The realization that Warhammer 40k works best when players try to tell a story through their games is something GW has been trying to force us to come to for many years, but, only now do we really understand what that means.
As a club, Fresh Coast Gaming has participated in and hosted local competitive events and, last year, played in one of the most competitive 40k events in the country; the 40k Team Tournament at Adepticon. We have enjoyed mixed success, winning as many events as we loose and finishing in the middle of the pack in Chicago. However, our true passion for 40k stems from the beautiful models and the incredible depth of the fluff written by GW and their dedicated writers.
Over the last year or so, I have tried to encourage the same feelings in our gaming community. We've run several smaller events from slow-grow leagues to a short "Crusade of Fire" campaign. We collectively think they bring out the best in us as players and in the game itself. However, all of that was just a prelude for bigger things to come. Let me take you to Ora Recentes!
“The Intrusion at Ora Recentes” was a campaign I put together to tell a real story through game play, truly “forging the narrative”, if you will. I took many elements from past campaigns and existing systems and combined them into an experience that made the players both responsible for how the story would develop and have a vested interest in its outcome. I started with the basics of a great story; setting, characters, and conflict.
Setting: GW is very fond of telling humanity that in the 41st millennium, mankind will be threatened from all sides in a galaxy full of war. I wanted to continue to build upon that by setting this campaign on a simple world, much like our own. The planet “Ora Recentes” (Latin for Fresh Coast, btw) is a simple, beautiful world, untouched by the “grimdark” future. I wanted it to be unspoiled by the never ending conflict of the 40k universe. The purpose of this was twofold. First, to quote Fight Club, “I felt like destroying something beautiful.” I wanted the players, especially the Imperial defenders, to care as much about the planet as their own army. The destruction heaped upon the inhabitants of this pastoral world needed to be evident. Secondly, I wanted to make the players think that the planet was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, making the big reveal at the end of the campaign more shocking! More on THAT in another post!
Characters: I wanted the players to develop their own characters throughout the duration of the campaign. I asked every participant to build a “Detachment Commander” from the units available in their chosen Codex. They were to be equipped with the same wargear from mission to mission and would provide specific in-game benefits if they were chosen for that game. However, there would also be consequences if they were to fall in battle. I instructed each player to keep track of every Independent Character” or “Character” model in their force each game. If they survived, they would be able to earn random upgrades from the “Experience Table”, a 6th edition updated version of the charts from the Necromunda campaign book I made myself. ICs could earn multiple upgrades as long as they survived. Each time an IC fell in battle, they would get a roll on the Necromunda Injury table. They could suffer permanent injuries, be captured, or killed outright, depending on the roll. Coincidentally, all three happened throughout the campaign. We saw a Chaplain lose a leg and have it replaced with bionics, Librarians and Chapter Masters be interred in Dreadnoughts, and a Tyranid Warrior Prime become elevated to near Tyrant status! Standard Characters could only earn a single upgrade and, if they died, they were gone for good. It was through these characters that the players would tell the story.
Conflict: This area, more than any other, would be how I as the Game Master would help shape the course of the campaign. I wanted to design missions that would enhance the story, provide players with choices, and, most importantly, be fun to play. They would combine traditional elements from the main rules with some creative additions to add to the story. These missions would be the primary determining factor for who ultimately wins and loses the campaign. They would follow a fairly basic progression going from Combat Patrol to Planetstrike to start the campaign while the remaining weeks would me much more standard formats. I also wanted to allow two players each week to participate in a Special Mission. These would not directly influence the campaign results themselves, but unlock special rules for the side that won them. Upgrades such as Allies, special Wargear, or units from Escalation were all available for either side to earn through these missions. In both cases, the two factions would each receive their mission dossier for the following week in sealed envelopes. They would contain the Primary and Secondary missions written specifically for their faction. Often, the two players playing the same game would have different objectives and victory conditions that were secret from each other. It would be up the Supreme Commander for each faction to assign missions to the players while the winning faction from the previous week would set the actual match-ups. The results from each battle would determine the course of the campaign and the missions that would be played from week to week.
There was TON of paperwork for me to follow each week. Every player would keep track of their own wins and losses, as well as their Character’s experience and their progress towards a secret Campaign Objective they were assigned by their Supreme Commanders. Fortunately for me, and for you, I like to type out everything! All of the missions, record sheets, and handouts will be posted on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/freshcoast40k/files/) for you to download and use! If you need the Necromunda rules, grab them from Yakromunda’s new site (http://gaming.yaktribe.org/community/vault/living-rulebook-edition.2/)
There is still one more mission to be played. Once it is over, I’ll be posting a post-campaign write-up from a purely fluffy perspective! There were some AMAZING moments from the last 5 weeks that make all this work worthwhile! Stay tuned!