Warning. This review contains spoilers for the Enemy Within campaign.
It may have taken more than one bite of the cherry, but Cubicle 7 has now released the full text of the Enemy in Shadows Companion, making several additions and changes to the version it initially made available. It seems a good time, therefore, to share my thoughts on the book.
The Enemy in Shadows Companion is the first of five planned companion volumes to accompany C7’s reissue of the Enemy Within campaign for WFRP4. It comprises a miscellany of supplementary material for use with the first adventure in the series, Enemy in Shadows. This includes a selection of additional NPCs, encounters and adventures, alongside some thematic material relating to the Empire, road travel and Chaos.
The Enemy in Shadows Companion is 127 pages long. Its general presentation matches that of other WFRP4 products. Maps are good, showing building plans and vertical elevations. There is a sprinkling of handouts, but they are small and only presented in the text columns. Art is somewhat less impressive than in other products in the range. It is largely black and white; there are few colour images, and at least one of them is a duplicate from another book.
Layout follows the same design as other WFRP4 books. Unfortunately, the heavy use of text boxes creates a problem with NPC descriptions. Many of the text boxes are dislocated and do not sit alongside the description of the NPC to which they relate. It makes the arrangement a little unclear and untidy. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the headings of some of the text boxes provide few clues as which NPC they relate to.
The opening chapters are of purely historical interest. They contain reminiscences from two of the campaign’s original authors, Phil Gallagher and Graeme Davis, and an account of the origins of names and plot ideas in Enemy in Shadows.
The information is brief (five pages in total) and, apart from notes on a few names, has appeared in other places before, so there are no major revelations. But it is a good summary, and it is always pleasant to hear the history in the authors’ own words.
THE LIE OF THE LAND
The first chapter of content relevant to play is a ten-page guide to the Empire. This has little to say about everyday life in the Empire and focuses primarily on politics and government. It describes the Provinces and Prime Estates; the Emperor, Council of State, Elector Counts, Electors and Plenipotentiaries; and other aspects such as guilds, taxation, law and social classes. The content is not purely background information: scattered throughout the text are also several adventure ideas.
The material mostly derives from the original Enemy Within (1986) and its various reprints. Interestingly this means that the political situation in the Empire reflects that of the first edition of WFRP, not the somewhat different circumstances of subsequent editions. Thus Yorri XV is Grand Theogonist; Sudenland is a Province; Middenheim and Middenland are separately governed territories; Crown Prince Wolfgang Holswig-Abenauer is heir to the Emperor. There are some concessions to later versions of the background, though. For example, the Emperor has a son, Luitpold, but he has recently been disinherited and banished for reasons left mysterious.
Comments made elsewhere by the designers suggest that this political situation will not persist. It seems likely that during the course of the Enemy Within campaign, the Empire will be reshaped by political crisis (just as it was in the original finale, Empire in Flames, and the unofficial alternative, The Empire at War), allowing the designers to accommodate the different politics of later editions alongside those of the first edition.
Despite its focus on the upper echelons of Imperial life, the information in this section is likely to be invaluable to GMs of the campaign. Imperial political ructions are an important element of the original Enemy Within, especially in its later stages, and this is likely also to be the case for the new version. Yet the political context of the Empire is neglected in the WFRP4 rulebook, because of its narrow focus on the Reikland.
The material in the Enemy in Shadows Companion goes some way to correct that omission. However, the information perhaps more naturally belongs in the core rulebook. That the rulebook contains detailed descriptions of towns without some of the basics of the political backdrop strikes me as putting the cart before the horse. A more successful approach might have been to provide a high-level overview of the Empire in the rulebook and greater regional detail in supplements.
Another unfortunate effect of this arrangement is that the Empire is presented piecemeal. It seems likely that GMs who want a full picture of the Empire will have to acquire and trawl through several different volumes to get it, rather than have it collated in a single volume like Sigmar’s Heirs for WFRP2.
KEEPING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD
The next topic covered in the Companion is life on the Empire’s roads. 24 pages are dedicated to this topic across four chapters. They contain a combination of background material and game mechanics: a short account of roads and major coaching houses; discussion of roadwardens and toll-keepers; rules for driving and riding; and a system for dealing with road journeys abstractly.
The background information is solid, but brief, amounting to barely four pages in total. Moreover, some parts, such as the road descriptions, seem to me to be sufficiently obvious as to be superfluous.
More useful is the material on mounts and vehicles. There are profiles for eight types of draught animal and mount. Rules are provided for calculating travelling speeds, handling mounted and vehicular combat and introducing random mishaps. They provide a very good framework for running cinematic action sequences like coach chases. However, they seem to me less effective at dealing with the more prosaic issue of travelling from A to B. It is not clear, for example, how the rules can be used to calculate a daily travelling speed by coach. This part of the rules is in need of at least some clarification and possibly even a rewrite. The inclusion of summary tables of average daily travelling distances would also be a valuable improvement.
The heart of the travelling rules, though, is a set of mechanics for handling journeys in an abstract manner, which is modelled on the downtime rules in the WFRP4 rulebook. Different weather conditions and their effects are covered, including elements such as illness from exposure. There are three tables of encounters (positive, neutral and negative). There are also a range of travel endeavours, similar to those in downtime: woodcraft, forage, gather information, keep watch, map the route, practise a skill, recuperate and make camp.
I had mixed opinions of the WFRP4 downtime system, but the system presented here is better. The rules for weather, encounters and endeavours are very good additions. I do, though, have a niggle about the system of Travel Stages. GMs are required to divide journeys into a subjective number of stages and then adjust that number for movement rates and skills. Given that the initial number of stages is entirely arbitrary, it seems to me pointless then to apply mechanical adjustments to it. This is easily amended, however.
The Enemy in Shadows Companion contains a substantial collection of standalone NPCs. Across two chapters and 24 pages there are detailed descriptions of 22 of them: artisan, bawd, beggar, bounty hunter, brigand, bunko artist, charlatan, entertainer, highwayman, merchant, noble, outlaw, pedlar, racketeer, road warden, servant, stevedore, thief and toll keeper. They include characteristic allusions to historical and fictional characters, such as a bunko artist called Heinrich “the Grouch” Marken (Groucho Marx) and a pedlar called Delberz Trötte (Del Boy Trotter).
The descriptions include WFRP4 profiles, black-and-white illustrations, adventure ideas and guidance on using the NPCs in Enemy in Shadows. They are an excellent resource, useful not just in Enemy in Shadows, but in almost any scenario.
THE LOST AND THE DAMNED
Two chapters, extending to 26 pages in total, provide more information on the threat of Chaos. They contain a short account of mutant society; three tables for randomly generating mutations; a description of the Purple Hand cult; rules for Chaos sorcerers, including new talents, a Cult Magus career and spell lores of Chaos and Tzeentch; and details of some lesser demons (Chaos furies and pink and blue horrors).
The information is well put together and useful. The description of mutant society is pleasingly nuanced. Mutants are presented as more than just crazed cannon fodder. The mutation tables cover three types of mutation (physical mutations, bestial heads and mental mutations), and include custom rolls for each Chaos power.
Extract from a mutation table
The details on Chaos sorcerers, magic and demons are excellent and likely to be very valuable for GMs, given the central role of Chaos in the Enemy Within campaign.
The only disappointing part is the description of the Purple Hand. While it suffices for the needs of the adventure, it does not provide a lot of detail. It largely repeats information that was provided in Warhammer City (1987, reprinted as Middenheim: City of Chaos, 1998). It says nothing of the cult’s plans as they affect the campaign, and does not equip the GM well to develop its storyline.
The final three chapters of the Enemy in Shadows Companion comprise reprints of short scenarios from WFRP1. Together they take up another 29 pages of the total count.
The first reprint, ‘On the Road’, by Graeme Davis, has a long history. It dates back to the very beginning of WFRP, and was the first article published in White Dwarf specifically for the game, back in WD85 (January 1987). It describes a pair of brief encounters, one with a shapeshifter and another with a ghost. It is a good fit with Enemy in Shadows. Thematically it ties in with the road trip at the beginning of the adventure, and stylistically it is similar, as it was written by one of the same authors at same time as the original adventures.
Graeme Davis has said ‘On the Road’ was “based on recycled ideas and written in a hurry to fill a need for magazine fodder, at a time when WFRP still didn’t really know what it was going to be when it grew up”. But that seems to me an unduly harsh self assessment. The encounters are short and simple, but atmospheric. They are good examples of doing a lot with a little. With some imagination and work they could easily be developed into more substantial adventures, as in The Restless Dead (1989), where Carl Sargent used them as the hook for a whole campaign.
The second reprinted article is ‘The Affair of the Hidden Jewel’, by Lewis Page, which first appeared in WD101 (May 1988), and was reprinted in The Restless Dead (1989) and Apocrypha 2: Chart of Darkness (2000). It strikes a different tone from WFRP‘s characteristic grit and filth. Subtitled “A Melodrama with a Thick Plot”, it is a tongue-in-cheek tale of swashbuckling derring-do, featuring a band of outlaws, a castle and an evil count. It embraces stereotypes and clichés with gusto, though I note with disappointment that, unlike the original adventure, PCs are not rewarded with experience points for “Appropriately Corny Lines”.
It is a less obvious scenario to include in the Companion. It is certainly fun, and provides a nice counterpoint to the darker tone of Enemy in Shadows, but it is not a classic. Moreover, it contains elements that may be duplicated in the next part of the campaign, Death on the Reik: a band of outlaws, a castle and a secret passage. These are hackneyed enough when run once, but repeating them in quick succession seems likely to elicit groans from players.
The final recycled scenario is ‘The Pandemonium Carnival’, by Mike Brunton, from Apocrypha 2: Charts of Darkness (2000). This describes in detail a travelling freak show, along with several short adventure ideas (four from the original printing, plus a new addition).
The material fits in neatly with the Schaffenfest in Enemy in Shadows, but repeats elements of the existing freak show, Doktor Malthusius’ Zoocopoeia. The Pandemonium Carnival is probably best seen as an alternative to or expansion of the Zoocopeia.
Aside from the inclusion of WFRP4 statistics, all three reprinted adventures are substantially the same as in their first appearances. This means they preserve features that are no longer consistent with the Warhammer world, such as werecats and captive beastmen. Notes are provided on reconciling these elements with the current background.
Cubicle 7 has recently (and belatedly) added six pregenerated PCs to the PDF version of the Enemy in Shadows Companion. They are the same six as appeared thirty-three years ago in the original campaign: Harbull Furfoot, a halfling Herb Gatherer; Werner Murrmann, a human Apprentice Artisan (no longer nicknamed “Pick-Axe”); Wanda Weltschmertz (sic), a human Wizard’s Apprentice; Johann “Rowlocks” Dassbütt, a human Boat-Hand; Malmir Giluviel, an elf Busker; and Kirsten Krank, a human Prowler.
Each has a full two-page character sheet. The first page contains statistics and is laid out in a similar fashion to C7’s downloadable WFRP4 character sheet, but with some compression. The second page contains a written description of the character, including background, personality and appearance, along with a colour illustration.
The sheets are mostly usable as they are printed. One or two minor details are missing, such as age and height. Some parts of the sheets do not allow enough space for future changes, such as Wanda Weltschmertz’s spell list. But it seems reasonable to assume the statistics will at some point be transferred to a blank character sheet with room for these emendations. Then the first page can be discarded and the second page retained.
The written character notes are hardly changed from the original versions, save in one respect. The new descriptions include a selection of optional character secrets. For example, Kirsten Krank is the illegitimate daughter of a noble; Johann Dassbütt wants revenge on her over an unpaid ferry fare; he is wanted for murder in Delberz; etc. PCs receive D10 pennies for each secret they have. They are interesting twists, but require careful management by the GM, especially as they can create intra-party conflict. In my opinion, their use should very much be at the GM’s discretion.
The original version of the Enemy Within campaign was to some extent written around these characters, so they fit well with Enemy in Shadows and probably with the remainder of the campaign. However, since the characters have been relegated to the companion volume, the specific notes to the GM on using them in the adventures have been lost. It is a minor loss, as the notes are generally obvious.
The old gang and the new
The Enemy in Shadows Companion is excellent. There is a good variety of well written and useful material. Very little of it is specific to Enemy in Shadows. Instead the Companion is primarily a collection of standalone material, with thematic links to the main adventure and notes on how it might be included in the campaign. The result is that it gives GMs of Enemy in Shadows a great number of options for expanding the adventure, but the additions are only loosely linked to the main adventure. However, this also means that the Companion‘s usefulness is not restricted to that adventure; almost all of its content is of value to GMs of other scenarios.
Ironically those parts of the content that do relate directly to Enemy in Shadows (such as a map of The Berebeli and the background to Imperial politics) seem to me too important to have been relegated to the companion volume. They should perhaps have been included in the main adventure. Nonetheless, it seems likely that most GMs of the adventure will also buy the Companion, so I suspect there will be few complaints.
The usual caveat about reprints applies; around a third of the book is reheated first edition fare. The handling of the older content is noteworthy. At Gen Con 2018 Graeme Davis discussed WFRP4 trying to “be all things to all people”. That certainly seems to be the approach in the Enemy in Shadows Companion. It seeks to accommodate multiple versions of the Warhammer world. This “broad church” attitude is very welcome, and bodes well for future books.
For my other WFRP4 reviews, see this link.
The review copy of the Enemy in Shadows Companion was purchased at my own expense. I have received no inducements in connection with this review.
Title art by JG O’Donaghue. Internal art by JG O’ Donaghue, Tony Ackland et al. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.