Yes I Sank Your Barge
James Wallis, director of Hogshead Publishing and author of 'Carrion Up the Reik', replies:
Yes, I sank your fucking barge. You deserved it. It was a piece of crap, you hadn't paid the taxes on it in years, and the bilges stank. The best place for it was the bottom of the Reik. For some godforgotten reason your GM didn't put it there, he was stupid enough to leave it afloat.
That wasn't what ruined your character's life. You did that.
The Enemy Within campaign is, as noted, superb. From your article you don't appear to have played through any part of it, except for the bit in 'Death on the Reik' where the PCs acquire a barge and the incident in 'Carrion Up the Reik' where it gets torched. It gets torched for a specific reason: to get the PCs away from the river and off to Middenheim, where they can take part in the splendid adventure that is 'Power Behind the Throne'. Because if you don't take their barge away from them, they're going to keep pratting around on the river, buying and selling ever-larger cargoes like some demented bunch of early Renaissance Elite players, for their entire sodding lives, boring the pants off their GM and not going through the kind of violent, dreadful existence that is the proper fate of authentic Warhammer FRP characters.
Did you go to Middenheim? Doesn't look like it. Which, when playing a short adventure that was specifically created as a bridge between the end of 'Death on the Reik' and the start of 'Power Behind the Throne', seems a bit dim. For those who don't know, DotR ends with the PCs finding a letter that implies that something fishy is going on in Middenheim, and PBtT begins "So you arrive in Middenheim." Clearly something was needed to fill the gap between the two. Something that would separate the PCs from their fucking barge.
I did at one point think about having the barge captured by big smelly river-pirates, who would tie up and forcibly bugger anyone who tried to take it back off them. This would probably have done the separation job better than simply torching the thing, but I realised it would be tricky to get the Odorous Piratical Sodomy table past Games Workshop's RPG licensing department. So arson it was.
Did you ever work out how the barge caught fire? Or more particularly, which trusted retainer of which major trading family chucked the oil-lamp into the boat's forward hold, and why? Or did you bother to read the paperwork you'd signed the evening before, which guarantees that the person who had hired you to transport some cargo must pay for repairs to any damage that comes to your barge while it's at his dock? Evidently not. For fuck's sake.
You do, however, seem to have got part of the point: you note that Warhammer FRP isn't like D&D, and the monsters don't automatically carry gold and magic items. D&D is about quests for glory and riches; WFRP pretends to be the same, but in fact is about the PCs' day-to-day fight for survival in a universe that hates them. If you don't finish each adventure worse off than when you started it, your GM is doing something wrong. If you find yourself in a WFRP adventure and not knee-deep in shit then duck, because another load is past due. And if you do something really stupid like getting addicted to drugs because they give you combat bonuses -- and I've heard some really idiotic reasons for getting hooked, but that one takes the tab -- then you deserve everything that's coming to you.
In other words, my hat is off to your GM. He's running Warhammer FRP the way I run it, and it sounds like he's doing a good job. From your description, right about now your characters are somewhere towards the end of the second adventure of the Doomstones campaign. Wait till you reach the last one, that 's all I'm saying. You think you've suffered? Wait till you reach 'Heart of Chaos'. Your characters will hate it. You will love it. Because let's be honest, if nothing bad had ever happened to Fat Gregor, he wouldn't be half as fun to play, would he?
Go on. Buy another barge. I'll fucking sink that one too.
Text copyright © 2002 James Wallis