by Ross Watson
Greetings, Deathwatch fans!
As a roleplayer, one thing that is very important to me during a game is to grasp one definitive element that sets my character apart from the others, and then get a chance to really *use* that during the game. My own personal goal was to make sure that there was a chance for every Deathwatch character gain the spotlight and do something cool and memorable once in every game! This concept was behind the development of a mechanic in Deathwatch that we eventually named Demeanours.
A Demeanour is a specific trait associated with a particular Space Marine. Some Demeanours are linked to the Space Marine’s home Chapter—the Chapter’s beliefs, traditions, or even specific flaws in their gene-seed. Others are unique to that individual Space Marine’s personality.
The purpose of Demeanours is to highlight what makes each Chapter—and each Space Marine—different. They exist in Deathwatch as a narrative prompt, meaning they present options and reasons for a Space Marine player character to act a certain way or respond in a particular manner to any given circumstance. Demeanours are not a straightjacket; they do not force a character to take action. Rather, Demeanours present the player with ideas and opportunities for the decisions he makes while roleplaying to have an impact on the mechanics of the game.
Two Types of Demeanours
A Demeanour can be both a particular advantage for the Space Marine or a portray a challenge he must overcome, and in enduring, grow stronger. All of this means that each Deathwatch character has two Demeanours; one from his Chapter, and one that is personal to him.
The Chapter Demeanour represents the traditions and beliefs of your home Chapter. It may also represent particular quirks or mutations of their gene-seed. Your Chapter Demeanour is part of the bedrock of your character, and as such, the Chapter Demeanour does not change after character creation.
Your Personal Demeanour represents a strongly-held set of values or facet of your personality. It may be an ideal you strive to live up to or a code of honour. However you choose to describe it, your Personal Demeanour is a powerful part of who you are and helps set you apart from the other Space Marines of your Chapter.
During the course of a Deathwatch campaign, part of the GM’s role is to challenge your Personal Demeanour and test your values. Can you hold true to your beliefs in the face of utter evil or seductive temptation? It is natural that your character should grow and change over time, and that should be reflected in your Personal Demeanour. No one knows your character better than you! Therefore, you may choose to change your Personal Demeanour at any time you feel it is appropriate.
Sample Personal Demeanour: Studious
The Space Marine values lore and learning, preferring to think his way through a problem.
The intention behind a Space Marine’s Demeanour is to provide an opportunity for the Space Marine to gain a dramatic and highly memorable moment (a “ crowning moment of awesome ”). The opportunity provided by the Demeanour is inextricably linked to his Chapter and his own unique strength of personality. It is his chance to put the spotlight on just how his Chapter is different to those of his Battle-Brothers in the Kill-team...or (just as significant) how that particular Space Marine’s personality is expressed.
When a Space Marine focuses on the core elements of his personality, calls on the legacy of his geneseed, or honours the important beliefs and traditions of his Chapters, he becomes more than just another Battle-Brother.
When you use your Demeanour during the game, it is known as “triggering” the Demeanour. In order to trigger a Demeanour, the Space Marine player need only announce that he is doing so and apply the benefits. You can only trigger your Demeanour a total of once per game (although every Space Marine has two Demeanours, he gets the benefits only once per game, and he must select which Demeanour to trigger in this manner).
When a Space Marine’s Demeanour is triggered, the Space Marine gains any applicable benefit he would normally receive from spending a Fate Point, and in addition, he may also improve these benefits through roleplaying.
The benefits of triggering the Demeanour may be enhanced if the Space Marine player puts effort into roleplaying the Demeanour. The player can portray his character either gaining strength from his ideals, or (alternatively) he can consider his Demeanour a particular challenge that he must somehow overcome.
Gaining an improvement is simple; if the other Space Marine players agree that your Demeanour has been roleplayed well, you gain the Improvement! Judging this can be as simple as asking for a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down around the table.
Gaining an Improvement means that you double the bonus from the Demeanour. You could gain a +20 bonus to a Test instead of a +10, remove 2d5 Damage instead of 1d5, and so forth. Even if your dice completely desert you, triggering a Demeanour should always have something impressive happen during the game, and GM’s are encouraged to take part; if a Triggered Demeanour results in an attack that does no damage, the enemy may instead gain a distinctive scar he will bear forevermore, for example.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what Demeanours are and how they are used, next week I’ll dive in and go over some of the ways the “Project Iceberg” team developed the core experience of
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.