These are things I changed or manipulated in another direction that you may wish to consider
Wolfgang and his daughter, after being proven innocent, fear that the cultists still out there may wish to harm them still or get revenge. They end up going with the players to Altdorf for protection and to distance themselves from home for a while. Build on this relationship, and maybe even have a romantic spark with one of the players and Wolfgang's daughter. They will end up attending the final prayer service and the urgency to protect them can be played on.
Keep Adele alive till the final battle
Have it be Adele that gives the players clues with the 'snoops' letter.
Good reasons for having Mauer as the Black Cowl:
- Play up his hatred for witch hunters, use Adele in the final fight against him. Even though she attacked the players in chapter 2, they have a common goal of killing the Black Cowl. She can be used as a punching bag if things are going too bad for the players and Mauer targets Adele when the players need to hang on.
- Mauer was tracking them through magic the entire time, being aware of where the case holding the bell clapper was at all times. When they hand over the case and the bell clapper to him, he insists on paying them, giving each of them a pouch of coins. Some of these coins are marked so he can continue to track them just as he was able to track the case. Give the players an opportunity to spot marked coins as the last day unfolds.
- This also helps make it more believable that everything takes place just after the players arrive, because Mauer knew they were coming and prepared accordingly. He even uses his influence to get the day of the prayer meeting finalized as he knows they are about to arrive.
- The confrontation with Adele can be used in two different ways, either tragic, as she dies trying to stop him, or Mauer uses Traitorous Flesh on her, in his attempt to kill her and he sets her free of her corruption. If she lives, she comes to peace with her past and has a chance for a new life.
Have the "Death to the PC's" ambush part take place just as they catch up to Frederick Grosz on the docks:
Lance (player) "Frederick! I don't mean to harm you or turn you over to someone that would. Stop now and we can work this out. I still aim to treat you as a friend!"
Frederick stops pushing away (attempting to push the boat away from the peer with a wooden pole), looking at Lance and then looks past him. Frederick has a mixed look of regret and fatigue, "It's too late..." Lance looks behind him and sees several figures appearing through the fog coming from the alleyways, they are hooded and armed, and Lance looks back at Frederick, "... they mean to kill you lad..." Lance looks back at the figures who are blocking routs of escape, and hears Frederick say, "...a lot of people are going to die today, I'm sorry."
After resolving the ambush, they all take the boat outside of the city and have a long talk with Frederick and the captured elf.
If you are interested, here is how the final battle unfolded on play by post (edited out game data)
You start scanning the crowd and moving forward through the thick wall of bodies as best you can, with so many faces and distractions filling your senses. As you move a mumbling and chanting man catches your attention and he has eye contact with you, he has a slim build apart from a somewhat pendulous belly and has the trappings of a Sigmarite Zealot. He is wild-eyed and his ginger hair is patchy, sticking out from his ravaged head at all angles. He has mortified himself, scratching a number of long but shallow gouges in his flesh. Around his neck is a spiked collar, and in his left hand he swings a large hand bell. A long chain is wrapped around his body. Nine small wooden boxes are hung from the chain; each one has a devotional prayer pinned to its lid. He rocks back and forth and whispers to himself. As the eye contact is uncomfortable, Lance looks away and the man lurches forward and grips him by the shoulder, and bellows “REPENT! The gods condemn us for our sins! A dark day; the darkest day!”
[Do you speak with him or just break free and keep moving?]
Lance breaks free and keeps moving. Derck is not fond of zealots of any kind and ensures that Lance is not further disturbed by the fanatic by pushing Lance forward or removing the man's hand from the young man's shoulder.
The man makes constant references to “my god” and “holy master” as he seems to look right through you as you break free and keep moving. A few more steps into the crowd you spot a short and dumpy thirty year old with greying black hair tied back in a tight bun. She is dressed in white robes of Shallya. She sweetly greets you as you pass by and offers to pray with you for Shallya's mercy upon the Emperor and yourselves.
Lance smiles at the lady, but he presses on looking for the Wolfgangs, Clothilde, Baerfaust, Mauer, von Kaufman, Curd Weiss, or anyone else that can advance his cause and concerns for the night. He has Derck start looking around for exits and making sure that they aren't being blocked by suspicious men. Kesh goes with Derck.
As they discuss splitting up, Kesh sees just over Lance's shoulder Wolfgang and Margaritte not far away, "Look" Lance is relieved and they quickly make their way to them, and when Margaritte sees Lance she lights up and smiles, and Lance finds himself concerned for her even more than he felt before.
"You're here! Isn't this the most amazing thing ever?" she says.
Wofgang greets you but can read the concern on your faces, "is there something wrong?"
Lance answers the direct question, "Yes. It may not be safe here. Mauer arranged for this prayer service and we just discovered that he is evil and probably corrupted. His sister is a witch, and we just executed her. The clapper that we brought back is not cleansed and probably going to be used tonight." It is then that Lance worries that the clapper is going to be used for the church services tonight. He says to the Wolfgangs, "You both need to leave. Your life may depend on it. Kesh, Derck, I need you both to go and find the church bell or bells here. They may have the clapper at play here!" Lance tries to usher out the Wolfgangs himself while Derck and Kesh go to look for the church bell. If there are more than one, then they split up.
Kesh and Derck see that there are two doors on either side of the 'T' shaped service chamber, just to the left and right where they see The Grand Theogonist raise his hands for silence up on the alter. It appears the service is about to begin as he calls for attention. It is easy to know that both doors lead to towers, and most likely they are both bell towers.
Lance is thankful that Wolfgang and Margaritte were not too far toward the front, and getting them out the main entrance will only take a few moments. Wolfgang has no doubt about your words and has no hesitation in doing anything to make sure Margaritte is safe.
The Grand Theogonist calls for silence. He raises his hands as the hubbub slowly dies and begins to preach in a strong, rough voice, “Brave men of the Empire! We are gathered here in Sigmar’s sight to pray for our Emperor, Karl Franz, that he might take again Sigmar’s holy hammer in his hand and smite the foes of our Empire. Let us bow our heads in solemn prayer.”
The service is starting and everyone starts heading to their seats, Kesh and Derck move to the sides to not be as noticeable. [do they stick together? If not, who goes left and who goes right?]
As everyone takes their seats, the throng thins out greatly. Gentlemen remove their hats, and a sea of feathers and crests vanishes, allowing everyone to see more easily across the temple.
Lance feels the pangs of guilt as he ushers out the Wolfgangs. Nobody would believe him if he called for them to run anyway. He is terrified of what that clapper could do and knows that Mauer is frightening intelligent even if corrupted. The treacherous wizard would not set up this trap if it weren't an effective one. He hopes that Kesh and Derck can stop them and he evens says an uncharacteristic prayer for them as he ensures that he and the Wolfgangs are outside and safe. He even insists on creating more distance from the temple with them and himself.
Derck goes left and Kesh goes right. At the moment that they split and determine that they are going separate ways, Kesh looks at Derck and says, "You yell and make a hell of a noise if you run into trouble, understood?" He says it in a way to convey concern and Derck understands. He gives a curt nod and moves to the left tower. Both men move as quickly and discreetly as they can.
As everyone is taking their seats, and the throng thins out, the filthy, self-flagellating zealot staggers down the aisle towards the altar. The Grand Theogonist continues speaking, unconcerned with the odd behaviour of one of his congregants.
Then it happens, the first peal of the bell sends an almost visible ripple through the congregation and a spasm of pain and fatigue through your bodies. Gasps of surprise, pain, and fear erupt into the sudden silence that follows in the bell’s wake. As you nearly fall down from the effect, the zealot shrieks in despair and rushes towards the altar, his body and the boxes suspended from his chains trailing dense purple and blue smoke, so dark it’s almost black, as he does so.
As a second peal of the bell nearly drives you to your knees, the zealot vanishes behind what is now a pillar of smoke. His despairing shriek seems to have become mocking laughter, and flickering lights and flames dance within the smoke. As the bell peals a third time, the crowd screams with panic!
Wolfgang and Margaritte are stunned and Margaritte lets out a terrifying scream . [Lance and them are at close range to the exit]
[Kesh is almost certain that the ringing is coming from the left tower. Derck is at medium range to the door, Kesh is at long range.]
Lance hurries Graf Wolfgang and his daughter, Margaritte to the exit. Kesh hearing the ringing coming from the left tower, sprints to catch up with Derck. Derck hearing the bell ringing and knowing of the clapper, he continues his movement to the left tower. He does draw his longbow and an arrow. Derck looks in his immediate area. If he sees knights or other men of arms nearby, then he calls them to his side, "That bell must be stopped or we will all die!"
Many are on the floor, writhing in pain, but several men of the empire start getting to their feet and even drawing weapons, not sure of the chaos unfolding around them. The pillar of smoke pulsates almost like a heartbeat and from it shoots out chains in what seems like all directions, one of the boxes on chains comes bursting out of the smoke and lands on the floor near Derck, the box rattles briefly on the floor, spewing thick smoke, then erupts and a horrifying amalgam of flesh, bone, horn, beak, and flickering fire bursts out from it.
[that was on initiative 2, Roll vs Fear 2 on Kesh and Derck]
Several daemons immediately begin capering and prancing and attacking the crowd in several spots around the room, the crowd shifts in panic around the horrors. Meanwhile, the pillar of smoke clears and reveals the erratic, spindly form of a creature with long limbs beneath a blue-and-purple cloak. The empty skin of the zealot lies discarded on the ground near the daemon’s feet, along with the zealot’s chains and holy sigils. [This is also at initiative 2]
Derck draws his bow and an arrow and frantically calls out to some men nearby, "That bell must be stopped or we will all die!" [Roll your Leadership vs 1d]
Kesh sprints to catch up with Derck [2 moves brings him engaged with Derck]
Lance hurries Graf Wolfgang and his daughter, Margaritte to the exit. The guards there are stunned by what unfolds and seem deeply affected by the bell. As Lance takes them through the exit, he feels some relief but is still horrified as the events unfold. He sees crowds of people outside who also feel the effects, and are gasping, falling to their knees and running in panic. It seems chaos has erupted all around them. A horse drawn carriage is racing through the crowd, almost running over people as it approaches, then Lance is shocked again as he sees an explosion go off in the distance, followed by another, and then another... as if all out war has come to Altdorf.
The creatures attack the crowd with maddening speed, taking full advantage of the chaos, you can see that Grand Theogonist lays motionless up on the alter, but other men of the Empire seem to be reacting to the challenge that has unfolded. One of the creatures begins to spew flame from a large mouth that strikes into several nearby, causing more screams of agony.
[Terror checks: Lance: success. Derck: success and boon. Kesh: success and 2 boons.]
[Fear checks: Derck: success. Kesh: fail with 2 boons.]
[Leadership check: Derck: fail with Chaos Star.]
Lance still rushes farther from the temple with Wolfgang and Margaritte. He purposely does not go in the direction of explosions of gun powder, but he does want to get them away from the cursed bell clapper.
Kesh sees the demons occupy the other men at arms and Derck's failed attempt to rally them, but he himself rallies to Derck and says, "Behind me. We will stop this together!" He runs ahead of Derck crashing through the door to the bell tower.
[He draws his sword and shield and moves through the door. This causes 1 fatigue. He exhausts Strong Willed to recover 1 fatigue and 1 stress.]
Derck is visibly frustrated by the lack of devotion to his call by the other men, but invigorated by Kesh's charge. He follows behind him with bow in hand.
[Move twice to stay behind Kesh through the doorway. Exhaust Resolute to recover 2 stress.]
Going through the door, you see an odd thing, laying on the floor is a blonde woman's wig and a fine dress that seems to have been quickly discarded, and near it are small pools of blood. Looking up on the stairs you see a body of a man laying face down as his blood drips down the stone spiraling staircase.
As Lance rushes away from the Temple, he sees the horse drawn cart coming right at them, and he pushes Wolfgang and Margaritte to the side to make sure the madman doesn't run them over! The Cart rushes by them and heads right for the entrance! He then sees that the cart is laden down with small barrels and before he can do anything, it smashes into the entrance sending guards scattering.
A massive explosion rocks the front of the Temple, dozens are killed instantly. Lance sees stone and body parts of guards and others trying to flee flying through the air as he half covers his eyes and tries to cover Margaritte. Large chunks of rubble cave the entrance, blocking anyone from escape!
The panic in the temple worsens!
Lance looks back at the temple thinking about Derck, but with the entrance destroyed now, it leaves him little choice in the matter. He runs away with the Wolfgangs, forcing them to a safer position.
As Kesh and Derck dart up the stairs, bypassing the body of some unknown thug, the bell rings again, cutting through their minds and causing the structure around them to shake the building, cracks form and dust and bits of grit fall from the cracks and from above.
As your round the stairs you spot someone trying to make their way up, it is Adele Ketzenblum! She holds herself up with her good hand and seems wounded, but quickly turns to see you coming
Adele pivots around as you approach, holding her bladed, prosthetic hand toward you, "“So, you made it here after all, snoops. What do you intend now?" She is unsure if you will attack or not.
Kesh raises his shield and readies his sword as Derck looks around him into Adele's eyes. The veteran says with venom dripping off of his words, "Let's have this discussion over Mauer's dead body."
They both charge up the stairs. Adele can remain in front or fall behind them. She is not trustworthy, but there is little difference in dying with a knife in your back or being rattled to death by this cursed bell. They have to press on.
Adele nods and you can see blood dripping from her nose, either from being wounded or the effects of the bell, it is hard to say.
You press on and spot enemies descending the stairs to intercept you! It appears to be three men dressed in black with masks.
Derck tries to relax now that he is in combat. Several years of fighting have hones the veteran's habit of becoming much more attentive while in the disorder of battle. He pulls back his arrow and begins to fire at the men. With careful steps, he keeps pace behind Kesh up the stairs knowing that he must stay more focused now than he ever has in his life.
Kesh can't hear the quiet sound of the arrow going by his head to the enemies, but he sees the feathers of Derck's arrow suddenly sprouting out of the enemy. This only makes him smile and he lunges up the stairs with greater ferocity. Now is not the time for testing your foes and dancing with them on the field of battle. He must kill these men quickly and get around them.
[i'm waiting to see what Derck's action did before deciding what Kesh does.]
The man is struck by the arrow, which sends him toppling forward down the stairs and the clattering of his sword comes to a halt just as Kesh jumps over them and engages the two other men.
Kesh charges the stairs slamming with his shield and slicing with his sword.
Kesh makes quick work of the fiends and they drop with ease. Adel comes up from behind, " Mauer has wanted revenge ever since his family was consigned to the flames by Witch Hunters!"
The bell cuts through you as you get closer, and the walls shake. The sounds of battle below seem to have died down, which gives you hope, but with each ring you feel your mind get more clouded and your nerves cry out for it to stop.
You rush up, and the shadowy recesses of the tower seem washed out by pure light in the chamber above, the brightness is unsettling as you know it is powerful magic at work. But this does not slow your pace, the urgency and fear keep you rushing forward. You spill into the chamber and your eyes are struck by the brightness in the room.
The room is not large, suspended above the central drop is the bell, and along each wall are openings that reveal the darkness outside, only the opening facing the temple reveals the chamber below, and you can hear the sounds of battle, screams, and what can only be magic being cast by powerful Wizards, or perhaps the enemy.
On the other side of the drop in the center stands Mauer, his body appears as pure light, and he is hard to gaze on for more than a moment, but you can see he is dressed fully as a Light Order Wizard. With him are 6 men dressed like the ones before, they must have been hiding out in here well before the service began. One stands at the bell, who is in charge of keeping it ringing. More disturbingly, next to Mauer is what can only be described as a rip forming in the air itself, purple energy surrounds it and it pulsates with darkness much like what you witnessed in the service chamber below.
Mauer turns toward you and let's out a laugh, "It is too late to stop this."
- Mauer casts Channel Power
Mauer does not hesitate, he raises his staff to twist the winds to his bidding. There is a crack in the air and a powerful presence of evil, and Adele lets out a terrifying scream of agony as her flesh ripples and twists. She nearly falls down the stairs, but braces herself against the wall with her good hand. Blood gushes from her nose and mouth.
[Mauer casts Traitorous Flesh] [Mauer expends an expertise to maintain initiative]
The man standing at the bell pulls on it once again, and the bell rings, at this close range, the pain and sound nearly drive you mad. How could they not be affected?
The other men move to engage you, three swing on Kesh and the other two Derck, they seem invigorated by the Chaos and seem willing to give up their lives for their dark god. It takes no effort for Kesh to fend off his attackers [don't need to use extra defenses as they missed with his base defense] but the ones on Derck press the attack swiftly [vs his base, they get 2 success and 4 banes, what defenses do you add]
Derck sees what he needs to do and takes a risk as the men slash at him, he manages to kick one back a bit and slips to the left near one of the openings along the wall. Adel moves in his wake and takes advantage of his move and sinks her prosthetic blade into one of the mens neck. The man goes limp and drops like a bag of sand to the ground.
[rest is still in progress]