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[Let's Read] WFRP2E - The Thousand Thrones [SPOILERS]

skerrigan

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#1
Having enjoyed the Let's Read of the WFRP 1e Rulebook and the Enemy Within Let's Read I thought I'd move from lurking to discussing a campaign I'm hoping at some point to run for a group in the Midlands. It's the swansong of the Black Industries's era of Warhammer FRP 2E, The Thousand Thrones. I should therefore point out I've not run it myself yet. I should also mention I've written a review of Thrones for Warpstone 30, but I don't know if that will materialize soon, and I may end up rethinking a lot of what I put in it.

In terms of WFRP experience I've played a bit of WFRP1E and DMd a lot of WFRP2E. My WFRP-buying ended with Knights of the Grail, a sourcebook that disappointed me as it really felt poorly written and limited in terms of character design and plot-hooks, as well as mealy-mouthedly Politically Correct (every PC knight seemed to be a female in disguise, making it like the stoning scene in Life of Brian).

I've also played 3E and am not enamoured with that rules-set. However playing it did lead me to buying this book, as well as the Kislev and Vampire sourcebooks.

You'll probably see me discussing the sort of things that I would like to change or that frustrate me. I might also cover the 3 expansion PDFs - I've helped with the 4th one that is coming out soon, so I have some insights..

There will be SPOILERS.
 
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Cephas

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#2
Great, subscribed. I've been looking for an excuse to finish reading it as I think there's a lot of potential, especially with the expansions. Also glad to hear that project is moving forward and greatly anticipate seeing the fourth .pdf.

If you haven't heard it, there's a nice actual play of the first third or so of the campaign at rpgmp3.com. I couldn't find the link on the site, but it's in the podcast feed on itunes.
 

skerrigan

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#4
Cover



The cover is a very striking depiction of the Crusade of the Child, one of the main points of interest in this campaign. Numerous fanatical looking characters, some doubtless self-mutilated and most wearing prayer seals and pages are escorting a magnificent and brightly lit palanquin on which sits a figure. Beside the figure is a rather stalwart looking knight. The figure itself is somewhat indistinct in the brightness, but appears to me to be a young boy beaming with pleasure. All in all a rather nice and appropriate illustration, one that sets the atmosphere for what is to follow.

If you have a spare £600 you can buy the original at http://browse.deviantart.com/art/Thousand-Thrones-62969730

Introduction:

After the obligatory credits (9 authors, with additional design and special thanks credited rediting by Kate Flack who is now producing Bioware/Mythic/EA's new Ultima: Quest for the Avatar game) and the contents page the book begins with a fairly dramatic sounding 1/2 page recap of the Storm of Chaos, Games Workshop's world shattering event that they now all but ignore in their own 'canon'. It might be worth reading this out to players before character generation to set the mood.

The main part of the text that is relevant to the Thousand Thrones is that Volkmar the Grand Theogonist (high priest of Sigmar - the Empire's chief deity) went off to fight the Storm of Chaos and was presumed dead. This is because he did die. But he got better as this is a fantasy setting. In the meantime the Cult of Sigmar elected 'another' (interestingly the text at this point omits the name of this character, Esmer). Once the Storm of Chaos was back Volkmar returned to yoink his title back.

This campaign is unashamedly set after the Storm of Chaos. All of the WFRP2E adventures are notionally set after the Storm of Chaos, but this is the only product that really feels it builds on that storyline and on the state of the world. This might make it chronologically the furthest official product in the Warhammer Fantasy line (I might be wrong here). WFRP3E would retreat back to just before the Storm of Chaos, which is now the default timeframe from Warhammer. Ironically Chris Pramas wanted to set WFRP2E before the Storm and then do a Storm of Chaos sourcebook.

Another point the text concludes on is that the people of the Empire have literally lived through the End of Times - essentially Armageddon/the rapture - and despite the prophecies that this was going to be it have survived (albeit with their lives shattered). It is enough to make one question their beliefs, and important plot point during this campaign.
 

skerrigan

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#5
History:

Then we move on to the main text of the introduction. First of all - yikes! The font size is small throughout this book. Space was apparently a premium, with the aim of fitting a lot of content into a 256 page softback. There's a short section extolling how epic this campaign is going to be, taking you "from the canals of Marienburg, to... Sylvania, to... Kislev" and we have the first mention of the antagonists for this campaign Chaos (of course) and more interestingly vampires.

This starts off with a history section where we learn on the remainder of this first page about the incursion of Chaos 200 years ago led by Chaos Warlord Asavar Kul wielding something called the Crown of Domination. As the Empire had its finger up its own pie hole the Kislevite city of Praag was sundered by the winds of Chaos and its occupants were turned into mutants and chaos spawn, or worse. One wise woman mutates into the Black Witch, an evil hag with great power. However all-round good guy Magnus the Pious got the Empire together and Praag was cleansed. The Black Witch escaped however, later dying from her injuries in a mountain pool. Her spirit refuses to move on and she becomes a disembodied Sauron-type character, unable to physically do much beyond her power-based in the Crags of Sharsun, but mentally able to scour the world looking for the means to reconstitute herself.

Through these means she has detected the main mcguffin of the campaign - that birth of a mutant/young orphan boy (who we with amazing persuasion powers, in far-off Marienburg. If she can lure him to her lair through controlling his dreams she might be able to possess him, become a god and get back to laying the smack down on everyone. To that end she's been pretending to be his mother.

All reasonable so far.

However for some reason the ritual to do this requires a vampire from each of Warhammer's bloodlines. For some reason she cannot manipulate vampires like the boy (I guess their less gullible) so she has to make the vampires think the young boy is the Champion of Night, the guy who will bring about the Age of Thousand Thrones, where the last 1,000 vampires are going to have an eternal party ruling the world.

This section probably could have been trimmed - firstly Asavar Kul and his Crown of Domination is not going to be relevant to this campaign unless I miss my mark. Some of the writing describing the campaigns of Asavar and Magnus are atmospheric, but as we'll see soon some other crucial parts of the introduction could have been better explained.

The Witch's plan is a little convoluted and it’s not clear why she needs all five vampire lines of all things (other than to involve vampires in the plotline) when she is not a vampire herself. The background to the witch is somewhat poignant. She was just an everyday hedge witch who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got super-powers and corrupted. It might have made more sense to make her an every-day vampire of some sort to tie in the vampire angle, and then have her mutated, thus making the need for all 5 vampire lines more logical, or perhaps I'm reaching too much.

Next: The Vampire Bloodlines
 

Trodax

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#6
Very interesting! I've had this book sitting on my shelf since it was released I think, but haven't gotten around to reading it (to be honest, that damnably small font size has had a part in that). I'll be listening! :)
 

skerrigan

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#7
The Vampire Bloodlines

Next we move onto a discussion of the vampire bloodlines and the Thousand Thrones prophecies. Apparently they've existed since W'Soran mentioned them during the fall of Lahmia. Hold the press? W'Soran? Lahmia? What? Zandri? Who, what? WHERE AM I? WHO'S THE PRESIDENT? I'm not a Warhammer Fantasy Battle afficianado so the bloodlines of the vampires and their backstory are a little lost on me.

We learn that the Thousand Thrones is also going to be an age where vampires won't have to worry about the sun, blood will be plentiful and unlife for vampires will be good. All but the last bit reminds me of a typical Saturday night in Glasgow.

This then begins a list of the various vampires and their own spin on the Thousand Thrones prophecies. It might have been nice to have a description of what the bloodlines were and what the bloodlines mean. They are described in the Old World Bestiary and in much greater detail (as one would expect) in the vampire supplement Night's Dark Masters.

Von Carsteins - there's some confusing mention of Vashanesh as a Scion of Nagash and Vladimir von Carstein (these are believed to be the same person). Whoever has Vashanesh's ring will be overlord of the Thousand Thrones. Apparently Lydia von Carstein has an alternative interpretation which forms most of Chapter 6's plot.

Lahmians - these gals believe "Karl is Sigmar reborn" and want to capture him so that she can gain his powers and bring about the Age of a Thousand Thrones. Incidentally this is the first time the mutant orphan child is called Karl in the text. The last mention of a Karl was Karl-Franz, the Emperor, in the opening text explaining the Storm of Chaos.

Blood Dragons - don't care about the Thousand Thrones, but one will pop up in Chapter 2.

Necrarchs - apparently these are the spawn of W'soran, and each is arrogant enough to believe they are the chosen one. This means they'll target the child to disprove he is the chosen one.

Strigoi - also believe Karl is Sigmar Reborn but the original Sigmar was a Strigoi vampire. Karl needs to get a "blood kiss" from each of the 5 bloodlines.

From an editing point of view this section is a mess. We're given no overview of who/what these 5 bloodlines are (even a page reference to another sourcebook would've been useful). To put the distinctions crudely Von Carsteins are your Dracula/Vlad the Impaler types (and Vashanesh/Vladimir von Carstein is dead right?), Lahmians are seductressy-type vampires, Blood Dragons are hard as nail killing machine-knight types who only care about perfecting their killing skills and eliminating their vampire-weaknesses through epic quests, Nechrachs are magey-sagey types and Strigoi are deformed Count Orloks-Nosferatu types.

Characters like W'Soran, Nagash, Vashanesh and places like Lahmia and Strigos are all mentioned without any introduction. Heck, you need to be paying attention to realise Karl is the orphan from the previous section. I'd heard of Nagash but the rest were all new to me on reading this. Vashanesh's ring is mentioned and seems real important, but its purpose is not really explained. A real afficianado of Warhammer probably knows these things and is shaking his head at me, but this is the first adventure to really deal with the Vampires it would be nice to take a moment and explain everything - even if it is "you really need Nights Dark Masters to fully understand all this. Read pages XX - XX."

This section reads like a DM's notebook, rather than a professionally written account. I imagine that editing and rewriting this section so it actually explained who all the major players like W'Soran were in this meta-plot would take 1-2 pages more, and probably be repeating material from other books. Perhaps it was space they didn’t have, or time pressures prevented them from doing so.
 

skerrigan

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#8
The Boy

We learn a lot more about Karl, who in this section is confusingly never referred to as Karl, but "the boy" or "the orphan". Born in Marienburg to the mistress of a wealthy cultist of Stormfels (an evil god of storms, sharks and other sea-hazards, and an aspect of the more benign sea god Manann) his supernatural charisma was noticed by the cult. However they could baptise him in their holy spring (which is full of evil corrupting warpstone) a company of witch hunters enter the scene. The witch hunters killed the cultists but fell under the sway of the baby. They took him to an orphanage. There the sisters doted on him, under the influence of his powers. The abbess was able to resist his powers enough to insist he be turned over to witch hunters but the other sisters hid him in their orphanage.

Somehow a Chaos sorcerer overheard the sisters chatting about Karl. This sorcerer, Ruprecht, also knew about the Stormfels cult and decided the boy could be used to TAKE OVER ZE VORLD. Or at least the Empire, supplanting incumbent Karl-Franz. Sadly Ruprecht was too badly mutated to wander around Marienburg (but not too mutated to overhear nuns gossiping and investigate an obscure cult), so he had to let intermediatries deal with Karl while he hid out in Troll Country... in er... northern Kislev.

Right.

Bit of a distance from Marienburg that. Especially given the scenario shows that the swamps near Marienburg are the perfect place for evil cultist and mutant types to hide out.

His cultists bungle capturing Karl, but not before branding him with a twin tailed coment (the symbol of Sigmar, and the symbol which the last scion of Sigmar, Valten, had on his chest). Their attempt to recapture him ended with Karl being taken from Sigmar reborn (he wielded a hammer against his kidnappers, Sigmar's weapon was a hammer) and the cultists being killed by passers-by who fall under Karl's charisma aura and are desperate to protect him.

So we learn if you want to coordinate a kidnapping in a medieval setting, don't do it from two countries away.

Then crowds of people swarm to him proclaiming him the messiah and getting him recognised by the local clergy of Sigmar, including the exiled Grand Theogonist Esmer (the guy who temporarily replaced Volkmar when he came down with a case of temporary-death). Esmer's advisor recommended they send the boy to Altdorf to destabilize Volkmar, or at least give him the middle-finger.

And thus so began the Crusade of the Child (remember the cover, told you it'd be really, really relevant), a mob of fanatics on a slow march towards Altdorf to get the boy recognised by both the Grand Theogonist and the Emperor as Sigmar Reborn. Conveniently the advisor was one of Ruprecht's cultists. Ruprecht is cool with the whole crusade thing as he knows through magic the boy is heading towards Kislev anyway. What Ruprecht doesn't know is that this is because of the Black Witch's influence on him.

There's a very nice picture of Karl fighting the cultists on page 5. You could improvise an encounter with a street artist who has painted Karl vs the Cultists in Chapter 1 and use this as a handout. I would also assume a certain degree of artistic license as these cultists were supposed to pass as human but look as inconspicious as Peter Mandelson clutching a bloody dagger on Ascension Sunday.
 

Cephas

New member
#9
You're hitting a lot of the same points of confusion I did when I first got the book. I love the concept, particularly the focus on the Crusade of the Child, which is a great setting for a WFRP2e game if I ever heard of one. The problem with the deep background is that it at times feels like the vampires are shoehorned in, which is compounded by the first scenario in which they play a major role. The vampires often don't seem to fit well with the Chaos plot that is the initial central motivation for the characters.

I like a lot of what is in there, as many of the individual scenarios read very well (I have yet to run this, someday ...), but I remember the Introduction didn't help clarify these connections very well at all when I first got it. Even with Night's Dark Masters, you wind up doing a lot of flipping back and forth, and a lot of it remains unclear. The expansions do a nice job embracing the partial nature of the deep history and making it an interesting part of the campaign by adding more confusion to the beliefs of many NPCs, but you don't get much of that from the Introduction as written.
 

skerrigan

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#10
The vampire angle makes more sense with the Nagash option in Chapter 9, which the Expansions wholly embrace. It also needed some decent foreshadowing in the earlier chapters that is completely lacking (again the Expansions work on this, though little has been published so far dealing with Chapters I-III). Is there ever a point in the campaign where the players (nevermind the poor DM) learn about the different bloodlines and vampires? This isn't something common garden PCs are going to know about.
 
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