Last time we were mid-warp on our voyage to the unknown – the Void Sea. This had a small stop-off at Gallionic, an “entry point” to the Skylar’s Lie domain, catalogued as such due to its proximity to other systems and relatively calm warp currents.
Many Domains in the Nomad Stars have these entry points, and navigating across the sector is quicker (and usually safer) to hop from entry point to entry point. However…
An alarming turn of events
Beat to quarters! Boarding alarm! The canteen on Deck 7C has been breached!
It quickly becomes apparent from the horrified screams over the vox that there has been a daemon incursion in the canteen. Almost a dozen souls were lost before they were able to seal the bulk head.
Von Gunn wins the initiative roll (hah, sucker) and kicks the door down to the canteen. Inside they are faced with a canteen ablaze – flames lick the walls and in the centre are half a dozen crewmen wreathed in warpfire, forced to dance along to the awful sound created by a pair of writhing pink creatures – Pink Horrors of Tzeentch.
Despite their ever-shifting nature, they both seemed to be carrying music instruments that were creating the terrible noise, and as they flicked and twirled their rubbery fingers about, forced the terrified crewmen to dance along to their sadistic music.
The horrors hurl balls of iridescent warpfire at the opening, pinning many of the crew. Those who aren’t pinned return fire, the Astropath enjoying his new killer combination of magically guided aim and overcharged plasma pistol.
The captain issues his orders:
The Captain charges into glorious melee combat in a bid to break the impasse. He spits prayers of the Emperor’s Mercy as he strikes down the terrified crewmen, unable to control their own bodies moving to the foul music.
He then promptly catches fire.
Freeman blasts the Bongo Horror (new band name, I call dibs) and it melts into a puddle of warp-riddled goo, before changing hue and reforming into a pair of blue horrors. Gasp!
Horrors are some of my favourite lesser daemons because of their weird mechanic of spawning two slightly smaller variations of themselves on death. They are weaker and do slightly less damage, but now the number of targets has gone up…
Meanwhile, under the will of the pulsing music, the firedancing voidsmen charge the canteen opening and engage the retinue. To make them interesting enemies to fight, I used regular voidsmen stats but gave them Unnatural Toughness, a 20% forcefield and flaming melee attacks. Their objective was to gum up the players while the Horrors continued to lay down warpfire attacks, and it seemed to be working.
A few Brimstone Horrors crawl out of the flames of the perimeter of the canteen, eager to contribute to the weird dance party. They spit a few tiny fireballs and are extinguished pretty quickly by the crew.
With most of the Firedancers dealt with, there was the matter of the Burning Captain (new band name, I call dibs). Missionary Lyoness leaps into action, using her surprisingly impressive Strength of 50 for a 90-year-old to cover the distance, and helps put the Captain out while struggling with the final few Firedancers.
One of the Covenant, Beef Loaf (they’re all named after Ancient Terrain Hymn-writers) is killed by warpfire from the Horrors. Her name will be etched into a shrine when we’re done cleansing this horrid place.
The Captain is struggling from a few turns of fatigue from being on fire, so Lyoness (the closest thing to a healer the group has) stabs him in the neck with some stims to keep him awake. Once more into the fray!
Meanwhile Von Gunn has puts the killing blow on the Fiddler, who splits into two blue horrors. Freeman moves into position to try out his illegal plasma gun ‘salvaged’ from the Grin Estate on Cilice. It’s like a regular plasma gun, except it shoots it’s plasma in a 30 degree cone like a flamer, doing plasma gun damage over a flamer-wide area. Yikes.
Better not put anything beloved in the way of that!
After some heated discussion about whether a cone exists in three dimensions or not (GM’s note: it absolutely does), Freeman accidentally catches Seymour in the blast of the plasma-flamer while trying to obliterate the last two horrors, much to the gasps of horror from the rest of the team.
Seymour the dog catches fire, and the whole incident was put down to a gross miscalculation of angles, because surely there’s no way the Explorator would be callous enough to fire the weapon again, knowing the Captain’s cyber-mastiff is definitely in the blast radius.
Seymour is reduced to slag from the plasma blast, taking a considerable chunk out of the canteen and obliterating what was left of the horrors. The crew are genuinely stunned.
After heated discussion about what constitutes an accident, the Captain agrees to forgive Freeman’s transgressions (he did kill the final few daemons, after all), but he promises never to forget.
Licking their wounds, both emotional and physical, the crew return to the last few days of their warp journey.
Through the fire and the flames
Lyoness leads a team to consecrate the canteen. It’s beyond repair, so they replace it as a shrine to Saint Drah’Gunforz, the patron saint of fire and flames. They move an organ from the church deck down to the canteen and appoint someone to play hymns during the day, just to make double sure the daemons don’t return.
Out of the frying pan
You translate safely into the Gallionic system, your vessel adrift in a sea of rocks. Augers show high concentrations of atomic material contained in the asteroids
The yellow light of Gallionic’s sun fills the bridge with its warmth. The drifting sea of rocks and radioactive haze throws strange lights through viewports – An eerie yellow patina, like drowning in a jaundiced ocean.
Proximity alarm! Augers detect plasma drive activation 8 VUs off starboard side and closing!
Bridge officers raise void shields and order deck crews to battle stations. There is an incoming vox from the unidentified vessel:
“This is Captain Firmstep of the Foregone Conclusion. You have trespassed on a trade route that is legally mine and I consider your ship forefeit. Surrender it to us and we’ll let you live.”
The Captain, normally a beacon for diplomatic behaviour and etiquette during confrontation, takes the vox directly and responds:
“You caught us at a bad time. We had to flee our last engagement, we’ve had a bad warp jump and someone just shot my dog. Prepare to die.”
The roar of the crowds is electricity in your bones and the air is heavy with the smell of blood and recycled sweat.
You are in a private balcony overlooking the main Bazaar arena, a wide sandy pit several hundred metres across. High above is a great plexiglass dome, through which the statue of the god-emperor is haloed by the rippling fury of the Telos star.
The crowd encircling the arena is cheering on a cybernetically-enhanced gladiator as he twists the head off an Ambull, holding it up for all to see.
Chief Wrecker Davit holds up a hand at the spectacle and grins at you with golden teeth. A boy in silk pours more wine into your goblets.
”So what do you say? Do you want to play a game to win your ship parts, or perhaps you’re looking to sell? The arenas are always looking out for new and exotic attractions.”
Previously we left our intrepid heroes in the Mercy Bazaar Arenas to do battle over.. uh.. an arena. A Resolution Arena ship upgrade for the Unbroken Resolve, to be precise, and without the funds to acquire it at present, they agreed to do battle in one of the most infamous blood sport arenas outside of Imperial Space.
We open with Von Gunn, Gil and Freeman back-to-back in the sandy arena to the sounds of crowds baying for blood. They were facing three Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild, and they had particularly nasty statlines…
Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild
Skills: Awareness, Intimidate +10
Talents: Ambidextrous and two-weapon talents, Autosanguine, Crushing Blow, Fearless, Swift Attack
Electro-flails: 1d10+12 I, Pen 0, Flexible, Shocking
Pneu-mattocks: 2d10+10 I, Pen 0, Primitive, Unbalanced, Unwieldy
Chain axes: 1d10+14 R, Pen 2, Tearing
Cutting claws: 1d10+10 R, Pen 0, Fast
Ticking clock: If a Chrono-gladiator kills, they gain +1 Unnatural Strength and become immune to Fatigue for d5 rounds. Any further kills increase the duration by d5 rounds. If after 5 rounds it does not kill again, it takes 1 level of Fatigue and d5 Explosive damage to the body ignoring Toughness and Armour. This happens every 5 rounds.
on with the show
Our heroes make the first move, with the Chrono-gladiators trailing in the initiative roll. A combination of Von Gunn’s bolt pistol prowess and Gil’s psychic guidance of his plasma pistol sees off the chrono-gladiator with the shield before it even takes a step forward. It drops to its knees, a smoking stump where its head should be.
Explorator Freeman makes a mad dash at the gladiator with chainsaws for hands, and everyone is stricken with a sense of awful deja-vu.
They exchange blows, parrying and rolling under each other’s deadly swings, but Freeman is caught across the face by one of the biting blades and drops to -2 Critical Damage.
While his combat-heavy comrades are distracted with their own problems, our Astropath is charged by the net-wielding gladiator. The combination of shock net and poison talons drops Gil to -2 Critical Damage. Unfortunately for the gladiator, that isn’t enough to stop him…
Gil unleashes a devastating psychic attack, overwhelming what little is left of net-guy’s brain and gaining total psychic domination over him. He forces him to run as far away from Gil as possible, and Von Gunn heroically plugs him in the back of the head with a twin shot from his bolt pistols. Go long!
Things don’t go quite so well for Freeman. He loses his battle with the Señor Chainsword as its whirling teeth pull two of his four legs clean from their sockets. He falls to the arena floor, burning a Fate Point to avoid death but is definitely out for the fight.
For those at the back keeping count, Freeman has now officially lost the most limbs in the party (3 in total).
As Chainsword Hands raises his arms to deliver the killing blow, Von Gunn explosively separates his arms from his shoulders with clinical precision. The final Chrono-gladiator falls to the ground and the crowd is beside itself with excitement.
After a quick patch-job on Freemen (he has a box of legs on the ship), Chief Wrecker Davit thanks for them for entertainment, and promises to uphold his end of the bargain. The Resolution Arena will be installed on the Unbroken Resolve.
Returning to Espin
You take a short shuttle ride from Mercy to Brother Espin’s vessel – a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold.
Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed. Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen .
The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation
An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard is sitting in a circle of cushions on the hangar floor, pouring tea. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. You know him as Brother Espin.
Brother Espin was thankful for their efforts, and payment was presented as promised for clearing out the space port on Cilice. The Captain had alternate plans – he negotiated for free rights to use the space port instead of payment, something that will sting their bottom line in the short term but will keep their hands free for gin-related shenanigans in the long run. Very cunning!
Espin also offered some new ship components. They could pick two from:
Good Quality Barracks (-1 Space, +1 Morale)
Good Quality Voidsman’s quarters (Raider size, -1 space, +1 Morale)
Best Quality Temple-shrine (+D5 Morale)
They opt for the Barracks and the Quarters, estimating two days to fit their fancy new digs. They beg their leave of the Brother and return to Mercy proper to begin the refit. The crew are particularly thankful to no longer be topping and tailing.
Dabbling in the background
I had learned from my mistakes regarding the Endeavours system in Rogue Trader – less is more. Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve had it work for your own groups, but it wasn’t a good fit for ours.
I still had another idea to try – Background Endeavours from Into the Storm. A formalisation of the Profit Factor acquisition process, but something that can be done once and forgotten about so the players can get on with the adventuring and swashbuckling while the proles do the legwork.
This was a perfect opportunity, the players wanted to rebuild the Cilice Gin distillery from afar and reap the rewards in the future. Time for some numbers!
Background endeavours are split into two parts: the Captain yells at some hirelings to do a job, and the GM calculating how well the job went. Broadly speaking, the players make a few dice rolls and forget about the Endeavour until the GM tells them enough time has passed for the project to have passed or failed.
The Endeavour is outlined by players and GM – what resources they’ll need and the quality of peon needed to perform the job. They already had the resources they needed (most of an abandoned distillery) and just needed a crew – they acquired Good Quality Hirelings, in this case Tavish Contractors.
The GM comes up with a rough time estimate – about 2 months in this case.
Players contribute supporting skills. Freeman provided a chemical analysis of samples found on Cilice (with a Chem Use test) to avoid the fairly obvious horrendous side effects and adds +3 Degrees of Success (DoS) to the Captain’s Command check. Zilla provided fly-by records of the valleys and space port, adding +1 DoS. Lyoness gave a stirring (if somewhat threatening) speech with an Intimidate test, adding +4 DoS to the overall pool.
The Captain makes a Command check to see how well the hirelings perform. He gets a bonus for all the skills his crew have contributed. He (unsurprisingly) succeeds with 8 Degrees of Success.
Retire and enjoy a glass of (currently) the last Cilice Gin in the universe.
Make a Success roll. This is a flat 50/50 chance, modified +/- by the Degrees of Success/failure of the Captain’s command roll and the quality of Hirelings. These rolls are done between games and noted down to bring up at a future session when Success or Failure can be reaped. In this case, I rolled a 10 (super success!).
Check how long it takes. Regardless of success or failure, you roll on a ‘time taken’ table to see how long it’s taken your hirelings to do the job. Sometimes successful endeavours can take much longer than estimated, while failed endeavours can be over very quickly. I rolled 73, meaning it took 125% of the estimated time. 75 days for the job to get done!
That’s it! When the time is up (day 216 shipboard time) I’ll let them know and they can add +2 Profit Factor to their character sheets.
The intention is to keep the story moving forwards while earning money in the background. We’ll come back to this in about.. ohh.. ten episodes time or so.
Auction on the horizon
Last time we also discovered the latest hot topic: an auction being held by the Obsidian Emporial for a rare class of light cruiser in a few months’ time. They had three bits of concrete intel:
Up for grabs was a Secutor-class Monitor Cruiser. A substantial upgrade from the current ship – oodles of space, plenty of weapon hard points and a good blend of defense and manoeuvrability. Perfect for longer, more dangerous voyages into the unknown!
The Obsidian Emporial auction house will not accept money alone, they are looking for something unique or priceless to win their interests.
There will be a number of other rivals vying for the ship – determining who they are and what they have to offer will help the team greatly in their run-up to the auction.
Whatever you want, Leo Getz
With the Auction at the forefront of their minds, the crew wanted some more intelligence on other organisations attending. Time to lean on their old pal, Leo Getz.
After another chastisement from filling their astropathic relay with reams of garbage, Astropath Gil finally gets the message through to Leo. It’s not his Juniors’ job to sift through his manic mountain of thoughts – edit them down!
Brain still aching from mental castigation, Leo comes up with the goods. Two Rivals, both with printed out contact cards so the party can keep some vague centralised notes on the myriad NPCs they’re encountering, and some additional information about them.
Each contact has some generic intelligence about their organisation, their reason for attending, what they intend to offer at the Auction, and additional (sometimes scandalous) information.
Each session I’ll be offering an opportunity for Leo to siphon a bit more for current or new contacts, drip-feeding the information rather than dumping it all at once.
Lord-Admiral Bastille VIII of the Bastille Dynasty
“A martial man, conducting the affairs of his House as though it were a private navy. There are dozens of sour rumours swirling around the circumstances of his inheritance of Warrant of Trade and his poor relationship with the Imperial Navy. “
The Herald of Fane, Fane Disciples
“Intensely secretive and uncommunicative sect of Adeptus Mechanicus, devoted to the works and discoveries of Magos-Illuminate Zeriander Fane.”
Next stop: Nowhere
We had a mission: Gather something unique for the auction.
We had a time frame: Several months.
We didn’t have a heading. The Captain addressed all the potential plot leads from previous sessions and decreed them to all be equally worthy, therefore unworthy of a unique offering to the Obsidian Emporial.
The Captain cast his gaze across a map of the Nomads. So many worlds already discovered.
He stabbed his finger in the centre, a minor warp storm called the Void Sea. He asked “What’s here?”. I referred to my notes – I had only written one line:
“Here there be monsters.”
That was enough for the Captain. He ordered an immediate survey to find an unexplored system of interest in the Void Sea and to chart a course to it. We had a heading!
The only thing remaining was to pick up any last-minute essentials from Mercy-mart for the voyage. The Captain acquired a Bullpup Cyber Mastiff (from Dark Heresy’s Book of Judgement) which is a bigger, meaner version of a cyber mastiff. Zilla acquired a single-shot grenade launcher to help deal with Really Big Problems.
Morale is high, plunder is in sight and with only one day to the warp point, everything seems to be going the Crew’s way! Nothing can dampen their spirits! All they need to do is a cheeky short hop to Gallionic, just a mere three days in warp, what could go wrong?
Last time on the Herald, our players landed an incursion force on the storm-wreathed world of Cilice Prime, stole a Taurox pulling the universe’s last known supply of Cilice Gin, leveled an estate with its guns and psychically commanded an army of cannibal abhumans to fight itself. They were left with a few more marks on the map, a full tank of gas and a compulsion to loot.
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past in your Taurox.
The ugly palace-fortress of the Glaw Estate begins to emerge from thick curtains of rain. A massive construction that was probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry.
The Grin Estate was now swarming with loyal armsmen and technomats brought down from the orbiting Unbroken Resolve on heavy halo barges. They were on hand to ruthlessly loot the estate of its worldly belongings and reinforce the Explorer’s immediate retinue.
The Missionary, Lyoness, hand picked a few more of her covenant to join her. She decided that her Covenant were named after ancient Terran saints, famed for their war-hymns. We are joined by Zeppelin, Ziggy, Iggy and Acey-Deecey.
We fill out the Taurox’s capacity with Master Zilla at the controls and Von Gunn on guns and thunder off into the rain.
The Glaw Estate
No messing about this time. With the Astropath firing off his psychic mind scan (much to the surprise and discomfort of everyone trapped in the little metal box with him) and ascertaining the resistance was next to none, the Captain gives the order to ram the front gates.
There is clearly nowhere near the level of intelligence as in the Grin Estate, and whatever wretches are still present in the estate scatter and flee at the big angry gunbuggy. The team slowly and cautiously make their way to the lower levels.
They discover tread marks and scraps of pilgrim robes around the Glaw Estate leading down to the vaults. There is also a lot of broken religious iconography around the place, unusual for a criminal organisation.
It’s dark, and the vaulted ceilings carry their voices out into the darkness. They occasionally spot more of the abhumans, but they always stay just out of sight and weapons range. The Explorers decide it’s best not to waste the ammunition.
They arrive at the vault, a similar size and makeup to the one from the Grin Estate. It is air tight and sealed from inside. Oggy-Bong fires up the lascutter. The players had had a sinking feeling since they arrived, and the “YOU HAVE ALERTED THE HORDE” noise was palatable. Oggy-Bong shouts over the gunfire it will take just over a minute for him to get the door open.
Liquid hunger pours from the darkness, dressed in rags and purple flesh.
This section it was time to play hard and fast with the rules. If they were able to beat a target’s TB of 3, they killed it. I put a little marker down on the board to represent a body, and the model gets brought on from another table edge in subsequent turns. Weight of numbers and the press of bodies in a confined space would be the main threat.
We had a few extra Armsmen in tow this game – this is just beyond the upper limit of how many player-controlled models I would prefer to have on the board to keep things flowing smoothly. The Astropath player’s actual real-life brother was in the area that day though, and rather than delay the game or leave him out while his brother rolled dice, I offered him a place in the session.
The wretches came in waves, crashing against the bulwark of the Orthesian Dynasty. Everyone played their part in sinking bullets and plasma into wasted flesh, dropping the wretches left and right. The bodies begin to pile up.
After a turn or two, it becomes apparent this might not be sustainable for six turns – they would either run out of luck or ammunition. Freeman decides the best course of action would be to plug his potentia coil into the operational lascutter and turn it up to 11.
Against tricky odds, he superjuices the lascutter, knocking a few turns off the clock as poor Oggy-Bong clings on for dear life.
The team spread out, trying to cover as many entrances as possible. Von Gunn and armsman Felicity cover the top left corridor. Felicity finds out she is entirely superfluous and there largely for moral support. The Captain and Thud guard the bottom left entrance. Astropath Gil and Voidmaster Zilla take up centre stage, using their ranged weapons to most effect. Lyoness and her Covenant of mad chainsaw-wielding warrior women lock down the uh.. everywhere.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the board:
Dedicated melee character Captain Orthesian discovers the hilarious repercussions of combining a low movement speed with a force field that teleports you randomly away from trouble whenever you are hit. The Captain spends most of this game charging into combat, getting fingered by some hungry schmuck with a pointy stick and his displacer field panics and throws him 2d10 inches in a random direction to repeat the process. I even had to add a new tile to the board just to encompass the distance moved.
Hearty chortles and slapped thighs all round, except the Captain.
It was coming up to the final turn, and things were turning sour. Ammunition was running low, the Captain was not in the melee enough to make his power sword’s presence felt, and the Covenant were looking battered and bruised.
Iggy falls to the wretches. They tear off her hand and begin to drag her into the darkness. Lyoness is having none of this nonsense and hurtles off to save her. Iggy’s life is saved, but she might NEED A HAND from now on.
The last few inches of vault door are carved apart by Oggy Bong. As the thick blast door slams inwards, internal lumens activate, blasting the darkness with holy light. A mighty Imperial Aquila, polished to within an inch of its life, is emblazoned on the opposite wall of the vault. Its blessed light shines through the darkness, the wretches recoiling in fear and awe at the sign of the God-Emperor. They had done it.
You head into the vault, down the stairs and underneath the shining Imperial Aquila. The air is stale and tastes of death.
In the vault proper you see a congregation of Imperial worshippers in a circle lying dead on the floor, each executed with a las round to the back of the head. There are no signs of a struggle.
A senior priest is propped up against a baroque mobile shrine on tank treads, a las wound through the side of his head and a laspistol in his hand. A hand-written note is placed neatly in front of him that simply reads “Without the dark there can be no light. Emperor forgive me.”
There was no doubt that this was the Imperial Mission that Brother Espin requested they find. They said a small prayer and got to the important task of looting the vault for everything it was worth.
Gold and jewels as far as the eye could see, painted chalices, stained glass windows and ornamented priestly robes – everything in the vault looked like it would have been donated to (or taken from) churches across Imperial space. The Missionary said a small prayer to the lost and opened her loot sack wide.
Standing proud of the jewels was a display case holding an arcane-looking weapon – a bolter with built-in stake thrower. A Condemnor-pattern boltgun (page 81 of Faith and Coin) with a crowssbow mechanism designed to fire holy bolts inscribed with runes of banishment and exorcism. Valuable in its own right, but in the hands of a daemon huntress…
The mobile shrine-canter had build-in loud-hailers and incense burners and a simple movement-slave module so it can trundle along behind its owner. It has a shrine on the front clearly meant to hold a large weapon, but was currently empty. A dusty book sits nearby, most of its pages missing or faded, but it talks of a lost relic – an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail…
Mount up, move out
The Captain calls in support, comfortable that his armsmen can strip it of all its worth now the Explorers have had their pick of the prize. He makes sure to instruct them to take the big shiny Aquila as well, it would look excellent above the desk in his quarters. They make tracks for third palace, the Fallaset Estate.
Some lore checks are rolled on the way over. The Fallaset dynasty still exists, unlike the owners of the other estates, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him.
They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport. I’m sure that information won’t be important.
The Fallaset estate is abandoned, the only sign life is the greenery growing around where the roofs have caved in. The front door is ajar.
Inside, they find remnants of wretches, most brutally torn apart. They come across large footprints, and eventually, a gaping hole through the floor of the estate leading all the way down to the vault level. The team gird their loins and carefully make their vaultward.
They see the vault in the distance – it has been brutally torn open from the inside. The Captain thinks he knows what did this, so he begins issuing orders to-
ROLL FOR INITIATIVE!
The rumbling beneath their feet crescendos in an explosion of sodden dirt and marble. Two massively built creatures burst from the floor, encased in insect-like armour with hugely oversized arms tipped with iron-hard claws. Ambulls!
Von Gunn: “Permission to freak out and shoot my nearest team-mate?”
Von Gunn: “Sorry sir, I failed my Fear check. Eat shit, Freeman” *blam blam blam*
I love the Fear tables, and the look of panic that washed across everyone’s face when Von Gunn (gun by name, gun by nature) failed his shock test so badly against the incoming creatures of the deep that he would be randomly assigning a target. The party’s greatest asset in a combat swiftly became their biggest threat. Another reminder to people that Willpower should not be your dump stat.
Luckily for Freeman, this was one of the statistically few times Von Gunn actually missed a target, much to my disappointment.
The team open fire, splitting their efforts against both Ambulls. One had popped up quite some distance from the group as I had openly rolled a random direction for the beasties to arrive. The Ambull are insanely powerful and distressingly fast for their size, and could comfortably splatter a player character in one round if the dice are in their favour. To counter this viciousness, I wanted it to seem as fair as possible as to who would get picked on. If someone died, it would be on the dice, and not me.
Lyoness and her Covenant (minus Iggy, who was back on the Resolve getting her hand seen to) opened up with their flamers, dousing the poor creature in so much hotsauce that practically takes it out of combat for the rest of the session. Lyoness jams her weapon from over-enthusiastic flaming, but the damage is done.
Her and her Covenant spend the remainder of the combat enthusiastically carving it up with chainswords, rarely dealing enough damage to hurt it properly, but enough to keep it busy.
Back on the other side, all the armsmen panic and open up, bouncing their lightweight shot and autopistol rounds off its hard carapace. With Von Gunn a gibbering wreck for a few turns, they would need some thrilling heroics to deal with this Ambull before it finally got its shit together and landed a hit on someone.
Freeman: “I roll Acrobatics to do a sick flip and land on its back like in Starship Troopers”
GM: “Well shit, that’s probably going to be super hard as you don’t have Acrobatics or-”
Freeman: “001. Critical pass”
So our spider-legged techpriest sails through the air with the greatest of ease, doing a sick flip and planting himself firmly on the beast’s back. He plunges his power axe into the thing’s neck and it screeches in pain, thick ichor dribbling out onto the floor.
The armsmen panic, and one of them accidentally shoots the Captain in the back while he’s trying to stab the Ambull.
Luckily the displacer field activates and teleports the captain a LONG way away. Good news for not getting shot, bad news if you’re a melee character trying to stab a giant alien beastie to death.
Von Gunn finally comes to his senses and blasts the first Ambull through the eyeholes. It screeches and collapses. Freeman massively flubs his Agility check to get out the way and is crushed by the corpse. The dice giveth, the dice taketh away…
Zilla and Gil have been contributing, but not in a noticeable way. Zilla’s fancy autogun doesn’t cut the mustard against brutes with a high Toughness Bonus, and Gil’s only chance is to use his plasma pistol on Maximal, only getting to fire every other round. Great IF he hits. Which he never did this combat.
Von Gunn turns to see a flaming wreck of a creature being carved up by angry ladies with chainswords. Lyoness has backed off and is shouting moral encouragement after realising just quite how much damage one of those fists do. (It’s 1d10+10 with Swift Attack) Von Gunn takes aim and uses double shot to crack its skull wide open.
With the sound of steam escaping from betwixt toasted carapace like a lobster in the soup, the final Ambull comes crashing to the ground. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief while doing a quick check on everyone’s health. The Captain sets his sight on the vault doors, wide open and inviting, and congratulates everyone on a good fight.
The Astropath uses the dying moments to use Sensory Deprivation on his brother who shot the captain in the back with Felicity. All’s fair in love and war, eh?
After last week’s initial incursion onto the surface of Cilice, Captain Orthesian is glad to have a full complement of players once again. With a second incursion planned, and some first hand intelligence gathered about the locals, the players board an Aquila Lander (with the Junior Astropath Fez, Alyss, Felicity, Thud and Oggy-bong) and make their way down to Port Van Arkiel once more.
The Captain also makes sure to install some of Freeman’s engine crew on Stiletto station with a vox and reclaimator tools to give remote access to the Occlusion Shields, and orders Kettlehead to prep an Arvus Lighter filled with armsmen to launch at a moment’s notice. Their plan was simple – have a small insertion team spearheaded by the senior officers, and ifwhen shit hits the fan, drop hell down on the heads of their enemies.
The Lander sets down on the rain-slick concourse of Port Van Arkiel and head inside to Butchers’ Bay, leaving a few armsmen guarding the Lander.
For this session, I had also mocked up a map that had been ‘drawn’ by Voidsman Zilla on his fly-by at the end of the last session. I enjoy making maps, and it’s handy for players to have their bearings when talking about multiple locations, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate.
Out of the storm
Port Van Arkiel is made up of the largest buildings built into the mountains, immediately off the space port concourse. Inside are vast warehouses, receiving rooms and cargo cranes long-since rusted over from inactivity. This seems to be once-proud shipping hub for the space port, known as Butchers’ Bay.
Detritus is strewn everywhere, garbage and torn rags. The rockrete floors have been stained dark from something you hope is engine oil.
A handful of bodies are scattered around – the remains of power-lifter servitors. Anything of value has been stripped from them, and most gruesomely of all, the pallid flesh-parts have also been flensed from its metal skeleton. The only evidence of its assailants are deep gouges left by crude tools, and the unmistakable shape of teeth marks, as though the servitor had been gnawed to the bone.
It was time for a little encounter, something to reinforce the desperate, primitive and resourceful nature of the inhabitants of Cilice.
You notice in the gloom ahead some kind of machinery turned over to form a plinth. The pinth is surrounded by detritus and aged garbage. Light filters in from a hole in the rockface high above and falls on the plinth, Something golden and glittery has been placed there, twinkling in the twilight.
Awareness -30 (sight): the garbage has been gathered specifically to disguise a huge, barbed net underneath the plinth. You think you can make out monofilament cables running from the net high into the rafters above.
The net is 10 metres in the air and Snares anyone in it. If activated, more Debased crawl out from behind crates and underneath hides made from refuse to try and kill anyone caught.
The item on the plinth is a tiara constructed of polished metal and glittery garbage. It’s nothing but a decoy.
Outcome: Sadly, the team immediately and unanimously recognised this as a trap and left it well alone. I’ll get you next time, Gadget.
As the crew ignore my not-obvious-at-all trap and proceed through Butchers’ Bay, they come across a side passage with a brass plaque reading “Shipping Archives”. Inside the room is scattered with papers and broken data-slates. It has clearly been ransacked, but the scavengers weren’t looking for any of the data.
Forbidden Lore (Pirates) +20 or Commerce -10: You notice irregularities in shipping logs and tithe payments. The residents here were importing vast amounts of food and exporting only Cilice Gin, but there were millions of tonnes of suspect shipments coming through the port every month. It appears the powers on Cilice were engaged in massive scale criminal enterprises and lining their own pockets with the Imperial Tithes.
Suddenly, the Captain felt less bad about murdering a bunch of them. They take some photos with their pict-capt devices and Zilla pockets some choice documents before proceeding downwards.
Protected by heavy metal doors, guard towers and atmo-generators, the Gin Distillery looks more like a military installation from the outside. It is built into the rock like the rest of Arrogance, but its design is much older than the rest.
It joins to Butcher’s Bay through a big heavy door, wide enough to fit a battle tank through. Riveted steel cranes and massive pulleys above your head suggest the distillery produced a lot of Gin for export through the space port
The thick metal door to the distillery is barred from the inside. You’d need something heavy duty to get through it.
Everyone turns to look at the armsman lugging around the las-cutter. He grins, showing all five of his teeth, and makes his way to the door. He uses a full complement of las-charges cutting a hole large enough for everyone to climb through, slams his spare clips into place and hops through to join everyone.
The distillery is huge and amazingly mostly intact. Great brass stills large enough to swallow a heavy lander line the walls, copper cabling spiralling off them.
Other machinery seems to have been smashed or pulled apart. There appears to be little of value lying around except a few dusty skeletons, picked clean with teeth and tool.
A brass plaque on the wall nearby suggests two other adjacent rooms – the mash room and the garage.
The monster mash
The team decide to check out the mash room first. Despite being aware for traps, the Captain fluffs an Awareness check and uses most of his Fate Points avoiding a particularly nasty pitfall trap laid in the corridor to the mash room.
The room is hewn from the stone with riveted steel buttresses and steel rafters high above your head. Much of the roof has collapsed revealing more of the distillery above. A strange green fungus covers the walls, originating from the huge piles of harvested fungus in vats and containers in the far end of the room.
A dozen or so of the wretched inhabitants wipe their mouths of fungus stains and gaze at you with panicked, hungry eyes.
With a snap of the fingers, Missionary Lyoness and Alyss step forward and torch the whole room. No dice needed to be rolled – nothing was going to survive that.
What’s in the box?
Finally it was on to the garage, to see what delights awaited them in there…
The door is electromagnetically sealed, with evidence of others trying to open it with crude tools to no avail. The nearby console has rusted over from a leaky still above it. The door needs to be cut or blown open.
Eyes fall back on our lascutter armsman again. He expends the last charge cutting the door open.
Inside is untouched by whatever catastrophe has befallen Cilice. Glow-lamps stutter and fail to ignite on whatever backup power is left. In the centre of the garage is something large and vehicle-shaped under a protective tarpaulin.
Hooked up to the vehicle is a trailer with a large reinforced metal tank that looks like it could contain almost a tonne of liquid. Stencilled on the side of the trailer is “Arkiel Gyn”.
The Captain gives it a tap, it sounds full. He calls for Lyoness to bring her emergency wine glasses out and they all sample some of the most expensive booze in the galaxy. The Explorator runs some tests on it with his mouthparts, while the Astropath catastrophically fails a Psyniscience test to see if it’s safe to consume and doesn’t have any mind-effecting warp presence.
What followed was perhaps my favourite bit of character interaction to date. They all loved the Gin for different reasons;
Captain: “This is really expensive!”
Missionary: “This is really good Gin!”
Voidmaster: “This is weighted well to be driven at high speeds!”
Astropath: “This is alive!”
Arch-Militant: “This is really explosive!”
Explorator: “This is really good fuel!”
It was time to see what was under the tarp.
Under the tarp is a mighty steed of a vehicle – a tightly packed, quad-tracked vehicle resembling an angry bull. A pair of autocannons sit atop its turret, gleaming in the half-light as though they were fresh off the assembly line.
Common Lore (War) +20: A common sight on the battlefield, this rugged castellan-pattern quad-track unit is a Taurox – an armoured personnel carrier praised by Imperial commanders for its speed and persevering machine spirit. Axial co-dampeners redistribute the weight of the vehicle across its four tracks as it moves, allowing jagged outcrops and unevenly piled rubble to be traversed at full throttle. It is equally at home on the open road, through the crumbling ruins of a hive city or the knotted jungles of a death world.
The Explorator gave the vehicle a once-over. All systems are good Captain! The Voidmaster checks the most important part, the hymn-vox. With an astoundingly critical Search check, it turns out the space-glove compartment is filled with ancient Terran hymn-discs!
Voidmaster Zilla slams on his favourite war hymn by Saint Sabbath the Black and routes it through the external vox. The shutters to the garage are down, but that doesn’t stop them.
With a roar of the engines, and with a tonne of the universe’s last supply of Cilice Gin in tow, the Orthesian crew tear through the flimsy shutters and out onto the rain-slick valley floor. They christen her ‘War Pig’ in honour of Saint Sabbath’s apocryphal works and gun it towards the Golden Valleys in search of the missing missionary.
The Golden valley estates
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. A highway of sorts has been constructed, now overgrown and cracked.
Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past.
Ugly palace-fortresses begin to emerge from the thick curtains of rain. Massive constructions that were probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. Many of the smaller ones have been leveled, now nothing but broken ruins being reclaimed by the rain.
As the crew near the nearest estate, the Grin Estate, warning runes flash across War Pig’s console. The targeting spirits of the automated weapons guarding the estate are still sharp as ever, but it seems they ran out of ammunition a long time ago.
The Captain gives the order to move in, so Zilla guns towards the estate.
On the approach, Von Gunn (in the gunner’s seat, naturally) picks up incoming small arms fire – someone in the estate is firing lasguns at the Taurox – and poorly at that. One shot in a hundred seems to be hitting, and with the heavy armour of a military-grade transport, there was no chance of being hurt.
Von Gunn: “Permission to return fire, captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
The Arch-Militant racks the autocannons and lets loose. A weapon designed to shoot down small craft and light vehicles opens up on the crumbling ruins of the Grin estate. Masonry explodes. Bodies fly from windows. Von Gunn rakes the middle section of the estate with high-velocity explosive-tipped rounds until huge plumes of smoke and tongues of fire erupt from the estate as the upper floors crash down, annihilating everything in the middle section.
A poor Estate of affairs
As the dust settled, the Astropath was quietly invoking in the back of the armoured transport. Before someone could point out the risks of the psyker throwing his powers around in the back of a metal coffin containing all the plot characters, he had launched a Mind Scan on the remains of the estate.
He reads over a hundred conscious minds, slightly more advanced than the ones they encountered on the Port Van Arkiel concourse. There seemed to be several ‘leaders’ of sorts inside, so he homed in on one who identified as ‘Rak’.
The rest of the party were beginning to look a bit panicked as the Astropath’s eyes had rolled back in his skull and was twitching uncontrollably in the back of the Taurox while Von Gunn was screaming with delight in the gunner’s seat, but there wasn’t much that could be done at this point. Gil was off on a magical psychic adventure in his head, and they just prayed it all went well.
The Mind Scan power allows you to single out an individual and communicate with them telepathically. Gil kept it simple – giving this ‘Rak’ character a straightforward command: OPEN THE DOOR.
It all went a bit quiet. They waited for a few minutes, and they could just about make out the crackle of small arms fire from inside the estate from their position about 50 or so metres out. The Captain gave the order to open fire on the estate again, which Von Gunn carried out with glee. “I get to roll how much damage?” (it’s 4d10+4, Pen 4, if you wanted to know. Dakka dakka dakka.)
This time Von Gunn scythes straight through the foundations of the right hand spire of the estate. With a thunderous noise, the entire spire collapses back in on the estate, as las fire can be seen spitting from the estate like faulty fireworks. The spire topples sideways into the estate defenses, crushing the outer wall and exposing the inner courtyard to the outside world.
Zilla: “Shall we go have a look Captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
They bring War Pig around, and inside the courtyard they can see a fierce laser battle unfolding between… well nobody was quite sure. The place was teeming with Cilice wretches wearing vaguely similar attire as each other, but they were all gunning each other down like their lives depended upon it.
Gil did another quick Mind Scan but in the melee couldn’t get quite as detailed information. Their numbers had dropped by half in a matter of minutes, and although he couldn’t communicate with Rak, he got the impression that Rak had thought he had been visited by a vision from the God Emperor and had decided to take up arms against his fellows. Just as planned, I guess?
They uncoupled the Gin trailer from War Pig and hit the gas, riding straight over the rubble and into the courtyard, shooting at anything that looked at them funny. Zilla rolled a critical for pulling off sick doughnuts while the passengers poked their weapons out firing ports and took pot shots at whatever they could see.
The Captain got on the loudhailer. “Primitive descendants of the Grin Estate, cease your pathetic attempts to overcome the Orthesian Dynasty!”
The remnants of the Grin wretches scattered to the hills, and after disabling the anti-air capacity of the estate so they could bring in reinforcements, set about looking for where a criminal family might keep all their valuables in an estate of this size.
Storm-ridden Cilice Prime is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Cilice’s jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Van Arkiel.
There are is very little life recorded as native to Cilice bar its simple fungal life used in the production of Cilice Gyn. Continual gales carry the harmless spores far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail.
This was to be our first game not at full party strength. The players for Von Gunn and Lyoness couldn’t make it this session, but they gave their blessing to go ahead and investigate the planet. Last session Von Gunn got pretty badly banged up, so we figured he would be back on the ship recuperating. Lyoness would be tending to his wounds and helping herself to the rubbing alcohol.
The Captain, unwilling to do too much without his bolt pistol-wielding murder-machine and ultimate anti-daemon tool, agreed that this would just be a ROUTINE CHECKUP on the planet.
With the decision made, the remainder of the party boarded an Aquila lander, along with a Junior Astropath called Fez, our two heroic armsmen from the Geist Incident Kettlehead and Felicity, plus three additional armsmen to make up the numbers.
Of course they needed names, so they were dubbed Cram, Thud and Oggy-Bong.
Zilla, Captain, Freeman, Gil + Junior, Kettlehead, Felicity and 3 armsmen – Crad, Thud and Oggy Bong. I had been assembling these guys between sessions, knowing we would need more armsmen reinforcements at some point. There’s a Meanwhile on the Bench article if you’re interested in their construction.
Port Van Arkiel
As you descend through the howling winds and driving rain, you make out a large cluster of structures on the equator of the planet, built into a mountain and across an natural arch rock formation high above a valley below. The structures resemble a space port and dotted evidence of industry – this must be the colony of Arrogance
Strangely, the surrounding golden valleys are also strewn with massive installations – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land. It’s clear that civilisation here flourished outside of the colony.
The constant storms imposed a -20 to any Pilot (Fliers) test that Zilla was required to do. It’s just as well they took the fancy ship rather than the hovering brick, as Zilla scraped a few passes on the way down.
The space port is built on a great arch of stone, whittled out of a mountain by the howling winds. You set down on one of a dozen landing platforms for heavy barge landers, suspended on carved columns of stone hundreds of feet in the air.
The buildings of the port are wide, squat affairs, hugging the ground like limpets against the tide. Rain blasts across the landing platforms and the wind sails underneath, threatening to hurtle you off to to the jagged valleys hundreds of feet below you.
The colony of arrogance is built into the mountain – its spires jutting from the rockface like snapped bones poking through broken flesh.
No sign of life
The crew disembark. There was no transponder handshake, no automated acknowledgement of their arrival, and no delegation waiting to welcome them to the port. Nothing but the rain.
As they squint through the deluge, Zilla notices what remains of heavy lander on one of the adjacent platforms – the only sign of machinery at all on the space port concourse. The Explorator also whips out his auspex and runs a few scans – the source of the emergency distress beacon was also present on the space port, pointing towards a conning tower in the opposite direction.
The Captain orders two armsmen to stay by the Aquila lander and begin marching towards the adjacent heavy drop ship.
On an adjacent landing platform is the skeleton of a heavy lander, designed to drop large amounts of supplies and people, stripped of paneling and moving parts. There is evidence of a surprising amount of ornamentation and Imperial iconography, although much of it has been torn off or defaced.
After some investigation, it seemed much of it was stripped by hand, and there was evidence of teeth marks around much of the paneling. It was in a similar state to the carcass of the Stiletto Station from the previous session.
The cockpit has been stripped back to its bones – anything of material or technological value has been ripped out in a crude manner unbefitting of such a noble workhorse of a machine. The ship’s logs indicate it arrived here a few months ago, approximately the same time Brother Espin suggested his missionaries would have arrived.
Freeman set about claiming whatever was left in the cockpit, and with some good Trade (Voidfarer) checks found the black box of the lander. It was the voice of someone unfamiliar:
“… leaving some of the mercenaries and able-bodied missionaries to guard the lander ….. No signs of the colonists … Missionary-Superior wants to investigate … palatial estates … answers there … waste of time … nothing here … no sin goes unpunished in the God Emperor’s eyes …”
The team conclude this must have belonged to the Missionary that Brother Espin asked them to find. Given the lack of signs of struggle, they weren’t going to find any more evidence here. It was time to check out the distress beacon.
The conning tower
You see a conning tower, sporting a wide metal dish and vox-spires at the far end of the space port, some 200 metres away across the rain-lashed concourse.
The building is a standard modular imperial hab-block, modified for environmental conditions. It, like every other building of Arrogance, looks like it has been here for decades.
The door is reinforced plasteel but its locks have been removed or forced a long time ago and now swings freely.
While some of the crew head inside, it was now our Astropath double-checked his Mind Scan ability, reminding everyone (including myself, damn his eyes!) that he can detect everything living within a kilometre radius. He rolls something disgusting and looks at me proudly.
Gil: “I see everything”
Well there goes the element of surprise I guess.
GM: “There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, of bestial minds closing in on you. Their thoughts are simple and primal, but you make out an absolute emotion that unifies them: hunger.”
While this was resolving itself, Freeman and Zilla were investigating the conning tower.
Inside is dark, lit only by the bunker-like windows looking out onto the space port landing platforms. It is a welcome relief from the storm outside.
Most of the vox-consoles have been ripped apart and stripped back – scavenged for Emperor-knows-what. The only thing remaining is an emergency transponder unit, crudely wired into the vox-spires and powered by a jury-rigged Imperial power pack.Behind it there are dozens more power packs, all burnt out. The one plugged in is new
Common Lore (Navy/War)+20 test revealed the serial codes match that of an Imperial heavy barge lander
Gil is about to alert the team to his brain-discovery, when their comm-beads crackle to life to the sound of a salt-of-the-earth armsman:
“My Lord! I swear I saw something moving in the rain… I… By the Emperor!”
As the sound of gunfire blossoms across the concourse I ask everyone to ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.
With the crew in the centre of the board investigating the conning tower, they realised they were being set upon from two sides by pale figures in the rain. With a sheer drop off the edge of the concourse, they were going to have to push through their assailants if they were to emerge victorious.
The rain imposed a -20 to all Ballistic Skill and Awareness tests, but that didn’t phase the crew much. They took up defensive positions and prepared to repel their attackers.
The figures in the rain are mostly human, although barely so. Their lean forms are emaciated sinew and lean muscle, stretched thin under leathery purple skin.
Their eyes have become wide and furtive under the darkened clouds and barely contain the gnawing, piercing hunger in their wretched souls. They wear torn clothes and heavy rags, some seem to be dock officials, others are dressed in the heavy boiler suits of labourers.
The armsmen, Freeman and Zilla all take one side, while the Captain, the Astropath and his Junior take the other. They open fire with a fusillade of shot and plasma, scoring hit after hit and blowing them apart in equal measure. These creatures were dogged, but they weren’t tough.
The problem became apparent during the second round. Plasma pistols can annihilate their target very easily on their Maximal setting, but leave you vulnerable the following round as they recharge. It was time to draw blades and engage!
Another thing became apparent very quickly – the models on the board were not the only enemies in play. As the horde was whittled down, more clambered over the lip of the concourse, or poured in from further away. Ammunition suddenly looked like it might become an issue.
The Astropath, try as he might, was struggling to hit anything after last game’s impressive fare. His Junior, on the other hand, was slotting fools left and right. At one point our Astropath was seriously considering casting Mind Cloud on his Junior just so he would stop showing him up.
The Captain picked up an extra sword on Mercy a few sessions ago, and this was his first opportunity to actually use them, much to his delight. He wasn’t present for the Geist Incident, and the servitors on Stiletto Station were always too far away for him to engage. With a blood-curdling cry he leapt into action, leaping into the biggest mob and cutting a few down.
With a laugh of victory, he cried “Let’s see them get past my parry!”
And then the third issue arose.
The first pathetic swipe from one of the wretches hit, but before you make a test to Dodge or Parry, you have to make your Forcefield check if you own one. The Captain does own one, a highly amusing one at that, which has not come into play for quite some time.
The Displacer field activates at the broken fingernails of a starving wretch, blipping him temporarily out of existence and reappearing somewhere else. This time slightly further away from everything…
This continued for much of the battle – the Captain attempting to engage multiple opponents, only for them to issue a combat cuddle and he would bloop away somewhere useless. Utterly hilarious for everyone except him.
Speaking of combat cuddles…
Explorator “Legs” Freeman sprints off with something ludicrous like a 40 metre charge range and engages some of the hungrybois. He mocks them with his 11 damage soak, practically impervious to their broken teeth and sharpened bits of metal. That is until…
“Can you give me an Opposed Strength check please?”
“A what now?”
Turns out a good way of taking out a character with a lot of soak is to drop lots of enemies on him and get grappling.
Combat cuddle engage! The more pile on him, the more Fatigue he gets, the harder it is for him to break out of the grapple. Fatigue doesn’t care about your 11 Soak. It wasn’t long before Freeman was unconscious on the floor, being dragged away by hungry hands.
In the background you can just about make out a few downed armsmen. Although the wretches numbers were dwindling, they had a few prizes and were trying to flee with them.
Unfortunately Freeman is super heavy, so Zilla and Felicity manage to blast enough away to make the rest flee. The Captain and the Junior see off their side of the combat and rush to save Kettlehead.
In the melee, some of the characters were too busy prioritising targets near them that poor Cram is downed and dragged off by the wretches. The Captain issues an immediate moment of silence, and despite the crew’s protests that he’s probably still okay and we should look for him, declares Cram dead and he died an honourable death (hopefully).
The rest of the wretches flee, leaving their prizes behind. Gil snags one of them with a Dominate power, strutting him back and slapping some zipties over his emaciated wrists. While the horrid thing thrashes round like Gollum with a rope round his neck, they all scratch their heads as to what they’re going to do with him.
They bundle everyone into the back of the Aquila, stabilising the wounded armsmen where they could. They wouldn’t return to the planet again without the rest of the party.
They throw the wretch in the Brig onboard the Unbroken Resolve, and Gil sets his Juniors on the task of Mind Probing him to break his primitive psyche wide open so we can have a good ol’ prod at it.
Meanwhile, the Captain issues a command to Zilla – hop in an Aquila and do a fly-by of the port and surrounding areas. He didn’t want to be blind next time they went down.
Zilla makes a pass of the colony, very very narrowly avoiding crashing in the storm by using ALL of his Fate Points. All of the wretches in the port had disbanded, and his flight augers (as blind as they were in the storm) weren’t picking up life signs.
He headed over towards the surrounding area, known as the Golden Valleys, where there were a number of large palatial estates constructed outside of the colony – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land.
On the approach, warning runes blared across his console. Automated AA turrets had picked him up and locked on! A stream of heavy bolter rounds whizzed past the cockpit, and although it was still too rainy to draw a bead on his assailant, he decided discretion was the better part of crashing in hungryboi town in the middle of a lightning storm and pulled away, returning to the Unbroken Resolve.
A mind is a precious thing to waste
By now, the Juniors had metaphorically peeled back the layers of the wretch’s mind and were having a good old poke around inside his psyche. It was primitive, bestial and above all, hungry. It would be dangerous to stay inside it too long, as such a mind so far from sanity would certainly have consequences to a “sane” individual over prolonged exposure.
They do glean some interesting insight though, the wretch was part of a band or group salvaging the port. Despite it’s apparent degradation, it still retained some semblance of conscious thought – an overwhelming sense of religious guilt about its actions, and its loyalty to a leader called Glaw.
With all the cards on the table, it was time to draw the session to a close. They would regroup, resupply and rest up for next game, bringing their A Game (and a full team) to the next brawl.
In the last exciting installment of the Orthesian Herald our band of dashing explorers had just seen off a minor warp incursion in the underdecks of the ship, assisted by the courageous actions of a few humble armsmen. What better time for a spicy meme.
They only had a few days left in the journey to the Cilice system, where they were to locate Brother Espin’s missing missionaries and assess the condition of the colony.
With a minor hiccup in translating back to realspace (oooh the map goes this way up), the Dynasty find themselves in the star-blushed system of Cilice.
Lay of the land
The light of Cilice washes over you.
Fresh, clean sunshine bleeds through the viewports as the heavy warp shutters roll back up and the bold light of the Cilice star washes over you. You get the sensation of a tide having just gone out, revealing new sands and strange flotsam from the waters.
On the bridge, a nervous clapping of backs and thankful nods are exchanged between the petty officers. On the rest of the ship voidsmen utter prayers of thanks as they begin their first shift of the new day.
A passive sweep of the system is underway but you don’t need augurs to note the incredible cosmic phenomenon in the skies ahead – a beautiful plume of cobalt blue fills the void above the sun, a brilliant smear of light.
It is a gas giant in the outer reaches that is slowly losing its essence to the void. It paints a vibrant blue trail of glittering star stuff across the Cilice skies as it travels its orbit. That must be the Teardrop, and its brilliance lights up the voids. You must be the first humans to set eyes on this in tens, if not hundreds, of years.
Less is more
Cilice gave me a lot of introspection to do.
I really enjoyed writing the content for the Cilice system and the encounters that would unfold. What I hadn’t taken into account is whether that content would be any fun to actually play. Although I got a taste of it early on, it wasn’t until we had played a few sessions in Cilice that my lack of content editing skills were becoming more apparent – there was simply too much stuff. Too many distractions, too many side encounters – all theoretically serving the purpose of giving the players things to do between ‘big’ encounters, but in actuality only watering down the proper encounters and bogging down the momentum of the game.
This was also my first big realisation that the current method we had for creating endeavours wasn’t viable for our group. I pride myself on coming up with new ways to entertain, trying out new mechanics and shifting gear up or down to see what works. I can also hold my hand up and say that much of it doesn’t work very often, and this was one of those times.
There was just simply too much.
On paper (aha) everything seemed fine – there was a checklist of things and the rewards garnered for doing so. I’ve had success with this system with a different (and smaller) group, and they liked the nitty gritty of additional sub-objectives and balancing Achievement Point losses and gains across different endeavours. Not so much here. With more cooks in the kitchen, decisions are made slower, and much of the “to-do” list is left by the wayside in favour of accomplishing the main goal.
I’m not bent out of shape about having to discard content for the game. I can always re-use the content later, after all. I’m upset that I didn’t see how obvious it was from the start, and I should have pared this mission down to its core essentials – six players easily come up with filler and activities by themselves, I don’t need to demand they jump through six additional hoops per objective.
Humble pie was served with a healthy dollop of modesty custard.
Exploration and scanning
Tucked away in the rulebook is some light rules for dealing with scanning systems. Your ship’s augers can reveal hella information. It takes D5 hours upon successful translation to run a passive auger sweep, which would reveal the following:
Adeptus Mechanicus Shrine-Altar, nestled among some wreckage
A strange energy signature among the wreckage of some ruined vessels
Cilice and an orbiting space station. Weak vox traffic is being transmitted across the system.
A trio of small planets in a tight orbit around the sun
With a Scrutiny+Detection test, you can further refine the results to give you clearer information. With ol’ Keen-Eye Gil, this test was smashed, revealing additional information about the system features.
Teardrop: Low harmful emissions and radiation, safe to approach, needs focussed augury to determine true nature
Shrine-Altar: Presence of active void shields
Energy signature: Similar to a plasma drive signature but without any atomic decay or fluctuation in emissions. Defies classification
Cilice and station:Vox signal originates from surface of Cilice, no response traffic. Void in augur results of surface – malfunction or interference? Active voids on station. Clear signs of life on Cilice.
Pearls: Extreme temperatures on planets’ surfaces, chances of life are negligible. Appears to be evidence of plasma drive activation, but temperatures make further data scrying impossible, would need to get within active range.
The crew picked up some plasma drive emissions in the inner cauldron of the system – a modified frigate engine typically found on warships and an adeptus-mechanicus pattern transport. The extreme heat of the solar zone prevented any further readings.
The decision was made to head straight to Cilice, swinging by the Pearls for a quick drive-by auger sweep.
A trio of small planets locked in a tight orbit around the white Cilice star in the inner cauldron. Initial augur readings suggest they contain the only obvious mineral wealth in the system, but surface temperatures are registering at over three hundred degrees on each.
The extreme temperatures have made long range auger sweeps of this solar zone difficult, but as you near you pick up the distinctive plasma drive emissions from a pair of vessels. The frigate is flying a souped up drive most commonly utilised by Navy escort vessels. The other ship, the transport, bears the tell-tale markings of the Adeptus Mechanicus
Your long-range vox burbles into life.
“Unknown Imperial vessel, this is Captain Lydia Avag of the warship Scream Claw, under contract from Blackbriar Corps. Identify yourselves or we will be forced to intercept”
This was intended to be an interaction encounter. I had stats for both ships in case things got a bit fist-fighty (players, amirite?) but I was anticipating some peaceful resolution, perhaps ending on amicable terms, splitting the contract or even hiring Captain Avag to assist with their own mission.
Captain Orthesian opens a return vox: “If you would like to survey the system go right ahead. We’re going about our business and you can’t stop us. Orthesian out.”
*tears out several pages of notes*
The team decide they’ve had enough of exploring this overpopulated system and go straight for Cilice, stopping off at Stiletto Station en-route.
The long, spindly station lurks in high orbit above the storm-wracked world of Cilice, hanging like in the air an executioner’s blade, poised to fall on a word.
According to your logs this was once the staging ground for all traffic on and off-world, but now it is utterly silent save for an ice-blue miasma that still flickers around it.
A Common Lore (Tech) or Trade (Voidfarer) test revealed additional information about the weird forcefield surrounding the station:
This looks like void shield tech, but being projected from the station to the surface below. This also seems to be the focal point for whatever is baffling auger sweeps of the planet below. These are definitely the Occlusion shields that Brother Espin spoke of.
They pile into an Arvus Lighter to investigate, bringing along Alyss, an extra Covenant, two engine adepts, Felicity and Kettlehead.
The station is visibly fragile, huge chunks are missing, but seemingly not from weapons fire. There are no lumens active around the station and it is producing no vox traffic. The only thing that seems to be active are the occlusion shields.
You stand in wretched darkness, the only illumination provided by the waning daylight filtering into the outermost areas through frosted viewports. The grav-plates appear to be operating normally and although there is pressure in the hull, the oxygen content is not suitable for unaided breathing.
Investigating the shield
Freeman sets his Engine Adepts to work immediately. They seek out a working console and inload as much data as they can about the station. The whole thing has been gutted, the only remaining systems are the shield emitters and a generator at the centre of the station. Onwards!
The station is hollow, fragile eggshell, much of its interior has been gutted for parts. All that remains is a fractured hull straining to maintain pressure and a cobweb of corridors and walkways that were once part of a bustling trade hub, now stand alone and isolated from the floors they connected to. It is eerie seeing a station in this condition – it is like a corpse that has had the flesh picked cleanly from its bones.
You have to traverse a hollowed-out area to reach the shield generator, perhaps a floor or two above you and at least 50 metres away. The station continues up high above your head, disappearing into darkness criss-crossed by the bones of corridors. Below you are more disparate walkways, ending with the floor of a warehouse several storeys below.
This was intended to be a semi-teamworking encounter, working out the platforms would get weaker the more they crossed it, so trying to organise the best sequence of Explorers to cross the chasm.
Of course this was very quickly abandoned once everyone remembered the abundance of gear everyone carried, and the Explorator’s ability to traverse sheer surfaces with ease. Ah well. Here’s the Encounter anyway:
Crossing the chasm
As you carefully make your way across the precarious walkways, the metal arounds you groans and quivers with every footfall.
Unstable structure; Roll initiative – everybody needs to make a Navigate (Surface), Climb or Agility test to navigate the brittle internal structure of the station. Add +1 to the table for every player to have crossed the hollow already. Fail to pass one of the above tests, consult the chart:
1-3 DoF: Dust falls slowly from the walkway above as it creaks ominously, but the structure holds
4 DoF: A section of metal piping clatters to the deck, the sound of its impact echoing down the tunnel
5 DoF: The walkway beneath your feet buckles as you stumble, weakening it but not causing a collapse
6 DoF:You crash to the deck as a section of plate gives way! You fall 1d10 metres (1d10+distance Impact damage ignoring armour) onto a walkway below
7 DoF:The walkway crumples underfoot with disastrous effect, pitching you down several floors into a gutted section below – 2d10 metres
8+ DoF: With a sudden tremor and whine of metal, the entire stretch of deck gives way, tearing like wet tissue paper and dropping you straight down into the hollow. The tremor ripples down the walkway and threatens to take others with it! Two people either side of the player have to take an Agility check at -20 or -10 or also tumble downwards 2d10 metres (roll separately)
Accessing the shield room
The Explorator zipped across the gap, firing a zipline back for the rest of the team to traverse. There were some close calls (The Explorator used 2 Fate Points in the process) but all the team got across with no issue. The Captain commanded Kettlehead and Felicity to stay behind and guard the Arvus. Lyoness makes the executive decision that she’s Too Old For This Shit and stays on the safe side of the chasm with Alyss and her extra Covenant cultist. They pop open the emergency wine and send the others on their way.
The door to the Generatorium is made of heavy materials, designed to withstand a generator explosion. The only way through is to hack (or blow up) the keypad. The port on the keypad is degraded and plugging in risks feedback damage. Freeman commands his Adept to get to it, he suffers massive feedback damage and burns out his MIU link.
The door hisses and chugs, but slides obligingly open. Inside a handful of emergency lumens give the cathedral-like space an blood-red glow. In the centre of the space is a huge, rumbling arcane Generatorium that spits lightning to arc coils high above. As you take in the spectacle, one of you feels something crunch underfoot.
A dozen or so skeletons, their clothes and flesh long-gone. Some of them look like they have been blown apart.
As they pick through the massacre, Gil spots something out the corner of his lack-of-eyes:
Two gun servitors on long pneumatic arms extend from the walls of the generatorium and take aim.
Everyone scrabbles for weaponry and dive for cover, wondering why they hadn’t been shot at yet.
You barely make out the sound of heavy weaponry failing to cycle. These defenses ran out of ammunition a long time ago.
You see a console bank is on a raised pulpit above the generatorium, cables and wires snaking away from it through the air.
Freeman: “I love corroded ports. 11/10 would stick my MIU in.”
Freeman and Zill ahead up the pulpit to have a good ol’ fiddle while the rest of the gang spread out in the Generatorium examining the walls and ceiling and generally looking busy.
As he begins fiddling, red runes flash across the console. Heavy stubber servitors on gravitic couplings descend silently from the ceiling.
Roll for initiative!
The battle begins in earnest. The Explorator calculates he needs to acquire 20 Degrees of Success on Tech Use tests to deactivate the security systems. In the mean time, everyone get killing servitors!
D3 would arrive at the beginning of every turn, as rolled randomly by a different player.
As the first servitors descend (as represented by the weaponless plastic guys in the highly professional maps photographed) the Astropath opens up with his shiny new plasma pistol, entirely slagging the first one within reach. Von Gunn gets busy with his bolt pistols, shooting the leg off one as it descends, but not stopping it from cranking up its heavy stubber and sending a stream of angry, inaccurate lead towards our heroes.
While the team in the Generatorium do their best to lay the hurt on the descending servitors, Alyss and her cultists find their wine time RUDELY interrupted by angry gunbois from the darkness above them. She cranksup her flamer from Medium Rare to Well Done and lets loose while her Covenant pile into the nearest servitor with tooth and chainsword.
The team in the Generatorium were doing well too. Von Gunn was racking up his expected kill-count and even the Astropath had put away a surprising number of defence servitors. There was even a little pool of angry molten gun-bot forming in front of him where they kept descending and he kept slotting them.
The Captain, on the other hand, was very much struggling. The map was about 100 metres across, so he could only move about 5 ‘lines’ of paper per turn. For a character who specialises in Melee, he struggled not being able to slice things up a lot, and was constantly off-set by his Refractor field activating at awkward times and resetting any progress he had made towards an aggressor.
By now, Freeman was only a turn or two away from shutting them down and the servitors were threatening to overwhelm them. The team had killed everything within close range, and although the servitors were inaccurate, all it would take was one or two Heavy Stubber rounds and a character could be taken out of action dangerously quickly.
Von Gunn finishes off the last few in his corner of the map that his bolt pistols can reach, then decides its time for some thrilling heroics.
He grabs one of the gravitic coupling lines dangling from the ceiling and heroically swing across the map!
As he does so, one of the servitors pulls a 001 out of the bag and clips Von Gunn. This was an awful reminder for many people about Von Gunn’s staying power – he’s a murder machine but super fragile if things go poorly. He falls to the ground in a mess of Critical Damage.
The Explorator plugs the final codes into console and all the servitors power down, mid-stride and mid-swipe in close combat. The players are not buying any of my bullshit – while Von Gunn is receiving emergency first aid, they double-tap every single standing servitor. “I’ve seen enough spooky films to know where this is going” *BLAM*
The console allows unfettered access to the Generatorium’s controls. You can activate, deactivate or modulate the occlusion field from here. Turning it off would allow auger scans of the areas it protects, but would render those areas vulnerable to the ravages of Cilice’s storms.
After some discussion, the Captain decides to send a standard introduction vox to anyone listening on the planet’s surface, and warns them that they will be turning off the shield for a few minutes to scan the colony with the Unbroken Resolve’s augers.
As they don’t receive any vox message back asking them not to, the Captain gives the order to Freeman to Press The Button.
The Explorers are in Telasco’s. It is early evening, and the din of the day shift has died down and the burble of the night-goers has begun.
You are in a red velvet booth sharing a bottle of Blood Sands wine from Imperial space. Through the iron lattice-work floor you can see the bustle of the Pit several storeys below you, the heat and odours of a day’s hard commerce wafting up beneath your feet, but drowned out by the perfumed finery of the rich and powerful who swan about the central dancefloor of Telasco’s
Telasco’s is unusually busy for this time of the evening, and the usual coiffured, amasec-swilling regulars who prop up the bar have been ushered away to their own booths.
It is the last day of repairs on the Unbroken Resolve, and your tech-crews report ready to cast off at first shift – they are good to go whenever you give the order.
We started the session in a booth in Telasco’s, the place to be on Mercy if you have the coin and/or status. This was the first session I started by stating where everybody was, relevant to where we left off rather than simply saying “You’re all still kind of mingling around, what is everyone up to?”. There were no issues from the other players, and it helped set a scene immediately.
I thought there might have been some backlash, perhaps people wishing they were doing something else instead or had other errands to run, but instead everyone seemed content to kick off in the hip-hop-happenin’ place to be, and we got some great roleplay out of it as a result.
I had written a few characters to expose to the players, a handful from different factions so they could put faces to names. It was an opportunity to do some interaction and sow a bit of intrigue.
The two most obvious characters were in the middle of one of the dance floors, surrounded by bodyguards and keeping the other punters away.
The first was a naval-looking woman with a wiry build and cropped white hair. Careful rejuvenat treatments had left her looking young, it is only when studied closer her true nature is revealed – the scars left from decades of conflict and a gaze backed by a hundred years of experience. Complete with Xenos power sword on her hip, this ticked all the boxes for Captain Orthesian’s blood to boil.
This was Lord-Captain Aoife Patroneus, head of the Patroneus Dynasty and direct rival in both power and standing to our own dynasty.
Her conversational partner was a stately-looking woman in ornate power armour of a striking jade hue, a colour repeated the uniforms of of bodyguards surrounding her. She too carried a beautiful power sword on her hip, and both seemed to be deep in friendly discussion.
This was Lady Sun Lee Chosokabe, the head of one of the Great Houses of Syracuse. She represented one of the most powerful noble families in the Onus Region, although this information eluded our Explorers at this time.
They were both surrounded by bodyguards from both their retinues, forming a perimeter around them on the dance floor.
A third of Telasco’s had been cordoned off for a private function, filled with revelers and religious sycophants buzzing about a central figure, a woman with a venomous smirk and dressed in Ecclesiastical finery.
This was the Baroness of House Ravenula, the rival household of Missionary Lyoness. House Ravenula directly compete with House Lyoness over power within the Ecclesiarchy, and they have hundreds of family members in positions of authority all across Imperial space. Emperor knows what she was doing this far out of her ivory towers.
The last new character was a man in the corner with a straight back, stiff upper lip and a well-kept scarlet uniform. He was keeping to himself in a corner, idly watching proceedings.
This was Brigadier Grantham of Blackbriar Corps, an umbrella organisation comprising of dozens of different mercenary groups, and he was here looking out for job opportunities.
Also present was Free-Captain Acheron, Voidsman Zilla’s acquaintance from the High Jink, keeping to himself at the bar.
Pressing the flesh
Our Explorers set upon these new opportunities with the usual tact and gusto you would expect from player characters.
Explorator Freeman hit the dance floor like a pro, casting off his servo skull to start eavesdropping. Excitingly, this went wrong almost immediately, and the servo-skull got caught up in the iron lattice chandelier above their heads.
Trying to play it cool, he pulled off some fly dressage dance moves with his four mechanical legs. This had the unfortunate side effect of upsetting the maintenance servitors who had been following him around trying to buff the divots out the dance floor from his heavy clodhopping.
After failing to drop some eaves on their surrounding area, the Captain and Von Gunn made a beeline for the Baroness. Captain Orthesian made a big show of ignoring Lord-Captain Patroneus and her mystery friend. After all, what’s the point of ignoring someone if they don’t know you’re ignoring them?
Heading over to the Baroness’ private booth, they noticed she was surrounded by religious hangers-on, drinking jovially and making awful forced laughter around each other. When they see the Captain and his bolt-pistol-displaying Arch-Militant approaching, they gather in front of their Baroness, shoulder to shoulder, trying to look intimidating.
They demand to know who these interlopers on their private party are, and what business they have with Baroness Ravenula, who is looking on with dry amusement.
Von Gunn doesn’t fuck about with pleasantries. Bolt pistols drawn, he gets a critcal pass on his Intimidate check for “I part the crowd”.
With several of the Baroness’ toadies tumbling to the floor, the Captain picks his way through the heap of drunken lackeys to address the Baroness.
There is a terse exchange as the Captain sizes her up. She is apparently in the Nomad Stars to get involved with Brother Espin’s crusade as well, presumably to increase her standing in the Ecclesiarchy. She is tight-lipped about her immediate plans, and as the conversation begins to wind down, a tipsy Lyoness comes barging through.
With the exchange of pleasantries over, Lyoness had decided it was time for an exchange of insults. Very few subjects were off limits, and after a productive few rounds of abuse and humiliation, the Baroness gathers her minions and vacates Telasco’s. The Captain orders another round for a job well done.
whatever you want, leo gets
With the Captain, Lyoness and Von Gunn out nurturing positive relations and the Explorator kicking holes in the dance floor, Zilla and Gil were back at the booth having a conversation with Free-Captain Acheron.
He and his Carrack-class transport, The Silver Blade, were on the look out for work. It turns out I don’t come up with particularly creative ship names on the spot.
Gil hands over his contact details so Acheron can contact them at any time. These Astropathic business cards are small mementos or tokens impregnated with the psychic location data of the Astropath – readable by any other psyker so that they may telepathically communicate over vast gulfs of space. These psychic mementos are usually highly decorated, or made of a valuable substance to denote the rank and status of the Astropath they represent.
Gil pushes a soggy beer mat across the table with a waggle of his eyebrows.
After bidding Acheron farewell and buying him another drink, Zilla and Gil notice a commotion at the entrance of the bar. An fast, irritating, squeaky voice pierces the thumping basslines, and with a sigh Gil realises who is here to see them.
“Hey it’s me! Leo! Leo Getz! Remember? Whatever you want, Leo gets! Get it? Guys? Leo Getz!”
Gil lets the carapace-armoured bouncers know that he’s with them, and Leo comes storming across the dancefloor like a man with a purpose.
As requested, he had been chasing down leads on the Fel Dynasty, who are apparently up to some mischief in the Tenebrose system. Hadarak Fel has been recruiting wrights and builders, apparently to rebuild an astropathic relay known as the Beacon that was destroyed last year by pirates.
The information was useful, but not enough to act on. Gil instructed Leo to keep an ear open for updates, and set him another mischievous task. Hit up all the bars on Mercy while they’re gone and spread false rumours about the Orthesian Dynasty. If Leo is moving in the kinds of circles to pick up these kinds of rumours, he can certainly start to monger his own:
“The Orthesians are searching for treasure around the Void Sea.”
Buoyed up with his mission and his newfound usefulness, Leo leaves Telasco’s with a spring in his step. Gil breathes a sigh of relief (as I take a VERY big chug of water from doing a terrible imitation of him for almost 20 minutes).
The last thing on their agenda was to talk to the mustachioed man in the corner. With excellent diction, the man introduces himself as Brigadier Grantham – a recruiter of sorts with a pair of vessels under his command. One is currently out on-mission at the moment, but he made it very clear he was available for hire should the Explorers needed it.
They saw no value in this proposition at the moment, but Gil gave him his customary soggy beer mat, winked and made the “Call me” sign with his hands.
By now the evening was winding down. Chosokabe and Patroneus had both vacated with their dozen armoured goons, and there was nobody left in Telasco’s save a few perfumed bar flies. It was time to head back to the ship and sleep off their hangover for casting off.
The Hatchling Worlds
The Unbroken Resolve had cast off, making for the exit point of the Telos system and running some warp calculations for their intended journey.
Their destination was Cilice, deep within the Hatchling Worlds Domain.
The Hatchling Worlds are described as a cursed place of sudden warp storms, temporal distortion and strange stellar phenomena. The Domain is littered with the corpses of a thousand failed attempts to colonise or tame its riches.
Even the known routes in this region are prone to sudden, violent warp storms, and so the Hatchling Worlds are often given wide berth, despite their proximity to the Throat. These worlds play host to a myriad of strange and unique phenomena, time and space twisting because of the whirl of the nearby Great Warp Storms.
It was to be 32 days to Cairn, and another few on the other side to Cilice. Cairn is what is known as Entry Point – a system near the borders of a Domain that has some warp significance. Many of the Domains are perilous to jump straight into, or have all manner of strange warp phenomena across them that makes exploration only suitable for tooled-up vessels.
Entry points are systems that are known by many explorers and traders as ‘safer’ ways into a Domain or a stepping stone between Domains. They usually have calmer tides or shorter routes to and from them, making them ideal stopping points.
This was also the longest warp jump the Explorers had undertaken so far, and with half a dozen potential warp encounters, tensions were high as we rolled on the Expanded Warp Encounter table…
Ghost ship: The Bridge Officers alert the captain to warnings on the augers. Another vessel had been detected only a handful of VUs from the Resolve. It could be a ghost reading or an anomaly in the sensors, but careful fiddling from Freeman shored up the results: they were definitely not alone.
The crew did their best to scan the other ship – its drive signature matched that of a known missing transport called the Lady Malachite. Further scans indicated its Gellar Field had long since given up, and with that the order was immediately given: Get Us Out Of Here Dot Jaypeg.
Despite the Navigator gunning it to outrun the warp-riddled ship, the Resolve still got a healthy dose of corruption points from the encounter. The Morale of the crew wavered as bouts of madness and panic gripped them and Freeman got his first malignancy – becoming irrationally nauseous around clocks.
Lyoness responds in typically stoic fashion by almost spilling her wine.
Pinhole weakness: The next encounter was the discovery of a pinhole-sized weakness in the Gellar Field. It was patched almost immediately, but didn’t prevent the crew from getting another lashing of warp madness.
Everybody seemed fine from this however, with only Von Gunn failing a willpower test and fainting dead away in the confines of his quarters. From this moment on, Von Gunn swears revenge by finally putting some points into Willpower.
All’s Well!: A whoop of excitement from the Explorers as the next five days will be incident free.
Soul Sickness: This one turned out to be the worst of them all – a permanent Fatigue point for the duration of the warp journey and for a few days after leaving the warp, let’s hope there isn’t going to be any more encounters requiring any skill te-
Warp Shoals!: Oh no! An encounter requiring a skill test! The ship threatened to beach itself on some warp rocks, but some quick thinking and judicious use of Fate Points towards the end of the session from Zilla and Lyoness gets the ship to safety in one piece.
All’s Well!: The final encounter was a sigh of relief from the crew. The last few days would be plain sailing.
Something wicked this way comes
While the crew making the final few checks for translating back into realspace, the Explorator receives reports of life support malfunctioning in the lower decks; 3 Crew Population perished overnight, frozen to death in their bunks.
With some savvy scrutinising of the problem, Freeman identifies a coolant leak in Underdeck 2, Section 3. Freeman, Lyoness, Vonn Gunn and 3 armsmen go down to check out the problem, the Captain confident they can handle a Routine Checkup(tm).
It is dark and deathly cold – your breath crystalises in the air and the tears freeze in your eyes. Frost has rimed on the walls. The source of the leak is 50m ahead through a tangle of tight corridors.
Your corridor is blocked by a frozen fountain of ice spilling from a ruptured water line. An armsman moves forwards to turn off the valve and stem the flow.
The ice comes to life!
Frozen claws shoot from the wall of ice and snatch the hapless armsman. They pull him back into the ice wall, eviscerating him as the hooked hands pass through his body like an egg slicer and back into the wall.
Laden with loot and buoyed up from their first successful adventure, our Explorers cast their gaze back to the stars to determine their next heading.
They had a treasure ship filled with plunder, and although they could make off with the most valuable items by hand, there was a good lot of salvage that needed specialist equipment to remove, and a whole plasma drive that needed something larger than a little 10-man shuttle to shift. So, it was with a heavy heart that they concluded that they needed to once again contact the obnoxiously happy Lombar the Architect.
They sent an Astropathic message to the Mayweather Choir, using the contact details provided to them by Lombar. They would offer unfettered access and survey results of Gangue Prime in exchange for Lombar salvaging the wreck of the Rightful Remit for the Orthesian Dynasty. A few hours later came the response – he’d take three weeks to arrive with a salvage fleet.
What about those other balls of rock
With three weeks to kill, the crew decide to investigate the other two planets – Gangue Minor and Gangue Secondus – both outside the Goldilocks zone. By chance or cunning, they headed straight for the Plot Planet when they arrived in-system, and although weren’t expecting to find anything on these outliers, thought it prudent to double check.
Gangue Minor was first, a burnt-up cinder of a planet orbiting close to the dying sun and bathed in radiation. As they closed, they got their first taste of a solar radiation hazard.
Fluctuations happen every D10 days and can be detected in advance with a Scrutiny+Detection+10 test.
They can be avoided by leaving the zone, sheltering behind a celestial body, or insulating the ship’s augers with a Tech Use -20 test.
Any ship caught unprotected suffers a Sensors Damaged critical result and cannot send or receive vox messages. This cannot be fixed for D5 days after the surge due to the lingering presence of the radiation.
They arrived at Gangue Minor and had their sensors immediately blasted by radiation, preventing them from scanning the planet and rendering them more vulnerable to radiation. A very quick about-face ensues.
It’s a week’s travel to Gangue Secundus, where they find a frozen rainforest in the far reaches of the voids. It all looks idyllic and ripe for adventure until the scans come back.
“Hazardous frozen spores you say?”
The Captain makes the executive decision to stay nice and safe on board the ship and perform some extended repairs while we wait for Lombar to arrive. There might be adventure waiting for them on the surface, or there might be horrible spore-related death and injury. (GM’s note: it was horrible spore-related death and injury)
Lombar shows up after a few weeks in repairs in high orbit. He is predictably ecstatic and can’t thank them enough for the opportunity before they hang up on him. All their salvage and the plasma drive will be returned to Mercy in two months, held in a safe warehouse in Mayweather Mooring.
With pleasantries cut short and a heading chosen, it was time to plot the next warp jump back to Mercy.
Return to the sea of souls
It was 5 days in warp back to Mercy, which meant I would only get one roll on the expanded warp encounters table we drew up a few sessions ago. I’ll get them next time…
We got the Visitation encounter;
“Your officers report the crew have become unsettled, and during your rest periods you find yourselves visited by shades of lost comrades and family. These have a Fear 2 rating, but if you pass you may ask a single question of the shades about your future.”
Astropath Gil was visited by the ghosts of people he left behind on the penal world. They weren’t particularly helpful with regards to his interrogations about Fel.
The Captain was visited by Great Grandpappy Orthesian, who promised the usual shtick of fame and glory. The Captain was unimpressed by his unhelpful prophesizing.
Von Gunn was visited by the spirits of all those he’d lost in battle.
Missionary Lyoness and Voidsmaster Zilla somehow managed to sleep through the whole debacle. Strong wine in the sermons, we assumed.
Explorator Freeman was visited by the ghost of his legs, doing a merry little jig on his home planet without him. Exploration is a hell of a drug.
The rest of the journey was without incident, and barring a few near-fluffed Navigate (Warp) tests, the ship translated back into the Telos system.
A brother’s calling
The moment they entered Telos, they received a vox message stamped with Imperial codes. A missionary named Brother Espin requested to meet the Captain on board his vessel, the Sword of Saint Troubadous for a very special task.
Miss me with that quest shit. A shopping spree is calling!
The Explorers disembark and head to their various areas of interest in Mercy. Gil was the first to be approached with some exposition.
“Rumours travel quick in Mercy. During one of your visits to the seedier parts of Longshore, Gil is approached by a short, greasy man with thinning hair and a pot belly poking out from underneath a battered flak vest. His sleeves are rolled up, displaying a host of underdecks and penal tattoos, one of which you immediately recognise as your own penal colony you escaped from.”
The individual introduces himself as Leo Getz (no relation) because “whatever you want, Leo gets!”
“I heard about some funny individuals trying to break into Telascos, and one of them matching your description, I couldn’t believe my luck! We convicts have to stick together.”
His proposition was simple: “I can be your eyes and ears! You look like you could do with more eyes and ears!”
Gil stares back with burnt-out cinders for eye sockets.
“Uh, metaphorically speaking of course. No offense intended…”
The proposition seemed fair enough – he would keep an ear to the ground in Mercy for rumours, in exchange for scraps from the Masters’ tables. Gil set him about looking up information about Lady Ash and the Fel Dynasty.
I could sense a rivalry starting…
Voidsmaster Zilla had a special request – are there any bars specifically for pilots? Well, not in my notes so probably n-
Oh, you’ve aced the Search check. I guess there is! Welcome to the High Jink. A revolving bar set in a spire high above Mercy Longshore. It gives great views of all the voidships moored here, and operates a strict ‘Pilots Only’ policy. Great for hobnobbing with other ship jockeys!
There he meets Free-Captain Acheron, a chartist captain looking for work after he was usurped from his contracted routes by thugs. They share drinks and talk shop.
Lyoness chats up the barkeep in Telasco’s, attempting to buy their most expensive alcohol and settling for their second-most expensive alcohol.
Freeman visits Guilder Parvik to pay for repairs in Archeotech as promised last time they were on Mercy. He instead hands over a suit of Xenos Demiurg armour. Parvik is apparently none too bright and takes it as Archeotech. This will definitely not come back to haunt them. Nope.
Sword of saint troubadous
They could put off meeting with their quest-giver no longer. The Explorers picked up a lander from their ship and headed over to see Brother Espin.
The Sword of Saint Troubadous is a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.
Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen
The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation.
They land in the hangar bay and troop out, waving flags and tooting their Dynasty trumpets. Freeman had even perfected a little dressage with his robo-legs.
An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard steps forwards. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. He would be utterly inconsequential and totally indistinguishable from the other pilgrims on this ship were it not for the dozens of hangers-on that follow in his wake.
Standard-bearers, weepers, singers, tall women dressed in ornate power-armour and strange-looking warriors carrying bizarre weaponry from far-flung parts of the galaxy all stand in his shadow.
He introduces himself as Brother Espin, and gestures for some hessian pillows to be brought over so they can sit down in the hangar and enjoy tea.
He opens up about his reasons for contacting Captain Orthesian.
“I Looking to build a portfolio of pious individuals in the Nomads he can trust – the God-Emperor rewards the faithful, and the Orthesian Dynasty comes highly recommended
“There is a colony on a planet called Cilice, now long-abandoned after it fell to impiety. I know very little of the history other than its reputation of being a place that fell to sin. I sent an exploratory Mission six months ago to the largest colony on the planet, Arrogance, but I have heard nothing from them.
“My advisors tell me it was once a place of wealth and decadence until warp storms cut off their supplies. The colony withered and died, and nobody heard from them again. The warp storms subsided not too long ago, and there has been considerable interest in discovering what happened to the colony and, in some cases, looking to reclaim its riches.
“If the Imperial Creed is to spread to the Nomad Stars, it needs more footholds. If my advisors are correct, the colony of Arrogance once held a mighty shrine to the God-Emperor, and would make an ideal pilgrimage and foothold.
“I need a person of faith to travel to the Cilice system and scout it for potential hazards. Establish a beachhead on Arrogance and, if possible, find my missing missionaries.
“I have legions of the faithful to set up all the necessary infrastructure for the shrine, so do not worry about busywork that would be beneath your Warrant’s holy remit. Simply ensure it is safe enough for our approach and report your success back to me. The God-Emperor has seen fit to furnish me with much material wealth that our holy work has no need for, save to grease the wheels of progress. Serve Him by serving me, and I shall see you are handsomely rewarded.
“You are not the only ones concerned about Cilice’s spiritual wealth, there are others looking to reclaim its material wealth as well. Be wary, and be swift.”
As the Captain was taking it all in (and the players were frantically scribbling notes), Brother Espin makes one final gesture. He wheels out a cart with two dozen sets of plate crusader armour and some weapons, in case the crew happened to have any pious ultra-zealots on board that could do with a bit of protection.
The Captain asked a few probing questions about the planet of Cilice, but Brother Espin professed to know very little, which is why he was requesting the services of a Rogue Trader. After all, if anyone would know anything about plying the unknown, it would be them.
They bid adieu and headed back to Mercy. They were going to need to do some preparation work – this expedition would take them the furthest into the unknown they had been so far.
Last time on the Orthesian Herald, our band of brave Explorers had fought off hordes of ravening Orks on the dead alien world of Gangue Prime to try and find the next piece of the map to the fabled treasure ship, the Righteous remit.
“As you enter the monolith’s interior chamber you are overcome by its grandeur and unsettling alien construction. It is like standing in the centre of a sea of light, and you are unable to tell where the floor, roof or walls begin and end. Most disconcerting is the air seems alive with images spinning and dancing around your heads. To read the information you must spend time focusing on the swirling images to make any sense of them.”
(This was a Willpower test or suffer D10 insanity points. They gained the information either way.)
“As you gaze into the mirror the images begin to merge and spin until you are engulfed by an ocean of stars and planets. Worlds slip through your fingers and the icy void brushes your skin as you peer like a celestial god across the whole of Gangue.
“With a little effort you realise you can move events forward and backward in time, watching the dying star slowly flare back to life and the worlds once more teem with activity. Finally, you find what you are looking for: the arrival of the Rightful Remit.
“Tumbling from a rent in the void you mark its passage until it clashes into a cluster of asteroids out among the Shard Halo. Moving time back to the present you can see it still; frozen and waiting beneath the ice.
“You know instinctively that you have the exact location of the Rightful Remit.”
Our Astropath, Gil, was the one ‘volunteered’ for the mission of reading the Star Chamber. There seemed to be some misunderstanding that because he was the psyker, he would naturally have the highest Willpower in the team.
Regardless, only a handful of insanity points later, he had the location of the treasure ship beamed into his mind from the alien construct.
Feeling quite good about proceedings, he suddenly feels a sharp stabbing pain in his head, and the sensation of someone going through his memories and ransacking it for loose change. At the entrance of the chamber he can see the reason why – Lady Ash, the psyker under the employ of Hadarak Fel, had waited until Gil was distracted and forced herself into his mind to steal the location of the Righteous Remit.
The chase was on! She fled as soon as she was identified, and the players heard the throaty roar of the stolen attack bike. The party was devastated – not only had she stolen the plot macguffin, but she’d stolen back their brand new bike after they stole it fair and square. Everything seemed lost, until the Explorator pointed out that he can sprint over 70 metres in a turn.
The chase was back on!
What followed was a foot/bike chase as the scampering spider-limbed Techpriest scampered after the rogue psyker as she gunned the attack bike across the Gangue dust bowl.
He caught up, punching his limbs through the back of the bike’s wheel well (much to Lady Ash’s surprise), rupturing oil lines and causing flying sparks from the grinding metal. They exchanged a terse, high-speed close-range gun battle that ultimately lead to Lady Ash using her powers to Compel the Explorator off the back of the bike, but not before the bike engulfs in flames and careens out of control, eventually coming to rest at the edge of the alien maze.
When the Explorator finally pulled himself back up and investigated the burning wreckage of the bike, there was no salvageable parts and no signs of Lady Ash. A bitter pill to swallow.
The beast with the broken back
Returning to the ship, they consoled themselves with the knowledge that they had the location – a tumble of asteroids in the Shard Halo of the Gangue system – and with a good wind could still arrive before Fel did. They set off, only one day’s travel with some good rolls from the Voidmaster.
Scattered across billions of km of space, the Shard Halo is Gangue’s glittering crown, a seemingly endless stretch of frozen rock and scattered vapour clouds.
You close within a few thousand kilometres of the icy asteroid where the Rightful Remit rests, and can scan its surface to identify the twisted wreck trapped inside. Drawing close, you see that the treasure ship is not alone and dozens of other craft seem to have been drawn here, creating an icy ship graveyard.
The team pull close to the icy asteroid and set off in an Arvus Lighter along with three of Lyoness’ Covenant, lead by their leader Alyss.
Now that you are closer, you can see the faded majesty of the ancient treasure ship. Once an impressive vessel, it has now fallen to ruin; its hull is stripped of ornamentation and its length is riddled with holes and scars.
Most terrible of all the damage is a mighty rent halfway down its hull where the ship has almost been broken in two. Taller than a hab block, the rend has exposed dozens of decks and looks like a likely way in.
The ship’s interior is somehow still powered, with powerful energy seals blocking off the lower decks of the vessel. The Explorator does some technomagic and figures out the power is being routed through the bridge – if they head there, they can shut it off.
With great caution, our band of heroes make their way to the bridge, picking their way through twisted corridors and broken arterials. They were becoming suspicious as to how easy it was so far…
The bridge of the rightful remit
The bridge is faintly lit with the pale radiance of Gangue’s star through the vista-panels of its observation gantry.
Under this cold light, you see a long semicircular chamber with the Lord-Captain’s throne at the far end. Down each side of the chamber are servitor pits, cold and dark and packed with ancient part-mechanical corpses.
The other two structures of note are a Navigator’s well rising from the centre of the chamber and the cogitator core vestibule just below the throne.
Everything is covered in a thick layer of glittering dust, smoothing lines and hiding the human remains that lay strewn about the deck.
The Explorator sets out examining the core cogitator vestibule, sticking his MIU where into a rusted socket and getting an unhealthy dose of insanity. Didn’t mamma ever tell you about sticking your MIU where it didn’t belong? The Captain explores the Navigator’s pulpit and finds an extra crispy Navigator with an identifying medallion – Daam’Samarra.
Zilla suddenly remembers he carries a backpack-sized voxcaster round with him wherever he goes, as it suddenly chirps into life with a Bridge Officer from the Resolve informing him that they’d picked up signs of an unidentified small craft making its way towards the Rightful Remit. They had sent a lander of Orthesian armsmen down to reinforce, hold fast!
It wasn’t coming fast enough – Zilla catches gunfire on the vox, the armsmen were locked in battle in the corpse of the old treasure ship with unknown assailants.
The Captain was anxious about the well-being of his men and heads up one of the exit ramps to the bridge. The heavy blast doors open, finding himself coming face to face with…
Fel Dynasty armsmen come pouring in through both doors onto the bridge, spearheaded by the rogue psyker encountered in Port Impetus – Lady Ash. She is joined by an angry servitor with chainblades for arms.
With the Explorator up first, his first action is to immediately shut one of the two doors the armsmen had come in through, stranding half of the armsmen on the wrong side of the door and leaving the combat servitor all by himself on one side of the map.
This action would turn out to be pretty decisive later on, as it helped the players take out the invading force piecemeal rather than take them all on at once.
Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone making ill-calculated decisions. While the rest of the Crew were engaging the armsmen coming in through the open door on the right, the Explorator moves to engage the combat servitor on the left. He blasts him with his hellgun as a free action and charges into combat.
Unfortunately, the ‘combat’ part of ‘combat servitor’ wasn’t just a meaningless title. After a bit of playful banter, the servitor carves the Explorator a set of new MIU sockets. Explorator Freeman hits the deck with -4 wounds and an entertaining amount of blood on the floor (how can a guy with no legs have so much blood(?!).
By now the first set of armsmen had been dealt with by the Captain, Astropath Gil and Lyoness and her Covenant. They swing round to deal with the servitor threat and the armsmen who had finally forced their way onto the bridge. They were also joined by Lady Ash, who had unfortunately got caught on the wrong side of the door and missed most of the fight too.
As they burst in, Voidmaster Zilla had been working his way into an advantageous position, trying to use the height advantage from the raised bridge to grenade the incoming armsmen. Lady Ash catches wind of this (damned telepaths! It’s like they can read minds or something) and Compels him to throw himself from the bridge.
Another helpful lesson in why Willpower shouldn’t be a dump stat.
With the Explorator taking a power nap and the Captain’s displacer field causing him grief, it was left to Gil and Lyoness to mop up what was remaining. Lady Ash read the room and figured it was time to dip, so she ordered the servitor to cover her retreat. With great glee it clanked and thumped all the way up to the Astropath, and my notes explicitly read “and fucks up Gil”.
The servitor is eventually carved apart by psychotic religious women with chainswords and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The word from the friendly armsmen on board – the Fel Dynasty had retreated and left the spoils to the players.
As the corpse-counters began their tallies and the players were dissecting the fight that happened, it was time to see what was in the holds of the treasure ship.
The holds are filled with the ancient wealth of plundered worlds that will plump your Dynasty coffers for quite some time. In addition, the lowest levels of the ship contain sealed vaults with impossibly valuable treasures, the likes of which you have never laid eyes on before.
This would be my first opportunity to use the rather splendid Treasure Generator from the Stars of Inequity book. Each player would get to roll a piece of loot, and then afterwards we could discuss who gets what.
Once the players had rolled their loot, I went away and fluffed up the loot a bit more, so rather than ‘chainsword +1’ it would feel more like a unique item.
Detailed here are all the pieces of loot the players received – the rolled results are written in italics, followed by a bit of background fluff, and finally the game effects in bullet points.
All in all an exciting, sight-seeing, bloody first adventure for our heroic crew! Let’s see where their whims take them next…
Archeotech Lunde-pattern plasma drive
(Ship component, plasma drive, ancient miracle, imposing, good quality, unpredictable, trusty)
Wrested from the broken remains of the Rightful Remit, the Lunde-pattern drive is an ancient and overwhelming testament to ages long past. In the late 31st Millennium, Plasmasmith Elicio Lunde was at the height of his craft, dedicating his many centuries of service to the production of high-end plasma drives for escort ships.
His plasma drives burned with an intensity far greater than normal for their size, modulating their plasma wash into a variety of vibrant hues of visible and invisible light. Exhaust conduits spaced evenly across the outer hull reduce internal space, and can be harmonised to vent in impressive warning displays.
This is a Good Quality plasma drive (same as is currently fitted) but takes up -1 Space
It provides a +10 to Command and Intimidate checks made on board the ship
Once per game, it can provide a +10 bonus to anything involving it
When it passes, it gains an extra Degree of Success. When it fails, it gains two extra Degrees of Failure
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first
Demiurg carapace armour
(armour, carapace chestplate, alien techn, remnant of the endless, poor quality, dogged)
The Demiurg are a race of short, semi-humanoid traders and miners who maintain cordial relations with several xeno cultures. They are known to avoid Imperial space, making them a very uncommon sight, but the increased sightings of Demiurg artifacts in the Nomad Stars might signal a resurgence.
They have a high level of ionic-based technology, which it is understood they gifted to the Tau Empire – their close allies. Their name means ‘artisan’ in ancient Terran, and despite this armour being clearly designed for a shorter and broader torso, does not stop it from being exceptionally effective.
6 Armour to the body, 7 kg
Wearer suffers -10 to all Agility tests
Whenever the wearer is hit with a Melee attack, the attacker must pass an Agility test or suffer 1d5+2 E damage with the Shocking trait
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Xenos) test first
(Melee weapon, razorchain, ancient miracle, indestructible, vanishing, zealous)
A lightweight sword composed of a number of interlocking blades joined by a cable. At a moment’s notice, these blades can be separated, turning a sword into a many-bladed lash. In the hands of a skilled wielder, these are almost impossible to parry and can be woven past almost any defence.
Despite bearing irrefutable evidence of human construction, the Nomad-pattern Razorchain bears a striking resemblance to a choice weapon of Dark Eldar reavers. These similarities are hand-waved either as coincidence or adoption of superior human technology by feeble xenos minds. This particular model is wrought from a strange metal alloy that never seems to lose its edge and seems impossible to mark or cut with any device.
Melee, 5m range, 1d5+4 R damage, 4 Penetration, Balanced (+10 to parry with), Flexible (cannot be parried), 2kg
Cannot be destroyed by natural means
It gains a +10 to Concealment checks to hide it about your person
You can never have a bonus greater than +30 or a penalty worse than -30 to use this weapon
House Kornallis Navis Prima Maxima
(gear, navis primer, ancient miracle, compact, unpredictable, dogged, house rule: +10 to Nav Stellar)
Navis Prima are perhaps some of the most valuable items an Explorer can possess, as they outline safe routes through the warp, or at least as safe as warp travel can get.
This is a rare example of an already extraordinary artifact – created by the Magisterial Navigator House of Kornallis, who have been around since the dawn of the Imperium of Man, and are said to have stood at the sides of those brave explorers who first ventured into the Nomad Stars. This small, unassuming leather book, marked only with a humble embossing of a stylised House Kornelius crest, can slip inside a pocket or kept out of sight.
When opened, an interactive holo-display is projected in front of the reader, affording them complex – if cryptic – knowledge of likely warp routes and stellar phenomena in the Nomad Stars.
It provides a +10 to all Navigate (Stellar) tests
Search tests to find this item on your person are at -30
During Step 1: Determine Duration of Passage in warp travel, you may re-roll the Route Stability before calculating.
If using the Navis Prima for Navigate (Stellar) tests, or to re-roll a Route Stability during warp travel, increase any Degrees of Success by 1, but increase any Degrees of Failure by 2.
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first
This chain axe is wrought of a dark iron, that despite bearing the hallmarks of human construction, still inspires a sense of dread when looked upon. Preliminary tests suggest that the iron used in construction been extracted from human haemoglobin, and that when the teeth of the weapon are in motion, look like the dark rays of a foreboding black sun.
Curiouser still is a hidden compartment in the axe head, that when activated from a rune on the hilt, fires a high-calibre shell straight and true at an unsuspecting target. These rounds are no different from common hand cannon ammunition, but something inside the weapon synthesizes a powerful venom to coat the ammunition before firing – something that is probably worth not looking too much into.
Melee, 1d10+2 R damage, 2 Penetration, Tearing
It can make a ranged attack as if it were a pistol – 30m range, S/-/-, 1d10+4 I damage, 4 Penetration, Clip 1, Full reload, Toxic
It provides a +5 to all Charm and Intimidate checks, but Search tests to find this item are at +30
Reclamation Crusade Sallett helm
(Armour, reinforced helm, finely wrought, best craftsmanship, potent, dogged)
Despite it’s archaic, clunky appearance, this ancient helm is light as incredibly light and wearing it is like donning a second skin. It is finely etched with murals of the Troubadous Reclamation in the 32nd Century, when the Saint-Admiral Troubadous (a prominent disciple of Saint Drusus) swept through the southern stars of the sector, bringing primitive human tribes to heel and re-forging the Imperium under a single banner. After seeing the Onus region begin to swell with settlers and piety, he cast his gaze southwards to the Nomad Stars, a time before the Great Warp Storms sealed off the throat.
Saint Troubadous went missing somewhere in the Nomad Stars, and thousands of official funerals were held in his honour, but not before carving a bloody path through heretic and xenos, seeding countless worlds with humans and the Imperial Creed. The capriciousness of the warp caught up with his ambition, however, and the passage through the Great Warp Storms (now known as the Throat) sealed up, and did not re-open for another 8 millennia.
Mankind is left to only speculate what happened to the Saint-Admiral, his final crusade, or the worlds he left behind…
8 Head armour, 4.5kg
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
Navigator Mahd’Naz sends the translation estimates back to the Captain – 8 days in the warp to the Gangue system through calm warp currents to find the fabled treasure ship, The Rightful Remit.
The warp shutters roll down over the viewports, emergency lumens wash the bridge with a crimson glow and everybody lights their incense. As the Unbroken resolve hits the warp translation point, it fires a single defiant salvo from its macrocannons as unreality opens up and swallows the little ship whole.
This was to be the first, and likely last, of the quiet warp translations. During the week, only two Warp Encounters were rolled, both getting “All’s Well!” results. A little disappointing from a GM’s perspective but hey, not every warp journey can be a harrowing trip into the hell of hells.
During the transit, Explorator Freeman and Von Gunn decide to take the two newly-appointed Battery Lords, Brassfang and Falconet, on hunting patrols through the bowels of the ship. Since the battering at the hands of the Battlegrounds raiders there were a few decks on the keel of the ship that were considered unfit for duty and sealed off. Voidships in the 41st millennium are designed with plenty of obsolescences in mind, but they do have a habit of picking up vermin and stowaways, so they need to be checked every so often to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Freeman had divvied up the broken underdecks into sectors, and they would sweep a different sector of each underdeck each day while in the warp. Von Gunn would also use it as an opportunity to have a bit of friendly competition between the two Battery Lords and to encourage them to blow off steam this way, rather than getting antsy with the macrocannons.
It was just a minor point, but it was a neat little addition from the players to explore more of their home and stake out their claim on it.
Our journey to Gangue was over.
A dead race and a dying sun
The translation into the Gangue system was as painless as the journey. The crew had already acquired a system map before leaving Mercy, so all that remained to do was let the passive augurs sweep the system and report back.
Gangue is one of hundreds of systems visited, catalogued and passed over by explorers of the Nomad Stars. Since Skylar himself, it has remained mostly unexplored or unexploited, mostly due to little immediate interest: sun-blasted worlds to its frozen reaches, only a smattering of looted ruins and planets ill-suited to colonisation.
Flickering Eye: A stuttering pulsar, bathing the system in hard radiation from its death throes.
Gangue Minor: A sun-scorched world closest to the star and scoured clean of life by its fiery breath.
Gangue Prime: A dust choked graveyard littered with the alien ruins.
Gangue Secundus: An icy jungle moon covered in frozen spore-towers andcloaked in a toxic fog.
Shard Halo: A vast asteroid field billions of kilometres in length scattered across the outer reaches of the system.
the goldilocks zone
A brief discussion rippled across the crew – where to go first? The nearest planet to the outer reaches where we had translated into was the obvious choice, but would we expect to find anything there? Active augur sweeps told us Gangue Secundus was a frozen hellscape, and Gangue Minor was a scorched, radioactive hellscape.
The only hellscape that didn’t require excessive equipment was the planet in the Goldilocks Zone – not too hot, not too cold. Set a course for Gangue Prime!
After three days of intersystem travel, the Unbroken Resolve enters high orbit of the planet and runs a focused scan.
Gangue Prime is a desolate wasteland with a dirty grey surface choked by clouds and dust. From orbit, you detect vast maze-like ruins covering many parts of the surface but little else.
You also clearly detect the presence of a great monolith standing proud from the surrounding ruins and wreathed in an invisible cloud of electromagnetic turbulence – the giant crystal structure is unmistakably something unique.
The maze-like hive spans much of the northern landmass, rising up above the great dust sea, with the black monolith at the centre like a precious jewel – Impossible to bring a craft within more than a few km of the mirror due to violent ionic and magnetic storm around it.
into the maze
Everyone was eager to step foot on their first alien world, so the crew piled into an Arvus lighter and dropped orbit. The fly-by of the monolith revealed it would be impossible to land anywhere near, its projected aura of electromagnetic turbulence causing problems to the lighter the closer it got. The crew set down a few kilometres out in a clearing and disembarked.
Atmosphere is thin here, you can survive unprotected for at least a few hours, though the caustic air will make breathing uncomfortable
The alien hive is eerily empty – a collection of labyrinthine trenches and open pits surrounding the mirror like the carvings of a giant madman. They glisten with rainbow light as though oily, even as they crack and crumble with age.
The passageways are cramped for humans, and the hive mazes are empty, as though the xenos and their works simply vanished overnight. The only sound is the moaning of the wind as it blows through enclosed maze-spaces and across desert outcrops.
Exploring the labyrinth
As the players explored the ruined maze, many of them made attempts to maintain bearings or create EM-breadcrumb trails so they could find their way back. Confoundingly, the maze seemed to reject any efforts to map it or tame it in any way.
There was no signs of life, no psychic signature or presence of warp fuckery – the construction of the maze by strange xenos minds was anathema to human pathfinding sensibilities. Players found themselves double-backing on themselves, becoming lost or somehow following the same path as they just left.
These were handled by a string of Logic, Navigate (Surface) and Scholastic Lore (Astromancy) checks, with Insanity Points being handed out for any particularly bad failures as the character’s minds began to fracture at the seemingly impossible construction of the maze. After ten hours of stumbling around, the Arch Militant smelled something familiar – the distinctive odour of burning aviation fuel and charred metal…
You come to a section of the maze that has been torn apart by some flying vehicle, plowing a smouldering furrow through the crystalline walls. Bits of smoking wreckage lie everywhere, and you can just about make out through the acrid black smoke a shortcut to the centre of the maze.
The wreckage is that of a heavy lander that must have crashed when it encountered the same ionic and magnetic storms caused by the central structure.
A Search or Awareness -20 check of the site revealed the following;
You notice a similar livery painted on the craft as displayed on the armsmen who ambushed you in Port Impetus. Charred and broken corpses are strewn everywhere, so twisted blackened you mistook them for detritus from the lander. A Willpower +20 check was required to resist another doling out of Insanity Points. It was at this point that some of the more physically-orientated characters began to understand the importance of not using Willpower as their dump stat.
The players were on edge. This was clearly a Fel Dynasty craft that was fouled by the electromagnetic storms around the monolith. What were they doing here?
As they pondered, the Explorator and Voidmaster uncovered something in the wreckage – a single drop-crate that survived the wreckage and encrypted with Fel Dynasty codes. It would take a little while to crack, so the crew decided to move on through the hole in the ruins that the lander had created. The Explorator insisted on staying behind to break it open, something he would later come to be very thankful for…
As you pick through the wreckage towards the great crystalline structure in the centre of the labyrinth you hear the sounds of gunfire and animalistic grunting. The snap of lasgun fire is unmistakeable, but there is a single noise that pierces the veil and sends a shiver down your spine. A single, howling, primal “WAAAAAAAGH!”
A run-in with the locals
The crew stood on a ridge overlooking the monolith in the centre of a vast dust bowl about 200 metres across. In the centre, a mob of a dozen or so feral Orks were bearing down on some Fel Dynasty armsmen behind a rocky outcrop.
As the crew took their bearings (and rolled for Initiative), they noticed a half dozen Orks lead by a huge brute break off from the pack and thunder across the open dust bowl towards them.
The crew had 100 metres and superior firepower on their side, but would that be enough to take them down before they got close? A few players had faced Orks in 40k RPGs before and knew they weren’t to be trifled with, and the players who didn’t have an intimate knowledge of the Green Menace’s infamous toughness knew that it would be a Bad Thing to let them close the gap.
As they were sizing up the potential killing power of the scattering of plasma pistols and flamers in the party, there was a gutteral roar from behind them of a powerful engine starting up. Screeching over the ridge behind them came Explorator Freeman on an Astartes-pattern Scout Bike and Zilla riding shotgun on the sidecar. Its twin bolters spewing hot explosive death into the ranks of the Orks, and the tide of battle became considerably more balanced.
The fight was set up to introduce long range combat and to give the players a taste of fighting Orks in the lowest-threat way as possible – having them start a long way away with no ranged weapons!
The fight was set up as a 1cm:1m scale, so the Orks would be on the players in less than 10 turns. They knew that if even one got through, it would cause a world of hurt to whatever it touched. Two plasma pistols from the Captain and the Astropath (a convenient last-minute Acquisition from Mercy!) could put out reasonable damage when they hit, and the twin bolt pistol death from the Arch Militant made decent work of whatever he was aiming at. The Missionary was at a disadvantage of only having a flamer, so spent most of her time shouting profanities at the ravening xenos horde.
The twin bolters from the scout bike chewed up Orks like there was no tomorrow;
(Twin linked: +20 to hit, uses twice as much ammunition, scores an additional hit if the attack roll gets 2+ degrees of success)
Dakka dakka dakka!
The Orks were only a few turns away from beating our heroic crew to death with their own severed arms and our players were starting to feel the heat. Arch Militant Von Gunn came up with a decisive Plan B – he had a bunch of demolition charges and an appetite for destruction. By setting all the charges around the ridge they were standing on, they had an opportunity for an explosive retreat if things went sideways.
In the final few nail-biting turns of the game, the bikers had thinned the Ork horde enough so the small-arms fire could cause some damage. They had identified the big Ork as some kind of leader and were focusing fire to try and take him down. They had worked out the rest of the Orks might break if he could be stopped.
They also discovered a nice little surprise the Green Tide had to hand – crude Stikkbombs they lobbed at the bike when it got close enough. In an utterly tragic cosmic coincidence, all the Orks carrying stikkbombs had been killed before they could get close enough to use them or even before the players had identified them as a threat. I’ll get you next time, gadget…
The Captain and the Astropath finally put down the Ork leader with repeated blasts of max-strength plasma pistol shots and the last two Orks began to waiver. Unfortunately for them, they had just (and FINALLY) strayed into flamer range of the Missionary, who had been lamenting not taking a long range weapon for the entire fight.
Tips for pros: fire kills Orks dead.
This is an amusing quirk of the system as to why fire is so effective. Orks have a naturally low Willpower because individually they’re a cowardly lot. Get a bunch of them together though and Orks get a +10 to their Willpower tests (for Fear and Pinning) for every other Ork within a close proximity. Lots of Orks don’t run from a fight.
When you are hit with a Flamer, two things happen. First you take the flamer’s damage, which at 1d10+4 isn’t going to upset an Ork who will soak most of that damage anyway. However, they then have to take an Agility test or catch fire. Orks have a terrible Agility, so they tend to catch alight quite often. Once on fire, you have to take an unmodified Willpower test or you are forced to do nothing except run around screaming. You don’t get your Mob Rule bonus for this, and Orks tend to fail unmodified Willpower checks quite a lot.
When you’re on fire, you take D10 damage per turn, ignoring armour. Again, this is unlikely to trouble an Ork who can shrug off at least 8 of that. However, fire also gives you 1 Fatigue per turn. Exceed your Toughness Bonus and you pass out from asphyxiation and burn to death. Each level of Fatigue also imposes a -10 to all your tests, making it harder and harder to put yourself out each turn.
So what you have is a bunch of flaming Orks running around screaming, unable to put themselves out until they all pass out and become sautéed mushrooms. Yay fire!
The final two Orks were toasted, and one of them turned to flee. The Missionary’s bodyguard Alyss leapt forwards and plunged her chainsword into the fleeing Ork, finishing him off.
The Captain surveyed the scene and emptied the plasma pistol canister into the mangled Ork boss, just in case. He’d heard about their regenerative abilities and figured he’d rather not risk it.
The team gathered their wits, reloaded their weapons and made straight for the Monolith.