08 March 2007

An Introduction to the Barony

As I mentioned earlier I shall be trying to keep an up-to-date actual play of my WFRP game which, in name if not in deed, began last night. Updates will hopefully be posted both here and on the actual play thread I've started over on RPGnet.

Yesterday evening's session was very much an introduction: we did character generation (building a character starting in a second career is a complicated process for those not familiar with WFRP as a system) and gently introduced the lie of the land - more politically than geographically, but we did that too. The aim was to introduce the legion of NPCs and to establish some relationships between them and the PCs in advance of the first "proper" session.

The size of the territory is measured in days travel, 3 days from north to south at the longest point and 4 days east to west at its widest, it nestles on the southern face of the Black Mountains on the lead up to a pass which crosses into the Empire near the source of the Upper Reik which flows north towards Nuln. The river, whilst not strictly navigable to the source, is a route of travel all the same as the banks offer a guide and signs of settlement right to the mountains’ edge on the northern side. Even past the point of navigation the flow of the river guides a passable route from the Empire into the Border Princes. Yes, it is one fraught with danger: Greenskins and worse make home in the caves of the mountains, and many a caravan has fallen prey to their attentions, but by and large the roads are open. After all when the commodity is saltpetre – a crucial ingredient of black powder – then the caravans are well guarded, and the caves near the roads often scoured. The rest of the small territory is made up of the mountain foothills, small forests and rolling plains, though the borders are always fluid – such is life in the Border Princes, where everyone fancies their chances of taking, and holding, land. However it is quieter here than most places; active trade across the mountains and the resources of this particular region has meant that the Empire has interests in keeping things (relatively) stable. The lower slopes are littered with a number of small villages and hamlets, woodsmen and farmers more interested in their cabbages or charcoal than the pettiness of their lords. Higher up, amidst the ravines that lead ultimately to the pass is the town of Himmelfeuer, so named for the fiery night skies that have, on occasion, been seen above the town – for Himmelfeuer is a mining town, and it mines saltpetre. The Baron’s castle is built not far outside the town, a little higher up the pass. It is small by Imperial standards but then so is everything out here. It rains a lot too, but then even in mighty Altdorf that is so.

So to the north the Black Mountains, full of greenskins and worse, and the Empire - from whence the ruling family came some century or more back. To the other points of the compass other, less lawful, lands and territories, most of which seem to have caved, and given in to a self-styled Duke: Schlatten Mörder's influence is growing.

The PCs make up three of six members of Baron Hubst von Feuerwaffen's ruling council. Each has earned their place fro a different reason and have different backgrounds, interests and expertise. The council is completed by the Barony's treasurer, Werner Bohnekosten, the civic mayor of Himmelfeuer Herbert Reichessbergmann (who by extension speaks for all the peasantry in the Barony) and its heir by default, a moronic womanising Lord by the name of Brunnenhing. The baron himself is aged and physically unwell, trusting the six councillors to make decisions in his stead. The issue of who will take over when he does pass away is at the forefront of everyone's minds: Hubst von Feuerwaffen fathered no sons.

The full dramatis personae to date is:


Reinhardt Scharf: a former imperial soldier now tasked with the job of being the Barony’s military adviser and the officer in command of its meagre troops. He has been around for about a year. Contrary to expectations and type, Scharf is less enamoured of firearms and more so of crossbows and guerilla tactics; his constant requests for more funds - the forces he commands are hopelessly outmanned and in need of better armourments, though they are all hardened men - have been met with stony glares by the treasurer Werner Bohnekosten. He is also a lot younger than his reputation would suggest. Excelling with both bow and sword, he is quick, relatively bright and personable, so much so that the Baron's daughther, Josephine, has taken rather a shine to him.

Lady (Helena Natalia) FitzCarstein: the 18 year old widow of Hans Bodendreck who was a noble knight in the Barony. An outsider, she hails from rural Stirland in the Empire, Lady FitzCarstein has taken on her husband’s council seat since the news of his passing some 4 years ago or so. A social and political animal (she was raised in a noble family, and was married to Hans Bodendreck for politics) she is at home and suited to life in court but is training under the personal guidance of Father Cantati in the priesthood of Verena. Her family liberated themselves from servitude to the von Carstein vampires of Sylvania several generations ago and to a one they maintain a strong interest in combatting and defeating undeath in all its forms. Helena is no different, though for the time being at least she has deigned to remain in her role in the Border Princes.

Pou De Burns: a pious Sigmarite firearms manufacturer and merchant with an established manufacturing operation and the eye for an adventure Pou has risen from a peasant's birth to a position of power and wealth on the back of his manufacturing skill. His firearms are sold locally in small numbers, but chiefly to the Empire in much larger quantities. Large, strong, and a crack shot with his crafted weapons de Burns is also intelligent and astute on the council where he gets on particularly well with the Mayor, Reichessbergmann. His bastard son Gunter is Himmelfeuer's enfant terrible but a skilled craftsman and integral part of Pou's staff.


Baron Hubst von Feuerwaffen is 80-odd years old, likeable and in command of his faculties; but whilst the mind is willing, the body is no longer able. Devout, he spends his days in the castle chapel praying and listening/commanding his trusted few. His remaining family consists of a younger (45 yr old) wife – Magda - and a daughter – Josephine - just turned 20; neither of these two are fit rulers in his (Sigmar’s) eyes, or the eyes of neighbouring Lords. He also has a younger brother – a mere 75, but Gerhardt is sicker of mind than body, and lacks the faculties to rule (and, likewise, has no male heir).

Gerhardt von Feuerwaffen has gone senile – chiefly in the form of forgetfulness – and yet is physically able (despite failing eyes) and quick for his age. Gerhardt does not share his brothers pious views, nor his love for the Empire. He is snappish with others and keeps himself to himself – wandering the lower catacombs and spouting rants to himself about every possible aspect of life in this “Hölle Bohrung" (hell hole).

Magda is a timid woman who hides herself away whenever possible, surfacing only to pray with her husband twice a day, and for meals. Small and mousy she will only respond if spoken to directly and would not ever deign to approach anyone other than her husband, daughter or servants.

Josephine is the opposite of her mother, indeed of her father too. If Magda weren’t so timid word would be all over the barony that Josephine was not the Baron’s daughter. She is feisty, abrasive and tomboy-ish, preferring to drink with the household guard than sit in the council chamber and pursue more womanly goals. She is not a pretty maid, and homely would fit as a descriptor. She feels that she should be the heir and has said as much. Hubst is constantly trying to find a good pseudo-heir to marry her to, but so far she has resisted.

Lord Felix Brunnenhing is the highest born noble in the Barony. He has constantly petitioned for Josephine’s hand but is being knocked back by Baron and daughter both. With no heirs, the barony would fall to him anyway (in the unlikely event that the neighbouring Princes don’t deign to rip his territory to split between them), but would like to marry to cement his claim. He’s a womanising cad with the political mind of a cabbage, so it is unsurprising that neither Baron nor daughter want to see the marriage go ahead.

Herbert Reichessbergmann is the mayor of Himmelfeuer. Lowborn but raised to office as a popular figure. His family were some of the first to work in the saltpetre mines with distinction. He is a kindly man and one of the few miners to have learnt to read and write, thus making him well suited to civic office. Large and ruddy-faced he now runs an inn in Himmelfeuer when not sitting on the council.

Georg Bodendreck is the younger brother of the deceased Hans. A small, weasel-y man but a fine duellist, his low station is of constant annoyance to him. Feels it is not only his right but his duty to marry his Brother’s widow (thus securing the status his being second-born denied him) but has so far not got anywhere. Commonly thought to be stupid, Georg’s lands are to the south, a small manor and estate on the lowland hills bordering Mörder’s territory.

Helmut von Schicksal is a recent arrival in the Barony. He claims to be a lord in another territory in the Border Princes. Tall, well dressed and with a deliberate and precise diction that suggests his birth might even be higher than he claims. He seems to be in Himmelfeuer primarily to court Josephine but has not had much luck on that score. He is lodging at Reicheßbergmann’s inn.

Werner Bohnekosten, the Baron’s treasurer, is a rotund bespectacled man in his early 50s. Hubst speaks fondly of him, as if Werner was the closest thing to a son the Baron ever had. Werner is a prickly character and reacts badly to almost every request for funds. He tends to keep himself to himself when not acting in his official capacity but is known to spend large amounts of time in the small library researching and learning of Tilea and its language.

Gottfrid is the Baron’s elderly housekeeper, of age with his employer, possibly the only one alive aside from Hubst (and Gerhardt, but his mind has since gone) with complete knowledge of the castle. Stuffy and reserved of personality, slow of feet but hale, hearty and live of mind Gottfrid is a career bulter.

Doktor Blutegel is the Baron’s physician, and Gerhardt’s psychiatrist. His name derives from his over-fondness of leeches and, being sexagenarian, stuck in his ways he sees them as a cure for just about everything. Blutegel has no delusions of surgery and only tends to the two lordly charges, refusing to treat commoners. He has been known to dish out potions and poultices to other dignitaries at court.

Ravenmeister Fedem is Master of the Birds – a key position that puts under his remit all speedy communication with distant locales. He is aged, too, and resembling the birds he cares for in features and, lately, in mannerisms. Cackles, broken speech and a glint-y glare in his eye characterise this solitary soul.

Gunter De Birgsmann is Pau De Burns’ bastard son. Resentful of his low birth, he is none-the-less an integral and skilled part of De Burns’ manufacturing operation. Smart and conniving he has a wicked temper when he’s been drinking and has rubbed almost everyone in Himmelfeuer up the wrong way at some point with his abrasive attitudes and delusions of grandeur.

Duke Schlatten Mörder is a self-styled Emperor of the Border Princes; holder of one territory himself he has managed to create a minor mirror image of the Empire by uniting several lesser Princes to a federal state in all but name. Mörder’s personal territory borders the von Feuerwaffen Barony to the south and while his mini-Empire spreads away from Himmelfeuer rather than towards it his eyes have turned greedily northwards as Hubst has aged. Recently his envoy, Wolfgang Heibmann, was called from the castle outside Himmelfeuer, sparking gossip amongst the smallfolk of impending hostilities.

Wolfgang Heibmann was Mörder’s envoy to Himmelfeuer. Tall, dark and pale he only rarely appeared in court, preferring to wile away the evenings in the local brothel (where he is known to have met and, strangely, struck up a friendship with Gunter. He has now returned southward to his the lands of his liege when a summons came. He left without fanfare late one evening, and immediately the mood in court improved. Heibmann had always been decidedly frosty and distant with Lady FitzCarstein.

Fritz Großewaffe is Mörder’s general – or at least the commander of the faux-imperial forces. Wholly self-taught through countless skirmishes between petty lordlings he is a big man in girth and height but has never been able to shake off sniggers generated by his name (literally Big Weapon) and his reputed lack of genital stature. He is a fighting man first and foremost but, unusually for men of the Princes, Fritz is also a devout Sigmarite and looks up to the Empire.

Additional Minor Cast

Jarla is Lady FitzCarstein’s handmaiden, a suspicious and superstitious (thus watchful) yet loyal friend. She is versed in song, dance and herbs and, some might claim, curses and has been with the Lady for most of her years, acting as everything from extra eyes and ears, to sometime apothecary and, if needed, surely even her bodyguard.

Helga Hauptdirne is the Madam at the Himmelfeuer brothel. A ruddy-cheeked and jolly lady who has outgrown the actual “work” and is content simply to run the place, she is motherly to her charges and a professional charmer to their clients.

Franck Gewehrläufer is the wheeler-dealer of Pou’s business, responsible for dealing with the Imperial traffickers and getting them their shipments to haul back across the Black Mountains.

Espanõla Del Diota and Ivan Ruskievich are a bizarre pairing of travelling merchants, one from Estalia, one from Kislev. They did not arrive together but both decided to stay for various, unknown reasons. Chalk and cheese, they have nevertheless struck up a firm friendship not hindered in the least by lack of a (well-spoken) common language. Del Diota is short, exuberant mouthy and colourful whilst Ruskievich is larger, severe and alcoholic and a man of few words.

Father Cantati is a priest of Verena tutoring Lady FitzCarstein in the ways of her goddess. Truthful, clever, yet beaten by a life of failure and a sexual shame he is also the librarian at Drachenmalstein, the Lady's castle.

In accordance with the players' wishes information is being held close to the chest and so in summarising I shall only give what is common knowledge in case they stumble over the records. At this point, then, suffice to say that each NPC has their skeleton(s) in the closet, and each PC likewise. I have sent each player their own list of knowledges and information pertaining to other characters (PC and NPC alike) that they would reasonably expect to have at the starting point for the game. Doubtless the shared information will flesh out a lot more once some of the cards in hand are played and become visible to all, but for now those summaries give a decent enough overview of the situation in the Barony, its central political players and the main perceived threats it faces.

Character creation is done. Relationships and knowledge of NPCs are mapped. The state, location and rough layout of the Barony have been discussed and people been introduced.

Welcome, then, to the Barony von Feuerwaffen; welcome to the Border Princes.

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