Sunday 21 December 2014

WFRP'd: The Enemy Within

John Blanche's cover painting for the Enemy Within is probably as famous as the game itself. It remains a wonderful relic of a more subtle Warhammer World. A world before the skulls, spikes and the corporate stink. 
The Oldhammer zeitgeist seems to be learning towards Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay these days, and to be honest with you, I am not really surprised. For many of us fantasy fans, WFRP was our only source of information and background for the Warhammer World in the late '80s and early 1990s. Hidden amongst the great many articles that were produced in support of the game are some absolute gems, many of which can be used to base interesting scenarios for games around. 

We have discussed the first 'proper' WFRP article already in this series - On The Road by Graeme Davis and that seems to have been published around the same time that the first supplement for the game was released- the now legendary Enemy Within with its first adventure, Mistaken Identity. 

But what does this first seminal release actually contain? And does it deserve its title of 'one of the greatest adventures ever written?'

The best way to find out is to actually have a little look at what the release contains and look at the first adventure, Mistaken Identity, in a little more detail. A word of warning though, there will be spoilers in this article, so if you are hoping to play the Enemy Within Campaign one day you may well want to stop reading now and leave the horror of the Warhammer World for another day. 

A quick glance at this page will provide a solid overview of what the supplement contains. The first 34 pages present the player and GM with a wealth of detail about the Empire as well as tips on running the campaign. Its also noteworthy for the great picture of the authors posing outside on a set of steps. Rock 'n' Roll roleplayers indeed!

To put this material into context, both the WFRP and WFB3 rulebooks had done a little to flesh out the background to the world we would be playing our games in. Gone was the local view presented by the scenario packs of the mid 1980s and in their place we had a broadsheet with a more national view of how the Empire functioned, not just in the corridors of power, but in the corridors of the inns, temples and dwellings that made up the place. 

There is quite a lot of detail to be absorbed and I would recommend the supplement to anyone who has an interest in the original history of the Empire, as well as its early visual appeal. I have selected a few of my favourite pieces of this tapestry to discuss in more detail below.  

This page is significant for two reasons, firstly it gives lots of background detail to one of the most important pieces of background for anyone playing WFRP in the Empire - the Coaching Houses! If you have played WFRP then you have no doubt spent loads of time sitting on the top of one of these wooden boxes (most likely in the driving rain) or annoying the toffs within. Mentioning them here as a ubiquitous sight in the Warhammer World on the 1980s make me think that I really should go about producing a couple of models of them, with the appropriate bade painted on the side mind you, to help populate the gaming worlds I create with my scenery. 

Anyone know a good model available that could be converted for such a job? Please let me know if you do! 

The other significant fact on this page is the fleshing out of the legend of Sigmar, a character we now know was created by Phil Gallagher. Though the legend was discussed briefly previously, this is the most detailed take on the story seen to date. Its funny just how much has now changed in this particular piece of fluff, isn't it?

I have selected this page as its best illustrates what everyday people would have looked like in the Warhammer World of the 1980s. There is a gritty historical realism that I have always appreciated, largely due to the fact that fantasy works best when it is presented in a believable world. That is where 8th Edition went so horribly wrong for me, with every tree a dangerous spirit, undead incursions sweeping the land endlessly and the geological layer of skulls beneath the ground. 

How was the Empire supposed to function? How was food grown? Etc? Etc? 

I often return to these pages when I am researching colour schemes for my miniatures as the fluff presented here makes the perfect starting point. 

Something that is easy to overlook is that the original characters for the Enemy Within make their first appearance in the Enemy Within. They are beautifully presented with lots of original art to show them off to would be players. I wonder how many adventures these characters have been on over the years? 

As I just mentioned with the PCs, there is a great deal of quality art to be found in this publication, and much of it cannot be found elsewhere. I have selected these two works by John Blanche as examples of what can be found within, so it really is worth chasing up a copy if you have any interest in 1980s Warhammer art. The sense of wacky humour is evident in the two pictures as is that subtle mix between historical possibility and fantastic improbability. 

The two images show off what the military of the Empire should look like and indeed many of the knights you can see in the second image certainly made it into miniature form by the late 1980s. I have a large number of these models kicking around in my collection and one day I intend to do them justice by painting them up in a similar baroque style to these. 

Another favourite section of mine from the Enemy Within is this page detailing some of the herbs that can be found out in the wilds during this adventure. I used to hand this out o Harbull and Wanda in their packs at the start of the campaign and I always enjoyed the gathering of herbs and other resources as a player. In fact, when I play the Elder Scrolls games to this day I often spend hours and hours out and about collecting all sundry of things to become a master alchemist. Its a bit harder to do that in WFRP but a little medical knowledge is vital in this dark and dangerous world!

A nice touch this. 

Now we are on our way to having a look at the 'Main Event' of this first supplement, the first scenario - Mistaken Identity. To me, the ideas presented here, though small in scale when compared with later adventures, make for quality gaming as well as exciting GMing. Having done both in my time, I can honestly say that the moment your coach stumbles upon the mutant ambush your blood is up, either with the thrill of taking on a role or controlling the action.

The scenes set in the Inn at the start of the adventure allow you to spend as much time as you wish developing your characters before the off, with plenty of opportunity to offend the noble patrons who you find within.

Without giving too much away to those who haven't yet have the chance to get to grips with this first supplement, the rest of the adventure contains a mixture of dopplegangers, bountyhunters and ships called Berebelli. The plotline gives your players, or your GM skills, just enough space to begin to florish if you are new to the system as well as setting up the rest of the campaign.

Interestingly, there is another proto version of the mutation table that would later see the light of day in Slaves to Darkness. Obviously, its far simpler than the resource many of us now know and love but it has its uses if you need to create 'quickie' mutants on the spot.

To conclude, this first release is an excellent start to the Enemy Within campaign, and is many ways an excellent start to roleplaying in general. It is packed with loads of information that will help you expand your knowledge about the background to Warhammer Third Edition. With a good mix of social roleplaying and sinister actions there is plenty to sink your teeth into here.

Highly recommended.



  1. Great article. WHFRP 1st ed is my favourite fantasy RPG. As you suggest, more an alternative history than the high Fantasy that Fantasy Battle shows. The Empire is populated by humans. Orcs & Goblins are whispered threats of yesteryear, magic is a rare and specialist and Chaos is unknown by the majority of the populace. I also liked the character career progression. Characters could advance and become more skilled, but never do they become the uber-warriors that other RPG's sometimes develop their PCs into.

  2. Great evocative! The Enemy Within has to be my favourite Warhammer book.

  3. I ran the sequel/reboot -- good but different -- last year and in doing so I dug out the original books, which up to that point I'd only seen as a player. I was surprised and pleased to see so much setting background information in the book.

  4. Nice article. In fact some of these early articles and FRP books inspired some nice battles on my clubs tabletop and of course names for my heroes.
    The funny thing always was the names given to some of the Empire people. For me these german styled names were rather stupid sounding others quite humorus but it may be so because I am German.
    Keep showing more FRP articles as these were always a great source of inspiration for my.

  5. Good review! Have you ever seen "Maelstrom" by Alexander Scott, published by Puffin in 1984 as part of their "Adventure Gamebooks" series, but actually a fully formed RPG? It's Elizabethan and historical, but reading this it strikes me that there's a very strong relationship between it and the low-fi gritty Renaissance setting of WFRP. Right down to an inventory of herbs.

    I think I might do a review of it on my blog. As I say, I don't know whether there's an actual debt or its just a coincidence because they're using the same kind of historic period as inspiration, but it's a striking similarity.

    1. It's been re-released by Arion Games and there's a 1066 edition too.

      If there is any cross-pollination, I'd imagine WFRP borrowed from Maelstrom; as I recall Scott was in school when he wrote it so I doubt he would have had any inkling of what was going on at the GW Design Studio.

    2. That's what I was wondering - is it part of the genealogy of WFRP?

      Either way it's a lovely book, I'd imagine Oldhammerers would get a lot out of it. Wasn't aware of the re-release.

    3. I had the original release years ago, it was so very detailed it amazed me, having been used to basic D&D, funny enough I also had the FF rpg books as well, truth be told never got to play any of them, still to this day I have no idea what happened to any of those books.

  6. I very much agree with your comment regarding a return to RPG's from tabletop battle-type wargaming. I find myself more and more enjoying the freedom associated with party-sized groups (and the inherent skirmish-level battling) rather than the table-sprawling mega wars. I love a good 3000-a-point scrum for the visual feast it is, but then for the next several months I would rather dungeon crawl. Lots more stories in these WFRP books to explore. Great topic!

  7. This brought back memories. I ran the entire TEW campaign in the nineties as a GM, and I made a booklet for the players outlining what the world looked like. Almost all of the pages you show above were part of that.

    Especially the legend of Sigmar was very useful. I kept bringing it up as a recurring story. By the time I ran the campaign, I already knew the plot of the last part (in which the players have to find Sigmar's Hammer), so suddenly, they found themselves involved in the myths that all the inhabitants of the world had been telling them.

    What I really liked about TEW campaign is that it goes crescendo. It starts with a small insignificant incident along the road, which brings the players to Bogenhafen, then an epic journey across the Reik, then high-level plots in Middenheim, an entire war and Kislev, and finally a save-the-world type of mission in Empire in Flames. I always thought this was very cleverly done, since it grows naturally, and guides the players from humble beginnings to legendary status.

    I always like the notion of Chaos in WFRP much better than in WFB (4ed and onwards). Chaos in WFRP is subtle. It pervades everyday life. It is hidden in normal society. You might come into contact without realizing it. But now and then it bursts out in the open - whether it is a secret cult, a band of mutants in the forest, or a high-level court spy. That provides a much better roleplaying world than the blunt-in-your-face presence of Chaos.