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Author Topic: [Paladin+W40K] #1: Khorne (Introduction to the game)  (Read 3062 times)
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« on: August 21, 2005, 11:26:47 AM »

This is the first session of the game described here.
The aim of the session was twofold: introduce players to the game and test the use of music to support descriptions.

This mini-campaign will be axed a lot more on player input than what I used to do, I will for example often encourage author and director stance. On the GM side, this is the first time I use what I think are bangs to drive play.

Here we go!

#1: Khorne, assault on Ogronov IV

Initial situation
The 4 PCs (Fratris Nis, Sinistralis, Solfatis and Trieste) are in the command squad led by Frater Caligula (a rather passive NPC, takes decisions as decided by the players, used by me to introduce a few things) boarding the warpship towards their destination. 3 other five-men squads accompany them.
The briefing is accessible through the Terminator armor's HUD:
  • Land on Ogronov IV
  • Meet and join forces with the last Imperial Guard platoon defending the last undestroyed fortress in the 10 year war (120 men, amongst which one Commander and one Commissar, 4 artillery pieces)
  • Defeat the demonic menace
  • Protect the relic of St-Triphon kept in the heart of the fortress at all costs
  • Report back at HQ

Here I used a crossfading from gregorian chants while embarking the vessel to an oppressing mix of radio noise and distorted radio messages (by Folkstorm, first track of "For the Love of Hate") to represent the voyage in the warp, where physical structures loose their coherence. This really captured the players attention.

At the fortress
The demons still siege far from sight, so the I.G. Commander presents his platoon to the Grey Knights. Whilst inspecting the troops, commander talking with Frater Caligula, a soldier throws himself at Frater Solfatis's feet and basically has a nervous breakdown, imploring for help. He suddenly stops crying when he feels the Commissar's gun against his temple. The dark figure asks:
"Frater, do you wish to execute this man personnaly?"
"No."
Soldier drops dead to the floor and is brought out by two others.

First opportunity for a player to have a say. He didn't hesitate long though. His character could very well have shot the man himself (I would have granted a Faith point for that) or told the Comissar to spare the man (one Heresy point for that, with no other consequences).

Soon after that, the alarm is rung across the fortress, everybody scrambles to combat position.

The demons approach
The demonic horde of Khorne (whose major demons have Heretic attributes of Brutality, Violence and Hate) approaches from all four directions, each being comprised of about thirty flesh hounds, followed by twenty bloodletters, five demon princes and, on one side only: a Bloodthirster.
Here, the players took decisions for defending the fortress, although the orders where actually issued by Frater Caligula and the platoon Commander.
The Bloodthirster bellows out towards the humans:
"Leave now and we will let you flee!"
Of course this proposal is met by a flat denial.
"Whoever will cry out the name of Khorne during battle will be spared, others will die in painful agony!"
Whereupon the charge commences.
This of course was not a very effective bang, since accepting any of those terms would have been considered as highest Heresy.

Music used here was a chaotic noise and slow, pounding rythm, with some kind of screaming that was sufficiently distorted to sound like a good old demonic voice (courtesy of Folkstorm yet again, track n°2). Very impressive as well.

Onslaught!
We played out the battle on one side of the fortress, accompanied by tunes from the album Panzer Division Marduk (by Marduk). It was a way too lengthy battle, but I'm proud to see that the players now already make better tactical decisions in regards to the Paladin system than I!
A bit of shooting, a heroic plunge down the 10m high fortress wall to meet the hounds in hand to hand combat.
Only Frater Sinistralis stays on the wall to lob powerful shots of his Psy-cannon at the approaching enemies. Already this causes a bit of tension amongst the squad...
This allowed him to witness the courageous efforts of Sergeant Kahn and his men and how the Sgt tended to his men and gave sensible orders to save the most lives. One soldier did surrender to Khorne right in front of him, only to die seconds after under the shots of his cannon.
As the battle raged on, the demons came closer and closer to the walls and the Bloodthirster and his demon princes tore an opening through the wall, then rushing straight for the inner building and smashind down some walls.
A head on attack at a cost of nearly 20 Faith points total quickly brought down the Bloodthirster, although Caligula nearly died (if Thomas wanted, he could have had Frater Nis secretly kill off his superior, in the hope of taking his place, but he refused to do so).
The Symphony of the New World by Antonin Dvorak greeted the demise of the Bloodthirster and the rejoicing of the defenders.

We're still a bit lame on combat descriptions, but that's also because it really lasted way too long. (My first mistake)
I got the players to listen to black metal music and they enjoyed it (in any other situation, they would sooner throw the record player out the window than let my try to hit the play button).
Another mystake on my side was the lack of description. They where so scarce that Gaétan thought the fortress walls where way higher than what the others thought. Although he could have asked for more detail, I should give more thought to my descriptions.

The aftermath
The fortress is devastated and cannot resist another assault (although this was the last demonic horde on the planet, according to imperial intelligence).
Only about 30 IG troops remain (the commander and comissar where gobbled up by the Bloodthirster), whereas only two Grey Knights died. Amongst the survivors, Sergeant Kahn, showing great devotion towards the wounded and the imperial cause.
Alas, Grey Knight policy demands that no humans who witnessed demonic beings should survive, as they are supposed to be more prone to demonic posession in the future and might spread unsettling rumors amongst the population...
Frater Trieste has all the imperial guards assemble in a hall, for a "speech to thank them". Yeah right. The Grey Knights open fire after just a few words. Frater Trieste laughs sadistically (minor law breach for showing emotion (I always ask for confirmation before letting a character do such things)), Frater Sinistralis refuses to shoot (minor law breach as well, although it probably should have been major, for questionning the Word of the Emperor, then again, no one blamed him for not wasting his psy canon shots). Fratris Nis and Solfatis gain 1 faith point for respecting the Word of the Emperor.
Should I have given out heftier chunks of Faith and Heresy points? I think so, because most points where gained and used in combat. Although this was a combat-heavy session, I don't want to play as much combat-focused anymore.

I should have used Sergeant Kahn once more, even just to describe his surprised look. This would really have given the players some food for thought.
I only told the players that some men where a bit nervous at the sight of the 18 GK. I missed a nice opportunity :-(

What about the relic?
The command squad then proceeds to have a look at the relic. Something must be done, but the orders are very vague.
Coming into the room, the characters immediately sense a slight taint emanating from the otherwise holy relic. It seems as if the demonic presence over the last ten years corrupted it!
The players start arguing about what should be done. They definitly don't want to leave it there, it's too risky.
But should they destroy it or bring it back? Frater Nis wanted to have it destroyed. Frater Solfatis was at first unsure, but quickly decided it was the most sensible solution. Farter Trieste wanted to bring it back at first, but eventually gave up. Frater Sinistralis almost came to hands with Frater Nis, interpreting the order "Protect the relic" in a strict sense (he also suspected that this taint was actually what interested his superiors: "fight demons with demons"... dangerously heretic, but he kept it for himself), he backed up when Frater Caligula supported Fratris Nis and Solfatis (it was getting late...)
So the relic was destroyed, and with it the holy-but-tainted aura. The shards will be taken back to the monastery-fortress of Titan.
I gave no Faith nor Heresy points here, as I hadn't precisely decided what to do about the relic in the future yet. I'll give it to them when their superiors do the debriefing.

And that's where we ended the session.

While waiting for the next session
We have agreed that next session will begin in the warpship. Gaétan will have the opportunity to play out a little flash-back, as we afterwards decided that his kicker was set off during the shooting of the IG.
Thomas proposed to write a report of the mission, in the name of Frater Caligula. I immediatly accepted. I allowed him to introduce some hooks for his character. I'm eagerly waiting to read this report.

General comments
  • I do not have enough dice to play Paladin without slowing down the game
  • Demons where minimistically statted out. Number of dice for running, number of dice in combat, number of dice for resistance. The big demons could activate their heresy attributes and spend a few points, but I often adjusted things on the fly to accelerate combat or make it slightly more interesting.
  • Group combat was most effective at about 3 members a group
  • Faith points where handed out for jumping down the fortress walls and engaging dangerous melee situations, as well as killing off demons (1 point for the hounds and bloodletters (7 and 9 combat dice respectively), 2 for demon princes (11 dice, reroll of 1s) and 10 for the bloodthirster (14 dice, reroll of 1, 2 and 3, a couple of Heresy points and "double hit points")
  • No player used Heresy points, final scores (F/H): Nis 13/0, Sinistralis 6/3, Solfatis 5/1, Trieste 3/2 (he gave out the most against the Bloodthirster, something like 12-15 points at once!). Since they all are more or less wounded, this will go down a bit yet.
  • The campaign will take on a more political aspect
  • Sometimes the players forget that character and player are different, but that is probably due to old habits. I will adress this before begining next game.
  • I will continue to play music at key scenes. It does not make up for my lack of description, but nicely enhances the mood


I'm especially interested in any comments that could show me how to enhance my future games in a Nar perspective. Any advice on the use of kickers and bangs would be most precious.
Any comments on how to write more useful AP reports are of course also welcome.
Logged

Regards,
Christoph
GreatWolf
Member

Posts: 1155

designer of Dirty Secrets


WWW
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2005, 09:31:31 PM »

Hi, Christoph!

First, as you might guess from my username, I am a former player of Warhammer 40K and Epic (NetEpic only, please).  Space Wolves forever!  So, all that to say that I'm familiar with the various aspects of the WH40K universe.  I also own a copy of Paladin, but I have not played it.  So, take that for what it's worth.

Now, to comments.

The power of Narrativist-style roleplaying is found in presenting situations that deal with issues that hook the players.  This usually takes the shape of a conflict of values, where the character is forced to choose between various incompatible principles.  Which is more important?  That is the basis of Narrativist roleplaying.  (For good examples of this, check out any of the Dogs in the Vineyard actual play threads that are lying around here.)

So, from this perspective, a Bang is introducing a situation to a character which demands this sort of choice without providing the "right" answer.  There is no "right" answer to a Bang.  Instead, the character demonstrates his commitment to certain values by the choices that he makes.

This is where Paladin can become problematic.  Built into the very center of the game is a list of "right answers".  Doing The Code is good.  Not doing The Code is bad.  As a result, the nuance of moral dilemmas can get sucked right out of the game.  (I believe that Clinton pointed this out first, so I'm not saying anything new here.)

However, you have an advantage here, in that your game is set in the world of WH40K.  First, an acknowledgment here.  The WH40K world is silly.  It exists to provide an excuse to have lots of different armies fighting each other in various ways, in order to support an extensive line of games.  That being said, the world of WH40K is also fairly bleak, and people do horrible things to each other on a regular basis.  Just think about Exterminatus for a moment.  According to the Emperor, it is better to sterilize an entire planet than to risk the taint of Chaos spreading.  So, according to the game rules, the mass murder of billions of people earns Faith points, whereas refusing to pull the trigger earns you Heresy points.

Oh really?

But, what if this planet is the character's home world?  Is there another way?  Is it possible that the Emperor is wrong?

If you paused in the middle of your game and asked your players what they thought about their characters' actions, I'd bet that they wouldn't like it very much.  Did they like what happened to Sergeant Kahn?  Probably not.  Note:  this is not an "in-character" question.  You're not asking "Did it fit the setting?"  If that's your top priority, then that's Sim play.*  Rather, you are asking your players to judge their characters.  They just murdered a likeable, honest, honorable man in cold blood, in the name of the Emperor.

Was that the right choice?

Of course, the Emperor's dicta are not without wisdom.  After all, what if Sergeant Kahn had been allowed to live, but he really was tainted by Chaos?  What if the Grey Knights let him go, and he turns up later as a Chaos cultist?  Now what?  Should we have killed him after all?

Built into the underlying assumptions of the Imperium is a simple idea:  "the ends justify the means".  As a result, a possible Premise for your game is this question:  "Do the ends justify the means?"  Assuming that you use this Premise, you would then want to create your Bangs to raise this question in different ways.  Make them sweat their choices every time, especially because each violation of the Code gives them Heresy points.  Hammer them; show no mercy.  Force them to make hard choices, and reward the choices by measuring them against the Code.  Then, as they begin to rack up Heresy points for doing things like showing love or befriending a child, they will find themselves in an increasingly tight spot.  Either I follow the Code and turn into a monster, or I violate the Code sometimes and I keep my humanity.  Press the characters between the rock of the Code and the hard place of human passions, and see what comes out.

To this end, I'd suggest going back over your characters' "soft spots".  Your idea there is sound, but I'm not sure that the "soft spots" as presented carry enough weight to provide the human passion that is necessary for one of these characters to violate the Code.  The "soft spot" should be something that the character would consider breaking the Code to uphold.  If they have this intensity, then they become one of your Bang-building tools.  Without this intensity, they are just color.

Also, I'd suggest adopting a specific structure for each game session by making each game session into a mission, just like you did for this last session.  Then, as the mission unfolds, throw Bangs at your characters by requiring them to make difficult choices between their "soft spots" (or other such items) and maintaining the Code.  Of course, in some cases, breaking the Code should endanger the success of the mission, but probably not most of them.  Players tend to want to see missions succeed, so it becomes easier to choose "the mission" over "the cute puppy dog that I found".  So, you begin with small deviations from the Code.  Then, as the player establishes the general direction that he intends to follow, you create new Bangs to question that direction.  Each time, of course, you increase what is at stake.

An example here.  Let's take Frater Sinistralis as an example.  He refused to gun down the Imperial Guardsmen.  That's very interesting.  You should make a note of that.  Then, in a future mission, you should provide another sympathetic NPC.  This time, he has to work quite closely with Frater Sinistralis.  Allow the opportunity for this NPC to bond with Sinistralis.  Maybe they fight side-by-side in a hard-fought battle.  If you can put the two of them alone together against a massive demonic horde or something, that would be great.  Now, when the time comes to "cleanse" the troops, do you think that Sinistralis is going to want to kill his pal?  Tension mounts.  What will he do?

Remember, you will not provide the "right" answer for him.  This is very important.

Let's say that Sinistralis lets his buddy go.  That's very interesting.  You should make a note of that.  Now, in a future mission, you have another Bang.  During a mission, an Ork is captured for interrogation.  Once the necessary information is beaten out of him, he is going to be terminated.  Sinistralis is overseeing the interrogation, of course.  The Ork is blubbering for his life (in a very unOrky way).  You know, something like this:  "Grishnak just want to live.  Grishnak no fight in wauggh no more."  Sinistralis has already established that he is willing to bend the rules a bit about who lives or dies.  Does he let the Ork go?

Let's say that Sinistralis kills the Ork.  That's very interesting.  You should make a note of that.  Now, in a future mission...

And so on and so forth.

And that's just one particular story thread to follow.  As you go forward, question the decisions that the character has made.  Crush him between the Code and humanity, and see what he does.

Good luck!  Keep us informed as your game progresses.

*Sim play isn't bad, mind you; I enjoy it a lot myself.  However, you're shooting for Nar play, and that works differently.
Logged

Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2005, 08:48:24 AM »

Thanks for replying Seth!

I used to play a lot of W40K before discovering RPGs, and all the players at the table have an army at Warhammer 40K or Battle.
I sometimes field an eldar ost... no wonder they're a doomed race!

You're recap' of Narrativism is very useful to me, but I was wondering how well (or badly) I actually managed, judging from my post.

Quote
This is where Paladin can become problematic.  Built into the very center of the game is a list of "right answers".
Alright, I see. The players are supposed to be aware that what the Grey Knights consider as right is in no ways better, for that matter even worse, than some heretic views. Accumulating Heresy points and law breaches is a sign that the character wants to move away from the order, and I will allow for that, maybe even letting them create their own heretic faction with a new code (although this might end the campaign, depending on how it turns out).

Quote
Just think about Exterminatus for a moment..
The shooting of the imperial guard at the end was precisely a small scale Exterminatus (the rest of the planet was already devastated).
I'm not trying to say "Hey, I already know what you're saying". I do appreciate the various examples, and the future sessions will definetly go deeper into bangs, now that everybody knows how the system works and got an idea of how I GM the game.

Quote
I'd suggest going back over your characters' "soft spots".
Yes I should do that. The Premise I had in mind was: "How far will you go for this order?", but I think your's works better. I'll see how we can adapt the soft spots a bit more in line with this.

Quote
I'd suggest adopting a specific structure for each game session by making each game session into a mission, just like you did for this last session.  Then, as the mission unfolds, throw Bangs at your characters by requiring them to make difficult choices between their "soft spots" (or other such items) and maintaining the Code.
Oh yes! That was my intention. There should be some order-intern tension cropping up shortly, influenced by the way the PCs accomplish the next few mission (next one will be Nurgle, then Tzeentch and then Slaanesh... after that I hope the internal tensions will be high enough to allow for some serious banging).
For example, what they did to the relic will divide some of the leaders and have them gain protection from some guys and grudges in regard to others, they probably will have their word to say in the trial (see Solfatis's soft spot) and so forth.

Sinistralis is definetly going to be tested again and again, and so are the others. Your ideas will spur my imagination.

Quote
Remember, you will not provide the "right" answer for him.  This is very important.
Yes, I think I understood that. I will warn him when he's moving away from the order, so that his choices are made with all elements in mind. But I will definetly not interfere with his choices. I actually hope that at least a few others will get sick of the Grey Knight's fascist kind of ways as well. What happens when the GM gets uncomfortable before the players? :-D


Thanks again for the detailed reply!



I forgot to ask something in my initial post: Is my AP report useful in regards to commenting the Narrative techniques I try to use?
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Regards,
Christoph
GreatWolf
Member

Posts: 1155

designer of Dirty Secrets


WWW
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2005, 04:40:55 PM »

Sorry that it's been a while for me to write back.  With a newborn around the house, I've been getting less than good sleep, so my ability to string sentences together in a meaningful fashion is impaired.

You asked if you provided enough detail in your post to see if your attempts at Nar techniques are working.  As I was thinking about it, I realized that there was one important piece of information missing; to wit, how did your players react to what you were doing?  I don't mean the characters here; I specifically mean the players.  Then, as I considered it further, I realized that I needed to ask a more fundamental question.

You said that you were wanting to try play in a Narrativist style.  Do your players also want Nar-style play?  For example, have you made them formally aware of the conflict between The Code and human passion?  Do they know that you are planning to trap their characters between the contradictory pulls of these forces?  Is that what they signed on for?  Or are you hoping that they will just "get it"?

I know that this may seem like an obvious point, but as I've gone back over your posts, I haven't gotten the sense that they were formally made aware of these things.  Now, maybe I missed it.  After all, as I said, my cogitation level is a bit low these days.  However, I do not think that you will succeed, unless you are all on the same page.  (I refer you to this excellent thread.)

Moreover, as you go forward, you should continue to observe the players and solicit feedback.  Do the players like the decision points that they are being given?  Are they enjoying the sort of play that they are having?  For that matter, are you enjoying it?  Why or why not?  Discuss your gaming sessions in between play.  This is the sort of information that will be of help to us here in Actual Play.

In some respects, you need to understand that there is a broad variety of "right answers", even in Nar-style roleplaying.  If you are all having real fun (and not just pretending for the sake of the group), then you are doing something right.

Keep us posted!

Logged

Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2005, 04:18:13 AM »

Quote
how did your players react to what you were doing?
I did give very little detail about that and looking back I realize I'm not even talking about the most important thing in Nar!
I'll take notes next time and do something more serious.

Quote
For example, have you made them formally aware of the conflict between The Code and human passion?  Do they know that you are planning to trap their characters between the contradictory pulls of these forces?  Is that what they signed on for?
In my game-group I'm the only one who reads the Forge and its theories. So in a strict sense, the players are not aware that I'm trying to offer a Narrativist game. What I did though, was to write a document containing the game-philosophy, the most important things about the setting, and translated the most important rules for the players (chargen, resolution, Faith and Heresy).
Right in the very first page, after quickly explaining that the characters will be faced with morally difficult situations (because of the harsh ways and missions of the order), I write:
"It's a means to express what you think about those situations! Yes, your reaction, your point of view is interesting!"
I go on about telling that the Grey Knights are fundamentally just an excuse to get at those situations, even if I think it's a particularly suitable one.

Now this is quite new for all of us. We've been playing a lot of character exploration (the development of someone's madness in Call of Cthulhu for example). We are not used to author or director stance for example.
So after having quite clearly told them that they would not be penalized for not "playing in the spirit of the order" and often suggested direct player input for development of the game I hope that my abstract "game-philosophy" will be supported by the techniques I use to create scenes. If I don't support my game-philosophy concretely, I'm basically being incoherent.

For the while being, we haven't played enough to tell if we like Nar. I've planned 5 sessions for the campaign. I think we'll have a better idea of Nar after this. I know that on paper, Nar is something I could really enjoy a lot.

Quote
Moreover, as you go forward, you should continue to observe the players and solicit feedback.
Yes I will keep this in mind and try to place more emphasis on it.

Quote
In some respects, you need to understand that there is a broad variety of "right answers", even in Nar-style roleplaying.  If you are all having real fun (and not just pretending for the sake of the group), then you are doing something right.
Well yes of course. But I want to try and show something new. We have been having fun with our games, but we might enjoy ourselves even more with this new way, and that's why I want to give it a clean shot, doing my best at favouring a Nar state of mind.

Thanks for the input so far, it's extremely useful to get my ideas straight!


Quote
Sorry that it's been a while for me to write back.  With a newborn around the house, I've been getting less than good sleep, so my ability to string sentences together in a meaningful fashion is impaired.
No problem at all! Some things are more important than others.
All the best to you and your family!
Logged

Regards,
Christoph
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