|Deathwatch | Published 04 June 2010|
by Ross Watson, Senior RPG Developer
Greetings, Deathwatch fans! This week, I want to give you some more details about the way Missions work in the Deathwatch RPG.
The Missions Framework
“The forward Tau command centre is too heavily shielded for an orbital strike, and too far behind the front lines for a push by the Stygian 5th Armoured Division. However, intelligence suggests that there is at least one of these so-called Ethereals coordinating operations from the base, making it a vital target. It is my recommendation that we deploy the Deathwatch Kill-team available to us and consider the matter closed...”
–High Tactician Favius at the Battle of Blood Moon
Missions are a framework for a GM to build an adventure for a Deathwatch Kill-team; it is not a random chart, nor is it a railroad. It is simply a tool that the GM can use to build a vast array of different types of stories for your Space Marine characters to interact with. The Space Marines of the Deathwatch face many unique challenges, not all of which are encountered on the battlefield! Deathwatch Kill-teams are deployed in a wide variety of situations, allowing you to create almost any kind of encounter you wish. Here are just a few examples of adventures that benefit from the Missions framework:
If your group enjoys uncovering secrets and revealing hidden facts, your Deathwatch Kill-team may be required to find the killer of a murdered Inquisitor...and discover what enigma is worth killing a member of the Holy Ordos to hide.
As an example, in the in-house Deathwatch game I run here at FFG, the Kill-team served as an honour guard for an Inquisitor during her visit to a dangerous world rife with unrest. The Inquisitor was struck down with an insidious poison, and the Kill-team was honour bound to track down those responsible and cleanse their honour.
If your group prefers exploration, your Kill-team may be sent to acquire an enigmatic alien artefact from the heart of a crumbling xenos ruin on a rogue planet, far from any sun.
The setting of the Jericho Reach and the Omega Vault within Watch Fortress Erioch provide a number of opportunities for such adventures. A Kill-team may be sent to re-establish an abandoned Watch Station, or the Omega Vault may reveal some ancient map detailing the location of an important xenos relic that the Deathwatch must secure. Your Kill-team may even be sent to a hellish daemon world or into the bleak wasteland of a planet devoured by a Tyranid swarm.
If your group has a predilection for political intrigue, the Deathwatch may dispatch your Kill-team to deal with a delicate situation involving the high Lord-Militants of the Crusade, complete with plenty of backstabbing, favour-grubbing, and jockeying for position and privilege.
The machinations of the Crusade in the Jericho Reach provide an excellent background for political maneuvers involving the Deathwatch. There are many places where the efforts of a single Kill-team could spell the difference between victory and defeat, and there are many more officials of the Crusade who are well aware of this fact! During our in-house Deathwatch campaign, the Kill-team encountered a Lord General who had clearly gone insane and needed to be replaced, lest his madness cost the Crusade invaluable territory and progress. This particular challenge required more than bolter fire to solve...
A Mission is a template for such adventures and provides the GM with a collection of obstacles for his players to overcome and rewards for successfully completing their objectives. Based on the success and significance of the Kill-team’s actions, rewards include experience points, increased Renown, and possibly the awards of special honours.
Command Without Doubt
One of my favourite parts of the Deathwatch core rulebook is the extensive background on the Deathwatch itself; its origin, purpose, and structure fully explored for the first time. As an organisation, the Deathwatch is quite unique, not only in its composition of Space Marines from across the galaxy, but also in its operations and traditions. The Space Marines of the Deathwatch are well-aware of their duties, meaning that they can be quite pro-active in seeking out xenos forces, eliminating threats, investigating forgotten ruins, or planning an assault on an alien stronghold. It is not unusual for an Inquisitor to request the assistance of the Deathwatch with a myriad of tasks, and it is also not unknown for a particular Watch Captain or Watch Commander to set forth an agenda for the Space Marines under his command.
Therefore, a Kill-team may be taking orders from their Watch Captain one mission and respond to the urgent plea of an Inquisitor on the next. The Kill-team might be assigned to work with the Lord-Militants in a particular region of the Crusade in the Jericho Reach, or they may be given a Watch Station of their own to maintain and keep vigil over a particular set of xenos tombs.
Naturally, the Kill-team itself is a group that benefits from a firm vision, and one of the elements of the Missions framework is the selection of a squad’s leader. During the development of the Deathwatch RPG, I knew that I didn’t want the “team leader” role to devolve into listening to the loudest player at the table, nor did I wish it to be a straightjacket that forced all the players into a subordinate position. Therefore, we worked hard to clearly outline the role of the leader in Deathwatch:
The mantle of squad leader is one that the players should not take lightly. In the eyes of the Deathwatch, it is the squad leader who is responsible for the success or failure of the Kill-team and the completion of their Mission. In this capacity, the player chosen to be the leader for a particular Mission has two key responsibilities for that Mission:
If at any point the Kill-team needs to make a decision on how to proceed with their Mission and they cannot reach an accord, then it falls to the squad leader to make the choice. He should listen to the other players and make a decision based on the majority. It is important to remember that making these calls does not mean that the leader is allowed to boss the other players around. Rather, he is there to guide the actions of the group.
The responsibility for the Mission and contact with the Deathwatch or the Kill-team’s commanders falls to the leader. He becomes the link in the chain of command that ties the squad into the greater Imperial efforts in their theatre of operations, receiving orders and sending vox messages to appraise the higher-ups as to the squad’s progress.
In addition, selecting a Kill-team’s leader opens up access to a set of particular Oaths that the Kill-team may select before the mission. Each Oath not only serves to guide the Kill-team’s particular focus for that mission, they also grant some small in-game benefits. Because certain Oaths may only be given from certain leaders, this encourages each Deathwatch group to rotate the role of leader amongst themselves. For example, one Mission may take place on a corrupted Forge World, requiring the Kill-team to deal with recalictrant machine spirits. Thus, they might wish to nominate the Techmarine as the leader so that he may grant the Oath of the Weapon:
Oath of the Weapon
Space Marines drill constantly, and when they are not fighting. they are training for combat. Some Battle-Brothers take this a step further and take oaths to ensure their weapons do not fail them in combat, blessing bolters and chainswords so that the Emperor might ensure their effectiveness against His enemies.
Prerequisite: Techmarine or Devastator Marine
Effect: Those taking the Oath of the Weapon pray over their weapons before battle and strive to extinguish even the smallest element of chance in their function. A Kill-team which takes this oath may ignore the effects of Jams with their personal weaponry and re-roll Weapon Skill Tests to confirm Righteous Fury with melee weapons for the duration of the Mission.
Squad Mode Abilities: Fire Support, Fire for Effect and Tank Buster.
The Storm Wardens Army Charity Project
I want to especially mention this project; it is a very cool effort for a very good cause! Several highly talented miniature painters on the internet have gathered together to create an entire Storm Wardens Army, with the proceeds going to the charity Doctors Without Borders. You can find all the information on this awesome project here:
Next week, I will present a special guest designer diary about Space Marine equipment in Deathwatch! Until then, may the Primarchs guide your way.
Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.
I can't wait anymore
The first entirely "Hack & Slash" dedicated RPG ?
Born to kill, burn to grill !
Can't wait. I'm really looking forward to this game.
One of my favourite parts of the Deathwatch core rulebook is the extensive background on the Deathwatch itself; its origin, purpose, and structure fully explored for the first time....
So the oath you take before the mission decides what squad abilities you have? I like.