Xathrodox86 reviews: “Safe House, Dark” for Delta Green

I can’t stop writing these Delta Green reviews! I still have a few scenarios to talk about and so today it’s time for “Safe House, Dark” by John Hook.

Written for for the Fairfield Project’s 2014 shotgun scenario contest, this one has a really cool premise. A CIA safe house in an old apartment building suddendly goes dark. It was occupied by an elderly Charlotte Lemaire… until recently. Mrs. Lamaire has gone missing, along with a couple other residents. No one knows what happened to them, but all of the other people living in the building are terrified, fearing that they might be next to dissapear. Not only that, but all of them are having horrifying, vivid nightmares of a shadowy entity, watching them from the deepest and darkest shadows of their rooms…

I have an endless suply of these, seriously…

If there ever was a true horror scenario written for Delta Green, it is “Safe House, Dark”. I had a privilege of running it back in 2o19 and Hook’s masterful crafting of its atmosphere, ensured that my players were sitting on the edge of their seats (I knew this to be a fact, even though we were playing over Roll20). This adventure is recommended for a single player, two max. I honestly think that three is the way to go, but I can see why the author wanted to include fewer Agents on the scene. Not to mention that they ideally should be young and unexperienced, not ready to face the shadowy horror of the apartment 3C.

It’s really important to build up a proper tension in this scenario. The author recommend some subtle tips and tricks, and honestly the biggest and scariest threat in “Safe House, Dark” is the building itself. The Agents should develop a proper paranoia while exploring it’s old and shadowy corridors, and every creak and flashing bulb should send chills down their spines. Of course the real meat of the scenario, which I’m not going to mention in this review (no spoilers here!) will also work wonders… or rather horrors, once the players discover its true nature.

I have a huge urge to run John Hook’s “Safe House, Dark” once again. Maybe this year I’ll get the chance since we’ll be switching from WFRP to Delta Green rather soon. I think that with a careful preparation, this adventure would be a great introudction to the system. It’s easily on par with “Last Things Last” when it comes to introducing new players to Delta Green. You can find it here. I think that I don’t have to encourage you to try it out, do I?

Oh, I almost forgot – I also have to compliment the author for creating a set of fantastic maps for his scenario. They really help with the atmosphere, aside from being, you know, really useful!

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Xathrodox86 reviews: “Metamorphosis” for Delta Green

The eldritch trains has no brakes and so I’m reviewing yet another “Delta Green” scenario. This time it’s something for the arachnophobes!

“Metamorphosis” is a quick and tense adventure written by Graham Kinniburgh for the Fairfield Project’s 2007 shotgun scenario contest, where it took first place! I can tell you right now that this award was well earned, since “Metamorphosis” is a wonderfuly dark, grim and tense ordeal, ticking all the right boxes when it comes to pleasing “Delta Green” enthusiasts.

Damn, I really dig these DG-themed quotes so much…

Slight spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

The entire premise of this op is wonderfully simple – the PCs encounter another DG Cell which got itself in some deep shit. The “O” Cell managed to bring down a spider-worshipping cult but two of their members got seriously wounded, and one of them will soon suffer a fate worse than death…

The players’ Agents will encounter their unfortunate colleagues while trying to using the same Green Box. Things within the “O” Cell are not going well, with OSCAR, their leader, hiding the truth from his colleagues, one of them slowly bleeding out and another one going through a rapid and monstrous metamorphosis (wink, wink) into something not from this world. There’s also another Agent stationed outside the Green Box with an automatic shotgun, ready to charge in, guns blazing. The PCs got themselves into a seriously FUBAR situation and will need to think and act fast if they are to stay alive.

The gist of this scenario is that it almost entirely takes place inside the Green Box, a safe house-like area used by Delta Green Operatives. Time is running out as one of the “O” Cell members is quickly turning into something monstrous and inhuman, a Daughter of Atlach-Nacha, and it’s up to the players to decide what to do with her. Of course her companions, particularly their romanitcally involved leader, might disagree with the PCs obvious ideas about dealing with this whole situation.

“Metamorphosis” is a perfect scenario for those Handlers who like to put emphasis on moral choices, making difficult decisions and crossing certain lines which perhaps should never be crossed. It’s a compact, tight and utterly tense adventure, and will probably only take a single session to finish. However that’s its beauty – the PCs have very little time to do what’s right… or what’s necessary.

Oh, and in case you don’t know what Atlach-Nacha is, let me give you an advice: if you’re afraid of spiders you might want to give this scenario a pass, or at the very least try and suppress your fear of creepy crawlies for a session or two. I am generally skittish when it comes to arachnids, and reading “Metamorphosis” gave me the creeps. The good kind of creeps, mind you. But I know that descriptive scenes of eight legged freaks feasting on human brains are not to everyone’s liking.

Graham Kinniburgh wrote one of my favorite “Delta Green” adventures of all time, and I seriously recommend it to everyone who’s even slightly interested in this game. You can find it here.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Xathrodox86 reviews: “Special Delivery” for Delta Green

I’m in a huge modern-day era RPG mood, and so here’s another Delta Green scenario review for y’all!

“Special Delivery” was written for the Fairfield Project’s 2014 shotgun scenario contest by Tyler Hudak, and is a very interesting take on the classic tale of misplaced package (with a dark twist, of course!). The Agents are called to a sleepy town of Edmond. Lately Delta Green managed to eradicate a shipping company that was sending mythos-related items to its clients. One of these artifacts, a possessed Russian icon, went to a cultist named Bejamin Hale, who resides in Edmond. The operatives soon discover that the package was “misplaced” by a disgruntled postal worker, and that the dangerous item is now influencing the man to do horrible things. If the Agents won’t stop him soon, the demon in the icon will be free to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting world…

Come on, would you really condemn such a lovely place to a fate worse than death? (photo by MICHAEL WARREN/GETTY IMAGES)

Oh yeah, spoilers. Sorry.

Anyway, the entire scenario is quick, compact and properly tense. The author managed to build a palpable sense of tension and playing for high stakes. Despite Edmond being a tiny, sleepy town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the U.S.A., the potential for great evil being unleashed there, forces the agents to act quickly and decisively. There’s no room for error here, and the Handler should definitely instill a sense of urgency in his players. The consequences of the vile bolotianyk getting free will be more than dire…

It took us less than two sessions to finish “Special Delivery”. It’s a perfect quick op to spice up your Agents’ lives and works well as a interlude between longer scenarios or maybe even chapters of a lengthy campaign. You can read it here, and I hope that you’ll have just as much fun playing through it, as we did.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Xathrodox86 reviews: “Black Lilith” for Delta Green

It is time for more Delta Green! One of my favorite ops that I’ve managed to GM is “Black Lilith” by Mark Brassington.

A fascinating tale of horror, carnage and ancient mystery, this scenario takes place in the bustling city of New York, where an ancient horror has been unleashed by some very unscrupulous people.

Warning: spoilers ahead! Read further at your own risk.

The enigmatic Tiger Transit shipping company ordered the teft of 8 ancient stone disks from the Istanbul Archeological Museum. Unbestknown to them, the cursed items housed the terrifying spirit of Black Lilith, a malign spirit which is able to urge people to commit horrible attrocities. Her first targets were the prostitutes in the Tiger Transit-controlled brothel, which hapless owner decided (rather unwisely) to spin one of the ancient disks. All hell broke loose, the brothel was burnt to the ground and its male patrons and minders slaughtered, and Black Lilith recieved her first taste of true power in millenia…

Next time I’ll be running this scenario, I am going tu use this particular piece of art… (artwork done by jamga)

The Agents of Delta Green will have to solve the riddle of the burnt-out brothel, the mysterious disks and the ruthless ex-CIA agent who stole the damn things for Tiger Transit, and is not shy of using the Mythos as her weapon! Meanwhile Black Lilith is causing havoc in the city, urging people (mostly women) to commit more and more acts of mayhem, brutality and mindless carnage. If the operatives won’t find a way to stop her soon, she will be able to mainfest in the physical world. When that happens, the whole situastion will turn FUBAR very, very quickly…

This is a deceptively tricky scenario, which will require a lot of qucik thinking and improvisation from the players. Time is running out and with every atrocity commited under her influence (as well as covered by the ever-vigilant media), Black Lilith is getting stronger. The Agents might find some help in person of a half-blind, half-deaf and half-mads Turkish museum curator, who knows quite a lot about the cursed disks and the dreaded entity, which was imprisoned within them. Getting him to divulge the needed information, however, is more than tricky, if not outright impossible…

It took us a session and a half (a total of approximately 4 hours) to finish this scenario, and it was damn tense. The agents had to race against the clock, using all their wits, contacts and reserves of good luck to defeat Black Lilith. It’s a very cool op, perfect as a short stop-gap between the chapters of a larger campaign. I highly recommend Mark Brassington’s excellent work, which, by the way, was written for the shotgun scenario contest of 2013. You can find it on the equally excellent Fairfield Project website. Happy gaming!

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Role-playing Rants: Warhammer is a stereotype-based game, and that’s a good thing.

I always find it funny how people are able to find flaws in almost anything, nowadays. Even our innocent hobby is not excluded from the looming threat of falsely percieved culture-based issues. Lately Creative Assembly have delivered a stunning Total War: Warhammer 3 trailer, which not only introduced Kislev and Chaos Daemons, but also the Grand Empire of Cathay! This is the first time in decades, in which the not-China gets a proper representation and I can’t tell you how hyped I am for them coming to my PC screen. Alas, not everyone is happy about this fact…

Putting aside the assholes who were claiming (rather rudely) that we don’t need Cathay, nor Kislev, in the game, because it’s all about the Empire, there have been voices that GW and CA are making a mistake, by introducing the Far East to the game. Why? Because they will surely stereotype the fuck out of it.

Really? Are you bloody high?

If they’d go for a style like that, I would be in heaven… (artwork by Cobol Yu)

I have a secret to tell you guys. Perhaps you don’t know it, but the entire Warhammer Fantasy, from start to finish, had been based around various national and ethnic stereotypes. For most part, Games Workshop did a good job of avoiding the harmful portrayal of different cultures. Sure, there were the infamous Pygmies, as well as Onan the Ronin and Kumi Kaze (yes, really), but all in all, these were mercifully few. Usually the authors of the games and the various novels that supported them, used a lot of elements from our IRL history. Both cultural nuances, names, geography and overall themes were taken from such countries as France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Italy and Spain, to name only a few. That’s why Warhammer Fantasy, at least for me, is so interesting – it uses our own world to create a grim and fascinating setting, in which people can truly immerse themselves. That’s not a easy thing to do, yet Games Workshop managed to pull it off. The fact that we are getting a new version of battle game, we’ve just had a new iteration of the classic WFRP RPG, and CA will drop, probably, the best part of their fantasy Total War series, are all clear signs that this formula works.

So why in bloody hell, are people so upset that a country from beyond the borders of Europe, is going to get some sweet, sweet representation? I don’t get it. Citing idiotic nonsense like “oh, it’s going to be racist” is just degrading for folks who truly believe that. You’re worried that the Chinese are going to get portrayed like from the XXth century 50’s US children cartoons? Of course they won’t. Similarily, if either Cubicle 7 or Creative Assembly will ever decided to add Araby to the mainstream lore, I am sure that they won’t be shown in a negative way. In fact, I am 100% certain that the game creators would do these lands, and their people, justice. In case I am not getting through with my tirade, I want to make one thing perfectly clear:

Your assumptions about harmful stereotypes in Warhammer Fantasy are wrong and without any merit.

This guy is wielding a weapon called “Dragon’s Bane”. That friggin’ hardcore! (artwork by Cobol Yu)

Yeah, it’s that easy. I love the fact that many of those critics are like “fictional China bad because racism”, but are completely fine with the more than stereotypical way that the Empire had portrayed with. You know, angry religious zealots who love burning people at the stake, as well as eating sausages and drinking beer. If I’d be a cynical man, I’d say that this is a pretty stereotypical way to show your typical German person from the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. Or let’s take a look at a country that is pretty close to my heart – Kislev! According to official sources, the Kislevites are supperstitious morons who are constantly drunk, worship primitive spirits, practice primitive traditions, and are only good for blunting the advance of the northern hordes, before they reach the heroic (and xenophobic) Empire of Man.

Nope, not stereotypical at all. I still recall a line from Graham McNeill’s End Times Kiselv short story: “no son of Kislev ever rode into battle while being sober”. Or something like that, but the general message is rather clear, no?

I could also tell you about the “scusa scusa” Tilea with its never-ending vendettas or Estalia which is known in the game only for its Diestros, and literally nothing else. That’s not stereotypical? Yeah, I thought so too.

For real, look at how fucking cool these concepts are! (artwork by Cobol Yu)

But you see, for all my talk about the rather “obvious” portrayal of various races and nations in Warhammer Fantasy, I think that this is in fact a good thing. Even the constantly drunk not-Slavic men are no big deal to me, becuase the authors present them in a interesting and harmless way. The same way that, I am sure, the Grand Empire of Cathay and other nations from beyond the Old World, will be portrayed. Stereotype is not a bad thing, if you can present it in a just and respectful manner, or at the very least clearly make a wink to your audience to show that, hey, maybe don’t take this too seriously, eh?

I know that we are living in a world where everyone gets offended at everything, and people are spotting racism, poking from every hole in the ground. This makes me sad, because while I am and always will be the enemy of xenophobia, chauvinism and bigotry, I am also vehemently against witch hunts and looking for enemies where there are none.

To end tirade of mine, I am going to share with you a little story from one of my RPG groups. Some time ago we’ve decided that after finishing “The Thousand Thrones” campaign for WFRP, we’ll jump over to Araby, to try something new. After all, we’ve been playing in the Old World constantly for the last 5+ years. When I’ve informed one of my players, who’s currently absent from our group, about this fact, his first reaction was literally being worried that this campaign is going to portay the Arabians in a harmful and stereotypical way. Oh, and there was also something about the white savior narrative, which literally killed me where I sat. That’s what the modern world does to you – instead of showing enthusiasm for a change of scenery and atmosphere, you immediately smell racism and bigotry. I hate seeing shit like that in my hobby, I really do. Especially since 90% of the time it is not warranted, like in the above case, or the whole Cathay debacle. Stop this shit, enjoy your games and let other people enjoy them too. Stereotypes are not bad in themselves, no matter what you might think, and what the world around you tells you.

I, for one, can’t wait to deploy my army of warrior monks, supported by the disciplined regiments of Cathayan Bannermen, animated stone dogs and other, fascinating and unique units. Creative Assembly – please hurry up with the premier of Total War: Warhammer 3, will you?

Also hire this guy as your main art director, seriously… (artwork by Cobol Yu)

As a quick note to end this article: there’s a big chance that I will soon enter into a small collab with some wonderful people from the WFRP fandom, but that’s still in the (hopefully not too far) future. I’ll let you know, as soon as I’ll have something solid.

All of the amazing art that I’ve used for this post, was created by the immensely talented Cobol Yu. You can find him on ArtStation and Instagram.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

The burnout struggle is real…

Some days you just can’t force yourself to move forward. Today is such a day.

No lengthy, thematic post today folks. I just can’t gather the energy to write anything coherent or worthwile.

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been having this kind of mood for months now. Sure, I guess that COVID-19 is mainly to blame, but the truth is, I just have way too much things to do on my head, and the feeling of burning out has been my constant companion for a very, very long time now.

Somedays you just can’t beat the blues…

In some ways this should come out as no surprise. I’ve been regularly writing on this blog for 6,5 years now. Mainly about Warhammer Fantasy, but I’ve covered other topics as well. Last year I’ve also migrated from Blogger to WordPress, which was a good choice, although it did damage my view count quite a bit. I know that this might sound strange, but I am also way older now, more tired, more busy and troubled. Everyday life is catching up to me, and more often than not in a very negative and depressing way. What once was a good, honest journey into my creative psyche, organised as a way to cope with grief from a passing of my close friend, now often becomes a tiresome chore. “Oh look, it’s that time of the month. Gotta post something”. Yeah, you know that it’s not a good thing, when you force yourself to write because it’s been two weeks since your last post. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now. It’s… tiring. There’s also little sense in continuing this.

What am I saying exactly? That the next post will be written in two weeks, according to schedule, and without any delays. That said, I will use this time to really think what I want to do with this blog in the future. I have no illusions: people are reading my work because they’re interested in Warhammer Fantasy. To this day my most popular posts are the End Times ones. I’ve tried to diversify my blog a bit, trying to insert a bit of Classic World of Darkness and Delta Green, as well as the ocassional video game or movie, but these posts are so patheticaly not interesting to my readers that I am really wondering if I’ll have to write about WFRP for the rest of this blog’s life cycle.

Don’t get me wrong, I like writing, talking and giving my opinions on Warhammer Fantasy. For almost 12 years now this has been my game of choice, and while I had a few crisises of faith, I’ve stayed faithful to it nonetheless. That said, it gets tiring. It gets so fucking tiring at times. That’s why I’ve needed to write this post, and that’s why I’ll use the next two weeks to try and realise what I want to do with my blog in the future. If I want to do anything at all.

Take care in these difficult times, people. Stay strong, stay healthy and take care of your loved ones.

Until next time

Xathrodox86

Xathrodox86 reviews: “Bloodline Miami” for Delta Green

We continue our journey into the eldritch and the unknown with a fan-made scenario for Delta Green, which takes place in the hot and humid city of Miami!

This is a personal favorite of mine as I was lucky enough to visit Miami, back in the late 90’s. I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the city (not so much the heat!), plus I’m a huge fan of the venerable Miami Vice tv show. Oh, and the Hotline Miami games which I’m pretty sure were a inspiration of sorts, when it came to the title of this scenario. With its bright neon lights, festive atmosphere and constant stream of tourists, you may think Miami is far from a perfect place for a Delta Green op. You would be wrong. Oh so very, very wrong…

These colorful streets hide many horrors… (photo taken from Wikimedia Commons)

As usual – spoilers ahead, and this time they’re not minor. You have been warned.

The mission sounds simple enough. The agents are called to Miami by a friendly police officer who witnessed a horrifying crime scene. Bits of gangster bodies, slashed to shit with what looks like a huge knife, have been found in a old warehouse, together with lots of illegal weaponry and drugs. That was bad enough in itself. The worse part was the unnatural cold, permating the entire building with even the blood having freezed completely. Freezed.

In bloody Miami.

Yeah, something definitely fishy is going on here.

There’s also a single survivor of the attack and he’s been transported to a nearby hospital with only skeletal staff on sight. The man in question has a wounded arm, and tells a story of a tall man, wearing antler mask. It was this person who’s supposedly responsible for the whole massacre. The room in which the wounded criminal is staying is getting colder and colder, and the AC is off… The agents have a small time window to find the thing responsible for the whole mess, as well as the mad man who wanted to obtain in the first place.

The finale will make the operatives question their very sanity (not surprising since it is Delta Green after all) while facing off against not only a deranged and heavily wounded cultist of a murderous alien deity, but also against the most unholy of all mythosian spawns…

…THE WENDIGATOR!

R.I.P. the entire state of Florida. It was fun knowning you… (artwork done by Jedi-Art-Trick)

Hey, I warned you about the potential spoilers, right?

I’ve GMed “Bloodline Miami” twice, and in different time periods. I especially liked my first attempt, set in the 80’s. The atmosphere was on point, especially with the right soundtrack. The second playthrough was a “modern” one, and while the feel of the scenario was great, I would still recommend playing it in the era of flamingos and “snow”, as it should be. The whole op is a tough one to survive for the agents, since their enemies are not only monstrously strong and fast, but can also “gift” them with a nasty case of alien transformative disease. If this is the first mission of your group, I would seriously recommend tuning down the difficulty a bit (heresy, I know) or maybe make sure that they are appropriately prepared for the oncoming chilly encounter. Molotov cocktails, Dragon’s Breath rounds and flamethrowers are some of the absolute essentials for this operation. You have been warned, dear handlers.

“Bloodline Miami” was written by Turts for the 2018 Delta Green shotgun scenario contest, and you can find it here, together with many other, awesome adventures and game aids. This is a true favorite of mine, and I hope to run it at least a couple more times in the future.

Keep those flame rounds handy and… until next time!

Xathrodox86

Xathrodox86 reviews: “Last Things Last” for Delta Green

Aside from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay there are a few other systems which I greatly enjoy. One of them is Delta Green – a fantastic, conspiracy-themed spin on the classic Call of Cthulhu.

In order to not go completely bonkers during these trying pandemic times, I’ve decided to diversify my writing a bit and take a look at other games. One of them is the aformentioned Delta Green, a title which I never had too much luck with when it came to GMing. Twice I ran a couple of scenarios but never managed to stick with DG for longer periods of time, which is a damn shame as this game not only has a great atmosphere, but equally excellent rules! Anyway, since this year I really want to spice things up a bit on my blog, I’ve decided to review a couple of Delta Green scenarios that I was lucky enough to run.

First let’s take a closer look at the classic and very wel written “Last Things Last”, from the Delta Green: Need to Know quick-start rulebook.

Warning! Slight spoilers ahead.

Written by Bret Kramer and Shane Ivey, this very short scenario follows the operatives as they try to find out if a recently diseased, former Delta Green agent left behind something that could potentially shed unwanted light on their organisation. Clyde Baughman worked for the agency during the 60s and 70s, and later as a affiliate. When he eventually died of a heart attack, his former empoyers decided to check if, by any chance, he left any unwanted info behind. That’s where the players come in. They will have to visit his dingy, depressing apartment and sift through it for any cluses, related to Delta Green. What looks like a routine, boring house search, quickly turns into a full-fledged investigation. It turns out that Mr. Baughman did had some secrets, and now they need to be dealt with, once and for all…

“Why grandma, what strange, greenish eyes do you have…”

I’ve ran”Last Things Last” four times and this scenario always worked like a charm. It is the perfect introduction to anyone who wishes to explore the fantastic, dark and mature system that is Delta Green. It mainly offers investigation opportunities, with little social interaction and, thankfully for the agents, very little combat at the very end. The authors made a wise decision not to put too many, potentially deadly encounters into this adventure – after all, it is a tutorial… of sorts. SAN loss is still possible, and there are even a few potential plot hooks for future ops included on its pages.

All in all “Last Things Last” is the adventure to run for a group who’s completely new to Delta Green, and wishes to see if this is a game for them. Each time it took me around 2-3 hours to run this scenario from beginning to end, and that included various cigarette and coffee breaks. I know that if I’ll ever get another opportunity, I will GM “Last Things Last” again. I highly recommend it to all future handlers out there.

You can download Delta Green: Need to Know from here.

Deception is a right. Truth is a privilege. Innocence is a luxury. Welcome to Delta Green.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Role-playing Rants: Why I dislike the endings of most official WFRP campaigns. Part 2.

Welcome to 2021, everyone! Have a safe and happy new year, and let’s kick it into high gear with a lengthy Warhammer post, shall we?

Last time I’ve explained why I generally dislike the endings to the venerable “The Enemy Within” and the 2nd edition’s “Terror in Talabheim”. This time I will explain why I don’t really enjoy the ending to my favorite WFRP campaign of all time – “The Thousand Thrones”.

In hindsight, the cover itself tells a lot about how this campaign will end…

Written for a finale of the 2nd edition, “TTT” is a lengthy, epic and very, very hard module, which has the PCs traversing almost the entirety of the Empire, the Wasteland and even the frozen Oblast of Kislev! It’s a immense and multi-layered tale of faith, terror, hope in the post-war Old World, as well as of the dangers of blind conviction. Reading through this book is a joy and a unique experience, and I would strongly advise to give it a read-through, even if you don’t plan to GM it. As for myself – I’m currently on my 4th playthrough of “The Thousand Thrones” and… I see that it has more problems than I originally noticed. Most of them, unfortunately, center around the ending itself.

Spoilers ahead, although I will do my best to limit them.

Ok, so first of all this campaign was written by multiple authors and had a troubled development (supposedly) – it’s important to take these things into account when looking closer at the overall product. Until approximately chapter 6 (out of 9… nice!) the whole story is pretty cohesive. There is a short interlude around chapter 2, but after that it’s smooth sailing… until chapter 7, when the party is taken into a completely different direction then the main plot, so to speak. Part 7 is also chock-full of VERY difficult puzzles which pracitcally require a group with a very specific sets of skills to crack them all. Anyway, at the end of this chapter our heroes learn that the whole endeavor was practically pointless, and that their original group has already left for Kislev.

Chapter 8 sees them rush, almost without preparation, gear and supplies towards one of the most hostile environments in the entire Old World. It is at this point that the previous (chapters 1, 4, 6 especially) investigative tone gets ditched almost completely, replaced by a very on-the-rails experience, in which certain things will happen, no matter what the heroes will or will not do. While I don’t have any problems with railroading and tightly written scenarios (in facti I prefer them to sandbox ones), this is just too excessive. The players become spectators in a play in which they have very little to say, except to react to various things thrown in their way. This in itself is not too bad, since chapter 8 is pretty lenient, at least compared to chapters 3 and 5, for example. Still – if I’d play this part, I know that I would get bored and fast.

This, however, is nothing when compared to the final chapter in the book – part 9. It sees our heroes confront the final evil of the story and choose one of three or so possible endings. So where’s the problem in that?

There are a few, and they’re all major problems for a final part of a truly epic, and (mostly) excellent campaign. First of all, it’s a dungeon crawl and a merciless one at that. I don’t know how this part passed the quality control, beacuse acquiring a random mutation, almost automatically, every x minutes, every time that a PC loses even a single HP, and when they pick quest-important items, is just excessive. Second of all, plunging the PCs into a dark, dingy maze, after forcing them to swim through monster-infested waters (say goodbye to your gunpowder and other pieces of gear, suckers!) is just cruel. Without magic, which by the way generates miscasts almost automatically in that place, or some VERY good thinking, the heroes won’t be able to see, since they’re in a underwater grotto! Sure, there are small pieces of luminescent lichen, but they give almost no light. By Sigmar, that’s just cruel!

Then there are enemies. Tons of them, and they’re tough, really tough. There’s the strongest, combat-oriented enemy in that place, and A) he’s not even the final boss, and B) he’s surrounded by a literal army of evil dudes. The fact that he and his army are battling another one, doesn’t really matter, nor it makes the danger that they present any less likely to affect the PCs. The enemies in chapter 9 are downright sadistic, and I would like to remind you that every time they wound a character, he or she needs to make a Toughness check or friggin’ mutate!

Oh, there’s another villain who shows up at one point and he has a insta-kill sword, a retinue of burly dudes and he’s a magician as well. Half of his party induces fear, himself included, and they all carry all manner of nasty diseases. What’s that? Is that the sound of bullshit that I detect? It can’t be!

Crap, forgot to mention the random vampires, wandering through the corridors. Silly me.

Hell, even a bunch of orcs found their way into this shithole. Although to be honest, they don’t present that big of a threat, at least when compared to other things lurking in that place…

Then there are puzzles and the time limit, which the GM needs to keep track of, using an actual stopwatch. Our heroes need to find a set of keys to proceed to the final sanctum of evil. Oh, some of said keys are fake and can mutate you instantly. Yes, really. Someone wrote this, someone else greenlighted this. All the while various chambers in the grotto present myriad of dastardly traps, including instant death ones, teleporting people to other parts of the world (said person is out of the game if that happens) and, of course, offering various, nasty mutations.

So to sum it up – the PCs have a rather short ammount of time to run through the maze, without any map or even a chance to get one, with only a single chamber in which they can actually regain their wounds, avoid or confront some of the nastiest enemies ever written for WFRP, get the correct keys and use them to enter the inner sanctum.

I’ll be real with you – if even half of the party will live to that point, and with just 4-5 mutations for each member, I’d consider this a good run. Don’t count on magic for healing either. Like I’ve said before, this shithole is so suffused with chaos that any caster is only asking for trouble if he’ll decide to use his powers here. It’s a bloody gauntlet, pure and simple. A worst case of dungeon crawl, which are never a good idea when it comes to Warhammer. They don’t work well in “Karak Azgal”, they don’t work well in “Lure of the Liche Lord”, and they sure as hell don’t work well in “The Thousand Thrones”.

So, after all this bloody mess the heroes finally enter the inner sanctum and confront both the most important NPC of this campaign, as well as possibly a unkillable final boss. I am not joking, you’ve read that right. We are talking about a creature that has every stat on 88 (nice nod towards the main chaos number), is a powerful magician, a godly fighter and… can control minds with “only” a -30 Willpower roll to resist her. Oh, and she has a literal army of giant, mutated spiders at her command. Again, I am not kidding. The PCs by now will most likely to think that to defeat her they must give their all, and pray for high attack rolls. No, it is not the way. I mean, yeah – technically they can do that, but she will fucking regenarate in a little while.

Wow, even writing this down makes me realize how much bullshit this ending actually has.

So yeah, anyway, to defeat her the players must either take her remains from a certain room to another room, and throw them into a chaos portal, hoping that they won’t be forced to jump into it as well. If they do it’s game over, by the way. The other way to defeat this monstrosity is to… talk to the aformentioned NPC and ask him to tell her to go away.

I am dead fucking serious. The key to defeating the final boss which can destroy the whole world, is to essentialy tell it to leave.

Wow, someone took money for this. Someone actually had balls to write a ending like that. I am speechless. The best part is that the players won’t even think about doing it like that. Not after what they went through in the campaign, not to mention in that hellish place. So yeah, enjoy fighting the Satan himself, while he has the infinite lives cheat on. Good luck.

There are two other endings as well. To keep it short – one included fighting a bunch of high level vampires, all at the same time, and the other one doesn’t even let players fight the final boss, because fucking Nagash reincarnates and kills everyone. The ending to this campaign is the most “rocks fall, everybody dies” thing that I ever saw. There’s no, and I repeat, no good ending to “The Thousand Thrones”. The best one, that the author graced us with, states that the PCs thwarted the evil, albeit only for some time (unless they’ve destroyed the bones, which in 99% of playthroughs they did not), but are now heavily mutated and will almost certainly travel north to the Chaos Wastes, since there’s no place for them in the civilised lands.

I am dead serious, this is the “happy” ending.

Now look, I love and accept the core idea of Warhammer – there are no heroes, no happy endings, no justice. There is only gray, short-term victory with little to no certainty for a better future. That said, the endings to this campaign are just absurdly bad. It takes around a year of regular gaming to finish it, it is very hard and the players will lose many of their characters. To end this truly epic and immense story in such a anti-climactic way is simply poor. Even I, who often prefer his stories to end on a bitter note, realise and accept that the finale to “The Thousand Thrones” is just bad. It’s not medicore, sorta ok-ish, passable, no – it’s just bad, and there’s nothing anyone can say that will convince me otherwise.

So how can we fix it? I know that the guys at “Liber Fanatica” created player aids for this campaign, which include heaps of additional material (some of it supposedly semi-official), some of which can help with the finale. I would seriosuly recommend checking it out, especially since all of their work is of the highest quality. As for me… I don’t have anything in mind. I don’t like the last two chapters of this campaign, especially the 9th one. Chapter 7 is cool to read through, and while it is very unlikely that the PCs will ever get the huge price at the end (which might help in the final part), it is at least a decent investigative story, taking place in the lesser-known parts of the Empire. Chapter 8 is too on-the-rails, and the finale is just poor. It is downright sadistic, cruel, unplayable, and unwinabble, which is the worst thing really. Because no matter how hard a campaign can be, how much grim and perilous it gets, there should always be a way for the players to go through it successfuly. “The Thousand Thrones” does not give the PCs this option, and that’s why its ending is simply bad.

I still love this campaign. Always had a soft spot for it, despite its many flaws, both big and small. You can read my review of it here.

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for epic, overblown and clearly unbalanced pieces of gaming fiction!

So here it is – my first post of 2021. I had a blast writing it. I plan to do a lot more things this year. There will be more movie reviews, at least two interviews (feel a bit bad that I haven’t scored a single one in 2020), and maybe something completely unexpected! Anyway, huge thanks to my readers for sticking with me through all these years. Have a safe and happy 2021 and praise Sigmar!

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Role-playing Rants: Why I dislike the endings of most official WFRP campaigns. Part 1.

Writing a RPG campaign isn’t easy. I know, I’ve written few of them during my lifetime. Creating a logical and climactic ending to a long lasting story is often a difficult and unforgiving task, and there is no guarantee that it’ll actually work!

Nowhere is this statement proven more true, than in the case of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This is a game which has a lot of official campaigns available to its players, but are they all really worth playing? Do any of them actually have a good, satisfying ending?

As someone who played a lot of 2nd and 4th edition, and a couple of modules from the 1st, I can safely say that: no. They don’t have good endings. Or rather I should say that their finales are simply quite anticlimactic. For most part, that is.

Now take into consideration a couple of things, while reading this article. First of all it’s all my subjective opinion, obviously. Secondly – there will be spoilers for the following campaigns: “The Enemy Within” (1st edition), “Terror in Talabheim” and “The Thousand Thrones”. I will only describe those 3 modules, since I am most familiar with them. I’ve never played 3rd edition, having only read the rules a few years back, and I have not yet picked up the newest version of TEW for the 4th iteration of WFRP. This article is also exclusively about campaigns and not scenarios. So anyway, let’s take a look at why Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s official campaigns have (mostly) poor endings.

Oh and I will write about “The Thousand Thrones” in the second part of this tirade. Mainly because it is my most beloved campaign and the one that I’ve played the most in my life. I want my honest views on it to be extra well thought out, and I think they deserve a post of their own.

  1. “The Enemy Within” (1st edition)
The definition of a timeless classic… with a few blemishes here and there…

The first “TEW” is a gold standard when it comes to TTRPG campaigns. It is a timeless classic which untold thousands of people have played over the last 3 decades. It is also a mess when it comes to its structure. There are whole books when the Purple Hand plot just dissapears, only to reemerge later without any explanation. Sadly this is the main problem when it comes to “The Enemy Within”. From the very beginning we’re being told about this huge and sinister organisation, which has agents in every city in the Empire. The whole inheritance plot arc seems like a very important one, only to be dropped after the third part of the story. The whole Purple Hand arc is practically finished at the end of “Power Behind the Throne” and in a way that’s really making this whole, sinister cult look kinda incompetent. However that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the fact that after (mostly) very solid “PBtT” we’re treated to the universally disliked “Something Rotten in Kislev” which has zero connections to the wider campaign, and after that it’s we’re being thrusted into the “Empire in Flames”. This last book of “TEW” is not only much more linear then the previous ones, it is also not as good as “Death on the Reik” or “Shadows over Bögenhafen”. The entire civil war part feels extremely hamfisted, the search for Ghal-Maraz is boring, and the ending with the Greater Daemons who’s a total chump is more played for laughs, then as a serious, tense and climactic finale to this grand-scale adventure.

Oh and I think that it’s completely anticlimactic for the PCs to become nobility at the end of the campaign. Come one, this is Warhammer, not D&D!

How would I fix the ending? Personally I would make “Power Behind the Throne” the finale of the entire campaign. Yes, the fan-made “Empire at War” is good, but I feel that the death of the Wasmeier at the end of PBtT would be the best moment to end the entire campaign. Naturally it would have to be a bit more complex and difficult (the whole siege of Wasmeier’s house is kinda meh), and I couldn’t imagine Purple Hand not remianing a serious threat to the Empire, even if their power and infulence would take a huge hit.

I still think that this ending would not be 100% perfect, but I do prefer it much more to the official one.

2. “Terror in Talabheim”

One of my favorite WFRP campaigns of all time, and one that is kinda forgotten nowadays – “Terror in Talabheim” plays on the age old fear of being stuck in a city ravaged by a deadly plague and… rats. Large, bipedal rats with maniacal plans for world domination. The first part of this campaign is great at building tension – from getting glimpses and suggestions about the approaching plague, to getting locked in the city with thousands of infected people, to the eventual Skaven assault. Oh and just one assault! First we’re being treated to the savage but undisciplined mass charge of the Pestilens, but the second wave is even more deadly. The description of elite and disciplined hordes of Grey Seer Asorak charging through the streets of the Eye of the Forest were so damn awesome and chilling!

Talabheim is one of the wonders of the Old World, and a heluva defensible position!

Later we get the more sandboxy part about organising the resistance. That’s where the first cracks heralding a medicore ending, begin to show. Most of “TiT” is pretty scripted (albeit in a good way). For it to transition to a more open-world, free-roam game is a major change in tone, and a major risk. By this point the players might be accustomed to the more tightly structured adventure, and many of them can have problems with changing their approach to playing the game.

However the worst part comes at the very end. First of all the writers give us an idea of siding with the remnants of Clan Pestilens. Now, even though it’s Warhammer we are talking about, most players would never go for that approach. There is being a bastard and then there’s collaborating with Skaven. Even a complete and total bastard will have serious qualms of working alongside one of Empire’s worst and oldest enemies. Second of all the ending is… unresolved. By that I mean that there’s no definitive one. The authors give a couple ideas how to end the whole thing, and what certain choices would mean for the city, the PCs and the Empire army stationed outside the walls. There’s no epic battle with Asorak and his Albino Guard, no final stand in the High Watch. Yeah, “TiT” wants you to eventually off the nasty Grey Seer, but there’s nothing else – and that’s dissapointing. Even with the snadbox-style final chapter, the finale to a campaign like that should be cohesive and suitably epic. When I’ve GMed “Terror in Talabheim” for the second time, I added a whole major battle in the High Watch with the clock ticking mercilessly, as the besieging Empire army was slowly moving up the Wizard’s Way towards the gates leading to the city. It went great and was very memorable, but here’s the thing – the authors should’ve done that, not me. Sandbox can only take you so far. RPGs are stories, and every story needs a good ending. We didn’t get a good one here.

In the end the PCs, once again, become the heroes… only to actually have to escape the city, since the jealous nobility wants them dead. While this ending is rather WFRP-like, the way that it is written is pretty hamfisted. “Oh yeah, you’ve saved the city so according to laws you are now its rulers. The noble men and women won’t stand for that so you have to bail. Bye!”. I’m not kidding, this is how it basically ends and even the length of the ending is similar to the paragraphb that I’ve written above. For shame authors, for shame.

I am ending this tirade for now, but let me make one thing perfectly clear – I really enjoy these campaigns and I know that the GM always needs to put some work into the ready-to-play modules, to make them work in 100%. Perhaps it’s because of his style, or his players, but in the end even the pre-written campaigns need some tweaking, which I actually like doing a lot. I’ve turned my last “TEW” playthrough into a espionage romp, and 3 years ago I’ve inserted a lot of gritty, military-oriented themes into my “Terror of Talabheim” game. Both players and me had a blast and in the end that is all that matters.

This is my last post of 2020. Despite being hard and difficult, it was a very productive year for me as a hobbyist. I’ve prcatically doubled my RPG and battle games collection, started 5 new Horus Heresy armies (and assembled one for a friend) and watched lots of good movies! In these trying and harsh times, I think it’s important to find joy in little things, and for me my hobbies always help when the times are rough. I hope that 2020 was not too hard on you, dear readers, and I wish you all the very best. Take care and I’ll see you next year!

Edit: Part 2 is now live. You can find it here!

I would also like to thank Jim and Elie from the excellent WFRP Game Masters Facebook fanpage for being top blokes and wonderful people all around. Being a part of your admin team is a pleasure and a privilege. Joining it was certainly one of the highlights of 2020.

Oh and one last thing – I am damn happy that my first post of 2021 will be about “The Thousand Thrones”, my favorite campaign of all time.

This title always brings a crooked smile to my hairy face…

Until next time!

Xathrodox86