Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen by Night10194
Fantasy Eastern Europe on the border of light and darknessOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Fantasy Eastern Europe on the border of light and darkness
If you'll remember from Tome of Corruption, when you start to get far enough north, you start to get the fallout from the collapsed Gate of Heaven all over you. The dark things crawling in from that ancient, suppurating wound on reality get into a person's mind, regardless of who they'd normally be, and Chaos tries to seize control. Kislev is the furthest north you get before this starts to kick in in earnest. Thus, Kislev has been on the front lines of the wars with the northern hordes since the country first came together. Kislev has won and lost more wars with the Kurgan, Norse, and the Warriors of Chaos than any other nation in the Old World, and every time they've been knocked down and had their lands ravaged, they've rebuilt. Many would-be Chaos Incursions go unnoticed by the south, stopped by Kislevite soldiers in the north of their country. They also capture and deal with affected southerners who have heard the Call and begun to walk north to the Chaos Wastes, the Kislevites being one of the last chances to catch these lost souls before they're fully in the grip of the Dark Gods. Without Kislev, the Old World would be on fire even more than it already is. If parts of Kislev seem backwards (and only parts, the South of Kislev is every bit as developed as the Empire) it's because the long, harsh grasslands and tundra are also infested with raiders and the country's been burned to the ground and rebuilt every couple centuries.
They're also Fantasy Eastern Europe/Russia. All of it. At once. This means we're going to get dancing (and fighting) bears, winged hussars, ice witches, wise women of the woods (Kislevites believe only women can ever be trusted with arcane magic, and only men with divine), bear god, fancy hats and uniforms, a god with a literal Summon Forth Patriotic Fury spell, and all the music will be in minor key.
To its south and west lies the Empire's most forested regions. Ostland, Ostermark, and Kislev have occasionally squabbled over territory, and Kislevite and Imperial culture and language mix in those regions (Ostlanders are noted for plenty of Kislevite loan words and Ostermarkers can't get through their vampire-hunting day without vodka). Those squabbles haven't happened since Magnus the Pious, or at least, not to the same extent; the defeat of Kul resulted in something called the Eternal Alliance, a treaty saying that Kislev and the Empire would forever stick together whenever Chaos next came knocking. To the west is the Sea of Claws, which isn't very large; at its widest point Norscans only need to sail about 150 miles to reach Imperial shores there, and from eastern Norsca to Erengrad and the west coast of Kislev is a less-than-100-mile jaunt. Without a standing navy (Erengrad is their only major port, and it's Fantasy St. Petersburg) the Kislevites have to rely on local defenses against Norse sea raids. Beyond the northern border of the River Lynsk lies Troll Country, a wild and untamed land (which is, in fact, infested with trolls) where the Chaos infection starts to really kick in and the land starts to get worse. Very few Kislevites go beyond the river, except to scout and patrol against invasion. Southern Kislev is the fertile breadbasket of the country, and the location of its great cities and centers of arts and learning. To the east lie the massive World's Edge Mountains, once defended by the dwarfs, but now mostly infested with goblins. Somewhere in this forbidding mountain range lies Karak Vlag, ancient, hidden home of the Chaos Dwarfs.
In the north of Kislev, you run into the Oblast, a long, cold, bleak stretch of land with little in the way of landmarks. Wanderers have been known to get as lost in the Kislevite Oblast as a ship at open sea, and without some means of navigation it's easy to get turned around and even go mad from the constant emptiness. Kislev's few forested regions in the south are supposedly home to small bands of wood elves, and whenever the newest war has seemed to turn against them, the Kislevites find shadowy archers emerging from the wood to back them up. Somehow, the Wood Elves seem to have a great interest in Kislev surviving and triumphing, and seem to genuinely like the Kislevites. There's a possible plot hook for a game if ever I saw one. Without extensive forest in the north, and with no mountains in the way, there are no windbreaks; the winds blow strong in Kislev, both the winds of magic and the natural ones.
Much of the rest of Kislev is the steppe. Scrubland and grassland that doesn't freeze like the Oblast, the steppes of Kislev are still hard to farm. They usually serve as grazing ground for cattle and other livestock, instead. Fortified villages called Stanitsa form occasional breaks from the constant flat ground and empty grassland. Kyazak raiders, not necessarily of Chaos but definitely interested in doing violence and taking what they need to survive, trouble the people of the steppe and rustle cattle. The vast and empty steppe makes hunting these raider bands down a very difficult task, so instead mercenaries come north and the boyars deploy soldiers to defend the Stanitsa against them.
The climate of Kislev is not, in fact, cold all the damn time. Summer can get pretty warm, and when summer gets too warm and dry, the grasslands catch fire. In the northern steppe and oblast, though, winter is harsh. Snow blindness and snow madness can hit someone in the dark winter days out on the steppe. All of the snow also means that spring is muddier than an Imperial can imagine. The roads turn almost entirely to tar-like mud even as the melting snow and revived greenery lead people to send their cattle grazing and begin the process of bringing the steppe back to life after the harsh winter. If they aren't busy putting out wildfires, summer is the best time to trade and move throughout the country, since the roads harden back up and the temperature becomes mild and more pleasant. In autumn, the people prepare and hunker down for the winter as the old men of each villager direly warn this will be the hardest winter yet (something they do every year, it's tradition).
Next: The Cities and People.
The Capitol is a city also called KislevOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Capitol is a city also called Kislev
The actual Capitol of Kislev was only founded about 1000 years ago, when the Kislevites finally came together as Kislev, mostly because the very powerful and wealthy Gospodar tribe had more swords, better armor, and were ruled by badass ice witches known as the Khan Queens. It turns out having more money, more swords, more people, better farmland, and ice wizards are all really useful for finally unifying a country under your dominion. This also means that the idea of a unified Kislev is actually even younger than the idea of a unified Bretonnia; as a full state Kislev is the youngest of the three main human states fighting Chaos. Kislev itself is right on the border with the Empire, drawing its drinking water from the Urskoy river that also serves as border, and the two lands intermingle. Kislev itself has never fallen to an attack since its founding in 1524. It's been a near thing a few times, especially in 2302 against Kul, but Archaon bypassed the city entirely rather than try to fight it since he was behind schedule (which led to a Kislevite army hitting him in the back at Middenheim, Archaon wasn't a very good general). Kislev is the center of all Kislevite administration and law, with the massive complex of the Bohka Palaces, which house armies of clerks and officials as well as the Tsar (or Tsarina, Kislevites legitimately don't care which gender you are for inheritance) and their fellow high nobles.
Erengard is the wealthiest city in Kislev and the only good seaport. These two things are related. This used to be the capitol of the Ungol tribes, but the Gospodars defeated it in battle (again, super ice witches) during the unification of the country and took control. Erengard is where any sea-goods flow into or out of Kislev into the Sea of Claws, and is also impossible for the Norse to raid because it's the main cannon foundry for all of Kislev. The naval fortifications at Erengrad are essentially impregnable. The problem is that the Kislevites have no actual navy, only having a single seaport, and while Kislevite merchant ships are armed and can be pressed into service, they rely on other peoples' patrols to keep the sea lanes clear. You'll recall the Empire has a famously terrible navy, too. This is the only reason the Norse can get as much raiding done as they do. Erengard is a great center of industry and firearms, essentially being the Kislevite version of Nuln in the Empire, and the sea-port gives it a cosmopolitan flair. It was sacked by Chaos forces under Archaon but is already rebuilding itself nicely, with the boyars and officials claiming it's nothing but an excuse to build newer, grander, and even better buildings and make their city better than ever.
Praag is one of the few big 'successes' Chaos got to win and a symbol of the sort of wins Chaos would be better off accepting if it wants to be taken seriously. The furthest north city in all of Kislev, Praag has fallen over and over again, though it has always managed to rebuild. When it fell to Asuvar Kul, he swore he would make the city so poisoned that even Kislevites wouldn't try to rebuild it, and it's said that rather than rubble the ruined buildings became terrible profusions of errant flesh and madness. Still, the Kislevites razed the evil to the ground and rebuilt, but Praag has never been the same. Some portions of the city are still simply unsafe when the Winds blow strong, and stories of hauntings and strange happenings are everywhere. The people are regarded as paranoid and more than a little off, though they produce some of the greatest opera and poetry in all of Kislev. A gloomy city of artists and stubborn folk, it is also a rallying point for the various smaller Ungol tribes of the north. They come together to the walls of Praag for war, trade, or to periodically try to break free of Gospodar domination and refound their own country.
One great thing in this book? Later on, all three of these cities will get a full, detailed writeup full of adventure hooks, local characters, maps, history, etc. Praag, Kislev, and Erengard are detailed enough to be the setting for full campaigns, or at least the players' home bases during one.
Kislev is an essential buffer state for everyone else in the Old World. They stop most incursions before they become incursions, and even when one threatens to overwhelm them they can usually hold it long enough to call for help. They like to say they stand alone, as heroes, fighting against Chaos so that other lands may lead softer and happier lives. This isn't *entirely* true, but it's true enough until things get bad. The Empire has generally gotten its shit together enough to send help when Kislev is in real trouble. The elves of Ulthuan showed up en-masse for the first time in history to help out in 2302. Dwarfs have often found themselves manning the walls of Kislevite cities in times of great emergency, in return for Kislevites helping to clear the High Pass in the World's Edge Mountains. Dwarfs and Kislevites actually get along great: They like each other's stubbornness, they respect each other's singing, they enjoy each other's alcohol, and they both think the other is a madman for living underground (Who could ever live in a mountain, or especially under it!? It's just unnatural!) or for living in the steppe (How do they deal with all that open sky!?). Even the isolationist wood elves seem to recognize they need Kislev as a backstop, and as mentioned before, show up from the few forests (no-one is sure how they get there, or how they know to be there at the times when they show up) to help their 'allies'. Meanwhile, most people suspect the Kislevites actually just enjoy getting to grumble and boast about how they stand alone most of the time, knowing that when things get serious pretty much every sane group in the Old World and beyond wants the Kislevites to win against Chaos and will help them to do so.
The people of Kislev are divided by ethnic, tribal, and regional differences, though they all bow to a unified Kislev these days (when there isn't another rebellion, anyway). Kislev used to a several nations, formed of tribal peoples who fought one another for centuries over herding land and good farmland. Even now, the divide between the urbanized south and the rural north makes the country almost two countries, and ethnic identity (especially as Ungol or Gospodar) is still important to the locals on a level beyond simple provincial character in Bretonnia and the Empire. The Gospodar people are actually a fairly new arrival to the lands, showing up in 1500 IC as part of a very large migration of people away from the Eastern Steppe (and its Chaos corruption/Kurgan) and into Kislev. This disrupted the existing Ungol tribes, and sparked a century of on and off war as the Gospodar displaced them from what is now Southern Kislev. The Ungol began to build up the city of Praag in response after losing their capital at Novgrad (Now Erengrad), but were eventually forced to accept Gospodar political dominion. The two cultures have blended over time, and absorbed the other, smaller tribes and nations that used to inhabit the area, but Praag and Kislev (the city) still remain poles of very different spheres of influence.
Kisleverian, the local language, is considered very difficult for other Old Worlders to learn, which is sort of funny to me since they describe the difficulty coming from it having multiple gendered forms of words, personality variations on words, and animate vs. inanimate distinctions. At the very least the gendering thing is very much a part of German, and Reikspiel is just German. I also don't think the Kislevites actually use Cyrillic; I think their language is intentionally entirely roman alphabet transliteration, which makes sense since there'd be no St. Cyril since there's no Greek in Warhams.
Next: A bit on religion, a lot on pants.
Bears, Fire, and pantsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Bears, Fire, and pants
Kislevite religion varies. Southern Kislev worships their traditional gods but incorporates a lot of the wider Old World Pantheon, particularly Shallya. The chief god of the Gospodars, the Bear Lord Ursun, is considered chief of the Kislevite pantheons. Northern regions tend to hold more strongly to the uniquely Kislevite gods, and tend to worship similar to the Kurgan, just without the Chaos; they see the world as inherently spiritual and stick to a more shamanistic tradition rather than building large, permanent temples and houses of worship. All of Kislev is unusual in having a much stronger focus on spirits than other religions in the Old World. There are all sorts of spirits and messengers from the spirit world, some helpful, some mischievous, some terrifying. Household spirits are commonplace in Kislevite worship and are treated as messengers from the realm of the Gods, something that might sound a little demonic, but when we get to their full religion chapter, many of their traditions are actually quite powerful at keeping Chaos at bay or preventing mutation. Kislevites actually get two totally unique styles of magic (Ice Magic is fairly close to normal Arcane stuff in mechanics but not fluff, and the Wise Woman spirit shamanism is genuinely unique) and both relate to their belief in land and household spirits.
Clothes are very, very important in Kislevite material culture. Clothing is one of the most acceptable and prominent forms of conspicuous consumption all across the nation, in both Gospodar and Ungol lands. A man or woman's dress, and ability to decorate their dress, are the first and most important way of advertising wealth, taste, and standing. Also, Kislevites spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold wind, and so their clothes need to be comfortable and functional. Despite their reputation as a dour people, they dress in colorful styles and love to import fabrics, furs, and exotic designs from all over the world. Boots instead of shoes are often worn as a sign of status, and comfortable riding boots are always in style even if one never rides a horse; the original tribes that make up Kislev all prized horsemen and the original definition of a noble was someone wealthy enough to own horses. Yes, they love the furry hats with the pull-down earflaps; having worn that kind of hat for my winter hat for years now, I can see why (they're nice hats). Jewelry is designed both to show off wealth and accentuate one's clothes, and also to protect against the various curses and Chaos afflictions that can blow down from the north. All of this leads to a people who are colorful and vibrant to look at, even as they grumble endlessly about the weather and steadfastly refuse to believe there's such a thing as a major key in music.
Kvas is weird. I've had Kvas. Kvas is a real drink, and it's definitely made from rye like they talk about in the book. It's basically like drinkable bread, with very, very low alcohol content. The book treats it as an extremely strong drink and the oil of the nation, and I legitimately can't tell if that's some kind of hilarious error they missed or an intentional joke written on the assumption that most readers won't have drunk actual kvass.
Kislev has been ruled by the Gospodars since the Gospodars united Kislev in the days of the original Khan-Queens. The arcane wizards of Kislev, at least the Ice Witches, have always been associated with the nobility, though not every Tsarina has been an Ice Witch and there have been plenty of male Tsars. Right now, the current Tsarina is Katarin. Katarin is a very different woman from her father Boris; Boris died five years ago trying to lead an army into Troll Country to disrupt Chaos forces, and he was a fiery, boisterous, charismatic man. Katarin is charismatic as well, but she's known for being aloof, sharp-witted, and self-controlled in all things. She is also the most powerful Ice Witch since the foundation of the unified country, having marked her ascension to the throne by building an entire new wing of her palace overnight out of magical ice. Katarin prefers to do the business of state here, in her creation, both because she's most comfortable in the cold and because it makes an excellent reminder of her raw power to impress ambassadors and boyars. Her father led from the front, always energetic and always personally involved; she prefers to stay where she can keep a clearer picture of the wider political and military situation, informed by her many trusted agents and generals.
Below her are her Boyars, who are defined as nobles powerful enough to be responsible for an army. Boyars can male or female, the first-born of a house inheriting the rents and taxes of a wide stretch of territory and the responsibility for forming an army out of the locals whenever there's an invasion. Kislevites are eager to answer the call to arms, because they've been invaded by Chaos so often that they just refer to the raiding season as the 'spring driving'. Young men and women (Though more usually men, Kislev makes fewer distinctions about this than the Empire, and *certainly* fewer than Bretonnia) answer the call to fight for their Boyar, and thus for their Tsarina (or, depending on the Boyar and the wider political situation, against their neighboring Boyar. Or against their Tsarina.). Below the Boyars are the Hetmen, men and women who rule over the individual villages and stanitsas. The title of Hetman is never inherited. A man or woman who has distinguished themselves in the village is chosen by popular acclaim and made leader, expected to organize local defenses, handle local disputes, direct public works, and lead the village's people if the Boyar calls them to arms. Many Boyars can trace their family line back to a Hetman who distinguished themselves.
Next: The History of Kislev.
Gettin' real sick of every country usin' its own calender, hamsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen.
Gettin' real sick of every country usin' its own calender, hams
More than any other human nation in Warhams, Kislev's history revolves around battle. This is for a couple reasons. First, the various sane people of Kislev weren't united by an inspiring speech or an outside threat, they were united by force of arms as one faction proved dominant. Secondly, someone or something is always, always attacking Kislev. It isn't just minor raiders or nuisances like the Empire and its Beastmen, or Bretonnia and its constant skirmishes with orcs. Kislevites call it the 'Spring Driving', when the various marauder tribes and Norse send young warriors out to prove themselves and kill for the gods, and often assemble actual armies with over-ambitious goals of destroying all of Kislev. These are a people that respond to 'I AM LORD OF THE END TIMES, KNOW ME AND DESPAIR' with 'You're early this year.'
There were originally many tribes on the steppe, before they began to come together and form larger kingdoms and armies. While the names of many of the original horse tribes have not survived the roll of millennia, many of their small traditions and tribal spirits have. In the time of Sigmar, the largest tribes were the Ungol and Dolgan, and the smaller Roppsmenn. The Dolgan were the weaker of the two major tribes, looked upon as unclean because their Gods and Spirits were far, far too close to the dark gods of Chaos. The Ungol, meanwhile, had their own tribal gods that were safer and more seemly, but lived much like their Kurgan neighbors over to the northeast in the great Eastern Steppe. They rode their horses, grazed their cattle, raised their families, and fought among one another from the saddle, as well as raiding the smaller Roppsmenn, the favorite punching bag of both Ungol and Dolgan. What caused things to change was the first great migration into their lands. You see, there was some southern warlord named Sigmar who had won his battles among his people, but some had refused to follow him. So to avoid kinslaying, he drove them north into the lands that he and his people thought were unlivable, which would be modern Kislev. The Ungol suddenly had a migrating host of Norsii tribal warriors attacking their pastureland to settle, and the tribes united to battle them and drive them off. They succeeded, driving them further to the north and west into modern Norsca, but were greatly impressed with the bravery of their enemies and built a great cairn to honor the original leader of the Norsii, who had fought them fiercely.
Fresh off the heels of seeing off this first migration, the fighting and opportunity for plunder stirred up the orcs of the World's Edge Mountains. Even united, the Ungol weren't enough to hold off a full orcish army, especially not after their war with the Norsii. Kislev and the Ungol were in serious danger of being destroyed, but thankfully the southern warlord turned out to hate orcs more than anything else. Knowing the orcs would sweep down from the steppe next if they weren't stopped, Sigmar took an army of tribal warriors and went to the aid of a great Ungol warlord, the two of them fighting side by side to personally slay the Warboss of the great host. They swore then that when these northern lands were sorely pressed, or when the south faced destruction, the tribes would work together to stave it off. So when Sigmar went to his great battle at Blackfire Pass alongside the dwarfs (we'll get into that in Sigmar's Heirs), the Ungol sent horsemen and warriors to join him. Meanwhile, when the greenskins threatened the Ungol again, Sigmar's tribal warriors would march north to fight alongside their allies. While a united Kislev is a 'new' thing, the alliance between the Empire and Kislev is not. The Eternal Treaty signed by Magnus the Pious is simply a formalization of an arrangement that has existed on and off again for over 2000 years.
In 1500 Imperial Calendar, things changed again. The Ungol had prospered, built cities, and begun farming and living a more sedentary life in addition to their traditional steppe wanderings. But the increasing Chaos presence on the Eastern Steppe was driving any sane peoples away, as the Kurgan expanded and monsters became more and more common. One of those sane peoples was the Gospodar, a very wealthy steppe tribe led by the Khan-Queen Miska. Miska was the first of the Ice Witches, a woman of enormous strength with a sword or with a spell, and she and her great host of horsemen drove the Ungol north and west, forcing them to crush the remaining Dolgan and Roppsmenn in their flight from Miska's legions. Even this did not protect them, as the Khan-Queen's magic was a force for which the Ungol had no answer. She and her Gospodar crushed the great city of Praag, turning the walls to ice and then shattering them with her magic. Having defeated her enemies, Miska left her sword to her daughter Shoika, and told her people that she had foreseen something terrible coming from the north. She promised to return when her people needed her most, and rode off into the Wastes by herself, armed only with her magic; some people who are trying to flatter the current Tsarina (or who have seen her magic, because she is in the running for most powerful human mage in the setting) whisper that she may well be the reincarnation or return of Miska herself.
Shoika founded the city of Kislev, declared this to be Gospodar Year 1, and rode west to crush the last remaining Ungol city, Novard, which is modern Erengrad. She dreamed of a unified country, and by this point, it could only be unified by arms. Too much blood had already been spilled to do it otherwise. She declared herself Tsarina, lord of all peoples of the north, and within two years she had forced the Ungol to agree. Within a few years, the Gospodar and Ungol had rebuilt Erengrad (they changed the name when they captured it) and rebuilt the walls of Praag, and were beginning to be called Kislevites, after their new capitol. The Kislevites also retook all territory lost to the Empire over the years, pushing the southern border back to the Urskoy river, since the Empire was busy with its long decline in the Time of Three Emperors. Thus began the state of affairs that would last for 750 years, as Tsars and Tsarinas of Gospodar descent ruled the southern cities and demanded the homage of the Ungols in the north. Meanwhile, the Ungol and Gospodar intermarried and intermixed, their cultures coming together even as they remained a bit separate. The south and north of Kislev may be different places, but they can all agree on one thing: Fuck Chaos.
Next: Fuck Chaos.
Fuck ChaosOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
So, Kislev has always had to deal with Chaos. Its entire history, Chaos attacks Kislev. Some of the Steppe tribes have always listened to the darker spirits from the north, and the Kurgan and Norse have always raided to prove themselves. Kislevite towns and villages are used to defending themselves from these raiders, who they call Kyazaks. Every Kislevite town or village is required to provide a rota, a unit of soldiers. They're not quite militiamen (that would imply poor training and equipment) and not quite the full-time career soldiers of the Empire, since each rota is under the command of its village and is intended to be the standing force and patrol for that village. In the north, these rotas are made up of Ungol horse archers, who fight much in the way of the Kurgan that they're defending against do, and who focus on wide-ranging patrols to protect travelers and herds. Gospodar settlements in the south will pool the town's money and pay to equip a rota of winged lancers, the Kislevite equivalent of knights. Because of the huge area they have to cover, most rota troops are horse-mounted. The cities and their nobles also provide rotas of troops, though more of these will be footsoldiers (especially since the foundation of the Streltsi, the gunmen), but these city-troops are much more numerous and more richly equipped, and more directly linked to the Tsarina. Every couple decades or centuries, the Kurgan or Norse will unite under yet another Lord of the End Times or God of Destruction or whatever they're calling themselves this time and form real armies. When this happens, rotas are formed together into a larger army under an appointed, Gospodar Boyar called a pulk. Depending on how potentially apocalyptic the threat is, multiple pulks may be called up and sent at it. One is usually enough for a normal tribal rising.
The Great War Against Chaos, in 2301 IC, is one of the times where it wasn't. Interestingly, this book calls Asuvar Kul a 'half demon'. I've never seen this appellation applied to any Chaos Lord before, not even in Tome of Corruption, and I wonder if it means he was near to ascension, describes a particularly frightening set of mutations, or if it's actually quite literal and he was genuinely unique in being demon-spawn. Kul united both the Kurgan and the Norse, and other peoples besides, and marched south, beating the first few pulks sent at him and sacking Praag, though the defenders held him for six months of siege. He made his way through Kislev slowly, doing as much damage as he could, but the defeat of Praag and the utter ruin he had brought to the city galvanized the people of Kislev to unity against the threat. Unfortunately for them, the Empire was still in pieces, and so while Magnus the Pious went about getting the Empire's shit together and beating it into the head of the Ulricans to stop the civil wars, Kislev had to hold as long as it could. Dwarfs from the World's Edge Mountains came to reinforce the city of Kislev itself, recognizing that if it fell, Kislev was going to go with it. The Kislevite account of the great final battle at Kislev emphasizes the role of the Kislevite cavalry, of course, painting a picture of Magnus's great charge faltering as he challenged Kul himself, and being bouyed to victory by the sudden arrival of a great host of Winged Lancers who had just returned from trying to save Praag. At the same time, the dwarfs led the defenders of the city out into a final sally, while Magnus took Kul's head in personal combat. Being hit by three armies and having their general killed was too much, and the battle turned into a terrible rout for Chaos. The Kislevites still call the ridge the Lancers rode down from the Hill of Heroes to this day.
Still, while Kul's deliberate, patient style of thorough devastation did eventually get him killed, he had done immense damage to Kislev. The next century was a dark time in Kislevite history, as they struggled to rebuild and fight off the remaining demons, blight, and monsters that had been left in the wake of Kul's army. Other enemies took advantage of the reduced rotas and savaged population to launch their own raids, and Kislev struggled. Tsar Vladimir Bohka, grandfather of Tsarina Katarin, emptied nearly the entire royal treasury and bullied multiple Boyar houses into bankrupting themselves to pay for mercenaries, gunpowder weapons to equip a new model of troops, and engineers and laborers to rebuild lost towns and villages. He rallied the peoples' spirits and led armies north in a thorough and systematic campaign that matched Kul's, but in reverse; where Kul had burned and slaughtered, the Tsar Bohka rebuilt. When Vladimir died fighting goblins east of Kislev, his son Boris took the throne. Boris would revive the traditional cult of Ursun, the bear god, mostly by finding a totally awesome polar bear buddy he then rode into battle. Boris was a fiery, likeable man with an easy demeanor, and while he eventually fell in battle, he finished much of his father's work. Also I was wrong; the book definitely says the popular legend is that his bear buddy is still out there, eternally fighting Chaos and taking revenge for his awesome Tsar pal.
With Boris' death at the defense of the Lynsk, his adult daughter, Katarin, ascended the throne. At first a distant, but competent ruler, she has had to become much more personally involved in military matters due to the Storm of Chaos. She only had four years to secure her throne and get matters in order before our good friend Archaon the Everfailure showed up to get clubbed in the face. When he first showed up, the Grand Theoganist of the Empire, Volkmar the Grim, the man who reformed the Witch Hunter orders and was generally elected because he looked like he could fight his way out of a power metal album covers, immediately took up his hammer and went to go fight the fellow. Sadly, GW's writers were still trying to feed better characters to Archaon to make him scary at this point, so Kislev and Volkmar's first attempts to kill him failed, and Volkmar died in the attempt. Due to an obligation to pretend Archaon was really scary, the book tries to paint him as having learned from Kul's loss and thus trying to ignore Kislev to get at the Empire, explaining the relatively minor damage he did compared to Kul. He left behind a few lieutenants and mid-bosses to try to deal with Kislev, and they lost to armies led by Katarin and several prominent Boyars. Meanwhile, Archaon lost the war down in the Empire, since he drove in deep without securing his back then tried to lay siege to a heavily fortified position by attacking the walls directly every day for two months. Again, dude was not a good general.
So, there's Kislev today. Some of the work of fixing the place up was undone by the Chaos horde passing through again, but they mostly managed to fight it off this time. They're bloody, unbowed, and ready for your PCs to come in and help clean things up. The Tsarina's throne has been very clearly secured by her successes during the Storm of Chaos, and she now looks to centralize her power further, as almost every Tsar has tried to do. As well as all the rebuilding and remnant-fighting you can get up to, there's plenty of intrigue and jostling over how much Kislevite power ought to be centralized, and of course Chaos left behind plenty of cults, crime, and disruption in its path for PCs to investigate and deal with.
E: What's really interesting is just how *little* mention the Storm really gets in Kislev's history. This was one of the last books in the gameline before it was closed due to GW shuttering RPG production and I think they were both getting really sick of talking about it, but also really wanted to take Kislev's reaction in a different direction. In Sigmar's Heirs, written 2 years prior, there's a ton of emphasis on how much damage was done to the Empire and how Archaon totally really messed things up and maybe things will never recover and we're all doomed anyway! Here? He does way less than Kul and Kislev shrugs and gets back to the more interesting parts about how the Tsarina plans to make use of all that fame and glory she just won, or how the Ungol are considering a breakway republic since Praag didn't get fucked up too much this time, or any of the other more interesting plots than trying to pretend the Storm of Chaos was apocalyptic.
Next: They recognize Katarin is Tsarina, and that they are her subjects, but would be very surprised to find out the Bokha Palaces expect to be able to tell them what to do. Politics in Kislev.
It's called Realm of the Ice Queen for a reasonOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
It's called Realm of the Ice Queen for a reason
To other Old Worlders, Tsarina Katarin is one of the most powerful absolute monarchs on the continent. On paper, she has complete control of the entire Kislevite government, all her subjects are loyal, and none dare question the words of the Tsars.
She is working as hard as she can to make this mistaken impression a reality, and this is one of the major conflicts of the Kislev book. Absolute monarchies never are, and she is only as powerful as the people who will obey her. Not only that, she has to contend with her center of power being in the southern parts of the country, and with the north being damaged in the war. While she gained a great deal of acclaim for her victories in the war, some of her northern generals did the same, and some of them may yet want to see a separate Ungol state or build their own power. Also, no Tsar can afford to do the usual dictator trick of appointing solely on loyalty rather than competence, for two reasons. The first is that leaders are judged by how competent they are in the defense of Kislev. If she appoints incompetent but loyal commanders and officials and they falter and weaken the country's defenses, she may well be overthrown by popular rebellion. The second is that, well, the forces of hell are RIGHT THERE. There's no telling how much time Kislev has to sweep up after the last mess, get its armies back together, and get ready for the next incursion of note. It could be weeks, months, years, decades, or centuries; they can't afford to dawdle on being ready for Chaos or else all the politicking in the world won't matter.
The overriding principle in Kislevite politics, the most important qualification a leader can have, is being able to defend the country from the forces of hell. Attacks are constant, and actual incursions are unpredictable in how often they happen and how competently they'll be led. The country will nearly always come together when an actual incursion arrives, but if they've been undermined by incompetence or cowardice prior to that it can make the damage far worse. The common people will accept higher taxes if they can be convinced it is genuinely necessary to fight back the forces of Chaos or rebuild afterwards. People accept that it is the duty of unaffected areas to pay to rebuild and resettle regions and places that get razed or sacked during an attack. But the nobles generally also accept that if they tax their people into starvation and desperation, the people won't make very good warriors. The problems come when two groups think they both know the best way to prepare the defenses and are unwilling to concede.
Kislevite politics start at the local level. The land is vast, and most of a person's interactions with the government will be with their Ataman/Hetman. This is the local mayor and leader mentioned in the background chapter; in many stanitsas (towns) they're elected, sometime by very strange means. One village had a tradition of electing their Ataman by having a big signing contest, for instance, and refuses to change this because both the Great War Against Chaos and the Storm completely missed them, so they assume the Gods like the way they do things. The Ataman (or Atamanka, about a quarter of Atamans are women) is the local mayor and judge, with wide powers to hear legal cases, settle disputes, direct building, and set local laws. Many of the people who have the official power to contradict the Ataman live very far away and do not regularly see the stanitsa, as they are the Tsarina's higher officials or Boyars. However, most Atamans have local checks on their powers that prevent them ruling as tyrants. In Ungol settlements, the wise women are a counterbalance, since they know the will of the spirits and have magic that can keep the Ruinous Powers at bay. In Gospodar settlements, the local priests serve as the same check. Often, the local Rotamaster (the commander of the stanitsa's military obligation) is another important check. Stanitsas where the Ataman is Rotamaster and the local priest are usually destroyed by Chaos as the Ataman goes mad with power.
Katarin has noticed that the Atamans and their elections and selections are one of peoples' most important interactions with politics, but as she is located very far from most stanitsas, she cannot directly influence the choosing of every Ataman. Instead, she has made it necessary for her officials to affirm an election, as a formality. So far, her officials have generally confirmed local choices, but she wants people to start to think it is an honor (and eventually a necessity) for the Ataman to be confirmed by the Tsarina. She has also taken advantage of the losses taken in the Storm to proactively appoint a few local heroes in border stanitsas as Atamen, as advised by her spies and agents. She wants people to start to see her as having the right to do this, and thinks making strong appointments who have local support is the best path to accomplish this. Rewarding heroes who fought well in the Storm is normal enough, so people have yet to object. PCs playing as agents of the Tsarina could be asked to ride out to the border and see who is leading local efforts in stopping the remaining monsters in order to find the right individual to reward.
Druzhina are the lowest rank of the genuine nobility; many Atamans are Druzhina, but not all. Druzhina are roughly equivalent to an Imperial Knight. This rank is traditionally hereditary, but Katarin has hit on the idea of 'lifetime' appointments that will not necessarily make a person's children nobles. She gives these to people who have made significant financial contributions to the defense, or to individual low-ranking soldiers who have fought well. She also uses this concept as a compromise position to create new Ungol nobility, and even this compromise position annoys the Gospodars, who prefer to monopolize noble titles as much as possible. She likes this idea because it means a family's continued nobility would be reliant on their continued favor with the Tsarina, but much of Kislev's nobility can see through this particular plan. Still, as Druzhina are relatively minor nobles, most accept it is her right to give out such rewards, and this does not cause too much grumbling. What the nobility worry about is the possibility of 'lifetime' Boyars.
Boyars are the mid rank of the nobility, and are exclusively Gospodar. Were Katarin to try to create an Ungol Boyar, she might well have a revolt on her hands; one of the overriding principles of Gospodar rule has been that Ungols should not be in a position to head armies, lest they retake their independence. This is unfortunate, because there are indications that Katarin would like the flexibility to appoint Ungols to the Boyar position if they are willing to support her and have proven themselves able. She has been slowly pressing the idea that she has the right to appoint any able person a Boyar, emphasizing that the generals and major nobles should be chosen on ability and merit. Meanwhile, the Gospodar nobility try to push the idea that being a Boyar requires the sorts of roots and stability that only come from generations of experience and family stability, in hopes of thwarting this possible shift in politics. Boyars are very powerful nobles. They are usually close enough to actually monitor the Atamen under their rule, and if they rule in the north the Tsarina's palace can seem very, very far away. In practice, most Boyars don't get in the way of their Atamen unless the taxes don't arrive in full or the rota doesn't show up for patrol duties. It's become fashionable among Boyars to keep a second home in one of the great cities, and Katarin has done everything she can to encourage this fashion; Boyars living closer to her, at least some of the time, makes it much easier for her to keep an eye on them and exercise direct authority over them. These nobles have the power, wealth, and legitimacy to be a threat to a Tsar or Tsarina's plans, or some of their best allies.
In similar fashion, the Tsarina holds court primarily in the giant, beautiful ice palace she literally raised from the ground with her own powers to celebrate her ascension to the throne. She does this partly because she likes ice and cold (most Ice Witches do), partly because the place is a massive amplifier for her magic in case anyone gets any ideas (cold places empower Ice Witches), and partly as a reminder that she built an entire palace wing in a day. Court clothes and fashion tend towards warm furs and many layers, though the Tsarina herself is completely unaffected by the cold and prefers lighter clothing. She does allow people to bring their own chairs, but sits on her own personal raised throne of ice at all times. Formal court has a long list of formalities that must be followed, including no courtier having their head higher than the Tsarina (Thankfully, she's a very tall woman and her throne is raised), all people in the court having to be somewhere she can see them, and no-one turning their back on her. Her palace guard are, of course, exempt from these rules. They are designed to ensure that when she is holding formal court, all people there are aware of where she is, what she's doing, and what she's paying attention to. These rules are designed to project the idea that the Tsar (in this case, Tsarina) is the center of the universe, a symbolic representation of how the Tsars have always wanted government to go.
Next: War and military rank.
Horses are for winners.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Horses are for winners.
Almost every man has some military experience in Kislev. Most able-bodied young men have done a term of service with their stanitsa's rota, and any woman who will volunteer can do the same (it isn't expected of women the same way it is of men, but a woman who chooses to fight and does so well will be respected for it). Most do not remain warriors their entire lives, but given nearly everyone in the country has learned to at least hold a weapon, when an emergency comes the Kislevites can call on some pretty impressive numbers.
The Winged Lancers are considered the most glorious of Kislevite fighters. They are a Gospodar tradition, going back to the original Gospodar migration, and a stanitsa or city will pride itself on the appointment and arming of a rota of these impressive horsemen. They wear the best armor they can get and wield massive, long lances designed to outreach enemy pikes. They also wear strange winged back-banners, both to look more fearsome and for the shrieking, frightening sound they make when they charge. They are very maneuverable for heavy cavalry, training to wheel in formation in as little space as possible, and like all Kislevite cavalry they focus a great deal on the technical mastery of horsemanship. The most famous Winged Lancers are the Gryphon Legion, a unit of Gospodar noble cavalry that originally served as bodyguard to the Tsars. They somehow gained relative independence over the years and now often travel to the Empire and other lands to fight as mercenaries and spread the reputation of Kislev's horsemen, sending some of the money back to their Tsar or Tsarina. They are sworn to answer the Tsarina's call in times of battle, and they distinguished themselves during the Storm. The Tsarina would really like to get these famous warriors directly under her command, but they have centuries of tradition as an independent unit and their current commander doesn't care for the idea; it would limit his own power.
The Ungol Horse Archers fight in little armor, shooting from horseback and scouting. Most Ungol rotas are Horse Archers, and they support the footmen and winged lancers by skirmishing and chasing down light cavalry. Considering that one of the main enemies for the Kislevite armies is Kurgan raiders who fight in much the same style, and that one of their main duties is wide-ranging steppe patrols to stop marauders and criminals, the Horse Archers serve those purposes very well. The Tsarina is worried about the horse archers, because consolidating them risks creating a group that would support Ungol independence. At the same time, they're an essential part of the military. She has been trying to find particularly amendable leaders among them to appoint as Druzhina, and may be looking to create Ungol Boyars who are loyal to her as a way to try to bring them further into the state and quell talk of an independent Ungol nation.
As you might imagine, both Winged Lancer and Horse Archer will be available as 2nd Tier fighters later in the book. They're both pretty good, too!
The Kossars are the main footmen of the Kislevite army, though they're now being rivaled by the Streltsi of Erengard. Kossars began with Ungol tribes that joined the Gospodar as mercenaries against their people during the initial migration, but the units are now made up of anyone who wants to join the army permanently to get away from home or escape a difficult past. This is only further reinforced by Tsar Boris Bohka's declaration that any person who becomes a Kossar will receive a full pardon. Note this pardon does not extend to any crimes committed *while* a Kossar. Kossars have a terrible reputation for drinking, causing trouble, and getting up to all the antics of off duty soldiers, but even more than usual. At the same time, as Kossars are full time warriors and constantly at drill, they also have a reputation of doing particularly well in battle, fighting on foot with a bow and a two-handed axe. Newer units, established by Tsar Vladimir, use the same two-handed axe but use it as a brave for their musket; these are the Streltsi. These men and women are the permanent, standing army for the Tsarina, and she sees them as very important to her projects. She originally raised their pay to gain further loyalty, but the costs of rebuilding after the Storm have forced her to lower it back down, leading to grumbling in the ranks. Ideally, she hopes to get the Gryphon Legion to join the standing royal army so that she can have her own cavalry, as well.
Relief Columns are a new thing. Units organized to fight fires in the aftermath of the storm. They come out of the Tsarina's experiences during the Storm of Chaos; she originally stayed in the palace and worked through agents, partly from personal preference and partly because she wanted to be seen as somehow otherworldly and above everyday matters. During the fighting, though, she saddled up and went out to defend her people personally, and she discovered that wherever she fought, people credited her personally with those victories. Realizing that rescuing people and winning battles was an excellent route to personal loyalty and a more secure throne, she's created Relief Column armies to help clean up after the Storm and defend the frontiers. In the summer, she leads these columns to the north and east frontiers to rescue villages, drive back raiders, and aid in rebuilding. This new policy seems to be working, and is even slowly gaining her more loyalty within the Gryphon Legion. No-one in Kislev can object to the Tsarina doing her duty and fighting the enemies of the land, and the people she rescues are certainly grateful. It's also helped her gain more of a direct sense for military matters. PCs can get involved here, either as soldiers and scouts marching to save local communities, the defenders of local places trying to hold out for the Tsarina's forces to arrive, or as the agents she leaves behind to watch the court and ensure no intrigues gather while she's busy fighting.
I actually like the Relief Columns as a good look into Katarin's character. She's a brutally pragmatic character who, for once, isn't a psychopath because of it. Yes, she's rescuing people primarily for political and military advantage for her overall goal of being a genuinely absolute monarch, but she's doing it by, you know, winning battles and rebuilding her country. She's an intelligent, ruthless person who often arrives at reasonable or morally correct positions *because* she's intelligent and ruthless. Much of the conflict in Kislev is centered around the fact that all parties in Kislev really want and need competent leaders to hold back hell. At the same time, the various political blocks in Kislev all want their powers, rights, and interests to be respected. They don't really fall entirely to infighting, but everyone is maneuvering for advantage while trying to do their jobs as best they can, because if they don't do their jobs they all die. It's a compelling mix of intrigue with a core of good sense to it, and the overriding demand for competence gives a good opening for a PC party to become socially mobile if that's their objective.
Next: Religion, Witches, and Problems.
Bear God DadOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Bear God Dad
Katarin has good relations with the Cult of Ursun, the traditional Bear God, because her father pretty much single-handedly rescued the cult from being overshadowed by Ulricans. Ursun is a similar sort of God, just sleepier and less tightly wound, and he doesn't forbid hats or guns. The Cult of Ursun is happy that the Tsarina remains a loyal and respectful follower of their God, but they have no desire to support her quite as whole-heartedly as they did her father, since her father was an actual Priest. The Bear God's followers also have no real national organization, and are content to stay out of politics while advising people to keep ready to bat angrily at the followers of Chaos and wrestle with demons. Everyone is pretty okay with this state of affairs; Ursun is the God you can be devoted to without it getting political. The Tsarina is happy enough for them to stay out, and they're happy enough for her to support building more caves and natural gardens for them to use as temples and raise bears in.
The Cult of Dazh is the cult of the God of Nobility, Hospitality, and Fire. These things are very, very important to Kislevites. The current high priest, Watcher Ydeski, is a paranoid and small minded jerk who spends all his time crusading against minor breaks in tradition. He has no interest in using the cult's immense political power for anything besides ensuring people follow the exact protocols he cares about at any given moment, and he is not a popular man. The Tsarina has been encouraging some of the younger priests who have been saying that the great witch is an appointed defender of the Holy Fires and favored by Dazh. Ydeski does not care or notice that this constitutes an attempt to eventually overthrow him and replace him with someone amenable to the Tsarina, but others do. Many in Dazh's cult do not think a woman linked to the power of ice could possibly be Dazh's chosen, though they would obviously still say she is Tsarina. But traditionalists are very wary of a Witch of Ice trying to claim to defend the Lord of Fire.
The actual Ice Witches are ecstatic about the Tsarina and her closest supporters. She is the best of their Order and placing their own in positions of high nobility or generalship has always been their policy. They believe themselves the defenders of the unique magic of Kislev, and to do that, they must defend the land of Kislev. They can best direct the defense of the land by being in charge of it. The Tsarina and her backers also favor the Ice Witches more than previous Tsars and Tsarinas have, and even a commoner witch of ability now has privileges equivalent to minor nobility. Imperials watching this consider the whole thing insane; giving magic users legal authority beyond licenses seems like complete madness to them. The Ice Witches are powerful and hold their own influence, but they do not bring large cities or populations with them, and many in Kislev view them with awe rather than affection. Heroic PC Ice Witches who can win the affection of the people for their Order could advance very, very quickly...
The Wise Women are an odd political and magical faction. These are the shamans and witches of the Ungol tribesmen, and they have no official legal privileges or standing. At the same time, they are some of the only people in Kislev to ignore some of Katarin's commands directly and get away with it, because they are powerful mages in their own right and because pissing them off would lead to riots and rebellions among the Ungol. They know better than to directly challenge the Gospodars, though, and try to avoid overt conflict unless the matter is very, very important. Right now, the southerners and Ice Witches try to avoid putting the Wise Women in a position that would lead to direct conflict, and in return the Wise Women do not counsel rebellion or resistance. The Tsarina would dearly like to find a way to get them on her side and have their magic serve her regime, but any individual wise woman she's given patronage to quickly loses their status among the others. A PC Wise Woman who might become a strong leader for the community could decide which direction the Ungol mystics go.
Tsar Boris did not have time for the guilds and merchants of Erengrad, but his daughter thought them very valuable. They have money, they control the commerce in the city, they build the cannons, and they weren't on anyone's side. By extending their privileges and helping them to become more prosperous, she has gained their loyalty, at the expense of the Boyars of Erengrad. In return for granting the guilds much of what they wanted, she demanded the right to appoint Guildmasters, or at least to approve their appointments. Like with the Atamen she has been careful to choose popular folk, but the guilds dislike this provision and will look for any excuse to change it. Meanwhile, the Boyars want to remove the trade councils and the Guild voice on matters of taxes and tariffs, and the Boyars of Erengrad have grown more disloyal due to the erosion of their control in the city.
Finally, there's the big problem of Nyvena. Nyvena is an Ungol war-leader who, with no authority from the Tsarina, got together and led a very successful army during the Storm of Chaos. His Ungol troops continue to clean up the steppe and destroy remnants of the enemy, and he has been of great help in rebuilding. He isn't disloyal (yet) and hasn't yet risen in rebellion, but he refused a title of Druzhina from the Tsarina because it was a Gospodar title, and he is an Ungol nationalist. His army obeyed orders from the Tsarina and her Boyar generals during the war, and they fought very competently, which presents two problems. Firstly, this has made him very popular; everything in Kislev will eventually come back around to how well you drive off Chaos. Secondly, it means that for now he's as much an asset as a threat to power. He is still out there doing good work and aiding in the rebuilding, and without him actually counseling direct rebellion rather than just trying to be a prominent Ungol presence in the defense of the country, the Tsarina is loathe to move against someone who is genuinely helping clean up. It gets to the fundamental problem with trying to centralize all power in Kislev: To do so you usually need relatively incompetent but extremely loyal forces that cannot pose a threat to the ruler while being sufficient to secure their rule. That can't be done in Kislev because you dearly need people who are good leaders and strategists leading your armies, because you face a sporadic existential threat. So even though a man like Nyvena is a potential future threat, a reasonable ruler can't afford to simply remove him. Meanwhile, Ungol see him as a potential leader who could break Gospodar rulership, even as he remains much more focused on defending the country and doing the job he put together his army to do. Lots of potential for PC involvement in this; spying on the man, fighting in his forces, working as mercenaries, trying to persuade him one way or another on his political loyalties.
Next: Legal Codes and Justice.
Crime and PunishmentOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Crime and Punishment
Considering the overall centralizing project of the Tsarina, it should not be a surprise that she would like all legal authority to flow from her office. Enforcing the law without permission from above (as adventurers often do) can be severely punished in Gospodar lands. A group of adventurers with no legal authority who set on a group of bandits are technically criminals, as they enforced the law without direct permission from the Tsarina or a licensed officer of hers. Thus, adventurers who are not directly associated with the Tsarina's agents in the Realm of the Ice Queen often either find ways to make their exploits plausibly self defense (which is always legal), claim their foes were servants of the Ruinous Powers (it's never illegal to kill Chaos Worshipers, they're outlawed by nature), or find a drunk or pragmatic chekist to rubber-stamp their actions. Alternatively, you can just do your business in the north, well away from the Tsarina's courts, where the local Hetman isn't likely to complain about a bunch of dead kyazak. Similarly, if you took a job from any city watch, judge, or other legal agent in the country, you are technically properly enforcing the Tsarina's justice, as she has given them all permission to do so; like many of her proclamations and plans, she wants to start with surface form and work her way back to function. 'This is in the name of the Tsarina' is a formality right now, but she wants people to get used to thinking of all criminal justice this way.
Tsar Boris won the loyalty of the Ungol Hetmans and stanistas when he permitted them to resume practice of their traditional legal codes in primarily Ungol areas of the country. This was more a case of the Tsar recognizing what was already happening rather than a return to an ancient form; Ungol settlements and nomadic groups (called krugs) already mostly practiced Ungol law. But recognizing and respecting it officially was a great relief to the people. Tsarina Katarin is not pleased with this state of affairs and would prefer a single law code for the entirety of Kislev, but her father was a highly respected Tsar and she does not wish to overturn a popular provision; she needs the Ungol's support just as much as her father did. Instead, she allows Ungol areas that wish to do so to petition to be placed under Gospodar law, with significant incentives, and does not permit petitions in the other direction, so she can claim to be respecting the will of her subjects on the matter while she chips away at Ungol legal practices.
Ungol law is not written down, but rather passed down by oral tradition and practice. The fundamental element of Ungol law is group responsibility and collective punishment. If your family member commits a crime, you are legally responsible for it, because it was your duty to stop them and under Ungol law, they suspect it may've been done to benefit you. In larger cases, your entire clan, tribe, or stanitsa may be considered responsible for an individual's crime and you may have to give collective restitution. The family is also the smallest legal unit in Ungol law, and you cannot actually commit a crime against a family member, since it there is not 'aggrieved' party under their understanding of legal responsibility. If a father beats his son, there is no legal victim under Ungol understanding of culpability, though the family may informally try to intervene. If a father beats another man's son, though, a crime has been committed and any member of that father's family is legally liable for the penalty the judge levels; it will not necessarily fall upon the father. If a father beats a boy from another stanitsa, then the father's entire stanitsa is on the hook for his crime. An important part of this is that nationalities can also be considered a legal unit, and the Ungol consider Gospodar a different clan/family. Thus, to Ungol law, if a Gospodar commits a crime against them, they are legally permitted to take revenge as set down by a judge upon any Gospodar. The Tsarina *hates* this (as you might imagine), as do most foreigners, and this is one of the major reasons she wants to destroy Ungol legal practice and precedent within Kislev. For now, she has an agreement that Gospodar bounty hunters be permitted to at least try to track down the actual criminal before the Ungol start up some crazy feud over a stolen cow. PCs can easily find themselves caught up in these messes.
Ungol courts consist of a single judge from outside the two groups that are bringing complaint against one another. This person is thus considered impartial. This also means that in the case of a trial between a Gospodar and Ungol, the judge must be a foreigner; another great place to involve your PCs in high stakes murder mysteries! The Tsarina is also permitted to serve as judge in such a case, in honor of her father and on the argument that she represents her own, higher legal group (the Tsars). Settlements electing permanent judges (say, asking a foreigner who was a good judge to stay and solve more mysteries) send the names to Kislev for approval in the Bohka Palace, a task often handled by younger Ice Witches. This is another good excuse to get an apprentice Ice Witch out of the cities and into the steppe for adventure if you have one in a party. Judges are also aided in remembering the law and justice by the Wise Women, who advise on 'common sense' and how the spirits feel about legal proceedings or divination.
The most serious crime among the Ungol, even worse than murder, is refusing or abusing hospitality. Traveling the steppe in winter is a nightmare, and refusing to allow a wanderer into your home to sit by your fire is tantamount to saying you want them to die the worst of deaths. By the same token, the wanderer owes you gratitude and good behavior for your allowing them into your home and aiding them. It is important to everyone that a host be able to trust a guest unconditionally, and in return the guest be able to trust their host. A guest abusing the hospitality of their host to steal from them or harm them. This is one of very few crimes where a judge will *regularly* order uninvolved members of the criminal's group punished. In general, when meting out collective punishment, a member of the criminal's group is usually only chosen if they benefited from the criminal's actions or had a clear duty to stop them and did not. This crime is so serious that innocent members of a group may be punished solely for the sake of revenge. Similarly, the Ungol will go to tremendous lengths to punish the actual criminal. One Tilean follower of Ranald who took advantage of Ungol hospitality was tracked down years later in goddamn Lustria and hacked apart by a half dozen now-very-experienced-and-travel-hardened Ungol.
Ungol punishments are primarily corporal and non-crippling. For all the collective punishment and all, most crimes are solved with a public flogging, or a brand to both hurt the criminal and remind others of their dishonor in future dealings. Crippling punishments, like loss of a hand, are considered a good way to punish an entire group while only directly hurting the individual; by hurting a family member in a permanent way, they can't work and the family must decide whether to mercy-kill the crippled member or deal with the cost of supporting them. Minor mutilations like a missing pinky finger are used for serious, but not collective, crimes, much like a brand. Capital punishment is common in really serious cases like rape, murder, or abuse of hospitality.
Gospodar law is a lot more like Imperial law. It's written down, and the written laws must be obeyed, as must the accepted sentences for them. Gospodar law also places all responsibility on the individual criminal, with no collective punishments; indeed, trying to take revenge on a criminal's family because you believe the legal punishment was too light will get you killed and is a very serious offense under Gospodar law. Gospodar written law is looser than Imperial law, and intended to leave the judge a great deal of leeway in both deciding guilt or innocence, and in deciding punishments. Gospodar law also allows for formally declared feuds between families, and the Tsarina hates this, both because it resembles Ungol collective punishment and because it makes the stupid Boyar families fight each other. The Boyars, on the other hand, like it because it allows them an outlet to use force without needing approval from the higher government.
Gospodar courts do not have the same requirement for a judge to be 'neutral'. Judges are appointees, holding their position by permission from the Bohka Palaces. The Tsarina is eagerly encouraging the establishment of law schools and the professionalization of the bureaucrats and magistrates in the legal system, rather than allowing the local Hetman and Druzhina and Boyars to do the judging; ostensibly this is so that judges will be well trained in the law and serve according to ability, but anyone can see this is also another way to increase her personal hold on the legal system. One of the key legal privileges of nobility in Kislev is that a Druzhina or Boyar must be tried by 3 judges, who must all agree they are guilty for them to be found guilty. A peasant gets a single judge with the power to declare innocence or guilt. Punishments are requested by the wronged party and the judge approves or disapproves of them. The provision allowing formally declared feuds is meant to check the severity of punishments the victim can demand; after all, if you call for someone who called you a pig to be fed to the pigs there's a good chance his family is going to try to get you back for it. This means that when there is a large power differential between the criminal and victim, such that the 'victim' need not fear any feud, they can do some awful things. Boyars can be legendarily dickish to peasants who commit crimes against them.
An important provision of Gospodar Law is that all able-bodied males must own weaponry and equipment in case of war. Every single one. You must be willing to present this to your Hetman or to city officials if they ask, to be sure you have not sold your spear/bow/gun and that you will be ready to report for training if asked. Women are not legally obligated to own weapons, but it is encouraged and respected if they do. This is one of the few divisions between men and women on the matter of war in Kislev; men and women have explicitly equal legal rights in both Ungol and Gospodar culture, but for men war is a matter of legal obligation, while for women being prepared for war is simply respectable. Amusingly, it is illegal to criticize the Tsarina, but this law is not enforced against peasants, only nobles. Jokes and murmuring among the common people are expected, tolerated, maybe even celebrated if they're funny. If a Boyar makes a terrible ice pun that suggests the Ice Queen is not good at her job, however, he may be in real trouble. Meanwhile, nobles try to enforce laws against disrespect against their own peasantry. Being allowed to joke about the Tsarina while the local Druzhina might have you killed for the same thing if it was pointed at him has had the queer effect of making the peasants very sympathetic to her; they feel like she can take a joke and her actions with the guilds of Erengrad make many think that perhaps she favors the causes of the common man more than she does her nobles. She merely planned to only go after people with the power to make threats of themselves, but she's noticed the affection this is giving people for the office of the Tsar and is taking steps to ensure it continues.
Finally, there is the matter of the Chekists. Chekists are a bit like Imperial Witch Hunters, but they're much more explicitly secret police. These men and women of the secret office are charged with ensuring the security of the Tsar or Tsarina. By decree, Chekists is not legally liable if they accidentally arrest or do harm to innocent people. They are much more numerous than Witch Hunters, serving as spies and agents against sedition who happen to also fight Chaos rather than agents against Chaos who also happen to fight sedition. They have elaborate black uniforms, bronze-tipped cudgels, and fancy medallions for when they want to scare people, and normal clothes for when they want to spy and work as secret police. They're feared and hated by most of the people of Kislev. They're also, interestingly, a Basic career that a PC can start as from the getgo.
Next: Gods of Kislev.
Strong like bearOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Strong like bear
Ursun is the most popular God in Kislev. This is partly because Tsar Boris was popular, and was also the first high priest in 400 years because of that time he and a bear teamed up to eat wolves and battle Chaos. Ursun is a lot like Ulric down in the Empire, but with way less accidental white supremacist overtones to some of his writing and also sleepier and more laid back. Ursun is also a bit fickle. He'll answer anyone's prayers sometimes if you nail a fish to your door in his honor. Dude loves fish. Kislevites like Ursun because he's a god of honest strength and if you respect him, he won't rend you apart. That, and hunting bears or taming bears is a big deal; they mention many Kislevite rotas like to have a bear for a mascot since they think it brings them divine favor, and the occasional Boyar manages to train an entire unit of sacred attack bears. Ursun's cult gets along fine with Ulric, Taal, and Rhya, and worship of him usually coexists with worship of them. Ulricans and Ursunites are supposed to wrestle and playfight to argue gently over whether wolves or bears are more awesome. The devout of Ursun are told to only hunt bears with melee weaponry or bows (no guns, but guns are fine for war. Just not for bear-fights), to leave hibernating bears or bear cubs be, to celebrate the waking of the bears in spring (awakening day is a huge festival all over Kislev), to enjoy fish, and not to show off bear paraphernalia unless you killed the bear. Wearing a bearskin coat is fine, but displaying a bear-claw necklace is not cool unless you killed the bear. High priests are specifically chosen because they get lost and end up becoming buddies with a bear somehow. This is a regular religious thing. The Tsarina is a devout patron of the Cult of Ursun in honor of her father, and while she is not a High Priest like he was, the cult supports her and appreciates the patronage of the Bohka Palaces.
Dazh is great. Dazh is absolutely the best. I don't usually do pictures because I am not an especially visual person, but here's Dazh, because I think seeing his picture tells a lot about the God of the Sun, Royalty, Fire, and Hospitality.
When the world was new, Dazh rode across the sky in his flaming chariot that is also the sun, and people could live while he was doing this. When he was resting in his amazing golden palace, the young prince of the heavens looked down and saw all the people were cold and shivering in darkness, so he sent his magical firebirds to dance for them and show them how to use fire (and create the aurora borealis) so they could stay warm while he rested his horses. Dazh is the kindest of all the Kislevite gods, and cares the most about humans' welfare. He is also a dashing heaven prince and gets up to all kinds of antics in his adventures in myth, where he often fails to show proper respect to someone and so inadvertently causes disaster, or on the flipside, where his dedication to proper respect and behavior helps save the world again. The glint of gold is the holy metal of Dazh, and many of his temples are gilded, gaudy, magnificent places lit by eternal flames. As the book puts it, every Stanitsa has a priest of Ursun, but every *home* has an icon of Dazh. The pious followers of Dazh live by strictures to never deny another hospitality, because leaving someone out in the cold is improper behavior, and to tend to the hearth through any and all long nights and winters. His cult is powerful and centralized, but as came up before the current High Watcher is sort of an incompetent and unpopular doofus. Whoever replaces him is likely to understand the authority of the office better, and that could bode well or ill for any number of political forces in Kislev.
Also one of his spells is an orbital sun laser, so his priests can call down fire from the heavens, and his priests are renowned as cooks. Dazh rules.
Tor is good guy Khorne. Like, even more directly than Ulric. Tor is the Ungol god of lightning and strength, a lord of storms who splits the sky with his massive axe to ask you why you aren't doing something badass at this very moment. He is a god of courage and resilience, granting strength to those who fight for justice with all of their hearts. Tor also believes hammers are lame and that axes rule. This is an actual stricture. He has only a single stricture: Don't stand under trees during thunderstorms. He also has no actual cult. Most Kislevites will offer a prayer to Tor before battle, and sometimes those who are more devout will find themselves able to work miracles in his name. That's it. No hierarchy, no structure, no set temples besides the occasional stone watchtower or altar to commemorate a great victory. Tor is a simple god, but Tor is specifically a god of beating the shit out of evil and awesome lightning storms, and the Kislevites consider that good enough.
One interesting divergence from normal Old World religion: No-one in Kislev worships Morr. They consider worship of death an insane and foolhardy practice, and find the god abhorrent. Death is too close all the time to bother praying to it. Similarly, while they are fine with Ulric, they refuse to worship him as the lord of Winter, only wolves and battle. Shallya is known as Salyak, and is worshiped differently than usual. Salyak is much more of a nurturing god, devoted to raising strong, healthy children and comforting her children in their hurts. The Kislevite idea of Shallya is older and wiser, closer to a steppe wise woman or kindly grandmother watching over her family.
In addition to Gods, though, the Kislevites are infamous for their superstitions and worship of spirits, something the rest of the Old World thinks leans too close to Chaos worship. The Hags and Wise Women know better.
Next: The Hags and Wise Women know better.
The Wise Women Know What's WhatOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Wise Women Know What's What
The Wise Women and their actual magician counterparts, the Hags, are an ancient order of mages and women gifted with the Sight (the Magical Sense ability) who have kept the oral lore of the Ungols, kept the spirits from turning against their people, and done all they can to protect from the forces of Chaos. As the book puts it: "Naturally, everyone hates them."
There are some good reasons for this; it isn't self-destructive spite or simple fear of something different. The first, and most important, is that they see things no-one else does and give advice based on those invisible signs. Thus, a Wise Woman is often telling her tribe that what looks like an unusually lush and fertile valley with good access to fresh water is not, in fact, a good place to settle and build a stanitsa. Instead, it's some kind of demonic trap and the thing thirsts for souls. To the normal men and women of the tribe, the place looks tempting and perfect; they can't see the demonic residue and traps laid on the valley. This connects to another reason they can be unpopular: They always seem to be telling people not to do something that seems like it would be a good idea. This is because when your oral lore and mystic knowledge all comes from a region that borders on the forces of hell and darkness, an awful lot of it is going to consist of dire warnings and memories of past disaster. Despite their distaste or annoyance, Ungols do not ignore their Wise Women; they enjoy telling humorous and horrifying stories about foolhardy Gospodar who do. Some will always harbor worries about where the Wise Women learn these things, but others point out that even if it was a demon who whispered in Baba Osuleg's ear that the valley had demons in it while trying to tempt her, her advice of 'That valley has demons in it, they're trying to tempt us' is still spot on. Their advice may not be pleasant, the rituals and rites they perform may not be fun, but their advice is *safe*, and that counts for a lot.
Wise Women do not use the winds of magic; in fact, normal Wise Women don't use magic at all. All they have is the Sight. They can see and talk to the spirits, which lets them figure out what is causing the rota, the krug (nomadic tribe), or the stanitsa its latest troubles and curses. The spirits are often weird, sometimes malicious, and always a bit alien, but the Wise Woman normally barters and deals with them rather than trying to destroy them or drive them off. The things the spirits ask of a stanitsa can be very strange, and so many settlements and tribes in northern Kislev have all kinds of odd bans on seemingly innocuous activities to avoid curses, or have to perform strange rituals like all the village's women dancing every solstice while covered in fish guts. Any spirit that requests or even hints at a need for human sacrifice is destroyed or driven off, however difficult this might be; this is a major sign that the spirit is of the Ruinous Powers, and even if it isn't, only truly evil spirits would ask for that. You can't trust an evil spirit to keep its bargains. Even Wise Women who can't cast spells have friends among the spirit world, and they can potentially send their friends out to cause trouble for other settlements during disputes, or to curse those who cross them.
Another thing that makes people less friendly to the Wise Women is that they deal with mutation in Kislev. This is never a task that makes people popular. Again, they can see magic, and thus might see something no-one else can in the case of hidden mutations like Telepathy or purely mental changes (or changes that seem purely positive, like the various stat-boost mutations). This means sometimes a Wise Woman demands a seemingly healthy child be banished from the tribe. It's bad enough when they do it to a babe born with tentacles! This especially leads Gospodar families to believe Wise Women are stealers of children and murderers. Interestingly, though, they do not kill them. Tainted children are taken to remote valleys and hidden places, to be raised by other Wise Women who understand this important task. They are raised to believe that they can purify their soul by serving the Land and defending Kislev against the Ruinous Powers. They are also enslaved and put to hard labor or used as sacrificial soldiers, but still, it is an unusual tradition. A child who survives long enough will be blessed and sent to the Wastes, to defeat as much evil as they can before they fall. This could be another interesting place to get a party of mutant PCs and actually use the Chaos Wastes/Realm of Chaos rules from ToC: A doomed crusade of heroic Kislevite mutants raised by witches. Wise Women also take girls with the Sight (who are not found by the Ice Witches, anyway) to be trained, far from their parents. Combined with their duties with respect to mutation, this only makes people more wary of the child-stealing witches.
Some very rare Wise Women can actually use magic, beyond being able to see it and talk with the spirits. These women use a totally different style of magic than southern magicians, and do not suffer from Tzeentch's Curse and normal miscasts (usually). Their magic is safer, but also ickier and much more suited to healing, augery, and the occasional humorous or horrifying curse. The spirits' touch ages the woman terribly, but only in the sense that she looks ancient. These women are called Hags, and how old they appear to be may have nothing to do with how vibrant or strong they are, or how old they actually are. A woman of 30 summers might appear to be impossibly old thanks to the spirits' touch, but still be spry and fit and able to run and jump with normal adventurers. In some cases, even as they trade their appearance of youth for the power to defend their people, the Hags gain the power to live forever; no-one knows how old some of the truly ancient crones and powerful Hag Mothers might be. And they know better than to ask. Also interestingly, the Wise Women judge hierarchy based on age and wisdom, rather than power. When they organize to handle the tasks of defending the land, a woman who has nothing but the Sight but who has always been wise and has gained much experience would outrank a mighty magical prodigy of 30. The main national policy for the Wise Women is 'Fuck Chaos', as it is for all of Kislev.
Ungols don't like the Wise Women, but they respect them. They know their advice is essential, even if they bristle under it, and they know their power is real. They will unite to defend their Wise Women from external threats, and they will not allow an Imperial Witch Hunter who does not understand what he's doing to burn their Baba. Gospodar hate and fear the Wise Women, believing they all have magical powers and that they use them to curse and trick good, innocent Gospodar men. They recognize they serve some kind of important function (and are terrified of them) and so grudgingly try to avoid them, saying it would be best if they did their work far from Gospodar cities. Foreigners think it's obvious that Wise Women are servants of Chaos and dark witches (this is completely incorrect) and often get themselves into serious trouble trying to prove it or do something about it.
Wise Women are great and their class track is really interesting when we get to it. It's perfectly possible to just get the wide knowledge, mystical sight, and spirit-bargaining from the basic Wise Woman class and then go into fighting or political or academic classes after, and just be a woman with surprising insight who can see magic. Similarly, their magic is useless for direct combat, but it can do stuff no-one else can, including actually curing mutations. But it all requires various weird and disgusting components, and Wise Women always have to use their material components, so you cure disease by getting PCs to drink a mixture of fish guts and hold it down, or cast the spell that turns you into the giant avenging hag mother of justice by waving about two fistfuls of Kislevite soil smeared with your own blood (doing a couple Wounds to you) to symbolize how you will fight for the land.
Next: Ice Witches, who have a cunning plan to make women and witches into a major power within Kislev by, uh, becoming generals, high nobles, and people of great importance and open authority. Huh. That isn't usually how that goes.
"They have an Ice Witch!? Run!"Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
"They have an Ice Witch!? Run!"
The Ice Witches tell of how the Gods were not quite enough to defend the Gospodar people during their times on the Great Eastern Steppe. Beset by Kurgan and worse, the shamans and priestesses cried out to Dazh, Ursun, and Tor, but they were not enough. A great and pure spirit, the Ancient Widow, reached out to one of the shamans of the pre-Kislevite Gospodar and promised immense power if she would help to free and purify it from the taint of demons. To hear the witches tell it, the movement into Kislev was as much motivated by finding the source of their Ice Magic and following the power of the ley-lines as it was by escaping the other hostile tribes and taking a newer, better land for the Gospodar to live in. They came to find and purify the spirit of the Ancient Widow, the same great spirit the Wise Women often serve, and they do this by defending and purifying the land of Kislev.
Ice Witches need political power to do what they feel they must in order to keep their magic safe from the taint of Chaos. They seize this by being a cunning force behind the throne, letting men believe they are in char- No, actually, the first Tsarina of Kislev was an Ice Witch and since then they have always been a major part of politics. They lead armies, they advise nobles, and they are a major, direct force within Kislev. Most people don't quite understand that their end objective is perpetuating the study of Ice Magic and keeping the ley-lines clear, rather than simply defending the country, and most would be a little surprised to see the extent to which they coordinate with one another to ensure that the various sites of power are defended, but there is no need for them to hide their political influence and power. The interesting part of Ice Magic is that like the Hags, they do not use the Winds of Magic at all. Ice Witches work their magic from the natural flow of power within the land, following the lines of magic that they think of as the veins of the Ancient Widow's heart, augmented by the ancient Ogham Stone circles (which may have been built by the Old Ones) and ancient elven waystones. They know the magic of place and ritual site, and the danger in their magic is very different than the danger in conventional Imperial magic. Instead of fearing flows of dark power, they instead have to fear that they will accidentally misread the currents and draw too much, causing glacial surges that can freeze them and the whole area around them into beautiful, sparkling, and very dead statues. Since their magic is based on place, they need their political influence and power so that they can convince Kislev's soldiers of the necessity of defending the sacred sites and places of power, even if their strategic worth is not obvious. Thankfully, the strategic worth of a woman with incredibly lethal ice magic *is* obvious, and so they can usually get what they need in return for their help.
Ice Witches guard a prophecy that says a male witch will one day taint the power of the Land. To combat this, they have worked with the Wise Women and others to convince the people of Kislev that men are simply not to be trusted with Arcane Magic. They are too emotionally fragile and will surely fall to corruption if exposed to the temptations of sorcery. Males with magical ability are killed like mutants in Kislev, and they consider it madness that the Empire permits men to practice the traditional women's business of sorcery. Some noble families will smuggle a male who shows signs of sorcery down to the Empire to be trained in the colleges, but the Ice Witches would like to put a stop to this practice lest it undermine the belief that men are incapable of handling arcane workings.
Every year, shiver Gospodar girls are brought out at the winter equinox, the time when the magic is strongest and when they are most likely to show signs. The Ice Witches tour the country to inspect them, looking at the frightened and freezing girls to find any with a hint of the Ancient Widow's power. Any who show talent are taken for training, with no legal recourse for the parents or families to stop this. Witches are also sworn to take in any woman they find who was somehow missed, if she shows the signs of power later in life. At the very least, an adventuring Witch is bound to bring a talented young woman to another Witch for training, if she cannot spare the time to teach her herself. Ice Magic is harsh and difficult to control, and plenty of apprentices do not survive their training, noble or peasant. The power of the land is as harsh as the land, and as noted above, it can be easy to draw too much strength and freeze the woman or her teacher to a solid block of ice. Witches tend to become linked to the seasons, waxing and waning as winter comes and goes, and their hearts can become cold and calculating as they struggle to survive their powers and wield them against dark forces.
A fun detail is that the Witches meet to politic and argue in the middle of summer, so that their magic will be at its weakest, which prevents it being used to solve disputes. The Witches' current agenda is supporting the rule of Tsarina Katarin however they can; they believe her to be the greatest champion of the Ancient Widow since Miska or Shoika, and that her actions will ensure the sacred sites remain untainted and powerful.
Ice Witches are very popular among the Gospodar. Many Gospodar communities are set up to guard one of the sites of power, and thus have a Witch living nearby. These Witches can summon incredible and flashy powers against invaders and obviously fight for the Land against evil, and so the Gospodar are proud of them. That they also eagerly ensure the dominion of the Gospodar is an added bonus. Ice Witches are actually not quite as good at detecting the subtler sorts of Chaos influence as the Wise Women, and so they leave dealing with mutants to them. This only makes the Witches more popular, since unlike those evil Ungol hags, they never take your child for no reason (and if they do take your daughter, it is to be trained in the magic of the Khan-Queens and to possibly gain a position of great honor and respect!). Ungol do not care for the Ice Witches, but the Wise Women tell them the Witches serve the Land and fight against the darkness, and so they tolerate them. They are always annoyed when the Witches yet again requisition Ungol forces and resources to protect another Gospodar site of dubious strategic value, though. Katarin is more popular among the Ungol than most Witches, as her actions during the Storm of Chaos proved she was an able leader and she tends to see Gospodar and Ungol resources as equally important to defending the Land (and equally completely at her disposal). The northern tribes of the Kurgan and Norse are scared of the Ice Witches, because their power is that great, and they eagerly celebrate whenever they manage to kill one (and often run away if they see one leading a rota). Other Old Worlders just find it strange that open Witches are such an important part of Kislev's nobility, and some radical Sigmarites preach that this is a sure sign that Kislev has already been tainted by darkness. These sorts often end up as lovely statues after they challenge a chilly Kislevite noblewoman.
Ice Magic really is about as powerful as the fluff hypes it up to be. A rota with a full Ice Witch (3rd career, Mag 4) has a woman who can create massive storms that shut down movement, freeze square miles of earth, or straight murder tons of dudes with icicles or freezing. It is also about as dangerous, as its special miscast table is more likely to hurt the witch rather than try to take her soul like conventional miscasts. What's really interesting is that neither Kislevite magical tradition is open to Chaos corruption. Both found a different way to filter and channel their power through the land itself, and the way the Ice Witches use the power of ley-lines, ancient Old One circles, and waystones is very interesting. I also appreciate an ancient sisterhood who have a solemn duty to the Land who instead openly hold power and go around saying "So yes, we defend the country from evil, and we need this power to do it." rather than the usual ruling from behind the scenes stuff. They don't openly tell people that their main concern is defending the magic, not the people, but defending the magic ends up defending the people most of the time, so there's no need to make a fuss, yes?
Next Time: A few last traditions and superstitions. Also, Kislevite Funerals.
If the person is already dead, they walk the body through the funeral rite as if they were still alive for itOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
If the person is already dead, they walk the body through the funeral rite as if they were still alive for it
Kislevites don't celebrate birth right away. You never know what the Wise Woman is going to say about the child, and among Ungol the child isn't really considered born until they get cursed and checked for taint. The 'curse' is a minor stricture designed to ensure the spirits will be favorable to the baby; little things like 'This child must never wear silver jewelry' or 'Never ride a horse bareback under the full moon', with the implication that breaking those strictures will cause bad luck. Once people are certain the baby isn't going to die of illness in the first few days and that the child isn't mutated, they celebrate and commend the baby to Dazh's royal protection, welcoming them to the community. They do this by quickly passing the baby through a fire. Not, like, through the actual flames, just above them. It's considered bad luck if the baby doesn't cry or react and a terrible omen if the parents manage to actually hurt the child (by not passing them through fast enough). Then, the child can be celebrated and people can be relatively sure they will survive.
Marriage is one of the few times even Kislevites let themselves be happy and celebratory. Marriages are big occasions, where the friends and family of bride and groom get together to drink and feast until everyone falls asleep or the food and drink run out. Running out of food and drink before everyone passes out is a bad omen for the match! Everyone gathers around to make speeches, the groom's friends praising the bride in a tradition where they compete to see how long they can keep it from becoming ribald and obscene due to drunkeness and good humor. In some villages, the groom isn't actually decided until after the feast, where the last man standing after the drinking gets to marry the bride the following day. In places that follow this tradition, they devise all manner of clever ways to make sure the right man marries the right woman, like making the intended groom drink watered wine instead of kvas and giving the men with the reputation for being the best drinkers way more to drink (which they rarely object to!). This also leads to all sorts of shenanigans where brides spike the drink of their intended so they can marry the man they love, instead of the one their family wanted for them, sparking an entire genre of Kislevite comedy.
Kislevite funerals are unique. They don't hold them for the dead; rather, you have your funeral when you enter a profession or period in your life where you become likely to die, in order to get it out of the way and get everyone ready for it. A man (or woman, if she does so) joining the stanitsa's rota has a funeral held for him. A woman who has just become pregnant for the first time has a funeral held for her, to guard against bad luck in childbirth. That sort of thing. The family builds a fire in a public place, and the 'dead' person places a childhood possession in the fire to burn in remembrance of them. The family and friends sing mourning dirges, then tell stories of the 'dead' person's life and future deeds, designed to inspire them to live and die well. The 'dead' person follows behind each speaker, standing over them and listening to how they are supposed to die and what others think is best about them, and then they leave, ready for their new life and eventual end. Every now and then, someone dies before their funeral, at which point the family dresses the body up and moves it around to act out the normal rites. Yes, they Weekend at Bernies' their own funerals if you're inconsiderate enough to die before you have yours. Once you actually die, after your funeral, your body is cremated or strapped to your horse and sent out into the steppe. Publicly there is little mourning, though friends and family comfort one another informally. Foreigners tend to think this is insane, and that Kislevites are insensate to death, but the fact is they already said their goodbyes.
It isn't only Wise Women who believe in the spirits, the Wise Women are just the only ones who can see them. Normal Kislevites believe in them, make small offerings to them, and try to appease them. Given that the spirits are probably real, these 'backwards superstitions' are probably a good idea. If you stop by a spring to get a drink of fresh water, it would be unwise not to ask the spirit that dwells in it permission first; you could get sick, you might cause yourself bad luck, and it's only polite, anyway. The most common Kislevite spirit is the Domovoi, a well-meaning but mischievous critter who will help you with the cooking and cleaning if you respect him and leave a little food for him each day. If you don't, he'll get annoyed and cause you trouble, sliding plates off shelves, spilling the chamberpot, or ruining needlework. Peasants also make grain offerings to the Polevoi and Poludnitsa, nature spirits that can make the soil fertile or barren as they wish. The Leshii is a tree spirit that can disguise itself as anything, but can never wear a belt (which is an easy way to catch it) and who tries to lead young maids into the woods to never be seen again. It also likes to hide woodcutters' axes right before an angry bear appears. The Leshii is a dick. The Rusalka is the spirit of a murdered woman who tries to trick men into lakes in order to drown them for revenge, and the Vodianoi does the same, but instead appears as a helpless old man and begs for aid, saying it's drowning until it turns around and kills you. The Ryzhnyi Khoziaian, the Frostfiend, is a terrible monster. A winged spirit of frost and murder that wanders the northern steppe and troll country, this is the only spirit that gets stats in the back of the book, and it's a murder-machine. Powerful Ice Witches can also transform themselves into a Frostfiend as one of their mightier spells, and this terrible thing wanders the steppe, killing as it wishes, and there seems no way to placate it.
Next: How to get lost and die on the steppe while snow crazy.
ColdOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Oblast refers to an administrative and geographic region within Kislev. The Oblast is also a series of cold, snowy plains that are dangerous and dull to traverse.
It's difficult to write up dangerous areas and long-term environmental hazards in RPGs. You want to get across that a place is dangerous, that PCs need to take precautions, and that you need a tent or sheltered place and material to make a fire or you're going to die frozen and alone in the steppe. At the same time, doing what they do here ends up with a set of rules I'm pretty sure most players and GMs will just ignore or pare down. Out on the Oblast, if you're in a cold place, you have to test Toughness (with a bonus for wearing good Kislevite winter clothing and a further bonus if you've lived out here for a year or more) or take a -10 to all tests every six hours. You can prevent these tests by resting next to a fire, or sleeping in a pile with your livestock or your companions (which is fair enough, people used to bring their animals in to help heat their homes at night). You cannot actually undo the penalties and warm up until you rest in a sheltered area like a cave or set up a proper camp with a sheltered yurt or something. Extreme cold does the same damage, but does it every 3 hours, and also does 1 Wound per 10 you fail the Toughness test by. In either case, if your penalty builds up higher than your Toughness (Say you have 30 Toughness and fail 3 tests, getting to effectively 0 Toughness) you die. Now, on one hand, there's plenty of ways to mitigate this and it's not that hard to reach some kind of shelter before it kills you. On the other hand 'Roll a check every 6 hours of in-game time or suffer serious penalties' isn't compelling gameplay.
The Oblast and Steppe are also hard to navigate. The wide, flat areas have few landmarks and you have to make -10 Navigation checks every day to avoid getting turned around. You do get large bonuses for just trying to reach a general area and bigger bonuses still if you're in a region you're familiar with, but again, I don't really see these rules getting used. 'We got lost out in the steppe and wandered in circles until everyone froze to death because we failed a bunch of -10 tests in a row' is hardly a great adventure. Blizzards make navigation almost impossible (-30 to navigation tests) and it's best to just hunker down and wait it out if you can. Kislevites only travel in blizzard conditions if not doing so is even more of certain death than doing so. People who weren't raised in the steppe also gain insanity by being lost out there, rolling WP or gain 1 IP every day they're lost. I've already talked about how much I hate the IP system in general, and would never bother with this in a personal group. In general, the traveling rules just don't have any decisions to make, they're simply skill checks and places where you can get unlucky and get fucked.
The people and places you can encounter out in the deep Oblast are crazy. Strange ruins of non-human civilizations not found anywhere else in the world, shot through with beautiful roses growing in the middle of blizzards? Check. Bizarre village of paranoiacs who are afraid that anyone who has been to the top of the surrounding hills with draw horrible monsters onto them? Check. Strange island out in the middle of a lake guarded by the ghosts of dead lancers, who can be talked into helping you fight against Chaos? Check. All kinds of strange, tainted, or lost stuff out there, so at least there's fun stuff to be had.
Next come the Provinces, but in Kislev, you only have regions. North, South, East, and West Kislev, divided into the great Oblasts.
Southern Kislev is the most like the Empire. The land of southern Kislev is arable and suited to farming, portions of it are covered in dark forests full of evil and wonder, and very little of this region uses any of the rules for traveling in dangerous conditions. It also contains the actual city of Kislev and the Bohka Palaces, and with all the farming it's the most populous region of the country. Southern Kislev is also almost exclusively Gospodar. The people of the South are often accused of being soft, and so they put a large portion of their considerable wealth into equipping the best soldiers they can, marching north to prove their courage whenever there is a war. As Southern Kislev is rarely put to the torch by invaders, they have the population and wealth to provide serious forces, and so their valor in defense of the land helps to stifle some of the criticism of their cosmopolitan ways and wealthier life style. Southern Kislevites tend to dislike Imperials, mostly because Imperial troops pass through the south often and off-duty soldiers or foraging armies on the move almost always cause trouble.
Gerslev is the stereotypical prospering Kislevite stanitsa, to the point that its people try to achieve the heights of cosmopolitan fashion in order to cease looking like country bumpkins. This only causes the actual city Kislevites to mock them more, but foreign visitors find Gerslev a cultured and accepting place. The locals are almost all bilingual, the town has its own school, literacy is relatively common, it has a theater, you can find drinks other than vodka and kvas, and they even love Brionnian love poetry. The local Boyar, Irina, is also trying to put together her own unit of riflemen (using imported Longrifles from Hochland) and engineers, thinking these marvelous new weapons will surely come into fashion. Kislevites from the city mock her for trying to copy Erengard and their Streltsi.
Resov is a town of paranoiacs. Travelers are never allowed inside without good reason, and even when they do manage to visit, they find all the doors locked and barred. No-one knows why the people of this stanitsa live this way, but they pay the taxes on time and report to fight in the pulk whenever asked. Another little mystery for PCs to deal with.
Vitevko is a penal colony, guarded exclusively by the standing army of Kossars. It handles Kislev's salt mining, where prisoners are sentenced to brutal, back-breaking labor in the mines for crimes against the state. Chekists watch to prevent escapees. The villagers who serve the garrison are bored out of their mind and there's nothing at all to do besides watch miserable men and women get worked to death in forced labor, leading to all sorts of dark dalliances and temptations. It is a wicked and miserable village, and it produces wickedness and misery.
Next: The East, West, and North.
Kislev is the Land, and the Land is KislevOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Kislev is the Land, and the Land is Kislev
The Eastern Oblast has seen a lot of hard times. It's true steppe land, bordering the river Lynsk and the World's Edge Mountains, and its northern portion contains the City of Praag. Praag is one of the major gateways to the far east, an end-point for caravans from far across the Darklands and distant Cathay. This means that the Eastern Oblast and the city of Praag are one of the only places you can regularly find eastern goods in most of the Old World. Merchants brave the steppe to trade in Praag, despite the terrible damage done to the city 200 years ago. Raiders from the great Eastern Steppe pour across the border, and attackers from troll country come from the northwest. The people of this land are hardened and ready to defend themselves, but still relatively settled due to the presence of Praag and its trade. The Eastern Oblast is also unusual for having a large number of well-integrated Gospodar/Ungol settlements and a larger degree of intermarriage than the rest of the country.
Praag is the most important city in the Eastern Oblast, as Kislev is in the south, but all the cities get their own huge writeups later and will be covered in detail there. Suffice to say Praag rules and I am excited to get to it.
Sepuzky is a large town, the largest settled Ungol town in the country. It is one of the centers for the hags and Wise Women, and several very powerful mothers can be found there at any time. The horse archers raised in a settled town aren't quite up to the standards of those drawn from the more nomadic krugs, and so the town is considering switching to fielding lancers, which has traditionalists up in arms about 'Gospodar ways'. The hags often busy themselves up north, doing something secret in the hidden valleys of the Worlds' Edge Mountains, and no-one asks what they're up to. With so many powerful witches in the area, Sepuzky is a good place to send a young hag witch for training or to give a PC errands for the mysterious mystics.
Volksgrad is in trouble. It's a tall, fortified town that is the last stop before entering the passes of the World's Edge, and it's a vital link in the trade route between Praag and Cathay. However, it sent its soldiers off for the Storm of Chaos, and the unit and boyar were slaughtered to the man. This has left it lacking in defenses and with no actual local government, as the rotamaster, ataman, and boyar were all killed. The Tsarina is looking for a good agent (like your PCs) to either go there to find out who should be appointed to rule, or to be sent out and awarded a title as Boyar to re-establish order in this vital, constantly-being-attacked-by-orcs-and-worse walled town.
Urszebya is a sacred valley, dedicated to the Bear God Ursun. A large valley that looks like something huge took a bite out of the surrounding hills, they say the many standing stones are some of Ursun's teeth after he sampled the world and then lumbered off to sleep. It is also a sacred burial ground for many of Kislev's past heroes, including Tsar Boris. It was attacked by a powerful Kurgan High Zar, backed by a Dragon Ogre Shaggoth, with the intent of defiling this sacred land. He was destroyed by the Tsarina's magic, and the combined armies of the allied peoples routed his forces; many new heroes are buried here now, some of the Tilean and Imperial as well as Kislevite.
The Western Oblast is flat and devoid of forest or timber, though the southern parts of it are good for farming. The areas near the Sea of Claws see regular raids from Norsca, but also regular trade from all over the world, even from Ulthuan and the High Elves. It also has the warmest weather in Kislev, though the weather patterns from the sea can cause mighty blizzards without much warning and hail can ruin the harvests. The Western Oblast was hit hardest during the Storm, but is already eagerly rebuilding; Erengard's rebuilding is coming along quite a bit better than Middenheim down in the Empire. Archaon's haste meant he didn't take the time to thoroughly raze the lands behind him as Kul did, and so the damage is mostly physical. The buildings would be burned and valuables stolen, but if the people managed to flee they could often get away. Erengard makes Western Kislev surprisingly accepting of foreigners. While a southerner might be *familiar* with Imperial customs and government, for instance, they prefer to grumble about them. A westerner, on the other hand, will happily display the goods he managed to buy imported from Ulthuan, or take pride in having a Nuln-built musket.
Like Praag, Erengard and its glorious mess of reconstruction and fighting boat temples will be discussed in detail later.
Milkavala is an oddity. A little stanitsa notable only for a temple of Dazh that contained a genuine magical eternal flame, it was totally untouched during the Storm. The people don't know why Archaon's armies ignored them completely, especially as they were in the path of some of his forces. Whether it was the protection of Dazh, good luck, or whether someone in town is up to something might be up to your PCs to find.
Zavstra is a town directly on the border with the Empire, whose people are open and friendly to their neighbors, and who survived the worst of the war with only physical damage. As a result, they've taken in Imperial refugees from the damaged regions in the northern Empire and accepted their help rebuilding. Now, though, some Imperial nobles are saying perhaps Zavstra should be Imperial, with so many Imperials living there. This dispute is a nice place for more diplomatic PCs to intervene.
The Blight is a good place to send a Slayer. A dark and foetid swamp, this unnatural place has always bred monsters and dangers. But it's much worse now; many of the defeated Chaos raiders and monsters have retreated to the natural well of Dark Magic here, trying to take up residence while they plan how to fight their way home or do as much damage as they can before they die. PCs will be needed to put the last blow to these monsters before they cause even more damage in their death throes.
The Northern Oblast is the wildest land in Kislev, mostly inhabited by nomadic krugs wandering between the various stanitsas. It has no great city, and its people are mostly Ungol the same way the south is mostly Gospodar. Winter is harsh, raiders strike at it regularly from across Troll Country, monsters are deadly, and yet the people here live on, partly because someone absolutely has to patrol this region to warn the rest of the country when an incursion is on its way. This region has been sacked often, and the people here regard it as a sign of courage to assess situations clearly and know when you absolutely cannot win. Then, it is your duty to escape and warn others, so that real forces can be mustered to stop whatever burned down your home. The people here think of themselves as the defenders of the whole rest of the world, and they aren't wrong.
The North doesn't have many significant locations; everything here has been destroyed and rebuilt so often. The battlefields are haunted, though, and wandering the lands where great slaughters occurred can get you killed by evil ghosts. Zoishenk is the largest settlement still standing, a large cattle-herding stop that managed to hold off the worst of the raiders, and as such it is growing quickly as refugees and nomads begin to use it as a hub while they fix their own homes. In a few decades or a century, it may become a real city.
Troll Country marks the place where the north turns into the tundra, rather than the steppe. It is also infested with trolls. And other horrible things. The people living here are exclusively nomadic and take hospitality more seriously than any other Kislevite, because turning a traveler away will absolutely get the poor bastard killed from either the cold or the monsters. They are also the least trusting; you will generally be attended to carefully by gracious and heavily armed hosts who are watching your every move for signs of Chaos taint or ill intent. The few semi-settlements here are built around ancient landmarks and burial grounds from the past Scythian people, about whom very little is known. Many tainted tombs and awful places can be found here, set up by the Kurgan as they retreat from their latest raid (either successfully, with plunder, or having been defeated yet again); these make good dungeons for brave PCs to search for macguffins or gold in.
Next Time: The Great Cities.
Rebuild faster to spit in the Dark Gods' faces!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Rebuild faster to spit in the Dark Gods' faces!
The cities of Kislev are written up with enough detail to be campaign settings, and I like all three of them quite a bit. As a result, these are going to take me awhile to get through.
Erengard was formerly the capital of the Ungol nation, before being defeated by Khan-Queen (and later Tsarina) Shoika during the founding of Kislev. It is also the one good port in all of Kislev, built where the Lynsk empties into the Sea of Claws. Erengard is the only major city to get sacked by Archaon's forces on their way through Kislev, and many of the largest buildings in town were burned or torn down during the razing. Many of the people survived the sack, though, and many who died managed to defend some part of their home. The horde moved on too quickly to exterminate the city, which meant places that managed to organize a stiff resistance survived and most of the harbor is already functional only a year and a half later. Erengard has always been one of the richest cities in Kislev, as it is one of the best routes for foreign goods flowing in and Kislevite exports flowing out, trading with places like Marienburg and Ulthuan. This means they have the money to rebuild, and the Tsarina's empowering the guilds has given the city a great deal of resources to get back on its feet. More important is the mood; almost everyone knows or is related to someone who died bravely in the sack, or lost something to the forces of evil. Counter to what usually happens when Chaos wounds an area, their swift movement didn't give them time to corrupt anything, so instead of hordes of despairing refugees turning to the Dark Gods for relief, the people of Erengard *hate* Chaos now. Building the city faster and better is considered a way to spit in the eye of Chaos itself, and even the criminal element of the city is happily informing on smugglers of forbidden spell components and cultists. Making their city better (though even messier, the Guilds, Boyars, and commoners all have different ideas about how the city would be 'improved' and equal amounts of enthusiasm for construction) is seen as the best way to defy the evil that tried to bring them low.
Now, the book has a huge, detailed map of the city, marked with all the locations I'm about to give, but I can't find a good copy I can put up and I'm terrible with maps anyway. Still, the first major district of Erengard is the harbor. The harbor is constructed out on stilts and artificial islands to get past the shallow sandbars out to the sea where ships can make anchor. The big stilts mean that this area is safe from flooding, so housing here is unusually desirable for a harbor district. The Harbor had a bunch of naturally defensible spots that managed to avoid the sack as the people banded together to defend their homes and warehouses, and so it's become a nucleus for the rebuilding. The people who fought together have come closer as a community, and there's a growing pride and identity in being a harborman (or woman).
There's also a great deal of pride in their awesome temple ship. The Temple of Manaan is a totally unseaworthy, decorative ship that was never intended to actually sail. During the sack, High Priestess Vdovyn stuffed the ship with her priests and as many people as they could rescue, prayed to the God of the Sea for a miracle, and then broke the moorings and sent it into the bay, putting their fate in the God's hands. Miraculously, the ship floated, and spent the remainder of the sack fighting Norse longships and raiders trying to row out to board and defile it. They never succeeded. Now the ship has been brought back to its mooring and was the only temple to avoid being razed during the battle, but the Priestess is a local celebrity and Manaan's worship is more popular than ever. She could do quite a bit with all this influence, but for now she's content to remind people to pay their respects to the sea.
Radii Synvasalisa is the current harbormaster of Erengrad, a position that can bring a man tremendous wealth. A position usually secured by huge bribes, he got his by managing to convince people he led a resistance against the invaders, which is only a little bit of an exaggeration (he was mostly just trying not to die, that just entailed fighting and getting plenty of other people to fight). Now he wants to be rich, and he's hit upon the ingenious idea of requiring fewer bribes and making the customs office more efficient so that more merchants will pass through. With all the activity from the rebuilding, he's growing very wealthy and also getting a bit bored; he makes a good patron for PCs as he tries to figure out a new and exciting route for crime and deception.
The Tilean quarter services plenty of merchants and just as many mercenaries. It used to be built around a temple to Myrmidia, but the invaders burned that to the ground; work has already started on a replacement. Merchants and mercenary captains are sent by their city-states to do short terms of service watching over Tilean interests in Erengrad, ostensibly because the climate is no good for not-Italians, but realistically because Erengard is wealthy and far off enough for a captain or merchant prince to build their own base of power if left out there too long. That might lead to them coming home and displacing their old prince. One such agent is Riccoili the Bald, who had been on the verge of gaining enough money and fame to return home and become a prince of Tilea, when the sack cost him almost everything (including his hair). Now he's pissed as hell and eagerly paying adventurers to hunt down Chaos cults and monsters and surviving invaders in hopes that he can show the Dark Gods Riccoili the Bald ain't no-one to fuck with. An obvious hook for PCs.
There's also the Hag House, populated by a few Wise Women and Hags who tend to the Ungol population of the city. They remember this used to be an Ungol city and they see the sack as an opportunity to improve things for the Ungol community. Osul, the eldest of the hags, sees the best route in the Ungol refugees and displaced peoples from elsewhere in Kislev. She's set about making it safer and helping them settle in Erengard, hoping to increase the Ungol share of demographics and put Ungol voices on the guilds and in the courts. She regularly leans on adventurers to help escort refugees or safeguard the growing Ungol community from persecution. Another, younger hag, Inalchin, wants to destroy the Gospodar population while they are down. She works her curses and cackles over cauldrons as she tries to engineer the ends of struggling Gospodar merchants and Boyars, and if she was caught she might cause serious problems for Hag House.
Finally, there's Vladimir's. Vladimir's was a reasonably successful general goods store and provisioner under its own Vaja Rybkin (Vladimir Rybkin had been his grandfather) until he managed to save his warehouse during the sack. He then set about supporting refugees and helping in the rebuilding, and without gouging, this made him reasonably wealthy and very popular. As a man of growing influence, he got two offers he couldn't refuse, at the same time. One from Titiana Olgadoch, the local Chekist commander, who wanted him to inform on merchants and other doing business with him, and one from Vladimir Synyuliana, a crime boss who wanted to operate out of a business called Vladimir's. Instead of agonizing, Vaja introduced the two, and helped convince them to work together with him and with one another. Now, his business is expanding, the Chekist have an ear in with the local criminals, and Vladimir gets away with murder so long as it's no-one too important and he reports on any rumblings of vampires or cultists. Everyone wins and the shop is fast becoming a franchise, with plans to expand to other cities and within Erengard.
Next: The Low City.
Flotsam and JetsamOriginal SA post
It's been awhile, due to starting school again and going to work, but you know what time it is? It's ham time.
Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Flotsam and Jetsam
The Low City of Erengard is the poor district, because the low land near the riverfront isn't desirable. This isn't because of sewage or runoff (entirely) but because the Lynsk is a temperamental river prone to flooding during snowmelt. Similarly, tidal surges and unusual high tides (which happen more often than in our world because the second moon is a crazy warpstone satellite that goes where it wants when it wants instead of having a regular orbit) cause much more regular flooding. Better homes in this region are built on stilts or high ground, but more desirable ground tends to be the province of crime lords and gangs rather than the urban poor. The whole Low City was destroyed in the sack, but its people are used to packing up and fleeing at a moments' notice from the floods. Many of them got away or fled to other strongpoints to help defend the city, and with no place to go, most of the poor have returned to their homes to begin rebuilding. Joining them are Ungol tent cities from migrants attracted by Usol of Hag House, as Ungol migrants and refugees come to shore up the population and try to shift demographics in Erengrad.
The Low City contains the city's Bretonnian quarter, where wet and miserable Bretonnian merchants from L'Anguille joke that the flooding reminds them of home. Without much investment from the nobles, the merchants have no clout and relatively little money to secure better land for their businesses. The local Brets have been down on their luck as long as anyone can remember, but they refuse to give up. They're mostly living in temporary shacks and tents while they struggle to rebuild their storefronts, homes, and businesses, but they just completed a large Grail Chapel in hopes that maybe the Lady will turn their luck around. As none of them are knights, she probably doesn't care. Most of the residents think the tall, reinforced building will be good shelter in a flood, though.
The Low City also contains the most important business in all of Erengard outside of the harbor: This is where Erengard builds its guns and casts its cannons in a massive foundry. Erengard is one of only a few cities in all of the Old World that manufactures large field artillery, and more importantly they make them lighter and cheaper than Nuln (if not as high of quality or as powerful). This makes their cannon perfect for ships, and merchants running the Sea of Claws find that having a couple Erengard cannon gives Norse longships a few second thoughts about bothering them. The huge demand, steady pace of manufacture, and solid foundries make this one of the very few places a wealthy mercenary company or ship's crew could walk into the building, attend a showroom, put 1000 crowns on the table, and walk out with a field gun. This might be very interesting to particularly wealthy PCs who are trying to expand in the mercenary business, or who suspect they're going to need to blow away a Greater Demon soon. The Canonneer's Compound was badly damaged during the sack when the last guildmaster, Dazhda Kudrov, lured a large number of Chaos Warriors into the powder storage and then dropped a torch to take them with him. Demand has meant the guild has already rebuilt their foundry and returned to being one of the loudest, smelliest, and most important places in the city.
An empty field where the Temple of Verena used to stand sits in the Low City, and the faithful haven't given up despite their church being burned to the ground. The Priesthood of Verena has never been popular in Erengard, with the amount of crime, smuggling, and corruption that goes on at every level of the city's politics. This has never dissuaded them, and they claim they're happy to be in the Low City where the people need justice the most. The high priestess, Bela Ekomov, is a devout follower of the Goddess and still insists that the most devout of her followers have a duty to follow the rule of law, working to help authorities arrest those who gouge others from the sack or who break the law. Most of the city considers him an inconvenience, since being arrested necessitates paying bribes to get released (one of the reasons the authorities are happy to arrest them), but while the Verenans occasionally get roughed up by gangs no-one considers them enough of a real threat to drive them out of the city. This may change; some of her followers are getting fed up with the way no-one ever stays in prison and have begun considering pronouncing the Goddess's justice themselves, resorting to her Sword instead of her Scales. This is a nice little bit of local conflict for PCs to get involved in. You've got a moral and theological dilemma with wider implications and a personality who is in straits that would certainly get her to turn to PCs for help if things are getting out of hand.
The Grand Market is the heart of the city's life for anyone who does business outside of wholesaling and bulk goods. While it might be in the Low City, it's one of the major economic centers for all of Erengard, and one of the few places where people of all classes, races, and nationalities rub elbows. The Grand Market has the heaviest guard presence of any part of the city, being watched more carefully than a Boyar's palace or a Guild's headquarters, and protecting it is one of the few places the Guilds and Boyars get along perfectly. No violence or overt theft is tolerated, which means the local thieves have had to become expert swindlers and confidence tricksters. Where there are people and goods, there are also services, and you can find some of the best and loudest taverns and restaurants in the city inside the Grand Market. Almost anything is available here and the guards overlook any mundane contraband so long as the seller pays a 'tax' and has even the flimsiest of cover stories. You used to be able to find the odd evil grimoire or dark artifact here, but since the sack anyone trying to sell such things is going to get killed by the Chekists, the crime lords, the local merchants, the local guards, commoners, Boyars, and probably a couple angry dogs, all at the same time. Even the merchants and smugglers are completely in agreement with the rest of the city vis a vis Fuck Chaos. The Grand Market was rebuilt pretty much the instant the hordes left, because most of the stalls are temporary anyway (in case of flood) and someone had to sell to the refugees; there's money to be made! You can't let the ravening hordes of hell get in the way of business.
Next: The High City
A general increase in the esteem of elfsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
A general increase in the esteem of elfs
The High City of Erengard is literally the high-city. Being located on the hilly banks and cliffs overlooking the Lynsk, it doesn't flood and it lets the rich merchants and Boyars look down upon the people below. While it was damaged in the sack, the stone buildings were harder to burn down or demolish than the wooden houses and shanty-towns in the lower areas, and it's considered a mark of character to have a few char-marks and scars of dark sorcery showing your estate saw some combat. The High City is also a mess right now, because the Boyars and the Guilds are both pouring huge amounts of money into the general rebuilding of Erengard as they try to compete for the prestige of fixing the place up. In most places, this translates into bidding wars of charity that aid the public rebuilding. In the High City, where they both actually live? It's made the whole area a zoning nightmare. Parts of both plans have been implemented, and of course the merchants want to establish their reputations as fixing the city to justify the authority and power the Tsarina has given them, while the Boyars want to prove to everyone that their families are still the most powerful and richest people in the city, and meanwhile other people from foreign lands are just trying to rebuild their trading outposts and offices and everything is a wonderful goddamn mess. The central bank, for instance, is actually blocking the gates of the city's main keep and estate to the point that they can't open them all the way anymore and have to march the Streltsi in double file. Buildings are backwards, their facade accidentally facing a tiny alley while the blank walls face a glorious public square with a statue that got half built before someone else bought the land and put up a *different* statue and then accidentally blocked another thoroughfare and...you get the idea.
The Elven Quarter is one of the largest Ulthuan outposts of its kind in the Old World. The elves find it a convenient place to buy Norse silver and amber (Erengard is one of the only places in Kislev that will tolerate Norse traders, as long as they arrive under the harbor guns and are clear they mean no trouble) as well as products from the entire Northern Empire and Kislev, and so they established a large Elven Quarter to hold the trading offices and employees for the merchant houses. Only the great trading city of Marienburg hosts a larger number of High Elves. The great merchant houses ordered their employees to leave the city ahead of Archaon's army, but most decided to send their dependents and non-combatants off, then took up bow and sword to fight in defense of their livelihood and city. Most died bravely, taking plenty of the invaders with them, and in doing greatly raised Kislevite esteem for Ulthuan and their elven trading partners. Ever since the survivors returned to rebuild, the elves have built a thirty foot wall around their warehouses and offices, ostensibly in case of a future invasion. No non-elf has been allowed inside the quarter since it went up, but as the elves fought hard to defend the city (and continue to move their goods into Erengrad), their neighbors are more curious than suspicious about what's happening in there.
There are plenty of Imperials in Erengrad, due to all the trade and its position fairly close to the border, but the actual Empire Quarter is small. Most of the local Imperial expats are happy to live elsewhere in the city, near their business, or can't afford to live in the High City (unlike elfs, who are almost uniformly upper class). The local temple of Sigmar is the center of the Imperial Quarter, and it went down hard during the fighting. While preparing to reinforce the foundations so they could build a more defensible structure for the new temple, the locals accidentally unearthed a series of strange catacombs full of Sigmarite iconography beneath the old site. The first group of explorers sent in didn't come out, and now the High Priest is looking for qualified freebooters to do a dungeon crawl and make sure there's nothing horrifying hiding down there while the Warrior Priests who survived the sack watch the hole around the clock. This quarter also has the Imperial Consulate, where the local chief clerk takes advantage of the current lack of an Imperial consul to indulge in corruption, hoping to become rich enough to bribe the eventual consul to overlook his actions.
The Carrier's Guildhall houses the most powerful guild in all of Erengrad, as they have the right to regulate who can and cannot consider themselves an approved carrier of cargo. In a city that relies on river and water trade, these people are obviously important. With the Tsarina having recently given them the right to run courts and issue legal permits, the Carriers have embraced this more than any of the other guilds, and are now the main employer of legal experts in all of the city. Their lawyers and trade-courts have added an entire wing to the guildhall, and their guild's court has become more popular than the Boyar's courts; you can bribe the Carriers, while a Boyar will always rule in favor of increasing the authority of the Boyars. Erengard is 'the one place in all of Kislev where a rich common man can throw a noble out of his home for insulting him and then expect he might win the court case about it'. The current Carrier's guildmaster is a popular, longtime guildsman named Mitri Illchenko, who is mostly honest. In his restraint, he has only used his power as guildmaster to pursue a single petty grudge, and he feels he is a very noble soul for this. The woman he ruined for spurning his advances 20 years ago in their youth does not agree with him about his nobility, and Natalya Dochviktoria has a lot of old friends and contacts still. Some of them might be PCs...
The Goldsmith's Hall is where the city mints its coins and keeps the weights and measures. The Goldsmiths are also the primary bankers and creditors, as well as running the moneychanging and insurance businesses in the city. They do still *occasionally* take in actual goldsmiths and tradesmen, and it remains an obscure guild law that the Guildmaster must be one of those. They neglected to tell the Tsarina they had just approved one such trader, a gifted 30 year old goldsmith named Ursola Ovinko, just moments before they signed the agreement with her allowing her to appoint their Guildmasters in return for increasing the power of the Guilds. She is not happy about getting swindled by a bunch of bankers, and if PCs are loyal agents of the Tsarina, Ursola might find herself accused of being a Slaaneshi or something to get her out of her position as figurehead of the guild (I mean she's an artist, what other false charge do you trump up against artists). The man heading the actual board of the bankers, Valantyri Synmishki, believes he is a very wise man who understands that the city's prosperity is his prosperity, as he is one of the richest men in Kislev. However, he will absolutely crush anyone who gets close to equaling his wealth. He mostly contents himself with making his peers richer and trying to decrease the authority of the Boyars, but if anyone ever threatens his position at the top he will do anything to maintain it. Short of working with Chaos. The general attitude of Fuck Chaos remains in all of Erengrad.
The Shipwright's Guild handles all craftsmen in Erengrad who do not work with precious metal, making them the most populated guild in Erengrad. They do not currently have able leadership, as the man put in charge by the Tsarina has proven exactly able enough to keep himself from getting deposed but not quite up to the task of increasing his guild's power. If they did, and if they could direct their enormous number of members, they could easily be the most powerful people in the city. The guild is currently treading water while discontent grows and the members watch the Carriers take over the legal system and the Goldsmiths becoming incredibly wealthy, and meanwhile their Guildmaster can't even get their new Guildhall built yet. Sooner or later, something is going to give.
The old Castle was destroyed in the sack, and worse, it was shattered by dark sorcery that ruined the old plot. Casting about for the most defensible position, the Boyars just so happened to decide it was located in the land that would best ruin the entire Guild plan for urban renewal, and pooled their resources to rebuild the city's most important fortification as quickly as possible. They had originally hoped to make it impossible to easily enter the Goldsmith's Hall, but were foiled by the main doors of the bank swinging *inward*, while their own castle can't open its gates all the way and can be difficult to get into and out of. Boyar Elena Yevchenko rules the castle, and is head of the most powerful Boyar family in Erengrad. She is a young woman, and originally a commoner; she married into the nobility, but she lost her husband and her left arm fighting side by side with him during the sack. As a result, she has an iron-clad reputation among the nobility and respect with the soldiery, and the Boyars hope this young heroine can help turn their fortunes around and bring them back to being the preeminent social class in the city yet again.
Next: More High City, it's kind of big.
Tor stands!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Temple of Tor is the only temple that the invaders didn't tear down. This is because it's a single empty stone tower on top of a large hill with nothing valuable around it and nothing to mark it out as a temple. Also because of Tor's special protection, obviously. Some jerks think this may be a sign that Tor is secretly Khorne or something, but most citizens are happy to accept the explanation that Tor and his faithful protected their home as a sign that the city has his favor. Why not let a God be happy? There's no great High Priest or anything, given how the Tor worshipers do, and so there's no-one trying to use this for political leverage or anything. It's just taken as more evidence that Tor is a cool guy.
The Temple of Dazh used to be spectacular to rival any and all real Russian Orthodox churches, resplendent with gold and flame to show the glory of the God. As you might imagine, the angry hell vikings who *weren't* yet empty shells wearing 8 feet of divine plate seized this as an opportunity to loot the shit out of the wealthy temple and then burn it to the ground, because why wouldn't you? The current Watcher, Gaspar Synpavla, claims he kept the eternal flame alive during the sack and most people are happy to believe that (even though it probably isn't true). Synpalva is a veritable bounty for PCs: The temple still has plenty of money, and wants its icons back. It will happily sponsor PC parties to raid Norsca to steal holy icons back from Norse kings or to hunt down pieces that somehow made their way into the pawn-shops and art collections of the rest of the Old World. Similarly, he sees an opportunity to rebuild the temple by offering its support much more directly to the Tsarina, in hopes of receiving patronage. Even if PCs aren't agents of the Ice Queen, he has need of brave and trustworthy folk who could carry confidential messages to the Bohka Palaces.
The Garden of Ursun is a public park with its own little waterfall and persistent claims that actual bears live among its greenery and caves. The invaders didn't sack the temple because it's a park, a garden, and some caves; there was nothing to steal. There's plenty of fish living in the big pond the waterfall empties into, though, and that's enough for any self-respecting priest of Ursun. The high priest, Uika Boyozi, who lives in the caves, has become popular by throwing his every effort into organizing the proper festivals for the first Waking Day (the big holiday to celebrate bears waking up for spring) since the sack. The people need some fun and it honors the Gods, and he argues that the big Waking Day ceremonies represent the city re-awakening from the Chaos attack just as much as they do the bears sleepily getting up from their caves. As a result, the main square near the Garden has become a popular marketplace and place to hold festivals, and people call it Awakening Square or Ursun Square. This annoys the Guildsmen who spent thousands of Crowns making sure that specific square would be pristine and well-planned, because they wanted to call it Guild Square, and now everyone associates it with bears, fish, and pancakes. You can't just tell the Bear God he can't have his festival square, either, you'd just look petty.
You know, writing this review has given me a fair bit more affection for the sleepy ways of the bear god and how he just kinda makes things work out for him.
The Temple of Salyak/Shallya is the richest temple to the Goddess in the Old World, even surpassing the main cathedral in Couronne. This is because one of the most acceptable ways to anonymously atone for going too far in crime and corruption is donating large amounts of money to the Shallyans. It may be a richly appointed noble manor and compound, but it is also a clean and friendly hospital that is very busy taking care of any sick or wounded in the city. The priests and priestesses there might eat well and own fine coats for the winter, but they stayed through the entire sack to take care of the wounded and save as many lives as they could, and they do as much as they can to feed and treat everyone in Erengrad. The current High Priestess, Svetlana Zakarova, is notable for never having been blessed by the Goddess. She cannot use Shallyan magic, despite her high station. However, she's an excellent doctor and risked her life repeatedly during the sack, despite her love of comfort and wealth, and so the people usually accept that the Goddess protects her even if she hasn't been gifted with healing miracles.
Frosthome is a huge tower of ice that houses the city's Ice Witches. It's a beautiful structure that never melts, no matter the temperature, and even the dark sorcerers of Chaos couldn't tear it down. They did kill quite a few of the local Witches, but their contributions to the city's defenses were considerable. Most visitors think the place is beautiful, unless they've been to Kislev and seen the Tsarina's handiwork on the winter palace, in which case it suddenly seems quite a bit less impressive. The Witches are currently disoriented and missing most of their senior members, waiting for new apprentices, maidens, and leadership to show up and give them their marching orders after most of their experienced and least-experienced members died in the battle. This is keeping them from their duties in local politics, for now.
The Temple of Morr is weird. Kislevites don't like Morr very much, or rather they don't like *worshiping* him. They acknowledge he's there, they're happy he protects the souls of the dead from Chaos, and there's a temple and plenty of Gardens of Morr (blessed graveyards) throughout the country, they just don't like the idea of venerating death. The temple here is especially strange, as the grounds around it are infected with powerful magic that slowly weakens living people but swiftly undoes and destroys the undead. Only those blessed with Morr's Lore or master necromancers can resist the place's strange leeching of their vital energy, but as humans can spend a couple hours there without serious effect (usually) it makes it the perfect place to safely bury the dead. After all, if anyone tries to reanimate them they just fall right over again. During the sack, the power here grew much stronger with the blowing of the winds of magic, and the temple grounds took out a few units of invaders before they managed to burn it to the ground. Rebuilding is going slowly, as people can't be on the grounds for very long without beginning to weaken. What, exactly, causes this weird Death Field is unknown and might be a good mystery for PCs.
And that's Erengrad! A vibrant, rebuilding, messy metropolis united around 'Money Please', 'Rampant Corruption', 'Cosmopolitanism' and 'Fuck Chaos'. Full of intrigues, corruption, possible employers, stuff to buy, places to go, and adventures for PCs to have. Next, we go to a city of clinical depression, cosmic horror, and an absolute refusal to give up with Praag the Cursed.
Praag did not dieOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Praag did not die
Praag is the cursed city for Kislev, much like Sylvannia for the Empire and Mousillon for Bretonnia. Praag is the furthest north major city in any of the sane human realms, located near the World's Edge Mountains and thriving on being at the end of the Warhams equivalent of the Silk Road. It is one of the major gateways by which the dwarfs of the World's Edge used to trade with people, and one of the only places in the setting you'll routinely find goods from Cathay, Ind, or Nippon (yes, I know, the names). Praag has also always been a center of Ungol nationalism, considered 'their' city, as it keeps alive their ancient traditions, crafting, and art forms. The exotic materials and crafts led to Praag being the place to go for artistic and imaginative souls, and as the city grew rich and famous, it produced some of the greatest Kislevite art, poetry, and literature. Praag was also famous for its hedge wizards and strange magics, being far from the Gospodar dominated lands and thus less under the thumb of the Ice Witches. Before the Colleges of Magic came to Altdorf Praag was where human mages who wanted to learn but didn't want to dive head-first into Chaos would go, and its beautiful onion domes used to be rocked by the occasional crazy magical explosion. Its people guarded their walls and fought against the raiders from the North, occasionally losing their city to a sack, but always coming back to rebuild better and stronger than before.
What happened to Praag in 2302 is one of the reasons I say Asuvar Kul was a very thorough man. The city held out for months against the entire incursion, and without Praag's heroic defense the forces of the Empire likely wouldn't have had time to get things together and meet the enemy at Kislev. But when it fell, Kul tried his best to make sure it would not come back, this time. All of Praag was reduced to a complete nightmare as the Chaos forces spent weeks sewing corruption and slaughtering anyone who couldn't escape the city. Entire buildings became demonic flesh rather than stone, streets wept with blood, and in a very real way he tried to make Praag into a part of the Chaos Wastes rather than the sane world of the south. With the entire city turned into a pulsing vision of living stone and demonic ruin, most people would've abandoned it. When Kul was defeated, the Kislevites destroyed the demons and burned the infestation, sealed off the most salvageable parts with new gates and walls within the city, and began to rebuild. Praag refused to die. It took a century before they could coax the birds back into the skies around the city, and reduce the mutation rate below one in third, but the people of Praag rebuilt. Archaon struck them another blow as the walls were torn down in the Storm, but his haste meant he could not repeat Kul's earnest attempt to turn the city into Hell. The damage has only compounded the strangeness and gloom of the city, but it still hasn't killed it.
Food and medicine are brought from the south, as the rest of the country refuses to let Praag die, either. Soldiers fight back the occasional demonic incursion. Traders from Cathay return to the great road. The silversmiths and artists build again, even if the dreams of the city have darkened a little. The great opera of Praag has reopened its doors, and the city continues to inspire poets and writers, even if the stories are sadder than before. The nobles throw great parties to remind people of how things used to be, while the Shallyan sisters fight a heroic battle against plague and mutation. The people of Praag know their home is wounded, and cursed, and has known true horror. They are prepared to die with it if they must, because it is still their city, and they will not let it go quietly.
Next: The districts.
Men sing songs of better days, and wait for the taint to kill them.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Men sing songs of better days, and wait for the taint to kill them.
Praag is marked by its great bridges and massive walls. The city has always been under siege in one capacity or another, being a big bastion of wealth and trade, and after every sack and fall they have rebuilt the walls before anything else. The southern gate is also the city's river-dock, because Praag is on the north-eastern run of the Lynsk river (one thing I've always appreciated in Hams is that they understand how important river and sea travel are compared to road travel in the time/context they're written for), which allows goods to flow out the south towards Erengrad and the sea. To the east is the great Mountain Gate, leading out onto the trade roads that will cross both the World's Edge Mountains and the Darklands to Cathay. And in the north is the Gate of Gargoyles, a long-suffering gate that has fallen many times over the centuries. Ever since the 2302 sack, people say the gargoyles are haunted, and that if anyone accidentally looks one in the eye it will hunt you down that night. No-one knows of this is true, but given all the other awful things Chaos dumped on Praag this wouldn't be out of sorts. The two great bridges of Old Town lead across the Lynsk, within the original city walls rather than the 16th century expansion walls. One is Karlsbridge, named for a great Ungol leader who first tried to lead Praag to secession from Gospodar domination. It was built by dwarven craftsmen, and so has never fallen in any of the sacks, despite the damage Chaos has tried to inflict on it. The northernmost bridge, the Bridge of Death, is so called because it leads directly to the training grounds and barracks of the city's citadel. Men and women cross it to become soldiers, and in Kislevite tradition, this is seen as going to your death until proven otherwise by surviving it. This bridge is haunted; anyone crossing at night will feel someone following them, and if they look back, a cloaked figure will draw nearer and nearer as they get further along the bridge, though it never catches up.
The Old Town is the core of Praag, and was spared the worst in 2302 because it was behind a second set of walls and defenses. Despite Kul's desire to destroy the city utterly, he did not have infinite time and settled for planting seeds of taint rather than the utter devastation visited on Novygrad. This area is safe enough, even at night, though the people can seem a little strange and forlorn. Old Town is marked by the original city walls, and its buildings have always been tight-packed to represent how people tried to use all available space before expanding the city and having to build a second set of walls 8 centuries back. Rebuilding proceeds apace here, both from the 2302 horror and the latest, lighter damage inflicted by the Storm. The area is still marked by the taint of Chaos, and mutation is much more common in the Praag Old Town than it is in most of the Old World. Those who remain...presentable are simply allowed to exist, because trying to kill everyone with a minor deformity like a simple third eye or extra finger would depopulate the city. Here in the Praag Old Town, you can find all manner of goods from Cathay, Ind, Nippon and beyond, as well as dark and forbidden relics and books, strange art objects, and exotic magical ingredients.
Novygrad is a nightmare. The region close to the north gate, packed with the poorest and newest citizens of the city, it was the first to be put to the corrupting touch of evil in 2302. It suffered so badly that the people of Praag have simply had to wall it up. Even burning the place to the ground, multiple times, has not quite erased the deep and abiding darkness visited upon the land. This is a place for cultists, criminals, outcasts, and rebels, because no sane person enters Novygrad during the day, and even the mad scurry back out of it at night. Sunworms, Chaos Slime, and other threats still live, oozing out of the basements where whole families were sacrificed by the invaders when the sun goes down. Wandering Noygrad at night is like a small taste of being in the Chaos Wastes; the streets will change where they go and where they lead. Buildings shift and move places. What looked like road becomes deadly quicksand. Obviously, this is an excellent place to strand PCs for awhile, looking for some lost valuable from centuries ago! The garrison tries to clear the place out occasionally, or put down the worst nests of corruption, but by this point it's just accepted that Novygrad may well be lost for good.
The Deep City, or Glubograd, was built ages ago by dwarf allies of the city and then promptly lost to the ages. The area beneath the town's citadel is full of vast catacombs, constructed on the order of Z'ra Zoltan, one of the city's past leaders. He believed that with sufficient engineering and aid from the dwarfs, shelters could be built that could protect thousands of people even if the city's walls fell and a siege or sack lasted for years. To that end, he asked his personal Ice Witch assistant, Walpurga, to research how they could replicate the sun down below in order to farm and grow crops, in case of needing to live there for extended times. Legend has it that she succeeded, and that down in the true Deeps of the city there are catacombs with sun and food and water, but that she also discovered some kind of strange and terrible power deep at the heart of the stone beneath the city. Something that made sure all maps to this 'True Deep' were destroyed, both in the Great War and before it. No-one knows what might really be waiting down beneath the salt-soaked crags, in those blackened arcades of antiquity... And if that isn't an adventure hook, what the hell is?
The Noble Quarter sits in the south east of the city, and as such has always been the least touched when Chaos damages the place. This is home to some of the greatest artists, museums, and architecture in all of Kislev. It is also where one finds the Great Opera House. Praag's Opera House is one of the joys of the city, and performances have resumed as soon as possible after every sack and every war. The people of Praag believe that their art, their poetry, and their opera are one of the ways to show they defy the Dark Gods' desire to destroy their city, and the Opera House is the most world-famous focal point of that struggle. The Druzhina of the city consider this one of their duties, and they pour gold into patronage and elaborate public festivals to keep the city from falling completely into despair. This is one of the parts that makes Praag my favorite of the various cursed and ruined places in the great human nations.
The Merchant Quarter is in chaos, as the refugees from the northern parts of the city that *aren't* Novygrad fled the attack by Archaon and took over abandoned warehouses and businesses to live in. The local merchants, whose trade is essential to the survival of the city (even before the corruption, Praag couldn't feed itself and the land around it was always terrible for agriculture), are mixed on whether this represents a wonderful opportunity or an unwanted intrusion. Some of the worst have turned to the flesh trade, selling refugees as debtor-laborers and slaves to the passing caravans. Considering that one of the races waiting in the Darklands on the caravan route is the Chaos Dwarfs...this is, uh, bad. The Merchant Quarter of Praag is usually not so dark, though. The furriers, silversmiths, and sellers of exotic goods are more common than the slavers, though crime is rampant wherever there is so much money to be made or lost. The Merchant Quarter of Praag is also unique for being rife with Ogres. Ogre mercenaries and laborers often accompany the caravans, because Ogres aren't evil, just very hungry. As long as the merchants can keep them in good food, a giant, boisterous mountain of muscle can be a good thing to have around.
Next: The Place of the Cursed City.
The Madness of Praag, zoomed in.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Madness of Praag, zoomed in.
The Old Town Hall used to serve as a center of government and administration before the great sack. Many of the places in Old Town had to be adapted away from their original purpose when the city contracted due to Novygrad's irrecoverable corruption, and the Old Town Hall is no exception. It was a gentle, large building with plenty of rooms that could easily be adapted into a sanitarium. Praag struggles with mental illness, and this has led the Old Town Hall to be one of the more caring facilities in the Old World. Where the mentally ill are usually locked in chains in sanitariums elsewhere, here they are permitted to read, paint, write, play music, and otherwise try to exist in a gentle, but firm commitment. This makes the Old Town Hall sanitarium popular outside of Praagers, and thus, there are former famed generals, Ice Witches, and Chekists among its clients, many of them with a head full of terrible (or valuable) state secrets if someone could talk through their illness...
The Street of Shifting Signs used to be called thus because the grocers and shopkeepers who lived there would write their days' specials on chalk-boards, which let them change their signs every day. Also on the street was the home of a mad diviner who thought he could see the future. When Chaos sacked the street, the name became very literal; the signs will change themselves randomly every morning, and they've bled together with the mad seer's journals. They say they appear in code and can tell remarkably accurate (if grim) properties if someone can just decipher the seemingly random street signs.
The Citadel is the central defensive point of Praag, and home to the Square of Kisses, the mustering ground where men and women were brought to assemble for war. Nowadays, they only muster in daylight, because every night the square fills with reflections of the men and women who died fighting for Praag, and no-one wants to be out there and surrounded by phantoms. This has the added benefit of keeping the soldiers inside, so they don't wander off to get drunk late at night. The actual Citadel is scarred, but never fell, not even during the great sack; the lead-lined walls apparently repel Chaos magic (it's a little known fact, but lead apparently fucks with wizardry. This is something mentioned in Realms of Sorcery, and something wizards try not to let anyone find out), as do the dwarven runes of protection carved into the ancient stone. As the most secure and untainted part of the city, the Citadel has taken to hosting all the people who had their specialized facilities destroyed in the sack, so it now serves as barracks for the soldiers, a home for Boyars and governors imposed on the city from the South, and a place for the Ice Witches and their experiments. The soldiers stationed here are mostly Gospodar troops, placed more to watch for Ungol nationalist sentiment than to defend the town, and this makes the town's garrison and watch infamously corrupt and lazy.
The Grand Parade is the main street of Praag, and used to be literally paved with silver to show the vast wealth of the city. The silver was stolen or destroyed in 2302, and now the bare, wounded cobblestones bleed every night. An entire class of workers are employed to frantically mop the bloody wounds on the city street early every morning, right after the bleeding stops, so that the streets will be clear for the day's business when the sun finishes rising.
Once upon a time, Praag had a great steam-powered crane commissioned from the dwarves that was used to unload the heaviest cargo from boats down in the river. During the sack, the forces of Chaos were somehow unable to destroy the crane, but instead transported it (no-one knows how, or why) halfway southeast across the city and jammed it down near the opera house. Now, Windlass Square is one of the most fashionable places in the city, sitting stock in the middle of the Noble Quarter with the huge, out-of-place crane dividing the property lines between the New Palace and the Opera. The biggest galas and social events are all held in those two buildings, and always spill into the Square after a time; it would be one of the most untouched parts of the city besides the Citadel if it wasn't for the giant crane.
The Praag Opera is famous all across the world. It is easily the equal of Nuln or Altdorf's best opera houses, even now, and it's said no true devotee of Opera can die happy without seeing Praag's. Every person in the city, even the poorest, will have seen the Opera at least once, as there are subsidized performances for the Muzhiks (peasants) called Muzhik-als for a single penny's admission, once per year (haha). The aesthetic of the hall is odd, to say the least, as cannon wounds and the bones of performers murdered in the sack have been incorporated into the design of the rebuilt hall as a means of memorializing the suffering. The hall has its own ghost, of course, like every great opera house, and the Praag Organ is known to play itself when no-one is around to do so. The organ is also cursed, and magical, and produces some of the finest organ music in the world. The cost is that it slowly drives its organist insane. A performer playing the great Organ of Praag for an entire season automatically gains a single Insanity Point in game terms, but they're compensated well for their work and this fact is not hidden from applicants. Many just accept this as the price of truly great music.
Next: More Places of Praag.
And so he is known as Ivan the TerribleOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
And so he is known as Ivan the Terrible
The New Palace is just across Windlass Square from the Opera House. It is the center of high society for Praag, and also the home of whatever hated Gospodar tyrant has been installed this decade. This is more complicated than it seems, though. The Duke of Praag has always been a Gospodar since the third major succession war launched by Ungol Dukes, but installing a pure Kislevite loyalist this far north from the capital ends in disaster and only stokes the fires of rebellion. At the same time, installing someone too sympathetic could lead to defection, and possibly a free or independent Praag! The current Duke, Ivan Valkeriki Kolabarinkov, has managed to tread the line by staying out of noble politics as much as possible. Instead, he focuses his time on garnering favor with the lower orders of the city by directing funds and efforts towards ensuring the wagons of food and medical aid keep coming, and that they are fairly distributed. He also spends vast sums patronizing the arts, and enjoys painting. He is an absolutely atrocious painter, but as he is patron of many artists and a good steward for the city, no-one would call him Ivan the Terrible to his face.
The Red Rose is the most exotic bordello in Praag, which is already known throughout Kislev as having the most exotic and interesting bordellos. It has been famous ever since it was featured in one of Kislev's national literary epics, and it maintains a reputation as a place full of cultured, educated showgirls with all sorts of exotic talents. The city is nearly as proud of the Red Rose as they are of the opera house. The White Boar Inn sits across from the Red Rose, waiting for adventurers hopped up on courage to come by and seek to repay the debts they incurred in the bordello. It is an inn where those seeking to trade with Norsca or sign on guards for caravans across the Darklands to Cathay go to look for the desperate and the foolish. If your PCs want to go on a crazy caravan to some of the most dangerous territory in the Old World, the White Boar is a good place for them to hire on.
The Bow and Bard Inn feels like it's got another plot hook that the sharp-eyed or well versed in the setting will notice. It's the nicest inn in town, and it's always booked well in advance by the Druzhina, Boyars, and wealthy merchants. The odd thing about the place is that it has exactly thirteen rooms, and the thirteenth is always kept open. The owner makes seemingly random decisions about who to throw out and who to allow to book, and even if you can't get a room it's fashionable to visit the taproom to mix with the wealthy and powerful of the city (as well as exotic merchants from foreign lands). You know, a place that makes it very easy to spy on the most powerful people in the city, which has exactly thirteen rooms, one of which is kept open at all times (maybe in honor of a certain horned rat) seems like the sort of place that probably has rat problems...
Kalita is the minor God of Trade and Merchants in the Kislevite pantheon, an ever-bustling and flustered courtier and servant to Dazh. Kalita's Favor is not just a pair of taverns, it is also the town's temple to this lesser God. Despite being a minor temple, the book notes the place is operated by the vampires of Praag (because of course Praag also has a vampire infestation, a family of Von Carsteins and a cabal of Lahmians despise one another in the shadows while a less aligned clan of vamps try to keep the two from drawing too much attention by their fighting), so it can't be all that holy.
The remains of the Fire Spire are not trod by any sane man or woman. The Fire Spire was built by a past rulers, Z'ar Rudolf II, as an attempt at an actual magical college for Kislev. Renegade Ice Witches, non-traditionalist hags, hedge-wizards, and foreign mages used to be invited to stay in the place, and the constant alchemical explosions and occasional miscasts caused it to be dubbed the 'Fire Spire' by locals. When the great sack happened, the whole facade was a lightning rod for dark magic, absorbing an immense amount of power from the Chaos Sorcerers and demons that stalked the city. The Spire wasn't destroyed, but it is now a realm of death and madness, full of lost magical treasures and wealth but forever a lightning rod for both natural and unnatural storms. The terrible Chaos taint that struck the place has permanently twisted the grounds, and no spellcaster will set foot there lightly. A result of all of this (and the large Ungol population of the city) is that the people of Praag do not care for Ice Witches or non-Hag spellcasters. The Hags and Witches are content to leave Praag be, because they can sense a strange and powerful presence deep below the city in the Deep City, something powerful that the Hags claim will keep the city from despair even absent their constant protection.
Next Time: We finish out Praag.
The Defenestration of PraagOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Defenestration of Praag
The Old Palace of Praag is another possible dungeon for PCs to explore, though the surface structure is nothing but ash and cinder. It was targeted by warpfire strikes during the great sack, destroying the palace and the area around it completely and utterly. Any attempts to rebuild in the area spontaneously burst into flames, because it was set on fire so much that burning it to the ground once wasn't nearly enough to contain the magical power of 'being on fire' that was bestowed upon the structure. Now it sits as a black scar on the city, avoided by all, though who knows what could be beneath it? Burned into the old stone is the image of a young woman, left as nothing but a shadow of ash on the one surviving wall. People suspect it may be her blood that floods the main street every evening, and what, exactly, Chaos did to her and to the palace is beyond any investigators thus far.
The Magnus Garden is a large, healthy memorial garden, dedicated to those lost in the war. The Ungols of Praag would rather give credit to an Imperial foreigner rather than the Gospodar generals of the south for their victory, and so while Magnus did not personally save the city, they still credit him for killing Kul. The great gardens are healthy and untainted, even though they are tended only by the care and love of the gardeners rather than by blessings or magical defenses. The gardens are full of statuary and public pieces of art, set out by the College of Art that lies just beyond them, and you can often find students from the Academy of Music practicing under the trees and streams. The local temple of Ursun sits within the garden, and other temples stand just nearby. In all things, the Magnus Garden is one of the few genuine oases in a city full of scars and monsters.
The great Temple of Dazh is the largest in the country. The Ungol prefer him to Ursun, partly because the northern winters are so dangerous and partly because Ursun has always been favored among the Gospodar, and the flashy nature of Dazhite temples has always fit in well with the extravagance and wealth of the city. The temple here has already been fully rebuilt, and is untainted; the once-shattered stained glass images of Dazh and his court have been restored, the gold paneling re-installed, and the building stands proudly under the morning sun. Praag's Dazhite priests are legendary in their devotion to the city and its people, like High Watcher Iablinik, who is said to have prayed so hard for food for the people that Dazh turned him into a great apple tree to feed the starving. The prior High Watcher, Rak, nearly caused a war between the Empire and Kislev a few decades back. He was lectured at length by a Middenlander ambassador (when we get to Sigmar's Heirs some day...Middelanders' provincial character is being loudmouthed, racist assholes) about how much it was costing to support the 'backwards' Kislevites, but his patience snapped when the Ulrican suggested the temple should be unnecessary, since those with the favor of Ulric would simply bear the cold rather than needing flames in winter. His response was to calmly fling the man out a window, and the Defenestration of Praag became a short-lived international relations crisis.
The Temple of Ursun has fallen into disrepair, at least as much as a natural set of caves marked off by a couple large boulders in a park can fall into disrepair. High Priest Urosh talks to no-one, and has sent all the other priests away save his faithful servant Gyrna. This is because Urosh has begun to mutate. He is ashamed of his mutations, and worse, fears that Father Bear is punishing him and the city for his own failings. He is terrified of what will happen to his already struggling cult within the city if its high priest is revealed as a mutant, even if he turned himself in to face 'justice'. He is slowly going mad from shame and stress, and his servant is running out of reasons why the High Priest is missing services. They both desperately need the help of a trustworthy group of adventurers, to either find a cure for the High Priest's mutations or at least help him get out of the city unseen.
The Bleakness is an eastern plot that used to be a common ground for the city. It was used to bury the poor and the nameless, and to produce fodder for animals. Since the sack, nothing grows there, and the ancient dead sometimes rise up from the soil. No-one is certain why this one part of the city produces undeath, given that that is hardly normal behavior for Chaos magic. A mystery for PCs to solve, and a good place for them to fight some zombies, but otherwise not very interesting.
Given the Bleakness, Praag has begun to cremate its dead at a great Furnace that used to be used to cast iron tools. The ironmongers have turned their trade to undertaking, and to battling the undead when they show up within the city (possibly due to the infestation of vampires more than the Chaos magic, but most locals don't know the difference). It's their job to get corpses into the furnace to render them to restful ash, and they don't care if the stupid thing resists on the way. With the city watch notoriously corrupt and lazy, the undertakers have been looking for help with their business; their forge-hammers can only do so much. Adventurers, especially adventurers with links to any of the vampire hunting groups in the setting, would be very welcome here.
Salyak's Arms used to be an inn. A very big inn, too. A young noble who inherited the place decided to instead donate it to the Cult of Salyak (Shallya), who turned it into a halfway house and hospital for the people of the city. What were once common rooms and beds for wealthy merchants have become a refuge for the poor, the destitute, the orphaned, and the sick. The square near the Arms is also used as the city's one commoner court, for those seeking justice that doesn't involve the nobility. People joke that the Arms are the only place you'll find mercy and justice in abundance anywhere in Praag.
Finally, there's an Ogre quarter, for when these huge beings come around as caravan guards (or less often, merchants. Likely merchants selling things they looted from other caravans that did not have ogre 'merchants'). Ogres don't take well to city life, being creatures that prefer simple pleasures like eating, fighting, and yelling as loudly as possible (this is how they make music). City life doesn't take well to ogres, either, and so most people leave them to their tiny section of the city and try not to bother them. Within the quarter, the most famous resident is Butcher Bigfeast (Ogre names tend to emphasize things like bigness, eating, wealth, or smashing), who runs a massive dining hall (and given he's a Butcher, while they don't mention it here, that would also make him an ogre holy man and this a temple) for his brethern alongside an entire clan of halflings. I always kind of wish more was done with the ogres, because I don't see much reason they *couldn't* be PCs besides the obvious (they're enormous and extremely strong); they're not inherently evil, just inherently hungry.
All in all, Praag's concept is good, and it's full of scary things for PCs to delve into or fight, but I feel like it didn't have nearly as many plot hooks or little stories woven into the places of the city. It's a fun cursed place for PCs to go, given it's the one 'cursed' land that is actively trying to resist its cursed nature, but they could have done so much more with it being the end of the Warhammer Silk Road equivalent. This would've been a great place to put in a little more about the far-flung places they trade with.
Next: Kislev, the Actual City of Kislev and center of Kislev.
Location, Kislev. Country, Kislev. Nationality, Kislev.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Location, Kislev. Country, Kislev. Nationality, Kislev.
Kislev used to be a trading colony called Pelzburg, located on the banks of the Urskoy River, doing business with the newly founded Imperial tribes to the south, the invading Gospodar of the east, and the roving Ungol of the rest of what would become modern Kislev. It would later grow back from one of its occasional razings and be renamed Dorogo, becoming a far more powerful trading city as the Empire became more established. Finally, it would be burned down by Khan-Queen Miska, who noticed it was in the perfect position to make it base for taking over all of the central and southern lands. She renamed it Kislev and made it the center of all her power, and left it to her daughter Shoika when she went off to battle Chaos alone in the wastes. Shoika declared herself Tsarina, lord of all of the lands, and declared the new city of Kislev to be the center of a Tsarina's strength. Ever since that day, Kislev has never fallen to an enemy. It came very, very close in 2302, but the city's walls have never been breached, and there have been no more sacks. Whenever the land of Kislev is ravaged, the City of Kislev survives and uses its wealth and stability to help to rebuild the rest of the country. It serves as an important hub and distribution center for the goods flowing from the east into Praag to reach the rest of the Old World, whether by sending them on to Erengrad to trade them by sea, or simply going south overland into the Empire.
Despite not being central to the nation of Kislev geographically, Kislev's status as the unbroken heart of the country and a major hub for trading with other lands makes it just as cosmopolitan as Erengrad or Praag. As the monarchy in Kislev is so heavily centralized (or rather, is trying to be so heavily centralized), petitions and messages from all over the world flow into the Tsarina's courts and the massive bureaucracy of the Bohka Palaces. This thronging of foreign and domestic experts and traders from all over has also made Kislev a very unique city, architecturally. It isn't quite the urban chaos of Erengrad's bustling reconstruction, but it is hardly uncommon to witness a dozen different architectural styles slammed up against one another as dwarf-craft, Imperial engineers, Cathayan influences, elven craftsmen, Gospodar university students, and Ungol traditionalists all lend their flavor to the city.
The city stands atop the Gora Geroyev, the Hill of Heroes, and it has been tradition to bury many of the greatest heroes of the nation in the cleared region around their beloved city. The same clearance that allows for these tombs and graves also means any attacker has to approach the city uphill and with no cover, which has proven very helpful in keeping Kislev from being sacked. The great walls are mighty indeed, though the lower portion of every wall in the city is bizarrely smooth and glassy; this is the remnant of how close Asuvar Kul got to taking the city. When Magnus' army and the Kislevite Winged Lancers arrived to lift the siege, his sorcerers had been in the process of a terrible ritual that caused the lower portion of the city's walls to melt and run like molten wax, and had they had another hour or two uninterrupted they would have been able to force their way inside. As a result of these past scars, the Ice Queen herself has woven great enchantments into every gate in the city to render them cool and immune to magical fire. The great river gates are instead built of dwarfcraft, and use a clever steam windlass to allow them to open and close when the day's traffic needs to pass through. Any army trying to take Kislev will find that this great city on a hill is one of the strongest defensive positions in the Old World, rivaling Middenheim or Talabheim in the Empire. The city is split by the great river Urskoy, and thus, like Praag, districts are marked by the bridges. Three of the bridges were built by a combination of men and dwarfs, including one constructed as a triumph to commemorate the 2302 siege in 2411, and the fourth is a replacement for a bridge line destroyed by a lucky hellcannon shot from Archaon's passing forces. The Queen's Bridge is constructed from solid ice, carved by the Tsarina herself, and while it was only meant to be temporary, people have been so impressed by the thing that she simply leaves it up.
Kislev is also blessed with an extensive (and adventurable!) sewer system, constructed centuries ago. It has nearly eliminated cholera in the city and is considered one of the wonders of the north, as most homes and businesses are not exposed to human waste. The problem is that the people of Kislev have long ago lost the original plans (though a blueprint may exist somewhere in the Bokha Palace's enormous stocks of records) and thus have no idea how many hidey holes, Skaven nests, and hidden places fester down there. Not only that, but who wants to go down to find out? The sewer exists to keep shit from sight, after all. Who wants to dig that up?
Next: The Districts and Places of Kislev, the city in Kislev.
They called it Raskolnikov's. Of course.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
They called it Raskolnikov's. Of course.
Kislev is not just the heart of Kislev, it is also the center of much of the country's learning and people of letters. Not only does the Tsarina have a great need of clerks and educated bureaucrats, but the city's wealth produces many great temples (some even of foreign Gods) who all require specialists and learned people. The courts would not function without judges, even with the Kislevite disdain for lawyers. The wealth of the city also allows for a larger leisure class, and the cafes and salons of Kislev are full of philosophers and writers in the Grackiziema, the Learned Quarter. The Tsarina's people encourage the salons, because they produce intelligent and able civil servants and also concentrate people who are talking about how things 'should be' in one place so they can be watched.
Of all the Gods, the least expected in Kislev is the Temple of Myrmidia. The Goddess is popular with Tilean and Estalian expats, certainly, but Knights of Myrmidia have founded their own order here in Kislev, the Order of the Winter Sun, and as they have always fought in the defense of the city and ridden out with the pulks and rotas when asked they are respected and established. The temple is built in an Estalian style (Tileans would claim it was Tilean, but Tileans claim everything is Tilean) with great spires like a cathedral, and it houses plenty of space for warriors to gather and train together. The Myrmidians respect the resolve of the Kislevites, and the Kislevites the skill of the Myrmidians, and so while it might look out of place, they welcome the Goddess of sunnier lands in their capital.
Raskolnikov's is one of the many salons and parlors of debate and discussion throughout Kislev. It was originally just a larger home where learned people and writers came to meet informally, but the owner began to sell fine tobacco, brandy, and other luxuries and expanded his house with the profits, turning it into a large establishment for the literati of the city. Poets and writers come from all over to have their work critiqued, philosophers debate their ideas, and on the days when the current favorites of Kislev's literary scene read their works aloud, it is standing room only. I really appreciate that for all the gloom and war, every single place in Kislev still has artists, poets, writers, and philosophers. It's one of the strengths of Fantasy's setting next to 40k; lots of people do things besides war.
Near Raskolnikov's is the Temple of Verena. The Goddess watches over all of the Grackiziema, and her temples also serve as court-houses for official business. After all, business done in the house of the Goddess of Justice will come to a just conclusion, yes? The temple is built entirely of imported Tilean marble, moved in over the centuries at great expense, and it is one of the larger temples of Verena in the Old World. The library here is rivaled only by the massive archives of the Bohka Palaces themselves, and they contain much of the wisdom and literature of Kislev.
The Writer's Rooms are a curiosity born of supply and demand. Kislev is the heart of Kislev, and so many people come from all over to make their fortune in the city and to send word and money back to their families. The problem is, most of them are illiterate. As Kislev contains a large number of literate people (relatively), students and aspiring writers began to offer to write letters for the peasants who were settling into the city. A past Tsar, Alexandr, offered a stipend for writers to do this public good, and set aside property for them to live and work in while they did the matters of dictation and read aloud any return letters. Now the Writer's Room has grown into an institution of itself, a perfect place for a young scribe or student to earn their way while they work on their great novel or degree. It also houses an extensive log of past correspondence and journals, making its library invaluable to historians seeking primary sources about life on the steppe or the conditions immigrants have faced over the centuries. Some day, centuries later in Warhammer Modern Roleplay, I imagine Kislevite grad students are going to be absurdly grateful for this place.
The Heckler's Market is notable for three things: First, most of the shops along the square will only sell non-perishable goods. This is because of the second thing: It is a wide open space that is absolutely perfect for demagogues, agitators, storytellers, and public performers. As it is constantly full of people haranguing people about What Is To Be Done, the market stopped selling fruit or vegetables; they'd just end up thrown at the most annoying of the speakers. The third thing is that this square serves as the public execution grounds, so you can often find a speaker speaking in the shadow of someone who went too far and ended up hung for treason. Kislevites find this kind of juxtaposition hilarious.
I'll be skipping some of the more non-descript shops, as I doubt anyone cares about a hookless furs store or the various weapon shops they list for some reason.
The Gryphon Barracks house the most famous Winged Lancers in Kislev, whenever the Gryphon Legion is in Kislev. The Legion tends to ride out and fight in other conflicts to raise money and recruit additional soldiers whenever Kislev is at 'peace', so they are often away in foreign lands. They have over a hundred riders in their unit, all mounted and proven, and are known for interspersing griffin feathers into their back banners since their founder slew a mighty catbird. Many PCs who want to fight as Winged Lancers might be interested in joining up or gaining a commission from the Legion, and the Tsarina is constantly trying to return them to their original purpose as the ruler's bodyguard (rather than a semi-independent bunch of mercenary hero knights), so there is always space for recruitment or intrigue.
Next: Many, many temples.
Tor remains Good Guy KhorneOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Tor remains Good Guy Khorne
The Kossar barracks are one of the most important defensive structures in the city, while also being the source of some of the worst petty crime and public disorder in Kislev. Kossars are the standing army of the Tsarina, and while they were originally a tribe of Ungols who fought on foot with bow and axe against their own people for the Gospodar, they've become much less ethnically isolated over the centuries. Now, any man or woman can join the Kossars, and thanks to Tsar Boris's proclamation while Katarin was a young girl, that person will be pardoned of almost any crime outside of worship of the Dark Powers as a signing bonus. This means the Kossars are full of former outlaws, fugitives from justice, or forlorn Kislevites who wanted to get away from their old life honorably. No Kossar is immune to charges while they are a Kossar, however, and their recruiting base means discipline problems are a great concern. When actually called to fight, they are talented, serious professionals; it's just that you don't want to be around them at any other time.
The Temple of Dazh is close to the Temple of Tor, and both temples are beloved of their Gods. This means the weather changes constantly in that part of the city, with momentary and violent thunderstorms being blown away by a shining, pleasant sun in an instant (then coming back again). The great temple is full of the scent of incense, with golden statues and icons of Dazh lit by the temple's many sacred, eternal flames. The gold and ostentatious dress of the priests would draw thieves in almost any other country (and probably do draw the attention of foreign ne'er do wells), but Dazh's flames are sacred to Kislevites and they know that trespasses against him might be fatal come winter. The Bright Prince may be a smiling Prince, but he is a Prince still, and he can be harsh in his retribution.
The traditional Salyak temple fell into disrepair ages ago, and the Sisters petitioned the main cathedral at Couronne for funds and priestesses to rebuild it. Instead, they got southern Shallyan sisters moving in and setting up the Shallyan mission, in place of the Kislevite version. It is a beautiful place of life and peace, with sprawling gardens and cooing doves showing the favor of the Goddess. Those who are wounded or sick are always welcome, and most of them walk out healed and hale. Those who are healed are charged nothing for the Goddess's wonders, though they are expected to tithe later in life so that others can be helped, too. Kislevites find the place a little annoying, and some agitate for a return to proper Salyakan values of operating soup kitchens and collecting charity, rather than all this nonsense with doves and healing miracles.
The Temple of Tor is built on a little artificial hill built out of good Kislevite earth specially imported from the wildest steppes. It is a squat, stone building with a simple timber roof and dozens of copper rods to attract the God's blessing. Bolts of lightning regularly strike the temple, and the few warrior-priests read the God's favor in the patterns of blue fire from their passing. A great silver statue of Tor, the only valuable thing he accepts besides weapons or armor, sits outside. It inspires the people of Kislev with its rippling, artfully crafted muscles, square jaw, and incredible axe. Tor remains a cool guy, and playfully tussles with Dazh to bless the skies above both their temples with their favored weather patterns.
Next: Loudly Shouting News of Foreigners
This city is goddamn hugeOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
This city is goddamn huge
I'm going to be paring back a little on detail and describing places in clumps, as unlike Erengrad Kislev and Praag don't have quite as many fun plot hooks in each individual special place. Also I want to get to the rad witches sooner rather than later.
Gereyov Square houses the finest temples (including the ones I just described) and sits at the very heart of Kislev. It's also bordered by the actual Bohka Palaces, and thus it is one of the most popular public squares in the land. Government officials, commoners, wealthy merchants, and priests all meet in this wide open space, surrounded by beautiful onion domes and fine architecture, to hear the Tsarina's men proclaim the news of the day and gossip with one another. The great Bohka Palaces contain all of the records of state and a veritable army of clerks, judges, and learned folk to tend them, as the Tsarina (and the Tsars before her) struggle to keep track of all the happenings of their vast lands. The palace also has an entire wing made out of shimmering ice, carved in a single night by the Tsarina's magic when she ascended to the throne; here she keeps her court, surrounded by glittering diamond and sapphire.
Nearby are her gardens, also constructed of unmelting ice; they are a perfect replica of all kinds of flowers, plants, and trees. Among them are sculptures of birds and animals, rendered in beautiful detail as if frozen in mid action. The Tsarina often adds to her garden, putting up new sculptures and carving new projects, and the magic of the place is such that among the Winter Garden it is always midnight and it is always cold, no matter the time of day or year. Artificial moonlight from a projected image of Mannslieb (the non-crazy moon) bathes the gardens at all times, a bright spot in the cold and dark all around. The Tsarina's knights enforce a policy of quiet in this cold place, even on the days when the public are permitted to walk its frozen hedges. Near the gardens, she has also built a great fountain that sprays magical shards of crystal, designed to refract light and make music from the shattering of the shards. I like these because it's nice to suggest that Katarin has an actual hobby. Too often you get all sorts of descriptions of these great lords and heroes, but never the things they enjoy, and the Gardens and Hanging Fountain show an artistic side to the Ice Queen.
Near Gereyov square, you can also find a temple of Ulric, which is just baffling, as the book notes it replaced a temple of Ursun and that there's some trouble about this. Kislev is the principle city of the principle followers of Ursun. I do not understand how they had a foreign god (who Ursun's cult is fairly friendly with) come in and replace the temple of a very important local God, who was extremely significant to their last Tsar (Boris was Tsar *and* High Priest of Ursun) such that there is no actual sacred bear-park anywhere in Kislev. This makes no sense. They even mention that the bear-priests refuse to construct any shrines because of the shrine of Ulric and that the more fanatical among them think of Kislev city as a blasphemous and unholy place, defiled by Ulric. If that was the case, I don't see why Boris Bohka didn't just burn the stupid place to the ground and replace it with a nifty bear cave. Near the temple of Ulric is the Imperial Embassy, which may explain the Temple of Ulric, but does not quite explain it replacing the temples of Ursun so thoroughly. There is surprisingly little to note about the Embassy, considering the close ties between the Empire and Kislev.
The Koztowny District also contains the Summer Gardens, which are completely opposite the Winter Gardens despite also being maintained by the Ice Witches. The Summer Gardens are magically shielded from cold, and it is bright and beautiful there all the time. The common folk are never allowed in, with rough mercenaries in fancy uniforms ensuring that only Boyars and those who can pay outrageous bribes are permitted to walk the pleasant fields and hedges.
The Lubjanko, up against the east wall, was formerly intended to be a hospital for wounded soldiers. It was constructed on orders of Tsar Alexis shortly after the great war of 2302, with a promise that it would house the finest treatment any soldier could hope for in all of the Old World. For a time, it managed. But funding fell as the city and Kislev focused on rebuilding the country from the scars of war, and Lubjanko became a forgotten place. A place to dump the sick, the mad, the traumatized, and the crippled. Those who cannot be saved are placed in the Lubjanko, left to cry in darkness and pray to the Gods for salvation in their confinement. Only those who need to do dark things would get near this place at night, and even they fear the misery of this place.
Keeping to misery and death, there is a grey, featureless, windowless building behind a wrought iron gate, with only a single black door. This is the headquarters of the Cheka. Those who are brought through its gates are said to 'disappear', as you are unlikely to see them hale and whole again even if they walk out. The Chekists officially prosecute traitors, enemies of the state, and worshipers of the Dark Gods, but their black nets catch many innocents. They are universally feared throughout Kislev, and their tendrils reach into other lands, as well; they must know of any threats to the Tsarina, and a foreign land could certainly pose a threat, da?
Fabor's gets a description because of its fabulous mechanical eggs. Of course they'd have delicate mechanical eggs of great artistry in fantasy Russia. The lifelike toys and automatons constructed by the great master engineer Murtok Fabor confound Imperial engineers, some going so far as to say he must be a Gold Wizard or similar sorcerer to achieve such construction. This would naturally be a great scandal if it was anything but the wounded pride of foreigners; men do not do magic in Kislev unless they are priests.
Madame Katya's Quilted Palm is a bordello, but it is one of the most popular in the city. The recent overthrow of one of Kislev's largest crime bosses, Vasilly Chekatilo, has left the city's bordellos without a slave-driving crime lord snapping at their heels, which has only been good for business. This place is notable for Madame Katya, who is known for paying her workers on time and for taking good care of her staff. The rumor is that she is a fallen priestess of Shallya, which would certainly explain her attitude towards the people who work for her and her desire to keep her people healthy and safe. It forms a duo of businesses near the docks with the World's Edge, a tavern that caters to those about to leave on grand adventures to Praag or east into the Darklands. At the World's Edge, no music plays, and the atmosphere is subdued. Even the drunk are maudlin about their chances of returning alive from the other side of the world and its many dangers. This is another tavern where your PCs might meet, before a great journey to the north or east.
There are, of course, many more shops and theaters and places that I am omitting for the sake of finishing up the city, but I'll also confess that Kislev is more forgettable than Erengrad or Praag. It's a neat place, and I like the emphasis on the sheer number of educated people necessary to properly run an aspirationally absolutist monarchy. I like the sense of art and culture to the city. But without a hook like Erengard's energetic (and ridiculous, in the best way) rebuilding or Praag's coping with scars and horror, it's a little harder to set adventures in Kislev itself.
Next: Kislevite Characters, Kislevite Careers: At last, you can play a winged hussar.
Mechanics!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Making a Kislevite PC is easy; you pick Gospodar or Ungol, then if you're Ungol, you pick between speaking Ungol or Kislevite. Gospodar get Consume Alcohol in addition to Common Knowledge (Kislev) and speaking Kislevite. Ungol get Ride. Ungol get the way better deal on that one, though both of them lose out a little for losing Gossip. Gospodar roll for 2 random human Talents, while Ungol get Very Resilient (+5 Tough) and roll for 1 other talent. There's also a sidebar on how if your game is going to take place outside of Kislev, you can either replace the Kislevite/Ungol speaking with the local language or you can give the character the local language, but they have to give up one of their other talents or skills from their starting class in return. They'll be able to buy that talent/skill later during their first class anyway. This isn't a bad way to handle this and Bretonnia did the same thing; knowing a few more languages is often helpful anyway. You also get some regional variations for the north, east, west, and south, and they work like the Bretonnian ones did with the exception of having Ungol and Gospodar options for both. There's also an option to play a mixed Ungol-Gospodar PC, from an intermarried family, at which point you roll a d10 for each starting skill/talent and on a 1-5, you get the Gospodar option, on a 6-10 you get the Ungol one. This is mostly pointless. There's also another little sidebar reminding you that both Ungol and Gospodar do not treat women as second class citizens and every profession is available to both genders in both cultures, without censure.
If you wanted to roll for things like height and eye color for some reason those are listed here in short tables to mark where Ungol and Gospodar differ from Imperials; Gospodar are taller than average for Imperials, particularly Gospodar women, Ungols are shorter. Ungols also get a little table with a hag's curse, something the village wise-woman warned about when you were born. Little things like 'Never bathe on a full moon.' or 'Don't go fishing at midday' or 'don't wear silver jewelry'. What happens if you break these is up to player and GM, but Ungol usually try to keep to their curse. Also a table on constructing and writing Kislevite names, which I appreciate. Also notable: Ungol don't gender their names and don't consider a name a 'man's name' or a 'woman's name', so their name table is entirely unisex.
Kislevites also use a different career table, much as the Bretonnians did. They mix in many core book careers with their own new, unique Careers. As per everything, Ungol and Gospodar use a different table. Some classes are slightly more likely for one or the other, and only Gospodar women can be Apprentice Ice Witches and only Ungol women can be Wise Women.
For some reason, we get Kislevite equipment right after that rather than the classes. Most Kislevite equipment is unremarkable, except their bows. Kislevite Bows, if loaded with more expensive Armor-Piercing arrows for killing Chaos Warriors, are the second best bow in the game and do not require Longbow proficiency. The AP arrows are more expensive, but they give the bow Armor Piercing (usually the advantage of a longbow) and the Kislevite bow has juuuuust slightly longer range (34/68 as opposed to 30/60). There's also a Kislevite Short Horse Bow, which has 16/32 range but gains Precise (making Critical hits with it 1 point stronger). Kislevite bows are only outmatched by Elfbows and are all designed to be used from the saddle. You can also get a rad winged banner for a Winged Lancer which will cause enemies you charge to make a WP save or lose one of their half-actions next turn the first time you charge them, which is amazingly good. Otherwise there's all sorts of stuff like slight variations on a warhorse or goods for cold weather travel. Nothing much exciting.
Finally, we get to the actual unique classes. Ambassadors are nobles from foreign lands and are a 3rd tier social class, getting the coveted +40% Fellowship advance and a ton of WP and Int. It should be noted: No class ever gets more than +40% in a stat. Even +40s are very rare. Ambassadors are exceptionally good at fellowship and political skills, and here we run into an oddity of the book. In prior books, Trappings were written succinctly, without fluff. Here, they're full of fluff and sort of unclear, which can be a problem if you're using the official Trappings rules whereby you have to have the stuff the class owns to enter the class.
Next we get the Apprentice Witch, and I'm going to use her to cover the whole Ice Witch line, since they're quite interesting in both fluff and rules. Every year in midwinter, on the coldest day of the year, Ice Witches go among the teenage girls of every Gospodar community to look for the shivering girls with the spark of magic. These girls are then lead out, away from their families, into the harsh winter to mentor with their masters and learn the basics of their magic. Those who survive a winter with their master are officially apprentices, on the first steps of learning the ancient powers of the Khan Queens. They do not return to their families or their homes, and indeed, are not permitted to rejoin normal society until they have mastered their powers. Apprentice Witches are surprisingly tough due to their wintering; they get +10 Toughness in place of some of the academics that an Imperial wizard would learn as an apprentice. They may not even learn Academic Lore (Magic), opting to instead be a more instinctive witch who learns to terrify people with Intimidate instead. They can still read and do all the basic magic stuff, and they get a Lesser Magic right at career 1, which is helpful. Petty Magic (Ice) is a fine Petty Magic list and still includes a basic simple attack spell and some utility. An Apprentice Witch is a tough, seasoned woman who can handle outdoor survival in place of the sheltered Imperial academic and their broader knowledge.
When a Witch makes it through her apprenticeship and learns the Lore of Ice, she becomes an Ice Maiden. Ice Maidens are charged to wander and practice, to join armies, to adventure, and to defend the land. They are also sworn to chastity to avoid ties of family while they master their powers, and to bring them closer to the spirit of the Ancient Widow that powers the land of Kislev. They can be found almost anywhere, doing almost anything, as they seek to understand the land and to feel the flow of its power. Many Witches cannot master their powers fully, stopping at this step and going into other careers. If this happens, they never rediscover how to fully re-integrate with other people, and remain forever alone and aloof. Ice Maidens get truly incredible Willpower advances and bravery talents, and they actually get the Lore of Ice. The problem is the Lore of Ice has a lot of spells that are very hard for a Mag 2 second tier caster and will require a place of power for the witch to pull off consistently. Even at this early level, though, Ice can be pretty frightening combat magic if the witch can find a good spot to sling her spells. They also begin to learn to lead. Ice Maiden can exit into a surprising number of 2nd tier fighter classes, too. If you wanted to do a brief detour into Veteran or Scout to pick up combat abilities then back to Ice Witchin', you can do that and if your game goes on long enough, it will make your Ice Maiden a total badass. They can also go into the Witch class, getting the unique 'pick your own lore at great cost' stuff like Witches. This may represent a fallen Maiden.
The unique thing about the Ice Witches is that Ice Witch, their 3rd tier, is terminal for the line. There's no 4th tier with a 4th point of Mag above it; you go right from a 2 Mag Ice Maiden to a 4 Mag Ice Witch at promotion. Ice Witches have mastered their powers and become guardians of the land. They get a +40% WP advance (remember what I said about +40s) and a ton of Intelligence, they're masters of outdoor survival and leadership, and they have maxed out magic in a frighteningly powerful Lore. An actual Ice Witch is a senior sister, one expected to begin taking apprentices or investigating matters of great import, and at this point in her training her vow of chastity comes to an end. A woman who has become a full Witch may marry, may return to her family, and may reunite with those she left as an Apprentice. She has mastered her powers, and so there would be no further reason to leave herself aloof and isolated from others; once one has mastered the self they may return to society in full. These women defend Kislev as a nation, but also protect the flows of Ice Magic itself, to ensure it remains unsullied by evil. They also get the unique Unsettling talent, where they cause enemies penalties until they make a WP save, because the Witch is goddamn terrifying and totally unafraid of anything any longer. They can also promote into Captain, which is a full, 3 Attacks 3rd tier fighter/leader hybrid. A Witch with those kinds of advances is the kind of woman who would lead entire armies.
By contrast, the Ungol Hags focus on Intelligence instead of WP. Where the Ice Witch is incredibly courageous, the Hag is incredibly wise. The starting career for a Hag doesn't even have a Mag advance; the Wise Woman is simply a very intelligent woman and doctor who has Magical Sense and a little knowledge of how to placate the spirits of the land. What's interesting is that Wise Woman has all kinds of non-magical exits possible, in addition to being a hybrid doctor, diplomat, and shaman (which is far from a bad starting place for a PC). She can go into Hag and learn spells, of course, but she can also go into political classes like Politician or Demagogue, or become a normal Steppe Nomad and learn to deal with the outdoors and battle. This means Wise Woman can be a jumping off point for playing a solid social or combat character who forever has the ability to see magic and who knows a little about how to deal with the spirits of the land. That's a really cool and fun option for an adventurer.
If a Wise Woman goes into Hag Witch, she continues to become wiser and smarter, and also begins to age beyond her years as price of her spells. She is still vital and vibrant (supernatural aging has few penalties), but she takes on the honorific of Baba to indicate she has the gift of spells. Many of these women develop their magic because they were a normal wise woman who suffered a great and terrible loss (usually of family) that brought them closer to the power of the Ancient Widow. Their magic is very different from an Ice Witch. There are no direct combat spells in Hag magic, but there are curses, augeries, and curious blessings and medicine. They continue to become better mundane doctors and alchemists, as well, mastering arts of healing and poison both. At this point, they can become Witches (Like the Ice Witch, falling into the advanced 'hedge magic' esque career) as they dabble with things they shouldn't, or can still detour into political classes to become leaders and advisors. They are only Mag 1 and will have to get by on wisdom and cleverness rather than combat.
Finally, a Hag Mother is a Mag 3 woman with the only Int +40 advance available to any normal PC class. Only some of the crazier Chaos classes get such wisdom. They also start to pick up darker knowledge, from fighting against demons and necromancers, and continue to grow as doctors and advisors. An actual Hag Mother has the actual Lore of the Hags, and can do stuff like turn herself into a giant and terrifying vision of the land's wrath, or curse a person to lose weight every day until they starve to death or perform a service for her. Their magic is still indirect, yes, but it can be very powerful. They are also the only class in the game that can outright cure mutation. No-one else gets that. Not Shallyans, not Chaos, no-body. But the Hag Mothers can do it. Also, unlike the Ice Witch, if you go into Hag Mother, you can only leave by spending 200 EXP to go into a new Basic class. They have become embodiment of the Spirits, and they cannot leave their calling any longer.
Hags are much more difficult to fit into a standard party than the frosty badass Ice Witches, but a Wise Woman makes a great starting place for an adventurer.
Next: Winged Hussars! Horse Archers! Shady Horse Dealers! And the moment everyone has waited for: The Bear Tamer!
A post.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
The Ataman (or Hetman, really) is the lord of a Stanitsa out in the open plains and steppes of Kislev. He (or she, in which case she is an Atamanka) is less like a complete lord and more like a mixture of a noble and a mayor. Ungol settlements elect their Atamans because they lost their old bloodlines when the Gospodar originally conquered them, and Gospodar Atamans are usually from Druzhina families that everyone agrees make decent rulers. The Ataman essentially does everything that another specialist does not do within the town. If there is no judge, they are the judge. If there is no priest, they lead the rites. If there is no captain for the Rota, they lead the soldiers. Even if people for all those positions exist, the Ataman still has some say in them. It is said that a settlement with an Ataman who has to do everything is very likely to fall to darkness, because they can become a tyrant much more easily that way. In game terms, Ataman is a solid diplomatic/political Advanced career. They get a huge Int advance (+30), good Fellowship and Willpower, some okay combat abilities, a lot of Toughness (+15), and a big grab-bag of skills to represent their wide duties. Interestingly, you can enter Ataman from Veteran; if you want your talented fight-guy to suddenly become much smarter and good at politics, this is a good career for it. Otherwise, it makes a great second career for Noble. It can also exit into Noble Lord (Sort of the end-point of a lot of Political lines) or Priest (Yes, the version of Priest that starts to get magic) if you want to go into divine spellcasting.
The Bear Tamer is what I'm pretty sure everyone wanted to see this book to see. The Bear Tamer is a Basic career, so you can start out as one and get all its basic trappings, which include one (1) Bear for taming. Bear Tamers get access to a ton of the Stat Talents (They can, if they stick around, pick up the Toughness, Strength, Agility, and Willpower boost talents!) and can also learn wrestling and public speaking. Their skills naturally focus on bears and the training thereof, and a little bit of showing off and circus performing. They're very strong and brave for a 1st tier (+10 to WP and S), and their one weakness is their Exits; they have no 2nd tier Exit. They can go into Initiate of Ursun, Pit Fighter, Soldier, or Entertainer. Soldier is far from a bad second career, though, since Soldier is one of the best 1st tier fighters. Initiate is never amiss, either. You'll just be a bit behind other players who are-
Right, the bear. You want to hear about the bear. Your bear gets a special career: Trained Bear. It uses the basic Bear stats from the core rulebook (Meaning it has SB 5, 2 attacks, 20 Wounds, TB 4, and Strike Mighty Blow and WS 37). Onto this you can eventually give it +10 WS, +5 BS (what, do you train the bear to throw stuff, if so that's awesome), +5 S, +5 T, +5 Agi, +5 Int (!), and +5 WP. You can eventually give it 2 more Wounds, and teach it all kinds of cool skills like Dodge or Intimidate and give it talents like Stout Heart (brave bear) or wrasslin' prowess. To do this, your bear gets 1/2 your EXP. Every time the bear has 100 EXP, you make a Train Animal check. If you succeed, the bear gets an advance. If you fail, the bear is sleepy and takes a nap or something and loses the EXP. To tell the bear to kill, it either needs to be being attacked (in which case it will defend itself) or you need to make a Charm Animal test as a half action to be able to control it. The bear can, potentially, be an enormous force-multiplier for a starting party. Also, bears are a sacred animal in Kislev and so mistreating the bear or treating it as anything but an honored buddy is religious blasphemy. The bear is a responsibility. If you finish training the bear it can be sold to the temples for enormous sums, or I suppose you could have it promote to Brute or Chief or something and become the mightiest bear in history.
The Chekist is, interestingly, a Basic career, unlike Imperial Witch Hunters. If you want to be a leg-breaker for Katarin, you can start out in an entry level position herding adventurers and beating rumors with your cudgel. Chekists know how to investigate, they know how to fight, and they're a good sort of 'fill-in' character for a party. They also start with a full suit of leather armor *and* a helmet, which is nice, as well as an actual warhorse (which means the horse can fight a bit) and their distinctive beating stick (just a Hand Weapon). They also get Dodge and Strike Mighty Blow (and the option for Strike to Stun, which is surprisingly powerful) in addition to investigation skills, a decent WS, and some minor stats all round. They can also start out knowing how to use a gun, though they can't start with one. A solid 1st tier with good exits like Spy, Sergeant, and Veteran.
The Drover is a Kislevite cowboy. You get a faithful herd dog (Kislevite herding dogs are noted as having +3 int over normal dogs because they are good boys), your solid (but not trained for combat) horse, your lasso, the ability to use your lasso (and Entangling is actually a very useful weapon prof), and good growths in BS, Strength, and Agility. Also a lot of survival and traveling skills. It can go into a bunch of good horsemanship related 2nd tiers, like Highwayman, Scout, or Horsemaster (that's coming up) and is, in general, a solid but uninspiring starting class.
The Horse Archer starts our path to peasant glory here in Kislev. Horse Archer is a 2nd tier cavalry fighter, and Noble and Peasant alike can promote into it (as can Steppes Nomad, we'll get to them). They have solid physical growths (+15 S, +15 T, +15 Agi) and great BS (+25) with okay WS (Okay in the context of a 2nd tier Fighter, +15) while learning some of the more important shooting skills (Mighty Shot, Sure Shot to defeat 1 point of armor, Quick Draw to swap weapons, Rapid Reload to swift attack with bows). They also get Cavalry weapons, so they can use lances if they need to get into melee. Round it out with a solid core of survival and horsemanship skills and you have a great 2nd tier ranged class that can handle the saddle and trail and back others up in melee. They can also Exit into Captain as a 3rd tier, or into 2nd tiers like Scout or Targeteer (Targeteer is 2nd tier, but gets a whopping +40% BS since it doesn't really do anything else). If you were a peasant, now you are a badass.
The Horse Coper is a 1st tier social class. They sell horses. They sell horses in a disreputable manner. As a Horse Coper you are the Kislevite equivalent of a used car salesman. They get a whopping +15% Fel for a 1st tier but not much else, a bunch of commerce skills and talents and some good social skills, they do still know how to ride, care for, and train horses, and they can use a whip or lasso just fine. They also get Suave, so their Fel is effectively +20%. They can go into classes like Merchant, Charlatan, or Horse Master (if they become more honest and respectable, I guess). If you want to be Honest Ivan's Experienced Horses and talk your way out of trouble while trying to sell these fine stallions, Kislev has you covered.
Horse Masters are what every Horse Coper claims to be. These are the talented specialists who take care of, breed, and train the high performance horses that Kislev's military and civil life depend on. They're good merchants who know how to take care of and judge horses, and are solid riders. They're not that great in combat, though they can help out with a +15 BS advance, but this class has a hidden virtue: If you came into it from Drover or Coper, it's going to be a pretty short 2nd tier for you (while still giving you useful stats like Int and Fel) that can lead into the various cavalryman careers (Winged Lancer and Horse Archer) or into Ataman. Still, not likely to be terribly useful or attractive in most campaigns.
Steppes Nomads are Ungol Only basic careers. They wander the steppe, in a nomadic fashion. You get plenty of survival skills and wilderness abilities, good WS and BS advances (+10 both), good WP (+10), and not much else, but it's still a decent foundation for a Basic Career. They can also go directly into Ataman, Horse Archer, or Scout, so you have some very good 2nd tier options and routes you could take from here. A good rider who comes with their own horse, bow, and armor is not the worst start you could find in Hams.
Streltsi totally rule and I can say this from experience, having played Pyotr the Lonely Kislevite Veteran in a long group campaign. These are the soldiers of Erengard, who train with the bardiche and musket. They're a variant on the Imperial Soldier class, gaining a bunch of useful gun skills (They can get Master Gunner and Rapid Reload, making them able to reload a musket in a single turn), good Ranged talents (Mighty Shot, Marksman for +5 BS, and Sharpshooter so Aimed shots are at +20, important for people with a 1 shot weapon) while also getting Two Handed weapons. You also start with full leather and a helmet, a gun (which is a big deal, guns are expensive as hell), a two-handed axe, and your trusty saber. With Exits in Winged Lancer, Sergeant, or Veteran, they have a lot of other combat options for advancement. They're a real winner of a Soldier variant and fun as hell to play as.
Finally, the Winged Lancer. Winged Lancers are like Horse Archers, except they reverse the WS and BS advances (they have +15 BS, but +25 WS) and focus more on getting stuff like Strike Mighty Blow instead of Mighty Shot. They're much like an Imperial Knight, except they trade the wide variety of melee weapons for being decent with ranged (they only learn Cavalry weapons), tougher, and more widely skilled in survival and traveling long distances rather than dealing with court. You can also enter the career from Peasant, much like Horse Archer, and that's awesome. Peasant-Winged Lancer-Captain is a viable career track that will give a character a lot of great abilities. Their exits are a bit limited (only Captain, Veteran, Scout, or Horse Master for some reason) but Captain's in there so you're good. All in all a solid variant of knight and a great way to turn a peasant into a hero of Kislev!
Next: The Mechanical Backing Of Witches.
In which we learn why Hags are a bit awkward mechanicallyOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
In which we learn why Hags are a bit awkward mechanically
Arcane Magic is a feminine art. Having to contend with the forces of evil for so long, the people of Kislev have adapted to using magic themselves in ways that will keep them further from the Realm of Chaos and drawing more upon the purer power of land and leyline. They believe, in all sincerity, that any male wielder of arcane magic will eventually be drawn to pride, ambition, and anger and dragged down by the dark forces that surround their country. This belief is held by men and women both, and they watch the new Imperial colleges with significant worry. Color Magic not only permits both men and women to study it (something both Hag and Witch would agree is a bad idea) but also draws upon a much less reliable way to protect the user against Chaos, by splitting the magic into aspects and colors. Much better to call upon the land. Divine Magic can be practiced by anyone, but priests with magical power tend to be men. This split between Arcane and Divine as gendered magic is unique to Kislev. Their casting traditions for Divine magic work exactly like Imperial ones, just with different Gods and different spells like Dazh's orbital laser cannon (we'll get to that). Arcane magic, though, works very differently on a mechanical level.
Hags do not use the Channeling skill because they are not using the Winds of Magic at all, not themselves. They are calling to and cajoling the Spirits, magical creatures that are neither of this world nor of the Realm of Chaos. These manifestations of the Land are fickle and respect age, and so as a sign of their favor they tend to slowly make the woman calling them older and older. They may grant tremendous vitality, though; some Hags will be completely immortal, and totally unimpeded by their creaking joints and blackened teeth. Since they are bargaining with and commanding entities, Hags use Command the way normal mages use Channeling. This means Fellowship can be very important, and also means an experienced Hag will be a great leader who knows how to get bull-headed and fickle people to behave just as well as she handled bull-headed and fickle spirits. It takes a Half-Action just like Channeling, but if the Hag fails the test by 30 or more, she causes a backlash by the angry spirits.
Hags also cannot use their magic without using Ingredients. While a normal wizard could use all sorts of odd spell components to boost their casting roll, a Hag has to have her potions and strange talismans to work her curses and blessings. The ingredient will still boost the casting roll as listed, it just isn't optional for Hags. If a Hag tries to cast a spell and all her dice come up 1, she has to make a Willpower test to hold off the spirits. If she fails, she immediately gains a Witch Mark (we'll go over these in a moment) as they leave a trace upon her body and soul. If she fails by 30 or more, she also suffers a backlash.
If a Hag gets doubles, triples, or messes up those various tests by 30+, she causes the aforementioned spiritual backlash. If the spell still would've gone off from the casting roll, the Hag still casts the spell, she just also suffers the backlash from angry and fickle creatures. They may get bored and refuse to grant you more spells, they may curse you, they may stun you or force you to spend an extra half-action casting, they may appear and actually attack you for a time (and considering Dryads count as spirits and are the kind of thing that can potentially challenge a second tier fighter in single combat, this might be real bad), or dark power might leak through and cause you to roll a 'normal' wizardly miscast. They do mention a weaker witch should draw much weaker spirits if she pisses them off, at least.
Hags also get a special ability: While a normal mage can sense the presence of magic, Hags (including simple Wise Women in their first career) are especially sensitive to the presence of Chaos. They automatically and passively get a Magical Sense test to get a sense of foreboding whenever they are near something that bears the mark of the Dark Gods, even if the evil powers are trying to hide it. With an extra DoS, they can sense the direction and rough location of what's making them nervous. With 2 DoS, they can tell exactly what is wrong and where it is. If Baba Nadia says not to go into the spooky basement, the party had better damn well not go into the spooky basement.
Hags are really flavorful and cool, their problem is just that they don't get their actual lore until their 3rd career, so by the time you can actually curse people or force people to drink fish guts to cure their diseases (totally works, it's magic) you're a long way into a campaign, so it can be a little awkward. The Chaos Detection thing is a nice bonus, especially if a Wise Woman goes into the non-spellcasting routes they can go into instead; it'll make her token Magical Sense all the more potentially useful. Using Command in place of Channeling is a neat bit of flavor with the hidden bonus of making the Hag better at dealing with other people. We'll get to their actual spells after we cover the special parts of Ice Witches.
Next: Ice Witch Mechanics
Only Leave Kislev In WinterOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Only Leave Kislev In Winter
Ice Magic came about when the Gospodar were still wandering the great steppe and warring with their Kurgan neighbors, long before the founding of Kislev. When the Kurgan eagerly bowed to the Great Eye (the terrible portal at the pole) and sought its power, the Gospodar's ancestors were smart enough to recognize a bad deal when they saw one. They instead focused on learning to follow the natural flows of power from their native land, rather than the invading force of Chaos. Their magic is very powerful, and much less likely to corrupt the user. It is still reasonably likely to kill her if she isn't careful.
An Ice Witch channels her power with the Channeling skill, like any other caster, but this skill is even more important for her. If she is not in Kislev itself, and is not in freezing or cold conditions, she needs a half action Channeling test to attempt any spells. This doesn't give the normal +Mag to her casting check, either. So a Kislevite witch in a normal Imperial campaign in summer in Reikland is simply going to be hobbled because of where the campaign is taking place. This is fitting to the fluff on their magic but limits how much you can really use Ice Witches outside of their homeland. On the upside, if it's below freezing, an Ice Witch does not need Ingredients for her spells, no matter where she is; she counts as having used one (and gets the bonus for it) regardless of if she did. Using an Ingredient while in cold conditions does not grant extra magic.
Glacial Surge is what happens when an Ice Witch rolls doubles, triples, quadrouples, or all 1s, and it's another thing I'm a bit iffy on. You see, for a normal spellcaster, if they merely get doubles they have pretty good odds of the effect just being weird or minor. The Glacial Surge table is *harsh*. It starts out simple enough: Stunned for 1 round, spell takes longer to cast, freeze the ground around you and make it slippery, but after that it jumps straight to 'take d10 damage, no DR', 'Cause a nasty AoE spell centered on yourself that makes movement and shooting hard and keeps hitting everyone for Damage 2', 'take a Damage 5 hit with no armor allowed', 'Roll as if you got triples on a normal Tzeentch's Curse table' and finally, a 1% chance to summon a Frostfiend, which is basically a minor boss monster, who will assault the whole party. You only have a combined 45% chance of the more minor manifestations. You've got a 55% chance on any sort of miscast, minor or no, to do serious damage to yourself or fuck over your party. This is too much, especially for a magic school that's supposed to be 'safer' to make up for the geographic restrictions. It's too binary in how quickly you can suffer the worst consequences.
Also note a Witch outside Kislev just suffers the normal Tzeentch's Curse rules, so you might actually be safer away from home.
Whenever a Witch or Hag rolls doubles on one of her miscast tables, they gain a Mark. Marks can be good or bad, and reflect the spirits/magic changing you over time. For a Hag, these get a little weird about something: They keep talking about how increasing apparent age makes 'charm checks to seduce' even harder, and they sometimes go on about Gospodar legends about how Hags will use their magic to trick handsome young Gospodars into romances by appearing young and beautiful again. I thought I'd point out that feels a little weird to focus on.
All the marks are a 10% chance. Hag Marks are:
1: Emaciated: You lose weight and can't seem to gain it back, losing d10 Toughness permanently from sickness and appearing d10 years older.
2: Club Foot: You lose a point of Mv permanently, and appear d10 years older. You can only gain this twice.
3: Palsy: Whenever you fail a WP or Toughness test your shakes start up and cripple you in combat, giving you -10 to pretty much all physical stats and limiting you to a half action a round for d10 rounds. Ouch. Appear d10 years older (sense a theme?)
4: Hoarse: Your voice becomes aged and ragged, giving -10 to Charm tests, and guess what, you appear d10 years older.
5: Popping Bones: Your bones make weird popping and creaking noises when you move, you appear d10 years older, but this has no negative effect.
6: Aged: You don't just appear d10 years older, you actually become d10 years older. The spirits think they're helping, but this ACTUALLY moves you closer to dying of old age, rather than just making you look it.
7: Spirit Companion: A spirit becomes your permanent bodyguard or buddy. Some of the spirits mentioned require the (kind of awful) Warhammer Companion to find the stats, but you can have a Dryad bodyguard. That's pretty damn good.
8: Wise: The Spirits reveal the world to you. You gain a permanent +5% on all Academic Knowledge tests.
9: Long Life: The Spirits want to keep you around. Your first roll of this, you will live for 150 years. Your second, 400. Your third, you are now functionally immortal.
10: Marked by Spirits: Your body becomes covered in odd runes and markings, and you gain +10 to all tests to control the spirits.
Hags also have a further effect from their apparent age:
16-30: The spirits disrespect the young. -10 to tests to Command them.
31-50: No effect, 'natural' age for an average adventuring Hag.
51-60: -10 to Charm tests 'to seduce' and +5 to Command tests with people (not spirits).
61-75: -30 to Charm tests 'to seduce' and +10 to Command tests with people (not spirits).
76-100: No longer able to seduce (really guys, come on) and -20 to Charm and Gossip tests with humans, but +10 to Command spirits.
101-150: You are impossibly old and gain Unsettling, because no-one your age should still be moving.
151+: You become Frightening when you want to, a living embodiment of the Ancient Widow herself.
Ice Witches only suffer Marks, not the whole aging thing.
1: Frosty: You take a -5% to Fellowship because you start to have trouble feeling strong emotions.
2: Pyrophobe: You hate fire, taking -10 to WP tests if within 12 yards of a burning fireplace or torch.
3: Rimed: A part of your body just seems to have permafrost. No real effect unless the GM decides to give the discretionary and occasional -10 Fel when dealing with superstitious southerners.
4: Seasonal: You respond to the seasons. In summer, you have -2 Max Wounds and -1 Movement. In Spring, -1 Wounds. In Fall, +1 Wounds, in Winter, +2 Wounds, +1 Movement.
5: Snowy: At any time, you can turn your hair or skin pure white like snow, gaining +5 on Intimidate tests because it makes it very clear you are an Ice Witch.
6: Glacial: You can choose to turn off your body-heat whenever you wish. If you do, you take -10 to Charm but +10 to Intimidate as you're unnatural and terrifying.
7: Unfeeling: Non-magical cold cannot touch you. You are immune to the winters of your land and never take damage from non-magic cold.
8: Icy Stare: You have an intense glare that seems to lower the temperature when you decide to turn it on. Gain Unsettling.
9: Frozen Heart: The Ancient Widow has shown you there is nothing to fear. You gain Fearless (Which is extremely great).
10: Marked by Kislev: Ancient symbols of the Gospodar appear on your body, and you gain +10 to Channeling tests when using your Ice Magic.
I like Marks, as a concept. I like the grab-bag of good and bad that makes a wizard strange and unusual. They're fun character flavor and rarely too crippling or powerful. We'll get ones for all the normal and divine lores in other books, too.
Next: The Actual Spells.
Drink the fish guts, man.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Drink the fish guts, man.
An important note: Despite the Ice Witch and Hag getting a couple new Petty spells, both get a bunch of the petty magic spells from the main book. Importantly, Ice Witches do have Magic Dart, so they have a cheap and easy little attack spell to pull out as an apprentice. Lest you underestimate Magic Dart, consider that a 50-50 (60-40 if you pull off Channeling first) shot for Damage 3 that can't be dodged or blocked and bypasses demonic damage reduction is actually really good at Career 1. Spells can also Fury just like melee or ranged, and use a WP test to do so. Hag Petty Magic is much more focused on trickery and hedge magic, Ice Witches can do a minor stun touch attack and some basic combat magic. Also, any character can purchase any Petty (Arcane) spell for 100 extra EXP, so a Hag could still pick up Magic Dart or something (or Sleep, Sleep can be fantastic if you make the WS touch attack and they fail WP) if she wants.
As for new spells, the new Gods get a couple Petty spells added to the mix. Dazhini can learn a minor spell that halves wounds taken from fire (magic or otherwise) and summon magical campfires that require no fuel and warm the body, something that could be useful out on the Oblast.
Hags get a little blessing that lets a character keep a spent Fortune point 30% of the time; the spell lasts until the character saves a Fortune point with it. That's a pretty good blessing for Petty Magic! They can also inflict minor Curses that inflict -10 on Fellowship for a day and annoy the target until they do as the witch wants. Finally, they get a new spell that blesses someone they spit on with +10 to resist anything Chaos does to them for an hour. Worth being spat upon.
Ice Witches get a simple 'Don't freeze to death' spell and a spell that drops the ambient temperature to freezing for a full day in a small area. The second doesn't sound so useful until you remember they can overcome their whole Ley Line business by being in an area of freezing temperature, and that if they cast their spells from an area that's freezing cold, they automatically count as using an Ingredient for a CN bonus. So a witch in summer lands down south can summon a little area of freezing cold to be her spot of power if someone raises her frosty dander and requires icing.
Torini can summon the power to make it seem like it's about to storm, scaring animals and making them huddle together or run away. They can also bless a weapon to do +1 damage for a minute. The latter is more powerful than you'd think, given that a point of damage can mean a lot for whether an attack gets through or gets deflected entirely. Also note it doesn't specify type of weapon. A Torini could bless a musket or bow just as well as an axe. This can lead to a gun that does Damage 6 Impact AP in the hands of someone who knows how to use a gun real well.
Ursunyi petty spells are pretty simple, too. They have a basic +10 to survival and navigation tests blessing. They have a spell that makes you count as though you've received medical attention (stopping Bleedout from nasty crits, etc). Nothing major, especially as Initiates and Priests have Heal anyway and so that medical attention spell is kinda meh.
There's also some new Lesser Magic, and some of this stuff is very nice. For CN 14, Arcane OR Divine casters can learn a spell (Ghost Shield) that will stop ghosts from approaching a sacred circles of salt. This keeps out spirits, demons with Ethereal, and undead, equally well, for an hour per point of Mag. And they don't get a Save or anything. They're expelled from the circle at the end of a successful casting and can't come back in until the caster lets them. For CN16, any caster can hide all of their deformities (from magical aging, mutation, Marks, or anything) for an hour per point of magic with Glamour, with the natural note that 'this spell has been the source of disturbing tales of ancient hags seducing young men' (sigh). For CN 14, Kislevite wizards and priests can draw on the power of a place of power with Tap, letting them gain an extra dice that does not count towards miscasts when performing actual big Rituals if they are already in an empowered place like a Waystone. Finally, the best spell, for CN 4 you can automatically know if someone is trying to steal your horse. You summon a little spirit called a Vazila to watch your horse and he comes running if anyone messes with it.
The Hags' actual Lore won't come up until a Hag Witch's 3rd career, Hag Mother. Their magic relates to the spirits, lets them destroy ghosts, heal sickness and injury, trick people, and do something no-one else can do: Hags can actually permanently cure Chaos mutations.
Banish Spirit is a simple CN 16 spell that lets the Hag instantly destroy a creature with Ethereal if it fails an opposed WP test with her. What's a little annoying is some of the listed spirits (like Frostfiends or Dryads) aren't Ethereal, so the Hag can't actually deal with them. Just ghosts and ghostly things. It requires her to wave around the heart of an elk.
Cleanse Body requires a cup of raw fish guts. After the hag casts her spell to empower the horrible potion with CN 13, the subject has to drink it and make a WP test to keep it down. If they succeed, they instantly cure one disease of the Hag's choice and heal d5+the Hag's Mag characteristic Wounds, no matter how badly hurt they were. That's pretty great!
Cleanse Soul is one of the big spells, considering Hags never get up past 3 Mag and it requires CN 24. Now, they'll get the +3 for using an Ingredient because they have to, and will probably Channel a big spell like this that's cast out of combat, so it's 'really' only 18, which is about 50-50 on 3d10 (Disclaimer: I am not good at probability). You and the target both roll tests, you rolling WP-10, them rolling Tough-10, and if you both succeed, they're cleansed of one Mutation. If they ever fail a future Toughness save by 30+ it comes back, but this is the only 'safe' way to clear mutation in the printed material for the game, despite multiple books referring to Shallyan methods or ways to seek cures. Oh, yeah, the target also has to drink a cup of bear's urine. Wily Hags love making people drink stuff.
Command Spirit is a CN 11 spell that requires the brains of a fox and lets you take control of any spirit (not just ones with Ethereal!) with an opposed WP test. If you succeed an Academic Knowledge (Spirits) test, you can make it do the full range of actions! If you don't, you can only have it do basic stuff like move or attack. Lasts for 1 minute per point of Mag.
Cursed Pledge is a CN 18 spell that requires an item of significance to the target. You demand someone does something for you, and if they fail a WP-10 test (WP+20 if the demand would be something outrageous like 'jump off a cliff' or 'kill your wife') they will suffer a Greater Curse unless they work towards doing what you asked. As you can imagine, this power is one of the reasons people try to keep their childhood toys or clips of their hair away from Hags. Greater Curse is covered in the Greater Curse spell, but these are things like 'The target gains one disease, randomly, per day they fail a toughness test' or 'The target gets 2 extra dice that only count towards miscasts on any spell use'. They're *mean*.
Deny Spirit is like a permanent version of Ghost Shield, forcing an spirit (ethereal or not) away from an area until it beats you on an Opposed WP test. You've got to wave a newt's spine around for this one; I guess you already used the eye and you're committed to reducing waste.
Form of the Ancient Widow is probably not so great since Hags have absolutely no combat abilities outside of this spell, but it looks scary as hell. It takes 3 full actions to cast. It's CN 26. You need two fistfuls of solid Kislevite dirt with your own, fresh blood upon them. It turns you into a giant, 9 foot tall behemoth of claws and vengeance as you take the terrifying form of the Ancient Widow herself, getting +20 to Str, Tough, WS and +1 Attacks, Natural Weapons, Fearless, Frightening, and Keen Senses. It only wears off when you go to sleep or take a critical hit (or decide to end it). Note that you're still sane and able to use normal spells just fine while you're a juggernaut of angry vengeance.
Fortune Told is a CN 14 spell in the generic 'Ask the GM some questions and get vague and unhelpful answers' mold but with a twist that makes it much better. You need an item directly applicable to the target's question, and the target needs to ask you a question. The spirits answer through you, in a vague and cryptic manner from the GM, but the target *also* gets to reroll the first 3 tests they fail relating to the question because the cryptic bullshit suddenly makes sense in context. So, say, 'Can Vassili defeat the dread Chaos Lord Skurv' might lead to Vassili getting an answer that's big on metaphor but then, when he's actually fighting Skurv, he's got 3 rerolls in the pocket as it all suddenly makes sense and the Spirits' forewarning saves his life at the last minute. That's a great way to do this kind of 'ask the GM' spell!
Greater Curse is one of the big ones, a CN 16 spell that again, requires an item close to the target like hair or a personal possession. The target takes a -10 WP save and if they fail, they're cursed. *Killing you will not lift the curse*. Curses can do all kinds of nasty things, but each Hag only learns one Great Curse with the spell; additional ones are 100 EXP. I already went with the Curse of Sickness and Curse of Witches, but Misfortune, Madness, and Weakening are all horrifying, too. Misfortune causes the target to always count the highest of the 2d10 used for percentile rolls as the tens die. Weakening makes them suffer a Tough test at +10 each day or lose -1 from all stats, permanently, for aging. If they lose 20 points, they die of old age despite it only having been a month or so. Madness gives them WP+10 or gain an Insanity point every day, until they go insane. A Hag can remove the curse with a second casting; outside of powerful divine intervention, this is the only way to escape a Great Curse. You really shouldn't have pissed off Baba Nadia.
Hag's Curse isn't an actual curse, but rather a CN 8 spell that needs a tiny lock of hair. If the target doesn't have a Hag's Curse (remember those little prohibitions from character creation?) roll and give them one now, as you see what could bring misfortune to them. In future dealings with the target, your frightening foreknowledge of them gives you +10 to Intimidate them.
Haunting is a CN 14 spell where you steal a fist-sized item from a location to curse, then you piss off some spirits and let them loose there to have fun. Like Greater Curse, a Hag only learns one kind of Haunting for free with this spell. If the building or forest or whatever, you targeted is very large you only curse one section of it. Curses can cause food stored in the area to molder, leather to rot, characters to take -10 to everything in the area, little spirits to steal pistols and coin purses, and all manner of annoying trouble. Once again, the only way to fix it is to either hire another Hag to use Deny Spirit on the place or placate the original Hag and get her to cast the spell again. I told you about pissing off Baba Nadia and you didn't listen.
Lucky Claw lets you take a claw from a three-legged dog and put a CN 11 blessing on it. Whoever bears it has an extra Fortune point until they spend it, at which point the charm crumples. Simple, but handy.
Past Revealed is a CN 20 divination requiring an item applicable to your question, as you interview the local spirits about an event that took place in this area at any time. It basically gives you a slightly unreliable eye-witness account from spirits that don't necessarily understand anything they saw.
Resist Chaos is a CN 17 spell with a twist on it. It requires you to wave around a snow owl's gizzard and bless an area, affecting up to 2xMag characters. Those characters gain Resistance to Chaos, becoming immune to mutation and getting +10 to all tests to resist Chaos in any form for 1 minute per Mag. If the target is unwilling, they get a WP-20 save to avoid the spell. The twist is, anyone affected by this spell cannot cast spells themselves until the spell ends. You can effectively shut down a mage with this!
Summon Spirit is a CN 12 spell that lets you call a spiritual creature like a Dryad by using an ingredient determined by your GM. The creature appears and will be pleased with you if you succeed a WP test, otherwise you're going to need to break out Command Spirit or else things could get ugly.
Finally, Whispers of Taint enhances the normal Hag sense of terrible foreboding by burning the hand of a Chaos worshiper and making a CN 12 test. It gives you +20 to all Magic Sense tests related to detecting the taint of Chaos for 1 hour per point of Mag.
As you can see, Hags don't really do direct combat. What they do is blackmail, trickery, healing, divination, and spirit summoning. I wish their spells used their crazy high Int (they are the only class in the game to get Int+40) rather than their WP, though, to drive home that they're tricky and clever wizards.
Next: They have an Ice Witch!? RUN!
Beware, you've raised my frosty dander!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Beware, you've raised my frosty dander!
Ice Witches should be viewed with the fact that their Miscast Table is significantly more dangerous to them than the normal miscast table. At the same time, their spells are very powerful combat magic and I'd argue they're generally as good or better fighters than Bright Mages in the Empire, even leaving aside all their unique ability to go off into Scout, Veteran, Captain or whatever and learn martial combat too. Also, Ice Witches hit 4 Mag at Ice Witch, their 3rd career; a full career earlier than Imperial mages. Make no mistake, Ice Witches are very powerful spellcasters.
We start it off with Biting Wind, a Damage 4 Magic Missile cast on CN 23 and requiring a Full Action (The action cost of Ice Magic is much more important since it's often combat magic). That doesn't sound very good? Well, Biting Wind hits everything between the caster and their target, and it doesn't care about intervening obstacles, as written. Being a Magic Missile also means it's affected by the Mighty Missile talent. It also has a long 36m range, so depending on how packed in there the targets are, it can hit quite a few. Anyone suffering a Wound from the razor-edged arctice wind also has to test Str or fall to the ground.
Blizzard summons a 24m radius blizzard, anywhere the Ice Witch can see with her naked eye, for CN 18 and a Full Action. Anyone stuck inside cannot see anyone else further than 6m away from them, anyone firing into the blizzard takes -20 BS, anyone stuck in the blizzard takes -20 Agility, everyone reduces their Movement by 1/2, and everyone in the Blizzard takes d10 damage every turn they're inside (roll once, apply the result to everyone trapped within; since this is a damage roll, it can Fury. If it Furies, it hits everyone for the Fury damage). Ice Magic has a lot of 'make rough terrain' or 'slow people down' spells, which makes sense since it's ice magic and also since the witches are often trying to catch and kill nomadic horse raiders. It lasts one round per point of Mag.
Chill Voice is a minor blessing that gives the witch +10 to Haggle, Command, Intimidate, or Torture, and -10 to Charm or Blather, because it gives her the biting, cold authority of the Khan Queens. CN 9, Half Action, not an especially useful spell. The penalty doesn't really feel necessary, either, especially as it only lasts rounds equal to Mag.
Crystal Cloak is a CN 15 spell as a Full Action that summons a cloak of purest cold for 1 minute. It causes anyone within 2m of you (anyone trying to get into melee with you, basically) to suffer -10 to WS, BS, and Agility, with no save. Also, anyone starting a melee action against you must save with Toughness or lose their turn, unable to brave the cold. Ideally, wizards don't want to be in melee since armor interferes with their spells, but for an Ice Witch who went into the various fighting exits this could be a hell of a trick to pull out in duels. It's a good protective spell, just don't stand next to your friends.
Death Frost is basically a straight up instant kill, most likely. It takes a Full Action, and you have to succeed a WS test (which can be Dodged or Parried, admittedly at -20) to touch the target, and you need to hit CN 25, but if you do, your target is probably going to die. They have to save with Toughness-20, and if they fail, they take a Damage 8 hit that ignores armor for *every point of your Mag stat*. If they *succeed* they take a Damage 2 hit, still ignoring armor, for every point of Mag. The book is unclear, but just so this isn't a straight instant kill I'd rule it's a separate hit per point of Mag (letting the defender use their Toughness Bonus multiple times) since that's how other multi-hit attack spells work. Also, if this spell causes a Critical Effect of 6 or higher (or a crit of +5 or more) it will instantly kill the target as they freeze solid. This is why people are terrified of Ice Witches.
Frost Blade is a half action to cast, 1 round per Mag, CN 8 spell that summons a magical weapon into your hand. The magic ice sword you summon is one of the best summonable weapons in the game (remember, multiple lores have them) because it scales off your SB (SB+2) and so a Witch who has a fighting career could do some really serious damage with the thing. It also counts as magic (obviously) and thus cuts through the extra 2 DR that demons get, and has Precise, so any Critical it inflicts is +1 point higher as though you'd done one more damage. You can also retain the spell past its duration with a WP test every round. If you're a martial witch, this sword will cut what you will.
Form of the Frostfiend is a 3 Full Round CN 27 monster of a spell that has the usual issues that 'turn yourself into a thing' spells have in this system (you straight copy the statline of the creature and it doesn't scale with your abilities), but at least the creature it's copying is very powerful (if a little fragile for how powerful it's supposed to be; it has no armor and a 4 TB). We'll get into Frostfiends when we get to monsters, but suffice to say where there was a Witch there's now an Attacks 3 creature that can fly, has 34 Wounds, has Damage 6 Impact AP claws, and generally is going to wreck up the place. Unlike the angry Hag over north of here turning into the Ancient Widow, you do not retain the ability to speak or cast spells, but you do remain a Frostfiend until you decide to stop the spell, go to sleep, or take a Critical.
Hailstorm is a staple for Ice Maidens, being CN 14 and only needing a half action (so you have time to Channel and hopefully use the ingredient, giving someone with Mag 2 good odds on casting it). It summons an area of hail and wind that grounds flying characters and creatures, does Damage 2 every round they stay inside of it, reduces their sightlines to 4m and debuffs their Agi and BS by 20, and halves movement. A lot like Blizzard, just smaller in size and you can't drop it anywhere you can see. You can also make the storm move 2m per point of Mag each turn with a Full Action and a -10 WP test, if you wish to have it chase people or move away so allies can walk through. It lasts for 1 minute.
Hawks of Mishka summons magical, angry hawks made of ice who fly around and spook people, as a full action on CN 18. The hawks hit the whole of a large template (10m diameter circle) for a Fear test or freeze in place until they pass Fear. Those 10m further out also make Fear tests, but at +10. Against enemies with poor Will, this can just shut a whole line of guys down with terror as your ice hawks dazzle them.
Ice Maiden's Kiss fires off a cone template (16m long, 1m at base, 5m at top) of Damage 5 Armor Ignoring hits for CN 20 and a Full Action. It uses Sudden Death damage like Death Frost, targets can evade with an Agility test only if they're on the very edge of the template/area, and anyone hit by it who survives has to save with WP or be Stunned for 1 round. So not only do you hit a bunch of foes for Damage 5 and ignore their armor, you potentially also stun them. This is one of the reasons they have such a dangerous miscast table, because that's a lot of killing power right there.
Ice Sheet uses a Half Action and CN 12 to make a Large Template area slippery. Anyone trying to move through the ice has to make an Agi-10 save or fall and take d10 damage, losing their action. Even if they succeed, they move at 1/2 speed. This patch of ice lasts for 1 minute per point of Mag. Ice Witches have a lot of ways to keep people from getting to them. Even an Ice Maiden can summon an Ice Sheet and while everyone's slipping and sliding, smack them with a hailstorm (which makes it even more impossible for them to get off the damn sheet).
Permafrost is a 2 Full Action CN 20 spell that causes a whole 48m area to freeze. On the round of casting, everyone in the area must save at Strength or lose a half action while taking d10 damage that ignores armor (only on the first round). Everyone moving through the area for the next Mag number of days travels and moves at 1/2 speed. Ice Witches can ruin traffic.
Shardstorm is the signature direct damage spell for the Lore, at CN 18 and a Full Action with a 48m range. It fires off d10 Damage 3 Magic Missiles, which cannot be split up among other targets. This is affected by Mighty Missile, so a powerful Witch could hit someone for 10 Damage 4 hits in one turn. It's simple and effective, if hard-ish for a Mag 2 Maiden to pull off.
Shoika's Call calls on ice tentacles to grow out of ambient water at CN 15 and a Full Action and grab everyone in the area of a Large Template. It also (as you probably guessed by now) slows anyone moving through the area by 1/2. The tentacle storm lasts for 1 minute per point of Mag and anyone passing through that zone of ice takes an Agility save or takes a Damage 4 Ignores Armor hit that grapples them; they must now test their Str against your Int to escape your grasp.
Walk the Endless Steppe lets a witch summon cold power into herself for CN 15 and 2 full actions, lasting for a day per point of Mag. While under the influence of this spell, neither magical nor mundane cold can harm you. This will protect you from another Ice Witch, but specifically will not stop your own miscasts from hurting you.
Finally, Wall of Ice just summons a wall of ice for CN 12 and a Full Action. 10m long, 6m high, and with TB5 and 10 Wounds per point of Mag, it's a solid barrier that can be tough to break down.
So yeah, Ice Witches can make themselves a total bastard to fight by exploiting their save-or-slow spells and their wide variety of ways to ignore armor. They're pure war wizards, and they're really good at it. The opposite of the Hags, really.
Next: Dazh's Fabulous Orbital Laser Cannon
I promised you a laser cannon.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
I promised you a laser cannon.
I'm a little sad we don't get a set of Divine Marks for the priests (you'll see those in Tome of Salvation eventually) because Divine Marks are pretty cool. They work exactly like Witch Marks, just they reflect a priest coming to resemble their God. We do get a full Divine Lore for the Gods of Kislev, though! Remember that Divine Magic usually has lower CNs and fewer spells because Divine casters never get past 3 Mag (and don't get Mag at all until Career 2, nor a Lore until Career 3).
Dazh starts us off with a divine flashbang with Brilliance, a Half Action CN 12 spell that makes everyone with eyes within 6m make an Agi test or lose -20 to WS, BS, Agility, and perception tests for 1d10 rounds because they can't see after you blind them with sunlight. Simple, useful combat magic for debuffing a bunch of enemies around the priest.
DAZH SZHEG! is a CN 14 Full Action spell that calls down a small template (6m diameter) area that then gets smashed with a brilliant beam of holy light from above. This beam translates to an Agi-10 save or take a Damage 4 Ignores Armor (they really went crazy with Ignores Armor stuff in Kislev, probably because they expected a lot of campaigns to be fighting AV5 Chaos Meatwalls) hit that also sets the target on fire if they take a wound. Recall that being on Fire is really, really bad (d10 Wounds, without reduction, per round until you make an Agi save to put yourself out as a full action). I told you there was an actual orbital laser cannon; being underground will not stop Dazh from frying someone like a bug under a magnifying glass, either.
Dance of the Alari lasts for an hour per point of Mag and is a non-combat spell that causes the northern lights to brighten and amplify within a 3 mile radius, providing enough light for people to see. These are supposed to be Dazh's warrior-consorts, the great Alari, performing a dance for you. Naturally the northern lights are the sun-god's girlfriends.
Rouse the Coals causes a target that is flammable to catch fire if it's within 2m of you and you use a full action and hit CN 7. I wonder if people wearing flammable clothes count? The book is not clear on this.
Sacred Guest lets you bless your time with another in their house or castle, with a simple CN 5 prayer to Dazh. If your host violates their obligations as host, they are cursed by Dazh (things like fires refusing to light or burning 4 times as much fuel) until you ask him to forgive them.
Wreath of Flame is a half action, 1/mag round spell at CN 13 that wreaths you in holy fire. While like this, foes need to pass a WP test to attack you in melee or they suffer -30 WS. If they make the test, they still suffer -10. You also become totally immune to fire and make Bright Wizards very, very sad.
Dazh magic is entirely worth it for the sacred laser cannon, but Tor's going to have some strong contenders, too.
Tor starts off with Call of Tor, a full action spell with a radius of 1 mile and a CN of 16 that only lasts a single round after you cast it. However, it infuses all Kislevites with such patriotic fervor and thunderous strength that any Kislevite character gets to attack 2 times if they Charge next round. Failing this spell will always invoke Wrath of the Gods, even if you didn't roll a miscast. Tor has a Patriotism spell that can infuse an entire front line with the power to crush their enemies right before they clash.
Cleave the Sky is a half action, CN 15 spell that lasts 1 day per point of Mag or until you let it end. It requires overcast weather to cast. It asks Tor to hit the clouds with his mighty axe and begin a downpour that will slow down everyone in a 3 mile radius. Useful for ending droughts, I suppose.
DO TOR! fires a magic bolt of lightning for CN 11 and a Full Action. This bolt does Damage 3 Ignores Armor damage, and if it kills its target, the bolt leaps to another target until someone survives it or you stop the chain. Simple attack spell, though I'm getting a bit wary of all the armor-ignoring given how rare it is elsewhere in the system.
Incoming Storm is a CN 9 Full Action spell that lasts for 5 minutes per point of Mag and lets anyone affected roll WP+10 to avoid Surprise if they get surprised during the duration. Given that surprise can easily TPK you this isn't a bad idea if you're going into a bad situation.
Thunder of War is a simple CN 12 spell that hits in 12m around you for a full action. It causes every enemy in the area (specifically only enemies, Tor's buddies know this is just loud noises) to roll a Fear save due to the crashing thunder of your drums.
Tor's Fury is a simple CN 6 Half Action 1 minute/Mag blessing that blesses your axe (it must be an axe) and makes it so you do not need to confirm Fury rolls with the weapon. No second WS test; you get a 10, you keep rolling damage.
Tor is simple and effective at making warrior priests, but that patriotism spell is ace. Ursun's focuses almost entirely on buffs.
Ursun starts off with a CN 9 spell that summons a bear. The bear isn't going to fight for you, but he is not upset that you woke him up, and will answer questions in 'a sonorous, noble voice' if he knows the answers. The bear is wise.
Growling Fury is a CN 9 Half Action spell that lasts 1 minute and grants you Menacing and (sigh) Frenzy, plus +10 to WP and Toughness tests while it's in effect. Good god, this is like...the fifth or sixth spell in the line to grant someone Frenzy as if that was a big deal and not a totally worthless Talent.
Skin of the Ice Bear is a CN 10, Half Action self-buff that makes the caster Unsettling, grants them Keen Senses, and +1 damage while in effect. As well as +10 to all survival skills. For 1 Minute per Mag. Effective and useful buffs, all of it, but especially the flat damage. Note it's damage, not melee damage; it'd work fine on ranged weapons.
Unyielding Ursun lasts a full minute, has a 36m range, and takes a Full Action at CN 21 so you know it's a big spell. And it is; it awakens the spirit of the unyielding bear in every Kislevite in range. Kislevites only and specifically. They all gain Fearless (total immunity to Fear or Terror tests, cancelling any Fear or Terror they were suffering from when it's cast) and Unsettling. CN 21 can be pretty hard for a priest, though.
Ursine Strength is a CN 8 half Action prayer that gives you +10 Strength, +20 Strength when grappling, and makes your Unarmed attacks do +1 damage for a minute. Grappling is a little niche, but a burly priest with this spell could definitely hold a Chaos Lord down for his buddies to stab him.
Finally, the best spell is last: Winter's Sleep. You call upon all the sleepy powers of Ursun and hit a small template of foes with the sudden urge to hibernate with a CN 14 Full Action. You thought I was making it up with Ursun being a sleepy god, didn't you? No, you have the power to force enemies to make a WP-10 save or nap for d10 Rounds. Note that they are considered Helpless (taking an extra d10 damage if they take a hit) and it doesn't mention they wake after being struck, unlike Sleep the Petty Magic spell. Father Bear could conceivably make this a save or die for an enemy that way. I'd probably rule it was an oversight and have it work like the Asleep condition does elsewhere in the line, though (once struck, they wake immediately).
Next: Oh god, another pre-made adventure. Book's almost done!
We are neutral on the subject of wolvesOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
We are neutral on the subject of wolves
The pre-made adventure begins, like so many stories in the Warhammer world, with an Ulrican being a pompous asshole and causing enormous trouble. An Ulrican friar named Jurgen goes to a remote Stanitsa in his travels around Kislev and sees the locals worshipping Dazh on one of his holy days. Being a stupid asshole, he decides that worshiping fire is actually Chaos worship, denounces his hosts as Chaos-spawn, and demands they worship winter and wolves and Ulric instead. Walking into someone's major religious festival and telling them they worship the Devil who their entire culture is devoted to battling and destroying is not a good idea, and a scuffle breaks out. During the scuffle, Jurgen is accidentally knocked into the fire pit and catches alight. The locals just sort of assume this is Dazh's justice, but Jurgen's little apprentice scribe manages to get to the Imperial embassy and spin a tale back south of how the savage Ungol murdered his master. Now the Empire is demanding revenge on the 'savages' and the ice Queen is permitting a trial to prevent a major diplomatic incident. Meanwhile, a Boyar has heard of this mess and decided to discredit the Tsarina as looking weak. He has thus sent his own messenger ahead to warn the town of Vitkal that the Tsarina has, for Gospodar profit, decided to hand them over to be massacred to the last to placate the Imperials. Vitkal's Wise Woman, Baba Pododya, has decided she will defend her people from the obvious Gospodar treason that is coming and has gone off into the woods to set a trap for the incoming trial party.
Your PCs, obviously, get hired to escort the people who will conduct the trial, which is intended to be a normal trial that will hopefully end in some minor, face-saving recompense and prevent a diplomatic incident. They're walking directly into a pissed off Hag Witch who knows the area and has had two weeks or so to prepare. The spirits have riled up the Kyazak, they've riled up the Greenskins, and the Hag probably has strapping young warriors waiting in the forest and around the streams. What looked like a simple job to gain the favor of some powerful people and a very good purse is going to get ugly.
I'm not kidding about the pay, though; the pay is quite good. PCs would be promised 10 GC a day for their services, plus 15 additional in advance to buy supplies, for what seems like an easy job. They'll have to escort Father Ludwig, an agreed-upon Ulrican priest chosen for his even-handedness and steadiness, to serve as judge under Ungol law. Everything is supposed to be set up for this to be a simple face-saving mission. The adventure is written so that PCs who are primarily Imperial will have Kislevite guides while they serve as Ludwig's escorts, and parties that are mostly Kislevite would be the guides and Katarin's representatives while Ludwig has his own escorts. If you're Kislevites, you'll get a chance to talk to the hired Imperial guards (and with enough successes on a Speak Language test or at Gamble or another game or bonding activity, learn that Ludwig is Jurgen's brother and that he was a really bad pick for this job) and if you're Imperial, you can learn that there's a pretty good chance Vitkal is not going to be happy about any of this and asking an Imperial priest to be a Judge is going to be a huge imposition that will require diplomacy and care for anyone involved to accept.
That's when the random encounters start. Either Kyazak or hired mercenaries, either of them using the normal human mook statline, should begin to accost the PC party. If you prefer, the book suggests duped Orcs as enemies, instead. Then, another night, adorable golden-feathered birds come down from the sky to peck at the remains of the night's fire. If the people on watch don't make a Common Lore (Kislev) at +10 or Academic Lore (Religion) to recognize those are firebirds, they don't catch them before the little bastards (who are sacred to Dazh) start tossing glowing coals about and set the tents and supplies on fire. If the players don't stop them, or don't know, Ulrican NPCs will attack the birds without realizing they're sacred nuisances, thinking they're under attack. PCs are best suited to calming things down, putting out the fires, and saving as much of their stuff as they can. If a firebird is harmed, Dazh will curse the entire expedition; no fires will start for them for the rest of the mission.
Worse, while all this is happening to distract them, the Leshii, summoned by Baba Pogoyda, starts stealing any of the expeditions' weapons that aren't currently on their person or currently in an on-fire yurt. PCs who make an Academic Lore (Spirits)-10 test notice that this is the work of the Leshii, and if they make it by 2 DoS, they also carried a little distracting knife to keep the Leshii away from their real weapon. Someone should suggest searching for their weapons to figure out where the mischievious spirit put them, at which point the party is attacked by wolves out in the woods while likely armed only with their backups like daggers. Given there's no warning or way to avoid any of this besides a very uncommon skill, this seems like a dick move, and is in fact specifically designed to kill some of the random NPCs from the other party. The PCs find their weapons after a short search after driving off the wolves, who will flee if half their number (one wolf per PC and NPC in the search party) are reduced to 1/2 wounds or killed.
Next there's a really complicated and dickish setpiece where the PCs try to cross a frozen river while a water spirit tries to crack the ice and murder them, full of a bunch of save-or-dies, big penalties for wearing armor, and the thing trying to use tricks and illusions to get the PCs near the water if they don't manage to fall into the ice. It's very long, complicated, and I already gave you the relevant details. Worse, if you get wet, you lose -1 Toughness (from the stat) per round until you get your wet clothes off and get next to a fire (oh shit, did someone hurt the birds? You're going to die), which recovers a single point of toughness per minute. If you run out of toughness, you die. You're now cold, have had a bunch of your gear damaged, a bunch of NPCs are probably dead, wizardry is pretty obviously out to get you, animals are attacking you, and the horses are probably dead, too. It's time for a blizzard to roll in.
I feel like a lot of the problems so far can also be summed up by a quote from the book: "Let the players discuss options while they shelter, but their choices will not matter to the climax of this adventure."
Now trapped by blizzard and other problems, if the party has any Ungol in it, the Baba will appear to them while they seek shelter and warn them: If they continue to fight for Gospodar and outlanders, they will share their fate. But she must be merciful to her kin and people. Meanwhile, while the old woman seeks shelter in the cave with them and warns the Ungol, she starts stealing little personal items because you know what a Hag is doing when she does that. There is, of course, no test to notice a strange old woman the party encounters in a cave doing this, and tracking her after she leaves requires a -20 Follow Trail. The Baba then tries to curse people for a bit while unleashing the final boss: An angry cave bear (or Troll, if the PCs are higher level). Now, if the players divert the bear and catch the Baba, an Ungol PC can recognize (without her Glamor) that she offered her eye and hand to get the spirits so damn riled up and that explains why she's half-mad with pain and anger. They can talk her down with a -30 test, at which point she'll dismiss the spirits and let the players (and Ulricans, if any are alive) go. Otherwise, killing her will do it. Similarly, killing the bear/troll will make her give it up.
If the party reaches the town with Ludwig alive, the Ataman blames everything on the dead (or dying) Baba, and Ludwig agrees to accept that his brother was killed by the witch, that the witch has died for it, and that justice was done without further harm to the village. If Ludwig is dead/fled or the party abandoned him, the locals mention that they are glad the mad priest who was supposed to have them all killed for the Gospodar is gone, and the party can discover someone tried to subvert the Ice Queen's justice.
That's it. They don't even get a bonus for any of this, there's no trial or political intrigue, just a gauntlet of asshole ambushes and then a minor boss fight/very hard social roll, then everything just works out when they arrive, instantly. The conclusion is awful, and as per usual, pre-mades aren't very good in this line.
Next Time: Loose Ends and Conclusion.
Obligatory statblocks, and an endingOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Realm of the Ice Queen
Obligatory statblocks, and an ending
First, we get some stats and fluff on some additional and more dangerous bear-types, for either taming or use as enemies. They're nothing too exciting except to point out that I'm pretty sure a normal 1st tier party would gang up on and butcher the big boss Cave Bear that's supposed to terrify them so by this statblock (DR 4 means its 24 Wounds won't last long under an entire party attacking it, WS 36 means that even if it does good damage it isn't likely to land too many blows. Action economy should do the rest). None of the monsters in the monster section are all that interesting or worth covering in a lot of detail, they just felt they had to include it, I guess.
Realm of the Ice Queen is the last book published by Black Industry before their shuttering in early 2008. It's also a very odd book in a few ways; damage numbers, for instance, are all given in d10+X instead of just the understood Damage 3 or Damage 4. Lots of the formatting on classes is done differently. The Trappings sections on classes are indistinct and full of extra fluff, suggesting it's likely a lot of other groups weren't using the direct 'you must have these items to promote into this class' rule anyway. A fair amount of the text in the early part of the book is also, on closer look, copied from other publications on Kislev from White Dwarf and for use as allies for the Empire in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. It's a solid book that doesn't break many of the 'rules' of the system, everything in it is playable, and Kislev has a lot of fun and colorful flavor, but it certainly *feels* sort of rushed and thrown together. Black Industry had been in crunch on trying to finish Dark Heresy for quite some time, not to mention the fears that their whole company would be shut down soon enough due to not bringing in enough sales and money for GW's taste. They'd just decided that RPGs were too niche an industry, and the RPGs could be subcontracted out to someone who wasn't in-house. A few final WHFRP2e supplements and a second big campaign would be published by Fantasy Flight while they were sending out Dark Heresy after taking over publishing duties, but the game would soon be shuttered and move to 3rd edition. Moreover, the fluff was moved back to pre-Storm of Chaos to accompany the wargame, so FFG's 3rd edition couldn't really use a lot of the fluff produced for WHFRP2e, which had focused on people trying to deal with the fallout of Archaon's failed invasion rather than everyone acting really scared that he was coming.
Thus, I feel like this is a good place to look at what we didn't get in WHFRP2e before the changeover. We got the three biggest human nations and plenty of good material on their magic, history, culture, and religion. We got rules and fluff for playing as the Undead, the Skaven, and Chaos, as well as making all kinds of custom enemies for those groups. We got a lot of solid fluff about a much more interesting version of the world, where a bunch of messy, complicated countries who are neither all good nor all bad get together to curbstomp the devil on the regular. We never got anything much on the dwarfs or elfs, though (the dwarfs get covered a bit through the Empire, but there's very little material on the dwarfs back home in the mountainhomes). You can't play a Lothern Sea Guard or learn much about Ulthuan or Naggarond without a lot of fan material or the army-book fluff. We never got a book exploring the Southlands, or Lustria. There was a lot more that could've been covered, and I would have loved to see how Black Industries' people would've covered it.
Kislev's struggle between the Ungol and Gospodar heritage, the forces of absolutism and how they accidentally promote the rights of the common folk by seeking the guilds and burghers as allies against the power of the landed gentry, its witches and their separate vigils against the forces of evil, and its relation to the other lands south and east of it reflect why I like this game line so much. You can have adventures about custom, politics, ambition, and the changing of society just as much as you can curbstomp a howling pack of Khornates. Look at how much fun the crazy wedding party drinking contests sounded for a comedy adventure. Or the insane urban chaos of Erengard's determined reconstruction. Or how Katarin manages to be intelligent and ruthless without just being pointlessly brutal. Much like Bretonnia's unexpected and extremely great examination of the performative nature of class and gender in a highly rigid society, Kislev has a bunch of fun and interesting stuff to get up to and a sympathetic core of determination. They're the only people in the setting who get to say Chaos isn't that big a deal, because they fight it all the goddamn time and it hasn't killed them yet. Hams feels like a world where (had the whole End Times nuttery not happened) you could zoom in a century or two later and find all these countries changed. As rushed as the Kislevite book can feel at times, it still gets at the core of the game line; a colorful world of thinly veiled but well done historical analogues trying to get through their messy, energetic history while fighting the Devil. And it's worth it for that.
Next Time: The Ashes of Middenheim and a look at the big, three-book published campaign.