I awoke with a start. It was in the middle of the night, again. It seems as if my sleep here in Altdorf is destined to be interrupted. At first I didn’t know where I was, and after groping around for a candle and some flint and tinder I had some time to wake up. The events of the last couple of days came back to me, and I remembered where I was. In one of the towers of the University of Altdorf. Again I heard the noise that had awakened me, something was moving outside my window. I struck light and made my way to the south window, from which the sound was coming. I leaned forward, shielding the light with my free hand, so that I could spy that which was moving. Then with a crash, something threw itself at the window. Through the snow and sleet I saw a nightmarish face, a woman as pale as a corpse, her features distorted into a hideous grin. Claws scratched at the window panes. I screamed out and the candle fell from my powerless hands. The monster’s hideous laughter overwhelmed me and I sank to my knees, begging to Sigmar for protection against all evil powers. Then the monster was gone, and as I write this, I’m not sure if I dreamed the entire incident.
Wellentag, Nachexen 5, 2522 IC
There are monsters in Altdorf. It’s just a case of figuring out which monsters are appropriate for the capital. There are powerful military forces stationed in and near Altdorf and a fairly active (albeit also fairly corrupt) City Watch which should be able to deal with most threats. And the city is the home of the Emperor so no open threats to him, or to the nobles of his court would be allowed.
From this follows that the monsters that are known to the public of Altdorf, are monsters that will be under the direct control of an upstanding and respected citizen, such as the beasts in the Imperial Zoo. Maybe a noble has a ferocious warhound, a warhawk or even a wolf to boast about in front of his friends. But such beasts will only be a problem if they escape, and if they do they will surely be hunted. Such a situation can provide a good short adventure for one session.
Of greater alarm, and far more dangerous are the hidden monsters. Altdorf is a large city, and there are plenty of places to hide. Dank cellars, secluded mansions, derelict towers, abandoned sewers or dark water fronts. Even the parks or the forest just outside Altdorf can be the home of monsters that bring peril and fear to the citizens and the characters. And even though most monsters are supposed to live in the wild, a bit of creative thinking can give you lots of ideas for urbanising beastly foes. A great example of this can be found in issue 26 of Warpstone. The adventure The Harpies of Vindell’s Folly, written by Robin Low, introduces … hmmm … well, harpies to a city environment. Although I’d likely rework the plot and the background of the adventure before using it in Altdorf, the basic premise is sound and showcases an interesting use of a monster that supposedly only lives in the wilderness.
For sure, not every monster is suitable for adaption to an urban setting. The undead, Skaven, Mutants (anyone can be a Mutant), Cultists and Giant Animals of ordinary animals seem most likely to be of use for a Game Master. Looking through the Old World Bestiary, I can immediately think of ideas that would involve the following monsters in an Altdorf campaign;
Chaos Cultists (obviously)
Harpies (see Warpstone issue 26)
Undead of all stripes (especially Ghouls)
Of course, there is always room for a random attack by crazed beastmen infiltrating the city, or a chaos beast such as a manticore to descend on the poor folk of Altdorf, but I prefer to use monsters that can be a long term threat. Who is responsible for the latest upheaval in the cemeteries? Grave robbers or Ghouls? Or even Strigoi Vampires? Who is to blame for the disappearance of many children in the Drecksack slums? Slavers, Giant Rats or Skaven? Or are they carried away by Harpies or Great Eagles?
So expect to encounter some monsters here and there in my version of Altdorf. They are always there, hiding and biding their time … and there’s a fog rolling in from the river.