Thursday, 20 December 2018

Adventures in miniature painting

It's time I came clean about something. All the Warhammer stuff I've been reading over the last few months has obviously affected me on a much deeper level than I wanted to admit. It's made me do something I thought I'd never do again.

For the first time in twenty years, I've started painting miniatures.

Initially, I felt as though I barely remembered which end of the brush to hold. I bought a sprue of Moria goblins off ebay, for no reason except that they were cheap, and used them for painting practise. The results, unsurprisingly, were pretty rough.

Still, I'd found painting them to be extremely relaxing, and it had given me a taste for painting goblins. So I pulled all the teeny-tiny goblin figures from my 1st edition Battlelore box and painted them, as well.

And then the goblin models from Arena of the Planeswalkers, for good measure.

By this point, my confidence, if not my skill, was increasing. So I decided to take on a bigger project: painting all the miniatures from the old D&D boardgame I bought earlier this year.

The next step, obviously, was to move onto the other board game I acquired at the same time, Legend of Drizzt, and its sister game, Castle Ravenloft. These came with a lot of miniatures, so getting them all painted up is clearly going to be a long-term project.


In between board game miniatures, I also painted a few other orcs and goblins from here and there.

And some cultists and adventurers from Frostgrave:

So, four months in, here's what I have painted up so far.

The humanoid horde:

The lich and his minions:

Dungeon dwellers:

The Company of the Foaming Tankard:


I'm still not very good, and I'm focusing on speed and efficiency rather than fine detail, but I think I'm getting better. I've recently picked up some new paints and brushes, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with them in the new year!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

[Actual Play] Holy Heat-Rays, Batman! Team Tsathogga ascends the Plateau of Yeth

In my last actual play write-up, I described how Team Tsathogga adopted what remained of the Devourer cult, promising to lead them through the thousand miles of unmapped wilderness that lay between them and the sea. Before they went, though, they decided to give their shrine a really thorough looting: and so, while Tiny drilled the undead cultists in the arts of sign language and phalanx warfare, the rest of the PCs descended once again into the Deathfrost Mountain shrine.

Now, Death Frost Doom has a bit of a reputation as a party killer - but it was written as a module for low-level characters, and it was simply never designed to survive the attentions of a cautious, systematic, and well-equipped party of 7th level PCs. Even the true Dead King turned out not to be much of a threat to a party able to throw 30-odd HP worth of unavoidable Magic Missile damage at him every single round. Slowly, carefully, at a rate of a few rooms per day, Team Tsathogga explored and ransacked the entire place, toasting most of the undead along the way. They even added insult to injury by reconsecrating the main shrine in the name of the Frog God. The only inhabitants they spared were the two obese ghouls, who freaked them out so much that they just walled them up inside their own crypt and left them alone, and the Red Architect, whom they freed from her crypt/prison and allowed to tag along with them on the condition that she swore on the Testifier never to directly (or indirectly) cause (or allow) them (or their allies) to come to harm (as they themselves would define it). Through extensive questioning they learned all about her complicated backstory, the interlinked histories of the Devourer cult and the faith of the Shining One, how the shrine came to be built, what powered all the weird magical stuff inside it, and so on. Then they locked her inside a room and went off to discuss how best to destroy her life's work.

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Pick on somebody your own level for once!
When the last room had been searched and looted, the PCs paused to take stock. By questioning the cultists, they had learned that the thousands of glass globes within the amorphous body of the Divine Parasite each contained a human soul, suspended in liquid time. They knew that roughly half of these were the souls of the cultists who had served at the shrine over the centuries, who experienced the song of the Parasite as a blissful rest, and that the other half were the souls of their sacrificial victims, who experienced it as continual torment. They knew from bitter experience that when a globe was broken, the soul within it immediately fled back to its corpse and reanimated it - at least until the corpse itself was destroyed, at which point it passed on to whatever afterlife awaited it. And they knew that the embalmed corpses of a thousand-odd cultists still remained in the shrine's burial vaults, awaiting the final arrival of the Devourer so that they could march forth and destroy the world in its name. They didn't much like the idea of leaving this sleeping corpse-army intact, and they really didn't like the idea of leaving the souls of a thousand-odd innocent people stranded in eternal suffering. But how was the situation to be resolved without unleashing an evil undead army upon the world?

In the end, they hit upon a sort-of solution. The cultist corpses were embalmed, so they reasoned that they would burn readily. The Divine Parasite clearly didn't like heat or fire, so a firestorm big enough to consume a thousand bodies would almost certainly be sufficient to burn it to death, thus freeing all the souls within it. Relocating that many corpses from their burial niches to the corridor right next to the parasite was a big job, but Titus was able to raise twenty-seven of them as a zombie work gang, capable of labouring day and night to drag the rest into position. The PCs made sure that the corpses were suitably arranged, with plenty of air-space to allow the fire to spread, and pockets of oil-soaked kindling distributed throughout the hecatomb. They armed their zombies with burning torches and gave them orders to advance in waves and light the fire, with each pair stepping forwards to rekindle the blaze whenever it seemed in danger of burning out, and the last four standing as guardians to whack any half-burned undead cultists who managed to fight their way free of the inferno. Then they piled lots of rocks on top of the entrance to the shrine and ran away.

Their plan was for the fire to destroy the vast majority of the cultist's corpses before it reached the Parasite and burned it to death, with the result that only a small number of them would be able to reanimate, and that those that did would mostly find themselves trapped under a heap of burning skeletons in the middle of a firestorm and burn to death before they were able to escape. The remainder would hopefully be finished off by the zombies. As for the souls of their victims, they would be free... to reanimate their corpses in the mass grave on the mountainside. This was, they acknowledged, a potential problem, as prior experience had shown that such souls tended to be hopelessly crazed by their experiences within the Parasite, and prone to random acts of violence. But the resulting zombie army would be disorganised, and would presumably emerge from their graves in waves, given the varying lengths of time that it would take to dig themselves free of the frozen soil. Forces from Vornheim were probably already on their way, as the Grand Duke must by now have received word of their (fictional) 'secret mission' and realised that something on Deathfrost Mountain had gone badly wrong. And even if the area around the shrine did get reduced to an uninhabitable skeleton-infested wasteland, was that really worse than allowing the suffering of the souls within the Parasite to continue forever?

So they took the Red Architect, and they took their own undead cultists, and they ran away. From the safety of the next valley, they watched the mountain shake and tremble, and they knew the Divine Parasite was dead: Vorn, the God Beneath the Mountain, was stirring in his sleep, probably obliterating what was left of the shrine in the process. (They knew from questioning the Architect that the shrine of the Devourer had literally been built directly over his face.) They reassured the anxious cultists that this was an auspicious sign, a good omen for their journey, symbolising that the old dispensation was over and that it was time for them to return to the Hissing Prophets of the Purple Islands. Then they turned their backs on Deathfrost Mountain and marched west, while up in the jumbled, frozen soil of the mass grave, hundreds of skeletal hands began to claw their way up towards the surface...

Image result for zombie hand coming out of grave
It'll be fiiine...

Still, that was now someone else's problem. Team Tsathogga led their followers over the mountains: an arduous journey made possible only by Resist Cold and Resist Energy spells, and by the fact that the undead were impervious to bad weather. Descending the far side of the range, they saw broken lands stretching out before them: the beginning of the great Northern Wilderness, to which no kingdom laid claim. Knowing that they were now well and truly off the map, they began using Sovan as a spotter: each morning, while they had breakfast, he would sit cross-legged and slowly levitate straight up to a height of 3000 feet, look around, and then slowly levitate back down again. In this way they were able to get a sense of the surrounding terrain, and plotted their journey further west, across the hills and up the looming slopes of a high plateau. Sovan had glimpsed something up there glinting like glass in the far distance, and they wanted to know what it was.

The PCs hadn't progressed very far across the plateau when they encountered its inhabitants: a race of minotaurs, primitive pastoralists who lived by herding sheep across its meagre pastures. (The similarities between the minotaurs and his own horned, thick-skinned, vat-grown warrior race were not lost on Tiny, who suspected that either his people had been modelled on them, or vice versa.) The minotaurs were initially suspicious of the intrusion into their lands, proclaiming that they were the guardians of the Vitreous Citadels, and would permit no-one to approach them: but the PCs insisted that they were just passing through, leading a procession of 'pilgrims' (i.e. the undead cultists) whose exacting ritual purity requirements meant that they had to stay covered up and avoid contact with unbelievers at all times. They promised to perform great feats of healing and woodwork for the minotaurs in exchange for safe passage; and the bull-men, evidently curious, brought them back to their village, where the PCs were promptly set to work healing the sick (with Cure Disease spells) and creating various kinds of decorative woodwork (with Warp Wood spells). Impressed by their evident magical prowess, and not especially eager to pick a fight with a large group of magically-powerful travellers, the minotaurs agreed to let them pass through their lands on the condition that they stayed as far away from the citadels as possible. These citadels, they explained, were the homes of a bat-winged race called the Yeth, whom the minotaurs regarded with reverence and superstitious dread.

While staying in the minotaur village, the PCs befriended two of its other residents. One of these was a wandering vulture-man: his name was an untranslatable sequence of calls that sounded a bit like 'Keuuah-kehhueak', so the players decided to call him Kerouac for short. Kerouac told them that his people, the vulture-men, had once ruled over a carrion kingdom in this region, until a coalition of other races led by the Yeth had torn them down: ever since then, those of them that remained had lived as travelling funerary-priests, wandering from one community to the next in order to carry out divinations, funerals, and exorcisms. The PCs deduced that the black magic practised by their late enemy, Hagen, must have been learned from the vulture-men, but when questioned on this, Kerouac insisted that their sacred dances were only ever to be taught to other vulture-men. He was very distressed at the idea of them being practised by a 'cave dwarf' like Hagen, and was relieved when the party explained that he was now dead. He also made clear that his people took a very dim view of undead, and was getting very suspicious of the 'pilgrims' until Sophie zapped him with a Charm Person spell and told him not to worry about it.

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My vulture-men are basically the ones from Elfmaids, although the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal were also an influence.
The second new acquaintance that the PCs made was an adolescent minotaur, sick of being stuck in his village and eager to see the world beyond. He told them that although his people regarded it as their sacred duty to protect the vitreous citadels of the Yeth, no-one had actually seen one of the Yeth within living memory. He strongly suspected that they were actually all dead, and pure cultural inertia was keeping his people stuck on the plateau when they should have been rampaging through the world outside.

Intrigued by all this, Hash and Sovan set off the next day to spy on the citadels under the cover of invisibility. Up close, it became obvious that the citadels had been shaped using some kind of immense heat, which seemed to have been able to melt rock into glass: this tallied with the stories told to them by Kerouac, which described the Yeth having possessed some kind of powerful fire-magic that had allowed them to burn the vulture-men out of the sky. The doors of the citadel had been melted shut, and the lowest windows were 15' off the ground: but Sovan was able to teleport up to them with a Dimension Door spell, and peered into the darkness within. Inside he saw a vast, vaulted hall, its walls covered in dusty bas-relief images depicting heroic-looking bat-men battling against humans, minotaurs, and vulture-men, and its floors covered in broken debris and rotted trash. His appearance on the windowsill triggered some kind of alarm, however, and as he scrambled down to hide in the trees outside he heard sounds of motion from within the citadel, followed by the appearance of a scrawny-looking bat-man in the window, who waved some kind of metal device around and yelled out words in an unfamiliar chirping tongue. Filtered through Comprehend Languages, they turned out to be: 'Who dares approach the citadels of Yeth? Flee, interlopers, lest we burn you where you stand! Yeth is magnificent! Yeth is invincible!'

Returning to the rest of the PCs, Hash and Sovan shared their conclusions: that while the Yeth still existed, they were clearly only a shadow of their former glory. The citadels had obviously been built for a population of thousands, but the time it had taken for even a single creature to respond to the alarm suggested that perhaps only a handful of inhabitants now remained within each of them. Curious, the PCs fobbed the minotaurs off with an excuse about needing to carry out some kind of purification ritual and headed off to the nearest citadel under the cover of illusion magic. Hiding in the bushes, they sent a minotaur-shaped Purple Simulacrum off to knock at the door, which triggered the alarm again: the same bat-man soon came to the window and began threatening it with his metal machine, while the PCs used illusions - shaped so that they appeared to emanate from the simulacrum - to indicate that they were interested in offering tribute, specifically tribute in the form of the Comprehend Languages spell so that they would actually be able to talk to each other. Another bat-creature from within started yelling out that it wanted to take them up on this, but the one in the window just shrieked that the Yeth needed nothing and that the 'minotaur' had to leave or die. When the simulacrum didn't comply, the bat-man finally zapped it with a searing blast of heat from his machine, evaporating it on the spot.

Somewhat irritated by this, Circe got Sovan to cast Resist Energy on her and stepped forwards to address the Yeth directly. Seeing a human so close to the citadel made the bat-man in the window freak out completely, and it promptly blasted her with its heat-ray: but Sovan's magic held strong, and the blast simply rippled harmlessly around her. A few more displays of magical might soon convinced the Yeth that the PCs were a force to be reckoned with, and after a chittering debate among themselves they agreed to accept their 'tribute' if it would make them go away. One of their number - a younger-looking bat-creature, the same one who had tried to accept the tribute when it was initially offered - volunteered to fly out to meet them that night at the minotaur village, while the rest of them shrieked dire threats about what would happen if they attempted any kind of trickery. Then the PCs sneaked back to the village under the cover of more illusions.

That evening, to the amazement of their minotaur hosts, the bat-man they had spoken to came flapping down out of the sky. The villagers all prostrated themselves before him, but he addressed them in their own language, assuring them that it had merely come to learn about the curious travellers in their midst. The PCs explained to him that he'd have to learn their language before he could learn their spells, but he turned out to be an eager, intelligent, and obviously highly-motivated student, and made rapid progress. Clearly somewhat envious, Kerouac insisted on being allowed to join the class too, although the vulture-man obviously had nothing like his classmate's aptitude for languages. For their part, the minotaurs now regarded the PCs with little short of reverence. Over the weeks that followed, the PCs gradually wandered west across the plateau, moving from village to village. Wherever they went, the minotaurs bowed down before the bat-man while the PCs performed miracles of healing and woodwork, with the result that the minotaurs swiftly came to view them as a band of magicians in the service of the Yeth.

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Our star pupil!
The name of their student was a series of high-pitched shrieks no human throat could possibly imitate. He explained that, in his own language, it meant 'Distiller of August Compounds, Son of the Distinguished Astronomer', so the PCs decided to call him 'Ron' for short. Ron told them that the Yeth had come to the plateau centuries ago, after abandoning the bloody religion of their ancestors and leaving their homeland in the underworld. On their long journey they had encountered a race of engineers in a 'machine-city' beneath the earth, who had taught them the ways of science and given them the heat-rays that had allowed them to build their citadels, tame the minotaurs, and break the power of the vulture-man empire: but their glory days were long gone, now, their numbers dwindled almost to nothing, and less of them were born into each generation. Ron told them that he had long dreamed of seeking out the lost homeland of his people and returning with a breeding population of bat-folk with which to renew their race, but the tunnels beneath the citadels led only to the machine city, and those who descended that way now did not return. He was eager to hear of their magic and their travels, and made them promise to reveal to him the entrance to the underworld which they had discovered beneath Bright Meadows, clearly convinced that if only he could reach it then the Yeth might still be saved.

One morning the PCs woke and found Kerouac gone: presumably Sophie's spell had worn off, and he had fled from them like the mind-controlling fiends they clearly were. (Under other circumstances he might have roused the minotaurs against them, but that was clearly not an option with Ron around.) With Ron and the minotaurs to protect them, however, the PCs feared nothing: and after completing their leisurely tour of the plateau, they descended off its western edge and into the forested hills beyond. They did, however, panic a bit when Ron identified the hunched mountain in front of them as Vulture Crag, one-time seat of the Empire of Carrion, and decided to give the whole region an extremely wide berth. Even so, their journey took them through various half-melted vulture-man ruins, some of them with ancient vulture-man bones still fused with the stone that they had been melted into by the heat rays of the Yeth. Surveying these, Ron reflected mournfully that the bas reliefs in his citadel had made the war between his people and the Empire look a lot more heroic and a lot less sad.

Descending into a heavily forested valley, the party suffered another loss when the Red Architect vanished into the night. Cursed to be unable to move in light, she had clearly taken advantage of the valley's darkness to escape; and while a thorough search suggested that she had headed south, her head start and the nature of the terrain made her recapture extremely unlikely. Her disappearance threw Titus into a deep depression, as he'd become friends with her over the course of the journey, and had been rejoicing in finally finding a woman - even an undead one - who shared his interest in necromancy and unholy magic. Her desertion clearly made his still-raw memories of the breakdown of his marriage come flooding back, and he climbed into the improvised howdah he had built on Zombie Runt Ape's back and drew the curtains, refusing to come out or to speak to anyone. Shortly afterwards he had one of his zombies kill a bird for him so that he could reanimate it, tie a skull to its leg, and send it flying off again over the forest, obviously using Skull Sight to scry on the surrounding area in the hopes of spotting where the Architect had gone.

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Fly, zombie bird! Bring my true love back again!
Weirdly enough, Titus's slump ended up setting off a bit of an emotional chain reaction in the rest of the party. What were they doing out there, in a wood, up a hill, in the middle of nowhere, leading a parade of evil skeletons on a thousand-mile journey to meet a snake-man toddler? They were in their late twenties, now - by the standards of their own peasant community, that was almost middle-age. What were they doing with their lives? Sophie tried to console herself by using illusions to live out her fantasy of being a successful academic instead of a homeless college drop-out turned roaming con-woman, but once they saw her doing it, all the PCs wanted one. Skadi had a fantasy of being a crime lord, lolling around on a giant pile of gold while relays of exploited orphans brought her stolen treasure. Hash had a fantasy of being a famous actor, treading the boards alongside Desdemona, the actress for whom he had been nursing an unrequited crush ever since he'd seen her perform back in Vornheim. Circe dreamed of owning all the sheep in the world. (She'd originally become an adventurer after being cheated out of a sheep someone owed her, and had clearly never got over it.) Sovan still longed for life as a successful drover out in the hills of Qelong. Even Ron got into the spirit of things, creating an illusion of himself single-handedly persuading a cave full of attractive young bat-ladies to abandon their horrible religion and take up the ways of Science instead, with such success that they all immediately agreed to become his wives and start bearing him litters of hideous bat-babies. In the end Sovan and Circe's dream-illusions got mixed up, with him fantasising about selling her sheep at an unbelievable mark-up, and the whole thing broke down. By then, of course, the Red Architect was far, far away.

After this bout of emotional self-indulgence, the PCs headed on west, into cave dwarf territory. Hash soon spotted that they were being watched at a distance by some wary cave dwarf scouts, so he promptly Charmed three out of four of them and called them down to join him: this they eagerly did, while the fourth of them ran off in horror, presumably to report that all his comrades had gone mad. They were sturdy but filthy-looking creatures, all hides and hair, and armed with stone hammers and axes; but despite their primitivism, their knowledge of the terrain was unparalleled. They explained that if the party wanted to reach the sea, they would have to pass either south, through the Cold Marshes, or north, through the Stonemoors: but the former was the home of the Marsh Giants, and the latter was currently wracked by some kind of tribal war. Surveying the way ahead, it seemed as though the hardest part of their journey was still be ahead of them...

Monday, 10 December 2018

Echoes and Reverberations part 2: the WFRP 3rd edition adventures

So, um, yeah. A huge pile-up of work wiped out all my evenings for a couple of weeks and meant that this took a lot longer than anticipated. But it's finished now. Many thanks to the anonymous benefactor who provided me with copies of all of these for review purposes.

Following on from my last post, I'm going to briefly discuss the various adventures that FFG released for WFRP 3, with a focus on which of them might be worth borrowing for use in games run using the WFRP 1 or WFRP 2 settings and rules. They're all full of nonsense about progress trackers and whatnot, but their 'clever' mechanics can almost always be stripped out with no real loss, which highlights how superfluous most of the mechanical innovations of WFRP 3 really were. Run them as traditional adventure scenarios and you should be fine.

Tl;dr version: The best ones here are 'An Eye For An Eye', The Witch's Song, and The Art of Waaagh!, although I'd run the third one in D&D rather than WFRP. The rest can be skipped.

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A Day Late and a Shilling Short (demo adventure): This isn't really an adventure at all, just a demonstration of the game mechanics. The PCs fight some beastmen in order to learn the combat rules, persuade a merchant to give them a package in order to learn the social rules, and then that's the end. Skip.

An Eye For An Eye (from the core set): This is a rather good investigation scenario, set in a hunting lodge whose staff have been infiltrated by chaos cultists. I'm not fond of 'suddenly, beastmen attack!' as the opening to a WFRP adventure, but aside from that this looks like it could be a good, creepy adventure to play through, with plenty of scope for the PCs to unravel the lodge's mysteries in different ways. It's a bit 'WFRP by numbers', but I think that's forgivable in an introductory scenario. The climactic scene, in which beastmen storm the lodge from all sides while the cultists try to summon a demon in the basement, looks like it could make for an especially memorable episode. Worth a look.

The Gathering Storm: I'd describe this adventure as (1) basic, (2) solid, and (3) probably better-suited to D&D than WFRP. It's set in a little town with big problems: there are beastmen in the marshes, goblins in the hills, a wizard looking for the fragments of a magic item from a nearby ruin, and a local necromancer who isn't nearly as dead as the townsfolk think he is. Each problem comes with a twist that makes it more than just a straightforward stab-fest: the beastman shaman is actually trying to restrain his herd out of sympathy for his human mother, the necromancer's spirit is not entirely in control of the corpse he's hijacked, the goblins have a captive troll which is itching for a chance to break out and eat them, and so on. There's nothing bad here, either in terms of content or scenario design, and it would probably be fun to play. But there's also nothing very conceptually interesting, and I suspect that any GM who has internalised the relevant design philosophies could probably come up with something just as good on their own if given a few hours of planning time.

Winds of Change (from Liber Mutatis): This is a very lazily-written scenario. An apprentice at one of the colleges of magic has gone missing during a visit to a run-down area of Altdorf - so, naturally, rather than looking for him themselves or calling in the authorities, the college hires the PCs to find him, the only clue being the square he was in when he went missing. Fortunately, he's been kidnapped by the world's laziest chaos cultists, who have sold his wizardly regalia to a pawn shop in the very same square they abducted him in, thus allowing their whole diabolical plan to be unravelled in an afternoon. He turns out to be only one of eight apprentices, one from each college, whom they've abducted for sacrifice in a ritual that can only be performed once per year, the dreadful result of which will be to... um... turn eight mutants into eight slightly more powerful mutants. Honestly, it all hardly seems worth the effort, and no explanation is ever provided as to why the PCs have to handle the whole situation themselves even after it turns out that eight apprentice wizards are being held captive by chaos cultists just down the road from the Colleges of Magic. That's not worth the Colleges sending a single wizard out for? Not even worth involving the city watch?

There's some good local colour here, and the square and its inhabitants are worthy of a better adventure, but this scenario feels too slight to be worth bothering with. Either skip it, or write your own mystery and use the location and NPCs as a ready-made supporting cast.

Journey to Black Fire Pass: This is another introductory adventure, designed for a party of dwarf PCs. The PCs are sent to find a ceremonial shield and bring it to a dwarf king. It's much more of an actual adventure than 'A Day Late and a Shilling Short', featuring battles with greenskins, negotiations with other dwarves, and a rather nice bit in which the PCs have a chance to work out that the town they're staying in is built over an old dwarven ruin, and descend into the vaults to protect it from being looted by humans. (Normally the PCs would be the looters!) So as an introductory adventure it's a fairly good one, although it's obviously not a very representative example of what most WFRP adventures tend to be like...

The Edge of Night: I have very mixed feelings about this adventure. The key scene it's built around, in which a bunch of feuding nobles make fools of themselves at a masquerade ball while skaven infiltrators make increasingly unsubtle attempts to spike the food and drink with warpstone dust, is great. The trouble is that virtually everything else is hugely bloated and, frankly, a bit rubbish. (Everything before the masquerade could easily have been cut by 75% without meaningful losses.) The write-up of the ball itself has a detailed timetable for what's supposed to happen when, clearly inspired by the one in 'Rough Night at the Three Feathers', but the number of NPCs involved looks overwhelming: I'm a pretty experienced GM, and I'm not at all sure I could run a complex scene involving twenty-seven different named NPCs all bouncing off the PCs and each other in the middle of a crisis situation. The final battle also expects the PCs to be able to take on eight skaven, a grey seer, and a rat ogre in a straight fight, which seems a bit heavy for WFRP. (Presumably WFRP 3 PCs are tougher than those in earlier editions?) The basic 'skaven at a masquerade' set-up might be worth stealing, though.

Horror of Hugeldal (from Liber Infectus): This is a decent investigation set in a small, plague-ridden village: the kind of miserable, isolated settings that WFRP tends to shine in. It's very slight, though: the investigation leads to some travelling Nurgle cultists whose entire plan amounts to 'drop a disease bomb down the village well and run away', which feels more like an entry on a WFRP-themed random encounter table than the climax of an entire adventure. Skippable.

The Witch's Song: I liked this adventure a lot, and I felt that it really played to WFRP's strengths. It's set in an isolated run-down fishing village in the swamp, where the locals hunt bog octopi for food and whisper stories about the one-eyed demons in the marshes. The central conflict revolves around a witch hiding in the swamps and a witch hunter determined to track him down, but the real situation is much more complicated than it first appears. (I especially appreciated the fact that neither the witch nor the witch hunter is straightforwardly 'good' or 'evil' - they're just two damaged individuals who happen to be set on a collision course.) Everyone in the village has secrets, and for once the secret isn't just 'we're all chaos cultists': instead they stem from much more human motivations of remorse, resentment, and grief. It's all very vivid and atmospheric, and the PCs are permitted a lot of freedom in who they side with and how they deal with the situations that arise. The later sections of the adventure are a bit heavy-handed in their attempts to force the PCs to arrive just in time for various climactic events, but it would be easy to ignore them and run the whole thing as a genuine sandbox / powderkeg instead.

My one concern is with the finale, in which all this dense, character-driven tragedy suddenly gives way to a climactic action sequence in which the PCs have to blow up a tunnel in order to stop a Dark Elf fleet sailing through it. I found the sudden shift of tone and scale a bit jarring, especially as it only works if the GM rigs events to ensure that the PCs arrive at just the right time. Scaling it down a bit - replacing the looming invasion fleet with a single Dark Elf slaving vessel that's been moving back and forth through the tunnel, for example - might help to mitigate this.

Crimson Rain (from Liber Carnagia): I thought this adventure was interesting, if not entirely successful. It revolves around the PCs pursuing a band of chaos-worshipping Norscans, who have stolen a spear which has a demon of Khorne bound within it: the twist is that the demon is now reaching out and seeking a new host, and the more blood the PCs shed while in pursuit of it, the more likely they are to be targeted for possession. This kind of material is under-explored territory in WFRP, which usually assumes that the lure of chaos is something that happens to other people rather than the PCs; but the way in which it's handled here is rather clumsy, with the PCs racking up arbitrary bloodthirstiness points for the kind of random violence that would otherwise be ordinary PC behaviour. Still, there's probably enough here to form a salvageable adventure if one was willing to put in a bit of work.

Harrower of Thrones (from Black Fire Pass): A wilderness- and dungeon-based scenario in which the PCs must return a sacred dwarf hammer to its proper resting place in a ruined dwarf hold, which is currently being occupied by a band of goblins and has an ancient Dragon Ogre sleeping at the bottom of it. There are some nice touches, here - the guides who turn out to be bandits, for example, or the giant monster that emerges after the main objective is fulfilled to block the way out - but I always feel that this sort of straightforward 'dwarves and goblins in dungeons' set-up is the sort of thing that D&D does much better than any edition of WFRP.

Mirror of Desire (from Liber Ecstatica): Like Edge of Night, this scenario is built around a promising set-up, in which a mirror containing a demon of Slaanesh makes its owner so desirable that her four aristocratic suitors start behaving in crazier and crazier ways in order to win her affections. The gradual ramp-up of weirdness looks as though it could be a lot of fun: so the athletic suitor starts off just showing off his muscles and ends up grabbing and bench pressing passing PCs right in front of her, the rich suitor starts off buying her jewellery and ends up buying random houses so he can tie giant bows around them and present them to her as gifts, and so on. The rest of the scenario, however, is very contrived: it's all supposed to end up with the PCs getting trapped inside the mirror and having to find their way out, but it looks to me as though even moderately proactive players would find this very easy to derail. I'd suggest just borrowing the whole 'girl with demon-mirror and four enchanted suitors' set-up as a comedy B-plot for use with some other scenario.

The Art of Waaagh! (from Hero's Call): I love this adventure. An orc army is marching down the valley, and a dilapidated castle is all that stands in its way. They're much more tactically acute than orcs normally are, though, because they're being secretly guided by a vampire trapped under the castle, who wants them to tear it down so that they can free him from his tomb. (He's also got a minion on the castle staff, whose manipulations have ensured that the current commanders are totally unequal to the task of holding off the orcs.) So first the PCs have to sort out the castle itself; then they have to roam around the valley, recruiting the assorted misfits who live there - knights, dwarves, ogres, killer schoolgirls - into a force capable of holding the castle against the greenskins; and then they have to endure the siege itself, fighting off various orc stratagems (rock lobbers, goblin infiltrators, etc) while trying to work out what the deal is with these unusually-clever orcs, hopefully ultimately discovering and destroying the vampire before the castle falls. It's written as an adventure for very powerful characters, but I don't think it needs to be: what the PCs really need to succeed here is intelligence and charisma, not the ability to personally sally forth and bash the heads off black orcs. It's also a rare example of an adventure where the 'progress tracker' is actually doing something useful, because given the set-up of course you need a way to measure how close the orcs are to the castle, and then of course you need a way to measure how close the castle is to falling. It's all rather more heroic and cinematic than the default WFRP norm, but I'd happily run it as written in D&D.

The Enemy Within: This is much the biggest of the WFRP3 adventures, though it's still tiny compared to such behemoths as The Thousand Thrones or the original Enemy Within campaign. Its gimmick is that the main villain, the Black Cowl, could be any one of three different NPCs. The GM can either play fair and pick who it is right from the start, or go all Quantum Ogre and leave it undefined until much later, thus ensuring that the true villain is whomever the PCs least (or most) expect. Not that it makes much difference, honestly. Power Behind the Throne this is not.

Anyway. The Black Cowl has learned about a recently-discovered warpstone idol, and has come up with a simple plan. Step one: help the skaven to steal it, in exchange for them making half of it into a cursed bell clapper like the ones they use in screaming bells. (Why the skaven don't just run off with it, I've no idea. I guess they view the Black Cowl as a valued customer.) Step two: swap the cursed clapper with the one in the bell of the Temple of Sigmar at Altdorf just before a state service, thus hopefully taking out the Emperor and a large chunk of the Imperial elite. Unfortunately, he's also come down with a bad case of Evil Mastermind syndrome, so he's massively over-complicated it with all kinds of nonsense about elf-murder, gunpowder smuggling, fake purification rituals, exploding theatres, and manipulating cultists into manipulating beastmen into attacking the Empire, thus providing plenty of opportunities for the PCs to discover and thwart his unnecessarily convoluted plans.

The campaign has four parts:
  • In part one, the PCs have to investigate a bunch of disappearances and other bizarre events in Averheim, as the skaven carry out the thefts and murders needed to create the clapper. This is well-handled, with plenty of colourful NPCs, and lots of apparently disconnected events that should effectively communicate to the PCs the sense that they are brushing against the edges of something large and complicated and dangerous. (It also has a much more credible take on 'skaven denialism' than most WFRP books.) 
  • In part two, they have to take the clapper to Middenheim to be purged in a ritual. This section is much weaker than the first one, with little for the PCs to do except follow the trail of breadcrumbs through the plot and occasionally butcher some very stupid chaos cultists. (If you were a Witch Hunter / Slaanesh cultist double agent, would you leave your chaos cult books and robes in the room you just hired at the local inn? And then wander off and leave them there unattended?) 
  • Things look up again in part three, a 'Rough Night at the Three Feathers' style tangle in which a whole bunch of events, each individually trivial, are made much more compelling by all happening at the same time. This section looks like it could be challenging to run, but potentially rewarding if you could get it right. Nothing the PCs do actually matters, though, because at the end the clapper gets stolen, the bell gets rung, and the PCs have to help save the Emperor from demons while the Black Cowl jumps through a portal to the Realm of Chaos. I'll take genuine player agency over a 'cinematic climax' any day.
  • In part four, the PCs have to pursue the Black Cowl by jumping through the portal. This is new territory for WFRP, which has never used the Realm of Chaos as an actual adventure location before, but it gets handled in a very tokenistic fashion here: fight some Khornites, get tempted by some daemonettes, chat with a Great Unclean One, navigate a Tzeenchian castle full of traps, and then have a big battle with a Changer of Ways. The clever bit comes afterwards, when the PCs think they've returned home to Altdorf, only to discover that they're actually in a Tzeenchian illusion... and then a Slaaneshi illusion... and then a Nurgle illusion... and then, just at the point when they think they've got this all figured out, they find themselves back in the real Altdorf being attacked by real demons of Khorne, who they'll probably assume are yet more illusions until halfway through the fight. Then they kill all the demons and get rewarded, except for any of them who picked up mutations in the Realm of Chaos, who get handed over for execution instead. Sucks to be them! 
Overall, it's not that great, especially compared to the original Enemy Within campaign. I'd suggest using a slightly-expanded version of part 1 as a stand-alone scenario, and stealing the twist at the end of part 4 for use in another adventure.

Coming next: Shadow of the Demon Lord!