Fists of Hubris – Part I: Preparing for Fisting

(Note: this run of posts is going to contain spoilers for the adventure The Price of Hubris from the Deathwatch adventure collection The Emperor Protects. So don’t tell your GM you read this.)

Warhammer 40,000 is a ridiculous setting. That isn’t a criticism; ridiculous bullshit cranked up to 11 is fun. One of the Space Marine Chapters who have been particularly ridiculous since the inception of the setting, and to Games Workshop’s credit has remained endearingly silly since then, are the Imperial Fists. The Imperial Fists cruise around the galaxy in a giant starship recruiting promising young men who catch their eye and initiate them into their ways, which include:

  • Branding their firm young buttocks with Fist icons.
  • Teaching them to find ecstasy in pain and to consider it to be, beyond a means of chastisement, a method of holy communion with Rogal Dorn and the Emperor and a technique for personal enlightenment and exploring one’s boundaries.
  • Teaching them to do the above through the use of the Pain Glove, a transparent skintight bodyglove which is ideally used whilst bound to a metal frame.

Much of the above was established in Space Marine by Ian Watson, but of all the above only the buttock-branding is absent in the much more recent Sons of Dorn, which includes a Pain Glove sequence presented in strikingly similar terms to the one presented in Space Marines. (And to be fair, it doesn’t say they don’t bend over for the Sergeant whilst he brands his buttocks.)

Now, all of the above would be really quite homoerotic even by itself. In the context of Space Marine stories, in which all-male brotherhoods of manly brothers are manly at each other and occasionally experience moments of brotherly tenderness, it gets very silly indeed.

Lusty Space Marine
Then again, if group bondage sessions between muscly men is your thing then the Emperor has blessed you greatly.

This is one of those things where the setting is radically improved if you embrace the stupidity. Space Marines played seriously can seem creepy and fascistic. A Chapter of all-gay Space Marines wouldn’t really be a whole lot better. But a Chapter of Space Marines which is also a gay bondage cult is too silly to take seriously, but at the same time too fun to ignore.

A Pleasant Evening of Group Fisting

The idea to run an all-Imperial Fist Deathwatch game came about after Black Library put out a somewhat underwhelming Fist-themed gamebook and I reviewed it and people declared themselves interested in group Fisting. Dan H, Shimmin and Kyra duly presented themselves for induction into the Fists and I was left with the task of working out how to make the game Fist-worthy. Although Deathwatch works on the assumption that the different Space Marines in a party will hail from different Chapters, I actually think there are advantages to running a game where all the Marines come from a single Chapter. In particular, the way Squad Mode abilities work in Deathwatch is that you get a subset which are based off the Oath your team leader swears at the start of the mission, and a subset that are based off the team leader’s Chapter. If all the player characters hail from the same Chapter, the latter subset will rarely change, which I think in practice is actually a good thing because it means you have more of a chance to get used to them, and you still get some variation thanks to the Oaths.

(Of course, I suspect in most Deathwatch campaigns the same character is always the team leader – namely, whichever PC offers the most in the way of group cohesion bonuses. But at least in this case we won’t get into a trap where someone feels obliged to be team leader because people really, really want to have access to a sick OP Chapter-specific Squad Mode ability.)

The big challenge is actually an in-canon one, because there isn’t an enormous amount of precedent for Space Marines going off in parties smaller than the typical ten-man squad to go investigate stuff outside of the context of the Deathwatch. I don’t think GMs should ever feel bound by setting canon against running the sort of game they want to run, but at the same time if you are running an RPG based on a licensed setting then odds are your players will want to feel as though they are recognisably exploring the setting, so if you toss the established material completely out of the window that could somewhat sabotage it.

In this case, Dan and Shimmin are both reasonably knowledgeable fans of the setting; Kyra has less exposure to it but finds the whole Imperial Fist thing delightful. So I set myself these criteria for canon adhesion: I had to take the most lol-tastic aspects of the Imperial Fists as being canon, because that was the reason we wanted to run a Fists game in the first place, and I had to adhere to the canon closely enough that Dan and Shimmin would feel that they were getting the real 40K experience.

Of course, just because the canon doesn’t explicitly say that small posses of Imperial Fists knock about the galaxy righting wrongs, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, arguably the classic ten-man squad model is an arrangement optimised for battlefield deployment and doesn’t necessarily reflect what Space Marines get up to outside of battles – and canonically, Marines aren’t actually in battle 24/7. As with any other Codex-compliant chapter, the Imperial Fists have ten Companies. The First Company comprises veterans in Terminator armour who are deployed when no lesser force will do. The Second to Fifth Companies are Marines on active battlefield duty – but even then to deploy all those Companies to action at the same time would be a fairly extreme commitment of forces. (Think: if they were all massacred in a botched battle, 40% of the Chapter’s strength would be wiped out in a shot). The Sixth to Ninth Companies consist of Marines who are specifically not on active duty: they are reservists who hang back to reinforce the battlefield companies as and when it is necessary. And then the Tenth Company consists of the aspiring candidates for elevation to the status of Space Marine, Scouts who are undergoing the process of transformation and are acting as reconnaissance units on the battlefield, and of course the fully-fledged Marines tasked with training them up. On top of that, of course, you have the various senior officers of the Chapter, the Librarians, the Techmarines, and so on who exist outside the typical Company arrangement.

This structure looks, at first, quite restrictive, but if you’re willing to apply a little lateral thinking there’s actually potential for sub-squad numbers of Marines to go off and have adventures at more or less every stage of their careers. It’s established canon that the Imperial Fists are willing to recruit any suitable young man they encounter who seems worthy of their training, so you can envisage Marines assigned to the Tenth Company heading off to newly-discovered worlds to scope out the local talent. Marines who are currently in the Reserve Companies aren’t going to want to stand idle whilst they aren’t needed on the battlefield, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the Chapter might send a small number of them off to provide aid when it’s requested (particularly if there are ancient Oaths of support for the Chapter to fulfill), and it would make sense that such posses would be sub-squad level because if the Chapter started sending entire reserve Squads out to go on such missions the Reserves would be rapidly depleted. The Librarians, being psykers and mystics, presumably often have somewhat sensitive missions to go on, where it’s prudent to send a small number of other Marines with them as backup. You could even run adventures for Marines currently in the Battle Companies, if the adventures were set in the midst of an ongoing battle. In short, if you’re willing to see canon as a source of ideas and opportunities rather than a series of restrictions, there’s plenty of ways you can have three to five Fists going off to get shit done by themselves.

Masses of Imperial Fists
Of course, sometimes you’ll want to pull out all the stops.

A structure for an ongoing campaign suggests itself here. If you assume that Marines spend most of their careers rotating between the Reserve and Battle Companies – which I don’t think is that unreasonable – then you can have your players have most of their adventures when they are assigned to the Sixth to Tenth companies, or are assisting the high officers of the Chapter, and – unless the mission you want to run would benefit from taking place mid-battle – assume their stints on the front line happen during downtime.

Having brainstormed a number of ways I could justify using a Deathwatch-style party structure in a Fist-only game, I took a look at the available pre-written Deathwatch adventures to see what I could adapt for my own purposes.

Published Adventures In Deathwatch

I decided to run a pre-generated adventure for the gang, partly for the sake of saving time and partly because I wasn’t sure whether the Fist-based game concept would have legs and I didn’t want to put a whole lot of effort cooking up a whole mission myself if we were going to just play for a bit and then stop, leaving it unfinished. Also, being a militaristic sort of game, Deathwatch tends to assume that most games will unfold as formally assigned missions, and has fairly detailed rules to support this. This means that I tend to find published adventures for it markedly more useful than in more free-wheeling games. The players, after all, aren’t going to be choosing the parties’ main goals for the mission – that’s going to be assigned to them by their superiors – so you can reasonably expect them to spend most of their time trying to accomplish those goals, rather than veering off on entirely random tangents.

Still, even within the bounds of a mission players are going to have ideas, jump to conclusions, and cook up plans that adventure designers won’t have accounted for. In old school location-based modules of the sort cooked up for Dungeons & Dragons back in the day, and which are making a mild comeback these days on the retro-clone scene, this isn’t that much of a problem: because the designer has just presented you with a location and left the ensuing chain of events up to you to adjudicate, the players can’t really go entirely off the rails unless they point-blank refuse to explore the location in question. That isn’t such a flaw; no GM or designer can plan for players who approach the game in bad faith, and saying “actually, we don’t want to explore the dungeon at all” in a game you’ve been told is going to be about exploring a dungeon is kind of dickish.

However, the Deathwatch team seem more keen on producing linear event-based mission outlines. In the case of The Price of Hubris, the adventure I chose to run for the team, the designers appear to have made at least some effort to outline alternate possibilities for how the events of the adventure might pan out – for instance, they outline the events that might happen if the PCs end up provoking a war – but in general they seem determined to shepherd the adventure towards a particular conclusion, and as written the adventure seems to assume that averting this disaster is seriously difficult. In particular, it assumes the PCs will more or less completely fail to follow up on the investigations they make in the first half of the adventure and blithely assume that, on dealing with one lair of Genestealers, the infection won’t have spread further, despite the fact that the events they’ve been sent to look into suggest that it very much has.

The Emperor Protects
If you see your GM using an adventure from the first third or so of this book, it’s the one I’m talking about here. So gear up expecting to fight Genestealers at the start.

So, whenever I read such a pre-gen adventure beforehand it’s usually with an eye for looking into where non-linearity can be worked in and considering how I’d break the railroad the designers have laid down, because I trust my players to do so. They wouldn’t be interesting to run games for if they were predictable, after all.

I can completely understand why publishers do this. GMs who want to emphasise player agency and refuse to railroad the PCs can take a linear adventure and fairly easily mine it for ideas for improvising once the players leave the pre-determined path. Conversely, GMs and groups who greatly prefer linear adventures may find it more difficult to impose a linear plot on a pre-written scenario which doesn’t offer one. This is particularly the case if the reason they prefer linearity is because they are not comfortable with (or not competent at) improvisation, and I know that is the case for some GMs. It offers better value to a wider range of GMs, then, if adventures are designed in a linear manner but in such a way that improv-friendly GMs can adapt them to their own purposes.

Dan pointed out after the game had ended that he’s never read a published adventure which didn’t seem weird in one respect or another – I expect because adventure designers write these things based off their own GMing idiosyncracies – but I’d say the other side of that coin is that I’ve rarely read a published adventure which I couldn’t get some value out of, and the 40K RPG adventure supplements in particular usually offer something of value I can recycle even if I don’t use their plots at all.

In this case, The Price of Hubris unfolds on a feral world which has recently been rediscovered by the Imperium, where the locals are being coaxed to joining up and swearing fealty to the Emperor but are resisting in part because of their proud warrior culture, and there’s at least one NPC who is described as being around the age the Astartes recruit new members and who might remind battle-brothers of themselves before they were inducted. Since most of the loltastic aspects of the Fists surround their recruitment and training practices, this seemed like an obvious adventure to adapt to my own purposes. Have the PCs be newly-minted Marines who are asked by the Tenth Company Sergeant who inducted them to do one last favour for the Tenth and go on this mission to the planet of Aurum, with an additional secondary objective of identifying and recruiting promising  youths to bring into the loving embrace of the Pain Glove Chapter.

Forming the Threesome

Character generation went fairly smoothly; getting the characters created and equipped took a couple of hours, which is a fair chunk of time but not bad for a game as complex as the 40K RPGs where two of the three players had little to no prior exposure to the system. Dan was playing a Devastator Marine, Shimmin an Assault Marine, and Kyra a Librarian, giving an interesting speciality breakdown of shooting shit, hitting shit and weird shit. I decided not to go through the complications of taking away any of the speciality traits and talents and skills characters get to represent Deathwatch membership, partly to save time but also because I tend to think that Marines spend most of their time fighting xenos anyway – Chaos Space Marines are the perennial enemy of all loyalist Marines, but are also comparatively rare, as are demonic outbreaks (and only the Grey Knights are meant to specialise in those anyway), and the Imperial Guard, Navy and Inquisition can handle all but the most ridiculously huge rebellions of human populations. To add an additional in-character justification for this, I ruled that the player characters had their baptism of fire into full Marine-dom during a massive campaign against a Tyranid Hive Fleet – which incidentally meant that I could be fairly liberal about letting them use Forbidden Lore (Xenos) rolls to suss out what was going on with the Genestealer cult on the planet.

One thing which ended up taking a little while was pre-mission shopping. In Deathwatch characters start out each mission with their basic loadout of equipment plus additional equipment they can purchase before the mission begins by paying the Requisition Points associated with the mission. Dan and Shimmin got quite into this, though Kyra was less interested, partly because having not played the wargame she had less reason to squee at all the familiar bits of gear that were on offer. Still, we were able to use the shopping experience to help make Kyra’s Librarian more Fisty; it was suggested that Kyra might want to purchase a psychic focus, and she asked if the Pain Glove could be a focus. I ruled that since for the Fists the Pain Glove is meant to be a mystic experience then it would be a suitable focus for a Fist Librarian, and let Kyra purchase a portable Pain Glove – just the bodyglove without the metal framework, and therefore not capable of inflicting enough pain – and ruled that if she had a chance to retire to the Marines’ shuttle and use the full-size Pain Glove the Chapter had provided them for the purposing of softening up new recruits she could get an additional bonus. Since this was typically used for auguries and similar divinations, this meant that Kyra’s pious Librarian regularly spent time communing with Rogal Dorn via bondage – which is both perfectly canonical and also kind of hilarious.

Still, the long time spent shopping before each mission could be considered a mild flaw in a game which otherwise could be reasonably pick-up-and-play. It would be good if published Deathwatch adventures provided suggested equipment loadouts for different Marine specialities for the mission – perhaps spending all but 10-15 requisition points of the loadout, to allow for a bit of customisation if desired – particularly since this would be a good insurance against the irritation of, say, buying a top-notch anti-Demon weapon only to find you’re coming up against Tyranids. Similarly, it would be nice if the main rulebook offered suggested loadouts for the different specialities at different requisition levels.

Coming Up: The mission actually begins; the party hunts dinosaurs and acquires fanboys.

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13 thoughts on “Fists of Hubris – Part I: Preparing for Fisting

  1. Shimmin Beg

    The other useful thing about the Fists is that their recruiting habits allows for a lot of cultural variance between characters, so you’re not all trying to play people with the same background (and you can adopt a wide variety of silly accents) and you don’t need a hugely in-depth knowledge of the 40Kverse to stay within the bounds of canon.

    Given the way chargen creates Marine with almost-but-not-quite-identical stats, with the potential for rare anomalies (like, ahem, only having one stat above forty) I can’t decide whether a) they might as well just use point-buy or a swappable stat set for Marine characters; or b) there’s minimal potential for problems in it so you might as well roll and have not-quite-identical stats instead.

    Mission default equipment would definitely be a plus, and also fairly canonical as Codex-approved equipment for X type of mission. I think part of the problem was that as low-level new Marines, you’re quite restricted in what you can buy that’s actually better than your starting gear; the Renown system blocks off the more exotic stuff, while some things just cost too much to be worth buying without a strong knowledge of the mission. In my case, I was dithering a lot because most of the equipment we could actually buy was guns, which doesn’t work so well for Assault Marines; any melee weapons better than a chainsword are pretty much Renown-locked. So I ended up poring over obscure grenades and miscellaneous equipment, some of which it later turned out I couldn’t actually use (planning fail).

    The Portaglove was a great idea.

    1. Agreed with all your points here.

      With respect to character gen, the 40K RPGs have inherited from WFRP a fond regard for randomised character gen so I think it is probably more fun to roll randomly, especially since the occasional extreme result can be quite characterful.

      I will look into the Renown and XP owed you guys for the next time we run a mission.

    2. I actually think that randomised character creation works pretty well for 40K precisely because characters are so similar. Because it’s a percentile system with very narrow thresholds, it would otherwise be very easy to min-max in an uninteresting way (all Devastators start with maxed BS, all Assault Marines start with maxed WS and so on). The small amount of randomisation creates variation but allows characters to remain flexible. Something I think we underestimated in the game was the usefulness of everybody actually having above-average scores in most things. With hindsight, it might have been sensible to, for example, buy us a Heavy Weapon each so that if we had to go all Death From Afar we could.

      I agree that suggested loadouts would be a good idea for prewritten missions, although it might be a bit difficult since the number of players is variable. I also think the shopping sequences might work better if they emphasized the group aspect more, that is if they were more willing to say “you get 165 points to spend between you” rather than “you get 55 points each”, that way we might have been more inclined.

      The reputation requirements were particularly annoying, because there was very little you could buy that didn’t (a) have a rep requirement we didn’t meet (b) already come as standard with the gear we had or (c) require skills we didn’t possess. I think that’s part of the reason the shopping took so long.

      Incidentally I found it interesting that you thought all you could buy were guns, because I found almost exactly the opposite problem, all the guns I could buy were worse than the ones I already had. Looking at the list, though, I see that you were rather worse off – the only melee weapon without a Rep requirement is the Chainsword.

      1. I might take a look at the Follower rules to see if there’s any rules for buying Followers for a mission with requisition points. It’d be a good way to get your new recruits involved in future missions at any rate. Plus “how many boys do we want to buy for this mission?” is the sort of phrase which is funny no matter how many times you say it.

      2. Because it’s a percentile system with very narrow thresholds, it would otherwise be very easy to min-max in an uninteresting way (all Devastators start with maxed BS, all Assault Marines start with maxed WS and so on).

        That’s true, but also in keeping with the setting. The Marines with the best prowess in a particular field end up as specialists who keep those skills honed, and those with all-round competence end up as Tacticals. Given the limited stat variance then the effects of the min-maxing would be quite limited. You’re not talking about a Wizard and Fighter with STR 3 INT 18 and STR 18 INT 3 respectively, it’s really a matter of flat 10s and then where you put your 11 and 9. And of course D&Dalikes build in assumed competencies, so a fighter actually has more HP by default. In this case, the Marines still have to decide whether maxed BS is actually more useful than maxed Agility or Toughness, for example, both of which are pretty crucial.

        But mostly what I was thinking was not whether it works well (it seems fine to me) but just whether (given the quite limited variation and its limited effect) it’d be a handy time-saving device to have default stat lines for quick chargen. As I recall we were allowed to swap stats anyway, and can buy stat points for XP, so it wouldn’t make a huge difference.

        it might have been sensible to, for example, buy us a Heavy Weapon each

        …true, but it just wouldn’t feel right, would it?

      3. Arguably your Librarian really didn’t need a heavy weapon because, once we sussed that Smite is an area attack, it turned out to be really pretty good at Horde-smushing, even when Fettered.

      4. That’s true, but also in keeping with the setting.

        Not sure it’s as in keeping as all that actually. I admit that this is going by tabletop canon, but I seem to recall that Devastators and Assault Marines only get BS 4 and WS 4 respectively. And I think canonically *everybody* serves in both Devastator and Assault squads at some point.

        I realize, of course, that this is a side point.

        You’re not talking about a Wizard and Fighter with STR 3 INT 18 and STR 18 INT 3 respectively, it’s really a matter of flat 10s and then where you put your 11 and 9.

        That’s the thing, it’s currently the latter, and I worry a points-buy would see it evolve into the former. Particularly with the way Bonuses work, all 50s and 30s is a much better way to stat yourself up than a mixture of 43s and 37s.

        …true, but it just wouldn’t feel right, would it?

        That’s the problem. A lot of the time, going with what feels right seems to have a good chance of getting your legs ripped off.

      5. I would expand on Dan’s point that the way stat advances work means that even if (say) a Devastator Marine doesn’t start out optimally Devastating, they are likely to get more optimally Devastating as they level up because it will be correspondingly cheaper for them to up their BS compared to less Devastator-critical stata – and that’s before considering any fancy-smancy Talents and whatnot they can buy to make their shooting even more sick.

        If you begin with optimised characters in such a system, then as character progression continues you end up with obscenely sickly optimised characters, whereas the way the system actually works you’ll tend to start with flatline characters who evolve into their full potential as a shooty death spaceman. In retrospect it helps here that I’ve assumed you’re freshly minted from the Scouts because you could be expected to still be growing into your Specialities at this stage of your careers. (Conversely, vanilla Deathwatch assumes that people have been in their Speciality for some time, which is a bit harder to reconcile with a flat statline. Then again vanilla Deathwatch assumes that some people might want to play Ultramarines so what do they know.)

      6. Wow, I really wasn’t expecting a throwaway remark to provoke so much discussion…

        Not sure it’s as in keeping as all that actually. I admit that this is going by tabletop canon, but I seem to recall that Devastators and Assault Marines only get BS 4 and WS 4 respectively. And I think canonically *everybody* serves in both Devastator and Assault squads at some point.

        I was thinking more setting cannon, to be honest, and while I think you’re right about rotation, my vague impression was that Marines still tended towards a niche. Certainly it would fit with how things tend to work IRL. But I may well be wrong. The thing with Tabletop 4s is that Deathwatch could just give you 40 for everything; it’s obviously how those stats equate, but they choose to make things more flexible. You can get a 50 or a 30 whether you roll or pick.

        Sidethought: if the rotation thing is that significant, having discrete Ass/Dev/Tact classes with different talent sets and no possibility of moving between them makes less sense, surely? Or (since I don’t have the rules) can you in fact switch roles between missions?

        That’s the thing, it’s currently the latter, and I worry a points-buy would see it evolve into the former. Particularly with the way Bonuses work, all 50s and 30s is a much better way to stat yourself up than a mixture of 43s and 37s.

        Fair enough, point-buy may not be a great idea, I didn’t really give it much thought. Same problem in quite a lot of games with stat bonuses, of course. What I was mostly thinking of was just a standard array, something like 32 up to 48 in increments, which would hit the same sort of range as dice do.

        The thing is that I really don’t think minmaxing is that effective in a percentile system with limited variation, because you’re mostly talking a few percent on a roll. The only thing that really matters is your bonus, which as you say would lead to margin-buying with a point-buy system. However, it also makes unusual rolls that much more significant. If you happen to roll a 50 instead of a 49, that makes a major difference to your abilities, particularly in a stat like Strength with multipliers. If you roll lots of 39s, then your percentile skill is only fractionally worse than your brothers’, but your bonuses are significantly worse (I’m not begruding, honest!).

        That being said, the fact that stats come in such a limited range means whatever system you’re using, you’re not all that different. You’re still basically talking 8s to 12s, not 3s to 18s.

        the way stat advances work means that even if (say) a Devastator Marine doesn’t start out optimally Devastating, they are likely to get more optimally Devastating as they level up because it will be correspondingly cheaper for them to up their BS compared to less Devastator-critical stats

        That’s true, but it is also true whether you roll up or pick your stats. Basically there are a few main ways to generate a character:
        * You roll some dice in order, and create a character based on those stats. Likely result: you have high scores in the key stats for that role.
        * You roll some dice, then rearrange the stats to suit the character you want. Likely result: you have high scores in the key stats for that role.
        * You use a non-dice system to pick stats. Likely result: you have high scores in the key stats for that role.
        * You roll some dice, ignore them entirely, and pick whatever role you wanted anyway. Likely result: your stats bear no relation to your role. You are less competent at it than average.
        * You deliberately pick a role unsuited to your skills. Result: your stats bear no relation to your role. You are less competent at it than average.

        Three of those result in having higher-than-average scores in the key stats for your role, and the other two are not very common. They’re certainly tricky to justify canonically, because if you’re worse at (say) firing a heavy bolter than the others, Marines are intelligent enough to assign someone else the heavy bolter. So I submit that X Marines tend to start off good at X and will get more optimally Xing/al/y/ine//ish whatever system you use, because of both how people create characters and the class discount system for stat buying.

        I do take your point about optimised characters having a… skill spiral, if you like, but given that there is optimisation anyway and that stat variance is mostly minor, it seems that we’re mostly arguing about whether random optimal stats are qualitatively different from array optimal stats.

        Broadly speaking, what I was wondering was whether in a system with:
        * limited stat variation
        * canonically very similar character abilities
        * bonus thresholds and multipliers that exaggerate the significance of outlying rolls
        a standard array for new characters might be just as good and quicker than rolling dice, and reduce the chance of flukily getting an over- or under-powered character. If you roll three 50s, it makes a substantial difference over 49s in certain circumstances and if assigned to certain stats. A Marine with 50s in Strength, Toughness and Agility will probably get a lot more benefit from them than a Tactical with them in BS, WS and Int. It’s not a major concern, and I’m not suggesting the existing system needs to be cleansed and burned, I just wondered if there was any particular downside to using arrays, and mechanically I suspect not. But there isn’t a substantial problem with the existing method at all.

        Incidentally, I do realise that I seem to be arguing that score differences are:
        * not significant; and
        * significant
        but I think basically they’re insignificant as individual scores on the grand scale because of the fairly limited variation, but potentially significant as sets of scores.

  2. A related thought. Because most of my stats were below the 40 threshold, I ended up spending significant chunks of my XP to bump a couple of stats over it and get the bonus. Obviously I didn’t actually have to do that, but it seemed like a high priority to avoid being mediocre. If I’d had 41s in those, I probably wouldn’t have bothered, and would have picked up skills or talents instead, giving me more customisation.

    (sorry I keep using my low rolls in the example, I’m honestly not ticked off about it, I just don’t have any others to draw on)

    1. I’ll let the players address this one in depth since I’ve already gone into some detail in the other posts.

      From a GMly perspective the party as a whole seemed like a bunch of classic-style Space Marines who happened to be especially in tune with what they wanted from their battle-brothers and what their battle-brothers wanted from them. Silliness was frequent enough to be amusing without being so frequent as to displace the actual mission.

  3. The Imperial Fists came into focus because Arthur’s reviewed a couple of Fist-themed books, including a gamebook, and talked to us a lot about them; I’ve read one many years ago and I think Dan’s read at least one of them. We had a lot of fun talking about it, and Kyra suggested doing some kind of game, though I don’t know if she was initially thinking RPG or trying the gamebook. Since Arthur’s run a lot of 40K RPGs he offered to run some Fisting for us and we all jumped at it. I don’t know whether Kyra would have been that interested in playing another chapter with less lol potential, as she’s not really into 40K. Anyway, we knew it would be a fairly entertaining game without anything too heavy, which does make it easier to jump in without worrying about whether you’ll feel like a game that day.

    The tone balance seemed pretty solid to me – plenty of opportunities for amusement and appreciating the elevenness and more ridiculous elements of the setting, but with serious objectives to complete and a straight-faced approach in character. The Fists weren’t there to enjoy themselves, after all. So my character Nikolai was inclined to spout quotes, and our librarian’s pious devotion to Rogal Dorn (and incidentally, heavy BDSM) was an example to all, which amused the players but was perfectly serious IC. The missions, problems and solutions were all serious enough and sensible enough IC, they just… happened to involve more nudity and oiled man-muscles than the writers may have intended. To put it another way, I think you could write them up as a story without it seeming any sillier than existing canon.

    It was great.

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