Shadows Refreshed, an Enemy Renewed

The first two parts of the Enemy WithinThe Enemy Within and Shadows Over Bögenhafen, are shorter than the other parts and closely connected; the adventure in Enemy Within is basically an extended bit of setup for Shadows. It’s no surprise, then, that the two were compiled together in most reprints – first as Warhammer Campaign, then (along with Death On the Reik) as Warhammer Adventure, then in 1995 under Hogshead’s auspices as, slightly confusingly, Shadows Over Bögenhafen.

Enemy In Shadows is Cubicle 7’s new update of the campaign for 4th edition WFRP, which has laid fallow over the whole run of the 2nd and 3rd editions. (3rd edition had a campaign released for it called The Enemy Within, but it’s a completely different scenario which happens to touch on the same themes.) It’s part of a “Director’s Cut” reissue of the entire campaign, overseen by original designer Graeme Davis, with each of the five volumes of the campaign having “DVD extras” in a separate book, such as the Enemy In Shadows Companion for this one.

One especially nice thing is that as well as planning Empire In Ruins – a brand new ending to the campaign to replace Empire In Flames, which by and large nobody is especially satisfied with, they’re also doing The Horned Rat as a replacement for Something Rotten In Kislev, which had previously slotted into The Enemy Within between The Power Behind the Thone and Empire In Flames but which is generally agreed to be not really anything to do with the main Enemy Within plot and better treated as a standalone Kislev campaign.

By and large, the renditions of the adventures in Enemy In Shadows are greatly improved over the original. Perhaps influenced by Paranoia, a lot of the humour in old school WFRP revolved around hosing the PCs, but some aspects of the original module don’t necessarily judge the line between having a bit of fun with the characters and trolling the players. It’s OK if the player characters are annoyed and frustrated, but the players shouldn’t be. Enemy In Shadows takes advantage of over three decades of player experiences and feedback, and many revisions or expansions in here greatly improve these rough patches.

For instance, one of the weird things about the campaign is that the PCs are lured to Bögenhafen as a result of a case of mistaken identity, but when they get there the actual plan other parties had set up to deal with the person the PC is mistaken for is missing – if they go to the address they found they find nothing, in part because a crucial NPC involved in the setup gets killed earlier in the campaign in an inevitable, railroaded fashion.

This time around, the campaign actually gives details on what happens if the setup goes ahead, as well as amending the earlier encounter to allow the option of the relevant party surviving, or dying (or getting captured) but having a partner to set the thing up. This makes the whole thing much less anticlimactic, and is a good option for a referee to run with if the players haven’t figured out what the deal is with this bit of plot and need a few more nudges.

Speaking of options, the campaign is much happier to provide these this time around. Terms like “Railroad” and “Sandbox” weren’t so widely used in gaming discussions when the adventures originally came out now, but Davis takes the opportunity to discuss them here, and explains how some parts of Enemy In Shadows are more sandboxy or railroady than others. In general, good decisions are made about which events should be essential and which areas can be presented in a more sandboxy fashion, and where an event is essential, generally good work is done to make sure that this inevitability is less frustrating.

In addition, for the purposes of running the game with players who’ve played the campaign before, so-called “Grognard boxes” are added offering ways to change up the adventure to keep it surprising. The side benefit here is that these options are available to all groups – allowing referees to change up the facts of the adventure to suit their or their players’ tastes.

The Companion also includes several reprints of encounters or full adventures – On the RoadThe Affair of the Hidden Jewel, and The Pandemonium Carnival – which had originally been out out in White Dwarf and later reprinted in sources like The Restless Dead or Apocrypha 2: Chart of Darkness. When I originally looked at The Restless Dead I thought it was fairly confusing how that book tried to lash together stuff like On the Road or Hidden Jewel into the context of an overarching campaign in that book or present them as alternate episodes in The Enemy Within, but having them as optional extra bits that fit best into the Enemy In Shadows section of the campaign but could also be used later is quite good.

It’s also handy for supporting a sandbox approach; the text is much clearer that if the players don’t want to follow the story as presented, there’s no need to force them, you can just run other adventures from the Companion or other sources until a good moment to put them on the right track comes up. One of the most valuable things that these volumes contribute – both in Davis’ introduction to the main book and in the “Guest Commentaries” from Davis and Phil Gallagher in the Companion – is a bit more insight into the thought process involved behind the writing of the material, and how they’d envisage it would be used, and I think this time around Cubicle 7 have done a good job of producing something which communicates its intended use better and is also better adapted to how people actually play games.

Perhaps the most interesting concept Davis mentions is the way that back when they were cooking up 1st edition WFRP, the design team took to using the term “grubby fantasy” to indicate where they were going with it. I really like the term, not least because it really captures both what made WFRP different from the cleaner, shinier, more whitewashed, tamer, and uncritical fantasy of other fantasy games of the time, and why a super-serious “grimdark” approach to the setting isn’t necessarily the way to go.

“Grubby fantasy” as a concept feels to me like it includes a lot of the better aspects of grimdark – a distrust of established power structures, an acknowledgement of prejudice as a significant driver of history, a presentation of the world which is basically cruel and unfair – but with a lighter side to it as well, a side that’s a bit more open to having amusing things happen – not to undermine the serious bits, but to refine their satirical thrust where that exists, and to present a world that’s a bit richer and more nuanced than “all shitty all the time”. Grimdark has spun too often into edgelordery over the years; “grubby fantasy” sounds more deprecating.

If the iconic protagonist of grimdark fantasy is some sort of moody antihero like Elric, or a big brutal Space Marine idolised by fans for all the wrong reasons, then it feels to me like the iconic protagonist of “grubby fantasy” is the sort of person who’d be described as a “grubby oik” – lacking class privilege, maybe a bit threadbare and ragged from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but with an endearingly cheeky attitude.

It would have been easy to make Enemy In Shadows a nostalgia trip that just regurgitated the same material yet again, but Cubicle 7’s desire to go back and improve their offering – and add more besides (the Companion, for instance, has some nice new stuff, like an expanded description of the Purple Hand, rules for Chaos Sorcerers of Tzeentch, and an in-depth look at the Road Wardens) is laudable.

Even the main Enemy In Shadows book remains useful even when the adventures are done; the guide to Bögenhafen is substantially expanded over the original, in keeping with the original design philosophy that all the adventures put out for WFRP should retain something of use to gamers even when the adventures themselves are played through. It’s a great start to this revision process, and proof positive that an old school RPG adventure doesn’t need to be presented in a retrogressive manner. (Indeed, an effort seems to have been made to amp up the diversity in the supporting cast, largely through the new NPCs provided.)

Roll For Redundancy

Sure, the new books are shiny – but do they offer you everything that was in the original? Let’s take a look at the Hogshead edition of Shadows Over Bögenhafen and see where the various material in it can now be found. (For page number references, SOB = Hogshead edition of Shadows Over BögenhafenEIS = Enemy In Shadows, EISC = Enemy In Shadows Companion, WFRP4 = core WFRP 4th Edition book.)

General introduction section and advice on running the campaign, page 4-7 SOB: Similar information can be found in pages 4-9 EIS, with extensive rewording. Much of the original material is old gamemastering device reflecting an earlier time. In particular, the original campaign tended to assume that you were using the pregenerated PCs, or a group of characters strongly based on them, but the new edition realises that most groups will prefer to use their own PCs. The notes about the overarching plot in Enemy In Shadows are much more focused on giving a clear explanation of the backstory to this part of the campaign; the old edition instead just gave vague hints about the overarching course of the campaign.

Travel In the Empire, page 7-9 SOB: Basic, simple details are given on page 261-264 of WFRP4 and more detailed information is given on pages 19-38 EISC. The new system is less concerned with travel time varying by terrain, but adds wrinkles for weather. The old logos for the coaching house franchises given in SOB are not present; new, more flavourful and appropriate coats of arms are given for a few which are fleshed out a bit more. The old logos were frankly kind of incongruous in style, though, so this is no great loss.

A Brief History of the Empire, page 9-13 SOB: The majority of this information is reproduced in the timeline of the Reikland provided in the WFRP4 core book. Ludwig the Fat making the head of the Halfling Moot an Electoral Count is not mentioned, emphasis instead being put on him making the High Theogonist of the Cult of Sigmar an Electoral Count as well, but to be fair this is a sensible call since the Cult of Sigmar and the controversies surrounding it are way more important to Imperial history than the Halflings. I think the narrative of Imperial history given here is a useful summary – it’s a nice halfway house between the bullet point approach of the timeline and the in-depth look offered in the WFRP2 supplement Sigmar’s Heirs – but with the more fleshed-out timeline offered in WFRP4 I honestly don’t think you are missing anything major (and you certainly aren’t missing anything essential to running the campaign).

Empire Map, page 14-15 SOB: Presently, this is a bit of a gap in WFRP4 since it’s been very Reikland-focused so far, though perhaps this will change as the campaign progresses.

The Political Structure of the Empire, page 16-21 SOB: Page 9-18 EISC reproduces most of this. The major gaps so far as I can tell would be the political map of the Empire (which seems in need of revision anyway) and the notes on some significant knightly orders and noble families – both, I suspect, fodder for later expansion.

Religion In the Empire, page 21-25 SOB: Largely summarised on page 211 WFRP4, in relation to Sigmar and in the broader religion chapter in that book when it comes to the rest.

Geography of the Empire, page 25-27 SOB: Largely absent. The details on communications are a bit niche, and most of the brief forest details are not of particular relevance. The rundown of provinces is dealt with elsewhere. The map of the Reikland on page 26 has been updated extensively and is presented as the endpapers of WFRP4 and other books besides. The Gazetteer of the Reikland giving a full listing of settlements, who ruled them, their population, garrison levels, and so on is absent, but I suspect 99% of referees never need a breakdown that precise anyway.

Soldiers of the Empire, page 28-29 SOB: Not present, but also arguably not relevant to this adventure – a fine breakdown of the differences between armies is not really needed. EISC provides suggestions on how to quickly cook up NPC stats (basically, you take the standard stats in WFRP4 book for NPCs of the relevant race and then run them through some careers). This may be better dealt with in later volumes in the series anyway (such as Empire In Ruins).

Typical Dress of the Empire, page 30-31 SOB: Not present, though there’s enough character art in WFRP4 illustrating the various careers to get the idea across anyway.

Your Homeland – the Empire, page 32-33 SOB: The only particular new information here is the Imperial calendar, offered on page 150 EIS. Festival days of the deities are provided for those deities given detailed rundowns in the core WFRP4 book.

Mutants In the Empire, page 34-35 SOB: Significantly expanded and revised in EISC, pages 64-71, including a delightfully expanded mutation table to take into account mutations given by different Chaos Gods.

Herbs and Their Uses, page 36-37 SOB: Details on acquiring herbs are given in WFRP4, with page 307 providing prices and page 129 giving a subsystem for gathering them. The set of herbs presented and the rules for them have been tweaked to take into account changes to the wounding and healing systems.

Standard NPCs, page 38-39 SOB: Page 44-63 of EISC gives a number of fully-developed example NPCs, many of which are in fact examples from here worked up with full backgrounds and personalities with suggestions offered for how to use them. To be honest, I don’t see that it would be that hard to fill any of the remaining gaps in here just by reporposing other statlines from WFRP4 or EIS.

Mistaken Identity, page 40-57 SOB: Page 4-5 EIS covers the backstory bit, the rest is covered in pages 11-50 EIS in significantly expanded form.

Shadows Over Bögenhafen, page 59-108 SOB: Pages 52-143 EIS covers this, again in expanded form, but with a very few omissions. The brief note on major taxes on page 64 SOB is missing, but this is frankly no great loss since few to no PCs would ever undertake activities incurring these taxes anyway; perhaps the ship and trade tax would be relevant to parties playing through Death On the Reik, and the Death On the Reik Companion would seem to be a more plausible place to put such information.

The breakdown on page 66 SOB of how the livestock auction works in fine detail, and the suggestion to have the auctioneer interpret some action of the characters’ as a bid for a bit of fun, are also missing. This is reasonable enough: the original adventure admitted that it was pretty unlikely that the PCs would be interested in bidding in the first place, so the information is pretty useless unless you want to arbitrarily annoy the players.

On the whole, then, Enemy In Shadows provides a suitably expanded version of the actual adventure part of Shadows Over Bögenhafen. The setting material from the first 39 pages of the book is interesting as some of the earliest really in-depth material on the Empire offered in WFRP, but precisely because it’s so fundamental to the setting that significant bits had already been cannibalised by the 4th edition core book, and the Companion covers much of the rest. The remaining pieces can either be gleaned from other sources like Sigmar’s Heirs (or, for that matter, Lexicanum), but are either likely to have their own 4th Edition equivalents coming out later on down the line or are of extremely niche utility for RPG purposes.

2 thoughts on “Shadows Refreshed, an Enemy Renewed

  1. Pingback: WFRP: Stepping Past the Starter Set – Refereeing and Reflection

  2. Pingback: Death On the Reik – The Return Voyage – Refereeing and Reflection

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