Today we have another article from 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 you can find it here, part two here and part three here! Now, over to Graeme….
Castle Adventure Hooks
Hi All, Schloss Grauenberg, featured in Rough Nights and Hard Days, is a typical example of the sort of small-to-medium sized castle owned by members of the Empire’s nobility. Here are some adventure hooks to use in a similar location.
Disgruntled after years of heavy taxes and other oppressions, the peasants of an area have rebelled. They captured the local castle, and their liege lord barely escaped. The adventurers are hired to identify the leaders of the rebellion and bring them to justice, but it will not be easy. The castle is strong; at least one of the rebels has some military experience and knows how to make the most of a fortification; and members of the noble family are being held hostage in the castle’s dungeon. Our Heroes are outnumbered by ten to one or more, so a direct assault is out of the question. Some more subtle means must be employed.
The Robber Baron
An unscrupulous noble is running a kind of protection racket from his castle. Every passing boat is charged a ruinous fee, under the threat of the castle’s guns and a heavy iron chain which can be winched up to block the river. Complaints to the province’s Elector have gone unanswered, and a group of merchants hires the adventurers to change the robber baron’s ways by any means necessary.
This is an adventure for players who enjoy a battle of wits. The use of force will lead to unpleasant consequences: no low-born individual may lay violent hands upon a nobleman, whatever the reason, and the penalties for such disrespect are both imaginative and painful. The castle’s garrison is made up of seasoned thugs, who share in their master’s ill-gotten gains and are completely loyal to him. If the adventurers can get close to the miscreant nobleman, they may be able to use magic to change his mind. They might uncover something that can be used for blackmail – although this will not be easy, since he already laughs at charges of banditry. If they can find something or someone the baron values above gold, they may be able to threaten him.
Murder Most Foul
The adventurers are spending a few days at a castle. Perhaps the castle’s lord has hired them for some mission, and they are there to be briefed or to collect their reward; perhaps they have come with one of several noble visitors; perhaps they are there to consult some rare book in the castle’s library. It promises to be a pleasant visit, rubbing shoulders with the upper classes and enjoying a little well-deserved luxury – until one of their fellow guests turns up dead.
In the best murder mystery tradition, the adventurers must bring the murderer to justice. Almost every one of their fellow guests has some reason to wish the victim dead. Clues point at everyone, and deadly secrets will be revealed which could cause embarrassment or even criminal prosecution if they should be made public. To make matters worse, some guests are not what they seem: one could be impersonating a noble for some reason; another might be a werewolf or a cultist; and so on.
The adventurers will come to know a great deal about their fellow guests – who may be grateful that the murderer has been brought to justice, but also fear and distrust these soldiers of fortune who have uncovered enough to ruin them.
Nobles often joke about having to answer to the outraged spirits of their ancestors if they disgrace their family name: in this adventure, it has literally come to pass. Passing through the area, the adventurers hear that the servants have all fled from a nearby castle, leaving the lord and his family either dead or held prisoner by a horde of undead. Although the villagers live in constant fear of attack, so far the restless dead have not left the castle.
Approaching the castle, the adventurers find skeletons walking the parapets dressed in the mouldering tatters of rich clothing from a bygone age. Vaporous spirits fly hither and yon; screams resound from the walls; and at night the windows and arrow-slits are lit up with an unnatural light.
The undead are not interested in talking to outsiders, but the adventurers may be able to discover that the lord and his family somehow disgraced their name – by a low marriage, perhaps, or by selling ancestral lands, or by somehow betraying a long-standing ally. The family’s ancestors cannot rest until things are put right. The adventurers may be able to right the wrong and lay the outraged spirits to rest, or they may rescue the family and leave the castle in the hands of the angry dead – but whatever they do, shock and terror have driven the living family completely insane.
In classic horror films and stories, a castle might be ruled by a vampire, preying on the young and beautiful daughters of the village, or a mad scientist, conducting unspeakable experiments and not averse to murdering a villager now and then “for parts.”
A vampire is a formidable opponent, especially if played intelligently. Vampires can appear human when they choose, and can pose as a friend or ally in order to study the adventurers and learn their weaknesses. Powers of mental domination can weaken the party and turn villagers into frenzied attackers, while the promise of eternal life can make others into more willing servants. Many vampires study magic or science: the older ones can be extremely learned and powerful. The castle is equipped with traps and bolt-holes, and as the adventurers venture further it becomes harder to tell the hunter from the hunted. In the best Hammer Horror tradition, the chief vampire might even have a few Fate Points, allowing it to return and wreak vengeance against the impertinent mortals who dared to kill it.
A mad scientist lacks supernatural powers but can be equally dangerous. Servants might include a cunning hunchback who has set up traps and ambushes all over the castle; an artificial monster made from dead bodies, part undead and part golem; mechanical, electrical, or steam-powered robots that vary in size from rat to ogre; and students armed with strange weapons that fire lightning, flame, or worse.
Dance of the Daemons
The castle’s inhabitants are daemons in disguise, pleasing in form and offering the best in food, drink, entertainment, and other inducements. The castle is filled with illusions that make it seem like a lavish palace where any adventurer would be more than happy to spend time.
Either the daemons take care to ensure that the local villagers suspect nothing, or the villagers direct travelers to the castle because “it’s better them than us.” Inside the castle, more observant adventurers may begin to suspect that things are not as they seem: details seem out of place; strange and fleeting visions are glimpsed from the corner of the eye; and their host’s words contain worrying double entendres. At first, these hints are easily dismissed, but eventually Our Heroes realize that something is very wrong. The details depend in large part upon the daemons’ patron.
Daemons of Khorne offer jousts and other martial entertainments that become steadily bloodier. They invite their visitors to witness the torture and execution of “criminals” – many of whom are previous guests – and load the tables with exotic dishes whose sauces – as a skilled cook or physician may notice – are composed mostly of blood. The GM should keep track of how much blood each character consumes, and how they react to the violent entertainments they are offered: those who survive the adventure find themselves corrupted – perhaps even mutated – in proportion.
Daemons of Slaanesh offer the finest food, drink, and companionship imaginable, and the most exotic entertainments the adventurers have ever seen. The food and wine are spiked with drugs or Warpstone, and characters who plunge too eagerly into the offered delights risk corruption or mutation.
Daemons of Nurgle offer a comfortable place for the adventurers to rest before continuing their journey. The food and drink leave the diner with a peaceful, drowsy glow. Conversation is stimulating, and talk often turns to medical matters: the adventurer’s host admits to a lifelong interest in diseases and other disorders of the body, and the depth of his knowledge will impress the most learned adventurer. The longer the adventurers stay in the castle, the greater their exposure to a variety of diseases, most of which will not manifest until after they have left. Rather than mutating, the adventurers will spread all manner of plagues after they leave the castle and travel onward.
Daemons of Tzeentch will pose as scholars and magicians, discussing science and magic with enthusiasm and inviting their guests to witness a number of impressive experiments. Visitors will enjoy free access to the castle’s library, which rivals those of any of the Empire’s great universities and has an extensive collection of rare and forbidden tomes. Lured by knowledge, characters who read too deeply may find their minds being affected, and their companions will notice a change in them: the signs of corruption will be small at first, but ultimately full-blown mutations will appear.
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