A character and subject of books written in the ye olde days of WHFB, by Jack Yeovil, more widely known as the film critic/horror buff Kim Newman. A daemonologist and necromancer said to nearly rival Nagash in terms of power, he was motivated by his cruel sadistic indulgences rather than plans of enslaving the world in undeath, and considered the chaos gods he sometimes courted as below him, cheating them many times. Imagine if you mixed the classic mustache and goatee depiction of Satan in a business suit with Dracula and threw him in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle universe. Or picture an asexual Vandal Savage in the Warhammer universe. Bam, that's Drachenfels.
Thanks to End Times, Vermintide and Total War Warhammer, Drachy has gone through a renaissance in popularity, likely due to the cult popularity of the Genevieve books and nostalgia for old WHFRP.
A long time ago (15,000 years to be exact) before the arrival of the Old Ones to the world, there lived a tribe of neanderthal-esque pseudohumans by a river during the ice age of the world. Drachenfels was among their number, and after becoming sick in his old age he was left out in the wilderness to die. He feigned death by exposure, and when one of his tribe came close he somehow (unknown even to himself) managed to kill the man and absorb his life energy (keep in mind this is before Chaos entered the world or Necromancy was invented).
He used his newfound power to continue living. His body still rotted though, and he took to forming a new body out of the remains of his victims to continue looking human. The faces he likes the most are preserved with magic, and he wears them to go amongst the mortal races of the world in disguise.
At some point, he used magic to build a fortress named after himself in the Old World. From here, he launched attack after attack at the races of the mortal world using all the armies of Destruction, as each submitted to him as a superior being. After the collapse of the Warp Gates, he traveled to the Warp and looked upon the Chaos Gods. As powerful as they were, he declared them to be his subordinates and demanded tributes of Daemon forces periodically afterward. They obliged each time, and Drach in a show of (mocking) gratitude, created some shrines to them and Khaine in his new castle though he made sure his throne "looked down" at their depictions since he still considered himself superior because even a dead, rotting carcass of a pseudo-human was far superior to some retarded barely sentient tulpas.
Drachenfels has never pursued specific goals. Each time he attacks the outside world, he does so merely out of boredom or to satiate sadistic indulgences. He has no desire to prove he is the most powerful being in the world because he believes he has already proven it and enjoys the process of tormenting and breaking the free-willed over making them his unthinking slaves. He usually takes plenty of captives which he tortures or otherwise "plays with" in abominable ways before consuming their souls and using their flesh to keep himself spry. Since he tends to completely destroy anything he attacks, the only recorded incidents involving him in history are times that he was beaten, his servants were captured, or for some reason he chose to spare the conquered.
There has been some speculation (based on his speaking their language according to the 1st edition RPG and the fact he could have been in Tylos given his immortality) that Drach was the wizard who created the Skaven and doomed the city of Kavsar, but this is just an unconfirmed theory at this time. The first time he undeniably ventured forth to ravage the Old World was just after Sigmar had united the tribes that would be the Empire. Before Sigmar could celebrate the founding of his new nation, the land fell under attack from an army of greenskins led by Drachenfels. Drachenfels was rallying in support of his ally Nagash but was defeated and the greenskins driven back to his castle. Although Sigmar believed he had dealt true death to the vampire/necromancer/devil/whatever, Drachenfels regenerated his body from nothing after 1000 years.
The next time he appeared, he marched his forces of Daemons and Undead through Athel Loren and attacked a Bretonnian province called Parravon. Once there, he defeated the guard of the city to the last, then demanded the wealth of the province in tribute. After receiving it he executed the nobility of the region, then returned to his castle with his army. Among those killed was the father of Genevieve Sandrine du Pointe du Lac Dieudonné (quite a name, eh?) who would become a vampire shortly later and travel the world.
Some time later during the Age of the Three Emperors, Drachenfels went unarmed to the Empire and announced he'd reformed and would be an ally from that point onward. He put on an elaborate PR campaign of using the wealth from Parravon to pay reparations to the victims that had escaped his castle and pled for forgiveness at the graves of those whose bodies had been recovered. After the dimwitted public accepted that he'd turned good, Drachenfels invited the entire court of the Elected Emperor Carolus II and his wife Irina, along with some Bretonnian nobility, to a feast at his castle. There, while dressed in rags and wearing a simple tin face mask, he served them an elaborate feast of wine and food laced with paralyzing poison. Once the nobles were incapacitated he had the nobles' children tortured to death within earshot of them and mocked them by slowly and nonchalantly eating food in front of them before leaving the paralyzed nobles to starve to death while a constant feast was brought out and served in front of them. What the actual fuck.
Centuries later Oswald von Konigswald, the son of the Elector Count of Ostland and relative to one of the feast’s victims, decided to seek revenge. He hired the now-adult (and kung fu master) Genevieve (who had become a bar wench in Altdorf) along with a few other no-name adventurers (a dwarven warrior with a grudge, a brigand leader lured with the hope of a pardon, and an insane assassin woman) to travel with him to Castle Drachenfels and put the monster down for good. Oswald managed to deal the killing blow to Drachenfels and his death destroyed the Undead and Daemons in his service. The greenskins fled the fortress, and anything that remained was killed. The fortress itself was left intact but abandoned.
Years later, Oswald bought Castle Drachenfels and hired a great playwright to direct a production within it of Oswald's heroic defeat of Drachenfels. The most important individuals in the Empire attended, as well as the newly crowned Karl Franz and his son Luitpold II. The production was hindered by many spooky incidents, not the least of which was the eccentric behavior of the actors and the death of all of Oswald’s old battle buddies save Genevieve. As you probably already guessed, all this creepiness heralded Drachenfels returning to life during the play and slaughtering a fair number of the audience and cast.
- Spoiler: See what people didn't know was that Oswald was That Guy, secretly a bitter, power-hungry pussy. After shitting himself when it was just him and Drachenfels (the others having been wounded and/or rendered unconscious), Drachenfels took one look at the whimpering weenie and decided to spare him both for the lulz and as part of a scheme. Oswald would "kill" Drachenfels (but really only destroy his physical form) while Drachenfels would sacrifice a lot of his servants to sell the act and then lay low until it was time for his revival. At that point, Oswald would stage a play about his defeat of Drach, gather all the big shots in the Empire together to see the performance, and then Drach would resurrect via a ritual involving the body parts of his former enemies and the possession of a willing mortal servant in the form of the actor playing him. Then Oswald and a revived Drach intended to kill Karl Franz and take over the Empire together with Drach being the power behind the throne.
Unfortunately for Drach and his patsy, Genevieve and the director of the play, her mortal lover Detlef Sierck, proved to be far harder to kill than expected which threw a wrench in the works. In the end Genevieve went full vampire blood rage on Drach’s ass and wounded him enough that Detlef (now blessed and buffed up by Sigmar) was able to deal a killing blow to Drachenfels (again) before moving on to kill Oswald. Although this incident is described as having killed Drachenfels once and for all, everyone who has killed him has thought the exact same thing. It also didn’t stop him from seeking revenge on his killers even indirectly as later on one of his creations (a sentient magical body-snatching mask called the Animus) would possess some folks and seek the Vampire and her lover out in an attempt to kill them. Though it failed in its ultimate task it did manage to break up Detlef and Genevieve’s relationship for a time through its actions so it wasn’t a total loss. Regardless, after all this craziness Castle Drachenfels was finally razed to the ground on Franz's command, only for it to be found mysteriously intact again during The End Times (in fact it was a map in Vermintide).
Other than the above, the castle itself hasn't been seen by a living being in ages, as no sane creature would travel there.
Because the books Drachenfels appeared in were released at the turn of the 90s and the entire setting has been retconned a million times since, Drachenfels conversations within the Warhammer Fantasy community (and on /tg/ especially) tend to garner a fair amount of civilized discussion. If these books weren't half as popular as they are, Black Library wouldn't periodically reprint them despite them being so very out of date. It's easier to summarize arguments by category.
Drachenfels relies on retconned information.
Old Ones in current canon actually created humanity in its current state, so not only is it impossible for him to have preceded them, but there never were neanderthals. Any humans reaching that state have devolved either through Chaos or Necromantic exposure.
Many (new) Black Library books continue to reference things from the story, and his castle is still shown on maps in modern army books as well as heraldry books. In addition, the Drachenfels/Genevieve books were kept in print long after the information in them became noncanon, due to their popularity and being regarded as well written. In addition, the Old Ones did not create mankind; they are stated in the 8e Lizardmen book to have uplifted and altered preexisting races/animals (eg; how they made the Saurus). The Old Ones could have done the latter, and then moved their experimented humans batch to pre-Nehekara, as Drachenfels is essentially Warhammer Vandal Savage.
Drachenfels was replaced by Nagash
Nagash indeed has taken the role of Drachenfels as a mortal undead tied into the backstory of the Empire who is a threat to every single faction in the game. It helps that Nagash was always credited with the invention of the widespread version of necromancy while Drachenfels wasn't.
That's like saying Malekith and Mannfred are noncanon because Nagash fulfills the role of big non-Chaos baddie. Also Drachenfels was never credited with inventing Necromancy as a school of magic, just prolonging his own lifespan. Drachenfels can be considered the Vandal Savage to Nagash's General Zod.
"He declared the Chaos Gods to be his subordinates, and demanded tribute of Daemon forces periodically afterwards. They hastily obliged each time."? That's fucking stupid.
Yeah, that's a pretty glaring example of being a Villain Sue. They should at least explain what he is/how he works to the fanbase.
That doesn't make it noncanon. In addition, making the Chaos Gods win simply by virtue of the fact they're Chaos Gods is part of the argument that Games Workshop tends to Mary Sue the entire Chaos faction. There's no reason there can't be an evil force stronger than them - hell, Malal was an official thing back then too. Also, the idea that Drachenfels is better than the Chaos Gods could only be true in the eyes of Drachenfels himself given his arrogance. Considering it was just after the Warp Gates collapsed and we have no knowledge as to how powerful the chaos gods were at that time, they may have ruled the warp already but that doesn't automatically mean that they were as powerful as we know them to be by the End Times. Also, the Chaos Gods are basically just daemons who are considered gods by virtue of being the most powerful of their kind, and we know from other examples that daemons are vulnerable to having their true names spoken. Given his age, it's not unreasonable that Drachenfels could have learned the gods' true names right after they first formed and then used the knowledge to compel them.
On the Tabletop
As Drachenfels only ever existed in one book series and one Warhammer Fantasy RPG book, he's unlikely to ever get a miniature. Due to his transformative nature howeverm you could easily make something look like him using another mini. As for how to field him? Daemons army. Vampire Counts army. Orcs & Goblins army. Hell, ally all three together in a 3 on 3 match. All that matters is that you put Drachenfels somewhere on the table, and after you lose you laugh about seeing the other player soon, then tell him a week later Drachenfels came back and ate the souls of his children.
The End Times
In the game The End Times: Vermintide, Castle Drachenfels was added as an expansion. Apparently it was either not destroyed or magically reformed, and was invaded by Skaven who were both channeling its magic into portals to summon Daemons and searching the castle for cursed magic relics. The heroes put down the Skaven, although nothing of note was found within. Disturbingly, the Poisoned Feast is still set up...
In the second game, the castle was taken once again. This time it was taken by a former Nurgle sorcerer lord of the Rotblood tribe, Nurgoth the Eternal, who now lead the Rotblood tribe and the remaining Skaven after the Ubersliek 5 disabled the Rotblood's leadership and fucked over Clan Fester. The stinky boy had made the Castle his base of operation, where he conducted a ritual that would allow him to acquire the power of a demon from the castle and also made him go insane courtesy of the glimpses he got at the realm of Chaos (though on the plus side looking into the warp gave him foresight of some sort). Kidnapping villagers for his ritual did not go unanswered however, for the Ubersliek 5 noticed this and give Nurgoth a beating so bad that he explodes. With Nurgoth's death, Castle Drachehfels is once again empty, but now with trails of disgusting demon buboes left over from Nurgoth's work, especially the rotten tunnel of pus and shit the shit lord himself left behind after his explosive death.
Despite the fact that Drach by this point is a thrall of Nagash as the Nameless, a portion of his consciousness still haunts the castle, whispering doubt in the minds of the heroes...
Both games of Vermintide have the castle's wall decorated mostly in John Blanche artwork, a 4th wall break if you want to take it that way (or not). For you see, the second game features a painter living in the same keep with the Ubersliek 5 named Catrinne of Aldenstein, who had drawn paintings that were references to various real life Warhammer artworks, including Blanche's. So either Blanche exists in the Warhammer world or various gifted artists in the setting have foresight that allows them to witness various images of scenery out of the blue.
With the impending release of The End Times, Drachenfels gets added back into the setting as a "Mortarch" of Nagash, though so far he's only referred to as "The Nameless". Indeed, his whole reason for siding with Nagash is to try and recover his identity because he's forgotten who he is thanks to the whole divine hammer to the skull and earlier botched resurrection. He's described as a bodiless spirit that specializes in possessing and controlling large groups of people at a time and also a huge dick who likes to screw people over for his petty whims - one day he decides he wants banners of flayed skin, so his victims start skinning each other, the next day he makes them rip out their bones to make totems because he's bored with the skin banners.
Nagash, who knew what the Nameless was, desired to keep it a thrall clueless as to its identity as Drachenfel's power to dominate the minds of mortals so quickly and en masse is a power he envies; what's more, Drach was the only other mortal capable of rivaling him.
In fact, the petty dickery of the Nameless actually screws him and Vlad von Carstein over because it disrupts their takeover so much that it makes Balthasar Gelt come to see why
things are acting odd in the area they've conquered the guards in the area weren't reporting in. Though Gelt joins them later due to this, so everything ended up working out fine.
At some point afterwards before the end of the world, Drachy decides that the big bonedaddy doesn't have his interests in mind and eventually just breaks off to do his own thing. He manages to control an entire village and personally possess Luthor Huss, the Sigmarite Warrior-Priest extraordinaire. By this point, Drach decides to throw his lot in with the winning side (that is Chaos) and is in league with the corpse of Isabella von Carstein. However, he runs into Vlad and Vlad manages to wake up Huss and then the Witch Hunter's power of PURE SIGMARITE FAITH burns the bodiless Mortarch to oblivion. And thus was the end of Drachenfels' return. For the time at least ...
So this pretty much confirms Drachenfels as canon.
By extension, Genevieve is now full canon too. Which by extension makes this the best article ever written as we now have confirmation of Sigmar possessing someone to skull fuck a bad guy with a Warhammer.
Drachenfels is referenced in several random events in the game. He's active and up to his old shenanigans, but since the world is dealing with every faction getting active at once he's more of a footnote and doesn't even merit a rogue faction. His castle was added as a cosmetic feature on the map near Athel Loren (on the wrong side of the mountains, as some fans have noted) but isn't involved in any gameplay. He's unlikely to be added as an official character to the game either, since multi-race armies are not a thing and he'd be a powerful bullshit thorn in the side of the Night Goblins, Belegar Ironhammer, and WElfs). Arkhan is able to use all Tomb Kings and some Vampire Counts units though, so a Drachenfels expansion is theoretically possible. The Total Warhammer II Patch consists of the updated Heinrich Kemmler starting position, and the addition of the Bloodlines mechanic; the Liche Master arrives at Castle Drachenfels.
Drachenfels himself does get a somewhat more direct reference in Cylostra Direfin's epilogue which mentions her receiving an envoy of The Nameless, who seeks an alliance with her against Brettonia. The fact that this reference is both more direct and more prominent than the others has prompted speculation that The Nameless may be making an appearance in the third game.