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bigcrowe

Ending Dead Stars

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I've been running the Haarlock trilogy fairly straight from the books, with other missions inbetween to get the PCs to the right ranks. We're on the final part, Dead Stars, and we're coming to the end now. The PCs having gone deep into the depths of Mara, passed into the Blind Tesseract and glimpsed the strange futures to come. They are just about to pass through the final door...

 

It's been an epic journey, but the final chapter on Dusk just feels so 'meh'. It ends the whole campaign with a whimper rather than a bang. It makes little sense to me, and there's no sense of closure for the PCs. Since this is the end of our Dark Heresy campaign I want to finish on something big!

So was wondering if anyone else has run Dead Stars and how you played through the end. Did the end in the book feel satisfying? Did you make any changes to make it more exciting? I'm pretty much prepared to rip out Dusk wholesale and have my players end up somewhere completely different (the Tyrant Star itself?).

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 I have only just recently begun game mastering this trilogy so I haven´t yet been at the end but I have read through the books and I have a few thoughts.

What really is missing is a huge boss fight at the end, Haarlock simply leaves and that is simply not cool from a game design perspective. We need to give the players a fight they will remember for a long time. Maybe they fight the Dusk Hag in the swamps around the final obelisks while the tyrant star blazes down upon them. They would need to fight a powerful warp-creature while staving of the mind-flaying powers of the star, the star might even amplify the Hags powers. Local wildlife would be rushing in to aid the Big Bad.

The only thing that would need chaning would be that the Hag has made some kind of deal with Haarlock or maybe he enslaved her? She wants him to return and the acolytes stand in her way.

After the battle the acolytes, if they survive, will have ended two major threats that were allied with each other and they will be stranded in the deadly swamps of Dusk. No one knows where they are and they have zero influence or possibility of support, this is a great start for the next series of adventures titled "The escape from Dusk".

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A FULL LOAD OF HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Hi Morph,

hmm..removing "Dusk" from all of this... but where else to go? Where treated Haarlock?

I would think about removing the witch first and foremost. I know at least one of my groups would rather get themselves maimed and mangeld before talking peacefully to a witch (which is why this whole campagine should have a "not suited for puritans" sticker on it). 

How about them not leaving the Tesseract?
How about Haarlocking being locked in time? In the Tesseract?

The "Trap" could be that after entering the Tesseract to accomplish whatever he needed to do, he knew he would not be able to leave. Somebody else needed to enter. So that he could exact through this entry, back into real time and space and out of the Tesseract.

So, they are facing Haarlock himself in some Dimensional fold where their is naught but the shadows of the light of the Tyrant star the being Haarlock is now transformed into. He welcomes them and thanks them for coming and thereby opening the gates to which he is now able to return...while the light of Kosmus starts to drive them mad.

If the pc want to fight him, many "fugus" (time-copies/doubles) of thim will appear, each round another one. If they destroy ONE, the copies shatter as well. He is not dead, but disembodied again. Enough time for the acolythes to run back to the silver door and flee. 

Perhpas coming out on Dusk

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 Hmm.... that's an interesting idea. I think the tyrant star needs to feature heavily. Currently Dusk and the hag just come out of nowhere. With all the themes going on through the campaign (clockwork, loss, the number 13) it's a shame to ditch them all.

I'm thinking they end up on the surface of the star itself, or a planet so close they can feel it's maddening energies. They have opened the gate for Haarlock but things aren't as simple as just destroying a post (boring). There should be real choices to make - a good reason to consider betraying the Imperium and letting Haarlock back through.

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I finished the campaign off last night. I only had one short session so couldn't make it too complex or have too big of a fight. It was part planned, part improvised. As a summary...

 

The final location is a clockwork planet created by Erasmus Haarlock inside the Tyrant Star (this harkens back to a separate campaign I ran where the star contains multiple existences and locations inside it).

Haarlock no longer has a physical form, to the PCs he is just a disembodied voice, but he cannot leave the planet without one. He has the ability to manipulate events in the universe and created 13 vessels that he could inhabit if they reached him. The PCs are a few of those vessels, the ones who had reached him first. When they arrive they have opened the door, and he would like one of them to let him into their mind so he can escape. He uses promises of power etc. If the PCS refuse he attacks them with clockwork robots as a threat.

The first few robots defeated, an army of them starts slowly marching towards the PCs (this was basically a timer - forcing them to make a decision).

That's the point at which my planning stops. I had no idea what the PCs would do, so decided to improvise based on their actions. In the end one sacrificed himself (to very little effect, but as his character was the most insane and corrupt it was a fitting end). Haarlock leached onto the mind of his navigator Nostromo (who the PCs had dragged along), was pulled back through the door to Mara, and thankfully for the PCs they realised what had happened and killed him.

The day was saved from Haarlock's return, but they were reminded of the future they had seen when the Imperium had been unable to stop a terrible Xenos threat from destroying mankind. Would it come true?

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I haven't run it yet but one simple idea that wouldn't require changing much would be have the Acolytes meet the Dusk Hag as the last encounter while INSIDE the Blind Tesseract. They can then either open the Tesseract, allowing them to leave but allowing Haarlock to do the same, or do nothing, trapping Haarlock but being trapped in the Tesseract for all eternity.

 

P.S. oh and also I'll add the Menagerie in as an extra group, basically serving the exact opposite role to the Slaugth. Given that they want to destroy reality itself they'd definitely want the Tyrant Star to come and the "dark masters" future would be them using it to achieve their goals.

Edited by Filthy Peasant

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It needs a proper closing encounter. The whole 'take it out with a grenade' is sooo lame. Like I've advocated before: set up an epic fight scene, between the PCs and some minions + Haarlock (in some form, befitting your interpretation of the tyrant star) as a boss. Don't be afraid to burn away fate points and/or kill PCs - the is the end after all. If after this they manage to stop his return it will feel much more worthwile.

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I still wouldn't let them fight Haarlock personally.

 

However if they burn or spend fate describe it in a manner befitting the battlefield they're on. Time is essentially running fluid, you're at the doorstep of alternate realities.

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