Tuesday, 23 November 2010

RPG: How do you GM?

Ahoyhoy internets, DaveHowitzer putting out a little call to my fellow GMs. Now as you know, my DH will be starting fairly soon and with that in mind, I've been writing my GM notes for the game. Now I'm fairly well known in our parts for my notes being....extensive. Example -prepare for wall of text-

The Ordo WTF???

The Calixian Schism Act 1
The Herald and the Tyrant

Session 1

How It Really Began...

The year is M41. 879 and the Imperium is at war. The alien, the mutant, the heretic. The ancient evils from beyond and new horrors yet to come. In this world there is only war. The Empire of Man, the realm of the God Emperor on Terra is breaking apart, be it from alien invasion, cults bent regicide and the ascension of their own unholy Gods or by the will of man itself and its greed for wealth and power. The Emperor's Holy Inquisition are the elite guardians of the well being of the Imperium. These few men and women given the title “Inquisitor” by the powers Spiritual and Temporal have a great weight on their shoulders, the souls of millions of billions rest on the decisions made and the enemies crushed by their divine influence. Whilst the Inquisitor is unique, he does not work alone, with him he takes the exceptional specimens he finds with him, be it for their intellect, combat prowess or the purity of their soul. These Acolytes of the Inquisition are the Inquisitor's footsoldiers, his investigators, his warmongers and his peacekeepers. Once a cell of acolytes have experienced years of service they may eventually earn the trust of the Inquisitor and his respect. They are accepted into his inner circle. They become Throne Agents, powerful members of the Inquisitor's retinue, trusted friends, exceptional soldiers, untraceable assassins and thorough investigators. These are the individuals who are perhaps the saviours and the bane of humanity in equal measure. This is your story...

Location: Gunmetal City, Scintilla
Year: M41. 874
Description: Industrial Hive, heavy reliance on arms production, home to famous “Metallican Gunslingers”
Time: Dusk
Objective: Rendezvous with informant

Draken, Franc Castel, Interrogator Drake and Inquisitor Hydra are not present.

Agents are around a rotten dark wood table in a smoke filled tavern in the upper reaches of the Gunmetal hive, the stench of Rotgut Booze and Lho fills the damp air. Years of carbon build up on the walls has turned the once ivoy walls a depressing mat grey, drips of condensation from a broken environmental control bead on the wall. The agents are waiting for the rest of their number to turn up.

Option for Agents to ask about each other etc.
Agents may ask for a drink from the bartender, only Rotgut Booze and a vile smelling clear spirit is offered. If the clear spirit is chosen, PC must take a Toughness test or immediately lose one level of fatigue and become intoxicated for 1 hour.

After some time a tall figure appears in the doorway, clearly heavily armed and armoured. He surveys the room and patrols bury themselves in their drinks, trying to avoid his gaze. After confirming that there is no threat present, he signals to those behind him that the coast his clear. He walks to the table and takes a seat, the old wooden chair creaking as he sits, barely supporting the combat armour hidden underneath a long grey trench coat. Behind him walks two further figures, one around the same height but much slender build, the other shorter and even slenderer build, but with a strange aura surrounding him, nothing that can be seen by the eyes or sensed at all but some feeling of...greatness...good or bad is hard to say. The taller man flips a coin at the bartender who clearly knows what is going on by the appearance of the taller character and seems to be more at ease. He walks to the table, pony tailed brown hair worn over his right shoulder and rests a scabbarded, sword upon the table, clearly of exceptional craftsmanship. As with the first, he wears black and red armour beneath a black storm coat, but this appears much lighter in comparison to the first. His eyes pierce into your very mind as he surveys each of the agents, drawing you into him inexplicably. The neckline of the storm coat just about conceals some sort of gunmetal coloured implant on the back of his neck. The of the shorter; you do not know what to make. Young, very young, barely twenty years old perhaps but his face, the way he looked at you gave the impression of millennia of existence. Blue eyes look first to the agents then to the scared patrons and a wry smile breaks on his pale face “It's quite alright ladies, gentlemen, no harm will come to you, we are here to help.” He runs a hand through his short black hair and pale face matching his almost formal ivy shirt and jet waistcoat, trousers and great coat. As he turns to you, you notice two large pistols holstered at either side of his waist and the long thin claymore held on his back by a shoulder rig and find it curious. How can this man speak of peace when he is ready for war. He takes a seat next to his fellows. Finally the last member of the party enters.

[Insert Hydra description – power sword rather than Seethe]

GM Notes for the Session:

Machinations in the Campaign:'
  1. Wolf is in danger of being uncovered by Glavius Wroth as part of his secret investigation into the Collegium. Wolf consults Hydra and just prior to the Session as to what he sees as the next logical step.
  2. Upon consultation with Anton Zerbe, Wolf sets his intent into action: to cover his tracks he will feign death using the beast Hedrodal as a scapegoat for his murder. Hydra will then reveal himself as a traitor, killing the Cell Nova and Interrogator Drake in the process so that all intimate knowledge of the Wolf estate never reaches the Tricorn. Since he will undoubtedly be pursued, Hydra is to lead the Inquisition on a wild goose chase whilst Wolf searches for clues regarding the Bray Lexicanum and completes work on the Nemesis Project.
  3. In order to accomplish this, the Collegium must influence an infiltrated chaos cult into open warfare on the planet's surface. If Hydra can cause even a small scale daemonic incursion in Scintilla, fear and panic will grip the sector, halting investigations into the Collegium for years to come.

The White Cobras Gang
Cult of the Night Whispers

Primary Objectives:
  1. Rendezvous with Marshal Abram Winters in District IV, behind the Cryxus Club regarding information on Wolf's informant's whereabouts.1
  2. Escape the White Cobras' trap.2
  3. Escort Winters' to the Fortress Precinct in District XII.3
  4. Procure transport to Ambulon and entry to the House Vesper
  5. Save Elena Sibella

Secondary Objectives
  1. Stop the mugging outside the Cryxus Club before Winters blows his cover. [Completion reduces the amount of White Cobra Gang Members in the ambush by 2. Doing this silently results in a further reduction of 2.] +
  2. Stop the Cobras' speeders from destroying the District XI power conduit. [Failure to complete results in the loss of the Agents' method of transport. Completion will reward 1 influence to the party and 100XP]+
  3. Use the Fortress Precinct's astropath to access the Nova account to receive information on the informant [Success depends on a successful Underworld Lore check. 0-1 degrees of success yields that the informant has infiltrated the Cobras' and now serves as a lesser gang boss in Gunmetal. 2 degrees of success yields a basic description: Short combat autogun and double barrelled shotgun, tanner, bald with pollution scarring on the left cheek and distinctive chrome goggles. 3 or more degrees of success yield that the informant's name is Felix Malloy and his going by the alias “Geist”.]++
  4. Gaining entry to the House Vesper and their holdings without disclosing Inquisitorial involvement or force. [Completion will reward 1 influence to the party and 100XP]
  5. Taking “Apex” alive. [Completion will reward 1 influence to the party and 100XP]

1 Influence to the party. [Possible 4]
500XP [Possible 800XP]


White Cobra Gang Member:
WS BS S T Ag Int Per WP Fel Wounds
32 35 29 30 37 28 35 27 40 12

-Poor Quality Flak Armour (3 all over)
-Standard quality Autogun with 2 clips
-Standard quality Sawn-Off Shotgun with 18 shells
-Standard Laspistol with 1 charge pack
-2 Standard Autopistols with 2 spare clips
- Knife
-1D5 Thrones
-1 pack of cards or 1 set of liar's dice
-1 Cobra Pendant

Skills: Awareness, Barter, Carouse +10, Common Lore (Imperium, Arbites, Underworld), Disguise +10, Dodge +10, Drive (Ground Vehicle, Hover), Interrogation, Security, Tech-Use.
Talents: Melee Weapon Training (Privative), Pistol Weapon Training (Las, SP), Basic Weapon Training (Las, SP), Blademaster, Die Hard, Leap Up, Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Two Weapon Wielder (Ranged)

Special Rules: Viper Guards: White Cobra Gang Members that accompany Apex are his elite, the Vipers. The following changes are made the the Gang Member's profile when upgraded to a Viper.
-Wounds 18
-Equipment options:
-Shock Maul and Shotgun Pistol with 4 reloads
-Las Carbine with 2 charge packs and 4 hot shot packs
-Chan Knife
-Flak Armour (4 all over)

Autogun: Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Basic 90m S/3/10 1D10+3 0 I 30 Full -

Sawn-Off Shotgun Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Basic 30m S/-/- 1D10+4 0 I 2 2Full Scatter, Reliable

Las Carbine Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Basic 60m S/2/- 1D10+2 0 E 40 Full Reliable

Laspistol Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Pistol 30m S/-/- 1D10+2 0 E 30 Full Reliable

Autopistol Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Pistol 30m S/-/6 1D10+2 0 I 18 Full -

Shotgun Pistol Range RoF Dam Pen Type Clip Rld Special
Pistol 10m S/-/- 1D10+4 0 I 1 Full Scatter, Reliable

Knife Range Dam Pen Type Special
Melee,Thrown 3m 1D5 0 I Primative

Shock Maul Range Dam Pen Type Special
Melee - 1d10 0 I Shocking

1“Apex” leader of the gang has moved his operations to the House Vesper Manufactorum on Ambulon. Arbitrator Elena Sibella of the Ambulon Adeptus has traced them, but contact has been lost with her.
2Attack on all sides from ten White Cobra Gang Members and one White Cobra Gang Leader (random upgrade)
3Escape in Transport Speeder whilst defending against pursuing 2 White Cobra Speeders 

Yeah...extensive much. How do you GM. Do you walk in with a page of hastily scrawled notes and hope the sandbox will make the players do things for themselves or do you go in with even more than me! Fire away.
Love, Dave


  1. For me it depends on how comfortable I am with the system. For Deathwatch and Dark Heresy, I'd be going in with a similar amount of information if I have time to prepare it, and probably a little more for the combat stuff. Those systems are harder to make the math work out properly, since the math isn't spelled out for you. When the narrative moves into conflict and combat, you need the maths to work well or you will just be frustrating yourself and/or the players.

    In my 4th Edition D&D stuff, I can walk in with just a few pages of monster stats and get to work. Target numbers and expected ranges are freely available, so making something up on the fly and having the math reinforce your original idea is pretty easy.

    I'm sure there are some GMs out there who are more into 'just making stuff up' at every stage and wouldn't care about the math, but I find me and my players have more fun and take more liberties when the rules are consistent.

  2. Mostly depends on how comfortable you are with the world and the system. In some games I can off the cuff most things other than major villain stats and am comfortable with the world to handle most things without extensive notes. If taking a new game through the paces, would want much more extensive notes and reminders to avoid having to look through books too much during a session. It can also be good during training-wheels sessions to limit the size of the sandbox available while mood and rules get felt out - stuck on disabled spaceship dealing with boarders vs. being in Hive City with unlimited options, etc.

  3. My preferred GMmin' style is much more 'armchair theatre': driven around interactions and investigations rather than the sorts of things dive are customarily used to make fair. Combat does tend to be dice-based, but I favour either big sweeping whole-session combats with some sort of timer (an impending explosion/stampede/collapse) or very short, ultra-dramatic fisticuffs. Combat, to me, is the stuff that happens in between story, and occasionally facilitates moving the story along. I think quite a few roleplayers see things as being the other way around...


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