This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.

In April 1986 Citadel released a fourth WFB2 scenario pack, called The Tragedy of McDeath, or just McDeath. It was written by Richard Halliwell, and contained a familiar mix of components: a 24-page scenario booklet, poster map, command sheets, card buildings, card counters, floor plans and a badge.

The campaign booklet* describes a series of four battles: ‘Winwood Harbour’, ‘Loch Lorm’, ‘Dungal Hill’ and ‘Runsinane Castle’. Collectively they tell the story of the struggle for the throne of East Albion, as several parties seek to oust King McDeath. White Dwarf 76 (April 1986) also carried an additional prequel scenario called ‘Glen Woe’.

White Dwarf 76

White Dwarf 76

East Albion is heavily based on historical Scotland, and embraces as many national clichés as possible. Caber tossing, whisky, porridge, kilts and sporrans, thistles, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Loch Ness monster all feature in the scenarios in some form. The text also mentions several locations in East Albion, all with a Scottish ring: Bolland Glen, Dungal Hill, Fagmar Forest, Glen Givett, Hark Ness, Iskergow, Klinty’s Wood, Loch Lorm, Lorm Beck, River Roche, Runsinane Castle and Winwood.

A campaign map shows the region in greater detail. East Albion, as its name suggests, represents only part of the island. Albion is presumably to be seen as a patchwork of many different realms. This appears to be borne out by other references. The Book of Battalions (p15) mentions an area of Albion called Mercia, which was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in central England (see part XIII). A loosely Anglo-Irish kingdom, North Albion, is depicted in ‘The Web of Eldaw’ (see part XXXVII).

Although the map lacks a scale, it seems from the small number of settlements shown that ‘The Kingdom of McDeath’ is of no great extent, and much smaller than historical Scotland. This might imply that the kingdoms of Albion are to be seen like the smaller kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England or mediaeval Ireland, rather than the later nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Alternatively it might alternatively be argued that the map depicts only part of McDeath’s kingdom, but its title suggests otherwise. Possibly the reason for the kindom’s small size is even simpler: little thought was given to the issue of scale, as demonstrated by the lack of any measurement on the map.

McDeath Map

Map from The Tragedy of McDeath

WFB2‘s ‘Battle Bestiary’ (p21) presents Albion as comparable to 11th-13th century CE Europe, and several elements of The Tragedy of McDeath are consistent with this period. There is an absence of gunpowder weapons. The scenario parodies the Scottish kings Duncan and Macbeth, who reigned in the 11th century CE. A number of East Albion nobles carry the title thane, and the same title is used by nobles of North Albion in ‘The Web of Eldaw’. The title thane was in use in England until the 11th century CE and in Scotland from the 12th to the 15th centuries CE.

Yet there are also anachronisms. The kilt did not develop until the 16th century CE. Bonnie Prince Charlie lived in the 18th century CE. The Highland Games started in the 19th century CE. East Albion is a mishmash of historical influences from various periods.

As might be surmised from the title, the campaign is in large part a pastiche of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. A significant part of the written content is made up of a play script parodying Macbeth, act I, scenes 1-3 and act IV, scene 1.

First Witch: Where the place?

Second Witch: Upon the heath.

Third Witch: There to meet with Macbeth.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, act I, scene 1, lines 6-8

In Shakespearean times the normal pronunciation of “heath” rhymed closely with Macbeth. This is no longer the case in modern English, which Halliwell pokes fun at.

First Witch: Where the place?

Second Witch: Upon the heath.

Third Witch: There to meet with McDeath.

First Witch: Shouldn’t that be pronounced McDeeth?

Third Witch: What?

First Witch: Well, it doesn’t rhyme, does it?

Third Witch: It doesn’t have to rhyme, [sic] just because it’s verse doesn’t mean that every line has to end with a similar sounding word.

First Witch: Yes, it does.

Third Witch: It doesn’t.

And so on. Exeunt Witches, bickering.

– Richard Halliwell, The Tragedy of McDeath, p2

Several of the characters in the campaign are also closely based on those in Macbeth. McDeath and Lady McDeath obviously come from Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Banquo is common to both the scenario and the play. Dunco corresponds to Duncan. Donalbane is a conflation of Donalbain and Malcolm. Dart takes the role of Macduff. ‘Glen Woe’ also features Ross and Angus from the play.

The first scenario, ‘Winwood Harbour’ describes an attack by the McEwman clan on their rivals the McArnos and Greevants in the midst of their annual games. However, this battle is merely a preliminary skirmish. The McEwmans’ leader, Julia McEwman, is an illegitimate daughter of King Dunco, and after dispatching her historic foes at Winwood, intends to proceed to Runsinane Castle to seize the throne of East Albion.

The Tragedy of McDeath is packed with puns and jokes, and the tone is set early on. The McEwmans’ attack is named Mc D Day, in reference to the Normandy landings. The name of the McArno clan, especially its leader Kit McArno, is a pun on the construction toy Meccano.

Meccano Set 5

Meccano Set

There are the comic capers of Greevant commandos writing “Wimpish McEwmans put sugar on their porridge” in six-foot letters on the side of Castle McEwman. This alludes to the fact that in Scotland porridge is generally eaten with salt, not sugar. The practice is an source of national pride.

Porridge must be cooked with salt to obtain the correct flavour. Those eating porridge outside Scotland have been know to cook it without salt and indeed eat it with sugar or even syrup, which is a habit which would turn the stomach of any Scotsman (or Scots-woman).

Scottish Food

The same idea is picked up in the motto on the McArnos’ banner: “Salty porridge forever”.

McArnos’ banner

The second battle is ‘Loch Lorm’. This concerns another claimant to the throne of East Albion, Donalbane, the oldest surviving son of King Dunco. He has rallied the McCoughlagan clan behind him and is also marching on Runsinane also to oust McDeath. However, en route the McCoughlagans have been tempted to raid a nearby distillery, which is defended by the distillers, the Keyler Malters.

The jokiness continues. The overall situation plays on the English stereotype of Scotsmen as violent alcoholics. McCoughlagan is a pun on “hooligan”. The adjacent lake, Loch Lorm, is inhabited by a monster modelled on the Loch Ness monster. The motto on the Keyler Malters’ banner, “Refreshes the parts other brews can nae reach”, is a pun on Heineken slogan at the time: “Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach”.

Keyler Malters’ banner

In ‘Dungal Hill’ Donalbane links up with the forces of the Earl of Hark Ness, and takes on McDeath’s lieutenant, Een McWrecker. McWrecker is besieging striking dwarf miners, whose silver McDeath needs.

Dwarf miners are a staple of the WFB2 scenario packs. This time, however, their presence is more pointed. Their situation is a parody of the British miners’ strike of 1984-1985, as noted by Zhu Bajiee. Arka Zargul is an allusion to the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill. Een McWrecker is based on the National Coal Board Chairman Ian MacGregor (who was nicknamed MacWrecker by the striking miners).

Arthur Scargill (left) and Ian MacGregor (right)

Arka Zargul and Een McWrecker’s banners

The banners of Zargul and McWrecker contain further allusions. “I ho! I ho! Go slow” is a play on the song “Heigh-ho” and “go slow”, a form of union protest where workers deliberately reduced productivity.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go

– Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, ‘Heigh-ho’, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

McWrecker’s slogan “Stunties shall be slaves while we rule” echoes the patriotic British anthem ‘Rule Britannia’, based on James Thompson’s poem.

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

– Thomas Arne, ‘Rule Britannia’

Earl Dart of Hark Ness is a spoonerism of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). The halfling Raybees is a pun on the disease rabies. In the mid 1980s there was widespread public fear in Britain that the disease might be imported from continental Europe.

Rabies poster

UK government poster (1977)

The campaign reaches its climax in ‘Runsinane Castle’. The various parties converge on McDeath at Runsinane Castle, where they are joined by a band of treemen from Klinty’s Wood. In an echo of The Lord of the Rings (book III, chapter 4), the treemen have been enraged by McDeath’s orcs felling and burning parts of the forest. The forces attack the castle in an attempt to overthrow McDeath.

The battle follows Macbeth, act V, preserving key parts of the play’s plot.

Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, act IV, scene 4, lines 92-4

McDeath shall never vanquished be, until
Great Klinty’s Wood to high Runsinane Hill
Shall come against him.

– Richard Halliwell, The Tragedy of McDeath, p4

In Macbeth the prophecy refers to the arrival of the English army, who used branches cut from Birnam Wood as camouflage. In McDeath the reference is more literal, referring to the treemen marching from Klinty’s Wood.

McDeath also repeats closely Macbeth‘s prophecy about the protagonist’s death.

… for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, act IV, scene 1, lines 80-81

… for no man of woman born
Shall harm McDeath.

– Richard Halliwell, The Tragedy of McDeath, p4

In the play the king’s killer, Macduff, is born by caesarean section. In McDeath Dart takes the role of Macduff in this respect, but in addition there are other parties who can land the killing blow: women, dwarfs and treemen.

‘Runsinane Castle’ finds room for one more pun. Donalbane’s emaciated younger brother, who has been held captive by McDeath, is nicknamed “Boney Prince Charley” (after Bonnie Prince Charlie).

Badge from The Tragedy of McDeath**

The additional scenario, ‘Glen Woe’, is set three years before the main campaign. It deals with McDeath’s murder of King Dunco and seizure of the throne (loosely following Macbeth, acts I and II). Once again, it features a parodic play script.

First Witch: All hail, McDeath! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!

Second Witch: All hail, McDeath! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: All hail, McDeath, thou shalt be King hereafter!

First Witch: Hail, Banquo! Lesser than McDeath, and greater.

Second Witch: Not so happy, yet much happier.

Third Witch: Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.
So all hail, McDeath and Banquo!

Banquo: (Points at Witches) Are you talking ta me, jimmys?

-Rick Priestley, ‘Glen Woe’, White Dwarf 76 (April 1986)

The text follows Macbeth, act I, scene 3, lines 50-52 and 67-70, except for the last line. In Scotland “Jimmy” is an unfriendly address to an unknown male. It again plays on the stereotype of violent Scotsmen.

The card buildings were, as for the other WFB2 scenarios, reprinted in Warhammer Townscape (1988), but otherwise the material in McDeath did not appear again.

The Tragedy of McDeath was the last scenario pack to be published for WFB2. A further scenario was previewed, with the title Treacher Island or Hell’s Bells and Buckets of Blood, but did not come to fruition.


* Brian Roe has pointed out that John Blanche’s cover to the ‘Gamesmaster’s Guide’ is based on ‘The Intervention of the Sabine Women’ (1799), painted by Jacques-Louis David.

‘The Intervention of the Sabine Women’ (1799), by Jacques-Louis David, and the cover of the McDeath ‘Gamesmaster’s Guide’ (1986), by John Blanche


** Cf Macbeth, act V, scene 1, line 39: “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”.


The following chart summarises the chronology of this post relative to others in this section of ‘The WFRP Story’.

The next ‘WFRP Story’ post looks at the origins of the skaven.

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



  1. Here are a few more of the puns from McDeath:

    Bolland Glen – possibly after Brian Bolland, Judge Dredd artist at the time.

    Fagmar Forest – possibly a pun on Fangorn forest from LotR. “Fag” being British slang for a cigarette, I picture a seedy-looking Treeman with a cigarett dangling from his lower lip.

    Glen Givett – Glenlivet whisky.

    Winwood – from British singer Steve Winwood.

    McEwman – from McEwan’s, a leading Scottish brewery.

    I suspect there are puns behind some of the other names, but I can’t fathom them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. On a slightly tangential point, isn’t the apparent movement of Birnam Wood in Macbeth due to soldiers cutting branches of trees to act as camouflage and cover their movements (rather than shields all coming from one particular wood)?


    1. Yes, you’re right (act V, scene 5, lines 6-10 and act V, scene 6, lines 31-35). I’ve fixed that. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.


  3. Am I correct in understanding that none of the places or people mentioned in this scenario appear in any later material?


  4. Everytime I read your history articles it takes me back to 1984 and the weird wonder of the WFB boxed set, the monthly thrill of White Dwarf (when it was still a spectacular games magazine instead of a GW miniatures supplement), and then a leap forward to the incredible WFRP1e a few years later. All of the timejumping is making me a bit dizzy.

    Great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aldo, the very name of the villain, Mcdeath seems a sort of pun on the historical Mcbeth
    The name of Mcbeth means “Son of Life”, so its old world counterpart is the “Son of death”

    I truly suspect, this is intentionate


    1. That’s an interesting idea. It relies on Richard Halliwell knowing the meaning of the name Macbeth. Personally I suspect the name McDeath was mainly chosen for reasons of rhyme. There are few English words that fit that pattern, and McBreath doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is remarkable how far Albion was pushed into the background and even more remarkable that went from a place of feuding medieval states into a barely inhabited fog shrouded ‘nowhere’. I remember in the Albion campaign back in 2001 that the entire human population seemed to consist of three or four small iron age villages whose only game contribution were the Truthsayers and Dark Emmisaries.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think Albion’s fate was sealed when it was decided not to include it in the Old World in WFRP1 (contrary to WFB2). As far as I am aware, no further human nations have been described in any depth since then. It is not hard to see why. As Warhammer shifted focus more and more to the wargame side, there was little or no need to detail new human realms, whose armies would be only modestly different from existing ones. Even within the more fully described nations of the Old World, only the Empire and Bretonnia received much attention over time (and Bretonnia was modified to distance it from its neighbour).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah they invented the Ogre Kingdoms which retconned a lot of ogre lore. Kislev and the Border Princes did get WFRP 2E supplements.


  7. A fantastic article. I came here via a link (and glowing recommendation) on the FB page of the podcast “The Master Tavern Keeper’s History of the Old World” who are currently doing in-universe an audiodrama/play/fireside chat miniseries retelling of McDeath as part of their larger discussion of Albion.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A few other puns I remember:

    Lady McDeath’s mutant multi-headed chaos hound is named Spot, so when she cries, “Out out damned Spot!” the chaos hound comes running out.

    The brewer’s magic sword is called the Malter’s Falchion, a play on the Maltese Falcon.

    Liked by 2 people

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