Reviews and opinions of WFRP 4e adventures

The enemy lurks in shadows
MadMarkus
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2020 4:10 pm

Hi there,

I seem to be unable to google any reviews of WFRP 4e adventures, perhaps except the Enemy Within campaign. But nothing really about the whole Übersreik series etc. So let me create this thread and invite all of you to share your insights. I'll be grateful to hear from any of you who has played - or even just read - some of the WFRP 4e adventures and would like to share their thoughts. I'll start with dumping some of my thoughts and rating the adventures on a 1-5 scale. Then it's up to you.

Note: I come from the OSR scene (which colors my expectations) where review blogs are commonplace so I was hoping to find something similar on the WFRP scene - after all, the 4e is a bit of a retro effort, isn't it? I tend to like open-ended sandboxy adventures with lots of player agency. I also tend to like brevity and easy-to-scan, usable text so encountering WFRP was a bit of a shock to me, but I think I've mostly adjusted. My entry to WFRP was Enemy in Shadows, which I love! Death on the Reik is also brilliant. But I struggle to find similar quality in the new Cubicle 7 efforts, and I'm mostly disappointed. So without further ado:

===

** – IF LOOKS COULD KILL

The author has no actual idea how to write an adventure. To read this is pain. The adventure is presented as a blatant railroad and written as a series of cutscenes, which drag on and give no opportunity for actually doing anything but listen to the NPCs and enjoy the scenery. The text is unusable, presented as wall-of-text paragraphs that haphazardly combine a place description here, an NPC and its goals there, interspersed by some events, quotes, then another location... just horrible. Unusable unless the players follow the scripted sequence exactly.

So: A young trader and his business partner are building a mill in a supposedly haunted swamp. They hire the adventurers to do exciting adventurous work, eg. "guard these crates and dig up some standing stones" because their Strigany labourers refuse to touch them. This brings us to about the half of the adventure, and finally something starts happening. Things take turn to the worse... in a different way than you might expect. There's scheming, a conflict with the "beast", possibly even a moral dilemma.

Overall, there's some talking and two fights.

There's a solid encounter buried underneath all this dredge. The work camp contains several colourful NPCs with various conflicts and secrets which may be used in play. There are couple of nice treasures, and a nice idea including the usage of success levels to "fail forward" while digging up the stones. And the actual finale, when things go bad, seems enjoyable. I can see myself using this as a complex encounter while travelling or as a random hook inside a larger sandbox – but I will have to hack the thing apart mercilessly and destroy the dreadful railroaded structure. You can hardly call this an "adventure", and it has no right to have 26 pages. God!

At least it's free. (Unfortunately, I actually paid for is as part of the hardcover collection.)

===

*** – THE MAD MEN OF GOTHEIM

There are around 10 NPC in a devastated, postapocalyptic town, all of them crazy. The players interrogate them and try to piece out what happened here (obviously, a monster razed the town). This is a social adventure, each of the NPC having some sort of insanity, which serves as a roleplaying "puzzle" to solve - then you get their info. That's the good bit of this adventure - mood, interesting fun-to-play NPCs and interacting with them. The structure of the piece is actually very simple, if not primitive. Just talk to all of them, solve the social puzzles, then piece it all together, use some of the tools provided to you, and go fight a monster.

The good thing is that it's all player-driven. The bad thing is that there's nothing else to do. No sidetracks, no inner conflict inside the town, no further content, no added complexity that would stay with you for future adventures. The only gameable thing about the NPCs is solving their social puzzles.

And then you're supposed to fight a huge monster. By yourselves. Just to be a hero. Not because you have to, but because that's what this adventure is about and there's nothing else to do. Which somehow doesn't gel with my idea of what WFRP is about. Feels too heroic, too much like D&D. But I guess that's the "new WFRP" as opposed to the "1e WFRP"? It's not bad but probably not very usable for my preferred style of play. I guess my players would just ignore the monster and go on.

The format of the adventure is terrible as usual for WFRP. All is very much reliant on careful time tracking because the situation gets progressively worse. But there's no tool or advice to help you track time - I have no idea how long are things supposed to take or when things are supposed to happen. The NPCs here are "scripted" to attempt certain actions, there are some scripted events, but all of that without any time specification. Plus all of the scripted actions and events are buried in lengthy descriptions of specific NPCs or locations and not summarised anywhere. I wish this would just use a simple timeline as Rough Nights. That would work. This doesn't.

And don't let me start on the overwritten text. A typical scene would be: a simple location, four NPCs in a single room. Not very complicated but described on 2-3 densely packed wall-of-text pages. Impossible to use at the gaming table. Literally physically impossible. You have to make your own notes and summaries.

Not a bad oneshot if you can handle the heroic aspect and are willing to handle the bloated text.

===

** – ONE SHOTS OF THE REIKLAND

More like Railroads of the Reikland

My quest to find anything good amongst new WFRP releases (sans the 1e reprints, which are brilliant) continues to be futile.

These are not adventures. These are series of barely interactive cutscenes. Low interactivity, not much to do, seriously overwritten, and all of it is in the genre: „Guess the GM's intended solution and then do it.“ You can't think of an solution of your own, either because it's actively blocked (say, by an infinite mob of monsters) or because there's no content outside the intended rail. So hop aboard the choo choo and do exactly what we want you to do so that you can enjoy the contrived epic finale - typically, a fight.

Yes, you can engage in some cosmetic roleplaying but it doesn't really matter.

To add insult to injury, this is apparently from the "new school" WFRP where characters are supposed to be heroes, always willing to fight monsters and help villagers in need just because!

Honorary mention goes to the cheesy adventure which actually starts as a tiny funny and open (!) investigation but of course ends just as it is about to get interesting - in a fight. Sigh.

I had to force myself to finish reading. 38 pages for five tiny one-shots!!! Typically 6-8 pages for one of them. Graeme Davis would cram 7 plots in 8 pages. Here, you get three or four cutscenes and that's it.

====

That's it. I will continue later with some adventures I actually like! (The Affair of the Hidden Jewel, and The Night of Blood). In the meantime, I'd be grateful for any thoughts you might have.

Cheers,
M.
Last edited by MadMarkus on Sun May 30, 2021 2:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Orin J.
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i agree with all your points, and the unspoken issue that the current writers have with Railroading the story for every adventure rather than finding good plot hooks to draw the players into wanting to see things through.
Dieter
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Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2021 3:57 am

Hello,

This iniciative is very helpful as I also find a quite surprising lack of WFRP 4e reviews.
I have not DM´d any current edition original adventure as I find them below par in terms of what i am used to in this game, perhaps there is some hidden jewell there; if so thank you beforehand for pointing it out.

I take the liberty to propose a 3rd Edition Adventure which I have DMd recently with very nice results (albeit with some welcomed homebrew changes and also adapted to 4th Edition): The Witch´s Song
I think It is a pretty and well-structured solid adventure with can be used to launch a campaign.
Robin
Posts: 37
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MadMarkus wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 10:02 am

A typical scene would be: a simple location, four NPCs in a single room. Not very complicated but described on 2-3 densely packed wall-of-text pages. Impossible to use at the gaming table. Literally physically impossible. You have to make your own notes and summaries.
Can't agree with that, I'm afraid. I find that tedious and uninspiring. I want to read something that brings the location and characters to life. Ideally, a description shouldn't be a short list of things to tell the players about, but something that gives the GM a feel for the location or NPC so they can run it without recourse to notes. Sure, Snotling #5 doesn't need that kid of write up, but if it did have, I'd cheerfully take it and use it elsewhere.

I remember posting a description of an NPC I'd written up years ago and had forgotten all about. I was told it was useless, because the players would never learn anything of the NPC's backstory. I read it again and immediately replied with an entire campaign structure that was embedded within that backstory. I'm not saying that's always the case, but what might look over-written can have value beyond the immediate scenario.

The problem I have with a lot of published material for games in general is that I find them underwritten, not very interesting to read and hence uninspiring. Give me something to get my teeth into. The problem of course is that publishers have financial and practical considerations, which limits word counts and sets deadlines, so it is a challenge. Fans have it easier.
To add insult to injury, this is apparently from the "new school" WFRP where characters are supposed to be heroes, always willing to fight monsters and help villagers in need just because!
The blood, shit and misery approach to WFRP arrived with WFRP2, so that's new school as far as I'm concerned. I've never liked it - grimness and peril is fine, but unrelenting misery and hopelessness, not for me. Anyone can play it that way, and that's absolutely fine, but there's no reason it has to be the only approach.

If you want something more sand-boxy, you might want to take a look at the Starter set. I bought that and it's what prompted me to buy into WFRP4. Besides simplified rules, dice and characters sheets, you also have a 65-page city guide for Übersreik and that is immensely useful. That sold me on what C7 is doing.

This is not to say I don't have specific issues with individual scenarios (I do), but I've learnt to revise away stuff that doesn't make sense to me - or just doesn't feel right - and that players take a different experience to that of the GM when they first read the scenario. I remember that when I first read The Haunting for Call of Cthulhu I thought it was utter rubbish. However, years later when I revised the introduction and cut a couple of things I ran it for some people and it worked fantastically, both for me and the players.

I don't see scenarios as something that should be run as written. They need tinkering. The GM needs to tailor the entry point specific groups and campaigns. Additional plot points need adding if the GM needs to take a campaign in certain direction afterwards. Some things may need toning down, others expanding, but the more detail the scenario has, the more the GM has to play with.


Regards,
Robin
yoroba
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Joined: Thu May 14, 2020 11:25 am

I don't see scenarios as something that should be run as written. They need tinkering.
I agree. This is also mentioned several times in the WFRP books.

I love the universe. I love the grimness. I love the idea-richness of the published material. I can agree that there are things that could be improved. Things that need tinkering... But that's part of my job as a GM. I tailor the game to mine and my player's needs (again: as C7 write in their books).
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Toby Pilling
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Robin wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:18 am
The blood, shit and misery approach to WFRP arrived with WFRP2, so that's new school as far as I'm concerned. I've never liked it - grimness and peril is fine, but unrelenting misery and hopelessness, not for me. Anyone can play it that way, and that's absolutely fine, but there's no reason it has to be the only approach.
It's interesting that you say that - I'd actually identify the beginning of that 'blood, shit and misery' approach to James Wallis and Hogshead Publishing, which would technically still be 1st edition. Green Ronin may have carried some of it over to 2nd edition, but I believe he started the process. Like you, it's not the way I run my games.

I totally agree with you regarding tinkering with published scenarios. In fact, tinkering with them also helps me remember what the hell is going on! I don't have to keep reading up on stuff if I've adapted it myself.

Regards,

Toby
Jadrax
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:25 pm
It's interesting that you say that - I'd actually identify the beginning of that 'blood, shit and misery' approach to James Wallis and Hogshead Publishing, which would technically still be 1st edition.
I think the Oldenhaller Contract has a pretty good claim on being the start of it, and that's from the original core book.
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Toby Pilling
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Jadrax wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:58 am
I think the Oldenhaller Contract has a pretty good claim on being the start of it, and that's from the original core book.
The financial rewards for PCs completing the Oldenhaller Contract were not insignificant. I think, as Robin says, there's a difference between 'grim and perilous' and 'miserable and hopeless'.

Getting back to the OP's point, the lack of 4th edition reviews is indeed a shame. If only Warpstone magazine were still being produced!

Regards,

Toby
Robin
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:25 pm
Robin wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:18 am
The blood, shit and misery approach to WFRP arrived with WFRP2, so that's new school as far as I'm concerned. I've never liked it - grimness and peril is fine, but unrelenting misery and hopelessness, not for me. Anyone can play it that way, and that's absolutely fine, but there's no reason it has to be the only approach.
It's interesting that you say that - I'd actually identify the beginning of that 'blood, shit and misery' approach to James Wallis and Hogshead Publishing, which would technically still be 1st edition. Green Ronin may have carried some of it over to 2nd edition, but I believe he started the process. Like you, it's not the way I run my games.
For myself, I can't say I noticed it until WFRP2 was announced and it started getting some discussion over on RPG.net. I can't say it wasn't there, but I wasn't conscious of it until then. I suppose there were rules for disease and madness in WFRP1, but they never really struck me as an important part of the game.

Looking at Hogshead's limited output, I can't really see it: Dying of the Light, Marienburg, Stone and Steel, and Realms of Sorcery don't seem unduly horrible (although it's a few years since I read them). Was there anything in particular that makes you think of Wallis/Hogshead? [Edit: or did you just mean Hogshead era, rather than Wallis/Hogshead creating that image?]

With regard to scenarios I think it's okay starting with the assumption that players are going to have their PCs do the (largely) decent thing. Sure, they might indulge in a little bit of theft, murder and arson... but they'll probably direct it at someone who really has it coming.

Regards,

Robin
johnfinnswife
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:15 am
Jadrax wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:58 am
I think the Oldenhaller Contract has a pretty good claim on being the start of it, and that's from the original core book.
The financial rewards for PCs completing the Oldenhaller Contract were not insignificant. I think, as Robin says, there's a difference between 'grim and perilous' and 'miserable and hopeless'.
So you're saying that it's the size of the mooted financial reward that sets the tone of a work of RPG fiction?

I could've sworn that The Oldenhaller Contract's atmosphere was provided by the mutated cultists, backstabbing factions, bleak tenements, untrustworthy patrons, dying gangsters & shitload of diseased rats, but thank you so much for enlightening me.

I am now going to summarily brighten all the LotFP adventures, merely by adding a zero to the end of any monetary reward available.
Zisse
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I fully agree we need more reviews. There were threads on a few Ubersreik Adventures. More interesting than just reviews would be improvement suggestions and examples how you/we/I adjusted extended the scenarios.

I really liked mad men of gotheim. The NPCs are fun. The end fight is just what it is, not the thing that made me like the adventure, but my group, coming from more heroic D&D adventures liked it.

If looks could kill is a little railroady, agreed.

I have not made up my mind on heart of glass. I like the way it starts, but the end is too loose for my taste. It's definitely something that I never saw in WFRP before. My players probably like the final location. Having a wizard in the group might help spinning the tale forward.

The Ubersreik Adventures are all one to two session scenarios. If you look at the whole collection as one, you can make a nice sandbox from it.

In general I like the way C7 publishes their adventures. I would prefer to have a clearer distinction between information for players and GM info that should not be read/summarized aloud immediately.

And then I can only reiterate that we are approaching crunch time with TEW 4 and 5 coming. I hope they will be as good as TEW1-3. After that I wish C7 publishes some additional standalone adventures.
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Toby Pilling
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Robin wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:01 pm
Was there anything in particular that makes you think of Wallis/Hogshead? [Edit: or did you just mean Hogshead era, rather than Wallis/Hogshead creating that image?]
The Hogshead final part of the Doomstones campaign, Heart of Chaos, I think epitomises the 'blood, shit and misery' approach - it was written by Robin D. Laws, whose own Warhammer novels also strike that tone.

As James himself wrote, in an infamous passage replying to a player bewailing his fate in an earlier published adventure - "(WFRP)...is about the PCs' day-to-day fight for survival in a universe that hates them. If you don't finish each adventure worse off than when you started it, your GM is doing something wrong. If you find yourself in a WFRP adventure and not knee-deep in shit then duck, because another load is past due."

The whole thing can be read here: http://www.criticalmiss.com/issue8/jame ... lies1.html

Regards,

Toby
Jadrax
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:15 am
The financial rewards for PCs completing the Oldenhaller Contract were not insignificant. I think, as Robin says, there's a difference between 'grim and perilous' and 'miserable and hopeless'.
yeah, i think that's a very good point. I like Warhammer to be grim (I'm a northerner, what do you expect), but there have been occasional scenarios which just seem to revel in the GM being unpleasant to the players for no reason. Doomstones 5 definitely, I seem to recall not liking forum favorite Dying of the Light for the same reasons. The Thousand Thrones definitely in parts, and you could probably make similar arguments for the Paths of the Damned (although, tbh that's the least of the issues).

To be fair, its all very subjective. Someone could probably make a at least a decent argument for Web of Eldaw if they were desperate to one-up me on Oldenhaller Contract....
Robin
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 3:12 am
Robin wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:01 pm
Was there anything in particular that makes you think of Wallis/Hogshead? [Edit: or did you just mean Hogshead era, rather than Wallis/Hogshead creating that image?]
The Hogshead final part of the Doomstones campaign, Heart of Chaos, I think epitomises the 'blood, shit and misery' approach - it was written by Robin D. Laws, whose own Warhammer novels also strike that tone.
You know, all these years and I've never read the Doomstones campaign. One of these days...
As James himself wrote, in an infamous passage replying to a player bewailing his fate in an earlier published adventure - "(WFRP)...is about the PCs' day-to-day fight for survival in a universe that hates them. If you don't finish each adventure worse off than when you started it, your GM is doing something wrong. If you find yourself in a WFRP adventure and not knee-deep in shit then duck, because another load is past due."

The whole thing can be read here: http://www.criticalmiss.com/issue8/jame ... lies1.html
Fair enough, can't argue with that!

Regards,
Robin
Wolf
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Robin wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:18 am

If you want something more sand-boxy, you might want to take a look at the Starter set. I bought that and it's what prompted me to buy into WFRP4. Besides simplified rules, dice and characters sheets, you also have a 65-page city guide for Übersreik and that is immensely useful. That sold me on what C7 is doing.
The city guide is good. I think it is fair to warn the OP that he isn’t going to like the Starter Set adventure much better, I suspect.
Wolf
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Robin wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 11:19 am
Toby Pilling wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 3:12 am

The Hogshead final part of the Doomstones campaign, Heart of Chaos, I think epitomises the 'blood, shit and misery' approach - it was written by Robin D. Laws, whose own Warhammer novels also strike that tone.
You know, all these years and I've never read the Doomstones campaign. One of these days...
You’ll really want to be signed up to the concept of pulling out just the parts that inspire you, IMV.

In the main, Doomstones looks like the sort of product that was probably showing its age when Flame first published it. There are a couple of interesting locations you could steal and do something significantly more interesting with and I am intrigued by the fact that we learn in the first one that the Warhammer World supports gigantic Pangolins (which I have always been slightly disappointed haven’t ever been used again) but beyond that the whole follow the breadcrumbs left by a literate orc to go dungeon bashing is probably better ignored.
Wolf
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By far and away the best adventures I have read for 4th edition are in Rough Nights and Hard Days. One is a classic republished and one a major expansion on a former largely lost adventure and some of the others don’t always quite hit the mark but overall it’s a good collection.

Gideon’s review over at Awesome Lies largely encapsulates my feelings and is much better written and fuller than I would manage so have a look over there!
Robin
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As some of you may be aware, Cubicle 7 have just released a scenario I've written for WFRP4 entitled Something Knocking. It's available as a PDF over on DriveThruRPG. I'm always happy to see reviews or general discussion of anything I've written, so please feel free to post here, even if it's just to clarify something.

Regards,

Robin
dry_erase
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Robin wrote:
Thu Apr 29, 2021 2:07 pm
As some of you may be aware, Cubicle 7 have just released a scenario I've written for WFRP4 entitled Something Knocking. It's available as a PDF over on DriveThruRPG. I'm always happy to see reviews or general discussion of anything I've written, so please feel free to post here, even if it's just to clarify something.

Regards,

Robin
It's very very good. The introduction of the undead in the first half is fantastically atmospheric and quite melancholy. The villain is a refreshing twist on WFRP archetypes and I like the way you've structured the plot - it's involved without being unecessarily complex.

It's also a nice change of pace from some of the other WFRP4 adventures, in that it has a very different feel to it. Great stuff - I bet it plays very well.
MadMarkus
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Robin wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:18 am
Can't agree with that, I'm afraid. I find that tedious and uninspiring. I want to read something that brings the location and characters to life. Ideally, a description shouldn't be a short list of things to tell the players about, but something that gives the GM a feel for the location or NPC so they can run it without recourse to notes.
Actually, I'm not arguing for minimalism for the same reason as you - I find minimalistic adventures bland, lacking the detail that I love. I'm arguing for complexity and better text organization that helps me handle the complexity - for example, Enemy in Shadows is complex and detailed but the book still felt quite well-organized to me. Even a better example: Rough Nights at the Three Feathers. It's immensely complex but the text really helps running it.

Compared to that: The Mad Men of Gotheim. There's an element of time running out, and the NPC are scripted to do specific actions at specific times... yet, there is no timeline summary and all the "scripted actions" are scattered throughout the text. You can't just see at a glance what's going on. You have to hunt for all the specifics in all the descriptions.... and then make your own summaries that will help you run the game. Same goes for NPC goals, and I really find a single scene described on 2–3 pages with little text organization hard to run.

But I feel that the underlying assumption underneath most 4e adventures is that you will run them as a railroad, and therefore you don't need any summaries or better text organization. You don't need a timeline because you will make things happen whenever you want them to happen. You don't need complexity and text organized in a way that helps handling the complexity... because you will just run the scenes one after another as they follow in the book, page after page. The GM will railroad the players, thus reducing complexity and making stuff easier to run. This is, of course, a wild guess - it's just the impression that I get from the way the adventures are structured.

But as I've said, I've mostly come to terms with the fact that WFRP adventures are written in a wordy conversational style, and I'm not holding it against them. I'm trying to find those that offer enough complexity beneath that, and those that aren't railroady.
I don't see scenarios as something that should be run as written.
Agreed. But there's still good scenarios and bad ones. If I have to deconstruct a scenario completely and reassemble it in my own fashion just to be able to run it in a way that's not frustrating, then that's a badly designed scenario. See If Looks Could Kills, which has some great ideas and imagery but it's a blatant railroad with no player agency. And to "fix" this means to dissasemble and recreate the whole thing. At this point, I may as well create my own scenarios.

Compare to, say Rough Nights or Night of Blood, on which I don't have to "fix" anything. They just work as they are. I can take them and embellish them, build my own stuff on top of them, but the underlying structure just works and needs no fixing. That's a good scenario.
If you want something more sand-boxy, you might want to take a look at the Starter set.
Oh no, the adventure there is a horrible railroad. :lol: Not for me!
As some of you may be aware, Cubicle 7 have just released a scenario I've written for WFRP4 entitled Something Knocking.
Thanks for the tip! I'll certainly take a look.

===

And thanks to everyone for joining the discussion, the part about when the grimness started was interesting. If you have some tips or recommendations on adventures you like, it would be great to hear them. And feel to disagree with my anti-railroad sentiments! That's even better, at least we'll have something to talk about.

I'll try to post more mini-reviews soon.
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