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.