[Actual Play] Big Trouble in Little Hochen or, my first BW campaign ever.

Aye Burners!
First let me introduce myself: ToM, 36, from Italy.
Some of you may have stumbled upon me on Google Plus, others might have taken a look at the italian fan-made translation of the Hub & Spokes I co-authored. Anyway.

After reading, re-reading, demoed, translating and reading again BWG, finally the time to actual playing it in a campaign has come.
My group of players and I started a new BW game set in a fictional setting we built together during a quick pitch. It is called Mittenland and is sorta like the Holy Roman Empire in late XV century, with some (very few) monsters and actual magic. Here you can read the complete wrap-up https://docs.google.com/document/d/1axNHWU47haFzkHEa804Ao5_mt27jsnqIjy9Ixli-6hU/edit?usp=sharing (sorry, Italian only, I think it doesn’t help so much but you can try Google Translator…)

I would like to post the AP of the first session so to receive advice and commentary.
So, here’s our cast of characters.

Elias van Boyden, former city guard capatain turned mercenary and outlaw after after having stepped on the foot of someone too powerful to be brought to justice. He discovered he was capable of dishonorable acts like killing his own friends and the like and is now a broken man in search of redemption or tragic death.

Belief #1: “I will be with my wife and son again, one day or another, no matter by what means.”
Belief #2: “I will not let this last spark of righteousness in me expire.”
Belief #3: [Situational] TBD

Bernhardt Von Vollenbach-Bauer, bastars son of an Elector Count, fled after his father was murdered on the orders of his cousin, then turned a man-at-arms and mercenary captain.

Belief #1: “I will obtain what I was rightfully entitled to have and was denied, in one way or another.”
Belief #2: “I will excel in the profession of arms since it’s the only way I have to acquire power and fulfill my goals.”
Belief #3: [Situational] TBD

Holm Kruger, former inquisitor, alienated from his mentor and forced to flee when the Inquisition was dissolved, it was passed off as a Chaplain of the mercenary army the PCs serve in.

Belief #1: “Revenge is a dish best served cold, and should always be proportionate to the wrongs inflicted.”
Belief #2: “I will learn more of those Heresies I once persecuted, with no prejudice, since I learned that what seems holy could very well not be, and the contrary too,”
Belief #3: [Situational] TBD

I let the players spare one of their PCs’ Beliefs to be accorded to the situation once it has been properly introduced.
We decided to play the Hochen trilogy (Trouble in Hochen, A Dinner fo One, Your Day in the Court), but adapting and intertwining the scenarios with the main campaign. I made sure to tie the pitch of their PC with the story of Hochen, so for each of them there are one or more plot hooks for whom would they want to “see clearly” the mysteries which will unravel.

The initial situation sees the PCs fleeing after the defeat of the mercenary army which they served, towards a remote region near the borders and the lands of the Stavanoi (slavic-type tribes) chased by enemy soldiers and threatened by cold and hunger. After exhausting days of walking they finally arrive in view of the village of Hochen, a few miserable houses at the foot of a big, cold mountain range.

Before starting of the actual game session and after the preamble I narrated them I asked them if they wanted to “add something” to the narrative up to that point.
One of the PCs called for a Heresy-wise test to establish that the lands of Verdorben were known at the time of the Inquisition as a place where was worhsiped the “heretic” Saint Marianna - which some scholars speculate being a figure superimposed on a Stavanoi pagan deity worshiped by the tribes who inhabited the region long before the Empire conquered it. There have been a Help and a FoRK in the test and it seemed to me that each of the players put his input in the fiction. Since the intent was simply to assert there were heretic worhiping in those regions, and it perfectly matched with my big picture, I added some color in the form of the goddess name.

The PCs are approached before entering the village by Wojt Marten Rayla. He tells them they have been lucky and they must be “in Saint Marzanna’s good graces” to be able to reach the village since the woods are “Infested by a bloodthirsty beast, a demon of sort” which is in a killing spree.
After a brief exchange of words, and a stright Interrogation test with some Help, the PCs learn that also some brigands have come to the village of Hochen in the past few days. They are fugitives from a mercenary army (the PCs obviously speculated they are of their number). As long as they arrived in the town, they began to slay innocent people “for fun” and then they barricaded themselves in the town’s longhouse, the only two-floors and stone-built building. From there, they snipe anyone in sight with a crossbow (the PCs having not any missiles) and shoot and kill anyone which dares approach the longhouse. They were originally 5 persons, then one of them was “slain by the Beast” and another severly wounded.
When their captain is described in detail, immediately one of the PCs (Bernd) understands he must be Lange Lothar, a ruthless and brutal mercenary well known to him, because in direct competition with him for the role of a second official to Gotz von Berlighinchen, the mercenary army’s general. Bernd thought he was dead in the battle, but instead apparently he escaped and has taken the same route the PCs took. He is a very dangerous guy, and prone to brutality and abuse, and so it is quite possible he ordere his men to pillage and slay the villagers.
Bernd has a Relationship (minor, enmity) with him.

Now, the PCs ask why no one of the villagers asked for help from Lord Stravit.
Wojt Marten is very vague on the point, until cornered (Intimidate - failed) and, although it is not so impressed - but pretends to be (complication) - reveals that not only no one can get to Stravit’s fortress which rests in a day walk from Hochen (and the road is surrounded by forests infested by the Beast), but also that Stravit apparently has no armed men at his service.
The PCs suspect Marten is lying (in the scenario is clearly stated to let the PCs know that Marten lies - no test required) but can not say how and why. They try to put Marten on the corner again, but Let it Ride preserves his success and he reveals nothing more, if some crappy infodump to muddy the waters. Since it is written in the module Marten always tries Obfuscate when not sure on an argument, he adds some non-important facts on the miserable condition of the poor inhabitants of Hochen to move the PCs.

Now the PCs are still not so convinced, and they ask Marten to take them directly to Stravit’s house.
He once again repeats it is no possibile to pass through the town, since the bandits are killing anyone in sight, and the Beast will chase them, and the snow will slow them and blah blah. Then he raises asking the PCs their help against the bandits: if they accept to drive off or kill them, then he will accompany them in first person to lord Stravit’s manor and will testify the good actions they did for the people of Hochen. Now we have two completely different intents.
I should have set up a Duel of Wits at this point, but my players were too much inexperienced (and me too) and I opted for something simpler.
So we set up a Versus Test: one of the PCs with untrained Will (in place of Persuasion) with another PC helping with Suasion against Marten using his Persuasion and two FoRKs from Soothing Platitudes and Wises. The pools were similar but since the PC was unskilled he had to double up his opponent’s successes and so the test failed, despite some Artha spent on it.
Then, the PCs are persuaded to first help the people of Hochen against the bandits, and then go to Stravit’s manor with Marten alongside.

Marten now reveals his plan: he will secretely let the PCs enter the village, and after the night has come they will try to make a sortie against the longhouse. They will have help from Angar Schmidt the blacksmith and his followers: he should have tried himself the sortie if the PCs had not come.
Marten takes the characters into his house and the meet his wife Olga and a small baby.
One of the PCs plays his Suspicious trait and wants to sweep around with a Perception test in search of symbols of some cult. Since the symbols are there in plain sight there is no need for a test and I Say Yes, then the character makes a Doctrine test to learn more from the symbols and succeeds. I reveal him they are some sort of modified sumbols of that Saint Marianna but probably adapted to a strange new cult.

At this point the PCs, along with Marten, go out in the night under a snowy weather to reach the Blacksmith’s workshop and house, which stands right in front of the main square and the longhouse. They must cross a long open space and I call for a Stealthy test. They have advantage for night and snow, but also disadvantages for armor, footing and visibility, and they are also untrained and must test Speed against double obstacle. They obviously fail. Since at the moment they were aout of reach, I only make them know that “if someone was watching the direction you are, he should probably have noticed you”. I also note up that the bandit’s watch sighted the PCs, and since one of them always go without cloack and hood as per its Insticts, they spotted him in the face and discovered he’s no villager and armed, too.
The PCs along the way spot two dead bodies, covered with snow, and with crossbow bolts springing out. They are furtherly convinced Marten said the thruth about the bandits (which in fact he did, to some extent) and are more driven to help. Then they arrive to the Blacksmith’s workshop and he, although suspicious, let them and Marten in.
So ends the first session.

Obviously there are many thing which are not as they might seem.
• The “Demon” is a zombie bear infected by the Black Oil, an alchemic necromantic substance discovered by the mad necromancer, Götrung.
• Hochen is home to many cultist following the lead of Angar the Blackmith and the worship Marzanna (or Saint Marianna), a pagan goddess of death and rebirth.
• The cultists are convinced the Demon was sent by Marzanna to test their faith.
• Lothar’s men were not attacked and slain by the Demon but by the cultist which wanted to sacrifice them to appease the anger of Marzanna.
• Lothar and companions obviously defended themselves gainst the angry mob and then barricaded in the longhouse fearing for thier lives.
• Marten would like to free the village from the Demon and the bandits and need the aid of the PCs; he would also like to use them ina diplomatic mission to Stravit, so to obtain help from the alienated Lord of the land.
• Angar is a zealot and probably wants to put at stake both the PCs and the bandits and scrifice them all to the Demon.
• Lord Stravit himself gone mad, and turned to necromantic arts trying to re-animate his dead servants and beloved wife with the aid of the Black Oil he is experimenting after it was introduced to him by the necromancer.
• Behind all of this, the mad necromancer Götrung wants to start his personal zombie apocalypse on the lands of Verdorben first and the Mittenland then and his using the people and creatures of Hochen as guinea pigs for his experiments.

Well, I suppose I have some questions and perplexities but for now I would just like to hear from you what do thing of the game.
I mean, we did it right with the few rules we used, there was some misunderstanding of them, and things.
Please let me know if you need more detail and thanks in advance for any advice!

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