The Wrath of Köln - a siege adventure

Set Up

The archbishop of Köln (Cologne) was murdered by a vassal relative. His successor and the Burggraf of Drachenfels besiege his castles. The Covenant is called in to help. The core of the set up is more what to do in a siege rather than "break the door with incantation of lightning".
I made a big summary to clarify things at the end, if this is confusing.

Who is who:

The Emperor Frederick II stands above all, the archbishop Engelbert II of Cologne is his vassal, as are the bishops of Diedrich Munster and Engelbert of Osnabruck.

The count Frederick of Isenberg and the Burggraf Heinrich of Drachenfels (as was his late father Gottfried) are vassals of the Archbishop Engelbert II of Cologne.

Note: these events pretty much all happened and are recoded by the chronicler Ceasarius von Heisterbach. The archbishop Engelbert II, the count Frederick of Isenberg and his two brothers, the bishops Diedrich and Engelbert are all members of the broader Berg family (though Frederick and the two Bishops are from the Altena branch).


  • The year 1225 was a disastrous one for agriculture: the harvest was spoiled, it rained too much, famine and disease wracked the land that year.

  • Count Frederick of Isenburg (a cousin of the Archbishop of Koln and brother to the bishop Diedrich of Munster and bishop Engelbert of Osnabruck), who was in charge of it, extorted and embezzled the monastery of Essen. Out of consideration for the family, the archbishop initially did not respond to this request. Therefore, the abbess turned to the emperor and then to the pope on this matter. Since the Pope had received further complaints from other monasteries and monasteries about their bailiffs, he ordered on March 1, 1221 that Engelbert had to ensure that the church bailiffs of the Cologne church province were making sure that their administration was better run and the benefits of provost and vogt positions are not abused by secular authorities.

  • Count Friedrich von Isenberg was closely tied to the church: he was a canon in Cologne, until the death of several relatives on the Cathar crusade. He was freed from his obligations to the church, thanks to his powerful cousins and instated as count. He and other nobles, feared for their independence, came together for a conspiratorial meetings. The nobles feared they would lose the income they had become accustomed to (namely by embezzling the religious establishement over which they help provost rights). The archbishop threatened them to revoke their inherited bailiwick/provost rights, which represented in some cases substantial estates. Most of Friedrich's possessions were based on such rights. 36 hamlets with about 1000 farms belonged to his inherited bailiwick. His other private property only comprised of only 19 more villages. (note: we know this exact tally, it was recorded when he was stripped of them).

  • The archbishop Engelbert II has done great things for the duchy/Archbishopric of Cologne, but at the expense of many nearby nobles. His expansion North Esat has brought him into conflict with many local nobles, as have his attempts at centralising authority.

  • To clarify, Archbishop Engelbert II of Cologne called a state parliament for all Hallow’s Eve in Soest. All nobles of the Archbishopric were invited. The mood was heated, as Engelbert had almost the entire nobility against him through his practice of conquering land and restricting the powers of non-church land holders. At the joint discussion in this state parliament, the archbishop threatened to apply clauses of the Worms Concordats of 1122 and 1213, which included that the secular counts and nobles could be disempowered by church ministers in cases of conflicts. This warning aroused great resentment among various counts and nobles. Friedrich tried in vain to reach a peaceful agreement with his uncle the Archbishop Engelbert regarding the bailiwick of the imperial abbey of Essen. The Abbey had repeatedly complaint of financial misdeeds by Friedrich. The meeting in Soest finally had to be broken off without any results.

  • Count Friedrich of Isenberg risked losing much of his wealth, as did others. As a result, Friedrich took the lead in the resistance against his cousin the Archbishop of Cologne.

  • 7th Nov: murder of Archbishop of Koln Engelbert II and the Burggraf Drachenfels by angry vassals at Gevelsberg near Schwelm. Archbishop Engelbert II 's body was taken to Cologne on a dung-cart, and when examined, found to have forty-seven wounds. Count Frederick of Isenberg probably tried to capture his cousin in Gevelsberg to force concessions out of him, and the abduction went very wrong…

  • The Drachenfels heir will call on the mages to come take vengeance against a familicide and to avenge their loss!

  • The news of the murder of Archbishop Engelbert II spread like wildfire. One one hand there were uprisings against the archbishopric by the towns and parishes that had lost out due to his centralisation efforts, because some citizens of the cities and the parishes were not satisfied with the tough regime of the archbishop. An uprising raged across the country as these clashed against those standing against the nobles’ power grab and outraged at the kinslaying.

  • Heinrich von Molenark used the imperial Diet court meeting in Nuremberg on the 1st December 1225 to declare all of Frederick’s land forfeit, his three castles (Isenberg Castle near Hattingen, Nienbrügge Castle north of the Lippe river and Reisigen south of the Lippe) to be razed and condemn him to death, with a bounty of 2000 silver marks on his head.

  • The bishops of Diedrich Munster and Engelbert of Osnabruck are suspended from their titles until their involvement with their brother can be elucidated.

Involving the party:

Having run the Drachenfels dungeon, a rapport had been established between the Covenant and the old Burggraf (Gottfried the old). The party can be called by sending them a letter informing them of the terrible injustice, the odiousness of the kinslaying, that they owed the old Burggraf, or failing that simply offered a cash reward. The party can meet the Drachenfels host late November near Bonn, early December near Cologne or later at the siege location directly.


Two sieges

Army 1: besieging Nienbrügge (Pontus Novus)

Location: (googlemaps) MQHF+X7 Hamm
Note: it is assumed that the player answer the summon of Drachenfels and will join in on the siege of Isenburg, however with minor changes, the events can be adapted to either.

Heinrich I von Müllenark

The new Archbisop, previously Provost of Bonn. His nickname is Linenhose. Elected quickly, and then on 15th November received temporary Papal backing by the Papal Legate Konrad von Urach (see below) and the Imperial regalia on the 1st December. He set a meeting of all the armies outside of Cologne on the 15th dec, to depart shortly after towards Isenburg and Nienbrügge. He put a bounty of of 2000 silver marks for the capture of Count Friedrich von Isenberg. Heinrich would have the castles of the murder suspect Count Friedrich von Isenberg razed.

Adolf von der Mark-Altena

40 ish years old, nephew of the count Frederick. Loyal to the archbishopric, outraged at the Kinslaying. He brought a large contingent and is due to receive most of the non-clerical inheritance, ie lands, of the outlaw.

Garrinchus ex Misc

One of the two mages in the Rheingasse chapter house (CrCo and gentle gift in my game). Keen on scoring some political points, he signed up to help the new Archbishop through healing. Will not overtly participate in the war, but will help the wounded. Signed up as a mere healer.

Army 2: besieging Isenburg

95Q2+3R Hattingen, 3 days walk from Drachenfels, 1.5 days on foot from Cologne, along the main road towards Munster, on the banks of the Ruhr.

The castle of Isenburg is pretty serious:

Double walled, fully stone build motte and bailey on the tip of the hill, 100m over the Ruhr valley. Build there because it could fire down on the river with ease, extract tolls and very defensible. The banners should a stylised six petaled rose.

  • Inner walls: about 60x60 paces with a square stone tower in the centre.
  • Outer walls: longer oval 50-60 paces wide 350 paces long, covering most of the hill, with another large square tower (30x30 paces) at the southwestern end.

The besieging camp:

Extends all around and to the river, outside of bow range.

About 1500 men constitute this army, though most are just levied farmers. There is a host of camp followers Tailors, washerwomen, sex workers, cooks, confessors, horse-grooms, teamsters, wheelwrights that services them.

The besiegers are building a trebuchet at the SW tip of the hill to knock the castle down. The whole area has a divine aura of 1-2, which will rise to 3 through the preaching of the Cardinal. The aura is tempered for duty, giving +aura to dutiful traits. The village of Hattingen just upstream is where the Burggraf is headquartered, some of the houses have been destroyed, but most have been turned into barracks after looting. The Cardinal has taken over the parish priest’s accommodation by the Peter and Paul church.

As time passes most of the divine auras in the fields a bit further away will begin fading, with faerie auras forming about a day’s walk away from the camps, in particular in the hill tops around Elfringhausen “elf ring haus”. Looking for elves will lead to diminutive people who spy on passers by but will scatter if confronted.

From Drachenfels
  • The new Burggraf Heinrich of Drachenfels and his men (a mix of hardened veterans in his inner circle and levies who are generally angry from the bad year and harvest, but happy to be fed by the lord while on campaign). His son, the late teen Gottfried, is staying at the castle (just in case). He is very angry and is like a mad predator. He has little on his mind but the total destruction of the castle, its people and its lord. He alternates between angry outbursts and calm hatred. (see the Drachenfels write up for more on the family)

  • The chronicler Caesarius von Heisterbach (a Prior from his sponsored abbey of Heisterbach, where the old Drachenfels was just buried). He will quote Timothy 2:19 “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own ”. He has written in 1223 Dialogus miraculorum , a Summa on the lives of 746 Saints (Theology L4 Q10). The man is unremarkable looking, a slightly build tonsured man with a neckbeard but highly charismatic when speaking and an expert theologian.

Cardinal Konrad von Urach

Papal legate to France and Germany, Cistercian monk by training and one of the heads of the order, Cardinal and Bishop of Porto & Rufina, confirmed Heinrich on the pope’s behalf. Sharp man. With this army to make sure that there is religious supervision. Aware of the Order of Hermes (OoH lore 2) and has had dealings with several members of the Normandy Tribunal. He has the command of other ecclesiastical forces. He has with him Italian siege engineers making a trebuchet.

He is a prince of the church, a representative of God's vicar on earth. A divine aura of 4 surrounds him. he causes through his sermoning and relic showing an increase of the divine aura in the camp from 1 to 3 over time.

He might be carrying the Ring of Saint Bernard/ Solomon's Seal (a gift from the knight Templars to the Cistercian Order after the crusades).

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The siege will run its course during the winter of 1225/1226, with the castle falling to the besiegers. Lacking major party involvement, it was surrender after it's large southern tower is breached by trebuchet fire towards the end of the winter. The damage of the tower acts as a "hourglass" for the players and the besieging camp in general. Use of magic might hasten the siege, either by damaging the walls or by giving the right buffs to make a storming less risky.

Cannibal faeries

943F+77 Velbert

Three villages away, south of the Deilbach brook, the village of Langenberg was hit badly by the crop failure and even worse by a first round of looting by the army. When a second foraging party came by, they thought that cannibalism took place. Since then a faerie aura of 1 has developed in the two unburned houses. Two weak cannibal faeries have taken residence there. They look like emaciated villagers, haggardly dressed. They will offer to come inside to share what little everyone has and to cook a soup from it. Once inside, the “hungry villagers” will offer some of the soup to the visitors if they agreed to share food. The soup tastes like a nice filling meaty stew to the mundanes, but to the mage, like a thin broth with dubious meat inside.

They will let them stay the night and try to kill them in their sleep for the next stew as well.

Disease outbreak

The flux will hit the camp hard, they need to secure more and more water sources, more wood to heat themselves. The ill will need to be cared for (fun stuff for any CrCo mage). Setting up a healing camp further away from the main camp will make it safer for the mages to cast magic than within a rising Divine aura. Main diseases will be flu like from the winter as well as bowel problems due to the poor sanitary conditions.

Wild dogs in Kupferdreh

93JR+CH Essen

Several isolated men are found mauled and eaten by now-feral dogs, in the area around Kupferdreh , 2 hrs walk away to the west, along the banks of the Deilbach brook. (fight a pack of wild man eating dogs, use survival/track/awareness to ambush them).


  • Building a Trebuchet at the southern tip of the hill allows for the gradual destruction of the tower guarding the entrance. After 2 or so month, the castle will offer to surrender, once the tower is collapse. It is up to the ST how magnanimous to be (anything up to a Timothy 2:19, depending on what light one wishes to paint the church in)

  • Once the castle of Isenberg is taken, it is destroyed by building big bonfire along the walls, driving wooden staves into the formed crack and burning those again.

  • The King Henry (Emperor Frederick II's son and heir) will confirm the Imperial Ban on count Friedrich at the Diet of Frankfurt in the spring of 1226.

  • In 1226 count Friedrich traveled with his brothers Dietrich (bishop in Munster) and Engelbert (bishop-elect in Osnabrück ), as well as the Isenberg “notary” to the curia in Rome . Dietrich and Engelbert wanted to reverse their suspension and be reinstated in their offices, but this did not happen. However, Frederick was apparently able to convince the Pope of his innocence in the crime, his excommunication was lifted in Rome. This did not change anything to his being declared outlawed.

  • Diedrich, bishop of Munster dies on the way back from Rome in July 1226, as him and his brothers are captured. Interrogation of his men reveals that they did the deed.

  • Engelbert, bishop of Osnabruck is suspended due to his closeness to the murders but his culpability is not established. Spends the next while working to rebuild the family. Becomes bishop again in 1239-1250. His 11 year reign was weak and ineffectual.


  • Gain of reputation
  • Gratitude of the military commanders and religious figures (in my game, they used this to get a letter of recommendation from the papal legate to send to Stentorius, as a way to put pressure on him to allow the party to form a Covenant rather than become a chapter house)
  • Cash reward (appropriate to participation and to the Covenant finances)

Allow any grogs (or mage) who came along to try making a Dex+Brawl roll during the looting of the castle to allow them more loot

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Once again Bravo. You truly are a machine spitting out highly detailed descriptions of your plots.

Since the asking of questions is an explicitly allowed thing I will once again take the liberty of asking some.

Is it possible that I can convince you to give a bit more of a detailed description of what happened? There are a lot of fredricks and relatives and drachenfels and bishops and I am not quite clear on how they fit together.

It seems to me that there is an "Emperor Frederick (presumably the Holy roman emperor)" and a "Frederick of Isenberg" and that maybe both Fredericks are relatives of the dead (Arch?)bishop of Cologne, Engelbert?

Then there are the bishops of Munster and Osnabruck or is Engelbert the bishop of Osnabruck? Are they allied to the rebels or to the murdered bishop?

In other words the whole plot is a little convoluted to me, mostly because of an overlap in names and lack of clarity on my part regarding who holds what titles and alliances.

Are the Elfringhausen of any significance to the plot? And is an elfringhaus a type of ancient burial mound like a dolmen/kurgan or similar?

What are the chances that the siege will simply fizzle out due to it lasting long enough that the levies have to go home to work on their farms? It seems to me that the area has few available resources for the besieging army.

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I will order a bit and fill in more details later today, at this point, I did sufficient research in the topic that I guess that I rely too much on what I learned.

Funny thing is, I didn't make this up. This is a historically documented event. We know pretty well how it happened because Caesarius of Heisterbach was the chronicler of this campaign.

I took liberty in 3 places: we don't know if the Cardinal or Drachenfels were there, and it is not specified that a trebuchet was used. However the Trebuchet was in-period tech and I used it as a timer, the party would just go and watch it work for a few hours as a way to pass the time and the gradual destruction of the tower offered a visual "timer" to the siege.

I have made edits to always refer to Frederick as emperor or count for clarity.

Count Frederick is the (second) cousin of the Archbishop Engelbert II of Cologne.

Archbishop Engelbert II of Cologne was the archchancellor of the Emperor and was the tutor to the Emperor's son (Henry).

The bishops of Diedrich of Munster and Engelbert of Osnabruck are count Frederick's brothers.

The bishop Engelbert of Osnabruck is not the same person as archbishop Engelbert of Cologne.

Both Engelberts, Diedrich and Frederick are all part of the larger "von Berg" family.

The idea is that while the rising divine aura will make any spell casting difficult, it's a hint that faerie auras are forming in the area, should the mages want to set up their own camp (and healing/triage tent) there rather than in the divine main camp. I was only planning on describing it as a weak faerie forest in the hills with little gnome like faeries for decorative purposes (the mage in question isn't so much into faerie stuff, so I knew I could leave this open, and I would adlib if needed)

We know that the siege was successful, from historical records and that it was completed within the winter. The besieger would have had low supplies to begin with due to the dreadful year, whereas the besiegers have a crushing advantage in numbers and are able to resupply, including from further afield if need be.

Overall, the point of this scenario was not so much "smash the walls with mighty magic", but more to involve the party in mundane/church politics. A big thing that I tried to highlight was the distinction:
mundane/divine, safe, diseased, bad for magic vs wild, dangerous, easy magic.

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I have never had any doubt that you based this on a historical event. In fact the convolutedness of the plot and the fact that all of the main characters have same name make that very obvious. However my ability to understand the plot if unfortunately no greater for its historicity :slight_smile:

So what really happened? Was the count set up as the murderer when in fact the bishops murdered the archbishop?

As an aside I personally do not take offense at your adding a trebuchet and using it as timer, quite the contrary. It seems to be a useful device in pacing the story.

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So what really happened? Was the count set up as the murderer when in fact the bishops murdered the archbishop?

The archbishop was put between a rock and a hard place. He'd spent years battling his western and northern neighbours over Westphalien, Berg etc He was powerful man, who'd clearly let his family members have a large slice of the cake. However, the nobles got greedy and abused their provost (ie the secular acting-lord over a religious institution who actually owns the land/serfs/towns) positions, to the point where first the monasteries complained to the archbishop (who ignored it to keep the nobles happy) and then their complaints reached Rome. The Archbishop found himself between a rock and a hard place (namely his vassals and suzerain pushing in opposite direction).

He called the council in Soeast to try and get everyone on the same page, but being a man of action and faced with people who needed pushing, he threatened them with the "nuclear" option: revoking all their provost positions. This would have financially hurt some nobles very hard. The count Frederick would be losing 2/3 of his income in one stroke of a pen. And he was likely not the only one, though maybe the most affected.

In all likelihood Frederick and his brother, Diedrich the bishop of Munster tried to kidnap the Archbishop on the road, in order to force him to renounce his plans. One could compare to king Valdemar of Danemark who is, in the same period, held by the count of Holstein and who will be forced to pay a litteral king's ransom (45000 silver marks) as well as to renounce almost all his claims on German lands (except Rugen, the the great displeasure of Cintera).

The accepted theory is that the abduction messed up, and that the men (possibly Munster men, so they would not be known to locals?) in charge of grabbing him got out of hand (did he fight back like a wounded bear?) and killed him. It could be something as stupid as him wounding/killing a soldier trying to grab him and another soldier present went berserk on him (hence the 47 wounds).

This is a big mistake, which would have massive ramifications. The 3 brothers running to Rome to try and get cleared is not a bad move, since the Emperor and the Pope were on bad terms... However the mightiest force in Wester Germany vs one of its vassals was largely a forgone conclusion, hence the archbishopric deciding to lay two sieges in winter and in a bad harvest year shows how steamed people were, as well as how certain of rapid victory they were. The people in the castles would have 2 options:

  1. surrender immediately and beg for forgiveness, hoping that their cooperation will be seen as a mark of innocence

  2. Hold on long enough for their lord to come back with a papal letter clearing his name.

Considering that the imperial Diet confirmed in Spring the Ban and outlawry on the count Frederick, option 2 proved to be a mistake.

One source says that there were brawls between noblemen at the Diet of Nuremberg around the time of the marriage of King Henry (VII), on this very topic.

It is possible that the castles surrendered, but I don't know. Also, that would not make much of a story in game.

Drachenfels being present is by me, though Caesarius being prior of the Drachenfels' pet abbey (Heisterbach) might indicate their involvement. I don't know how Gottfried von Drachenfels died, but we know that he died in 1225 at the latest. Considering the upheaval of the period didn't dim the family fortune, I must assume that the Drachenfels were on the winning team. Since the PCs had maintained contact with Drachenfels' grandson and had said that they'd owe Drachenfels a favour for letting them off the hook after being found in the cellar of the castle (having snuck in via the caves), I thought it was a great way of using an outstanding hook.

It is unclear if the papal legate was present or not, but this is the kind of matters that would very much be of interest to the papacy, since it was in conflict with the secular authority of the HRE. The reason to put hi there is to have a scary church person and to offer a "letter of recommendation" as reward to the party.

The count Frederick and his brothers (and their notary) will return north in June/July, to be captured in Liege, in early July. Diedrich of Munster dies that month, which makes me think that abductions of the period might be deadly to the quarry... in November 1226 count Frederick will be broken on the wheel before Koln and takes allegedly, a day to die. His nephew Adolf, the count of Altena will inherit most of his land (a good reason for him to join the Archbishop's side) and will cease to use the von Altena or von Berg family names but instead starts a new cadet line of the House: "von der Mark". Count Frederick's son, Diedrich (because only 4 names were available in Germany at the time) will spend most of his life battling Adolf von der Mark over his inheritance, reaching a stalemate and founding the county of Hohe-Limburg (upper Limburg), however it was just a scrap of his father's lands.

A similar story will happen in Utrecht and Oversticht after the bishop of Utrecht is killed by people of Drenth who opposed his centralisation of power and increased taxation. This lead to the comparative stalemate of the Drenther Crusade, which was effectively a (innefective) holy war by the Frisians and some troops from Holland against the region of Sticht. Since it happens in the 1230s it is in scope for the game, but the party might not want to get involved.

My pacing got kind of thrown out of the window, after the Corpus mage botched a healing roll on the purify the festering wound, which led to him getting the flux (medium wound equivalent) and spending the next month in bed... But on the plus side, he probably directly saved 50 odd people from dying of the flux, and more by limiting the propagation.


Thanks that really clarifies things a whole lot.

It is both extremely confusing at quite hilarious that everyone is named the same.

I once gm'ed a game for something like 5 years and my players would harp on me everytime a new NPC had a name that was already "taken". But at that point there would have been literally 100's of NPC's and at a certain point it gets ridiculous to come up with new names. Like the reasonable people they were my players decided to name the second-name NPC after fruits rather than try to keep track of the fact that 2 people in campaign had the same name.

Using real world history at least lets you say, "Look guys, I didnt come up with these names, the actual historical people did".

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Heaven's forbid two medieval men living within a week's walk both be called Wilhelm. I've so far kept the name duplication low to a minimum, but they have both a Swiss healer (Named after William Tell) and Wilhelm Weiss, and this has already confused them... To be true to form, most of the nobles should have the same name father to son, and almost every man they meet is named after one of the apostles or major christian saints...

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I hope that you never have to experience the ignobility of having the noblemen called: "banana", "pear" and "pineapple" by your players. :joy:


@Christian_Andersen: Can you confirm that this is not the event that we supplied the weapons for?

Uh, several people and places coincide with our saga.
I think the first time our covenant supplied weapons was when the Count of Isenberg in real history would have died, but this weapon supply saved him. But I think you sold to several sides in that conflict. And I only used the overall situation I think any battles were made up an/or glossed over.

And lately, at the siege of Schloss Dreizack, I think you did it again. But everything about that was made up.

This was the one I was thinking of.

I had a moment of "wait, what?" at this. Looking up the relevant reference, it is partially a quote of 2 Timothy 2:19, but only the "God knows his own" bit; the "kill them" isn't Biblical (and doesn't flow obviously from the surrounding paragraphs, either, which are just talking about how yes there are problems with false teachers, but God knows those who are truly doing his work). I'd therefore suggest at least moving the quotation marks, and probably making it clearer what's human extrapolation.

Caesarius von Heisterbach relates it as a say of Arnaud Amaury.

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This is exactly why I mentioned it. Thinking about it, I might have slipped the kill them bit, but the players ( not the no theology PCs) recognised the those who are his own part and inferred the first part.

I did wonder if that was the case. As far as I can tell, there are no heretics in this case, though - "just" a murder of a senior clergyman and mundane power squabbles, so it's not all that close an equivalent (even if the Albigensian crusade did manage to have both of the latter on top of the Cathars).

The Drenther crusade that follow up was declared an actual crusade for the murder of a Bishop. And that's less than 10 years away.