Monday, 21 August 2017

WFRP'd: Eureka!

We return, after a fairly long absence, to the world of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, to once again tred the dangerous paths of the Old World. This adventure was originally published in White Dwarf 93 (alongside a little game called Rogue Trader) and doesn't come chronologically (publication-wise) after my last post in the series, The Night of Blood, for reasons I will explain.

Between issue 88 and 92, Games Workshop pumped out a plethora of random articles in support of their new fangled roleplaying game; 'Hand of Destiny' concerned itself with fate points; 'Onwards and Upwards' chronicled character advancement; 'Practice Makes Perfect' dealt with careers in more detail; 'Ooops' combat fumbles; 'Nobelese' explained how to roleplay noble and royal characters; 'No Psychos Needed' proved rules for racial psychology and a 'Fistful of Misprints' cleared up the clutter from the rulebook itself. 

Quite a jumble of ideas and themes that I guess just couldn't fit inside the main rulebook. I have decided to bypass this little collection of articles as the nitty gritty and fine tuning of rules just doesn't interest your author. For me, WFRP was (and is) all about the narrative and the opportunities the story provides for good, old fashioned roleplaying. Hence our sudden skip to this adventure, that doesn't mean I won't one day return to these articles, as long time readers will no doubt know. 

During my Games Mastering days, this adventure passed me by as I never managed to get a copy of it. Apart from its original publication, it also saw the light of day as part of the Restless Dead campaign - and incidentally Graeme Davis has written a short piece about this book on his blog here - and getting your hands on a copy in the pre-eBay days was practically impossible. In fact, even when I re-collected my White Dwarf stash back in the early 2000s, I never actually read through this adventure and it resided in my mind as the 'one with the funny inventions'. 

So today, I will be reading through the adventure for the first time and sharing my thoughts with you lot. How lucky you are, eh? Now before I do that I will point out that the material that follows WILL contain a large number of spoilers, so if you are a WFRP fan or player and want to do justice to this rarer adventure - stop reading now! 

Have you stopped? 

Good. Now I imagine that if you are reading these words you are already familar with the adventure or never plan to play in through as a PC. Or you are a power-roleplayer (do these people even exist?) drunk on victory and the need to feel superior over your fellow players. I'll leave it up to you to assign exactly who you are. Thanks to the singular Matt Kay (whoever he is) we have the entire adventure published on scribd in a handy article. Here it is for your reading pleasure... oh and there is a second edition version available also, if you are unfortunate enough to use second edition - poor souls. 

WFRP1 - White Dwarf 93 - Eureka - An Inventive Adventure for WFRP by Matt Kay on Scribd

The adventure kicks off, like a great number before or since, under the boughs of the Deutz Elm in Nuln. The beginning of the adventure suggests we see our PCs in their natural state - unemployed and lacking in cash and lingering around looking for adventuring work. As always, the GM needs do no more than give them a gentle push towards an advertisment among many nailed to its trunk. It reads 'Capable persons needed to protect valuables. Well paid, food and board supplied. Contact Uwe the Barman at the Misthaufen Tavern.'

Anyone with a smattering of German will no doubt blanch at the chance of visiting a inn named after a dung heap, but our PCs are no doubt desperate and will have no qualms at all about lowering their standards to such a degree. A fairly swift session of roleplaying will see our players standing at the threshold of the establishment (a shabby little beershop located down one of the city's many insalubrious back streets) asking to be introduced to Uwe. This fat, good natured man could be played several ways by the GM. Over generous and genuflecting (he does, after all, offer them free beers) or a shady and underhand individual - the choice is most definitely yours, depending on how you want the players to feel. It won't be long until they discover that Uwe is just a go-between for another client, and it will be this individual who is after the capable persons and will have their mits on the purse strings. 

Depending on how you want to play the interaction between the contact and the PCs, our players will soon be wandering down Gummisteifelstrasse (Rubber Boots Street?) looking for a house named Der Gerflugesalat (Chicken Salad? Oh, those WFRP witticisms!) under instructions to tell whoever they meet that 'Uwe sent them'. Soon our players will have the pleasure of Fatboy's company (the proprietor of the house's cook and general housekeeper) and the chance for more amusing roleplaying. After a little kerfuffle, depending on how the PCs play it, they will be standing before their mysterious would-be benefactor, Wolfgang Kugelschreiber (ballpoint-pen?), undoubted genius and inventor. I would imagine that this part of the scenario would be great fun to GM, as the PCs learn that the valuable objects are not infact precious metals, arcane magical items or sacks full of cash, but the rather shabby looking Fatboy and his erstwhile master. They are to be hired as mere bodyguards, as a gang of roughs have been hassling Kugelschreiber recently over whether or not he is willing to be part of a protection racket. Clearly not it seems by our players sudden employment and promise of 100GCs each. 

This entire scene is set in one of those cliched 'mad professor' laboratory stroke dungeon rooms and can be played for laughs if you so wish. Hargreaves' text plays with a cod-German accent reminisce of nearly every episode of 'Allo 'Allo, that seminal 1980s favourite. Alas, there is no 'Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies' here, just a dramatic unveiling of his new invention; the Old World's first submersible, only Kugelschreiber hasn't considered how he will be able to remove it from his workshop! 

So far so good. We have seen plenty of scope for humourous character interaction between the players and the GM. At this point, they will have little choice but to carry out whatever bizarre and perculiar orders Kugelschreiber may have, and the sadist GM might well use this opportunity to have some fun, setting up the PCs for long, fruitful nights guarding the house as Fatboy and Kugelschreiber snooze with impunity until launching the 'storm episode'. As you see, once the thunder and lightning begins to strike, Kugelschreiber declares the perfect opportunity has arisen to experiment with the elements in the perfect pastiche to Mary Shelley's famous novel. He will disappear into his laboratory and the PCs can either give up for the night, observe or patrol the house. At some point, Helmut Weishund the government spy will arrive to carry out a fruitless, and ultimately fatal, attempt to steal secrets from the inventor. 

Hargreaves provides a lovely little scenario where the PCs need to pursue the spy onto the gothic roof of Der Gerflugesalat, amid the lashing rain, lightning strikes and rolling peals of thunder. With a 50% chance of slipping from the roof it is almost certain that a PC will fall off and injure themselves, especially considering there is a 15% chance of being hit by lightning too. For Helmut, alas, the fates are much, much unkinder, as we see him falling to his death at the GMs discretion, no doubt at the most dramatic point. 

This is a wonderful little loop-plot scene, and could be used as a hook for further homebrew adventures if the GM is creative enough. Whatever, this episode is merely a false alarm of the red herring variety, though it serves well to keep the players on their toes. Searching Helmut's body could be a risky business, what with him dying of a lighning strike and his body will electrocute anyone foolish enough to handle it. A rummage of his pockets will reveal next to nothing of course, and leave our players wondering. I was always a fan of unexplained loose ends when I was GMing, as I found that explaining every detail never fed that sense of awe and wonder essential to any roleplaying game.

More opportunities for roleplaying will present themselves in the morning, as the PCs are gently lifted from their slumbers by the delicious smells of bacon and eggs frying. Fatboy will provide them with a hearty break to their fast and Kugelschreiber will offer to stitch, bind and generally tend to anyone's wounds. The rest of the day can be spent indulging in the highlight of this adventure - Kugelschreiber's zany inventions.

Take a look...

With the whole day empty of incident, the GM can give their players a little time to explore the  Kugelschreiber's bizarre inventions or head out into the city for a little shopping. Whatever they choose to do shouldn't be too dramatic in my opinion, as the real fun will begin as soon as it grows dark. At an opportune moment (perhaps as the PCs settle down for their evening fare) an aggressive banging will be heard from the front door. Reminded of the importance for not fighting inside the property, the PCs watch as Fatboy gingerly opens the front door to admit a brace of rather perculiar looking rogues, brandishing a motley array of weapondry.

With the players able to do little beyond posture in a (hopefully) nonchalant way,  Kugelschreiber will hand over a pouch containing 75GCs and forbid any violence in his home. Such restrictions are essential to the plot of the adventure, though encouraging the PCs out into the night to follow them should be easy enough. And so starts the 'main 'event' of this scenario; a long, tensioned filled exerice in tracking the evildoers through the streets, and if I was GMing the game, practical use of the cardstock buildings from my beloved Warhammer Townscape would help manage and set this scene wonderfully. 

I am sure that creative players will devise all manner of cunning plans to keep on the trail of the local thugs, though whether or not these turn out to be fruitful should be down to the GMs discretion, and I am thinking that Baldrick would be a better template for the player's successes than Hannibal Barca. However the GM runs this episode, or indeed the players too, the eventual discovery that our villains are no more than a group of corrupt City Watchmen on the take will come as a shock, and will probably prevent sensible players from launching a full scale assault. 

Whatever they decide, the adventure suggests the result of any actions against the ne'er-do-wells should result in a chase. Preferably a high octane and dramatic one, and having the Watch in hot pursuit was a regular and popular occurance for my adventurers when I ran WFRP campaigns. This would make a perfect companion piece to the slower paced stalk through the night's streets, and again would be an excellent opportunity to field those lovely card buildings. Sadly, this is where 'Eureka' begins to suffer, especially if run straight off the page, as the ending of the adventure is more than a little week. 

Kugelschreiber and Fatboy will seek to escape the Watch in the submersible, despite it being constructed in a laboratory well away from the river. There is a suggestion that they would use gunpowder to blast through the laboratory's walls, but Hargreaves gives us little in terms of action. And quite why would they wish to escape anyway - they didn't commit any crime against the Watch, beyond employing the PCs! Perhaps we should just accept guilty by association, but then again, these are corrupt City Watchmen! 

Instead 'Eureka' leads the adventurers to succeed where Daedalus failed, and encourages them to escape from the highest point of Der Gerflugesalat on homemade handgliders, providing a quick and neat ending to the adventure but one that just doesn't satisfy. Personally, if I were running this adventure I'd have tweaked the submersible description and allowed the PCs to enter it, using Kugelschreiber as the captain of the vessel, fatboy as the first mate and the adventuerers as the hapless able (or not so able) seamen, busting their guts out keeping the ramshackle device afloat. Only after the mad, yet dramatic, plan of blowing up the walls and launching the submersible into the depths of Nuln's sewers had come into play, of course. And who knows what dangers lurk in the nether-regions of Nuln? 

They would certainly be safe from the Watch down there. 

To conclude, Paul Hargreaves' adventure (did he do anything else?) has a great deal going for it. Amusing characters, silly inventions and lots of opportunities for narrative roleplaying. Of course, it is dreadfully linear and is perhaps suited to entry level PCs and inexperienced GMs if used in its published form. For the more ambitious and creative GMs however, there is a great deal of useful material here to help craft a memorable and rewarding adventure for any group. 


  1. I remember this fondly, although the details of how exactly how it played out (both when I played it and when I ran it as a GM) escapes me.

    I do remember however, that the locations are a bit of a fudge: the Oldenhaller Contract and this one is set in Nuln but the Enemy Within campaign starts in Altdorf (IIRC).

    I do remember that when I played Shadows over Bögenhafen we made good use of the gliders we had aquired during this adventure to spy on Teugen and shadowing the cultists going to the warehouse from the air.

    When I ran the Enemy Within campaign myself I did relocate this adventure to take place in Middenheim, switching the submersible for a giant glider plane instead, launched from a secret opening in the cliff face of the Faustschlag rock. My players did use their gliders on various occasions later in the campaign, but kept crashing them with grievous bodily harm as a result.

  2. I also ran the entire Enemy Within campaign at the time, and I used the scenarios published in WD as "filler" inbetween the major modules or as "encounters on the road". I do remember this adventure, but don't think I actually used it. I think it was a little bit too much pastiche to fit in with the WFRP world proper.

  3. In my opinion 'Noblesse Oblige', from WD91, is well worth looking at in more detail. While it gives an idea of how to run Noble characters it also sets out a very different view of the Empire than the one given from 4th. Edition onwards. It basically introduces the notion of politics that portrays the nobility as not full of over exaggerated heroes, but individuals with their own, often selfish, agendas which clash in a number of ways. In particular their is the 'private war' mentioned at the end. IF you are aiming for a more narrative style of play, rather than over blown power gaming, this provides a wealth of ideas and that makes the Empire seem more like a possible place as rather than a collection of exaggerated heroes and their equally exasperated followers.

  4. One of the best adventure for WFRP