Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Latest Crew Members

What is kind of neat with the Micro/Macro system is how the player character's NPC roster can grow. As it grows, it means that the PCs are gaining more followers and expanding their influence. At the same time, it means that they are taking on more responsibility because there are more NPCs whose lives can be threatened or who can lose faith in the PCs.

I've found that to make the entourage system work, each NPC only needs about one or two scenes with the party. Thereafter, they can appear briefly and a very short scene and everyone sort of understands that they are there. More on this later.

Ishi - Planetary Expert
Picked up on Footfall as a consultant

Background: Ishi is a planetary expert - a dedicated explorer and soldier of fortune who has seen dirtside on countless worlds. Ishi grew up, hand-crafted by a guild of explorers. From the time she was a little girl, she was taught the way of her guild's explorations and techniques. However, her guild was long ago wiped out by the insidious actions of a xenos cult. Since that incident, much of her memory has been wiped out, for in her escape, her ship was lost in the warp for a time. Since her memory loss, she has made a name and life for herself exploring the fringe. Ishi's actual age is unknown to most. She appears to be a young woman but often hints at a past which stretches back at least a century.
Personality: Calm; curious; and wise
Represents: Ishi is an expert planetary explorer, but does not actually represent any crew population. The planetary explorers are represented by Brother Vhist.

Incabula - Second Navigator
Picked up on the Angevin's Blade, when the Explorers reclaimed the derelict vessel

Background: Incabula is a navigator with one of the great Nomadic Houses. The circumstances of her joining with the ship Angevin's Blade is not entirely clear, but it is believed that she was purchased with a number of other navigators for the small but significant Baetarn Merchant House. If the records are to be believed, the Angevin's Blade was a guardian vessel for a trade fleet which is now presumed lost to ork attack. It is unclear how precisely her ship was overtaken by orks. She is loathe to speak on the matter and it may be that she does not even rightly remember all of the details. Her mind has blocked portions of the details out.
As the navigator of a guard vessel, Incabula specializes in monitoring and watching the Warp. She seems to be a capable navigator, if a little touched in the head.
Personality: Distracted; blunt; and unhinged
Represents: Incabula represents the navigator and entourage of the Angevin's Blade.

Lieutenant Ergan Wright - Lead of the Remaining Crew of Lucien's Folly
Picked up when the crew of the Lucien's Folly was rescued from the Cauldron

Background: Ergan Wright is the last remaining member of the command structure of Lucien's Folly - an exploration frigate that was lost to the Cauldron in the Koronus Expanse. Ergan is a seasoned officer, who has seen many trials and tribulations as the leader aboard a free trading and exploration vessel. However, his commanders bit off more than they could chew when they went to the Koronus Expanse. Wright's men are utterly loyal to him. There is a special bond between all of the surviving members of the now-perished Lucien's Folly.
Personality: Haunted; grizzled; and stoic
Represents: Ergan Wright represents the crew members that are survivors of the Lucien's Folly - approximately 12,000 men and women in the Rogue Trader dynasty.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Planet of Vedic

Vedic is a super-massive terran type planet. It is three times the size of a standard habitable planet. Its gravity is .975 normal, due to the low density of the planet itself.


The planet is covered mostly by large savannas and plains, with some forests in the polar regions, where the temperatures are not as hot. Most of the planet is rolling plains, though a fair number of mountain ranges spread out across the surface. A fair number of volcanoes litter the surface of the planet, sometimes causing massive plains fires that can go on for thousands of miles. There is a single, great sea with a smaller continent in the center, so that Vedic resembles a strange eye of sorts when seen from space.


The dominant flora on the planet is some form of grass, which is amber in color and pliable. There are small “seas” of larger, more sturdy grass which is treacherous. The leaves there slice through clothing and skin if traveled through extensively.

Across the plains are small forests, which have towering and knotted trees with grey, geometrically rectangular leaves. Each one of these small forests seem to originate from a central large tree. It is speculated as these central trees reproduce very infrequently and send their seed far away, to create other small forests.

On the north and south poles of the planet are extensive forests, with a wide variety of trees. The forests at the extreme poles are covered in snow for most of the year. Life teems in these polar forests.


The dominant fauna on the planet are large herd of deer-like creatures with silver scales on their head and neck. They have four eyes on their head and complex antlers which look like obsidian flames. These strange deer make clacking and whistling noises.

A variety of predators hunt these silver deer, but their primary enemy are large, hairy, and quadrupedal. These beasts have exceptionally wide mouths that turn up in an almost Cheshire grin.

Another species of note are two creatures who share a symbiotic relationship. Titanic, jellyfish-like creatures float through the skies that are both plant and animal. Making their homes inside these floating beings are flocks of bat-winged creatures who have no discernable heads. Their mouths are in their chests, and they have prehensile tails. The bat-like creatures service their massive floaters by inadvertently carrying a pollen-like substance from one of the floaters to another. The floaters subsist off of sunlight, rain, and occasionally floating down to take nutrients from the soil.


There are the ruins of cities on Vedic. Over 250 cites can be found on the planet, most of which are so eroded as to be nothing more than rubble. About two dozen of them, however, are still largely intact. The communities are arranged in small clusters of super-communities. The remaining cities range from small villages to large hives of domed buildings, connected by sky bridges. These crumbling ruins date back a long ways, possibly back to the Age of Aposty.

Large statues of the emperor are features in many of the cities, as well as large statues of what can only be presumed as nobles.

The ruins of ships also lie on the surface of Vedic. Most are ancient and nothing more than corroding skeletons. A good many of these ships are ork ships. However, a number of ships, perhaps 6 or more are actually explorable and intact. Of the 6 remaining, 2 are of ork-make.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fifth Session - On the Brink of a New World

Well, the Spring has been a turbulent time for us. We have not gamed as often as I would like - but many of us have had busy lives. Luckily, these impediments seem to be temporary.

Our fifth session saw the crew of the Ferral Wolf finally leaving Footfall. The crew faced a triumphant return to the spaceport after clearing out a Raider-class ghost ship from an ork infestation. Upon reaching the spaceport, they were warned by the admiral of House Ontiverous that their victory, while good for them, was also a victory for the savage House Naraghast. According to Admiral Zephyr, House Naraghast will see their "gift" of a raider to the Explorers as a sign of alliance. Even if the Explorers do not. That means, if there is any activity that Naraghast is engaging in in the sector that the Explorer's don't like, they will have to carefully consider if they want to oppose it - because now Naraghast can claim that Holocene broke their alliance first.

Thereafter, the Explorers had to face the uncomfortable prospect of splitting their crew. After all, the raider they recovered had no crew to speak of and there were simply not enough free hands on Footfall to populate their new ship - The Angevin's Blade. I ruled that they could populate it to some extent, but that they would not be able to be choosy at all about their personnel. Essentially, they would be hiring on anyone who was a warm body for their ship. Not wanting to do that, they opted for splitting their crew between the two ships.

After this brief meeting, the Holocene finally left Footfall and traveled towards Vedic, their ultimate goal. On the way, they had an encounter near the Cauldron, which I ruled to be a super-massive black hole, which was infamous for drawing ships in. They received readings that another ship was being drawn into the Cauldron and was able to save part of their crew. This development was fortuitous because it helped them replenish their crew population, but certainly not all the way.

This small encounter was really neat for me because it reminded me of the Gaunt's Ghosts books - in that series, the Ghost division is made up of various survivors from a long campaign against Chaos. Inevitably, conflicts arises as the people from different planets mingle and interact. I look forwards to some interesting roleplay opportunities as the crew of these two ships mingle and become one.

After their rescue of some of the crew of Farizel's Folly, they finally proceeded to the planet Vedic. More about that later....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Adding a New Player...and Discovering the Limitations of the Rogue Trader System

Bringing in a New Player

Well, sadly, it appears that one of our players is leaving us. And so soon! We had two Arch-Militants, but one of them has decided to head northward to greener pastures. We will certainly miss Casey's enthusiasm for our games.

But, serendipitously, we also have gained another player. Our long-time friend Nick has come back from the land of sand to engage with us again.

I wasn't sure how incorporating a new player would work with Rogue Trader. The game really wants everyone to sit down and make characters together. But I also thought that this was also a really neat opportunity. How does the game system hold up when someone comes in from outside?

We started with Nick's origin path and it turned out pretty well. He was able to make the character that he had in his head without too much adjustment. Then, we had to come up with how his character was coming into the game. Was he an old associate that the Explorers had known for a long time? Or was he a relative unknown. Because Nick hadn't been around and seen what kinds of characters everyone had, he decided to go with a relative unknown.

Here, we can see the path that he chose, drawn right on top of the origin grid the rest of the party used. I'm glad I kept it!

The Limitations of the Rogue Trader System

And here's where was ran into the limitations of the Rogue Trader system. I guess this is as good a place as any to discuss and explore the limitations we've found in Rogue Trader. Nick really had in his head this idea of a psyker who could control peoples' minds or at least something fairly spectacular.

However, upon examination, the Astropath character archetype does not allow one to make such a character. That's okay by me, sometimes players don't need all of the options in the world open to them. However, after making Rank 1 Astropath, it seemed pretty clear to us that a Rank 1 Astropath can't do too much of anything. They are fantastic at communication, but outside of that, they are fairly limited. They get to do some cool stuff at Rank 2, however.

Because Nick felt somewhat limited, he opted instead for making a Dark Heresy Imperial Psyker. Fortunately, we had that option. However, when we started examining the two games we noted some marked differences.

In both Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader, your character options are certainly narrowly defined. Unlike many other systems, there are Skills and Talents that you simply can't take, no matter what. I actually like that, because it reflects the Warhammer 40k universe. Its a very codified and medieval society.

However, in Dark Heresy, there were many options within the various careers. An Assassin could be a melee character or a ranged character. A Psyker could actually be a Jedi-like sword-wielding battle-psyker or a frail but mentally powerful juggernaut.

The roles in Rogue Trader seem to be much more pigeon-holed. For example, the Arch-Militant is touted as the supreme combat champion of the game, but pays more for Weapon Skill. Also, dual melee wielding is completely closed to them. Also, the Arch-Militant cannot get the Command skill until Rank 3, something that has seriously hurt the Arch-Militant in our game, since he's supposed to command the ship's troops.

My Suspicions

Here's what I'm thinking happened. Dark Heresy was a game put out by Black Library - a subsidiary of Games Workshop. And it was the first game of the 40k RPG series to arrive. I'm going to bet that Dark Heresy was crafted a little slower, more deliberately, and perhaps more playtest time behind it. (There are certainly still flaws in that game as well.)

It's possible that Rogue Trader was pushed out a little quickly or a little quicker than Dark Heresy and might have lacked more playtesting time.

All of this is just a guess. And I want to state emphatically that I'm still loving the game.

My Solution

Because certain characters seem to be lacking very vital Skills and Talents, I think what I'm going to do is this - every so often I was planning to award permanent Fate Points. At the end of a story arc, after a big accomplishment, etc. What I think I'm going to now is give the players a choice. They can have a Permanent Fate Point or they can gain access to any skill or Talent. Even if it's not on their list. While this is pretty powerful, keep in mind that this might only happen a few times in the whole campaign. And they'll still have to pay XP costs, which I might make somewhat steep. We'll have to see.

Battlefield Report 1: Raiding the Engine Room

Well, I actually got to break out the terrain for our first full run of the Rogue Trader system. As described in my last post, they raided the engine room of the ship, the Angevin's Blade. As you can see, I was able to suggest a large engine room with the Manufactorum from the Imperial Sector, Star Wars Tiles, and finally some Dwarven Forge Sci-Fi terrain. The ork minis are from Hero Quest.

While it's not a full-on mock up of what the characters were fighting on, it does at least give an impression of what they are doing, and I'm satisfied with that.

Also, during the battle, I just had the PCs fighting with a few NPCs helping them. In exchange, they only had to fight a small crowd of orks, instead of a massive horde. Basically, this is the whole microcosm/macrocosm thing again. I explained that the battlefield was probably filled with orks, but most of them were being handled by the Explorers' crew. Instead of rolling for each crew member, we just kept most of the field empty and assumed that there was fighting going on. To keep a good picture in people's minds, I would occasionally pause and describe what the crew was doing in the battle and how they were faring.

And now, here's the large balcony of the bridge. The PCs had to fight their way to the top to trigger the switch which would vent the ship of orks. At the top, you can see the Explorator, who had to make the final adjustments and throw the switch.

And here's a pedestrian view of the battlefield.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fourth Session - Battle Aboard the Angevin's Blade

The third session of play found our rogue trader crew inside of their newly found derelict ship, battling the orks on board, trying to purge it of the green plauge, and claim it for their own.

This session was our first real and true exploration of the combat system in Rogue Trader. Mind you, we were pretty familiar with it from before - when we played Dark Heresy. We did have one player for whom the system was new, so I had to remind myself to go over the system with him once we got started.

One thing that this session held for me upfront was a surprise. When we closed out the previous session, the crew was fighting their way to the bridge, where an ork warboss was waiting. Matt shrewdly wondered if it were possible to get to the engine room instead and vent the whole ship from there, bypassing the whole warboss thing in the first place.

Thankfully, Matt proposed this idea ahead of time, so I had time to prepare for this eventuality. But what was neat was that this one decision altered the game significantly. Instead of a big climatic fight on the bridge, it was a more large-scale rout of the engine room. There were still orks there, but fighting a bunch of weird boyz wasn't as hard as fighting a warboss and his guard. So, I did my best to reward the players for their ingenuity and it was a great example of how a game master can always be surprised in the campaign.

One of the Explorers went to the bridge with a support team member to trigger the safety that was on the bridge. (I figured it wouldn't be too easy.) Anyhow, after a pitched battle in the engine room, they triggered the vents on the ship and the lone PC flipped the safety switch on the bridge.

To add a little drama to the session, the oddboyz in the engine room were powering up the ship and the warboss on the bridge was about to fire the ship's weapons into Footfall. Outside of the ship, the Imperial Navy fleet that the Explorers met earlier were prepared to fire as soon as the Angevin's Blade did. This added a time factor to the crew's efforts.

After the battle, the crew successfully shut things down before they were blown out of the sky by the Imperial Nay. And things got a bit more interesting. The Explorers found the ship's Navigator, who is not entirely sane after being on board the ship for so long with orks. She managed to survive the plague, but her mind is jarred.

And that's where we left off!