The plan of the mad Magos is revealed. The finest fighters of Helicon have been replaced with gene-hanced replicas of themselves. Perfect Skitarii infiltrators with subdermal implants, lightning reactions, and the memories of all those who have died and been reclaimed by the moon. They can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever… until you are dead.
All scenarios contain a Murder Cyborg hidden among the fighters.
Additionally, the strange devices previously ransacked by gangs turned out to be atmospheric stabilisers. The Badzone effects from the previous week are still in effect. You may permanently eliminate these effects from your settlement by removing a Xenoculum, Archeotech Device or Malefic Artifact from your gang list.
The Murder Cyborg
The Murder Cyborg does not begin on the board – it is revealed part way through the game.
When any fighter suffers a wound, roll a D6. On a 5+, their flesh peels away to reveal they were a Skitarii infiltrator all along! Immediately roll a mission directive for the murder cyborg on the table below.
The Murder Cyborg has its own stats and special rules, but uses the weapons of the fighter it replaced. It is extremely difficult to kill, see Terminating the Cyborg.
For all game rules and effects, the original fighter never participated in the battle.
1-2 Extermination: If Engaged, the cyborg must make the Fight (Basic) action. If a fighter is visible, it must target them with a ranged attack. If multiple targets are visible, it must divide its attacks as evenly as possible. If no fighters are visible, it must move towards the closest fighter.
3-4 Decapitation: As above, but the cyborg focuses on gang Leaders. It may only attack other targets if they are Engaged with the murder cyborg, or are between it and a gang Leader.
5-6 Self-preservation: Once revealed, the player with Priority picks a battlefield edge furthest from the cyborg as its extraction point. The cyborg must always make at least one Move (Simple) action towards the extraction point, and may use the other action to make a ranged attack at the controlling player’s discretion. If the cyborg ends its activation within 1” of the extraction point, it is removed from play.
The cyborg is controlled by the gang with Priority, taking an activation as if it were a friendly fighter. It is, however, anything but friendly. It must always follow its mission directives, and is never counted as a friendly fighter.
Terminating the Cyborg
The Murder Cyborg cannot be taken Out of Action by any usual methods – it always treats Out of Action results as Seriously Injured, and is immune to Coup de Grace.
The only way to take the cyborg Out of Action is to reduce it to zero wounds, then cause enough Flesh Wounds to reduce it to zero Toughness. It can then finally be finished off with a Coup de Gras. (This is the only exception to being immune to Coup de Grace)
Pitfalls, such as crevasses or open furnaces, are effective (and appropriate) ways of terminating the cyborg assassin.
The cyborg assassin uses the weapons of the fighter it replaced, but has the following statline:
Subdermal implants (4+ armour save)
Displacer field (4+ field save, if successful, scatters distance equal to the attacking weapon’s Strength)
Photo Goggles (can see through smoke and targets within 12” while in Pitch Black)
Fast Shot: The cyborg treats the Shoot (Basic) action as Shoot (Simple)
Iron Jaw: The cyborg gets +2 Toughness when being hit by unarmed close combat attacks
Cannot be Pinned.
Immune to Coup de Grace (unless taken to zero Flesh Wounds), and immune to Flash, Gas and Toxin traits.
If subject to Blaze, the cyborg takes the automatic hit as usual, but may otherwise act normally.
When rolling for Injury, treats any Out of Action result as Serious Injury.
If Seriously Injured it does not roll for Recovery in the end phase. Instead it checks Toughness, recovering and gaining a Flesh Wound if it passes.
Once on zero Toughness, the cyborg can no longer recover (but may still take the Crawl and Blind Fire actions) and is no longer immune to the Coup de Grace action.
To the victor, the spoils
Any fighter that inflicts a wound on the murder cyborg gains +1 XP.
The gang that performs the killing blow on the murder cyborg gains +D3 Rep and 3D6x10 credits.
Storm clouds gather overhead. Settlements are plagued by swarms of cyber-flies and sentient oozes, while crushing winds and unpredictable night cycles disguise the moon rebuilding itself into new and terrifying configurations.
All settlements are affected by a permanent Badzone Event. The particular event is determined by checking the scenario’s defender and their settlement starting location. The event affects both defender and attacker.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this
Edge of the Hive
Factorum Runoff: Sludge Jellies
Vile predatory sludges hide within vents, drains and ducts, waiting to envelop and consume the unwary.
Nominate at least six pieces of liquid terrain such as barrels, vents, puddles, or pipes (players can pick two each). If a fighter ends their movement within 1” of these terrain pieces, roll a D6. On a 1, they are attacked by a sludge jelly!
Check Toughness. If failed, the jelly paralyses them and they become Seriously Injured – mark the fighter to show they have been jellied.
If a jellied fighter receives assistance during the Recovery phase, they remain Seriously Injured but remove their jelly marker. They may attempt to recover as normal next turn.
If a jellied fighter receives no assistance, they automatically go Out of Action. Roll for lasting injuries as normal.
Boneyards: Critter swarm
Swarms of cyber-flies burst from vents and grates, creating a crawling and biting carpet beneath the fighters’ feet.
At the beginning of each End Phase, roll a D6 for every fighter. On a 1 they have been attacked by the critter swarm.
Check Strength. If failed, what happens next depends on their current status:
If Standing, they become Pinned.
If Pinned, they make an armour save. If failed, they suffer a Flesh Wound.
If Seriously Injured, they make an armour save. If failed, they go Out of Action. Roll for lasting injuries as normal.
Ghost town: I’ve got a bad feeling about this
The grind of machinery falls silent and the local wildlife scuttle back to their holes. Even the sound of footsteps on the settlement thoroughfare are silent, as though the moon is holding its breath, waiting for something terrible to happen…
All Nerve checks are at an additional -2 modifier.
If a Hive Scum, Bounty Hunter, Hanger-On (including Brutes) or Delegation fighter becomes Broken, they flee the battlefield and count as having gone Out of Action. No lasting injury is rolled for them, they are simply removed from play.
The Depths: Labyrinth
The under-moon is a maze at the best of times, but here it seems to have taken on a life of its own. Fighters find themselves easily separated as the walls shift around them.
When a fighter activates, if they cannot draw line of sight to another fighter (friend or foe) they must check Intelligence. If failed, they are lost in the labyrinthine depths.
The opposing player repositions the lost fighter anywhere within 12” of their original location (but not within impassable terrain or within 1” of another fighter).
Edge of the hive: Howling winds
The settlement is blasted with a storm gale. Fighters battle the winds to keep their footing and find their targets.
Ranged attacks made at Long Range suffer and additional -1 modifier to hit.
Blast markers always scatter an additional D6” (so they scatter 2D6” if they miss).
When a Gas weapon is used, roll a D6 before resolving its effects. On a 4+ the gas dissipates in their air and the attack has no effect.
When a Smoke weapon is used, roll a D6. On a 4+ the smoke is swept away by the winds and the marker is immediately removed.
Fighters who become Prone within 0.5” of an edge must re-roll successful Initiative checks to prevent falling.
In addition to the weekly event it also signals the beginning of the Expansion Phase of the campaign, where gangs can actively attack each other’s settlements.
This phase sees settlements going to war with each other, while also charting the benefits of having now fully-functioning outposts on Helicon. Gangs receive their weekly XP and settlement benefits as usual.
Gangs may now raid each other’s settlements. The Settlement Raid, Market Mayhem, and Stealth Attack scenarios can now be played.
Weekly Event: What are they?
The dead are dug up and settlers go missing in the night. Reports of grotesque things moving in the dark and dragging away bodies of the recently fallen.
After board setup and before deployment, alternate placing 6 tech-scavengers (these use the Necromunda Giant Rat stats, Book of Peril or p750).
At the beginning of the End Phase they charge any fighter within 8”, otherwise they move 2d6” in a random direction, ignoring impassible terrain (they scamper, burrow, and use hidden tunnels to move about unhindered).
If a fighter goes Out of Action, the owning player places a tech-scavenger anywhere within 6” of where the fighter when Out of Action.
You get no XP for taking out tech-scavengers, but gang that kills the most tech-scavengers during the scenario gets +D6 Salvage. In the event of a tie, nobody gets anything.
Chittering Jaws: Strength 3, Damage 1, Backstab (+1 Strength and -1AP if attacking from rear arc)
Small target: Ranged attacks suffer an additional -1 to hit, and Tech Scavengers can never be hit by Stray Shots.
A brief respite. Machines grind to a halt, and the ground ticks like cooling metal.
No normal games can be played this week. At the beginning of Downtime, every gang completes the following sequence:
Weekly rewards: All fighters get their +1 weekly XP as normal, and your Settlements generate their usual weekly benefits.
Recover fighters. All fighters currently in Recovery are automatically cleared for return.
Captives are returned. All captive fighters are automatically returned to their gangs, while their former captors receive half their value in credits (rounding up to the nearest 5).
Promotion. Any Juve or Prospect with five or more Advancements is automatically promoted to Champion. Change their fighter type accordingly
Recruitment. All gangs get 250 credits to spend on new fighters and/or Hangers On. Any credits not spent immediately are lost. Gangs may supplement with credits from their stash.
Maintenance. Gangs may remove up to three Structures in their settlement, gaining half their value in Materials back. The gang may then build three new Structures. Note that any Structure that is a prerequisite to another they already own cannot be scrapped.
Training Day – 7pm Wednesday 1st March
The gangs uncover a strange Skitarii training facility, primed and ready to accept new recruits. Their best understanding of the lingua-technica instructions is that the facility will elevate worthy recruits with Alpha-level knowledge of all recruits gone before – but how does it work? And at what cost?
A multiplayer battle taking place across two boards simultaneously, and only the lowliest of recruits are accepted into the facility.
Up to three of your cheapest fighters can take part, and they will be stripped of their equipment to battle it out across the training facility, last Juve standing.
The winner receives the wisdom of the ancients – a knowledge inload of all Skitarii recruits gone before – an immediate and free promotion to Champion.
Dome jungle environment – Xenoculum (Personal Equipment – Black Market)
Unstable dome environment – Malefic artifact (Personal Equipment – Black Market)
Try to include at least six pieces of Industrial Terrain (Book of Peril) on the battlefield, such as Smoke Stacks from the previous week.
Effects from Industrial Terrain activate on 4+ rather than 6+.
After the battle, gangs get an extra D6x10 credits.
Try to include at least six areas of carnivorous plants (Book of Peril) on the battlefield.
Carnivorous plants gain +1 Strength and increase their attack range by 3″.
Ranged attacks suffer an additional -1 at long range due to thick foliage and drifting spores.
During the battle, roll a D6 whenever a blast marker is placed. On a 5+, place a second same-sized blast marker in contact with the first, at a point determined by the scatter dice. Resolve the attack’s effects against fighters under both blast markers.
During the battle, fighters who become prone on a raised platform or terrain must check initiative to see whether they fall, even if not near a ledge.
Any terrain with Toughness or Wounds (like Doors or Gunk Tank) reduce those characteristics by 2, to a minimum of 1.
Ancient machines begin to wake deep beneath the surface. Slumbering mountains become exhausts, belching their fumes into the sky and revealing strange treasures in the rubble.
Each scenario must also include D3 Smokestacks and replace the normal 2 Loot Caskets with Treasure Caskets. (Industrial Terrain – Book of Peril, or compiled rulebook p58)
In the End Phase, roll a D6 for each Smokestack on the table. On a 6 it becomes Active for the next round. It deactivates in the following End Phase unless another 6 is rolled for it.
Active smokestacks have the following rules:
The thick smoke and fumes block line of sight like a smoke grenade in a 6” area around the smokestack.
Any fighter in this 6” area treats the Move (Simple) action as Move (Basic), meaning they can’t double move through the foul air. They can ignore this rule if equipped with a respirator.
The fumes are highly flammable. Any weapons with the Blaze trait targeting fighters within the 6” area get +1 Strength.
Each scenario usually has two Loot Caskets set up as part of terrain deployment. Replace these with Treasure Caskets. If a scenario has additional Loot Caskets as part of the objective (ie Forgotten Riches), these are Loot Caskets are normal.
Treasure Caskets may either be opened with a Bypass Lock (Basic) or a Smash Open Lock (Basic) action.
Bypass Lock (Basic): Make an Intelligence check to open the casket
Smash Open Lock (Basic): Roll a D6 and add Strength. On a 6+ you open the casket, but reduce the D6 result roll by 1 to a minimum of 1.
Any fighter who opens the lock rolls a D6 on the table below:
1-2: Click! The casket is fitted with a fiendishly clever needle-trap instead of treasure. Immediately roll an Injury Dice and apply it to the fighter.
3-4: Fancy Threads: The fighter gains the Uphive Raiments status item from the Trading Post.
5-6: A Noble’s Ransom: The fighter gains one item from the Personal Equipment section of the Trading Post, chosen by the controlling player.
All fighters get +1 weekly XP (it was +2 XP last week for the double xp weekly event. It’s returned to normal now).
Your Settlement generates more resources, which means even if you haven’t built anything yet, your Isotropic Fuel Rod and Water Still will give you an extra +10 Power and +10 Sustenance.
The first half of an Outlanders campaign is the Development phase, focused on gathering Power, Sustenance and Salvage to build structures for your Settlement.
All scenarios that have Materials (Power, Sustenance and Salvage) provide twice the normal amount.
Gangs can’t raid each others’ Settlements during this phase. The Settlement Raid, Market Mayhem and Stealth Attack Outlanders scenarios may not be played.
The void is no place for hivers – the terrifying expanse that stretches in every direction, the howling nothingness, no roof over your heads but the one you make. Our gangers will have to learn quickly if they want to survive.
All experience gains are doubled. This includes scenario rewards and weekly XP gain, as well as usual XP gains.
Directly taking an enemy Leader or Champion out of action by any means: +4 XP (usually +2)
Directly taking any other kind of enemy fighter out of action by any means: +2 XP (usually +1)
Successfully rallying after being Broken: +2 XP (usually +1)
This is the second Chapter mission of the Crown of Bones Inquisitor campaign, where three warbands clash in the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope. All are pursuing leads to the Crown of Bones, some picked up from their investigations on the Ius Soli. One warband has beaten the others to the area and has laid a cunning trap…
This is fifth scenario in the campaign, the others being Annex side missions like last week’s Silent Choir. The stakes are higher in Chapter missions, as it costs a precious Resource to buy in to the scenario. Fail too many Chapter missions, and your warband might lose its place in the finale for control of the Crown of Bones…
Setting the scene
Two Inquisitorial warbands are investigating an abandoned mining colony, conveniently ‘lost’ from all records, while a third warband lies in wait.
Archival data on the colony is scant at best. It is around a three decades old, predating the House Dacien cataclysm and the subsequent wholesale excavation of artifacts. It acted as a forward base for a chartered mining expedition for a Guilder called Foreman Fengel mining a rich seam of valuable ore, being profitable but otherwise unexceptional. Now, it is long abandoned.
The Inquisition are searching the colony as a result of their investigations on the Ius Soli. Something terrible happened in that cargo hold involving some agents of the Lucile Dynasty and House Dacien, and the only lead was a cargo manifest pointing to these coordinates. Perhaps a pick-up point for an alien artifact, or a front for a secret House Dacien base?
Dust squalls: Wind howls across Gehanna’s innumerable wastelands, and dust storms are frequent. All negative modifiers to ranged attacks are doubled, and Initiative checks are required to spot anyone over 24″ away. The tempestuous weather muffles sounds too, and all hearing distances are reduced by half.
Similar to Chapter 1, there are five pieces of evidence scattered across the map:
The radar dish
The exterior walls of every hab
The central vox intenna (along with the Bonus Resource)
The statues marking the entrance of the compound
The interior of every hab
Characters had to be close enough to investigate each area and perform a relevant check (usually Sagacity) to collect the evidence. Gather more than half the evidence and it’s mission complete!
Explicator Stigg has been studying the ship logs recovered from Von Horne on Skathi. They paint a picture of Novator Hypatos, the mouthpiece of House Dacien, and his movements before he died during an artifact exchange on the Ius Soli. This abandoned colony was Hypatos’ last known location.
Stigg is accompanied by his accomplice Rogue Trader Phaelon and one of Phaelon’s more unusual crewmates, a purple Ork called Morado.
Inquisitor Holt’s warband makes a return from last episode, now with a bee in his bonnet about the entire affair, along with trusted compatriots Father Patroneus and Cultist Grapthar.
Holt had been contacted by Mistress Dacien, heir apparent to the Dacien throne and direct rival of Silvius Dacien. She tries to convince Holt that Silvius is duping him into engaging in petty squabbles with other inquisitors and unwittingly destroyed evidence of Silvius’s misdeeds at the Astropathic Spire.
She appreciates that Holt has no reason to trust her, but he can trust the evidence of his own eyes. She gives Holt the location of Fengel’s Hope, pointing in particular to the black box of the vox-antenna where all of Silvius’ dirty secrets will be kept.
As a final parting gift, she tells Holt to be wary of any pit fighters he encounters – some of the House Dacien labour force have been infiltrated by a Chaos cult lead by a gang of off-world pit fighters.
Thanks to Crowblade’s warband‘s thriving infiltration of the House Dacien workforce, they have been contacted by a “mysterious benefactor” high up in the House Dacien food chain with an impossibly delicious offer: perform a simple black box switcheroo at the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope and be rewarded with the location of the Crown of Bones.
Owing to their success on the Ius Soli, Crowblade was able to reach the colony before the other warbands and switch the black box in the vox antenna for one provided by the mysterious benefactor before the game had even started. Now he simply had to play the part of goofy guardian, put up just enough of a fight, and escape once the dummy black box had been stolen.
Both Inquisiton warbands could deploy anywhere near the periphery of the colony, and Crowblade could hold his warband back and deploy anywhere after the other two had set up. This is largely in the interest of speeding things up, as the first few rounds of a game are usually just spent walking towards the objective.
Explicator Stigg chose to deploy entirely behind the far hab, which has a door on both sides for easy infiltration into the compound.
Holt and Patroneus deployed at the entrance to the compound, with Grapthar crawling underneath a broken piece of fence at the far end to set up behind some barrels.
Crowblade split his warband in two. Both pit fighters loitered near the vox-antenna (with the dummy black box) and Crowblade and Karith set up near the radar dish hab to better observe what was about to unfold.
Holt and Patroneus approach the colony with apprehension. He had commanded Grapthar to skirt the periphery and cover their approach from a concealed vantage point, but was realising he might have used too many long words and had lost the cultist in the dust storm.
The colony of Fengel’s Hope was long abandoned. Despite the squall howling around them, the air in the compound was still, and dust hung in the air like it was trapped in amber.
An uneasy feeling clotted in his stomach. He glanced at Patroneus, who gave a small nod back. He felt it too. The deep stain left by the lightest touch of the warp.
As he squinted through the haze, he noticed some deep wounds gouged into the statues that marked the entrance to the compound. They were strange – heavy and uneven, perhaps made by some beast or vehicle accident, but no tracks or evidence of collision. (Holt picked up evidence 4 straight off the bat)
The marks continued along the corners and window frames of the hab blocks, and as Holt’s eyes followed them they settled on a figure appearing through the particulate.
A pit fighter!
He ducked behind cover, signalling Patroneus to follow suit, to observe and plan their next move.
Crowblade was agitated – something in the area was deeply unsettling him. He had felt this before, back on the corpse barge, but it was stronger now. Whatever it was had happened here more recently.
He tried pacing to keep occupied, but the wait was agonising. The sooner some Imperial lapdogs arrived to steal the wrong thing, the sooner he could leave.
Explicator Stigg pushed himself into a nook on the hab’s exterior to shield himself from the wind. The dust penetrated everything.
The Ork was keeping close to the ground, his elaborate optical headset can’t have been helping against these conditions, but he wore it anyway. The Rogue Trader hovered about like a fly on groxdung, eager to be ‘allowed’ to go poking around where he wasn’t supposed to.
If Stigg’s old master could see the company he kept these days, he wasn’t sure if he’d congratulate him or kill him. He let slip a mirthless chuckle.
“What is it?” Phaelon asked. He was a racing dog waiting for the starting gun. Stigg ignored him and moved the conversation on.
“You,” he pointed to Morado, then up to a nearby rocky outcrop, “Up there. Keep watch. Cover us.” The Ork had a blank look on his face. Stigg was already tired.
“Just.. stop anything from trying to kill us.”
Morado grinned, and in a blink had melted away into the sandstorm. Stigg had to hand it to him – purple Orks really were stealthy.
He produced a small leather box from his overcoat, pressing his thumb to the biocoder to unlock it. Inside is a single sliver of broken mirror, and trapped within is the fragment of a powerful daemonic entity.
Normally the mirror daemon reveals nearby psykers as part of a long-standing bargain with Stigg’s master, but today it was silent. It had pushed itself to the farthest recesses of the shard’s reflection and refused to cooperate. That was telling enough – there is something here that scares daemons.
He returned the leather box to his coat and looked at Phaelon, who was studying Stigg’s face for answers. Stigg said nothing, and poked his head through the entrance of the hab.
It was abandoned, a thin layer of dust coating everything. There was no sign of a struggle though – everything had been carefully packed up. Nobody abandoned this place in a hurry. There was even ore in hoppers next to processing stations. The mines were clearly still profitable, so why was this place abandoned? (Stigg grabs evidence 5)
“It’s empt-” Even as the words left Stigg’s mouth, the Rogue Trader was already pushing past. In a single stride he had touched and fiddled with half a dozen different things in the hab. Stigg sighed.
Memotong span his flail to distract him from boredom. Boss says to wait, so he’ll wait, but why does waiting have to be so boring.
Boss made the plan very clear. Boss says defend the vox-antenna until boss says to stop defending it. But defend it from what? He groaned under his breath, looking around for a distraction.
As if in answer to his prayers he heard a clattering from from a nearby hab, and a shadow move across the window. He jumped into action
“Oi! Whaddya doing? ‘Oo’s in there?” He bellowed at the hab window, loud enough for everyone in the compound to hear.
Fro the corner of his eye he spots another two figures peering through the dust, this time from behind some nearby pipes. He could barely contain the smile on his face as he raised his flail in accusation.
“An’ you too! ‘Oo a’ you?”
“I am Inquisitor Aubray Holt, here on official business. Identify yourself!”
Memotong gestures wildly with his flail. “Never ‘eard of you. Boss says no-one’s allowed ‘ere… so YOU’RE not allowed ‘ere.”
Holt steps forwards slowly and purposefully. “Stand down. This is your only warning.”
Stigg could hear some shouting from outside the hab. He figured Phaelon had been made, as he was making exaggerated attempts to be stealthy past all the windows. He heard the respondant, a booming authoritative voice claiming to be an Inquisitor named Holt. He’d never heard the name before, so clearly not from the local Conclave. The Crown of Bones must be bigger than he thought to attract outside attention.
He sidled up to the hab window to get a closer look.
Meanwhile, Morado had scaled the rocky outcrop with ease and had pulled himself to a peak that overlooked the compound.
He could hear shouting between two humans he didn’t recognise, but he was far more interested in a target directly below him. A hunched individual carrying a massive shoota, he was absolutely Target Priority One.
Morado shuffled closer to the edge, drawing his blade, and fantasizing about the most elaborate way he could carry out his orders to defend his employer. After all, the best form of defence…
Distracted, his footing slipped.
Grapthar pulled himself as upright as he could, his arms covered in painful cuts and scrapes from crawling through the perimeter fence. He squinted through the dust and could make out a few figures that weren’t his boss.
He grinned. Anyone who wasn’t the Inquisitor was fair game. He propped his heavy stubber on the barrels nearby and overwatched the two pit fighters.
If this goes well, he thought to himself, he’ll treat himself to another couple of crawls through that fence.
Some rocks fell by his feet, tumbling down from the outcrop behind him. Strange…
But no! This was clearly an insidious distraction by the Ruinous Powers to keep him from carrying out his mission. (He passed his Leadership test by an absurd amount to stay on-task of protecting his Inquisitor!)
Grapthar squinted down the sights, lining up the pit fighters perfectly…
Father Patroneus was furious. A thick vein bulged on his temple as he strode towards the blasphemous pit fighter.
“How DARE you question the Inquisitor’s authority? He is the WORD and FIST of the God-Emperor of Mankind!” Hand picked to root out and destroy heresy in all its forms, and wherever it may lie! Death is too good an end for a blasphemer like you!”
Memotong shrugged “Never ‘eard of ‘im. Boss says ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere, so ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere. Not you, not yer mate,” he gestured wildly at the hab block “and ‘oever you’ve got in there. Schipka!”
As summoned, the other pit fighter lumbered around the base of the vox-antenna to see what’s going on, stup pistol raised.
Holt raised an eyebrow at the prospect of a third party in the hab.
“Your boss is of no consequence,” Holt continued, walking forwards. “I have demanded you move, but you have not. Grapthar! Release!”
The roar of Grapthar’s heavy stubber, overlaid with his maniacal cackle, rips through the compound.
Memotong and Schipka are sprayed with hot lead and both dive for cover, but not before Schipka takes a few grazing rounds to his extremities. Schipka’s stub pistol goes sailing from his hand, falling in the dust nearby.
Crowblade had been listening to every exchange, using the southern hab as cover to get closer. As he watched high velocity rounds rip into his minions, he thought it was perfect cover to slip through the window of the hab.
Through the doorway he watched the cultist howl with excitement as he hosed the pit fighters with bullets. Crowblade readied his sword.
At the other end of the compound, Karith had worked his way into the radar dish hab and was keeping an eye on Inquisitor Holt and his priestly friend.
With the sound of automatic fire rippling across the compound, Karith took the opportunity to squeeze off a few shots at the Inquisitor. He loved sticking the knife in and slipping away, and this was the perfect moment for some delicious mayhem.
Phaelon didn’t want to miss out on the excitement. Gunfire was erupting all across the compound, and from his estimation he had the perfect run at the heavy stubber nest.
He could follow the fence round to the right, the barrels perfectly blocking the view of the gunner. Charging an emplaced heavy weapon using only hits wits and his sword, how daring!
He couldn’t resist twirling his moustache at the thought. He broke cover, leaving the hab behind him, and began making his way towards grapthar.
He barely took a few steps from the doorway when a streak of purple fell from the heavens. His heart sunk.
Morado whispered a small Waaagh under his breath and leapt, dagger raised.
He stumbled, catching his foot, and fell dramatically from the outcrop. He smashed both his legs on the way down, but with cat-like grace managed to twist his body so his weapon found its mark.
It plunged straight into the back of Grapthar’s neck, and Grapthar’s now lifeless body cushioned Morado’s fall.
It was an ambush! Holt wasn’t sure who was ambushing whom, but it was clear they’d walked into a trap. With gunfire coming in from every angle, he pressed himself against the base of the vox-antenna to take stock of the situation.
The heavy stubber fire had abated, but another gunman was keeping them pinned from a hab to the south. The auto-reader on Father Patroneus’ tome was already flipping the pages to the correct hymns of fury, and the preacher was belting out litanies to anyone within earshot.
The two pit fighters were rolling around on the ground, so Holt took his chance. He clambered up the ladder on the base of the vox-antenna, aiming to grab the black box of vox-data he knew was at the top.
Sensing a break in the gunfire, Stigg stepped from the hab. His head is on a swivel, keeping both eyes open for any more ambushers.
He noticed the exterior walls of the habs are all covered in messages painted in miners’ cant. They all seemed to be warnings or messages to the lost. “Gavinda, if you are reading this, we have returned to the estate. Saints guide you.” “A cursed place, do not enter” and “The temple should have stayed buried”. The colonists seemed convinced the mine at Fengel’s Hope was haunted. (Evidence 2 scooped up by Stigg as the bullets fly)
Both pit fighters were still scrabbling around in the dust, trying to hunker up near any sort of cover. He spotted a powerful-looking figure climbing the vox antenna, and made a safe assumption.
“Inquisitor Holt!” He yelled, “I am Explicator Stigg. I’ve been investigating here for some time – I don’t know your intentions, but I’ve been gathering evidence on an ongoing mission. Either vacate the area so I can continue unabated, or state how you will further the Inquisition’s mission with your actions.”
“How DARE you!” Father Patroneus shrieked, “How DARE you insult his lordship by questioning his actions! You don’t DESERVE to be in his presence! You are scum! Less than scum! You have no authority here!”
The preacher’s power sword fizzes and sparks from the atmospheric dust as he bore down on the Explicator and Rogue Trader, who now found themselves caught out in the open.
Morado had pulled his atoms back together and removed the dagger from Grapthar’s head. It all seemed to be kicking off in the centre, with even more humans and even more shouting.
He figured the safest place to lay low would be the nearby hab. There he could watch the carnage unfold and plan his next ambush.
Unbeknownst to him Crowblade had similar ideas, and had secreted himself just outside the hab. It was time to ambush the ambusher, just as planned….
The wind was knocked from Phaelon’s sails. Seeing Morado (at least, he assumed the angry purple blur was Morado) take down his intended target in such an impressive manner was a little deflating for the Rogue Trader.
Stigg was busy yelling at someone about something, and Phaelon was scanning the remaining combatants for signs of action.
One of the pit fighters had begun to recover and was reaching for his stub pistol on the floor. Not on my watch!
“Gnasher, fetch!” He swashbuckled with his sword in the direction of the pit fighter, who was now scrambling to his knees in a panic.
The mechanical creation bounded from the hab, pistons hissing and metal jaws chomping.
Phaelon drew his archeotech pistol in the other hand and pointed it at the other pit fighter to his left.
“Don’t move a muscle.” He said. Imagining how he looked to other people, a smile crept across his face.
Holt doggedly ignored everything around him and continued his mission, climbing the ladder to the vox-antenna. He could hear this so-called Stigg demanding fealty from the ground.
“I have complete authority to fulfil my mission in this sector!” Stigg commanded, “I request yourself or your master come and parley over what you’ve found in this supposedly abandoned location, or am I supposed to treat you as a risk to my mission?”
Holt arrived at the summit, and begun flicking switches and hitting panels looking for the black box release.
“Your needs are of no concern,” Holt responded, feeling around underneath the console “Stay out of our way and there will be no altercations.”
Crowblade wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. It appeared Orkish, but the purple hue threw him off. Perhaps some kind of mutant? No matter. The creature was staring out the window and hadn’t heard him approach.
Crowblade thrust his sword into Morado’s thigh. He yelped in surprise more than pain, as pink-blue flames burst from the warrior’s blade and engulfed his midriff.
Morado staggered backwards, batting away Crowblades overhead swings and desperately trying to douse the unnatural flames.
Crowblade was impressed. This creature was both tolerant to flame, and a surprising swordsman. He could test his duelling mettle. Just as planned…
Stigg was asessing his options from the ground. This Inquisitor Holt character wasn’t playing ball, but he wasn’t actively shooting at him, so that was a positive.
“I will continue to secure the area,” Stigg shouted, turning round to look at Phaelon and Memotong, who had his hand and eviscerator raised in mocking surrender, “I hope whatever you find you’ll share for the betterment of us both.”
Stigg produces a set of magnacles from his coat and brandishes them at Memotong. “You’re coming with us.”
The pit fighters’ eyes glaze over, and his muslces twitch uncontrollably. The auto-injector roulette built into his spine had activated from some unseen signal, and the pit fighters were getting their random dose of combat drugs.
Schipka on the floor had been wrestling with Gnasher and suddenly found himself injected with Spur. With his newfound Initiative and Speed, he was able to throw Gnasher off and run for the hills, disappearing into the dust.
Memotong’s dose was less kind. He took a heavy hit from Barrage, doubling all his physical stats, and putting him to the top of the Speed order.
In his frenzy, he smashed Stigg’s magnacles aside and lunged at Phaelon. He fired in panic but the shot went wide, and Memotong brough his screaming eviscerator to bear.
Phaelon managed to get his sword up in time to parry, but the pit fighter’s sudden explosion of speed means he missed the back swing, and the eviscerator tore into his arm. The teeth of the eviscerator found purchase on his sword and span it high in the air, preventing the worst of the damage to the Rogue Trader’s arm.
Phaelon wasn’t taking any chances, and while the pit fighter was busy slavering and posturing, he leapt through the window on the nearby hab for cover.
Using the carnage as a distraction, Holt finally pulled the black box free from its hidey-hole and slid down the ladder, calling to Patroneus to leave (Grabbing evidence 3). The heavy stubber shooting had stopped, so he wasn’t sure what had happened to Grapthar, but he was sure they’d find him again after the dust had settled.
Crowblade slipped away from Morado, the dancing flames becoming too much of a distraction to fight him properly. The black box had been correctly stolen, just as planned, so it was time to retreat before any further casualties were sustained.
Crowblade slinked away into the dust storm, sending a telepathic message to his followers to do the same. As suddenly as he turned violent, Memotong simply downed weapons and sprinted off into the engulfing ash.
Stigg was left stunned. Phaelon came out of hiding, and a burning Morado tumbled out of a far hab to extinguish himself on the dusty floor. The abandoned colony was abandoned again. What had just happened?
This game was sadly cut short due to time, just at the moment that the pit fighters activated their combat drugs! We could squeeze in one turn of combat before calling it a night, and narrating the rest of the events based on how things went.
Luckily by this point everyone had achieved what they’d set out to, so we didn’t need to resolve any other conflicts.
Holt evacuated with the dummy black box, which contained lots of fabricated messages implicating Mistress Dacien in a series of kidnappings. Holt’s experts concluded that it was fake, meaning Holt had been stitched up twice by House Dacien. What will he do next?
Stigg’s warband were left with the site to themselves, so they could examine all the evidence at their leisure. They discovered a databank that would have stored all the vox and pict recordings of the original dig site when the colony was set up 30 years ago – they had been recently downloaded and wiped clean. More evidence of a coverup!
Crowblade successfully performed the switcheroo and returned to his House Dacien contact for payment – the location to the Crown of Bones. Perfect. Just as planned…
Holt managed to snag three pieces of evidence (claw marks on the statues, graffiti on the walls, the vox antenna) and even figured out the data on the black box he stole was planted, earning his victory 2 Resources a bonus Resource.
Stigg’s warband was left on the field, so had plenty of time to examine the lost colony after the game had ended. He gathered enough evidence during the game to earn his 2 Resources, but managed to paint a bigger picture of what happened here.
Crowblade’s plan worked perfectly – the box was stolen and evacuated before anyone knew he was there. 2 Resources all round!
A very fun game to run, with a good mix of roleplaying, violence, and intrigue. Crowblade’s player gets a special mention – he was so committed to the con that he used Crowblade and Karith to ‘gather’ evidence as the game went on, convincing the other players he was after the same thing as them!
The biggest factor was, is, and always will be, Time. We started a bit later than intended and had a particular cut-off point that loomed just as we got into the action. Other than tapping my watch impatiently as players mull over early game actions, I have three plans to keep games on-schedule:
Set a framework: If we take an average turn with 6-12 models on the board as being about 30 minutes, and we have three hours to play a game, state before the game starts we’ll get about 6 turns before we wrap up. Resolve your conflicts (violent or otherwise) before then!
Reverse Initiative deployment: Don’t set warbands up in the corners and make their first few turns walking. Allow characters to deploy anywhere on the board, starting with the slowest character on the Initiative list. You can briefly narrate how your heavy weapon thug climbed up to a sniper’s nest before the game started, but was spotted by a rival minion who has snuck up to the base of the ladder… Plenty of scope to dive straight into the action when the game starts!
No fighty, no dicey: No dice are rolled until there’s conflict to resolve. Everyone performs all their actions and passes all their tests until there is a confrontation, whether that’s taking a shot, or rolling off to snatch the glowing orb.
I’ve been using the Reverse Initiative system successfully in most of my games now (hence Grapthar setting up on the opposite end of the compound from his warband), but I’ll encourage players to get more creative with it. As for the other plans, watch this space!
The story is properly unfolding now. The warbands have all encountered one another, and some rivalries are beginning to develop. This helps the above problem too, as less of the game is spent finding out what everyone’s up to.
Something big and terrible happened in the mine around the lost colony, enough to abandon it long ago. But someone seems to have gone poking around in it and hidden the evidence… Who could that have been?
In this scenario, both warbands are looking for the source of the encrypted message that catalysed the Crown of Bones investigation, and they have traced it to an abandoned astropathic spire in the middle of nowhere. They quickly realise the spire isn’t as abandoned as they’d hoped…
setting the scene
Both warbands are looking for an astropathic spire in the dusty hinterlands of Gehanna, far beyond the walls of the House Dacien estate. It is the original source of Navigator Silvius’ distress message to the conclave, and the astropathic matrix inside the spire will likely hold more clues to the investigation.
However, a gang of thugs belonging to the crooked Lucile Rogue Trader Dynasty have already moved in and are looting everything in sight. They’ve not expecting company, but they’re well-armed and have set up defenses in case of surprise visitors.
Dust storm: Wind howls across Gehanna’s innumerable wastelands, and dust storms are frequent. All negative modifiers to ranged attacks are doubled, and Initiative checks are required to spot anyone over 12″ away. The tempestuous weather muffles sounds too, and all hearing distances are reduced by half.
The spire itself is in the middle of nowhere and tall enough to pierce the dust clouds (not pictured, I ran out of building blocks after the first storey). It’s surrounded by the rusting vestiges of supporting structures and strange rock formations.
There are four members of the Lucile thug squad – two on the stairs and balcony, one inside salvaging cables, and one loading servitor named Clamps moving crates onto the truck.
Firstly we have a newcomer to the subsector, Inquisitor Aubray Holt, accompanied by his proselytising keeper-of-the-faith Father Sebastian Patroneus. They’re joined by a recent convert to the Imperial Creed, a heavy stubber-weilding cultist named Grapthar.
Holt holds strong Amalathian beliefs – it is the Inquisition’s sacred duty to let nothing threaten the status quo, the holy Imperium as laid out by the Emperor himself, that has lasted across the millennia. These particular beliefs inspired Navigator Silvius to contact him directly, informing him of the astropathic matrix within the spire.
Silvius told Holt of a threat to House Dacien – a radical splinter group lead by heir-apparent Mistress Dacien. Silvius alleges that she is in league with the Lucile Dynasty, getting them to do her dirty work. Silvius believes she is trying to gain access to the matrix so she can fabricate astropathic messages and bring ruin to House Dacien – a vital Imperial institution – and that this is a threat worthy of Holt’s attention.
Given no current reason to suspect anything, Holt’s mission is clear – destroy the astropathic matrix to prevent it falling into enemy hands.
Secondly we have Inquisitor Vanth, a legendary and/or reviled name in this part of the galaxy. He is a radical Xanthite Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus who has crossed swords with more young righteous upstarts than he can keep track of. He is only saved from the noose by a combination of manipulations, schemes, charisma, and exceptional results.
He is joined by two of his hand-picked bodyguard – the talent field medic Sergeant Honeis and the nigh-unkillable bionic warrior Corporal Topaz.
Vanth considers himself above chasing leads like other investigators. He prefers to go directly to the source and extract everything he needs to know. In this instance, he has tracked the origin of the encrypted distress call and will commune directly with the astropathic matrix.
Using his considerable psychic powers, he plans to scrape the matrix of any psychic residue left by its previous users and capture echoes of messages past. It’ll get him closer to the Crown of Bones, a useful tool in his master plan.
Vanth and his guard set up at the far end of the board, slightly closer to the spire but with lots of open ground. He’s relying on the dust storm masking their approach.
Holt and his companions deploy at the opposite corner near some structures that Grapthar can use as a vantage point. Holt has plenty of open ground to cover too, but isn’t concerned about masking his approach.
They had been travelling for hours. With the thick fug of dust and featureless terrain, it was easy to convince yourself you’d been walking on the spot.
Corporal Topaz glanced over at his master Vanth, who was studing his auspex carefully. Almost in response Vanth looked up, drawing the gaze of his two guardsmen to the wall of dust where the sky should be.
As if responding to his master’s will, a black shadow pierced the gloom ahead. A tower in the distance – tall enough to pierce the clouds. This was the spire they were looking for, exactly where Vanth said it would be.
Vanth briefly consulted his auspex again. He sent curt, practised hand signals back to Topaz – five individuals, two of them in patrol pattern. Advance carefully. Attack on his mark only.
Topaz nodded and signalled for Honeis to follow. They pressed ahead through the dust, reaching the base of the spire quickly and quietly.
On the opposite side of the spire, Inquisitor Holt and his team moved into position. Thanks to Navigator Silvius’ tip off, he knew to expect company at the spire.
He ordered Grapthar onto a nearby vantage point to provide cover. He was under strict instructions not to fire until Holt gave the word. Grapthar looked disappointed, but understanding.
Holt had no intention of sneaking around. He was in control of the situation and the spire was rightfully his. He would give these goons an opportunity to walk away, or suffer the consequences.
Father Patroneus beside him had his book of prayers in one hand and power sword in the other. Holt knew he’d been ready for violence from the moment they left, but he still wanted to check as a formality.
“Ready?” Holt asked. Patroneus shot him a look. He was ready.
Holt and Patroneus stride forwards. The dust clouds seem to part around the spire, and they step into the eye of the storm.
There are a handful of salvagers here – two on watch, while a heavily augmented invidual on the ground loads crates onto a truck.
“Looters of the Lucile Dynasty!” Holt booms, “cease your actions and walk away, this is your only warning!”
The looter with the bandana and bionic arm, Rockatansky, points his lasgun lazily at these newcomers.
“We don’t want no bloodshed, but we’re real good at bloodsheddin’.”
The looter in the helmet, Fetch, touches the vox-bead in his ear, speaking in voidcant and alerting the third looter inside the spire. He shoulders his rifle at Holt, and backs up his compatriot.
“That’s right,” Fetch yells, “Walk away old man, this ain’t anything to do with you.” The third looter, Zaal, appears from inside the spire, shotgun raised.
Father Patroneus splutters in outrage. “How dare you raise your weapons at an Inquisitor?”
In response, Holt raises his rosette above his head. “I am Inquisitor Aubray Holt! Your presence here is unsanctified. Remove yourselves or suffer the consequences. This is your only warning.”
With a note of panic in his voice, Rockatansky raises his rifle and shouts back “One more step and I’ll shoot!”
Both holy agents keep striding towards the spire, unphased by the looters’ threats. The Lucile rent-a-thugs seemed to be losing their nerve, it was time to act.
Holt bellowed, cutting through the howling wind. “Grapthar, now!”
Vanth and his team had made excellent progress. Topaz was scouting ahead while Honeis covered the rear. His auspex was reading some kind of congregation on the far side of the spire, but the reading was too obscured by the weather to make sense.
The sound of gunfire penetrates the shrieking gale. Heavy calibre, automatic gunfire. All three of his team instinctively press against the spire, trying to make out its origin.
Topaz and Honeis sweep the horizon with their lasguns while Vanth tries to hone in with his auspex. The machine spirit was not cooperative.
He signalled at his team: We’re not alone – the plan has not changed.
Grapthar’s heavy stubber roars, spitting a stream of lead towards the spire. He rakes it back and forth across the balcony, laughing maniacally, and catching all three Lucile looters in the barrage.
They dive for cover, but not before a searing hot round tears a chunk out of Fetch’s arm. His lasgun goes clattering to the floor, sliding off the balcony and onto the dusty ground below.
Father Patroneus presses the button on his book to auto-turn to the correct page for the ass-whooping he’s about to hand out.
He strides towards the spire under a hail of gunfire, his booming voice drowning out the throaty rattle of Grapthar’s weapon. He invokes Word of the Emperor, venerating faithful service above all else, stunning Rockatansky in his tracks.
“Clamps, get ’em!”
Clamps enters the fray. Clamping his clamps, Clamps charges towards Father Patroneus. He’s sluggish to attack, but he’s more than capable of rending limbs from torsos with a flick of his magnificent squeezers.
Patroneus dodges a few of his clumsy attacks, but can’t land a return blow with his power sword. Holt steps in, his neural whip crackling.
Strike after strike after strike is landed on Clamps, his augmented body shrugging off the damage like rainwater. His unaugmented mind however couldn’t shrug off the bio-electrical discharge from Holt’s neural whip.
His tiny lobotomised brain is overloaded. He goes stiff as a board and topples over, a bluescreen error message flickering in his eyes.
Vanth had been watching this entire exchange from behind cover. He knew every Inquisitor who operated in this region, and this wasn’t one of them.
Topaz was crouched in front of him. He had watched everything too, and had calculated the chance to engage against armour was high. His meltagun was raised.
“It’s considered bad form to melt other Inquisitors,” said Vanth, “So much paperwork.”
Topaz lowered his meltagun.
While this new Inquisitor and his allies were busy dealing with the loader-servitor, Vanth and his team slinked up the stairs. The looter at the top was preoccupied too, and a distracted mind is an unguarded mind.
With little effort, Vanth cast Terrify on Rockatansky. He forced visions of utter dread into the thug’s unprepared psyche, a phantasm of the spire bearing down on him, punishing for something he shouldn’t have stolen. Rockatansky flees in terror, bounding down the stairs and vaulting the railing, sprinting towards the getaway truck.
From his position on the balcony Vanth addresses the newcomers, gauntleted hands resting on the railing.
“Do you require any assistance, Inquisitor Holt?”
Holt turned away from the squirming servitor on the floor to see a robed figure on the balcony above him, flanked by two veteran guardsmen. He’d never met him before, but he’d read about him in many a junior Inquisitor’s final transmissions. The scarred, bald head. The sword that glows with a baleful light. The look of utter arrogance. Inquisitor Vanth.
“Things are in order Vanth,” Holt replied, “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Indeed Inquisitor,” Vanth enjoyed making a show of knowing his opponent, even if he only knew them by overhearing their name a few moments ago. “We are here to investigate the source of the distress message, which I and no doubt yourself received. You, unlike the other fools, did not attend the coordinates and instead came straight to the source. Good.”
Holt was on the back foot. Was he being sincere, or is this a trick? He changed tack.
“There was distressing news of looters and I had to get involved.” Holt gestured to the wounded servo-loader on the ground. “Friends of yours?”
“Goodness no. These peons serve the Lucile Dynasty and are of little concern. Do you require any assistance in dispatching them? It seems that one is causing you quite the struggle.”
“A minor concern!” Holt found himself flustered at the veiled insult. The reports were right, he had a way of getting under your skin.
“If there are any more, we shall take care of them.” Vanth spoke in a tone that suggested a teacher disappointed in his pupil. He turned to rejoin his team further along the balcony, moving round the spire and out of sight.
Holt turned round to Father Patroneus, who was still struggling with Clamps. “Are we done?” He spat.
“Duty calls, my lord!” Patroneus responded with a jovial lilt, before plunging his power sword straight through the eye-socket of the malfunctioning Clamps.
Fetch and Zaal took cover inside the spire’s astropathic matrix chamber. Fetch had practically done a lap of the balcony to avoid the gunfire, and Zaal was crawling across the floor clutching a bloody leg.
Exercising some seniority, Fetch relinquishes Zaal of his shotgun. It wasn’t a weapon of choice, especially not in these kind of dusty conditions, but it was better than a broken neck or a rump full of bullet holes trying to retrieve his own weapon.
The shooting stopped, and they could hear the sounds of bravado outside. It seems this stew has another cook. Time to get out of the kitchen.
He poked his head outside the chamber. Both warbands were converging on the spire, but only one of the exits was blocked.
He touched the micro-bead in his ear. “Rockatansky, bring the truck round back. We’re leaving.”
Vanth wasn’t sure what’s Holt’s goals were here, but it was surely to do with the matrix. He needed to get there first.
He quickened his stried and arrived at chamber, just in time to see a pair of figures leave through the opposite doorway. They were immediately followed by a blast of heavy stubber fire from Holt’s gunman.
Good, he thought. The vermin are taking care of each other.
Grapthar clanked up the stairs ahead of his master. He was hopelessly out of breath. The dust was awful in his lungs and his clothes chafed terribly. He was sweaty, tired, and hurt. He was having the time of his life.
His Inquisitor had ordered him to take up a forward position, so he had turbo-hobbled towards the spire during the exchange with vanth. He had finally pulled himself up onto the balcony when he heard a noise next to him.
Two of the looters emerged from inside, one wounded, and he savoured the shocked looks on their faces. He found his second wind immediately, squeezing the trigger on his heavy stubber that was barely even been pointed at them.
He wielded his weapon like someone powerhousing their patio. Heavy calibre rounds exploded off the floor and walls in a deluge of bullets. He wasn’t even sure if he’d hit them.
What he did know is by the time his gun clicked empty they had disappeared, replaced with the sound of an engine speeding away into the storm.
Vanth approached the astropathic matrix. It was cold, despite the baking heat, and covered with a fine layer of dust. Several panels had been prised off and components crudely hacked from the mechanism, but nothing valuable. He could feel its true value – it still hummed with psychic resonance.
He stretched out a hand. Astropathic messages were particularly hard to scry. They communicate in riddles at the best of times. This was like searching for a book in a ruined library with the words scrubbed off the spines.
An irritatingly familiar voice boomed across the chamber. “What are you doing Vanth?”
Holt was standing in the entrance on the far side of the chamber. Vanth could feel the heavy boots of his companions behind him taking up firing positions. He tried not to let Holt hear the irritation in his voice.
“This is the source,” Vanth growled back, “I’m attempting something incredibly delicate. Have you ever accessed such an arcane device before?”
“I’ve had no need,” said Holt with a wry grin, his inferno pistol outstretched, “and nobody will soon!”
The melta beam seared through the matrix, vapourising and liquidising anything it touched in equal measures. There was soon little left except bubbling pools of crystal and fragments of machinery.
Silence. Bated breath.
Both warbands stood across the chamber from each other, weapons levelled, daring the other to fire first.
Vanth broke the quiet with a disappointed sigh. Perhaps there was something still salvageable.
“Was that… necessary, Inquisitor?”
“Yes,” proclaimed Holt, a righteous grin plastered across his face. “To keep the status quo and stability of the Imperium!”
Vanth’s temper was bubbling to the surface. “You understand these arrays are for communication? Without them we can’t possibly operate as an Imperium, let alone find what we’re looking for in this Emperor-forsaken armpit of the sector!”
“Some communications are best not getting out.”
“The communication has already got out!” Vanth retorted. His anger was audible. “And it has caused half the sector’s Conclave to go running after some insane Navigator Household like headless chickens! The damage was already done! At least one of us was trying to mitigate further catastrophe!”
Holt simply smiled. He turned and walked from the chamber, his companions covering their exit. He was happy to leave without bloodshed, and the thought of the infamous Vanth rummaging around in the ruin of Holt’s own making gave him a flutter of pride.
He had done the Imperium a great service today.
In the post-game debrief, we talked about what the Inquisitors would do next. Holt was happy to leave Vanth in control of the spire, as he considered his work complete there.
We reasoned that Vanth wouldn’t give up there, and has utilised every tool in his arsenal to glean what he can from the astropathic matrix. No other warbands were threatening his position there, so he was happy to set up a forward base and study the remnants further.
He discovered that the matrix contained a distress message and timestamp sent by Junior Navigbator Silvius to the conclave, as expected. However, it also contained a myraid of other astropathic communications, their data inexpertly purged.
It apepars that Elder Koronis, the current head of the house, is missing in action. Novator Hypatos, the current heir, had been acting as a mouthpiece. Hypatos hasn’t been heard from in months, ever since he met with representatives from the Lucile Dynasty to make an artifact sale on the ghost ship Ius Soli…
Inquisitor Holt destroyed the matrix, exactly as Silvius requested. He was awarded the Resource for completing his mission.
With some clever roleplay and some excellent Sagacity and Willpower checks made after the game, Vanth was still able to gain some information from the matrix. How he uses that information in the future remains to be seen…
Some great roleplay with a dash of violence made this scenario one of my favourites yet. We’ve had two ideologically-opposed Inquisitors meet and exchange unpleasantries, and despite the skirmish with the Lucile thugs, neither of the warbands came to blows with each other. Since Holt literally blew up Vanth’s plans in front of him however, they might not be so amicable if they cross paths again in the future.
Holt is going to get a nasty shock when he finds out he’s been played by Silvius…
Despite it being a side-step from the core drama, the moon of Skathi had its fair share of drama. In this scenario, Explicator Stigg and his entourage get a tip-off from a Mayweather Guildmaster and meet him at his secure compound on Skathi to secure the information. Unfortunately for them both, Genetor Vacillus had different plans for the Guildmaster.
Setting the scene
The moon of Skathi is little more than a large asteroid, picked by Mayweather Borers as one of many forward bases around the system. It has a breathable atmosphere, but little in the way of life beyond clusters of spiky plants. The only environmental feature of note is its rapid day-night cycle, meaning sunsets can happen very quickly.
Sunset: Visibility starts at 50″. At the beginning of every round, visibility is reduced by 5″.
The Mayweather compound is a standard pattern – thick walls surrounding functional buildings that can be dropped from orbit. They have to work under all manner of conditions, often against native fauna or local rivals, so armed guards are needed around the clock.
There are three mercenaries present – one by the landing pad to welcome the Explicator, one by the gate, and one on the wall above the gate.
Fortunately for Genetor Vacillus, some routine maintenance is being carried out on an unprotected section of the boundary wall. Some labourers loyal to House Dacien have been planted in the compound. Vacillus knows he’ll be getting help from the House Dacien tracker, but he didn’t know the extent of the setup…
Guildmaster Von Horne is holed up in his private bunker, surrounded by ‘advisors’ and his personal guard. He knows he might not make it through the night and has drunk himself into a stupour, much to the annoyance of his guards.
The shipping logs are contained in a datslate carried by his valet servitor. It’s protected by sensor bafflers and EM shielding, so it can’t be accessed or wiped remotely.
Explicator Stigg is back after his run-in with Crowblade’s pit fighters at Distro-19, now with an actual model! He returns with Rogue Trader Phaelon, an uneasy alliance of convenience more than anything else, and one of Phaelon’s crew – an “industrial servitor” called Evee.
Despite what you might suspect, Evee is of course a helpful automaton and not abominable intelligence. Remember, always look for the Aquila.
Explicator Stigg’s arrival is expected by the compound guards, and his goal is to meet up with Guildmaster Von Horne and receive his data in exchange for Stigg’s protection.
Genetor Vacillus is on Skathi thanks to the careful pathfinding of his House Dacien tracker, a kroot named Omar Anoke. Vacillus was tipped off to this meeting by a contact inside House Dacien, and for personal security has brought along his prototype arco-flagellant X-206.
Vacillus is planning on stealing the shipping logs for himself. Unfortunately Anoke has orders of his own – silence Von Horne before he can spill his secrets. The shipping logs are supposed to fall into enemy hands…
Vacillus’ warband sets up hugging the outer wall of the compound, near the breach at the edge of the board. They’re expecting to hop through and head straight for the bunker.
Stigg’s warband deploy on the landing pad after being dropped off by shuttle. They’ll have to find an alternate way off the board once they’ve secured the data.
The sun dips low in the sky. Anoke had been dragging his two charges for some distance, and he was frustrated at how little urgency they seemed to have. He was relieved to be at the compound – he could finally move at his own pace, do the job, and leave.
He gestured at Vacillus to follow him to a breach in the wall. On the other side were two labourers performing some kind of maintenance. Anoke stood in clear sight of them. The welding stopped.
“Ash and bone” he croaked in human-speak.
Without any kind of acknowledgement, they simply downed tools and left. Anoke knew they were off to sabotage the Guildmaster’s escape vehicle, but he’d keep that to himself. Vacillus would only be a liability if he knew Anoke’s real mission.
The shuttle dusted off, leaving Explicator Stigg and his retinue looking a little lost on the landing pad.
“Identification!” Shouted a mercenary in a yellow overcoat.
Stigg flashed his rosette.
“Explicator Stigg. This is Rogue Trader Augustus Phaelon and our faithful automaton Evee. I believe your boss is expecting us.”
Vacillus was surprised at how well orchestrated this infiltration was. The Kroot had only exchanged a few words with these labourers and they immediately left their posts. No matter. They needed to move on the target.
He tapped a few instructions into his datapad. X206 had been hovering behind them near silently, but sparks now snapped from its electro-tentacles as power surged through its body.
With House Dacien’s blueprint data, Vacillus entered target information into X206’s subroutines. X206’s orders were to sneak up on the bunker and await activation.
Swimming through the air like a deep-sea creature, X206 pushed passed the labourers and glided into the compound.
Anoke watched the murderous machine flow through the breach and past the labourers. It moved like something that knew it was at the top of the food chain. He expected Vacillus to show a little restraint with his murderous mechanical companion, but perhaps he midjudged him.
Anoke took up position on a nearby silo, clearing several storeys in a single effortless leap. He checked his weapon and took up position, overwatching the empty stretch of road between the bunker and the escape vehicle.
He watched the electric predator swim lazily towards the bunker. Wasp nest, meet stick.
The guard in yellow whistled a message across the compound, receiving several whistles and hand signals in return. He seemed satisfied at the response, and gestured at Stigg to approach the bunker.
The Guildmaster’s bunker was alive with coloured lights and thumping music, with sounds of merriment coming from inside. The Guilder guards looked particularly angry at this arrangement.
Stigg and Phaelon approached, Evee following behind with surprisingly delicate footsteps. Phaelon stayed outside, making ineffective compliments about the guard’s fashion choices, and Stigg entered.
“Inquisitor!” The Guildmaster roared and threw his hands in the air, knocking over a bottle of something bubbly.
“Explicator.” Stigg corrected to deaf ears.
Von Horne continued, as his ‘advisors’ giggled and fawned. “Come in, come in! I’ve been waiting for you! Come, we have time, pour yourself a drink, we have much to discuss.”
Von Horne reaches for a new bottle, but a guard leans over and plucks it from his grasp. “No sir, we do not have time for another drink.”
X206 had moved into position, finding an open window on the bunker. It was the perfect size for slithering in. He pressed close to the wall, waiting for his activation.
Sticking to the growing shadows, Vacillus took cover in an alcove by the foot of the stairs overlooking the bunker. It was a satisfactory overlook. He tapped his datapad and opened up a vox channel to Anoke. “Fire on my command.”
He didn’t require a response from Anoke, nor would he receive one.
He tapped his datapad again, changing channels. “X206. All organic targets except the valet servitor are viable. Activate.”
What happened next appeared in slow motion.
X206 slipped into the window, and in a heartbeat turned from sluggish sea predator into the blazing heart of a star.
Barely-contained energy crackled from every limb, charring everything it touched.
X206 became a hurricane of metal and fire. It lashed out at the nearest viable target, turning one of Von Horne’s advisors into strips of flesh with a flick of the wrist.
Chaos reigns. The murderous assailant lashes out indiscriminately, punctuated by screams of confusion and fear. Some guards leap forward to attack, throwing themselves between the machine and their master.
It is a bloodbath.
Amongst the violence, Stigg manages to place himself between X206 and the Guildmaster, dragging him outside to relative safety. The Guildmaster finds the energy to tell Stigg about the escape vehicle waiting outside the compound, while thick red gobbets of his bodyguards rain down around him.
Completely paralysed by shock, Von Horne finds himself being scooped under the arm of another machine. This time a towering industrial automaton. It speaks to him in soothing tones.
“You are being rescued, please do not resist.”
While all this violence is happening, the two turncoat labourers have made their way towards the escape vehicle.
They easily convince the guard to help defend the Guildmaster, leaving the truck completely undefended.
The sounds of gunfire mix with the thumping tunes from the bunker. Stigg’s laspistols are in his hands in the blink of an eye, and he opens up at point blank range.
Half a clip of ammunition barely scratches the arco-flagellant, and it turns its rage towards him. He shouts at Evee to get Von Horne to safety.
With the Guildmaster in his arms, Evee makes a break across the courtyard, right into the crosshairs of the waiting Kroot assassin.
With a sharp crack, the Kroot rifle punches through Evee’s protective casing and into the gut of the Guildmaster.
Waiting in the wings is Vacillus. He was surprised by the Kroot’s actions, but given the rapidly evolving situation, made a snap decision to roll it into his own plan.
He raised his organic cleanser at the incoming automata and fired.
The organic cleanser is a weapon of his own devising. It’s a single-shot weapon with a one turn recharge that acts like the Blood Boil psychic power. Its base function is to strip faulty biological components from broken servitors while keeping the cybernetics intact. It’s an extremely messy affair when used against a living target, of course.
Passing his Ballistic Skill test by 40, Vacillus liquifies all of Guildmaster Von Horne’s innards in a manner of seconds. He becomes a lifeless sack of bones and mush, flopping around in Evee’s arms.
Evee holds up his charge to examine the extent of the damage. It appears irrepairable.
As confusion and violence ripples across the compound, some of the guards looking for answers have just spotted a giant machine carrying the limp, lifeless body of their master. In a panic, they open fire on Evee.
The compound is a battleground, with skirmishes raging all over. Anoke drops down from his perch. His work complete, he slinks away through the breach.
At the bunker, X206 has murdered or grievously wounded every guard inside. Stigg and Phaelon pour gunfire into it, stunning it and slowing its advance, but failing to stop it.
Near the gatehouse, Evee moves to engage the Mechanicus adept who liquified Von Horne. He slams him against the statue and raking Vacillus’ arm with his servo claw, burning it to the bone.
Staggering back, Vacillus takes stock of the situation and decides discretion is the better part of valour. He orders X206 to destroy anything interacting with the valet servitor and slinks off through the entrance. He’ll have more luck picking over whatever X206 leaves in its wake, and there’s little his organic cleanser can do against this huge automaton.
On top of all this, guards are still firing at X206 and Evee. One mistakes Vacillus for a labourer, and shouts at him to get to the extraction vehicle while they cover their retreat.
The panicked surviving advisor runs through the compound, covered in blood.
The sun is gone, the compound lit only by its fading corona. Visibility was down to 15″, and everyone was making their last plays of the game.
Stigg runs over to the valet servitor and snatches up the data-slate. “We need to move!” he shouts at Phaelon.
The Rogue Trader makes a move towards the truck, but sees the guards still bouncing bullets off Evee’s armoured shell.
“Cease fire! The servitor’s with us!” he yells, hoping to get the guards on side, “We’re trying to protect you!”
The guards pause. The gunfire subsides. The quiet is interrupted by the sounds of arcing electricity. X206 has powered back up.
With frightening speed it beelines for the valet servitor, hell-bent on carrying out its new orders. It lashes out at the person nearest the target, and no matter how hard Stigg tries, he can’t dodge the electric storm of lashes that rains down on him.
Explicator Stigg goes down, bleeding from multiple wounds, his pelvis a bloodied pulp.
Without missing a beat it turns its attentions to the next closest – Phaelon. Energy arcs from its limbs as it prepares to spiralise the Rogue Trader, but suddenly stops short.
Evee has returned! He had grabbed X206 by its locomotive tentacles, and with a crackle of his own powered servo-claw, pulls the lower half of the combat servitor clean away.
X206 flickers and dies in a pool of machine oil and sparks of electricity.
With no more antagonists left on the board (Anoke was long since gone, and Vacillus was in retreat), the game was called to a close.
What remained of the Guild bundled the Explicator and his team into the back of the truck to evacuate. Stigg was barely alive, but they had secured the shipping logs of the Ius Soli. What additional secrets the Guildmaster had unfortunately died with him.
Explicator Stigg’s warband makes off with the data-slate and earn themselves 1 Resource, putting them on 4 in total. Given Stigg’s critical groin injury, it’s highly likely that fresh Resource isn’t going to be sticking around too long!
Vacillus’ team score nothing, and are likely going to need some extra help repairing X206. Vanth won’t be pleased that his plausible deniability failed to come up with the goods, and will be taking to the field personally in future.
Easily our bloodiest game yet, and it’s hard to see how that level of slaughter could be topped! Dropping X206 in a secure bunker was like dumping piranhas in a pool and taking away the ladder.
The shipping logs were an unclaimed piece of evidence from Chapter 1: No Souls On Board. They show that the last activity of the Ius Soli was a trade taking place between Novator Hypatos and a group of xenologists. Hypatos was bringing a recently unearthed artifact codenamed “the circlet”. It appears this meeting was set up by the heir-apparent Mistress Dacien – the veracity of this claim is now a liquified sack of bones rotting on the surface of Skathi.
An exciting and deadly game of which giant monster will hit the other first, with a sprinkling of intrigue on the side. Let’s see what Stigg does with this information in the future…