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.

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.

Writing out my NPC details – Part III – Breakdown of Details

As talked about in my previous posts (here and here) i’ve recently been attempted to create personalised and filable index cards to store the NPC details for my FATE powered Rogue Trader game; one of the things that I gave a lot of thought to (and discussed with several people on Google+) was what these index cards should include.
Here is an example (please click on the picture for the full size version):
Picture/graphic

It was very important for me to include a picture or some sort of representative graphic on each of the cards; i’m a firm believer of the adage that “a picture paints a thousand words” and, even if I wasn’t just showing the picture to the players, a graphic would help me get a sense of the NPC and maintain consistency in my descriptions of the NPCs without having to resort to lengthy text descriptions on the card.
Pictures were fairly easy to come across with a little time on Google image search and various Warhammer 40K sites across the net.

NPC name

Obviously important and, since it would be how I would be filing the NPC cards (in name order) I decided to make the name big and bold across the centre of the index card so that as I flicked through them I would be able to find the NPC I wanted with a minimum of fuss.

Aspects

A great piece of advice that I got off Robert Hanz on the FATE core G+ community was to include as much of the character history and description as I could within the Aspects, saving duplicated effort and also creating more interesting Aspects in the process.
In the example card, Rha-Haz has the following Aspects:
  • Praise the Omnissiah! – Reflects Rha-haz’ position as a senior and very devout member of the Machine Cult, could be invoked to provide a bonus to his technical knowledge or the religious fervor with which the Mechanicus view technology.
  • The incautious pursuit of forbidden knowledge would lead to mankind’s downfall – Shows that Rha-Haz is a staunch traditionalist who takes a dim view of experimenting and dabbling with new technologies, he is very much aware of the dangers that such tech could pose to mankind as a species and deems that the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
  • Pak has a great future within the Mechanicus – Rha-Haz recruited Enginseer Pak (one of the PCs) into the Machine Cult and sees great potential within the Enginseer, adopting the role of a father figure/mentor for him.


Stress and Consequences

The standard stress and consequence trackers used in my game, modified by skills, minor characters will only have one or two stress boxes and no consequence trackers; this follows the gamesmaster advice regarding the relative story importance of NPCs as provided by the FATE core rulebook.

Skills

Standard skills used in the game rated from Average (+1) up to Superb (+5); NPCs that were allies or neutral would have roughly similar skill levels to the player characters whereas those intended to provide a long-term threat would be rated slightly higher so that the characters could grow over the course of the campaign to challenge & eventually defeat these foes.

Extras/Stunts

This section of the card was used to include Stunts or any additional information that might be useful for the portrayal of the NPC during the running of the game; in order to portray the NPC of Rha-Haz as an older version of Enginseer Prime Pak (his student) I gave the NPC the same mech-arm and servo-skull Stunts possessed by Pak.
Also, when Rha-Haz had been described previously, he had always been flanked by a number of bio-mechanical servitors who aided him with his tasks; using the mob rules out of the FATE core rulebook I gave the two servitors the following stats:
Aspect – Tech servants.
Skills – Craft (tech use)(+2), Fighting (+1).
1 stress box each (2 total)
Teamwork – +1 to craft/fighting rolls when both working together.

Writing out my NPC details – Part II

Following discussion with Robert Hanz about the differences between Aspects and descriptions when it comes to creating NPC descriptions I decided to have a go at knocking up some customised NPC index cards.

A few of the NPC cards are shown below.

Writing out my NPC details

Having read suggestions on NPC contacts as rewards and note organisation on Rick Stumps blog (http://harbingergames.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/when-is-treasure-not-treasure-npcs-as.html) I decided that it was about time to write up my NPC notes on index cards and file them properly.

How would I note them down?

I decided to adopt the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) method of writing down NPCs to keep it simple and ensure that the information fit onto the index cards; I would write down a few Aspects and Stunts for each NPC and then give them a number of areas that they were good at (receiving +2 on these rolls) and a number of areas that they were poor at (receiving -2 on these rolls). This method was relatively quick and could always be expanded later if necessary.

Warhammer 40K game: Rogue Trade
The House of Black

Name: Black, Darius
Description: Cousin to Fortunus Black, one of his eyes appears to move independently of the other.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, roving eye.
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Black, Dominique Decusis
Description: Wife of Fortunus Black, twin to Corith Decusis. Has traditionally shaven head and dislikes the uncouth York Benetec. Marriage arranged by brother, loyal to husband.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, haughty, beautiful.
Good (+2) at: Shmoozing, social functions, commanding.
Bad (-2) at: Keeping temper in check.

Name: Black, Gillam
Description: Uncle to Fortunus Black.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, nervous tic.
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Black, Macharius
Description: Patriarch of the Black family, appears in his early 50s due to (quasi-legal) life extension treatments, although they have resulted in him having grey hair and yellow eyes.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, longevity treatments, cyber implants.
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Black, Polaris
Description: Captain of the Lunatic Pandor is a dourly loyal figure who served as Fortunus’ 1st office after Fortunus found him languishing in a bar and helped him clean up. He was promoted to Captain when Fortunus took command of the Venerus.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, ex-alcoholic, fiercely loyal.
Good (+2) at: Command
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Black, Tristan
Description: Cousin to Fortunus Black, exposure to warp following a Gellar field failure resulted in the young mans hair turning stark white.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, touched by warp, ship captain. 
Good (+2) at: Forbidden lore, commanding ship.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Black, Tullius
Description: Inveterate gambler and 1st officer of the Venerus, distant cousin of Fortunus; never advanced due to his lack of discipline, promoted as a ‘last chance.’
Aspects/stunts: Gambler, noble, blustery, black sheep.
Good (+2) at: Gambling, fighting.
Bad (-2) at: Resisting temptation.

Name: Cortez, Zane
Description: Redemptionist preacher of the Lunatic Pandora; originally priest of the Venerus & was held in stasis due to a teleportarium malfunction until accidentally released by Pak. Now works as Chief Confessor aboard Lunatic Pandora.
Aspects/stunts: Redemptionist, xenophobic.
Good (+2) at: Purging heretics, fiery sermons.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Criute
Description: Spire Chef on Scelus hiveworld (Decusis system); a muscley shhaven head man who worked his way up from nothing. Down to earth cousin of Dana, enouraged her to join the PCs and better her life. Sends money to support his family in lower hive.
Aspects/stunts: Commoner come good, family man, tough guy with heart of gold.
Good (+2) at: Cooking, fighting. 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Da Duith Iath
Description: Eldar envoy & goodwill ambassador; androgynous armoured figure assigned to assist PCs with dealing with the Ancient Enemy, took job since, unlike a lot of Eldar, he doesn’t mind humans.
Aspects/stunts: Eldar.
Good (+2) at: Human customs, shooting, stealth.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Dana
Description: Blind verminspeaker. A young girl who grew up caring for sick mother, eventually discovered an ability to tame beasts. Cousin to Criute, cautiously optimistic about her future.
Aspects/stunts: Psychic, blind, weak, mutant.
Good (+2) at: Commanding animals, first aid.
Bad (-2) at: Physical strength.

Name: Decusis, Corith
Description: Noble ruler of Decusis system (Hiveworld Scelus), lives in glittering hive spire; has ritually shaven head to honour ancestor who joined ecclesiarchy. Mainly concerned with advancing his family.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, diplomatic, paranoid. 
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Erdman, Proctor.
Description: Ruthless Adeptus Arbites precinct commander; was once an arbites on Paks homeworld, Erdman didn’t approve of Pak being taken into the Mechanicus because he saw it as him evading justice.
Aspects/stunts: Adeptus Arbites, Ruthless.
Good (+2) at: Law, intimidation, fighting.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Farah, Dorath.
Description: Slimey senator to the Decusis family, the thin wheedling man is mainly concerned with his own fortunes & riding on the coat-tails of the Decusis family.
Aspects/stunts: Noble, criminal connections (Vitanteur syndicate).
Good (+2) at: Flattery, feigning sincerity.
Bad (-2) at: Courage, fighting.

Name: Hardecker, Tacitus.
Description: Planetary governor of Catan II, Tacitus is a grizzled bearded man with a cyber hand & eye who was ‘promoted’ to ruler of the system after being instrumental in repelling cultist/demon forces from an orbital las-battery.He chafes at his retirement & longs for active service.
Aspects/stunts: Military veteran, system governor, retired too early.
Good (+2) at: Commanding, fighting, resources.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Kiril, Deacon Samuel.
Description: Aged Ecclesiarchy missionary who is a kindly old man seeking to help found an Imperial colony in the Endeavour system.
Aspects/stunts: Old, faithful.
Good (+2) at: Sermons.
Bad (-2) at: Fighting.

Name: Khan, Lorgar.
Description: Word Bearer chaos space marine captain.
Aspects/stunts: Chaos space marine, captain, devout, merciless. Power armour.
Good (+2) at: 

Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Maron.
Description: Cleaner of the murder servitor pens; Maron is a nervous man whose family sold him into service to pay for debts, when he left his mother cried (Confessor Cornelius assured Maron that these were tears of joy at his future service to the Emperor).
Aspects/stunts: Nervous, devout, gullible.
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Marsters, Huron.
Description: Gun deck officer aboard lunatic pandora, a faithful career military man who despises xenos and mutants.
Aspects/stunts: Xenophobic, faithful.
Good (+2) at: 
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Rha-haz, Senior tech priest.
Description: A serious red robed priest whose face is little more than writhing tech-tendrils and coloured lenses, the mechanically voiced priest recruited Pak into the Mechanicus after realising that the (then) criminal tech showed great promise.
Aspects/stunts: Cold, calculating. Mech arm (can use crafts instead of other skills), Servo skull (can do so at range).
Good (+2) at: Tech.
Bad (-2) at: Emotions, social interaction with non-Mechanicus members.

Name: Vitanteur, Tomas.
Description: Gang leader in the Vitanteur Sundicate.
Aspects/stunts: Gang leader, criminal connections.
Good (+2) at: Criminal activity, violence, intimidation, leadership.
Bad (-2) at: 

Name: Vorl, Rogue Tech.
Description: This robed heretek has ties to the Vitanteur Crime Syndicate, the PCs helped Tomas Vitanteur smuggle him off Hiveworld Scelus (Decusis system).
Aspects/stunts: Rogue tech, criminal connections (Vitanteur syndicate).
Good (+2) at: Tech use. 
Bad (-2) at: 

Game creation summary

Last session of my Rogue Trader game I decided to test out some elements of the game creation phase from the FATE core rulebook (as discussed here); although we didn’t get round to defining the major future issues of the game since we got caught up in the action of the session I did use a small lull in the action to have the player characters detail some of their shared history in brief format.

I asked each player to come up with an event that their character took place in before the start of the game proper that involved at least two of the other characters in a supporting role; much as with the game creation for the God Machine game (detailed here) some players found this easier than others (only to be expected since everyone has different strengths when it comes to roleplaying, myself included) but in the end we were able to get at least one encounter from each character that I dutifully recorded on an index card for future use and exploration.

History Summary

  • Lord Admiral Black history event –  As a rite of passage Fortunus Black was a young noble sent into the hive bottom of his homeworld Planet Telec and part of a group of Spyre hunters wearing a power suit; whilst in the hive bottom he had to rely on his own wits and cunning to survive and was forced to barter power cells for his suit from Pak (who was then part of the Vitanteur Crime Syndicate). During one of his attacks, Fortunus was injured by the Redemptionist priest Cornelius who, realising that his foe was human, ministered to Fortunus and helped turn him to the righteous path.
  • Enginseer Prime Pak history event – Takes place on an Adeptus Mechanicus base in the Expanse that is under attack by xenos forces; an Astropathic message had been sent out for reinforcements, but even with Pak manning the defences and the Imperial Priest Cornelius planting a beacon to amplify the Astropath’s signal things looked bleak. Miraculously a ship arrived far sooner than expected, thanks to the superb skills of its Navigator York Benetec and helped save the base.
  • Confessor Cornelius history event – Cornelius was serving as a missionary aboard a ship belonging to member of Black family, Fortunus Black was the 1st officer onboard; they retrieved the Navigator York Benetec and some other survivors from a crashed ship; upon arrival they found black clad Eldar attempting to kill the survivors on the planet. The Black family vessel was able to repel the xenos.
  • Navigator York Benetec history event – Both York Benetec and Confessor Cornelius were recruited early on due to their shared history, Cornelius recommended Benetec on the strength of his reputation.
Having the shared history events seemed to work quite well and I can already see potential for a number of flashback scenes and additional details that can be filled in, including (but not limited to) the following questions:

  • What where the details surrounding the attack where Fortunus was injured and then saved by Cornelius?
  • What xenos threat was attacking the Mechanicus base where Pak and Cornelius were stationed and why?
  • Who was the member of the Black family commanding the ship that both Fortunus and Cornelius served on?
  • What was the nature of the Eldar threat to the Black family ship?

These are questions that can be potentially answered by playing through the scenes as narrated flashbacks, I wouldn’t really see the need for many dice rolls since the outcome of events is already known; they also provide opportunities for introducing additional NPCs such as the member of the Black family who captained the ship, etc.

One of the things I enjoyed last session was that, once the players had embraced the idea of creating their historical events they seemed to become much more invested in helping to create other details of the setting; a number of NPCs and other setting details were decided by discussion with the players characters, including the following:

  • 1st Officer of the Venerus Tullius Black – A distant cousin to Fortunus and the same age as him, Tullius never advanced much due to a lack of discipline and his gambling, Fortunus was giving him a second chance by offering him a position on his ship. This NPC came about when Admiral Fortunus wanted to leave the bridge and we realised that, up until now, he hadn’t had a first office (since the previously defined NPC, Polaris Black, was now captaining the Lunatic Pandora).
  • Lorgar Khan – Word Bearer chaos marine captain, little is known about this foe other than he lead the small pirate fleet that Admiral Black’s fleet was able to defeat, although Khan himself escaped into the warp with his battlecruiser swearing vengeance on them.
  • Festival of Emperors Divine Light – On my game calendar it was getting near the end of the Imperial Year and so there was a brief discussion regarding festivities that might be held at that time of year.
  • Sector 5 – A random detail decided in play was that all of the Senior Engineering officers bunked in Sector 5 of the Venerus since it was the nearest to main Engineering.
  • Ezekial Vitanteur – old Vitanteur from Pak’s past, white moustache.
  • Fortunus’ power armour – although purchased on Decusis from Tomas Vitanteur it was decided that this power armour was the same spyrer suit that Fortunus has once wore in the underhive; how the Vitanteur came to possess it and it ended up on Decusis is something that can be explored in more detail.

Recording Game Sessions

As stated in my previous posts, I made a recording of my previous session; just to clarify for anyone who may be concerned

  • NO video recording of the players was made
  • Once the recording had been made the audio file was stripped out and the video (which mostly showed me since the laptop was facing me during the session) was deleted
  • The recording WILL NOT be used in any way beyond assessing ways to improve the session and enhancing my note taking ability.
  • Any recordings made WILL NOT appear on this blog or any other set up by myself.
  • The ONLY session reports that will appear in this blog or on any other I set up will be written reports that do NOT feature the names of the players.

    My main purpose of recording my sessions is because I don’t want to hold up the action whilst I furiously scribble notes and (unfortunately) my memory isn’t all that great, however making skeletal notes and listening to the sound file afterwards has already enabled me to write a much fuller report of last session.
    It has also enabled me to highlight areas of possible improvement for the game.
    • OOC chatter: An awful lot of OOC chatter went on during the session (I myself was as guilty of this), I intend to re-organise the playing space and have a couple of breaks so that we can confine OOC chatter to these breaks and keep more IC during the sessions.
    • Rewarding good RP/selling other characters: The sound file makes it easier for me to pinpoint areas of exceptional RP that deserve reward.
    • More detail required: It has become obvious that I need to put more detail into the areas and NPCs to give them more verisimilitude, it is my intent to begin this as soon as possible.