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The Inquisitor's Library: Portmortem

“And lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.”

So that worked out pretty well. I wanted to run a grim, darkly complected game with veins of humor in the Warhammer 40K universe. Good match of setting and mood there. I got pretty much what I wanted. It took a bit of adjusting and shuffling and learning and talking to nail the mythos, but by the time we hit our stride it was awesome.

The goal was to do a tight series of self-contained missions. I knew this was going to be a short term game, but I didn’t want to run a whole story arc in three months, so I tried to treat it as a series of modules so that the end wouldn’t feel like we’d stopped in the middle. Also, I wanted to be able to pick it up again and run another one or two session bit sometime.

This sort of failed for two reasons. First, I couldn’t resist picking up some of the pieces of the first mission and turning them into an ongoing story. The spiders wanted to come back, and thus they did. The players should count themselves fortunate that I didn’t dump the Baron’s ghost on them, but frankly, he’s out there.

Layering in ongoing story elements also meant that I didn’t have to scrape to engage six players in the details of each mission. If the acolytes were heading to a feudal planet, say, I could drop in scenes growing out of the previous mission to give our tech priest some spotlight rather than carefully inserting a techie bit directly related to the matter at hand.

And the secret third reason is that I just couldn’t help it; it’s my best technique for giving a game texture. C’est la vie.

Six players is a lot, though. I should have run for five or four. On the other hand, if I ask myself who I’d leave out? Well, none of them. Er, none of you. Whichever. I enjoyed running for everyone and everyone liked playing. No good answers there.

Anyhow, the upshot is that I think I cut it to a fairly abrupt close. I thought about regearing for a story arc; I know where certain things are going. Perseus has a hopefully disturbing bit of news about the extent to which the five that is four has infested the Inquisitor’s Library and the denizens therein, for example. Also, to the best of my knowledge, the acolytes left Acreage without turning over some drugs to a certain person.

But I think it’d take another few months to play to a conclusion point. You don’t want to build the corruption too quickly. So cutting it now is the right move.

Also, I emphasize that the game was in my eyes a success. The system is a cranky old antique from the 80s that nonetheless works. Tweaking everyone’s weapon to be superior quality and reminding people of the aiming rules fixes combat ineptitude; treating failed rolls as successes with consequences takes care of the rest. And the combat is simple enough so that we could memorize how it works. I may have been getting a rule about Toughness wrong for the entire run, but if I did, I just made things more deadly.

The first mission hit an appropriate level of scariness. The second mission wasn’t meant to be scary, it was meant to be grueling. I think we got that nailed as well — the final combat sequence, when I just kept throwing waves of a few thugs at the PCs one at a time, with some PCs falling over into drugged hallucinations — that was meant to be grim and long and painful and I think it worked well without keeping our combat monsters from being scary. Hopefully it worked for the players as well.

All in all? Success. I am nothing but happy with the players, cause they gave me awesome stuff to work with. Discussion, feedback, and comments are welcome.

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