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Monday, July 23, 2012

Setting Buy-In

I don't know if anyone pays attention to the little widgets on the side of the blog, but if you've been watching the "What I'm Reading" one lately, you'll have seen several Warhammer 40K novels (specifically by Dan Abnett *) tick by. I never played the miniatures games, but I have played a fair bit of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP). I'm a big fan of the setting and the gritty, grim tone. It's not what I always want to play, but it's fun sometimes.

As I've previously blathered about in my vlog, I'm somewhat on the fence about published and licensed settings. One the one hand, it gives people an additional way to get into the setting and get a handle on what it's like. On the other hand, it can be limiting ("That's not canon!") and can be off-putting to those who haven't played in the setting before or aren't as familiar with the source materials.

Now, as it happens, I own several of the WH40K RPG books (Dark Heresy, etc.) and part of me would really like to run a game, but I worry that most of my players are not up to speed on the 40K universe. Mechanically, it's similar enough to WFRP that I think they'd catch on to the rules quickly enough (several of them played in a long Marienburg-based campaign), but it's the fluff that has me worried. Warhammer and 40K are so much about the feel of the setting that I'd really want to get it right. I don't feel it's fair to hand out reading lists, etc. but some understanding of the setting seems pretty important, IMO.

Have other people run into this sort of thing before? How have you handled it?

*I highly recommend Abnett's books. The man can write!

No, you can't play an elf!

1 comment:

  1. I've run a Dark Heresy game in the past, and I may soon be running a Deathwatch game. I completely love the 40K universe. It's so insane, grim, and there's skulls everywhere-- it's just plain awesome to me.

    When I played Dark Heresy, I actually spent the first session just explaining things to the group. You're right; the fluff IS a big deal in this game. Most players went in thinking it was just gonna be some sci-fi, but they were shocked. I only explained the basic and important stuff (brief history of the empire, the Emperor, the Golden Throne, the Warp, the forces of Chaos, etc etc etc). The game went smoothly enough, but the players never truly understood the world, and I had to spend a lot of my GM "processing" power simply explaining things like cogitators or describing the insane architecture (yes, that control panel has a skull on it).

    I didn't want to give the players too much stuff to read, but I should have-- or at least point them to some websites if they want more information. What I realise I REALLY should have done (and will do in the future) is provide lots of pictures. I remember towards the end of the 6+ month game, I showed the group a picture of a navigator and crew doing... something in a ship. I think it's in the Dark Heresy book, and the group was absolutely shocked. No one could have envisioned what flying a ship in the 40K universe actually looks like, and there's no way I could have described it.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, and by simply SHOWING the group what the underhive looks like, rather than spend 20 minutes trying to explain, you make things a lot smoother for everyone.

    As for keeping things "accurate" and "canon", I didn't worry about that too much. As the book says, the Imperium is so unimaginably vast that anything you want your game to be like can simply exist.