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Crystal Geyser

Should I warn my players?

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The Dark Heresy group I'm running has managed to enlist the services of a large hive gang, consisting of roughly 400 people. They plan to attack the hive world's orbital docks in hopes of taking over the ship of a renegade noble house which is docked there, stealing the ship for themselves as a permanent mode of transport.

 

Here's the thing...

 

I rolled up a profile for the ship, a Vagabond Merchant Trader with roughly 30 Ship Points, using the Rogue Trader rules and basing it off of the resources the ship would have at its disposal. Taking the ships crew of 18000, I calculated how many relative "points" of Population the hive gang consisted of, as that's relevant to boarding. They have roughly 2 points of population, which means that within half an hour the ship is going to clean their forces.

 

The players in the group have previously snuck onto the ship and are aware that is has tens of thousands of occupants, along with dedicated barracks. I'm not sure why they think this is going to work, and so far I've made a point of not expressly supporting or denying this idea. Should I let them try, despite the fact that it's doomed to fail miserably? Should I ask for a Logic check on the part of the characters to suss out that maybe 18000 armed and trained arms men vs 400 hive gangers isn't good odds?

 

What would other GMs do in this situation?

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Consider the 18k crew. How many are essentially slaves/serfs? How many know how to avoid killing themselves when armed from the lockers? How many would join forces with the attackers to spite their overlords?

 

Saying that all 18k will be mobilized against their 400 is unrealistic. Even a SM vessel would be unlikely to have its entire crew be combat capable, while Imperial Navy ships will be even less so, let alone Chartist other civilian captains.

 

You could reasonably expect the officers to be useful, along with whatever groups of crewmen they could personally rally or may have trained before-hand, especially if the ship was functioning as a some-time Raider (I'd guess a Vagabond Merchant would be likely to do some opportunistic piracy). The dedicated barracks space suggests a contingent of professional troops, too, but you have to consider how they've been trained. Are they for dirt-side operations? If so, unless they're urban troops, Hive Gangers will likely trump them. If they're for boarding actions, or even urban ops, then the Hive Gangers will be totally out of their league - though equipment must play a factor as well. Field-combat troops in Stormtrooper Carapace and armed with Hellguns will wipe out disorganized Gangers in anything like a stand-up fight, while urban specialists using spears and javelins will lose to a handful of random Hivers armed with proper firearms.

 

The balance of the issue will depend on how the players approach the action. Do they try to subvert the ship's automated defenses, turning the anti-boarding gun emplacements and murder-servitors against their masters? Do they hack the PA and make a rousing speech about rising up against the oppressive Officers, or following the will of the Emperor and supporting His Holy Inquisition in siezing this ship for the Imperium? Do they carefully arm their Hive Gangers and make sure they have a plan of action arranged (targeted boarding parties aiming for the bridge and plasma drives, for instance)? Or are they just going to rush in gung-ho and try to take the ship by sheer force of arms? If the latter, they deserve what they get.

 

Keep in mind, too, that if a ship is docked, especially at a "safe" port, it's a good bet that a large portion of the crew (especially the ones that are actually worth more than their base labor) will be on shore leave, as will most of the officers (likely leaving just an Officer of the Watch to mind the ship). If they are careful in their timing, they could well sneak a force aboard and grab the key sections before the enemy even realizes what has happened.

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Also bear in mind that you don't have to fight and kill all of the ships crew. Send some of your gangers to block passageways and corridors long enough for your main force to storm the bridge.

 

Kill the captain and get on the vox. (Bonus points if the captain's death scream is the first thing that the crew hear) Once the crew hears "This is your new captain speaking: This ship is now under new management/our control/Conscripted by the Holy Inquistion. All hands will stand down." They will play nice and obey. That's if they even care who runs the ship.

 

Should the crew remain hellbent on repelling your band of interlopers, make another anouncement on the intercom: "Knock it off or we'll start turning off the life support in your section!" That will do the trick.

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Something just occured to me: Most imperial vessels employ pressganged criminals/scum, etc as cheap labour. As a GM you could have the players hear tell that said ship is taking in new crew from the local hive.

 

Maybe the players can masquerade* as ship ratings escorting a new asigment of "volunteers" ( Ie their 400 hive gangers) to their new places of work...and make a slight detour past the engine room and/or the bridge.

 

 

Another thing they could try is a combination of Sneakiness, Bluffing, Suicidalness, Diplomacy and a large set of balls. Infiltrate the engine room, hold the most senior admech in charge of the reactor hostage, tell them to contact the bridge and then state that you "are an agent of the holy ordos and you will drop a vortex grenade into the plasma reactors/warp drive unless the captain turns over control of the ship."

 

 

 

 

* Trough Inquisitorial contacts/admech scanning the ship's security codes and forging ship uniforms etc.

Edited by Robin Graves

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Depending on the Gang, how they are outfitted and skill level, vrs the ship defense forces and what alert status the ship is at in port.  If they aren't on a high alert status and the gang knows the way, they could cause major issues.  And this isn't a "warship" so the edge in close combat might go to the hive gangers.  Against real Marines these gang bangers are going to be in for a fight.

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One thing to remember, is that while it may have a crew 18000, they may not all even be human. Many could be mindless servitors who would walk right through a gun fight oblivious to what is going on, or be build into a machine, unable to even comprehend anything else. 

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The crew will have home advantage, knowing the layout of the ship, with possible choke points and kill zones.

Both factions are probably equally matched in the type of claustrophobic close quarter firefights they will be fighting.

Most marines/combat ratings will carry shotguns wich schould prove deadly enough to gangers. Likewise the gangers will be carrying a mix of small arm. Maybe they might bring along a flamer, or a tox bomb, that would clear out aroom quickly.

In melee the gangers might just be a bit more fiercer, wilder, dirtier and meaner that any (non astartes) marine.

 

Also: how long has it been since the ships crew has seen combat? Has the ship ever been borded before? If not then the crew might have little actual experience in such a situation. While most hive gangs are in a more or less constant fight for survival and dominance.

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As has been pointed out, only a fraction of the ship's total crew will be combatants ('armsmen'); the remainder will be either unarmed techs/laborers, or slaves who just might be willing to throw in with the invaders...

 

Taking that into account, it's not a forgone conclusion that the PCs will fail. But- it might be worth asking how your players intend to pay for the continued operation of an Imperial starship in a DH1 context. Provisions, officer pay, oxygen for the life support systems... just periodically replacing the reactor fuel will surely run into the millions of Thrones- not something they can cover on an Acolyte's stipend!

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You've all made very good points! Allow me to address a few of your questions:

 

@Levi Porphyrogenitus: You're absolutely right in pointing out that the 18000 crew members are mostly non-combatants. I rolled up a profile earlier for the soldiers in the barracks to more closely describe their gear, using a Noble-Born Guardsman as the base (given that these are trained soldier serving a relatively powerful merchant house). As such, the guardsmen are armed with mesh armor, hell guns, and shock staves, while the gangers in question are utilizing scrap-built shotguns, handguns, and axes. The purpose of the soldiers is to defend against boarding actions in the case of piracy (or lend a hand to offensive endeavors - as you said, a Vagabond Merchant trader could be utilized in some piracy from time to time". Given that the ship is currently docked in orbit, the fight won't be ground side, and I personally feel the guards would have the advantage in both gear and training here. Additionally given that the acolytes will potentially be leading a rabble of 400 mutants (should have mentioned that most of them possess moderate to sever mutations) it's more than likely that they'll anger the local Arbitrators, PDF and Enforcers aboard the docks, resulting in a four-way crossfire if they don't utilize stealth. Given that their current plan of attack is to ram the docks with a makeshift rocket that looks like something an Ork Mekboy kit bashed together, I wouldn't say stealth is the highest of their plans. As for subverting machine spirits, their Forge World Assassin would be quite good at that, and it's something they will likely utilize. However, with regard to the ship's crew being on shore leave, in this specific instance the merchant transport is only here for a few days to dispense of some highly heretical cargo, so I doubt the officers would allow the crew to leave the ship for fear of a few rounds of amasec at the local hive bars loosening their tongues.

 

@Robin Graves: I like your idea of using the gangers as infiltrators. Again, however, I feel like that strategy would be complicated by the fact that these gangers possess heavy mutations (something I should have specified earlier in this thread).

 

@Angel of Death: The acolytes already infiltrated the ship once and raised quite a few alarms doing so, so unfortunately the ship is on high alert. Also, the paranoia of unloading heretical cargo would likely put them on the twitchy side of things. Additionally, the characters are planning to hire a navigator to help pilot the ship (they are assuming the current navigators won't help them), and I feel as thigh if they don't articulate their case well then the Navigator may well sell the information to the ship's captain to improve relations between their noble houses and make a quick buck. So, either way the ship will probably know they are coming.

 

I'm also looking for advice as to how to handle the mass combat, as so far the 40krpg system has never really made a very clear system for it. How I think I'll run the boarding action, if I can't think of anything better, is using the Starship Combat rules from Rogue Trader. Basically the rules stipulate that, when boarding, the leaders of both Parties make an Opposed Command Check. In this instance, the Captain of the Merchant Trader would receive a +20 bonus from her Barracks, and usually a +90 bonus from the difference in Crew Populations (+10 for every full 10), along with a +10 for the ship's turrets, although you all have made points that make me think the bonus from the population size should be much less, maybe even discounted. In contrast, the opposed command tests would be made at the following modifiers: +0 for the Acolytes, and +30 to the ship's captains (+20 from Barracks, +10 from Turrets). That way, the characters can use Tech-Use skills or sabotaging actions to cripple key systems and weaken the bonus on their enemy by turning the turrets against them, etc.

 

Having said that, I'm interested in how other GMs run boarding actions on starships in their games. Whats systems do you use, if any, to track the progress of the characters without getting overwhelmed by minutae?

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Sorry for the double post, but I did some math, and the barracks take up roughly ten percent of the ship's total interior - thus it's safe to assume that they only have roughly 1,800 trained soldiers on board. Given that, the odds of 50 to 1 have been reduced to 5 to 1 when you factor out useless scrubs, non-combat officers, and unarmed servitors.

 

So, given that, if we factor out the extra men that leaves the Merchant Trader with a Population stat of 10 (1/10th of 100), and the Acolytes with a Population Stat of 2. Again the captain is still at a +30 to their Opposed Command Test from the Turrets and the Barracks, but the those can both be potentially sabotaged by the acolytes.

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Okay so the Acolytes are bring a rabble of 400 poorly armed mutant gang members to take on a ship that they know will only be in orbit dock for a few days while it offload cargo.  And their plan is to crash the dock with a "homemade" rocket sled and then from what I am seeing try to Blitz the ship.

bad-decisions.jpg

Their target is alert and on edge given what they are offloading, there will be a on duty security force and an rapid responce force, all of which is better armed and armored then the rabble.  Honestly the Acolytes will have to be incredibly lucky for thier attack to work, and if it does I'm not sure they can hold the ship.  1 thing the Acolytes need to do is a headhunting decapitation strike of the ship command crew, to their attack have any chance of working

.

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Those acolytes seem screwed.

 

That said, a ship-taking is not necessarily the same as a boarding action, either mechanically or in principle. Ships in 40k are essentially cities, and like any city they have a government. What the acolytes should be doing when the odds are this one-sided is more akin to planning a coup than an invasion (traditional boarding action). The plain fact is that your acolytes have decided to invade an alerted, well-armed city with what amounts to a super obvious and super tiny barbarian horde. DH is a very lethal system - I say, let them do it, and let them suffer the consequences if they fail. If it results in some burned Fate Points or rolling new characters, either way let them suffer the consequences of their actions.

 

Plus, if they're seen in public leading a large gang of heavily mutated scum in an open assault on Imperial property (like an orbital docking facility would presumably be), their reputations would be pretty well ruined, at the least. Their Inquisitor sponsor may well put out a kill order on them and disavow them (depending on how radical or puritan he is, naturally). Certainly they'll make long-standing enemies of any number of powerful and important institutions, including much of the Inquisition, the arbitratros, the Navy, the Ecclesiarchy, and who knows what else.

 

Really, after your follow-up post, I have to conclude that those acolytes are due for a TPK.

 

Which isn't to say that an alternative approach wouldn't be able to succeed and reap massive dividends. Their plan is terrible, but if they came up with some sane alternatives (say, treating it as more of a coup than an invasion, and leveraging resources that won't get them disavowed or accused of heresy or taint), then I'd think it should be eminently doable.

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I'm hoping that the players will at some point catch on to the fact that they are severely outnumbered in both manpower and quality of forces, and I believe that their first port of call will be an invasion of the ship's bridge. As for their Inquisitor's view on Radicalism, that's a bit more complicated. The "Inquisitor" they currently report to is actually an Interrogator, serving a Phaenonite Master behind the scenes. Given that the party contains not only a renegade psyker but also a weird and a reclaimator assassin, I would hazard to say that purity isn't too big of a deal on anyone's minds. That being said, they will still make permanent enemies of themselves with the Arbites and the nobles in charge of the ship, who are both fairly influential in their own right.

 

Assuming that they make a targeted strike on the bridge, what's the best way of running such a combat? Given that they are outnumbered five to one, I feel like one option of doing it is rolling up a kind of "nega-party" (e.g. the ships' captain, chief engineer, navigator, and anyone else on the command staff who might be relevant) with a large number of kooks until the proportions are right. If anyone else has any suggestions though I would love to hear them.

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Trying to take over the ship the way described is a suicidal endeavor, really. Darwin Award tier.

 

They'd be up against numerically superior defending forces with better training and equipment, on their home turf, which is tight quarters with lots of choke points. It'll be a massacre, especially since the enemy is alert and prepared for possible things like this. That's not even saying anything for the inevitable response from Imperial authorities, which will likely play out with the ship's armsmen as the anvil, the Arbitrators and PDF as the hammer, and the mutant rabble as the material in between.

 

If they do go forward with this plan, just narrate that they get stomped on, captured/killed by Imperial authorities, and executed for heresy after being disawowed by the Inquisition. No place for idiots in the =][=

 

That said, invading the bridge is a possible tactic, and if they think of doing it, you could narrate it as something like "the bridge crew and the hive gangers clash around you" and then have the Acolytes fight the Captain and a few others of the command staff.

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My questions will be these:

 

-Are your players invested in the game?

-Do they like their characters or is it just "bleh, make anoter one" when they'll die?

-Do they act that stupid generally?

 

 

 

If they are invested in the game, like their characters and aren't that stupid generally, I would straight away warn them, telling them clearly that's just this time but they have to think about the consequences. If they like the game, their characters and have involved themselves a lot in the game, I think it would do no good for the game.

 

Otherwise, kill them all and tell them after that to act more intelligently because it's over being gentle with them.

 

 

 

 

I had a problem with a gaming group once, who went murder hobo-no tactics everytime. 

 

They were invested and I warned them a few times. In one mission, without being particularly stupid, they go nearly all killed (no more fate points), and they created new characters. In the subsequent mission, they got imprisonned because of lack of subtlety and I told them that I would let them only a few chances.

 

They didn't see it (and it was just logic, no dice check involved) and tried to be murder-hobo. They went out of their cells and got against all the prison's security and they got alive Deus Ex Machina by one of their's Inquisitor's elite agent, or they would have all been killed because of insane choices.

 

 

We talked it after. And the conclusion from them was "we acted stupid and we consider that our characters are dead. I think we should start a new campaign, but this time, we will play intelligently and with tactics".

 

They were good since then, and we're 3 missions into the game, starting the fourth, and they think and act intelligently and try the ground to be sure their plans can work. And they got good about it. Hope you'll get at least the same chance.

 

 

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If they do decide to make a play for the bridge, then making a set of PC-equivalent hostiles for them to fight is totally the right call. The Captain, his Gunnery Officer, his Navigator/Astropath/Psyker, and his Chief Tech-Magos would be a very solid core. If you need more, add the First Officer or Chief Armsman or something. Have a handful of gangers make it to the bridge with them to occupy the mooks and make it a proper party versus party battle. Give them a chance to redeem themselves through sheer guts and good luck after the monumental tactical/strategic debacle they got themselves into.

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@Inquisitor Alexel, the players are quite fond of their characters so I wouldn't want to kill them off permanently, but I think Burnt Fate Points are a justified penalty for this idea? I'm not sure if that's being too harsh, though. If they can manage to pull through that would be good.

 

As for the NPC profiles, I was trying to figure out how to adapt the Dark Heresy careers to fit the necessary roles on the ship. Apart from Tech-Priest for the Chief Engineseer and the Guardsman for the Gunnery Officers and Armsmen, most of them don't fit well - for example, I don't know who would be good for presenting a captain. I considered using the Rogue Trader careers, but given that they start with approximately 5000 XP each and the players themselves are at roughly 1000 each, it wouldn't really be a fair analogue (plus the starting gear rogue traders get is far superior). I'm thinking a good way of doing it might be to take out the Origin Path apart from Homeworld and Career, and reduce all starting gear to common craftsmanship, along with setting stat generation to 2d10+20 instead of the usual +25. If need be I can roll up a few test profiles - for reference, most of the players have Mesh or Flak Armor. If anyone can think of a better way of representing them, however, let me know?

Edited by Crystal Geyser

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Pick a career that has Command and Fellowship stuff, and maybe Logic or something, and give that to the captain. It's a kit-bash, essentially, so it hardly needs to be a perfect fit. Any Psyker can use a basic Psyker career, simply tailor power selection a little bit to fit the specific kind of psyker.

 

Also, give each one some kind of signature item, a unique (good or best quality, with some stat tweak or other) weapon or armor or whatever. This gives the PCs some nifty loot if they manage to win the fight and either take the ship or escape alive.

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I've been thinking about potential ramifications for the actions of the players should they fail in taking the ship - according to the Book of Judgement, the punishment for attempting to steal the property of a noble is death. However, I was reading up and learned that often times, due to how petty capital punishment is in the Imperium, criminals are offered the opportunity to joint the penal legion in return for their continued existence. Should the players choose to accept this offer, I would probably have them utilize the Penal Legionairre alternate career rank in the Radical's Handbook, fitting them with explosive collars. My question is, for you Imperial Guard buffs, how do Penal Legion officers enforce their commands - for example, what's to stop a mass uprising amongst the legion once planet side? Also, in the inquisitors handbook looting and trading gear is described as "fair game", but in Only War it's considered heresy because, by acquiring gear other than what your regiment has provided, you are implying that the emperor has not adequately prepared you for the coming struggle. Which of these is correct, or is it the kind of thing that depends on the regiment?

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 My question is, for you Imperial Guard buffs, how do Penal Legion officers enforce their commands - for example, what's to stop a mass uprising amongst the legion once planet side? 

The Imperial guard is very gun happy when dealing with there own non penal soldiers. If an officer even THINKS you disrespected them, they can shoot you. Penal legions are probably held on an even tighter leash. I don't think the commanders would have any regrets about ending a whole legion if they even suspected an uprising. A penal legion is far less equipped then a regular regiment, they don't get fancy things like air support, or tanks. They are given the most basic equipment and sent in. The penal legions are only sent into the worst of situations, often as a last ditch effort. I would think it would actually be very hard for a penal legion to pull off an uprising. When they are put on the planet they are given two options. Face the enemy and have a small chance of surviving, or turn against their masters and get shot down. 

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"How would the planetary governor deal with a penal legion uprising?"
"By pushing the big red button."

 

They have bomb collars. If they're really dumb enough to do something without getting rid of them first (which should need the support and goodwill of the adeptus mechanicus to accomplish...), wipe them. If they DO get rid of them, things get more interesting and you'll have the regular guard gunning for them to kill them all.

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Most of the times they will be used like this, doing all the nasty, boaring and deadly stuff such as advancing trough a mine field, Attack the most heavily defended part of the enemy line as a diversion tactic, digging trenches, etc.

 

However there can be other situations: such as when the penal legion (wich can reach the size of a full regiment) is the only imperial force in the warzone.

 

The 13th Penal legion "The Last Chancers" operates almost exclusivly alone and unsuported behind enemy lines.

(They even had special rules that let you take 13 models with special rules against a normal army)

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