+ inload: Gaming with a GM +

+ Future Echoes +

+ A PCRC Warhammer 40,000 scenario set during the Tzi'Na Crisis in the Antona Australis Sector +

+ Preamble +

+ While building terrain for our Golgotham project [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]Stuntwedge, Warmtamale and I had been discussing a shared interest in 'proper' narrative gaming and scenarios a few weeks earlier, so I thought I'd prepare a game for a couple of PCRC members to have a go at. +

+ While this scenario has been written with the 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 in mind, the intention is to evoke the story-led and GM-shepherded scenarios of 1st edition Rogue Trader; most famously the Battle at the Farm (which I'm determined to play at some point), but also the lesser-known Skirmish at Rynn's World [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]. The latter has some lovely blind events that require a third party – the Gamesmaster – to monitor and resolve, and then reveal to one or both players at the appropriate time. +

+ At root, my intention has been to avoid complicating this scenario with lots of additional special rules, so the players can concentrate on their troops and tactics to play out the story, rather than getting lost in largely irrelevant bells and whistles. In fact, as a result of this, the scenario will require very little adjustment to be played with different factions, a different edition of the rules; or even other game systems entirely. +

+ The scenario and the GM's role +

+ For this scenario, you will need a GM to ensure some pre-determined events happen at the right times, blind to both players. In essence, the GM is there to 'run the theatre', so to speak. He or she has two roles: the first is to act as the caretaker of the battlefield; resolving mechanics that distract the players or get forgotten in the heat of battle (terrain effects, for example). Random reserves, for example, can be determined by the GM during the other player's turn, for example, so they're ready to roll out immediately. The result is mechanically identical to a normal game, but it strips a chore from the players, and allows them to concentrate on their troops in the game, rather than struggling with the 'interface'. +

+ Secondly, the GM can enrich the experience for all involved by breathing life into the world through the pre-set events built into the scenario – the player achieving a certain objective, for example, can be issued a related, follow-up objective (rescue the pioneer to get the location of the mine entrance, for example); or new, additional objectives become clear. Such event are very difficult to build into a two-player system, but having a neutral party maintaining them gives a richer fabric to the game. +

+ Of course, the role of a GM to a 40k scenario is not to act an additional storyteller, and as the GM, you should resist the temptation to give yourself an active role in the battle – instead, set the stage, prepare the timed pyrotechnics, then stand back and enjoy the spectacle. +

+ We'll be playing this game next weekend, so I'll keep the players' packs and GM notes for another inload. In the meantime, here's the shared information for you to digest:

+ Welcome to Delph +

Commander Strongheel,
hero of Del'f
Six standard months ago, the planet Delph joined – or, depending upon your point of view, was annexed by – the Brightsword Protectorate. Since that time, the townships and industrial zones have been cleared, with the human population ported to supposedly temporary accommodation in the 'Protective Reservation Camps', as engineers work to bring the mines and factories up to standards more acceptable to the Tau.

Traditions long-suppressed by the Imperium have been sanctioned by the Water Caste, in the belief that temporarily allowing the humans freedom of worship is a harmless sop that will render them more pliable and open to the teachings of the Greater Good in the long-term – and give them something to focus on other than the sinister, antiseptic atmosphere of the camps. 

No world is conquered cleanly. Inevitably, Imperial loyalists and anti-xenos sympathisers have banded together, launching raids on the Tau fire teams as they systematically sweep each factory complex clear of rebels. The Tau's stated aim is to make it safe for their Earth Caste engineers to enter and alter the embalming and body-processing factories into 'Safeguard' arms construction.

In a little under a week, it will be Saint Capilene's Day, a sector-wide day of Imperial celebration, and the atmosphere is understandably tense. The Tau military – a mix of tough veterans of the war for Delph and green recruits – is on high alert in anticipation of trouble – teams have been deployed in force across the processing plants of the dockland industrial sectors.


  1. As of late I've GM'ed a few skirmish games and really enjoyed the experience - as did the players. When it works a treat, the game is sped-up materially allowing everyone to focus upon the various stories that are 'discovered' during the course of the game... that's a relatively recent realisation of mine: inject a GM into the game and whole win-lose dynamic becomes more of a victory-defeat - richer language, more memorable gaming and ultimately a more rewarding experience for all involved.

    1. Yes, absolutely agreed on all points. Just the presence of a third party helps to add a sense of mutual storytelling rather than being exclusively a contest.


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