Friday, August 26, 2011

Dark Heresy - Introductory Adventure - Part 1

 I'm currently running the introductory adventure of Dark Heresy for my local gaming group. I thought I'd bring you a brief summary of how it was going, what I've learned, and what I hope to do better next time.

The Acolytes

The group of PCs is a motley crew (but aren't they always?) consisting of a tech priest, cleric, psyker, arbitrator, and scum. Only the players for the cleric and tech priest have significant knowledge of the Warhammer 40k universe, though the arbitrator has some inkling from the Dawn of War games. So far, none has ventured far from their iconic roles, but that's to be expected as many are new to both the system and the lore.

The Brazen Sky

The characters began play on The Brazen Sky, a interstellar freighter taking them to the planet Iocanthos, where they would investigate some "phantasmagoria" (best word ever) surrounding a soon to be consecrated temple to Saint Drusus. The time on the Brazen Sky is intended to allow the characters to get to know eachother and interact with an overbearing purser who had access to the "gray market", a market for illegal and hard to find goods. However, I found it difficult making this work, and we ended this section early.

Port Suffering

The next section of the adventure had the acolytes land at Port Suffering. I enjoyed role playing the self-important official who meets them at the drop location, and I felt like the players did a good job of getting into the roleplay and handling him. On the way to meet their contact, the players came across a crazy old man. They succeeded on their rolls to decipher his mumbled ramblings, which was fun. And the scum provoked a combat encounter by roughly grabbing the old man's arm.

Here's where things started to go wrong. I'm simply not familiar with the combat mechanics for Dark Heresy yet, and the combat was one bumbling mistake on my part after another. Still, I feel like we all gained some valuable (out of game) experience on how the combat system works, which I feel was the main point of this particular combat. The PCs were wounded, and learned that working together might have prevented that, as well as being prepared for combat rather than letting it happen to them. These are two important features of Dark Heresy.

After the combat, the PCs would normally have continued on to meet their contact, Aristarchus the Seer. However, they were accosted by the local authorities due to the gunfire in the combat with the street thugs. I (and the book) expected them to try to talk their way out of this, but players always find a way to ruin your plans :) So, Aristarchus met them at the town watch station and collected them there.

The Trip to Stern Hope

The next leg of the adventure involved the trip to Stern Hope, where the cathedral due to be consecrated is located. While there were no combats on the trip, there were two important events. First, during the night, a dead body stumbled into the PC's camp and collapsed. It appeared to have been dead for days. Second, later the next day, the PCs encounter a strange apparition on a nearby outcropping of rock, which disappears right after being seen. Moving closer, they see a symbol of Saint Drusus burned into the rock.

I feel like I didn't handle either of these particularly well. The dead body moving around should possibly have required fear rolls, and could have been made a lot creepier. The strange apparition could also have been made creepier. I need to work on how I describe the strange phenomena going on around the players, to help get them in the mood.

Session End

I ended the first session here, as they were about to reach Stern Hope. One of the nice things about Dark Heresy is that experience is awarded on a per session basis, so that each time players have a chance to get something new. Their fate points also recharge on a per session basis. This also allows players to bypass some of the harshness of the healing rules - a fate point can be expended to regain 1d5 wounds, so at the end of the session the PCs can spend their fate points to recover, then regain the fate points back at the beginning of the next session.

Lessons Learned

This first session was extremely useful in familiarizing myself and my players with the combat system. I also think it helped get them used to the Warhammer 40k lore, though that will take more time to sink in fully. I also became more comfortable with roleplaying 40k NPCs, which I think I did a much better job of in the second session. Finally, it gave me some ideas on how to handle experience, healing, and fate point recharge in the play by post game I have planned.

I've already played through a second session of this adventure, and I'll post a summary of that in the near future!

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