Masks of Chaos – part 1

Nyarlathotep’s avatar the Bloody Tongue

What do Call of Cthulhu‘s famous campaign The Masks of Nyarlathotep and WFRP‘s Old World have in common?

Tom drinking pumpkin-spiced eggnog made with pureed pumpkin. It was not a success.

This guy!

That’s right, I’m going to convert Masks to run in WFRP. (Well, the setting at least. I’m unlikely to be using either the CoC or WFRP rules) Madness, they cried! Actually, the Venn diagram between the two actually involves rather a lot of overlap. The WFRP designers were fans of CoC and default gameplay of the first edition certainly assumed a certain amount of cultist smiting a la CoC.

I know first edition WFRP setting more than second, hardly know third and have been following fourth’s development with interest, even if my taste in rules have veered considerably towards rules-light narrative systems in my old age. That means my aim has been to keep it as close to first and fourth as possible, while pulling in elements from the other editions on a case-by-case basis. I’ll flag those up when I come to them.

On the Masks side, I’ll be using the fifth edition from 2018.

Without further ado, onwards!

BACKGROUND

Marienburg stands on the ancient ruins of Sith Rionnasc’namishathir (Rionnasc), a once thriving high elf colony. Before the War of the Beard and the Sundering both high elves and dwarves loved the city and its beautiful surroundings. However, the corruption of the elves that would lead to centuries of civil war and the formation of the dark elves was already beginning to simmer.

The Peacock Prince

Around -2750 IC, an elvish stranger called Nethrenkar came to Rionnasc from the south and quickly rose to leadership. In the shadows, he promoted the pleasure cults, the use of dark magic, and the worship of Slaanesh.

When civil war came, Nethrenkar, by then called the Peacock Prince, led the mainland rebels with devastating dark magics, able to kill with a flick of a finger. Eventually, the high elves manage to slay him and banished the rest of what would become the dark elves. With their then allies, the dwarves, the elves built a tomb outside the city to seal away Nethrenkar’s still magically potent and Chaos-tainted corpse, then tried to destroy all record of his deeds.

Queen Nienke

Centuries later, the Jutons tribe had claimed the ruins of Rionnasc for their own. Around 200 IC a brutal tribal queen called Nienke came to rule them. Nethrenkar’s spirit, speaking from The Palace of Slaanesh in the Warp, guided Nienke into resurrecting the god’s worship through the Brotherhood of the Peacock Prince. Her reign was short, but bloody, filled with cruelty, murder, and bloody rituals. Lacking the innate magical skill of the elves, her use of dark magic rapidly led to Chaos corruption for her and her followers, as was Slaanesh’s intent.

Like Nethrenkar before her, Nienke fell to her people when they rose up against her. Her surviving followers fled with her body and buried it in Nethrenkar’s tomb in the Wastelands, then escaped to keep the Brotherhood of the Peacock Prince alive elsewhere, although some managed to return later.

THE CARSTENS EXPEDITION TRAGEDY OF 2496

Summary of Events: The Public Version

Nuln

After years of dissolute living, the 24-year-old Rüdiger Carstens, son of a wealthy Nuln merchant family, bizarrely became interested in history, funding and leading an archaeological expedition to the Marienburg Wastelands to find lost high-elf ruins.

He recruited Hypathanil Marsreal, a renowned high elf architectural artist to make sketches of the finds, and, Ruprecht Hülsen,a human engineering professor of the Imperial Gunnery School for any ‘controlled demolitions’ needed to access the ruins. Surprisingly, he didn’t intend to take his usual bodyguard and confidante, Jens Brandt, but he changed his mind at the last minute.

They sailed from Nuln in early 2505 to consult with Sir Alberic Peninger in Aldorf, a human archaeologist and antiquarian of pre-Sundering elvish culture. He joined the expedition and they all departed for the Wastelands. Using Marienburg as a base, they made several excursions to various ruins in the Tumble Downs. By late-2505, rumours suggested they had made an important discovery, but they made no public announcement of it if they did.

Mountain of the Black Wind

They then abruptly sailed for Brionnes in Bretonnia, and went inland to Quenelles. They hired local guides, guards and porters, and travelled north into the Wild Heath, where they then vanished. Two months later, in early 2506, a hunter told authorities in Quenelles he had seen a party of foreigners some weeks before, near the Mountain of the Black Wind, a local name for an isolated peak in the heath, but subsequent searches found no further sign.

Carsten’s sister, Erika, travelled to Bretonnia and funded a more thorough search party. After 10 weeks, and with only lacklustre help from the local authorities, she found the remains of the expedition. The corpses were remarkably well preserved, but what little was left appeared to have been torn to shreds.

The Breaking Wheel

Some people mentioned an outlawed cult, powerful in the area, that might be the culprits, but the authorities scoffed at the idea and did not follow up such whispers, nor were such things mentioned in the subsequent inquiry. They instead quickly pinned blame on local orcs and their peasant collaborators the authorities claimed to already have captured. After a swift trial, the authorities executed them all and declared the expedition members dead, leaving everyone to forget about the incident.

Summary of Events: The Secret Version

Bretonnian Cult of the Bloody Tongue worships Slaanesh by releasing pent up rage and discontent through orgiastic violence. Unlike the upper-class Sybarites, its members are largely human peasants angered at their suffering under the ruling classes. Although from Bretonnia, it has recently spread across the Old World, including the Empire.

In 2502, after weeks of gruelling rituals to commune with Slaanesh, their high priestess Maëlle Wervik devised a Great Plan that would bring vengeance to the aristos who had persecuted her people for generations:

Maëlle Wervik
  • During an eclipse in 2512, she would lead a massive ritual that would rip open another gate into the Warp high above the Old World, allowing Slaanesh to enter mundane reality.
  • This would require a Warpstone warhead – a Warphead – and Old Slann magitech in an exploding rocket to make the initial tear in reality. Massive blood sacrifices, orgies and the like around the Old World would widen it and make it permanent.
  • She wouldn’t be able to handle the ritual alone. She’d need to resurrect Nethrenkar, using his direct descendant, and recruit other Slaaneshi cult leaders to help her.
  • Others, needed for their specialist skills and knowledge, would believe resurrecting Nethrenkar as the Peacock Prince to be the more palatable end goal, that his powers would give them what they desired. Once alive again, he would help her convert them fully to the worship of Slaanesh.

Guided by visions from Slaanesh, Wervick went to Nuln and seduced Rüdiger Carsten as he slummed it in disreputable drinking and gambling dens. She told him about Nethrenkar and how the Peacock Prince could elevate him in power and prestige, giving him the respect he believed his sister Erika had stolen from him.

Altdorf

Using Carsten’s wealth, charm and society connections, she was then able to recruit Hypathanil Marsreal, a young high elf architectural artist eager to avoid an imminent arranged marriage, who instead wanted to study avant garde human art and be with her radical human lover. Crucially, she was also a descendant of Nethrenkar, the Peacock Prince, and so would be crucial to his resurrection.

Finally, they recruited Ruprecht Hülsen, a human engineering professor of the Imperial Gunnery School, who revelled in destruction and wanted the destructive power of a god so he could watch the world burn at the touch of a button.

Supported by potent dreams sent by Slaanesh before they met Wervick, the three agreed to the plan and set off in early 2511 to Marienburg and the Wastelands. At the last moment, Carsten changed his mind and brought along Jens Brandt, his long-time bodyguard and confidant, who was resistant to Wervick’s charms.

Marienburg

They stopped on the way in Altdorf where they consulted with and recruited Sir Alberic Peninger, a human archaeologist and antiquarian of pre-Sundering elvish culture, obsessed with high elves and their ways to the extent he wanted to become one. As well as owning the Peninger Trading Company, which bought and sold elvish antiquities, often to the valuable high elf market, he was also the local magus of The Brotherhood of the Peacock Prince.

With Wervick’s mystical insight he was finally able to determine the probable location of the Peacock Prince’s tomb. With the assistance of his protégé Eduard Gausman and Zwiertje Schab, a Marienburger associate of Gausman’s, to prepare for the expedition, Peninger joined the Carsten Expedition and they all headed to Marienburg.

The Tomb of Nethrenkar

Arriving in Marienburg, they received aid from Marius Schaake, the magus of the local Brotherhood of the Peacock Prince, and a powerful chaos sorcerer. Having discovered the tomb of the Peacock Prince, and tangentially Nienke, they broke the ward protecting it and entered. Within they met the spirit of Nethrenkar and the principals left Brandt and travelled as spirits to the Palace of Slaanesh in the Warp. There, Nethrenkar tempted, seduced, and trained them in preparation for the Great Plan, although Marsreal remained unaware of the fatal part she would play.

On their return, they packed up Nethrenkar’s body, and left for Bretonnia, first Brionne, then Quenelles where they recruited local support for an expedition south into the Wild Heath, which borders Athel Loren to the east and The Vaults mountains to the south.

In the confusion of departure, Jens Brandt kidnapped Carsten, concerned at his and the other expedition principals’ dramatic changes in personality. He kept Carsten drugged and they fled for Sartosa where Brandt had allies. But Carsten’s health and sanity fell, leading Brandt to place him in a Tilean sanitorium under the name ‘Radulf Cornatzer’.

Meanwhile, at the Mountain of the Black Wind in the Wild Heath:

  • the expedition’s bearers became sacrifices for the Cult of the Bloody Tongue,
  • Wervick started spreading the cult’s worship around the Old World, but otherwise kept the Mountain of the Black Wind as her base apart from when she stole a great chunk of warpstone from under the noses of some skaven to power the rocket’s warphead,
  • the impregnated*/infected Marsreal started growing into a swollen monstrous bearer of Nethrenkar’s new body: the Spawn (*there will be an option to avoid the whole pregnancy horror element),
  • Peninger, now an elf, went to Estalia to loot a lost Old Slann city for magitech to be used in the rocket, while resurrecting the local Cult of the Sand Bat for his own purposes,
  • Hülsen went to the semi-dormant volcano on Sartosa, Mount Ertinia, where he started to build the rocket using parts received from Peninger, as well as some custom-made parts he ordered from Altdorf, shipped to him on the Ivory Wind merchant ship. Some local aquatic mutants, who also worshipped Slaanesh, helped him as guards, but the skaven were on his trail.
Sartosa

Campaign Locations

  • Nuln = New York
  • Altdorf = London
  • Wastelands = Egypt
    • Marienburg = Cairo
  • Bretonnia = Kenya
    • Quenelle = Nairobi
  • Estalia = Australia
    • Magritta = Darwin
    • Gualcazar = Sydney/Perth
    • Sitges = Port Hedland
    • Chelvén = Cuncudgerie
    • Lynx Falls = Dingo Falls
  • Sartosa = Shanghai

The PCs have freedom to choose in which order they travel to each location, but the default is assumed to be: Nuln -> Altdorf -> Marienburg -> Bretonnia -> Estalia -> Sartosa.

Nuln/The Empire: Summoned to help their old friend Jakobus Elsner, the PCs find him brutally murdered. Their investigation reveals Elsner believed there was a powerful cult hidden in the Empire that was involved in the disappearance of the Carstens Expedition some years before. The PCs may also help the man wrongly accused of Elsner’s murder and track the real culprits to a Bretonnian trading company.

Altdorf/The Empire: As well as speaking with more of Elsner’s colleagues, the PCs may become involved in a cursed noble family, strange murders instigated for a nefarious plan, and discovering the Peninger Trading Company’s involvement with the expedition.

Marienburg/The Wasteland: On the trail of the expedition, the PCs will find another expedition has followed the original’s trail to Nethrenkar’s tomb, but they are backed by a powerful cultist looking to resurrect Nienke. They may even have an opportunity to speak with the spirit of Nethrenkar himself and become involved with the cult of Randalf.

Quenelles/Bretonnia: Tracking the expedition to Bretonnia, the PCs are attacked by cultists and eventually find the Mountain of the Black Wind where Wervick is using a mutated Marsreal to resurrect Nethrenkar. Dare they try to prevent Nethrenkar’s resurrection while the cult’s base is filled with hundreds of cultists?

Old Slann City/Estalia: The PCs have a chance to prevent more Old Slann magitech from being looted and used by the Brotherhood by entering a long-lost Old Slann city, there to confront the Cult of the Sand Bat and creatures from other worlds and the mists of time.

Sartosa: The island has a hidden side even darker than its business of pirating. Tracking Brandt and Carstens there, the PCs become involved with the Cult of the Bloated Woman, aquatic beastmen, spies and skaven, before hopefully sabotaging the rocket’s launch and helping an alien scientist reunite with her daughter.

Next time, I’ll start with the conversion of the Peru prologue, which is now here.

4 thoughts on “Masks of Chaos – part 1

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