Fully automated luxury space capitalism
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Fully automated luxury space capitalism
Rogue Trader sounds like it should be perfect for an RPG. You play as a Rogue Trader, someone with a license to be an conquistador from the Imperium of Man. Your Warrant of Trade, possibly granted by the Emperor himself back during the Crusade, empowers you to own a Warp-capable Void Ship and alliances with the Navigator Houses grant you someone who can help the party make their way through uncharted space to find new planets, exterminate or enslave new alien species, and generally get up to Space Colonialism and Space Piracy. Instead of a lowly Acolyte of the Inquisition, you are either the actual Rogue Trader or one of their closest advisors, playing as the officer corps of your ship and its teeming masses of thousands of expendable ratings. It wants to be a much more high power, high adventure game rather than the low-level investigative work from Dark Heresy.
It is probably the worst game in its entire line, and I bounced off it *hard* even back when I was a 40k fan, with my group trying it for an arc or two before electing to play something else. I've tried running it a few times since, and the same thing always happens. It is an absolute mess of awkward mechanics, poor class and gear design, badly thought out subsystems, and inconsistent power. Space Combat and Spaceship design are full of the illusion of choice, and also require interacting directly with one of the worst subsystems in the book or else the majority of choices made there won't matter anyway. Advancement is a huge mess, and the Career system is so badly done in this game that I strongly suspect this is the game that killed the Career system, even if a smaller version of it was still in Deathwatch. Rogue Trader wants you to play as daring, swashbuckling masters of the universe and fails. I also don't quite know how to get this across, but Rogue Trader's fluff often feels like it's really lacking in the critical edge and self-awareness necessary to handle writing about murderous Space Colonialists. Think the bad kind of Steampunk and you'll get the tone of a lot of the fluff in RT, where you're all the daring, swashbuckling Great Men out to bring Civilization and Order and get fabulously wealthy on your adventures while crushing and stealing from the natives and 'savages'.
Character Creation works a lot like the other 40kRP games, save your base stats start at 25+2d10 before world modifiers (Intended to make you higher powered, fair enough) and you also have a new subsystem: The Origin Path. This is an attempt at a little Life Path system for your character. As you move down the origin path, you can only pick the next origin option directly blow your previous one or one point to the right or left. This leads to hilarity like a Death Worlder being unable to be an Ex-Mercenary (Stubjack) while a Forge Worlder *has* to be either a beloved scion of the IMPERIAL CREED, an ex-Merc, or a criminal, etc. You're also supposed to look for spots where your Origin Path intersected another player's to explain how you all met, which also feels unnecessary. Each step also has significant mechanical implications.
The most important step is obviously your Homeworld. Characters actually get skills from their homeworld now! Wonder of wonders, the Death Worlder actually fixed a bunch of the Feral Worlder's problems, and also aren't explicitly from a primitive world anymore; you could be from somewhere like Catachan where you're shotgunning the wildlife daily and getting into knife-fights with giant scorpions, but you know what a radio is. They still get a WP and Fel penalty in return for +5 Str and Tough, BUT they specifically get a +10 to saves against Pinning and Fear to make up for it, since they've seen some shit growing up on a planet where the natural environment is constantly trying to kill them. They take a penalty when using Interaction skills in formal environments but they're all hardened survivors and get the fairly useless 'You can use Primitive melee weapons regardless of your class' ability, since any class suited for Death Worlder is going to know how to use melee weapons already. They also introduce one of the dumbest ideas in RT: Your starting wounds are now 2xToughness Bonus+d5+minor homeworld modifier. On average, RT characters have *less HP* than Acolytes due to this rule; the average world gives 6 (average TB is still 3)+d5, which was the shitty Void Born number in DH. Yes, your High Power Explorers are generally more fragile than the shitty Acolytes. Characters generally have more Fate, at least: Death Worlder gets 2-3, with 50-50 odds of either.
Void Born (people who live in space) are exactly like they were in DH, with +5 WP for -5 Str, some trouble dealing with non-void-born, and they don't even get actual Skills, just 'you can use space skills as Basic if you don't have training', which is lame. They still get the 10% chance not to use up Fate Points when spending them, which is nice. Their whole 'never get messed up in Zero G and space' ability is also much more likely to come into play in a game about being space ship crew, so the marginal utility of some of their flavor abilities is quite a bit higher in RT. They get TBx2+d5 Wounds and 3-4 Fate, 50-50 odds of both. They're generally pretty solid and still great at being wizards.
Forge Worlders grew up on one of the huge Adeptus Mechanicus manufacturing and research planets. They get -5 WS and +5 Int, and they get the ability to whack their gun on a table and unjam it from their technological prowess (The talent is literally called Technical Knock). You also get to pick a single stat and add +3 to it since you'd have been crushed in giant gears if you weren't useful or something. You have trouble dealing with the Imperial Creed because you grew up with the Creedo Omnissiah instead. Obvious choice for Techpriests. d5+1+2xTB HP, 50% chance of 2 Fate, 40% of 3, 10% of 4.
Hive Worlders are, again, almost exactly like in DH. They grew up in massive megacities, they don't deal with low-tech surroundings very well, they're good with people and not too tough (+5 Fel, -5 Tough) and they react fast to trouble. There isn't much more to say about Hive Worlders. d5+1+2xTB Wounds (And with the Toughness penalty, you could be starting with a few as 6 Wounds) and 50% chance of 2 Fate, 30% of 3, 20% of 4.
Imperial Worlders are literally copy-pasted from DH; exactly the same +3 Willpower, no downside, and -5 on Forbidden Lore tests, exactly the same large series of academic and history skills they get to treat as Basic, but now they have a terrible d5+2xTB wounds and 80% odds of 3 Fate, 20% of 4. Again: With a bad Toughness, an Imperial Worlder can be starting the High Powered Game with 5 Wounds.
Noble Born are new. You're a Noble, someone of vast wealth and relative personal freedom. Your actual homeworld could be any sort of world, but wherever you're from, you're the Space 1%. You get +5 Fellowship, -5 Willpower, +10 on any social checks in formal surroundings, a random subplot about a vendetta someone has against your family as a 'drawback' (A dramatic enemy trying to kill you is hardly a drawback in a roleplaying game about adventures and noble vendettas!) and your group gets +1 Profit Factor (A % chance to acquire items that serves as your measure of group spending power) per Noble PC. You also get d5+2xTB Wounds and 30% odds of 2 Fate, 60% of 3, 10% of 4.
After that, you begin to pick your birthright, your destiny, and the many other steps on your Origin Path.
Next Time: Those many steps.
No Hiver would ever have been a Scavenger, that's just unrealistic
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
No Hiver would ever have been a Scavenger, that's just unrealistic
So, there's a sidebar that fixes my problem with the origin system, though it does it in a very counter-productive way. It says, essentially, you can ignore the dumb adjacency rule if you WANT but you should make sure your player has a convincing background and is a really good player who can handle such a wild character concept as, say, a Death Worlder whose past experience was being a professional mercenary or a Hiver who grew up a scav. You know, staple archetypes of the setting, which are obviously wild and out there PCs. Why, if we ignored the adjacency rule we could have an Astropath (psyker) whose motive *isn't* Endurance or a Rogue Trader motivated by something other than Prestige! That could just be madness in the hands of a non-advanced group.
All sarcasm aside, once you remove adjacency the concept of the Origin Path is fine. Later books will add to it and give you more options, and the ones in the core book are a little limited, but the idea of having a mechanical path from Homeworld to Background to What Got You Into Space to What's Gone Wrong For You to What Drives You Now is a decent idea for portraying an experienced PC. Some of the options are so mechanically bad I can't see someone ever taking them, but the concept is sound.
We start off with Birthright: What sort of class and life were you born to? Scavenger is our first option, meaning you grew up in deprivation and hardship in an underhive, the lower factory works of a forge, the outcast decks of a ship, etc. You get your choice of +3 WP or Agi, Resistance (Fear) or Unremarkable, and gain d5 Insanity or Corruption from the awful stuff you witnessed on the streets. A Scapegrace was born a criminal or outcast, not necessarily as poor as the Scav but living among hive gangers, entertainers, travelers, or other people the Imperium finds suspicious. You get Sleight of Hand for free and +3 Int or Per, plus d5 Insanity or Corruption. A Stubjack was born to war, possibly the child of an Imperial Guardsman on deployment (Fun fact: You remember Imperial Commissars? The big hatted guys who shoot guardsmen for falling back? One of their canonical duties is caring for the babies and children Guardsmen from their unit have out at war, a duty they by all accounts take very seriously. I mostly wanted an excuse to point that out) or the child of a mercenary. You've known how to kill from an early age, getting +5 to WS or BS, a -5 to Fellowship, d5 Insanity Points, the Quick Draw talent, and Intimidate. A Child of the Creed was born into the church and lived there their whole early life, surrounded by piety and faith. They get +3 to WP or Fellowship, Unshakeable Faith (The Reroll Failed Fear Tests talent, super good to have), and -3 WS. A Savant was born and raised by gentle nerd-adepts, surrounded by parchment and the Imperial equivalent of being middle class. They get either the Logic skill or Peer (Academics) (+10 to dealing with fellow nerds, for knowing their gentle ways) and +3 Intelligence or Fellowship, but -3 Toughness. Finally, Vaunted characters were born to wealth and privilege, living a lifestyle of extravagance and decadence, such that they actually gain the Decadence talent (drugs and drink don't negatively affect them much) and +3 Agi or Fel, and -3 Per and d5 Corruption.
Next we get Why Are You In Space. It starts with Tainted: You are either a mutant (can spend 200 of your starting EXP to choose your minor mutation instead of rolling), Insane (-1 Fate (!!!!) or -3 Fellowship, +2d10 Insanity, gain Peer (The Insane) and +3 Toughness) or a heretic (+3 WP, gain Enemy (Ecclesiarchy), meaning -20 to Fel dealing with them), which all sort of suck to have. You might also be a Criminal, starting with your choice of Wanted Fugitive (Enemy (Arbites), meaning Judge Dredds everywhere hate you, but Peer (Underworld)), Hunted By A Crime Baron (+3 Per but Enemy (Underworld) as space mafia try to kill you), or Judged and Found Wanting (-5 Fellowship, start with a poor Cybernetic implant to represent the piece that was cut off of you, can pay 200 EXP to make it Common or 300 to make it Good). Again, mostly surprisingly negative! A Renegade gains Recidivist (Concealment skill for free, Resistance (Interrogation), and Enemy (Arbites)), Free Thinker (+3 Int or Per, -3 WP, Enemy (Ecclesiarchy)), or Dark Visionary (d5+1 Insanity or Corruption, Dark Soul talent (easier to avoid Malignancy from CP gain), and one Forbidden Lore of your choice). You might be bound by Duty, either to the Imperial Throne (+3 Willpower and ONLY if this puts you to 40 WP, The Armor of Contempt talent, which lowers Corruption gains, -10 to all Interaction skills with non-Imperials), Humanity (+3 Per or Int, -1 to group Profit Factor due to you being charitable and not-shit), or your Dynasty (Gain Rival (Other Rogue Trader) and -3 Toughness, but +1 group Profit). You may be a Zealot, with Blessed Scars (+10 Intimidate, -10 Charm, gain 1 Cybernetic of Poor Quality that you can spend EXP to upgrade like before), Unnerving Clarity (-5 Fel OR d10 insanity, +5 WP), or beloved of the faithful (Peer (Ecclesiarchy), +5 Fellowship, -5 Toughness). Finally, you might think you were Chosen By Destiny, gaining Seeker of Truth (Hated by the Ecclesiarchy or Academics, -3 WP, gain the useless Foresight Talent so eh), a Xenophile (+10 to interact with aliens, possibly really useful in this, the game where you might meet and talk to aliens, for -5 to WP to resist alien wiles), or Fated for Greatness (+1 Fate (!!) for d10+1 Insanity). As you might notice, most of these are a majorly mixed bag. Also a lot of them make you a crazy person.
Next you get something that went wrong for you during your life. A Trial and Tribulation. The Hand of War means you fought in a long and bitter war, giving you a Weapon training of your choice or the ability to get up as a free action and Hatred against whoever you were at war against. It also gives you -10 to Interaction tests with them and 'you will react violently against them given the chance, with a WP save to think better of it' so yay. You may have been Press Ganged into space, giving you a skill of your choice and a Common Lore of your choice, but a violent aversion to being caged that requires WP to avoid reacting violently against anyone suggesting they might take your freedom (These kinds of 'drawbacks' are never annoying, no). You might have survived Calamity, getting through a space apocalypse of some kind or a major coup, giving you Light Sleeper and either Nerves of Steel (Reroll failed Pinning tests) or Hardy (Always lightly wounded for purposes of healing), but your experience as a space hobo impoverishes your group to the tune of -1 Profit. You may be Ship Lorn, having survived your prior ship exploding or getting hulked. No-one would ever take this one as it gives you either the Survival skill or Dark Soul talent plus the ability to roll twice and take the better when spending Fate to heal, but a -5 to all Fellowship tests with space-farers and -1 Fate. You may have been on a Dark Voyage that uncovered all kinds of space evil, gaining either a Forbidden Knowledge of your choice or Resistance (Fear) from having already encountered space villainy of the blackest sort, but d5 Insanity from terrifying space experiences. Finally, you might have a dramatic High Vendetta with another highborn doomed manchild, gaining Die Hard (Reroll failed bleed out tests) or Paranoia (+2 Initiative) and Inquiry. However, you are the epitome of the Doomed Highborn Manchild and will brook no offense of your person, meeting it with violence and vendetta unless (you guessed it) you pass a WP test.
Finally, we have your Motivation. What drives you most in your quest for space riches. Endurance is self-explanatory and gives a measly, insulting +1 Wounds. Fortune means you love luck and money in equal measure and have plenty of both, gaining a mighty +1 Fate. VENGEANCE means you want someone dead, gaining Hatred against their kind. Renown means you want to be one of those people with giant 80m statues on the top of hives, gaining Air of Authority or Peer (Choose One). Pride means you are driven by your sense of self-worth, and either gain a fantastic Heirloom Item or +3 Toughness. You have to roll for the item, but they're all good: Either a Best Archeotech Laspistol (A very capable and neat little sidearm), a Best blessed Chainsword (Still a very capable melee choice), an ancient seal that gives +10 to Interactions with Imperial authorities, a Best suit of blessed Carapace armor (AV 7 and blessed is pretty nice), or a true relic of a saint that gives a +20 to Interact with the Ecclesiarchy. Finally, you may be motivated by Prestige, which insists it is totally different from Renown, and gives Peer (Choose one) or Talented (Choose a Skill).
The idea of Origin Path is fine, the execution is a bit of a mixed bag. I can't see anyone ever playing a Ship Lorn, for instance, or taking Endurance when they could take Fortune or one of the more interesting ones. The many 'make a WP save or do something stupid' Trials are also annoying when you remember everyone in your party has a full origin path, so you've got a lot of room for accidental friction and non-functional parties with competing Doomed Highborn Manchild urges.
And let's be clear: Rogue Traders are some of the ultimate Doomed Highborn Manchildren.
Next Time: Classes. Oh, god, these are not going to be good.
A complete misunderstanding of an older system
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
A complete misunderstanding of an older system
I should note you also roll at this point to see how much starting profit you have and how badass your starting ship will be, but I'll cover all that when we get to gear and ships when it will actually mean something. Suffice to say if you started with a Cruiser or something you're going to be so poor you have trouble buying a lasgun.
Rogue Trader's class system is the first really
bad part of the system. We begin with a really stupid idea: You start with 5000 EXP, but can only spend 500 of it. This is to 'balance' you against cross-play with Dark Heresy; they estimate an RT character starts at about 5000 EXP for a DH PC. Also, you remember how Ranks in careers were really quick early on in DH? That isn't the case anymore. Rank 1 is from 5000 to 7000 EXP, and as we'll get to later, the expected rate of advance is 500 EXP a session. When I ran the game, my PCs actually ran out of things they wanted to buy in Rank 1 outside of stat-ups before they finished the rank. Ranks start costing more very quickly; in DH, if a character didn't get, say, Swift Attack until Rank 4 they could count on getting there in 8-10 sessions. Here, if you go by expected EXP (I imagine most groups increased EXP gain, especially if they only met once a week) you'd need to be playing for a long while before you got access to it. I make this point because a lot of really important talents and things are locked behind Rank 4-5 without much thought of how much further away that is than it was in DH. Your character will be very limited in what they can do at low ranks, and the starting talents and skills aren't expansive enough to make you feel like the badass Master of the Universe you're supposed to be.
Also, for some reason, they changed the costs on everything. Every skill and Talent outside of some rank 1 ones that are mostly reprints of your starting skills costs 200/500 now (Most of Rank 1 is actually just stuff you already start with). Stats cost the same. I THINK the intent was to promote higher stat growth by making them relatively less expensive compared to skills and talents. But it also screws up the whole 'an RT PC is a DH PC with 5000 EXP' when EXP has a different value for the two PCs types. You can't use assumed EXP total as a cross-platform balancer when you keep changing how much an EXP point is worth!
The first class is the Actual Rogue Trader. You have to have one, and the book suggests you should probably only have one. This is the actual captain and holder of the Warrant of Trade. They come with the ability to use every non-exotic pistol and melee weapon, but won't learn to fire a rifle until Rank 4. That's right, your Rogue Trader can never learn how to fire a Lasgun until rank 4. The Universal Weapon Talents are just weird. They also come with a bunch of leadership and talky skills, and they're good at WS, Intelligence, and Fel while being poor at Str and Toughness. They're basically a more confused Scum from DH if the Scum was also bad at stealth. In general, the classes are very confused about how they'll actually play. Like how RT sort of wants to be a dashing melee specialist and talker, and while they're good at talking, the poor Str and Tough and the fact that no-one gets, say, a second attack in melee until Rank 4 at the least as well as the availability of exotic and powerful firearms kind of pushes the entire game towards guns. Talent-wise the RT is probably the 'best' melee specialist, but they don't have the stats to back it up and lots of other expensive stuff is going to push them not to buy those stats. They also learn more Exotic Weapons than other classes, which is fine. They also get some ship-boosting talents, and a special ability where they give an ally +10% to one check per round as a free action since they're good leaders.
Oh god, the poor Arch-Militant. The Arch-Militant is meant to be the grizzled badass captain of the ship's military forces. What they are is basically a 3.5 Fighter. They get a special ability to get +10 to hit, +2 damage, +2 Init when wielding weapons of one 'class' (The game never specifies anywhere if this is Melee/Pistol/Basic/Heavy or if it's, say, Bolt Weapons, Las Weapons, etc) and are good at BS, Str, and Agi while being bad at Int, WP, and Per. They are absolutely terrible in melee, gaining a confused mishmash of hand to hand combat abilities despite their high Str advance. They start out able to use any non-Heavy, non-Exotic weapon except Flamethrowers, those are special for some reason. They never really learn to do anything but fight, and aren't useful for leading troops. The thing that's galling is they aren't even especially good at fighting. The Guardsman in DH had its flaws with its WP weakness and inflexibility, but by God if you put the Guard in a situation that just required brute force, they could do it. The Arch Militant's BS and Agi are useful for gunfighting, sure, but it won't be until Rank 5 before they can really dual-wield pistols or gain critical talents like Mighty Shot. They don't even learn to do commando shit. You're just a dumb, poorly built trigger-puller with no toughness, leadership ability, and you never even get a second melee attack until rank 8, never even getting a 3rd one. Friends don't let friends play Arch-Militants.
The Astropath Transcendent has a totally new Psy system and is also the ship's main communication system. They're good at Int and WP, bad at WS, BS, and Fel, and they're generally very knowledgeable wizards. They're also soul-bound to the Emperor, which explodes their eyes, but they can see fine without them and are immune to further blinding. There's really nothing wrong with their class, and their Psy is much more limited than a DH Psyker; since they're Astropaths, they only learn Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Divination magic in the core book. Gone are the many Minor Psychic Powers, as well. You just get a few big powers. Most of their powers for combat were kind of weak compared to just using a gun and got buffed significantly in later errata. They use a Psy system similar to one in Deathwatch rather than the one in Dark Heresy. There's nothing really wrong with this class; it's knowledgeable and it's got decent psy, and that's all its trying to do. Their special is being able to make their Psy a bit safer (roll a d10 and add or subtract it from the Perils table) and big bonuses against possession. They only start out with Telepathy and can only learn additional psy later.
Oh boy, here comes the Explorator. The Explorator is one of the most powerful classes in the game. This is the turbo-techpriest, and every single group I've ever heard of has some hyper-badass heretek Explorator (Pick your flavor: Grafting Tyranid bits on for bio-power or Loves Them Some Necrons) somewhere in it. They're good at Strength, Toughness, and Intelligence and bad at Agility, Perception, and Fel. They get all kinds of tech skills, heavy cybernetic augmentations and powers, and this is the book that introduces 'extra Armor just for being a Techpriest' talents. They'll eventually be a better melee fighter faster than the Arch Militant. They can also probably outshoot him due to Machinator Array making them stabilized and hyper-strong for heavy and exotic weaponry. They're also, you know, useful for something other than pulling a trigger. The Explorator starts with 2 cybernetics as their special, and can spend 200 EXP to increase either to Good, or 400 to make on Best. One of the Cybernetics they can start with can give them Unnatural Str x2 if it's Best. Another can give Unnatural Intx2. They can start with laser eyes. A Best Cortex Implant (the hyper-intelligence one) is supposed to be the kind of thing even an RT will have trouble affording. With time, your Explorator will be an amazing physical powerhouse who has a ton of cybernetic magic and tech skill. They oil their giant cannon implants with the tears of Arch Militants.
The Missionary is kind of an odd man out. They're Cleric from DH, but without the flexibility and with a strong focus on hand to hand combat and flamethrowers. Good WS, WP, and Fel, bad BS (Don't need BS to aim a flamethrower!) and Intelligence. This despite starting with Medicae and being implied to be a team medic. They're a lot like the Cleric except they get the Faith Talents from the Sisters, which we didn't have time to cover. Faith Talents let you spend Fate to do extra miracles, or burn it to do crazy over the top holy manifestations of righteous power. Unlike a Sister, they don't get to choose which Faith talents they buy and when. They're also missing a lot of the Sisters' best group-buffing ones. Faith talents are cool, but the Missionary is missing most of the best ones. And you already have a high fellowship face character because you needed to have a Rogue Trader. You're going to be missing some classes in a party (There's 8 classes and most groups are 3-5 players) and Missionary is a strong candidate for being one of them.
I hate the Navigator class a lot. You're the warp-sensitive mutant who can see the ship through an annoying random encounter subsystem. That's your main job on board. Otherwise you're not good at much besides generic 'knowledgeable space wizard' stuff and a handful of magic powers that are generally pretty awkward to use. They're good at Int, WP, and Per, bad at WS, Agi, and Fel, and they beg the question every time you set out: If this person dies, we are stranded, so why the hell is our irreplaceable genetic aberration whose family charged us more money than two Presidentss to assign them to us out there getting shot at? It's a class more easily relegated to an NPC, and it doesn't bring anything to the table besides occasionally making a few special rolls in transit to see if something zany happens. They can absolutely melt people to ash by opening their third eye and showing them the Warp, though, so I guess there is that. Just, uh, warn your buddies before you do it. And even then you might kill your allies.
Alright, I've been hard on the classes, but in concept at least, the RT version of the Adept kind of rules. The Seneschal is the competent middleman on the ship who actually knows where all the money is, and who is also an able spy and action accountant. I'm not kidding, the class picture is a well-appointed man descending on a commando rope with his quill stuck between his teeth. They are the quiet man or woman who actually runs most of the business side of things while the Rogue Trader struts around and waves their power sword for the holo-picts, and they're good at Int, Per, and Fel while being bad at Str and WP. They're competent enough with a gun (and hilariously, can start with an anti-tank microwave pistol hidden under their robes) and excellent at all the skills needed to be a know-it-all spy and skillful business manager. Their special class ability gives them +1 DoS on Inquiry, Commerce, and Evaluate tests (They know business, and they know what everything is worth) and lets them spend Fate to automatically succeed a Lore, Ciphers, or Logic test regardless of difficulty, in the minimum time required, with the best result. If you need someone to know things and actually run your stupid interstellar trade empire, the Seneschal is a pretty neat update to make an Action Adept.
Finally we get the Void Master, another confused class that has an amazingly powerful special ability and nothing else. They're meant to be the hardened NCO or duty-officer who runs the helm, guns, or sensors of the ship. They get good BS, Agi, and WP, poor Fel and Int (despite being, you know, an officer). Their class abilities are a wide mishmash of piloting and maybe some shooting and stuff, but they aren't really good at much outside of space-ship crew stuff. They'll generally be a mediocre fighter with an array of random skills, but the reason you bring one is that their Special lets them reroll failed tests aboard a starship. They pick what they're good with: Small Craft (Piloting checks), Helmsman (Maneuvers, rerolling failed tests without needing Fate on this is huge), Gunner (BS tests, which is a huge goddamn deal) or sensor officer (Eh, still useful). They only get that one thing. You take this class for what they can do on a ship; the character will be pretty meh everywhere else, and probably very bored.
So yes, classes are a weird mishmash of confused ideas that take a very long time to feel competent and generally don't live up to their fluff. Also the Techpriest will become an angry God and the accountant is probably the most competent person on the ship.
Next Time: A note on Skills and Talents before Gear.
Shopping: Surprisingly not very in depth.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Shopping: Surprisingly not very in depth.
I don't really need to talk skills and talents because we've been over them before, and most gear is as it ever was. I will take a moment to briefly point out RT has more Exotic Weapons than past and future games, and that they range from 'holy hell yes' (Crux Beam Gun, a long-range alien assault shotgun run off of lasgun packs that can blow away a light tank) to useless (The Ghost Sword is an alien sword made of magic metal that makes the Ordo Xenos dislike you and that is statistically inferior in every way to an Imperial Power Sword while requiring an expensive and limited proficiency pick) to meh (Eldar Shuriken guns are fine, I guess. Why not use a bolter? They're automatic this month!) and are very rare and expensive. For the most part, expect players to have a lot of exotic guns and power weaponry.
Also note, this was added in errata in DH1e, but any rifle with Accurate, when fired single shot after spending at least a half-action to aim, adds +1d10 damage (max 2d10) to its shot. This is notable because it means that Accurate is a nice trait to have on pistols, heavy weapons, or whatever (+10 extra to-hit if you aim at all is helpful) but a total game-changer on a rifle, especially since heavy weapons talents are fairly limited in RT. Even the mighty Explorator can't use any Heavy Weapons until Rank 5. Getting 2 Heavy slots at Rank 4 is one of the only 'good' things for the Arch Militant. If your group needs to handle a vehicle or a big monster you're going to be relying on sniper rifles, meltas, heavy melee weapons like power fists, etc for the first 20 sessions or so of a campaign using normal progression.
However, since I have so little to really talk about in gear, we're going to skip ahead a bunch to Chapter 9, because the Acquisition and Profit rules *really* should have gone in the Gear chapter. You've seen me mention 'profit factor' often in this review. Your Profit Factor is a group stat that reflects an abstraction of your obscene wealth, starting from 20-60 depending on how awesome your starting ship is. You can either roll d10 (10% chance of 60 Profit, 30 Ship Points, 20% of 50-40, 40-50, 30-60, 10% of 20-70) or just pick one of the options. We aren't into ships yet, but 70 points can get you a tricked out light cruiser or a somewhat stripped down heavy cruiser, while 30 basically demands you take a shitty transport that won't be doing much fighting or adventuring at first. Your Profit is then adjusted for backstory and background picks.
Profit is used to buy items, favors, starships, and everything else. Increasing your Profit Factor is the assumed core goal of a Rogue Trader campaign, because you are here to make enough money to have your horrible clone-baby robots dipped in molten diamond. For the most part, Profit is your base % chance of acquiring an item, modified by its rarity, quality, what sort of item it is, and if you're trying to get more than one of it at a time. UNLESS the item is 'Unique' or 'Near Unique' you get a huge bonus for only buying one (+30%). I wish they'd dropped the naming scheme for the availabilities because at this point they literally do just mean 'base difficulty on the buy shit test'. A Good item imposes -10, a Best -30. There is no guideline for how often a party can try to roll to acquire items, it should be limited by the GM's sense. There is no penalty for a failed acquisition, and until later books, no way to, say, burn permanent Profit to demand you win an item. The book also recommends that if players are failing at Acquisition rolls you write an adventure where they seek out the item they wanted and steal it or whatever. If you're acquiring an item with attachments, like a gun with a scope, you take the highest Availability penalty among the components, and an extra -5 per component.
So let's say I'm a Space 1%er with average starting space-money (40 Profit) who wants my own tricked out autogun, a pretty simple item that a mid-level DH character could get trivially. I want it to have a Red Dot Scope (+10 to hit on single shots) and a Fire Selector (Load 3 ammo types at once). The Autogun is common, but the scope and selector are Scarce. Scarce is the base +0, I'm putting 2 things on, and I want it to be Best because hell yeah, tacticool space M-16. Best is -30, two items is -10, and I'm only buying the single gun, so it's a total of a 30% chance to get a fairly easy mid-range DH era weapon. But wait! Say I want my own suit of Power Armor or Light Power Armor! Those are both Very Rare (-20) and I get +30 for just buying 1, so I've got 50% chances of getting some of the most advanced armor in the Imperium. Hell, let's make it Best for the most expensive personal armor possible! Still 20%, only slightly less likely than getting that silly little autogun. The system is simply not all that coherent. Also, Profit generally goes up 3-6 points per adventure. Profit also generally doesn't go *down*. There's actually little to no resource management in this, the game about running a commercial empire.
The problem with profit is it's incoherent, it advances at a fairly glacial pace book-as-written, and it doesn't do a good job of symbolizing what it's trying to do. It's meant to show you're so wealthy that it's more a matter of 'can I find this thing in my budget' than 'could I afford it at all'. But it ends up being a really weird subsystem that can also really punish individual players for being unlucky. When we were playing, our Navigator kept trying to get exciting pistols for her collection or fun trinkets, and kept botching all her Get Stuff rolls, while over here we've got the Rogue Trader walking around with a a Best Power Fist and a suit of Best Power Armor because he kept rolling under 10. It also doesn't give them much granularity to work with for pricing items. For instance, Power Armor, Carapace Armor, and Light Power Armor *all have the same availability*. Almost all Power Weapons do, too. Etc. When you really only have a few levels of cost to work with, and all these modifiers, and the general 'Roll whenever the GM feels like letting you do it' you end up with a weird system where it feels at once too hard and too easy to get all the 'best' gear.
They say you can arbitrarily demand that players reroll to acquire their items as insurance against, say, 10% to get the best gun in the game. If they fail, they either suffer -5 to all acquisition tests, lose the item, the item stops working, or the item's quality or scope goes down one step, with all of these that don't discard or degrade the item lasting until the group's Profit increases. Once again: It is totally arbitrary when this happens, though there is the suggestion of limiting it to the item being damaged (and thus needing to pay to repair it) or people trying to steal it or whatever. The arbitrariness of this rule makes it feel spiteful and unfun to deal with, and I'd be surprised to see very many groups making extensive use of it.
You can also check Profit vs. Profit when dealing with another organization as if it was an opposed skill test. For every DoS you beat them by, you get +5 on an Interaction test (cumulative) because you overawe them with wealth. For every one you lose by, you get -5 as you prove gauche. You can also just roll Profit vs. arbitrary number for 'favors, passage, etc'. You lose nothing by trying, generally. You gain profit by doing endeavors (having adventures) with their whole (again, arbitrary) victory points system modified by your skills, ship components, etc to meet the GM's assigned numbers and gain enough points to count as succeeding, gaining the endeavor's profit value for your group's total. For instance, one Lesser Endeavor suggested is 'Actually carry goods from a far-flung port back to Calixis.' You'd first do a Trade objective for X Winning Points to get the items and establish a route, then a Criminal/Trade objective for X Arbitrary Winning Points to establish a market for your goods in Calixis, then a Creed (Propaganda)/Trade objective for X Victorybucks to overcome the shame of having actually traded things in this, Rogue Trader, and at the end get +2 Profit Factor for your group. I say X because again, no number guidelines are EVER GIVEN. You're left to determine them by looking at how many Winbucks the various ship components and things give over in the ship section and by the note of 'Per 100 extra Winbucks over what's necessary, gain +1 extra profit for the endeavor'.
We'll get more into this in ships but I'm being really fucking harsh on this because Winbucks ARE THE ONLY THING MANY SHIP COMPONENTS GET YOU. A significant amount of ship-design and ship rules depends entirely on the Arbitrary Victory Points system for Endeavors. You cannot easily simply excise this half-baked fucking mess from the rules like I could with Kill-Markers back in Deathwatch without invalidating a ton of the options for one of the central mechanics of the game, building your ridiculous flying cathedral. So, Profit is a mess and so is the means of gaining Profit. You can also find your Profit put under threat and have to do a nega-Endeavor (Resolving a Misfortune) to save it, or else your team loses Profit permanently. Why does this trigger? GM decided it does, same as fucking everything else.
This section is basically where RT lost me as a game. This is a game about being a mighty merchant-noble who flies around space wheeling and dealing, and its commerce and profit system is a shitty half-baked after-thought where everything is up to throwing up your hands and going 'Well the GM will decide'. This is a problem because, again, this is the central, assumed goal of the fucking game. There's no mechanical complexity, that's all in the same places it was for DH (Shooting, investigating, etc). There's no decision making, it's all 'roll vs. Profit' and 'GM decides something bad happens'. There's no guidelines on crafting Endeavors or making the Winbucks matter or balancing Winbuck amounts. Welcome to the staple of the FFG 40k system: A half-baked subsystem that looks deep and complicated but ends up doing almost nothing. We'll be here all Squad Mode.
Next Time: Wizbiz.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
I would have a hell of a lot more to write if I hadn't just done Deathwatch. The psy system pretty much works exactly as it did in DW, albeit your powers will be way less impressive because you don't have ~the adamantine will of a space marine!~ on your side. Let's instead talk a little about the fluff of being an Astropath, and why that limits your powers to just Telepathy for your starting abilities and you have to buy other disciplines later.
As an Astropath, your space wizard was selected not for strength, but for raw stability and steadfastness. Outside of various Dark Age or alien technologies, you see, humans have no way to break the laws of the physical universe enough to make things go faster than light. To accomplish FTL travel, they send ships through the Warp and across its shifting currents where time doesn't matter nearly as much and space is all screwed up. If you can't break *this* universe's laws, go to another universe! It's genius, even if the other universe is full of angry hell-monsters. Human ships have shielding against this, the so called Gellar Field that was produced sometime during the Dark Age. The thing is, humans can't make radio signals and things go faster than light either. But they *can* transmit psychic dreams and impressions through the Warp. So they take the most stable and reliable of psykers, and they train them endlessly in sending messages in highly symbolic code and prophecy across a galactic scale. An Astropath is the ship's communications officer and interstellar communications system in the same person. They are also soul-bound to the Emperor, a ritual that grants them a tiny fraction of his power, which is then contained by their unusually stable gift (in theory) for the small price of exploding their eyes. It's okay, though; they don't need eyes to see once their psychic senses are that sharp.
Honestly, Astropaths are the kind of stuff that is Actually Pretty Neat in 40k fluff, where because there's no simple technological solution the humans have had to resort to this extreme but normalized production of living, psychic radio-people. As an Astropath, you get to be a literal space wizard, afforded protection and respect by other starship crews and officers, because you're critical to the function of the ship and the only way to contact people at interstellar distances. You decode communications from home by casting runes and divining rods and interpreting dreams and it actually works, because there are standard reporting crazy dream messages and things in Imperial communications protocol. Being a mighty wizard and all, you are also much more resistant to possession than normal and your spells are safer. This is the justification for the shift in the psy system relative to DH. Also, the Unbound Demonhost In The Middle Of The Party result has been pointedly removed from the Perils table, replaced with the Astropath getting temporarily caught by demons, gaining a shitload of corruption, and appearing on a planet d10 weeks later. Astropaths also get a +20 to WP on ANY opposed WP test with a demon, meaning spells of control or banishing are actually way better for Astropaths.
The actual spells are mostly like they are in DH, though the combat spells get powered up some in the official Errata to be more useful compared to the kind of guns and knives Rogue Traders can buy. They're also really dull; basic telepathy stuff like stunning screams and mind-taking, divination abilities that let you buff yourself and allies with forewarning about the future, and telekinesis that provides some direct damage and defense magic. Originally, all combat magic also forced a BS or WS test, but Errata shifted it to all working off WP. Astropaths' actual magic is functional, useful to a party, and kind of dull.
It's short, but there's really not much to say that I haven't already said about the new Psy system. It's more forgiving, but it's also a bit less insanely powerful when a psyker is operating on a smaller scale rather than 'my spells count as heavy weapons'.
Next Time: THE SPICE MUST FLOW
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
So, Navigators. Navigators are taken from Dune. Navigators in 40k are a series of powerful, inbred guild-families who pass down the Navigator Gene, a necessary component for not getting lost in hell when trying to travel faster than light. This makes them spooky and mutated (They actually gain from a list of Navigator Mutations as they level up) and makes the Imperium hate them, but it is genuinely impossible to have an Imperium of Man without them. Every single Imperial agency relies on their contracts with the Navigator Houses. Yes, even the Marines. Yes, even the Inquisition. If someone really hates mutants and psykers, they will make an exception for this one class of mutant because it is a matter of life and death. There are sometimes hints that in the Dark Age, humans built computers that could do what Navigators can do, and that the families destroy these as often as possible and try to cover them up so they don't get exterminated by the Imperium. Without a Navigator it is possible to do very slow, careful jumps along well-charted routes, and nothing more; it can take decades to make the same trip that a Navigator would've let you handle in a week. Having even one of these in your employ marks you as one of the potentates of the Imperium.
Which begs the question, why the fuck would you ever take your totally-irreplaceable and incredibly expensive Navigator down to a planet with a flak vest and a laspistol and get them shot at by space bugs? The answer is that the average Rogue Trader is kind of stupid.
As a Navigator, you get a whole subsystem where you also pick what kind of House you come from. A Shrouded house is one that is deeply out of favor or hiding itself on the edge of space. They get -1 Profit (because poor) but are especially good at divining powers and sensing warp phenomena, and they also know how to negotiate contracts and do business because they have to do it themselves. A Magisterial house is a totally orthodox one that gets better crazy death-stare powers and mutates less AND gets along better with other Imperials and oh, hey, they don't have any actual downsides. You're just an ultra-rich weird-looking space mutant. Nomadic houses are Navigator voidborn, and they get the ability to spend Fate to auto-succeed their powers with d5 DoS, get +10 to actual warp navigation checks (which is nice), and take -10 to deal with normal people who lived on planets. Finally, Renegade Houses are crazy people who do genetics experiments and poke Chaos, but they get bonus powers that function significantly better and mutate all the goddamn time while gaining Corruption.
Navigators count as Psykers even though they don't use Psy, and they also cannot gain Corruption by failing Fear checks against demons and stuff. Other means of Corruption, yes, but mere Warp exposure won't do it to someone with a literal Warp Eye. Navigators generally start with the ability to force people to look into the warp and die through their eye and one other power. They gain Powers by buying them off their advance table, choosing a new power each time or choosing to advance one of their pre-existing powers and upgrade it. They also risk mutation every time they buy a new power, rolling at Toughness+10 (+0 if Renegade, +20 if Magisterial) and if they fail, rolling on the mutation table.
Absolutely every Navigator PC has the Lidless Stare, where they open their third eye and expose the raw power of the Warp to enemies (and friends who don't turn away fast enough). This attack hits everyone within 15m of the Navigator, though it won't affect Daemons or robits or anything without a real soul. Allies forewarned don't avoid the power, they merely get +30% chance to dodge it. The Navigator makes a WP test and compares their DoS to every living creature within 15m; any who fail take d10+WPB damage that cannot be reduced by any means and are stunned for 1 round. The Navigator takes a level of Fatigue for using this power, and an extra one if they fail to harm anyone. If they buy extra levels it does 2d10+WPB and stuns for d5 rounds while inflicting d5 Insanity. If they buy the final level, it causes a Tough-10 save or die in every creature that takes damage that has 20+ Int. So yes, Lidless Stare is really powerful. Most of their other powers are situational. Stuff like locking down a demon by staring it down (which at Master Level causes an insta-kill check for the demon, too), scanning the Warp for signs of hidden stellar objects, messing with time to give yourself extra actions, etc. One of the problems is that Navigator powers tend to inflict Fatigue. If your Fatigue exceeds your TB, you collapse. Having any Fatigue at all imposes a -10 on all checks. Also, making yourself hyper-fast in combat is useful, sure, but when your only real offensive power has a good chance of killing any allies within 15m of you and you're terrible at all physical combat it puts a bit of a damper on things. Navigator powers are a bit of a mess, is what I'm saying.
Mutations are on a simple d100 chart, giving you stuff like oddly jointed limbs, turning super fat or thin, becoming pale and hairless, getting huge black star eyes, etc. Most of them impose a -5 Fellowship or d5 Toughness penalty, though some of the high up ones can give you things like Regeneration or Unnatural Agility (x2)! You're going to be a weirdo either way, though.
Finally, we get the Random Encounter Subsystem, the main reason you want a Navigator and the main reason you'll probably have an NPC one around or just handwave all this bullshit. It's a 5 step passage to make it through a Warp Voyage. First, you make a roll with secret GM modifiers for Navigate (Warp) to see how long the voyage might be. The GM already knows how long your trip will be, this is just you rolling to see how accurate your guess will be. For the people aboard the ship, usually, it will feel like time passes much faster in the Warp (The rough guide is 1 day warp travel per 12 days realspace, but this can change depending on wholly arbitrary bullshit that the GM is encouraged to make up at random). Next, your Navigator tries to find the Emperor. Roll Awareness+10 and for every DoS, add +10 to the Navigate check for the trip. For every DoF, subtract -10. So...you roll a check to see how much of a bonus you get on the next mandatory check. If for some reason you cannot find Empy at all, you have to make the eventual Navigate test for the trip at -60
as your base. Next you roll Perception+10 to see if you pick up on major warp phenomena or trouble on the way to your destination, and if you fail you won't know there might be annoying random encounters. Finally, the GM adds or subtracts from your chances at random depending on their whims and you *finally* roll the actual Navigate (Warp) test. Success by 3 degrees will make you arrive much faster (1/4 the time), 2 will make you get there faster (1/2), 1 will get you there quick (3/4), bare success gets you there at roughly your ETA, then you go slower for Degrees of Failure up to x4 journey length for 3+ DoF. If you roll a 9 on either die while failing, you'll go off course and arrive somewhere the GM makes up on the spot.
Finally, you roll d100 for every 5 days in the Warp, adding +20 to the roll if you succeeded the Per+10 roll earlier to spot potential random encounters, with a 25% chance of nothing happening (45% if you got that sweet +20!) and lots of chances of hauntings or spooky events or whatever that will hurt crew and morale. Also, most of the random encounters in the warp are vague and will rely on the GM to arbitrarily take their description and insert an adventure and are you seeing the fucking pattern? It's almost like you roll a ton of dice just to arrive at 'The GM waves their hands and makes up some spooky shit and then maybe we get on with the real adventure'. Navigating is a ton of random, non-interactive bullshit that adds up to a totally pointless subsystem I'm sure a lot of players ignored after the first couple voyages, AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MECHANICAL THING NAVIGATORS GET TO INTERACT WITH. I remember my Navigator player being bored to tears with this whole mess, because it's literally just 'roll, roll some more to see if the first roll gives you a bonus to another roll, then roll, then roll more, then maybe you can roll some dice' without making any actual decisions. No option to try to hustle and take risks. No meaningful mechanics attached to most of the Warp Phenomena. There's nothing to actually DO in all of the Navigation system.
Welcome to Rogue Trader, this is going to be a goddamn theme of our stay.
Next Time: Space bote!
Space? Wanna go to space. Space!
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Space? Wanna go to space. Space!
So, as you might imagine, Space is sort of important to the game about space capitalism. Your team's starship is by far the most important individual asset you own. It thus has its own long character creation system, where you pick hull, buy essential components, put on weapons and other add-ons, roll for various quirks of the machine spirit and design, give it a pretentious name, and come up with a backstory. Building a spaceship actually feels fun, I will be clear on this, but further additions to it are messy (Adding weapons, for instance, is Acquisition-30, for instance, so good luck early on) and much of what you do in building your ship is either going to have such clear right and wrong answers or leave you dependent on the victory points system that the luster wears off quick. Not to mention that starship combat is basically 'play a simpler version of Battlefleet Gothic where you only control a single playing piece and most players just make the same roll to boost the important attack/move rolls move on rote every round'. Any SP not spent are added directly to Profit Factor so, uh, there's no reason not to start with the 20/70 start and just buy as little or as much as you need, mechanically. It is outright the best option.
There are several general types of ships, and pretty limited numbers of hulls for each in the main book. There's bigger, more powerful ship types and more hulls in the various add-on books, particularly Battlefleet Koronus, which also adds in fighter craft and torpedoes. Which is sort of important, because ships have an entire stat (Turret Rating) that is intended specifically to defend against those despite the fact that they are not actually in the game until the add-on. You can fly a Transport, a Raider, a Frigate, a Light Cruiser, or a Cruiser. Transports are cheap and can take high Victory Point trading holds, but they're slow and shit at combat. Raiders are fast and light, but rely on forward-mounted guns, don't have very much space for weaponry or add-ons, and will be relying on outmaneuvering and annoying transports to death or running from 'real' warships. Frigates are solid all-arounders with weapons that can fire in lots of directions and a good balance to them. Light Cruisers are the heaviest ship that gets a base 90 degree turning angle, their forward-gun mounts can fire out to the sides, and they have a great balance of speed and size but they're expensive. A real Cruiser was designed to act in a squadron, with escorts, and will be pretty awkward for an RT. However, it is so goddamn big, heavily armored, and heavily armed that if you can afford one and arm it, normal pirates will just bounce off you while you lumber about and punch them into next week. Or ram them! You can ram people. Imperial Cruisers are often specifically designed for it!
The key to your ship choice is that Ship Points stat back from when you determined your starting resources. Someone with 70 Ship Points can, in fact, afford a full military cruiser (though they probably can't afford to fill it out completely yet). It makes up for the 20 Profit Factor, trust me. At the same time, someone with 60 starting Profit might actually be able to buy parts for their ship beyond this whole thing. A ship's profile will give you its base Ship Points to buy the hull; you *can* operate a ship without any further ship points. The basic, essential parts will not cost additional ship-points and which ones you choose will be primarily a matter of using up two other important stats: Space and Power. Your hull gives you Space, your engine gives you Power. For the most part you have no options about Engines until the add-on books, so every Raider will have the same Raider sized engine taking up the same amount of Space and generating the same Power, etc. Ships also have Maneuverability, which is a generic number added or subtracted to all piloting rolls when driving them (Most have positive ratings, even the cruiser), Speed (the number of Units they can move at base), Hardpoints (Where and how many ship-scale macro-weapons they can hold), Hull Integrity (HP), Armor (DR), Detection (Base numbers added to sensors and targeting checks), and Turret Rating, which is how many tiny autocannons and missiles and stuff the ship has to fend off boarders with (later, fighters and torpedoes).
The Transport options usually cost very little, being the cheapest ships at 20 SP each. Your options are the phenomenally slow and poor at fighting Jericho-class Pilgrim vessel, a personnel transport usually used by chartists and pilgrimage fleets rather than military customers, or the slightly more able but smaller Vagabond Merchantman. Neither is very exciting and with their terrible armor, speed, and maneuver you'll be outmatched at base in almost any ship combat. You'd better hope your opponents are inept, stupid, or badly armed if it comes up. Both do come with a free Main Cargo Hold, the best kind of Cargo Hold, with its Space already built into the design and it only needing a little Power to keep the lights on, but they're really only useful for monumentally cheap Rogue Traders or for buying a second ship to drag around for profit.
Raiders are weird. They're small ships with small crews (Why they're usually only 1.5 km long! And only have 22000 people aboard!) that have the highest speed and maneuver ratings in the game, but both of them have a Dorsal and Prow weapon battery. Dorsal batteries can fire on anywhere but behind you. Prow can, unless you're a Cruiser or Light Cruiser, only fire on the front arc. With their tiny Space ratings, both Raiders won't be able to mount enormously heavy guns, and when we get to how shooting in space combat works it will quickly become apparent that against any serious military opponent you're only going to be able to do real damage if you're flying directly towards them and laying both batteries on. The Prow slot DOES give them the option of mounting, say, a light Lance (Lances are a weapon that ignores armor but has very few potential hits and is very heavy and space intensive) but their tiny size makes it rough. Your options are the SP 30 blazing faster Hazeroth Privateer with the highest speed of any ship in the core book, or the 35 SP most maneuverable Havoc Merchant Raider, which is also bigger.
Frigates are sort of the 'default' ship. Frigates are solid. They've got only Dorsal weaponry, but both mounts are Dorsal, so you can fly rings around slower ships staying in blindspots while you destroy them. Imperial Escorts are actually one of the hidden upsides of their navy, and appropriately the Frigates are really good in RT. They're quick, they move fast, they have okay HP, they're just a little strapped for space. You can get a nimble, reliable Sword class frigate or a Calixian Tempest, both for 40 SP, and they're both really good ships for an 'average' starting vessel if you had, say, 50 SP. They're both solid; the Sword is nimbler, has better turrets, is more maneuverable, and has better sensors, while the Tempest has slightly more Space, armor, and HP. You won't go wrong with either.
The Light Cruiser is a Dauntless Class Light Cruiser and this ship is totally sweet
. This is partly my perceptions being colored by having played Battlefleet Gothic but also, this is a ship described as having a long operational range, efficient engines, good speed, good maneuverability, fantastic sensors (Best Detection in the core book), and enough firepower to hang with heavier vessels if it must. It can also fire its Prow weapon on the left or right, like a heavy cruiser, and it can mount full Broadsides instead of just batteries on its Starboard and Port weapon slots. It also has a ton of HP relative to the smaller ships, and a lot of space (though its essential components are huge). It costs 55 SP, so starting with one can be a bit tricky and hard on profit margins, but if you can fill out a Dauntless and get it a good crew it will do whatever you want. The ship is event built for scouting and exploration by the Navy, and for pirate-hunting.
Finally, we have the Lunar Class Cruiser. The Lunar is a huge brick of a ship and turns half as quick (45 degrees per turn action instead of 90) as other ships, and is built to have tons of backup as a capital ship. Other ships can just fly rings around your Lunar. However, the Lunar can get multiple hit-negating shields, unlike everyone else, has a ton of armor, and has a lot of HP. It also has 2 Starboard and Port weapon slots, each. And can mount full Broadsides. It's slow, it's solid, it's expensive as hell (60 SP) so you *probably* won't start with one (though you can! It might be fun!) but a Lunar can brawl with anything you can encounter out in space and it could be funny to watch a pirate vessel try to stick and move you until it makes one mistake, ends up in your gun arcs, and explodes in a single turn.
Next: The Stuff You Put On Boats
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
So, we've got our base hulls, now we're on to what you fill the hull with. This is split between Essential Components, which generally cost few or no Ship Points unless they're a notable upgrade over the 'baseline' model, and Supplemental Components, which always cost ship points because a ship could theoretically sail without guns or cargo bays, but if you tried to go out into space without engines or a gellar field Bad Things would happen. For the most part, there are relatively few decisions to make on essential components in the core book; there are a few spaces where you can save on energy for a penalty to morale on your life-support system, or lose morale by having shitty bunks instead of adequate living space for the crew, but for the most part every Light Cruiser will have the same engine, etc. This is fine, because this gets expanded a lot in later books; later on you'll be able to pick out things like stealthy raiding engines, overpowered engines that might explode and set your ship on fire but that provide great performance, etc.
For now, you 'pick' the Engine, record how much space it took based on your hull type and how much power it generates, then 'pick' your Warp Drive (Light Cruiser and Cruiser have heavier ones, they all function the same), decide between a standard Gellar Field (The thing that keeps your ship from becoming Event Horizon during warp transit) or one that provides protection against Warp encounters and a bonus to Navigation (Ha, as if anyone is using those rules!) for +2 Ship Points, grab your void shield array (or make the choice to between a single or double array if you have a Cruiser), and the first real decision is in your Bridge type.
A standard Combat Bridge is light and uses little power, and provides damage control team direction that gives +10 Tech Use to fix the ship. A Command Bridge costs an extra Ship Point and is a bit more power intensive, but gives excellent Command and Control that gives characters +5 BS with the ship's guns and +5 to Command tests. An Armored Bridge is heavy but provides a 40% chance to ignore hits to your bridge (Given those can potentially space your entire command crew this might be useful). A Commerce Bridge is light, cheap, uses almost no power, is only useable on a Transport, and gives +50 Winbucks when you're doing trade missions because it have stock-tickers on board. A Ship's Master's Bridge is the best standard Bridge, and also the biggest and most power intensive, and can only go on a Cruiser. It gives +10 to BS to fire the guns, +5 to tests to maneuver the ship, and +5 to Navigation checks.
Next you grab up your Life Sustainer, with the shitty one using 1 less power and space and making all Morale drops worse, while the other one just has no penalties. Then you deal with crew, and if you take the 'pressed quarters' you save 1 Space for -2 max morale (Ships have 100 max morale, generally). Finally, you pick between standard, 0 modifier low-energy use M-100 Auger Arrays, +5 Detection but higher power draw M-201b Auger Arrays, R-50 Multiband arrays that give +5 to tests to avoid navigational hazards but -2 detection and +50 Winbux when exploring, or +1 Ship Points Deep Void Auger Arrays that use a ton of power but give +10 Detection.
After all that's done, you pick out your weapons. Weapons use a ton of power and space, and are divided into 2 classes at present: Macrobatteries, which fire tons of high power ordinance, and Lances, which fire massive energy beams. Weapons have 4 important stats: Crit Rating (If you get this many DoS on a hit with this weapon, it damages a component in a Critical Hit in addition to damage), Damage (Base damage per hit), Range (Range in Void Units), and Strength (Number of times this battery can hit in one round. Space guns fire at BS+0 base and hit once by succeeding, +1 per DoS, up to the battery's Strength). Macrobatteries have a ton of Strength and potentially long range, while Lances have very good Crit chance, decent damage, and ignore the Armor DR of the enemy ship. Macrobatteries have to pile on the hits to break through armor; unlike in ground combat, a ship's armor is subtracted once from the entire incoming barrage, rather than each individual hit. Shields block a single hit (or two hits if you're a cruiser) from an individual attacker per-round, and weapons can be combined together into volleys to overwhelm armor even further. ALL gun components cost SP.
Your Macrocannon options are the shitty Thunderstrike Pattern, a d10+1 Crit 6 Range 4 Str 3 popgun that is barely worth using but very light, the Mars Pattern Macrobattery at d10+2 Crit 5 Range 6 as the 'standard' gun battery, the Mars Pattern Broadside for Lunars and Dauntlesses that adds a bit of Space cost but goes up to Str 5 and can only be mounted on the sides of the ship, the Best Weapon In the Core Book I mean Sunsear Laser Battery at d10+2 Str 4 Crit 4 Range 9 but very high Power costs, and the 2 SP hyper-expensive Ryza Plasma Battery at d10+4 Str 4 Crit 4 Range 5 that also causes nastier critical hits. A Sword with a pair of Sunsears can orbit around enemies firing at long range and picking them apart, I'm just saying.
Your Lance options are very minor, and lances are insanely power and space hungry: The Starbreaker at Range 5 Crit 3 d10+2 Str 1 for high power and space and 2 SP, the Titanforge at Range 6 Crit 3 d10+4 Str 1 for even higher power and space and 2 SP, or the Titanforge Battery at Range 6 Crit 3 d10+4 Str 2. Note the Lance Battery is the only multi-hit Lance weapon. Its size and weight and power use means mounting it on anything but a Lunar is going to be tricky and require some sacrifices elsewhere.
Once you've got all that done, your ship is technically totally ready to fight and sail. But you probably have some space and Ship Points left over, so now you get to add on all kinds of extra junk. Supplemental Components ALL cost Ship Points, and they're things like extra armor, stronger thrusters, a cunning supervillain maze to entrap boarders, extra cargo holds and observatories and things to grant extra Winbucks, extra supply vaults, barracks for tons of Guardsmen, massive munition stores that boost your Macrocannon damage but can explode like a British Battlecruiser, trophy rooms, killbots, or means to turn dying crew into mindless robit men. All these little things add character but the main interaction with the rules will mostly come with the victory points system.
Finally, there are 'treasure' components: Archeotech and Xenotech components. These are things like incredibly good, lightweight, miniaturized engines that also make your ship faster, protective STC life sustainers that lower crew losses and boost morale, superior sensors and targeting systems, a teleporter, Eldar cloaking systems in place of your shields, infinite ammo alien crystal cannons, etc. You likely won't start with them; you can only do so if you roll 'I have a Xenotech or Archeotech component' as a starting complication. These are the sorts of Good Shit you do whole adventures to get, and rightly so. For instance, the alien Shardcannon battery is lightweight, uses 0 Power, and causes d10+2 Str 4 Crit *3* Range 6; that's a very nice main cannon! You naturally want to seek out and steal these kinds of fantastic space treasures.
I also forgot, earlier, that you roll for a specific AI/machine spirit quirk for your ship and a past complication. These are fun things like MARTIAL HUBRIS: This ship gets +5 to hit in combat but -15 to run away as it tries to plot courses back into battle, or Wrested from a Space Hulk, where your ship is reclaimed archeotech with better Armor, Speed and Maneuver but TERRIBLE SPACE PIRATE CURSES that make hits to your Profit twice as bad. These are neat and a fun little way to individualize the ships further. They are also how you have a chance of starting with Archeotech or Xenotech.
Next Time: We Build A Spaceboat
Raise the main, uh, sail-thruster!
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Raise the main, uh, sail-thruster!
Avast and ahoy, me maties, for it's time to actually build a space-boat and do one of the few genuinely fun parts of the system. Starship combat has its problems (Primarily that it's a dumbed down version of Battlefleet Gothic with a bunch of added 'RPG' stuff where the players are going to be 3-5 PCs controlling a single playing piece between them) but the base IDEA of making your own cool, customized massive space cathedral is fun and only gets better with the addition of more actual options in the later books. Using it might have problems, but creating it is fun!
We're going to do this full RAW, so first we're going to see what kind of Dynasty we are. Rolling the bones, we get an 8: 60 Ship Points, 30 Profit, a 'dynasty that is on the wane'. The Kenway Dynasty doesn't have a lot of money, but it has a fine ship. With that kind of starting money, we *could* try a stripped down Dauntless, but it's probably better to start with a Tempest or Sword. We'll try a Tempest Heavy Frigate for the extra space, starting us out with a ship with 42 Space, 19 Armor, 8 Speed, +18 Maneuver, Turret 1, Detection +12, and HP 36, for 40 of our 60 SP.
Next we check what she's like: Her Machine Spirit is Adventurous: She gets +10 Detection when we're actively on an adventure and -10 when not, because our ship is haunted by the ancient and subtle spirit of a Border Collie and wants quests ALL THE TIME. She's also Xenophilius, and starts with a Xenotech component (though we have to pay Ship Points for it). She also gets -30 to repair her unless the techpriest leading repairs has a degree in Forbidden Lore (Xenos) because parts of her just don't make sense otherwise.
Her drive eats 10 of her 42 Space right off the bat, and generates 45 Power. We note we now have 32 Space, 45 Power to use. Her Warp Engines immediately eat 10 of both, giving us only 22 Space and 35 Power. I used to wish they'd just pre-subtract this stuff but there are actual, different drives available in later books that give them an actual reason to have had these costs, so fair enough. Next we'll put in a normal Gellar Field for 1 Power, leaving 34. Void Shields take up 5 Power and 1 Space, leaving 21 Space, 29 Power. She'll take a fine Command Bridge, costing us 2 Power and 1 Space and 1 SP, leaving us 19 SP, 27 Power, 20 Space. We're not cheap bastards here so she'll have a decent Voidsmen's Quarters (3 Space, 1 Power) and Vitae Life Sustainer (4 Power, 2 Space) for 15 Space left, 22 Power. Add on an adventurous R-50 Auspex Multiband for 4 Power and 0 Space and we've got 15 Space, 18 Power, and 19 Ship Points after the essentials.
Now, we're going to be boring and spend 2 SP to have an ancient alien shardcaster battery as one of our guns for our Xenotech component, so that's only 3 Space and 0 Power, saving us a ton of power. Now we have 12 Space left (and 17 SP) and one more Dorsal turret to fill. We'll go big with a Ryza Plasma Battery for 7 Power and 4 Space and 2 SP. We've got 8 more space to play with and 15 Power, plus tons of ship points! It's time to add some murder servitors and shit.
First, because we are gentlefolk, we add a Luxury Passanger Quarters for 1 Space and 2 Power and 1 SP and -3 Morale (The crew hates having foppish nobles on board but they pay). We now have a flying luxury hotel that grants a massive +100 Winbucks on Criminality, Creed, and Trade objectives. The crew can stuff it. We are now at 7 Space, 13 Power, and 14 SP. To provide contrast, we next add a Barracks (4 Space, 2 Power, 2 SP) which will provide us tons of soldiers for conquest and boarding and extra Winbucks on Military missions, leaving us at 3 Space, 11 Power, and 12 SP. We add a Temple Shrine to the God Emperor (Not as cool as the Auto-Temple but it isn't in this book) to both bling out our ship and fix the morale issue from the hotel, at 1 SP, 1 Power, and 1 Space. Now at 2 Space, 10 Power, and 11 SP. Finally, we put in an actual Cargo Bay And Lighter Hold for 2 Space, 1 Power, and 1 SP, lowering Maneuverability a little (3) but making us able to carry and smuggle goods for +50 Trade/Criminal Winbucks. We blow 3 Power on Augmented Retrothrusters for +5 Maneuver, leaving us with 6 Power and 9 SP. We go back and strip out the old R-50 Multiband for a Deep Void Array because we're worth it, taking us down to an excess of 3 Power, 8 SP, but greatly improving the sensors.
At the end, our ship has two powerful cannons with good crit, a functioning resort and military base with a massive cathedral, an entire market and crime zone, it's quick, it can pick up on all kinds of ADVENTURE, and she's eager to get out there and get up to stuff. As you can see, you have plenty of room to give the ship a feeling of being a flying city full of powerful weapons even right from the start, and I appreciate that. We'll name her the Endeavor. She could also have been built as a crazy death-robit infested supervillain lair instead of a flying, heavily armed luxury hotel and smuggler's vessel. You can do all kinds of fun things with your ship and it's one of the strongest points of the system.
Next: Things to do with bote.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
So, before we get to the rules for how to use your flying cathedral-hotel-military-base-supervillain-lair we have a frankly shamefully tiny listing of prebuilt vessels: A refueling/wayfarer station, an ork pirate ship, and a pirate ship. Two very light enemies is it. You won't get extensive alien enemies until Battlefleet Koronus (though they are VERY extensive and provide entire BFG fleet recreations: Eldar are annoying as hell, Chaos are full of fighter pilots and boarding ships, etc). I should note Orks keep their 'roll for the Str of the Macrobattery before firing' rule from BFG, and that in place of a Gellar Field they have 'really big teef' and scary faces painted all over their ships to frighten off demons. This works. And if it doesn't work, da' boyz get to fight demons, so it still worked anyway cuz there was a fight. They also have a BIG RED BUTTON that suddenly makes their ship much faster any turn when it doesn't try to change heading and boosts their ability to ram you and then swing across on space ropes to space board you with their space cutlasses that are also space axes. Also all pirates (ork or otherwise) give extra winbucks if you capture their ship or hulk their ship but don't destroy their cargo bay for salvage.
Starship combats are much longer than hand to hand melees. Every turn in a spaceship fight is 30 minutes to an hour. Surprise works differently due to the extended time-scale (Running silent and jumping someone is a time-honored tactic): Surprised ships still act normally, but anyone shooting at them gets +20 to hit during the first round of combat. Ship initiative is determined by the 10s digit of their Detection rating, plus a d10. So effectively, your sensor stat is your init, as well. Distance in space combat is measured in abstract Void Units, with one VU being thousands of kilometers. These ships are moving fast. Facing and range matter a LOT. You can generally only fire a weapon on the facing it's mounted on: A Port Side broadside can only fire off the port side, etc. Very few weapons (Only Keel mounts, which PC ships generally can't get) can fire on the Aft quadrant. Dorsal guns can fire on any of the other three, though, and their 270 degree arc of fire is fucking *powerful*. On Light Cruisers and Cruisers, Prow mounted weaponry can fire like a Dorsal weapon; on Raiders and Frigates and Transports it's limited to the front arc.
A ship generally gets two actions in their turn without needing special tests to attempt them: A Maneuver and a Shooting turn. When Maneuvering, a ship moves forward at either full or half speed; Starships are huge, have immense momentum, and generally don't actually stop or hold still in combat. The ship may then turn up to 45 degrees if it's a Cruiser, 90 degrees if it's anything else (A ship can turn less than its maximum turn rate). This is the only movement action that requires no tests. You can also declare the turn half-way through your movement speed, then keep moving the rest of your movement on your new heading. This part of combat is literally copied from Battlefleet Gothic. You can also declare you're Adjusting Bearing, rolling Piloting+Maneuverability Rating to turn sooner in your movement; 1 less VU before your can turn for succeeding, plus one per DoS, minimum 1. You can Adjust Speed, doing the same check but moving 1 less or one more VU per DoS up to 2x your base movement or down to 0 (The only way to come to a stop in combat, usually). You can Adjust Speed and Heading, trying to combine the two actions into one move at the expense of -20 to the piloting check. If you fail any of these checks you simply take the normal no-test maneuver action instead. COME TO NEW HEADING! Is the first actual special order (Special Orders should be shouted dramatically in combat) and requires a Pilot+Maneuver check at -10. If you succeed, you move 1/2 speed, turn, move 1/2 speed, then turn again, but succeed or fail you take -20 to shoot this round. You can also Disengage if there are no hostile craft within 8 VU, rolling Pilot+Maneuver vs. Detection+Scrutiny for any enemy within 20 VU as you attempt to maneuver away, shut down systems, and hide in the black. EVASIVE MANEUVERS! is a -10 Pilot+Maneuver check to give enemies -10 to-hit vs. your ship per DoS, with a corresponding penalty to your ship's guns.
As you might note it's pretty fucking non-negotiable to use a battlemap in space combat. You cannot theater-of-mind a game attempting to simulate momentum, turning rates, fire arcs, etc to get Age of Sail Sci-Fi Space Combat. The general maneuver system also shows that it was really built for fleet and squadron action; a single player ship that can't turn well can easily get picked apart by escorts if it doesn't have any of its own.
You can, and will, lose crew during combat. Any time your ship suffers 1 point of Hull damage one of your Crew points is a casualty (you normally have 100 crew, as an abstraction. This doesn't mean 1% of the crew dies every time you take a hull hit). Any losses to crew also drop Morale, which is also measured on a 0-100 scale (with permanent mods for ship traits, equipment, etc). Losing crew brings in penalties; at 80 crew, you increase travel times by d5 days. At 60, you suffer -5 to repairs, damage control, and boarding actions. At 50, you get -10 to Maneuver. At 40, all your special component Winbucks bonuses go away; there's no-one to man the non-essential elements of the ship. At 20, you count as Crippled and are probably screwed (We'll get to that when we get to being Crippled). At 10, you can't attempt to board or raid, etc and suffer -20 to all damage control actions. At 0, uh, your crew's dead. All of them. The PCs might still be alive, but their ship is ripe for the taking. At 80 Morale, you suffer -5 to Command tests. At 60, -5 to BS tests to fire ship weapons. At 50, -10 to Command (Cumulative with the -5). At 40, -10 to Maneuver and -5 more to BS (-10). At 20, you start losing d5 Crew to desertion every time you put into port and you can't trust the ratings with weapons; no more boarding or raiding. At 10, you suffer -10 to *speed*, Detection, and Maneuver, crippling your ship. At 0, all living crew instantly experience a Marxist class consciousness awakening and decide to kill you. Every single one of them. At once. Run. They then become highly democratic pirates with an elected officer corps and set off on adventure with your ship. No, really, it says that. Also, at 70, 40, and 10 Morale you have to make a Command test or else a mutiny happens, and either the Democratic Socialist Pirates happen if you fail to quell it or you simply suffer some damage, crew loss, and morale loss from having to put it down using Intimidate, Command, etc.
Extended Actions are actions the PCs and crew take aboard the ship. Your ship's crew has a default skill of 30 at any of these actions if you have an NPC officer do them; you can eventually pay for better crew with up to a 60% base skill. If a PC undertakes one of these actions to boost the ship or protect the crew they use their normal skills. These do things like let you scan for stellar phenomena, prevent crew losses by directing trauma teams and triage, boost critical systems with TECHNOMANCY, lock onto targets for better shooting, lie to the crew to get morale up until the fight is over, try to repair damaged subsystems, push the ship to massive speed and possibly explode the engines while screaming about how she canna take any more, hail the enemy to banter with them, launch commando raids against close in ships to attack subsystems with sabotage, or inspire the sailors. Extended Actions exist entirely because the designers realized you control a single playing piece with a group of 3-5 people and so by giving other characters the option to roll some dice to buff the actual meat of the fighting, they can feel like they participated. In practice, being the one running around rolling dice to see how much of a bonus they give to the person rolling the consequential dice bored the hell out of my players who weren't the pilot and gunner.
I already covered the basics of weapons, but an important note: When you fire on a target, they get to reduce your total number of hits this round by their Shields. YOU, the Attacker, get to choose what kind of shot the shields eat up if you hit them with multiple weapons, so you can have a shield eat a single hit from your Macrobattery but your Lance shot get through to deal direct damage. This is ONLY SPECIFIED in an example of play sidebar, not the main text. You may also combine multiple macrobattery shots into a Salvo; you roll separately for each gun battery (The same character can fire all your guns, so get your highest BS guy or a Void Master with the Reroll Failed BS Tests In Space to do all the shooting) but they combine their damage and only subtract Armor once. The downside is if you do this, only one of the batteries involved in the salvo can Crit, even if you rolled multiple Crits. In general this is one of the reasons Macrobatteries are usually more useful than Lances; if you have more of them you can combine them into even nastier volleys that can blow away light ships in one. Lances with more than Str 1 also only get extra hits per 3 DoS, not 1 like Macrobatteries. Guns can fire out to 2x their range, but if beyond their Range rating have -10 to hit, if within 1/2 Range have +10 to hit. Your ship's Turret rating doesn't have any torpedoes or strike craft to defend against in the core book, so instead Turrets add to your Boarding and Hit and Run Raid chances.
Speaking of Boarding, if you end turn within 1 VU of an enemy ship, you can make a Piloting+Maneuver-20 test to lash the ships together and board! Boarding rules are *incredibly clunky* and nonsensical. You see, you get bonuses for Crew Population and the ship with the higher base Hull Integrity also gets bonuses for being 'bigger' (and bigger bonuses for differences in population) but there's no actual acknowledgement that, say, a Sword Frigate has a crew of 26000 and a Lunar Cruiser has 95000; it's all based on the Crew Rating remaining. The leader of the fighters from each crew rolls Command, and the loser of the contest suffers d5 Crew or Morale damage (Or 1 Hull damage, winner's choice) per difference in Degrees between them. The loser then rolls d100 vs. Morale. If they fail, their crew has been overcome and they surrender, their ship captured. So loading up on boarding bonuses and a brilliant Commander will let the players just charge a massive cruiser in their frigate or raider and lash together to start sabering their way through the crew until they capture it intact.
Every point of damage, as mentioned, subtracts 1 from Crew (and thus 1 from Morale) and if your ship hits 0 HP, it takes huge penalties (Halve Str of all weapons, -10 Maneuver and Detection, halve speed) as it's Crippled. Any further hits check how much damage they did and apply a critical hit of that strength, same as Critical damage in person combat. Otherwise, you suffer critical hits by someone rolling well to hit you, at which point you take 1 Hull damage regardless of Armor AND roll a d5 to see what happened. These crits can depressurize components, space crews, start fires that threaten to burn out of control and kill the ship, destroy sensors, cripple shooting, and smash thrusters; crits can completely change the tide of a fight. Heavier crits, possible only when you're Crippled first, will eventually kill bridge crew, cause massive hull breaches, hulk the ship (dead), cause a massive explosion, or even worse, destabilize the warp engines and potentially suck everyone nearby into an unplanned warp transit. Hope you got a big red 'ACTIVATE THE GELLAR FIELD' button!
Combat, in practice, is fine if you have one player. If you have a group, it's 'pilot and gunner roll dice and do stuff, group bickers over what the ship does, everyone else rolls cheerleading rolls'. And if you try to bring it up to BFG scale squadron and fleet combat, the additions like Extended Actions make it much more complex and remove a lot of the abstractions that make a good wargame. Starship combat really, really tries, and the wargame it cribs from is a pretty good wargame, but in the end it's still mostly a mess.
Next: More Bote.
Rogue Traders: Great Men or Greatest Men?
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Rogue Traders: Great Men or Greatest Men?
There was a little more in space-ship stuff about how if you're out more than six months morale starts to drop and people start to get space-scurvy but it's fairly boring and cursory, so we're going to skip ahead. We've also already discussed the base system plenty, so I can skip all of Chapter 9, and Chapter 10 is a basic rehash of the GMing advice from DH, while Chapter 11 is mostly copy-pasted from DH's description of THE IMPERIUM OF MAN. So instead, we're on to the actual Rogue Traders.
A Rogue Trader is granted a Warrant of Trade. A literal, physical warrant. The Warrant of Trade is one of the most desirable documents in the Imperium, as it immediately makes the holder a law unto themselves (for the most part), granting them the right to go forth and conquer, explore, loot, and pillage in the name of the Emperor. The book waves off the idea of someone simply claiming a Warrant of Trade without owning one with some nonsense about the Imperium being deeply feudal and tied to staying within one's social roles, but then backs it up with a much better explanation: If a foppish jackass with their own army and a space-fleet shows up and says they're a Rogue Trader, it's in your best interest to believe them because they already have the army, money, and fleet to back the position up, and a Warrant might be 'found' for them if one didn't exist before. The Warrant of Trade doesn't just grant a writ of legal right to privateer; in many cases it also comes with a decommissioned naval vessel and the provision of starter troops and funds as part of the reward that granted the character the Warrant.
Warrants of Trade go all the way back to the Emperor. During his murderous reconquista of most of the human colonies from the Dark Age, Empy quickly realized that deputizing thugs and privateers might be of value. These people could spend their own resources to conquer lightly defended worlds and explore new ones, and since he was granting them the right to do it, it came with the nominal acknowledgment that it was being done for him and his Imperium. Similarly, even the Imperium isn't *quite* as stupid as it looks about dealing with non-Imperials: Rogue Traders provide a sanctioned class of merchants and explorers that can talk to aliens, make first contact with undiscovered colonies, find new worlds to populate and new resources to use, track down ancient treasure, and generally do lots of things the Imperium officially doesn't bother to do. Note that the average RT is still planning to exterminate the aliens they trade with later, most of the time. Especially if it would be profitable to do so. At the same time, one might shelter or sanction an alien race specifically because they produce something that the Warrant grants the Trader the right to trade in, protecting a species from the wider Imperium in order to loot and exploit its riches themselves. Still, Rogue Traders could almost said to be the Imperium's emissaries and diplomats, or at least some of the closest things it bothers to have.
Rogue Traders can come from any walk of life, similar to Inquisitors, but are often naval commanders, nobles, Guard officers, powerful Administratum adepts, and on occasion an Inquisitor who loses an internecine power struggle will be 'rewarded' with a Warrant and told to retire far away from the Imperium and their conclave. Hell, the book even mentions that an Acolyte who manages to get away from their master might manage it by virtue of conniving into a Warrant of Trade. It's relatively unusual that the holder of a Warrant is the original person granted the Warrant of Trade; it's usually passed down by selection by the previous holder, or to the winner of the noble-born power-struggle over the Warrant if the prior holder should die without selecting a direct heir. Whoever actually holds the Warrant of Trade will immediately be patriarch or matriarch of their Dynasty, after all. People have killed their kin for far, far less.
Rogue Traders tend to think of themselves as noble, cunning, swashbuckling heroes rather than money-grubbing murderers, and so dress the part. Tacky, flashy fashion is common among their kind, and most love to tweak authority from their safe position of equal authority and wealth. They cultivate eccentricities and personas in order to stand out, and many are obsessed with being remembered as individuals. Most fancy themselves great men or women who move history by their individual will, and the book will happily back up that impression with its fluff; I first started to dislike Rogue Traders because of how hard the book pushes them. The book is very adamant that someone who has a third of a single naval patrol is one of the mightiest peers of the Imperium and a mover and shaker of all of history. You get endless descriptions of the archetypes of Traders, from diplomats to murderers to generals to merchant-princes, all of them described in classic 40k hyperbole. It is really dull. I'd have enjoyed more stuff about how they break the social mould of the Imperium by being placed within the Imperium as a class of people rather than more about how every last one is the greatest master and commander and the richest space king ever. *Especially* when the mechanics don't back that up in the slightest.
One interesting bit is that the Warrant is almost never a free ride. There is usually a duty attached to your new right to plunder and conquer. You may be ordered to tithe soldiers from your colonies to defend the sector. You may have an obligation to provide funds or build ships and shipyards for the Navy. Your Warrant may ostensibly be granted with the assumption you will gather resources and win a conflict the Imperium wants won on the periphery, with the implication that you are not free to loot and pillage as much as you wish until you first triumph. To this end, the Imperium often gifts Traders with fine companions and high officers who also report to someone else on the glorious progress of the Dynasty's business. In other words, your party members are as likely to be reporting to the Ecclesiarchy, Inquisition, Guard, or Navy as to be your best friends. Generally, this won't get in the way, and most of them will really want you to succeed; you can't provide the Imperium its due if you're all dead, nor can any of you grift it to become richer than 10 emperors. Traders are also much weaker than the Imperial Navy, if push comes to shove; either you have a small enough fleet to hide from them and operate in secret, in which case all you can amount to is a regional nuisance, or you're the kind of hyper-rich Trader who can field a grand squadron of Cruisers...only to find the Navy has Battleships, and that such a fleet is the kind of thing an actual Navy Task Force can find. And deal with.
A Rogue Trader has *considerable* legal leeway. They would have to do something as insane as actually challenge the Imperial Navy to combat, attempt to steal a Battleship, turn VERY OBVIOUSLY to Chaos, etc before the Imperium really turned on them. Open, explicit rebellion is one of the only ways to have your Warrant revoked, rather than simply suffering punitive action (and possibly punitive action that sees your Warrant given to your successor). Amusingly, one of the most likely means to deal with a Rogue Rogue Trader is sending a newly appointed Rogue Trader to go take possession of the renegade's Dynasty in the name of the Imperium, which would certainly make for a fine campaign seed.
As long as you stay small enough that no-one *really* important notices you and tries to stomp you out, but get big enough to defend what you've taken, a Rogue Trader Dynasty can produce more wealth and grant its members greater freedom and less actual strict responsibility than any other high position in the Imperium of Man. Go forth and steal from all of space, and don't forget to wear a really tacky hat while you do it.
Next: The Koronus Expanse
Hic Svnt Draconis or whatever
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
Hic Svnt Draconis or whatever
I'm not a huge fan of the Koronus Expanse as it is in the main book, but I understand why it is as it is and it gets filled in more in the add-ons. They had to spend a lot of page-space on the various new subsystems and the setting is a mostly unexplored, resource rich area on the fringes past the Calixis sector. By its very nature it isn't going to have more than a few colonies, some mentions of other power players, a naval dock, etc. It's a bit empty because it's supposed to be a blank map full of possibilities and hints of ancient, evil mysteries that your idiot space capitalists will poke with a stick in hopes of making money come out. By its nature as a setting it's going to be more suggestive than substantive.
Koronus was inaccessible to the Imperium for centuries, with a massive set of persistent Warp Storms making further navigation of Calixis' boundaries impossible even after the success of the Angevin Crusade 2000 years ago. The Void Dancer's Roil and Screaming Vortex warp anomalies make transit further away from the galactic core very difficult, but the Imperium finally found a passage through about 800 years back, at the very end of the 40th Millennium. What they've found on the other side is worlds of tremendous value, but settling them is difficult with the difficult warp passage to and from the Expanse. Traders and Navigators are constantly seeking and charting new Warp Routes and paths through the Expanse, trying to make it feasible to exploit the massive potential wealth of expansion into the region, but standing in their way is more than just the Warp Storms. The Expanse was mostly untouched by human kind for ages, maybe housing a few fallen Dark Age colonies but little systematic exploration, and all kinds of unique xenos and strange horrors wait beyond the stars. Worse, Chaos Raiders occasionally spill out of the Screaming Vortex (It's the setting for the Chaos Game!) to cause trouble for both the fledgling worlds of the Expanse and the poorly-defended Calixis sector. Orks and Eldar ply the stars, Eldar for reasons no-one can say (later books will make clear an entire Craftworld has a significant interest in the area) and Orks because there's fightin' n' lootin' to be done.
So, the setup is fine. The region has vast wealth but is hard to navigate and exploit, leading your explorers and traders to come in and try to make their family name establishing colonies, looting ruins, fighting aliens and pirates, and exploring ancient mysteries. On the Calixis side of the Koronus Passage you've got Port Wander, originally a minor naval waystation that blew up in popularity and population when the Koronus Passage opened up. It's here that the representatives of the navy, Inquisition, Imperium, etc all levy taxes on incoming goods, sell weapons and equipment to explorers and colonists, and generally organize things and let the PCs rest up a moment in 'civilized' space. It's a pretty unremarkable place without any real plot hooks beyond 'home base and link to the Calixis sector without having to actually go to Calixis, and I can understand why you wouldn't want to'. Similar for Footfall, a series of crime asteroids lashed together by crime on the Koronus side of the passage, which is a painfully cliched Hive of Scum and Villainy space frontier station that barely merits any mention. Footfall exists to have a seedy space pirate port for your space characters to recruit space scoundrels and fight the space mob; it's otherwise completely dull despite being a bunch of lashed together cathedrals and space rocks.
Winterscale's Domain was first charted by one of the greatest explorers of the region, Sebestian Winterscale, and is notable for being one of the few places you can find maps and nav-charts to explore. Many of them are false or cursory, but there are an abundance of old journals and treasure maps from his voyages and that means Winterscale's Domain is one of the better-exploited regions of Koronus. If your PCs have an old map with an X marking a spot that's actually a 100,000 square kilometer stellar search zone, it's probably for this region. The apparently abundant wealth and relative ease of reaching worlds here also means there's more conventional fighting over the riches of the Domain than anywhere else in Koronus. The problem isn't so much finding a nice colony world as keeping it yours. You can see this in the fluff of the Murdered World, Jerazol. Formerly a fallen human colony, a more reasonable Rogue Trader found it and was developing its riches and missionarying to the locals with great success, when a rival Dynasty showed up with a treasure map saying that under the planet there was a huge stock of Archeotech. When the first Trader stood up to them in defense of the locals, they killed him and de-orbited his ship's debris onto the population centers of the locals to clear the way for strip-mining the planet for treasure. The story diverges; in some versions, the murderers found riches beyond their wildest dreams and now these wicked sinners are admirals and kings. In others, it was a dream of madness and the world burned for nothing. Both are a warning of what happens in a fringe land where every man has a treasure map and a starship with orbital bombardment capability.
The Foundling Worlds are cursed. They have a tendency to localized warp storms, temporal distortion during warp travel, and sudden communication failures that seem too convenient to be simple bad luck; there is a strong suggestion that this region of Koronus is intentionally hostile the exploration and colonization, hiding something behind its navigational hazards and misfortunes. The storms are so localized and persistent that they almost seem to follow a schedule, and most Rogue Traders are the sort of people who respond to something trying to keep them out by wondering what fabulous prizes they might be hiding. Notable worlds here include a refuge for gangsters and heretics called Grace where the Rogue Trader who founded it stopped sending supplies after some of her ships were lost and the locals all resorted to cannibalism and space madness, or the world of Rain. Rain is a good example of the kind of adventure hook you get in RT: It's a wet, rainy planet where the locals were considering building an Agri-World, since the Imperium always needs more food. Then, one day, they found ancient structures deep in the forests, and reported that the rain 'made strange sounds' in that area. Then the Imperium received a garbled astropathic message about 'Them' and 'pale figures' lurking just beyond sight in the rain, and then nothing. What happened there? Could be Eldar, could be Chaos, could be an awful lot of things, but ancient ruins the locals couldn't understand implies ancient treasure, so maybe your heavily armed Explorers should go check it out. The region also houses Iniquity, a major asteroid and planetary mining system that serves as a drydock for Chaos raiders in realspace. If your PCs could help the Navy defeat it they could make all of Koronus much safer.
The Accursed Demense is another region of danger and awful things, full of Chaos raiders, probably a Necron Tomb World at Lathimon's Death (I mean, a dead, quiet world full of cyclopean structures where explorers vanish without a trace? Could also be something more interesting, mind), and the Orks of the UNDRED UNDRED TEEF. The Processional of the Damned is a massive ship graveyard full of xenos vessels of a hundred races, all slowly twisting together into massive, hive-like space-hulks full of potential salvage and also space monsters. The real problem is definitely the Orks, though. Whole rich, mineral-wealthy worlds taken entirely by constantly warring Ork clans, with the means to construct massive ships and go off freebooting when they get sick of fighting other orks and want to fight somebody new. The region's wealth also produces large numbers of dashing, swashbuckling (insofar as you can swashbuckle with a massive two-handed chainsaw axe; orks find a way) Kaptins, out to make their bold fortunes in the stars and acquire fantastic new hats. By their side stand an unusual number of Flash Gitz, orks who live for adding loudeners and blinking red lights and tactical high speed low drag gubbins to their increasingly insane Snazguns to show off their wealth and make even more noise. Soon, a big enough ork will emerge, with a big enough hat, to control the whole Undred Undred Teef and lead them off to loot and pillage the rest of the expanse.
The Heathen Stars are called such because there were a large number of Dark Age colony projects in the region, projects that survived until very recently with no knowledge of the God Emperor. There are great and ancient tech-treasures to be found here, as well as worlds with infrastructure and populations who could be made into Imperial subjects without needing to move millions of colonists. The lands await your daring missionaries and their tactical orbital Auto-Temple drops (The fluff here is the first mention of the mighty orbital-drop temples of the Imperium). Agusia is a huge planet-wide tomb, into which an old human culture used to inter its dead. All of them. It would send its dead across the stars to build great mausoleums and monuments on this specific, lifeless world near a dying sun, for reasons none can say. Nadeush is full of crumbling mega-hives and the human tribesmen who refuse to enter them, claiming they were cursed and that stories of the great, lost technology they no longer understand and now shun, for reasons Imperial explorers have not yet discovered. Zayth is a world where the former Dark Age inhabitants have forgotten everything but war, fighting an eternal stalemate in their massive, moving city-sized tanks and great titans, still producing wonders of military technology that they sell to offworlders for food and other non-war materials as they fight their endless, unwinnable battle across their planet's one continent. Raaktka is exactly like Nadeush. Like, literally the same hook: Fallen Dark Age Hive. Vaporius is still advanced and prosperous, but ruled by water-controlling Priest-Kings and strange lore, which means it's probably Chaos. It's always Chaos. In this region, you have lots of options for talking, fighting, trading, and exploring.
The Unbeholden Reaches are mostly filled with stellar phenomena and kind of empty, except one specific, interesting planet. Illisk. The entire planet is a massive xenotech cogitator, a huge alien computer. In great furrows around the enormous computing and geothermal power towers you can find millions of dried, desiccated alien corpses, wired together by endless series of circuitry. Whether this planet represents an attempt to upload their race into a computer, some kind of alien experiment gone wrong, or an insane AM-like AI that decided it was going to inscribe HATE on each nanoangstrum of every living thing on its planet is unknown.
Finally, we get to the Rifts of Hecaton and they're basically out of ideas by this point. It's another big, scary empty region in the far stars, mostly full of dead ruins of dead civilizations around dead stars. There's no real adventure hooks here.
Next Time: The Things That Live In Space.
They're coming out of the God-Emperor damned walls!
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
They're coming out of the God-Emperor damned walls!
Abruptly, this will be the second to last update as the attached adventure isn't worth covering, unlike in DH.
The people you can run into in the Expanse are the expected (Eldar, Orks, Chaos Pirates) and then the regional (Rak'Gol, Stryxis, Yu'Vath, none of whom come up outside the RPGs). Orks are one of the most prominent and constant menaces in the region. The poor access for naval patrols means that organized forces for hunting orks are hard to come by and the Freebootas are a severe danger to the fledgling colonies and weak Rogue Trader 'fleets' (Let's be fair: The average RT is lucky if they own the equivalent of a light Navy Patrol, let alone an actual task force or battlefleet) that dot the region. As per usual with Orks, they're less dangerous because they're as busy fighting each other as they are anyone else, but one day a big enough Warboss will rise and get them all together and on that day look out because that's the only actual Ork plot in any Warhammer fiction ever. Other than that, the Orks are mostly predictable and their usual selves, out on a quest for loot (Not because they value the loot, but because if the loot is valuable it can be used as bait for better fights) and fancy hats as they go about and actually have fun in Warhammer 40k. When xeno PCs are introduced in another book, you can play as an Ork who has set out among the humies in search of shinier hats and good fights.
The Eldar are unusual because until the expansion books drop a Craftworld in the region doing usual mysterious craftworld things, the Eldar presence in Koronus is entirely Dark Eldar and Corsairs. Corsairs are Eldar who have fled the careful, mono-mania-and-Slaanesh-restraining 'Path' system of their Craftworld, whereby someone focuses on a single job or art or craft until they have mastered it then leaves it before they get too attached to it, and have instead decided it would be totally rad to go rock out and be swashbuckling space pirates. Which, fair enough, that does sound more exciting than having to get just up to the edge of becoming such a fantastic pastry chef that it consumes your soul, then switching to go become a librarian and never looking at a cupcake again. They're dicks, though, with relatively little regard for anyone else as they swan about the galaxy and get up to antics because they feel like it. The Dark Eldar stand out for probably trying too hard even for Warhammer 40k, being sex-murder-torture elves who constantly seek to inflict horrible suffering on others to feed to Slaanesh in place of their own souls. They are also pirates, but spikier ones who like to dress in lots of blades and black armor and run around cackling about how 'pain is like wine' and other lame as hell bullshit. So you have dickish elf pirates and 13 year old grindhouse splatterpunk elf pirates, who both go around doing what they want without much rhyme or reason because ~mysterious Eldar~. We're not getting to the books but for some insane reason, when they introduce Eldar PCs they're *all Dark Eldar* with a detailed PAIN TOKEN subsystem and rules for torturing crew to death for power. They are so excited about this that they get multiple classes, unlike other alien PCs. This is *baffling*.
I say all this as someone who actually kind of likes the concept of the Eldar, but holy shit does 40k never do anything interesting with them.
The Rak'Gol are new. They don't show up anywhere else and they're big, tall, four-legged (and often four-armed) lizard-insect monstermen with primitive technology and a hard-on for evil cybernetics. They *may* be the abandoned, uplifted servitors of a dead alien race of warp worshipers or something but what you need to know is that despite the crudity of their technology (they fly around on nuclear impulse drives and use massive blocks of heavy, conventional autocannons and radiation weaponry) the average Rak'Gol is as tough as a Space Marine and hates you. The average Rak'Gol is also capable of climbing on walls and ceilings, their ships are irradiated hellholes, they have lots of implanted cybernetic armor and mono-blades, some of them wield giant radiation axes, and they all carry .50 caliber machine guns to boot. They even get their own unique navy in the Battlefleet Calixis book, built around assault-ship transports and surprisingly fast but un-maneuverable ships with rapid firing, brutal banks of individually weak guns. The biggest mystery about the Rak'Gol is how the hell they do FTL: They don't seem to have psykers despite *maybe* worshiping the Warp, and they definitely navigate it somehow. They exist to show up and menace your PCs in ships that the PCs can definitely beat, and to be a deeper 'where the hell are these coming from and why' mystery for PCs to solve; no actual definitive answer is given.
The Disciples of Thule are just AdMech explorators. They're out in the Expanse looking for technology. They'll fight you if you try to get to archeotech treasures before they do. Even in the book, they barely merit a full paragraph and it's just a longer version of what I just said.
The Yu'Vath are a central mystery/problem for the setting. They were an alien race of warp-worshipers who enslaved human worlds with their powerful sorcery, to say nothing of other minor xeno species in this region and what would become the Calixis sector. They get fleshed out a little more elsewhere, but all we get here is that Drusus of Calixis is famous primarily because he exterminated the Yu'Vath (somehow) and that what they did was so awful that Imperial chroniclers burned every record of what they were up to and why. There isn't even a good description of the creatures, nor do any pictures survive. What's left behind is massive, pulsing stone-and-crystal cyclopean elder god ruins full of strange, valuable warp treasures. They're basically a big blank sign saying 'EVIL ELDER GOD SHIT HAPPENED HERE, DO AS YOU WISH'.
The Stryxis look like horror-ewoks and are a race of wandering stellar nomads. They are hoarders and traders, eager to deal mostly-peacefully with humans from their giant space-hulk like caravans of shattered ship hulls. Their caravans are mostly made up of slaves, vat-grown biological constructs, mercenaries, and hirelings rather than actual Styrxis, and if you can't defend yourself the deal they offer you is likely 'Work for Stryxis, yes?' with an implied 'or die'. They're your usual tricky space nomads who like to steal, but thankfully without any attempt to make them space roma or something; they're just fucked up weirdo genetic engineer ewoks who build soul lasers. Oh yeah, they also have soul lasers.
Naturally we've got Chaos Pirates all over the place, but they're your usual warbands of wandering murderers and aren't anything unusual or interesting, either. You might be noticing a theme: The larger 40k forces in Koronus tend to be sort of dull.
There's also the Halo Artifacts, which are weird evil artifacts that grant great power but are also going to destroy you because it's Warhammer and any ancient artifact that isn't covered in fascist iconography is more chaos/evil sorcery. However, Calixians, being immensely stupid people, will pay immense sums for these and so Rogue Traders, being the kind of people who enable immensely stupid people when there are immense sums on the line, keep bringing the damn things back so that yet another noble can rejoice in being immortal for all of five minutes before he grows a mantis head and eats his children or whatever nonsense these things are going to cause this week.
You've also got kroot in the region! They actually come through the Jericho Warp Gate, traveling into this region from Tau country on the other side of the galaxy in search of work and unique genomes to eat. Kroot are cannibalistic nomadic mercenary bird-lizard-men (well, either gender; humans can't tell the difference between a Kroot man and woman) in giant dyson spheres. They're strong, stealthy, adaptable, and eat people in order to incorporate the best parts of their genetics, which are then directed by a Kroot group's genetics-shaman, the Shaper, to try to shape that group in more powerful and successful directions. They'll work for anyone who promises them exciting new things to eat and shiney baubles. In fact, you can eventually play as a Kroot, and they're melee power-houses who can gain additional power by eating people, and who have the unique ability to use the team's Profit in place of their Willpower for fear saves as they remind themselves that yes, they *are* getting paid enough for this.
Finally, we have some actual Rogue Trader dynasties of the region. There's Aspyce Chorda, who likes forcing her men to dress as space butlers or be whipped to death for mussing their coats and is generally the evil, ruthless one. There's Calligos Winterscale, a petulant bully and jackass who 'hates those who concede in the face of his wrath' and who actually manages to be more interesting here, in a two paragraph description that emphasizes his volatility and desire to get his way by violence, than he will be when he's transformed into THE LEGENDARY CALLIGOS WINTERSCALE: BEST RT in his larger description in another book. There's Jonquin Saul, who is the lone legitimate merchant among all these lunatics and looked down upon for it while he tries to convert the Heathen Worlds because he reasons it's cheaper than shipping labor and colony prefabs to the region. There's Tanak Valcetti, who is *extremely* generic to the point that he'll be replaced in later books with a raving lunatic (He's a noble who likes noble things! What a fantastic concept for a Rogue Trader). And then there's Wrath Umboldt, who exists to be a shipwrecked old man screaming at the players about his treasure map because his fleets always sink and he has terrible luck. Inspiring collection, these lot.
After that, we get a startlingly short bestiary that doesn't even have stats for, say, the Rak'Gol (they come in another book) and that's...pretty much it for the book. The Koronus Expanse will get filled in a bit, but as it stands it's a fairly empty place. It has a better excuse for that than Calixis, at least! I mean, this is a game about exploring the unknown, it's fine to have a lot of the map not filled in. The problem is the bits that are filled in are almost painfully dull; they're all pretty much exactly what you'd expect for the setting. Eldar being mysterious, arrogant dicks? Orks romping around? Chaos Pirates everywhere being loose warbands of murderers and lunatics? You're going to have to make your own fun out there.
Next Time: Wrap Up.
I hate this game yet respect and like this company.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader
I hate this game yet respect and like this company.
Rogue Trader is an outright bad game. The setting emphasizes a lot of the worst about 40k (Big and empty, lots of reveling in extermination and looting of races, etc etc) and I want you to stop and think about the mechanics, and ask yourself if ANY of the new mechanics actually sounded good. There's a ton of carefully constructed, complex subsystems in RT that lead to sweet fuck all in actual decision making or fun gameplay for the PCs, and one of them has an entire class built around 'roll to see if random encounters derail the adventure'. The classes are confused and poorly designed, advancement is glacial if you go Rules As Written (which is what I'm judging here, being a review), gear and damage and durability are out of control, the mercantile and profit system are boring to interact with, and ships are fun to build but using them is problematic for a group. Either you have multiple ships, in which case all the subsystems built in to try to make the whole group feel like 5 players with one playing piece are all making decisions slow the game down a ton compared to the wargame it's emulating, or you have one ship and a bunch of characters saying 'I roll to provide a small bonus to the roll for the character making a roll that actually matters'. Spaceship combat is an overly complex poor-man's Battlefleet Gothic, and if we were going into the rest of the line this means Chaos is full of long-range guns and strike craft, Eldar get to ignore almost all the maneuvering rules you have to play with, etc etc. I hate Rogue Trader and I have tried to run it multiple times only to have it crash each time.
So why cover it? Because its failings are *really interesting*. Rogue Trader represents Fantasy Flight's first 'full' game in the line, since they were handed the (flawed) rules and system and setting of Dark Heresy to publish in the first place. It reflects their desire to take the 40k setting and write more about the Great Men who move and shake and make big splashes in the setting, but it also reflects how they will be consistently weighed down by the system they inherited, which was designed for a very different tone and a very different kind of adventure. FFG's designers are going to consistently fail to bridge the gap between what they want, and what system they have to work with, and it's fascinating because it's like watching someone try to produce a really well made d20 Heartbreaker, but with the full resources of a motivated studio that obviously hates the system it's working with. I don't really blame FFG or think they're a bad company or anything, but it's also really clear they didn't understand the base system they were given especially well. The challenges of working with someone else's system that was, again, designed for a very different tone than they wanted, in a setting that is already surprisingly bad for small-group roleplaying games, just made sure the rest of the line was always going to be a very awkward thing.
Rogue Trader would be a hard game for anyone to design and I don't blame its designers for failing. Writing a game about the officers and owners of a massive mercantile and military consortium in a sprawling space-fascist empire is not easy. Rogue Trader *sounds* like an easier game to make than it is; how do you show off how powerful the characters are? How do you make their massive resources and wealth manifest in gameplay? What objectives and missions and challenges do you present for the Great Man who already has everything? The answer is not '+5 to all starting stats and start with a power sword' but I see how that was the first instinct. This game would have required a lot of work on ways to mechanically simulate your massive social influence and wealth, and instead we get a fairly flat system where your reward for plundering a mighty lost treasure ship is '+3% to get stuff rolls'. Instead of epic heroes, you have characters with confused, ill-designed classes (I'm fairly convinced that even though they used it again in DW in a diminished capacity, RT is the game that sealed the death of the Career system) who can take a surprisingly long time to learn things that feel like they should be very basic. There's an unwillingness to let the PCs start out broadly competent that is at odds with the hyperbolic fluff about how you are the greatest swordsmen, pilots, and diplomats in the universe.
And I will give FFG credit: Deathwatch is a better game, in part by learning from some of the mistakes of Rogue Trader. Black Crusade and Only War will see experimental attempts to break out of the Career system (neither of which works, but the attempt was made) and allow more diverse characters. Later games will show a marked improvement in fluff as they get more and more comfortable writing for the setting. The art and production values of the line only go up and up from here. The chronicle of the 40k RPGs is of a company handed a system it hates trying to do the best it can to make the stories and games it wants to tell with it, anyway. FFG is a professional outfit who did the best they could to make fun games despite Warhammer 40k, and I'm not sorry they tried.
Just don't actually play Rogue Trader. If you want to be cathedral-flying space-pirates use some other system or something. Because this one is terrible.
Next Time: Oh, goddamnit. Yes, Black Crusade is next because I can't escape Warhammer 40k and also because it makes a legitimately interesting contrast to the Tome of Corruption.