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2/08/2015

Role-playing Rants: looking for that elusive thing called "Inspiration"

You've all been there. First game's only a couple days ahead and the campaign that everyone is anxious to play is still a work in progress. Why? Because you can't quite finish that very important plot point, that's being flying around your head for the last month or so.

Inspiration's a bitch. Yeah you've heard me. When you're a Gamemaster, sooner or later you'll be facing the prospect, nay the nescessity of writing your own adventure or even a whole campaign. Running on a ready-to-play supllements can only get you so far. But what happens when you finally sit before your keyboard or a blank page and... nothing happens? You feel that your head is empty and that you can't, for the love of life, create anything that will even resemble an adventure for your players to enjoy. And the clock is ticking...
Tick Tock
I'm currently running a Hunter: The Reckoning chronicle, which I'm writing myself. It began in 2011 as a simple conversion of a buddy's own adventure, and later it turned into a full-fledged camapign of its own. Those of you who know the classic WoD line, also know that there never have been any official chronicles released by White Wolf, only ideas in various game books. This automatically makes any Storyteller's job harder, as he/she not only needs to run a game, but also to WRITE said game. And this often turns out much, much harder than it looks...

Allow me to give a fairly new example. After our stint with WFRP haven't worked out (apparently there is such thing as too much Warhammer) we've decided to return to the old World of Darkness and once again pick up HtR, which so far turned out to be a wise idea. Even better, one of my players, who was very sceptic about the whole game, wants to replace me for a time as the Storyteller. I like this idea a lot, since the last time that I've actually played as a PC was back in 2013, but there's just one problem: my mate has trouble with finding inspiration for his chronicle.

I know that pain very well. There was a reason why I've decided to use my former GM's chronicle for my first Hunter game. I just couldn't think about anything original myslef, much to my eternal shame. Only later, when I knew that I simply had to write something original, was I able to come up with something new and fresh. Something of my own. It wasn't easy tough. Mainly becasue of the source material. For those of you who don't know: the Hunters, or Imbued as they are officially known, don't have any idea about who is who in the World of Darkness. They are the youngest group to emerge into the Final Nights, and the only resemblance of order and unity at their disposal is the hunter.net, a website which unites them in their purpose to rid the world of the supernatural taint. This makes any chronicle-building automatically more challenging for a peep who knows hiw oWoD lore, and I do.

"What type of enemy should they be facing?"

"Should I go for the epic scale of things or keeping it more down-to-earth?"

"I don't like the everyday-man angle. I want my players to start of as a kind of elite guys"
Maybe not THAT elite, but still...
And so on, and so on. From the begining I knew that my players would not be shopkeepers, teachers, garbage collectors or taxi drivers, even tough Hunter: The Reckoning is supposed to be about these kind of people. So I went for the goverment agents. I've decided that the pressure of them having such responsible and lofty positions coupled with the stress that comes from the hunt, will create interesting results. As a bonus, during the entirety of the first story, my players were normal humans who only recieved glimpses of what would happen in the future. It's hard to imagine that a man you're spying on is actually a vampire. This kind of tension worked really well and their growing paranoia and diseblief made the game really interesting.

That was only the first part tough. I also should've mentioned that the entire game takes place in Poland. Classic World of Darkness is rather US-centric and most splat books that came out for it, concentrate around cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. There is very little information about what actually is going on in Poland. Now I could look upon this in two ways. On one hand it sucks that I don't know anything about supernatural powerplays in Warsaw, where is the biggest Mage Chantry or which Werewolf tribes are most numerous here. On the other I had a lot of freedom in creating my own stories and plots. I could place anyone I like as a head honcho of Warsaw's Cainites or decide that the Sabbat controls half the country. I could tell my players that they are actually one of the few Imbued present in here and that the communication between Hunters is poor at best. That's what I like about poorly developed parts of an established setting: it gives you the opportunity to really spread your wings and work miracles as a Storyteller or Gamemaster. You only need to use your imagination.

Which brings us to the final advice of mine. When running any game that is based in a modern, real-life setting, use your enviroment as an inspiration for your stories. I often take long walks across the city, and often find myself wondering things such as: "this old building would be perfect for a zombie nest" or "this city block can be used to stage a final showdown with a Warlock". Sky's the limit here. You don't really need to spend sleepless nights, pondering on the location of your BBEG's Doom Fortress, when the bloody thing can be housed under that fancy restaurant that you've visited with your girl the other day. Trust me, sometimes simple, everyday solutions can work better than super convoluted, over-the-top ideas that you've got after watching one too many Michael Bay movie.
Pictured: a den of pure evil
Now obviously this method would not usually apply to game settings that are fictional, such as WFRP... or would it? You wake up and go to work, walking by the same, old butcher's shop that is run by the same, old guy for 20+ years now and you may begin to wonder: "what if I'd made a butcher's shop in that Warhammer game that I'm running, and its owner would be a cultist of Nurgle that has been making human sacrifices to his God for the last 20 years?".
It's cool. I didn't plan on sleeping anyway...
That's what it means to use the power of your imagination and let's face it: every RPG is about imagination, first and foremost.

I hope that you've found this little rant both fun and useful. Coming right up: the Elves will make a grand entrance as next week I'll begin my sort-of review of "End Times: Khaine". Stay tuned and stay frosty.

Until next time

Xathrodox86

2/02/2015

Baby's first Kill Team, or why it pays not to be assaulted

Yesterday I had a killer game of Kill Team with two of my friends, and let me tell you: it was awesome!

For those of you who don't know, Kill Team is a small skirmish game, based on the rules of Warhammer 40K, but with a couple of twists, First of all most units are treated individually, even those who are in squads. This means that finally we have a game, where it is possible to target different opponents with different guys. The games are obviously rather smallish. Usually the army will be worth 250 points and consist of no more than 20 models. There are almost no vehicles and the whole thing is like a 40K version of Mordheim which is really cool.

Oh and just FYI I am talking about the Heralds of Ruin version of Kill Team, not the GW one, which I find to be rather inbalanced. I'll post the adress to the HoR website at the end of this article. Be sure to visit and check out their stuff. It's really great and shows how much worth is a true dedication to one's hobby. Inspiring stuff.

Also I'll be only covering the first battle that I've fought yesterday. The second one was a sort of an introduction into 40K for one of my pals, and so I don't think it was fought equally, even if it was heaps of fun. Sorry Chris!

Anyway here's the first battle report from a KT game that we've had yesterday. The point limit was set for 300 and the armies were Astra Militarum (Mine) and Space Marines (my Mate's). In hindsight we probably should've stick to 200-250 pts because of balance issues. Armies like SM have less models, but are very strong individually. This however can change when you give them more points to spent. After the battle I've discovered that my buddy bought at least 3 more Assault Marines for those extra 50 pts. No big deal, and I too got more guys, but let's be honest here: if I'd had to wager a close combat result of a single AM and a 5-man squad of Guardsmen, my money would on the AM with his jump pack, Hammer of Wrath and 4 attacks total. Heed my advice people: stick to a desired 250 points for you Kill Team games, maybe even less. You won't be dissapointed... or pissed.

Heralds of Ruin Kill Team battle report: Astra Militarum (Mordian doctrine) vs Space Marines (Raven Guard chapter tactics), 300 points.

Now the battle istself. I've chosen the Astra Militarum with Mordian Iron Guard doctrine which made my guys immune to Pinning and Fear. My list consisted of Force Commander with a Sniper Rifle, MC Carapace Armour and a Macharian Cross for bigger Inspiring Presence radius. I've also had a Sergeant with another Sniper Rifle and Carapace, two squads of Vets, one with Plasma, one with GL, a single squad of Grunts with Plasma, two Tempestus Scions and a Scout Sentinel with Autocannon and SL's. All of my squads had Vox Casters.

My friend's army was smaller than mine but he did the wise thing of including as many assault troops as possible. He also took the Raven Guard chapter doctrine for that extra move and HoW re-rolls. Scary. His Sergeant had a JP and a Power Fist. He also had a Terminator with a TH/SS combo, 7 Assault Marines, including one with a Flamer and 5 Tactical Marines, one of whom packed a Melta Gun. Normally I wouldn't be much worried about this list, but with RG chapter tactics his guys could potentially get to melee in less than two turns. That wasn't good. 
Turn 1:
We've rolled for missions and got the first scenario. Basically we just had to annihilate one another, but could start the game with only half of our forces. The good thing was that all our units got the Outflank special rule. I've chosen two of my squads, including the normal Guardsmen. He deployed a mix of Tac's and AM's. The cool thing about Kill Team is that you can deploy your forces as far away from each other as possible. The only exception comes with squads, as they need to stay within two of each other, even tough their members are treated as individual models. As you can see my Veterans took cover behind a small wall, while his sneaky Blood Ravens tried to get as close to me, without exposing themselves to my flashlights.

As you can see, our gaming terrain dosen't have any bulidings present. Fortunately the many, spread out rocks offer plenty of cover, as those three Tactical Marines decided to play conga line.

The first blood of the match was claimed by my puny Guardsmen squad, who peppered the lonesome Assault Marine with las shots, eventually killing him. I knew that they'll be shot by the sneaky Tac, who was hiding behind cover, but there was always the "Go to ground" rule to be exploited if it things decided to turn ugly. The game began well for me. The question was: could I keep up the good work?

The nice thing about jump troops is that they can move a full 12' over the obstacles, as this AM was just about to do. Behind him the Three Stooges still camped extensively, hidden behind a rock. Wusses.
Turn 2:
Turn 2 saw most of his reserves come on board, while I managed to bring my Force Commander, Sergeant, the second Vet squad and a single Scion. I knew that this was the turn, during which he'll assault me, so I had to drop as many of his guys as possible. The Scion, who emerged on the right flank, killed his Tac Marine with a well placed burst from his Hot-shot Lasgun to the back. My Vets, who were camping behind the wall, failed to shoot anyone, and were flamered in turn, thus losing their Plasma gun guy. One of them caught fire and had a burn counter placed on him. Ouch. 

The second Veteran squad, Sergeant, Force Commander and Guardsmen squad apparently forgot how to shoot as, despite using "First rank fire, second rank fire!" order, didn't manage to kill even a single Blood Raven. Curses!
Turns 3 and 4:
This turn was nasty. We've both lost guys to some well placed shots, altough once again I've had the upper hand here. My Vets on the right flank managed to wipe out two of his AM's with "First rank..." order, even tough one of their number continued to burn. Unfortunately they were going to get assaulted this turn and my opponent managed to bring his Terminator on the table, while my reinforcements just couldn't show up, including the friggin' Sentinel!

His Assault Marine wiped out my Veteran Squad completely, while the Terminator unloaded his Storm bolter on the lone Tempestus Scion who managed to pass his 4+ AS. The Emperor protects!

The situation on the left flank was dire. His Sergeant assaulted my Force Commander and smashed him with his Power Fist, altough he took a wound in return. My Overwatch killed one of two AM's charging my second Vet squad, but his Brother avenged him by killing two of my guys. The Guardsmen squad got decimated by a single Assault Marine and only of them survived, thus earning the status of a single character. Now here's the fun part: in Kill Team losing more than a half of your force means game over. At the end of turn 3 I had excactly the half of my guys and so did he. This meant that I had to claim one more kill to triumph and promptly unleashed the Emperor's fury upon his Blood Ravens... which didn'd do anything. Seriously. I've finally managed to bring my second Scion and Scout Sentinel on the table and fired with everything I had on his guys and couldn't kill a single Marine. After that it was close combat turn, during which he, of course, managed to slay another one of my vets, thus killing more than half of my army and claiming victory. Bugger. Still, it was a fantastic game and I was very happy that we've decided to give Kill Team a chance. Totally worth it.
So that was our first game of Kill Team and like I said, it rocked. I love the fact that you have to rely more on your infantry and less on vehicles, altough it makes certain armies significantly weaker. None of us had any Psykers, but I reckon that they can change a lot, even if they can only have a Mastery Level 1, maybe 2. I'm also pretty sure that we've misinterpreted many of the rules or even skipped some of them, but as we'll play more matches, we'll get more familiar with the game and learn all of its nuances. Our next Kill Team duel will be between Militarum Tempestus and Orks, and I can't wait to see how it will end up this time.

I also wanted to thank both of my yesterday's opponents, Martin and Chris, for two awesome battles. You guys rule and I'm really looking forward to playing more games with you.

Here's the promised link to the Heralds of Ruin website, where you'll find all the rules nescessary to play the game: http://heralds-of-ruin.blogspot.com/

Also this is post is a sort of a bonus one. I'll write the promised RPG Rant later this week, you can count on that.

Until next time

Xathrodox86