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Lionus

General thoughts on Askellon

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I was a pretty big fan of the Calixis sector, so the chapter on the setting of Askellon was one of the ones I was most interested in when I picked my copy up. I have to say I'm really really disappointed.

 

I don't like when people complain without having any ideas of their own, or any input other than 'sucks', so I have included my thoughts for how little or much they may be worth.

 

First, there's only one map, and it's absolutely atrocious. I get the focus of the whole game was to make it feel like playing a character in a John Blanche piece, but too much is too much. It's fine if they want to have a map for flavor, something like a globe with sea monsters in the blank spots, but there could have been some kind of normal map like an actual Inquisitor would use, or like you might see on some official dataslate somewhere. The closest thing is an ok, but still kinda steampunk map ot the Imperium at large, but up close I don't look at that map on page 322-323 and think "wow, this is useful.

I would like to see more official looking maps, and I was really surprised there wasn't one on the inside of the cover. That's been a standard since Black Industries was making the game.

 

Second, I really couldn't imagine playing a long campaign in the setting. The new rules are fantastic, I really appreciate that, but I dedicated Sunday just to reading the chapter on the sector, and it still took me until Monday to finish. Each entry was just so incredibly boring. The one exception was Juno. That seems like a pretty interesting place, a couple of the low worlds had some interesting bits, but for the most part I could only read a little bit at a time. I literally fell asleep on the part about Desoleum. There was so much detail on one specific hive, and barely mentioned the other two hives on the world. Each hive has it's own little thing that makes it unique, that's been the case since the beginning, but there was a lot of attention lavished on one hive whose distinguishing characteristic is a bit of clockwork jewelry. The system itself is reminiscent of Rome, with the patronage system they utilized, which is cool, but excessive.

I think so much focus on one location is putting a lot of eggs in one basket (much like the adversaries section), if you like it, it's great, if not well, meh. It would have been perfect for some supplement, like a pdf or as part of an introduction to a module. I just want to point out that all the attention that went into freeing up character creation and advancement and making that feel much more free form, then to kind of railroad GM's into having to run stuff in Desoleum, at first at least. is a little contradictory. I also wish there had been a better physical description of what it's like to live in a hive. The locations and types of personalities, groups and interests is well covered, but the daily sights, sounds, smells and so on were only lightly mentioned. Light levels, circadian cycles, bus schedules, how humid is the air, is there any temperature control for the streets, and what is it kept at? who decides? And so on. I actually thought there was going to be a lot more of the practical nature of living in a hive, and it's not necessary but it would be nice to have some input on ths from others.

 

The last complaint I have has actually kept me up since I did finally finish reading the chapter on Askellon. What's missing? Everything I read, there was something that felt missing. I simply could not figure out what it was, but the whole thing just felt unfinished somehow. I love 40K, the grimdark, the insanity, the arbitrary nature of law and authority, the inherent contradictions throughout the entire setting. The whole thing falls apart really quickly if you start to look at any of it too closely. Anyhow, with everything else there has been something I didn't find in this chapter, and I finally figured out what that is. Something to fight for. Some reason to try to save Askellon, whether it deserves it or not. Gotham is not worth saving, but Batman cannot stop himself from trying. I couldn't find anything in any of the entries for any of the worlds that made me think that there's anything of value in general, any people worth following, or any world that has any useful or interesting resource to protect. Batman fights his personal war to continually avenge his parents death, but I cannot see any reason to even attempt to keep Askellon from collapsing. Already, the Imperium doesn't think so either, on page 321 it says that most charts don't even have it anymore, they say "access denied". The only thing I can come up with is that the people who live there want it to be because it has been. Which is great for them, I want my hometown to be because it is, but I can't see spending so much of my time on a lost cause, and I just don't have buy in on Askellon.

Fortunately, though tedious, the entries did have a lot of adventure seeds, just nothing that made me think "campaign worthy", so there's all kinds of room for new stuff, and maybe something that will kindle my fascination. For all I know, I'm the only one who thinks that way.

 

Thanks a ton for reading, I appreciate feedback.

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You finished it? I was so unimpressed with it, I stopped reading the stuff on the sector after about four pages. I kept thinking I'd get back to it, but so far I have no interest in doing so. Of course, I disliked Desoleum since the preview, so I wasn't surprised.

 

Luckily the rules are easily ported to Calixis so all those 1e sourcebooks can still be used.

Edited by HappyDaze

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I am not terribly impressed. One of the major problems is that it is just sooo over the top. It was too grimdark, too epic, too perverted, too everything. How come does every planet have some sort of crisis that is just simmering under the surface and is about to cause it's collapse. Not only does it look like a John Blanche painting, it felt like a setting which was a John Blanche painting done in word form. Yes, it is very evocative of the setting, but these things are to give a feel for the setting, in broad strokes. They simply don't work in detail (much as John Blanche's paintings are not "actually" how things would look in the "real" 40k universe, as humans are simply not shaped that way).

 

Calixis at least felt as if people could live in it. It was dark, it was weird, it was grim, but it was just plausible enough that I felt "This is a weird place, wonder what it would be like to live there" rather than "Erm... this doesn't work." Askellon hasn't quite managed this.

Edited by borithan

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Haven't read much of it myself, but I agree with the map. Useful for warp routes, but useless for anything else.

 

From what I remember wasn't it the point of the sector to be just on the brink and like 10 seconds from midnight hour? Again haven't read much, but the way I saw it from what little I have read, or at least how I'll be playing it, is that the Sector has been off limits for a while. The Inquisition is just recently getting some actual force back in the sector and it's like a new Shadow War Campaign. They're trying to get things under relative control so it's not such an overly dark place to live.

 

You ask why should you save it? Because it's the Imperium's, and it belongs in the hands of Man. To think otherwise is heresy, to do otherwise is to allow an entire sector to fall when the Imperium is losing worlds in an ongoing crusade on all fronts and from within.

 

It doesn't have to be worth saving to save.

 

Personally I like Desolum, because I like it's society. There wasn't much more on it than there was mind numbingly on Scintillia, and that got dull at some points.

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There was a dev blog post about the oath system in Desoleum that was light on specifics. How does it work, and more importantly, how realistic is it that a hive that size would have what sounded like an economy based on a person's word?

 

e; I saw a picture of the one map you mentioned in the OP and it is hilariously bad.

Edited by cps

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Very generally, your job and specific duties to everyone above, below, and anyone that comes in constact with your work is withing an oath you take. Lady Desolum obviously has the most oaths given and taken. Failure to live up to these oaths or actively breaking them can result in various punishments including death.

 

Note: Paraphrased and possibly incorrect as I read it fairly late.

 

Since when has realism ever been a factor in 40k? It functions because it functions.

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Calixis had its share of craptitude: Gunmetal City was awful, as was that cold mine planet where people lived in abject poverty. That was depressing! I did like the Tyrant Star as a brooding menace. To be fair it was pretty bland; Koronus is by far the best sector yet (not including Askellion - yet?). Jericho was dull as anything but a warzone (which it was, don't think you could run it as a regular domestic environment. Same with the OW sub sector.

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One of the worst things about 1st Ed (and there were many candidates), was the Calixis Sector.  Very, very dull is about the best i could muster.  I never could get enthusiastic about any of it, which is probably why the expansions that gave Calixis-centric add-ons never really gripped me either.

 

The Koronus Expanse was far better.

 

I'm still assimilating Askellon but so far i'm inspired by what i've read.  It 'feels' so much more interesting, is so far all i can say.

 

Depending on how things go, my next campaign will either use Askellon, or i'll simply 'port over the Fading Suns setting as a new sector.

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Personally I was a massive fan of the Calixis sector. When I finally get a hold of a copy of second edition release I will be giving Askellon a chance. But from what I have read from others and what was in the beta. I'm not terribly impressed thus far. It will likely be a while before I run anything using Askellon anyway as I have a 1st edition campaign still running that is trying to reach ascension level xp. But will look forward to giving it a proper read/ give it the benefit of the doubt. 

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Because it's not as detailed as the DH1 map. It looks like an inside cover drawing. The DH1 map was a data slate readout of the entire sector with details concerning what each world in the sector was. There's a relative scale as well in terms of distance. The map in the book makes the sector look incredibly small and crowded.

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Is there some threat to imperial security unique to the Askellon (such as Calixis has Slaught, Tyrant Star and numerous Techno-heresies, or Koronus has Yu´vath and Rak´gol)? Or something realy obscure from general fluff. It irks me that Deathwatch and Only War moved towards more iconic (read: tabletop) and well established enemies, what is not bad in itself, but I always thought the RPG is the place for minor, obscure, blanchitsu characters and monsters.

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Doesn't seem to be. Though most of the worlds have individual pulls to various threats. It's an old sector there's a lot of bad stuff buried in it. There's a stated Daemon world in the sector. I wouldn't say it's impossible either that a lot of factions from the Calaxis wouldn't be around in some respect in Askellon either.

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At the time of the core (not sure on exact date) it's been 10k years since it's founding. The sector is essentially dying with the Pandemonium growing in power and it's stated that many star charts simply don't include the sector anymore due to it's relatively low wealth and danger of going around in it. Xenos and pirate raids are common these days, it's been through a lot.

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Because it's not as detailed as the DH1 map. It looks like an inside cover drawing. The DH1 map was a data slate readout of the entire sector with details concerning what each world in the sector was. There's a relative scale as well in terms of distance. The map in the book makes the sector look incredibly small and crowded.

 

I suspect that's deliberate.

 

Any map will make the sector look overcrowded; that's the same for the maps on the inside fo the DH cover. It's the same kind of map here. Granted there isn't a larger, more detailed map, perhaps FFG would argue that's for players to fill in. Maybe it's easier than to come up with a ton of planets ahead of time and then have to describe them. Who knows. I don't think that makes it a bad map.

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Did they tell you everything that was present in Calixis in DH1?

 

I'm not defending them, i'm explaining it. Inevitably supplements will introduce new planets/factions etc.

 

I'm more concerned with the crappy adversary options. Nurgle only? Great!

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I was a big fan of Calixis, the Tyrant Star, and some of the secret lore in Radical's Handbook that teased around the edges of things. I didn't care for the ultimate execution of the Haarlock Legacy, but I loved the idea of it. Mechanically, there's probably nothing keeping anyone from continuing to use Calixis if they wish to.

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Very generally, your job and specific duties to everyone above, below, and anyone that comes in constact with your work is withing an oath you take. Lady Desolum obviously has the most oaths given and taken. Failure to live up to these oaths or actively breaking them can result in various punishments including death.

 

Note: Paraphrased and possibly incorrect as I read it fairly late.

 

Since when has realism ever been a factor in 40k? It functions because it functions.

 

Is there any mechanical support built in for player characters being tied into this system? Or is that just kind of handwaved into the Influence system?

 

I'll give you the fantsy magic and physics of the setting, but people are still people. It's reasonable to expect a society to be structured in a believable way (or to put it another way, realistic given that spacemagic and demons exist).

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I realized today what I don't like very much about the sector map. It reminds me more of the map of Koronus from the Navis Primer. It's obnoxiously colored, it's blotchy, its kinda hard to look at for too long. Looking at the map of Askellon too long feels a little like looking into the sun. Thinking about it in that context, the map is brilliant, and definitely seems in keeping with the themes of the game. But, misplaced; the core rulebook should have a map I can make a photocopy of, jot some instructions and notes on it in a red sharpie, insert a couple pics off the internet that looks kinda like what i'm going for in that particular adventure or mission, slip it into a manila folder and hand it to my players like a dossier. I'm nerdy like that.

 

I'm still not sold on the saving part. When rogue trader dynasties pack up and head out, things are bad. When navigator houses not only pack up and head out, but also put 'do not disturb' signs on the door as they leave, things are bad. The sector fleet is small and decrepit, only seems to spend any time on one corner of the sector, between their headquarters station, and a bunch of it is permanently hanging out at some worthless planet just because of a technicality. There doesn't seem to be a single, coherent ground force for the whole sector. Instead, it seems like each planet has it's own military, which I'm sure the ancient Greeks would say is a great system. Nobody does it like that today though... The Imperium seems to be walking away from Askellon, step by step.

 

Here's my main rationale for saying that it's not worth saving: I am of the opinion that Inquisitors are actually much more rare than even space marines. When was the last time you ever heard of an Inquisition recruiting world? Most space marine chapters have them. Most inquisitors, I think are probably not officially sanctioned. To become a true Inquisitor there must be such a major confluence of fate, luck, help from the right people, skill, talent, kissing the right asses at the right time, tenacity, intelligence, and practicality. Plus, there's probably almost as much in the way of surgeries. Not so much for gene seed stuff, but to replace parts 'removed' by treacherous cultists, xenos with brutally effective weaponry, and nigh unstoppable daemons (unless you have the right tools, without which, they are actually unstoppable). So, with that logic, Inquisitors are incredibly intelligent, pragmatic and shrewd individuals. Not the type of people to throw away their meager resources away on causes the rest of the Imperium doesn't deem particularly important. I think they would spend their energies on areas with less possible risk, and higher possible rewards. I can't but into the idea that it's heresy to throw more Acolytes(which I would argue is a precious resource-people with those particular skillsets, mindsets, and lack of risk aversion are few and hard to find) into what is clearly a lost cause. Those are some of the hard decisions they have to make. Another point is that there is not one premade Inquisitor in the book. Unless its in the adventure, I haven't gotten to that yet. I get you're supposed to make one, but there's examples of everything else, from random loons Acolytes meet on the street to grey knights. Just an observation.

 

The one exception I can think of is that, let's compare geography of the western United States to segmentum obscurus. If the U.S. is fighting a war in Korea, (Jericho reach), it sends troops and supplies through California (Calixis), but says that no one is to get there by driving through Wyoming(Askellon). Other than that, trying to keep a link to areas further afield, there really isn't much. And who really wants to fight over Wyoming? I've been there. It's Awful. Seriously, check out West Bill Wyoming. Last time I was there it was 3 trailers, and a gas station slash general store slash post office. All in one, for your convenience.

 

I get that some people didn't like Calixis, each hive has it's gimmick, Desoleum is it's oath cogs, which I find ridiculous, but I loved Gunmetal City, but I've always been a huge fan of westerns. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. I guess I just wish it wasn't so over the top. Other worlds will fill in, more fluff will come out to refine what's there, more adversaries will be added. For now though, I will be happy for what's better, and what I don't like, I don't have to use.

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CPS, it's more of a fluff you have a wrist device with cogs in it describing your oaths to people and the expectations you can receive in turn. I'd certainly have it roleplayed to all warphell though.

 

Again, it's not a matter of it being worth saving. Humanity hasn't fallen there yet, and therefore it still needs to be in the hands of man. sh*tty or not. The Imperium can be walking away all they want, but the Inquisition answers to higher calls than most of the Imperium. If Askellon falls too far then it's just another breeding grounds for a crusade the Imperium really doesn't need on the scale of the Angevian Crusade.

 

Personally I'd use Askellon for the aftermath of the Chaos Commandment adventure, the Calaxis is essentially in flames at that point, and perhaps they decide to quell most of the heresy there to try and get some repopulation going for the start of a new war effort that can actually be handled.

 

It's all up to personal taste though.

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The problem with Askellon, aside from the major planets all (so far) being identikit toxic wastelands inbetween denselypacked hive cities built on ancient ruins, is that there is nothing in it.


 


Calixis wasn't amazing. In fact I don't think it was any better at all, but it was developed: you ended up with a variety of interests and organisations that DH2 has not provided: the Kasbalica, the Cold Trade, the Pale League, etc. Many of these connect to the neighbouring Koronus Expanse, quite deliberately - Calixis was the last bastion of civilisation before the Halo Stars.


 


Now FFG has presed the reset button and all we have are Desoleum Hive Gangs. They haven't carried any of these groups over at all, I think that's a mistake.


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