The heroes are in the courtyard of Helfurt Castle surrounded by its white knights, with their own black knights of Morr as allies. Behind them is the barred entry to courtyard, to their front the barred entry to castle, to the left a stables and to the right a guardhouse, all around them foes.
Father Erich beings to chant Inspiring Words while Findulas (Me First) fires arrows even before the first words of his chant are spoken – seeking to destroy one of the knights blocking the way to the better tactical position in the stables (the heroes see that staying out in the courtyard is a recipe for disaster) – but is Rapid Fired arrows miss as the knights join shields and block incoming arrows (Improved Block and other defences).
Anselm shoots his longbow at one of the squads of four knights and kills two, as Hans calls for Sir Rolph and the knights to get the gunpowder kegs from his horse and blow open the entry to the castle.
The Players vacillated a bit between "get out of courtyard to stables" vs "blow up doors and get into castle" as their exit strategy from courtyard.
Then an old friend/foe appears, on a castle balcony above the gate – it’s Lady Therese! Fear 3 (well 4 due to the numbers of undead but still only 3 for Anselm the vampire hunter). The heroes resist but then the knights attack dealing damage to Father Erich, Anselm and Hans (missing Findulas) – their swords leave whisps of dark energy in the air as they swing and deal deadly wounds (damage in 16-19 range before soak). [Grave Blade action]
The lesser knights then attack and deal a critical wound to Findulas (Exposed Condition, lowing his soak – somewhere in Athel Loren Naeith raises her head, 1 wound can be all the difference…)
Hans then casts Beronna’s Time Warp and the foes find time slows for them as the heroes gain a “free round of actions”. Findulas shoots at and wounds Lady Therese (causing her to stumble against the parapet and break her nose [critical]) after she taunts Father Erich, “In all the Church of Sigmar’s many services to us, you, Father Erich, stand out having surpassed all in giving us Karl.”
Father Erich, who is still mounted, rides his horse forward – standing up upon it and with a Challenging (3D) Athletics leaps up on to the low balcony, aided by Sir Rolph (bonus dice coming from the NPC’s there to assist at various points through encounter, all are used by end), to swing his warhammer like the Hammer of God and put an end to this vilely treacherous creature – he staves in her shoulder and chest in blows that would slay any mortal creature and she falls to the ground motionless (with 5 crits as well, though we don’t bother to draw them - hey we’re Epic it’s time for the ‘action movie’ – what would Conan do – moves! To be fair though fore all that Hammer of God is impressive she would still have had 1 wound left had Findulas not already wounded her - sometimes 1 wound is all the difference).
Hans disengages from melee, moving back away from the castle door and casts Burning Light to ward himself from attacks. Sir Rolph and knights have laid the casks and set a trail of gunpowder, they make a check to see how well they handled the unpredictable explosives and were successful but (chaos star) didn’t judge the time to get clear well enough and (failing Coordination checks to dodge as well) are knocked out by the blast. The castle doors and portcullis are blasted apart and the entry now open.
Anselm attacks a knight but then rides (he has the Ride skill) his horse well enough to weave out of the melee and enter into the grand hall inside the castle.
Findulas follows and they are in the entry, but then he is struck again by a white knight's black blade and falls (by one wound), his body rent by so many criticals that it is his life’s blood that spills out. A child of Athel Loren lies far from home, never to be taken back into the forest’s soul…
In Athel Loren, Prophetess Naeith sheds a tear ~ is this a sad outcome but necessary and intended or has a thread been cut before its time and the forest’s doom come closer. Only she knows.
[Note, in many respects it was really Valin that killed Findulas, for it was he that contributed most of the critical wounds Findulas still carried].
Hans runs into the castle and uses Splint and Bandages to tend to Anselm. Anselm takes up a Guarded Position in the entryway with his horse (it’s a large entry but with a horse he can effectively block the knights all swarming in after them).
The unconscious Sir Rolph and his fellow knights are dragged off by some of the knights….
Upstairs on the balcony, Father Erich pours oil onto Lady Therese’s remains and sets it alight.
Rally Step (healing draughts and self first aids etc.)
(Thinking about it, seeing Findulas slain should have caused some stress to his allies, something to ponder for next campaign, at least +1 to Party Stress)
During the Rally Step, above in the chamber off the alcove Father Erich sees Karl appear, “Father Erich (he sounds relieved to see him) we have to get out of here, these are bad ladies. They told me you were playing a game called roleplaying but I didn’t believe that - no grown men spend their time playing games like that.”
Father Erich tells him they are vampires, and Karl pales.
Once again Karl shows his talent for nipping off on his own away from watchers, oh that rascal.
Father Erich and Karl move to join their comrades downstairs but their path is blocked by the “strigany crone” who reveals her fangs and eyes as dark as the emptiness between the stars, with 2 ghoul servants (Fear check passed). Meanwhile downstairs, Lydia von Carstein has appeared to menace Hans and Findulas, also with 2 ghoul servants.
Father Erich invokes Sigmar’s power and wounds the crone but she calls down powers unknown to mortals (epic spell) and summons a crackling globe of purple energy right where Father Erich and Karl stand. Karl dodges but Father Erich fails his Coordination check and is Petrified by contact with the sphere – turned to Crystal (though still alive and aware, able to see what unfolds). The purple globe persists (Karl actually dodged to be on the other side than the crone, it blocks the passage they are in).
In the grand hall, Hans produces his scroll of Death’s Release, that he has been saving for just such an occasion. He succeeds the 5 challenge and boatload of misfortune dice check (invoking every trick he can to the point that only one fortune die I own is not in his dice pool!) and succeeds – the amethyst energies (untainted by Dhar) blast Lydia for 20 Wounds (that’s Wounds not damage!) which reduces her to bits of ash floating in the air (her wound threshold was 20).
[between this and Lady Therese, we know why the DM designs encounters with more than one big bad when heroes have such impressive tricks up sleeves]
The white knights quail upon seeing their mistress (and creator) destroyed and retreat (failed their WP check vs 3D).
It was actually players who asked if the knights would keep coming after seeing that and I agreed it was possible they would fall back, make the check to see if they feared their creator's destroyer or would seek vengeance for her fall.
The ghouls are not deterred (Lydia was not their mistress, they are all with the crone, Akana the Hag) and attack Hans. The crone casts a spell and “pop” translocates herself to the side of the sphere with Karl, “hello my pretty, time we were going…”. Karl quails a bit before her (he’s an adventurous, lucky, plucky lad of destiny but he’s still a 9 year old raised by Shallyans). Crystal Father Erich can but watch.
The ghouls from upstairs join those below (4 now face Hans and Anselm) but Hans is clever enough (Int check) to see a way to use a Warding Circle to trap the ghouls, who have not the willpower to test against it.
Anselm, the path clear because white knights retreated, gets the “Box” that the Tilean gave the heroes in Kemperbad from Father Erich’s horse and (still mounted) charges his horse through the grand hall and up the broad stairs (Ride check succeeds – failure having had some interesting possibilities riding horse up stairs, another action move for an epic hero) – he sees the crystal Father Erich, purple globe and beyond it the crone and Karl (who Hans has advised likely doesn’t care about warpstone – which is what the heroes expect in the box as an “anti-vampire” weapon). Anselm completes his charge by opening the box and throwing its contents forward towards the crone.
It is indeed a greenish-black dust inside that spreads out and requires a 3D Corruption check (Anselm passes, the crone does not pass and takes 3 wounds and more importantly all her special ‘blood powers’ as an ancient [very, very ancient] vampire are now unusable for 3 rounds (vampires and warpstone don't mix well). Karl is not affected (a careful watcher would have seen the dust was repelled from him).
However, there is more to the box than the heroes expected.
[metagame, as was pointed out at the table by me to the players, Father Erich's player lowing his head to table shaking it…the heroes got the box as help from the Tilean (mysterious crime lord) in Kemperbad after Father Erich’s strategy to impress the Tilean with the heroes being the right tool to deal with his vampire foes was not allowed to work/failed (Anselm 'fouling his own team' on that one)– so the help the heroes got was “the help you get when your roll fails!”]
The dust does not fall to ground, it swirls in a purplish – then multi-coloured vortex as if a tunnel is forming behind it and far down that tunnel figures appear – approaching rapidly. A huge flat manta-ray creature on which stands/rides a gangly humanoid with a vulture’s head and wings, holding a slender staff – behind this pair is gaggle of malformed chaos horrors) [Terror 3 for Anselm, passed]
Rally step – Father Erich recovers from his petrification, the heroes hope that vampire and chaos creatures are more interested in fighting each other than them…..
GM Reveal to the Players post session:
Now both the ‘younger sisters of the wood’ are destroyed, it can be revealed that had the crone’s ‘forbidden book’ been read successfully (and yes it was about as dangerous a book to read as you could find) or had the caged necrarch been talked to successfully or had the ghost’s message and conclusion heroes drew from it (nagash connection) been shared more broadly the heroes could have exploited the fact that what the crone is seeking/doing is NOT what the two other vampires – both the two “younger sisters” - and all the other vampires gathered, thought was being done and there was potential for a rift among them to be created/exploited – never mind a rift between the crone and the “bonus” chaos creatures.
That the crone is the last standing is very suitable in terms of "what is really going on…."..
With the death of one PC and the epic fight looming, there is a good chance the next session is the last of the campaign… however if it turns out that the Chaos Daemon snatches Karl away he's delivered to the "chaos faction" (earlier chapter of 1000 thrones that was skipped when PC actions handed to the vampires ahead of schedule) and the campaign could continue a bit more. The Players are resolved they want to save Karl but will try to kill him before letting him fall into wrong hands as well. So we all, players and GM, have to see what the dice and choices hold for us next session.
89th advance, all the living present (Anselm, Father Erich, Hans).
As the chaos daemons approach through the vortex and the vampire crone cackles with glee over Karl rally/support actions are performed. Hans prays to Sigmar for the Hammer of God and Anselm Flusters the crone to distract her and make attacks more damaging.
However the crackling amethyst sphere the crone summoned suddenly sweeps down the corridor (Anselm chaos star triggering the sphere's movement) requiring dodges from Father Erich and Anselm.
By fortune, having been drawn past Father Erich to Anselm, and Father Erich having dodged it (avoiding petrification) the sphere is no longer between Sigmar's Champion (custom rank 5 career choice this session, Champion career upped a bit) and the crone.
Father Eric charges forward and sweeps hiw blessed warharmmer down with the power of the Hammer of God, against the Flustered and slightly wounded crone (who is also unable to access special bloodpower tricks such as a temporary boost to soak etc because of the warpstone dust). His attack reduces the crone to floating dust, her body disintegrating under the holy assault (21 damage after soak).
The heroes see that unlike the last vampire who fell to pieces under a powerful magical attacks, the crone's ashes do not fall to the ground but waft off in a stream through the air. Hans education informs him that some decades or more in the future, this vampire may return, having prepared some place to receive her remains and regenerate.
Anselm shoots his bow at the approaching daemon, which in turn is swept forward atop its mount, sending an Arcane Blast for 18 damage at Anselm.
The daemon's flying manta-ray mount sweeps at Father Erich and attacks him, missing. Father Eric's quick reflexes allow him to retaliate immediately striking back at the daemon mount - and (chaos star) trigging the amethyst orb's movement to threaten Father Erich, the manta mount and its daemon rider - a Lord of Change according to Hans' lore.
Father Eric and the mount avoid the orb (Hard Coordination) but the greater daemon does not and is petrified! (It is an epic spell so that it can affect a greater daemon is logical - the orb's effect really did make the encounter mostly turn on "who makes or fails their coordination checks).
The mount was actually in the middle of its flyby attack and completes its second move portion of this "move from medium, attack, move again to medium range", carrying its now-petrified master back down the chaos portal which begins to close.
The other daemons that followed after have emerged, a Herald of Tzeentch and a Horror. Hans exorcises and banishes the Horror before it can split into more and the last daemon is destroyed.
The few ghouls and other undead left in Helfurt Castle flee the triumphant heroes. Father Erich had told Karl to flee during the fight but he reappears. They find considerable wealth in the castle and the remains of the fallen knights of Morr.
Before they can make the return journey, that night Valin returns on behalf of his real master, Mannfred von Carstein. He is pleased that Lydia's plans have been thwarted but wishes to claim Karl for his master. He is accompanied by two other vampires and a pack of ghouls. The heroes defeat and destroy him, tying off this loose thread.
The heroes return to Seigfriedhof, with the knights horses they are able to transport their remains and Findulas'.
Only the "chaos faction" is still active and in pursuit of Karl (the one that originally got him out of Marienburg).
(resolved narratively using an indie system's approach to stating good/bad outcomes and resovling what happens among them)
Karl is, as Hans suggests, exposed to a cadre of able protectors such as other knights of the raven from Siegfriedhof who assist in guarding him on his return trip to Altdorf.
The powers of Chaos (the surviving faction after Karl going back to Crusade's genesis in Marienburg) bedevils the heroe's plans and hopes, ambushing them as the larger group is harder to conceal. They are driven off but is is clear they pose a continuing threat to Karl.
In Atldorf, Karl's future is decided by a council of the Temples of Sigmar and Shallya, though the Shallyan influence is minimized as the attempt of the mutant-loving Shallyan heretic Astrid von Nimlshein is revealed. Due to Hans' persuasion, the College of Light also included in counsels about Karl's future.
The heroes become Karl's guardians, as the Council decides Karl is not a mutant and has great potential as a champion against chaos if he is raised properly. [metagame, he is heading towards the destiny seen in Father Erich's vision of a champion for the Empire - not the one Sister Helena wanted that would have decided whether that "cure mutation" blessing really exists or not - bah, it's a grim world and such a thing does not belong in the game anyway].
However, the Chaos Threat remains and the future is uncertain. More even that Father Erich and Anselm von Bruner know.
Hans is constantly troubled during this time and at long last realizes why he can cast spells he does not remember learning and why his mother cannot bear to meet him: he is not really Hans Junkers.
The real Hans' mind was destroyed, his soul sucked into the Aethyr, in a ritual that left healthy but 'vacant' body. The mind within Hans is none other than Egrimm van Horstmann arch villain of the Light Order who has escaped all efforts to locate him!
When he heard other wizards talking about welcoming their master back, this means that the Light Order is corrupted still. His mother part of it, all the "ill spoken of her" is completely true, she is a cultist not the "innocent woman maligned by stepsons" that her son liked to believe.
[Had the narrative resolution for this been different, it would have been the opposite, he would have been his missing mentor, the loss of Hans' soul an accident allowing the mentor to hide from von Horstmann as he had helped bring down the villain but was exposed to his 'membership curse' since he infiltrated the sorcerer's cabal - in losing on this resolution the player also dictates the order of light still has corrupt members]
Due to Karl's influenced, van Horstmann's identity will not manifest fully under Karl's influence. Hans realizes as long as he stays close to Karl, the corrupted essence that is van Horstmann cannot manifest.
Hans' efforts to keep his "false surface identity" intact and not "become his true self" is an internal battle. If he were ever to try to communicate this to another, it would give enough validity to the van Horstmann ego that it would then manifest.
Thus Hans, Father Erich and Anselm take Karl into hiding to be guarded and raised until he is of age. With the vampires behind conspiracies destroyed, the isolated Grauwerk Manor in the Hagercrybs is an excellent choice lying as it does under the control of the von Bruner family (stout foes of Chaos of which Anselm is now an official member).
Hans must be ever vigilant of the "aid" the College of Light provides for he knows that van Horstmann's corruption was never completely expelled from it and there are still Wizard Lords in it who are loyal to the sorcerer.
Findula's remains are returned to Athel Loren, that he may be at one with the forest again. By counsel of Naeith the Prophetess he is instead interred in the woods of Grauwerk, that were awakened by the Graf's ritual and where Karl will be raised. As he grows and comes to terms with his abilities and destiny, Karl decides to take a new name.
The woods surrounding Grauwerk manor are thus continued to be developed as awakened forest, manifesting more powerfully over the years such that, even as in Athel Loren, it's paths and byways sometimes pass through time strangely.
Thus it will be that only a few months later, as time passes in the world at large, a handsome young man with Sigmar's own strength and skill with a hammer, who defends villages of the Hagercrybs from beastmen, meets the Sigmarite priest Luther Huss and introduces himself as Valten…..
And so we end.
I have loved the 1000 Thrones campaign. So much grist for play and so much warhammer lore etc., the online free expansions good resources. We didn't even get to use all of it that I wanted to after having cut parts of it (will have to recycle some things as stand alone adventures sometime).
WRFP 3rd edition play at 89 advances was getting a bit out of hand - it is pretty clearly beyond what the system was intended to support so no criticism there of the system, very hard to throw anything at players they don't mop floor with or which doesn't tilt easily between disaster and victory. Don't think I would recommend trying to take play to this level.
In two weeks we start "the Enemy Within", and the Storm of Chaos approaches - if "going the right way" Karl has always struck be as Valtenesque and with Athel Loren timey wimey oddity involked that can be explained.
These were great play reports Valvorik. I'd like to hear more about some specific highlights of what you thought about the following:
These were great play reports Valvorik. I'd like to hear more about some specific highlights of what you thought about the following:
1 How did the story jive with the 3e rules? Were there elements of story that seemed to work extremely well or not very well when incorporated into rules?
2 At what point did you feel that the characters were just too powerful? As you say, they were either mopping up, or verging on disaster?
3 What did your players think as they advanced through differen't careers? Did they think that their characters became a little too varied or was it about right?
4 What house rules did you use?
1. The 3e system was fine for handling anything the 2e system 1000 Thrones was written in included except some of the debilitating effects for necromancy/dhar (distinct from corruption). I found using the dice pools for battles etc. smooth and easy. Representing Karl's aura in 3e terms was fairly easy to work out. Nothing was really hard to figure out representing using 3d.
Personality: curious, fearless but not foolish, quick to pick up things, lonely and wanting a family, a mother above all. A very healthy, physically top notch specimen 4 fortune dice resistance to disease or fear) - inherent balance is the reason he’s not a spoiled brat despite his aura.
Magical Resistance: Karl creates a moving “knot” in the warp around which the winds concentrate to produce effects, which also make him hard to affect directly with magic (add 3 challenge dice to spell or supernatural effects targeting him).
Fortune Aura: acts assisting him gain two and acts against his interest gain two misfortune. This stacks with magical resistance and applies if the act must “reach him”. His own actions get a two successes and a comet added to dice pool and actions against himn directly get two failures and a chaos star added to dice pool.
Magical Sight sees the “knot”, and finds it fascinating - Discipline (resist charm) Hard) to avoid the Perplexed condition for rest of Act. Trying to decipher the knot requires repeating this check with K for each challenge die in check. It is Challenging perception to see that Karl himself is the effect's source as he pushes the winds out again “resorted” to magnify his personal appeal, create fortune that benefits him and misfortune that hinders any thinking him ill – the more winds around the stronger this effect. 3 successes sees that Karl possesses natural magica talent that has been harnessed to produce this outcome.
Spellcraft (Hard) recognizes Karl's effect must be a very powerful spell or artefact at work or a freakish random mutation; 3 successes recognize Karl's nature precludes corrupting influence such as causes mutation; comet realizes at core Karl has an inherent nature that defies full comprehension, apart from anything mutation or enchantment has done.
Compelling Aura: coming within 20 yards (medium range) of Karl encounters his aura and triggers Epic (5D) Discipline to avoid feeling love for Karl - Corruption points are spent to add to challenge - this is "he is wonderful and my best happiness is to see him happy" love. For a non-human, the check is only Average. The effect lasts until 4 rests pass without re-exposure, after which time it is treated as an Insanity Severity 3 with checks made daily. Recovery makes re-exposures an Easy test.
The aura, which triggers changes in the human mind in particular, does not affect undead, daemons, the soulless or completely corrupted such as the servants The Tilean (formerly Ruprecht) sent to capture him.
The aura is a magical effect and is not dependant on hearing Karl speak.
2. The last 3-4 sessions were where power really got out of hand. The 70's and early 80's worked okay. So maybe "mandatory retirement at 85" (no pension) is the lesson. Of the 4 PC's, 3 had at least one action tricked out (between it, stat, stat fortune, training, talents etc.) to point that they were each "well there's a big bad done in one shot" or nearly (e.g., the crone would actually have been standing after Hammer of God if not perviously wounded). They were having to roll their dice pools in "batches" at times.
3. Only at the final level was the advancement feeling really restricted (there being only priest/wizard careers at that level) and was I having to homebrew, "advanced version of that career". Earlier it was mostly the wood elf character feeling limited in choices. That player has decided to play a dwarf next campaign since the system shows dwarfs more love. Otherwise people were happy with choices and "feeling it".
To advance a Rank you must spend 4 non-career advances (putting a bit of a break on advancement, also given our sessions a bit short).
Tried homebrew approach to group card (as on blog) but will going back to regular one just blowing it up larger.
Used my 'travel roles" rules from One Ring for the journies across the empire.
I use trait restrictions on cards to more effect. only dwarf take 'slayer' etc.
Since our play sessions are typically 2.5 hours, I reduced fortune points to 2/session not 3.
As play reports indicate, represented NPC's as dice pools to draw on and limited additional actions at times (to give having them around meaning but keep the attention on PC actions).
For a while allowed more access to assigning various outcomes for comets etc. if none on cards/location etc. though stopped as it was to facilitate narrating cool stuff and players were just really using it for the dice - also I realized the nature of dice pools PC/NPC was such it was helping the Players too much vis a vis giving monsters just as good a boost.
On my side of screen, to play out the vampire elements of plot I developed 3e approaches to the vampire bloodlines and vampire weaknesses etc. E.G. von Carstein transfixing gaze, how Blood Powers work out of the Blood Pool, Guarded Position with Sigmar's Holy Symbol more effective etc.