Ashes of Middenheim is the first installment in the Paths of The Damned campaign, the first big adventure for the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-play. The production quality of the book is high throughout - it is hard-backed with a striking cover picture, it has illustrations throughout and is littered with maps and player handouts. Unfortunately there are quite a few spelling mistakes and missing words, although this is a minor irritant rather than a major complaint. Like all the books in this campaign, it is divided into two parts. The first part details the city of Middenheim (the principal location for the adventure) whilst the second part details the adventure itself. The first section serves as very useful background material for the city of Middenheim and is a good read in itself. The city is described district by district, each description accompanied by a detailed map with many interesting locations provided for each. Some of these locations are important for the adventure, some are simply added flavour which you can easily drop into your campaign. I found that this section gave me a good grasp of the general atmosphere, history and geography of Middenheim, all of which will help any GM to make the city really come to life. The second section details the adventure itself. The action is split into episodic chapters which are very clear for the GM to follow. The actual adventure is a good mixture of investigation, intrigue, role-playing and good old hack 'n' slash. It is a somewhat linear adventure, which will suit new GMs well. On the other hand, if you're an experienced GM it's fairly easy to mix things up a bit and add extra plot lines in in order to 'disguise' the linear nature of the story. Overall I found this to be a great start to a new campaign.
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The City of Middenheim is impressively detailed, with plenty of locations, a colourful history and all kinds of class-related customs, written in the aftermath of the Storm of Chaos - all of which provides good "food" for other adventures. Middenheim is divided into distinct districts, each of which adds a great deal of flavour. The adventure itself is equally: straightfoward, dramatic and varied in terms of style, including investigative elements balanced well alongside easily implemented chaos cult-bashing. The watery undercity of the Skaven is a nice touch - but not comprehensive.
A.o.M. could have had 5 stars with a greater number of detailed architectural maps of particular buildings (Skaven or otherwise), and more colour ink.
Graeme Davis is one of the four original WFRP authors from when the game was first published twenty years ago. As such, he can be relied upon to provide some good, solid, adventuring fare.
The source material on Middenheim is good, but has mostly all been reprinted from the old first edition book, 'City of the White Wolf'. Owners of that now out of print publication will find few new snippets.
The adventure though is a good one, even if the remit is a little hackneyed to experienced GM eyes. There are one or two dodgy areas, such as the motivation of the main NPC baddy, which may require some amendment. On the whole though, it is exciting, fast-paced and enjoyable, with requirements for thought, interaction and a fair bit of fighting.
One interesting footnote is that all the parts of this so-called campaign were written by different authors, which always risks irregular quality. I can certainly attest that this module is far superior to the second in the series. Luckily, even if the GM decides the following booklets are decidedly second rate, the scenario contained herein can easily be run as a one-off, with few changes. Worth buying.
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