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signoftheserpent

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Last night I ran a take on the Edge of Darkness scenario from the COC rulebnook for Dark Heresy. The scenario itself seemed smooth enough, aside from the characters nearly getting themselves killed in favour of actually searching the estate (what was the farmhouse in the original). I suspect that had this been CoC would have searched first: that because they think they are Inquisition badasses in a setting which has big guns as well as investigation they were somewhat safe.
In the adventure there is an item that is germaine to the ritual at the heart of the story; I translated that into a small shard of Wraithbone. The characters don’t know the Eldar, they haven’t encountered them and don’t know what Wraithbone is (not that that was important). But this felt wrong to me as I played it out because it seemed to be revealing too much. There’s a strange disconnect: as agents of the Inquisition they are privy to such secrets within the setting – i.e. the knowledge that there is a race called the Eldar (something the masses don’t know). It felt as though revealing this stuff was actually diluting the stting: that blanace between secret and knowledge, despite what the players might know (which isn’t important) is quite vital to the setting. Without that it becomes blasé – ‘oh it’s an elder thingamajig’.
Overall, in spite of the rocky road of the GM’s learning curve, I didn’t really enjoy it. I’ll go so far as to say it’s just not working. I’m not sure whether it’s 40k – whether the setting’s idiosyncrasies cause at least one of the players to scratch his head a bit too often (which is definitely a possibility).
I think it’s the attitude at the table. Unfortunately this is going to seem horrifically arrogant, but I’m too long in the tooth to settle for second best. I don’t think the players are deliberately jocular, these people are my friends, but when we sit down to play it becomes difficult to create and sustain a good atmosphere and there’s just no sense of character when there’s any character interaction. That’s not to say I expect people to be bloody full on thespians, I’m certainly not! But if you have a character then play him, however you wish. I don’t feel I’m getting anything back, and as GM that’s a killer: putting all the work into running a game needs something back. Maybe it’s time to find a new group for actual tabletop gaming.
I’m sure that makes me seem very arrogant, but so be it.

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Interesting. But why do you think the problems arising at your gaming table stem from the choice of the game, i.e. Dark Heresy?

They might also pop up during a game of D&D, Bunnies & Burrows, Gammaworld, or In Nomine. Or else maybe DH just doesn't work for your group.

I've never encountered any problems like this in my DH campaign. Players even enjoy knowing stuff of the setting and roleplaying their character's initial responses to hearing of a race called the Eldar!

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The Laughing God said:

Interesting. But why do you think the problems arising at your gaming table stem from the choice of the game, i.e. Dark Heresy?

They might also pop up during a game of D&D, Bunnies & Burrows, Gammaworld, or In Nomine. Or else maybe DH just doesn't work for your group.

I've never encountered any problems like this in my DH campaign. Players even enjoy knowing stuff of the setting and roleplaying their character's initial responses to hearing of a race called the Eldar!

It's quite likely that it would happen with other games. I wouldn't say they don't like DH, I think it's just the way they play. For me, it's not workiung the way I wouuld like. 40k, and i suppose any game, has to work right - those subtle elements are what define it as something more than just either big guns killing monster or ye olde worlde or the Imperium is simply an unpleasant fascvist theocratic dictatorship obsessed with killing everyone else.

Part of this may well be my fault; i can only explain things to the best of my ability. I get 40k (but then I would say that anyway). However I think it's the personality of the players; I fear I may need to find a different group in order to get the most out of 40k.

There was no reaction to their characters being told 'that's an eldar stone'. Because of that atmosphere, that lack of interaction, being there already I didn't really feel best placed to try and invoke the kind of reaction one should get. A vicious circle perhaps.

It's not a personal thing either; these people are friends of mine and that's important. But i'm too long in the tooth to muck about; i want to play games properly, even if that does sound massively pretentious.

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 Don't know if this is relevant to your particular case but we had a similar problem with a game of Shadowrun. I can say right away that all the players were really excellent players with a lot of experience and they always put a lot of thought and energy in to their characters. But we analyzed it by talking it through and this is what we found:

Problems:
1. The characters weren't really on the same page. None trusted each other and they had such different world views that they really couldn't communicate. They had so little in common that even social small talk was impossible.
2. The GM had put the adventure on a knowledge level that was way above all but one player. This was probably the biggest problem. When we uncovered a part of the plot that was supposed to be very exceptional to the world we didn't really react on it because we simply didn't know that we were supposed to be awed by it. Most of us thought clones were common. The GM kind of expected us to ask questions like where it came from, who could have created it, etc. but must of us just sat there looking stupid because we simply didn't understand what was so special about it. We all understood and liked the world and setting but we didn't know what to do with it.

The result of this was a lot of inactivity around the table. The players became passive and in some cases inactive. It was very uncomfortable for everyone because we knew the others were good players yet we simply did not have fun and it made no sense.

Our solutions:
1. We all sat down and made new characters that had known each other for some time and actually pulled in the same general direction. That way we got a lot more to act on between the characters.
2. We decided together with our GM that we should play a few low knowledge missions first before we touched that plotiine again. So we can work up our knowledge about the setting properly.

Maybe this ins't helpful at all and I guess all this really say is that if there is will there is a way. We wanted this to work and yes it took time, effort and all new characters but I can happily rapport that we now have a much more active and engaged group with good players and same setting. The only question is how much "will" you have. If the answer is none then yes, it is probably easier to find something different.

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signoftheserpent said:

There was no reaction to their characters being told 'that's an eldar stone'. Because of that atmosphere, that lack of interaction, being there already I didn't really feel best placed to try and invoke the kind of reaction one should get. A vicious circle perhaps.

I have quite a bit of joking around at my gaming table as well (our previous D&D campaign was nicknamed 'Drunken Dragons'…), but I'm usually able to get my players to take the 'serious' parts of the game seriously, largely through the emphasis I place on events. Did you just say 'that's an eldar stone' and expect your players to react with awe? Or did you say something like: 'The stone shows signs of being worked into it's current shape by intelligent hands. Intelligently worked, but like no mortal craftsmanship you have seen before… And the symbols- the runes faintly etched into it's surface- they are in no language any of you have are familiar with. It's a safe guess to say the thing is of xeno manufacture, and for an unauthorized citizen to so much as set eyes on it is to warrant a death penalty. It is a heresy made solid- what possile purpose could the sinister nobleman have had for this blasphemous thing?!' In other words, are you doing everything you can to create the proper atmosphere, rather than relying solely on your players knowledge of the 40Kverse?

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 Eldar aren't actually that secret, AFAIK.  Now, if an average Imperial citizen knows about them at all, they almost certainly don't know anything concrete, but acting like it should blow their mind is ascribing too much power to the Imperial control of information - the Eldar are a significant xenos race, and word gets around, eventually.

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Eldar aren't a significant xenos race from the standpoint of an Imperial citizen. Their numbers are microscopic, they pose no real threat, and open conflict, or any conflict, with them is rare, unlike Orks or any number of xenos empires.

Hell the population of the Tau Empire is probably greater than the number of Eldar.

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Adeptus-B said:

Did you just say 'that's an eldar stone' and expect your players to react with awe? Or did you say something like: 'The stone shows signs of being worked into it's current shape by intelligent hands. Intelligently worked, but like no mortal craftsmanship you have seen before… And the symbols- the runes faintly etched into it's surface- they are in no language any of you have are familiar with. It's a safe guess to say the thing is of xeno manufacture, and for an unauthorized citizen to so much as set eyes on it is to warrant a death penalty. It is a heresy made solid- what possile purpose could the sinister nobleman have had for this blasphemous thing?!' In other words, are you doing everything you can to create the proper atmosphere, rather than relying solely on your players knowledge of the 40Kverse?

 

You've highlighted a key difference between good and bad writing there: the devil is in the details. I also love the idea of re-rolling the group if need be to improve the chemistry of the game, and toning the missions to match the lore/experience levels of the players.

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