The Thousand Thrones (TTT) is a full fledged campaign module produced for use with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition.
Part I (Organization, Presentation, Functionality of the Resource)
TTT is a hefty volume comprising 259 pages from cover to cover. The initial seven (7) pages provides an overview of the campaign, the general story outline, suggestions for character creation, and advice for running the adventure as a full campaign or stand-alone adventures. After this we have nine scenarios/chapters that unveil the campaign from beginning to end. The final section of the book is given over to Appendices.
The organization of material is quite well done in my opinion and is very similar in layout to other 2nd edition products which I also find easy to interpret. The real organizational feature of note is the section devoted to the Appendices. They are fantastic! There is a compilation of the traits and abilities used for NPC's and situations in the campaign that do not appear in the core rulebooks, and all the pertinent game data is provided for those who do not own the supplements the abilities were pulled from. There is also a single appendix given over to player handouts for the ENTIRE campaign which makes hunting for the said handouts extremely easy.
The interior of the book is black and white, and done quite well (although a full color volume would have been nice). This serves to tone some of the artwork down, which only served to make me wonder how much better the set peices and maps would have been in color. In the print version I can understand the need for this from a cost balance standpoint, but for the pdf it would have been nice to get a splash of color.
The artwork is also quite well done. There are some unique peices commissioned for the campaign, and some retreads of classic Games Workshop artwork peppered throughout many products in multiple editions of Fantasy Battle and Fantasy Roleplay.
The maps are ALL fantastic. Every. single.one is worth its weight in gold and Mr. Andy Law should win a big fat ribbon and a dumptruck full of money for his efforts. He has the rare ability to provide material that can make a simple coaching inn seem like a significant landmark.
Part II (Critique of the Campaign)
The Thousand Thrones is possessed of a multilayered plot that is designed to sweep up the player characters and drag them accross the entire expanse of the Empire and beyond. The classic Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay themes are in attendance as well as some setting territory introduced in 2nd Edition. As always nothing is as it seems and the players are meant to find out the real truth only when it is too late to turn back, lest horrible events come to pass that could pose a dire threat to their realm and beyond. Let me just say before I go further that when I read the plot I was ready to throw down...FINALLY something substantial in a published adventure!
Perhaps my expectations were set too high from my initial readthrough of the campaign story and the unique tightly tuned up nature of the "look" of the product and the brilliant appendices I crowed about above. Whatever the case I was left utterly cold by the delivery style of the series of adventures.
It is never easy to compile a cohesive whole from separate authors, but it CAN be done and HAS been done quite well in recent history where an adventure path is engaging and feels like a singular story even when 4 to 6 authors are involved. Thousand Thrones was one of the final publications made for 2nd edition, and rather than feeling like a capstone it felt (from a content standpoint) like all the attention to detail was put into layout and physically arranging the booklet rather than dedicating the effort required to make a multi-author project come alive for the audience.
What we are left with in The Thousand Thrones are nine separate adventures that vary greatly in quality when taken separately. When compiled as a whole, there are some adventures that stick out like poorly written, or completely unrelated sore thumbs. After weighing all 9 adventures I would only recommend 3 of them to others.
Perhaps the greatest deteriment to the entire affair is the consistent design philosophy of scripted situations and deus ex machina events that force the story onwards regardless of the success or failure of the player characters. The most agregious of these misteps occurs in Chapter 3 where the players are essentially conscripted through game mechancis to become enthralled with the story (after pointing them in a completely different direction). Let me also say that for any published campaign there will be a NEED for some events to simply come to pass, and there are situations that will require the players to (at some level) simply agree to become involved. There would be no other way to write a full campaign for mass consumption. I understand that completely. HOWEVER, in The Thousand Thrones it is repeatedly forced that the players WILL be going along with events even if they are vehemently opposed to them. Rather than writing the adventures to provide a narrow frame-work within which the players can opperate we are given a series of events that happen whether logic or in-game events would agree or not.
For some groups it will be noticed but un-protested, for others it will be a campaign ender, but for the majority of game groups it will require massaging and rewriting and a lot of prep work to set up properly. This is an absolutely fundamental mistep in a published campaign. Especially one made for a game with a rabid and generally experienced fan-base.
AS WRITTEN The Thousand Thrones reaches very high. It promises an intrigue filled story, with a truly epic and sweeping planned series of events...and then in-game execution utterly fails to live up to those standards.
Is it salvagable!? CERTAINLY. Does it have good bones? ABSOLUTELY. There are fan-made resources that reconcile some of the dropped balls in the campaign, and any GM worth their while could break it down and repair it to suit their needs. In fact, I would say that any published campaign requires some adjustment to tune it up to the tastes of a particular group. But we are not talking about tweaks and minro adjustments here. We are talking about meta-plot alterations, entire section re-writes and enough work that I can not in good conscience say that you could pick up this campaign book, read it through and then proceed to run it without giving some serious thought to re-writing or abandonment of entire segments of the printed adventures.
If you are looking for a fixer-upper, you have got a pretty AMAZING potential campaign in your hands/hard drive. This is a project waiting for your creativity, and will reward you for your efforts at the end of the day. BUT If you are looking for a published campaign to open up and lay on your players you are going to be sorely...sorely...disapointed.
3 out of 5
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