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Epic Warfare

In RPG games, you can use abstract methods of representation.  It works well just to say where players are, but where’s the fun in that?

For the campaign I’m running right now, which is the battle for Castobell (Coming soon to the website), once we finish it, I made up a very large and broad campaign that would cover several sessions.  The players, relatively new Deathwatch members, are in charge of gathering the defenses of Castobell before the main hive fleet arrives. I gave their group access to a few vehicles and a Thunderhawk to ferry them around, and they have to plan out what they’re doing on a session by session basis.

Now, I wanted to make a map, but rather than just printing it out, I came up with a different approach.  We had just finished up playing planetary empires, and poor Paul was complaining that the rules were good, but using the map was just too difficult.  So, since the tiles weren’t in use, I made up this.

This went over pretty well.  But then I took it one step further.   I found a good amount of epic sized miniatures to use on the map, and now it’s really gone over well.

They really don’t serve a purpose overall I guess.  But there is just some excitement in seeing the minis out on the board representing the battle as it unfolds.  Not just for me, but the other members of the group as well.  It’s almost like being a kid again, seeing the map there and the vehicles on it, knowing where they are so they can be moved around. Being able to touch them.  Paul even painted up that black Rhino in the middle as a deathwatch Rhino. It’s really been cool.

If I’m honest though, some of it wasn’t exactly cheap.  Rather than going to Games workshop, I opted for Ebay, and found some really nice deals compared to new prices, however, still a bit exorbitant.  Each of the rhinos basically cost me around 50 cents to a dollar, the three dreads came in for five.  The cheapest was the Ork Battle Wagons at about 50 cents a piece.  The thunderhawk was the most expensive at thirteen dollars, which was a steal compared to the 25 dollars that GW charges for them new.  I also really like the paint job on it, even if it is Dark Angels colors rather than Deathwatch.  But if I bought it new, I’d be painting (and failing) at it myself.

Now if you’re looking to try this on your own, make note to just watch the bottom line.  It can get expensive quickly, and their size is deceiving.  Those Dreads are actually mounted on nickels, for size comparison.   I was actually shocked at how small they are when I did it too.  However, even when buying them, I didn’t try to go for full on accuracy, but rather tried to figure out what I could use pieces for.  For instance, the Red dread I’m using to represent one of the head guys in the Ork Mob, and the Leman Russ I got I’m using as a predator, simply because the predators cost too much. This kept costs down but kept the magic alive.

Also if you’re planning on trying this, remember to watch out for the marks.  Epic has been around for quite a while as well, and their first first models..well….

Old Thunderhawk

New Thunderhawks

Some like them. Some don’t.  I prefer the newer one myself.

A cheaper alternative though, if you’d like, and I only thought of this afterward, is to buy up some micro machines or pull out some of your old one as representations.  A few older military micros might be just what you need.

It really depends on how far you want to go with it, and how much money you’re willing to spend. Me?  Don’t think I’ll be buying much more of these guys. Think I got enough.

Thought of the Day: A small mind is a Tidy mind.

Communications Restored

For the past two weeks, I’ve been really busy.  Hosting two deathwatch sessions two weekends in a row sucked up most of my time.  But both were successful, and fun was had at both by all who participated.

But now I’m back, and I know I owe you guys a lot of posts.  And I’m getting them lined up.  All this week I’ll be posting, and there will be changes and new things added to the site.  I’ll post each article as I finish them, but it should amount to at least one a day, if not more.

So settle in, check a few times a day, and lets see what I can come up with.

Thought for the Day: A mind without purpose will wander in dark places.

Attempting to Boost Signal Strength

So, l..t…week’s se….n…w……well, and I’m still…..ning for the one for this weekend…..urns out that and everything else……overloading….In order to….I’m gonna have to wait….. to post another report……

+++Transmission Lost+++

Seventeenth Session Part Three – The Big Battle

A Meeting With Fate

So after dealing with the psychic storm that was unleash by a billion (not exaggerating the numbers) orcs all lining up for a WAAAGH! ... the Explorers trudged on through space, pushing their way towards the Undred-Undred Teef.

Then, they encountered something unexpected. Aid, of sorts.

The Rogue Trader Dynasty ran into a lone raider, slowly plodding its way from the Undred-Undred Teef. It turns out that the raider was part of a convoy. The very convoy of lost ships the Explorers where looking for. It was making its way slowly across the Koronus Expanse with small jumps, entirely lacking its Navigator.

It turns out that the warp storm which caused the fleet to be lost also fried the brains of the fleets' navigators, psykers, and astropaths. When the fleet finally dropped out of the Warp in the Undred-Undred Teef, they had no way of getting back, even though all ships' systems were nominal.

Stranger still was the fact the Sirocco was captained by one Adara - a woman who looks exactly like Sitara, the astropath that was killed while visiting Vedic. This was quite troubling for the Rogue Trader, who had had a illicit relationship with the astropath.

Getting even weirder, it turns out that Adara and Sebastian, the crew's Senechal had a past relationship that he doesn't remember. If you recall, Sebastian was once part of the lost Holocene Dynasty fleet. However, his ship was recovered, though he was missing large chunks of memory.

Finally, however, I was able to drop the big bombshell. One of the vessels of the missing fleet was a ship known as the Pantocrator - a mighty Grand Cruiser. A true prize for the dynasty if there ever was one.

What Should Have Been Epic...Was Kind of Epic

So, the storytelling events of the big, big session went very well. What didn't go so well was...the big battle itself. If you recall, I had a giant poster printed up of the Pantocrator and used that as a battle mat for the huge fight. The players got to bring out their Titan Walker and their Fury Interceptors. And we got to use the vehicle system in Into the Storm for the first time! Yes!

But that was the problem. Because it was the first time using that system for me, aaaaand the player had never seen the system, the battle was clunky, slow, and dry. I learned a big, big lesson here and that's if you're going to stage something big and massive, don't try to introduce "new" mechanics into it. Don't try to do too much. Stick with what you know you can do.

I put "new" in quotes because using the Battlefleet Gothic rules worked out much better for us, but I'll get into that much later.

Some secrets are best left hidden….

Fantasy Flight released a new web supplement for Deathwatch called The Nemesis Incident.  This tome adds some potential light to the Storm Warden’s back story as a method for adding adventure seeds to your campaign for each of your different  Left broad and open, it allows your GM to pepper in some flavor into your kill team.  You can download the supplement here.

Oh. And those posts I said.  Funny story, you see..I.w..s.

+++Transmission Lost++++

Coaxing a troubled Machine Spirit

So, still not done.  I’d spend this week working on it, but I’ve got two weekends back to back of hosting Deathwatch games.  And I doubt “I’m not prepared because I was working on the website about the game we’re supposed to play” is going to fly.  So, it might get updated in the next two weeks.  It might not.  We’ll find out.  It’s still CSS’s fault.

But fret not Brothers, for the Emperor provides.  I’ve got another project waiting in the wings that might not take as much time.  I’ll see if I can have that prepared by this Friday.

Oh, and that double post is coming.  It’ll be here in a few hours. Tomorrow when the light is better for picture taking. Seems like everything is trying to stop me from effectively posting today.

Thought for the day: Sometimes the Litanies of the Adeptus Mechanicus work to sooth the machine spirit.  Sometimes it’s to distract the machine spirit while one reaches for the wrench.

Encountering Resistance

Well, Fridays are normally my big roll out days, but because some languages like to be obtuse, I’m pushing what I had planned for 2000 hits to be rolled out on Monday or Tuesday.  I don’t really want to point fingers, but it’s totally your fault CSS.    Learn to be a team player or get out of my life.

So, I tried for a long time to think of something to post, and thought of some cool things…but nothing that I could do on short notice.  I should work on that.  But for now, know that I’m trying to better some things for all of us, and I’ll double post on Tuesday to make up for it.  Hopefully.  If I survive that long

Thought of the day: Excuses are the refuge of the weak.

Rejoice and Repent (Part Six): Participating in the Rites of Battle

You thought it was over? I did too!

In the last installment of Rejoice and Repent (and I mean it this time), I thought I might cover how to integrate Rites of Battle into your campaign. It’s rare to see this much new material in a supplement, and it may be too much to handle all in one gulp. I’m going to see if I can help you chew it up a bit first.

After spending the past few weeks getting to know the book pretty well, I really do like it (As if you couldn’t tell), I think it’s a pretty solid supplement. But as with any supplement, I’d start with an advisory to new players of Deathwatch and especially of players new to the 40k setting. Starting a new game or a new setting can be fraught with it’s own challenges, and adding a supplement as large as this one can cause more complexity in it already. I would recommend in a new group at least two people who are familiar with the system and or knowledgeable with 40k in general. This will help keep the rules straight, but also answer questions like “Why is my armor so old”, “If this weapon is so great why don’t they make more of them”, and a personal favorite “What does Nutrient recycling mean?”

Now then, if you’re already in an existing campaign and you want to integrate Rites in, there are some simple things you can do, and some complex things you can do. I’ll start with simple.

Successor Chapters: Provided someone hasn’t been trying to gain glories and favors for their chapters, opening up the successor chapters may be a way to make a greater variety amongst your group in terms of where they come from, and open up new adventure seeds and roleplay possibilities. Beyond that, each has their own demeanor and enhancements, so it can still be appealing beyond roleplay reasons.

Armor: Allowing players to have new armors can allow them to feel a bit more diverse as space marines. If one’s armor hasn’t played a vital and major role, I’d offer to them the ability to roll new armors. But because Mark VII is the most on the chart, I’d suggest taking that out completely. If removed from the table, it will be a neat d6 roll, though you might want to also move another number to the heresy armor and/or Errant armor so you don’t end up then with a group full of beakies. Then, roll new histories on the armor tables, but instead, take out the +1/-1 on the table so the player has to take what they roll, balancing out their decision. Those who wish to keep their VII but still take their chances on the histories can do so as well, but at the same price, taking out the +1/-1. For those that want to forgo rolling, a word of caution. The right line of armors and histories put together might make your marine a bit more uber than a GM would prefer. If you’d still like to forgo, I’d recommend skipping the new tables and going with the old, unless a good reason or backstory can be produced.  Remember though to have your players detract the benefits of their old armor before putting in the new, so they don’t gain the benefits of two.  I’d suggest writing down the minuses first on a sheet, then adding pluses in so they know the delta of the changes.

Deeds: If your group’s space marines aren’t that advanced (Rank 1 or 2), I would say adding in a Deed couldn’t hurt much, but I’d advise caution. Deeds aren’t just for rank one characters, but can also be for characters being built at a higher level (Your last marine died and now you’re making a new one). GMs should strongly look over the deed and consider if it fits the character for the level they’re at.
Distinctions and Honors: As a GM, you can feel free to think over the past experiences of the group and give them Honors for their actions, and offer them distinctions if they wish. Carefully consider each distinction as some of them can be quite powerful, and don’t let them talk you into allowing them to have one. Distinctions are for you to give out!

Now, with the easy stuff done, we can move up to intermediate:
Imperial Fists: The Fists are the new chapter to the group, and they have a lot of things to add in to Defense and Siege. Some say this is a minus, but I think it adds a new level. GMs should add in the possibilities of sieges and building defenses into their games for the Fist player to feel important, just like one adds in specific challenges for Apothecaries, assault marines, and tech marines. This can also be an exciting new edition with vehicles now added to the mix, or add in new and interesting challenges, like a warp infested building that is now an enemy.

Advanced Specialties: Now, you’re bound to hear a bit of belly aching that some specialties aren’t as uber as people would like it to be. Well, the fact is that they’re not generally supposed to make a character godly. They’re supposed to flavor them, so that everyone doesn’t have to take one.   So with that in mind, when you want to look into a advanced specialty, or one of your players does, make sure that both of you read over the selections carefully. For instance, a Chaplain does not make you a Chaplain of your own chapter, but one for the deathwatch, and might nominate you to stay there permanently. After all considerations are made, the GM can slowly work the character into their specialties with rites or personal connections or anything else to make it feel more than the character walked up to the armory and said “Give me a Crozius, a Rosarius and a skull helm in my size.  I’m a Chaplain now”.  Also make note that the book suggests just taking one advance specialty per character, so make that decision wisely, or talk with your GM.

Advanced Requisition and Imperial Assets: I’d recommend working these in slowly into your group, after making sure they have a hang of the preliminary rules of Requisition. Then, as the group progresses through the Jericho Reach, the GM should make sure that they find allies they can call on assets from, to give them more options.

Making a Chapter: When making a chapter, you might find yourself tempted to keep adding things in to properly represent your favorite brand of space marine. After all, your vision of your chapter might seem pigeonholed when trying to make the rules for them.   But note that the chapter making rules are there with thoughts of balance and reason. If you want to make a change, talk with your GM, and always remember you’re making a Chapter, not a player, so some advances should be left up to the classes, and recall that some advances you can always get from the regular tables.

Finally, the Hard Bits
Vehicles: Vehicles have been placed in the hard section, because they can be both a boon and a burden on a campaign. Though the rules for vehicles are easy, introducing them can effectively jade a group to non-vehicular combat. Why would you ever want to use a drop pod again if you can always take a land raider? When planning a mission, GMs should decide pretty early on if you want players to have vehicles, and always do it cautiously.   If you decide that vehicles will play a part, decide what that part is.  Should the players control it, or is it manned by a crew ferrying them around?  If it’s going to be manned, figure out ways for them to call in support from it, or man the weapons systems.  Try to plan for vehicle combat if you’ll allow one, and for every encounter, plan on how having a rhino will effect the combat and where players will be during said combats.    Note that players will be dismayed if you give them something awesome and then they can’t use it because you didn’t intend for them to (Trust me, they’ll know).  It might seem like a cool effect, but the sharper minded players will ask “Why couldn’t we use it in this combat?”
Players should know that every vehicle request isn’t going to be met, and that every mission can’t be a vehicle mission, and good reasons should be brought up to keep that fact intact. Terrain is too dense for vehicles, there’s too much anti-aircraft emplacements to safely drop with a Thunderhawk, or sometimes a simple “You’re a space marine, and we apply force were and when it is needed”.
I’d advise easing players in with planned vehicles, assigning them a rhino they have to control to ease into it. Then plan additional ones such as using a bike squadron. Eventually once the novelty has worn off, they should be able to ask seriously if a vehicle can be used on a mission, and then it can be considered. These tips can help you use vehicles without ruining the rest of the game for them.

Dreadnoughts: It’s right on the front of the book folks, and lets face it. Who doesn’t want to be a giant robot? But then it goes without saying, that then there is a giant robot in your group, it’s essentially the same as bringing a vehicle every time into combat. I suggest the following tips for dreads in a group:
First, a player should never make a character with the aim of becoming a dreadnought. The renown is too high, and they’ll constantly be jumping into danger trying to kill themselves, which doesn’t benefit the group much. If a player is specifically making one, they should build it like a real space marine, (eg. You should buy skills normally, not considering “I can’t use that when he’s a dread”. Doesn’t really make sense. So up that strength stat!)
If the chance ever does arise for a player to become one, I’d suggest letting them work off the exp required for the specialty kind of like a loan. They earn the exp as normal until they reach that point, then they can buy any other skills they desire. This better represents them not knowing if they’re going to die on any given day or not, I think.
Finally, if a player does get entombed, they should roll another character as well. Just like vehicles, every mission can’t have a dread on it, and every situation doesn’t demand one either. If the other characters have to go into a cave that doesn’t meet a dread’s clearance requirements, then you’re just going to be left waiting outside. So, be honored for the chance, but make another character and smile that you actually got to make one, but let another character pick up trying to attain the glories the last one did not reach.

That about sums it up. Rites is a powerful supplement. But with great power come great….wrong universe. But still applies. Anyway, that concludes our review of Rites of Battle. Now comes the really hard part. Finding something else to post about.

Thought of the day: Be vigilant and strong. The Emperor knows what evil lurks in the vacillation of a weak fool.

Seventeenth Session Part Two – Interactive Cutscene

Now, if you remember, when last we left, the Rogue Trader was trapped aboard the Nihontu as 50 percent of its crew went insane. Luckily, the Explorers were able to find the allied vessel and rescue their leader.

Thereafter, the Astropath was able to share with the rest of his mates what he had seen in the psychic storm that hit the entire fleet.

It was a vision - a psychic broadcast from the Undred-Undred Teef.

Since the Astropath elected to share what he saw, I proceeded with my cutscene. The vision panned down to just one planet orbiting just one star in the Undred-Undred Teef. And there, they saw a vision of war. Total war. Orks fighting orks. Orks in stompas. Tanks. Fightas. All killing each other until a transmission is received by one gretchin who rips off a piece of paper from a read out in a teetering iron base, and thrusts it into the face of his kommanda.

On that paper was one orkish symbol, but the kommanda knew it well. "Tau", he breathed.

Then, the ork kommanda contacted the three other opposing bosses, informing them of the news. "I call a krusade!" he barked, but as one of the other bosses said, "For a krusade...there can only be one warboss!"

Then, all four of the bosses activated in their respective bases an ancient teleportarium which transported the bosses to a hollowed out moon which orbited the battleworld.

I explained in the cutscene the great irony of the whole affair - the ork kommandas could have stopped the fighting and the slaughter at any time. At. Any. Time. They could have called a duel to determine a warboss eons ago, but now only did so because there was a "reason" to.

I then described each of the potential warbosses as they made their way across the hollowed out moon toward each other - and here's where the interactive part came in - the players got to vote on which boss won! So, they got to pick which ork was going to become the final warboss. What I did was to provide a picture and a short, two-sentence description of each.

Da Monsta: a hulking, 40 foot tall super-ork

See-Not: A stealthy, cyber-ork. I told them to basically think, "The Predator".

Jawless: A horribly mangled and mutilated ork with no jaw, and limited capacity to speak.

Auld One: Very much the "standard" ork warboss, who happens to be quite old and somewhat cunning.

I had the players vote for two orks a piece. I figured if they just voted for one, it would just be one ork who won overwhelmingly. In the end, Da Monsta and Auld One got the highest votes, with the Auld One winning. See-Not got no votes at all, because he scared everyone too much. Apparently, stealthy 40k orks are scary. Note to anyone who wants to steal this idea from me, the scarier you make something, it may be that the players are less likely to vote for it.

With that, I then finished the cutscene, describing the ork battle with the Auld One winning in the end. In this manner, the players themselves got to pick the villain of the last quarter of the campaign. Kind of neat, I thought.

The doors of Eroich open

So many updates.  My poor fingers.  But so much news and work to be displayed!   We’ve opened up the watch fortress and moved the Armory into there, along with several new resources for players.  Deathwatch Initiations details how to roll a marine character quickly, the STCs are a full list of all the imperial vehicles I could find, and in honor of the last post explaining vehicles, I cooked up a few custom vehicle upgrades in the Machine Shop.  And we have PDFs too.

Ow.  Think I just broke my finger on that last period.

Thought of the Day:
Appeasement is a curse