The Heart of Chaos was a straightforward WFRP game I ran earlier in the year. The concept of the Chaos Heart, and their Minotaur Champion, was originally published in Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned. Minotaurs in WFRP are pretty tough with a few changes, and the Players were unsurprisingly cautious as result (especially as many of them had also played Legacy of Praag!). A Minotaur Chaos Champion is also a force to be reckoned with. The Heart of Chaos was originally supposed to be a single session adventure, but it quickly grew into a couple of sessions (in the same way Legacy of Praag did). It became a journey into a sort of “Heart of Darkness”. I’d use it with a group of PCs well into their second careers with someone used to living in the wild (Ranger class).
The Chaos Heart is essentially a chunk of warpstone acting as a conduit to a Chaos god, in the same way as an idol within a temple. Minotaurs are the appointed guardians of these holy items and jealously protect them from harm or theft (one becomes a Champion as a result). It did start off as a simple “Kill the Monster, steal its treasure”, but took on a life of its own. In my game Hieronymus Blitzen (Shadows over Bogenhafen/Death on the Reik) sent the PCs to fetch Minotaur horns he would use in a magic item’s construction.
Setting for the Heart of Chaos
A day’s journey from Delberz lies Whiterock valley (approximately 15 miles from Delberz), a particularly nasty marshy area that ends at Corpsecandle Tarn. Home to One-Eye, the Minotaur Champion and his warband, there are two places of note in Heart of Chaos: Corpsecandle Tarn, and the Chaos Champion’s Tomb.
The hand of the Chaos God Nurgle lies heavily on the tarn where a hidden cave conceals the Chaos Heart. Pestigors (Beastmen dedicated to Nurgle) are left to rot in the Tarn when they die, their dissolution and corruption an offering to Grandfather Nurgle, near a holy of holies as such.
The Tarn’s water is slimy and weed-choked and noxious mists rise from the waters. A unhealthy lambent glow comes from the depths where the bodies of the Beastmen float. The results of drinking the water are probably best left to how evil a GM is feeling: for instance, wounds become infected wounds, the belly flux, even Nurgle’s Rot is an option if you’re that way inclined (see the main WFRP rulebook). You’d have to be a very stupid PC to drink the water, but there’s always one.
What the players don’t know is that the lake is actually capable of raising the dead of the lake as zombies to defend the shrine. They didn’t find that out until later (more on this shortly). The Tarn is surrounded by diseased-looking vegetation, it’s cold and damp, and the sun is merely a watery blur in the sky. It’s pretty dreary. Arriving at night, there’s a phosphorescence over the lake; during the day it is eerily quiet. Two paths lead to the Tarn: one the PCs have followed, the other leads deeper into the woods, towards the tomb of a Champion of Nurgle.
Eventually this other path emerges into a clearing, where the sunken ruin of a tomb festers. Dwarves recognise the stonework as being that of the “Dark Brothers” (Chaos Dwarves) on a successful Int test. I didn’t get a chance to go any further with this, due to time constraints, but it is the resting place of a Champion of Chaos, interred within a stone crypt – a carving on the crypt’s lid shows Nurgle’s symbol (PCs with Religion get an Int test to know this) and bas-relief of the Champion’s face, resembling a giant fly.
Enterprising or old-school GMs could probably use the Tomb to create a dungeon bash of sorts, and make it a bit more challenging. If you want you can throw in some undead, followers who are “faithful” beyond the grave. As it’s a Nurgle-esque dungeon, feel free to inflict infected wounds on PCs when they impale themselves on spikes in pit traps, rusty blades that spring out at groin level etc. After all, Nurgle loves a show – and don’t make it too easy for them.
Opening the crypt means the the PCs find the corpse holding a weapon of some sort, and greedy PCs will likely want to take it. GMs have a few options here. One: it’s a magic weapon, that the PCs can use (make them earn it though – traps or undead etc.). Rare enough in WFRP! Two: it’s a chaos weapon. And is obviously so. PCs wielding it may also attract attention from both Chaos minions and Witch-hunters. Three: it’s a Daemon weapon (for the really evil GM). The PCs are in serious trouble, as one of them will have willingly picked it up. In all likelihood the blade’s bound daemon will try and turn the bearer to Chaos, or force the bearer to attack his companions. Options two and three are campaign seeds in themselves – the PCs are cursed with it, may turn on each other, and have to find a way to dispose of it without falling to Chaos.
Below is a map of Corpsecandle Tarn as used in Heart of Chaos.
It was very much the encounters that made this game so much fun. The journey through Whiterock Valley was definitely unpleasant. Two of the PCs fell into a rattlesnake pit (a la True Grit), and had to climb out while the rattlers began to stir. Giant leeches nastily wounded the Halfling when he ripped the critters from himself. Will o’Wisps nearly claimed the Elf one night, as she walked into the same quicksand that the party had only just managed to negotiate earlier that day. Giant Rats are used as “hunting dogs” by One-Eye’s warband, and all wear collars with Nurgle’s fly rune. You could also have the group attacked by a bog octopus or amphisbaena as they slog through the deeper parts of the marsh (all these monsters are in the WFRP rulebook). Basically, you turn a simple walk into an exhausting slog as a GM – by the time they reach Corpsecandle tarn, the PCs are filthy, tired, and sore.
At one point, the group see One-Eye Kazgul, the Minotaur Champion, in the distance bellowing to the moon – he’s too far away, but he’s patrolling the edges of his territory. There’s also signs that he’s not alone: his warband is with him (which includes two normal Minotaurs). They’re hunting Ulfhednar’s group. This is designed to make the PCs nervous, and a bit more circumspect rather than rushing in.
I also had a raiding party of Skaven (Chaos Ratmen) in the area, drawn to the warpstone. The PCs will likely find their tracks, and in my game the Skaven set an ambush when they realised they were being followed. The PCs recognised the trap for what it was, and as a result avoided combat with the Skaven entirely, although it could turn out differently in your game. If your PCs have breezed through the game so far, then this is your chance to give them a few knocks before they get to the “Picnic” encounter (see below). This was my way of foreshadowing events in Death on the Reik.
When the group arrive at Corpsecandle Tarn, they’re offered some “help” in the form of Ulfhednar, Chaos Champion of Tzeentch. He’s been watching the group since they entered the valley. He’s there to steal the Heart of Chaos from the shrine, but his divinations have shown that he needs the PCs help in some form. Ulfhednar approaches the group openly and in a civil fashion to parley. The PCs are acutely aware that they are surrounded by a band of homicidally-inclined Beastmen. Krakatz, Ulfhendar’s Bovigor Lieutenant is less than pleased at not being able to torture and eventually kill the PCs. Instead, Ulfhednar offers the group food and wine and makes polite conversation, while his followers lurk nearby. It was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever seen: a hulking chaos champion sitting at a picnic, discussing the weather.
He also made some comments regarding the Red Crown (a Chaos Cult in the Enemy Within), Etelka Herzen( if anyone asks about her) is “that bitch” (see Death on the Reik). He offers to pay the PCs for their help, but makes veiled threats as to what could happen if the PCs refuse to work with him; the large party of Beastmen (enough to provide a serious challenge to the PCs, maybe three each) being a more overt one.
Ulfhednar’s plan is for the PCs to attack One Eye, while his warband engage their Nurgle-worshipping counterparts. The PCs may or may not accept this. If they refuse Ulfhednar will sigh, and then pack away – despite protestations from Krakatz he lets the PCs live, and they fade into the woods. The PCs will have to face One Eye’s warband alone. If they accept his offer, he tells them to attack the shrine (a cave at the side of the lake), and when One-Eye’s warband appears, Ulfhendar’s forces will engage them.
Whether or not the PCs have accepted Ulfhednar’s offer, they’re going to be facing an angry Minotaur and his minions. There’s a good chance that your players will come up with a lot of ideas before putting their plan into action. If Ulfhendar is part of their plans, he can point out obvious flaws – as far as he is concerned though, the PCs are the bait. It is up to them to draw One-Eye out. If they ask him to attack One-Eye on their behalf, Ulfhendar will say he’s not allowed – he has been forbidden from melee combat with One-Eye by Tzeentch. This amuses him greatly as a result. If they’re on their own, then they’re going to have to deal with One-Eye and his two Minotaur bodyguards PLUS a beastman retinue. At this point hit-and-run tactic may be their best option – if they decide to spend days wearing them down though, remind the players that their PCs food and water are limited (unless they fancy drinking the local water).
Either way it works, One-Eye will spot the PCs as they make their way alongside the lake. Bellowing in anger, he and his Pestigor retinue will charge towards the PCs (use the Beastman and Minotaur stats from the rulebook – One Eye’s stats are below). If the PCs run away, remember that One-Eye knows the locale; while the PCs don’t. Uflhednar waits till the last moment before thundering into melee – the Minotaurs will have outdistanced their smaller brethren when this happens. No quarter is asked or given – this battle is one of total annihilation between two enemies. If you really want to mix it up, the Skaven turn up halfway through and try to steal the Chaos Heart while everyone else battles (see below).
If the PCs are on their own, you may be wondering what they’ll do with the Chaos Heart. That’s when the PCs discover that it has gone missing – the Skaven have stolen it already. If they chose to work with Ulfhednar, he’ll seize the Heart and fire the shrine within with Pink Fire of Tzeentch, after his forces withdraw to a safe distance (and with good reason). He’ll emerge whistling cheerfully, then screw the PCs over big time – he’ll chuck the bag of money for the PCs into the lake. Almost immediately the water seems to froth and bubble as the beastmen corpses rise to avenge the desecration of their shrine. We’re talking zombie horde here (use the Zombie stats from the WFRP rulebook). Wise PCs will get moving – Ulfhednar and his band are already nowhere to be seen.
The PCs are tired and wounded in all likelihood, and there’s a lot of zombies. They don’t need to sleep or rest and will follow the group unerringly – if you’re feeling unkind, throw in natural hazards like quicksand or bogs, or other things to test the PCs endurance. The horde will follow the PCs to the edge of Whiterock valley, but won’t enter the Tomb (see above). However, the Zombies can still surround it… or their presence wakes a powerful undead spirit within 🙂
NPCs for the Heart of Chaos
One-Eye is pretty much typical of any Minotaur. Prone to outbursts of violence, he’s not the brightest of Nurgle’s champions. He is fanatically protective of the shrine at Corpsecandle Tarn, and will stop at nothing to avenge its desecration should he survive. Despite his lack of intellectual gifts, he is cunning enough to let his Minotaur bodyguards weaken opponents before he steps to finish them, or to target obvious magic users. His name comes for a singular (ha!) “blessing” from Nurgle: both his eyes have fused into one, similar to a Plaguebearer (BS x 1/2). A cloud of flies surrounds him permanently making it hard to see (-10 to hit), and his toughened hide is matted, covered in sores, and cracked. This gives him +1AP to all locations. He carries a wicked-looking axe, stained and rusty (I -10, D+2, 30% of Infected wounds). He has no skills to speak of.
Ulfhednar & Krakatz
Ulfhendar & Krakatz’s stats will appear at a later date, but you can always use the Chaos Warrior and Beastman stats from the WFRP rulebook if they are needed.
The Heart of Chaos is a seriously challenging adventure if it is done correctly (although GMs may run it very differently from me) and you have some time to spend plotting it out further. The journey through the Valley is a tough slog for the PCs, especially if you have an imaginative GM. It is quite possible that PCs could lose Fate Points in the adventure, particularly if they refuse to deal with Ulfhednar and have to face One-Eye’s forces on their own! Like Legacy of Praag, your PCs may need some downtime to rest as a result.
Ulfhednar appears in Death on the Reik, but I’ve “reimagined” him for Heart of Chaos. He makes a fine NPC.
There’s not a huge amount of treasure in the Heart of Chaos (with the exception of the Tomb), but done correctly the players won’t mind – they’ll be happy their PCs have survived. XP-wise, I’d give:
- 100-200xp per PC for the adventure (award more if you expand the Tomb into a dungeon bash)
- 30-50XP when dealing with Ulfhednar
- 30-50XP for their planning, dealing with the challenges in Whiterock Valley, etc.
That’s a fair amount, but feel free to award more if appropriate.