Total War: Warhammer 3 – Thrones of Decay: Elspeth von Draken and Empire rework details

Big changes for Karl Franz and Balthasar Gelt
Creative Assembly / Sega

The Empire is very likely the most-played faction across all three Total War: Warhammer games, so the faction rework coming with Thrones of Decay, the next DLC for Total War: Warhammer 3, is a very important one – and we finally know all the details about it along with the intel on Elspeth von Draken, the Empire’s latest Legendary Lord.

Summoning the Elector Counts will be Karl Franz’s privilege in the future and Balthasar Gelt makes a trip around the world – oh boy, this will be fun.

TW: WH3 – Thrones of Decay: Elspeth von Draken

As you’d expect from someone called the Dark Lady of Nuln or the Graveyard Rose, Elspeth von Draken is a powerful spellcaster with access to the Lore of Death. She rides into battle on a war hose and can later unlock a Carmine Dragon to serve as her steed.

In addition to her magic powers, she wields the Pale Scythe, which grants her increased Spell Mastery and Spell Resistance – boosting these values even further as she casts more spells. The weapon also helps keep her in the fight for longer, allowing her to use Death’s Timekeeper to siphon HP from an enemy unit.

Elspeth has access to an active Augment called Darkwalker, which temporarily gives her Strider and boosted Physical Resistance in order to extract herself from melee combat. Her passive – Living Darkness – further increases her Physical Resistance and completely removes magical attacks of enemies in her vicinity. Her Carmine Dragon can use Coruscating Blast, dealing both magical and flaming damage.

Total War: Warhammer 3 Thrones of Decay screenshot of Elspeth von Draken.
Elspeth von Draken gets a unique Carmine Dragon to ride on. / Creative Assembly / Sega

At her side serves Theodore Bruckner, the new Legendary Hero of the Empire who will be an absolute beast in melee combat and even take down enemies in death by causing a major magic explosion when he falls on the battlefield.

TW: WH3 – Thrones of Decay: Imperial Gunnery School

The Imperial Gunnery School is Elspeth’s unique mechanic. It offers upgrades for infantry and artillery using gunpowder weapons, which can be unlocked by trading in Schematics. You can gain Schematics by using such units in battle or choosing the special post-battle loot option. In addition, you can access higher-tier upgrades by expanding the Imperial Gunnery School. This, in turn, requires some Field Testing – a series of challenges and conditions that you need to meet in order to progress the school.

Total War: Warhammer 3 screenshot of the Imperial Gunnery School.
Need some firepower? The Imperial Gunnery School provides it. / Creative Assembly / Sega

Progress far enough and you can unlock the Amethyst Armoury, which contains exclusive units and restockable single-use abilities for your armies.

TW: WH3 – Thrones of Decay: Gardens of Morr

Thanks to her Gardens of Morr mechanic, Elspeth can also construct Black Towers in friendly or neutral Empire settlements. These allow her to fast-travel between them, though this action does have a cooldown and is not completely free. In the Gardens of Morr, Elspeth can also construct buildings to combat corruption, allow for recruitment in foreign territory, and other useful things – though players need to choose wisely, as the number of Gardens of Morr is limited.

TW: WH3 – Thrones of Decay: Empire rework

Coming for free alongside the DLC to all players with access to the Empire is a big update that reworks some of the faction’s more dated mechanics. The Elector Count and Imperial Authority system are getting separated with Elector Counts becoming a unique mechanic for Karl Franz.

Here’s what’s changing:

  • Imperial Authority has been reworked and separated from the Elector Counts system.
  • While the Elector Counts system is often not appropriate for our other Empire lords as they aren't Electors in the lore, we felt like Imperial Authority could be used as a central mechanic for all Empire Factions.
  • All Empire factions now have access to Imperial Authority, however the feature only becomes active once they own land within The Empire territory.
  • The Elector Counts mechanic is now exclusive to Karl Franz. (But don't worry, Gelt is getting new toys as outlined below!)
  • Imperial Authority would previously impact Fealty via chance, Fealty now goes up and down directly via cause and effect, so players will be able to more directly see the effects of their (or others) decisions and actions across the Empire.
  • At a base level, Imperial Authority shows how much of the Empire is actually controlled by said Empire, and it will divvy out rewards accordingly, whilst giving you a clearer view of how well the Empire of Man is doing as a whole.
  • Some tweaks and improvements have been made to the Elector Counts UI to tidy it up, fix colour bleeding, and have Summon the Elector Counts visible at all times.
  • New markers have been added to Empire Regions to show who their rightful owner should be when owned by someone else.
  • Summon the Elector Counts’ functionality has changed. Originally, it replenished all the Elector Count state troops. Now, when the Elector Counts are summoned, every Elector Count that is not currently garrisoned or besieged will be summoned to Karl Franz’s location, turning the tide when faced with overwhelming odds.

Changes are coming to Karl Franz’s campaign as well:

  • Karl Franz now begins his campaign with control over Helmgart; a small change in theory, but one that has a big impact on his early game flow, having freed up a big bottleneck and allowing him to gain some stronger momentum.
  • We have added a bunch of new tools to Karl Franz within his Electoral Machinations panel called Emperor's Decrees. Each Decree is a powerful ability that can benefit either your own or fellow empire factions at the cost of prestige. As an example, you can trigger an 'Inquisition' in a province to clear away some of that pesky Vampire/Nurgle corruption, 'Send Aid' to an Elector that increases their Fealty and spawns a temporary army for them, or safely declaring war against another Elector Count without suffering Fealty losses through the ‘Casus Belli’.
  • Karl is now immune to all trespass penalties when moving through Empire-owned territory.

Of course, Balthasar Gelt gets a unique faction mechanic of his own as well. In addition, he vacates his current starting position to make way for Elspeth in Nuln and instead moves over to Grand Cathay, where he’ll start close to Zhao Ming. Here are the details:

  • Balthasar Gelt has taken an educational exchange trip to Grand Cathay, starting just shy of some nomads within the Temple of Elemental Winds, and being right next door to his good friend the Iron Dragon.
  • As he helps the Iron Dragon deal with the nomads, he is presented with a series of Dilemmas that pave the way for his time in Cathay, or even his return to the Empire having secured a lifelong friendship in the process.
  • Gelt has a new campaign feature, the Colleges of Magic.
  • With this mechanic, whenever Gelt fights a battle with a wizard in his army, he will acquire Arcane Essays, with the number of Arcane Essays per battle correlating with the number of wizards present.
  • These Arcane Essays can then be spent on gaining instant access to wizards from every Lore of Magic, allowing him to accrue spellcasters quicker and easier than anyone else on the map.
  • Once you’ve acquired a new wizard, let’s use a Grey Wizard for this example, more actions are unlocked for that college, pertaining to that specific spellcaster. Firstly, Arcane Essays can be spent to unlock the Dance of Despair cataclysm spell, so long as the Grey Wizard is within your army during battle. Or, a unique effect, in this instance Mass Concealment, can be purchased with Essays to grant the Stalking stance to the army containing the Grey Wizard, granting them a 100% Ambush success chance.
  • Perhaps you wish to heal your entire army in a single go. Well, with a recruited Jade Wizard, you can do just that, and with the other Lores of Magic at your disposal, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Make sure to check out the Tamurkhan and Nurgle rework details as well, if you haven’t had the chance yet.

Marco Wutz


Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: