Hmm, I'm almost taking that as a challenge, how to work up scene of a psychotic dwarf bursting into room and making off with trousers….
The cats will appear at Siegfriedhof, where I plan to make Anselm's player work to keep Senor Bitey in line and not chasing the cats in every room. I've been mulling Siegfriedhof's cats given its connection to Lanfranchi and his to Nekharan ruins where doubtless the Nekharans must have had a "cat goddess" seeing as how they're pseudo-Egyptians.
More seriously, thanks. It's a fun system and setting encourages range of play from "getting into what it means to a College wizard" to recurring "not suitable for work" jests about all the "hammer love". From table chatter I suspect there will be a dwarf in group next campaign (mental stability to be determined).
I do enjoy "cheap tickets" as well.
77th advance, all present.
Findulas met with Loel the Spellsinger and relayed all (ALL) he knows about Karl’s history and the fate of the Arhain Sec. His (unopposed) Charm check to see how engaged and forthcoming she is fails to generate any benefits so he receives only casually helpful information (the heroes did save her life).
Loel tells him,
(a) she thinks the Archain Sec that Findulas met were all of the mysterious kith band that remained, meaning they are no more and if some danger they feared/created is loose it falls to others to deal with it;
(b) she is alarmed that this special child Karl was originally a Bretonnian child taken by the Asrai – if the Arhain Sec have been diverting some of the children to a different purpose (need I emphasize no other heroes were around for that exchange!) then what are they doing, is this connected with their special project some whispered about, “the Warriors of Destiny”;
(c) in answer to whether there are Asrai in the east where Findulas is heading she says no, though there was a colonial era (pre Asrai/Asur distinction) elf city in the Sylvania woods and the “woods may remember” (woods were elves have lived often remember them, Findulas may be able to hope for some favour in that sense).
Hans stays overnight at the College of Light (in the dormitories, not having personal quarters). Anselm goes to the von Bruner townhouse, accompanied by Father Erich and Findulas. It turns out the family head Lord Magistrate Heismann von Bruner himself is in town (famed chaos-smashing judge involved in bringing down Egrimm van Horstmann, relations’ paths crossed by party several times in Eye for an Eye and Horror at Hugeldal etc.).
Anselm thus has the chance to formally introduce himself as a newly-recognized von Bruner to the head of the family. Heismann is aware of him due to the filing of papers with Klopstock and Billreuth per Anselm’s father’s instructions (Graf Steirlich von Bruner).
Heismann is not inclined to treat a by-blow of Graf Steirlich’s well, aggravated by Anselm wearing von Aschaffenberg colours (jumped up new blood only 200 years noble, one of the Great War parvenus) and Anselm cheerfully filling in that his mother was a 'Strigany lady' (a pairing of words Lord Heismann repeats as if testing out how they sound together and finding them ill-fitting). Anselm’s companions (Sigmarite and elf) strike Heismann more favourably and his fight against undead and Chaos is positive – all told a 4 challenge die Diplomacy with boatload of misfortune dice and smattering of fortune to see how he gets on with the head of the family. Anselm gets a bare (single) success so is recognized as a von Bruner (3 days hospitality sort of thing) but receives no icing on the cake (no gifts, sinecures, helpful introductions etc. etc. - this rather than looting dungeons being the sort of way knick knacks are acquired)
The next day, 9th, Father Erich goes to the watch station and gives statement about what happened at von Sydow estate. He then goes to but fails to gain access to the Temple of Sigmar’s prohibited books section (poor roll demonstrating Piety which was required for access) so he and Hans instead go to the University district and seek out lore on the 1000 Thrones, Sylvania and such there. Both are successful, Hans particularly so, and they build on what they already know (without triggering any ‘research encounters’).
- The “inter-bloodline” vampire faction recalls the very early days of vampirism 17 centuries before the birth of Sigmar, in the land of Nekara. The progenitors of the five bloodlines were once the royal court of the city of Lahmia, Jewel of the Crystal Sea – its Queen Neferatem who later took the name Neferata (the Lahmia bloodline), her brother Ushoran (Strigoi), her husband the great warrior Vashanesh (thought destroyed with no bloodline but some suggest the von Carstein’s are in fact his bloodline), the commander of the Queen’s guard Abhorash (Blood Dragons), and the high priest W’soran (Necrarchs) who created the elixir that made the first vampire.
- This “Acolytes of the Wood” faction is associated with the Hungerwood on Sylvania’s western border (Siegfriedhof being close by).
- The vampiric prophecies of the 1000 Thrones speak of a way to lift the curses upon them and seize power through some union of their bloodlines. The exact means of this is disputed and different bloodlines and vampires have their own theories of how it can be brought to pass.
- All the best material about this ancient time and distant land comes from translations of materials called "The Zandri Scrolls", a trove of materials brought back by the Tilean merchant prince Giovanni Lanfranchi and housed at Siegfriedhof in Stirland, to which scholars often seek access. Translations of the materials are often uncertain.
The "research check" was whichever of Education or Observation the character has fewer ranks in since Ed. needed to understand texts and Obs. needed to spot them and spot references in them in the chaotic library system. I was ready with "research encounters" if they rolled chaos stars or banes - drawing from Liber Fanatica IV but they just rolled successes. I explained "this is where it gets more like Call of Cthulhu, library roll..
Findulas also obtained some more arrows, particularly a good supply of silver ones.
Hans seeks out Battle Wizard Otto Nerz, Imperial Battle Mage and inventor of the Luminark, to raise his concerns about his mentor in the College. At first Nerz thinks this is a practical joke by one of his Reiksguard comrades, admonishing Fritz that he can’t be dressing boys up as Hierophants, he could get the lad in trouble (Fritz denies involvement). Nerz apparently thinks Hans is too young (by a decade or more) to be a Wizard Lord.
Eventually Hans demonstrates sufficient knowledge of Spellcraft (passes 4D check to show he has that level of knowledge) that Nerz apologizes (still wondering, what were you, a child prodigy?) and takes him seriously. Nerz is not inclined to think badly of Strazfurd – he is more inclined to think Strazfurd has a good reason and there probably is an explanation etc., but says he will talk to him on Hans’ behalf.
I'm riffing off two things here, one part of the story and another game oddity. Hans is a very young Battle Wizard as in game time barely over a year has passed since starting play, that's the system. Hans started younger as an acolyte than I should have let him really. In the story, Hans really is a prodigy (getting spells in his mind from nowhere) for 'mysterious reasons'…..
Hans also learns that Nerz doesn’t think Hans’ original master, Walther, was chaos cultist – may have played his cards close to vest but not tainted (Nerz was in College during van Horstmann era, though mostly outside Altdorf with the army). Hans expects to leave Altdorf tomorrow on his urgent pursuit of vampires etc. so hopes this is settled when he returns.
Hans looks for healing draughts, going to Saskia at the apothecary and finds some, and even a Healing Salve that he buys for 2 gold crowns. Saskia is happy to see him, telling him about a dwarf witch hunter who was asking questions about him some weeks past, Gottri. She spoke well of him of course (not mentioning the mutant cousin).
The player rolled 3 successes on Folklore looking for healing draughts so in additional to 3 of them for sale I allowed him the chance to buy a Healing Salve, it being expensive but very nice item.
Hans and Father Erich track down this witch hunter through the Temple of Sigmar (a dwarf witch hunter being recognizable) - Gottri Hammerfist - and go to see him. Gottri is surprised but happy that Hans has come to him, being forthright that he suspects Hans and other Light wizards of corruption – Egrimm van Horstmann’s influence. He offers Hans “the comfy chair” as he casts aspersions on anyone taught by Master Chanter Elrisse (van Horstmann, Konrad Messner, Ebbe Strazfurd and by extension Hans).
Hans is bellicose in return and insults Gottri’s intelligence asking who has been badmouthing him (suspecting vampires or such) but Gottri sees that as the cultist wanting to silence witnesses and reacts badly – things almost come to blows (being bellicose with dwarf or witch hunter not liking to end peacefully).
However Father Erich steps in and calms Gottri , giving his personal testimony of Hans’ reliability. Gottri accepts Hans is probably not tainted. He wants to know what Hans thinks of others such as Ebbe Strazfurd and Messner… (Hans does not say anything bad of them).
The heroes get caught up in a bread riot (hoarding is raising prices which in turn is causing disquiet). Making their way through it they suffer fatigue and some even wounds (various checks) until they get free, finding themselves in an alley with eleven armed men (6 in front and 5 behind) who want to know “where the boy is”, suggesting the heroes make it easy on themselves.
Before it comes to blows, as appears imminent, Father Erich says they will tell what they know if these men say who wants to know. The leader of ruffians believes him (Father Erich does mean it, just doesn’t mean the ruffians will be walking away afterwards) and says it’s the “Count who wants to know, so you’ll talk if you know what’s good for you”. The heroes correctly recall this must be “the Tilean Count”, “Count Nunzio”, the crime boss whose agents and interests have cropped up at various times particularly in Anselm’s past.
The heroes have never linked the chaos cultists in the Crusade to the Tilean Count so don't know he's much more than a crime boss.
Father Erich tells how the boy has been taken by vampires, which the ruffians believe and their leader is consternated to hear. A fight now appears less likely as he waves his mean off. Before the ruffians depart, a meeting is requested with the Tilean. The heroes are told to expect to be contacted in Kemperbad (having relayed enough of their intended pursuit east that it’s clear they will pass through that town).
Father Erich makes a point of telling the ruffians to make sure the Count knows that a fight would have gone badly and that the heroes are not to be taken lightly. He is building towards something but Anselm only hears the Count’s men being warned to “go all out if you come for us” and interferes so much that Father Erich gives up on his intent (it was to be an effort to convince the Count that if he really doesn’t want the vampires to do whatever they are doing with Karl he would see the heroes as the best option).
Unlike some previous character friction that was all good fun, this was actually a bit of table tension. Father Erich's player was pissed that Anselm's player kept telling him to stop talking up the heroes' ability to the Count's men and wouldn't let him carry out his plan. I've tried to get them all to read Play Unsafe or some other "improv-based" - say yes to each other's ideas and build forward sort of playstyle guides in past but no one has ever taken me up on it.
The heroes ride out of Altdorf on Nachexen 10th and make the seven day ride to Kemperbad. The weather is cold (though not as cold as the relationship between Anselm and Father Erich, who is quite perturbed with Anselm's interference) but no storms or other hazards arise to slow travel. They stop over in coaching inns and so the ride is not too difficult (1D travel check, 1 misfortune for cold).
The heroes avoid one mishap that was arranged for them by the black coach that is now several days ahead (peasants who were going to trigger a log-pile collapsing and rolling into path of their horses, which would have required ride checks to avoid horses being crippled). Father Erich admonishes the peasants to avoid being tools of darkness but is merciful to them (doesn’t even break any legs).
Arriving in Kemperbad on the 17th, heroes are contacted by the Count’s agents and told to come to a particular tavern that night. Hans makes a 4D check to convince the Count’s agents that he, Father Erich and Findulas are worth an audience (Anselm does not wish to go, the check is harder for the # of characters coming – the Count apparently prefers more intimate tete-a-tetes it was 2D for one PC to see him +1 for each additional PC).
From the tavern they are lead to a warehouse, which they can tell holds numerous armed figures in shadows and on catwalks overhead, as they come forward into a pool of light where an ornate, heavy wooden chair has been set and in which sits a middle-aged olive skinned man, a bit portly (as most successful middle aged men are in the Old World), with a thin curled moustache, well dressed with a fine rapier at side – Count Nunzio the Tilean.
The Count hears of their mission and supports Karl being taken away from the vampires. It is clear he has his own interest in the boy, “a charming boy, who is friends with such a boy, what could they do”, and doesn’t seem too worried about keeping his own wits about him if meeting Karl. That their interests converge insofar as stopping the vampires’ plot is clear, “it’s after that things get complicated”.
The Count gives the heroes a small sealed casket which he admonishes them is to be used when they face the most dangerous vampire, and not before, – “throw this on them and they will not be able to use those tricks”. Hans asks if it is “dangerous” to the user and the Count responds if it is needed, there is already so much danger, using it is less dangerous than facing such a vampire with all its tricks.
The Count remarks on Anselm's absence (knowing his name) and the heroes indicate he feared to come. The Count plays down the need to fear him so, all these stories exaggerate so - though they do keep the riff raff in line. (It’s not clear if any but Anselm have heard the stories in question….)
The casket has an Enc of 2, and is well-sealed – it takes 2 manoeuvres to open up its latches. Heroes don't know though I think Hans suspects it contains Warpstone Powder and yes using it will trigger a nasty Corruption check. I use 2nd Edition Night's Dark Masters material and give more important Vampires "blood powers" to activate with Expertise dice - changing to mist etc., Warpstone is a bane to them and the powder would make these powers inaccessible. The vampire listed in the base 3rd edition rules is essentially "the boring lower tier vampire" in my campaign.
Hans reveals his personal interest: the Count is looking for his mother and her companion (as is Hans). The Count is puzzled about this until Hans reveals his mother is Ishild (von Kleinberk, von Stauffer) at which the Count nods and says that his mother’s companion took something of the Count’s. “You should not take things from people if you are not prepared to deal with the consequences. I do not take things unless I am prepared to deal with consequences.”
Hans doesn't know what was stolen. Ishild's lover is a priest of Ranald and stole the Count's daemonic 'contract list' which allows him to destroy offending parties who "signed up" - such as the investigators who infiltrated the cult to bring down van Horstmann - if the document falls into the count's hands he can take a long delayed revenge that would affect Hans - who in case readers haven't figured it out - isn't who he thinks he is, he is really one of those investigators "in deep cover" to protect him from the daemon.
The Count is more interested in Hans after this revelation and eyes him carefully. Hans in turn has his magic sight that notes (apart from fact some of the things pointed at him and companions from shadows are magical) that the Count looks to magic sight much the way a wizard would (someone who channels the winds of magic). Hans does not try to make any Magic Sight check to learn anything more. That could have been fun if he had.
The interview ends and we break.
Note – the heroes have not mentioned inquiries about where Sister Helena/Astrid stayed the night of the 8th, on the 9th, or travelling with them thereafter. As the heroes went about their business, Sister Helena, revealed on the journey to Atldorf to be the disgraced Sister Astrid von Nimlshein, has vanished. Where did she go, when did we last see her? Sometime just after the von Sydow mansion and not since. She has vanished away into the turmoil that is Altdorf at the best of times. Doubtless to pop up when it is interesting…
Anselm's player absent absent
Heroes depart Kemperbad and travel on to Wurtba on Nachhexen 27. It’s bitter cold and a bit fatiguing for some but otherwise uneventful trip. (randome weather roll, two players fail travel checks and incur fatigue)
The heroes reach Wurtbad, the provincial capital of Stirland, “wine capital of the empire” (yes, wine capital of a land of beer drinkers, make of that what you will).
They seek some comforts, paying 5 silver each for good lodging in the upper town with its high class eateries and clean white washed buildings. Hans seeks out some blood sausage, with Finulas in tow, and Father Erich goes to pay respects at local shrine of Sigmar (it’s a shrine not temple as Wurtbad favours Verena and Morr).
Each has an encounter:
- Father Erich meets Sigmarite zealots of the flagellant variety, beating themselves as they chant ‘Death to the Mutant, Burn the Heretic' and other Sigmarite core “words of action”. Father Erich gives them a few silver, which they thank him for – being pleased to see a priest. They ask him to join them in cleansing the local temple of Myrmidia with its heresy (Myrmidia having ascended, only Sigmar ascended!). He convinces them that is not the best use of their energy.
- Hans, and Findulas, meet a nobleman who also enjoys blood sausage, Valin von Plicticos who turns out to be an emigrant who left Sylvania (for his health) and a good source of information about that region and vampires. They end up relating something of their searches, Lady Therese etc., and though he has no personal knowledge of their targets he gives them some advice about how to recognize different vampire bloodlines (von Carstein’s by their egos and ‘over the top’ approach to everything, Lahmia by the pretty boy servants they like etc.). He explains that the towns in the north of Sylvania, along the River Stir, are fairly safe (as long as you don’t like moonlit strolls) but that as one goes south the territory is more and more in the sway of vampires and they are more blatant about it. Valin is amused to learn they are travelling with a “vampire hunter” (declaring that profession when entering Sylvania is asking for trouble).
(Both the above encounters could have turned to violence or other things but play took them otherwise. Valin "saw" in Hans the influence of the makers of Blood Sausage in Ubersreik - it has some very particular blood in it - and assumed he was an agent moving against the renegade Lydia)
- Father Erich also goes to the local temple of Verena and is allowed to search its library and records. It serves as repository of legal documents as well as other texts. He stays late into the night and finds references to a noblewoman Lydia who married Baron von Plictocos of Helfurt and was embroiled in a legal case claiming inheritances from Talabecland several years ago, losing the case when she declined to appear in person to dispute it.
- Hans and Findulas go to visit the local temple of Myrmidia. It’s been messed up a bit – Sigmarite zealots here a few days ago until city guard ejected them. Hans uses a cantrip to reproduce image of the mural on its ceiling (3 challenge die check) and gives the attending priest, a Tilean named Pirello, 5 silver to help with costs (so the heroes are funding both sides). This and Hans’ educated talk (I allowed Education to be used as a social skill given Veranan respect for learning etc) makes Pirello happily warm to the subject of the mural – painted by great artist and engineer Miragliano who came north with Giovanni Lanfranchi. He helped Lanfranchi build the monastery at Siegfriedhof and then went to Altdorf and entered emperor’s service. This mural painted on the way. Oldest northern artwork using star signs in it, this lore (now well spread) just then being introduced from Araby by returning crusaders. Those Sigmarite brutes would destroy such beautiful and historical work.
- It is not till morning the next day that the heroes compare notes and put Valin and Lydia’s last names together. They go to find Valin but he is gone, however a note at the eatery has been left for Hans telling him, “Lydia is the one you seek, she an embarrassment, best of luck”.
The local temple of Morr is also visited, it recommends consulting the Order of the Shroud at Siegfriedhof. The Raven Knights being famed foes of undead – it is rumoured that vampires they destroy actually “stay dead”.
That 'true death' for vampires (given warhammer vampires often reincorporate eventually if they are remembered etc.) is something I added, an added 'secret' of Siegfriedhof that is the real reason they aquire something Skaven then come looking for….
Leaving Wurtbad the heroes encounter four musicians in a wagon who ask to travel with them. Hans immediately uses his magic sight to check them out suspecting them of being agents of some sort (they do not appear notable to magic sight) and the heroes extend their protection.
Regular cultists and assassins serving the Tilean Count don't look different to magic sight.
The musicians are going to Helfurt in Sylvania for a wedding on the 31st of Jahrdrung, the noblewoman Lydia von Plicticos. They don’t know who she is marrying. Heroes speculate it might be even be Karl, connecting this wedding with the date in correspondence they found about a ritual being best performed on that specific date.
The heroes travel on to Siegfriedhof, passing the ruins of Mordheim (seeing the eerie green glow at night). On Jahrdrung 4th, they reach Siegfriedhof, a small town that keeps its gate closed and checks everyone entering.
The musicians are detained, to be questioned by a monk, when they announce Sylvania to be their destination. The heroes go on, stopping by the Widower’s Comfort inn, but then making the steep climb up to the monastery (fort really) built atop the rocky high ground overlooking the lake below.
They ring the bell at the gate and are greeted by two black-armoured axe-bearing warriors (Black Guard) and a fat monk, Brother Horaitius. They explain their business and the Brother says they will likely get access to the library for research. If they wish to stay in the monastery (it is a steep tiring climb up from village - Resilience check to avoid fatigue) they should see the Abbot – which they wish to.
The heroes are escorted through the ancient monastery, seeing its design of columns and arches showing southern influence. It’s half fortress, having large stone courtyard, stables and other features more often found in a castle. They are struck by how many cats wander about, scarcely a chamber does not have one or more, and the amount of exotic bric-a-brac – mummy caskets, urns and statuettes etc. of Nekharan origin - picture an ancient stone labyrinth of columns, buttresses, silent guards in black armour, monks in black robes, eerie knick knacks from the land were undeath started things moving and eyes watching in shadows, oh that’s just the cats –great news is if you wanted to sneak around in this place bonus fortune dice.
After about a 20 minute wait they are escorted in to see Abbot Darius Geistwach.
79th advance, all present, slightly shortened session
Heroes enter Abbot Geistwacht’s chambers, seeing the expensive mirrors in which he can view all who enter, the large Nekharan statuettes of cats and the elderly, sober looking Abbot with another cat, a large grey one.
(Social Encounter, maximum duration set by lowest Intelligence score in group)
Anselm speaks first (his herald ability preempting other heroes, to their chagrin) and speaks eloquently of the respected library of Siegfriedhof that the heroes wish access to, not only advancing their cause in this respect but improving image of heroes on monastery “favour track”. Father Erich adds that their interest is fueled by a struggle with dark forces (he is not specific) and in speaking with fellow lectors in Altdorf (dropping the “I’m a lector of the Church of Sigmar” card, that’s worth a couple of fortune dice) and though he does not shift attitudes has the Abbot nodding.
The Abbot is glad Sigmarites are turning their attention to such menaces as Morrites hold lore on, and shares his concern that reports of undead are rising in Sylvania but also Stirland, Reikland, Ostland and Middenland. He is looking searchingly at the heroes as he speaks of the undead’s increasing number of living agents, paid or dupes who advance their masters’ cause without knowing it. The weakest willpower in group is targeted by the Abbot’s Intuition (it’s the Abbot’s action, so the NPC is acting party and gains the “rules favour acting party” benefits in opposed tests) to not betray anything (the heroes having brought Karl over to Lady Therese) at this and the Abbot detects Findulas is trying hard not to look at this comrades, betraying that there is something there. The favour gained by Anselm’s eloquence is lost.
Findulas himself, unaware of the Abbot's thoughts, asks the Abbot if it will be possible to speak with any of the (Raven) Knights as he is not so interested in the library. In a few days, the 8th, it is the Day of the Spear – a sacred day of Morr's daughter Myrmidia – and the Abbot expects some Raven Knights to return to the abbey to pray at the tomb of Lanfranchi, which is opened on this day. [The hero’s arrival has been most timely]
As this interaction is going on, the Abbot’s cat wanders about under the heroes’ chairs, brushing up against them. Anselm succeeds in keeping Senor Bitey in check (Hard Animal Handling), Anselm cannot see but others spot that the cat pauses and sniffs under Anselm’s chair and gives a silent hiss.
Hans considers the cat to have good instincts and tries to pet it as it approaches his chair. His attempt to interact succeeds only to extent he snatches hand back fast enough to avoid being scratched as the cat reacts even worse to him than to Anselm.
At this point both Anselm and Father Erich try to talk, over each other (taking up the first two action slots and imposing two misfortune dice on each other’s actions - note had there not been two PC tokens above the NPC initiative token then both PC's would have gone after the NPC).
They reveal they are in pursuit of vampires who have stolen a child etc. – which is catches the Abbot’s interests – but their efforts to quiet his growing concerns fail.
Brother Horatius advises the Abbot that since the heroes have been exposed to vampires they should undergo the Purification Ritual before being allowed into library, or indeed to be allowed to stay in Siegfriedhof at all. The Abbot confirms this. Findulas consents freely.
Father Erich (Lector “card”) however impresses the Abbot well enough he is exempt from the ritual. Tanira (the Abbot’s cat) didn’t react badly to him and he is a high ranking Sigmarite after all (well he hasn’t actually been formally inducted into the rank of lector but he seems to be skipping over that with the Abbot).
Father Erich goes to have dinner and chat with the Abbot about vampires and 1000 Throne prophecies and Karl (the abbot knowing about the first two but not the 3rd), extending into after-dinner brandy in the Abbot’s chambers (where the Abbot reveals he has alarming word of Baroness Lydia von Plicticos in Helfurt and Father Erich learns the Order of the Shroud is secretly planning a spring campaign into Sylvania - lead by Raven Knights - to “purify it”).
This includes the Abbot learning that Karl's ancestry is part Strigany at which he declares Karl might be Scion, carrier of the blood of Nagash and the key to lifting the Old Gods' curses on the vampire bloodlines.
At the same time, the other three heroes go to the Temple of Morr and fast until midnight when they undergo the Purification. Father Erich returns to them at this time.
At midnight they inhale the fumes of strange substances and feel themselves grow light as if flying up to the temple’s oculus and see a dark gate (no “bright light” in the Old World). The ritual purifies them of influences (such as a Vampire’s hold over its prey) by sending them almost through the gate of death.
This vision into the beyond is terrifying (exactly as a certain Morrite spell is in fact) and after it the heroes have strange visions (for Morr is the god of dreams and visions as well) but Anselm does not recall them later, only Hans and Findulas.
More spectacularly, Hans shakes and sweats and dry heaves as the purification finds something in him to expel, as he dry heaves he tastes blood sausage (though he has not consumed any in over a week) and observers see he is sweating blood [though not his own to explain why he did not suffer wounds just fatigue] (so much for his only set of white robes).
Brother Horatius quietly whispers to Father Erich a vampire must have fed Hans its blood – making Hans susceptible to influence by it [mechanically if Hans had ever come up against that Vampire his Willpower would have been reduced in tests with it, of course Horatius does not tell Father Erich that as side effect of being under one vampire’s sway is that it is harder for a different one to put you under their sway [so why go through with this Rob, aside from unveiling things in campaign– Hans has just been cleansed of influenced from a Vampire in Ubersreik so he is now open to influence by others in Sylvania….. ]
During this exposure to Morr's influence:
- Hans has visions of a monk suffering from age or something being walled up and then emerging hale and sound with a dove on shoulder.
- Findulas has a vision of blue-tattooed ritualists bleeding into a shared chalice among standing stones before knights appear and kill them all, pulling down stones.
The heroes go to their rest in the guest quarters.
The next day they breakfast and meet the other priests, brothers and sisters in the abbey. They hear chatter of missing foodstuffs being blamed on hungry villagers and others saying they should be sharing more with the villagers, one brother wondering at the great stores they have laid in “enough to feed an army” (the invasion plans are a secret) - a few consternation-filled glances among those in know. Hans recognizes an elderly monk, Brother Erasmus, as the monk in his vision.
The Abbot and librarian Brother Gottlieb take them to the “Secret Library”, the Abbot being convinced of the need to grant access by the revelations about Karl, the Abbot praying and pushing back the wards and advising them where not to step in the stairs down to it.
The heroes spend the rest of day here researching, which does not exhaust the material by any means. This day Anselm searches for advantage against the masters of night in various books of vampire and undead lore, unfortunately among the banned books are more lascivious vampire tales and he ends up spending the day reading bodice rippers instead (Education roll to glean useful information fails).
Hans braves the dangerous writings of mad necromancer Kadon’s translation of one of the volumes of Nagash’s memoirs. It is a bit stressful but he avoids acquiring insanity outright as he reads of Nagash’s supposed apotheosis – the reason the Tree of Hope has withered – and more usefully finds references to prayers to the gods of Nekhara that cause three of the curses upon vampires to manifest fully (e.g., a vampire who has tricks allowing them to withstand the sun is stripped of them and made fully vulnerable to it). Pronouncing them correctly would be an Education check (if one cares to speak prayers to heathen gods of course).
Due to Findulas’ vision, Father Erich chooses to study the tablets retrieved by Lanfranchi from a blood cult in the Hungerwood. He reads the accounts of Lanfranchi’s expedition against them, launched when he first came to region. Father Erich realizes that though Lanfranchi’s record shows he is convinced the cult is in service to undead the account of its extermination includes no accounts of facing undead, necromancy or similar phenomemon. He finds Lanfranchi’s notes about the original order of the standing stones that were pulled down (Lanfranchi being particular that having them set up in that order again would be a sign of danger). Both he and Hans recognized the figures in the vision as Belthani – the woad-tattooed tribespeople who lived in this region before the tribes that founded the Empire entered it, who are associated with druidism and standing stones.
Father Erich and Hans ask the Abbot about Brother Erasmus, revealing Hans’ vision. Brother Erasmus is Master of Stone, responsible for the catacombs, tombs of Aldebrandt and Lanfranchi, and the Sequestrium. The Abbot is surprised and seems hopeful, he is very interested in the vision and what it could mean, the dove being a symbol of Shallya, Morr’s daughter.
Heroes know that living entombment is used as a form of execution at times when a protocol of not officially killing the subject is being followed. The Abbot says he doesn’t know what the walling up part is about as they would never entomb a living brother (Hans detects prevarication in this statement – apparently they would!). The heroes do not push on this matter more at present.
- At this point the accumulation of “last until used, don’t expire” special fortune points is revealed and distributed - representing gleanings of information or knick knacks found shopping that can be narrated as spent to be fortune points on any roll involving undead. Different researches and talks with NPC’s have been gaining these, in addition to “narravite exposition” for couple of sessions but the mechanical aspect only revealed now.
I will likely use this again from time to time and will likely again not reveal when “chatting up NPC gets fortune point pool” vs “just gets information etc.”. The intent is to made research and NPC interviews useful mechanically but not make them about “Oooh, I rolled 3 successes so that’s 2 fortune points” rather than roleplaying.
In case anyone interested for "fluff" purposes, the three prayers to Old Gods (education check, failure makes you ill-fortuned but heroes don't know that yet) are:
- Ptrah, I honour thee source of all life, burn with thy searing wrath those who turn against life.
- Subekh, who governs the coursing of the water of life from the skies to the sea, washing away all in time, carry away the soul of one that would defy time.
- Tahoth, who guards our sleep and dreams and guides us to the final threshold, forbid those who neither sleep nor dream to cross all thresholds.
- re Subekh and effect of running water, really liked the way running water affects a vampire was described in the Ulrika the vampire series. I liked those books more than I thought I would and that was the first time I "bought" running water being a menace to vampires. The idea that it is pulling their soul right of of them as it passes in a tormenting experience.
80th advance, all present
On the 5th, as others researched in the hidden library underneath Siegfriedhof's conventional library, Findulas goes down into the town to see what he can learn. At the Widower's Comfort inn/tavern, he spends 5 silver shillings on fine wine and gets the keeper a bit chatty. The scarred, one-armed Otto turn turns out to a retired Raven Knight (retired only due to injuries sustained).
Otto gives him some advice about dealing with undead (e.g., fighting zombies look for a necromancer or vampire who raised them, taking that target down might destroy the zombies). Most vampires in Sylvania are really Lahmia not von Carstein line. The von Carstein's were broken 400 years ago when Manfred von Carstein's attempt to invade the Empire failed and he was defeated at Hel Fen, with the scourging of Sylvania that followed. Otto says the Lahmia moved in afterwards to keep their von Carstein rivals from rising again to power.
This I took from the Ulrica the Vampire novels as I liked the logic of it and the way it demonstrates the bloodline rivalries, which are also part of 1000 Thrones.
That night, the heroes retire to guest quarters in the abbey. Hans, however, recalls talk of food going missing and wonders if there is more than hungry villagers at work. He decides to sneak off into the food stores (the kitchen, refectory - dining hall - which has been converted to store extra supplies on first floor, more on 2nd) and lay in wait. He convinces Findulas to come with him, though Findulas spends the time napping (Lethargy insanity roleplayed).
That was good roleplay, should have rewarded at time. Findulas gets an extra Fortune Point next session.
After midnight, Hans hears something rustling - up in the ceiling! He rouses Findulas and investigates, looking for sign of any hole in ceiling etc. Finding none, they go upstairs to see if there is something on floor above. They pass in front of a Black Guard on duty and explain their purpose - he does not abandon post but blows whistle then summons two more Black Guards.
In the upper food store chamber, they find (concealed under a crate) a hole that has been crudely hacked or chewed in floor - a couple of feet by a foot. A bulky person or man in armour would not fit through but someone not over Str or To 3 (not so big, muscular etc) can fit down which makes Hans the candidate.
Hans crawls down into the unintentional crawlspace that exists between the wooden beams that constitute the floor support (with wooden planks and plaster etc. above and below). He calls upon the wind of Hysh to conjure light, which Findulas and the guards can see shine through the floorboards to follow him (construction being what it is in the Old World, and this being an old building).
He follows sign of disturbance causing others to have to wake the Abbot as his path leads him under the Abbot's quarters (alarming the Abbot). Eventually he finds that it leads into the rock face the abbey is build against and to the Catacombs.
More abbey staff have appeared, Mother Alexia master of arms. She is worried about ghouls (burial area + tunnelling = ghoul, whether in the Old World or Arkham).
It is of course the Skaven. The heroes are finding them before the attack adventure schedules for latter. The adventure has its own 'finding them first' options and the heroes were trying and making all the rolls to do it so they did.
Word is sent to rouse Father Erich and Anselm while Hans, Findulas, Mother Alexia and two Black Guards go into the catacombs. These centuries-old tunnels are a large labyrinth, though it is travelled to visit tombs and such. It is Hard to discern recent disturbance but Hans and Findulas as team are up to the task.
They head off, ahead of their comrades who are still being roused, donning armour etc., going deeper in the catacombs into little used areas and ultimately finding them going down a narrow tunnel armoured Black Guard can't pass through. Hans, Findulas and Mother Alexia continue, the Mother (who has a battle axe, she is matron of arms) saying they must be getting close to the old lower town (abandoned since the Vampire Wars).
The tunnel goes underwater eventually, with clear signs of something having come/gone in/out of the water. Findulas decides swim down the tunnel in hopes of finding it coming up (or returning in time to avoid drowning if nothing found) - with a glowing dagger to light his way courtesy of Hans' magic.
Act One - Blood and Water
After a Hard swim he comes up in a ruined basement to see… EIGHT RATMEN!
More to the point, they see him! But his reactions are fast and he dives back underwater. Unfortunately for him, ratmen are good swimmers - one dives into water after him and overtakes him - stabbing him to deal considerable damage to the unarmoured Findulas (the skaven knows just where to drive that knife in) and inflicting a minor critical.
No poison though, underwater I didn't apply it.
Findulas emerges bleeding from the water to warn his comrades but quick-quick after him come five ratmen. It's a narrow passage and Mother Alexia tries to hold them back while Hans tends to Findulas' wounds. Hans is suffering misfortune dice on all actions for having been up so long.
Mother Alexia only manages to hold them back briefly (2 rounds)
Despite the narrow width of passage, the ratmen surge forward in a mass of fur and teeth - an Overwhelming Horde.
Healed, the heroes fight back against the Skaven and slay several though the leader - the one who stabbed Findulas - squeaks and dives back into the water to retreat.
Act Two - Blood on the Show
The heroes return to the abbey where the abbot is present.
Reporting rat men to the Abbot elicits a "I knew they would return!" Suspicion that the skaven are in the old lower town, that this is where the ruined basement is located, leads the Abbot to order the Black Guard to go down to it immediately - which the heroes agree with and accompany.
It is the dark of the moon on the winter night as the hunters search the ruined town by the lake. Sure enough there are ratment waiting (narratively, half of the force that was there is fighting Black Guards a short distance away while the other half face the heroes).
The heroes narrowly avoid being surprised. (Senor Bitey helped with that, giving 2 fortune dice not just one, as its rattishness about).
The heroes face the same dual-knife wielding assassin as before, a stormvermin skaven in armour, and several other gutterrunner skaven (who the knife-wielder hides behind). Findulas' arrows clear away several skaven and Father Erich charges the stormvermin to smite him with the Hammer of God (having prepped it in Rally Step, 21 damage!). Anselm and Senor Bitey join in the attack and the stormvermin falls.
The assassin hits Findulas with a warpstone throwing star, though Findulas resists the corrupting influence.
- Note that Hans has a body of light spell running that is providing illumination (but also ensured they didn't surprise the skaven as it makes him a walking beacon).
-- We break --
Act 3 - Send in the Storm Vermin!
82nd advance, all present
Been away from the board a bit but great to catch up and see the game still going.
I enjoys how Hans' lust for blood sausage ends up entangling him in plot poimts for the third or fouth time now.
I may not be posting summaries in future. I'm finding the site redesign makes porting text over, as what I post is edited from what I do on our private message board, more difficult.
For even more fun, for some reason it thinks I'm in Italy or something at the moment, all the command options names' coming up in Italian or Spanish etc.
At a minimum that explains lack of GM notes added in text above.
There has been a site redesign? I haven't event noticed. You do what you feel is best for you, but I must say I would be sad to not read the conclusion to your story.
You don't post it on your site in your sig do you? I clicked on it before, but never saw it.
I would either go with on livejournal blog or the rpg.net section for actual play. The latter I think because I include stuff in this version that is "not for Player eyes" commentary like "nope not figuring out that the monks are using warpstone in their 'vampire remains vault', and my blog is open to players whereas they know to "keep out of the FFG forum GM section" (and are good about being on their honour about that sort of thing).
I will post it someplace someplace.
A general GM note, the trip through Hungerwood is using the free Expansions for 1000 Thrones material (Expansion 1) which is providing me lots of great stuff to choose from in how I handle the option of the different routes to Helfurt and what can transpire in the wood. It had the whole idea of the ghosts revealing the "deception of Nagash" (and in fact layingout the Nagash plot if you want to use it) which, if you can avoid running in terror (I made pass fear check with 3 successes, a way of rewarding 'pass with flying colours' for characters who have lots of dice to roll on these checks) and lip read (a skill in earlier edition that I made hard Intel [raw stat] check here).
The Expansion stuff generally is absolutely great, I recommend getting it (its on Liber Fantica site) even if you don't have or want to run 1000 Thrones it's got NPC's, encounters and just generally useable stuff to pick and choose from. It's earlier edition but as exampled above, that can be updated very easily. What they're going to find continuing down trail is entirely from these free pdfs and other than reading the pdf and pencilling some notes, selecting a few critter and action cards etc. is all the prep I am having to do.
I admit, I'm recycling things I've done before like a "Creepy Forest" location card and the approach to a "finding you way through wilderness progress track". I have a binder that I put all these things in after printing off to pull out as needed, just like location cards can be etc.
Ah, English returns to the editing buttons, let's see how this works.
84th advance all present.
The last remaining corrupted giant wolf falls, pierced through the eye to the brain by Anselm's rapier. Wounds are bound and through Sigmar's mercy, Father Erich's blessing restores Findulas' mangled wrist (critical healed).
The heroes and knights ride on, around a bend in the trail to find the forest becomes sparser as there are ruined stone buildings scattered through it. Hans' magical sight reveals many swirls and eddies that could mean magical wards, items, ruins, spellcasters - though he thinks overall the effect is rather much like looking at the ruin of a magic college complex might appear (why he thinks of those great edifices of the empire's elite lying in ruins we will not ponder).
Hans opens himself more to the winds of magic - seeing that a particular concentration of Dhar swirls around one building, Hans again resisting its corruptive call.
The heroes and knights approach this ruin and Hans vision reveals a smaller focused concentration of Dhar with Shyish (Amethyst) in the branches of an oak tree that grows beside the ruin. The heroes now fear a lurking vampire or other undead creature of power (which is what such a 'signature' suggests) but instead find an emaciated, near skeletal humanoid in a hanging gibbet cage.
Hans and Father Erich approach this creature more closely and see it is animate, with large fangs. It is writing on parchments and looks at them, which is disturbing given its eye sockets are empty.
(This is a Fear 3 check which Hans fails with chaos star and Father Erich passes)
Hans finds this frightening (condition) and stressful, and retreats from the tree. As he goes, the creature mocks him in a shrill, rhyming sing-song with a Bretonnian accent. "Your soul is meek, your spirit weak, when you her then you'll squeak!"
Father Erich is not daunted by this but refuses to attempt to speak with the creature, no good can come of converse with such corrupt beings. Sir Rolph concurs completely - noting he is already "in a tree" (the heroes decide against starting a fire that would be seen for quite a distance and Sir Rolph agrees out of his concern to keep element of surprise as they approach Helfurt).
Anselm approaches but also finds the creature's visage too fearful to confront. Findulas tries only to get close enough to see if it could have made any of the tracks they found but he too is "weak of spirit", as the creature continues to mock, "She’ll drain your blood and tan your skin! She’ll poke your eyes out with a pin!"
Findulas' player declares that the truly scary thing is my roleplaying of the sing-song squeaky French vampire voice (I'm sort of channeling Mr. Gold when he is Rumplestiltskin in flashbacks from Once Upon a Time). There are many monty python references as well to taunting French.
As Father Erich is the only one who could interact with the creature and will not there is no further dealing with it. Hans believes either a vampire that has not fed in weeks or months or a Necrarch - which would be a spell caster of great power.
The heroes look about and see that the tracks they found on trail are here too. They come out of the forest, approach the building beside the tree, mill about and then return to the forest. It looks like they have done this more than once.
A trap on the door is disarmed by Findulas with the aid of Hans' magical sight (the trap would scatter some Dhar-tainted dust) and the heroes enter - Father Erich and Sir Rolph first.
The interior is opulently furnished in what looks like Arabyan style - pillows, silks, hangings, with garish colours reminiscent of a Strigany fortune teller's skirts. There are scrolls, metal plates with writing on them and letters all over the place - it is a library as much as an abode.
There is also a bath with manacles for someone to be suspended over it….
Hans determines that the Dhar concentration in this place is the result of someone using Dhar magics repeatedly here - powerful magics over a period of decades or more. There is one tome of magical power - a dark forbidding tome that seems to whisper to him.
The heroes spend several hours sorting through the papers. Most are originals in the language of Nekhara (hieroglyphs) without even the partial translations those in Siegfriedhof had. They find two things which they understand:
- some letters in Reikspiel from various "sisters of the wood" - Lydia von Carstein, Lady Therese, Frau Blücher. These do not speak of Karl but talk of their plans for the time of a 1000 thrones, who among their bloodlines is a good choice to recruit (Therese is Lhamia, Blücher is Strigoi - though unlike most Strigoi that feed on the dead to avoid attracting attention, she has a taste for horseflesh). One of Lydia's letters speaks of her cousin Valin who is "young and arrogant, chaffing at the demands of the elders, a useful pawn".
- some large astrological charts whose markings are in Nekharan but which Hans makes some sense of (4D education) realizing: one chart shows the heavens as they were at the time of Sigmar's birth when the great twin tailed comet appeared; one chart shows the heavens as they were perhaps 9 years ago (when Karl was born); he does not know when the time was that a third chart shows but from the Siegfriedhof writings he does recognize that the label on this chart is the Nekharan symbols used to represent the name Nagash.
All three of these charts show a number of key heavenly bodies to be in the same positions in each case - when Sigmar was born, when Karl was born and for whatever is in the Nagash chart.
Magister Hans relates this to his comrades (really should have made Father Erich make a Stress check there, then again he's more open minded than a typical Sigmarite…)
The heroes take the three charts but leave everything else. It's too much to take all and once again they rule out starting a large fire. Father Erich smites the forbidden tome with his hammer but other than denting its impressive cover this doesn't affect it. Some holy water sizzles on it. It too is left.
It is late afternoon and the heroes decide to leave, striking through the forest at eastern edge of the ruins. There are thick brambles that try to entwine them and wrap them, Hans is nearly 'swallowed alive' but Father Erich pulls him out. They brave this and try to push through, managing to do so with only few wounds but finding themselves coming out of the thick brambles back into the city.
There is no magic at work, it seems the forest itself is moving to confuse them. It has also moved to swallow up the path they came in by. It is easier to enter the ruins than to leave them.
After some false starts, with a 4D Observation check to not be lead astray by the forest shifting and the required Ride/Athletics to push through the brambles, the heroe and knights manage to win free.
It is dusk by now and they must soon make camp. Father Erich and Hans find a good campsite. However, in the night a 9 ghouls and 4 skeletons attack their campsite - their numbers making their Fear effect stronger - and the forest itself looming in the dark to add misfortune dice to Fear checks (though not for Vampire Hunter Anselm) The heroes defeat them (Arrowstorm - Findulas goes through quite a few arrows and Hans hysh magic in particular).
[That was Act 3 in the woods, 1 wolves, 2 ruins, 3 undead]
The heroes believe they are likely 1-2 days from leaving the Hungerwood and still more than a week to the wedding (so it seems they have made good time etc).
This was all from the Expansions created for 1000 Thrones. I combined Hags Hollow and the Ruined Elven City.
The heroes have batted 0.5 on key things to learn/gain/do before reaching Helfurt.
They restored the circle and weakened the flow of Dhar - very useful, the vampire spellcasters in Helfurt would have been stronger if this not accomplished.
They have learned that Nagash returning is part of what is going on (Akana's plot, in my version of the Expansion work the Hag Akana is really a servant of Nagash)
They did not however learn anything from the caged Necrarch slave of Akana. He was a font of information if tapped into - in particular information that could be used to drive a wedge between Akanaa and her "sisters".
They did not "brave the forbidden book", which was very dangerous to read but would have revealed everything about the Ritual of Union that is being carried out at the wedding. It is actually "the evidence of Akana's treachery against her sisters, her true loyalty to Nagash" but they left it behind. Ah well.
In my version, Akana was a Qu'rashi maid who seduced the still living Nagash and bore his child. Kark is descended from Nagash and Akana. Thus her connection to the Strigani (who carry Qu'rashi blood). She abandoned her child to pursue immortality and went to the city of Lahmia, becoming a vampire but always really being loyal to Nagash. If she can bring him back through her descendent with him, she believes she will have a bond with him he cannot break.
Glad to have you continuing!
In your last paragraph, who is Kark? Nagash's son, I take it but you mention him like he is an established character and I am unfamiliar with the name. I don't have 1000 Thrones, is he in there?
Sorry, typo, Kark is Karl. This "conjunction" is me by the way, no canon connection between Nagash and Sigmar in that way.
Can't edit posts once navigating way from page etc.
Yes, porting over text from our private message board went back to being as easy as before once the language of buttons issue was fixed. Perhaps serendipity or something related.