For our third game Rose suggested playing a one-shot that would encourage them to role-play more, rather than projecting the same personality for every character.
Okay then, you’re going to be a gang in Vornheim, because I want to use my book.
I set out to use nothing other than Vornheim to run the game, aside from a couple of random encounter/reaction tables that I made specifically for the situation they were in, and any random gang members they might ask about would take their names from the cat name generator Rose and I are making.
I put together a neighbourhood map using the advice in Vornheim, and I think that is fucking genius. It’s simple, easy to use, and I even think it looks a bit pretty.
Oh and we all got to use the pencils Rose had made for me.
I wrote up a bunch of pre-generated characters complete with mini backgrounds and personality quirks, and randomly rolled for who would play who at the table.
If I hadn’t been delirious with allergies I might have also had the presence of mind to buy us a carton of this on the day:
In the end I can’t say as the whole “just play this guy” thing worked out the whole time; Rose’s charming rustic lapsed into a backwoods degenerate more than once, Ellen’s initiate gave up her hat, and Michael’s impeccably clean knife-thrower decided to rifle through bloodied corpses in a dive bar (I swear, that kid can’t help but steal from the dead), but it was a great game regardless.
As for Vornheim? Eminently usable. I’d never run a city game before, and while I want to work on making things feel more fleshed out, that book made it so easy to run. If you’ve missed out on a physical copy at least get the PDF.
The play report isn’t nearly as long this time around, don’t be scared.
Rose: Seamus Corpsedigger (Specialist Lvl 3) – Charming rustic who earned his name for a reason, the rest of the Mildreds don’t mind so long as he doesn’t dig up anyone they care about.
Michael: Nils Oman (Fighter Lvl 2) – Master knife-thrower with a thick waxed black moustache and a vaguely-trained monkey named Pumpkin Teeth. Impeccably clean. Secretly in love with Elvie Mudshank. Even more secretly the son of nobility slumming it with the Mildreds.
Roy: Tinman Douglas (Fighter Lvl 2) – After being caught in a fire as a boy some well-meaning clerics of Vorn got together with a blacksmith and fused living plate armour to his flesh. It isn’t noticeable until you lift up his shirt and see nothing but segmented rust. In constant pain and carrying a two-handed war hammer in case he runs into someone wearing plate armour for fun.
Ellen: Elvie Mudshank (Fighter Lvl 2) – Daughter of a butcher, staunchly self-sufficient but loyal to the end. Carries two meat cleavers and colloquially refers to everyone as different cuts of meat.
CHAPTER I: THE MILLINERY
The Mildreds are a gang, quite a tough gang because they all wear hats obviously too flamboyant for people of their station. Their headquarters are known as The Millinery.
Barnibal Bottshank, leader of the Mildreds in a taxidermy hat made of two gay peacocks killed while they were rutting, asks the party to go keep an eye on a deal going down a couple of neighbourhoods away.
A noble name Gormst Whipperwill has hired them to act as middlemen in an exchange with snake thieves that have procured a Slovenly Asp. The Slovenly Asp is an incredibly slow albino snake, which sheds if it moves too fast or rubs against something, and will make an excellent symbol of the noble’s superior sloth.
Members of the Mildreds have already left with a money-lined hat made for them by Inglebert Rumph (a fallen milliner who now makes hats for the Mildreds from his home), but Barnibal wants the party to go and make sure it goes smoothly.
He sends them off with two initiates that are yet to earn a truly flamboyant hat: Brigiit von Krumf, a former rat catcher who wears a dusty bowler and her one-eyed terrier Mordrid, and Elric Bogstaff, a former dog catcher who wears a sack with feathers and bits of animal hair sewn to it. He thinks it looks great, everyone else laughs at him.
The Mildreds recently put down an upstart gang known as the Bathorys in the next neighbourhood over, and there is still a lot of bad blood there. The party heads straight through.
(encounter roll) A pregnant woman runs at Elvie screaming about how Elvie stole her husband and she’s pregnant and her husband came back to her but now she’s got the crabs and Elvie’s a whore. Elvie “paddles” her full in the face with the side of her cleaver and sends her sprawling in the snow.
While Seamus is collecting her knocked-out teeth four militiamen on the other side of the street notice and one kneels down to help the pregnant woman while the rest size up against the party.
Mordrid chews out the Achilles tendon of the militiaman helping the woman and the rest are stabbed, clubbed, and “hit in the jubblies” with the blunt edge of cleavers until they are dead. Someone yells “YOU WHA’?” in the middle of all that and it becomes the battle cry for the rest of the game.
Two young men wielding table legs run out of a nearby house screaming that the Bathorys will rise again.
One is hit in the shoulder with a dagger thrown by Nils, then has a weighted net thrown over him and is spiked through the skull by Tinman’s hammer.
The other trips in the snow and lands on the pregnant woman’s belly, shooting her child into the snow. Mordrid starts to chew on the child and Seamus slips around in the blood trying to strangle the Bathory with the umbilical cord until Brigiit near severs his head with a proper garrotte.
The party picks themselves up and strut through the rest of the neighbourhood, with Mordrid dragging the child’s corpse all the way.
CHAPTER II: A DEAL GOES DOWN THE DRAIN
(random roll on my own event table) When they reach the location of the deal no one is there.
There are obvious signs of struggle in the snow but the only trace of either the Mildreds or the thieves is a fallen hat, which Tinman places atop his existing hat, proclaiming himself “Twohat Tinman”.
Brigiit studies the scene and recognises some of the prints as guard boots, concluding that the Mildreds and thieves must have been arrested, but also noticing a line running through the snow to a nearby tunnel grate.
Brigiit convinces Mordrid to drop his baby carcass, which they impale on Seamus’ grappling hook and lower into the grate, hoping to catch the snake.
Something screams from below and the chain is nearly yanked out of Seamus’ grip, until Tinman lends a hand and they pull so hard that a pale arm is pulled into view and torn away from its socket when the thing’s body hits the grate with a clang.
The snake has clearly gone underground, but that is the territory of the Mildred’s greatest rival, the White Rabbits.
Tinman, Nils, and Elric go to ask questions at the Hare’s Foot and find a way underground, and Seamus, Elvie, and Brigiit go to scope out the prison.
(encounter roll) Seamus and the girls follow backstreets until they can view the prison from a darkened alley on the other side of the courtyard. The spire of the prison is many storeys high and seems to stab the sky, and at the front door are 4 guards in full plate wielding halberds.
While trying to figure out if tarting Brigiit up and sending her in to act like she has been asked to exterminate the rats is a good plan, two awkward gangly figures in cloaks appear from behind them in the alley and offer Seamus a smoke.
The cloaked figures tire of the back and forth of “Smoke?” “Wha’ is et?” and throw a net over him.
Elvie lashes out at the nearest one’s head with a cleaver and slices it clean off. While the head and its hood spin through the air, the rest of the cloak falls to the ground revealing a totem pole of staggering goblins, the bottom two screaming “HUUBERRRT!” while blood spurts out of the newly headless body above them.
Brigiit grabs Mordrid by the scruff of his neck and hurls him at the other figure. Mordrid snarls and opens his jaws, snapping shut around the neck of the bottom goblin and trapping the other two without the cloak, while Elvie cleaves a blood spattered goblin near in half, breaking the neck of the goblin holding him with the force of the blow.
Seamus picks up the remaining goblins in their cloak sack and dashes them against the wall as they leave to see how the other’s have fared at the Hare’s Foot.
(encounter roll) A sidewalk gypsy lights up when she sees Tinman Douglas, and offers to tell his fortune for free as he’s so handsome. “You will win a contest that you thought you’d lost.” she tells him. He winks and says he’ll be back to see her later. Nils pays to hear his fortune from the cards but when Elric asks she handwaves him and says he will find a clue in an earring after losing a toe, without consulting her cards.
I put on some Dropkick Murphys at Roy’s request and they enter the Hare’s Foot.
Two men are playing a game of Toss across the crowded bar. Nils catches the dagger in mid-flight and tosses it back at the man who threw it. He catches it but the other man yells and jeers at him until he leaves the bar in shame for his loss. Nils sets the wager at 50sp and hurls a dagger at the remaining Tosser while Tinman starts talking to the barman.
(random roll on my own reaction table specifically for the barman) Turns out the barman is sick of running a front for the White Rabbits, and if the party is looking to put them down he’s more than happy to help on the condition they take his son as an initiate for the Mildreds.
The barman’s son is out the back tasting spoons.
Tinman nods to the barman and places his extra hat on the boy’s head, who stands there with an open mouth touching his hat with one hand, still holding a spoon in the other.
Meanwhile after a few tosses of the knife Nils has managed to hit a bar wench in the shoulder, but when his opponent laughs and demands his winnings Nils draws two more daggers and challenges him to take it.
The opponent takes a thrown dagger to the stomach and Pumpkin Teeth launches onto his face with a screech, but five other patrons jump out of their seats to join the fight.
Nils spins and disembowels three of them and Tinman throws a table aside before grabbing the other two by their throats and throwing them out the front door, saloon-style.
Despite the furniture damage and intestines spilt on his floor the barman feels he has found a good place for his boy and tells them that there is an entrance to the White Rabbits’ tunnel network in the cellar.
He believes the correct tunnels are marked with painted rabbit paws, but warns them that they will need more than their current number to flush out the White Rabbit warren, and aside from that he has heard strange sounds from beyond the door some days, he thinks there’s something else down there.
Nils loots the corpses. Among other things he finds a pocket-watch sized device with weather inscriptions inside. It seems to be predicting snow.
CHAPTER III: THE FASTEST RETREAT
Seamus, Brigiit, and Elvie arrive and Nils buys Elvie a shot of delicious sludgy whiskey from the barman (“yer finest”), then they unbolt the cellar door. Seamus leads the way with a lantern hanging from the wooden shovel sticking out of his pack and they follow the markers until they come to an intersection. There is a paw painted to their left, a burnt corpse beneath a pot hanging from the roof in front of them, and they hear a screech to their right.
Elvie runs down the dark tunnel swinging wildly with her cleavers. She doesn’t manage to hit anything but something wiry and naked wraps its arms around her waist. Fingers crawl into her mouth and the thing pulls itself up to her face and retches filth down her throat.
Elvie falls against the tunnel wall tripping all the balls, and the thing starts grinding against her leg.
Tinman runs with a lantern to help her but the others stop when screams and footfalls echo from the tunnel to the left.
Lumps of faeces splatter harmlessly off everyone but Brigiit, who is hit full in the face and spends the next few rounds trying to claw it out of her eyes.
Nets and knives and terriers are thrown while Tinman struggles to use his war hammer in the opposite cramped tunnel.
Before the screaming naked young men that come into light from the left tunnel are put down Nils is caught and vomited on while being punched in the face, collapsing in filth and hallucination.
Tinman throws his hammer to the ground and grabs the drug-fucked shitchild by the back of the head and slams it into the wall, shaking bits of skull and brain from his iron hand.
The party decides it would be prudent to carry Nils and Elvie back to The Millinery and get reinforcements before trying to take on the White Rabbits. Nils and Elvie gurgle and writhe.
When they get back into the pub the barman’s son is standing in the kitchen huffing over one of the naked fiends, spoons sticking from its eyeballs.
They buy some more of the sludgy whiskey with coins filched from Nils’ coinpurse and pour it down his and Elvie’s throats hoping it will wake them up, but it just makes them both drugged and now drunk. Pumpkin Teeth, Nils’ monkey, looks pleadingly at Seamus for a drink, who rubs his fingers together at the monkey. Pumpkin Teeth climbs down to Nils’ coinpurse then holds out a silver piece to Seamus with both arms. Seamus pours whiskey over Nils’ mouth and watches Pumpkin Teeth climb onto his face and lap it off.
The party tip their hats to the barman and tell him to barricade the door until they return.
CHAPTER IV: FACE RATS
In their weakened state, with Tinman carrying Elvie and Elric supporting Nils, they decide to cut through Inglebert Rumph’s neighbourhood to get back.
(encounter roll) As they walk along they hear chittering from a sky bridge, along which nine deformed rats are watching them walk. Mordrid starts growling and Brigiit pulverises one with a shot from her sling before the rest jump down on top of the party.
The rats are out to destroy beauty and Nils and Elvie just so happen to have the highest Charisma.
Four of them land directly on top of Tinman and Elvie and start trying to chew her face off. Her drugged swaying avoids most of them but one scores a crit, biting off the majority of her nose. Tinman throws her face-first into a snow drift to knock the rats off, and Seamus and Elric start clubbing the rats massing around Nils.
Mordrid bites the head off one and starts digging after the rats tunnelling towards Elvie’s face, crushing one in his jaws before Tinman decides to bodyslam into the snow and lands on Mordrid, who is unhurt but growling like a motherfucker.
The final rat jumps out of the snow to be stabbed with a crowbar, and they rush back to The Millinery.
Nils and Elvie are taken out the back to recover and Barnibal sends them back to the Hare’s Foot with Gorthus the Swollen, a hired Magic-User they keep around, like an army hiring a cannon.
Gorthus is an unpleasant man with numerous goitres hanging from his neck which grow and sometimes burst when he casts spells, and Michael takes control of him.
While Elvie is recovering from the drug vomit, Ellen plays Elric.
CHAPTER V: MORDRID’S DOWNFALL
Back in the tunnels they continue on until they see light. Seamus removes all his gear and crawls through the filth of the tunnel to see what’s what.
The tunnel opens out into a large room, in which eleven White Rabbits are lounging and smoking dubious substances, while one who seems to be their leader holds a sack and bargains with a hunched man at the other end of the room.
Two of them sit with their backs to the tunnel discussing last weeks haul which is hidden in one of the side tunnels, but Seamus ignores that for now.
Gorthus and the rest of the party sneak up to the end of the tunnel and Gorthus begins to cast Sleep. The two White Rabbits turn and run at the party but are stopped short by a sling bullet, knife, and Mordrid who runs straight at them.
Six of them fall unconscious including the one Mordrid had latched on to, and the White Rabbit’s leader, Pinkbelly Willy, shoves the sack into the hands of the hunched man and runs towards the party.
The hunched man begins to flee but a miracle sling shot from 70′ across the room catches him in the head and sends him sprawling to the floor while Mordrid races across the room.
Seamus, Tinman, and Elric rush to meet the White Rabbits, dodging the drugged puffballs suddenly thrown their way.
Gorthus draws a thin iron sliver from his sleeve and begins systematically stabbing the sleeping Rabbits in the heart by pushing it down behind their collarbone.
Seamus hooks a shorter Rabbit through the head with his grappling hook and begins swinging him around while Tinman and Elric stab and club at the rest.
Mordrid latches on to the hunched man’s leg, dropping him to 1HP, which causes Pinkbelly Willy to turn back towards him. He catches Mordrid with a glancing blow, but the terrier just growls and holds on, but when Brigiit tries to sling Pinkbelly from across the room she rolls a 1 and hits Mordrid in the ribs, knocking him against the wall with 1HP.
Elric takes a puffball to the face and Ellen trades his character sheet for Brigiit’s, and after a few near misses Seamus’ luck runs out and the remaining two Rabbits stab down into his shoulders, dropping him to exactly 0HP.
Brigiit puts them down and tends to Seamus while Tinman pulls out Elvie’s cleavers and runs at Pinkbelly, who is standing over Mordrid with a raised sword. The cleavers hack straight through his back and Tinman kicks his corpse to the floor. Mordrid looks up at Tinman and gives him an approving dog huff.
When they check the sack they find an unnervingly calm white snake, and the hunched man begins to scream at them that Ruthis will kill them all.
He divulges a little more information about Ruthis Raagenhaas, the man who owns a giant spire and the surrounding buildings in the middle of the city.
Then Gorthus whispers “Shhh now.” and slides his sliver down behind the man’s collarbone.
Gorthus loots the White Rabbit warren and takes a few vials of narcotic while the rest rush Elric and Seamus out of the tunnels.
The party asks the barman if he knows first-aid, to which he replies they’re going to need a Cleric and he doesn’t fancy their chances with the Church of Vorn, more likely finding aid in the Tittivillan quarter.
They decide to rush back to The Millinery through Inglebert Rumph’s neighbourhood, hoping they won’t run into any more rats.
(encounter roll) A desperate looking messenger appears out of the crowd and shoves a box into Brigiit’s hands, begging her to take it and promising he will find her later. Brigiit agrees and as soon as he’s gone throws it over her head and keeps walking.
When Gorthus makes his way through the neighbourhood he finds a crowd of people around something in the street. He pushes them aside and finds a pool of water around broken wood and glass, with multi-coloured sperm the size of tadpoles flopping around in the mess. He kneels down and shoves a few into one of his narcotic vials, flicking the spilt contents into the snow and winking at the onlookers before carrying on to The Millinery.
Back at The Millinery Nils and Elvie are awake and holding hands, Nils had finally professed his love while hallucinating and she has accepted his advances, maybe because she is now disfigured.
Barnibal sends a band of runners off to Gormst Whipperwill with the snake but tells the party he won’t be able to get anyone in to help Seamus before tomorrow, and by then it will be too late.
He has heard that the Tittivillans are having some kind of celebration a few neighbourhoods over, where they should be able to find a Cleric if they take Seamus now.
For her deeds in the White Rabbit warren, Brigiit is finally awarded a proper Mildred hat, a tasteful taxidermy affair of a bright red fox rearing back like a horse in a painting. She places it on Seamus’ bloody unconscious head out of respect. Everyone is baffled.
Elric is left to recover from the puffball and Ellen takes Elvie out to play again. Michael takes Nils as well as Gorthus, and now that Ellen has Elvie back Rose plays for Brigiit since Seamus is unconscious and dying in Tinman’s arms.
They rush through the back alleys of the Bathory neighbourhood to avoid the heavy guard presence that their early shenanigans has stirred up, but are noticed by a passing guard through a passage that connects to the main street. Tinman, Nils, and Gorthus rush on and 16 year old Brigiit sits down in the alley with nearly-dead Mordrid lying in front of her in the snow. When the guard reaches her in the alley she is crying about the bad men which hurt her dog and ran away, and when he starts talking about the group of people who assaulted a pregnant woman and killed people in the streets Elvie steps forward and tries to tell him that Brigiit is her mentally-impaired daughter. They are both still wearing their hats and shockingly their ploy doesn’t work, the guard yells to his comrades and draws his sword.
Elvie slashes at him with a cleaver and Brigiit jumps up to drive a dagger through his throat, then run back into the alleys and away from the rushing guards.
They manage to outrun and lose the guards in the alleys, but have left Mordrid in the snow next to the dead guard. Brigiit shrugs and moves on.
CHAPTER VI: SEXUAL HEALING
When they reach the Tittivillan neighbourhood they are greeted by an all-out religious orgy in the streets, and Elvie walks amongst the rutting groups tapping people on the shoulder and asking if they’re a cleric.
Eventually they find one in a man-sandwich who kindly asks them what the problem is.
They show her Seamus and she asks what she will get in return.
Gorthus holds up the vial of drugs and mega-sperm and her eyes light up, but tells Tinman he also has to join in the celebrations if he wants her help.
Tinman/Roy assumes she means he has to take her place, which wasn’t the intention, and strips off his clothing to lie between the two men. They confusedly rub their cocks on his rusty flesh-armour for a while (“this doesn’t feel any good…”) then leave.
The Tittivillan cleric laughs with delight and throws the contents of the vial down her throat, then chants and glides her hands over Seamus until he snaps awake with a big smile on his face.
The cleric invites them to enjoy the rest of the festivities, and Elvie immediately throws off her clothing and disappears into the orgy. Nils sheds a tear and joins in “to fuck the pain away”. Seamus has ladies and a few gents all over him and Gorthus walks around being declined by everyone that sees him.
Brigiit leaves because she has an issue with people that are prettier than her, and Tinman accompanies her because he has no bits.
When Brigiit and Tinman get back near The Millinery they find a trail of destruction and a three-storey tall golem smashing against what is left of their headquarters.
The golem is made of snow and iron and horrible pig rat dogs with the faces of men squirm around in random parts of its flesh. In its chest is a strange multi-holed device with a black serpent squirming through it, and on the golem’s shoulders is a white-haired man screaming “Give me my snaaaaake!” whom they assume to be Ruthis Raagenhaas. (The golem is powered by literature, and when the Slovenly Asp sheds, the new skin contains different knowledge than before, so it would be a nigh-infinite power source.)
Tinman throws Brigiit up to grab hold of a skybridge, and they watch as Elric staggers out of The Millinery holding a crowbar and is stomped into paste by the golem.
Brigiit rushes into the nearest building and up a flight of stairs, the building is unoccupied but the door to the next bridge is locked. She smashes a window open and starts slinging rocks at Ruthis.
Tinman Douglas stomps through the snow towards the golem roaring “YOU WHA’?”, and hurls his hammer towards the device in its chest. The hammer bounces harmlessly off its leg and Tinman runs away as the golem lumbers after him.
Brigiit loads her sling again and cracks the device in the golem’s chest, and then Ellen has to leave to go to a family afternoon tea so the snake powering the golem burns out prematurely and it falls forward, crashing through sky bridges and showering Tinman’s back with snow as he keeps running through the street. Brigiit looks up and sees Ruthis impaled through his jaw on a bridge spire.
The orgy continues.