|A Glimpse of the Haarlock's Legacy for Dark Heresy
A preview and player handout for Tattered Fates
|Dark Heresy | Published 20 March 2009|
+++Incoming Astropathic Transmission+++
Well with the impending release of Tattered Fates, the first separate book of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign, Ross, by the medium of transatlantic aetheric mematronic relay (or ‘email’ as I believe they are more commonly known) has asked if we could supply a few words by way of a designer diary to whet the appetites of passer-bys and lure them inside to the dark wonders contained within.
We of course were glad to oblige, but this wasn’t quite as easy as you might think, for Tattered Fates, you see, is a mystery adventure, (with a few bloodbaths, fraught battles for survival and sanity-shredding occurrences along the way of course, but a mystery at its core none the less) and frankly we wanted to keep the adventure’s secrets—well, secret until it hit the shelves at least.
So, instead of a detailed preview of what you are going to get inside, who’s involved and whether or not the ++Deleted by the Inquisition++ turns up and everybody dies, we thought we’d offer you, at Ross’s suggestion, a few lines about our inspirations while writing Tattered Fates, the Haarlock's Legacy Trilogy, and what aspect of the finished thing we most liked or were proud of. We hope you forgive our literary sleight of hand and find it interesting regardless!
Alan & John
In Media Res
“…and now you are fighting for your lives”
In writing, playing in (yes both Alan and I have played in our own adventures) and running Tattered Fates my favourite thing is how it begins; not with a slowly building mystery but with a bestial roar that punches you into the middle of events which you have to deal with right now! The acolytes begin Tattered Fates having been stolen away, stripped of equipment and aid—a classic device of the adventure genre. Waking in a situation that they are not prepared for, and has all the trappings of a somewhere where your player characters really don’t want to be.
As a player I have loved the desperation and immediacy that this set up creates; “move or die” is the motto, and the sessions where I have seen players shouting at each other to grab the sharpened bone dropped by an NPC as they die, and spending a full session of fate points in ten minutes to get away are some of the most tense and exciting I’ve experienced. You can feel the “Oh no! This is for real, my character might actually die down here” right from the start of Tattered Fates and that feeling gets stronger as events unfold. Once you are past the first scramble for survival the mystery of the situation starts to come out: “Why are we here? What is going on?” not to mention a good old dose of “Someone’s going to pay for this!” The fact that the acolytes have had to fight for their lives make them really want to know the answers, and what more could you want from the start of an adventure of mystery and blood?
“A party? A party? Don’t you know where I’ve been? What I’ve done?”
(In-game comment by a Tattered Fates play-tester)
Tattered Fates, and indeed the Haarlock's Legacy Trilogy started out many moons ago, (and this isn’t telling too many tales out of school I hope) as part of an initial series of scenarios designed to test out the as yet unpublished Dark Heresy game, which was indeed a very different animal back then. It was the intention right from the start to encompass a lot of different styles and paces of play in them, ranging from survival horror, to intrigue to research and investigation as these were all things very close to our hearts as what we though the core experience of playing the then nascent (there’s a good word I don’t get to use often) Dark Heresy should be. Now a lot of proverbial water has flowed under equally proverbial bridges since then, but one of my favourite things about Legacy, and Tattered Fates in particular, is the speed with which the narrative of the adventure ‘changes lanes’ now and again, plunging characters from one kind of play experience to another, making for something of a cold shock when the players don’t see it coming.
"Why is this a good thing?" you may be asking yourself, and the answer to that is pretty simple; quite apart from the fact that a bit of variety is a never bad, and in any mystery worth the name there should be a few unexpected twists along the way, the real answer is because at some point everybody gets to shine.
You see in a ‘heavy combat’ adventure, your cold-eyed gunslingers and your back-flipping assassins get to strut their stuff, but other character types can sometimes find themselves playing second fiddle to the glory-hounds. Only being called on to breeze over some old parchments, or charm the dusty-coated adept every now and again, and visa-versa in adventures where the tables are turned.
So much the better I have always thought when you make each of these aspects as interesting and vital as the others: So, for example when what involvement a more cerebrally or socially aligned character has in the adventure is every bit as important, and has the life and death of the whole group riding on it just as much, if not more than any gunfight. Tattered Fates is unapologetically built to be that kind of adventure.
So, for the players of those hard-as-nails guardsmen and steely-willed arbitrators out there: If you perhaps one day find yourself on the run, trapped in a nightmarish labyrinth of bladed, shifting tunnels without help and the Spindle-Maws closing in, don’t let the bookish adept or the ranting cleric fall too far behind, no matter the temptation, because you might well need them at a later formal engagement…
The (Un)usual Suspects
Well neither of us are strangers to writing for the Warhammer 40,0000 universe, both for Dark Heresy and other projects, and the whole shadowy splendour of the Imperium and its manifold enemies are something we both love. But these have not been our only inspirations in writing the Haarlock's Legacy campaign, and Tattered Fates in particular. There are some great works out there that have influenced us, and have all filtered into our febrile minds, all drawn through the distorting lens of the Dark Heresy, and of course been given a gun and sent out to do battle with daemons! These have included noir mysteries (with Hammett’s Red Harvest being a particular favourite -Alan) and ‘Hitchcock-ian’ foreshadowing. The opulent fantasies of Clark Aston Smith, the nasty supernatural vengeance typical of the stories of M R James and of course Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner (Mr Haarlock, I’m looking at you), right on to the Quay Brother’s Street of Crocodiles animation, just for the sheer strangeness of it. While the delights and often macabre folklore surrounding Venice’s great and historic Carnival have played a major part in forming our creation of Quaddis and key events in the adventure. Of course, none of these things ‘are’ Tattered Fates, but rather things we writing types have mutually enjoyed and been inspired by; our common language if you like when we came to crystallise what we were writing. If the Haarlock Legacy has an overriding theme it is of the sins of the past coming back not just to haunt the present, but tear its throat out—Very Warhammer 40,000 in other words…Oh, with some kicking in the door, bolt pistol in hand and shouting “Imperial Inquisition, step away from the altar!” of course.
+++The Next Step+++
Hello again Dark Heresy fans! Having wrested control of the designer diary back from John and Alan, I would just like to add that instead of talking about what's coming up, I would add some bonus content for this week! You will find an interesting Inquisitional document available for download, which serves as both an in-character preview of Tattered Fates AND as a player handout! I'm sneaky like that! At any rate, until next time, let the Golden Throne light your way.
Dark Heresy is a roleplaying game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the grim darkness of the far future. Players take on the roles of Acolytes serving the Inquisition, rooting out heresy and corruption from within the galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man.
Always nice to see whats coming up soon. This will help hold me over for Radicals and Ascension.