Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Alank2

Shadow of Madness review (GM's Kit Adventure)

Recommended Posts

 Important note: I moved this review from DW Gamemaster's forum here when I realized it fits general discussion more than specialized GM-only topic. I also made some improvements and corrected some mistakes.

** Edit 23.07.0216 - I had an opportunity to ran this adventure one more time with different players, so I decided to upgrade the review a little. As for now, I have run this adventure 3 times with different groups, so I hope this encompasses most of what you need to know from few different points of view. All such changes will be marked with ** and written in italics. Thanks for your patience, now let's go to the actual review shall we? ;).
 


Hi, everyone!

 Note: If you're playing Alanverse and you're still in Prologue, beware of SPOILERS :). Do not read!
 Also, if you're a player, you may want to skip this review in case your GM would like to use this adventure. But since this adventure is really good, I would suggest it to your GM if I was a player.


 I recently started Deathwatch campaign and I decided to use GM's Kit starting adventure, Shadow of Madness. We played it few days ago, so I decided to review it here. I hope you will find it useful. (Also, it seems no one did such review for this short adventure.)

 Note - I made few changes, I will warn you each time I modified original scenario.

 And second note - you can use my version of this adventure in your campaign, with all modifications I made, without asking or anything :). Have fun!

 Mechanical note - we're using Errata for weapon stats. Which I, by the way, recommend, but that's the story for another topic.


 Let's start, like Rulebook, from Table of Contents:

 1. Overview
  1.1. Changes
 2. Erioch, Arming and Oath-taking

  2.1 Changes

 3. Arriving on the Planet
  3.1. Changes
 4. First Trellis

  4.1. Changes
 5. Another Trellises
 6. Final Battle
 7. Others

 8. Final Verdict

 

 1. Overview

 Shadow of Madness is an adventure focused on a forest/jungle world Baraban. In adventure itself there are only few words about Baraban, but you can find more information in Core Rulebook (p.355, although it's still just a small note rather than full-page description). Baraban in itself is not too interesting - typical world full of forests and jungle.
 What makes it important, however, are so-called Ghosts of Baraban. Some soldiers stationed on the planet suffered from some kind of delusions, sometimes visions or paranoia. This phenomenon was of interest to Deathwatch and Inquisition, but it was never important enough to send a Kill-Team or an Acolyte Cell. Until now.

 Adventure states that forces on Baraban are mostly Vespid and Kroot, with very small Tau presence.


  1.1. Changes

 
I personally find description of Baraban a little bit too simple. Like, a "generic-type-jungle-world" simple. I added few information:
 - Imperium has a deep-space scanners there, along with an Astropath; while planet itself is not truly important, it overwatches one of few possible invasion routes. In case of an attack, Baraban can quickly send an Astropathic signal and than evacuate important people (Astropath, few more important Guard commanders), while rest waits for the rescue and uses guerrilla tactic to fight invaders. That's the reason why Imperium is still there.
 - Tau use this world for training; Kroot and Vespids gain experience in real combat, while Fire Warriors learn to cooperate with their non-Tau allies. This explains small, but persistent Tau presence in the area.
 

 2. Erioch, Arming and Oath-taking

 

 If your Marines meet here for the first time, it's a great opportunity for some role-playing. You meet Inquisitor Quist - this meeting is especially fun if you have either some anti-Inquisition Chapter (Black Templars, Space Wolves, maybe Blood Ravens?) or if any of your players has a Forbidden Lore (Inquistion), which allows him to recognize Quist as a Radical with a taste in Xenos technology.

 Debriefing is OK. Players learn everything they need to know abut Baraban and what happened/what to expect. One important thing to remember is Imperial Guard presence on the planet - your players may want to ask about artillery support, in which case you can use Distance table on p.12 to show them the scale - even first point of interest, battlefield that revealed Trellis, is way beyond range of any large outpost, and those small outposts around do not have artillery support.

 Watch-Capitain is nearly ignored during the debriefing (adventure only states "Once the Kill-team is briefed and any questions answered with the limited information on hand, their Watch Captain sees to their arming"). There is no mention of his Chapter, which gives you a nice possibility of making the Capitan interesting person based on his Chapter. For example, I made mine a Blackshield - one of my players is a Dark Angel and his first thought was "He's definitely a Fallen in disguise!", but any other idea is good too.
 (For example, if you have Iron Hands Marine, make Capitan Raven Guard; or, if you do not want to have open conflict, use Raven Guard and Storm Wardens, for example, for difference in tactic without a historical grudge).

 Arming and Oath-Taking are just as usual. Nothing special. There is enough Requisition here for such simple mission - at least I don't see a need to change amount of equipment. One important thing, however, is the fact that Battle-Brothers are issued a Land Speeder Storm. It's possible that none of your players have Drive skill to use it. You should ensure that at least one of them buys it from Rank 1 General SM Advances. 
 ** Actually, since Drive (Skimmer) is actually pretty expansive, and your players usually don't have much use of it in later missions, you can either give it to free to some player, or allow one of the players to make a 'debt' in experience so he does not suffer at character creation and instead gets this xp less after the Mission. If you're a malicious and scheming GM, you can make the player with stronger Chapter or Specialty than the rest take it, for the sake of inter-team balance ;).
 Your players also receive Archeotech Luminators, which allow them to find and see Delirium Trellis.


  2.1. Changes

 - I removed Inquisitor Quist totally. I'd rather use Inquisitor when his/her presence has some greater purpose (like, Puritan who wants to sabotage the deal with Tau, or Radical who wants to use Kill-Team for his/her own shadowy goals), than just use it every mission. In my vision of Deatwatch, Watch-Capitan oversees the mission, Inquisitor only appears in few situations. But it's a matter of personal preference, nothing rules-wise.
 ** Actually, it seems that showing Quist here can be a very good move. She is a powerful Inquisitor and Radical, so her unhealthy interest in so-called "Ghosts of Baraban" can make players much more careful. It's also a good start to Erioch politics, which can serve as a nice break from typical "shooty" missions.

  - I removed the Archeotech Luminators from the adventure. They made it way too easy. I informed players that no one knows what exactly happened (all previously discovered Dellirium Trellises were broken and no one realized what are their effects, so no one made the connection). This way, players actually had to think what happened and mission wasn't just "Arrived, killed, use Archeotech Luminators, killed some more, return". It was a good choice - players really felt that there is something unknown going on, and this feeling of mystery made them much more interested in it.
 ** My first 2 groups of players found out about Delirium fairly quickly, but the third group had some problems. In case they have some difficulty finding out what to do, have them find a small Tau drone with more or less intact recording showing the moment when Trellis appeared and how to repeat this process.

 Besides, as a bonus, after mission I told them "look, there is a Lexicanum article about your adventure!" and gave them link to Lexicanum page about Delirium Trellis, saying that after their report, Omega Vault opened, revealing Archotech Luminators. That look on their faces... ;). http://wh40k.lexican...elirium_Trellis

 

 

 3. Arriving on the Planet

 

 Fact that Battle-Brothers are flying with a Black Templar brother, who also has an Initiate on-board, is another great occasion for more roleplaying. If you have Black Templar, or a psyker, or Brother from some Codex-strict Chapter like Ultramarines, it can be a very interesting journey.
 It's mentioned in the adventure that Spear of Fury will not wait on orbit. After Brothers arrive on the planet, it will leave and wait for the signal to come back. It's a wise choice, as it helps players get used to the fact, that Deathwatch is not a Rogue Trader; they usually operate with minimal or no support on a very dangerous missions.

 After arriving, they see that Oupost Epsilon 420 is under attack by a Magnitutde 35 Horde of Kroot. There is no mention about it, but you should remember that this is a close-combat fight, and shooting Kroot should be done with penalties and a chance of hitting Guardsmen.
 Meeting survivors is an interesting part, showing how Angels of Death are not only respected by normal people; some Guardsmen can start praying, others look like they can't believe they were saved by the Space Marines themselves. This is also a great occasion for first human-Marines roleplaying.

 They also learn about General Caroses, who was kidnapped by the Tau. It's an additional Objective for the players.

 

  3.1. Changes

- I personally changed it so that ship returns after a week. 7 days is more than enough for anything Battle-Brothers may want to do. Even with Astropath present, he's usually saving his powers and not using it to call a single ship ( There is no chance for him to reach it on Fettered, unless he's so powerful that it would be unnatural for him to be at this second-rate planet; and without Fettered, he risks death each time he sends a message). But again, that's just personal preference.
 - Attack on Outpost Epsilon 420 is a little bit too simple - accidentally this specific camp was attacked in this moment? In my version, Tau wanted to capture some prisoners to interrogate them and to learn more about the situation. They used Stealth Suits to surprise Guardsmans, and when they scattered, attacked with Kroots, while XV25 left with some prisoners. When players arrived, only Kroots were till fighting, Stealth suits already evacuated with their captives.

 

 

 4. First Trellis

 

 If players have access to Archeotech Luminators, this part is simple and quick - they find out what it is, recognize it as a Trellis, and do whatever they want (probably blow it sky high). It's quite possible that some of them fall victim to the Delirium - it can also be a great chance for even more roleplaying, as some Brothers develop Curse of the Primarch, others suffer weird visions, while others repel the attack on their minds and just observe their brothers carefully. It's short, nice part, nothing to add or remove.


  4.1. Changes

 - Without Archeotech Luminators, this part gets much more interesting. Players can use Psyniscience or Tech-Use, but as a starting characters, they do not have 100% chance of success; and in case of my players (no psyker, no tech-use), this led to a beautiful scene of mystery and feeling that something lurks here, unseen and waiting. Players started to think what happened, tried to use some loose equipment left after the battle, and from time to time, they rolled Willpower to test against Delirium. They all succeed (with some help from Fate points), but it was definitely most tense fragment of the adventure.
 - Since I decided that no working Trellis was ever found until now, this also made for some interesting realization. Players rolled their Forbidden Lores and found out what it is, but they were also surprised, because it was working and evidently dangerous for the Tau. They immediately started to think about ways of using it as weapon (or, in case of a Black Templar, the quickest way of destroying every single one of them).

 

 

 5. Another Trellises

 I'll cover this part quickly;

 - In case players did not realize it immediately, there are more Trellises on the planet. Fortunately, section "Dark Implications" provides multiple ways of making players realize that (and consequences of not finding other Treliises, namely the fact that Tau will find them and take for further testing on one of their planets).
 - First Trellis is in the Towering Glades, a large forest with gigantic trees. It's also full of Vepid bodies (Vespid seem to go mad and die under the Trellis influence). Trellis was activated and damaged, so basically nothing to do, but more... Radical... Battle-Brothers may find some Tau EMP Grenades. Tau also took one panel from it for further testing.
- Second Trellis is located behind enemy lines. There, some Kroot went mad and started killing Tau, so they had to withdraw (Without Vespids and Kroot, Tau presence here is too small for such combat). Kroot make for a good encounter with enemy using Cover, Silent Move and Surprise. Nice fight to show players the mechanics of Cover.
 The sounds of combat will alarm nearby Tau of Battle-Brothers presence, so unless they want to risk a prolonged combat, the wisest course of action is to destroy Trellis and withdraw.
 Players also find a note of warning from long ago. It's not plot-important, but a nice addition to a simple Objective. It shows the effects of Delirium on humans - they go mad, which is even more apparent in next area...
 - Third Trellis is located on the Western Continent, area controlled by the Imperium. It's a very good way of showing Trellis influence on normal humans. It's also an occasion for some role-playing, showing effects of Delirium and deciding what to do with "crazy" Guardsmens. Very good idea.
 Important note: I actually removed humans from third Trellis. I'm going to make an entire campaign based on Delirum Trellis, so players will learn about it's influence on normal humans on a different mission, on a bigger scale. Instead, I made it a trap with 30 Magnitude Tau Drones, as a) First really hard combat this mission that remained them that Tau are not stupid and should not be underestimated, b) occasion to use Surprise mechanics.



 6. Final Battle

 

 This is the most hilarious moment of probably entire mission, if not campaign. One of the Water Caste Tau, a diplomat, went crazy from Delirium. He meets Battle-Brothers in one of the Trellises (Mission suggests the last one) as allies (!). He's sure that Tau conquered the Galaxy for the Greater Good years ago and everyone is part of the Tau Empire, including his best allies, Space Marines. My player's faces were priceless...
 Anyway, they learn 3 things. First, captured General awaits transport off-planet in Tau HQ. Second, Tau are also going to take part of the Trellis with them. Third, base in nearly empty, with only few Fire Warriors, Shas'El and his forces. Which are not large. The only problem is Manta awaiting for passengers.
 This leaves players with 2 options:

 - Let Tau leave with information and Trellis;
 - Defeat the Tau. This is the more risky, but more rewarding option.

 And now, few comments about this battle:

 - Scenario is very good; describes forces inside, area around, choices that players face, and there are few interesting notes there, including possible approaches to the base.
 - Manta crew is in the open, in the long range of their weapons. They can kill them all and therefore make it impossible for Tau to use Manta armaments. Remember, however, that Drones can still fire Burst cannons.
 ** The fact that players can effectively just kill whole Manta crew makes it way to easy. There should be one crewman left inside, who immediately starts engines after shots are fired, and he leaves with Manta after 4-5 Turns of combat. Now this makes "destroy Manta" an additional, Veteran Tertiary Objective, which is nice. 

 Fight is hard, but it's possible to win. My players managed to defeat Tau, although one burned Fate Point and other 2 were on 3-4 Criticals; but this came mostly from the fact that we did this scenario in 1 session, and 2 players were completely new to Deathwatch. With right use of Squad/Solo Mode, good Cohesion and tactics, it's possible. In worst case, they'll burn Fate Points and survive (barely retreating) and Tau will take Trellis with them (unless players will destroy it before retreating; this is probably the best option, destroy Trellis remains that Tau have and then retreat).
 I suggest adding 3 Devilfish transporters to the base(but Burst Cannons only, no Seeker Missiles!). One of them has a Trellis inside, others do not, serve as a decoy. Whenever Players want to destroy or capture remains of the Trellis (this is the only one remaining on Baraban), this provides them additional challenge. Especially since it's in a Stasis Field and damaging it will make it useless, and they have no idea which Devilfish holds their prize...
 If your players played other 40k RPG's or Deathwatch, you should also add 3 Stealth Suits with Burst Cannons in base. If you're players are good in tactics and can utilize Squad Modes well, you should make it 2 squads 3 Stealth Suits each.
 Rewards for mission are fine. I'd give a little bit more XP for capturing Tau HQ, this is definitely the hardest Objective and should be rewarded accordingly. Especially since during Arming and Oath-Taking players did not expect frontal assault on Tau base.



 7. Others

 

 GM's Kit also provides few other things.

 - Off-Screen Operations Table is a nice addition to not only Deathwatch, but all 40k systems. It's really good, although I would prefer it to be a little bit harder (most characters in 40k RPG's are Testing their favorite Skill on 80-90 most of the time, counting equipment; the answer would be to either increase Off-Screen Operations required Degrees of Success by half and reduce Degrees of Failure required by half, or make it "Base Characteristic Test only". I'm using the latter version and it works nicely.
 - Deathwach Activity and other plot hooks - you can make a lot of missions from them. Nice, interesting concepts, that can give you idea for the rest of your campaign.

 - Characters and Mission seeds; again, more NPC's with really good potential for future missions, and more good plot hooks.
 - Mission Building; few interesting pages for a fresh GM. Nothing special, but useful and can help in making good missions.



 8. Final Verdict

 

 
 I give GM's Kit in Deathwatch 9.5/10. To be honest, I was thinking about 10/10, but there are small problems (Baraban isn't described better neither here, nor in any other rulebook, Kroot attack on Outpost Epsilon 420 only to show players basics of combat is way too obvious). But nothing that prevents it from being used.

 Difficulty is more or less fine for a first mission. I would make it harder, if your players know 40k RPG's or you know them to be good with mechanical thinking. I had 1 player who knows 40k RPG's very good, played dozens of sessions in different systems, and 2 players who never played it, but they knew mechanic from Warhammer RPG. I made Kroot 40 Magnitude, added 6 Stealth Suits to Tau HQ and added 4 turrets also in the HQ. 1 player burned FP, other 2 were close to dying, but with right Squad Modes and good Cohesion, they could've avoided it, probably.
 Vanilla difficulty: Good for starting mission, will provide challenge to starting players even without modifying it too much.



 Ufff. That was a looong post. I'm waiting for any opinions, criticism or any other feedback :).

 

Edited by Alank2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good modifications overall. Since this one was one of my first try-out adventures as a fresh GM, I ran the unmodified, vanilla version - and now you made me feel regret about all the missed opportunities to embellish it. :(

 

 I removed Inquisitor Quist totally. I'd rather use Inqusitor when his/her presence has some greater purpose (like, Puritan who wants to sabotage the deal with Tau, or Radical who wants to use Kill-Team for his/her own shadowy goals), than just use it every mission. In my vision of Deatwatch, Watch-Capitain oversees the mission, Inquisitor only appears in few situations. But it's a matter of personal preference, nothing rules-wise.

 

If one wants to establish Quist as a powerful player in Erioch and Ordo Xenos politics, her unhealthy interest in xenos technology is one of her defining traits, so this is actually a good place for players to catch the first glimpse of her. Otherwise I agree, her involvement is non-essential.

 

 I removed the Archeotech Luminators from the adventure. They made it way too easy. I informed players that no one knows what exactly happened (all previously discovered Dellirium Trellises were broken and no one realized what are their effects, so no one made the connection). This way, players actually had to think what happened and mission wasn't just "Arrived, killed, use Archeotech Luminators, kill some more, return". It was a good choice - players really felt that there is something unknown going on, and this feeling of mystery made them much more interested in it.
 Besides, as a Bonus, after mission I told them "look, there is a Lexicanum article about your adventure!" and gave them link to Lexicanum page about Delirium Trellis, saying that after their report, Omega Vault opened, revealing Archotech Luminators. That look on their faces... ;).

...

 

 - Since I decided that no working Trellis was ever found until now, this also made for some interesting realization. Players rolled their Forbidden Lores and find out what it is, but they were also surprised, because it was working and evidently dangerous for the Tau. They immediately started to think about ways of using it as weapon (or, in case of a Black Templar, the quickest way of destroying every single one of them).

 

...

 

Important note: I actually removed humans from third Trellis. I'm going to make an entire campaign based on Delirium Trellis, so players will learn about it's influence on normal humans on a different mission, on a  bigger scale.

 

That's evil. I like it. Seriously though, having to discover the (nature of) Trellises without help greatly changes the scope of the adventure, which requires careful planning. While I see that some Forbidden Lores could be useful for figuring the Trellises out (Archeotech, possibly The Inquisition, The Warp and Xenos springs into mind), low-level players are unlikely to have the majority of those, save the Xenos one, and if you plan to run Rising Tempest later, the players will make the connection with the Ghanataar much easier. What'd be interesting to know is how much info did you actually reveal at this point, because every crumble of knowledge has implications for later adventures.

 

Basically the point is, if you plan to run a longer campaign based on Shadow of Madness, like you said (cleverly hidden in the text as it is), these fundamental changes are good. If one wants to run it as a one-shot, the adventure's pacing and balance is probably better off with the Luminators staying. The combat tweaks would, however, benefit the game in both instances.

 

Keep doing these reviews, because you gave me some pretty good ideas to implement in my games. Overall 9/10, would read again :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Thanks! It feels really nice to know that someone is reading this and finds it useful, or at least good :) . Personally, I plan 2 things; first, continue with reviews (although it will be mostly DH/RT/BC/OW, it will take some time to play more DW scenarios and I already played through 10 scenarios from other systems). Second, I think I'll make reports from every next DW mission my players will play, in case someone would like to make a similar campaign or would just like to read something like that..

 So stay tuned for the next episode of...

 ... reviews. That actually sounds more awful than funny :lol: .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one flaw I found with the Shadow of Madness scenario was the lack of a map for Baraban itself. Even just a simple map to show where the locations are relative to each other would have sufficed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one flaw I found with the Shadow of Madness scenario was the lack of a map for Baraban itself. Even just a simple map to show where the locations are relative to each other would have sufficed.

 

 Yes, I agree. Unfortunately, it's a problem with all FFG's 40k scenarios - it's hard to name even one with a really good maps. Isle of Dust and Ash from Disciples of the Dark Gods, maybe? But besides that, maps are nearly non-existing. If I tried to add maps to the score, basically all my reviews would be lower by 1 point because of lack of any maps. I got used to it, although it annoys me to no end (I'm really horrible when it comes to maps, so it hurts me a lot every time I open these adventures).

 At least we have distances between locations. Better than nothing, I guess.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I completely changed the way Kill Teams deploy.  Watch Captains have 2-5 KTs assigned to them.  They are assigned to regions depending on the number of KTs expected to be needed in a deployment.  Often, when the DW deploys to a planet, it's because multiple missions need performed, because something really important needs to be protected, hidden, destroyed, or what have you.  So, multiple KTs are deployed onto the planet, some with the same mission, some with different missions, some with supporting missions.  The ship doesn't leave and come back in a week or a month.  That just doesn't add up.

 

Warp voyages can vary drastically, but the rule of thumb commonly employed is 12:1 passage of time when in the warp.  By the conventions then, a team deploys, the ship leaves, the team performs a mission and calls for a pickup.  This might be a day later, a week, or a month.  Does that make sense?  The ship takes weeks to make the warp point, makes a single day's jump (for the sake of argument), takes weeks to make another planet, weeks to get back to the warp point, another day's jump, and weeks to retrieve its original team.  That's 4 x (weeks) + 24 days (passed in voidspace while the ship was in the warp).  So, that team isn't going to be picked up in days or weeks.  It's going to take at least 3 months and probably longer.  You'd have to have another ship incoming while the original was outgoing.

 

It would take 6 times as many ships as there are KTs to keep that up.  Obviously that's absurd.  It would be more economical to assign each KT a seperate ship, and that's would actually make for a good campaign.  It would be even more economical for each ship to deploy multiple teams, and that brings us back to the first paragraph.  What does a Watch Captain do anyway?  IMU, he doubles as a ship captain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 That's a hard question - it mostly depends on Kill-Team's playstyle and what Chapters are present. Some Chapter Squad Modes can change a lot, and this mission plays completely differently with Dark Angel Techmarine+Imperial Fist Devastator+Ultramarine Tactical than Wolf Scout+Salamander Assault+Raven Guard Tactical.
 

 This is also a first mission, so players have limited access to better weapons and Squad Modes. I think the most difficult part is the last battle - the best combination would be either quick rush into the base (like my players did) and hoping for the best, in which case Black Templars, Blood Angels and all Assault Marines are happy, especially with some attack-boosting and movement-boosting Squad Modes.
 Other option would be to go stealthy - one players creates a distraction with Heavy Bolter (Dark Angel with his Solo and Squad Modes is a walking tank and scores a lot of deadly hits), and others sneak from behind and assault with Jump Packs or just climb the wall.

 I thinks this is the beauty of Deathwatch, every mission, every character and every Kill-Team feels totally different than others :).

 

 And thanks for good words, perhaps I'll try making more reviews, once I have time, that is. I'm unfortunately really busy, and when I'm not working or writing or recording stuff, I'm running sessions :).

Update 23.07.2016 - Maaan, this took a looong time! Well, my new review is ready, you can find link at the bottom of my Alanverse page in my signature. Also, I made some minor adjustments to this review, based on the fact that I had and occasion to go through this adventure once again with different group.

Edited by Alank2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...