Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Now for Something (Else) Completely Different: Halflings

Erik at Tenkar's Tavern has asked a good question: Why do Halflings get the short end of the stick in RPGs?

The ensuing discussion in the comments thread is pretty thought provoking. What emerges is a laundry list of different interpretations of the race as played, as it exists in literature, and, mostly importantly, how it is being reimagined in the OSR. Here a few options.

  • Halflings are Tolkien Hobbits, plain and simple. They dig food and comfort much more than adventure. Many of them are reactionary types, and seek to preserve this ethos. Those who don't are viewed with suspicion and often are outcasts.
  • Halflings are limited fighters, but excellent thieves, who again love their vittles and perhaps a good pipe by the fire.
  • Halflings are like gnomes but not as cool.
  • Halflings are pretty much just short humans.
  • Halflings are half-men, and can never be as kickass as their larger counterparts. But they do have the balls to try.
  • Halflings are ape-men, which accounts for their strength (from comments, same link)

There are a lot of takes on the halfling race, and certainly a lot more than I've listed, here. But I want to like the little guys. Hell, I *do* like them. I think they make some of the best heroes because their heroism, toughness, and wiles make them charismatic in a way that people, and, yes, children are people too, can relate to.

So, here's my version.

A long, long time ago, perhaps in the First Age, or even before that (nobody really knows for sure), there was a time of high magic. Things just don't work as well as they used to, before all the magic went out of the world, but you knew that. During this time, there were many powerful wizards, and (as you also know) wizards are jealous of their power, but can be incredibly vain in its exercise, and each strives to be the most powerful and respected, or at least the most feared. They have competitions, do wizards. They are also subtle and quick to anger, but that's another story.

There was, in that age, a pair of wizards, twins by birth, who made a game of creating new creatures for their wargames. Elves and dwarves won't put up with that sort of thing. Some wizards were going about making greenskins and other degenerate races, of course, but the twins thought them gauche and their projects vulgar.

Men, of course, were too incredibly boring. But... what if they could be made better (stronger, faster) and, very importantly, smaller. You see, it would be cute. Wee little men, perhaps with hairy toes, whacking the crap out of orc and ogres and whatnot. Then, of course, you'd have to make them fierce enough to fight, and tough enough to show the other wizards' creations what is what. And, most importantly, they'd have to be lucky in order to gain that competitive edge when death was on the line (the twins were famous cheaters, and everyone knew it). So they went about making such creatures, and, over the course of their long lives they perfected them. Little men, fierce and tough like terriers, agile and small and lucky, with the look of children but the habits of grownups.

The twins fought many battles with their creations before they faded from the world. That, of course, was because in order to make the little creatures lucky they had to make a deal with Lady Luck. When the twins welshed on their deal, well... let's just say that Luck was not a lady about it.

Nonetheless, there are all these wee men about, both above ground and interred in the vast barrowlands near the old forest where Old Tom is said to make his home. The ones above ground, having the aspect of children and the habits of grown Men, more or less decided to settle down to the West, just a little ways off, and go about their lives. You see, they don't have to be fierce, and very few of them like to fight, and avoiding those things tends to keep fewer of them filling barrows, and more of them at home by the fire, smoking a pipe, and having yet another snack to keep at bay the gnawing hunger aroused by their superhuman metabolisms. Halflings prefer this a lot more than fighting, make no bones about it. Rouse them though, and you'll find why the wizard twins' army was feared by their foes, and what happens to those who mess with Luck's children. Then you'll be sorry.

My Take on Halflings

Hit Dice: d6 (because the are little, after all, and there's just less of them to hack at)
Stats: As normal human
Luck: As per DCC.
Saving throws: Generally awesome.
Specials: Limited infravision, for those night battles. Good with missile weapons (+1 for being a halfling). Adept at stealth, especially in woods or plains.
Level limits: None, but most are too damned happy to be bothered with leveling up, and the barrows are full-up anyway. Adventuring halflings are incredibly rare, even rarer than elves and dwarves.

For now, all of them are pretty much the same, and their culture is still pretty self-contained due to their lower birthrates, but if they ever end up outside of the Shire, in the world of larger doings, some certainly would learn other skills (thieving perhaps, or even a dash of wizardry). Who knows what would follow from that?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The House of Dust and Ash, pt. 3: Settling in and a Trip to Deadtown

Before leaving, the ship's captain approaches them, and thanks them for dealing with the Wreckers when the ship was attacked. Red the Guardsman's work with the autogun really took the starch out of their sails. The captain says

One other thing, this ship and others like it were hired by those night-black mourners to fetch folk to this ‘auction,’ but I don’t think any one of us was hired to fetch anybody back…but we will wait, as long as it takes to patch up this old girl anyway. Just mind you’re back here when we fly.
The acolytes are quick thinking, and bribe him to extend the stay by faking repairs, or whatever else he has to do. He promises them another day. They don't know it yet, but that day won't be necessary. things will come to fruition before then.

The acolytes leave the airship, and are left to their own devices. Vymer and Quill head out in the direction of Deadtown, up to who knows what, and  the others begin trudging up the mountainside toward the House of Dust and Ash. Eventually, the acolytes are greeted by Hiram Bland. He says:

I am the senior provost here. My name is Hiram Bland, servant of the Adeptus Terra. I have the honour of administering the Haarlock estate auction. I am glad to see that you arrived safely and in time for tonight’s reception. If I might have your credentials?

After receiving their particulars, he goes on:

You have the run of the place, except where you’ll find a locked door. The main gate is always open… Sadly it is not as accurate a map as we would like…so try not to stray too far… the complex is surprising large, and er…very old. 
Feel free to ask assistance of any of my…adepts, or the troopers who guard us here. We are not many and confine ourselves to the auction area marked on your map. There are others of course…the ones in the black shrouds, they are the Sorrowful Guild…the caretakers of this place I suppose, but I doubt you’ll get much out of them…and their servitors… A few others about the place…visitors, pilgrims and such…but I can’t answer to that.
He conducts them up to the complex, and gives them direction to their rooms. They settle in, and take precautions before heading out again, this time to Deadtown.

I also began at this point to introduce some of my own pieces into the published work from which I was working. Here's the handout I provided when they entered the mausoleum/creamtorium complex:

The House of Dust and Ash is a black basalt monstrosity, windowless, except for a great dome at the top, which houses the Garden of Lost Souls, and its auditorium. 

During your time here, you have noted that the architecture combines elements associated with Classical Imperial styles, but in ways that seem off. The angles are wrong somehow, and the various features (e.g., doors, columns, etc.) always  seem to be in locations just slightly off from where they are "supposed" to be.

In addition, the interior architecture is decorated extensively with abstract, geometrical designs unlike any of you have ever seen. In some cases the designs seem to extend into the stone itself, though close inspection seems to belie that fact.  After all, how can a two-dimensional design exist in more than two dimensions? There are also elements of Classical nature motifs, including a variety of Terran and xenos flora and fauna. The xenos creatures are particularly terrible to behold, seeming so lifelike that one gets the feeling that, if they could escape from their stone prisons, they would rend to bloody shreds any person unfortunate enough to be present.

The overall effect is that of a perversion of Classical forms, at once faithful to the forms and vilely satirical of them. Merely walking around the place gives you all the creeps. You feel uncharacteristically uncomfortable and a bit paranoid. You often feel almost as if the place itself hates you, and that it is watching coldly and implacably for some opportunity to present itself. At other times, you feel small and insignificant, irrelevant to the space you find yourself in, an outsider in an alien landscape, mattering not the slightest little bit, and distant from anything of consequence to the building and the people it houses.
I was (pretty obviously) going for an HP Lovecraft sort of vibe, though I never used the words, "squamous" or "gibbous," so I didn't rip off the whole of his work. :)

Okay, so the trip to Deadtown... 

About a kilometre around the volcanic cliffs of the Burning Island is a small settlement known colloquially as Deadtown. Set back in a series of caverns along the shoreline, the settlement is a ramshackle place and home to various scavengers and dregs. Primarily Deadtown is used as a black market trading post for the local area, with many wrecker crews, reclaimators, skyship crews, and even off-duty troopers to be found drowning their sorrows here.

It is a dangerous and largely lawless place; however, its dangers are more of an obvious kind as opposed to the ones that the Acolytes will face in the House of Dust and Ash. The folk of Deadtown have little to do with “the house” and roundly think it accursed, believing the Sorrowful Guild (with whom they sometimes grudgingly trade) unnatural and cursed as well. The locals do keep a weather eye on the comings and goings of the place, however, peddling tales and stories of strange comings and goings if a little coin is spread around.

They acolytes decided to go down to Deadtown to pick up some more fire power, in the form of some mercenaries for hire (smart plan, that), and a few grenades if any were to be found. They were successful in doing both of these things. 

Also, as I said in my last post, it was the second time in two sessions that the acolyte Ferrus D'Angelus attempted to work his charms on a lady, and it was... so incredibly awkward. They went into a bar to find the mercenaries. Why some of the characters did so, Ferrus's "owner," who is female, decided that he needed to get some action. "Okay," I said. "Roleplay it." What followed was some of the most awkward pickup lines ever, which was also ironic, because he was chatting up the local whores. We all got a good laugh out of that. It wouldn't be the last time. Eventually, Ferrus got his rocks off, mercenaries were hired, grenades were acquired, and the acolytes began to make their way up the mountainside to The House of Dust and Ash. 

Just as they got to the edge of Deadtown, they were attacked by a squad of toughs, from the look of them, local scum rather than professionals. They were able to kills several of them and drive the rest off without taking any wounds themselves. However, they assume that Someone must have sent them. Was it that Octavia Nile? The tough guys, Vymer and Quill? Some other group or person? They aren't sure, but now they feel a bit better set up than they were at the beginning of the adventure. This is good, because things are only going to get worse from here.

The House of Dust and Ash, pt. 2: Voyage Over a Poisoned Sea

The House of Dust and Ash, it turned out, was a vast mausoleum/crematorium situated on an island out in the middle of the planet's highly acidic sea.

The Balemire Sea over which the Cygnan Martyr flies is a heaving, angry mass of polluted water, intermittently pierced by the jutting spires of sunken cities and the wreckage of past industrial exploitation. Highly corrosive and utterly toxic, an unprotected human immersed in its waters would last agonised seconds at best. The sea appears utterly dead except for the occasional shadows of strange and vast shapes moving through the depths.

The only way to get there is via airship, in this case the Cygnan Martyr. There's a decided steampunk vibe to the mode of transport, and the array of NPCs aboard for a trip to the auction give it a Murder on the Orient Express sort of feel. There are a LOT of NPCs, and each of them represents completely different interests. They include:

  • The captain and steward
  • Lanus Cisten, the "absentminded adept," and his assistant
  • Vymer and Quill Malfian, Bloodsworn boutyhunters, there to kill someone, but who?
  • Octavia Nile, a lovely young noblewoman who is a secret member of the Logician cult
  • Abbot Tamas of Shale, "a daemonworshipping cult magus bound to the entity known as Tsyiak, the Crow Father."

So, they're stuck on this airship, which takes off and head toward the island that is their destination. The auction was to be held there for a couple of reasons. First, it was inaccessible, making it more secure. The other is that it has something to do with the Haarlock family, and was a seat of their power at one time.

The trip takes a couple of days, as the island is quite distant. During that time, a recurring theme began to emerge. Ferrus D'Angelus, the adept acolyte, fancies himself a ladies man. Unfortunately, his attempts at seduction (in this case, if Octavia Nile) are rudely rebuffed. Seriously, this guy never managed, thoughout his life, to get lucky when he made a seduction attempt. Later, it would simply be something the rest of the players would laugh about, because it was always the same: awkward ploys, bad rolls, hilarious outcomes. Fun!

Hand of the Inquisition, acting true to his barbaric nature, tries (unsuccessfully) to intimidate Vymer and Quill, who seem more amused by him than threatened. Once again, Stephen's mode of play with Hand is simply to jump in where the fire seems hottest, and to precipitate violence. A bit of a loose cannon is Hand.

They also are hit by an epic storm, which, though it never really threatens the ship, makes some of the passengers... sky-sick? This would begin yet another familiar theme with these characters. Hand of the Inquisition, though a fell and deadly force with his sword, is sort of a sickly 'fraidy-cat. He takes to his cabin to heave his guts out. Later, as we shall see, he will demonstrate how to run away from scary things when he fails his Willpower check against Fear.

Well, even with the intrigue that is going on with the passengers, the ship itself is never really threatened by the storm or by violence among the PCs and NPCs. The real threat comes from... wait for it... Sky Pirates (called Wreckers)!

The wrecker’s [sic] craft is a salvaged skyship, somewhat larger than the Cygnan Martyr but in far worse condition. It is a fire-blackened shell that has much of its hull skin ripped away from its structure, and its overtaxed suspensors are imbalanced, producing an eerie discordant moan as it flies. Nevertheless it is fast, its scavenged impellor units belching fire and smoke as it gains rapidly on the Martyr, “flying like madmen,” as one crewman will observe.

Yes, what we have here is a thinly reskinned version of the Reavers from Firefly. Fun, but not exactly unfamiliar to my players, who are big fans of the show. Well, they attack, the PCs and some of the NPCs shoot them all to fuck, with Mark (playing Red the Guardsman), cuts loose with his autogun and clears the rails of enemy boarders. The ship shears off, but would return later on. The Cygnus Martyr, though, would outrun it, as the pirate's craft is much more poorly maintained.

Also, we have another example of the truly awful copy editing of these books. For gods' sake, why can't Fantasy Flight Games hire somebody who knows how to use a fucking apostrophe? Hint: They aren't for making nouns plural.

In any case, the airship would arrive without further incident. The players have ascertained that they like the adept, are uncertain of Vymer and Quill who seem to be serious hard cases, and distrust Octavia Nile, who seems to be hiding something.

Next stop: Deadtown, and the hilarious romantic fumblings of Ferrus D'Angelus.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Now for something completely different: Magical Focus Objects (MFOs)

A few years ago, I got into one of my periodic OCD modes. More or less, this means that I come up with a HUGE idea (in this case cobbling together a new rules system), work on it obsessively for a period of a week or two, and then abandon it. I'm not sure why I do this, but I do. There ya go.

I was trying to write this game, and doing up my own rules with stuff from Talislanta, Dark Dungeons, D&D, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, and other influences, including material from excellent OSR blogs. This, though, is something of my own design, something that explains wizards' "toys," whether they be staves, wands, orbs, the fingerbone of a dead necromancer, a jaunty magical hat, or whatever: The Magical Focus Object, or MFO (That's one bad MFO, yo!).


Staves, Orbs, Wands, and Other Magical Focus Objects
At any point after 1st level, a magic user may create a Magical Focus Object (MFO). It does not matter what object is used, but the process is relatively expensive, and final step (casting) will consume (and destroy) the adjunct materials used whether or not it succeeds.

To create a focus object, a magic user will require an object with which to endow the power of focus object (e.g., a staff, wand, etc.), and materials costing 100 sp x Caster Experience Level squared. Thus, a sixth level magic user would need to spend 100sp x 6 squared = 360 gp for their MFO, a very expensive undertaking. [This assumed a silver standard, rather than gold, as discussed on Delta's D&D Blog: http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/]

It is also very useful. The MFO doubles the effective mana pool for the spell caster, who may "charge" the MFO with raw mana, with prepared (e.g., "memorized") spells, or some combination of the two. Raw mana may be used to as part of the caster's mana pool for casting purposes. Prepared spells can be cast instantaneously, with only a single word or gesture, ignoring casting times.

The biggest drawback to the MFO is that it does not rise in level with its owner. Thus, a 2nd level MFO will only ever be 2nd level. This is offset by the fact that the caster may own (and carry) more than one MFO. However, each additional MFO creates the possibility for spell backlash, due to resonance with other MFOs. If the caster rolls a "Mishap" result on a casting roll, there is a possibility that any additional MFOs carried will explode, discharging its magical energy all at once. The spellcaster will take damage as if attacked with a Magic Missile spell of level equivalent to the exploding MFO.

If a casting mishap occurs where additional MFOs are carried, roll 1d6 for every additional MFO carried.
On a roll of "1" that MFO explodes; on a roll of "2" that MFO is destroyed without harming the caster; on any roll above 2, nothing else happens.

Caster takes level of exploding MFO times 1d6 in damage, with no possibility of saving throw. For example, a 4th level MFO would cause 4d6 damage.

Now, that's one bad MFO!
*Only a Magic User may create this.

Divine Relics [incomplete section, with just the ideas sketched out]

A cleric character is able to use a special kind of MFO: The Divine Relic. Unlike the magic user's MFO, the Divine Relic is a quest item. At 4th level, the cleric character may begin the process of acquiring a divine relic. The cleric must complete a process of research to locate it, and then go recover it. This is the basis for a hell of an adventure.

The Divine Relic functions just like a magic user's MFO for purposes of spell casting. However, it may have other benefits. Generally, this begin as minor benefits, but accumulate as the user gains in renown, through brave deeds, vanquishing foes, hewing true to their deity's laws, etc.

Rises in level with cleric.

Increases ability to rebuke or control undead as if the cleric is a level higher than they are.

Negates armor penalty for spellcasters.

Reduces magical and mundane damage by Experience Level of cleric.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The House of Dust and Ash, pt. 1

Sorry for skipping a few days. Work. Ugh.

The next Dark Heresy adventure I ran was "The House of Dust and Ash," an adventure included in the Disciples of the Dark Gods splat book. On first read, it was really intriguing, and presented a lot of possibilities for my future campaign, once I got off of the teat of pre-written material. It also, it turned out, was my first attempt to impose my own gaming style onto the Dark Heresy universe. This mostly involved an extension of the material presented, and the planting of seeds for further adventures.So, here's a brief synopsis of the adventure.

The acolytes were called to look into an auction of items belonging to the rogue trader, Erasmus Haarlock. He was a man of ill repute, one who may have been involved in the Cold Trade of alien (xenos) artifacts. Their mission was to infiltrate the auction, figure out what items looked suspicious, blasphemous, or whatever. Then they were to buy them, if possible, or to figure out who did. Then they could track down the folks who ended up with what they couldn't buy outright.

Here's the Overview from the book itself:

As the adventure begins the Player Characters are transferred temporarily into the service of a shadowy and notorious figure in the Holy Ordos, Inquisitor Silas Marr, on the bleak and poisonous
industrialised hive world of Solomon. Marr has in mind to use the Acolytes to perform a covert investigation and observation mission by having them attend, under false identities, the auction
of several artefacts belonging to the estate of Erasmus Haarlock, a Rogue Trader long believed lost. The auction, one of several to disperse his goods from properties across the sector, is being held
at the House of Dust and Ash—a huge and ancient crematoria and tomb complex that dominates a volcanic promontory set amid Solomon’s toxic Balemire Sea known as the Burning Isle.

Thanks to Marr’s intervention, the long hand of Inquisitorial authority has covertly held back the auction with legal wrangling until a small team of Throne agents (the Acolytes) could be planted at the sale. Their job is to observe events and look for wanted heretics and potential conspirators among the bidders—dangerous individuals and groups who might be drawn by the promise of forbidden items among the Rogue Trader’s belongings. This, at least, is what Marr has informed the Holy Ordos and the Acolytes’ Inquisitor. However, it is not the whole truth. Marr has a secret agenda.

Marr believes that Erasmus Haarlock (see Player Handout 3 on page 230) is neither dead nor lost, and that he has arranged the auction to draw out his enemies and entrap them. This suspicion is the reason he has used his influence to requisition the Acolytes’ help. He prefers to risk them rather than lose his own servants in what he thinks could be a potential death trap. However, not even Inquisitor Marr fully suspects just what is about to transpire or what monsters will be drawn to Haarlock’s legacy…

The adventure itself is divided into four parts that should be played in the order that they are presented. The adventure has numerous optional encounters and room for expansion. It might take as little as two or three sessions of play to complete, although it will likely be longer, depending in part on how much interaction or investigation the Acolytes undertake of their own accord—and how much opposition the GM throws at them in the adventure’s finale!
The adventure breaks down as follows.

Part One: The Master of Chamber XIII

The Acolytes are unexpectedly inducted into the service of the sinister Inquisitor Marr and learn of their new mission and the events that surround it.

Part Two: A Voyage Over a Poisoned Sea
The Acolytes, travelling incognito, take passage on the skyship Cygnan Martyr along with several other interested parties headed to the auction. The intrigues begin with bribery and murder, culminating in an ambush and piracy before they reach the Burning Isle.

Part Three: The House of Dust and Ash

Upon arrival at the great crematoria, the manoeuvrings and plots begin in earnest. The Acolytes meet their contact and receive some very disquieting news. They also have time to conduct investigations and intrigues of their own, as well as view the auction lots on offer and the potential bidders involved before the main event.

Part Four: Death Trap
The auction commences and Haarlock’s trap is sprung, ensnaring all within its deadly embrace. From this point onwards, the Acolytes have 13 hours to live as the great crematoria counts down to destruction. They must uncover the secret of Haarlock’s trap and survive the attentions of their fellow attendees if they are to escape with their life intact.
Pretty cool stuff, huh?

The adventure was HUGE, with tons of named NPCs to manage, and a variety of locales to inhabit with mooks and color. They do a decent job giving you an outline of all these things, but there's a lot of details you have to fill in on your own. That's what made this adventure a good one to put my own special touch on. I was thinking a lot about the Lamentations of the Flame Princess development that was going on at the time, and how to really go for The Weird in this adventure. It also involved coming up with a list of appropriate items for the auction, to supplement the list provided. In fact, that auction list probably took more time to do than just about anything else. I wanted to have a combination of cool but mundane items, mundane and boring items, extremely useful items the PCs themselves might really, really like, and, of course, a lot of heretical stuff that might get them killed dead, dead, dead, or corrupted by chaos, or driven completely mad. You know, FUN STUFF.

I also developed a short system for running the auction itself. It looked like this (sorry for the fucked up table. I'm not sure how to covert it so it shows up better):

  NPC Bidders # Other Bidders Competition for Item Final Price (% over start) Which NPC Bids What does s/he want? How many thrones?
Roll d6 d8 d10 d20 Choose xxx xxx
1 None None One bid  5 Lanus Cisten Written Materials, Anything Old 450,000
2 None One One bid + 10 Vymer Weapons 275,000
3 One One Two bids 15 Quill Weapons 250,000
4 One Two Two bids + 25 Octavia Nile Grey Skin Psalter, Other Books 3,000,000
5 Two Two Three bids 30 Abbot Tamas Gilded Widow 800,000
6 Three Three Three bids+ 40 Karl Prost A Book Unbound 1,500,000
7   Three Three bids++ 45 Shar Mei Lee Bloody Seal,  3,000,000
8   Four Four bids 50 Alexis Molotov Grey Device, Puzzle Box, Sealed Rosewood Box,  1,200,000
9     Four bids+ 60 Rand Delaur Zamarkand Rose Tree 100,000
10     Four bids ++ 65 Magyar Marshrek Pict Viewer, Haarlock Multicompass,  800,000
11       75 Karl Prost Weapons, Art, Wine, Fine Things 1,880,000
12       80 Captain Rubio Things that make him seem legitimate 1,500,000
13       85 Master Nonesuch Stone Manacles, Idol of Sleef, Disturbing City Statuette,  100,000
14       90 Someone Else #1 Any 1,000,000
15       100 Someone Else #2 Any 500,000
16       120 Someone Else #3 Any 350,000
17       150 Someone Else #4 Any 140,000
18       175 Someone Else #5 Any 890,000
19       200 Someone Else #6 Any 500,000
20       250 Someone Else #7 Any 200,000

Basically, I wanted to have a way to auction off the items, and make sure they'd have to bid, but not in a way that was too heavy-handed. I'd probably seen a "roll all the dice" table on someone else's blog, and said, "Aha! That's it!" and adapted it to this. It actually worked, though the auction dragged out a long time. It was my fault, as the final list of items was 100 entries long. The original list was only about 15 or so, as I recall.

Okay, so that's it for now. I'll get into the details of the adventure in the next installment. Gotta go to my kid's school orientation right now.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dark Heresy Campaign #1: The Edge of Darkness, pt. 3: Playthrough and Endgame

This adventure was my players' first real encounter with Dark Heresy. Many of them had not played in the Warhammer 40K universe, and neither had I.  It was really cool, and I really liked the investigative elements of gameplay. I've always liked detective novels.

For this particular adventure, I didn't take many gameplay notes, sadly. A lot of the details are sort of hazy, but the resolution of the "boss fight" was pretty freaking epic.

The Churgeon--a member of a banned tech-heretic group, was using the local alms house to do experiments, augmenting kidnapped locals with forbidden technology. It took some time, but eventually the acolytes connected the dots. They infiltrated the alms house during the feeding of the poor. One group distracted the overseer while the others took the top floor, where the laboratory was.

Here's the color text from the adventure:

The centre of the chamber is dominated by a large operating table, surrounded by all manner of strange instruments, flashing cogitator displays and armatures ending in clusters of blades, manipulators and drills.

On the table, strapped down and laid open as if an anatomical exhibit, his heart still pumping in his splayed ribcage, is a young man, clearly conscious and terrified out of his mind.
Looming above him is a narrow and impossibly tall figure, shrouded in black robes edged with a bloodred cogtooth pattern, who can only be the architect and master of this chamber of horrors. Perched on the figure’s back is a heavy mass of burnished metal, surrounded by dozens of twitching mechanical limbs, like some obscene clockwork spider.

The cowled head turns toward you and as the light catches the face within, you can see what remains of a living woman’s face stitched to an iron skull. Glowing lenses set in the woman’s dead face focus on you and a grating artificial voice issues forth: “Foolish meat! In coming here you have only hastened the harvesting of your unworthy flesh!”
Long story short, the PCs attacked the Churgeon, who sent a bunch of her experiments against them as she attempted to escape down a shaft, using an anti-grav harness. Stephen's character, Hand of the Inquisition, the feral/barbarian world assassin, closed on her and jumped down the shaft after her, making a successful grappling check. He was able to make another couple of good rolls, killing her, and not taking a bit of damage in the process. It was the sort of ending to a session that becomes the stuff of legend.

In the aftermath, the crisis averted, the acolytes locked down the sector, and brought in backup forces to mop up.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Alternate Fear Rules for Dark Heresy

My players and I learned very early on that Dark Heresy's rules for dealing with Fear are BRUTAL. We had sessions where many of the players were alternately running toward/away from the object of their Fear. Others, we had players going comatose or shooting their colleagues in the head or whatever. The fear rules, as written, began to get in the way of gameplay. It was a bit frustrating and felt, frankly, a bit broken. 

My solution was to house rule the whole shebang, making the short-term effects somewhat less ridiculous, and adding a new trait, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to intensify the long-term effects in ways that were different from the existing Insanity rules. 

Here's what I came up with:

House Rules for Fear

If in a combat situation a character fails a Fear Test, he must immediately roll on Alternative Table 8-4, adding +10 to the result for each degree of failure. The effects listed are applied immediately to the character.
Alternative Table 8-4 (WH40K Dark Heresy Core Rules): Fear and Shock Effects
01–20                    The character is badly startled. He may only take a single Half Action when in his next Turn, but afterwards he may act normally.
21–40                    Fear grips the character and he begins to shake and tremble. He is at a –10 penalty on all Tests for the rest of the encounter unless he can recover his wits (see Shock and Snapping out of it, page 232).
41–60                    Reeling with shock, the character backs away from the thing that confronts him. The character cannot willingly approach the object of his fear, but may otherwise act normally, with a –10 penalty on all Tests until the end of the encounter. The character gains 1 Insanity Point.
61–80                    The character is frozen by terror. The character may make no Actions until he snaps out of it. After snapping out of it, the character will make all Tests with a –10 penalty for the rest of the encounter. The character gains 1d5 Insanity Points.
81–100                  Panic grips the character. He must flee the source of his fear, if able, as fast as he can; and if prevented from doing so he will fire any ballistic weapon until empty, then throw it at the source of fear. During this encounter he may only take Half Actions (other than flight), and is at a –20 penalty to all Tests. The character gains 1d5 Insanity Points. Once away from the danger he must successfully snap out of it to regain control, or continue fleeing.
101–120                As above, but character drops everything in his hands before fleeing, and gains 1d5+1 Insanity Points
121–130                As above but character makes next WP test to snap out of it at -10. Subsequent WP checks are normal.
131–140                The character faints and remains unconscious for 1d3 Rounds. Once he regains consciousness he is still shaken and takes all Tests with a –10 penalty until the end of the encounter. The character gains 1d10 Insanity Points. Roll d100: If the result is higher than the character's combined Willpower and Intelligence scores, he gains the Post-Traumatic Stress trait (see below).
141–160                As above, and automatically gains Post-Traumatic Stress trait (see below) and 1d10 Insanity Points.
161–170                The character’s mind snaps and he becomes catatonic for 1d5 hours and may not be roused. The character gains the Post-Traumatic Stress trait and 1d10 Insanity Points.
171+                       The character is so affected that he will scream and scramble away from any person or creature approaching him during that time, trying to hide wherever he can for 1d10+5 Rounds. After these effects fade, the character will make all Tests with a –20 penalty for the next 2d10 hours. The character gains 2d10 Insanity Points and gains Post-Traumatic Stress trait.

Post Traumatic Stress (trait)
Players with this trait should roll on the following table. Game effects from Insanity section of Core Rules. The effect is permanent. Each game day, the player must roll a d100. If he rolls 95-100, then he suffers the effect until he makes a successful Willpower test (which he may do at the beginning of the next game day). If the character has received this result more than once, then any current Post Traumatic Stress effect is raised to the next level, as described in the section on Insanity (e.g., from minor to severe)
·            01-20: Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time (gains a Phobia connected to the stress event)
·            21-40: Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event (gains Horrific Nightmares)
·            41-55: Difficulty maintaining close relationships, irritability or anger (minus 2d10+5 Fellowship (minor); 3d10+5 for acute)
·            56-75: Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much, cutting, risk-taking, hyper-vigilance (gains Obsession/Compulsion)
·            76-89: Being easily startled or frightened (-10 to all rolls for 2d10 hours. Every consecutive day this result occurs add another -10)
·            90-100: Hearing or seeing things that aren't there (gains Visions and Voices)

Overcoming Post-Traumatic Stress
Post-Traumatic Stress may be overcome eventually, through a combination of prayer, fasting, penance and mortification of the flesh, long periods of time spent away from stress (e.g., months or years in a monastery), or, as a last resort, through mind-cleansing, though only for very severe cases. The exact details should be worked out between player and GM. The in-game effects include lost time and expenditure of XP—Assume that for every month of game time, the character earns 100 XP, even when not involved in Inquisitorial work.

XP may be spent to reduce the severity of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress, but never fully get rid of them. By spending 500 XP a player can reduce a Post Traumatic Stress effect (e.g., from acute to severe, from severe to minor); and, once all such effects are minor, each 100 XP spent reduces the chance of any Post-Traumatic Stress effects manifesting, though there will always be a chance of it occurring. The in-game effect of this "therapy" would reduce the chance of being affected by the daily PTSD die roll, to a maximum of 99% "safe." That is, the character can never have less than 1% chance of being affected by PTSD. In game terms, this means a "100" roll on the daily d100 check for the PTSD effect.

Dark Heresy Campaign #1: The Edge of Darkness, pt. 2: The Adventure Background

The first adventure I ran for Dark Heresy was The Edge of Darkness, a freebie, introductory adventure for the game. Here's a bit from the adventure's background section:

Heresy and evil takes root most readily and most easily in forlorn and forgotten places, be they on distant worlds, in isolated communities or, as here, in a place that has become the victim of disaster, economic starvation and slow neglect. In the shadows of the mighty spires of Hive Sibellus on the world of Scintilla, in a run down and decaying district called the Coscarla Division, a criminal and heretical conspiracy has taken hold. Using the destitute and fearful populous as a shield and a ready supply of “material” when needed, an individual going by the name of “the Churgeon” and her lackeys have set up a hidden medical facility to conduct horrific and forbidden experiments. In order to mask their activities, the tech cult has infiltrated and secretly usurped control of both a local Alms House and the area’s enforcers to further their ends, and is supplying chemical serums to criminal narcogangs in order to induce their complicity in the cult’s dark plans.

The Churgeon is a renegade techadept in the employ of the heretical cult known as the Logicians. She is a biosculptor whose particular area of interest is the creation of (illegal) alchemical serums and artifi cial organs to augment human biology. She requires live human subjects for experimentation and the downtrodden people of Coscarla have proved a ready source of victims. She has no care for the lives of her servants or for those her macabre experiments kill or mutilate, and already her servants have “vanished” scores of Coscarla’s people. One such abducted experimental subject, a  man named Saul Arbest, managed to escape before dying on the transit rail. It is his body, once discovered, that sparks the Inquisition’s interest in the matter and the involvement of the Acolytes.
Once the Churgeon’s current round of tests are concluded, she intends to cover her tracks by releasing a biological agent to mimic the effects of a plague outbreak, killing perhaps tens of thousands of people in the process. She has done it before, and if not stopped, shall do it again.
This was a really fun game to run, especially given how my players approached it.  The players were discussed in my last post. We had Jason (a Tech Priest), Rhonda (playing the infamous Ferrus D'Angelus, who came to betray his Inquistrix as the campaign goes on), Stephen (Feral planet assassin, melee type), John (assassin, ranged weapon type), Kevin (Guardsman).

Here's what happened the first session:

Game Session #1: July 24, 2010

What happened:

·         Players were introduced to their Inquisitor.
·         Players got briefing from Interrogator Sand regarding the victim, one Saul Arbest (unemployed habworker), found dead in transit station.
·         Acolytes are posing as bonded agents for the Coblast Assay," a Sibellan mercantile operation of somewhat dubious repute but not inconsiderable power, specialising in tech salvage and manpower  services." They are pretending to recruit among the unemployed of Coscarla. They also have permits to carry weapons.
·         They are told to conduct as quiet an operation as they can, but are authorized to act for the Inquisition, and to use force as needed.
·         Players got two rooms w/ connecting door at the Hostel.
·         They went to the market to begin to check things out.
·         Ianescu began creeping toward Sikes' Yard.
·         Krell  tried to listen in on the gangers, and was confronted. Combat looked to be in the offing, so he backed down.
·         Play suspended at about 5:15 p.m.

What was learned:

Saul Arbest was medically altered. There had been an attempt to implant and artificial neurological system of some kind, most likely to be used to control the victim. The grafts eventually failed, somehow, and he was either running away at the time, or being sent on a mission, and under control, until the nerve graft killed him somehow.

South Coscarla is a grim-looking place. Lots of empty apartments in the habstacks, burnt-out sections, failing infrastructure, crime, vice, etc. Pervading feeling of abandonment and disrepair. People are not particularly friendly.

Enforcers don't seem to be bothered by open presence of obvious ganger types.

Gangers don't want to be bothered, and respond to curiosity with threats of violence.

Coscarla used to be a palace complex for some ancient noble, long gone from Scintilla to seek new horizons. Broken 50m tall statue/fountain of winged feline critter of some kind near Enforcer Station.

The Tantalus Combine maintains (though not well) a physical presence here, in the form of the 3rd Workers' Union and the Tantalus Alms House. They don't seem to be putting much money into the district, though, probably because they have pulled out for greener pastures.
 The investigation was afoot, but would they expose the truth before time ran out, and the plague was released? Tune in for our next exciting adventure!

Dark Heresy Campaign 1: The Edge of Darkness, pt. 1--Meet the Characters

The freebie, introductory module, The Edge of Darkness was the first Dark Heresy adventure I ran. We'd been playing Warhammer Fantasy RPG (2 ed.), and one of my players, Jason, suggested the switch to Dark Heresy. I was on board, and pretty soon we had a decent array of players. More about them, later.

The received the following missive prior to the game, as I'd heard that low-level play in Dark Heresy could be pretty frustrating (high "whiff factor"):

Dark Heresy Combat Primer

Just a quick overview of combat, damage, and healing for Dark Heresy. You may be seeing some combat this weekend, so I'm hoping this will show you what to expect. In this, I'll give you some of my expectations about combat, an overview of the combat sequence, and a bit about the individual elements in that sequence. A lot of this is copy pasta from the Core Rules, but some of it is commentary. I will not go into use of skills and tests against character attributes, but they are very similar to combat tests in the ways they work: Roll d100 at or below the attribute in question, modified for circumstances.

My Expectations
·         You will be smart in combat. Avoid it if possible. If you can't, make use of circumstances to put yourself at an advantage. Bonuses matter. Think tactically, know your skill set, and be sure to ask questions if you're not sure about something you wish to try. I will be reasonable, and at times generous, but I will kill you if you do something stupid, or at least will not save you from yourself.

·         There is a high "whiff" factor in this game (i.e., People often fail at things). Give yourself all the bonuses you can, and remember to use your Fate points. These are important means for offsetting the "whiff" factor. Also, I expect that with as much gaming and research talent as we have at the table, we can figure out some ways to deal with this, resulting in some good house rules. I will discuss this more at game time.
·         You will get to know your character and have a good understanding how the various skills and talents allow him to do cool things. I have your character sheets, but it's your character. You'll have better ability to remember the details that matter than I will. As part of this, please remind me to take those details into account.

·         We will "house rule" some elements of combat (and other situations) to keep play moving, among other reasons. We will do so only after discussion, and achieving consensus for new house rules, after which point they will remain in effect for the duration, unless they seem not to work well. Then we fix them.

So, anyway… on with the show.

This was followed by Core Rules stuff detailing combat. Not all players had purchased it at that point, so a bit of explanation was in order. 

So, a bit later that week I sent a representation of a computer-generated summons from Inquisitrix her Grace Duchess Dorothea Senjak. For those of you who have read Glen Cook's Annals of the Black Company, yes, that's the same name as the character, "Lady," from that series of books. I love that series, and what better pattern for an admirable but truly frightening Inquisitrix?

Here's more about her, as I conceived her (with thanks to Glen Cook):

Name: Her Grace, Duchess Dorothea Senjak, Ordo Hereticus

Homeworld: Noble Born/Imperial Agri-World/Family Militant

Background: Was an Inquisition assassin of great repute for many, many years, with more than 250 confirmed kills. Her preferred method is a needle gun at long range, but she's also quite capable of killing at close range. A good number of her kills met their fates while hoping to fuck her.

Eyes: Black Lenses with Gold Images of Aquila (left) and Inquisitorial Rosette (right)

Hair: Dyed white

Skin: Dyed white

Clothing: Lots of black. Long black cloak, black armor, knee high boots with bronze buckles.

Appearance: Short, relatively slender. Long, white-blonde hair, usually worn loose, braided for "work." Wears a lot of dark cloth and leather. My inspiration was the evil witch character played by Li Bing Bing in The Forbidden Kingdom.

Faction: Amalathian
Amalathians believe that any threat to the Imperium's stability, or the balance of power between its many institutions must be crushed, and the status quo maintained at all costs. However, Dorothea Senjak tends to do as much as she can to extend the power of the Inquistion as "first among equals." She also sees herself that way, among her fellow inquisitors, and is alert for signs of heresy and corruption among her peers.

Dorothea Senjak is not particularly gregarious, and tends to spend most of her time with her inner circle. She tends not to talk much, and her manner is somewhat cold and distant, though those closest to her know that she has a quick intellect and a wicked sense of humor. She treats her underlings well, so long as they demonstrate competence and loyalty. Those who do not demonstrate competence, and show no signs of effort toward improvement, are quickly dismissed from her staff. Only one acolyte has ever betrayed her. She killed him within a day of learning that he was passing information about her operation to a rival within the Inquisition.

She has a pensive air much of the time, but when her attention is drawn by something, she is alert and intense. She is direct in her manner, but because she is small of stature, relatively young-looking (which she is not, at age 125), and possessed of soprano voice, people sometimes do not take her as seriously as they should. This is a mistake. She is persistent, ruthless, and a terrible enemy, as patient and subtle as Death itself.

She tends to analyze situations before responding. Sometimes this lulls her enemies into thinking she will do nothing to them. The eventual responses tend to be orchestras of fear, pain, and death, stunningly byzantine plans designed not simply to defeat her enemies, but to ruin them and anyone who supports them. She is sometimes referred to as "The Spider" by her fellow Inquisitors, few of whom dare to cross her.

During her career, she has acquired a rival, Steffi Krueger, a radical inquisitrix, who is connected with her sister, Sylith (see below). Krueger has a similar background and skillset. They have never (yet) attempted to kill each other; however, they seem to keep finding themselves involved in the same situations, but at cross purposes. Dorothea Senjak has decided recently that Steffi Krueger is an enemy of the Imperium; this, of course, means that she is an enemy of Senjak.

Some background:

Dorothea Senjak one of two surviving children of Baron Milos Senjak and the commoner Jonell Acorda.

The other, living sister, Sylith, is offstage right now, but is Dorothea's rival and enemy. She is more deeply connected to the Underworld, and there are rumors that she may be in league with the forces of Chaos.

Unknown to everyone but Dorothea herself, she murdered her twin sister, Ardath, at the age of 14. She had discovered Ardath dallying with the object of her own deep affection (teenaged, obsessive) when she observed them from hiding. She formed a plan to eliminate her romantic rival, and suggested a picnic for all three of them on the cliffs by the sea, where they often played. She dosed them both with a strong but difficult to trace hallucinogenic compound, and convinced them to jump from the cliffs into the sea.  They landed on bare rock 50 meters below, and were killed instantly. Dorothea returned home as if nothing had happened. Their bodies were discovered, but it remained a mystery as to why the two young people had killed themselves until Dorothea "discovered" her sister's diary which provided a suitable alibi for the "double suicide."

She left her homeworld at the age of 16, not by her own choice, to be married off to Lornus Cambria a much older (50 years old) first son of a noble family. Within six months of their marriage, the Inquisition received an anonymous tip, and her husband was imprisoned, tried, and executed for heresy and plotting against the Emperor. After his death the man's family wanted no more to do with her, and turned her out on her own, always somewhat suspecting she was the one who was the true heretic, and that she had sacrificed him out of greed. This is not the case. Neither of them were heretics. It was the man's younger brother who framed him to move up to first in line of succession. He eventually sent assassins to take out Dorothea, but she somehow, miraculously, killed both assassins.

Her actions made it into the newsfeed and drew the attention of the powers that be. She was recruited almost immediately to be trained as an assassin. She advanced rapidly through the ranks of assassins, gaining a reputation for her successes. She is a very good marksman, and most of her victims never even get a glimpse of her. She plans carefully, strikes from hiding, and is known to use a variety of poisons.

At the time when the players meet her, she is just 33 years old, and an inquisitrix of the second rank. She has over two hundred fifty kills to her name, and has never failed to complete a mission.

 So, that's who the PCs are working for. The PCs themselves are an interesting bunch, breaking down as follows (with player backgrounds, if provided to me):

Jason: Pyotr Ianescu, Tech Priest
 Acolyte Ianescu was born in deep space on 4.392.478.M41 as “Pyotr Pluskiya Ianescu” (p-yaw-tyr  ploos-ki-ya  i-an-es-ku) aboard the rogue trader vessel Gelt’s Luster (ship commanded by Mikhael Falke) to Irena Ianescu (quartermaster of the Gelt’s Luster).  The father’s identity is unknown.

As a youth, Ianescu spent much time roaming the holds of the Gelt’s Luster and learning how to avoid the attention of the ship’s master, Falke.  Ianescu learned to read from his mother’s teaching and reviewing the inventory logs.  In his lessons, he routinely read entries for sanctioned Imperial shipments and tracked payments/expenses in the ship’s data logs.

Ianescu quickly took an interest the data-net for the Gelt’s Luster and could access and navigate most internal networks within the year (utilizing his mother’s log-in).  Ianescu ended up spending most of his early years before a data terminal seeking answers from the ship’s cogitators and asking the Mechanicus personnel about the function of the ship and data systems.

One day (6.772.492.M41), while accessing an unsecured terminal within the cargo holds, he found records that he had not previously encountered and which had been encrypted.  Ianescu quickly copied the files to his personal data slate and left the holds before he could be found snooping in the inventory records unsupervised.

In the following weeks, Ianescu did break the encryption of the files and discovered that there were additional entries for unnamed items that showed massive profits for the Gelt’s Luster (instead of their meager existence the accounts of record reported).

Upon telling his mother about the files, she told him to never speak of them again and quickly found him a mentor with the ship’s Mechanicus personnel to begin learning from them.  Within the month, the Gelt’s Luster had reached port at forge world Belacane and Ianescu was then sent out to become a scribe copying texts and tomes for the Adeptus Mechanicus.

For the next three years, Ianescu toiled as a scribe but his accuracy and speed was noted and he was transferred to schematics where he would remain for another year until his discovery.  On 2.531.496.M41, after Ianescu had duplicated an expanded parts diagram for a common chlorine gas sequestering unit, he forwarded an edit for review.  Ianescu had observed that the unit could be improved by adjusting the pitch of the fan intakes by 0.08 degrees (which would result in a 0.7% efficiency improvement). 

This was brought to the attention of Fabricator Kharlon and Ianescu was then transferred from the position of Mechanicus Administratum Scribe to become a Tech Adept Acolyte.

Indoctrination and surgery for Mechanicus implants would occupy the next two years.

At 2.844.498.M41, Acolyte Ianescu began work within Fabricator Kharlon’s forge and was singled out for his relative ability to communicate with others outside of the Mechanicus (despite having been of void born origin).  Acolyte Ianescu then began training to work as an envoy with other organizations within the Imperium (while fulfilling his primary mission of collecting data, wherever it may be found, for the expanding knowledge of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the glory of the Omnissiah).

On 0.257.506.M41, Acolyte Ianescu received a summons for attending a gathering called by Inquisitrix Dorothea Senjak of the Ordo Hereticus on Scintilla….
Stephen: Hand (of the Inquisition), Assassin

Stephen didn't provide much of a background, but here it is, as such:

Expects to die in combat. Honor demands it.  Korlash of the Daakon, taken by inquisitor after his tribes tournament of the hunt (blood) gave up identity and became Hand, ferocious and fearless. Believes in the power of names

 His assassin is a feral-worlder, a barbarian assassin, if you will, with incredible melee combat skills and a big-ass sword. He seeks battle, he seeks glorious death. Awesomely conceived, big, dumb lunkhead who is a vertiable magician with a sword. Not much sense in his head, though, and no regard for how others might see him.
Kevin: Drake, Guardsman
-------Imperial Agri-World  Orbel Quill: Settlement Terra 48

-------Drake was one of 3 survivors  on a raid by bandits on Terra 48, 18 years ago, that left it in ruins.  From then till the age of 16, Drake was part of Imperial Orphanage (OQ-48C) where he then joined the Imperial Guardsmen training to repay this service.

-------Drake has a strong desire for order and training in all aspects of life.  He believes that it was a lack of such skills in the general populace that led to Terra 48 being destroyed.  He believes that the Emperor has the all the power, order, teachings, and will to save humanity, but that much of humanity truly does not know HOW to follow him and must first be taught.  Even if that teaching comes at the cost of a bullet.
------- A very choleric personality: Drake tends to take charge it is needed and others will not - even sacrificing his safety if it means leading the squad to victory.  Yet he has little to no patience for a lack of order, and even less for those who willingly can't or won't follow orders/rules: leading to bouts of aggression and verbal assault. 
--------This mix of devotion and aggression has led to the respect of the others in his unit, even if that respects is due to fear.

-------Drake came to the attention of Inquisitrix Her Ladyship Dorothea Senjak, Ordo Hereticus through her Acolyte Lieutenant Octus Vern.  Vern was charged in leading a squad, that included Drake, to rout a mutant enclave, where a llack of sufficient Intel on the enclave lead to a surprise attack by mutants during which Vern was injured.  As the unit began to fall apart, Drake was able to rally the remaining troops and they were able to fend off the remaining mutants, as well as saving Vern's life. Drake was noted of not only having above average martial prowess, but also having an air of command about him that one does not see in many Conscript level guardsmen.
Rhonda: Ferrus D'Angleus, Adept

Ferrus was a character we grew to love and hate, all at the same time. His botched amorous exploits are things of legend, and his weirdly creepy obsession with medical devices, techniques, and overall fascination with morbidity, came to be hallmarks of this weird little fucker.
Deeply angry, yet “hides” it behind a really creepy smile


Slinks, watches

Melancholic: Thoughtful, introspective and prone to depression – may find him crouching in a corner staring sulkily and saying random, nonsensical things

Talks gibberish to self – but is it genuine or is he playing up his madness?

Seems nervous

Arrogant and narcissistic – Took the name “Ferrus” because he doesn’t like his given name (Frak) – “It’s soooo…..common.”  Common is synonymous with “loathesome.”

Curious above all things – lusts after facts, esp about machines

At least attempts to be charming at times – will perform this world’s equivlent of a floor-scraping bow in a heartbeat – knows which side his bread is buttered on – loyal for this reason, as long as he doesn’t have to put himself in danger

First impulse in a firefight is to hide – if he wants to kill you he’ll watch you, discover your weakness and bide his time

Crafty, conniving

Given to the occasional flamboyant hand-gesture – hands are very active – twitchy fingers – generally twitchy

Could be Helena Bonham Carter’s child – that kind of vibe

Takes his divination (“Only the insane have strength enough to prosper…”) seriously. Considers his madness a good thing. Thinks it allows him to see things that others can’t see, that it will enable him to recognize the Truth when he finally finds it.

Wanted desperately to be away from home – convinced some Truth is out there and he Must know it

Likes people he finds interesting – will cowtow to the powerful – otherwise emotionally uninterested in the others – collects details about them though, in case he needs to use later

Will not shrink from forbidden knowledge unless he thinks he can’t get away w/ it

Craves experience – perhaps he uses a drug?

Wouldn’t be above torture for curiosity’s sake

Loooooves books, scrolls, whatever carries the written word or information – especially books b/c he has a thing for old things – “The books…they talk to me..” – Also loves the smell

Sensual in really weird ways – may lose himself in smelling a book in an inappropriate moment
Meeting the Inquisitrix
If he was hired to catalogue her library and found a secret cache of heretical tomes about dark conspiracies, this would have peaked his curiosity

If she offered him passage off-world or an excuse to get out there, he would have jumped at the chance b/c he was bored stiff and felt his “immense talents” were being wasted

Will go to great lengths to fetch information for her – but mostly b/c he wants the kudos – her good opinion of him confirms his opinion of his own intellect – she validates him
What the Inquisition means to him
Is willing to go against proper conduct when his curiosity is peaked, or at least he lusts after the knowledge

The Inquisition to him is not a defender of mankind b/c he doesn’t consider the hordes worthy of defending – to him, the Inquisition is there to control those lesser than himself – he hates stupidity and feels it needs to be controlled – for this reason will defend the Imperium, but not at the cost of his own skin

Does he believe what he’s told about the horrors of the universe? Wants to see for himself.
What he hates
Telling him he’s wrong or insulting his intelligence could make him an enemy

Hates those he considers lower than himself – those he considers stupid, for instance

John: Krell the Shademan, Assassin

- My guy likes to kill shit.  From a distance.  With a gun.  All professionalism aside, he is a hunter.

- He has precious little loyalty to the group that trained and pays him.  This is not so much due to mercenary sensibility as it has to do with a disagreement with theocratic politics. 

- After growing up and spending all of his life in cramped urban centers, he just wishes he could find a small, secluded planet that would let him live a simpler life. 

- He is not willing to betray those that he is working with, but if given the opportunity to get away from his “indentured” life, he would do it without hesitating.  He knows this is unlikely to be a reality, but he has not given up hope.

- Has respect for law enforcement / military types, is uneasy around priest / inquisitor types, and is creeped out by tech priests (why would anyone want to be THAT reliant on machines?). 

- He can work with just about anyone, provided the goal in honorable in HIS mind: by this I mean that killing or subversive action can somehow be justified (revenge, greater good, etc).  He will not be the first to speak out against it if is not (spies are EVERYWHERE).  In the event that he cannot reconcile the actions demanded of him, he will first try to dissuade the patron from issuing the order.  Failing that, he will try accomplish the final goal of the mission by alternate goals (silencing someone doesn’t ALWAYS mean killing).  Depending on the feasibility of the second, he may choose to turn on a client if there is the slightest chance he can get away with it. 

- He is jaded by such a big government and knows that the people in power are often more vile and petty than the lowest of street thugs.
 In any case, not a bad array of characters, and many of them are still alive and kicking. Hand is dead, Drake is retired, and Ferrus recently was found to be a traitor and taken prisoner. But those are tales for another day.