Monday, May 16, 2011

Without The Enemy Within


One of the best and most beloved recorded Warhammer Fantasy Role Play campaigns that can be found on the great wide web will be ending this week. The Seattle-based gaming group has been running Enemy Within (Journey Into Madness) since September 2009. Since that time, 41 sessions have been posted on their blog, and I have listened to every one. Twice.

I heard about this blog when investigating WFRP 3rd Edition, published by Fantasy Flight Games. A forum member cited them as a standout example of how pen and paper RPG's should be. As I was about to GM my first sessions of the Dragon Age RPG I was very keen to listen to examples of how GM'ing is 'done'. After hearing the first session I was hooked, and I ended up taking on many aspects of Tim's GM style. Being Warhammer made it all the better!

The Enemy Within is regarded as one of the classic RPG campaigns of the past 30 years; a darker, grittier, more dangerous version of the popular Dungeons & Dragons in which no-one escapes unscathed or completely sane, and which explored urban settings to much more detail than other game systems. Set in an alternate timeline from the common Warhammer Fantasy canon, the storyline is as epic as it is compelling. And these guys do it justice.



The player characters embraced the Warhammer setting, and made for truly memorable listening. Being along for the journey with these guys as they progressed through the campaign has been hilarious. For every mutation and insanity they acquire, every fate point they spend - I feel like I know them all personally, and am slightly sad and nostalgic now that it is coming to an end. The fanatical dwarf devotee of Sigmar, Triex, and his elf-hatin' ways; the tomb-robber Zed and his eternal quest for a repeating crossbow; Brutus and his whoring, to name but three. They all kept me hanging out for the next session.

After listening to other recorded RPG game-play by other groups, I find these guys so easy to listen to. No annoying voices or personalities, nothing which grates on my nerves at all.  Great people, with great senses of humour, who clearly gel together very well.

Of course, it may not be everyone's cup of tea. There are sessions which are heavy in mechanical rules 'stuff', like when the players are in town shopping for new equipment, or sailing up and down the River Reik buying and selling wares for the best profit margin. But personally I enjoy all these details too, as they lend to the sense of the reality of the game created by their able GM. Tim would be the first to state that not every session is action packed with story telling - he generally states his thoughts on this in the session descriptions. There is a lot of recorded material to get through too, but if you like audio-books and Warhammer you can't really go wrong. You can even find them on iTunes.

The rules the GM uses are a hybrid of 1st and 2nd edition WFRP rules, and while it all seems very esoteric in the first few episodes, you very quickly get a hang of what's happening.

But every good thing must come to an end, as they say, and the campaign is winding down. Due to real life commitments this will mean an end to the recorded game-play sessions. I sincerely hope this gaming group try something similar again, maybe 3rd edition or even with a different setting or system. By all accounts this effort has proven popular.

So this has been my small tribute and token of appreciation for years of quality entertainment. I tip my hat, raise my stein, make sure my coin-purse is where it should be, and wish Nigel 'the Slayer' Lancaster (Jeremy), Triex Khan (Jeff), Brutus Stefanus (Alan), Manny Steigler (Jaichen), Zed of the repeating crossbow (Wade) and GM Tim the very best in their future endeavours.

Now, the wait continues for the final showdown!