I recently ran a full playthrough of ‘The Crimson Countess’, a scenario I’m planning to include with the core rules of Bloodheist, my upcoming vampire heist game. I designed the scenario to be reasonably straightforward to run, without too many locations or named characters. The set-up is that the party are deposited in Mountberg, a small rural town somewhere in Europe. The location is significant only because the Crimson Countess, a private train owned by the eminent vampire Lady Cecilia Winterbloom, is due to stop in Mountberg to refuel. The PCs are charged with boarding the train and stealing Lady Cecilia’s prized possession: a vial of a Saint’s blood (the vampire clans collect particularly rare or delicious blood samples). They have no other instructions on how to achieve this goal.
We rolled randomly for characters, and ended up with the following cast:
- Luther Dupont, a human clerk turned Occultist.
- Magnus De Quincey, a vampire of House Pharynx. A Shadowjack (sneaky, pickpocketing thief).
- Francois Sallow, a human hunter and Murderer.
I quickly sketched out the scenario for our three robbers: Lady Winterbloom’s train was imminently due to stop in Mountberg. They were seated in the Hog and Hare tavern, a few streets away from the mountain town’s train station. After some discussion on how they might approach the heist, Francois Sallow kicked things off by using his Ritual: the Bloody Gaze. Shielded by a beer menu, the frenchman pulled both of his eyes out of his head and gazed around the beer hall with the bloody sockets, searching the secret hearts of those gathered in the tavern. He was seeking anyone who might have a connection with Lady Winterbloom and the approaching train.
To his delight, it turned out one of the customers – a small, intense dark-haired woman with a violin case – was due to board the Crimson Countess, and was anxiously thinking about the location of her ticket. The three thieves immediately decided to pickpocket her while she was distracted, and use her ticket to board the train. Luther engaged her in conversation whilst Magnus De Quincey attempted to filch the ticket from her jacket. This did not quite go to plan; while Magnus did steal a small, ticket-sized piece of paper from her pocket, it turned out not to be a train ticket but rather a sinister, totally black sheet of parchment, written in the language of Hell itself. Worse, the woman immediately realised this document had been stolen, and began screaming at Magnus. Francois quickly stepped in and bludgeoned her unconscious with his walking stick. The robbers stole the woman’s train ticket and barged out of the Hog and Hare, making for the train station.
They arrived just in time for the Crimson Countess to pull in: a long, luxurious steam train, painted (of course) in bright, gory red. Francois used his Bloody Gaze ritual to scan the train as it pulled into the station, and was able to ascertain that the blood vial they sought was held in an armoured, windowless carriage that resembled a mobile bank vault. They boarded the train using their purloined ticket and set themselves up in an empty sleeper car, fitted out with two coffins. Magnus used his Ritual (Feral Shadow) to detach his shadow and send it off scouting out the train. The shadow reported that the vault carriage was protected by a door that seemed to need a numerical code to open. It also reported that the violinist they had robbed was standing on the platform, arguing with the train guards.
The thieves decided to change their appearances a bit. They lured some train guards into their carriage, and knocked them unconscious. Luther then used his Ritual to bind the unfortunate guards with unholy red vines, and hid the bodies in the sleeper carriages’ coffins. The two humans, Francois and Luther, changed into their uniforms. Thus disguised, they made their way up towards the engine of the train, pushing a drinks cart, looking for any clues on how they could open the vault carriage door. Magnus De Quincey followed at a distance, undisguised, hoping to blend in with the vampire passengers of the train and do some socialising.
The robbers made their way through several more sleeping carriages, then passed through a more ornate sleeping carriage that they presumed belonged to Lady Winterbloom. They then found themselves in a dining carriage, occupied by vampire NPCs. At one table a vampire with a blonde mullet talked avidly to a man in a grey army uniform, who was passed out drunk. At the other, a vampire dressed in an expensive red dress sat in stony silence with a tall vampire man, who was covered in tattoos.
Magnus took a seat, and struck up a conversation with the blonde-mulleted vampire, who introduced himself as the ‘Leopard Monarch’, well-known for his collection of vampire leopards (I can’t help myself sometimes). While this tedious character rambled on to Magnus, Francois took his eyes out again in an attempt to get a lead on where they could find the code for the vault door. Unfortunately this was less successful: a jolt of the train caused him to lose his grip on one of his eyeballs, sending them rolling down the aisle of the dining car! Fortunately Magnus quickly saved the day by ordering Luther to fetch the eyeballs back so that he could return them to his drink.
Magnus then introduced himself to the woman in red, who the thieves had correctly guessed was Lady Cecilia Winterbloom herself. She proved quite open to conversation with Magnus, much to the disgruntlement of her companion, the dour tattooed vampire, who she introduced as Andrei. Magnus engaged Lady Winterbloom in conversation about her train ( a subject she proved most knowledgeable about), covering for his two partners in crime while they searched around for the code to the vault carriage door.
Francois and Luther broke into Lady Cecilia’s sleeping carriage, searching through her possessions. They discovered a photograph of the ceremony at which she became a vampire, with a date written on the back. Noting that this date had the same number of digits as the lock on the vault carriage, they believed themselves to have struck gold. They snuck away without informing Magnus of their discovery. Luther used his vine Ritual to sever the connection between the vault carriage and the rest of the train, reasoning this would give them all the time they needed to crack whatever defences protected the vial of saintly blood inside the vault. Meanwhile, Francois used the code he had discovered on the door of Lady Winterbloom’s vault.
In the dining carriage, the decoupling of the vault carriage caused a noticeable crash and jolt, felt by all passengers. Lady Winterbloom dispatched Andrei to investigate. Suspecting the impact had something to do with his accomplices, Magnus excused himself not long afterwards to visit the bathroom. He made his way to the back of the train, where he discovered that the vault carriage was now missing. Turning to return to the dining carriage, Magnus found his path blocked by Andrei, with a silver sword in hand. The tattooed vampire was clearly jealous of Magnus’ rapport with Lady Winterbloom, and intended to remove his rival from the picture.
Meanwhile in the vault carriage, Francois discovered an unexpected final defence system: the vault was home to a horrible monster, a headless human torso with twenty muscular, flexing arms sewn into its flesh. This ‘Handyman’ sensed his presence and bull-rushed him, and he was able to evade its grasp only by swinging himself up on the doorframe. This put Luther squarely in the path of the monster himself. He used a Ritual to summon rats to bite the monster, but this was not enough to subdue it. In the end Francois used a chain and manacles to entangle the creature, and then threw the other end of the chain into the still-moving wheels of the train carriage. The vile homunculus was pulled into the remorseless mechanism of the train and killed. The two humans were then able to raid Lady Winterbloom’s private blood collection, seizing the priceless vial of Saintly blood and escaping with their prize into the forest.
Back on the train, Magnus De Quincey was in a bad spot. Andrei was much larger than him, and armed with a sword. Thinking quickly, De Quincey pulled out the sinister black letter that he had stolen from the violinist, and asked Andrei if he wanted to kill a courier with a message from Hell itself. The hulking vampire instantly backed down when faced with a missive from the underworld, and even became friendly towards Magnus. Andrei suggested that Lady Winterbloom would be very unhappy to discover that her blood collection had been lost and the train damaged. Magnus offered to break the news himself. Andrei said that this seemed like a good idea, as he and the Lady had been arguing a lot recently anyway.
Magnus made his way back to the dining car, while Andrei lurked in Lady Winterbloom’s carriage. Magnus, in a bold and daring move, then told Lady Winterbloom that Andrei had sabotaged the train himself, acting out of jealousy! The Lady had little emotional reaction to this, but excused herself, saying that ‘everything comes to an end eventually I suppose’. There was a loud thud in her sleeper carriage, and then she rejoined Magnus in the dining carriage, with thick black vampire blood coating her right hand. Andrei, it seemed, would not be joining them for the remainder of their trip. Magnus ended the heist as the new paramour of Lady Winterbloom, safe (?) aboard the Crimson Countess, as the steam train drew him onwards into a dark and bloodthirsty future.
A good time had by all I think! The denouement of this one was a lot of fun, with a desperate fight against the Handyman in very close quarter, coupled with Magnus’ shocking betrayals and reversals of fortune as he struggled with Andrei for Lady Cecilia’s affections. I had completely forgotten Magnus kept a hold of the letter from Hell, so even I was caught off-guard when his player pulled it out in their confrontation with Andrei. Brilliant use of an item, and something I was incredibly impressed by.
I was happy overall with this draft of the rules and the scenario; nothing really jumped out as something that needed urgent changes. The Occultist player had some questions about how their Hexes and Scrying worked in game, but I think the solutions we came up with were solid enough that I’ll be writing them into the final rules text. If you want to play Bloodheist with your friends, I’m sharing the character creation guide and quick rules summary that I give to my own playtesters here.