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Mr T

Deathwatch Campaign

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Hello folks!

 

I have been thinking from time to time to make a Deathwatch campaign but i never gotten to it for some things that i will list here.

i know DW is a action orientated game and i am fine with that. but those fights are so time consuming most of the time. so what i have been looking into is making more like the other 40k games where skills plays in a bit more. the problem here is that space marines start with such a high stat rate to begin with so most skill checks will never be a challange for them in case you make really hard skill test with -20 etc. but it will be a little bothersome after a while if you go along that line all the time. 
second thing is socializing. because Space Marines are seen as holy battle angles by the normal populace of the Imperium, a Space marine can basically ask anything and get it if it is available, and on top of that they are kinda part of the Inquisition too so you get what i mean. to acquire a favor or an item from someone will not be an issue for them. 

 

 

So how do i solve these problems to make it a fun and challenging campaign for the players and sticking true to the 40k lore how Space marines are and how they are treated by the normal populace? 

 

 

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For starters, it is important to keep in mind that the lore you are referring to is inconsistent and may at times differ greatly depending on which author has written about a subject. The treatment of Space Marines is a good example, if you compare Games Workshop codices and WD issues and Black Library novels. This amount of artistic license is intentional by the creators of the franchise, and you as a player may avail of the very same liberties that novel authors do, if you so wish. The only important thing to remember is that, at your table, everyone should share a common ground, so regardless of which interpretation of the setting you run with, make sure everyone is on board with it.

 

In regards to how this applies to your issue: GW's books often mention how Space Marines are not so much venerated as feared by the general populace, and how members of the Ministorum clergy actively discriminate against them, up to and including regarding them as abhumans due to their strange physique. This alone can be a significant hurdle towards social interaction, requiring your Marines to at first prove themselves before local leaders are even willing to open up to them rather than just paying lip service, stalling, and hoping they'll go away. "Angels of Death" is not a name for something you'd like sticking around, right?

 

An even more significant hurdle could be the presence of an Inquisitor who may perhaps not actively work against the Marines (but who knows?), yet at least is enough of a hurdle that it requires the Astartes to work around the usual chain of command. He or she may prevent the Marines from acquiring critical resources such as troops simply because they've got their own plans, throwing up questions as to whether your players should perhaps reconsider their own plan and work with the Inquisitor, or if not, how they could set their plan in motion against such formidable political pull.

 

In GW's books, the Deathwatch is an integral part of the Ordo Xenos and its members operate with inquisitorial authority. However FFG has opted to treat this organisation as separate and merely make it an ally of the Inquisition, perhaps because they wanted to provide players with greater freedom to act autonomously rather than under the booted heel of some Inquisitor. This sort of deviation is one of my personal pet peeves, but in your case it could be a fortunate coincidence, as simply adhering to the game's own lore allows you to treat Deathwatch Space Marines as considerably less influential once they operate outside their allies' consent.

 

Technically, you are not even bound to have the Deathwatch factor into this at all. Your campaign could just as easily be about a bunch of Marines from a single Chapter who are on a quest of honour, attempting to expunge a past shame by recovering a relic lost in battle, or something like that.

 

Inserting social interaction into the game is a trickier challenge, but could be done depending on the type of NPC they encounter, and what form this interaction shall take. Some NPCs may venerate the Astartes as their God-Emperor's own prodigy or the heroes of legend and propaganda. Others will avoid them as best as they can because they fear the very presence of these 7 foot tall and 3 feet wide beasts who spit acid and may crack a man's skull with their bare hands. Yet others see them as peers to be respected, and honourable warriors they'd have little problem to fight alongside against a common foe. And anything in between. All these different types of people need to be approached in different ways in order to cajole support, and even though Astartes may not exactly be good at socialising, being a paragon who inspires by words and deeds may be enough to convince people to help you. As Roboute Guillaume and Rogal Dorn have shown.

 

I'd probably solve this by roleplaying rather than game mechanics, asking your players how their characters intend to approach this subject and then just let it roll from there. Mechanically, Deathwatch is by design not meant to be played like a more investigative game such as Dark Heresy, but that doesn't mean you cannot try to insert elements of one into the other. You might consider just using a different ruleset with more support for what you intend to do, but this sort of houseruling may take time and testing that you don't have (anymore), so biting the bolt shell and sticking to DW would probably be best.

 

Good luck with your endeavour!

Edited by Lynata

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this gave me some new insight on how to deal with this matter, Thank you. haven't thought of it like that the common people can fear them for what they are. 

and that to play them as regular marines was a nice idea as well. 

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How people react to Space Marines is also largely based on their position on the Imperium and experience.  The Space Marine video game provides a good example. The woman we see here is an Astra Millitarum Lieutenant, talking with a Space Marine Captain.  But she is also Cadian, a planet who's guard have fought alongside Space Marines many times in the past.  She respects them, defers to them, but as an Officer of His Army, holds herself as a peer.  Nearly anyone you see who falls under "Peer of the Imperium" is going to react in various colors of similar - likely deferential, but not kowtowed.  Which, really, is often the people the Deathwatch need to talk with - Imperial Navy Officers, Planetary Nobles, Astropath Primus, Rogue Traders, Navigators, Inquisitors, Astra Millitarum Officers, Arbites Judges, Administorum Officials, Bishops, Cardinals, etc, etc.

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Here's my (possible heretical) two cents thrones:

 

Most Inquisitors aren't intimidated by astartes at all. (They have either seen scarier things and/or know who has the power to nuke planets: ie the inquisition) Same goes for Admech (they know who has to come to whom for learning how to repair machines)

 

The Ecclisiarchy is peeved that most (1st founding) chapters maintain that the Emperor was a man and worship him as the greatest human who ever lived rather than as a god.

 

To the average imperial citizen space marines are almost mythic beings. Most have heard of them in tales and history but will never see one. (It's like finding out that Batman is real :D)

 

The guard and the navy will recognize the Astartes as being the imperiums fighting elite, (the few, the proud, the outnumbered) and will usualy defer to their command. (Keyword "Usually")

 

I'm not entirley sure how the adepta Sororitas view space marines (okay i know how they feel about the Flesh Tearers ;) )

We should ask Lynata...

Edited by Robin Graves

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I'm not entirley sure how the adepta Sororitas view space marines (okay i know how they feel about the Flesh Tearers ;) )

 

For better or worse, it once again depends on where you look. ;)

 

In Black Library, it pretty much comes down to whether you have them as protagonists or supporting characters (usually damsels in distress). For example, whereas "Blood of Asaheim" has them kowtow before their mighty saviours immediately (do read this amazingly snarky review), "Faith & Fire" has them consider the Marines as untrustworthy abhumans.

 

As every so often, Games Workshop's own books place them somewhere in-between, or perhaps rather the novels and other tie-in products deviate from the original material towards different and opposing extremes. Either way, GW's original idea was for them to be wary of one another (the Sisters because most Marines are infidels, the Marines because the Sisters are involved in purity control targeting their own brethren) ... yet at the same time appreciate the other as a capable warrior and a potentially valuable ally on the fields of battle. Certainly a complicated relationship with quite a bit of roleplaying potential!

 

"Occasionally the Battle Sisters will have common cause with the fierce Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes. Although the relationship between these two organisations is only civil at best, the Space Marines and Battle Sisters both respect each other's prowess and skill at arms. Many times, the foes of the Imperium have been eradicated by a combined attack from these two elite forces."

-- 2E C:SoB

 

Of course, the above would merely be the average - it stands to reason that the Sororitas' reaction would also depend on the invididual Chapter, for unlike the Sisters, the Astartes show considerable differences in individualised behaviour and history between their various offshoots:

 

"Though they are under no obligation to offer any aid, the Black Templars often find common purpose with the Ecclesiarchy. Many times in their glorious history, the Black Templars have gone to war alongside the devout Battle Sisters of the Adepta Sororitas, and a complex web of mutual obligation and honour has evolved."

-- 6E C:SM

 

vs

 

"Either call in an Inquisitor, or bring the Imperial Navy to bombard these animals from space, but my Order will not fight alongside the Fleshtearers again, I swear it. By the Immortal Emperor and everything I hold to be Holy, my Sisters will not risk themselves by allying with savages, regardless of your own wishes."

-- Armageddon 3 global campaign website

 

So ultimately it would be a matter both of the sources you wish to go by, as well as the Space Marine Chapter(s) in question!

Edited by Lynata

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this sounds all and good what you are saying, what i am thinking of are the skill tests, as i mentioned before. marines will rarely fail a normal skill test with their average 35+ stat line.

so the question is in what circumstances should i call for a skill test? it is very rare i add in a skill test for the sake of keep progressing the story. because what if they just fail that test, then their mission is F**k. 
so any advice? 

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With a starting stat of, say, 35-50 you will fail. Quite often!

 

I've made my players make skill tests to calm an angered machine spirit (success means it helps them, failure means it make further skill tests more difficult); to open damaged mechanical stuff; beat cyber-defenses in various "mini-games"; knowledge tests; agility tests to avoid falling into a sinkhokle...you name it. The true challenge as a DM (I think) is to make it possible to win in various ways; just because a player failed the skill test to (say) open a jammed door doesn't automatically result in mission failure (there's probably another route that takes longer and/or more dangerous).

 

But at other times, you need to let the players fail to keep things challenging. Example: in the cyber-defense challenege I made one player do, I had 6 virtual "locks", each corresponded to a particular challenege. The player doing the challenege had a narrated mini-game (essentially an extended skill challenge) to open the lock. Had to open something like 4 of 6 locks to download the data. Failure means you don't get to download the data...but you could always try to take the data storage device - which itself was another skill challenge.

 

I guess what I"m saying is: a skill challenge can come in any form that you want. Like you, I also disfavor "pass or fail/die" results (in both combat and skills) and tend to have a second option available for the players - though it is not automatic or even safe.

 

But at the end of the day, sometimes the players need to fail or you risk the game feeling unchallenging.

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Okay, this is less a problem with Marine characters but more a general GMing question. Ideally, your game will always allow multiple approaches - if the characters fail a critical test on one path, there should be other options, or some way to salvage the situation rather than getting stuck. Unfortunately, the details will depend on the exact circumstances, so I doubt people can give you exact advice here. But if you design environments and encounters in a "natural" manner, alternative approaches should usually sneak their way into it entirely unintentionally. In fact, players tend to have a knack at discovering ways to solve a problem that was not what their GM had in mind! ;)

 

And a characteristic of 35 is only a 1-in-3 chance to succeed at a +/- 0 skill test. A lot of GMs actually don't notice that the "average" skill test is supposed to be a +10, though, so keep that in mind! That being said, also remember any other modifiers that might be applicable. In social situations in particular, the NPCs reactions towards the Space Marines could vary tremendously, resulting in bonuses or penalties depending on the exact situation, as this thread suggests.

 

Ultimately, the only thing the Marines are (or should be) really good at are tests concerning physical strength and resilience. Though even here the system doesn't feel like it does them justice, with their resilience being too high (a fault of how damage and wounds work) and their physical strength being too low.

 

Tangentially, the topic of skill tests also ties into my criticism regarding this product line's scaling:

 

As per the RAW, the difficulty of any tests uses a fixed scale that has an upper and a lower limit based on how tricky something should be for an average Human individual. I say this was a mistake - there should be no upper or lower limits. It would be entirely okay to have tests that would be mathematically impossible (except if you roll a natural 1 maybe), just as much as it should be okay to have tests you literally cannot fail (except if you roll a 100).

 

For example, a test about pulling open a closed airlock with muscle power should be impossible for normal Humans, but merely challenging for Astartes. They could use the exact same test values, except that Astartes characters would do away with "Unnatural Stats" and instead just use higher values for Strength and Toughness, resulting in the aforementioned condition where they'd auto-succeed on some tests but gain a chance to succeed on others that would be impossible for anyone else.

 

Right now, the way Unnatural Characteristics are handled make it possible for an unaugmented, freshly created, non-Catachan Human to beat a Space Marine at arm wrestling, which I think is a pretty silly idea.

 

Unfortunately, this would require reworking half the game, so it may not applicable, but I still wanted to put it up for discussion as it's sort-of related.

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For example, a test about pulling open a closed airlock with muscle power should be impossible for normal Humans, but merely challenging for Astartes. They could use the exact same test values, except that Astartes characters would do away with "Unnatural Stats" and instead just use higher values for Strength and Toughness, resulting in the aforementioned condition where they'd auto-succeed on some tests but gain a chance to succeed on others that would be impossible for anyone else.

 

Right now, the way Unnatural Characteristics are handled make it possible for an unaugmented, freshly created, non-Catachan Human to beat a Space Marine at arm wrestling, which I think is a pretty silly idea.

 

Unfortunately, this would require reworking half the game, so it may not applicable, but I still wanted to put it up for discussion as it's sort-of related.

I had this problem, where space marines were not feeling as strong as they should. My group doesn't really make great use of their strenght (As in, if they see a closed door, they won't try to pass through it with their shoulder : they will seek alternative path that may be more "sneaky", or hack the system controlling it), but this still bothered us. Because we play with the BC/OW Unnatural Characteristics, I went for a rather radical change : every point of UC also give a +10 on characteristic tests. For marines, it means they have a +40 on all Strenght Tests. It may be way too much, but I feel it's more fitting (as I said, my group doesn't make much use of Strenght, so it may need more test to see if it's balanced).

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Given that I have a Space Marine in a Rogue Trader game, I went for a different approach - different difficulties.  The Space Marine simply succeeds at any mundane strength check (like lifting a heavy box) the rest of the players might have to make. Conversely, if the Marine has to make a check, the check is simply impossible for the unaugmented humans to attempt. 

 

That's really the way Unnatural Characteristics kinda have to work in this system - you have to ask yourself what is an 'averagely difficult' feat of strength for a Space Marine (say, bending thick iron bars), not an average check for a normal human.

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That sounds like a good approach, too! Easier to manage and set up, I reckon, and more cinematic for the Marine player.

 

Personally, I still prefer a more "linear" approach that treats every type of character the same way, allowing for tests in the middle of both extremes, as well as for a consistent and gapless character progression rather than shifting from one tier into another as if there was some sort of brick wall separating the two.

 

This very much depends on just how much of a gap one imagines to be between ordinary Humans and Astartes, meaning whether it's actually possible for a Human to "catch up" either because of their genetics (Harker) or artificial augmentations (Straken). If in your game Astartes are too far apart from Humans, of course a mechanic that deals with any "in-betweens" makes little sense. ;)

 

I still like the simplicity in your approach, though... It does make me think about whether perhaps power armour should give a greater bonus to Strength. Not particularly an actual +X, but rather just "unlocking" the Unnatural Strength the Astartes has by default (with the caveat that characters who already have it do get a +10 or maybe rather a +20 instead). I feel this could create a nice synergy for the game - but sadly, I fear it's not properly reflecting the TT values, and personally I am still hesitant to distance myself from those.

 

This is more of a discussion for actual mixed/crossover groups, though, rather than what OP was actually worried about.

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this sounds all and good what you are saying, what i am thinking of are the skill tests, as i mentioned before. marines will rarely fail a normal skill test with their average 35+ stat line.

so the question is in what circumstances should i call for a skill test? it is very rare i add in a skill test for the sake of keep progressing the story. because what if they just fail that test, then their mission is F**k. 

so any advice? 

 

That depends. Remember that failing a test doesn't necessarily 'end' a mission. Failing a stealth-related test means the mission 'goes loud' but isn't an automatic fail - or alternatively, changes the mission success criteria to 'survive'.

 

Feel free to let players fail tests - just make sure failure doesn't mean a dead stop to the game but instead shifts the mission's route along a harder/more dangerous/bloodier/even less ethical route if some measure of success is still to be achieved.

 

Equally, remember to try and maintain the awesomeness of marines. These guys are essentially borderline tactical genius' with physiques that equal or exceed every discipline of olympic athlete simultaneously. If they fail a climb test, they will fall. They may take wounds and you may be justified in having them take a turn to recover. But don't have the guy do a willhelm scream and faceplant in the concrete below....

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Thanks for all the advice guys! 
i got an idea how to make it interesting than just a bang bang bang adventure. 

 

btw, do people follow the core rulebook of DW or have some of you changed some of the rules to make the game more balanced? I am thinking of the unnatural stats to change them to the new system. 
so the characters get +4 to their stat line instead of the usual way. like it is for the chaos marines in Black Crusade. or will this mess up things too much?

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Interestingly, I'm not sure the game is supposed to be balanced - there's so many OTT abilities and perks that I have a sneaking suspicion that Deathwatch is more about generating epic, cinematic badassery rather than balanced encounters. A bit like ... the movie 300, if you will. As such, if you wanted to make it balanced you'd have to make far more changes.

 

What I will say is that if you do adopt the BC-style Unnaturals, then you should of course do so for the enemies as well.

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what i had in mind was after a while your usual normal NPCs cant hurt the characters because they can have a TB over 10 and plus their armor on top of that. it makes very hard to damage. 
just to make the lesser guys feel a bit annoying than just to be ignored because they cant hurt you. 

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Interestingly, I'm not sure the game is supposed to be balanced - there's so many OTT abilities and perks that I have a sneaking suspicion that Deathwatch is more about generating epic, cinematic badassery rather than balanced encounters. A bit like ... the movie 300, if you will. As such, if you wanted to make it balanced you'd have to make far more changes.

 

What I will say is that if you do adopt the BC-style Unnaturals, then you should of course do so for the enemies as well.

 

Very much so. Even in Black Crusade, marines are scary as hell compared to those around them, but in Deathwatch, even starting stuff like Feat Of Strength supports ridiculous showing off. I always found it slightly ridiculous that they copy-pasted the table of lifting/carrying limits compared to S/T bonuses from Dark Heresy, when even a starting marine in power armour is practically off the top of the chart....

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Interestingly, I'm not sure the game is supposed to be balanced - there's so many OTT abilities and perks that I have a sneaking suspicion that Deathwatch is more about generating epic, cinematic badassery rather than balanced encounters. A bit like ... the movie 300, if you will. As such, if you wanted to make it balanced you'd have to make far more changes.

 

-But 300 was epic because of the challenge faced by the Spartans. The problem with DW's 'over-the-top'-ness is that it tends to neuter challenges...

 

In that context, you may also want to consider using BC's version of Righteous Fury- it makes mooks a bit more of a threat to Astartes.

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Remember Rule 0.  GM has final say on everything.  Doesnt matter if the book and dice rolls say the Storm Shield is available, don't allow it.  It's a simple lock on a door?  Not if you say other wise, slap that -20 on there.  Just don't abuse it.

 

I agree with most being said here.  Common man will be in awe of the Space Marines (likely PDF troopers as well), Imperial Guard/Navy will give all do respect and deference to them...however, commanding officers (especially of Lt. Col. and above might need extra persuasion to relinquish command.

 

As far as interactions are possible, that is all on you as the GM.  You can make the game heavy social interaction, investigative and problem solving as you want.  That way when the battles do come they become these epic confrontations that the players enjoy and relish.  From a psychology point of view, if done enough, this could lead to your players participating more in the non-combat areas as it leads to a reward of combat, etc.  

 

Lots of good advice on this thread, choose what best suits you.

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just to make the lesser guys feel a bit annoying than just to be ignored because they cant hurt you. 

 

Mooks are annoying enough if you use Hordes smartly. Overlapping fields of fire, using covers, flanking, heavy weapons, shielding bosses - you choose.

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