. Joining us would be a new PC: Sister Loren Eisenhardt; a herbalist-turned priestess who had reasons of her own to leave the city.

En-route we scrapped with a group of thugs who accused us of being sympathetic to the Imperial authorities that had stamped its authority on Ubersreik. Seeing them off, the long journey was interspersed with drunken antics, trouser-less bandits and a case of mistaken identity before we discovered that the missing coach had been ambushed by a marauding band of Goblins, whom we promptly scattered. Disappointed that we hadn’t pinned this on his rival, our employer refused to pay us and escaped to Aldorf, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere…

These sessions have taken us through the scenarios in the WFRP 4th Edition starter set, by way of a few stand-alone modules (both official and fan-made). The next leg of our perilous road journey heralds the beginning of that famous Warhammer campaign, The Enemy Within…

If you enjoyed this round-up, I’ll continue to summarise Oswald and co.’s adventures in the new year. 

Until then, here’s to a better one!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update JP. Here's to a better 2021

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  2. Happy New Year JP! Glad to see your keeping the gaming alive, albiet virtually. Always enjoy your wordsmithed posts

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