Here's a Gift: Triskell's Tower

Hey, it's been a while.

I have a lot to discuss, but not enough time to discuss it all. So, I am going to give it all in dot points for possible later discussion!

  • My group finished Marienburg: Sold Down the River. It was awesome, and I intend to let you know more about it. It involved a prison break, a fight with undead elves, summoning a dragon, and a whole lot of death.
  • I started another game, called Ameshirel: A World Undone, which is currently being run live in a Hexcrawlly sort of way. Check it out on Obsidian Portal (as I've actually managed to convince my players to update it!) It is using Dungeons & Dragons 5e, which is a new and strange experience for me.
  • I'm now running a game using Fragged Empire, an indie RPG in development that was successfully Kickstartered a little while back. It is being posted up in Vod form on Another Dungeon, so check it out!
  • I got a new job! I now work for EA Firemonkeys in Melbourne, and am an actual paid Game Designer in full now. No more split titles here, no sir! I'm having a lot of fun, and working on Real Racing 3 for iOS and Android. You should check it out, because it is one of the best racing games on mobile.
  • I'm still planning Verum Arbitus, and it should be launching in a few weeks. Very excited!
  • I've been playing in lots of games, recently, including a Cthulhu Horror game using a hacked homebrew system, and a Terry Pratchett meets The Office meets Better Off Ted style game. Very odd, but loving it.
  • I've been watching a crap load of itmeJP's YouTube channel, especially Steven Lumpkin's West Marches and Adam Koebel's Swan Song. Check them out.
Anyway, because I have been neglecting you all so much, I decided to wrap up a present for you early and release it here!

This is an adventure / dungeon I wrote for Ameshirel, but it can easily be transported into any DnD5e game, or really any game, so long as you're willing to hack it a little. So enjoy the Mad Wizard Triskell's Tower!

(PLAYERS OF AMESHIREL PLEASE READ! Do not look at the PDF above. It will spoil the adventure. I mean, go ahead and read it if you want, but Triskell will know... And he'll get you.)

New Campaign: Dark Heresy, Verum Arbitus

Recently I came to a decision to begin winding up my Marienburg: Sold Down the River campaign, and I will do a full post on that one in the future, as I believe the campaign deserves a true post-mortem.

Whilst this is sad, it means I have a chance to create something new. *cue rubbing hands together*

For a bloody long time now I have wanted to run a campaign set in the 41st Millennium of Warhammer 40k.  A long while back, I did just that, but it never got very far due to my moving away from the group. I have since grown considerably as a GM, and I am ready to step back into the fray.

Last year I designed a campaign called Into the Expanse, but unfortunately that wont really work with where I am now. I am no longer a student, and don't have as much time to put towards planning as I once did. Further, many of the questions asked with Into the Expanse were answered by Marienburg: Sold Down the River (but not all!)

Therefore, I need something new. Enter Verum Arbitus.
DISCLAIMER: This is not indicative of the coming campaign.
But I had you there for a minute.
Or do I still have you? Is this all a lie?

Verum Arbitus

Just to be straight, this is an episodic Dark Heresy campaign, where each 'episode' mission has 3 parts, played over 3 sessions. As a usual Dark Heresy campaign goes, the PCs will be Throne Agents... But there is a twist.

I first had inspiration for Verum Arbitus after I watched True Detective (the pseudo-Latin inclined among you will note that "verum arbitus" very loosely translates as "true detective"). I wanted to create a campaign where the players are, loosely, "the law", yet they are bound in near-mythic events and stumbling through. The players should feel competent - this is their job, after all - but the situation seems strange and unlike anything they have seen before. To put it into metaphor, they hold a well worn deck of cards, yet manage to draw one they've never seen before.

The second round of inspiration for Verum Arbitus, and what prompted me to write the first session was, strangely, the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. This was strange for me, but it hammered home the idea that inspiration can strike you from any source. And at any time. Because, as it happens, I was wasted at the time and dancing in my living room with a group of friends to very loud music...

Don't look at me like that.

Anyway, I got to writing, and I sorted out my thoughts. So let me present the Grand Concept Document for Verum Arbitus.

Campaign Name: I've already covered this, but Verum Arbitus

This name gives the needed "fake Latin" feel which is essential to Warhammer, reinforces the strange arcane nature of the campaign, and identifies that the players will take an Arbitrator role during the game. Great stuff.

Campaign Tag-Line: When you know your enemy, you know your ally.

This tag-line is a bit of a riddle, and I wont answer it here as my players are likely reading (and so they should!) However, think about this one. Really think about it. It should give you a few ideas on the sorts of games I'll be running.

What is the Campaign Question?: Who do the PCs trust when their bosses are worse than their foes?

This question is a pretty standard one for 40k, however when mixed with some of the other points in this GCD it should get the players thinking. Just what kind of scum will their employers be?! If we know that their employer is an Inquisitor, as the PCs are Throne Agents, then what does that say about the campaign scope? Is it a Radical or Renegade Inquisitor? Or a truly Puritan Inquisitor? Or neither? Maybe they are 'fake' Throne Agents! Who knows...

(I do.)

Who are the PCs?: Those in the wrong place at the right time. Those that survived. Those that can be manipulated.

The PCs will be forced into servitude, quite literally at the barrel of a gun. But then again, they are Throne Agents. They aren't just bilge scum scrapped up to service. They are competent agents, able to deal with situations that come their way. But they didn't CHOOSE this life, that is the main point.

What are the Doing?: Get a Mission, Infiltrate the Situations, Cut off the Head, Burn Everything.

The PCs will mostly spend their time clandestinely operating behind enemy lines. They will be performing things that, should they be discovered, they will be disavowed, disowned, and destroyed for. They will be doing the "thankless duties the Emperor needs them to do". And they will be doing it in bad company... Or is it better company than those who sent them into these hell holes?

Looking forward to talking more about Verum Arbitus in the future! Viva la Dark Heresy!

New House, 7500+ Posts, and Much More!

Greetings everyone!

I do honestly apologise for the lack of posts lately, but I have suffered the worst of any malady possible - yes, that's right, I've been without internet.

You see, the move went ahead as expected, but the internet was only just connected last night, and then a whole host of problems stood in the way of its use. Let's just say that the Omnissiah took pity on our plight and those problems have gone, because, I am clearly now online...
Unless it is all just a dream...
Onto the matters at hand, though, as I am proud to announce that sometime in my absence we tipped 7500 posts! Something must be going right, because the time between this milestone and the last was significantly shorter than the time before 5000... Lets just hope this continues, eh?
7500+ and counting!
My Qantm studies have begun again after 2 weeks of (not really) holidays (during which we did more work than in the last week of actual Qantm for no reason at all) and I am getting back into their full swing. My IEP group, after some initial bloodboiling, have stumbled onto something amazing and will be presenting it tomorrow for a green-light. I am oh-so-excited to start posting about it, but I don't want to until I have talked it through with them all after our green-light.

I've made some progress on Into the Expanse which I will share in a later post, and my players in my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign continue to get themselves into increasingly hotter water... Also, a KickStarter project I backed a while ago now, Pad of Geomorphic Intent was completed and shipped, and I have been having fun drawing up lots of geomorphs which I will begin posting to versamus as soon as I have everything set up for that. In the mean time, though, check out the man's webstore (Squarehex) set up after the success of the campaign!

Thanks for reading, now and before, and I will be back to you as soon as I can!

Landmark Moments

Landmark Moments

Whilst I didn't used to use them, I've now come to discover the power of "Landmark Moments" in my gaming, and after successfully using a few of them in my campaign, I thought it was time to shed the word. I'm certain I'm not to first to come up with this concept (in fact, I know they are used in the very very awesome Shadow of the Sun Campaign), but I've yet to see anything written about them.
Not even close to a landmark yet, Frodo.
Basically, I really wish someone had told me about them when I started, so I'll pass it along for anyone who cares to listen.

What are Landmark Moments?

Landmark Moments are key events in a characters life which shift them forwards by a great deal. In the real world, they are often called life changing experiences, but in the realm of roleplaying games, I feel "Landmark" sums it up better.

Consider the following: you have a Dark Heresy Arbitrator character who has been groomed for a long time to become an Inquisitor, and you're a few XP away from realising your dream and buying into an Ascension career. You play one more session, gain some XP and bam, you're an Inquisitor.

Well that was anti-climactic.
Not as anti-climactic as that, but still not great.
What you're missing is something big happening. Something terrible and awesome and life changing so that you can officially grab your Rosarius and state with pride that "I am an Inquisitor (and all you fools can suck it!)" You need a Landmark Moment.

Why are Landmark Moments Useful?

Landmark Moments are useful because the represent a great leap forward for your character - perhaps they come at the end of a long side-quest, or they come after a titanic battle. Perhaps they push you into a new career, or turn the story on its head.

Whatever they do, the character after the moments is different to who they used to be.

This break is especially important for hand-waving significant career advances. For instance, in my WFRP game, one of the players is playing a Grey Wizard. This character is amping up for the Master Wizard career, but is learning from a "retired" Wizard without a spark any more  She is way to far from Altdorf to go back and take her exams, and doesn't really have the time to do so anyway.
You think you can just stumble into this? Nope.
Should I hold her back? Tell her the career is locked to her? No way. I prefer to kill her instead. Then have her fight a mental duel with an Aethyric apparition that has been dogging her footsteps. After she survived this, she had gone through such an experience that the path was now open to her. The magic comes naturally, and the +1 to her Mag characteristic can be purchase.

How to Create Landmark Moments

All great and good to know how awesome they are, but what goes into making them? Well, the same things that go into any great GMing, really.

Make sure you listen to your players and their back stories  Delve into their racial features. Delve into the portions of the campaign which have gripped them the most.

Do they hate undead? Have them defeat a horde of zombies and get knighted for it (about to plan the ceremony, in fact). Do they wish to overthrow the local crimelord? Set up those dominoes for some lovely crime-filled action. Do they have a thing for Dwarven runes?... Can't actually go into this one as [SPOILERS]. But you get the idea.
A hint, nothing more.
Your players should already have an inkling of what their Landmark Moments are, so asking them "what do you really want to do in this campaign" and then riff off of that. But make sure you change it just enough so that you keep them guessing and on their toes. You know they'll pull through stronger than before, but they don't have to.

So, have any of you used Landmark Moments? Let us know your success stories!

More On: Into the Expanse

More On: Into the Expanse

The other day I introduced the concept of my Into the Expanse campaign – a West Marches-esque, sandbox campaign for the Warhammer 40k RPG line. Today, I am going to discuss it in more detail, giving a list of objectives and campaign features so that it is less a name/pipe dream, and more of a possibility.
The campaign will basically be this cool.
Except cooler.

What Exactly Is Into the Expanse?

Into the Expanse is a campaign run using the Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader rules sets (with bits of Deathwatch and Black Crusade thrown in when I feel the need), set in a non-canon and “new” sector called “Sector X-736”.

It will be run for approximately 6 players who will take the roles of “middle management Adeptus” – by this I mean, individuals in charge of maybe a large city or small planet’s worth of Imperial jurisdiction, but certainly not a sector. These characters will be thrown into the deep end and sent to Sector X-736 with an ultimatum: “Bring back the light of the Emperor, or your corpse”. I.e. they have to convert the sector or die trying.

But, hey, these are players we’re talking about. They’ll do neither. They’ll set themselves up as pirate overlords and get killed in a barrage of lasbolts.
We're playing somewhere in there... At the furthest portion of space in the Segmentum Obscurus.

How is Into the Expanse Going to Work?

Into the Expanse will work in a similar way to West Marches but with a few key differences. These are outlined below:
  • Whilst the session details will be left up to the players (I.e. where they go and who goes, etc), the session time will be pre-planned. As the campaign won’t be run for as large a group as West Marches, and as we all have pretty regular schedules, it makes sense to organise a specific time. However, if a session plan isn’t given at least two days before the session is to occur, no session will happen. Players will need to know where they are going and what they plan to do there in advance – even if this is simply “find out what is in [X] chunk of space, and steal it if it looks good”.
  • There will be other intelligent factions kicking around. The most interesting thing about roleplaying to me, and 40k as a whole, is the interactions between the various worldly factions – Xenos, lost human cultures, religions, the Adeptus, and so on. Forgoing these would leave 40k empty and pointless.
  • “Town” will be a space ship – the player’s space ship. It will only experience troubles rarely, and may essentially sit in a system for as long as it needs to. Once it is placed there, anywhere in the system is fair game, and the West Marches exploration kicks in. However, there must be total group consensus to move the ship to another system, and all players must be present for this move – even if it is just on a web cam for a few moments whilst it moves and we deliver information.
  • Finally, not a deviation from West Marches, but a deviation from my normal rules at a tabletop, but mobile phones are mandatory at the table. Every GM in existence just spat their drink. Sorry about that. The reason for this is that I will send players emails directly from my laptop (which will be in front of me) to their phones which will be dataslates. These emails will be in character and will be data readouts and private messages based on their actions, etc. I still won’t allow nonsense, and if I see a player use their phone when I haven’t sent anything, I’ll know something is up… So don’t *wink*.
And we're playing these chaps.
Not these chaps exactly.
But chaps very much like them.

What Makes Up an Into the Expanse Character?

So I’ve already said that they are “Middle Management”, but I want to be a little bit more specific here. All characters will be considered “Starting Rogue Trader ready”, which essentially means made with either the Rogue Trader rules, or the Dark Heresy rules (with +5000 XP).

There will be no Psykers, of any kind (not even Navigators) in the party and there will be no more than 2 members from the same organisations (so, no more than 2 Tech Priests, or Adepts, or Guardsmen, etc). Further, there will be no actual Rogue Traders in the group.

Other than those restrictions, it is fair game!

So, what do you think? Should these rules be altered? Amended? Added to? Write your response in the comments section!

My Sudden But Inevitable Return

Greetings all!

My, it has been a long time since I last posted, and unimaginably long since I started this whole blog. I feel somewhat down that I've neglected it so, but I feel in my absence I have grown as a games designer and as a Games Master... And I hope to return to the world of blogging about my exploits in these fields.

I can't much account for my absence. It began with things getting in the way, and continued with it being the furthest thought from my mind. But it ended as something else begins to draw to a close: my WFRP campaign.

I've been running my current Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition campaign for well over a year now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing so. My players have experienced necromancers, cultists of all shape and size, vampires, skaven, goblins, knightly sieges, infiltration, deceit, lies and now a daemonic possession... They have lost members and gained some, and have grown along the way to be a mighty band of adventurers all.

But, their tale must end. I am looking over my notes for the future, and it would seem they have left to them less than 15 sessions to go (and as we play weekly, less than 3 months). Things are drawing to a close, and we just had the end of one of our major story arcs 2 sessions past. Another may be culminating very soon as well...

This has gotten me in the mood for thinking about new campaigns, and I have begun planning my next big one - as most of the planning for the current campaign is done with, only minor tweaks as the players change things needed. What I've been thinking is the inverse of my WFRP campaign, in more ways than one.

My WFRP campaign - Shadows Within Shadows - fits to the following descriptors:

  • It is contained within a single city, and very very location based.
  • It is GM driven, with plots, stories and missions being given to the players.
  • It is rather high fantasy (for WFRP, that is) and focuses on small folks dealing with massive problems.
  • And it is very regimented in its movement - sessions are planned, played out, and ended according to a flow I (attempt to) plan.
So. What is the opposite of this?
  • An open world, with no bounds, where the players can go anywhere they choose,
  • That is completely player driven and organised, with situations instead of plots,
  • Where in the players are powerful and influential individuals who deal with relatively mundane concerns - running an Empire, forging their fortunes, and directing the tides of war,
  • And finally, were sessions are left up to the whims of the players, with those wanting to do something gathering together their fellows and forging into the unknown.
You know what this sounds like? This sounds a little like West Marches... Pure sandbox exploration fun!

And what's more? What could be the inverse of Warhammer Fantasy? Why, Warhammer 40k, of coarse.

Into the Expanse is coming...

Never stop rolling those bones, and enjoying the gaming life,

Ben Scerri.