Grand Alliance Death
"We enjoy the night, the darkness, where we can do things that aren't acceptable in the light. Night is when we slake our thirst."
- – William Hill
The Soulblight Gravelords are the new, trademark friendly AoS interpretation of the Vampire Counts and replacement for Legions of Nagash. With Nagash getting his skull caved in again, his servants are now free to run wild and go about their own machinations. Chief among them are of course the vampire lords, eager to sink their fangs into new prey.
Age of Myth
After the arrival of Nagash in the Mortal Realms and his tenuous alliance with Sigmar, Nagash's first aim was the conquering of the Realm of Shysish for his own. At this time many other Gods of Death existed that actively challenged Nagash for dominance with some even actively looking to bring death to all other gods and the living (an idea Nagash himself would take interest in later on). Nagash's supreme skill in summoning the Legions of the Dead proved invaluable as underworld after underworld fell to his control. Eventually almost all the other Death Gods that could challenge him were either killed, imprisoned, or fled into hiding (in the case of Morrda), leaving Nagash the supreme ruler of the realm.
During these conquests, Nagash begrudgingly conceded that he could not marshal all his forces at once nor be on every battlefront simultaneously, and his vizier Arkan the Black just wasn't enough. He needed generals, spies, and confidants that still had what Nagash loathed in other beings: free will. Thus, he started actively courting Necromancers, Wight Kings and generals among the living to lead his armies. At this time as well he decided to revive the long-destroyed race of vampires, having remembered their use in the world-that-was. Retrieving the lost soul fragments of Neferata, Mannfred and Ushoran, he brought them back into existence to serve him once again as Mortarches.
Eventually Ushoran displeased Nagash and was imprisoned for his troubles (to see how that story ended up check out the Flesh-Eater Courts), but Neferata and Mannfred would go on to sire the first Vampires of the Mortal Realms who would serve Nagash's (and their) wills, with Neferata founding her personal kingdom of Neferatia and Mannfredd in Carstinia (though he would go on to despise the place). These initial Vampires served directly under the the newly established Legions of Blood and Legions of Night, but as the Soulblight Vampire empires spread throughout the realms and new vampires were sired, subcultures and new dynasties began to form. All vampires, being very independent by nature, eventually led to branch-off bloodlines forming and going off on their own to establish their own bloodlines and empires. These took many different forms, from kingdoms of the living and dead, to alliances with Wight Kings and Deathrattle kingdoms, or simply as roaming marauders who preyed on the living and dead alike. Nagash and the Mortarchs for the most part paid them little mind unless they conflicted with their own agendas, with these branch-offs eventually becoming the first soulblight dynasties (one of the most prominent being the Vyrkos).
Unfortunately for Nagash, internal rivalries between dynasties and individual Soulblight Vampires began to form, the biggest being the renewed conflicts between Neferata and Mannfred for dominance and Nagash's favour. The two Mortarchs often utilizing the new Dynasties as proxies in their squabbles. Though both had to be more wary, as new generations of Soulblight began to take sights on the two founding vampires and potential ways to claim their positions as Nagash's elite. All vampires in one way or another also looked secretly for ways to free themselves permanently from Nagash's dominion (Mannfred especially), as on some level all the Soulblight realized that their very existence as free-minded individuals was something Nagash ultimately wished to purge from reality, and dreaded the day he decided he no longer needed them.
Age of Chaos
During the invasion of Chaos the Soulblight Gravelords did what they could to push back the chaos hordes. At the very beginning atleast they had common cause with the rest of Sigmars Pantheon. The Legion of Blood and Legion of Night were the main spearhead against the chaos hordes. With Neferatas spy network usually staying ahead of enemy movements and Mannfreds clever tactics reaping a heavy toll of the chaos armies. However this momentum began to stall as the various Dynasties and Soulblight empires began to lose cohesion as they could not coordinate properly. As many Vampire lords and Wight Kings would only really listen to Nagash or the Mortarchs, and they couldn't be everywhere at once. Leading to various forces to either fend only for themselves or abandon elsewhere allies.
To make matters worse Nagash decided to abandon Sigmar's forces in trying to control the Allgate to Shyish. A betrayal that cost Sigmar dearly and led him to launch a crusade into Shyish to punish Nagash. Which led to a great deal of calamities to occur; with Sigmar's siege leading to the freeing of Ushoran, Katakros (Nagash greatest general) to be struck down and led to the raizing of countless undead armies and Dynasties. Eventaully Sigmar recalled his forces to partake in the Battle of the Burning Skies that ultimately led to Sigmar abandoning the war to close of Azyr. Unfortuantely this meant that Nagash was alone in facing the full force of Chaos. A vast army spearheaded by Archaon himself eventually besieged Nagashizar itself leading to the defeat of Nagash and the nuking of the Realm of Death capital.
After this event the Mortarchs spearheaded by Arkhan the Black managed to steal back Nagash's remains before he could be destroyed permanently (in additon to stopping an attempted betrayal by Prince Vhordrai of permantly destroying Nagash's remains) and went into hiding so Nagash could recover. Following this any remaining cohesion between the various Soulblight Dynasties collapsed with every Vampire, Wight King and Necromancer essentially out for themselves simply trying to survive the chaos hordes. Ultimately Neferata would go into hiding in her capital in Nualamia and Mannfred would begin a centuries long guerilla war against the chaos invaders as they conquered the realm of Shyish virtually unchallenged. Most other Soulblight forces (such as the Vyrkos) spent the next few centuries hiding and striking at the chaos forces as best they could with most of the underworlds falling to chaos control.
Age of Sigmar
With the coming of Sigmar's tempest the various Soulblight Forces used the confusion from the Stormcast Eternals invasion to push back against the Chaos forces where ever they could. In some rare examples Sigmar's forces even attempted to forge alliances with the Soulblight forces where the could, since they shared a common enemy. Prominent examples include The Anvils of the Heldenhammer attempting to aid Neferata's nation of Neferatia as her capital of Nulahmia was being besieged by Slaaneshi chaos forces. Or Manfred making several temporary alliances with the Hallowed Knights stormhost (with one time even assisting them in freeing an old ally who has since become a Stormcast). While fruitful around this time, Nagash had finally recovered from his defeat by Archaon and set about forbidding any of his minions forming alliances with Sigmar; who he openly accused of Soul-theivery (among other imagined slights). Beyond this the forces of death mostly kept to themselves, neither supporting nor antagonizing most new settlers from Azyr. This would change eventually.
Unbenouced to most (in fact even few among the Soulblight themselves), Nagash had over a period of thousands of years been working on enancting a grand ritual that would leave him dominant among all reality. Since the age of Myth Arkhan the Black had been directing vast skelatal legions to bring the gravesand (Shyish realmstone) from the edges of the realm to its center to enact a grand ritual that would alter the effects of magic in the Realm of Shyish to make the center the most infused with magic rather than the edges, in addition this grand ritual would also send out so much death magic throughout the other realms it would instantly kill all living beings and revive them all as undead, rendering Nagash the supreme ruler of all the realms and allow him to finally drive back chaos.
Which would have been great for him except his plans being leaked to the other great powers through prophetic visions leading to his capital being besieged, which Arkhan himself defended against, all of which served as the perfect distraction for a group of skaven to infiltrate his pyramid at the center of the ritual and mess it up. Causing death magic to instead spread throughout the other realms in an event known as the "Necroquake". It didn't wipe out the living as intended, but it did cause mass summoning of undead forces throughout all the realms along with causing magic to become highly unstable (leading to the dawn of endless spells). Legions of Zombies rose instantly, and Nighthaunt legions became more common than ever before. Nagash also mangaed to still harness a substantial amonunt of death magic from the newly created Shyish Nadir at the center of the realm and began his campaign of conquest. The various Soulblight commanders quickly acted to take control of these newly risen forces for both Nagash's and their own ends.
The Soulblight legions themselves were also greatly empowered from the vast increase in death magic throughout the realms, with their armies and power swelling like never before. Using this the various dynasties began encroaching on both rival and living kingdoms as Nagash had officially declared war on Sigmars burgeoning empires. After so long they could finally war and prey upon whoever they so choose, with blood and plunder in abundance as never before, indeed this was a time of death. Nagash even released Prince Vhordrai from his imprisonment to lead the Kastelai dynasty against Sigmar, though bond eternally to his keep. However things wern't all going great for them. The newly formed Nighthaunt legions had quickly taken the Soulbligts place as both shocktroops and terror weapons. And during the course of the soul wars Katakros, Nagsh general from centuries had been released from a Stormvault in one of the campaigns of the war. Now in control of the newly released Ossiarch Bonereapers that had now taken the place as Nagash vanguard elite. The various Soulblight armies soon found themselves regulated to auxiliary allies and garrisons in Nagash's overall campaign against the living. Worse still the Ossairchs vary existence as free-thinking individuals that were also completely loyal to Nagash created a existential fear in the Vampires especially (were they allies or replacements?).
This all eventually culminated with Nagash finally overreaching and attempting to plunge multiple realms into the Shyish Nadir by corrupting several realmgates leading to it. Manfred and Neferata played along though neither truly was committed to the task (Mannfred even intending for his attempt to fail). This caused Teclis and his Lumineth legions to directly confront Nagash leading to a major war that led to the devestation of the Ossiarch Legions and Nagash personally being cast down by Teclis who had lured him into a trap in Hysh were he was set upon by Teclis, Celenar and the armies of Settlers Gain. His body was shattered and banished to Shyish. And though exhausted Teclis wove a grand spell that finally ended the Necroquake and the rampant death magic thorughout the realms. The Soul Wars had ended.
Era of the Beast
With the dawning of the Era of the Beast from the return of Kragnos and the forces of Destruction on the ascendant, the Soulblight lords acutally had a cause for celebration. Though the death magics of the Necroquake had ended it did have some benefits for them. Without the rampant magics of Nagash's ritual, the Nighthaunt Processions were greatly weakened as Nighthaunt require large amounts of Amethyst magic to maintain their forms, and thus more restricted on targets they can assault, slowing their advances. The Ossiarch legions were greatly depleted in the wars against Chaos worshippers and the Lumineth Realm-lords. And since the Flesh-Eater Courts were less organized, the Soulblight Gravelords now were on the rise once again in Shyish and beyond. Even better, Nagash was once again crippled and regenerating, meaning he wasn't directly overseeing their actions. The vampires who didn't want Nagash's oversight mockingly gave praise and toasts to Teclis for getting him out of their hair (if only temporarily).
The various Soulblight dynasties seek to keep up the momentum they had during the Soul Wars and continue the growth of their empires; the rise in Ghyrish beast magic that is spreading throughout the realms from Kragnos return and Alarielle's Rite of Life has impeded this somewhat. The beast magic caused many vampires to become feral and monstrous (some who took the brunt of the Ghurish magic even mutating into savage monsters), and threatening to erode the control they desperately seek to maintain. This a major issue for many vampires as if they cannot control these urges they risk devolving into Vargiests or worse. The Avengorii Dynasty in particular was hit very hard by this malignancy, as many of its members are already Vargiests or Vengorian lords and teetering on the brink of outright savagery. Now their Matriarch Lauka Vai is trying the best she can to keep them in line, and not turning on themselves. These efforts are woven from practicality; she doesn't want to become a complete and utter monster only living for the sweet taste of flesh.
With Nagash's perishable absence, Arkhan disappeared along with Katakros and Olynder indifference to their politics, the various Soulblight armies have lost all internal cohesion. With every Lord and dynasty all vying for territory and power. Even Mannfred and Neferata have renewed their power struggle with each other and are the verge of full-out war. And Prince Vhordrai is again contemplating making another attempt to free himself from Nagash's curse, along with many wiser vampires using this opportunity to again look for ways to free themselves from Nagash permanently.
Legions and Dynasties
Replacing the bloodlines of old, vampires in AoS now belong to dynasties, which are principally a political organization or a court of vampires from numerous backgrounds/bloodlines that all swear fealty to a patriarch/matriarch that define’s that dynasty’s culture. Most vampires can trace their lineage to the Legions of Night and Blood, who are unquestionably the oldest and most powerful of vampiric factions. So large in fact, that multiple dynasties of vampires exist within the two legions.
- Legion of Night: The old Von Carstein bloodline, led by (who else) Mannfred von Carstein. Arrogant glory-hogs who prefer to bog down enemies with waves of undead minions so the vampire commanders can swoop in for the killing blow. Originally specializing in terror tactics, when the Nighthaunt terk their jerbs, Mannfred re-purposed them into the tactical Soulblight Legion. Fitting their master’s sneakier tactics, the Legion makes frequent use of Varghiests for ambushing enemies or running down the wounded and afraid.
- Legion of Blood: The old Lahmian bloodline, led by (who else) Neferata. Cunning and alluring, they prefer the theatre of political intrigue and schemes, but are still very dangerous in combat thanks to their unnatural speed and grace. They also have a particular fondness for their Deathrattle minions, who in turn fight harder when under the gaze of their vampiric masters. They tend to mess with their opponents' heads.
There are some noteworthy dynasties that have come into prominence over the years and have gone on to expand their influence across the realms.
- Kastelai: Essentially the descendants to the Blood Dragons. A knightly order of vampires loyal to Prince Vhordrai, they follow their banished prince out from their “Crimson Keep” to slaughter and butcher all in their path. They prioritize martial prowess above all else, even going as far as being willing to bargain the lives of an innocent village should they use some kind of weapon or fighting style that is new to them... though given these are long-lived vampires you can imagine such an outcome is quite rare.
- Avengorii: Monstrous beast hunters from Ghur who are looked down upon by the other dynasties for their feral appearance and nature. They’re most famous for their draconic centaur lower halves, which was given to them after they exposed themselves to the full brunt of the Necroquake. The dynasty was once led by a brutal patriarch called Ghorvar, but he was usurped (gutted like a fish) by Lauka Vai, to which the rest of the dynasty had no qualms against. Roughly analogous to the Strigoi given their feral nature - the actual Strigoi broke off and started their own Death faction - and with a little bit of Blood Dragons thrown in, the Avengorii are still their own thing.
- Vyrkos: A shamanistic like culture with ties to a lupine Godbeast as well as Nagash. This connection leads to the Vyrkos vampires developing animal like features and control over them too, wolves being the most common of creature they tend to favor. Gameplay wise they have a pack mentality and reward playing like a bunch of wolves on the prowl.
- Tengorez: A Dynasty that doesn’t have any rules (yet). They’re seemingly based off of the Necrarchs, in that they’re described as withered masters of sorcery. They live in the crystal caves of Hysh, coming out to swipe magical war engines to turn into their own necromantic constructs.
- Neferata, Mortarch of Blood: The original vampire and mistress of manipulation.
- Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night: The bald asshole who destroyed the Old World.
- Prince Vhordrai: A Vampire Lord that tried/failed to overthrow Nagash, and got cursed to be bound to a magic castle that Nagash teleports near people he wants slaughtered, earning Vhordrai the (mocking) title of “Fist of Nagash”. Vhordrai and the Kastelai dynasty within his “Crimson Keep” only have a short time to feast upon mortal blood before the castle is once again flung into the Void, so they fight with a desperate level of savagery. The Prince also rides into battle aboard a Zombie Dragon called Shordemaire.
- Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares: Matriarch of the Avengorii dynasty and a terrifying mixture of bloodthirsty savagery and honorable knighthood. She originally was a noble monster hunter that garnered the respect of friend and foe alike, until a fateful encounter with the Disciples of Tzeentch horribly mutated her into the vampire-dragon-centaur beast that now defines her and her dynasty.
- Belladamma Volga, First of the Vyrkos: Matriarch of the Vyrkos dynasty. An ancient vampire with an unmatched affinity for Direwolves. Has the ability to transform men into wolves, with her personal mount even rumored to be her former lover. She is so ancient, the denizens of Shyish have created multiple myths and folktales about her origins and actions.
- Radukar the Wolf: The uncontested ruler of Ulfenkarn. A large and brutal vampire lord with a fondness for pelts to match his werewolf-like mutations. As a mortal, he once plundered the coasts aboard his vessel the Impaler’s Gift and his Ogor crew, until he came upon the tomb of the vampiric emperor Morkan. Radukar slew and skinned the two headed wolf Vilnas that guarded the tomb and claimed an enchanted blade that lay inside, all to prove himself worthy of the Blood Kiss. Radukar’s raids became more violent and gruesome after his turn, culminating in his arrival at the city of Mournhold which he “saved” from daemonic invasion...only to take it as his own and rename it to Ulfenkarn. He was defeated by a ragtag group of adventurers, but not killed. His body is now twisted and mutated into a more feral form that is simply referred to as “the Beast”. Radukar the Beast is now roaming the wilds of Shyish in a relentless quest for revenge.
- Kritza, the Rat Prince: Once a treacherous nobleman of Ulfenkarn, Kritza was brutally beaten by Radukar and left for dead. What no one realized was that Kritza was mistakingly given the Blood Kiss by his assailant and is now part of the Vrykos dynasty. Uniquely though, instead of controlling wolves, Kritza has influence over various kinds of rats (living and undead), and he can divide his body into a swarm of vermin to escape enemies. It is unknown how well this works on Skaven.
- Lady Annika, the Thirsting Blade: Another vampiric noble from Ulfenkarn, Annika’s lust for blood is considered excessive even among other vampires. Her personal sword Proboscian is enchanted to instantly drain its victims of all bodily fluid (another vampire of the world-that-was...*cough* Vlad von Carstein.*cough cough*... can confirm this can really backfire). Rather than a connection to wolves, Annika has a more traditional tie to bats and can appropriately vanish in a swarm of the flying vermin.
- Ushoran: Now insane with delusions of grandeur and it is contagious. Effectively the first of the Flesh-Eater Courts.
- Deintalos the Exile: An insane vampire who crossed into the territory of Doctor Frankenstein when he began experimenting with resurrecting zombies with electricity. He decided to exile himself from Shyish to hide in the depths of Harrowdeep, where he could tinker around to his satisfaction without drawing any criticism. While his warband is mostly comprised of his lifeless test subjects, he does have an understudy in Prentice Marcov, a filthy little bugger who plays around with his own pet zombie.
The Age of Sigmar Roleplay supplement Champions of Death obviously gives this army a way to be playable, split between the skeletal wights and the frightening vampires...oh, and normal human necromancers as well. Naturally, as masters of subtlety and deception who also happen to be bloodthirsty monsters, the Soulblight offer much to a binding - enough that there are some vampires who turn out to be sleeper agents for either Mannfred or Neferata depending on the circumstance if they're not desperate to reclaim their territories. The wights offer their tireless dedication instead, considering their status as undead only barely autonomous in a way.
Among all the forces of Death, the Soulblights offer the best options for being Soulbound to Order, as vampires are such narcissistic cretins bent on self-preservation that they might just seek out the gods of Order if it means that they can fuck over Nagash if it's in their interests. Even when they are bound, they are not easily trusted - not least because of the stories of what happens to those who so betray the bone-daddy. Those that are trustworthy do offer much, however, as they can offer as much to the living as they do the undead.
Your hero can hail from the following Dynasties:
- Legion of Night: Available to all races. The personal army of Mannfred von Carstein, the greatest asshole in all the realms. Due to his strained relationship with his boss, he allows an exceptional amount of autonomy among his thralls so long as they're loyal to him. Though many join the Soulbound in order to assert themselves as the master or to prove themselves, just as many also join to stick it to the bald fuck or to flee his dickishness. Heroes from the Legion of Night can make a Guile check against a target's Intuition, allowing them to manipulate someone on a win. In addition, all archetypes have access to the Backstab talent.
- Legion of Blood: Available to all races. The army of Queen Neferata is just as much interested in power as any other. These undead just know how much appearances play into this and how to manipulate their allies and foes. Most Soulbound see their status as a free pass to closely observe their potential prey. Heroes from the Legion of Blood gain the Master of Disguise talent and can spend downtime making false identities while also accomplishing other goals.
- Vrykos Dynasty: The dynasty of Lord Radukar, chief antagonist of that one board game that GW released late. These vampires tend to be better in touch with their animalistic instincts compared to other vampires, though it is easy for them to simply degenerate into slavering beasts. Those vampires that are able to become Soulbound intend to utilize it in order to find some measure of control against their animalistic natures and their humanity. Heroes from the Vrykos Dynasty improve their melee score when ganging up on an enemy and gain advantage when tracking down wounded opponents.
- Kastelai Dynasty: This dynasty hides within the Crimson Keep, a traveling castle that always seems to appear only at night only to vanish by dawn. The vampires of this keep are masters of combat, constantly training to become greater. Those vampires who become Soulbound usually are usually relieved to be free of the whims of the keep, but may also find themselves equally suffocated by the beings they are bound to. Heroes from the Kastelai Dynasty can immediately move or charge after killing an enemy. In addition, the Warrior Elite talent becomes available to all archetypes.
- Avengorii Dynasty: The vampires of this realm do not run from their curse, instead embracing their bloodthirst and the monstrous effects it has upon their bodies. Despite their frightening appearances though, they are perhaps the most lucid of vampires and possess a sort of chivalric honor. Indeed, this honour makes them the most amenable to joining Order-based Bindings, though usually at the behest of Lauka Vai for some further agenda. Heroes from the Avengorii Dynasty deal more damage with their unarmed attacks, including inflicting worse wounds. In addition, they gain advantage on tests made to intimidate enemies.
Soulblight Vampires have access to either the Blood Knight or Vampire Lord archetypes, while the Wights have access to either the Grave Guard or Black Knight archetypes. Humans also have access to the Necromancer archetype.
|Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar|