Enemy Within Updates (plus other stuff)

The enemy lurks in shadows
Theo
Posts: 150
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:25 pm

Totsuzenheni Yukimi wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 2:49 am
I noticed that it was £5 more expensive on the Cubicle 7 website than the other volumes.
It's some 50 pages thicker.
Theo
Posts: 150
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:25 pm

Some first impressions of Ruins, cross-posted from the Facebook group WFRP Game Masters:

First off, I think it’s fair to call it a reimagining, or reboot, of Empire in Flames. The basic structure is pretty much the same and a lot of elements – characters, incidents, places, etc – are in both but things are reshuffled and rearranged and the specifics are quite different in nearly all cases. There’s still a somewhat disastrous (though not quite as disastrous) conference of electors in Altdorf, there’s a wilderness- and dungeon-crawling quest for Sigmar’s hammer against the backdrop of beginning civil war, and there’s a final boss fight with Sheerargetru the demon in the Volkshalle. However, the first act – what was mostly a prologue in Empire in Flames, everything before the quest for the hammer begins – is much longer here, taking up roughly 40% of the page count (of the proper adventure text) as compared to 25% in the original.

We finally get the big secret plots behind the new TEW and Ubersreik campaigns, and it turns out they’re not that complex and could easily have been (and should have been) summarized in a page or two in the Starter Set and repeated in the introduction to Enemy in Shadows. That’s not to say the plots themselves are bad (mostly) – simple is probably good. I do really like the idea of Gideon returning as the behind-the-scenes villain with a plan that is, pretty much, a larger-scale version of his scheme in Shadows Over Bögenhafen: freeing the trapped greater daemon Sheerargetru. The idea of several competing Chaos factions wanting to groom Prince Wolfgang – a thoroughly decent chap in this version, unlike the poor sod in EiF - for contradictory purposes (a sacrificial lamb in Gideon’s plan, a puppet ruler for others, etc) is fine but a bit underdeveloped.

In general I find plenty of bits to like, but overall I feel the adventure is lacking something. Most of all, the Empire is not nearly _ruined_ enough! While we get a few good scenes of civil strife and rebellion in the middle act in particular, the “good ending” apparently stops the civil war before it even had time to start properly and a whole lot of unresolved conflicts are apparently glossed over (perhaps some of this will be addressed further in the Companion). The reason for this is not hard to see; the new version is stuck with having to end with, if not quite the status quo of WFB 6-8E ca 2522, then at least something clearly heading there. Which means a few provinces disappear or have new rulers, but not much more. This forced restraint really hurts the adventure, though. The gay abandon with which Empire in Flames trashed its own setting is keenly missed. The big disastrous event – Sigmar’s hammer (in fact a copy) breaking – seemed very anticlimactic to me, compared to the shocking deaths of the Emperor, his heir and Graf Boris in EiF.

This means, among other things, that while the PCs get involved quite a bit more with the political developments and conflicts than in EiF, it mostly focuses on changing the maps to the 2E setup, and while some of this is well-handled (I quite liked the Averland interlude), all the Nordland independence stuff was dreadfully unexciting to me. The Ulric-Sigmar conflict is more interesting but it largely disappears from the adventure after the first act. The finale also only involves the big shots of Altdorf, since the various electors and provincial rulers have only had time to get home and start prepping for war.

That said, again, there are plenty of nice components here. Apart from things I already mentioned, I liked most of the hammer-quest stuff – the Caves of Chaos have a true “mythic underworld” feel to them, which I enjoyed; I liked the scheming nobles in the second act; I liked that the various Chaos cults and factions didn’t all work toward the same goals but had their own (actually fairly reasonable, from their POVs) objectives.

I’m not quite decided whether I find it amusingly or annoyingly meta that Gideon, in his efforts to stage-manage his scheme and get the PCs where he wants them when, acts exactly like the worst kind of railroading GM. Since this is clearly deliberately written as such I’m leaning more towards “amusingly meta”, but I suspect this will need a deft touch to be fun for the players.

All in all, I’m ambivalent. On the whole I feel Empire in Ruins is a little underwhelming, but I do think it’s less underwhelming and disappointing than I expected it to be, and I really did like much of it. I’m not going to run it straight but I’ll definitely be nicking a number of bits from it.
FasterThanJesus
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:30 pm
Location: UK

Theo wrote:
Tue Sep 28, 2021 1:36 pm
We finally get the big secret plots behind the new TEW and Ubersreik campaigns, and it turns out they’re not that complex and could easily have been (and should have been) summarized in a page or two in the Starter Set and repeated in the introduction to Enemy in Shadows. That’s not to say the plots themselves are bad (mostly) – simple is probably good. I do really like the idea of Gideon returning as the behind-the-scenes villain with a plan that is, pretty much, a larger-scale version of his scheme in Shadows Over Bögenhafen: freeing the trapped greater daemon Sheerargetru. The idea of several competing Chaos factions wanting to groom Prince Wolfgang – a thoroughly decent chap in this version, unlike the poor sod in EiF - for contradictory purposes (a sacrificial lamb in Gideon’s plan, a puppet ruler for others, etc) is fine but a bit underdeveloped.
I finally read the first chapter properly. I largely agree with your points here. I think Gideon's scheme is a little "xanatos gambit" and elaborate for a simple goal - quite why Gideon needs to manipulate the PCs is beyond me when there are simpler ways of effecting Ghal Maraz's return. However, I can give a pass for a Tzeentchian daemon in this. Musing on the wider implications, I do think this was a difficult spot for the writers/developers to get out of: be true to the original, retain the themes and complete the plotlines of earlier installments, smooth out the WFRP v1 to WFB v7/The Old World inconsistencies, do it in a couple of hundred pages and make grognards happy. That last point isn't just fascetious either, we've all got our head canon on top of the other unofficial EiF variants leaving a lot of requirements to satsify. I'm not sure I'd be as generous if this was written from scratch without those immutable restrictions. As such, I think it's entirely acceptable. I'd still be happier if we were given a clue as to what Gideon was up to earlier in the campaign, as well as this far more thorough dive into the activities of the Purple Hand; at least some of that should have appeared in the EiS companion. This is particlarly frustrating as that companion was generally (IMO) useful and contained a lot of good stuff with the exception of the Purple Hand section. Obviously nobody had thought about satirising the Five Eyes surveillance agreement at that stage.

For me, as someone who will have all of the set by the time I get to running the campaign, these points are rendered largely superfluous - however, even for someone who intends to get the whole collection and run it all, they're required to read everything first and that's a big ask when dealing with ~1500 pages of content. This is why I had my rambling point on Gideon's blog about how an edit of the whole lot is needed, but perforce impossible due to the publishing demands. Sadly, it's not a perfect world.
Zisse
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:14 pm

First of all: I am very happy with the adventure overall. It concludes the campaign well in my view.
I read the whole book once and did not yet go back to the first chapters to see if I missed something. After that one read-through, I worry that it's going to be extremely difficult to ensure that the players keep up with the plot and have a chance to uncover all layers of scheming.

I like how the party's Allegiance between Sigmarites and Ulricans is measured. This should be made transparent to the players so that it matters to them.
Also the different measures of success at the very end are nice. Again, it has to be somehow transparent to the players. This is more difficult, because to understand that they need to understand the different scheming layers. I am looking forward to the experience of other tables. We did not start the campaign yet and we are slow.

The content is actually a lot. Like THR I think another 20 pages for plot diagrams, interrelation diagrams of the NPCs, maps etc. would have helped. Maybe that's the engineer in me, but often a diagram explains way more than the text that is on the same space.
Theo
Posts: 150
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:25 pm

FasterThanJesus wrote:
Wed Sep 29, 2021 8:36 am
I do think this was a difficult spot for the writers/developers to get out of: be true to the original, retain the themes and complete the plotlines of earlier installments, smooth out the WFRP v1 to WFB v7/The Old World inconsistencies, do it in a couple of hundred pages and make grognards happy.
Agreed - and I've always considered it 100% reasonable to make the last point the bottom priority. I've known all along I'm not really the core target audience. If anything I was pleasantly surprised that more of the stuff was to my tastes than I'd have expected.

What annoys me is the mean-spirited lack of any transparency whatsoever about where things were heading. It's like they didn't want GMs to be able to plan their campaigns. I wonder if this was a policy mandated by C7 or even GW, or if the writers were just stuck in the 80s and 90s?
sx dwarf
Posts: 45
Joined: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:36 pm

FasterThanJesus wrote:
Wed Sep 29, 2021 8:36 am
Obviously nobody had thought about satirising the Five Eyes surveillance agreement at that stage.
https://www.voltairenet.org/article213959.html ;)
FasterThanJesus
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:30 pm
Location: UK

Ha. All is now clear. I wonder if Gideon Osborne (real name of George, former British chancellor) is pulling the strings.
FasterThanJesus
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:30 pm
Location: UK

Development update out today. Slight delay in Empire in Ruins Companion but Archives of the Empire Volume II has been released in PDF.

I grabbed it earlier, lots of stuff on Ogres, a good 30 pages or so. A decent sized section on Magic Items - a more sophisticated version of what was in 1st ed. Some stuff on starsigns, which is mostly flavour but adds small bonuses and maluses to appropriate stats (like +2 or 3).
johnfinnswife
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:02 am

FasterThanJesus wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:05 am
Development update out today. Slight delay in Empire in Ruins Companion but Archives of the Empire Volume II has been released in PDF.

I grabbed it earlier, lots of stuff on Ogres, a good 30 pages or so. A decent sized section on Magic Items - a more sophisticated version of what was in 1st ed. Some stuff on starsigns, which is mostly flavour but adds small bonuses and maluses to appropriate stats (like +2 or 3).
Hello mate, when you've got a second, d'you mind giving your opinion on the mass combat rules?

I've never found a "zoomed out battle resolution with scope for individual actions that affect the overall outcome" system that ever fitted/worked/appealed to me, was hoping this would be the kiddie (I'm looking at you, finale at Castle Wittgenstein...).

Thanks if you do manage to comment.
FasterThanJesus
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:30 pm
Location: UK

johnfinnswife wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 3:04 am
Hello mate, when you've got a second, d'you mind giving your opinion on the mass combat rules?

I've never found a "zoomed out battle resolution with scope for individual actions that affect the overall outcome" system that ever fitted/worked/appealed to me, was hoping this would be the kiddie (I'm looking at you, finale at Castle Wittgenstein...).

Thanks if you do manage to comment.
No problem. I've not read that section that but I was also curious from just finishing reading EiR, which has a couple of large battles that could do with a bit of narrative help.
johnfinnswife
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:02 am

FasterThanJesus wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 6:53 am
johnfinnswife wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 3:04 am
Hello mate, when you've got a second, d'you mind giving your opinion on the mass combat rules?

I've never found a "zoomed out battle resolution with scope for individual actions that affect the overall outcome" system that ever fitted/worked/appealed to me, was hoping this would be the kiddie (I'm looking at you, finale at Castle Wittgenstein...).

Thanks if you do manage to comment.
No problem. I've not read that section that but I was also curious from just finishing reading EiR, which has a couple of large battles that could do with a bit of narrative help.
Cheers!
FasterThanJesus
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:30 pm
Location: UK

The Empire in Ruins Companion is now out on PDF. This things looks very much like an expansion after glancing at the contents.
Zisse
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:14 pm

The first chapter definitely is an expansion, especially since it provides a map for a chapter of the adventure. Also the elaboration on the different endings is of that type. Then you have a few additional encounters. They also are clearly designed for the adventure. Further there's more detail on the goblin tribe. And finally the B-side campaign is coming to an end.
Only one adventure is in there, which is completely unrelated.
This companion is really great. You can feel that some chapters still need a bit of editing, but that doesn't mean it's not usable.
Zisse
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:14 pm

I forgot to mention the chapter about Nordland, which also expands the political story there. Also the Imperial ostlanders have a chapter. Here and in the endings chapter the possible future of the empire and the next Whaagh is explained.
And then the changeling chapter finishes what was started in the previous companions. This is a bit more detailed than in the previous companions. If you put all changeling pieces together it's usable, if you like the concept.
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