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Can Deathwatch Make Fun in Grim Darkness?


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#1 SlamDance

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 05:24 PM

 

With apologies for directing folks off-forum, I just published a new blog post where I detail what I hope to get out of running Deathwatch.

The tag-line for Games Workshop’s fictional universe known as Warhammer 40,000 is, “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

It’s like an odd mash-up of The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in space. Humanity is beset from all sides (and within) and hope is in short supply – some even see it as a mark of insanity.

In this twilit millennium, our greatest defenders are genetically engineered, powered armour-clad warrior-monks called Space Marines, and even they aren’t much better than the universe they inhabit – they’re xenophobic, shoot-first-and-let-others-deal-with-the-questions types.

It doesn’t seem like much of a place to Make Fun in. (Many have made fun of it, sure – the shorthand ”grimdark” is used as a joke in gaming circles.) Most of the other science fiction premises I enjoy usually start with an optimistic premise. Babylon 5 was about different alien races meeting up to solve their issues. Firefly is based around the idea of starship-as-home, crew-as-family.

Hell, my favourite TV show is Doctor Who, which virtually guarantees you forty-five minutes of smile-on-your-face fun, even when it’s dealing with serious drama.

Yet as I find myself getting back into the tabletop roleplaying game hobby, it’s the Warhammer 40,000 universe that I’ve made my most recent hobby purchase within.

Of the first three main sets of rules that publisher Fantasy Flight Games (who’ve licensed the Warhammer roleplaying rights from Games Workshop), I didn’t pick Dark Heresy, the game about investigators who seek truth in the dark corners of the galaxy, or Rogue Trader, the game of interstellar merchants out to make riches at any cost.

No, I bought Deathwatch – the roleplaying game that’s all about the Space Marines.

What the hell was I thinking? Why did I possibly think that it could be fun?

Read on - if you dare…

So what do you think? Am I dreaming? Have you tried to achieve a similar atmosphere with Deathwatch? How did you do?



#2 Decessor

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 11:33 PM

To be honest, I was hoping for a bit more description on how you intend to play out those ideas. I get the impression that you want to have elements of parody but I'm unclear on what exactly you're aiming for in terms of an actual game. E.g. plots, acceptable character types.



#3 SlamDance

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 12:33 AM

Good points, Decessor. I've been thinking a lot about those things, but I have this aversion to posting about things I'm "going to do" and never wind up doing because the group never gets together. I'd rather talk about what I've actually done, whether / how it went as I'd expected / planned and what I could do differently next time.

Still, I've made some notes on Final Sanction and how I'd want to run it, so I could post those here.



#4 SlamDance

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 01:28 AM

Here you go, Decessor!

"Final Sanction" and My Deathwatch Campaign: Focus on Characters



#5 Kshatriya

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 04:47 PM

I keep my Deathwatch game at mostly gritty drama. But humor is frequently thrown in: the clearly insane and delusional Guard corporal who is a critical navigator for them; the foppish Navigator onboard an abandoned space station. One of my players describes his character as a sexual being who is in a blend of platonic and romantic love with another Astartes on the Kill-Team who does not have those feelings at all, let alone for him. Obviously there are hints of insanity and hubris and pathos mixed with the humor but those parts are a nice light-hearted contrast to wading through alien gore and gaining Insanity.

Mostly I accomplish injecting humor with NPCs or situations but some of my players have run with it. It's gone extremely well and I think they enjoy it because they have some ownership of the funny stuff rather than wanting a SUPER SERIOUS game and having some humor thrust unwillingly upon them.



#6 SlamDance

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 07:00 PM

You know the odd thing, Kshatriya? I didn't really think of what I had in mind as being "humour", more just… Larger Than Life (in a Fun kinda way).

I take your point, though. Tone is gonna be a group thing and will be subject to my payers and finding a group preference during play.



#7 Plushy

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 09:34 PM

 If you want to see 40k go fun, look into Shas'O' Rmyr's "Deffwotch."

 

It's a group of Orks pretending to be the holy Astartes. Somehow, no one notices. Shenanigans ensue. It's quite brilliant; Shas makes some amazing homebrew. His next game is called "Squat Crusade," for reference.


My apologies to anyone I offend; FFG staff, playtesters, and forum users alike. 

 

Please check out my Dark Heresy to Only War conversion! You can find it on the main Only War forum. I'm always looking for more people to playtest it!


#8 Drhoz

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 11:56 PM

Well, we're certainly having fun in our campaign - http://www.fantasyfl...=3&efidt=644453 - even if it does get a BIT silly at times :) The Assault Marine Headbutting Contest, for example…



#9 Captain Ventris

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 02:24 AM

If you have a Librarian in the group, the "Everyone forgets something trivial" Psychic Phenomenon role is basically instant comedy. One time, I had a character forget he had turned on the Stummer he had requisitioned earlier, so he forgot to turn it off earlier so it just ran out of power. They got very little use out of it. Additionally, the Devastator forgot he had taken several tries to climb a tree, so he thought he had done a great job getting to the device on top. Everyone else seemed to disagree, and he didn't know why.



#10 Pallomides

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:01 AM

Or have a Kill Team of Space Wolves trying to organize some Fenrisian Beer. I ran this game inbetween missions and Kill Team ended up  a Space Wolf Frigate. The Dark Angel in the team (pissed at SW characters) ended up having to to do the ritual duell (which he won) and the Raven Guard Librarian connected with a Space Wolf scout who bred Ravens & the 2 Space Wolf characters ended up getting pissed celebrating the victory of their DA battlebrother & started a huge fight with the other SW`s because some of the blood claws accused  the DA of cheating. After the brawl was put to an end by a Wolf Guard Captain the tale of Russ and the Lion was retold by a skjald (who rolled a 01 on his storytelling perform roll). The team left and believe it or not they began to play a much mor clever tacticly sound game.

I treat the heros almost the same as I would Knights in the Pendragon RPG.



#11 Decessor

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:44 AM

@Slamdance

Some solid ideas to make the mission more than a slugfest. One of the big draws to Deathwatch for me are the personalities and motivations of the marines involved. My own campaign had a core idea of running the Haarlock Legacy adventures through Deathwatch, but the killteam have gelled together so damn effectively that they're ruffling feathers in universe. Basically, there are arguments about how much honour they deserve and how quickly. A combination of tight coordination, backing each other up and rampant use of squad mode abilities. Plus, actual respect towards humans, if not xenos (they just die in droves).

 

I will say that getting certain marines to feel any sympathy for humans will be tricky. They may not even realise it in character. Just something to bear in mind.



#12 SlamDance

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:58 PM

 Thank you all for the replies! I'll have to track Deffwotch down sometime. My wife mightn't be keen on the 40K universe but reckons the Orks are hilarious (and the most sympathetic of the bunch) and when I told her about the idea she laughed!



#13 AlphariusOmegon7

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 09:32 AM

 Yes.  My players are all unbelievably good at making things silly.  The techmarine now has 'Fred the Servitor' as his follower, a corpse he picked up and rigged as a booby trap on an earlier mission that he's now converted into a servitor.  The Librarian insists on shouting 'fus ro da' every time he uses smite, and our Sanguinary Priest decided that he would basically be a taciturn individual who tries to eat almost everything.  






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