A curtain of force rattled the organs in my torso like a half-empty box of lho-sticks. A sulphurous light detonated in the chapel, disorientating even through clenched eyelids. A drizzle of stained glass rain pattered off my flak jacket, shook from its frames high above by the concussive blast. This was as good an opportunity as any.
I was on my feet in an instant, ears still ringing and sun spots dancing across my retinas. The stun grenade from Crisis had found its mark. One of the House Guard was clawing at his eyes. Another was stood still, blood dribbling from his ears. The Sister planted a plate metal boot on his chest and withdrew the massive sword she had sheathed in his gut. He slid from her sword into an unceremonious mess on the chapel floor.
I vaulted the pew, shock maul primed. It sprang to life in my hand, crackling with electric wrath. The servitor was within striking distance, its weapon erratically tracking false positives in the wake of the stun grenade. It didn’t register my presence until maul and head connected.
Lightning arced from the impact and charred skin was scraped from its metal chassis. The explosion of energy burst the visual augmetics in its head like ripe ploinfruit. It staggered briefly but superficially.
I struck again, jabbing the maul hard into its sternum, trying to cook off whatever passes for a heart in this wretched cadaver. Energy surged from the weapon in an awesome display of light and heat, enough to kill a man several times over. The smell of ozone and burning flesh was ineffable.
The power cell in the maul’s handle began to flash, its machine spirit faltering. Emperor’s teeth, how has this not stopped it!? I glanced up from grinding my maul into its chest, expecting a machiavellian sneer or a smug grimace of victory. Nothing. Blackened cheek flesh hung from its jaw with no iota of emotion. It stared through me with a single rheumy eye.
It brushed my hand away with a steel balled fist and sent a piston punch towards my gut. I backed off, holstering my maul and scrambling for my autogun. The servitor lunged forwards, tiles shattering beneath its armoured boot. I tried to raise my rifle in time but I was beaten to the draw by the glare of red-hot muzzle from the servitor’s implanted rifle. Without a second’s hesitation, it fired.
A pitiful click issued from its ammunition hopper. Emperor be praised! The servitor paused, beginning a complex hopper cycle. This blessed reprieve would be its undoing. I shouldered my rifle with practised ease, sighted its damaged augmetics and poured the Emperor’s fury into its skull.
Nothing was left save some mangled data cables and lumps of withered grey matter bound together by blackened sinew. It spasmed, death throes snapping its limbs to inhuman angles. It toppled backwards, leaving a crescent trail of smoke in the air from its severed neck. It had stopped moving before it hit the chapel floor, a viscous dark fluid pumping out onto the broken tiles and shards of glass.
I paused for breath. By the saints, I hope they don’t have any more of those.
I glanced behind me to assess the situation. The Cell had cleaned up. Crisis and Mur were keeping the last two cowering guards pinned down behind a makeshift barricade of broken pews, with a righteous Sister bearing down on them wailing war hymns. By another miracle, I even saw the bloodied Proteus returned to his feet. His chest was in tatters and his face looked like he’d had a wet shave with a chainsword. I was not sure that it wasn’t an improvement.
He noticed me and flashed a blood-marbled grin. In each hand he jangled a red stained coinpurse, both marked by the House Guard insignia, and he slipped them into his pocket, returning to a crouch to pat down the next body. Emperor preserve us, one must admire his conviction to his purpose at least. Remind me not to die before he does.
A scream from the front of the chapel refocused me. One of the last Guard, some kind of leader judging from his uniform, bore down on me with zeal in his eyes and steel in his hand. I turned the first blow aside with my rifle but he was fast, weaving around my clumsy, tired ripostes. He sent a flurry of slashes to my abdomen, but the blunting and bending of his blade made us simultaneously realise his masters had outfitted him with a sword that was more ceremonial than practical. He looked shocked, but not as much as he was about to be.
Three pips issued from the holster on my belt to tell me that we were fully charged. I made an opening with a sweep of my rifle and let out a primal, exhausted roar. In a ballet of fire and blood, my shock maul was in my hand, thumbed to maximum power and swept upwards into his chin. He exploded off his feet, his jaw shattered and fragments of teeth were propelled from his mouth by tongues of flame. He arced gracefully, landing on his neck with a snap. He lay unmoving, save for the flickering embers where his eyes used to be.
I was panting hard, squinting through someone else’s blood to discern any more threats. The chapel had gone quiet. The soft thumping of gunfire in the courtyard returned. Then, a broken, cowardly voice;
Sulphia Caliver, known simply as ‘Sulph’ to her comrades, is a veteran naval armsman sworn to serve the Yule Dynasty, an ancient and powerful Rogue Trader Household that has close ties with the Inquisition. She has served the Warrant Holder for many years, earning her trust and a place on her personal retinue when House Yule is called to serve the Emperor at the behest of the Inquisition.
She is a brute of a woman, decked out in heavy flak armour and carrying weapons that reflect who she is – vicious, reliable and heavy duty. In the confines of cramped voidship corridors and boarding gangways, you don’t need complex fighting styles or fancy weapons to win the day – simply cold steel and a strong fighting arm.
The model started out life more as a guardsman, a simple kitbash with Sergeant Stone’s legs and Slick Devlan’s body. Back then she was a he, and he was equipped with a standard lasgun and the infamous shouty head of Sergeant Black. He was only bluetacked together, but there was something about the pose of a flak-armoured warrior barreling forwards that really appealed to me. There was a ‘leader’ assembled as well, reaching for a sword and wearing a very fancy bicorn hat, but that will be a MOTB for another time. I liked the momentum of the model, but I never had any motivation to do anything extra to him, and he sat in my Box of Shame for months.
Roll forward to the (relatively) present day, and this lot on ebay comes to my attention. It seems in my brief 54mm hiatus, 3D printing kicked off and suddenly my niche modelling hobby was being bolstered by fresh kits and awesome new weapons. You can get the full Dreadquill run-down of the kit here.
Fawning over the new weapons I was formulating all manner of impossible projects, when I surreptitiously pulled out a few old projects from the Box of Shame and dry-fitted some of the guns. The one that was eventually used is, to my understanding, intended to be a grenade launcher, but one of my friends asked if it was some kind of giant shotgun, and that turned the whole narrative on its head.
Shotcannons are described as much larger variants of a regular shotgun that fire a huge shell (nearly twice the normal size) and can lay waste to large hordes of attackers. They are considered ‘support’ weapons in boarding parties, and I couldn’t think of anything cooler or more appropriate for an Inquisitor character, someone who specialises in brutal boarding actions and carries a gun that can explode a man into a burst of shredded clothing and flesh. What more could a girl want?
With the new angle of ‘naval armsman’ rather than generic guardsman or bodyguard, the project motored ahead. First thing to change was the head, the shouty guardsman head wouldn’t cut it. I had an old open-faced head from the Lucretia Bravus model, one that I’ve never actually used in a model. I didn’t really like the silhouette, it was too sleek and elegant, a far cry from the chunky combat of the 41st millennium. It looked perfect on her though, and I imagined some kind of huge welding-mask-type shutter being propped open that she could slam down when it was Go Time.
The armour was a joy to sculpt. I’ve always been a fan of the Elysian Drop Troopers, and the padded fatigues on their arms and legs was an aesthetic I wanted to replicate. I tried to keep the size of the pads as close to the flak armour on the body to bring the parts of the model together to look a more coherent whole, like it was an actual uniform that had been repaired a number of times rather than a disparate series of armour plates slapped together.
All the accessories were umm’d and ahh’d over for quite some time. She needed at least one melee weapon, and I felt an axe or mace would be suitably savage. No fancy sword fighting nonsense here. I settled on a chaos marauder axe head and shaft, with the handle being replaced from a 40k power sword to give it a bit more of a futuristic feel, rather than wrapped leather.
There was a toss-up between backup weapons too, I felt compelled to try and give her a reload for her shotcannon but a) I couldn’t find a suitable part to represent a whole new drum mag and b) didn’t feel it was in her aesthetic to reload such a bulky weapon. I see her firing off as many rounds as she can before closing with the enemy, hurling the thing like an angry fire extinguisher and getting stuck in with axe and boot. A nice big revolver strapped to her thigh would fit the bill of backup weapon.
The last key element I wanted for her was a fully sealed combat suit. Her attire doesn’t scream ‘space suit’, but I wanted there to be some way of her surviving emergency decompression, low oxygen or chemical warfare. Her gear is primitive but robust, so she would need suitable breathing apparatus reflective of that. The original plan was to have a mouthpiece attached to her chest or breast, like Forest Whittaker’s character in Rogue One, so she could quickly mask up in the event of an emergency.
At this point though, her arms and gun were well attached to her body, and I could find no way of making a suitable mask to hang from that part of her without it looking cluttered and ugly. I had a root around in my bits box and salvaged an Imperial Guard flamer tank, some guitar wire and a heavily shaved-down 40k space marine helmet to form a rebreather. I figured she would unhook it from her belt and clip it into place underneath her boarding mask to form a fully sealed helmet. It won’t help you with any space walks, but it might just help you survive long enough in a pinch.
Then it was just adding gubbins – a few pouches here and there, a grenade on the belt and sculpting in some straps to attach it all together and she was done! The name is from an idea that on her ship of birth, the ship’s macrocannons were independently operated by different family units, each competing to who can have the faster loading solutions and fiercely protective of their family’s cannon. Each family unit would have names derived from ancient Terran warfare; Caliver, Bulletson, Sabot and Saker.
All that’s left is to come up with a colour scheme and mock up some stats for her. A full study will inevitably come along in the future, but my mind went wandering about how best to represent her signature weapon on the Inquisitor battlefield; the naval shotcannon.
Many among the Inquisitor community have adopted MarcoSkoll’s quite excellent Revised Inquisitor Armoury, as although the original rules are robust enough to play with ‘out of the box’, almost two decades of playtesting have brought up a few issues of variety and balance of weapons. Marco took it upon himself to rewrite the entire armoury with the benefit of hindsight, community feedback and oodles of weapon knowledge, so ranged weapons all have a distinctive flavour and punch to them.
Having a browse through, I noticed there was an absence of ‘stupid big shotgun designed to turn men into paté’, so I had a go at improvising rules for on one using the options that were available to me.
Using the stats of a full auto combat shotgun, with the large calibre and drum mag upgrades:
DM, Jam Prone
The special rules below have been factored into the statline above.
Scatter Shot (Common)
“A very standard loading, a standard shot shell fires a small cloud of lead projectiles at the target. They have poor armour defeating capabilities and the projectiles rapidly disperse, but the effect of multiple projectiles impacting in the same instant can be especially effective against un-armoured or lightly armoured targets”.
Range E; D6+1 damage
*Multiple hits (1 hit per Degree of Success up to a maximum of 3 hits, all to the same location)
+1 Damage. Gains Considerable Recoil rule . +5 EncPump Action, Lever Action, Auxiliary and Dual Magazine shotgun magazine sizes reduced by 1. (-1 to both Magazines on the Dual Mag)Semi-Auto, Auto and Bullpup Auto Magazine sizes reduced by 2.
Drum Magazine (DM)
A very easy modification to fit, as it’s a simple magazine swap. Weapons which can take this modification are marked with “DM” under the Notes column.
The weapon’s magazine capacity is doubled, Enc is increased by +5, the Reload stat by +1 and the weapon gains the Jam Prone special rule.
The boy crumpled at the snarl of my autorifle. His sternum had been reduced to mincemeat from a burst of point blank supercavitating rounds. Gunfire erupted around us, as though exploding off the starting blocks to the sound of a race gun. Beyond the collapsing corpse of the boy more House Guard, hungry men in rich-man’s rags, scrambled for weapons or cover.
All except one – a bulky yet emaciated ghoul of man, his right arm cut off at the shoulder and replaced with a vicious bullet-spewing automatic rifle. Metal plating glinted through torn, leathery flesh and half his skull was given over to cybernetic targeting enhancements. My stomach tightened. It was no man but a man-shaped, brainless flesh-vehicle, lumbering forwards on ruthless subroutines to effectuate calculated slaughter: a combat servitor.
I ducked behind a heavy hardwood pew as the graciously haphazard return fire splintered off the lip of the backboard. The boy lay near my feet. His face bore the same disbelief as when we began our exchange. His sidearm holster was still buttoned.
Small arms fire raged across the chapel, the most enthusiastic coming from the slow, implacable advance of the combat servitor. Our cell had worked it’s way into a vaguely defensible position on the east side near the primary entrance and were doling out fury to anyone caught out of cover. Crisis the tech adept and Mur the sharpshooter were picking their targets carefully, keeping those pinned they could not kill. The Sister was stalking between the rows of benches clutching a bastard sword as long as she was. It protruded behind her like the tail of a great predatory lizard. Proteus dropped the nearest House Guard with a blast of his shotgun, but didn’t see the second one stand up behind him.
“Proteus! On your six!” someone yelled over the cacophony of combat and the battle hymns from the Sister. He turned just in time to find himself staring down the twin barrels of a House Guard shotgun. Proteus smiled calmly and his lips began to move, presumably in some cutting slight on the Guard’s parentage, and took the full impact to his chest. Strips of meat and shredded flak vest filled the air, and Proteus tumbled backwards through a pew.
A split second later the House Guard’s neck was opened and his life fluids painted his uniform a new shade of carmine. Smoking brass pinged out of Mur’s hunting rifle. His face was blank as he thumbed another round into the breach, already lining up another shot. I couldn’t tell if his actions were a comradely retaliation or it just happened to be the clearest shot at that moment.
No matter. It was better to die for the Emperor than live for yourself. There were more pressing matters to attend to, and the weight of its augmented legs shaking the tiled floor I sat on indicated those matters had become extremely pressing. The weight of fire from the servitor was tipping the scales in their favour – Crisis was clipped by a round and sunk behind cover and Sister Leora was struck full force in her plate armour in a staggering display of sparks.
I slung my rifle over my back and unhooked the shock baton from its resting place on my hip, blindly feeling for the activation rune as I tried to keep an eye on the seven different skirmishes that were developing in the confines of the chapel. I hated how ugly and clumsy it felt in my hand when it wasn’t active.
I waited, back pressed against the pew, and prayed. All I needed was an opportunity, a brief pause in its firing solution to change ammunition hoppers, or the ticking of cooling metal as it vents heat from its overloaded weapon.
The Emperor granted me serendipity in the shape of an overweight agri-trac repairman. A warning is blurted across the chapel from the flesh voice of the Tech Adept, followed by a fizzing metal object arcing over the bullet-scarred benches. My hands were already covering my head and burying my face in my flak-lined coat. I knew what happened next.
I heard a single syllable barked from a House Guard, a muffled yelp of warning too little too late.
This is the first of a new weekly segment, Meanwhile on the Bench (or MOTB as it will inevitably be shortened to), a section looking at the many conversions and unfinished projects lying around (read: being worked on) the Dreadquill studio. Rather than shy away from public attention and treat my growing to-do list with shame and disappointment, it’s instead time to revel in the bits and pieces that go on underneath the layers of paint and swearing that make up the Dreadquill minis.
This week we introduce the first plucky bunch of Serafin House Guard, “the Glailwroth Few”, for use in our games of Rogue Trader. They are highly trained and educated field troops adapted to the brutal confines of boarding actions and void conflicts of the Serafin Dynasty fleet. They are few and far between, an elite cadre of warriors sworn to protect the Dynasty and its interests.
I am currently involved in running two separate Rogue Trader campaigns, the Serafin Dynasty and the Zini Dynasty – the former being a more political/creed/religious game, the latter being a more exploration/piracy game. In the latter, we discovered our love for playing with minis rather than tokens (bottle caps, euros, scatter dice…) and as the Captain would drag as many merry men with her as she could to every encounter, it necessitated some armsmen models.
They were great fun to build (and a pain in the ass to paint), but it left us feeling that our Serafin game was also sorely missing out on some noble cannon fodder to escort our brave Lord-Captain with her on dangerous away missions. We already had some stats for them, we had built them using the Only War regiment builder, so it was just a case of finding some models that fit the bill.
The brief was, in quintessential Captain Serafin style, brief. They were noble-born, well-equipped and well trained. They belonged to quite an old Dynasty that prides itself on artisan weaponry, and ply the space-lanes in a strange old vessel that’s even older than the Dynasty itself. Pomp and circumstance was the order of the day, and the hunt for miniatures began.
My first port of call was the same supplier I got my other armsmen off, Anvil Industry. They have an incredible range of 28mm sci fi/modern parts that you can chop and change to create unique regiments of fighters, and even a neat 3d model builder so you can preview what the parts you ordered look like. Although there were some neat combinations, none of it screamed ‘fancy-ass toffs who could kick your ass’. The hunt continued.
Many other suppliers were discounted – I needed something ideally in resin or plastic to give me the conversion opportunities I would need, and none of them had that high-tech archaic look I was going for, and somehow I ended up coming full circle round to Forge World and their incredible Solar Auxilia range. I fell in love with the Lasrifle Section, I really dig the Space Colonists vibe they have going for them, which perfectly encapsulated the feeling I wanted for the House Guard. Unfortunately, common sense won out in the end, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t justify the price tag. Another project for another time, maybe.
I was about to bin the whole idea when I was in my local Games Workshop eyeing up the Tempestus Scions. They were neat, but not quite what I was going for, and th-OH MY GOD THEY COME WITH MOUSTACHE HEADS. Instant purchase. Turns out in my haste to overlook ‘normal’ Games Workshop models, I didn’t realise that the Scions also come with these dope-ass berets and hard-nut heads. To the bench!
The first guy assembled was the least converted. I wanted to get a feel for the kit before I started mucking about with it. I also had quite a strict equipment list to adhere to, most of which was only sparsely represented on the sprue, so I knew a lot of converting guns was going to have to happen. For this chap, I did a simple gun swap on his left hand. The straight arm was attached to a plasma pistol, not something I wanted on his loadout, and the regular laspistol arm was bent at an angle that didn’t work well with the pose.
Everything else was just adding gubbins from my bits box. I had a bunch of Adeptus Mechanicus backpacks from another project and they fitted perfectly. They further the House Guard from the original Scions models and add that extra element of techy-weirdness that I wanted to get across. The addition of the incense burners and other religious iconography helped further the idea that I wanted these guys to be devoted to their duty and to the God Emperor, so I went overboard on reliquaries, prayer tokens and purity seals. More is more, right?
Quite content with how he turned out, I moved on to a slightly more ambitious task: how does one make a Best Quality lasgun?
Shouty telephone man was born! I needed a vox operator as the regiment specialises in electro-vox warfare, and I couldn’t bring myself to convert one just for the sake of being different from the box version. After completion, it struck me how presidential he looked, but I couldn’t figure out why. With his right side completed, I just had to figure out how to make him hold what would become an awesome-looking Serafin las rifle.
One of my inspirations was the Vostroyan Firstborn, and after having a rifle through my bits box discovered a bunch of Empire Handgunner rifles. With a bit of careful chopping of the iconic lasgun parts (the muzzle, the charge pack), some careful gluing and filling with green stuff, the look was complete. Long, ornate, form-over-function kinda feeling. It even has a wheel lock on it, which excites me because I can’t for the life of me think why you would have that on there other than to add unnecessary parts to clean.
With the “look” of the lasgun down pat, I felt comfortable knowing I could recreate it on further models. Next guy I wanted to do was a generic “guy shooting at something” pose. Holding a rifle in one hand is easy to convert, manipulating the arms and rifle butt to fit snugly into a shouldered firing position might be a bit trickier.
Yep, this was much trickier. In a strange flip-turn of events, the camera here actually hides the damage to the hands, wrists and right arm far better than you can see in person. The muzzle and charge pack swap were straight forward, but the left hand needed to be hollowed out completely to fit further up the rifle to make room for the charge pack in the same place as the first one I made. D’oy.
The right arm also needed a complete remodelling. The default hellgun stock looked radically different from the artisan wooden stock of the Empire handgun, and I’d lose a massive amount of the charm if I had to chop off the rifle grip and hand guard in favour of the easier hellgun option. Essentially both the rifle and the arm had massive amounts of painstaking scalpel work to shave each section down so they joined together as seamlessly as possible. Luckily after spraying, you didn’t notice the join at all, which I was quite chuffed with.
Oh yes, and it was at this point that I realised how fucking fragile the radio masts are on the Scion bodies, note the paperclip replacement.
Next I needed some ‘utility’ guys to round off my selection. I wasn’t sure what models I would need until we played some games, so I wanted to have as large a spread of options to choose from (and I didn’t want to convert up any more of those rifles unless I absolutely needed to).
This guy was straightforward – two arms straight off the sprue. He’s the medic, but would also double up as “House Guard NPC carrying the plot maguffin”. I love the weird Gears of War-esque pistol-chainblade thing he has. Although chainblades aren’t rare in 40k, I’ve never seen one on a pistol before, and I couldn’t quite place what kind of weapon it was. It has the middle and rear of a hellpistol, but not the barrel or muzzle. Who knows, it looked cool. Easy conversion, onto the last guy!
In my dismay I realised that electro-vox warfare also covered the use of scanners and auspexes, so I would need to convert someone holding one. The left arm was a straightforward lift from the sprues, and I evaded converting another rifle by using one of the holstered guns from the box set as well, just changing the stock to make it look a bit more appropriate. The Auspex was hard though, I couldn’t find any ‘open’ right hands, they were all taken up with holding weapons in some way or another. I made a note to look online to order some more to fill my ranks, but that wouldn’t help me in the short term!
Luckily from a previous Anvil order I had picked up a load of bionic limbs, and one of them was an open bionic left hand for holding rifles. A little thumb realignment surgery and (I think) cunningly hiding it behind the auspex was all I needed to convince the casual looker that he was holding an auspex with his thumb on the correct side. Result!
All in all I was very happy with how they came out. I had been given a vague colour scheme to work with – white, gold and ice blue, and I could visualise those working with the esoteric mix of high-tech and religious iconography that these guys are draped in, but that would be another job for another time.
If you wanted to use the Glailwroth Few in your own games, or you just fancied having a look, you can check out the stats, equipment and backstory for them here.
“Emperor preserve us, Asus Prime is the only planet I’ve known that you can smell from space. Penal states, prison nations, cheap labour and, unfortunately, where our target is lurking. Quick in and out – we don’t want to be about when the chain gangs find out there are offworlders in a security blind spot…”
The Asus Prime Kidnapping is a short mission between two small insertion forces on the prison planet of Asus Prime, both trying to collar a person of interest in both their investigations; a middle man for a xenos artifact smuggling ring called Krannich.
The fight takes part in a security blind spot, a loading bay near Krannich’s area of operation. It has been specially selected as a place that is overlooked by the local enforcers and relatively devoid of roving chain gang patrols – the perfect place for a shady meetup.
In the north of the map, Inquisitor Jekt is accompanied by a hardened ganger called Conan the Unkillable. Jekt is a dirty fighter, relying on brute force and underhand tactics to overcome his foes, and Conan is a mercenary with a powerful healing mutation. Inquisitor Jekt had inserted onto the planet with the intention of dragging Krannich off for interrogation to find out how deep this smuggling ring goes.
In the south, Takoda Tedd and Major Farideigh are sneaking in to try and capture Krannich as well. Tedd is a trusted ally of Inquisitor Xerxas who has several interests on Asus Prime and carefully controls and monitors the flow of artifacts on the planet but Krannich is upsetting that balance of power. Tedd is accompanied by Farideigh, an old warden on Asus Prime and now a powerful ally in sneaking past the light sequences and guard patrols to close on their target. They need Krannich alive to find out who instructed him to muscle in on Xerxas’ turf.
In the centre of the arena is Krannich, two of his goons, a loading servitor and a Penal guard watching over the loading area. Krannich believes he is meeting a contact looking to buy a new batch of xenos curios from him. Little does he know that it was a decoy to lure him away from his safety net, and now he has two Inquisitors circling the loading bay, waiting for their time to strike.
It is dawn, and the crimson sun of Asus has begun its slow crawl across the horizon. Owing to the low light and the constant throb of nearby industry, there is a -20 to Awareness tests for hearing, and sight is reduced to 1/5th of a character’s Initiative. Anything over that is a -2 penalty per inch to Awareness tests for sight.
There are also roving chain gangs, albeit some distance away. If/when either of the warbands sound the alarm, they will only have six turns to grab the goods and make it off the board before a horde of angry servo-enhanced chain gangers arrive to butcher everything in sight.
The loading servitor remains (largely) neutral. He’s got a job to do, and by the Omnissiah he’ll do it against all odds. He doesn’t care for the fate of the galaxy, the battle for the Emperor’s soul, or the conflicting ideologies of two radical Inquisitors over the supply and demand of xenos artifacts. All he cares about is getting those damn crates on that damn truck, and he’ll be oblivious to anything otherwise. After all, who on Terra would really need to mess with crates of ore or a knackered loading truck when the fate of billions of souls are at stake?
The game begins, and both players have openly committed to a sneaky approach. With only two characters each, and a good mix of Initiative and Speed orders, the game goes back and forth between the players very quickly. Even with Sneak actions, the players rapidly move forwards to their targets while the guards amble around (using a scatter dice) and the loading servitor carries out his to-do list for the day.
The first event is Major Farideigh taking is upon himself to see to the outlying Penal guard called Zaal. His dust mask and rebreather don’t help him hear the Major noisily clanging his way up the ladder right near their starting corner. By the grace of the Emperor, he walks clean over the Major’s head and stares longingly off into the distance on the other side of the tower.
In the other corner, Conan and Jekt are making great progress. Jekt dives behind the truck, waiting for the patrol of the servitor to grant him the cover he needs to circle round clockwise and approach the meeting point from the east. At this point, the players are still unsure of the servitor’s motivations, so are treating it with due suspicion.
Meanwhile, Farideigh has seen his moment to strike. He leaps up behind Zaal and puts him into a Militarum Death Grip, determined to take him out silently and efficiently. At this point, it’s worth noting that we were at somewhat of a loss of how to deal with this combat using the Inquisitor rules as written, as we felt that the normal unarmed sneak attack wasn’t really appropriate. We borrowed the Grappling rules from Dark Heresy to keep the game flowing – opposed Strength checks (with a bonus to the grappler for getting the jump on Zaal) to either cause damage or break free. It is a tense few turns of Zaal going bluer and bluer in the face…
Meanwhile Jekt is still trying to find an opening between crate runs to make a break for it. Conan, on the other hand, decides the best way to complete this stealth run is by fucking everything up in the biggest, loudest way possible. He piles into the truck and starts looking for the On Button.
There is a quite crumpling sound in the distance as Zaal goes tumbling off the character roster.
During this exchange, Takoda Tedd has been making a beeline for the meeting point. He has ducked and weaved through the guards quite expertly, pushing himself up against a window to eavesdrop anything interesting from inside. One of them hears movement outside, but sees nothing and makes the professional bodyguard decision not to follow up on that line of inquiry.
Jekt reckons he has figured out the servitor’s pattern and is ready to make a dash for it, and Conan has found the keys to the truck underneath the overhead sun visor (damn those critical success 001 rolls).
Jekt dashes behind cover just as the hauler truck roars into life and suddenly lurches forwards. It is at this point that Conan realises his plan extended only to starting the truck, and he plows it through a pile of barrels.
The loading servitor has to accelerate to a jog to place his second crate, but by the Emperor he takes pride in his work. The truck belches smog and noise as Conan cackles hysterically at the wheel. The guards correctly determine that this commotion is probably beyond the work of rats and pile outside to investigate.
As Conan prepares to receive the award for Greatest Distraction Ever, Jekt secretes himself into the shadows to observe the guards and determine the best time to strike.
Conan wedges the throttle open and bails out of the moving truck as it careens through more scenery and off the board. Luckily for him there’s some nice soft concrete blocks and steel barrels to break his fall and he survives the incident without a scratch. A great cracking sound is heard for miles around as you hear the servitor’s heart breaking – how will he ever deliver the final crate now?
During this commotion, Farideigh and Tedd are alerted to the presence of another party. They don’t know who else it could be, but whoever it is has clearly upset the guards and made some kind of distraction. Never one to waste a good thing, Farideigh drops from his tower and moves towards the meeting point. Tedd meanwhile commando rolls in through the window, just in time to come face to face with the guards returning to check in on their boss.
They draw their weapons and Tedd fumbles for his guns, both apparently victims of the element of surprise. Tedd squeezes a few shots off but they explode off the hab walls around his target.
Jekt has found his opportunity to strike. The guards have been distracted by another distraction, and he draws his crackling power sword and moves in to butcher them. These guards, not burdened with an abundance of critical thinking skills are instead apparently expert swordsmen, and avoid all the incoming attacks from the Inquisitor and the gunfighter.
Jekt manoeuvres one of the guards out of the doorway onto level ground to better his chances. The other guard steps in to try and carve up Tedd. A very dejected loading servitor returns to make his final delivery.
In the meantime, Conan has pulled himself together and found a little hidey hole to watch the carnage unfold. He is pretty pleased with himself at this point, and decides to never roll any more actions for the remainder of the game as a little reward to himself for being so great.
Jekt makes short work of the first guard. One blow is all it takes, cleaving him from shoulder to hip in a pretty brutal display of a power sword’s effectiveness.
Tedd catches a sword to the arm which throws his aim off, and he’s unable to cause any significant damage to the guard to stop him raining blows down on him. Farideigh is still to far away to assist, so it looks like Tedd may fall to the hapless NPC guards!
Jekt steps in to combat the second guard, inadvertently saving Tedd’s bacon and freeing him up for more thrilling heroics. The second guard is cut down with ease, and Tedd unleashes a torrent of fire at the imposing silhouette in the doorway. They connect but only stagger the Inquisitor, not causing enough damage to save Tedd from becoming power sword confetti. If only there was another unwitting third party to rescue him!
Jekt is grabbed by the clamps of the disgruntled work force and finds himself locked in mortal combat with the loading machinery. He laughs in the face of such danger, until he sees the damage stats for those power clamps.
Tedd is never one to look a gift horse in the mouth for a third time, and immediately rushes for Krannich. Luckily he is small, lightweight and pliable in his old age, so Tedd tucks him under his arm and makes a break for it.
Unfortunately for Jekt, he is unaware that the mission is slipping away from him clamp by clamp, as he tries to land a finishing blow on the servitor without losing an arm to the angry plant machinery.
Farideigh arrives, although he apparently was here for several turns, just “waiting for the right time to strike”. Tedd is unconvinced. They defenestrate Krannich.
Jekt lands a clean blow on the loading servitor, severing its head completely from its body. He is tired, sweaty and covered in blood and clamp fluid. At least he’s cleared the area single handedly, and can go on to claim the VIP for himself, right?
During this terse exchange, Tedd and Farideigh have exfiltrated the hab and are about to begin their final leg to the board edge. Only a handful of successful Sprint actions are between them and victory…
As Farideigh barrels off with the VIP under one arm, Tedd is ambushed by a fusillade of fire from an unseen gunman on overwatch! Conan had apparently spent the entire game moving a grand total of twenty inches waiting for his time to strike.
Farideigh is inches from the board edge. He only needs two run actions or one non-risky Sprint action to sieze the day. He has decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and Tedd can take care of himself.
Inquisitor Jekt suddenly bears down on him brandishing his big angry power sword, intent on carving Farideigh a few new breathing holes. He only needs to wound Farideigh enough to slow him or knock Krannich from his grasp.
He swings and misses over and over, Farideigh’s survival instincts being too strong to allow himself to be hit by the hissing energy blade. When it comes to Farideigh’s turn, he only needs to pass a single Initiative check to break from combat and seize a victory.
The dice tumble and it comes up a success. Farideigh breaks from combat, crosses the board edge and wins the day.
So it was a victory for Xerxas’ crew, Tedd and Farideigh, although a phyrric one. Tedd is badly injured and left to the devices of Jekt and Conan, although whether they stick around to secure him or flee the now painfully close angry chain gang (2 turns left!) is a story for another time.
Jekt is a new character from one of the players, and this was an opportunity to play test him in the field. He has a host of weird and interesting bits of kit, such as wrist-mounted single shot webbers, caltrops and poison dart launchers to emphasize his dirty fighting style. Many of them were left unused, as the sheer awesomeness of the power sword was too much to contend with. The fact he cut down three NPCs in quick succession only highlighted this, with some points that he might be a bit too overpowered being countered with an understanding that he never really came up against someone his equal – he was an Inquisitor standing in a field of faceless unarmoured goons. What did they expect to happen? Expect to see Jekt pop up again in the future for further road testing.
We were left feeling a little let down by Tedd, whose prowess in the field over many years of service has given him quite the reputation for being the last word in a hollow-point argument, but he was routinely unable to land anything more than glancing blows on even the unarmoured characters.
Conan was another new character as well – he was never injured so we couldn’t test out the strength of his Regeneration mutation, so he’ll likely be popping up again in the future and given a good seeing-to. His gun is strong but he’s not a brilliant shot (low 50s), so we felt it balanced out.
Farideigh was contending Jekt for Most Valuable Player – silently taking out the Penal guard, reaching the hab unnoticed and then snatching the VIP out from underneath Jekt’s nose without firing a shot. There were many times he intended to lay down cover from a smoke grenade or take a few pot shots into close combat to try and save Tedd, but a dud grenade roll and a constantly shifting three-way combat means he never had a safe shot to take.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable match to partake in. Two characters aside made the game fly by, with players always rolling dice with nary a breathing space between characters. It’s a dangerous thing though, with only two characters each, if one is even slightly inconvenienced (like being pinned or stunned for a turn) you are suddenly at a massive disadvantage. Both players managed to make it through to the final turn without any characters suffering though, and we were all genuinely surprised at how well the sneaky tactics worked.
We’ll be seeing Jekt and Conan return in another story, likely to follow up any secondary leads to Krannich and his smuggling ring. Although Farideigh escaped with Krannich, his loyalty lied with Tedd and Tedd’s master. With Tedd’s fate unclear (is he at the mercy of Jekt, the roving chain gang, or did he slip away), Farideigh is at an impasse. Stick with the mission and turn Krannich over to Xerxas, or see if his own master would be interested in such a valuable asset…?
There was no noise save the crunch of broken glass underfoot and the last tapering exhale of the grav-chutes. The fireworks of battle could be made out beyond the reinforced stained glass behind the altar at the northern end of the shrine, but their report was muffled by the cold stone walls.
It’s size was modest, easily capable of housing some fifty worshippers at a time. Not enough for every soul on the estate, but certainly those of import. The walls were clogged with beautiful woven tapestries of Imperial saints and incense burners swung gently from the high vaulted ceiling. Rows of hand carved pews that had once stood rank and file for daily worship were being rearranged into defensive positions around the doors. Our master was wise to send us through the ceiling.
My heavy caliber autorifle was levelled at the nearest figure, who was still reeling from the shock of our insertion and my proclamation. He was one of half a dozen others I counted as we arrives, all clad in the flamboyance and artisanry expected of the House Guard of a powerful lineage. He was young, less than 20, but his features had been aged beyond his years by horror. His skull shook in a carapace helmet that was several sizes too large.
He was alive because Imperial law demanded it. If I were a common thug or gang-coloured butcher he would already have several fist-sized holes punched through his centre mass. The law affords him no rights, no guarantee of fair trial or treatment, only a single gossamer-thin opportunity: redemption. I repeated my proclamation and clarified our intent for those who had not been paying attention.
“Imperial Inquisition, drop your weapons! Your Master has been thrice-damned by a jury of your peers for the capital crime of heresy! All servants and members of the House of Rauth are considered Not Innocent by extension, your degree of guilt will be decided by the next actions you take, so I repeat – drop your weapons!”
It was so quiet in those following moments you could hear the squeaking of scales in their heads as they weighed their options. The iron fist of Imperial justice is purer than the fires of Sol that birthed holy Terra, and heavier than all the men, women and children who have shed blood in service to the Golden Throne. How could these poor fools possibly fancy their chances against such an absolute?
They did anyway. The boy’s panicked hand leapt for his sidearm but mine was already primed. With a squeeze of a trigger, the silence in the chapel was shattered in the same way as thunder rends the sky.
I had been weightless before. We would run zero-g drills in the Schola on holy days. As a treat the masters would let us dictate our learnings for the day, as a benevolent reflection of the God-Emperor’s grace. We would choose the zero-g chamber every time.
This was not that. The unnatural feeling of helplessness was present, but twinned with a fusillade assault on the senses. Your inner ear spins like a compass at magnetic north. Your body is pummeled furiously by nimbus fists, from which you cannot defend yourself as your arms are whipped back by invisible reins. You hear nothing except the roaring wind. You see nothing through tear-filled eyes. You tumble through the heavens with nothing but your grav-chute and the elusive memories of your aerial insertion training – two minutes of lying on an ammo crate on a guardsman assault course with a drill sergeant barking instructions like we were some thick-skulled ground-pounders.
Perhaps it was my disdain for her petulant remarks that jogged my memory. Perhaps it was catching a glimpse between blinks of a drop zone that was once the size of a grapefruit had now filled my horizon. I would hate to give her crude methods such credence over my own survival instincts. Whatever the case, whichever direction I faced, I reached to the small of my back and ripped he grav-chute cord with all my strength.
Nothing happened. The ground seemed inches from my face, the gothic spires of the shrine we were to land in turned from stalwart monuments to treacherous deathtraps.
Then the grav-chute ignited with a blessed vengeance I have not seen since in man or machine. Its roar was a thunderous, mocking laugh, an affront to gods and gravity. I was plucked from the air by the hymns of saviour angels, played by the part of the whining grav engines strapped to my back. My neck jerked back, like a child being collared while stealing pastries. My limbs flailed in front of me. I was a cartwheeling puppet whose master had snatched up the marionette. Adrenaline burned through my veins and I could hear the blood pumping in my ears drowning out the tattoo of anti-aircraft and small arms fire in the complex below.
It was an impressive estate, designed in traditional high gothic, replete with sky-piercing spires and high arched windows. The grand courtyard in the centre was filled with the disciplined snaps of the guardsmens’ las rifles and the surreptitious crackling of return fire from the House Guard. They were our distraction while we dynamically inserted into the defensive heart of the estate: the shrine.
I scanned the skies near me for my newly minted comrades and by the Emperor’s grace they were present and largely on target. We were four angels of wrath descending on wings of fire.
There was no time to signal to them, although what I would have signalled I’m not sure. We were moments from insertion through the stained glass ceiling of the shrine. I braced for impact.
Time slowed. There was no impact. My feet traveled through the glass as though it wasn’t there. I was a stone dropped into a serene lake, and my ripples exploded the stained glass around me into a violent kaleidoscope of jagged shards. The descent was a blur as every sense was filled with the sight, sound and pain of broken glass and the floor of the shrine rushed up to meet me. The grav-chute issued one last triumphant wail as it spent the remainder of its fuel cushioning my landing.
It took longer than I care to admit to regain my bearings and offer silent thanks to the infallibility of my chute’s machine spirit and the wisdom of the Emperor that made it so. Blessed be my upbringing then, for my hands do not suffer such frailties, and my rifle had been unclipped from its harness and levelled at the nearest target. It struck me how quiet it was, the gunfire just outside the shrine was little more than a muffled rainstorm in the distance.
We had arrived, but we had yet to make our entrance. I was still struggling to focus, but all I needed was my voice. It was time to make our duty known, to fire our warning shot.
A violent means to a better end; the more concentrated the application of violence, the longer and better the end result. That was the most resounding wisdom imparted to me from my upbringing. Tumbling through space at the speed of sound in an iron coffin was an outstandingly violent means to an end of the cold walls and stale air of our master’s void ship. As fire washed across the nose cone of our lander and the planet engorged in the front viewport, only a single thought occurred to me: was this a commendation or a condemnation?
I was joined in the passenger compartment of our lander by four others; two gunmen, a tech adept and a woman clad in full plate armour. The first shooter was wiry and run-down, with a ganger fauxhawk that had greyed earlier than his age belied. He was clad in quilted overalls sat underneath a guard-issue flak vest we had been assigned before our departure. My briefing told me he was a gunslinger named Proteus, a man whose past was not his own, the bullet scar on his left temple and barcode tattoo behind his ear confirming he was a mind-cleansed agent. Useful enough in a previous life to have his skills preserved, but not his memories.
The second gunman stroked a long hunting rifle and was the only one in the compartment to meet my gaze. Not a challenging or scrutinising look, but a disinterested, vacant stare – as a child might before understanding the social implications of holding another’s gaze. He sported black dreadlocks on most of his grey skull, the left side of his face singed to baldness by some violent means. He was lean, wearing a black assassin’s body glove that exposed his arms branded with a letter ‘X’. The compartment rattled, and an earring bearing the same symbol caught the light. The briefing told me his name was Mur-X52, which explained the symbology, but I could not place the death cult or assassin temple he would have been from.
The Tech Adept was the closest to a civilian we had. He was silver-bearded portly man into his fifth or sixth decade and appeared surprisingly human for a member of the Cult Mechanicus. He wore their colours but where I expected robes, he wore short, practical garments festooned in pockets for tools, geegaws and miscellanea. The roughness of his fingers and pollution scars on his arms told me he worked with heavy machinery, probably agri, before his assignment to us.
The final person was only thing that gave me cause to believe this wasn’t a mission to rid the Imperium of troublesome agents; a holy Sister of the Adeptas Sororitas. Her plate mail was painted purple with white aquila adornments and the gold sashes of her Order draped over top. She had her nose pressed hard into an almanac of the planet we were just about to be forcibly dropped on, but she wasn’t taking it in, just moving her eyes and turning the pages. I knew what fake studying looked like from my classmates in the Schola. Perhaps the act of reading soothed her. It soothed me watching it.
The compartment was suddenly bathed in crimson light and the lander lurched downwards. A Latirian Guardsman escort in our compartment burbled something into his atmo-helmet vox in a regimental cant. I picked up something about anti-aircraft weaponry. Our ‘brief’ was becoming briefer by the second.
The faceless Guardsman addressed us brashly, saying more with his hands than with his amplified voice. “Straps off! We are dirtbound in fifteen seconds! Hats on asses people, they’ve rolled out the fireworks to welcome us!”
As if to punctuate his charming turn of phrase, a cacophonous explosion rocked the plummeting lander and a sliver of shrapnel punched through both sides of our compartment. Alarms screeched and the light shifted to a more panicked shade of scarlet. The Guardsman knuckled some runes on the rear door’s command slate and the lander shuddered gratefully in response.
The rear of the craft split open, sunlight lancing into the crimson twilight of the cabin. Air and noise exploded into our compartment as the rear doors slowly unfolded, ready to disgorge its precarious cargo. I remember the air tasting like iron, but that could have been the blood from my tongue. Wind whipped around us, tugging at our harnesses and yearning for us to wrap ourselves in its embrace. I checked the straps on my weapons and that there was a round in the chamber. We would be deep striking into the centre of the conflict, so the impatient weapon spirits must be primed for split-second fury. The guardsman gazed out the rear of the lander at the violence that was unfolding on the ground below in the same way as one of my Schola mentors would browse a box of confectionery for the choicest morsels.
An explosion erupted in the sky behind him, casting us in his shadow. He turned to look at us. You could tell by the way he spoke that he was grinning under his atmo-helmet.
“Face first into battle!” He barked as the jump light in the compartment turned the colour of seasickness. “Give ’em hell!”.
“I was not prepared for what I had seen. I had expected a paltry gathering of dead men’s dusty things, or some backwater squatters with zipguns holding up the local merchantry. Not… this.
Bile rose in my throat. My vision narrowed to a distant pair of pin pricks. My body rejected the nature of gravity and my head took leave of my senses. My previous life was vomited into the turbulent stream of my consciousness, but not the part I had expected. I had piled men as sandbags on Caltrax-9 and dug riot trenches through the tank-compacted bodies of water rioters on Daphnia, but those were not what I had flashed back to at that moment.
I had a sudden moment of lucidity amidst the cotton wool clarity my senses were affording me. There I was, barely few decades old and squire to a famous Arbitrator and law-maker, tending to his equipment before evening prayers. He approached me, hand raised, and my gut sank.
I quickly rose to my feet and closed my eyes, anticipating another reprimand. What was it this time? Was it the third rivet on his maul again? I swore I had checked that. Inside breast pocket strap? I had the seamstress prepare another three for me, just in case it snapped again. Only this time, there was no reprimand. I slowly opened my eyes.
I was only a stripling at the time and have since mentally reconciled his immense size, but it did not prevent this particular memory from painting him as a giant. I stared up at him from my position as insect. He was a broad man who blocked the light from the hall when he stood in the doorway and his fist was balled, but this time it did not contain a reprimand, but a collection of images. He asked me what I saw.
I told him I saw the collected works of a serial killer. The pictures were of bodies, all cut in precisely the same way across the throat, sometimes so forcefully that the head was left dangling about the chest by a thread of sinew or a patch of skin. He told me my observation, although precise, must be false. These were done within minutes of each other, but on different planets scattered about the sector. There was nothing connecting these individuals, rich or poor, except the cuts in their neck. This had to be the work of a cult.
Something about that encounter made me overstep my position without hesitation. Even as the words left my lips, I foresaw a lifetime cursed to squiredom, cleaning the slop from the interrogation chambers for the rest of my miserable existence. I told the Arbitrator he was wrong.
So much effort had been made into making it appear the work of a cult, the locations and timings specifically, that the killer had plastered his fingerprints all over every crime scene. Not literal fingerprints, that’s Magistratum work, woe betide the day the Arbites are forced to rely on basic fingerprint evidence to convict. No, the fingerprints of murder.
The cast-off blood from each cut played out identically. Some had struggled, some were killed standing, some were killed sitting, some in their beds while they slept, and yet the cast-off tells the same story – one person, one thing, of the same height, build and strength, did this. As I spoke, I referenced scribes and verispex agents who had done work about this, and I had already begun flicking through my work scrolls for citation. He had already left the room.
I received my deployment orders the next day, a junior post at Caltrax-9. The other squires told me it was essentially a death warrant. Seventeen years later at my posting on Daphnia I receive a missive from the the Segmentum Headquarters. My mentor had been dead for six years at this point, but his signature was undeniably present on the scroll.
The case had been closed, an incredibly prominent member of the Adeptus Terra had been implicated and found guilty, and my name had been signed off as the contributor for the evidence that finally damned them. I was not sure what to make of the information at the time, but it filled my contemplative morning lho-stick time for many subsequent sunrises. There had been a pattern, and I saw it as instinctively as I draw breath. I took a long, purposeful draw on my lho-stick. Tigurian-brand I think it was. The rich, peaty taste turned into acrid death in my lungs.
I coughed and spluttered, falling to my knees. My head swam, the cotton wool on my senses turned to razor blades. The sweet smell of morning lho turned into the sickening smell of poisoned sea air and death. My vision collapsed around me, cascading like a tower of broken glass. The atrocity in that Emperor-damned cave triggered something deep within me. I knew what this meant. This was not the needless wholesale slaughter of Caltrax-9, nor the street butchery of Daphnia.
Another day, another weapons pack! This time from some friendly Hungarian casters on ebay. They are perfect casts with practically no flash on them at all, and they even include some legal-eagle-baiting iconography on some of the guns for added authenticity.
The heavy bolter comes with a box and belt feed to choose from, and although the belt is provided in a straight line it wouldn’t be hard to bend it into position after a long bath in hot water.
The guns themselves are awesome, there’s a great variety of normal, weird and wonderful, from pistols to rifles to heavy weapons. My only complaint is that there isn’t enough ‘normal’ weapons for my taste – 54mm heavy bolters are cool, but I now own four of them, and I have no plans to start tooling up a heavy weapons team any time soon. I’d love multiple las pistols or bolters, but I’m not willing to shell out again for even more special weapons I won’t use.
Give me more weapons I can equip my thugs and goons with – shotguns, busted las rifles, heavy calibre pistols, autoguns, etc. I mentioned this to the seller and they’re looking at building more variety packs if this sells well, so watch this space!