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Hunters for the Black Cowl (post Enemy Within)


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#1 valvorik

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 12:02 PM

To share events in my campaign after the wrap-up of official 3rd Edition Enemy Within.

 

The history of the campaign to that point:

 

http://community.fan...in-actual-play/

 

Spoilers for the adventure galore of course.

 

The adventure ends with the identity of the villainous Black Cowl unknown, the Mad Professor's Plot against Sigmar's Faithful foiled and the Black Cowl's Blackpowder Plot frustrated in its last moments - though at the cost of two of the companions lives.

 

From there matters continue.  

 

We are using Obsidian Portal and I post session summaries there.  I do not propose to keep cross-posting here, rather will post the links and just add my "sharing GM thoughts" notes.

 

https://the-awkward-...-there-were-two

 

This is mostly moving individual PC threads and interests along.  The NPC Elke, first created by a player as a serving girl in Graf von Kaufman's household and like all bits and NPCs that appear twice popping up again, turns out to have been a member of the Cloak, undercover witch hunters, and is a PC now. (Player's idea, I looked about and found idea of the Cloak branch of Templars).

 

Then the return to Averheim.  Using Forges of Nuln and an old White Dwarf article for the luxury Emperor Wilhelm, mixing in the Ice King fan mini-NPC supplement for an adventure that also includes lots of NPC interactions that can touch on campaign threads short and long term.

 

https://the-awkward-...emperor-wilhelm

https://the-awkward-...er-to-kemperbad

https://the-awkward-...th-in-the-night

 

 

This is used as the introduction to Brutal Finish, with the NPC wizard used to bring in PC's instead of the adventure's intro.  The timing of things sees the Wine Festival up soon and how can I not run Brutal Finish!

 

The actual "adventure encounters/fight etc." are a combination "faux ghost story, really an ice fey spirit" with an assassination to both (a) make sure PC's must carry the burden of the Brutal Finish investigation by disposing of the official investigator and (b) reflect other plots.  The wizard's coded message indicates investigating immolations was only a cover, he's there for other reasons as well more connected to the ongoing campaign and longer term plots.

 

A 3rd of the companions dies when Wilhelm tries to question the suspected assassin alone.  The Player admits that not having his wounds from fight with icy spirit attended to at all (when with TO 3 he had 2 critical wounds at time) was a 'contributing factor' in his death.

 

I was sad to see the PC die but that was how events and dice ran.  It was handy having a "not too bright noble" around as a way to explain things and draw PC's into stuff.

 

Father Siebolt also meets his demise in the last session.  He was fun, a colourful NPC in 1000 Thrones he and his assistant Nils appeared in that campaign and I re-used them here (with continuous careers).  Sad to see him go but NPCs can't have charmed lives however much fun they are.  I learned long ago the more fun Players see you have with an NPC the more willing you have to be to see them die.  The PC's are the story.

 

The elf Korhadriel is the only PC left from the original investigators.  However, narratively, Gunnar has strong connections to the Black Cowl (was on the Southlands expedition, has now lost two brothers in this struggle) and Elke is a Witch Hunter who was to investigate such things, so the party remains interested.


Edited by valvorik, 09 March 2014 - 01:37 PM.

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#2 valvorik

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 11:34 AM

Thanks for the likes, not sure how much due to the "PC's are focus of story/game" comment.

 

Have to say, I find a problem in Brutal Finish is that the final "clever plan" is a NPC's plan the PC's are recruited into.  I find that a bit de-protagonizing and will use it only as last resort, creating other avenues that could lead them to be at the final scene.


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#3 valvorik

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 01:45 PM

Next session up:

 

https://the-awkward-...me-for-the-worm

 

We start Brutal Finish with a bit of Black Cowl and the Toppeheimer Gambit mixed in (after all, who else would be interested in what's being auctioned?)

 

Wilhelm's player's new PC is a Sword Master (yup,  we'll see how it goes) sent to guard Korhadriel (even though he doesn't merit it yet really - hmmm, what's up with that?)

 

As above, I have changed Swearmonger's strategy so it's not going to be "he proposes cunning plan to PC's".

 

You will see it unfold.

 

One Player is still carrying around a "coded message" he found on the wizard who had letter asking for investigation of burning men, no effort to decode it having been made.

 

The Players are going to have to work on "actually coming together" in interests.  We have a 2 week hiatus now.


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#4 Emirikol

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 01:55 PM

Going to go for 88 advances again?



#5 valvorik

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 02:34 PM

We shall see.  If we every have a total party kill it's back to zero, otherwise we go as long as we can make it work.  We're at 21 or so generally now.

 

Oh, and of course Clothilde kept in touch with Korhadriel and asked about investigation, offered reward, help in effort to ensure she is kept informed so if the PC's look like they are getting close they can be terminated.  Her reaction to Wilhelm's death was genuine but now that her boy-toy is gone, nothing will restrain her acting against the PCs.  Her present plan is to regroup and lie low.



#6 Emirikol

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 08:02 PM

We just started 23 and just finished 1/3d of book 3.



#7 valvorik

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Posted 06 April 2014 - 09:44 AM

Next session up:

 

https://the-awkward-...e-wine-festival

 

We continue "Brutal Finish" mixed in with "post Enemy Within finale" and setting stage for a revised "Mirror of Desire" transplanted to Averheim.  Several of the suitors in Mirror have been met during events at wine festival or introduced in passing.  The PC's have been installed in the house next door to the von Steiners - who are going to be the girl's family.

 

Great fun with Elke the undercover witch hunter (her cover identity is Elke Sommer) as Graf Kaufman and the widow Weiss both speak in fear of those witch hunters.

 

Since Gunnar's player made a point of sleeping in the encampment outside the city, I had him nearby for Nordine's death.  A halfling was immediately suspected.  After the attack by savage halflings in Altdorf, all crimes by short people are attributed to them.  The players are also nervous whenever there are halflings or possible halflings around.  I explained that, ominously, Averheim is "full of children and halflings", dum dum dum.

 

The players were at a bit of a loss at times to choose what they were doing on day 1 and 2 of wine festival.  This despite, as I pointed out end of session, there being a list of the burning victims (names in red for emphasis) out on the table as a "Table Aid".  "Oh yeah" was the comment.  Elke's player is onto the point of noting the colour of flames and the elves onto the issue of colours of winds/magic so they are (if they don't drop the ball) onto a key point.



#8 valvorik

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 04:42 PM

Next session up.

 

The "auction" goes off without PC involvement.

 

https://the-awkward-...he-ball-is-over

 

Rather than Swearmonger "leading them to it to execute his plan", they arrived in town knowing something was up and clues that would allow them to find the auction by following NPC's they knew were up to something etc.

 

They've done well sorting out two causes of burning etc., but "were like awkward teenagers calling too often" when it came to investigating key spots - going back over and over etc.  So they have been "made".

 

They didn't end up following anyone to the auction or finding out where it was themselves, though they knew it was happening and have a pretty good idea of what is involved (people drink something and then suffer a very bad end).  They haven't really figured out the "current batch" takes out everything around the person too.

 

Not visible to them yet, Swearmonger did have a plan.  He was the one who made sure Apostal and Ulricsdottir got on the list - two volatile bidders who were not likely to accept losing etc.  So the auction did turn into a fiasco.

 

I resolved the outcome randomly.  I use randomness because I like to "learn the story" myself at times and it "pushes me to keep fresh".  It did this time.  It told be who won, who died.

 

Vescio Matalla and Federick Grosz (who was there as the representative of an anonymous buyer, the Black Cowl!) both were killed when Gruyden won the auction, Apostal made a move, revealed as a vampire and was the target of everyone else then - was wounded and driven off but not before the fatalities.  Alette now feels since it was largely her and her zealots that drove off the vampire, she deserves half the "supply".  Gruyden is not inclined to agree.

 

On my own, I liked the two who died as NPCs and would have kept them.  But really, as an NPC who would have "done some lifting instead of PCs", Matalla had to go.  He needed to be "earned" as an asset to be one.  Grosz was a key avenue to discovering the Black Cowl's identity and killing him shuts that down (though it hurts Black Cowl too, setting agenda further back as agents are now in short supply - Curd, Schaffer and now Grosz all gone).

 

Gruyden is an agent of the Toppenheimer Gambit.  He is here to destabilize Averland even more and pave the way for the birth of Sudenland.  He's got big plans for his purchase.  This is now the "question" for play to determine.


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#9 valvorik

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 03:20 PM

Continuing with Brutal Finish in Averheim, or "so how does it go if the PC's miss the auction completely".

 

https://the-awkward-...er-the-festival

 

PC's correctly sussed out that with "loose cannon" zealots and vampires about, Faustman and Gruyden set up a "fake delivery" to let it be stolen.  They then ended up killing Gruyden however and the real delivery has yet to be made.  They are onto the "Wissenlander" connection and so touching on the edges of the Toppenheimer conspiracy - though they may just assume "Nuln criminal networks".

 

I had Swearmonger make his appearance rescuing Gunnar.  Background questions (a la Enemy Withing) had already created a connection between them (Gunnar owing a debt he was tricked into) so this deepens it.

 

In the encounter at farm I played up the rural superstitions about elves in Averland which helped them intimidating the farm hands and bravos wounded when the auction "went south".

 

There was a Player comment in session about our pseudo-Bright Wizard not being very "fiery" which upon reflection I agreed with, I had observed to the magic-user Player some time ago that manifesting Aqshy should change his character's persona but he hasn't really done it in a way visible to others.  I think "in his head" he has but it doesn't really show and my policy is "if it's not shown it doesn't count".  I'm warning of misfortune dice when channeling if not "in empathy" with one's wind.



#10 valvorik

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Posted 25 April 2014 - 12:54 PM

I should add, with Gruyden dead (and 2 other bidders who died offstage when the auction turned into a melee), Faustman is going to start thinking a zealot or vampire may be the best he can do for a purchaser after all.....


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#11 valvorik

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Posted 03 May 2014 - 09:43 AM

Next session up, "Where's that Wine?"

 

https://the-awkward-...heres-that-wine

 

No fighting this session, lots of talking and interacting with people as the PC's pursue inquiries and events continue on around them.  Raimund's death triggers an entirely different level of reaction - demonstrating a bit "how the Empire works".  Mathias von Alptraum is met (laying ground work for next adventure, he is one of the four suitors).

 

Inquiries lead them to being referred to Doktor Draupnir (who I long ago made a member of the Sun Society) just in one of those "well who is the expert on strange distillations, why the Doktor experiments with medicines and such he might be able to figure this out...."

 

On the Black Cowl front, it was very nice of them to tell Clothilde the identity of their "secret party member".  She's not feeling terribly menaced by them.

 

We're down to 1 critical each of Gunnar and Korhadriel so they're pretty well recovered (by my standards).


Edited by valvorik, 03 May 2014 - 09:44 AM.


#12 valvorik

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Posted 16 May 2014 - 02:22 PM

Next session up:

 

https://the-awkward-...ask-swearmonger

 

They don't know it but the "Mirror of Desire" has started.  The girl (Isadora von Steiner) and all four suitors (Gunther von Leitdorf, Mathias von Alptraum, Tomas Hurdleberger and the actor Ernst Fein - yes an actor of all things, how inappropriate!) were at the play and the mirror being used for special effects is a mirror from the Steiner family attic, one of the family possessions sold off to help support them and purchased by the Sulky Sun to use as a prop, and part of the reason the play was "so affecting".



#13 valvorik

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Posted 24 May 2014 - 02:08 PM

The end of Brutal Finish posted

 

https://the-awkward-...austmans-finale

 

The Storm of Magic miscast was the "high point" of session, though seeing the Sword Master deal out 29 damage was also pretty impressive (yup, that's a combat monster- though spent the sweet actions vs henchmen, mowing them down).

 

Chaos Stars finding the tainted wine meant corruption checks.

 

It was pretty rough, Gunnar's player getting two severe/potentially critical wounds in rapid succession and then being driven "over the threshold" for both of them - garish scar (not so bad) but losing a leg - ouch.  But it's a "grim world".  Swearmonger has contacted him privately offering whatever favours he can.

 

Next it's on to "What to do about a girl like Isadora" (my version of Mirror of Desire), where Sword Master combat effectiveness not immediately as important.  I have woven the PC's situation and connections into the adventure fairly strongly.

 

It's really all about them getting financing for the Southlands trip they want to make.  The PC's live next door, the elf wizard has been borrowing Heller's old note books to study from, bookish Verenan Isadora has been helpful to the elf sword master during an investigation, Gunnar in past misused the affections of Amalie (Isadora's older sister), and Clothilde's mention of witchcraft should interest the covert witch hunter Elke etc etc.

 

https://the-awkward-...rl-like-isadora

 

For anyone familiar with original and wanting to follow:

 

Kelsydra daemon -> Kirstan chaos sorceress with plan to summon daemon

Leopold von Bruner (the poet) -> Gunther von Leitdorf

Heissmann von Bruner -> Baron Kastor von Leitdorf

Guthrie von Hammarstrat (the warrior) -> Mathias von Alptraum (newly allowed back in Averland)

Tomas Karstadt (the wealthy climber) -> Tomas Hurdleberger (wine connoisseur and wealthy climber)

Maximillian von Aschaffenberg -> Ersnt Fein (actor!)

Heller von Bruner -> Heller von Steiner.

Esmeralda the Object of Desire -> Isadora von Steiner (neice to Elizabeth von Kaufman)

Ludmilla (love’s champion working from the side) -> Lady Elizabeth von Kaufman

 

Frau Hurdelberger is the most horrified at developments (one of her sons marrying into a title!)

 

Aside from the longer term plot element of financing Southlands expedition, the other thread is witchcraft and the coven which 200 years ago was riven by Heller and his love's rivalry/different paths and today is the one Kat and Clothilde belong to.

 

The Wyrding Circle was a benign collective of hedge magic users, before Colleges were founded (pre Teclis hedge magic users having their own traditions and self-policing mechanisms).  It remains the active "benign" coven of witches in Averland though persecution has made it "less benign" (now favouring Ecate).  The Mauer's (Luminary Mauer's family) were part of it as is Kat etc., so she could become quite interested in her "other capacity" depending on how things go.

 

Clothilde is truly really interested at first in keeping her brother from killing a Leitdorf in a duel that would be seen as one-sided.



#14 valvorik

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 10:07 AM

The next session, "Meeting the Suitors" is up.

 

Korhadriel's player missed session.

 

https://the-awkward-...ing-the-suitors

 

Play is really moving away from the written adventure.

 

One thing is that, as I suspected, magical sight is being invoked and a couple of impressive rolls meant having to reveal "something" had happened - though what is unclear and groundwork being laid for it being bound up in Heller's history.

 

The second is that the PCs aren't in mood to back any suitor and would try to foil any actions advancing any of them.  They are really unlikely to "go along" with any of the "tasks", though I have set up that we are entering that phase.  They have met all suitors and Isadora is feeling it's time to choose.

 

From here on I may have to re-arrange events and will be pondering that in coming days.  The same "elements" but they may be encountered differently.

 

I was joking about rolling chaos stars using magical sight and looking at Isadora (cf the Reckless Dice podcast of mirror of desire) and would have invoked that if he rolled one but he didn't (not when looking at her)

 

My houserules about Magical Sight Chaos Stars always causing stress did hit Edrahil because he was using it so much and he narrowly escaped a temporary insanity (which is the whole point, making using magical sight all the time risky).

 

https://the-awkward-...s/magical-sight

 

They are seeing the Black Cowl everywhere (if it's a plot it's the Black Cowl!).  It's not a BC plot of course and in fact she's puzzled at what's going on but looking to turn it to advantage if she can.


Edited by valvorik, 31 May 2014 - 02:52 PM.


#15 valvorik

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 01:07 PM

Next session up

 

https://the-awkward-...eitdorf-fathers

 

We have our first duels of wits but PCs fare badly against nobles and actors.

 

The PC's have not consistently latched onto any suitor (nor stuck with Isadora) so they have been experiencing various events by other "doors into them".

 

Gunther is in the lead and has been asked by Isadora to go to mausoleum etc. so is doing that.

 

Tomas has gone to Streissen, having learned of his mother's plan to send Isadora there, he is paving way for a rendezvous with her if she does.

 

Fein is planning some ploy to discredit the others.

 

Mathias is looking to do something grand to regain his reputation, though Korhadriel has a plan for talking to him.

 

They've been very focused on the actor and agitator (in a good Old World, we must suspect the lower classes way) and I want to reward "all the attention" they've been giving them by having them find "another plot of some sort" so will have to create it/loop it into something else (Toppenheimer conspiracy etc.)


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#16 valvorik

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 01:58 PM

Mirror Within continues as we get "into the Mirror".

 

https://the-awkward-...one-here-object

 

I'm finding the through-line of the adventure as written not much use/probable given PC actions so using the many scenes etc. given more as a menu and fiddling them.  I'm most pleased with Ernst Fein the actor's trick instead of "cross dressing etc." being posing as a fake ghost.  I was half expecting the Swordmaster to use one of his 'megadamage" attacks and kill the actor before realizing what he was but that did not transpire (yes, I do think about how to make a PC's strong points into weak ones).

 

I had an appropriate track from "The Omen" playing as the 'strange chanting, like some mumbled faux Latin".

 

I also went with "fake marriage" as the crescendo, breaking the suitor's heart being the key to breaking the lock on the mirror, after Gunther had recited (from memory) the final poem (really a magic phrase activating the mirror encoded into poem, Korhadriel did not roll well enough on his check when reading book to spot this).

 

I did not force all PC's into the mirror as play determined things (I think this also stopped it feeling like a complete railroad to Players, PC's on stage were snagged, one further away got a roll).  If I had wanted that then keeping it in a smaller room would have been key but I liked using the theater.

 

Leaving Elke outside will actually let me use a common fictional trope when she tries to warn everyone of the danger as things develop.  We are on a 3 week hiatus so it will be July before the next update when I reveal that.

 

Offstage, we will work out what Gunnar was doing the couple of days of time that passed while his Player was absent.


Edited by valvorik, 14 June 2014 - 02:02 PM.


#17 valvorik

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Posted 12 July 2014 - 10:25 PM

And we finish Mirror of Desire.

 

Have to say of the 3 expansion box adventures I've used, found it the poorest.  Concept and NPC work and many suggested ideas good but it just didn't hang together very well and the real issue is what the daemon/mirror prisoner does once out and about etc.  Also given its free-form for players (which is good) it depended too much on them making particular choices to get to the scripted points.

 

https://the-awkward-...he-plenzerplatz

 

We're now into a bit of Toppenheimer stuff, flowing from all the attention they gave to the agitator etc.


Edited by valvorik, 12 July 2014 - 11:28 PM.


#18 valvorik

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 11:10 AM

Next session up, we skip at least one week coming before playing again.

 

This is a mostly social and slightly abstracted encounter session seeing what information threads Players want to pull on and letting the game tilt in the direction they choose but ensuring some adrenaline flows with a potential witch burning.

 

"Gertie" is played by a former Player who visited for the session, assigning him this NPC to play my choice.  His original PC was a "foster child" of the Weiss family so in a way he was resuming this.  I reminded him "it's okay to pretend to be a 12 year old girl in a table top RPG, just don't go doing this in an online chat room".  I really did this (aside from the fun) to let him decide if PCs won her trust.  She had some "Black Cowl" information she has been sitting on for months since she doesn't really trust anyone, she finally does share it when her trust is won by one PC's actions.  Without knowing this was at stake, another Players character did "treat the kids" while out for festival and made saving her foster family a priority.

 

The high point was the wizard rolling 2 chaos stars and pulling the "Imp" miscast card.  I keep the imp creature card and its actions handy just for this eventuality, and it made the encounter.  Thank you game game system!  An imp is not a very dangerous foe, but when conjured in the middle of a witch burning mob can "frame" its accidental conjurer very ably!

 

I also created a wiki page on the forest upriver of Averheim if useful for anyone's campaign (linked at end of adventure write up).

 

https://the-awkward-...enlanders-oh-my



#19 valvorik

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 12:43 PM

A new adventure begins, homebrew, Into the Hexewald

 

https://the-awkward-...to-the-hexewald

 

This is the PC's following up on rumours circulating in town which they heard in previous session.

 

The Hexewald is a "old forest with many stories" and it's one particular story that they are getting hooked into.  I only learned after the session that most of my players have never seen Blair Witch Project so the little twig figures hanging from trees didn't get quite the reaction I had hoped.

 

I'm using many of the images in Mad Alfred's "lost in translation - in  search of old faith" document.

 

For making progress in a forest I'm using Paizo's Forest Chase cards.  The chase cards generally a great tool, you just have to be ready to translate pathfinder/d20 skills into WFRP (which takes some pre-thinking as on the fly sometimes the "2 choices" in Pathfinder would "the same thing in WFRP").  Some of the cards also have very thematically appropriate topics like standing stones and strange runes that can represent encountering certain forest features at random.  This is working very well.  They have nice "variations" like the Shortcut cards that can represent making great progress or cards that if you fail threaten to set you back as you got lost etc.  So that means a player drawing card isn't just "what is it, what skill" but "is it chance to move faster, risk of falling back, interesting feature that is part of story", making it all more fun playing.

 

I plan to get hold of Paizo's social card deck (coming out in August) to see if it has some ideas to use as well.



#20 valvorik

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 09:57 AM

Another session up.  We don't play next week.

 

https://the-awkward-...ng-the-hexewald

 

They are flailing about a bit.  Partly a matter of not following up on ideas or persisting if something doesn't pay off immediately (e.g., doing more than just asking around docks to find a report of where exactly lights were seen).

 

Next session will probably see some clues and hints coming at them "pointy bit first".






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