Dramatis Personae

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

Dramatis Personae

So, this is going to be an interesting one. Do you like urbane, reasonable mummies? Weird bad endings? Dungeons crawling? Traps? Political intrigue? Random towns full of torture cults? Six armed statues? Extremely poorly built PCs? Lure of the Liche Lord is a pre-made adventure series involving all those things. It focuses on a region in the Border Princes (The lawless-ish regions east of the Empire and Bretonnia, infested with monsters and small principalities) where lies the tomb of a powerful Tomb King, Karitamen. He was a great warrior of Nehekara, a minor noble who had proved himself as a soldier and tactician and earned his rank despite his minor nobility. Karitamen was a skilled and benevolent ruler for a long time, but he was afflicted by something common to the nobility of Nehekara: A total fear of the way he was going to get old and die eventually. He sought all kinds of magical ways to stay alive longer, and in doing this he slowly became a less and less capable ruler, his overriding fear of how he was going to lose his vaunted strength to age overwhelming his compassion for his subjects. Ironically, after he was killed in an uprising when a noble used a magic Chaos dagger to pierce his defensive enchantments, he was brought back to eternal life anyway. Nagash had happened and the Tomb Kings were created.

Normally, Karitamen would have been reasonably happy to get back up. Unfortunately for him, he was now a mummy/skeleton/liche, which annoyed him; how could he rule over his people forever and finally provide them the unworried, excellent leader they deserved if they were terrified of him? Worse, he discovered the Chaos dagger that had killed him during the uprising bound him to his tomb. So now he was stuck in a burial chamber for eternity, having the eternal existence he had sacrificed his reputation and his peoples' well being for but no ability to rule with it. He found he could send dreams outside of his tomb, and used that to at least ensure he drove all the people who had stabbed the shit out of him insane. Doing this took all his power, and so he collapsed, mercifully falling to his rest for a time.

Karitamen has woken again, and found minor princes and orcs around his tomb and no mighty kingdom to oppose him. Still sealed by Chaos, now he plans how to get himself out (while several Chaos forces will be frantically trying to keep him locked in because they do not want to be killed by angry Egyptian skeletons) and sends his skeletons up to the world above to maneuver and manipulate until he can escape. He has what he wants (eternal life-ish), and now he wishes to take the region of the Border Princes he's trapped in and make it into a glorious Nehekaran kingdom. Into this stumble a party of professional tomb robbers, who will get involved with those seeking to free the Liche Lord, those seeking to kill him, and those who just want to rule their petty principalities. It's not a bad setup for an adventure.

The game provides a party of six pre-made PCs for this high-power adventure, intended for skilled PCs entering their 3rd career. I'm going to be using them as mechanical yardsticks for the challenges of the campaign, so it's time to get to know our protagonists. They cover all 6 of the major roles for PCs: A scholar/support guy, a fighter, a rogue, a ranger, a caster, and a leader. Only 3 of them are any good. More hilariously, their advancement is only balanced against one another by how many careers they've completed; they vary wildly in how much EXP they actually have. I counted. Also, only one of them is actually in a 3rd tier career.

Our leader and the most advanced PC in the group is Woldred, an Outrider to Scout to Explorer. He's a guy afflicted with constant wanderlust and curiosity who started out as a cavalry scout and ended up making a living exploring and robbing ancient ruins. He's not really interested in the money; he's more into the thrill of discovery. He's also the richest PC due to the Trappings system. He's got about 5300-5400 EXP, depending on which of his Talents are Human Random Talents (It can be hard to tell), he's actually a 3rd tier, and his careers are quite useful. Most of his stats are in the 50s, some in the 40s, and his Int is an impressive 64 which makes him awesome at finding hidden stuff. Weirdly, his rolled stats never triggered Shallya's Mercy, despite him having a base 22 BS; he left 9 points of BS on the table, and given Scout is a ranged combat class, that really hurts his fighting potential. Also, he made the idiot mistake of taking Crossbow prof instead of Longbow in Scout; King Longbow (and those 9 points of BS he left on the table) could have made him a decent ranged combat backup. Still, he's not really bad at anything and is a good jack of all trades and faceman. If everyone in the party was like Woldred they'd be solid.

The Rogue is the first Bad Idea in the party. Thorgek is a dwarf, which is already a strike against being a Rogue because a lot of his skills rely on Agi, which dwarfs are not good at. He is also a Miner to Thief to Tomb Robber. All those are 1st tier. With a 39 Agi, he's not actually great at his primary stat because with only 1st tiers, there were caps on how high his stats could be. He's also nearly 2000 EXP behind Woldred; I counted, he has 3600 EXP. So that's many, many less advances than his leader. He's okay but not great at dealing with traps and locks, not great at stealth, and his highest stat is his 59% WS (But only 1 attack and no combat talents). Most of his stats are in the 30s. Also only 1 Fate point. Similarly seems not to have used Shallya's Mercy; I don't think any of the PCs do. He'd be fine if he'd taken a sane path like Tomb Robber to Fence to Master Thief. He did not. The idea is that it fits his backstory to have started a miner, gotten kicked out of his clan for stealing, become a thief, and then drifted into robbing tombs, but...There's this weird obsession in all these characters with 'they actually do the exact job their class says they do!' that really, really hobbles them mechanically.

Ehrl the Scholar is actually good at his job. Really good at it. He's not good at much else, but in a mission in a mummy's tomb the guy who is super good at deciphering hieroglyphics has a real job. Ehrl (Valet to Student to Scholar) is a university drop-out who actually failed his classes because he spent too much time in the library reading whatever he could instead of bothering with homework. He just likes to learn for his own sake. He ended up a librarian, found a treasure map, and saved Woldred and Thorgek from a trap when he met them in the tomb. He joined up ever since. I do like the characters' backstories, mostly, and I like how their team gets together over the course of them. Ehrl doesn't do much but use knowledge skills, but in this kind of campaign they're really useful, and he has a huge 73% Int, a pile of +10s and +20s, some supporting talents, and useful knowledges and languages. His real flaw is not having Heal; he could have taken it in Student and a 73% Int would've made him an awesome medic for the cost of 100 EXP. Still, he's great at his actual intended role in the party, it's a useful role for the adventure, and he has a respectable (but significantly lower than Woldred) 4000 EXP. Seriously, dude rolls on 83-93% on most of the stuff he's built to do.

Therese the Witch could be so cool! She is not. Witches, if you remember, are unusual Hedge mages who can spend 200 EXP each to buy individual spells from multiple lores as long as the CN is under 15. She could have a huge grab-bag of neat tricks. I've had two Witch characters in games and they're really fun and mechanically interesting. She does not have a cool grab-bag of tricks. She has one trick. It's a bad trick. She's Hedge Wizard to Witch to Vagabond, which also means she's cut off from learning more magic until she finishes her current (kind of shitty) career. She's a young woman who grew up with a loving, supportive family that never ostracized her for having weird gifts. Then there was some trouble with a suitor when she was 16, she blinded him with magic (she has no blinding magic), and he broke his neck. She had to flee ahead of the Hat Patrol and ended up falling in with the tomb robbers. She's built as a medic and social character, with most of her stats in the 30s-40s but a 50+ Fel, Heal+10, and a grab bag of useful skills. Her problem is her big claim to fame is magic, but she only took a single spell with Witchcraft, and...it's a generic Charm Animal from Lore of Beasts. Animals are not a major factor in this adventure. Also Petty Magic Hedge is almost useless. So she's spent shitloads of EXP and effort on being a caster, but can't cast any useful spells. Her skills keep her from being totally useless, she's just completely wasted her role in the party. Has 4000 EXP like Ehrl.

Johann the Scout is Vagabond to Outrider to Scout. I would probably have skipped Outrider since Vagabond goes into Scout, but he's another solid character. He also has a subpar base BS (and didn't Shallya, again) despite being the party's main ranged combatant, but he ends up fine anyway because Scout is a good class. Except his 30 Fel, his stats are high 40s, low 50s. He's a fairly generic ranger type in his backstory; just loves traveling and shooting stuff, loves the forest, etc etc. Quiet, decent guy. All the PCs are described as fairly decent people who are deeply loyal to their team, which is kind of nice. Johann is actually the best overall fighter in the party, probably. He's also got 19 Wounds, which never hurts. And actually uses King Longbow. Once he grabs Sure Shot from Scout, he'll be a great ranged combatant (even Shallyaing his BS would only get him to 56 instead of 53, so no huge loss like Woldred) and he's no slouch with his axe and dagger, either. Also very good at moving quietly and doing ranger stuff. Johann is solid. Also has about 5000 EXP.

Goran the Bodyguard is the worst PC in the party. Yes, worse than Therese, though she gives him a run for his money. Goran is a militiaman who discovered he liked getting into random thug fights in the city then got hired as a bodyguard for a noble. He then left that job to find something where he could hurt people, joining the tomb robbers to actually get into fights. He's Militia to Thug to Bodyguard, all of them 1st tier Fighters and none of them especially good ones. He has most of the essential talents for a fighter, he has Dodge +20, and he has 2 attacks, yes, but, like, he's just kind of terrible. His WS is 43%. His SB and TB are 4, same as most of the party. He's really kneecapped by never promoting and sticking around in classes with +10 stat caps. He doesn't even have especially useful skills from all this hopping around, and he's dumb as a brick at 26% Int. Also 23% base BS. All the PCs have below average BS rolls. All of them. He wants to use a two-handed sword, but he also has terrible armor (1 Head, 3 Body, 1 Arms, 0 Legs) that won't hold up to serious threats. Moreover, he only has 2800 EXP. If he actually had EXP parity, he could be a badass. He is not. Which sucks, because actual dedicated fighters are shitkickers once they get mid 2nd tier or early 3rd tier. He could be Vinny from the OWB Fight Club! He is not Vinny. As it is, he will struggle to keep up with any real threat.

So yeah. That's the 6. They're mostly terrible! Even the good-ish ones are mostly only okay. Their backstories are fine, and I like the little narrative of their group slowly coming together and becoming friends, they just really needed more mechanical care put into them. Never using the 'set a stat roll to 31' rule, wildly unequal EXP, poor equipment...they're just not what I think of when I think 'high powered party'. Their fighter with 2800 EXP is outdone by the fighters in the group I'm running right now at 1500 because they're actually in 2nd tier careers. The Explorer has 1000 GC in 'trade goods' because Explorer's trappings have that; dude couldn't shell out for some plate for their warrior? Or other gear for him and the others? I think Woldred's been embezzling the group's loot for years and they've never noticed.

Tune in next time to see what Jackassery is waiting to waylay these intrepid heroes.

Next Time: The Situation

The Situation

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

The Situation

So, the interesting thing about Lure of the Liche Lord is that it isn't a prewritten campaign so much as it's a prewritten campaign setting. There is no central narrative, no long list of plot beats that the PCs will follow, and I think this is a strength for the book. You see, the central narratives for these campaign books have always sucked. Paths of the Damned tries to make a single Khornate demon and cult into a central villain for 3 books, and found itself having to constantly throw in side villains because Khorne can't sustain a full level 1 to max level campaign, at all. Thousand Thrones is All Aboard the Railroad, as is Terror in Talabheim. The writers for this line are generally much better at plot hooks and campaign seeds than actual campaigns.

I don't know why this is; I suspect the secret lies in the shitty pre-mades. My guess would be that it's very hard to write for a 'standard party' for WHFRP2e, because who knows what your party's going to look like? I've had everything from 'one thug, 2 wizards, and a runesmith' to 'Basically a Standard D&D Party' to 'a Norse Freeholder, an Estalian Diestro, and a Tomb Robber go on archeology adventures'. You never quite know what you'll get even if people are picking the classes they want to play rather than rolling for it, because there are a ton of classes. So balancing combat progression, non-combat progression, etc is really difficult in a long term pre-made; when I was originally showing off a party going through Paths of the Damned, notice how often the plot assumed they'd have someone with Follow Trail when they just didn't. And that was a pretty diverse and talented group, too. It's really hard to assume the PCs will have anything in this system, and that makes set-in-stone plotting hard.

So they don't try, here. Yes, you'll be robbing a tomb. You should be 'late 2nd career or early 3rd', but you see with their pre-mades that what that means varies wildly, too. There's also the weird brain spiders that infest parts of this line where 'what your Career is' has to be 'exactly what you do, right now', which is something the game grapples with much more than it should. Take Dr. Wilhelmina Schmidt, in a game I am writing right now. She is a Tomb Robber, with the fluff being she's a university student who really wants to do the 'practical' side of history and archeology to explain why she knows a bunch of ancient languages. It's plausible within what the career gives her, and she's much more archeologist than thief despite training to deal with traps and such. This book's approach would have been to demand that character start in Student, then go to Dilettante, then into Tomb Robber and then would count the character equal to someone in a 3rd tier career. Despite Tomb Robber already giving her everything needed for that character concept as a 1st career. Trying to balance by number of careers rather than tiering of careers or just EXP level (Amount of EXP is the true way) is brain spiders.

That aside, let's talk about what's going down in the Border Princes. In this region of the Fantasy Balkans, three powerful figures have arisen. Two of them are decent enough people (especially by regional standards) and one is a total prick. Together, they fight over the kingdom Karitamen used to rule, and the Tomb King is a little miffed about this.

Artilli Levrellian is the son of a mercenary and the tavern girl his father married. He's a slim, charming man who happened to pick the right mercenary company to join and make a name for himself through a couple years of campaigning. Being essentially a Mount and Blade character, he eventually convinced his fellows that they could make way more money if they just took over a small town and ruled it. After taking over his first town and studying why people considered rulers legitimate or not, he continued to do so; this is the Border Princes, you can rule whatever you grab. He dreams of taking over the whole region, because ruling land has gotten him more money (and less need to actually fight personally) than mercenarying ever could, and he's become a hero to his men by making them important.

He's a selfish man who thinks that big displays of public violence help serve as deterrents, and who is much more comfortable with threats and posturing than actually fighting people. He likes to get his way by bullying; it's safer than fighting. Until recently. He's taken in a slim, weird man as an advisor and ever since he's gotten much more violent to little actual gain. He is being tricked by a Khornate Magus, who only had to tell him 'Hey, Artilli, you're the best' to get into his complete confidence because Artilli is, at heart, a bad person. He's also quite strong, but all 3 Princes are; he's done all of Mercenary, Sergeant, and Captain and entered Politician, and his stats are mostly in the 50s and 60s with a full array of combat talents and 3 attacks. He's no pushover if the PCs end up getting violent with him eventually.

His little pet advisor only has to keep telling him he's worthy to be a king and he'll keep falling deeper down the murder hole. Because he's the kind of person who trusts a slim, weird man named Strykssen who always looks like he never sleeps. Seriously, the man's name is Strykssen. Strykssen is unusual for a Khornate, being much more of a serial killer. He was a burgher boy who hated the rich, and one day murdered a rich lad and stole all his shit. His parents were horrified and told him to run before he was hanged for it. He became a con man, pretending to be a noble with the clothes he stole and randomly killing whenever he felt like it or saw money in it. Being an idiot, he believes Khorne will give him immense wealth and power over men, all he has to do is keep hurting and killing people to get this.

Oh, he's also possessed as fuck and desperately trying to figure out how to get the powerful Khornate demon out of his head before the mutations make him a Chaos Spawn. He's only in the region to try to find a powerful artifact protected in Karitamen's tomb that he thinks will get the demon out of him (It will, by letting the demon manifest completely and devour him. Dumbass cultist.) Strykssen is supposed to be very smooth, but I think it's more that Artilli is easy to manipulate. And even the Khornate's influence hasn't really spurred the prince to action yet. Strykssen is available for a major human villain for the PCs to expose and destroy, and Artilli is the powerful noble and reason they can't easily just stab this sniveling asshole in the dick. Strykssen himself isn't a complete pushover, either; he's got Cult Acolyte of Khorne (despite being described as a Magus) and pretty good stats, though a 3rd tier fighter would just butcher the prick even with his ability to turn into an angry bear man when in trouble. Like most cultists, he's already lost the game, he just doesn't know it; there's no way for him to actually get what he wants in this adventure.

Our second Prince is a Princess, Fatandira, an Arabyan nomad who has ended up a noble in the Border Princes. Her family were wandering peddlers and entertainers who roamed the area, until eventually her family was accused of witchcraft. She managed to escape the attack, but the crazed townspeople seized her mother and brother. She eventually got word that they had been tortured into a confession of Chaos Sorcery and burned at the stake, and this lit the fires of vengeance in the young Arabyan. She learned to fight, she learned to kill, and when she came back, well, that village isn't there anymore.

She found vengeance to be pretty empty. She didn't exactly regret taking revenge, but it didn't solve anything, or protect anyone. Wandering the badlands of the Border Princes as a mercenary, she eventually hit on a better purpose in life: To build a state where her family would not have had to fear harassment and where there would have been no cause for vengeance against the villagers in the first place. She began to pick up other mercenaries and soldiers with similar ideas, other people sick of how violent and vicious the Border Princes are, and began to build her own fiefdom on top of them. At first mistaken for a bandit leader as she raided from the Worlds' Edge Mountains, villages in her chosen principality soon found that she harbored no ill intentions once they gave up. She is the smallest of the three principalities in the region, but those who have tried to crush her have found her soldiers are motivated by more than just a petty urge for more gold; so far, they've been too stubborn and dedicated to destroy.

Stats wise, Fatandira is a force to be reckoned with; all the Princes are. Mechanically she's let down a lot by the game's insistence the Repeater Crossbow is a viable weapon (Seriously, it's Damage 2 and has shit range. Use a Longbow! You have Rapid Reload!) but even with that, she's a great shot with pretty much every ranged talent. She's way more directly combat focused than Artilli, though she's still got Outlaw Chief to give her Command and stuff. She's also the toughest of any of the Princes by a longshot; Tough 60% makes her a tank. She hates the other two princes in the area because both of them have treated her like a joke for being a woman, and Haflok (we'll get to him) also looks down on her for not being white (he dislikes any 'foreigners or nomads', despite being a foreigner to the region, leading a nomad band of knights). None of them take her seriously, despite her being written as the best of the three. The only one who actually takes her seriously is Karitamen, amusingly; he plans to eventually destroy all 3 Princes when he gets free because they're usurpers, but he wishes he didn't have to do so to Fatandira. He sees her as a woman of good sense with the right instincts as to order and rulership.

She's also pretty lonely and would like to marry some day. A PC who gets in her good graces might end up a co-ruler by marriage.

Haflok is our last Prince, and a Sigmarite Knight. Mir Haflok is an Imperial who tried to run away from home at a young age, nearly starved to death, and was saved by a wandering Sigmarite priest. He became an Initiate, studied the ways of his God, and decided to become a Templar rather than a Priest. While he is a serious knight, his true love among the Sigmarites was having a good reason to read all about ancient campaigns and battles and histories. For a time, he thought about retiring from the Knighthood to become a church scholar, but he had ended up with a large number of fellow knights following his banner. Not wanting to let them down, he looked for a place to campaign where he might make a home and being a bit of a dolt, decided invading a wartorn politically unstable hell bordered by massive swarms of Orcs was a good plan for this. He also thought that maybe invading the Badlands (the region full of orcs bordering on the Border Princes) would stop them from attacking the Empire.

Apparently he never read about the time Bretonnia tried to do that for an 80 year Errantry War to absolutely no effect. Good job on the history there, Mir.

He discovered almost right away that his campaign was hopeless, and decided to withdraw and make a region of the Border Princes his outpost instead. He decided he was chosen by God to defend this region and rule it, his knights and himself thinking themselves Sigmar's missionaries by the sword in the region. He would rather spend all his time fighting orcs, but will protect his 'god given' territory against the other princes, too. He believes God has a purpose for him, he just doesn't actually like it very much; it's a weird mix of zealous arrogance and reluctance with this guy. This is because he has dreams of Sigmar himself coming to him and telling him to conquer. This is because Karitamen has picked him out as the weakest willed Prince and the easiest to control; the man will believe whatever he's told as long as it's Sigmar telling him, and he's the kind of man who thinks he'll get the personal attention of his God. Karitamen intends to use him as a tool to get out of his tomb and start his reconquest of the region.

Haflok is actually the weakest of the three Princes in combat, amusingly; he only has 2 Attacks, never having done a 'full' fighting track. He's an excellent poet and if he wasn't being urged around by what he thinks is Sigmar himself, he would gladly be spending his time trying to 'fill his lands with culture and beauty'. He wants to be done fighting and to build schools and things for his people, but God is telling him to fight and so he'll keep being a knight. He thinks Artilli is a stupid little weasel and petty bully (he is correct) and sees Fatandira as beneath him for being a woman, a nomad, and a Arabyan, because he's still kind of an arrogant prick. He's not a bad ruler, just...he's the kind of guy who thinks he's the super important main character, is the sense I get, and that leads him to make some very poor decisions.

These are the mortal rulers of the area, all of whom are intended to be able to be enemies, patrons, allies, or obstacles for the PCs. You won't get a lot on using each individual Prince, but instead they're all there in case you need a human villain or you want to focus on bringing down that Khornate prick and the idiot he's bamboozled by telling him he's great. It's amusing that Fatandira is the only one not being influenced by some outside supernatural force, too.

Next Time: Slaanesh o'Clock

I liked you guys better in Ashes of Middenehim

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

I liked you guys better in Ashes of Middenehim

One of the reasons these three Princes matter to the wider world is that they're fighting over one of the solid passes into the World's Edge Mountains. Going east through these passes is one of the few ways people get out into the Darklands, and from there onto the road to Ind and Cathay. While Fatandira controls most of the land at the base of the mountains and near Mad Dog Pass, all three Princes want it. Fatandira also has the fewest troops and the smallest domain, so she's never been able to fully secure it. The Pass is the key to the strategic situation and something all 3 rulers contest. Also, north of the pass is the Tomb Valley and Karitamen's actual house. Something to note about the scale of the area: None of these principalities are big places. Haflok has the south of the Howling River, and from border to border his land is about 50 miles across. Artilli has the northern bank, and he's got a similar size of territory. Fatandira controls the area near the mouth of the pass and the meeting point of the Howling River and its tributaries, and at longest point her land is only 20 miles across. All three only control a single large, walled town and then a few scattered smaller settlements. These are not grand nations and huge armies, these are more like warbands and mercenary companies.

This leads to the weirdest part of things, the Town of Vitrolle. Vitrolle is a trading post and fort that is at a tremendously important strategic location for all 3 Princes at the meeting point of the branches of the Howling River. Somehow, they have always ignored it and left it neutral. It was a fairly small town that existed to service traders and travelers, until shortly after the Storm of Chaos when a caravan of 40 outsiders came to settle in the area. Then killed the town guard, took over, and began to systematically torture and convert the inhabitants.

Yeah, it's a Slaanesh cult. In fact, it's a Slaanesh cult you might remember from Ashes of Middenheim's city write-up. These are the survivors of the massive fuckup at the Templar's Downfall, where a relatively minor (they claim to be way more major in this book) Slaanesh Cult called the Jade Scepter tried and failed to summong a shitload of Daemonettes out of one of the city's cabarets during the siege. Directly into a bunch of Warrior Priests and Battle Wizards who were investigating suspicious magic at the cabaret already. You can guess how well summoning some of the weaker demons in the setting right into the teeth of a bunch of actual demon hunters went. Most of the cult was rounded up and executed, but these guys escaped, fled to the Border Princes, and established a torture-murder cult semi-unnoticed in the middle of an exceptionally strategically important spot at the meeting point of three warring principalities. No, I don't know how they're getting away with it either. You know Chaos. They get free passes.

There's a big sidebar about 'No, actually the Jade Scepters were really powerful and not kind of incompetent like in Ashes, you see! Boris Toddbringer's young wife was actually their Magus but then the boring generic super Tzeentch cult the Purple Hand killed her and the Scepters hid and then-' and I'm guessing a lot of this is referencing the 1e grand campaign again, just like the Purple Hand cult. I liked them a lot better as a kind of isolated minor cult that was mostly keeping to itself until the invaders managed to promise them enough that they did a stupid and tried to pull off the demon summoning. It was endearing.

Now they're your standard murderous Slaaneshi warband types, led by the standard issue bored noble who found his calling in how much he enjoyed hurting women because there's really only one way official stuff ever writes Slaanesh despite there being more potential in that God. You know how Chaos goes. Gotta stick to the basics or it might accidentally manage to be compelling some time. Their leader is reasonably dangerous because he has the full Slaaneshi Magus career, but his 85% Fellowship isn't going to help him much against PCs because A: His cult has set itself up in a town where it's displaying art objects made from the bones of travelers they've murdered so hiding his presence is out the window and B: Charm and stuff don't actually, you know, do anything to PCs. You're supposed to be horrified by this bog standard torture-sex-murder guy because he's so affable and polite while being a sadist and he's so boring. He's every cliche you have about Slaaneshi and he sucks. He and the Jade Scepters are barely important to the story, too; all 3 Princes know something's up with his town (but haven't actually done anything about it) because Artilli's been told by his Khornate, Haflok's been warned by 'Sigmar', and Fantadira just has scouts who actually saw the torture-murder people kidnapping travelers to torture-murder.

They do have a giant six-armed statue of a snake woman with a fist-sized chunk of warpstone on her jade scepter, though. That's the only reason they matter; a lot of characters want that warpstone for various reasons. Strykssen wants it because he thinks it might have the power to banish the demon in him. Karitamen wants it because fuck yeah, massive magical battery will be really helpful if he escapes his tomb so he can call shitloads of skeletons. The Jade Scepters would like to keep it because they lugged this fucking thing all the way from Middenheim, you have no idea what a chore that was.

Note: The cult is only like, 40-60 people, most of them ordinary cultist types, and the only wizard is their Mag 2 Magus. An actual well-built 3rd tier party would wipe out Vitrolle by themselves as a sidequest. Keep this in mind for how future developments treat them. One of the general flaws in this adventure is the way the adventure tends to treat the two Chaos villains as nearly unstoppable, when again, they're supposed to be up against PCs who are on the very scary side of the power curve. I could forgive them a lot more if they at least did something more interesting than the standard 'oh they make art out of slashed up bodies how transgressive! And their leader is a polite man who loves the screams of the tortured!' Slaaneshi stuff. C'mon, guys, it's the Goddess of Desire and Perfection! You could do so much better.

The writing for Karitamen and the Princes generally makes up for the weakness of the Chaos third of the plot, but c'mon, it's Warhammer. We all knew Chaos was going to be the third wheel on proceedings and even with how much they can suck, I can still see a good way to get a good climax to the story out of them. We'll get to that in time.

Next Time: The Realm and Plans of Karitamen the Death Scarab

The Principle Character

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

The Principle Character

Karitamen the Death Scarab is one of the absolute main characters of this adventure; most of it will revolve around him and the PCs' interaction with him through exploring his tomb. This is intentional; the PCs learn a lot about Karitamen through studying his tomb if they aren't just looting the place bare as they go. Fortunately, he's also one of the best written characters in the adventure, and he gets at why the Tomb King fluff is so compelling. There are many different ways the PCs' eventual meeting with him can go, but by the time they run into him, he'll know them and they'll know him. It's very possible for the final encounter with the King to start out (or even remain) non-violent, and one of the central questions the adventure wants to ask is 'why would you reflexively assume the undead thing in the tomb is evil given his actions?'

Now, he's no secret noble hero, either. To really get into his character, I'm going to go back a little and go into more detail on his history. Karitamen was born to parents who were just close enough to the King of Khemri to get him nobility but nothing else, a position that suited him fine in life. His whole life he's been a competitive man with a desire to demonstrate that he deserves whatever he has. As a boy, this manifested in a love of sports and games, and a disdain for his studies, until he discovered military history and tactics. When something keeps his interest, he's pretty intelligent; he was just bored with reading poetry and really enjoyed the nature of studying how to win. My guess is studying war and tactics felt closer to a game to him. He eagerly signed up for the military but refused the minor, safe officer's position his birth would give him and went to the front lines at the World's Edge Mountains as a common trooper.

During his path there, his training unit was ambushed by orcs and lost their officer. Like his fellow trainees, he panicked and reverted to instinct. Unlike them, he'd trained himself hard enough that his instinct was 'use khopesh on orc'. When other survivors saw the muscular Nehekaran boy standing amongst four dead orcs, calmed down and now shouting orders to the others as he cut through his enemies, they rallied to him and managed to survive. He led them the rest of the way to their intended post, where the local king awarded him an officer's position for having already effectively acted as an officer, and his fellow survivors eagerly agreed to fight under him. He was happy to accept; he'd earned it. He continued to rise through the ranks, becoming first a general, and then later being awarded rule of the region he'd conquered by his High King.

Rulership turned out to be just as enjoyable for the ambitious general as warfare; there were still things he could measure to see exactly how well he was doing. Were his people fed? Was crime low? Were the Gods honored in his realm? During all this, he also met a young priest of the Mortuary cult who was practicing necromancy, and discovered magic fascinated him as much as tactics. They became friends over his tutelage, and the great Death Scarab (his men called him that after a poisonous scarab whose bite doomed the bitten; someone facing him was already dead and didn't know it yet) added magic to his list of abilities and interests. He genuinely likes to observe different ways of using magic and if the PCs have a caster among their number, Karitamen will be watching them closely to see how and why they use it. If they have a friendly meeting with him, he'll probably ask any Wizards, Witches, or Priests an awful lot of questions, happy to 'talk shop' again like he did with his friend Tetrahon the Priest.

The problems came when he lost his family. This comes up later in the story, but I think this is a good place to put it. It was normal for Nehekaran kings to have concubines and to marry multiple times if their wife died; the more heirs they produced, the better. Karitamen did not follow this principle; he married once, and passionately loved his wife. They had four children together, but none of them survived to adulthood. Two of his sons died of natural causes, but his third son was killed at the age of 8, a victim of a missed attempt on the King's life that killed his eight year old son. His daughter fell into the Howling River and was swept away. There's a note later in the book that he's never accepted that she died, and if the PCs lie to him and say they know what happened to her and that she lived, it takes no checks to make him believe it. He so wants to believe she had a life that he does so immediately, almost no matter how preposterous their story is. His wife couldn't take the loss of her children, and died of grief. With no heirs and unwilling to remarry (and probably pissed as hell that someone had tried to kill him, failed, and killed his son) his rulership grew darker and he became more and more focused on his studies of magic. He didn't want to produce an heir to carry on his legacy, he wanted to do it. To do that he would have to live forever.

Increasingly, he bent everything he could to living forever, to the detriment of his realm. More and more discontent sprung up, like the assassins who had killed his son, and he became more and more brutal in cracking down on it as distractions from his studies. His once prosperous realm started to fall into tyranny as its master obsessed about how he could stick around and ensure it would remain safe and protected forever. Eventually, the assassination attempts reached a critical mass, and a coalition of nobles managed to break his magic defenses with a dark, Chaos-enchanted dagger. They then messed around with the wards on his intended tomb so that he would be entrapped forever, even if he raised himself like the Mortuary cult promised. More spitefully, when entombing his wife and childrens' mummified remains, they cremated them. In Nehekaran religion, that means they completely denied their souls the afterlife and ensured Karitamen would never see them again. Dick move, conspirator nobles. They also chopped his priest buddy into pieces and nailed Tetrahon all through the tomb.

This all probably would have been the end if not for Nagash. Nagash's great spell of awakening brought Karitamen back, only for Karitamen to find he was stuck in his tomb. He's able to reach beyond it in dreams and with magic, and he can send his servants and warriors forth, but he was bound there by the wards. Annoyed, he used his magic to ensure the usurpers themselves went mad and died of mummy curses (they probably would have gone down to the fall of the Nehekaran Empire anyway) and then went back to sleep.

He probably would have slept much longer if Slaanesh hadn't had plans for his region. Apparently, Slaanesh actually planned ahead to fuck over the Tomb King; the Slaaneshi are terrified of him and see him as a big threat to their plans. So Slaanesh manipulated a dupe into carrying two powerful magical artifacts and finding a once-in-a-lifetime passage into the tomb, wearing a magic amulet and gauntlet that serve as some macguffins for the adventure. The dupe then put his amulet on Karitamen's door, providing an extra ward that keeps the Tomb King locked in his tomb, and dropped the magical hell gauntlet and walked into a blade trap. Karitamen was awakened again by the presence of so much dark magic and man, is he pissed. He hates Chaos, more than almost anything in the world, and being locked in even further (his undead could have gotten rid of the wards, eventually. He can't make them even touch the amulet) by Chaos has really made him mad. He is determined to keep the gauntlet guarded so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands (It's Strykssen's objective. Getting it will let him manifest the demon, which will kill him but he doesn't know that) and to get the damn amulet off his door.

So in trying to ensure the sleeping king stayed asleep, Slaanesh woke him up and now he's actively taking measures against her cult. Good job, Slaanesh.

Now that he's awake, he's looking at the situation in the region and realizing it's infested with Chaos. This pisses him off further. Even more annoying, three separate usurpers rule what is rightfully his and Nehekara seems to have vanished. He's slowly figured out it was probably that Nagash guy, and has sworn that once he gets out of Tomb Jail he's going to find out if Nagash is really dead, and if not, he's going to figure out how to waste that bastard for good. As far as overarching goals that's hardly the worst, Karitamen. He also intends to restore as much of the Nehekaran Empire as he can, and to rule his people again. He doesn't care that most of them have no Nehekaran ancestry; they live on his lands, they are his people, and his responsibility. In assessing the three Princes he intends to kill, he found Artilli a waste of time and a tainted little weasel (I kind of love how much everyone hates the preening would-be-Machiavellian schemer), Haflok a narrow minded but well-intentioned idiot, and Fatandira someone he kind of wishes he didn't have to kill. He likes that she's flexible and the most willing to flex to do what's right for her people, specifically. Still a usurper, though, still has to kill her. Just how it works.

With Haflok being an idiot, he seized on the Sigmar idea because it made him easy to manipulate. He originally hoped to use Haflok as a pawn to free himself, but he's had to be careful about giving him too many conflicting orders. He's slowly figured out Sigmar's doctrines from talking to his chosen knight, and is careful to mostly give him orders in keeping with them. He's tried to use his dream powers to influence the others, but has had to be more careful. They're smarter and don't have a central figure he can impersonate. Artilli has ignored him, already under Khornate influence, but he's hit on the idea of sending dreams to Fatandira's soldiers instead of her. That way, her trusted men (who might not be as suspicious as she is) can bring her the ideas he wants them to.

Karitamen is slowed down in taking over the region by several factors. One, he's something of a perfectionist and finding out he has infinite time has made him enjoy being able to move slowly for once. He was always in a hurry in life because he feared age and infirmity after the loss of his family. Now he can take as long as he wants and just observe with his magic. He also wants to do this because he realizes he's millennia out of date and is trying to figure out the languages, cultures, and technology of the age he's woken into. These 'gun' things, the heavy armor people wear, the way they use straight swords instead of proper khopeshes? He wants to know why and how it all works and observing them first will tell him. Considering how much he enjoyed studying tactics as a lad, I imagine he watches partly because he's genuinely curious and enjoying seeing new ways of fighting and commanding. He also wants to find a solution to his appearance first, if he can. He's afraid that if the living see him as a horrifying monster he'll never be able to properly become their king, because they will hate his hideous and rotted appearance. Also he was kind of vain and the Mortuary Cult had promised him that when the future unfroze him from cryogenics raised him from death he would have his perfect and youthful body. He's pretty disappointed that didn't happen.

Man, is he ever going to hate Vampires if he runs into one.

He's hit on a solution to his problem, but it's a weird one. He wants adventurers to free him. He wants people to come to his tomb, explore it, and get him the hell out of here. But as he intends to offer lordship and power to any who free him, he wants to make sure they're worthy of it like he was (that old personal philosophy coming back). So he's leaving the traps on and watching what would-be explorers do. So far, no-one has made it, but then again your PCs haven't been in here yet.

I like Karitamen because he's got a spotted record. He was a great king until his family died, and his obsession with living forever might have been common among Nehekaran nobility but it tainted his rule. At the same time, him going a bit off after his son was murdered in an attempt on his life is understandable. Plus, there's a lot of implication he's calmed down a lot since waking up a mummy. He's got eternity now, after all. The thing he wanted most is his, even if it isn't how he wanted it. His overall long term goals aren't evil at all, it's more whether or not you'd trust him to achieve them. He just wants to rule and do a good job doing it. And kill Nagash. And if you reach him without pissing him off during the tomb, he absolutely will have a sit down and talk with your PCs at length, making a case for himself and genuinely asking their help. He's human. He had friends, family, a life. He's done good and he's done bad. There are admirable things in his desires and his background, but also a lot of arrogance and ambition.

In short, he can be used a whole bunch of ways. He can become an ally of convenience, he can be an enemy, he can even be an actual friend or patron. He's also reasonable enough that you get the sense the PCs will have a chance to persuade him and talk back, too. Learning about him through the adventure actually matters to how your PCs will interact with him, and the whole tomb sequence is effectively a long interaction with the central NPC. Through the tomb, they'll see what he valued and what he believed, leading up to the climax of actually encountering him. This is why Tomb Kings are great! They can be people, and it's much more fun to interact with people than puppets.

Next Time: How the heck did we get here?

How did it come to this?

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

How did it come to this?

Another nice thing is a whole section on reasons your PCs might be here, and how each of the Princes might get them into the mess with the tomb. If you're just explorers and want to focus on the tomb as more of a dungeon crawl, the Princes want the tomb's money and are willing to finance expeditions to look into it. Fatandira holds the PCs horses in collateral but offers a reasonable payout (she doesn't want them finding the treasure and running off with all of it themselves). Haflok trusts them immediately but gets pissed off if they ask for a reward or accept one they offer, because he's kind of an idiot and expects other people to be as into being a storybook hero as he is. Artilli tries to take a PC hostage and force the group to go on his behalf while sending soldiers to shadow them. If he can't take a PC hostage, he tries to steal something they care about.

Artilli is not likely to survive the adventure if he does this. There is no quicker way to piss off a group of players than to pull that kind of move on them. You do that and you are now one the shitlist of an experienced and probably very angry adventuring party. He also tries to get out of paying them or even giving them credit for anything on threat of killing them if they try to claim anyone but him did anything this adventure. Artilli is probably going to die in most groups' games. Empty threats and bullying don't work great on PCs even when there's an actual power differential; Artilli is a 3rd tier character with a small army (his forces have trouble with an infested town of 40 cultists, none of these Princes command huge armies) trying to threaten a full team of similarly leveled characters. If the PCs bring back a bunch of treasure, Fatandira will pay as promised and offer the PCs a place in her court, Haflok will pay anything he promised while grumbling and potentially make the same offer of bringing them onboard, Artilli will try to backstab the PCs. Even if he didn't have Chaos Boy in his corner, it's hilarious that the guy who is supposed to be 'the cleverest' just pulls dimwitted power moves the whole time and probably gets murdered by pissed off PCs.

It's possible that with increasing skeletons wandering around, the Princes might hire the PCs to go in and kill whatever's raising them. None of the Princes really know much about the tomb; Fatandira knows the stories about old Nehekara and knows the name Karitamen the Death Scarab from her people, but none of them really know an old Nehekaran might be 'alive'. In this case, the Princes might even be talked into working together or helping the PCs. They all have reasons not to want to be overrun with the undead. The issue here is that fighting Karitamen is kind of a big ask. It's doable, especially for a good party (a well built party will probably best him if they make it through the tomb) but it kind of locks the players into a simple dungeon crawl. Artilli again tries to betray them and force them to claim he destroyed the Tomb King personally on pain of death and not pay them. Fatandira pays them and gives them credit, content to be the one who hired and ordered them into action. Haflok is overjoyed no matter who gave them the order and calls the party great heroes who have Sigmar's blessing, not realizing they killed his Sigmar. Then of course the PCs will have to deal with Chaos on their own, next.

Alternately, it's possible that you might write the Princes knowing more about Karitamen and one of them wanting to try to make common cause with him and release him. They hire the PCs to get down there and act as emissaries to the Tomb King. As per before, Karitamen doesn't turn off the traps, wanting to see how they make their way through his tomb to take their measure. It's entirely possible this can go well if the players impress him and are working for a Prince he doesn't hate. While he sees them as usurpers, if one of them is directly responsible for sending emissaries to free him he might forgive it and make common cause. Or he might take his freedom and attack the entire region. Or he might work with the Prince who freed him long enough to destroy Chaos and unite the region, then declare himself sole king. It depends on where you want to go next with the story.

If the players need to find out more about the tomb, they can start piecing together some of its secrets before they go in by figuring out how to manipulate the three Princes to learn more from them. Artilli is easy; flatter him and make him think he's being clever and he'll let a lot slip in showing off how careful he is not to let anything slip. He loves playing word games where he 'doesn't quite reveal' something without realizing he's revealing everything. He is very much the archetypal 'not nearly as smart as he thinks he is' prick. Fatandira is still looking for a husband and a PC who looks like a good candidate could learn a lot from her. Haflok will tell fellow Sigmarites everything, as soon as he's convinced they're actually Sigmarites. If you know the right holy passages and debate theology competently, he'll happily tell everything he knows.

PCs might be originally hired to find the tomb and keep anyone else from waking up what's in it. Of course, in the process, they might get curious.

PCs might be hired to destroy the tomb, but the question is, how? It's a solid construction in a big mountain, and it's survived millennia. Getting in there with explosives and blowing it to pieces might be possible, but you don't exactly have C-4 and sophisticated timers in the Fantasy 17th Century Balkans. Planning how to blow up the tomb (especially while a pissed off mummy is trying to kill you in the process) might be trickier than actually exploring it.

PCs might not be interested in the Tomb at all, and it might be totally secondary to their real goal: Overthrowing and taking land from one or more of the Princes. In this case, the tomb serves as a wildcard that offers a source of wealth and possibly an ally in making the PCs Border Princes themselves, rather than the actual objective of the adventure.

Finally, depending on what kinds of PCs you are, you might be here mostly to fight Chaos. There's two significant Chaos threats festering here, and the Princes all want Vitrolle dealt with. Exposing Strykssen is also a good objective for a party. In doing this, they might be able to get Karitamen's help; he hates Chaos more than almost anything in the world. There's a weird implication that players can't win a direct combat with Strykssen in all this, which is...he's an unarmored man with a minor hidden power to turn into a bear. I often get the sense the writer for this book is not especially familiar with the game's mechanics. This was his first book for the line, after all. Strykssen is reasonably dangerous but his threat is more 'there's an asshole prince with a mercenary company who will protect me because I tell him things he likes hearing', not his personal combat abilities. A party will just kill him, they don't need an ancient Tomb King to do it for them if they can get into a position where he's exposed and they're fighting him. Same for most of the Vitrolle threat. The mechanics in a lot of this adventure will be a bit dodgy.

If they kill Strykssen after exposing him, Artilli is very embarrassed to have been fooled but quietly very grateful to them, and for once doesn't try to betray them. Maybe the dumb bastard can learn better after that.

Still, there's a lot of different ways to use the characters and concepts given here to get your PCs into the tomb and on their way to see the King, and I appreciate that. The hooks are mostly good, aside from the fact that Artilli's moves are just not going to work on players. For a supposed political mastermind in the making he sure ain't good at reading the room and certainly falls for a lot of flattery.

Next Time: The Tomb of the Liche Lord

The Tomb of The Death Scarab: Final Set Up

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

The Tomb of The Death Scarab: Final Set Up

Despite this being the majority of the book, I'm going to be covering the whole tomb in the next update, while this one handles all the setup. This is for several reasons: One, I'm really bad with maps and I've never actually run 'dungeon crawl' games for that very reason. I'm not entirely confident I can assess the quality of the general mapmaking very well. Two, I think it's better to get a sense of the dungeon and the kinds of encounters in it, where I'll talk about some of the standout dangers and the possible boss fight with Karitamen, rather than an endless list of rooms. We'll also be comparing two versions of the PC team against this. Team 1 is the basic team provided in the back of the book. To demonstrate how fucking stupid balancing them entirely by Number of Careers is, I am also preparing a Team 2. It contains versions of the characters who are all built to Woldred's level of EXP and who don't give a fuck how many Careers that takes (but are all built on their 'canon' foundation). It also assumes Woldred actually spends his 1000 GC nest egg on outfitting his buddies instead of just having the money to fulfill the Trappings systems' demands for promotion. He's already promoted. He can spend it now!

Part of the reason for all this is that there are two combats (both optional, mind you, though one is primarily a matter of a skill check) that I can think of off the top of my head that I just don't think the canon party can win. Not without serious casualties, at least. The other is to show off that even characters who did silly, fluffy career paths like this party would actually still be useful if they just had equal EXP. The class selection hurts them some, yes, but it's the 'missing 27 advances' that hurts Goran so badly that I'd say this party doesn't have a primary Fighter. Also I just really like messing with character building.

So without further ado, let's introduce Party Prime: The guys who are built more like the 6 of them have been playing a whole campaign together.

First up, because he needed it the most, is Goran Prime. Now the party actually has a primary fighter. Going up to the 5700 EXP Woldred has (2700 over his original total) gives Goran a lot to play with: He blows through his last Advance in Bodyguard and grabs Heal. Then he goes through all of Sergeant, because he can do that for about 2400 EXP, and promotes into a Judicial Champion. He's now a 3rd tier fighter, picking up his third attack and generally better stats. With SB 5 and TB 5, 58% WS, and 3 attacks? Goran can take on at least one Ushabti (ancient egyptian stone mech) which was one of the bottleneck fights for the canon party. Also, going by the Trappings system, he's got full medium armor. DR 8 is way more respectable and will make his 16 Wounds go a long way, but he's not done yet. Woldred spends 230 of the team's 1000 GC slush fund to put their fighter in plate. Now Goran's able to really tank for the team if (and when) combat comes up. As an added bonus from Sergeant he's actually got a 51% Fel and he's pretty good with people and commanding troops.

Next comes Ehrl Prime, because he's the easiest. He's missing 15 advances compared to his leader, and he's already pretty well built, aside from hopping back and spending 1 of them back in Student to get Heal. C'mon, man. It's 100 EXP to open up a whole new way you add value to the team. He Promotes into Physician almost immediately after (buying the +5 BS he was missing from Scholar first) and proceeds to style all over medical school with his 73% Int, grabbing Heal +10, Surgery, learning to use his huge Int to prepare poisons in case a team in the Border Princes has any need of that (gee I wonder) and learning about science. He's now a deeply capable doctor as well as a perception and searching machine, and he knows a ton about history and language that was already going to be useful. He's also free to promote out of Physician any time, and his options all open up a lot: Spy, Explorer, etc can all make him more 'adventurey' as soon as he earns any more EXP. Now the team has a polymath and extremely skilled doctor. He's even a bit tougher and less sickly! Woldred also shells out 90 GC to put the poor guy in Studded Leather. No drawbacks, 2 AV? Definitely worth it. Now he can take a hit or two if it comes up.

Next is Thorgek Prime, because he's also pretty easy, too. He's got a decent base of thieving skill, hampered by his poor Agility. He'll grab his last WP advance from Tomb Robber and pick up Luck while he's there; Luck is a great talent because an extra Fortune a day is critical. He'll then promote for 100 (I'm going RAW here) into Cat Burglar. He blows through Cat Burglar extremely quickly; he basically has everything it has and mostly uses it to grab a bunch of +10s to skills he already has and amp his Agility. Funny how most of these characters end up in 3rd tier classes if they have Woldred's EXP, isn't it? He goes into Master Thief, because he is a dwarf of talent and means. By the time he's out of EXP, he has 2 Attacks and 59 WS, so he can be a 'secondary' fighter (also has Dodge), has a respectable 49% Agi and +20s in most of his thieving skills to bolster it, and is generally actually good at his job. When I was testing the crypt before, it was Thorgek that got the PCs killed a lot, because canon Thorgek isn't very good at dealing with traps. An extra +20% or so to most of his success chances, an extra +1 Fortune a day, some more Wounds...he's now a respectable Rogue and he's going to get even better fast with his next 300 EXP. Also, he gets the same Studded treatment as Ehrl for 90 GC. As a Dorf, he could use heavier armor, but he's also pretty tough and it's the 'thief' armor.

Johan Prime only needed 6 advances. He grabs Charm Animal and Sure Shot and that last WP and WS advance he needed, then Promotes into Veteran. He'll be making himself into the second actual fighter for the team. This requires him to get full Mail armor, but Woldred's wallet can handle it. He grabs Strike Mighty while he's here. Might as well; he'll now be a great shot and a great backup for Goran. If I was really min-maxing he'd go into Outlaw Chief and grab a 3rd attack, but this fits his whole loner who's good friends with his actual party story better and I'm trying to stick to the spirit of the PCs.

Therese Original wasn't much use to the team in the dungeon before. Therese Prime is a badass white witch. She needs 15 advances, and spends 8 of them on buying 4 more spells before she promoted out of Witch. She grabs Father of Thorns, which lays down an AoE that slows enemies and does damage if they try to move within, because you would not believe how bad that fucks undead. She picks up The Ox Stands, so she can cast a spell and cancel fear in her friends. She grabs Lightning Bolt because while Fireball would be better, she's going for kind of an arcane Taal/Rhya theme here and lightning is Taal's anger (also a pretty useful, cheap Damage 6 ranged attack for her. Previously, she had Mighty Missile but no actual missiles). She also grabs Leaf Fall because it's cool and will protect her from getting shot if they run into crossbow shaped trouble. She then picks up the one BS she was missing to finish Vagabond and promotes into a Career Compendium class: Rapscallion. They're a roguish, friendly social type and everything about her describes her as friendly and playful, plus the party already has 2 Scouts. She spends 3 advances on becoming a social powerhouse with +30 Fel (Giving her as 66), grabs Dodge to have it, and then buys Charm +10. She's now well set up to be a nature witch and handle social interaction for the team. Kind of a jack of all trades character and friendly white witch.

All Woldred Prime does is replace Crossbow with Longbow and actually spend his Shallya's Mercy to make his BS not suck. He's already the measuring stick. Also swaps himself to Full Studded.

This is a bit of a silly exercise on my part, I admit, but it's here for two reasons. One, I put the team through a lot of what's coming up and they had a Bad Time because three critical members of the team were underleveled and poorly built. The other reason is to show off that even with the 'poor builds', if they had the EXP Woldred had they'd still come out looking like cool heroes. In the original, if you were playing Therese, Thorgek, or Goran you were getting fucked because of the weird way they decided to balance the party. In this version, they're still built as fluffy, themed characters instead of picking up the 'best' stuff mechanically and they're still awesome. Look at Therese Prime, for instance; nature witch with a cool bag of magic tricks who is also a social power house and wanderer? That sounds like a really fun PC to play (and fills in a role they didn't really have nailed down, with the social skills). Goran can lead troops and fight hard on the front lines. Thorgek is a respectable rogue who is also a dwarf and thus kind of a badass. The issue with the original builds wasn't even their 'builds', it was the yawning gulf of EXP between them all. If you have a bunch of EXP it is really hard not to come out a cool character in 2e.

That, and it helps show why I keep using the term tier rather than career. Goran Original and Therese Original were '3rd careers'. Therese had even finished a 2nd tier career. You actually do get good things by jumping around at low tiers and multiclassing and dipping. You can turn out great from doing so! What fucked the originals was just the way they were 100% dedicated to 'everyone in this team has 3 careers'. Goran Prime and Therese Prime and Thorgek Prime are all on par with their teammates now. The only one I'd say was really badly built even is Thorgek, and it's mostly because he gets nothing from Miner really. But when you consider he's supposed to have a randomly rolled career and rolled Miner first (similar for Goran rolling Militia) you can see how you can roll with a slightly awkward 1st career and still come out useful if you live. These guys inadvertently became a good vehicle for exploring the EXP and Advancement systems a bit further.

Anyway, when we move into the tomb, I'll be talking about where Team 1 failed and how Team 2 did in their place. Spoiler: Team 2 does an awful lot better, as you'd expect from a team actually built to the same high power level as their leader and who actually spent some of their money on things like 'armor'. Team 1's big failings were Thorgek's relatively poor thievery (there are a fuckton of traps coming) and a total lack of DR that made even mook enemies really dangerous. Also the way Therese was pretty much dead weight. Team 2 has no dead weight. Team 2 is Adventurer Prime.

Next Time: The Tomb Itself

Tomb of Horrors

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

Tomb of Horrors

So, it's time to get into the actual Tomb of Karitamen the Death Scarab. I won't be going room by room in case someone inspired by this review actually wants to play this adventure some time and also because 7 levels of dense dungeon crawl would be a little more than I want to summarize. Instead, I'll be talking about particular encounters, the structure of the Tomb, the way the trap rules work (or don't), and what killed Team 1. You see, I ran through the encounters with the canon team and with the upgraded Team 2 I made. Team 1...did not have a good time in the Tomb of the Death Scarab. Team 2 did way better, as you'd imagine from versions of the characters where everyone was brought up to 5500-5700 EXP like Woldred. Team 2 managed the tomb with 0 casualties. Having a useful primary fighter, a caster who has actual relevant magic, a skilled doctor, and a thief who is both 20% better at thieving and a good secondary warrior makes the Tomb a lot easier! Who could have guessed?

One of the nice bits about the Tomb is that it's got a lot of flavor to it. The Tomb tells you a lot about Karitamen himself, and about ancient Nehekaran burial practices for their wealthiest and most powerful citizens. There's good descriptions of the ornate art, the mummification practices, the statuary, the ships to bear the entombed to the underworld; it's great. You get some really ridiculous, opulent stuff like how Karitamen ordered Nehekaran sand brought in to cover the valley and try to recreate the Great Desert of his homeland (which has mostly blown away, this was pointless of him. It's also eroded the hell out of the front of his tomb and defaced it due to the elements) or huge tribute rooms full of trophies from every tribe the great King conquered. Characters with knowledge of history can puzzle out how to do the proper signs of humility and respect to avoid many traps (Ehrl is an MVP for avoiding combat encounters in both teams). In general, a party that isn't trying to steal everything will avoid a lot of traps and combat encounters; many of the hazards of the Tomb are specifically set up to fuck you if you're defacing or defiling things.

In general, a party of explorers here to plumb the secrets of history will have a way, way easier time than a party here to get rich on a dungeon crawl. That's not to say there's no treasure; there's a lot. Every single room has a format where it has a nice description of the room, then a sidebar on what traps you can expect, what creatures are placed here and how they act, and a 'Development' section on how the plot can develop based on what players do in the area. Another interesting bit: There's actually a rosetta stone reference in the adventure in case you don't have a scholar who knows ancient Nehekaran, because that's a bit of an unusual skill and they still want a scholar or Tomb Robber to be able to read some of the puzzles during the dungeon. When you approach the Tomb, there's a great monument to Karitamen carved in Nehekaran, with translations in Eltharin and Khazalid, plus an additional translation in Classical from some ancient scholar. Anyone who can read those languages and spends some time studying the monument will learn enough about hieroglyphs to be able to puzzle out most of the stuff in the tomb. This is a good thing to put in an adventure intended to be played by long-running PCs; PCs not created specifically for this campaign are unlikely to know Nehekaran. Besides, it's a neat Egyptology reference and it makes sense for the setting and character for the King to have wanted his glory able to be read by the Elder Races, too.

The opening also shows how wildly some of the difficulty in the Tomb can swing. Early on, you encounter a separate temple to the Mortuary cult (which also contains a secret passage that lets you skip down to level 6 if you study it properly), but if you don't do the proper signs of respect (which takes an Academic History test) you get attacked by two Ushabti. Ushabti are basically angry Egyptian statuary mecha. I'm gonna give you the full stat set on an Ushabti, because they killed Team 1 to the last on one of the other levels: WS 46, BS 0, S 55, T 38, Agi 25 (No mental stats, construct). 24 Wounds, 3 Attacks, Strike Mighty, all attacks count as Impact, Movement 5, and AV 5. So they're DR 8, have a pile of wounds, good attacks, decent WS, and hit for Damage 6 Impact. They're also totally fearless, and cause Fear. Every single combat encounter in the Tomb causes Fear, so each character has to succeed at WP or freeze until they succeed WP. One of the things hurting both teams is most of the PCs don't have enormous WP (they're not bad, but no-one's really a stand-out except Woldred) and so Fear hurts them a lot on action economy. Team 1 just doesn't have the firepower or DR to handle the Ushabti. Team 2 does; Goran can take on one of them mostly by himself (though it's a tough fight) long enough for the rest of the team to kill another. Also, Team 2 has the huge advantage where if Therese makes her Fear check, she has a fairly easy spell that instantly snaps the whole party out of Fear. Team 1 does not have this. Now, all Ushabti encounters can be avoided by showing proper respect, but that takes a skill test. If you fuck up, you are in for the Ancient Egyptian Pain Train. These specific ones will back off if you flee; later encounters might not.

The other big bit of swingy difficulty is that the traps can be pretty random in how nasty they are. The entrance steps to the tomb have two hard to notice, hard to disable (though if you notice them, you can probably just go around) traps in a row. An interesting bit: If you have a halfling PC, they're actually too light to set off any of the pressure plate traps like these. They all require 100 pounds of weight. Most traps give you a chance to dodge and evade them with an Agi test or something after you trigger them, which is appreciated. What's not appreciated is the way the scything blade trap here not only inflicts a Damage 5 hit, but it completely bypasses the Wounds and DR system and permanently severs your foot if it hits you (-1 Mv, permanently). That's kind of a dick move; the Wounds/Crits system exists for a reason. There's also a lot of 'bleed traps' in this dungeon, where instead of a poison being a save or die, it inflicts slow damage over time, with Toughness saves every round until you die from the damage, get 2 successes in a row, or get a Heal-10 check from an ally. Team 1's Therese is a competent medic with a 55% Heal skill, but that goes to 45% in that context and it's pretty do or die. By contrast, Team 2's polymath Ehrl has an 83% chance to stop those poisons. Also, an important note about Heal for resource-management of HP: You can get a Heal test per series of traps or per battle where you lose wounds. So Doctor Ehrl on Team 2 does a lot to keep up the party's health. Not all the traps are like this; in fact, the 'just takes your foot off instantly' one is pretty rare, even for the 'Damage 5 hit blade trap' types. It's just weird that they open right off the bat with potential Ushabti encounters and some of the meaner trap types before easing up.

In general, traps are fairly hard to spot (often at -10 or -20) but as this adventure is for higher level PCs and as every PC in a party makes checks to find traps (and even Team 1 has a bunch of sharp eyes and good searchers) that's not a huge issue. Disabling traps is harder, still often at -10 or -20. Team 1's Thorgek was just completely not up to disabling traps; 59% base and 1 Fate is not what you want when going through -10 and -20 checks often. Team 2's was better, but you still want to avoid rather than disable most traps. There is a nice mercy rule where characters who locate or disable traps get a +10 cumulative bonus to defeat similar traps for the rest of the tomb; your adventurer starts to notice the ancient architects' patterns and how Nehekarans engineered their defenses. That's a cool way to reflect what the designers want, which is for the Tomb to be something of a conversation between the players and Karitamen before they meet him.

There's also a very good basic overview of the Tomb and its atmosphere in the book. They talk about why the Nehekarans built this tomb as an inverted pyramid, why they used gold and silver leaf, what scholars know and don't know about Nehekaran burial practices, and what the decision to build a Tomb rather than an external pyramid says about Karitamen's attitude about his own death. This style of Tomb was built for the dead, not to impress the living. It isn't about showing off the glories of the deceased to the living, but rather easing the occupant's passage to the underworld and impressing the Gods with their deeds and life. Also, Karitamen himself knew necromancy, and knew that big pyramids invited necromancers and grave robbers; it's possible he built this place to defend his own dead body from defilement. They give good background on what you'll see among the decor; painted murals and stylized scenes of battle, domestic scenes of the robed King giving out justice or spending time with his family to show he had a good life and was beloved of his subjects, and then images of the great King making a majestic passage to the underworld.

There's enough material described to really evoke the tomb itself, and to give a good idea of what Nehekaran architecture and construction was like. This material is also meant to be useful if you want to run additional Nehekaran tombs in other games, and it's really neat. There's a good description of the colors, the art styles, the extravagance, and why it's all there. For the adventuring archeologist and the treasure-hunter alike, there's a lot to do in these ancient tombs.

I know I said I'd try to do the Tomb in one, but there's no way I could do it justice like that. So I'm going to break this up into a bunch of updates instead. After this general overview, we'll go into more detail about the upper levels and how the two teams did at the most dangerous parts of them.

Next Time: MORE TOMB


posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord


I belabor this point a bit, I know, but in going through the Tomb it's been fascinating to me how differently the two versions of the canon party do. Team 1 just cannot handle this place, because they've got shit equipment and they're balanced on 'number of careers' rather than 'amount of EXP'. Team 2 found the dungeon to be challenging and difficult, but doable. The dungeon actually does balance fine for 'characters who have just entered their third career' if that means '3rd tier, due to having 5500-5700 EXP'. That said, there are a few things that stand out as kind of bullshit.

For one, Tomb Guards. We first run into them during a weird trap where you step into the entrance hall and the whole room shakes a bunch, because the room actually rotated. There are four doors, and the correct answer is realizing the room rotated and trying to 'leave' the tomb. Otherwise, not only are all 3 other rooms trapped (one of them basically being a likely, since it hits you for 6 Damage 6 hits in a row with no save if you don't spot it and avoid triggering it) but each wrong room summons 2 Tomb Guards. Tomb Guards are weird. They're elite skeleton soldiers who have SB 4, TB 4, Strike Mighty, WS 36, 2 Attacks, 16 Wounds, and have a special rule where they trigger Fury like a PC and do it on a 9+. That's nuts! Nothing else in the series does that. I checked and double checked the core book, including an updated version with all errata: It still says Fury happens when a player rolls a 10. Suddenly, these guys do it too? This is the only reference I've found to enemies using the Fury rule. Anyway, if you use that rule for them they're individually meaner than Wights, and they come in numbers. You can fight up to 8 of them in this one room, and this is far from the last time these assholes show up. They did bad things to the lightly armored Team 1, and they're a serious threat to Team 2, even. Guys that hit as hard as Chaos Warriors (and if using their full rules, break the damage caps) with 2 attacks are nothing to be trifled with even if they have DR 5 instead of 9.

Another weird thing about encounter design: Most encounters only have one kind of enemy. You'll just fight 2 Ushabti, or 5 Tomb Guard, or 12 Skeletons. Speaking of, even normal Skeletons were a threat to Team 1 with outnumbering and Fear. Team 2 just kind of bodied them. Depending on how ready you are for combat and how armored your team is, and how unlucky you get on Fear checks, the basic swarms of normal Undead can fuck you up.

Floor 1 also has two really notable encounters: It's all dedicated to Karitamen's great military victories, and so it contains his war chariot. That includes several dwarf prisoners reanimated and mummified and lashed to the chariot. They'll tell the PCs in Khazalid that Karitamen had their beards shaved after capturing them in battle (holy shit, guy! You don't do that to dwarfs!) but then repeat in a monotone that the Death Scarab awakens and will offer the PCs much for service. This can be their first hint that they don't necessarily need to fight Karitamen. Depending on how pissed off any dwarfs in your party are, though, you might be on track to kill the beard-shaver now. You also get bonus EXP for putting them to rest and honoring their loss and sorrow. Similar for several entombed proto-Imperial Taal and Rhya worshipers encountered in the trophy room. Showing respect for the dead actually usually gets you rewards during the adventure.

The other really big encounter on Floor 1 is the Generals. Karitamen had many excellent Generals, because no great war leader does it all alone. He wanted them buried with him to honor them, but many of them had been seriously maimed when they died in battle. To amend that, they were all fitted with glorious, valuable prosthetic limbs that are wonders of engineering. They are also all wights! There are 12 of them, buried with plate armor and valuable goods, and if you open one of their sarcophagi the Wight inside gets up and goes at you. Every round until you flee or kill all 12, another Wight gets up. You can avoid this by not being a dick; if you don't open any sarcophagi, they don't try to kill you. Of course, if you're able to get in a good rhythm of putting down one a round, you can win this encounter; you'll piss off Karitamen an awful lot, but you can win. Also interesting is some of the Generals are women. Killing all of them gets you their jewelry (30 GC each), their armor and weapons, and their amazing treasure limbs, worth 1690 GC. This will continue to be a thing: If you go into this Tomb as a hostile Tomb Robber and steal shit, you will get huge, huge piles of money. By the end, I believe that taking everything you can and that doesn't death curse you can get a party upwards of 20,000 crowns. Enough to buy a business and retire in style. So if that's your playstyle, you will actually get what you want.

Level 2 has a couple serious encounters: For one, if you don't avoid them, the first room jumps you with 12 of those Tomb Guard. Thankfully, avoiding them is just a matter of not getting to close to any as they stand guard over a throne monument, and you already know from level 1 that staying back from Tomb Guard usually keeps them from activating. Still, even Team 2 can't handle 12 of those bastards at once. This is also the first place where it starts to become really apparent there's a pattern to the worst traps. If you see, say, a sacred throne dedicated to Karitamen being great at Kinging, you don't want to try to walk up and sit in it. Many of the nastiest traps exist to stab you in the dick if you try to sit in Karitamen's chair, or otherwise violate Nehekaran etiquette. That's not hyperbole, either; one of the many trapped chairs will literally stab you in the dick. Level 2 is all about what a great King Karitamen was.

Level 2 actually doesn't have a huge amount of treasure; it focuses on symbolic tributes to show that Karitamen was given gifts, tribute, and tax by a wide range of people at many times. It is also notably less full than the area dedicated to his victories as a warrior on Level 1, cluing the PCs in that he was a better general than a statesman. There's also a neat bit where you find a ton of clay figures of people from all over Nehekaran life; Kings wanted to be buried with servants, but recognized that killing hundreds of their own people would be stupid and wasteful. So instead, their Audience Chambers in their tombs are full of representations of the peoples they ruled over, who are thought to become servants in the afterlife. Fucking around with the statues obviously triggers traps, and why would you? Again, a lot of traps are there in case you're just being a dick and messing with the Tomb just to vandalize things.

Next Time: Bird Head Guy: A Primer on Nehekaran Religion

By Ptra!

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

By Ptra!

The entirety of Tomb Level 3 is devoted to the Gods of Nehekara. It's full of offerings, mummified priests, representations of the ancient religion, and things intended to get Karitamen in the Gods' good graces so they let him into the underworld. This is also where Team 1 bit it; the entrance area here on Level 3 has another 2 Ushabti fight and it's harder to get away from them if you fuck up the History -10 test to know what sign to make as you pass them. Team 1 accidentally activated the Egyptian Mecha and got kicked into paste.

One neat thing: Studying the Gods in the first room of the religion floor actually does give you a bonus. If your PCs either speak Nehekaran or read the monument up top, they can learn the names of the Gods in this room and learn a bunch of the basics of Nehekaran religion. This lets them recognize which Gods often symbolize dangerous traps or spots for secret doors. Speaking of, there are secret doors and extra ways to skip between levels everywhere in the tomb, and both teams are good at spotting them. For instance, in this main hall you can already find a secret door down to the Liche Priest's room, where you can meet a really important NPC, Tetrahon. That's Karitamen's buddy from when he was alive, and he's still fully sentient (if chopped into pieces). His room also has a further secret passage all the way down into Karitamen's own final boss lair. It's actually possible to bypass a huge amount of the dungeon if you're only trying to get to Karitamen and you search everywhere carefully.

Similarly, a lot of the traps and encounters are avoidable; they're much less so if you decide to loot everything you come across. We also get a nice little primer on the Nehekaran Gods, because there's a good chance the PCs learn about them. I really like the emphasis on 'learning about the people who built the Tomb and what they considered important helps defend you from its dangers'. It's a genuinely neat way to bring in the explorer/archeologist feel and make scholars a good part of the party.

Ptra is the Great Creator, the Sun, the first of all Gods to step foot on the earth. He looks like a human (he is the only God with no animal association) but his eyes contain the very void itself and can drive someone mad to look at.

Asaph should be familiar to anyone who likes the Total Warhams Tomb Kings because she is the Goddess of Vengeance, Beauty, and Magic. She is a snake lady. She is also the patron of the famous Queen Khalida, cousin of Nefereta, who asked Asaph to replace her blood with crazy holy snake venom after Neffy tried to turn her into a vampire. It totally worked, and totally killed her. Then the Nagash stuff happened and it turns out being a holy crusading mummy that fights vampires for eternity while full of holy snake venom is great actually. The Khalida stuff isn't in here, of course, I just thought I'd put it in because it rules.

Djaf is the God of Death, depicted with a jackal's head. I wish there was a little more on the Gods' personalities and not just how to recognize their image.

Khsar is the God of the Desert, able to appear as a desert wind rather than an animal form.

Phakth is the God of the Sky and Also Justice, and he is a BIRD PERSON. A big muscular man with a hawk's head.

Qu'aph is the God of Snakes and also Subtlety. He shows up as a hooded human because he is actually a cobra, naturally.

Ualatp is the God of Scavengers. No points for guessing that he has a vulture's head.

Sokth is the God of Scorpions, Poison, and Thieves. However, he hates tomb robbers (approved thiefing only) so if you see his sign on something, watch out. It means that this is going to vomit scorpions all over you. Deadly, deadly scorpions.

Basth is obviously Bast. She is the Cat God, which also means the Goddess of Love and Grace. Nehekarans absolutely adored cats. They had cats everywhere. If you were a Nehekaran noble and you didn't have a bunch of pet cats you were a weirdo. She can appear as a woman, a woman with a cat head, or a very majestic cat.

Geheb is God of the Earth and Strength, and appears as a huge, muscular man-mountain. He can also turn into a big friendly dog.

Tahoth is the God of Wisdom and Learning. He got a birb head. An ibis, to be specific.

Usirian is the God of the Underworld and is never actually depicted, as it was considered sacrilege. There are many invocations to him throughout the Tomb, but he is never actually shown.

A neat thing is, if you learn of the Gods and you enter the Private Chapel room on level 3 and pray to them sincerely, no Ushabti or Tomb Guard will attack your party for the next 3 hours unless you strike first or start stealing valuables. Similarly, when you find Karitamen's personal meditation chamber, you find a bunch of deeply personal items that he actually made himself for some of his transitional rituals when he was declared an adult. They're of serviceable but unspectacular craftsmanship, but if players either leave them alone or bring them with them but give them back to Karitamen when they meet him, they make him happy and will negate some actions that pissed him off previously. The simple bowl, jug, and rug that he made matter to him a lot as a reminder of his late childhood and early adulthood. So much so that he still has the last item he made, a bronze knife, on his person.

Level 3 also contains the fucking jackpot for PCs who intend to loot the tomb. The Offertory Room isn't cursed like the eventual main treasure pile will be, but it's still full of vast, vast riches and the only guards are 20 basic zombies with knives. These are slaves Karitamen had mummified to sing his praises into the afterlife. There are many, many traps on the goods and offerings, but if you can get past them, there's 4000 crowns worth of ancient coinage, and then over 10,000 worth of gems, silks, treasures, and weapons. A party that manages to rob this room is potentially set for life! The problem is taking anything here will turn everything in the Tomb hostile. For good. I'd probably add in a RETURN THE SLAB chance where the players can put back what they stole to end this effect. Still, if you're here to crawl a dungeon, kill, and loot? This room is your dream come true. A party doing that might just get to this point, manage to rob this tomb, and then leave.

This one had a particular lot of stuff to talk about, so I'm going to break it up here. Especially as level 4 is also extremely important, because it's where Karitamen has his family entombed.

Next Time: Pathos


posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord


So Tomb Level 4 is really important to establishing some of the elements of Karitamen's character, and I don't think it does so quite well enough. It has enough for the GM, but there needed to be a little more information that will establish this stuff for the players, especially as this is one of the points where you can piss him off enough that you're on the eternal mummy curse hatred list forever. Level 4 is devoted to a sacred residence for the King and his family, so that they will have a similar palace together in the underworld. As you might imagine, this is a place to tread carefully if you're trying not to piss Karitamen off. There are more opportunities to make him mad or happy here than anywhere else in the dungeon.

As long as you avoid the barracks for his household guard, don't try to steal anything, and obey ancient Nehekaran etiquette (which I'd have put a History roll or some hints about) you won't be in much danger on this level. The really important feature here on Level 4 is the personal residence, decorated with happy domestic scenes of Karitamen, his wife Nefalya, and their children. As mentioned before, all of Karitamen's four children died young, none of them reaching adulthood, which destroyed his wife as well. After their daughter was swept away in the river, she killed herself. The King never remarried, having loved his wife and family and no longer having the strength to face further losses.

The thing that gets me is that the nobles who betrayed and killed Karitamen still interred him in his Tomb as ordered, but they took the remains of his wife and children and burned them to ashes. In Nehekaran funerary belief, this forever denies a person rest and ensures they never reach peace in the afterlife. They did this entirely to spite the King they'd killed; as far as they knew, they were damning the wife and children he'd lost entirely to hurt his spirit in the next world since now he'd never see them again. That is some evil shit. If someone did that to my family and I had the option of murdering them with mummy curses, I would be slamming that mummy curse button as hard as I could. They also ensured no personal effects beyond the graven gold images of Nefayla and her children were placed in that part of the Tomb. Karitamen keeps this section as clear as possible, permitting none of his creatures to disturb his family any further.

I talked about this bit earlier in his background, but I really like this detail. It explains a lot about why he slipped into obsession with necromancy, and it's good to see a grand conqueror and King actually have moments of normal humanity. He really loved his family, grieved for their losses, and his behavior changed without them. It's also a really important part of the overall adventure: You see these domestic scenes of a happy father with his children here, but they contrast against the beardless mummified dwarf slaves chained to his great war chariot as spoils on the level above. You get lots of good reason to think the mummy is a tyrant you need to fight against, but plenty of reasons to think he's a person you can reason with or empathize with, too.

If you open one of the family sarcophagi, you'll get hit with a trap, but you don't actually enrage Karitamen until you mess with the vessels containing the ashes. If you just open up the sarcophagi and realize these are just remains with no treasure on them and put them back, he won't be angry. If you destroy any of the vessels of his family's ashes, you are now on the list and he is going to move heaven and earth to kill you. Similar if you taunt him about losing his family in any way. PCs who express sympathy or show respect for the dead here gain a great deal of favor with him, whether they know they're being watched or not. Even a simple expression of 'Man, these people died so young. That's awful.' pleases the King.

The issue is there's not a lot to tell you about what happened to them, and this is important because the book itself emphasizes there's no body for Khatalya and that PCs can claim they know something about what happened to her (He wants to believe it so much that he never considers it's an obvious lie). However, I have a solution. In a later area, you encounter 4 Wights who are entertainers, there to serve and amuse the family in the afterlife. They're non-hostile, and will talk to the PCs (preferably over a game of chess) and try to tell ancient poems and things. If you have PCs who speak Nehekaran or Eltharin or Khazalid (and you almost certainly have those last two) I'd use the Wights to tell the story of his family a bit if the PCs are willing to listen. I'd use this as a big moment in a 'non-hostile' tomb exploration mission, where you get a bit of a chance to actually speak to some Nehekarans. And who doesn't want a game of chess with the undead while you reflect on how you know the rules 4000 years later? That's a cool potential scene.

The other important encounter on Level 4 is Phrensay, Karitamen's beloved horse. He had his horse killed and mummified because he wanted his cool horse in the afterlife. This is a reasonable thing to want. Phrensay is actually pretty dangerous if you piss him off! However, a party that can tame the undead horse and bring it to the King earns his favor even further. I wonder if an Undead horse counts for Therese's Master's Voice spell? I'd say he does, just because then that spell has at least one edge use in the Tomb. As you might notice, Level 4 has a bunch of places where you can actually make Karitamen happy with you, instead of just 'not mad'. Killing his horse doesn't instantly put him at 'murder the PCs as hard as I possibly can' like messing with his family, but it does make him very angry unless you've done some of the other things that calm him down.

Leave the poor guy's horse alone.

Next Time: Acquire Severed Head

Magic Head

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

Magic Head

Level 5 is all about how Karitamen intends to run his kingdom in the afterlife. As such, it's mostly full of maps, libraries, and mummified scribes. Messing with his meticulously placed wargaming models will slice your fingers off with a buzz saw (this is actually one of the traps). They also come with a permanent upgrade if you're capable of reading his scrolls when you get to the libraries: A +20% to all History and Theology tests about Nehekara as you discover a wealth of well-preserved information. Given how often those skills have been doing work down in the Tomb, this might've been nice to find sooner but it's still valuable here. This is a great upgrade for Ehrl; I'd have assigned it a Talent just to keep the book-keeping clear, though.

The libraries are also full of mummified big cats, and mummified little cats. It's time to talk about Bastethi. These are one of the weirdest potential enemies I've seen: The little ones are actually called Greater Bastethi and are weak, but they're powerful Necromancers with a bunch of the support Necromancy. They'll buff skeletons or other undead (including the Bastethi big cats) and they can summon more undead if left alone. They're also very dodgy (65% chance) but weak and easily punted, like most house cats (if you punt a house cat you are a monster). The normal Bastethi are one of the only monsters in all of WHFRP that is actually stronger Charging you than being stuck in. This is one of the big mechanical flaws in combat in 2e, I think; Charging is really bad compared to the Tyranny of Swift Attack as the combat option to end all combat options, which we'll be getting into more at the boss. Anyway, Bastethi are mildly dangerous foes with Damage 4, high movement, okay wounds, etc but only 1 attack. They're no world beater. Except they attack you 3 times every time they Charge. If I was designing them, I'd have given them Swashbuckler so they could leap out of combat and set up to cycle charge people. They're an interesting monster and I kind of like them.

Also a good chance to talk about encounter design in the Tomb. Every encounter here just about is only one type of enemy at a time and it's really dull. If you're fighting Tomb Guard, it's all Tomb Guard in that fight. Ushabti? Just Ushabti. Greater Bastethi can buff the normal Bastethi but they generally only come with them, instead of normal undead they could also be buffing. They never mix up mooks and elites and the combat design is generally pretty boring. Part of this is because you're supposed to be trying to avoid unnecessary fights, but combat here is lots of grindy Undead fights where everything has Fear, which slows it down more since some players will lose some turns at the start of a fight.

The really important room on Level 5 is Tetrahon's room. Tetrahon was the priest who introduced Karitamen to magic. The two were close friends, and he had always intended for his friend to be entombed with him when he died. The nobles who murdered him were happy to honor that request by having Tetrahon blamed for the death of the King and executed. They then continued to be dicks by chopping his body into a dozen pieces and nailing them to the tomb walls, in an effort to ensure Tetrahon would never find rest. This didn't work as well as cremation, though, and Nagash's spell brought Tetrahon back.

He has been existing as a dozen disembodied parts nailed to a wall for 4000 years. He is surprisingly sane despite this. He is also the only other totally free-willed undead in the Tomb. Karitamen holds no sway over him, because an advisor he had any sort of control over would be a poor councilor indeed. Plus, they're buddies! They met way back when Tetrahon was interviewing people for histories and started working on the Death Scarab's stories, and they became friends over discussing military history together. Then they got to studying magic and the rest is history. History that went pretty wrong once Karitamen became obsessed with Necromancy originally but Tetrahon will conveniently leave that out.

Seeing the PCs, Tetrahon's severed head tries to reason with them. He'll cycle through ancient languages until he hits one they know; he's fluent in Khazalid and Eltharin. If they don't know any of the languages he speaks, he's just a weird, grisly wall decoration. They likely know at least one, though, and if so they get a conversation with the Priest. He's genuinely loyal to his friend and gives a fairly biased history of what happened with the nobles and their betrayal, claiming Karitamen was a mighty ruler and just man brought down by treachery and slander. He tries to convince the PCs to either put all his pieces in his sarcophagus (claiming doing so will let him rest; in reality he'll be able to raise himself fully in a few years) or failing that, if he's friendly he'll suggest you take his head with you. If he's not, he'll suggest the same, so he can spy on you for Karitamen. If friendly, he happily gives you a guided tour of remaining rooms in the Tomb, telling you what they're about and sometimes remembering where traps are to spare you the Search/Perception checks. If you bring his head to Karitamen to vouch for you, it will go well for you. Same if you put him where he can put himself back together. He's noted as someone who can show up several years later as a surprise ally for PCs who helped him. Or an enemy for people who 'put him to rest' and then killed his Lord.

I like him because he's a reasonable enough guy, but he's definitely leaving out that he accidentally helped his friend into his slide into tyranny and obsession last time. Still, how many times do you get to tour an ancient tomb with a severed head guiding you? That's rad. If you destroy the Liche Priest, Karitamen will be just as hostile as if you messed with his family's ashes; nothing you can do will make up for killing Tetrahon.

Level 6 is simple, because it's a booby trap. All of it. It's where the majority of the treasure in the tomb is stored, and contains what I consider the biggest dick move in the book. It is, of course, heavily trapped. That isn't the issue. The issue is that among all the gold and jewels, you're told that there's enough money to make you the richest people in the Empire. But that 'This is WFRP, so it's all cursed and if any character takes more than 500 GC, they will die from a terrible curse some time later.' and also 'If you try to get all of this treasure out and out of the Border Princes, it will earn you innumerable enemies and be a campaign in and of itself'. Those two sentences don't work together, book! There's also no actual in-setting warning about 'you can only take so much gold' or anything. You could loot the offertory chamber upstairs bare of its 14000 GC in treasure without Mummy Curses auto-killing you. This is just kind of a dick move; the simple logistics of stealing all the large objects would have sufficed, as would the traps and guardians.

There's also a giant false final boss chamber with multiple hints and rolls to suggest it is not actually Karitamen's chamber. Entering it starts a sequence of deadly traps, a 4 Tomb Guard fight, and a falling floor into a pit trap. You get a lot of hints not to fall for it, though. A lot. So many that I can't see any reasonable party falling for it. If you do manage to survive it, you find a suit of Best Full Plate intended for Karitamen's eldest son, as well as a Best Shield and Hand Weapon, so decent enough booby prize. I wish they were clear if the Hand Weapons count as the Khopesh from OWA, because a Best Khopesh is actually pretty interesting (having SB+1 but Slow while counting as a Hand Weapon for free parries) and also Khopeshes are silly and fun.

That's pretty much all that's on level 6: Traps, treasure that kills you, and an easy to avoid super murder action sequence. If they just had a warning about the treasure and it wasn't an arbitrary '500 GC each or you die' sort of thing (maybe make the 500 per PC happen to be how much of it is easily transportable, with a warning the larger objects may hold dark powers) I'd be okay with it. It also contradicts how you could steal pretty much everything everywhere else in the Tomb.

Next Time: The Man In Gauze

Karitamen! The Man in Gauze!

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Lich Lord

Karitamen! The Man in Gauze!

Depending on how you enter, you might be in for a really bruising fight in the room before Karitamen's tomb. Eight, count 'em, eight Tomb Guards set upon you in the antechamber before you enter if you've made the tomb hostile. Otherwise, they watch from the shadows, pretending not to be there.

This is also where you find out what role Slaanesh plays in the plot. See, Slaanesh got a weird little guy from Stirlander to get a magic gauntlet that conveniently happens to let Demons make someone into a living gate to let them into the world. This is what Strykssen wants, not realizing 'I turn into a demon gate' means 'I am fucking dead'. It also gives +10 to Str and Tough but you can't take it off and it causes mutation over time like most Chaos treasures. The gauntlet and a magic amulet of Slaanesh were brought into the Tomb for Reasons. The amulet was placed on Karitamen's crypt, sealing him inside; it's a general Slaaneshi +10 WP and Fel amulet (but -20 to saves against Slaanesh, -10 to saves against Mutation, otherwise safe to wear) that just so happens to repel Undead of any kind. Somehow Slaanesh got the weird little guy into the Tomb with both relics so they'd get stuck in here and so Karitamen would stay sealed. This also woke him up and got him to work on unsealing himself, so...good job, Slaaneshi? You all played yourselves.

Really, the whole 'why are these relics in the tomb' part of the plot is pretty weak and I think it only exists because that was the plot of the novel the adventure is based on. The general adventure plot is good but Chaos is definitely the weak point here. Karitamen is protecting the gauntlet because he can tell it's powerful and evil and he hasn't figured out how to break it. He hates that fucking amulet so much. He is really mad about Chaos and upset that that horseshit is still an issue 4000 years after his day.

Now, the climax of the Tomb is encountering Karitamen. If you've been friendly throughout the Tomb, he'll greet you and welcome you to his crypt. He's actually really excited that someone finally made it through all the traps and proved themselves worthy, doubly so if you did things to please him during the adventure. He tells his side of the story, asks the party for their help in escaping, and swears that all he wishes to do is restore order and unite the region, cleansing it of Chaos and destroying the Orcs and generally rebuilding his kingdom. He offers the players a Lordship in his new Kingdom if they'll remove that amulet and destroy the wards keeping him in, plus plenty of non-cursed treasure. There's a bit about how 'if they take this, they will be seen as traitors and reviled forever!' that's really weird because so much of the book is building to precisely this option being available.

It's bizarre to me; the whole story has been intentionally building towards there being good reasons to help or fight Karitamen, both. Moreover, he means his offer; he worked his way up from a footsoldier to a king, and he is intentionally looking for the same qualities in the people who could free him. He genuinely wants people of ability by his side, helping him, and he really does respect the PCs and think they're worthy if they were respectful and honorable while navigating his Tomb. It just seems weird to chide the players for considering allying with him when so much of the book was about the possibility and it starts the cascade of weird, bad endings that's coming after this update. So much of the book's setup is so good, but it stumbles at the finish line.

If you pissed him off, or if you attack during negotiations, Karitamen becomes your final boss and he is a fucking badass. He'll still probably lose to a geared, leveled up party like Team 2, and he'll especially lose if you play him how they say to play him, but some of his abilities are just nuts. He's a WS 65, SB 5, TB 5 combatant with 4 attacks and a ton of combat talents, plus 41 Wounds. They talk a big game about how he's 'almost immune to mortal weapons but enchanted weapons harm him normally' but there's no mechanical enforcement of that; that's supposed to be reflected in his 'huge' 5 TB. Goran Prime on Team 2 has the same TB. He's also wearing partial Gromril armor but no mail or leather backing, so he's AV 3 on his chest and head, AV 0 elsewhere. He'll take heavy damage in combat if the team can survive melee with him; that's just not enough DR to tank tier 3 characters long.

The issue is his other abilities. The book thinks his Mag 4 and Core Book Necromancy is scary, but it isn't; the frightening abilities are his Aura of Command (-10 to WP and WS for anyone within 8m, passive) and his Domination, which works like the Lahmian ability (Fel vs. WP, and he has a 64% Fel! or else you get Dominated for d10 rounds) except it works in combat. The Lahmian ability knew allowing that in combat would be too broken. This does not. However, according to the 'how to play him in combat' he never actually uses it. If he'd Dominated Goran Prime at the start of the fight with Team 2 he'd have straight won the fight right there.

The other issue is not only does he have 4 attacks, but he has his magic swords. These give him a massive +20 to WS and count as Defensive like a shield, while also causing a 1 damage a round bleed effect that only ends on a Tough-10 save. The Blades of Honorable Demise are crazy powerful. His melee power is nasty. Also, if you kill him, the character who took him out saves with WP-10 or takes 2d10 Wounds, no save. Which was a TT Tomb King ability but seems like kind of a dick move here. Team 1 just has nothing that can tank a guy with 85% to-hit and Damage 6. Team 2's Goran can take some of those hits but needs help against him, but they've got the armor to handle melee and the hitting power to put him down.

The other thing is, the How To Use Karitamen section is his big weakness. It suggests he will use his magic if outnumbered, trying to summon undead or use Hand of Dust (a touch spell that does d10 unsaveable wounds) in place of his melee attacks to show off his awesome power. The issue here is twofold. One, Hand of Dust is shit next to him just giving you 4 85% to-hit Damage 6 swings with a bleed effect and two, Raise Dead takes 2 full rounds to cast. Remember, if you take wounds while casting a sustained spell like that, you have to make Channel checks or lose the spell. If he spends 2 rounds trying to call for backup, he's going to get shot and stabbed and even his 71% WP isn't certain under that kind of pressure. Plus, sure he has 41 Wounds, but that won't hold up under 6 people beating on him when his DR isn't huge.

This is where we talk about the Tyranny of Swift Attack. His absolute best move is to Dominate a PC and then get into melee and never stop swinging. It's the most action-efficient thing he can do. This is not how you're meant to play him; as I mentioned, the How To Play bit basically never mentions Dominate. Still, his trying to use his magic when backed against a wall actually hurts him, because Core Book Necromancy is a shit lore and more attacks would do far more for him than trying to swing around with touch spells. The suggestion he use his Fear spell to scatter PCs is much stronger; that might actually get him what he needs for his actions. This is a problem all across 2e; magic is (outside of Bright and a few other spots like Ice) generally more useful out of combat when it does stuff nothing else can do. In combat, it's okay, but best suited to again doing stuff you can't do without magic (like Father of Thorns' slow-field) rather than trying to compete with a geared fighter's damage output. Similarly, fighters themselves never have much incentive to use any combat action besides 'multiple attacks', because 'multiple attacks' exceeds the bonus of any other combat option.

Anyway, if you do kill Karitamen, you get his swords (which rule just as hard in a PC's hands as his), his Gromril armor components, his Death Mask (attached to a Helmet, provides +10 to Command and Intimidate, +10 to WP), the dagger that killed him (Enemies struck make a Tough-10 save or take 5 unsaveable Wounds), the Gauntlet, the Amulet, and any other magic treasure the GM feels like putting in. The dagger is fucking weird, though. It makes a big deal about how it pierces all magic defenses (it'll go right through any Aethryic Armor spell) and also how it 'traps the soul inside the corpse' but it's a Chaos relic. That's...not normally a thing Chaos is interested in doing. Chaos usually wants the souls. Chaos is not usually interested in making Necromancy easier, which the dagger does by design. It has no actual downsides, though.

And with that, we can get on to the proposed endings, which are the worst writing in an otherwise well written book! I'll also be proposing a couple of my own, to show off how I think it could have been done better.

Next Time: Bad Ends

Bad End

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord

Bad End

So, the writing in Liche Lord has actually been pretty good! There's been a good set up, the Tomb had some really neat concepts like giving you lots of opportunities to learn about ancient Nehekara and to use that information to protect yourself during the adventure, the characters have mostly been interesting people outside of the Slaaneshi guy in Vitrolle. The Tomb is good about supporting multiple objectives and playstyles, the various setups for the main plot give you a lot of variety in how and why you get there, the plot has deployed the Tomb Kings and their fluff really well in making Karitamen an ambiguous figure, things have been good up to this point. We got our first hint it was about to go a little off the rails with the 'if you ally with Karitamen you will be a traitor hated to the rest of your days.'

The 'suggested endings' section is easily the worst part of the book. Let's have a look at them.

Ending 1: The Players Kill Karitamen: They destroy the tomb, defeat the king, and the region rejoices that there are no more skeletons. Haflok stops being crazy because he stops seeing 'Sigmar'. However, Chaos grows in power and threatens the region because Karitamen is no longer in its way. Strykseen gets ever closer to success and Vitrolle gets more powerful and worse. Wait, are they just...assuming the players leave those loose ends? That they just beat Karitamen and ignore the entire rest of the plot? This is about as close as it gets to a 'good' ending.

Ending 2: The Players Help Karitamen: Karitamen goes to war with the three Princes. They come together to try to beat him, but it isn't enough, so Artilli listens to Strykssen and gets the gauntlet and goes full Chaos. A Greater Demon steps forth, and the whole region is destroyed in the battle between Karitamen and a powerful demon. So...despite so much of the adventure setting up that you have a real choice in dealing with Karitamen, if you do decide you like the idea of being made a Lord of Nehekara and helping the mummy, everyone gets wrecked by Chaos. Yay! So much for actually having a choice!

Ending 3: The Players Ignore the Tomb and Help a Prince: If you help Artilli, he becomes a puppet of Styrkssen because Chaos. If you help Haflok, he becomes the puppet of 'Sigmar' and works to free Karitamen. If you help Fatandira, you can potentially actually make the region not suck and get to other approximation of a Good Ending, but they point out she has the weakest forces and this will be the hardest objective. Either way, Karitamen is excited; now he'll only have to subvert or defeat one Prince to take over later because you apparently never bother going to the Tomb afterwards?

Ending 4: Chaos Wins: Strykssen manages to summon his Daemon without a freed Karitamen to oppose it. Rather than just destroying this region, it takes over, and begins to plot attacking the rest of the world. There is nothing the PCs can do to stop it according to the book. The end, no moral.

Ending 5: Chaos Wins (Slaaneshi): Those inexplicable douchebags in Vitrolle manage to get some Macguffins and grow powerful enough to turn the entire region into a sex murder party. The PCs, again, can do nothing to stop this. The end, no moral.

Ending 6: Sidebar Description of the Original Novel: Hey, the original characters of the novel actually get a better ending than you can, apparently! In the original novel, the protagonists actually beat the demon after it's summoned! You know, that thing they won't allow your PCs to do according to these ending suggestions? Vitrolle is demolished, Chaos is defeated utterly, Karitamen is still there and stirring in his tomb, and the Princes are all acting more rationally. Haflok gets over his hatred of Fatandira and learns to respect her as a person, they ally, Artilli is no longer listening to Strykssen on account of him being really dead, and things are looking up. Gee! That sure would have been an exciting adventure for PCs to have.

This is what annoys me: Up until this point, the book has actually done a really good job of transforming the premise for a novel into an open-ended RPG adventure concept. Then we get to their suggested endings (though they emphasize these are just suggestions and that your ending is probably going to be different) and the author also includes 'what happened in the novel'. And the latter is way more complete and in many ways more satisfying than any of the suggestions for the former. Frankly, all the suggested endings are terrible partly because they all assume you only do one plot arc and then leave.

The thing that really pisses me off, though, is that the entire book has built up to there being a real choice in who you side with, even having a sidebar about how it's an intentional thing that Karitamen can be read and written as a sympathetic character. This is a great use of the Tomb Kings fluff and the way they're actually still people, with good and bad at the same time. And then it ends on 'but if you pick him you made the wrong choice and you're an evil traitor and the region will be destroyed in the fighting'. You wrote the entire adventure around this concept! You'd think it would get treated as a legitimate possibility, especially as the 'setup' sections are full of 'Maybe the PCs will want or need the Tomb King's help to defeat Chaos completely'. Similarly, the author apparently has his adventuring archeologist protagonist defeat the demon after it's summoned in the book; why would you assume PCs absolutely can't do the same? Why is 'the Demon is Summoned!' not 'Here is an option for a final climactic combat in case the players didn't fight Karitamen and you want one!' or something? You don't have to just plop an unbeatable Bloodthirster down. You could make up a tailored demon boss for PCs to trick or defeat in combat.

Now, this doesn't ruin the adventure; I still think this is overall the best of the pre-mades/adventure books I've read so far. The setup is really good, it does some really fun stuff with its characters, the Tomb is interestingly designed even if I'd scale back a couple of the traps (specifically the ones that inflict permanent injury and bypass the Wounds system immediately) and change around a few things. Up until the 'if you side with or aid Karitamen you are a monster' ending stuff the Tomb Kings are used well and there's a lot to learn during the adventure. There's also good support for multiple playstyles, up until the friendlier one ends in failure according to the author.

To that end, I'm going to propose an ending idea that stuck out to me as I read through the book.

The PCs end up friendly with Fatandira, which doesn't seem a stretch since she's the most sympathetically written Prince. They go into the Tomb, explore, learn a bunch about the guy running it, and end up hitting on a brilliant plan. When they meet Karitamen and hear his plans after learning what happened to his family, they convince him the Prince he wishes he had an excuse not to kill is actually a living descendant of his. Fatandira IS written as having more knowledge of old Nehekara than any of the other Princes, and the book mentions that Karitamen will believe anything that suggests his daughter lived because he wants to. They make an alliance between the Border Prince and Bone Daddy, and accept the offer to be made regional Lords. If you want a big climax, Strykssen manages to summon his demon, and now you have the PCs decked out in the finest lordly gear of Nehekara marching to war against Chaos alongside ragged Border Prince mercenaries and ancient Nehekaran soldiers as an alliance of the living and the dead opposes the devil.

Similarly, it's completely reasonable for PCs to decide Karitamen is a dangerous tyrant and try to destroy him, even if they're out to be heroes rather than just trying to rob him blind. But the assumption that they'll just do one thing and then leave is really weird when there's a bunch of plot set up for the campaign to continue beyond just the Tomb. Say they beat Karitamen, what do they do when Artilli backstabs them? Or when their chosen patron ends up on the back foot or Chaos seems to be gaining strength in the region? PCs becoming Lords in service to a Tomb King isn't a place to just plop down 'bad end', either! It's an excuse for a really cool new campaign arc where they deal with the consequences and try to make sure this doesn't turn into the wrong choice. Especially as it isn't like Karitamen demands they become Undead. A Tomb Kings-centered campaign set after these events would be fun.

So, write your own ending, based on what your PCs do with the many options presented to them, and the plot of Liche Lord is genuinely good. Just don't use the pre-made endings. Also rewrite Vitrolle; they're basically irrelevant to the plot and they suck.

I would genuinely have liked to have seen more adventure books based on this 'toolbox' concept rather than strict linear narratives as a model for the line. It works much better with the sheer variety of PCs you can have showing up in WHFRP, and it does a good job of working with the strengths of the gameline's writing: It's always been really good at generating hooks and coming up with writing prompts that are exciting to write about. Much moreso than actually writing full narratives on its own. Sadly, this is a 2007 book, so this is about where WHFRP 2e ended with the shuttering of Black Industries. The earlier adventure and campaign books are for the most part not as interesting.

Next Time: Appendices and New Tomb Rules for General Tombs


posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Lure of the Liche Lord


I'm not too fond of the section on curses for several reasons. One, it's got some weird fluff where all curses come from the dead being unable to abandon their massive ego Tombs and then slowly Chaos seeps in and takes over because of the ego and that's how you get curses. C'mon, everything doesn't have to go back to those assholes. We can just have sweet mummy curses. Besides, Chaos generally doesn't fuck around with Undeath. Two, they suggest the main way of getting rid of Curses is to use the Ritual research rules in Realm of Sorcery. If you want to know what I think of those in detail go back and look in the archives, but they were terrible. Rituals in general are a poorly thought out aspect of the magic system, and needing to learn a Ritual (even if you don't have to research it) costs 100-400 EXP which is actually pretty considerable.

Oh, also, most of the example curses just slowly drive you insane and kill you, so you're on a time limit for getting rid of them. The other suggestion for getting rid of one is a High Priest of Shallya. Our poor 3rd/4th tier Shallyan friends remain tremendously overworked. All the curses pretty much happen by slowly giving you worse and worse penalties until they kill you, like a Disease that you resisted with WP instead of Toughness and that doesn't have a duration. They're not very exciting. You can also potentially remove them by, you know, returning the slab. Took a slab? Return it. Alternately, burn the entire tomb down. That might work. Still, nothing should ever bother with the Research Ritual rules because they are extremely bad, and more importantly you actually don't get time to do them if you have a curse. The curses listed in the book will kill you before someone can use the multiple-months-long Research rules.

There's also some new diseases you can get by touching ancient mummies. They are, again, not all that exciting. At least it isn't Neglish Rot!

Also detailed trap rules, including rules for PCs who know engineering or hunting to build and deploy their own traps. These could be fun in the right hands. But traps are usually one of those things that's better prepared against proactive characters (like PCs) rather than put in the hands of protagonists (who tend to be moving around rather than constructing trap-filled lairs to nestle into like a spider).

The new Tomb Guardians are also interesting. The first up is the Elven Wight, which is meaner than a normal Wight (2 attacks, and their sword has Fast). They can turn into normal-looking elves within their tombs, too, and Pass for Human like a vampire. These are high nobles and officers who had to be left behind as the elves were busy getting their shit kicked in by the dwarfs after the dwarfs beheaded Caledor II in the War of Vengeance. The elves constructed big hidden temples and tombs for their important dead, to hide them from the bearded ones, and promised to come back. 5000 years later, the wards are starting to fail and people are starting to find the tombs. Inside, the elves are so extremely mad about losing a war that sometimes the dead elf's spirit embraces undeath and becomes a spontaneous Wight. You ever want a good excuse for Ithmilar gear for PCs? Elf Wights. They get the same Wight Blade bonus (Their swords do SB+2 Magical in their hands) as normal Wights, but they're frailer, faster, and more skillful.

Imprisoned are also neat. These are pre-Sigmarite nobles and shamans who got into Chaos. The Pre-Imperials didn't actually know what was happening, but they recognized evil when they saw it. They feared that killing these individuals would lead to horrible death curses, though, so they sealed them in their tombs, alive. That way they wouldn't be responsible for killing kin/tribesmen. They also endeavored to put up wards and warnings, but modern Imperials have a hard time understanding the pre-Sigmarite equivalent of 'This is not a place of honor'. Chaos granted these people immortality sometimes because it thought it was hilarious; this means that the average Imprisoned is not only a powerful dark sorcerer and mutant, they've had 3000-4000 years locked in a cage with nothing to do but practice magic and go insane. When people unleash them by accident, they go on a rampage of spellcasting until they're killed or their magic kills them. They're physically meh, but heavily mutated (3-6 on average), with Mag 4 and a Dark Lore. They never use anything but the full 4 mag and the extra Dark Magic die. Ever. Always. They will keep attacking with magic until they explode and die. Their Gods think this is lovely.

Residue is just spooky madness ghosts that haunt tombs and try to drive people insane. One of the funny things for me is that the Insanity system tells you over and over it's optional, but it's used so heavily in the game's actual rules. Considering how clunky and badly done IP are, I've always just taken them up on 'it's optional' and just ignore the Insanity system entirely, so this monster would be mostly useless.

You thought ancient Egyptian mecha were dangerous? How about ANCIENT DWARF MECHA with BLADES for HANDS. The Rune Guardian is a dwarf golem animated by Runes. It hates you and has a huge amount of Tough (TB 6) but only medium armor somehow (AV 3). It also hits really hard (Damage 7) but has terrible to-hit (33% WS), Mv 2 and is generally easy enough to avoid. Strangely, it's overall weaker than an Ushabti. Dwarfs used to make these as decorations that also kill intruders. To customize them and make them terrifying, their weapons and armor can be freely Runed using the Runes from Realms of Sorcery. This book like referencing Realms of Sorcery.

The Sacrificed are completely crazy overpowered. These are masses of sacrificial victim spirits left to guard Chaos sites, and they completely ignore armor, attack 5 times a round, and are completely impossible to hurt back without magic. Damage 3 sounds weak but remember, 5 attacks at WS 44 and ignore armor. Not sure what the hell they were thinking, this is the most dangerous Ethereal creature in all of Warhams. Most Ethereal creatures that actually attack tend to be relatively weak because it takes such specialized tools to fight them.

Finally, sometimes you just run into an infestation of Tomb Squigs. These are Squigs, except their model of fungus grows on corpses and in damp, poorly maintained tombs. Still an angry ball of teeth and stomach that wants to eat you. Fairly manageable mid-level surprise monster, though they ignore 2 points of Armor on every bite.

And there we have it! That's everything! I hope you've enjoyed Lure of the Liche Lord; I had a lot of fun reading through it and writing it up. It was a pleasure to discover a pre-made for Hams 2e that I don't hate, and in fact actually quite like.

Next Time: Rat People? The Fantasy Balkans? The Return of An Abandoned Project!?