LOST WARHAMMER: THE FIFTH DOOMSTONE

Flame Publications originally advertised the Doomstones campaign as comprising five parts. The first four were published as Fire in the Mountains, Blood in Darkness, Death Rock and Dwarf Wars, but Flame closed before releasing a fifth adventure. Hogshead added a finale, Heart of Chaos, when it reprinted the campaign, but this was a new composition. What was the story of the campaign’s original conclusion?

Doomstones was originally adapted from the Complete Dungeon Master series. This was a generic fantasy campaign produced by an independent publisher, Integrated Games, between 1984 and 1987, with statistics for D&D/AD&D and RuneQuest. It comprised four parts, which correspond to the WFRP adventures as follows:

CDM1 The Halls of the Dwarven Kings: Dwarf Wars

CDM2 The Lost Shrine of Kasar-Khan: Blood in Darkness

CDM3 The Watchers of the Sacred Flame: Fire in the Mountains

CDM4 The Feathered Priests: Death Rock

There was also a fifth part planned in the campaign, CDM5 Deep Water – Shallow Graves, but this was never finished. Apparently a number of copies of the rough draft were sold by the authors. I have never seen a copy, but one of the authors did provide a short summary of it:

Plot very simple.  Unlike the earlier scenarios you got the crystal right at the beginning, but then had to use it (in combination with the others) to fight your way out again.

As the name suggests, set under water (using water-breathing ability of crystal). Scenario starts with party rowing across a marsh to a mysterious leaning tower (on one of the earlier CDM artefacts maps) part submerged in marsh (in actual fact marsh was formed due to crystal attracting water long after tower built). En route attacked and swallowed (boat and all) by huge mutant creature that lairs in bottom of tower. Party have limited time/air before digested to find crystal and some other artefacts that have survived the stomach acid and hack way out of body to emerge in flooded cavern at bottom of tower. Tower now colonised by sahuagin, and basically a fairly linear trek up the tower to get out again, but with all the problems of moving/fighting/using magic underwater (even if you can breathe).

– Basil Barrett, Legion 7

However, it seems GW did not intend to use this adventure for Doomstones:

We were really excited about CDM5. We offered to develop for/sell the ideas to GW, but they just wanted material they could quickly convert to WFRP and get on the shelf.

– Basil Barrett, Legion 7

Instead, GW seems to have planned an original finale:

What would have been a fascinating development, if it had happened, was the Flame proposal for the Doomstones finale. The draft, written by Graeme Davis and Mike Brunton, was made available to Robin Laws, who wrote Heart of Chaos for Hogshead, and he has wisely borrowed some of the themes. There are so many parallels in fact that if I were to outline it in full I’d be giving players reading this article an unfair insight into what’s in store for them! Basically, though, it involves the players spending time in the Yetzin valley researching what to do with the crystals, before setting off to the Chaos Wastes in – you guessed it – a Dwarfen flying ship.

There are actually some excellent ideas sadly missed out of the Hogshead version. For example, there is a sort of “Battle of Four Armies”, where the two Dwarfen warring factions meet up with Rothnogg’s Bloodaxe Alliance survivors and a Chaos Horde from the Twisted lands. What a cool way to tie up those loose ends! Also there is an interesting meeting between the players and a Greater Demon of Nurgle, who, as an enemy of Tzeentch, is inclined to help them achieve their objectives.

– Toby Pilling, Warpstone 16

It is clear from this that an outline for the GW adventure was drawn up and was still in existence around 2001. It would be interesting to know if the original authors remember anything of it. Presumably it was never published because of GW’s general withdrawal from RPGs.

This is part of a series on unpublished Warhammer supplements. The first post in the series can be read here. The next can be found here.

Title art by John Blanche. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

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16 thoughts on “LOST WARHAMMER: THE FIFTH DOOMSTONE

  1. Thanks for another great post.

    The Doomstones tale started when GW hired Simon Forrest onto the studio staff in 1988 or so. He worked closely with Paul Cockburn and Phil Gallagher in some kind of administrative capacity. When Flame was set up, we were given the CDM manuscripts in digital form, with WFRP stats that had been done by a freelancer named Brad Freeman. I had never heard of Brad, or of this project, until the files landed on my desk.

    Tony Ackland had a book on geometrical paper models among his extensive library, which is here Mike got the idea for the cut-out-and-build crystals. I did what I could to rewrite the adventures so they had at least some kind for WFRP feel, but it was a balancing act; the intention at the Studio (apart from getting WFRP material out quickly and cheaply) was to offer something more “dungeony” than the Enemy Within campaign.

    I never saw anything relating to “Deep Water, Shallow Graves.” Basil Barrett’s comments are spot on – GW would not have wanted to spend any significant time or money on a WFRP product at this point.

    Derrick Norton should also be given credit for co-writing the Doomstones 5 brief. The reason Flame never developed it, I think, was because I left. Carl Sargent was hired to replace me, and since he had been the Studio’s go-to WFRP writer for Flame products (Lichemaster, Death’s Dark Shadow, Castle Drachenfels) there was no one to do the writing. I did a little freelance work for Flame after I left, but as always I was only allowed to edit other people’s work: never to write anything. Well, almost never, since my work on the AHQ supplement Terror in the Dark was technically done for Flame.

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  2. Many thanks for the additional detail.

    It baffles me why GW seemed to use you as an editor, not a writer, for WFRP. You wrote two of the best and most popular WFRP adventures (Shadows Over Bogenhafen and A Rough Night at the Three Feathers), but it was as if you were never trusted to write anything after that. What were they afraid of? A third classic adventure?

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  3. I was always told that I was too valuable as an editor. There may be some truth to this: with Jim Bambra gone, Phil Gallagher moved into middle management, and Mike Brunton running Flame – not to mention the slew of cheap-and-cheerful conversions that formed most of Flame’s output, all needing a significant amount of development – there was a lot that needed editing and no one but me to edit it. Even if I had been allowed to write something of my own once all these were cleared, no one can edit their own work, and there would have been no one to edit anything I wrote.

    I did what I could. I wrote bits for Marienburg here and there, and pieces for White Dwarf in the evenings – including the Three Feathers. A lot of my unpublished WFRP articles were collected in the Warhammer Companion: seven of them in total. Mike did the editing on those, but it was not something he routinely had time to do.

    I have to admit, I probably would never have resigned from GW if I had been allowed to write a WFRP product once in a while, or if I felt that my WFRP product proposals were being taken seriously. What made things worse was the fact that editing a Doomstones or Carl Sargent manuscript took me just as long as it would have taken me to write the things from scratch. Carl, in particular, was a very fast writer but needed a lot of editing.

    In the end, though, I think GW management’s main concern was for profits. They could make more from putting the same amount of manpower into a new WFB or 40K product, since those generated miniatures sales where WFRP products did not. WFRP was effectively doomed, in my opinion, when it was realized that no one was going to respond to the miniatures deals in the early printings of The Enemy Within, Shadows over Bogenhafen, and Death on the Reik.

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  4. I’d forgotten I did some work on Doomstones 5 so thank you (Graeme) for the credit. Your description of GW priorities at the time (i.e. towards WFB / 40K and away from WFRP) aligns with my own memories and lay behind the reason (as a WFRP writer / editor) for my own resignation and decision not to take up an offer to move to Flame. Editing drafts from Carl (like Power Behind the Throne and Empire in Flames) did take almost as long as writing original material but nowhere near as rewarding!

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      1. My pleasure, but I’m afraid I’d forgotten working on Doomstones 5 at all and I have no memory of detail (other playing AD&D versions of the initial CDM scenarios). Compared to the role and output of Graeme, Phil Gallagher, Mike Brunton etc I worked on very few WFRP products (and even fewer WFB / 40K ones). In the period Graeme refers to ‘editing’ was (and probably still is) more about writing and game / scenario development hence the appeal to designers. It was less about correcting spelling, punctuation, and grammar (though that was part of the work). This ‘design element’ was definitely the case for Power Behind the Throne: I remember the brief from Phil was that the base text and detailed artwork existed (which had to be used because money had been invested) but it needed to be turned into a product worthy of TEWC / GW.

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      2. No problem. It’s all interesting stuff. At the risk of testing your memory again (and your patience), do you have any specific recollections of how Power Behind the Throne evolved? Or another favourite of mine: The Grapes of Wrath?

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      3. That would be great. Power Behind the Throne is one of my all-time favourite adventures. It would be fascinating to hear some of the inside story.

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  5. The Battle of the Four Armies would have been a very fitting finale to the campaign – I would have liked to see that in the final version of part five.

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  6. REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPING WFRP ‘THE GRAPES OF WRATH’

    Thirty years is a long time: apologies if recalled facts are, in fact, not facts! I’ve written a lot, of which precisely nothing is to do with CDM5 so apologies also for the digression on this thread (but you did ask).

    In summer 1987, GW advertised in WD92 for creative staff and I applied. I had written and co-written a handful of articles for Imagine magazine, and I was playing and running FRP games regularly (including WFRP). I was also nearing the end of a research contract at Leeds University so a role with GW in Nottingham appealed for three reasons: personal (I had been a student at Nottingham University and had friends in the city); creative (to work on games); and financial (to have a job).

    The response from GW was positive but only for freelance work. I was invited by Phil Gallagher to work on a draft adventure from Carl Sargent entitled Flying Death Skulls as a major WD article in its own right but also to keep up interest on TEWC before the next major instalment (Power Behind the Throne). I did not know Carl at all, and only met him once (possibly twice) after Flying Death Skulls was actually published under its new title The Grapes of Wrath. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the one who came up with the new title but I certainly preferred it.

    I was still living in Leeds so (pre-internet) commissioning, developing, editing and proofing all had to done in hardcopy by post and the odd phone call. Phil sent the draft manuscript around October 1987 and asked me to summarise what needed to be done to get it ready for publication. I seem to recall seeing the planned artwork because I didn’t find the illustrations of flying skulls holding torches in their mouths all that inspiring (more Hammer-horror than WFRP-grit or Cthulhu-terror).

    As a fantasy role-player, game designer, and GM I had views (don’t we all?) on what did or did not make for a good adventure. I prepared a review for Phil along the lines of ‘Well, it’s OK but it does need a lot of work’. I gave examples of the issues as I saw them but not the complete list, probably due to naïve creative paranoia on my part that someone else in GW would then take over (had I known how stretched the Design Studio was at the time I would not have worried).

    In my view, the manuscript was an early draft rather than something near final. I didn’t know what Carl had been commissioned to deliver so I was slightly nervous about sending criticism in case it ruffled feathers. Luckily, Phil’s reply was along the lines of ‘Yeah, we have the same opinion’. Phil referred to it as ‘typical Carl’ so I concluded I’d been given – and passed – a test. The collective view was that the draft had some good ideas and content, some silly stuff (eg title, various NPC names, Clod the pet shovel) and a range of other issues needing attention.

    Had I kept my full review I’d be well-placed to comment on what additions, deletions, and revisions were made as I used it as a checklist. Subsequent correspondence with Phil (some of which I do still have) clearly suggest significant work was needed. In spring 1989 (ie six months after I had left GW on good personal terms to become a civil servant) Phil asked me to review a draft Empire in Flames manuscript without telling me who the writer was (but the style and standard were by then very familiar). I replied on 29 March 1989 writing, ‘…EIF is in exactly the same submission state as ‘Grapes’ or ‘Power’: it requires extensive editing and development’.

    Re-reading GoW in preparation for this post I can sort-of recall / recognise some of my likely contributions accepting I may be completely wrong. For example:

    – desire of Kurtz the mercenary not to fight to the death to protect Dieter, and Kurtz’s knowledge about Dieter’s intentions (which help PCs work out the plot);

    – Mathilda’s true gossip about Stefan (I seem to recall in the original she was an NPC intended simply and only to provide misleading gossip and waste PC time);

    – orientation behaviour of a dormant skull which points PCs towards Dieter’s cave (captive migratory birds do the same, something I learned in my degree); and

    – GM advice on action to take if the PCs did obtain 42 pieces of warpstone.

    I suspect that the following text is also mine: ‘…the villagers will not be too happy at the prospect of a magical skull, no matter how tame, flying around the village’. This and similar material would have been included in anticipation of what my FRP friends would have done given the same opportunity to have their very own pet Chaos skull. (When I subsequently ran the adventure, I recall that the PCs did quite well out of it and secured an annual revenue stream from the vineyard’s profits.)

    Finally, I seem to recall that the draft adventure was always giving the PCs a hard time. This is, clearly, a style point which some designers, GMs and players prefer. My own preference was to give PCs a hard time if they were stupid, careless, or unlucky: PCs being PCs this is almost bound to happen at various points during an adventure so there is no need to turn the difficulty dial to 11 for each element of that adventure. As a GM, I always found it funnier when PCs got into a mess of their own design, not because I’d included some type of Kobayashi Maru plotline.

    In any event, I worked on the draft for 3-4 weeks and was finished by end November 1987 (proofing may have run into December but by then I’d started to concentrate on PBtT). I do recall every submission needed a signed statement giving copyright of my work to GW until the end all things.

    The published writing credit in WD98 was ‘by Carl Sargent with Derrick Norton’ which I certainly regarded as fair. In preparing for this post I discovered (with relaxed good humour) that the 2005 version re-printed in Plundered Vaults has a slightly different attribution in the introduction: ‘Carl Sargent’s Grapes of Wrath’. As the late, great Terry Pratchet might have said, history is written by those who wrote it last!

    I did three-months’ freelancing for GW (November 1987 – January 1988) which, in hindsight, was a probationary period to make sure I could do the work. I started full-time employment at the Design Studio in February 1988 working on various WD and GW material but with the priority initially to complete development of Power Behind the Throne (more reflections in a forthcoming post).

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    1. This is absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing it. Would you be happy if I moved this to a separate post of its own? That way it can get the attention it deserves, rather than lurk down here at the bottom of the comments. I could also include your reflections on Power Behind the Throne (and any other WFRP memories you care to share).

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  7. That’s very kind, thank you. I came across the site recently and was really impressed by your effort and quality of content, hence I decided to comment despite having had hardly any involvement with FRP since leaving GW in 1988. I also wanted to reflect Graeme’s attention to detail about the historical record and his kind (but accurate) description of my limited but actual involvement in a few WFRP products. By all means post the material as suits: I’m enjoying my own walk down memory lane and happy to provide recollections of PBtT, SWiK and EiF. These will have to be in instalments and, if I can remember enough interesting stuff, there might be one extra about working in the GW design studio / on WD at that time. No promises – I will have to consult my lawyers first.

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      1. My pleasure. I’ll post my other recollections under FDS (love the title this time). Stay tuned, and thank you for the opportunity.

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