Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dark Heresy:Running a premade campaign-Also, review of the back of the book adventure

So, my third Dark Heresy campaign, and this time a premade one. This makes things easier, but in some ways harder, because sometimes the book will make assumptions on my knowledge that I don't really have. I am also criminally lazy in weird ways for session preparation. For example, I will spend ages thinking about a session, but not write out the stats of certain characters for combat.

The odd thing about premade campaigns is sometimes they really irritate me. They take characters to stupid places, and fail to anticipate what players are thinking. The adventure at the back of DH has the air of an investigation, but really doesn't let its players do any...

(Note spoilers from here on)

The most the players will discern is that their superior is clearly a bit unhinged, although I even deliberately played it up. There are some creepy hints along the way of what is going on, but they are horror movie style hints, and do not really help the players unlock the mystery. In fact I don't believe there is any sensible way for the players to work out what exactly happened even AFTER the end.

I would probably be fine with this if the game went into horror in a big way, but while it flirts with it, it doesn't really make it work, as the conclusion is a fire fight. Mike at one point tried to retreat, and the notion of the daemonhost chasing the players through stern hope is a MUCH cooler idea, and I wish it had occured to me to go with it. It might have resulted in some player death, but after all, that is what fate points are for. Indeed, reworking the adventure so the players, could, for example, lure the daemon into the genatoria and blow it up would make it more awesome, with a cat and mouse game happening until the players finally turned the tables.

Instead the game relies on the players getting a plot vital piece of information- a book which basically outlies what the players need to do (or rather doesn't, more on that later), robbing the players of much of a chance of a discovery. Also, while in a meta-game fashion it's pretty bloody obvious that the players should take to mystic witch lady and ignore their orders, from a roleplaying perspective it actually makes MUCH more sense for them to arrest her! While the inquisition does pride themselves on a certain amount of free thinking, these players have had about two sessions under the inquisition, and the rest of their lives obeying orders... It's annoying to me that the game is encouraging players to meta-think and then try and roleplay their characters into accepting that- thats not how the game should think.

Of course, as mentioned, the plot book isn't that useful. The book, while giving some background, doesn't tell the players how to hurt the daemon, indeed the line of dialogue giving them a hint is only optional. This hint is also nicely obscure, and while I tried to drop some hints, only a couple of sessions happening meant that the players did not really get it. There is another route to saving the day, talking to crazed superior in a ball of chaos and trying to persuade him. Yeah, it sound stupid to me too....

Finally, when you get the fricking hint it's too damn easy to hurt the daemon. I am typically brilliant at creating deadly threats that utterly fail to hurt the players (these now include a space marine and an eversor assasin), thanks to my inability to roll, but it is fairly easy to kill it off.

There were some things I liked- the notions for the mass combat was enjoyable enough, with some varied suggestions which were reasonably balanced so not to kill off the players. The plot itself was actually ok, although the resolution was bad.

I would definitely be interested in running this adventure as a one shot, skipping out a few encounters to focus on creepy horror, so the conclusion could be nice and scary (and also encourage players to run, which I admit is not easy!)

Despite the negativity I am looking forward to the next arc, which is better written, although we shall see how well the players keep on the carefully built rails! I actually like all three adventures in the book, and hope I do get the opportunity to run them all... we shall see how the time goes.

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