I see darkness gathering around a walled town- Shadows Over Bogenhafen!
I see the Lord of Death astride a great river- Death, on the Reik!
I see a hooded evil behind the seat of a once mighty Lord- a Power behind the Throne!
I see the Empire in Flames! The Horned Rat doth sit upon the Imperial throne!
It is all written in the Book of Changes.
Yea- Chaos' most determined enemies shall prove its greatest servants.
The Enemy is Within!
'The Enemy Within' was the epic first extended campaign created by Games Workshop for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay roleplaying game during the late 1980's. While RPG campaigns are a dime a dozen, and generally come and go, The Enemy Within is notable for its popularity, complexity , and longevity. Set in the grim Old World of the Warhammer series of games, The Enemy Within focuses more on intrigue and conspiracy than on the dungeon bashing and dragon slaying more common in the world of Tolkien derivative, AD&D knock-off games. The enemy is, literally, within in each of the adventures- the players discover the taint of evil and Chaos gnawing at the roots of their world, from unassuming riverside towns to the palace of the Emperor himself.
The intertwined plot lines contained in The Enemy Within campaign are detailed and complex, and are kept alive throughout most of the series. Seemingly insignificant events that occur in the opening moments of the first adventure touch off events that only reach fruition in the final volumes of the campaign. This continuity helps to draw in new players, and produces logical motivations for the characters (and their players) to stay interested. Not everyone need play a noble knight interested in saving the world out of the goodness of his heart, or a licentious treasure hauler for the campaign to flow naturally from episode to episode. Instead, bonds of family and friends, ambition, curiosity, and more work-a-day economic motives help move the story along. There's plenty of room for martyrdom seeking world-savers and seekers of riches, but plenty of room for less unusual archetypes as well.
The plots themselves, and the problems they present, require players not only to hack and kill, but to reason, schmooze, observe, and plan. The authors of The Enemy Within were careful to include ways for non-traditional characters (those that are neither combat oriented nor planning on becoming Gandalf or Elminster by the end of the first session) to contribute to the game. Throughout Death on the Reik, a sailor or riverboat crewman may be the most valuable member of the party. Power Behind the Throne presents a number of situations where a character with the charisma and learning to pass through wealthy society may be of more use than a whole crateload of troll slayers and fireball wingers. Gathering obscure knowledge is praised; that extra language, piece of ancient history, or palm greasing skill that you learned instead of focusing on "Introduction to 'Me Hit, He Fall Down'" may be the difference between a successful run and an embarrassing and frustrating debacle. This attention to characters and scenarios that defy the conventions of (poor) roleplay are the hallmark of the best moments of The Enemy Within.
The Enemy Within was first published between 1986 and 1989 by Games Workshop, and was then reprinted by Hogshead Publishing when they took over the WFRP license. It consists of a series of six books, variously bound and collected over the years, each of which contain one or more adventures, as well as background information for the people and locales that they featured. Some of the supplemental material was published in separate booklets, as in the case of Death on the Reik, or in entirely separate books, as was the case with Power Behind the Throne.
The individual elements of The Enemy Within campaign are described below. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum.
- The Enemy Within, by Phil Gallagher, Jim Bambra, and Graeme Davis
The first volume of the campaign consisted primarily of background information, concerning The Empire, the pseudo-Germanic Holy Roman Empire-like setting that forms the backdrop for most of the episodes of the campaign. It includes information on the political, religious, and social structure of the Empire, its history, and many more mundane details like the Imperial calendar and the coaching lines that provide travel throughout the Empire. The geography of the various Imperial provinces is included, as well as information about the Imperial armies. Another section provides brief information on Chaos cults at work in the Empire, and an appendix provides information on mutants living within the Empire. There is also a short adventure, entitled Mistaken Identity that serves as an introduction to the remainder of the campaign, introducing a few important supporting characters, and setting up the mistaken identity plot that will be picked up by subsequent adventures. While none of this sounds too thrilling, it is in fact one of the most useful books published by Games Workshop for WFRP players and GM's; the details about life in the Empire are invaluable to anyone who plans to run a campaign or design their own adventures in the Empire.
- Shadows Over Bogenhafen, by Phil Gallagher, Jim Bambra, and Graeme Davis
One of the most acclaimed single plot lines in The Enemy Within campaign, Shadows Over Bogenhafen picks up where Mistaken Identity leaves off, and thrusts the players into the midst of a sea of intrigue and apocalyptic doom. The plot is too much fun to spoil, but it concerns a (literal) deal with the devil, the deaths of a drunken dwarf and a three-legged goblin, and a bill come due that the entire city of Bogenhafen may have to pay. Unwary adventurers will find themselves drowned in the sewers, framed for murder, and stalked by demons all before the main event- a fiery apocalypse that threatens to swallow them whole.
SOB is much more an adventure and less a sourcebook than The Enemy Within, but the information provided about the city of Bogenhafen makes it a useful setting for future adventures- if the players manage not to let it be destroyed- and an excellent template for designing other towns and cities otherwise. There are several generic city/town encounters that can be applied anywhere, as well as some useful profiles for 'stock' characters (merchants, pickpockets, yokels, the town watch, etc.). The rules, maps, and information dealing with sewers is of particular use- it often seems no RPG can go more than a few days without a trip into an underground drainage system of some sort.
- Death on The Reik, by Phil Gallagher, Jim Bambra, and Graeme Davis
The third installment of The Enemy Within sees Our Heroes journeying down the river Reik, the mighty waterway that serves as the major thoroughfare of the heartland of the Empire. DOTR develops further several of the story elements introduced in SOB and TEW; rumors and events described in the first two installments are developed and refined, and some familiar characters make return appearances. Great detail has been put into linking the adventure together, and providing player characters with logical, meaningful opportunities for advancement (tutors and mentors and the like, as opposed to the 'you leveled up!' approach more often seen). The main adventure contained in Death on the Reik concerns the declining fortunes of a once great Imperial family, a hunt for a rogue wizard, and a meandering search for a missing magical meteor.
As a sourcebook, DOTR includes a variety of valuable information. Descriptions of the environs, inhabitants, and character of several towns that lie along the waterways of The Empire are provided, as well as more general information on most of the towns, cities, and villages of the Reikland (some of it a repeat of material contained in TEW). A supplemental appendix, originally published as a separate booklet, details life on the river, including detailed rules for operating a boat, stock encounters that can be inserted into the campaign anywhere for variety, and rules for conducting trade and carrying cargo- a good way to provide segues into other adventures.
- Power Behind the Throne, by Carl Sargent, with additional material by Phil Gallagher
The fourth chapter in the campaign takes the adventurers to Middenheim, the city of the White Wolf. Among the temples of the god Ulric and the delvings of ancient dwarfs, the adventurers find evil and intrigue as they pass among the ranks of nobles, their hangers on, and their less-than-wholesome pastimes. Threads that have been developing since the first episodes of TEW are again picked up, as the adventurers seek the missing scion of an ancient household among the courts of Middenheim's upper class. As the name would imply, the corruption in PBT goes all the way to the top- and the players may find themselves in possession of some secrets so valuable that the crowned heads of the Empire would kill to make sure they stay secret.
So much background information was developed for the city of Middenheim that it was published as a separate book- called variously Warhammer City, City of the White Wolf, and (most recently) Middenheim: City of Chaos. Besides detailing many of the important movers and shakers of the city of Middeheim (crime lords, nobles, cultists, high priests and generals), the Middenheim supplement includes details of the various city environs, rules for dealing with the city watch and harsh Imperial justice, and examples of businesses, buildings, encounters, and characters that can be placed throughout the city at will. In addition to making Power Behind the Throne a much more enjoyable and colorful experience for players and GM alike, the background information found in this book (whatever its name) is invaluable for anyone desiring to set adventures in the city of Middenheim, and is equally applicable to any other major city of the Old World. Unfortunately, the notorious GW sense of humor got a bit out of control in this volume; names like 'Salladh-bar' and 'Edam Gouda' abound, which either enhance or ruin the atmosphere, depending on your point of view.
- Something Rotten in Kislev, by Ken Rolston and Graeme Davis
The fifth book of The Enemy Within is where many feel things began to go a bit awry. SRIK contains a number of interesting ideas, as well as a number of rather outlandish ones that don't seem to fit with the overall flavor of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Unlike the earlier episodes of The Enemy Within, SRIK fails to pick up on any of the plot lines developed in earlier installments (this is partially due to the fact that many of them were resolved in PBT). Furthermore, it is episode is also the only portion of The Enemy Within campaign that doesn't take place in the Empire; instead, it is set in (get ready) Kislev, the Old World equivalent of Tzarist Russia. Three adventures are included in SRIK: The Beast Child, Death Takes a Holiday, and The Champions of Death: A Choice of Evils in Bolgasgrad. The latter two adventures in particular are endlessly discussed, debated, complained about, and defended by their various supporters and detractors among folks who play WFRP (and who have nothing more pressing to do with their time). Both adventures center around the undead, and there are indeed some novel and interesting ideas presented in each installment. Unfortunately, neither adventure seems to jive with the overall flavor of the Warhammer world, and the last adventure (as the title implies) presents the players with a lose-lose situation, an enemy that they cannot defeat, and a situation where playing true to character may result in an unjust (and pointless) demise.
While the background information provided on Kislev is useful for anyone desiring to set an adventure there, it is not really adequate for an extended campaign. There's not a great deal of information provided (about 10 pages), and it generally lacks much detail (there's nothing about any of the major cities in the country, for instance). There are fewer useful player handouts and maps than the other Enemy Within books, and less of the information presented in SRIK can be applied to other adventures or the larger campaign. The information on zombies might be interesting to someone whose campaign encountered a lot of the undead (Ravenloft, anyone?). Information on nature spirits, and the (very) brief section on 'Ancient Ruins in The Northern Old World' could come in handy, but the latter is really little more than an excuse for a dungeon crawl. The segment on Chaos Plants (I kid you not) would be of little use to anyone except a particularly diabolical gardener. Generally considered the weakest installment of The Enemy Within.
- Empire in Flames, by Carl Sargent
While perhaps not as disliked as SRIK, Empire in Flames has long had its detractors as well. Many readers have felt that the greatest weakness of the final installment of The Enemy Within campaign was simply that it was not epic enough to cap off what was (with the possible exception of Something Rotten in Kislev) a brilliant and intelligent campaign. Certainly the elements for a big finish are there: the death of an Emperor, allegations of impurities in the Imperial lineage, and a quest to retrieve the legendary Hammer of Sigmar Heldenhammer, the patron deity and apotheosized founder of the Empire. Hogshead Publications, after it licensed WFRP from GW, was planning to produce a new version of Empire in Flames (to be called Empire in Chaos) that would include an entirely new, hopefully more fitting, ending to the series. Sadly, with the departure of Hogshead from the RPG business in November of 2002, Empire in Chaos is now consigned to the murky shadow realm where promised but undelivered WFRP supplements go to await rebirth- a place from which only Realms of Sorcery has returned (their number just keeps growing and growing …)
As mentioned above, the various installments of The Enemy Within were variously bound and packaged. SOB and TEW were packaged bound into a single hardbound volume called Warhammer Campaign; DOTR made an initial appearance as a boxed set, as did a joint PBT and Warhammer City/City of the White Wolf/City of Chaos. The first three books were published bound together under the name Warhammer Adventure. Hogshead also published softbound editions of each of the books listed above during their run as the WFRP publisher (except for Empire in Flames/Chaos, which was awaiting a rewrite by Hogshead head honcho James Wallis at the time the company closed its doors). The Enemy Within and Shadows Over Bogenhafen were bound together, and the other volumes were all issued seperatley. Almost as importantly, Hogshead sorted out all of the page number cross-references that had been slowly suffering bit rot due to the number of rebindings and reprints since the first publication- doing away with the blank 'see page xx' references that had popped up from time to time.
The Enemy Within has been in constant circulation and near-constant publication since 1986. In the world of roleplaying games, that's damn near an eon. While other entire games have appeared and disappeared, The Enemy Within has just kept going, supported by a worldwide fan base that seems to love it despite some of its obvious flaws. The campaign (particularly the early episodes) prove that a fantasy adventure game can be more than hack 'n' slash- in the hands of skilled and creative writers and players, it can be fun, exciting, complex, mysterious, and rewarding. The Enemy Within was voted the best RPG campaign of all time by Cassus Belli magazine, and several of its plots (particularly Power Behind the Throne and the creepy and intriguing Shadows Over Bogenhafen) have been recognized as rare gems in a genre dominated by the hack 'n' slash element.