Let's talk about some guys and gals who are definitely, actually punching up against literal bloodsucking aristocrats in Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
Chapter 2: A Mockery of Life is a catalogue of what is often known in-setting by both a rookie and a fairly experienced Hunter, written first through a short fiction bit about a scholar trapped in a quarantined part of an Imperial city. A vampire has taken advantage of the plague and the isolation to hunt the people even as the consumption slowly kills them, knowing that no Witch Hunters or watchmen will be coming to their aid as long as the area is afflicted with plague. The people of the filthy quarter slowly come to realize that some of the plague dead are not dying of tuberculosis, but rather being exsanguinated; the creature is killing them where no-one from the outside world will ever realize it. They come together to face the beast, the narrator volunteering to lead them in the desperate hunt; he writes that he no longer fears for his life, as he has already contracted the plague, and one way or another, expects to be dead by dawn.
This chronicles the more usual experience of an amateur hunter; they find something wrong, a spat of odd murders, an old castle with an ill reputation, or a foreign count who never seems to come out at daylight. Soon, they find themselves caught up in hunting for something they barely understand, with very low chances for survival. Surprised or amateur hunters will find themselves needing to learn very quickly or die very badly; vampires are not the kind of foe you can simply fight head on. Next, we get a much longer account by a respected Raven Knight, one of the knights of the Order of the Shroud.
He begins by talking about what is known of the origins of vampirism. A learned and experienced Hunter like himself knows that their sickness originated in Khemri (Not-Egypt), known as the Land of the Dead, thousands of years ago. The very first necromancer, Nagash, came out of Khemri (and also caused the entire land to die, creating the Tomb Kings, but we'll get to that later when we get to the Lahmian Bloodline), and the vampires seemed to be his lieutenants and strongest servants. The author does not know if the vampires were merely fellow travelers of the Great Necromancer, or if he created them, but remarks that modern vampires have little love for those who style themselves Nagash's disciples today. The author theorizes that when Khemri was destroyed and reanimated, it led the vampires to flee the land and spread throughout the world, since they cannot feed on fellow undead. An aside also notes there have never been confirmed sightings of vampires of any race other than humans; no vampire elves, dwarves, or halflings.
Next, the author talks about the Blood Kiss, the creation of a new vampire. The author dispenses with the idea that everyone killed by a vampire will rise as a vampire; if this was true the Old World would already be overrun. Vampires are also apparently rather embarrassed to discuss what is involved in the siring of a new bloodsucker, and wouldn't be disposed to talk to a hunter about it anyway. He mentions that the current theory is that the exchange of blood is vital. Yet simple ingestion of blood doesn't seem to do the job; he recounts how a fellow hunter died from accidentally swallowing tainted blood during a battle (and gives a brief aside that hunters should maintain a closed-mouth scowl on the hunt at all times, for their own safety). His theory (which is correct) is that a vampire needs to drain a victim almost to the point of death, then replace some of the lost blood with their own. The body will thus be unable to fight off the infection. According to his notes it can take days or weeks for the poisoned victim to die and arise as undead, and he cautions that if a comrade should be turned, the only way to save them is to commend their body and soul to Morr as soon as possible and put an end to the monster they have become. Even a young vampire can be extremely dangerous, possessed of much greater strength than they had before their infection. He notes even a young vampire only needs to feed once per week or so, and that they do not need sufficient blood to kill a human, but that few bother with such niceties.
Next, he gets into how to hunt, starting with disdain for the Order of the Silver Hammer (the primary Witch Hunters of Sigmar). They are too slow, and not specialized enough to deal with this specific foe, according to this devout follower of Morr. He also shares the common paranoia of the setting that getting a Witch Hunter involved risks killing plenty of innocent people as they send many to the pyre 'to be sure' (when we get to the Tome of Corruption, we'll see this is usually a bit of a misconception about Witch Hunters based on their older, earlier reputation prior to the reform of their order). A hunter of the dead must be a detective, scanning hospitals and graveyard for unexplained deaths or strange cases of anemia, always watching for the signs that something is wrong. Once signs of a vampire have been found, he recommends targeting its mortal servants, should it have them, as a way of finding out more about the specific beast. Always look for people with unusual scars on their necks, strange cases of wolf attacks in urban areas, that sort of thing. Look for people who are out of place, or acting strangely. Humans might serve a vampire in hopes of being paid (many of them are rich beyond the wildest dreams of men) or because they hope to receive the Blood Kiss themselves; these are generally the gateway to their master and much easier to find.
"Vampires may be generally known by their lack of reflection, cold skin, lack of interest in mortal food, tendency to stare at the necks of comely youths, and by the wearing of large hats and coats to keep off the sun." After noting that someone matches these symptoms and is not simply a pale person who recently came in from a cold rainstorm, one has to also discover just which kind of vampire they are trying to kill. Vampires vary in their weaknesses and their powers on both a bloodline and an individual level, so research is vital if a hunter is to take their prey. The most easily identified vampires are the Von Carsteins, the nobility of the eastern (and extremely gloomy) country of Sylvania. Von Carsteins have been romanticized by fools due to the fact that Vlad von Carstein was probably the best ruler Sylvania has ever had, but the author warns the reader not to be fooled: They are monsters all the same. He notes their ability to appear human will falter when they are angered, as the mask of refined nobility slips away and reveals burning red eyes and hungry fangs. Pissing off Sylvanians is a reliable test for vampirism, he notes.
Next, there are twisted and strange ghoul-kings that haunt old ruins, sewer systems, and ancient graveyards. The Strigoi cannot even pretend to humanity anymore, twisted and ugly. While they are ghoulish and easily identified as monsters, Strigoi are also particularly large and strong, and tend to be masters of other twisted flesh-eaters and cannibals that dance for their favor. Even if they are easy to spot, Strigoi are not easy to kill, and a vampire hunter should not grow overconfident just because the creature cannot hide among the masses of humanity. Another unsubtle breed of vampires, Necarchs, are unable to conceal their corpse-like nature to any degree. These twisted and insane necromancers embrace their role as the masters of the living dead, living in towers far from humankind and only rarely needing to bother to feed. They spend their unliving days in seclusive study, until they shuffle forth from their towers to test their theorems and practices to the detriment of the living.
Next come the Blood Dragons, and the narrator here only really knows of the more orthodox ones as they tend to be the loudest of their line. Mostly making their home in Bretonnia and pretending to be Bretonnian knights errant, the Dragons are arrogant warriors to the man. They are also incredibly unsubtle, happily displaying the insignia of their order and rarely making much effort to conceal what they are as they kill their way across the world in search of perfecting their martial arts. Much like Carsteins, they appear human until they are feeding, angry, or in the midst of a particularly bracing battle, where their predatory nature will become readily apparent. Finally, there is the Lahmians, almost all of whom are female. Noted for their subtlety and beauty, unlike the Dragons or Carsteins they will almost never declare themselves and take great pains to remain hidden. A hunter will need to carefully investigate to discover if an eccentric young noblewoman is a Lahmian, and should be careful in doing so: They are lethal assassins and just as strong as any other vampire. Their preference for staying hidden is a preference, not an imperative, and they can tear a man in half with their bare hands the same as any other lord of the night.
The next section could just be titled 'Why you do not fight a vampire head on'. The hunter goes over their enormous strength and speed, the way they refuse to die even from fatal wounds like severed limbs, how they can quickly heal themselves by feeding, and how one of the only sure ways to kill them by direct violence is to take off their heads. Fighting a superhumanly strong creature that moves faster than a man and has enhanced senses AND that needs to be decapitated is a tall order for even the strongest warrior. In addition to their general position as murderously powerful natural predators, vampires also have a variety of powers that vary from individual to individual. Some can turn into various animal shapes to disguise themselves. Some can turn to mist to escape harm or slip through the cracks in a victim's window. Some can hypnotize mortals with a glance. Some are masters of other predators, controlling wolves and swarms of vermin. Some are mighty necromancers beyond anything a human could achieve. All are lethal.
And yet all can die. As they are blessed with individual powers, every vampire is cursed. The author assures us the weaknesses of the vampires are the curses of the Gods, a manifestation of their hatred for these unnatural creatures and a boon to let the righteous destroy them. However, a vampire's curses will vary from individual to individual, just like their blessings, and this necessitates investigation. Some plants do work, usually rare herbs used in magic and blessings. Garlic is rarely effective, though it does sicken some of them and seems to be a cause of mockery among their kin in those unfortunate edge-cases. Objects of faith are a very common weakness, and always a good idea to keep to hand. Silver often burns and harms a vampire, though not all of them. A stake to the heart will do some good even if it isn't a specific weakness. The sun will burn and kill a vampire, but it takes time and they can protect themselves with heavy clothing and covering, or by going out in overcast weather. Von Carsteins, especially, are known to be able to summon gloomy and dramatic lightning storms for cover at a whim. Some vampires can only cross running water with a ship or bridge; immersion will melt them to nothingness. Hunters also try diverse practices like 'warning wounds' of blessed silver-paste placed on an open wound to form a scar that supposedly aches in the presence of the undead. Such a practice more generally kills the hunter by infection. The most reliable weapon, the one weakness every vampire has, is being decapitated and burned to ash. This may be very difficult to apply, though...
Next time: The history of where these bloody corpses came from, from a more objective point of view!
Speaking of, I feel like typing a shitload more, so Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters continues!
Vampires started out ages ago, about 4000 years prior to the modern day of the RPG. They began in the land of Nehekara, what would become Khemri, as an offshoot of the works of Nagash, the inventor of necromancy. Nagash had been a priest in the Mortuary Cults of the Nehekaran empire, charged with discovering the secrets of eternal life. He had captured an elven sorceress, one of the Dark Elves who trucked with terrible magic, and tortured her extensively to discover everything she knew. Melding that with his own significant learning in Nehekaran funerary magics, he created a way to use the dark wind, Dhar, to animate bodies past their time and slave their wills to his own. With this power, he made himself self-declared king of the land of Khemri, murdering its rightful ruler and beginning to plot to rule a world of the dead.
Unfortunately for him, Nehekara wasn't willing to go quietly and he was eventually overwhelmed, defeated, and his works were to be burned en masse and destroyed. They would have been, too, had it not been for two people. The first was W'Soran, another mortuary priest, disciple of Nagash, and probably the only person in the entire setting who has ever actually liked Nagash just for being Nagash. Loyal to his master, he did what he could to save some of his works. The other was Neferetem, daughter of the new king of Khemri, and a woman of great ambition. Women were forbidden to learn magic in Nehekara, but she ignored this and was fascinated by what she found among the scrolls and writings of Nagash. W'Soran would claim he used her bitterness at the mortuary cult to manipulate her into doing so, and it's true he almost certainly suggested saving the black art in the first place, but it is also clear Neferetem had a pretty significant role in what was to come. As queen of the city of Lahmia, she secluded herself and taught herself this new art of necromancy, alongside chosen other women who had been spurned by the cult. Meanwhile, W'Soran sowed the seeds of his master's return, planning to betray Neferetem to the other Nehekarans and get either her, or everyone who wasn't on board with necromancy within Lahmia, killed .When the attack on her palace came, the dark queen emerged full of enormous necromantic power, and quickly crushed this rebellion. She then continued her studies uninterrupted, eventually hitting upon Nagash's plans for an elixir of eternal life. Instead of simply making her and her closest followers immortal, though, it changed their nature completely, creating the first vampires. She changed her name to Nefereta, she who is beautiful in death, and vampiric rule of Lahmia began.
As ruler, Nefereta spread her curse to those she felt were worthy, and one of the most notable was the lovestruck captain of her guard, the great warrior Abhorash. He had been horrified by her actions, but would not refuse her orders, and so became one of the deathless court with his queen. Realizing quickly that indulging the thirst was going to result in difficulties, he tried to draw up a great charter for the others, a vow that they would only feed on those condemned to death, enemies of the city, and monsters; being a pack of young vampires drunk on seeming immortality and incredible power, they laughed at his charter and ignored him. This would cause terrible problems down the line.
Lahmia persisted for quite some time, becoming a particularly powerful state within the Nehekaran empire, and we see the first of a long trend in vampiric history. Yes, the rulers of Lahmia ate people, drinking blood profusely and experimenting in raising armies of the damned. But it wasn't that that eventually saw the Nehekarans unite against them. Rather, it was simply that Lahmia was a powerful state that proved to be a threat to King Alcadizaar, causing him to unite the people of Nehekara against the growing political threat. People will object to the monstrous habits of vampires, but it always seems to be politics that eventually give them enough impetus to actually get the stakes and torches. At the same time, once it's stake and torch time, the fact that people are fighting literal monsters seems to motivate them quite well, which is why they would have been wiser to have listened to captain Abhorash. As plans were being drawn up to invade, one of the king's commander, Vashenesh, decided he rather liked the idea of having superhuman strength and immortality. He left the camp and made his way to Lahmia, warning them of the upcoming war and so impressing the Queen that he became not only a member of her court, but her husband. This, you might imagine, did not make Abhorash a happy man.
When the war eventually came, it was brutal. Lahmia was left to stand on its own against a unified empire, and nothing they could do was going to save them. Many of the vampires fled, recognizing the fight as hopeless, though Abhorash stayed almost to his last breath for the city he loved. Even if no man could match or kill him, one man cannot protect an entire city on his own, and he fled as well when he recognized the entire city was laid waste. In their flight from their doomed city, the surviving vampires would eventually come upon the revived and waiting Nagash, and the next chapter of this unfortunate story would begin.
Next Time: Nagash Makes Interpersonal Relations Errors.
It's time for Nagash Makes Some Bad Decisions in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters!
W'Soran, if you'll recall, is still the only person in all of Warhams to ever like Nagash for Nagash, and so it turned out to be no accident that the vampires stumbled upon the revived Great Necromancer. Further, W'Soran and Nagash decided this was a good time to gloat and play puppetmaster, saying they'd intentionally set everything up to go like this. As you might imagine, this didn't please the other founders very much, but they needed the help and wanted revenge for their burned city. Thus, they decided to throw in with the Necromancer on his revenge tour. Nefereta got a further unpleasant surprise when Nagash offered a position of great authority to Vashanesh, rather than to her. He took it, and was gifted a ring that would allow him to return from the dead at nightfall should he fall in battle. However, through the ring, Nagash controlled the actions of the vampires almost as solidly as he could have had they been mindless undead.
This is where Nagash made two mistakes: First, he assumed Vashanesh would not try to find some way to subvert his control. Second, he assumed he had the vampires now, and that he could just make them do whatever he wished. So he used them like one would use a wight or ghoul, throwing them at his enemies as disposable shock troops. In short, Nagash's decisions made rebellion by his new servants inevitable. Vashanesh found a surprisingly easy solution to the control of the ring: when Nagash wasn't paying attention, he simply threw his decisive battle against the King of Khemri and let himself be beheaded. By the time the ring returned him to life, the other vampires were gone (except W'Soran, who remained Nagash's creepy groupie) and Nagash's plans were in ruins. With the others escaped, Nagash was unable to win. Before he was overrun, he cursed the vampires for their fickleness (which he had caused by treating them like disposable troops instead of using the barest of tact) and afflicted them with many of the great weaknesses they suffer today, like their inability to deal with the sun. Now free, the founders scattered to the four winds, founding their own bloodlines and beginning the most famous traditions of the vampires. Despite staying with Nagash, W'Soran managed to survive, and through his devotion to his master and his own creepiness, managed to find ways to stymie the red thirst by feeding on the energy of dark magic itself. This ruined his appearance and made him the first corpselike, horrific Necarch, but he had never really cared about such things anyway.
In the meantime, one of the founders, Ushoran (Nefereta's brother), who had been the one to convince the others that Abhorash was an idiot and there was no need for his charter, went off and founded his own kingdom to try to emulate Lahmia. In doing so, he found a valley where the locals worshiped a great magical artifact, the Crown of Nagash, and decided he was totally going to gain full control of its power for himself and become better than the Great Necromancer. Strangely enough, this particular bout of hubris is not what destroyed the new kingdom of Strigos. This time, Ushoran decided that Abhorash had been right all along and kept studiously to his charter, building his kingdom and inviting his fellows to come bask in his achievements. Considering what they did when they felt slighted by Nagash, you would think he would not be caught so off-guard when his messages were met with scorn and hatred by Abhorash (who I imagine held a grudge), Vashanesh (who had his own plans), and Nefereta (who wasn't happy with how any of this century had gone). Soon, he found human kingdoms around him stirred up against him by Nefereta and her agents, and at the same time, found his kingdom surrounded by a perennial problem of the Warhammer world: Orcs. Ushoran died in battle with these many foes, and the crown was forgotten under the green tide. His own children and followers found that no-one liked them any more than they had liked their father in darkness. Hunted by their own kind and by humans, they became the Strigoi ghoul-kings, living among twisted cannibals and ancient barrows, feeding on the cold blood of the dead and warped by their hardship.
Next: Do I Need To Redo The Story of Vashanesh And Isabella Because Vashanesh is Vlad and I Did the Wars of the Vampire Counts in the main book.
With my laptop's cooling system slowly dying and replacements quite awhile out, I don't have much to do while waiting for my applications to be accepted, so have some more vampires. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters
Now it is time for the part we've all been waiting for, the Bloodlines themselves. We already know the history of Abhorash in his general outline: The great captain of the guard in the ancient city of Lahmia. He was the last man standing when the city fell, fighting on alone for as long as he could while his enemies flowed around him like a river around a rock, unable to actually move him out of the way. He lost what compassion he had when he saw his beloved city burned to the ground, and marched off to finally indulge the savage fury he'd kept in check for so long. Orcish legends from the regions he passed through speak of 'armies' of throat-ripping demons, when in reality they only faced Abhorash and his few surviving students. Losing all control and living like a monster didn't give him back his purpose, either, and so he began to seek something that could kill him. One day, while his comrades feared to follow, he marched to the top of an active volcano and challenged the great and ancient dragon that lived there. Butchering the creature and gorging on its blood, he finally found himself free of the terrible desire that had driven him since he took the elixir of immortality ages ago. He bade his comrades to follow his example, to seek to perfect themselves so they, too, could seek and slay their own dragons and attain their own enlightenment as something beyond a vampire. He has not been seen since; rumors vary from 'He waits on a mountain until enough of his fellows have succeeded' to 'this is all a silly legend, there is no cure, and he died long ago'.
One of his students would give shape to the most visible of the modern Blood Dragons, and likely would have really disappointed his master if Abhorash still pays attention to such things. Wallach Harkon (whether that is his real name or an assumed name is impossible to tell) came upon the Ordo Draconis, an Imperial knightly order on the borders of Bretonnia in the Grey Mountains. Liking what he saw of modern knighthood, he challenged the entire order, one man at a time. They were stupid enough to go along with this, fighting duel after duel with him as he picked through their number for those who were worth turning and those who were only worth killing, and by the next evening, the Ordo Draconis were now the masters of Blood Keep and his principle students. Wallach taught them to despise humanity, as Abhorash had after the fall of Lahmia, and they paid no mind to his old strictures about limiting their feeding. Naturally, this eventually caused the exact same problem it did for Lahmia: Wallach was spotted by Imperial forces, the corruption in Blood Keep was discovered, and an army killed him, his wife, and most of his students. While he would eventually return as a batshit crazy idiot with designs to wipe out all of humankind for this 'insult', the scattering of the Dragons led to their more eclectic and ramshackle modern state.
Of all the 'human-like' vampires, Dragons are the most likely to be solitary. Any great martial artist or promising student could become a Dragon, depending on their masters' quirks. One might find the greatest of archers, one might see a young girl of immense potential and decide she has to be his student, one could decide he admires the courage of a doomed militiaman and offer to make him strong to match his spirit; there is no single template for Dragons, though the stereotype has them emulating the chivalrous knights of Bretonnia. Dragons also tend to be incredibly violent and actively anti-social; most Dragons wouldn't think anything wrong with testing how well a new style of sword can hack through human flesh by going through a peasant village. At the same time, they're also the most likely anti-heroes among vampires; as someone pointed out upthread, there are plenty of horrific monsters that provide excellent practice, and one could easily decide that murdering the defenseless doesn't teach them anything and they'd rather go deal with the rogue wyvern or marauding warband of orcs threatening the town than bother with its poor militia. Dragons also have a tendency to hide themselves in armies, as knights, mercenaries, or soldiers. Often, they will follow their orders, attend their maneuvers, and quietly watch the ranks for useful recruits as they campaign with their fellows. Normal soldiers will often overlook a bit of oddity in return for having a man or woman on their side who can cut a chaos warrior in full armor in half. And if they're caught and their fellows decide to make something of it, so what? They needed the practice, and it's just another fight.
Dragons take a very specific oath, most of the time, passed on from Abhorash himself, and what they argue about in its meaning tells you a great deal about their character. "Let your blade be your only truth, let death be your only answer, and let your quest be for naught but to become more than you are." They don't tend to argue about the last part (most automatically take it to mean either their purpose is to transcend their condition like Abhorash or simply to spend their eternity becoming stronger) or the second (Dragons like killing quite a bit and tend to take this very literally). The first gives them trouble, though; does it mean a Dragon can't use a lance? Or a mace? Is it a paean to the primacy of the sword? A prohibition on polearms and bows? Dragons tend to be very literal-minded people.
As a whole, Dragons tend to hate the idea of feeding on the willing. Blood should be taken either in battle from a foe with blade in hand, or as spoils from prisoners after the slaughter. Most prefer to reign in their drinking, thinking of it as a necessary act rather than a pleasurable one. Many Dragons will try to feed as little as necessary. Note that even a Dragon who prefers temperance will still happily cut down two dozen men; their qualm is with indulgence and pleasure, not with the honest act of mass killing. Dragons almost exclusively pass their curse on to their students. If one does not encounter a Dragon alone, it is usually because a Dragon is training an apprentice. Some will take a student along as a human, training and molding them to see if they will be worthy. Others will give a promising and devoted warrior the Kiss immediately, seeking to train them in both vampirism and the martial arts at the same time. Occasionally a Dragon will give a friend or lover their gift, but this is looked down upon among the Order; to be given the Blood is to be given the quest, and it should only be spread towards that end.
Three notable Dragons are detailed, one a Lord (the highest level of vampire and definitely end-boss material), one a Count (campaign arc end boss material), and one a Thrall (A likely single plot or random encounter). The Lord is Wallach Harkon, who has returned from his original defeat apparently having learned absolutely nothing from losing his keep the same way Nefereta lost Lahmia. He has sworn that no Dragon who does not follow his dictates on vampiric chivalry and absolute chastity to the letter has any right to exist, and has also promised he will one day exterminate the human race, one swing of the sword at a time. He draws to him vampiric knights who like the structure and batshit insane devotion to pretending to be Bretonnian knights he provides, and prepares to crusade against an entire species.
The Count is the infamous Red Duke of Aquitaine, a mysterious black knight of Bretonnia. For some reason, the Red Duke has risen again and again to attack the nobility of Bretonnia. He seems to care for no other enemy, making war on the great Grail Knights and Questing Knights of that backwards but extremely chivalrous land, and even though he has been slain multiple times, still he comes, silent and faceless, never raising the visor of his blood red armor. The Bretonnians believe he may well be some kind of evil counterpart of the Green Knight, the spirit that tests the best of their knights, and that he might exist to challenge the greatest questing knights and kings in mortal combat to prove their worth.
Finally, the example Thrall could easily be a PC, a temporary ally, or a foe for a single adventure. Sir Tiberius Kael was an Imperial knight of the White Wolf, devoted to Ulric and his city of Middenheim. One day, he encountered a pale and gaunt warrior guarding a river crossing, and while he was defeated, made enough of an impression to be given a place as the man's student. Devoted to the ideals of Abhorash and an avid hunter even before he became a monster, Kael sees very little point in killing men to practice when nature provides him with Gryphons, Manticores, Hydras, and worse, and so he has made his profession as a slayer of lethal beasts. The book suggests the PCs might even be hired to help track terrible things for a mysterious client, or might find themselves facing a difficult fight if they can't offer Kael something more interesting to kill. He would also make a pretty good Blood Dragon PC, if one wanted to play a cross between Castlevania and Monster Hunter set in 16th century fantasy germany. Kael is very dangerous, but even an unprepared third or second career party might be able to take him in a straight fight, unlike the Duke or Harkon (you'd need a plan for those two).
Next: The Lahmian Sisterhood, And Man Are We Gonna Have A Lot To Do There.
Alright, lads, it's time for the feminist vampire illuminati in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters
"Behind every great man is a great woman. Behind that great woman is me." -Nefereta
Now, we know the history of Nefereta up to the point where everything went to shit, much like we do with Abhorash. After some further mucking about taking out one of the other Founder states (We'll get into the city of Strigos, the founding of the Strigoi, and why Ushoran was a dick who probably deserved everything (because what vamp doesn't, anyway) when we get to their bloodline) she used her growing influence over the human tribes of northern regions (which would eventually become the Empire and Bretonnia) to raise an army and assail a dwarfhold at the Silver Pinnacle. Nefereta, intending to be a millennia spanning supervillain, obviously needed her own underground lair, you see.
Nefereta, even to the modern day, remains the absolute central figure of the Lahmian Sisterhood. Officially, no new Lahmian is created without her sayso, and young aspirants are often brought to the Pinnacle to learn, study, and face a thousand little tests before they are given the honor of the Kiss. Similarly, the Lahmians learned something from the fall of their original city and prefer to stay in the shadows. Wealthy, eccentric noblewomen, quiet spies and servants, academics, wizard's apprentices, these are the sorts of people the Lahmians prefer to make into their own. They hire playwrights and commission operas on the romantic myth of the vampire, seeking to convince humankind that they are not enemies at all, that there is nothing to be afraid of, and that vampires are just sexy, cool creatures that obviously won't really hurt anyone too much. Everything the Sisterhood does is officially intended to set up their eventual takeover of the Old World in a mighty velvet revolution, a takeover that will end with a triumphant return to the actual city of Lahmia and its rebuilding to be better than it ever was the first time.
The problem with this plan is that it's taken 4000 years and they still don't rule the world. Nefereta is cautious to a fault, still burned by her failure at Lahmia itself and surrounding herself with her students and handmaidens to distract from the roll of the years. She is afraid to be revealed again, and afraid that she will fail again, and so prefers an abundance of subtlety and caution. This has caused many of her more ambitious agents out in the world to declare that the Queen has no interest in taking over the world, and instead is content to rule the Pinnacle and nothing more. When this happens, they inevitably go rogue, beginning their own schemes, like the Vampire Tsarina of Kislev centuries ago. Nefereta still points to her fate as a corpse frozen in a block of ice to quell dissenters, saying the time is still not right.
In the meantime, the sisterhood continues to work its quiet schemes, trying to play the religious cults against one another and break their domination of culture so that humans might not have gods to turn to when their new management arrives. They similarly root out Chaos cults and happily tip off the Empire to the threats of Skaven and other outside foes; they NEED civil society to exist in its current form for their operations, and so the Sisterhood gladly and quietly slaughters enemies the humans never even see in the shadows of their cities. They also oppose independent vampires and the Von Carsteins; it wouldn't do to have Vashenesh's get take over the world that should be Nefereta's. In many such situations, a party of PCs might find an uneasy alliance with a nocturnal noblewoman who shares their aims, for now, but might always try to get rid of them later if they learn too much.
Lahmians do not like to be detected. Along with their courtly manners and academics, they learn tradecraft at the feet of their Queen in the Pinnacle, training themselves in how to casually avoid accidental detection by mirror or holy symbol. They learn a litany of excuses for skipping breakfasts and lunches with peers, how to pass along cryptic messages among their servants that will only mean anything to their superiors in the Sisterhood, and how to appear to be just another self-obsessed noblewoman or lowly servant in a great man's house. Similarly, both for reasons of practicality and as a matter of taste, Lahmians feed almost exclusively on the willing and do their best to avoid killing. They tend to feed on the targets of their manipulations, disguising their need as a simple affair that the victim doesn't remember in the morning, or on sisters-in-training and assistants in the field who are happy to provide the occasional pint of blood in return for the favors of an important agent. The fact that the average Lahmian is, in fact, a formally trained spy makes them surprisingly hard to root out; they don't tend towards the amateur mistakes of a frenzied Thrall.
There is also the elephant in the room. The average Lahmian is female and they nearly never allow men into their ranks. This harkens back to Nefereta's experiences with being denied entry into the halls of power until she forced her way in, on condition of her gender. Her influence on this subject is nearly universal in the Sisterhood, and even when the occasional man is allowed into the Line, they are never permitted access to the Pinnacle's facilities, nor to any of the higher ranks of the conspiracy.
Nefereta herself is obviously the most important of the Sisterhood, and annoyingly is one of those characters the book never gives stats despite being one of the major villains of the setting. I have a suspicion this has less to do with her being impossible to engage in direct combat so much as the fact that RPG stats are often based on Tabletop Unit stats, and Nefereta's model and actual statistics were not in print at the time of this book. Nefereta's most important traits are her age, her bitterness, and her distrust of almost everyone around her besides her closest Sisters. The fall of Lahmia, and being enslaved by Nagash and passed over in favor of Vashenesh? These did very little to ease her already rather spiteful nature. The idea of a Lahmia reborn is the only thing that truly excites her any longer; her personal chambers are still done in an ancient Nehekaran style, decorated with objects saved from the city's fall, and she prefers her mother tongue to any other. She spends her days in her vast underground lair, plotting with her servants, surrounded by her many favored cats (both a throwback to Nehekara and a secret security measure; the ability to turn into a cat or other small animal is common among Lahmians and many of the cats are her most lethal bodyguards in disguise), dreaming of how she can undo the mistakes of her original city and come to rule the world for real again.
I'm not going to bother with Genevieve Douidonne much, save to say I'm pretty sure she doesn't have stats because the creepy bastard who writes her as his ever 16 author insert waifu probably insisted it be impossible for players to kill his perfect angel. The only interesting note in her background is that as she saved the life of the Emperor Karl Franz from an assassination attempt, she is one of very few vampires legally permitted to live openly in Altdorf. Despite being a rogue to the line, the Sisterhood doesn't bother going after her; a soft and 'heroic' vampiress living in the open is very useful in their project of convincing people vampires are both harmless, and superior to them. Now that's a good plot hook, especially if you decide to go with a vampire campaign some day: Others in the shadows are happily acting as your publicist because they'd love the public to believe vampires can be dramatic antiheroes instead of murderous monsters, since it suits their ends!
One of the signs of how successful the Sisterhood is in infiltrating the Empire is Baroness Helena von Culper. The Baroness is a shrewd, intelligent courtier with the ear of the Emperor and a close friend to the newly appointed and rather incompetent Chamberlain of the Imperial Household, who is unofficially master of the Empire's spies and assassins. Helena runs Imperial Intelligence through her advice to the Chamberlain, and has an official position as master of one of the Imperial Archives, placing her officially in charge of one of the largest unofficial information-gathering agencies among Imperial Intelligence. In essence, the Empire's spies are directed by a Lahmian. Amusingly, she actually does a very good job; one of her directives is to destroy Chaos and ensure the stability of the Empire to make it easier to take over later, after all, and she's an intelligent and competent agent. At the same time, she uses her position to gather blackmail, personal details, and other information that is passed along to her Sisters to make their own infiltration and operations in Imperial territory easier, committing treason almost nightly. Culper makes an excellent early-campaign patron for a cloak and dagger game, where the players might have to decide if a competent commander is worth the fact that she's also a double agent. She'd also be a good villain, someone dug deep into the heart of an important organ of the Imperial state, or a great mentor to a Lahmian PC. Culper is a really solid idea for an NPC and a good example of how to do the Lahmians well.
Next: Some thoughts on the Sisterhood and some of the implications, with a little of how we've tended to play them at my own tables. Then the Necharchs, the crazy bastards who love to challenge the sun to wizard's duels and build evil towers in dreary places.
Some thoughts on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters
I jokingly referred to the Lahmians as the Feminist Vampire Illuminati, but there's very little that's feminist about their canon form. They're more of a general global conspiracy whose eccentric supervillain prefers female servants for wholly personal reasons rather than having any sort of ideological bent. Moreover, they're also full of implications that an entire organization of women are very petty and surface-deep; one bit I cut for time talks about a town that is meant to be their model for what a world ruled by the Sisterhood will look like, and it makes sure to talk about how they enjoy starving the locals to force them to instead spend everything on dresses and pretty things for their lady masters while they pursue their petty intrigues against one another for imagined slights. They're full of 'Well, the woman is obviously the power behind the throne because she can use sex to control her husband' implications, and, well, there's a reason I posted that Kate Beaton comic about them.
The thing is, though, their concept (the bit about being a global conspiracy that is trying to slowly manipulate public opinion towards an eventual takeover, made up of talented spies engaged in cloak and dagger intrigue) is REALLY GOOD for a roleplaying game. In that capacity they make great PCs, enemies, or grey areas for PCs to deal with. After all, the things they do to make society more accepting towards them are often actually quite good for society, and a pragmatic PC might be okay with a double agent in Imperial intelligence or a more sinister source on the goings on of the corrupt officials and possible cultists in their city. As something players can interact with, both fighting, working for, or trying to navigate around, a sinister conspiracy that nevertheless has every interest in keeping the world intact is a good story device. Similarly, say you want to play a more sympathetic vampire: Well, now you're a spy, undercover, trying to advance within your conspiracy while your fieldwork genuinely does revolve around foiling Chaos cults and battling plots against the stability of the Empire. At least, plots that aren't yours.
The implication with the Lahmians is constantly that they are spiteful, petty, and unfit to rule because they are women, rather than because they are bloodsucking monsters running a dark conspiracy in the shadows. How my table dealt with that part while keeping the good was to really lean into it; the Sisterhood doesn't mind being thought of that way by their enemies and are happy to have people believe they're content with unofficial 'soft power' gained through manipulation and sexual favors. Meanwhile, they are quietly sponsoring the first female cadet at Helmgart Military Academy, helping the first female Barrister in Nuln out with a loan when no-one else would, and supporting the right of an Imperial widow to own her own property. People who will eventually hold positions of more direct, real, and official power. People who will owe favors to the wealthy backers who helped them get where they are. I like to play it that one of the things they are trying to shape in society is making it no longer unusual for a woman to do a 'man's' traditional work of ruling, fighting, adventuring, or learning, because then when they eventually sweep in to bring about their great tyranny, that's one less thing people will need to adjust to. Not to mention much like Abhorash's self discipline and Vlad's desire to rule the world partly because he's pretty sure he'd do a good job of it, giving Nefereta an actual ideological commitment of sorts to ensuring young women in the position she was in when she was Princess of Lahmia have access to what she had to use terrible necromantic might to gain fits as one positive quality to give to an otherwise villainous character.
Blood Dragons are basically the Bioware NPC archetype that the internet always glom onto.
It's time for more crazy dead people in Warhammer Fantasy Night's Dark Masters
The Necharchs were founded by W'Soran, who if you'll recall is the only person in all of Warhammer who actually likes Nagash and the only vampire who was genuinely loyal to him. After everything went downhill for Nagash and Nehekara, W'Soran ran off into the hills to try to think of how to get his master back, and how to perfect necromancy. Hiding out with his acolytes, he also began to experiment with his own condition, finding a way to supplement pure dark magic from the Winds for some of his required blood and enabling him to go years between feedings. The cost of this was that he became increasingly twisted and corpse-like, a condition that was passed on to his followers when he began to bite his aging acolytes to keep them around. Constantly drawing on dark magic also made them even more insane and unstable than most vampires, and in a fit of madness, W'Soran's favored apprentice Melkhior, rose up and devoured the original Necharch. Now, vampires feeding on other vampires isn't covered much and is something most of them are extremely loathe to talk about, but I get the sense from what happened here that it tends to drive them even madder. Seeing their master eaten, each of them looked to the others as possible killers and a fit of paranoid ranting ended with the Necharchs becoming very solitary creatures, each fleeing to their own desolate holes to build towers and study in silence.
Necharchs would mostly remain isolated and unimportant for thousands of years, busily trying to best the sun in wizard's duels, studying how perversions of geometry could produce localized seas of UN-TIME, and whatever else insane dark wizards do in their towers all day. In 1750, near a millennia before the present day, a Necharch named Nourgal decided he was coming back onto the world stage because he greatly desired the wisdom of Myrmidia. To gain this, he declared war on all of Estalia and assailed it with an army of followers and endless tides of corpses, nearly overwhelming the not-spaniards. Eventually, he managed to capture the capitol city of Magritta, and found the defenders silent and the Grand Temple of Myrmidia wide open to him. As soon as he entered to claim the holy books and wisdom inside, the doors snapped shut behind him and later, his ashes were found next to the great Tome Of Wisdom in one of the few almost certain cases of direct divine intervention in Warhams. Estalia has hated vampires ever since.
Necharchs don't just build their towers tall because they're impressive. As well as the Dark Wind, they also tend to have a strong affinity for the Blue, studying astrology and the movement of the spheres to divine fates and protents from them. As these prophecies are filtered through a bunch of isolated lunatic undead, Necharch prophecies are as eccentric as their masters. Necharchs are also unique in sharing Nagash's goals more than any other line. A Necharch searches for the cure for their thirst not for convenience, but because they tend to hope to one day exterminate all the living and replace it with a world of the dead (obviously under the control of whatever great master Necharch is telling you their master plan right now). They want to find ways to cut the need for mortals and for life entirely from the world, that all can finally be quiet and peaceful for these nuts. Necharchs also tend to enjoy natural philosophy, and happily recruit from ghouls, mutants, and other outcasts to gain experimental subjects and devoted lab assistants.
Necharchs turn their apprentices, and almost exclusively their apprentices, and do it very carefully after long association to be sure their child won't betray them. Most Necharchs are then betrayed by their child. Their solitary nature and paranoid standards for breeding are a major reason there aren't very many Necharchs. While all vampires gain a wizard's Magical Sense to some degree, Necharchs have it come on strong; they cannot look away from the eddies and flows of the winds of magic to the extent that some completely lose touch with the real world.
The various example Necharchs are mostly various flavors of villain for a party to fight: An insane monster that took over a cruel insane asylum and uses the torment of the mad to study how to bind and break souls. A crazed Bretonnian wizard who invaded the homeland of the high elves in a quest to steal their magic. That sort of thing. Three stand out, though. One for being pretty neat, one for being pretty annoying, and one for having eaten W'Soran.
Melkhior the Ancient doesn't get much text because he is mostly dead for the moment. In an endless torpor and slowly recovering after he was defeated by his apprentice Zacharias, he had originally devoured his own master, W'Soran, and shortly began to take on his work of completing a great collection of all necromantic knowledge. Devouring his master did nothing for his sanity, and a major reason Zacharias was able to cast him down was simply that Melkhior was too unchained from reality to see it coming.
I do not like Zacharias the Unliving. You remember back in the Blood Dragon write up, how none of them actually know if their quest is possible or if Abhorash is really cured of his thirst, and how it's the entire core of their bloodline that they seek it regardless? Zacharias was Melkhior's favored apprentice, until his master drove him out when he tried and failed to steal the Books of Nagash. He happened upon a sleepy dragon and just casually managed to eat it, curing his thirst forever and removing all his weaknesses. So much for that being a mystery, or a major achievement. You just have to get lucky and find one when it's tired. Now he's a generic evil lord for your PCs to fight but doesn't have any of the weaknesses you need to kill a Vampire Lord. They warn against making a character like this in the Vamp Creation section! I know they have to work with GW's fluff to some extent, but Zacharias is just lame.
But Madame Kalfon isn't. Helloise Kalfon was a young Bretonnian girl who had obvious magical talent. Things would just happen when she had dreams that they would, dishes would clean and put themselves away in her presence, that sort of thing. In Bretonnia, children with such abilities are stolen away by the fae folk, never to return (this is a huge part of the Bret book, as is the terrible scar this leaves on the national psyche) and so her parents resolved to protect their daughter against all custom and law. They took her to the mountains, having heard stories of kindly hermits and wanderers who would protect children left there, and abandoned her. Luckily for Helloise, she was discovered by a band of peaceful mutants and outcasts, twisted people who had no desire to do what Chaos had tried to warp their bodies to do, and they took the poor, frightened child in to raise as their own. One day, the band happened across a Necharch's lair, and agreed to help him in the lab for shelter and food. The master sensed the obvious magical power in Helloise, and thinking her age would make her no threat to him, gave the twelve year old girl the Blood Kiss. And then, to try to teach her her place, made her watch as he further warped and then reanimated the kind folk who had saved her. It should not be a surprise that she killed her 'master' as soon as she was able. Over the years, despite the blows to her sanity and her tendency to play with living creatures like they were dolls to be studied and put back together, Kalfon has continued to shelter outcasts, tried to rescue children from the Fae Folk to study at her tower as apprentices, and spent a lot of time doing unspeakable things to Fae Folk of Athel Loren and their fairy spirit servants. She knows why she was originally abandoned, knows what they do, and hates them beyond anything else in the world. Kalfon is actually interesting; she's got a nice, tragic arc to her, a few twisted but positive aspects, and man I completely get being horrified by the forest of Loren and wanting endless revenge on it, that place is extremely fucked up (we'll get to that in Knights of the Grail).
The Necharchs are fine for the most part, I just find them the most limited of the lines. They're mostly one-note and one-hat, serving as isolated antagonists plotting to use their dark wizardry to cleanse the world of life while doing insane experiments, but at least it's a note and a hat you can definitely use as villain for one of your story arcs.
Next: Strigoi, The Justifiably Pissed Off Second Ugly Vamp Type.
It's time for more Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters! Please excuse any typos, still getting used to my new keyboard.
So, the Strigoi. The second 'ugly vamp', Strigoi got their start with Ushoran, younger brother of Nefereta. You may remember him as 'Hahah, oh, silly Abhorash, that'll never come back to bite us. Everyone ignore that lame idiot' guy, and thus one of the people directly responsible for the fall of Lahmia. Originally he wasn't supposed to get the elixir at all, but he stole the last dose of the elixir himself and insinuated himself into the city's nobility. The story of his failed second kingdom is, of course, considerably different from the Strigoi perspective. They describe it as a paradise on earth where vampire and man lived in symbiosis, undermined by the jealous Nefereta and her schemes and slanders. Obviously, despite the Crown of Nagash figuring heavily into Ushoran taking control of the kingdom, there was no truth to the stories about how he may've risked putting everyone back under the Great Necromancer's thrall! It was all the treachery of the other lines that rent Strigos asunder and sent its rulers scattering to the four winds. And once scattered, they were unjustly hunted and mocked by their fellows in darkness, and found themselves unable to settle and feed like a normal vampire. Forced to feed from the cold blood of the dead and animals to avoid notice, the Strigoi began to twist and warp, becoming ghoulish and impossibly strong. Now they wait in the dark places, surrounded by courts of the outcast and the mad, reminiscing about the paradise they built and planning their revenge.
As you might be able to tell, madness, bitterness, and an exceptionally rosy (and likely inaccurate) view of the past are essential to the Strigoi line. They are an entire line of exiles, each a great lord in their own mind, waiting in the dark and quiet places and teaching their progeny and their followers about how the world once was and how it should be again. Most who encounter a Strigoi hardly even believe the thing is a vampire; surely it must be some other kind of mutant. Everyone knows vampires are beautiful women, black knights, and arrogant nocturnal lords. Not a nine foot tall mass of sinew and muscle with claws that can rip a minotaur in half. Strigoi do not have a society like other lines; each is a court apart, surrounded by ghoulish cannibals and mutants, raising armies of the dead and plotting their great revenge. They take their children from among their followers and those who show proper respect, bringing them into darkness to show them the great ways of Strigos as they endlessly drive their undead creations to relieve the faded glory of lost times. Strigoi are known to sometimes lose centuries in their dreams of the past, spending ages replaying old celebrations and battles from when things were better (or when they heard of how things used to be better from their creator).
Every now and then, though, one will become lucid enough long enough to rise up and seek their revenge. Vorag the Ghoul King is one of the inspirations of the Strigoi line, having enslaved and destroyed multiple clans of Orcs and creating a great (and short lived) kingdom of death and bone in the badlands before the green tide overwhelmed him. All dream of doing the same some day (albeit with more long term success). A Strigoi that has finally rallied their followers and stirred from their ancient hiding places can be a terrifying foe, and half the reason they still find themselves hunted as fervently as they do is that the Lahmian Sisterhood especially fears the disruptions they can bring. Not to mention the fact that Nefereta was the one who convinced the other lines Ushoran might be influenced by the Crown, and thus got them to turn their back on the original kingdom. The obsession with the past means that insult and that betrayal is still fresh in the mind of every Strigoi who knows of it, and they want the entire Sisterhood dead for it. A Strigoi's endless dreams and madness can be just as dangerous as their waking, though; one who sees every passerby as intruding on their realm could start to slaughter every last one for not giving the proper greetings in High Nehekaran, for instance, and thus showing immense disrespect. A Strigoi might lack the skill and arms of a Blood Dragon, but they are by far the physically strongest vampires and any target for their wrath would do well not to let them get within reach.
There's also the unfortunate bit we have to get into. The survivors of the kingdom of Strigos became a traveling people known as Striganny, itinerant nomads who deal in fortune telling, performances, and odd jobs and who the Empire mistrusts as witches and thieves. Yes, it's our very own embarrassing Roma analogue (complete with a -10% to Fellowship checks because people see them as thieves) who often shelter and aid the Strigoi. The idea of the surviving humans of their kingdom still trying to help their old masters is fine, but I don't really think Warhammer needed Roma stereotypes wandering around (especially given this is the only place they are ever mentioned or dealt with).
Another important sort of follower for the Strigoi? Ghouls. Ghouls in Warhammer aren't actually undead, even though they are often found in undead armies. Ghouls are what can happen when someone violates the strictures of Morr against cannibalism, eating the flesh of other humans to stave off starvation. Instead of getting brain diseases, Warhams humans will slowly become more degenerated, hunching over and growing long predatory claws and sharper teeth, and beginning to drip with venom and disease. These mutants are driven out of human settlements or killed, and surviving ghouls often find the court of a Strigoi. The two see a kinship between them; a Strigoi was forced to feed on the dead and become warped and strange, just like a Ghoul, and so they make fitting followers, friends, and partners as they protect and work with one another.
The notable Strigoi are actually pretty cool! The first one would be absolutely perfect for a PC vamp: Gashnag the Black Prince is a young Strigoi thrall who lives in the Border Princes, a lawless dumping ground for dispossessed nobles and usurpers. He has carved out a walled settlement for himself as a military veteran because he's strong enough to rip off an ogre's head with his bare hands, and he's also been clever enough to spread romantic stories of how he's a handsome hero cursed by dark magic to be tragically ugly and strange. He goes everywhere in a dramatic mask and cloak, visibly facing threats to his people and spreading his legend as he tries to get new settlements and serfs to enter his protection. And he really does fight terrible monsters, often returning to stake the heads of awful things to the public square of his town to show his people they are safe under his rule. Playing as this guy and his advisors as they build the border princes into a kingdom like Vlad did for Sylvannia would be a great campaign, or he'd be a neat NPC to work for or fight.
Urzen the Unrelenting is a very, very old Strigoi. One of the original children of Ushoran, he has hidden away to plot for ages, trying to decide which target most deserves his ire. In doing, he has discovered the Lahmian fortress at the Silver Pinnacle and is doing everything he can to build his forces to assail it directly. In the meantime, he uses what human agents he has to tip off Imperial Witch Hunters and adventurers to the presence of Lahmian Sisters who might discover his marshaling forces and warn their mistress that he isn't planning a suicidal attempt to sweep away the Empire for himself. PCs could easily run into him either at the behest of the Lahmians (if you have a Lahmian-friendly group, or one being manipulated by someone like Baroness von Culper) or by his agents happily pointing them at Lahmians to kill until they discover that there's a huge army of ghouls and undead prepping nearby and that that can't mean anything good.
I like the Strigoi a lot. They manage to pack the classical vampiric arrogance into a very different package, and the ambiguity of their origin and their pining for the golden days long past come together to make a Line you can make as sympathetic and justly pissed off as you like, or as insane and misguided as you need them to be. They'd be hard to fit into a normal campaign since they can't pass for human, but Gashnag gives a pretty good idea for how you could do that all the same. A campaign as a Strigoi's court of misfits and outcasts (led by a young vamp, of course) would be pretty fun as a Monster Party game, too, plus it's got a solid overarching plot already ready to go with plenty of mysteries (in discovering how idealized their view of the past is, exactly) and room to be cynical or oddly noble as you prefer. Their in-game abilities don't quite live up to their description once we get to the rules, sadly. A Dragon will murder one in open combat pretty much all the time and they don't get any direct buff to physical statistics, which is a shame. I'd have given them more strength and toughness to make up for the massive Fellowship hit they take and fit their fluff, as well as more Wounds. Still, if you want a forgotten enemy lurking in an old tomb or a tragic monster for players to face, Strigoi are great.
Next Time: Saving the Best (From Their Perspective) For Last: The Great Family of the Von Carsteins!
As often happens when I feel productive, here's another Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark masters!
Alright, this will be the second to last fluff update because right after it comes the glorious country of Sylvania. But first, its rulers: The Von Carstein family. The heart of the family has always been the first, even though he's been dead for centuries: Vladimir Von Carstein. Originally Prince Vashenesh of Nehekarah, Vlad was born the bastard son of a deposed dynasty and narrowly escaped his own death by posing as a common soldier of the usurper Setep. He devoted everything he had to finding a path to avenge himself on General Setep, for the murder of his dynasty and the usurpation of his birthright, and the rumors of the power of the Queen of Lahmia sent him there. While we've already covered what happened next, and it didn't quite go to Vlad's plans, he would spend the next 4 millennia biding his time and looking for the right time and place to make his true mark on history, finding it in Sylvania. Ever since, the Von Carstein family has been deeply tied to the gloomy, warpstone ridden province and its dark magic.
To a Von Carstein, their name is all. A Von Carstein who swears on the family name means what they say, and will move heaven and earth to accomplish it. They tend to think of themselves as shepherds and stewards of their human flock, but in return they demand that men die like sheep at their order. A Von Carstein finds the idea that their food could fight back, or be anything but grateful to be asked to bare their neck, an insult to the family and their personal honor. Similarly, unlike other vampires, the Carsteins are tied directly to the feudal order and hold that land (and the people tied to it) is the true source of legitimacy and authority, two things they crave almost as much as blood. Similarly, a Carstein might travel incognito while abroad (what charming noble doesn't find that exciting?) but would consider any suggestion that they hide their nature out of necessity to be a personal insult; a Carstein is proud of what they are. Not only that, more than any other sort of vampire, Carsteins delight in theatricality and drama. A Carstein won't consider a battle complete until they've had a chance to make a speech about it, nor would they ever have a duel without banter and witticisms with their foe. They love to pick out exotic suits of armor and striking clothing, making their presence on the field or in the ballroom as plain as possible, and they'll adhere to the 'rules' of a good drama up until the moment they might actually come away the loser; then they cheat like there's no tomorrow.
Being consummate aristocrats, the Carsteins quite enjoy warfare. Proving your superiority on the field, but more importantly, being able to order others to fight and die for you? This satisfies their immense megalomania. Of all the Lines, they are most likely to fight within the family; a Carstein accused of failing to uphold the standards of the family is a serious problem, after all, and needs to be rectified by their relations. If those relations also seize the wayward's properties and enrich themselves, that is only proper. Similarly, their neighbors in Stirland and the League of Ostermark clearly have been poor stewards of their lands and they would be better placed under the care of a more prestigious name. And of course, after that, other, new neighboring lands should probably be added to Sylvania's borders. It would only be right.
The love of theater extends to everything in their lives. A Carstein chooses who to embrace as a vampire partly by who will be a worthy heir or pupil that will bring honor to the family, but also by who possessed the breeding and authority necessary to be admitted to the club as a human. A Carstein will almost never give the Kiss to someone of common blood...unless it would make for an enrapturing scandal, in which case they might try it to make it the talk of the social season among their kin. Embracing a stableboy for his keen mind and talents is a bore and an embarrassment. Embracing a stableboy for an illicit affair with someone 300 years his senior and so you can entrap his cousin, who is a Witch Hunter from Ostermark and lead him to his death at the hands of his own cousin? THAT might be applauded and forgiven. Assuming he doesn't shame the family, of course.
Similar to theater, the Carsteins love large and impressive public works. Symbols of their creators' will, wealth, and authority, they also allow the vampire to point to the fiction of being a good shepherd to their flock. In the same vein, they enjoy administering justice and the other trappings of royal authority; some are even fairly good rulers, if their people are lucky, and this is generally considered laudable within the family. Most are, of course, petty tyrants who mistaken the terror of their subjects for quiet and orderly rule. In all things there is a calculated observing of the forms and norms of rulership, but also the calculated breaking of those norms, both for one's advantage and to prove one is powerful enough to get away with it.
Naturally, Count Manfred von Carstein is in a position rather akin to trying to herd a large group of very couped up and extremely murderous cats. The actual Count of Sylvania has very little authority over the rest of the family, considering the uniform megalomania of the nobility. Manfred is also a coward, as we'll go over, and somewhat impatient with the forms of rulership, so he mostly lets the others rule their petty fiefdoms as they will so long as they provide him troops if he wants to line up for a new battle to run away from later. The book notes that most vampires don't wish to overthrow Manfred primarily because they don't actually want his position; most are happy pursuing their own schemes and tending their own homes, enjoying their own eccentricities and leaving him to develop ulcers and flail ineffectually away at getting everyone moving in the same direction.
As for Manfred himself, he is obviously one of the example characters for the line. He is a Lord, and well beyond most Lords stats-wise; aside from 'only' having as many attacks as a 3rd tier fighter (3, unlike the 5 a Lord can get) his stats are ludicrously high, with some hitting the 90s. He is also a Wizard Lord level necromancer and learned about a wide variety of subjects, and is clearly intended to be an absolute final boss for a very long campaign. His character is the interesting part; as I've alluded to, Manfred has fled from or backed down from nearly every decisive moment in his career (some of them wisely, some of them not). He has none of the sense of theatrics of the rest of his line and is solely focused on making winning a sure thing. While he is still arrogant, he is much less so than most vampires and is keenly aware that he can be killed or defeated; this may make him hesitate but it also makes him hard to bait out. The one true pleasure he takes in life is his reading and studies, traveling the world to see new places and find new lore. He still intends to take over the world, one day, but tells himself he is merely patient rather than afraid.
I actually really like Manfred as a villain. He's extremely easy to hate, he has some very real psychological flaws that sufficiently brave heroes can exploit, but a few hidden tricks up his sleeve that a vampire hunter wouldn't normally expect out of a Lord. He is well aware of his own weaknesses and tries at every step to mitigate them, but this makes him awkward and politically damages him with his own family, and their support for him is only lukewarm. There are plenty of ways your PCs can go after him, while he remains a legitimate threat to the Empire and your characters, if you want to use him as a villain.
The other example Carstein is an interesting young Thrall. Lady Ariette von Carstein is Manfred's right hand woman and favored Thrall, and hides a dark secret: She's a peasant. She was present when Manfred was recently raised from the dead and was originally intended to be his first meal, but was rescued by a pair of adventurers (Gotrek and Felix, long-running novel protagonists for Warhammer Fantasy). Realizing a chance at the Blood Kiss, she escaped from her rescuers and invented a story for the newly raised Count, claiming to be a young Sylvanian noblewoman who had been captured for ransom by marauding foreigners, and who had come back to warn him they intended to return with reinforcements. Impressed with her bravery, Manfred decided to take her on as his own, just as she'd hoped. Now, the clever and brave former charcoal burner has everything she ever wanted: Wealth, influence, a great patron, immortality, superhuman strength, and the right to play the intrigues and games of the nobility. She will do anything to defend her new position and keep her real origins a secret, and she is both ruthless and cunning. She'd make a good PC for a Von Carstein campaign, or a good early foe for PCs gunning for Manfred; she has his confidence and loves to travel, so she's often incognito abroad in the Empire. Being a former hard laborer, she's also quite a bit stronger and tougher than PCs might be expecting out of a pampered noblewoman.
Next: The Native Soil, then finally, time for rules and making our very own blood sucking abominations against God.
After six chapters of fluff and background, it's finally time for some actual rules in Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
Before we get to making your own bloodsucking abominations to either play as or throw at your players, there are a host of new vampire hunting classes for normal PCs (or to have come after a vampire PC). Now, the basic Vampire Hunter from the core book is a second tier (you can promote directly into it out of a basic career if you're a tomb robber or bounty hunter) class that focuses on endurance, stealth, investigation, and decisive assassination; fighting vampires straight up as a human is a really good way to get yourself killed. The classes in this book mostly follow the same model, focusing on investigation and stealth to get the upper hand on a vampire by finding its weaknesses. The two knightly careers, Black Guard of Morr and Knight of the Raven (which is a promotion for Black Guard) focus more on ranged weaponry than is common for a knight, because vampires lose a fair amount of their advantages at range and it's easier to make a silver bullet or arrowhead than a silver sword. There's also the Agent of the Shroud, an investigator and spy who focuses on the murder mystery aspect of hunting vampires; they can promote out of most academic careers or petty criminal careers and they focus much more on knowledge, stealth, and tracking than actually killing the thing themselves when they find it. Finally, they add in an optional replacement for Master Wizard for a 3rd wizarding career, the Magister Vigilant, part of an order of specialized mages who investigate rumors of necromancy and corruption among the colleges of magic to keep the witch hunters from having to get involved. There's also the Killer of the Dead, an incredibly skilled warrior and absolute nutjob of a 3rd tier career, with no further exits and requiring you to be half-mad to take it: These are people who have grown so successful and talented at killing vampires that the major bloodlines know their names. This leads to a paranoid, secluded life, with nothing left for them but the Hunt as they try to ash as many of the bastards as they can before the prey catches up to them. The Killer is one of the most powerful combat careers in the game, being able to raise its WS and BS by 35% over its base (Champion, the purest fighting career, gets +40) and giving tremendous physical stats, immunity to fear, tons of combat talents, and knowledge of their enemy. Just it's going to be the last career a PC takes, one way or another. A Killer of the Dead is the kind of PC who could directly take on a young vampire one on one, even a Blood Dragon, and probably win even without exploiting weaknesses.
We also get some basic rules for how to spot vampires using their lack of reflection without making yourself obvious (assuming your target turns out not to have a reflection), rules for how people with Magical Sense can pick out the dark magic flowing off the undead, how to force them to flinch (and recognize that they did so) with silver, holy items, or magic herbs, and how to do something ridiculously insane and cut yourself, scar yourself, and treat the wound with silver paste (hopefully without infection) so as to give yourself a magical injury that will ache in the presence of the undead. It also includes rules for silvering weapons, or making a wholly silver weapon (silver is not a good metal for swords, silver plate it instead. It will only last for d10+5 successful attacks, but it's better than the -10% WS of a Silver weapon and the chance of breaking the stupid thing). Getting your weapon blessed will let you do a lot of damage, and it might be easy to convince a priest to help you fight an abomination (or you might just pay them). If a vampire is vulnerable to silver, a silvered weapon that does at least one wound does 3 extra. ALL vampires take 3 extra wounds from any damaging hit from a blessed weapon, even if they don't have an especial weakness to holiness. Blessed weapons will always work. This means if you know your target is vulnerable to silver, a pair of blessed, silvered pistol rounds will do (assuming you're a good shot and have some shooting talents) d10+11, ignore 1 point of armor, and reroll damage once. If you manage to ambush a vamp with a pair of blessed pistols, he's in trouble; this is a good example of how their stats tend to look insurmountable but if a PC exploits their weaknesses and takes them by surprise, they can definitely be killed. Also note, again, if you have designs on being a Blood Dragon who fights Chaos Warriors for the fun of it: Chaos blessings work exactly as well on them as the blessings of kinder Gods.
Now, in general, WHFRP uses the same statlines and basic rules for every character, PC or NPC. Normally this is a huge mess in a game, but the stat system is simple enough that it works out fine for the bestiaries and general foes. Then, when you get a foe who needs to be a unique individual to hunt down and study, like a vampire, it works out especially well. Vampires can constructed completely, of course, but they can also be rolled in either a simplified, generalized style if you want a less important villain, or built from the ground up like a PC if you intend one to be around awhile. WHFRP loves having big charts you can roll on to generate something if you don't have a solid idea yet; you can roll for what bloodline (or lack of bloodline) your vamp will have, you can roll their stats, you can roll their career before they became a monster like a normal PC, etc etc. I've never really minded the existence of all this optional randomness. For one, it's made clear it's optional; if you already know your PCs are going to be up against a Von Carstein rake who is slumming it in the shadier parts of Nuln and playing serial killer, the book encourages you to just make that character. This exists if you're trying to give yourself an idea, or (despite their insistence) if you're making a bloodsucker as a PC.
This chapter also starts to illuminate why vampires are so goddamn hard to kill: Say you're making a basic Von Carstein with the simplified stats and rules, so one that won't bother with careers and being built from scratch. They roll 2d10 for each stat, but their bases are WS 60, BS 30, S 50, Agility 50, Toughness 50, Intelligence 30, Willpower 60, and Fellowship 40. With a base of 18-31 Wounds, 2 Attacks, magic, faster movement than an elf, and the possibility of special abilities called Blood Gifts. And that's a 'generic' one. An entire party that's decent at combat can probably defeat such an enemy, but fighting that kind of foe without a plan is ill advised.
If you decide to customize a character, you build the character as a normal human (rolling or deciding stats as you prefer) and assign their careers, though the book advises to be careful with giving too much experience to something you're already going to apply a very powerful template to. Then, you apply +10 WS, +0 BS, +10 Str, +15 Toughness, +15 Agility, +10 Willpower, and either +10 Fellowship if they're from a pass-for-human line or halving their fellowship if they're not. Then you add +6 Wounds, +1 Attacks, +1 Magic, and +2 Movement permanently, give them access to natural weapons, give them a bite they can use while grappled to drain enemy Strength and heal themselves, improve their senses, and let them see in the dark. You also reduce their Fate to 0, though; no vampiric character can ever use Fate Points. These bonuses are crazy good: Every Vampire basically gets the bonuses of a second tier fighting career added to their base stats, which means it doesn't count against the advance caps for their career. Next, there are several actual Vampire careers: A vamp needs these badly and a vampire PC will be juggling the desire to advance in human careers (they can always exit into a human career any of their past normal careers could enter) with the desire to get ahead in the vampire careers, because they reduce how often you need blood and provide more Blood Gifts. The initial career, Thrall, focuses on upgrading physical stats and makes a vampire only need to feed every Toughness Bonus days (so one with a Toughness of 50 would need to make a successful blood drain once per 5 days or start to suffer penalties and insanity from starving), rather than once per TB hours without any vampire careers. What skills and talents it requires varies wildly with your bloodline; a Lahmian is going to be stuck in Thrall for thousands of EXP as she masters every single aspect of art, tradecraft, politics, and science that the rigorous training that line requires brings, while a Dragon will be picking up plenty of fighting career talents and a variety of weaponry. Next, a Count gets plenty of general talents and skills, and is no longer segregated by Bloodline. Counts also require such trappings as a proper evil laugh and rampant megalomania. They also gain the ability to feed once per TB weeks. A Lord is incredibly powerful, to the point that the system would struggle with one as a PC, and they only need to feed once per TB months. Every one of these careers a vampire enters immediately gives them two Blood Gifts, one from their main bloodline and one from a line of their choice (which can be a second from their line). Most starting PCs or foes will at least start out entering the Thrall career.
Next Time: Blood Gifts, Weaknesses, and Going Crazy!
Alright, folks, after a little time off writing these things to sketch out a group Myriad Song campaign (interstellar criminals having adventures on a mob moon!) I'm back to Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
First, it's time to get into more actual rules with Blood Gifts. Blood Gifts work exactly like Talents or Traits (they're just added abilities for your character/villain) but they're extremely powerful. All vampires get the ability to bite someone in a grapple to drain d10 Strength and heal d10 Wounds for themselves (as well as inflicting d10+SB normal, lethal damage if they're in combat, as per having natural weaponry). They all get natural weapons (They count as armed when unarmed, able to use their claws and teeth, though they can't parry with them) if they're not trying to pass for human. Carsteins, Lahmians, and Dragons can Pass for Human, losing their fear effect and natural weapons to look like a pale and exceptionally handsome/beautiful/rugged human. All vampires also inflict fear if they stop passing for human: Normal foes will have to pass a WP test to begin acting against them. Instead of being able to Pass for Human, Necharchs gain Terrifying (their undead forms are actually worse than others, and failing fear against them makes someone run away and gain an Insanity point if you're using insanity) and Strigoi get Frenzy (which is one of the most consistently overvalued and useless talents in the game. Taking -10% to WS for +1 to damage and locking yourself into always charging and attacking is the definition of not worth it). All Vampires can also use necromancy without worrying about the side effects dark magic can inflict on a human, and ALL vampires can try to control undead like a necromancer, whether or not they actually know any necromancy. Just because that Blood Dragon never picked up Channeling and thus can't use spells himself (this is actually a thing for them; without some other career to unlock Channeling and Speak Arcane Language the average Dragon simply can't cast spells, they don't bother) doesn't mean he can't seize control of pre-existing undead.
When a vampire gains one of their vampiric careers (Thrall, Count, and Lord) they gain one Gift from their Bloodline, and then another from any Bloodline. They can choose a second one from their own, if they want to be stronger in their own power set rather than branching out. If you're generating them randomly, they can be rolled on a table like everything in WHFRP, or they can be chosen directly. We'll start with the Dragons, and my experience with the adventures of Wilhelm Metzger, Blood Dragon Outrider will let me speak from experience on how batshit insanely powerful these specific abilities are for a warrior.
The sort of 'signature' gift for a Dragon is Blademaster. A Dragon (or other vampire) with this chooses 1 foe and reduces their Attacks characteristic by 1 for that round. They do not have to be in hand to hand for this. If the Dragon reduces an opponent's attacks to 0, they do not count towards outnumbering the Dragon. This is fluffed as simply being so fast, strong, and practiced that you know the flow of a fight before it happens. Now, late in his career, Wilhelm had an 89% Agility (His speed was his sort of legendary, famous attribute), Dodge+20%, and a 76% Weapon Skill (he was, for a Dragon of his age, a middling swordsman). Note that a heroic human character can only get to 3 attacks a round without magic equipment. Now give Wilhelm a shield for +10% Parry. Wil with Blademaster was simply almost impossible for a single human opponent to hit in a duel. Blademaster 1 attack, 99% Dodge another, 86% Parry another. To the point that the character just stopped accepting one on ones with humans because it didn't count as a fair fight. You are not going to win a one on one with a Dragon. Most Dragons prefer to fight one on one because it's 'honorable'. This should tell you a lot about why the average Dragon is a piece of shit hiding behind the pretenses of fair play. I go into such detail on this one because it's an important bit of gameplay describing story: Dragons look like honorable knights (or whatever form of martial arts hobo they happen to be). Most Dragons define what is honorable in a way that leaves them with a tremendous, probably insurmountable advantage.
Next for them is Furious Charge. A Dragon with this gift outright negates their opponent's armor when they hit with a charge attack, just shattering through it like it wasn't there. This is powerful for obvious reasons; a Vampire fighter is probably hitting for Damage 6-8 as is. Now they're ignoring your 1-5 AV. There is no foe in the game that wants that to happen. Thankfully, you can only strike once on a charge.
Next is another sort of signature power for Dragons: Iron Sinews. The vampire is too strong to parry. Any attempt to parry their melee attacks gets -30% as they crush through your guard, much like some of the larger giant monsters. Strigoi can also roll this one, to represent their legendary strength.
Next is Piercing Strike: A Dragon with this gift gets to roll twice and take whichever they prefer on the critical table once they do damage beyond a foe's wounds. Not nearly as useful as the others, but it's amusingly helpful for deciding to spare a worthy opponent just as much as it is for ensuring you put someone down.
Then they get Quickblood, a power they share with Lahmians. You remember how most characters can't dodge bullets or arrows? A Dragon or Lahmian with this power can dodge them normally. Wil's bullet dodging trick was one of his favorite ways to show off!
Terrible Blows is a bit limited, but a character with this gift adds Impact (rerolling damage, taking the best) to their attacks any time they only attack once in a round. So All Out Attacks, Standard Attacks, or Charges. If they're using a weapon with Impact already, they roll thrice and take the best. This specifically stacks with Furious Charge. Do not get hit by a Dragon who has both.
Unhallowed Soul will let a Dragon vulnerable to holy places walk into them without a WP check. They will also no longer be repelled by holy or unholy symbols. They explicitly still take +3 wounds from any blessed weapon, though! You can pretend you don't care about the prohibitions of the Gods up until the moment someone shoots you with a holy bullet.
Waterwalker will let a Dragon try a WP test to make it through running water, if they're vulnerable to it. Running water is fluffed as a common weakness for the line, one of the reasons they tend to haunt bridge crossings to challenge wanderers. You have to either choose or roll this power twice to outright remove that weakness.
And finally, Wolf Form is shared by Carsteins and Dragons, and isn't very useful for either. You turn into a dire wolf as a half action. This will lower many of your stats, though it will massively increase the vampire's movement speed and since you retain your own talents, you might have Fleet of Foot to be able to outrun people on horseback. You can turn back at will as a half action, returning to vampire form with all your gear already equipped.
With these gifts, fighting a Dragon in the 'honorable' style they prefer, even if the Dragon obviously won't have all of them, is almost suicidal. They help to reinforce that you really, really want to take a vampire by surprise, gang up on them, and fight dirty.
Next: Lahmian Gifts!
Well, I finally have an actual keyboard to write longer posts with, so it's time for more Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
I likely won't be going into this level of detail for all of the mechanical stuff in the book, but Blood Gifts and Weaknesses deserve it because they're the most important mechanical distinction for vamps besides being a pile of Wounds and high stats. This time, we're on the Lahmians.
They start right off the bat with an incredibly useful ability: Aethyric Cipher. You see, the average vampire is held together by dark magic; this means wizards can detect them fairly easily with a magical sense check to spot the black and purple winds around the undead thing. A vamp with this ability cannot be detected so easily; someone using Magical Sense on one has to make a hidden opposed Willpower test and win it (rolling Willpower versus Willpower and seeing who gets more degrees of success) to detect any magical talent or undeath in the target. Vamps with this ability also gain an immunity to warding herbs, if they were weak against them. For an order of spies and agents, this ability is essential; wizards tend to assume it's easy to spot vampires and will usually clear someone of suspicion if they can't detect anything. This has actually let the Sisters place a few of their own among the Colleges of Magic, hiding as apprentices.
Next is Corrupted Innocence: People have a really hard time bringing themselves to hurt someone with this power. You gain the Unsettling trait, lowering enemies' to-hits by 10% until they beat a WP test. Simple and useful.
Next is one I'm not as fond of for flavor reasons: Defy the Dawn. If you've gained or picked this Gift once, you can make a Willpower test to avoid catching fire/taking damage if you're caught in direct sunlight without gear to cover you up. If you take it twice, you're immune to the sun. It's a matter of taste, but I prefer for Mr. Sun to be the one universal constant vamps can't deny.
Then there's Domination, the signature power of the Lahmian line. A vampire with this ability can pull the classic mind control trick, using their Fellowship against the target's Willpower. This only works on living, mortal, sentient creatures and they need to be within 6 meters. It also can't be used during combat; someone who knows they're fighting is too alert for the mind trick. If you win, the target is completely under your control and you decide their actions for the next d10 rounds, at which point they make a Willpower test to try to break free. Any attack on the dominated creature will immediately cancel the effect. I wish it was a little more clear if the target realizes they were Dominated after the power wears off, but a power that directly takes control of people is never useless.
Next up is the classic Ethereal Mist: This lets a vampire turn into incorporeal mist, affected only by spells and magic, as a full action. This is mostly an emergency escape method, though, as the vamp can't turn back for d10 hours and when they try, they have to make a WP test to manage it. No turning into mist and slipping in to menace Lucy at night with promises of transgressing Victorian social mores.
Next is Familiar Form: The ability to turn into a small animal like a cat or a rat for slipping into places unseen. Useless for combat, obviously, but helpful for a spy. Your clothes follow you through the change and all your gear will be equipped when you turn back. Queen Nefereta's dozens of cats aren't just a weird quirk; she hides her bodyguards among them, using this ability.
Next is Noble Blood. A vamp with this ability has a particularly strong aptitude for necromancy, and they can command undead at very long distances.
Next is Quickblood: Just like Dragons, Lahmians can be fast enough to dodge a bullet. It works exactly the same.
Then comes Transfixing Gaze: Like Dominate, this allows a vamp to completely destroy someone with one failed WP roll. If you use it as a half action on someone within 6 yards, you hypnotize a target. Note this works on ANYTHING. Demon, vampire, human, unlike Dominate this is not limited to non-combat and isn't limited to the living. Once the target fails a WP test, they're considered Helpless and can do nothing until something breaks your gaze or you dismiss them. Remember, in combat, a Helpless target automatically takes an extra d10 of damage; very little will survive a vampire managing to stun it and then smash it. This is actually the 'signature' power of the Von Carsteins; the Sisters can just roll/pick it as well.
Finally, just like a Dragon, a Lahmian can get Unhallowed Soul and become immune to being driven back by holy symbols. In the Sisterhood's fluff, they claim they achieve this by desensitization training to partially remove their 'allergy', helping a Lahmian resist the urge to flinch or fall back hissing and barring fangs if someone happens to present a holy symbol. Like with the Dragons, it does nothing against the actual bonus damage for blessed weaponry.
You'll note, all in all, the Sisters focus on ways to avoid detection (holy symbols and wizards are more common than usual in places like Altdorf, and the Sisters' plans require them to do a lot of business in the Imperial capital and do it while trying not to seem out of place) and ways to control or manipulate targets. The Lahmian abilities are for blending in and making people have plausible 'accidents', not gutting a dozen men in the street like a Dragon. You'll also note they get a few repeat abilities: By the time I get to the Carsteins most of the other Lines will have had a few of their powers, saving me time writing them up.
Next Time: Necharchs and their crazy magic powers.
After too long a break to lead German peasants to their deaths against the horrors of an undead roman empire, it is time for more Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
This time we'll be covering the Necharchs, who get the vast majority of their magical advantages out of their blood gifts and have a fair number of unique ones. Also remember Necharchs do not get the gift of Pass for Human; if you're a Necharch, you're always going to look like a horrifying undead corpse-man and you're almost certainly (more) insane to boot.
First comes the sort of 'signature' power of the Necharch line. By feeding on ambient dark magic, they can greatly reduce their bloodlust and become Blood Sated. Blood Sated simply doubles the interval a vampire can go without feeding. So a Necharch Thrall can make it up to 2xTB days, a Count 2xTB Weeks, and a Lord 2xTB Months; this suits their very hermetic lifestyle since they rarely have to seek out prey. Also, normally, a vamp that refuses to feed for longer than their interval has to make a WP test (which gets harder and harder) each interval to avoid going frenzied and going to kill and eat whatever they can find. One with Blood Sated only rolls a WP test every second interval. Necharchs can potentially go years between feeding.
Fitting to Necromancers, their next power is Dark Majesty. Normally, a vampire can control undead minions equal to their Willpower score. A vampire with this ability can control an additional 30, letting them raise and directly order about larger armies without needing subordinates.
Deathsight is another of the signature powers of the line, and one of the reasons they're often mad. A vampire with this ability can always see spirits, souls leaving the bodies of the dead, ghosts, and traces of death and violence. They cannot turn this power off. Ever.
They also share Defy the Dawn with the Lahmians, though I kind of like it better on the Necharchs, given it doesn't grant total immunity unless you pick it twice and this seems like it would be necessary for when the Necharch eventually decides to challenge the sun to a wizard's duel or something crazy like that.
They can also get Mastery Over Flesh, unique to them, a power that gives them a +4 to casting rolls whenever casting spells that create undead minions.
I have no idea how Nehekaran Scrolls is a Blood Gift. Somehow your blood happens to grant you access to a bunch of ancient Egyptian manuscripts that grant you an additional spell from the Lore of Death or Necromancy (either vampiric or 'normal' necromancy), letting you learn spells outside your chosen Lore.
Noble Blood means the Necharch's line dates back to old Nehekara, granting them mastery of the undead and letting them control them directly at up to 200 meters, much further than normal.
Silvered Blood simply makes the vampire immune to Silver if they had a weakness to it.
Summon Ancients makes all of the Necharch's spells call on more undead. An additional d10 if they use the basic mook-raising spells, and an additional wight (which are pretty goddamn dangerous) if they use the Spell of Awakening to try to raise Wights.
And finally, the big one, Wellspring of Dhar. A Necharch can, over time, become such a powerful source of dark magic that they start to generate it themselves. ALL casters within 24 yards of the Necharch cast Dark Magic spells at a bonus equal to the Necharch's Magic stat. Anyone using non-Dark Magic still counts as using the Dark Magic talent, adding an extra die to their casting roll and dropping the lowest die they roll, but counting all of them for purposes of miscasts. This ability will explicitly stack if multiple Necharchs have it. It can be turned on and off at will. A coven of these guys are capable of actual world-threatening magic.
Necharchs' Gifts feel like they reinforce their role as a weird boss-fight waiting in a distant tower. Of all the vampires, they are easily the best at necromancy and it is impossible to imagine fighting one that doesn't have hordes of minions. At the same time, they don't get anything to really make them tougher or turn them into murder-machines like the Dragons, and they have no way to influence others, hide themselves, or mind-whammy people like the Lahmians. If your players deal with a Necharch, they probably know what they're up against.
It is appropriate that I rise from a long absence and resume Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters with the Strigoi.
The Strigoi kind of get the short end of the stick on Blood Gifts. Their schtick is supposed to be monstrous, incredible superhuman strength, brute force to go beyond even a Blood Dragon. Instead they just get access to the Dragon's Iron Sinews ability (which is still great, giving people -30% to Parry your attacks because you're so goddamn strong is cool and useful) and none of the Dragon's other martial powers, which just makes them feel like inferior fighters. I'd have liked for them to get a Gift that, say, just increased Str and Tough by 10 each or something similar to let them be truly over the top in their physical might.
Aside from Iron Sinews, they can also get a Necharch's Blood Sated gift, which helps the furtive and hidden Strigoi ghoul kings to keep out of trouble. Only needing to feed half as often is a blessing when you're a monstrous horror that can't hide. They can also get Unhallowed Soul and Waterwalker from Dragon, allowing a Strigoi to potentially negate weaknesses to Holy Objects and running water.
For their actual unique abilities, they're the only vampires who can turn into bats! Bats rule. Like the wolf form for the Dragons, it takes a half action to change shape and a half action to change back, and you take any equipment and clothing with you. The Vampire Bat you turn into isn't very strong or tough, and isn't great at combat; this ability is mostly only useful for the ability to fly.
Next is Curse of the Revenant. Strigoi are incredibly hard to kill, even for vampires. A Strigoi with this ability counts any Critical Hit they take as 2 points lower, minimum 1. In other words, your Toughness is effectively 20 higher for purposes of avoiding damage that goes into Critical zones. This ability is actually quite useful, though you'd ideally want to avoid running out of Wounds and taking Crits in the first place as even a +1 Critical can do some bad stuff if you roll badly on the table.
There's also Monstrous Mass: Did I mention Strigoi are tough? If you get this ability, you're too huge to easily bring down. Whenever you're taking crits and rolling on the crit table, you roll twice and take the more favorable result. Combine this with Curse of the Revenant and it can be really hard to kill a Strigoi by just chopping it to pieces.
The rapport Strigoi have with the twisted cannibals that become Ghouls shows up in Summon Ghouls. The Strigoi calls out to their kin, and if there are any nearby, they arrive in 2-5 combat rounds, with 3-6 of them showing up (the longer it will take them, the sooner they arrive) to fight for the vampire. The Ghouls will do exactly as they are told, and given they're 2 Attack mooks with poisoned claws, a foe as dangerous as a Strigoi getting 3-6 reasonably dangerous expendable minions is actually pretty useful.
They also get Summon Vermin, which can be used to call swarms of normal vermin to annoy or cause mischief, or used to summon Giant Rats or giant Vampire Bats (the same thing they can turn into) to aid them in combat. Summoning works just like with Ghouls, and again, vampire bats are flying 2 attack minions that have a Damage 4 melee attack. Adventurers already facing a superhuman monster who refuses to die won't like having 3-6 large, angry bats added to the mix.
Finally, Strigoi can get Walking Death. A Strigoi's size, strength, and appearance become so horrifying to mortals that they cause Terror instead of Fear, meaning that if you're using Insanity the Strigoi inflicts 1 IP on a failed WP check when you encounter them. They also cause people who fail WP to flee, instead of just stand stock still, until they break out of the panic with a WP test. This lets a Strigoi split up an attacking party much more effectively.
Next: The Last, And Obviously Best, Line: The Von Carsteins.
And to make up for how long I've been away, and because they're The Best, here's the von Carsteins for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters
The Von Carsteins start their Gifts off strong, with quite possibly the coolest (and one of the most useful) Gifts of all: Call Forth Thunder. Any Von Carstein with this ability can summon a dark, dramatic thunderstorm (and cloud cover enough to protect an entire battlefield during the day) as a full action. This makes flight impossible, gives everyone within 1 mile -10% to BS tests, and again: Will protect any and all vampires under its curtain from the sun. It also lasts for hours equal to your Magic stat. A Von Carstein army with enough vampires can bring the gloom and mud of their homeland everywhere they go AND protect themselves completely from the sun. Also, it just seems right for their family to be able to say 'Welcome, to Castle DRAKENHOF!' and actually have the dramatic thunder crack out right when they need it.
Being generals and nobles, they also get the Dark Majesty ability the Necharchs do, letting them command large armies of the undead. Being arrogant as hell, they can also pick up a Lahmian's Defy the Dawn, potentially learning to pull a Kars and pose fabulously rather than turn to dust in the light of the rising sun. Being classic Draculas, they can also turn to Ethereal Mist like a Lahmian.
The arrogance of Carsteins often leads to an obsession with having their portrait taken, as few in the family cast reflections. Some are so annoyed by being unable to look on their majesty that they cultivate a Persistent Image, gaining the ability to reflect in mirrors and puddles of water once again.
Silver is often a bane to vampires, but Carsteins can eventually work around it like a noble building up an arsenic immunity. Enough effort and exposure can bring about Silvered Blood, removing weaknesses to Silver if the vampire has one.
While the Strigoi are limited to vermin and twisted madmen, the noble Von Carsteins can use Summon Wolves to call out to the children of the night, joining in their wonderful music to call their loyal hunting hounds to their side. The summoned Dire Wolves are actually pretty nasty, probably the strongest of the summonable minions for vampires.
The signature of their line is their Transfixing Gaze. A Carstein focuses their majesty and contempt into their eyes and stares down a target, stunning them and rendering them helpless until the vampire looks away or chooses to release the mortal. The Lahmians claim to be able to do the same, of course, but it lacks the style and dignitas of a true aristocrat!
Similarly, a Von Carstein can develop Walking Death the same as a Strigoi, though it tends to take the form of a terrifying, all-consuming dread at seeing the mask of a Midnight Aristocrat taken away and the horrifying predator beneath, rather than being a function of their massive size or claws.
And last, and definitely least, much like a Dragon a Carstein can turn into a wolf. There are about as few reasons to do it as there are for a Dragon, though it does make you blisteringly fast and able to flee easily.
Seriously, though, Call Thunder is awesome for Castlevania Times, and Von Carsteins are all about the dramatics.
Next: Vampire Careers and weaknesses! And maybe a few words on 'independent' (Read: Mutant, lesser) vampires.
Oh why the heck not, let's get the last Blood Gifts out of the way in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters
Independents are weird. It's never really covered what makes a vampire independent, and when you see their abilities, well...It seems like they're meant to illustrate Varghulfs and other overfed or mutated vampires. Varghulfs are what happens when a vampire feeds too much and too often; they go mad and turn into a terrible mutant beast that lives only to hunt and loses higher thought.
First is Blood Burst: You don't fully process blood, and it forms horrible pouches and stale, sticky blobs in your flesh that spray out and hinder attackers (-20% to-hit for d5 rounds) that hit you. Eww.
Next is Carrier: You feed too widely and without restraint, and now your fangs and blood are permanently tainted with illness. You cause diseases when you feed on people, if they survive.
Then comes Host: You have all kinds of horrible little things living in your corpse-flesh, and when you're wounded a shower of beetles and centipedes comes scurrying out of the injury. This causes a WP-10% test or gain one Insanity for mortals who witness this because holy shit.
Malformed makes an Independent especially awful to look at, with terrible, rotting flesh and twisted mutations. Any Fear or Terror you cause gives people a -20% on their WP to resist.
Then comes Psychic Drain, which is exceptionally weird: You drain stats from people with 8 yards of you. They must succeed WP tests or lose 10% to every stat, every round, minimum of 1%, with the stats returning at 10% per hour away from you. This ability cannot be turned off, as far as I can tell. Oh, 'energy vampires'.
Ravenous is another 'Oh boy, look, it's that useless Frenzy talent but conditional' power, which seems to come up a lot in WHFRP because the developers never figured out a talent that takes control of your PC, costs you 10% to-hit, and only gives +1 to melee damage in return is the very definition of useless. You can use Frenzy if you're close to a bleeding creature. That's all.
Scent Blood is frighteningly useful. A vampire with this ability automatically detects the presence of any living creature with a working circulatory system within 16 yards, so directly that they could as being able to see them. This will automatically defeat any stealth skill and even magical invisibility.
Stench gives anyone who gets close enough -10% to all tests while they stay close to you, unless they take precautions like a scented handkerchief wrapped around the mouth. Behold, the dark majesty of stink.
Swarm Form lets you turn into a swarm of vermin, bats, or birds, unable to be hurt or to hurt others for minutes equal to your Mag characteristic. Which is actually pretty cool.
Wings gives you permanent, working wings that won't let you pass for human anymore unless you hide them and appear to be cloaked hunchback, which will generally make people suspect you're a mutant anyway.
So that's Independents. They're weird.
Also, let's have some more Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
Now, on one hand, vampire careers are incredibly powerful. You get very high physical stats (on top of the boosts for vampirism), new blood gifts, and the more you're in your vampiric careers, the less you have to actually drink blood. A vampire who has not actually taken any Vampiric careers has to drink enough blood to do damage to someone (d10 Strength per round of drinking blood means you're hurting someone fairly badly, especially as they die if they run out of Str) once every couple hours (Hours equal to their Toughness Bonus). Getting into Vampire Thrall, however, raises that interval to days rather than hours and makes unlife far more bearable. After Thrall, a Vampire can go into Count (obviously the advanced vampire career is becoming a Count. Who doesn't want to be a Count(ess)?) to increase the interval to Toughness Bonus in weeks. And if a vampire becomes a Lord, they increase it to Toughness Bonus in *months*. A Vampire Lord feeds when they wish to, not when they must.
The trade-off is that the Vampire Careers are very, very long. A Thrall changes what they learn based on their bloodline, though all vampires get a solid understanding of hunting, cruelty, and murder as a baseline. A Dragon Thrall, for instance, will never learn Speak Arcane Language (Magic) or Channeling, meaning that unless a Blood Dragon has mortal careers that taught them magic, Dragons actually never learn to use necromancy and have to rely solely on their swords (which they will learn more about than most Thralls). A Von Carstein Thrall has to spend a lot of time learning to fence, be fancy, make dramatic speeches, and cast spells. A Lahmian Thrall takes something like 5600 EXP to get through the sheer breadth and depth of education they get, learning everything from a full university education to poisoning and statecraft and spying. Lahmians either need to already be highly talented self-made women to get through Thrall in any reasonable amount of time, or they'll come out of the career an expert in an enormous variety of skills (Seriously, they learn everything from philosophy to business to the arts in their career). Necharchs naturally learn more about magic and treachery than other bloodlines, and Strigoi have the shortest Thrall career of the major bloodlines; in addition to the basic skills and stats, all they have to learn are stealth, hitting people really hard, and how to deal with the wilderness.
Now, once a vampire finishes Thrall (because, especially if you're a PC vampire, you're going to have to go into Thrall just so you aren't draining entire villages every week) they have a choice. They can, obviously, try to go straight into Count. This will be much more difficult if you're using the RAW Trappings system, since a Count requires a degree of wealth, trusted followers and retainers, a proper villain's lair, and most importantly, an Evil Laugh and Rampant Megalomania before you can have the proper trappings to enter it. Counts are not differentiated between the bloodlines, but a few of the optional talents will let you adjust what sort of vampire they are. At multiple junctures they can take either fightin' or wizardin' talents (though as these are Either-Or choices, a Count who stays in long enough will learn both). They also get sky high physical stats, on par with a 3rd Tier human career, though their actual WS and BS growth is not great (+20 and +10 respectively, on par with 2nd tier fighting careers). They do, however, get +2 Attacks. Combined with the innate +1 Attacks for being a vampire, Count is the level where vampiric murder ability really takes off, as they surpass the normal human limit of 3 attacks per round. A Vampire Count is meant to be a villain who can give an entire party a run for their money in a straight fight. They also get +2 Mag, which will take them to 3 Mag, on par with a Master Wizard.
Then you get the Lords. Vampire Lords are mostly suitable as the main villain of an entire campaign. They can buy up to +30 or +35 in every stat except BS (which is only +20), they get up to 5 attacks and 4 Magic, and they gain the ability to buy a Color Magic lore to go with their Dark Lore from Count. They learn how to cast spells in armor and negate armor penalties. They lose all remaining fear of their enemies. They master a ton of skills and knowledges. A Vampire Lord is either a truly exceptional vampire or one who is centuries old, and every single one of them can make a claim to being one of the movers and shakers of the Old World. Their Trappings are great: "Wealth Beyond Avarice, Ambition Beyond Possibility, Pride Beyond Hubris, and the Fate of Kings and Empires." A PC vampire lord would reach a point where the system begins to struggle to deal with their power. As a villain, the only way to beat a Lord is either to have an entire party of 3rd tier advanced characters corner the thing or to have a *really* good plan. Alternatively, tackle them off the battlements onto a bunch of spikes. That can always work.
Next: For A Class Of Monster Unintended To Be PCs, These Sure Are A Lot Of Rules You'd Only Need If You Had Vampire PCs
It's time for a ton of rules that would never see any real use unless you're a vampire PC in Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Master
Well, here it comes, the inevitable rules on how vampires feed, though I already told you the basics. Vamps generally feed on unwilling victims by making a Grapple check (WS to get into contact, Str vs. Str to control, which is kind of in the vampire's favor) and then biting the victim, doing d10+SB damage and draining d10 Str per round the vampire stays attached. The victims dies at 0 Str. Victims who survive heal 1% of their lost Str per hour. Vamps can also feed on willing victims, if they either have servants or they've convinced someone with their dramatic charms and fabulous posing. If this happens, no wounds are inflicted and the vamp roll 2d10 and picks which die to inflict, limiting the strength loss if they prefer to do less harm to their victim. If the dice come up doubles, the vamp can't restrain themselves and takes the whole total rolled from the victim instead. Vamps heal by 1 Wound per round/roll of drinking if they're heavily injured, d10 if they're not; if a vamp is wounded, don't let them bite someone.
Vamps that don't feed at their intervals have to make a WP test or go berserk with desire for blood. If they go temporarily mad, they have to seek and attack a victim as soon as possible. If they cannot find one, or succeed the check and continue to abstain, they lose d10 Strength until they feed. If a vamp loses all their Str, they go into torpor and recover Str at a rate of 1 point per year asleep. Vamps instantly recover 10 Str per round spent draining blood, too. A vamp who drops below 10% Str gains an Insanity point, as does one who fails the hunger check by 30 or more, and goes berserk, losing their mind until they probably come to covered in blood and having done something Very Unfortunate.
Vamps create new vamps by either convincing someone this is an excellent idea, then draining them near to death and feeding them the vampire's blood, or by skipping the convincing part and forcibly draining them near to death and force-feeding them. In general, the necessary thing is that the victim be nearly or completely exsanguinated and then given a bit of starter-blood by their new patron. The Blood Kiss, as vamps call it (It is one of very few subjects they seem embarrassed about and most vamps won't discuss it in polite company) is extremely painful to the victim, and a WP test is necessary to avoid gaining Insanity from it. A newly raised vamp still remembers who they were, and will be informed by it, but there are some fundamental changes to the person's character that come with losing any sort of normal human horror at violence and blood, not to mention now being driven by a desire to eat people. PCs who are given the Kiss are supposed to become NPCs, naturally, but again: Many of these rules are kind of irrelevant unless you're playing as a vampire.
And now the fun part: Weaknesses. Every vampire has six weaknesses, one of which will be the thirst for blood. We generally houseruled in that another was The Sun rather than leaving it to the vagueries of chance whether that would cause an individual vamp to catch fire, but that isn't the case RAW. The weaknesses are:
Barriers: You can't enter inhabited, lived in places without being invited. Combining this with a weakness to the sun can be very inconvenient. The book notes this is a typical weakness for Necharchs and one reason they tend to seek out ancient ruins and build towers to live in.
Counting: One, two, three rag-tag adventurers who think they can stop me, ah-ah-ah! Vampires with this weakness can be (as was traditional) stopped in their tracks by spilling a bag of coins or grains of rice, forcing the vampire to make a -10% WP test to avoid the compulsion to count it right now. Even if they succeed, as long as the uncounted objects remain in sight, the vampire takes -10% on all tests until they know exactly how many spilled coins there are.
Daemonsroot and Witchbane: Rare herbs and spell components can ward against vampires with this weakness. Vamps with this problem need a WP test to come within 2 yards of anyone or anything anointed with these herbs.
Fire: Being on fire is bad for any vampire, but one with this weakness cannot use their Toughness Bonus to reduce damage from any fiery attack. Bright Wizards love this one!
Garlic: Actually being vulnerable to a common seasoning like garlic will cause these vampires to be the butt of many jokes by their kin, and also cause them terrible nausea that gives them -20% to all tests if within 6 yards of garlic.
Gromril: A vampire vulnerable to the mighty dwarven Star-Metal will be unable to reduce damage from Gromril weapons with their TB. Given Gromril Weapons are extremely rare and expensive, but tend to be wielded by some of the best fighters in the Old World, this one can be killer.
Ithilmar: Some vampires can't take being touched by Elven Totally Not Mithril. If a vamp with this takes at least 1 Wound from an Ithilmar weapon, they have to make an Agi-10 test or catch on fire immediately. This is especially bad if combined with a weakness to fire.
No Reflection: Common among Von Carsteins, a vampire with this weakness cannot be seen in any reflective surface, making spotting them much easier for Hunters.
Religious Symbols: All vampires take increased damage from blessed weaponry, but a vampire with this weakness must make a WP test to approach someone holding or wearing a religious symbol. They must make a WP-20 test to enter holy ground or touch anything sacred, themselves. This applies to all religious symbols: A Khornate Warrior brandishing his sigil and screaming "BLOOD IS FOR THE BLOOD GOD, NOT FOR DRINKING!" will be just as effective as "THE POWER OF MYRMIDIA COMPELS YOU!"
Sawdust: Some vampires cannot stand to be reminded of the trappings of death and embalming. Vampires with this weakness must make a Terror test, not a Fear test (meaning it risks fleeing and insanity) when making contact with sawdust or embalming fluid, as it reminds them of their undead nature.
Silver: A vampire vulnerable to Silver takes an extra 3 Wounds any time they take damage from a silver or silver-plated weapon.
Stakes: If a vampire with this takes 1 Wound or more from a hit from a wooden stake, they cannot move. They can still act, but cannot actually move from the spot they're standing at the moment. This is one reason many Hunters love crossbows; the first shot can fix the vamp in place and the next few can kill it from a safe distance.
Sunlight: If caught in the sun without thick clothing, a parasol, lots of curtains on their coach, etc, a vampire takes 1 Wound per minute of exposure, halves all their stats while in sun, and must make a Toughness save at -10 or catch on fire. Do not go out without your full-body-covering gothic outfit in daylight. Dressing like a Bloodborne character is a survival strategy for most vampires who have to do anything in daylight, and this helps explain the preponderance of high collars and long coats in Sylvanian fashion.
Tears: Some unfortunate vampires are vulnerable to the tears of the pure and innocent. They are incapable of feeding on kindly and good people, and a room full of Shallyan sisters cutting onions is a nightmare to these unfortunate monsters. Perfect for an anti-hero who must, by their allergy alone, feed on the corrupt and criminal.
Warpstone: Moon Wizard Plutonium Cocaine is unsafe for everyone, but it's even moreso for these vampires. Vamps with this weakness cannot get within 6 yards of a hunk of Warpstone without a Fear test, and if they stay within that distance for more than an hour, must randomly reroll one weakness and one blood gift.
Running Water: Vamps with this drawback melt in running water, at a rate of d10 damage per turn. They need bridges, boats, or wings. Badly.
Next: How do vampires go crazy? Overdramatically, of course.
Alright, I'm finally back with my books and have some time to write, so it's time for more of Warhammer Fantasy Night's Dark Masters
Insanity is a big deal for vampires, though it isn't likely to be important unless playing as one as a PC. Vampires live forever, their souls never go to any of the realms that souls rest in, and they can be returned to life with magical rituals; when you cannot actually 'die' at any point madness becomes one of your greatest threats in life. Vamps have a few additional ways to go mad. A vampire should not drink too much; while in the wider fluff overdrinking regularly will cause a vampire to degenerate into a massive, mutated beast called a Varghulf, here taking more than 12 drinks in a single day (as defined by draining d10 Strength from someone) will necessitate a WP test. If failed, the vamp gains 1 Insanity Point. If succeeded, any further drinking that day will cause an additional check at -10% cumulative. On the other hand, a vampire who is trying to resist and go without feeding for too long gains an Insanity point if they frenzy from failing the 'resist drinking blood' WP by 30% or more. Receiving the Blood Kiss can have a newly made vampire start with an extra Insanity Point if they fail a WP test; the experience is incredibly painful if you're conscious for it. Unlike humans, vampires don't suffer Insanity for suffering critical hits. They DO suffer Insanity for suffering Critical Hits from something they're actually vulnerable to, like silver or a holy weapon. Vamps also go crazy just from being alive too long. Every century causes a WP test and failure brings one Insanity Point. Success means next century's test will be at a cumulative -10, until one is failed. Time spent dead or in torpor does not build up insanity. A vampire no longer feels the normal human revulsion at scenes of violence and bloodletting, and they cannot gain Insanity from events revolving around killing and brutality. They also won't gain Insanity if they fail a Terror test, unlike a human. This is both critical to why vampires aren't all batshit crazy, and a pretty important point for roleplaying one: You might be hacking up Chaos Warriors instead of peasants, but a vamp has a hard time understanding directly why other humans might find it disquieting that they just cut someone in two. Vampires also take longer to go crazy than humans; they only test for gaining actual, measurable disorders per 10 Insanity points instead of 6 like a mortal.
Insanity is bad enough in adventurers. Remember that vampires are, by their very nature, already ridiculously overdramatic and prone to megalomaniac ambition. A normal vampire will already believe themselves one of the greatest creatures in the Old World. Now imagine what a crazy one gets up to. A vampire who has gone insane is superhumanly strong, may be wealthy enough to have minions who will tolerate their eccentricities, and likely has a passing knowledge of the black arts; the damage they can do is considerable. When a human suffers the insanity of Lost Heart, for instance, they think someone is their earnest beloved, sending them secret messages of affection and begging in coded actions and strange signs for their paramour. Now imagine that happens to a vampire, and in their usual penchant for drama and aiming high, they think their true soulmate is, say, the High Priestess of Shallya. These are the sorts of things that start setting-spanning wars or can serve as the bedrock of a campaign's main villain.
Vampires also have a couple insanities of their own, beyond being able to suffer the normal human ones like 'Totally Not PTSD' or 'Probably Schizophrenia'. Combined with the inability to empathize on a gut level with pain and blood, some vampires fall into an insane cenobite-like sadomasochism with Exquisite Agonies. They have to hurt people, as surely as they have to take blood, and if they cannot find anyone else to harm, they will engage in self-harm in order to combat the sort of numbness eternity brings on them. They try to cause extremes of pain in order to remember what normal pain and feeling were like. Godly Conviction is what happens when a vampire's normal sense of superiority becomes even more problematic than usual: They begin needing a WP-30 test to ever even contemplate defeat or consider escaping from a challenge. This is the one that leads you to challenge the sun to a duel. The Heart of Melancholy is a truly terrible affliction of nihilistic depression that afflicts a vampire who spends too much time focusing on eternity. They desert their plans, their followers, and their castles, and cannot even rouse themselves to go and drink without a WP test, because what is the point of it all against the grand scale of geological time? This affliction is so terrible that many will prod themselves into another form of madness specifically to escape it, because this death of the spirit is the true death for a vampire. Pursued Perfection is a sort of obsessive-compulsive state common among Blood Dragons: The vampire invents greater and greater challenges and immense projects that they will never acknowledge as done. A vampire with this affliction who wishes to slay a greater demon, say, will manage to do so and then immediately dismiss it (It was just a Slaaneshi! Those aren't even warriors!) and return to their pursuit. Finally, some are Steeped in Death. Addicted to killing and the flow of blood, they must seek out battle on a weekly basis, and whenever they find a fight, they will join in. They don't care what they fight for, or who they fight against, only that blood continues to flow and lives continue to end. Also rather common among Dragons.
Next: The Black Arts of Necromancy.
It's time for more of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters as we look into the black arts of necromancy as practiced by the vamps.
The Lore of Nagash is straight up better than 'normal' main rulebook mortal Necromancy. It's missing the curious and very powerful Destroy Undead capstone spell mortal necromancers learn, but otherwise its control of the undead is better, its attack spells are mostly better, and it can buff undead (including vampires) very well. This is because mortal necromancers are practicing a damaged and less well preserved tradition of the original black art of Nagash. Vampires, on the other hand, often learn High Nehekaran as part of their training in necromancy, because there are still some native speakers scampering around making trouble for the Old World. No need for a Rosetta Stone when Lahmians all study under an actual Nehekaran queen.
Blight is a powerful spell that will render an area unfit to live in, killing the land and creating a space of dark magic of about one square mile. The blighted, blackened landscape cannot crow crops or sustain wildlife unless a Life Mage comes in and tries to counter the problem. In addition to being useful for inconveniencing the living, the blighted area also lets any user of Dark Magic add an extra die to their casting checks, which is insanely good for them. It's very hard to cast (CN 27, so hitting a 27 on anything less than 4d10 is impossible to near impossible) but only takes 2 full combat rounds to cast.
Control Undead is a difficulty (CN 17) spell that lets the caster take control of a wraith or ghost. Any undead with Ethereal and Undead traits can be completely dominated with this spell. The creature is entitled to a WP test to avoid being captured. It lasts a full 24 hours and since it only takes a half action to cast, you can use the other half action to channel to boost your chances.
Fountains of Blood is a simple (CN6) spell that causes living within its area of affect (12 yards around the caster) to bleed like crazy when injured. They suffer 1 additional wound any time they take a hit that wounds them, and vampiric feeding drains 2d10 Strength per round instead of d10, making killing someone by strength drain much easier.
Gaze of Nagash is a lackluster attack spell that is surprisingly difficult for how not-useful it is (CN12). It allows the caster to launch a magical attack for Rounds equal to their Magic characteristic, but each attack costs a half action to fire and is only Damage 3, the same as the basic, petty Magic Dart that everyone learns.
Hellish Vigor (CN 15) is a real winner for vampires: It allows the caster to imbue up to 2xMag undead creatures with additional power for 1 minute per point of Mag. This power manifests in letting those undead reroll 1 failed Weapon Skill test per round as long as the spell is in effect. Remember that vampires don't have Fate Points, and this becomes their only way to reroll failed parries or attacks. Similarly, it can make a flock of chaff skeletons or zombies quite a bit more dangerous.
Re-Animate is the bread and butter of a necromancer (CN8, easily cast by any experienced mage). It allows the user to raise up to their Mag characteristic in skeletons or zombies from surrounding corpses, at the cost of 1 half action per body they want up and moving. The undead remain active permanently, until put back down by force or released by their master (or their master's death).
Ride Through the Night is an odd spell (CN 11) that enhances up to 6 mounts with dark magic. Mounts enhanced this way can Run even if they're Shambling (as the undead Nightmares Dragons tend to ride are) and become Ethereal, as well as gaining +1 Movement until sunrise. Any coaches or riders also gain Ethereal while mounted, though the rider can get off to remove it at any time. Vampires use this to chase down prey, when they decide to let someone get a head start and see if they can get out of Sylvania before sundown (A favorite game for most Carstein parties).
Spell of Awakening is one of the most powerful spells in the Lore of Nagash (CN 24). It works exactly like Reanimate, but the creatures you raise will be Wights, which are much, much more dangerous undead. This spell requires great individuals; the corpses you use must be those of characters who had an Advanced Career at some point in their lives.
Finally, Withering Wave is another attack spell, and much stronger than Gaze of Nagash (CN 21). It hits up to your Mag characteristic in living foes (it will not work on undead) at up to 18 yards, and they all instantly lose d10 Wounds without any way to reduce the damage. Armor or TB do nothing against the damage.
We also get a sidebar on controlling the undead: Vampires with less than 3 Magic cannot control their undead freely, being somewhat inept wizards and initiates in the black art. They need to spend actions to issue commands to their minions and have to have line of sight at a range of 48 yards. Vampires (or mortal necromancers) with 3 or more Magic can see through their undeads' eyes, issue commands freely, and do so through obstructions. They still need to remain within about 48 yards of their minions to maintain direct control.
We also get a few examples of large Ritual spells:
Father W'Soran's Architect is used by Necharchs who can't find a gloomy tower to perch in to simply build one. It requires a blueprint drawn in the blood of a mason, the skull of a troll, and a chunk of stone from Nehekara. It takes 4 hours to cast, it's CN 20, and if you screw up, one of your hands turns to stone permanently and becomes useless. If you succeed, it instantly builds you a properly spooky 50 foot tall wizarding tower.
Legion of the Dead allows the caster to raise a swarm of undead quickly, undead that are easier to control. It requires the sword arms of ten soldiers, a barrel of rum, warpstone, and a drum made of human skin and bone. If the caster makes the CN22 roll, it raises 30 skeletons and zombies to fight for them, minions who can get as far from their master as they like without losing control of them and who do not count towards ones' normal maximum of minions. If you fail the casting roll, it still raises a squad of 30 undead...they just immediately attack you.
Rain of Blood is an essential part of vampiric logistics on the march. It requires the hearts of 5 Shallyans, Khornates, or some mixture of the two as long as it adds up to five, a griffon's feather, and a calf born in the last spring in the land you intend to target. If you make a CN17 roll, it causes the sky to darken and a storm to blow up, raining blood down on the area and protecting any marching vampires from the sun. The blood is perfectly palatable to a vampiric army's officers. If you fail, it instead causes a rain of holy water. Bring an umbrella.
Rebirth in Blood is the most important of spells. It requires a cursed or tragic location, the hands of a midwife, the tooth of a dragon, the womb of a cow fed on blood, the last drop of a human's blood, and the remains of a vampire. It's CN 27, but that's only the difficulty for avoiding trouble. If you fail casting the spell, you suffer the curse of the region you're casting in (usually killing the caster). If you succeed with a CN of 32 or better (You're going to need buffs like the Meditation talent, or a Blighted area, to reliably pull that off) the vampire is immediately returned to life. This ability is relatively unique to vampires of all the various villains of the Old World, because their souls never go to rest. As long as someone still remembers a vampire's legend, there is always the chance that humans will bring them back to pay them tribute, their hands giving them flesh once again.
Finally, a vampire can learn to Summon the Ship of the Damned. This spell requires the birth caul of a sailor, a ship that sank with most of her crew, the hands of a drowned priest of Manaan (God of the sea), a chunk of warpstone, and a manifest written in blood. It's CN 18, and if failed, the caster gets to experience what the drowning souls of the crew did when they died, gaining 2 Insanity from the nightmarish experience. If they succeed, they immediately get the ship raised and underway as a spooky ghost pirate ship, with accompanying spooky ghost (or skeleton) pirate crew, with no need for wind for her sails or oars to allow the ship to move at full speed along the sea. Summon Ghost Pirate Ship's uses should be obvious.
Next: Magic Items and the sundry undead.
AoOs also wouldn't actually force a foe to stop their movement/action (they'd just take the damage if you hit them) and most stuff had enough HP to just ignore one hit from the fighter if it wanted. All the grid maps in the world weren't going to fix that part.
Let's get on with more Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters then!
Magic Items are interesting to cover because there are so few guidelines about how to put the damn things in Fantasy. It's not that hard to translate a Biting Blade or Sword of Might from tabletop (Give a melee weapon AP and make it Best Quality or give it SB+1 Damage and Best) but for all the talk of how players aren't meant to get hold of many of the things and they're meant to be pretty impressive, there are precious few examples of what works for a magic item in the core book. Here, we have a couple vampiric or death themed items and their descriptions, as well as what Knowledge skill can identify the thing or tell the players its story. The book also notes that vampires tend to have more access to magical gear than humans, both as a function of having centuries to pick it up and by virtue of being magic, themselves.
Algrund's Orrery is a complicated and lovely little clockwork model of the planets, moons, and their orbits. It gives a +20 to all Knowledge (Astronomy) checks (useful if aboard a ship, I suppose) and if you can figure out its true powers, it will let you create a 10 mile area of artificial night for an hour every day. It simply cancels out all direct sunlight and replaces it with moonlight or starlight, as appropriate depending on the erratic orbit of the second moon. It was simply produced by a master dwarven craftsman and bought legitimately by the Celestial Wizards' Order in Altdorf to aid in their studies. The interesting note in the description is that the Lahmians have turned one of the wizards and are trying to use her to get at the Orrery, since they'd like to steal it to study it themselves. It's easy for one of them to fit in with wizards who tend to sleep all day and stay up to study the stars, but with all the wizards awake at night, it's proving hard to steal the thing.
The Asp Bow is a powerful magic weapon from ancient Nehekara that turns arrows into living snakes in mid flight. Somehow the angry, pissed off snake does a Damage 4 (as opposed to Damage 3 for normal bows) hit that causes a Toughness test or the target takes an extra 2 Wounds, making it effectively Damage 6. On a 96-00 on the BS test, though, you release too late and it turns into a snake and bites you. Vampires and undead are immune to the poison. The Asp Bow was stolen from a tomb in Khemri, the land that was once Nehekara, but the adventurers who stole it died mysteriously soon after making it back to Imperial territory. Mummy's curse or Lahmians, it could go either way, but the bow found its way to Nefereta's court and is currently the favored weapon of her best assassin.
The Blood Chalice is an enchanted, extremely heavy metal chalice that seems to be perpetually filled with blood. If a character (it does not specify a vampire, so presumably this works on the living) drinks from it for a full round, they heal d10 Wounds. Similarly, if a blade is coated in it as a full action, it gains +2 damage (no duration given, I'd assume for one fight?) It was made by Wallach Harkon, the jackass 'master' of the Blood Dragons' most visible and organized group, to remind him of the blood of enemies he particularly admired or enjoyed killing. When his lover was killed, he added her vampire blood to the mix (shortly before starting to go crazy about how no Blood Dragon should ever marry or let 'love' distract them from their quest, I wonder if these events are linked). It went missing when his imaginatively named Blood Keep was burned down for the first time.
The great Carstein Ring needs no introduction. When used by a vampire of the Carstein line, it gives +3 Armor to all locations, makes them regenerate d10 Wounds a round, and if they are killed while wearing it, they return to life at sundown the next day. The One Ring of vampires that Vlad subverted to escape Nagash's control, this was also key to his attempt to take over the Empire. Its theft was probably aided by his son Manfred in an ill-considered backstab to prevent his father from becoming undisputed ruler of the Empire and give him the opportunity to do the same, something that's been going fantastically for him what with being contained in Sylvania right now and having heroically run away from every decisive battle he planned.
The Dagger of Jet is a normal dagger, but if it deals 1 Wound it immediately lowers the target's Strength and Toughness by 10. Neither can be reduced to 0 this way; 1% is the floor. A victim recovers 1% to both stats per hour of rest. This dagger was used to cut the throats of condemned sacrifices for the vampiric court of Lahmia, back in its glory days. After being used in enough sacrifices by people imbued with dark magic, some of it rubbed off on the knife and now it lusts for blood, itself. This is important because this is one of the critical sources for magical relics in WHFRP, and a reason they're so rare: Actually forging a relic on purpose is very difficult. Many are made simply by being exposed to enough magic and enough action.
Lady Zamada's Portrait is a portrait of a pale woman of noble bearing, though some swear sometimes she has a dance partner or a lady in waiting. This is because a vampire can step through the frame and join the Lady Zamada in her portrait, becoming a painting of themselves until they choose to step back out. This is primarily used as a party trick among Von Carsteins or a way to avoid an unexpectedly sunny day in Sylvania. Carsteins, especially, have a great love of sponsoring artists to paint their portraits, since a lack of reflection runs in their bloodline. This specific portrait is the only surviving work of a great Tilean master who was burned by a an angry mob atop a pyre made of the Carstein family portraits he'd painted. Nothing is said about who comprised such a mob, but it can't have been Sylvanians. Such philistine attitudes suggest Stirlanders.
Necrotic Powder will age and warp anything it's applied to. A practitioner of necromancy or a vampire is immune to its effects, but otherwise it will rust steel, warp wood, and decay flesh, doing 2d10 Wounds immediately on application to a character. This awful stuff was designed by Necharchs to distill dark magic into a warpstone powder base, to be used as a weapon and a tool for eating through locks and bars should they find themselves impeded.
Vampire's Bane is a mighty silver greatsword, enchanted to be as strong as steel. Any user of the Vampire's Bane will find their Strength Bonus is doubled against vampires, letting a human go toe to toe with most of them. It was originally a ceremonial weapon blessed for use by Captains of the Black Guard of Morr, but when it was used to behead a powerful Strigoi Ghoul King it gained power of its own. It was eventually used by a fanatic Black Guard to kill the great historian (and generally tolerated) Count Sangster von Carstein, the author of some of the best regarded histories of the Empire from Magnus to the Present. Once Sangster's admirers returned him to life, the Captain was eventually sent back to the Temple of Morr as a zombie with a long, eloquent, and very insulting note attached to his head by a nail. The sword has been missing since.
The Wailing Blade was Vlad von Carstein's favorite sword. When swung, it sounds like the shrieks of the damned, causing everyone within 6 yards to reroll successful Terror or Fear tests against its wielder. It also imparts some of Vlad's infamous temper; if the sword is drawn in anger, it takes a WP-20 test to sheath it without drawing blood. The Wailing Blade was actually made by the Dark Elves of Naggaroth, a chilly northern land on a continent far across the western sea. Nagash took it from one of the bodyguards of the elves he extracted dark magic from, and when he appointed Vlad his general in ancient times, he presented this sword to him as a gift to go with the ring. Vlad has kept it ever since, but when he was killed at Altdorf, the sword went missing from his body. Who knows where it's gotten to?
Next: The Hordes of the Dead.
Oh, what the heck, let's finish the mechanics parts finally in Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters
Vampires are powerful, obviously, but they are also individual. An individual can only do so much; who doesn't need servants? While many will have mortal admirers, students, or hangers on, the easiest and most loyal servants are found among the dead.
Ghouls are not actually undead at all. Ghouls are what happens when a human eats human flesh too often, some kind of corpse-born disease that is thought to be a direct curse from Morr. Ghouls become warped and bent, feral creatures with deadly claws and sharp teeth. They prefer sentient flesh to any other sort of food, but they'll scavenge anything as long as it's meat. They're somehow immune to the horrible disease and filth they acquire by carrion feeding, but the living victims they bite and claw aren't. Vampires find these pathetic creatures useful. They can handle daylight, you *can* feed on them in an emergency (but gods, the scandal!), and they eagerly serve their 'betters'. Strigoi are especially fond of Ghouls, seeing something of a kindred spirit in fellow twisted outcasts that feed among dug up graves and charnel houses.
Skeletons and Zombies are terrible fighters, but excellent soldiers. They will do exactly what their master says, they need no food or rest, and they will never break or flee in battle. They have no initiative of their own and require constant command by intelligent undead or necromancers. They are, it cannot be emphasized enough, chaff in the surest sense of the word except for one saving grace: They scare the hell out of the living. A zombie isn't a match for even the weakest starting PC, but they all cause Fear, meaning some of a low level party is going to spend part of the battle unable to do anything but parry and dodge until they gather their nerve. Vampires love using these creatures as soldiers, since they're easy to raise and don't require any investment or care.
Spectres and Wraiths are echos of a dead soul, the parts that could not move on to Morr's realm. Guilt, hatred, fear, despair, and other negative emotions pool into a tormented, mad, ethereal thing that no longer desires to do anything but destroy that which has a whole being and a complete soul. Wraiths are the worst, being the spirits of necromancers who screwed up experiments in true immortality. A small, hollow echo of a terrified and damned soul, the rest of it obliterated, with all the hollow spaces filled in by the howling Dark Magic they worked with, Wraiths envy the living even more than Spectres. Vampires rarely create such creatures, but powerful rituals can bind ones that already exist to service. These ghostly things require magic weapons or spells to destroy, and won't be a simple problem for the average party.
A Wight is special. A Wight maintains some of its intelligence, and must be made from the body of a hero or other talented person (remember the spell that creates them requires the corpse have had an Advanced Career in life). Being intelligent, Wights are still capable of learning and growing (ancient Wights should be given one of the monster 'careers' to advance their stats and skills further) and are capable of commanding other groups of mindless undead. Indeed, in cases where Wights rise up without a master due to some ancient curse or leak of dark magic, they are sometimes found quietly putting together skeletal dukedoms to maintain units of troops, silently keeping up their army in case orders arrive some day. Wights are generally happy to let a vampire deal with the annoying aspects of politics, preferring to stick to their troops and their duties.
Finally, Necharchs and other greater necromancers will sometimes decide they want to stitch a whole bundle of monstrous flesh together and reanimate it in such a way as nature never would. Alternatively, they might want to raise the bones of a mighty creature like a giant or a dragon. A character who wishes to do this needs a Magic of 2 or better and Academic Lore (Necromancy). They also need the body of a great monster (or monsters) and an ounce of warpstone for each Wound the thing possessed in life. Creature write-ups in Warhams have a 'slaughter margin', a determination of how likely an average starting fighter would be to kill it in open combat. The difficulty of raising a creature (or amalgamation of creatures) is determined by taking its slaughter margin and adding that to the difficulty of Spell of Awakening (the CN24 spell for raising Wights). Keeping the creature intelligent raises its Slaughter Margin one step. Stuff that's Average (even fight for Johan Schmidt, Empire Soldier) or below doesn't modify the difficulty. Challenging stuff like a Chaos Warrior adds 3. Hard things like a Minotaur or other big beasty add 6. Very Hard creatures are the limits of what this can handle without devising an entire ritual specifically for the one creature you are trying to raise, and include creatures like Griffons or Hydras, and add 9. Combining traits and characteristics from multiple creatures requires you to take the margin of the nastiest thing and double it to get your casting difficulty; making a Griffon-Spider is actually really hard!
Once you've done all this, this counts as a Ritual and thus can use the Meditation talent to boost its casting. The Blood Gift Mastery over Flesh will also improve the ability to make Greater Necromantic horrors. Once you cast the spell, if you fail, you lose the corpse and the warpstone and have to start over. If you succeed, but invoke Tzeentch's Curse by rolling doubles or worse on your casting dice, a mortal practitioner automatically suffers a necromantic side effect (these are always negative and can include permanent penalties to stats!) from the core book. Vampires are normally immune to such things, but even they suffer a side effect from such powerful rituals if they roll doubles on the dice that determine which curse effect they get hit with. The creature you raise will have the stats of the original creature, minus d10 Weapon Skill and d10 Agility to represent damage during reanimation. If you combined two creatures, they get the highest stat from each of the two donor creatures in every stat (so say you raised an Ogre-Dryad, it would have the Dryad's higher Agility and the Ogre's higher Strength and Toughness). If the thing wasn't Frightening before, it is now.
And that's finally all the mechanics! Next time: A Vampire Campaign. Why to play as them, why not to play as them, why to play against them, and a final wrap-up on what I think of Warhams Vamps.
It's time to finish up Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters. I've got a fair bit to cover in this one so it's going to be a long post.
The first thing they cover under the Vampire Campaign is why you might not want to let players vamp it up. First, and most important, vampires are crazy powerful. This is absolutely true; by Lord, the vamp I played as, Wilhelm Metzger, stood at 70+ in most of his stats, with 5 Attacks a round, 24 Wounds, 3 Magic, and an 89% Agility, plus Blood Gifts like Blademaster and Quickblood. He was able to take on, single-handed, pretty much anything short of an actual dragon and have a very good shot. And that was a solo campaign. Imagine an entire party of those killing machines. Having vamps around means needing to prepare for stuff to get crazy on the game mechanics side and they seriously strain the system at higher levels, since they're designed more as bosses for a normal player party to fight and trick than as PCs.
The second bit of advice as to why not to use vamps feels off mark, though. The book notes that they're much better villains and it's a waste of dramatic potential to use them as a protagonist. Setting aside that playing as a hammy, arrogant sort of villain can be really fun, it then points to Genevieve as the example to follow if you want a vampire as a PC. I think I made it clear that no-one should ever seek to emulate Genevieve Douidonne in their campaigns for a wide variety of reasons. Secondly, having played two different 'anti-hero' vampires, it's not that hard to justify it. With Wilhelm, he started off trying to be 'heroic' to impress a Shallyan priestess he liked and just found that his ego really, really liked seeing villagers thanking him profusely for cutting down a Beastman warherd or Norse raiding party. He got his practice, he got his blood, he got to revenge himself on the Norse he hated, and people told him he was great for doing it. What vampire could refuse? For Mina von Carstein, a young Carstein scholar of history and engineering who wants to 'make' history go rightly, well, a von Carstein deciding that they hold all the answers to fixing the world if only it will listen to them is the family's main trait. Starting off with good intentions (maybe even actually having good intentions) and then slowly going down the road of hammy megalomania technocracy is always an option. Vampires are defined by ambition and arrogance, and they hate the other traditional villains of the setting. If you want to play as a dubious superhero with fangs who fights tentacle monsters from beyond reality, that's pretty much in-setting.
The book is absolutely right to warn against mixing vamps and humans in the same party, but it could be done if you started the vamp at thrall and the humans in mid 2nd/early 3rd career. I would absolutely suggest that you leave vampire PCs to games that are either one on one (vamps being one of the character types powerful enough to handle not necessarily having a party, just allies they either raise up from the ground or call on occasionally) or small parties. I cannot see the system handling more than 3 or 4 of them in a group well. The little spiel on it being harder to motivate vampire PCs than mortal adventurers also feels off mark, though; they're an ambitious people. Getting a couple of them together to work towards some great goal or obsession shouldn't be hard. They caution against giving vampires morals or ideals, but I think that goes against the history and setting that's been set down. Vampires are clearly capable of caring about their causes, they're just supremely arrogant, their stuff usually works back around to being self-serving, and they tend to be very willing to use violence. They work from a different baseline than humans that will always put them in the much more monstrous category (the book is very right to point out that humans don't need any excuses or reasons to fight vampires beyond 'they eat people' to be morally justified) but given the degree to which they try to convince themselves what they're doing is totally justified (see the Lahmians claiming to be a major defender of civilization, or Vlad trying to rule the world specifically because he thought he'd be good at it) that suggests they still have their own pet causes and beliefs.
The book is right on one end, though: Vampires make really good villains. There's some wasted ink about various major archetypes of villainous vamps, but what matters most is that vamps are personal and vamps care about what happens to them. Chaos is a lame villain most of the time because by design it's got what I like to call the 'Nu-UH!' factor. You can't 'kill' a demon, most of Chaos's servants are too corroded and insane to care about their own deaths, most of its major lords are puppets of great and distant powers to the point that they lose personality, etc etc. You can write in ways that you do real damage to Chaos, but let's be fair: They aren't there in the normal setting because Chaos was always GW's writer's pet in Fantasy. But the undead are permitted to have personalities, ambitions, triumphs, and failures.
A Vampiric villain has plans to disrupt. They have lairs and resources you can destroy. They're arrogant enough to play with the 'rag tag bunch of muddy adventurers' long enough to give you a chance to get serious. They sometimes have minions that they need and realms to upkeep. And even more importantly, they have varied weaknesses and strengths that practically demand you get to know your big vampiric enemy personally before the final combat. The best vampire hunters plan their work and research their targets, and careful meetings and observation give your GM a chance to really develop your big enemy. Vampire hunters can be crazy in warhammer but this isn't because they're maniacs who are going too far and persecuting the innocent, this is because Warhammer acknowledges vampires are incredibly powerful and dangerous. The Hunter is the underdog. The Hunters are brave men and women who are going to go through a nightmare of undead, minions, and gloomy castles to confront a superhumanly powerful monster that hides behind a charming, romantic myth, and put a stake in its heart. Beating a vampire Lord is a great focus for a campaign, and the stuff of a real hero.
Another key point in the book is that vampires are vulnerable because it's very rare to meet one who just drinks enough blood to survive, killing no-one, and hiding among the population. If they just wanted to persist, such a thing would be easy. Most don't. With so much power, even the most venal vampire will usually at least seek some sort of excess or diversion. Take Vladimir, the archetypal vampire villain. If he had simply remained Count of Sylvania, no-one would have cared. Instead, he marched on Altdorf to try to rule the Empire and end the Time of Three Emperors, and when he found he would have to risk his life in his moment of triumph, he gladly rolled the dice (and they came up battle-pope). Manfred's cowardice is the exception, not the rule; most vamps have something they will take a chance on. Those shortcuts, those moments of grasping ambition, are where the heroes can finally put a stake through them.
After this is a short section of monster stats for a few of the minions not mentioned in other books, like doom-wolves or Nightmare mounts for Blood Dragons, but they're mostly immaterial.
Next Time: A wrapup of the night, and what I think of Warhams Vamps. Then on to the book I've been waiting to do for months: Knights of the Grail.
Anyway, I figure I'll just do the wrapup for Warhammer Fantasy: Night's Dark Masters now while I wait for lunch to cook.
As I've said before, one of the most important distinctions Warhammer vampires have is that the setting, fiction, and mechanics are in harmony in agreeing that they are very, very powerful. That strength is very important to them both thematically and in gameplay; as the book says early on, on the surface a vampire has everything a man could dream of. Long life, perfect health, incredible powers, and they aren't mutated horrors in thrall to dark gods that devour their personality (though Strigoi can make a good case for being mutated horrors). Warhammer vampires might be prone to dramatics, but they aren't as a whole filled with much angst. They generally enjoy who and what they are, and the desire to be one of them is an understandable temptation. The costs of vampirism are much better hidden; there's an existential horror in the way their souls are forever denied any kind of rest, but at the same time that unquiet death is the reason they can claw their way back. They are the man or woman who wants immortality because they want to exist in the physical world, forever, no matter the cost. This is a direct contrast to Chaos's desire to transcend and devalue the physical world as petty and lesser.
An awful lot is usually made of vampires as a metaphor for sex. That's the old Victorian mode, the original Brahm Stoker's metaphor. That's really not what they are in Warhammer, though it can come up sometimes. Much of the time, they're authorities and powers that be. They're the privileged and the mighty. The Carsteins being preferable to the abusive nobles of Stirland for the poor Sylvanians is an indictment of the nobility of the Empire, sure, but it doesn't mean the Carsteins aren't still draining their people dry and leaving them in poverty as they continue to build mightier castles to themselves. A wandering Dragon is how the peasantry see an army: something you can't do anything about. Maybe it kills the beastmen, maybe it starts killing your people and robbing your stores because it can, or because it's bored or upset. Vampires can choose not to abuse people, if they wish, but there's nothing stopping them and most of them will do as they want with their 'lessers'.
That acknowledged, open power is key to their role in the setting. When you oppose a vampire, you're a hero for even trying. Their strength (and the hidden, small cracks in that strength represented by their weaknesses) drives protagonists to be better in order to beat them. Vlad's death is such a memorable story because it took everything the Empire had. It felt legitimate and earned. If you're a fan of the humans, it's a big moment of triumph. If you like the bad guys, it's a moment where the other side had to go to incredible lengths even to match up. It's satisfying when the heroes manage to beat the dark and foreboding figure who seems to have endless wealth and power.
Similarly, all that power leaves them free to be eccentric. If you want to play as a vampire who's a good guy, the only thing stopping you is all the people who are going to try to kill you. And really, what vamp minds bloodshed? In a setting where most of the bad guys are yolked to something bigger than them, vampires get to stand on their own to be whatever sort of monster or person they wish to be. Playing as Wilhelm is one of the better games I've been in. Slowly going from a lackadaisical cavalry scout who got turned solely because his master was lonely and he was conveniently nearby with enough of an excuse to justify making him a Dragon (She'd just watched him out-ride a unit of Dark Elf skirmishers, taking a couple of them out by galloping through obstacles they couldn't follow him through) to a seasoned and still kind of lackadaisical Dragon who could face down a Chaos Lord was amazing fun. Being that powerful in a game that's usually about going from zero to hero can be a great change.
And really, who doesn't love being overdramatic as all hell? Warhammer vampires are all the better for getting to embrace what they are and what they do, and for being allowed to be (and to have) fun. They make great villains and they can be a great change from the norm; sometimes, you want to walk into an entire Norse raiding party, listen to them all laugh that one man is challenging their entire longboat, draw your sword, and get down to an evening's bloody work.
Next Time: Knights of the Grail, probably my favorite book in the setting.