WELCOME TO BOGENHAFEN
Shall I begin with spoilers?
I’m going to.
I don’t recall much from the sessions I ran Shadows over
Bogenhafen; that would have been ’88 or ’89. The GURPS Fantasy
campaign I ran ended up more than a little schizophrenic- with the players
fighting bandits and wolves one week and then exploring vast and hugely magical
ruins the next. The campaign somehow managed to sustain high magic with the
relatively “normal” scale of GURPS. You could die easily, or at least be taken
out badly if you didn’t play carefully. Running a WHFRP module with the system
made sense- in both that death could be cheap and players were often out of
In a fit of strangeness, the party had just returned from an expedition to Ylaruam,
where they’d gone out into the deep desert and found a massive Nithian ruin
relatively intact. The fought through it- encountering magical torture devices,
humiliating traps, rare artifacts, fonts of pure mana, and finally battling a
Nithian astride a manticore. They triumphed, escaping with vast loot and no
memory of what had transpired. A curse on the Nithians wiped all memory of it
from their minds. So all they knew was that they’d walked out into the dunes,
gotten banged up by something, and found vast supplies of cash and magic items.
From there they traveled to Bogenhafen.
...Where the GM (me) somehow roped them into taking on a horribly mundane
mission- steering them into the scenario. So they effectively went from the
Battle at the Bridge in Moria to Ratcatcher’s Assistant.
OK- so a terrible tonal shift, but this was over twenty years ago.
As I said, I don’t remember much about running it except for this incident. The
party had done the task, uncovered something and returned to their patron, more
than a little shaken. Their employer began to question them when Izan (the
friendliest of barbarians) raised both his hands signaling silence.
…there’s a demon in your sewers.”
The patron started to speak.
“No…dude.” Izan repeated himself. “There’s a demon in your
TRAILING THE ENEMY
Shadows Over Bogenhafen’s the second part of The Enemy
Within campaign for WHFRP. Where the first book, The Enemy Within,
offers more of a campaign sourcebook, SoB presents a fully developed adventure.
Several versions of this module exist. I have bits and pieces of the original
GW folio edition (booklet and cover) plus the consolidated edition presented in
The later lacks some of the frills, but does put everything together in one
place. One incredibly tightly bound place. Seriously, the spine on Warhammer
Adventure scares me- like if I try to pull it open too far it will either
snap back and take a finger or simply shatter and split the book in twain.
Hogshead also published a hardcover version of this, combining it with TEW,
which makes sense.
The original GW version comes with a 56-page A4 booklet; the folio cover
including an interior map inside; a large fold-out full color map for the city;
eight pages of handouts, and a card tile for the final fight area. Everything
looks good and is well done- the booklet does a nice job of shifting between
two and three column design, depending on the information being delivered.
Little details like the headers and font choices make this hold together. More
importantly you have Will Rees’ artwork throughout. These super-creepy images
sell the atmosphere- a horrible and corrupted version of Albrecht Dürer
that still freaks me out when I look at them. The cover image does this
especially well- though it gives away a little more of the plot than I’d like.
There’s a feel to GW art from this period- illustrations you can look at and
immediately know where they come from. Once again the writing’s excellent-
clear across the board and quietly funny in some spots.
My favorite part of the booklet may be at the end where they have a page offering
special miniatures for the module. These aren’t great looking figures- early GW
models could be hit or miss, but they certainly looked like nothing else coming
out. I like that there’s a set for the sample PCs given for the campaign. I
have to wonder how many times those characters have had to live through this?
You could order the eighteen figures of the set for 12 pounds- plus post, by
sending them a cheque or telephone ordering. At the time, though I wanted the
figures, such luxuries were a little out of reach.
THE MEAN STREETS (AND SEWERS) OF BOGENHAFEN
The actual premise of the adventure is pretty simple. The PCs stumble onto an
evil ceremony. They have to figure out how to stop it. I think that’s part of
what makes Shadows Over Bogenhafen, and the best of the TEW pieces work.
The adventure in the first volume felt slightly more complicated than
necessary- the players could walk away confused about what had happened. SoB’s
simplicity allows them to introduce a couple of significant red herrings and,
more importantly, spend time building the atmosphere and the set up. Bogenhafen
becomes an awesome backdrop GMs can linger in during this adventure or return
to again later (assuming the players don’t allow it to be sucked into the void
The booklet splits into eight major sections, plus a pullout in the middle.
This has a nice GM’s map of the city, keyed locations and the stats/details for
the major NPCs and the Watch. The first eight pages of the booklet discuss how
GM’s can bring players into the adventure. Obviously threads tie back to the
first part, TEW, but those are loose enough that new groups can easily be
brought in. The booklet lays out the spine of the plot for the GMs in clear
language- always a must for this kind of scenario. Three pages offer some
political background on the city- the power players, guilds, and priests. This
approach is characteristic of TEW- laying out the factions and movers &
shakers. The players will likely interact with these groups- usually as subordinates
or petitioners. Knowing how they relate (and can be pitted against one another)
can be key to certain approaches solving the problem.
The set up (pages 9-16) offers a series of number of events and scenes
illustrating life in Bogenhafen. I really like this part- hugely useful for any
kind of city adventure. There’s a town fair, the Schaffenfest happening, which
includes markets, freakshows, and performances. The adventure remains
open-ended at this point- giving the GM bits and pieces they can drop into the
story to set up what comes later. That ‘later’ takes the form of an escaped
mutant goblin from the freakshow; the party’s hired to go into the sewers to
catch it. A little railroad-y, but a fun exercise and one which the players
will likely buy into. Once again SoB does a great job of keeping this open and
flexible. We get info on the structure of the sewers, lists of interesting
encounters and events, and finally the important locations which lead to the
revelation of the main ceremony actually happening. Including the discovery of
a demon. (“There’s a demon in your sewers.”)
From there the players have a number of options the book outlines. PCs could
conceivably move “off the reservation” at this point, but SoB’s
structured pretty well. Player options feel constrained, but but not
restricted. The PCs choosing to become investigators provides the main story
drive- for money, for morality, or for sense of adventure. This leads them into
the web of local politics, and figuring out exactly what the demon (and the
ceremonial room it seemed to be guarding) is for. SoB offers a loose
timetable of events- what happens once the demon’s been spotted, the actions of
characters within the conspiracy, and the outline of the now rescheduled
ritual. The GM will have to suggest the ticking of a clock in the background,
and keep actions more tightly scheduled from the moment the PCs emerge from the
Shadows over Bogenhafen does a great job of providing options the GM can
present: places to check out, people to talk to, new suspicious evidence to
uncover. It sets these out very well- there’s redundancy, nice clear core
clues, and plenty of additional information for the players to bring the story
together. There’s so much good stuff here, that I’m unsure what to make of the
Magirius incident. This happens after the players have done some investigating.
Magirius, a member of the conspiracy, comes to the PCs and offers some specific
and detailed info on what’s happening. A good GM will makes sure this gets
played out as a result of player actions, rather than a deus ex machina moment.
Of course, Magirius heads off and is promptly murdered. The PCs head to his
house based on a false message and are immediately framed for the crime. It
sticks a little in my craw, especially since the TEW adventure also forced the
PCs along by suggesting that the authorities suspect them of involvement in a
murder. It does trip the clock and set the stakes high, and when I ran it, I
made the issue more that the murder of Magirius suggested that the ritual was
The fight to stop the ritual could be nasty depending on the group. They have
to get through thugs and then face a couple of serious magic casters. However,
the ritual itself is relatively easily disrupted- several details are necessary
to carry it out and the removal of any one of them can cause things to go
awry…the most likely outcome of the fight. At which point a demonic force
appears and swallows the main bad guys. Awesome if done well, but perhaps
unsatisfying for PCs who would like to have bashed in heads. There’s also a
discussion of what happens if the PCs fail. It isn’t pretty.
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.