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Fear and failing in Ambulon


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#1 BrotherKane

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 10:25 PM

So at the end of an investigation last night three of my players broke into the hab of the person they thought was behind things in order to search through his cogitator.  Well 2 broke in while one covered them, the fourth was watching the mark to ensure he didn't come back while they were inside.  As they spent slightly too long there they were discovered by the actual big bad of the mission, a pink horror wearing a man's skin.  Since one of them is a distant relative of the Haarlock line it didn't actually want to fight them and gave them the chance to leave, but they decided to fight being the loyal little things that they are.  This would have been fine, the fight would be hard but not impossible for them (I'm using the stats from BC), except that all three facing it failed their fear checks miserably.

One passed out, one is sobbing uncontrolably and the third is running away.

Now the creature has been discovered and can't really carry on what it was doing, they can't be summarily killed because that is a pretty poor way to go (I think) so I'm going to have the creature destroy any evidence of what it was doing and then flee to its true master (The Beloved).  I'm also going to have it mark the scion in some way to freak them out and see what they do.  This is all fine and the players really enjoyed the session as they blew the case wide open and discovered a lot.

My real question here is I have often found fear to be a massive issue for groups, one or two failed rolls and a fight you set up to be hard suddenly becomes impossible, or if you go the other way it is too easy if everyone is lucky.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?  Any new ideas for handling it?  Most people, I have found, get ways to pass fear checks as soon as they can but until their careers allow them to buy such talents etc. it can be a problem.  I would quite like this group, for example, to banish a daemon quite soon as they will really enjoy the challenge and will feel it to be a big victory.  But at the moment a couple of bad rolls and they simply can't do it.  They are rank 4 at the moment IIRC.



#2 Darth Smeg

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 01:05 AM

Two words: Drugs!

Ok, that's just one word, but I thought it was such an important word, that I thought it was worth mentioning twice!


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#3 BrotherKane

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 05:20 AM

Heh, I guess if the players decide it is a problem they can go for it.  But they didn't actually know there was a daemon waiting for them (and I prefer it if they don't tbh, more wow factor the first few times that way :-D).  I was more wondering if people tend to save daemons for later in characters' arcs (even minor daemons)?  Or something along those lines.



#4 Adeptus-B

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 09:12 AM

My (mostly) Rank 7 party has lots Resistance: Fear, and even so they end up resorting to lots of re-rolls whenever a daemon shows up. Even with Fate Points, it's common for one out of six members of the party to be 'incapacitated' by Fear in major combats. I don't really see this as a problem to be 'house-ruled'; rather I think vulnerability to Fear kind of balances out the fact that my (very combat-oriented) party mows through 'grunts' like a hot knife through butter…



#5 Simsum

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 11:20 PM

Now that they know what they're facing, they should be able to handle it if you just let them prepare properly.

Fear, Insanity and Corruption all have massive potential for nastiness far beyond anything the GM intended. I've found it's a good idea to use them sparingly, and to foreshadow them to the point that even a deaf, comatose bat can sense what's coming. I'd suggest you not just think twice about dropping a Fear rating on your party, but also consider how many sessions - and by extension IP & CP events - the PCs are intended to survive, and adjust IP and CP gains accordingly. Per RAW values and playing the fairly combat heavy style the RAW is written for, it seems unlikely to me that a Cell of Acolytes would remain playable much beyond Rank 4, assuming they make it that far. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind. If I ever get to be a player in a DH campaign, I want combat heavy and I want a character that ends life as an insane gibbering mess of bionics and mutations by Rank 5 at the latest. But that is very far from the kind of campaigns I run.

I practically never use Daemons and proper Empyrean entities as combat encounters in our games. Not so much because of their potential lethality - there's fairly reliable ways to combat almost all such things, if only the players know what they face - but because I prefer them to be the kinds of things Acolytes aren't meant to combat directly. I treat them more like forces of nature or minor deities; entities that players might be able to reason or bargain with, and whose plans they can try to spoil, but not entities they can literally kill or kick out of realspace.

Then again, our games are very heavy on detective work and intrigue, and very light on combat. Almost all the combat in our games isn't really combat at all, it's something I throw at the players to make them get a move on, or give them a clue to look in another direction.



#6 Alekzanter

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 05:39 AM

Some time ago ( July 2008) I wrote a Player's Guide to my game. I limited the effects of Fear based on the Rating (1-4) encountered, as follows:

Fear Rating 1- May not suffer results higher than 60 on Table 8-4
Fear Rating 2- May not suffer results higher than 120 on Table 8-4
Fear Rating 3- May not suffer results higher than 160 on Table 8-4
Fear Rating 4- Suffer!

Or, if that isn't your cup o' tea:

A cell of Acolytes will most likely have a Prime, an Acolyte favored above his/her peers by the Inquisitor. The Prime is the cell's "focusing crystal", its foundation stone, and it is to his/her steadfast leadership abilities the cell will look in times of dire peril.

Start with a base score equal to one half the Prime's Fellowship Characteristic. Skills/Talents/Traits that bestow Command and related benefits (Command, Command +10, Master Orator, Into the Jaws of Hell, etc.) will modify the base score as if the Prime were actively taking command of the cell, adding +1 for each such Skill/Talent/Trait the Prime has. The final score is a positive modifier that all cell members (including the Prime) may add to their WP Tests to resist the effects of Fear, as long as they are within a number of meters equal to or less than the Prime's Fellowship Bonus. Should the Prime be Stunned or rendered unconscious his rallying cry is silenced, and the Fear Test modifier is temporarily nullified. (A Special Note: Should the Prime be [permanently] slain a new Prime must be selected, though a moment of dire peril is neither the time nor the place for election campaigns and voting. During an appropriately secure moment, another PC can take on this mantle of responsibility, but the sudden death of an inspirational figure will [temporarily] weaken the cell's resolve; the Acolytes may use one half of the newly chosen Prime's Fellowship Characteristic as a bonus to Fear Tests, but without the benefits afforded by command-related Skills/Talents/Traits. This represents the mantle of leadership and responsibility shifting suddenly; the new Prime may come to wear this mantle better than his/her predecessor, but it will take time, and the GM is the final arbiter in this matter. Obviously, the cell's Inquisitor can veto the cell's replacement if he/she feels the new Prime is not up to the task. For that matter, he/she may veto it for any reason or whimsy, and without explanation.)

I like to use the above House Rule as PCs in my game are barred from taking the Fearless Talent. Fearlessness is reserved for the Adeptus Astartes…and Daemons. And Necrons. And Tyranids. 

Regarding Psykers…
I also limited the severity of Perils of the Warp (not Psychic Phenomena) results, as follows:

Psy Rating 1- Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 13
Psy Rating 2- Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 30
Psy Rating 3- Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 55
Psy Rating 4- Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 72
Psy Rating 5- Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 86
Psy Rating 6 (or higher) -Maximum result possible on Table 6-3: Perils of the Warp: 100

(The reasoning for limiting the severity of Perils of the Warp was two-fold: 1st- Psykers with less experience might use their abilities more timidly, knowing and fearing the dangers involved as a consequence of using their powers, while more experienced Psykers might exhibit hubris and casual recklessness; 2nd (and more importantly)- I didn't want full-blown Daemonic incursions and possessions running rough-shod over a good story.) 

 



#7 BrotherKane

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 10:38 PM

Thanks guys, and Alekzanter in particular.  Not sure I will use all of that but certainly food for thought.  I like the idea of the Prime but I would hope that if a PC wants to be that focal point they would take the appropriate talents.  Might discuss it with my players as an option for one of them to think about taking up the mantle.

As for frequency of warp entities I agree that they shouldn't really be around all the time.  Let's face it if your acolytes have to keep calling on the Grey Knights you are running a different type of campaign that I want to.  But I do want them to face the things sometimes, they are a threat to the Imperium after all.  Probably I need to forbode a bit more so they can think about preparing.



#8 Darth Smeg

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 11:16 PM

I was always reluctant to throw too much of the Daemonic and Warp in the face of my players, both in ol' WFRP and in DH. It might just be me, but I always preferred Chaos to play a role as something sinister in the background that twists the minds of ordinary humans, rather than big warriors with Spiky Bitz.

But even a Rank 1 psycher with the Minor Power Fearful Aura can be enough to send a team of Acolytes running for the hills, so I say use this sparingly. 


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#9 Leviathan616

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 12:01 AM

And this is why you have a good book that says: "A common sense should always prevail over rules." So why bother over rules? A badass guardsman who fells cataconic over fear 1 minor mutant? I dont think so. It is your job, at that point, as GM, to fix the situation as you see fit, and that is what makes a good GM. Making aditional rules or taking them for granted (also quote form book:"Those roles are not "God given".") only means that you need more experience and/or courage to take initiative in your hands. Covering all with rules in Dark heresy is impossible, it ain't DnD (which can be played almost strictly by rules, they even have god damn CR for monsters), so relax, dont complicate your life with them, improvise sometimes, do few mistakes, learn from them, then in future you can improvise better. In the end, you always CAN ask player what they think it would be fine, you might be suprised to find out that they can be even more strict that you are ;)

 

I like to use the above House Rule as PCs in my game are barred from taking the Fearless Talent. Fearlessness is reserved for the Adeptus Astartes…and Daemons. And Necrons. And Tyranids.

You sure? I find fearless very balanced indeed, mostly cause it's drawback, it is double edged sword. Did you saw a point "pass a willpower test to run from combat." Well, that "drawback" depends only on you as GM, and from time to time PC-s should encounter a strong enemy or be put in position to "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" Now, fearless is late game talent, so they could be combat daemons with no problem, so how about running from 3 really huge daemons after they failed to stop summoning? Subtract 10 to Wp from demonic presence, and I would like to see your "cool" fearless talent now.

Using rules to "forbid" some talents that are base for characters like storm troper  aint such a great thingy…



#10 ranoncles

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 06:03 AM

Using deamons and the warp upfront or as a shadowy menace is something each DM has to decide for themselves. Personally, I think low ranking acolytes are not meant for such encounters but sometimes they can stumble upon something more than they can easily chew during their investigations.

A good DM should have that covered by suggesting something bad is afoot and allow the players to preprare themselves. Ideally give them a get out of jail free card like the holy handgrenade which might not kill or banish the big bad foozle but will allow the players to escape and call for help. After all, fighting a deamon should be something special and if level 2 acolytes can do it, it cheapens the entire concept.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that most role players in possession of a cherished playing character must be in want of predictability. They don't like randomness in their characters such as running away in fear while crying like a little girl. Or even worse, being the only one standing in the face of the big bad foozle while the other team members run away….

That doesn't make it bad however. Such unpredictability is good. It keeps players humble and slightly off balance….RPG's aren't chess in which every move is clear and the capabilities of every piece are defined. PC's are humans, capable of great bravery and sudden collapse. The dice rolls are there for a reason!

And just for that reason, limiting the fear rules is a bad decision for a DM IMO. Sure, killing the pc because of a bad roll is no fun for anyone but in such a situation you don't have to kill the pc. You can toy with him instead. After all, turning an acolyte of the inquisition surely gives more bonus points to the deamon than just killing him….

The pink horror could have taken this opportunity to 'seduce' the pc to the dark side. Inflict willpower rolls as the pink horror suggests unwholesome pleasures and give out corruption points. Take away all his fate points as the 'corpse emperor has clearly forsaken him' and offer the pc 'touched by the fate' points instead. Every time he uses them however, he gains 1 corruption point….The player can still refuse to use them and the DM should allow him to regain the 'gaze of the emperor' by doing heroic deeds and earning fate points for such deeds but keep the offer of the deamon on the table. Eventually the pc will succumb…

If it was a Khornate deamon, instead of outright killing the pc, let the deamon torment the player, describe (rather than roleplay) the scene in which the deamon first breaks the weapons of the player and then tears his arm off and starts beating the pc with it. Go on from there but allow the other pc's to recover and return before the deamon gets ready to 'kill' the pc before being distracted by the other pc's….

Makes for a much more believable and remarkable encounter than just destorying evidence and leaving….



#11 Alekzanter

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 01:05 PM

There are many examples of Daemonic entities being bandied about, but let's not forget there are other creatures and circumstances that induce Fear: walking into a room piled with dead bodies, blood splashed liberally upon the walls; an Acolyte cell's Inquisitor found hanging from a noose in his study; the Unliving (such as the zombie-esque creatures in Damned Cities; etc. These things are not of the Daemon, yet still cause Fear…and in non-combat situations, failing by 3 DoF or more nets the PC d5 Insanity Points. Get 20 Insanity Points and you get to ignore Fear 1…and so on. But what causes Fear and suggestions about how often Fear-inducing creatures/situations should be used is not the point of the OP.

All GMs understand Fear can be used as a cinematic set dressing or a dice mechanic. The latter is what the OP was asking for, something that can tone down the mechanic, not cinematic GM "fudging". If someone asks for help changing a flat tire, it does no good to help by suggesting they try a different brand of tire. 



#12 BrotherKane

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 09:14 PM

ranoncles said:

Makes for a much more believable and remarkable encounter than just destorying evidence and leaving….

We obviously have somewhat different thoughts about what is 'believable' for a demon.  A properly controlled entity is just that, properly controlled, and so will do whatever the master wants it to do.  In this case get away so that it can carry on doing bad things™ elsewhere.  That said I think it is perfectly believable for a Tzeentchian entity (such as a horror…) to mess with the characters and then leave them with breadcrumbs to follow.  And in my opinion it will mess with the PCs far more to only mess with one of them, so that is what has happened despite there being two left in front of it.  That way they will wonder - "why her and not me?  What is special about her?  Has she done something to invite the demon's favour/emnity?"



#13 ranoncles

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 10:52 PM

BrotherKane said:

ranoncles said:

 

 

 

We obviously have somewhat different thoughts about what is 'believable' for a demon.  A properly controlled entity is just that, properly controlled, and so will do whatever the master wants it to do.

 

But is that really how deamons behave? Not that I claim to be an expert or such but I had the impression they were constantly trying to break the bonds so to speak beyond the fact that they are notoriously difficult to deal with as they are hyper intelligent and capable of thinking in so many layers the human mind can't possibly conceive of. And that there was no such thing as 'properly controlled'. Sooner or later, every deamon would break the bonds…..And if the 'master' hasn't clearly defined what to do when dealing with other mortals (and defining when mortals are fellow servants, opponents or opponents who can't oppose atm because they are babbling gibberish), there is a lot of wiggle room for the daemon to operate his own agenda….

Not that it matters. It's your game and if you are happy with chasing them off and destroying evidence, by all means, go ahead.



#14 BrotherKane

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 11:45 PM

Well I don't consider a horror a full on demon, I agree a proper demon is going to be impossible to properly control.  Even the most careful summoner will slip up sooner or later…

The reason I am not pushing the consequences of ailure too far are because it was literlly one roll they each failed.  Seems very harsh to take a fatepoint for one failed roll.  I think I made a mistake not forboding it enough so that they weren't all there.  I will try not to do that again, but to be honest I don't intend to throw warpy stuff at them too much anyway.  So far in over 400XP they have met a plaguebearer and this horror and that is it.



#15 BrotherKane

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 11:46 PM

Oh and the Mirror Demon but they didn't fight it so I don't really count it.



#16 ranoncles

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 08:46 PM

 I think we have different views on how to run such an encounter. It seems to me you are too nice as a DM and as a result have lessened the shock & horror pc's should feel when encountering a lesser daemon (and as a low level acolyte, lesser daemons is all ever you hope to encounter)….

You could indeed change the mechanics of fear but why? Players already have such a mechanic. They can burn a fate point and could thus instantly snap out of it. Sure, its pricey but 'use it or lose it'… Or have the pc bash his head against the wall, take wounds or attribute damage and instantly snap out of it if that's what the player wants to do. There are many (role playing) ways to get around fear-induced effects but you seem to be asking if you can make things easier because your poor pc's can't hack it. My own DH acolyte pc guardsman had the same problem and I stocked up on charms (cost him an arm and a leg…), religious blessings (see p.126 of Blood of Martyrs) and what not. 

 

You say you don't want to punish them for 1 fluffed role. So what do you do when your players miss a dodge roll? Lower the damage? Give him a hug? Next time your players encounter a similar menace they won't be frightened. After all, the deamon/warp thingy just says booo and then buggers off (taking some evidence with it). Hardly terryfing wouldn't you say?

Like I said before, you don't have to kill them. Certainly not because of a single fluffed role. But there should be consequences to succumbing to fear. In this case, you even state your players had the chance to escape but preferred to fight. Well, actions should have consequences, my friend. 

Your 2 players which remained incapacitated in the presence of the daemon at the least should have had to burn a faith point to call upon the emperor´s protection as the daemon tried to eat their souls. Narrate it suitably cinematic and your players will know they only survived due to the emperor´s intervention…marking them as more than just cannon fodder for the Inquisition. They are men with a destiny but chaos is out to get them! And next time, they might want to pass on the stupid and pick the smart.

And the one that ran away might in future suffer from existential angst every time he is alone in a long hallway or narrow passage (use whatever setting he was running in) until he can get the fearless talent.

Or as I have said, take away fate points and give them an equal number of 'touched by the fate' points with the resulting corruption when they use them….They can still get their regular faith points back by good role playing and heroic deeds and at the same time have the daemon given fate points to call upon in dire need (and thus will slowly fall into damnation if they actually use them). Your players will be pissing their pants when they encounter a daemon again….

And that is IMO what grimdark WH40K rpg-ing deamon encounters should be. Not a care bear cuddle factory.
But YMMV.



#17 RedSkull

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 04:59 PM

You could have the fear take effect before the battle actually starts….This way more often for failing you are only gaining an amount of insanity, and then not having to worry about rolling on the shock table.


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#18 BrotherKane

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 11:58 PM

ranoncles said:

And that is IMO what grimdark WH40K rpg-ing deamon encounters should be. Not a care bear cuddle factory.
But YMMV.

Um, ouch.  Sorry you feel I'm doing it wrong.  Guess I'll just carry on and hope my players are enjoying it…

Thanks for the suggestion Redskull.  I think I prefer not to avoid a mechanic of the game.






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