LOST WARHAMMER: THE FIFTH DOOMSTONE

This is part of a series on unpublished Warhammer supplements.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

Four years ago I wrote a post about Games Workshop’s original, unfulfilled plans for concluding the Doomstones campaign. I noted that an outline of GW’s proposed finale had been drawn up in 1991, and that copies of this outline were still in existence in 2001, when Robin D Laws wrote Heart of Chaos, the adventure which Hogshead Publishing produced to conclude the Doomstones campaign. I heard nothing more about the original draft outline until very recently, when Toby Pilling contacted me to explain that he had a copy, which he very kindly shared with me. The full text, which has been retouched to improve legibility, is reproduced below.

Draft outline for the final Doomstones adventure*

The outline comprises sixteen pages of dot-matrix-printed text. There is a short introduction, summaries of eight adventure chapters and some notes on page count. I believe the document was written by Graeme Davis, with input from Mike Brunton and Derrick Norton. Davis and Brunton were at the time the writing team at Flame Publications, GW’s small role-playing subsidiary. Norton was an ex-GW writer working as a freelancer. On top of the original text are some handwritten comments added by Davis when he later submitted the outline to James Wallis of Hogshead Publishing.

The plans for the finale were ambitious. Davis recommended that the volume should be 144 pages long, or possibly even run to two volumes, containing up to 208 pages of material. This would have made it the longest adventure in the Doomstones series, whose previous parts had each been 80 or 104 pages in length. It is somewhat surprising that such a large project was being considered at a time when GW’s interest in RPGs had waned considerably. The pressures this environment placed on Flame Publications are illustrated by a comment in the outline about adding “an appendix relating to Warhammer Fantasy Battle“. In his marginalia Davis notes that this was “a Good Thing at Flame, but best ignored now”.

The tone of the outline is very tongue in cheek. I doubt, however, there was ever an intention for the light-hearted style to carry over into the finished product. The original outlines for Empire in Flames were also often jokey, but the published version was considerably more serious. The tonal problem is noted by Davis, who adds in a handwritten note that it “would need rewriting for GW”, illustrating the pressures Hogshead Publishing operated under.

The adventure starts with the four Doomstones retrieved in earlier adventures combining into a single “Supercrystal”, a “magical time-bomb” that causes a host of Chaotic effects on its surroundings. The adventurers research what to do with the object, revisiting people and places from previous episodes of the Doomstones and Enemy Within campaigns. Throughout this time, they are pursued by a host of other parties interested in the crystal, including the two factions from the dwarf civil war, the remnants of Radzog’s orc army and a horde of Chaotic creatures from the Twisted Lands, which are drawn to it.

Their investigations direct them to a pair of dwarf Loremasters in Zhufbar. On the journey there they encounter more parties interested in the crystal, including a greater demon of Nurgle who is willing to ally with them against Tzeentch. In Zhufbar itself, they face a conspiracy by Chaos cultists, who have apparently murdered one of the Loremasters, and abducted and replaced the other with an imposter. Furthermore, Zhufbar is engulfed in an epic battle, when the four armies pursuing the crystal attack the dwarfhold. Advised by the surviving Loremaster that the crystal can only be destroyed by plunging it into a fissure in the Chaos Wastes, the adventurers flee in an airship, as Zhufbar falls to the invaders.

Journeying north aboard the zeppelin, the PCs fend off a variety of aerial attacks, and eventually land in the Chaos Wastes. There they negotiate Chaotic terrain and opponents, possibly meeting again the demon of Nurgle, who can equip them with flying carrion mounts. The adventure reaches a climax with the role-playing equivalent of the “Death Star trench sequence” from Star Wars**. Riding carrion, the adventurers try to escape the forces of Chaos and hurl the crystal into the fissure.

Heart of Chaos

Robin D Laws had a copy of the outline when he wrote Heart of Chaos, and there are clearly many similarities between the scenarios. They have essentially the same main plot, to destroy the combined Doomstones by hurling them into a Chaos rift. Both feature similar sequences with airships. Yet there are also many differences. The sequence in Zhufbar and the battle with four armies is replaced in Heart of Chaos with an encounter with a dwarf hermit and a journey to a lost dwarfhold (which both echo Empire in Flames). The machinations of the demon of Nurgle and travel through the Chaos Wastes are also lost. Infiltration of a cult of Tzeentch is added. The reasons for the changes are not known to me. Perhaps they were mandated by GW. Alternatively Laws or Wallis might simply have disliked some elements of the original.

FOOTNOTES

* The White Dwarf article mentioned in p15 of the outline is ‘Arch Enemies in FRP’ by JH Dickson, from issue 55 (July 1984):

Arch Enemies in FRP

‘Arch Enemies in FRP’ by JH Dickson, from White Dwarf 55 (July 1984)

** The sequence in Star Wars (1977) was itself substantially derived from The Dambusters (1955) and 633 Squadron (1964).

I would like to thank Toby Pilling for providing a copy of the adventure outline. His original scan can be downloaded from here.

The earlier post on the fifth Doomstones adventure can be read here.

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

9 thoughts on “LOST WARHAMMER: THE FIFTH DOOMSTONE

  1. Fantastic. Whenever we revisit the doomstones campaign, I will check this out in detail. The zhufbar thing and the chaos wastes journey sound like my party would very much enjoy it.
    Thank you Gideon for summarizing this and thank you Toby for sharing the scan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting! Even the official conclusion by Laws is already semi-obscure – I have talked to people who didn’t know that this fifth part of the Doomstones campaign even existed, and it has, in contrast to the first four parts, not been republished by Cubicle7 as PDF.

    While I would have loved to see some information of Zhufbar, I deeply dislike the idea of the plot featuring its fall in another world-shattering event. I guess the omission of that part by Laws may have been simply because the Warhammer timeline did not feature such an event, and GW vetoed it for that reason.

    BTW, did you ask Robin Laws if he could provide more information on that topic?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve corrected the text.

      Are you able to shed any light on the disappearance of Zhufbar, the plague demon, the Chaos Wastes or any of the other elements that didn’t make it into Heart of Chaos?

      Like

  3. From the conversation I had with James Wallis, twenty odd years ago, I recall getting the feeling that a conscious decision was made to make the Hogshead Doomstones finale more gritty and grim, moving away form its relatively high fantasy roots. Robin D Laws certainly had a vision of the Warhammer world that meshed with that of James, if his own fiction novels are any guide.

    Liked by 1 person

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