A Commissar's World

Aug 28th, 2014
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  1. A Commissar's World Extends as far as his Voice Reaches
  3. The Ciaphas Caine books are great fun. so let's run one on one games with a GM and a player running a Commissar. Or one or two other players with these playbooks in play.
  5. GM Agenda
  6. In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.
  7. Bring the Galaxy to life, in all its glory and horror.
  8. Play to find out what happens.
  11. GM Principles
  12. Make moves that follow the fiction.
  13. Never speak the name of your moves.
  14. Science, reason, and logic are obsolete and dangerous.
  15. Ask questions, run with the answers.
  16. Enforce the Imperial Creed as much as your players can stand.
  17. Name everyone and everything the characters meet.
  18. The game starts and ends with the fiction.
  19. Bring the Imperium to life as a real place to explore and survive.
  20. Everyone gets to have fun and be a star.
  21. The Emperor protects, don't hold back with hard moves.
  23. Commissar. A lifepath-style playbook covering veterans and youngsters fresh out of the schola progenium. A fighter, a leader, and/or a motivator.
  24. Noble. Scion's of noble classes have been known to associate themselves with a commissar they have come into contact with, this can be from a Founding on their world, with a commissar assigned to forces defending their world, or one passing through on an interesting assignment.
  25. Adjutant. Even a commissar without the seniority (as expressed through the advances system) to have an adjutant assigned, may end up with one attached to them when another player takes on the role. An adjutant played by another player is a valuable ally, but one served from mechanical advantages is less complicated.
  26. Officer. Any officer from platoon leader to colonel is playable. This will be another lifepath playbook.
  27. Ecclesiarch. As the commissar is responsible for troop morale and performance, the regimental priest is responsible for their souls; insofar as anyone in a position of responsibility in the Imperium is not responsible for their subordinates souls. The unit priest can work with or against the commissar to keep the regiment efficient, as well as possibly being a force on the battlefield. They will certainly be effective in managing both the rank and file, and the command team out of combat. They have responsibilities for good order and discipline, and moral issues for both the regiment and the noncombatants they have to deal with. To fit with one of the tropes of the setting, the Ecclesiarch playbook has a choice of three tomes they carry on the battlefield: law, order, and faith. Each provides a benefit.
  28. Trooper. A common trooper or junior NCO might be assigned to the commissar's person as a bodyguard or enforcer. This playbook has combat or brute force options where the Adjutant has social options. This should be the most diverse playbook behind commissars because it's the default for "my character just died, I'll make a..." situations. Regular infantry, heavy infantry, light infantry, tank commanders, artillery officers, medicaes, and other specialists should be accounted for. This probably means a "I do what I'm good at" move in the playbook. When this character isn't on assignment with the commissar, they're playing a key role in whatever other fighting is going on.
  29. Psyker. An IG sanctioned psyker is a tough role to play, and the most expendable of all of these playbooks. On the plus side, if you're interacting with people who will listen to you, it might have the most influence of any playbook at all.
  30. Adeptus Sororitas. Not necessarily one of the militant orders, possibly a Sister Famulous or the Ordo Dialogus. These characters would be of use in planning, research, and interacting with the upper classes.
  31. Techpriest. The Adeptus Mechanicus provides specialists to every IG regiment. They're outside of the chain of command, so a tech priest collaborating with the unit commisar is a very helpful ally indeed.
  34. Stats
  35. Fire
  36. Fury
  37. Faith
  38. Wit
  39. Cog/Charm/warp
  42. Pick Two per session, mark XP when you exemplify that virtue.
  43. Faith
  44. Duty
  45. Loyalty
  46. Expedience
  47. Pragmatism
  49. So you want to play a commissar campaign. Answer all of these in the setup.
  50. What enemies will you face ? (Pick 2)
  51. * rebels or renegades
  52. * genestealer hybrids/ Tyranids
  53. * Eldar
  54. * Chaos, as bad as you wanna be
  55. * independent system
  56. * Ork
  57. * Pirates (with rogue trader complications)
  59. On second thought, pick a region to define common opponents, prominent worlds and local space marine chapters
  60. Damocles Gulf
  61. Sabbat Worlds
  62. Cadian Gate
  63. Jericho Reach
  64. Koronus Expanse
  66. What will be the focus of the campaign ?
  67. * combat, but as observer or participant
  68. * what service branch ?
  69. * Guard infantry
  70. * Guard armor
  71. * Imperial Navy
  72. * specialists/HQ/wet navy/aerospace/cavalry/intel
  73. * solo action and stealth
  74. * interaction with NPCs
  75. * intrigue and strategy
  77. What kind of regiment are you attached to ?
  78. * infantry (plus specialist)
  79. * armor
  80. * airborne
  81. * aquatic
  82. * voidborne
  83. * Naval
  84. * other
  86. FNG or veteran ?
  87. A veteran command team can outthink you. Veteran troops know what they're doing and have an almost Emperor-granted ability to spot bullshit in their chain of command. Well-motivated green troops want to have better judgement but don't, so they do what they can. Which is usually soaking up casualties and then running for the dropships. Which is where you come in.
  89. Units
  90. A unit is any organized group of troops. The fundamental unit is the regiment. The regiment is typically broken down into 5 companies, each of which has 5 platoons of 5 squads each. According to IG training manuals the 10-man squad is the basic element of troop organization. Some regiments use 5-trooper teams, some can't get anything done without a full platoon deployed. The heavy weapons squad of platoons lucky enough to have one is usually 5 weapon teams (two people each) split between heavy bolter, missile launcher, heavy stubber, and the rare las cannon team.
  92. Steal The Regiment 2.0 or greater
  96. SOE
  97. This defines what your unit is supposed to have, and where you hAve flexibility to create specialist units. Your average Imperial Guard infantry unit is made up of 5 companies, one of which is a logistics and specialists unit and the other four are probably 5 companies of 5 ten-trooper squads each, plus or minus support elements and specialist troops.
  99. Deploying troops
  101. Each troop element deployed to an operational role
  104. Holding Stats
  105. These are special forms of hold. Several moves contribute to each of these, so they are distinct from normal hold which is specific to the move that grants it. Each holding stat has its own pool that successful moves can contribute to. Each holding stat is spent like hold at the player(s)'s discretion in any appropriate action.
  107. The great metric of troop performance is the intersection between motivation and discipline. Discipline comes from training, faith in the command structure, and the will to win. Motivation can come from positive or negative reinforcement, this is why commissars wear the fancy hat and carry a pistol. It's also why commissars have to spend a lot of time dealing with routine disciplinary issues in the regiment.
  108. Reputation. A commissar's reputation can be more important than what they're doing right now. The commissar (or possibly an adjutant) may spend Reputation.
  109. Morale. Distinct from the troop stats motivation and discipline, Morale can be spent by the commissar from the pool of any unit that has it to make that unit hold against any enemy attack, charge any enemy position, or, if necessary, to behave itself out of combat.
  110. Fear. This isn't morale. This is the troops being more afraid of you than the enemy. The commissar can spend Fear to make the units it belongs to behave. The GM can spend Fear to make troopers or units act against the commissar or the Imperium's interests. Moves using Fear tend to produce results even on a miss.
  111. The distinction between Reputation, Fear, and Morale will really come out in the moves related to each stat. Fear
  113. Campaign Advice
  114. If we're running a single commissar, let's start them early in their career. An assigned assistant like Jurgen is going to be an advance. This should be the character's first solo assignment since being a Cadet Commissar. It might not have been supposed to be. Diverting the character's shuttle mid flight, after setting up the system and the enemy they're facing, is a good start to a campaign. It gives them a mentor, but only as someone they can call on occasionally for advice, they're really on their own and in the thick of the action at the very start.
  115. Another idea for a commissar campaign would be to simply run Apocalypse Now straight. If you do this, be very careful not to glorify colonialism or demonize (especially literally) the indigenous forces and/or peoples. Ideally these elements should be treated with a mix of parody and dark satire. On the other hand, backwoods communities harboring dark secrets is a staple of horror.
  116. A commissar who is faithful to his or her duty to the emperor will be expected to commit acts that we would consider atrocities or war crimes as a matter of course. Make an agreement with your players early in the first session as to how, or if, this will be treated in the game. In all of his novels, Commisar Caine is only shown executing common troopers when they have been infected by genestealers; "“People in the Guard had been shot for much less, some of them by me.” The easiest way to keep your players from committing war crimes is to simply never bring it up. Put them with well motivated units full of troopers who don't turn their backs at the first sign of danger and steer them well clear of villages who have turned from the Emperor's light.
  117. Another campaign seed is, the elements under the Commissar's command have gotten into some mischief. This can be anything from elaborate schemes in the vein of Rawne's attempt to stave off boredom in Blood Pact to Von Ryan's Express. Or just some NPC trying to pull off Ocean's 11 while still in service. Or not. Getting caught and forced to re-up would be a fantastic end of session for a group of players with some veterans in the mix.
  118. Prejudice and excessive use as cannon folder is technically against Imperial doctrine as wastage. What was that Spike Lee movie about WW2 in Italy ?
  121. Campaign Tone
  122. This is more important than style. Everyone in the game needs to be on board for the chosen tone where a character in the "wrong" style is simply taking on a heavier roleplaying burden.
  123. * lighthearted. A Caine or Flashman-styled game
  124. * realistic. Pick a style of warfare. Make it real and thrown a commissar into the middle of it.
  125. * grimdark. Sort of realistic but more hardcore crossed with 40k setting love. Saving Guardsman Ryan has 50% casualties on the beach.
  127. Campaign Styles
  128. Blackadder in Space. Steal liberally from the Ciaphas Caine novels. Have fun. Liberally mock aristocrats, military bureaucracy, and anyone who isn't out for Number One. Provide an awful lot of opportunities to live up to your fraudulent reputation.
  129. Apocalypse Now in Space. Take a realistic, existentialist approach to the truth of doing your duty to the Emperor.
  130. Tour of Duty on some backwater planet. Bring a small unit populated with memorable NPCs to life, then slowly kill them off in meaningless actions that highlight the bleakness of a future in which there is only war. Also Band of Brothers in Space and The Pacific in Space. The latter two will focus more on facing implacable enemies and keeping your shit together between battles than on existential hell and tap dancing between opportunities for atrocity.
  131. Chickenhawk in Space. Don't feel constrained to infantry and armor units. Airborne, aerospace, Navy, and navy commissars exist for a reason: to provide greater variety for your games. Anything but Skitarii, Adeptus Astartes, Adeptus Titanicus, and Adeptus Sororitas is subject to the authority of the Commissariat. See McHale's Navy for a waterborne Guard unit. Even if the name doesn't refer to the commissar it's a good source for a lighthearted campaign.
  132. Intelligence Specialist. Almost nobody has a higher clearance than a commissar, so the Commissariat provides the vast majority of Guard Intelligence officers. This calls for a lot of high risk missions behind enemy lines, which is an easy lead in to Inquisitorial interest. It's also a good lead-in to letting the character in on strategic decision making and adding oddball playbooks to the mix; such as some of those from the Rogue Trader hack.
  133. Starship Troopers. Service guarantees citizenship. Doing a hard job well gets you a harder job.
  134. Star Wars. Supremely competent melee warriors in an ancient sci-fi setting. Only it's commissars with chainswords and sanctioned psykers with a clear strategic goal. Hopefully your stormtroopers are better shots.
  136. Moves
  138. Commisarial Privilege
  139. When you exert the authority of your office to apply summary justice, roll +will or +faith. On a 10+ gain +1 Fear and +1 Reputation. On a 7-9 gain +1 Fear or +1 Reputation and the immediate situation goes your way.
  142. Military Matters
  143. When you exert influence on military decision making, roll +figure. On a a 10+ the GM holds 1 and you gain +1 Reputation. On a 7-9 the GM holds 2. On a miss the GM holds 4 and make an immediate move of any appropriate severity. The GM spends hold to veto any choice or free decision made by the players and to make an immediate hard move to make their lives more complicated.
  145. Straight Silver
  146. When you lead a unit in receiving or delivering a charge, make a speech and roll +faith.
  148. Rousing speech
  149. When you give a motivational speech to troopers about to take a serious risk, roll +morale or +fear.
  151. No Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy.
  152. When you lend some common sense to your command team's planning process, come up with a reasonable plan and roll +figure. On a 10+ hold 2 and gain +1 Reputation. On a 7-9 hold 1. Spend hold to counter a contingency the GM throws at you or exploit an opportunity that arises in the course of the battle.
  154. Blessings of the Omnissiah.
  155. When you take the time to have your team's equipment blessed and the appropriate machine spirits placated, roll +cog. On a 10+ hold one to be used to give a teammate +1 forward when using gear you have blessed. On a 7-9 your mechanical charges do their duty. On a miss, the GM holds one to be used for machine spirit perversity and failures during the mission
  157. Leading by Example
  158. When you stand firm or charge the enemy, roll +fury or +fire. On a 10+ smite the mundane foes you are immediately facing and choose 3. On a 7-9
  160. * Gain one Reputation
  161. * The unit(s) affected by your example gain one Morale.
  162. * Reduce your losses by 1.
  163. * You don't have to face a dangerous foe personally.
  166. Reputations Must Be Maintained
  167. When you fall into negative Reputation, take -1 ongoing and the GM may make hard moves against the commissar's (and the Imperium's) interests at the slightest provocation.
  169. Know your exits.
  170. When you need to get out of somewhere in a hurry, roll +wit. On a 10+ tell the GM about the handy escape route you didn't mention noticing or arranging earlier, then take it. On a 7-9, you have a way out but you'll have to work to take it. On a miss, doom encircles you even tighter.
  172. Always Lead From The Front
  173. When you send others into danger you won't face, spend a Reputation or one morale from the affected unit.
  175. Command Presence (Veteran Commissar)
  176. If you currently have at least 1 Reputation, you may ignore the effects of Always Lead From the Front.
  178. We few, we happy few
  179. When you give a rousing speech to an outnumbered or disadvantaged force,
  181. He always tells that story when we're about to die
  182. When you break out your most polished speech to motivate the troops, roll +charm. On a 10+ the troops have heard this one before, any move involving morale or Morale will give the results for a 7-9 even if the roll is a 6-. On a 7-9 hold one and spend it to take +1 on any morale move.
  184. Friends in Low Places
  185. When you have cultivated friends at the bottom of the social order and need to pick up a few buts of information, roll +wit.
  187. That wasn't in the manual
  188. When you come up with a clever but unsanctioned application of technology, roll +
  190. Choose one of
  191. Por Encourager Les Autres
  192. When you make an example of a trooper, roll +will. On a 10+ hold 2 and don't increase the level of resentment the troops feel towards you. On a 7-9. Hold one and gain one Fear.
  194. Or
  196. Tempered Justice
  197. When you withhold the ultimate sanctions available to you, roll +faith. In a 10+ you gain 1 Reputation and the unit gains 1 Morale. On a 7-9 the unit gains one Morale at the cost of some good order and discipline. On a miss, you lose 1 Reputation and the unit loses 1 Fear.
  199. Playbooks
  201. Just Graduated the Schola Projenium
  202. A commissar fresh out of school. Typically an orphan raised by the imperium. This playbook combines fresh-faced naïveté with book learning and absolute authority. Ideally young commissars spend a period under the mentorship of a senior commissar as cadets. The sash of a full commissar is earned in the field, not awarded like a diploma. Unless things get ugly in the field and the choice for a regiment is between a just-promoted cadet or no commissar at all. That sort of thing gets orders cut in a hurry.
  204. Stats. Long on faith, short in wit. Good luck commissar.
  205. Take +2 Faith and +1, +1, =0, -1 for the rest of your stats (Fire, Fury, Faith, Wit, Charm)
  207. At-start moves
  208. Commisarial Privilege
  209. Choose between Por Encourager Les Autres and Tempered Justice.
  210. There should be an advanced move to replace either of those, cadets can gain it as an advance and veterans start with it.
  211. And
  212. 2 of
  213. Blessings of the Omnisiah
  214. Straight Silver
  218. Advances
  222. Eternal Commissar
  223. A commissar of some experience, well trained and now seasoned in the field. This commissar has indeed seen some shit.
  225. Stats.
  227. At-start moves
  228. Commissarial Privilege (or an advanced version)
  229. The advanced Por Encourager move
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