Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 16: Falling Stars

Deacon Kiril leads Admiral Black and his party up to a large stone building in the centre of the Clan Drod settlement, two burly barbaric looking guards clad in furs standing blocking progress to this building, each has an archaic sawn-off shotgun hanging from his belt and numerous broken bits of circuitry and technology hanging from metal thonging around the blade of their spears. In the hall an extremely tall and muscular blonde hair man with pronounced canines sits in the long hall on a wooden and hide throne at the head of a lengthy wooden table, shrunken heads of defated foes and beasts hanging from the throne; Deacon Kiril introduced Admiral Black and his party to Baldur the Chief of Clan Drod.
“We are here on Imperial business and they are not yet Imperial citizens, they may be hostile to our empire.” – Lord Admiral Fortunus Black
The hugely statuesque chieftain stands up and greets Admiral Black in the manner of his people, offering out a huge joint of mammoth meat to the Lord Admiral; thinking that this must be some form of primitive breaking of bread ritual, Admiral Black takes a bite of the meat and hands it back, smiling the chieftain takes a bit himself and puts the meat back on the table seemingly satisfied. In fairly good Imperial Gothic the chieftain asks them to sit down and speak with him, although they are forced to bring an extra seat in to accomodate the massive bulk of Navigator York Benetec. Lord Admiral Black explains that he wishes to set up trade negotiations with Chief Baldur’s people, Baldur appears interested and says that he has great need of weapons to defend his people; as a demonstration of what they can provide Navigator Benetec demonstrates his hellgun, punching a hole through a haunch of meat, the tissue around the hole sizzled and cooking, following this Oberlieutenant Borsch fires his bolt pistol at a rock, it bucks wildly, a huge shell casing ejected over his shoulder as the rock explodes into fragments. As a final show force York Benetec pulls out Cornelius’ thunder hammer and, charging it, he smashes it down onto one of the remaining slabs of meat, it explodes with a roar of thunder that also shatters the table.
The clansmen seem incredibly impressed with the violent power of the thunder hammer and Chief Baldur asks whether Admiral Black can acquire more of the thunder hammers and what he would want in return; Fortunus explains that he wishes to trade for minerals in the area and workers/thralls to serve on Imperial vessels. Baldur seems amenable to this idea, saying that he needs such weapons to defend himself against a possibly aggressive alliance of the other clans that have rallied under a religious figure that has risen over the past couple of years. At this point York Benetec closes his eyes as he feels a psychic astropathic message incoming, he sees twin symbols, the eight point star of chaos or the warp and a skull symbol for danger; Benetec leans in close to the Admiral and informs him what he has seen.
Admiral Black apologises but says that they must leave, Baldur expresses his regret but as they leave Enginseer Pak performs a mental scan for tech in the are and picks up a small malfunctioning machine spirit from inside a hide bag hanging from the throne.
“When you return I may have something for your man of iron to look at.” – Chief Baldur of Clan Drod
Using a long-range vox link they summon their gun cutter to their location and climb aboard; they also contact the second gun cutter (the one that originally bought Borsch and Pak to the planet) telling it’s pilot to pick up their Rhino APC and return to the Venerus. Joergan Borsch takes the helm and they lift off into the lower atmosphere; suddenly Borsch shouts out that he has picked up two fighter craft entering the atmosphere from space, they are approaching the settlement on attack vector. Enginseer Pak conducts a brief scan and identifies the fighters as machines of an ancient Imperial design; realising that the settlement is undefended against such a attack Borsch flies past them and then cuts the engines briefly, using the gravity of the planet to slingshot the gun cutter back towards the fighters, his guns bark and one of the enemy vessels explodes in a fireball, the guncutter flying through the rain of debris. Immediately Enginseer Pak begins broadcasting a jamming signal to prevent the remaining fighter summoning help, however the enemy returns fire and hits one of their thrusters, looking at his display Borsch realises that they are losing altitude and have no chance of getting back to the Venerus with that amount of damage.
As the enemy vessel swings around for another pass, Borsch cuts all power to the engines, causing them to drop several feet and the bolts from the attacking fighter to sail harmlessly over them; shouting for Pak to restore the power he strafes the underbelly of the fighter and, although he does not do enough damage to cripple it, the enemy obviously thinks better of continuing it’s attack and flees back into the upper atmosphere where the damaged gun cutter cannot follow. Admiral Black briefly considers having Benetec send a psychic message to the Venerus to tell them to deal with the fighter and protect the planet but instead decides to have Pak use his in-built vox array to contact the secondary gun cutter and order it to take a message to the Venerus.
“I’m a navigator, not an astropath.” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak transmits the message that the planet is under attack and that the Venerus should establish a protective orbit and intercept the enemy fighter if possible; at this point Benetec winces in pain as he receives a second astropathic signal, two images, the symbol for chaos and the symbol for a warship, gritting his teeth in pain he explains that the chaos vessel they fought previously may have arrived in the system.
Trailing smoke from their damaged thrusted, Borsch has no choice but to land back on the planet and, leaving Pak to repair the damage, Benetec and Borsch head back to the settlement, whilst Lord Admiral black determines to visit Deacon Kiril; before they leave Oberlieutenant Borsch, seeking to fortify himself against the trials ahead grabs a bottle of surgical spirit from the gun cutters emergency medical kit. Arriving at Deacon Kiril’s hut, Admiral Black finds the old priest tutoring some of the native children in the holy Imperial psalms and stories; asking for a private word with the old priest, Black requests that he reveals all he knows about chaos. Kiril tells the Admiral that he has been trained by the Ecclesiarchy to resist the lying promises of the Ruinous Powers but that he is concerned two of the most barbaric clans, Blod and Klok, may have given themselves into heathen patron deities that may be nothing more than a guise for the gods of chaos. He also mentions that Clan Klok are a Sjomann/Navigator clan and that he has heard rumours they have a ship hidden by magic around something called the Eye of Byggmeister near the systems sun.
At the hall of Baldur, Borsch strides into the hall like he owns the place, only to find that he has interrupted a private meeting between Baldur and his generals, one of whom takes exception to this familiarity and smacks Borsch around the side of the head; it seems as though blood is about to be shed when Baldur stands and, with a forceful tone in his voice says simply “Enough.” His voice brooks no arguement and the warrior sits back down as Baldur apologises to Joergan Borsch; Benetec explains about recent events and says that he has heard the Drod clan maintain some sacred writings from their ancestors that lead to them rejecting the new-Sky Warrior. Nodding Baldur rummages in the bag hanging from his throne and produces a metallic cube that he places on the table, he calls it a speaking stone and says that it used to tell many tales of the Sky Warrior but that over the years it has fallen more quieter; running his hands over the box and murmuring a prayer in his native tongue the box hums for a couple of moments and then a flickering green fanged figure clan in the armour of the Adeptus Astartes appears in miniature above the box, projected from an apperture that opens in the top of it.
“…not survive my wounds, I will soon perish, but the thralls of my ship may yet live on this planet that I have bought them to for it is capable of bearing life. It is my wish that the blessed technology on my vessel not fall into enemy hands, I will set course for the sun of this system and it will become my tomb. It is my hope someone will find this and bring my people back to the Imperium. In the Emperor’s name!” – Unnamed Space Wolf Commander
York Benetec says that Admiral Black has come to return the chieftains people to the light of the Emperor as the Sky Warrior prophesised, he even says that their other ship has a Sjomann who has dealings with the brotherhood of the Sky Warrior and that they would be happy to see their lost kin returned.
Chief Baldur explains that his tribe have been approached by a person with a similar aspect to the Sky Warrior seeking their allegiance to the Sky Warrior Returned, however, where the ancient writings said that a serenity and peacefulness were felt in the presence of one born to fight for justice, Baldur felt only rage and darkness in the presence of this emissary. Attempting to stall (knowing that the Sky Warrior Returned had already rallied several of the other clans and that his own could not stand against them) Baldur asked for time to consider the request, as he speaks to Benetec, he has half a year remaining before he has to give his decision, although he has no plan to join this new Sky Warrior’s alliance. 
“You seem nearer in aspect to the Sky Warrior of old than this new false prophet” – Navigator York Benetec
“You do me much honour Sjomann” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Benetec tells Baldur that he believes this false prophet is called Lorgar, a twisted corruption of the true Sky Warrior’s ideals, and that they have encountered him previously. Chief Baldur explains that they have been expecting attack for a while and that he has been moving the women and young to caves in the mountains whilst his warriors have been making preparations to fight a last stand; the remaining clanships of Clan Drod have been pulled back and hide in the atmosphere of the nearby gas giant, Baldur tells them that his clan see this world as a sacred place because the Sky Warrior bought them here before they split into clans.
“And if it be our fate to fight and die here, then we will not flee from it, we will fight and we will die, making such a tale that our glory will live on forever.” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Admiral Black arrives at this point and catched the end of the conversation; Baldur says that he will understand if they do not wish to get involved, it is not their fight and they if they leave now seeking to avoid being perceived, he will understand and not think less of them; Admiral Black shrugs this off and says that they will stay and make their stand with the clansmen. At this point Admiral Blacks personal vox unit beeps and, through it, Pak tells him that the gun cutter is repaired but that the repair is only temporary, he can’t say how long it will last if the cutter runs into trouble; the Admiral thanks him and tells him to join them at the chieftains hut.
Baldur tells the group that one of his scouts reported seeing a fire in the sky and something falling from it, Borsch thinks from the description, that the fire may have been the exploding fighter that he shot down; Pak arrives at this point and says that if he can salvage parts from the fighter it may help improve his repairs on the gun cutter. The chief of the Drod clan leads them outside and shows that his men are preparing some strange two-legged saurian riding beasts to go and investigate the fallen item, he invites his new friends to join him and Admiral Black accepts despite Benetec looking entirely unthrilled about riding such a beast.
As they leave Admiral Black asks if Baldur has any Sjomann on the planet that he could speak to and the chief tells him that there is a Sjomann, Shulfar of Clan Krieg in the settlement and he will arrange and introduction on their return. The party (accompanying by Baldur and several of his warriors) begin to head through the valleys of the planet, the riding beasts taking strange springing steps; as they travel Benetec and the Admiral fall back to talk more privately, although the Admiral sees a grand opportunity for trade, York tells him that the opportunity is far greater, if they help deal with the chaos threat can potentially bring those clans not truly lost back into the light of the Emperor and that the Space Wolves would surely be grateful to the House of Black for the return of their lost people.
They emerge from the treeline on the lip of a huge crater, the sides of it being studded with twisted fragments of metal debris from the shattered fighter craft; locating a tree that had collapsed into the crater Pak begins picking his way down, followed by the others, leaving a couple of warriors with the riding beasts. Focussing the power of his third eye, York Benetec was able to perceive to his psychic vision a set of glowing footprints heading from the centre of the impact where he could see a monstrously large human shape outline, to the far edge of the crater, climbing up and heading into the tree line beyond.
“What on earth could have survived a fall like this?” – Lord Admiral Black
Piercing through the illusion of time, he witnessed a phantom of a power armoured huge figure with long black hair, black souless eyes and fangs climbing out of the crater, it removes a cracked Astartes helmet and, in frustration throws it to the far side of the crater where it sinks into the muck. Scrambling over to the spot in the present day Benetec digs out the Astartes helmet and finds that it looks like a snarling, cracked demonic visage; he tells Chief Baldur that this is the helmet of one of the false prophets.
“It may have been a helmet but it’s now my personal piss-pot” – Lord Admiral Black
Climbing up the far eye of the crater, against the rising moon and treeline Borsch sees a huge silhouetted figure, it turns red glowing eyes towards him and roars.

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 15: To Strive and not to Yield

Captain Pak gathers the men that he bought with him from the Rod Hant, sturdy space warriors all, whilst Admiral Black musters a group of his men including Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch of the 1st fighter squadron (nicknamed the ‘Void Krakens’) who wears a flight suit, bolt pistol and power sword; the sound of warning klaxxons blares throughout on ship, as the noise continues the crew begin to head to their posts with practiced efficiency whilst the Captain Pak and Admiral Black’s partys head towards where the alert has been triggered, the central mess room of the ship, stopping only briefly for Pak to leave some of his trusted tech-adepts in the teleportarium, ordering them to keep a lock on the senior officers so that, if they needed to, they could attempt to ‘port the officers out.
“Maybe the demon will eat the food and die?” – Oberlieutenat Joergen Borsch


As they draw closer the smell of blood fills the corridors and a strange humid, oppresive heat hangs over the area, in the distance there is a sound like a cross between a bull lowing and a man screaming; Pak suggests sending in the servo-skull but Admiral Black brushes his suggestion aside, hefts his power sword and charges into the main mess hall. The walls and floors of the mess room are splattered with blood, causing the Admiral to doubt his footing as he enters the chamber; in the centre of the room a large, crimson skinned demonic figure stands astride a pile of bodies and upturned furniture, it grips an obsidian weapon in one of its gore splattered claws. Admiral Black and Navigator Benetec both have a strange sensation that the blade itself is a seperate, hungry entity that cries out for the lives and souls of its victims; whilst the demon is intent on butchering the dying crew at it’s feet Black storms in, vaulting across the table and swinging his power sword through the air, however the tough, demonic hide turns aside most of the blows force, sending sparks cascading through the air. York Benetec runs in after the Admiral, trying not to slide on the blood drenched floor, striking it squarely with his crackling thunder hammer and causing the beast to give rent to an ear-splitting roar.
Still slightly injured from his previous exploits Captain Pak marshals his men around him and leads a coordinated support effort, the clan warriors flooding around the demon and stabbing at it with crude weapons, with the support of Pak’s mechandrite arm lashing out, they swamp the creature hack and stabbing at it. Oberlieutenant Borsch slides into the room and with a deafening boom discharges his bolt pistol, unfortunately missing the head of the beast and blowing a small crater in the floor of the chamber; roaring the demon throws off its attackers and stabs at Captain Pak with it’s hissing hellblade, his men grab their captain and pull him back trying to avoid the strike but the hilt of the blade strikes Pak on the side of his head, shattering the cappilaries in his eye and causing a large contusion to begin forming. The demon swings it’s blade towards Admiral Black who takes the blow on his own power sword sending flaming sparks spiraling through the air (setting fire to some of the furniture), the force of the blow throws the Admiral to the floor, winding him; picking himself up the Admiral gulps a lungfull of recycled air and charges back into the combat, determined not to let this evil creature triumph, swinging his sword he scores a shallow cut down the side of the creature, vile, hissing ichor sprays from the wound.
York Benetec pushes through the debris towards the creature, screaming his defiance of it and bringing down the thunder hammer he inherited from Confessor Cornelius, caving in the rib-cage of the creature, it struggles to stand for a moment, warp fire and bloody ichor leaking from its wound, before exploding in a shower of blood and gore, its deathcry fading in the air.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak checks that there is no further combat or incursions taking place on the Venerus before organising for the mess hall to be quarantined and cleaned up, 
Benetec notices that the creatures sword remains, its blade embedded in the floor of the chamber, and sees that another crewman has also spotted it and is reached his hand out for it; mindful of the dangers of such warp tainted objects and with little time to react Benetec fires his pistol, shooting the crew member dead before his hand has chance to close around the handle of the tainted weapon. Admiral Black and York Benetec sense a distortian of the air around the blade as blood from the slain crew member splatters on the weapon, realising that it could still pose a significant threat Benetec says that he needs the area cleared so that he can banish the foul sword back into the immaterium.
Once the chamber is clear Benetec begins to drain the warp energies from the weapon, syphoning them through his warp eye and allowing them to disperse into the immaterium, as it flickers and fades the deformed Navigator feels a faint echo of the rage and thirst for blood once imbued in the blade; meanwhile Lady Decusis Black has contacted the Admiral from the bridge, she is relieved to hear that her husband is safe and tells him that she never doubted that he would triumph over the chaos creature, she also reports that Tulius is well on the road to recovery.
Oberlieutenant Borsch and Pak begin making plans to visit the, as yet unnamed clan ship, Pak suggests that perhaps Borsch could assume command, in the same manner that he himeself did on the Rod Hant.
“Are you kidding? Have you seen the turning circle of those things? It’s the size of a planet!” – Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch
Sjomann Amelie is stood on the bridge as Admiral Black arrives there, guarded by an officer (presumably on the instructions of Lady Decusis-Black), he gives orders for the Sjomann to be taken to one of the vacant officers quarters. Two shuttles are prepared to approach the unnamed clan ship, the shuttle piloted by Objerlieutenant Borsch easily reaches the ship first and begins inspecting it for potential weaknesses; they both dock and use their vox systems to contact the ship and arrange to go aboard. The layout of the ship is very similar to the Rod Hant, one of the flanks of the ship is badly damaged but the crew has started to repair it; one of the Imperial troops that was left on the ship approaches looking concerned, he takes them through the ship to one of the weapons bays and they see that all of the crew are kneeling down as though in prayer all facing in the same direction, clasping a weapon to their breasts.
Borsch realises that the primitive clansmen appear to be facing towards where the Venerus is located; Sjomann Amelie says that although not part of this crew and thus not familiar with their rituals it is obviously one of their clan’s religious rites, the trooper points out that all crew members on the ship are doing the same thing, he has no idea what triggered it but it started with the Sjomann of the ship. Slightly worried, Pak contacts one of his servitors aboard the Rod Hant, the servitor in its monotone voice reports no change in activity aboard the vessel; Sjomann Amelie explains that, although her people try and remain above the clan warfare and their traditions, there are numerous deities that they worship and it may be any one of these that the crew are paying homage to. Pak contacts Admiral Black, as he is talking however the crew begin to return to their positions, the ceremony apparently concluded.
On the Venerus, York Benetec senses that the unnamed clan ship is attempting to enter the warp and stumbles into his sensorium chamber just in time to see a bright flash as the clan ship disappears into the warp, he immediately contacts Lord Admiral Black to inform him, the Admiral leaves Lady Decusis-Black, his wife, in charge of the Venerus before heading across to the Rod Hant with a contingent of tech-adepts, he plans to have both ships attempt to track and follow the unnamed ship (that still has Pak and Joergan onboard). Benetec warns that having a group of ships arriving simultaneously via the warp is unlikely, and he doubts the skill of the witch woman.
“There is a problem with this however, its already difficult enough for one navigator to follow a signal correctly, two is extremely difficult and I have no knowledge of the skills of this witch woman” – Navigator York Benetec
“Well, we’ll soon find out, wish me luck” – Lord Admiral Black
“I may see you in a few years Admiral” – York Benetec
Now on the Rod Hant, Admiral Black asks Sjomann Amelie whether she can follow the other ship through the warp, she says that with the appropriate rituals she will be able to follow the Solv Tann (apparently the name of the other ship) through what she calls the realm of the gods; watching the Sjomann begin her rituals, Admiral Black is struck by a strange, almost hypnotic pattern of bones and markings that she lays out around her as part of her ritual. Attempting to puzzle out the pattern the Admiral starts to see some sort of otherworldy pattern or connection between the objects, part of his mind seems to shy away from it, he can feel that the pattern is affecting his psyche and senses the opportunity for great power or destruction in the pattern. Steeling himself against all doubt and hungry for power, Admiral Black attempts to grasp the mind bending pattern laid out in front of him; unseen by the him his body begins a subtle serpentine change, retractable fangs and poison glands beginning to take shape below the skin of his jaw.
Admiral Black wakes up some moments later lying on the floor of the Sjomann’s chamber, from the humming of the engines around him it is obvious that during his convalescence the Rod Hant has entered the warp; both ships head for the Endeavour System but meet with resistance, a form of warp stasis around the system making it more hazardous to navigate there and lengthening the journey time; the Rod Hant and Venerus arrive almost simultaneously in the Endeavour System and quickly conduct scans, they don’t pick up any ships (besides themselves) in the vicinity, they assume that due to the vagaries of the warp that they have arrived before the other clan ship. Sjomann Amelie informs them that although many of the clans live on fleets of roving clan ships some of them live a more traditional planet-bound life on the large moon of Strive, she also explains that when the Sky Warrior returned, Clan Mord left their home amongst the asteroid belts (which they mined for minerals, competing with a clan of scavengers called Clan Kjempe) and went to join him; she explains that the main inhabitants of Strive are called Clan Drod and have a ship in orbit around the moon. Clan Drod are the only clan who refused to side outright with the Sky Warrior (although they didn’t openly rebel), she doesn’t know why but it was something to do with ancient writings preserved from their ancestors. The Sjomann cautions against approaching in ships belonging to another clan but says that they should be able to get hospitallity from them.
Admiral Black decides to visit the planet in a shuttle, taking the Sjomann and a small party with him, ordering the ships to wait for them, concealed in the asteroid fields of the system.
Oberlieutenant Borsch arrives on the bridge of the Solv Tann, he sees a hulking figure in the command chair barking orders in a growled primitive language; Borsch addresses him and is horrifed to see that the captain seems to have a twisted houndlike head, instinctively he fires his bolt pistol, punching a hole through the captain who is dead before his body hits the floor.
“Is there anyone else having a problem with surrendering?” – Oberlieutent Borsch
Borsch spots one other obvious mutant, a figure with ragged bat wings standing at one of the consoles, he kicks the Captains corpse out of the chair and sits down beckoning the winged figure over and asking him about their destination, the ragged figure replies “We return to our home system. Sjomann say it takes 35 Sjtel-links.” Captain Pak arrives on the bridge just as this is going on and, due to his greater knowledge of the clansmen, is able to estimate that 35 Sjtel-links is about 50 Imperial Days; frustrated Borsch puts another round in the old captains head for good measure.
On the moon of Strive, Admiral Blacks guncutter breaks through the slightly thin atmosphere of the massive moon; they locate a small valley amongst the monstly mountainous terrain, shielded by coniferous trees, about twenty miles away from a fairly large settlement. Landing they camouflage the guncutter whilst Admiral Black has the tech-adepts uncouple the Rhino APC from the ship and, with a churning of dirt, they begin heading toward the settlement.
“I wonder if this is where that Imperial Missionary went?” – Admiral Black
“Cornelius knew about that sort of thing and he’s dead, perhaps I should ask his thunder hammer?” – Navigator York Benetec
There is a permanent wooden city surrounded by a sea of hide tents, and the odd loose stonework building forming a strange melange of different building styles in the distance; as the APC approached one of the tech-adepts picks up an imperial power signature 50km to the west, Admiral Black orders them to head towards it and eventually they approach an old fashioned Imperial Shuttle, the outside of it bears the iconography of the Ecclesiarchy. Next to the shuttle are a couple of lean-tos that have been fabricated with materials of Imperial manufacture, as they approach a number of the primitive clans-folk start pointing excitedly and warily at the Rhino APC; as the Rhino pulls to a halt, an excited young native girl leads on old man wearing Imperial priest robes from one of the lean-tos, he’s a little doddery on his feet but he has a serene look to his face, he leans heavily on a gnarled walking stick with an iron skull and Imperial Aquila mounted atop it. The man introduces himself as Deacon Kiril.
“It’s good to see honest Imperial citizens in our little system” – Deacon Kiril
Admiral Black mentions Confessor Cornelius and Deacon Kiril is saddened to hear that Cornelius has died, the news hitting him heavily and forcing him to sit down on a cargo crate; in response to the Deacons queries the Admiral omits some of the details of Cornelius’ death but says that he died during a mutiny caused by the evil of a demon that penetrated the Venerus’ Gellar field. Deacon Kiril talks about the start that both he and his junior priests have begun bringing the clansmen back into the Emperor’s light, he says that it may even be possible that they are descendants of lost Imperial explorers.
“At my age, I believe it is possible I may never leave this world and our work may not be completed in my lifetime, but it is enough to know that we have started these people down the road to their own redemption” – Deacon Kiril
Kiril offers hospitallity to Admiral Black’s party, the Admiral accepts and explains that they are waiting for a ship that absconded into the warp with two of his crew, Sjomann Amelie explains that it was Clan Mord who absconded with the crew; the Deacon looks trouble and says that he’s heard some false religious figure has recently risen and has corrupted some of the tribes furthest from the Emperor. Although he hasn’t been off world to find out more of this, apparently a representative from this ‘Sky Warrior’ attempted to persuade the chief of Clan Drod to rally to their banner although the clan chief does not seem interested; apparently the more barbarous clans have flocked to the Sky Warriors banner.
Deacon Kiril shares a thick, hearty broth with the Admiral’s party, simple but nourishing fare and tells them that the planet is roamed by large mammoths that are hunted by the clansmen for their pelts, tusks and meat; there were once some great predators on the planet (including the dreaded Nak-tar) but the early clansmen hunted them to extinction either for food or as part of their barbaric coming of age rituals. Over the course of the next 20 days the Deacon explains that the clansmen build a lot of their ships in space, mostly in the asteroid belts and clusters throughout the system and that the chief of Clan Drod currently rules the planet, his clan being one of the few to maintain a permanent planetary presence; he believes that the religion of the clansmen is a primitive form of Emperor worship and agrees to arrange a meeting within the month between the clan chief and the Admiral.
Clan Drod have not come out in open opposition to the Sky Warrior (apparently because of some ancient writings that they have preserved from their ancestors) since if the other clans were to unite against Clan Drod (even though they are a large clan) they wouldn’t stand a chance; but he has made it clear that he is not interested.
“That Clan Drod has rejected this heresy speaks well of their reformation” – Navigator York Benetec
“It is my hopes that from the tiny acorns of this act the mighty oaks of righteousness my grow and that these people can be shepherded back to the Emperor, I fear the same may not be said of the other clans” – Deacon Kiril
One the Solv Tann, Borsch has discovered that Mikhil the winged is the first mate; Captain Pak asks him about the ceremony that they conducted shortly before entering the warp and the mutated crew member explains that the Sjomann had sensed the will of their patron deity Slaktin being made known in the world and they were offering him homage, he says that they faced the direction of where their God had entered the world and that his own wings were a blessing from the warrior God Slaktin, few aboard are worthy enough to carry such blessings. Oberlieutenant Borsch convinces Mikhil that he would like to assess the mightiest warriors and plans to gather all of those bearing the gifts of Slaktin in the cargo bay (actually he plans to slay the mutated crew).
Captain Pak begins to attempt to gain trust amongst the Clansmen onboard the Solv Tann, using his position as new Captain of the Rod Hant as leverage with the primitive crew; unlike the crew of the Rod Hant who accepted the leadership of Pak, the Oberlieutenant is forced to fight off challengers for his position as new Captain almost dailt, he is forced to kill about 15 members of the crew during the course of the challenges. As a method of trying to discourage this Borsch has the severed heads of his kills mounted on the back of the command chair. 
During the journey his sleep is troubled by dreams of conquest and blood, but he turns away from the dreams since he feels himself in danger of corruption as he takes the power of these others; he needs no-one else’s power or approval, only his own.
Many days later, on the moon of Strive, York Benetec wakes with a start when he receives an astropathic vision of the Solv Tann from the psychics aboard the Venerus.
“The other vessel has arrived.” – York Benetec
Under orders from Admiral Black Benetec transmits a vision to the astropaths on the Venerus showing their Imperial soldiers storming the Solv Tann and detaining the crew; in response to this the Venerus moves towards the Solv Tann, reinforcing the position of Borsch and Pak. Borsch orders the Sjomann to be bought to the bridge so that he cannot attempt to take the ship into the warp again, when he arrives the Sjomann is revealed to be a hulking brute of a man covered in blue tattoos with a top-knot, he aggressively demands to know why he has been bought to the bridge. Mikhil introduces the huge figure as Sjomann Nikolai; allowing Nikolai to see the severed heads of the captaincy challengers Oberlieutenant Borsch orders the Sjomann not to take the ship back into the warp without his instructions and then dismisses him.
Pak and Borsch are contacted by Lady Decusis-Black (aboard the Venerus) who asks them to join her onboard the larger vessel where she tells them about the Admiral’s current whereabouts, the two men take a shuttle and a compliment of crew down to the moon of Strive to join Admiral Black and his party.

FATE: Loving Scenic Aspects

I’m currently in the process of writing up the actual-play report of my last Warhammer 40,000 roleplay game session run using the FATE rules system; it has been my intent to gradually introduce the concepts of the new rules system to my players so that we can all become comfortable with it and ease ourselves into the FATE system. Last session I began to introduce the concept of applying Aspects to scenes and other areas rather than just themselves and antagonists.
Aspects, for those of you who may not be aware are codified story elements that can be applied to almost anything in a game using the FATE rules system; Aspects are always true and can be used (invoked) in conjunction with FATE points to gain a bonus (normally a +2 or re-roll of a particular dice roll) or can be compelled by someone else in order to provide a FATE point in return for accepting a complication. Consequences of injury and stress are also represented using Aspects.
For example:
I might spend a FATE point and say “Because I am the best swordsman in the known world I am easily able to defeat my opponent in the duel” – this is an example of invoking; I would pay a FATE point and get +2/a re-roll to my fighting roll.
Someone (either the GM or another player) might say “However, because you are the best swordsman in the known world someone here has heard of your reputation and intends to best you” – this is an example of compelling, if I accepted the consequence then it would play out and i’d get a fate point, otherwise i’d have to pay one to have this not take place.
In the last session of my Rogue Trader game the session began with the players taking on a Bloodletter, a demon of Khorne, that had materialised on their ship and was slaughtering their crew in the mess halls of the vessel; during the combat a couple of the players were injured and the mess hall floor was described as slick and slippery with blood, I was quite pleased how easily the players adapted to using this scenic Aspect and later on when one of the player characters dealt a cutting blow to the demon, spraying its burning blood over the upturned furniture that also became an Aspect.
If scenic Aspects weren’t included in the game I think that there would be a danger of players just continually using the same Aspects from their character sheets all the time and it becoming quite repetitive, however, the scenic Aspects, in addition to adding another layer of detail and description to unfolding scenes, they also encourage players to behave more dramatically. Whether this is a character using a blood slick floor to slide into a combat, a man trying to force an enemy into a burning pile of furniture or any number of other possibilities, I think this can only be a good thing.

Upgrading one of my main NPCs


PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS

Some lively discussion was generated by my recent blog post about how one of my NPCs was statted for my last Rogue Trader FATE game, there was some great advice given on G+ and Blogger by (amongst others) Julius Müller, Tim Noyce, Robert Hanz and John Miles; looking back over the character cards that i’d prepared, in light of this information one of the NPCs that I had tagged as a main NPC didn’t really seem to have the stats to back that up so i’ve made a few tweaks and amendments.

Thought i’d post a copy of the card, as currently stands, he to see what people think; any constructive comments welcome.

So how did the Bloodletter work in my Rogue Trader game?

As regular readers of the blog may know, my Rogue Trader FATE game recently featured a Bloodletter daemon of Khorne (the blog entry where I discuss statting this bad boy is available here for anyone who is interested); so, now that the weekend has finished and the week has settled in like an unwelcome lump of concrete and I reflect on the game session, how did the Bloodletter work?
Overall I think it worked quite well, given that this is the first real hand to hand combat that I have run in the game since switching to FATE it ran quickly and relatively smoothly being resolved in a few minutes rather than the hours that combat can take with some systems; you don’t really get the same level of ‘crunch’ that you get with more detailed systems (although I have instituted weapon rules (as defined in my Rogue Trader hack) in my game) but i’ll quite happily sacrifice crunch for a game that doesn’t become needlessly bogged down in the minutiae of combat. There were, however, a couple of minor issues that cropped up with the Bloodletter that I think are worth bearing in mind for future combats and that I thought i’d share in this blog post.
  • More Stress levels required
The initial three stress levels that I apportioned for the Bloodletter were nowhere near enough and would have resulted in the daemon being overcome in the very first round (without getting to land a blow); I think this is because of the increased ‘damage’ caused by the players weapons. During the game I had to add another three stress levels onto the antagonists total in order to make it any sort of challenge.
Another thing that I have started doing with these NPCs (mainly because they do not have any consequence boxes that can be used to soak stress) is ignoring the rule (for NPCs only) that only a single stress box can be used to soak damage; i’m not sure whether or not this was supposed to apply to nameless NPCs but originally I had been using that rule. I’m considering now making each stress box worth a single stress level and increase the amount of boxes possessed by each NPC, this would make it far easier during a combat to just tick off a number of boxes equal to the damage taken.
  • Opponents being overwhelmed by odds

Although the mob rules work really well and are great for representing the mobs of soldiers, tech-priests, fighter pilots and other generic ships crew that the players in my game (rightfully) tend to tool about with, it does create a situation where any single antagonist is liable to be overwhelmed by mobs of nameless NPCs (lead by a much more capable player character) in short order. Part of the reason for this is that i’ve been having mobs directly add their teamwork bonus to the players score and thus it can result in some quite high final tallies (even on a mediocre to poor roll); this wasn’t really a problem in the Bloodletter encounter since it was just a single opponent against a whole ship of crew.
In future I think that i’ll adopt a couple of tactics in order to lessen the impact of mobs:
  • Using terrain to restrict their use: If only a certain number of people can assist a roll then the bonuses are limited.
  • Having area effects or psychological effects that affect nameless NPC mobs but that the PCs are proof against: Some sort of ‘fear’ effect may be appropriate for creatures like daemons, perhaps some sort of test being required to initiate an attack or even just a stunt that means for the first round of a combat nameless NPCs cannot attack.
  • Having mobs roll seperately rather than adding their bonus to a player character: This would result in two reasonable rolls rather than one really high roll.

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 
***

Laying out my Rogue Trader plotlines

I was recently watching a video by Ander Wood on youtube regarding how to handle plots in games:

http://youtu.be/meLrlKTDXOY

Whilst watching the video it occurred to me that there may be a better way of noting down the various plots and storylines that I have running throughout my Rogue Trader FATE core game.

I have adapted my Imperial Calendar spreadsheet to also contain a sheet where I can note down the various events and upcoming events that are to occur in my plot; please note that, because some of my players read this blog, I have blanked out everything after the current game date and have blacked out some of the more sensitive information, you should be able to get the general idea though.

Comments/suggestions welcome 🙂

You can find the spreadsheet here:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7MU1aTHFmc3dySEE/edit?usp=sharing

(please note that the spreadsheet layout is a bit messes up in the Google preview, if you download a copy though it should look much better).

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 14: Fear Itself

Enginseer Pak & Admiral Black take four engineers with them across to the renegade vessel; stood in the chaos of the frantic engine room of the renegade vessel, Enginseer Pak realises there is heavy damage, pipes hang down everywhere with steam coming from them and there is an air of frenetic activity. Pak sees that the vessel isn’t off Imperial Manufacture (and doesn’t follow standard layout templates) but his trained eye can see that there are parts of the ship reminiscent of older Imperial technology as though their tech had the same starting point. The people running around are wearing little more than combat trousers and oil splattered aprons, Pak calls for the chief engineer and a huge man up to his elbows in mechanical parts with a huge chainaxe strapped to his back is indicated.

Pak can see that the engineer is trying to bodge the damage together, his skill is impressive but nothing like the Mechanicus, it reminds Pak of himself before he was inducted into the Adpetus Mechanicus. Admiral Black notices a statue in the corridor leading to the engine room that resembles a crudely carved member of the Adeptus Astartes; underneath he sees the legend in Low Gothic “In Death and Glory we Honour the Sky Warrior.” He also notices that the figure depicted has pronounced canine tusks and an animal skull on his shoulder pad.

On the Venerus Cornelius is chasing the Eldar ambassador, the Eldar ducks round a corner or the corridor leading to his quarters and disappears, he must have gone inside but the two guards still stationed on his door report that they have not seen him; on the floor of the corridor Cornelius finds a piece of the strange xenos metal and a power cell from the ship as though dropped haphazardly on the floor. Cornelius mentally speculates that perhaps the creature is trying to get power, he uses the shipwide vox system to contact Engineering and request one of the isolation containers built by Enginseer Pak, some engineers show up after a few minutes in response to his call and take the metal away.

Cornelius kicks the power cell away into the shadows at the side of the corridor, when the engineers take the metal he goes to retrieve the cell but cannot locate it.

On the renegade vessel the two teams of engineers bring the systems back under minimial power although more thorough maintenance at a proper facility will be needed in the long term; Pak goes to inform Admiral Black of his progress and sees the statue, he recognises the heraldry depicted as belonging to the Space Wolves chapter. Admiral Black demands that the primitives take him to the captain of the vessel and the engineer (who identifies himself as Jurgen) takes the two of them to the bridge. The ship is slightly smaller than the Lunatic Pandora, it has sacrificed armour and cargo space for speed and has forward facing weapons, it is obviously an attack vessel. Enginseer Pak tells Admiral Black that he thinks the ship could be adapted to their needs should he so wish, at this point the Admiral suddenly remembers that they still have a problem on the Venerus to deal with.

“Oh God, the entity!” – Admiral Fortunus Black

Pak realises the primitive ship is warp capable but he has seen no analogue to the Navigator’s sensorium chamber that they have on the Venerus; he realises that this civilisation must have only just started using warp technology. On the bridge, the captain is dead, pierced through the chest by a fallen roof beam; Admiral Black orders navigation to maneuvre the ship towards the Venerus. There is a bit of language issue since the renegades don’t appear to use the word ‘warp’ but eventually they are able to confirm that the ship can enter the warp under the direction of someone they call the Sjdomann, the language they use seems to be a pigeon-language adapted from Low Gothic.

Pak uses his tech implants to interface with the primitive spirit of the ship; he confirms that it is an attack/escort ship, looking at a schematic he finds a spherical chamber at the centre of the ship linked to the warp engine room. Psk establishes a remote link to the Venerus and begins transmitting the information on the renegade ship across.

On the Venerus York Benetec is in his sensorium when he becomes aware of a bright flare of psychic activity nearby; if the souls of normal people are flickering candles in the dark, the new activity is like a firework or brief explosion of psychic energy that flares up then dissipates; as the soundproof doors of his chamber opens he hears a female voice screaming in high-pitched agony from a few corridors away, York moves towards the sound. To his warp-born perception he can see a flickering green light shining from the corridor, in it lies Dana convulsing, green light shining from her nose, eyes and mouth. Benetec thinks either they’ve moved into an area where the warp and the real world are close together, or some sort of warp entity is attempting to possess her.

The Navigator unveils his warp eye, using the force of his formidable will to hold Dana in place, but he can feel a will acting against his own, trying to undo what he has wrought. Benetec attempts to pull the demonic energy from Dana and nullify it with his own Navigator training, surprisingly the woman fades away leaving York stood on his own in the corridor and the resistance to his will ceases, to his psychic senses it appears as low some sort of log hanging psychic fog occupies the corridors of the ship.

Cornelius is contacted on his personal vox by the haggard voice of Tullius Black who asks the Confessor to meet him in the medical bay, 
Tullius is lying in a bed with the left side of his face bandaged, he struggles to breathe but explains that him and his men were heading down to the engineering section when he claims to have been attacked by a particularly nasty hive vermin called a Gloomhaunt that has haunted his dreams since an unpleasant incident during his youthful Spyrer rite of passage on his homeworld. The creature wrapped around his head and the next thing he knew he was in the medical bay, his men claim not to have seen the gloomgaunt and that Tullius attempted to shoot himself in the head with his pistol, if they had not wrestled his gun of him and knocked him out he would’ve succeeded; as it was the shot destroyed the left hand side of his face.

Tullius lays his gambling and falling out of favour at the feet of a philosophy of life being entirely random, he blames the original experience in his youth with the Gloomhaunt; he then shows Cornelius a data-slate containing the camera footage from the corridor where the encounter occurred, it backs up the version of the story portrayed by his men. Apothecarians ask the Confessor to leave, saying that they need to sedate Tullius (who insisted on speaking to the Confessor before he allowed them to operate).

Cornelius tells Tullius to come and see him once he has recovered.

On the primitive ship, Admiral Black asks who is next in line for command, Jurgen tells him there would be a challenge to decide who would lead now Erling is dead; the greatest amongst them would become the new captain.

“This may not be a good time, but it is the way of our clan.” – Jurgen

The challenges would be overseen by the Sjomann, she is seen as a neutral party; since they have defeated the clan ship both Pak and Admiral Black have a right to enter the challenge, only the new captain can authorise complete surrender. As they move to the Sjomanns chamber they are joined by other people who plan to watch or participate in the challenge/trials.

A white haired woman with strange swirling tattoos and a bandana with an eye emblem on her forehead greets them as they arrive at the chamber, she introduces herself as Sjomann Amelie. Amelie listens to Jurgens explanation and agrees that a challenge must be held, she sits on a chair at the head of the chamber that has wires running from it; Pak recognises the device as a primitive form of the equipment that they use to help York Benetec interface with the Venerus.

“We honour the traditions laid down by the Sky Warrior and to prove ourselves worthy our leaders are chosen by a test of arms, in this way do we strengthen our people” – Sjomann Amelie

Jurgen, engineer for eight years, steps forward and Pak challenges him for command of the ship on behalf of Admiral Black.

“I am Jurgen, chief engineer of this ship, I killed the Nactar with my bare hands!” – Engineer Jurgen

Pak strikes Jurgen’s chainaxe with his power sword, sending an electrical charge down the axe and causing the bearded engineer to drop the weapon. Jurgen continues to try and fight with his fists, winding the Enginseer but getting close enough for the half-mechanical Enginseer to grapple him.

Staggered by a brutal headbutt from Jurgen, Enginseer Pak’s mind flashes back to the many vicious fights for survive he had to survive in the underhive, crawling his way up from the muck of the hive bottom. His face darkens with an unaccustomed look of rage and he crushes the life out of the burly engineer, finally snapping his neck with a brutal metallic headbutt and dropping the limp body to the floor.

Over the course of the next hour Pak sees off a number of challengers, narrowly scraping through to victory and is pronounced Captain of the ship by the Sjomann Amelie Klok; lost in the depths of his rage the Enginseer has slain at least five of his opponents, although oddly the crew seem to respect this more.

Cornelius contacts York Benetec and explains that he believes that is some sort of warp-entity onboard the ship and hopes that the Navigator can help deal with it; he believes that it is showing people things they fear. Benetec explains he has recently become aware of the entity and that he isn’t sure its an actual entity, possibly being more a form of event or warp-spawned phenomenon. Cornelius suggests informing Lady Decusis-Black but Benetec dismisses the idea.

“She may think that she is in command of the vessel!” – Navigator York Benetec

Exploring the ship with Cornelius he sees that the psychic mist seems to have spread throughout the ship, they meet a crewman who is terrified and believes they have been boarded; realising that this is undoubtably more evidence of the phenomenon but feeling slightly irked, York Benetec recommends that the man go to the bridge and inform the Captain’s wife. The two of them visit engineering where they talk to acting Enginseer Doric Cattilo; they find out that there have been no strange incidents occurring in the engineering system.

“There is no panic in the engine room Navigator, everything is nominal.” – Acting Enginseer Cattilo

Cornelius and Benetec go to the cathedral, the mist actually appears to be thicker there; Junior Priest/Acolyte Didius Julianus Fiscal reports an unusual amount of people at services, Benetec theorises that the increased amount of fear here may have caused the mist thickening. Confessor Cornelius has his priests begin clearing the cathedral and preparing to conduct a ship-wide blessing.

Enginseer Prime Pak continues to interrogate the machine spirit of the clan ship Rod Hant, the records are fragmentary and the clansmen don’t appear to record a lot about society. He continues to  establish himself on the Rod Hant clanship as Captain, they appear to follow a martial tradition and, now the challenge has determined that Pak is their leader the clansmen follow his order quite willingly.

Admiral Black talks to the Sjomann and finds out she is one of two Sjomann clans (hers being Clan Klok) who remain neutral in the warfare between the other five clans since their services are so valuable, together the two of them travel back to the Venerus.

Pak works out that the clansmen come from the Endeavour System, they were lead here by the Sky Warrior to claim spoils, the clansmen appear to be referring to some sort of embodiment of their god or a messianic figure when they mention the Sky Warrior. 

On the Venerus the Sjomann shudders saying that there is an ill-feeling to the ship, she removes the scrap of fabric to reveal a green glowing warp eye that she looks through, telling Admiral Black that she detects some evil magic at work onboard. Admiral Black gets on the shipwide vox system and asks to meet with both the Astropath and the Navigator.

Buoyed by the faith and chanting of his priests Cornelius begins to  move through the ship, blessing the chambers on his route, the crew seem comforted.

“No-one who truly holds the Emperor in their heart need show fear.” – Chief Confessor Cornelius

Benetec notices a slight lessening of the warp mist density in the chamber and, as Cornelius begins to intone a chant of exorcism and cleansing, the mist almost completely clears from the chamber although their are still traces of it onboard.

York Benetec and Cornelius receive a vox message asking them to meet Admiral Black on the bridge; heading there after completing the blessing they are met by a confused Lady Decusis-Black who demands to know what they’re doing on the bridge.

“The Admiral is onboard.” – York Benetec
“Yes I know, I have already spoken to him! I believe he is in C&C waiting for you!” – Lady Dominique Decusis-Black

Cornelius attempts to exorcise the presence using the central point of the bridge (the command chair), however it does little to remove the warp mist, lending credence to Navigator Benetec’s theory that it may be more of a phenomenon than an entity. As they turn to leave Lady Decusis-Black and three of the bridge security guards point autopistols at Navigator Benetec; Confessor Cornelius steps in the way of the potential barrage and orders them to stand down, explaining that whatever they are seeing isn’t real.

Lady Decusis-Black explains that the entity appears to have possessed York Benetec, as Cornelius turns he can indeed see York Benetec hovering in midair with green light spilling from his mouth and the cried of damned souls echoing round the bridge. Lady Decusis-Black uses the vox to call for security, sending out a general alert that Navigator Benetec has been possessed and must be restrained; Cornelius begins to announce a blessing and the false-vision of the possessed York Benetec fades away.

Admiral Black arrives, having heard the alert, and is greeted by his greatful (and now quite sheepish) wife; Benetec attempts to explain that the ship and people onboard are being affected by some sort of warp event that feeds on fear and is capable of creating illusions to further panic people. Upon seeing Sjomann Amelie, Navigator Benetec is able to identify some of the tattooed markings she has as being of the Belisarius Navigator family.

On the Rod Hant, Captain Pak is discovering that, rather than keeping a log the crew have a storyteller whose job it is to memorise their sagas and tales; Pak begins setting up the primitive computer system to record these tales. The clansmen on the ship belong to one of the seven clans called Clan Mord, along with the other clans they believe in the Sky Warrior who founded their civilisation and who recently, as prophesised, returned and united three of the clans and took them on a glorious quest. The other two clans were Clan Klok (a Sjomann clan) who follow a mythical figure called the Byggmeister (a god of secrets and mysteries) and Clan Blod follow a patron god they call Slaktin (god of warriors and fighting). Pak bundles up the information on deities and sends it to Chief Confessor Cornelius on the Venerus.

Cornelius theorises that the Space Wolves chapter of Adeptus Astartes must have passed through here during the mythical crusades in ages past and must have influenced this civilisation; Benetec recalls that the Belisarius family of Navigators provide a lot of their members to the Space Wolves battlefleet.

Sjomann Amelie offers to perform a cleansing to rid the ship of the presence, but that it will involve an animal as a blood sacrifice; Admiral Black has the ship Twistcatcher (mutant catcher) bring up a mutated animal from the lower decks, Amelie stabs it and begins daubing crimson runes on the doors and bulkheads. Cornelius is horrified and angered as he recognises the runes as being similar to those used to call upon the ruinous powers; he attempts to warn the Admiral but, keen to see his ship rid of the presence, Admiral Black dismisses these fears. Realising that there is little he can do to change the Admiral’s mind the Confessor leaves the area and begins whipping the first people he sees into a mutinous frenzy using his formidable oratory skills and the crews fear of the chaos gods; quickly a pipe wielding group of ten angry men join him and begin storming towards the Admiral’s position.

Ever wary of mutiny the Admiral seals the door and calls for a red alert.

“This is a shipwide alert, a mutiny has occurred, by order of Lord Admiral Black you will return to your stations – all mutineers will be shot.” – Shipboard vox system

Admiral Black contacts the Rod Hant and arranges for Captain Pak to send some of his warriors across to the Venerus to reinforce his positions whilst Benetec tries to explain to the Admiral that this action will only feed the warp phenomenon.

Confessor Cornelius accesses the shipwide vox system in an attempt to stir up the rest of the crew, preaching that the Admiral has been influenced by evil forces, however he is quickly cut off by Lord Admiral Black; whilst this is going on and everyone is distracted, Sjomann Amelie finishes daubing her runes on the corridor.

Admiral Black contacts Da’Duith Iath in his quarters warning the Eldar about the mutiny, however the Eldar is quite dismissive of the danger posed by some primitive humans.

The vox systems across the system crackle and a deep rumbling laughter that sends a shiver through the hearts of all onboard echoes through the corridors of the ship.

“We’ve done exactly what it wanted!” – Navigator York Benetec

As the laughter continues the Sjomann staggers, her nose pouring blood as she clasps her hands to her head; York Benetec is also staggered but manages to remain on her feet. 

Confessor Cornelius leads his fired up possé of men towards the Edlar’s quarters, the guards refuse to let him enter, however, with one swift swing of his thunder hammer the Confessor floors the two guards and smashes open the door to the chamber. A surprised Eldar fires a slim shuriken pistol into the mob that surges through his door, tearing flesh and bone apart, however the rest of the mob reach the alien and tear it to pieces; not desiring the corruption to spread any further Cornelius orders them back and torches the remains using his flamer.

Admiral Black is joined by Captain Pak and they begin discussing a way to use the teleportarium to capture the mutinous confessor; Navigator Benetec quietly slips away during the conversation, he notes that the mist level (that has been growing steadily thicker over the last few hours) disappears and the laughter from the vox ceases.

Realising that his cause is lost, Cornelius records a last message, hoping to mitigate the recriminations against those who helped him and dispatches it to Admiral Black via the vox system.

“Captain, i’ve done what I felt was necessary, I acting alone and without the aid of the rest of the crew. The Emperor go with you.” – Last testament of Chief Confessor Cornelius

Using the ships sensors to track Cornelius to the Eldars quarters, he also picks up a lot of gunfire coming from the central section of the ship; York Benetec locates the Confessor using his psychic powers and, concentrating greatly, creates a small warp tear that allows him to disappear and step out into the Eldars quarters.

Confused Pak, now picking up two signatures, turns to inform Admiral Black and they notice that Benetec is missing; meanwhile, Cornelius hands his thunder hammer to Benetec and with solemnity commends his soul to the Emperor before drawing a gun and discharging it into his own skull. Benetec contacts the Admiral on the vox to inform him what has happened.

“Captain his soul is the Emperor’s to deal with now” – Navigator York Benetec 
“You almost joined him, don’t pull any of that bullshit on me again!” – Admiral Black

The centre of the ship still echoes with gunfire, Pak locks on to half a dozen of the firing crewmen and teleports them into the glasscrete tube of the teleportarium chamber; they appear terrified and one of them appears to have been almost sliced in half with a large bladed object.

“We’re under attack in the crews quarters, we need help! It’s killing people down here…” – Junior Chef Forcius

The Admiral leads a party of men towards the sound of gunfire (ordering his wife to take control of the Venerus and seal the bridge), when Benetec receives a vox message that there is a problem with Dana; when he asks what a bellowing demonic voice like a sound from the depths of hell reverberates with painful force through the ship

“BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! 
SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE OF KHORNE!”

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.