LOST WARHAMMER: EMPIRE IN CHAOS

This is part of a series on unpublished Warhammer supplements.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

When Hogshead reprinted the Enemy Within campaign, James Wallis proposed replacing Empire in Flames with a new finale, Empire in Chaos. Empire in Chaos was sadly never published. Wallis has stated that the draft adventure was lost in a computer failure.

The story of the draft manuscript for Empire in Chaos: in the early 2000s I was working for 3Com (Hogshead had full-time employees; though I ran the company I wasn’t one of them), with a ridiculous commute. Did a lot of personal writing on my work laptop because what kind of idiot takes two laptops to work, right? Then the new CEO shut down our division, so I saved all my personal stuff into a zip file, emailed it to myself, and returned the laptop to the IT division. Then I went home, tried to open the zip file, and discovered it was corrupt.

– James Wallis, comment on Awesome Lies

All that is known of the draft comes from two emails from Wallis.

Warning. Spoilers for the Enemy Within campaign.

The first email contains a brief outline of the adventure:

The PCs return. A civil war is brewing; much tension between the north and the south, some of it stirred by the Sons of Ulric. The Graf’s daughter is to be married to the Emperor’s son in a political union symbolising the bond between the two halves of the country. PCs escort Graf and daughter to Altdorf; collect clues on way.

In Altdorf, integrate in court. Attempted assassination of the Emperor, which the PCs learn by devious means was actually successful (Karl-Franz is dead) though the word is deliberately being kept back because of fear of starting the war. PCs discover there is another, more clandestine war being fought in Altdorf between the Purple Hand and the Red Crown, both of whom are scheming something bad. This includes all the Kastor Lieberung look-alike stuff, the details of which were very cunning indeed and which I have forgotten. Lieberung does not look like the Emperor, but someone else does. Marriage gets disrupted by what appears to be Northerner guerrilla activity, but in fact is something else (the PCs can discover this). The civil war kicks off.

PCs are likely at some time to call in their favour from the Grand Theogonist, because they’re having problems with making progress at court. He hands them off to one of his advisors, who is sweetness and light. This is because he’s a cultist, and he’s manipulating them.

Then PCs make some basic discoveries about what’s going on, then they make a massive and very public faux-pas (they’re forced in a no-win situation and commit an enormous breach of etiquette), and it is suggested they should “quest for Sigmar’s hammer” – make Etiquette roll with huge negative modifiers to realise this is court-speak for “go and die quietly somewhere a long way away”, the WFRP equivalent of the Long Walk from Judge Dredd. Head out with Father Marcus (from ‘Carrion Up the Reik’), who explains prophecies, omens, etc, and that nobody in hell expects them to succeed. Find hammer in a sequence not as bad as the one in Empire in Flames. Father Marcus dies in heart-rending scene that wins him the Best Supporting NPC Oscar. PCs return. Find town besieged by Kislevite mercenaries. Recruit them, using contacts and knowledge from Something Rotten in Kislev. Head slowly west, gathering forces. Battle. Lift siege of Altdorf.

From there my memory of the linear plot gets a bit fuzzy, but the crux of it all is:

The civil war is being provoked by whichever province of the Empire it is that doesn’t appear in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles maps. They are providing the Sons of Ulric with money and equipment, and also hiring mercenaries (eg the Kislevites) while appearing to still be staunch supporters of the south and the Emperor. They are found guilty, and their entire province and lineage is erased. They are not cultists or inspired by Chaos; they have ways of capitalising from the political unrest and the war. Machiavellian sods, the lot of them.

The court is riddled with cultists. This is because the Untersuchung has been… no. I’m not going to start posting spoilers for my novel.

The Purple Hand’s big plan was to get rid of the Emperor (done) and replace him with their own man — a strong leader is needed to take control and quiet the civil war, and the Electors would agree to that. The PCs think they’re about to hit a happy ending when the Emperor-to-be summons them on the eve of his coronation, and then he does the touching-his-nose Purple Hand identification thing to them. Oops. Gotta get rid of him now.

The Red Crown want to use the Lieberung look-alike to spoil the Purple Hand’s scheme. Offhand I can’t remember anything more about the Red Crown scheme but it was a lot more brutal than the Purple Hand one, and many more people were going to die if it came off. I also can’t remember who it is that the PC reminds the Graf of in ‘Carrion Up the Reik’. The Oldenhaller dynasty was going to make another appearance and cause trouble, I do remember that. Lots of sub-plots, side-digressions and incidents along the way, adding colour and depth to the whole experience. Should the PCs acquire another barge in the course of the adventure, it gets fucking sunk.

The Grand Theogonist does not explode during the coronation of the new Emperor, but there is a final climatic and very public fight in which the PCs’ honour is restored, etc, etc because nobody’s happy if they don’t get to kill something big in the final scene.

At no point is the death of the Emperor officially confirmed to the populace at large, so when Karl-Franz reappears at the head of his army having had a miraculous recovery on his sick-bed due to the intercession of the Hammer of Sigmar infusing him with sacred power (it’s the lookalike) everyone goes “Oh thank goodness” rather than “Wasn’t he dead last week?”

Hang on… remembering stuff now… mysterious missing blokey, the one off in the Grey Mountains, comes back towards the climax, with what he claims is the Hammer of Sigmar. He’s working for the Machiavellians, he thinks, though it turns out his closest advisor is with the Red Crown.

And the uber-bad-guy… because you need one… and the greatest untied thread of the whole campaign, is Karl-Heinz Wasmeier, who very nearly did for the Graf of Middenheim in Power Behind the Throne. Not only is he behind the whole Purple Hand plot including the Emperor’s assassination, but this time he gets the Graf as well. Strong hints he was behind the whole Lieberung situation, and some clarification of his motivations.

The Emperor’s son is not a mutant. Can’t remember the reason for the Emperor’s leniency on mutants. It’s swiftly revoked, anyway.

My notes are still around here somewhere, I think, if we haven’t already chucked them in the tidy-out frenzy of closing down the office. If I find them I’ll see if I can fill in any of the blanks. Overall tone was going to be half-way between Len Deighton’s 60s spy novels, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and some of the nastier bits of Clive Barker. It was going to retain bits of the structure of Empire in Flames but essentially none of its text.

Hope that clarifies stuff.

– James Wallis, email

The second contains a discussion of the role of the Emperor:

[Restoring a facsimile emperor to the throne] was the core of the plot, yes. It’s not that Karl-Franz’s face is exactly unknown, but certainly a lookalike (hint, hint) could probably pass for him, particularly if it was generally known that the Emperor had recently been grievously wounded/scarred/diseased in an attempted assassination. I suggest watching the Kurosawa movie Kagemusha (“The Stand-In”) for more inspiration, including one of the best battle sequences ever filmed.

There were going to be several optional ends to Empire in Chaos, including one where one of the PCs actually becomes the Emperor. Of course they get no free will in the post, they’re completely at the mercy of their advisors and behind-the-scenes manipulators, and the first thing they have to do is to exile or imprison the rest of the PCs, since they know the truth…. I’d been vaguely plotting a Man-In-The-Iron-Mask-style sequel but never got anywhere with it.

– James Wallis, email

The outlines describe a vast and complex adventure that would surely have stretched beyond single volume. It would have been hugely impressive, had Wallis pulled it off. As matters stand, however, Empire in Chaos is a useful source of ideas for GMs of The Enemy Within (including a ready-made solution for the problem of the Emperor’s changed character in later editions of Warhammer).

Title art by Karl Kopinski. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

7 thoughts on “LOST WARHAMMER: EMPIRE IN CHAOS

  1. What a shame this never came to pass. It sounds like a super piece of work!

    Like

  2. (WordPress keeps eating this comment for me, but here’s another attempt…)

    One more tantalizing period source about the then-planned Empire in Chaos is the full-page teaser published in the Hogshead reissue of Something Rotten in Kislev. It read as follows (I can post a scan of the page later):

    “THE ENEMY WITHIN CAMPAIGN
    will reach its conclusion in its fifth and final volume

    EMPIRE IN CHAOS

    wherein shall be revealed many mysteries and surprising tales of great adventure as a mighty scheme of Chaos is brought low and destroyed

    CONTAINING SEVERAL SCENES NEVER BEFORE WITNESSED
    The attempt against the life of our beloved Emperor Karl-Franz,
    A great quest for a lost and sacred artifact,
    The return of familiar faces, both friend and foe, previously met,
    The true nature of Kastor Lieberung, who was found dead under a bush,
    Many great battles and conflicts in which much valour is displayed,
    The unmasking of the greatest traitor in the history of the Empire,
    Triumph of a band of heroes, lowly born,
    And a bit with a dog.

    EMPIRE IN CHAOS
    A new work based on “Empire in Flames” by Carl Sargent

    LONG LIVE EMPEROR KARL-FRANZ!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing this (and persevering with WordPress). I was unaware of that ad. It certainly fits with James Wallis’ emails (though the “bit with a dog” is new). It is interesting that it is described as “a new work based on Empire in Flames by Carl Sargent”. In the emails above it “was going to retain bits of the structure of Empire in Flames but essentially none of its text”. While the two statements can be reconciled, the tone of the former suggests to me something closer to Empire in Flames than the latter.

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    2. I know it’s been a while, but could you provide a scan of this ad?
      We’re running the last part of The Enemy Within, and I’d love to have it as a teaser for my gaming group!

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  3. James Wallis recently commented on Facebook that he has found an early outline for Empire in Chaos:

    “I did dig through some old directories a few minutes ago and found an early outline for what would have become Empire in Chaos, which I won’t upload because it’s a complete mess and contains way too much swearing…. The EIC outline is incredibly rough and scrappy, from a time when I was still assembling ideas rather than actually plotting the thing. The one element that is in there that wasn’t in the description that’s been floating around on the web forever is that part of the climax was the PCs finding Sigmar’s hammer, and returning to lift the siege of Altdorf at the head of an army of Kislevite mercenaries (along with the hammer they also find a ton of gold, to pay the mercenaries), only to find that wossname, the noble who’s mentioned very early in TEW as having gone off to the mountains and never been seen again, has beaten them to it: he’s returned to Altdorf with (tah dah!) a completely different Hammer of Sigmar. Which is a fake and he knows it, but since he’s a noble and you’re not, everyone believes him and not you. This is part of a plot to give legitimacy to the new Emperor that one of the factions wants installed.”

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/47210006548/

    Thanks to Francisco Muñoz for pointing this out.

    Like

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