I finished running Shadows over Bogenhafen for WFRP last weekend. The experience I had was interesting, to say the least. Although it was fun to run, there are some significant flaws in the supplement and adventure. Although Mistaken Identity from the Enemy Within campaign book is linear it provided quite a good way to get the PCs hooked into going to Bogenhafen. I ran it “as is”, and that may have been a mistake on my part (the first of several).
Now comes the inevitable *SPOILER* alert! If you’ve never played Shadows over Bogenhafen (or the Enemy Within series) for WFRP, be warned. I’m discussing some of the plot here, as well as some of the NPCs! If you’re actually planning to run it, I hope this helps.
Staging Shadows over Bogenhafen
Actually running Shadow over Bogenhafen is quite easy, but you may find yourself flipping through the adventure a lot. It’s about 12 hours to run through, although if things go badly wrong (Apocalypse!), it may take longer. Especially if your Players decide to split the party – it’s a lot more fun when things go wrong that way!
Events take place according to the timetable set out in the book but its sometime a bit tricky to keep track of when things happen. I’d recommend getting a summary printout of the events so that you can refer to them later, or attach them to a GM screen. I often lost track of what day we were on – this can be a bit of a problem unless your players are taking copious notes too. I also made a mistake in starting to run it just before Xmas. This meant a serious time lapse between sessions.
The Schaffenfest is a riot and a lot of fun to run as the PCs blew some of their dosh on armour and equipment in places like Boch and Queller (B&Q). They also had some fun at the wrestling ring with some typical dwarf-elf animosity going on in the wrestling ring. It was pretty much an assault on the senses for the PCs, and one section that went really well. I recommend that anyone running that section try and use as many events as they can, dropping in occurrences like the fortune teller and Elvyra Kleinestun, not to mention some random anarchy. I also inserted Hieronymus Blitzen (a wizard) into the events as the group as no real magic oomph, just in case someone fancied following that path in Death on the Reik. You may want to add other NPCs that can act as mentors or tutors to the Schaffenfest as well.
Players should become aware the when the sun goes down, Bogenhafen is far more sinister place as the river fog creeps in, and the town quietens down for the night. The City Watch are heavily armed and armoured (crossbows, mail shirts and hand weapons make them pretty tough). In hindsight I should have made the Players aware that their PCs carrying weapons were likely to meet with some very serious questions from the Watch. I’ve fairly certain that they would have screamed blue murder.
In previous games, I’d established that “rats of unusual size” were rumored to be living in the sewers as an urban myth: the Warhammer players immediately leaped to the conclusion that Skaven (Chaos Ratmen) were involved. This made the sewer expedition vastly entertaining, with them jumping at every sound. Not to mention highly amusing as the group tried to avoid landing in the Via Cloaca. Worth bringing in things like these urban myths from time – naturally, some of these are false but you never know…
There’s a lot of investigation in Shadows over Bogenhafen. There’s also a lot of running around town chasing up leads, and for me, this was my failure as a GM. WFRP has a very low level of success, with the average human Stat being 30 out if 100. The average skill score relies on these stats, so there’s a very low chance of success, particularly on social Fellowship (Fel) tests. This was where I made a cardinal mistake, and asked for Fel tests when I could have roleplayed them out better. My mistake is that I adhered too strongly to the rules on this. As someone who’s been GMing for a long time, this was pretty much a colossal mistake for me to make. The Players were getting frustrated as result, particularly their low rate of success.
There’s also a lot of “low reward dead-ends”. A lead/NPC seems promising, then the players discover that: the witness is dead, has somehow forgotten everything, doesn’t want to get involved, or was Gideon in disguise. The whole Kastor Lieberung sub-plot effectively dead-ends for the PCs in Bogenhafen. My players missed the fact that they could have gone to the printers to find who ordered the Lock, Stock, and Barl stationery too. If I was running it again, I’d possibly shove a run-in with the Red Crown and also the whole “purpled hand” incident from DotR. However, Adolphus Kuftos could also put in an appearance: by the end of Shadows over Bogenhafen, the PCs are wanted for murder and arson too. The bounty on the PCs is likely to be considerable.
If the players decide to burglarize the Steinhager offices they may get lucky. There’s a lot of cash the PCs can make from this raid (and a spellbook – if you want the Wizard PC to get certain spells later in Enemy Within, this is where to put them), and it was one of the more rewarding incidents in the game. As a GM, I decided to make this gold newly minted (i.e. easily recognisable!) and part of the Steinhager payroll. The following day the Watch were searching the town looking for some freshly minted Gold Crowns, especially the waterfront where the PCs were staying on the Berebeli. The players had a lot of gold, but no way to spend it. Actions have consequences and all that. It was also a good way of getting the PCs to see how much pull the Steinhagers had in the town.
Something for Everyone
As mentioned previously, there’s a lot of investigation going on, and players won’t be able to follow every lead. It can be tricky to keep all the Players engaged. Here’s what I’d do in hindsight:
- If they’ve ever played Call of Cthulhu, the group’s Academics will likely hit the Temple of Verena and the library there. They can also use their elevated social status to try and get in with the merchants and upper classes. Those with magical or healing skills may also be able to help with the diagnosis of Richter or even recognise Gideon for what he is. Not to mention the whole Morrslieb being full as a Bad Thing.
- Warriors haven’t much to do except in a couple of situations, and at the Ritual (add a few Bodyguards to make it a little more “tasty”) . They should probably get involved with wrestling at the Schaffenfest, and a drunken brawl or the joust there. The Guardian Daemon should be beefed up a bit, perhaps with a couple of magical powers too. Alternatively, use a Pink Horror :). Make sure they get attacked by the Giant Rats (of Unusual Size) in the sewers too.
- Rangers should get the chance to shine in the sewers with their tracking skills, and possibly their Hide skill during any stake out. There’s not much “wilderness work” for them, but their BS skills may also come in handy at the Ritual, e.g. shooting the knife out of Teugen’s hand for example.
- Rogues will probably spend most of their time talking to NPCs or sticking their nose where it’s not wanted. Try and orchestrate a meeting with Baumann at the Crossed Lances, or a Rogue notices a Thieves Guild symbol. They could also have to talk their way out of the Crossed Lances out of they wander in thereby mistake from the sewers.
The Ordo Septanarius aren’t a Chaos cult as such, more like a secret society – and that’s how I played it to the players. However, once they found the “temple”, they pretty much went on the whole “Dark God” schtick. However I managed to make it quite clear that the group had powerful friends in the town. They fixated on the Ordo as a cult though: there was no way that the Players were going to believe that the Ordo were some benevolent organisation (particularly after fighting the Guardian Daemon).
To summarise, Johannes Teugen is planning to open a Chaos Gate in the town. He has been duped by a Lesser Daemon of Tzeentch, by the name of Gideon. Teugen believes that he and his followers, the Ordo Septanarius, will be rewarded if they complete a ritual designed to give them “wealth and power”. It’s a lie of course, concocted by Gideon for Teugen. My concept of Teugen is someone who’s 100% control of any situation: he’s used to getting his own way and no scruffy band will stop him. His appearance really put the fear of god into the PCs at the interview, as most are used to playing FRPGs where vampires and the like can wield huge power…
Gideon is a Lesser Daemon of Tzeentch. Not a Pink Horror, just an “independent contractor”, as it were. The adventure was written before Realm of Chaos came out, so fair enough. However, if I was to run it again, I’d make Gideon a Chaos Champion (with magical powers), not a Daemon. He’s a bit too human and underpowered – plus a Chaos Champion makes a great nemesis further down the line. Also, Gideon is very much more than Teugen’s hitman. He has his own agenda, and he interactions with the PCs pretty much make him more than a glorified Pink Horror. He’s the one that frames the PCs for arson AND the murder of Magirius. He deserved better treatment than he gets in the adventure.
Changes to the adventure
Running it “as is” was something of a mistake for me. Looking back, there’s a few things I’d change:
- Make a Gideon a Chaos Champion, not a lesser Daemon. A number of his abilities are essentially magic powers.
- Make the Guardian Daemon a Pink Horror. The Ordo knows nothing about it.
- The PCs arrive at the warehouse when the Ritual has already begun, and the PCs are already on the run (for both arson and murder). If they hide out inside, add some armed Bodyguards (they’re paid generously for their silence!).
- If the PCs decide to raid the homes of Teugen or Steinhager it should receive the full weight of the City Watch’s attention. The Adel Ring has regular patrols, and both houses have their own guards. Teugen and Steinhager may not be there anyway.
- Throw in a few NPCs like a mercenary captain or other advanced career at the Schaffenfest. If the PCs want to progress to a new career, the Schaffenfest is a great way to introduce possible tutors or mentors.
- Don’t rely on Fel tests. Let the Players roleplay it.
- Aside from Temples to Shallya and Verena, the various Temple Priests aren’t mentioned. Come up with NPCs for them (or at least the ones for Boganeur, Sigmar, Ulric and Myrmdia). Chances are the PCs will visit them.
- Make sure that heavily-armed PCs wearing armour roaming the streets attract a lot of attention from the Watch. This can lead to them getting hauled up before Richter on charges, or hauled in front of the Watch Captain, Reiner Goertrin, for a “chat”.
- If your PCs decide to do their own thing – ignoring leads, making a mess of the plot, legging it out of town, and generally making a nuisance of themselves in the town – without at least trying to stop the ritual, then let them. Unleash the full horror of “Apocalypse!” upon them. If you’re a cruel GM you could do this as well, but the Players should at least feel they tried to stop it.
Although it didn’t happen in my game, it could have (and I’d have huge amounts of fun doing it!). Apocalypse! should cost the life of at least one PC (but avoid a TPK – Total Party Kill), and the whole atmosphere should be one of panic. Don’t give them a chance to plan things out in detail – get them to react. If it means leaving a PC behind so be it – remember you’ll have Pink Horrors roaming the streets, possibly a Lord of Change to terrify the PCs as it manifests – and of course Tzeentch himself (automatic Terror tests!). Don’t let up on the pace as the PCs flee the doomed town – the Chaos Gate widens slowly. Add Discs of Tzeentch (Void Sharks) to harry the PCs, and Flamers randomly setting buildings and people on fire, Tzeentch’s hand scooping up felling townsfolk etc.
This is epic fail mode for the PCs – roll out the disaster movie cliches and anime-style explosions – use Godzilla and Avengers Assemble for inspiration on how to trash a city! Remember that this will have ramifications on Death on the Reik and later, so you may have to do some more work for those!