Monday, July 16, 2012

Warhammer Adventure: Reading Warhammer's "The Enemy Within Campaign"


NOTHING LIKE AN EVOCATIVE NAME…
Warhammer Adventure brings together the first three parts of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s The Enemy Within Campaign. While I’ve reviewed each of those parts individually, I thought it would be worth looking at the pros and cons of this compilation version. TEWC has had many different versions over the years. Games Workshop did standard printings, hard-covers, smaller compilations (Warhammer Campaign), and of course Hogshead later did their own versions of these products. So which ones are worth buying if you’re trying to collect this series?

Warhammer Adventure presents the first half of the campaign, covering enough material to fuel a campaign for many months. The campaign takes place in The Empire, a Germanic analogue within the WH world. It has been described as a fantasy Call of Cthulhu campaign, and I think in parts that’s not far off the mark. The various modules, though sharing a theme and elements, take quite different approaches to adventure creation.

PARTS AND PIECES
The Enemy Within (Campaign Sourcebook and Minor Adventure)
Review: The Enemy Within: Reading TEWC
For all my looking back and grumbling, this stuff provided the baseboard for many, many hours of awesome play at the table- YCMV. The Enemy Within kicks off a truly excellent campaign series; certainly one of the best I know. I ran great portions of it using GURPS Fantasy; the basic line of the adventure can be easily adapted and keep its flavor. Take a look at the session reports created by Chris Flood aka MULRAH which begin here. He’s using HeroQuest 2e to get the job done. I think that demonstrates the resilience and depth of these modules.
Shadows Over Bogenhafen (Linear Mystery Adventure)
Review: Shadows over Bogenhafen: Reading Warhammer's "The Enemy Within" Campaign
That simplicity I mentioned earlier makes Shadows over Bogenhafen easily adaptable to other game systems and even to other settings. It works best with low to moderate magic campaigns; high magic systems could short circuit some of the plotlines established here. More so that TEW, SoB shows its Call of Cthulhu roots. Players stumble into supernatural conspiracy concocted by powers far above their pay grade. The enemy connects with an eldritch and corrupting horror. The evil comes original from the fallibility and humanity of a single greedy and foolish individual who tampered with Forces Beyond His Control. It offers a solid and fun adventure, one the players can walk away from with a feeling of success and accomplishment. I recommend it highly for a fun diversion, and as a prologue to the greatest part of the TEW campaign, Death on the Reik.
Death on the Reik (Extended Multi-Part Adventure/Campaign)
Review: Death on the Reik: Reading Warhammer's "The Enemy Within" Campaign
Death on the Reik’s the best part of The Enemy Within campaign. That’s not to discount the strengths of the two which bookend it, Shadows Over Bogenhafen and The Power Behind the Throne. But DotR offers such riches to the industrious GM. I can be a slow and deliberate investigation scenario, with the players following footsteps filled with vile liquid. It can be a truly fantasy take on Call of Cthulhu. But it doesn’t have to be that way- it can be a more door-kicking adventure. There the players hunt down evil and put it to cleansing flame, relieved that they’ve freed the world from such corruptions. On the one hand, it provides enough for the most literal and narrow GM to run a decent series of adventures; on the other, it provides tools to the adventurous GM who wants to expand the story and provide depth and new angles. It remains, twenty-five years after I first read it, one of my favorite adventure modules.
PRESENTATION
Warhammer Adventure is a massive collected softcover volume. It clocks in at about 250 pages. Each module has their own section, with the handouts for that part immediately following it. The paper stock is really quite nice and thick. Each section has its own paper color to help make each distinct. The cover stock is especially thick and strong. The book keeps the blue ink printing for “River Life of the Empire” from DotR, a nice touch. It includes the full-color map from SoB covering the city, and the map from DotR covering Castle Wittgenstein. As far as I can tell, no editorial or significant changes have been made to the material here- it remains the same as the original folio and boxed versions.

THE GOOD
  • If you’re looking to track down TEWC, this may be the cheaper way to go rather than picking up the individual books. I’ve seen copies of this go for reasonable prices, but I’ve also seen them go higher- depending on the whims of ebay, Amazon and elsewhere.
  • It is nice to have everything together in one place- allowing the GM to check back and forth easily. 
  • The production quality is quite high for a reprint. This is one heavy tome.
THE BAD
  • If you want to use this book in play, you will have to break the spine. It is glued so densely that there’s not good way to avoid that. I have a fear that once cracked, the book may split and give way.
  • There’s a real advantage to only having to refer to a single booklet, of being able to lay a folio flat when you’re running. You can't really do that with this version. 
  • You lose a couple of the big maps in this version, the images of the figures created for the modules, the cardstock scene from SoB, and most importantly the material from the interior of the folio covers.
  • The biggest flaw in this version comes from the handouts. If you wish to use them, you have three choices. One, find an illegal download and print them from that- with a likely reduction in quality and the dubious legality. Two, scan the handouts and print them yourself. That, however, will definitely require breaking the spine of this book. I imagine doing that and getting decent scans will be unpleasant. Three, cut out and use the handouts from this book. That’s not a great choice, because it means destroying this book. That might be OK, except that GW opted to put the handouts after each adventure, instead of all at the end. That means you’ll end up with weird gap cuts. That gap will especially be problematic for the DotR part at the end with its many handouts. 
OVERALL
If you just want to read through TEWC, this compilation could be useful. If you’re really looking forward to actually running it, be prepared that you may have to sacrifice the book itself to the gods of gaming in order to do that.


THE ENEMY WITHIN CAMPAIGN