A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 01 – Arrival)

Welcome back to my log of the Enfield Eviscerators attempts at surviving the Iron Kingdoms! The first game we had dealt with the party’s arrival in Port Vladovar, using the first scene from “Friends in High Places” from Urban Adventure. It is a good opening, immediately providing the players with a common foe and plot to resolve, which should make the characters learn to trust one another and start working together.

We opened up with a ship arriving at the civilian docks of Port Vladovar, the least repaired set of docks along that stretch of coastline. The finer docks were being used by the Merchant District whilst the Navy docks were not only the finest, but still undergoing modernization and redevelopment. Larkin and Olliver were waiting for their cargo to be brought off the ship when they were approached by a polite, scruffy looking gobber inquiring after the time. Larkin attempted to guess the time from the position of the sun but settled on midday since it was halfway between morning and evening.


The Civilian Docks.

The gobber thanked him for his attempts at being helpful before vanishing into the crowd, just as Olliver’s crate and Dog were lowered from the ship by crane. That aided Genpi in his attempt to locate the duo, and he quickly approached the pair and introduced himself to Olliver, whilst Larkin busied himself with activating the steamjack. A few urchins tried to steal some of the coal set aside for Dog, but a glare from Larkin made them scatter. With the introductions dealt with, Genpi gave the two Cygnarans a quick overview of the situation in Port Vladovar as he led them into the Burnt District, past a large gathering of workers being assigned duties by a winter guard.

Genpi’s territory currently consists of only two streets and buildings – the basement of a ruined moneylenders house which has been set aside for Larkin’s and Olliver’s workshops, and a tavern around the corner called the Captain’s Daughter. When they entered the main hideout, they met Raksha, idly maintaining her gear. Whilst unpacking, Olliver found a broken down weapon in his bag, and asked the others if they knew anything about it. Genpi immediately recognized it as a relic of some importance to another local gang (being the symbol of leadership), which immediately set the whole group on edge.

As if on cue, one of the runners from the Captain’s Daughter knocked on the basement door, and informed the group the Cranemen (a gang formed from crane operators and their families) had arrived at the tavern and where demanding the return of their hand cannon. Raksha was given the stolen item to hide somewhere in the sewers (after Olliver had extracted the runeplate), whilst Genpi and the two mechaniks went to investigate.


The Captain’s Daughter Tavern – That is not a gazebo, but a ruined water tower to the left.

They came across the Cranemen waiting outside the tavern whilst half of the gang ransacked it, searching for the weapon. Immediately recognizing Genpi, the gang attacked the trio. Following a quick and brutal fight, Larina (leader of the Cranemen), fled with two other gang members, leaving behind the bodies of three more, one knocked out by gas, and her ogrun enforcer spitting blood.

Having looted the bodies, Genpi retired to make sure his tavern was alright, leaving Larkin and Olliver to deal with the prisoners. Olliver suggested a scheme to convince the ogrun to join the “Burning Lead”, which Larkin found himself having the stomach for. The ogrun, named Kroll, awoke to see the other captured gang member screaming as Larkin poured molten lead from his rune etching kit down his throat, melting part of his face before Olliver calmly stated the only way out was for the ogrun to pledge his allegiance to them. Unsurprisingly, he readily agreed.

The two mechaniks then had the ogrun drag the body of the dead ganger to the bottom of the street, and string it up from a lamppost, with his armband (declaring him a member of the Cranemen) tied around his eyes, over the ruined part of his face covered in cold lead. Now the ogrun is tied up in the tavern cellar whilst Olliver and Larkin get some sleep before searching for jobs the next day to start earning money.

But as first impressions go, they certainly have made one on the Cranemen.

A/N: You learn some disturbing things about your players when playing evil campaigns! Also, Genpi’s player had to leave early, whilst Raksha’s player was busy working on something but was able to drop in for a scene to make sure the party at least knew each other in the first session. I must say, I love how quick IKRPG is to play – the whole session only took two hours.

Down below is a map of the local area, with the gang’s territory marked in dark green!

And that’s that for our first session! No one died, we had come combat, some role-playing, and establishing what the character’s were like.  This bodes well for the future…

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Space Marine (PS3) Review

Overview

Space Marine is THQ’s latest wander into the grim darkness of the far future, the highly anticipated Warhammer 40,000 action game. In the past we’ve had mostly RTS’ and a foray into FPS territory which was met with mixed feelings, so I went into this game with mixed feelings – an action game set in the 41st millennium was something that was highly anticipated, but I could not help but wonder how effective the execution would be. But I was optimistic – THQ has a good track record of Games Workshop licensed games after all.

Story and Characters

The game’s single player campaign follows the exploits of Captain Titus of the 2nd Company of the Ultramarines. Which confused me since according to canon the current captain is Sicarus. So it’s set in canon history, fair enough. Titus is accompanied into combat by only two marines from his command squad: Sidonus, the gruff veteran; and Leandros, the most recently promoted member of the squad.

Ok, as a 40k fan, a Space Marine command squad is far larger than just three members. Which would have given us a wider range of characters. Instead we get the grizzled veteran, the fresh recruit (well relatively speaking) and the player character who falls between the two extremes of military stereotype. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – it’s just so basic and the characters aren’t developed much further than that.

The Ultramarines have been dispatched to Graia, an Imperial Forgeworld, essentially a planet of nothing but factories, to prevent the invading forces from seizing great war machines known as Titans. On the planet they swiftly encounter two other Imperial servants of note: 2nd Lieutenant Mira of the 203rd Cadian, and Inquisitor Drogan of the Ordo Xenos. Now these two characters are much more interesting, with Lieutenant Mira being a mere normal human in this horrific galaxy, and Drogan being part of the shadowy organization that casually wipes out entire planets without batting an eyelid.

Though in the main story these characters get little development, you can discover more about them (and the setting itself) by collecting servo skulls, which contain recorded messages. Though at first they seem fairly standard fare and most involve characters you never actually meet in-game (one set revolves around a pair of workers as they hear rumors of the invasion and then how they deal with it) they all eventually end up showing you just how grim this setting is.

Gameplay

This game is a third person action shooter, meaning you switch between ranged and melee combat on the fly, causing as much damage to the enemies of the Imperium as possible. Combat is nothing less than simple joy. Whilst there are only four or five combos per melee weapon, their visuals and ease of linking together with each other and ranged attacks more than makes up for it. As advertised, this isn’t your normal shooter. You tap square you hit someone with a melee attack, tap R1 and you shoot. You use the d-pad to switch between four ranged weapons, one of which is
your pistol, the second the bolter, and the other two you can equip however you want if you can find the gun you want.

You can’t take cover, since cover is for the weak! Instead, you are encouraged to charge headfirst into the enemy and annihilate them. Whilst your armor regenerates, your health does not, and there are no health packs. Instead you are expected to brutally execute your enemies, which is always a gory event, but it does make a nice change from other games – the lack of healing items makes it less like an action game, but the lack of regenerating health and cover makes it less like a shooter. Some enemies need to be stunned before you can execute them, and the kill animation can sometimes take a while, and since you are not invulnerable when performing executions, you can die before you are able to heal. Of course this is a minor issue, since most of the time you’ll shoot down most of your opponents and then leave a couple to execute.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer has two main modes of play: a territory capture and a deathmatch mode. Both modes are team based, split between Imperial and Chaos forces. In Capture, your team has to gain control of three territories, all of which generate points. Once you have a certain number, you win. Of course, the opposing team is trying to do the same thing. Deathmatch is simple two teams trying to be the first to kill 41 opponenets. Both modes share the same maps, Health regenerates since according to the developers, executions would just have made people into easy targets, which is true. There is no co-op mode, however a free DLC called Exterminatus adds this feature in, so there’s a way to kill your foes with your friends!

Graphics and Sound

The music for this game was scored by Crhis Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan, whose credits include the God of War games, Starcraft 2, and Borderlands. Whilst you won’t notice the music that often, being busy with combat or marveling at the environment, it is very good when you take the time to listen to it, an epic score worthy of your time as a space marine.

As for the sound effects – they are on the same level of quality as the rest of the game: very high. Your enemies all have distinct vocals and sounds, from the throaty growl of bomb squigs to the cold malice of the Chaos Marines. The guns sounds heavy and devastating, as is proper, and there is something satisfying about the sound of your chainsword. It all comes together to enhance the game, the little details adding to the experience.

Conclusion

Whilst this game is fun, and the attention to detail is nothing less than fanservice, the single player campaign is just too short – I managed to finish it in eight hours on normal difficulty. Multiplayer provides more content, with a leveling system which gives you access to more weapons, and challenges which let you unlock more armor pieces to customize your marines. However, this system has a loophole of sorts – when you are killed by another player, you can immediately copy their load out for your next spawn.

The story also seems rushed in places- the inclusion of the Chaos forces for example is rather sudden, and I feel it could have been handled a bit better than it was. Nevertheless, DLC such as Exterminatus seem liable to lengthen the game’s lifespan, and so in conclusion: this is a great 40k action game. It looks brilliant, it plays easily, and is filled with little details that show how respectful THQ is of the license.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Prologue – Part 2 – The Crew)

A cast of characters in an RPG is one thing. A cast of NPCs is another. Here is a list of not only the many colorful denizens of Port Vladovar that the player’s have encountered, but also a quick breakdown of what their criminal gang/empire has managed to acquire over time…

NPCs

The Scrapyard
Jozef Sudakov – Owner of Joe’s Scrapyard. A big and burly man who has high aspirations.

Catriona Sudakov – Daughter of Jozef, main overseer of the Scrapyard, owner of Ursui. A stressed young woman who has shelved her own dreams in order to aid her father’s bid for wealth.

Ursui – Rowdy light laborjack, companion of Catriona.

The Church of Morrow Ascendant
Father Petya Erin – High Cleric of the Church. Kindly old man with great reserves of power, has great faith in others. Often argues with Kapitan Tvardovski.

Voychek Pasternak – Apothecary and mortician of the Church. Used to wander the Burnt District until Father Erin took him in. Somewhat eccentric in his behavior, once engrossed in a task often forgets to sleep.

The Tower of Menoth
Hierophant Amon Alhara – High Cleric of the shrine of Menoth in Port Vladovar. Cold and disdainful of the people of the city for the lack of zeal. Though the Old Faith is welcome in the Khadoran Empire, it is not pursued in the same frenzy as in the Protectorate.

Reclaimer Ammit – The Reclaimer assigned to the shrine. Silent and relentless, has not ventured beyond the shrine grounds as of yet.

Paladin Gregory – Young Paladin of the Wall, sworn to uphold honor and defend the helpless. Has taken a vow of silence to atone for a past misdeed. Killed by the Claw during the investigation of the Orphanage of Ascendant Gordenn.

The Tonkov Slaughterhouse
Rurik Tonkov – Young and ambitious Kayazy.

Oleg Mishin – Lieutenant of Tonkov, Overseer of the Slaughterhouse. A direct and fair man who knows his duty.

The Greylord Covenant 3rd Research Division “The Damned”
Kovnik Magziev Dmitiri Mihaylov –  An elderly scholar, assigned to inspect the rebuilding efforts of the docks and the construction of the new Naval Academy. Was assassinated by Larkin and Genpi under orders from the CRS.

Kovnik Magziev Vladimir Mihaylov – Brother of Dmitri, arrived in the city with a shipment of supplies to establish a base for the 3rd Research Division. Nominally in charge of weapons development, currently acting as a liaison to the Kayazy and Winter Guard.

The Port Vladovar Garrison
Kapitan Boris Tvardovski – Kapitan of the Winter Guard of the Burnt district.

The Gangs
Larina Kayakova – Former leader of the Cranemen, now part of the Burning Lead. Several missing toes from being convinced to join by Raksha.

Krell Bollo – Former lieutenant of the Cranemen, now part of the Burning Lead. Ogrun.

Stefan – Leader of the Burning Lead urchins.

Sasha – Former leader of the Cranemen children. Now Stefan’s lieutenant.

Gang Territory/Assets
Ruined Moneylender’s House – basement used as hideout. Olliver has had a door built to access a neighboring basement to set up his lair. Sewer entrance as rapid escape path.

The Captain’s Daughter Tavern – Won by Genpi in a duel, single floor and basement for storage. Upper floor destroyed. Has metal shutters that can be dropped onto the windows for extra defense.

Pier 3 – Taken from the Cranemen. Has a functioning crane for loading/offloading civilian ships.

Pier 4 – Taken from the Cranemen. Has a destroyed crane that partially collapsed into the pier. Currently unusable.

The Orphanage of Ascendant Gordenn – An old castle repurposed into an orphanage and then insane asylum, long considered haunted by the denizens of Port Vladovar. The party is busy renovating it now since they managed to seize it from the Claw.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Prologue – Part 1 – The Cast)

Hello all. In lieu of my usual fare, I have chosen to chronicle the attempts of my regular gaming group (The Enfield Eviscerators) as we make our way through the new edition of Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms RPG. Now, this game is one that has been running for a while, and indeed if you look on the PP forums you will find my play report there. Here however, I will also throw in little extras like stats for enemies that we come up with, as well as music links and maps as/if they crop up.

This game is not your usual tale of derring do and heroics, though those may crop up now and again. No, this is a game of shadows, as advertised! Our heroes are members of a violent Khadoran gang (this Russian mafia), trying to claw their way to the top of the food chain in the ruins of Port Vladovar, once the home of the Khadoran navy before an assault by the Nightmare Empire of Cryx decimated it. Now the Motherland is trying to rebuild it, and to aid in the efforts, a lot of foreigners are being permitted into the city. This is where our cast comes in…

Alexander Genpi/Percival, Skilled Gobber Pistoleer/Spy
He’s a slimy little flatfoot who’ll never flinch from a fray.
-Scout Master Edwin Copperspoon

The gobber known as Percival is a CRS operative in Port Vladovar, tasked with keeping an eye on the Kayazy (merchant prince) and Navy forces stationed there. He is more widely known as A. Genpi, a ruthless mercenary gunslinger who has begun forming his own criminal gang – “The Burning Lead”, so named not only for their leader’s talents, but their supposed preference for executing rivals by pouring molten lead down their throats.

As part of the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service, Genpi often receives missives from his homeland tasking him with disrupting the Khadoran rebuilding efforts. He is not a brutal character, but one who will do what is necessary in the name of King and Country. He is not overly fond of Khadorans, but living in the city under an assumed identity has led to him developing a soft spot for some of the civilians he has had to interact with.

Larkin Sinclaire, Gifted Human Gunmage/Field Mechanik
“The Sinclaire’s are cursed I tell you. Best to make sure that when he does fall, he is as far from the good people of Cygnar as possible.”
-Gunmage Captain Adept Francis Burrows

A laid-back man who has been scouted by the CRS as a potential new recruit. He has been sent to Port Vladovar with orders to meet with Alexander Genpi and to aid him in his duties. Grandson of the infamous Gideon Sinclaire, Larkin has displayed elements of his grandfather’s ruthlessness, which the CRS has made efforts to direct in a more constructive manner. Graduated from the Academy with honors, and was able to fix a damaged old training steamjack as well thanks to his studies alongside Olliver Edmunds in the Cygnaran Armory. The steamjack has been dubbed “Dog” by Sinclaire for it’s eagerness to please as well as its loyalty.

Larkin is well aware of what really occurred to his grandfather – slain in a Cryxian ambush and raised as one of their fell lieutenants. He constantly fears that there is a weakness in his blood that makes his family susceptible to the darkness, and does his best to act as a kind and generous man. However, often his rash nature gets the better of him.

Olliver Edmunds, Gifted Human Alchemist/Arcane Mechanik
“Ambition is a funny thing. It can lead us to sublime heights or harrowing depths. In the case of Edmunds, they’re one and the same.”
-Captain Bernard Smyth

Once a decorated member of the Research and Development division of the Cygnaran Armory, working closely with Larkin Sinclaire on his thesis regarding mass-producing magelock weaponry as well as warjack magelocks, Olliver Edmunds is now a wanted man in his homeland of Cygnar. Following an investigation by the Illuminated Ones, ties were discovered between the division and Cyriss worship. Being the most expendable (as well as obsessive and sociopathic) member, Olliver was scheduled to be handed over as a scapegoat, but managed to flee before incarceration.

It was in Five Fingers he ran into Larkin again, who informed him of a certain Alexander Genpi who could help him disappear and continue his work in return for some favors. A typical sociopath, Edmunds is honest and blunt, and feels no regrets over his actions. They are all in the name of science after all. Sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Betrayed by the nation of his birth, his only loyalty is to himself.

Raksha, Mighty Human Bounty Hunter/Ranger
“Genpi’s pet Kossite is insane I tell you. You can tell by the eyes. Those aren’t the eyes of a human. They’re of some beast.”
-Winter Guard Kapitan Boris Tvardovski

Raksha is a woman of the wilds, a survivor on the fringes of society. Born to Circle worshipers, but found and adopted by a Kossite family, she has always had a wild aspect to her. This is most apparent with her eagerness to hunt – man or beast, it does not matter. An eagerness that Alexander Genpi recognized during one of her fights in the Captain’s Daughter, when she had come to Port Vladovar to sell furs and buy some goods. He aided her to avoid the Watch following the fight, and offered her a job hunting his enemies. Always looking for a challenge, she happily accepted and became a part of the “Burning Lead”. A daring and dynamic woman, she has adopted well to city life, stalking the rooftops and sewers in equal measure to locate her prey.

 

 

 
And that is it for now folks! Next time, I will post up the NPC list as well as gang assets as they currently are in the campaign. These will be constantly updated as the game progresses.