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Salvation Demands Sacrifice


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#1 HappyDaze

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 11:52 AM

Remember that line from the cover of the Radical's Handbook (Dark Heresy)?

I've come to see that while I love the mechanics of Black Crusade - even over Only War - I don't really want to run a game of cartoonish over-the-top villains. I do want to use the Black Crusade ruleset and the Screaming Vortex setting, but I want to take a different angle. I'm thinking of having the Heretics (PCs) actually be Acolytes/Throne Agents of a radical Inquisitor of the Xanthite faction (and no, I have no interest in trying to do this Dark heresy rules, especially not the Ascension rules).

For those that don't remember, Xanthites are the radicals that believe that the best way to fight Chaos is by using the tools of the Warp against it. So we have a group of (anti-)heroes sent into the Screaming Vortex by a 'crackpot' Inquisitor that believes that a great threat will emerge from it and strike out against the Calixis Sector (keeping in mind that very few know of the threats within the Screaming Vortex). This group is expected to infiltrate and destabilize the factions existing within the Vortex by any means at their disposal. They are not really expected to have any further contact with their Inquisitor once they cross into the Vortex.

The characters will operate in all ways as Black Crusade characters (including using Infamy - their actions can still mysteriously please the Ruinous Powers) except that their goals will be to prevent any factions from leading a Black Crusade out of the Screaming Vortex. Compacts within the group will be unlkely to be dedicated to any particular Chaos God and most characters will struggle to remain Unaligned. I will allow the characters to spend Infamy to reduce Corruption (per the GM Kit rules) since neither Ascension or Spawndom is going to be desireable. This is intended primarily for human characters, but it's possible that some disgraced 'renegade' Astartes might be able to be a part of it as well.

Any constructive advice on making this work would be appreciated.

 


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#2 Alekzanter

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 02:42 PM

You've done it again! This idea is a brilliant bit of outside-looking-in.

Do you have any concerns that one or more players may turn "traitor" on your game? At some point in the game a Player (through In-game developments) decides the "bad guys" have the right of it and finks on the rest of the group, then what? Unless you're clear from the outset that such side-switching shenanigans are strictly forbidden? Could make for an intersting game, though. Something to think about. 

The first thing that stood out (to me) was the "not likely to have contact with their Inquisitor once they've entered the Vortex" bit. As a GM, I might be inclined to have a "message in a bottle" scenario; perhaps the PCs will never have additional contact with their Inquisitor, but they may still be required to make (in)frequent reports, keeping those outside the Vortex appraised of the overall "mood" within the Vortex. I don't know how I'd arrange delivery of the "bottle", though…it would have to be unique, certainly.

I also might have a "failsafe" in place in the event the entire cell of Acolytes jumps ship. Inquisitors don't appreciate their efforts being wasted, and they can also be petty and vindictive to a fault. 

This is the Gereon Resistance of Traitor General-turned-RPG. This idea gave me chills, man. Bravo!



#3 HappyDaze

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 05:38 PM

I might make a way for the PCs to have very limited contact with the Inquisitor, but however I work it out, I want it to be VERY infrequent. Other than a basic overall strategic mission goal, I want the PCs to have a generally free hand in directing most of the mission.

Yes, some might 'go native' and turn on the Inquisition/imperium. It's always a possibility. Out-of-character, I'll be sure to make the players understand the intended direction of the campaign and that the Inquisitor will only be selecting exceedingly loyal followers for this type of mission, so they should make their PCs with this in mind. It will also be a possibility that the PCs are not the only group of Acolytes sent in, but that's certainly not information they will be given directly.

I've considered the Space Marine angle a bit more. There are numerous examples of Space Marines that go renegade for following paths very similar to the Xanthites (using the tools of the enemy to fight the enemy), and there's a fair chance that such Space Marines may have been taken under the wing of a radical Xanthite Inquisitor rather than submit to another punishment (so, they are basically Balck Shields walking a different path). So, with this in mind, i will be opening up the possibility of Space Marine characters of this sort.

I will not be allowing PCs to select Advanced Archetypes. The eight basic Archetypes in the corebook seem best to represent the character options I'm looking to see players fill.


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#4 Deimos

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:07 AM

Would you be looking for players for this game as well or just ideas? Cause I would love to play a Heretek in this setting.

Idea wise I think them having access to a small ship would be appropriate. It helps them have the sort of mobility needed to unseat or at least disrupt the sort of players who are genuinely capable of mounting a Black Crusade. Plus it gives them a resource that they have to protect from the various predators of the region. Perhaps have the ship running be handled by NPC's if you don't want to deal with the Rogue Trader rules for ship combats and merely want the ship to be a transport option.

The great thing is the characters can wreck all these plots without drawing much suspicion they are Imperials if they do it right. Chaos fights itself so much it's actually amazing they ever manage to go after the Imperium at all. And when in doubt play up being Tzeentch followers and everyone will assume whatever is going on is "Just as planned" by the big guy.

They could even lead a "Black Crusade" themselves against the Screaming Vortex in an effort to "unite" the region under a single banner with the goal of unseating Abbadon. Cause what Chaos or Imperial leader hasn't had that dream? And what better way to weaken Chaos then to set one major regional power against the greatest threat to the Imperium. Cause taking on the Champion of Chaos himself would be an undertaking worthy of a Crusade.

And if, somehow, they were to succed. Well… that could get very interesting to see as the stand at the top of the heap, Tzeentch steeples his fingers and chuckles, Khorne roars his approval of the amount of blood spilt and skulls taken, Nurgle appluads at the rot and ruin they spread and Slannesh gives a small and satisfied smirk at the glorious excess of it all, they must now face the ultimate temptation. To succumb to the lure of such power and become the new name whispered in the dark places of the Imperium or to vanish and leave the now leaderless factions to implode on themselves until a new Champion is crowned.



#5 HappyDaze

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 10:33 AM

I'll be looking for players, but it's for a face-to-face game in Tacoma, WA (USA). I'm losing two players from my Rogue Trader game as they are moving back to Kansas in May, so I'm looking for up to two more players before I start this up in July.

As for a ship, I have considered starting the campaign off with an adaptation of Broken Chains. The Heretics would have been planted among the prisoners (with cover stories in the records of the Chains) and the loss of the Chains would have been something of an 'intentional accident' in this case. The rest of that adventure would really require little adaptation to make it work, and it's likely that the Heretics would be able to take command of the Chains at the end fo the adventure.


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#6 Alekzanter

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 05:10 AM

In direct response to your query regarding "help" in making this idea into an actual game…

How much detailed examination have you done of the CharGen process? Have you found any Skills/Talents/Traits that might be "out there" for beginning loyalist "Acolytes" or "Astartes"? Are there any steps you might significantly alter or even delete? Another thing to consider: Insanity. I know in BC that the PCs process the stress far easier and Insanity is a non-issue, but do you think you might start with it and then wean it away once characters have earned (X) Infamy or (X) Corruption, or do you think you'll just make the assumption they've been "mind blasted" with Things Men Should Not Know by their Inquisitor prior to being turned loose in the Vortex?

While reading through The Radical's Handbook on Xanthism I took a stroll through the Oblationist pages…
Oblationists are very few in number, and see it is their duty to "start from scratch" as far as the Callixis Conclave is concerned, but maybe there is an obsessive Oblationist Inquisitor who has his/her sights on your PCs' Inquisitor and just before he swoops in for a reckoning the PCs are sent off to the Vortex. Perhaps then the PCs' Inq is 86ed, and his "notes" are found…leading to one (or more) Oblationist cells being sent in after the "Acolytes". It wouldn't be beyond Oblationists to use the denizens of the Vortex as pawns in their search and prosecution of the PCs. Perhaps this Oblationist Inq updates the cells he sent in pursit of the PCs by way of handily intercepting the "updates" the PCs intended for their own Inq? Oooh… 

Or, your PCs could BE Oblationists. Insanity would be a non-issue for Oath Cells. Having given themselves up for dead already, their purity completely destroyed and their souls already forfeit, this could make for a "ded 'ard" cell of Acolytes who sniff in derision at Corruption and mutation, knowing literally  everything in the Vortex is a resource if they can acquire any of it, in their quest to…is their mission to sow discord and generally be a nuisance to the Powers That Be in the Vortex, or to cause as much long-term damage as possible before going out in a blaze? I know you said you would let Player decisions drive the story, but are you imposing any guidlines other than "you are devout loyalists and this is your mission, no take-backs"? A list of prioroty targets: particular worlds, Warlords, organizations within the Vortex? I don't need deatils, just wondering if…

If Compacts might be given Objective directions, but the PCs choose the Scopes, Secondaries and Personals per normal? Like, you choose three or four "targets of opportunity" (Objectives) and put them before the Players, they pick one (or more if they're feeling cheeky), and the Compact(s) is built accordingly.

I'm very interested to see the development of this idea. 



#7 HappyDaze

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:32 AM

I'd overlooked the Oblationists. In truth, a Sworn Cadre of Oblationists is probably more suited for what I'm looking to do than the Xanthites. Thank you for the pointer.

I don't really see any of the Core Rulebook options (aside from, possibly, Ancient Warrior) being out of place for a Sworn Cadre of Oblationists. If you are aware of any that might specifically be a problem, please mention them.

As for the mission, it's going to be driven forward by the (very vague) divinations of their Inquisitor given to them before the mission starts. I'm going with the idea that the Screaming Vortex is a big enigma to those outside of it, and it has not yet actually revelaed any overt threats. The PCs' Inquisitor is convinced that it will reveal a threat in some manner, but believes that he can stop/delay/mitigate that threat by taking the action of sending his trusted inner circle in to take what actions are necessary. Because of this, there isn't really a list of key targets or tactical mission goals at the beginning of the story. I could make a bigger thing about the divination and let them piece out the meanings (successfully or not), but I'm not big into hardwired prophecy-driven games as I feel that they lead to railroading much too easily.

Despite being fanatics, the PCs will need to operate subtly and intelligently (they are still members of the Inquisition) in order to maximize thier efforts. As described under the Oblationists, they are not above using other heretics as their pawns, so non-viloent interactions will likely be at least as common as violent ones. Initial goals will be to establish their knowledge of the Screaming Vortex and then to take steps to establish themselves into positions where they can prevent any threats from growing too great or of spilling out of the Vortex. Threats that appear to be harmful to other factions with the Vortex yet limited in scope will be 'encouraged' to run their course. Discovery of the Necrons (which may not intially appear to be as bad as they really are) could be a major turning point in the campaign…


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#8 Alekzanter

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 04:09 PM

Black Crusade Psykers (Human) begin as "Unbound". Considering the Imperial "norm" of Sanctioning you may want to take a look at that and decide whether you will allow a Sworn Cadre Psyker to be Unbound. PC origin (such as Homeworld, if you're planning on using such things) or the back-story of a PC's life prior to induction into the Inquisition (a Player write-up) might allow this to go either way. However, Oblationisits are pretty picky when it comes to their secrecy; no one is introduced to their "inner circle" immediately, and they keep a close eye on all Acolytes to make sure they remain unsullied by Chaos enticements, taint, and Corruption. Acolytes who fail are executed, and the training process begins anew with fresh recruits. Like Xanthites, I'd imagine Oblationists would share the secrets of Sorcery with Sworn Acolytes (it's just another weapon in their arsenal) and this could allow for a psyker to "break the bonds" of his/her Sanctioning, thus allowing the use of various Paths To Power (Blasphemous Incantation, Corpus Conversion, etc). I'd be inclined to disallow Bound Psykers the use of these Paths To Power.

Chaos Space Marine Sorcerers (Astartes Librarian infiltraitors) are "Bound", and I think this represents both their resistance to the corrupting effects of the Warp and strict mental training and conditioning. But this does bring up another interesting question: If someone wanted to play a CSM Sorcerer (Astartes Librarian) would you allow for its inclusion? I read a short story by Chris Pramas about a White Scar who tried (and failed at) infiltrating the Red Corsairs with the intent of assassinating Huron Blackheart. A Tactical, Assault, or Devastator infiltrating the Screaming Vortex is not a difficult concept to stretch: he's a volunteer, he knows the risks inherent in the (extended) Mission, and he's hard as nails, now he just has to act like a disenfranchised bastard, maybe trading Ancient Warrior for Deceive? I don't think an Apothecary would be allowed to volunteer (just my opinion). Now a Librarian…could perhaps be a Lexicanum fresh out of Scout training? New to his power armour (if even), his powers only (relatively) recently recognised and his training within the Librarium having only just begun would be a good way to indicate his lesser (current) abilities, the mechanic being that he is Bound but suffers the effects of Corruption to a lesser degree than would un-augmented Humans (per the BC rules regarding CSM Corruption Thresholds being less frequent). Off the top of my head, I can't think of a validation allowing such a PC to use the Blasphemous Incantation, Profane Symbols, and Sacrifice Paths To Power. Corpus Conversion and Unnatural Willpower would be usable. However, I don't see any Space Marine taking the Oath of Oblation (maybe a Relictor?), nor do I see an Oblationist Inquisitor allowing Space Marines into his inner circle…it may be that, due to the radicalism of Oblationism, Space Marine PCs may have to (initially) be excluded after all? More to consider. Using a Relictor…or one of those sketchy Blood Ravens…might allow you to get around some of this.

Relictors would be a perfect fit for non-psychic "CSM" PCs, but does the Player want to play one? Would an Oblationist Inquisitor trust the Relictors? I see Relictors being more akin to Xanthites, though my knowledge of them is as old as 3rd Ed TT. Ah, they are now Excommunicate… http://wh40k.lexican...rs#.UWdqHqJJNWJ so maybe an Oblationist would consider them as foul (if not worse) as Xanthites? 40K philosphy is not my gig, so I can't confidently say.

Something I thought of, purely from a role-playing perspective: what do you intend to do when PCs reach 100 Corruption? I know this means they have "moved beyond the scope of Black Crusade", but If they are (truly) dedicated and loyal servants of the Emperor they would rebel against apotheosis. Of course that would be the irony, now wouldn't it? All this pure-intentioned work done in the Emperor's name, but the Ruinous Powers claim you as the reward, MWUHAHAHA!

About Corruption: many of the examples for awarding it are from the perspective of "bad guys", like it being handed out for "sowing discord among the followers of the Emperor" and other such. You may want to give this section (pg 288) a look as you may need to redefine the acts that merit Corruption awards. And, if (as you say) PCs will struggle to remain Unaligned, without some adjustments the PCs may find themselves "earning" (possibly) a fair bit less Corruption. I imagine a PC who, initially, kills his foes with a sense of duty, the result being little (likely zero) Corruption, but as the months and killing wears on the PC comes to get a "sick" sense of satisfaction from his blood-soaked blade skirling across flesh and bone. Does the chime of blade on bone make the PC grin with perverted pleasure (attracting the attention of Slaanesh), or does the PC measure his success by the depth of the bloody puddle collecting at his feet (attracting the attention of Khorne), and so on…
These are things that you (as GM) could secretly keep a record of (a confidential tally of unconscious dedications to the Ruinous Powers) that you later use when awarding Gifts of the Gods and other such.

It could just be that the very act of entering the Vortex changes all perspective, and Corruption comes as naturally to "Acolytes" as it does to CSMs and Heretic Disciples.

A small point, but one worth mentioning: you might consider Legion Weapon Training and Astartes Weapon Training to be one and the same.

Like Ancient Warrior, Child of the Warp might be an issue (validating) at CharGen.

Without reading each Skill and Talent individually, I think that's about it for initial stumbling blocks. Considering that Talents are tiered, with some requiring prerequisites, and their lesser to greater XP cost being determined by Alignment I don't think there are too many other issues with regards to Talents. However, "struggling to stay Unaligned" means it will be harder to get these Tier 2 and Tier 3 Talents. You may have to consider XP awards on a PC-to-PC (individual) basis; some Players will give in slowly (if at all) to one Power or another, while others might see aligning themselves with a Power relatively quickly as a means of better meeting the letter and the intention of their stated Mission within the Vortex. Handing XP out in a "generic" fashion (X amount per session) may lead to PCs quickly aligning themselves, while handing out XP based on RP would allow Players to "pace" their PCs' plunge into hell. However you work this out, I'd suggest sitting down with your Players to discuss this aspect (XP award) of character advancement before the games begin. Or, you could impose an XP minimum (say 3500-4000 XP, about 10-12 sessions @ 400 XP per) that PCs must reach before "allowing" themselves to become Aligned? Perhaps introducing an XP penalty (100-150 per session) for becoming Aligned too early?* Or, you could have this system in place, but keep it secret from the Players; one PC notices another's sudden and rapid advancement in Characteristics, the acquisition of Skills/Talents, and wonders why; does he remain true to the Mission, or does it become a free-for-all as he/she seeks to become Aligned, a sign of personal glorification, vanity, and a clear indication of self over the big picture?

*This could backfire, and you could end up with PCs of wildly varrying XP totals, meaning a possible strain in inter-warband competency, and difficulties (as the GM) equalizing encounters (social and combat-related).

 

 

 



#9 HappyDaze

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:07 PM

Relictor-like Space Marines was the plan. Basically remnants of a destroyed Chapter taken in by the radical Inquisitor that would likewise take the Oath of Oblation.


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#10 HappyDaze

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 12:26 PM

Another odd possibility is that the Space Marine members of the Sworn Cadre could come from the Fallen. Unlike the other option, this one would be appropriate for taking Ancient Warrior. It does risk running into the special snowflake area, but then again, so do most of the Space Marine options.


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#11 Brother Orpheo

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 12:22 PM

Hey, HappyDaze?

Have you done any more work on this idea? I was curious to see what, if anything you'd outlined.


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#12 HappyDaze

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 08:45 PM

Not lately. Despite buying and reading over both Tome of Excess and Hammer of the Emperor, I just haven't really been too into the WH40k games lately, mainly because of the bulk of the systems slowing down my more casual players (those that don't care about having twelve different talents that just change the way you shoot a little bit each). I'm still keeping this idea on the back burner though should I find that my players are up for something like it again.

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#13 antijoke_13

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 04:55 AM

Something you may want to consider is what happens to the PCs should they (ever) leave Screaming Vortex. though they are few, there are reliable ways into and out of the vortex, and if they PCs find one, they now havea semireliable way to update their inquisitor (or whomever is reading their reports should their inquisitor be dead). this could also lead to any number of bad (or good, your pick) situations should the "acolytes" leave the screaming vortex for some reason. what if they're called to leave the vortex for a stretch to meet with the inquisitor for resupply and prolonged sitrep? what if The Inquisitor has Crossed the razor thin line between Radical and Rogue, and sees the PCs as his best chance of completing whatever tasks his new dark masters require of him? What if their inquisitor has been Heretic, and the call for their return is a trap?

That's not even touching on the Vagaries of the Warp. warp travel, out of a Warp Storm, no less, is bound to have some savage time dilations, if the characters don't have at least the passing favor of one or all of the chaos gods. Imagine if the "acolytes" were to enter imperial space, only to find themselves hundreds of years in the future, where the actions of their inquisitor have had major ramifications for the imperium at large? or (worse yet) they appear in a time well before they were sent into the warp, well before their inquisitor (possibly) became a radical. what then?






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