Imperiet 40k: What I want to write

I have cheated myself. That’s right, I’ve played a rather nasty trick on my own, sorry self.

See, I’ve been wanting to get into the scenario writing scene for quite a while. But writing a game for Fastaval is a daunting task, and even though I come up with many great ideas, I alway say to myself: “Next year! Next year, I’ll have better time be better prepared, the heavens will open, and an angel is going to come on floating down with the perfect scenario that I always wanted to write.”

Well, this year, I have trapped myself. I am now comitted in a way that will actually lose face if I don’t deliver. I, in a moment of optimism and bravado, said I’d contribute to the anthology, “The Empire 40k” – a continuation of last years success, “The Empire,” an anthology of small scenarios, based on the world of Warhammer. This year, the masterminds behind the project have decided to follow it up with a game set in the sci-fi version of that world, Warhammer 40k.

So, there is nothing for it. In a month, I must hand in something that is, at least at first glance, a playable scenario. Good thing I know what I want to write, huh?

Sigh – if only! I know what story I want to tell, I have the general run of the thing – the problem is that it’ll require a load of mechanics that I don’t know how will work. So, I will post my thoughts here, and hope someone can help me make sense of this mess. But first – the concept:

Necromundian Roulette

In the filthy Underhive, the strong rule. Rival gangs fight each other with decrepit weaponry over everything with any value, with desparate Ratskin tribes defend their territories against the enchroaching overlings. Meanwhile, rabid zealots hunt anything with even the slightest resemblance to anything that is not in strict accord with the Emperor’s law, while well-equipped noblemen just hunt anything, without discrimination.

In this mess lies a little pearl. A small, filthy piece of heaven. A settlement of some prosperity, that has not yet been torn apart by warring gangs, greedily trying to extract anything of value from them.

This place has been frequented by two gangs. Living an uneasy truce, they have kept other, greedier gangs at bay.

Now, the truce is off. Something has happened, and the town is not big enough for the two of them any more.

But because they are surrounded on all sides, and hate the outsiders more than they hate each other, they have decided to settle the matter with a minimum of bloodshed. They will decide the matter through a game of Russian Roulette.

The feel of the game

In the game, the players take on the role of two members from each gang, taking turns biting the barrel, and pressing. In between, they recall memories of the settlement, reaffirming their commitment to driving out the filthy scum at the table with them, and calm their nerves with copious amounts of synthetic whisky.

The GM’s role will be as an umpire, both in and outside the game. Ingame, he’ll play the role of an innkeep, official, or other figure of authority who has been asked to ensure that everything happens according to the accord set out by the gangs in advance. Outside of the game, he’ll be helping the players navigate the rules, so that they can use as much focus as possible on telling their character’s story.

Right, so what are the rules?

Ideally, there should be a toy gun at the table. The players should pass this around and act out the pressing of the trigger when their character does likewise.

Every time a player receives the gun, he sets a flashback scene of something in the character’s past in the settlement. The other other players add to this story, the enemies by trying to ruin the picture the player is trying to paint, the ally by supplementing/supporting it. I have three types of scenes in mind:

  1. Cherised memories/reasons to live: The character remembers something that ties him to the place, positive images that makes it important for him to live on in the city. The opposing players try to add elements to the scene that destroy the idyllic image the character is trying to paint, thus eroding his will to live, but also tarnishing the city, spoiling it for them as well. Mechanically, the character is trying to make it less likely for him to get the bullet, while the opponents try to make it more likely.
  2. Grudges/ reasons to hate: The character remembers something the opponents have done that makes it important for him to see them defeated. This should of course be done in a way that doesn’t violate the concept of the other character – one of the tasks of the GM will be to help make this work. The opponents try to erode the grudge, showing how their character is really totally innocent of any crime. Mechanically, this makes the character better able to defend against the opponents (I think).
  3. Sins / Crimes commited / reasons to repent: The character remembers some crime he has commited against the settlement. The character has commited the place he loves, whether by foolishness, pride, neglect, malice, or in pursuit of personal goals. I think the opponents may be trying to show how the settlement defeated the threat to it, or to put an emphasis on how great the character’s guilt in this is. Mechanically, this kind of scene will give the character more ammunition to use against the opponents.

The idea here is that the players should have an incentive to choose 2 and 3 often, thus ruining the very prize they are trying to win.

After a scene, a character may choose to take a glass of whisky to wash away the memories. This will prevent some of the bad consequences. However, this will also affect his mind, making the bad memories line up, and lower his ability to resist the opponent’s attempts at spoiling his memories. Drinking may work now, but there’s a price to pay.

Note that there should be a reward for failure, at least for the active character, so that a player will never be thrown out of the game. When your cherised memory turns foul, you will have more power to do likewise to your opponent.

After the player has played his scene and drunk his fill, he’ll put the gun in his mouth, the GM will secretly roll the dice, the player presses the trigger, and the GM announces “click” or “bang.” When someone is shot, the game ends.


4 responses to this post.

  1. I think you need to mock up a framework economy system for the various costs and gains of the scenes and the players contributions, maybe something token/poker chip based would be good for reinforcing the metaphor of them game.

    I’m not sure I like the idea of rolling dice to determine the loser, I think some sort of push-your-luck type random would be better (think blackjack) where the first losses don’t matter much, but in the end you need to watch your choices. Perhaps keep the totals secret so only the GM knows if it is past bang?


    • Thinking more on it, I think your currency here is some sort of karma, with each player having his own personal karma and his gang’s karma to manage. Setting wise it ties in with the shinto-buddhist animism that parallels the hive spirits of necromunda. If you want a story of self-sacrifice then personal karma would be defining for who loses and gang karma would be deciding who wins (could be the same side?)


  2. Posted by eliashelfer on October 5, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Hi Oliver, and thank you for comments – I really want them.

    I was precisely thinking of some kind of token economy – but with different kinds of token. Some of them defensive, some of them aggressive – so that you could use aggressive tokens to buy nastyness to throw at you opponents – see the opponents role in especially the Cherised Memories.

    I don’t quite like your blackjack reference, but my idea is the same: first round, there is practically no chance of anyone dying, then it rapidly escalates. Because of the time limit, it should be very likely that someone dies by the third or fourth go round at the latest – but it should be possible to get round at least two times.
    I WAS considering making the first round “safe,” but decided against it, for two reasons: 1) the first round needs to be where people learn the system, and 2) this is frekkin Russian Roulette – the uncertainty is a crucial part of it.

    Thematically, this is definitely NOT about self sacrifice – quite the contrary. This game is supposed to be about people destroying what makes their life meaningful in their attempt to possess that thing. The prime example here is the settlement, which starts out as a little gem in the dark world of the Hive, but the NPC’s that they use to make their connection to the place are in the same category. In this way it ties the Anthology’s two themes, Humanity and Dystopia, together as one, telling a story of how human nature is to love, desire and covet, and how human nature drive us to ruin that which we love, desire or covet.

    This game is supposed to be a tragedy: the character who has “sinned” the least should be most likely to die, the survivors being left with the defiled remains of that which they have sacrificed their own humanity to posses.


  3. I think you need to be careful of how many kinds of token you have, more than three is too confusing for a short scenario like this. Also, there should be a cost for throwing tokens… ie. your innocence tokens can be turned into corruption tokens for the other side (or the settlement in general if that’s your idea.)

    My blackjack metaphor is meant in the way that the first two cards are relatively safe, the next might be good or bad and after that the chance that you go bust just climbs up and up. Its just that the mutual push your luck mechanism might reinforce the gambling aspect of roulettery in a more visceral way.


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