Warp travel times in Rogue Trader FATE

I’ve been looking at the times that I would use to travel through the stable warp corridors on the system map that we had generated for the House of Black Rogue Trader game (a copy is printed below for convenience).

Originally I had planned to make it so that  each line on the map took 3 months, however looking through the Diaspora rules I decided to use the Time Track that was presented on page 10 of the book.

The time track runs something like this:

  • Instant
  • A few seconds
  • Half a minute
  • A minute
  • 3 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • An hour
  • 3 hours
  • 12 hours
  • A day/24 hours
  • 3 days
  • A week
  • 3 weeks
  • A month
  • 3 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • A year
  • 3 years
  • 10 years
  • 50 years
  • +each step beyond this adds 50 years
The first thing that I wished to resolve was that several of the measures listed were slightly nebulous so I defined them further (changing ‘a lifetime’ for ’50 years’ for instance); I decided that the for a distance of a single line on the map the normal time taken would be 3 months, each additional line traveled would add one step on the time track (so a journey of 3 lines would take 6 months by default).
This time period can be modified by the ship’s navigator making a Fair Will roll on 4DF with each degree of success or failure adding or subtracting from the timescale as appropriate.
So if our ship was making a non-stop journey from Sycorax to the Undred Undred Teef (a journey of three lines on the map) then the standard distance would be 6 months; our Navigator York Benetec has a great (+4) Will score meaning that he already has 2 degrees of success before rolling the dice, lowering the time taken to 3 months before making the roll.

If York rolled +4 then this would give him a total of 6 degrees of success and lower the time taken to 3 days; however if he rolled a -4 this would give him a total of 2 degrees of failure, raising the time taken back to 6 months.

Using FATE Core rules

As i’ve said in previous posts one of my players was missing from the last session and another unfortunately couldn’t stay for the whole session and so I didn’t spend time converting over the character of the missing player (also it was one that I wanted to take a little more thought over); determined to get a bit of a head start on copying across neater versions of the character sheets I had a quick skim through the FATE Core preview pdf, and liked the look of the cut down skill list and simplified character sheets. I wondered whether it would be possible for me to write up the characters using the FATE Core system’s simplified character sheet and still maintain the essence of the characters.

A few thoughts that occurred to me were…

  • Aspects
Characters start off with less aspects than the FATE variants I had previously read (5 in total), one of these is flagged as the character’s high concept (normally a descriptive term encapsulated the essence of the character) and the other is flagged as their trouble (something that makes their life challenging). This didn’t seem too much of a problem since I had struggled coming up with the larger amounts of aspects for some of the characters and it was easy enough to amalgamate some of them into a single aspect.
For example: the character York Benetec now had the aspects – Navigator (high concept), Mutant (trouble), Touched by the Warp, Jaded and Hulking Size.

  • Skills
FATE core includes 18 or so very generic skills as a base level that the GM can build on or expand in order to add individual flavour to their game, however, I think the skills are sufficiently generic that they can be used for a lot of different things, some of my thoughts on particular skills are written below.
    • Crafts: A catch-all making/repair skill that I will use in my game to replace engineering and repair skills, the type of crafting will be determined by the character’s high concept.
    • Drive: This will be used for driving/piloting all types of vehicles, players can take stunts or aspects to represent any advanced skill with particular types of vehicle.
    • Lore: I am planning to use this for knowledge rolls in my game, any specialised fields of knowledge being represented by stunts or aspects.
    • Will: This skill is going to be used (in addition to it’s normal uses) to represent psychic strength (for those who have psychic stunts).
One thing I did notice which seemed like a bit of an ommission was the lack of a ‘medicine’ skill, this is important for my game given that the priest Confessor Cornelius is quite skilled in patching up his team-mates; i’ve not yet decided what to do about this, whether to add a seperate skill or just make it a subset of the craft skill – currentlty I am leaning in favour of making it a seperate skill.

  • Stunts
In this version of the rules characters begin with a single stunt for free, and any additional ones that they take (up to a max of 3) subtract 1 from their refresh rate of fate points (so a character with 2 stunts has 2 fate points and a character with 3 stunts has only a single fate point).
Below are the stunts that I came up with for my characters…
    • York Benetec (Navigator)
      • Psychic: Substitute Will skill for another skill by expending 1 fate pt (this also allows skill rolls to occur at range); if the player doesn’t want to spend a fate point they may still perform the action but it takes 3 times as long.
      • Navigator: May navigate a ship through the warp using his Will skill to determine time taken for the journey.
    • Enginseer Prime Pak (Techpriest)
      • Mechandrite arm: Player may spend 1 fate point to use craft skill instead of any other skill in a test, if the player doesn’t wish to spend a fate pt then they can still do the action but it takes twice as long.
      • Servo-skull: Allows the player to perform actions using the craft skill (as per the mechandrite arm stunt) but at range.
    • Lord Captain Black (Rogue Trader)
      • Ship: Lunatic Pandora (Cruiser)
    • Confessor Cornelius
      • Inspire the Faithful: Allies may use Rapport skill in combat (the max level is 3 unless Cornelius spends a fate point).
  • Equipment
For the moment I have stuck with my hacked version of weapons/armour, halving the modifiers from the weapons and armour and using them as the FATE harm, penetration and armour levels.
This yields me results such…
    • Plasma Pistols: H 3 PEN 3 Energy weapon (ranged)
    • Power Sword: H 2 PEN 2 Energy weapon (melee)
    • Neural Whip: H 1 PEN 0 Energy weapon (melee)
    • Body Armour: 3 AP
At the moment the only sticking point are the personal force fields possessed by certain characters that disperse kinetic energy into light energy, whilst I was initially tempted just to have the force fields add armour points the light refracting/blinded capabilities of the force fields have played an important roll in the game thus far and it seems a shame not to do anything more with them, obviously these items will require some more thought.

Psychics and Techpriests

Two of the more interesting characters in terms of rules in my game are York Benetec, an imperially sanctioned Navigator, member of a family with a specialised psychic mutation allowing them to steer a warp capable vessel through the shifting dangerous tide of the immaterium and Enginseer Prime Pak, a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus who had risen from humble beginnings to become a bionic priest of the Machine God.

In terms of what the rules needed to reflect…

  • Navigator: Psychic powers and the ability to navigate a ship through the warp.
  • Enginseer: A bionic third arm attached to his body and a floating servo-skull that he can directly interface with.
…the person playing the Enginseer wasn’t able to make last session and so I didn’t have to worry so much about the tech-powers, for the Navigator I just jotted a couple of psychic stunts down based on information from the Diaspora system, but they didn’t really come into play.
Trying to think of ways in which I could represent the abilities of the two characters without unnecessarily complicating the system, having spent the day reading through FreeFATE (as recommended by Teo Tayobobayo on Google+) I realised that I could adapt some of the ideas about stunts (particularly in the magic system) to cover both character types.
What I came up with was…
  • Navigator
    • Psychic stunt: Player may spend 1 fate point to substitute their psionics skill for any other skill and may carry out the skill check at range – if the player doesn’t want to spend a fate point then they may still use this stunt but the activity will take three times as long since they have to focus their psychic energies.
    • Navigator stunt: Player may spend 1 fate point to guide a vessel through the warp using their psionics skill to determine the length of time taken, by default a single leg journey takes 3 months, each shift on the roll reduces the time by one step on the table. Originally this used the navigation skill but I decided to incorporate it into the psionics skill.
  • Enginseer
    • Mechendrite-arm stunt: Player may spend 1 fate point to substitute their repair or engineering skill for any other skill – if the player doesn’t want to spend a fate point then they can still do this but the activity will take twice as long. 
    • Servo-skull stunt: This stunt allows the player to substitute their reapir/engineering skill for any other skill (as per the mechendrite-arm stunt) at range.
…we’ll see how well this works next session 🙂

System Design

One of the sections of the Diaspora rules that interested me and that I was very keen to use was the system design rules; with one of the players running late we all sat down to generate the sector of space that would be our game setting.

After generating the system (itself quite a fun little exercise), I fired up my flowchart software, drew out a neater version of the map, dropped in a couple of additional systems that we had already mentioned in the game and neatened the whole thing up in photoshop.

I decided that the links between the systems as determined by the Diaspora system would quite adequately represent stable passages through the warp without any alteration of the rules, each line between the systems would take three months travel, however this could be modified (as per the “Handling time” section in the Diaspora rules) by a navigation roll made by the ships Navigator.

The systems we generated looked like this…

  • Ariadne T -2, E +2, R 0
    • Lawless
    • Society equivalent to wild west
  • Coppernicus T +4, E +1, R +1
    • Rogue tech tradition
    • Rumours of lost STC tech
  • Catan T +2, E +3, R +2
    • Grox exports
    • Imperial agri-colony
  • Centurion T -1, E +2, R-2
    • Waterworld
    • Quarantine
  • Decusis T +3, E 0, R +2
    • Industrial
    • Polluted
    • Asteroid field (this was actually defined by one of the players in the first Diaspora-rules session)
  • Excelsior T -4, E -1, R 0
    • Savage
    • Hostile
  • Endeavour T +2, E 0, R -1
    • Feudal
    • Nordic
  • Footfall T +2, E -3, R -2
    • Lawless
    • Piratical
  • Gregori T -1, E +2, R -2
    • Reclaimed from chaos
    • Moderate inquisitorial presence
  • Judicious T +3, E +1, R 0
    • Ecclesiarchy
    • Heretical terrorists
  • Medea T -1, E -1, R +2
    • Mutants
    • Meteoric warpstone/mutagen
  • Malus T 0, E -2, R +1
    • Toxic
    • Ancient xenos remnants
  • Omega T 0, E +1, R -1
    • Space pirates
    • Barren
  • Port Wander T +3, E -1, R 0
    • Bustling
    • Bastion of the Imperium
  • Sycorax T -4, E +1, R +3
    • Isolated
    • Ancient xenos remnants
  • Temperance T 0, E +3, R -2
    • Old terraforming equipment
    • Odd cult
  • Undred Undred Teef T +2, E +1, R -2
    • Orcs
    • Asteroid fields

Changing the Rules

Changing the Rules

Having run nine sessions of the game one thing had become quite obvious to myself as the GM, and that was that, whilst we were very much enjoying the Warhammer 40K background (since most of the players had more than a passing familiarity with it) the actual rules system felt a little clunky and a lot of time was spent during a game session flipping through our (very)slowly expanding pool of rulebooks looking up various abilities and powers. My own preference has always been for games where the story is the main focus of the session and the rules almost fade into the background, supporting but not over-powering the game; slowly I began to consider the idea of keeping the game background but changing to rules to something a little more story based and streamlined.

I dug out my old printed copy of FUDGE, it was a system that i’d always liked the look of and it contained some very interesting notes on converting across elements from other systems; searching around on the internet lead me to discover the surprising number of RP based communities that had sprouted up on Google+ since the last time I had used it. One in particular caught my eye, a community based around FATE, an updated and expanded version of FUDGE, and this in turn lead to the discovery of Diaspora, a science-fiction template game for FATE that already covered most of the elements that I wanted for my game.

On the evening before the session I printed out some character sheets and did my best to create Diaspora versions of the characters that, whilst not precise replicas, maintained the essential nature of the characters…

  • Lord Captain Black: A rich, socialite with a dark, haunted background and a soul touched by the warp.
  • Navigator York Benetec: A physical strong and twisted mutant bearing the navigator gene.
  • Chief Confessor Cornelius: A fiery priest, secure in his faith and wearing it like armour against the alien and the deviant.
  • Enginseer Prime Pak: A techpriest steeped in the art of the Omnissiah and bearing many strange pieces of technology either incorporated into his body or buzzing around him.

 …since the players were currently on Hiveworld Decusis I decided not to worry so much about the spaceships at this moment, the idea was to first try the rules in a test-lite session and see if the Diaspora rules looked promising and then, if so, continue to use them in future sessions.

Quickly listing equipment I halved the damage modifers and penetration values from the Rogue Trader equipment list and used them as weapon stats for the Diaspora rules, assigning them to three categories…

  • Melee weapons
  • Slug weapons
  • Energy weapons
…the energy weapons were further divided into melee and ranged varieties.