Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Staging the Battle at Wake

For the battle at Wake, I was able to have a ready-made cutout of the planet. It was rather nice to have, on the table, the very same picture of the planet I had been showing them. (Even though it wasn't to scale like I thought. Ah, well.)

Another great victory was that all of the models used were fairly accurate. The Ferral Wolf is represented by the red ship below, closest to the planet. It's a frigate in the RPG and represented by an accurate model. The Nihontu, Kitsune's ship is a Rogue Trader cruiser and is also represented by an accurate model. The rest of the vessels are raiders or frigates - which all came from my friend Nick's collection for Battle Fleet Gothic.

The Explorers faced off against 10 Chaos ships. Well, it just so happened that we had more than enough models to cover that! We even had a model that could represent the taken over Imperial Battlecruiser.

Here's a better look at the Chaos fleet. Quite imposing to see it lined up and bearing down on you.

All for now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Staging the Battle with the Tau

So, for this session, I knew that it was going to involve two, (possibly three) epic space battles. Also, it would be the introduction of the Tau to the campaign. I really wanted the Tau to leave an impression. I chose them as a campaign nemesis because they are so different from what we've traditionally dealt with in the 40k universe. In Dark Heresy, the players had experienced all kinds of Warp-tainted enemies. Now, it was time to introduce something totally different. Something totally...alien.

Painting up a Tau Ship
The Tau ship was really easy to paint up. I got a Merchant Class ship, because I liked its look the best. Just based it black with a dry brush of grey. Then, with a fine brush, I went back in and put in the gunmetal on the cannons and added some red highlights. Overall, I was very impressed with the model. It's 100% metal for one, and much more importantly, it looks a lot better than the ship on their website. I'm not saying that I paint so well. Just that the photos for the Tau ships on the GW site simply don't do them justice.

Overall, the Merchant Class Tau ship is very reminiscent of the Starcraft Battlecrusier. Or rather, I should say that it's the other way around.

Cheap Little Props Mean Everything
You know, the thing about space is...there's nothing in it.

Staging space battles on a piece of black felt is all fine and good, but 99% of the time there is nothing else on the table but the ships, because space is, well, empty. So, I found a very cheap, quick, and easy way to spice up my space battles. Just print out some pictures of planets and put them on the mat.

Here's an Earth-sized planet. To scale!

Just one or two makes all the difference. And the fun part is - the math works out!

Fun with the Maths
A Void Unit in Rogue Trader is an abstract measurement. However, they suggested as a rule of thumb to call the average VU around 10,000 km. With some quick Google-fu, we can see that the Earth is just a little over about 40,000 km. So on your battlemat, 4 inches, 4 squares, or 4 hexes can be the diameter of any planet cutout you put down. And that planet will be approximately the size of earth. Easy as pie.

Now, you have the bragging rights of not only having cool props, but you have the geek satisfaction that your props are to scale.

With a little more Google-fu, we can see that the moon is, when closest, about 350,000 km way. Or 35 inches on my battlemat. So, when I placed the moon in the battle 35 inches away from the main planet, I could still revel in the coolness that the battle was to scale.

Perhaps the coolest thing about all of this is that you really get a sense of how fast these ships can move. If a Rogue Trader crew knows what they are doing, they can cross the distance between the Earth and the Moon within an hour's time. That's over 350,000 km (217,479 mi.) an hour! And remember that they are moving ships with enormous mass.

Here, we see the battle with the Tau as it began. The Tau were in orbit around an Earth-sized planet, while the far moon was about as far away as our Moon is to us. And the cut-outs were to scale. Kind of neat to see it in scale before you.

How did I get that when a fast ship moves only 8? Remember that the ship's Void Master and Explorator can both boost a ship's speed significantly. We've seen PCs more than double a ship's movement with good rolls. It makes a tremendous difference.

As the battle joins, the fast Tau ship was able to cross the difference swiftly. Kitsune's ship hid behind the berth of the ringed moon while the Ferral Wolf gave chase to the Fel Hand.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fourteenth Session - The Tau Arrive

Investigating the system of Lucin's Breath
After winning the bidding war of being able to investigate Lucin's Breath, the crew traveled out to that system and jumped out of warp in the shadow of one of the large moons of the system. There, to the Explorer's surprise, they discovered that the vast majority of the system's ships had been destroyed by the Tau. And indeed, there were still a dozen Tau ships in the system surveying it.

Hadarak Fel's betrayal
Of course, no good scouting mission is as good as one with a side order of betrayal. As the Explorers were taking scans of the area, Hadarak Fel (who had been running silent) powered up his own vessel and took a few pot-shots at the Ferral Wolf. And then proceeded to flee.

The nearby Tau vessel immediately turned and sped towards the coordinates of the disturbance. The Explorers pursued Hadarak Fel's ship - The Fel Hand - and fired upon her. By sheer blind luck, the crew landed a critical upon the Fel Hand and disabled her warp engines, preventing her from leaving the system.

But just as the crew of the Ferral Wolf threw up their arms in celebration, Fel responded with his lance batteries, cutting their hull integrity by half and damaging one of their macrocannons. Then, a second ship belonging to Fel appeared on their scopes, hiding until an opportune moment to attack them from the rear. Meanwhile, the Nihontu, Lady Kitsune's ship, engaged the Tau and began taking fire from a far off distance.

As the Tau closed in and sent out their own bombers, the Explorers engaged in evasive maneuvers and plotted in the solution for a short Warp jump to the edge of the system. They safely made it along with the Nihontu, although Lady Kitsune's ship took heavy damage from the Tau bombers in the process.

The Plot Thickens
At the edge of the solar system, the crew waited for what they were sure to be an impressive light show as Hadarak Fel's ships were destroyed. However, it was not to be. Strangely, Fel's two ships were largely ignored by the Tau, leading the Explorers to suspect that their new nemesis might be in league with the xenos.

From the relative safety of the far reaches of the system, the crew did some deep scans and discovered that five remaining small ships were hiding out at the edge of the system as well. These last few surviving vessels were in a defensive formation, protecting just two ships that were Warp drive incapable.

After some negotiation, it was decided that one of the disabled ships was to be evacuated while the other stayed behind. Essentially, that final ship refused to evacuate. What followed next was an interest moral dilemma. Should the Ferral Wolf attempt to recover the evacuated ship while it remained unmanned? The rescued crew was coming aboard with the expectation of being able to get their abandoned ship back. But in the wilds of space, where no law exists in any event - could the Holocene dynasty claim that ship as their own? Could the dynasty coerce the rescued crew to join the dynasty? And even if they could do these things - would it be right?

Another Battle?
But before such moral quandaries could be explored, the crew discovered something alarming. The ship's Navigator was able to detect a small fleet awaiting them in the Warp itself, just outside of Wake.

After delivering a warning to the governess at Wake, the Ferral Wolf dropped out of Warp, soon followed after by 10 ships from the Null Fleet. A climactic space battle then erupted, with Wake's planetary defenses, the Ferral Wolf, the Nihontu, and their rescued vessels battling with the 10 chaos ships. Then, with a rousing speech, the Rogue Trader rallied the numerous unaligned vessels in the Wake system to their side. With the combined efforts of all of these forces, the chaos vessels were sent running. Four of the ten invading ships were destroyed.

And with that, the Explorers won an historic victory against the Null Fleet.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From the Journal of H. Tiberius Holocene

Matt, our Rogue Trader player was kind enough to contribute to the blog once more. This time with words from the dynasty's former Rogue Trader....

This letter, penned by my uncle, was given to me three days before his death at the hands of Ork raiders. I still wonder if he knew or sensed something, a preternatural awareness of his impending death that caused him to officially, albeit secretly, hand over the Holocene Warrant of Trade before his demise. The original copy of this letter, hand written on parchment instead of coded into a dataslate, rests with the Warrant. I transposed it here for… well, for rather obvious reasons.


Let me begin with pride. The man you have become certainly instills within me that emotion. My sister, your mother too would be proud, were she here to see you. As much as my arrogance would enjoy taking credit for your upbringing, I must admit that you certainly are your own man. This is good in our kind; you will be often required to make difficult decisions, and while advice and wisdom will help, in the end never forget that you are the imperator of this dynasty, which brings me to the reason for this letter.

Our once great house has fallen nearly into oblivion. It is up to you to ensure its survival. In some ways I envy you; you will begin the greatest adventure that any in our dynasty has ever attempted, save perhaps Hester Nathaniel himself. At the same time, even for the same reason, you will also face the greatest challenges.

I will not tell you to be careful or safe. I pray you understand the weight, the importance of your position; not just as a Rogue Trader or as the Archon of House Holocene, but as the terminal hope that keeps our name from extinction. That, however, does not mean to always be cautious. You will be required, at times, to make bold decisions. I place my trust in your judgment in this.

I offer only three things to leave you with, wisdom I have gleaned from just over two centuries as a Rogue Trader. First, consider thoroughly the man you wish to become. This dynasty will follow in your footsteps. If you are a brigand, a traitor to your word, so will this House be named. Infamy is easier to achieve, it always has been; but do not mistake it for greatness. The name Holocene has long been synonymous with honor, will you continue that tradition? It will be easy, especially in this time of unrest, for you to turn toward unscrupulous behavior. I hope, for the sake of both your soul and our dynasty, that you will not succumb to this temptation.

My second piece of advice is this: question every decision you make. Allow for doubt and listen to the advice of those whom you trust. Analyze possible outcomes and understand that your decisions affect the lives of thousands today, and perhaps the lives of untold billions as time progresses. However, once a decision is made, let it be made. There are things that cannot be undone once done. Sometimes we simply must live with the consequences of our actions. Greatness is not the same as perfection. Learn to live with the mistakes you will make.

Finally, I leave you with our secrets. As a house descended from Inquisitor Holocene himself – I would warn you that our Dynasty and the very ship that you inherit possesses many. I will not enumerate them here, as words transcribed can be read by others. No, what I have to tell you is for your ears alone. And we will speak true when the time comes.

I know you have the potential for leading the Holocene name back to the glory it once held. When all else fails, remember that I willingly placed this dynasty, along with my trust, in your hands. You have always had about the mark of terrible purpose. The Holocene Name needs such a man at this hour of twilight.

Swift and True shall she venture, so long as your heart is pure.

With greatest affection,

Admiral Lucant Holocene

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thirteenth Session - The Taming of the Pirates

Within the Warp...astronomic geography can take on strange and terrible proportions.

How do you incorporate a pirate crew into your Rogue Trader dynasty?

This is the question that the Explorers were faced with in this session. After all, it's not like these people are disciplined, well-trained soldiers. Their pirates. They have no discipline. They have only fear. They have no courage. They have only greed. They have no honor. They have only hate.

Trouble with the Fleet
On approach to Wake, we rolled for the NPC Navigator's trip through the Warp and came up with a Warp Storm. While the PC Navigator has skills high enough that he can easily pilot through the most terrible of Warp anomalies. However, the NPC pilots of the other ships....

Here is where the idea of a PC entourage is useful. At this point in the campaign, if it were just the PC ship flying around, the Void Master's skills are so high that he almost need not roll in certain situations. However, since the Explorer's are now in charge of a fleet of ships, how everyone else does becomes equally important.

In short - they lost a ship. The warp storm caught the pirate raider, the Red Glaive. After an entire series of terrible rolls, I ruled that the Red Glaive was going down. Pirate Captain Tor, in an effort to save half of his fleet, saved the Glaive but at the expense of his own vessel. In a split second, the frigate Talon was gone. 30,000 crewmen were lost.

That was truly a profound moment for me. In what other game do tens of thousands of people's lives hang in the balance like that?

Finally Arriving at Wake
The crew finally arrived at Wake, where Governess Ophelia Winterscale requested an immediate audience. At the governor's palace, the crew met with Governess Winterscale and there encountered two other Rogue Traders - Lady Yuriko Kitsune and Hadarak Fel. People really versed with the Rogue Trader universe will certainly recognize the name Hadarak Fel. And Lady Kitsune is just Lady Sun Lee from Lure of the Expanse, renamed.

It turns out that Governess Winterscale's astropaths had recently lost contact with the system of Lucin's Breath. Being an extremely important system, she wanted to hire out a Rogue Trader to go scout out the system and bring back a report. After a short bidding encounter, the Explorer's won out and were given the task of scouting Lucin's Breath, accompanied by Lady Kitsune. Hadarak Fel was understandably affronted by being left out of the mission and promise of profits and left in a huff.

While the crew were preparing to make an expedition to Lucin's Breath, they met with the pirates again. The crew of the Rogue Trader dynasty were extremely unhappy about joining with pirates. Particularly with pirates who had once captured and enslaved some of their senior officers.

Pirate Captain Tor, then, offered a compromise. As Rogue Traders, the PCs had the ability to bestow upon him a letter of marque, declaring an alliance with the pirates, but keeping the pirates at arm's length. The pirates would not be part of the dynasty in this case.

During the negotiations, there were, of course, dissenting pirates who wanted nothing to do with the Rogue Trader dynasty. They chose that moment to stage a mutiny. And in the words of a certain knight, they chose...poorly.

The Void Master's fractal power sword literally caused one of the mutinous pirates to explode in a shower of gore, blinding some of the nearby combatants. The Explorator broke open the head of another pirate with a bolter shot. According to the lovely crit tables, this gentleman suffered the ignominy of getting his head exploded and his body set alight. The still-headless body ran forwards before hitting the corner of the room and falling over.

Now bonded in the rite of mutual combat, the pirates took on the letter of marque, placating the crew and yet still increasing the strength of the dynasty.

More later.