Sunday, 27 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Four: Daemons, Mutants, and Hivers, Oh My!

The soldier dropped to the floor, writhing in agony, screaming blasphemies in ancient tongues.

Corbec had his men point every available gun at him, while the Lord-Captain appeared on the scene, demanding the man not be killed for fear of releasing the demon within. As the screams grew louder, more intense, more high-pitched and demoralising, Corbec had an idea to disable the soldier without killing him (yet) - and commanded his men to shoot the soldier's joints. Knees, elbows, shoulders, each collapsed with a "pop" under the targeted lasfire. At least he wouldn't be going anywhere...

With a huge shudder, and more ancient knowledge screamed from babbling lips, the crewman slammed himself off the hard metal flooring. The horrendous, heretical chants were silenced - and in its place more screaming. Not high-pitched, not blasphemous - just the cries of a horribly wounded man. Again, the Ecclisiarchy appeared, and dragged the soldier from the room. Jayne, head of security, followed, and put the poor man out of his misery - the hard report of the bolt-pistol echoing through the barracks. Finally, the psyker arrived - a young Lesser Astropath by the name of Sands. He elected to trail the beast as it escaped, and led the Lord-Captain, Jayne, and Corbec and his men down to one of the plasma drives, in the bowels of the ship.

As they entered, they saw few signs of problems - until Sands pointed out one of the crewmen, at which point he stopped his duties and stood, stock still, in front of one of the plasma conduits. Sands said he would force the daemon to become corporeal, and that they were to shoot both the crewman and Sands if he was not successful. Corbec gladly held his lasgun to the nape of Sands' neck as he worked, drawing the energies of the Warp into both himself and the now possessed crewman.

After a few seconds, a terrible change was wrought upon the engineer. He began to babble in tongues, and his form started to... destabilise. Odd shapes seemed to flicker through his body, until one fully formed - a feathered tentacle in place of an arm. Sands' face spoke of desperation and being overwhelmed, but still he persisted. More changes came and went, until the crewman resembled nothing more than a tumorous growth, still sporting the smiling face of the crewman. Even that finally gave way, splitting down its length to show a beak and an unnaturally long, rubbery neck, dotted with feathers down its length. As waves of fear, dread knowledge, and... hope overcame the crew, Sands did all he could to signal to the guards - he bashed his head into the floor, screamed, and raised a quivering hand. That was enough for Claudia - she commanded all present (Jayne, the Guardsmen, Corbec, herself, and the other engineers) to open fire upon the thing which now writhed on the floor.

It was over in a few short seconds - what they now faced was nothing more than a few blasted lumps of protoplasmic flesh. As they were unceremoniously dumped into the plasma drive, to be burnt into nothingness, she called for any available Ecclesiarchy members to report to the Enginarium and begin the process of cleansing it as best they could (preferably, without killing any more crew members). The Chief Missionary on board, a small man with a large tattoo of the Aquila across his face, took to the job with great relish.

Scant hours later, the ship had dropped back into Realspace, to enter orbit around the world of Piscinius IV - a world almost entirely covered in water. Large Hives, supported by stilts, sat atop the world-sea, dotted all over the planet almost at random. With Allesaunder's help, they located the one nearest the artifact they sought, and began the intricacies of diplomacy. Scans of the ocean to find the starmap were passed off as "sensor recalibrations", and they claimed they were there for a mix of business opportunities and sightseeing.

The Govenor of the Hive, Quint Mularius, invited them down with open arms when they mentioned the opportunities for trade that the ship presented. After a few good hours of unloading (and a few good rolls), the Lord-Captain had made a fair bit of Throne selling essentials and trading in rare materials. To celebrate their arrival, Quint threw a lavish party for the Spire locals, to allow the Lord-Captain to mingle, and to try and present a few of the Spire Nobles the business opportunities they sorely needed. Amongst the chinless nobles, one figure, resplendent in golden armour bearing huge mechanical wings, caught the Lord-Captain's eye. She was informed that he was something of a local celebrity - Jaka Corvus, the "Yeld" (aerial-support) of one of the most popular Spyre-Hunter teams on the planet. The Spyrers go into the Underhive, kill as many human targets as they are allocated, then attempt to return, without getting caught or killed themselves. It is said Corvus has thousands of kills under his belt. Claudia was terribly unimpressed with both the man and the "sport", decrying both as barbaric and implying Jaka might be "compensating" with all that armour.

After some time, Claudia attempted to get an idea about how she would go about retrieving the item she sought from its underwater grave - and she convinced Quint to grant her permission to go on a dive (under the pretence of "catching fish" for her private quarters).

Many more drinks and a few dances later, she invited Quint to her ship (he'd never left the Hive, let alone the planet) in order to talk more about their trip... and in the morning, a combination of hangover, strange surroundings, and paranoia led him to leave the ship under inauspicious circumstances. While he had intended to go with the Lord-Captain, he figured it "more trouble than it's worth". So, Claudia, Corbec, Jayne, Allesaunder, and a few more guards were taken into the briny depths by Yakob, their pilot.

Their submersible might be somewhat armed, but apparently, it wasn't much of a match for the local wildlife - some giant aquatic predator was pursuing the sub, with the possible intent of lunch. Shooting it with the ship's in-built las-mechadendrites prove futile. At the Lord-Captain's request, Yakob pulled the ship into a very quick dive - while Jayne, Claudia, and the pilot were unaffected, Allesaunder simply smiled as he felt the pressure build at his temples, the guardsmen variously yelled and threw up, and Corbec passed out (despite his insistence he simply fell asleep). As they pulled closer to their destination, they caught sight of a large coral reef, covered in weird shapes - closer inspection proved them to be somewhat biological, resembling limbs, torsos, and other body parts. Claudia fancied she could see them moving, though the thought disturbed her more than she let on.

Pulling in closer, they realised they needed to ditch the ship to get inside - so Claudia, Allesaunder, Corbec and Jayne got themselves suited into their aquatic "powered armour" (one-man submersibles, really) and set off. Each suit had a weapon slot - Corbec and Allesaunder took standard lasguns, The Lord-Captain took a flamer (promethium is hot enough to burn underwater, after all...) and Jayne took a backpack-mounted lascannon.

As they entered the structure, the shapes in the coral started to become clearer - faces, the odd fully formed body, some in agony, some perfectly serene. Further inside, they found a large, cleared space, an almost perfect sphere of missing coral. The shapes here started to take a more... alien bent, forming limbs of bizarre proportions and a few faces of strange beauty. As Allesaunder felt a sudden surge of psychic activity, he pushed ahead of the group - only to be knocked from sight by a huge tentacle.

Lurking inside was a beast the size of a shuttle, resembling a seastar with far too many extra tentacles. The deep-sea beastie, threatening as it was, proved no match for the combined fire of the group (even though a solid hit from Jayne split the beast into two independant creatures). After the brief tussle, Allesaunder reached the bottom of the cave, and began digging through the coral. With each fistful he pulled free, the group felt waves of nausea and sorrow, culminating in a deep, harrowing feeling within their souls. As Allesaunder had thought, the coral was some kind of psychoactive creature - further digging would probably send them catatonic.

Claudia had a problem - by the looks of it, the chunk of starmap they had found was pretty big. There were few ways to remove it without causing significant fuss. The crew all thought of the teleportarium... except they didn't have a beacon to use it. With a little bit of quick thinking, however, Corbec sorted that problem - he suggested it be torpedoed down to them, fired inside a macrocannon shell. As you might imagine, a starship opening fire upon a planet caused a certain amount of problems - and even the Lord-Captain's insistence that it was an "unplanned weapons test" wouldn't deter Quint (already highly suspicious). He dispatched the best ordinance he could to combat the starship - a few modified aerial fighters, barely space capable. While they plinked ineffectually at the metres-thick void-shielding around the ship, the Lord-Captain had a thought. They would need the submersible to retrieve the beacon, and the pilot would most likely balk at the thought of assisting the crew that just opened fire on their planet. So, she decided to appeal to his baser instincts - greed.

"Yakob, what are you paid at the moment? You fancy doubling it?"

A quick haggle later, and the Lord-Captain had a new personal pilot, and a stolen submersible for her troubles. As the beacon was put in place, the submersible's vox and pict systems went into an override - and the face of Govenor Quint appeared, enraged and screaming. The Lord-Captain's attempts to calm him down simply made him more annoyed, until she tired of his tone and had Jayne fix the override the Catachan way - a lasbolt.

The ship was eventually teleported back on board. As they readjusted to the pressure (the sub had a built-in pressure room), they could hear a great, thunderous sound outside, like a great storm. When they finally exited the ship, they realised why - to get them and the stone (along with a fair chunk of coral), the Enginseers had to take a solid sphere of matter - including about a ton of water. Luckily, the ship was designed with such things in mind - vents and channels redirected most of it, and no major damage was done to the ancient archaeotech of the Teleportarium - but they did leave many a Tech-Priest in soaked robes, screaming invectives and prayers to the Omnissiah, apoplectic with rage. The ship sat upon the chunk of coral containing the stone - and the Lord-Captain, knowing that such coral could be very valuable, ordered one of the cargo bays void-sealed and converted into a pool of sorts, using their recently-acquired water.

As they prepared to leave orbit, however, a huge crackle of lightning spread itself across the void, and a familiar voice poured from the lips of the Astropath. Deep, booming, and altogether full of itself...

"Lord Captain Black... it's been a long time. You owe me a hand, dear..."

Captain Krawkin's flagship, His Unconquerable Will, was pulling out of the Warp not but a few hundred kilometres in front of them.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Selene's Den: A Different Kind of Shop...

So, having read a few humorous threads, and (sadly) had a flick through the old Book of Erotic Fantasy for D&D 3.5, I began to think about sexuality as a theme in games.

Not in the way of erotic roleplay - if there's an image we don't need, it's you average tabletop gaming nerd pretending to be a virginal Elven maiden... or his friend playing the ravishing Half-Orc Sex-Barbarian.

(Sex-Barbarian is a Prestige Class. Requirements: BAB+3, Weapon Focus: Genitals, and the Rapey Demeanour Feat.)

But more like as a campaign theme - it could be a motivation, a plot point, or even just an overarching theme. Everyone (well, almost everyone) does it, so why ignore it? And in a fantasy setting, well, the sky's the limit for the weird and wonderful...

Or even the mundane. People have attempted birth control for centuries - from the Egyptians using crocodile dung pessaries, to the first sheep-intestine condoms, all are appropriate in a fantasy setting. Even other fantasy (but still non-magical) things like certain teas and herbs (Pathfinder even has Gentleman's Snuff - not only a quality idea, but a bona-fide male contraceptive!) could be used (and Gentleman's Snuff is totally getting stolen!).

And there are records of sex toys being made as far back as 2,500 years ago (those randy bloody Egyptians again). Just imagine the looks on your players face when they recover an ancient, amazingly well-crafted piece of art from a dragon's treasure hoard, only to find out it's a dildo? Materials like lacquered wood, stone, and glass have all been seen, and I imagine in a fantasy setting, the easy availability of things like gold, silver, and more unusual materials like jade, obsidian, or maybe some thing like D&D's Ironwood (stop that sniggering!) would make perfect materials for the rich and powerful Sorceress who can't get laid!

(As a side note, most campaigns with dragons will already have sexuality as a theme - after all, the Half-Dragon template can be added to literally anything. And as most of them can polymorph themselves into other forms, dragons are some of the biggest shaggers in your campaign setting. Bear this in mind when making up their treasure hoards in future!)

When you add magic into the equation, things get... weird. From the obvious (a Million and One Uses For Mage Hand...) to the weird and icky - technically, a Bind Planar Ally makes them do most whatever you ask... but is it rape? I mean, using something like Dominate or Charm Person to make someone sleep with you? That's a horrendous act. So using a spell like Summon Monster to do the same should be just as bad, right? But what if you summon a Succubus? These sort of weird questions rarely come up in the games I play, but hey, you never know...

There's also one issue that pops up from mechanics, which has sadly stuck in my head: D&D3.5's Lichloved feat. It grants you certain bonuses, and is a requirement for some weird prestige classes... but it requires you to have sex with an undead creature. Now, Vampires are technically undead, and that could be worse, but a Lich? Zombie? Ghoul? The possibilities are (sadly) endless. And exactly how do you present this to a DM?

"Yeah, I found this feat, it gives me what I need for my prestige class prerequisites. So, I go down to the graveyard..."

Of course, the problems of player maturity will always raise their head - after all, most people game for laughs, not for an in-depth look at the sociopolitics of sexuality in the Middle Ages. But, with just a few sprinkles here and there, one can add a layer of vermilisitude to your campaign by adding sexuality as a theme.

So I'm digging out an idea I had for an old campaign. Selene is a Tiefling Sensate who runs a curiosity shop (and will continually correct you if you try to call it anything else - she sells curiosities and novelty items) in the Market Ward of Sigil. Here, a canny buyer can find nearly anything he wants to help with his marital needs - for the right price, of course.

She's a Sorceress, who specialises in illusions - she can grant you a night straight from your deepest, darkest fantasies, for the price of material components and time and labour. From the simplest visual illusions (she is known to have the "cheap seats", where she projects images to large groups for a much reduced fee - perfect for stag-dos and Lad's Nights Out), to full-sensory experiences (let's just say she's really good with that Unseen Servant/Mage Hand combo...), she is more than willing to provide such a service to the wide and varied clientele of The Cage.

She also sells more "mundane" solutions - from Cold Iron/Silver sex toys, for the masochistic Fiend, to finely-crafted whips from the Drow (highly spun Phase-spider silk). If she can collect it from the Planes and find a... use for it, it's in the shop.

Selene frequently interacts with adventurers of all stripes - whether they are receiving or providing her business. After all, she has to run the shop, so someone has to go collect these oddities from all across the Great Ring. A few sample adventures...

  • One of her regular clientele, Boagris (Bauriar Sensate Barbarian) has a very specific request for her - to be whipped with Razorvine while a Halfling watches. Razorvine is so common as to be a pest around Sigil - but how the hell are you going to transport a plant so sharp it'll cut through any bag you try and put it in? And exactly where are you going to find a willing Halfling?
  • A shipment of unusual woodcuts is coming to Sigil from a Prime world, but the Guvnors are interested in keeping them out. Will you use stealth, diplomacy and cunning to smuggle the goods through, or simply batter hell out of the Hardheads till you can get through?
  • One of Selene's rivals is taking things a step too far - they are using Planar Binding spells to take creatures from other layers of existance for their own nefarious purposes. She wants you to put a stop to it - if she goes herself, the Hardheads will be very interested in investigating her shop...
  • As a follow on to the last adventure, when they break the Summoning Sex ring, they find a much darker side - kindnapping Primes to be sold off into slavery to the rich and powerful perverts of the Planes. Now, it's time to get the Law on your side.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Three: Trade Harder

So, we left our PC with a dilemma on her hands - an amnesiac mutineer. Her first instinct was to think of that little fluctuation in the Gellar field they experienced a few days before, and called for any available psykers (she got the Chief Astropath, Blind Mag, who happened to be passing by).

Mag saw that there had been some... presence within the crewman, not too long ago, though it had fled when confronted by the Captain. working with Allesaunder, they worked to track it down, to no avail. The crewman was taken by the Ecclesiarchy contingent on board, for "ritual exorcism and purification", most like at the end of a Flame Pistol.

Shaken by this turn of events (the Captain had had some small dealings with Creatures of the Warp in her past, and knew the trouble they could cause), Claudia set up squads of crewmen (consisting of a Psyker, a Priest, Chaplain or other Ecclesiarchial member, and a squad of armed guards, in case the Psyker got possessed or otherwise incapacitated) to scour the ship, hunting for any trace of the thing before they made planetfall. Sadly, this was not to be - they arrived at their destination, and all the Psykers could come up with were false leads and contradicting trails.

As they exited the Warp, the first thing they saw was a recently-hulked trade ship - fires still flaring from rapidly depressurising compartments. The Lord-Captain ordered as many of those on board saved as could be managed (around 100 extra souls), and scanners showed another ship in distress - this time, an Imperial Cruiser, bristling with weaponry and gauche ornamentation. It was seemingly under attack, but the ship's auspex couldn't pick up from what.

As seen from the ship, the world was an overgrown jungle - it might take months to search it fully. A nifty bit of work from Allesaunder narrowed their search area down to around a square mile - and apparently, they weren't the only ones who got that kind of estimate.

As they landed, the sensors reported activity elsewhere - a small army (around 300, with plenty of vehicles and footsloggers) about half an hour away and closing, a much smaller group (50 or so) just entering their square mile, and another group a fair bit away.

Visual confirmation showed a collection of spires within the overgrown jungle - many metres in height, and composed of a pure, pearly white substance. The Lord-Captain, having quite a few of her mother's Eldar relics in stasis on board the ship, believed the towers to be Wraithbone. Of the three spires, one stood fully, while the other two were ruined and battle-scarred. Some tiny psychic ping told Claudia the one still standing was the ticket. As they arrived (in their Land Raider, the team comprising of the Lord-Captain, Jayne, Mag the Astorpath, a Tech-Priest, and a small contingent of armed guards, followed by several squads of armsmen in buggies), they were informed that the smaller group was closing to one of the other towers, with surprising speed. One of the guards (Argun Corbec, a PC who dropped in for the session, and maybe a few more later) suggested taking his band (ten men, all in an attack buggy) to intercept. With the Lord-Captain's approval, they shot off into the forest to secure an ambush.

Corbec and his men found a well-hidden spot, directly in front of the group. At their head, the familiar crimson power armour of Captain Krawkin, leading his 50 men (each lightly armoured and heavily armed - lascannons, heavy stubbers, the works). They were making slow progress now they had hit some dense foliage - apparently, Krawkin hadn't expected heavy stubbers to be so restricting.

With a sniper in the trees, each man with a lasgun, and a heavy lascannon all set (along with a few explosive charges), even the 50 men didn't stand a chance. The ambush, combined with the charges, took out nearly half the men in one fell swoop - only a reflector shield managed to save Krawkin from being shot in the head (it's what he gets for not wearing a helmet...) by the treeline sniper. A second barrage reduced them to 10, plus Krawkin himself - though he also suffered the loss of his hand after being felled by a direct lascannon strike. After they turned tail and ran, without letting off a shot, the Black dynasty guards collected the spoils of war (a few of Krawkin's fingers, still encased in armour, and as many heavy weapons as they could) and returned to find the Captain sprinting out.

While this had been going on, the Lord Captain had made her way into the structure, and found an old Eldar engraving - dotted with incredibly durable stones, surrounded by runes, which caused her an odd "static-y" feeling when she looked at it. Blind Mag fiddled around with the stones and runes for a few minutes, until some byzantine condition had been met, and the device activate. With a crackle of soulfire and an eerie glow, the central section rose up as a pillar - with a small stone inside. Shining with its own light, the blue stone called out to the Captain, and she knew that this was her objective. Grabbing it (and almost blacking out from the sensory overload), she decided to leave a marker of her success for her rivals, in indelible marker-spray, on the walls of the ancient structure.

Trust a Trader of the Black Dynasty to inscribe "EAT PUSSY" in 5-foot letters on an ancient Xeno artifact.


As they left, the larger force came into view - a veritable horde of heavily armoured vehicles (Land Raiders, a few tanks, and a few Landspeeders too), with a recognisable figure atop the leading vehicle - one of the well-presented Kroot, a retainer of Madame Charlabelle, surveying the landscape with a pair of magnoculars. With a swift vulgar gesture, the Lord Captain and her retinue were swept from the planet's surface by the ship's Teleportarium, and commanded the ship dropped into the Empyrean as soon as they were on board.

Another session with Allesaunder gave up more information - a vision, more like a memory, stored within the stone. A memory of walking on beaches that glittered with the light of a thousand types of precious stone, seeing great mountains and beautiful plants, a feeling of great reverence and peace... but also foreboding, dread, some powerful force, new, yet ancient, waiting under those mountains... and of a stone tablet, much like the one the stone was retrieved from - an ancient Eldar starmap. As she watched it, the feeling of foreboding grew, until, with a great crack, it was split into three, and cast far and wide into the Warp...

As she returned to reality, the Lord Captain knew what had to be done - the Witches received a masked signal, and the true location of the Pearl rested within that star map. If the Eldar were so afraid, why hadn't they destroyed it? She wouldn't know for some time, but she set Allesaunder to find the pieces any way he could - but sadly, it would take a few days to piece together the residues and fight the Eldar's psychic static.

With her job done for the day, Claudia called dinner, to celebrate her retrieval of the stone and to commend the heroic actions of her new Guard Captain, Argun. As well as his promotion, he received Krawkin's power sword as a gift (the Lord-Captain far preferred her trusty chainsword, styled to resemble a rapier more than the standard pattern).

Stories were shared, especially those of Claudia's late mother (who claimed to have out-played an Eldar at mah-jong, and apparently once slept with a Space Marine of the Salamanders Chapter), drinks were had, and the celebrations seemed to go off without a hitch. Until Corbec returned to his barracks (refusing new quarters as part of his promotion, preferring to stay with his men), a few cheekily-appropriated bottles of wine in tow. After but a few sips, one of his men began looking a little ill, then zoned out from the conversation. Corbec, a paranoid man, called for one of the psyker squads and the Lord-Captain herself.

... and I'll leave this one hanging till next time!

So, our intrepid Captain's flatmate was about, and fancied trying the game out - he seemed to really enjoy it (he's pretty big on 40k literature and lore, which helps). The idea to split the real objective did come from the book, but really, I didn't like the way the rest of the adventure panned out. So, I'm now freeballing my way through the Expanse. Woohoo!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part the Second: The Plot Thickens...

So, to continue...

As Lord-Captain Black and Arkady approached the ancient Courthouse, the first of her rivals made an apperance.

At the door stood a man, fully clad in blood-red powered armour (with hints of gold strewn here and there), helmet and all. Even from a distance, it was obvious he was arguing with the door clerk. As it turns out, he had arrived to the auction with a small army in tow - twenty guards, armed with plasma guns and the odd heavy stubber. Despite insisting that they were essential for his continued protection, the clerk refused them entry - until the man backed down, sent the most heavily-armed ones home, and got the rest to check their weapons at the door (though they were allowed to keep a sidearm, as a formality). By contrast, Claudia's ten bodyguards, in their (still highly practical) ceremonial dress, coloured to match the Lord-Captain's outfit (she claims to have sets of armour to match each of her favourite frocks), and only armed with lasguns and ceremonial swords, were waved through with little hassle.

As they sat and eyed up the competition, Claudia spotted a few familiar faces: Lady Charlabelle, a ruthless trader with a penchant for Xeno retainers, sat with her bodyguard of Kroot (each still barbaric, but looking a damn sight better presented than those previously encountered); the power-armoured gent (later known as Captain Krawkin); the desperate Lady Sun Lee, last of her failing line, wearing fashions years out of style and with a few badly-maintained augmetics; and others she would know by their crests or faces, but not by name.

With the sound of servos and pistons, the Intercessor appeared to start the auction - sitting on a mobile throne, carried by four stout legs and belching smoke as it went. He explained the rules of the auction, adding that 10 bids would be accepted. The first few offers were made - Thrones, gold, and precious materials. Each bidder was denied, after which, they were swiftly escorted from the premises by armed toughs.

Around an hour into the proceedings, the real bids started in earnest. From artifacts (such as the Daemonette's toenail from Madam Charlabelle), to places (the co-ordinates of a lost colony, given by an Admiral of the Imperial Navy), to more esoteric offers (a thousand blind slaves from Krawkin), many more were denied their chance, but a few were accepted. Claudia saw she had but a small window to make her bid - to early, and she'd be rejected out of course, too late and she might miss her chance. Claudia entered her piece (the Ear of St Drusus) with a (quickly prepared) speech, and managed to secure herself a place at The Foretelling.

As the auction rounded off, the ten were chosen - Claudia, Krawkin, Charlabelle, the Admiral, a young, charming-looking Rogue Trader (think a young Johnny Depp in a greatcoat), and a few others she did not recognise. Lady Sun Lee was tearfully removed from the premises after her offer (a 50-year old bottle of Brain Leaf essence) was denied. Their retinues and hangers on disposed of, the ten were led from the auction house to a back room, wherein they found the Sisters.

A grotesque amalgam of seven forms, the Warp had touched the Sisters (possibly, inappropriately), and left them barely human. But with this change, they were granted no small amount of psychic potential - which led them to divine the location of The Pearl. They showed the collected winners via a mass hallucination/vision - of a stone, of alien worlds, dark threats and mystical portents. Most of the people present did not take to the vision well - Krawkin even doffing his helmet to vomit on the floor shortly after. While regaining her balance, Claudia saw him belt for his ship - and knew that they chase was on. Making her way to her own ship (voxing in to get the ship ready the second she gets on board), she, her crew, Arkady, and the two hundred able-bodied men he had promised set off to find their fortune.

However, it would not be as simple as following a map - the information was somewhere in her soul, and needed to be extracted before it could be used. Enter Allesaunder.

A Navigator of House Parth (locked into an exclusivity contract with the Black Dynasty), Allesaunder is tall, unnaturally thin and almost totally bald, with dim grey skin and a mouth full of razor-sharp, needle-like teeth. Combined with eyes so dark as to appear black, he resembles nothing so much as a bipedal, robed shark. The Navigator put the Lord-Captain into a sort of trance, allowing him to draw the information from her mind. He talked her through his vision of the Warp -

...a vast ocean, with yourself as a minnow. Below, you can feel great, terrible horrors lurking, ancient and undisturbed. Feel them shake the ocean with each brief movement, changing currents and unleashing new depths... All around you, the hungry eyes of predators watch, waiting for their moment to strike. Hear them growl and whisper blasphemous secrets, sense their hunger, feel them sense you. And far above, the tiniest pinprick of the sun - The Astronomican, the God-Emperor's light shining from Holy Terra to guide his faithful. Feel its warmth, distant and unreachable, but take a tiny piece of it inside you - feel His indomitable will fill you, and know you are safe under His watchful eye.

As Claudia let the vision fill her mind, she felt another presence. One of the predators was brushing close to her, some great beast waiting to snap up her soul. Luckily, Allesaunder pulled them both from the vision just in time - and he had managed to extract the information needed to locate the first part of the puzzle.

It would take roughly 50 days of Warp travel to reach the location, despite her efforts to convince Allesaunder to find a shorter course and to encourage the Tech-Priests to fully appease the engine's machine-spirits. The journey was uneventful, barring a tiny fluctuation in the Gellar field - not enough to allow egress to any Warp entities, or so the Captain thought...

At around the half-way point of the journey, Claudia felt that crew morale was low - so she decided to leave a skeleton staff on board and allow everyone a "night off", for celebration, merrymaking and general fun. The crew responded in different ways - as she did a round of the ship, she met with the Astropaths, holed up in quiet contemplation and conversation; the Navigators, who shared a small amasec and poured over old starcharts; the Tech Priest, led by the ship's Explorators, engaged in a battle of logic puzzles and willpower, The Ritual of Back and Forth (represented by a game of Pong); down to the gunnery crews, who used the time to dance, sing, and in some cases, set up pit fights. Instead of stopping or interfering, the Lord-Captain stayed a while and watched (even bet on!) the fights, which happened to include her Security Officer and Master-At-Arms, Jayne.

About six and a half feet tall, with the build of a professional soldier, dark black hair and a tan that could double as camouflage, the Catachanian was well-respected on board, and singularly feared in the ring. In the pit fights, she remains unbeaten (even though she fought 10 men one after another, then a group of three, then a Battle Servitor) - needless to say, the Captain cleaned up with her bets on Jayne, despite the low odds.

While heading down to the Enginarium, however, the Lord-Captain overheard conspiratorial whispers coming from a nearby cargo hold. Getting into position, she was just in time to hear one of the crew lambasting her ability to run the ship, and stirring the others present (about 60) into mutiny. She scrabbled to find her security staff, and had to call upon anyone who could attend from nearby decks - she gathered a motley band of 50 or so men, variously armed with clubs, knives, and the odd autopistol. A few minutes later, Jayne herself appeared, coated head to toe in carapace armour and wielding a shotgun.

After commenting on her being "overdressed", the group stormed the hold and arrested those present, to be taken to the brig for questioning: around 20 were of the men Arkady brought on board (his suggestion to simply try them as mutineers and chuck them out an airlock did not go down too well), the rest previously loyal members of the Captain's crew.

Interviews showed that most were "in the wrong place at the wrong time", or so they claimed, and a few even claimed to be spying to report back to the Lord-Captain (a likely story). Most disconcerting of all, the rabble-rouser himself claimed no memory of the act, the events leading up to it, or even his own name.

Things would soon be getting worse for Claudia and her crew...

The NPCs from LotE were... uninspiring to me. I stole a few bits and pieces here and there, but dramatically changed others - such as Lady Sun Lee. I think she's meant to be set up as a potential ally, but there's nothing to motivate the players to join with her. So, I made her desperate enough to weep, to show what might happen should their endeavours fail. It also gives a good reason to have her attempt to join with the Lord-Captain, to regain her lineage's wealth and status. Knowing Rogue Trader, she'll be used as a distraction, then betrayed in due course. Fine by me...

Also, Cannonball Run IN SPACE, FUCK YEAH!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-On-One: Part The First

So, while I whittle away at those rules for Tau, I decided to run (in a spur-of-the-moment kinda deal) a one-on-one game of Rogue Trader for a friend.

Due to the assumptions of the game, Rogue Trader seems almost tailor-made for Duet gaming - with the player taking the role of the Rogue Trader, carrying a Warrant of Trade (otherwise know as the "Do Whatever The Fuck You Want Pass"), with a crew of tens of thousands behind them, and as many specialists as they need for a particular operation (whether on-board, or easily hired with the vast fortunes you have/will acquire).

Our tale begins with Lord-Captain Claudia Black, previously a mercenary who inherited her Warrant and a starship when her mother, Marie, died in unusual (and as yet unreported) circumstances. After setting a few last pieces of business in order (informing contacts and trade links of her mother's passing, and her succession, reinforcing old bonds and striking a few new ones), she headed to Port Wander to look for new opportunities for wealth to help get the dynasty back on its feet.

Port Wander was once a simple space station - a port for those far from home, to resupply and catch up on the news of the rest of the Imperium. After many years of expansion, rebuilding, and the introduction of no small criminal element, Port Wander has become something of a Free Port in the old, euphemistic sense. People flaunt the minor laws and rules of the Imperium with surprising regularity, and the sheer number of Xenos present is a show that it's not just the little laws that are being broken.

Clothed in far more practical gear than a Rogue Trader should be, and accompanied by 10 of her best armsmen/bodyguards (dressed, in her own words, in "black, highlighted with black"), she took to the streets, specifically hunting out some of her mother's old contacts in the hope of getting some leads. While heading towards The Emperor's Lament, hangout of several old contacts of the Dynasty, Claudia was approached by a group of Xenos - tall, lithe, and dark-skinned, with huge quills adorning their heads (and smaller ones on their bodies), and short beak-like faces. While the Captain didn't recognise the Kroot, she quickly got to the bottom of their approach - they were offering their services as mercenaries, to anyone who would take them. Declining politely, they moved on to the next well-dressed and important-looking person to walk their way.

Suitably confused as to the brashness of the Xenos on Imperial grounds, Claudia continued on to the Emperor's Lament. Here, she found Arkady Lemenshan, leader of several of Port Wander's smaller gangs and protection racquets, and an old friend of her mother's. Arkady had helped the Black dynasty out with several "under the table" endeavours previously, and was deeply upset about her passing.

Not that you could tell - the man has a permanent stony face, emphasised by the shaved head and heady collection on augmentations. After dealing with hisusual gang Captains, Arkady set aside some time to pick Claudia's brains, and slowly but surely an ulterior motive surfaced (helped along by a couple of 50-year vintage Amasec, taken as a shot by Arkady and politely sipped by Clauida) - there was an auction that night. The Seven Witches, a nearly mythical group of psykers, had received a vision of how to locate The Pearl - known by most as a fairytale world, lost somewhere in the Expanse, where the beaches are precious gems, the water is the clearest imaginable, and untold archaeotech riches await those who might plunder its depths.

However, the Witches don't need coin - they want something interesting. And Arkady needed the clout of the Black Family Dynasty to even get an invite, let alone make a decent bid. After agreeing to provide as much help as he can (he's surely a far more resourceful man than Claudia, with contacts she could only dream of), and a small cut of the profits, the pair decided to attend the auction together.

Searching the ship's private vaults and stasis containers, the Lord-Captain found the perfect item to offer - the Ear of St Drusus, with full paperwork to certify its authenticity (as investigated and authorised by an Inquisitor, no less).

Offer in hand, the two approached the old Courthouse where the auction would take place (Arkady dressed in his finest leathers, while Claudia picked an ornate deep-green dress and cloak combo, topped off with a ceremonial rapier). But things wouldn't be as easy as they seemed...

I'm running the game as a modified version of the Lure of The Expanse book - dropping some of the "optional" bits to speed the game up to the meaty task of exploration and fast-pitched space battles. A lot of the encounters seem to be padding - each could (and in some cases, should) take up an enitre session, despite not advancing the plot at all! Plus, after the "introduction" part, control is handed over to the players to proceed as they like, and that's what I wanted to emphasise - the free-roaming, sandbox nature of both the setting and the game.
 It's going pretty well so far, and the second session (conducted via Skype) will get written up shortly...