Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 19: Death & Rebirth?

Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch wakes in the medical bay having been unconsious for a number of days following injuries sustained during a battle against a chaos sorceror in the ruins of a fighter craft on the moons of Strive; the med-techs have struggled with the severe and sorcerous nature of the injuries but finally, with a little help from the Emperor Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch pulls through and regains consciousness. Hearing the red-alert klaxxons sounding through the corridors of the Venerus Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch hauls himself unceremoniously to his (still shakey) feet and totters out of the medical bay, dismissing the med-techs who attempt to persuade him to go back to bed he staggers towards the ships fighter bay.
Meanwhile Admiral Fortunus Black had decided that they need to join Enginseer Prime Pak on the moon below them, a battle rages there following the descent of an armada of escape-pods and small craft planetside, fallout from a decisive battle between the fleet of Rogue Trader Admiral Fortunus Black and the traitor forces lead by the renegade Adeptus Astartes Lorgar Khan; bidding goodbye to his wife Lady Decusis-Black and leaving her in command of the great ship Venerus the Admiral dons his regalia and begins striding towards the shuttle-bays. On his way Admiral Fortunus Black meets the slightly pale figure of Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch who is climbing into his fighter jumpsuit; relieved to see that Borsch has recovered the Admiral explains that they defeated the chaos sorceror although he escaped and that they are still in a state of red-alert following the battle with Lorgar Khan’s forces. Admiral Fortunus Black tells Borsch that although they won, the cost of the battle was severed with the Venerus and Rod Hant being the only surviving vessels, Enginseer Prime Pak is planetside attempting to gather survivors from the fleet and the Admiral intends to help him; unsure of what dangers may lurk down on the moon of Strive the Admiral tells Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch to ensure that himself and the rest of the Void Kraken fighter squad are ready to fly if he needs them.
Admiral Fortunus Black’s shuttle lands near the last known position of Enginseer Prime Pak and he sees that the Enginseer has been gathering the sruvivors to him and attempting to build make-shift fortifications, cannibalising what small vessels and weapons they have to make something more permanent. Admiral Fortunus Black is happy to see that his cousin Polaris Black (ex-Captain of the now destroyed Lunatic Pandora) has survived, but sudden signal on their voxx frequency interrupts any further re-union; flying in the lower atmosphere alongside the other Void Krakens Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch informs Admiral Fortunus Black that his long-range scanners are detecting weapons fire around the central stone building in the largest native settlement.
“Multiple traitor astartes closing on building, am picking up signs that Chief Baldur and a dozen or so other natives are trapped inside” – Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch
“Buy us time to get there” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As Admiral Fortunus Black and Enginseer Prime Pak race towards the building in a commandeered vehicle they are just in time to witness a devastating strafing run by the Void Krakens that slays all of the traitor Astartes closing on the stone building, although the triumph is short lived as they see flashes of gunfire inside the building and recognise the sound of bolter fire.
“Damn it! Looks as though some had already got inside!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As they enter the ground floor of the building, the heavy thudding of bolter fire can be heard coming directly from the floor above them, Enginseer Prime Pak and his men pour weapons fire into the ceiling causing it to collapse and unceremoniously dump the traitor marine onto the ground floor, before he has chance to rise the Admiral plants a boot on his chest and drives a power sword through one of the eyes of the traitor, who spasms for a few moments then lies still.
Returning from a re-arming run to the Venerus (where the lieutenant requested promethium bombs be fitted to the fighters) Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and his squadron are circling back round for another run when they see a number of angry looking natives wielding primitive weapons running towards the building; unsure of whose side these natives are on they elect to abort the attack run for now. From inside the building Enginseer Prime Pak spots the primitives and recognises some of their primitive chanting as belonging to one of the Slaktin worshipping tribes that allied itself with Lorgar, ordering his men to follow suit Enginseer Prime Pak opens fire on the approaching primitives and, seeing this, Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch releases his promethium bomb, engulfing the natives in a napalm-like flame that swiftly burns them to death.
“Find me the sorceror!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
Using the fighter squadron as a relay, Admiral Fortunus Black contacts the Venerus and has their Navigator York Benetec use his psychic powers to search for the presence of the sorceror, York Benetec confirms that the sorceror is present in the building; nodding grimly, Admiral Fortunus Black has Enginseer Prime Pak patch him through to the voxx-unit built into the cybernetics they fitted to Chief Baldur and gives a warning for him to get out of the building before contacting the Void Krakens and given another order.
“Destroy that building!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As they run from the building themselves, hearing the screaming of the approaching fighter craft, Enginseer Prime Pak spots the body of the fallen traitor Astartes and feels a twinge of human longing that he had long thought purged from his body as he spots the large power fist attached to one of the marines arms. Admiral Fortunus Black throws himself behind cover as missiles streak overhead towards the building, he looks around to find that Enginseer Prime Pak is no longer with him. At the very last minute the techpriest hurls himself behind cover, being caught in the last flash of the explosion, several of his metallic components buckled by heat and his flesh blackened, however, he grins at the power-fist gripped in his hands.
Walking back over to the ruins of the building they spot what appears to be some sort of energy globe protecting a small area and, inside it, the chaos sorceror who is injured but appears ot have survived using his unholy sorery to conjure some sort of force-field; as they approach the sorcerors energy gives out and the field collapses, sneering Admiral Fortunus Black responds by pouring fire into the body of the sorceror, as Enginseer Prime Pak joins him the sorceror finally collapses dead, his foul gods apparently deserting him. Admiral Fortunus Black can’t help but wonder though whether Lorgar was actually in the building and whether they’ve seen the last of the traitor marine.
As Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and the Void Kraken fighter squadron are mopping up the remanants of the hostile forces, Admiral Fortunus Black has the Venerus perform a surface scan to look for the Thunderhawk gunship that the sorceror was last seen boarding; it is swiftly located secreted behind a nearby forest, Admiral Fortunus Black quickly rounds up a group of men to investigate and voxxes Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch to investigate from the air. Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch attempts to swoop in on the position of the Thunderhawk unseen but is unsuccessful and the guns of the craft begin to open fire although the fighters do not sustain any damage. Using this distaction Admiral Fortunus Black, Enginseer Prime Pak and their soldiers have approached the Thunderhawk’s position, but are horrified to see that, fore-warned by the presence of enemy fighters it has begun to take off; acting instinctively they both grab hold of landing struts and are lifted into the air.
The Thunderhawk flies upwards, obviously planning to enter low orbit, whilst Enginseer Prime Pak tries frantically to interface with the machine spirit of the craft and open the door, but several security measures send painful electrical impulses surging through his synapses; in a last desperate attempt as the air begins to thin Admiral Fortunus Black slices the locks from the door with his power sword and they climb onboard to be met by weapons fire from two guards in the cargo bay. Returning fire with their own weapons Admiral Fortunus Black and Enginseer Prime Pak make short work of the guards and hurl their bodies unceremoniously out of the open Thunderhawk door.
Outside the Void Krakens have been attempting to crowd the Thunderhawk and force it to land, but the traitor craft attempts to ram them instead; following the training maneuvres that they had practiced Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and his squad jink around it an are unharmed. Onboard the Thunderhawk, Enginseer Prime Pak has managed to interface with the machine spirit and opens the door to the cockpit, snarling curses at them the traitor marine pilot hits an eject button and the cockpit window flies off as his seat jet boosts the vile renegade Astartes into the air. There is a brief cavalcade of fire and small pieces of armour rain down as the Void Kraken lock their weapons on the ejecting marine and destroy him utterley.
Now interfaced with the machine spirit Enginseer Prime Pak is able to effect a landing but the landing struts are severely damaged in the process; Admiral Fortunus Black voxxes for a shuttle to take him back to the Venerus, promising to send more tech-adepts down to assist Enginseer Prime Pak salvaging the Thunderhawk. As he leaves the Admiral receives a signal from Polaris telling him that they have met up with Baldur (who survived the explosion due to his bionic imnplants) and that, with the help of the other survivors and the fighter squadrons from the Venerus they are driving back the enemy; Polaris explains that Baldur has asked Admiral Fortunus Black to give his people sanctuary on the Venerus, the Admiral appears to ponder the matter for a minute then agrees before breaking communication.
A few hours later back on the Venerus, Enginseer Prime Pak unveils the damaged recording device entrusted to him by Baldur, he has repaired it so that it should play the full message; as they activate it a shakey projection of a large Astartes with pronounced canines bearing the iconography of the Space Wolves chapter reveals that he was the only surviving marine on a ship carrying Astartes geneseed through this sector when they were attacked and forced to set down on the large moon. Injured beyond human endurance and slowly dying the marine left the surviving thralls and what little technology he could on the moon, hoping that some day they would return to the bosom of the Imperium; knowing that he could not allow the geneseed to fall into enemy hands he climbed aboard his ship and set it on auto-pilot for the systems sun.
“So that was what Lorgar meant by rebirth, the ship must still be out there somewhere.” – Admiral Fortunus Black

Statting a Bloodletter for my Rogue Trader game

Those of you who have read the write-up of my last Rogue Trader session (available here for anyone who hasn’t read it and is interested) will be aware that the spaceship Venerus was being “haunted” by a warp phenomenon that was feeding off the fear and mistrust of those on board and using it to create illusions and phantasms that created more fear (thus beginning a vicious feeding cycle); during an aborted mutiny lead by Confessor Cornelius (Emperor rest his soul) the fear and distrust onboard rose to such levels that the phenomenon was able to pierce the barrier between the real world and the warp, summoning forth a Bloodletter of Khorne onboard the ship.
The Rogue Trader game (in my opinion) isn’t big on random combats and we try to make sure that any combats that do occur are part of the narrative or that relate to the stories/plots unfolding rather than being just random dice-fests; I had decided how the Bloodletter fit into the story before the last session but hadn’t anticipated the mutiny (and the resultant fear it caused) allowing a daemon to be summoned so quickly. With the session approaching I turned my thoughts to statting the creature.
Since the daemon is unlikely to be a recurring villain and they are portrayed very much as demonic footsoldiers in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I decided to use the generation guidelines for Nameless NPCs from the FATE core rulebook and make the NPC of Good quality (since I want it to be a challenge. The guidelines in the book advise the following for such an NPC:
  • Aspects: One or two.
  • Skills: One Good (+3), one Fair (+2) and one or two Average (+1)
  • Stress: Two stress boxes.
Deciding on the Aspects was fairly easy, the first being the stock phrase of every Khornate cultists and creature the universe-over “Blood for the Blood God”; for the second I decided to create an Aspect that I thought could cover the resilience given to them by their God and the protection from sorcery, “Blessed by Khorne.”
The skills were pretty easy to decide on, given it Fighting +3, Physique +2, Intimidation +1 and Notice +1; however I also needed to consider what equipment I was going to give the daemon, reading through the details about them great mention is made of the creatures Hellblade which slices through armour and flesh alike. Consulting my Rogue Trader FATE hack I decided that the nearest equivalent for the Hellblade was to give a melee weapon the Power Weapon stunt (final stats Harm 1 Penetration 1); I also wanted to give some thought to armour for the creature, since one of the images that has always stuck with me when thinking about khornate entities is the image of iron and brass, and the ornate armour turning enemies blows aside.

I eventually decided to give the creature a standard armour +2 to defence but without any of the associated penalties and named it “Skin of Blood and Brass.”

The final stat block for the creature looks like this:
***
Bloodletter
Aspects: “Blood for the Blood God”, “Blessed by Khorne”
Skills: Fighting (Good +3), Physique (Fair +2), Intimidation & Notice (Average +1)
Stress: [] [] [] 
Weapon – Hellblade: Harm 1 Penetration 1 (functions similar to a power weapon)
Armour – Skin of blood and brass: Defence 2 Physique mod 0 Athletics/fighting mod 0 
***

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.