The Earth-Shaker Bull of Bacharach, a monster hunt for a low level party

Set up

A bull in Bacharach and has killed the farmers who’d rented it. The local lord has put a bounty on the bull. The party can kill it for (tainted) vis.

Rumours

The party hears either or both of these rumours from a grgo who was at a riverside tavern.

  • The Covenant hears that a "magical" bull has gone mad and killed two people in Bacharach.
  • The local knight has put a bounty of 2 Pounds of silver on the bull. (scale up if your covenant is rich already)

Bacharach and Burg Stahleck

The town

It belong to the Palatinate of the Rhine, a title now held by the Duke of Bavaria, Ludwig the Kelheimer. He will only return from crusades in late 1225.

The town of Bacharach is surrounded by extensive vineyards, and its potent wine is much appreciated in the local area. Additionally, it is a key town for the wine trade. Much is bought and sold here to ship downriver. The town counts close to 200 in habitants, including several Jewish merchant families, benefitting from the recent lifting of trade restrictions on Jews.

If the PCs took part in the most debauched section of party at the stone of Bacchus party*, they will bump into “Helen of Troy”, who is in fact nothing more than the wife of local wine merchant. She is Jewish and is with her husband who has a yellow cloth armband with a circle on it. This is just to give colour to the town and make them want to protect it more...

*: In my saga, the party always goes there and partakes in all the pleasures available, as an hommage to the Faust story, I told them that they hallucinated Helen of Troy taking part with them.

Burg Stahleck

The castle is unusual for the region, because it has a water filled moat. This used to be the primary residence of the palatine counts until 1214, when it moved to Heidelberg. A lot of locals are bitter about this, especially the former innkeepers who lost traffic. There is a large garrison stationed at the castle due to it’s strategic location on the way from Koln.

The castellan is the Ritter Heinrich von Stahleck (who has a son by the same name). He is middle aged, serious looking, a bit on the heavier side and seems to be more of an administrator than a warrior, even though he goes around in hunting leather with a sword at his hip. He is stiff and formal, but practical minded. He put a bounty out on the bull and will pay it without quibbling. He is very loyal to this Duke, who bumped him up from just a court knight to ruling a castle.

Full story

The Castellan rents out the Duke's bull for a few days at a time to the farmers who have heifers. This bull has been corrupted by an Infernalist (in my game: the bastard of Oberwesel), although one could instead have the bull become faerie or magically tainted to indicate a vis source nearby instead.

The Bull maddened and empowered by whatever realm, killed the farmer and his wife, but remains within the farm area smashing things up. The castle militia sent a few men to try and capture it, but they got injured and since then refused to get close to the obviously supernatural bull.

The party can either get the information from the castle or just from villagers (who might remember them from the wine harvest feast), they will be taken to within sight range of the farm before their escort scampers away.

The farm is just a simple house with three fields around it, two of them have had the fences mostly smashed by the rampaging bull (no bull pen for him). Random things to be found are smashed wood as well as the boundary marker stone at the edge of the field. The farm's four cows are in the second enclosed area, which while the bull has broken the barrier, they have not ventured much from.

The Fight

The bull will attack anyone upon noticing them, charging back and forth from party member to party member to capitalise on it's charge ability.

The Earth-shaker Bull (Infernal Might 10, 2 infernal Te vis in his hooves)

Characteristics: Cun -2, Per 0, Pre -4, Com -4, Str +5, Sta +3, Dex 0, Qik -1 Size: +2
Confidence Score: 1 (3) Virtues and Flaws: Affinity with Brawl, Ferocity (charging), Tough, Oversensitive
(to provocation) Qualities: Aggressive, Domesticated, Tough Hide
Personality Traits: Violent +6, territorial +3 Reputations: Strong 4 (local)
Combat: Horns: Init 0, Attack +8, Defense +3, Damage +7 (spent 1 confidence on each charge for +3 to hit) Soak: +8
Fatigue Levels: OK, 0/0, -1/-1, -3, -5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1-7), -3 (8-14), -5 (15-21), Incapacitated (22-28), Dead (29+)
Abilities: Athletics 4 (charging), Awareness 3 (predators), Brawl 5 (horns)
Natural Weapons: Large horns: Init +2, Atk +3, Def +2, Dam +3. The bull's tough hide has a Protection of +2.
Earth shaker: anyone with a few paces of the bull must make a Str+size roll of 9+ each round or fall on the ground. The bull has +3 to Atk and Def vs someone on the floor.
Appearance: This massive jet black bull causes the earth to shake and screech under its brass hooves. He is so loud that his bellows can be heard from a mile away and his breathe is so mighty that is forms two columns of smoke before him. From close up his eyes visibly bloodshot and the creature stinks mightily.

Upon dying the stink becomes terrible, and if any flame was used (esp spell) then it stinks like burning petrol. The Castellan will ask the PCs to get rid of whatever trophy they bring back to the castle due to its stink, between bouts of retching.

Note: since my party is still quite fresh, I used the bull from the mundane beast pdf with little changes. To challenge the party more, beefing it up with higher stats or brawl would be good. Giving it brass horns and treating them "as swords" would make it more dangerous. In my case the bull put a medium wound on the mage that went toe to toe with it, the other two stayed behind their shield grogs and were unhurt.

The Reward

In addition to the vis, the party can get treated at the castle for their wounds, will have a small feast thrown for them and get 2 mythic pounds of silver in the form of a big bag of cash containing many denominations of coins. Alternatively, they can take the 4 cows (which are worth ca 2 pounds).

9 Likes

Did you leave out the part with the c-section?

I did leave it out in the end.
While it is amusing enough that it happened once in Renaissance Netherlands (for those not on the discord, this happened and it's documented), I thought it would be pushing the credibility a little far.

1 Like

Can i say i really liked this? Great idea and neat presentation!
Will most probably borrow it :smiley:

2 Likes

I usually take the time to get around to saying: Great work. For whatever reason I forgot to in this case. Tadeln reminded me this time.

Really great post. Good work and thanks for sharing.

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I'm happy to contribute. Covid has given me more free time than I need. It is nice to read that these posts are appreciated.

You are most welcome to it. It works for any realm alignement and is easily transposed. One thing, if you want the fight to be challenging, buff up the bull, give it more soak and more brawl. I was a little underwhelmed by it's damage output. But the aim was never to kill people, it was more about the moral implication (poaching on another Covenant's turf within a year of the agreement)

This is a nice little combat situation, with a possibility for expanding with an infernalist in the area, or switching to faerie/magic and the idea of a vis story. This is a great idea with some thoughts of expanding. Perhaps you get an introduction to the Duke? Who knows where that would lead to. Really great work.

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Yes, I think the story would work well with a faerie twist instead (interestingly, my players never put the clues together about the bull being infernally tainted, so they have a magic right made from infernal vis...).

I'm leaving the duke out of the story, since I find it awkward for the party (who are after all a bunch of lowborn nobodies) to be mingling with the most powerful lords of Germany (the Cardinal in the wrath of Koln adventure being an exception, and even then, because he dies quickly soon after). Historically, duke Ludwig is not so much in the area, so I prefer to entangle the party with weaker local nobles than distant mighty ones.