Band of Others
“…thus do I command that the province of Sylvania be brought back into the fold of Father Empire and the Holy Mother See” – Empress Beatrix Bellaphron, First of Her Name, Defender of the True Faith, and Suzerain of the Kingdoms of Mankind 2421, AC
Close your eyes and listen closely child. Still your heart and quiet your thoughts long enough, and you will begin to feel its presence. Dark and deep it slumbers, an ancient and formless thing, much older than the so-called ‘old’ houses of Vendren, Sleith, and Glyph; indeed it is a thing older than the world itself. Those that call it anything at all call it “The Soil”, and it is the only true god of our land.
All places have dirt, rocks, and sand, and even the seas are said to rest upon a murky earth of sorts. But none have Soil like ours, little one. Our Soil runs deeper than any other, down past the forges of the dwarf-men, beyond even the Watery Halls of Manann and the Gardens of Morr beneath the earth. The red loam that covers our land from the Stir to the Aver is like none other, because it is not a dead thing. Our soil can hear. It can feel. It can see. It remembers.
Even now the Soil feels the weight of the Usurpers legions as they tread upon it. From Its sleep, it feels the armored locusts as they march over the Greenstone and Silver Bridges and scour across the Broken Hills. It remarks every hoof beat, every footfall. In its dreams, It watches as our homes are torched and our kinsfolk are put to the sword. It hears every scream, and tastes every drop of blood spilt upon it. It remembers the Usurpers and their banners of green, yellow, and blue. It has seen them before, and it likes them not.
Ulric has heard the Soil stirring from its slumber, and has sent down this blizzard to cool the anger of the armies and the Soil alike. The winter god’s storm will not last long though, and even as the armies huddle in their frozen camps, our countryside teems with brigands, sellswords, and false holy men.
It is a dangerous time for us little one, for though the Soil hates the invaders, it does not love us. Do not ask for its help or mercy, it knows not these things. If you must pray, then pray its slumber is not disturbed further for, should it awaken, the Long Night will be upon us all.
Game Structure and Scope
This story is intended to be run in a largely sandbox fashion. There will be a meta-plot unfolding in the background, but it is entirely the PCs choice as to whether or not they wish to engage in that storyline. I will try to leave ‘seeds’ throughout the story that could lead to fun interactions and adventures. The underlying assumption, however, is that PCs will set their own agenda and will be more or less in control of the narrative it terms of the types of adventures they get into, the type of group they become, and the type of story we create.
Mood & Lethality
The mood here will adhere closely with the old WHFRP texts; which is to say, things will be gritty, darkly humorous, and full of moral grey areas. The PCs will certainly be capable of heroic and even song-worthy deeds, but this isn’t a ‘gonzo’ game, nor a ‘Hero Hammer’ chronicle. Charging a 12-foot tall troll head-on with only a sword and a fierce battle cry is almost certainly going to result in your character being turned into meat-jelly.
There will be plenty of chances for fighting, but similar to our previous samurai game, any fight will carry the potential for a lethal outcome. Consider alternatives to blades and shields as a method of conflict resolution and social interaction – both because of the lethality of the world, but also because non-violent approaches can be just as suspenseful and entertaining. Remember: you get the same XP for killing a pack of ogres, that you would for evading them, befriending them, or convincing them that your rivals stole their cattle.
I realize that we’ve signed up to play a “WHFRP” game, and want to keep the basics in place in terms of maps, basic history, races, etc. That said, here are some tweaks which I’ve made because I think they would make for a more interesting game:
1.) Technology & Magic – I’ve mentioned it before briefly, but actual competent magic users in this world are rare, feared, and sought after. The truly great spellcasters can level armies, raze cities, and either destroy dynasties or become one in their own right. As far as black powder weaponry goes, it will be very rare stuff (unlike how is presented in the miniatures game) that is looked on by NPCs with the same mixture of fear and awe as high sorcery, and it may be frequently confused with such…
2.) Elves – Creatures which live for thousands for years, inevitably adapt (biologically and psychologically) to their environs, and are innately good with magic would be incredibly powerful and incredibly… creepy. In this Warhammer world, there aren’t any ‘good’ elves or ‘bad’ ones, just really old, aloof ones that are rare, reclusive, and best avoided.
3.) Chaos – The Ruinous Powers are certainly present in this game, but much like our DH games, they tend to be far more amorphous, mysterious, and non-Manichean than the current Warhammer fluff would have it. Along those lines, all of the usual WHFRP gods will be present, along with quite a few others (see story above) added in for good measure.
I’m stealing quite a bit of place names, deities, and other elements from Brian McNaughton’s Throne of Bones and his other short stories. I’m also borrowing liberally from Clark Ashton Smith’s short stories, as well as GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire. I think all three authors write the type of tales that are perfect WHFRP stuff.