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Overcoming the Intimidation of this Game…


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#1 GalaxyUC

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 05:44 AM

I bought the Collectors Edition of Rogue Trader…I bought Battlefleet Gothic ships and even Space Hulk 3rd…now..I'm ready to cry. haha. I;ve been a GM for 20 years, Star Wars, D&D 2 to 3 and now we are sucked into Warhammer 3E RPG which is just a fantastic system we all love. My group gets together about 4-5 times a year for weekend long marathon sessions, because of proximity.

I've always been curious about the 40K setting. It's very popular here in Chicago I came to find out and yes, I'm certain it is elsewhere. Coming from Star Wars as our only Sci-Fi setting (and a brief Shadowrun phase), I am completely floor by the vastness of 40K. I was aware of the Calixus Sector by playing BF Gothic a few times, but I never new what I guess a small slice of the 40K canon is was. I soon learned that the Koronus Expanse is but a sub-sector of the 40K setting, and even this sub-sector contain hundreds of thousands of worlds? I'll be straight honest right now, my main impulse to move into this game was based on the Battlefleet Gothic ship aspect of it. I was thinking, my PC can be captains of these mighty ships? How cool! Turns out, that the ships are important, but the way in which they are used is a little tricky.

I'm a professional in my 30's. This book is 400 pages and there are 3 more books I feel HAVE to be read. I'm digressing big time here. I think the system of this game is beautiful and really simple when you break it down. But, the setting structure is where I'm experiencing self-doubt. This system just seems too big. And what I mean by that is, these player of mine could DO WHATEVER THEY WANT. There is nothing stopping them from jumping to planet to planet, and I have to think of a completely fleshed out world, with Government, Rulers, Armies, plot, etc. every time they show up. If there's adventure to be had, well, they can just grab 9,000!!! people aboard their ship, send them down and wait for them to take care of things. What's stopping them other than profit factor? Those are extreme examples of course.  But you get my idea? This is but a FRACTION of the Imperium to play in, and there this much stuff going on.

I'll admit that I'm kind of sucker when I thought that my guys would be independent Han Solo's running around the 40K land, visiting planets and fighting some ominous force, like the Galactic Empire…turns out…my player could BECOME the Galactic Empire in a few short sessions.

Here's what I'm getting at…I really want to play this game, and get it to work. What did you all think of this game when you first got started? What were hardships that you encountered and how did you over come of either the games set-backs/limits, and/or how did you rein in players? Success Stories, or just tell me I should walk away from the game now, because unless I devote myself to years of of reading 40K novels, I'll never enjoy this game…

thoughts??

 

 



#2 Larkin

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:40 AM

 Yes, it's pretty huge.

I started small, running an adventure based off the dynasty's history, then running the adventure in the back of the book, then dealing with the consequences of both those. We moved on to Lure of the Void, and have been dealing with subplots from that adventure since. They've only now gotten to the major plot that I've been building towards since we started the campaign. My guys are Rank 6, on the verge of Rank 7 and when I look back at my synopsis, it doesn't seem like much, but it's been almost a year of play time and nearly 20 of in game time.

Rogue Trader is very, very open ended, and if your players have goals I'd suggest working towards those. Throwing in vague, undefined plot hooks that might be related to their personal goals is probably the best way or catching a players interest with the least amount of work. Try to write as much down as you can, but be ready to throw it all out the window if the players don't agree with it. Don't write out the structure of the story, merely write out the high points, the things that you could conceivably insert where needed. Drop plenty of foreshadowing when you can, and don't be afraid to wander off script for quite a while, those digressions can lead to a much more meaningful climax once they've been woven in.

And you don't have to read the background materiel if you don't want to. 40K draws from almost every other piece of Sci-fi out there, and puts a much darker spin on it. As long as the mood is right, it's 40k.



#3 Vandegraffe

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 07:44 PM

Start small…  I'd suggest either an old dynasty that's a shadow of its former self, or a fledgeling one just starting out.  That lets you truly empire-build.  It's much easier for the players, and the game-master, to build the dynasty in the game than it is to start with a huge dynasty right out of the gate.

Also, I made the mistake of letting my PC's start with a high profit factor and a small ship.  The high PF is a huge advantage that the PC's got frustrated trying to use effectively, and the small but well equipped ship didn't have any room to grow with the dynasty.  Not good.

Cheers,

- V.



#4 Nerd King

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 09:27 PM

When I started I had a similar, but slightly different issue.

I'm a lifelong WH40K fan and I "got" Dark Heresy (both conceptually and literally) straight away, same with Deathwatch.  I could see how those games would work for me & my playing group. Rogue Trader on the other hand….I got the books for completeness but empire building?  Being your own boss? That didn't feel quite *right* - and yet there was a part of me that harked back to my original WH40K 1st Edition "Rogue Trader" tabletop game and the fact that my first army for that game had been a Rogue Trader and his entourage….there was *something* So I got most of the books for completness, used bits of it in my DH game and otherwise they sat on the shelf.

Then last year, for a bit of fun I decided to sit down, look over the rule book (and just the core rule book) and see if I could draw out some inspiration - if it was a professional writing assignment or if I was a player not the GM what would I want to see in RT? I made a list of themes and topic - the key practical points I liked and went from there.

The campaign that has come from that has been arguably the most rewarding, entertaining and exciting I've EVER played or run in about 30 yrs of gaming.  The players love it and we now have a short list of extra people who want "in".

Now I'm not saying that I have a majic wand to wave - what works for me might not for you but what I would say is that s GM you need to find the key *in* fro you - you need to find a theme, story or element that you want to run - something that excites and drives you about the game.  The rest is just the dressing.

It's the big secret of RPGs - the books, the setting material, the novels, miniatures all that stuff - it's not needed - we love it (I have shelves and shelevs of it) but it's the bells & whistles.  All you need is a story - a concept that you as a GM can bring to life.

Start there, whether it's small or grand in scope.  Add bits of the books etc as you go, it doesn't need to be everything right away but it does need to appeal to you.



#5 NetzachBenetek

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 02:22 AM

Don't be to scared of them running everywhere. There's stuff in the rules about upkeep rolls (they risk incurring cost for maintaining their ship, I think at GM's discretion) and you could even introduce a quick and dirty house-rule that they need fuel. Plus they will be in it for profit, so randomly jumping to stars in the hopes there's planets around them (not guarantueed) and then hoping for anything that's worth any money on that planet is not very smart…

That being said, I do think part of the charm of the system is the possibility that players pursue their own goals and not just a GM-set adventure hook, but they should also understand you can't make it up on the fly. As part of character creation let them write down one ambition (or a top three) which you can work into the story in due time (eg Navigator: dreams of creating first complete map of the Koronus Expanse stable warp routes; Rogue Trader wants to get the ship back his great grandfather lost deep in the expanse 150 years ago; etc)

Also I think there's some tool to auto-generate starsystems (won't include government and such, but at least type of star, amount of planets, type of planets etc), Drhoz can you chime in and give the link for this? It could  be a big help if  they start travelling.



#6 Catbeard

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 03:20 PM

 I completely understand where you're coming from GalaxyUC. I've been collecting RT since it first came out, but have found the scope of it daunting, though hopefully I'll have a game up and running very soon.



#7 Adeptus-B

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 10:57 AM

 

Dark Heresy and Deathwatch have a major 'labor-saving' advantage over Rogue Trader and Black Crusade: the GM assigns the PCs specific missions. This makes them much easier to run for new GMs, or ones with limited prep time, as opposed to the 'open-ended' nature of RT and BC. If you are feeling overwhelmed by RT, it might be worth 'building up' to a RT campaign with a short, more straight-foward DH or DW campaign…



#8 Larkin

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 04:31 PM

Adeptus-B said:

 

Dark Heresy and Deathwatch have a major 'labor-saving' advantage over Rogue Trader and Black Crusade: the GM assigns the PCs specific missions. This makes them much easier to run for new GMs, or ones with limited prep time, as opposed to the 'open-ended' nature of RT and BC. If you are feeling overwhelmed by RT, it might be worth 'building up' to a RT campaign with a short, more straight-foward DH or DW campaign…

Actually, I would have to spend more time between sessions preparing if we weren't running RT. Since the adventures would be more scripted, I'd actually have more scripts instead of improvising nearly everything. I find that the open ended nature of RT promotes reactive storytelling rather than proactive storytelling.



#9 Errant

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:19 PM

 I've GM'd about five major campaigns since the rulebook was released and only properly prepped maybe a tenth of the sessions. Everything else has little vignette snippets that I can insert around whatever the players want to do. Takes only a little bit of pruning and reshaping to fit. If the players have three doors to pick from, the one they picked is the one you intended them to go down.

Frankly, one of the most important abilities to learn as a GM is to hide the rails well enough that the players think they can do anything.



#10 Drhoz

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:44 AM

NetzachBenetek said:

Don't be to scared of them running everywhere. There's stuff in the rules about upkeep rolls (they risk incurring cost for maintaining their ship, I think at GM's discretion) and you could even introduce a quick and dirty house-rule that they need fuel. Plus they will be in it for profit, so randomly jumping to stars in the hopes there's planets around them (not guarantueed) and then hoping for anything that's worth any money on that planet is not very smart…

[snip]

Also I think there's some tool to auto-generate starsystems (won't include government and such, but at least type of star, amount of planets, type of planets etc), Drhoz can you chime in and give the link for this? It could  be a big help if  they start travelling.

http://donjon.bin.sh/scifi/system/

re: running off everywhere - my group, of which Netzach is a member, elected to pursue a Logician cruiser that had been preying on Imperial shipping, managed to follow it back to it's home system, and intend to lead a fleet of ships to stomp them flat. I'd only ever meant the encounter to be a minor incident, and now I have to invent an entire war.

That said, their first attack on the system cost them three ships,. and the Logicians have had the better part of a year to improve their defenses since then.

I have, however, started to build plot links between everything that's happened in the campaign so far, so it should all hang together by the end. I hope. So far it includes Eldar assassinating Iron Hands space Marines, A.Is. Necron artifacts, two unknown xenos species, Styrxis, Logicians, Cold Trade hereteks, Ordo Xenos Inquisitors, and annoyingly wealthy rival Rogue Traders. And possibly a return by Ork Kaptin Buzzkill, last seen as a decapitated head.

god-emperor help me….



#11 Red Bart

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 12:34 AM

In my experience because the scope in RT is larger the games also tend to run at a slightly slower pace (e.g. players will have to get around on the ship which takes time). This gives you more time in between sessions to prep the thing they are currently engaged in. RT is a game that requires the GM to improvise a lot more than other games might though. It helps if you have some generic situations and/pr enemies prepped. Also, if they do something unexpected, you can always spring a warp incident on them, such as dropping out of the warp (voluntary because a large warp storm is ahead, or involuntary because of a mishap) in an unexpected location. A location you of course have prepped and ready.

Two things that helped my game greatly are (1) Read through a bunch of scenarios or make up a couple of your own, and make an astropathic communique for each of them. For instance for the introductory adventure the Rogue Trader may receive an astropathic communique that a man named Orbest Dray residing in Port Wander claims to be of your dynasty and claims he has important information. Now distribute the communiques to the characters of the different players. This gives each player the lead for a scenario, and usually peaks their interest enough to make them want to pursue it. All of course at their own leisurely pace, without the need to railroad them (which is arguably even more important in RT than any other RPG). (2) Let them start the campaign in the Calixis sector without their Warrant of Trade. No warrant means no endeavors, so the first thing on their to do list will be retrieving that document posthaste. While dealing with this problem other sub plots will inevitably arise, which you will be able to flesh out in between sessions. It gives a clearer view of where the group is headed, which will make it easier for you to  prep (instead of having to flesh out the entire Empire, you'll now only have to flesh out a single world). For example my group had as back story that their dynasty was heavily involved in the cold trade. They started out with the top of the dynasty either killed or arrested by the Inquisition (which coincidentally was also the way their DH campaign started out), including the previous Rogue Trader (the father of the current one) who went down with his cruiser at the edge of the Rubycon system. The group immediately set out to reclaim the Warrant of Trade, which was locked in a hidden vault on the hulk of his father's cruiser. The cruiser hulk was of course guarded by a requisitioned naval vessel and had inquisitorial acolytes laying in ambush. This makes for a good introduction to the RT system, as you can have a 1 on 1 fight with the naval ship, and then a skirmish with the acolytes inside the hulk. Of course when this played it took them four sessions to even get to the site, with them going to Scintilla to kit out their troops, searching the raided spire mansion of their dynasty, and later a self inflicted Geller field failure during warp travel. Those four sessions were some of the best roleplaying I have ever done in my 25+ years of GMing, mainly through the freedom granted to the players by the system. It may be a little harder than normal RPGs (but not as much as you might think), but it is very rewarding!

(just for the record: I ripped the first idea off from another forum member, but I forgot his name)



#12 mrobfire

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 06:36 AM

You know Red Bart, I've seen any number of GMs talk about how they had their players start without their warrant and the hilarity they built around that. I don't think I've ever liked any of the ideas I've seen in that vein until yours. That sounds like it would have been really fun. Mad props.



#13 crisaron

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 09:50 AM

[me] there is a lot of IMO included in there[/me]

 

This is the thing, RT is closer to Wampire then DnD or Star wars. Lots of the action as to come from the players, try to get a feel of what they want, what are the goals, what are the plans. The story is as much the players as the background. (Do they want to play pirates, Traders, conquistador, Privateers, warmongers, peace envoys, xeno hunters, etc.) Tyr and find a feel for the campaign.

Have the RT create a story (or anyone) that the party as to agree too, something to unite them in the end. It's their sandbox, players with RPG experience will see this fast, it's about them not just the storie or the hack and slash.

Start Small, especially with new players to the 40k genre. Talk about the living condition one game, by making little images about the hundred of millions toiling under your players. Every game have a little darker part of the Empire show through and also show the darkness of the enemies outside and inside.

Bring them in into a mission 2/3 or 1/3 into it, like int he DM screen, you tell them you accumulated X resources, made X friends/associcate and pledges/promisses (yes you have to deal with various organization to get financing,  AdMinistrum, the Eclesirachy, the Mechanicus, etc). 

THEN SHUT UP FOR 10 MINUTES WHILE THEY DECIDE WHAT THEY DO. Only helping them along, never telling what to do but only what they should know.

It will evolve on it's own.

 

  1. Ask players about goal and intention
  2. Prepare random encounters to spice up the things, they will come handy when players derail you
  3. Expect to be derailed all the time, Expect the unexpectable.
  4. Don't create a rigid plan, use very loose key points and event to tie in your story, let the players build the story, use NPC around the players to influence them (i.e. My Lord, this may be a dangerous course of action) When players take the hard road you can warn them but don;t shut them down  (can be very hard be you may have to kill them all, it's life anyway, no 1st timer should try to take over the inquisition and succeed! Like no one should have been able to kill Darth Vader in the Star Wars Saga edition )
  5. It's not because it's DnD campaing idea you can't use it. Just need to work the box to include star ship and epic scale power. But brute force and total destruction won't save the princess if she is already corrupted, now maybe a flesh puppet (or clone) could be a replacement they won't notice.

P.S. If there is no seneshal, I recomand using him as a NPC, the know it all dude.

P.S>S if players do something really stupid (like trying to wrestle a dople ganger (yeah it happened), make hem roll a skill and then tell them it's stupid your instinct tell you it's stupid. If he goes for it kill him… it's a hard world.

 P.s.S. the 40k system is very sudden death, it's ok, but SOMETHING, burning a faith points mean you are out of action and safe until the next action sequence. Don;t be a duche DM and have mass Faith point burning session. (You wonder why?, because taking a faith point means you failed but survived, you did not die where you should have, fell through a crack in the world and can;t do **** until the end of the seen (so if there are 2 fights in a row and you died in the 1st, then yes you are missing both since ti takes a while to heal in this game, etc.)

 



#14 Red Bart

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 11:14 AM

mrobfire said:

 

You know Red Bart, I've seen any number of GMs talk about how they had their players start without their warrant and the hilarity they built around that. I don't think I've ever liked any of the ideas I've seen in that vein until yours. That sounds like it would have been really fun. Mad props.

 

 

Thanks! It was. Doesn't hurt that I have players with a lot of roleplaying experience under their belts either, so things move along smoothly.

And don't forget when the players do enter the vault to retrieve their warrant, tell them: "When you enter the vault you see the place empty and the warrant has already been taken!". *Wait for the disappointed and sour looks from your players* (savor the moment). Then tell them: "Of course, as you well know, the real document is hidden beneath the floor boards of the vault.". Turning the climax into an anti-climax and back into a climax again. Keep them on their toes



#15 Errant Knight

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 03:33 AM

I'm a professional in my 50's and have played RPG's since, well, since there were RPG's, and space is my favorite.  These rules are good, the genre is great, and our enjoyment has been significant.  That the genre covers the entire galaxy makes it an enormous venue, but don't let that intimidate you.  I've played in much smaller universes that were much more intimidating, mostly since exploring could be so profitable.  Rogue trader simply isn't that way.  It shouldn't profit your players to simply go off exploring, and that's something you have complete control of.  Their greatest profits should come from sticking to the script, which is to say from following the clues you hand out to them.  This will prevent them from wanting to go off gallavanting about the galaxy just to see what's out there.  Most stars probably won't have planets, but that's for you to say.  Of course, not all inhabited systems need planets, but that's part of the exotic fun of space games.  Give your players reasons to want to follow the script and they probably will.  BTW, I'm in Chicago, too.



#16 Sister Callidia

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 04:52 AM

I always describe RT as the game that begins where other campaigns ended. You have beaten the dragon, stole his gold, married the princess and became the King of Ever Happy happy land. The End.

But that is where RT picks things up. Yes, you are the 'King' , you have 10000 subjects you can order around, a spaceship that can reduce civilisations to ashes if you want. But you are a tiny small fish in the huge pond. You are a dwarf compare to other Dynasties and a flea compared to the forces of the Imperium. Whatever you do, the Inquisition is watching for you to cross the line of heresy, your RT peers are watching you for weakness to gobble you up and you have to deal with other Kingdoms to start making all that important profitt. Lets not mention the dangers of the Xenos either.

You are a baby shark, can you survive and grow into a healthy large shark? That is the question.

 

 



#17 Tron_18

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:42 PM

To the OP's question about having a huge crew that could solve missions for them:

I think an important point that is easy to miss when you first read the rules is that while it is true that you control a crew of thousands, they are not adept warriors -- instead they are underhive scum, possibly press ganged into serving on your ship.  Arming them all with weapons and sending them into battle is not a good option because they have no specific weapons training (or any combat training for that matter) not to mention arming your crew could make mutiny a real threat.  Send them down to a nice hospitible planet, and they might never return :)

If you want an army, you have to hire one through acquisitions, and make room on your ship for them.



#18 ShadowFighter88

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 08:39 PM

Tron_18 said:

To the OP's question about having a huge crew that could solve missions for them:

I think an important point that is easy to miss when you first read the rules is that while it is true that you control a crew of thousands, they are not adept warriors -- instead they are underhive scum, possibly press ganged into serving on your ship.  Arming them all with weapons and sending them into battle is not a good option because they have no specific weapons training (or any combat training for that matter) not to mention arming your crew could make mutiny a real threat.  Send them down to a nice hospitible planet, and they might never return :)

If you want an army, you have to hire one through acquisitions, and make room on your ship for them.

Except that one book suggested that about 10% of a ship's crew are armsmen - you know, the rank-and-file soldiers allowed to carry a gun to both maintain security aboard the ship and help repel boarders?

There are a couple of ways around them just sending hordes of armsmen to solve the problem that've been mentioned elsewhere on the forum.  I haven't GMed a game of RT yet but I remember the basics of a couple of them.

The first is that for a Rogue Trader to properly lay claim to something (salvage, land, etc) he needs to be there personally.  If you've beaten a ship in space combat and go over to start looting, at least one salvage team needs to be lead by the Trader for it to officially count as rightful salvage - clearing a ruin of xeno to claim the treasures within likewise requires the Trader to put his life on the line and go down there personally to help clean it out.

Failing that, just let your players know that there is a degree of suspension of disbelief.  People've compared the Trader and his entourage going down personally despite having an army of armsmen to how Captain Kirk and the other senior staff would go down to the planet instead of a survey team of less-vital personnel (mind you, considering the life expectancy of the Red Shirts… ).

Another possibility is to penalise them with less experience (since they're not doing anything themselves), lowered Profit Factor rewards (due to replacing lost armsmen/equipment), morale loss among the crew as they start to believe that the Captain is willing to sacrifice them instead of risking his own hide or a combination thereof.

Finally, stat-wise armsmen aren't as good as the PCs.  For a start, they don't have Fate Points.  In addition, the PCs are more experienced (I imagine armsmen are about the same as a starting Dark Heresy character) and better equipped.  All the armsmen have going for them is numbers and counting on that is a sure-fire way to make crew morale plummet and possibly even start a mutiny.



#19 Drhoz

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:54 PM

ShadowFighter88 said:

Finally, stat-wise armsmen aren't as good as the PCs.  For a start, they don't have Fate Points.  In addition, the PCs are more experienced (I imagine armsmen are about the same as a starting Dark Heresy character) and better equipped.  All the armsmen have going for them is numbers and counting on that is a sure-fire way to make crew morale plummet and possibly even start a mutiny.

 

Plus sending all your armsmen down would be a great opportunity for all your pressed crew to look thoughtful, pick up any heavy or pointy tools they have to hand, and introduce the Lord-Captain to the concept of constitutional democracy + Great Big Clubs.



#20 Claw

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 10:50 PM

GalaxyUC

One great starter method to “tether” your players is to give them a responsibility, something which will prevent them from going completely off the rails.

A simple example of this would be, in your intro game, to have them establish/rescue/whatever a small colony in the Expanse. Flesh it out, make it useful to them (better acquisition checks there, for example) and fill it with NPCs they can care about. Once dealt with it becomes their responsibility and, unless your players are completely evil, they’ll be concerned about the place’s wellbeing as they continue to adventure. And whenever you need to yank them back… low and behold… Orks raiding the colony… vital piece of equipment breaks down… etc etc…


I would hope that the players would quickly learn that whenever they throw away thousand of men in a battle somewhere you’ll suddenly drop a “home colony being invaded” scenario on them where they have to respond to before they can replenish their troops. Eventually you’ll condition them into caution, so they think long and hard about throwing “disposable” resources at problems they could solve themselves.


Of course, that only works if your players are a reasonable bunch. Otherwise… embrace the chaos and just let them cruise around being nut cases!






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