Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Emperor Protects!

Through a strange mixture of circumstance, it has come around to me being 'in the chair' for roleplaying again soon. Well, soon being next, as our schedule is as random as ever. And indeed, the game I am going to run has come around by a strange mix of circumstance as well - adopted from another GM no less! Its going to be 'The Emperor Protects!' - a Warhammer 40k hack for Duty & Honour.

I have to say, this is a game that I never thought I would run or that I would enjoy the prospect of so much. Back when I was a lad, I did 'play' WH40k a few times. Just a few. I used to paint the figures a lot more often and had myself a canny little collection of space marines, eldar harlequins and squats. Poor old squats. However, as I grew up these things were deemed too expensive and well, dull, and I abandoned tabletop gaming before it became the behemoth it is today. And thats the way it stayed for literally decades until Dave suggested that D&H was made to run something called 'Gaunt's Ghosts' - a sort of Sharpe in Space apparently. I wasn't convinced, not because of the concept but because I viewed the WH40k fiction as somewhere just above the Beano in quality of content and I thought that the Warhammer universe was just a trap for the dread lore wars.

Anyway, Dave persevered and it looked like his time was on the horizon so I thought I would have a go at the hack. To do so however, I had to do some assimilation, some research. So I started reading the huge volumes of the Ghosts omnibuses. Little did I know that I would become so absorbed by them and that they were every bit as good as the other military SF I have read, if not better in some places. What I also discovered was that a lot of the 'lore' is simply fluff. You can do an awful lot with a few words here or there, a few phrases etc. Thats exactly the same mechanism I usually use to build the flavour into a game of vanilla D&H. Good stuff.

Once I got my head around that, everything just fell into place. The game itself is an almost straight fit for the genre, with some small changes and introductions. New weapons, new traits etc. were a given. Armour has been introduced and some complications for weapons as well. A slightly more granular Mission system allows for objectives to be included in the challenges. Its looking quite nice - so nice that I have booked two games of this into Furnace, my favourite convention in October.

Of course, none of this is ever going to result in a saleable product without some radical reworking to remove any hint of the GW IP, but it has been a fun experiment and in many ways has reawoken both my love for my own system and my interest in the WH40k universe.


Metaresearchboi said...

Well, to be fair, the Dan Abnett and Ciaphas Cain books (I can lend you the 2 first huge omnibus editions) are excellent mainly as they are awesome "dark future" versions of Sharpe and Flashman respectively.

Most of the other Black Library books can be exceptionally hit and miss, and even Abnett has a few stinkers (The Raveneor series).

devilmonkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
devilmonkey said...

Glad to see you on the Ghosts train, Neil! A great series.
But Ravenor is the best thing he has ever written.

Metaresearchboi said...

Everyones tastes differ I suppose, for every one person who likes Michellin star cuisine, theres a hundred who'll settle for a McDonalds burger.

Certainly I've read all of Abnetts WH40K work to date, and personally I found both Eisenhorn and Raveneor to be at the bottom of his personal scale of written quality. The Gaunts Ghosts books are very much in the middle, and Titanicus and his Horus Heresy books (Horus Rising is awesome!) are probably his best WH40K work.

To put this in perspective though, bad WH40K from Abnett is still streets better than medicore Ben Counter (the god awful "Soul Drinkers" omnibus), Graham McNeill (Ultramarines) and William King (Space Wolves). I mean, compared to Ben Counter et al., Abnett might as well be writing literature.