Friday, 23 December 2011

More UA: Curl of the Burl

Well, when I was trawling the net for all manner of unsavoury things, I came across a video for Mastadon's new single, Curl of the Burl.

It's some mighty fucked-up stuff. Watching a man get so high he turns into Paul Bunyan is... an experience.

Troy Sanders, bassist extraordinaire, explains:

"The burl is the knot that’s found in various treesit’s almost like a cancer of trees. Within that burl are unique swirls or curls. A lot of people will cut those down and sell them to wood-makers, wood sculptors, and furniture makers because it’s got a unique design to it. And this is a true story which happens in the Pacific Northwest — a lot of people go out in the woods with chainsaws, they find these burls, they cut them down, they load their pickup trucks with these burls, take them in to town sell them to various wood-makers, take the money from that, purchase more meth, go back in the woods and continue that circle of insanity. So it’s based on a true story. People will steal your cars, steal copper…and people will go out there in the woods and steal burls."

As a plus, I have a new concept for an NPC for Unknown Armies! The Birchman will get a writeup soon...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Delraith: New Takes on Old Races

So, as part of preparations for the Kobold Ascension Fight campaign, I'm looking at the races which would mostly be present in the setting (the Land of Delraith).

I'm not a huge fan of the "change something for the sake of it" feel that a lot of settings go for, so I'll keep some races as they "normally" are, and switch a few about where it suits.

Kobolds I have already covered - they're not the most populous, or the most powerful race in the setting - but they have the potential for power beyond the dreams of most. Aside from the whole Ascension thing, they're pretty standard Kobolds - sneaky, organised, love trap-making, follow Dragons, etc. About the only difference would be that they almost exclusively serve Dragons - there are no Kobold cities/encampments which don't have a Draconic leader. Those who lose their leader (through exile, the Dragon's death, etc.) will be picked up by other Dragons to serve - mostly so they can convince them to spill the beans on their previous employers. There might be the odd camp of Kobolds who voluntarily left the service of their Masters, but they are very rare - and most are hunted down to prevent them from telling too much to rival Dragons.

In Player Character terms, PC groups should be made up of Kobolds who serve the same Master (the suggested one is Anathraxiis). There can be Kobolds from other Dragons included, but remember - they'd be traitors to their old families, hunted down, and most likely killed if spotted fraternising with other Kobolds. Or, the PCs could be Masterless Kobolds, grouped together for safety - but then you lack a lot of the driving force not to murder each other at any given chance.

Humans are, well, Humans. Enough said. The tend to be somewhat more advanced, as far as magic and technology goes, and I imagine they'd be doing a lot of mixing of the two. Think Eberron's "Magitech" feel and you're not that far off - magic is a part of daily life, and permeates through both official business channels (divinations, magically binding contracts, healing, etc) and criminal aspects (illusions for fraud, escaping detection, etc).

Elves are a little less... majestic, if you like. Nicking a bit from 4e's default cosmology, Elves are the descendants of once-powerful Fae who were exiled to the mortal realm - losing their immortality, but retaining some amount of power. By this point, though, they've bred themselves out to a stable equilibrium - slightly magical humanoids, and nothing more. Sort of like Tieflings/Aasimar, but with Fae in the bloodline instead of Angels and Demons. Of course, they try and protect that secret, to give themselves some measure of "power", but most of the civilised peoples of the land know the truth. So, they're kinda creepy, long-lived but not immortal, and talented with magic.

Drow aren't all backstabbing crazy people. Don't get me wrong, there'll still be a contingent who live in great city-states in foreign lands, descendants of those Elves exiled for worshipping forbidden Gods - but they tend to keep themselves to themselves. The ones you're most likely to see are pirates, explorers, and adventurers. Not that they're nice, but they won't be the Always Chaotic Evil of other settings.

Dwarves... I dunno. I like the idea that they're rare, hardly seen at all outside of their mountain fortresses, almost mythological craftsmen of the Gods themselves. Some few Kings of old had Dwarf-made weapons and armour, and some are now heirlooms to the Kings of the present - though forged centuries ago, each sword holds just as much sharpness, shields and armour barely scratched through hundreds of battles, buildings which might outlast races. That kind of thing. If you see a Dwarf, it'll either be for the rarest of trade excursions, or because you've trespassed in their domain. If it's the second one, I advise running. Wielding arcane weapons and terrifying mechanical contraptions, clad in the toughest armour around, they're like miniature juggernauts of "fuck you up".

Orcs and Goblinoids are pretty standard - tribal societies, raiding other civilised peoples, etc. I do see them as having their own agriculture, spiritual beliefs that extend past "MURDERDEATHKILL", and a decent attempt at magic use, however.

Orcs are your standard "savage humanoids". They raid, they kill, they're the boogeymen of many a city-dweller's bedtime stories. They are capable survivalists, trackers, etc, and no small amount of them have managed to become part of wider society - especially in areas such as Valerian's Reach. They mostly come as "dumb" muscle and wilderness guides. Half-Orcs, however, are well accepted into Human lands - their brawn and reliability is legendary. Many become guardsmen, private bodyguards, and soldiers.
Hobgoblins are especially prevalent - they run their own cities, based very loosely on Spartan ideals. Everyone is a warrior, and if you can't fight, you teach combat and warfare. Hobs will also trade and maintain decent relations with other races, so they aren't as "warlike" as normal. Just... don't mess with them, or the toll will be worse than you could imagine. Their use of magic tends towards the more practical - straightforward offensive magic, occasional defensive and tactical uses, and healing.

Goblins are somewhat more integrated into "normal" society - taking roles as traders, with a shrewd eye for a deal, menial workers, thieves, and generally "lower class" occupations. Sort of like angry Gnomes.

Gnolls are somewhat rare, but still enough of a problem to be known and feared throughout the land. Some have made attempts to integrate themselves into society, taking roles as hunters and tamers of beasts. The rest are nomadic, originating from a desert-continent some way away, where they live as tribal hunter-gatherers, worshipping Old Gods who are seen as somewhat... barbaric (and might be a front for/the original version of current Demon Lords).

Changelings are rare - as in, one or two to a city, if that. Most people see them as monsters, instinctively untrustworthy, and they will most often find themselves at the end of a noose or tip of a sword if found out. Most sell their services to more powerful individuals, like Noble Houses or Dragons, in return for safety.

These are just a few quick notes - I'll get more up when I'm off for Xmas.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Getting a New Group Together

So, I've been itching to try running something new, and have cast my net into a freind's gaming circle to find some fresh blood to play with.

Currently, my "pitches" are:

Edge of the Knife: Shadowrun 4e/Anniversary Edition
As a group of mercenary "Shadowrunners" in cyberpunk-lite Seattle, you're out to find fame, fortune, and power. But there are others who want it all, just as bad, if not worse. Starting as a street level gang, the right choices could propel you to heights unimagined - but the wrong ones could leave you dead. High-action, espionage, tactics and betrayal await!

The Sacred Art of Stealing: Unknown Armies
As a loosely-affiliated group of Adepts/Avatars/normal people drawn in too deep, cutting out a name for yourselves is a challenge/consequence/bad thing. But you've just heard about the possibility of a fairly powerful artifact floating its way through the Occult Underground... what will you be willing to do to have it? Is it even the Real Deal? Is it worth the sacrifice?

Baaneloth Calls: OSRIC/Microlite20
So, you all meet in a tavern...
Classic Megadungeon-style play, with puzzles of the most fiendish sort, diplomacising the dungeon denziens, totally uncalled-for monster-bashing and high weirdness abounds!

Something Something Dark Side: WoD
... I'm honestly unsure what to run here, but I've never run any of the old World of Darkness games, and apparently a lot of the group do like them. So, maybe a classic "Furry Eco-Terrorist" game of Werewolf, a game of Hunter: The Vigil, or maybe even Orpheus (astral projectors/ghosts doing undercover missions for rich people, while fending off other spirits).

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Rogue Trader: A Coda: What Krawkin Did Next

So, having followed Lord-Captain Claudia Black to the Hive World of Piscinius IV, Krawkin managed to miss her by this much with a directed lance-strike, and scored a direct hit to the planet's ocean covering. As the Vegas dropped into the Warp, Krawkin had no leads and a very angry and confused Hive Governor to deal with. Negotiations with Quint made heavy reference to the accidental bombardment, and how it would be a shame for His Unconquerable Will to miss her target again. Cowed into peace through superior firepower, Governor Quint allowed a small landing party, including Krawkin, down to the surface to discuss the actions of Lady Black.

As per usual, the phrase "small landing party" was lost on the Captain, and he brought forth several shuttles, filled with the most ridiculously heavily-armed men he could muster. Heavy stubbers, plasma guns, even one with a missile launcher flowed from the holds and set up a perimeter around Krawkin. Quint knew, sadly, that Krawkin had him over a barrel with a gun to his head - and the Hive's. He offered as much help as he could, fearing retribution of the most powerful kind. He talked the Lord Captain through the events of Claudia's stay, Krawkin pushing for more and more detail. Eventually, he seemed to let up, and told Quint his version of the truth - Captain Black and her crew were, in fact, renegades from the Imperium, pirates and brigands, who would raid planets to steal their natural resources. Only Quint's superior cunning and paranoia had saved him from watching as the "Rogue" Rogue Trader strip-mined his planet for all it was worth.

Quint, who had suspected that Claudia was up to something, was both shocked and vilified - and redoubled his efforts to help Krawkin bring the Rebel Captain to justice, preferably at the end of a macrocannon shell. He even personally piloted Krawkin down to the spot they had visited - the psychoactive coral reef.

Krawkin took his own personal guard and away party - a Tech-Magos of some repute, several battle servitors, and a psyker. As they approached the coral, the psyker could feel its odd properties - leaving the sub fully suited up, Krawking and the psyker closed into the perfect sphere missing from the centre of the coral. As if in a trance, the psyker stripped off one of the suit's gauntlets, and touched his bare flesh to the coral, muttering a few invocations to the Warp and The Emperor. Krawkin watched in amazement as the coral formed shapes, faces, and limbs, before finally settling on the face of his quarry - Lord-Captain Black.

As Claudia found out at a later date, the coral "copies" small portions of the consciousness of those who enter - some small part of the Lord-Captain was still within the coral reef.

That small part managed to stick out a cheeky, coral "tongue" before Krawkin could crush it with his fresh prosthetic - a metal hand, of the finest craftsmanship money could buy, with a few built-in surprises. Working for many days, the psyker managed to find a way to follow the traces of Claudia as she traversed the Warp, much more reliably than their previous attempts - and set off, looking for a desert planet. Krawkin, heart full of faith and mind full of rage, swore he would get his revenge...

I let the players in on this little touch of OOC knowledge to show them that Krawkin was a proper stubborn bastard. They'll encounter the other rival Traders soon enough, but what started as a simple rivalry has become a full-blown vendetta on his part - and he'll stop at nothing to get his revenge.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Black Crusade: First Impressions

So, I managed to get a copy of the latest Warhammer 40k Roleplay book, Black Crusade. And so far, I kind love it.

Unlike the other games in the WH40kRP line, you are not servants of the Imperium of Man - instead, you are renegades, worshippers of the Ruinous Powers, determined to eke out a living in The Screaming Vortex - a huge Warp Storm, filled with worlds untouched by the lies of the Imperium for centuries (or in some cases, millenia). If they manage to achieve infamy, gain the loyalty of cities, worlds, perhaps even whole solar systems, they might just be able to pull off what many have tried, and most have failed - a Black Crusade, a torrent of Chaos to throw off the oppressive shackles under which humankind toils.

In other words, you play the bad guys - and apparently, have a lot of fun doing it.

The first thing that strikes me as I read it is the tone - the entire book is written from the point of view that the Imperium is objectively wrong, and paints the Heretics in the best light it can - misunderstood visionaries, freedom fighters, etc. It's pretty cool - they even manage to salvage a lot of reasonable-sounding quotes from some of the biggest villains in the setting! But, try as they might, it is pretty obvious that what you are doing is, well, evil - misguided evil, in some cases, but generally evil. It's a very cool way to show that, while they might have best intentions at heart, Chaos is not simply a tool to use to further your own agenda - it becomes your agenda in next to no time. It's also interesting to note that, while the other books are very forgiving of some of the Imperium's more extremist behaviours, Black Crusade lays them all out, and talks more about why they're so strict.

Character creation is a little different from previous games - whereas before you had a set Career Path, with its own place within society and its own rules and expectations, BC has an almost completely freeform advancement system. You start with an Archetype - like Psyker, Renegade (a freedom fighter, with the emphasis on "Fighter"), Apostate (the charming herald of the Ruinous Powers), providing starting skills and Talents, and after that, you can pick and choose what Talents and Skills you wish to take. However, some are linked to certain Chaos Gods - taking talents that improve your fighting skill, for example, will lead you down the path of Khorne. This, in turn, makes it easier to buy other Khorne-related talents and skills - but makes ones from the opposing Gods (Tzeench and Nurgle is a little bump, but Slannesh, being directly opposed, costs a lot more). The more talents you buy, the more you follow a certain path - and the more likely you are to attract the attention and Gifts (however unwanted) of your patron. It helps to secure a "path", but doesn't lock you in - you can still buy those opposing skills, just at a much higher XP cost. It's a nifty little system, and no mistake. (You could just stay Unaligned, and reap the benefits of all the paths - but it'll be much harder to balance, and it'll cost you in the long run...)

Another interesting factor is your choice of "Race" - whether Human or Chaos Space Marine. I was awfully unsure about mixing both these character types within the same range of XP, and the system used to do so is a little bit iffy - CSMs start with free Traits (like all their Astartes Implants, and the ability to use fuckhuge weapons), whereas Humans start with a lot more Skills and other random Talents. This should, in theory, balance out, but in practice it seems to mean Humans are more versatile and useful, while CSMs are pretty much just combat monsters. This is entirely keeping with the fluff of course, (Space Marines are made for battle, and for a human to survive in the Screaming Vortex, they have to be pretty hardcore) but there you go. It seems most people recommend running games with either Humans or CSMs, but I guess having one CSM in an all-Human group (or vice-versa) would help keep things a little bit more balanced.

As with most of the books, the armoury is pretty swish - a lot of very flavourful weapons, perfect for everyone from powerful Chaos Space Marine Warbands, down to the least-equipped cultist. Also, each has its own little bits of cool description and plot hooks within the description, so GMs can really think about why their enemies are armed as they are. Personal favourite - the Chain Halberd. Why? It's dumb as fuck, but also strangely well thought out (it's for fighting in the tight corridors of Hives, where reach is pretty important!)

There's a lot of notes on how to draw characters from the other gamelines into the game, or from here into the others - which leads to a lot of potential awesomeness (so, any other gameline, the characters might fall to Chaos, but in particular, the Dark Heresy stuff is great for small-scale cat-and-mouse cultist games, and the idea of crossing Rogue Trader into the mix really helps set the epic scale at which one should be running a game where the players pull of a Black Crusade). This info also helps GMs to use the opponents and fluff here to make some very memorable encounters and villains.

The book also contains a lot of re-jiggered rules from the older games - most are for the best, to cut down on some of the more ridiculous excesses of previous games (Unnatural Characteristics, for one, replacing the multiplication with a static bonus - less bookkeeping, less hassle all round), and some which help to balance out other problems. They're pretty well done, and it's something that is also pretty easy to port back into the older games.

It also marks the first proper appearance of both Dark Eldar and Necrons into the 40kRP line - puzzlingly, however, they stuck with the old "Terminators in Space" feel of the old Necrons, with only the briefest mention of the tendencies for diplomacy and individual thought shown in the brand new codex. Whether this is simply due to bad timing, or contractual stuff, I don't know - but if I ever use Necrons, they're gonna follow the "Opposed Feudal Warlords Who Happen To Be Immortal Skeleton Robots in Space" angle.

All in all, it's a pretty good book. Even if you can't stomach the idea of running a campaign with it (and I'll admit, I have my doubts that it won't turn into some kind of gross-out, rape everything in sight then try and murder and sacrifice it to my Heathen God kinda thing), it's a great resource for building antagonists, with new Psychic Powers, Techniques, enemies (the Daemon Prince suggested in the book is awesome, though a couple of decently-equipped Deathwatch Marines could probably skullfuck it in seconds), equipment, and even motivations and possibilities - and don't forget those rules updates. They're delicious.

Well worth a look, at least.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Bodyguard of Fire: Another Risus Adventure Idea

So, yet another little idea for a one-shot game using Risus - this time, one steeped with the Planescape setting.

You are the bodyguard of Rhas Al Birel - a lesser Efreeti within the City of Brass. You have been kidnapped/sold from your previous life, and are bound to indentured servitude for a few years. Perhaps you were criminals on your home Plane, forced into slavework as punishment, or maybe you even volunteered to work for the Djinn as a step-up into the world of Planar trade.

Regardless, you are his personal escort as he heads out into the Outlands with his trade caravan, flogging his wares - slaves, magical trinkets, and rare and valuable materials. But you will face problems getting there, nevermind what awaits you when you start trading...


Player characters should preferably be of some Elemental origin - see my posts on Genasi (Elemental, Para-Elemental and Quasi-Elemental). Mephits are also a cool idea - while you won't be as physically powerful as the others, you'll have a lot of crafty tricks up your sleeve (your elemental nature is far more ingrained, so you have more control over it, as well as better/far worse standing with some races). Elementals, or other Planetouched, such as Tieflings and Aasimar, are also possibilities.

Or they could just be Planars of any stripe, taken at the Djinn's whim or fancy. Play around with party composition to make the most interesting combo of characters!

While you are "bodyguards", this can mean many things - whether you're a sneaky scout, the fast-talking "face" for the group, a mage brought along to help with the more unusual problems, or even a merchant/accountant, there are planty of "retainer" roles you can take without having to just make a Fighter. And, with the joys of Risus, a Fast-Talking Tiefling Accountant could be better in a fight than a simple Barbarian!

  • Before your caravan can even leave the City of Brass, you are harrassed by the Salamander gate guards - and trust me, you don't want to try and fight your way out. Maybe they are just being nosy, or does one of your group have a criminal past that's about to catch up with him at the tip of a sword?Magical trickery, some smooth talking, maybe even a bribe - what will you do to leave?
  • As you travel the Outlands, you are hit by thieves - a band of Khaasta, known as mercenaries and warriors who take what they think is rightfully theirs, normally by force. How will you get your goods back? Even Rhas is somewhat iffy about taking them on in a straight fight...
  • As you investigate your cargo, you discover that most of it is counterfeit. Has Rhas planned to pull a fast one? Has one of his rivals swapped the cargo to cause trouble? Will you still try and flog the dodgy goods to earn a little jink?
  • Once you do find the Rilmani trading post, there could be any number of troubles, including Lower-Planar cross-traders travelling along, pickpockets and thieves, proxies of Powers of Batlle warring near the Spire, determined to show their true skill without resorting to Divine intervention, weird customs, or possibly other adventure hooks to turn the caravan into a travelling adventuring group!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Benedict Harvey - Occult Investigator

Again, an idea for UA pops into my head (as they do every so often), this time inspired by The Frighteners - Peter Jackson's awesome little ghostly romp from before he made it big with little people. The main character (a psychic conman) is pursued by an unusual FBI agent, Milton Dammers, played by the wonderfully hammy Jeffery Cooms. The character has stuck in my mind since, and when I read Unknown Armies I knew this dude had a place somewhere in it.

Benedict Harvey started his life as a student of the esoteric - something about the occult traditions of the world drew his eye as a child, and he continued his research into adulthood, studying Anthropology, Mythology and Occultism, along with a degree in Psychology.

Alongside this, he studied the Geminatria, Kaballah, The Bible - anything that might offer some glimpse into the esoteric truth of the world.

After several years working as a private investigator (originally to pay the bills), he finally got his big shot when he was hired by the FBI as a specialist for a case of possible Satanic Ritual killings. When he cracked the case within a few days, and managed to secure the arrest, trial and incarceration of the murderers within a few short months, he was offered a chance to apply as an agent - a job he took with relish.

Now, he is mainly used as a psychological profiler, but has frequently been used in those cases too... weird for public consumption. People found with their body parts cleanly removed - not cut, hacked, or otherwise mutilated, just off. Or the drug-running ring, whose substances are far beyond what the average line of coke could do to you. Or the bizarre murders committed by some kind of sex-magick cult, over a videotape.

Such a line of work has its dangers, however - stare too long into the abyss, and it starts into you also. Once a quiet man, full of wonder and a macabre fascination, he is practically silent, asking only the questions which matter to him. Having pierced the Occult Mainstream and finally found the Occult Underground, he has began collecting "rituals" in private, to assist both with finding more about the OU, and to help him in his detective work.

Harvey appears to be a quiet, nervous man. His skin is sallow, stretched thin over his bones; his hair cropped short, a heavy dark black with the odd hint of grey at the temples; his suit is impeccably pressed, and always lightly pinstriped; never wearing more than a day's worth of stubble, he presents a very professional air.

But underneath his clean-cut, nebbish exterior, Benedict Harvey has many, many body modifications. His body is a road map of the Occult, with tattoos, brands and scarifications of everything from the Seals of Solomon, to figures from ancient alchemical formulae, to symbols even he doesn't recognise, etched by Adepts and weirdos of every stripe. Ritualised piercings and jewellery adorn every spare inch. The man believes his body is a living ward against everything the occult can throw at him, but he's only just scratched the surface of the Occult Underground - and he'll find out soon enough that all the charms and gewgaws in the world won't stop a bullet.

Benedict Harvey, Authentic Thaumaturge FBI Agent

Body 50 (Not as Weedy As He Looks)
Krav Maga 35%, Rolling With The Punches 20%

Mind 70 (Highly-Focused Genius)
Occult Knowledge (Obsession) 55%, Psychology 40%

Soul 70 (Creepily Intuitive)
Authentic Thaumaturgy 40%*, Deception 40%

Speed 40 (Uncoordinated)
Light Pistols 35%, Drive 25%

Gear: Well-Pressed suit, several Occult charms of varying potency, well-kept Browning 9mm, average unmarked car with a toolkit, several
 *He knows the Back Monkey, Abominable Servant (though he's never used it - yet) and Harmonious Alignment rituals (with a few others up to the GM), as well as a decent knowledge of Tilts (enough to get a minor or significant one off the ground). He also has a small library full of other rituals and spells that he can't quite work out - it's up to the GM whether they're duds, willfully misinterpreted "real" rituals, or things he can't quite handle without further breaking his mind.

As with most of the NPCs I post here, Harvey could be an enemy or an ally - it's up to you. Imagine having an FBI agent as a friend - especially one who thirsts for more occult knowledge, who can be kept on a short leash with a few scarce promises of hints and clues, and the threat of a lack of such.

Or, imagine a man who is utterly dedicated to hunting you down, who will use any methods at his disposal to secure you, and if possible, extract what little fragments of occult lore he can.

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Five: 'ERE WE GO, 'ERE WE GO, 'ERE WE GOOOO...

Seeing Captain Krawkins ship pull out from the Warp is not a reassuring sight. Bristling with macrocannon batteries, lances, and weapons Claudia had never even seen before, His Unconquerable Will is a ship designed to bring death to the enemies of The Imperium. Turns out, it's a dab hand at taking on the enemies of The Captain as well.

After some terse chit-chat, Claudia demanded the ship prepped for Warp travel. Krawkin demanded she shut her engines down, or he would open fire. And, true to his word, as the good ship Vegas (we finally got a name!) started to drop into the Empyrean, Krawkin let loose a single Lance-strike, aiming to disable the ship. It was, however, too late - the shot missed, and gouged a huge tear into the surface of the water-planet. The seas boiled under the heat, and in some parts, evaporated (and even caught fire) as the lance dragged its way across the surface. Luckily, none of the Hives were in the way - though the planet would face years of ecological problems as a result.

Celebrating their escape, the ship set off for a few different trade ports, to help confuse Krawkin and mask their trail, and the Lord-Captain had a chance to investigate and research the Eldar relic the had recovered. It was a semicircle of wraithbone, about 5 metres in diameter - inscribed with eldritch markings and unknowable runes. In the centre, another smooth curve denoted a smaller disk missing from the starmap. Over the next few days, as they bounced from port to port, Claudia found herself drawn to investigate the map more and more - it was only when she noticed that her usual route through the ship, no matter what way she went, would always deviate to the holding room that she decided it was becoming an obsession. She ordered her guards to keep an eye on her behaviour, reporting anything suspicious to both her and her Seneschal, "Bobby". They were also instructed to plan routes which would keep her occupied and away from the holding cell. When she slept, she still received visions of her true destination - the planet with gemstone beaches and something terrible hiding somewhere on it. What started as a vague feeling of seeing through someone else's eyes became more and more like a memory, and even began to take on elements of lucidity - controlling her path through the dream. A few doses of an obscura-based sleeping aid, and stimms while she was awake, seemed to help repress the dreams somewhat.

As the days drew on, she also noticed a few coincidences - she would think of people moments before they voxed her, she would make very lucky guesses, and recieved "hunches" that were too accurate to be chance. She confided in Allesaunder, who believed that perhaps all the contact with Eldar technology and psychic materials of late had awoken some tiny spark of psychic ability. While she would never be a full-blown psyker, she might find her mind becoming not her own over the next few months. The Captain's resolve to avoid excessive contact with the artifact was redoubled - yet also short-lived.

While sorting out some of the other Eldar items recovered from the jungle planet, she located an Eldar Shuriken pistol. The gun's smooth curves called out to her, and she could feel the wraithbone sing in her hand when she held it. She practised with it where possible, and has taken to carrying it on her person.

As they finished making their cold trail, Allesaunder noticed an anomaly in the readings - making so many short Warp jumps in such a small amount of time seemed to have done something to the local Warp current, and they had arrived back to about 4 ship-hours before they arrived at the Waterworld of Piscinius. Not wanting to waste such a valuable lead, Claudia ordered them straight to their next location - a desert planet several days Warp travel from where they currently sat.

After all the stress and work of the past few days, the Captain was looking forward to a relaxing journey - but sadly, it was not to come. One of the Hospitaller Sisters approached her, asking her to come to the Medicae bays immediately.

Astropath Sands (last seen taking on a minor Daemon of Tzeench) had been in a bad way since the encounter. The touch of The Changer of Ways was upon him - a mutation. As she approached his bay (sealed off behind inch-thick quarantine glass), she saw him lying on the steel flooring, weeping openly. Tears of dark black blood flowed from under his blindfold, and made ichorous pools under his head. As he heard the footsteps of the Captain, he crawled fully into view.

Where his legs had been, he now sported a great serpentine tail - hints of previous musculature and bones were still visible, signs the mutation was recent. Still weeping, he explained that he had been too proud and overzealous, that he did not have the willpower to battle such a creature, and that the horrific changes wrought upon him were his punishment - the Emperor's judgement of unworthiness. Still crying, he pleaded for his chance to prove himself worthy to serve the Imperium once more. The Lord-Captain left without a word.

She consulted the Chief Medicae and Magos Biologis, both of whom said he was in a stable condition and showing no further sign of mutation or physical corruption. The Missionary had already placed in a request with the Captain for the man to be shot, burnt, blessed and spilled to the Void. Allesaunder, after a brief investigation, claimed that there is no malignancy in his soul, simply regret and pain. As far as he was concerned, Sands was "safe" to continue duty. After some time and reflection, Clauida decided to allow Sands to stay on the ship, and once more take his place in the Astropathic Choir - under the watchful eye of Blind Mag, and at least one armed guard, at least for the time being. He was removed from his bay, and taken back to his quarters under cover of "night" to recuperate before taking his second chance. With tears flowing once more from his wasted eyes, Sands thanked the Captain, and vowed to show more fortitude in all future endeavours.

Finally, the Vegas arrived at their next location - Hectari-Prime, previously a human settlement, now a dead world. Or so they thought - auspexing revealed movement, life-signs and even explosions and gunfire on the surface of the planet. As they picked up a signal for audio transmission only (the pict wouldn't have good enough resolution at their current range), they caught a bizarre chant that sent shivers down Corbec's spine;


Orks. I fuckin' love 'em.

Also, my player finally got around to spending her collected XP, and picked up Exotic Weapon (Shuriken Pistol), and I remembered the looted items from their trip... (she had tried to sell them on Piscinius, but the buyer was a right nasty piece of work, and she refused).

I'm figuring out that, while she's a lot less ruthless and GRIMDARK than most 40k fans, the Captain's player still wants to be put in situations where she is forced to make tough decisions - like with Sands. Here's hoping that her generosity isn't taken for granted...

And, after consulting with her, she's happy to take Psyniscience as an elite advance, to represent her new found abilities - again, this can only be bad news...