Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Episode 16 - The Enemy Within - Wittgendorf's Physician

The physician Jean Ressauex's house. The best house in abandoned Wittgendorf.
This is an actual play recording of Death on the Reik, a chapter in Games Workshop's classic campaign The Enemy Within.

Download Episode from Google Drive (40.9 MB)

Heroes present were Esmeralda the Shallayan initiate, Herdan the vampire hunter, Joten the dwarf veteran, Walter the halfling agitator, Solomon the halfling smuggler and Magnus the dwarven prospector.

We left the heroes having evacuated the entire cursed town of Wittgendorf on their trading vessel 'The Hammer'. They planned to return to Wittgendorf to deal with the disturbing Wittgenstein family who they suspected of holding a warpstone meteor.

Key points from Episode 16

(3:44) On docking in Grissenwald with a boatload of Wittgendorf refugees the group were met by the Harbormaster. Despite his reluctance to take in possible mutants, the heroes used the recent pro-mutant Imperial edict to verbally out manoeuvre the Harbormaster. Esmeralda proclaimed "Has the Emperor not decreed that mutants are people too? As a priestess of Shallya I have vetted each and every villager and can vouch for for the sanctity of both their bodies and minds." The Wittgendorf refugees disembarked and moved into the slums on the edge of town.

(7:34) We learnt that the trading rules are inflexible, hard to utilise at the table and not to our taste. So I changed them. They will be there own blog post one of these days.

(8:56) The heroes struck a trade deal with Gorim Greathammer, leader of Grissenwald's dwarfs. They had aided the dwarves earlier in reclaiming their coal mine from goblins. In exchange for some timber to shore up the mine the heroes received a contract to sell the coal entitling them to 5% of sales. The first shipment of coal would be ready in a week.

Care to travel aboard 'The Hammer'? Alas we are fresh out of strawberries.
(16:40) While sailing to Wittgendorf the group pondered turning their boat into a dedicated passenger vessel. It's the Firefly angle the players find appealing. That and it seemed a more reliable way of earning coin than trading. I whipped together some very rough passenger rules that again will likely see its own blog post.

(22:02) While sailing Walter and Solomon, the groups halfling chefs, noticed that something had been eating the ships supplies. The boat had a rat problem. Perhaps it was time to invest in a ships cat? Later as they headed into Wittgenstein by row boat the sharp eyed in the group spotted rats jumping into the river in surreptitious pursuit. Jotun suspected Hilda, their outlaw guide, of being in league with the rats based on ... nothing really... he's a suspicious dwarven bastard. The halflings picked of the swimming rats with precision slingshots.

Sigrid - Priestess of Taal and leader of the Outlaws
(29:00) Hilda, their guide, had suffered the twin tragedies of having her husband taken by Wittgenstein guards on suspicion of collaborating with outlaws and then her newborn had mutated into a green furred spider. As it turned out she and her husband were outlaw collaborators and she offered to take the band to their woodland camp. They made the trip during the day. The corrupted wood was a haunt of beastmen, and they mostly come out at night ... mostly. At the camp they met Sigrid the outlaw leader and Priestess of Taal. Walter's contrarian nature almost argued the outlaws into leaving. "With the village evacuated you have no need to remain to defend your people. You should leave these cursed lands." Esmeralda reminded him that they needed the outlaws help against the castle defenders. Sigrid tells them of caves beneath Castle Wittgenstein and encouraged the group to explore them. The outlaws agreed to assist in any attack on the Wittgensteins.
Kurt - a simpleton that ran the local still
(40:10) The heroes decided they needed a map of the castle. The only person they knew who had been inside the place was Wittgendorf's physician Jean Ressauex. They set out on a simple snatch and grab. They waited at the edge of the vacant town and crept in at nightfall. First they searched the physician's shed. There they met Kurt the simpleton who operated the physician's still. The still was used to make a strong elderberry spirit that was passed out to the mad mutant beggars of Wittgendorf. Esmeralda convinced Kurt that the group were from the castle and that there was nothing to worry about, oh and could he lend them the key to the house? Examining the still revealed a growth of small waving tendrils near the spigot.
Jean Ressauex - Wittgendorf's Physician - still caring for the down and outs
(52:24) The group surrounded the physician's house and moved in with SWAT like precision. Jean Ressauex was confronted in his dining room by Esmeralda "J'acuse! We know you are in league with the evil Wittgensteins." Despite his outrage at the home invasion Jean Ressauex told them about the Wittgenstein family, their Norscan guest and guards. The group figured he was feeding them half truths and turned up the heat. Their lines of questioning focused on the warrior from Norsca who never left his armour as well as the apparent terminal injury to the Wittgenstein's Captain of the guard.

(61:12) While the interrogation progressed Herdan and Joten explored the house and ventured into the cellar. They discovered a horrendous smell which they countered with the old tunnel fighter trick of soaking a handkerchief in urine and wearing it as a mask. This caused the stench to be somewhat lessened. The cellar was set up as a lab full of pipettes, rubber hosing and surgical saws. Herdan approached a slab of fly covered meat on the cellar table using his lantern to shoo the buzzing swarm away. The meat, to no ones surprise, turned out to be a dismembered human body.

(66:20) Esmeralda headed down into the cellar to lend her apothecary skills to the investigation. She opened several vials to determine their contents. From one such vial a grey ooze leaped forth landing on the fly bloated corpse. The body shuddered and suddenly lashing tentacles burst forth. Joten gritted his teeth and put down the thing with two swift sword blows. Esmeralda had seen enough and screamed "Get the Doctor!" Jean 
Ressauex was manhandled to the body and ordered to investigate it. When asked what he should be investigating the group insisted he "Just use science or something." To everyone's surprise grey tentacles emerged from the corpse and wrapped themselves around the physician's neck. Herdan figured fire was the only answer here. He smashed his lantern on Ressauex and then tipped medical alcohol onto the ensuing conflagration. Ressauex was engulfed and his house became his pyre. Whilst he burned the party managed to catch a glimpse of his rapidly melting face. The speed with which his face melted suggested something was amiss, as if he wore a wax mask to conceal ... well now they will never know.

(79:00) The group conducted a rapid search while the house burned around them. The two notes below were found as well as a stash of coins. 

Notes found during the frantic search of Jean Ressaux's burning house
(84:00) The heroes stood before the blazing building using the ample light to read Jean Ressauex's notes, trying to unravel the mystery of the physician. Esmeralda speculated that the physician had been a love stuck dupe used by the Wittgenstein's. Perhaps he had been concerned for the people's welfare after all. His misguided ministrations had clearly caused much misery to the locals. Everyone agreed the old world was better off without Jean Ressauex.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Enemy Within podcast - putting it together

Sadly we never recorded our 1990s campaign.
Remember that awesome roleplaying session from high school? The one you and your friends still reminisce about today? For me it was my first run through Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's The Enemy Within campaign. This was the first game I had played in that had carried on for more than 2 or 3 sessions. The details of what went down aren't clear anymore, its been 20 years.  While Optimus, Pete and I had considered tape recording our sessions regretfully we never did. So when I decided to run the campaign last year I figured I would record it for prosperity. I was heavily inspired by this The Enemy Within campaign as well as the Fear the Boot podcast. Here's how I make my podcast:

I use a voice recorder app on my smart phone. I place the phone in the middle of the table and let it run. It picks up the clatter of dice, every cough and the squeak of floorboards as people move around the kitchen. The voice levels are a bit off but you can fix that later using The Levelator program.
Once you have a session recorded you need to edit it down to something manageable. You should aim for an episode to be an hour long. I listen to podcasts on the way to and from work which means I can listen to one podcast a day. My friend Optimus had pointed out that my initial recordings were too long and I am in the laborious process of editing the early sessions down. A typical gaming session will be 6 hours long. Once you edit it down you should have 3 x 1 hour long podcasts. There will be in jokes, off topic talk, boring bits like equipment shopping and extended rules look-ups that you will want to remove. I use Audacity to edit the recording. It's free, intuitive and has online support. If you have a Mac then Garage Band is a valid option. 

When cutting the sound file down to size I have a blog post on the go. I note down key points and how far in to the recording they occur. Later I go back and flesh them out. Sticking to one tense when writing helps the posts cohesion. After writing a post I might stew on it for a day and re-read it the following day.
Once I have an hour long episode cut down I run it through another free program called The Levelator. The program is great with voices as it boosts the quiet parts and tones down shouting.

From there I record an introduction on my smart phone and drop it in to the session recording that's been run through the levelator; I do this all in Audacity. While in Audacity I import some back ground music. Fade this music in and out using Audacity. These days I play it safe and use royalty free music. I snagged my introduction music from here.

With the introduction and music added to the session recording I export the file as an MP3. When exporting you get the option to edit the meta-data, things like the track number and date recorded. This is useful information if you plan on uploading the session to iTunes.

I upload the mp3 file to a google drive folder. I can then share the link to the folder so other people can listen if they want. Taking this a step further I embed an audio player in my session blogpost. I follow these instructions to imbed the audio.

It's a long process and I often don't feel like doing it because of the time involved. A 6 hour game session will take 12 hours to edit and blog. Once you get an episode finished it feels like an accomplishment. You now have a record of that amazing session that you can listen to in 5, 10 or even 20 years time.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Rogue Trader - Vlad Kirby's enslaved Orks verse Silver Skull Space Marines

Long time opponent Optimus (the one) returned to Aus. We plan on playing a short Rogue Trader campaign while he is here.

We needed a scenario and rolled on Rogue Trader's inspiring generator. I fully expected Abdul Goldberg or the Space Pudding to make an appearance. Instead we rolled a scenario where a space vampire had enslaved a 'crew' and had to be put down before he did anymore harm. It hinted at an Aliens bug hunt but we took it in another direction turning the crew into orks. Rolling on the complication chart we ended up with a number of storage sites with the chance that one of the sites contained the one's excellent Hellsreach Walker.

Space vampire Vlad Kirby had enslaved a space ork mob through the use of his insidious psychic powers. His lair had been discovered by Imperial forces who immediately teleported three squads of Silver Skull marines to his location in a surgical strike. Would they be able to best Vlad and his orks?

Vlad Kirby watches over his 30 enthralled orks. They await the arrival of the marines who would teleport down in 3 x 4 man squads.
The Silver Skulls beamed down on the left of the battlefield. They intended to search the supply bases located in each corner hoping to discover the Hellsreach Walker to turn on their foe. Zeta squad teleported off target and appeared in woods close to ork lines. The marines opened fire and a lucky deviating plasma missile hit the ground next to Vlad Kirby. The vampire was not wounded when struck nor at the start of his turn as he scurried away from the roiling plasma sphere.

Ominously Commander Lucius and Silver Skull Beta squad did not beam down with their battle brothers. A third of the marines would not show up until very late in the conflict. The orks weight of numbers would prove telling.

Zeta squad is routed in the woods and falls back to the supply dump behind the hill.
Fleeing from the advancing orks the remnants of Zeta squad discovered the Hellsreach Walker. They boarded and unleashed the deadly MACRO-CANNON! It proved ineffective in the hands of the marines, firing two rounds and killing 0 orks.
The Hellsreach Walker hits the board but with only two crew can do little to turn the tide.
Alpha squad was eliminated in a hail of lucky bolter fire. 5 shots, 5 hits, 5 wounds and 4 failed armour saves saw the entire squad cut down. Vlad Kirby first mentally blitzed the walker pilot before turning his attention to the marine manning the macro-cannon. The space vampire augmented his psychic powers to ensure the marines had little chance of passing their psychic saving throw.
The macro-cannon is silenced and Alpha squad cut down. Where is Commander Lucius and Beta squad?
Optimus had to roll every turn to work out what had happened to Beta squad and their teleport mishap. On a 6 they teleported down late but safely, on a 1 they suffered a serious mishap. Beta squad finally beamed down as a single multi-limbed living organism. The mass of flesh was barely kept sentient by the supreme will of the Silver Skull commander Lucius, who battled the other minds for control.
So that's what happened to the Beta squad.
Lucius wrested control of the mass of flesh he and his battle brothers had become. He willed the arms holding the missile launcher to aim at Vlad and let lose. The plasma missile struck home followed by a salvo of bolter rounds. None managed to wound the resilient vampire who stepped unharmed from the boiling field of plasma.
Beta squads fate revealed. Four marines become one thanks to a teleporter incident.
From the top of Vlad's tower an ork with a heavy bolter lined up the space marine monstrosity and plugged it with a high explosive round. Vlad commanded his orks to fire and a hail of bolter rounds put the heaving mass of flesh down.
The monstrosity that is Beta squad is put down.
A fun if one sided battle. Vlad had the numbers and his psychic powers provided reliable kills. We hoped that teleporting and the Walker would give the marines a boost. Teleporting proved a disaster leaving the marines undermanned and the walker's crew were easily picked off by Vlad's mental blitz power.

Scenario two will be Vlad verse the marines in his underground lair which we intend to represent with Space Hulk tiles. Should be good. Now if we could only convince a friend to GM the battle for us.