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. Imagine if you mixed the classic mustache and goatee twirling 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.
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 humans by a river during the ice age of the world. Drachenfels was counted among their number, and after becoming sick while in 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 absorbed his life energy (keep in mind this is before Chaos entered the world, and thus there's no deus ex machina you can use through them here).
He used his newfound power to continue living. His body still rotted however, 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 established 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. Despite being of near power to himself, he declared them to be his subordinates, and demanded tribute of Daemon forces periodically afterwards. They hastily obliged each time.
Rather than having a direct goal (like taking over the world, destroying the Empire, consuming the Warp, and so on) Drachenfels has never sought specific ends. Each time he attacks the outside world, he does so merely out of boredom. He usually takes plenty of captives back, 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 or for some reason chose to spare the conquered.
The first time, Sigmar had only just united the tribes that would be the Empire when the land fell under attack from an army of greenskins led by Drachenfels. Drachenfels was rallying out in support of his ally Nagash and 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 in history, 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.
Only a few decades later, Drachenfels went unarmed to the Empire and announced he'd reformed his evil ways, 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 pleaded for forgiveness at the graves of those whose bodies had been recovered. After the dimwitted public accepted that he'd turned good, he invited the entire court of the Emperor to a feast at his castle. He served them wine laced with paralyzing poison, then laid an elaborate feast out in front of them. 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, a constant feast being brought out and served in front of them. What the actual fuck.
One of the children who survived the sick game grew to be Oswald von Konigswald, who became an Elector Count. 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 him 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 and transferred to the ownership of Oswald.
- Spoiler: What people didn't know was that Oswald was That Guy; he was 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 decided to make a deal with him and keep him alive for the lulz. Oswald gets to be the hero who killed Drachenfels and will overthrow Karl Franz, while Drachenfels gets to return instead of being ultra-killed and fuck a whole new group of people over. So he let Oswald 'kill' him, sacrificed a lot of his servants and laid low until he could possess the actor playing him at the play about his "defeat" ten years later. Things go south for Drachenfels when Genevieve and Deltef (the latter buffed by the power of Sigmar) kill him (it's implied to be for good), along with the asshole Oswald.
Years later, Oswald hired a great playwright to direct a production within the castle 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. As would be expected, Drachenfels returned to life during the play and slaughtered a fair number of the audience and cast. Genevieve and the director of the play, Detlef Sierck, were blessed by Sigmar and dealt a killing blow to Drachenfels (again). Although this is described as having killed him once and for all, everyone who has killed him has thought the exact same thing. Regardless, his fortress was finally razed to the ground on Franz's command, but during The End Times was found mysteriously intact again (and was a map on Vermintide).
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 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. Thus 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 non-canon 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. The Old Ones could have done the latter, and then moved their experimented humans batch to pre-Nehekara. Thus, Drachenfels would have been 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.
"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 non-canon. 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. Also, the idea that Drachenfels is better than the Chaos Gods could only be true in the eyes of Drachenfels himself, as he is arrogant. Considering it was just after the Warp Gates collapsing, it could be possible due to the fact that 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 time of the "End times".
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 however 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 soul 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 reformed, and was invaded by Skaven who were channeling its magic into portals to summon Daemons, and were searching the castle for cursed magic relics. The heroes put down the Skaven, although nothing else of note was found within. Disturbingly, the Poisoned Feast is still set up...
With the impending release of The End Times, the 2014 big apocalyptic event for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, it looks like GW have finally convinced Newman to release a likely updated, rewritten version of Drachenfels, who is getting re-added 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. 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 deciding 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. In fact, this petty dickery 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 gets to personally possess Luthor Huss, Witch Hunter 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 someone with a Warhammer.
Drachenfels is referenced in several random events possible 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 kind 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 bullshit powerful thorn in the side of the Night Goblins, Belegar Ironhammer, and WElfs). Since the Total Warhammer II Patch consisting of the updated Heinrich Kemmler starting position, and the addition of the Bloodlines mechanic; the Liche Master arrives at Castle Drachenfels.