Today we have another article from legendary WFRP designer Graeme Davis. Graeme has been involved with WFRP since the very beginning and is currently working on the Enemy Within campaign with WFRP producer Pádraig Murphy and the C7 team. If you missed part one find it here and part two here.
The following adventure hooks can be used to liven up a visit to the Nulner Staastoper or another grand theatre like it. A map of the Staatsoper can be found in Rough Nights and Hard Days.
The Madman of the Opera
The characters of Edvard Lowenhertz and his daughter are inspired by the characters played by Vincent Price and Diana Rigg in the 1973 comedy-horror film Theatre of Blood. Edward Lionheart, an embittered Shakespearean actor, took his revenge on all the critics whose votes cost him a prestigious award, murdering each in the style of a different Shakespeare play. Detlef Sierck or some other famous playwright could stand in for Shakespeare, the plots of their dramas drawn from Imperial history and myth.
Another possible source of inspiration is Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, best known today for its musical adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Hideously disfigured (perhaps by mutation), a half-crazed man moves unseen in the passages and tunnels beneath the opera house, obsessed with the music and prone to committing murder, kidnapping, and more in order to have his own way where casting and other matters are concerned. He takes a budding young soprano under his wing, to the consternation of her betrothed and the theatre’s management.
The Miserable Ones
A new play opens, and the city’s society flocks to the premiere. The show, a bitter indictment of social inequality written under a pen-name by a notorious agitator, is closed by order of the authorities before the end of the first act.
The theatre is shut down: the doors are chained shut; notices are posted prohibiting entry under penalty of law; and Watch officers stop anyone entering or leaving. The entire cast and crew is charged with sedition, and lawyers for both sides argue the case endlessly back and forth. Angry protests are met with force; protests turn into riots, and there are deaths; agitators and pamphleteers circulate summaries and extracts from the now-notorious play, ignoring official warnings that it is a crime to possess any part of the script, or any document that even mentions it. Everything is working out just as someone planned.
The nature of the “someone” is up to the GM. A demagogue might have planned the whole thing, steering protests and manipulating the authorities into shows of force in order to raise tensions to the point where violent revolution is inevitable. Or, a shadowy cult might be doing the same in order to destabilize the city, rendering it almost helpless before some horrific attack. Foreign agents might be behind it all, or political rivals of the city’s rulers. All this fuss over a play? Who would have thought?
The Mouse, Trapped
A popular murder mystery is the longest-running play in the theatre’s history — indeed, in the history of the Empire. The Mouse, Trapped opened during the reign of Magnus the Pious, and although cast and crew have come and gone, the play has never missed a single performance in all that time.
When the latest leading man turns up dead with a dagger between his shoulder-blades, the producers turn to the understudy: the show must go on, after all. But the understudy cannot be found —and neither can any of the living actors who played the role, or their understudies. Who is murdering the actors, and why? Does someone want to destroy the play’s record? Is someone simply fed up with it and determined to see something else on the theatre’s stage? Or is it the character, rather than the actors who play him, the murderer’s target?
One thing is certain: with less than eight hours to curtain and a lesser member of the company frantically learning the lines, someone will have to keep a very close eye on him.
Life Imitates Art
The Necromancer is a classic tale of sin and punishment, of ambition and downfall. Couched as a biography of the notorious Heinrich Kemmler, a new production boasts never-before-seen effects courtesy of Dwarf engineers and hired wizards. It will be a spectacle like no one has ever seen, and the playbills and posters spare no hyperbole in whipping up public interest.
Half-way through the first act, though, the dead truly begin to rise. At first, the audience believes it is another effect, like the spectral host that caused seven ladies to faint and one elderly Baron to drop dead of a heart attack; but this time, people die.
With the help of the watch, the outbreak is soon put down, but questions remain. Was the play a knowing vessel for forbidden magic? Did the playwright chance upon a genuine spell and reproduce it in the script unknowingly? Is another figure behind it all: a historical consultant whom the playwright knows only as “Heinrich”? Has Kemmler dared to walk among the living, and use the play as a means to persecute them? The adventurers must find the truth before innocents are burned, and before some worse magic is cast.
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