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Crafting an Interstellar Behemoth

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:08 AM

Ark of Lost Souls is an upcoming supplement for Deathwatch, a roleplaying game set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000. It presents a three-part adventure set onboard an infamous Space Hulk, Mortis Thule, and functions as a Game Master’s guide to Space Hulks in general.

Today, Tim Flanders, one of the developers of this journey into the terrifying corridors of Mortis Thule, takes us through some of the design decisions concerning adventures within these massive derelicts.

Massive Derelicts

Across the galaxy, from the Ultima Segmentum to the Halo Stars, few events stand as such stark omens of doom and disaster as the appearance of a Space Hulk. Each bloated mass of debris, voidship wreckage, and lifeless star-stuff meandering through the galaxy spreads a pall of misery and terror in its wake like a ghost ship of ancient Terran legend. Still, the passing of a Space Hulk is met with wild rumors of the archeotech treasures and priceless relics that may lie deep within its twisting corridors and forgotten holds. The chance to uncover such wonders is irresistible to many a treasure-hunter and seeker of secrets, and many have braved the xenos infestations and Warp-born horrors that stalk each Space Hulk for a chance to acquire some lost bit of technology or uncover some invaluable artifact of ages long past.

Grand adventure and supernatural terror await within the labyrinthine depths of each Space Hulk, and that feeling of excitement and tension is what we have captured in Ark of Lost Souls, the latest adventure supplement for Deathwatch. For many players and GMs, the draw of a Space Hulk adventure lies in delving into what is essentially a dungeon crawl in the depths of space. Even a single Space Hulk can provide a near-infinite wealth of possibilities for GM ingenuity and player creativity. Whether you’re moving from room to room through cramped corridors, fighting off stalking predators and hordes of mindless killing machines, or forging a path from the entrance to the dark heart of the cursed vessel while surrounded by darkness and maddening Warp-phenomena, the Space Hulk presents a setting in which GM and player imaginations can go wild.

When it comes to representing these horrific settings in Deathwatch, each group will have its own play style and preferences. With that in mind, when it came time for us to make Ark of Lost Souls, we knew that we had an important design decision to make. Should we take the game in a very tangible and concrete direction, replete with tactical maps? Or should we focus on tone, mood, and the narrative experience? Ultimately, we felt that the Space Hulk board game published by Games Workshop already offers a superb experience for those groups seeking a fun, challenging, tactical combat game set aboard an iconic Space Hulk. For that reason, we chose the latter option for Ark of Lost Souls, and focused both the adventure module and the Space Hulk Mission Generator towards capturing the tone and the mood of a Space Hulk, rather than the tactical details. 

A Treasure-Trove of Terror

Ark of Lost Souls is filled to bursting with stats and details on monstrous horrors, ancient treasures, unimaginable threats, and endless environments aboard all manner of ships—human and alien alike—trapped within the tenacious bulk of a Space Hulk. Madness, terror, and distorted realities may lie around every corner or behind every door. In a place that is ever-changing and is utterly indefinable, the pervading mood is more akin to a haunted house or insane labyrinth than the simple voidships that comprise its twisted form. The threats are both real and imagined, as scuttling can be heard down each pitch-black corridor and the feeling of a malign presence seeps from the very walls.

The Space Hulks in Ark of Lost Souls, which includes Mortis Thule in the adventure module and any derelicts the GM creates using the Space Hulk Mission Generator, are presented as a collection of locales, events, and encounters connected narratively by the Game Master and the players. During structured encounters, Game Masters who wish to build their own tactical experience with miniatures and maps are encouraged to do so. But either way, players will be free to take advantage of the fantastic atmospheres, phenomena, and adversaries presented throughout Ark of Lost Souls to push their campaign into the epic realm a Deathwatch game deserves.

Thanks Tim! Ark of Lost Souls is coming soon, so check back for more news as the Mortis Thule approaches...

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