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Minireview: The Thousand Thrones (Warhammer 2e)

The Thousand Thrones is one of the last products released for the WHFRP 2e game line, and it’s a very ambitious offering: a grand campaign, taking PCs from beginning characters to (very) experienced, providing they survive. An obvious influence is the old “Enemy Within” campaign, as far as scope goes (the plot is quite different here). Unfortunately, while there’s a lot of good here, it’s a bit of a mess as a whole, and would need quite a bit of GM prep and reworking to actually run.

The core plot is quite interesting, both the parts which the players initially run into and the (much, much more complicated) background story. It seems that a young child has been identified with the sign of Sigmar, and is being hailed by the people as Sigmar reborn. The official church is a lot less thrilled, as as multiple other parties. The PC are sent (via various alternate initial hooks) to investigate, or perhaps even assassinate, this miracle child. What happens when they actually encounter the “Crusade of the Child” makes for a convoluted story, as does the “and what happened then” bit.

The main problem here is in the execution. Written by different authors, the nine scenarios which form the campaign have very different tones and writing styles, and do not easily form a coherent whole. There are odd bits of humor in places where it’s not too appropriate, and some events just don’t make any sense when compared to what has happened before (or even as stand-alone events). I found myself going “huh?” in some places, where the PCs are suddenly expected to do X… and I could not figure out why they would do that. In many other places, the PCs are expected to do one specific thing, and that only, with heavy railroading suggested if they do not comply.

Of course, keeping a big campaign “on track” is always difficult, and some amount of lightweight railroading is sometimes needed. However, I felt that this campaign would be especially hard to keep on track, since it’s such a convoluted affair and the PCs are expected to follow a very certain path – one they are almost certain to stray from, quite soon. There’s also the problem of the campaign hinging on one small child, if he gets killed then everything grinds to a halt. None of these issues are dealbreakers, but they do mean that this would probably be a very difficult campaign to run.

On a more positive note, there’s a lot to like here. As noted, the main plot is quite cool and there are lots of twists and turns. The PCs have plenty of dark secrets to uncover, and most things are not what they seem (and also, as a nice twist, many of the obvious first guesses by experienced players on “what’s actually going on?” would be wrong as well). A chaos cult is not behind every suspicious event. Some of the individual adventures are very well done, and all have at least some redeeming qualities. The artwork is nice, and the maps are especially nice. Lots of player handouts are provided.

One small extra niggle, though: the font used here is ridiculously small. This is a huge campaign, which has been crammed into a mid-size page could by squeezing things much too tightly. A new version, with more normal font (and bigger page count) would be nice. A new version with a couple of extra editing runs and a bunch of playtest-based tweaks would be even nicer.

Ultimately, it fails to be the milestone campaign it aims to be – but I can’t fault a book too much for having a bit too much ambition. There’s a great campaign here, provided the GM puts in quite a bit of extra work in customizing the thing and removing the “wait, what?” bits. There are also some lethality issues, I have a hard time visualizing any PC group surviving this from beginning to end.

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