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#1 Inquisitor Zadok

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:07 AM

Hi everyone.

This coming weekend, I introduce myself and my friends to Dark Heresy - we are all veterans of 40k tabletop & videogames.
I have been chosen has the Games Master for my knowledge of 40k lore and my love for 40k novels.

Just before i Introduce you to my adventure idea, What sort of things should I be watchful for or made aware of has a Games Master? What tips do you have for me to not just be a good Games Master but a great one?

My idea that I have called "Prelude" is to be set in a simple setting made to introduce myself to the games master's role and help my players get to know their characters as well as get the feel for the RP thats involved in this game.

Prelude occurs before the first Inquisitor given mission.

The acolytes are on route to the Calixus sector, where they will be briefed on their first investigative mission as an acolyte. They are travelling in the warp onboard an inquisition Black Ship that is picking up the psyker tithe from the Calixus sector. There are psykers onboard already from planets that have been on route. We first meet our characters in their dorms and from here they can explore the ship (authorised sections only!) and interactive with members of the crew or dare to approach the psyker containment zone!

They will be introduced to the knowledge of Geller field that protects the ship and the smaller version that contains the psykers. There will be members of the crew & passengers that are rather suspicious and be of interest to keep an eye on. 

Suddenly the psyker containment field is nullified and fighting breaks out as psyker attack and guards & servitors try to contain the situation. The players will be introduced to evading combat and trying to figure out whats going on, why the field gave out and if the ships geller field is in danger.

I will introduce them to easy combat by fighting easy targets like small creatures in the vents or crew members that psykers are controlling.

and towards the climax of the story when the crumbs lead to a mysterious unknown figure, I was thinking of having them fight a boss - A witch, so that they can put their heads together and fight for their lives (hopefully not killing the players!).

The figure will be left unknown but enough clues to keep the story gripping as we move into the first proper adventure planetside…

The aim with this prelude as mentioned is to really introduce the basics of DH and encourage the players to feel and be their characters, as well as give me an interesting enviroment to game master over without it being "too big" for me.

Thanks in advance for your help.
Z



#2 BrotherKane

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 02:42 AM

Sounds like a good adventure to start on.  Lots of opportunity for really good DH themes to be put forward.  In terms of tips I would be careful with their first few fights.  If they are into the tabletop they need to be reminded that they are not space marines and when they start they are not really even tabletop guardsmen!  If you think they should run from a fight make it really clear, have some random crew guy get totally ripped to shreds in front of them or let them find a tooled up servitor that has been wiped out.  Otherwise you could find fatepoints flying a little early.

Also I would try to keep the suspense going in this situation.  When everything goes wrong have them out in an unfamiliar part of the ship, off training maybe?  This adds to the tension, they don't know who is good and who is an escaped raving witch.

In terms of gamemastering in general the best thing I think is to always try to be fair.  Don't bend the rules to allow your badguy to get away, make a new one if they get him.  Likewise if you get a lucky shot on a PC roll with it. 



#3 Adeptus-B

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 08:39 AM

Welcome to the world of Dark Heresy! My advice is to review the official Errata before you start playing- there are a lot of tweaks and clarifications that make the game run smoother.

With regard to your scenario, be sure to take into account the very low chance of success on Tests at early Ranks… In other game systems, you can safely assume that the PCs will likely triumph, but in DH that's not always a valid assumption! For example, my party's assassin- a sniper- scored hits just over half the time (of course, now that she just hit Rank 7, she usually only misses on a weapon jam…). Fear Tests, especially, can monkey-wrench a low-Rank party. The best way to compensate for this is to try to build in multiple paths to success- so that if they botch the rolls for Option A, they can move on to Option B (-and C, D, etc).

Good luck- and have fun with it!



#4 Inquisitor Zadok

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 09:37 AM

Cheers guys, That exactly the things I'm planning. I've heard alot about how fragile PC are/can be so whilst i want them to experience a taste of combat, I want it to be most about atomsphere, and encouraging them to really get into character…if psykers are loose…how can they believe their senses?…who is friend or foe…?

So by the time the prelude comes to a close - their characters can reflect on…wow…we've not even got our first mission and this is the world we are entering as an inquisitor's acolyte.

 



#5 Alox

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:28 AM

Fear the witch - good start to their career in my opinion! I once was a player in a game where we had to investigate some strange events in the lower decks of an ancient battle cruiser, and there were lots of mutants and such. But then we heard this psycich scream, and one player got controlled for a short while. Without ever meeting the psyker we failed a few fear tests and went head over heels to get out. The threat was much more frightening than actually having to fight the psyker.

Btw. remember that a black ship have inquisitorial storm troopers and/or sororitas sisters of battle as a defence force, so if a fight gets too rough its not unreasonable that they could get aid.

 



#6 Inquisitor Zadok

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 07:05 PM

With so many rules and test to remember, How do you guys do it as a GM, knowing when a test is applicable or not applicable.

Whilst i'm really enjoying planning a plotline/story arch and creating NPC, i'm rather concerned about the mechanics - knowing when a test is required or not required.

example: a PC steps out of his dorm, looks around the corridor, walks down, heads into a big chaplancy area, prays to the Emperor, gets interrupted by a dark stranger.

Does the PC have to do the following tests:

1) Test to open the door (Int)
2) Test to walk out the door (movement)
3) Test to look at his surroundings (Per)
4)Test to walk down the corridor (Movement)
5) Test to walk into chaplaincy area (Movement)
6) Test to find a spot to pray (Per)
7) Test to pray (WP)
8) Test to see if he gets interrupted (WP)
9) Test to become aware of the dark stranger (Per)
10) Test to see if he knowns the dark stranger (Int)

Should test come in only at what I as the GM decides it required or do I literally haveto fulfill all these tests?

Thanks in advance
Z



#7 Alox

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 11:07 PM

In combat there are all sorts of tests. Outside of combat that are almost NO tests, called narrative time for exactly this reason, the GM tells what happens and dices are not rolled that often.

If the player wants to do something and you don't know if you want to allow it or not, make them roll against a skill and let the success of the action depend on the number of success / failures. Try to keep rolls against skills and only do rolls vs abilities if there are no skills that covers that action.

For instance, a player wants to pick a lock. You have the player roll against the security skill. If he succeedes fine, if not you can actually still allow him to succede but maybe his tool broke, or he made some terrible noise and attracts attention or something. In other words, don't let the dice rolls dominate the game in a black/white fashion, instead use them as inspiration to determine what happens. When a player rolls 98 on his acrobatic roll he kinda expects to fall on his ass, but if he rolls 68 you may still allow him to succcede but he might get some bruises etc.

In you above example the only roll I can see is that you may have the player roll awareness skill roll to determine how long time it takes for him to notice the stranger. But if the time taken has no consequence you can even skip that roll and just let it be fast if he has high awareness skill and vice versa. If the stranger is hiding and trying to avoid detection, then there is a genuine call for awareness check, and you may even do a GM roll for the strangers concealment and/or move silent skill.

The game has to be entertaining and too many dice rolls has a tendency to grind the story to a halt. As you get some experience as GM you will quickly learn to determine a difficulty level, let the player roll and then come up with what happens. When a players rolls extreme that usually gives a good excuse for a hillarious moment. :-)



#8 Inquisitor Zadok

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 02:43 AM

Thanks for the clarity on that one. I was getting abit too overly concerned about dice rolls lol.

Right ok, my group will soon begin their adventure.

I've worked on the prelude, but I obviously need to make connection in that, that point towards what is coming (in the campaign)

Prelude: 'Fear & Faith'

The characters will begin inside their dormitories aboard 'The Ascension' Black Ship, a ship that is transporting the acolytes to the Calixus Sector (as well as picking up the psyker tithe from there), Once the ship is in warp travel, the characters will be allow to roam the black ship (of course not all areas!), meet crew and interact with their enviroment if they so wish. I have a NPC that will occupiy the characters if required in banter and such like.

Then the localised field that contains the unsanctioned psykers goes down. Events now sees the ships main holding area turn into battleground; psykers attacking their captors. some more brutal and aggressive than others, Sisters of battle, untouchables and storm troopers are all caught up. some psykers escape from the main holding area and start running loose in the ship amongst the crew. Hunter teams are dispatched to chase them down. Some areas of the ship go in to lockdown others are ransaked by destruction, little to no lighting.

The PC are caught up in this - do they assist? do they hide? Might the mean Gellar field of the ship go down also inviting entities of the warp in board; which would mean utter destruction? What caused the containment field to falter? Will psyker attempt to take over the ship by means of the bridge?

The prelude is to test the PCs - Is it fear or faith that leads them, and ultimately can they survive to make it to the Calixus sector.

Behind the scenes with the GM:

The acolytes' Inquisitor (Darkota) has a huge rival in his Ordos. This rival inquisitor (Debbs) who is proud an arrogant believes the glories that belong to Darkota should belong to him. He should be valued and respectdc as Darkota is. Jealously has begun to twist Debbs via the voice of the great Betrayer (Tzeentch). Darkota's previous acolytes were all hunted down and terminated one by one, mainly to look like accidents to stop  Darkota and his team from identifying something occuring in a hiveworld in the Calixis Sector.

A cabal of psykers are meeting up (happens once in every 9 years) to perform a ritual, that will mutate the hive cities population as worship to their dark god.
This of course is being funded and backed by an old adversary of Darkota's - who was thought to be dead. An old commissar Warhero now dishonoured for his dabbling in Xeno farming - primarily in Eldar psyches. The Mutation will cause uprising in the sector and the government will be called to answer. This will allow the Commissar to step in as anew alias that will over see the worlds purge and establish a new "imperial" order, that will influence the entire sector. The commissar is working with Inquisitor Debbs to keep the inquisition off his back, the promise being - help me and we'll frame and dishonour inquisitor Darkota - make it out that he is in-pact with the psykers that caused this mutation ritual, (as darkota is renowned and feared for his growing psychic talent).

Which leads us back to the black ship, Inquisitor Debbs and his henchmen are on board and they are the ones that turn the containment field off. Darkota has recruited a band of secret acolytes, that he has only mentioned to his superior. but Debbs has intercepted the messages and wants to have the acolytes killed via the psyker incident rather than risk being identified. He and his band will remain contained in the ships bridge making sure the ship doesn't fall to the psykers. The PCs will only have a small window to see this inquistor-type figure before the containment field action begins.

I have already written(for the PCs) "letters" from Darkota to his secret acolytes with a few tiny clues of whats coming without giving anything away (just to build interest)

-----------------------------------------

I know theres alot of psykers mentioned but it won't really be about battling alot of psykers. They'll be gangers who are being hired to protect the secrets - gangers that don't like the idea of what might be going on as its bad for business. citizens that are  caught up. hive police that don't have a clue whats going on but are obeying orders etc

Maybe you could help me with your experience, on things to build up around or emphasis or just some ideas/thoughts about  this campaign?
Thanks. (hope you like).
Z



#9 Garner

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 06:54 PM

Hi Zadok,

For your prelude I would recommend answering in advance a few questions.

1. Say your players decide to sramble to a defendable location and hunker down until things blow over. What will happen that requires a response from the acolytes? (Because it's easy to argue that Storm Troopers and Adepta can take care of the incident)

2. Say your players are really clued in and decide to investigate or assist in regaining order. Could you name three scenes/encounters you're going to use for the incident?

Overall I think it can be a really great start to the campaign because the scenario stresses the importance of the Inquisition. If traitors are not dealt with in advance things like this are bound to happen. In order to get your acolytes moving I'd suggest giving them some basic "orders" some thing like.

a) I will not turn a blind eye to evil but instead reveal it for my lord to see.

b) I will not provide testimony with out evidence to my lord.

Some examples. There is actually a whole list of general orders for acoyltes within the books. It's a very cool side bar describing the nature of acoyltes. I some times start my sessions by reading a passage from it to my players.



#10 Crunch

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 11:01 PM

Inquisitor Zadok said:



1) Test to open the door (Int)
2) Test to walk out the door (movement)
3) Test to look at his surroundings (Per)
4)Test to walk down the corridor (Movement)
5) Test to walk into chaplaincy area (Movement)
6) Test to find a spot to pray (Per)
7) Test to pray (WP)
8) Test to see if he gets interrupted (WP)
9) Test to become aware of the dark stranger (Per)
10) Test to see if he knowns the dark stranger (Int)

 

Only number 9 would be tested at all and it would most likely be tested as the skill not the simple attribute. 10 might be tested as an appropriate lore, but more likely that would either be yes or no based on whether the character has met the stranger before.

In general tests outside of combat should be for unusual, important, stressful or opposed activities. In combat there are more rigidly defined tests, but really a PC should never have to test to walk down an ordinary corridor, speak their own language or open an unlocked door.

Tests should be used as a device to build tension, introduce the possibility of failure and differentiate characters from each other. They should not be allowed to bog down the game, unnecessarily frustrate the players or take the place of actual roleplay.

 

On a more general note that applies especially to Dark Heresy. Be aware of the power level and genre of the game you are running.

Genre

In my opinion Dark Heresy does Investigative Horror and Survival Horror (Think Alien, Prometheus, Fringe,X-Filesor Event Horizon)very well. It can be used for other Horror or Sci Fi genres, but if you wanted to run, say, Action/Adventure with Horror Elements (like Aliens or Predator) then Only War might be a better option and for Space Adventure Rogue Trader would be excellent. That's not to say that any of those games are locked into a specific power frame, but that their individual strengths tend one way or another. Knowing the genre you're running, communicating it to the players and then honoring genre conventions can be a great first step towards a happy table.

 

Power Level

 

Starting Dark Heresy characters are wimps. Even attempting a routine task with no penalties in their specialty they're likely to fail 30% of the time. That can be great for building tension (The OMG the shambling horror is coming around the corner and I HAVE to pick the lock this time or else moment) but it can also be frustrating, especially if the GM requires tests too frequently or for trivial/unimportant/routine tasks. Likewise, combat can be very deadly in this system if you're not lucky.

 



#11 Inquisitor Zadok

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:03 AM

Garner said:

Hi Zadok,

For your prelude I would recommend answering in advance a few questions.

1. Say your players decide to sramble to a defendable location and hunker down until things blow over. What will happen that requires a response from the acolytes? (Because it's easy to argue that Storm Troopers and Adepta can take care of the incident)

2. Say your players are really clued in and decide to investigate or assist in regaining order. Could you name three scenes/encounters you're going to use for the incident?

Overall I think it can be a really great start to the campaign because the scenario stresses the importance of the Inquisition. If traitors are not dealt with in advance things like this are bound to happen. In order to get your acolytes moving I'd suggest giving them some basic "orders" some thing like.

a) I will not turn a blind eye to evil but instead reveal it for my lord to see.

b) I will not provide testimony with out evidence to my lord.

Some examples. There is actually a whole list of general orders for acoyltes within the books. It's a very cool side bar describing the nature of acoyltes. I some times start my sessions by reading a passage from it to my players.




Sorry for the delay in replying, I have been away afew days.
To answer your questions:

>1) If they chose to hunker down, I will allow it for a certain duration, It gives me time to set the scene/atomshpere (say if they block themselves in to dormitory) I have an NPC (Serf)  that will accompany them whilst their aboard, so through this character and GM I can describe the sounds they might hear whilst they are "safe" to get them out of this scenerio - I can do several things… a powerful psyker could break thru the blockage forcing them to run, Vermin could enter the space through ducts again forcing players to evacuate their positions. Serf could become panicky and open the doors, break cover etc. OR I could as a GM describe the situations and possible options that could be occuring if the stormtrooper and Sisters fail to contain the situation - The geller field might become compromised thus allow the creatures of the warp to enter the ship - the situation could worsen if they don't try to become part of the solution…and finally, crew and passengers could become suspicous of the Acolytes, as they are not doing anything other than saving there own skins…so maybe they were the ones to unleash the pskyers thus the acolytes Inquisitor will also fall under scrutiny…and the Inquisitior will certainly not approve of that from his acolytes!

>2)   1) General investigation - whats going on, on board the ship Post-Psyker Escape. What happening/occur in each quarter/section//zone of ship - most importantly where are the psykers? all accounted for?
2) Key Invesitgation: Why is the bridge no longer communicating & How did the containment field fail?
3) Mystery Investigation: Why is there a missing drop pod - encounter with a Witch [Boss]

I suppose these are the Big questions that I'm aiming for my acolytes to investigate and answer - and lead nicely to the Campaign planetside. As I have never played DH before - it hard to know without experience what to plan for or design. That why I've kept it fairly open for the characters and contained aboard a ship.

>3) Order, Are they from Inquisitor's Handbook or in the general rulebook? Or are you suggesting I give the acolytes something specific in which to consistently build round as they investigate?



#12 Garner

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 06:42 AM

Let's expand a bit further on section two. Your ship scenario happens to be both an event based scenario and a location based scenario and as such can be mapped out. The ship being absolutely massive is really too big to draw and that's fine. That means you just need to make a diagram of the important locations. In effect it's like making a diagram of a dungeon.

The acolytes might start in Habitation Deck 22-B. From the Habitation Deck you can branch off from it like a web and make three other locations such as Observation Deck 22-B, Prisoner Containment Corridor, and Freight Lifts. From each of these locations you can diagram out a few other routes until you're satisfied.

So why do this? Well first it makes it easier to manage on your end. If you players decide to just head down the corridor to the left you just give a brief description of traveling through the spooky ship check your diagram and let them know that they've arrived at the Observation Deck. The second reason is that it makes things more concrete for the players too. In 40k these massive ships, buildings, and cities are so amorphous when they eventually look at a map and see some notable locations it will make it easier for them to figure out what to do. I'd suggest making a diagram with ten locations.

There's one other note to go over about using this structure. Even though the acolytes might decide to go to the Prisoner Containment Corridor the actual event or scene might happen inbetween the points or after they got there and investigated and decided to move on.

As for your specific examples…

1. Are they all accounted for? Essentially have a man hunt. Very likely those able to maintain order seal off decks remotely. The acolytes might be trapped on a certain level. A shipboard intercom might describe in a warbly voice that decks will remain sealed until the prisoners in their area are apprehended. Perhaps a person who lives on the ship can provide the ultimate horror when he explains "Oh this has happened before. They didn't unlock the doors for seven years. Half the crew in this area died of malnutrition. But we eventually found Prisoner LA-2203, praise the Emperor." That might put the fire under the acolytes!

2. I like where you're going with this. If you use the diagram like I suggested above then the Sacred Shielding Bay and the Bridge will need to be on your diagram with routes to them. You'll want to spell out what the players will see and be able to interact with at these areas and the areas inbetween. Remember when writing an investigation/mystery the writer is writing in reverse order. What happened last is the first thing to establish and then fill in the blanks leading up to it.

3. I really like the missing drop pod scene. I'm imagining the acolytes coming in to a command deck finding the crew dead. After looking over the bodies the game master explains "Though you haven't been on many ships it seems obvious that the mutant navigator should be here amongst the dead". Another acolyte investigating terminals sees that a command for drop pod deployment readiness had been issued. One of the pods will be firing soon…

You can find general Orders for acolytes on page 282 of the Dark Heresy manual. The manual describes them as dictates. The Inquisitor handling the acolytes probably has his own dictates. Done right these can powerful motivators for the acolytes.






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