WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR A 1936 NOVELLA AND 1987 RPG ADVENTURE!
I’m a big fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP for short) having played it extensively as a teenager in the 80s – I GMed the Enemy Within campaign and several other adventures too. WFRP is going through a bit of a revival at the moment with a new fourth edition due out in 2018 from Cubicle7, and I have even started GMing 1st edition WFRP again with some old friends.
For those who don’t know it WFRP has a gritty, realistic feel to it – it’s set in an Old World much like late medieval Europe and was grimdark before grimdark was a thing (I hate the grimdark tag to be honest – to me it just seems an excuse for violence and misogyny, but really should be about realism and the darker side of human nature, but that’s for another day).
Apparently one of the requests from Games Workshop management for their new RPG game when it first published was to make it more like Call of Cthulhu – the RPG set in Lovecraft’s world of dark horror and ancient evils that lay hidden. WFRP’s Enemy Within campaign certainly took on that atmosphere, with chaos cultists hidden within normal human society, ready to conjure daemons into being – much like the dark forces lurking in Lovecraft’s fiction.
I’ve only started reading Lovecraft recently having got hold of a collection of his work. It’s hard going, but also mesmerising in a way, and also very influential on other horror writers who followed.
Death on the Reik is the second main adventure in the Enemy Within campaign – in it the party follow a trial leading them to Castle Wittgenstein overlooking the river Reik. I have listed all the published adventures for WFRP 1st edition on my site – in the future I’m aiming to flesh out a few more details on each – publication history synopsis etc.
The Shadow over Innsmouth involves a traveller interested in the history of New England who makes the journey to the coastal town of Innsmouth, a place that has fallen into decline and has a bad reputation.
So what about Death on the Reik and The Shadow over Innsmouth? You’d expect with that name the influence might be more for the first main adventure in the campaign – Shadows over Bogenhafen? But actually I think there is some conscious or perhaps subconscious borrowing by the authors of Death on the Reik (Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher) from The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here’s what I think the similarities are:
- The town of Wittgendorf and Innsmouth have fallen into decline – no one visits anymore – in fact people avoid each town
- The inhabitants drink rotgut
- The inhabitants are mutated in some way – chaos mutations in Wittgendorf, the Innsmouth look in Innsmouth – i.e. turning into frog creatures
- The rulers of each place (the Marsh family and the Wittgenstein family) are recluses, undergo mutations themselves and have brought the decline of their towns upon themselves
- In the past one of the rulers ancestors brought something back – this has resulted in the mutations – warpstone and something unexplained in Innsmouth (as far as I can tell)
- Both towns are by the water (bit tenuous!)
- It’s possible to travel to both places – but visitors are made to feel unwelcome. I.e. these aren’t places that are forbidden, but they are shunned by most outsiders.
There are also plenty of differences of course – but I do think the atmosphere and theme are quite alike – have a read of The Shadow over Innsmouth and see what you think – it was my favourite of the Lovecraft stories I read recently. And if you don’t know WFRP and Death on the Reik – get to it immediately – check out the PDFs on DrivethruRPG, get some friends together and start playing – you won’t be disappointed.