Saturday, June 01, 2013


One of the things I have tried really hard to do in Skyfall is to not make it about Chaos. I think the Chaos gods are one of the best and most original pieces of both the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes, and I really, really like them. Ultimately, though, I do not think they are a credible threat as villains (The DM might disagree, given that to all appearances one of the Chaos gods is the ultimate threat in the Circle, but Monica [Jasmine]'s response to that is essentially to disbelieve the threat, which is basically mine as well). This is both for inherent reasons, which I don't want to sidetrack the post into just now, and because I feel like the Chaos gods are the ultimate villain of every 40K story. I wanted to do something more original, with an Ultimate Problem for the party to solve that was a believable threat to everything they hold dear, and without Skyfall sending the message that 40K is ultimately about good and evil.

So it is with a mixture of delight and disappointment that I note how much questions of who is and who isn't Chaos-tainted have dominated the psychology of recent sessions. On the one hand, all the roleplaying involved has been delightful, and I feel pretty good about the general way Chaos has been used - more as the Chaos Question than the Chaos Threat. And yet, the fact remains that Chaos is beginning to dominate my game.

This may be because of the way I run games. This morning's session, for instance, was entirely improvised - I had absolutely no plans for what to do with it. I actually run most of my games without any clear notion of what I am going to do in a session before I do it; rarely do I even have 25% of the events of a session in mind before they happen. This is not so much because I am lazy as because planning out sessions in detail doesn't make sense to me - roleplaying, to me, is essentially oral, and thus essentially improvisational. That doesn't change just because I'm a DM instead of a player. A good aoidos doesn't go into a performance already knowing what words he's going to sing, only generally what he's going to sing about.

So - perhaps because this last session sprung entirely out of the moment, and I find Chaos endlessly fascinating even if I also think it has serious limitations as a storytelling tool - the party at last answered one aspect of the Chaos Question. The name of Nurgle was spoken. I think it went reasonably well. One problem with using a known horror figure as an object of horror is that being known and being horrible are sort of antithetical. The known can still be horrible, of course, but generally only in spite of being known. In order to properly present Chaos - in order to properly present anything in 40K, I think - one has to present it as utterly horrible (and utterly reasonable, but one thing at a time). So far there hasn't been a lot of horribleness, only creepiness. The transition can be tricky but I think it went off pretty well, in no small part thanks to Neani. And more or less by accident, too.

Now, perhaps, I can stop being such a cliche and get back to what this game was supposed to be about. But who knows what next session will bring? I certainly don't.

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