Here comes the judge (8)In the next episode, the heroes are brought to trial. The court scene was played without the benefit of the Slaneesh expansion, so I used cards such as ‘Intimidate’ and ‘Charm’ as lawyer specific action cards (renamed as ‘Browbeat’ and ‘Bellow’ etc). The lawyer also counted as trained in these actions when used in court. I also gave bonuses/penalties for questioning individuals of a different social class (the lawyer and judge were silver tier). As you might guess, the cards were heavily stacked against the defendants. So what’s new?
Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf – trollslayer
“So you saw these three … desperado’s … enter Frieda Karlsberg’s room and stab her to death?”
“No sir,” whispered the maid, in a lower class accent.
“What? Why not? Are you blind?”
The young woman muttered something. “What?” bellowed the prosecutor, towering over her. “Speak up. Are you stupid as well as ignorant?”
The young woman was trying hard not to weep. When she spoke her accent was even stronger. “Well sur, there was only one dwarf that entered the house, sur. There be two dwarves there.”
“Hmmm,” murmured the lawyer. He raised a piece of paper and read from it in a fake accent. “I saw a tottie, a short bloke and a crazy looking stuntie burst out of ‘er ladyships rooms …” He paused briefly and peered at the terrified young woman over his half moon glasses. “You are aware, of course, of the penalty for voicing gratuitous insults to the Khazalid allies of our glorious Empire?” His voice lowered and became more threatening, “said penalty not to exceed five shillings, ten lashes of the whip, and possible branding of the face?” He simpered, and produced a sickening smile. “Such a pity to mar those pretty features.”
The maid was hiding her face in her skirts and sobbing with fear. “No sur, no! I didn’t …”
The prosecutor interrupted her weeping. “Now, if by stuntie you meant ‘a short person of whatever race’ then of course you would no longer be indulging in a racial slur, merely pointing out a salient physiological detail.”
The maid was nodding enthusiastically now, though it was uncertain she had understood the lawyers interjection.
Herr Snodgren pointed dramatically at the heroes in the dock and his voice boomed out. “So you saw this woman and these two short people burst out of Frieda Karlsberg’s room after stabbing her to death …”
“Yes sur, yes! That’s it! It was them. They did ‘er in! They kilt ‘er ladyship!” shouted the maid enthusiastically. There were gasps from the jury.
“No further questions.”
After their glorious battle with the greenskins, the four heroes are escorted back to the entrance of the mine by the dwarves. There’s a brief moment of worry when Wes hears the splatting sound of a heavy round body approaching, but one of the Ironbreakers whips out a horn and blows it loudly, and the creature hops away quickly.
Once out of the tunnels, our band of heroes stand around blinking in the early morning sunlight. All four are tired and, despite the doctoring and travel food provided by the dwarves, far from their best. Grim in particular is dead on his feet, carrying wounds from the fight and scars from being chained, half-dead, to the goblins standard for several weeks. One eye appears permanently closed, and it’s doubtful he would ever regain the sight in that eye. Fearing for the dwarf, Petra and Grimmer assist him to walk to where they’d hidden the horses, while Wes takes his bow and sets off to hunt for game.
When Grim, Petra and Grimmer arrive at their camp, they’re instantly surrounded by crossbow armed Roadwardens. There is a moment when they consider making a fight of it, but are stopped by Grimmer. “I told you we should have gone WESt!”
“I forgot me WESkit,” responds Grim.
“You’re all just WEStling in the dark,” adds Petra with a groan.
The leader of the Roadwardens looks hard at our three conquerors. “Alright, they’re obviously up to something. Take their weapons, tie ‘em up tight and you three, go and search for anyone else who might be about.”
There’s a moments dismay from the heroes (what, are the Roadwardens complete idiots?), but it’s quickly stemmed by one of their captors pulling out a wanted poster and holding it up to the three captives. His lips move as he reads slowly, “The trouser bandits,” (Yes! shouts Janey [Wes] fame at last!), he holds up the paper. “It shows one woman,” he nods at Petra, “ a stuntie,” (Grimmer), “ and a man.” He looks critically at the Trollslayer. “He’s a bit short.”
“I was standing on a box,” responds Grim with a smile.
“Forget that, it says three and we’ve got three. Double time out of here then,” orders the leader. “Just in case there’s any goblins about.”
Whilst in prison, the three unfortunates meet a variety of interesting characters. Josef Karlsberg drops by for the customary gloat and psychopathic chuckle. Bingle, the town drunk, is in the cell opposite, and the players spend an inordinate amount of time questioning him, thinking he must be some clever plot device to enable them to escape. (No, he’s just a sad drunk). The court approved defender visits them, complete with receding chin, askew eyes and protruding teeth. He confides in them that ‘Unc will take it easy on them as it’s my first trial’; ‘Unc’ being the hired-gun prosecutor brought in from Ubersreik. There is a little brutality when their jailors try to search them for contraband (i.e. anything worth stealing). A brief scuffle in which the chief guard loses some teeth and they’re left on their own, on reduced rations. On the plus side the four days they spend in prison allows them to recover somewhat from the rigors of their adventures.
I must admit I hate it when my players split up. Trying to keep everyone interested whilst only half of them are doing anything is a pain, and trying to keep them from passing information they shouldn’t is almost impossible. To overcome this, I had Wes tell me roughly what he was going to do when he got into Lachenbad, and I prepared a written summary of what he found out during the trial (see below).
1. Speak to Petal (the assassin) about help with a jail break.
whilst willing to help the heroes to evade the law, Petal and his underworld cronies are unwilling to arrange anything as obvious as an escape. He arranges for a boat to be moored at the ‘Bad boy bridge’, just in case. The price for this assistance is the coded Imperial message complete with Imperial seal. (Remember this, from the very first session?)
Talk to Herr Karlsberg, preferably in a violent and terminal manner.
Not a chance. Josef Karlsberg has hired three huge bodyguards who accompany him at all times.
Try to find evidence of Josef’s involvement in the goblin attacks.
A break in at the Karlsberg shipping warehouse reveals a secret panel in one of the walls, just big enough for a set of ledger books. Unfortunately there are no books, but you do find a bill of lading for delivery of several crates of weapons to a holding warehouse in Lachenbad – no end user is specified. Not conclusive proof, but suggestive. A drunken chat with a clerk from the local counting house reveals that far from being bankrupt, Josef Karlsberg was depositing coin regularly, often in older or rarer types of coin and in poor condition.
Try to sneak in to see the others, dressed as a woman (why?) and give them the evidence you’ve uncovered.
-No, no, no. The owner of the dress shop calls the town watch, and you are cautioned for possible lewd and unnatural behaviour. You give a false name (Herr Hipplestippen – where did that come from?) and have to spend the rest of your time in town in hiding, lisping and pretending to have a limp; the town guard have you down as a bit of an out-of-town pervert.
After reading this, Wes decides to try to enter the court as an onlooker. He stashes his bow and backpack in an alley in the early hours of the trial day, and, somehow, manages to enter the court in his Herr Hippelstippen persona (many, many misfortune die, but pluses from lurching around lisping in my front room scrapes him by). He’s in, but the guard has orders to ‘keep an eye on the old perv.’
The trialBefore the trial began, the players decided to dismiss their defendant and let Petra do the job. A benefit of this is that it means she will be unchained whilst in the courtroom. The other two will have wrist irons. I then let the players chose four salient points for their defence, these are:-
There are two dwarves in the party, whilst the witnesses only saw one.
No-one saw them kill Frieda Karlsberg.
The motive for the crime was that Herr Karlsberg was having his own wagons robbed to supply the goblins with weapons to attack the town.
They stopped the coach because they were looking for the real murderer, Josef Karlsberg.
I made a 12 step tracker for the jury, starting it at step eight(1 for the higher social class of Josef Karlsberg and +1 for there being non-humans in the dock – no assumption of innocence in the Empire);movement of the tracker depends upon results of the social conflict rolls for the above points. If the trial ends with the jury at step 2 or below then the defendants are innocent; step eleven indicates guilt. Any other result indicates a hung jury and it’s down to a simple roll off between the lawyers, with fortune/misfortune modifiers based upon wether the jury is pro- or anti- them (6 or less pro,7 or more anti).
The trial began quite badly for the players, with their point that the maid only saw one dwarf in the party, not two, being completely dismissed on the grounds that the witness was using the term dwarf and short person interchangeably. (See dialogue at beginning – the prosecutor used both ‘Browbeat’ and ‘Bellow’ to persuade the maid to change her story, moving the tracker a massive three steps).
On the point that no-one actually saw them kill Frieda, the prosecutor points out that the maid actually accused them of the murder here in this court under oath! As this is the big one, Petra pulls out all the stops, ranting and raving about justice for all and how the poor witness had been bullied by an upper class brute (Petra throwing in all the fate points available and one of her two social action cards). Unexpectedly, the lawyer asks for the whole question of wether they were seen to be thrown out on an obscure point of law (custom made card – ‘Technicality’). He succeeds and gets the point ruled sub-judice. (No movement of the tracker, and all those fortune points wasted!).
Moving on to the motive for the murders, Petra wonders what would cause three poor, misunderstood war heroes (Pitiful expressions from the two dwarves add a fortune dice) to slay an unknown woman? However, if the murderer was someone else … she points at Josef Karlsberg, and raises the question of his weapons shipments, and who they were meant for. Lots of gasps from the crowd when the gambler raises the spectre of crazed greenskins pillaging the town, raping, burning and killing their children, (Petra is really getting the hang of things here!). The prosecutor counters with the question of evidence. (A snort from Petra). Have they got any? Anything at all? (custom card – ‘Ridicule’). The indignant crowd starts to waver, and the jury looks less and less convinced.
Suddenly Wes has a brilliant idea. He can’t leap to his feet and present the bill of lading, but he might be able to … (uh oh). He slips out of the courtroom after giving Petra a thumbs up, runs across the street to where he’s stashed his bow (easy test – no-one has nicked it). Tying the bill of lading to an arrow, he pulls back the bowstring and aims at the dirty window of the courtroom.
(At this point I stop the session for a brief word with Wes out of the room. For an archer of his skill, hitting the window is not difficult. However, he can’t see through the glass, so what with ricochets, where it goes after hitting the window is anybodies guess. We discuss it briefly, and decide to allow an easy test for success, but add four skill die and four difficulty die – chaos and comet will cancel each other out, but any outstanding results will decide where the arrow goes).
Back to the courtroom, and the prosecutor is pouring scorn on Petra’s fantastical ideas, to much sniggering from the crowd. There is the sound of breaking glass and a scream, and a member of the jury stands up, an arrow piercing their arm. Pandemonium ensues as everyone dives for cover under benches and desks.
“Come on!” screams Grim, clubbing down one of the guards and recovering their sword. Grimmer follows suit, unleashing a mighty head butt that lays his guard out cold.
“Oh feck!” mutters Petra. The entire prosecution team is hiding under the benches, so it’s a simple matter to run across the courtroom, gather up the judges ceremonial hammer and attack the guard at the door. Unfortunately this is not the hoped-for success, and the guard parries her attack, before counter-attacking and scoring a wicked hit on her side (six wounds, but no critical).
With a yell, Grim and his brother appear behind Petra. The guard, seeing his doom approaching, drops his sword and runs away from the courthouse door, screaming. Laughing madly, the two dwarves pick up Petra between them and burst through the doorway into the street. Surprisingly, the gambler retains her cool, and screams, “Goblins! A goblin attack in the court!” Two nearby watchmen instantly rush past the desperadoes into the court, and Grimmer slams the door after them, wedging it shut with his stolen sword.
Wes appears in the alley opposite, grinning sheepishly. “Where next?” shouts Petra.
He gestures vaguely. “Bad boy bridge. We’ve got a boat waiting.”
The four deperadoes head rapidly west towards the bridge, screaming “Goblin attack!” at everyone in the street. As Wes distributes his weapons on the run, there is the sound of breaking wood behind them and the courthouse door bursts open. Scarcely breaking stride, Wes spins and plants an arrow next to the door, and everyone pulls their heads in.
In a few short minutes the bridge is in sight. By this time Petra is needing to be supported by Grim, clutching her wounded side. Behind them, a motley collection of guards and incensed citizens follow just out of bowshot.
“How do we get down to the boat?” asks Grim, as they reach the bridge. The deck of the bridge is some thirty feet above the surging river Lach, and there’s no obvious way down.
“More to the point, where is the fecking boat?” asks Petra. A crossbow bolt fired from behind skitters along the ground at their feet. Wes plants an arrow in a nearby house to discourage their attackers.
No boat can be seen. “It must be under the bridge,” says Wes. “Has anyone got a rope?” Everyone looks at him with amazement. “OK, can anyone swim?”
“Don’t look at me,” mutters Grimmer. “I’m a dwarf. Son of stone and all that. Sink like a brick.” Grim nods in agreement. “How about you?” He asks Petra.
“Er yes, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got a big hole …”
This is as far as she gets before the two brothers pick her up and throw her over the side of the bridge.
“Arrrrgghhh!” followed by a big splash.
Grim looks over the side of the bridge. “Well, is it there?” No reply.
By this time the heroes are getting desperate. The angry crowd behind is getting ready to charge, and another bolt sparks off the bridges stonework.
There is the sound of cursing from below. “Come on,” yells Petra, “Jump!”
“Let the boat out a bit so I can jump into it!” shouts Grimmer.
“Don’t be bloody stupid, you’ll go through it! Remember, you’re a dwarven brick!” (only it dosn’t sound like brick).
Wes slings his bow over his shoulder and jumps. A splash, a pause, then the sound of someone thrashing about in the water. Cursing, then Wes’s voice floats up. “Come on in, the waters nice!”
With a roar, the crowd charges.
“You hold ‘em off and I’ll circle behind!” shouts Grim, vaulting over the wall of the bridge.
“Keep me covered, I’ll cut them off at the pass!” replies Grimmer, leaping into the river.
And then, another one of those darkly iconic moments in WFRP. Grim passes his hard athletics test for the jump, and is dragged cursing into the boat by Petra and Wes. Grimmer fails badly (a chaos star and a skull) and clips his head against the bridge. Being the proverbial dwarven brick, he goes straight underwater without a sound, no flailing of arms, no shouting. When the other three look up, he’s gone, without a trace to mark his passing. There follows a frantic period when Grim, Petra and Wes flail around under the water with their hands and anything else they can get their hands on, but to no avail. After three rounds I pronounce Grimmer well and truly dead. The face eating psychopath is no more.
EpilogueThe survivors cut the mooring rope on the boat and are transported rapidly downstream towards Stromdorf (and TGS). There are a few crossbow bolts, but no-one is hit; they also avoid turning the boat over on rocks. Grim is overcome with grief and strengthens his Slayer vow. Wes is at a loss without his closest friend and brain. Petra, whilst sorry at the dwarf’s death, can’t help thinking the world (and the party) might be a safer place without Grimmer’s psychotic approach to the world.
Well, that was a bit of a surprise. After escaping the long arm of the law in an episode full of fun, Grimmer dies after jumping off a bridge. To say we were devastated is an understatement – Grim and co. just couldn’t believe it, fro farce to tragedy in a second. Just goes to show, the warhammer world is an arbitrary and unkind place. Tot up another player death to the GM.