Warning. This review contains spoilers for Enemy in Shadows.
It’s back. Thirty-three years after WFRP‘s most famous campaign first hit the shelves, Cubicle 7 has released Enemy in Shadows, the first part of its revised edition of The Enemy Within.
The Enemy Within was the iconic campaign for WFRP1, which in large part defined WFRP‘s style of play. It was published in several different formats in the 1980s and 1990s, but has been out of print since then and has never before been officially converted to later editions of WFRP. Cubicle 7’s Director’s Cut project seeks to change that, converting the original adventures for WFRP4, and at the same time giving the campaign a substantial overhaul.
Enemy in Shadows is the first part of this project. It combines and rewrites material originally presented in The Enemy Within (1986) and Shadows Over Bögenhafen (1987). It is expected to be followed in early November by the Enemy in Shadows Companion, which will contain further supplementary material. Both volumes will initially only be available as PDFs. Physical copies are expected to ship in the first quarter of 2020.
(For more information on The Enemy Within campaign, both its original form and the Director’s Cut, see my post of Enemy Within FAQ.)
Covers then and now (1986-7 left, 2019 right)
Enemy in Shadows comprises 162 pages of content (excluding adverts). It is presented in the same graphical style as other books in the WFRP4 line, which is both attractive and easy to read. Artwork is again of a very high standard, though it is somewhat sparse. I also have to confess that I personally miss the sinister feel of Wil Rees’ illustrations from the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen.
Artwork then and now (1987 black and white, 2019 colour)
The maps are of variable quality. The region maps at the end of the book are exceptional for their detail and precision. Building maps are also well done, and are accompanied by elevations. However, the town and city maps are drawn in a sketchy style, which undermines both their attractiveness and usability. It is not always clear what some of the marks are intended to signal. They are rare instances where Cubicle 7’s new edition falls below the standard of GW’s original.
Maps then and now (1986-7 left, 2019 right)
The handouts are also a little disappointing. A number of them, supposedly handwritten by three different people, all use the same font (Aquiline Two). Another document is described in the text as being so bloodstained that some of its details are obscured, but the handout has only a few token drops of blood in the corners. It is a shame a little more effort was not focused on the handouts.
Handouts then and now (1986-7 left, 2019 right)
The organisation of the text in Enemy in Shadows is a considerable improvement on the original books. The different stages of the adventure are clearly divided into separate chapters, each with its own conclusion and XP awards. The material within each chapter is arranged in ways that are usually easy to navigate, with plenty of cross references by page number. The background information on Bögenhafen has been collated and moved to an appendix. There are even two indices (one of general topics, and one of NPC names). The arrangement is for the most part excellent.
The text also incorporates more advice and assistance for the GM. There is an overview of the whole campaign, describing its main themes and briefly introducing its constituent adventures. There is a lot more discussion of what-ifs. Most of it will be obvious to experienced GMs, but it will probably be invaluable to novices. I certainly would have benefited from much of the advice back in 1986.
I do have some criticism, though. The text descriptions of locations in the town and the sewers are not cross referenced to the numbered key on the town map.
There is inadequate discussion of dates and chronology. The handouts refer to the dates of Jahrdrung and Mitterfruhl. For these references to be accurate, the adventure needs to start on 24 Jahrdrung, but this is nowhere stated.
The most difficult part of the adventure for GMs to run is the investigative phase in Bögenhafen. This involves the PCs pursuing multiple lines of enquiry. The new arrangement of text does improve on the somewhat chaotic organisation of the original, but I feel that a flowchart (like the one in my unofficial companion to The Enemy Within) would be of great assistance to GMs trying to piece together the different connections.
Finally, the overview of the campaign focuses on themes and has very little to say about specific plots and events. This makes it more difficult for the GM to plan ahead or to adapt the scenario without disrupting the future narrative. I presume the omission can be explained at least in part by the unfinished state of the revised later adventures. Thankfully, there are some pointers in the text which give indications of which events are important for later stages of the campaign. They go some way to ameliorate the situation.
The adventure combines ‘Mistaken Identity’ from The Enemy Within with the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen.
The first part of the adventure, derived from ‘Mistaken Identity’, is a road and river trip. The PCs travel to Altdorf in the hope of joining Crown Prince Hergard von Tasseninck’s expedition to the Grey Mountains. They fail to arrive in time for the expedition, but become embroiled in other matters during the journey. They are attacked by mutant bandits and find the corpse of a certain Kastor Lieberung, who bears a remarkable likeness to one of the PCs. Papers on the corpse indicate Lieberung was travelling to the market town of Bögenhafen to collect a substantial inheritance, and the PCs are encouraged to head to Bögenhafen in pursuit of the money.
However, not all is as it seems. Lieberung is a member of a Chaos cult called the Purple Hand, and is due to rendezvous with members of the cult. Furthermore, the inheritance is a hoax. It is a ruse by a bounty hunter on Lieberung’s trail. Mistaken for Lieberung and his associates, the PCs walk into the cult’s affairs and an ambush by the bounty hunter.
If they survive the ambush, they continue the adventure when they reach Bögenhafen. This second phase of the adventure is based on the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen, and is subtitled with that name in Enemy in Shadows. It concerns a plan by a group of merchants in Bögenhafen to use dark magic to influence markets in their favour. However, the merchants have been deceived. Their leader, Johannes Teugen, is in thrall to a demon called Gideon, to whom he has sold his soul. Teugen plans to sacrifice the souls of seven peers in his stead and so escape his reckoning with Gideon. But Teugen has himself been deceived. The ritual will not save his soul, but open a gateway to the Realm of Chaos, which will engulf Bögenhafen.
Having discovered the inheritance is a hoax, the PCs explore a local fair, during which a three-legged goblin escapes from a freakshow and hides in the sewers. The PCs head into the sewers to capture the goblin. There they discover the goblin has been killed by a demon guarding a secret temple in an underground chamber. This is the temple in which the merchants intend to carry out their ritual.
After the discovery of the temple, the merchants relocate the venue for the ritual. The PCs become involved in a race against time to uncover the conspiracy, find the new site of the temple and foil the ritual.
The first part of the adventure, the road and river trip, is a linear series of encounters in a range of different settings: an inn, a coach trip, the capital Altdorf, a river journey and the town of Weissbruck. It offers the players little latitude and relies on somewhat contrived events to keep the action moving, but it is enjoyable, nonetheless, and provides a very good introduction to WFRP and the Empire.
Play opens up and becomes more varied in the second part of the scenario, in Bögenhafen. The fair is a small sandbox, where the PCs can explore the attractions, including a freakshow, fortune teller, wrestling ring, jousting tournament and livestock market. There are also a plethora of minor encounters, such as medicine shows, bunko artists and pickpockets. The hunt for the goblin in the sewers is effectively a small, but atmospheric, dungeon. The critical section of the adventure immerses the players in a freeform investigation, taking them to courts, temples, guilds, offices and many other places in search of clues. Finally, the climax is a linear series of events, in which the PCs find they have been framed for arson and murder, discover the new site of the temple and try to foil the ritual. Each of these phases is connected sequentially by trigger events to move the action forward. Some might consider these connections a little railroady. This is especially the case when the finale is triggered by the defection of a merchant, which largely renders the players’ investigations redundant. However, these segues keep the action moving at a brisk pace.
The ending includes an option where the PCs fail to disrupt the ritual and an apocalypse is unleashed on Bögenhafen. Hellfire rains down on the town, lesser demons run in the streets and a greater demon even manifests. It is such a dramatic finale that GMs may secretly hope the PCs fail.
All of this will seem very familiar to those who have played or run the original version of The Enemy Within. The truth is that the narrative of Enemy in Shadows has scarcely changed from the original.
There are some small embellishments. For example, the anonymous fortune tellers of the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen have become a single character, Mystic Megret (ho, ho), with a more prominent role. The henchmen of the gangster Frank Baumann have become a comic pair called the Two Reins (ho, ho, ho). There are more rumours to pass on to the players.
I’m going to have to do another lookalikes post…
There are also a small number of tantalising events intended to foreshadow events later in the campaign in The Horned Rat and Empire in Ruins. There is a new version of the prophecy from Warhammer City (p83), an encounter with a double of the Emperor (yes, another lookalike!) and signs that Altdorf is under the powerful influence of Chaos.
The most significant additions to the adventure are the well trailed “grognard boxes” scattered throughout the book. They are sidebars providing options for the GM to vary the story, ostensibly for players who have been through the scenario before. I suspect in reality they are of more value to GMs who have been through the scenario before and want to try something different. I doubt many players will want to replay the whole campaign, and don’t believe the ideas in the grognard boxes change the story enough to make it fresh for prior players.
They are still a nice touch, but their value should not be overstated. The ideas are generally solid, rather than inspired, and are for the most part only briefly explored. For example, there are suggestions for changing the identity of the villain in Bögenhafen, but there is little guidance on how to adapt the adventure to deal with the changes and the GM is left with a lot of work to do. There is also a suggestion that the demon Gideon is recast as an entity called the Changeling, with apparent implications for Empire in Ruins. Unfortunately these implications are not defined in Enemy in Shadows, so GMs are taking a leap in the dark if they wish to pursue this option.
The lack of substantial changes or additions to the original adventures’ narrative is not a major problem. The scenarios remain very good. They are atmospheric, varied and dramatic. They feature, as is perhaps obvious, my favourite WFRP villain. They are quintessential WFRP scenarios, and indeed established many of the tropes associated with the game. Radical change was not necessary.
There is, however, one area I wish had been modified. In the adventure as it is written, it is difficult for the PCs to uncover the layers of deceit behind the ritual. Ultimately there is a high chance they complete the adventure without really understanding the story behind it. The adventure would be considerably improved if there were ways for the PCs to find out more about Teugen and Gideon’s bargain and their manipulation of his fellow merchants. For example, the PCs might discover revealing correspondence with Etelka Herzen in Teugen’s office or home; a former student at the University of Nuln might reveal that Teugen was part of a crowd that was rumoured to take part in late-night séances and attempts to contact the otherworld; a worker at the Ordo Septenarius’ soup kitchen might tell a tale of how Gideon walked into an empty room and an entirely different man walked out of the only exit; etc.
There are a few other niggles. A few maps have disappeared from the original versions. There are no longer maps of the site of the crashed coaches, the Boatman Inn in Altdorf or the river barge The Berebeli. Their loss is of variable significance. I doubt many GMs will need a map of the Boatman Inn, but a map of The Berebeli is more important, as it is the scene of the bounty hunter’s climactic ambush. It would also have been nice to have a map of the interior of Teugen’s house. This was not present in the original adventure and the scenario discourages visits to the house. There is, however, a reasonable chance PCs will attempt to enter the house, and it is an excellent location for passing on further clues to the players.
There are also no pregenerated PCs, though they are apparently due to appear in the Enemy in Shadows Companion.
WELCOME TO SUNNY BÖGENHAFEN
Enemy in Shadows includes a lengthy appendix describing the town of Bögenhafen. It is a substantial expansion of the guide in the original version of the adventure, running to 29 pages, compared with just 10 previously. The new pages hold somewhat less text than the old, but they still amount to more than a doubling in word count. The background information adds greater detail on the existing quarters and locations in the town; some new locations; a description of the surrounding Duchy of Saponatheim; and a timeline of Bögenhafen’s history. The appendix also includes playable material: plenty of adventure ideas and hooks, and descriptions of two cults and a criminal gang. A couple of elements have been removed from the town guide in the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen, information on taxes and the Watch, but they are not significant losses. It is overall a very good account of the town.
My only reservation is whether GMs will get to use much of the material. The adventure forces the players to flee town a few days after their arrival, with Bögenhafen possibly even destroyed. It does not give the GM many opportunities to take advantage of the content. Of course, the material can be relocated to other towns and cities, but if that is its primary purpose, surely it would be better to present it as generic information from the start, rather than force the GM to adapt it.
BITS AND PIECES
A second appendix contains a sprinkling of new rules for WFRP. There is a system for generating quick NPCs, mechanics for a new disease (Purple Brain Fever) and some new creature traits. I am afraid I cannot make any useful assessment of the rules additions, as I have not decided to move to the new edition’s system and have no experience of it.
There are also a couple of background elements in the “new rules” appendix: an Imperial Calendar and a guide to regional accents. The former is very useful, the latter less so, in my opinion, but others’ views will probably vary.
For newcomers to The Enemy Within, Enemy in Shadows is excellent. The original adventures on which it is based are deservedly classics, and the revised presentation of the material is improved in almost every respect.
For grognards, however, the value of the new edition is more debatable. The presentation is better. There is more GM advice, an expanded guide to Bögenhafen and a small amount of new adventure content. Crucially for many there are also WFRP4 statistics. But Enemy in Shadows does not offer a radically different play experience from the scenarios that appeared in 1986 and 1987. Once the initial excitement of seeing The Enemy Within back in print has passed, some might feel that not much has changed in thirty-three years. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
For my other WFRP4 reviews, see this link.
The review copy of Enemy in Shadows was purchased at my own expense. I have received no inducements in connection with this review.
Title art by Ralph Horsley. Title and internal art used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.