Power Behind the Throne (1988)

Power Behind the Thone (1988) is the thrilling conclusion of the Enemy Within campaign (yea, I know there are two more volumes, but they kind of suck and this feels like a finale).

First off, that cover. My goodness. Les Edwards is the artist and he just nails the hell out of it. Is there a better possible image to get across the idea of a society of cultists plotting evil deeds than a skull chalice filled with noxious green liquid? Love the lip smear. Real hygenic, those Chaos cultists.

PBtT brings us to Middenheim, where the Purple Hand has infiltrated the highest levels of government and, through a punitive tax scheme, is close to taking over the city. I know “tax scheme” sounds about as thrilling as Star Wars prequel “trade negotiations” but it serves as a good on-ramp into the intrigues of the ruling class. Much of the book is stage setting, devoted to the week long city-wide festival taking place during the adventure and detailing a few key locations. Most of the week, the players are investigating as they see fit and attempting to gather influence among the city’s ruling class.

Major NPCs are presented in alarming detail, so GMs know what they do and how they react to key events and player petitions. PBtT is focused on roleplaying, with little action until the last night of the festival, when things balance on the knife point. This is the most Chaosium-like campaign I have read from a publisher than isn’t Chaosium. (Also, I keep meaning to point out how surprised I am at how often the campaign books suggest you lie to players or juke the rules system to keep the game fun and on track)

The plot is well thought and devious. It has a couple things that insulate it from being cracked open too early while also having plenty of threads for players to keep busy. Most importantly, the characters are well drawn and interesting, making the task of roleplaying it all out (probably) enjoyable.

Lots of great Russ Nicholson and Martin McKenna artwork too!

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