The Mercenary Campaign: GM Thoughts

These blog posts are not nearly regular enough to provide enough clarification/context for the happenings that take place in my Warhammer campaign, at least for the readership of this blog, with exception of course to my player group. The burden of being a prolific DM/GM running more than one game along with some side projects (including map commissions) means that my post count suffers, as does the quality. I rarely proof read my posts, which often results in some funny facepalms as I re-read them and find some glaring editorial mistakes. A tradition that I ain’t giving up. Also I just reminded myself that I need to sort out the player adventures page on this site so that a better picture of who the party are can be visualized. I’m not looking forward to writing up the segment about Xaltach…

When I started Enemy Within for a second time (I never finished it the first time and most of the first group got disbanded) I was only just starting to GM. Before that, my only experience was a player in the same campaign, which got towards the end of Death on the Reik before it finished up. One day, I said to myself, “This GM malarkey can’t be too difficult, can it?” and boy was I wrong. It’s a lot of work. Yet also a lot of fun. Thankfully.

Of all the lessons I picked up during that first run of Enemy Within, one of them was to take the campaign books with a healthy dose of skepticism and more of a guideline, than a strict adherence to their pages. I had this naïve view that an official campaign would be ‘near-perfect’, that their plots, side-plots would twist around and wind up making sense. I was wrong on that front. This isn’t disparaging Enemy Within, as quite a few adventure modules suffer from this. Enemy Within though was so large in scope, encompassing massive chapters that incorporated the talents of different writers throughout its history.

When I started the second run of Enemy Within, I decided to wrap the story around the group, rather than trying to fit the group to the story. I was much more comfortable knowing that any changes that the players made (and oh boy, there was many) I could creatively adjust the story as needed. I still ran them fairly close as written, up until Power Behind The Throne – Middenheim. I expanded PBTT massively from how it was originally written with a cast of around 80 npcs – it became an intricate weaving of intrigue in a vast city and is still today, my favorite and fondest memories of Warhammer and the players themselves have taken many fond memories of it. It also gave me the confidence that if I can run a mammoth of a chapter like that, I could run most things. I certainly ended PBTT on a high note with renewed confidence in my own abilities.

The end of PBTT and the subsequent custom Essenberg mini-campaign that quickly followed it saw the end of another party. This is going over old ground, but I’ve always found it odd that the end of each year saw a new party emerge in the following year. It wasn’t planned.

The party at the end of the Death on the Reik ended as a result of player actions. I certainly didn’t tell Ulrico Eisenhower, played by Ricky, to go into the Witch Hunter Chapter house in Altdorf – that decision and what he ended up saying to them, cost the whole party to go on the run. It ended Ulrico’s life as a character, and cost the others theirs in one way or another. There was no bad blood at all with the group over what happened – after all, it was bloody hilarious and everyone had a good laugh out of it. I myself, as greatly amused as I was, knew that by allowing the world to react to what Ulrico was doing, I’d be ripping up whole pages of planned chapters and hooks. Well, not literally – I never plan that far ahead. I work with a loose framework of how things will work out and a mental bible of hooks and plot. That mental bible of mine got shredded in my mind. I always feel its important though that the world reacts to the player actions. When I sit down and play in a game, that’s part of the enjoyment. Knowing that what you do, matters. Good or bad. Even if it comes at the cost of my own plans.

A new party was born, and that party succeeded greatly in their endeavors, but suffered an unkind fate towards the end of a chapter. I have been fortuitous that all the party wipes that have occurred, do so after the end of these massive chapters that can take upwards of a year to complete (at least on my bi-weekly schedule).

That tradition has been disrupted. Dammit!

With the closure of 2020, and the beginnings of 2021, saw the end of a chapter I titled: Tainted Hearts. Tainted Hearts was part of a custom campaign I call Black Hearted Bastards – BHB. The party, casualties aside, still lives. Part of the benefit of being part of a mercenary company with a large background of extra characters lurking about. Before I started BHB – I gave two options to my group about the next campaign. Unusual one might say considering that I’m running a narrative grand campaign. Yet the domino effect of my party’s decisions, the world reacting to them and the narrative expanding as a result, meant that I could not feasibly run the next ‘official’ campaign chapters as written. I wasn’t keen on doing such regardless, as the last of the two remaining chapters are often derided – criticisms that were valid in my opinion. I would take what inspiration I would need from them and write up a narrative framework that suited the changes made in my game.

I hence gave my group two options – run a semi-open narrative campaign focused around a mercenary group called the Black Hearts, founded by Kall Horst, a prominent surviving player character of the early campaigns. The premise tied directly into the narrative – Set during the onset of the imperial civil war and Nordland/Talabecland v Ostland conflict, the Black Hearts are hired by a cautious Talabecland state to wage unrestricted war on Ostland. The campaign would start just as the Black Hearts are ambushed by a large raiding party of greenskins. This campaign would focus on Azhag the Slaughterer, a canon character who does invade the territories of the northern Empire around this time. As recently revealed in the earlier blog post summary, Azhag the Slaughterer is searching for the Master Rune of Ages – The Nemesis Crown. Yes, I replaced the Crown of Sorcery (that he gets in canon) with this – for those on the know. Except he hasn’t got it yet. He’s also not the only one searching for it…

Which brings me to the other option that was provided, and not chosen. This was my favorite of the options – a campaign that would see the party play as Palisades or cell-members within that organization. The Palisades are a secret order of Watchers within imperial society who observe, report and act upon the threats that plague the Empire from within. This would be a tightly focused narrative directly dealing with the Purple Hand and be a campaign of intrigue. Despite being my favorite of the two options, I was keenly aware that my group had only finished Middenheim chapter, which was a massive ‘Game of Thrones’ kind of game filled with intrigue, so providing the option of the mercenary start was my way implementing a change of pace.

The Black Hearts may very well ride the coat-tails of this grand campaign to the very end – While the Purple Hand has taken a backseat in this narrative to bring to the forefront other foes and different structure, narratively it makes sense. The party in Middenheim dealt a tremendous blow to the efforts of the Purple Hand – but the conspiracy is much bigger than just one city. It’s too early to say regarding how the BHB campaign will go, but the scheming of the Hand and their hidden ambitions is still a threat moving forward. What form that will surface in, who knows… Well ok, I know!

Tainted Hearts may be the end of a chapter, but it is just the beginning of the Black Hearts. I ran a campaign that focused on these themes; loyalty, companionship and survival. The Black Heart company got decimated in an orc ambush. Their leader, Kall Horst, died at the hands of a Black Orc. Struggling to survive, they banded together, scattered as they were with loyalties being tested at every turn. It was very successful, and my group enjoyed it. But it was only the appetizer, with the main course soon to follow.

And I look forward to nibbling at it.

Nomnomnomnom.

The Sylvanian Question – Part 2

https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/the-sylvanian-question-part-1/

As previously mentioned, I had intended to make some changes to Sylvania, to accommodate changes that I feel would be more appropriate for my game. Some of this is taken from ‘History of Sylvania’ by Alfred Nuñez Jr, with changes incorporated to suit my version of Sylvania.

First, some brief history, starting from the Vampire Wars. I am not predating this with Sylvanian history from the beginning – as that is a lot of work.

The Vampire Wars – 2010-2145 IChttps://warhammerfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Vampire_Wars

Around 500 years ago from the present timeline that my game takes place in, was a dark period in the chapter of the Empire’s history. The ambitions of Vlad von Carstein, and his wife, Isabella von Carstein, (formerly von Drak) laid the foundations of what would be a 100 year vampiric crusade against the Empire.

By the end of it all, Sylvania lay in ruins. The Empire had suffered untold destruction, death and carnage not seen since the days of the Black Plague. Throughout this period, it saw the death of Vlad and Isabella, the beheading of Konrad von Carstein and the gutting of Manfred von Carstein at Hel Fenn from the keen edge of Orc Hewer, Runefang of the Grand Duke of Stirland, Martin von Kristallbach.

When the dead had finally settled, and remained firmly in the ground, the Empire was finally able to breath. Stirland quickly moved to annex the lawless lands of Sylvania, as von Kristallbach appoints his loyal advisor and comrade, Vorster Schlagener, to oversee the province of Sylvania. Vorster takes on the name Count Vorster von Essen. Five years later, he is found ritually slain in the Forslak Woods, now known as Grim Woods on. As a result of this, the Raven Knights of Morr begin a 12 year crusade in Sylvania, rooting out followers of the dead von Carsteins. They are assisted by other knightly orders such as the Fiery Heart. They are extremely effective at purging the land, although innocents caught in their wake suffer just as much.

By the end of it all, the Grand Duke of Stirland wishes to have nothing to do with Sylvania, and is content to letting it govern by itself through the successor of Vorster’s eldest son and heir.

The Great War – 2301 IC

A massive invasion from the far north spills into the lands of the south, led by Asavur Kul. United behind him are the many Norscan tribes, and ever-watching his progress, are the dark gods. The Empire, already in disarray from internal pretender conflicts, struggles to respond. One man however begins to gradually unite the Empire under one hammer; Magnus the Pious.

Sylvania, long-forgotten and eager to prove itself, summons a poorly equipped army and heads north for Kislev. Led by a von Essen, the Sylvanians intend to relieve the siege at the city of Kislev by forces of Chaos.

That didn’t go well.

They arrived a week earlier than Magnus’s forces, and were quickly decimated to a man. With the arrival of the Forces of Order, Magnus the Pious led the charge into the flanks of the Forces of Chaos outside the gates of Kislev. It was said that during this titanic clash of forces, Magnus fought Asavar Kul. Smiting his foe to the ground, Kul was said to have removed his helmet, and in conceding defeat, announced that he failed his gods. Magnus, in response, was said to have shouted, “It was your gods who failed you. My god is always with me.” Magnus delivered the final blow that ended Kul’s dark reign.

The Northmen scattered, as the forces of Chaos fled back to the north. The Empire was once again, left reeling from a period that offered little respite. Yet despite its suffering, the Empire was never more united than it was now. Magnus the Pious became the Emperor, and his legacy is still felt presently. Be it the Colleges of Magic or the founding principles of the Templars. While the rest of the Empire flourished under his rule, Sylvania remained hidden beyond the woods, a harsh land of marsh, swamps and infertile fields with a dark history that no one wanted to revisit.

Their contribution and albeit miscalculated sacrifice in the Great War largely went unnoticed. After this, it could be said that Sylvania truly became the backwater of the Empire. The Grand Duke of Stirland Sigmund von Krieglitz elects to have his son-in-law oversee the province of Stirland. Frederick Schliemann becomes Frederick von Walden, and houses his estate in Waldenhof, the capital of Sylvania.

Sylvanian History – Predating The Fracture, 2340-2400

Frederick von Walden had married Adelina von Krieglitz, the young troubled daughter of Sigmund. It was long whispered at court that Sigmund had no love for his son-in-law, and conspired to get rid of his presence at court by giving him reign over the cursed province of Sylvania. This is simply not true. It was his daughter who gave Sigmund many sleepless nights. Considered to be quite mad, Adelina had a promiscuous reputation at court, and her father had hoped that marrying her off to a stern yet somewhat naïve noble vassal of his would have her settle down. It only encouraged her madness to grow, and soon his court was filled with stories about the young harlet frolicking through his court, often lacking any decency or sense of reason.

The von Walden’s ruled over the province of Sylvania. It was not an effective rule. The young nobles did not connect well with the common Sylvanian. Being secluded in their estate in Waldenhof, they ruled as outsiders in a land that they barely understood. This did not endear them to the Sylvanian lesser nobles who chafed under the restrictive and at times suffocating taxes set forth by Count von Walden, who in turn had to pay his share to the Grand Duke of Stirland – his father-in-law. Sylvania was after all annexed by Stirland but given special status regarding governing the province.

Count von Walden’s rule was short lived. Merely four years later since becoming the Count of Sylvania, he was killed in a brutal fashion. Servants found the Count in his bed chamber under the bloodied sheets of his linen. His eyes had been plucked out and his throat was slit. His wife was found on the balcony overlooking the Walden gardens, her night gown drenched in blood as she stared out across the gardens vacantly. She never admitted to killing her husband, perhaps her descent into madness denying her such guilt – words were not needed, for her servants had already started to wag their tongues about the horror they witnessed, and the cold demeanor of the Countess. “The Red Countess” became synonymous with her on account of the stories that were told. Other titles were less welcome, “The Mad Harlot” was one such unflattering whisper in taverns and such. The Grand Duke of Stirland paid little attention to the rumors, or the untimely demise of his son-in-law; all he was concerned was the flow of taxes, and as long as they continued to line his pockets, he had no reason to question the rule of his daughter.

Until the flow of taxes ceased.

The so-called Red Countess of Sylvania had decided one day to implement a ‘finger tax’ that was exactly as it sounded. A copper penny for each finger. Noble lords and ladies were required to pay a shilling for each finger. Not long after that, the toe tax became a thing. The Countess would ‘reward’ those who protested to these taxes; by ordering a ‘tax-cut’, except the tax-cut came in the form of their fingers and toes being severed. It wasn’t long until the Sylvanians had enough of the Red Countess and her madness. The von Rumsfelds were the first to raise their banners in rebellion. Followed by the ancient and proud von Wellmitz of Templehof. Soon all of Sylvania was rebelling against the Red Countess, who had no allies except that of her father to count upon.

The finger and toe tax had united Sylvania against what they saw as foreign rulers exacting their toll upon an already poor and infertile land. The tax disputes quickly evolved into a rebellion for independence from Stirland. The Grand Duke of Stirland Sigmund von Krieglitz was slow to respond. Out of touch with just how far his daughter had descended into madness and her capabilities in Sylvania, by the time he had received the news of his daughter’s death, he was only just mustering his forces. Countess Adelina von Walden was tossed from her balcony into the gardens below. The fall did not kill her; bloodied and broken, she crawled her way towards the garden entrance, only for the mob to catch up to her. They were not kind as they unleashed their rage upon the helpless Countess.

When von Krieglitz heard what fate had befallen his daughter, he was incensed. With his forces ready to march upon Sylvania a short time later, Sigmund led a four thousand strong army into the heart of Sylvania. He made the grave mistake of underestimating just how much of Sylvania had rose up in rebellion. Sigmund also didn’t know Sylvania at all. Reliant on out of date maps, the Grand Count spent his days ignoring Sylvania as best as he could, letting his daughter and son-in-law rule in ignorance, as long as they paid their due to Stirland.

Duke Sigmund had the soldiers and equipment, but little else. As he journeyed towards Waldenhof, his forces were slowly picked off. Encountering a far more hostile environment than he had anticipated, Sigmund marched on when the wiser action would have been to withdraw. Two months since he entered Sylvania, the Grand Duke found himself facing the combined forces of von Rumsfeld and von Wellmitz along with forces from Swartzhafen. These families were notorious rivals, but they had united together to repel what they saw as an invading foreign force. Despite their slight numerical advantage over Sigmund’s forces who had been deprecated by attrition and other factors, the Duke put up a remarkable fight. Wielding the Runefang Orc Hewer, he killed Baron Petar von Rumsfeld and sought to do the same to Dumitru von Welmitz if it wasn’t for the fact that Welmitz refused to face the Duke, opting to keeping his distance. The exact circumstances of the battle is muddied by different historical accounts, but it was said that Grand Duke Sigmund was shot in the shoulder with a bolt from afar while he was mounted on his steed. Still alive, he turned his steed and retreated with his forces, being pursued all the way to the border. It wasn’t until at camp when the danger of pursuit had settled, that his wound was finally looked at. He already took measures to remove the bolt himself, and shrugged off earlier attempts to have his wound taken care of. Once his injury was inspected however, it became a matter of urgency to amputate his arm. He did not survive the amputation, having died on the table as a barber-surgeon sawed his arm off. His body was brought back to Stirland along with Orc Hewer.

His titles passed to his only son and heir, Dietmund. Relatively young, inexperienced with war and pressured by the Emperor as well as those within his own court acting as advisors, Dietmund offered conciliatory talks with Sylvanian nobles.

These talks were largely overseen by Dietmund’s advisors along with a Sigmarite Lector present to oversee the talks due to some ‘religious concerns’ they had. One of Dietmund’s first demands was the return of his sister’s body. This however was never met, as the Countess’s body was believed lost; this unsettled Dietmund and caused him to excuse himself from further discussions, cursing the Sylvanian nobles present as “pauper bandits”. In his absence, his appointed advisors spoke on his behalf. The talks lasted nearly a year until an agreement was reached. Stirland would cede Sylvania. In exchange for their independence, each of the noble houses of Sylvania would pay a tribute duty towards Stirland. Stirland would regard Sylvania as a protectorate and come to its defense as long as the tribute continued to be paid.

Sylvania achieved its independence from Stirland, albeit with some conditions attached. Little did the province know that its troubles were only just starting.

Sylvanian History – Independence Comes With A Price, 2410-2433

It didn’t take long for the various noble families to bicker amongst themselves. Obscure families with noble heritage dating back to the reign of the von Draks were coming out of the woodwork in an attempt to claim the valuable Waldenhof estate by lineage alone. Harsh words turned into swords being drawn; Sylvanian families who have held onto ancient rivalries found themselves marching to war, a prospect that was once held at bay by Stirland.

Stirland did not stay completely neutral, often playing favorites to their advantage, although ever careful to avoid being dragged into another conflict. The peasantry came to calling this period the ‘Estate Wars’, a rather banal yet accurate summary of the conflicts.

The most influential players in this conflict were:

  • von Stolpe – The von Stolpe family owns the Leicheburg estates, and had the strongest claim to the Waldenhof by their own account based on a marriage to Vorster von Essen’s son to a cousin of theirs. Their claim was disputed by Catharina von Essen, the last living descendant of Vorster von Essen, who recalls no such marriage taking place.
  • von Essen – Catharina von Essen’s family may have ancient ties to Stirland and Ostermark but she has no love for her ancestral home of Stirland on account of the still recent turmoil left in the wake of the Red Countess. Possessing a modest estate at Eisigfurt through her matrilineal marriage with Baron Meitner, and enjoying positive influence with the peasantry of Waldenhof on account of her charitable and charismatic nature, she is perhaps the strongest claim to the estate, but lacks the forces to back up her claim.
  • von Bundebad – Bundebad made a claim upon Templehof based on historical records that had merit, and were long in dispute with the von Wellmitz of Templehof. Baron Bundebad enjoyed some minor influence over the Waldenhof estate due to his forces occupying Regakhof, a town under the jurisdiction of Waldenhof, which was occupied under his rule since the time of the Red Countess’s death. His possession of the estate and meagre garrison at Castle Regale made him a target by those chasing claims. Bundebad was not interested in the Waldenhof disputes, but Templehof interested him. Catharina von Essen offered an alliance with Bundebad, and one that would bear fruit later.
  • von Wellmitz – Templehof may have been poor, possessing few qualities of note with exception to Castle Templehof, but it was a well positioned estate of importance, strategically located on the east side of the Hel river at the edge of Hunger Wood, guarding the passageways into central Sylvania and not far from the Stirland river town of Siegfriedhof, where the Raven Knights of Morr are located. The Wellmitz were eying the settlement of Vanhaldenhof, yet lacked any claims to it. It wouldn’t prevent them making an attempt, and conflict between the two quickly broke out, ushering in the first reported fighting to take place since the estate disputes began.

Sylvania quickly fractured into war over the next few years, with minor nobles squabbling over land and resources. A peasant revolt in the year 2423 in the southern half of Sylvania saw the von Bundebad lose Nachehafen, turning it into a free town that has not been claimed back since.

By the end of it all, Sylvania was fractured into petty fiefdoms. By the time the conflict ended, majority of the disputes were still outstanding, claims remaining unsettled. Yet the fighting had cost Sylvania much blood, and there were those who just wanted the fighting to cease. It was around this time towards the year 2430 that a spate of ritual killings throughout eastern Sylvania took its toll on the feudal conflict as fear started to grip the land; not fear from those responsible in the grisly murders, but the notion that the Raven Knights of Morr may once again commit to a long crusade, and there are some old noble families who still remember the tell-tale horrors of such a crusade.

At the end of the Estate Wars, Sylvania was not a whole province. The valued Waldenhof estate settled in the hands of Catharina von Essen, and not due to the aid of the von Bundebads. Catharina acquired the ownership of two mines, an iron deposit to the south of her estate and a gold mine to the north of Essen, Ostermark, which she acquired through the use of beguile and familial ties. Bolstered by her new wealth, she took Waldenhof by force utilizing a Kislevian mercenary company. Much of her wealth was dried up trying to keep hold of her claim by the end of the conflicts. She soon remarried, giving her hand to Grigori Shvanov, the Kislevian who headed a mercenary company that she hired. Catharina gave rise to rumors that her wealth had dried up, and in order to defend her claim, she had to “open her legs”. The maturing Countess would later give birth to twins, but died in childbirth.

With the North-East of Sylvania under the control of the Shvanov line, formerly von Essen, as the other rival fiefdoms refused to acknowledge the children of Catharina as von Essen lineage, the rest of Sylvania wasn’t looking pretty. Western Sylvania became solidified under the rule of an old family. The von Wellmitz family line was rooted out from the town of Templehof by an old legacy. Baron Siegfried von Helsner, possessing an ancient lineage dating back to the time of the Vampire Wars. His family had been persecuted by the Wellmitz line and it appears that he saw his moment and struck. The Wellmitz fled into the Hunger Wood, and none have been seen since. Baron Helsner has laid claim to Templehof, and the Castle nearby serves as his holding estate. He would later claim Vanhaldenhof, something that the Wellmitz had sought but failed to achieve. Most of Western Sylvania is under his control, and it is said his rule is not kind.

Southern and Eastern Sylvania remains disputed in several areas, and conflict still sporadically occurs there. This gave rise to it being known as ‘Barons Land’ on account of all the various self-claimed barons that popped up during the conflict, some of which included pauper barons. The von Bundebad line went extinct, giving rise to several new families rising to lay claim to various estates: The Barbulescu line, the Dimir-Belaru lineage, the Dragomir pauper barons, the Barbaroy estates and the Monheimer family.

Although no one would lay claim to the cursed Drakenhof estates.

Sylvania – As It Stands

The last of the Vampire Counts was Mannfred von Carstein, and he had been killed in Hel Fenn, Sylvania around the year 2145. His legacy continues to haunt Drakenhof Castle and the nearby surrounding lands. Today, Drakenhof Castle is nestled amidst the backdrop of the Drakenhohenzug mountains, permeated by an eerie mist that obscures much of the castle from prying eyes. You will be hard pressed to find any maps pertaining to its location, as the cartographers refused to survey that area, amongst those who wish to forget that the place exists at all. That secret lies with the Raven Knights of Morr, who every 5 years or so, take the journey to Drakenhof to perform purging rituals. Even the village of Drakenhof often lies forgotten. Those who thread within its borders will find the residents tight lipped about the shadow of Drakenhof that lingers over their town.

Those journeying into Sylvania must adhere that the province remains politically sensitive. Stirlanders are often treated with ill-will towards them, although one could say foreigners in general are seen as malcontents up to no good in Sylvania. The north-east of Sylvania, where the Waldenhof estates lie are perhaps the most hospitable for those visiting the province. Although one would do well to avoid Hel Fenn, the Dead Wood and many such areas that harbor dark stories.

Politically speaking, only a few of the fiefdoms of Sylvania pay a ‘tribute’ to Stirland in the form of a protectorate duty, with exception to Shvanov of Waldenhof, who refuse to pay. Stirland has shown that it isn’t interested in chasing up unpaid ‘tributes’ and it may be only a matter of time before the tributary arrangement is gone altogether. Some also pay a tithe to encourage religious investment in temples, something that Sylvania is lacking as its people cry out for salvation, as many of the temples lay in ruins, disrepair or forgotten during Sylvania’s neglected years. Taal and Rhya are the primarily worshipped of the gods in Sylvania, with a darker aspect of Rhya called Ghuria being worshipped in some parts of southern Sylvania.

As a whole, while some parts of Sylvania may be volatile, yet northern Sylvania holds potential for flourishment. It is also considered a land of opportunity. Sylvania isn’t regulated by imperial laws or edicts, as the Empire has no hold over the renegade province, giving many freedoms. Untapped resources remain in the province, from hillside mines to forgotten tombs bursting with untold riches.

As for vampires, well. Sylvania’s dark history concerning the von Carsteins lays forgotten amidst the hundred years of neglect and conflict, from the Red Countess, to the time of the Great War by the Norscan tribes, to the Estate Wars. Still, the stories remain in some form. The von Carstein name is only whispered in the darkest corners of Sylvania, where perhaps ancient dark sects remain that purport to follow the old Sylvanian ways.

And so that is the end of my write up on Sylvania. I wanted to steer Sylvania in a direction that would suit my game, turning it into a whole province to a fractured realm filled with squabbling nobles and petty disputes, and old lineages that I can have fun with.

Tainted Hearts: Chapter Closure

Two games in a row, Sunday’s game and yesterday’s game saw the closure of a chapter that I titled, ‘Tainted Hearts’ that began last year of this campaign that is set within the grand epic campaign of Enemy Within.

The Enemy Within is a fantastic campaign that spans massive chapters that have been ongoing for years now. The end is in sight, but there’s still plenty of meat left. 2021 will see the Black Hearts regrouped as they regain their strength and ride forth. And touch wood, it will hopefully see the same group of players take part in what should be a thrilling adventure.

I wrote a wrap-up post for my group which was generously narrated by Kurt, who plays the enigmatic Ifaris Kroll, Lord Magister and Chamon wizard.

“You gorim, are the wisest of the dori that remain here,” after that, the flattery is self-inserted by Kurt! 😛
A reading of the handout that can be seen further below, done in the impression of Thorgrim Grudgebearer. Bear in mind there is a difference between Dawi (dwarves) and Dori (mentioned below, which means people).

Forgive the formatting. Can’t seem to remove the large spacing between each.

So that wraps up the chapter of Tainted Hearts of this custom Black Hearts campaign, set within the grand campaign of Enemy Within. A new series of games will set to begin sometime in either late February or March.

It has been a lot of fun writing these chapters, and challenging at the same time as I seek to wrap the story around this group who are playing in a non-linear environment. I look forward to starting up the next Chapter for more perilous pursuits in the grim world of Warhammer.

Dark Revelations

For a recap of what happened before, see – https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/recap-in-the-shadow-of-nurgle/

The Black Hearts under the command of Rylan Karth (played by Chris) who was previously Kall Horst’s right hand man, and presumed dead/missing, has been reunited with his company. Karth must face the same challenges that Sergeant/Captain Bash had faced prior to the beloved ogre’s death, and that is to lead his men to safety.

Caught in the midst of a war between Ostland and Nordland; caught between orcs; caught between beastmen; caught between resentful Ostland state troops who have not forgotten that the Black Hearts under the command of Ernst Steurmann abandoned them at the battle that transpired between a horde of orcs led by Azhag the Slaughterer and the 42nd Company.

Low on supplies, low on food and lacking morale, the Black Hearts are at the edge of their resolve. The plan to take Fort Randyl as a base has failed. The necromancer who was responsible for sending a wave of undead towards them at the 42nd Regimental camp, is still out there. Whether or not he will come after them now that Lhen’s presence is no longer among them, remains to be seen.

Come morning, the Black Hearts make arrangements to leave with haste, although they are still waiting for two scouts to return.

An alert is raised by a guard keeping watch on the battlements; he spies three riders heading for the fort. As the riders come into view, it is Hanzeitler the scout, otherwise known as Hanz, and two unfamiliar riders.

Ifaris Kroll and Sindri the Roamer (use the slider)

Ifaris Kroll is Kurt’s new character who previously played Cpt.Bash the ogre and Sindri the Roamer is Darren’s new character, who played Sgt.Wick the halfling.

Karth orders the barricades to be parted so the riders can enter. Hanz explains that he found these two on his travels back to the fort, and that they were looking for the Black Hearts; specifically, “the one in the funny hat was asking after Ernst,” he said.

Ifaris greets them, introducing himself as a Lord Magister of the Chamon, from the Colleges of Magic in Altdorf, and introduces his travelling companion, Sindri the Roamer, a norscan in his employ presumably for protection.

Naturally these two don’t receive a warm welcome; Brannigar and Otto the Beastmaster, now Sergeant Otto after Karth promotes him, don’t trust them. These make their feelings known to Karth who also isn’t a fan of wizards in general (I mean, who is?) but Karth perhaps has more reason to dislike them. After the recent assassination attempt on Ernst awhile back by a Purple Hand agent (a secretive group that Ernst eluded too) they are concerned as to their intentions. Ifaris won’t say why he needs to find Ernst, other than that it is important and cannot be shared with anyone but him.

That is when Hanz breaks the news; he was sent by Karth to scout out for a place of respite, and discovered the whereabouts of Oskar and the rest of the Black Heart company, along with Ernst. It seems Oskar has once again mutinied and captured has Ernst held captive. Why, Hanz can’t say, other than that they are held up at an estate north of a small village called Schoffen.

Karth and the rest of the men agree that Ernst must be rescued. While Karth was not present for Oskar’s mutiny previously, he’s told by Brannigar the Bull and Otto that Oskar had tried to leave the company but Bash had put him in his place. It seems unlikely that Oskar is going to get another chance. For the men under his command however, the Black Hearts know they need more men and regrouping up with them is a priority.

As for Ifaris and Sindri, they are about to discuss what to do when they hear what sounds like distant marching… Otto commands everyone to man the battlements, fearing the worst. Xaltarch is sent up higher on the topmost perch to get a birds eye view of what that sound is.

As they reach the battlements and look out towards the east where the Forest of Shadows lie, they see nothing. Then the sound stops… Sindri lowers Kroll’s head, suspecting an array of arrows to fall upon them. They do not come. What they mistake for marching is suddenly revealed to be something else entirely. The distant flapping of wings soars above them as they turn their heads skyward and witness a terrifying beast.

Azhag the Slaughterer atop his beast, Skullmuncher the Wyvern.

He makes a low-flying pass over the keep as he twists the beast by the chain to do his bidding, swooping down towards them. Some elements of the Black Hearts flee, others stare in horror. Sindri lets out a roar of challenge towards it, perhaps causing Ifaris Kroll to reconsider the arrangement they have. Their fears that the beast will attack them is unfounded as it twists towards the east. It seems the riders’ intentions were to scout out the fort. Brannigar the Bull informs the captain that what he just witnessed was Azhag; he witnessed him and that beast at the battle with the 42nd Company, before Ernst had perhaps wisely decided to pull out the Black Hearts and retreat.

Xaltarch, the lizardman skink, who was watching from above, comes down to say he saw smoke on the far horizon and camps as far as the eye can see. Orcs, likely. Should they march this way, then the Black Hearts would be doomed for certain.

They order an immediate lifting of the camp. The Black Hearts only have a few horses to spare, and they need to make haste. Ernst is being held captive to the north-east at a rural estate.

(I’ve put a P. next to a name to signify that it is a player)

Its decided that the party consisting of P.Ifaris, P.Sindri, P.Karth, P.Xaltarch, P.Eadulf and P.Otto, along with Brannigar the Bull, Mallus Gundersson (the dwarf they met at Dakhurtz, Goldbreaker) and four other Black Hearts will accompany them to the estate and confront Oskar and the rogue men. They pick the best horses they can spare.

The other group is given responsibility to Dane Ironheart, who will lead the men North and find respite or a safe place to setup camp. Dane will then send out a runner to Schoffen or in that direction to find the group once camp has been settled. It is likely to be temporary at best as they are keen to increase the distance between them and the orcs. There is still the issue of the missing scout who never returned, as Karth had sent out two scouts. Dane hopes to find him if possible since he did go north towards a westerly direction.

So they ride out! Leaving the cursed Fort Randyl behind. Whatever infestation that grows within the walls is someone elses problem.

They ride hell for leather towards the North-West. The orcs, should they choose to head for Fort Randyl, could be upon them by nightfall. They have a far greater endurance than humans, and the Black Hearts know they are on borrowed time if they don’t get further north in time. North is also where the main skirmishes are taking place between Nordland and Ostland; no matter where they go, danger awaits them.

After riding with haste for sometime, they decide to give the horses some respite. They find themselves in a large circular clearing with a forest surrounding them. Otto and Xaltarch head into the trees to the north-west to see if its safe. What they find…

An Ostland Encampment

They discover evidence of beastmen, tracks that signify their presence. Seems a battle unfolded here. They find no bodies except for a mutilated corpse of a soldier left to rot inside the camp, perched on a wooden stake. His skin pealed off, and placed on a ‘token’ that was left behind by the beastmen. They determine that the beastmen went west, possibly south-west. They looted what they could find, weapons and supplies. Brannigar was given the duty of dishing out the equipment and supplies; he took the largest weapon they found, a zweihander.

Their horses needing rest, and the men needing some shut-eye considering they had a restless night in the courtyard of Fort Randyl, Karth orders the men to make a small camp a few feet into the forest. Brannigar comes up with the clever idea of using one of the horses as an early warning; tying up the horse at a tree about 40 feet away from the camp, further into the forest. He said it was an old trick he learned in his days patrolling the Drakwald Forest as part of the Carroburg Greatswords. Horses had keen senses and beastmen often spooked them.

With the men bedding down and a few others keeping watch, Sergeant Otto takes the time to have a private word with Captain Rylan Karth. A word that brings revelations.

Ingo was a valued yet secretive member of the Black Hearts. Often viewed with suspicion and given a healthy distance, he possessed talents in the magical arts that proved useful to Kall Horst and his band of mercenaries, and thus found a home for himself amidst the Black Hearts. In his last act, Ingo conjured up a swirling vortex of magic at the walls of Dakhurtz that swept up the host of undead that threatened the town. In doing so, he ultimately sacrificed himself; destroying the town and the remains of the undead sent forth by the necromancer at Fort Randyl, he himself getting consumed in the process.

Yet Ingo knew that this would be his last act; at the walls, he stood there next to Otto and other members of the Black Hearts, awaiting for the dead to march upon Dakhurtz. He warned them to seek shelter, but shared a final passing thought with Otto.

A warning.

“I part with a gift of knowledge for you, Otto. The Black Hearts have a benefactor from beyond. Gideon is its name. Horst… tasked me with summoning it. I warned him of the dangers. Perhaps we are now being visited by the sins of my actions. This knowledge is your burden now, Otto. Do with it as you see fit.”

Ingo

Otto had kept the warning to himself, unaware of what this meant and how to use this information. Ever since he left Ingo alone on those walls, it has been a constant burden for him to comprehend meaning behind Ingo’s last statement.

Karth needed to know, Otto felt, now that he was Captain. The revelation that Ingo had performed some kind of ritual summoning was perhaps hard to process for Karth. As if they didn’t have enough problems. Still, with the information parted, it is unclear if Ingo’s actions may play a future consequence, or why he even resorted to such a thing.

Otto left Karth to ponder over the information, as Karth stood out in the pouring rain, alone with his thoughts.

As the group bedded down, Otto and Xaltarch took watch. They were only to get a couple of hours rest and then move on.

Not long into their watch, Otto hears a familiar sound that he knows all too well; the drawstring on a bow being pulled back. He looked around, and saw no one. Then, he looked up.

Wood elves.

They had Otto dead to rights. Four of them, two on the left and two on the right, perched about mid-way up a tree. Why were they there? How long were they there for… Otto couldn’t be sure. His first thought went to what was in his possession. An elf bow. Elvish bows are incredibly light, strung together using the hair of elf maidens and masterly crafted using either ithilmar or wood from their sacred groves.

The bow is sacred to them. And Otto is in possession of one, having claimed it off a dead elf as loot.

He couldn’t be sure if they knew he had it, but that uncertainty was no longer as he presented it to them – holding it aloft for them to see as he knelt down on one knee, trying to emit an air of non-threatening submissiveness.

Upon seeing the bow, one of the elves climbed down as the other three kept watch. Otto’s two hounds, Brutus and Krixus, were alert and ready, watching the wood elf approach silently and cautiously. The elf drew his dagger, as Otto slowly stood up now.

As the elf grew near, Otto stared to make a case for keeping the bow. He said the bow was gifted to him by a friend, that the bow was parted as a gift upon the demise of his elvish friend. The elf pointed to the ground, and then to the bow; Otto dropped the bow, as the elf started to inch closer, bending down to pick up the bow with a free hand, the other wielding a dagger that was stretched out a couple feet apart from Otto. His dogs growling as things got tense.

As the elf picked the bow up, Otto’s attitude changed to one of hostility, threatening the elf; if he leaves with that bow, his hounds will tear him apart, and while Otto may be struck down by the archers from above, both of them will be dead. He asked him if he really wanted to do this… (A couple of good fellowship rolls done with difficulty are crucial in giving Otto some reprieve. For now.)

Xaltarch in the meantime has now caught on what is happening, having been on the otherside of the camp keeping watch elsewhere. His keen senses alerted him to trouble, and he was watching this unfold.

In a moment that was life or death for Otto; the elf dropped the bow as Otto’s hounds began to growl and the situation became more untenable. The elf backed off, and the three elves perched high had fallen back.

For now, Otto had his bow. Yet he made a decision that may haunt the Black Hearts who already have enough enemies as it is.

Otto heads back to camp at once to alert Karth, and only Karth. Xaltarch follows. Brannigar is awoken who was resting nearby against a tree, covered in blankets from the northern cold. Both him and Karth are briefed by Otto what had just transpired.

“Why didn’t you just give them the bow?”

Otto deflected, saying that they should be more concerned about why the elves are here. “Maybe hunting beastmen, who knows. We have enough trouble as it is without having to worry about wood elves.”

Karth tabled the discussion for later. They needed to move out and continue onto Schoffen.

Not wasting time, they pack up and leave, making their way to Schoffen. They reach the village within the hour and find nothing but a ruin. The place looks like it has been abandoned for sometime. Nothing stirs.

As they discuss about how best to approach the village and find shelter, Brannigar the Bull realizes that one of the Black Hearts is missing. Roderik, a keen archer who accompanied them. He heads back with Hanz, one of the scouts leading the group to the estate, to find Roderik.

He comes back with ill news. Brannigar drops a blood stained arrow into the snow, and Hanz tosses Roderik’s short bow, which was broken in two. The message is clear, although perhaps not clear enough to some.

“Elves…” says Brannigar coldly, as he gives Sergeant Otto a brief glare before turning to Captain Karth. “What are your orders, Captain?”

Karth wishes to get into the village and find safety from the weather to discuss their next plan of action. He spies a hovel that looks relatively intact in the village and Otto volunteers to scout it out.

Of course, the mention of elves brings discussion to the group. Eadulf and a few others are not too pleased to learn that Otto had an encounter with them, and some may be thinking that his greed may get them all killed.

Ifaris Kroll pipes up, saying he has a good comprehension of Eltharin, the language of the High Elves, but he could perhaps exchange a few words with the wood elves in their native tongue, Fan-Eltharin, to try to stop any further bloodshed.

Otto heads down to the house in the village. A small little abode, that seemed to house a ranger or a huntsman at some point as he spies traps dotting the place and some moldy food. He hears movement in the room to the left, and investigates. His hounds sniff out a cat that was lurking underneath a bed. The poor thing is ripped to shreds as dinner as his hounds take piecemeal out of it. Then, not a moment later, the door to the abode creaks open. He silences his hounds as best as he could as he positions himself behind the door.

“Here felix, got a little nibble for you…” says a young male voice. However Otto’s dogs must have alerted him, because Otto heard the door crash open as the young man retreats.

Otto gives chase, sending his hounds after the young man who turns out to be a boy of either 19 years or younger. The lad’s ankle is caught by Brutus and draws some blood as he’s brought to the ground. Otto races over as the rest of the party come down, hearing the screams from the young lad cry out.

Otto calls his hounds off and sternly questions the boy about who he is, why he was here, and what happened. He’d certainly make a good witch hunter!

The boy is scared though and Otto’s worst instincts are perhaps curtailed with the arrival of the group. They question the boy while Eadulf tends to the lad’s ankle.

It seems about a month ago, the village had been attacked by some Ulricans. The question as to why could lie in the recent religious turmoil that has befallen the two faiths of Ulric and Sigmar. Ostland is predominantly Sigmar, and Nordland used the religious turmoil as an excuse to grab land.

Regardless of the fate that had befallen the village, that’s not why they are here. They question the boy about the estate that lies to the north. He says he saw some men there. They determine that Oskar has at least over 12 men, which is a safe assumption based on what the boy said and what Hanz the scout had previously mentioned.

Yet there is also a beast of some kind; chained up outside the estate. The boy said it is recent, since he used to sneak into the estate to steal food for his own needs, but stopped once they tied that beast outside. Someone asked him what it looked like, if it looks like a bull of some kind. The boy nodded.

Karth orders them to seek shelter within the small house and the boy shall come too. There, they plan to discuss their next move.

And perhaps the most important discussion to be had for the now; Otto and that damn elf bow.

The Sylvanian Question – Part 1

Transylvania is a la-… Sylvania is a lawless land shrouded in despair, rife with corruption and generally not a nice place to be in.

It’s also a lore headache.

1st Edition Sylvania worked far better; vampires were a low-key threat, were incredibly rare unless you were looking for trouble with them, and most importantly, Sylvania was part of Stirland; the von Carsteins were not in power. 1st Edition was very much like traditional Bram Stokers’ Transylvania; if vampires resided here, they did so in secret.

Fast forward to later editions, and a retcon was done. Sylvania became independent, and were largely ruled by the vampire counts, with Mannfred as their ruler. This is fine for Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Total War. It works, but does it work in a roleplaying environment?

I’ve ran Warhammer for 7/8 years now, and have only ever introduced 2 vampires into my game, with exception to a fun Halloween oneshot I did that featured a bunch of them. I generally run my games fairly low-key, and ramp things up when I feel it is appropriate. It is Warhammer after all, and you gotta have the spooks come in now and again. So I am in the habit of telling players that unless there’s a specific reason, they are ignorant of the existance of vampires. That goes for undead (unless encountered of course) and such.

I usually say this with a straight face, knowing full well that there’s a province nearby full of the blood thirsty feckers.

It never did make much sense to me. Why hasn’t Sylvania been razed to the ground? Why does the Empire tolerate this?

What of the peasants residing in Sylvania. They are in your charge. Do you abandon them to this Necromancer?
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. They are serfs, enslaved to the Sylvanian nobles, and I cannot vouch who still breathes among them. We scoop up the refugees that make it out, of course. But going into Sylvania is a costly offensive. I’ve tried.
“—Karl-Franz and Alberich Haupt-Anderssen discussing the plight of the Sylvanians.

Don’t lecture me about defence! We of the Grand County of Stirland are the ultimate defence. Who do you think keeps Sylvania in check? Who keeps the dead pinned against the World’s Edge? Stirlanders, that’s who!“—Alberich Haupt-Anderssen.

Of course we are provided some cheap excuses as to why Sylvania remains standing as a province, but if you look at what the Empire is, how the citizens think, how the clergy act, none of it makes much sense. Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim (or any Grand Theogonist for that matter) would be leading crusades after crusades into Sylvania if he had his way. He bloody would and we all know it. The Witch-Finder General would not sit idly by either. While it is convenient and useful for the nobility who are in-the-know to pretend that the Skaven simply don’t exist and fool themselves into believing that they are not a threat, they simply can’t apply that same logic to the roaming undead that lay in Sylvania. Mannfred von Carstein perched high from his castle, Drakenhof, ever taunting the Empire at any given moment. While that may seem like an exaggeration, it generally isn’t; the religious leaders, the majority of the nobility (especially those in the eastern provinces) and the Elector Counts are all too aware of the Vampires. How can they not be when you have Mannfred von Carstein, self-declared Elector Count of Sylvania, sitting in his castle, thrusting vigorously in the vague general direction of the Empire’s capital.

I’m sure he does that, seems like a Mannfred thing to do.

“Fear and Death”

I’ve always danced around this issue by stating that the province is lawless, shrouded in stories and myth, and nobody really knows. It’s a forgotten province. This has generally worked, but I am not satisfied, and I think it’s time to reinvent Sylvania to better suit the kind of game I’m running.

Vampires are a secretive bunch of immortal entities. They very much enjoy their immortality, and would rather if you didn’t knock on their doorstep with thousands of crusaders at your back. Most importantly, they need to be able to exist through legends, stories and hearsay but avoid having a target painted on their back, which they certainly have in current canon.

In summary, the following changes will be made and detailed in Part 2:

  • Sylvania will not be ruled by the Vampires.
  • Mannfred will not have a massive target on his back.
  • New canon will be more in line with how it was in 1st edition; more like Transylvania than undeadvania.
  • Sylvania will be broken up, ruled by multiple fiefdoms under the control of various noble families.
  • Sylvania will be exporting more than just Fear and Death.
  • It’s a land steeped in ancient traditions, drenched in suspicions and rich in petty nobles squabbling over land and resources.
  • It will be a tributary of Stirland offering up tributes in exchange for honoring Sylvania’s independence. The various noble families do not offer up equal sums, and Stirland does play favorites.
  • Vampires lurk, but are far more secretive, and are not in any obvious positions of power. Looking at you, Mannfred. Don’t you thrust at me!
  • I still love the ‘vampire in the big spooky castle trope’ so he may keep his precious Castle Drakenhof, but it will largely be hidden away, difficult to reach and thought to be long abandoned and haunted. Sort of castle version of Albion.

More details to follow in part 2.

Virtual Tabletops Everywhere!

It seems the Covid lockdown has spurred an interest in online virtual programs that host roleplayers. Innovation and an increased interest has led to a boost for these programs. I decided to do a rundown on some of theses, listing the pros/cons to each one.

Roll20

Roll20 has been around since 2012 and is a leading program for mainstream use with the main appeal being free and browser based. However, it’s quickly losing its edge in the face of innovation and new programs. Roll20 hasn’t changed much at all over the years. Its interface leaves a lot to be desired, and not much has been added to keep the program relevant moving forward. Roll20 has sat comfortably nestled between more expensive routes, and being an attractive option for users who want a free program for quick one-shots or long-campaigns. If you are going for the latter, this is where Roll20 falters; despite being free, to get the most out of Roll20, you will need a subscription. Here’s a quick preview of their subscription model.

As you can see, basic truly means basic. While the basic model works for small groups, for larger groups over 5 players and running established games with built-in compendiums, and to make use of LoS and needing greater space capacity, you will have to fork out cash. Roll20 then ends up being a lot more expensive compared to some of the paid options.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Easy to hop in, browser based. No program installation although you do need to create a Roll20 account to play.
  • Able to access your character sheet at any time, make changes to it.
  • Community is still very active.
  • Has audio integration via its Jukebox (20mb limit).
  • integrated marketplace.

Cons:

  • Free model is very basic and limiting for long campaign play.
  • Community navigation is awkward.
  • Can end up being more expensive compared to alternatives if you are seeking more out of it.
  • Interface is outdated, and little has been done to improve it.
  • Reliant on community for rulesets.
  • Suffers brief outages from time-to-time as a result of Roll20 servers.

FoundryVTT

FoundryVTT is a new kid on the block and has an exciting future ahead of it. It’s very ambitious with its features and plans, and appears to be the next logical upgrade if you primarily use Roll20. However, Roll20 has been around for years, and is a stable platform, warts and all. FoundryVTT is still in early development but progress is steaming ahead, but do expect some lingering issues.

Like Roll20, FoundryVTT is browser based and functions much the same way. The GM invites a player/group using a link, and they hop on-in. One benefit already is that players do not need to create an account, only the GM requires an account. FoundryVTT costs $60, which is a one-time fee. With that, you get integrated audio, dynamic line of sight, map effects such as rain and other special effects, powerful built-in map drawing software and one of the best integrated community browsers that I have seen yet; allowing users to download rulesets, community modules/extensions all via a handy interface. Despite its young age, FoundryVTT has already got a solid foundation of community based rulesets/extensions, and for a program that is not long into development, that speaks for itself. FoundryVTT is very modern, with a clean interface. It’s also great for setting the mood, supporting video/animated backdrops and if you spend the time and investment, you can create some impressive things with it.

Where FoundryVTT suffers, is the reliance on the community. Foundry is a powerful platform and out of the box, it comes packing with a lot of nice features. But you will be tempted to download and make use of the many, many modules that are available for it. It can be a bit overwhelming. Foundry doesn’t have a lot of automation, and the program will be receiving regular updates; meaning those modules can easily become outdated. Modules are only auto-updated if the manifest URL at github has been setup to do so by the author of the module, and in my experience, not all modules will be. It would be nice to see lot of these features incorporated into the program moving forward.

Pros:

  • Low cost, packing features and innovation. In my opinion, Foundry has the best value compared to competition.
  • Browser based function means ease of play.
  • Very strong community focus, with modules popping up all the time for the program.
  • Audio integration.
  • Powerful map functions, special effects and dynamic line of sight.
  • Tidy compendiums for easy access.
  • Ongoing development, expect many enhancements as time goes on.
  • Can share your license with one other GM on a rotation basis.

Cons:

  • Heavy reliance on modules. Want to get the most functionality out of a ruleset? Modules galore, but you will need to rely on them being updated as the program continues development.
  • No official ruleset support – rulesets are dependent on community and development. DnD5e ruleset is open source and FoundryVTT is geared towards that.
  • Interface is nice and clean for the players, but the GM has some extra window navigation to deal with, some of it is clunky.
  • FoundryVTT has a higher learning curve for GM’s compared to other programs.

Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds is the program that I currently use for my main games. It has been around since 2004, and continues to enjoy frequent updates to the program. Fantasy Grounds is the most business orientated of the bunch and has a smaller slice of players compared to the free program of Roll20. However it has been growing; after a successful kickstarter awhile back for Fantasy Grounds Unity, Fantasy Grounds aims to capture itself a bigger portion of the userbase, but is held back by an outdated pricing model that has not seen much change since it popped into existence, failing to take into account of current trends and new competition.

It features a confusing array of licenses and while the purchasing options are flexible, it often leaves users scratching their head.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain the licensing options to potential buyers and players looking to download the free option.

Standard license is basically for those who are part of a family of players who have already purchased FG in some form; meaning if you plan to host a game to a bunch of players who don’t own FG (which is likely going to be the case) then the standard license isn’t for you. Instead, you will likely want to purchase the Ultimate license; this allows you to host a game for anyone, regardless if they own FG or not. However the Ultimate license will set you back 9,99 a month (more than Roll20) or $149 as a one-time cost. Ouch. That’s on top of any other purchases you might want to make in regards to official content.

Fantasy Grounds Unity is in early access, and current FG:Classic users can invest into FG:Unity with a 40% discount (which is not available on steam yet until it pops up on the storefront). Unity provides mostly performance enhancements, LoS and map FX. Similar to FoundryVTT.

Unlike the other virtual tabletops, Fantasy Grounds has partnerships with Wizards of the Coast and other various outlets. You can buy pretty much all of the official and semi-official DnD content, pathfinder content, Savage Worlds and so on. Doing so allows you to use the content in the program; everything is nicely laid out and ready for you.

Fantasy Grounds enjoys a clean interface, both for the GM and player. It has a learning curve, but some time spent in the ruleset can teach you how to make use of the functions. Unlike FoundryVTT, Fantasy Grounds is less reliant on community extensions/modules. Fantasy Grounds remains unbeaten for automatic functions and ease of play as well as compendium management, all out of the box. You will find yourself less reliant on modules in FG than you will in Foundry, because you will likely have the functions you desire. Fantasy Grounds comes to you as a complete package, and there are modules/extensions available on the forums should you wish to extend this.

Community rulesets are available, but you can modify existing official rulesets easily enough to suit your purpose, giving FG an edge for casual flexibility. Unlike the other VTT’s mentioned, Fantasy Grounds does require players to have an account and to download/install the program, an extra hurdle that most would rather not have.

Pros:

  • Fully supported package with the benefits of official content.
  • Clean interface and 3D dice with advance physical parameters.
  • Less server outages than browser based programs.
  • Lots of community rulesets, far more than the competition
  • Unity is ongoing development, and like Foundry, could have an exciting future.
  • Has the best organizational tools of any VTT on the market, and less window hopping compared to other VTT’s.
  • Enjoys advanced automated functions for fast combat and round play, although is ruleset dependent.

Cons:

  • Very pricey. Weighting your options and what you want out of it, you might find better value elsewhere. Wait for a sale, but they are few and far between.
  • Slow development. Fantasy Grounds takes awhile to innovate, and is usually playing catch-up.
  • Updates can break community based rulesets.
  • No integrated market/module/extension function, requiring you to browse the forums for your needs.
  • No integrated audio, something that comes packaged with every other VTT on this list. There are extensions for this, but they are finicky.
  • Confusing marketing terms and licensing options.

Owlbear Rodeo

This will be a short one because I’ve not tried out Owlbear Rodeo. What I have learned is that the program was created during lockdown out of a need for a simple program that simply functioned.

Owlbear Rodeo looks promising and looks to be extremely simple and easy to get into. It’s completely free, has fog of war, experimental audio and a nice clean battlemap function. It’s also browser based and uses a link-join method. No sign-ups, no accounts needed.

https://www.owlbear.rodeo/

Recap: In The Shadow of Nurgle

Warhammer is set to start again on the 11th of October, coming back from an extended break that has allowed me to catch up on some things. I’m looking forward to getting back into my favorite grim dark world.

In addition to that, game blogs will be making a return; at the end of every month I’ll do a blog detailing the happenings of the game, covering the two games of that month, for Warhammer and for the Star Wars game on my other blog.

For a refresher, I recommend these posts:

https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2020/06/13/the-journey-continues-2020/

https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/update-where-we-are-now/

There’s been a considerable gap between 2019, and 2020, with no blogs between November of last year till June of this year. The games were continuing during those months, I believe we started back up in February of 2020 and continued on, with a break happening about two months ago. I’ll do my best to sum up the events of several prior games, and how things are moving forward.

We are still in the Enemy Within campaign, a grand campaign that has stretched over 5 years now. We have seen some faces come and ago, characters prevail against the coming darkness, and characters who have fallen; heroically or not, their death marked the beginning of another fated traveler to take their place.

The campaign has taken a life on its own. Previous adventures (excluding Essenberg, Marienburg) had utilized campaign books, with a great deal of deviation to accommodate the varied consequences and free choice that came from my group, and my own spin on things. My style of being a GM plays a lot into free choice; the player characters are the stars of the show, with an ever widening narrative. I do not make the player characters fit the story, I fit the story around them.

The last chapter of the Enemy Within (and arguably the longest) is playing out. The focus is on a mercenary company from the Border Princes, now trying to survive in Ostland as they find themselves cut-off from allies, surrounded by Orcs led by the mighty Azhag the Slaughterer and have gained the unwanted notice of a necromancer and even worse, Nurgle. Disease is prevalent right now, and everyone is on their guard, careful with what they eat, drink and where they shit.

So… What of the Black Hearts? And how do they fit into the narrative that has been ongoing for 5 years?

For a recap on the company: https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/the-blackheart-company/

The Black Heart Broach, a legacy of Kall Horst

Originally led by Kall Horst (readers of the blog since the early days will know who this is), the Black Hearts are a mercenary company employed by Talabecland (along with other companies) to cause strife and anarchy for Ostland, as Talabecland was unwilling to commit its own troops to Nordland’s ambitions due to the massive orc threat that remains in Ostland.

Things did not go well for the Black Hearts. Many of them were mercilessly slaughtered when a large orc ambush had came upon them, slaughtering them piecemeal. There was survivors, however. Led by Sgt.Bash, the survivors found themselves seeking shelter at Fort Randyll. Unfortunately, Fort Randyll was occupied. By a necromancer, no less. The bulk of the other survivors would later find themselves captured by the 42nd Regiment of Ostland, led by a Commander Alderbrandt. Their fate would have been sealed, if it wasn’t for Ernst Steurmann, who was already in Ostland looking for his nephew.

As for the party themselves; they left Fort Randyll, very much alive. The necromancer was kind enough not to kill them all for their intrusion… he had a purpose. He wanted something, he wanted the ‘Seed of Lhen’, and that task would take the party to the village of Lhen. Now. I know what you’re thinking. Why would they work for some shifty guy in a plague-mask?

The ever-mysterious ‘Alexander’.

Well, he had bright sparkly gems. A bag full to be precise. Them being mercenaries, they saw a good opportunity. Go to this rural village, seek out the seed, and bring it back to him. They didn’t trust him of course, but… sparkly gems!

The village of Lhen proved… interesting. Peaceful enough, it harbored some strange folk. Turns out that strange folk were hiding something. You see, the settlement didn’t belong to them. The settlement was originally a wood-elf community, the wood-elves themselves outcasts from others of their kind. These elves had captured a powerful spirit, and binded that spirit to an underground grove. There, that spirit blossomed into an entity called… Lhen. Lhen gave the elves many boons, but she became increasingly more rebellious as time went on. Being a prisoner and held by elvish magic would do that to you. Then came the humans. A conflict had arisen between the elves and some human settlers. The humans won, although suffered much for their victory. Lhen, free of elvish influence, although still bound to the grove, offered the humans safe haven, and promised to protect them from the elves. She instructed them to build walls, fortifying the grove and thus, the settlement of Lhen was born.

The settlers came to worship Lhen, calling her ‘Mother Tree’ and ‘The Seed That Gives’ amongst a host of other names. Lhen never felt a desire to be worshipped, and soon found herself longing to be free of it. While she harbored no ill-will towards those who came to worship her, and continued to protect them, she desired to be free above all else.

Enter the party.

It was Wick, halfling chef and Sgt Bash’s right hand midget, who first found Lhen beneath the village, having snuck into the grove on their first night as a festival and strange rituals too form under a full Mannslieb. Originally mistaking her as some kind of dryad, which wasn’t the case, merely that the dryads were protecting her. Turns out, their protection was unwanted. Lhen commanded the dryads to allow Wick to pass, so that she may commune with him. Even with that command, the dryads were reluctant, but they did allow him to pass while keeping a watchful eye on him.

There, Wick had learned that Lhen was the ‘Seed’ that the necromancer wanted. He also learned why… Lhen’s roots went deep. A side-effect of her imprisonment by the elves caused her to become attuned to the Forest of Shadows. Lhen suspected that this sorcerer wanted her heart, her ‘seed’, the source of her power. Yet why? Lhen could only theorize is that he was seeking to corrupt her heart, turn her into something more suited to his purpose, and in doing so, the entire region of Ostland would fall under whatever malign purpose he had in mind.

Lhen had noticed that Wick was sick, stricken with disease. “The rot has come for you, time is not your ally Elder Child,” she had said.

Lhen offered him a way out; he must kill her, plunge his dagger into her breast, take her heart and… consume the seed. In doing so, she promised to heal him of his affliction, and she would be ‘freed’. Wick however could not, the dryads would kill him before he would even strike, and even now they watch him eerily. Lhen instructed him that he cannot do this alone.

Later that night, with the aid of the party, the dryads are dispatched. Lhen gets her wish, as Wick plunges his dagger into her breast, and takes her heart. The seed. He takes one piece, while Otto, also afflicted with a terrible disease, takes the remaining seed. They consume it, both of them, hoping that it will cure them. Slow, but gradually, they got better. Little did Wick know however, that by doing this, he would be taking on the essence of Lhen. Otto too, although Wick had the greater part of her. This did not go unnoticed. The necromancer would later make an attempt to gain the seed, but he knew he would need the halfling now.

After that, the party found themselves in the presence of the 42nd Ostland Regiment.

They are reunited with the surviving members of the Black Hearts, now under the employ of Ernst Steurmann, Horst’s uncle along with being a former companion to the first party of adventurers, and brief lover of Liliana de Sato. Ernst commandeered the Black Hearts for his own purpose after saving them from the noose when they got captured by the 42nd. Originally attached to the Ostland 42nd Regiment as an ‘advisor’, Ernst is seemingly a man with a plan, what that plan is however, remains to be seen. Situated in the center of rural Ostland amidst a struggle to survive, the 42nd Regiment’s camp came under attack by a large host of undead. The necromancer came for them, seeking the seed once more.

They fended off the attack, but not without suffering losses and losing a valuable comrade and friend; Crash, Bash’s ogre cousin. With the undead having swarmed upon them, and questions being asked about why the dead now walk, the party divulge the details surrounding Fort Randyll and the ‘sorcerer’ that resides there, informing Ernst. However, a complication arises. The 42nd Regiment is planning to move west, to regroup with several smaller companies to then make a journey south to confront a large host of orcs led by Azhag the Slaughterer. The southern reaches of Ostland is burning, and they need to confront the orcs, or at least, make an attempt to halt their march. They are worried that the orc host may continue north, cutting off Marshal Valmir von Raukov and his main force that is currently engaged with Nordland’s armies.

Ernst has no choice but to agree to this, despite wanting to go east instead, and take Fort Randyll in force. Relying on the intelligence provided to him by the party, and believing that this sorcerer has now spent the last of his resources, Ernst instructs Sergeant Bash, now promoted to Captain Bash, to take a small group of men to Fort Randyll and dispatch this sorcerer, take Fort Randyll and secure it for the company on their return. Ernst made it clear to them that he did not have the blessing of Commander Aldebrandt for this task, as Aldebrandt wants every man for the march upon the orc host, but he’s unwilling to see the importance of having a stronghold to retreat too. Ernst promises them that if they can secure the fort, the Black Hearts will ‘own it’. How he will manage to secure that promise, is uncertain.

A few things to note on some events that took place between them resting up, and them moving out:

  • A mutiny led by a norscan called Oskar takes place within the Black Hearts. Oskar manages to secure a lot of allies, although most of the commanding officers refuse to follow him, staying loyal to Captain Bash, Oskar has nearly half of the company behind him. Oskar has no intention of following what he calls ‘The Foreigner’, saying that the foreigner is lying about being Horst’s uncle and that they’ll all end up dead if they don’t leave now. A showdown between Oskar and Captain Bash takes place. Dane Ironheart previously warned Captain Bash, “Do not underestimate him. Known Oskar for years, he’s a savage fighter with that axe of his. He may be long past his prime, but he fights as well as any manling I know,” but it was Dane’s final words on the matter that stuck in Bash’s mind, “he has valid grievances, Captain. I ain’t nay to trust the foreigner. Sure, saved us from swinging in the breeze, but that don’t account for much if we are simply gonna die another day of his choosing. Yet, neither should Oskar be splitting us up like this. Nay is the time for it. Do with him as you please, but we will surely need his kind in the coming struggles.”
  • Captain Bash, and Oskar, come to blows. Bash knows he must exert his authority, less the Black Hearts that are on his side count him for weak. They come to blows. Dane’s warning rings true; the norscan is a savage dirty fighter, with buckler and mace, the norscan proves to be more than a match for the mighty ogre. Yet, the norscan finds it difficult to penetrate the gutplate of Bash Throggarth. Dropping the mace, the norscan favors his runed axe bearing the sigil of Khorne (not that the party knew what that sigil meant) as he slashed away at Bash, piercing his gutplate with greater ease as the runes lit-up. Bash was now struggling as blow after blow was rained upon him by the savage fighter. Bash, knowing that he will not be able to beat Oskar if he continued on like this, dropped his weapon and reached out with both hands towards Oskar, grabbing the norscan around the throat. Axe still swinging while he struggled for breath, Oskar was shoved into a river stream, face first, as Bash put his weight down upon him. Oskar was drowning as Bash put a solid knee on the norscan’s back, keeping him pinned. He looked up to the those of the men who had sided with Oskar, and gave them a choice: they could either come back to the Black Hearts, and all will be forgiven, but not forgotten, or, look upon the fate that awaits them… Bash was then reminded of Dane’s words, about how men such as Oskar, may be needed for the coming struggles… He gave Oskar an inch of breath, and a choice. Fall back in line, or die. Oskar, beaten, shamed and now with all those who had joined him switching sides, chose to live.
  • The Purple Hand: During the night before Oskar’s mutiny that would take place, Brannigar the Bull had delivered some disturbing news. Someone attempted to poison several commanders of the Black Hearts. Two soldiers who had helped themselves to Brannigar’s supplies had died soon after, inside his tent; flagons in hand. Brannigar had picked up a strange odor from the flagons, it didn’t feel right… Fearful that the rest of the officers would be targeted, went to check on their supplies too. The same strange bitter odor was present. He suspected nightshade, lots of it, perhaps with something else in the mix. Ernst was not in the Black Heart’s camp at the present time, having gone to the Ostland side of the camp to meet with Aldebrandt to discuss strategy. Inside Ernst’s own tent within the Black Heart company, Brannigar the Bull found evidence that seemed to suggest that Ernst was behind the poisoning, making his sudden departure all the more suspicious. Brannigar though, having become Ernst’s somewhat entrusted ear, feels that it is far too obvious, and the evidence looks like it may have been planted. Someone wanted Ernst to take the blame for this. Someone wanted the Black Hearts out of the way. Oskar? That was his immediate thought, but Oskar would not resort to poison. Not his style. Bringing his concerns to the rest of the party, they also concur; it’s not likely to be Oskar, and Ernst wouldn’t be that stupid. Still, they were suspicious of Ernst; they would have to question him come the morning when he got back from the Ostland side.
  • The next morning: and what an interesting morning it was. Ernst arrives back, and urges for a meeting with the senior officers, that being Captain Bash, Sgt Wick and Brannigar the Bull. Few others close to the group listen in. Ernst is informed of the poisoning attempts, and the death of the two men. Ernst didn’t seem surprised, “Sooner or later, I suspected they would come.” Ernst tells them that an attempt on his life was made this morning. Upon getting ready to ride back towards the Black Heart’s camp, he instructed one of Alderbrandt’s aides to ready his horse. The aid did as such, readying the saddlebags and getting the horse saddled up. Little did he know, there was something quite nasty in one of the saddlebags. The aid dropped dead, just like that. No scream. No visible wounds. Just, dead. When his body was discovered, the alarm was raised. While everyone else was looking for a possible cause or assailant, Ernst was looking at what the lad appeared to be doing before his sudden demise. The saddlebag was still clutched in his hand, gripped tight, as he lay on the ground dead. Using his sword, he lifted the bag up, tossed it to the side, and instructed one of the Ostlander’s to open the bag up very, very carefully. Poor sod. Lucky for him though, the effect had only one use. What Ernst found was a simple parchment that shouldn’t have been there; it bore a purple ink-stained palm of a hand, open with fingers stretched out, with two… eyes imprinted on either side. The eyes were closed, oddly enough. “A curse…” he muttered in the tent to the Black Hearts. That was what it was, he wagered. There, he spoke briefly about a cult that was operating within the Empire with the intent to sow chaos. He did not speak much of them, nor why they were after him, suffice to say he mentioned he made an enemy of the Purple Hand, and they were likely to target the Black Hearts as well, simply because he was commanding them. All they could do with this knowledge, was to keep an eye out, and be alert.

The 42nd Regiment along with the Black Hearts company moves out, while the party consisting of Captain Bash, newly promoted Sergeant Wick, Anya (witch), Ingo (warlock), Xaltach and beastmaster Otto, make their way to Fort Randyll.

Along the way they:

  • Encounter a strange old ‘naked’ man in the forest, who they suspect to be some spirit, since he seemed to be aware of Lhen’s presence inside Wick. Whatever he was, he was damned strong; swinging Bash, a mighty ogre, around as if he was made of paper.
  • Discover a mining settlement called Rockdrift that had come under attack by some elves. They would later find out that Rockdrift mines had hit upon some old catacombs, and were supplying bodies to a local buyer who was paying good coin for them. Tut tut. The party rightly suspected that the local buyer would be none other than the sorcerer at Fort Randyll.
  • They stopped at Dakhurtz, a walled settlement south-west of Fort Randyll. They didn’t have too, they could have gone straight to Fort Randyll, but the party wanted rest and recuperation, and felt being behind walls would be good for them. Dakhurtz proved interesting, and not exactly restful.
  • There, they met Mallus Goldbreaker and his gang of thieves, murderers and vagabonds. They were also reunited with a fellow Black Hearts member, Eadulf, who was the Black Heart’s physician. He was a welcome sight, I can assure you. But, a snag; Eadulf had been travelling with Goldbreaker and his gang for sometime, having met up with them since his escape from the orc ambush. Mallus was not keen on letting Eadulf leave his ‘service’ without due payment, saying he cared for the manling, fed him and kept him alive in these dangerous times. So the party played ball; Mallus wanted them to deal with a Witch Hunter and a Bright Wizard. The party didn’t want to play ball, anymore… But, they would see what they could do. Seems the Templar had something Mallus wanted. A map. Map to what though? He wouldn’t say, the coy dwarf.
  • They unearth some unsettling news while at Dakhurtz. The town’s cemetery was empty. Devoid of corpses. Rockdrift, and now Dakhurtz… Not only that, but the Goldbreaker gang murdered the Dakhurtz town council. Most of the militia and watchmen of Dakhurtz were conscripted months back for the long march to the north, so Dakhurtz was devoid of any serious protection. Mallus and his boys had free reign over the town, and murdered the town council, leaving their bodies to dangle in the market square. But… why? That’s exactly what they asked him, cautiously mind you, while taking on the appearance they didn’t give a shit. They wanted to know what kind of dwarf (yes, Mallus Goldbreaker is a dwarf, clad in Gromril armor no less) he was. Mallus had an interesting tale; the council, he said, were in league with a sorcerer housed up at Fort Randyll, and Mallus said that he had them hung after finding out the extent of their involvement. Seems Mallus had come into contact with the undead before.
  • Speaking of the undead… The party find to their horror that a new host of undead had arrived at Dakhurtz. It was Wick that they wanted, for he was in possession of the seed. A pale man by the name of Lothar (who Eadulf had recognized from his past) had come to the gates of the town with a proposition for them. Hand over the halfling, or the host that was behind him shall swarm over the town. They refused, and bought what time they could by boarding up the gate and fortifying the walls with men. Unfortunately, Mallus’s men, most of them at least, had already fled. Those that stayed did so out of fear of what Mallus would do to them. And Mallus still had his witch hunter problem. Now, the party were considering seeking the help of the Templar and the Bright Wizard to deal with their undead problem.
  • Anya, the sneakiest of the lot, was sent to seek out the Templar and the Bright Wizard and try to recruit their aid. They were held up in the Temple of Sigmar. Mallus was not happy at all, but he knew he had no choice.
  • A lot happened, and I am going to keep it brief here. Anya’s meeting didn’t go so well, and something ‘happened’ that caused a dispute between the Templar and the Bright Wizard. The Templar got a face full of fireball, killing him and turning him into a charred corpse, while the Bright Wizard took Anya (who was gifted in the arcane arts) into her custody, so to speak; because Anya had no intention of staying in the town to die, and she was tired of the fighting, disheartened by their current situation. She saw the Bright Wizard as an opportunity to escape this life. Wick, who went after Anya to find out what was happening, ended up being forced to go with them, as they sought to escape from the town. (I’m not going to mention the Tower of Moruvis part with Ingo+Wick, cause it’s a lot of detail to take in).
  • Ingo, warlock and practitioner of dark magic (although he’ll deny the latter), realizing that they had little hope of surviving a host of undead this large, decided to sacrifice himself for the others. He warned them to seek cover, for what he was going to do was very dangerous. Standing on the parapet, looking over the wall at the host of undead, Ingo made one last comment; a whisper to Otto, a dark revelation… Otto has yet to tell anyone else what that revelation is. Leaving his side, the party seek shelter in the Temple of Sigmar, along with Mallus and a few stragglers of his men. Ingo, channeling the power of Dhar that is prevalent in the air, harnesses that dark magic to create a powerful vortex of incredible power, and sends it shooting into the host of the undead army. A great whirling tornado of green death swims through the ranks of the undead. Lothar flees while his master’s army is decimated. Ingo is nowhere to be seen, likely having been torn to shreds by the vortex he summoned.
  • Things are not rosy however; the storm doubles back onto the town, smashing into the walls as it races across the streets, ripping up roofs and killing everything in its path. The party hunker down in the cellar of the Temple of Sigmar to wait out the storm. There is no sign of Wick or Anya. The Templar’s burnt corpse however, they came across in the temple. Mallus saw that the witch hunter had the map on him, but now it was a burnt scrap of paper. He cursed mightily as he headed for cover in the crypts below.
  • Come morning… there is nothing left of the town. Dakhurtz is destroyed. Those who survived the storm, were few and far between; their houses destroyed, their loved ones gone. The party rise out of the crypts to find themselves hated, but no one has the strength to say a word, to lift a sword. That hatred is manifested into sorrow as the folk of Dakhurtz gather up what they can, readying for a march to Rockdrift, the mining camp. They will have to hurry; with their walls destroyed, if the beastmen don’t get them, or the undead doesn’t rise again, then surely the orcs will.
  • Glad to be alive, but realizing what their survival cost them, the party gather what they can, and make the soul-crushing last leg of their journey to Fort Randyll. That sorcerer had caused them so much grief, so much trouble. Maybe, they wondered… Now that Wick had gone missing, their attention may be drawn elsewhere. Maybe. They continue to Fort Randyll, but as they would find out, Fort Randyll brought its own misery.

Fort Randyll. It was meant to serve as a new base of operations for the Black Hearts, a shelter with decent strong walls to protect them from the savage wilds of Ostland. It proved neither of those things. By the time they infiltrated Fort Randyll, they discovered some sickly truths. The sorcerer was gone, having abandoned the Fort, likely not long after the decimation of his undead army. He saw the writing on the wall, so to speak. However; in his place, came orcs. Did they drive him out? Or did they leave of his own will? Regardless, an orc band led by a couple of black orcs had sought to take Fort Randyll for themselves, to rest up. Had the orcs known what was waiting for them inside the fort, they may have reconsidered taking it…

Nurgle’s Rot festered and spread all over the keep, mostly in small pockets in certain areas, with the greatest infestation down in the dungeons. The party became aware that the orcs themselves were infected, and one of the Black Orcs had mutated into a hideous abomination that attacked the party down below. Still hoping to salvage the situation, they continued upwards and found more orcs. A fierce fight unfolded within the halls of the keep. Bash ended up contracting Nurgles Rot, his fate sealed from that point on. Lothar, the pale man they had met earlier at the gates of Dakhurtz, was found cowering beneath the fort, in the crypts. Eadulf had found him when he became separated from the party. He was riddled in boils too, festering. He swallowed a small fragment of warpstone, his final ‘gift’ he called it. Small little nurglings popped out of his stomach, ripping him open from the inside as he himself stumbled backwards, and fell into a great pit.

Eadulf would be a dead man if it wasn’t for Mallus Goldbreaker, who came down and saw the nurglings. He dispatched them with the help of Xaltach. Deciding that this was now a lost cause, the castle was corrupted and unsafe to remain, they opted to leave at once. Mallus did pick up a tome though on his way out. Eadulf would later on become into possession of it, and discover that it belonged to Lothar, who kept his thoughts and twisted ideas in it.

A few things happened:

  • Upon their attempt to escape, they came into contact with a Varghulf. They had seen this beast previously, back at Dakhurtz (yeah I forgot to mention that) and fought it briefly in the streets before it was ‘recalled’. To them it was a giant bat-like creature. How the necromancer came into possession of such a thing may be revealed in Lothar’s book.
  • Bash sacrificed himself as he and Mallus battled the Varghulf up on the battlements of the castle. He tackled the ferocious beast, sending it flying off the edge with him, gripping it tight all the way down as he slammed into the rocks below while on top of it.
  • Another group of Black Hearts had arrived! Led by Kall Horst’s former second-in-command, Rylan Karth (previously believed to have been dead), and along with Brannigar the Bull and even Sergeant Wick! Wick escaped his captivity at the hands of the Bright Wizard amidst confusing when they got attacked by beastmen. Anya had let him go willingly so she could assist the mage.
  • The other Black Hearts had attempted to sneak into the castle via a tunnel entrance, but were met with undead buried in the walls, and had to force a retreat. Wick was seriously injured in the process.
  • As they sought to make their way across the bridge, a nurgle abomination (which was the changed mutated Black Orc from earlier) had mutated even more. They retreated, and as they did, a volley of arrows shot across them, heading for the chaos beast. Those arrows were a blessing, for they came from Dane Ironheart and his misfit bunch. Now they had numbers. Not all of the Black Hearts were here, but it was a start.

As the nurgle chaos beast was dealt with, they made their way into Fort Randyll’s courtyard. There, laying upon the rocks, was Bash Throggarth. He was alive, if barely, but… he didn’t have long. Others who were inside, made their way down and out into the courtyard to see their beloved Captain, heavily wounded, a streak of blood pooling from his lips, a sign of severe internal injuries. They knew he was dying.

He wasn’t the only one. Wick too, was so severely injured from the fight earlier, that Eadulf was unable to help him. They laid Wick, as per his wishes, next to Bash as Bash patted the halfling weakly, and they said their farewells to their old sergeant and little chef. Bash instructed Karth to guard them well, keep them safe, and most importantly, keep them strong.

With his last words, “Ham…. W-would be… nice, c-cousin…”

https://soundcloud.com/user-156185575/crashs-final-farewell

The Black Hearts assemble a pyre, setting the body of Bash Throggath upon it and Wick, lighting it aflame as it burns throughout the night.

They make fortifications, warning everyone to stay out of the fort as its not safe, sealing what gaps they can and boarding up the interior doors from the outside. They plan to ride out first light, not wanting to risk an extended stay for fear of an orc attack, or worse…

Karth had ordered a scout to ride out, just before nightfall, to look for a settlement that was meant to be to the north-east, see if its safe to seek shelter there. He tells the men to be on their guard, and he keeps an eye on the Ostlander stragglers they picked up, survivors from earlier.

Brannigar, who was previously with Ernst, explains to Karth and the rest of the men what transpired sometime ago before he ended up finding Karth:

  • The battle against the orc host did not go well. Ernst deliberately kept the Black Hearts on the rear, pulling them back from the vanguard as they were set to engage the orcs. Aldebrandt had ordered them as part of the vanguard to soak up the first initial orc attack, flanked by new recruits. He’s made it clear that the Ostlanders will not forgive what they’ll see as cowardice and treachery, as Ernst ordered the Black Hearts to retreat.
  • Brannigar, while displeased at what Ernst did, acknowledges that the battle was long lost before it even began, and Ernst’s actions may have saved lives.
  • After their retreat, they scattered. They had orders to fall back to Fort Randyll and aid in it’s capture. He last saw Ernst with Oskar and other members of the Black Hearts fleeing, while Brannigar took on what survivors he could find and headed north, towards Fort Randyll, picking up a few Ostlanders along the way. He makes it clear he doesn’t trust the Ostlanders, and they don’t likely trust us.
  • He reckons there’s still a good bunch of the Black Hearts missing, but most of the officers are here along with Dane and his misfits taking up the bulk of the force.

Phew…

Right, so there you have it. That is everything up to date.

The Black Heart company sits anxiously in the courtyard, under the shadow of Fort Randyll as they wait for first light. Praying for first light…

The next game will be the 11th of October!

October Brings Perilous Pursuits

I was recently poked by a reader of the blog, asking if I still ran the Warhammer game and if the blog was being updated. Which ended up me being reminded that I have a blog! (Kidding) A question was also asked about WFRP 4thEd which I’ll get too later in this post.

The game is still running. I am running three games as of now, one of which is irregular and happens when it happens (that’s DnD5e Witcher), the other two are Star Wars (https://swmysky.wordpress.com/) that’s set in an alternative timeline, and of course Warhammer, which remains the flagship of my games. Truth be told; I just like having an excuse to say flagship. Warhammer has been on a break for about 2 months now, as a break was needed to prepare Star Wars and generally have time to myself that didn’t amount to me shouting at my players or taking their fate points away and chucking them in the pile behind me. Yes… delicious fate points, nom nom nom.

I have decided, at the cost of my own sanity, that I will be posting up game blogs again. 1 blog a month is what I’m aiming for, which ties nicely into my schedule of games. That being; 2 games of Warhammer Roleplay (2ndEd) a month (2 weeks apart) and 2 games of MySky (2 weeks apart) a month. Allows me to focus on an entire plot for a singular game in a month rather than switching between the two and causing my brain to go mush.

In regards to 4thEd for Warhammer Roleplay; I was asked if I had plans to switch over to it. If you are not interested just skip way past to the bolded letters.

Nope. I’m personally not a fan, and I have played in it briefly. I also have the Core Rulebook for it despite cancelling my pre-order before release, and I ended up receiving a free copy of 4thEd which is nice. Either misguided generosity or a simple shipping error. I like to think former, but I know it’s the latter. Regardless of me bragging that I got a free copy, I’m not a big fan of 4thEd. I’m not sure I have a comparison to how I feel about it, I was thinking of being clever and saying that 4thEd is like DnD 4th Edition; but no, that honor belongs to 3rd Edition Warhammer, and 4thEd ain’t that bad. It’s just… very fiddly. It has some nice things, and but I found the system slow, especially combat and the added complexity of opposed rolls. It isn’t actually that complex, but compared to how it sets the pace, it’s fair to say it crawls along at times.

One thing that I’ve heard consistent praise for is the career system. Less so the advancement increments, but more for how the careers don’t top out as they did in 2E. However; from my experience playing 2ndEd, that was never an issue for my group. They ended to die in a gruesome way before they topped off their careers and had nowhere else to go.

Hmmmm.

Moving on!

Ah yes, so what has happened since last time…

Damned if I know!

… Oh wait, yes now I remember.

This might help as a refresher:

> https://periloustales.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/update-where-we-are-now/

Which is totally not what I’m reading right now to bring myself up to speed. Honest.

Self-deprecation (god I hope that means what I think it means) aside, The Grand Campaign continues in October, and a full semi-brief update will be provided. Until that happens, here’s a few takeaways:

  • The Black Heart mercenary company has fallen on hard times. Bash, former Sgt, turned unwilling Captain, has fallen; protecting his little-ones against a Varghulf as he charged at it, and tackled it over the side of the castle. He killed the foul thing, but at the cost of further demoralizing an already beaten group of mercs.
  • Wick, halfling Sergeant, and Bash’s mouth-piece, had fallen to his wounds in battle at Fort Randyll. Both of them were veterans of the Black Hearts, and their deaths are a huge loss to the company.
  • Not all is lost; Karth, right hand man of Kall Horst (deceased, Cpt of the company) has turned up alive, having met up already with a rag-tag group of Black Hearts. Can he hold them together though? Not everyone respects him as they respected Bash, and Karth has some big shoes to fill.
  • Only a small handful of the Black Heart company find themselves at Fort Randyll, along with an unhappy bunch of Ostland soldiers, outnumbered by the mercs, but cuddling up to them for mutual survival. The rest of the company is largely unaccounted for. Oskar is still missing (he was the unruly Norscan that Bash had fought to keep in-line) and so is Ernst.
  • Before night had fallen, the Black Hearts, now situated in the courtyard of Fort Randyll, have fortified themselves inside, fearing a possible orc attack or… worse. They sit in the shadow of Fort Randyll, a ruined decrepit castle that has already spawned it’s fair share of diseased abominations. The men are nervous, anxious and afraid. Karth has ordered a scout to ride north-east along an old ranger path through the Forest of Shadows to suss out a possible settlement that one of the Ostlander’s spoke of. They hope it may give shelter to their men, assuming it’s still standing.
  • Everyone is twitchy. Karth previously had to discipline some deserters before he had met up with the group. They are still there, a mark on their forehead a permanent reminder of their cowardice. Without Bash though to keep the men in line, and only Brannigar and Karth offering real leadership, will it be enough? Or will Karth find himself reaching for that branding iron again…

Warhammer Commissioned Art

Awhile back, I felt the urge to get myself some Warhammer art centered around my game.

So I commissioned> https://www.deviantart.com/ackelb < to do some art for me. Problem was, I couldn’t pinpoint what moment I wanted to depict.

After shortlisting some moments that have transpired in my game, I ended up with Ser Gado vs the fallen Knight of the Blazing Sun, sent by the Purple Hand to dispatch the party for their interference in Middenheim and usurping the Hand’s powerbase in the city.

The art came out wonderfully, and thus, here it is:

20_sketches (2)

The Journey Continues… 2020

A new look for the blog, and while this does not mean regular blog entries for each game, I will be doing a series of new entries when time permits. Do plan on tidying the blog up and making it easier to find specific posts. This also includes chapters for each of the campaign books we’ve gone through.

Now, a quick summary of the events so far…

Don’t Mention The War!

I will mention it!

The year is 2514, approaching the middle months.

There are two ongoing major conflicts within the Empire.

Nordland Ambitions

Nordland1

Theodric GauserTheoderic GausserGrand Baron of NordlandPrince of SalzenmundLord of LaurelornDuke of Marienburg and Terror of the Norscans.

 

Nordland’s elector count Theoderic Gausser launched a surprise and daring border invasion of the northern province of Ostland during one of the harshest winters in recent memory, not long after the destruction of Ulric’s Grand Temple in Middenheim.

Using the recent tensions between sigmarites and ulricans (Ostland is predominantly sigmarite) to fuel his war while pursuing ancient land claims upon the north, Nordland’s offensive caught Ostland, and indeed, the rest of the Empire off-guard. Having quickly secured most of the north with little losses, victory would have been certain for Nordland, if it wasn’t for one thing: Orcs.

The orcish invasion of Ostland played a crucial element in forcing Talabecland not to cross the river into Ostland with their troops, allowing Ostland to rally its troops and march north. It was fear, rather than actual practicality, that caused Talabecland to pause; for the orc threat did not manifest to its full potential in Ostland by the time Nordland invaded.

Instead, Talabecland resorted to hiring mercenary armies (without telling them of the orc threat that lay waiting for them) to pillage and cause havoc in Ostland. This proved successful, for a time…

A summary below:

Nordland has invaded Ostland, pursuing land claims on the upper north of Ostland.

Nordland is allied with Talabecland in this conflict, from a secret pre-arrangement.

Talabecland has not committed their forces to the conflict, mainly because they are waiting out the Orc threat.

Neighbouring states have remained neutral, officially.

A Hochland Baroness with family ties to Talabecland contributed her troops to aid Nordland’s ambitions.

No one has received any reports as to where the Baroness is, although it is believed that the undead Hochlander troops that attacked the Ostlander 42nd Company were of her forces.

Presently:

Talabecland refusal to commit has more or less shattered their loose alliance with Nordland.

Orcs ransacked Ostland’s capital, killing the Elector-Count. Much of the south of Ostland lays in ruins, only a few major settlements are holding out as best as they can.

Marshal Valmir von Raukov of the Ostland State Army, has led the bulk of his forces to victory after victory in countering Nordland’s northern force.

Valmir von Raukov is expected to be the most likely candidate to become Elector-Count of Ostland, although imperial bureaucracy is not operating efficiently at all for this to take place anytime soon.

Nordland has already ceded newly gained territory due to von Raukov putting them on the backfoot. Nordland is furious with Talabeclands lack of assistance.

The largest of the orc horde, led by Azhag the Slaughterer, continues to be a massive threat, that so far, remains concentrated in the south of Ostland.

 

The Imperial Civil War / Religious War

While the Nordland/Ostland war is pretty bad, the greatest conflict that has the potential to be far-reaching and could spill over into other provincial states, is the religious war between the Sigmarites and Ulricans which is just starting to kick-off.

This is very much a North v South war, as the bulk of Ulrican worship stems from the north. While the southern provinces are not free of Ulrican worship (Talabecland for example has a strong Ulrican following), they predominantly follow Sigmar.

The main culprits in this cannot easily be named, for the conflict has been simmering for awhile, only now just boiling over into bloodshed, but I will mention some key players down below, along with key events that have contributed to an outbreak of hostilities.

Key Events Contributing To The Unrest – Lot of these events were player driven:

Death of the Ar-Ulric and the Destruction of Ulric’s temple in Ulric’s city, Middenheim. Tensions were already high, but this event, orchestrated by the Purple Hand cult, has led to everyone from both sides pointing blame at each other.

The previous event result in an increase in hostility between the two faiths. While the newly appointed Ar-Ulric, Reinhardt Karbold, and the Grand Theogonist, Volkmar the Grim, seeked peace and reconciliation, they could not stop the chain of events that would unfold; leading to an onset of violence being perpetrated by both sides that would escalate matters drastically.

Pressured by the Arch Lectors to act in response to vicious attacks by Ulrican followers (which was done ‘mostly’ by the Sons of Ulric – but nobody makes the distinction), Volkmar’s tone changes from seeking peace to a warlike zealous tone.

The apparent death of Karl Franz in Altdorf not long after the incident in Middenheim propels the faith to act amid increasingly hostile calls for action against the Ulrican faith, with many seeing the Emperor’s fall from his mount a godly sign for war against what is now being perceived as a hostile god, that god being Ulric. One Arch Lector stoked the flames by saying, “The winds of winter, sent forth by Ulric himself, raged upon our beloved Emperor and sent him falling to his death. Such a godly intervention requires a response. And by Sigmar, we will!”

With Sigmar’s throne vacant, the imperial ambitions of one Boris Todbringer are bolstered by calls for a religious war to usurp Sigmar from the imperial pantheon and bring Ulric back to his rightful place. Todbringer readies his forces for a march upon the south.

 

Key Players:

Purple Hand: The Tzeentchian cult, The Purple Hand, has dug in deep into the roots of the imperial bureaucratic system. Unlike most other cults, the Purple Hand are well organised, led by a mysterious figure called the ‘Arch-Lumen’. The cult is largely responsible for stoking the flames and inciting unrest.

The Palisades: An imperial intelligence network consisting of spies, criminals and prominent leaders in society. The current status of the Palisade network is unknown.

Boris Todbringer: Never shy from seizing an opportunity. Todbringer wouldn’t dare raise his sword up against Karl Franz when he was on the throne, and despite his imperial ambitions, Todbringer is an imperial loyalist. It would not be wise to call him a traitor. But Karl Franz is dead. Ulricans cry out for war, for blood. Sigmarites cry out for war, for blood. Todbringer is more than willing to meet that cry and more as he rides the coattails of unrest, all the way to seizing the throne for himself.

Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim: Pressured from within the Church, and poked constantly by the Arch Lectors, Volkmar’s patience for peace has run out. Sigmarites want retribution for what the Sons of Ulric have done. They want retribution for their dead Emperor, as they are perfectly willing to blame the Ulrican faith for it.

Ar-Ulric Reinhardt Karbold: Originally a Wolf Lord from Hochland, Karbold has been making a name for himself since he got elected as Ar-Ulric, a position he was never favorited for. Many of the Wolf Lords thought he would be influenced easily, a puppet for their needs. They were wrong. Karbold has so far proved to be a battle hardened wolf, who listens to his advisors but only listens, and nothing more. Some have called him narrow-minded, and perhaps, they are not wrong to do so; Karbold seeks peace. He is not keen to spill the blood of Sigmarites, and has urged others to remember the friendship that Sigmar had with Ulric, for Sigmar himself worshipped Ulric. Yet Karbold grows increasingly isolated from a cult that sees a weak prey, and is ready to pounce. Whether he wishes war or not, war is coming to his doorstep.

Averland: While the other states have not made any official commitments in what is so far largely a conflict between Middenland and Reikland, Averland has taken advantage of the situation and has attacked the Moot, home of the halflings. The so-called ‘Mad Count’ Marius Leitdorf, newly elected in the state, has seized the Moot for his own. Unfortunately, this has not gone down well with Stirland, and war is expected soon between the two States.

 

That’s it for now. There will be another blog post soon!