News for May 2010
Search and Destroy 21
The Missions framework in the Deathwatch RPG
Deathwatch | Published 21 May 2010

by Ross Watson

Greetings, Deathwatch fans!

This week, I have a guest designer diary from Owen Barnes, one of the members of the “Project Iceberg” team who helped bring the Deathwatch RPG to life.

Missions in Deathwatch

As part of a Deathwatch Kill-team it often falls to the players to tackle specialised battlefield tasks or complete key objectives for the Imperial forces. Unlike other kinds of soldiers a kill-team is often deployed as an autonomous unit, given broad tactical guidelines and lots of free license to wreak havoc and smite the Emperor’s foes. The kind of stuff Player-Characters excel at... Battle-Brothers are, however, much more than mere adventurers, and are usually only deployed for a good reason. This where the rules for Missions come into play.

Missions are guidelines that help the GM create the kinds of adventures and scenarios that a kill-team is likely to encounter, as well as give his games a sense of the duty and honour that comes of being a member of the Adeptus Astartes. Players who are familiar with the Endeavour system from Rogue Trader will recognise some of the ways that a Mission works. However, given the more militaristic nature of Deathwatch, there are a number of key differences.

Missions are divided up into Objectives, which are either rated as Primary Objectives, Secondary Objectives, or Tertiary Objectives (also known as Targets of Opportunity). The players can then complete Objectives how and in what order they see fit, and it is possible to complete a Mission without completing all its Objectives (though typically a Mission is considered ‘successful’ if its Primary Objective has been completed). Of course completing more Objectives usually means more experience and more renown as your Chapter sings songs of your deeds long after the bodies of your foes have turned to dust. In some circumstances, the Kill-team can even set its own Objectives during the mission!

One of the other key aspects of Missions is preparation. This is a selection of things that occur before a Mission, such as briefing, assigning a squad leader or choosing weapons and equipment. This period also includes Oath Taking, where Battle-Brothers can take on an Oath for their Mission, making a vow to the Emperor, their Chapter or their Battle-Brothers. Such vows are potent things for a Space Marine, and while they may motivate them to greater feats of bravery they may also force them to put their oath before tactical commonsense.

Missions can also have Complications, and as they say no plan survives contact with the enemy. These are special events that the GM can throw into a Mission to make things more challenging for the players, such as a mis-drop that puts them kilometres from their primary target, hidden foes like Lictors or daemon-hosts lurking among lesser enemies, or logistical problems that can mean a lack of support or limited ammo. Sometimes even Objectives may turn out to be false or changeable—such as turning up to destroy a bridge only to find it doesn’t exist, or protecting an Inquisitor who is more dangerous that the things trying to kill him.

However they are used, Missions are designed to be tools for the GM, helping him to bring Deathwatch to life and give his players a taste of the blood-soaked battlefields of the 41st millennium.

Forward, Battle-Brothers!

Next week, keep an eye out for more about the Missions framework, including some special attention to the deeper mechanics, like selecting a Kill-team Leader and the Oaths the Kill-team swears before the mission begins!

Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.

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Comments (21)

Published: 6/17/2010 4:15:00 PM

Really? I mean... really?

Roleplaying a Space Marine: "I kill the enemy! I smite the foe! I win the mission! Woot let's go home!"

Not one for those who like to be subtle and/or do anything other than charge frontally and roll lots of dice till you win, this one, I think.

And yeah, seriously, that artwork both sucks and blows.

Published: 6/1/2010 1:56:26 PM

So is this where all the other races in the 40k universe start showing their faces?

Published: 5/31/2010 10:54:22 PM

Neat-o, I'm gonna dig up my NATO Orders Format and Gothic-ise it up for this.


The Crusade has ground to a halt since the the Enemy has bottle-necked our forces in the Casserine system.


Infiltrate the Fortress of Casserine Prime and destroy its anti-orbital cannon.


-Three Objectives: Primary - Destroy the cannon or its generator; Secondary - Rendezvous at extraction point Sigma by T + 48 hours; Tertiary -  Eliminate any witches among the heretics you encounter.


1 x multimelta, 2 x auspex, Rapid Strike Vessel Croneus will provide orbital insertion via 1 x pod and extraction via teleport


Brother Artemis has tactical command, your callsign is Jovian, HQ callsign is Saturnalia

miss dee
Published: 5/30/2010 4:38:29 PM

Space wolves dont need a paycic hood.

Published: 5/28/2010 3:52:58 AM

Definitely convinced. Sounds like a great framework for missions. Simple, focused and to the point - presented in a terse militaristic format with cool possibilities for variation. Both thumbs up!

Published: 5/25/2010 9:55:51 PM

 Although (at everybody who critiqued the art) the art is cartoonish, and not the best that FFG has to offer,                        it is a style of art. After FFG publishing 4 RPG's in 40K alone (including Ascension) is a lot of work,                                   and they are doing very well I might add, I don't see why you guys have to slam the art on this, because, from what I've seen, art on the site usually doesn't go into the book anyways.

Published: 5/24/2010 2:31:08 PM

theDevilofWormwood : Totally agree on the artwork comment. Although I've known professional artists whose work suffered due to rushing for a deadline. WH40K fans have high expectations and want a great product for the money they're paying.

Published: 5/23/2010 10:42:20 AM

Sounds like a mashup betwitxt The Whispering Vault & a boardgame.

Published: 5/22/2010 6:57:43 PM

Hurrah!  I like this concept!  I foresee plenty of Splinter Cell inspired missions being done Space Marine style.

Published: 5/22/2010 5:25:47 PM

Although very interesting. I wonder how much the Oaths are going to influence play.


Extraction could be an objective, but as a kill team not a necessity. You are there to do your job, survival is not required.

From a roleplaying or better story point of view the climax lies in reaching your primary objective. Extraction will then be just an afterthought. You might have lost the interest of your players. So I would only do it if it is interesting storywise.

Published: 5/22/2010 12:55:38 PM

To my limited knowledge, Marines that serve in the Deathwatch return to their chapters having taken an oath of silence, if they haven't been mind scrubbed that is....

Published: 5/22/2010 6:11:24 AM

 theDevilofWormwood: I'm with you on the first piece. Both the style (a little cartoony) and the execution. But then again, I couldn't do even as well as the first piece if I spent my whole life on it. In general, ffg art has been pretty damn good, and I'd be happy with them keeping the same average quality for the next 39,000 years.

Btw, with 'Extraction' - not so much that, but I think it'd be good to have some idea of how a mission gets seen in history. Does it remain at 'black op', with sacrifices going unremembered and unknown? Does it raise or lower the status of individuals with their own chapter, which in the end, is probably what is most important for a given marine?

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