I neglected to include in summary above:
It should be noted, as doubtless it was by Baron Eldred, the knights, zealots and Sister Helana, that Magister Hans bravely stepped forward into the fray to protect his fallen comrade. His light magic offering him some protection but by no means a complete safeguard.
- Hans does this often enough, battle wizard that he is, showing personal courage, that it should be considered a notable aspect of his character. That and the odd craving for blood …
70th Advance, all present.
- For any comparing with published 1000 Thrones, this is a mix of the homebrew chapter of Swords of Ulric in Middenland with more published material for poking about the Crusade.
The heroes and Baron Eldred's party ride on, pressing through the winter night driving man and horse (Ride challenge 3 check, with fortune dice for Resilience training to better keep on through the night). Heroes and horses suffer (3 fatigue and wind, Findulas' mount - actually Anselm's still - is blown but avoids dying).
It is late, or very early morning (4ish) when they arrive. The Crusade picket hails them. The Crusade is aware of beastmen, they have skirmished with foraging parties (and some parties have not returned).
The heroes ride on to Karl's inner compound, passing through the outer camp. The Baron successfully represents his nephew and the others such that they are allowed into the inner compound. Not wishing to meet Karl, Findulas fakes passing out (he is Fatigued so gets a fortune die on faking) and falls from his horse. Anselm joins the charade and is concerned for his elf comrade, Baron Eldred directs them to his tent.
The Baron, Helena, Hans and Father Erich continue on. It turns out the Crusade leaders are up early for a counsel about the beastman situation.
Eldred and the heroes join it (it appears Karl is still abed - this was in effect the result of Baron Eldred rolling a Chaos Star on his check to gain the heroes' entry - he so wanted them to meet Karl, ah well, there will be plenty of chances). The heroes meet Matthias Krieger again, Jan Vandepeer, Sir Whilhelm von Eisenbach and Father Helmut. The crusade leaders are divided about the beastmen, Helmut and Eisenbach wanting to fight them and Jan wishing to leave that to the local Baroness' soldiers and avoid them.
Jan loses the debate. Father Erich tries to use military Leadership to get the crusaders to organize better defences (cutting down trees for them) but fails to get the outcome desired (discovering this later in day, after waking from his rest).
The heroes go back to the sick tent to rest, with Sister Helena praying for them to have a Hopeful Dawn (Shallyan blessing that aids their Resilience checks). Father Erich recovers from his Shortness of Breath (critical healed) but Hans does not recover from any such.
The next morning, the 30th, heroes are at liberty.
Father Erich and Hans are both "outsiders" to most lay members of the Crusade and suffer penalties on social actions. Father Erich in fact arouses some suspicion and henceforth has watchers trailing him. Anselm however so successfully passes for a Karlist that it appears he has some special insights about Karl making him of interest to other crusaders.
For 3rd edition, there is a special location card (oversized) showing the modifiers and special outcomes to rolls in Crusade encampment. They differ if you are "an Outsider" or "One of Us". It's sort of a fairground and insular small town all at once.
Anselm sees Findulas to the edge of camp, where the elf goes off to find Coriael and the other Arhain Sec. Anselm spots the colourful vardos of a Strigany caravan and goes to speak to them.
Findulas finds the wood elves and relates about the crusade's intention to fight the beastmen, perhaps a good chance to infiltrate and extract Karl. The wood elves say there are a hundred or so (a horde) coming into the region and like Findulas' suggestion. It's so good that they go off to ensure the beastmen come this way and encounter the crusade (it wasn't certain they would otherwise).
Findulas' player could have tried to influence the Arhain Sec to join the fight against beastmen, it was clear some wanted to (they really hate beastmen, more than an average wood elf, due to their history). However, player chose to "let things fall where they may".
Anselm finds that the Strigany are none other than his relations, his Grandmother Lucinda and uncle Helwig, with Helwig's son young Otto (10 or so, this is my version of Ahmed - the arabic name didn't ring right to me for a Strigany). Anselm tries to warn his kin to flee the beastmen but they feel they are safer with crusade than on their own (coincidentally they are camped on the side of the crusade opposite the direction beastmen coming from). He learns that most of the Strigany are not Karlists though they do not doubt him, saying rather "the Chosen of Sigmar has not come for the Strigany". Grandmother Lucinda calls him the Child of Destiny and thinks they are safe with him. Apparently Karl often sneaks off away from his minders, dodging lessons, and one time he came to have Grandmother Lucinda tell his fortune.
[This habit of his also explains the dual chaos star effect on the camp location card referenced above: you meet a charming boy…]
Father Erich and Hans were in the sick tent, helping the midwife Alette Gruber and Sister Helana. They learned that Sir Whilhelm von Eisenbach saw the light when he met Karl, but some foul cultists tried to murder Karl and were struck down by his valiant defenders, their profane weapons shattering. Hans realizes that the Galloping Trots case he finds in the sick tent is a particularly nasty version and worrisome.
They go to find Eldred and convince him to take steps to combat the spread of disease, though really this is Jan Vandepeer's responsibility (running day to day things). Eldred helps them convince Jan (the heroes meeting Jan and his large ogre bodyguard Hasslich, and the other 4 bodyguards whose job is mostly just finding food for Hasslich).
There is no germ theory in Empire but Hans rolled very very well using First Aid to help out in tent, which is how he spotted the disease, and thus knows as much as common lore could know. After all Nurglings like to revel in filth - no need to invoke invisible microbes to explain its connection to disease. The heroes were told it is an unusually strong version of the disease but don't appear to suspect a Nurglist. I'm using the 3rd edition Galloping Trots instead of the published adventure's disease. "you keep going" contributtes more to a filthy camp than "you stop going".
They get a first hand account of the assassination attempt. There are no shattering weapons but Jan says how everyone was inspired to defend Karl - he himself struck down one attacker (surprising himself, he's a large-waisted merchant in his 40's). Hans tries to use his insight to see if Jan is dissembling at all when dismissing cultists generally as a threat and Jan is not.
Jan goes off to implement these orders to clean up camp, Jan has better things to do, he summons an aide to do it.
The aide is not named, it is the very able (really brains of Jan's operation) Altdorfer Tobias.
My Jan is a merchant, member of criminal syndicate but not cultist. Tobias his aide is the cultist.
Findulas stays out in woods a while (to explain how he found out things when reporting later) and comes in late in day. The player hammed this up with his lethargy insanity - finding a cosy spot to rest a bit.
The heroes find Karl's Bounty, the two wagons with the contents of the inn they passed operated by the former innkeeper Rudi Margelt and his wife Hanna. The stable boy there helps tend to their horses, though Anselm ably cares for his own.
As Findulas is coming in, some riders come and speak with Sir Whilhelm. The Middenlanders are martialling to face the beastman incursion and were trying to get Sir Whilhelm to return with his knights and footmen - he instead said that the Crusade's armed force would join the fight.
The battle is expected to come the next day (31st). The Crusade will send most of its armed force to join the Middenlanders, the heroes planning to along - ha having been welcomed by Sir Whilhelm. This looks to leave the camp under-guarded thus the Arhain Sec plan appears to be working out well.
The heroes rest overnight one more time before the battle (another Rally step for action recharge etc.). The Middenlanders' chosen ground for the fight is only a mile from the village of Gooten and the Crusade.
All heroes present.
That evening, heroes who warm themselves by the fire may hear some of Sir Wilhelm von Eisenbach's men at arms talking, veteran Middenlanders experienced in facing hated beastmen.
They are speculating on the foes they will face tomorrow. The majority of the warherd will be gors, the horned staple of a warherd, there will be weaker ungors or even brays (small horned to no horned) of perhaps half that number - the most fractious of the herd and least disciplined, treated as fodder by the rest. There will be a handful of deadly wargors, in a warherd this size perhaps four or five as too many of these rivals thin each other - one among these will have been the Champion that emerged when it was formed having the favour of a Ruinous Power.
A warherd this size will amost certainly have a bray-shaman, though if it is one of Khazrak One Eye's it will favour the Blood God and not be a worker of spells - more likely will have used the lure of the Blood God to call other monstrosities as allies. They will have thus have beasthounds with them and at least one greater monstrosity such as a minotaur or worse.
What drives a warherd to strike during winter they do not know, though it is only three days to Hexensnacht - perhaps the beastmen seek to celebrate that dire night with some great offering of captives or similar sacrifices?
They hope that Ulric will be with them, for this is his season, but most of all they take comfort that as crusaders for Sigmar's Chosen, the Blessed Child, they will fight as did the heroes of old. The victory they win tomorrow will prove Karl's provenance and win more to his side.
Still, despite their crusader-zeal, they shudder to think of the dark sacrifices that would have been made at a herdstone, by a would-be champion or a bray shaman, sending the scent of man-blood and flesh into the air to summon beastmen together into such a force - each band's leader challenging for dominance and taking it or dying or else accepting a lesser role.
The one bright spot is if they can force the battle before Hexensnacht as they have no desire to face beastman or other foe on that cursed night.
The next morning, the Crusade's armed forces set off. Sir Whilhelm, Baron Eldred, Father Helmut, the Mansel Brothers who organize the "Fist that Holds the Hammer" (camp enforcers), Felix Braun who leads the Burdened Heart zealots, Klemens Greir leads Krieger's zealots. Sister Helena and Butcher Groff are two other notable figures who come along.
Matthias Krieger would like to come but his duty is to protect Karl so he remains in camp, with Jan Vandepeer (and Jan's ogre bodyguard Hasslich), and the many non-combatant crusaders.
The force sets off along trail north to rendezvous with Middenlander forces and face beastmen.
Of course, the heroes are also expecting that while gone the Arhain Sec will extract Karl - though things do not quite turn out that way…
Before the Crusaders can reach the rendezvous, they are attacked by a beastman horde. The initiative of the heroes means that instead of being caught among the trees, the beastmen cross a "forest glade" and are exposed to what limited missile fire the Crusade has.
(Had a beastman had first intiative fight would have been among the trees where beastmen are more dangerous)
The confusion of battle sees fights everywhere, the heroes fortunes indicating somewhat the rest of the battle (loose chaos stars = casualties and negative "Event Cards" I have prepared and comets can be assigned to drawing positive "Event Cards" - these cards spice things up but are also for the purpose of adding more narrative/story stuff to a fight scene).
- Note the heroes actions before quelling various troubles and dealing with some issues affected the position of a "preparendess meter" that would affect this battle. They are at +2 so encounters being at Long Range (instead of medium base) and there are 4 rounds before the next wave (instead of 3 base).
A war chariot pulled by two tuskgors (bestial boars) with a wargor and gor aboard and ungor henchman gang make for the heroes. The fearsome event causes Fear 2 checks (some failures and chaos stars mean stress), leaving Anselm frightened by the chariot.
Findulas shoots the tuskgors and fouls their ability to pull chariot, leaving them to fight on simply as wounded individuals.The fast tuskgors still close the distance with the beastmen move up more slowly. (What was a gang of 2 as chariot team now become 2 individuals, each down the 7 wounds their TO contributed to gang, Tuskgors are simply amped up boars).
A beastman shaman appears on "rocky outcropping" and holds aloft a bloody standard of Khorne as he chants (draw two criticals, keep choice on all critical effects). His curses and taunts do not otherwise impress them much.
Over the course of four rounds, the heroes defeat the tuskgors and wargor, though Findulas suffers a critical wound to his shoulder that weakens his attacks and both Findulas and Anselm take many wounds. Hans uses a scroll of Guard of Steel he obtained long before from the Gold Order to summon improvements to his soak (floating steel orbs).
Most importantly during this time, the ebb and flow of battle cause threats to appear first to Sister Helena then to Baron Eldred (event cards). Each time the next hero to act must forfeit all actions in a round to save them from suffering a Critical Wound (dying if Severity 4). Father Erich does so for Sister Helena but Anselm declines to aid Baron Eldred when he sees beastmen threatening to overwhelm him.
Baron Eldred suffers mortal wounds (Sev 4 critical drawn) and dies. Both Hans and Father Erich witnessed Anselm's choice and bear him some enmity for this act (Anselm simply felt no great interest in Eldred's fate) [made Observation check to spot it]. When Sister Helena appears on the field of battle and it is clear she would aid who most needs it, and Anselm then most needs wounds healed, Hans distracts her to seek help as he Splints and Bandages Findulas (also badly hurt but not so much at this point) so at to deny Anselm her aid [which Anselm also spots].
Though later Sister Helena does attend to Anselm.
After four rounds there is a Rally Step as a fresh wave of attackers appears, a gor, tuskgor and ungor gang still present from the first wave.
Again they appear at Long Range, a strong looking (Hero template with Mark of Khorne) Wargor and another back of Ungors.
As they close, Finduals shoots and wounds the Wargor and Father Erich finishes the Tuskgor facing him, but another group of ungors appear (so there are 3 gangs of ungors, a wargor hero and wounded gor). The ungor gangs with the Wargor Hero are his living shields and interpose themselves against atttacks etc.
More importantly, it is revealed KARL IS WITH US! The adventurous imp snuck among Sir Whilhelm's contingent (at first people thought it was a halfing zealot). The true Karlists (not heroes) in effect are all inspired and invigorated (though at this point perhaps 20-30 of the Crusaders have fallen, in addition to Eldred).
Meaning that if the Arhain Sec did enter the camp, they did not find Karl there.
I found Anselm's choices dramatic. It "shocked table" but not in "I'm angry at you personally" just "my character is going to be pissed" way. I enjoy players 'shaping things' and this does 'shape things'. Of course, perhaps good it comes at "climax of campaign". Shaping doesn't have to mean "knocking things over" of course but confict is fine as long as the consequences accepted (at least that's my view, then again I like IAWA which is all player vs player).
Hans has some interesting urges at times, who knows what could be the result of this…
Part of the purpose of the cards was to add some "narrative aspect" to the otherwise "combat heavy" session so this definitely did so.
Sister Helena is grateful to Father Erich in a "it will mean something to story" way. The Player can help suggest that or it will just flow. Eldred being dead means apart from Hans failing in his personal mission, the heroes lose their main access to Crusade's leaders (and what was a moderate voice of diplomacy, doing things such as brokering the handing over of those who assaulted Sister Helena, is now lost).
These things are actually more important to the story to come than who kills what - mostly the fights are about if you survive and at what cost. Beastmen aren't the real threat…. Hexensnacht will bring something else entirely (as the published plotline or something like likely resumes).
Always love your reports but this one really grabbed me.
The use of those card to make the combat feel like a battle sounds terrific I would love to hear more, like do you have a generic set or is it something specific for this one fight?. Though I think it sounds like you both got some fortunate draws plus some great character reactions.
But wow, what a suprise about the in-party drama. I guess I just do not expect it from your guys as they seem to get on so well most of the time. Especially Hans going so far as to head off the Sister to heal Anslem, wow. I was pretty suprised.
Sure no problem revealing more.
I had 4 positive and 4 negative events that I assigned to cards from a "Plot Twist Cards" deck that had appropriate titles (Paizo, Gamemastery Line). That deck is 51 cards but I limited it to 4@ where I could think of fun things. For example the "spend this round removing an NPC from danger rather than doing anything against foes threatening you" event was the card "Rock and a Hard Place". The cards themselves have text on them to suggest narrative events they could represent (and d20 mechanics) but for this use I made up my own meanings (though they were at times in the same vein as the card text). You can see something similar if you find the free Swashbuckling Cards pdf one firm posted on line. I used a homebrewed system similar to this long ago (e.g. you have cards for things like "the villain gloats and reveals something" - an event that Players enjoy more if they actually chose to make it happen than if it was part of a GM's railroad),
In this case, Players could choose assign a comet to drawing a card (Sister Helena shows up to carry out some healing being an example of positive event, another one would have had the battle site in wilderness suddenly reveal a "hidden shrine" with positive effects for heroes). I used Player-rolled Chaos Stars not allocated by their action card to draw them (those also mean casualties mount among Crusaders).
The Anselm/Hans stuff has been without animosity between Players. Hans' player has said he felt "invigorated" by the event (meaning it was engaging, got him thinking about where things are going etc.). Anselm's Player is playing his character innocent, "so I focused on fighting beastmen, what's deal", but now injured "that Shallyan was headed my way", and his decision at moment was mostly "what's more interesting to see happen"-based. Yes, Anselm's Players idea of fun is often kicking over hornet's nests but he does it without malice and (important to others acceptance of his behaviour) he completely accepts backblast on his character from this - Anselm's Player doesn't think life will end well for Anselm even as Anselm is eagerly pursuing a better life.
I am really lucky (okay we all are at our table and we did some weeding out long ago) - it's a mix of styles from a bit more "gamist mechanical crunch" to a bit more "live or die whatever, fun choices now" but everyone is accepting of the spotlight of attention moving around from one player to another, everyone tries to be effective and pull weight mechanically most of time, everyone puts character story choices first.
We're coming up on Hexensnacht when the dead are restless… and if you're familiar with the official 1000 Thrones, you know what happens then - but some visitations from recently dead or otherwise could be fun too!
When you have Chaos Stars and Sigmar Comets create narritive effects (like results in the bigger battle), do you do that in addition to the normal mechanical result or instead of?
Having a good, steady mix of players is always fortunate. Its good they can get on well, even when at odds like that.
Sadly I don't have or haven't read 1000 Thrones, but that keeps this thread more fun as I don't know what is coming :)
I'm just bittersweet about it since you announced this will the last adventure!
If the player opts for a draw from Positive Effect deck that replaces any other Comet outcome. The deck is chosen to offer things usually at least as good as a Comet effect (perhaps better but just not controlled - e.g., Sister Helena's healing is better than a Comet but perhaps just now healing was not what you most wanted).
If the GM says, "oh look a Chaos Star, not used by an effect on your card" and decides not to use it for another purpose, it is used for draw from Negative Effect deck and also an increase in Crusade Casualty Count. The Negative Effects are usually worse as well of course, forfeit actions for a round can hurt if a tuskgor is doing its best to rip out your guts.
It's last because the characters are topping out advance-wise. We plan to move on to a new campaign with new characters, from scratch, when this one is done. We're enjoying system and some folks are already thinking "hmm, what will I do next". I'll have the Lure of Power and Omens of War adventures which I have not run, if it suits the dwarf set adventure, hopefully that new Enemy Within campaign and then whatever other things I can cook up/convert from earlier (e.g., I have a conversion of There's Something About Marie I ended up not using as it just didn't fit in) to work with or FFG puts out.
I haven't decided if it will happen "at the same time", sort of a "another story of the events of 2521" or "pick up in 2522 and continue". I've been building all sorts of omens about 2522 being a bad ass year.
Thanks for the interest.
In which we wave goodbye to railroads and let player choice and dice decide…
Father Erich absent. Anselm is now a Vampire Hunter, the family history pulling him, Hans finally understands Berona's Time Warp.
It is the 31st of Vorhexen and the fighters of the Crusade of the Child face the beastman horde inspired by Karl being among them.
The heroes face a heroic wargor, 8 ungors (2 gangs) and a wounded gor. After one round of keeping the wargor occuppied Father Erich is pulled elsewhere in the battle (having done 2 wounds). That he would keep foe busy 1 round, do random damage and then be pulled away was how I handled player absence - that and an extra fortune point for the three there.
Anselm wounds the wargor attacking him though both tire the other with their fighting back and forth (fatigue/aggression lost). Findulas "me first" shoots at the ungor gangs and devastates them - only one is left standing of the eight (2 henchmen groups) and it flees at first chance.
The heroes realize there is dilapidated shrine of Ulric here at this spot near the trail, that has beneficial affects. (random positive battle event)
Hans drives his Burning Gaze into the eyes of the wargor facing Anselm and it falls dead. Hans also uses his magic against the heroic wargor - but triggers a miscast. He does not fear this (player remarks: hese things are usually not bad or even good as he draws - i warn him not to tempt fate and then) - a bolt of lightning appears from the ether to blast him for 2 wounds and leave him Thunderstruck.
Anselm sets Senor Bitey at attack the wargor, inflicting some harm but (Chaos Star with Khorne Marked Wargor) leaving Anselm open to an attack which drops him unconscious (Senor Bitey saves him from critical - I admit I'm a bit uncertain if the falilng unconscious critical should be blockable).
The last wargor falls but reacts vengefully striking out as he falls and nearly (2 wounds short) dropping Findulas, in any event giving him a Deep Wound (Sev 5 Critical) to remember the wargor by (Findulas professes he won't remember him tomorrow).
As the last foe falls the heroes enjoy a moment's respite, the battle has moved elswhere. End of Episode Recovery is enjoyed. Healing draughts are adminstered but Anselm remains unconscious (Hans declining to give him first aid, saying Findulas can administer a healing draught if he wishes - which is ironically one Hans gave him some time before that was chancy and it turns out triggers a Corruption check for Anselm - which he passes).
During this time they hear the sound of harquebus fire and see a storm of fire at the edge of the battlefield – Middenheim has come with the Battle Wizard of the Bright College! The Crusaders take heart and their cry is heard across the battlefied, “Sigmar be praised! Fight on for Karl is With US!”
As Middenheim’s forces strike into the beastman horde, the heroes can see their knights, men-at-arms and yeomen taking advantage of the creatures’ attention being on the Crusaders.
The heroes can choose to dive into fray or fall back. Findulas holds back, with unconscious Anselm, while Hans tries to dive into the fray to get closer to Karl. Father Erich is already there of course.
Hans can now see that Sir Arnolt von Eisenbach is with the Swords of Ulric, lead by the Howling Wolf Wolfgang Kurtz, and driving towards the Banner of the Crusade. As they fight through the beastman lines, they then fall on the Crusaders - with cries of Death to the Witch Child!
Hans is near the standard of the Child, where a young boy is helping Sister Helena tend the wounded, giving them words of encouragement and thus Hans meets Karl (success on his roll to get through battle and Chaos Star - 2 actually).
Hans' insight tells him Karl is indeed a remarkable young man and his Epic Discipline check (+1 for corruption point, 6 challenge dice +2 misfortune dice for seeing how remarkable Karl is) passes (bit more stress). [Hans has high willpower, well trained in Discipline, the purple dice failed to yield enough of the lovely double failures).
Hans uses Hysh magics of the greatest power, Berona's Time Warp to still time for everyone but himself, Karl, Sister Helena and the wounded man they were tending (a now one-legged fighter, Berthold). These events were handled more narratively, roll skill and tell me how it applies etc., so I ruled the spell's "hiccup" was enough to get Karl away from focus of fight if roll was good enough to affect enough people.
He says they must flee and Sister Helena agrees, assuring Karl Hans is a good man. They get out of the fray and return to the dilapidated shrine. Findulas has moved Anselm off into woods and is observing from 70 yards or so (not wanting to get closer when he sees Hans arrive with a young boy).
The Middelanders drive the beastmen from the field but the crusaders are also decimated before more reasonable minds prevail over the Swords of Ulric and call them off. The fate of key figures (Father Helmut, Wilhelm von Eisenbach, volunteers like Butcher Groff all unknown)
Had Karl still been there the chaotic situation might have seen him and or Sister Helena harmed but also likely resulted in more followers and fewer casualties, by removing him from scene the slaughter of Crusaders was increased - ah fickle fate - Karl was not With Them in the end.
Hans takes a moment when Karl is a bit ahead of them and speaks with Sister Helena. He challenges her at the harm being caused by Karl going through towns, setting brother against brother etc. (making it sound like her plan/fault). She is taken aback and she says it is not Karl's fault that men fight each other, that he is the best a person can be - this is why others of weak mind are influenced by him. She says how generous he is - sharing gifts given him - when giving his nature he should be spoiled. This is a sign of the strength of his character and the man he will be.
Sister Helena says that Karl is the best of what man can be and will become moreso as he grows and matures, able to control his influence and provide a force for stability and unity in the Empire - he will end the strife that divides the Empire.
Hans intuition tells him she is being honest but there is something more she hopes for or sees in Karl that she is not revealing.
Hans agrees with her in general and the question of how he is raised/by who/where is the issue. Helena says the plan had been to take him to the Grand Theogonist, Volkmar the Grim. This was Father Helmut's plan. It is a sound one though she would prefer the Temple of Shallya (a more peaceful/balanced upbringing).
Hans lets her know Anselm is to blame for Eldred's death. Eldred's death saddens Karl greatly, "he played checkers with me". (Eldred was becoming the first stable father figure in his life). Sister Helena is also sad to learn of his death, "he was a good man" (reminder he saved her from the beatiing by zealots being worse).
Sister Helena notes that it is Father Helmut (whose fate in the battle is not known) who wanted to gather followers as they went to Altdorf. Matthias Krieger and Jan Vandepeer both wanted to travel more swiftly. Baron Eldred was coming to that view too - she's not sure with his death how the leadership will decide. Sir Wilhelm is also one of unknown fate in the battle. The only leader back in camp and presumably safe is Jan Vandepeer.
Speaking of back in the camp - so what have the Arhain Sec been up to - a rider is seen coming up the way the crusade travelled - Hans recognizes Tobias, Vandepeer's aid - his head is bandaged. Hans steps out to stop him and learns that "Karl has been kidnapped".
Hans asks "how did you know?" Tobias looks at him oddly, "Raiders infiltrated the camp, killed his guards and escaped with him." Hans acts uncaring and sends Tobias on towards the embroglio of Crusaders and Middenlanders - Tobias deciding this wizard was never really a Crusader, so uncaring of Karl's fate.
When Hans relays this to Helana and Karl, Karl cries out "Otto!". It turns out when he went to get his fortune told by the Strigany woman he met a Strigany boy named Otto and sometimes Otto pretends to him (praying or head down in book studying etc.) when Karl wants to explore camp. Otto did that this morning so Karl could come with the Crusaders.
It's Otto who has been taken by the mysterious attackers. Otto son of Helwig, who is uncle to Anselm (Anselm's cousin).
Tthe elves managed to not be recognized as such, well kill anyone who did actually though one or two unconscious people might have some thing to say when they awake….. Flash to scene at camp, "But I'm not Karl", sure you're not, come with us - "hey you know I don't feel compelled by the kid", "of course not, we're elves that's for weak minded humans"
Karl is very worried about his friend as is Sister Helena. Who would take Karl, it must be Chaos Cultists - what will they do with Otto? When talking with Hans about this (who knows it was the Asrai Arhain Sec) she does sense he is holding back some information (perhaps he knows the cult - little does she know how much he his holding back …)
Heroes confer about their next step. Anselm does not want to return to the camp - he is 2 wounds from falling after some care restores him to consciousness (Hans finally decides that's better than carrying him). He fears the Middenlanders will come there next.
There is some thought of spiriting Karl away and taking him by boat to Altdorf, with Sister Helena.
Hans does not want to keep to any plan with the Arhain Sec anymore, though he is concerned about Otto. He prefers Shallyans raising Karl to Sigmarites.
Sister Helena observes that once crusaders learn it was Otto taken they will be less concerned (he is a Strigany after all). She doesn't seem to share that prejudice - though she does contemplate that Anselm is part Strigany vis a vis his cowardice (according to Hans' version).
Findulas observes that the whole "how is he raised" issue was solved by the Arhain Sec plan and notes that Shallyans can't defend him.
If trying to get a boat, the heroes are a day from Schienfeld which is on river and major town - easy to get a boat though also the place the Middenlanders who attacked crusade just came from. If trying to avoid Schienfeld it is several days to the next port town.
Players are to think about next step, Father Erich will doubtless have ideas.
We will resume as throughout the region many wonder "Where's Karl?" From Middenlander die hards still hunting for the Witch Child, to suriving Crusaders trying to find their lost saviour (Tobias may figure out the meaning of Han's odd behavour if any witnesses survive to say Karl last seen with wizard nearby), to elven assassins, ahem, woodland warriors realizing they have the wrong child - not to mention other forces with an interest in the child….
The heroes are taking things in different direction than written adventure, perhaps converging at the point it had crusade reaching Altdorf. It's more work for me but I prefer to influence not dictate directions. They choose to split up, Hans specifically chose to go to where Karl would be so he encountered Karl first and alone - he's one of the two best Willpower PC's. The two worst Wilpower PC's are trying to avoid getting close to Karl.
The odds that precocious and very lucky Karl won't manage to say hi to them at some point (particularly if they end up on a boat together) are very slim, that's the sort of thing I will do as GM to maximize odds of everyone having to check against his Compelling Aura. However, unlike official adventure, I'm not making sure any particular number pass/fail. I think "being a Karlist" would be fun for them for a bit but we'll let play decide.
73rd Advance, all heroes present.
Confirmed for record there is no rank over 5 regardless of advances (e.g., for effects that state rank is used for some purpose).
Father Erich was in the thick of the fight, as a good Sigmarite. He comes into this session with the number of wounds the the other heroes have start of it (7). . One critical was gained so he can have an advance if he takes a 1 in 3 chance of getting a random critical (good news, one of the only two Severity 5's is out).
Other heroes do not know these details until they reconnect: Father Erich did not see Father Helmut fall but the aging priest of Sigmar's long service has come to an end, whether it was beastman or Middenlander unclear (it was an agent of Tobias'). Sir Wilhelm fought his brother Sir Arnolt – Wilhelm suffered severe wounds (worst Crit 3) but Arnolt was slain (random draw higher severity meant slain). Sir Wilhelm was taken captive by Middenland forces as were four other “crusade” knights who lived.
The Howling Wolf of Ulric, Priest Wolfgang Kurtz lives and would have lead a slaughter of all the "Sigmarite heretic followers of the Witch Child" if the Battle Wizard of Bright College and knights of Middenland had not made clear he was going too far.
Of the 270 or so Crusaders who came to fight beastmen, about thirty are left alive. They search the field vainly for Karl but do not find him. He was at the standard, helping Sister Helena tend the injured and then he was gone along with Sister Helena. Some say there was flash of bright light. There is no trace of either. One witness, a Marienburger of the Fist (dockworker) says he saw a Wizard and gives a decent enough description of a Wizard of Light. Klemens Greier (there's a reason Hans doesn't like him!) has of course met all the heroes before and saw them this time and he says, "Hans Junkers, the Magister of Light who travels with you Father Erich!" It is assumed Karl has been spirited away to safety, likely back at the camp and everyone is relieved - let's get back there. However, by this time Father Erich has left them already.
(I randomly rolled how many people saw Hans and then that many d10's, as about 1 in 10 of the crusade lived, on a 1 a witness lived, there was one 1)
It is the afternoon of the 31st. Father Erich has left the crusade survivors - before connections were made between Karl's disappearance in flash of light and his colleague Magister Hans. He is walking back the trail south, hoping to find his comrades.
Meanwhile, Hans has again left Sister Helena, Karl and Berthold to confer with Anselm and Findulas. Karl, being the curious and lucky lad he is, slips away to see where Hans keeps going. Only Hans spots him drawing near and he calls out asking what Karl is doing.
I call this the "Curious Karl" effect, Karl just likes to get out and pop up places, exploring.
Karl innocently reveals his curiousity, and "Is that an Elf? I have always wanted to meet an elf!", coming on even faster. Findulas momentarily gauges the range for a shot before deciding, "I'm a elf, what's to worry". Anselm however hastily retreats from the advancing nine-year old (causing Hans to mutter more about his courage).
Findulas also finds Karl compelling but a bit less so (2 challenge dice, though something still wants him to fail and a Corruption point is spent). He avoids falling under Karl's sway but suffers so much stress he nearly passes out and gains Dry Heaves as a temporary insanity (which he recovers from when next resting).
No one is putting together the fact that elves want Karl and he affects humans more than elves etc.
Father Erich makes better time than the heroes with child and one-legged wounded man, catching up with his comrades.
He decides to meet Karl, after all Hans and Findulas have and seem themselves, and figuring out about Karl was his mission. With a minor Blessing he faces the heroic 5 challenge die + corruption point challenge die check, plus a couple of misfortune dice for perceiving just how truly Karl is a fine boy, best he could be. He barely makes it (the blessing of Sigmar perhaps the telling point).
So the toughest check keeps getting passed, to gives some sense of how far we are off the original - not an issue/problem just a note - in the original the text suggests fudging to 'make sure at least one character passes', on assumption most will fail.
Heroes debate courses of action. Getting Karl to Altdorf quickly and not giving him to the elves is favoured (Findulas's views being different). Though Otto's fate concerns others, they feel they cannot risk Karl by trying to contact the elves who would want him.
This leads to division of party and is one place you "bob and weave" from the expected course that one way or another I expected would have seen rendezvousing with elves to get Otto and get caught up in their fate - below (a variant of the original adventure's dead of night encounter). They would have fought to "keep the elf option open at all". Ah, it's not an option now. Alas for Coriael's certainty humans would realize they could not raise him successfully and who knew more of Karl than anyone left living (who's sister's knife still lies in a ruin the cursed marsh, a token that would have softened her heart to whoever returned it to her and might even, if it was an elf, lead to to share some of what she knew). Great warriors they were but even the best swimmer can drown in the sea if waves keep coming- fatigue can drop you before wounds, and if a powerful force keeps appearing to cut off retreat and plans to fight free and outrun the zombies then all is lost.
They reach the Crusade camp, which has not received news of the battle yet, and recover their horses - Father Erich going to get them, while Anselm goes to speak with his Strigany relations about Otto. The others remain out of sight with Karl, who Sister Helena is helping to keep amused and convinced of necessity of this 'game'.
The Strigany realize it was Otto who was taken once Anselm tells them events at the battle and are worried for him. Anselm decides to stay while the other heroes leave. He expects the elves may try to meet them near the Crusade once they realize they don't have Karl and he can try to ensure Otto is returned by being there to meet them.
The others leave and head south to Schienfeld. Snow begins falling and they must camp overnight but Father Erich's nature lore finds them a good camp.
I admit I totally botched something here. I was supposed to have them encounter various wandering searchers, middenlanders for the witch child, crusaders for missing Karl. I forgot. In the narrative, the snowstorm rolled up on "Its Snow Fun" weather chart, which added challenge die to their Ride check to get to Schienfed explained not one else about.
Anselm waits till the sun has set, at the edge of woods but there is no sign of the elves. He returns to the Strigany camp, which is more sombre than usual. There an exchange between his Uncle Helwig, Otto's father and Grandmother Lucinda but he does not notice it (fails check)
What he did not hear:
Helwig - “Mother what have you done?”
Lucinda - “I have failed one grandson, I will not fail the other. Otto lives, this know. He will not harm Otto. He will destroy those who took him as a whirlwind – he has fed these past weeks and has Ushoran’s own strength – none can oppose him and live.”
Helwig - “But you have deceived him – Vishnadd will be demanded.” (justice/revenge)
Lucinda - “I will speak it myself when he comes. This is my last winter, I have known it since the frost came. Otto may live to see many. It is a fair bargain. Leave me, I am of this clan no more - I will answer to him alone. Tell your wife to ready to see her son again soon.”
He does notice his Grandmother hobbling off into the woods, as the snow falls, the other members of the clan with their backs turned to her. Unsure of what is happening he hurries after her to ask if she is all right.
She thanks him and says he is a good boy but it is all right, it is her time. He asks again about helping her but she tells him he must go back, she must face what comes alone.
Unsure what is happening but suspecting it is something he would rather not know involving vampires (having heard the rumours of Strigany connections) he returns to the camp.
The player thought Lucinda went to become a vampire and get back Otto from whoever took him, actually she tricked Malfi - the clan's Strigoi overlord into thinking it really was Karl taken (lies of ommission) so he would track down the intruders. Otto is Strigany and in keeping with the ancient laws of Strigos, Malfi will not harm him. However, by those same laws Lucinda has betrayed Malfi by misleading him and her life is forfeit. She is knowingly making this bargin.
The next day is the 32nd.
At the Crusade camp, battle survivors return and Anselm does get contacted by Lorinoc. The Arhain Sec realize they don't have Karl but are concerned because they boy they have knows they are elves. They can't just let him go though they don't like the alternative. Anselm persuades Lorinoc that he can convince his cousin to keep quiet. Lorinoc says they will return that evening with Otto. (2 challenge die charm check).
In Schienfeld, Karl is put inside a cloak in hopes if he is not seen his aura will not attract a following. Sister Helena again convinces him it is a game, a secret to keep, and he nods eagerly and goes along with the fun.
Intriguingly, Hans' player has yet to actually use magical sight to look at the aura and figure anything out about it.
Father Erich goes to the docks to find a ship and what does he see but two ladies he recognizes: Baroness Wandelina von Stauffer and Lady Therese von Sydow. They were aboard one of the sailing vessels that carries von Sydow goods, heading to Altdorf to rendezvous the the Crusade, stopping over here when they heard that the Crusade was nearby.
I had planned this well in advance, when I expected heroes would still be with crusade and taking long route to Altdorf with it. Instead they are looking for a ship, and who is there with one but the Pious Lady Father Erich met in Marienberg.
Lady von Sydow has been productive in the two days they've been here, learning a Sigmarite priest was being detained on ridiculous charges she obtained the release of Father Johannes (groans from players).
They retire to the inn where the two are staying, a snug, to talk and Father Erich reveals Eldred's death to Lady Wandelina who is saddened but not completely surprised, it was what she feared since he joined these madmen. She is interested in recovering his body for proper burial and goes to set that in motion. She does want to speak to Hans later. (This does not happen, Hans does not learn such things as the fact Fauligmere will now pass to his hated older half-brother).
Berthold is put up in a local inn to recover, his way paid for a couple of weeks.
Father Eric reveals to Lady Therese that Karl is with them and tells her some of what they know of his nature (not revealing his history from the cursed marshes) but saying their are wood elves that want to take him away and raise him. Lady Therese finds that alarming and disgusting (elves stealing human children - whoever heard of such a thing!)
That is of course the Arhain Sec's regular job throughout Bretonnia whenever children with magical aptitude are found, when not hunting down a very special one of those vampires tried to make off with years earlier….
Lady Therese proposes she have her people lay in supplies sufficient that her ship, the Maria Borger, can sail straight through the 7 days or so to Altdorf - leaving tomorrow morning (actually making some plans….). She wants to meet Karl and the heroes reluctantly agree. She is impressed with him, "you have a great future Karl, a great future". They roll eyes.
For a party, especially Hans who like to Insight every NPC they meet and Magical Sight everything, they have given her a complete pass till now. That updated 2nd edition "Aethyric Cypher" ability I gave her not even being tested. Defy the dawn has been handy. Though I am fair in using these houserules from deaths dark masters - she's not a 'combat monster' so to speak.
Meanwhile that evening, Anselm is again in the woods waiting for the Arhain Sec to bring Otto. Instead he hears a commotion off deeper into the woods. He goes to investigate, worried what he is walking into, and finds there are undead zombies moving through the woods towards the commotion - the sound of fighting. The zombies ignore him but there are also ghouls that are more alert however he hides from them and goes back to warn his kin of the undead teaming in the woods.
Being vampire hunter helped with Fear check.
Helwig and his wife Suri ask where the undead were heading, and hearing it was deeeper into woods nod. Helwig does not think they are in danger and Suri, who has been worried sick about Otto, seems strangely cheered.
And indeed, by the next morning Otto has been returned. The Strigany are grateful and light a candle in Lucinda's memory.
The next day, the 33rd, Anselm rides to Schienfeld where he gets a note left by his comrades telling him they left that morning aboard the Maria Borger.
Anselm buys passage on a sailing vessel that is not going direct without stops and will probably take about 3 days longer (though initially it's only 1 day behind) in reaching Altorf.
The 33rd passes and is followed by Hexenstag, Witching Day.
Then comes Hexensnacht, Witching Night, which finds all the heroes on the river.
As they sleep in their cabins, most aboard the Maria Borger and Anselm in another ship following after, on this night when the veils between worlds of living and dead grow thin as Morrslieb and Mansslieb both appear in the sky, and the undead are quickened, daemons are more stable in the mortal realm and creatures of chaos feel their blood rise, the heroes have strange visions and several are visited by "their dead".
Anselm's mother visits him one last time, she can now move on to Morr's realm that he has come into his own but she warns him that those who spoiled the happiness of she and his father and his childhood (the Lahmia but she does not name them) are not down with him yet and will ever plague their people. Grandmother Lucinda also visits him (revealing she's dead now not undead, head in hands as Malfi decapitated her.
Hans is visited by Eldred who admonishes him to look out for Karl, future of the Empire. Also by his cousin Krin, a terrifying vision of Krijn crying tears of blood as he burns (his mutation and reason he was ultimately executed by Jade college Hans recommended he try to join), He blames Hans his "false cousin" and this is a Terrifying (3 challenge) check..
Finduals is visited by a dead Lorinoc and Coriael (removing doubt about their status) who warn him humans can't keep Karl.
Everyone has visions of different futures based on "which way Karl goes" from daemonic psyco loved by his victims, reason vampires romp in sun, reason Athel Loren burns or reason empires armies are strong and united against beastman and chaos hordes (3 bad and 1 good future)
The heroes are awakened from their fitful and often stressful slumbers by intruders entering their various cabins - vampires!
(Undead on Hexensnacht, who would have imagined, and on a ship called the Maria Borger - I had showed the players the hardback "death on the reik" - just the cover title - as they boarded ship…..).
So fun to play out but kept me on toes as they split party and did things unexpected, delivering Karl to the Maria Borger…
Will be pondering how to remix the original adventure's plots lines and scenes (many of which I like) given where we are now.
They kept making those damned compelling aura checks!
deleted duplicate post
74th advance, all players present though heroes not together.
Anselm's player controlled Sister Helena for this session having "most of her cards" (not all, that would be revealing too much…)
Death on the Reik
Anselm had purchased passage on the Saucy Wench, a ship named to his liking. However a day or two up the Reik he realized two well-armed men were watching him. He managed to get off the ship without them realizing and ended up paying for passage again on a different one, the less entertaining Hermit's Delight.
On Hexensnacht, he was visited by the spirit of Grandmother Lucinda, who looked as if she had been savaged and decapitated (2 stress) as she told him again he was a good boy and gave him advice (something about stopping a wedding…. [foreshadowing the coming events]).
Meanwhile, aboard the Maria Borger….
Let us first flash back several days to when the heroes approached Lady Therese in Schienfeld…
During the delay that Lady Therese’s helpful suggestion involved (another night in port), she prepared her ambush by taking on some “special cargo”. Looking forward to Hexensnacht in only two days, she knew this would be the time to separate Karl from these useful fools.
Though originally sent to Marienberg aboard a fast ship that arrived before heroes, even though she left Altdorf after them, to take revenge on these meddlers who tampered with the Lahmia games involving Graf Steirlich von Bruner, she decided to make them tools of the Lahmia when the prized child was revealed.
Her pose of pious Sigmarite has payed off beyond her wildest dreams (if vampires did dream, they dare not of course for that is Morr’s realm). Father Erich has delivered the child to her wrapped up in a bow!
The night of Hexensnacht is too opportune a time for a vampire to pass up. She has been fortunate the heroes have not suspected her, using her Defy the Dawn ability to be seen in daylight for brief periods always helps avoid suspicion about her nature. So few know more than peasant gossip about vampires (or make the necessary Education or Folklore checks to know more….).
Still, she presses her luck as each day passes and now is the time to strike. While heroes fitfully dreamed, she set her plans in motion releasing vampiric thralls from their “cargo boxes” and entering Karl’s cabin through the secret door (having placed him in one adjoining hers). As an undead, his compelling aura has no affect upon her of course.
She attempts to convince the Karl that he should come with her, there is something special to see in the night sky – (2 successes, Comet, Chaos star). He comes with her not suspecting anything amiss (curious Karl you know), however, they make some noise and Sister Helena is disturbed in her rest (that Chaos star that any dice pool against Karl gets). She was dreaming, well let us skip what she was dreaming. She comes to her door to open it, to see what she heard, and of course opens it to the thrall - her screaming may warn the heroes.
The scream gives everyone a chance to "wake fully" as their rooms are entered (1 to each room, meaning Sister Helena and Findulas who are alone in cabins @ face one thrall and Hans and Father Erich who are sharing a cabin face one). However, only Hans passes the Easy Observation (eavesdropping - which is hearing) check, meaning that Father Erich and Findulas do not act in the first round as they are groggy and Findulas suffers a free attack as claws rake him in his bed (Double Attack action by vampire thrall).
Sister Helena causes the vampire to doubt itself, which causes it to hesitate to marr that fair neck with its fangs. Hans glows bright and holds back the thrall in doorway so Father Erich can put on armour. Findulas snatches his assassin's blade from under his pillow and surprise attacks the vampire looming over him - stabbing it in the knee.
From above Karl is heard crying out "help me Sister Astrid". A riple of fortune passes over heroes giving each 2 fortune dice on their first action but Sister Helena gets 4 (for some reason). She dodges past the thrall into the passage and races to the deck (perform stunt). Hans does wonder "who is Sister Astrid" (the heroes did of course hear of a Sister Astrid von Nimlshein in Marienburg, one who interviewed Karl and gave him a clean bill of health before having to flee city for her dangerous ideas about mercy for mutants… but they don't appear to remember).
- other heroes continue fighting the thralls, which are falling to their blows and spells -
On deck she sees Lady Therese looking deadly and pale with fangs showing (Fear 3) and the crew of boat and the Lady's Tilean duelest bodyguard between them. Karl has been gagged and restrained by the Lady's handmaids [they did that last round when he called out, the luck ripple being the chaos star on that action against him - every dice pool rolled against Karl gets an auto chaos star as part of his 'luck'].
The crew seize Sister Helena and throw her overboard into the icy waters of the Reik where she is Freezing (condition) - though not before she sees space warp around Lady Therese and Karl as he vanishes. She is thrown into the "Reik side" of the ship (on one side shore is Medium distance, on the other Long - that's the Reik side). Hans comes on deck and finds himself transported by warping space into the Reik, even further than Sister Helena was tossed (medium range from ship) by Lady Therese's magics, though not before she mocks him saying she never expected to be made a gift of Karl.
And neither she nor I did, she was supposed to pass by as heroes went with Karl on the Crusade's path to Altdorf - but things worked out differently. That a vampire was a patroness was in the original adventure from start. The teleport spell is Translocation from Dreadfleet POD - difficult to cast but not opposed and no "save" etc. just moves target 2 ranges - and it did come in the "naval pod" so moving someone "overboard" appears a legitimate use of it.
Father Erich comes up and grabs a cable from the sail, swinging over the interposing crew to reach Lady Therese and attack her (perform stun as manouevre). Swirling dark magics (Black Fires of Arnizapal) and her unearthly speed make her hard to attack but he smites her nonetheless.
He is then subjected to the same warping effect and finds himself plunked into the Reik. Hans has managed to swim back to the ship and climbs aboard but the cold water has nearly caused him to pass out. He climbs up seeking to avoid notice (and does) casting a spell to help himself but evokes a Chaos Star (and an extra one because it's Hexensnacht) - the miscast very appropriately is a cold snap that makes all water nearby freeze (1 Fatigue is dealt by the miscast but the effect of water freezing is ruled as causing 1 more Fatigue to him since he's dripping wet just from the Reik).
Hans failed his cold dunk check in Reik for more Fatigue as well of course. Hans may well find he has the sniffles or worse tomorrow.
Sister Helena swam back to boat and climbed back to deck but rushed below (having used blessing to remove her Freezing condition).
Findulas comes on deck, Sister Helena having healed him of some of wounds he suffered facing vampire thrall. He fired a storm of arrows at Lady Therese and despite the sacrifice of three of her maid servants throwing themselves before arrows (2 soak each essentially for her) she falls under the barrage of mostly silver arrows.
Findulas retreats below deck but is pursued by the Lady's vengeful duelist who stabs him with a dueling move, and a sailor who comes down to join the fight and cuts Findulas with a boat hook (3 in an engagement is about what the space allows belowdeck). Lady Therese having fallen does not seem to diminish the "fight" in her servants at all.
Father Erich, in the icy water, manages only not to be swept off by the current that round (don't know if the Resilience check against cold was made, by the way armour soak value adds misfortune dice to swimming checks).
We break with Hans at exactly twice Tougness Fatigue (one from falling unconscious) concealed in the prow, Father Erich swimming at Medium distance from the ship in the icy waters of the Reik, Findulas and Sister Helena below deck facing duelist and sailor, three other sailors on the deck above.
Karl nowhere in sight…. (heroes have not 'tweaked to fact' they were moved medium range out into river and in the other direction shore is medium range……one way or another I'm prying Karl out of their hands, and Lady Therese has another action card from that POD that means we may not have seen the last of her…….)
75th advance, all players present though Sister Helena continues to be played until Anselm rejoins others near end of session.
The blurry image resolves once again to show the heroes separated, Hans on deck (and not concealed after all since he still glows with a light so bright it makes it hard to hit him), Findulas with Sister Helena below and Father Erich in the cold waters of the Reik.
Lady Therese’s duelist bodyguard makes a dramatic flourish that distracts Findulas from the following strike that nearly fells him (would have if advance not spent at start of session on improving wound threshold), and the boatman alongside him then backhands Findulas with his boathook, felling him and leaving him ‘spitting teeth’ (wounds go over threshold, critical suffered - player remarks the extra wounds from spitting teeth critical makes it worse than any but those permanent wounds).
Sister Helena is now alone with foes below and she takes advantage of their gloating at Findulas to squeak by them and race back to deck (perform stunt). Meanwhile, on deck boatmen had attacked Hans but not injured him while one of their number mourned their mistress, “felled by that foul forest fiend” and swore it would not be so, slashing his own throat as he falls over her body….
And Lady Therese rises! Only Hans sees, a fear 2 check for him, he passes. Hans is nearly dead on his feat though (his Fatigue near to dropping him) and he Assesses the Situation to regain some just before space warps and he is dunked back into the Reik (last recharge token on her Translocation spell).
She has the half dead action also from Dreadfleet POD - have to say many trash this pod but as a GM it's the best one yet, bwah hah hah. The sacrificing minion was just fluff I added for dramatic effect. I was going to wear my Monty Python, “Not Dead Yet” t-shirt for tonight’s game but decided that would have given it away.
Father Erich tries to swim back to the ship but the current carries him further away instead (1 additional manouever’s worth of swimming to get back).
Hans invokes Berona’s time warp and the heroes are able to act ahead of Lady Therese and her minions. Father Erich is inspired to a Herculean success with his swimming and makes it back to the ship, tiring himself to race up the anchor chain and engage Lady Therese and bring down the Hammer of God on her (spending fatigue and all tricks pulled out, fortune dice for expertise dice per warrior priest ability etc.) but misses her! Ah, what foul luck aides the undead on Hexensnacht. Hans fails to swim any closer to the ship.
Lady Therese steps back from the warrior priest (who is not wounded and in pretty good shape overall) and composes herself (flip from reckless to conservative) to cast Translocation again, this time the conservative version for transporting self. Were it not for Hexensnacht’s fickle winds she would have cast so well as to also be able to transport foes (though on the conservative side as an opposed check), so she is content with transporting herself and vanishes. (having gone to the bank where Karl was sent)
Sister Helena throws a rope to Hans and helps pull him aboard as Father Erich shows the duelist that hammer-wielders have their own moves and leaves his ribs staved into his chest and expiring on the deck. The heroes overcome the remaining three boatmen easily and have prisoners.
In the final mopping up moments, Father Erich heard the sound of reins snapping and horses from the darkness of the river bank as some conveyance gets underway….
The episode ends. Findulas was down 9 wounds over threshold but a combination of efforts revives him to consciousness.
The ship is searched and aside from its trade cargo and Lady Therese’s wardrobe, heroes find a copy of “the Life of Sigmar”, well worn and annotated in places (in Lady Therese’s hand it seems) and a casket of financial papers about the winding up of von Sydow interests in Marienburg. Father Erich takes the first and later spends time reading it to discover it is a valuable 500-year old 1st Edition of the well-known book (first published in 2005, 200 years before the Great War Against Chaos). The casket of papers is left (no one mentioned taking them and Father Erich specifically said they were likely too bulky to carry).
The boatmen are interrogated. Father Erich fails to intimidate them but Hans is more imaginative and lurid in his threats and though they are unfailingly loyal to their mistress they let slip that they were bound for Altdorf but that the Scion (oh no, did we call him that in your hearing, curses –boons on the roll) was to “go on to points beyond”.
The heroes manage to guide the ship to running aground on the same bank they believe Lady Therese teleported Karl and then herself (the north bank).
After executing the boatmen as in league with the undead (though spending more time talking about it than most Sigmarites, College mages or wood elves would have), the heroes continue on to the spot in the snow where any eye can see a wheeled vehicle and horses have been and gone off up river. Keen tracking skill realizes it’s a coach with six horses and as the trail is followed that it’s moving fast even for a carriage with a team of six. Findulas had spotted lights not far ahead and the heroes find a small walled river-side village.
Alas, on Hexensnacht in particular the gate guard is not prone to open to night-time travellers. The heroes want to buy horses to pursue Lady Therese and offer the goods on the beached ship which is attractive, but the gate guard (Father Erich fails Diplomacy) says that “it will have to wait till morning and Hexensnacht’s end, if you are still men when the sun shines on you we will talk then”.
The heroes realize this villages is the place were a road now runs to Altdorf and overland travel by coach or horse is more practical. Lady Therese appear to have had a back up plan (you don't last centuries without always having a plan B).
On New Years’ Day the heroes take villagers to the ship – where they find that another river boat has come across it and a dispute over claim to the goods erupts, till Father Erich and his hammer make clear the heroes' (and thus villagers’) claim.
There is a (happy?) reunion with Anselm for this is the Sober Hermit that he was on. Anselm manages to find Lady Therese’ duelists’ superior quality rapier that had been left with the corpse.
The heroes obtain horses (at Hans’ urging, Anselm uses his Animal Handling to make sure they are not getting nags) for themselves and Sister Helena and ride on for Altdorf - with the ship's cargo as payment (the villagers are up about 20 crowns on the deal).
Two other things happened during the time that passed after the fight aboard ship but before the heroes ride on.
Hans found time, with Findulas, to talk to Sister Helena (while Father Erich and Anselm were dealing with the ship cargo issue) and ask her about “who is Sister Astrid”? Sister Helena admits that her real name is Astrid von Nimlshein and she was forced to flee Marienburg after her views of mercy for mutants and the hope of Shallya’s cure for them someday made her unpopular. She believes that Karl will be able to cure mutants when he comes of age for she has seen a vision of Shallya’s Mercy curing mutation and believes he is its fulfillment.
Hans is using insight to judge her veracity and sees both that she is being honest and that when she speaks of the vision there is indeed a transcendental quality to her (whatever the vision was it was more than too much sacramental wine). He also realizes that Astrid von Nimlshein was the Shallyan who gave Karl a “clean bill of health” in Marienburg when Abess Maida Widdman asked the Shallyan temple for aide concerning the “strange child”.
(So the mutant loving shallyan was the one who said karl is fine …)
Secondly, Father Erich found time to scan the annotations in the Life of Sigmar.
This is the Life of Sigmar by Matthias Ralfmann. First edition, published 200 years before the Great War against Chaos (2005 to be exact, during the dark time when the Empire was divided).
A book with many detailed woodcuts telling the story of Sigmar from birth, through his great battles and accomplishments, to his last journey alone to the Tree of Hope and his ascension. It is a marvelous text for any literate Sigmarite and studying it before resting adds 1 stress to overnight stress recovery and is also worth 15 gold crowns. It has marginal notes, particularly near end when he defeats the invading forces of Nagash and slays the Great Necromancer in his last great battle.
The last section is “Sigmar at the Tree of Hope” – and handwritten note says, “Could Ralfmann have seen Lanfranchi’s triptych? He studied once at Siegfriedhof.”
Father Erich relates this information to his comrades and Hans tries to recall his education included anything about Lanfranchi’s triptych.
A great success on Challenging roll means he does recognize the reference to the 15th Century (eg.., 1100 years ago) Tilean nobleman, crusader, artist, mystic and engineer Giovanni Lanfranchi (oh those Tileans and their all-around excel at everything style, must be a word for that… we’re just not at that time period quite yet….). He recalls that Lanfranchi was a crusader in the invasion of Araby, that he founded a vampire-hunting order of some sort, the Priory of the Spear which established a branch on the borders of Sylvania at the town of Siegfriedhof . The triptych is a lost work of art, its three panels showing different mortals’ ascension to divinity (a tricky subject in Empire, in Tilea some say Myrmidia and Ranald ascended but in the Empire only Sigmar is believed to have ascended).
The heroes have some premonition their pursuit of Karl's kidnappers may take them far across the empire to that borders of that ominous county, Sylvania…..
But in the meantime, they still have days of winter travel to reach Altdorf and who knows if they can overtake the coach that is ahead of them.
76th advance, all present
The heroes ride on to Altdorf , alongside the cold waters of the Reik. Morrslieb does not fade after Hexensnacht but glows more powerfully with a grinning menace that seems to peer into the soul of any who meet its gaze (if carrying no corruption, on a chaos star make corruption check for meeting Morrslieb’s gaze – two heroes must check by time Altdorf met but Father Erich and Magister Hans resist).
- I have a strange eons-made deck of "morrsliebs" to randomly determine what the effect of a particular appearance of the chaos moon means
A snowstorm hits and rather than risk the difficulty of travel in it, and chance of mishap, they wait it out for three days, in a snug camp Father Erich oversaw creating. Findulas heals from his severe wound. When weather clears, heroes ride on though to Altdorf arriving on Nachexen 8th.
They find the city in a manic state with riots breaking out and demagogues all about (more than usual), Luther Huss is in town preaching against corruption in Sigmar’s Faith and daring his opponents to bring him to trial (it is the corrupt hierarchy that shall be on trial!!!). Decadent behaviour, creative satires and other phenomena are increasing and some say it is like unto the last days of Mordheim. A vigilante (The Vengeance of Sigmar) is killing mutants and cultists no one else suspected (or at least that's what the notes on the bodies say when people no one thought were cultists or mutants show up dead).
The heroes, at Father Erich’s urging, make straight for the von Sydow estate when they arrive (easy Folklore to find it in the refined Obereik District). There is smoke coming from chimneys but no one answers the front or back doors to the mansion. Findulas deftly opens the lock on the back door and the heroes enter the quiet, but illuminated, mansion. Coming into the main hall they find a still warm corpse, a servant with broken neck it seems.
Anselm and Senor Bitey go to fetch the watch. Findulas listens and in the otherwise stillness makes out a cry of pain from somewhere above. The heroes (minus Anselm) race up the stairs, being drawn up to the third floor and making out the cries more clearly as they do, someone crying in pain and saying, “please stop, I don’t know where she is, really”. Has a witch hunter beaten them here?
Ah folks are truly getting into the vibe of the Old World when they hear someone crying in pain and pleading for the questions to stop and instead of criminals, cultists or vampires they first suspect witch hunters.
Coming into a study on the top floor they find two servants being held by well-armed bravos who are working them over (a total of six bravos, a henchman gang of 4 and 2 individual ones it turns out) under the supervision of beautiful woman, oh oh, a beautiful woman who snarls at them as they enter showing her fangs! Fear Check! (and we just sent the vampire hunter away…)
A melee ensues, the vampiress ordering one of the bravos to “take the papers to Theodora”. She fails to influence Father Erich with her Beguiling countenance (or 'wardrobe malfunction' action as one player calls it).
The heroes overcome their opposition – the vampiress’ corpse blackening as if burned as she falls under silver arrows and spells - though Findulas takes two critical wounds and Hans almost passes out from fatigue loss being beaten upon by thugs whose talent is subduing prey “alive”….. One bravo did run through curtains and it turns out onto a balcony to jump onto a nearby roof and try to get away. Father Erich managed to shoot him with a crossbow bolt just before he passed over the peak of a roof (stapling shot).
By the time Anselm returns with watch, the heroes have obtained the papers that were being taken away and have a prisoner from among the bravos. They question the servants who don’t know where Lady Theresa is, she left suddenly for Marienburg a few weeks ago. The vampiress, Sophia she was called by her servants, was angry she had not returned, having been expected to return with a child.
Two of the servants had been killed already in questioning for what they knew about Lady Theresa’s whereabouts. Deiter, the surviving bravo, is tricked by Anselm into talking and though he reveals nothing of his mistress curses the traitorous Theresa for failing to deliver the child as expected, also revealing she was being watched for everywhere she might have come to Altdorf and not seen.
The Watch takes control of situation and is told about Lady Theresa – the scene they arrive to making it more believable. They will advise Lady Theresa’s brother-in-law Augustin von Sydow (who has been making all sorts of accusations against the widow, though not vampirism) and exhume her deceased husband to make sure he’s “truly dead”.
At Findulas’ urging the surviving servants will be put to the question for what they know about their vampiric mistress (so their rescue definitely is a good news/bad news story from their perspective…). To avoid legal arguments about putting the servants to the question, the watch commander asks Father Erich to swear to a statement later today or tomorrow at the watch station, he give the Watch some holy water “just in case”.
This all happened in late afternoon of the 8th.
The papers recovered:
- a letter
- a religious treatise about mortals ascending to divinity (a Sigmarite text disputing claims anyone but Sigmar has done so) with annotations in Lady Therese's hand again.
Sister of the Wood,
Eldest sister perceives movement among the Tilean Count’s creatures. They may have found the missing Scion. Be ready to act and we may see the Time of a Thousand Thrones established before the Ruinous Powers call down the Storm of Chaos upon this land and transform our herds into foul-tasting things of Chaos. The 31st of Jahrdrung of this coming year will be most auspicious if it can be arranged- for the Witchling Star shall shine upon this night and make the ritual most effective.
Your Sister Acolyte, Lydia von C.
Annotations in text (next to text about Sigmar's ascension):
Sigmar was Champion of Light before becoming a god – what connection? What is the Champion?
Visit the Myrmidian temple in Wurtbad - Myrmidia panel of Lanfranchi’s triptych was basis for the vault’s mosaic.
The heroes note Therese has an interest in this sort of thing.
The heroes also picked some nice maps from Lady Therese’s chambers, including one of Sylvania ….
That evening Magister Hans visits his mentor in the College of Light , Ebbe Strazfurd to report and also pursue his personal inquires. Ebbe is happy to see him and receive his report. Hans tells Ebbe about the Crusade and heroes’ activities and asks if Ebbe knows anyone who would know about some of these vampiric matters. Ebbe recalls that Wizard Lord Konrad Messner has a friend, he has to pause but the name comes to him, a retired vampire hunter named Theodora Pferig.
* The heroes seem reluctant to search out a vampire hunter named Theodora, having heard the name in the fight at von Sydow mansion though of course there are lots of Theodora’s in the Empire, what odds the Theodora the vampire ordered papers taken to is the same retired vampire hunter Theodora …
They are different people it is just a coincidence. One is vampire from 1000 thrones and one is from Spires of Altdorf which I am using for some characters.
Ebbe gets an update on Hans progress putting his studies into practice (when Hans suddenly “learns” a new spell [takes new spell action] it means he has gained enough understanding of magic to work spells he has studied previously, they’re not ‘coming from nowhere’ – it’s sorcerers getting aid from Ruinous Powers who just “get spells out of the blue”). Hans realizes that Ebbe is puzzled about one spell Hans has mastered (Berona’s Time Warp) – because it was not in any of the texts Hans studied. Ebbe stops short of saying this and only Hans’ insight and intuition causes him to realize reason for the puzzlement Ebbe has – which also then puzzles Hans as he indeed cannot recall ever studying that spell before using it (2 stress).
Hans tells Ebbe of his continuing frustration trying to find his mother and discerns Ebbe is truly empathetic and saddened at Hans’s situation but is lying when he says he can’t think of anything to help find her. Consistent with the conversation Hans heard earlier, Ebbe knows more about Hans’ mother’s location than he is saying.
Hans makes it clear he doesn’t believe Ebbe and that he will have to seek aid and counsel elsewhere in the College in future, not believing Ebbe’s protests that anything Hans does not understand is something he must have trust is all for the best and for Hans own good (insight indicating Ebbe truly thinks it’s for the best but is a bit conflicted on whether it’s for Hans’ own good).
After he leaves, Hans realizes that when Ebbe verified his progress (he has just taken Wizard Lord career) Ebbe should have set in motion the formal convocation process to make his title and status official (as it stands Hans is mechanically a Wizard Lord but doesn’t have the formal recognition and status, also privileges in order, that come with the position, Wizard Lords being the top of the order under the Patriarch Vespasian Kant - who replaced Egrimm van Horstman when the latter was revealed to be a chaos sorcerer - the ones entitled to challenge to lead the order as Patriarch and the ones often charged with special duties and responsibilities – “department heads, VPs” sort of). Konrad Messner, the other part of the suspicious conversation Hans overheard before, is one of the handful of Wizard Lords.
Anselm looks about for garlic and other vampire hunting paraphernalia (to be resolved, he can make a Folklore check, just how useful the stuff he wants to be determines the challenge). This will likely take into the next day (9th).
Father Erich goes to the Temple of Sigmar and its library to seek information about the 1000 Thrones. He meets Holy Reverend Klara Roban (all the men are out dealing with riots and blaphemies etc., just as well for she is really who he needs to see) She is very knowledgeable about chaos threats and other menaces such as vampires. She tells Father Erich that the 1000 Thrones is part of what passes for religion among vampires, their mystic beliefs concerning events in the early part of their history and hopes of undoing the curses on them (which all their needs/weaknesses are in their view, curses from gods of ancient Nekhara the oldest known human civilization, destroyed by the Great Necromancer Nagash). Further research will require staying here the next day.
Other checks, 4 challenge die education etc. were made to piece together what acolytes and the wood etc. might mean among vampires (the letter) and Hans recollects (buidling on a previous very successful check) that although vampire bloodlines are fierce rivals there is a renegade group of Acolytes of the Wood that spans the usually very hostile Strigoi and Lahmia (its members traitors to both groups mainstream sides).
Note - Sigmarite temple libraries contain books about Imperial History (particularly battles), Political Philosophy (what would Sigmar do), Imperial Law and Dwarven Runes. Forbidden libraries (secure access) are used to safeguard tomes detailing the Empire's foes: Chaos, Necromancy, Greenskins, heresies against Sigmar and dangerous fallacies like intelligent ratmen. (all that mostly courtesy Liber Fanatica IV)
Findulas has yet to seek out Loel the Spellsinger, Queen Ariel’s eyes and ears, and sometimes voice, in Altdorf (who the heroes met and rescued in the Strange Winds). He wants to speak to someone from Athel Loren about the fate of the Arthain Sec.
76 advances, I am in awe (actually I am even more in awe of 76 sessions written up!). And your players seem to be on track and up to speed on a complicated plot-line; no stolen trousers, psychotic dwarves or disreputable cats. (Though, thinking about it, you do have a dog, and some of your players do favour rather extreme measures). Anyway, respect.