News for May 2010
Search and Destroy 21
The Missions framework in the Deathwatch RPG
Deathwatch | Published 21 May 2010

by Ross Watson

Greetings, Deathwatch fans!

This week, I have a guest designer diary from Owen Barnes, one of the members of the “Project Iceberg” team who helped bring the Deathwatch RPG to life.

Missions in Deathwatch

As part of a Deathwatch Kill-team it often falls to the players to tackle specialised battlefield tasks or complete key objectives for the Imperial forces. Unlike other kinds of soldiers a kill-team is often deployed as an autonomous unit, given broad tactical guidelines and lots of free license to wreak havoc and smite the Emperor’s foes. The kind of stuff Player-Characters excel at... Battle-Brothers are, however, much more than mere adventurers, and are usually only deployed for a good reason. This where the rules for Missions come into play.

Missions are guidelines that help the GM create the kinds of adventures and scenarios that a kill-team is likely to encounter, as well as give his games a sense of the duty and honour that comes of being a member of the Adeptus Astartes. Players who are familiar with the Endeavour system from Rogue Trader will recognise some of the ways that a Mission works. However, given the more militaristic nature of Deathwatch, there are a number of key differences.

Missions are divided up into Objectives, which are either rated as Primary Objectives, Secondary Objectives, or Tertiary Objectives (also known as Targets of Opportunity). The players can then complete Objectives how and in what order they see fit, and it is possible to complete a Mission without completing all its Objectives (though typically a Mission is considered ‘successful’ if its Primary Objective has been completed). Of course completing more Objectives usually means more experience and more renown as your Chapter sings songs of your deeds long after the bodies of your foes have turned to dust. In some circumstances, the Kill-team can even set its own Objectives during the mission!

One of the other key aspects of Missions is preparation. This is a selection of things that occur before a Mission, such as briefing, assigning a squad leader or choosing weapons and equipment. This period also includes Oath Taking, where Battle-Brothers can take on an Oath for their Mission, making a vow to the Emperor, their Chapter or their Battle-Brothers. Such vows are potent things for a Space Marine, and while they may motivate them to greater feats of bravery they may also force them to put their oath before tactical commonsense.

Missions can also have Complications, and as they say no plan survives contact with the enemy. These are special events that the GM can throw into a Mission to make things more challenging for the players, such as a mis-drop that puts them kilometres from their primary target, hidden foes like Lictors or daemon-hosts lurking among lesser enemies, or logistical problems that can mean a lack of support or limited ammo. Sometimes even Objectives may turn out to be false or changeable—such as turning up to destroy a bridge only to find it doesn’t exist, or protecting an Inquisitor who is more dangerous that the things trying to kill him.

However they are used, Missions are designed to be tools for the GM, helping him to bring Deathwatch to life and give his players a taste of the blood-soaked battlefields of the 41st millennium.

Forward, Battle-Brothers!

Next week, keep an eye out for more about the Missions framework, including some special attention to the deeper mechanics, like selecting a Kill-team Leader and the Oaths the Kill-team swears before the mission begins!

Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.

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Comments (21)

Published: 5/22/2010 4:36:44 AM

yes this game is going to be so sweet! for all the new rules seem to be well worked out and fun to use plus you get to play as frecking space marines for frecks sake! :)

Published: 5/22/2010 1:00:21 AM

 I wonder if it will be viable to hide the benefits of Vows from players. (unless they buy their own book)

Published: 5/21/2010 6:55:01 PM

So like the Endeavour system but not quite?  Hmmmm, not convinced

Published: 5/21/2010 5:23:47 PM

I just went from being submissive about this game to absolutely stoked.

Published: 5/21/2010 2:32:06 PM

Wow, the Mission rules sound fantastic!  I like the way Missions have been broken down into Preparation, Objectives, and the possibility of complications.  But shouldn't there be an ending segment too?  Something like "Extraction"?  Or I suppose you could just make escaping with your lives a Tertiary Objective :D

But yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about this, and will likely jack the framework for other Military-themed games too!

Also, it occurs to me that it would be really useful to have a system similar to this for Dark Heresy, called something like "Investigations" perhaps?  One thing I've seen a number of DH GM's struggle with is how to present an RPG adventure in terms that are relevant to the Inquisitorial conceit of DH, but often times adventures end up feeling more like something out of D&D than something appropriate for a merciless, hard-hitting, intelligence/wetworks organization such as the Holy Inquisition.  I know I've struggled with it.

On a side note, while I love the second piece of art, the first one just seems amateurish to me.  I know this artist has been doing a lot of work for FFG lately, but it all looks a little "off" and sloppy and second rate to my eye.  I would expect that Fantasy Flight could afford some higher quality art, especially on a line as popular as the 40k RPGs seem to be.  Anyone else with me on this one?

Published: 5/21/2010 1:58:27 PM

Sounds a bit like Dawn of War 2 with all the objectives you can complete during a mission (a primary objective, with a few secondary objectives sprinkled in).  Seeing that Dawn of War is wildly successful it would make a good template for this game. 

Published: 5/21/2010 1:20:07 PM

 A: This sounds brilliant - I really like the way this game is planning out (at first I was sceptical). Especially with turning missions into heroic deeds sung in chapter halls down the millenia.

B: That second piece of art is one of the most brilliant 40K depictions of a space marine ever. Who did it?

Published: 5/21/2010 11:52:33 AM

Sounds interesting, we will see how it all work together when the game will be released. I think I will give it a try. ;)

Mr. Grimace
Published: 5/21/2010 11:52:22 AM

 This game is gonna be sweet. 

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