Running “The Enemy Within” Campaign for WFRP (Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay) has long been an ambition of mine. It’s been called one of the greatest RPG campaigns. Compared to its current incarnation, which appears to be little more than a board game with RPG elements, first edition (1e) WFRP was a hefty tome. Published in 1986, it cost £14.95 for a hardback and £9.99 for a softback. For those of you playing Warhammer or wh40k, the rulebooks cost the same, but there was more in WFRP 1e!
It was pretty typical of the time and had lots of material for GMs and players. The careers system was hugely popular and about as far as you can get from D&D (featuring beggars, and mule-skinners among others). Setting-wise, it was “a grim world of perilous adventure,” it resembled a mediaeval Europe where gunpowder was beginning to gain acceptance. The forces of Chaos were only lightly touched upon but the threat of Chaos corruption was everywhere: from magic use to mutation that warped the body and mind.
WFRP 1e House rules
I’m planning to run this on a fortnightly basis from mid-September. The game has already filled up at ORC, so I want to make sure that the games runs without a hitch. Unlike D&D, the game doesn’t really encourage min-maxing, and it is pretty intuitive to run. Combat is deadly though, possibly more than any other game of its generation. WFRP combat reminds me sometimes of a Joe Abercombie novel. Actually, that should be the other way around. No matter. Either way, combat is of the up-to-your-knees-in-mud, -crap, -and-blood (possibly your own) variety.
In the past most of my games have been reliant on players turning up, and that has sometimes been a bit of a problem. Gamers are notoriously bad timekeepers, and some players are just downright unreliable. Consequently I’ve decided that I’ll retain ownership of the character sheets, together with the character packs. Players can take home their own copies of the sheets but their “official” PC will remain in the Character pack (see below). This way, if someone doesn’t turn up and fails to let the GM know, a visiting player or another player can take their character and play. It also encourages Players to turn up! I know some players don’t like their PCs being run by other players, but they won’t act contrary to their nature if they’ve been roleplayed correctly. For example, if a Dwarf and Elf PC hate each other’s guts, the Dwarf PC wouldn’t give all their loot and gear to the Elf simply because they are played by a different character. As GM, I’d step in and stop that!
Elves are a little too powerful in WFRP 1e. Using the rules in White Dwarf, and later “Apocrypha Now!”, Elves suffer Mild Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia. They also gain 1d6 other “appropriate” insanities. So far that’s the only rule I’ve implemented.
I’m trying to keep the rule mods for WFRP 1e to a minimum. I expect to use “Realms of Sorcery” for the magic, and may also rule to avoid Naked Dwarf Syndrome (where a Toughness score gets so high that normal attacks fail to damage the PC).
I’ve decided that I’ll put together a player “Campaign Journal” for each player. So far it should have:
- Their character sheet (probably from WFRP 1e)
- A Map of the Empire.
- A Guide to the Empire, written in the appropriate language.
- A space to list their triumphs
- A Last Will & Testament
- Some parchment-style map sheets
- Family details
- Why they are an adventurer
- Who they know (mentors and possibly significant NPCs)
- Any predjudices
- A concept personality and capsule description.
I’m not totally certain on how it’ll look, but plan to make it as cool as possible.
I’m also planning to record the game sessions if my players are happy with it. I managed to purchase a cheap yet functional voice recorder and microphone from Amazon. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. I’ve got some doubts about the possible audio quality and how I’ll store the files. I might have to post them on YouTube or find some other storage medium, outside of themandragora.com.
ADDENDUM (APRIL 2023)
This campaign was a lot of fun to run but the audio files were way too large so I had to shelve that idea. The campaign ran for a few years, and we got to complete Power Behind the Throne. Not all of the ideas made it into the character pack, but I’m happy with how it turned out. We’re about to begin The Thousand Thrones using WFRP 4th edition!
And remember, the most important thing to keep in mind while playing WFRP is that death from shock and blood loss is almost instantaneous.
It’s up there with MERP’s Critical Hits: “Blast annihilates entire skeleton. Try a spatula.”
I’m not so sure that WFRP is quite as deadly as you suggest. Indeed I think the lethality of WFRP is one of the most overstated myths in RPG history. As you say naked dwarf syndrome is a big consideration, but when coupled with the dodge skill and certain other combat/toughness focussed skills then it is very possible to be invulnerable while only spending very few XPs at all… indeed, I’d say the game, as written, is broken. And with Fate Points! Well, I ran the Enemy Within campaign up to Death on the Reik and didn’t loss a single PC! AD&D is much more lethal imo. I guess if I was to run it today I’d half (rounding down) the effect of Toughness for human and demi-humans, while keeping T as standard for monsters (or I’d use GURPS or RQ3 rules). What do you think?
Its a good campaign and one I’ve been rereading through on my blog. I picked up the Olympus Recorder you linked to, for this purpose. I’ve found it is pretty good- through those closer to the mike sound stronger (i.e. I put it next to me) I can still pick up everyone at an 8′ table. I wouldn’t say it is performance quality, but pretty decent. With a USB cable, I’ve been able to move those files easily onto my computer as mp3s.
That depends upon how you run it I guess – however, once I’ve run through a couple of encounters I’ll have a better handle on what may need to change. Certainly when I played through it, we came very close to losing PCs a few times. The whole S vs. T thing works OK in WFB but may be more of an issue in an RPG. There’s always infected wounds as well.
Also certain NPCs have equivalent skills as do some monsters.
Thanks, Lowell. I’d read a few reviews of the recorder and thought it might work. if it “does exactly what it says on the tin”, that’s a result!
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