One of the most fun aspects of a game is when it takes on a life of its own for me. The point or points in which I have completely let go of the reins and am only reacting to what the players do is pretty much the high point of any campaign that I run.
While that has certainly happened many times in this current campaign, it certainly started a large chain of events in the Eleventh Session.
Quick recap - The Explorers were at a ritual Foretelling, conducted by the Witch of Footfall. In the middle of it, Footfall is attacked by a Chaos fleet.
The session was planned as a series of large set-pieces.
- Set-piece 1 was a fire-fight with some pirates, who were using the chaos of the moment to hopefully reap vengeance on some of the Explorers.
- Set-piece 2 was a scramble across suspension bridges to a shuttle craft so they they could escape, all the while being fired upon by a flyer.
- Set-piece 3 was a space-battle as the PCs tried to escape Footfall.
In our current game, three of our player characters are interconnected. The Explorator, Void Master and new Astropath all chose Press Ganged as their Trail and Travail. All three of them chose to have been prisoners aboard the same pirate ship. While on board, all three of them staged a mass riot and escape, breaking free from their servitude and linking all three of them. However, I noted that this didn't really provoke much roleplay when the session were actually under way. And that's because while this past was written into their backstory, they didn't really experience it.
So, I threw them a softball and see where they went with it. A had the very same pirate crew that captured them show up at Footfall. During a sudden attack on Footfall, the pirate crew made their way towards the party, hoping to settle some old scores.
That's when the PCs stepped in. The Explorers' battle-psyker took control of the pirate captain's mind because the pirate captain happen to be at the Fortelling alone (a requirement for attendance). With no one else to note what was going on, the pirate captain started marching around with the Explorers and barking sudden commandments to his fleet.
However, the rules for mind control in Rogue Trader being what they are, this was no charm person or dominate person spell. You can only control someone's body like a puppet (making it look unnatural) or issue them short commands. All of which made the pirate crew was suspicious. Making them extra-aggressive.
How it went:
Of course, who do the pirates fire on? Not the battle-psyker, but the ship's new Astropath, who they bore a grudge against anyway. Obviously, he was the one who was controlling their captain's mind, right? After being fired upon by a melta-gun, the ships new Astropath's arm was mostly melted, due to Wound damage. Not good.
The Explorers tried holding the pirate captain hostage to get the pirates to back off. But pirates being who they are...the first mate fired upon his own captain and killed him. At that point, the Rogue Trader did something extraordinary. He called out to the pirates and said, "If you join me, I won't shoot you."
While that didn't convince the pirates immediately, it did put the seed into their mind. It was the serious ass-whooping that they received from the Rogue Traders in the midst of mass chaos and confusion that pushed them over the edge. Also, the Rogue Trader made a hell of a charm check.
The end result was that the Explorers
Who ever said that Rogue Trader characters were too powerful and couldn't be challenged? As the Explorers made their way to the shuttle craft, they had to cross over a number of suspension bridges, all linked to various pieces of debris floating in space. That's what Footfall is, after all, just a collection of space debris that's been built upon.
While they were scrambling over the bridges, a flyer dove in on them and attacked. I used the stats of the Aquila Lander from Into the Storm. It's definitely not the worst flyer in the game or even close to it. But it put down the Astropath. Yep. He had to permanently burn a Fate Point to keep his character in the game. Now, he sports a cyber-arm for his troubles. And that's just the beginning! Kudos to Rob for taking this severe injury so well.
So, here's the thing to remember - the Astropath's arm was melted mainly because the battle-psyker took control of the opposing pirate captain. The results of this would see serious repercussions in later sessions.
The flyer was even actually able injure the Arch-Militant. However, after firing their newly acquired melta-gun at the flyer and some firestorm action from the battle-psyker, they were able to finish it off.
After the Explorers finally got on their shuttle, they were able to fly back to their own ship under heavy fire and make their way out of Footfall. A distraction was set up by their tentative allies, the Naraghast. A small fleet of Imperium ships, led by their staunch ally Admiral Balter provided more cover.
Next, we staged the battle, minis and all. The party's objective? Maneuver their vessel across the battlemap safety, while battling and dodging the enemy Chaos ships.
On the Rogue Trader's side was their two ships (a frigate and raider) and three pirate vessels (a light cruiser, frigate, and raider). Up against them was a chaos cruiser and three frigates. Now, I will say that I certainly had not planned for the PCs to have so many ships (four) on their side. The reason they got help was as a direct result of the Rogue Trader's coercion of the pirates.
Having a space battle with so many ships was certainly daunting. Particularly when the rules lean heavily towards the campaign being about one vessel. In the end, what I did was to assign each allied vessel to a player and have them make the appropriate rolls. The players were also able to make their regular character rolls to boost their own ship, since all of the PCs stayed aboard the main Rogue Trader vessel.
As I've said on some of the comments here, what makes combat in space difficult is the fact that all vessels involved have to move. So, each turn, you're having to adjust the entire field of combat. That said, I still like the combat very much. I just need a bit more practice with it. And, to be fair, the space combat system was clearly never intended to have a large field of battle with numerous ships on it.
The result of the battle was fairly spectacular. The allied fleet concentrated fire upon the cruiser and destroyed it with appropriately spectacular results. As it was destroyed, I joked that whenever a ship bites the dust in Rogue Trader, there's always that chance that the Warp Field generator is disrupted and the destroyed ship creates a warp storm. Heh. Careful what you joke about.
Then, they scrambled past the exploding vessel and veered around space debris. In a turn of events worthy of Star Wars, a raider pursuing the allied fleet rammed into the space debris, destroying it in the process.
Just as they thought they were all clear, the pirate's light cruiser was fired upon by the Chaos fleet at was destroyed before it made it clear. The result of the pirate cruiser's destruction was a warp storm, which threatened to suck in the remaining pirate fleet. It did not, but it did suck up one more chaos vessel, demonstrating how deadly Rogue Trader space combat can be.