Wednesday, July 22, 2015


In 2012, I took my first steps into the world of pen and paper role-playing-games. Which wasn't really pen and paper, but rather, Skype and a PDF. But whatever. This is the story of those games. It began one summer evening, with some friends from online, as we prepared to test out the beta version of Warhammer 40K: Only War. Some of the character names have been lost to time and Skype kerfuffle, so I've done my best to replace them. I've also tried to make the Skype format into a more readable experience.

This first session was pretty slow-moving. By next session, though, things will start unraveling.

Cast of Characters:
Nick: The GM, and the one of us with the most experience playing RPGs. 
Greg: Me, as Commissar Gaius Galt, a political officer in charge of keeping troops from running away.
Jackson: A friend of mine, as Horton the machine-gunner.
Anthony: One of Nick's friends, as Asclepius the Medic. 
JJ: Another friend of mine, as Sergeant Powell.
Zach: Yet another friend of mine as Dunner the Vehicle Operator.

The Group: Chatter about various things as we wait for everyone to show up on Skype. I'm worried my house is going to be hit by lightning, Jackson just got done watching Independence Day.

Nick (GM): Alright, everyone ready to start?

The Group: Variations of yeah, yes, yep, sure.

Nick (GM): Alright, a primer on the history of the world. The year is 40,000 AD. The Imperium of Man stretches across the Galaxy, all its subjects proudly venerating the God-Emperor of Mankind. It is beset on all sides by Daemon, Xenos, Heretics, and far, far worse. It is the grim darkness of the far future, and there is Only War. Recently, a Black Crusade was launched by Heretics around a region of space known as the Eye of Terror. The assault was successfully repelled, but many planets were taken by Chaos.

That is where you come in. You are the ordinary soldiers of the Imperium. You are but a man with a Lasgun, fighting off beasts stronger than you shall ever be. It is only the Flak Armor on your back and your faith in the Emperor that protects you.

You have been in transit for months now, the monolithic ships training you, preparing you for the coming storm. You have been taken from your homeworld, Klashia, as a part of the tithe to the Imperial Guard, the impossibly large military of the Imperium of Man. You are a member of the 563rd Mechanized Infantry, as you have been since you were twelve. You come from a Fortress World, a world guarding against one thing: Necrons. Giant metal behemoths left over from a different age, armed with weapons that can flay a man alive. Your colony happened to be upon a Tomb-World, and is slowly being consumed by the horrors residing in the planet. But that is not your destiny. Not your story.

You have been sent to Rixalonis Prime. Located just outside of the eternal hole in space, the Eye of Terror, the inhabitants fell to the Chaos Gods months back. The local Planetary Defense Force was converted into Chaos Renegades, and it is your job to stop it. Your first major assault, you’ve been told, will be in the Northwest of the planet, right outside one of the largest cities, known as Hive Klaksis. It is well defended and armed to the teeth. You will be dropped by Valkyrie assault craft with no armor support with the express goal of taking the city for the Imperium.

You have been dropped with the rest of your Division. Valkyrie fly overhead as you cough from the smoke and the flame. Bodies crowd around you on all sides, pushing ahead, running. You run with them, not wanting to be caught and trampled. You can barely make out who your comrades are, let alone your squad.

The wave of men hesitates as thudding booms erupt all around you. An explosion goes off to your side, body parts and gore spraying you. Heavy bolters and machine guns belch out rounds in front of you. You realize the trenchline two hundred meters to your front had always been there.
What do you do?

The Group: Everyone--being sane and wanting to live--opt to duck into what cover there is and return fire. Except me.

Greg (Gaius): I roar exhortations to the men surrounding him, urging them on, into the gunfire.

Nick (GM): Gaius, you make a Fellowship roll and pass. You urge men on, making many regain faith in the lost cause. Everyone else, you begin to take cover behind the dead bodies. Bullets whip around you as many men just keep running into the fire. The trench line in front of you keeps spewing fire, causing more bodies to fall--more cover. Horton, you set up your Heavy Bolter, using a body as a crutch. However, your loader is nowhere to be seen, so you only have one magazine of ammunition. Powell, you begin to fire in the air, trying to keep the enemy's heads down. Your fire, though quickly aimed, strikes down a machine gunner. Men run up, trying to close the gap between the trench and themselves. What do you do?

The Group: Grenades are tossed, guns are shot, nothing particularly inventive or exciting. Until...

JJ (Powell): I gather up a few of the surviving men and attempt to capture an enemy artillery position.

Nick (GM): Powell, the men stay in cover, unwilling to move.

Greg (Gaius): Noticing many of the troops cowering in their holes while Powell is charging, I scream at them. "UP AND OVER!"

Nick (GM): Gaius, you attempt to get your troops in line and into the trench. The men are scared out of their minds, but they're far more scared of you. They run into the trench, producing knives, chainswords, and swords to engage the foe.

The Group: Everyone except Jackson (as Horton the heavy gunner), drop into the trenches for some lovely close-quarters fun with hacky-slashy weapons and boomy-shooty pistols. Blood gets everywhere. It's messy. Our enemies quickly drop back to a second trenchline.

Nick (GM): You run into the fray, slicing enemies apart. Before long, you see the Chaos troops left being to flee back towards another trenchline, closer to the city. A plume of fire erupts to your far right, and a flight of Valkyries soaring overhead.

Greg (Gaius): I shout encouragement and flail about with my chainsword. "Kill them all! Let no heretic live! For the God-Emperor!"

Zach (Dunner): BLOOOOOOOD


The Group: Everyone works on mopping up the straggling heretic soldiers in the outer trench, until Jackson (Horton the heavy gunner!) tosses a grenade at the next trench...

Nick (GM): The grenade bounces off the enemy trench, exploding outside of it, nailing a few men running inside it. The men in the trench begin the shoot at you, heavy bolter rounds hitting the trench and stubbers bouncing off the bloodstained ground. 

The Group: Huddles up, returns fire, charges, all that jazz, according to our particular combat roles. 

Nick (GM): Powell and Gaius, you rally your troops, who, elated from the last combat, eagerly run towards the enemy lines, many of them being shredded by machinegun fire. Horton, you fire your lasrifle from the lip of the trench, the shot hitting an enemy machine-gunner square in the forehead. His face flash-heats, his eyes popping out of his head like over-cooked popcorn. He falls to the ground, very dead. Dunner, you hide behind the recently captured trench, looking for the enemy machine gunners. You spot them, dotting along a myriad of positions. You realize your division is not the only one charging; many more are as well. Indeed, it seems your entire regiment has been fielded

JJ (Powell): I and the last surviving men of the charge drop down into the trench and try to capture one the enemy machine gun positions to use against the enemy.

Nick (GM): Powell, you jump into the trench, your knife running through the eye of the gas-mask of your foe. Your men jump in after you, slashing and killing their way through the emplacement.

The Group: Follows Powell (JJ)'s lead and heads into the trenches. Several minutes of fairly-intense trench combat take place. Gaius (Greg) is badly wounded by a cultist with a hunting rifle. Asclepius (Anthony) is winged and forced out of the trench. Gaius also retreats, throwing a frag grenade as he does. Powell, in a shining moment of glory manages to commandeer a machine-gun nest. Horton (Jackson) tosses another frag grenade into the trench as well, disregarding the chance of friendly casualties. Powell is trending into his role as sergeant quite well, performing cool and capably as a leader of daring maneuvers. Horton is establishing himself as a loose cannon who doesn't play by the rules. Gaius is trending more towards suicidal charges, screaming at his troops, and flailing with his weapons like a spastic who's had six espressos. Anthony and Zach are doing a solid, workmanlike job of not sticking their necks out.

Nick (GM): Powell, you turn the machine gun on its users, ripping apart six of them. The rest are gripped with fear, unable to move. Horton, you throw the grenade, killing any, both friend and foe. You jump in, knife and gun in hand, and enemies back off, wary of you. Gaius, you throw the grenade, reducing the enemies facing you to bits, and gaining revenge on the man who shot you.

Zach (Dunner): In fear of having to deal with an angry, wounded political officer, I pour laser fire as Gaius retreats.

The Group: Horton (Jackson), Dunner (Zach) and Powell (JJ) continue to deplete the enemy. Asclepius (Anthony) provides battlefield healing to Gaius (Greg). Gaius manages to snag shots on the foes, who, realizing all is lost, begin to flee back to the city. Enemies pour out of the trench, as we stay behind, panting, unsure of what to do. Horton manages to knife a retreating enemy in the leg before brutally executing the heretic. Powell rounds up troops to follow into the city.

Greg (Gaius): I wonder what kind of cultists these could be, that retreat so willingly.

Nick (GM): Gaius, you realize that if they were Khornates, servants of the god of Bloodshed, they'd be still in the fight. Same if they had been Slaaneshi, god of Pleasure's servants. They were unaffected by disease, so that leaves out Nurgle, god of Pestilence and Decay...

Greg (Gaius): Realizing that we're fighting servants of either that tricksy Tzeentch or Chaos Undivided, I order a slow, careful advance. This may well be a trap--no sense in wasting the Emperor's troops needlessly.

Nick (GM): Powell, Horton, you fire into the retreating troops, felling many of their number. Your troops follow suit, killing a great score of them. Across the trenchlines, heretics continue to fall back into the city. Your troops begin to advance slowly. You hear the nearest vox-caster crackle to life; support is on its way...

The Group: Surveys the area, while Gaius heads over to hear what the radio has to say. 

Nick (GM): Powell, you begin to survey the enemy-held city. Nothing seems to be happening inside, save the scurry of retreating troops. Gaius, the vox-caster tells you that High Command said they'd be setting up Regimental HQ in the area, along with a supply depot. Orbital scans indicate that enemy troops are dispersed throughout key positions in the city, prepared for heavy street-fighting... You gather the squad, moving towards the largest amount of troops. Valkyries burdened with building and support personnel begin to deposit their cargos. You see men run with tents, quick to set up the headquarters.

The HQ's set-up went along smoothly. Equipment was dropped in from orbit, including a Chimera Armored Personnel Carrier for your squad, and fresh reinforcements. You're all quickly gathered and given new squads, due to the heavy losses you took during the first push. Your squad consists of all of you, plus several others: A crew for the tank, including in particular it's gunner, Corporal Holt, a sensible man that keep the rest of the tank in line, Private Echo, a jaded man who’s loaded the Heavy Bolters of many, many men before this squad, Val, a sarcastic, somewhat veteran of many campaigns, and Vyn, an old-timer who saw when you all joined the Planetary Defense Force long ago to fight the vile Necrons

The Group: Variations on wanting to resupply and get their wounds patched up.

Nick (GM): You all go to the local Medicae staff, run by the Machine-Cult of the Adeptus Mechanicus. "Alright" says the doctor in his garbled, electronic voice, looking you over. I'm Doctor Z0i5837G. Now open your mouth and let's have a look at your electronics..."

The Group: Variations on "OH NO YOU DIN'T." Everyone gets patched up to some degree.

Nick (GM): You leave the Medicae, completely patched up. You may have a robotic kidney now, but it doesn't really matter, now does it?

Anthony (Asclepius): I poke my new robo-kidney and ask the nearest soldier "Ya think this thing is in right?"

Nick (GM): You all go to your C.O. to receive orders. You enter the hastily set-up tent, the Commander looking at you. You know him: He's famous in the unit. He's been in endless suicide charges, and tends to lead from the front, wanting a more personal touch with his men. Some say he was a Stormtrooper when he first joined the Guard.

Commander: "Alright ladies, listen up. Your squad has been cobbled together out of whatever men are leftover from the push. We have more men in orbit, Catachans, at that, but we need a foothold in that city. As such, you'll be one of the squads we're sending in. You are to accompany your Chimera, take the local Administratum, and hold the position until the Catachans arrive. ARE WE CLEAR?

Greg (Gaius): I nod. "Sounds more enjoyable than reliving that incident with the servitor and the pict slate."

Commander: "I thought you looked familiar! Did you ever get rid of the plastic in your ears?"

Greg (Gaius): Sheepishly, I dig into my ear. A tiny ball of neon-green falls out. "Apparently not."

JJ (Powell): After I clean the blood off my armor, I begin to write down the names of the fallen unit in my squad.

Nick (GM): You hear the shuddering bagpipes of a funeral procession; the cremation of the dead, both friend and foe has begun...

The Group: Session complete, wanders off-topic and begins discussing a good time for next week, among other not-very-interesting things.