One of my first events I felt safe returning to was an Inquisitor day at Warhammer world, run by venerable members of the Conclave with a familiar format. There are 3-4 time slots during the day, and everyone can have a crack at running a one-off game with a group of people they might otherwise not usually play with.
One of my many lockdown projects was a trio of 54mm Bloodletters, and I was eager to pit them against some worthy opponents. It wasn’t acceptable for them to simply be there though, clearly they needed some set dressing to add to the drama.
I already had a few odd Chaos-y bits, like the classic Warhammer Temple of Skulls kit, but I wanted something more Khorney. Perhaps it was time to delve into the mysterious realm of resin.
I played with the idea of doing some horrible craggy rocks or bronze icons and such, but for spectacle nothing really beats steaming pools of blood filled with the skulls of your enemies, right?
I already had a bunch of 4mm MDF shapes cut out for another project, and the addition of some cork chunks broken roughly into triangle shapes around the border formed the basis of the pool.
With a bloodletter for scale, I was happy with how much table coverage I’d get with these. On to the tedious part!
Skulls for the skull pool
I wanted the pools lined with skulls , having them get smaller as they got near the centre of the pool to hopefully sell the illusion of depth. With a box of Citadel Skulls and a sharp knife, I set to work.
I’d got the process down after a while. Snip a few skulls out, clean off the mould lines, then slice them roughly in two, varying the angle of cut to produce different shapes.
Add a decent blob of PVA to the work area, and use a set of tweezers to roughly cajole the skulls to where you want them to be. The PVA would (hopefully) act as a bit of sealant between the cork sections for when it came to resin time.
Once the skulls were down, a sprinkle of hobby sand added texture and helped bind the skulls together with the added surface area.
It helped to work in small sections, partly so there wouldn’t be PVA sloshing everywhere, and partly because I’d had a few warping mishaps recently (hence the very thick MDF) so I was conscious about using as little glue as possible.
The vibe I was going for was a base style similar to the one used on my Bloodletters – cracked earth, mysterious skull pools, and jagged spikes jutting up at dangerous angles.
Cocktail sticks broken into sections and roughly sharpened with a craft knife worked perfectly for this, once again just using a little blob of PVA to secure them.
I smoothed the transition between cork triangles and MDF base with some more cork, this time it was all the dust collected from breaking up my triangles. Waste not!
Once that was dry, everything got a heavy coat of crackle paint on the larger flat surfaces (I used a few colours here because I kept running out), with some textured paint in between to break it up.
Once all that was dry, I couldn’t put off my excitement for science any longer.
How do they work?
Yes. We’ve gone from baked earth to rare earth.
I was shocked and appalled how easy and fun it was to construct this. I had the Judgments of Khorne endless spells from Age of Sigmar stuck in my head as something I wanted to utilise for my blood pools, and a floating skull crying rivers of blood seemed like the perfect addition.
I was reminded of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not I visited as a kid with the floating faucet, except with more blood and skulls.
Using magnets was an afterthought. Storage was a prime consideration for my pools, and a bunch of MDF with cork glued to it stores flat pretty well, but it gets a bit awkward as soon as you start adding honking great floating skulls. Magnetising all of the big bits meant I could collapse everything and store it much more efficiently. It was also much easier than I thought to get the magnets aligned – my biggest concern when using magnets.
First I drilled holes in the bottom of the floating skulls where they’d usually be glued to a base. The magnets I use are 3mm wide and 3mm deep, so I bought a specific drill bit for this to make it easier.
Once the magnets were robustly superglued in place on the skull section, I added the second set of magnets and marked off where they would attach to the MDF with a blob of superglue. I balanced the whole blood-fountain skull on top while the bottom magnets dried to the base, making sure I wasn’t accidentally gluing everything to everything else.
The dried magnets in the fountain skull held the lower magnets in place while they glued to the MDF base. I made sure not to move anything while it was drying (these magnets are stuper strong), and gave it another dose of superglue after 24 hours to make sure.
When I was happy the glue bond was stronger than the magnet bond, I gave the skull a little wiggle, before gently folding it off the base. Success!
I added some more skulls around the magnets on the MDF to help secure them and to blend them into the model. I was planning on adding a thin layer of resin later, and this would help the magnets stay just flush to the surface.
Blood for the blood god for the blood god
It was time to paint! In preparation, I had stocked up on plenty of Blood For The Blood God, just in case the resin pour didn’t work. I needn’t had worried.
First I blasted everything with a brown primer, with a slightly lighter brown on the raised cork edges. The floating skulls were hit with a grey undercoat and a white zenithal spray.
I hand-painted a border of crimson red where the skulls met the pool, and wet blended it into pure black in the centre with a chunk of sponge. This would hopefully give the pool some depth when the resin was applied.
What a difference that made to the overall vibe though. All my fears immedately subsided when I could see it coming together.
The broken ground sections were drybrushed bone and the spikes picked out with grey. All the smaller skulls got a quick hit with a bone colour as well, followed by a watered-down was of Blood For The Blood God. I wasn’t worried about being neat, as the blood effects would cover up any mistakes I made.
The floating skulls were given another quick drybrush of white to tidy up the undercoat, and the bloody parts picked out in, surprisingly, Blood For The Blood God again. The white to grey gradient from the zenithal undercoat really helped sell the blood pouring from the eyes. That’s literally just white at the top, grey at the bottom, and hit with a single globby coat of BFTBG and it accidentally came out brilliantly.
It really resinates with me
Now for the final and scary part. I enlisted the help of my incredibly talented partner to mix up some resin for the final touches. She mixed up some two-part clear epoxy resin and added some red and blue pigment to create a translucent purple colour.
It was poured in slowly (we made way too much, so there were a few extra moulds for excess resin to get poured into), and barring a few leakages it went smooth as silk.
And it was complete! Now just the agonising wait for them to dry (and damming up leaks between some of the cork pieces).
They looked like forbidden jammy dodgers.
Let’s just check the magnets still work.
Hit the pool
I’m overjoyed with how they came out! The pictures don’t do the resin justice (I haven’t figured out how to photograph pools yet…) but it adds such a wonderful dimension to the pieces that I was already quite happy with.
I threw some colour on the Khorne icon as well so it could be used as part of the set. Nothing exotic, just a brass undercoat, brown wash, then picking out the edges with a lighter silver. The rim was painted to match the rim of the skull pools.
My favourite pieces are obviously the floating skull fountains. They came out way better than I’d expected, and really sell the idea that these aren’t just any normal pools of skulls and blood, they are daemonic pools of skulls and blood.
And owing to our magnetic friends, they pack down perfectly for storage.
The scale is just right, so I can use them in any of my 28mm or 54mm games. Living in a tiny English miner’s house, storage space is at a premium. Having scenery sets that can be used across the board is a must!
Big Day Out
And they looked great on the day too! This is a couple of shots from our Inquisitor Grand Tournament in March 2022 on the basilica/shrine board they had.
All in all, some excellent pool-making and even more excellent resin-pouring made for some kick-ass scenery pieces. I’ve already thought of a thousand ways to make more pieces to go with this set, but I think I’ll need to dig a basement before making any more rash scenery-building decisions…
The plan of the mad Magos is revealed. The finest fighters of Helicon have been replaced with gene-hanced replicas of themselves. Perfect Skitarii infiltrators with subdermal implants, lightning reactions, and the memories of all those who have died and been reclaimed by the moon. They can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever… until you are dead.
All scenarios contain a Murder Cyborg hidden among the fighters.
Additionally, the strange devices previously ransacked by gangs turned out to be atmospheric stabilisers. The Badzone effects from the previous week are still in effect. You may permanently eliminate these effects from your settlement by removing a Xenoculum, Archeotech Device or Malefic Artifact from your gang list.
The Murder Cyborg
The Murder Cyborg does not begin on the board – it is revealed part way through the game.
When any fighter suffers a wound, roll a D6. On a 5+, their flesh peels away to reveal they were a Skitarii infiltrator all along! Immediately roll a mission directive for the murder cyborg on the table below.
The Murder Cyborg has its own stats and special rules, but uses the weapons of the fighter it replaced. It is extremely difficult to kill, see Terminating the Cyborg.
For all game rules and effects, the original fighter never participated in the battle.
1-2 Extermination: If Engaged, the cyborg must make the Fight (Basic) action. If a fighter is visible, it must target them with a ranged attack. If multiple targets are visible, it must divide its attacks as evenly as possible. If no fighters are visible, it must move towards the closest fighter.
3-4 Decapitation: As above, but the cyborg focuses on gang Leaders. It may only attack other targets if they are Engaged with the murder cyborg, or are between it and a gang Leader.
5-6 Self-preservation: Once revealed, the player with Priority picks a battlefield edge furthest from the cyborg as its extraction point. The cyborg must always make at least one Move (Simple) action towards the extraction point, and may use the other action to make a ranged attack at the controlling player’s discretion. If the cyborg ends its activation within 1” of the extraction point, it is removed from play.
The cyborg is controlled by the gang with Priority, taking an activation as if it were a friendly fighter. It is, however, anything but friendly. It must always follow its mission directives, and is never counted as a friendly fighter.
Terminating the Cyborg
The Murder Cyborg cannot be taken Out of Action by any usual methods – it always treats Out of Action results as Seriously Injured, and is immune to Coup de Grace.
The only way to take the cyborg Out of Action is to reduce it to zero wounds, then cause enough Flesh Wounds to reduce it to zero Toughness. It can then finally be finished off with a Coup de Gras. (This is the only exception to being immune to Coup de Grace)
Pitfalls, such as crevasses or open furnaces, are effective (and appropriate) ways of terminating the cyborg assassin.
The cyborg assassin uses the weapons of the fighter it replaced, but has the following statline:
Subdermal implants (4+ armour save)
Displacer field (4+ field save, if successful, scatters distance equal to the attacking weapon’s Strength)
Photo Goggles (can see through smoke and targets within 12” while in Pitch Black)
Fast Shot: The cyborg treats the Shoot (Basic) action as Shoot (Simple)
Iron Jaw: The cyborg gets +2 Toughness when being hit by unarmed close combat attacks
Cannot be Pinned.
Immune to Coup de Grace (unless taken to zero Flesh Wounds), and immune to Flash, Gas and Toxin traits.
If subject to Blaze, the cyborg takes the automatic hit as usual, but may otherwise act normally.
When rolling for Injury, treats any Out of Action result as Serious Injury.
If Seriously Injured it does not roll for Recovery in the end phase. Instead it checks Toughness, recovering and gaining a Flesh Wound if it passes.
Once on zero Toughness, the cyborg can no longer recover (but may still take the Crawl and Blind Fire actions) and is no longer immune to the Coup de Grace action.
To the victor, the spoils
Any fighter that inflicts a wound on the murder cyborg gains +1 XP.
The gang that performs the killing blow on the murder cyborg gains +D3 Rep and 3D6x10 credits.
Storm clouds gather overhead. Settlements are plagued by swarms of cyber-flies and sentient oozes, while crushing winds and unpredictable night cycles disguise the moon rebuilding itself into new and terrifying configurations.
All settlements are affected by a permanent Badzone Event. The particular event is determined by checking the scenario’s defender and their settlement starting location. The event affects both defender and attacker.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this
Edge of the Hive
Factorum Runoff: Sludge Jellies
Vile predatory sludges hide within vents, drains and ducts, waiting to envelop and consume the unwary.
Nominate at least six pieces of liquid terrain such as barrels, vents, puddles, or pipes (players can pick two each). If a fighter ends their movement within 1” of these terrain pieces, roll a D6. On a 1, they are attacked by a sludge jelly!
Check Toughness. If failed, the jelly paralyses them and they become Seriously Injured – mark the fighter to show they have been jellied.
If a jellied fighter receives assistance during the Recovery phase, they remain Seriously Injured but remove their jelly marker. They may attempt to recover as normal next turn.
If a jellied fighter receives no assistance, they automatically go Out of Action. Roll for lasting injuries as normal.
Boneyards: Critter swarm
Swarms of cyber-flies burst from vents and grates, creating a crawling and biting carpet beneath the fighters’ feet.
At the beginning of each End Phase, roll a D6 for every fighter. On a 1 they have been attacked by the critter swarm.
Check Strength. If failed, what happens next depends on their current status:
If Standing, they become Pinned.
If Pinned, they make an armour save. If failed, they suffer a Flesh Wound.
If Seriously Injured, they make an armour save. If failed, they go Out of Action. Roll for lasting injuries as normal.
Ghost town: I’ve got a bad feeling about this
The grind of machinery falls silent and the local wildlife scuttle back to their holes. Even the sound of footsteps on the settlement thoroughfare are silent, as though the moon is holding its breath, waiting for something terrible to happen…
All Nerve checks are at an additional -2 modifier.
If a Hive Scum, Bounty Hunter, Hanger-On (including Brutes) or Delegation fighter becomes Broken, they flee the battlefield and count as having gone Out of Action. No lasting injury is rolled for them, they are simply removed from play.
The Depths: Labyrinth
The under-moon is a maze at the best of times, but here it seems to have taken on a life of its own. Fighters find themselves easily separated as the walls shift around them.
When a fighter activates, if they cannot draw line of sight to another fighter (friend or foe) they must check Intelligence. If failed, they are lost in the labyrinthine depths.
The opposing player repositions the lost fighter anywhere within 12” of their original location (but not within impassable terrain or within 1” of another fighter).
Edge of the hive: Howling winds
The settlement is blasted with a storm gale. Fighters battle the winds to keep their footing and find their targets.
Ranged attacks made at Long Range suffer and additional -1 modifier to hit.
Blast markers always scatter an additional D6” (so they scatter 2D6” if they miss).
When a Gas weapon is used, roll a D6 before resolving its effects. On a 4+ the gas dissipates in their air and the attack has no effect.
When a Smoke weapon is used, roll a D6. On a 4+ the smoke is swept away by the winds and the marker is immediately removed.
Fighters who become Prone within 0.5” of an edge must re-roll successful Initiative checks to prevent falling.
In addition to the weekly event it also signals the beginning of the Expansion Phase of the campaign, where gangs can actively attack each other’s settlements.
This phase sees settlements going to war with each other, while also charting the benefits of having now fully-functioning outposts on Helicon. Gangs receive their weekly XP and settlement benefits as usual.
Gangs may now raid each other’s settlements. The Settlement Raid, Market Mayhem, and Stealth Attack scenarios can now be played.
Weekly Event: What are they?
The dead are dug up and settlers go missing in the night. Reports of grotesque things moving in the dark and dragging away bodies of the recently fallen.
After board setup and before deployment, alternate placing 6 tech-scavengers (these use the Necromunda Giant Rat stats, Book of Peril or p750).
At the beginning of the End Phase they charge any fighter within 8”, otherwise they move 2d6” in a random direction, ignoring impassible terrain (they scamper, burrow, and use hidden tunnels to move about unhindered).
If a fighter goes Out of Action, the owning player places a tech-scavenger anywhere within 6” of where the fighter when Out of Action.
You get no XP for taking out tech-scavengers, but gang that kills the most tech-scavengers during the scenario gets +D6 Salvage. In the event of a tie, nobody gets anything.
Chittering Jaws: Strength 3, Damage 1, Backstab (+1 Strength and -1AP if attacking from rear arc)
Small target: Ranged attacks suffer an additional -1 to hit, and Tech Scavengers can never be hit by Stray Shots.
A brief respite. Machines grind to a halt, and the ground ticks like cooling metal.
No normal games can be played this week. At the beginning of Downtime, every gang completes the following sequence:
Weekly rewards: All fighters get their +1 weekly XP as normal, and your Settlements generate their usual weekly benefits.
Recover fighters. All fighters currently in Recovery are automatically cleared for return.
Captives are returned. All captive fighters are automatically returned to their gangs, while their former captors receive half their value in credits (rounding up to the nearest 5).
Promotion. Any Juve or Prospect with five or more Advancements is automatically promoted to Champion. Change their fighter type accordingly
Recruitment. All gangs get 250 credits to spend on new fighters and/or Hangers On. Any credits not spent immediately are lost. Gangs may supplement with credits from their stash.
Maintenance. Gangs may remove up to three Structures in their settlement, gaining half their value in Materials back. The gang may then build three new Structures. Note that any Structure that is a prerequisite to another they already own cannot be scrapped.
Training Day – 7pm Wednesday 1st March
The gangs uncover a strange Skitarii training facility, primed and ready to accept new recruits. Their best understanding of the lingua-technica instructions is that the facility will elevate worthy recruits with Alpha-level knowledge of all recruits gone before – but how does it work? And at what cost?
A multiplayer battle taking place across two boards simultaneously, and only the lowliest of recruits are accepted into the facility.
Up to three of your cheapest fighters can take part, and they will be stripped of their equipment to battle it out across the training facility, last Juve standing.
The winner receives the wisdom of the ancients – a knowledge inload of all Skitarii recruits gone before – an immediate and free promotion to Champion.
Dome jungle environment – Xenoculum (Personal Equipment – Black Market)
Unstable dome environment – Malefic artifact (Personal Equipment – Black Market)
Try to include at least six pieces of Industrial Terrain (Book of Peril) on the battlefield, such as Smoke Stacks from the previous week.
Effects from Industrial Terrain activate on 4+ rather than 6+.
After the battle, gangs get an extra D6x10 credits.
Try to include at least six areas of carnivorous plants (Book of Peril) on the battlefield.
Carnivorous plants gain +1 Strength and increase their attack range by 3″.
Ranged attacks suffer an additional -1 at long range due to thick foliage and drifting spores.
During the battle, roll a D6 whenever a blast marker is placed. On a 5+, place a second same-sized blast marker in contact with the first, at a point determined by the scatter dice. Resolve the attack’s effects against fighters under both blast markers.
During the battle, fighters who become prone on a raised platform or terrain must check initiative to see whether they fall, even if not near a ledge.
Any terrain with Toughness or Wounds (like Doors or Gunk Tank) reduce those characteristics by 2, to a minimum of 1.
Ancient machines begin to wake deep beneath the surface. Slumbering mountains become exhausts, belching their fumes into the sky and revealing strange treasures in the rubble.
Each scenario must also include D3 Smokestacks and replace the normal 2 Loot Caskets with Treasure Caskets. (Industrial Terrain – Book of Peril, or compiled rulebook p58)
In the End Phase, roll a D6 for each Smokestack on the table. On a 6 it becomes Active for the next round. It deactivates in the following End Phase unless another 6 is rolled for it.
Active smokestacks have the following rules:
The thick smoke and fumes block line of sight like a smoke grenade in a 6” area around the smokestack.
Any fighter in this 6” area treats the Move (Simple) action as Move (Basic), meaning they can’t double move through the foul air. They can ignore this rule if equipped with a respirator.
The fumes are highly flammable. Any weapons with the Blaze trait targeting fighters within the 6” area get +1 Strength.
Each scenario usually has two Loot Caskets set up as part of terrain deployment. Replace these with Treasure Caskets. If a scenario has additional Loot Caskets as part of the objective (ie Forgotten Riches), these are Loot Caskets are normal.
Treasure Caskets may either be opened with a Bypass Lock (Basic) or a Smash Open Lock (Basic) action.
Bypass Lock (Basic): Make an Intelligence check to open the casket
Smash Open Lock (Basic): Roll a D6 and add Strength. On a 6+ you open the casket, but reduce the D6 result roll by 1 to a minimum of 1.
Any fighter who opens the lock rolls a D6 on the table below:
1-2: Click! The casket is fitted with a fiendishly clever needle-trap instead of treasure. Immediately roll an Injury Dice and apply it to the fighter.
3-4: Fancy Threads: The fighter gains the Uphive Raiments status item from the Trading Post.
5-6: A Noble’s Ransom: The fighter gains one item from the Personal Equipment section of the Trading Post, chosen by the controlling player.
All fighters get +1 weekly XP (it was +2 XP last week for the double xp weekly event. It’s returned to normal now).
Your Settlement generates more resources, which means even if you haven’t built anything yet, your Isotropic Fuel Rod and Water Still will give you an extra +10 Power and +10 Sustenance.
The first half of an Outlanders campaign is the Development phase, focused on gathering Power, Sustenance and Salvage to build structures for your Settlement.
All scenarios that have Materials (Power, Sustenance and Salvage) provide twice the normal amount.
Gangs can’t raid each others’ Settlements during this phase. The Settlement Raid, Market Mayhem and Stealth Attack Outlanders scenarios may not be played.
The void is no place for hivers – the terrifying expanse that stretches in every direction, the howling nothingness, no roof over your heads but the one you make. Our gangers will have to learn quickly if they want to survive.
All experience gains are doubled. This includes scenario rewards and weekly XP gain, as well as usual XP gains.
Directly taking an enemy Leader or Champion out of action by any means: +4 XP (usually +2)
Directly taking any other kind of enemy fighter out of action by any means: +2 XP (usually +1)
Successfully rallying after being Broken: +2 XP (usually +1)
This is the second Chapter mission of the Crown of Bones Inquisitor campaign, where three warbands clash in the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope. All are pursuing leads to the Crown of Bones, some picked up from their investigations on the Ius Soli. One warband has beaten the others to the area and has laid a cunning trap…
This is fifth scenario in the campaign, the others being Annex side missions like last week’s Silent Choir. The stakes are higher in Chapter missions, as it costs a precious Resource to buy in to the scenario. Fail too many Chapter missions, and your warband might lose its place in the finale for control of the Crown of Bones…
Setting the scene
Two Inquisitorial warbands are investigating an abandoned mining colony, conveniently ‘lost’ from all records, while a third warband lies in wait.
Archival data on the colony is scant at best. It is around a three decades old, predating the House Dacien cataclysm and the subsequent wholesale excavation of artifacts. It acted as a forward base for a chartered mining expedition for a Guilder called Foreman Fengel mining a rich seam of valuable ore, being profitable but otherwise unexceptional. Now, it is long abandoned.
The Inquisition are searching the colony as a result of their investigations on the Ius Soli. Something terrible happened in that cargo hold involving some agents of the Lucile Dynasty and House Dacien, and the only lead was a cargo manifest pointing to these coordinates. Perhaps a pick-up point for an alien artifact, or a front for a secret House Dacien base?
Dust squalls: Wind howls across Gehanna’s innumerable wastelands, and dust storms are frequent. All negative modifiers to ranged attacks are doubled, and Initiative checks are required to spot anyone over 24″ away. The tempestuous weather muffles sounds too, and all hearing distances are reduced by half.
Similar to Chapter 1, there are five pieces of evidence scattered across the map:
The radar dish
The exterior walls of every hab
The central vox intenna (along with the Bonus Resource)
The statues marking the entrance of the compound
The interior of every hab
Characters had to be close enough to investigate each area and perform a relevant check (usually Sagacity) to collect the evidence. Gather more than half the evidence and it’s mission complete!
Explicator Stigg has been studying the ship logs recovered from Von Horne on Skathi. They paint a picture of Novator Hypatos, the mouthpiece of House Dacien, and his movements before he died during an artifact exchange on the Ius Soli. This abandoned colony was Hypatos’ last known location.
Stigg is accompanied by his accomplice Rogue Trader Phaelon and one of Phaelon’s more unusual crewmates, a purple Ork called Morado.
Inquisitor Holt’s warband makes a return from last episode, now with a bee in his bonnet about the entire affair, along with trusted compatriots Father Patroneus and Cultist Grapthar.
Holt had been contacted by Mistress Dacien, heir apparent to the Dacien throne and direct rival of Silvius Dacien. She tries to convince Holt that Silvius is duping him into engaging in petty squabbles with other inquisitors and unwittingly destroyed evidence of Silvius’s misdeeds at the Astropathic Spire.
She appreciates that Holt has no reason to trust her, but he can trust the evidence of his own eyes. She gives Holt the location of Fengel’s Hope, pointing in particular to the black box of the vox-antenna where all of Silvius’ dirty secrets will be kept.
As a final parting gift, she tells Holt to be wary of any pit fighters he encounters – some of the House Dacien labour force have been infiltrated by a Chaos cult lead by a gang of off-world pit fighters.
Thanks to Crowblade’s warband‘s thriving infiltration of the House Dacien workforce, they have been contacted by a “mysterious benefactor” high up in the House Dacien food chain with an impossibly delicious offer: perform a simple black box switcheroo at the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope and be rewarded with the location of the Crown of Bones.
Owing to their success on the Ius Soli, Crowblade was able to reach the colony before the other warbands and switch the black box in the vox antenna for one provided by the mysterious benefactor before the game had even started. Now he simply had to play the part of goofy guardian, put up just enough of a fight, and escape once the dummy black box had been stolen.
Both Inquisiton warbands could deploy anywhere near the periphery of the colony, and Crowblade could hold his warband back and deploy anywhere after the other two had set up. This is largely in the interest of speeding things up, as the first few rounds of a game are usually just spent walking towards the objective.
Explicator Stigg chose to deploy entirely behind the far hab, which has a door on both sides for easy infiltration into the compound.
Holt and Patroneus deployed at the entrance to the compound, with Grapthar crawling underneath a broken piece of fence at the far end to set up behind some barrels.
Crowblade split his warband in two. Both pit fighters loitered near the vox-antenna (with the dummy black box) and Crowblade and Karith set up near the radar dish hab to better observe what was about to unfold.
Holt and Patroneus approach the colony with apprehension. He had commanded Grapthar to skirt the periphery and cover their approach from a concealed vantage point, but was realising he might have used too many long words and had lost the cultist in the dust storm.
The colony of Fengel’s Hope was long abandoned. Despite the squall howling around them, the air in the compound was still, and dust hung in the air like it was trapped in amber.
An uneasy feeling clotted in his stomach. He glanced at Patroneus, who gave a small nod back. He felt it too. The deep stain left by the lightest touch of the warp.
As he squinted through the haze, he noticed some deep wounds gouged into the statues that marked the entrance to the compound. They were strange – heavy and uneven, perhaps made by some beast or vehicle accident, but no tracks or evidence of collision. (Holt picked up evidence 4 straight off the bat)
The marks continued along the corners and window frames of the hab blocks, and as Holt’s eyes followed them they settled on a figure appearing through the particulate.
A pit fighter!
He ducked behind cover, signalling Patroneus to follow suit, to observe and plan their next move.
Crowblade was agitated – something in the area was deeply unsettling him. He had felt this before, back on the corpse barge, but it was stronger now. Whatever it was had happened here more recently.
He tried pacing to keep occupied, but the wait was agonising. The sooner some Imperial lapdogs arrived to steal the wrong thing, the sooner he could leave.
Explicator Stigg pushed himself into a nook on the hab’s exterior to shield himself from the wind. The dust penetrated everything.
The Ork was keeping close to the ground, his elaborate optical headset can’t have been helping against these conditions, but he wore it anyway. The Rogue Trader hovered about like a fly on groxdung, eager to be ‘allowed’ to go poking around where he wasn’t supposed to.
If Stigg’s old master could see the company he kept these days, he wasn’t sure if he’d congratulate him or kill him. He let slip a mirthless chuckle.
“What is it?” Phaelon asked. He was a racing dog waiting for the starting gun. Stigg ignored him and moved the conversation on.
“You,” he pointed to Morado, then up to a nearby rocky outcrop, “Up there. Keep watch. Cover us.” The Ork had a blank look on his face. Stigg was already tired.
“Just.. stop anything from trying to kill us.”
Morado grinned, and in a blink had melted away into the sandstorm. Stigg had to hand it to him – purple Orks really were stealthy.
He produced a small leather box from his overcoat, pressing his thumb to the biocoder to unlock it. Inside is a single sliver of broken mirror, and trapped within is the fragment of a powerful daemonic entity.
Normally the mirror daemon reveals nearby psykers as part of a long-standing bargain with Stigg’s master, but today it was silent. It had pushed itself to the farthest recesses of the shard’s reflection and refused to cooperate. That was telling enough – there is something here that scares daemons.
He returned the leather box to his coat and looked at Phaelon, who was studying Stigg’s face for answers. Stigg said nothing, and poked his head through the entrance of the hab.
It was abandoned, a thin layer of dust coating everything. There was no sign of a struggle though – everything had been carefully packed up. Nobody abandoned this place in a hurry. There was even ore in hoppers next to processing stations. The mines were clearly still profitable, so why was this place abandoned? (Stigg grabs evidence 5)
“It’s empt-” Even as the words left Stigg’s mouth, the Rogue Trader was already pushing past. In a single stride he had touched and fiddled with half a dozen different things in the hab. Stigg sighed.
Memotong span his flail to distract him from boredom. Boss says to wait, so he’ll wait, but why does waiting have to be so boring.
Boss made the plan very clear. Boss says defend the vox-antenna until boss says to stop defending it. But defend it from what? He groaned under his breath, looking around for a distraction.
As if in answer to his prayers he heard a clattering from from a nearby hab, and a shadow move across the window. He jumped into action
“Oi! Whaddya doing? ‘Oo’s in there?” He bellowed at the hab window, loud enough for everyone in the compound to hear.
Fro the corner of his eye he spots another two figures peering through the dust, this time from behind some nearby pipes. He could barely contain the smile on his face as he raised his flail in accusation.
“An’ you too! ‘Oo a’ you?”
“I am Inquisitor Aubray Holt, here on official business. Identify yourself!”
Memotong gestures wildly with his flail. “Never ‘eard of you. Boss says no-one’s allowed ‘ere… so YOU’RE not allowed ‘ere.”
Holt steps forwards slowly and purposefully. “Stand down. This is your only warning.”
Stigg could hear some shouting from outside the hab. He figured Phaelon had been made, as he was making exaggerated attempts to be stealthy past all the windows. He heard the respondant, a booming authoritative voice claiming to be an Inquisitor named Holt. He’d never heard the name before, so clearly not from the local Conclave. The Crown of Bones must be bigger than he thought to attract outside attention.
He sidled up to the hab window to get a closer look.
Meanwhile, Morado had scaled the rocky outcrop with ease and had pulled himself to a peak that overlooked the compound.
He could hear shouting between two humans he didn’t recognise, but he was far more interested in a target directly below him. A hunched individual carrying a massive shoota, he was absolutely Target Priority One.
Morado shuffled closer to the edge, drawing his blade, and fantasizing about the most elaborate way he could carry out his orders to defend his employer. After all, the best form of defence…
Distracted, his footing slipped.
Grapthar pulled himself as upright as he could, his arms covered in painful cuts and scrapes from crawling through the perimeter fence. He squinted through the dust and could make out a few figures that weren’t his boss.
He grinned. Anyone who wasn’t the Inquisitor was fair game. He propped his heavy stubber on the barrels nearby and overwatched the two pit fighters.
If this goes well, he thought to himself, he’ll treat himself to another couple of crawls through that fence.
Some rocks fell by his feet, tumbling down from the outcrop behind him. Strange…
But no! This was clearly an insidious distraction by the Ruinous Powers to keep him from carrying out his mission. (He passed his Leadership test by an absurd amount to stay on-task of protecting his Inquisitor!)
Grapthar squinted down the sights, lining up the pit fighters perfectly…
Father Patroneus was furious. A thick vein bulged on his temple as he strode towards the blasphemous pit fighter.
“How DARE you question the Inquisitor’s authority? He is the WORD and FIST of the God-Emperor of Mankind!” Hand picked to root out and destroy heresy in all its forms, and wherever it may lie! Death is too good an end for a blasphemer like you!”
Memotong shrugged “Never ‘eard of ‘im. Boss says ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere, so ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere. Not you, not yer mate,” he gestured wildly at the hab block “and ‘oever you’ve got in there. Schipka!”
As summoned, the other pit fighter lumbered around the base of the vox-antenna to see what’s going on, stup pistol raised.
Holt raised an eyebrow at the prospect of a third party in the hab.
“Your boss is of no consequence,” Holt continued, walking forwards. “I have demanded you move, but you have not. Grapthar! Release!”
The roar of Grapthar’s heavy stubber, overlaid with his maniacal cackle, rips through the compound.
Memotong and Schipka are sprayed with hot lead and both dive for cover, but not before Schipka takes a few grazing rounds to his extremities. Schipka’s stub pistol goes sailing from his hand, falling in the dust nearby.
Crowblade had been listening to every exchange, using the southern hab as cover to get closer. As he watched high velocity rounds rip into his minions, he thought it was perfect cover to slip through the window of the hab.
Through the doorway he watched the cultist howl with excitement as he hosed the pit fighters with bullets. Crowblade readied his sword.
At the other end of the compound, Karith had worked his way into the radar dish hab and was keeping an eye on Inquisitor Holt and his priestly friend.
With the sound of automatic fire rippling across the compound, Karith took the opportunity to squeeze off a few shots at the Inquisitor. He loved sticking the knife in and slipping away, and this was the perfect moment for some delicious mayhem.
Phaelon didn’t want to miss out on the excitement. Gunfire was erupting all across the compound, and from his estimation he had the perfect run at the heavy stubber nest.
He could follow the fence round to the right, the barrels perfectly blocking the view of the gunner. Charging an emplaced heavy weapon using only hits wits and his sword, how daring!
He couldn’t resist twirling his moustache at the thought. He broke cover, leaving the hab behind him, and began making his way towards grapthar.
He barely took a few steps from the doorway when a streak of purple fell from the heavens. His heart sunk.
Morado whispered a small Waaagh under his breath and leapt, dagger raised.
He stumbled, catching his foot, and fell dramatically from the outcrop. He smashed both his legs on the way down, but with cat-like grace managed to twist his body so his weapon found its mark.
It plunged straight into the back of Grapthar’s neck, and Grapthar’s now lifeless body cushioned Morado’s fall.
It was an ambush! Holt wasn’t sure who was ambushing whom, but it was clear they’d walked into a trap. With gunfire coming in from every angle, he pressed himself against the base of the vox-antenna to take stock of the situation.
The heavy stubber fire had abated, but another gunman was keeping them pinned from a hab to the south. The auto-reader on Father Patroneus’ tome was already flipping the pages to the correct hymns of fury, and the preacher was belting out litanies to anyone within earshot.
The two pit fighters were rolling around on the ground, so Holt took his chance. He clambered up the ladder on the base of the vox-antenna, aiming to grab the black box of vox-data he knew was at the top.
Sensing a break in the gunfire, Stigg stepped from the hab. His head is on a swivel, keeping both eyes open for any more ambushers.
He noticed the exterior walls of the habs are all covered in messages painted in miners’ cant. They all seemed to be warnings or messages to the lost. “Gavinda, if you are reading this, we have returned to the estate. Saints guide you.” “A cursed place, do not enter” and “The temple should have stayed buried”. The colonists seemed convinced the mine at Fengel’s Hope was haunted. (Evidence 2 scooped up by Stigg as the bullets fly)
Both pit fighters were still scrabbling around in the dust, trying to hunker up near any sort of cover. He spotted a powerful-looking figure climbing the vox antenna, and made a safe assumption.
“Inquisitor Holt!” He yelled, “I am Explicator Stigg. I’ve been investigating here for some time – I don’t know your intentions, but I’ve been gathering evidence on an ongoing mission. Either vacate the area so I can continue unabated, or state how you will further the Inquisition’s mission with your actions.”
“How DARE you!” Father Patroneus shrieked, “How DARE you insult his lordship by questioning his actions! You don’t DESERVE to be in his presence! You are scum! Less than scum! You have no authority here!”
The preacher’s power sword fizzes and sparks from the atmospheric dust as he bore down on the Explicator and Rogue Trader, who now found themselves caught out in the open.
Morado had pulled his atoms back together and removed the dagger from Grapthar’s head. It all seemed to be kicking off in the centre, with even more humans and even more shouting.
He figured the safest place to lay low would be the nearby hab. There he could watch the carnage unfold and plan his next ambush.
Unbeknownst to him Crowblade had similar ideas, and had secreted himself just outside the hab. It was time to ambush the ambusher, just as planned….
The wind was knocked from Phaelon’s sails. Seeing Morado (at least, he assumed the angry purple blur was Morado) take down his intended target in such an impressive manner was a little deflating for the Rogue Trader.
Stigg was busy yelling at someone about something, and Phaelon was scanning the remaining combatants for signs of action.
One of the pit fighters had begun to recover and was reaching for his stub pistol on the floor. Not on my watch!
“Gnasher, fetch!” He swashbuckled with his sword in the direction of the pit fighter, who was now scrambling to his knees in a panic.
The mechanical creation bounded from the hab, pistons hissing and metal jaws chomping.
Phaelon drew his archeotech pistol in the other hand and pointed it at the other pit fighter to his left.
“Don’t move a muscle.” He said. Imagining how he looked to other people, a smile crept across his face.
Holt doggedly ignored everything around him and continued his mission, climbing the ladder to the vox-antenna. He could hear this so-called Stigg demanding fealty from the ground.
“I have complete authority to fulfil my mission in this sector!” Stigg commanded, “I request yourself or your master come and parley over what you’ve found in this supposedly abandoned location, or am I supposed to treat you as a risk to my mission?”
Holt arrived at the summit, and begun flicking switches and hitting panels looking for the black box release.
“Your needs are of no concern,” Holt responded, feeling around underneath the console “Stay out of our way and there will be no altercations.”
Crowblade wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. It appeared Orkish, but the purple hue threw him off. Perhaps some kind of mutant? No matter. The creature was staring out the window and hadn’t heard him approach.
Crowblade thrust his sword into Morado’s thigh. He yelped in surprise more than pain, as pink-blue flames burst from the warrior’s blade and engulfed his midriff.
Morado staggered backwards, batting away Crowblades overhead swings and desperately trying to douse the unnatural flames.
Crowblade was impressed. This creature was both tolerant to flame, and a surprising swordsman. He could test his duelling mettle. Just as planned…
Stigg was asessing his options from the ground. This Inquisitor Holt character wasn’t playing ball, but he wasn’t actively shooting at him, so that was a positive.
“I will continue to secure the area,” Stigg shouted, turning round to look at Phaelon and Memotong, who had his hand and eviscerator raised in mocking surrender, “I hope whatever you find you’ll share for the betterment of us both.”
Stigg produces a set of magnacles from his coat and brandishes them at Memotong. “You’re coming with us.”
The pit fighters’ eyes glaze over, and his muslces twitch uncontrollably. The auto-injector roulette built into his spine had activated from some unseen signal, and the pit fighters were getting their random dose of combat drugs.
Schipka on the floor had been wrestling with Gnasher and suddenly found himself injected with Spur. With his newfound Initiative and Speed, he was able to throw Gnasher off and run for the hills, disappearing into the dust.
Memotong’s dose was less kind. He took a heavy hit from Barrage, doubling all his physical stats, and putting him to the top of the Speed order.
In his frenzy, he smashed Stigg’s magnacles aside and lunged at Phaelon. He fired in panic but the shot went wide, and Memotong brough his screaming eviscerator to bear.
Phaelon managed to get his sword up in time to parry, but the pit fighter’s sudden explosion of speed means he missed the back swing, and the eviscerator tore into his arm. The teeth of the eviscerator found purchase on his sword and span it high in the air, preventing the worst of the damage to the Rogue Trader’s arm.
Phaelon wasn’t taking any chances, and while the pit fighter was busy slavering and posturing, he leapt through the window on the nearby hab for cover.
Using the carnage as a distraction, Holt finally pulled the black box free from its hidey-hole and slid down the ladder, calling to Patroneus to leave (Grabbing evidence 3). The heavy stubber shooting had stopped, so he wasn’t sure what had happened to Grapthar, but he was sure they’d find him again after the dust had settled.
Crowblade slipped away from Morado, the dancing flames becoming too much of a distraction to fight him properly. The black box had been correctly stolen, just as planned, so it was time to retreat before any further casualties were sustained.
Crowblade slinked away into the dust storm, sending a telepathic message to his followers to do the same. As suddenly as he turned violent, Memotong simply downed weapons and sprinted off into the engulfing ash.
Stigg was left stunned. Phaelon came out of hiding, and a burning Morado tumbled out of a far hab to extinguish himself on the dusty floor. The abandoned colony was abandoned again. What had just happened?
This game was sadly cut short due to time, just at the moment that the pit fighters activated their combat drugs! We could squeeze in one turn of combat before calling it a night, and narrating the rest of the events based on how things went.
Luckily by this point everyone had achieved what they’d set out to, so we didn’t need to resolve any other conflicts.
Holt evacuated with the dummy black box, which contained lots of fabricated messages implicating Mistress Dacien in a series of kidnappings. Holt’s experts concluded that it was fake, meaning Holt had been stitched up twice by House Dacien. What will he do next?
Stigg’s warband were left with the site to themselves, so they could examine all the evidence at their leisure. They discovered a databank that would have stored all the vox and pict recordings of the original dig site when the colony was set up 30 years ago – they had been recently downloaded and wiped clean. More evidence of a coverup!
Crowblade successfully performed the switcheroo and returned to his House Dacien contact for payment – the location to the Crown of Bones. Perfect. Just as planned…
Holt managed to snag three pieces of evidence (claw marks on the statues, graffiti on the walls, the vox antenna) and even figured out the data on the black box he stole was planted, earning his victory 2 Resources a bonus Resource.
Stigg’s warband was left on the field, so had plenty of time to examine the lost colony after the game had ended. He gathered enough evidence during the game to earn his 2 Resources, but managed to paint a bigger picture of what happened here.
Crowblade’s plan worked perfectly – the box was stolen and evacuated before anyone knew he was there. 2 Resources all round!
A very fun game to run, with a good mix of roleplaying, violence, and intrigue. Crowblade’s player gets a special mention – he was so committed to the con that he used Crowblade and Karith to ‘gather’ evidence as the game went on, convincing the other players he was after the same thing as them!
The biggest factor was, is, and always will be, Time. We started a bit later than intended and had a particular cut-off point that loomed just as we got into the action. Other than tapping my watch impatiently as players mull over early game actions, I have three plans to keep games on-schedule:
Set a framework: If we take an average turn with 6-12 models on the board as being about 30 minutes, and we have three hours to play a game, state before the game starts we’ll get about 6 turns before we wrap up. Resolve your conflicts (violent or otherwise) before then!
Reverse Initiative deployment: Don’t set warbands up in the corners and make their first few turns walking. Allow characters to deploy anywhere on the board, starting with the slowest character on the Initiative list. You can briefly narrate how your heavy weapon thug climbed up to a sniper’s nest before the game started, but was spotted by a rival minion who has snuck up to the base of the ladder… Plenty of scope to dive straight into the action when the game starts!
No fighty, no dicey: No dice are rolled until there’s conflict to resolve. Everyone performs all their actions and passes all their tests until there is a confrontation, whether that’s taking a shot, or rolling off to snatch the glowing orb.
I’ve been using the Reverse Initiative system successfully in most of my games now (hence Grapthar setting up on the opposite end of the compound from his warband), but I’ll encourage players to get more creative with it. As for the other plans, watch this space!
The story is properly unfolding now. The warbands have all encountered one another, and some rivalries are beginning to develop. This helps the above problem too, as less of the game is spent finding out what everyone’s up to.
Something big and terrible happened in the mine around the lost colony, enough to abandon it long ago. But someone seems to have gone poking around in it and hidden the evidence… Who could that have been?
In this scenario, both warbands are looking for the source of the encrypted message that catalysed the Crown of Bones investigation, and they have traced it to an abandoned astropathic spire in the middle of nowhere. They quickly realise the spire isn’t as abandoned as they’d hoped…
setting the scene
Both warbands are looking for an astropathic spire in the dusty hinterlands of Gehanna, far beyond the walls of the House Dacien estate. It is the original source of Navigator Silvius’ distress message to the conclave, and the astropathic matrix inside the spire will likely hold more clues to the investigation.
However, a gang of thugs belonging to the crooked Lucile Rogue Trader Dynasty have already moved in and are looting everything in sight. They’ve not expecting company, but they’re well-armed and have set up defenses in case of surprise visitors.
Dust storm: Wind howls across Gehanna’s innumerable wastelands, and dust storms are frequent. All negative modifiers to ranged attacks are doubled, and Initiative checks are required to spot anyone over 12″ away. The tempestuous weather muffles sounds too, and all hearing distances are reduced by half.
The spire itself is in the middle of nowhere and tall enough to pierce the dust clouds (not pictured, I ran out of building blocks after the first storey). It’s surrounded by the rusting vestiges of supporting structures and strange rock formations.
There are four members of the Lucile thug squad – two on the stairs and balcony, one inside salvaging cables, and one loading servitor named Clamps moving crates onto the truck.
Firstly we have a newcomer to the subsector, Inquisitor Aubray Holt, accompanied by his proselytising keeper-of-the-faith Father Sebastian Patroneus. They’re joined by a recent convert to the Imperial Creed, a heavy stubber-weilding cultist named Grapthar.
Holt holds strong Amalathian beliefs – it is the Inquisition’s sacred duty to let nothing threaten the status quo, the holy Imperium as laid out by the Emperor himself, that has lasted across the millennia. These particular beliefs inspired Navigator Silvius to contact him directly, informing him of the astropathic matrix within the spire.
Silvius told Holt of a threat to House Dacien – a radical splinter group lead by heir-apparent Mistress Dacien. Silvius alleges that she is in league with the Lucile Dynasty, getting them to do her dirty work. Silvius believes she is trying to gain access to the matrix so she can fabricate astropathic messages and bring ruin to House Dacien – a vital Imperial institution – and that this is a threat worthy of Holt’s attention.
Given no current reason to suspect anything, Holt’s mission is clear – destroy the astropathic matrix to prevent it falling into enemy hands.
Secondly we have Inquisitor Vanth, a legendary and/or reviled name in this part of the galaxy. He is a radical Xanthite Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus who has crossed swords with more young righteous upstarts than he can keep track of. He is only saved from the noose by a combination of manipulations, schemes, charisma, and exceptional results.
He is joined by two of his hand-picked bodyguard – the talent field medic Sergeant Honeis and the nigh-unkillable bionic warrior Corporal Topaz.
Vanth considers himself above chasing leads like other investigators. He prefers to go directly to the source and extract everything he needs to know. In this instance, he has tracked the origin of the encrypted distress call and will commune directly with the astropathic matrix.
Using his considerable psychic powers, he plans to scrape the matrix of any psychic residue left by its previous users and capture echoes of messages past. It’ll get him closer to the Crown of Bones, a useful tool in his master plan.
Vanth and his guard set up at the far end of the board, slightly closer to the spire but with lots of open ground. He’s relying on the dust storm masking their approach.
Holt and his companions deploy at the opposite corner near some structures that Grapthar can use as a vantage point. Holt has plenty of open ground to cover too, but isn’t concerned about masking his approach.
They had been travelling for hours. With the thick fug of dust and featureless terrain, it was easy to convince yourself you’d been walking on the spot.
Corporal Topaz glanced over at his master Vanth, who was studing his auspex carefully. Almost in response Vanth looked up, drawing the gaze of his two guardsmen to the wall of dust where the sky should be.
As if responding to his master’s will, a black shadow pierced the gloom ahead. A tower in the distance – tall enough to pierce the clouds. This was the spire they were looking for, exactly where Vanth said it would be.
Vanth briefly consulted his auspex again. He sent curt, practised hand signals back to Topaz – five individuals, two of them in patrol pattern. Advance carefully. Attack on his mark only.
Topaz nodded and signalled for Honeis to follow. They pressed ahead through the dust, reaching the base of the spire quickly and quietly.
On the opposite side of the spire, Inquisitor Holt and his team moved into position. Thanks to Navigator Silvius’ tip off, he knew to expect company at the spire.
He ordered Grapthar onto a nearby vantage point to provide cover. He was under strict instructions not to fire until Holt gave the word. Grapthar looked disappointed, but understanding.
Holt had no intention of sneaking around. He was in control of the situation and the spire was rightfully his. He would give these goons an opportunity to walk away, or suffer the consequences.
Father Patroneus beside him had his book of prayers in one hand and power sword in the other. Holt knew he’d been ready for violence from the moment they left, but he still wanted to check as a formality.
“Ready?” Holt asked. Patroneus shot him a look. He was ready.
Holt and Patroneus stride forwards. The dust clouds seem to part around the spire, and they step into the eye of the storm.
There are a handful of salvagers here – two on watch, while a heavily augmented invidual on the ground loads crates onto a truck.
“Looters of the Lucile Dynasty!” Holt booms, “cease your actions and walk away, this is your only warning!”
The looter with the bandana and bionic arm, Rockatansky, points his lasgun lazily at these newcomers.
“We don’t want no bloodshed, but we’re real good at bloodsheddin’.”
The looter in the helmet, Fetch, touches the vox-bead in his ear, speaking in voidcant and alerting the third looter inside the spire. He shoulders his rifle at Holt, and backs up his compatriot.
“That’s right,” Fetch yells, “Walk away old man, this ain’t anything to do with you.” The third looter, Zaal, appears from inside the spire, shotgun raised.
Father Patroneus splutters in outrage. “How dare you raise your weapons at an Inquisitor?”
In response, Holt raises his rosette above his head. “I am Inquisitor Aubray Holt! Your presence here is unsanctified. Remove yourselves or suffer the consequences. This is your only warning.”
With a note of panic in his voice, Rockatansky raises his rifle and shouts back “One more step and I’ll shoot!”
Both holy agents keep striding towards the spire, unphased by the looters’ threats. The Lucile rent-a-thugs seemed to be losing their nerve, it was time to act.
Holt bellowed, cutting through the howling wind. “Grapthar, now!”
Vanth and his team had made excellent progress. Topaz was scouting ahead while Honeis covered the rear. His auspex was reading some kind of congregation on the far side of the spire, but the reading was too obscured by the weather to make sense.
The sound of gunfire penetrates the shrieking gale. Heavy calibre, automatic gunfire. All three of his team instinctively press against the spire, trying to make out its origin.
Topaz and Honeis sweep the horizon with their lasguns while Vanth tries to hone in with his auspex. The machine spirit was not cooperative.
He signalled at his team: We’re not alone – the plan has not changed.
Grapthar’s heavy stubber roars, spitting a stream of lead towards the spire. He rakes it back and forth across the balcony, laughing maniacally, and catching all three Lucile looters in the barrage.
They dive for cover, but not before a searing hot round tears a chunk out of Fetch’s arm. His lasgun goes clattering to the floor, sliding off the balcony and onto the dusty ground below.
Father Patroneus presses the button on his book to auto-turn to the correct page for the ass-whooping he’s about to hand out.
He strides towards the spire under a hail of gunfire, his booming voice drowning out the throaty rattle of Grapthar’s weapon. He invokes Word of the Emperor, venerating faithful service above all else, stunning Rockatansky in his tracks.
“Clamps, get ’em!”
Clamps enters the fray. Clamping his clamps, Clamps charges towards Father Patroneus. He’s sluggish to attack, but he’s more than capable of rending limbs from torsos with a flick of his magnificent squeezers.
Patroneus dodges a few of his clumsy attacks, but can’t land a return blow with his power sword. Holt steps in, his neural whip crackling.
Strike after strike after strike is landed on Clamps, his augmented body shrugging off the damage like rainwater. His unaugmented mind however couldn’t shrug off the bio-electrical discharge from Holt’s neural whip.
His tiny lobotomised brain is overloaded. He goes stiff as a board and topples over, a bluescreen error message flickering in his eyes.
Vanth had been watching this entire exchange from behind cover. He knew every Inquisitor who operated in this region, and this wasn’t one of them.
Topaz was crouched in front of him. He had watched everything too, and had calculated the chance to engage against armour was high. His meltagun was raised.
“It’s considered bad form to melt other Inquisitors,” said Vanth, “So much paperwork.”
Topaz lowered his meltagun.
While this new Inquisitor and his allies were busy dealing with the loader-servitor, Vanth and his team slinked up the stairs. The looter at the top was preoccupied too, and a distracted mind is an unguarded mind.
With little effort, Vanth cast Terrify on Rockatansky. He forced visions of utter dread into the thug’s unprepared psyche, a phantasm of the spire bearing down on him, punishing for something he shouldn’t have stolen. Rockatansky flees in terror, bounding down the stairs and vaulting the railing, sprinting towards the getaway truck.
From his position on the balcony Vanth addresses the newcomers, gauntleted hands resting on the railing.
“Do you require any assistance, Inquisitor Holt?”
Holt turned away from the squirming servitor on the floor to see a robed figure on the balcony above him, flanked by two veteran guardsmen. He’d never met him before, but he’d read about him in many a junior Inquisitor’s final transmissions. The scarred, bald head. The sword that glows with a baleful light. The look of utter arrogance. Inquisitor Vanth.
“Things are in order Vanth,” Holt replied, “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Indeed Inquisitor,” Vanth enjoyed making a show of knowing his opponent, even if he only knew them by overhearing their name a few moments ago. “We are here to investigate the source of the distress message, which I and no doubt yourself received. You, unlike the other fools, did not attend the coordinates and instead came straight to the source. Good.”
Holt was on the back foot. Was he being sincere, or is this a trick? He changed tack.
“There was distressing news of looters and I had to get involved.” Holt gestured to the wounded servo-loader on the ground. “Friends of yours?”
“Goodness no. These peons serve the Lucile Dynasty and are of little concern. Do you require any assistance in dispatching them? It seems that one is causing you quite the struggle.”
“A minor concern!” Holt found himself flustered at the veiled insult. The reports were right, he had a way of getting under your skin.
“If there are any more, we shall take care of them.” Vanth spoke in a tone that suggested a teacher disappointed in his pupil. He turned to rejoin his team further along the balcony, moving round the spire and out of sight.
Holt turned round to Father Patroneus, who was still struggling with Clamps. “Are we done?” He spat.
“Duty calls, my lord!” Patroneus responded with a jovial lilt, before plunging his power sword straight through the eye-socket of the malfunctioning Clamps.
Fetch and Zaal took cover inside the spire’s astropathic matrix chamber. Fetch had practically done a lap of the balcony to avoid the gunfire, and Zaal was crawling across the floor clutching a bloody leg.
Exercising some seniority, Fetch relinquishes Zaal of his shotgun. It wasn’t a weapon of choice, especially not in these kind of dusty conditions, but it was better than a broken neck or a rump full of bullet holes trying to retrieve his own weapon.
The shooting stopped, and they could hear the sounds of bravado outside. It seems this stew has another cook. Time to get out of the kitchen.
He poked his head outside the chamber. Both warbands were converging on the spire, but only one of the exits was blocked.
He touched the micro-bead in his ear. “Rockatansky, bring the truck round back. We’re leaving.”
Vanth wasn’t sure what’s Holt’s goals were here, but it was surely to do with the matrix. He needed to get there first.
He quickened his stried and arrived at chamber, just in time to see a pair of figures leave through the opposite doorway. They were immediately followed by a blast of heavy stubber fire from Holt’s gunman.
Good, he thought. The vermin are taking care of each other.
Grapthar clanked up the stairs ahead of his master. He was hopelessly out of breath. The dust was awful in his lungs and his clothes chafed terribly. He was sweaty, tired, and hurt. He was having the time of his life.
His Inquisitor had ordered him to take up a forward position, so he had turbo-hobbled towards the spire during the exchange with vanth. He had finally pulled himself up onto the balcony when he heard a noise next to him.
Two of the looters emerged from inside, one wounded, and he savoured the shocked looks on their faces. He found his second wind immediately, squeezing the trigger on his heavy stubber that was barely even been pointed at them.
He wielded his weapon like someone powerhousing their patio. Heavy calibre rounds exploded off the floor and walls in a deluge of bullets. He wasn’t even sure if he’d hit them.
What he did know is by the time his gun clicked empty they had disappeared, replaced with the sound of an engine speeding away into the storm.
Vanth approached the astropathic matrix. It was cold, despite the baking heat, and covered with a fine layer of dust. Several panels had been prised off and components crudely hacked from the mechanism, but nothing valuable. He could feel its true value – it still hummed with psychic resonance.
He stretched out a hand. Astropathic messages were particularly hard to scry. They communicate in riddles at the best of times. This was like searching for a book in a ruined library with the words scrubbed off the spines.
An irritatingly familiar voice boomed across the chamber. “What are you doing Vanth?”
Holt was standing in the entrance on the far side of the chamber. Vanth could feel the heavy boots of his companions behind him taking up firing positions. He tried not to let Holt hear the irritation in his voice.
“This is the source,” Vanth growled back, “I’m attempting something incredibly delicate. Have you ever accessed such an arcane device before?”
“I’ve had no need,” said Holt with a wry grin, his inferno pistol outstretched, “and nobody will soon!”
The melta beam seared through the matrix, vapourising and liquidising anything it touched in equal measures. There was soon little left except bubbling pools of crystal and fragments of machinery.
Silence. Bated breath.
Both warbands stood across the chamber from each other, weapons levelled, daring the other to fire first.
Vanth broke the quiet with a disappointed sigh. Perhaps there was something still salvageable.
“Was that… necessary, Inquisitor?”
“Yes,” proclaimed Holt, a righteous grin plastered across his face. “To keep the status quo and stability of the Imperium!”
Vanth’s temper was bubbling to the surface. “You understand these arrays are for communication? Without them we can’t possibly operate as an Imperium, let alone find what we’re looking for in this Emperor-forsaken armpit of the sector!”
“Some communications are best not getting out.”
“The communication has already got out!” Vanth retorted. His anger was audible. “And it has caused half the sector’s Conclave to go running after some insane Navigator Household like headless chickens! The damage was already done! At least one of us was trying to mitigate further catastrophe!”
Holt simply smiled. He turned and walked from the chamber, his companions covering their exit. He was happy to leave without bloodshed, and the thought of the infamous Vanth rummaging around in the ruin of Holt’s own making gave him a flutter of pride.
He had done the Imperium a great service today.
In the post-game debrief, we talked about what the Inquisitors would do next. Holt was happy to leave Vanth in control of the spire, as he considered his work complete there.
We reasoned that Vanth wouldn’t give up there, and has utilised every tool in his arsenal to glean what he can from the astropathic matrix. No other warbands were threatening his position there, so he was happy to set up a forward base and study the remnants further.
He discovered that the matrix contained a distress message and timestamp sent by Junior Navigbator Silvius to the conclave, as expected. However, it also contained a myraid of other astropathic communications, their data inexpertly purged.
It apepars that Elder Koronis, the current head of the house, is missing in action. Novator Hypatos, the current heir, had been acting as a mouthpiece. Hypatos hasn’t been heard from in months, ever since he met with representatives from the Lucile Dynasty to make an artifact sale on the ghost ship Ius Soli…
Inquisitor Holt destroyed the matrix, exactly as Silvius requested. He was awarded the Resource for completing his mission.
With some clever roleplay and some excellent Sagacity and Willpower checks made after the game, Vanth was still able to gain some information from the matrix. How he uses that information in the future remains to be seen…
Some great roleplay with a dash of violence made this scenario one of my favourites yet. We’ve had two ideologically-opposed Inquisitors meet and exchange unpleasantries, and despite the skirmish with the Lucile thugs, neither of the warbands came to blows with each other. Since Holt literally blew up Vanth’s plans in front of him however, they might not be so amicable if they cross paths again in the future.
Holt is going to get a nasty shock when he finds out he’s been played by Silvius…