Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 20 May 2023

An Ubersreik Half-Dozen

The two great features of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set were twofold. First, in ‘A Guide to Ubersreik’, it introduced Ubersreik, the fortress-town in the south of the Reikland, and its surrounding duchy that are in turmoil after an announcement from the emperor that unseated the ruling House Jungfreud. It left the town’s burghers and minor members of the nobility spotting an opportunity to take control themselves and much of this was explored in ‘The Adventure Book’, which provided a five-part mini-campaign and more story hooks. This was the second great thing about the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set—lots to roleplay. Although Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set was in part designed to set the Game Master and her players up reader for the majestic The Enemy Within campaign—after all, almost everything is in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Fourth Edition is—what if instead of leaping into that campaign, the Player Characters wanted to stay in and around Ubersreik? Fortunately, and almost immediately, publisher Cubicle Seven Entertainment began publishing scenarios set in and around the Duchy of Ubersreik, so the Player Characters could not only continue their involvement in the political upheaval in the town, but also explore its surrounds.

Ubersreik Adventures: Six Grim and Perilous Scenarios in the Duchy of Ubersreik is a handsome hardback which collects the first six scenarios in the series. These take the Player Characters across the duchy, facing monsters and villains, hunting beasts and employment, solving mysteries and secrets, and more. The scenarios are flexible. All can be taken and dropped into the Game Master’s campaign, used in conjunction with the Rough Nights & Hard Days campaign anthology, or again used as a lead into The Enemy Within. Ultimately, Ubersreik Adventures is designed to do that, but not necessarily, since it has a sequel of its own in the form of Ubersreik Adventures II: Grim and Perilous Adventures in the Duchy of Ubersreik, a further collection of scenarios previously published as a series of PDFs. In addition, every scenario in Ubersreik Adventures includes its own ‘Shaking Things Up’ appendix with advice for the Game Master on running the scenario, alternative hooks to get the Player Characters involved, and a list of possible connects to not only the other five scenarios in the volume, but also other parts of the Empire. This gives the Game Master set up each scenario as she wants and tie it into a campaign in and around Ubersreik. Lastly, the six scenarios in Ubersreik Adventures: Six Grim and Perilous Scenarios in the Duchy of Ubersreik can be run on their own, but they do work better in conjunction with the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set.

The anthology opens with ‘If Looks Could Kill’. The Player Characters are tasked with helping deliver some supplies to the construction site of the new mill down river from Ubersreik. Unfortunately, a miasma has settled on the site and dampened the mood, but the situation turns ugly when the Player Characters are employed to clear some standing stones nearby—because that never goes well—and then one of the partners in the project turns up dead. Tracks point to much feared, legendary Beast of Orschlamm and the Player Characters are directed by the other partner to track it down. However, there is more going on than simple monster hunt as astute Player Characters will quickly work out. There is still the beast though, a fearsome creature, which fortunately is elderly enough that it will not kill them outright! It is a nicely judged and scaled encounter and the scenario fully explores the consequences of its death in no little detail. ‘If Looks Could Kill’ is an excellent starting scenario, with plenty going on, but not too much.

‘The Mad Men of Gotheim’ is the second scenario and although it involves a monster hunt, it is all together a different beast. It starts in classic fantasy roleplaying fashion with the Player Characters coming across a village which has been attacked and a monster remains on the loose, ready to attack again. The village of Gotheim lies in ruins and the villagers have all been driven mad to one degree or another. They hold vital information about the nature of the beast and possibly the means to help kill it, but Player Characters must work hard and fast in order to calm the villagers down, get them to reveal what has happened, and perhaps the means to kill the creature. ‘The Mad Men of Gotheim’ is short and surprisingly complex, and although the Player Characters may not know it, they are up against a time limit before the creature—which intentionally has the feel of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (both poem and film)—goes on another rampage. There is a brilliantly Lovecraftian feel to the horror in the devastation and derangement which the monster has left in the wake of its first attack in this scenario which is genuinely grim and perilous.

‘Heart of Glass’ is a murder mystery which becomes a bit of a romp. Ubersreik remains divided between those loyal to House Jungfreud and those favouring the new administration from the capital, Altdorf. So, when a corporal in the new town guard is found dead under mysterious circumstances, the Imperial Herald would like the cause and culprits found lest it leads to further unrest. Enter the Player Characters. Hired—potentially under duress—to investigate. The trail of clues leads in an odd direction, a direction so odd that it puts a Witch Finder on the Player Characters’ trail and then it gets even weirder. This is definitely a scenario where a Wizard, or at least a Wizard’s Apprentice, will have chance to get involved, if not necessarily shine. Like the other scenarios in the anthology, ‘Heart of Glass’ is not necessarily going to end very neatly, if at all, and it does leave a lot of questions unanswered as far as the Player Characters are concerned and a lot of loose ends for the Game Master to develop if necessary.

‘Slaughter in Spittlefeld’ is a locked-room affair. Well to be fair, the room is a ramshackle, squalid tenement block and although there is no murderer or murder victim, there is a disease. The scenario begins en media res with the Player Characters waking up in a tenement building in the worst slums in the town and the doors and windows are being nailed shut to keep the plague in! It is a brilliant set-up—even if the players are likely to grumble about their characters getting there—and once the Player Characters ferret a few clues out of the tenement’s tenants, perhaps with help of lumbering and very shouty Ogre landlord, they can work out cause of the disease. The situation is, of course, horribly prescient, but still an entertaining adventure. It will take them to the top of the tenement block and back down in a claustrophobically fraught affair race to save the day.

‘Bait and Witch’ begins with its clever title. ‘Slaughter in Spittlefeld’ could be played through in a single session, but ‘Bait and Witch’ is specifically designed to do that. It takes place in a few streets and buildings of Ubersreik as the Player Characters are asked for a favour by an apothecary—confront the two ne’er-do-wells watching her shop. This is a classic mix-up, if not of identities, then motivations and the Player Characters will have to come to the rescue if they are to untangle them all. If they do and they do save the day, the apothecary will prove a useful ally and contact in the long terms.

The last scenario in the anthology is ‘The Guilty Party’ and it begins with a bang before throwing the Player Characters into a classic Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay situation—a road trip! Or rather, a coach journey. After coming to the rescue of man set upon by some thugs, he offers them a job. Can they find proof of sabotage of the coaches running between Ubersreik and Altdorf? Of course, they can and before they know, they are on a trip into trouble. A coach trip means that the adventure is linear, but there are lots of extra scenarios for the Game Master to throw into the narrative along the way, making every stop an interesting encounter. In this way, ‘The Guilty Party’ prefigures the opening sessions of The Enemy Within campaign and indeed, is designed to get the Player Characters to the beginning of that campaign. Consequently, it feels forced, but climb aboard and this a fun affair, even if ultimately, it leaves them high and dry without really resolving the scenario or even getting paid. In fact, the lack of resolution is the point as it drives the Player Characters to look for other work and so onto one of the greatest roleplaying campaigns in the roleplaying hobby. However, if the Player Characters decide not to pursue that, then the scenario leaves the high and dry without really resolving the scenario to rather unsatisfactory effect. If it had explored the other option, the scenario would have been rounded and easier to use rather than the one application it suggests. (This is even more of an issue given that Ubersreik Adventures II: Grim and Perilous Adventures in the Duchy of Ubersreik is also available.)

Physically, Ubersreik Adventures: Six Grim and Perilous Scenarios in the Duchy of Ubersreik is very well presented. The book itself is a handsome hardback and the book’s artwork—especially in its depiction of the NPCs—and cartography are both well done. The plotting could have been clearer upfront in some places, and although it needs a slight edit in places, the anthology is well written and enjoyable to read.

Ubersreik Adventures: Six Grim and Perilous Scenarios in the Duchy of Ubersreik is a solidly impressive collection of adventures. None of them is overly complex in terms of structure or plot, making them easy to run for anyone new to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but there are some pleasingly complex and subtle situations still, such as dealing with the unfortunate survivors of ‘The Mad Men of Gotheim’, driven mad by their encounters with the creature. In addition, the Game Master is given plenty of options to work the scenario into her campaign and in turn is given numerous NPCs, all of whom are decently portrayed, that she can add to her campaign. Ubersreik Adventures: Six Grim and Perilous Scenarios in the Duchy of Ubersreik is a good book of sequels to the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set and a solid anthology of scenarios for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in general.


Cubicle Seven Entertainment will be at UK Games Expo
from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th, 2023.

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