Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption by Night10194
In which we examine the insufferable and authors make a spirited attempt to make it more sufferable.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
In which we examine the insufferable and authors make a spirited attempt to make it more sufferable.
The Chaos Book begins in a way that really gets (one of) Chaos's main problems on the table right away. It starts with some intro fiction about a demon or cultist torturing/killing the author while they summarize all the chapters with 'Haha! None of this is right! Chaos is invincible and inscrutable! But also maybe everything I'm saying is a lie!'. We'll be going over Chaos's troubles as we go, but this is a big one: It wants to be a big, inscrutable cosmic horror but it really doesn't pull it off; Chaos really isn't mysterious, especially when it's explicit goal at all times is just 'destroy the world because it exists'. Also, inscrutable cosmic horrors usually don't feel as insecure as most of Chaos's canon writing does.
We begin the history of things by mentioning something you won't find most other places in the gameline: The Old Ones. No-one knows what the Old Ones were, precisely, but they terraformed the Warhammer World thousands and thousands of years ago. Pulling a frozen rock into an orbit where it could sustain life, setting Morrslieb, the Warpstone moon, into place to stabilize the tides, and shaping mountains, rivers, oceans, and lives. When they had arrived there were only dragons and dragon ogres living on the planet. When they left, there were elves, dwarves, ogres, humans, halflings, lizardmen, and orcs. When people talk about the Lizardmen and their Great Plan, that's because they're the left behind servitors of the Old Ones, still trying to make the world the way their masters told them to before they fled or died. They fled or died because the warp gates they set at the north and south poles of the planet exploded. When that happened, the portals were ruined and Chaos leaked into the world, mutating and ruining things wherever it could. The Old Ones either fled or perished when the Gates collapsed, and this left their servants, the Slaan, to try to contain the insanity alone. They couldn't manage it by themselves, and so they taught the Old One's proudest creation, the Elves, how to help them. Together, the two were able to defeat the forces of Chaos when Aenerion, the first Phoenix King of the elves, discovered a way to empower himself with the strength of the Old Ones. This allowed him and elven wizards to construct a great trap for chaotic energy, drawing it into a vortex under the elven land of Ulthuan and stabilizing it to rob the forces of Chaos of their ability to send infinite forces to the physical world.
The problem is Aenerion had a son named Malekith and a wife named Morathi. Morathi had been rescued from the Chaos cults that had sprung up among the elves and the king had fallen in love with her, and together they had had a son who promised to be the next king. He was adventurous and powerful, but arrogant even for an elf. Between his mother's quiet whispers that there were greater powers than even his father's, and his own pride, when Malekith attempted the ritual to become Phoenix King like his father the divine flames rejected him, burned him, and he then set about becoming Elven Kylo Ren (he doesn't really deserve Darth Vader) and trying to undo the goddamn 'don't mess with this or everyone dies' vortex so he could 'take all its power'. Malekith is not a smart man. This started a civil war that's been going on to the present day. It also indirectly caused the great war between elves and dwarfs. Malekith is pretty much one of the greatest victories Chaos has ever won against the peoples of the Warhams world.
Into all this comes humans, beginning their development from stone age tribes into proto-nations and stronger tribes. Near what would become Tilea, men and dwarfs made friends for the first time and constructed a great city, and chose to build a great temple to the Gods to thank them for their prosperity. They were unable to finish the great tower for it themselves, and so accepted the aid of a mysterious stranger who said he could finish it in a day if he could be permitted to honor his own God at the very top. On top of it he built a great bell, and...well, you've seen the Skaven book at this point. Nice work trusting a mysterious wizard, people of that ancient city. Now we have nazi rat people.
Chaos had very limited hold in the world; Malekith had failed to destroy the vortex and while Chaos could blow strongly in the northern lands, near the great Gate's ruins, it couldn't exist in the physical world for long without hosts to sustain its demons. They needed mortals to feed them. Into that came a mortal named Be'lakor, the first human to ever give over his soul and become a Champion of Chaos directly. He was lured north in his dark journey, killing and doing evil in the name of his Dark Gods, until he reached the site of the Gate and saw the Gods themselves. There, he became the first man to have his mortal shell destroyed and his soul raised up to be the very first Demon Prince, an immortal and transcendent being of Chaos. As one who had been a mortal and still understood them better than the Gods, he was able to tempt legions to his side and begin to spread their influence further than it had ever reached before, as his men worshiped him as a God. Despite how incredibly useful he was to Chaos, they showed off one of the other reasons they suck: They got jealous of him being worshiped as their equal and cast him down. For the crime of being very good at his job, Be'lakor has been cursed to never be the main character. That's literally his curse: He can only crown Everchosen and other great champions, serving as Chaos's harbinger to go seek out people it wants to make its main character while he can never be that important again.
The first great champion crowned by Be'lakor was Morkar the United. You see, down south, some guy named Sigmar had taken over what would become the Empire, and he exiled any tribes that wouldn't follow his rule across the Sea of Claws to the frozen land of Norsca. Morkar united these tribes and showed them the power of what was blowing down from the north, and told them 'Sigmar is your enemy. He took all the good land and left you nothing. But now we have the Gods. Let's go take the good land from him.' This probably could have worked if they'd waited another decade or two for Sigmar to die/wander off/become a God. As it is, the first Everchosen rammed right into the teeth of the best unifier the Empire ever had and his dwarf allies and got his ass kicked. This is going to be a common theme for Everchosen. I think only Asuvar Kul ever picked a *good* time to invade.
Next: The Empire Grows And Struggles.
Some theories on where these dicks come from, the Gods, and the Empire's struggles.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Some theories on where these dicks come from, the Gods, and the Empire's struggles.
Double posts are fine if it's review stuff, right? I have a lot of history to get through.
There's a short sidebar at this point summarizing the Dark Gods. It's pretty clear from the thread that most people know them already, but I'll go over them to get across how the book describes them. Khorne is the God of bloodshed and warfare. His followers are not described as seekers of martial glory, but rather those who exalt in the act of killing and the feeling of blood falling upon the ground. Nurgle is the lord of fear, despair, and plague. Her personifies both plague, and the sorrow and horror that follows this invisible killer as his followers seek to share it with all of the world. Slaanesh is the 'youngest' of the Chaos Gods, and exemplifies creativity and excess. He (or she, I tend to switch between the two as a stylistic habit on purpose) embodies everything people actually want, and thus is never wanting for followers. You can do Slaanesh well by making Slaanesh the devil, promising you everything you dreamed about and all that, rather than constant cocaine sex parties. For the most part, this book is not going to do Slaanesh particularly well. Tzeentch is the god of
There's another interesting sidebar, though, describing some alternate theories on why there are occasional waves of shrieking Chaos servants from the North. The first, and simplest, is that the north can't support that many people. They may just be a way of skimming off a ton of excess population and attempting to take better land so that the people left behind can survive, an attempt that happens to coincide with the Dark Gods they follow trying to destroy the world again (which would make victory a little pointless) but which reduces the population and cycles rulers and champions if it fails. Alternatively, some heretics whisper that *all* gods are just reflections of human hopes and dreams. Thus, Shallya is the positive aspect of Nurgle, or rather Nurgle is the negative aspect of Shallya. And thus, these occasional massive invasions happen because of human hysteria, fear, and moral failing. Claiming the Gods are all just psychic reflections of mankind is not a good idea in hearing of Witch Hunters.
Meanwhile, back in the Empire, after the defeat of Morkar things were pretty good for centuries. Chaos still tried to raid, using the remnants of the Norse tribes and other peoples and outcasts they'd ensnared, but these bands were disorganized and mostly local threats. Elsewhere in the world, Chaos invaded Naggaroth in the New World and the Druchii, Malekith's defeated followers, made their home there in the cold northern reaches of the continent. This means Dark Elves are actually spiked murder canadians, which is fantastic (everything about them is better if you imagine them with various Canadian accents). In the Empire, one of Chaos's best friends was the struggle between Sigmarite and Ulrican. Chaos has forever profited from the weird religious strife over whether the Empire should follow the God who is the dream of good government, or the God who is about wolfs and axes and axe wolfs. There's also a lot of talk about decadence rotting the hearts of men and blah blah, and we'll get to why I don't really care for the whole 'decadence' angle (though I'm definitely behind Evil Grows From Injustice). Then in 1111 Imperial Calender, the Black Plague happened.
The Black Plague was real bad, as you might remember from the Ratbook. One of Clan Pestilen's greatest successes, this nearly wiped out the Empire and did massive damage to Sylvania and Bretonnia too. It also inadvertently turbo-boosted worship of Nurgle (unless you believe the rats of Pestilens are actually heretics who worship Nurgle instead of the Horned Rat) and would've ended everything if Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer and Duke Merovech hadn't put a stop to it in their respective countries. Somehow, Chaos wasn't able to follow up on the successes of the ratmen, and so the world continued on much as it had. The plague had forever damaged the unity of the Empire, though, and while it wouldn't actually fall apart until the Time of Three Emperors in the 1500s, it wouldn't be a truly unified state again until the 2300s with Magnus the Pious.
We also get an interesting alternate take on what happened to Mordheim, the famed city of the damned destroyed by a massive Warpstone comet in 2000. Apparently our old buddy Be'lakor had been scheming to become a major character again and possessed one of his big champions to try to get at that sweet sweet physical reality. It turned out doing this required huge amounts of Warpstone. I like to imagine his schemes to get more Warpstone like some kind of common skaven is what ended up causing the comet strike that destroyed the city and his new physical body, though of course the people of the Old World attribute it to Sigmar's celestial hammer. As to what Warpstone is, it's either the remnants of Old One technology, or the congealed magical power of corrupted and damaged regions of the world, or both. It's probably both.
The Great War Against Chaos was Chaos's best shot. They'd squandered their opportunity when the Ratmen had left the goal open for them in 1111, but now the Time of Three Emperors had been going on for 800 years, the Empire had been wounded by the wars with Vlad von Carstein and his family, and it was still split into multiple smaller states. As a result, when Asuvar Kul, Everchosen of Chaos, moved to sack Praag and assault the northern land of Kislev, there was no Imperial army to come to their aid. The rising of Kul and his horde was matched by an unprecedented surge in Beastman attacks from the forests of the Empire, tying up local forces and keeping any individual lords or counts from deciding they could spare the men to help Kislev as Kul's force made its way slowly towards the capital, intending to lay the Empire's northern ally thoroughly to ruin and then move south. Meanwhile, the Ulricans continued to claim Sigmar was folly and only wolves and axes and cold could fix any of this. Into this came a young noble of Nuln and priest of Sigmar named Magnus, who we've mentioned back in the core book. Magnus's excellent abilities as a diplomat, preacher, and politician united the Empire around him, and brought the elves of Ulthuan under the king Finubar the Seafarer and the Archmage Teclis to their aid. A great, but hasty, alliance of men, elves, and dwarfs went north to save Kislev. Kislev's heroic resistance had bought just enough time for the Empire to sort out its shit and come to their aid, Magnus' army arriving just as the great Winged Lancers of the north were preparing for their last stand. Kul lost, narrowly. Very narrowly.
Magnus reigned for 50 years, stabilizing and uniting the Empire, and the last 200 years were relatively peaceful. In 2502, exactly 200 years after the great war, Karl Franz ascended to the Imperial throne as a young and untested Emperor after he skillfully manipulated the Electors into voting for him (primarily with the support of the Sigmarite church) over the expected Emperor, Boris Toddbringer of Middenland. He has since been the thing Chaos hates the most in an Emperor: A uniter and diplomat. Chaos instantly began to do everything it could to try to kill or depose the man, recognizing another Magnus when it saw it, but it has so far failed.
Next Time: Fanatics, and another take on the Storm of Chaos.
Good wins because Evil was dumb as all hellOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Good wins because Evil was dumb as all hell
It's time for another take on the Storm of Chaos. You know the outline, Archaon the Everfailure's got the many +5 Items of Chaos Will Totally Win This Time and he's heading south, and they just fed the Grand Theoganist of Sigmar to him to try to make him sound like a threat. Meanwhile, in the south, Karl Franz is putting together more armies to go crush Archaon and the various other powers are negotiating how much and what to send over to help while a Frenchman with a magnificent mustache bursts into the meeting room yelling 'I'M SENDING EVERYONE THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME'. Into this, we get some complications.
First, we got Luthor Huss. Now, Luthor Huss is meant to be Warhammer Martin Luther. A big reformer who comes upon a soft and corrupt church of Sigmar and cleanses it to be better and less focused on its own comfort and decadence. But the thing is, look at the chap's actions. In the runup to the Storm of Chaos, this 'reformer' grabs an 18 year old blacksmith's son, yells 'THIS IS SIGMAR, TOTALLY ACTUALLY SIGMAR!' and leads an angry mob to demand that the competent and well regarded Emperor take a break from assembling his International Coalition of Asskicking to remove himself from the throne and crown this totally not a puppet lad. As I mentioned in the core book, Franz thinks fast, embraces the lad, and declares him Imperial Champion, hero, and wielder of the great hammer Gal Maraz (in Franz's name). This defuses what could've been another insane religious civil war at the worst possible moment, one that would've been entirely Huss's fault. Huss is supposed to be a good guy, but I can't see him as anything but a villain.
Up in the north, Boris Toddbringer is still salving his anger at not being Emperor having inconclusive battles with a Beastman warlord who loves fuckin' with Toddbringer. Seriously, that's all Khazarak One Eye seems to enjoy in life: "How can I make Boris Toddbringer really angry today? What jape shall I play upon him and his Middenlanders?" Also, there's a new lord of the Orcs, Grimgor Ironhide, and we know how that turns out with the sucker punch/Fuck You GW heard 'round the Old World later at Middenheim.
Then Be'lakor went to a weird place that doesn't come up much called Albion and discovered that the incursions seemed to be picking up speed, leading him to think maybe the end of the world was really on the way this time. Given Be'lakor's track record of being wrong about everything, it shouldn't be a surprise he was wrong about this, too.
The story about the Storm in the Chaos book really doesn't deviate from the core, which is a little disappointing. I'd have hoped for some other perspectives, maybe an explanation of why they thought they'd win how they did. There's an awful lot of ink spilled in this section, and in Sigmar's Heirs, on the GW party line that 'Well he lost but uh, he did a lot of damage to the northern Empire! Kinda! It's totally all a ruin!' because nothing makes a major villain seem mightier than making excuses for his failure and whining that he didn't really lose. I tend to think that in later centuries, people in the Old World will look back on the Storm the way we do on WWII: "How did those idiots think they'd win against the whole world?" The sort of thing that seems like a sure thing a century later when you read about it.
Archaon is another of Chaos's problems: If Chaos *wins* one of these big all or nothing wars, the setting ends (see: Times, End, The) and no-one wants that. But Chaos doesn't seem willing to go for or take small victories. It always wants a huge, rollicking power metal rock opera epic battle rather than something it can 'win' without putting an end to everything. Archaon is also another of Chaos's problems: Its characters don't tend to be much but a collection of high numbers stapled to a lot of overblown fluff about how invincible they are, moments before they get smacked in the face with a rock.
Next Time: The Hordes of Chaos.
Mutation: Chaos's best planOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Mutation: Chaos's best plan
Mutation is one of the most wicked and insidious tools of Chaos, and one of the ones I find the most compelling, because it relies on a very understandable, and very wrong, reaction on the part of its victims. Too much contact with contaminated materials, pollutants that might be mixed with Nurglite mischief, or Warpstone can produce mutation in both babies and adults, of any race (except Halflings, they're totally immune). Traveling through areas that have seen high doses of Chaos magic in the past can essentially irradiate a person, either causing them to change or causing their future children to have a higher chance of being born irregular. The key to the insidious nature of Chaos mutation came up back in Bretonnia, with the village of sane mutants living in the wood in Artois: Mutation generally doesn't do anything to the mind, nor does it actually seal someone's allegiance to the dark powers. BUT people who are allied to the dark powers almost always have mutations, because they handle the kinds of energies and materials that will cause them. Thus, people in the Old World believe mutants are all marked by, and in league with, Chaos, despite the fact that most aren't when they first change. Chaos uses mutation and the social reaction to it as a snare, a way to reach its net out and grab souls who otherwise would've had the sense to tell it no.
Many mutations occur in the womb. People who aren't aware they've been exposed to the damage Chaos energy can cause, who are still perfectly healthy and normal themselves, sometimes have children who come out 'wrong'. As you might imagine, many people have a hard time killing their own child, despite official policy. Even if the babe came out with a tentacle in place of one arm, three eyes, or some other dramatic deformity, parental love is a very strong force. The Hunters and the Priests say you have to hand such children over to be dealt with, that they're already marked by the Dark Gods, but many can't bear to do that. Thus, they abandon the children in the woods so they don't have to bear the responsibility for killing them, or hide them away in sewers or other dark places. The Beastmen of the wood scour the land for these changed children, and raise them to hate the parents who abandoned them; these bastards take especial pleasure in helping a 'recruit' return to kill their own parents. In the cities, these furtive communities of cast-off children are hunted by both Witch Hunters and Cultists, the Cultists to recruit, the Hunters to do their terrible duty, and this quickly turns them to bitterness and dark bargains. By treating this disease as a sign of immediate soullessness in children, and asking parents to do the unthinkable, the Old World accidentally creates a marginalized, abused under-class that can be exploited by Chaos's followers. What I like is that this isn't just my reading of it; this is the intent of the book. This is one of the few examples of Chaos taking advantage of a totally understandable set of human reactions to subtly cast its net out and do evil, and it's tragic and chilling. Much like Brets and losing children to the Fae, this is another of those tragedies that transcends class; nobles and peasants alike try to ward expectant mothers and pray to Shallya and Sigmar to protect their children and their household from being forced to make these kinds of choices.
Environment can also turn a healthy, normal adult into a mutant. Warpstone exposure is the most common, because it's wizard cocaine plutonium. Areas which saw great battles with Chaos or terrible sacks can be tainted unless they're properly cleansed by priests and wizards, and even then it might not take, like in the Kislevite city of Praag. Urban environments see the most mutation, both because Chaos intentionally targets those places and often tries to use cults to foul water supplies or spread warpstone powder mixed with ink or do other crazy schemes to get people to touch the wizard plutonium, and because there are so many people living in close proximity. If something is contaminated, it's much harder to contain in a huge city like Altdorf than it would be in a rural region. Sanitation also isn't great in the Old World, and so people are exposed to more pollutants and plagues in the city than they would be out in less densely populated regions. Areas that have been thoroughly sacked by Chaos often see all sorts of mutated wildlife and plant-life in an altered ecology that seeks to spread itself further. Cordoning off these tainted places, fighting the mutated animal drones, and magically clearing the blight and pollutants can make for good work for particularly brave Adventurers.
Sometimes, books can do it to you. Whether because of the aforementioned 'we mixed warpstone into the ink nyehahaha' plots by cultists (a cult seems to think of that one every month or so) or the way some books of magic become magical because of what they contain, some books really are dangerous. Reading them and handling them can do terrible things to a person. Under the great Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf, the cult quarantines the worst tomes and artifacts of evil, hiding away things like the ashes of Vlad and Isabella von Carstein or the terrible writings of the 'prophet' of Chaos, Necrodomo. Ever since some nameless Witch Hunter went crazy after reading one of the books down there and ran off to become Archaon, they've redoubled their precautions and wards. Sometimes they need one of these relics to uncover a weakness in a terrible foe, and when the priests study these things, the books try to escape. Sometimes one gets away to wreck havoc, and Adventurers need to be commissioned on the down low to find and recapture/burn the damn thing.
Magic can warp people more reliably than anything else. Even safe and sane magic can turn bad if it's overused or used for evil purpose, and even when magic isn't directly tainted by Chaos it can weird an area or a magic user. Almost all Magisters are shaped by the Wind they wield, though they'd argue these Arcane Marks are a normal part of the trade and not mutations (these show up in Tome of Salvation and Realms of Sorcery, as consequences for using a lot of divine or arcane magic). The Witch Hunters sometimes mutter that all Magisters are mutants and witches anyway, only to have licenses waved in their faces and Imperial officials warn them to focus on the real enemy; the Empire needs the Colleges and needs them badly. The Colleges try their best to instill respect for magic and care in their students, but there will always be young fools who push it too far and end up with something beyond the acceptable Marks. The Colleges try to deal with these cases internally; they don't want the Witch Hunters suspecting they're right about the wizards all along.
Plague is a specific means for Nurgle to spread mutation, and one of the most effective. Plague terrifies the people of the Empire. Yes, the Shallyan order has skilled doctors (comparatively) and miracle-working Shallyans can outright purge even the worst diseases from an individual. There aren't that many Shallyans who can work miracles, and the key there is 'from an individual'. The Empire generally resorts to cordons and quarantines to try to contain the spread of plagues, but these things are relatively ineffective without a real understanding of disease. Nurgle is forever there, in the quarantine zones, whispering to those suffering and dying that they don't have to end. He'll take away the pain and extend their lives...which will also stop the disease from burning itself out. Sometimes Nurgle's gifts will even render someone asymptomatic, just to let them travel more widely after the quarantine is lifted. There's a reason people living in an early modern society are goddamn terrified of Nurgle especially. The worst of Nurglite diseases cause horrific mutation and pain as they apply more and more pressure to try to force someone to accept him; if your PC gets the Neglish Rot and your GM doesn't let you either Burn Fate to make a miraculous recovery or get to a Shallyan with Cure Disease your PC is pretty much done, since it both checks to sap your stats every day, automatically mutates you every week with no save, and lasts for like a month without treatment. They might as well have written 'You die' as the disease's effects, and that gets to the problem with plague: Nurgle's scary as hell, but what are PCs supposed to actually do about this? Traveling through infested areas is basically a bunch of save or die (or save or suck) checks and even if you kill the source of the disease, it's already infected plenty of people by the time you usually notice it.
Possession also causes mutation but pretty much just kills whoever it afflicts. Possession is pretty dull. Once a demon gets hold of a person and overcomes their mind, if you can't get them to a good exorcist really quickly they're pretty much fucked. Demons love to possess people because it gives them a physical body, protecting them from warp instability. They also love mutating and hurting their new body just because they can. Demons are dicks. Cultists are sometimes stupid enough to let themselves get possessed on purpose, which inevitably kills the cultist who thought they were going to ascend to some higher level of being or something, which also gets at another problem we'll be seeing with Chaos: Chaos doesn't really do anything good for its followers. Chaos pretty much just dicks you over as soon as it can. It doesn't have much of a carrot, just a hell of a lot of sticks. A PC who suffers a possession attack by touching the wrong relic or whatever (never engage with Chaos relics, just burn them, nothing they can do is ever worth what they do to you) gets one WP test to resist. Henceforth, they have to make a WP test every day or the demon takes over and plays them instead, granting 1 Insanity point. If they get to 12 Insanity points, the demon destroys their mind and pushes them out completely, and can do whatever it wants with the body. You can find someone to exorcise the bastard before that and usually have a fair bit of time, but it still doesn't feel like an especially fun mechanic. We'll be getting a lot of that with Chaos's various 'You touched me now you're fucked' traps.
Also, and this is key to the social reaction to mutants, Chaos mutates its followers. If you're a cultist, a champion, or whatever, you're going to change physically (and mentally, but most don't realize that part and we'll get to that when we get to Chaos Warriors) over time. This is one of the reasons people believe anyone with mutations must already have signed their soul over to darkness. Cultists and champions, who are prone to sunk cost fallacies, come up with all kinds of reasons why their mutations are really good things, and that it's totally awesome that one of their legs just had a cage match with their other leg and now they have to hop everywhere on the one super leg, or how their brain just tried to escape their head and turned their skull into a point. Cultists mostly don't come off as very smart people.
Next Time: Dealing with your mutations.
Please cut off the tentacle, I don't care what else happens.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Please cut off the tentacle, I don't care what else happens.
So, how do people deal with the warping of flesh, considering the social stigma and state policy of 'kill all mutants'? Remember that mutation can happen to anyone, and sometimes it comes out of nowhere. "People are quick to condemn someone they don't know, or someone they dislike, but when the new mutant is a friend or family member they suddenly find it much more difficult to do the 'obvious' duty of handing them over to the Hunters." as the book puts it, which is a nice touch; it's easy to stick with standard Warhammer 40k-esque lines about purity and purging when it's a bunch of statistics, but this is dealing with a threat that can hit anyone, of any class, and when it happens to someone dear to you what seemed so sensible can suddenly feel much too real. As mentioned in mutation by birth, many parents leave their child somewhere 'safe', with folktales about how the Gods will take the babe back and the child won't suffer, or stories about how there are kindly groups of mutants wandering the woods who will take care of them (If you remember Madame Kalfon from the Vampire book, or the Knights and villagers in Artois, sometimes this is actually totally true). More often the child dies or is found by the Beastmen, and Beastmen are bad news. Beastmen hate everything. We'll get to Beastmen later in their own chapter, but they love taking in mutants to make them kill their own communities.
Other people try to hide what they've got. If it's simple, like six fingers on a hand or an odd mark in a spot normally covered over by clothing, they can live a pretty normal life. Similarly, sometimes a family will hide a mutated child someplace safe and keep them from the Hunters, raising them in secret. That can even work out, sometimes, but hiding someone in a boarded up room or attic is going to affect their sanity and development. Which in turn can lead to tragedy, escape attempts, or discovery. Worse, if a family is found hiding a mutant, and actively trying to keep it from the authorities...well, sometimes the Hunters can be very brutal people and in such cases the family is usually condemned with their child.
Other people seek treatment. If it's a growth or an extra body part, surely a surgeon can amputate it, right? This does work, potentially, but seeking out a surgeon who'll treat a mutant to hide mutation can be dangerous. Major surgery like amputation isn't safe. Some surgeons are traps, turning over mutants seeking help in return for rewards from the Hunters. And even if the surgeon is honest and skilled, getting an entire tail removed is painful, infection prone, and when working with altered anatomy, could cause all sorts of unexpected complications or death. After all, if the body is already twisted a bit, who knows what else got moved around in there? What might suddenly be vital when it wasn't before? You have to find someone with the actual Surgery talent to successfully remove a growth, extra limb, or other added body part, and they have to make a Heal check of difficulty set by the GM or else something is going to go seriously wrong. Still, getting rid of a mutation and living free could be worth the risk. But what if it isn't?
Short one this time, Next Time: Playing As Mutants, expanded mutations.
So you want to go play as those guys in Artois, eh? Here are the rules you'll need.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
So you want to go play as those guys in Artois, eh? Here are the rules you'll need.
For some reason they assume a PC who starts out as a mutant had to be human, instead of an elf or dwarf, because 'those races destroy tainted offspring on sight'. As opposed to the humans? Elves and dwarfs aren't that fundamentally different in their attitudes about murder, and elves even have a specific, entire extra God of murder for the crime of killing another elf or doing dark things and a lot of their problems happened because Malekith couldn't bear to see his mother executed. I'd expect elfs would be pretty vulnerable to not wanting to murder their very few children. Anyway, a character who starts as a mutant replaces their Human Talents with Flee! and their Gossip with Concealment and Silent Move. If you gained a mutation in play, 3d10 days later you'll need a Toughness test not to pick up a second one due to the corruption of Morrslieb, the Chaos Moon, the next time it decides to come full. This feels pointless, and if you succeed it doesn't happen again until you gain another mutation in play. Mutations have a new stat attached to them called Fear Points. If you have 1 Fear, you gain Menacing. If your mutations total to 2, you get Unsettling. 5, Fear. 10, Terrifying. The GM is advised to make mutations even more fearsome than just adding up their listed Fear Points if the combination of mutations sounds totally metal. Characters roll on a d1000 (yes, 1000) table for mutation, rolling 3d10 for the 1s, 10s, and 100s, unless they're followers of a specific God, in which case they roll on a smaller d100 table.
I am not going to list all the mutations here. Part of the reason for the d1000 is so they can make the occasional, wholly beneficial mutations relatively rare and some of the more 'standard' ones like 3 eyes or whatever much more common. And yes, some of the mutations are totally beneficial. For instance, Massive Intellect has no outward signs and instantly adds +2d10 Intelligence to a character. Or Weapon Master gives +d10 to BS or WS, your choice, as you unlock a great killer instinct in your soul. Some of the mutations are unplayable, like Boneless (Your skeleton runs off to try being undead and leaves you with nothing, that's the description) and some have no actual gameplay effect but to mark you as a mutant (like gaining feathers). Actually trying to play a PC who rolls repeatedly on the d1000 table is going to be very tough, though you can always spend a Fortune point to reroll once. Constructing a mutant PC from the list could actually be pretty fun, though. In general, mutations are meant to be more of a bad thing that sometimes gives you weird benefits. Similarly, if a character gains more than TB+d10 Mutations ( determined the first time you gain one, increasing with Toughness Bonus if you become tougher) you become a mindless, ruined Chaos Spawn. Part of the 'metagame' of a Chaos Champion game presented later is trying to gain Rewards (much more beneficial abilities) in order to gain enough of them to ascend to demonhood before you pick up sufficient mutations to degenerate into a Spawn. Because the Gods are dicks, every Reward has a chance to turn out to be just another mutation.
Chaos Spawn get their own subsection, but they're weird, unskilled bags of hit points and mutations that aren't much of a threat unless they get really lucky or you get really screwed on your fear saves.
We've also got some new Insanities for if you gain IP from mutation, but most of them translate to 'This will get worse until you can't play your PC', demonstrating why the IP system isn't very good. The only awesome one is False Wizard. You've come to believe you're a wizard. You go everywhere in a pointy hat, carry a wand, intone spells that do nothing, and act haughty. This is great. Followers of Tzeentch love to kidnap and experiment on people with this insanity so as to give them real magic, and then study the differences between what they THOUGHT wizbiz would be like, and what CRAZY WIZBIZ actually ends up being like, because they think it gives insight into the nature of magic.
One of the problems with mutation in general is that with so much variation, while you've got a lot of weird and even cool options, you're unlikely to end up with a cohesive character after more than one or two. And unless you're actually playing Chaos or Norse PCs, or some weird edge case where you're a group of sane mutants, you're probably not going to be able to walk around in public after a lot of these. And some of them will outright destroy your PC in one roll. They're just too random and all over the map.
Next Time: Cults: The Suckers of Chaos.
Cultists: The suckers, lost causes, head cases, and idiots that make all this possible.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Cultists: The suckers, lost causes, head cases, and idiots that make all this possible.
Most people in the Old World can find a family shame somewhere in their family tree. Someone who listened to someone who was telling them something they really shouldn't have listened to. For most people, the paranoia and the threat of cult activity is a much 'realer' thing than thinking about swarms of eight foot tall, plate armored hellvikings, because most people have seen a cultist exposed in their community in their lifetime. Until the Storm, the main contact with actual armed forces of Chaos was just battles with raiders and beastmen. Cults hold real dread for the people of the Old World, because despite the propaganda they know almost anyone could be revealed to be in league with darkness. As we went over in the mutation chapter, some families can trace an uncle with a third eye or something who was driven into the woods and ended up joining with sinister forces, or a soldier who dropped his halberd and walked off north, never to be seen again, after seeing too much killing. Everyone knows it can happen here.
The key to Chaos's offers to its cultists is immediacy. Chaos cultists almost never get what they wanted long term, but short term the opportunity to indulge, the lure of revenge, or the desire for protection in a moment of terror are powerful enough lures. There's a stereotype of cultists as The Guy Who Doesn't Belong, but the ones that go that route end up dead very, very quickly and don't pose much threat. The dangerous ones get their first taste of what they want and then settle in, acting as upstanding members of the community (and often accusing adventurers and other outsiders who investigate them of being cultists, themselves, since they fit the stereotype better) while they attack it from within. Alternately, that fine, upstanding member of the community who's secretly a cultist might not even know they're a cultist yet. Cults often start with an innocuous face; a warrior brotherhood formed within a regiment of soldiers, a group of traveling doctors, a rich society of art collectors, or a 'common sense' collection of agitators and pamphleteers, for instance. They don't go right to 'Hey, how do you feel about Khorne?' until they have blackmail material, or have already made the initiate implicate themselves in cult activity that could get them burned, too.
Cultists do it for a lot of reasons. Ambition is one; the Dark Gods legitimately don't care what gender, race, or social class you are. They're happy to ruin anyone and everything, given they want to destroy the world. A Bretonnian knight who finds she's spurned by the Lady at the rank of Questing Knight might listen to other creatures who don't care that she's a woman under her armor. A servant might begin listening to the cults as a way to revenge himself on the idiot noble he serves. A noble might eagerly seek out the help of monsters to ensure the world stays in its proper place, with him as privileged master of the universe, no matter the cost. Sometimes people are just plain tricked into serving a cult and never even realize they're working with Chaos until the axe falls and they wind up on an altar or the Hexenjaeger's pyre. Some (especially nobles) join because they're privileged, pampered, and bored; they can't imagine something could actually harm them since they've lived their life in great comfort, and have no idea what sort of danger they're walking into. Others join because they have nothing left, and either want to take everything away from others or perceive the Gods as the only ones offering succor. And finally, plenty of people join because they believe Chaos's hype about itself, think it's going to win, and desperately want to be spared (Note: They will definitely not be spared if it wins).
Any character of any career might be a cultist, but there are particular careers for established cultists who serve as officers for their insidious organizations. A Cult Acolyte is a second tier Advanced Career, granting a bunch of minmaxed abilities and skills to fit in with their God. These careers don't actually break any of the 'rules' (they don't go higher than the normal caps on a lot of 2nd tier career stat advances, have a normal number of skills and talents, etc) but rather serve as a way to customize a character into a proper cultist lieutenant for Chaos players or for normal PCs to find at the heart of some local conspiracy. They can also go into unique 3rd tier careers: Cult Magi. A Cult Magus of Khorne, for instance, is a very, very solid 3rd tier melee fighter. Acolytes and Magi also start to pick up Chaos Magic, outside of Khorne, who despises all weavers of the magical arts as nerds. Magi are meant to be the 'boss' enemy of a Chaos cult plotline, someone who is much more able than the common cultist and who directs the cult from its center.
People join cults of Khorne because they've either seen too much killing and violence and lost all hope, or because after getting a taste of it they find they like it way more than is healthy. Cults of Khorne don't last long, usually. They're serial killers at their best, at worst once they hit a critical mass they just attack the nearest creature with a pulse and don't stop until they're all dead. An important detail about Khornate worship is that he's especially pleased with people who kill people who used to be their friends and families, as proof of their devotion to the pure act of murder. Similarly, he doesn't brook much excuse for not killing a shitload of people regularly. Every now and then, you'll get a smarter Magus who has enough of the God's favor to be a little more subtle, and these sorts try to infiltrate knightly orders and warrior societies; these are a good place to find skilled fighters who are used to blood. The example cult of the Crimson Skulls does exactly this, especially trying to get at and convert Ulrican Templars and playing on their bitterness about the influence of Sigmar. They now control a powerful Ulrican knightly order, the Brotherhood of the Axe, and burrowed deeper when they used the precept of 'Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows' to fight bravely in defense of Middenheim against Archaon. They had judged he was going to lose, blood was blood, and if they came out of the war as heroes, they'd be in a perfect place for the cult to gain more and more influence among Ulrican knights. A brave and actually pretty cunning gambit! And one your PCs can foil. I actually like the Crimson Skulls, much as I usually despise Khorne. They're the right mix of rules-lawyering their idiot god and long range planning to be genuinely dangerous, they're trained knights and fighters rather than rabble, but they're also walking a tightrope and desperate to stay hidden. PCs could easily give them a push. They're also the main bad guys of a large part of the Official Campaign.
People join cults of Nurgle for a simple reason: Despair. Nurgle prays on despair more than any other Chaos God. He spreads his plagues, then promises not to hurt you any more if you follow and help spread them further. Then he loves you and laughs with you while you cause the deaths of thousands. Nurgle is basically an abusive relationship: Hurts you, forces you to do things, then shows a little kindness and laughter so you'll cling to the sign that things will be okay while he says he loves you. This is intentional and genuinely pretty uncomfortable. Nurgle also feeds on the panic that spreads in the wake of illness. People in the Old World are terrified of sickness, despite the Shallyan's attempts to soften attitudes towards the ill. These attitudes towards illness, that brutal quarantines and any measures possible to prevent their spread, come from the Black Plague of 1111. It killed significantly more people than the real Black Death (which is an accomplishment) specifically because it was an actual biological weapon, being intentionally spread by Clan Pestilens (It's funny that unless the Plague Rats really are Nurglite heretics, as has been hinted several times, the source of the plague that gave people the perception Nurgle depends on wasn't even Nurgle) in the Skaven's first real bid to take over the entire surface. People will do anything to prevent that happening again. Also, you know, they live in a world where they know a dark god is trying to spread biological terror, and so are right to attribute a lot of epidemics to malice. Still, locking people in a district with the sick and dying at swordpoint has a way of making those sick and dying listen to Papa Nurgle.
The example cult of Nurgle is the Children of Doom. They started during the Plague, when a group of priests of Sigmar begged Nurgle to save them after their prayers to Sigmar went unanswered. They genuinely believe Sigmar was murdered by the other Gods, jealous of his power and majesty, and that his divine corpse is putrefying and rotting the world. Only Nurgle can protect mortals from this divine sickness, and if they worship him in all things, the plagues and trials of life will eventually pass, leaving them to live in comfort and paradise. They've grown enormously in the last 1400 years, aided by the fact that their founder pleased Nurgle enough to be ascended to a Demon Prince. With such a powerful patron as an intermediary, they plot to spread disease further, to hasten the end and the new life that will come after, from their secret lair underneath Marienburg. They're meant to be a Whole Campaign enemy, with the players eventually finding their way into the dark lair and banishing the Demon Prince to shatter their plans at the end of a long campaign. They're alright as enemies.
Slaaneshi are everywhere, for obvious reasons. The God of wine and song is obviously going to find followers. Slaanesh cults like to recruit via addictive drugs or hallucinogenic episodes, after which the initiate will have done things that make it very hard for them to go to the authorities. They consider addiction a proper sign of their God, after all; always wanting more and never being able to fulfill the cravings is the most Slaaneshi thing there is, outside of seeking perfection. Slaaneshi also patronize exciting new artists, playwrights, and artisans, then reveal themselves once the person proves to have the proper mindset or once the person has already done something for their 'patron' that would get them into trouble. Slaanesh can be done fine, but Slaanesh is not going to be handled especially well in this book. There's a lot more emphasis on crazed parties and Caligulan excesses. A lot of focus on the sadistic and masochistic aspect rather than the basic 'This is the God of Stuff People Want, and Will Do Bad Things To Get' stuff. I am very disappointed in their handling of Slaanesh in general.
The Big Example Cult is your usual bog standard sexparty murdercult, but the minor cult presented is much more interesting. They're a group of scholars and philosophers who see Slaanesh as the ultimate symbol of the goals of utilitarianism. After reasoning that the Dark Gods are reflections of human emotion, and that Khorne was Hate, Nurgle Despair, Tzeentch 'hope' (God, do I hate that, we'll get into that later), and Slaanesh Pleasure. After thinking about it, they decided that Slaanesh was the only one worth building a life around, since Slaanesh offered a life of measurable good and life is finite anyway. As artists of argumentation, Slaanesh helped them to write the exact right paragraphs, find the proper turn of phrase, or the right citation, and this only deepened their conviction that Slaanesh was the right choice. Now they're out to take Academia by storm, eagerly arguing and spreading their reasoned philosophical findings that Slaanesh is the only principle worth living for. A bunch of nerdy philosophers eagerly appealing to Satan for academic writing prowess and trying to convert fellow academics is way cooler than a sex murderparty.
Tzeentch is written as the God of Hope. Tzeentch is not the God of Hope. Tzeentch is the god of suckers and bad writers. Also wizards. Tzeentch cults ensnare people to join them for pretty much any reason you can think of so long as it makes the Tzeentch cultist feel clever. Tzeentch cultists tend to be demagogues with (initially) specific political and philosophical agendas, convinced that they are the genius who is going to get a good deal out of the God of Tricking Stupid People. They scurry around and create complex conspiracies because it makes them feel clever, taking roundabout methods and paths to their goals, and usually losing sight of them in the process. They also like magic, and Tzeentch can make someone with no talent at all into a wizard. The Big Cult for Tzeentch is the Purple Hand, who I gather were the main bad guys of the big 1e Official Campaign, but who are really your generic faux-illuminati types. They always have some new plan and whatever dude you just stabbed wasn't 'really' important or whatever, god I hate Tzeentch. They're careful and clever and operate in small cells but there's very little on what they want besides 'be (what we see as) tricky' and 'Tzeentch wins'.
You know what players really love in a game? When there's a bad guy whose 'cleverness' consists of 'He has the script and so 'knows' all these ridiculous steps will eventually get his goal to come about' and 'If you beat him he goes nu-uh you didn't'. Players fucking love that. You should do that all the time.
You should really just burn the books.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
You should really just burn the books.
Chapter 5 is where I start to notice a real pattern in why this book is way less exciting than Bretonnia, besides the weaker material. Very little of the material feels 'player facing'. Bretonnia was full of 'Here's some cool ideas for adventures and also unique mechanical stuff for the region that your PCs can use to do fun stuff'. Night's Dark Masters was as much about 'Here's how you kill these awesome bastards' as 'These bastards are pretty awesome'. The Chaos book? Most of the material presented so far is designed to make life harder for the players. New ways for them to get screwed over by save or die rolls even if they win combats, that sort of thing. Objects of Chaos is gonna go into that hard. I'm gonna spoil it right now: Absolutely none of these items are worth using if you're not in a Chaos campaign and the correct use for all of them is destroying them as fast as possible.
Chaos likes to get into art sometimes, especially Slaanesh. We're talking the standard gothic horror 'inspired by visions of hell or the insane pursuit of perfection, this can drive people crazy' art, for the most part. This also leads to occasional crackdowns on anything that seems to be getting too abstract or experimental, despite it often having nothing to do with Chaos. The first candidate is the Grim Feast, a 5 century old picture of people being fed their relatives at a fancy dinner. It's got Khorne in it. Looking at it for too long makes you make a WP test or try to murder your own family. It can be solved by the application of fire since it isn't magically warded or anything. It's not really a worthwhile plot thread. The Blessed Ones is another evil picture. Cults say this painting of a weird garden scene gives you eternal life if you put a drop of your own blood on it. Cults are sorta lying about this. If you do, two demons appear and drag you into the painting to add to the scene forever. Also looking at it gives you an Insanity point if you fail WP. Again, it can be burned or cut to pieces and it's got demons right in the picture. Any PC who fiddles with this thing is a silly person.
Grimoires are actually relatively 'common' magical items. If you write enough about magic in a book, the book starts to get a little magic. Most grimoires are approved by the Colleges or passed down from elfs, and are as safe as anything gets with Arcane Magic. If you're using the Trappings system, mages need to seek out Grimoires in order to promote into their next careers, so they're always hotly sought by wizards. Since they're also magical by nature, it's easy for Chaos wizards to mess with an otherwise safe Grimoire and try to put little traps and tricks into the magic to ensnare wizards as they try to learn from it. This is a reasonably clever way for grabbing wizards, who need the books anyway and often can't tell if they're bad without studying them carefully. Memetic traps in spellbooks are fine.
The famous books include one that forces you to keep reading it unless you make a ton of WP tests in a row, and gives you Insanity. Once it gives you 6 Insanity, you've fully read and understood it, and from now on can always Exit your career into Chaos Warrior because it's designed to convince you it's a true book of prophecy about how Chaos is totally going to win. It's one of the hidden books down in the Vaults under the Temple of Sigmar and is implied to be the one that caused Archaon. The Catalogue of Flesh is a book that has a fucking eye on the cover, an actual blinking eye, why aren't your PCs burning this thing yet? It's actually possessed, because it's a volume of demonology that, when completed, summoned a demon. The demon started eating the Warlock who summoned it but got interrupted by Witch Hunters and ran to hide while they arrested and burned the Warlock, but got stuck in the book since it was magic. This one at least has some reason to fiddle with it: It contains a bunch of true names of demons (which can be used by powerful mages to Banish them) and gives a huge bonus to Demonology checks when used. While you handle it, there's a chance the demon wakes up and tries to eat you by draining Toughness until it explodes and mutates everyone in a large template. This one's okay. Still better off probably not using it. The Codex of Terrible Damnation is more of the same, being a how to on starting cults and invoking dark powers (which also gives you a chance of mutating while reading it) that lets you exit into the various Chaos tracks if you finish it. The Liber Malefic is interesting in that it's a widely available text for hunters of evil...in its abridged, sanitized form. It's still terrifying, having been written by a veteran Witch Hunter after he was struck with terrible visions of what lay beyond, as a guidebook on how to kill the things he'd seen. Reading the full version of the man's visions, hidden in the temple of Sigmar, is going to cause one Insanity. Not a point, an actual Insanity. But it gives you a +30% to Academic Knowledge (Magic) permanently. The abridged version is helpful and much more manageable, giving a WP test or gain one IP in return for a permanent +10% to Academic Knowledge (Magic). Finally, there's the actual Tome of Corruption. A text by a wizard who thought he could catalogue all of Chaos for its defeat. He ended up publishing one version, then wandering off to do 'research' on the Realm of Chaos itself, never returning. It gives tons of academic bonuses, teaches Dark Tongue, and lets a user use the Dark Magic trait without having it. It causes a WP test or +1 Insanity Points every time you use it for a test, though. Most of the books aren't worth using.
The Eye of Morkar is weird because its entire entry is written as though it was Morkar the Uniter that challenged Magnus the Pious, not Asuvar Kul (Morkar challenged Sigmar), which is hilarious to me. The authors couldn't keep the various Everchosen straight, I guess, since they all boil down to 'Asshole in spikey armor'. It can be used to boost any spellcasting roll by +Mag, but if you cause a miscast you roll twice and take the worse result. The Helm of Iron And Blood is a magic helmet of Khorne, usually encountered on the head of a Champion of Khorne. It was originally given to one of his champions to be an excellent hat, but it grabs people who are exceptional at BS or WS and tried to force them to put it on when it isn't currently on an evil spikey guy. It then makes you make a WP-20 test or it bonds with your head forever. Then it tries to force you to go Khorne. It can be removed by exorcism. It also makes followers of Khorne follow you about, expecting you to lead them to some skulls. The Jade Idol is an evil jade idol from distant Cathay, which moved via a succession of merchants who would accidentally awaken it, then be smart enough to sell the damn thing when it started filling their heads with 'You know what'd be awesome? A murder sex party'. It eventually found someone who said 'Hell yeah, I love murder sex parties' in Nuln, who then got burned by Witch Hunters. The idol went missing in the destruction of his estate. It provides +1 to all casting rolls if around when you're doing wizbiz, +3 if placed in a bowl of blood. It makes your spells count as using Dark Magic. It also tries to show you its magical realm, causing WP+10 or gain 1-2 IP. It's not worth using, smash it.
You'll notice a bit of a theme here, where the items give minor benefits while being obviously evil and you're better off destroying them since they do permanent damage to your PC if you don't. This is what I mean by 'All this stuff seems to exist solely to make things annoying for players'. Part of the problem with Chaos is that engaging with its stuff is full of ways to hurt you, but doesn't give significant benefits or ways to try to learn how to ward or banish it. The one book with the true names is one of the only ones where it might be worth risking it, otherwise +30% to a single knowledge skill is in no way worth an outright Insanity (which can be character-ending), etc. They don't give the kind of big benefit they'd need to give to be tempting, they're just gotchas.
Chaos also fucking loves drugs. Allure comes from a Lustrian plant brought back by explorers in 1492 (haha, I see what you did there). It's a lure for a carnivorous plant that uses it to stone birds out of their minds so it can eat them, but when given to a much larger human, it greatly enhances thought and sensation (+10 to Perception tests, +10% to other Int tests) for hours. As long as you don't go to sleep while on the junk, you're fine. If you go to sleep, though, your psyche wanders close to the Realm of Chaos, and you see things that can cause Insanity Points. Worse, you have a 20% chance of something trying to possess you, which if you recall is a Save or Probably Die. As long as you know not to sleep on this stuff, it could be a useful buff. The visions are at least useful; they should warn you of dangers and plots that are incoming in the next adventure. The Cordial of Tzeentch is made out of ground pieces of a Changer of Ways, a Greater Demon. As you might imagine this stuff is beyond rare. Taking it has no permanent effect: You roll a d10 for every stat you have, with a 1-2 dropping it by 20, a 3-4 dropping it by 10, a 5-6 increasing it by 10, etc up to a 9-10 increasing it by 30. This lasts for d10 hours. Weirdly, aside from the RNG chance you lose some stats for the better part of a day, eating ground up greater demon doesn't hurt you at all. Plaguestooth Balm is made from the body fat of those who died of the Neglish Rot. It's a trap by Nurglites, making a person suffering terrible diseases temporarily asymptomatic and addicting them. Moreover, they eventually develop a tolerance and the relief stops after a few vials, and they likely gain a mutation. This is fine, this is the stuff Nurgle does all the time, with the whole 'Oh I can make it stop hurting whoops I lied and also you infected more people'.
Then there's good ole Warpstone, beloved wizard cocaine plutonium. Warpstone is congealed magic, in a dangerous and unstable form. Warpstone dust is literally snorted and eaten by Skaven wizards like particularly awesome coke. Humans who do this gain mutations. Don't snort the plutonium. This means cultists love to hide warpstone dust all over the place to spread mutation by contact or accidental ingestion. A character who snorts warpstone or eats a Skaven warpstone token without dying will get +3 on their next casting roll, but miscasts get more severe, with doubles counting as triples and triples counting as quadruples. This is in no way ever worth doing for a human (it's awesome for Grey Seers). Touching significant chunks of unrefined Warpstone causes 3 Wounds, 1 of which will be *permanent* and a -20 Toughness test or gain a mutation. Using magic within 6 yards of it gives a massive +6 casting bonus, at the cost of making miscasts more severe and invoking permanent painful side effects if you get any Doubles, too.
Warpstone is not worth dealing with for human PCs. Like everything else in this chapter. In general, if your players were hoping for dangerous but cool loot from adventures against Chaos, they aren't gonna get it. Which means Chaos also drops very little treasure that won't kill your PCs, another strike against it when fighting it.
Next time: Places Chaos Hides.
Spooky placesOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
The urban and the rural life in the Empire are very different. Urban communities are cosmopolitan, with people from other countries and other species being common sights for the residents. They may be crowded and plague-ridden sometimes, but they're hopeful places where someone can make their fortune. The rural areas tend to be tight knit, smaller communities located along the major roads or river routes, with the occasional village further afield in the massive forests for gathering wood and burning charcoal. While the cities have to deal with the cultists, the isolated rural communities have to deal with the very real threat of hordes of angry goatmen. This is one of the reasons every single village in the Empire has a wall and a militia. Most of the forest is still untamed and unexplored. The Warherds and other terrible things live in the deeper, darker parts of the great forests, constantly claiming they're going to take over the world from humankind any day now, as they've been doing for millennia.
People traveling the Empire's roads usually mark their journey by the networks of coaching inns. These exist to provide small, fortified settlements that are safe for patrolling roadwardens (road cops), coaches, merchants, and travelers to stay at overnight. While they tend to be spaced out by a day's journey by coach, people traveling on foot stay overnight in coaching inns whenever they can because it's much safer than not doing so. They also mark routes that are patrolled by regiments of state troops, which makes these routes much safer. Your PCs are reasonably likely to start their adventure together in a coaching inn, possibly as it comes under attack. Patrons who know how to fight are expected to help the mercenaries, wandering roadwardens, and any passing state troops if an inn comes under attack. Similarly, the Empire builds forts and castles to lock down areas of wilderness or important frontiers, and many of the cities are in highly defensible locations. Some lords also build their own fortifications in preparation for trouble with their neighbors. Many of the northern forts and fortifications have been pressed sorely or drained of troops for the battle at Middenheim and the pursuit of the broken Chaos forces northward. Those regions are also experiencing a lot of refugee traffic as people try to return to resettle their homes. With the defenders stretched thin, they'll have need of adventurers to help out with reclaiming fortifications, towns, and defending the people. The emphasis on fortifications along every major road route are a testament to the Empire's need to be ready for raiding Beastmen from the wood.
Ruined settlements are a real problem post-Storm. People want to return to their homes and rebuild, but the enemy has boobytrapped many of the places it took. Not just by razing the buildings or salting the earth, but by poisoning water sources with warpstone or erecting shrines to curse the land. This means mutant wildlife, bloodthirsty remnants of the warbands, and dark magic threaten people who are trying to return to normalcy. Once again, this is a job for PCs. PCs are much more likely to know wizards and priests than most Imperials, and are likely to be good with a sword or gun; the perfect sort of people to come and reclaim these places ahead of resettlement by refugees. PCs will need to help people re-establish order and rebuild their lives, and the local lords, mayors, and merchants will probably pay them for the service.
The great Drakwald Forest in Middenland is one of the biggest sources of an odd phenomena called Lost Villages. There are places established deep in the wood that lost contact with the outside world, but didn't die. These small communities manage to survive, cut-off from all advanced society, and often develop in strange and deviant ways in order to avoid their destruction at the hands of the monsters of the woods. These are spooky places not on any map for PCs to stumble upon, little bundles of wrongness and self-contained mysteries as the heroes poke around to find out what the hell happened to this village. They'll only work on particularly curious PCs, but they're a classic horror trope and I can't fault them.
There are also all sorts of old standing stones, built by elves or by ancient men who understood a little more about the leylines and the flow of magic. Chaos covets these, as they're well built monuments of order that greatly empower and strengthen sane magic, but can be twisted and turned into places of dark power instead. Elven Waystones seem to have once been part of some kind of great transportation system, but now they direct some of the general flow of magic into the surrounding area and help reinforce the Vortex at Ulthuan. Any character using any kind of magic near one gets a massive +d5 per casting die they use. There are also great stone circles called Ogham Stones, placed by ancient humans in times long forgotten, that provide an even greater bonus of +5 Casting Result per d10, straight up, with no drawbacks; no-one knows why these places are so powerful or why the ancient humans knew to put them there. Herdstones are unholy relics of the Beastmen, gathering places for their kind that order them to kill and despoil in the name of darkness. No-one knows what draws the beastmen to these sites.
Finally, there are all manner of ancient tombs, constructed at the high point of past unholy crusades to honor the greatest champions of Chaos. These dark and foreboding sites contain monuments to the dead champions inside, and often call out to cultists and monsters to guard them. They also tend to be full of both tainted and untainted plunder, being trophies of a raiding champion's life. This makes them attractive to adventurers; you can destroy the evil shit and steal the gold and jewels, and who's going to complain that you defiled a tomb to a murdering bastard?
Next Time: Goatmen Prime.
Sweet fancy moses! It's Goatman Prime!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Sweet fancy moses! It's Goatman Prime!
Beastmen are strange creatures, usually the melding of a human and a goat, that run about the forests of the Empire and murder people at random for the Gods. No-one in setting really knows where this plague came from, but the truth is the Beastmen were the humans living too close to the Gate of Heaven when it exploded in the north. They are, in essence, a vision of what Chaos wants for human society. A wandering, nomadic society of cannibalistic monsters with superior physical strength and a hatred of anything established and ordered. No-one knows exactly how many of them are out there; small raiding parties are only out for killing and sacrifices, not battle, and will usually be turned aside by a walled settlement or a reasonably alert militia (or a party of PCs). Larger warherds form seemingly at random, though, and these will loot and burn smaller villages and isolated settlements or attack Imperial armies. Whenever the Champions of Chaos stir in the north, the Beastmen quickly bow to them and take their marching orders as natural minions, which is very interesting when you consider Beastmen are the original result of humans coming into contact with unstable Chaos energy.
Beastmen are everywhere, but they're worst in the Drakwald. The forests around Middenland are badly infested, and despite Boris Toddbringer's best efforts, the most he has to show for it are a Beastman Warlord whose favorite hobby is fuckin' with Boris Toddbringer and a missing eye (these are related). Man isn't having much luck bringing todd to those guys. Further north, near Ostland and Nordland lies the Forest of Shadows, which is about as bad. It's more of a dangerous, wild place in general, with the infestation being less specifically Chaos related and more 'There aren't that many people or major cities nearby to even make a concerted effort at scouring this place'. Thus, Beastmen thrive among the brigands and greenskins in the Forest of Shadows. Up in Troll Country, north of the borders of Kislev and verging on the dread Chaos Wastes, you find roving hordes of the things; it's here they meet with their masters, the Champions of Chaos, to pass on words to when the Herds should start to get active to harass and harry the Empire and Kislev in preparation for larger invasions by conventional Chaos armies.
Beastmen are usually mooks, but their racial profile for creating Beastmen characters gives them some nasty advantages: A big racial buff to stealth in the woods, Keen Senses (Remember this from vampires? +20% to all Perception based tests is really good), and they all know how to sneak. Any Beastman PC (Yes, you can play as Goatman Prime) starts with 2 Mutations, and Beastmen can take more mutations before warping into Chaos Spawn than humans. Horned Gors are the mightiest of the Beastmen, and the assumed sort you'll be if you're playing as them or specifically rolling up a full, hand-made champion for your PCs to fight. Gors get some pretty insane stats: +10 WS, +5 Str, +20 Tough, +5 Agi, -5 WP, and +10 Fel (I don't know, I guess this is in relations with other Beastmen and Chaos folks, the only place they'd talk to people). They also get slightly higher Wounds than a human (about 1 point higher on average), but no Fate at all, much like a Vampire. There are also multiple kinds of Gors, but the only one with gameplay effect is the 'Truegor', which has no actual mutations besides exceptionally handsome horns. They get Very Strong and Savvy as bonus talents, being especially favored, and all Gors also get Intimidate. Gors can go into a couple simple careers, but get the unique (and not too spectacular) Bestigor (intended to buff the base Gor statline for 'elite' enemies more than for being a PC career) class and Beastman Champion (A pretty basic, meh 3rd tier-ish career) for the same purpose. The high Toughness might seem really intimidating, but Beastmen never wear plate; they top out at Mail, generally, as it's the best thing they can loot and still wear. A Gor Champion is a match in a duel for a well equipped T3 PC.
You're also given rollable stats for Brays and Ungors, Beastmen who don't have horns and thus suck. Aside from being fairly tough and having inexplicably high Fellowship (seriously, why do all the goatmen have 30 base Fel) they aren't that impressive and if you're playing Beastmen for some reason, you're probably all playing Gors. Except if someone is playing as the most busted PC option I've seen since vampires, the Bray Shaman. Bray Shamans start with a point of Mag, +10 WS, +15 Tough, +5 Agi, +10 Int, +10 Fel, they actually have 1-3 Fate, they have even better wounds than a Gor, and they get access to two unique magic careers. Their starting *caster* Career gives them a full lore, +2 more Mag (for Mag 3, same as a Master Wizard), an extra Attack per round, tons of skills, and exits into a Career that gives +4 Mag (For 5 Mag! They break the normal Mag cap!), good fighting skills, +2 Attacks, good physicals, great mentals, and jesus christ it really is Goatman Prime come to end everything. Greater Bray Shamans are Final Boss Wizard types.
You've also got rollable options for drunken crazy centaur monsters that love drinking, fighting, and hate everyone else for not being a half-horse, half-man freak. They're strong, not especially agile, very fast, and have a base Attacks of 2, so careers can take them crazy places if you decided one was able to join a PC party. They can never armor their fragile, fragile horse legs, though, and hits to their body have 50-50 odds of hitting the unarmored horse parts. The chances of a Centigor going down to broken leg and needing a bullet in the head are high. You've also got rollable minotaurs, because if you're going to be a crazy beastman monster party why not go all the way? Minotaurs automatically have a bunch of fighting talents like fighting with two-handed weapons and Strike Mighty Blow, Attacks of 2, +20 Str and Toughness over a human, and are dumb as all hell. You've also got some minions: Giant mutant boars from Artois for your Gors to ride on their way to power metal glory, and Warhounds of Chaos, whose statistics have been misprinted and replaced with the statline for Bestigor advances in my copy (so they have no stats).
Warherds aren't unified or cohesive groups. They splinter every time a leader dies, and someone is always trying to kill (then eat) the leader. The beastmen think, like most of Chaos, that this makes them much stronger but it mostly means that (and this is canon in the Old World Bestiary) the Empire's most successful tactic is goading warherds into fighting themselves or sniping their champion so they'll fall to fighting over succession. Beastmen only really come together when someone above the line in the Chaos Ladder tells them to, otherwise they're basically roving murder-gangs. If you're playing as Beastmen, and you're Gors or better, if you do something metal you can pay 100XP to get a ballad or title written about it that permanently gives a stacking +5% fellowship with other Beastmen.
If you're generating a random gang of murderous goatmen, there's a bunch of motives you can roll for why they've come together to do their thing, from being hungry to 'The Gods said kill' to 'Eh, killing is fun and we're bored'. These effect the randomized size of the host. The host's size then effects how powerful and how many the main troops of the herd are. These are the guys your PCs need to kill to make these monsters scatter back to the woods. In the average herd, it's a Bestigor or Champion, a single Shaman, and some other Bestigor bodyguards. There's also a roll for how many random mooks you'll need to slip past (fighting through 60-100 mooks is not going to happen unless your party are vampires or grail knights or something) to get at the bastards at the head. I'm all for occasional tables, but if I'm writing an adventure and balancing it around 'My players are gonna go in and waste the Champion so the warherd breaks up before it can threaten a town' I'd prefer to just make and place the enemies myself so I know I'm giving them a balanced challenge rather than randomly roll a bunch of numbers of patrols and goatmen.
There's also an interesting bit on Dark Tongue, including a phonetic alphabet for the markings if you want to try to write up props for yourself for your PCs. Dark Tongue is a genuine lingua-franca for the servants of Chaos; they all learn this language and they can all speak to one another, even if Demons have their own tongue with more magical force and Beastmen have one that implements more gestures and beasty-noises. Cultists learn this, too. This is the language Chaos uses to give all its disparate servants marching orders about how to best die for whatever generic armored asshole it's picked to lead it this time.
The whole 'You can play as the Beastmen!' thing feels a little tacked on, more an acknowledgement that anything they give you rules for for making custom enemies with could easily be used as PCs due to the commonalities of the system. But Beastmen make a good starting threat or overt foe to deal with when your PCs get tired of cultists and investigations. They're the mooks of Chaos, the jobbers that don't quite know they're jobbers. They're a threat, but they're a threat your PCs can handle and come out heroes for dealing with. Also, they're common enough that there are usually bounties on them (the aforementioned guy who likes screwing with Toddbringer has a 10,000 GC bounty on his head. If your PCs got at that, they could retire in style!) so the general lack of rewards when fighting Chaos probably won't matter. Beastmen are generally inoffensive and can make for some fun, creepy random monsters without getting too weird. Plus, you know, classic satanic imagery is always good for dark fantasy, I suppose.
Next: The weird and creative critters of one of the better parts of the book.
The strangest thing I ever saw? A swarm of butterflies drinking the tears of a dying man.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
The strangest thing I ever saw? A swarm of butterflies drinking the tears of a dying man.
Chaos doesn't just mutate things, sometimes it creates whole new viable species of monsters. Sometimes it makes really weird stuff. The next section is all the odd miscellaneous monsters and strange beasts that don't fit into the normal Chaos mold, and it's got some neat stuff in it.
Amphisbena are two-headed serpents that actually come from Lustria, and might not have anything to do with Chaos but rather the normal strange energies and magics down there. Still, Old Worlders see an incredibly venomous snake with 2 heads and their first thought is 'yep, Chaos'. Amphisbena aren't actually that dangerous to a trained fighter, but they're stealthy, their poison bite does d10+4 with an extra 4 Wounds on top if you fail a Toughness save, and they can constrict a human pretty easily. They're often used by Chaos cults as a means of subtle assassination, because nothing says 'subtle' like 'slipped a two-headed snake into his bedroom.'
Amalgamation Beasts are bad news. They're a weird, congealed puddle of human emotions that failed to form a coherent demon, and so now they're twisting balls of ruined, possessed flesh seeking out human hosts to maintain their grip on the physical world. They have 6 attacks, a 46 WS, 5 SB, 5 TB (And an extra 2 points if hit by nonmagical weapons) but don't quite have the Wounds of 'big' boss horrors at only 26; a party can probably focus one of these down if they don't go crazy from its Terrifying trait. If they kill anyone, they absorb them for +d10 Strength and Toughness and heal themselves by d5, so don't bring mooks to a fight with one of these things. Because they incorporate possessed, dead flesh, they don't suffer from demonic Instability, either. On the plus side, they're totally mindless and act entirely on instinct, so baiting or tricking one should be simple.
Basilisks originally come down from the Chaos Wastes, looking like a very poisonous 15 foot long alligator. They turn people to stone by looking at you from within 10 yards, which will kill you instantly unless you make a Toughness-10 without a burned Fate point. You can make a WP save to avert your eyes in time (or, if you know it's a basilisk, not look at it in the first place) giving you -20% to WS and BS and it +20% to hit you. It also has 3 attacks, bites with a +6 Wounds on Failing Toughness Test poison, hits at Damage 5, and has about 7 DR and 15 Wounds itself. These jerks can be a handful, and are one of the few times where absolutely knowing what you're up against is really going to help you (since staying out of range and shooting it or averting your eyes are your best options).
The Cavity Worm is a Chaos Bot Fly. I could probably stop there, but these things get into human mouths, feed on gum disease, plaque, and breath (they make the victim characteristically short of breath and weak), then burrow through the gums into your brain and lay eggs. You need a good doctor to spot the little bastards in time. Otherwise, they eat your brain and larva come out. Horrifying, but better used as a mystery for PCs to solve (as in, 'why are people going crazy, getting sick, and dying') rather than inflicted directly on PCs.
Chaos Dragons are what happens when a Dragon gives up and joins up with the Ruinous Powers. They gain a second head, for one, probably to keep an eye on the first head. Chaos Dragons are some of the most dangerous monsters that have stats, and the book's suggestion on using them is 'If you'd like a really exciting reason to roll new PCs'. At the same time, a prepared third tier party could take one; the real problem isn't the 61 Wounds, the 5 natural armor, the 6 SB and TB, or the 'All melee attacks count as Armor Piercing (-1 AV) and Impact'. No, it's the breath weapon. It hits you with two AoEs with no save that do Damage 8, then Damage 4 Ignores Armor. It can, theoretically, do this every round. Action economy can let a high tier badass party bring one down, but these things are almost beyond what PCs are going to be able to take on in open combat and will probably require a larger plan or cannons.
Chaos Slime is reasonably dangerous congealed warp energy. It was commonly found as a sort of weird, organic leaving after the sack of Praag, and still boils up from the sewers there in Old Town every now and then. Chaos Slime can engulf someone and hold them while it strangles them (it only has 33 Str, though, so an average character can probably break its grapple before they die), but the real problem is that any contact with it and your flesh causes mutations (Toughness-10). Cults herd this stuff into places where people will accidentally touch pieces of it, much as they love trying to hide warpstone powder everywhere, because mutation is one of their best recruiting methods. In straight combat it's reasonably dangerous since it has 3 attack, but its meh Weapon Skill means it only has a 36% chance of landing any individual shot, it has no defensive skills, and it only has 18 Wounds and DR 3. A starting party with a little luck can chop one of these up.
Chimeras are what happens when the acceptable procedures that produce Catbirds and Horsebirds GO TOO FAR. You know a Chimera: Goat, serpent, lion, very poisonous, very angry. They don't have a great WS, but they have 6 attacks, so if your GM is a dick and focuses all of those on one player during a melee it's going to do bad things to that one person. Its real danger is that all bites from a Chimera will automatically inflict at least 1 damage from the acidic, venomous spittle no matter what armor you're wearing, so deflection by armor won't work, and they force a Toughness-20 or *die* in d10 Rounds. So theoretically this thing can TPK a group of heavily armored, tough characters through their armor in one round. Chaos has a lot of save or die stuff and I wish it didn't have quite so much; Fate Points will only get you so far.
Dragon Ogres are where it gets good. Dragon Ogres get more coverage in the Bestiary, but they're really interesting. They may very well be the original inhabitants of the planet, before the Old Ones terraformed anything. They're called Dragon Ogres, but they're really like an immense centaur whose lower half is a lizard. They were the first people to ever make a deal with Chaos, and what they got was immortality; Dragon Ogres grow larger and stronger with age, and they never die of the roll of years, only violence. However, they don't seem to be able to reproduce, which is implied to have been the price from their masters. There's also hints they aren't exactly excited about how the deal ended up, but they don't have a choice. They spend most of their ancient lives dreaming, being summoned by great lightning storms (getting hit by lightning gets them high and peps them up a bunch) whenever Chaos is going to make another go at the world and wishes to demand they wake up and get on with it. Even a basic Dragon Ogre is a serious boss fight for most parties, with 34 Wounds, DR 6, decent Weapon Skill (48), 3 Attacks, and a ton of hitting power. Hitting one with lightning gives it an extra attack per round and +10 Str for a time, and does absolutely no damage. Do not use the Lore of the Heavens against Dragon Ogres. The Shaggoths are Dragon Ogre ancients, immense beings the size of a tower who were old even when they made the original bargain with Chaos. These things are almost on par with a full Chaos Dragon, though they lack the breath weapon. Having a 69 WS, 5 attacks, 66 Wounds, and DR 9 means a Shaggoth can be a boss for even high tier parties, and these ancient creatures are very intelligent and very eager to not die. You could do a lot with ancient creatures who regret but are trapped by the insane bargain they struck, who wake up every couple centuries to go see how much the world has changed while they dreamed and try to end it again.
Fen Worms are just big mutated Chaos snakes that live in swamps and make them miserable. Reasonably tough, extra Wound poison, etc. They're not very exciting.
Ah, the Jabberwock. Proof that Chaos can be dangerous even at its silliest. These idiotic creatures are big, mutated, winged dragon-like things that are actually too stupid to learn to fly, despite having viable wings. They're madness-inducing, as the eye tries to follow their form and fails, and their wings produce an insane wuffling noise when they're excited by finding food or something interesting. They have an inexplicably massive 79 WS, they regenerate injuries not given to them by fire, but if they're too badly hurt they get so confused by pain that they assume they're dead and lie there waiting to regenerate. Another good blow will take their head off and stop the regeneration. They're also incredibly poisonous, having the good old 'save or die in a couple rounds without treatment' style of poison, though at least they don't have the guaranteed chip damage to make it 100% certain to force a save like Chimeras. They are also stupid to a degree that is hard to describe; any sufficient distraction will force them to make an Int save (12% normally, 32% if being attacked) or stop whatever they were doing to immediately investigate, even if they're in the middle of a fight. Thus, if you have to kill one of these things, have one person engage it and then another person bang some cymbols off in the woods so it gets too distracted, starts screaming 'WARK!' and wanders off to investigate while you chop it in the back. They also have terrible DR for how big they are (6) and 'only' 47 wounds. They won't last long under a high tier characters' attacks if you can survive the poison and WS by tricking them. Jabberwocks are good times.
Lashworms are basically stinging cave anemones, who sit around waiting to annoy dwarfs and miners. They sense people by hairs on their sensing tendrils, then lash out and sting, hoping to get delicious flesh. They're used as living landmines by cults and beastmen. They also have a misprint where they get some of the Cavity Worm's abilities mixed in with their own. Ech, this book can be a little bit more of a mess than the others sometimes.
Lifekiss bugs secrete a little goo that, when spread on the face, appears to instill life and vigor and remove age. Given this is Chaos, this is obviously a trap. The subject will get addicted to the goo, and eventually the goo will start sapping their life, instead, making them appear older as the bug feeds on their vitality and young. They won't believe it, and will keep trying to use the bug-drug until it kills them. Of course, the description focuses on how it's mostly noblewomen who use them, because we've got to put in a little 'haha, women are way more vain about appearance than men' in there. Otherwise they're a fine little weird mystery for PCs to solve and stop. Also, the bug is smart and is going to be trying to stop you from breaking its hold on the person it's parasitizing.
Silkens are murderous spider things the size of small dogs who spread invisible strands about, then either bite the target to poison them to death for feeding, or more commonly, let the target's struggles tear them apart. I don't like Silkens because they aren't especially dangerous except that they lay 'Make a Per test at -30%(!)' traps that leave no other signs of them being there, so you're stuck just hoping you roll well to know you're dealing with the stupid things. Otherwise the strands ruin your armor or cause damage in the course of struggling free. They're a DM Dick Move monster.
Sorrow Swarms are swarms of butterfly-like monsters that feed on human tears. They do this by landing on victims and cutting them slightly to induce serious pain and make them cry. They love to attack children, especially. These things are there specifically to remind you that Chaos is awful and you should stab it whenever you get the chance. Fighting a swarm of them won't be too hard on PCs, and they usually don't kill their victims, but they're a nice touch of how petty and weird Chaos can get.
Sunworms are just weird electric maggots that don't actually attack you, but if you try to hit them with a sword you get electrocuted. Shoot them if you need to kill them, but with a 0 WS and no attacks, they're not enough of a threat to bother usually.
You also get some cursory templates to apply to Trolls, Giants, and Ogres who've thrown in with Chaos, which mostly amount to 'A normal Troll, Giant, or Ogre, but with some mutations.'
This chapter wasn't quite as interesting as I remembered. Chaos really stands out as having a ton of 'save or die' mechanics, and while having Fortune points for rerolls and Fate for extra lives makes those a little less lethal, I don't know many players who actually like having to deal with one-shot abilities.
Next Time: The People Who Deal With All This Bullshit. Also Actual Hat Enthusiasts, This Time.
Hats Now: Defenders of the EmpireOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Hats Now: Defenders of the Empire
The intro paragraph admits, for once, that every major overt push by Chaos has been defeated because the Empire and others tend to rally together and do the sensible thing once there's actually waves of monsters from hell coming down from the north. But what about times of supposed peace, like right now, where the problems are smaller, harder to see, and more local? These are handled by the Witch Hunters. There's also a brief 'Please also read Realm of Sorcery' since the book on the Colleges and magic obviously touches on the Hunters, too. They police the Colleges and issue and check the licenses, after all.
People are divided on Hunters. On one hand, plenty of villages and people can point to having been rescued by a grim man or woman in a dramatic coat and a wide-brimmed hat. They fight ferociously against evil and they're tireless investigators, most of the time. On the other hand, policies like the matter on mutation and their constant, suspicious snooping mean that when Hunters make mistakes, innocent people die. Relatives and families never forget the dark figure that took their neighbor or family member to the pyre or the chopping block. And corrupt Hunters exist, as do mad zealots. These people use their power to terrorize and bully, and make the work even harder for honest Hunters. Further, the Hunters became professionalized and partially secularized only recently, with the reformation of the Empire under Magnus the Pious. Before then, the popular image of the mad zealot burning innocent and guilty really was the reality more often than not.
Hunters began in the 1900s, four centuries into the Time of Three Emperors. With the Empire's political foundation disintegrating, people began to turn to the Cult of Sigmar as a unifying source of law enforcement and protection from monsters. The Grand Theoganist created his own Order, the Order of the Silver Hammer, and bade them to kill witches and destroy corruption (and vampires, and skaven, and anything else that was a threat) in the name of Sigmar. And only in the name of Sigmar; they had no loyalty and were not beholden to any other cult, and remember that this was during the partially-religiously-themed strife of the Three Emperors. This meant an awful lot of early Hunters went around murdering Ulricans who had refused to acknowledge the primacy of Sigmar. This is not a smart or good thing to do in a polytheistic society and the Order risked being a symbol of Sigmarite monodominsism, trying to enforce the role of Sigmar as Emperor of the Gods at the point of the sword and torch. They also turned on orders of Sigmarites who were not similarly zealous. Other cults began to form their own orders of 'hunters of corruption' to defend their flocks from the Templars of Sigmar. You will note in all of this that they did not accomplish very much fighting of Skaven, Undead, or Chaos.
In 2301, as part of putting the Empire back together, Magnus called the Order of the Silver Hammer to heel. He appointed a secular Lord Protector to bind them to the Imperial Throne, and he also forced them to become accountable to all of the Cults. No more of this idiocy of forcing priests of another cult to say Sigmar was the greatest of the Gods and risking the wrath of the other legitimate gods while letting real enemies slip them by. The Order was re-organized, professionalized, and reformed into a much more effective investigative body. For the fifty years of Magnus' reign, the Hunters did their job with increasing efficiency and far more effectiveness. It was much more likely a Hunter was going to be burning someone who had a mark of Chaos rather than someone who hadn't tithed sufficiently to the cult of Sigmar. Unfortunately, between Magnus and Karl Franz, a fair number of the Emperors were not able to control the Order very well. It wasn't until the election of a good Grand Theoganist, Volkmar the Grim, and Karl Franz's renewed leadership that the Order was again reformed from its more corrupt and insane elements and put back to working efficiently.
An important thing about a modern Hunter in 2522 is that they need evidence. They have broad investigative power but they rely on local lords and local soldiers and local politicians for enforcement. A Hunter has very broad powers, personally, but unless they can convince the people with the soldiers of the need to lend them those soldiers for enforcement, they'll have to make due with their own retinue and their own mercenaries. Unfortunately, the Empire still operates under the idea that the confession is the Queen of Proofs, and Hunters have very broad powers for forcing confessions that, unbeknownst to them, are likely to be false because of the duress they were obtained under. Modern Hunters try to avoid putting innocents to the sword; not only is it their duty to defend the Empire, but every innocent person killed by mistake makes the job harder for all Hunters. This is also why they step in often to try to prevent meddling, unlicensed folk from performing their own unauthorized vigilante investigations (one of many ways your PCs might end up in conflict the the Hunters); you can't trust people who haven't been properly vetted not to bumble around setting barns on fire and falling to Chaos when they try to grab some shiny medallion to pawn off.
Next: A Hunter's campaign, additional Hunting careers.
Ah, so you've found yourself a HunterOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Ah, so you've found yourself a Hunter
Hunters obviously make good PCs or PC patrons. They wander around the land looking for trouble and getting involved in sinister plots. PCs could be Hunters in training (the actual Witch Hunter career is 3rd tier) dealing with lesser cases and reporting to the Witch Hunter Generals and Captains after their missions. The PCs could be some of the muscle and assistants a Hunter hires with their stipend so as not to be totally reliant on local forces (who may well be corrupted). I should note that while Hunters employ torture and means to force confessions, this is at least portrayed as a negative thing that is not getting them good results; this is the kind of behavior that they think is helping, but leads to dead innocents and people being unwilling to trust them, combined with the spotty history of their Order. You're completely in line to play a more noble Hunter who is tirelessly trying to ensure they get at the guilty without accidentally harming the innocent; ideally they're supposed to be doing that as it is. As a Hunter or Hunter-adjacent PC and party, you're probably going to be doing what Adventurers usually do as it is, just with a little more official backing and a nicer hat. There's plenty of variety in a Hunter's purview; they're supposed to focus on renegade wizards and Chaos worshipers and root out hidden threats to the state. Vampires are all wizards, right? And by definition they're renegades. And Skaven are certainly a threat to the state (and have more renegade wizards it's totally legit). As a decent and uncorrupted Hunter, you're also probably going to have to deal with renegades and fanatics from your own order who risk starting religious wars or who are using their position for personal gain. Not to mention the politicking and trials necessary to secure forces for clearing out the biggest problems. The general arc of the Order of the Silver Hammer has been towards increasing professionalism and increasing oversight on their powers, which makes an interesting hook for PCs who might want to make sure those reforms stick.
Hunters are also excellent enemies for Chaos PCs; a bunch of badasses in wide brimmed hats kicking down your door with a unit of state troops behind them is a great 'Oh shit!' moment for cultists, and a good challenge for actual Champions. Hunters are strong enough to be the sort of enemy that justifies Fate Points, and thus an individual zealot can make a good recurring nemesis for a Chaos party. They've got the official backing and authority to be real trouble, they don't shake easily, and they're pretty nasty in a fight. A resourceful opponent that keeps throwing normal PC parties and mooks at you is fun.
We also get some new sorts of enemies for Chaos characters/PC options for normal parties. The Cloaked Brothers are a secret society of spies who report to the Order. Most of them are 'retired' from other important Imperial offices, like military officers, professional scouts, etc. They use their contacts from their old job at court or in the army to keep an eye out by 'keeping their hand in', watching for mutants and running sting operations on cults. They're a variant on the basic Spy career, with more emphasis on Intelligence and Fellowship than the Spy's inexplicably massive Willpower. You can only get into this Career from a 2nd tier career (lots of those, though, from Veteran to Politician) but it makes a solid 'I'm playing a Fighter but want to pick up a bunch of intrigue abilities' diversion on your way to 3rd tier.
The Knight Panther is an odd class. You *can* go into it directly from a 1st tier career via Squire, but all its other entries are 2nd tier. It's a great choice if you go right from Squire, giving you some great stat boost talents and Sturdy (no armor penalties), plus more flexibility with weapon choices (it learns Cavalry but also one Choose Your own slot), and higher WS than any other 2nd tier career. I'd go so far as to say it's very slightly overpowered in much the same way as Knight of the Realm was over in Brets if you go directly into it from Squire, while instead being a minor set of upgrades before moving on if you enter it from 'normal' Knight or another 2nd tier. It can also exit into actual Witch Hunter. Knights Panther are one of the many knightly orders of the Empire, based in Middenland. One of their Grandmasters was outed as a Chaos cultist awhile back, and to repent and recover their name they've offered their order's services whole-heartedly to the Hunters and any who fight against Chaos. Getting caught with a traitor in their midst has actually ended up improving their reputation and relationships with the Sigmarites, in the end.
Exorcists exist as a class, but only in Sigmar's Heirs. They're Shallyans and Sigmarites who challenge demons to battles of wits and wills to drive them out of possessed individuals. There's a very long in-game procedure for doing this, and it's basically 'Play out The Exorcist.' The sort of thing that might be fun to do once or twice, but it hurts real bad if you fail and if possession is common in your game your GM is kind of a dick who really likes save or die mechanics.
Finally, there's the Roadwardens. Roadwardens put in way more work than anyone gives them credit. These are the normal cops and patrols of Imperial troops that ride the roads and see to the safety of the coaching network. They're a 1st tier career covered in the main rulebook, and they operate a bit like Hunters (indeed, they make a good first step on the path to becoming one). They ride about with their trusty horse and pistol, alone or in small patrols, looking for trouble. When they find it, they recruit other Wardens or petition local lords or militias for help, then go to root it out. They're supposed to focus on bandits and crime, but given they're patrolling the woods of the Empire, they run into beastmen and other, more military threats all the time. The Roadwardens have suffered serious casualties while the armies are away finishing off Archaon, and they're running thin on numbers. As they run out of patrols, the Empire loses contact with more and more of its isolated places, which leads to crime and monsters breeding in the absence of official patrols. The growing crisis from this lack of law enforcement is the sort of thing PCs get hired to help with.
Note that there's all of 6 pages in this book on playing Hunters and fighting against Chaos. This is partly because Hunters get covered in Tome of Salvation and Realms of Sorcery, but it's also sort of telling that Hunters were a really significant part of the Vampire book but the Chaos book only gives them a single cursory chapter. Similarly, while NDM had all kinds of ways to exploit the enemy's weaknesses to overcome their power in open combat, Tome of Corruption just...doesn't. You'd think this would be a good book to add wards, rituals, and ways to use risky, forbidden knowledge against Chaos so that it'd have more information for 'normal' PCs, the way most of the other 'enemy' books do. As it is, while Hunters are interesting and the arc of 'We're slowly becoming a more directed, saner police force but people are still suspicious since we used to be extremely crazy and still make plenty of mistakes or enforce unnecessarily harsh policies' for them is good, but there just isn't that much for a normal PC party to use in this book. I suppose with how important Chaos is supposed to be, focusing more on making it (and the things adjacent to it) playable is fine, just...well, we'll get to the problems with playable Chaos when we get to the Chaos Champion tracks, rewards, gifts, etc.
Next: The Chaos Wastes, or, Your PC Is Dead.
If you ever had a reason to go here, these places would be radOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
If you ever had a reason to go here, these places would be rad
The Chaos Wastes are up north, past lines of mysterious monoliths that warn people of great danger. They extend out, radiating from the source of corruption at the north pole, and what people in the south don't realize is that the Wastes are a buffer zone. The place where the energies coming from the shattered gate get soaked up and fail to penetrate any further, because they encounter too much solidity and reality. This would sound insane to any southerner with the misfortune to be traveling in the Wastes, because the place already seems like a kaleidoscopic nightmare. There are all sorts of things lost in a land where space has very little meaning and time can be strangely distorted: Ancient cities that didn't exist until two seconds ago, deep jungle growing out of frozen tundra, deserts of ice and entire oceans that really only cover a single square mile. If everything up here wasn't full of mutating evil power/cursed, coming up to look for hidden treasures and wonders could be an awesome adventure.
One of the most common features in the Wastes is a multitude of ancient battlefields, some of them older than the planet itself, some of them still fresh from the slaughter even though no-one's seen them for centuries. The Chaos Wastes are full of would-be Warriors of Chaos, Champions and their Warbands fighting for the favor of the Gods, worshipers drawn to the madness from the north, orcs who've just noticed there's a shitload of endless fighting to do up here, and even champions of the better lands coming in a misguided belief that stabbing Chaos beasts in their house is going to make their deaths more permanent. Slaughter is common here, and who knows what an adventuring party could find among the bones and broken banners of the dead?
One of the annoying features in Out of Place Terrain is that every mention of water, fruit, or food points out it's totally inedible and just a trick. How the hell do the various armies wandering this place and peoples fighting over it for centuries survive up here? You'd think Slaanesh would be all over putting down the occasional verdant paradise to invite people to live in idyll forever until one of his champions gets bored and takes the sword to them. Still, out of place terrain is pretty cool! You've got a crazy little table to roll up combos of terrain types and temperatures to surprise people with truly random terrain, and this is one of the few places I'd say yeah, roll for that; you're wandering the warped, ever-changing altered space that's the buffer between reality and hell. If there's anywhere players should encounter some really, really weird stuff this is it. I wish the tables went further; they really only roll for stuff like 'Oh look a jungle in the tundra' and not 'Look a swamp where the mud is designed to put drugs in you' or 'an entire ocean of living ice.'.
Monoliths are another common encounter out here, some of the only little pockets of 'stability' in that Gods usually don't destroy monuments to themselves (if there's one overriding trait of all of the Dark Four, it's vanity and jealousy of worship). What's interesting is that among the various monoliths, which are about what you'd expect (Slaanesh is full of forbidden verse and porn, Khornate monoliths are piled with offertory weapons and skulls and make you want to fight, Tzeentch one are wizardy but otherwise whatever they feel like, Nurglites are icky) there's also the Monoliths of the Great Beast. These are monoliths not so much to the usual Chaos Undivided as to the idea of Chaos as a primal force, beyond even the Gods, and are the only monoliths that all followers of all gods consider sacrosanct. The warbands war over the other Monoliths (and PCs can try to destroy them, they have DR 10 and 500 Wounds but summon demons every 50 wounds they take to try to prevent their destruction) but none will touch the Great Beast. Destroying monoliths does seem to hurt the power of the God they're dedicated to in a small way, or at least angers them. Monoliths also add power like Waystones (+d10 Casting) but make magic much more unstable. Khorne monoliths instead siphon magic and punish wizards, because KHORNE DESPISES ALL WIELDERS OF THE BLACK ARTS except that magic weapons and armor are fine. Khorne is cool with your +1 sword and armor.
Change Storms exist to dick you over and are basically anomalous weather. They're very random but everything they do hurts you; rains of frogs and fetal pigs cause Insanity, crazy wind whispers dark secrets that cause (you guessed it) Insanity, hails of fire send you scurrying for cover or you're going to catch fire and die, temperatures suddenly reverse completely, acid rain comes down in hydrocholric form at high molarity, diseased blood rains from the sky and gives you the flux, and Aethyric Storms can cause everyone in the party to roll on the miscast tables even if they don't know magic. These are little things to remind you you're in hostile territory, or give your PCs a reason to seek shelter inside that ancient ruined castle in the distance.
There's also the Inn of the Last Hope, on the borders of the Wastes. This is the last outpost of reason and order before you hit madness, run by a hardened and badass Norse innkeeper and guarded by tough, grim mercenaries. Nothing seems to make a serious attempt for this inn, even though it's built like a fortress and it's needed defending a few times over the generations. All guests are welcome, and people of all nations relinquish their weapons and sit down to trade rumors and have one last drink, and one last safe night's sleep, before venturing into the madness. This place is designed to serve as a home base for PCs making expeditions into the Wastes, or a last stop and chance to turn back for someone who has heard the Gods' call and is making their way north.
I really wish all the treasure and stuff in there wasn't cursed, because the Chaos Wastes could be a rad place to send PCs to adventure. But everything inside is cursed and poisoned, and most of the adventure seeds revolve around going up there to rescue someone who was captured, or stupid enough to go adventuring there, or finding treasure that turns out to be cursed. There's one pretty cool one about stopping a Sorceress of Nurgle who maaaaaybe found The Thing up in the icy wastes as you hunt for the source of a weird new sickness she's been spreading. But otherwise, you just don't have enough reason to be here for how dangerous the place is. I wish it was more like the Zone in Stalker (I know I made that comparison for Loren before, but it's more fitting up here) and had, say, lots of materials you couldn't find anywhere else in the world, caused by the weird spatial and physical alterations of the place. If it had more wonders to go with the horrors, it'd be worth being one of the grim outcasts, criminals, rebels, and adventurers selling what they can to the usurious Innkeeper at the Last Hope and then shouldering their pack to trudge back in, seeking the jackpot that'll bring them all their dreams. The Wastes could be really cool with a little more incentive.
Next Time: The Norse, Learned Helplessness, and Rationalization.
The NorseOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
A friend commented to me that ToC feels like a bit of a mess, where the part on Mutation is really detailed and filled in, then there's a bunch of stuff the authors felt they had to include but either didn't have the pagecount to cover in enough detail (The Chaos Wastes), was in other books (Hunter stuff), or wasn't that interesting but 'expected' (Items that kill your PC), and that it isn't until the chapter on the Norse and later the other peoples on Chaos that things feel properly detailed and filled in again. He is correct; the Norscans are a big, big part of the book. The Norse are where we get our first taste of how the people who are brutalized and victimized by Chaos the most (the people nearest the portal) contextualize it. The Norse are also far enough away from the portal that while its dark influence on their people is undeniable, they aren't entirely in its thrall. You can totally play as Norse characters who have nothing to do with the Dark Gods beyond the occasional background mutation and who spend their time sailing around, exploring, fighting monsters, defending their Jarl and King, and trying to get rich/drunk.
While Norsca has more riches than most southerners think, it is not a rich land by itself. It's a cold, inhospitable place across the Sea of Claws from the Empire, locked in twilight half the year and endless sunlight the rest. The thick, foreboding northern forests provide excellent timber and furs, and the harsh mountains that make up much of the country hide rich veins of gold, silver, and iron. Not to mention warpstone. The Sea of Claws produces great fishing and the whaling business is unique to Norsca, its people trading what they take from the sea and their harsh lands to the people down south who have crops and food. That is, when they don't sail down to raid them instead. The lack of good land in Norsca and its inability to feed a large population is a large part of what causes the raiding, the trading, and the exploring that the Norse are famous for. They simply can't feed themselves when they're doing well and the population grows too much, leading them to attack the southern lands to steal food, wealth, and enslaved labor to keep their economy viable. Alternately, if it's more favorable or they don't have signs from the Gods, they're also happy to sell their riches for southern riches and food, and plenty of Norse also make their way down to the sunnier lands to serve as mercenaries and earn their keep.
The people who originally settled Norsca were the defeated enemies of Sigmar. Not everyone liked the idea of having an Emperor and an 'Empire'. Some tribes wanted to remain separate, or refused to join the new warlord after he slew their chief or did something else during the conquest that they felt made swearing to him impossible. Rather than kill these tribes, Sigmar had them driven north, away from his lands. When they went north, they were driven further by the Ungol tribes of early Kislev (we'll get to them in Realm of the Ice Queen) since they didn't have the military strength to carve out their own territory among the steppes. Then they encountered the Kurgan, another dangerous steppe people, and were driven west, into the mountainous and forested lands where all these goddamn steppe nomads would stop cleaning their clocks. There, in Norsca, they settled in a cold and snowy land with little good land and little food, expecting to die. The Norsii tribes survived, and slowly incorporated other outcasts and renegades to become the Norse we know today. They still consider themselves owed a debt by the Empire, as its great founder drove them into the icy North with the expectation they'd be slaughtered. Being closer to the portal and bitter about their defeats also let darker things whisper into the ears of their Vikti and Shamans, and many of the tribes' pantheons include versions of the Dark Gods among their heroes and tribal gods.
An important distinction with the Norse is where the individual tribe you're dealing with comes from. The southern coastal tribes are as likely to be allies or honest traders as brutal raiders. Quite a few of them have been thinking that maybe it's easier to get what they want from the south by exploring, colonizing distant lands, and trading rather than fighting, and they tend to be the least influenced by the Dark Gods. As the book says, Marienburg has shown an especial interest in cultivating some of the tribes as traders and partners, hiring the warriors as mercenaries and guards and paying the freeholders and merchants well for their ivory, whale oil, and amber. In doing, they hope the prosperity will turn some of those tribes fully away from the Dark Gods and help create a real buffer state. Norse bodyguards are even the big 'fashion' in Marienburg right now, with plenty of salacious romances about forbidden love between a handsome Norse warrior and his noblewoman charge circulating the courts and a firm sort of 'noble savage' thing going on. Northern tribes are much more likely to be hostile. They're much closer to the portal and much more likely to receive direct orders from the Gods. Norse make good antagonists because their preferred way of attacking the Old World is to sail in unseen (the Empire has a notoriously terrible navy at this time in its history. Even the Bretonnian navy is supposedly better) with a warband, sack a small village (or threaten it into giving them tribute), then flee home before the Imperial regiments can catch them. With the northern Empire so depleted in soldiers in the wake of the Storm, this is a great sort of threat for a party of 5-6 badasses and the local militia to handle. This is especially true because the Jarls and Warleaders of the Norse are forbidden to refuse direct challenges, much like Bretonnian knights. So the rest of the party and any local forces can hold off the marauders while your best guy duels their leader, and as the Norse are raiding and not really looking for 'serious' battles, they'll probably back off if their noses are bloodied. Similarly, the Norse love to take captives to either ransom or work their farms (or serve as sacrifices in the darker tribes) and PCs could be hired to go up there, meet saner Norse as guides, and rescue or ransom captives.
Norsca is also intentionally left a little blank in the interior. Old Worlders really only know the most famous tribes and kings, and even then it's mostly limited to the southern ones. The book suggests all kinds of things could be lurking in the interior of Norsca. Fabulous treasure, lost Dwarf Holds, missing artifacts of the Old Ones that were intended to stop the spread of darkness in case of a portal accident... Anything could be up there.
Norse society is divided by class. Class isn't determined by birth, but by wealth and circumstance, unless you're a thrall. If you're a thrall you're probably fucked. These are criminals, debtors, those taken captive on raids (either from other tribes or from the south). Thralls are the lowest rung in Norse society and their deaths are not mourned. Indeed, their deaths are required by the darker ceremonies and augers performed by the Viktis and Shamans of some tribes, and plenty of festivals and celebrations will include human sacrifice drawn from the thrall population. The Norse need these slaves badly, and getting hold of them is one of the reasons for the constant raiding and fighting. Peasants hold a low place, too; these are people who are free, who have useful skills, but no skill at arms. They're necessary, and the Jarls and Kings understand they're necessary, but it's not glorious work and no-one celebrates the life of a peasant.
Warriors are the ideal of Norscan society and what every young boy aspires to be. A warrior becomes such by showing skill at arms and passing various tests as a young man. While women are not normally warriors (Norsca is very heavily patriarchal, though not as much as Bretonnia tries to be on paper) they are still expected to learn to fight to defend the settlement when the men go raiding. As such, sometimes a woman will display enough skill and strength to simply pummel anyone who says that she isn't a warrior, at which point she'll be accepted into a raiding party or a jarl's bondsman. Still, if you ask the Norse, they'll tell you the ideal warrior is a tall, strong lad who doesn't fear death, treats his fellows as his brothers, his Jarl as his father, and his axe like his wife. When there's no war to be fought, warriors go out patrolling, hunting, and whaling to provide extra food for the tribe and practice their skills. A warrior who can kill a whale in one throw of the harpoon can become a legend, as can a great hunter of monsters. Norse warriors also have a rich tradition of jokingly lying to one another about their exploits while getting drunk and sweating together in the sauna. This is all in good fun, and you should do it all the time, leading to a reputation for Norse telling tall tales, when really what they're doing is trying to tell stories with a kernel of truth to show off but enough extra silliness to keep everyone laughing during the long winter months.
There's a short sidebar about women in Norsca that notes that while they are second class citizens in the general (it's a threat among warriors that if you don't die gloriously enough you'll be reincarnated as a woman, or worse, an Imperial), they are allowed to choose their own husbands (no-one can force a free woman to marry) and permitted to seek divorce without needing to give reason why before the Jarl. Similarly, women are permitted to own property without restriction and a woman can become a Jarl if she's strong enough to hold the title against other comers or if her husband was Jarl and they have no son when he dies. Similarly, the whole 'expected to defend the home' thing is no idle boast. Norsca is very dangerous, and a settlement is vulnerable when its warriors are away on a raid. Even if they aren't officially warriors, many Norscan women serve as their home's militia and plenty are serious veterans.
Seers advise on the will of the gods. Vikti are like seers, except they have more direct magical power and Witchcraft, and a really interesting Casting career that doesn't even necessarily involve the Dark Gods (we'll get to that when I get to Careers, but Vikti are actually pretty cool). Many seers are actually immigrants, hedge mages and witches who've fled north after being driven out of the Empire or Kislev. In some tribes, Seers have the right to kill any thrall they need if they pay recompense to the owner in order to perform their rites. Vikti can order any peasant killed due to the will of the Gods, as well as thralls. This will be much more common in some tribes than others.
Jarls are the leaders of individual settlements. These are the Big Men (and occasionally women) who give gifts to their warriors, control the distribution of land to peasants and freeholders, and hold most of a settlement's wealth. Jarls are surrounded by their direct Bondsmen, the warriors of the tribe, bound by oath and recognition of their service. A Jarl is expected to show generosity and to lead his warriors and his settlement to good plunder and safety. Much of Jarlship is about knowing when to shut someone down, when to placate both sides with gifts and poetry, and when and how to rule on matters of justice. They're also expected to lead the warriors in battle, to be the best warrior in the settlement, and to show total loyalty to their King. The latter doesn't always happen, of course, and it's even expected that if a King is incompetent or leading poorly, a Jarl should try to gather his (or her) peers and overthrow him. Kings, meanwhile, are often chosen of the Gods and rule over multiple smaller settlements from one of the larger and more prosperous ones. In northern tribes, there is no succession for the position of tribal king. The Jarls compete for it, often on bloody and terrible contests with one another, whenever the King dies. In the southern tribes, Kings' firstborn sons (or wives if they have no sons) inherit the title, but then must prove they can hold it by keeping their Jarls in check.
Next: Culture, Religion, and Rationalization.
Wake from this endless nightmare and sit by the throne of the Gods.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Wake from this endless nightmare and sit by the throne of the Gods.
While trends in the south emphasize the empirical and physical world, the Norse exalt the spiritual and transcendental. To the common Norscan, the world of the senses is not the solid and real world it appears to be. They believe that this world is an endless nightmare, a dream, and that only someone who shows valor and lives this lie with all their spirit will ever awaken to the 'real' world of the spirit that lies just beyond. This is a reaction to living close to the portal and the Chaos Wastes. This is an *explicit* reaction to this. To the Norse, the world of demons and monsters represented by the horror in the north is some kind of overriding reality that sits beyond this false world of flesh and sense. This is also a reaction to the harshness of their homeland and the constant struggle of surviving; paradise must be waiting beyond, a truth sitting beyond a lie, and the way to reach that is to live your life to the fullest and throw yourself fully into your pursuits, especially battle and danger. If you show hesitance and cling to this world, you will be reincarnated back into the dream when you are judged wanting in the realms of death, until your soul has been forged sufficiently to sit with the Gods in the sublime truth beyond. Among many tribes, mutation is considered a blessing, a sign of the falseness of the world and that a soul is preparing to leave the dream. Norse are raised to exalt what they see as the masculine, to embrace the virile and the dangerous in their pursuit of ultimate cosmic truth.
Norse tribes have as many customs as they do tribes, but the most common is Wergild. Despite all this talk of dying gloriously all the time, most Jarls don't want their warriors knifing one another in arguments over a satirical poem or joke that went too far; they need those guys. Similarly, blood feuds can get out of hand if they're only paid and settled by blood. Thus, a Jarl will impose a Wergild on any crime that is brought before him, after judging which side is in the right and which side is in the wrong. Sometimes, the punishments for crimes will not take the form of paying money or wealth, but rather of a minor injury (or a major one, if the crime was very, very serious) like cutting off a pinky finger. In truly serious cases, a criminal might be assigned a great and bizarre quest on the other side of the world that will almost certainly kill him, but regain his honor and bring glory to his family. Lesser quests may be assigned to let a warrior pay a debt to a non-warrior he wronged, as making a warrior pay goods to a non-warrior would offend his honor. Thus, giving the warrior a chance to slay monsters or rescue a captive family member of the peasant he wronged is a good way to make both parties happy; the warrior gets a chance to do a great deed (or dies) and the peasant gets something helpful out of it while both get to save face.
Families in Norsca are forbidden to mourn the dead. Death is to be celebrated, with much drinking and toasting of the deeds of the dead, and wishes that the Gods will bear them through the lie and into the truth.
Interestingly, Norscan language is fundamentally most similar to Khazalid, the language of the dwarfs, but it has many loan words. The Norse steal languages from the people they meet, trade with, and raid as much as they steal their gold and women. Norscan is also hard to learn because it has a pictographic, runic written form and a ton of regional variation and slang. You might know every word an unfamiliar tribesman said but not understand how they all fit together to mean various things in the context of his specific tribe, and drastically mistake his meaning.
Norse mostly trade in livestock, thralls, and barter. Jewelry is very popular with Norse warriors, and they often melt down coinage taken from the Old World to make into arm bands and torcs, signs that a warrior was given this wealth by his Jarl. Conspicuous consumption is common, a way of showing off wealth and prosperity, which in turn mean a warrior has been successful and valorous. In recent years, with the growth of trade with Marienburg, southern tribes have begun to make coinage and use it to trade with the foreign merchants and one another.
A key to Norse religion is that they believe they see the world as it really is, and this is a running theme among the peoples touched by Chaos. They see the positive, even loving Gods of the south as a sign of the south's weakness. They believe they are the ones with the courage to accept that yes, many of the Gods are monsters and assholes, and you just have to deal with it without pretending otherwise. The Dark Gods, in their guises, enter into many Norscan tribal pantheons, as do many individual Greater Demons or past champions of the tribe that ascended to Demonhood. Heroes, ancestors, and even Norse versions of southern gods are commonly placed into the mix with these dark forces and worshiped all the same. Some Norse will even directly venerate southern gods without any mask on them, if they deem the God to be appropriately brave and able to fit into their pantheon. You could find Norse worshipers of Ulric (obviously), Taal or Rhya (also reasonable enough), but it wouldn't be impossible to make a Norse Shallyan (though she'd probably look very different from a southern one) or Morrite. If there's one common god to both the Norse and Old World Pantheons, it's Manaan. Everyone knows you don't mess with the God of the Sea, especially when you spend a lot of time on the sea. The Norse worship him just as thoroughly as every other sea-going people in the Old World does.
I like Norse religion because they aren't as fully infiltrated by Chaos or as beaten down as the Kurgan (who we'll get to later) or other peoples of the Wastes. The people who have been used and brutalized by Chaos share a common theme of bitterly saying they do not invent 'seemly' gods for themselves, that they're not settling for monsters that have enthralled them but rather that they have the strength to embrace a great cosmic truth, and this feels very human. The Norse share in this same theme, but they're not quite there; they'll accept any God or Hero who seems to be brave and bold and who you can make enough of an excuse to worship, importing Gods from south and north of them both. You can see the seeds of a religious tradition that might even be able to acknowledge and contain Chaos, without going all in and letting it co-opt everything like it tries to do. Also, their curious belief about the world being a lie and how you are reincarnated until you're able to prove yourself worthy to see the truth is an interestingly gnostic/Buddhist-esque twist for crazy vikings.
Next Time: Norse PCs and campaigns.
We go a'viking.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
We go a'viking.
You can play as a Norse human or a Norse dwarf; there are some odd, lost holds up north that aren't as touched by Chaos as the actual Chaos Dwarfs (who actually kind of rock and we'll get to them later), and they trade, fight, and adventure with the Norse. Humans have a 20% chance to start with a mutation, use the same stats as a southerner, but only get one Random Human Talent and instead get the unique Inured To Chaos talent (+10 to tests to resist gaining more mutations after your first) since they live in a place with higher background Chaos. They also learn Sail, Outdoor Survival, and Consume Alcohol in place of having Gossip, meaning they have slightly more starting advances than a southern human but nothing unbalancing. Dwarfs use the normal stats for a dwarf, and also gain Inured to Chaos and a 5% chance to start with a mutation. Both peoples also get their own career table for northern careers. Norse Dwarfs also won't join a party that is openly in service to the ruinous powers, generally.
Norse also get a bunch of new Careers, like Bretonnians did. Bondsman represents a Jarl's household warrior, and it's a solid first tier fighter for a starting PC. They're surprisingly smart and quite brave, and they're a solid fighter with good WS, a second attack, and good starting armor (full leathers plus mail chest protection). I've played a Bondsman before and they're able to hang with any other nation's signature starting fighter with their good equipment and getting Stout Hearted (+10 to all Fear tests) right off the bat. Freeholders are wealthy peasants or retired warriors who serve as merchants and direct thralls in their work. They're as respected as you get without being a direct warrior, and they're a good traveler/social Basic class with lots of ability to deal with money, convince people of things, and handle the road. They also have pretty solid social exits and can go into the Marauder/raiding track if they wish. Marauders are much more offense-focused than Bondsmen, but are still pretty good as a first fighting career. Second attack, high physicals, traveling skills, can start with a horse and some good weaponry, but they lack Dodge Blow or Strike Mighty Blow. They're also notable for being able to enter the Chaos Warrior/champion track. Reavers are another basic fighter, but they're much more fighter/traveler. They can learn languages and facts from all over, depending on where they've raided and explored, and they're solid with their fists as well as their weapons. Great on a ship, they can go on further to sailing, traveling, and fighting careers of all kinds. Seers are the Norse starting wizard, and interestingly their best stat is actually Fellowship. They're as focused on selling their prophecies to their lords as they are on making them, and only learn petty hedge magic for now. They can go into the Chaos Sorcerer tracks, or on to Vikti. Skalds are another Basic social class, wandering around writing poetry and memorializing the deeds of warriors. They're a good first class crippled by having real bad Exits. Not a single one of Skald's Exit careers is 2nd Tier. If you start as a Skald, you'll be going into another Basic class at the end of it, and this could limit your options. Whalers are huntsmen and fishermen who learn to throw a harpoon and sail a boat. They hunt Chaos Whales and other sea-monsters by sailing out to throw sharp metal spikes at them. They have amazing physical stats for a 1st tier class (+10 to Str, T, and Agi) and they're brave and strong, even if they aren't a 'trained fighter' type class.
The Advanced classes for the Norse are Slaver, which is kind of the Norse equivalent of Merchant, Vikti, which is an interesting and unique Caster option, and Warleader, which is broken. Warleader is broken because it's a 2nd tier Advanced class that starting PCs can go into out of their first class with +2 Attacks (usually reserved for 3rd tier fighters), Fearless (no more fear tests ever), and Unsettling (The lowest form of causing Fear to enemies, where they need to save or take -10% to hit you), plus physical stats on par with most 3rd tiers. It's a sort of 2.5 level class, just every Norse fighter can enter it out of Career 1. Vikti are interesting because they get a second attack and solid combat skills, despite being a caster, and while they get a second point of Magic and gain some Lesser Magic choices, they don't get an actual Lore. What they get is the talent Witchcraft. For 200 EXP a spell, they can learn any spell with a CN 15 or less from any Arcane lore, self-teaching and stapling together their own Lore over time and bloody-minded work as they find ways to express their traditions in actual magic. The problem is they roll an extra casting die that only counts towards miscasting, since they're self-taught mages. Still, it's a very neat option that lets you customize a pretty cool war-wizard support viking. Slavers aren't very exciting. They're physically strong and decent at fighting and doing merchant stuff, and great at intimidate. They're an okay take for someone who wants to be a more vicious merchant, but really, playing as a slaver wouldn't be much fun for me.
Since Norse adventure all over the place, it's easy to make a Norse campaign. You're either aspiring future champions, the defenders of your tribe/settlement, or explorers going to either the interior of Norsca or sailing to faraway lands to trade, explore, and hit stuff with axes. The Norse don't consider adventurers slightly crazy like Old Worlders do, and a group of young men and women taking up their weapons to go seek their fortunes would go with their tribe's blessing as long as they brought back some plunder from time to time.
Next Time: The Other Peoples of Chaos.
Why do we raid you? It is the will of the Gods.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Why do we raid you? It is the will of the Gods.
The Kurgan live in the great eastern steppes, east of Norsca and north of Kislev. These vast grasslands border the Chaos Wastes themselves, and the Kurgan are some of the principle people of the Dark Gods. They're humans, like Norscans or Imperials, though they get an actual stat adjustment (+5 S, +5 T, -5 Int, -5 Fel) for some reason. They're wandering steppe nomads, herding their cattle and animals across the endless plains and hunting antelope and chaos spawn for food (this does not sound wise). Above all other things, they worship the Dark Gods wholeheartedly and completely, unlike the Norse. They're simply too close to the realms of Chaos to resist them, with mutation being both common and encouraged among their people. Much like the Beastmen, their attitude towards war and conflict is a reflection of Chaos's plan for the entire world. The book can claim they have a complex and rich culture, but all it ever describes them doing is raiding, fighting each other to see who should be leading the raiding, and doing precisely what their Gods demand in every situation. They are a people completely subservient to Chaos.
This is the main difference between Kurgan and Norse: They are not simply influenced by the darkness spilling down from the north, they're close enough to be completely overtaken by it. Their entire culture revolves around the idea of the Gods being forces of dynamic, every-changing alteration to the land and the people. The flesh is a reflection of the divine, and so a person whose flesh begins to change has been marked by the divine and should be afforded special favor and status. Men fight under their Zar, the tribal chieftan, and the Zar determines everything that the Shaman doesn't. Women are judged solely by how strong of men they choose to sleep with and how well their sons do in war. The Kurgan do not marry, and a man has nothing to do with the raising of his sons; he is expected to be off and fighting, with no care for any sort of domestic life. The Kurgan love to take slaves in battle, but do not use them for labor. They pit them against other tribes' captives in proxy battles and ceremonies of the Gods, forcing comrade to kill comrade and marking their slaves with warpstone-ink tattoos to begin changing their flesh. Once a slave kills enough enemies and begins to praise the Gods, he's adopted into the tribe.
To the Kurgan, they are to make war at all times to bring change to the world. They use the excuse that changing something from living to dead, from existing to not existing, is the greatest change they could cause and the surest monument to Chaos. At most times the Kurgan simply raid, but if an enemy has defeated them in the past, or if their population has grown too large to support, they launch all out assaults using multiple tribes to try to remove their enemy. If they win, they defeat a foe and take his things to sustain themselves. If they lose, it solves the overpopulation problem.
Unlike the Norse, the Kurgan see the entire physical world as a great manifestation of the Gods' will. They don't believe there's a transcendent realm beyond it. The World is Chaos and Chaos is the World, and the more they can make this true the more they will. They tell themselves the same thing the Norse do, that all peoples of Chaos do: That this is a sign of their strength and their willingness to accept the world as it really is. The Gods are all there is, and their will must be obeyed in all things. It would be weakness to pretend things could ever be different, or better. Unlike the Norse, who seem to regard the worse parts of the Gods as something to be mitigated and accepted and kept at bay, the Kurgan simply embrace it whole-heartedly. They have no more resistance to give. All they live for is becoming more and more favored by the Gods and spreading their influence further at the point of a sword from the back of their ponies.
The Hung are...well, here comes some turbo-racism. They're another Asiatic steppe people like the Kurgan who are known for being filthy monsters who lie all the time. They love to steal things of beauty from cities they destroy but don't understand them, dressing up in fine but filthy silks and pretending to be 'civilized'. They're cruel to all their animals and never keep their word in anything as they plunder across the steppes and murder at random. They've also fallen under the control of Morathi of Naggaroth, the mother of Malekith and dark sorceress of the Dark Elves. She wishes to reinvigorate the worship of Slaanesh among her people by taking control of a horde of steppe archers and then sending them into Lustria as expendable footsoldiers, which will surely not go badly for her or them. The Hung are just uncomfortable and I don't know why they're even here; they're statistically identical to the Kurgan but aren't portrayed with any of the sort of tragedy that the other peoples enthralled to the Dark Gods have. I'm sure they're some old GW supplement that merited a couple paragraphs here, but I wish they'd been cleaned up or left out of it. The little line of 'PCs being Kurgan would be fine, but Hung are too treacherous and evil to ever be okay as PCs' just seals this weird little diversion into weird orientalist racist shit.
Look, I like this game line, a lot. It doesn't usually do this, outside the occasional moment like some of the overtones Ulric can take on sometimes. This whole mess is more jarring just because I have no idea where the hell it comes from.
Next Time: The Chaos Dwarfs, so things get good again.
If you had not abandoned us, our great family would never have been sundered.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
If you had not abandoned us, our great family would never have been sundered.
The dwarfs do not speak of the chaos dwarfs. If they do, it is only to call them traitors and say they'll be dead as soon as their kin have time to attend to them. When magic flowed into the world in great rivers from the collapse of the northern Gate, the elves learned from the Slaan how to channel the magic and use their spells. The dwarfs, on the other hand, experimented with creating runes of power to contain the spells rather than working them themselves. These images and symbols could produce great power, channeling the Winds of Magic even though the dwarfs couldn't easily wield or sense them, themselves. Those who wanted to continue to study this power quarreled with those who thought it too dangerous (or too elven), and they agreed to part company in peace, as they were all kin. Those who sought the power of runes headed north and east, journeying to find new lands to build their holds. Some settled in what's known as the Dark Lands, east of what would become Kislev. It was a harsh country, split by volcanoes and full of magma, but they struck the earth and found overflowing gold and gems. Soon, the fortress at Karak Vlag was known as one of the richest and most innovative of all dwarf holds.
But then, during another of the many Chaos Incursions, the Dwarfs of Karak Vlag lost. Marauders overran their lands and drove them back to their forts, and they called to the southern brethren for aid. No rescue came for Karak Vlag, and as they prepared to face their end, the Runesmiths called out to the void for help with their powers and magic inventions. Something not of the Four Gods answered, and as the doors were collapsing and the darkness was about to exterminate their people, the Smiths of Karak Vlag said yes. Thus, Hashut, the Father in Darkness, whisked away the entire hold of Karak Valg and its people, and the Hold was never found again.
But the people survived. They moved down to the plains, the Runesmiths now priests of their savior, and he asked only that they build. First a great city, Zharr-Naggarund, the City of Fire. Then a great altar to their new God. But he demanded that they build more, in his name. When they pleaded that their hands were too few, he told them to get more. They tried to capture orcs as slaves, but the orcs rebelled constantly. They managed to make pacts with the hobgoblins of the steppe and plains, a deal that would benefit both, and sent their new mercenaries south to raid the silk roads between the Old World and Cathay. But their hands were too few, and their God demanded that they build. So they case their gaze to the tribes of the Kurgan and the Norse, the murderous people enslaved by the Dark Four, and they told them they could give them weapons if only they would sell them slaves. Now, the hordes of Chaos get their Chaos Armor and their mighty weapons from the dwarfs of Zharr-Naggarund, and they build as their God commands. They have no idea what Hashut wants with all the great structures and enormous machines, only that they must make them, and that there is a schedule to keep, no matter how many it kills or what it costs.
So yes, the Chaos Dwarfs are where all these other jerks get their weapons from. Also, they've had the secrets of Arcane Magic revealed to their once-Runesmiths, now Sorcerers, as well as terrible magitek engineering talents. Their magic is powerful, combining the Lore of Fire and Lore of Chaos, but as a Dwarf Sorcerer advances in power they slowly turn to stone. Every time they buy +1 Mag in the Sorcerer careers they get, they lose 1 point of Movement. If Mv hits 0, they turn to stone forever. They have to rely on mutation, magic, or very specific careers prior to Sorcerer to survive their advancement. They also get a unique, powerful Chaos Engineer basic career that lets a starting character understand the most complex of weapons and dark sciences. Otherwise they mostly use normal careers.
The Chaos Dwarfs are a neat thing that explains why these jerks all have finely made weapons and heavy armor and real siege engines to raid south with. They produce everything high-tech that the forces of Chaos use, and they do it while impatiently trying to get on with meeting their schedule. They're not screamingly insane, they're middle-managers and engineers trying to keep up with the plans passed down by management on high, even if the plan says 'lower some slaves into molten iron to see if that fixes the magical flow issue we've been having on sprocket 9c'.
Next: Dark Elves: We're totally using Chaos, not the other way around!
It's not a phase, mom. This is who I AMOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
It's not a phase, mom. This is who I AM
The Dark Elves are assholes. That's really enough to describe them in whole. They're arrogant jackasses who think they can use and manipulate all of the various forces of Chaos, despite the fact that all their attempts to do so have done very little to win them their endless succession war with their kin on Ulthuan and have measurably damaged the world. Morathi has probably done more damage than any individual Everchosen and Malekith isn't far behind. But their relationship with the dark forces is complicated, because they genuinely think they're in charge in everything. To be clear, Morathi is the high priestess of the Cult of Pleasure and probably has been since her husband 'rescued' her from them millennia ago. She is absolutely a straight up Slaanesh worshiper, as are most of her direct followers. At the same time, Malekith hates Slaanesh and instead venerates only Khaine, the Elven god of doing wrong in the name of doing right. Khaine is the Lord of Murder and blood, the god of *killing other elves*, which is a specific and enormous sin for elves.
As you might imagine, plenty of people have pointed out that a God of Blood and slaughter whose name starts with Kh sounds an awful lot like somebody else. The Druchii would say they don't worship Khorne and that Khaine is obviously a totally different, legitimate God. It's entirely up to you whether Malekith just picked the edgiest God in the pantheon to elevate to chief God of his murderous torture slave-taker elf society or whether he's one of the only people in history who has managed to get tricked by *Khorne*. Whatever the case, Khaine worship has gotten crazy over in Naggaroth, to the point where the elves have a literal 'murder is legal tonight' festival every year where the priestesses of Khaine run about murdering people at random and picking children to take off to train as priests and/or Assassins. Don't ask me how the notoriously slow-breeding elven population survives ritualistic crime murder nights.
It should also be noted that Dark Elves aren't physically any different than other elves, save a tendency towards having black hair. They're the same species as the Asur from Ulthuan and *probably* the same species as the Fae/Asrai living in Athel Loren (a little hard to say with that place) and to an Imperial, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. They aren't marked by Chaos or mutated or easily distinguishable in any way except maybe the way they're arrogant even by elf standards.
The main Chaos presence with the Dark Elves comes in two places. The first is the Cult of Pleasure. Slaanesh worship is all over the place, no matter how much the Khainates try to stomp it out. No reason is given for this anywhere in anything that I've read, though I know later Elf stuff imports the whole 'All elves are bound to Slaanesh at her creation and are trying to avoid getting eaten by her' thing from 40k over to Fantasy. The fact that there's absolutely nothing on that here makes me more confident in my belief that that didn't used to be a thing in Fantasy. I suspect elves are just vulnerable to Slaanesh because they get bored out of their skulls spending forty years learning to do some basic task and want to unwind, and because they're arrogant enough to think they can get away with it clean. Morathi has actively spread the Cult as far as she can, and is always seeking to let it take over more of her people so that she can have more personal power to use to keep her beloved idiot son safe. Meanwhile, he does everything he can to undermine and stop it because Slaanesh isn't edgy enough for him.
The other place is that Naggaroth still connects up to the north pole. The Druchii are very 'I'm strong because I'll use any means necessary!' type villains, and so they recognize there's enormous power up there closer to the Realm of Chaos. They build great sorcerous watchtowers and try to use them to keep an eye on the northern tribes, and to channel the power of darkness into more magic for them. They also regularly try to manipulate or point the hordes of Chaos at other foes, because they always assume they can clean them up or control them afterwards.
Like I said, Dark Elves are assholes.
Next Time: How To Actually Play A Giant Power Metal Murder Machine.
Slaves to DarknessOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Slaves to Darkness
Playing as a Chaos Champion is one of the big reasons this book exists. This is another place that the modular nature of WHFRP2e really gets to shine, because the same rules work just as well for making a customized, heavily armored jackass to be a storyline-ending boss fight for your players as they do for making a group of crazed power metal would-be dark lords. Champions of Chaos are those who have offered everything they had to the Gods, and been accepted. The menacing Chaos Warriors in their huge, imposing armor are men and women who have begun the first step on this path. Warriors, commoners, and people of all walks of life, all races and genders (except halflings, they're legitimately immune to Chaos) sometimes feel the Call and begin to journey north to their destiny. The person inside that massive suit of armor may've been anyone in their past life. An elven princess, a stableboy, an engineer, a soldier, a Beastman, a Norse berserker? Any of these people could hear the Call for one reason or another and make their way to the lands of the Gods. This means that if you want to play a game about being aspiring Champions, a good way to put some variety into the party is to give them a couple 'normal' Careers each before they made their way to the Wastes and the Gods threw them together as allies.
The Champions are all a very specific manifestation of their Gods, namely of their Gods' various martial aspects. These obviously make the most sense for Khorne, and this whole thing coming from a tabletop wargame is probably one of the reasons 'WE FIGHT DUDES' is the most popular Chaos God in much of the game's material. Khorne warriors are kind of the archetype, massive red and brass armored warriors who sweep down from the north in silence, there to worship their god only in the screams of the dying and the sound of their blades hitting flesh. Nurglite warriors use their armor to hold their increasingly rotted and ruined bodies together, silently making their way south to spread corruption like the trail of a massive, armored slug. Slaaneshi really don't work as Chaos Warriors and that's always been one of the reasons GW has struggled so with Slaanesh. The huge emphasis in most Slaanesh material on crazy sadomasochism is probably a result of 'Well we gotta find some excuse to get these guys and gals on the field of combat' (I'd have personally gone with 'I pursue excellence and perfection, and the martial arts are an art', myself) and so we get an unimpressive description of Slaaneshi warbands as some kind of armored orgy-riot rather than anything a GM is ever going to use. Tzeentch Warriors also don't quite work, because 'heavily armored bruiser' doesn't go with his 'thing', but they like to dress in crazy colors and armor themselves in ridiculous styles while insisting the best change is death so they're totally servants of change and not off-brand Warriors.
The Champion Track is unique in that *generally* once you're on it you can't leave. This affords the authors a lot of leeway in designing the classes, so there aren't a lot of redundant talents at the higher levels of Champion since they can absolutely assume you got the older stuff in your last career. You also cannot advance through the Champion track without gaining sufficient mutations and rewards of Chaos. Rewards are special boons/changes earned either every 6 or so sessions on average, when your PC does something crazy and helpful to the cause of ruining the world for everyone else, or if your GM is stingy, given every time they'd grant you a Fate Point for exceptional action. Champion starts with Chaos Warrior, which is only barely stronger than a 1st Tier (aside from likely getting you a suit of full plate) and teaching you some journeying skills to help you make your way north. Once you finish Warrior and earn your first reward, you become a Chaos Knight, which is a more traveling-focused version of the normal uncorrupted Knight career (Good heavy melee 2nd tier) but also comes with a very important power: Chosen of Chaos. This lets you always reroll mutation rolls and take the one you want, in addition to any mutation rerolls from spending Fortune. As you're going to inevitably continue to mutate as a Champion PC (or while rolling up a Champion villain) you're going to really want that ability. The Aspiring Champion is a sort of Tier 2.5 character, picking up +2 Attacks and a ton of wounds, but not advancing stats that much further from Knight. You need 2 rewards to enter it and this is where most Chaos characters will end their track; actual Champions love killing off Aspiring Champions to protect their positions. Champions of Chaos are where you start to become a storyline-boss level enemy. They get some pretty immense stat increases (like +30 Toughness) and have 3 Rewards and who knows how many mutations, which are more likely to be favorable due to Chosen of Chaos. You're also intended to have a magic weapon, actual Chaos Armor, a warband, and some other relic of the Dark Gods by this point. Finally, there's the Exalted Champion, which is the single strongest fighting career in the gameline. They're meant to be bosses for an entire party to fight, like Vampire Lords, with at least 4 Rewards and the Mark of their God, crazy stat advances (+40 Toughness, +30 Strength, +40 WS makes them the most physically powerful class in the line), and +3 Attacks, something no mortal career gains. They even learn to sense magic, if not use it.
Champions and Exalted Champions basically exist to be boss fights or extremely powerful PCs. There's also a very important point in the Champion fluff. As a Warrior, you know who you were and why you came to serve. As a Knight, you begin to lose some of the trivial memories of your past, but still remember what really mattered to you. As an Aspiring Champion, you only remember the things that defined your life, with everything else lost in the howl of the Dark Gods. As a Champion, you cannot recall who you were or why you're here, any longer. Champions invent new identities for themselves, pleasing to their Gods, and think no more on what drove them north. This is obviously pretty horrifying, but it also explains why Chaos Champions get slowly more and more extreme as they advance. They're literally unmade and remade to be nothing but a vessel for the desires of their God. Playing a PC like that could be interesting and tragic (once), or you could play someone who finds ways to hang on to who they were and remember why they took up the axe.
Sorcerers get their own track of classes, though they're not as impressive as the Champions. Really, their line is much more of 'Apprentice Dark Wizard', 'Journeyman Dark Wizard', 'Master Dark Wizard', 'Dark Wizard Lord', much more closely mirroring the Imperial wizard progression. They don't even get extra attacks as they level up, unlike the insanely powerful Bray Shaman. They DO interact with some Rewards of Chaos differently, and if a Sorcerer can get Chaos Armor they can use their magic without any penalties from inside their new skin. Similar to Champions, they slowly lose all memory of who they were or why they've done this, remembering only what their God wants of them.
Next Time: Rewards of the Dark Gods.
Service guarantees tentaclesOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Service guarantees tentacles
Talking about the rewards of Chaos is going to give us a good excuse to get into one of the major problems with Chaos, and with playing as Chaos. There are multiple methods given for deciding when to Reward a Champion or Chaos PC. One is to do it by GM fiat, completely at random, emulating the Gods in their fickle and controlling ways. Another is to give players a Reward per 4-6 major sessions of play, suggesting that their simply existing and adventuring is strengthening and pleasing the Gods. Another is to give players a Reward whenever they accomplish a major quest or gain a Fate Point. You don't gain Fate Points very often, so that's likely to leave players unable to move up the Champion track very easily. Finally, one suggestion is that for every month in-game you roll a d10. If you get the sacred number of the PC's God (8 for Khorne, 7 for Nurgle, 6 for Slaanesh, 9 for Tzeentch) they get a reward. If you get the sacred number of their God's enemy (Nurgle for Tzeentch, Khorne for Slaanesh, and vice-versa) they gain a Mutation instead. Every time you gain a Reward, you gain Insanity equal to d10/5 (round up)+1 per point of Mag your character has, with a WP test to reduce the IP by your Degrees of Success. This means most Champions will go crazy very quickly, and wizard champions moreso. Yes, Chaos should be nuts and all but the Insanity system's insanities are almost all crippling to actually playing your character and designed to ruin a PC. They're not the crazy epic 'I'm a mad dark lord who's going to plot to destroy my foes' eccentricities you'd expect, they just destroy your PC. And remember you're also getting these from mutating. Honestly, I'd just say an actual Champion of Darkness is beyond Insanity points as it is, since they're already dealing with mind-shattering eldritch horror all the time.
The other problem is the single largest entry on the Rewards table is 'Gain a Mutation'. Which is meant to be the booby-prize or punishment in Chaos Rewards. There's also Exalted Daemon, where your PC is destroyed completely and used as host for a Greater Daemon (with the suggestion you roll up a new PC rather than play the insanely powerful demon-host), Frenzy (OH YAY, though if you roll Frenzy as a reward multiple times it starts permanently buffing your Str and Tough by +d10), Chaos Weapon (These are rad, we'll get to them in a later chapter), Chaos Armor (Which means you can't take the stuff off, even if it's the best armor in the game), a Chaos Steed (random but substantial mount), Chaos Spawn (A bunch of them will come to serve you, rather than you becoming one, thankfully), The Might Of Chaos, where you roll a d10 and get that many points to distribute as you wish to your stats as a permanent buff (no more than half in one stat) which is much more useful than it sounds, a Daemonic Weapon (Which are, hilariously, worse than a Chaos Weapon and you can't actually get one unless you're an Exalted Champion, instead getting a mutation), a Demonic Steed (VERY powerful mount), a Gift specific to your God (roll on another table), a bunch of Chaos Hounds to serve you, or The Eye of God. If you roll the Eye of God, tally your rewards and mutations. If you have 6 Rewards and fewer than 6 Mutations, you are ascended into Daemon Princedom. This effectively kills your PC because they've won at Chaos and become a demigod to go hang out with their God as one of their favored servants. Your new PC should get more Fate, more free advances, and more options to set a low stat to 'average' in return for you being willing to give up your old PC, which makes me wonder if anyone really introduces totally fresh 1st tier PCs into like a 3rd-4th tier party because a PC died or became unplayable. If you have 6 or more mutations, you die and become a Chaos Spawn because you didn't get enough favor. If you have fewer than 6 of both, the Gods are pleased and give you Chaos Armor and a Daemon Weapon (regardless of your status). If you're a Sorcerer, instead of either of those things, they give you a permanent +1 Attacks.
The big thing about this table is that it's a d100 table, and many of these results are only 1 or 2% chances individually. While Gifts of the Gods is like 20%, Might of Chaos is 10%, and Just Mutate is 39%. Some of these gifts also only become really rad if you roll them multiple times. The average character isn't going to get many of these, and expecting the character to roll, say, Chaos Weapon (a 5% chance overall) more than once to get more than one special ability on their Chaos Weapon is a little absurd. Similarly, if you're using the strict Trappings system, you absolutely have to earn Chaos Armor at some point to get into the higher ranks of Champion, and that's another 5% chance. On a table you won't be rolling on often. And as you see with Eye of God and the Chaos Spawn rules, accruing Mutations will eventually doom your PC. Your chances of actually getting the Chaos Good End (which also just effectively kills your PC anyway) are, uh, slight.
Which has always been one of the problems with Chaos. The people serving it don't, generally, get very much out of it. The Gods don't give a shit about you, until they suddenly give all the shits about you the second you try to act out of 'character' for them. You get some powers and maybe some nice magic items if you're lucky, but for the most part they eat your personality, spit out a weird caricature that doesn't remember why it's here, and then destroy that weird caricature later for not being enough of a caricature. You just don't win with Chaos, and it feels like people in setting that know it well enough would start to catch on to that and it'd start having recruiting problems. It's so *consistent* about dicking over its own followers. It could at least let a few people get the thing they always wanted before revealing THE TERRIBLE PRICE or whatever. Like with the magic items, the way to win Chaos's game is just not to play. The degree to which the Gods hate and delight in fucking over their own, not to mention the way their goals always boil down to 'destroy the world', make playing as Chaos without shifting the fluff a little or messing with the rules really dull sounding.
Next Time: God Specific Rewards, Most Of Them Aren't Good.
I sure hope you didn't build a social PCOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
I sure hope you didn't build a social PC
Every set of God gifts starts out with a set of 'face' gifts, which turn your face into something demonic and hateful. For instance, Face of Khorne gives you Terrifying as it turns your head into a crazy shadowy bull head that speaks with the echoes of the voices of every mortal you've killed. Effectively, aside from the fluff (and the fact that you'll obviously be unable to pass for human ever again) they're not very exciting and just a succession of 'Gain a bite attack' or 'gain horns' or 'Become Terrifying'. I'll mostly be skipping them. Khorne's next gift after faces of everything he throws into battle is 'skin of Khorne', which randomly changes your skin color and has no benefit at all unless you roll a 9-10 on a d10 and get Skin of Brass for +d10 Toughness. The Hand of Khorne gives your fists the ability to do SB-1 damage and count as magic, and any further rolls of this gift give them +1 damage. Given the Street Fighting talent gives +1 damage and +10 WS when unarmed (normally not something you ever want to be) you could make a pretty awesome Khornate Godhand out of this so I kinda approve of this one. The Mark of Khorne gives you a free suit of Chaos Armor as he sets you up to never do anything but war the rest of your life, or gives your Chaos Armor +1 AV on one location if you already had it, plus +10% Fellowship with other Khornates. If you roll it again, it's stripped from you for displeasing the God somehow and replaced with a mutation. Musk of Hate lets you cause everyone around you to roll WP or fall into a totally uncontrolled Frenzy whenever you Frenzy, during which they attack whatever's closest rather than still being able to go for 'closest enemy'. Poison Bite is exactly like the mutation, giving you an SB-2 Precise bite attack that does d5 extra Wounds if someone fails Tough. Regeneration is just the Regeneration mutation, healing you completely between fights and 1 wound a round during them. Frenzy is, uh, Frenzy. Our good friend. Cross Breed turns you into a weird dog-centaur thing that averages all your stats between your current stats and a Flesh Hound of Khorne. As you're a Chaos Champion, your stats are almost certainly better than a mook demon. This will suck for you and also make using armor and weapons hard. Fuck Cross Breed. Personality Loss is fitting for a Khornate and accelerates the normal Warrior's personality loss, reducing all your mental stats by 2d10. *All of them*. Permanently. Including WP, which you use for bravery. Khorne considers this a *reward*. Weapon Hand replaces one of your hands with one of your weapons with no real benefit. A Demonic Name doesn't actually do anything game wise besides make it seem like maybe you might make Demon Prince soon enough. And finally you can just Mutate instead. Khorne's Rewards suck.
Nurgle gives you the various forms of Face Gift, and Face of Nurgle's description is missing and only has a description of Khorne giving you a Demonic Name (nice editing), so I have no idea what it'd do but it was probably icky. You can get an extra tongue attack via Biting Tongue, which is only Damage 1 but happens in addition to all your other attacks as your tongue decides to become a tentacle. Immensity makes you fatter and filthier like Nurgle, giving -10 Agi but +10 Tough because Nurglites are nearly impossible to kill. Neglish Rot makes you a host for the insane save or die mutagenic virus that terrifies people so much, which won't matter during your actual fights but will really piss off players if you put it on a villain. Horns of Nurgle gives you the Horns mutation without counting as a mutation. Plague gives you a disease that you can spread, but which will also slowly kill you and that you can never recover from. Yay. Hide of Nurgle makes you unable to heal unless your injuries are treated because you never heal and continue rotting away, but each instance of it gives all foes in melee -10% WS since you're horrifying to be anywhere near. You can get cross-bred with a Beast of Nurgle and it sucks as much as it does with Flesh Hounds. You can get infested with tiny Nurglings who will charge out and annoy/disease your foes in combat. You can gain a magic little familiar, or a slime trail left behind you that spreads disease. The Mark of Nurgle makes you grow d10 inches in height and increase your body weight by 50%, and gives +2d10 Toughness and +10 to Fellowship with Nurglites, but can be lost like the Khorne one. You can get a Demonic Name or a Mutation at the end of every one of these tables so I won't repeat them. Nurgle's Gifts are a pain in the ass to deal with if you're a PC fighting a Nurglite, but aside from all the Toughness they don't do the Nurglite much good in direct combat. They mostly exist to fuck with people and spread disease after you're gone.
Fair warning, the Slaanesh gifts are going to be as bad as you'd expect.
Face gifts, blah blah, same as the others but without copy errors. Sadomasochist gives you +10 to Str, Tough, and WP every time you either take or do one wound during combat, for d10 Rounds. It does not stack unless you get multiple instances of the Gift, in which case you add 10 more to the bonuses, which can stack to the heavens quickly if you get a couple instances of this. Crabclaw gives you a Daemonette's weird-ass crabclaw, ruining a hand to give you a natural weapon. Meh. Curious Eruptions, uh...look, it makes your bodily fluids give people the Sadomasochist gift. Christ, guys, this is why it ended up being a good idea for Slaanesh to get squatted eventually. All you had to do was make her satan instead of...this. Ensnaring Tongue lets you use your tongue like a weapon with Snare. Intoxicating Personality is a rare example of a Gift that doesn't suck: +1d10 WP and Fel, no drawback. Familiar gives you a little demon buddy. Cross Breed does the same shitty thing it does with every God, just with a Fiend of Slaanesh. Horns of Slaanesh gives you horns. Musk gives you a Keeper of Secrets' ability to enthrall people with pheromones, making living creatures who are affects try to run close to you and make themselves Helpless (WP to resist, WP-10 to resist each round after they're ensnared) which is crazily good in combat even if it's creepy. Razor Tail gives you a sharp tail that gives an extra limb with a Natural Weapon. Mark of Slaanesh curiously increases WP instead of Fel, by +2d10, and acts like all the other Marks. Slaanesh's gifts are terrible. We really didn't need the weird 'S&M juice' stuff, guys. We really, *really* didn't. This is what I mean when I say Slaanesh can be done well, and this book does not do it. For contrast, go check out Black Crusade's Slaanesh book. It actually manages to be non-creepy (mostly)! FFG did a way better job with this God.
Tzeentch has the Faces like everyone does, then has Ecstatic Duplication, which causes you to split into Tzeentch Horrors when you die. You're still dead, though, so mostly a way for a villain to take one last stab at PCs. Hand of Tzeentch just gives you a Natural Weapon tentacle, though the fluff for it has your fingers wage a terrible civil war on one another because your hand is misbehaving and destroy one another in the process, then the hand turn into a tentacle in grief, and I thought that was pretty funny. Flaming Arm lets you shoot fireballs out of a hand-mouth, doing 3 Damage 3 hits to a target if you succeed BS, which is a pretty useful ranged attack. Gift of Magic gives you an instant +1 Mag! You can also access Tzeentch's Lores and powers, even if your class wouldn't allow them! If this Gift makes your Mag become 5 or more, though, you explode in wizard sparkles. Reckoning of Tzeentch has you flip a coin for every stat. 1-5, you take -d10 to it. 6-10, you get +d10 to it. Cross Breed actually does something different: On a 1-4 you get Flaming Arm instead. On 5-8, you get Flaming Arm but the arm can still be used normally, too! On a 9 your legs turn into hover engines or something and you float above the ground. On a 10 you die instantly and turn into a Chaos Spawn. Whoops. Magic of Tzeentch gives you a single spell you can cast at Mag 3 with a magic wand given to your by Tzeentch. Familiar gives you a little useless demon buddy. Wings lets you fly and gives you working wings. Changing of Ways makes you reroll all your starting stats. Withering Gaze lets you give people -10% to attack you in melee because you got crazy void eyes, man. Mark of Tzeentch immediately gives you d5 Mutations (not counting towards your Spawn/fucking up Eye of God limit) and +1 Mag (which will not explode you if it raises it to 5 or whatever) and Dark Lore (Tzeentch). If you have the Dark Lore, Tzeentch sends you a random magic item that you must keep or he'll kill you. Name and Mutation are the same as always. Tzeentch actually has the least shitty gifts and they're still super random.
Rewards kind of suck and really could've used another look. The God Specific rewards are just kinda meh and most of them don't do anything exciting beyond edgy, try-hard flavor texts about cutting your own face off to see if you can still feel and other dumb shit like that.
I'm still mad about writing up the Slaanesh section.
Next Time: Groupies.
It's inevitable: The gibbering, slavering minions of Chaos are attracted to power.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
It's inevitable: The gibbering, slavering minions of Chaos are attracted to power.
Retinues suck for PCs as actual on-screen help. I'm just gonna say that right now. You've seen how powerful the leadership feat is in 3.5 or Pathfinder. You've seen how almost any game that has an option to get you a bunch of expendable NPC backup is usually extremely overpowered. You get a roll on the Retinue table every 2 Rewards, and that determines if you get to roll on the *actual* Retinue table 0, 1, or 2 times. You've got a 30% chance of attracting no followers, a 60% chance of some, and a 10% chance of double. The actual Retinue table is a bunch of very random 'roll again to see if you get your 40% chance of a minotaur after rolling to see if you get any characters at all and then rolling this result' and it's terrible. There's a good way to use a chart for random generation and there's a bad way to use a chart for random generation, and this is a Bad Way.
The game even acknowledges that if you're lucky on this table, an individual Chaos PC can achieve an enormous number of troops (troops you're supposed to roll up separately as full NPCs, too! Even track advances!) who will trivialize or slow down RPG scale encounters, suggesting maybe you make your warband into a WHFB unit and play out games to determine your really big battles, which is a terrible idea that shouldn't even be entertained. They also suggest that instead your NPCs should just handle enemy mooks off-screen while the party deals with the real threats, which is fine but begs the question as to why there's all these goddamn tables and making them as NPCs and other random bullshit. There's even special tables for distributing your Rewards to your minions.
Similarly, they suggest that PCs could start out as the Retinue of a powerful Chaos Lord or Demon Prince as patron, collecting these sorts of bonus rewards as they work their way up and then either split off or overthrow their master. This will also result in some players being unfairly more rewarded than others, which it acknowledges will annoy them, and suggests letting them rotate playing as the Chaos Lord or Prince each session, which just doesn't seem like it'd work.
The problem with this section, short as it is, is that it's the worst kind of randomization. I can't use this stuff, either as GM making villains for players, because I'd rather actually plan out the encounters around what the players can handle rather than 'Yeah, I rolled that the Chaos Knight has 3 Chaos Trolls and your newly 2nd tier party is just turbofucked' happening because of some bad rolling in Enemy Warband Creation. I can't use this for a Chaos Party (if I ever wanted to run one) because it takes a lot of focus off the PCs and it's a huge amount of book-keeping and isn't something the system was ever designed to handle. It doesn't produce fun villains or good encounters for PCs, and it's useless for a player party without either bogging down or unbalancing the game.
Retinues suck, and worse, they're just sort of lazy. These issues are glaring ones that anyone familiar with this system should be able to see. This little section feels tacked on just because, well, a Chaos Champion always has a warband, right? But what if you aren't playing a one on one game? Do you just play all the PCs warbands at once? What if one PC never attracts followers, since it's random? Does that player just get to sit out whenever the team does anything large scale or leads armies? This is here because they think it has to be here, with very little thought put into it, and it's bad.
Next: We make a Chaos Champion to demonstrate creating a villain to murder.
Making an ass for the heroes to kickOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Making an ass for the heroes to kick
It's time for us to put these rules to work and make a final boss for a campaign against Chaos, to demonstrate the kinds of characters you get out of this. I'm going to do the whole thing totally randomly.
First, species: Almost everything about Champions is written assuming they're humans, though they could be of any species. But you know what? To demonstrate that, we're gonna go with a fallen Elf, especially as I think that might cause some odd interactions with mutation/stat caps.
Our new evil elf comes out of the box with WS 34, BS 44, S 33, T 29, Agi 37, Int 37, WP 25, and Fel 34. She'll Shallya's Mercy that T to get her Toughness up to 31. As an Elf, she knows how to use a longbow right off the bat and gets to pick +Int or +WP, so she's going to take +Int since the low WP looks like a solid explanation for an elf falling to Chaos and it doubles down on her being clever. She rolls Envoy, Vagabond, or Seaman (Sailor) for her starting options, and I think we'll go with Envoy. Envoys are elves who live in the Empire and other human lands to negotiate trade deals or serve as ambassadors. Young Ulthuan noble who went out to the human lands and then fell for some Chaos far from home seems reasonable.
Now, one oddity in Chaos Warrior is it never actually says if it's a Basic career or not. We'll say it is for purposes of not having to ram Tauriel up there through Chaos Marauder or the entire Cult Magus line before we can put her into the call of darkness. She finishes Envoy, has some adventures where she develops an unhealthy interest in some strange cultic powers and a little amulet that sometimes turns into a screaming human face when she's upset, and decides to sacrifice someone she cares about in order to make her way north and get on with her business up there.
In the process of becoming a Chaos Warrior she's going to pick up her first Mutation. Rolling on the d1000 table, she gets Atrophy, which would screw her stats over badly. Her player glares at the GM a little and declares she's spenting a Fortune point to reroll, her one allowed reroll. She hits 973, and gets Wings, which is potentially way more metal/great. She rolls on the Wings table to see if they're any good and gets an 86; they're Large Wings that will let her fly freely at Mv+2 (or Mv 6, whichever is higher, but Mv+2 is better since Elfs have base Mv 5). She's got big, cool demon wings and she still knows how to use that bow; a good combination for annoying future enemies.
Now she's got a problem as she makes it through Warrior and gets her first Reward: You can't do Rewards until you pick a God, but all the Gods are kind of lame. Khorne wouldn't fit a flying archer elf because that's poncy fighting. Tzeentch is lame. No elf would do Nurgle. She settles on Slaanesh with a sigh even though everything about Slaanesh sucks. This will probably screw her over. Then she rolls Mutation for her first reward anyway, not actually getting a reward, due to rolling a 37. This at least lets her roll on the d100 Slaanesh Mutation table. But she gets a 99 and that sends her back to Big Table. She rolls 778, Soul Destruction, which would explode her soul and let a new character's soul come into her body. Having a Fortune point, she throws it on the table with a huff. She is no longer feeling this 'Chaos' thing. She goes back to the Slaanesh table and gets a 21, Crystalline Body. Her body turns into sparkling magical crystal. With wings. How appropriate for a fallen Elf. This halves her current Wounds, but gives her +3d10 Toughness. She proceeds to roll awesome on that and get +28 Toughness, permanently. Diamond hard flying sparkle elf? She's back on the Chaos Train.
On her way into Aspiring Champion, she picks up Chosen of Chaos in Knight, which gives her a free reroll on all mutations. This'll be helpful. She also gets her second Reward! A 65 gets her the Might of Chaos, and she rolls a d10 to see how many free stats she gets...and rolls a 4. She sighs and puts 2 in Toughness to top out her total Toughness bonuses to 30 and 2 in BS so she can shoot a little better. Chaos doesn't really teach you much BS, after all. She'll also pick up another mutation on her way through Knight, and for hilarity, since Knight gets a free choice of Special Weapon, she'll learn Gun. Her Chosen rolls give her a choice between Mindless (PC dead, others control them as a robit) or Metallic Skin, so why the hell not get more robit up in here? She takes Metallic Skin. So now she's got beautiful, swirling patterns of gold and steel all over her crystalline, sparkling body and shining wings of light. She gets AV2 on all locations, but I believe the maximum AV of 5 still applies here (the only exceptions to it explicitly say they're exceptions). She's like some kind of insane chaos angel robot and that's actually kinda cool.
Third reward on actually entering Champion from Aspiring, and a final Mutation: Gets a Gift of the God, rolls on the Slaanesh table, and gets a 64, Intoxicating Personality. Rolls for that and gets +10 Fel, +6 Willpower. For her last mutation, she gets Roll Twice or Midnight Skin, and she's not dumb and takes the stealth field from Midnight Skin. So overall, her mutations ended up nearly killing her character multiple times, but thanks to Fortune Points and Chosen of Chaos, she instead ended up a flying elven deathbot of beautiful alien crystal with a toggle able stealth field.
After all her advances and things, she's at:
WS 64, BS 51, S 63 (25+Very Strong), T 96 (! 30+Mutations+Might+Very Resilient), Agi 62, Int 57, WP 61, Fel 64
Wounds: 9 base+9 Champion/2 for mutation=9 Wounds
Tauriel the Bright is a winged, clever elven death robot that flies about putting arrows into people or picking people off by hand with her sword, tanking through everything like some kind of Chaos T-1000 until someone gets a good Fury into her, breaks that insane damage reduction, and she shatters like glass. At the end of the day, through multiple attempts to kill her via the dice, with enough rerolls and luck she ended up with a surprisingly coherent concept and a neat schtick. Her old career will also leave her some languages and diplomatic skills, and she's probably a pretty dangerous general. Also, a perfect immortal deathbot is a cooler end point than most Slaaneshi get.
And that's why I can't quite hate the Chaos Champion rules. They have a tendency to produce good villains/bosses/enemies, they just suck for actually making and playing a PC as written, despite that being one of their intentions.
Next Time: More Items That Kill Your PCs, and then the rad Chaos Weapons and my favorite little detail in the entire book.
If the user is not a follower of chaos/specific god/whatever, they get murderedOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
If the user is not a follower of chaos/specific god/whatever, they get murdered
I normally go into detail on magic items. I'm not really going to bother for the Armory of the Gods. The collection of items is a long collection of 'It's real powerful but if your PCs touch it they get fucked' and I feel like that would be more usefully accompanied by 'And here's how to destroy the thing or ideas for going on quests to neutralize it' since most of these items will even fuck over a Chaos PC. Take for instance the Great Fang, a sword made from a Dragon Ogre Shaggoth's enormous tooth. It's a magic Hand Weapon that ignores all enemy armor, which is awesome. Every single game week it checks to mutate you. Which is not, considering you have a limit on mutations before you collapse into 'dead PC'. So even if you're a Chaos Guy who is okay with getting warped to hell and back, there's a hard limit on mutation that makes that item a death sentence. Every single item is similar with a couple exceptions and I just don't really see their value in a campaign as a result.
Which gets back to one of the fundamental problems with how Chaos is done. Aside from all the save or dies (which no player has ever liked having pointed at them) there's our good old friend 'no reason to engage with it'. The smartest move when confronted with Chaos is to burn it. If you are not playing a Chaos Campaign and you *don't* do this, all that is going to happen is that your PC is going to suffer for it. This book needed more uses for dark lore and items in actually fighting against Chaos, to give you a reason why PCs who are otherwise sane and normal might poke the bear, so to speak. The setting's history is full of 'We save these books in case we dearly need to know our enemy well enough to beat him' but there's no mechanical backing to that in this book. No real ways to try to play the fractious powers of evil against one another. No weapon you could draw once at a terrible price to strike down a greater demon and save Altdorf at the risk of your soul. The kind of stuff you'd need to have in there to make PCs actually engage with Chaos. The simple fact is, all you need to know about Chaos is that against some of it you should bring a cannon. Once you've got that, you're pretty much set and that's one of the big failings it commits. There's no mystery, and if there was, trying to solve it does nothing but trigger a bunch of booby traps, by the mechanics presented herein.
Now, enough of that complaining: Let's get to the actually pretty rad part. Chaos Armor is simple but useful, though they forgot something with it. The section on Chaos Armor in the Rewards section says it does something special if you roll it again (and says to refer to this chapter to find out what), but the section on Chaos Armor here in the armory makes no mention of this. Chaos Armor is Full Plate with no drawbacks, far less weight (if you're using Encumbrance at all, which is an optional rule to begin with), no penalty on using magic, a permanent +5 Toughness, AND it instantly adapts itself to fit you no matter how you mutate. Even if you get something like stretchy arms, the armor will stretch and grow, then retract, when you use your arms that way. It's awesome. You just can't take it off. Ever. Don't ask how champions eat or anything like that. One granted Chaos Armor is no longer permitted to consider anything but war.
Chaos Weapons are lovely. You get a single special property in your weapon when you first roll it, and if you roll it again, your weapon picks up more properties. They have to be melee weapons and are usually swords, not that that matters mechanically; they're generally Great or Hand Weapons, and much more commonly Hand Weapons. You can roll for which if you want, but really I'd just give my PC whatever weapon they asked for for their rad signature melee weapon. They're magical, can be seen by Magical Sense, and can harm ethereal foes and bypass Demonic Aura. In addition, they get one property from a truly massive list, and almost all of it is positive! I'll be sharing a couple of my favorites, but the list is too big to reproduce here.
Banishment: If you're fighting a demon and wound it, it has to make a WP test or get instantly 'killed' and sent back to the Realm of Chaos. This is one of the few ways a Champion might (very big might) beat a Greater Demon. We'll get into Greater Demons later, they have their own chapter.
Deflection: You can use the sword to parry ranged attacks short of gunshots, which is inherently cool.
Hurling: You can throw the weapon and if it hits someone, it rips itself free and comes back to you, giving them a second light hit.
Magic Absorbing: You can parry spells out of the air and then reflect them back at people like the final boss in a Zelda game. Hell yeah.
Mighty Strike: Once per combat, after you hit someone and know they didn't dodge, you can declare this is your amazing deathblow and resolve it as though your Str was 100%.
Tooth of Tzeentch: Your weapon gains fixed damage and armor piercing because it's actually a wizard lightsaber. Mutates you, unfortunately, but the base idea is awesome.
And the best, the absolute best: Relic. If you get Relic, they tried to make your sword out of powdered unicorn and quench it in the tears of Shallyans. And, uh, it went horribly wrong for them. Your sword now gets a +20% to hit against other Chaos followers and creatures. Every week, you have to make a WP save or you lose a mutation or Reward of Chaos. If you lose all your Rewards and Mutations, you're freed from the Dark Gods (except for your rad holy sword) and your soul is saved and redeemed, letting you return home as a champion of light. I love this ability. Chaos having the potential to accidentally fuck up and make a relic of purest good that slowly saves the soul of the dark champion wielding it is an absolute perfect reversal and it's great to see it happen in the other direction.
Daemon Weapons kind of suck. Yes, they give you a huge WS bonus (You get 10x the Attacks stat of the creature bound in the blade). Yes, they count as Magic and you can use the imprisoned creature's WP for saves instead of your own. They also steal Strength from the people you kill, giving you 1/3 of their Str as a temporary, stacking bonus. The problem? If your Str triples this way, you fall into a coma. So all you have to do to stop a Champion with a Daemon Sword is send enough mooks to let him reach his pre-set kill limit and then stab him on the ground. Also, if the Demon absorbs too much strength (it gets another 1/3) it shuts the sword down because it's full, making you lose all benefits. It also goes crazy and hurts you a bunch or tries to escape and kill you if you don't kill often enough to feed it, and it needs feeding more than a Vampire Thrall. It's just inconvenient and not as wild and rad as the Chaos Weapons. I'd rather have one of those.
Next Time: An actual chapter on the Gods? Why is this Chapter 15?
Why is this chapter 15Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Why is this chapter 15
It's sort of funny, the degree to which the book just assumes you're familiar with the basics of the Dark Four. I don't understand why you'd put the fundamental, most important characters of Chaos at the back like this; we're 80% done with the book already.
Khorne is Khorne. You know him; all he's really got is that one catch phrase, Blood For the Blood God, Skulls For The Skull Throne. What's important about the writeups in this book is that GW has always waffled on whether or not there are also positive aspects and sides to the Chaos Gods. That isn't going to be the case here. Khorne is the God of mindless, endless slaughter, who is especially pleased with you if you destroy those who were once your friends or family in order to show that you care only for the flowing of blood and the killing of others. Khorne himself is described as a massive humanoid figure, his face eternally in shadow besides his blood red eyes, lounging on his throne of skulls in a river of blood in the Realm of Chaos. He hates all the Gods, good and bad, because he hates everything. He especially hates Slaanesh, though; the idea of enjoying life is obviously weak and decadent and should be replaced by enjoying more death and destruction. All Khorne wants is to burn the world to the ground. He also despises all magic (I have no idea how his followers summon his idiot demons without it, but I guess blood rites work fine and they'll make exception for those) unless it's a sweet +1 sword that you took from some nerd wizard you murdered. Khorne places 5 strictures on his followers:
Kill more dudes. Don't stop killing.
Kill other Khornates, too. Don't stop killing.
Take trophies from your kills. Don't stop killing.
Destroy all followers of Slaanesh. Don't stop killing.
Fuck mercy. Never show mercy or spare any enemy. Don't stop killing.
Khorne is a simple God. Khorne also sucks. A lot. To actually accomplish anything larger than the 1600s equivalent of a murder spree, his followers essentially have to rules-lawyer their own idiot boss. Khornates also like to claim that defending yourself from them will still empower their God just as much, and always feel vaguely offended when someone actually fights back.
Nurgle is the God of Plague. We've gone over Nurgle a fair bit, too, but the key to Nurgle is that Nurgle sees beauty in all life and Nurgle knows Germ Theory. No-one else knows this. Nurgle genuinely thinks he loves his victims/followers, and that's a genuinely interesting dynamic. He's in what's essentially an abusive relationship with his people, forcing painful diseases on them but then coming in to comfort them and remove their pain and laugh with them so they can both think this is okay. Nurgle's followers tend to be some of the most devoted of any of the Chaos Gods; they usually actually like him. In time, they start to think that spreading these 'gifts' really IS a joy and a favor to the people they infect; they should know how wonderful it is to be in Nurgle's great and rotting family. They believe they are not destroying or killing, but improving, instructing, and enlightening. They love to come together to study and create new things, and show them to their proud God, then share them with everyone they can. They're also genuinely comfortable with what others would think would be horrifying sights and looks; Nurgle teaches his followers to find the true beauty of all things, and most are happy with what they become once they accept it. Nurgle is legitimately scary, one of the only Chaos Gods that pulls that off. He places a few strictures on his children.
Seek out and create new blessings, and always be happy to learn of new diseases and afflictions.
Show the world the bounty of Nurgle. Be generous and kind; do not hold back from spreading his love and his word to all you can.
Find the beauty in all things, and celebrate it.
When you find beauty, help it along with the blessings of Father Nurgle.
Pity the followers of Tzeentch. They don't understand. Always be patient and kind to them, and share with them the blessings they have overlooked.
I especially like Nurgle's attitude towards his traditional enemy, Tzeentch. He just wants to show the stupid bird-lovers how much happier they could be! Nurgle can be hard to use just because plague is hard for a PC party to fight, but if you want to get across creepy cults and insidious religious mania, he's got it in spades.
Oh goddamnit Slaanesh. The writeup for her here is actually a fair bit better than elsewhere. It remembers that she's also inspiration, excellence, imagination and the pursuit of perfection that can never be. She is the most popular Chaos God with the actual peoples of the Old World, because she's the only one who offers them things they think they want right from the word go. When you accept Slaanesh's inspiration, though, you destroy your own art, your own excellence, your own creation. It will never truly be yours once her hand guides your brush or your pen. And in time, you will hate it for this, hate yourself for being unable to fulfill what she's trying to show you, for how inadequate your own contributions are, and you will go mad. Of course, Slaanesh is also all about indulgence and experience in physical senses, too, but getting into cocaine sexmurder is a lot less applicable to the average RPG table than scholars, artists, warriors, and others going mad as their muse shows them visions they can never accomplish. Slaanesh accepts any who will follow her, but she is the most popular Chaos God with the ruling classes. They're used to excess and getting everything they want, and when their desires are stymied, they are so unused to rejection that they lash out and turn to madness at times. Slaanesh's actual writeup here focuses more on the perfection and insane muse aspects and I gotta say I appreciate it, even if it's at odds with the rest of the book. Slaanesh only has a few strictures.
The pursuit of experience is a good in and of itself. Do not content yourself with conventional extravagance. Do things you never imagined, whatever they are, solely to do them and to know them.
Glorify your God by encouraging these pursuits in all others. Race, creed, nothing matters: All should be equal before Slaanesh, and all should be hers.
All pleasure, no matter how small, is glorious to the God.
Slaanesh's writeup here is the best stuff on Slaanesh you're going to get in the book. I've said it over and over, but Slaanesh is very easy to do very badly, and very easy to make very uncomfortable. Be careful if you're using Slaanesh and stick to the idea of a God of Want and away from the creepy.
Tzeentch is the only god lamer than Khorne, but you know my opinion on that now. The problem with Tzeentch is very apparent in his writeup here. All the other gods have a clear 'this is what I want/do'. They have a personality, even if it's very simple. Tzeentch's own writeup only gives him one interesting hook: A persistent interest in giving mortals more power than they can handle and watching what happens as it goes out of control. He also likes wizards and birds. His writeup in-game is actually noticeably shorter than any of the others, because at heart there just isn't that much to Tzeentch beyond 'I think I'm really clever'. That's why my writeup of the writeup is so damn short. He only has a few strictures:
Change is the only constant.
Magic is the best at change, get some wizbiz.
Topple the foundations of law and order, whether good or evil, just to do so.
Reject all old ways and always embrace the new. Unless Tzeentch had orders in which case sit down and do exactly as he says like any other Chaos God.
Tzeentch is the worst.
Finally, there's a suggestion that the Gods may not even be a real thing, but rather something akin to the Winds of Magic. Manifestations of a greater cosmic force, known as the Great Beast to the madmen who posit this, that humans can only comprehend in the neat and ordered categories of the Chaos Gods. Khorne may be simply a mortal imagining, and the real force he represents may be something deeper, more primal, and more terrifying, etc. Then it ruins this by suggesting that the Everchosen are a manifestation of this cosmic force, hence their ability to unite the followers of the Gods. Any time you end a concept with "Archaon is the true cosmic truth of the universe! Kneel before him and be scared of him already damnit!" you've lost the audience.
Next Time: The palaces of the Gods.
The Lands of the GodsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
The Lands of the Gods
I do not think what's coming up could be of much use in most campaigns. This is a chapter on what happens when you move beyond the Wastes and into the actual Realm of Chaos. As you walk further north, the universe itself shudders and the terrible eye at the pole begins to stare into every aspect of being. Those few who have ever returned from the lands beyond that border describe it as a nightmare, running entirely on the logic of dreams without anything to wake up to. Nothing is distinct or rational any longer, and things that simply cannot exist in the physical reality of the Old World thrive and play in this hellish place.
Basically don't fucking go there. Not even as a Chaos Champion. You'd better have a very, very solid reason to go where this part of the book goes.
As you get closer and closer, you begin to treat everywhere you are as a corrupted environment for purposes of mutation and madness. The land changes, and space is no longer certain. You have no way of knowing if you're only an eye's blink away from that terrible, yawning portal or if the entirety of the north pole has reset itself and your journey is longer than when it started. The only way to meaningfully travel in the Realm of Chaos is to enter it with an iron hard determination to find something. If you do, and your will is strong enough, you may shape the locales to your desire and find what you expect to find. You won't *enjoy* what you find, but you'll find it. Some example locations are listed in the book.
The Marcher Fortress is a realm of Slaanesh. A great and beautiful manor house, pulsing with power and mortared with the crushed bones of Khornates who've failed to stop the revels within. A great windmill rises above the structure, turning at all hours to grind the bone and grist of Khornate scum and make the pastes that will build more and more of the decadent manor. Those within cavort in unspeakable acts, drawn in by endless luxury and extravagance to live forever with their god in this, their twisted paradise. PCs presented with this madness need to save or they will throw themselves into 'paradise', probably forever. The adventure hook is interesting, though; it describes a strange portal directly to this mad place, hidden in a secret copse in the Athel Loren, used to lure huntsmen and elves into this nightmare and then spit them out as evangelists of Slaanesh. PCs might have to find out where the hell all these cultists are coming from and find a way to close the portal. Fair enough, that could be an interesting single horror session as you accidentally find yourself in Slaaneshi Heaven and have to escape.
The Inevitable City snares those wandering the Wastes. It sets out roads like tendrils to capture flies, waiting for someone to be tricked into its snare, to catch a glimpse of a sane and beautiful city on the horizon, and to begin to walk its road. Once you do, you will eventually find yourself in this impossible, infinite place. Cursed souls, men and demons both, wander the streets of this bleak and impossible city, endlessly promising one another a way out or trying to tell themselves they are here on purpose. Much of their wandering only leads them deeper, towards a center that doesn't exist. Demons of all the Gods dwell in this nightmare, even their powers insufficient to escape. Naturally, if your PCs end up in this dark place they'll try to escape it. Maybe they can, and maybe it's impossible. Scholars theorize this place represents the spiral of damnation that most souls that accept Chaos experience, and perhaps there is no redemption from its clutches.
The Drifting Castle sails through the Chaos Wastes as it wishes. A massive fortress-city that could hold thousands, no soldiers guard its walls, no demons walk its halls, and no soul stirs within. PCs who manage to find a way up to the flying castle will find its gates unbarred and unguarded, and all doors within are open to them. It's also full of the best loot you can imagine: Shining gold, infinite wealth, weapons of power...and none of it will survive being taken outside, turning to dust in the looter's pack as you escape. At the same time, the dust from the castle is the most sought after spell component in the world, giving +3 to any casting check when used in place of a spell's normal ingredient, with no drawback. PCs might still get rich off this place, if they don't stay forever to try to keep their gold from rotting. It also imposes a strange, lonesome fear on those who spend too long there, driving them utterly mad with its silence. At least this one has something PCs can get out of it, yes?
The Vale of Creatures is a verdant land of constantly shifting creatures, monsters, and plants. A shrine to Slaanesh and Nurgle both, life grows in great fecundity in all forms in this place, and the many forms provide the experiences Slaanesh so desires. Monsters that should not be, bound in real flesh rather than the dream-stuff of demons, wander among twisted plants and the ruins of a thousand species created and exterminated every afternoon. From time to time, holes in this great vale allow all sorts of new and terrible beasts to escape into the waking world, where they become things like the Jabberwock.
The Bastion Stair is the gateway to Khorne's throne, and a traveler who reaches this place will see no other 'real' living creatures, just a cavalcade of demonic flesh shedding fake demonic blood endless, pointless battles to celebrate their lord. Those who reach the top of this madness find themselves in great fields of endless, false battle, blood being pumped for all eternity to nourish the fields and gardens of Khorne. Apparently he actually really likes flowers, he just does all his gardening with blood. Further beyond sits the great lake and the throne of the dark idiot himself, probably with his wife by his side, as she was the only hero to ever reach the foot of his throne on this insane journey. PCs really don't have any reason to be here unless you like endless sessions of combat.
I'll give the chapter on Beyond The Wastes this: It's weird and does the whole 'horror' thing better than most of Chaos. The problem is, you know, what are players supposed to do here? Accidentally finding themselves in the Inevitable City as they get lost on the road of life's path like Dante might be fun, but you have to actively seek out places like the Marcher's Fortress and there's really nothing you can achieve at the Bastion Stair, etc.
Next Time: WIZBIZ
That crazy wizbizOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
That crazy wizbiz
I will give Chaos Magic one thing. It is legitimately more powerful than standard magic, while coming with a legitimately dangerous additional drawback to make using it frivolously unwise. Anyway, we begin with fluff.
Chaos is the essence of magic and always has been. If the Gate didn't exist, either in broken or unbroken form, there would be no magic. However, when Imperial magisters refract the raw stuff of Chaos through their own will and focus it into a single Wind of Magic, a single idea of what magic is, they make the process of handling and shaping the stuff much safer. The problem is that the humans are talented enough at magic to know that this style is limited in power and scope. A talented human magister will be able to see that there is so much more they could do, if they just had the time and materials to learn. Time is the real limiter on human magic; it takes an elf centuries to be able to handle High Magic, while a human can master a single Wind in a time scale that would baffle an elf. Humans can learn to use multiple Winds in the same time scale they learn to use a single, focused aspect of power, but the only way to achieve this is to channel raw Chaos stuff and use the Dark Magic of Dhar, the winds in disharmony.
Dark Magic is done by plunging one's will directly into raw Chaos and shaping whatever you find into exactly what you need right now. Not bothering to gather what you can and use it as you can; forcing the raw magic into the form you desire without regard for focus or safety. Dark Magic creates localized wounds in reality, increasing the risk of miscast and bringing with it its own special side effects and curses, but the raw power someone can achieve quickly through using Dark Magic is immense. Well beyond what a sane magister of similar training and ability could do. The other reason this is so powerful is that the Winds blow differently at different times (part of hitting or not hitting your Casting Number isn't just your personal magical skill, but rather whether or not you could find enough raw magic at that moment to do what you needed to do). A magister who is only using Hysh (Light) for Light magic can only do what they're trying to do if there is precisely enough Hysh energy in the area at the moment they're trying to use the spell. The same magister using the Dark Magic talent to cast a Lore of Light spell can grab energy from other Winds and force it to *act* like Hysh for a moment. This is why they get to roll an extra die when casting and take their choice of the highest rolls, but also why they use the extra, unkept die for miscasts, too. The leftover and ruined pieces of other Winds' energy after they're ravaged and transformed like this form a sort of wriggling, magical fallout in areas where this sort of magic gets used often. Sometimes this leaving can be channeled by dark wizards for even more power. Sometimes it coalesces and congeals into Warpstone. Even if a sane mage uses spells in an area infested with this 'True Dhar', the effects are going to be spectacular, whether they want them to be or not.
One thing the book suggests is using Witchsight, the Magical Sense ability, to scare the piss out of Wizard players when you're dealing with Chaos. Wizards who are overusing their powers begin to sense terrible eldritch apparitions and entities, even if they're lucky and don't suffer miscasts. These things take the form of persistent folk-tales among wizards about dark things that seek the souls and flesh of magi who are profligate in their casting. In reality, these terrible demons and visions appear solely because wizards are taught to expect them to appear: Mages fear their own magic, and so as they overuse it, they begin to subconsciously fear that terrible things are watching them in the dark, and those things begin to take shape at the corners of their perception. Mages see nightmares as they work their magic because they expect to see nightmares. Normally, these things will never physically manifest, but if you feel like really scaring your players, or if they start to cotton on that the terrible portents don't really do much but be terrible portents, you could always have the dark thing pull itself into reality some time. Especially if you're in an area infested with dark magic already.
When using magic in an unsafe area, you'll add Chaos Dice to the spell. These don't add to Casting Number and do nothing but count towards doubles, triples, or quadruples for miscasts. Interestingly, using the Dark Magic talent will actually eliminate some of the Chaos Dice for dangerous environments; it's actually safer to try to use Chaos Magic or channel the Dhar in areas of high infestation than it is to try to ignore it. I really like this touch; it suddenly gives an otherwise sane wizard a good reason to consider picking up Dark Magic, even if they never learn a Dark Lore, because otherwise they risk being at a serious disadvantage in using their powers on enemy terrain. At the same time, even knowing the Dark Magic talent and getting caught using it can have consequences. This is a reasonable reason to learn some of the techniques of the enemy and to risk them at times, a rare reason to actually engage with Chaos. Major celestial phenomena also add to magic; if the stars are right you'll get +1 to +4 on every die for spells, which is a huge bonus.
Side Effects suck. Side Effects are permanent debuffs that you can pick up when using dark magic. If you miscast while using the Dark Magic talent, or in a place that's very heavily infested, if the percentile dice for your roll on the miscast table are doubles you pick up a permanent debuff. These give you things like terrible allergies or aversions to normal things like sunlight. They can drop stats by d10 permanently, they can give you permanent penalties on skills, they can lower movement, give you *d10* Insanity points in one go, make you catch on fire randomly if you touch flour or wine, mutate you, etc. They hurt real bad. If you get doubles on a Miscast just fate to reroll and pray you don't do it again/kill yourself with the miscast.
Next: The Actual Wizbiz.
So many spellsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
So many spells
Chaos gets its own Petty Magic table, notable for having no actual basic attack spell like Magic Dart. They do get a great, easy debuff (-20 to all characteristics for d10 rounds if you fail a WP test, CN 4, but a Touch spell), they can curse people a little, make people a little sick, make milk spoil and mess with livestock, normal witchy maleficium. They also get some new Lesser Magic that isn't necessarily Chaos. Bind is great and lets you bind someone's hands and make them drop what they're carrying, always useful. Hand of the God specifically helps protect you against mutation, and Suppress Mutation will force a mutant to look completely human for a few hours, which is very useful. Tremor lets you knock everyone around you on their butt if they fail an Agi test, which is never bad. The weird one is Sidestep. A minor teleport spell with a 10% chance per cast of instantly killing your PC as you don't reappear from the Aethyr. I don't see why anyone would use this, ever.
The Lore of Chaos is reprinted from the main book and is just as badass here. The interesting bit is every specific God Lore's spell lists has a few spells from the basic Chaos Lore mixed in with the God's spells. Also, this would've come up in Realm of Sorcery, but the books had an interesting response to adding new spells in subsequent books, to prevent D&D Wizard Problems where any new spells added instantly give the wizard more abilities (since learning a Lore normally gives you all the Lore's spells): Spell Lists. You only get 10 spells when you learn a Lore. You can learn all the normal 10 spells form the core-book Lore, or you can pick from two other spell lists that incorporate some of the new spells mixed in with the old, so that no PC is getting 'more' for buying a Lore talent just for having more splatbooks. You can also learn extra spells that your Lore talent didn't give you by finding and studying grimoires and then spending EXP to buy Extra Spell for every spell you wish to learn.
I'm sure you can guess what the Lore of Nurgle focuses on. Nurglites can summon swarms of flies to buzz out messages for them or harass people, they can turn INTO a swarm of vermin and scuttle through small places to get into guarded areas, they can make people appear completely healthy and asymptomatic (and unmutated, even better than Suppress Mutation and with a much lower CN), they can eat someone's disease (curing that person) and then spew it onto someone else, debuff everyone around them, cause Neglish Rot in a large template with a -20% Tough save (and remember Neglish Rot is Save Or Die unless you're in good with Shallyans), age and rot living and unliving material (permanently debuffing people and aging them by 2d10 years!), sicken others, vomit streams of Damage 4 hits onto people who fail a Toughness test (Stream of Corruption does Tough or take *3* Damage 4 Hits to everyone in a cone template, AND it debuffs them from sickness. Don't get hit by it), and just straight up cause all sorts of plagues. As you can see by how dangerous Stream of Corruption is (And it's only CN 18!) Chaos Magic is not to be fucked with. The mechanical power is balanced by the danger of using it and the difficulty of getting hold of it. It isn't *that* far beyond normal magic, but it definitely gets you some serious punch for having to risk miscasts and those awful side effects.
The Lore of Slaanesh lets you force people to do your bidding, take over peoples' bodies like puppets, inspire others to greatness, create horrible tongue tentacles that kill by pulses of pure sensory overload (Damage 3, ignores armor, very easy to cast basic attack spell), cause someone to go full cronenberg/akira (Curse of Flesh is pretty much a save or die that causes the afflicted to start growing horrible mutant flesh all over out of nowhere), switch up someone's ability to sense pleasure versus pain by fucking with their nerves, hit people with (sigh) a 'golden torrent of light' that makes them unable to do anything but stand helpless, remove all outward signs of injury and instantly curse someone of any sickness caused by OD or lack of sleep, force everyone to do a magical musical number for you, or turn into a dark spirit and run around attacking people in their dreams and trying to steal their souls. They called the fucking spell 'golden torrent'. Why. Otherwise, a pretty powerful lore. And really, I can't hate anything that has 'I cause everyone to break into an eldritch musical number while I make my escape'.
Tzeentch's Lore is, obviously, actually real good. They can drop all magical properties on an enchanted item for longer and better than a Gold Wizard can, they have a literal 'teleport the person to hell' instant-kill spell (though it's CN 30 and the target does get a WP-30 save still), they can drive animals insane (not sure how this is Tzeentch), they can summon extra Fortune point rerolls for themselves, they have a crazy spell that causes insanity in the sane and cures insanity in the insane (while hurting the insane very badly), they get a solid, powerful basic fire spell (Two Damage 4 Ignores Armor hits, ouch, for CN 15. No avoiding it, either), they can mindtake a guy and make him do whatever they want, stun someone by mutating them painfully, cause hard objects to turn soft or soft objects to turn hard, cast a spell with a 50-50 chance of giving them access to any other spell in the game for a day or giving them a mutation, or cause a massive firestorm that inflicts *4* Damage 4 hits on every character caught in it (though not armor ignoring) and causes anyone who dies from it to summon a minor Tzeentch demon. This is a spell with CN 25, though, so it's hard to pull off.
Khorne's lore is yelling 'I CAST FIST' and then punching someone. (There's no Khorne lore, for Khorne despises all wielders of the black arts).
Chaos's lores are actually really powerful, and they needed to be to make it worth using them. Tzeentch's is a little incoherent compared to the other two, but eh, Tzeentch. Spells all either give saves or are hard-ish to pull off, which is nice. The Lores aren't invincible, just scarily powerful.
Next: How to make poor life decisions with demonology.
Bad Mages Making Bad DecisionsOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Bad Mages Making Bad Decisions
Summoning demons is a bad idea with a sliver of a chance of working out absolutely perfectly. Summoning and binding demons is one of the big things a dark wizard should be doing, right? Calling up demons is done by creating a ritual; the ritual is different for any individual demon. The problem is that the demons you can 'easily' call on, and who won't kill you instantly if you fuck up, well, they aren't too impressive. No-one's going to be that impressed that your dark cult worked for months to summon a Daemonette and then the Adventurers killed it as their first (disappointing) boss fight. You're going to want a magic circle for this, something to contain the demon when you call it up so that if your WP tests go badly you *might* be able to send it back. You're also going to want extra casters, a place infested with dark magic, and all sorts of other stuff to make sure this goes off properly, because if you try to call a 'serious' demon like a Greater Demon or Demon Prince and fuck up, you will get instantly sucked into hell. You'll probably want the demon's true name, too. If you don't have that, all tests to control it will be at -20 and you're already pitting your puny mortal WP against stuff that tends to have a WP stat in the 80s or 90s. Of course, as said, you could stick to small and weak demons and bind them for minor tasks, but really, who becomes a dark wizard to call on mooks? The more DoS you get on a Knowledge (Demonology) test while making the circle, the more you get a bonus to WP when trying to bind the demon.
Once you hit the CN and manage to call the demon without killing yourself, you have another table to roll on. Roll a d10. On a 1? The portal you made to call the demon doesn't call it and instead sucks you in. Dead, roll a new PC. On a 2, the demon arrives but cannot be controlled at all and will randomly attack or help out as it wants. On a 3, you screw up and summon the next weakest class of demon instead, but success on a contest of wills will take control of it. On a 4-7, you summon the right demon and have to bind it with a WP vs. WP test. If you win, it does what you want for a number of weeks equal to your Mag before deciding to do whatevs until it goes home. On an 8-9, everything works as planned and you have the same contest of wills, with success getting you a month of service per Mag. On a 10, though? Everything goes awesome. The demon is actually really impressed and recognizes you as being as cool as you think you are, and swears to serve you at no cost until it's Banished or you die, no WP test necessary. I genuinely like that there's a small chance that this Very Bad Idea goes absolutely perfectly. Chaos needs more of these 'success stories' and needs to publicize them as much as it can; they'd be great lures.
You can also bind a demon to you as a familiar. This is usually done with Least Demons, tiny little imps and such, since they're easiest to bargain with. You could do it with any demon, though. Someone who manages to get lucky as above and then somehow barter in a Demon Prince or Greater Demon is going to be scary. You bargain with the demon for service, at base, by rolling Fellowship-20 against its WP. You might notice that roll really favors the demon and it's probably not going to listen to you. You can make it easier by offering it stuff it wants: Your soul when its term ends gives you +20, killing a sentient as part of the ritual gives you +20, killing animals gives +10, and limiting service gives +10-+30 depending on how short it it. If you succeed, the demon happily signs a contract, which means you could, if lucky enough, swindle a demon into serving you forever while getting nothing. Again, that small chance of 'I can totally get everything I want' is what Chaos needs more of. A Demon in service to you actually slowly gains power from the Familiar career, gaining EXP at half your rate rather than you spending EXP on it like most mount/pet rules. A demon familiar also shows up with one boon for its master as long as it's around, and can gain more by spending 300 EXP apiece. These boons are, of course, randomly rolled.
1: It can catch spells aimed at you or it by rolling WP-20, at which point it can store the spell for up to d10 days and release it at any time, firing it off itself. If you hold it too long, your familiar might explode and you take serious damage.
2: You and the Familiar have a total mind-link that lets you both process problems together and share mental loads. As long as you're both conscious, you can talk wordlessly and both gain +10% Int and WP.
3: The stupid thing is lucky as hell. It has a reserve of 2 Fortune points that it can spent on you or it every day.
4: You can use it to double the range, duration, or AoE of spells, but if you do you add a Chaos Die to the mix.
5: As long as it's alive, you get +1 Mag. Neat.
6: You can cast any spells requiring touch, line of sight, etc through the Familiar. So if it's looking right at people and you're miles away, you can still hit 'em with the old laser eyes.
7: You can cast spells and talk through your familiar's mouth. Kind of lame compared to the others.
8: The Familiar lets you reroll your casting check if you triggered a miscast, letting you try to get a result less likely to make you explode.
9: Player's Choice.
10: DM's Choice.
As you can see, Familiars actually totally rule! Except the part where they probably hate you, are planning to get you killed eventually so they can get your soul, and required darkest magic to summon. They're also a sure sign you're, you know, a demonologist. Normal familiars made out of cats and crows are sometimes enough to get the Witch Hunters antsy, having an actual devil running around your lab is grounds for the instant revocation of your wizarding license via fire. If you get your familiar killed, too, it'll be spiteful and pissed off and looking for ways to screw you the next time you miscast. As your familiar grows in power, you have to make +20 WP tests to avoid becoming obsessed with your pet every time it buys a new advance or power, as wizards become too dependent on their allied spirit. Also, if other wizards capture your familiar, they can use it for magic themselves, which will hurt you and the familiar. Don't let people catch your evil wizarding pet.
Next: Demons, and a chance to talk about how boring most Hams demons are.
Demons: Less impressive than you'd think.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Demons: Less impressive than you'd think.
Demons get talked up more than any other aspect of Chaos. Summoning a single Lesser Demon is a major ritual that's supposed to be a big deal. The first campaign book ends with the PCs expected to fight a bunch of 3rd tier knights in full plate, then it pulls out a single lesser demon of Khorne and expects your players to be way more frightened of that then the knights that probably just kicked their asses (and who are SIGNIFICANTLY MORE POWERFUL, individually). I don't know where the crazy demonic blindspot comes from. In reality, a Bloodletter of Khorne is dangerous but not all that durable and a solid 2nd tier fighter can beat it solo, possibly in a single round of combat.
Anyway, demons are the manifestation of congealed emotion and horror. They're formed in the Realms of Chaos by the collective fears and hopes of the sentient people of the world. Somehow this mostly results in 'big red guy with horns', 'sexy lady with crabclaw', 'walking pile of shit', and 'gribbly little dude who throws fire', I dunno. There are supposedly myriad other sorts of demons, and even demons not associated with a God, but you don't get much material for making or using those. Similarly, most demons are given really high Int scores, but almost every demon is monomaniacal. A Bloodletter is *only* going to go around killing as much as it can until it gets pulled back into hell, etc. Demons cannot remain in reality without fuel to keep their physical body intact; they're not naturally real. Some very powerful demons are formed out of what's left of a person's soul once the Gods decide that person has served them enough; those are Demon Princes, and they never get stats besides 'Their last mortal form but with +20 to a couple stats and x2 Wounds' anywhere in this book. Demons come in three general flavors: Beasts are mindless creatures that are usually given to favored servants to ride or fight for them. Lesser Demons are the aforementioned horde of cookie-cutter generic demons. Greater Demons are still uniform in ability, but generally have more of a personality and are frighteningly strong; you're very unlikely to bee a Bloodthirster of Khorne in combat, even with the strongest of PCs, unless you bring cannon to the fight (Note: The Empire has been shooting those things with cannons ever since they started building cannons). As a general rule, Demons cause Fear or Terror and get +2 Toughness Bonus unless they get hit by magic or magic weapons. Another general rule is Instability: If you wound a demon in melee and it can't hurt you back that round, it has to roll WP or 'die' instantly as it's disrupted by being faced down by solid, physically real courage and skill.
You should also note you don't actually kill a demon when you cut it down. You just force it back to hell. They might be stuck there an especially long time, though, and stuff like Greater Demons is so hard to summon that killing one is effectively permanent as far as your PC is probably concerned.
The Demons of Khorne are simple. They're summoned by blood rites and they exist to kill. Juggernauts are big firey rhino-hound things that champions ride. They're pretty damn tough, though a good warrior can put one down, but they're stupid and easily tricked. They also attack the nearest enemy every turn, unless their rider can control them. Flesh Hounds are fragile but skilled and fast, and take the form of big demon dogs who like human hearts. They're also poison. Bloodletters are talked up as masterful tacticians and manifestations of war. Their tactic is to run at you while screaming and waving a big sword, then get killed by a PC party because their statline isn't nearly as impressive as they think it is. If they get hit by a non-magic weapon they have a respectable 7 DR (5 if hit with wizbiz), they have 12 Wounds. As much as the average mook. They're actually slightly less solid than an Orc Boy. They do have 2 Attacks and do Damage 6 Impact, though, so if they hit you they could hurt. But a skilled PC will be able to handle these alone.
Demons of Nurgle are also simple. They exist to dick over your PCs by losing a fight but then diseasing them anyway. Nurglings are agile little shits (literally) who are very hard to hit but fall apart the second they get nailed. They sometimes come in huge swarms, treated as one creature, taking their statline and adding a bunch of stats to represent you're killing dozens of the little bastards. They also do what all Nurgle demons do: If you took any Wounds fighting them you have to make a Tough test after the fight or get GM's Choice of diseases; I do like this decision because it means you only risk one plague hit per fight that you get hit in, instead of forcing you to save every time you get hit. Beasts of Nurgle are horrifying sacks of tentacles that get a whopping 6 attacks a round, but don't do much damage, still only have 15 Wounds, and aren't that tough. But they've got the game's favorite Every Significant Nurgle Foe Gives You Neglish Rot trait! (Seriously, for a supposedly rare, top-tier disease that save-or-die shit is everywhere with Nurgle). Plaguebearers are terribly slow and weak for normal demon foes, but can vomit Damage 3 plague on people that can only be Dodged, not parried, and carries its own disease save in addition to the end of fight disease save. Nurgle: I hope you have Resistance (Disease) and a shitload of toughness (Or a Shallyan).
Demons of Slaanesh are also simple because all demons are. They run around trying to drug you and mess with your WP. Fiends of Slaanesh are actually real dangerous, as they can lick you to give you crazy contact drugs that make you go on an LSD trip and turn helpless, and they have a shut-everyone-within-8-yards-down Musk they can spray once a fight. Hope your WP save is good. Steeds of Slaanesh aren't anything special, besides being incredibly agile and the fastest ground critter in the game, making them a pretty good mount for a Slaanesh champion. Daemonettes are basically weaker Bloodletters (and about as subtle) who trade 2 points of DR and the Great Weapon for using their silly crab claws in melee, being more agile and dodgy, and an aura that automatically penalizes the WP and WS of any *living* creature in melee with them by 10. Still easily smashed by a solid PC fighter and 1st tier parties will be able to handle one or two pretty easily. The emphasis on living creatures is because let me tell you, ain't nobody makes a demon hunter like a vampire.
Tzeentch gets the surfboard as his first demon. Discs of Tzeentch are magic flying surfboard with eyes and spikes. Sorcerers love riding these things so they can fly around shooting lightning and fire at people, because no matter how much your God is supposed to be about subtle planning you became a dark wizard to fly around on a demon surfboard shooting lightning and fire at people and I respect that. Flamers are flying manta-rays that shoot fire. They're terrible outside of the fire shooting, but the fire is pretty dangerous. Screamers are more flying manta rays who are a bit tougher but don't have the fire spewing. Finally, you have pink and blue Horrors, which are gribbly little imps that throw fire and caper about. Horrors get a Mag characteristic based on how many of them there are, and use it to throw fireballs at you or cause mutation. They get really dangerous if there's 8 or more, but otherwise they're mostly a joke enemy.
Behold ye, the terrible hordes of darkness.
Next Time: Making your own demons, a section that could've been way radder and is not.
Making Demons: A Bunch Of Irrelevant TablesOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy: Tome of Corruption
Making Demons: A Bunch Of Irrelevant Tables
Randomization can go too far. I like randomization. I know it's a bit of a contentious subject in character and game design, but if your system is built to handle it and you're willing to let players reroll abysmal stat sets it can be a nice way to start getting some hooks and ideas. It can go too far, though. With demons, they really needed some sort of 'building' system, or more elements of building your own demon. Instead, you roll a d10, 20% chance for what God or Unaligned (1-2 Khorne, etc), then you add a couple mutations based on the God, some stats based on the God, and roll on some relatively unimpressive stat tables (Lesser Demons don't have anything higher than a base 30+2d10 for stats). Then you roll for some deformities and oddities. Then some odd bits of anatomy. And then you roll up an unpronounceable name and it's all just really dull. I can write up the entire demon creation section in this one paragraph and that's a huge disappointment. Chaos's book was the perfect time to get really weird with making your own demons, so you could go beyond the cookie-cutter, uninspiring basic demons of the Gods and make some impressive and alien stuff. Look, I know the normal demons are held back by needing standardized looks for table-top unit models. This was the chance to get into the stuff the RPG lets you get into! And instead we get XARTHRODOZ THE SLAYER, who is 'impressive' because he has a sea anenome for a head and an axe. Demons being so damn dull is one of the reasons Chaos falls so flat as some great and cosmic force. The demons are predictable, unimpressive, and mundane.
So let's get into Greater Demons and finally finish this book.
Greater Demons are absolutely the most powerful foes your PCs can ever face, mechanically. The book isn't kidding when it says you aren't going to beat most of them in direct combat by throwing dice at them, and to its credit, none of them are designed to be beaten that way. These are monsters you defeat by foiling their plans, stopping them from being summoned, leading them in front of cannons, or maybe holding them off for a round or three of direct combat to buy time for the circle of allied wizards to blast them back into hell. Granted, you definitely *can* beat a Lord of Change or Keeper of Secrets in direct combat, but it's still probably better to find another way. These demons are also powerful enough to have personalities, which means they're often the masters behind cults and plots, working through their agents in the mortal world. They also really need those agents; these kinds of monsters can't be summoned easily and killing off their cults or stopping their physical henchmen hurts them.
Bloodthirsters are giant balrog ripoffs. Big chap with the horns, big axe, and a whip. There's nothing exciting about them except that they're hands down the most powerful physical combatant in the game. They cause people to turn more violent wherever they walk, they do piles of damage, they have big axes, they can fly, they have tons of DR and HP, and they have 7 attacks and WS *90*. Hilariously, though? They can't use their Whip at all, RAW. Whips are a ranged weapon and use BS, and they have BS 0. Their special rules don't matter that much because if you're trying to fight one in melee you already screwed up. Hilariously, they have 90 something Int scores, and they sure as hell don't earn them. You beat these predictable critters by stopping their summoning or luring them into an artillery barrage, either of which you can probably do because they don't think much beyond BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD.
Great Unclean Ones are awful. The greatest embodiment of filth and horrible disease. You're not going to kill one in combat. Even trying is almost impossible; they're so toxic they destroy non-magical weapons used against them, though the weapon does damage first. And they have like 70 Wounds (69). They debuff and plague anyone around them and go marching along, singing the praises of their father and happily recounting all the good deeds of their attendants; they're just so gosh-darn proud of the cult for managing to summon them! They're also happy to sit at the center of a cult without being directly summoned, sharing new diseases and spreading horror through their followers. They're chill, they don't really care how people get Father Nurgle's blessings, only that they do. They're giant, horrible blobs of corruption and jolliness, and really they work fine for Nurgle. If one gets summoned, bring more cannons or find some kind of banishing ritual because swords aren't going to do it.
Keepers of Secrets are giant ever-shifting things with big crab-claws and long tongues because they never really nailed down a Slaaneshi aesthetic. What's interesting about them is that their presence does as much damage as their killing. They lower inhibitions and inspire passion and mad creativity all around them, just by existing in reality; the plot hook suggested for them is that one's been summoned underneath Nuln and is just chilling, watching as the city slowly goes mad with energy and sickness above it. When they do decide to go get their claws dirty, they like to use their mind control pheromones and stuff to dominate people, then drag them over to kill at their leisure. They're tough and heavily armored, but don't hit as hard nor as often as the other two Greater Daemons. A 3rd tier party *might* be able to kill one in open combat. A terrible thing sitting at the center of a city that's gone mad with the urge to create, destroy, and create again as all its people are wracked with dreams and desperate energy is better than you're going to get for most Slaanesh plots, and the PCs might even be able to beat it when they find its lair (though a better plan would still be safer).
Lords of Change suck. All they have is Mag 5 and a ton of defense against magic. They're big vulture nerds with sticks who also aren't that good at fighting. They can fly and shoot lightning, but if your PCs can catch them a solid PC party will stuff one of these jerks in his locker right quick. They're impossible to attack with magic, they have powerful magic of their own, they make their own miscasts much less serious, but if you just catch one you'll be able to smash it if your PCs are on the level they'd need to be on to be taking on actual Greater Demons.
I'm going to include their plot hook because it's a wonderful example of why Tzeentch is awful. It's a plan where a Lord of Change realizes his cult is going to get rocked in about 30 years. So he has a cultist get a baker to murder his wife, so she can't fund the orphanage, so an orphanage closes, so a good and pious boy falls in with and becomes buddies with a demonologist (who he doesn't know is a wizard), who gets killed by Hunters, who make the boy watch to learn him, who decides he hates Hunters, who becomes a cultist, who doesn't destroy the demon's cult 30 years later. How is that an adventure seed. That's pure 'I wrote this so it all goes just so' bullshit that bad writers think is how you write hyper-intelligent characters.
We close the book out with another irritating little in-character note about how really, at the end, it's the physical that isn't real and Chaos is everyone and everything, and why fight it, it's just so powerful. Which then ends with 'Unless everything I've written is lies, which it could be!' and that's the end of the book. Thanks for reminding me of Chaos's worst trait one more time right at the end, book!
Look, Tome of Corruption isn't bad. It has some missteps and it's messy. It has a bunch of stuff it doesn't feel like it had enough pages to cover. It has a real problem with 'And then players would be smartest to never engage with this again.' But I think its core problem is more that Chaos isn't a very compelling villain. The core of Chaos's problem is that it tried to be THE villain of the setting, not A villain. It tries to make every single conflict about Chaos. It also tries to be a big cosmic horror, which doesn't work when you're based entirely on very easily understood, very human concepts in your entirety. Many of the Gods are just catnip for the habits of bad writers. Most of them don't have much depth. Then you've got the non-engagement problem: The best solution with Chaos is to plug your ears and keep swinging. You don't have to banter with the Chaos Lord, he's a puppet that's been thoroughly rebuilt by the all-consuming, all-controlling force that can't help but eat its own followers. You don't need special knowledge to fight him, you just need a cannon. The strongest moments in the book are the actual mysteries, like Hashut. Chaos is much too small and petty to pull off being a cosmic force, it's too beatable to be the unstoppable horror it wants to be, and if it wasn't, it doesn't take small wins. Chaos's goal is always 'destroy everything, ruin everything, hurt everything', so handing it a real win just results in the setting ending. We know this, because they did it! (Good job, GW). And without any major wins, when it struts around about how invincible it is it's really hard to take it seriously.
On a mechanical level, this book was way, way too in love with save or die effects, too. And much too in love with Insanity Points, especially with how poor the Insanity system is. They couldn't seem to find ways to try to make the monsters scary without handing them lots of ways to do permanent, lasting damage if they failed to kill you.
Some of the book is good, and useful, and can be fun. But a lot of it is weakened by poor source material, an over-reliance on heavy randomization, and a lack of reason for players to deal with the stuff in here on any level but shooting it in the face. Just sort of a disappointment to cover after Night's Dark Masters and Knights of the Grail.
Next Time: Not sure. Maybe the Empire. Maybe Kislev.