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#1 Sean Miller

Sean Miller


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Posted 23 December 2012 - 12:50 PM

Sup? i'm a long time heresy player and gm and i'm becoming increasingly frustrated with my group. most of the players in our group have trouble role playing. it's as if they view the game as them following the narrative that the gm sets out for them rather than getting together with friends to tell an interesting story by contributing to the narrative, which is how i like to play. this is my first and only rpg group and i wanted to know what other people's experience has been. like…..how do you play or see the game? what are your groups like?

#2 deadlyhammer



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Posted 23 December 2012 - 01:30 PM

well when we started our current group, i made sure that everyone knew the expectations. below is what i printed and gave to everyone before the first session. two people dropped out leaving a nice group of 4 PCs willing to play in that environment.


Character Driven Dark Heresy Campaign

This is intended for a 4-5 player group committed to a story and character driven campaign (as opposed to combat driven), with significant portions coming from the Apostasy Gambit trilogy. Emphasis will be placed on investigation, story and characters, with combat difficulty based on direction of the investigations.  I am considering using Black Crusade or Only War combat rules/structure. This is not final, and will be a topic of discussion.

My initial estimate puts the campaign at 16-20 sessions. If we plan for every two weeks, that puts this at 8-10 months not including any missed weeks.

Your Inquisitor and Setting:

  • The PCs are working for a triumvirate of Inquisitors. The Inquisitor that originally recruited the PCs (Inquisitor Janus Kane) is comparatively new to her post. She is not yet part of any specific Ordo, but is considered a bright rising star.
  • Inquisitor Janus Kane was previously an Arbitrator (hence one of the background requirement below), and at the moment specializes in the investigation and prosecution of heresy, witchcraft and corruption amongst the nobility.
  • The group has not yet met the other Inquisitors, but knows one them to belong to the Ordo Herecticus; the other to the Ordo Malleus.
  • Inquisitor Janus Kane prefers that her acolytes use the same kind of infiltration, informant network, investigation and prosecution methods that provided solid results for her as an Arbitrator.
  • Members of the triumvirate are known to maintain Amalathian beliefs in Inquisitorial circles.


Character Creation Requirements and Restrictions:

There will be some restrictions to group makeup and experience spending. This is for story and background purposes. They are as follows:

  • At least one group member must be an Arbitrator or have some kind of Adeptus Arbites related background package or alternate rank.
  • At least one acolyte will need to be born on Scintilla. This will rule out Void Born, Feudal, Feral, Forge World and possibly other origins for that character.
  • No Imperial Psykers/Warp Dabblers/Nascent Psykers. At least two of your Inquisitors burn witches and other warp dabblers on sight, why would they employ one? That and Psykers do not scale/balance well with their current ruleset/abilities.
  • All Background Package XP costs are waived (unless of course they grant some Psychic ability/power)
  • Group must decide up front if they will be of a Radical or Puritan persuasion. The group is to assume that your Inquisitor has assembled likeminded individuals and are they now comfortable working together, even trusting one another to a degree. Therefore, PC backgrounds may be shared or include other PCs.
  • Keep in mind that extreme Radicalism/Puritanism tends to lead to short PC lifespans as it may lead to conflict with NPCs originally designed to help, not to mention the wrath of your own or other Inquisitors.
  • Sororitas will be allowed, so long as the player is willing to play her accordingly (i.e. Sisters are highly unlikely to be of any Radical persuasion) and the group decides to pursue a Puritan belief system.
  • Part of the above restrictions is for background. Part of it is to reduce and/or limit the amount of inter-character conflict. My intent is to provide a universe where the group understands that they are on the same team, and generally of the same philosophical bent. There will be enough things trying to kill you that you don’t need your own group members doing the same.


What Players can expect from the GM:

  • Generally, characters will not be able to spend experience to gain Talents/Skills until in game downtime occurs.  This is to represent the additional training required to develop these specialized skills. However, this will not be an absolute. Some Talents/Skills can only be learned/discovered in the heat of the moment.
  • Characteristic advances and effects of corruption/insanity will occur immediately. This is to represent the character developing their basic abilities in field situations. The intent is that players will end up banking some experience until they have pursued applicable training/study. I will be very open to reasoned arguments on this point during the campaign, just be prepared to answer ‘why’.
  • The intent is that each player will not have to reroll during the campaign. This may or may not be wishful thinking.
  • Given the above restrictions and expectations, players can expect that the GM will give the characters every chance at survival and success. Combat will occur, but sometimes it is acceptable or even preferable to avoid or flee combat.
  • Weight carrying limits will be enforced. Armor/clothing that is worn will not count against the limit. In-mission weapon loadout will need to be reasonable.
  • Corruption/Insanity totals will be kept secret from the players. Upon reaching a Corruption/Insanity Threshold, GM and player will have a private moment to roll and discuss the applicable Malignancy/Insanity effect.
  • GM may have other private moments to inform certain players of knowledge only that player is privy to. Whether they share that knowledge is up to the player.
  • Fate Points can be used to re-roll Tests against characteristics. Rolls against a table for effects will generally be rolled by GM. Fate points may be spent to re-roll tests, but not against tables (unless GM decides otherwise).
  • If players come up with genius ideas that could derail the story, GM will call for a break. I will need some time to incorporate the ideas while maintaining plot hooks instead of just saying ‘No’ to player ideas/tactics.
  • On the natural roll of 01, something extra cool will happen unless that something extra cool is detrimental to the plot. On the natural roll of 100, something extra bad will happen. Re-rolls may or may not be allowed at GMs discretion.  Muah…. Ha….. Ha….

What the GM expects of the Players:

  • Know your character’s background, and make decisions according to your character’s background (and knowledge). I have all of the Dark Heresy source books. If you need to do more reading, all of these books are available to you.
  • There will be significant in-game downtime and freedom. Use it to your advantage! Find and create contacts, seek knowledge and training, use the Crafting rules to make things or upgrade items, etc. Creative downtime activities will be rewarded and have in-game effects.
  • When acquiring complex or knowledge based Talents/Skills during downtime, suitable training locations should be sought out. For example, you will not be learning Forbidden Lore (Warp) while stranded in the forest of a Feudal planet (unless you have some books to read of course). Understand that this may lead to banking experience until appropriate downtime. This is intended.


Possible Characters (just throwing ideas out there)

  • Schola Progenium born Arbitrator with the Enforcer background package. The Arbitrator was long ago just a lowly Trooper in the Inquisitor’s precinct. He had often wondered where the tough ol’ broad went when one day she was at his door. The rest is history as they say.
  • Lathe-Het born Cyber-Mastiff Handler Tech Priest. Has served alongside the above Arbitrator for the better part of a decade. Despite his position, has shown an aptitude for design, production and component improvement of Cyber-Mastiffs in addition to their maintenance.
  • Gunmetal City born Metallican Gunslinger Scum with the Hive Gang background package. He was busted by Janus Kane when she was an Arbitrator and then he became an informant. Tries to build an intelligence network wherever he goes. Has been nudged in the direction of the Malfian Bloodsworn to build on existing network of contacts.
  • Famulous Protégé born Verispex Adept with the Scholar of the Colleges Hetaireia Lexis background. The Adept was assigned to a case where the lead investigator was Janus Kane, long before her ascension to her current role. He has been instrumental in bringing many criminals and heretics to the justice of the Emperor’s light. Happy coincidence or something more?
  • Noble born Banisher Cleric that has chosen to forgo the excesses of his lineage, instead devoting himself to the study and destruction of demons. Why he has chosen this path, only he knows…
  • Opus Macharius born Crimson Guard (Tech Priest/Guardsman mix) with the Divine Light of Sollex background package. The Inquisitor exposed a Logician noble with ties to a high ranking Tech-Priest within the ranks of Divine Light of Sollex. They have been most generous since that incident and have assigned one of the Crimson Guard to her.
  • Mind Cleansed Assassin with the Fate Eater background package. PC occasionally has visions (or is it flashbacks?) of his own death.  Why is the Janus Kane always in those visions?
  • Schola Progenium born Sister Hospitaller with the Untouchable background.  She never was able to put her patients at ease. The Inquisitor saw her gift for what it was; another weapon against the witch. Could be a very difficult character to play (and dangerous for the party as a whole) given the Sister’s extreme puritanism, even moreso if given the Discordant Elite Package.

#3 Sean Miller

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 01:52 PM

that is a very helpful example of taking an inventory of expectations and present them in a concise manner. these are my dearest friends after all and I do wish to continue playing and having fun with them so thank you. 

#4 PnPgamer



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Posted 23 December 2012 - 08:32 PM

Sean Miller said:

Sup? i'm a long time heresy player and gm and i'm becoming increasingly frustrated with my group. most of the players in our group have trouble role playing. it's as if they view the game as them following the narrative that the gm sets out for them rather than getting together with friends to tell an interesting story by contributing to the narrative, which is how i like to play. this is my first and only rpg group and i wanted to know what other people's experience has been. like…..how do you play or see the game? what are your groups like?

my group only plays, they forgot the "role" part entirely.

#5 darkforce



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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:59 AM

Sean Miller said:

Sup? i'm a long time heresy player and gm and i'm becoming increasingly frustrated with my group. most of the players in our group have trouble role playing. it's as if they view the game as them following the narrative that the gm sets out for them rather than getting together with friends to tell an interesting story by contributing to the narrative, which is how i like to play. this is my first and only rpg group and i wanted to know what other people's experience has been. like…..how do you play or see the game? what are your groups like?

For some reason, with our group it's sort of becoming the exact opposite, but i believe that also has other reasons. We started of chasing this Tech-heretical cult (it changed names a few times in the middle of the campaign) and now we seem to be going for the final confrontation, but actually none of the players care about it much anymore, since all we're doing is "running from meaningless fight to meaningless fight without getting any information what we're actually achieving whatsoever.. and when we try to spice up the thing by ourselves, (2 players are scum, so we decided to obtain funds we might as well rob a bank) he starts blocking stuff etc.. Seems to me, he just turned into a "bad" GM. Here's hoping the Deathwatch-Campaign i'm planning won't turn out that way.

On the other hand, another GM, GMing the first time in general and doing a Rogue Trader campaign, hell, that guy is putting A LOT of work into it… really fun having him doing the GMing, it's the first campaign where i actually really bonded with my characters.

#6 beardonaut



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Posted 26 December 2012 - 10:14 AM

Over the years (20+ playing, almost only GM:ing over the past 10) I've tried many ways of playing. For my upcoming run through the Haarlock campaign, with lots of added extras, this is what I will do and expect of my players.

The characters will be pre-created at 3000 xp (I feel the game is more interesting with experienced characters), with some minor tweaks allowed by the players. This is to make sure they fit perfectly into the campaign. Earlier, when using the whole "fate has chosen you" approach, I have allowed the players to create their own characters, similarly to deathhammer's example above. As a GM I like a challenge, and making such characters fit into the backstory and The Bigger Picture is always interesting work.

Each player gets:
- detailed character background outlining their time before becoming an Acolyte as well as the time spent in the Inquisition's service. This includes case info on major investigations they have been involved in.
- information on the other characters as well as opinions on them. Do they trust them? Which abilities do they know of? Etc.
- information about their Inquisitor. What is his relation to his Acolytes? What is his modus operandi? What is his focus? Who are his enemies and allies? Etc.
- list of contacts, both group and personal. These are all given a level, representing how easy it is to get info/help/gear from that particular contact.
- details on the characters living quarters, while between missions. I think the description of a character's home says a lot about the character.
- list of gear the character is likely to have on his person. They have access to most things, as long as it's not too unusual an item or something that would tip the balance in the game. During a mission, they get an "expense account" from their Inquisitor.

My game mastering style is very much story oriented. I try to limit the number of dice rolls as much as possible, to get a faster pace in the game. The Skills and Talents the characters have are guidelines for what the characters can do, not absolutes. It is only in the most critical partsof the story that dice will roll.

Before each mission, they get an in-character briefing written up by their Inquisitor or one of his servants.

Fate points are used in two ways. Either burned, to escape death, or used to change a situation. The rules state they can be used to automatically succeed on a dice roll. I take it one step further and allow the players to use a Fate point to change a given situation or scene. The change must be in line with the game, and is open to rejection by the GM.
For example: the PCs are running after a thief through an old factory complex. There are rusted machines and gantries and cranes and containers all around. The thief leads them into a small warehouse and then doubles back to close the doors from the outside, sealing the PCs inside. Some options as to what a player could to with a Fate point:
- throw himself off a gantry and swing by a chain to land in front of, or indeed on, the thief before he runs out the doors.
- find a lever that dumps a cargo container in front of the thief, walling him in on all sides as he doubles back.
- jump off a crane and shoot the thief while mid-air, hitting him in the leg, immobilizing him, then land on a pile of old soft tires.
As long as it fits in with the situation and the fact that the characters are fate-bound heroes, anything is possible.

I assume that everything the players say is what their characters say, in-character. If they want to discuss something off-character, they need to state their intention to do so first.

In combat situations, I give them no time for discussions and allow little time for decisions. They must act, not sit around thinking. Failing to do so means losing Actions.

New Skills and Talents can only be purchased between sessions. Each purchase must be motivated.

After a mission is complete, I will run a debrief, sometimes in-game, sometimes not.
I encourage players to write mission reports.
I write some short stories between gaming sessions, each based on a situation the PCs were in during he last sessions. I post these to a Facebook group created for this purpose (this group also allows the players to discuss what ther characters do between sessions) so that both the players and myself can keep the session top of mind.

#7 Sean Miller

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:53 PM

all very helpful you guys. 

one thing that i like to do as gm is write up the rest of the characters and resources in the player's cell with as much detail as possible. my reasoning is that these are the characters that the players spend most of their time interacting with. the players usually dislike some of the characters and gravitate towards others, including them in their stories and such. i think it helps to create a more detailed world when the players have a home base to go to when they aren't investigating or fighting. or at least i think my group likes it. and i enjoy friendly npc interactions with the players. mostly friendly anyways, during an old campaign the player's cell director just didn't impress them and he never recovered. on the other hand one they loved one of the other characters and still talk about him. i remember i cut that campaign short very abruptly because i had a short arc in mind and i hadn't realized that the players really wanted to continue playing and one or two of them still had plans for their characters in that world. so that was an interesting lesson. sometimes it is hard to keep in touch with what the players want or are getting out of the campaign. so maybe stopping and talking to them about what they think so far and what direction they want to go in is a good habit to get into

#8 IdOfEntity



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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:10 AM

The one thing that helped our group the most with character motivation and development was trimming down the group.  We started as a gaming group of five, and now it's only three of us that play.  When one person is acting as GM, the other two get quite a bit of time to really shine and interact with the GM's NPC's.

The other thing that's helped is making memorable NPC's.  There's a Commissar that I'm fond of using.  He torments and often catches the Guardsman Jerichus Plex on a regular basis, but when the chips were down and many of the groups contacts were abandoning them it was that Commissar that pulled through and got them off of Sampson IV.  It's a character that has unresolved tension with the players, but a tension that evolves.  And that's really the crux of it, isn't it?  Tension and challenge.  Make sure the player's have real stakes on the outcome, and make sure it's not going to be easy. 

Maybe I'm just lucky in having two players that grow so fond of their characters that they make 3,000 x 2,000 art pieces of them and post them to DeviantArt.  Or maybe they are so engaged with the characters on Sampson IV that one of them bestowed a BQ Chainsword as a gift to that aforementioned Commissar.  (Completely wiping out that player's savings since rank 1)

And lastly, because I will wind on and on otherwise, I think it helps that the characters not focus on being powerhouses.  Being powerful is boring.  We learned through time that our favorite characters were flawed.  Deeply flawed.  Adepts, Clerics, and Arbitrators are some of our favorite careers because of the Lores and skills.  Even when one player was a Psyker they chose to be a Feral Psyker with a deep fascination with Valkyries and flight, and such was that fascination that they went far out of their way to become as proficient in Tech as possible just so they could be as close to them with justification as possible.  It wasn't efficient or even prudent, but it was memorable.

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