Sham's The Enemy Within
GMs Only! No Players should be reading this. If you got here via any other link, go and read this spoiler disclaimer first.
This is my general advice section for GMs hoping to run these same campaigns themselves. It’s a work in progress, but if you urgently need my thoughts on something I haven’t mentioned yet, feel free to send me a private message and I’ll reply as best I can. I don’t claim to know better than anyone else, but I wished there’d been something like this available when I started running this series (and especially for the long, convoluted Enemy Within plot) and I couldn’t find a thing. So until someone writes a better version of this, mine will have to do.
General WFRP Advice
This is NOT Dungeons & Dragons. There’s no rule that says the player characters have to be heroic, either in skills or demeanour. There’s no rule that says they have to get treasure or magic items. There’s no rule that says they have to stand a reasonable chance of winning.
Kill your player-characters. Or at least, don’t worry that they might die. The system already compensates for it with Fate Points, plus the risk of death, permanent injury and insanity really motivates them to behave in a realistic way when confronted with horrifying Things.
Be cheap with the experience points. This isn’t D&D, where they should expect to level up regularly; WFRP Careers and D&D levels are not good analogues of each other. Plus, as I said before, this is not meant to be a super-hero game, so piling on special abilities and super-human skills is unwise.
You may also find some use for my (completely untested and possibly completely unnecessary) house rules for linking WFRP1-era and WFRP2-era campaigns without having to play the whole 10-odd intervening years.
Dying of the Light (DotL)
It helps to have read the whole thing through thoroughly before starting, but at the very least, these are the chapters that you really have to know backwards before running session 1, so that you actually understand the point of the campaign: The Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 4, Chapter 9 and Appendices.
It also helps to know the gist of Chapter 6 before reading Chapter 1, to help you set up the later chapter properly right at the start.
Keeping Hoffmann/Goffmann’s advice to the party as vague as possible will definitely keep things interesting, but make sure he emphasises the time pressure the impending eclipse presents. You don’t want to keep nagging about time pressure, so make sure the players feel from the start that they have to get a move on.
Pick a reliable player as Kastor Lieberung’s double. Don’t worry about character background or personality so much, and rather let the players build up their own Lieberung-double mythology in their own way. But they can only do that if he’s consistently present, which requires that his player is also consistent.
Rather don’t add any side quests to the Mistaken Identity/Shadows Over Bögenhafen (MI/SOB) section. It’s already very tightly written and anything along the way just distracts from that. Death On The Reik (DotR) is much more open-ended and sandboxey, making it a much better place to insert any side-quests you’d really like to add in. This also makes it easier to predict player movements at least a week ahead of time and so prepare for those sessions gradually and piecemeal. You might also want to include DotL somewhere in the middle of DotR, as just one more stop-off side-quest that quickly grows out of hand. If I’d known all of this in advance myself, that’s where I’d have put it.
However, be warned that DotR changes style significantly as soon as the party sets foot in Wittgendorf; then it’s all one big unit, right the way through to the conclusion of Castle Wittgenstein. You’ve got to prepare that whole chapter much more thoroughly than the rest of the book’s looser bits and pieces.
Also be aware that a similar number of pages per book doesn’t mean each book will take the same amount of time to play out. For us, MI/SoB only lasted as long as DotL because I’d heavily padded it out with sidequests (which, as I say, was a bad idea), but then DotR took almost twice as long, despite not padding it out that much with extra plot (just one extra bit near the beginning). This is all manageable, but it helps to be aware of it.
Power Behind the Throne (PBtT) is then a major GMing challenge, because (apart from the Carrion Up the Reik intro chapter) it’s all a single, massive unit. The whole city is the players’ playground for about one in-game week, and there are so activities and so many very detailed NPCs for the GM to keep them occupied with, with little to force the players in one direction or another. There are no shortcuts here, as you absolutely have to know who’s who and how and why they act before you begin anything, you can’t wing that sort of thing without wrecking the plot, because there’s so much interwoven, and the book’s layout isn’t great. But I will say that probably the most efficient way to learn the book is to start with the beginning bit where it explains the main antagonist’s grand scheme, then skip ahead to around halfway through and learn about all the individual NPCs and their roles as well as you can, before going back to the front again and looking at the smaller encounters and lesser details. Naturally, leave the concluding scenes for last.
Also, the Master Attractions Chart and the NPC cards are incredibly helpful, print them out separately. Better still, print them out, but also take the time to convert their details into the GM Secrets part of each NPC’s OP record, so that you’re forced to read it all and restate it in your own words, as much as possible. Then it’ll really stick in your mind. I saved myself some hassle by creating a player version of the Master Attractions Chart, with the NPC details cut out (and some pretty coats of arms, to make it look official), so that they players could keep track of their options for each day.
The Middenheim book (also published as Warhammer City and stuff like that) adds a lot of excellent additional material for PBtT, but if you use it all, you’re easily doubling your preparation effort. I mainly borrowed the bits about the Cult of the Jade Scepter, since that helps tie DotR and PBtT together better. I say, give it a peruse after mastering PBtT and see which bits look fun and interesting to you.