The last session ended with our heroes capturing clues about the mysterious rat-catchers’ guild – a second prisoner and a safe house, in fact. We rejoined them this week in the midst of their inquiries, with Heinze, Shultz and Suzette dragging their second prisoner to their dubious makeshift prison in the Labour Quarter, and Aruson the Elf spying the front of a Ratcatcher safe house.

Infiltrating the Safe House

The safe house was a warehouse on the docks of the Warehouse district, that could be entered via a highly conspicuous front door, or through a delivery door at the rear which, sadly, could only be accessed by boat. Aruson being a thief, he immediately set off in search of a suitable boat, and soon found a nest of rowboats suitable to the task. His first attempt to get onto the pier at the back of the warehouse succeeded, but in tying the boat to the pier Aruson managed to entangle the ropes of the delivery bell in the boat-ties, and alerted all inside to his presence. He aborted his attempt and leapt back onto the boat, flowing downstream in time to appear as nothing more than an annoying passer-by. He tried again, stealing a second boat; and this time he stopped the boat at an upstream warehouse, intending to climb onto the roof and cross to a top-floor window by that means. However, he realized upon alighting on the pier that his climbing ability is very poor, and he couldn’t identify who (if anyone) was inside the targeted warehouse; so he cast off from the pier and drifted downstream, only to find the same problem. So, he gave up, and entered the warehouse through the door, unable to discern its occupants. Luckily for Aruson (who regularly gets beaten near to death), noone was there. He exited to the warehouse rooftop and ran along to the target warehouse, where of course the same problem applied – he had to climb down. But this time he could use rope, so the problem was trivial (and anyway, there was a river to catch him), and he soon found himself inside the safe house.

Passing through the upstairs room, he opened an inner door to find a set of steps leading down into a warehouse full of crates of apples. In the middle of the warehouse floor sat a group of ratcatchers around a fire. One of them was heartily declaring “I will tell the Lieutenant about this situation,” with the others urging him on. Without further ado he marched up to a crate of apples, opened a secret door in its side, and disappeared down a flight of stairs…

With this knowledge, and a sure suspicion that this crew are not normal rat-catchers, our suspicious elf returned the way he came, and thence to the dubious prison for act 2…

The Rat-catcher’s Dilemma

Tonight I had a chance to learn the Japanese for “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” though it passed me by in a blaze of mumbling. Fortunately wikipedia serves as an excellent translation device for concepts and phrases, so I now know it. Because it turns out that my players are not shy of a little bit of rough play, and their version of the prisoner’s dilemma involves death rather than release or imprisonment. Both prisoners were offered a simple choice – if you don’t talk, your friend will, and then you’ll be surplus to requirements. And this is a grim and perilous world.

Both prisoners chose to cooperate with each other, because they appeared to have a supernaturally strong trust in their guild. They both initially refused to offer any information about their guild, being sure that the other would not either[1]. However, the characters noticed that one was looking a little shaky, while the other was looking very solid indeed. They threatened the shaky-looking one, and broke the tough-looking one’s finger, just to make a point, then decided to wait a day to soften them both up.

Rat-catcher attack

After 10 hours of waiting, the unexpected happened – a ratcatcher attack. Suzette, on guard duty, heard it, and had a moment to warn the others before the 4 ratcatchers struck. Although their foes weren’t strong – in fact, incapable of hurting Schultz through his armour – they took time to grind down, and after 3 rounds the characters’ prisoners somehow escaped, running for a window at the end of a hallway. Three of the PCs followed while the Soldier took on the remaining two ratcatchers, and they managed to recapture all the escapees and hold them back from the window until Schultz could eliminate the remaining two ratcatchers and come to their aid. They restored the prisoners to their cells, and decided to have a frank exchange with the weaker-looking one. By now they had killed or injured or captured 10 of his colleagues, defeated one escape attempt and uncovered his safe house, and he could be fairly confident that ultimately they were going to find and destroy everyone else in his guild, so he decided to talk.

The Rat-catcher’s Guild

The rat-catcher told the characters that

  • His rat-catcher’s guild was not a normal guild, but did sinister jobs for a local nobleman, whose identity he did not know.
  • The members did adventurer-type things, such as spying, assassinations, and investigations
  • He was largely responsible for security in a part of the sewers
  • This guild had about 30 or so normal members, and a few exceptional folk
  • The worst thing he had ever done was visit the daughter of another member, to admonish her against foolishly leaking their secret – by killing her horribly
  • A colleague of his had broken into Sigmar’s Temple to steal a holy item
  • The safe house that Aruson had seen gave access to a tunnel that led to a different safe house and also to his superior

The rat-catcher, now convinced he was at risk of death, begged the PCs to spare him, and offered a deal – he would turn spy for them if they promised to spare him. The PCs weighed up his situation – 1/3 of his guild slaughtered, the likelihood more would die, them threatening to deliver him to Sigmar’s church, and him in their custody – and decided he was probably being honest. They agreed to do this if he would meet them in three days time. He then asked them to kill his friend, to ensure the story of his escape would make sense.

Nice folk, these rat-catchers.

The PCs agreed, and originally intended to actually kill the man in cold blood. I pointed out to them that such an act carried a risk of insanity, so instead they arranged a trick hanging (using Aruson’s guile skill), which would preserve the victim so that they could hand him over to Sigmar’s Shrine (who would almost certainly execute him). Aruson arranged this fake hanging so well that not only did they convince their prisoner that his friend was dead, they horrified and terrified him with the violence of the death, and further convinced him that he had escaped a terrible fate. He left their prison eager to prove his worth and so avoid an equally awful fate.

Here the session ended.

Other notes

The characters all reached Rank 2 tonight, so a frenzy of spending xps on skill training ensued. The PCs remain greatly afraid of even minor battles, and are desperate to improve their skills, and the best way to do that is through skill training (it really matters in this system!) Soon some of them may choose to progress to the next career – which may mean purchasing new spell books…

fn1: the original prisoner’s dilemma doesn’t include a third game theoretic option, a fate worse than death.