TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

Warning. This review contains spoilers for Death on the Reik and other parts of the Enemy Within campaign.

It is not possible to step into the same river twice.

– Heracleitus, fragment 91

Death on the Reik is the next instalment in Cubicle 7’s reissue of the Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay‘s fourth edition. It is an update of the 1987 adventure of the same name, and follows on from Enemy in Shadows, released last year. It will in time be accompanied by a parallel volume of supplementary information, the Death on the Reik Companion.

Covers then and now (1987 left, 2020 right)

The scenario has been a long time coming. It was promised for 2019, but was delayed repeatedly. This has led to the absurd situation where there has been a longer gap between instalments in the Cubicle 7 reprint than there was when the original campaign was written from scratch. Sadly WFRP4 is so far shaping up to be possibly the least supported edition of WFRP yet. In the two years since the WFRP4 rulebook was published Cubicle 7 has released five supplements in physical form, mostly reprints. Even the thinly supported first edition of WFRP managed six in the equivalent period, and all were original.

Physical Releases in 24 Months Following Publication of Core Rules

Deduplicated* physical supplements released in the 24 months following the core rules

As in previous reviews, I have here tried to achieve three objectives: to provide information for those new to the campaign who might be considering buying it; to help grognards familiar with the original decide whether the new version is of interest; and to provide some hopefully useful pointers to any who have already purchased the scenario.

(For more information on the Enemy Within campaign, see my FAQ post and my review of Enemy in Shadows.)

PRESENTATION

The adventure runs to 160 pages (excluding adverts). It for the most part maintains Cubicle 7’s very high standards of visual presentation.

I have to confess, though, that Ralph Horsley’s cover leaves me cold. It is not a patch on Ian Miller’s memorable cover from 1987. The interior art, though, is outstanding. I have great affection for Martin McKenna’s original drawings, but the new art is of greater quality (though lower frequency). As in previous WFRP adventures, the scene illustrations are all in colour, and the NPC illustrations in black and white. One of the creators has stated the reason for this was to make the NPC sections stand out from the rest of the book. The explanation makes the decision seem no less eccentric to me. NPC illustrations are among the most useful for GMs to share with players, and there are obvious benefits from having them in colour.

Artwork then and now (1987 left, 2020 right)

Maps are with few exceptions retouched and recoloured versions of Charles Elliott’s maps from the original adventure. The original maps were excellent, and the new colouring improves their aesthetics, though occasionally compromising their readability. Disappointingly, however, the scale is still wrong on the Castle Wittgenstein map. (GMs should double the distances indicated.)

Location maps then and now (1987 left, 2020 right)

One map that has been changed completely is the region map. It is the same as Cubicle 7’s poster map of the Reikland, also used in the Starter Set. Unfortunately this is not a change for the better. The map employs a pictorial style, which makes it is difficult to read. It also lacks a scale. The 1987 hex map may be less pretty, but is far more usable.

Region maps then and now (1987 left, 2020 right)

The handouts are much as in Enemy in Shadows: functional, but a little lacking in character. It is a shame more of Cubicle 7’s artistic capability was not dedicated to them. They are, after all, the few pieces of art that the players will definitely see.

Again little attention been has paid to the fonts used. The Arch Lumen has the same handwriting as Johannes Teugen and Friedrich Magirius. Unless there is a stunning plot twist coming, it is lazy graphic design. The converse problem affects Jean Rousseaux’s handwriting, which is represented by two different fonts (one of which happens to be the same as Margritte von Wittgenstein’s handwriting). This was an error in the original adventure, but it is disappointing to see it slavishly repeated.

Also repeated from the first version is the omission of a handout of the Red Crown’s map (mentioned on p55). It is not critical, but is a little careless, when the omission has been known for a long time.

Handouts then and now (1987 left, 2020 right)

The text of the adventure has been thoroughly reorganised from the 1987 version. The original divided content according to a confusing mix of time, place and plot. The revised version replaces this with a straightforward chronological sequence, dividing events into eight distinct chapters. It is a more linear presentation, and so makes it harder for the GM to adapt it, but no single arrangement can satisfy all requirements, and I am in no doubt the new organisation is a huge improvement on the old.

One defect of the revised arrangement is that the core plot is not adequately introduced. It is summarised only in the briefest terms, omitting important details (such as the role of Dagmar von Wittgenstein and the location of the meteorite). The result is likely confusion on the part of new readers (for example, when “Dagmar” is mentioned on the very next page without any prior explanation).

The encounters with mentors (Josef Quartjin, Heironymous (sic) Blitzen, Maximilian Schnippmesser and Luigi Belladonna) have all been relocated to an appendix. Since they are not part of the main adventure plot, this makes a lot of sense. However, I can’t help but feel they belong even more naturally in the Death on the Reik Companion.

What has been moved into the Companion is the material on the river life of the Empire, including background information, encounters and rules for boat handling and trading. It is a material loss. Travelling and trading by river were important parts of the original adventure’s charm. The Death on the Reik Companion is likely to be an essential purchase for GMs of the adventure, as shown by the numerous references to it in the adventure text.

In place of the river life material, a section of ‘Carrion Up the Reik’ has been added to the adventure. ‘Carrion Up the Reik’ was a short scenario published in Hogshead’s reprint of the Enemy Within Campaign in 1998, designed to bridge the gap between Death on the Reik and the next instalment Power Behind the Throne.

There are some problems with the presentation of the text. Like Cubicle 7’s other PDF releases, it is in need of further proofreading. There are, for example, several references to “page @@” (for that genuine vintage feel), and one handout in particular is riddled with typos that make the writer sound like Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo (“I’ve alroody boon put in charge of ooganising something special foo ooxt yoor’s Hexensnacht”, sic). Also, whereas Enemy in Shadows is blessed with not one, but two indices, Death on the Reik has none at all. It is a disappointing omission, particularly given the complexity of the scenario.

Unknown, Beastman Coronation, 2020, from Death on the Reik

THE PLOT

Over a century ago, an astronomer named Dagmar von Wittgenstein learned of a meteorite which fell from the Chaos moon Morrslieb and landed in the Barren Hills. He undertook an ill-fated expedition to recover it, and transported it back to his ancestral home at Castle Wittgenstein. The meteorite was made of warpstone, and over the intervening years it has had a powerful mutating effect on the castle and its surroundings.

The existence of the meteorite has been discovered by Etelka Herzen, an agent of a Chaos cult called the Red Crown, and she has embarked on her own expedition to locate it. Unknown to her, a group of skaven are simultaneously pursuing the meteorite. Also unknown to her, the PCs are on her trail, as she provided Johannes Teugen with the scroll for the ritual in Enemy in Shadows.

Having come into possession of a river barge, whose crew were murdered by mutant bandits, the PCs follow in Herzen’s footsteps as she attempts to locate the meteorite. This eventually leads them to the lost observatory of Dagmar von Wittgenstein, where they discover of the ultimate fate of the meteorite and finally confront Herzen.

For the climax of the adventure, the players journey to Castle Wittgenstein to face the horrors there. They join with a band of outlaws, attack the castle, but find at the death that the skaven have beaten them to the meteorite. As the castle crumbles because of skaven undermining, they flee for their lives.

In the background the Purple Hand continue their involvement with the PCs, becoming increasingly concerned that they have absconded with the inheritance from Enemy in Shadows. After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the adventurers to travel to Middenheim and hand over the inheritance, the Purple Hand arranges for a merchant to deliver the PCs to Middenheim by means of an elaborate ruse. What happens in Middenheim is the subject of the campaign’s next instalment, Power Behind the Throne.

Unknown, Burning Barge, 2020, from Death on the Reik

THE SCENARIO

Death on the Reik is a sprawling epic, encompassing multiple intersecting plots and a wide variety of people and places. 

In the first phase the PCs criss-cross the southern Empire by river boat, following the trail of Etelka Herzen. In principle they are are afforded considerable freedom of movement, and can take their river boat wherever the will takes them. In practice, however, there is a clear trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow, and they are unlikely to deviate far from a predictable course.

The scenario disguises this linearity by overlapping the different plots and by introducing sidetracks and diversions. There is a brief subplot relating to the kidnapping of an acquaintance made in Enemy in Shadows. There is also a series of mysterious encounters with the Purple Hand. They continue the storyline from Enemy in Shadows, but do not advance it greatly, and the PCs are mostly kept in the dark. Depending on their disposition, players may find this either intriguing or frustrating. It is to be hoped that future episodes of the campaign develop this storyline more fully, and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion; the original campaign abruptly abandoned it after Death on the Reik.

Much of the action in this phase takes place in what are effectively small, but interesting, dungeons: a signalling tower, protected by undead guardians; a goblin-infested mine at Black Peaks; Herzen’s tower; and some caves in the Barren Hills. There are also a couple of interesting set-piece battles: a circle-the-wagons defence of a farm, and the showdown with Herzen. Investigative elements are limited. This is not a scenario in the mould of the latter part of Enemy in Shadows (or the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen). The players are mostly led from clue to clue, and simply have to collect the pieces of the puzzle (both metaphorically and, in the case of some prismatic keys, literally).

Unknown, River, 2020, from Death on the Reik

The second stage of the adventure focuses play more narrowly on Castle Wittgenstein and its surroundings.

The PCs first explore the nearby village of Wittgendorf, a pitiful, impoverished place suffering from the malign influence of the warpstone and the tyrannical von Wittgensteins. There they encounter beggars, mutants, the warped experiments of a local physician and the von Wittgensteins’ oppressive guards. This section of the scenario involves a somewhat more investigative style of play, but it does not make great demands on the players’ abilities. For the most part the narrative moves along regardless of their decisions. The castle guards will impound the PCs’ boat and run them out of town. Then the outlaw band will contact them and reveal a predictable secret entrance into the castle. It is all fundamentally quite linear, but there is enough interaction that once again Death on the Reik pulls off the neat trick of making it feel otherwise.

The meeting with the outlaws leads into a mass battle where the combined forces storm the castle’s outer bailey. It is a potentially exciting and dramatic set piece, though the guidance on running such a large combat is a little brief. The text advises the GM to focus on the PCs’ battles in detail, but provides only vague guidance on handling the rest of the battle. It would be helpful if it laid out more fully the options for the GM. The GM might adopt an impressionistic approach, preparing a loose script for the actions of the outlaws and guards and a handful of dramatic events to describe. This is perhaps the most cinematic choice. A more mechanical option is for the GM to run the battle using miniatures, floorplans and even the Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules. Neither approach is covered in any detail in the adventure.

With the guards conquered, events at the castle move towards a climax, as the PCs enter its inner bailey. This is a gruesome house of horrors. There is a charnel house where remains have combined into a single, hideous creature; a pipe organ that sprouts tentacles and squeezes victims into its pipes; a garden of carnivorous plants; and other monstrosities. The von Wittgenstein family itself is just as horrific: the head of the family has been transformed into a monstrous insect; his wife dotes on a pack of murderous mutant cats; their daughter conducts galvanic experiments on corpses, animating a monster; her brother is an insane four-armed taxidermist.

Unknown, Wittgenstein Monster, 2020, from Death on the Reik

Many of these ideas are familiar from elsewhere. As I have discussed before, part of the campaign’s charm lies in its absorption of literary tropes. However, in the case of the galvanised monster, it strays into cliché. The idea has been used countless times, from Frankenstein to The Munsters. I would have preferred to see it replaced with something more imaginative. A grognard box offers some alternatives, but they are modest variations. More radical change is preferable in my opinion. One option not explored in the text is some form of doppelgänger, which with some rewriting could be the origin of the simulacrum in Power Behind the Throne (see further here and here).

Ultimately the inner bailey of the castle is another dungeon, but it is varied and interesting, and manages for the most part to be reasonably logical. The most obvious exception is the incongruous presence of a group of intoxicated Slaaneshi cultists. No explanation is given for their presence and little consideration given to their interaction with the PCs. It is simply assumed the PCs will quickly lose interest in them, given their insensible state. This is probably the most likely outcome, but it is a peculiar episode, nonetheless. It can, however, easily be removed or deemed to be a hallucination, should the GM wish.

Although events in the castle build up to a dramatic climax, the dénouement is a something of a cop-out. Rather than address the thorny question of what the adventurers will do with a warpstone meteorite, the adventure simply has it snatched from them at the death. It would be better if the PCs had a chance to battle the skaven and had some way of destroying the warpstone. Alternatively, it might be more satisfying if the skaven and the meteorite reappear later in the campaign. These are all ideas I have explored in The Enemy Within: a Companion. It is possible that subsequent episodes of the campaign will address these issues, but they are not explored in Death on the Reik, and the climax remains another frustrating bait and switch.

Unknown, Charnel Pit, 2020, from Death on the Reik.jpg

After the events at Castle Wittgenstein, there is an epilogue, taken from the first part of ‘Carrion Up the Reik’. The original version of this short adventure was inserted in the campaign to fill the substantial gap between Death on the Reik and the next part of the campaign, Power Behind the Throne, and to strengthen the PCs’ reasons for travelling to Middenheim, where the next episode takes place. It therefore existed to solve a GM need, and frankly it showed. It was in my opinion a contrived, illogical railroad.

The new version improves the logic of the scenario somewhat. There is now a more plausible explanation for the elaborate ruse to deliver the PCs to MIddenheim. But it still leaves the PCs largely as passengers and offers them few interesting challenges. Moreover, it reveals nothing more of the Kastor Lieberung plot, and does not seem to prepare the ground well for the next part of the campaign, for example, by introducing contacts and leads in Middenheim. It remains to be seen whether the second half of the scenario will address these issues, when it appears in Power Behind the Throne.

The epilogue serves a purpose, but little more, and in my view that purpose can be fulfilled more easily and more satisfactorily by other options. There are already plenty of other reasons for the PCs to travel to Middenheim: it is the current home of the last of the von Wittgensteins, the headquarters of the Purple Hand and Red Crown cults and the location of the famous Carnival. In my opinion it would be better to strengthen these links than to railroad the players there. There is also no shortage of less convoluted ways to separate the PCs from their river boat. For example, the boat could be damaged in an accident, reclaimed by relatives of the previous owners or just sold.

Unknown, Kemperbad, 2020, from Death on the Reik

Changes to the substance of the original adventures are few and modest. There are more rumours and news to pass on to the players. There are some improved links with the first part of the campaign: Josef Quartjin now stays with the PCs, and there is some follow-up on Adolphus Kuftsos in Weissbruck. The PCs are now given a chance to exonerate the dwarfs without fighting the goblins in Black Peaks.

“Grognard boxes” again provide a selection of variant ideas. There are more than in the Enemy in Shadows, but they are shorter, and the changes they suggest are not especially substantial.

There is slightly greater female representation among NPCs, which were predominantly male in the original campaign: Aynjulls Isambard is female and Franz Bismarck has become Frida. Oddly Dagmar von Wittgenstein is still male, despite having a normally feminine name. These are superficial changes, but welcome.

The revision makes some improvements in the advice given to the GM. It provides more help on handling the confrontation with Etelka Herzen, which was badly neglected in the original. The chronology of the Red Crown’s movements is also dealt with more fully. The text description has been expanded considerably, and includes ideas for events to adjust the schedule, if necessary. It is a significant improvement on the bare outline of the original adventure, and considers nearly all of the chronological problems I have identified previously (see The Enemy Within: a Companion, p57). (The only issue unaddressed is the trivial matter of when the Red Crown lose a horse crossing the Stir and Narn.) There is also a map showing the Red Crown’s route. This would be a welcome addition, except that it retains the faults of the campaign map from which is is derived and is difficult to read.

These chronological improvements are, however, undermined by the lack of river travel rules. In the new edition there is no basis for determining the PCs’ travel distances and timeline, making it difficult to synchronise movements without further information. There is also a potential problem of scale. Although there is no scale on the map in Death on the Reik, the map in Enemy in Shadows indicated that the dimensions of the Reikland are significantly larger than in the original Enemy Within campaign. This creates a potential problem in that the timing of the Red Crown’s journey has not been changed, and they are required to travel at substantially higher speeds than before.

Some improvements are promised, but not delivered. I have suggested before that Etelka Herzen’s tower could contain correspondence with Johannes Teugen, which might explain the often obscure plot of Enemy in Shadows. Tantalisingly Death on the Reik promises exactly this: “documents in the wizard’s house shed some light on the strange events in Bögenhafen” (p7). But the promise is unfulfilled, and in the description of the tower there is no trace of the documents (or of the mysterious journals promised on p6).

Unknown, Wittgendorf, 2020, from Death on the Reik

CONCLUSION

Death on the Reik has long been one of the most popular parts of the Enemy Within campaign, and with justification. It is an enormous, multi-faceted and action-packed adventure that will keep a group busy for a long period of time.

It is also a very playable scenario. It does not make particularly onerous demands on either the players or the GM. Play is focused more on action and exploration than on complex investigation and role-playing, but it is satisfying and enjoyable, nonetheless.

The new edition preserves much of the original’s charm. The loss of the river life information is a backward step, when taken in isolation, but it is to be hoped that content in the Death on the Reik Companion will fill the gap. Other aspects have been improved, notably the organisation of the text and artwork. Little else, however, has changed substantially. Defects identified many years ago have gone uncorrected. While few of them are especially significant, and Death on the Reik is still a great adventure, more could have been done to improve the content, rather than just the presentation. Cubicle 7 will certainly need to up its game for the next part of the campaign: the brilliant, but flawed, Power Behind the Throne.

It’s not quite stepping into the same river twice, but it is pretty close.

FOOTNOTE

* I have excluded re-releases of existing content for the same edition, such as Warhammer Campaign for WFRP1 and the Player’s Vault and Player’s Guide for WFRP3. Accessories, such as GM’s screens or character sheets, have also been excluded.

For my other WFRP4 reviews, see this link.

The review copy of Death on the Reik was purchased at my own expense. I have received no inducements in connection with this review.

Title art by JG O’Donoghue. Internal art by Ian Miller, Ralph Horsley et al. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

35 thoughts on “TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

  1. A good review again and I’ll likely post my thoughts of this later, but this immediately sprung to mind:

    ” Alternatively, it might be more satisfying if the skaven and the meteorite reappear later in the campaign.”

    I’ve moaned (and I think you and a few others, too) about the lack of information regarding what is coming down the line in the campaign. No one knows much about The Horned Rat, and that warpstone hook does appear superficially to be a potential link from parts 2 to 4. However, as I mentioned on WoC, making such a change as a GM in DotR could be a risky when we know next to nothing about THR.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Fully agreed on the frustrating lack of transparency. There should have been a proper campaign synopsis in the introduction to Enemy in Shadows.

      Re the Horned Rat, one thing I did observe recently was that a few of the new rumours in Death of the Reik seem to imply fairly strongly that Hergard von Tasseninck’s expedition actually fell foul of the Skaven (the rumours mention strange beastmen with guns).

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      1. Yep. That was an interesting rumour. I was originally thinking that the expedition would be linked to the events in Empire in Ruins but I guess that rumour doesn’t necessarily preclude that possibility. I had planned to post a list of hints regarding the latter installments that I picked up from my read of DotR on Winds of Chaos but there wasn’t too much (at least that I saw). We have a location, a couple of rumours and a few vague hints in the introduction.

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  2. If the river has not changed quite as much as you’d hoped, perhaps we have changed a little more in the intervening years?

    It is certainly a shame though that, given the length of time it has taken, more hasn’t been done to iron out any flaws. Thankfully your blog and companion are there to help anyone and for free!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. On the question of the cover art, I rather like Ralph Horsley’s picture. It gives an atmospheric interpretation of much of what I imagine riverbarging in the Empire might be like. It is just that by comparison to the original, it is much less dramatic. Both offer atmosphere and mystery but I know which adventure I’d rather play!

    It would make a superb cover for the River Life companion, though…

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  4. The label free maps at the rear of the product are player handout/Virtual Tabletop images for the use of players or GMs without needing to remove large chunks of text with an image editor.

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    1. I wondered about that, but there wasn’t any explanation of it in the text, and it’s not something they have done in previous PDFs. I guess you’re right, though.

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      1. They had a few complaints about that from EiS and it’s probably a good move. I do however feel that they should be separate pages entirely to free up space for additional content, whether that’s an index, appendices or more text in the body.

        Also, after reveiving the the CE version of EiS and getting actual handouts with it, the Adventurers Wanted poster is offering an entire order of magnitude less pay than the text in the body (shillings, not crowns).

        I really wonder at how this happens, as surely it’s just the same content that is linked and not re-authored (ctrl-c ctrl-v)? It’s not dissimilar to the broken references you mention (which I flagged more than one up to the google doc page). I might get in touch with Cubicle 7 and see if they want some of our authoring and publishing software, sure it’s intended for industrial use and not RPG supplements, but who knows?

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  5. Thank you for that extensive, very informative review!

    It’s a shame, but WFRP 4e publications seem to shape up more and more as tantalizing hints of what COULD have been a stunning revitalization of this great RPG, instead of being actually great in their own right; better used as a complement to existing material than as an update or new start. Impressive as their production values are, they are a bit (or rather, a bit more than just a bit) on the expensive side for that.

    The incredibly slow pace at which the 4e Enemy Within gets published is fatal, seeing how to run it you need the companion books at the same time as the main books, not later; and need to have an idea of what the later parts of that chronicle will bring, which you don’t, even if you know the original series. It is especially sad that even with this glacial publication scheme some of the most glaring errors of the original version have not been corrected…

    Two points of note: While I cannot point to the exact source of this (most probably Andy Law wrote it somewhere), I am certain I have read that the omission of scales on 4e maps is intentional; not committing to any specific version of the Warhammer world as it has been inconsistently portrayed over many different editions of the RPG and the battle game, and consciously encouraging the GM to interpret distances to their liking and the needs of their stories. I must say that I do not consider that a good idea at all, but there we go…

    And then: I concur that WFRP 4e is undersupported to the point of near-negligence, but that is primarily because of the overall lack of publications which a GM would need (or at the least, desperately want), like more information on magics, or on the world outside of the Reikland. I do, however, not think that it is fair to compare the number of PRINTED publications between editions alone. Times have changed, and an analysis of publication frequency must account for this. PDFs are a valid way of publication today, and 4e’s scenarios published this way are possibly the strongest point of this edition. True, the value of PDFs is a bit limited (or rather, DIFFERENT, since there are a lot of useful things you can do with PDFs which you cannot do with paper books), and that is especially relevant with those books which you typically keep in permanent use – like the core rulebook, for example – but at least as a source for short scenarios, PDFs actually occupy a reasonable place.

    Also, of course, just counting the number of books does not tell the true story – if WFRP has only one rulebook in comparison to D&D’s three, for example, that is not really a sign of deficiency, is it? The same is true when you compare 4e’s Enemy in Shadows to 1e’s The Enemy Within and Shadows over Bögenhafen. Oh, and it’s also misleading to simply count the number of 3e publications without addressing their dearth of interesting content.

    Still, the 4e output is clearly too meager, and this edition is overall not done very well, even though this might not have been obvious at first glance. The complete overhaul of its design team should by now have shown any improvements it were to bring, but has instead vaildated the sceptics – things got worse, not better, and there is no reason left to trust Cubicle7 to effect a turnabout. What is your honest opinion, Gideon – will WFRP 4e live to see the completion of the new Enemy Within campaign?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are, of course, right that no simple comparison of the number of supplements released can capture all of the subtleties. I excluded PDF releases, as it makes the editions non-comparable. PDFs weren’t an option in first edition, so counting Cubicle 7 releases long before they ship the physical version, while counting the GW releases only when they hit the shops was unfair. You could argue it penalises Cubicle 7, but you could also argue that Cubicle 7 benefits from issuing reprints, having modern technology, etc. GW also produced a host of White Dwarf articles which are not captured in the comparison. No metric is perfect.

      I should also clarify that I counted The Enemy Within and Shadows Over Bögenhafen as one publication (Warhammer Campaign), so the release formats are comparable.

      As for your question, I don’t know. It depends on the duration of the licence. I am probably more optimistic than you are. My expectation is that the project will be completed, but I do acknowledge there is a risk that it will not.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the detailed review and, perhaps especially, for the shout-outs to my campaign blog. 🙂 I have some thoughts (as usual) but will take them one or a couple at a time.

    First, as for the linear setup: While I’d personally have preferred a more thematical or perhaps geographical arrangement of the adventure, I have to admit that the very linear format adopted here is at least consistent and logical. However, this only serves to underscore the fact that that perhaps the most persistent flaw of TEW, the near-ubiquitous weakness of the hooks, is not only unimproved but even worse here – since the strongest impetus (as written) to go after Etelka, the meeting with Hieronymus Blitzen where he strongly suggests the PCs do exactly this, is no longer an integral early part of the adventure but related to the appendix.

    I think the best solution might have been to start off the adventure with a clear plot overview, including a section on PC motivations. This should state that, as written, the adventure presumes the PCs to eventually head to Grissenwald to confront Etelka, and to be sufficiently invested in her case to follow her when she turns out to have gone on an expedition somewhere. Then it could list a number of incentives the GM could deploy to motivate their players/PCs if they aren’t already dead set on tracking down Etelka after reading her letter to Teugen from Shadows.

    I find the decision to tack on the first half of Carrion Up the Reik at the end rather baffling. It would have been fine to have in the Companion, but all it does now is end the adventure on an anticlimax rather than the epic climax of the downfall of Castle Wittgenstein.

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    1. Good point regarding Hieronymus Blitzen. I understand the idea of detaching him from (Wanda?) and making him a generic trainer but he did have a plot point as you mention. It perhaps would have been better to integrate each of the trainers into the early part of the adventure and give them each some sort of motivation to help the characters and provide plot hooks.

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    2. With complete freedom I would also have chosen a geographical arrangement, with short parallel thematic and chronological overviews. However, that might be the luxurious option in terms of page count, so I can well understand the decision just to go with a chronological arrangement.

      You make a good point about the role of Heironymous Blitzen. Why didn’t I think of that? 🙂

      Although I am clearly not a fan of ‘Carrion up the Reik’, I don’t think it really makes much difference whether it’s placed at the end of Death on the Reik or at the start of Power Behind the Throne. The new arrangement may read as more of an anticlimax, but it should play no differently.

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      1. The ‘Carrion up the Reik’ decision is probably a result of playing whack-a-mole with the available space in each of the books. I understand the decision with regards in the sense that it creates a natural continuation of the plot without either leaving it to the GM to bridge DotR to PBtT. This is coupled with the Companions supposedly being non-essential to DotR. So C7 are then left with choosing between what is more important to each supplement. In those terms,

        From this perspective, I agree with their decision, however it does leave half of the adventure incomplete and breaks the finale. However, this is only an issue if your group complete DotR before PBtT is available (I know DoTR is substantial, but so is the gaps in C7’s publishing) as it’s entirely down to the players as to when a session is ended. I personally would always end with destruction of Castle Wittgenstein and then chew the fat over beer and pizza.

        My view is that River Life is supplemental and CutR is the actual plot but then it’s also fair to say that River Life is essential for many people’s games of DotR and CutR is an unnecessary interqual. C7 have ~320 pages of adventure and ~250 pages of supplement over DotR and PBtT and that will cause a lot of headaches for them, particularly as PBtT is where a lot of work is needed to change it from flawed brilliance to, well, probably still flawed brilliance but perhaps marginally more managable.

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      2. I should note that I didn’t notice the Blitzen/Etelka issue until a reader who was presumably unfamiliar with the original posted in the GMs group expressing confusion about why the PCs were expected to be going to Grissenwald. When you’re very familiar with something it’s easy to fill in the gaps unconsciously, I suppose. 🙂

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    3. Thank you Gideon for the great review – I really enjoy your blog.

      Thanks also for this revelation about Blitzen’s plot hook. I have been going backwards and forwards in the pdf trying to find any reason for my PCs to go after Etelka. They barely paid any attention to her letter when they found it (too busy getting out of Bogenhafen) and that was before spending months doing other adventures to fill the gap waiting for DotR to come out.

      I can make up a plot hook of my own but I would expect the book to actually help you get the adventure started! At least I can stop looking through the pdf for something that isn’t there.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Yes, I agree that circumstances are too different to allow comparison via a simple metric. In the end, what things boil down to is this: Are WFRP 4e’s publications sufficient to draw enough players into that game – and keep them playing! – in a time when the number of RPG options is higher than ever before?

    On the plus side:
    – stunning production values (excluding proofreading and correcting of errors)
    – built on a fantastic, beloved IP
    – enthusiastic (but generally older) fanbase
    – crossover synergies with successful miniature battle and computer games
    – excellent starter set
    – reasonable number of good to great PDF scenarios

    On the minus side:
    – way overcomplicated rules system, which alienates even old time players, and is antithetical to current trends
    – few publications overall, especially in printed form
    – lack of fundamental setting information, essentially requiring GMs to look at older editions to capitalize on the established IP
    – few incentives for younger players not familiar with existing Warhammer products to get involved
    – publication of flagship campaign drags on endlessly, resulting in no product to turn to after the starter set
    – rather expensive products
    – publications are error-ridden

    I already stated my opinion that 4e is best used as a complement to older WFRP products, which is of course not at all a good recipe to acquire new customers, or convince them to play this game over existing alternatives. My hastily compiled breakdown clearly supports this view.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Great review as always, Gideon. The part that really stood out was the fact that they had made the area covered larger…and kept the travel times the same. Anyone who has done basic maths and knows that little triangle of speed, distance and time should have been able to tell them that something was off there…

    The sloppy proofing continues to be a concern (seriously, my organisation makes a proofing product – should I pitch it?) as does the unimaginative rehashing. Yes, the original adventure was solid, but it did have its problems (a lot of which you do a great job of addressing in your Companion) so why are they reproduced? It’s also a bit of a cheap move relegating the river life booklet to the companion. Come on – that was one of THE best parts of the original!

    I’d also agree with a couple of points made by previous posters around a) my uncertaintiy that this will ever be finished and b) the lack of a coherent timeline. The Skaven point is an excellent one – will they show up again? Is there a reason that they have to make off with the meteor, other than “well, they did so in the original”?

    Has anything akin to an outline of the last two parts that C7 are planning ever been released (beyond the titles)? If it’s taken this long to roll out what is essentially the original parts of the Enemy Within (albeit with a different layout and a smattering of additional info) how long is it going to be to actually write, from scratch, two large adventures?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The distances, scales and travel times rabbit-hole just gets weirder the more you look into it. Recently I was reading the travel chapter in the Enemy in Shadows a bit more attentively than before, and found that it suggests (pp. 34-35) a character on horseback can travel at 7 miles an hour for a whopping 16 hours a day – making for a mounted day’s march of 112 frickin’ miles. This is about FOUR TIMES the reasonable actual day’s march on horseback on roads.

      So everything’s bigger (on some maps, not all), but everyone moves ridiculously fast as well, so… it doesn’t matter?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. “Has anything akin to an outline of the last two parts that C7 are planning ever been released (beyond the titles)? If it’s taken this long to roll out what is essentially the original parts of the Enemy Within (albeit with a different layout and a smattering of additional info) how long is it going to be to actually write, from scratch, two large adventures?”

      Nope, as I and others have been bitching about for a while. Graeme Davis did mention having finished writing The Horned Rat in a Facebook comment a few months ago.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. In an earlier recorded interview from a convention, I think two years ago, he said that was the part he was working on. I’ve no idea what the turn around is from completing the drafts, playtesting, finalising the content and layout.

        It could be that Cubicle 7 are the GRR Martin of RPG publishers.

        Like

      2. In July Davis published on his blog an unofficial WFRP4 profile for a chaos-harpy.
        He also wrote: “Aside: The last two adventures in The Enemy Within Director’s Cut are in the process of writing and development at the time of this posting. Both involve some mountain travel, which would offer a great opportunity to use her.”
        Which leads me to believe that:
        – Theo is correct in relating the Skaven with the fate of Von Tasseninck’s expedition
        – Empire in Ruins will have many similarities with the original EiF

        Very useful review. I have not bought any new TEW books so far and after reading of so many flaws I will probably wait longer …

        Like

  9. My party is part way through DotR 4E after flip-flopping the campaign from 1E due to Covid and the need to switch to VTT, and then the truly excellent 4E VTT support in Foundry (it makes a complicated rule-set just sing!). This means I was using Gideon’s TEWAC from the beginning, and merging 1E and 4E as I go, so I’ve avoided a lot of the problems that people playing the 4E campaign from the start will have had.

    I would note in addition to the comments above and the review that there are some significant problems with the Copy-Paste nature of DotR which sounds like didn’t happen in EiS (I don’t own EiS, so going on hearsay).
    – The main point of contention for me has to be that amount of coin left lying around is hugely variable – like someone spent time trying to convert the huge differences in 1E to 4E gold values (a factor of 10-20) and then gave up half way through. This means that as a GM you have to examine every single instance that someone has coin or offers to pay for something, and then try and decide if it is a 4E value or a 1E value (eg. in 4E Ernst is carrying 258GC on his person, Elteka’s chest contains 398 GC and a Salt and Pepper set worth 12 GC (or a little less than the price of a riding horse!), yet items like the wool cargo on the salvaged boat could be sold for a little over 12 GC per sack in 1E and this became 10 shillings per sack in 4E (so that looks right)).
    – I also found that some plot points made no sense in 1E or 4E, such as the down-on-their luck Dwarves in Grissenwald. In my case either I need to invent much more evidence as to why the Dwarves are being blamed for a bunch of raids far from town, that mysteriously never leave any signs of goblin influence, and are happening regularly but have no intervention or investigation from the town garrison (not forgetting that this town, like many in the area, is armed to the teeth compared to those further downriver – albeit this is from the 1E gazetteer), OR change the plot to something more realistic.
    – The statblocks conversions don’t appear to have been thought out particularly well at all. C7 have kindly put out a free conversion document to switch from 1E/2E to 4E which is invaluable, but if I went through the 4E adventure as written, my PCs would just be one-shotting everything. Apparently Andy Law spent a lot of time making sure that the statblocks were appropriate for EiS; I’m not sure that type of care and attention happened for DotR.

    All that said:
    I love the production values (as noted except for the excreable editing and proofreading), it is gorgeous. And the content, thus far, is so close to the 1E campaign that, if necessary, I can run the 1E campaign with 4E rules as long as I’m willing to convert each section as we get to them (and then uplift and tweak as necessary).

    Finally thanks for a great review Gideon, and thanks for your amazing TEWAC – it was obviously a huge amount of effort, but something that is enriching the game for so many people.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the comments!

      On the subject of the monetary conversion, I did notice the very high value of the loot at Etelka Herzen’s tower. The odd thing, though, is that it is not exactly a cut and paste from the original adventure. C7 have actually increased its value! That made me wonder if it was intentional, rather than careless. It is, though, a huge increase over the first edition value. I estimated that 1GC has roughly three times the spending power in WFRP4 as in WFRP1:
      https://awesomeliesblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/21/all-that-glisters-is-not-gold/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought it was a straight copy myself but double checked it. The randomised values for the jewelry is now calculated as a batch rather than for each item and will potentially give a higher value.

        I remember thinking it was an impressive hoard back when I played (although real world inflation has probably at least doubled costs in that time, GW’s inflation is probably double that) and I can see why James Wallis wanted to wreck people’s fortunes!

        Like

    2. I flagged that up on google docs and stated it was probably in the region four times more than should have been there on the grounds of inflation between the versions.

      Like

  10. Yeah, I’m actually using a factor of 20(!), but I had read your pricing blog as part of trying to come up with a factor and can see that a single conversion just doesn’t work – sometime 3 is appropriate, sometimes 40. At least with a factor of 20 I can keep the PC poor and driven! :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My advice how to deal with this kind of currency issues (not only in Warhammer): Use a list of prices and earnings you trust to be internally consistent. It doesn’t have to be from your game, just from a comparable era – for example, I still like “…and a Ten-Feet-Pole” from ICE, which has lists for different historical eras. If you believe that your game world is majorly economically different in certain aspects, make a short complementary list of prices that deviate as a result. You may also want to calculate a few additional reference values, like for example typical savings of people from certain professions and social backgrounds; typical amounts of money in a store, tavern or bank at the end of a business day; and typical offers for mercenaries or professional hirelings, adjusted by their experience (this should cover adventurers as well). Map your game world’s currencies to the one used in your lists (unless you just choose to use the same with maybe different names, which is of course a lot easier). Now, whenever the question of money or monetary value comes up, ignore any specific amounts given in a publication, get the gist of it instead, and go with a fitting amount from your list. While it’s of course possible that you may misjudge the appropriate sum, my experience over 30 years tells me that you are still likely to do a better job than most authors of RPG publications this way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. As far as I can tell no price list in any edition of Warhammer ever really made any sense. 🙂 I ended up basing my campaign price list on that of Lamentations of the Flame Princess – which looks fairly reasonable for an Early Modern setting – and as a rough rule of thumb assume that a 1E GC is about equivalent to a shilling.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Some broader comments on your review.

    I like the artwork for the most part, although some of the character art I still find a little too stylised, but certainly improved from the rulebook. The cover looks good to me, but I think it should have been the cover for the companion as it has a lonely pragmatic feel to it, which is more fitting for a book containing rules on river navigation, trading, and the day to day life of river folk. The cover for the companion by contrast, is moody, overbearing and looks like the destination of a grand adventure, and more in keeping with the cover art from the original.

    I do think it was a good change from EiS to remove annotations from the player maps. It wasn’t problem in all cases as some locations are self-evident, in others it’s a bit of spoiler. Continuing down the path of annotating the handout maps would have been even worse in DotR, so a good change here. I think what should have been done with the maps is present the unannotated artistic maps as the handouts for the players and leave more schematic variants for the GM.

    The synopsis is weak and continues the (IMO) biggest failing of the Director’s Cut. Here, we have not only a gap in the broader TEW plot but a lack of introduction to the DotR story itself. Although the river barge has probably sailed on providing a general synopsis on the plot in EiS, there’s still time to put a couple of paragraphs here on what is coming and a couple on better introducing the plot to this.

    The inclusion of Carrion up the Reik and omission of River Life of the Empire is perhaps the most controversial aspect. As I mentioned, I think this is a result of trying to best make use of the page count over the two books and perhaps also the two books for PBtT. Having now downloaded and printed the companion (albeit not read thoroughly yet) I do not think it was possible to include all the river life information in DotR. However, it is now distributed among several chapters and it may be that some of that content (particularly barge handling) could have been added in the main adventure.

    However, my view is that the CutR is part of the main plot in this case and is better suited to being in the adventure book. Obviously, YMMV on this point. It’s function of linking DotR to PBtT is useful but mostly it’s needed because of a lack of drive on the main plot points that run through the campaign*. I never played the Hogshead edition, so missed out CutR but my understanding was that James Wallis intended to link the events to Empire in Chaos, which sadly never happened.

    Having only half of CutR is also a bit odd but only problem if finishing DotR before PBtT is released and comes down to another issue of how to cram everything in with the annoying restrictions caused by the page limitations of publishing print runs.

    *This is an even wider question. We do not know what Cubicle 7 can and cannot do with regards to the plot and general story. It appears that Andy Law proposed the director’s cut to GW with a specific goal of linking the WFRP 1 to the Warhammer world of the End Times™. They may not have unlimited freedom, we don’t know. If I was to make a recommendation here, it would that the grognard boxes could be used to thread the alternative points through the whole campaign. The body can remain largely the same but perhaps with three or four alternative threads that remain in each volume.

    Liked by 1 person

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