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Surprise! you were playing deathwatch all along!

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#1 anderssa



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Posted 19 July 2012 - 12:21 PM

 I have always wondered how the primitive indiginous people of space marine recruiting worlds feel when armored monsters come to haul away their sons to an uncertain fate.  Perhaps they don't even know whats going on.  I am planning a game where players are going to end up playing deathwatch, but don't know it yet.

My group has been playing a popular fantasy RPG that is based on the most famous RPG ever (you do the math).  We have also played some Dark Heresy in the past, so my group is quite familiar with 40k and the universe. Since its my turn to GM, I have told them we are going to play our fantasy RPG in a Conan-esque low magic setting.  Arcane magic is evil, all mages are outcast from society upon discovery based on ancient law given by the "Great-Father". The forests teem with monsters and daily survival is a struggle.  The group is a set of young teenagers, setting out on their trial of manhood where they must go out and slay some kind of fearsome beastie.  After trecking through dangerous woods, and a harrowing fight with said beastie, they are victorious and night has fallen.  

It is then that they witness a celestial event laden with foreboding. Twin stars fall from the sky one in the mountains, and one in the forest home of the deepest jungle where the outcast mages live. Carried by the wind, the sorrow ridden howls of the mages are carried by the wind to the ears of our heroes.  Lightning and fire crackles on the horizon where the sorcerers live.  This can only be the culling; an event which happens only once in several generations.  Mountain ogres dressed in impervious armor descend from the mountains to carry off the children of the village.  Since the heroes are between the village and the mountains, they can deduce that they better warn the village or be caught out alone when the mountain ogres arrive. Whatever they do, the mountain ogres find them and bring them to the village if they don't go on their own. Speaking a language the villagers can't understand, they round up all the boys of the village and make them undergo several trials.  Those who resist are killed by the ogres' terrible magic wands that cause bodies to detonate in a shower of gore. Several boys are killed from falls, burns and other side-effects of the tests. Those few who aren't thrown out or killed are given weapons and ordered in their own language "kill".  Some of the boys protest, and those who do not comply are killed on the spot.  Whatever happens, only half of the original party survives the encounter, and are hauled off to the mountains to a strange metal building.  Inside the building, the ogres take their armor off, and to their surprise, the ogres are actually huge men!  They are thrown into a room with sturdy wooden l furniture. From somewhere, they can hear strangely soothing chanting.  It calms them; makes them feel that everything will be alright after all.  Even though they can't understand the lyrics, the voices seem to be saying that someone out there loves them and that they are very special.  The strangest part of all is that the music seems to be issuing from a small golden statue sitting on the table.  Why would anyone make a statue of an eagle, wings spread wide, with two heads?

At this point, everyone has their ah-ha moment, I collect character sheets, and issue deathwatch sheets.  The next adventures take them through training, (1 session) the highlights of their tenure as scouts (2 to 3 sessions) and finally, their first mission as full fledged marines. (1 session) I will add abilites, armor and wargear as they progress in their time in the 10th company.  However, only one player will survive their first mission as a marine, the rest dying glorious deaths. This lone marine survives 2 centuries of warfare and eventually is inducted into….. The Deathwatch.

From there, the game follows the standard deathwatch formula.

What I could use if you are so kind as to comment:

My wife pointed out that this smacks of a recent hungry movie (Dangit, I HATE that movie). How can I make it more different from that story?

How can I describe the marines and their wargear, but not give away my plot twist?


Thanks for your time.

#2 funkwit81



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Posted 19 July 2012 - 01:47 PM

it sounds interesting and hopefully the players will run with it however the "only one player surviving" bit could cause problems however you also need to keep the deathwatch feel of different chapters working together so it's an interesting quandry.

You have a good feel for the early game but may I suggest you try to locate a copy of Space Marine by Ian Watson. It's one of the first 40k novels, early 90s, and details the recruitment, training, implantation and indoctrination of an Imperial Fist, it could help a bit with the latter stages and it's a good read. Check out ebay or amazon and you may be able to grab a cheap copy. It's got a rather different feel to much of the fluff written now but it's an interesting take on the universe and that's not interesting in a C.S. Goto kinda way

There's also the early space Wolf novels by William King which covers the same way but from a wolfey POV of course.

keep us informed of how it progresses and good luck

#3 ItsUncertainWho



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Posted 19 July 2012 - 05:40 PM

I like the idea.

Personally, I would call them Mountain Giants and not Ogres. Giant, to me, hints at more civility than Ogre, but go with what you like.

I would avoid describing the bolters. The village would have nothing that could hurt the marines, so there would be no reason for them to draw their weapons. Combat knives and fists should be the only thing necessary. An Astartes Combat knife is going to be a cleaver of a sword to a normal human.

Possibly mention the Harvest, a time every few years when the giants come down from the forbidden mountains and harvest the children. The smartest and strongest of the children may survive the Harvest but are never seen again. I would try to play up a horror angle for the Harvest.

What does your chapter look like, livery, etc.? Furs, skins, skulls, blue, red ,green , purple?

Keep descriptions vague and let the players fill in the details with their imagination. Avoid mentioning any tech by keeping it in as primitive of terms as possible. Avoid “magic” item descriptions, describe things as strange steel clubs (bolters), jagged great swords (chain swords), etc.

Here is how I might describe the scene:

     As the giants stride out of the forest that surrounds the village, those few villagers who try to flee are stopped in their tracks by deep gravely roars from the giants and are quickly herded back to the village. Every one of these creatures is terrifying to behold. Giants of inhuman proportions, every one of them growling their disfavor. These beasts are dressed in huge gray steel plates of armor, the likes of which no village known can produce. Decorated with unknowable runes, beast totems, trophies, and most disturbing of all, human skulls. There are three things you are certain of…

You know you are in the presence of the true apex predators of this world.

You know true fear.

You know the Harvest has begun.



#4 Librarian



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Posted 20 July 2012 - 06:53 AM

 have you read the space wolf novels? the first one solid part of the book is told from the point of view of a feral tribesman and how he and his people interact with the sky warriors and what it is like being chosen.

#5 SlamDance



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Posted 20 July 2012 - 02:20 PM

anderssa said:

My wife pointed out that this smacks of a recent hungry movie (Dangit, I HATE that movie). How can I make it more different from that story?

How can I describe the marines and their wargear, but not give away my plot twist?

Hm. Well, I think the core idea of The Hunger Games has been around in one form or another for ages. Google the amount of folks comparing THG to an Oriental movie called Battle Royale. Maybe it's just that your wife isn't familiar with the long and storied "blood sport to the death" concept and drew an obvious parallel.

So as long as you don't touch on The Hunger Games' core concepts - love triangles, the idea of performing for an audience to better your survival odds, etc. - I think you're gonna be green anyway. And heck, if any of your players pipes up with, "Dude. this feels really Hunger Games-y. I'm not sure i like it," just ask him if he can help with ways of making it less Hunger Games-y.

As for the Marine bait-and-switch… Well, I'd go with what you've already done. They're Mountain Ogres in plate armour. Your players have imaginations; let them fill in the gaps. And if any of them figure it out… well, look. You're playing with a bunch of imaginative, clever folks. Try as you might, you really can't guarantee that they won't figure it out prior to your big reveal. My advice is, don't sweat it.

The only thing I might say is, if you're selling them on a Fantasy campaign, is there a worry that you might get a few "#!$% you, GM, this isn't waht I signed on for; I wanna play fantasy, not 40K Space Marines!" when you do pull the big reveal?

I mean, think about it this way. Have you seen many movie trailers that don't at least give away that there's some crazy stuff going on? Take The Matrix. The trailers did a pretty good job of keeping the "It's really far-future, post-apocalypse science fiction" bit under wraps while still letting us know that something was going on with all the bullet-time slo-mo stuff and the "No one can be told what the Matrix is" business. And there were still probably plenty of smart-arses out there who went, "I reckon I know what's going on" and were proved right.

Is there a way to let them know that you're going to be playing with their expectations without telling them just how?


#6 anderssa



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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:38 PM

 Well, Session 1 is complete.  

The players' response was very positive.  

We started out by sending them out on their quest for manhood, the village elder telling them "If you don't kill a man from a rival tribe by nightfall, you will face a fate worse than death…. to be considered women for the rest of your lives"  (everyone got a chuckle out of that). After hunting the most dangerous game, the story went pretty much as expected, they were sent to the bottom of a muddy pit to retrieve gems, and sent competitive tree climbing in addition to their ultimate death match.  The two survivors were recruited as in the original post.  

I think they had their suspicions, but I got a good reaction at the big reveal point.  All and all, a very good night of gaming for all.  Might be useful for those of you looking to kick off a deathwatch campaign.

#7 SlamDance



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Posted 29 July 2012 - 06:45 PM

Glad to read it all worked well! 

#8 Dezmo1218



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Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:28 AM

 I may borrow this story idea for an upcoming Black Crusade campaign… the idea of the horrific nature of 'the harvest' has my wheels spinning.  Mmm, Night Lords.

#9 ak-73



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Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:12 PM

anderssa said:

My group has been playing a popular fantasy RPG that is based on the most famous RPG ever (you do the math). 


If only I could find the path to my math textbook.



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