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Calgor Grim

Killing 'em all off

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Greetings players and game masters.

 

I come to you all today to partially vent and also discuss a quandary which I am experiencing. I have a group of friends and we all play deathwatch via web chats etc. I've done it for a while now and some have been good sessions...some a bit patchy. 

 

Anyhow the crux is that before my last mission (at which point we stop playing DW and move to play BC for a few months), I basically gave them all free reign on equipment. Opened up the inventory and said "Pick what you want as long as you meet renown and its within reason (No relics etc) but you're not allowed terminator armour since I'm letting you play with tanks."

 

This was mostly well received and said tank battle has lasted two sessions and has gone rather well. Some tanks have been wrecked and damage has been sustained. We now got to the end of part 2 of this final episode where, after breaking into the enemy stronghold, they encounter a bound up daemon trapped in a fleshy prison. 

 

Being the group that they are, they are very much a "Shoot first" squad, and seldom even bother to look around or notice things like the daemonic writing on the floor, the daemonhost being stripped of nails or anything pointy etc and thus when they broke the flesh vessel, they open it up and release all hell. Greater daemons usually come with minions etc...so cue some of them. Lots of pain and trouble is following. I've had the librarian nearly cut in half on the first swing of an axe.

 

As it stands then, this isnt actually the last part and they have another primary antagonist to fight, this is just the build up. It's looking like my entire party are on the verge of getting wiped to a man. I've actually deliberately fluffed some rolls as a GM purely because I dont want to get them all killed so early (reduced my final damage, deliberatly failed, ignored some of my righteous rolls etc) because otherwise I'm concerned about actually wiping them out. I got criticised after this last session saying that they hope that the final nemesis is easy, since at this rate few of them are likely to get there. I don't really think that's fair though since I gave them full gear choices to load themselves with guns, equipment, medical supplies etc. I've allowed some really cunning uses of abilities and powers which are perhaps bending the rules to an extreme but so amusing that they actually might be feasible plus they usually sound amasing. Best example was someone using Gate of Infinity to try and teleport inside an enemy tank before stealing it! I always have plenty of options if players want to take logical or thoughtful routes through problems and when its attack tactics, they frequently make use of them but when it involves any ounce of thinking I practically have to drop several hints because they are just so combat focused at times.

 

So to you I ask, should I really be protecting them any more from their own stupidity and overconfidence? Is it fair to wipe an entire squad of players out in the end game? Do they always have to win? 

 

What do you think? Should I be nicer or nasty? I feel a little bit put off by it all...

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Perhaps I'd be too tough on such matters, but I wouldn't have fudged the rolls if the players have manoeuvred themselves into this situation. I feel this would only condone and support the players' limited scope of activities in the game, rather than forcing them to look for other solutions after actually running head-first into a wall. Provided the encounter was balanced fairly and there were ways to overcome the threat, of course.

 

The game's Crit Tables and the rule to spend Fate Points to survive death are there for a reason. So, whilst I'd endeavour to avoid a character's permadeath, I see nothing wrong with forcing them into retreat, or even having them lose a limb or two, requiring bionic replacement after medevac. Only when the players realise that they should perhaps stop and think from time to time, rather than just blowing sh*t up, will they (hopefully) see a reason to change their modus operandi. Plus, you could even come up with an entire campaign on how the Kill-Team could regain its honour by finding a way to neutralise their new personal nemesis that has managed to rebuff their first assault.

 

This depends very much on the type of player, however, and from how you described their reaction I fear that perhaps they might just want something less complex from the game than you would like to offer them. If this is true, then it may well be you who has to adapt, for fear of having the players lose fun and thus interest. Deathwatch is a very combat-centric game, and whilst it does allow for more, and whilst some players would love to utilise this additional potential, there are probably many who really just want a "dungeon run", and this is what they expect from your game.

 

I'm sorry if this isn't particularly useful to you.  -_- Have you tried talking it over with your players? Because I feel your group may benefit from having a little sit 'n talk about what each of you would like to see and experience from a Deathwatch game.

 

 

[edit] Actually, I'd never fudge rolls on principle, regardless of the circumstances. It just seems ... like cheating. No matter if you do it for or against the players. :P

Edited by Lynata

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In part one of Rising Tempest we had 40% of our Kill team killed and the rest burning their fate points, we failed that part of the mission at the finale. the survivors waking up in orbit then being debriefed. Our renown and pride took a battering but we eventually got over it. A certain high ranking IG general wasn't our best friend though.

 

In part two we fulfilled our mission but upset the church, that will have repercussions I'm sure.

 

Part three has been a real killer, my new character introduced in part 2 has zero fate points, we had lots of fun and games in a certain maze I had to burn 2 fate points in two separate encounters, one after the other. before we even got into the target area, even a certain npc you can have with you was destroyed, we ended up carrying his sarcophagus around with us. The final fight in that nearly killed us, EMP grenades are nasty, but we persevered though two more fate points were burnt.

 

Can't wait to see what happens next. 

 

We're not exactly a gung ho group, but it took us a while to get skills that help in non combat situations, you never realise just how important the charm skill actually is till you need it. 

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I take your point regarding adjusting rolls and yes I do argue some of it as cheating. However that also implies that its a competition of players versus the GM. You are perhaps right that by adjusting rolls it is encouraging them to be a little more pushy as well. Perhaps this is a fault on my own part and I do admit that. My only worry though is that this group is so stubborn, they will seldom retreat from even overwhelming odds. There was a prime example when it was a powerful enemy warlord. I had to throw in the destruction of the station they were on board to finally get them to accept that this was not a fight they can win today. This was after they attempted to take him on when they were unprepared. This is why one of them is missing a limb for his arrogance. I have

 

On the notion of fate points, is it just me or does Deathwatch give players so many of them (3-5) that it's enough for players to become overconfident with them? You can run into situations sometimes knowing that if it goes wrong you can ditch one of your many fate points and happily shrug it off. Depending on your length of campaign you could happily throw away one or two every few sessions and still stay alive.

 

Thank you though Lynata, I actually found it rather useful. I do not however, feel this is something I can discuss with them. Partially since we are approaching the final part and it may be a little late to adjust but at the same time to let them choose the route, would it not somewhat be like choosing their own missions? They are the Emperors servants and they go where he wills, not where they choose :)

 

Brother Anselm, I dont think the Charm Skill has ever been utilised ONCE by this group, and many of them often resorting to pure intimidation and this argument of "We are Astartes so do what we say". Some of them actually are quite rational mind. Killing characters off mid game, they can always be replaced. It's when they die at the end of the game I wonder if that has just become one giant slap in the face...

 

Or am I just overthinking this?

 

Again, thank you both for your feedback and it is helping.

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[...]

 

So to you I ask, should I really be protecting them any more from their own stupidity and overconfidence? Is it fair to wipe an entire squad of players out in the end game? Do they always have to win? 

 

[...]

No, you shouldn't be protecting them from their own stupidity and overconfidence; they made their own bed, and part of the game is dealing with the consequences of your actions.

Yes, it is entirely fair. The point of the game is to have fun, after all; just because their characters died in the end doesn't mean that the sessions leading up to that, or, that their deaths themselves haven't been or can be fun.

No, they don't always have to win. If a game is shoehorned to make the players always win, it doesn't matter what they do. You've removed all choice. Free will and meaningful choices must also mean the freedom to make mistakes and deal with them appropriately.

Besides, they have Fate to burn, I assume; let them. Burn those Fate points, and laugh at your players as they cry. Remind them that they are mortal beings in an unforgiving world that brutally hates them, whether they are Space Marines, Nobles or Underhive Acolytes.

Their deaths or loss of limbs, the stain on their honour, their failure to protect the Imperium; any or all of this could easily launch you well into the next campaign. Go with where the dice takes you and make your players choices matter. If they need a lesson in humility, give it to them.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that Fate Points should be called Learning Points. Every new player apparently needs to spend a couple of them before they realize that actions have consequences and you will lose your character if you don't start getting your sh!t together, Tyrone.

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Also, and this can't be emphasized enough: Space Marines aren't stupid. The vast majority of them use training from a codex on war that's 10,000 years old, written by one of the greatest strategic and tactical minds the human species has ever known. Even the Chapters that aren't Codex-compliant with their org structure still value the book as an extremely useful manual on warfare.

 

Dumb aspirants don't survive the trials to become neophytes. Dumb neophytes don't survive their time in scout squads to become full Battle-Brothers. Dumb Battle-Brothers don't live long enough to be seconded to the Deathwatch.

 

Space Marines are trained from the get-go to fight in small squads, usually being outnumbered hundreds-to-one. They know how to use cover. They know how to flank. They're proud warrior-monks but every one is taught to sell his life dearly for the Imperium. I doubt they will randomly shoot items or artifacts for the hell of it, or without the Techmarine/Librarian saying "don't shoot that til I know what it does." As the experts on these matters, normal Astartes will probably listen to that advice but that is also an opportunity for roleplay and rolling Command. Basically, if your players choose not to fight smart, I don't have an explanation as to why, but they'd break immersion for me.

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In a WH40K RPG the PCs getting all but wiped out fighting the final antagonist sounds like the perfect end to a campaign! (as long as they are just about victorious)

 

In all seriousness the only right answer is the one that tells the best story and generates the most fun.  In practical terms fudging the odd dice roll either way is acceptable.  Sometimes the PCs killing the big bad with lucky one shot is cool other times it is lame.  Equally sometimes a PC failing to disarm the bomb because of a critical fail is funny/tragic on other occassions it is just stupid.

 

Death Watch is interesting for me because unlike many RPGs the PC's characters will almost certainly die in battle.  At one level Space Marines have no motivation except to die in battle doing their duty (different from saying they have a deathwish mind). Whether they die on screen so to speak or after the campaign is largely irrelevant, it will happen eventually. 

 

Therefore I explain to my PCs at the start that I am not going to be puling punches to prevent PC perma-death simply because thematically it wouldn't be a unbareable tragedy for the Marines themselves.  Indeed the game rules with regard to heroic sacrifice, becoming a Dreadnought etc support this. 

 

In summary then, personally, I would feel free to wipe out your PCs laughing manically as you do so!

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The problem is that while Space Marines are not stupid, they can be reckless and there are fluff examples of reckless behaviour in marines. Also sometimes that little bit of player bleeds into the character which, while isnt entirely IC, has made for some very amusing repurcussions

 

Based on the above, the adjustment of rolls was a bad thing overall and it's a live and learn situation for me. To save me a little bit of face though and not make their efforts seem totally a waste, I wonder if I can orchestrate a very costly victory for them. Something where they win the campaign but one which costs a lot of squad members lives, so that the survivor can live with the burden on their mind of their brothers in arms, whom they have worked with and bonded as a team, who died in some way I have yet to consider.

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All Marines have at least 3 Fate Points at chargen (barring taking the Deed that reduces by one, or starting at such a level as to be a Dreadnought). Those are extra lives to burn. Don't feel bad pulling punches when your players each could have up to 5 extra lives, with more that you can award for really tough missions.

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The problem is that while Space Marines are not stupid, they can be reckless and there are fluff examples of reckless behaviour in marines. Also sometimes that little bit of player bleeds into the character which, while isnt entirely IC, has made for some very amusing repurcussions

 

Based on the above, the adjustment of rolls was a bad thing overall and it's a live and learn situation for me. To save me a little bit of face though and not make their efforts seem totally a waste, I wonder if I can orchestrate a very costly victory for them. Something where they win the campaign but one which costs a lot of squad members lives, so that the survivor can live with the burden on their mind of their brothers in arms, whom they have worked with and bonded as a team, who died in some way I have yet to consider.

If I were you in this situation, I would simply let the players, acting like they do, burn Fate Points, treating it as "Learning Points", with the intention of soonish afterwards, provided that they seem to have learned their lesson and perform feats of suitable heroism, award them a Fate Point each.

Honestly, as long as they keep pulling off heroic enough stunts, even if these stunts forces them to burn Fate Points, you can keep doing this cycle of having them burn Fate Points and then awarding them Fate Points. The game really doesn't end until the adventure is over - one way or another - and a character is only truly lost of the GM says it's lost.

Also, for burning Fate Points, I would recommend a pretty cool house rule; whenever someone burns a Fate Point, allow them to narrate the events in regards to their own character, even if that involves them sailing through the void after having their entire ship compartment vented into space alongside a melodium organ and end up crashing into the eldar ship's bridge, with the organ landing squarely on the head of their Farseer.

I'm not saying your players are stupid, but judging from what you've said, they've acted in a stupid manner, and I think that should be severely punished in-game, both to teach them - Out Of Character - that not taking it serious can be costly, but also to remind them that they are playing a roleplaying game and should act in a way consistent with the narrative; and Space Marines are (in general) no fools.

This in no way, shape or form means that such a lesson can't be awesome.

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I think one should avoid burning a Fate with rather quickly regaining it as an award. Then the sacrifice isn't as significant.

 

I believe the end of The Emperor Protects results in a Fate Point award. However there are ample instances in each module where Fate might need to be burnt to survive. A player might burn 1 Fate in each module. I think they should only get another 1 at the end of the story, not 3. 

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I think one should avoid burning a Fate with rather quickly regaining it as an award. Then the sacrifice isn't as significant.

 

I believe the end of The Emperor Protects results in a Fate Point award. However there are ample instances in each module where Fate might need to be burnt to survive. A player might burn 1 Fate in each module. I think they should only get another 1 at the end of the story, not 3. 

The idea here, of course, would be to not tell the players that he intends to give them that Fate Point back (if he does); and certainly not in the same session. I was merely pointing out that if he feels like he would be overly punishing his players by making them burn fate points or die, he can just as easily give back what he takes.

The objective, in this instance, is after all to make the players not suck at their job and highlight that they were screwing themselves over, and that actions have consequences. Or at least that's my interpretation.

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Just in case anyone wondered, they managed to complete their mission. There were some nasty injuries due to a bad encounter with a Bloodthirster and one or two deaths, however the party had cleverly made use of a space member of the Adeptus Sororitas. Using the rules from Inquisitors Handbook, the NPC burned one of her own fatepoints in one of their faith acts to resurrect a player.

 

In the end though they were not successful in killing the primary antagonist. He managed to gain a tactically strong situation forcing them to leave. However he hasnt been seen since. Still no deaths but a lot of massive scars and some emotional damage...even for a marine!

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I just wanted to say this was an amazing thread to read, really informative guys and I thank you. I am a new gm, Calgor has helped me a bit already. I plan to reach out for help as I have just lead my first DW campaign as GM and I need help with the result. Anyway I will post on that now, but thanks to all the people that contributed to this thread, very helpful to me as a new GM. 

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