Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: The Enemy Within - Mistaken Indentity

by Jim Bambra, Phil Gallagher & Graeme Davis
GW and later republished by Hogshead Publishing
Beginning characters.

WFRP finding its identity

As the first adventure for the fledgling Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay line Mistaken identity could have gone in any direction. It could mimic the big players like D&D or Runequest in presenting the safe and familiar. It looked to be doing just that as the adventure in the Rulebook was a dungeon/sewer crawl with a likely TPK at the end. Fortunately Mistaken Identity moved away from dungeons, but not sewers, with The Enemy Within campaign breathing life into Warhammer's Old World. Mistaken Identity is solid and my group had fun, later chapters are better but this sets the tone for the campaign and does a good job at setting up the world. It's a short railroad, but if your having fun you don't notice the tracks.

It's half sourcebook

Being half sourcebook is common for the adventures in The Enemy Within campaign. Each book explores a piece of the Empire. This source book touches on the history, politics and religions in the Empire. The Holy Roman Empire influence is there if you look for it. I see that as a positive. It's great that they based the Old World loosely on the real world. Its easier to run and find inspiration for. Useful parts in the sourcebook deal with movement along the Empire's roads and rivers as well as details on the soon to clash religions of Sigmar and Ulric. There's also two pages on herbs if that's your thing. I didn't find it useful in game. There's a map of the Empire. It's crap with little marked on it. That's OK though. There are plenty of good maps online. 
A good map of the Reikland where most of The Enemy Within Campaign unfolds.

Watch out for pre-gens

The sourcebook has just the right level of detail and lays the ground work for the campaign to follow, but what about the adventure? We begin with pre-generated characters. This is a problem as your players will want to use characters they rolled themselves. Pre-gens are for tournaments and one shots, not a year long campaign. In order to link events the campaign assumes the use of pregens. Repurposing the pre-gen links to PCs is easy with the wizards apprentice potentially the trickiest to re-write. 

What's great about it.

Things kick off in a coaching inn, an iconic Warhammer location. A map of the place would have been handy. The NPC's within are well developed and full of character. They are a cross section of Warhammer society and include Urnst the irritated student with his big book on leeches, snooty Lady Isolde refusing to mix with the common folk, Gunner and Holtz the hard drinking coachmen, an ingratiatingly friendly innkeep and finally Phillipe the larger than life Bretonnian gambler. Phillipe gives you a nice opportunity to ham it up with an 'outrageous accent!' Things get interesting when the disparate group gets thrown together on the coach to Altdorf. There are plenty of opportunities for roleplay with these well realised NPCs.

Adventure highlights

  • A well planned battle with mutants that encourages tactics.
  • A surprising double identity plot providing a strong hook for the opportunistic adventurer; a plot hook that is followed throughout the campaign. 
  • An introduction to the asshattery of the nobles of Altdorf. Nobles are easy to hate and these guys are tools.
  • Amusing encounters with pantomiming cult members.
  • An attack on a burning boat by a Bounty Hunter and his friends. The set piece combat encounters sure are neat.

What's bad? 

  • Its a short string of encounters set one after the other. 
  • The NPCs are interesting but need the GM to roleplay them to the hilt. They are the crux of the adventure and if you dont bring them to life the adventure can feel flat and brief. 
  • The cultists shadowing the adventures in Altdorf are done poorly with the players given no opportunity to catch a cultist alive as they are always killed just before they are captured. The Thousand Thrones campaign did this as well with Nurgle cultists biting down on a poison boil to avoid being taken alive. This cheap tactic is a crap idea and sadly the campaign continues to take this line with cultists swallowing poison pills to avoid enlightening the adventures as to the broader plot. Bad call. 
  • The witnessed deaths of the cultists from a single crossbow bolt is rubbish in the context of the system. One Ulric's fury I can buy into, two in a row is stretching things too far. Such marksmanship raised an eyebrow or two at the table.
  • The adventure takes place momentarily in Altdorf and Weissbruck, unfortunately neither location is adequately described. 
  • Finally Max Steiner, the protagonist picking the fight in Altdorf, didn't play out well at my table. You might want to ratchet up the insults to force a fight as this better sets up following chapters.
I like this adventure a lot. The Enemy Within campaign is a classic and it starts strongly with Mistaken Identity. It's worth picking up for your 1e, 2e or 3e Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game. Even if you don't intend to run it the adventure is full of lootable NPC's and ideas. As a nice bonus you can download a 2e conversion of the stats in the adventure at Winds of Chaos.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent overview of this classic tome. I swapped/sold all my Hogshead WFRP about eleven years and I had most of 'em too. A decision I dearly regret now!