I've been toying with the idea of running a "Deathwatch" game that represents Space Marines that have come from various Chapters, but rather than the PCs being inducted into the Deathwatch they've been cast out of their Chapters for various reasons, much like the idea presented in 'Dead Sky, Black Sun'. The PCs are not necessarily traitors, though some may choose to follow such a path through game play, sliding further into a sense of bitter resentment of the Imperium. Some things I've been thinking about are Corruption, Advanced Specialties, Requisition, among others.
For Corruption, I would like there to be an in-game consequence for rising Corruption. I feel there may be times when the PCs will have to do something that is morally repugnant (use innocents as bait, trade with undesirables for equipment, etc), but I'm not of a mind to lean toward physical mutation as an in-game effect. I plan on having Players track increasing Corruption, but am not sure what exactly to assign as a consequence. Perhaps something along the lines of Alignment Tacking from Black Crusade? When they reach certain thresholds of Corruption you check their alignment? Kind of like tracking the Primarch's Curse? My thinking is that PCs will likely be required to operate in a completely different mindset than they have in their past service, and the acquisition of Interaction Skills/Talents will be even more important within this campaign setting…maybe? Maybe they just wanna kill stuff. I don't know, but it means there is at least the possibility that a Marine could as easily begin to come to the attention of a blasphemously sexy Chaos god as much as he could to a howling bloodthirsty god (we prefer not to use names as the PCs really haven't been exposed to that sort of information…yet).
For Advanced Specialties, obviously there is no way an outcast is going to receive training as a Keeper, or a Watch Captain, or a Chaplain. Conversely, I would like to present something other than the Kill Marine as an option. The availability of becoming a Black Shield at CharGen is still something I'm unsure about; it may fit the thematic element of the campaign, but by its very nature could be the "norm" rather than the exception due to the campaign background, and I'm not comfortable with the idea of the "unknown quality" of a Black Shield being accepted by Marines who are loyalist (if moderately so) accepting a complete unknown into their midst. At the very least it would have to be a particularly interesting story, and not just another excuse to play a hidden traitor, one of the Fallen, etc. So, what I'm looking for here are ideas for alternative Advanced Specialties, or possible tweaks/changes to the existing ASs that make them viable within the campaign background and setting.
For Requisition…I have initiated the use of some Req House Rules which determine the number of Req points available for Missions, and these House Rules can be easily adopted within this campaign background. What I'm more interested in are ideas regarding the limitations of wargear, weapons, and armour insofar as where they come from: do the Marines deal with Stryxis and/or pirates for their acquisitions; do they raid shipping lanes; must they make horrible pacts with Heamonculi Covens for the replacement of lost limbs since they haven't access to Imperial Cybernetics/Bionics; etc. More importantly, however, I have considered the need for some form of abstract replenishment to represent the PC group's ability to conserve ammo, or horde equipment for later use. Something like a Marine starting with three each of Frag and Krak Grenades, though at the beginning of each session, if they are down from their starting allotment they are replenished by a count of 1 (so if two grenades were used, the Player would "magically" be replenished at the beginning of the next session to represent his PC's personal accounting). Not much thought put into this yet, but interested in hearing other ideas, regarding both where the stuff comes from and how to represent the loss of "automatic" replenishment for being a member of the Deathwatch.
Some other things I have considered Squad and Solo Mode Abilities. Obviously, the PCs aren't going to be a "team" of Marines that are slowly trained to work together, rather it would be something they would have to accomplish on their own…if at all. Something like allowing the Players to choose one Squad Mode Ability once every PC has attained Rank 3, then again at Rank 5, and lastly at Rank 7. It may be helpful to further outline the campaign background for the Players…since I just now thought that allowing them to "play around" with Squad Mode Abilities, meaning they could choose one for a particular gaming session, based upon their "Mission", and the "team leader" may call this Ability, and only the leader, but each PC must successfully pass a Test of some type to effectively comply/apply its benefits. There is also the issue of Cohesion: should it be lower than normal, how to calculate it since they are disparate Marines come together for mutual survival rather than having been assigned to an honourable secondment, etc? I think Solo Mode abilities should be retained by the PCs, but maybe to represent the sense of having been outcast have them be harder in some way to activate? Requiring a Fate Point to be spent, or making a Test of some type? Looking for suggestions here as well.
I'm not concerned that CharGen represents a Space Marine already advanced to a heroic status within his own Chapter prior to secondment to the Deathwatch, as "power level" is all relative. I'm not concerned about Talents such as Signature Wargear, either, as these types of Talents can be explained as fortuitous boons/finds…of course if we're tracking alignments they could be tiny "gifts" instead.
One last thing that I want to address is Munchkinland. Looting. Yes, it will be necessary for the PC group's survival, but I'm of a mind that taking extra ammo poses no real negative consequence (unless each shot unleashes a minor Daemon, of course), but looting a Plasma Gun with nasty icons daubed or engraved upon it would perhaps confer Corruption, possibly mitigated to a minimum amount if the group has a Tech-Marine that takes to time to strip the weapon down, remove the icons, and reconsecrate it. Same with damaged Armour; re-purposing the armour pieces from a Khorne Berserker's armour may bestow temporary Talents (such as Frenzy) during stressful combat situations unless the PC passes a Will Power Test…or a Corruption Test? That of an Emperor's Children may bestow a bonus to Charm Tests? Maybe just Corruption for the Tech-Marine, none for the subsequent user? In any case, I want to run a "good guy wrongly blamed" game, not a descent-into-the-depths-of-hell-at-Mach-5 game, and I intend to present that fact to the Players, but I'm looking for some…anti-Munchkin suggestions.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
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You might want to check out the Chaos Space Marine rules from Black Crusade- even if you don't want to play full-on Traitors, there are still probably some elements from those rules that will come in handy with your concept.
My 'fan-created content':
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