Friday, June 30, 2006

Warhamster - Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down

So the vacation game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has been moving forward, and we've started in on the Ashes of Middenheim adventure. We had a good time last night, though they did not fight a single creature, and the printed adventure has quickly become more of a springboard than a hard and fast guide.

Here's the general plot - the heroes arrive in the big city with their orphans, loot, and a holy relic of Sigmar. The priest they give the relic to turns up dead almost immediately. They have to play CSI and determine the cause and what to do yet. The signs point to ratmen and a trip into the sewers.

But what was really amusing was the character interaction and NPCs. Our Camp Follower Character got into it immediately with a local pawnbroker (pulled directly from the book). The orphans gave the elf a hug before being marched off to the temple orphanage and made him promise they would visit (winging it, though the orphans were part of the intro adventure). The Watchman in the team dealt with other watchmen, who took on a Wisconsin yah-hey-dere accent. And the dwarf character, who has this Dylanesque mumble, got into a long discussion with an NPC Dwarf, and it was decided that all Dwarfish sounds like a Dylanesque mumble, with the two of us competing to see who could be the least comprehensible.

There were some pitfalls. There were more than a few places where player knowledge outran character knowledge (which was not always a bad thing). A minor clue was a written handout, and no one in the party could read (a local accolyte of Sigmar has become their go-to-guy). Another handout was a warrant where the goal is listed (check out the murder) is listed, but the dates needed to be filled in (I found what I think is the calender under "Religious Celebrations" in the main book, but no idea of how long the months are). And the idea that the last people who saw the deceased are, by law, expected to help in the investigation is a very interesting idea that is thrown off, possibly to keep the players lashed to the plot. Oh, and you are describing a series of murders, a timeline is probably a good idea.

But here's a thing - at one point the plot narrows down to a single die roll, for a Advanced Skill (which means that if you don't have the skill, you can't make the roll). Only one person has the skill and he blew the roll (remember, these are starting characters). And with that blown roll, we are suddenly off the reservation, the plot grinding to a halt, and while I can piece together what happens next, I have left the safe confines of the written adventure behind.

And here's another thing - as experienced players, from the clues they have, they are thinking that the plot will lead to combat in the sewers. However, our Camp Follower is not set up for combat, and has developed an urgent allergy to the concept. I think she's playing completely in character, but the adventure is very much in a go-and-fight mode. So while the concept of non-combat oriented characters is a good in theory, it starts having problems unless the adventures back it up. In D&D, the underlying conceit - that you are heroes are naturally disposed to heroic and adventurous activity - provides a more easy access to the game than a more realistic (but troublesome) worldview where you are a reluctant hero (at best), and you continually have to look for justifications for your adventures.

Anyway, it's going well, and we'll pick it up in two weeks with the next installment, which I may or may not mention here.

More later,