Groundhog Gate

To begin to tell this tale, I have to introduce the solar system it takes place in; a system of my own creation called Malthael in the Calixis sector. Malthael is rich in resources and habitable worlds and as such was being developed into a sub-sector capital before it became cut off by a warp storm and disappeared from public record forever. My campaign takes place 40 years later in the system after surviving the initial chaos and becoming self-sufficient. The party works for an Inquisitor, by the name of Olamide, who has been trapped in the system as well.

Solar System
The Malthael Solar System laid out with my brilliant paint skills. You’re envious.

Characters –
Arbitrator Serdar Philon – (Served among the Arbites on Urzael)
Guardsman Price Mktavish – (Served in the Guard in Malthael)
Naval Officer Damien Ibah-Rah – (Served aboard a trapped Heavy Frigate)
Tech-Priest Franky – (A female techpriest obsessed with beautiful augmetics)
Guardsman Colm – (An alcoholic Elysian veteran)

Groundhog Arc

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It’s like this… except with less skill, experience, equipment, training and coordination.

Everyone was shanghaied from their day jobs and brought together as a bunch of expendables for Olamide. The mission brief was as follows – Communications had been lost with a backwater planet (Belial) at the edge of the system and upon further inspection it was noted that it had halted in its orbit as well, yet orbital surveys/scans revealed life appearing to continue as normal on the surface. The Inquisitor sent two previous teams (An interrogator with her retinue and a Militarum Tempestus (Stromtrooper) squad) to ascertain the nature of the problem but lost contact with both. The party became the last effort, an expendable force, before declaring Exterminatus to solve the issue for good; my players were given a sixty-day deadline.

Belial City Map
Belial City Map (Based off of the map of Woodstock, where Groundhog Day was filmed)

 

Day 1:

Everything seemed normal upon approach including air traffic control which was directing them in until an EMP (the group later finds out that the EMP happens every four hours) caused a crash landing which everyone survived with light injuries. Price went to get medical attention at the spaceport hospital and ends up on the wrong end of a colonoscopy because he pestered a Nurse. The party then observed the Inquisitor’s Stormtroopers arrive via Valkyrie and attack the city’s primary comms tower yet when the party tried to make contact they found the Tempestus to be hostile. Due to this firefight, the PDF (Planetary Defence Force) ended up capturing the party and taking them to the PDF Headquarters. En-route they noticed the Interrogator flying over with her Gun Cutter and arriving at the Governor’s estate before being shot down. At the same time, local rebels attempted to use the Imperial disorder to their advantage and tried to seize the city. This causes the party to be questioned by a Commissar, who, after learning all he wanted, shot each of my players in the head because the risk of them being rebel sympathizers was too great.

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Welcome to Live, Die, Repeat!

This shocked and surprised my players until they woke up, after taking some insanity, at the moment of their crash landing upon the planet’s surface. They learnt that they were in a Groundhog Day/ Edge of Tomorrow situation. They began to record daily events in order to plan around them.

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The timeline. NOM are the Rebels (New Order of Malthael).

Day 2:

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I am afraid the Anti-Aircraft guns will be quite operational when your friends arrive!

The party decided to head to where they observed the Interrogator arriving. Taking care to avoid  any possible engagement with the Arbites, the Militarum Tempestus or the PDF. They managed to infiltrate the Governor’s estate and survived its defences in time to witness the Interrogator’s arrival and the Governor’s betrayal (the Governor’s AA destroyed her craft and he captured her). The party decided to attempt a rescue and broke into the mansion itself, ending up locating the Interrogator in a cell in the basement. She was totally insane and it was surmised that this was due to repeated deaths driving her mad. The party was unable to learn anything else that day because the guards found them and trapped them in the cell before dropping flashbangs in at the door. This caused two friendly fire incidents; Colm killed the interrogator by firing blindly and Price killed Colm by doing the same.

Day 3:

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Damnit Carl! It was the other beam! The other beam!

Deciding to investigate the potential rebel connection (the rebels claimed credit for the EMPs), the party assists the PDF in attacking rebel held positions in order to garner information. First they attacked a pub inside a shopping mall, where they managed to secure a prisoner who revealed the location of a local rebel stronghold under – extensive – questioning. Damien proceeded to use his rank to requisition aid from a PDF squad and the party assaulted the Stronghold (the city’s central library). So began a bloody engagement. Price died in the lobby due to grenades whilst under heavy bolter fire. Colm was crippled by a trip-mine on the stairs leading to the first floor and was left behind. Franky ordered a PDF trooper, with a missile launcher, to take out a support beam underneath the 2nd floor above, intending to take out the Heavy Bolter position, but made a mistake and targeted the wrong support. The missile hit its mark and dropped tons of rubble and material upon Franky and Serdar, killing them both. Damien was able to mop up, including giving the Emperor’s mercy to Colm who was now unconscious from blood loss. Their effort was rewarded with information of a rebel assault upon the local prison. Damien headed there and observed the entire day from that position until the reset at midnight.

Day 4:

Deciding to investigate their more immediate surroundings, they checked through the star-port in an effort to find the Governor’s personal hangar. After a hilarious interlude with rats moving about in the dark terrifying Colm and a staring contest between Serdar and a giant rat, they managed to break into the Governor’s hangar and found evidence of his complicity with the rebels but nothing more. After learning that the senior Astropath had been secured by the PDF at his residence, the group decided to go pay him a visit to see if there was anything he knew. It turned out that unlike every other resident on the planet, he was aware of the days resetting. Before they could learn more, Price insulted him and started a fight which ended embarrassingly on the residence’s front lawn; Price was killed by the first responding PDF troopers, Colm had his trousers down after having been given detox for being drunk and was gunned down by the PDF defending the house whilst trying to calm the situation, Serdar tried to escape by climbing a tree to get over the garden wall but fell due to his heavy carapace armour and was killed on the floor and Franky was gunned down by association.

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Colm, just before being gunned down.

Day 5:

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Damien, prior to learning that he was in fact wrong.

The party split up to head three different ways; Serdar joined the local Arbites and assisted in quelling a riot (he died whilst riding a motorbike through the crowd and crashing into a building). Damien was seized for questioning after trying to prove he knew what would happen during the day and was being tortured until Franky used his Admech status to gain an audience with the Magistrate, using the opportunity to plant a bucket full of Krak Grenades which blew off the top of the building in a rescue attempt for Damien. Both died in the effort. Price decides to investigate the far east of the map and ends up finding a hidden rebel encampment where he finds someone who was able to detect the source of the EMP, which was in the Marshes to the west.

Day 6:

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What are you doing in my swamp? Reeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The entire party heads towards the Marshes. Finding out that it had been surrounded and fortified because a Mutant City was hidden in it that the PDF hadn’t been able to deal with yet because of their more pressing Rebel issues. They forged their way into the zone with a priest for a guide, fighting off Mutant ambushes from their river boats as they headed deeper into the bayou. Eventually they decided to head over land, the direct route, engaging or avoiding Mutant patrols and defensive emplacements. They ended up building a raft to take them the last of the way across the water and nearly lost Price to a river crocodile; Serdar held onto him whilst the others shot it. Arriving at the location, they find an area sealed off by fences with signs indicating quarantine. Naturally they break into the area and find that it is entirely silent with no natural sounds such as insects or critters. At the centre of the area is a clearing and in this clearing, was sand. It was not normal sand and at their approach it revealed itself to be a monstrous creature that tried to swallow them (A Yu’Vath Sandslime). Eventually, with hardship, pain and suffering they defeated it and that revealed a purplish-black crystal circle, similar to a manhole, that had been hidden under it. They broke it open to reveal a sunken domed chamber underneath the clearing, skeletal corpses lined the walls hanging by black lightning. The group dropped down one by one, and one unlucky player landed on a spinning circlet of crystal (a Yu’vath Bone Conqueror Crown) that was hovering in the centre of the chamber. It awoke and began to deploy the skeletons from the walls to attack the party. Everyone died in the fight, two of them to gravity by moving towards the dome walls and falling off (the floor didn’t continue to the wall as it was a platform hovering in the middle).

Day 7:

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Despite all of the things I throw at my players during this campaign such as Daemons, Yu’Vath Constructs, Xeno horrors and unsanctioned Psykers… Gravity claimed the most player kills. Figures.

Knowing now where the threat/ source was the players headed back with a vengeance, requisitioning priest and PDF support, making record time in their trek through the swamp and in dealing with the Sandslime (which killed the last of their redshirts). They managed to defeat the Bone Conqueror and descended further into this Yu’Vath vault, losing party members along the way including Serdar and Damien to a combination of floating energy balls that gave off lighting (Yu’Vath Crystalwisps), and gravity (Serdar was trying to carry an unconscious Damien yet was knocked off the spiralling staircase by the Crystalwisps). Descending further and exploring wings of this Xeno dungeon, the surviving party member, Price, made it to what appeared to be the central nexus, defended by an enthralled human champion. Alone, he died quickly but not before learning more from the human (whilst defending the Yu’vath facility, the human guardian had freedom of speech).

Day 8:

Believing that today they would succeed and gathering the last of the supplies they believed necessary, the party decided to alter events by using their authority to notify organizations of upcoming events such as the Prison assault before heading back to the swamp. Repeating everything else they did the previous day, they fought their way back into the Yu’vath Vault and descended to the main Guardian, defeating him with a liberal application of Krak Grenades in a bucket. Breaking into the central nexus, they found what appeared to be a giant malfunctioning crystal – sporadically firing off lightning and spasming out. They destroyed it, stopping the EMPs and preventing the day from resetting. (The Yu’Vath facility was a giant survival bunker, built when the Yu’Vath were losing during the Angevin Crusade, in an effort to outlast humanity with temporal technology. That technology malfunctioned and hence the Groundhog day problem).

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Pictured are my players celebrating!


Groundhog Mop Up:

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As Agents of the Throne they now have the right to carry limited Rosettes.

After succeeding and safely extricating themselves from the vault and the swamp. They returned to a city where Imperial authority was being re-established due to the knowledge-bombs they had dropped earlier in the day. They re-established communications with their Inquisitor and briefly brought him up to speed before they were recovered and debriefed in full. The Yu’Vath vault was obliterated from orbit and the rebels soundly defeated. The party was officially recognized as Agents of the Throne, given expanded training and updated equipment, including a state of the art customized gun cutter… before being sent on the next mission.

Food Standards Agency (Mini-Arc):

Another mission for the party; something or someone is corrupting the food supply from the agricultural planet (Duriel) in the solar system. Tainted food causes people to turn into Chaos Spawn (MRRRGHghghghglgl). Their mission is to locate the source of the taint and prevent it. (They have 2 weeks before system-wide reserves are depleted).

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A Chaos Spawn — OH GOD NOOOOOOOOGLARBABLAHBALHABHLLL…

Travelling out to Duriel took a few days off of their allotted time, including a day they spent checking out a food distribution station. (As a GM, I must say something here; I now understand fully why Blizzard decided to restrict flying mounts in questing zones… Players avoid too much content and breeze through zones.) Tracing the food’s route back to a sorting/ packaging hub on the second continent, they took food samples (from before and after treatment/packaging) and tested them on prisoners they acquired from the local Arbites holding cells; spawnification happened in both sets of samples, proving that the food was contaminated prior to arriving at the hub.

Deciding to check the farmland itself, they made random spot tests across the continent and multiple farms and determined that the crops themselves were corrupted. Eventually finding out that the topsoil was contaminated as well (but not beyond a metre down). This led to a potential solution to the immediate problem but unless the source was dealt with, any treatment could be undone and so they headed to the Administratum centre to see if anything had changed within the previous year or two. Eventually they found out that a new fertilizer had been brought in by the Farmer’s guild in order to increase yield with less effort.

Approaching the main Baron in charge of the farms, they found out that he had been unaware of the damage he’d been causing and that he’d sourced the fertilizer from a Stryxis Black Market station within the Asteroid Belt. From there they learnt that the fertilizer had been supplied to the Stryxis by one of their customers which turned out to be Chaos aligned.

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We got a Gun Cutter Down. We got a Gun Cutter Down.

The Chaos group struck out again at the farms in an attempt to further reduce the food production in the system in order to destabilize the local government. The players reported what they’d learnt and how to restore the food supply (planet-wide topsoil should be removed and crops need to be seeded in fresh soil). After which, along with loyalist forces, the players brought their Gun Cutter to bear in an assault on a Chaos-held position but ended up getting shot down when they took a Plasma Cannon shot to the cockpit which stunned Colm and caused the vehicle to spin out. The crash was deadly and even with fate point burns, crippling in characteristic damage.

We had three rerolls –
Ogryn Brick – (Meat-shield for the party)
Penal Legionnaire Violet – (Cannon fodder for the party, offered Amnesty)
Sanctioned Psyker Asher Tiberius – (Gate-opener for the arc, offered retirement)

Stargate Arc

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No intellectual property infringement here! No sir!

A device called ‘Farnov’s Doorway’ (Dark Heresy 2nd Ed, Enemies Without, Pg.59), was located by the Inquisitor. This Doorway instantly connects to other Doorways in a network spread across the cosmos (totally not a Stargate rip-off) but requires Psykers to open it (at personal cost/ harm). Believing this to be a chance to save the system from its purgatory (or primarily himself), the Inquisitor set it up in an underground bunker facility (Gate Command) and decided to send the party through to map the network and make contact with the Imperium at large. The network itself was quite expansive and many adventures happened throughout and so I’ll probably miss a lot out and only recount the best moments.

Farnov's Doorway Network
The Network Map. Green circles are where the players traveled. Pink Circles are Imperial Contact points. Red/Orange denotes risk. Blue is safe. Purple could go either way.

 

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Halo Artefacts eventually turn you into a Monster in exchange for prolonging your life.

An early yet important event in their travels was when Violet found an amulet at the ‘Crashed Ship’ and put it on. At first everything seemed normal but eventually it was found out to be a Halo Device which regenerated any lost limbs or wounds and prevented death at a cost. She became exceedingly efficient cannon fodder throughout this arc.

At one point they dropped out of the doorway into the middle of a giant arena, ‘Thyrrus Thunder Dome’, where the party was part of a grand free-for-all between captured monsters, daemons, Thyrrus Champions and other combat entities.

Thyrrus_battle
The Thyrrus; eccentric Xenos who desire only to put on a grand show and care not for anything else, including inconvenient things such as Death.

The party did get split up but came out alright; Asher dominated one of the beasts and rode it, fighting like cavalry and even boarding a colossal worm that was being ridden by one of the Thyrrus Champions in order to duel on its back (that earned an instant replay by the Arena organizers). Violet sacrificed herself multiple times to protect other members of the party, who held the centre of the Arena in an effort to avoid the majority of the fighting around the edges. In the end it came down to a crowd vote between the party and an assassin (the crowd voted for the players (showing replays of their best moments)) and so they were declared victors and allowed to leave through the doorway.

Whilst exploring ‘Egarian A’, which mysteriously took them to ‘Egarian B’ (really confused my players, with different connecting gate locations), they came across an old Rogue Trader expedition from house Long. Recovering what they believed to be a ring, with a digi-weapon, named Lux Ignis. After leaving ‘Egarian B’ with the ring, they found themselves in a temple city in the middle of a jungle ‘Aztec Lizardmen’ and instantly under attack by monstrous dinosaurs with armour and primitive weapons. Whilst managing to hold against the tide for a while due to the Ogryn, Brick, blocking stairwells and corridors, the enemy numbers began to tell and my players were being overwhelmed.

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Imagine fighting one of these. Then imagine fighting a thousand.

Before the end, Violet, who had been the one to find Lux Ignis decided to fire it in a desperate last act which revealed it to be much more powerful than a standard digi-weapon – a beam roared out that vaporized a whole swathe of Lizardmen and the temple behind them (it was in fact an extremely miniaturised sunspear laser macrocannon (ship-class weaponry)). At the exact same moment all their electronic equipment failed but they had already cleared the majority of their opposition and were able to return to Malthael for repair, resupply and recuperation. Upon arrival at Malthael, the entirety of Gate Command was drained of all power (the party put two and two together and figured out the ring was draining everything in order to recharge after its blast).

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Rak’Gol; Reptilian Cyborg Psychopaths with a penchant for radioactive weaponry.

Having been attacked by the party previously, Rak’Gol forces used the window of vulnerability (defences down and facility drained) to assault Malthael through the doorway, entering the gate room and engaging the players and a defending group of Sisters. The fighting was long, bloody and brutal; Violet died so many times she started morphing into a monster that only wanted to feast on flesh until she was eventually evaporated by multiple Rak’Gol Rad Cannons (preventing any possible resurrection). Serdar and Colm managed to breach the doors, restart the main reactor and bring defences back online in order to repulse the Rak’Gol assault but it was too late to save the other party members in the gate-room.

Two re-rolls, one return –
Sororitas Medic Katherine Sanctus – (Last survivor of the Sororitas Gate-Room Guard)
Astropath Barry Scot – (Had come to Malthael aboard a vessel 40+ years previously)
Naval Officer Damien Ibah-Rah – ( Returned after rest and recuperation)

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“Why do you believe all Daemons are untrustworthy? You haven’t taken a large enough sample size to make such sweeping statements.”

Eventually after exploring about half of the network, they found themselves in what appeared to be a secure Imperial facility ‘Scintilla Lightless Vaults’ (A prison/reliquary for the Inquisition that holds dangerous or forbidden artefacts and entities). Specifically, they found themselves to be in a cryogenic prison wing, with null-lined armoured ceramite walls designed to be impervious to most Psychic or Physical attacks. They were forced to try and find the exit / guards / wardens in an effort to make contact. Throughout this they fought Daemon Engines, Cultists, Possessed Marines, Rogue Servitors and Automated Defences. They even encountered a ‘friendly’ Daemonhost who offered to help in exchange for his freedom.

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Ahhh, the unintended Moral Dilemma and team killing.. thank you dice, this was delicious.

A key source of conflict was an alpha level psyker (a little girl under 10 years old who couldn’t control her powers and was being burnt out by them). Interestingly, the little girl suffered from perils of the warp at one point and temporarily lost all her powers which left her vulnerable. Serdar and Colm thought they should kill her whilst they had the chance, Damien and Barry were against that because her powers weren’t her fault. Barry threatened Serdar and so Katherine killed him (conflict had been brewing for a while). Damien and Serdar came to blows during which the child tried to run away but was accidentally killed by Colm during overwatch, with a Lascannon, which he had set up to watch everyone’s back.

In the end after making it to the 2nd level and the main vault door to this prison wing, their rosette granted them clearance and they were able to make contact with the Imperium at large. Mission and Campaign success.

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Three original party characters survived to the end with Serdar becoming the next Inquisitor of Malthael (Olamide took the opportunity to bug out of dodge).

 

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