Monday, September 22, 2014

Now Entering Book 4

Major SPOILER Warning for "The Enemy Within"

After a 2-month break from my Warhammer campaign for summer vacations, we returned these past two Sundays to the second half of Book 3 of The Enemy Within. The big climactic battle against The Black Cowl and his demonic and human minions took nearly two whole sessions, with the player’s success and survival both in doubt the entire time. Two PCs went down, but were revived in time to rejoin the fight and turn the tide of battle. All four PCs spent a large portion of the conflict heavily wounded and one-hit away from disaster. A single bad die roll or suboptimal decision could have wrecked them at numerous points in the action, but they pulled together with some great teamwork and tactics to squeak out a well-earned narrow victory. Good job!

Ranald's Sign
I gotta say, for being self-centered untrustworthy pacifists, Priests of Ranald are surprising powerhouses that actually make great allies. The “X marks the Spot” blessing was constantly giving the PCs the leg up on the various mystery plots throughout the campaign, but it had nothing on “Bamboozle” in the final sessions of the earthly plotline. That little one-turn mind-control spell saved the day twice, despite the many restrictions   printed on the card. Another single-xp character power that really saved the party was the “Cool As Ice” talent. Socketed into the Party Card, that talent allowed players to recharge actions every time they suffered Stress… and there are an insane number of stress-inducing powers, monsters, and macguffins in that final conflict.

Not that anyone failed to carry their own weight. The Slayer laid down the axe-related pain again and again, and delivered the final blow to The Black Cowl himself. The Bright Wizard made short (and smouldering) work of Bischoff's death squad that was waiting in ambush. The Knight rode his steed up a staircase and trampled down the demons that were about to kill his badly-wounded comrades. In the previous session the group collectively managed to defuse the bombs that were going to kill thousands of as-innocent-as-you-can-be-in-Warhammer citizens. Lots of great heroic moments all around. Everyone has reason to be proud.

"I'm Not Batman" - whispered throatily
The Black Cowl is defeated, but he’s left a gaping hole in reality in his wake. The PCs have chosen to enter it, and attempt to seal the breach from the other side. The next few sessions will be a literal trip to hell.

So who was The Black Cowl? That would be Peczold Von Engler, the father of one of the PCs.  The players dreamt him up during character creation, while filling in backstories and deciding on a Party Card. Their intention was that they were creating a minor subplot villain just to add some flavor, but I ran with it and subtly warped the entire campaign around him. The adventure provides the GM with 3 obvious choices to be the Big Bad, lays out the plot twists necessary depending on that decision, and then spends a few paragraphs giving advice on how you might adapt other NPCs to fill the role. I had to make a lot of tweaks to things happening behind the scenes, but those rolling alterations actually helped keep me from getting bored with the lengthy published scenario over the long haul. The character swap worked rather well, as the fact that clearly wasn’t in the published adventure in the first place helped throw them off his trail and keep the mystery running for so many sessions. He rose to power, getting himself declared the Elector-Count of Averland and Hero of the Empire, all while running a massive criminal empire and heading up two different cults. He would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their scrappy horse undoing all his evil plans (and then sticking an axe in his head).


Markwalt said...

Ah, and you seemed so confident that you were going to kill someone this session.

Sounds like a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

At one point we were 6 wounds away from a TPK. It was very close.
Bamboozle is interesting as it is limited by the creativity of the player, but more importantly seems like most control/ suppression powers. Outside of a context were a small delay really matters they are much less potent.
In the Pathfinder game we fought a druid. Getting to them was just a slog with things like entangle and fog cloud. But once we got to them they lasted less than two rounds. You really need firepower to back up the control or they opponent just kills you more slowly.
It was a great use of the power though.


Anonymous said...

Enforced pacifism breeds creative approaches to problem solving.

rbbergstrom said...
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