Having got the measure of his players, the GM prepares for the next session by not preparing any adventure notes. He does however bring a book he's currently reading on the Roman Empire, some snacks and his iPod.
The party arrive at the Red Arrow offices in the morning. Curd Weiss appears nervous as he explains the job he has for them: to set a trap for the bandit gang preying on the coaches. However, the party need to wear Red Arrow livery and the party will be representing the company. It is this that makes Curd nervous. For him and the owners of the company. Also, he states that a noble lady has volunteered to be the 'bait' for the trap.
In an attempt to actually do some roleplaying, the party begin asking questions.
GM (looking up from his book): "What?"
Waldemar: "Why can't the Watch do this job?"
GM (taking out his lollipop and removing one of his iPod earphones): "The Watch what now?"
Waldemar: "Well, if they need men to trap the bandit gang, shouldn't the Watch be doing this, rather than contracting out to us private individuals?"
GM: (FUCK! They've started roleplaying! Where are my notes? NOTES!?!) "Err, well, the thing is..."
GM: (Buy time, must buy time) "Before you can continue, in walks the Gravin Clothilde von Alptraum".
In the book she's described as "...a vision of radiant beauty in her late twenties. She has an attractive and friendly face, a curvaceous hourglass figure (rendered even more so by her well-tailored corsets and bustle) and long curly auburn hair..." The GM knows from experience that he has only about 100 words he'll be able to convery in any one given session, so doesn't waste time with her description, merely holding up a picture of Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.
It's typical of men that even imaginary women manage to overcome their senses. No-one interrupts (for a change) as the Gravin sashays straight over to Albrecht, ignoring everyone else in the room. The Gravin takes his chin in her gloved hand and turns his head to one side. Running a laced finger down his face and over his scar, she looks critically for a moment before smiling up at Albrecht, "That has healed nicely".
"My lady..." stammers Albrecht, blushing furiously.
The party look on confused at this interchange?
Everyone else: "What's this? Who's she? How do you know her?"
GM: "Remember those background cards I handed out before the start of the campaign? Well Ed here was the only one who chose any options that included NPC connections; so yeah, the campaign start is a bit Ed-centric. Deal with it fuckos." The GM only thinks that last bit for fear of a shoe-ing.
Waldemar: "What's a 'Gravin'?"
GM: "It's a noble term, like 'Duchess'"
Having regained his notes, the GM lets fly with as much information as he can before the inevitable anti-plot torpedo salvo gets launched.
Christina Hendricks: "Ever since the death of Elector Count Marius Lietdorf at the Battle of Black Fire Pass, the city hasn't found a replacement. There are too many conflicting parties, no-one can reach a consensus. This has led to stagnation, for the best part, and corruption for the worst. No one can authorise the hiring of..."
Jochen: "What about Bauerfast? What's he doing about this?"
Everyone else: "Don't interrupt!"
Waldemar: "We need to listen"
Ichabod: "Be quiet then"
GM: "Okay, so with no clear..."
Waldemar: "Everyone listen"
Albrecht: "We're trying"
Everyone else to everyone else: "Be quiet, we need to listen to the plot!"
Troll Slayer: "I'm going to plot you guys so hard in a minute"
This continues for another few minutes during which time the GM reads more about how the city of Rome was a contradiction in terms of it's buildings and it's people. He notes that the new Arctic Monkeys album is pretty good too. Unfortunately he has run out of lollipops.
In an effort to restore order, Darren makes a fateful decision. Fighting against years of bad experiences, cliched plots, cardboard characters and +1 swords , he says...
Darren: "Ichabod asks... Ichabod he... he asks what... Oh God!"
Tom: "What's he doing?"
Mick: "Oh my God, he's trying to roleplay"
Ed: "Come on Darren! You can do it!"
Darren: "Ichabod... he asks the Gravin...errgghhh"
Jon: "Come on! Come on! You're nearly there"
GM: "You're doing great mate, come on"
Like a bunch of soldiers cheering on their crippled buddy who recently got blown up in Railroadside Bomb, Darren staggers forward on ruined legs, learning to roleplay hackneyed plots again. Fighting against the pain of having to hear his character speak in such blatant D&D terms, he pushes through the agony of contrivance.
Darren: "Ichabod asks why Bauerfast..."
Darren begins bleeding from his eyes. His breath comes short and in painful spasms.
Ed: "Someone get this man a beer. QUICKLY!"
Tom: "He's not going to make it"
Jon: "He'll make it"
Mick: "He can do it!"
GM (Please God, let him do it)
Ichabod: "Why does... Bauerfast... have soldiers... patrolling... the city?"
Darren collapses from the effort. Everyone cheers! Like a William Shatner acting masterclass after a 500m sprint, Darren has delivered his lines and saved the story.
Clothilde: "Why I'm glad you asked. Marcus doesn't trust the corruption now running rife through the Watch and most of the city's government. He uses only his own men in an effort to keep law and order"
Troll Slayer: "Now it's time to tear this story a new asshole!"
Waldemar: "Plot me now GM and plot me hard!"
With the story back on track, the party quickly assemble outside the plush coach they'll be using.
Curd: "Okay, we've put some rumours about that the Gravin will be travelling back from the city to her manor wearing the von Alptraum family ring. None of you have the Tradecraft advanced skill so you have no idea how much it's worth, other than A Lot"
Ichabod: "We're travelling in this stretched coach?"
GM: "Aye, it's very plush. Curd says it's their best coach"
Ichabod looking at the Troll Slayer: "You should attach yourself to the bottom Cape Fear style"
GM (who had considered this option the night before): "If you want to do that, you absolutely can" (he gets a bunch of Fortune Points ready)
Troll Slayer: "Nah, that's too silly. Me and Waldemar can hide on the top under a tarpaulin..."
Waldemar: "And talk to the driver about social issues"
Ichabod: "Yeah, cos that's a lot less silly"
The coach leaves the Red Arrow offices and proceeds to tour the Plenzerplatz, whilst the Gravin waves out of the window at the common folk, ostensibly showing her expensive ring. This leads to much inneundo which the author will not recount here.
Eventually the coach leaves Averheim and heads for the Gravin's manor. Waldemar attempts to obtain information from the elderly coach driver about their noble companion.
Waldemar: "Ere, what juicy titbits have you got about the Gravin? I know you've been her driver for the last 30 years and probably look on her as a daughter, but she looks well dirty."
Unfortunately for the party, no-one can realistically kill Waldemar despite numerous openings. The NPCs on the other hand have no such reserve and Werther gives him a cheery club to the face with his blunderbuss.
Enraged, the Troll Slayer almost derails the plotline by announcing his intention to discipline the driver. Fortunately, the coach has reached the next paragraph in the plot book before he can act.
GM: "The coach slows and then stops. Werther slides back the small wooden window behind him and says that there is a bunch of logs and branches blocking the..."
Even before he finishes the party groan collectively and make ready their weapons. Weapons are unsheathed, bows unslung, arrows and bolts are nocked. Most satisfying however is Jochen decides to channel power. In a crowded coach.
Wizards are not well liked. They're certainly not trusted. Their power comes from the Chaos Gods themselves for Sigmar's sake! So seeing one gather the winds of power whilst you're sat next to him in a small wooden box is never a good thing. Indeed, some would argue it's the very opposite. The Gravin tenses and grips Albrecht's arm painfully, Kuhn wraps his fingers around the butt of his pistol; Albrecht and Ichabod, who can't kill Jochen for the same reason they can't kill Waldemar, try to look elsewhere. The party tension meter rises.
Mick: "Why is the party tension meter rising?"
GM: "Two reasons: first up, the very fact you have to even ask that question. Secondly, seeing a wizard use magic is akin to watching a drunken blind man staggering around a room full of..."
Ichabod: "Enough of the metaphors, we get it"
Werther and Kuhn eventually disembark and go to clear the road. Which they do.
Troll Slayer: "Aren't you breaking some RPG rules here? We're supposed to be ambushed"
Albrecht hops out to inspect the branches. Sure enough, they've been hacked with an axe and placed deliberately.
Albrecht: "This was deliberate. Why are we not being attacked?"
Ichabod: "Maybe the game has crashed?"
Waldemar: "Can we restart the GM?"
Troll Slayer: "Maybe we should roll the coach back a few yards and then forward again?"
Eventually the coach sets off with everyone looking perplexed. The GM smiles and then says: "You hear a distant horn sound", then folds his arms, leans back and looks smug, like he's just pulled off the greatest GM trick ever. No one understands what's going on.
How The Combat Was Supposed To Go...
The 6 bandits on horseback, ride up from behind the coach, overtake it and force Werther to stop. Having seen no-one exit the coach earlier other than 3 people, the bandits aren't expecting any trouble and simply demand the ring. Their pistols are not drawn and their swords are sheathed.
The trap is sprung! The Troll Slayer rolls out from under the coach and gets automatic initiative and loads of Fortune Dice for being cool. Everyone else piles out and the bandits are Rattled (yes this is a condition card), because they're taken by surprise. The party make short work of the bandits.
Then they take some prisoners.
HA, HA! Not really, I put that prisoner line in for a joke, God I'm so funny!
How The Combat Actually Went...
The 6 bandits on horseback, ride up from behind the coach...
Waldemar: "They're coming up behind us!? Right, I'm throwing back the tarpaulin and making a grab for the blunderbuss"
GM: "Hang on, you're..."
Ichabod: "...back to our usual behaviour! Take that Roberts you worm!"
The ensuing combat is far more rough and ready and a lot of the party are wounded. Ichabod and Albrecht fire from the coach windows. The bandits kill one of the horses, which at galloping speed manages to trip the other horse and turn the coach over.
Ichabod is critically wounded, suffering a broken nose after a pistol bullet richochets off his face. But the GM is saving all his Cunning dice (yes, there is a Cunning dice pool to help with NPC rolls - they're like FPs for GMs). He's saving them for Albrecht.
Bandit: "This is for those Chaos Mutants you dispatched singlehandedly in the last session!"
Albrecht takes 6 hits.
Albrecht: "How do you even know those guys? Is this just some GM payback?"
Bandit: "Who is this GM of whom you speak? Those Chaos Mutants were my brother's wife's teacher's former room-mates. Take some more damage... TO YOUR FACE. Huzzah!"
The bandits cheer. The GM cheers (quietly, to himself).
Finally, amidst much carnage that the author can't be bothered to write out, the defiant scoundrels survey the damage. They've taken a lot of wounds, but they're still standing. The Gravin is shaken, but pleased that everyone is still alive. Albrecht is pleased the Gravin is alive. Everyone moans as they realise Waldemar is still alive.
The same can't be said of the bandits.
Waldemar: "No, we took the leader alive"
With everyone dead, they carry on to the manor.
Albrecht: "Whoa! Back up there Dice Jockey, we specifically took this guy alive so we could advance the plot"
GM: (shit - hurriedly looks through notes again)
Examining the bodies, they find 2 of them have Averheim Garrison livery on under their bandit uniforms.
Tying up the bandit leader (Hektor), they continue on to the manor. There they're treated by the Gravin's own medical staff. Then the 2 dwarves head down to the basement to question the captive. Clothilde makes it clear that she'll brook no killing of an unarmed captive in her house.
Waldemar and the Troll Slayer then play Bad Dwarf, Badder Dwarf and get various plot points from Hektor. First up it seems unlikely that they'll be able to use him to track the Black Cowl. He appears to be quite paranoid about his identity and works through intermediaries. Hektor reports to someone called Rickard. Does Rickard report to the Black Cowl? Hektor doesn't know.
The Black Cowl wanted the ring to help fund other nefarious activities, what these are Hektor doesn't know. Hektor's gang were behind the gunpowder thefts and also aided in transporting them from the Chaos Mutants. All Hektor's information on which coaches to hit came from the Black Cowl. Here Hektor passes out because of exhaustion and the GM running out of things he can remember about the plot that Hektor would know.
Once the party return to the city, that will spell the end of Book 1, Act 1. What follows will test your head, and your mind, and your brain. In the horrifyingly titled Book 1, Act 2 DUN DUN DUUUUUN!!!!