15 May 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Six

An interesting session this; it began (and to a degree ended) with a discussion of system and style. We’ve never really been playing WFRP despite the setting and the character sheets: I don’t tend to introduce much in the way of crunch at all, and then only at pivotal moments, and there was discussion about increasing scene control for the players, which I was all for; it had been planned all along but lost in discussion and interpretation of setup.

It was also interesting from an in game point of view: more happened, which helped, but the greatest impact was made by the character dynamics changing. The explicit endorsement of player-set scenes and faster pace of background events allowed Captain Scharf to really come to the fore for the first time in the six sessions.

We picked up by wrapping up events to the West, where the Lady FitzCarstein’s ruse of war had succeeded in ousting the mercenaries squatting in Lord Brunnenhing’s manor.

The plan having been successful in dislodging the occupants, and the prolonged no show of the scout making the continued vigil on the road obsolete, the Lord Brunnenhing was moved back into his manor house. Over the next few days arrangements were made with the local smallfolk by the resourcefulness of the Captain and his use of the copper ring and Pou’s name; Lady FitzCarstein was involved in the initial stages but soon set off for her seat at Drachenmalstein, where her brother Jurgen was due any day, and there were many administrative tasks to perform. She would arrange for a capable steward to return west to aid the smooth running of Brunnenhing’s lands, whilst the Captain was instructing the locals on how things would run in the coming weeks. A moratorium on taxes sent back to Himmelfeuer was used as weight against them helping to clean, fortify and run the manor and it’s surrounding lands, whilst Brunnenhing and Josephine, who surprised everyone by electing to stay, would be expected to muck in on pains of missing out (as the smallfolk had been explicitly told not to listen to either of the nobles).

Lady F, meanwhile, got home the night before her brother arrived. She had much to mull over; the message appended to the rabbit had been from Georg Bodendreck – her late husband’s brother – to Werner… but sent via the mercenaries then holding Brunenhing’s lands. It contained information about goings on to the south – where the barony bordered Mörder’s lands, and records of the Bodendreck tax takings. In addition to her ruling duties, her scheming regarding Brunnenhing’s land, and Josephine, and the imminent arrival of her brother there was the situation with Father Cantati to deal with. However, arriving back late as she did, her first stop was to check in with Jarla and have a good girly catch-up; gossip was shared, primarily regarding the Baron’s daughter and her willingness to “mix” with the smallfolk. Jarla proffered the opinion that perhaps there was more to Josephine than met the eye, and that maybe she knew how to protect herself in romantic dalliances through some “talent” or other; this would also explain the Baron’s lukewarm appreciation of her, with his devout attention to Sigmar cooling him decidedly on other forms of supernatural signs. Speaking of the Baron, there was a missive bearing his seal awaiting Her Ladyship; it spoke (in Gottfrid’s hand) of the Baron wishing to give council once all of his councillors were back in Himmelfeuer. Being unable to leave right away, but knowing that Brunnenhing would linger long to the West, she put it out of her mind turned to other tasks: sending a steward to Brunnenhing. Lady F called her own steward in for advice – did he know someone capable to send? He offered to go himself, sensing the size and potential import of the task and without another suitable recommendation. In his place he recommended an up-and-coming member of the household staff who would flourish under the responsibility with the tutelage of a shrewd Lady.

Meanwhile Pou was back in a quiet Himmelfeuer, trying to pry into Herbert’s mind after his old friend’s mannerisms had aroused suspicions. By taking the friendly drink (or 10!) route he managed to winkle out the fact that Herbert was still concerned about the death at the mining camp, more than most others were now, some days after the fact. A second night’s revelry paid off further, Herbert letting slip that he had been behind the thefts that occurred, wishing to split the council, not trusting the higher-born members (items had been “found” in Brunnenhing’s and Lady F’s retinues and rooms). His motives were not clear from his drunken spilling, but Herbert clearly had something in mind.

Captain Scharf came back to Himmelfeuer with all this in the air. He spoke at length with Pou, and they decided it was time to break Die Kupfers into the open, planning training drills and the like and involving the small standing army in the creation of this “people’s militia” to give it a veneer of respect. Werner noticed the change but, given the army’s involvement and the finance being privately provided he had to relent and agree that given omens to the south it might well be needed. Scharf and Pou also found a moment to speak with the until-then elusive Manfred, who was back working in the bar (this may or may not have been before Herbert’s second slip of the tongue). He revealed that Herbert had instructed him to take, then place the stolen items, Scharf’s stated lack of interest in prosecution convincing him to come clean in his motives.

The day of Jurgen’s arrival came; Lady F had the house in order to receive him and a feast planned for the evening in celebration. She still had to outline to Jurgen the exact nature of the tasks she had for him, but there would be time for that in the coming day(s). Jurgen – a big, booming character – was both impressed and disappointed with Drachenmalstein, but was thinking of staying for a decent period given the hints of vampiric activity that had prompted Helena to request certain books from the family library.

The evening feast came, and was about to get underway when a member of the house staff called Father Cantati from the great hall; a messenger had come to speak to him with some urgency. The Father went out to see his summoner, but returned presently requesting a private chamber in which to receive his guest. And to ask for the Lady to send Commander Vod, captain of the Drachenmalstein guard, to fetch him were he not back in 10 minutes.

Cantati had been called out by Captain Scharf, who did not with his presence to be known; the Captain had travelled to Drachenmalstein that day to interrogate Cantati, whose name had come up in the investigations of child abusers linked to the killing at the mining camp. Cantati took Scharf to an ornate, but rarely used, drawing room and began questioning, probing for the names of others that may have been involved. Cantati revealed that he knew Leuchttern well, meeting him in social circles before finding out of his perversions – which the priest (in his eternal shame, and having just left the formal priesthood) did nothing to stop. As the chat proceeded, Cantati revealed other names, four of five involved were named, the dead miner and Leuchttern already known. Of the other three, one was reported as fled, and another of whereabouts unknown.

Scharf was pressing for the fifth name when there was a knock on the door; Vod had come to find Cantati. Scharf asked for another couple of minutes, but under the Father’s visual direction Vod made out there was no chance of delay. At this point Captain Scharf decided to invite himself to the feast, and the trio moved off towards the feast hall, the Captain’s presence causing a surprise to those assembled as he entered…

Poised nicely, in the end; a centrepiece conflict which on the surface, at least, pits Scharf directly against Lady F will hopefully not disappoint as it opens next session.

That setup aside, two new pieces of information are also now completely open for interpretation: Herbert’s masterminding of the thefts, using Manfred’s expertise to introduce conflict amongst councillors, and Werner’s explicit ties to the mercenaries in the West. There were also signs to establish that, despite the universal fear to the contrary, the Baron is still alive, and that things might be afoot to the south – inside and outside the Barony. Various machinations are now underway (PC and NPC), and they are beginning to advance to bear fruit.

It was really nice to see more of Scharf this time out, and a point of conflict with Lady F will be a real potential insight into the depths of both characters, whilst the elevation of Die Kupfers to semi-formal “people’s militia” will surely spark interest between the three PCs when Lady F finds out about these developments. Jurgen’s poking around might stir things up, too and there is plenty of slack in events elsewhere to kick things if they start to flag a little.

It was a really fun session for me, and I’m hopeful that the little clearing up of any misconceptions before we began, and a conscious effort to maintain the higher pace, will help keep this working onwards and upwards.

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