Affliction Ascendant

Wrath and Glory

gaming gm settings rpg scifi

I'm reading through the published adventures available for Cubicle 7's Wrath and Glory Warhammer RPG. Affliction Ascendant is the fourth and final book in a quartet of adventures, preceded by Bloody Gates, On the wings of Valkyries, and Lord of the Spire. The books aren't quite sequential, and instead each adventure occurs during the same military campaign to liberate Tora Armis.

This review contains spoilers.

Being the fourth book in a four-part series, Affliction Ascendant is a Tier 4 adventure. That means player characters are likely to be very powerful archetypes, like an Primaris Intercessor or an Inquisitor. Using the Forsaken System player's guide, players have access to the Canoness archetype of the Adepta Sororitas and the Astartes Apothecary, the Astartes Chaplain (the one with the skull heads), the Astartes Librarian (a battle Psyker), Primaris Reiver, and Tech-Priest Dominus. The booklet recommends that player choices include the ASTARTES keyword, but allows for archetypes that don't have it, so players can theoretically level up archetypes they've been playing and bring their character into this adventure.

Predictably, this adventure is pretty action-packed. After all, by the time you get to be Tier 4, brute force is pretty much a natural talent whether you want it or not.

The two conflicts

It's a little confusing at first, but there are actually two baddies in this story, and while they're not opposed to one another, they're also not working together, although they are working, essentially, toward the same general goal. You have to read it carefully as the Game Master, because there's a lot of nuance to the indirect conflict between the two sources of conflict in the adventure. The potential for players to get confused is probably pretty high, too.

First of all, you have to keep the two bad guys separate in your head. Botuthrax Clostidia is a daemon, and Lord Putradyne is a Death Guard traitor marine. Botuthrax is an incidental threat and has basically nothing to do with the plot. Lord Putradyne is the actual architect behind the Tora Armis rebellion, and has been using the psychic energy unleashed by the conflict to powerup.

Secondly, you have to keep their individual goals in mind. Botuthrax wants to recover from having been trapped in a sealed vault for thousands of years, while Lord Putradyne wants to ascend into daemonhood.

Finally, you have to understand how the two baddies relate to one another. Essentially, they aren't aware of each other, and the problem is that they're both unknowingly competing with one another for the same resource. Both of them are using the psychic and Warp energy generated by the battle for the spire to powerup. Even more inconveniently, Lord Putradyne mistakenly believes there's a cache of virus bombs buried deep beneath the spire. He's wrong. It's true that there was a great battle in the location that is now Tora Armis, but it wasn't virus bombs that the Space Marines of 3 millennia ago buried. It was a greater daemon (that's Botuthrax).


The adventure starts with an unexpected battle. In an event seen from afar in a previous book, the player characters start in a drop pod that gets temporarily swallowed up by a Warp storm. When you enter the Warp, you're co-mingling with daemonic entities, and so the moment the drop pod shifts from one reality to the other, close quarter combat begins. I'm not generally claustrophobic, but I'll admit that my pulse starts to race a little at the thought of being in a drop pod speeding toward a planet only to suddenly find hungry daemons sitting next to me.

Thanks to the player's past characters, the Warp storm is dissipated and the drop pod emerges back into reality, landing far below the Tora Armis spire. They have to fight an impossible number of Poxwalkers, which necessarily drives them deep into a vault with the ominous warning "Turn back. There are no heroes buried here. There is no treasure here."

As the player characters make their ways further into the forbidden vault, the true enemies begin to emerge. Botuthrax wants to gain strength after lying dormant for 3,000 years, and Lord Putradyne shows up expecting there to be virus bombs he can detonate as an offering to Nurgle. Aside from trying to comprehend the idea that there's more than just one evil plan at work, and to discern how to best deal with each one, there's not much left for the players to do outside of combat. But that doesn't mean it's a simple adventure. There are lots of decisions to be made, and they affect the adventure's outcome.

The adventure is written as if there's really no way to win. Player characters might win in one aspect, but fail in another, dooming a whole planet or ensuring that a greater threat returns at some point in the future. It's tough, potentially frustratingly so. I think it really does come down to speed and combat, in the end, and at Tier 4 the player characters are well equipped for that.

Ball bearings

It's easy to forget, because it's really just a MacGuffin, but the actual reason Tora Armis is noteworthy is because it's the leading producer of ball bearings. Without a steady supply of ball bearings, a bunch of machinery wouldn't work. So the actual stated goal of this quartet of adventures is to get ball bearings back into production.

That never comes up, and there's no moment in any adventure where player characters flip a big switch to resume ball bearing production, but I love that the stated reason for the adventures is so, literally, minuscule. "It's an adventure about resuming ball bearing production," is probably not the pitch you'd want to give when persuading people to play, either. But I love that in the Warhammer universe, there's a form somewhere within the Gilead System justifying military action against a hive city because the system's ball bearing production rate is down.

This was a good adventure, but it's unquestionably challenging. That's satisfying for me. I dislike high-level adventures that let characters glide past the biggest, baddest threats the world has ever seen. Sure the player characters are powerful, but the thing they have to suppress needs to be even more powerful for the victory to feel like an outstanding victory, rather than a day's work. The Angels of Death demonstrates this especially well. The team in that series lose limbs, some of them die, others are restored by unknown technology. There's a cost to the victory.

This book, and the whole series of adventures, is exactly what a Warhammer adventure ought to be.

All images in this post copyright Games Workshop.

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