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TheMightiestCaz

Relatively new GM/New Only War campaign

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Good evening everyone!

 

Finished reading a fair amount of threads on this site and finally took the leap to join!

 

To preface this new adventure, I wouldn't say I am new when it comes to RPG's having played DnD 1st, 2nd, 3.5, 4th; WHFRP; D20 Modern/Future; GURPS; Dark Heresy; Pathfinder. However, out of all of those systems I have only GM'd twice and still fairly new. My group recently finished up a Pathfinder campaign and I was chosen to become the next GM. I was wondering if there are any tips for Only War all you vets can help me out with seeing as it's a brand new game for everyone involved.

 

For the campaign, a few idea's I have are thus:

 

Running the group through a Chaos/Ork themed game. Very basic synopsis would be Chaos are controlling orks and the background hand pushing them against the Imperial lines. However, the Chaos leader is really one of the high ranking officials currently commanding the Imperial lines. The group then has the choice of waiting for the inquisition if they choose to send for help or confront him/her themselves. Knowing my group, chances are they will confront the leader themselves.

 

Like I said it's a very basic synopsis and I've only had about the last hour of work to even begin thinking on this. I figured if I have some helping hands to guide my way it'll make the road a little less bumpy.

 

 

Oh! Another idea I had for the end mission is if/when the group defeats the leader, in his death throes he channels too much energy and ends up tearing a rift in time which sends the group back 10,000 years to the time of the Horus Heresy. Just another quick thought.

 

Thank you everyone for the comments and I look forward from hearing from anyone who deems this thread worth posting on!

 

~TheMightiestCaz

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Honestly, my inability to string two thoughts together makes it nigh impossible for me to come up with general suggestions beyond perhaps making sure you read the book cover to cover and familiarise yourself with the lore and other common sense things lol. However, I am always available on here and on Skype for more directed questions.

Oh! And don't do what I did and be over ambitious. Leave homebrewing and the mixing of regiments until after you have a solid idea of what you're doing lol. Though group regiment creation is always a fun activity, so I guess as long as you're careful.

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Hrmm, that shouldn't be too much of an issue for lore seeing as I've been playing 40k the tabletop miniature and reading a lot of the novels associated with it for the past 6 years now. Another question would be that I have a very destructive group, or rather they tend to throw themselves into idiotic situations and somehow can make the best of it but I could tell it put quite the strain on the previous GM a handful of times. Is there any advice on how to either curb those tendencies or should I just run with it and keep an ace in my back pocket in case they get a little to intense? I try not to do that because it tends to lead them down the path you want them to and leaves little room for deviation sometimes or the PC's feel like they're being pulled on a leash.

 

I've decided to leave the creation of regiments out of the game for now since only 1 of the players has a general knowledge of the 40k universe as well as they more than likely won't want to take the time to create their own. I figured just to let them choose from the pre-written ones.

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Most GMs would just let them kill themselves if that's what they're prone to bringing down on their heads, but if being a gentle overlord is your thing, try keeping allied forces close at hand that could realistically interject if they called for help. Do remind them that they're part of an army, not a small group of adventurers.

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Well to be honest they usually concoct some stupid, hair-brained scheme that the GM didn't think of and either sheer luck of rolls and/or good oratory skills are able to get themselves out. The GM was more than often fair and usually left it to the dice and the set of skills or weapons they chose.

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One thing I'm pretty sold on when it comes to first timers in Only War is training. Players might not be savvy to the vast lore out there but a quick crash course on what it is like to grow up on whatever homeworld you folks pick is really easy to do. From there you have a new regiment founded (or refounded) and walk them through the entire process. They roll up characters, get assigned to a squad together, tell their families or gang or whathaveyou goodbye forever and start learning to handle that lasgun. In addition to learning lore you can also familiarize players with the rules here as they run through different training processes, get into shenanigans, maybe roast some mutants aboard the transport ship, and help build some camaraderie. Lastly, you can beat some of that suicide risk taking out of them with tactics. Only War doesn't play like Pathfinder and they'll need to make good use of cover, suppression, know how to respond to different foes, and what weapons are best for what situation. In my experience one of the things that hits new players the hardest is how quickly fear will shut down a squad who neglected WP in favor of BS and all combat talents.

TL;DR - Take them through basic training and you'll all have some educational fun.

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A lot of the challenges/advice will be based off of what type of Regiment they create. Any idea what Regiment they want to build? If they're unsure, ask around about their favorite war movies.

 

Enemy at the Gates? Penal Legion. Underequipped and against suicidal odds ("The man with the rifle shoots! The man without the rifle follows! When the man without the rifle gets killed, the man without the rifle picks up the rifle and shoots!")

 

Full Metal Jacket? Line Infantry. Constantly thrown into the meat grinder, support is always lacking.

 

Fury? Armored Battalion. Every encounter has at least one heavy weapon that is a serious danger to their vehicle(s).

 

Black Hawk Down? Drop Troops. Get in and get out, and God-Emperor help you if you get into a prolonged fight.

 

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To keep the plot moving, plan out your evil overlord's specific scheme ahead of time. Make a simple list of their steps to victory. If the squad never existed to foil their plans, then this is how your overlord would win by default.

 

1.) Launch surprise attack from orbit. Establish beach-head to attack province capital W while PDF is still mobilizing.

2.) Overwhelming tank offensive to capture town Y, crucial path to city X. Sabotage troops destroy fuel depots to keep enemy tanks from rolling.

3.) Besiege city X. Pound the city from the air for three days, then send in drop troops.

4.) Kill Imperial High Command, fragmenting the defenders. Mop up, gloat, move on to next planet.

 

Next, make a "good guys" battle plan- the Imperium's plan for victory. If the squad completes their missions, this is the way the battle swings. Based on both of these lists, you'll always have the next mission planned. 

 

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Combat will always revolve around the battlefield layout. When the group attacks, the enemy should always have the advantage. For Orks, they'll always have a clear path to close to melee combat and the squad should have minimal cover. Chaos will likewise create kill zones the squad must advance through, only to be confronted with withering psychic attacks or suppressing fire.

 

When on the defensive, your group should have the benefit of fortifications of some kind- sandbags, trenches, or watchtowers- but the enemy has prepared unique challenges to fight them with. The squad may have set up a pillbox with heavy stubber machine guns to mow down Ork infantry, but what happens when a Stomp or a Battlewagon shows up? Definitely invest in Enemies of the Imperium splat book. Saves a lot of trouble of making homebrew creatures/vehicles.

 

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Finally, for any players new or unused to the 40K setting, it can be remarkably unforgiving combat environment and depressing non-combat environment. Add to that the strict discipline of military life and players that are more used to unlimited freedom to pursue whatever quests or treasure they want, and you can quickly find them getting frustrated with the lack of choice in their missions. If the game devolves into "Lt. Dan says go do X this week!" then it'll quickly get boring to someone in the group. 

 

One way to give the players much more freedom is to separate them from the bulk of the action for most of the campaign. Sure, throw them into the meat grinder in the first session or two. They have to help take the Ork Fort or man the trenches when the Green Tide approaches. 

 

AFTER they've proven themselves in such an epic battle, their regiment finds itself decimated and no longer prepared for front line combat. They've gone from thousands strong to barely over a hundred men. The powers that be then reassign them to guard a border town with a supply dump. Their primary objective is nebulous- defend the town and supply dump until their strength is replenished (something that'll take the bureaucracy years to do if they aren't fighting on their homeworld), perform regular reconnaissance, and don't ever request reinforcements unless there's an overwhelming need to do so. Their commander is a shellshocked husk of a man barely able to salute, so busy smoking the local version of opium to forget that epic battle that the squad leaders know they have to work together democratically to get anything done- and your players were such an instrumental part of that battle, their Sergeant is given de facto command (unless he starts making bad decisions- then get ready for a power struggle).

 

The Guard has incredible authority in war zones, so they could quickly find themselves with more power than they're prepared to handle- but let them use it with unique consequences. Their company is dangerously stretched thin? They can draft a militia, but are the farmers going to be happy sending their sons to fight and die? The food stores in the supply dump have gone bad? They can seize foodstuffs from the locals but even restoring supplies to basic levels will have a devastating effect on the town. The defenses at their camp are substandard? They can conscript the citizenry to rebuild the base for them when it'd take the regiment months to do the same amount of work- but it's harvest season, so the locals will not be happy with leaving crops out in the field to spoil.

 

They can then set patrols, interact with the locals, perform investigations, and generally come and go as they please. Leave a few NPC squads to do the patrols while they do such activities. You can still "radio" important missions to them, and Ork or chaos attacks can happen. Maybe this town is the center of chaos power with an underground cult bent on summoning a horde of Daemons? Or the cave network a few kilometers outside of town is actually home to a new Ork horde preparing to attack from the rear? Or the townsfolk are tired of being abused by the Guard, having their food and wealth stolen by unwelcome "occupiers" and it's becoming the center of an insurgency?

 

Or all of the above?

 

It might be useful to establish three number charts. Something like: 

 

Depot: 50

Town: 50

Enemy: 10

 

With every session, the Depot and Town can trade "strength" as your players take or give with their authority. The Enemy's strength will always increase by 10 each session until it reaches 100. 

 

If the Town hits 0, you have a revolution on your hands.

 

If the Depot hits 0, the regiment mutinies.

 

WHEN the Enemy hits 100, an Epic Battle is triggered. Thousands of Orks against your under-strength regiment and whatever allies/reinforcements they can muster up.

 

In any event, just some ideas I cooked up for ya. Use or discard at your pleasure!

 

Just some thoughts.

Edited by Fiddler27

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Everyone I really appreciate the comments/concerns/criticism/and above all the help. This is going to make my job a little easier..seems like I have a bit of a guiding light now when it comes to the campaign creation. If there are any further comments or advice please do not hesitate to add to the discussion!

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I cannot stress giving the bad guy a plan as has already been stated: how will the bad guys win if the PCs do nothing?

My favorite thing to do when GMing any game is make a list of things you want to see happen and ask your players the same thing.

One of my players wanted to see a skies-on-fire drop from a Valkyrie where they jump out just before the plane explodes. Another wanted a dirty trench to defend, one wanted to mount a tank and throw a grenade down the hatch. I wanted someone to have a 1 on 1 grapple over a pistol or knife, then link them together around the bad guy's plan.

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For those that wrote about running the group through a basic training-esque first session...how would you exactly run that? Just create some random small encounters to use their skills and such. Build some camaraderie among the group since they were all stuck together miraculously? Maybe run them in one large group and start weeding out the non competent ones, i.e. the NPC's, and whoever is left is what are used for the mission 'The Brass" has in mind for them?

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Introduction - Who is giving them their orders for the foreseeable future? The Drill Sergeant Scene from Full Metal Jacket comes to mind here; the commander gives everyone a degrading [but not offensive IRL] nickname, tells them they exist to die for the Emperor's glory, all the usual propaganda. Keep the propaganda short but take time to show that this guy is a jerk and doesn't care about them- he can get a hundred more men tomorrow if they all drown in the mud.

 

Don't bother showing physical training and all that unless everyone has Athletics.

 

Basic Combat - Players step to the firing line, roll Initiative, and fire at stationary target with their comrades. Single shot. After everyone hits the target, the DS says switch to semi-auto and then full-auto (if their primary weapon has these settings). Then the targets start moving side to side. This will teach them how to stack bonuses and use their Comrades effectively- arguably the most critical and unique part of the game.

 

Basic Interaction/Skills - Check their character sheets before you do this to see what skills everyone has. The squad is deployed to a fake training town with veteran NPCs playing the part of townspeople and heretics. They have to use their talents to identify the heretic NPCs, pulling their guns as a last resort. Basically an easy investigation. All weapons are set to low power (Nobody rolls Righteous Fury) and if the PCs take a hit, they're tagged as "dead". Stress that if they pull their weapons on the wrong person, the whole town gangs up on them. If it's the right person, then that one dude is on his own and they win by default.

 

The Live Fire Exercise - This is where they get their first taste of combat. They have to defend a structure in a pre-set combat scenario. Command has gathered a group of Penal Legion soldiers, armed them, and told them if they can take the squad's position either by killing them or forcing them to retreat, they'll earn their freedom (a lie, but hey, what choice do they have?). It's now kill or be killed, but the squad has superior position and allied squads with the same mission are in nearby (like, 20 meters away) buildings. They can put their skills to use with the allied squads in neighboring buildings or just in combat. After the mission, the squad witnesses the surviving penal legion troopers be summarily executed, along with anyone else who failed to defend their building.

 

Make them roll Insanity if they developed any close relationships with any NPCs who failed. MAYBE award a fate point if they help a squad about to be overrun in the live fire scenario.

 

Graduation - They're dressed up and presented to the Regimental Colonel, who makes a short speech about duty, honor, etc. (I'm not kidding- make it short, like half a paragraph; the guy/gal has a campaign to plan and they only showed up for formality's sake). But as an afterthought, the Colonel reveals a hint of their next mission/campaign. Something ominous and dangerous sounding.

 

Of course, this could require heavy modification if your squad is vehicle based. But just an idea.

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