D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Could Classes be used as Approaches to minimise D&D hack skill list?

A few comments (from Jonathan Dietrich, Christopher Stilson and a couple of others) on my initial post regarding thoughts about a D&D/fack hack (available here http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/d-style-fate-hack-abilities-and-skills.html) got me thinking about the complexity and the size of the skill list; initially my thoughts has been just to port over the Abilities and Skills from D&D, but Jonathans comment about not “understand[ing] why one would want to add [that] much to a Fate game” made me consider whether I was infact just keeping the Abilities and Skills because they would make the hack more obviously D&D inspired rather than because it would result in a better gaming experience. My main goal (and i’d hope the goal of gamesmasters everywhere) in RP has always been to create a game where both players and the GM are enjoying themselves and becoming immersed in the events occurring in-game; I have always thought that one of the main obstacles to this IMO is the ‘crunchiness’ of some rules systems (although I am sure there are people who love the crunch and would disagree with me), the more book-flipping and table referencing I have to do then the less I find myself drawn into and enthusiastic about the game. This one of the main reasons why FATE and particularly FAE are two of my favourite systems at the moment, the rules are easy to understand, play with a minimum of rulebook flipping (I generally just have a copy of the fate ladder, skill list and cheatsheet on the table during a game) and focus more on creating an interesting narrative than being an accurate simulation of what is occurring in-game.
Christopher Stilson made a comment regarding classes in the game; i’ve never been a fan of classes personally and had always favoured the D20 variants that eliminated or minimised the impacts of classes (often house-ruling them away in games i’ve run), however, they are an iconic part of D&D and one that instantly allows the players to get some sort of handle on their character’s place in the party. Flipping some of the toolkit material I have, there is a section that talks about altering or expanding the default Skill list used in FATE core, one suggestion is to replace them altogether with a number of ‘professions’ that players have a rating in; this strikes me as very much like the Approaches in FAE (and indeed it can’t be a coincidence that in the same chapter it discusses Approaches next) and made me wonder whether or not it would be possible to approach characters in a FAE-like fashion but using profession/approaches rather than a list of skills?
The classes listed in the Pathfinder SRD are:
  • Barbarian: The barbarian is a brutal berserker from beyond the edge of civilized lands.
  • Bard: The bard uses skill and spell alike to bolster his allies, confound his enemies, and build upon his fame.
  • Cleric: A devout follower of a deity, the cleric can heal wounds, raise the dead, and call down the wrath of the gods.
  • Druid: The druid is a worshiper of all things natural—a spellcaster, a friend to animals, and a skilled shapechanger.
  • Fighter: Brave and stalwart, the fighter is a master of all manner of arms and armor.
  • Monk: A student of martial arts, the monk trains his body to be his greatest weapon and defense.
  • Paladin: The paladin is the knight in shining armor, a devoted follower of law and good.
  • Ranger: A tracker and hunter, the ranger is a creature of the wild and of tracking down his favored foes.
  • Rogue: The rogue is a thief and a scout, an opportunist capable of delivering brutal strikes against unwary foes.
  • Sorcerer: The spellcasting sorcerer is born with an innate knack for magic and has strange, eldritch powers.
  • Wizard: The wizard masters magic through constant study that gives him incredible magical power.

FAE features 6 Approaches (Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky) so I decided to see whether I could boil down the PF SRD Classes into approximately half a dozen Approaches that could be used in a FATE D&D-style game.

  1. Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Paladin and Ranger  all have martial abilities (whether in hand to hand or ranged combat) as part of their Class makeup, so I decided to create an Approach called WARRIOR to cover this.
  2. Bards, Rogues and Thieves all rely (to a certain extent) on misdirection and cunning to carry out their crafts so I would create an Aspect called THIEF.
  3. Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Sorcerors and Wizards all make use of magic and so I made a SPELLCASTER Aspect to cover this.
  4. Clerics, Druids, Monks and Paladins all have a religious or faith aspect to them and so I created a PRIEST Aspect.
  5. Barbarians, Druids and Rangers all spend a lot of their time out in the wilderness and so possibly some sort of BARBARIAN Aspect may be necessary.

Looking at the Aspects created I would have them used as follows (selecting one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2), two at Average (+1) and one at Mediocre (+0) as per the FAE rulebook):

  1. WARRIOR – rolled for attacking or defending from attack using physical means, taking care of armour, working out battle-tactics, recognising ambushes and initiative order in combat.
  2. THIEF – sleight of hand, stealing things, breaking and entering, deception.
  3. SPELLCASTER – casting spells (obviously), working out what spells other people were casting, crafting magic items, examining magic items, feats of prestigitation, etc
  4. PRIEST – interacting with church/holy order members, researching/recalling information about gods and their followers, making blessings, etc
  5. BARBARIAN – interacting with savage societies, wilderness survival checks, moving about unseen in the undergrowth.
  6. CIVILISED – interacting with civilised people, blending in with the city crowd, attending society functions, etc (I would probably make some rule that at character gen your civilised and barbarian Aspects have to be at least two levels apart (ie. if you had Civilised +3 then the highest you could have for Barbarian at character gen would be +1))
This is just one possible avenue of thought and will probably be tweak and refined before it sees any use.

D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Abilities and Skills

I’m currently playing in a Pathfinder game run by a friend of mine, Pathfinder, for those of you who don’t know, is a spiritual successor to D&D 3.5 released in 2009 by Paizo Publishing using the D20; whereas D&D was completely re-written as D&D 4th edition (an entirely seperate game, my thoughts on which could take up a series of blog posts on their own) Pathfinder expanded and continued to use the 3.5 rules-set (albeit no longer under the D&D moniker). If you want to know more about Pathfinder there is a wikipedia article here. The Pathfinder game I am playing in is very enjoyable, we are from a world where magic has previously been hard to work and unreliable, the discovery of a portal opening to another world has lead to an increase in magical energy, and our player characters are the advanced scouting party sent through to explore this new world; I play an academic wizards apprentice who is fascinated by almost everything since it his first time out in the wider-world, I may get round to blogging some more specifics about the game in future.
Playing in the game has given me a nostalgic longing to run some sort of fantasy D&D-esque game in the future, i’ve run a number of them in the past though and have never really been sold on the D20 rules system, it’s quite versatile and there is a lot of source material available for it, however i’m just not as much a fan of the crunch as some people I know (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Given my complete love of the FATE system (even my wife has commented on how much I like the system, referring to me jokingly as “Mr Fate” on one occasion) and the relative success of my Rogue Trade FATE hack I fancied the challenge of making a D&D-style hack. I’m sure there are probably a number of D&D hacks already around, however, since I wasn’t going to be running this as a long-term game anytime soon I thought that I would take my time coming up with the rules, perhaps testing them by running one-off games during our one-shot Wednesday sessions when it rolls round to my turn behind the GM-ing screen.
Abilities & Skills

I decided to start with abilities and skills, Pathfinder and D&D has the following main character attributes:
  • STR – Strength
  • DEX – Dexterity
  • CON – Constitution
  • INT – Intelligence
  • WIS – Wisdom
  • CHA – Charisma
These attributes determine the basic modifiers that you will roll when it comes to your skills points; basically you work out your final modifer like this:

  • Total modifier = ability modifer + ranks in skill + any other misc modifiers
This system works perfectly fine for D&D/Pathfinder however you don’t really use the abilities on their own very much, only as a source of modifiers; I decided that, in my hack, you would create an ability pyramid (in the same way as skills in FATE core) and this would determine how many ranks you had to spend in associated skills.
During character creation you would rate your abilities as follows:
  • One ability at great (+4)
  • Two abilities at good (+3)
  • Three abilities at fair (+2)
When your abilities were rated this would determine how many skills of a particular type you could have, the highest level skill you would be able to have related to that ability would the same level as that ability, then two on the level below, and so on.
An example of the idea in pictorial form is shown below:
The D&D/Pathfinder skill list looks like this:
  • Acrobatics
  • Appraise
  • Bluff
  • Climb
  • Craft
  • Diplomacy
  • Disable Device
  • Disguise
  • Escape Artist
  • Fly
  • Handle Animal
  • Heal
  • Intimidate
  • Knowledge (arcana)
  • Knowledge (dungeoneering)
  • Knowledge (engineering)
  • Knowledge (geography)
  • Knowledge (history)
  • Knowledge (local)
  • Knowledge (nature)
  • Knowledge (nobility)
  • Knowledge (planes)
  • Knowledge (religion)
  • Linguistics
  • Perception
  • Perform
  • Profession
  • Ride
  • Sense Motive
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Spellcraft
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Swim
  • Use Magic Device
and they are all linked with one of the ability scores listed, the layout proposed about would allow 30+ skills at some level possessed by each PC. I’m sure there are probably better/different ways to do this but it’s something i’ll be tinkering around with over the coming months.

Mob rules and player controlled NPCs

Mark Knights blog post mentioned the GM Tips G+ community discussed who controls NPCs and hirelings associated with the PCs; according to Mark the Ultimate Campaign book for Pathfinder suggests that hirelings/associates with a less than helpful attitude should be controlled by the GM. This started me thinking about the way I normally represent allied NPCs and some recent changes I have made using the FATE mob rules in my Rogue Trader FATE game.
In my own games I have always been of the opinion that background characters and other NPCs who are not strictly antagonistic to the player characters should be controlled by a player since they generally stay in the background so as not to overshadow the PCs (who are the games main heroes/characters, after all), generally helping or hindering in certain situations depending on what they represent. In FATE core and FAE it is pretty easy to create an NPC using the cut-down rules for mooks and NPCs in both books and hand an index card with the details written on it to the player so that they can run the NPC as an adjunct to their own character; however, I do make it clear in my games that, at any point, I can re-take control of the NPC or their actions as required by the plot or should the NPC take a more antagonistic stance towards the player party. This generally seems to work pretty well, it lets the player feel that they are contributing towards the actions of the NPCs, frees me up from rolling the dice for allied-NPCs and still allows me the option of assuming narrative control over them should it become necessary for the good of the story (although I generally limit my input to occasionally portraying the allied-NPCs during conversations unless it is something important or the NPC is separated from their associated player character and I wish to keep the outcome secret).
Handling lots of allied-NPCs
One of the things (IMO) that makes Rogue Trader stand out from a lot of the other WH40K RPGs put out by Fantasy Flight Games (aside from perhaps Only War) is the sheer amount of NPCs that the characters have available working for them; it is true than in Only War the players along with allied-NPCs represent an Imperial Guard regiment, however, in Rogue Trader the player party owns a large space going vessel with hundreds of thousands of crew members, guards, pilots, engineers, etc. This can occasionally prove problematic in a game when the players insist on taking an armed party of guards with them whenever they go on a mission off-ship (or something similar); as a GM I don’t want to disallow this because it makes sense when viewed in an IC context, why on earth would you only take a handful of people when you have trained warriors at your disposal? That’s just dumb and a licence to get yourself killed.
Previously i’ve handled these situations (especially those involving combay) mainly through GM fiat, and have basically had the PCs fight some opponents and have had the guards (or whatever) mop up numerous additional mooks (without really using dice rolls or anything; recently however I have been reading up on the mob rules of the FATE core rules (page 216 in the FATE core rulebook for anyone interested), a system for ‘clumping’ together similar NPCs and treating them as a single entity. 
The rules for mobs basically say that you roll one set of dice for a mob, they may use teamwork to increase their skill rolls and that any stress inflicted that goes beyond that needed to take out a single member of a mob, rolls over to the next mob member.
For example: If I have a mob of 5 mooks with Fight skill +1 and no stress boxes attacking the player characters, then I would take their basic Fighting skill level of +1 and increase it by 1 for each member beyond the first that was helping, for a total Fighting skill of +5. If the mob was attacked back then, because the members have no stress boxes, each level of stress would kill a single mob member (also lowered their skill).
This is a great way of representing groups of NPCs such as the nameless guards that Rogue Traders take about with them; dice rolling duties for the allied-mob can be turned over to one of the players who is commanding the mob, or often I will turn the dice rolling over to a player whose character is not directly involved in the current scene since it gets them more involved in the attack on an OOC level. I tried this for the first time during my last session when the now deceased Chief Confessor Cornelius rounded up a mutinous, pipe-wielding mob of nine people onboard the spaceship Venerus and headed to the quarters being used by the alien (Eldar) ambassador Da’Duith Iath intent on meting out some mob justice on the unfortunate alien. During the first round of combat the Eldar was barely able to fend off the +9 attack bonus of the howling mob, and only then by taking a hefty stress hit and a severe consequence; the alien in turn dispatched six of the mob, but had taken such a lot of damage that he was easy prey for the remnants of the mob (backed up by the Confessor) and was torn to shreds.
For me this combat worked just the way I wanted it to, the Eldar, although skilled and would have no doubt made short work of a single opponent, was unable to prevail against the sheer mass of the mob bearing down on him; mechanically the combat was quick, easy to adjudicate from a GM standpoint, and it took into account the followers that had been gathered by the Confessor, his actions in rounding up the mob making a major difference to the scene. It’s certainly a rules system that i’ll be using in future to represent guard parties, fighter wings, etc and highly recommend it – I may even be adapting it for my space rules and representing opposing fleets as ‘mobs’ of spaceships.

So how did I end up actually representing the warp entity in my 28/07/13 Rogue Trader session?

I did some more thinking about mechanics and how to represent the warp entity (as described in my previous blog entry here) prior to the session; I didn’t to start off with just a rampaging manifest demon that the players could just thump into submission, chalk it up as a generic opponent dealt with and move. There was already plenty of potential for RP going on in the session, with the Admiral and Enginseer teleporting over to one of the enemy ships to repair and save the vessel from destruction in the depths of a gravity well, dealing with the enemy crew and all manner of other hi-jinks that would be occurring; against the background of this I wanted the entity/phenomenon to be more of a puzzle or something for the players to figure out and interact with rather than just an enemy to smash aside on their way to their destination, it needed (IMO) to be more of an event.
Thinking of it as an event helped me divorce the entity/phenemonon from a lot of the normal baggage and stereotypes that go along with the ‘demon’ label, I decided that rather than being a ‘demon’ in the traditional sense (although the mechanics discussed in the previous post would work fine for that) the entity would be more of a phenomenon; appearing as a low-lying mist to those who could view the warp the entity feed on fear and could create quasi-illusion manifestations, all with the aim of creating more fear and feeding itself. This was represented by the entity starting with 3 skill ranks, each of these ranks could be used to create a manifestation; if the manifestation was intereacted with in a way that required a test then its skill level would be equal to the number of ranks used in its creation. If the entity had already used all of the ranks it had and wished to create an additional manifestation then it would have to transfer levels, either weakening an existing manifestation or dispersing one altogether.
The creature fed on fear and anger (due to it’s affiliation with Khorne the blood god), I represented this by giving it an additional skill rank after any scene where fear or anger was demonstrated; if it was on a very large scale then I gave it an additional rank or two. I worked on the idea that this entity was some form of advanced guard, initially very weak and able to infiltrate our reality through far smaller warp intrusions that a bodily manifest demon, but once in our world it was capable of garnering fear and anger in order to strengthen itself and eventually, once it had fed enough, it could use this energy to bring an actual (more traditional WH40K) demon into the world. The way this way represented in game is that, once the entity had accumulated 10 skill ranks, it could spend them to bring a manifest lesser demon into the world, however this would reduce the entity back to a single skill rank and it would have to start accumulating fear and anger again; this would generally result in a dangerous cycle where the creature would summon a demon, feed on the fear and anger created by the demon and the bring forth another demon to sow more fear and anger, etc, etc.
In the game session (more detailed write-up to follow when i’ve had chance to review my recordings of the session and write them up) the creature stoked the natural xenophobia of the ships Confessor to great heights leading to him eventually dividing the crew by trying to start a mutiny when the Captain allowed what he saw as blasphemous primitive blood magic to be used in an attempt to purge the demonic influence; this ship wide event and the heightened emotions caused by it, allowed the creature to get enough energy to bring fourth a bloodletter of Khorne in the centre of the ship, and that’s where we finished the game.
What else did the characters discover about the demon?
Through careful investigation the characters were able to work out roughly what the entity was and discover the following additional facts about it:
  • The mist seemed thicker in areas with more people or areas of heightened emotion.
  • Areas that were deserted or that were only occupied by machinery, servitors and/or tech-priests had little or no mist.

How did it go?
Overall the session worked very well and the mist entity seemed to function as I wanted it to, leading the players to speculate how they had picked it up or whether it had been onboard since they had recovered the Venerus from the Sycorax warp-storm; numerous methods were suggested as a means of dealing with it, but unfortunately the mutiny occurred before they could put any of the less outré suggestions into practice.

Making a better Demon in FATE core

As mentioned in my previous blog post (available here) one of the potential encounters for the 28/07/13 session is with the warp entity that is currently causing trouble aboard the ship; this will be the first time that I have designed/built a non-human (or humanlike) antagonist using the FATE core rules system and this blog entry details my thought processes during its creation.
IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS PLEASE DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS BLOG ENTRY UNTIL AFTER THE 28/07/13 SESSION
First things first, I wanted to quickly review the information that had currently been divulged about the entity (mostly last session), so I quickly looked through my notes and came up with the following.
  • Possibly connected with Khorne or Chaos Undivided.
  • Can create phantasms and illusions based on a persons past to plague them.
    • This would suggest that the entity is capable of reading minds or somehow viewing the traumatic events in a persons past.
  • Is a creature of fear & violence (possibly somehow feeding on these emotions).

Reading up on the gods of Chaos
Since the entity is some sort of chaos beast or warp creature I leafed through my copy of Fantasy Flight Games Black Crusade to refresh my memory about the various gods of chaos; one of the things that struck me in particular whilst reading was the mention of societies worshiping the chaos gods as a pantheon rather than simply devoting themselves to a single one of the gods, this struck me as far more interesting than having a simple khorne berserker or the equivalent devoted to a single god. IMO whilst the iconic chaos ‘specialists’ are great for the WH40K miniatures battle game (and it’s easy to see why they were made like this for ease of use in a miniatures game) they seem a bit one-dimensional and flat as far as an RPG is concerned.
Whilst reading this it struck a chord with some earlier material from the WH40K universe that I had been perusing whilst I had been deciding on the chapter of the chaos space marine Lorgar Khan encountered in the previous session; eventually I had decided on the Word Bearers, since I thought their religious following of the chaos pantheon would provide a great contrast and opposition to the staunchly Imperialist views of Chief Confessor Cornelius.
A small diversion
As is often the case when I sit down to write notes for a session, I often end taking some twists and turns whilst on my to my eventual destination; my musings on the worship of chaos as a pantheon rather than as isolated entities lead me to considering the worship of the chaos space marine Lorgar Khan. Lorgar had been encountered for the first time in the previous session when his space marine battle barge the Dark Omen had fled attack at the hands of the Venerus and Lunatic Pandora; mulling this over lead me to ask myself one question, where did Lorgar flee to?
After looking at my notes for the various systems in the sector of space that we had created, the nearest system that made any sense was the Endeavour system; the Endeavour System was also the original planned stopping off point of the player party on the way to Footfall. The potential of the players and Lorgar heading to the same system gave me a chance to highlight one of the things I love about the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the uncertainty of travel through the warp; although two ships may set off from the same point and be heading towards the same destination, travel through the warp relies on the skill of a ships navigator and therefore the two vessels may not arrive at the same time.
Making the rolls for Lorgar’s travel through the warp I scored a result indicating that it would take 50 Imperial days for the Dark Omen to arrive at it’s destination (a copy of the imperial calendar that I use can be found here, although I have adapted the time scale somewhat to make it easier to manage); it will arrive on Imperial Date 062817M41, I jotted this down on my game calendar for future use. This means that, whenever the players make it to the Endeavour System (assuming that they still go there) I will know either how long Lorgar has been there (if the players arrive after him) or, if they arrive first (a possibility given the high skill level of Navigator York Benetec), how long it will be before the chaos space marine arrives.
This also raised the question of how long it took for the Lunatic Pandora to flee to the Endeavour System after it was boarded by renegades from the space marine battle barge in the previous session (it made sense for them to flee there since it was their only known rendezvous point with the Venerus); rolling a result of -2 meant that there journey would take 175 Imperial days and they would arrive on Imperial Date 0186817M41 (over 100 days after the Dark Omen arrives in the system. This creates the interesting situation of the Lunatic Pandora arriving in the system after their attacker (itself now also damaged) – potentially the Venerus may have already dealt with the Dark Omen before the Lunatic Pandora arrives, it also raises the question of how long (given that they have no idea when their sister ship will arrive) the Venerus will wait for the Lunatic Pandora before moving on?
Back to the Demon
Getting back to designing the warp entity, I wanted to make it more a focal point of the session rather than simply some sort of rampaging berserker that would challenge the players for a while before eventually being put down; a straightforward combat scene didn’t seem all that interesting as a main event for the session.
Thus far the demon had mainly confined itself to menacing the players (and some NPCs) with dreams of past conflicts, sometimes even bringing these visions into reality; I recalled reading a number of posts on the FATE G+ community about using the fate fractal (the idea that anything and everything can be created as a character if desired in FATE) to create scenes that challenged the players and actually giving the scene statistics with which to challenge the player party. Given that the demon was haunting the players with scenes and grisly dioramas this seemed like a great way to represent the demon in my Rogue Trader game; each player or small group of players would be challenged by a (semi)illusory scene designed to disorientate them and have them kill each other (feeding the creature in the process).
How to represent this?
Considering the matter further I decided against splitting the player party up and would initially have the two characters on the Venerus (York Benetec and Chief Confessor Cornelius) sucked into the illusion-like scene/diorama; if Admiral Black and Enginseer Prime Pak succeeded in their own mission and returned to the ship before the matter with the demon had been resolved then they would have a chance to shake their comrades out of the vision that had seized their minds.

    How will the entity first make itself known?
    Demons normally require some sort of focus or entryway into the mortal realm, normally an unprotected psychic or mutant of some kind (hence why the Imperium is so intent on tracking down and either destroying or training all psykers); in our game there are numerous astropaths working on both ships but all are trained to resist routine psychic assaults and demonic possessions, however there was one obvious candidate who had never been trained to make use of their (rudimentary) psychic talents – Dana, the young, blind verminspeaker that they had recruited and taken in during their adventures in the Decusis System on Hiveworld Scelus.
    How will I use the FATE fractal to represent the scene?
    Since the scene that will plague the character is largely illusory in nature I will come up with a simple set of stats that the demon can use during the illusion to vex the players.
    After thinking about it for a while I decided to use some of the Approaches in Fate Accelerated Edition:

    • Clever: Wrapping the player characters up in puzzles and conundrums.
    • Flashy:  Distracting the players with overt displays of opulence or powers.
    • Forceful: Confronting the players direct with visions of violence or combat.
    • Sneaky: Pulling off things without the players noticing and deceiving their senses. 
    How do the players end the “vision?
    The most obvious way for the players to end the visions is to cast out the demon or slay its mortal host (the girl verminspeaker Dana).
    What are the demons plans?
    The player characters will just be one group trapped in their illusions, the rest of the crew will be split into groups and will also be caught in strange dioramas; the demon hopes to use the scenes to have the groups attack each other, the mass deaths will allow it to open passage to the warp and bring forth more of its fellows.

    Planning a FATE Rogue Trader session

    So, it’s nearly time for my monthly FATE Rogue Trader game again and, whilst i’ve been batting a few ideas round in my head since the last session, lack of time and free weekends has meant that i’ve yet to get anything conclusive down on paper; one of the main strengths of the FATE game in my opinion is that it supports (and to some extent even encourages) and somewhat ‘seat-of-the-pants’ style of games mastering, where a lot of the plot evolves organically from player actions, Aspects and such like. Despite this I am of the school of games mastering where I like to have some notes at the very least and preferably one or two sketched out encounters ready in reserve to minimise on the amount of time that I have to spend flipping through notes or looking stuff up on the computer during play.

    Given that i’ve been reading a lot of posts on Google+ recently about session planning and people asking about it I thought that, as I planned out my next session, that i’d write a blog post about it to detail my thought processes as I went along.
    IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS PLEASE STOP READING NOW UNTIL AFTER THE GAME
    Where to start?
    There are a lot of places where you can start when planning a session/adventure for a roleplaying game and lots more articles regarding crafting an adventure are available on the internet via a simple search; however, the way I prefer to start planning is to have a glance over my notes from the previous session and see if anything jumps out at me that requires resolution in the next session. Looking at my notes from last session (described here) I can see that the player party had just disabled two of the enemy vessels responsible for the recent destruction of an imperial supply train; Lord Admiral Black and Enginseer Prime Pak had used their teleportarium to transport aboard one of the vessels. Although the dice roll had been done at the time to determine that Pak had repaired the engines and stopped vessel tumbling into a gravity well, the details of what transpired on board had still to be discussed, so this gets added to my list.
    The other player characters had been onboard the Venerus when Lady Dominique Decusis-Black had, in the absence of another authority figure, assumed command and overseen the bombardment and surrender of the second vessel.
    Split parties

    Always a slightly difficult issue for me is what method of GM-ing to use when the party splits up; generally I adopt the tactic of jumping between the two groups trying to keep them engaged and not leaving anyone sat twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing whilst the action unfolds. At the end of the last session we have the encounter with Admiral Black and Enginseer Pak on the enemy vessel to resolve, however, I don’t want to do this to the exclusion of the other two characters (York Benetec and Confessor Cornelius) who are currently aboard the Venerus.
    As far as I see the situation, I have a number of methods to resolve this:
    1. Resolve the scene with Admiral Black as a quick talkthrough so that the party can be re-united as quickly as possible and the main action can continue.
    2. Create a scene aboard the Venerus involving the other two characters and then adopt my normal tactic of jumping between the two.
    3. Contrive some reason why the group from the Venerus go aboard the enemy vessel and join up with the other two players.
    In this sort of situation I generally try and go for the decision that will result in the most interesting potential story or the most action-packed session time that we can get; looking at the options I have outlined above, option 1 would be the easiest to do however it’s not terribly interesting and (in my opinion) wastes a lot of the potential interaction and RP opportunities inherent in the party’s current situation.
    Option 2 is doable, all it requires is that I create an appropriate scene for the the party members on the Venerus; this is eminently do-able and can possibly link in to some of the other unresolved plot threads from the last session (or before).
    Option 3 is possible, although it is not terribly likely that the players of York Benetec and Cornelius would want their characters to go aboard the enemy ship and I have no interest in forcing/rail-roading them into this decision.
    It would seem that option 2 is the most likely of the scenarios, looking at my notes from last session I can see that we still have unresolved the matter of the warp entity that caused York Benetec to have the Venerus drop out of the immaterium in the first place; when they stumbled onto the renegade vessels it was necessary for them to deal with the immediate threat and push all other concerns to the background. Given that Chief Confessor Cornelius is devoutly opposed to the blasphemous creatures of the warp and that the Navigator has psychic ties to the realm of the warp/immaterium this would seem a logical encounter for the two characters.
    At the minute my list of ideas for the session looks like this:
    • Scene onboard the renegade vessel near the gravity well: Play through the scenario as Admiral Black and Enginseer Pak arrive on the renegade ship via the teleportarium; they quickly repair the engine and begin making their way towards the bridge in order to take control of the vessel.
    • Scene aboard the Venerus with the warp entity: Stirred into life by the use of psychic abilities and the clarion call of battle during the events of the previous session, the warp entity attempts to manifest itself on the Venerus; this scene should focus on how York Benetec and Cornelius deal with this whilst Admiral Black and Pak are aboard the renegade vessel.
    • Brief tie-up scene: Assuming that the player characters are successful in securing the renegade vessels and dispatching the warp entity in some fashion they now have an additional two vessels and only a limited supply of navigators (two on the player ships, York Benetec (PC) and Passacaglia Belisarius (named-NPC)). Question: Are the renegade ships capable of warp travel or where they bought here by the larger (now fled) ship? If warp-capable then they must have their own Navigators, can the players cajol them into service and use them to move the ships? Will the players try and sell or commandeer the ships into their fleets?
    The player party was originally on their way to Footfall via the Endeavour system when the intervention of the warp entity caused York Benetec to drop them out of warp; assuming that the player party decide to continue with their previous plan then this adds the following two elements to my session planning list.

    • The Endeavour system: The player characters arrive in the Endeavour system, populated by savage space faring humans (only just warp capable, space vikings) divided into clans that are constantly warring with each other. Confessor Cornelius wants to travel here because the Imperial Missionary Deacon Samuel Kiril whom he previously met on Footfall was travelling here on a mission to set up an Imperial Colony and return the savage local populace to the light of the Emperor. Note: This may be a good place to use the new colony-building rules that I have been adapting from several G+ posts. This scene has the potential to expand and take up a large portion of the remaining session.
    • Returning to Footfall: The original destination of the player party was the Imperial Space station of Footfall, they are planning to return there to consult with the Adeptus Mechanicus regarding the Ancient Enemy and what action can be taken regarding them in future. Note: The most likely contact is Rha-Haz the senior tech-priest since he is already something of a mentor to Enginseer Pak.

    This covers the basic list of scenes ready for the session and I have the majority of the significiant NPC notes prepared; however I like to create a couple of additional wrinkles or complication suggestions for each scene in my game since they suggest possible future avenues for the plot to follow or other ways for the player to engage with what is occurring.
    Looking over my list of scene I come up with the following:
    • Scene onboard the renegade vessel near the gravity well
      • Repairing the damaged engine (although the roll for this has already been done it can still be played out).
      • Any members of the renegade fleet who have decided not to surrender but to go out fighting.
      • Who made the decision on board the renegade ship to surrender and were they sincere? [create appropriate NPC/s]
      • Is there a navigator onboard and can he/she be coerced into working with the players, and do they even want a renegade as part of their fleet?
      • How far does the corruption go?
    • Scene aboard the Venerus with the warp entity
      • What is the warp entity?
        • Given that the entity has been drawn by the conflict and violence of the combat it would seem that it is either connected to Khorne or Chaos Undivided.
      • What abilities does the entity possess?
        • Thus far the entity has shown the ability to plague the characters with phantasms and memories dredged from their past, all of them involving threats or violence.
        • The creature is a creature of fear and violence that is shaped by the murderous impulses and memories of those it preys on.
      • What does the entity want?
        • The entity may just want to cause violence and death if associated with Khorne.
        • Perhaps the creature feeds on the fear or violence.
    • Brief tie-up scene
      • Once the players have dealt with their respective scenes have a brief tie-up scene where they can meet up again on the Venerus and make plans/discuss what has just happened.
      • If the scene onboard the renegade vessel takes less time than the warp entity scene then Admiral Black and Pak may come aboard the Venerus whilst the hunt for the creature is still in progress and they may assist/become involved in this.
    • The Endeavour system
      • This scene assumes that the players still decide to stop off in the Endeavour System.
      • Deacon Samuel Kiril has set up a small colony and is working on converting one of the clans to the ways of the Emperor.
      • The clans have only just begun to discover warp-capable travel and fly smaller fighter craft, their technology is held back by the fact that they are constantly warring and raiding each other.
      • If Deacon Kiril can get some help to conquer/convert some more clans then an alliance may be able to win over/conque the rest – the only way that the natives will be converted is by the sword since their society emphasises respect through stength and conquest.
      • Some of the clans follow the Sky Warriors and have a great martial belief whilst others follow a darker god of vengeance and murder.
        • The followers of the Sky Warriors believe that they were bought to their world as a test and that when they have proved themselves worthy in battle the Sky Warriors will return.
          • In fact the clans are descendants of an ancient Space Wolves thrall ship that was cast adrift in the warp and crash landed here; injured beyond human endurance the only surviving space marine tried to pass on his knowledge to the surviving thralls before he died.
          • As he died the space wolf ascended into the sky, promising that his brothers would return.
            • In fact the space wolf climbed into a surviving fighter crafter and set the controls to autopilot, the ship ran out of fuel in orbit around Endeavour Prime where it became a floating shrine/tomb to the space wolf.
          • The followers of the darker god have been corrupted, the noble savagery that the deceased space wolf attempted to pass on has been lost and corrupted by an aspect of Khorne. 
    • Returning to Footfall
      • The players return to Footfall where they can meet up with Rha-Haz the senior techpriest in attendance; he will be most interested (although cautious) regarding what the characters have to say about the Ancient Enemy.
      • Rha-Haz will want to quarantine and conduct experiments on any samples of the Ancient Enemy tech that has been captured.
    I now have a sketched out list of scenes to include and also a good idea of what NPCs to start detailing and how I can begin further detailing the scenes.

    Trail of Cthulhu and Investigations in FATE

    Those of you who have read more of this blog may have seen the IC write-ups of a Hunter: the Vigil game that I have been playing in recently (the write-ups of the two previous sessions are posted here and here); this game is being run by a friend of mine using the nWoD Hunter: the Vigil rules. In the game we are playing members of a supernatural serial-killer investigation unit composed of psychics known as VASCU; our party consists of a grizzled ex-cop whose party disappeared in a strange case that was swept under the carpet (this is my character), a bureau agent who squandered his family fortune seeking to find his father whom he believes kidnapped by cultists, a technical whizzkid and a wheelchair bound agent who was seriously injured pursuing a case.
    The game was originally part of a proposed ‘one-off wednesday’ idea where, every other wednesday, a group of us would get together in the evening and run a one-off game (my thoughts on one-off games can be viewed in this blog post); so far we’ve had Judge Dredd (by Mongoose Publishing), a homebrew tron-esque game where we played ourselves in a strange future where a fantasy realm had intruded on our reality, a Star Trek based game and the Hunter game. The Hunter game is the first of our ‘one-offs’ that has been heavily investigation based (my Judge Dredd game touched on these themes but the investigating part of the game was fairly simple and fast paced); as a result, although it has been very entertaining to play, the game has already run into a second session and we are scheduled to play a third. Although the GM freely admits that he is more used to running campaigns that one-shot sessions and that this may have contributed to the length of the game, I started to wonder whether this was the only factor or whether there was something in the nature of investigative games that lead to them taking a great deal more time?
    One of the more interesting investigation based games that I have read recently is Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth Hite (a game I intend to review on my blog in the near future) and based on the GUMSHOE system by Robin D Laws (who also wrote the fast-paced and bizarrely wide-ranging hong-kong action movie game Feng-Shui, another of my favourites). One of the things I love about ToC is that it makes no qualms about it’s adaption of the popular Call of Cthulhu game to a different rules system and the designers obviously have a great deal of respect for the source material (both mythos fiction and previous RP materials). The introduction to ToC discusses what I consider to be one of the perennial problems with the investigative game; what might seem an obvious solution to the GM may seem baroque and incomprehensible to the players since they lack the GMs privileged knowledge about the backstory and have to find everything out the hard way, not only that, but in some systems a failed search or investigation roll on the dice can lead to you missing a vital clue and thus taking a lot longer to solve a mystery (assuming that you can solve it at all).

    Now you might say that a good GM can always fudge things so that the players come across a clue or that something happens to advance the plot; however if this is not done subtly and with finesse then it can lead to the players feeling railroaded as though, no matter what they do, the mystery solution will reveal itself, IMO once the perception of risk or failure has disappeared completely from a game then a lot of players lose their impetus and drive.

    So how does FATE fit into all this?

    A valid question that you might be asking yourself by now; I feel that there are a number of mechanics and ideas that could be ported from Trail of Cthulhu across to either FATE core or Fate Accelerate Edition (FAE), some of these and my own ideas are listed below.
    Occupations

    In ToC the character all have occupations that help determine their skills and equipment; these could be ported across to FATE as either Aspects/High Concepts or (if a more complete overhaul including skills was desired) they could be used as templates to determine what sort of skills and stunts a starting character has.
    For example: The Antiquarian occupation in ToC has the following skills – Architecture, Art History, Bargain, History, Languages, Law, Library Use, and any one Investigative ability. They also have a special ability where once per session they can discover a book that contains a clue to the current investigation or some relevant investigation.
    This skill list could easily by imported, the Antiquarian label taken as a High Concept and the special ability changed into a Stunt.
    Drives

    Drives are a character’s main motivation in Trail of Cthulhu and include concepts such as Adventure, Antiquarianism, Arrogance, Artistic Sensitivity, Bad Luck and Curiosity (amongst others); these could also be ported across as Aspects into a FATE based game.
    Skills/Abilities

    Skills (or Abilities as they are known in ToC) are a lot more specific that they are in FATE, and are split into Investigative and General abilities; Investigative abilities are those that allow you to find information and clues, progressing towards solving the mystery and include such skills as Archaeology, Library Use and Occult, whereas General Abilities are your more generic RPG skills such as Athletics, Firearms and First Aid.
    In ToC, possessing an appropriate Investigative Ability automatically allows you to detect an associated clue; for instance if their is a clue in a museum of antiquity or a ruin that possession of the Archaeology skill would automatically allow you to detect it’s presence. The game handily gives you simple descriptions of what the skill allows you to detect, in this case:

    • Tell how long something has been buried and date of its construction.
    • Identify artifacts by culture and usage.
    • Distinguish real artifacts from fakes.
    • Navigate inside ruins and catacombs, including finding secret doors and hidden construction.
    • Describe the customs of ancient or historical cultures.
    • Spot well-disguised graves and underground hiding places.

    Gathering Clues

    The game posits a simple and yet refreshing method of locating clues and progressing through a mystery/investigation plotline.

    1. Get your Investigator into a scene where relevant information can be gathered.
    2. Have the right ability to discover the clue.
    3. Tell the Keeper that you’re using it.
    Assuming that this occurs then the GM will provide you with any clue that corresponds to your query. In each scene the GM designates a core clue that is required before the players can move on to the next scene (although their may be additional supplementary clues for the players to discover).
    Gathering Additional Information

    One of the most interesting ideas about the game in my mind is that players can ‘spend’ points based on their Investigative Abilities to gain additional information about the clues; this information is never required to progress in the game but provides extra flavour to the game.

    Both the use of Investigative Abilities to automatically locate clues and the spending of ‘points’ to gain additional information regarding the clues are both concepts that I think would be easily convertable to the FATE system; clues can easily be given out related to the skills possessed by players (possibly excpanding the list to include more detailed investigative abilities as per To) and either an additional pool of investigation point can be added or the existing fate points can be used to gain additional info in a FATE based ToC-style game.
    I’m planning to try a ToC style FATE game once it rolls round to my turn to GM in our ‘one-off Wednesdays’ again, i’ll post how it goes.

    Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up 2 – Agent Frank Dublowski

    Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective of my character in a game that I playing.

    “We all met up early morning in the dining room at the Grand Deer hotel to look over what informations we’d managed to discover so far; Ms Oxford was buzzing around serving us breakfast so we took the opportunity to fill in some of the details that she’d provided us with last night. The middle-aged woman told us again about the Stuart family and various logging concerns owning most of the land hereabouts; I was mainly interested (given the strange plants we’d come across) in finding out who looked after the local park lands, Polly was able to give me the description of a Jim Green (an old man who was friend of hers and often stopped in at the hotel) who was the local forrester.

    Deciding that it was about time we paid a courtesy call to the local law enforcement (since the case wasn’t yet officially ours until we proved a link between crimes occurring in more than one state, and it never hurts to have the boys at the front onside) we drove past the crumbling, mostly empty houses of a town that had obviously seen better days to the Sheriff’s office where the receptionist Thomas McClane seemed surprised we’d responded so quickly to the report of the death in the area. Like I said, it never hurts to have the local knowledge onside and getting justice it’s what’s important at the end of the day, so I plastered what I hoped was a sincere smile on my face and made nice with them, eventually getting introduced to the Deputy Sheriff, Emily Wyatt.

    One thing that did strike me as odd as we were lead into the offices; the whole place was decked out as though it had recently housed the trappings of a large investigation and yet the whiteboard at the head of the room (which would normally be used to map suspects and connections) was completely blank.

    Deputy Wyatt took us through to meet her boss, the Sheriff, he was an older man with a deep, puckered scar on one cheek (which our research told us was from a gardening accident some years ago); although initially suspicious of federal involvement, my attempt to ‘play nice’ seemed to win him over and he confessed to having known the victim of the murder, a young local girl called Anna who had been found on the parkland by Jim Green’s grandchildren. Apparently the two young children had told their father that they had seen an angel in the woods and, when they had taken him to the spot where they had seen the angel, Anna had been found strung up to a tree with rope.

    The Sheriff agreed to take us to the murder scene and contact Jim Green so that he could meet us there for questioning, we were assured that, aside from the removal of the body, nothing had been tampered with and we had photos of the original position of the body that showed the woman kneeling infront of the tree with her hands tied above her head. As we headed down the forest tracks I contacted Agent Brockhurst and explained that the local Sheriff’s office were a little short on medical personnel and that i’d got permission from the Sheriff for him to autopsy the body; as I put the phone down I wondered if I had made the right decision, Brockhurst had the medical knowledge and ability but he was hardly a people person, least I knew when to play nice with others when I needed to, still there wasn’t time to worry about it too much, we needed to find out what was going on in this town.

    Arriving at the crime scene we met up with Mr Green and I showed the Sheriff a sample of the red plant seeds that we had discovered; although he claimed not to have seen anything like it before, there was something in his look that made me think he wasn’t being completely honest with me. Mr Green was extremely interested in the seeds, saying that the barbs on them resembled the seeds of several desert grasses or shrubs whose seeds stuck into the hides of animals to distribute them, but that normally the desert plants were much larger than this. Investigating the tree that Anna had been tied to we found it surrounded by the stumps of several candles, initially I though this was a local tribute to the dead girl (not an uncommon site) however, reviews of the evidence and photos showed that they were probably there when she died; I sent a call through to Brockhurst to tell him that we may be looking at some sort of ritualistic crime.

    I examined the tree and discovered a symbol found in it, it kind of looked like that old hippy sign only upside down, our technical specialist remarked that it looked like a tree and began trying to research it, although she was having trouble getting a signal out here in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Ironside had been asking the Sheriff about Anna; it was the usual story that she worked locally at a diner, was a sweet girl and well-like by everybody, it’s funny how no-one has a bad word to say about the dead. She had no boyfriend but apparently was very close to a girl called Becky Ames who also lived in the town.

    It had started to gently rain and the Sheriff made some offhand remark about the locals all “heading inside”, something about it struck me as odd and when I asked was told that there was a local legend about a killer in the 50s whom the locals had nicknamed the raincoat killed, apparently when it rained the killer stalked the streets with an axe and wearing a red raincoat. A few years ago i’d have blown this off as local superstition, but given what i’d seen during my years with VASCU and our roadside encounter with the red clad runner I set the whizzkid onto researching it, although all the information she was able to find (despite her patchy net connection) seemed to suggest that it was nothing more than a gruesome urban legend.

    We were about to ask some more questions when the Sheriff had a strange called radio-ed through from the hospital, apparently Brockhurst had been performing the autopsy there and was now waving his gun at people; jumping into the car we made our way to the hospital as quickly as possible. Much as Agent Brockhurst might be a bit rough around the edges, I knew that he wasn’t the type to just point a gun at someone for no reason, something must have happened.”

    Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 13: Battles in the Black

    Having returned to the Venerus following their aborted mission Lord Admiral Black wants to speak to the Adeptus Mechanicus regarding what they have discovered and what possible plans may be required for the future; Enginseer Prime Pak plans to keep the materials recovered from the planet in a shuttle incase it causes any problems and needs to be emergency jettisoned.
    Lord Admiral Black consults his senior offucers asking for their council on how they are going to deal with the ancient enemy, tactful as ever Confessor Cornelius recommends holy fire and a thunder hammer, whilst Enginseer Pak suggests either returning to Port Wander or the Decusis system to speak to the Mechanicus; Admiral Black agrees and plans are made to return to Port Wander. Taking the Enginseer to one side Admiral Black asks Pak about his trouble with the Vitanteur Crime Syndicate; the Enginseer explains that they gave him private comm encryption protocol to contact them and that, in return for help, they would reveal the location of the previously unknown area of technology. The Vitanteur cannot legally salvage the tech, whereas a Rogue Trader can, they said that they would lead the fleet there (and forget about their grievance with the Enginseer) in return for a cut of the profits.
    Cornelius brings up the subject of the Imperial missionaries lead by Deacon Kiril who were going to the Endeavour system in an attempt to set up a colony and that the system is on their route back; he suggests a quick stop off to refuel and check on their progress, Admiral Black agrees to this and orders the Navigator to make the necessary preparations, Benetec estimates that the trip will take approximately two weeks in warp-space.
    Following his explosive experience with the Vitanteur Syndicate, Enginseer Prime Pak reprograms a ships servitor to act as a watcher to his quarters, building in redundancies to fool hackers into thinking they have disabled it but in actual fact they haven’t and it would keep recording the happenings in his quarters whilst pretending activity.
    “The Vitanteur don’t seem to be that subtle.” – York Benetec
    The end of the Imperial year is marked on the ship by wide-ranging  celebrations, lead by the ship’s Chief Confessor and ecclesiarchical authority Cornelius.
    “And the ship shall ring out with the sound of our faith.” – Cornelius
    About a  week into the journey (it is difficult to be exact because of the time distorting effect of the warp and the gellar fields blotting out the starfield) Admiral Black who, like a lot of his family line find the presence of the warp less discomforting than other folk, awakens suddenly in his bed; his wife is lying asleep next to him with her arm draped over his chest and everything is quiet. The Admiral feels uneasy but can’t quite put his finger on why and so pours himself a nightcap, as the spirit hits the back of his throat and he wakes up more fully he can hear a clanging sound like dragging something heavy and metallic along the ground outside his quarters.
    In his dressing gown the Admiral explores the corridor outside his quarters, the ship is largely deserted because it is during the night shift but he can’t see anything, however his resolves to continue to exploring the corridors.
    Meanwhile in the ship sensorium chamber the Navigator York Benetec is wide awake, his mutant talents piloting the ship through the terrors and dangers of the warp; he becomes vaguely aware of an unsettling influence somewhere on the ship.
    Admiral Black turns the corner and is confronted by a crowd of crewmen running in a blind panic down the corridor towards him, he warns then to halt but they pay little heed; he grabs one of the men and demands to know what is going on bu the terrifying crewman simply shouts “we’ve gotta get to the teleportarium and get off the ship, the ship’s going down” before struggling free and running off down the corridor. Admiral Black heads to the bridge determined to find out what is going on; 1st Officer Tullius Black seems unaware of any danger or strange goings on, he checks with the teleportarium but they’ve had no strange incidents – Admiral Black orders the guards doubled by the teleportarium chamber just in-case.
    Chief Confessor Cornelius is having a dream about when he was attacked by xenos forces years ago on an Imperial base, he has had the dream where he attempted to place a signal beacon to summon reinforcements many times; this time however when he runs outside with the beacon there is a redemptionist preacher standing there whom he recognises as Zane Cortez (the redemptionist originally from the Venerus, now serving on the Lunatic Pandora). Cortez says in a sorrowful voice “The geller fields have failed and are spawning mutations, we need to make our way to the teleportarium and save as many of the crew as possible.”
    Cornelius wakes up with a start in his bed, a fresh sheen of sweat covering his body; suspecting an unholy influence the priest chants communion prayers and calls upon the faith present on the ship (already heightened by the festival) and is rewarded by a slight lessening of the tension/foreboding in his chambers. Somewhat disturbed by this, but resolute in his faith, Cornelius makes his way to the ships chapel. At the same time as this York Benetec briefly feels a lessening of the strange feeling; he contacts the technicians manning the geller field and mentions the strange feeling, they say the field is fine but that the first officer has also contacted them asking if there were any problems and the Lord Admiral has ordered a doubling of the guards on the teleportarium.
    Enginseer Prime Pak powers up after his rest cycle to see a device attached to the inside of his door with a blinking red light, he quickly disables the explosive and calls in a fake alert to see if the guilty party will come to check on it. Whilst waiting for his trap to be sprung Pak accesses the memory unit of the surveillance servitor and sees his door open and a member of the Vitanteur he is familiar with from the old days (Ezekial Vitanteur) enter, plant the bomb and leaves.
    “Warning! Explosion registered in Sector 5!” – Ships computer
    A few moments later a disaster recovery crew arrive, and are puzzled to find no explosion; Pak turns to show them deactivated explosive and finds nothing on the table, he checks the servitor memory and finds no evidence of the previous footage; sees himself reacting to nothing. Shaken, but not wanting to show it infront of the crew, he explains it away as a drill to Recovery Crew Lieutenant Royston.
    Pak heads to the cathedral where Confessor Cornelius is preaching to the crew who are not on duty about how the Emperor and his Blessed Navigator will see them safely through the Warp. Pak sits down at the back of the chapel; when Cornelius spots him he hands over to one of his junior priests and leaves the pulpit to a smattering of applause and takes Pak to one side.
    Pak admits to being slightly troubled by the events of the evening and is seeking spiritual guidance.
    “Although you are not part of my flock I will always offer to spiritual guidance to those of other faiths sanctionned by the Emperor.” – Cornelius
    Pak explains to Cornelius about his past with the Vitanteur and how he used to run with them before he was selected to be part of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and how the Syndicate blames him for the loss of some recovered tech and several of their operatives to Adeptus Arbites force. Pak mentions that the Syndicate have made several explosive attempts on his life, that they are well connected and have numerous operatives on-board the ship.
    “There is no-one too well connected to be purged.” – Cornelius
    Enginseer Prime Pak then explains about the incident with imaginary/hallucinatory explosive and that this is what caused him to seek guidance; Cornelius tells him about his own dream and how he was able to counter it by calling on the faith of the ship. Pak calls in to see if anything unusual has happened and finds out about the doubling of guard on the teleportarium and that the Navigator has also made some queries although this isn’t anything unusual.
    Lord Admiral Black has been researching their destination, the Endeavour system, in the ships library- he discovers that the people in the system have warp capable tech, but that they have just started using warp for travel, it has a large white star and many asteroid belts making it slightly hazardous to navigate, the star also throws out radiation bursts in the inner-cauldron area of the system. A low gravity gas dwarf known as Endeavour prime is the largest planet in the system but it is on that planets moon (called Scrive) where most of the life in the system lives. The civilisation is a violent society of clans whose development is held back due to the constant raiding and violence they inflict upon each other.
    Fortunus ponders this problem and thinks that the system could do with a strong leader to unite them and rule them, Cornelius agrees that a leader who brings them back into the light of the Emperor’s grace would be indeed a worthy endeavour.
    “Bringing savages into the fold” – Cornelius
    Cornelius, Pak and Fortunus discuss Paks problem/recent issue and the difference between their two sects; the Emperor embodies both the divine principles and fates of both the ecclesiarchy and of the mechanicus. As they toast to the Emperor, Cornelius mentions how he saw the redemptionist priest and people running towards the teleportarium in his dream; he believes that a part of the crew of a ship remains with it and theorises about whether the ships long isolation in the Sycorax warp storm could have affected it in some way.
    In his sensorium chamber York Benetec meditations are intruded upon by a sound like a baby crying; meanwhile Cornelius, Pak and Fortunus discuss whether perhaps some form of entity has managed to pierce the Gellar fields of the Venerus and, if so, what their response would be. Benetec can sense that the sound is emanating from somewhere on the ship but that it is rebounding off the inside of the Gellar fields, he theorises that some sort of entity has become trapped on-board and cannot escape due to the Gellar fields. As the shift ends, the crying stops.
    Pak checks out the systems on-board  there have been a few glitches in the ships sensors; the odd glitch is not unusual, however during the last day there has been a dramatic increase in the number of glitches; he is able to see that the series of glitches appear to move through the ship during the shift and calculates that they will reach the bridge in the next two hours or so. Pak contacts Fortunus and tells him about something passing through the ship on its way to the bridge, they plan to divert as many of the bridges functions as they can to engineering until the entity/force has passed, hopefully minimising the effects on the ship.
    Tullius Black, a distant cousin of Fortunus who has been given his post as a second chance (he never really advanced previously due to his rogue-ish nature and fondness for gambling) is current acting as First Officer of the Venerus and is manning the bridge; Enginseer Pak contacts the senior officers on his vox-link and informs everyone about the entity affecting people’s dreams, he notifies Tullius that systems were to be routed through the engineering section whilst this threat was posed. Tullius asks whether they needed to evacuate the bridge, and agrees to relocate the essential bridge staff (himself included) to the engineering section.
    Navigator Benetec explains that he recognises the creature as some form of warp presence but he has been unable to examine it further since most of his concentration is required to pilot the ship; he explains that he planns to bring the ship out of the warp prematurely as a safety precaution. As the discussion continues there is a crackling on the vox-link and the sound of a crying baby; Benetec explains that he has heard the sound before.
    Tullius voxes in and asks about the noise, the other senior officers hear Tullius break off and begin talking to someone else, he seems surprised saying “How can you be here?” There is the sound of an impact and the vox-link goes dead. Pak contacts security and they say that Tullius’ last known whereabouts were Sector 5 near engineering and that sporadic gunfire has been reported, a security detail is sent and Lord Admiral Black informed.
    Benetec contacts Lord Black and explains that he is planning to bring the ship out of the warp due to the potential danger posed by the warp entity on board the ship; he suggests to the senior officers that, once out of the warp they could lower the gellar fields that are containing the entity onboard ship; however Confessor Cornelius is wary that doing so would simply release a warp entity to menace the world. During this conversation the ship drops into normal space.
    The Venerus (followed by Lunatic Pandora) has dropped out of warp space near a gravitational anomaly (the remains of a black hole); their sensors can pick up three other vessels moving through the area. The vessels appear to be of Imperial manufacture although they don’t have any Imperial heraldry, they don’t appear to have spotted the Venerus or the Lunatic Pandora yet, but as soon as the ships fire their engines to avoid being sucked into the gravitational well they will be detected.
    Lord Admiral Black orders the Auspex scanners to scan the other ships; he recognises the larger ship as one of the near mythical Adeptus Astartes battle barges that he has only heard of in the myths and legends of the Imperial Crusades; although this makes it doubly odd that they have no heraldry.  The two smaller ships are about the same size as the Lunatic Pandora and appear to be escorting the larger of the ships.
    The Venerus begins moving towards the ships slowly whilst the Lunatic Pandora fires its engines and begins circling around to the rear of the convoy; Confessor Cornelius makes his way to the chapel and begins preparing the vox systems within to broadcast prayers of battle and deliverance throughout the ship. Enginseer Prime Pak continues to prepare things in engineering whilst linking into the Vox system to ensure that the transfer of command functions is still going ahead; he dispatches his servo-skull to investigate the sounds of gunfire in Sector 5.
    Concentrating from the within his contemplation chamber York Benetec projects his consciousness out into the surrounding area, giving him a wide-ranging view of events occurring within the sector; he can see the floating wreckage of some destroyed spacecraft a short distance away from where they are, closer psychic examination reveals the wrecked ships to be the remnants of Imperial supply vessels. The supply train appears to have been annihilated by a surprise attack from the unidentified vessels currently near the Venerus and Lunatic Pandora.
    Benetec relays this information to the rest of the senior offiers just as the unidentified vessels pick up the fleet on the far range of their sensors and begin to turn to bring them more in range; judging that they have forfeited any attempt to parley due to their attack on the supply train, Lord Admiral Black orders his ship to begin firing on the main weapons of the battle-barge.
    From his overview of the scene York Benetec is able to get the drop on the approaching fleet and the great ship Venerus begins to move forwards; prayers of vengeance and fury against the traitorous dogs who would raise weapons against the Imperium of Man flood through the ships vox systems, spurring the crew to grip their weapons tighter and remain resolute in the face of danger. The Venerus weapons open fire on the largest of the enemy ships, there is an explosion from the enemy vessels as a salvo strikes their engines, unfortunately the Lunatic Pandora’s shooting proves largely ineffective. In response the battle-barge opens fire on the Venerus whilst the escort vessels shoot at the Lunatic Pandora blowing open the cargo bays and causing the loss of many materials before the emergency bulkheads slam shut.
    A burst of fire from the battle-barge crashes into the Venerus, causing the emergency measures to activate prematurely, across the ship bulkheads crash down, trapping the crew in whatever compartments they occupied; however Enginseer Prime Pak and his repair teams are quickly able to repair the damaged systems and bring the ship back under control.
    Relentless fire continues between the two fleets, a sudden cry goes up from the navigational array of the Venerus “Sir, the engines are firing, it’s like the ship is flying itself!” as the huge vessel moves forwards towards the enemy fleet unbidden by its pilots. York Benetec reels back in his sensorium chamber as he feels a murderous, bloodthirsty and ancient presence pressing down on him from deep within the roiling tides of the Immaterium, calling on his training the navigator breaks off with a scream as his psyché slams back into his own body.
    With their engines still firing the Venerus crew manage to fly over the enemy fleet, turning to present their most heavily armoured side to the enemy and thus sustaining minimal damage from the bursts of lance-fire that stab out from the enemy vessels. The two escorts vessels fire boarding pods towards the Lunatic Pandora, the pods grapple onto the hull and begin burning through; a slightly panicked communiqué from Captain Polaris on the Lunatic Pandora comes through on the ship-to-ship short range communications  “We’re being boarded, we can’t take much more of this Admiral!”
    Gritting his teeth Lord Admiral Black orders the Lunatic Pandora to make the jump into warp space and withdraw as soon as they are capable; with a tearing sound Passacaglia Belasarius the navigator of the Lunatic Pandora drops the ship into the warp, leaving the battle. The Venerus returns fire at the large enemy vessel, focussing their fire on areas of the ship that were damaged in the earlier attack on the Imperial convoy, scoring tears and rents across it’s hull.
    Commotion breaks out amongst the weapons crew as, halfway through a prayer exalting the Emperors presence, Confessor Cornelius becomes aware of a strange presence and he is driven to his knees, blood gouting from his ears and eyes, he recovers and staggers to his feet although the gun crew are clearly shaken by these events. The sensors from the Venerus, now at close range, report that the enemy vessel has a weak spot on its hull near the engines, presumably due to damage sustained when attacking the convoy.
    The navigator of the enemy battle-barge feels the presence of the warp entity closing around him, however he is still able to activate the warp engines of the larger vessel and disappear into the immaterium; the two smaller vessels continue to fire on the Venerus but cause minimal damage. Taking direct control of the Venerus’ sensor arrays Enginseer Prime Pak uses his tech-assisted intellect to zero in on the weak spots of the two small enemy vessels, picking out spots where the Venerus’ fire could do maximum damage; a salvo of fire damaging the weapon systems severely on one on their target.
    York Benetec reels as a deep gravelly voice appears to fill his consciousness, “You have made an enemy this day! You have not heard the last of Lorgar Khan!” He recognises it as a last message transmitted from a powerful psychic on the departing battle-barge.
    The sustained salvo of fire from the Venerus takes its toll on one of the remaining enemy as the ships munitions rupture, blasting fire and explosive gases into space. Realising that their weapons are destroyed the remaining enemy vessel with maneuverability begins attempting to flee the combat.
    Meanwhile Confessor Cornelius is exploring the damaged section of the ship, he thinks that he sees the Eldar envoy stealthily moving around the ruptured sections of the ship; thinking that by rights this xenos menace should be confined to quarters at a critical time such as this the Confessor gives chase. Eventually the Confessor is forced to return to his chambers, the xenos-scum having alluding him for now, but mentally he vows that one day there will be a reckoning.
    A devastating blast of macro-battery fire towards the fleeing ship destroys its engines; Admiral Black recognises from his considerable experience that the ship is now dead in space and will slowly be drawn into the gravity well and its own destruction. The crippled ship broadcasts a message of surrender, begging to be saved from their inevitable death in the terrible depths of the gravity well.
    Ordering Enginseer Prime Pak to the teleportarium aboard the Venerus the two of them take a contingent of men aboard the enemy vessel with the crippled engine, planning to take the ship, repair the engines and prevent its destruction within the gravity well.
    Aboard the Venerus Dominique Decusis-Black steps onto the bridge, seeing the chaos and lack of clear command structure following her husbands departure and 1st-Officer Tullius Black being reported as being in the med-bays following an injury (although it is not clear how or why), she takes control of the bridge.
    “This is Lady Dominique Decusis Black, wife of Lord Admiral Black; in the absence of any other authority I hearby assume command of this vessel. Return fire on the Enemy ship.” – Lady Dominique Decusis-Black
    “I knew she was trouble.” – York Benetec
    The Venerus fires at the enemy vessel not containing Admiral Black and Enginseer Prime Pak, tearing a huge gash down the side of the ship.
    “This is Lady Dominque Decusis-Black of the Imperial Rogue Trader vessel Venerus, stand down and prepare to be boarded. Surrender or be destroyed.” – Lady Dominique Decusis-Black
    With their master fled and seeing only death in the coldness of space as their future should they keep fighting the enemy ship surrenders and stands down.
    Back on-board the crippled enemy vessel Enginseer Prime Pak has managed to repair the engines (although the ship is still very damaged and its weapons are down), preventing the ship from tumbling down the gravity well.

    What is my favourite non-TSR adventure module?

    I first came across this question posed by Roger Brasslett on the Pen & Paper RPG Bloggers Google+ community, he covers his own favourite non-TSR adventure module on his blog; the question was originally asked by Erik Tenkar on his blog. Both Roger and Erik posed the question to the RPG community to find out what people’s favour (non-TSR) adventure was, it started me thinking about my own (lack of) history with adventure modules.
    I’ve never been a massive user of the pre-pared adventure modules myself; I generally find that I have to make so many notes to adapt them for my players and so that I can keep track of them that it’s no real extra work to come up with my own adventure from scratch. This isn’t to say that I don’t possess any adventure modules, i’m a great supporter of GMs borrowing and taking stuff from published books since we all something need a boost of ideas or don’t have enough time to design everything from the ground up; there’s not only nothing wrong with taking inspiration or elements from published materials, but I would positively encourage it, an inspiring book or adventure module can often send your thoughts down avenues and into areas that you might not have even considered before.
    To answer the question though, my favourite adventure module (although it possibly only loosely fits that label) is the Orpheus game line from White Wolf. Orpheus was a limited line/experiment for the previous old/core world of darkness that was spread across six books; the first featured all of the standard rules, campaign background, etc that you would expect to find in any world of darkness game, positing the discovery of technology that allowed certain people who had suffered near death experiences (NDEs) to project themselves in a spirit form. The game has the normal character splats for a world of darkness game, you pick a shade (banshee, haunter, poltergeist, skinrider or wisp) that your ghostly powers focus on and a lament that describes how your character projects:
    • Hue: weaker ghosts who are created from the spirits of people who have used a supernaturally addictive drug known as Pigment.
    • Skimmer: those who can project their souls from their bodies using meditation.
    • Sleepers: people who can only project when interred in a cryo-tube.
    • Spirit: a naturally occurring ghost.
    Your character belongs to or is recruited to be part of the Orpheus organisation, a group that has blossomed to make use of the new technology for various means (mostly making money from shady contracts).
    Now you might be thinking that this doesn’t sound very much like an adventure module; however, the great thing (in my mind) about this campaign is that each of the following five books not only advanced the rules but also the metaplot running behind the game line, covering the fall and rise of Orpheus and leading up to secrets threatening the lands of the living and the dead. As a huge fan of the oWoD Wraith: the Oblivion setting, from which Orpheus draws a large amount of its metaplot and game flavour (although knowledge of the Wraith setting is not obligatory or necessary to enjoy the game) I thoroughly enjoyed the concept behind the gameline. Many times during the book it makes references to using a movie model as inspiration, although to me it feels more like a good TV series, with each book ending in some sort of cliffhanger; I remember waiting as the books were originally released to find out what was going to happen next in the storyline.
    If you’re interested in a the Orpheus setting which combines, in my mind, the best elements of the World of Darkness, Wraith, ghost stories and the Ghostbusters film then the pdf and POD versions are available from DriveThru RPG: