WFRP: By Hook or By Crook (Part #1)

C7 writer Ben Scerri is back this week with a new blog post! Make sure you join the chat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to let us know what you think!

Hi All, Ben here, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition is crammed full of adventure hooks to inspire GMs, so I thought it would be a good idea to show you how I go from a simple adventure seed to a full-fledged Adventure!

This article is going to run a little differently to my normal blog posts. If you follow this article step-by-step, at the end you’ll have an adventure you can run your Players through right away. You’ll also have all the tools you need to make your adventures until the end of time.

To show how to do this, I’m going to use an adventure hook from the free supplement Adventure Afoot in the Reikland, and show you how I turn it into a full-blown adventure. So, let’s crack that PDF open to a random page, and…

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Proserpina ‘Pinny’ Applebee began serving rat-apple stew, now a local delicacy, to the folks of Stimmigen almost a decade ago. Gastronomes wonder at its rich taste, and doktors marvel at its almost revitalising effects! But when a travelling friar finds a human-sized thumb with a rat’s hooked claw at the end of it, rumours (and vomiting) spread like wildfire… Just what sort of rats has Pinny been cooking? The Stimmigen Cultural Concern is eager to find out — though Pinny will do everything in her considerable and unexpected power to stop anyone finding her sewer-based secrets.

Oooo, this is a doozy! And I’ve already got a bunch of ideas! However, building it into a full adventure requires a little work, so I’ll split this article into two. This week, I’ll handle the Starting Situation and the Cast of Characters.

Step #1: The Starting Situation

The above hook has given us almost everything we need for the starting situation. Where is the adventure set? Stimmigen. What is the central conflict? Skaven (probably) in the stew! Who is involved? Pinny, for one, and the Cultural Concern for another… but also everyone who has ever eaten her stew… and, potentially, anyone who is upset over Pinny’s sudden and extreme success.

Our first job is to decide what the truth of the situation is. This is what’s really going on, behind the scenes, and what the Characters will (ideally) uncover when they play through this adventure. Sometimes, I like to keep this step a surprise, even to me (like in the adventure The Hassle of Johann Hoffmann) from the Starter Set Ubersreik Adventure Book, but most of the time I plan it out beforehand.

I like to grab a notebook at this point and start jotting down ideas. What words in the hook stand out? What characters are listed? What do I imagine as I read the hook? I jot down everything that comes to mind.

I find it’s a good idea to take your first idea for what is going on and discard it. Generally speaking, the first idea anyone — even those who have been writing for decades — is often rubbish, largely because it’s obvious. It’s the boring idea that jumps out at us and everyone will expect it. So, in almost all cases, I suggest throwing your initial thoughts away. You’ve got better ideas than that. But they are still useful as a start to get you thinking!

With this hook (and after throwing out my first idea that it’s simple a Halfling cooking some Skaven), my mind has gone to some strange places. I’m thinking that Pinny is actually a Grey Wizard, specifically a Master Wizard of Ulgu, and her ‘considerable and unexpected power’ is actually an illusion concealing her true form.

Next, I don’t think she meant to have the Human-shaped-rats (which are certainly Skaven) hidden in her stew… I think she’s actually just a really good cook, alongside being a Master Wizard, and that her restaurant is a convenient cover for what she’s actually doing in Stimmigen: rooting out a Skaven Clan that has stolen a magical artifact from the Colleges of Magic!

But then the question becomes, how did the the Skaven flesh get into the stew? Well, perhaps that travelling friar isn’t all he appeared to be… Perhaps the travelling friar is actually a Cultist of the Blood God Khorne who is trying to start a lynch mob in Stimmigen by whipping up a crowd who believe they have been poisoned by the neighbourhood ‘Halfling’ chef! Perfect!

Now, where does the Stimmigen Cultural Concern come into all of this? Let’s decide that they are the ones who hire the Characters to sort the situation out: they know trouble is brewing. They want a convenient solution to the problem, to be resolved as quickly as possible, with as little fallout as possible. All this talk of rat mutants is really hampering business, and having an angry mob in the streets just won’t do.

Lastly, it’s worth reading up on anything written about the location the Adventure is set in, for extra detail. Page 282 of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has a paragraph on Stimmigen, so let’s take a second to read that, and get stuck back in, shall we?

Recap

  • There are Skaven in Stimmigen with a powerful magical artifact.
  • ‘Pinny’ the Halfling Chef is really a Human Master Wizard who is using an illusion to cover her activities as she hunts down the Skaven.
  • The Skaven flesh in the stew is a ruse created by a Cultist of Khorne masquerading as a Sigmarite Friar in an attempt to start a bloody riot in Stimmigen.
  • The Stimmigen Cultural Concern hire the Characters to get to the bottom of the tainted stew, and resolve the issue as quickly and quietly as possible.

Step #2: Define Our Cast of Characters

Now that we know what the situation is, we can start building our NPCs properly. I covered this last time here, and we’ve already got most of our cast already figured out above, so I’ll do this one quickly.

In short, we need the following things for our Major NPCs: a name, a motivation/ambition/method, a quirk and some stats.

The way I read it, we have 4 Major NPCs to cover:

  1. ‘Pinny’, the fake-Halfling Chef, real-Human Master Wizard
  2. The Cultist of Khorne masquerading as a Sigmarite Friar
  3. The head of the Stimmigen Cultural Concern
  4. The leader of the Skaven who started this whole thing.

The Grey Wizard

We know her fake name is Proserpina ‘Pinny’ Applebee, but let’s make her real name be Dorothie Dietrich, though she uses the epithet Littlecrow. She is a Master Wizard from the Grey College in Altdorf. She was tasked with transporting the Diamond Amaranth. This gem is a powerful magical artifact that has the power to create true invisibility, that is undetectable by any means, for a full day. However, the magical gem was stolen by a Skaven thief (who we will get to later) whilst she was transporting it from the Midden Moors back to her College. Dietrich has since tracked the thief to Stimmigen.

Dietrich wants to recover the Diamond Amaranth so that she can avoid her College discovering her error. She refuses to return home without it. However, she is willing to play the long game, and do things properly. She refuses to risk herself unnecessarily, and will be more than willing to manipulate others into doing her dirty work.

Dietrich has a sick sense of humour, and has trouble remaining straight-faced when under pressure. She often laughs when it is inappropriate.

Dorothie Dietrich – Human Master Wizard (Gold 1)

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Skills: Channelling (Ulgu) 80, Charm 41, Dodge 72, Gossip 46, Language (Breton) 64, Language (Magick) 74, Melee (Basic) 69, Perception 81, Stealth (Urban) 57, Trade (Cook) 70

Talents: Aethyric Attunement, Arcane Magic (Ulgu), Magical Sense, Mimic, Night Vision, Read/Write, Second Sight, Secret Identity (Pinny: Silver 2)

Traits: Hatred (Skaven), Spellcaster (Dart, Distracting, Flight, Teleport; Ulgu), Weapon (Rolling Pin/Short Sword) +7
Trappings: Disguise, Grimoire, Restaurant, Short Sword hidden in a Rolling Pin

The Cultist of Khorne

The Cultist of Khorne masquerading as a Sigmarite Friar is a tricky one. We know little about him so far. We know that he wants to start a bloody riot, but not why, nor why he has chosen such an odd way of doing it. We also know that he somehow knows that Dietrich (or perhaps ‘Pinny’) is involved with the Skaven, and has access to at least one Skaven body.

Let’s give him a name. Something classically Warhammer, so I’m looking for a bad pun, historical reference or translation from German. How about Frederick Haendel:

  • Frederick from King Frederick II of Sicily, who was a classic warmonger, and originally a friend of the Papacy, but later became their sworn enemy.
  • Haendel from Georg Haendel (whose middle name is, incidentally, Friedrich), who is one of the greatest Baroque composers in history (and, given this is a pretty elaborate scheme, I feel this counts as a Baroque composition)!

Haendel was an actual Sigmarite Friar before falling to Khorne. He believed that, whilst Dwarfs held a venerable place in Empire society, that the ‘slovenly Halflings’ are eroding strong Sigmarite values (especially through such affronts as the famed Pie Week!). Utter tosh, obviously, but we’re dealing with a bad guy here. He’s since become convinced that the Haflings have to go. His chosen method is to rile up bloodshed between Halflings and Humans — then sit back and watch the bludgeoning. ‘Pinny’ is his next target as he has bought into Dietrich’s deception, and believes she is a Halfling.

Haendel is a hotheaded mess, as well, so is not above getting violent. Luckily, his (somehow legitimate) disguise as a Sigmarite Friar is totally in keeping with his fiery temper.

Frederick Haendel – Human Cultist of Khorne (Silver 2)

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Skills: Dodge 48, Endurance 51, Entertain (Speeches) 54, Heal 42, Leadership 54, Lore (Theology) 42, Melee (Two-handed) 57, Pray 42

Talents: Doomed (Beware that which stands beyond sight), Etiquette (Cultists), Read/Write, Suave

Traits: Armour (Leather Jerkin, Breastplate) 3, Hardy, Hatred (Halflings), Animosity (Non-Sigmarites), Weapon (Warhammer) +10
Trappings: Breastplate, ‘Holy Book’, Leather Jerkin, Robes, Symbol of Khorne, Warhammer

The Cultural Official

The Cultural Official is a pretty quick NPC to make. We’re not looking for anything drastic, here — someone to get the Characters pointed in the direction of adventure, and that’s it. Let’s call her Ella Langeweile (the German word for ‘boredom’, given she is a stuffy bureaucrat). She wants to keep trade flowing smoothly, and to uphold the reputation of Stimmigen, so that her job can return back to quiet administration. She’s willing to deal with less scrupulous agents (i.e. the Characters) to achieve this goal. Ella has a droning monotone Wissenlander accent and manages to maintain a dull expression, seemingly without blinking, no matter the circumstances.

Ella Langeweile – Human Bureaucrat (Gold 1)

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42934332254555960585812

Talents: Dealmaker, Read/Write
Traits: Prejudice (The Boisterous and Obnoxious), Weapon (Pen Knife) +3
Trappings: Councillor’s Robes, Office, Wig

The Skaven Thief

And lastly, we have the Skaven thief. This NPC is likely to be the ‘mini-boss’ to the bigger bad guy that is Haendel, so we don’t need to make him too threatening. Instead of there being a full Clan of Skaven, let’s make this a ragged band of 13 Skaven (the sacred number of the Horned Rat, the Skaven god), lead by a washed up Stormvermin. The Stormvermin — Znaskot Snapspine — lucked into stealing the Diamond Amaranth, rather than pulling off a successful heist. He has been running ever since, terrified by what Dietrich will do when she finds him, and more terrified of what other Skaven will do to him should they discover the great prize he has secured. Snapspine has gone to ground in Stimmigen, because technically he has gone AWOL from his original orders, due to self preservation. When he figures out how to best handle the artefact (he still can’t make it work), he will consider returning to the Under-Empire, but not before.

Snapspine is cowardly, can’t stop lying, and just wants to survive. He is willing to do anything that it takes, up to and including selling out his fellow Skaven, and even making deals with the Characters. He is even willing to trade the Diamond Amaranth if it will spare his life. He is also willing to trade the Diamond as he can’t get it to work, because, unbeknownst to him, it requires the blood of a Blessed Servant of the gods to activate it.

Znaskot Snapspine – Skaven Stormvermin

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54634383254513429313215

Traits: Afraid (Dorothie Dietrich), Armour 4, Hardy, Infected, Leader, Night Vision, Weapon (Glaive) +8
Trappings: Diamond Amaranth

Minor NPCs?

If there are any Minor NPCs, now’s the time to gather them together. A good trick here is to look at the setting, and imagine the kinds of Careers that would fit in there. 4th Edition makes this really easy by dividing the Careers into Classes, so we can just pick the relevant ones:

Stimmigen is a trading town at the major crossing of the River Ober. The town has a large agricultural focus, in addition to its trade, and a sizable Halfling population. As such, we’ll likely need some Human and Halfling Minor NPCs from the Burgher, Villager, and Riverfolk Classes. Some Rogues wouldn’t hurt, either. For the most part, we can just use Methods #1 and #2 from last week’s blog post to fill these out, if we need them.

These Minor NPCs will work well as any ‘rabble’ that Haendel manages to rouse. Oh, and we’ll need the stats for the 12 Skaven Clanrats. Those are found on page 337 of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Let’s See Where This Takes Us!

That’s it for this week, folks! I’ll see you all here, next time, for the thrilling conclusion to our adventure prep! In the meantime, I would love to hear from you on our social media channels about how you’d frame this adventure hook differently. Take some different turns, and see what stories you can come up with!