An Adventure Per Year: Shadows Over Bögenhafen (1987)

In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.

The cover of Shadows Over Bögenhafen

Shadows Over Bögenhafen is an adventure released in 1987 for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I read it in the 2017 reprint issued by Cubicle 7 which also includes the introductory 1986 adventure Enemy Within which leads to the main story. Together they from the first part of the famous Enemy Within campaign, often considered one of the best ever published.

As someone who’s read a lot of D&D its fun to switch to Warhammer like this. The approach to the fantasy genre is so different. Where D&D is sterile Warhammer is filthy. The people are warty peasants worn down by life, suffering under plague and prejudice. They get drunk, piss on their shoes and fall unconscious in a ditch.

Instead of hard-to-remember fantasy names, Warhammer goes with German.

The Enemy Within adventure offers details on the Empire as a setting for play. The introductory adventure is a simple affair, basically acting as a prologue for Shadows Over Bögenhafen proper. The characters meet in a tavern, decide to go to the big city. A hook for the main adventure appears.

The action in Shadows Over Bögenhafen takes place in the trade town of Bögenhafen. The characters arrive in time for a town festival, get hired to catch a three-legged goblin who escaped from a sideshow and become mired in the plots of nobles who deal with the forces of Chaos.

Structurally it belongs in the category of “town adventures”, scenarios where a town is presented as a sandbox in which player characters can discover new things in many different ways. To solve the mysteries of the story they need to talk to people, follow up on leads and avoid getting arrested.

It’s a result of the conventions of the play culture I’m from but the weakness of the character motivations strikes me yet again. The adventure is designed for player characters who are assumed to be interested in solving mysteries because they’re “adventurers”, no extra motivation needed.

Although this seems weird from my standpoint, I hesitate to complain too much because I’ve come to understand it as a feature of much of the published roleplaying landscape.

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