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Askil

Play styles: Dark Grit vs. Heresywood

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Basically I have been thinking about the playstyle my group tends toward and the approach to Dark Heesy bring as a writer and GM and have come up wih two ways to sum up the essence of playing dary heresy.

 

Dark Grit: This is the aspect of dark heresy which fully embraces grimdark, taking themes of hopelessness and futility to extremes. It grinds down the PCs with the crushing improbibility of actually acheiving their goals and generally sticks to hard crunch of rules over dramatic improvisation, impossible situation with no easy outs are a favorite. This approach often promotes a PCs vs. the GM feeling as the PCs are subjected to a series of mifortunes by their erstwhile friend behind the GM screen. 

 

Heresywood: This is the aspect of dark heresy that embraces the players as action heroes in the dark millenium. Emphasising the thill of their adventures and treasuring innovation over srict adherance to the rules. Lucky accidents, comical misadventure and light heared homages are favorites of this fast paced style. This approach tends toward making the PCs and GM all active participants in shaping a story none of them fully control.

 

Obviously most groups try to balance these two approaches although I must admit I tend toward heresywood more often than I`d like to admit.

 

Thoughts? Which approach do you tend to favour?

Edited by Askil

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Dark Grit: This is the aspect of dark heresy which fully embraces grimdark, taking themes of hopelessness and futility to extremes. It grinds down the PCs with the crushing improbibility of actually acheiving their goals and generally sticks to hard crunch of rules over dramatic improvisation, impossible situation with no easy outs are a favorite. This approach often promotes a PCs vs. the GM feeling as the PCs are subjected to a series of mifortunes by their erstwhile friend behind the GM screen. 

 

 

I've two issues with this one:

 

The first is that while it can be fun on occasion - after all everything isn't fair and balanced in the dark future - in the long run it quickly gets rather dull, both for players and GMs.

 

The second is that it takes away a lot of the fun of working for the Inquisition. IMO Inquisition agents aren't worthless noobs. Sure, their work is dangerous in the extreme and the enemies they face truly horrendous, but they are skilled operators, on the front lines of a secret war that has raged for millennia.

 

I try to mix a dismal future setting with equal parts horror, investigation - and heresywood action - in my games.

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If we have to assume one of these simple models, I tend towards Dark Grit.

And have yet to experience player antagonism over this.

 

Both are simplifications though.

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Balance... its the only way to do it.  Strict adherence to rules as written (many of which make no sense) is boring.  Too much hopelessness, and players lose interest.  Too much improv and they feel invincible - and die horribly.

 

I lean towards dark grit, but i let me players do cool things if they come up with cool ideas. 

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Currently i'm going with Dark Grit (light, now with 20% less darkness), but i see to it that they get their Heresywood moments from time to time.

My very pious group just cleaned a mausoleum from tomb robbers and secured an important relic, lot's of mayhem, close calls and a few Insanity Points. Just as they reach the exit they come under fire from the rest of the tomb robbers who had carried away a few minor relics before the Acolytes arrived. After a tense showdown with a few Heresywood shoot out scenes the Inquisitorial Storm Troopers arrived and leveld everything outside the mausoleum and demanded surrender from everybody else. And they arrested every one, especially the (not yet official) Acolytes. The Arbitrator was somewhat stumped that HE got to wear the cuffs this time.

So far my players like the suspense, darkness and harshness interrupted by just the right amount of heroic moments.

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Leaning more toward Dark Grit for me, with a few elements of Heresywood here and there and some other nonsense thrown in by me, like the cell having an Inquisitor with a penchant for theatricals or my players during RP.

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I usually go with Dark Grit although my players can usually create all the comedy they need for the game to have a bright side as well.

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If we have to assume one of these simple models, I tend towards Dark Grit.

And have yet to experience player antagonism over this.

 

Both are simplifications though.

 

Wow.

 

I bow before your ability to restate the obvious.

 

I must conclude that your playing group are rarest kind of good sports. Most players I`ve encountered will eventually come to resent what they come to regard as adversarial GMing and hopeless plotlines grinding hardships without any let up.

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I bow before your ability to restate the obvious.

I assume this refers to the 'simplifications' bit?

Would it be more correct english to write 'over-simplifications to the point of bordering absurdity"? I was trying not to be needlessly verbose.

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If we have to use these two terms, I suppose I have to say I favor 'Heresywood'. Basically I try to simulate the general tone of my favorite Black Library novels, and in those, the heroes usually triumph in the end. The 'grim darkness' comes from the number of civilian casualties and general horror racked up on the way to that hard-fought victory, combined with the fact that even main characters can be killed at any time. But I don't deliberately sabotage my players or kill their dogs, just to add 'grit'...

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Lets get this straight now, you don`t have to conform with these terms or even use them in your replies they are just concepts I invented to more effectively communicate my query about others preferred playstyles by giving simple definitions.

Edited by Askil

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The thing is, DH characters DO generally start out as worthless noobs per the codebook (background packages, while providing a degree of power creep, do compensate for the worthless feeling in a good way). But they quickly grow into much more. Also there have definitely been scenes set as Dark Grit by the GM that have turned into more Heresywood by the players' success/enemies' failures or just PC personalities coming to the forefront.

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Kshatriya I know exactly what you mean.

 

Last week I had a player whose adept suffered a crippling first round jam with his only weapon (which he had slickly lifted from a guard's belt after breaking free of his manacles) in a close quarter fight inside a truck, he proceeded to use his own robes to ensnare his heavily armoured assailant and then beat him into unconsciousness dressed only in his pants with the butt of the jammed gun.

 

A gritty moment of hopelessness turned into a moment of inventive comedy (something I endevour to reward as GM.)

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I tend to keep the overarching plot of my adventures pretty solidly in grim-dark territory, but the individual encounters are much more lighthearted. My play group likes a healthy dose of comic relief even in the 41st millennium, so I use plenty of funny moments and characters while keeping the storyline and main antagonists fairly serious.

 

As a recent example, my players were recently ambushed by a group of thugs wielding poisoned swords. The thug leader's daughter had been kidnapped by cultists to force his cooperation in attempting to kill the PCs, who were complete strangers to him (fairly grim-dark as plots go). One of the PCs was isolated with a single thug on an industrial lift, and since they were undercover at the time he had nothing but an autopistol to defend himself. However, he was able to find an improvised Parrying weapon in the form of an industrial grabber claw, similar to the kind used by elderly people to reach objects on high shelves. After a drawn-out combat and several humorous grabber-claw-related Parries, he shot the thug in the head and flipped the body off the edge with an expert flick of the claw. That ranks as one of my favorite DH combat moments.

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In Shadowrun/cyberpunk terms, this sounds like "Black Trenchcoat" versus "Pink Mohawk". Black Trenchcoat being the gritty, realistic version where gunfights are short and lethal, the players constantly have to watch their trails and blend in, and subtlety and stealth is key to surviving. Pink Mohawk, on the other hand, involves smashing into a cult safehouse in an armored vehicle (painted red with flame decals, naturally), blasting AC/DC on full volume while your hair-electoos flash "LET'S PARTY", stepping out into the open with a blazing gun in each hand and turning the building into a Michael Bay set. Either one can be fun, but they're a very different flavor of fun.

 

The first Dark Heresy game I was ever in was rather interesting because it started Dark Grit, with my Techpriest getting her arm shot off by a ganger in the first session, and having to nail the BBEG in the back with a lucky one-handed lascarbine shot. The next session, the Arbitrator took a multilaser burst to the face, burnt a fate point, and ended up looking like an angry red tomato for the rest of the game. The third session involved a speeding mag-train, a cult and a daemon of Nurgle, and a virus bomb. (Yes, the kind used for Exterminatus.) Riding on the seat of our pants, not knowing which turn would end up being our last.

 

The second game I was in, on the other hand, involved two nobles with more Thrones than sense, one of which was a psyker, the destruction of a hive-spire, Tyranids, a cheerful-but-eccentric preacher with a heavy-caliber autogun who called his weapon "Suzy", and more Tyranids. To this day, Jastilus Havelock remains my favorite Dark Heresy character I've ever played, simply because of how much of a smug, rich, psychic douchebag he was.

Edited by Boss Gitsmasha
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