Grim and Perilous Freeport

Since we began work on the Pirate’s Guide, we’ve wanted to produce a WFRP Freeport Companion, a guidebook for running WFRP games set in the City of Adventure. While the possibility of such a book is not completely out of the question, my eagerness to explore such a marriage has gotten in the way of common sense, hence the subject of this blog entry. This document avoids lengthy rules discussion and instead explores how to adapt Freeport’s flavor to the WFRP game system.
The first thing to do when placing Freeport in the Old World is to establish how the setting conceits fit with those defined by the WFRP setting. At a glance, there seems to be little room for such figures as Yig, the Unspeakable One, and the cataclysm that brought forth the Serpent’s Teeth islands. There’s simply no place for Yig or the Unspeakable One to join the ranks of those distant and inexplicable gods, and certainly no room for another Ruinous Power (though some are bound to disagree). It doesn’t take much thought, though, to find other ways to express these powers so they can function within the Old World concepts.
Let’s start with Yig. Known as the Great Serpent, Yig is said to have shaped the world, snatching elements of other planes and fusing them into a patchwork plane that incorporates cultures, peoples, and landscapes from all over reality. While this never happened in Old World, WFRP’s ancient history is filled with the legends of the Old Ones who sailed the sea of stars to shape and fashion the world, using their ancient and lost arts to awaken the races, modify the climate, and reshape the lands. Their principal servants, the Slann, were brilliant and gifted with great power, capable of constructing gateways to bridge distant worlds, to modify and alter the world to suit their inexplicable purpose. At their height, the Slann were the laborers and creators, and through their constant service, the Old Ones modified the world to suit their purpose, raised up the primitive peoples, and were as gods.
Naturally, this era would not last forever, and the gates in the heavens collapsed, tearing holes in reality. From these rents, the raw stuff of Chaos spilled forth, hemorrhaging and infusing the world with corruption—the raw stuff of Chaos. The Old Ones were lost, the Slann trapped and driven into the remote corners of the world, while new races, elves, dwarfs, and eventually humans rose up to stanch the tide of Chaos and make their lives on this imperiled world.
None of these myths are at odds with the Freeport cosmology. In fact, Freeport’s ancient history fits well with the primordial age of the Warhammer world. Perhaps Yig was an Old One and the Valossans were in fact Slann. The corruption of the Unspeakable One that led to the collapse of the Valossan Empire might just be an embellished way of describing the calamity that befell all civilization when the gates collapsed. As a result, Yig is not so much a god, but a powerful and lost master whom some the serpent people deified.
The Unspeakable One is far easier to explain. As an agent of destruction, a force of madness, mutation, and unfathomable evil, the Unspeakable One may just be a mask for one or all of the Ruinous Powers. Perhaps instead of being an intelligent agent of destruction, the Unspeakable One may just be a name for mortal corruption, a personality and nature imposed on the raw stuff of Chaos. In this way, the various cults of the Unspeakable One might serve Slaanesh, Tzeentch, Nurgle, or Khorne, depending on their goals, motives, and behavior.
When it comes to the other gods mentioned, the Pirate’s Guide wisely avoids giving them names so that the various powers can easily correlate to whatever pantheon you choose to use. For tips, I’d suggest the following conversions.
Deity WFRP Counterpart
God of Knowledge Verena
God of Luck Ranald
God of Murder Khaine
God of Pirates Stromfels
God of the Sea Manann
God of Warriors Myrmidia
Oona, the Cannibal Spirit Khorne
Unspeakable One Nurgle
Yig Tzeentch
If you’re not using the Continent as described in the Pirate’s Guide, you can park the Serpent’s Teeth just about anywhere in the Old World. Any of the islands off the east coast of Lustria could work well, especially near the submerged city of Chupayotl. Alternatively, you could place the Serpent’s Teeth on the west coast of the southern continent, below Araby and the Lands of the Dead, somewhere in the Sea of Squalls. Both locations put Freeport on trade routes between the city and the Old World, while keeping it close enough to Slann civilization to allow the “serpent people” to maintain a presence in the city.
The hardest hurdle to jump is Freeport’s racial mix. Humans, Elves, Dwarfs, and Halflings can all coexist together with little trouble, but the presence of Orcs is a bit more complicated since Greenskins are notoriously unpleasant and savage, having little inclination to live alongside their longstanding enemies (and if Orcs are in fact space fungus, well that’s a whole new issue by itself). Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Greenskins to find some way into a predominantly Human city. If Freeport brought in Orc slaves to work the Docks, with them would come Goblins, Hobgoblins, and everything in between. In fact, Greenskins in Freeport would certainly make the city even more unstable and raucous causing no shortage of trouble for the city watch. The hatred of these wretched creatures would certainly spawn groups in Scurvytown and elsewhere, enough to push the Orcs back to the fringes of the most polluted and dangerous sections of the city.
Two races that simply can’t exist in the City of Adventure are half-elves and half-orcs. In the context of the Old World, pairing between Humans and other races never produce offspring for reasons of simple incompatibility in the case of the former, and biology in the latter. I’d recommend substituting Bretonnians for half-elves and Kislevites for half-orcs. For any other strange races that don’t quite fit in the Old World, simply replace them with some other cultural group—Estallians, Tilleans, and so on.
Officially, Gnomes do not exist in the Old World. That these diminutive folk were mentioned in the first edition of WFRP is irrelevant,for the shape of the Warhammer World is ever evolving and older concepts fade in favor of newer ones. Hence, Gnomes in Freeport ought to just be Halflings. Naturally, there will be those who object to the loss of this much-maligned race—indeed, it seems gnomes vanish left and right these days—and for those who would see Gnomes stay Gnomes in Freeport, you can use the following unofficial rules.
Distant kin to the Dwarfs, the Gnomes are a mean-spirited race of mountain dwelling humanoids, found in tiny settlements in the Worlds Edge Mountains. There they have managed to survive in spite of Rat-Men aggression, wars with their cousins, and the depredations of the Greenskins. Short-tempered and altogether unpleasant to be around, Gnomes are reluctant to spend much if any time with anyone outside of their families, though it bears mentioning that Gnomes have little love for their siblings and would gladly rid themselves of all such kin.
Gnomes are a people in decline, largely as a result of their selfish tendencies and general disgust for all people, even other Gnomes. In fact, Gnome families are never founded for love, but rather as payment for debts or some other obligations. The only reason why any Gnome would deign to wed is to erase a point of shame and make amends to some wrong he or she has committed, making Gnome families miserable things languishing under a cloud of loathing and resentment.
Gnomes have craggy features with bulbous noses and weather-beaten skin. They are shaggy and filthy, smelling of ham and sour milk. Their beards are tangled nests crawling with lice and the leavings of old meals. Their black eyes dart about, always looking for treachery, while their mouths seem suited for only issuing complaints and insults.
Characteristic Generation
Weapon Skill (WS) 30+2d10
Ballistic Skill (BS) 20+2d10
Strength (S) 20+2d10
Toughness (T) 20+2d10
Agility (Ag) 20+2d10
Intelligence (Int) 20+2d10
Will Power (WP) 20+2d10
Fellowship (Fel) 10+2d10
Movement (M) 4
Wounds Roll 1d10: 1–3, 10; 4–6, 12; 7–9, 13; 10, 14
Fate Points Roll 1d10: 1–4, 1; 5–7, 2; 8–10, 3
A Gnome character gains the following skills and talents:
Skills: Common Knowledge (Gnomes), Speak Language (Khazalid dialect), Trade (Miner, Smith, Stoneworker)
Talents: Grudge-born Fury, Orientation, Night Vision, Sturdy, Tunnel Rat
Starting Careers: When generating a Gnome’s starting career, use the Dwarf column under Table 2–5: Starting Career. Replace any result that comes up as Runebearer or Trollslayer with Cragfighter.
Cragfighter (Basic, Gnome Only)
On the slopes of the Worlds Edge Mountain, Gnomes fight against roaming bands of Greenskins and even Dwarfs for the scarce resources of the peaks. Over the generations, the Gnomes have learned to use their environment to the best effect and when fighting against overwhelming numbers, their warriors may place themselves in tight areas to help shield themselves from attacks. Cragfighters are a surly lot, given to suspiciousness and crudity. The most unpleasant Gnomes are often encouraged to take up this profession.
WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
+10 — +5 — +10 — +10 —
+1 +2 — — — — — —
Skills: Concealment, Dodge Blow, Perception, Secret Signs (Scout)
Talents: Close Combat Fighting†, Contortionist, Coolheaded, Dirty Tactics†, Menacing, Stout Hearted, Strike to Injure
†New Talents
Trappings: Hand Weapon, Crossbow with 12 bolts, Medium Armor (Mail Coat, Mail Coif), Shield, Lice
Career Entries: Agitator, Militiaman, Thief, Watchman
Career Exits: Bodyguard, Pit Fighter, Sergeant, Smuggler, Tomb Robber
Close Combat Fighting
Whenever you end your turn with a barrier or obstacle on two sides of you, you may enter the Parrying Stance as a free action.
Dirty Tactics
You are an expert at using subterfuge and unfair tactics when fighting other creatures. Whenever you successfully feint in combat, you gain a +10 bonus on your next Weapon Skill Test against the target you feinted.
Denizens of Freeport
Building NPCs from the descriptions in the Pirate’s Guide using the WFRP rules is simple. The character’s level of power and experience corresponds to a number of careers. Apprentice indicates the first career, journeyman suggests second career, while master represents characters in their third or fourth career. You can give the character as many advances as you like though if you prefer a more randomized method, simply have the character be 1d5 advances into their current career. The following table includes a list of the more important characters found in Freeport and their suggested careers.
Alcindar Dwarf Artisan, ex-Tradesman
Alfhild Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman, ex-Norse Berserker
Bianka Altanish Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Dirwin Arnig Gnome Guild Master, ex-Artisant, ex-Tradesman
Morgan Bauman Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Aporcus Beedle Human Apprentice Wizard
Cyril Berryhill Halfling Thief, ex-Rogue
Liam Blackhammer Human, Militiaman, ex-Tradesman
Andrea Blax Human Rogue, ex-Seaman
Poppy Brag Human Foreman, ex-Stevedore
Bobbin Brandydale Halfling Innkeeper, ex-Servant
Rikard Burbage Human Minstrel, ex-Entertainer
C.Q. Calame Human Demagogie, ex-Agitator
Cragwipe Orc Mercenary, ex-Thug
Countess D’Amberville Human Assassin, ex-Spy, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Celeste D’Arran Human Spy, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Dimetrios Human Fence, ex-Smuggler
Darius Dorvan Halfling Thief
Dunbar Human Veteran, ex-Mercenary
Egil Human High Priest, ex-Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Falthar Human Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Finn Halfling Crime Lord, ex-Master Thief, ex-Cat Burglar, ex-Thief
Masson Francisco Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Shantar Froese Elf Mate, ex-Seaman
Garek Dwarf Tradesman, ex-Shieldbreaker
Xavier Gordon Duelist, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Gringa Human Veteran, ex-Berserker
Nathan Grymes Human Politician, ex-Noble
Sister Gwendolyn Human Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Dirk Haslinger Human Rogue
Enoch Holliver Human Captain, ex-Sergeant, ex-Mercenary
Admiral Hrothy Human Spy, ex-Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Fargus Ironfoot Halfling Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Eudokia Kasovar Human Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Jozan Feg Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Burgher
Gitch Goblin Shaman, ex-Apprentice Shaman
Rudimar Harrow Human Friar, ex-Initiate, ex-Soldier
Harcourt Horkel Human Charlatan, ex-Minstrel, ex-Entertainer
Janis Hawthorne Human Peasant
Torya Irontooth Human Noble
Karl the Kraken Human Bodyguard, ex-Mercenary, ex-Pit Fighter
K’Stallo Serpent Person High Priest, ex-Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Lexi Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Servant
Jacob Lydon Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Marilise Maeorgan Human Politician, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Mendor Maeorgan Mutant Demagogue, ex-Rogue, ex-Noble
Argyle McGill Human Fence, ex-Smuggler, ex-Seaman
Mother Mirren Human Burgher, ex-Servant
Talbous Mog Human Priest, ex-Initiate
Nevtalathien Elf Artisan, ex-Tradesman, ex-Mercenary
Omar Nkota Human Scout, ex-Hunter
Otto Parsam Human Tradesman, ex-Veteran, ex-Soldier
Patamon Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Rogue
Prendag Mutant Veteran, ex-Pit Fighter, ex-Thug
Tench Prescott Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Arena Quen Human Priest, ex-Initiate
Thulmir Quent Human Agitator, ex-Burgher
Thurlow Rankin Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Red Alice Human Thief, ex-Rogue, ex-Entertainer
Draegar Redblade Hobgoblin Captain, ex-Sergeant, ex-Mercenary
Marcus Roberts Human Politician, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Nifur Roberts Human Noble
Tando Sandek Human Sergeant, ex-Militiaman, ex-Thief
Bill Sangapulatele Human Bodyguard, ex-Mercenary
Asha Sante Human Witch Hunter, ex-Judicial Champion, ex-Veteran, ex-Soldier
Scarbelly Orc Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Dreiden Simmerswell Halfling Innkeeper, ex-Servant
Angelo Stampfel Human Thief
Kyrga Stonefoot Dwarf Messenger, ex-Servant
Laria Syrtis Elf Mate, ex-Seaman, ex-Entertainer
Vikki Tarjay Human Rogue, ex-Noble
Tarmon Human Wizard Lord, ex-Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Thorgrim Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard, ex-Berserker
Timothy Human Thief
Halkos Tremiir Elf Physician, ex-Barber Surgeon
Hector Torian Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Marine
Aleksander Tovac Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard, ex-Militiaman
Trask Gnome Charlatan, ex-Rogue
Garth Varellion Human Politician, ex-Noble
Buster Wallace Human Agitator, ex-Noble
Petra Wallace Human Agitator, ex-Tradesman
Mister Wednesday Human Crime Lord, ex-Fence, ex-Racketeer, ex-Protagonist
Xort Mutant Friar, ex-Vagabond
Zach Human Valet
Serpent People
Serpent People are an insidious presence in Freeport and though they do not officially appear in the Warhammer world, it’s no stretch to think they could exist in the Old or New World, especially if you tie them to the Slann. Adult serpent people stand just over six feet tall and weigh about 150 pounds on average. Fine scales, ranging from green to brown, cover their lithe bodies, and their hands and feet end in small claws. Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic are their heads. Their heads are snake-like. Some have hoods like cobras, but most do not.
WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
34 26 32 (3) 38 (3) 44 41 33 36
Skills: Academic Knowledge (History) (Int), Academic Knowledge (Theology) (Int), Common Knowledge (serpent people) (Int), Concealment (Ag+10), Disguise (Fel+20), Dodge Blow (Ag), Perception (Int), Search (Int), Silent Move (Ag), Secret Language (Valossan) (Int), Speak Language (Reikspiel) (Int)
Talents: Contortionist, Keen Senses, Resistant to Poison, Unsettling
Traits: Shapeshift
Attacks: 1; Movement: 4; Wounds (TB 3): 12
Armour (none): scales (Head 1, Arms 1, Body 1, Legs 1)
Weapons: Hand Weapon (1d10+3)
In their natural form, a serpent person wears simple robes and carries a longsword (hand weapon). When infiltrating a society, serpent people wear clothing appropriate to role they are playing and thus they may keep several disguises handy in safe places that they can easily access.
Serpent people can assume a human shape and appearance as a half action and can remain in this form until they choose a new one. A slain serpent person reverts back to its normal form. Detecting a shapeshifted serpent person requires a Very Hard (–30) Perception Test.
Degenerate Serpent People
A degenerate serpent person is a serpent person with the poisonous bite mutation. Most degenerates also have 1d5–1 additional mutations.

Now Available: Cults of Freeport PDF

Cults of FreeportCults of Freeport is now available in PDF format in our Green Ronin Online Store.

On the surface Freeport is a pirate city gone legit, but in reality it is still a place of terrible secrets, foul plots, and dreadful gods. Cults of Freeport peels back the facade of the City of Adventure to take an unflinching look at its most disturbing denizens. This sourcebook describes a dozen despicable cults in lavish detail, from their goals and motivations to their tactics and impact on the city. In addition, each entry includes an overview of cult’s membership and recruitment policies, as well as a myriad of plot frameworks to help you feature these groups in adventures of your own design. As with The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, Cults of Freeport does not include game statistics of any kind, so you can use it with the RPG of your choice. The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign was just the beginning. Learn the unspeakable truth about the city’s corruption in Cults of Freeport!

Crazy for Freeport

If there’s one thing I felt d20 Freeport was missing, it was insanity rules. With such strong cosmic horror overtones and clear connections to Lovecraftian horror, madness and insanity are two concepts conspicuously absent from the rules. Granted, the Unearthed Arcana offers the insanity system from d20 Call of Cthulhu, and while serviceable, its use feels less like an integrated part of the game and more like an add-on. Other systems, notably taint and corruption, as well as some insanity rules from other official sources might also work, but the consequences can be severe and even crippling, making their gain less fun and more like punishment. So when setting out to design madness and insanity rules for the d20 Freeport Companion, I took these factors into consideration to ensure insanity felt like a natural outgrowth of the existing system while also providing mechanisms for players to employ these rules in fun ways.
Insanity Points are the heart of Freeport’s Madness system. Whenever your character peruses a forbidden text, encounters the awful, or anything else that tests the mental faculties, the character is at risk of acquiring Insanity Points. The most common methods for accumulating Insanity Points include being the target of mind-affecting spells and effects, encountering terrifying creatures, witnessing horrific acts of violence or utterly wrong acts, and researching mind-shattering subjects.
Creatures: The first time a non-humanoid, non-animal creature is encountered, you must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the creature’s HD + the creature’s Cha modifier) or gain a number of Insanity Points determined by the creature’s HD—1 point for 1–3 HD, 1d3 points for 4–6 HD, 1d4 for 7–9 HD, and so on.
Forbidden Lore: Every rank of Knowledge (Forbidden Lore) attained through researching forbidden or unnerving texts grants 1 Insanity Point.
Mind-Affecting Effects: Whenever you’re the target of a mind-affecting spell or effect and you fail the save by 5 or more, you gain a number of Insanity Points equal to the spell’s level or effect’s equivalent level.
Mind-Rending Encounters: Anytime you encounter the awful, you must succeed on a Will save or gain Insanity Points. The number of points gained and the save DC is determined by the severity of the scene. Enduring a few minutes of torture, for example, has a DC 10 and imposes 1 Insanity Point on a failed save. Being buried alive, however, is severe and imposes 1d4 Insanity Points on a failed DC 20 Will save.
Whenever you gain Insanity Points, your Wisdom score suffers. For the purpose of skill checks, ability checks, Will saves, your effective Wisdom is equal to your Wisdom score minus your Insanity Points. For spellcasting, however, your effective Wisdom equals your Insanity Points plus your Wisdom score. This system intentionally favors divine spellcasters since being a little crazy removes the barriers to divine influence. You can’t gain more Insanity Points than your Wisdom and if your Insanity Points would reduce Wisdom to 0, you stop gaining Insanity Points and henceforth behave as if under the effects of an insanity spell.
In addition to the basic effects of Insanity Points, you are also subject to fear as a result of a failed Will save. If you fail the Will save by 5, you become shaken, by 10, frightened, and by 15 or more panicked. The fear condition persists for a number of rounds equal to the Insanity Points gained.
Insanity Points stick around until you do something to remove them. The easiest way to rid yourself of Insanity Points is through magic. Lesser restoration removes 1d4 points, while restoration removes them all. Healing can also remove Insanity Points. Each week of treatment allows the healer to make a DC 25 Heal check to remove 1 Insanity Point. Finally, you can voluntarily acquire a madness to remove a number of Insanity Points equal to the severity of the madness.
Madness functions as a pressure valve for Insanity Points. It offers a way for a character to rid himself of accumulated Insanity Points at the expense of temporary or permanent erratic behavior. Short-term insanity can impose unconsciousness, inaction, fear, immobility, and so on. Long-term madness, which removes more Insanity Points lasts longer and imposes penalties on certain skill checks, imposes conditions, and other difficult effects.
The worst form of madness is indefinite madness. Each gain removes 8 Insanity Points but imposes a significant behavioral change, including Anxiety (–4 penalty on initiative checks), manic/depressive (+2 bonus or –4 penalty on all checks, equal chance of each every day), or substance abuse (addiction to a random substance).
Madness can be removed in ways similar to removing Insanity Points. A heal spell removes a madness and any remaining Insanity Points. A DC 25 Heal check made for a character after 1d6 months of confinement can produce a full recovery, though the subject is always at risk of a relapse.
The hook with this system is that it places the effects of accumulated insanity in the hands of the player. When and how the PC freaks out is up to the player. You might tough it out and absorb Insanity Points to stave off the slide into utter depravity or you might accept some short-term losses to keep your mind hale and relatively healthy.
Insanity Points, while clearly a setback, have some benefits. Divine spellcasters find their spells easier to cast and more potent, while certain feats, spells, and magic items may offer new ways to employ Insanity Points, making the descent into madness an interesting character choice rather than just another way to weaken characters. At the end of the day, the madness system in the d20 Freeport Companion is optional, but it captures the grit and flavor of the city and expands the game in exciting and harrowing ways.