Friday, June 27, 2014

Middenheim NPC Cards

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post reveals plot points and NPC stats for The Enemy Within for Warhammer FRP 3rd Edition. If you're a warhammer player and haven't already completed Book 2 of that adventure, you should probably skip this post.

This weekend my play group reunites for some more Warhammery goodness after about a month-long break. We're on Book Three of The (New) Enemy Within, which takes place in Altdorf. Since we've left Book Two behind, I can safely post a few GM's aids I put together for the Middenheim section.

The rest of this post is mostly NPC stat cards for plot-relevant characters (plus a few other related bits). The adventure really should have come with cards for all of these characters, but (probably for budgetary concerns) didn't. It's especially annoying because the index of monster and NPC stats at the back of the adventure doesn't include them either. For reasons that completely boggle my mind, it only includes stats for NPCs from Books 1, 3, and 4. As a matter of fact, many of the important NPCs in Book 2 lack stats entirely, or list only the difficulty to sway them with a Fellowship check and leave any further interactions up to GM improvisation.

NPCs for "The Wizard's Task" in Book 2
Let's start with a gaggle of Ulrichian Priests:

 Acting High Priest Weiss is the guy you really want to talk to.  He appears on pages 89-90 of The Enemy Within, but doesn't really have stats there other than those specifically pertaining to the social rolls needed to sway him to the cause. I filled in the rest of his stats as befits a career official in one of the most macho cults in the empire. The art for the card I screenshot-ed out of some fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but I'm afraid I've lost track of where that came from or who the artist was. My bad.

 Unfortunately, getting to Weiss is complicated because he has a number of gatekeepers in the way.  Priest Frost is the more capable and sympathetic of the two. I based his stats on the generic Priest card, which I then upgraded a little to represent that he was an up-and -coming Priest before his tragic accident (the lingering effects of which I loosely based on the rules on page 14 of Liber Carnagia).

Priest Albrecht, the first gatekeeper the PCs encounter, is not sympathetic at all. He is likely to be played as either annoying or farcical, depending on the GM's whim. Correspondingly, he's actually a down-graded version of the NPC Priest card. I never saved nor used the art for the other side of the card, as it was far too manly and competent looking for the character as written up. Instead, when I went to introduce the character to the players I used a Paizo Gamemastery "Face Card" that showed some old fat guy in robes.

To even get an audience with the Priests the PCs first have to meet up with Professor Robertus von Oppenheim. There's a good chance the players will haul him off on a wolf-hunt, so he needed stats and again the adventure doesn't really provide any. I considered giving him some dreadful "2" ratings in attributes, but was worried it would make him too likely to die and stall out the plot. I decided instead to simply make his stats very average with modifiers depending on his access to reference materials. This resulted in the PCs carrying around an amusingly large stack of books to help him out, so I consider it a success. Again I used a card from Paizo as a visual aide for the players. I find their face cards extremely helpful as reminders, especially when running a complicated scenario with as large a cast as The Enemy Within.

NPCs for "The Noble's Task" in Book 2
 One of the other major plotlines going on in the adventure involves the trial of Graf von Aschenbeck, so I made cards for him and his daughter. His cards (and most of what follows) are devoid of artwork, because by this point I'd decided to just use Paizo cards for all my remaining major NPCs. I made the Graf's stats deliberately underwhelming since he's effectively just filling the "damsel in distress" role. The rules for Noble Rank presented here aren't technically correct (or at least are a liberal interpretation), but they're close enough for NPCs and somewhat more elegant than what's in the Lure Of Power rulebook. The other special ability is of functionally identical to having socketed one of the least practical Talent cards in the game.
Chances are I'm mistakenly applying the Freiin title to Margarete, I don't claim to be an expert on the noble titles of Germany, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Warhammer Empire. Sadly she's a relatively minor bit of set-dressing / clue-giver / damsel-in-distress / red herring, without much depth. In retrospect I wish the scenario did more with her.

The red image here is my interpretation of the von Aschenbeck crest as described in the book, useful for marking the Graf's properties and businesses, and for marking the Bravos when they first show up.
The lives of those poor nobles above are being ruined by this fellow. He's the weaker of the two villains of Book 2. He's also rather less dangerous than the thugs and mutants he can throw at the PCs if he realizes they're on to him. The adventure is heavily stilted towards him escaping in the night, and I imagine if the PCs got their hands on him it would be a little anticlimactic, as he's a pushover in combat. Good thing there's bigger fish to fry and a Book 3.

Ilse the con-woman is a minor criminal caught up in Markheim's scheme. I only used one of her prepared scenes, personally, as my players were pointed straight at Markheim and the Bravos without her testimony. I was a little torn about whether or not to include the bit where the villain tries to tidy up loose ends. The Bright Wizard in my party could have used the spotlight moment, but stopping the arson/murder would have taken exactly one easy die roll (he has the spell that controls fires and renders them harmless) and thus had zero dramatic tension. For the record, one of the Paizo decks has a perfect Ilse card, but I never used it because it was only going to draw attention to her before the PCs learned she was a baddie. I wanted her to feel improvised and unimportant until the PCs had reason to suspect her, which is probably a dirty meta GM trick on my part. So sue me.
The Aschenbeck Bravos are the most legitimate set of goons that Markheim can send after the PCs.
The adventure says to use the generic Soldier card with a couple modifications based on equipment and (for the officers) skills trained. I didn't want to have to consult both a card and a page in a book at the same time to run the scene, so I made cards out of them. For all the cultists and mutants I could basically just use pre-existing cards (though I did stack the "Monstrous" Upgrade sheet under the especially leggy Mutant boss), so I didn't feel the need to make cards for them.

NPC for "The Captain's Task" in Book 2

Gregor Helstrum is a potential ally for the PCs, and an escape hatch / safety valve for the GM if things are getting out of hand with Adele or any of the other plots. But again, like so many of the NPCs in Book 2, he has no stats. That's fine if you plan to use him as a Deus Ex Machina, but I wanted to make sure the PCs could fight at his side should that be their intent. (In the end I didn't really need stats for him because the PCs at my table are pretty badass in a fight and also did a good job of following the clues. They put down two entire cults that the adventure script didn't really expect them to get anywhere near, so I was quite proud of them. But, I digress...) His "bad eye" isn't in the book at all. It corresponds to the eyepatch of the Paizo Face Card I used for him, and I think was based on a Critical or Serious wound card, but I don't remember whether I chose the image first and picked a wound to match or dealt a random serious wound and found a face to match it. Either way, GMs who want a less grizzled version of the character can freely ignore it. It's not present in the official picture of Hellstrum on pg 79 of the adventure, but that page has serious spoilers on it so I didn't want to flash it at my players anyway so a Paizo card was in order. Exactly which 2 insanities you attach to his NPC card will greatly color the character. (The same can be said for Adele Ketzenblum, for that matter.) I played Gregor as very shell-shocked and burned-out in the one scene I used him, which probably contributed to the PCs deciding not to ask him for additional help.

In closing:
I think that's all the official Enemy Within Middenheim NPCs that I made cards for. Hopefully they'll save some other GM a bit of work. I clearly had too much time on my hands.

I also made this Talent-sized card based on the Middenlander rules from Hero's Call. In practice it was rarely relevant or needed. I present it as a possible upgrade should the GM desire making the fights a little tougher, or if you really want to emphasize the differences between the various Imperial Provinces.

Beyond the above, I made stat cards for a few more NPCs that weren't in the adventure as written, introduced to give my PCs some spotlight moments and interesting subplots, or to build out the city into something a little more sandboxy and show more of the greater Storm of Chaos metaplot. That's probably worth a whole additional post some other time, as there's a lot of backstory to convey if I want them to be useful to other GMs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Paint Og

No Use Big Words. Paint Og.
I realized yesterday that:
  • It had been a really long time since I last broke out the paints and canvas
  • "Cubist" is not on the Og word list

Friday, June 20, 2014

Recent Ogsomeness

Just a typical day in the land of Og:
Here you have sleestacks about to sacrifice a caveman on an altar to their unholy alien god. Behind them, several more neanderthals ride up in a flinstones-style car, while a phorusrhacidae (giant flightless carnivorous "terror bird", here played by an oversized dodo miniature) and an allosaurus watch on. The weird lump in a net next to the tirepile in the foreground is yet another hominid "hero" bound and awaiting his chance to be sacrificed by a lizardman priest. Yep, perfectly average day for our prehistoric ancestors, just dripping with verisimilitude.

I've run two games of Og in the last two weeks. One session had 4 players, 3 of whom had never played an RPG before. The other session had 7 players, 2 of whom I had never met before. Both games worked bangingly well, and I've been asked to break out the game again next month.

This is a big step up in Og-GM-ing frequency for me; I usually run the game about once a year. Mainly the long cooling-off cycle was because coming up with genuinely funny plotlines is hard, and the only alternative to running a truly funny scenario in Og is to dare to run its' bare-bones ass-backwards stupidly-simple d6-only retro combat mechanics.

Anyone who's ever read those rules thinks "OMG, this system is horrible! It's too limited and it takes forever to kill anything. I don't want to ever run this part of the game, so I'll just avoid all the fights and it'll be much better."

Those people are wrong.

True, the system is ridiculously light, and the fights are all rigged against the PCs, and it takes far too many hits to kill anything of importance, and your character will probably forget how to attack three times before the combat is done... and that's what makes it so awesome. In both of these recent sessions I had multiple combats running simultaneously on different parts of the table, and the pacing was still smooth and speedy. Seriously, if you've avoided big fights in Og because it seems like the combat system is made of un-fun, you're doing your players a disservice. Break out the biggest ugliest plastic dino you can find, and let them fail miserably for an hour or so. They'll laugh themselves to death.

As you can tell, I GM Og with a lot of props close at hand. It's an RPG where characters have extremely limited, damn-near-useless, vocabularies. This results in the "party", such as it is, scattering to the winds every chance they get. There is absolutely zero tactical planning and next to zero in-character cooperation. So I load the game down with as many WYSIWYG props as I can, so that everyone understands where things are and can judge for themselves just how screwed they are. (For the record, it's "very" screwed. Just sayin'.)

Towards that end, my wife and I have thrown together a few custom props for Og.
Props are a caveman's best friend.
From left to right:
  • D&D minis make fine cavemen. Ghouls, ghasts, taers, quaggoths, morlocks, poorly-equipped orcs, etc. Anything brutish and almost-human works fine as long as it's underdressed. I use a mixture of species for the PCs so they're easier to tell apart.
  • Land of the Lost references a plenty: 
    • the little crystal-matrix table I made from sculpey, in scale to the pylon and the cavemen.
    • the larger translucent crystal is from an icehouse set, and not to scale, but I sometimes use them to represent the pylon's matrix in-game.
    • the construction-paper pylon has little foldable flaps that let change it from open to closed formation as the fickle whims of fate demand.
  • My lovely wife made the excellent sculpey nest. I plan on using it every time we play. You can never have too many dino (or terror-bird, or pterodactyl) eggs.
  • "You Go Bang Food" are four of the cards I use to assign vocab words at random. Rarely do the words empower fully-formed sentences like that.
  • The doedicurus (5000lb spiky-tailed armadillo) is made by Safari Ltd, whose line of very fancy megafauna and dino minis can be found at all your better toy stores. (I shop Top Ten Toys in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.) If your budget is tight, most thriftstore toy departments will have some truly wretched hand-me-down plastic dinos that will work just fine, and the teeth-marks merely add to the authenticity.
  • The framework of a sculpey flinstones-style car I made yesterday just before heading to the game. It fits four cavemen in comfort.
  • My wife made a series of little sculpey flames useful for noting where the campfire is, which caveman set himself ablaze this time, and what portions of the jungle are currently being consumed by the wildfire.
  • She also crafted the stone wheel and it's too less-than-perfect prototypes to match the illustration of the "Build" skill from page 12 of Og Unearthed Edition. Stupid cavemen.

The crawling chaos; the plush abomination; Gnarly Hotep!
Sometimes all that hard work and sacrifice really pays off, such as shown above when the lizardfolk managed to summon up their foul god, Gnarly Hotep via an offering of caveman blood. Ia, Ia, Sleestack Ftagn! (Apparently some people spell it "Nyarlathotep", but he'll always be Gnarly Hotep to me.)

The crappy plastic trees and rocks in the backgrounds of my various pictures came in 2-dollar bags of plastic dinos or green army men. They are absolutely horrible, but they do the trick. They also get caught in my long hair every time I lean over the table to move a mini, so apparently I need to pack a pony-tail holder in my box of dinos and terrain.

Thanks to the in-character Draw skill, you can also sometimes ask your players to contribute props mid-session. Last night, one character was searching for beloved possession that had been stolen by the sleestacks. He was using Explore or Forage (I forget which) to search his tribe's cave (because the lizardmen who abducted half his tribe clearly weren't the main suspects in his infallible caveman logic) for the missing item, and rolled a "1".  Something caused him to forget how to search... so I turned to another PC who had the draw skill, and asked her to draw the dirty pictures that had distracted him.  You ready for the state-of-the-art in cave-painting porno?

NSFW Og Porn Alert!
Og Porn: Doin' it mammoth-style!
Yep, I run a classy game.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Germ of an idea: Run an RPG one-shot in the setting of HBO's Deadwood, using the rules from Og.

 Here's your (insensitive and horrible) word list. You've been warned.

  • Dead
  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Whiskey
  • Beer
  • Drunk
  • Medicine
  • Cowboy
  • Injun 
  • Chink
  • Doctor
  • You
  • Me
  • Horse
  • Pig
  • Gun
  • Gold
  • Money
  • Cards
  • Pick
  • Axe 
  • Dance
  • Vote
  • Kill
  • Ride
  • Mine
  • Snatch
  • Whore
  • Mother
  • Fuck
  • Fucker
  • Fucking
  • Fucked
  • Up
  • Bastard
  • Cock
  • Cunt
  • Sucker
  • Indignity
  • Shit
  • God
  • Damn
  • Ass
  • Piss
  • Motherfuckingcocksucker
  • Truth
  • Gratis

Everyone gets their preferred version of the F-word for free, plus a randomly-chosen assortment of other words.

What, you're still here? That was the joke.

Okay, fine, let's pretend I'm serious, as I really do enjoy a good game of Og now and again. Instead of being stupid cavemen, the PCs are fuckin' drunken cowboys. So you use the existing Og rules with a few simple modifications. You'd rename most things, and have to create a few mechanics. Eloquent Caveman becomes Cussin' Cowboy (or perhaps Fuckin' Wordy Cowboy), for example. And it might be worth creating a new class for Sober Cowboy who never forgets how to do things, though I'd strictly limit that class to one PC per campaign.

You'll need twice as many words per character, so 2d6+4 per PC, and the Fuckin' Eloquent Cowboy gets 4 more than anyone else rolled, plus all 4 versions of fuck on top of that. PC's names are of course not on the list, but I'm sure you'll come up with nicknames from your word list.

You have guns, so damage is 1 for a punch (2 for Strong Cowboy) and 1d6 for a gunshot, reversing the default Og unfairness (where Banging isn't nearly as good a Strong). That's a much faster and bloodier combat system too, and all the more so because there's no 40-Unnnggh T-Rex's to deal with. All of which is okay as the length of combat is at times somewhat unfortunate in Og. Replace your dino and mega-fauna monster list with miners, cardsharps, goons, saloongirls and railbarons.

The hardest part would be making the economy work. Og has no economy, but Deadwood is all about the gold in them thar hills. So you let gold buy guns, property, booze and whores, all of which need mechanical benefits. Guns = damage boosts, obviously, and the others could all be mechanisms for restoring Unnnggh, or might give some other bonus (like adding +1, or rolling two dice and keeping the better one). Giving them all mechanical benefits gives the PCs something to fight over, which is kinda the point. So these resources need to be limited and tightly controlled by the GM. The system becomes crunchier than default Og, but characters die so fast once the guns come out that I don't think you'll really feel the heft of the crunch. Some groups will have so much fun cussin' up a blue streak that they won't ever roll the dice.

I just thought up the marketing pitch: "No use big words, fuck Og."   :)