Summary: A Chaos sorcerer from the Age of Strife has sealed himself, his three brides, and several mutant minions into an ancient castle. Sustaining themselves on the blood of mortals, without they have entered into torpor. His mutant minions, able to live on through nothing but the pure energies of the Warp, have waited in seclusion for civilization to return, waiting for someone to happen across their fortress and become food for the master.
Discovery: The ruins are still in good condition and stick out from the uninhabited wilderness nearby, a smooth and imposing fortress of dark black metal jutting out of a rocky crag. It’s a steep climb up the hill, and those approaching must make a Challenging(+0) Toughness test or suffer a level of fatigue. Other than being overgrown with moss, the ruins of the castle are completely intact.
Exploration: The gates of the castle are marked by a large blood drop with a mysterious symbol inscribed upon it, and beneath that is a basin for liquid at about chest height. Anyone who thinks to can make a Difficult(-10) Forbidden Lore (Heresy) test or a Hard(-20) Scholastic Lore (Legend) test to identify the symbol inscribed upon the blood drop as an archaic symbol of Khorne. Characters may bleed themselves into the basin. After the basin is about half full it will begin to drain, and a small meter next to the basin will begin to fill up. Only a small fraction of the blood drained from the basin fills up the meter, as most of it is being sucked into the depths below. Each notch on the meter requires a character to bleed themselves until they take a level of fatigue, and eight notches must be filled before the meter is full, however it does not matter if the blood comes from multiple different donors (or “donors”). The mechanism responds to liquid of any kind, so the notches can be filled with other fluids, however if the meter is filled in any part with anything other than human blood, the ghouls manning the gates down below will refuse to open it, and instead will just drain the basin and meter completely and wait for someone to fill it all up with proper human (or eldar, ork, etc.) blood. Once the meter is properly filled, the gates will open.
Characters who decide it’s a bad idea to fill up a mysterious altar with copious amounts of their own blood may instead elect to try and scale the walls. Once this may have been nearly impossible, but the moss and vines growing across the structure now make it doable, albeit not easily. The walls are ten meters tall and require a Challenging(+0) Athletics test to climb. If a character tries and fails the check, the number of DoF is the number of meters short they were when they lost their grip, which can be used to determine falling damage as normal. Thus, a character who fails by 1 DoF falls nine meters and takes 1d10+9 falling damage, while a character who fails by 5 DoF falls five meters and takes 1d10+5 falling damage. As usual for falling damage, armour doesn’t help, but Toughness does. Use the Athletics test as though it were an attack roll to determine hit location.
The fortress is a fortress, built in the immediate aftermath of the Dark Age of Technology with all the lost knowledge that implies. Attempts to blast through will be difficult. The walls and gate alike have 32 armour points, and the gates must take 20 points of damage before a hole large enough for a normal size creature to squeeze through is created. Even then, the hole will barely be big enough to permit a Medium(4) size creature to squeeze through. Doing so will take a full action. Another 10 points of damage (for a total of 30) is required to make the hole big enough for medium creatures to step through normally. If targeting the wall, 30 points of damage is required for the initial hole, and another 15 (for 45 total) is required to make it large enough for easy egress.
Confrontation: Once inside the courtyard, the outbuildings (including a mechanic shop, a bakery, a stable, and a small barracks) and the central keep are made of the same black metal as the outer wall. The keep is deserted, but in the cellars below there is a crypt that contains the Chaos vampire and his three brides, as well as a tunnel leading to the small guardhouse beneath the gate, where a half-dozen ghouls live and wait for someone to fill the basin. If the basin at the gate was filled with human blood, the ghouls will immediately take it to the three brides and revive them. If the characters entered violently and it is night time, the ghouls will begin stalking the characters. If ever the ghouls have the characters outnumbered two-to-one, they will attack and attempt to grapple one of the characters (whoever looks weakest) and drag them away.
If a character ever takes the Blood Loss condition or takes critical damage to any body part from a rending weapon, the ghouls will enter into a feeding frenzy. On its turn, each ghoul within ten meters will immediately become frenzied as per the talent, but without requiring any actions be taken by the ghoul, and with a modified script for required behavior. Instead of attacking nearby enemies, the ghoul will move directly towards the nearest bleeding character (anyone suffering Blood Loss or from at least one point of critical damage from a rending weapon) and attempt to grapple them. If the character is already being grappled by at least two other creatures (presumably other frenzied ghouls), the ghoul will first attempt to grapple one of the others in order to rip them off the bleeding character (using the Throw Down Opponent option) before then attempting to grapple the bleeding character themselves. A ghoul who’s been ripped off like this won’t appreciate it and will very likely attack the one who ripped them off (including if one of the bleeding character’s party members does so). If the ghoul has actions left over after grappling the target, they will feed. This works the same as an attempt to damage an opponent during a grapple, but in addition to the 1d5-3+SB damage dealt by the attack, the victim also loses one fatigue level. The ghoul gains the fatigue level, and if they inflict any wounds on the victim, they are healed for the same amount of wounds, starting with critical wounds. It takes two points of damage to heal a single point of critical wounds, regardless of whether the ghoul is dealing regular or critical wounds to the victim.
Frenzied ghouls will attempt to end their frenzy as soon as they enter it (using the usual rules from the talent), and if successful, they will resume trying to drag characters off to feed the brides (or, if they are already awake, the master) instead of feeding on them themselves. A ghoul who’s at full health and has suffered no fatigue has a +10 bonus to ending the frenzy, and a ghoul who fed on someone in the same round as they attempt to make a test to end the frenzy gets a +10 bonus to the test to end it. Both of these bonuses are in addition to the cumulative +10 bonus per round for ending the frenzy.
Once the ghouls have enough blood to feed the brides (whether from the basin or from a hostage) they will feed each bride. If they’re feeding the brides from a live victim, that victim will be sucked dry until their fatigue level is twice their threshold, which will kill them (although a Fate Point can be spent to nullify this as normal). The brides will then move to engage the remaining party members (starting with the smallest group if they’re split up for some reason) with the ghouls in tow, seeking to kill all but one of them and then use the last one to revive their master. If all of the ghouls or at least one of the brides is killed in the battle, they will attempt to abduct another character and retreat to revive their master. Brides may enter a feeding frenzy in the same manner as ghouls, however frenzied ghouls will not attempt to tear a feeding bride off of her victim. Likewise, a frenzied bride will not attempt to tear their master off of a victim. The master does not have to enter a feeding frenzy when someone begins bleeding within ten meters the way the brides and ghouls do, however he has the option of doing so by using his reaction. While frenzied, the master follows the usual frenzy script of attacking in melee the nearest enemy, rather than going straight for a bleeding character. He will feed opportunistically to heal during a frenzy, but will not necessarily prioritize it.
If the master is killed and at least one bride or ghoul remains alive and witnesses it, they will immediately enter a frenzy (without requiring any actions) and will not make any effort to leave it until the one responsible is dead. While frenzied by the death of the master, brides and ghouls immediately target the person responsible, only targeting others if the master’s killer isn’t in range. After the master’s killer is dead, or if they’ve escaped and none of their companions or associates are still around to kill, the brides and/or ghouls will begin making Willpower checks to end their frenzy as normal, but will still swear vengeance upon their master’s killer and begin hunting them down.
If the characters entered by filling the basin, the brides will enter the keep or, if it is nighttime, the courtyard to greet them, thank them for reviving them, and ask them to donate another full eight fatigue levels of blood in order to revive their master. They have clever personalities, an initial Disposition of 30, and will claim (more or less truthfully) their master will grant them a boon for his revival. If the characters accept, the Chaos vampire will be revived, and will offer them a favor: Becoming his beloved children of the night. If the characters refuse, the master, his brides, and his ghoul servants will attack. The characters may be able to talk their way out. The master has a confident personality and a starting Disposition of 55 towards those who have revived him, although this degrades by 10 immediately if they show any hesitation towards accepting his embrace.
Characters who enter by climbing up the walls won’t be noticed by the ghouls until they enter the crypt, and possibly not even then if they sneak in (the ghouls will roll Awareness as normal to try and catch them, and may or may not succeed). In this case, the ghouls will treat the characters as intruders as soon as they notice them. The coffins of the master and his brides are not locked, and the sleeping bodies can be destroyed either after dealing with the ghouls or before alerting them, although each of the heavy coffins, made of the same black steel as the rest of the fortress, but ornately wrought and engraved with meaningless but elegant patterning, requires a separate Stealth check to open silently. In any case, the sleeping brides and master are completely incapable of defending themselves until fed at least one fatigue levels’ worth of blood, and can be destroyed automatically with a full action provided the character has any kind of lethal weapon close at hand. Two full actions may be required if the character is, for some reason, using an improvised weapon like a lead pipe or hammer.
Rewards: Being a vampire isn’t as good a deal as it might seem at first. There’s definitely some sweet benefits: Characters who accept the embrace of the master gain the traits Natural Weapons, Undying, Unnatural Senses(10), Unnatural Strength(1), Unnatural Toughness(1), and Unnatural Fellowship(1). Their Natural Weapons can be affected by weapons with the Power Field quality, and in fact when affected by the Power Field quality the vampire immediately loses their hand (and thus, naturally, has the Lost Hand condition), takes the Blood Loss condition, and is Stunned for one round. Vampires can also feed on anyone they’ve grappled in the same manner as the ghouls, brides, and the master can, and automatically enter into a blood frenzy under the same conditions as the brides. A character can choose to feed some of their own blood to someone drained completely of their blood, and if they do so in the same round as the victim is killed, that victim will be sired as a vampire, fanatically loyal to the character as the character is to the master.
Speaking of, characters who are sired by the master become fanatically loyal to the master. Resisting any of his commands requires an opposed Willpower test with him, and successfully resisting one command gives no advantage on resisting future commands. The master’s first and most strict command is to never sire new vampires without his permission. Characters gain a +20 bonus to resisting commands that order them to attack their close friends or family or to grossly violate their pre-existing moral code, however this is likely to erode over time. Every single attack made against the master requires a Willpower test as though the character were resisting a command. If the master is ever killed, they will enter into a frenzy just like the brides and ghouls, targeting the killer (characters may test Willpower to end the frenzy like normal – the brides just choose not to do this when their master is killed). This is true even if, for example, the master was killed as part of a pre-existing conspiracy between multiple characters to free themselves from his influence, in which case the conspiracy may devolve into frenzied PvP that could potentially kill one or more party members if Willpower checks to end the frenzy go poorly.
If the characters do manage to escape their new master’s control, or if they think being vassals of a newly reawakened vampire king sounds like a pretty good plan, they still suffer from three vampire weaknesses: In sunlight they lose their Unnatural Characteristics and will take one level of fatigue for each round they start in daylight (causing them to collapse with fatigue and ultimately reducing them to a pile of dust if they stay there long enough), a called shot to their heart with a wooden weapon will instantly paralyze them, and damage from holy weapons or fire ignores their Unnatural Toughness and get treated as Tearing weapons if they weren’t already.
If the characters do end up vassals of the vampire king, he will direct them to claim villages and ultimately cities for him. They will be mostly left to their own devices to do so, so the hexcrawl can continue in this manner, just installing the characters’ new master as the ruler of any villages they come across instead of themselves, their friends, or leaving the leadership intact. Characters will be allowed to rule villages themselves only after the master has maxed out the number he can command, and he will demand a major city like Imberkavitas or Grey Harbour as soon as it’s available even if he has to cede one of his lesser villages to make room for it. Once the master’s demesne is maxed out, he will allow characters to begin siring one or two vampire helpers a piece. He may also be convinced with a successful Disposition check to allow this to happen sooner.
Regardless of exactly what happens after becoming a vampire, just being embraced at all immediately inflicts 1d10+10 Corruption. Once embraced, siring another vampire causes 1d5 Corruption.
If the characters just kill the vampire master outright, they still have an extremely valuable Archaeotech fortress on their hands. The fortress doesn’t have any advanced electronic systems built into it, being reliant on the dark powers of Chaos to keep its occupants safe during their long sleep, but the material its made from is still of great interest to the Adeptus Mechanicus and similar. The fortresses’ location can be used as though it were a Near Unique(-60) item in trade. If the fortress is given to the Adeptus Mechanicus outright, the characters automatically get Peer(1) (Adeptus Mechanicus), and additionally the AdMech will owe them a favor, which can be traded in as though it were a Near Unique(-60) item, but only with the AdMech. The characters can also use the fortress as a base of operations for themselves. It has a (gutted) mechanics shop and an (equally gutted) infirmary, so with a bit of sprucing up it can serve as a place to both heal and repair in the area. While the weapons themselves were never built, the roof has placement points for AA and a landing pad for aircraft, and once the characters have access to the underground guardhouse, they can open the gates (large enough to allow anything short of a Baneblade to pass through) at-will, without having to bother with filling any blood basins.