[WFRP] Crossing the Border

The Doomstones campaign is a Warhammer-ized version of a high-fantasy "seek the artifacts of power" type game. It's not a campaign that I think fits particularly well into the Warhammer mythos, but when it was release there wasn't much of a Warhammer mythos to constrain it.

The campaign begins with 2nd to 3rd career PCs in a remote area of the Border Princes. Most Warhammer adventures take place within the Empire. A fan (or someone) decided that there needed to be an adventure that bridged the gap between where a group of established players might start out in the Empire to where the Doomstones take place in the Border Princes. Thus Crossing the Border was born.

Since I really want to run the Doomstones campaign at a couple local gaming conventions, I thought I'd playtest this Crossing the Border and see what we thought. Here are those thoughts:


  • The adventure is far too easy for 3rd career characters. Basic-level bandits and orcs, while potentially deadly, don't give the party much of a fight. I think that's OK to get new players used to the combat system. I also think it's OK to let the PCs feel rather heroic against attackers. As far as a challenge, though, there wasn't much there.
  • This is not written as a convention adventure. That's not meant to take anything away from the adventure. It just fits better for use in a home game where the PCs have just gotten to the end of their second career or beginning of the third. There's some background to skip if using this for convention play.
  • During The Journey section, I skipped any random, short encounters or adventures to try to make sure to keep the sitting within a 4 hour convention time slot. 
  • When we got to the ambush, our dwarf scholar tried to keep Prince Max out of the fighting. When the dwarf let the prince go, the prince proceeded to run a bandit through with his rapier. We didn't get the feeling that the prince wasn't good at defending himself as the scenario wanted us to. That's the luck of the die roll.
  • Since there were no random encounters, there was a LOT of ground that was handwaved during the travels. One player explained that they just didn't remember much of the trip because of their stop at Bugman's Brewery before crossing the mountains.
  • I let the dwarf scholar character know historical information without making an Intelligence roll. I told him about the Bloodaxe Alliance and showed him the tribal symbols from the book.
  • The party never quire trusted Severin, but they weren't able to foil his plot, either. There were 3 players and 4 night watches. They had no problem splitting the night watches with Severin's men. However there wasn't a PC available for the fourth watch...the one where the murder occurs. They did wake the manservant for the fourth watch, under the premise that he had to get up early and prepare the prince's breakfast. However, Severin was able to complete his fell deed concealed from the manservant's eyes. In future games, I might make the manservant more keenly observant, as he was written to be worried about the prince and distrustful of Severin. Since the adventure called for the death of the prince, it was just easiest to allow it to happen during the manservant's watch with little fuss.
  • As I said, they didn't trust Severin. The dwarf scholar even cast Sleep on the guard who was watching with him, then cast Sleep on the sleeping Severin, and then searched through Severin's belongings for any signs of foul play. Since there was nothing to find, the dwarf finished his watch less worried...not knowing what would happen during the last watch of the night.
  • Having the party wake up to the dead prince was not a comfortable feeling as the GM. The players didn't argue or try to retcon anything, but there was an obvious sense of failure. The feeling was palpable in the room. Disappointment. It was great that they were obviously highly invested in the job, but it was horrible to see their shoulders slump at the news. I'd rather have played out a fight and had the prince taken out in the grand melee of the orc attack.
  • The PCs weren't interested in the orc attack. They let Severin's men take the brunt of it while they strapped their weapons back on. (Oh, that's another thing I'd change a bit. Maybe a test to see if they notice their weapons being taken in their sleep.) I didn't want to play out an entire battle with myself, so I just noted that Severin's men were the better fighters and had the 6 men take out the 12 orcs with only Severin surviving. He was mortally wounded, but they patched him up and held him for ransom to make up for some of their profits that they lost.
  • At this point they had a prisoner to take further into the Border Princes for the ransom price they put on his head. I still had the rest of the adventure left to get them interested in the stones. If they were more interested in the ransom, then I would have pulled a GM card and had Severin die of infections from his wounds. 
  • My timing was pretty good so far. It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to the halfway point of something I was trying to fit into a 4 hour time slot. The rest of the adventure flew by, though.
  • The party didn't have much reason to head toward Cegovin, so I made sure they had a lot of extra horses at the end of the first half of the game. They decided to take 5 extra horses to sell to Old Milos in Cegovin. Here's the thing about selling 5 horses (one of them the prince's) in a border town: what kind of person carries that much gold to give you for that many horses? I ended up bartering instead. I gave out a full set of chain mail, a cart and a bottle of ale, and some writing supplies (ink and parchment) to the dwarf for three of the horses. The last regular horse was traded for rations and traveling supplies. The party got gold for the prince's horse only.
  • The party fit right in to the small farming community. The dwarf scholar tried to tell a tale at the dinner table before story time. I kid you not, unsolicited. I had the farmer he was talking to tell him to save the tale until after dinner. Also, he had taken out a map of the area and was asking the locals to help him update it. This was GOLD for this scenario. I had the locals telling him that the river really was here, not here, and that they have never even herd of this place or that place. The "updates" to his map ended up being what the area looked like in the past not the present. As a scholar, he loved the result when he found out.
  • The dwarf scholar recognized that Gnarok's tale was a hundred years old or so, but wasn't sure what to do with the information. The party's mercenary captain didn't want to let a bunch of farmers go off untrained to help the dwarves, so she gave them fighting lessons before bed. She even gave them some of her extra weapons to take to the fight! In the morning they found those weapons rusted and rotted in the field. 
  • They found the dwarf's body while checking the place out when they woke up in the morning. The note and the map had them hooked, after Gnarok's tale. The adventure, Crossing the Border, accomplished exactly what it set out to do: it got the PCs in the right place with a reason to be there. They found the note and the map, and they were more interested in pursuing that instead of taking Severin back for ransom...or at least they were interested in stopping off at the waterfall on the way to taking him back for ransom. Naturally things would progress from there. And I think adding a feverish, wounded prisoner would be quite the interesting wrench for them to have tagging along.
  • We finished the whole adventure in two and a half hours. Obviously other players might take longer, especially if there were more players and we were at a loud convention. It should fit well in a 4 hour time slot, even if we finish early.

Comments

James Wallis said…
I'm enormously pleased that Crossing the Border went well for you. I have to admit that I never playtested it myself--it was written in a tearing hurry for Hogwash, our intermittent fanzine, to fill a need and to publicise the Doomstones books. But I was always pleased with the way it came out—I freely admit it is a railroad but it's pleasantly spooky little ghost story, and I'm still very happy with the simplicity of the no-night-has-passed twist.

Interesting that your players got through it in 2.5 hours. I find it almost impossible to judge how long an adventure will run—I'm having problems with that again, right now.

Thanks for the excellent write-up.
Roger said…
The short time frame was probably due to the fact that I didn't run any encounters that weren't part of this specific intro adventure. I definitely could have dragged it out longer with random encounters and following suggestions such as Rough Night at the Three Feathers.

Best wishes, and thanks for sharing!
Timothy Stone said…
Rough Night at the Three Feathers, isn't that available in the 2e compilation Plundered Vaults. Yes. Yes, it is.

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