The Musician

Another Vestitas encounter, this one concerning a daemon of Slaanesh with an entire town enthralled to their will.

Summary: A Slaanesh daemon has come to town and begun to play music with an effervescent violin, melodies so entrancing that the town simply cannot stop dancing while the untiring daemon revels in the fun. The daemon is more than happy to let them continue dancing until they die.

Hook: The town itself is basically impossible to miss from within the hex if the party is following main roads at all, and the fact that it is utterly deserted is immediately apparent. A Challenging(+0) Awareness check will make the party immediately aware of the music coming from the town hall. If they don’t immediately pass through the area but instead stay to investigate at all, they will hear the music automatically (if you really want to, you can roll a new Awareness check once every minute or so until someone makes it, but discovery of the music is inevitable enough to justify not bothering with a roll). Players friendly with Imberkavitas may be told directly that the town has stopped responding to communication and needs to be investigated immediately (this plot hook should only be used when the players are within a day’s journey of this hex, because there’s just a handful of days between when the town is entranced by the daemon and when they all die of dehydration while dancing for them).

Exploration: The source of the music is the dance hall in the center of town. Immediately upon entering, every character must succeed on an Easy(+30) Willpower test or else be seduced by the music and begin dancing. A dancing character is stunned, cannot move, and all attacks have a +20 bonus to WS or BS to hit them. They will not eat, sleep, or drink during the dance and will take fatigue from this as usual if they remain dancing long enough. They may also take fatigue damage if the musician increases his tempo and forces them to dance faster.

If two dancing characters are near enough one another, they may begin dancing with one another, and twirl about the room and such, but they can’t direct their movement anywhere useful. A dancing character also makes it harder to resist the lure of the music. If a character is within 10 meters of a visible dancing character, they take a -10 penalty to resist the music. If within 10 meters of an odd number of three or more visible dancing characters, then two of them will be dancing together (unless physically restrained from one another somehow) and the third will be without a partner, and any non-dancing characters nearby take a -20 penalty to resist the lure to join the dance. If there are four or more pairs of visible dancing characters, the radius of their penalty extends out to thirty meters and the beauty of their waltz compels those nearby to join. If there is no one available for a partner, the penalty is -20, but if there is an odd man out, the desire to pair up with them and join the waltz grants a -30 penalty to the Willpower check to resist the music.

Unless interfered with, dancing characters will continue to dance until dead. They will not fall unconscious from fatigue levels, although if they have enough fatigue to be knocked unconscious ordinarily and are then released from the dance, they will fall unconscious immediately. If grappled, a dancing character must resist in an attempt to keep dancing, however they have no special power to do so and if successfully restrained such that they are unable to move about the room, they will be unable to join with a partner and sweep about the room properly, which means they cannot count as one half of a dancing pair. As such, they cannot contribute to a four-pair waltz, nor can they qualify as the odd man out for purposes of making the dance harder to resist. If restrained in such a way that they cannot remain on their feet at all, they remain helplessly enthralled to the dance themselves, but do not count as a dancing character for purposes of convincing others to join the dance, nor can they take fatigue damage if the musician forces them to dance faster. They’ll writhe around on the ground in rhythm but they can’t wear themselves out the way they could with a full range of motion.

A loud and non-staccato noise, such as screaming, an explosion, a weapon firing on full auto, or a sustained volley of single shot fire from at least a half-dozen weapons will interrupt the music, allowing anyone affected to test Willpower to leave the dance. Forcibly removing a dancing character from the range of the music will also cause them to cease dancing, however removing them from eyesight of other dancers will not do anything, even if they would have passed their initial Willpower test without the penalty imposed by those dancers.

While in the dance hall, including the outer sections like the lobby or hanging around the grounds just outside, characters must make a Willpower save against the music once every five minutes of real time and once every time they change location, such as going upstairs or leaving the building but remaining on the grounds outside (if they go from inside to another part of town entirely, they are outside the range of the town’s haunting music and need not make any test to get there). Changing location resets the timer on the real time clock (there’s lots of countdown apps and websites you can use for this rather than just trying to keep your eye on the clock yourself).

The doors into the ballroom of the dance hall are locked. It is a Challenging(+0) Security test to unlock them. There are stairs leading up to the balcony level, but they, too, are locked, and the locks are no easier to pick. Climbing the outside of the building and through the open windows onto the balcony level is an Ordinary(+10) Athletics test. Failing either check results in a fall of 1d5+1 meters, and causes impact damage of 1d10 plus the number of meters fallen which cannot be absorbed with armour, but can be absorbed with Toughness (as per the normal falling rules). Finally, the doors are thick wood but not extremely well reinforced. They’re AP 8 cover, and if chipped down to half their starting AP there is a big enough gap for a regular size human to enter. If hit with explosive damage that exceeds its AP by at least eight points, such a hole is created immediately.

It’s possible that players might enter the town and leave either immediately, without even noticing the music, after noticing the music but without bothering to investigate it, or after seeing the effects of the music and deciding it’s too dangerous to meddle with. In this case, one day later the townsmen are almost all dead or dying and two days later only a few dehydrated survivors continue dancing on, only able to stay on their feet due to the daemonic power of the musician. Three days later they are all dead and the musician will leave.

Confrontation: Within the ballroom there are dozens of matched pairs of dancers and a couple of corpses dragged into the corners, who currently lack an odd man out, but are more than enough to inflict the -20 waltz penalty to all Willpower tests to resist the music, including the one made upon entering the ballroom. The musician stands in the center, atop a pentagram that daemons can use to access the Warp. When the musician notices intruders, which will happen automatically if they are making no effort to hide (or especially if they blew the door down) they will begin to change the melody of the song to try and ensnare the characters. These melody changes give existing dancers a chance to escape the dance, and every time they happen 1d5 dancers will leave. There are over a hundred dancers in the ballroom, so the odds that the melody changes will end the dance entirely or even get it below the four-pair waltz threshold are tiny, but an odd result will add an odd man if there isn’t one or remove them if there is.

The musician is guarded by two cloaked and masked daemonic attendants. These attendants lurk in stealth on the upper level. If the players enter the upper level, they may make an Awareness test opposed to the attendants’ Stealth immediately to try and spot them. The attendants will leave stealth to attack anyone who seeks to harm or come within two meters of the musician, and they can recognize that the party are together unless they’ve taken pains to appear separate, so an attack from any one of them will trigger retaliation against all of them. The attendants will not make any effort to attack party members who interact with dancers or who merely enter the room.

The musician can play four different melodies, each one requiring a standard action. If at all possible, the musician will always use their action to play one of the four melodies. By default they play the waltz, which does not provoke Willpower tests from people already dancing, does provoke Willpower tests at the usual difficulty once every ten rounds (pretty close to never) in people who are dancing, and deals no fatigue damage. Partly the musician is relying on lack of sleep and dehydration to kill the dancers, but mostly the they want to draw the moment out and enjoy it for as long as possible.

Upon detecting intruders, the musician will switch to the requiem. This slow and haunting melody provokes an immediate Willpower save at Routine(+20) difficulty (and not at Easy(+30) like with waltz) from everyone within range of the music, including those already dancing, with the same modifiers from nearby dancers as usual. Those who fail begin to dance just like with waltz. If more than half of the (detected) intruders fall under the effects of requiem, the musician will return to waltz. Otherwise they will attempt to play requiem again, provoking another Willpower test from all creatures within range of the music.

If the intruders successfully harm the musician (but not if they hit but the attack is completely absorbed), they will switch to playing a march. The march gives all those wearing the attendants’ masks (by default, this will be the two attendants themselves, but if a player has decided to put on an attendant’s mask mid-fight, they also benefit) a +10 bonus to all WS tests and provokes a Willpower test at the usual difficulty of Very Easy(+30) from all creatures, whether dancing or not. As usual, those who fail must dance and those who pass do not (regardless of whether they were already dancing), however anyone who was already dancing and fails the check suffers a level of fatigue from the increased tempo.

When the musician has taken critical damage or at least one of their attendants has been killed, and they have at least one visible intruder dancing (meaning, anyone who started dancing in the lobby and was left there doesn’t count), they will switch to the presto solo. During the presto solo, every creature within range of the music makes a Willpower save at Ordinary(+10) difficulty or else begin or continue dancing, and anyone who fails the save while already dancing takes fatigue equal to their degrees of failure on the test. After one round playing presto solo the musician must switch to a slower melody for at least one round before playing presto solo again.

It might occur to the players to destroy the violin rather than the musician. The violin is Puny size and therefore all attacks against it take a -20 to their hit roll. The musician may also attempt to Dodge any attacks against the violin as though they were made against themself. The violin is a daemonic artifact and far more sturdy than one might expect, but that’s not saying much for a violin. It has AP 4 and even one point of damage will destroy it. If the violin is destroyed, the musician will use a half-action to flee back into the Warp on their next turn. Any surviving attendants will follow on their own turns as soon as the musician has left. If the violin is destroyed or the musician is killed, its effects on all dancers immediately cease and any remaining townspeople will immediately flee.

It might also occur to players to grapple the musician to prevent them from playing. The musician is quite nimble and dedicated, so other attempts to interrupt the song, like shoving, inflicting damage, or throwing objects, will not break the flow of the music even if they successfully move the musician or deal damage. However, if the players grapple the musician and physically stop them from moving the bow, the song will end. This will bring the musician out of his reverie if maintained for a full round, and will also release all current dancers, who will flee immediately.

The musician’s reverie makes him nearly impossible to negotiate with. They have a starting Disposition of 20 and a confident personality, but all efforts to interact take a -20 penalty while the musician is still playing. Convincing the musician to end the music in order to talk requires a Disposition check at the same -20 penalty. The musician wants to play their music for as many people as possible and for as long as possible, and does not especially care what harmful effects this has on the audience. They may be convinced to put on a performance at a larger venue with a successful Disposition check at a +10 modifier, or at a similar size venue for a regular Disposition check, but only if they’ve been forced or convinced to stop playing, otherwise they are too busy playing to put serious thought into anything but the music.

Rewards: If the musician is slain and their violin remains intact, any character who has Trade (Musician) at the Known(+0) level can play, but each round requires a successful Challenging(+0) Trade (Musician) check to play the music properly and playing the presto solo requires a Hard(-20) Trade (Musician) check. If Trade (Musician) is known to the Veteran(+30) level, no check is needed. A Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) check at Difficult(-10) will also reveal that the attendants’ masks make the wearer immune to the compulsion to dance and also allows the wearer to benefit from the WS bonus of the march. In addition to any masks left behind by slain attendants, there is a third one left on the mayor’s desk at the town hall. The musician knows it’s there, and the townspeople know that an attendant was probably killed there, and presumably left behind a mask. The function of the violin is probably obvious, but if the players have somehow come across it without hearing it played, the same Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) check will reveal its function as well. Donning a mask inflicts 1d5 Corruption. Just picking up the violin inflicts 1d5 Corruption, and actually playing it inflicts another 1d10 the first time it is played, and none on subsequent uses.

If the musician is recruited as an ally, they are a perfectly sociable hermaphrodite and will accompany the players for 1d5+1 weeks before complaining about the delay in finding a venue at which to perform. The musician has a tendency to practice on their violin periodically and is heedless of the consequences this has for those around them, but only tends to play for about ten or twenty rounds at a stretch and mostly plays waltz and only occasionally march or requiem before finishing on a presto solo. These performances are only lethal for the frailest of characters, but they can be terribly aggravating for anyone without a mask.

Any surviving townspeople will be automatically willing to tell the story of what happened. The musician came to town and put on an enthralling but non-fatal performance. Subsequently they put on a private performance for the town leadership at town hall, where the leadership was presumably killed (the musician, if they’re still alive and friendly to the party, will confirm that yes, they played for the town leaders using a lot of march melody and frequent presto solos specifically to get them out of the way for the grand performance). Before anyone noticed they were missing, the musician announced that the town’s leadership had graciously paid for a public performance at the town’s dance hall the following night, open to all. By the end of the evening, everyone in town had shown up, and no one could leave.

In the aftermath of the musician’s decapitation strike, the town is leaderless and will accept anyone who asserts themselves as ruler. If a player installs themselves as ruler, they immediately gain 1d10 Influence, and anyone who knows the new ruler (whether that’s a player or an allied NPC) gains 1d5 Influence. Additionally, the town can be levied by permanently sacrificing two points of Influence to instantly succeed on any Influence check in the town. The town can provide anything that’s common or cheaper, any solid projectile weapon or service that’s average or cheaper, any medical care, low-tech weapon, or basic armour that’s scarce or cheaper, and as long as nearby Imberkavitas remains a stronghold of Chaos, any drugs or consumables that are Rare or cheaper. If Imberkavitas is razed or taken over by Imperials, the town can only provide drugs and consumables that are Average or cheaper.

 

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