The enemy within, act 1, as it came to pass.
We've finished act 1 (the bells are tolling in the temples, war is here) in about 15 4-hour sessions, us being four players and I, the gm.
The pc:s are:
Wulfgang von Stangel, a third son of a noble family in Avernland. They used to support the von Alptraums, but after the eldest brother was slighted in asking for the beautiful countess in marriage, their allegiance shifted to the Leitdorfs. The family has had a lot of business with von Kaufman, their now deceased father having invested half of the family fortune in the southlands expeditions two years ago. Also, the youngest brother has been "apprenticing" under Curd Weiss. Wulfgang himself had a brief career in the city guard where he got to serve under Marcus Bauerfaust, but has since gambled and caroused away his allowances, pawned his family ring and skipped town.
Joseph, a sigmarite initiate from an unnamed farming community somewhere in the northern parts of Avernland. His schooling in the ways of his temple has been somewhat lacking, since his tutor was an old recluse from the temple of sigmar in Avernheim who's grip on religious dogma was faltering. Having caused the death of a witch (or a priestess of Taal) and his own brother, he fled, chased by his old neighbors, and found his way into a temple in a small town (also unnamed) in the southern part of the province.
Holde Waldenfrau, a jade order witch, whose travels have led her to Avernheim where she's sought a respite from her toils with the peasants of the province and has spent a few months with the Sun Society and has gotten to know Luminary Mauer somewhat.
Reinhardt Brunner, a man with a questionable past (thief!), who got to know Wulfgang and Joseph when he had skipped town as well (having miraculously been acquitted) and on the basis of them all being from Avernheim or around spent the evenings at a tavern. He'd just gotten to feel the first advances of the brotherhood when he left town and it was after a mission (well, a burglary) for them that he'd been arrested in the first place.
The pc:s returned to Avernheim since von Stangel had received a letter from one of his brothers, a sigmarite librarian, that one of his daughters (five-year-old-Anna) had gone missing. It was a plea for help.
Returning to Avernheim, they find that several people have gone missing, and they have connections to a few of them. The search begins, mostly focused on finding Anna.
The adventure runs as written for most parts, with additions suggested by Valvorik. The pc:s meet with old acquaintances such as Bauerfaust and von Kaufman, asking them for help, as well as the Luminary (whom is only known to Waldenfrau and is not really involved until bodies with strange marks are found). The brotherhood seems to be reasonable suspects and they slowly build up a rather hostile relationship (not coming to blows) and actually negotiate their way through the darker side of the wharf district for quite a while, getting to know both the good, the bad and the ugly.
Note: the brotherhood really has to have names, characters and a real plan, racketeering and all, and this is missing in the written adventure. Valvorik's notes helped a lot here.
One addition I did make was the pc:s actually finding and exposing a cult (red crown) with a witch and a few mutants, who had been kidnapping and selling children from the streets. This was to set up the red crown further, give a connection between the black powder-stealing mutants and Avernheim, and to implicate the black cowl (whom they'd started to hear rumors about) as not only being a criminal leader but also a traitorous figure.
Eventually von Stangel has had enough, they've been threatened and no-one has any answers about his niece. They confront members of the brotherhood and get remarkably little coming in the way of pay-back. (actually, the black cowl has ordered the brotherhood to stand down, since he wants to point the pc:s to the skavens when they've done their part). They start to understand the full impact of the brotherhoods influence.
After the party at the menagerie this changes, now the black cowl needs to buy the skaven and their red crown mutant allies (not all of them were lost with the witch) some time so the pc:s are ambushed when they are snooping around the docklands once more (they are really not ambushed, but set up to be locked away for a while, but seeing through this they avoid the trap and a manhunt starts).
Note: all the way up to the party at the menagerie, the pc:s where frustrated in their ambitions; there really is a lot to find but nothing to help them. All this time was really used to set up Avernheim and it's inhabitants and plots as a real place in the players' minds, and it was not a waste of time.
A day or so later the pc:s return to investigate the tanneries, having finally started to suspect that this is a place to search (believing that they are to track skavens in the sewers, with the tanneries as a starting point). They sneak inside and battle mutants and skaven in what comes close to being their last fight. Eventually having the skaven flee and finding what they are supposed to find, they manage to involve the temple of sigmar and Luminary Mauer and spend a night and a day skaven-hunting before the bells start tolling.
Behind the scenes
Well, most of you gm:s know the part described above. But what of the enemy within? Well, the truth behind things was decided just a few sessions ago. In our game, the black cowl is two people. He is Marcus Bauerfaust and von Kaufman, the former having an advantage over the second in power.
This advantage is to no small part due to the fact that Anna, von Stangel's niece, is really von Kaufmans daughter due to a former indiscretion and love affair six years ago. This is only revealed to Joseph by the wife of the brother as a confession and he does not spill this to the rest (being a priest, having a conscience and not understanding the importance, of course). Anna has been taken by Bauerfaust and whisked away out of von Kaufmans reach. And he cares.
The old relationship between the woman and von Kaufman is hinted to several times and finally revealed to von Stangel at a family diner just after the news of the war has reached Avernheim. They can possibly figure out the connection and possible motivation behind Anna's disappearance, but only if the priest starts talking. We'll see.
The witch hunter is a difficult character. I did not want the pc:s to meet her other than at the menagerie. That would possibly give things away which I did not want to (and had not decided about). I let her be paranoid, avoiding letting anyone close, but also participating in the questioning (and the torture of) the witch the pc:s had captured. This was done at the temple of sigmar and after a few days it was finished (this was the first the pc:s heard about the witch hunter, other than as a rumor).
When the time was right (after the bell clapper had been found) I let Kurgan inform the pc:s that the witch had admitted to knowing about Anna and that she was held in Middenheim by a red crown cell. Neither the pc:s nor Kurgan was sure about the validity of this information, but it was the witch hunter who'd gotten it out of the witch (who perhaps only said it to taunt her captors, I haven't decided yet).
NPC:s and foes
Well, the adventure sure have a lot of them but more are needed. The brotherhood needs to be a proper, well-mapped organization. The friends and families of the pc:s can be useful (in our case it's a few friends in the wharf rats, Durbein, Groz, Waldenfrau's lover and the von Stangel-brothers) to keep the pc:s informed about what people of their tier in general talk about and feel as events pass by.
As for foes, well, the battles fought are in need of being upgraded to more difficult versions. At the tanneries, the pc:s fought six cult mutants (no henchmen) with access to action cards and the skaven (who came in three rounds into the action) and had just an hour earlier fought Faustman the fist, a couple of his soldiers and a whole lot of ruffians (henchmen). This almost killed them, though.
Perhaps I should add that we allow one experience point for every four-hour session. So they were at rank 2 when the fight above took place. And this is the best thing about the game mechanics, the players say, they allow for epic characters to evolve, quickly. They love it.