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In Media Res: Starting a Game with Combat

Btw, it doesn't really apply to your setting FdF, but I recently started a thread In Media Res like so:

Originally Posted by Naturax View Post
Varen ducked just in time to avoid getting his head smashed by a passing bridge as the griffin took a sudden dive in a deliberate attempt to kill the human frantically trying to keep its hold around the creature's neck. Things were not going as smoothly as he had planned.

Desperate times, his employer had said when she handed over the first fifth of Varen's payment. She was smiling as she aid this, but then again she was always smiling. The job was almost certain to be a total disaster. But wasn't that was exactly the kind of job that Varen enjoyed most?

Apparently a bunch of imps were on a rampage this morning, and they happened to be lucky enough to murder a mid-ranking member of the Syndicate who happened to be wearing a particularly valuable ring infused with particularly potent enchantments. However, this same bunch of imps was unlucky enough to run afoul a patrolling Azorius First-Wing which promptly tore the imps to shreds and ate most of them on the spot. Including the ring.

The trick was to intercept the griffin before it finished its patrol and returned to Prahv, because if it did, the ring would be lost for good, and so would the rest of Varen's payment. If he did manage to take the creature down, however, the guildmage promised that she would take care of "extracting" the ring, but the Guildpact prevented her from actually killing the griffin herself. All Varen had to do in order to receive the rest of his money was to deliver the corpse.

Sounded simple enough, but these things rarely were, as Varen might be quick to tell you if you asked him why he was currently hanging off the back of a thrashing griffin, tearing between the towers at terrifying speeds.

The storm could have been a freak warp storm across the system which also has caused severe communication issues, maybe even to the point of your command ship having to jump out of the system until it passes. And your group is crash landing as well, so why would all the comms work. Maybe just an old backup vox unit that has a bad power source or needs to be cranked to charge and dies out constantly and needs times to cool.
I'm a very longtime warhammer 40,000 player(and fluff monger), so I can be of help to point you in warhammer-y directions if you need.
The group need not even have been on the same dropship. If the the capitol ship was taking warp storm damage, they could have jettisoned the ships in the hold to survive on the planet below, of which the group are the survivors of those ships. Or they are just the group that all managed to get in the last remaining ship before their capitol went nova in the storm, or was attacked by warp creatures. etc etc.

Just some ideas.

I've run multiple concurrent information gathering / interaction scenes before, with established characters. I found it fun, and full of momentum, but my players reported that it made it difficult for them to fully roleplay each scene because they were concerned about continuity issues.

I quite like the idea of starting with action and retconning the briefing, but I'd recommend you not run them concurrently so much as interwoven:

- Start with the shuttle crashing into the rock they're going to. Full of drama, adrenalin, and description. They interact, they start to free themselves of the shuttle... and the scene 'pauses' as their sensors (or eardrums) detect hordes of the enemy rushing at their vehicle.

- Scene change. They're on the capital ship, being called into briefing. They get the first set of instructions of the briefing, which relate in some way to the thing they're experiencing in the 'main' thread: there's no known sentient life on the planet, the enemy is hemmed in, they lack technology, whatever... it doesn't need to have the twist, but it's interesting if they realize as the briefing unfolds that the intel they've been given is wrong in some way, because in the 'current-time' thread, they're facing Orks with chainsaws. This is also classic 40K fiction.

- Back to the wreck. A few rounds of battle. Maybe they spot the leader of the gang attacking them, or scary reinforcements, or whatever.

- Back to the briefing. Now is when they get to ask more specific questions, and the whole thing gets set in.

- Back to the battle, and now the game is on one time-stream. By the time they finish the battle, they have their briefing intel, they know some of it is fubar, and yet they have to continue on into the unknown of that.

This is classic 40K story pacing, and I think it would be a brilliant beginning of a campaign. Kudos to you for thinking of it!

(also, with regards to a briefing making things too easy for the players, that's almost never the case when the briefing is a story element in a novel. In that situation, the briefing itself becomes a red herring for the protagonists and the reader. Something is wrong with the intel, or something goes wrong that doesn't allow the characters to act on the intel.

When a briefing scene is a character element (introducing us to the players within the drama), it is often played more as a straight scene, but the intel given is usually somewhat generic. We're focused on the actors, not the intel.

You can mix these up, but it's an expected trope in decent fiction for the info dump to itself be a cause of dramatic tension, when it turns out to be horribly wrong. Aliens 2 is the classic example of this, as is almost every Warhammer 40K novel.)

Are you still accepting players? I might want in on this!

That is an awesome idea, Atlictoatl, and I think I just might use it! The only problem I'd have is that the premise of the game is an investigation with little existing intel, so there's not going to be vast discrepancy between the briefing and the situation on the ground, but I think there are enough unknown factors I can slip into the opening combat encounter to make it effective.

And it certainly is the classic 40k plot; Ciaphas Cain is always running into something worse than what the briefing says, although he doesn't seem to much mind since he never bothers to read the briefings. I think one of the best uses of this trope in that universe has to be by Dan Abnett in the first Horus Heresy book. The set-up for that scene was genuinely chilling and the climax genuinely unsettling.

The game is still accepting applications so you're more than welcome to apply!

Originally Posted by Fritz der Fuchs View Post
The game is still accepting applications so you're more than welcome to apply!
I'd love to, but I only own the Dark Heresy book and have never read it. I suspect my unfamiliarity with the game system and lack of source materials will make me a less optimal candidate for the game.

Good luck, and have fun!


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