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The Hobby Immersion Multiplier

Today I have the unenviable task of writing the first post after Mark's posthumous blog, so I'll open by saying the response to it from the community, both on social media and in our own comments section, has been overwhelming.

It was linked to by all sorts of people, including Aaron Dembski-Bowden and, in a touching move that resulted in one of the Beard Bunker crew quietly sobbing on a bus, the post was featured as one of the Elite Choices in Episode 196 of the Independent Characters podcast. As a long time listener to the ICs, hearing the guys talk about what Mark had to say was a trip, and an affirming one at that. Between that lovely tribute and the many other comments we got, there are two possibilities: one, that it was a funny, informative and moving collection of thoughts, or two, that people love a joke at Coldplay's expense.

Either way, it's given us some comfort. Thanks once again to everyone who dropped by.

We got to thinking about what on Earth one even does to follow that. More talking about our feelings? Heavens no! That level of emotional articulacy would upset the Queen.

I arrived at the conclusion that it'd be nice to provide an overview of the one thing we as a gaming group have all built together, something which has Mark's hobby DNA spliced into it, and which will outlive any one of us: our 40K storyworld, the Achernar Sector.

Click here for the interactive version

We are turbo-nerds, and have created what I suspect is an unusual level of detail and publicly available online resources for a group of random grognards. It's constantly expanding and having more detail added to it, and hopefully offers some utility and/or inspiration. We've used it as a setting for 40k, Battlefleet Gothic, Deathwatch, and Inquisitor/Inq28.

My hope is that this post will get you pumped to create your own consistent storyworld, with consequences and emergent history. It can enrich your gaming far more than one might expect... if you're part of a group of regular opponents, of course. If most of your games are against total strangers in a tournament, then this'll be about as much use as a caesium bikini.

A note on our campaign wiki & interactive sector map
Many of the links in this article go directly to the wiki Tom set up to help us manage the towering slab of lore we were accruing. Since any of us can log in and add/amend pages, we can collaborate, but the results are much more organised and easy to navigate than attempting something similar with Google Docs. Admittedly were it not for Tom I don't think setting up a wiki would have occurred to us!

Where a relevant wiki page exists, I've provided links in this article. Something that helps to navigate it all more smoothly is the interactive sector map linked on the wiki's front page. Again, all credit to Tom for his technical know-how! He took the map I created and then made every piece of text on it link to the appropriate wiki page. Delicious.

Has your campaign been going on too long?
Jeff created the first part of the setting in 2013. One might therefore think we've been playing one campaign for six years, demonstrating the sort of editorial restraint made famous by the Wheel of Time series (all 14 books of it). Not so, fellow nerd. We've been playing a number of smaller campaigns with beginnings, middles, and most importantly, ends. Lengthy campaigns can fizzle out, I find. As such, before I start I say, "Hey folks, I'm thinking of running X, it'll be Y kind of gaming and will run for Z number of sessions. Who's interested?"

Connecting your campaigns
There's a big advantage to longer campaigns, particularly in roleplay and narrative wargaming. If people have been playing it for a while, they get to know the setting, and that familiarity enhances immersion and gives the players a better understanding of their options. But it turns out you can have your cake and eat it: run multiple shorter campaigns in the same area of space. Let the events of a campaign influence that area, so the setting accrues history. It starts to feel lived-in. The players' decisions become part of the setting. Everyone in our group has now said, at some point, that they love this aspect of a consistent setting.

It also means that in the rare occasions where multiple campaigns are happening at once, you can have tie-ins. Let's take one of our gaming group, Jon, as an example. I'm currently running a Battlefleet Gothic Achernar campaign for him, and running Inquisitor for the Wednesday gaming group. The Inquisition team had to extract a deep cover agent from a Chaos cult in the Hasmides system. During their debrief of the (now very deranged) agent, they managed to wheedle out of him that the cult he'd joined was only one of many preparing for a full-scale rebellion. When Jon next got back in the admiral's chair, he received a message from the Inquisition warning him to keep an eye on the Hasmides system. Jon has since learned this was actually just the prelude to a full-on invasion by heretic astartes, and is now gearing up for a fleet action.

Since Jon plays the leader of Battlefleet Achernar, we've had him come in to play Vice Admiral Laius Ortano during the 40K campaign on Samalut IX, helping Tom's Raven Guard and Jeff's Blood Angels obtain orbital supremacy to give them more redeployment abilities in the ground war. He's turned up in a few other sessions, such as the Dammerung Conclave when the Inq28 players were planning the capture of a pirate battleship in Boros' Folly.

This is a screengrab from the Google Drawing we used for 2017's Samalut IX campaign. The inverted red triangles indicate ork formations, the blue triangles are friendlies, and individual astartes units all had a unique icon, currently displayed as embarked on their strike cruisers in orbit. Why a Google Drawing? Because each icon is actually a separate image than can be moved around the map by anyone logged in. This allowed the players to assign particular units to different scenarios. Earlier Beard Bunker posts explained the campaign rules, and there were also logs of the event from the perspective of the two players, Jeff (Blood Angels) and Tom (Raven Guard).

Other tie-ins include the Maara campaign. I ran a space exploration campaign for Jon and Andy in which they endeavoured to chart the Scyrian Expanse. Of the various uninhabited worlds they colonised, Maara was best suited to being turned into a Kill Team campaign - a small, frontier town versus the crew of a crashed ork ship who need to loot stuff off them to repair their vessel? Perfect!

Said Kill Team campaign is scheduled to run early next year over the course of a week, and naturally required that I make yet another map...

The map for 2020's Kill Team campaign

Room to expand
It's important, particularly when there are multiple GMs in your group, that no one person gets a monopoly on adding things to the setting. Tom and Mark have probably added as many locations to Hive Sejanus as I have. Jeff laid down the broad strokes of the Cetus sub-sector, and deliberately left room for others to come in and add stuff. Similarly, I explicitly left room for the Handrothian Cluster and the Kapran sub to have whole star systems added at a later date, which led to Mark adding Pont DuRot for an Inquisitor scenario, and Jeff adding Serpens for a game of Deathwatch.

The Achernar Sector: some broad brush-strokes
The sector is a remote one, far from major warzones and right at the edge of the galaxy. One of its sub-sectors, the Scyrian Expanse, remains only half-explored. Xenos goods are smuggled into the Cetus sub-sector from the Halo Zone. Even in this remote, relatively peaceful part of the Imperium, there is still some conflict; the ork invasion of Samalut placed great strain on Imperial forces in the Handrothian Cluster, and the more populous Kapran sub-sector is starting to attract the hungry eyes of traitors and worse.

Culturally, the systems vary enormously. A boisterous Ankran would be frustrated by the staid behaviour of a more civilised Kapran, while someone living in Cetus Major's Hive Sejanus would consider both to be sheltered fools. Even a Sejanus hiver might be envied by a mutant labourer eking out a living in the docks of Erydimae... this being the Imperium, there is almost always someone less fortunate than oneself.

There are no major forge worlds or hive worlds in the sector - it is a backwater after all - and its one hive city (Hive Sejanus) would be considered quaint by Necromundan standards. To the Imperium, Achernar is a sector of little consequence or strategic import. To the trillions of people living in it, however, it is a place of impossible variety in climates, cultures and fortunes.

Designated explosion areas
A major risk of collaboratively building something like this is that one person might spend ages creating a really interesting planet, only for someone else to decide "hey I'll use that place for my Adeptus Titanicus campaign!" ...and therefore exploderising it. As such we have a tacit agreement that the Cetus sub-sector is reserved for more domestic Inquisition stories. Furthermore, if someone wants to run something cataclysmic, it's best to pick or invent a system no-one's developed much, and then blow it up to your heart's content. That way the setting gets expanded, and no-one's toys get broken.

Of course, if you're the person who wrote the planet, it's probably OK to do apocalyptic things to it!

In closing
I hope this has been useful... or at least, got some hobby juices flowing. If there's something you wish I'd talked about in more depth, let me know in the comments. Equally, I'd be curious to see if you have your own maps and/or setting wikis. Or similar. Quality nerding is, after all, achieved through cross-pollination.

Comments

  1. One of my favourite bits of crossover nerdery is the Inquisition mission that wiped out the heretical Carrion Children gang ending up being the starting act of the Sejanus Hive Necromunda campaign as multiple gangs popped up to claim the territory now vacated by the extinct Carrion Children.

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