A buddy of mine, who happens to be a player in my Rouge Trader game went to Gen Con this week and picked up Into the Storm. So, here's my review of the new book, after having it for only three days.
If you don't know what Into the Storm is, it's an upgrade book or "player's guide" for the Rogue Trader game. So far, this book seems to me to be what The Inquisitor's Handbook was to Dark Heresy. And that is certainly a good thing.
Chapter One: Advanced Origins
One of the more innovative things I enjoy about the Rogue Trader system is its Origin Path system for character creation. It's a real help because it helps focus character backgrounds and creation in a massive universe of options and realities.
Chapter One greatly expands upon the Origin Path system and keeps it backwards compatible by introducing alternate origins at each station. For example, instead of starting out on a Death World, you can start out on a Death World or a Frontier World, which gives different benefits and penalties. Moving down from that, you could pick Scavenger or Fringe Survivor, etc. And on top of that, each of the new origin picks has three different variations to choose from as well. If you choose to be a Fringe Survivor, you could be a Survivalist, Heretek, or Pit-Fighter. (Warhammer Quest anyone?)
All of these new Origin paths do cost xp, however. So people looking to go crazy and power-mad are reined in a bit. I'm going to certainly offer these new Origin Paths retroactively to my players, because many of them are much better fits for their characters.
Another row of Origins is added as well: Lineage. Lineage is an Origin aspect which describes your family and their reputation.
Another cool edition - an Origin path for the Explorer's Warrant of Trade. This is very neat. In this section, the players and GM sit down together and decide the general history and background of the very Warrant they hold. Doing so determines the group's starting Profit Factor and Ship Points.
Chapter Two: Koronus Careers
This section of the book contains information the both expands on the initial Rogue Trader classes and introduces new elements to the game. I will tell you right now that this is the section that introduces the Kroot and Ork Freebooter races to the game. Unfortunately, neither race is given its own Origin chart, and they are stuck with a single career choice - Kroot Mercenary or Ork Freebooter. They do, however, have a slew of Talents and other abilities that set them off from humans. The Kroot, for example, can gain hit points by eating their slain opponents.
Thereafter, the book describes Alternate Career ranks. Just like in Dark Heresy, alternate career ranks are special ranks which can be taken instead of the next level on the line. After your alternate rank, you go back to the ranks in your regular career. Some of the alternate ranks are more specific than others. For example, the Acquisitionist can be only taken by the Seneschal. Some are very setting specific, like the Drusian Adherent. However, many of the alternate career ranks are open - able to be taken by any of the career paths.
The end of the chapter features a few Elite Advances. Two of them are are open to most careers, while some like the Rite of Duplessence and the Sanctioned Xenos are career specific.
Chapter Three: Extended Armoury
This chapter features, as you might expect, a lot more weapons and equipment. I didn't know how much they could expand the weapons list from the Inquisitor's Handbook, but they did it. Noteworthy are the expanded types of grenades and ammunition; as well as a fair number of xenos equipment.
Chapter Four: Starships Expanded
This section offers a brief write up on ship life and then goes into expanding the ship options in Rogue Trader. More hull types are present. Many should seem familiar to fans of Battlefleet Gothic, like the Firestorm frigate or the Lathe-class monitor cruiser. Also added are ship background packages. You can buy these with ship points, and are like backgrounds you can pick for your ship, rather than roll for.
There are also ship upgrades like better Warp engines, additional Void shields, or different ship weapons like missile batteries. Finally, there are interesting ship upgrades like giving your vessel vaulted ceilings (morale increase) or even buying an atomic weapon. But you can only buy one nuke at a time.
Chapter Five: Vehicles
This is perhaps the most valuable portion of the book, since it gives stats and rules for vehicles, something missing from both Dark Heresy and Death Watch. There is an old web book out there with vehicles and vehicle rules for Dark Heresy, but those rules were much more on the narrative side and sort of filler for a gap in the rules.
The vehicle rules are not unlike the rules for ships, though obviously they work on different scale. Each vehicle has a degree of armor and structural integrity. When it starts taking Structural Integrity damage, it starts taking critical wounds, much like a character.
Chapter Six: Expanded Psychic Powers
This section includes new Navigator powers as well as new Astropathic powers. None of the powers that I saw in my quick glance seemed to be redundant, as can happen in systems of this nature. There is also a new psychic school, which is Theosophamy - a school which focuses on manipulating the Warp itself for its own sake. The powers included allow the psyker to do such things as attempt to banish daemons and the like (it's not easy), or make one's weapon into a Warp Weapon.
Chapter Seven: Enhanced Game Mechanics
Chapter Seven is almost an appendix, with a number of rules upgrades or mechanics ideas in place for GMs to use or not. There is a small section on Social Interaction challenges, not unlike an Exploration challenge.
The book also introduces Meta and Background Endeavours. Meta Endeavours are large, campaign-spanning Endeavours which are meant to be either an outline for your campaign or something close to it. I rather liked this write up. It shows how Endeavours can be used to outline an entire campaign, even if you run it sandbox style.
The addition of Background Endeavours is nice as well. It allows the PCs to set up long-term tedious tasks to be accomplished by NPCs so that the party can go do exciting stuff.
This chapter also introduces ideas to make Acquisition Tests and Profit Factor more interesting. For example, if the Rouge Trader group keeps on spending extravagant amounts of money, they can attract unwanted attention.
Finally, there is an expansive look at then different roles on a Rogue Trader ship, what they do, and where they operate. I also enjoyed this section, because ship-board drama is something I wanted to cover in my campaign, and this section is great for ideas for just that.
Chapter Eight: Port Wander
Obviously, this is a detailed write up on Port Wander. Footfall, of course, is covered in Lure of the Expanse.