Chris McDowall, the author of our upcoming monster-hunting wargame The Doomed, introduces the game's apocalyptic sci-fi world...
In writing The Doomed, I started off with a very clear idea of what I wanted the mechanics of the game to feel like. The world itself, though, grew organically as the game developed. I’ll write about how the ruleset has developed in another article, but here I wanted to dive into the world of The Doomed as it is now.
In particular I want to talk about how each element of the setting is designed to excite both the hobbyist and gamer sides of your brain, inspiring you to get kitbashing and playing.
We are a forgotten world.
The Company came with their ships and guns, then abandoned us.
Only the doomed and the horrors remain.
I wanted to keep the focus on the present of this setting, so a very broad history is presented in the book’s introduction. This is a world that once existed under the Company, and it’s unclear whether that was as a colonised society or an outpost on an uninhabited world. Was this a military company or a corporation?
Either way, it doesn’t matter now. The main thing is that they’re gone but the remaining inhabitants are left with technology they don’t fully understand.
Those left behind are the titular ‘doomed’, and the warband you’ll be building to play the game. Specifically, you’re a bold leader with a ragtag handful of followers turned horror hunters. You’ll build the Warband from one of four factions, each of which is designed with lots of room for interpretation in how you model your units. It’s likely you’ll be able to throw together some warbands for each faction based on the sci-fi miniatures you already have.
The Inheritor Courts – Born to rule, cursed to die.
Those that cling to the past. This warband mixes medieval and sci-fi imagery as a court of anachronistic throwbacks trapped on a world that has no place for them. Lots of pomp and ceremony here, backed up with crossbows, incinerators, and thunderguns.
The Martyr Retinues - Blaming our own pathetic humanity.
Those that dwell on humanity’s mistakes, punishing themselves by rejecting their human identity. They can get really weird with robotic parts, with cybernetic knights errant alongside heaps of mechanical parts with a weapon strapped on top.
The Reborn Covens – Doing what nature cannot.
Those who believe humanity cannot survive in its natural state. The Reborn Covens dabble in genetics and biochemistry to kick humanity down a more shocking evolutionary path. The minds behind the cult wield superweapons like the grav warper and novagun alongside barely-human monstrosities fighting with twisted body and mind.
The Exiled Bands – Cast down from the stars.
The Company isn't the only interstellar power around here, but none of any importance would care about this world. Only those looking to carve out a bloody reputation or exploit a desperate population would come here. The Exiled Bands live only for the trade and the hunt, bringing wicked arms from across the galaxy alongside their own alien abilities.
The focus of conflict in The Doomed are the horrific prey that your desperate warbands seek. Monstrosities born out of a broken world, each one a small incursion against reality.
Each Horror forms the centrepiece of a scenario, and taking them down is no simple task. All Horrors are bound to the world by three Nexuses. Their exact form depends on the Horror, from the heaps of foul food that sate the Devourer’s gluttony to the swirling pools that allow the Abyssal Colossus to rampage into our realm. They’ll each complicate your task in a different way, and all three must be destroyed before the Horror can be put to rest.
Most Horrors have minions fighting at their side. The Winter Harvester brings his Pale Knights, who grow in power as they witness death on the battlefield. The Steel Tyrant is flanked by cowardly Enforcers, those drawn to serve under its violent oppression, but lacking any real desire for combat. Minions are mere shadows of the Horror’s power, but can still prove a dangerous distraction.
Even if you destroy the Nexuses and keep the minions at bay, the Horror is the real nightmare of any hunt. While they pack a dangerous punch they each have a unique way of breaking the rules of the game. The Crusade Machine doesn’t take a single turn each round, but will keep on taking turns until every other unit is exhausted. The Forsaken is represented not as a single horror, but a horde of hazardous wretches, the true leader only emerging when the hunters have thinned their ranks down to the last member. Each Horror represents a puzzle to solve as much as a threat to overcome.
As well as acting on their own turn, Horrors retaliate as each Nexus is destroyed, perhaps growing stronger or weaker, and deliver a devastating response at the end of a full round of combat.
If you’re playing a campaign of The Doomed, rather than a standalone game, you’ll get to witness your warband’s last days on this world in one way or another.
As you fight against Horrors you’ll gain Renown, letting you improve your warband. The greater prize however is Prestige: being the one that strikes the decisive blow against the Horror or secures a secondary objective. Prestige doesn’t make your warband stronger, but the first warband to reach 10 Prestige initiates a Climax scenario that sees your warband striving for their ultimate goal. This could be an exodus from the planet or a coronation to your rightful place as leader.
That would be the ideal situation, but as your warbands race to gather Prestige, the five Dooms of the world also grow in strength. These are the grim forces that thrive in such desperate times: Hunger, Hatred, Domination, Oblivion, and Ruin. If any one of them reaches full power then a Doom Climax is initiated instead; one final desperate fight to prevent the end of the world.
Truly, we are Doomed.
Next Thursday, 20th July, Chris McDowall returns to our blog to talk The Doomed's mechanics.
Art by Helge C. Balzer. Miniatures modelled, painted & photographed by Ana Polanšćak.