Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dark Millennium: The Drop

The miniatures were painted, the board was arranged, the trash was talked. It was time to begin the campaign in earnest.

ready for battle in Battleground Games' private gaming room

We spent the first part of the day generating characters and learning the basics of the Inquisitor rules. Inquisitor is an unusual game – there's no points system, and your character should by all means have access to virtually unlimited resources. At the same time, though, balance is important, and the presence of too much upper level equipment and skills trivializes some of the more characterful parts of the game. What you really need is a group who understands that half the fun is having a character's gun jam when he's pinned down behind a tank of highly explosive promethium. It also helps to have a GM who is experienced with arbitration, and luckily, we did.

In order to make things interesting, we decided to have separate briefings for each player. After our GM had spoken privately with each player, we got a very quick description of the situation: on a planet within the Cetis Sector, on the outskirts of a megacity, there is an area of slums wracked by earthquakes and subsequent riots. Intelligence has indicated that an exchange is about to take place in the slums, and although the nature of the item is not entirely clear, there can be no doubt that this commerce is unwholesome. Enter the Inquisition.

It was impossible to tell, in the industrial gloom, whether it was day or night. The weak glow of emergency lighting mingled with the low-hanging pall of smog to blanket the slums in an unnatural twilight. The distant hum of subterranean generators was the only clue that the landscape was not frozen in some unholy spell.

Slowly, the form of three figures began to take shape along the silent avenue. At once, the vox-net burst into life. Over a feedback squeal, every abandoned voxcaster – in the ruined buildings, along the roads, in derelict vehicles – broadcast this message:

"Attention Imperial citizens. This block is under quarantine by edict of Inquisitor Warchild of the Ordo Malleus. Remain in your homes until further instructions. I repeat, remain in your homes."

Warchild enters the slum just meters away from Harn's team

Cisneros reveals himself
Varda's team advances through cover

As the broadcast fades, it becomes apparent to the inquisitors that they are not alone. Each attempts to scout the area, through means traditional, technological, and psychic. A lone figure is seen squatting in the rubble of a destroyed hab building.

Warchild: "Halt! By Imperial edict, do not move!"

The figure hunches down and carefully levels a weapon toward Warchild as the unmistakable report of a boltgun echoes throughout the ruins. As Warchild's men move to intercept the gunman, Inquisitor Harn's battle servitor breaks cover and lopes toward the gunfire.

high on stims, Warchild's men charge the B.E.A.S.(T)

Spooked by the B.E.A.S.(T)'s sudden appearance, Warchild's men charge the battle servitor, landing a solid blow on the creature's torso and knocking it to its feet. Moments later, the voice of Inquisitor Harn manifests in Warchild's mind, announcing his presence and ordering the junior Inquisitor to stand down. Frantically, he orders his men to withdraw. For one tense moment, a mechanical growl issues from the B.E.A.S.(T), but without any notice the creature withdraws to the shadows.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Varda and Cisneros approach the gunman. Cisneros and his fanatics stride forward boldly, heedless of cover, while Varda's men advance with military precision.

another figure, carrying a large bag, flees the hab block

Varda's Catachan veteran strikes from the shadows

Panicking at the sight of the power-armored giant, the second gunman dives for cover, firing his twin bolt pistols wildly. Through sheer luck, a bolt strikes Cisneros in the arm, penetrating the armor and dealing grievous damage. In the shadow of the ruined hab building, the first gunman fights for his life as a grizzled Catachan veteran executes an ambush.

the bounty hunter attempts to flee and is savagely dispatched

Fighting tooth and nail, the first gunman, who appears to be a bounty hunter, fends off the Catachan's onslaught and runs for his life. Weary from blood loss, he does not make it farther than the next block. After a brutal beating he slips into unconsciousness. His companion fares no better and falls to the arco-flagellant Lucian 18. Taking his revenge, the wounded Cisneros takes the man's head, triumphantly claiming the bag.

The battle is ended, but no sword is sheathed, no pistols holstered. The inquisitors regard each other suspiciously, each calculating their odds of escaping with the bag. None wants to fire the first shot.

Inquisitor Harn exhorts Cisneros to surrender the bag in the name of the Emperor

the B.E.A.S.(T) prowls nearby for some extra encouragement

Warchild and Varda engage in mutually assured destruction

Harn: "In the name of Him on Terra, release the bag or doom us all!"

Cisneros: "It is mine by right! Who are you to stand before the Ordo Hereticus?"

 Harn: "I am Inquisitor Harn of the Ordo Malleus, and you are in possession of a dangerous chaos artifact. If you do not surrender it for destruction, it is in imminent danger of opening a warp rift..."

Cisneros: "What assurance do I have that you will do this?"

Harn lowered his needle pistol and stood slowly, walking a few paces toward Cisneros. Obediently, B.E.A.S.(T) withdrew into the ruins. Harn stood before the behemoth in power armor, completely with the power of the Ordo Hereticus. As the two men conferred, Warchild and Varda attempt to forge a truce of their own, but the truce is shattered when their prisoner succumbs to his wounds.

In time, a deal is struck. The artifact must be destroyed, and it must be done within the safeguards of a psychically-sealed chamber. Cisneros and Harn depart for the sector's Ordo Malleus stronghold, where Cisneros accompanies Harn as far as protocol will allow. Harn disappears into the depths of the installation with the artifact, still in its protective case. No warp rift envelopes the Cetis sector, but the identity of the two gunmen, and their purpose, remains a mystery. The Inquisition's work is just beginning.