Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gamer ADD: WH40K Campaign

Grrr… this is what happens when I don't get to play as regularly as I want.

So, despite the fact that life continues to happen (severely limiting the time I have to dedicate this sort of thing) two comments from my last couple of posts have fired my imagination in a way that is extremely difficult for me to ignore (Gamer ADD — an affliction even the best of us suffer from).

Anthony said of this post:
This sounds like a lot of fun, giving space for all sorts of adventures and, if the chests were lost years ago, historical detective work. In fact, this campaign would also work with "modern" games, such as Call of Cthulhu. I'd be very tempted to add "competitors," say after the 2nd or 3rd chest was recovered, to give the party a sense that Bad Things would happen, if the relics were to fall into the wrong hands.
TheMetal1 said of this post:
And...so...What are you waiting for?!! Get this campaign rolling and run it online through Google+ or on a Virtual Table Top like FGII!
Anthony made me realize that the campaign idea I had laid out with lost relics could very easily be applied to the WH40K campaign that TheMetal1 has so enthusiastically demanded that I do. Unfortunately, my gaming budget does not have any room for a $30 .pdf of a rule system I am not even sure I would want to play; however, Sine Nomine’s Stars Without Number has a free edition. Since it is based on a system I am very familiar with (old school D&D) it means that not only will it be easy for me to run such a game, but it is flexible enough to easily accommodate the various peculiarities of the 40K universe.

I occasionally can’t sleep and over the weekend I spent some time perusing the Warhammer 40000 wiki and found myself a planet that could serve very well as a basis for a campaign: Black Reach. There are several reasons why I find this local to be ideal (many of which fall into the category of classic D&D campaign tropes):

  • The system lies in the Ultima Segmentum, which is on the imperial frontier.
  • A bunch of races can be found in the Ultima Segmentum (both friendly and antagonistic). Eldar, Tau, Tyranids, Orcs and Chaos are explicitly named, and there is plenty of room to include Abhumans, Dark Eldar, Necrons and Squats as well as all sorts of unexplained xenoforms.
  • Black Reach is a Hive World — it has giant multi-level cities capable of supporting a population in the billions. It also means that it is the equivalent of a giant megadungeon.
  • Black Reach was also recently decimated by a recent invasion of orcs — the entire northern hemisphere was left in ruin.
  • Despite the fact that the Ultramarines beat back the invading orc horde, (given a little change in tense) there are still pockets of orcs that need to be eliminated by the local population (i.e. adventuring parties).
  • There is a precedent for Space Marine chapters to have relics. The Ultramarines, in particular, have quite a few.
  • The thing that I like best about Black Reach, however, is that all the information I can find about it is this paragraph:
Black Reach is the Imperial Hive World in the Ultima Segmentum fought over by the Ultramarines 2nd Company under Captain Cato Sicarius and the Goff Clan Orks under the Warlord Zanzag following the invasion of Black Reach in 855.M41 by WAAAGH! Zanzag. As an Imperial Hive World, Black Reach's massive hive cities are home to billions of Imperial citizens. Much of the planet's population was slain during WAAAGH! Zanzag, and the northern continent of the world was completely ruined by the intensity of the fighting. After the defeat of Zanzag by the Imperial forces, Black Reach's inhabitants still had to take back the rest of their world from the pockets of surviving Greenskins.
    Other than this, there is no canon that I have to worry about. It doesn’t even appear on any of the maps I have found of the WH40K universe. Given that there are a million planets within Imperial space, that means I have the freedom to create the entire sector of space in which Black Reach is found.
The initial adventure will hold out a carrot to the party — a Letter of Marque, which gives them the freedom and authority to go anywhere within the Black Reach Sector. This will give them a bunch of planets to explore, and provide a reasonable limit on their activities to make life easier for me.

In addition, since Stars Without Number is based on older editions of D&D, I can easily import various classes from D&D and its clones. I expect to have the following:

  • Dwarves as a stand-in for Squats.
  • Halflings as a stand-in for Ratlings.
  • A modified version of Elf (combining Psychic and Warrior) as a stand-in for Eldar.
  • The Replicant class as detailed in Section 9 of Mutant Future as a stand-in for Abhumans (like Beastmen and Ogryns).
  • The Cleric class to represent the prophets of the 41st century Christians, whose turning ability will work against both Chaos and the Necrons.


  1. Father Dave, Diggin that you'll have Squats in this of course they we're "officially" lunch for the Tyrnaids and no longer exisit, rumor has it the "Demiurge" are the space dwarves we hope to see one day in the future.

    Stars without Number looks interesting, and here is a link to the "Retired Adventurer" blog with some 40K Conversions for SWN.


    All that being said, I would suggest you check out the Rogue Trader free introductory adventure "Forsaken Bounty" with basic rules included here:

    All of FFG's 40K RPGs have free adventures (multiple) that can give you a feel for the rules and the universe without going overboard. It is mostly d% with modifiers. So even with the minimum rules, a game would be easy to run (having done so with the Dark Heresy one).

    Also for your consideration is the most excellent rules light Space game "X-Plorers" by the most esteemed of gaming publishers Brave Halfling, also easily adapted to the 40K universe.

    1. Thanks for the links. I'll still acknowledge the "official" story of the Squats homeworld getting destroyed but I refuse to rid the universe of Squats. It allows for the Tyranid as a whole to be a stand-in for Smaug and gives the Squats a Tolkienesque flavor that I really dig. BTW the whole "Demiurge as Space Dwarf" doesn't really work for me (another reason for my insistance on using the Squat).

  2. I'm looking forward to reading more about what you come up with for this. I've been toying with different ideas for how to roleplay the 40K universe since 1989, so I'm always interested in how other people do it.

  3. Sir, I am super excited about this!