The Meaning Behind Bat-cow

I ain’t joking.  Also major spoilers inbound.

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That is a canon event that took place in Batman Incorporated written by Grant Morrison.  It documents the return of Batman after he returned from his temporal journey.

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This happened.

The events of Batman Incorporated follow the Bat family and Bruce Wayne’s announcement that Wayne Enterprises will formally be funding Batman.  This will allow Batman to “franchise” heroes around the globe for a crime fighting initiative.

Read the comic if you want the full story.  What I want to focus on is Damian Wayne and Bat-cow.

Damian Wayne is Bruce Wayne’s son.  His conception depends heavily on what comic you are reading: a non-canon appearance takes place in Batman: Son of the Demon, while Damian’s official unveiling was in the Batman and Son arc.  Bruce did not know about Damian until Damian was approximately 10 years old.  He was raised by the League of Assassins and trained to kill people in the name of justice.

Damian’s biological mother is Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul.  She brings Damian to Bruce for what was the pairs first meeting.  Damian famously quips to Bruce (who is in full Batman getup no less), “I imagined you taller.”

An interesting duality has always existed between Batman and the League of Assassins.  They both want justice in the world.  They identify what is and is not just in similar manners.  The main difference is: Batman believes in the criminal justice system, while the League of Assassins believes in killing criminals.

The events of Batman and Son have Damian dawning a makeshift Robin outfit and fleeing into the city to fight crime.  This was the birth of the 5th canon Robin.  A Robin that kills villains.

Shortly thereafter, Batman dies during the events of Final Crisis when he solo-tanks Darkseid’s Omega Beams and is thrown backwards in time.  Damian Wayne becomes Robin to Dick Graysons Batman during the events of Battle for the Cowl.  

When Bruce Wayne returns we finally see Batman and Robin as father and son.  We also see that grinding of philosophies.  Bruce Wayne not only has to be Batman, but he also has to be a father.  Controlling Damian is difficult because Damian is very skilled at what he does and he is impulsive in the beginning.  He is too arrogant to admit he is wrong about anything, but his eternal struggle will always be to reject what he was trained to do.

During the events of Batman Incorporated, while on the trail of a group called Leviathan they end up having a conflict in a slaughterhouse.  Coincidentally, they save the life of a cow.  They go to leave but Damian declares they will save this cow instead.  They deliver Bat-cow to the Batcave, and to a bemused Alfred.

Many fans that I’ve talked to play Bat-cow off as a joke.  But when you think about it- writing a comic isn’t something you frequently improvise on the fly.  Grant Morrison wrote this beast into the story for a reason, even if it is amusing.

When Damian saved Bat-cow in that slaughterhouse, he didn’t surreptitiously pluck the cow from the jaws of death.  He saw himself in that cow and rejected its life’s purpose as preordained.  Damian wants to believe that he more than how he was raised.

Damian was raised in a laboratory; in a false womb.  He was birthed in a cold, calculated environment.  He was carefully bred from what Talia considered the highest pedigree.  His life’s purpose was selected for him.  Damian was trained to become a bloodthirsty assassin.

Then he met his father.  A paragon of justice the world over.  He loves his father and wants his father to be proud of him.  So how do you reconcile your life up to that point?  How do you just change who you are?  How do you reject what your life’s entire purpose was?

Damian saved Bat-cow because he wanted, no, he needed to believe that things can be different.  This cow was raised on a farm, for a purpose it had no choice in.  Its entire life was preordained from birth and Damian needed to know that these threads could be cut.

The events of Batman Incorporated end in Gotham City.  It is revealed that Damian’s mother was the one behind Leviathan.  Her great warrior Heretic, who had been hounding the heroes throughout the volume, was revealed to be another clone of Damian.  A genetically modified one.

We see it one more time, that duality between the Bat-family and the League of Assassins.  Damian Wayne goes to fight Heretic.  Heretic was another child that was bred to kill in the name of justice, and Damian- who has realized the good there is in believing in justice.  Damian faces the monster he could have become had he not met his father.

At the end we see what Damian believes in, and he dies for it.

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Damian rejected his upbringing.  He rejected his mother.  Talia al Ghul saw him as useless at that moment.  A son that had been raised with a purpose, refusing to become what he was raised to become.

So she had him slaughtered.  Slaughtered like cattle.

Damian Wayne is my favorite Robin, and he is high on the list of my favorite comic book characters.  His arc is a complex and subtle one.  Over the course of the comics we learn so much about who he is and who he wants to be.  Damian talks a big game about being the next Batman, but inside he is a scared child.  Scared of disappointing his father, and scared of failing in his role.

There are a ton of poignant moments in the New 52 run of Batman and Robin.  We see him balancing being a hero, being a son, and being a kid.  He is young.  And for his age he has to deal with some hard shit.  Rejecting who he was before Batman is a continuous thing Damian deals with.  Throughout volumes of comics.  Is he doing the right thing?  Will he ever live up to the Bat-families standards?

Or was he just cattle?

He chose not to be.

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-DTM

Becoming a Piece of Art

No matter how hard I try to plan out my week, I always end up writing my post at the last minute. I spent most of last night working on a birthday gift, reading American Gods, and wrangling a baby ferret.

Fijit figured out how to get into the kitchen sink last night. I definitely need that extra reflex save bonus because Fijit’s cuteness will only save her up to a point. I definitely need an extra benefit to owning this little ball of mischief.

Thankfully, I pretty much know exactly what I want to write about. I want to write about tattoos.

This past Tuesday I had work done on my Ganondorf thigh piece. I’ve been a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda series my entire life and I’ve always wanted a tattoo to reflect my love. I already have a Navi piece on my shoulder and a Majora’s Mask tribute on my other thigh, but I really wanted a massive tribute to my absolute favorite villain of all time, Ganondorf, so I sat down with my artist and we came up with a fucking massive tribute to him.

Whenever I get a new tattoo I get asked the same set of questions: How much did it cost? What does it mean? Why did you get it? How are you going to feel about it when you’re 50?

Well, I’d like to answer these question here so whenever I get these questions I can just refer them here.

How much did it cost?

Obviously I can’t create a “stock” answer for this question because every tattoo is different. My Ganondorf piece at this point has cost four times as much as my bees and it’s still in progress.

The question I can answer is how do I justify paying so much money for a tattoo? Why do I spend so much money on tattoos?

Well, first of all, I don’t have to justify my choices to anyone but myself and my spouse. As long as our bills are paid and our quality of life is stable, I can spend my money how I choose. Also, I bet if I add up all the money you spend on going out to each and getting fancy lattes and buying new clothing, it would be comparable to how much I shell out for a tattoo. So don’t judge!

I choose to sacrifice my ability to go out to eat and buy new clothing all the time because I want quality tattoos. I’m turning myself into a piece of art and I want to make sure it’s good art. If I have to spend a little extra cash that’s fine by me.

What does it mean?

This is another question that will have different answers depending on the tattoo. My slug tattoo is for my grandmother who used to collect banana slugs for her Master Gardeners group. My paw prints are for my beautiful babies, Bandito, Crush, Fijit, and Herman, and for all of my future ferrets.

Well, on the other hand, my bees are just because I like the phrase “bees knees.” My Zelda tattoos are because I like Zelda. Definitely not as poetic as my other tattoos, but again I don’t have to justify my decisions to other people. Getting a tattoo because it’s cute is just as valid as getting a tattoo for a deep personal reason.

Why did you get it?

Why do I get tattoos rather than, for example, investing in art that represents parts of my life? Well, first of all, I like tattoos. I love how tattoos look and how they make me feel. Second of all, there’s something very satisfying about permanently displaying a part of your personality on your skin.

Let me explain.

There are so many instances in our lives where we have to conform to other people’s expectations. When we go to work or go to family functions we have to fit this specific image and it never stops. We never get a reprieve and it’s exhausting. It’s during these moments, when I’m “playing a part,” that my tattoos are the most comforting. Yes, I have to stand up in front of these people and be this other person, but underneath my blazer or my slacks my true personality is permanently displayed on my skin. The world can’t take that away from me.

And, when I get home and change back into my comfy clothes, I get to look in the mirror and be reminded of who I really am.

Wow, I’m feeling very emo. Excuse me while I go to Hot Topic and purchase some band t-shirts and fish nets.

How are you going to feel about it when you’re 50?

Now this question is the most infuriating for me because the person is obviously assuming I didn’t think this through. I know exactly how long tattoos last, thank you very much.

Anyway, I know for a fact that I’m going to love my tattoos when I’m 50. Reason one: I’m going to be able to look back on my life and know that I did what I wanted when I wanted. Regret goes both ways, my friend. I could regret getting these tattoos or I could regret being too afraid to go out and get inked.

Reason two: Yes, maybe in 30 years I won’t be as in love with Legend of Zelda or bees or ferrets, but for right now these things are my world. These tattoos not only represent my life, they represent a time in my life that I will always look back on fondly. When I’m 50 I’ll look at my skin and remember who I was in my 20s and it will warm my heart.

Reason three: These tattoos are officially a part of my body. Yes, I might look at them and wish something was different, but after carrying them with me for 30+ years I’ll have come to accept them as part of me. Does that make sense? I guess when I think about hating my tattoos, I compare it to hating my nose or my thighs. Yes, there could be days I dislike them, but it’s important to accept the things you cannot change. I realize that I didn’t actively choose to make my nose look the way it does or to make my thighs thick, like how I chose to get a tattoo, but still I’m not going to waste energy hating parts of my body or regretting my decisions.

Sorry! This was quite a rambly post for me. Hopefully this all makes sense.

-EMS

Murder Hobos to a New Extent

It’s almost fitting that this post follows my previous one debating what to do about my players inaction.

So Pretzel just glanced at my screen and burst out laughing.  So for those who do not know: murder hobos.

Murder hobos is a slang term for Dungeons and Dragons adventurers.  You are a murder hobo because traditionally the players go from town to town killing people.  A vagrant that walks into town, kills the local problem, and rides off into the sunset.

My players killed approximately 100,000 people in one stroke.  So my players are winning this unspoken competition.

As always: the explanation.  My players were sent to a planet owned by another Rogue Trader.  A queen from one of the kingdoms had recently been kidnapped and she wished to return to the feudal world kingdom to save her daughter.  When she attempted to return to the planet herself her reemergence from a space ship sent the populous into an uproar.  So she hires some intrepid explorers to go in and retrieve her daughter.

Stuff happens.  They manage to infiltrate the capital city where the castle is located (and presumably the princess) but the problem came when they had to escape.  The riotous mob had located them and it was a long, dramatic gunfight through a dense city.  Seven explorers doing combat with approximately 50,000 angry civilians.  It was a very tense ending to the session.

When my players returned to their ship, they silently agreed to destroy the city entirely.  They lowered their 8 kilometer ship into orbit and blasted the city into a black smear ala Rogue One.

I was really enjoying the session!  My players, for the first time, we’re working together as a unit.  They understood the risks and we’re working to make sure that everyone passed tests as a group.  I was very excited.

Then they committed genocide.  Now- it makes sense.  It was an emotional reaction to what they had just escaped.  The session was supposed to end on a juxtaposition of a reunited family against the burning capital city below.

What I found curious, and on some levels worrisome, is that they all just allowed this to happen.  There was no deliberation over the event.  There wasn’t a discussion about what the super advanced race of people should do.  They showed up as angry gods and delivered an apocalypse from the sky.

So an emotional reaction- which is fine.  But without anyone asking questions are debating what course of action should be taken, will they understand any repercussions I deliver against them in the next session?  I don’t jump in to remind them of things when they do discuss action together because I want them to ask questions.  I cannot expect them to know the universe, but on some level their characters do.

Should their be a penalty for them not asking, “What would happen if-?”

Realistically here’s what should happen:

The players failed to scan the system so they did not notice the reclamation satellites in the system, and more importantly the Aquila Magnificus located on the planet.

They knew that the planet was owned by another Rogue Trader.  They did not investigate who owned the planet at the time and did not ask what this Rogue Trader might do with a feudal world.  Things that some of their characters likely know, but they didn’t think to ask I suppose.

Now in their defense they didn’t know the city would rise against them and chase them through the city.  Killing civilians in self defense would not have warranted more than a miffed Rogue Trader.  Which I’m sure is what they thought when they vaporized the city.  But they also didn’t ask me, “Will they know?”

So given the circumstances.

Do I give them a break as the GM and gloss over this or do I do what should happen.

So killing approximately 100,000 people is obviously a cruel retribution.  And there is no way that the crew of their ship will be quiet about this when they return to Port Footfall.  So word will get out.

The Aquila Magnificus is a dedicated beacon that summons the Ecclesiarchy.  The Ecclesiarchy are the arm of the Imperium that spreads the Imperial Creed.  Similar to religious missionaries..  And a mysterious ship came and destroyed a huge part of their flock that was promised them.

So the Ecclesiarchy will be furious, and the Rogue Trader will essentially be out a lot of money.  Word gets out on Port Footfall.  Rich people grease some palms and the party will be discovered probably within 3 months.

It will likely be a much shorter time before that Rogue Trader knows.  Days I’d bet.  I know this because of super secret GM stuff, but the players will be finding out in the next session.

I’m not sure yet what I should do.  I don’t want to seem “unfair” because essentially to many of my players it will likely feel like I’m abusing my power as the GM to promote my agenda of not killing 100,000 people per session.  They didn’t ask me questions so they did not have a clear vision of what would happen.

Will they blame me for not telling them ahead of time?  Is it my duty to tell them ahead of time?

But at the same time the universe should feel like it has a real world feel to it with real repercussions for player actions.

So Emily.

What do I do?

-Agonizing GM

Handling Stress Like a Champ

As you already know, this week has been crazy. Next week I’m travelling to Virginia for a conference and I have been desperately trying to get everything done before I leave at 5 a.m. on Monday. I’ve been so busy I’ve been taking my work home and working until about 7:30 at night. After I put my work away, I usually turn on Netflix and have a beer to recover.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just trying to set the scene because, after scouring my brain for writing topics, I finally settled on something I’ve been familiar with this week: stress.

I am absolutely no stranger to stress. In high school, I took Advanced Placement classes and participated in the marching band cult. In college, I took an average of 5 classes a semester, worked part time, had an internship with the communication department, and helped run the Association for Women in Communication. Honestly, between the ages of 15 and 22, I was made entirely of stress.

Nowadays, my life’s a bit more lowkey. I work 40 hours a week and, after work, I go home and do what I want. So this week has been a little rough because I’m definitely out of practice with the whole managing my frustration thing. I’ve really had to summon up the work ethic and serenity I had in college.

Before I jump into my methods for stress management, I don’t want this to be a humble brag. I know in high school and college I was an overachiever and was even called a “unicorn student” by my advisors. I’ve never sought out that type of glory and I absolutely don’t revel in it. It’s just who I am and I’ve come to accept it. I’m a neurotic ball of nerves when it comes to work and I would definitely not recommend being like me.

0 out of 10, would not recommend being me.

Here are my tips for managing stress. This post is honestly more for me than it is for you, Daniel, or even our readers. I will be referring back to this while I’m in Virginia to keep me from pulling my hair out.

  1. Make a list of the shit you gotta do: Yes, this is a very basic tip, one you probably learned in your high school health class, but it fucking works. I still rely on my to do lists because it takes  that overwhelming sense of “oh fuck, I have so much to do” and puts it on paper. When I looked at my list for this week, I actually only had like four things to do and four things is much easier to swallow than a million things.
  2. Prioritize that shit: Again, a simple tip, but when I say prioritize I don’t mean just list things in the order you should do them. First, list things as “I will die if I do not do this” or “I can survive without doing this.” Then, move on to what you need to do to keep your job and your house. Then and only then figure out what order you should do it in. When you first start making your list, you might feel like everything on your list is life or death. I can assure you that it’s seriously not. Me printing the materials for my meeting seemed like a huge ordeal, but it did not come before me calling my student loan provider to pay my bill because not paying that bill could compromise my financial situation. See? It’s easy when you think about it.
  3. Make sure you make time for you: This might seem to contradict the last point I made, but I would argue making time to relax is essential to surviving. If I just wallowed in my stress and continued to work through the night, I would feel like death all week. I’ve been making time for Netflix and beer because, without it, I might not survive to make it to work the next day and then nothing would get done.
  4. Budget your time: This is essential, especially when I’m working on a writing piece. It’s so easy to spend hours and hours working on a piece and forget you have other things to do. So, when I’m at work, I set time limits on certain project. For example, yesterday, I have myself three hours to draft my homepage article. No more, no less. That way not only could I get that article done, I wouldn’t waste an entire afternoon switching out adverbs to make the article perfect.
  5. Accept that not everything will get done: This is where that prioritized list comes in. Sometimes you just honestly do not have the time to finish everything and instead of compromising your sanity to try and get everything done, you just need to accept it. I did. This week I had an annual report I needed to finish, but it was such a big task I knew if I worked on it I wouldn’t be able to do anything else. So I took a look at my list of “what do I need to do to keep my job?” and decided that the little things were more important than the report. And guess what? I felt so much fucking better.

Those are my tips for how to survive stress. Hopefully these are helpful.

Also, have I mentioned how much I’m looking forward to Saturday?

-EMS

 

“We’re done. We’re ready for whatever…”

That was said to me by some of my players last session.

Maybe not verbatim but definitely that meaning.  They were done doing stuff and were ready for whatever I had in store.

This really disheartened me.  And in some ways it confused me.

During my last post I talked about how they finished the first quest and they were free to roam the Koronus Expanse.  And I was really excited about this because it means I didn’t have to railroad them.  I didn’t have to explicitly control what they do.

I wanted them to feel slightly underpowered in the beginning.  I gave each of them a boon (kinda like a wish) and they each got some totally bitching archeotech (analogous to magical items) equipment.  So now they are powerful, they are much richer, with a spaceship that they had to work together to protect.

It also meant that I could slow down the missions and take more time to write them since my players have the option of fucking off around the Koronus Expanse.  I prepared a lot of star systems to explore so that there were real things they could encounter.

I wrote missions and populated a job board for them with options.  Quests they could take to represent people coming to the party and looking for explorers to hire.

I prepared a lot for the first session of freedom in the Expanse.  We sat down and I presented them with their badass equipment.  I was eager to see what they wanted to do.  After most of an hour they all sort of just looked at me.

“We’re ready for whatever.”

I-

What?

You can do whatever you want?  I’m taking my hands of the wheel for the first time.  Does no one have anything they want to do?  I think in the moment my façade broke and my exasperation showed.  Not a single player in seven had something they wanted to pursue.  The players talk a lot but I was hoping this was the moment that character building moments and events could take place.

After I prompted them they finally decided on a mission.  But I’ve been thinking about that moment all week.

Maybe the issue is that the world is too big?  The ‘blue sky’ problem definitely comes up.  When someone comes up to you and says, “You can do whatever you want!” you get far more intimidated and stumped than when someone says, “Choose A or B.”

A bit of it must be that the people aren’t familiar with the Universe.  And there isn’t shit I can do about that.  The lore is all available but I’m not going to demand that they read it all.

Also the fact that its a sci-fi universe is more difficult as well.  Dungeons and Dragons should just be called “Familiar and Safe Tolkien Fantasy Tropes.”  Its way easier to function in DnD campaign because its much smaller in scope.  A sci fi universe typically involves spaceships and galaxies.  You don’t have magic to rely on, you have to get clever with your thinking and how you use technology.

Part of the opening missions was teaching them about the various things that can be done.  How to information gather, negotiate, evaluate stuff.  I was hoping that would carry over but maybe they thought the only reason we were doing this was for a specific events.  I suppose I can still be explicit about what needs to be done but I want to put currency back in the players hands by pitting them against interesting challenges.  If I write the challenge and then prompt them on how to beat it its less satisfying for them.

I think in my effort to teach everyone first and let them free second I’ve accidentally set up a standard of “you don’t need to do anything because its all preordained.”

On another level I think that some of the players aren’t really fully invested.  No one asked me to run a campaign because they wanted one.  I decided to run one and asked who wanted to play.  And that distinction is important.

Ellis is going to run a Dungeons and Dragons 5.0 campaign and some players seem to be much more excited.  They are really diving into the rule books and looking at how their character is going to develop.  This is a campaign that people asked Ellis to do, so they are far more excited.

This isn’t a bad thing but I think my Rogue Trader campaign isn’t necessarily a huge deal.  Saturdays (when we play) isn’t necessarily “we play Rogue Trader on Saturdays” as much as it is “we all hang out on Saturday and play Rogue Trader.”  It seems the same when its written but the difference is that for some of my players they don’t care if we play or not.  Hanging out is what we do on Saturdays.  They don’t look forward to playing Rogue Trader, they look forward to hanging out.

Hell, one of my players brought board games to play when he came to session on Saturday “in case we didn’t play.”

In the end we have fun and that’s what I prioritize.  I have fun and I think most of my players do.  Their personal engagement might not align with mine but in a group of seven players its probably hard for all of them to be on the same page.  Writing for Rogue Trader has been a fun and unique challenge.  Learning to manage my players and expectations will just be a new challenge.

And don’t get me wrong, some of my players get really invested in certain scenarios and that’s so much fun for me to write for.  Its a mixed bag but hopefully with time everything will be sculpted into a deep, rich campaign.

I just wasn’t ready for, “We’re done.  We’re ready for whatever…”

-DTM

 

 

 

Cutting out the Middleman

After many infuriating hours of trying to jog my memory, I finally remembered what I wanted to write about. Note to self: in the future, write my ideas down. Just taking a second to jot this down would have saved me hours of frustration. What I wanted to write about was how spectacular it is that sites like Paypal, Ko-Fi, Patreon, and Kickstarter exist.

Recently, I’ve been trying to find easy ways to put a few extra dollars in my pocket. I have a full time job with decent pay, but having some extra money to throw at my student loans would be very, very nice. I’ve looked into freelance writing and other flexible online jobs, but I’ve been having an incredibly hard time getting hired. I’m sure thousands of people, in similar situations, are applying for these positions and it’s so hard to sell yourself over email. So what’s a woman with some debt to pay to do?

I know I have talent, but how can I make money from it if I can’t convince big companies to hire me? Well, the answer is easy. Skip the big companies and go right to the consumers.

I’ll admit the internet has it’s problems. It’s my primary source of procrastination. I waste a ton of time mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr and Twitter, time I could be using to actually improve my life.  On the other hand, the internet has created a whole new way to make money from art. It’s cut out the middleman by giving artists, writers, and other creative people the ability to let their work speak for themselves.

So before I jump into this, let me just clear something up. I define art as anything that is creative. Therefore, despite what a lot of people think, to me the term artist includes painters, sketchers, writers, dancers, musicians, poets, and basically everyone who creates things to make people feel something. I consider myself an artist, despite the fact that I do not paint or draw or sculpt. I am an artist who works with words and yarn, sometimes at the same time.

Anyway, before the internet, only a few very lucky artists could live off of their work. An artist would not only have to be talented and hardworking to make money, they would also have to be in the right place at the right time to find their audience. Now, with the invention of the internet, the world is a much, much smaller place. My work might be very niche, but now, using the internet, I can find that niche even if it’s on another continent.

Now I’m not going to lie, finding a freelance writing job would be much, much easier.in terms of making quick money. Making money online takes a lot of hard work, but at least my work would get to speak for itself. I can say on a resume that I am a good writer, but a person would actually have to read my work before they would really believe that.

So, I guess I need to think about where to start? I’ve been working on opening an Etsy shop, so should I also look into selling my writing skills? Looking at my student loans, maybe that’s not such a bad plan.

-EMS

 

Flee to the Koronus Expanse

Rogue Trader is an RPG system set in the 40k Universe.  The primary setting is the Koronus Expanse; a vast region of space beyond the Halo Stars.  It sits behind two great Warp storms: the Screaming Vortex and the Void Dancer’s Roil.  The gap between the two is known at the Maw.  What makes the Koronus Expanse the primary place setting is that until recently it had been lost.

Faster than light travel involves entering an alternate dimension known as the Immaterium, more commonly known as the Warp.  A realm made of emotion made manifest and an infinite number of daemons.

The route through the Maw into the Koronus Expanse was re-discovered within the last two or so hundred years.  It’s an entire segmentum of the galaxy with hundreds of millions of planets for the taking.  The players play as a party of explorers under the helm of a person known as a Rogue Trader.  A Rogue Trader has been granted the right to represent and claim planets and territories in the name of the God-Emperor of  humanity.

So go explore and have fun!

So naturally I did not start my group in the Koronus Expanse.  I started them in the Calixis Sector.  I have seven players and five of them have never played Rogue Trader, it’s a brand new d10 system they need to learn, and the classes do not translate straight across to fantasy (i.e.  there is no designated ‘tank’ or ‘healer).

I wanted to start my party in the Calixis Sector because its a much easier place to introduce the world.  It’s a part of the galaxy under the influence of the Imperium of Man.  I never liked the “you all meet serendipitously” method of starting a campaign- so I like to start them in a “you’ve all been hired for X” plan.

Writing the ‘Opening Mission’ was the most difficult thing I’ve written by far.  Mostly because I wanted to introduce almost all of the mechanics of the game to them.  Combat, Space combat, interaction challenges, exploration challenges, covert ops challenges, space travel, warp travel, investigation, purchasing personal things, outfitting the ship, entering and exiting port, etc…

So I wrote an escort mission.  My players began on the Hive World (industrial/labor planets) of Gunpoint and they commandeered a ship that was provided for them and they set off.  A lot more happens in between missions but the short hand goes like thus:

The players were assembled on the planet Gunpoint.  They were briefed: they had to go to a penal planet of Sheol XVII.  They needed to escape Gunpoint, however, because there were armed men hunting them.  They were promptly ambushed but managed to escape.  Once upon their ship they fled the planet.  The first mate aboard the ship was named Havoc, and he explained a little more of the situation.  They made their way to Sheol XVII.  Having duped a pair of ‘police’ ships, they got inside the planets perimeter.  They picked up a man named Killian Rage.  Havoc and Killian Rage go way back, having known each other for several decades.

Killian explained that Sarvus Trask, a prominent Rogue Trader, was hunting him.  Sarvus betrayed Killian; he used him as a scapegoat for a political deal and had him imprisoned as a sign of good faith.  So now Killian Rage is attempting to return to the Koronus Expanse and Sarvus is trying to stop him.

Once they escape Sheol XVII they go to the feral world Endrite to raid a facility belonging to Trask.  They successfully make it planetside, make their way on foot to the facility, and raid it for all of the supplies.  Unfortunately though, the supplies that were supposed to outfit their ship were merely cleaning chemicals.

They then went to Thical, a prominent hive world near the Maw.  They went to fence the stolen goods but they were met with a counter proposal from their agent: retrieve my stolen valuable thing and I’ll pay you well.  The players expertly infiltrated the facility and found the relic, but had to chase the men down to retrieve it.  They returned it to the agent who paid them and re-supplied their ship.

As they were about to leave Thical Sarvus Trask found them.  In the final days of the re-supply he encountered and captured Havoc in the city.  Amassing a fighting force, he appeared suddenly, murdered Havoc in front of them, and stormed the players ship on the dock.  It was a fight for their ship and their freedom.  It also turned out that their one time ally had been paid to turn on them and dealt a serious blow to the ship.  During the battle several players were critically wounded including Killian Rage who had his left arm completely chopped off.

They escaped after repulsing Sarvus Trask and fled to Port Wander, the final stop this side of the Maw.  On Wander they got their ship re-supplied, hired a new crew, and fixed their broken components.  Once ready, they plunged through the Maw into the Koronus Expanse.  Port Footfall is the stop on the far side of the Maw.  Once on port, Killian introduces them to his old flames father, Zulfikar Raheem, who pays them handsomely.

And then Killian leaves, unsure whether he’ll ever see the party again.

So a lot of this mission was a “connect the dots” sort of mission that allowed me to teach my players the various components of being alive and in the 40k universe.  A lot of this was just me being like, “Hey, this could be totally cool.”

But a small portion of the missions were me reconciling my last campaign that was a failure because I had never GM’ed before.  My first campaign as GM was fun but it got super duper turbo derailed because I didn’t understand how to tell the story.

Killian Rage was an NPC pirate lord in my first campaign.  For me, and I think for my players, he was one of the popular elements in the campaign.  So I began having him show up just to keep interest high and to give them a “Team Rocket” sort of half-antagonist.  He was eventually killed by the party.

Killian Rage represents me in the campaign they are currently playing in.  I gave him no voice, I made him very Mary Sue, and he didn’t talk much but he always knew or had just what the party needed (because I am the GM).  His plan to get them to the Koronus Expanse was a representation of my first campaign and how it goes terribly wrong.  Killian assumed it would be really easy since he knows everything he needs to but doesn’t consider that others will act in ways he can’t predict.  My players behaved in ways I didn’t predict.

Sarvus Trask kills his blood brother Havoc in front of him and Killian becomes ‘disarmed.’  He literally lost his left arm when Sarvus Trask cut it off, a nod to my loss of control from the first campaign, and his brother  Havoc was killed in front of him, a nod to Killian dying in the first campaign.  And when Killian lost Havoc he was lost without him- a feeling I felt when Killian was killed in the first campaign.

So the ‘Opening Mission’ ends with Killian introducing the party to Zulfikar Raheem.  Zulfikar agrees to pay the party when he learns that Killian lost Havoc.  Zulfikar had a daughter once, but she fell in love with Killian and left with him to go on adventures.  She never returned, and Zulfikar blames Killian for her absence.

So when Killian returns asking for a favor (that he knows he has no right to ask) Zulfikar only grants that favor when he learns that Killian is experiencing the same grief that he is.  He pays them, but as a mockery to Killian.  As Killian is leaving the facility, unsure of his future in the Koronus Expanse, he dons Havoc’s blood stained cloak and leaves.

The mockery and departure of Killian, and generous payment to the players, is a reminder to myself that this campaign is happening because of the mistakes I made in the first one. I learned from my experience and here we are now.  My first one was a confused mess but it makes me a better GM for my players now.

My players are here, they’ve earned their wings, and now I don’t need to escort them anymore.  

I feel like this campaign is already way better than the first.  For instance, people actually liked Killian as an NPC.  I even had an instance of a player conversing with him in character.  That last session where they make it to Footfall and Killian leaves- I have been told was a really good session by a few and in one instance a players favorite they’ve ever been in.

That makes me smile to think about.  I think I have a lot of room to grow as a GM in this campaign and I look forward to it.  So yeah, I feel better about this campaign.  Especially now where we get to the point where its really easy to lose control.  But I’m ready.

And don’t worry.

Killian will be back.  Eventually.

-DTM