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My Haarlock campaign - comments?


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#1 beardonaut

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 03:49 AM

 

Lots of spoilers for the Haarlock Legacy below, as well as some for Rogue Trader, Black Crusade and Deathwatch.
 
I am currently game mastering the Haarlock Legacy campaign. I have reworked it a bit to give it better pace, and have written shorter scenarios that tie the books together. However, as I have been doing so, some of the themes and ideas I have introduced there have grown, so parallel to game mastering the campaign I have rewritten it extensively. I want a massive, potentially world-changing campaign on a grand scale. Not only do I want the "usual" investigations and missions of Dark Heresy, I want surrounding politics and power games and conspiracies. I want End Of The World stuff.
 
This is The Campaign for me, capital T, capital C. I've been in the WH40K universe for 20 years, I've been game mastering seriously for fifteen and I've run extensive campaigns for Vampire: the Masquerade, Call of Cthulhu, a few GURPS settings and a couple of Swedish games (if you're interested in a dark horror RPG, check out Kult, which is by far the best game in the genre, now sadly out of print), so I hope I know what I'm doing…
 
Below I present my ideas. Any comments on them would be much appreciated, as would any additions/changes. At first, two paragraphs describing the main idea behind it all, then expanding on it.
 
 
 
Once there were six. Three brothers below, Seven, Eight and Nine. Three sisters above, Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. Then Six, the one that is neither sister nor brother and brother and sister both, was born below. Six turned brothers against sisters, and the sisters were cast down. Seven consumed Eleven and Eight consumed Twelve, and were thus raised in power above the others. But Thirteen escaped. Thirteen fled beyond time and space, to a place even those who rule the Immaterium cannot reach. Thirteen hid behind the Gates of Sleep. Thirteen was forgotten by all, except her brother, Nine. He bided his time, waiting for a time when the Gates could open. Waiting to consume his sister.
 
Now events have been set in motion by the last scion of an ancient House, and the Gates of Sleep are slowly crumbling. Beyond them, the Third Sister stirs. Her power leaks once more into the mortal realms, and those over whom she once claimed dominion rise from slumber. Many are those who seek her power, many are those who believe they and they alone know the truth of what is coming. And waiting for her is her brother, the Architect of Fate, who now prepares for his end-game.
 
 
 
Over the millennia, the Haarlock line amassed a wealth of knowledge, much of it stolen from or tied to the Yu'vath, the once and future servants of Komus, the Chaos Goddess of time, numbers and dreams. The Yu'vath were the only ones to remember Komus after she hid herself from the eyes of her brothers, and created a vast empire in her name, stretching through the Calyx Expanse and out into the Halo Stars. With technology stolen from ancient races and the power of the Warp they reshaped entire star systems and seeded their empire with planet-sized artefacts and constructs. Some of them still sing Komus' praises to this day, projecting their dirges through the cosmos.
 
Erasmus Haarlock was a man possessed, with only one goal: to be reunited with his wife and daughter. In what way he accomplished this was completely irrelevant, and he cared nothing for the consequences. During his mad quest he stole and tortured knowledge from anyone. Cultists, tech-priests, haemonculi, farseers, daemons, inquisitors, anyone. All of it for naught. It was in the chronicles and treasure troves of his own kin that he found the answer he sought. There was a pattern to everything the Haarlocks had found, but none of them had seen the connections before Erasmus. And so he slaughtered his House, stealing all their secrets, and set about to open the Gates of Sleep to harness Komus' powers and once again have his family.
 
Had Haarlock been the only one on this quest, he may well have succeeded. But as always, many forces are at play, and what he once thought might be secret has become very complicated and open to many.
 
 
 
I will run this campaign using pre-created characters at 3000 xp, with tweaks allowed by the players. The group serve an alliance between an Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus, who is a member of the Ocularians, and a small group of Adeptus Mechanicus magi. Both the Ocularians and these tech-priests have seen signs of a coming cataclysm and decided they must shape events to make sure the Calixis Sector does not dissolve into complete chaos. They have no idea of the bigger picture, of Komus etc. They have sent several teams of their servants to investigate whatever may be linked to the coming events.
 
The campaign will open with Damned Cities, with the mission as described in the book, to investigate a series of murders with possible malefic ties. I have expanded the description of Sinophia Magna considerably, to make it a combination of the two different descriptions of it that can be found in the DH books (what seems like a regular city in Damned Cities and a proper hive as described elsewhere, in Creatures Anathema among others). The culprit is not a tainted Arbitrator, but the heretek Amicus Tole (again from Creatures Anathema), who has been duped by the Mirror Daemon into believing he can fuse his own twisted heretekical machines with the power of the Warp, when in fact all he is doing is allowing the daemon to escape its mirror prison. I wanted the heretek element for the Mechanicus characters.
 
The point of Damned Cities is for the PCs to uncover that Erasmus Haarlock dabbled with forces of the Warp. Further augurs by the Ocularian seers and Mechanicus oracles identify Haarlock as one of the key components of the coming cataclysm, after Damned Cities, and so the PCs are assigned to investigate him further.
 
Part two is After the Auction. This is based on The House of Dust and Ash from Disciples of the Dark Gods, but instead it takes place on Footfall, in the Koronus Expanse. The PCs arrive there in the aftermath of the auction of Erasmus Haarlock's estate and must track down the buyers and identify and retrieve as many items as possible. At the same time, the station is haunted by a Haemonculus and his servants, who have arrived to search for clues of Haarlock's location, since this Eldar was one of many he stole from.
 
The campaign then becomes focused on compiling Haarlock's Navis Prima, a vast repository of Warp routes and mapped worlds, the first piece of which the PCs recover on Footfall. Haarlock has left the fragments of this invaluable tome as a trail of breadcrumbs to draw out anyone that stumbles upon his mad quest, and to hopefully lead them to find the pieces of the key to awaken Komus that he failed to collect.
 
Further fragments of the Navis Prima will be found on:
- The prison planet St Annard's Pennance, where it is tattooed on the body of a former servant of Haarlock. This will be a variation on the Black Crusade adventure Hand of Corruption, with the PCs arriving after the heretics there have already set their plan in motion.
- Landunder. The head of a noble family there has recovered machines that Haarlock constructed at an early stage, when he thought opening the Gates was easy. He has been corrupted by them and is causing warp phenomena all over one of the Eightfold Vities. I ran a scenarion on Landunder previously, which is appealing since firearms are prohibited there.
- Scintilla. In the Cathedral of Illumination's vaults.
- Redemption, in ruins uncovered by an Ecclesiarchy archeological expidition.
- The Processional of the Damned, onboard a lost ship from Haarlock's fleet.
- Samech. At the center of this fallen Mechanicus world lives the Clockwork Prince, a gigantic machine oracle constructed by the ancestors of the Yu'vath. It will provide information and answers concerning Komus, giving the PCs confirmation of how big the things that are happening are.
- a few others.
During all this, they will become more and more aware of Haarlock's quest, the existence of Komus and the massive power games going on behind the scenes. They will also learn the fate of the Margin Crusade, the secrets of the Jericho Reach and visit pretty much every corner of the WH40K RPG universe.
 
Haarlock's Navis Prima will become complete on Quaddis, during the Festival of Tattered Fates. From then on there are a few short scenarios before Dead Stars awaits, where all the factions seeking Haarlock and his secrets will come together and the decision whether or not to let Haarlock reach his goal has to be taken.
 
I have some major background plots and politics going on as well, but nothing cohesive written as of yet. Might add it to this thread later.
 
 
So. That's it. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?


#2 Gurkhal

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:53 AM

To start I think that this looks really, really cool. The only thing that I would question would be to bring in the Jericho Reach into the game. I personally would probably keep the game in the Calixis Sector and Koronus, with maybe some off-shot into the unchartered Halo Stars. The reason is that I kind of dislike the idea of having the Warp Gate working so long before it was found by the Imperials to start the Jericho Reach Crusade, but I know that it could of course just be me.



#3 BrotherKane

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 05:14 AM

I like it, though I would agree a bit with Gurkhal.  One of the themes I like to promote in DH is that regardless of how End of the World the events get it is only a tiny fraction of the Imperium that sees/feels the initial effects.  Haarlock is epicly well travelled and knows many secrets, however he knows but a tiny fraction of the whole.  If you keep it to one sector then but make it clear that it could bring down EVERYTHING I think it has more impact.  Think of all the billions of sectors where something like this could be happening and everything could be ended on the far side of the galaxy and you might never even know it till it kills you.



#4 Luthor Harkon

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 06:05 AM

beardonaut said:

So. That's it. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Sounds very well though-out, but maybe it is a little too big for my liking. Even though I can understand the fascination for huge epic story lines, sometimes less is more. At least that is my experience after 20 years of GMing. I also tried to press too much into the Haarlock Legacy (without using the Jericho Reach and the Koronous Expanse) and sort of overwhelmed my players a little (the campaign is running since spring 2008, while meeting regularly (i.e. about three times a month)).
Let’s face it, players do not tend to be good at following age long plot lines and intertwined story arcs. Especially if they have a time consuming real life (after college that is…) and the gaming sessions take place only every few weeks.

So, if you really plan to make “The Campaign” happen, take care to brief your players regularly throughout the campaign of what they (should…) know and help them to get along with the more complex plot lines (maybe in the in-game personae of their Inquisitor). Especially the politics going on in the background can be difficult to sort out by players, as they normally like a black and white view of things (even those who never played D&D).

In regard to the Haarlock Legacy I can only give you the advice – especially as you plan to pimp it a lot – to make a plan of all factions, their respective agendas and goals. Maybe include where and when they make their appearance and how they react to other factions (unknown – opposed – neutral – allied – etc.). This may help a lot during the campaign and of course for its end and climax.



#5 beardonaut

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:23 PM

Gurkhal said:

To start I think that this looks really, really cool. The only thing that I would question would be to bring in the Jericho Reach into the game. I personally would probably keep the game in the Calixis Sector and Koronus, with maybe some off-shot into the unchartered Halo Stars. The reason is that I kind of dislike the idea of having the Warp Gate working so long before it was found by the Imperials to start the Jericho Reach Crusade, but I know that it could of course just be me.




Thanks!

I got excited when the Haarlock family was mentioned in The Outer Reach and off I went. My problem is always that I want to cram so much stuff into my campaigns that I steer away from the core plot and drag things out to the point where neither I nor my players have the stamina to go on. I have been considering ways to restrain myself now, and cutting the Jericho Reach from it all is definitely a way to go. Good suggestion.



#6 beardonaut

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:28 PM

BrotherKane said:

I like it, though I would agree a bit with Gurkhal.  One of the themes I like to promote in DH is that regardless of how End of the World the events get it is only a tiny fraction of the Imperium that sees/feels the initial effects.  Haarlock is epicly well travelled and knows many secrets, however he knows but a tiny fraction of the whole.  If you keep it to one sector then but make it clear that it could bring down EVERYTHING I think it has more impact.  Think of all the billions of sectors where something like this could be happening and everything could be ended on the far side of the galaxy and you might never even know it till it kills you.




Good thoughts, just like Gurkhal's. The scale of the Imperium is often overlooked, and I know I am sometimes guilty of that. I will keep it in mind,



#7 beardonaut

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:38 PM

Luthor Harkon said:

beardonaut said:

 

So. That's it. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

 

 

Sounds very well though-out, but maybe it is a little too big for my liking. Even though I can understand the fascination for huge epic story lines, sometimes less is more. At least that is my experience after 20 years of GMing. I also tried to press too much into the Haarlock Legacy (without using the Jericho Reach and the Koronous Expanse) and sort of overwhelmed my players a little (the campaign is running since spring 2008, while meeting regularly (i.e. about three times a month)).
Let’s face it, players do not tend to be good at following age long plot lines and intertwined story arcs. Especially if they have a time consuming real life (after college that is…) and the gaming sessions take place only every few weeks.

So, if you really plan to make “The Campaign” happen, take care to brief your players regularly throughout the campaign of what they (should…) know and help them to get along with the more complex plot lines (maybe in the in-game personae of their Inquisitor). Especially the politics going on in the background can be difficult to sort out by players, as they normally like a black and white view of things (even those who never played D&D).

In regard to the Haarlock Legacy I can only give you the advice – especially as you plan to pimp it a lot – to make a plan of all factions, their respective agendas and goals. Maybe include where and when they make their appearance and how they react to other factions (unknown – opposed – neutral – allied – etc.). This may help a lot during the campaign and of course for its end and climax.




Thank you. Many an hour has been spent on it so far.

I see your point, and like I said above I do tend to go a bit too far. With that in mind we always have a recap at the beginning of each session, regardless of whether it's a complicated campaign or not, and for the current Haarlock campaign I write up short fiction for a few scenes from the latest session to keep everybody in the right mood.

I will definitely add walk-throughs of The Bigger Picture, to make sure they all see what their PCs should know, thanks for that suggestion. From somewhere else on this forum I picked up the idea of an in-game debrief after each completed mission, which is an excellent idea. In the current group we have also discussed the players writing short mission reports in character for the inquisitor to read.

When GMing Vampire: the Masquerade it was very important to keep track of the relations between all the different factions and within the factions as well. I've never really thought to apply that in the same way to DH. Thanks.






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