After my second college-era attempt at a Warhammer Fantasy Role Play campaign got derailed by Lichemaster‘s unbalanced experience awards, I had the players in my group roll up a new batch of characters to make a fresh start of things.
The shadow of Dungeons & Dragons hung heavily over my previous runs with the group. It was the RPG lingua franca — especially for the heroic fantasy genre — and so it filtered its way back into to the new-to-them WFRP system in terms of how characters should act, fight, or conduct themselves in the game world. That influence began to wane over the course of a year, thanks to empirical lessons involving the game’s gore-flecked critical hits tables and the influence of Lil Bro, who’d participated in my high school campaigns. By the time we embarked this third go-round, the members of the group had come around to the “grim world of perilous adventure” mindset.
While the second campaign’s roster mirrored the roles and archetypes the players picked for our first run together, this time they opted to expand their horizons and try something a little different. The big problem was finding someone willing to take on role of the party’s designated healer. Warhammer combined high lethality with a scarcity of supernatural mending methods. In order to survive past the first few combat encounters, an adventuring party needed to have someone skilled in poultices, bonesaws, and needles on hand.
I ultimately employed my elder sibling powers of persuasion upon Lil Bro to fill that vacancy. He took on the role of a grave-robbing physician’s student who wielded a weaponized shovel in combat. He fit in well with the rest of the morally ambiguous reprobates in the adventuring party, leading to a dynamic actually approaching — GASP — genuine role-playing.
The Lichemaster experience made me wary about using pre-made scenarios, but I also didn’t have much time to whip up proper homebrew adventures. My decision to return to WFRP for a second summer was an ad hoc decision fueled by circumstances, and I had to work things around my thriving romance with Maura. In the end, I opted to split the difference by stringing together the semblance of a campaign from unused original material and a few adventures pulled from The Restless Dead.
The fairly forgotten sourcebook was itself an odds ‘n’ sods release. The bulk of the tome was taken up by a mini-campaign cobbled together from various unrelated adventures pulled from White Dwarf magazine, and filled out with additional rules and spells for use with the core game. The structure made it ideal for cherry-picking usable bits as required, which I then wove around my homebrew material.
Not only did it work surprising well, but it did so right out of the gate. I opened things with A Rough Night at the Three Feathers, a Restless Dead intro scenario where the players seek shelter at a roadside inn that has been taken over by murderous mutants. When one of the disguised fiends brought a bowl of drugged soup over to Lil Bro’s table, his grave robber grabbed the server by the neck and drowned him in it. The rest of the group was appalled…up until the surviving staff began unfurling their tentacles, beaks, claws, and other Chaos-provided gifts.
I later asked Lil Bro if I made the threat too obvious. He replied that his high school history class had just watched Spartacus and he thought the death-by-soup scene was cool. He saw an opportunity to try it in the game, and did. The victim just happened to be a cannibal mutant.
Those impressionable teens, man.
With the tone of the campaign set, the ragtag group of amoral opportunists set forth to make their mark upon the world.