Last time we were mid-warp on our voyage to the unknown – the Void Sea. This had a small stop-off at Gallionic, an “entry point” to the Skylar’s Lie domain, catalogued as such due to its proximity to other systems and relatively calm warp currents.
Many Domains in the Nomad Stars have these entry points, and navigating across the sector is quicker (and usually safer) to hop from entry point to entry point. However…
An alarming turn of events
Beat to quarters! Boarding alarm! The canteen on Deck 7C has been breached!
It quickly becomes apparent from the horrified screams over the vox that there has been a daemon incursion in the canteen. Almost a dozen souls were lost before they were able to seal the bulk head.
Von Gunn wins the initiative roll (hah, sucker) and kicks the door down to the canteen. Inside they are faced with a canteen ablaze – flames lick the walls and in the centre are half a dozen crewmen wreathed in warpfire, forced to dance along to the awful sound created by a pair of writhing pink creatures – Pink Horrors of Tzeentch.
Despite their ever-shifting nature, they both seemed to be carrying music instruments that were creating the terrible noise, and as they flicked and twirled their rubbery fingers about, forced the terrified crewmen to dance along to their sadistic music.
The horrors hurl balls of iridescent warpfire at the opening, pinning many of the crew. Those who aren’t pinned return fire, the Astropath enjoying his new killer combination of magically guided aim and overcharged plasma pistol.
The captain issues his orders:
The Captain charges into glorious melee combat in a bid to break the impasse. He spits prayers of the Emperor’s Mercy as he strikes down the terrified crewmen, unable to control their own bodies moving to the foul music.
He then promptly catches fire.
Freeman blasts the Bongo Horror (new band name, I call dibs) and it melts into a puddle of warp-riddled goo, before changing hue and reforming into a pair of blue horrors. Gasp!
Horrors are some of my favourite lesser daemons because of their weird mechanic of spawning two slightly smaller variations of themselves on death. They are weaker and do slightly less damage, but now the number of targets has gone up…
Meanwhile, under the will of the pulsing music, the firedancing voidsmen charge the canteen opening and engage the retinue. To make them interesting enemies to fight, I used regular voidsmen stats but gave them Unnatural Toughness, a 20% forcefield and flaming melee attacks. Their objective was to gum up the players while the Horrors continued to lay down warpfire attacks, and it seemed to be working.
A few Brimstone Horrors crawl out of the flames of the perimeter of the canteen, eager to contribute to the weird dance party. They spit a few tiny fireballs and are extinguished pretty quickly by the crew.
With most of the Firedancers dealt with, there was the matter of the Burning Captain (new band name, I call dibs). Missionary Lyoness leaps into action, using her surprisingly impressive Strength of 50 for a 90-year-old to cover the distance, and helps put the Captain out while struggling with the final few Firedancers.
One of the Covenant, Beef Loaf (they’re all named after Ancient Terrain Hymn-writers) is killed by warpfire from the Horrors. Her name will be etched into a shrine when we’re done cleansing this horrid place.
The Captain is struggling from a few turns of fatigue from being on fire, so Lyoness (the closest thing to a healer the group has) stabs him in the neck with some stims to keep him awake. Once more into the fray!
Meanwhile Von Gunn has puts the killing blow on the Fiddler, who splits into two blue horrors. Freeman moves into position to try out his illegal plasma gun ‘salvaged’ from the Grin Estate on Cilice. It’s like a regular plasma gun, except it shoots it’s plasma in a 30 degree cone like a flamer, doing plasma gun damage over a flamer-wide area. Yikes.
Better not put anything beloved in the way of that!
After some heated discussion about whether a cone exists in three dimensions or not (GM’s note: it absolutely does), Freeman accidentally catches Seymour in the blast of the plasma-flamer while trying to obliterate the last two horrors, much to the gasps of horror from the rest of the team.
Seymour the dog catches fire, and the whole incident was put down to a gross miscalculation of angles, because surely there’s no way the Explorator would be callous enough to fire the weapon again, knowing the Captain’s cyber-mastiff is definitely in the blast radius.
Seymour is reduced to slag from the plasma blast, taking a considerable chunk out of the canteen and obliterating what was left of the horrors. The crew are genuinely stunned.
After heated discussion about what constitutes an accident, the Captain agrees to forgive Freeman’s transgressions (he did kill the final few daemons, after all), but he promises never to forget.
Licking their wounds, both emotional and physical, the crew return to the last few days of their warp journey.
Through the fire and the flames
Lyoness leads a team to consecrate the canteen. It’s beyond repair, so they replace it as a shrine to Saint Drah’Gunforz, the patron saint of fire and flames. They move an organ from the church deck down to the canteen and appoint someone to play hymns during the day, just to make double sure the daemons don’t return.
Out of the frying pan
You translate safely into the Gallionic system, your vessel adrift in a sea of rocks. Augers show high concentrations of atomic material contained in the asteroids
The yellow light of Gallionic’s sun fills the bridge with its warmth. The drifting sea of rocks and radioactive haze throws strange lights through viewports – An eerie yellow patina, like drowning in a jaundiced ocean.
Proximity alarm! Augers detect plasma drive activation 8 VUs off starboard side and closing!
Bridge officers raise void shields and order deck crews to battle stations. There is an incoming vox from the unidentified vessel:
“This is Captain Firmstep of the Foregone Conclusion. You have trespassed on a trade route that is legally mine and I consider your ship forefeit. Surrender it to us and we’ll let you live.”
The Captain, normally a beacon for diplomatic behaviour and etiquette during confrontation, takes the vox directly and responds:
“You caught us at a bad time. We had to flee our last engagement, we’ve had a bad warp jump and someone just shot my dog. Prepare to die.”
The roar of the crowds is electricity in your bones and the air is heavy with the smell of blood and recycled sweat.
You are in a private balcony overlooking the main Bazaar arena, a wide sandy pit several hundred metres across. High above is a great plexiglass dome, through which the statue of the god-emperor is haloed by the rippling fury of the Telos star.
The crowd encircling the arena is cheering on a cybernetically-enhanced gladiator as he twists the head off an Ambull, holding it up for all to see.
Chief Wrecker Davit holds up a hand at the spectacle and grins at you with golden teeth. A boy in silk pours more wine into your goblets.
”So what do you say? Do you want to play a game to win your ship parts, or perhaps you’re looking to sell? The arenas are always looking out for new and exotic attractions.”
Previously we left our intrepid heroes in the Mercy Bazaar Arenas to do battle over.. uh.. an arena. A Resolution Arena ship upgrade for the Unbroken Resolve, to be precise, and without the funds to acquire it at present, they agreed to do battle in one of the most infamous blood sport arenas outside of Imperial Space.
We open with Von Gunn, Gil and Freeman back-to-back in the sandy arena to the sounds of crowds baying for blood. They were facing three Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild, and they had particularly nasty statlines…
Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild
Skills: Awareness, Intimidate +10
Talents: Ambidextrous and two-weapon talents, Autosanguine, Crushing Blow, Fearless, Swift Attack
Electro-flails: 1d10+12 I, Pen 0, Flexible, Shocking
Pneu-mattocks: 2d10+10 I, Pen 0, Primitive, Unbalanced, Unwieldy
Chain axes: 1d10+14 R, Pen 2, Tearing
Cutting claws: 1d10+10 R, Pen 0, Fast
Ticking clock: If a Chrono-gladiator kills, they gain +1 Unnatural Strength and become immune to Fatigue for d5 rounds. Any further kills increase the duration by d5 rounds. If after 5 rounds it does not kill again, it takes 1 level of Fatigue and d5 Explosive damage to the body ignoring Toughness and Armour. This happens every 5 rounds.
on with the show
Our heroes make the first move, with the Chrono-gladiators trailing in the initiative roll. A combination of Von Gunn’s bolt pistol prowess and Gil’s psychic guidance of his plasma pistol sees off the chrono-gladiator with the shield before it even takes a step forward. It drops to its knees, a smoking stump where its head should be.
Explorator Freeman makes a mad dash at the gladiator with chainsaws for hands, and everyone is stricken with a sense of awful deja-vu.
They exchange blows, parrying and rolling under each other’s deadly swings, but Freeman is caught across the face by one of the biting blades and drops to -2 Critical Damage.
While his combat-heavy comrades are distracted with their own problems, our Astropath is charged by the net-wielding gladiator. The combination of shock net and poison talons drops Gil to -2 Critical Damage. Unfortunately for the gladiator, that isn’t enough to stop him…
Gil unleashes a devastating psychic attack, overwhelming what little is left of net-guy’s brain and gaining total psychic domination over him. He forces him to run as far away from Gil as possible, and Von Gunn heroically plugs him in the back of the head with a twin shot from his bolt pistols. Go long!
Things don’t go quite so well for Freeman. He loses his battle with the Señor Chainsword as its whirling teeth pull two of his four legs clean from their sockets. He falls to the arena floor, burning a Fate Point to avoid death but is definitely out for the fight.
For those at the back keeping count, Freeman has now officially lost the most limbs in the party (3 in total).
As Chainsword Hands raises his arms to deliver the killing blow, Von Gunn explosively separates his arms from his shoulders with clinical precision. The final Chrono-gladiator falls to the ground and the crowd is beside itself with excitement.
After a quick patch-job on Freemen (he has a box of legs on the ship), Chief Wrecker Davit thanks for them for entertainment, and promises to uphold his end of the bargain. The Resolution Arena will be installed on the Unbroken Resolve.
Returning to Espin
You take a short shuttle ride from Mercy to Brother Espin’s vessel – a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold.
Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed. Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen .
The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation
An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard is sitting in a circle of cushions on the hangar floor, pouring tea. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. You know him as Brother Espin.
Brother Espin was thankful for their efforts, and payment was presented as promised for clearing out the space port on Cilice. The Captain had alternate plans – he negotiated for free rights to use the space port instead of payment, something that will sting their bottom line in the short term but will keep their hands free for gin-related shenanigans in the long run. Very cunning!
Espin also offered some new ship components. They could pick two from:
Good Quality Barracks (-1 Space, +1 Morale)
Good Quality Voidsman’s quarters (Raider size, -1 space, +1 Morale)
Best Quality Temple-shrine (+D5 Morale)
They opt for the Barracks and the Quarters, estimating two days to fit their fancy new digs. They beg their leave of the Brother and return to Mercy proper to begin the refit. The crew are particularly thankful to no longer be topping and tailing.
Dabbling in the background
I had learned from my mistakes regarding the Endeavours system in Rogue Trader – less is more. Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve had it work for your own groups, but it wasn’t a good fit for ours.
I still had another idea to try – Background Endeavours from Into the Storm. A formalisation of the Profit Factor acquisition process, but something that can be done once and forgotten about so the players can get on with the adventuring and swashbuckling while the proles do the legwork.
This was a perfect opportunity, the players wanted to rebuild the Cilice Gin distillery from afar and reap the rewards in the future. Time for some numbers!
Background endeavours are split into two parts: the Captain yells at some hirelings to do a job, and the GM calculating how well the job went. Broadly speaking, the players make a few dice rolls and forget about the Endeavour until the GM tells them enough time has passed for the project to have passed or failed.
The Endeavour is outlined by players and GM – what resources they’ll need and the quality of peon needed to perform the job. They already had the resources they needed (most of an abandoned distillery) and just needed a crew – they acquired Good Quality Hirelings, in this case Tavish Contractors.
The GM comes up with a rough time estimate – about 2 months in this case.
Players contribute supporting skills. Freeman provided a chemical analysis of samples found on Cilice (with a Chem Use test) to avoid the fairly obvious horrendous side effects and adds +3 Degrees of Success (DoS) to the Captain’s Command check. Zilla provided fly-by records of the valleys and space port, adding +1 DoS. Lyoness gave a stirring (if somewhat threatening) speech with an Intimidate test, adding +4 DoS to the overall pool.
The Captain makes a Command check to see how well the hirelings perform. He gets a bonus for all the skills his crew have contributed. He (unsurprisingly) succeeds with 8 Degrees of Success.
Retire and enjoy a glass of (currently) the last Cilice Gin in the universe.
Make a Success roll. This is a flat 50/50 chance, modified +/- by the Degrees of Success/failure of the Captain’s command roll and the quality of Hirelings. These rolls are done between games and noted down to bring up at a future session when Success or Failure can be reaped. In this case, I rolled a 10 (super success!).
Check how long it takes. Regardless of success or failure, you roll on a ‘time taken’ table to see how long it’s taken your hirelings to do the job. Sometimes successful endeavours can take much longer than estimated, while failed endeavours can be over very quickly. I rolled 73, meaning it took 125% of the estimated time. 75 days for the job to get done!
That’s it! When the time is up (day 216 shipboard time) I’ll let them know and they can add +2 Profit Factor to their character sheets.
The intention is to keep the story moving forwards while earning money in the background. We’ll come back to this in about.. ohh.. ten episodes time or so.
Auction on the horizon
Last time we also discovered the latest hot topic: an auction being held by the Obsidian Emporial for a rare class of light cruiser in a few months’ time. They had three bits of concrete intel:
Up for grabs was a Secutor-class Monitor Cruiser. A substantial upgrade from the current ship – oodles of space, plenty of weapon hard points and a good blend of defense and manoeuvrability. Perfect for longer, more dangerous voyages into the unknown!
The Obsidian Emporial auction house will not accept money alone, they are looking for something unique or priceless to win their interests.
There will be a number of other rivals vying for the ship – determining who they are and what they have to offer will help the team greatly in their run-up to the auction.
Whatever you want, Leo Getz
With the Auction at the forefront of their minds, the crew wanted some more intelligence on other organisations attending. Time to lean on their old pal, Leo Getz.
After another chastisement from filling their astropathic relay with reams of garbage, Astropath Gil finally gets the message through to Leo. It’s not his Juniors’ job to sift through his manic mountain of thoughts – edit them down!
Brain still aching from mental castigation, Leo comes up with the goods. Two Rivals, both with printed out contact cards so the party can keep some vague centralised notes on the myriad NPCs they’re encountering, and some additional information about them.
Each contact has some generic intelligence about their organisation, their reason for attending, what they intend to offer at the Auction, and additional (sometimes scandalous) information.
Each session I’ll be offering an opportunity for Leo to siphon a bit more for current or new contacts, drip-feeding the information rather than dumping it all at once.
Lord-Admiral Bastille VIII of the Bastille Dynasty
“A martial man, conducting the affairs of his House as though it were a private navy. There are dozens of sour rumours swirling around the circumstances of his inheritance of Warrant of Trade and his poor relationship with the Imperial Navy. “
The Herald of Fane, Fane Disciples
“Intensely secretive and uncommunicative sect of Adeptus Mechanicus, devoted to the works and discoveries of Magos-Illuminate Zeriander Fane.”
Next stop: Nowhere
We had a mission: Gather something unique for the auction.
We had a time frame: Several months.
We didn’t have a heading. The Captain addressed all the potential plot leads from previous sessions and decreed them to all be equally worthy, therefore unworthy of a unique offering to the Obsidian Emporial.
The Captain cast his gaze across a map of the Nomads. So many worlds already discovered.
He stabbed his finger in the centre, a minor warp storm called the Void Sea. He asked “What’s here?”. I referred to my notes – I had only written one line:
“Here there be monsters.”
That was enough for the Captain. He ordered an immediate survey to find an unexplored system of interest in the Void Sea and to chart a course to it. We had a heading!
The only thing remaining was to pick up any last-minute essentials from Mercy-mart for the voyage. The Captain acquired a Bullpup Cyber Mastiff (from Dark Heresy’s Book of Judgement) which is a bigger, meaner version of a cyber mastiff. Zilla acquired a single-shot grenade launcher to help deal with Really Big Problems.
Morale is high, plunder is in sight and with only one day to the warp point, everything seems to be going the Crew’s way! Nothing can dampen their spirits! All they need to do is a cheeky short hop to Gallionic, just a mere three days in warp, what could go wrong?
Last time on the Herald our bold team of Explorers were raiding the untouched treasure vaults of the Golden Valley Estates on the storm-wracked Cilice Prime. They had found the Missionary they had come here to find, all that was left was to tidy things up and plot the next course into the void…
risk and reward
We picked up where we left off, with the crew dragging what loot from the Estate’s vaults they could find. I had tailored each estate with baddies and loot themed to the Estate’s original owners, and each vault would also contain a plot seed for locations further into the Nomad Stars for future adventures.
Glaw Estate: The Glaw Household is a house in decline who make money wherever they can – extortion, slavery and blackmail are their specialities. They have a strange penchant for acquiring religious iconography – whether for some illicit trade or forlorn sense of guilt for their black history, none can say.
The missing missionary and associated plot
A Condemnor Boltgun (with silver stake-thrower for purging daemons)
a few vials of holy flamer fuel
Seed:A dusty book that talks of a lost relic, an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail.
Grin Estate: House Grin no longer exist, but once upon a time they were the name in black market weaponry – anything they couldn’t manufacture they could acquire for you, at great cost
Several crates of counterfeit xenos weapons
Plasma gun with (illegal) starflare vents (which turns it into a flamer)
Seed: A stasis-vault containing a trade agreement between House Grin and the Gunmongers of Fane. The agreement states the bearer is entitled to contract the gunmongers to manufacture weapons, on the condition the bearer provides a working prototype. The stasis-vault also contains a memolith with the coordinates for a Gunmonger facility in the system of Chital
Fallaset Estate: The Fallaset dynasty still exists, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him. They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport.
Dozens of Good Quality Beast Cages in various shapes and sizes, from tiny rodent-sized cages to gargantuan cages designed to hold creatures of terrifying bulk .
Shocknets, shock collars and other beast-catching equipment
a Solo-pattern Boltgun
Seed: Two of the largest cages appear to have lost power and been torn open from within. Their data-plaque is damaged, but it reads something about “breeding pair from Gallionic. Client; Beast House”
Beefington Estate: The Beefington fortune is built on one thing: muscle. Both from vat-grown meat from their huge farms to chem-hanced thugs drawn from penal colonies and feral worlds. Now they make their money above board, servicing military contracts across the subsector for anyone who needs a blunt weapon to solve a problem.
80 crates of Rad Missiles (p51 HA)
hundreds of crates of Barrage (p66 HA)
Seed: Coordinates to a secret Beefington drugs laboratory on a hidden moon near Seldon’s Folly in Skylar’s Lie
There was only one estate left on the map that the team had yet to venture to – the Beefington Estate, sworn enemies of the Arch Militant’s family, the Von Gunn Household.
Too much of a good thing
At the beginning of the Cilice adventure I reflected on what I got wrong, and it was no more apparent that at this moment. Writing all this stuff was so much fun, it never occurred to me that it might not be so much fun to actually grind your way through it all and suddenly remember half a dozen new names and places. As a writer, I am in desperate need of an editor.
As we started the session, I could tell there wasn’t great enthusiasm for clearing out another Estate – we had spent four sessions in and around Cilice for what was really supposed to be just a minor errand. It was time to clear the decks and get back to the fun stuff.
I was honest with my group at this stage, pretty much telling them all of the above. Rather than retcon anything, I suggested we handle the final estate like a boarding action – a hundred or so armsmen had now been landed on the planet following the Captain’s orders, and were ready to storm the poorly-defended final estate.
Three minutes and a few dice rolls later, they had won the day and ‘completed’ the planet so they could move on to other things. I handled the estate narratively, explaining the debased here were slow, imperceptive and incredibly vicious when roused, with clear evidence of decades of drug abuse. Linking that to House Beefington’s penchant for illegal drug manufacture gave the Arch Militant some socio-political ammunition to fire at them later on.
With all the objectives out the way and tedious paperwork abandoned, it was time to reassess and plan our next moves.
Those who fall behind are left behind
I mentioned that the crew had been on their feet for more than 30 hours – it was time to return to the Rightful Remit. Not only was this mechanically correct (I track time because I’m a masochist) but provided a good excuse to have an in-character discussion about our next moves.
In preparation for this discussion, I drew up a star chart with some ‘known’ warp routes that Navigator Mahd’Naz would have under his belt. I stressed they weren’t all the known warp routes, but the ones that would be relevant to the upcoming journey.
The problem arose again. There were some mildly interesting places to go, but in this circumstance you couldn’t just split the party or pop in for a quick adventure – warp travel is arduous and dangerous. Nobody at this stage could justify several months of travel to head to an unknown place with an unknown agenda.
The Captain made the call – we’re heading back to Mercy to hand the quest in and reassess from there.
Astropath Gil calculates they’re too far to send an astropathic message to Brother Espin without inviting daemons to a pool party in his skull, and Cairn was the nearest possible communication point. It seemed that was the direction to head.
I swept the map of Cilice of any additional ‘encounters’, saying the mysterious energy signature had disappeared. We’d had enough of this, and I was already working on plans to re-use these encounters later on in the campaign to give them proper gravitas.
While the crew were discussing their next move and drawing up plans for the distillery, I used this opportunity to feed them some intel.
With so much Intrigue™ happening, I didn’t want to limit plot revelations to whole plot episodes. I had quickly learned from my mistakes that dumps of too much good stuff can be bad. Instead I leaned on a character I had previously set up, a rumourmonger called Getz with shady connections, to feed Gil information as and when it cropped up. This would hopefully keep players up to date with happenings and make the universe feel like a larger place around them. They were making ripples, and they were learning their actions had far reaching consequences.
We need a spam filter
Leo is eager to impress. He was sending so much garbage through the astropathic relay that the juniors were all working overtime and had to draft in extra scribes to deal with all his nonsense. Gil send a stern brain-ache message back while they deciphered anything useful from the spam.
I asked for a Search check, with degrees of success granting additional bits of information. He aced the check, and got all five handouts:
+++ Deciphered intelligence #1 from Informant Getz, day 119 shipboard time of Nomad Stars Expedition +++
1. Fel is hiring skilled miners and prospectors for a contract somewhere in Skylar’s Lie
2. Lady Ash has not been seen or heard from since the Rightful Remit
3. Baroness Ravenula has publicly announced the discovery of a new civilisation of humans and has departed to convert them to the Imperial Creed
4. Lord-Captain Patroneus and Lady Chosokabe have set sail on a joint expedition deep into the Nomads
5. The Obsidian Emporial auction house on Mercy has come into possession of something very valuable and intends to put it in front of bidders as quickly as possible
+++ Messages end +++
None of it was actionable, but it helped the players feel like they were part of something bigger.
Much ado about ambull
We still had a question mark hanging over our heads about the colony of ambull underneath the Fallaset Estate. The (presumably) parents had been offed, but there could easily be more of them living in the warrens deep beneath the earth. Nobody fancied an underground expedition, so turned to Freeman for some WMD expertise.
Finally getting to utilise his Chem Use skills, Freeman whips up some anti-Ambull toxin from samples of the creatures he took from the nest and some rad missiles pinched from the Glaw Estate.
By his reckoning, it could easily wipe out the nest, the Ambull and any margin of error for a few kilometres around. The downside was that it would render the Fallaset Estate uninhabitable for a really long time. The Captain did not consider this a downside and gave the order.
Not willing to risk their own necks delivering the payload, they stopped off at Stiletto station where they knew there were a bunch of servitors just hanging around and pressed them into service. With some minor tweaks to their pathfinding abilities, Freeman strapped the Ambull nukes to their chests, said a prayer and pushed them out the back of an Arvus Lighter.
The Captain gave a short speech to the technomats who were sad to see their newest friends leave, saying they “were all going to go live on a farm”.
To everyone’s surprise everything goes to plan, and they watch the Fallaset Estate become a hellish, radioactive crater from orbit. Good work team!
The hatchling keepers
Three new plasma signatures are detected on long-range augers in the outer reaches of the system. The Voidmaster identifies them as a merciless pack of Chaos pirates called the Hatchling Keepers, leader by the dreaded Captain Moloch. They are an infamous pack of hit-and-run pirates who can tackle vessels and fleets many times their own size, and as their name suggests, prowl the Hatchling Worlds domain for prey.
Shortly after detecting them, the signatures disappeared from augers. They were a week away from their current position, so the threat was not immediate, but still concerning. The crew deduced they had likely gone into silent running and moving to engage.
They notice Captain Avag and her charge were also moving to the jump point of the system, changing course after the Chaos raiders entered the system. The Captain pulled some pretty agonising faces trying to justify picking a fight with them, but in the end decided discretion was the better part of valour and made the order to flee the system.
As an aside, this was my Deus Ex Machina for keeping the game running and moving the players on from this system. They were done here, and were starting to grow tired of all the excess crap I had piled on them. This was my unsubtle way of agreeing with them.
I had, however, run the numbers for the potential conflict. If the players could steal the initiative and have Avag’s Frigate and the mechanicus vessel on side, it would be a close fight, but tipped in the players’ favour. The Captain worked much of this out, but his character’s pride forbid him from asking for help from Avag, and his Naval background pointed out the chances of getting the drop on a trio of experienced raiders in silent running required more resources than they had available to them.
I’ve never seen a player so twisted up in conflict and I fuggin’ lapped it up.
With the Captain still nursing his pride, the team plot a course and make the first jump. The 3 days to Cairn are uneventful, and the astropath uses the few hours between warp jumps to send a brain-message to Espin.
“We have secured Cilice, located the missionary and returning the bodies PS upon leaving we found Chaos lol thx bye”
The route to Mercy was (poorly) estimated by Mahd’Naz at 4 weeks, and barring a minor gellar field fluctuation and a generous helping of corruption points, the Unbroken Resolve arrive in the Telos system intact in little under 2 weeks. A round of gin for everyone!
The first order of the day was contacting Brother Espin and Free-Captain Acheron that they had returned. They returned to his bloated pilgrim boat, The Sword of Saint Troubadous, to hand the quest in.
From space it looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.
Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen
The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation.
He pays them their reward and thanks them for their service. The team leave out a lot of what they considered need-to-know information, pocket the gold and turn to leave. Before they do so, however, he wheels out a huge cart jangling with arms and armour.
Turns out Ol’ Espy had been hoarding some crusader armour – about a dozen suits of plasteel plate (Armour Value 6 – I counted it as fancy carapace armour) with some swords, shields, bolters and flamers, dressed to the nines with religious iconography and purity paraphernalia. If only someone in the party had a bunch of religious wackos following her around who could do with a bit of extra equipment…
They bundle it into the back of their lander and take off before he changes his mind.
it is I, Lombar the archaeologist!
Back on Mercy Actual, the team head to Mayweather Mooring to find Lombar and pick up the loot they had tasked him with recovering from the bridge of the Rightful Remit.
They had some questions that needed answers. This time though, they decided not to mentally peel his psyche open like a brain banana and peer inside with space magic, but rather do it the old fashioned way. Get him reet proper pished. To Telasco’s!
It doesn’t take them long to get him suitably drunk. He sobs into his expensive wine while blubbing incoherently about Lynn, his bodyguard ogryn, who lost her family and he is all she has left. They continue prodding him for information, primarily about Captain Avag and the mystery mechanicus ship in Cilice, but he doesn’t have much more than they already know.
He does, however, drop a little tidbit about Brother Espin, which they weren’t anticipating. Ol’ Espy tipped off Baroness Ravenula about the Unbroken Resolve heading to the Void Sea, a rumour that the crew themselves started when they left Mercy last time.
Although they weren’t quite sure what to make of this revelation, the Intrigue™ had thickened.
Follow the free man
Explorator Freeman, as is his wont, did not attend the Plot Party but instead set about his usual tech-shenanigans.
I felt this was a suitably important moment – the first proper refitting of their first ship. I had a particular image in my mind that I couldn’t shake, so I blew the dust off my drawing tablet and set to work.
I need to work on my concept art a lot, but I was pretty pleased with how it came out for a few hours’ work.
A ship at stake in the High jink
Zilla has been off pursuing his personal leads. He returns to the High Jink – rotating bar on a spire high above Mercy Longshore, an exclusive club for pilots to drink, swap war stories and gaze out at the weird and wonderful voidships at harbour.
“The Obsidian Emporial has a special order – a rare class of light cruiser is up for auction in 3 months. Many big names in Mercy are expected.”
A new ship you say? Many big names you say? We’ll be keeping a VERY close eye on this one…
Arena for an arena
Finally, Freeman goes looking for a Resolution Arena in the markets of Mercy. He wants to go all Battlestar Galactica and have a punch-up palace in the underdecks, but he fluffs his Acquisition check and doesn’t have the right change on him at the time.
A strange man sidles up to him, identifying himself as Chief Wrecker Davit of the Pale Wreckers. He overheard Freeman looking for something he has, and he is happy for Freeman to take it off his hands on one condition.
“All you have to do is fight for it in the Bazaar Arena tonight.”
An arena for an arena? I think we all know how the next session will start…
After last week’s initial incursion onto the surface of Cilice, Captain Orthesian is glad to have a full complement of players once again. With a second incursion planned, and some first hand intelligence gathered about the locals, the players board an Aquila Lander (with the Junior Astropath Fez, Alyss, Felicity, Thud and Oggy-bong) and make their way down to Port Van Arkiel once more.
The Captain also makes sure to install some of Freeman’s engine crew on Stiletto station with a vox and reclaimator tools to give remote access to the Occlusion Shields, and orders Kettlehead to prep an Arvus Lighter filled with armsmen to launch at a moment’s notice. Their plan was simple – have a small insertion team spearheaded by the senior officers, and ifwhen shit hits the fan, drop hell down on the heads of their enemies.
The Lander sets down on the rain-slick concourse of Port Van Arkiel and head inside to Butchers’ Bay, leaving a few armsmen guarding the Lander.
For this session, I had also mocked up a map that had been ‘drawn’ by Voidsman Zilla on his fly-by at the end of the last session. I enjoy making maps, and it’s handy for players to have their bearings when talking about multiple locations, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate.
Out of the storm
Port Van Arkiel is made up of the largest buildings built into the mountains, immediately off the space port concourse. Inside are vast warehouses, receiving rooms and cargo cranes long-since rusted over from inactivity. This seems to be once-proud shipping hub for the space port, known as Butchers’ Bay.
Detritus is strewn everywhere, garbage and torn rags. The rockrete floors have been stained dark from something you hope is engine oil.
A handful of bodies are scattered around – the remains of power-lifter servitors. Anything of value has been stripped from them, and most gruesomely of all, the pallid flesh-parts have also been flensed from its metal skeleton. The only evidence of its assailants are deep gouges left by crude tools, and the unmistakable shape of teeth marks, as though the servitor had been gnawed to the bone.
It was time for a little encounter, something to reinforce the desperate, primitive and resourceful nature of the inhabitants of Cilice.
You notice in the gloom ahead some kind of machinery turned over to form a plinth. The pinth is surrounded by detritus and aged garbage. Light filters in from a hole in the rockface high above and falls on the plinth, Something golden and glittery has been placed there, twinkling in the twilight.
Awareness -30 (sight): the garbage has been gathered specifically to disguise a huge, barbed net underneath the plinth. You think you can make out monofilament cables running from the net high into the rafters above.
The net is 10 metres in the air and Snares anyone in it. If activated, more Debased crawl out from behind crates and underneath hides made from refuse to try and kill anyone caught.
The item on the plinth is a tiara constructed of polished metal and glittery garbage. It’s nothing but a decoy.
Outcome: Sadly, the team immediately and unanimously recognised this as a trap and left it well alone. I’ll get you next time, Gadget.
As the crew ignore my not-obvious-at-all trap and proceed through Butchers’ Bay, they come across a side passage with a brass plaque reading “Shipping Archives”. Inside the room is scattered with papers and broken data-slates. It has clearly been ransacked, but the scavengers weren’t looking for any of the data.
Forbidden Lore (Pirates) +20 or Commerce -10: You notice irregularities in shipping logs and tithe payments. The residents here were importing vast amounts of food and exporting only Cilice Gin, but there were millions of tonnes of suspect shipments coming through the port every month. It appears the powers on Cilice were engaged in massive scale criminal enterprises and lining their own pockets with the Imperial Tithes.
Suddenly, the Captain felt less bad about murdering a bunch of them. They take some photos with their pict-capt devices and Zilla pockets some choice documents before proceeding downwards.
Protected by heavy metal doors, guard towers and atmo-generators, the Gin Distillery looks more like a military installation from the outside. It is built into the rock like the rest of Arrogance, but its design is much older than the rest.
It joins to Butcher’s Bay through a big heavy door, wide enough to fit a battle tank through. Riveted steel cranes and massive pulleys above your head suggest the distillery produced a lot of Gin for export through the space port
The thick metal door to the distillery is barred from the inside. You’d need something heavy duty to get through it.
Everyone turns to look at the armsman lugging around the las-cutter. He grins, showing all five of his teeth, and makes his way to the door. He uses a full complement of las-charges cutting a hole large enough for everyone to climb through, slams his spare clips into place and hops through to join everyone.
The distillery is huge and amazingly mostly intact. Great brass stills large enough to swallow a heavy lander line the walls, copper cabling spiralling off them.
Other machinery seems to have been smashed or pulled apart. There appears to be little of value lying around except a few dusty skeletons, picked clean with teeth and tool.
A brass plaque on the wall nearby suggests two other adjacent rooms – the mash room and the garage.
The monster mash
The team decide to check out the mash room first. Despite being aware for traps, the Captain fluffs an Awareness check and uses most of his Fate Points avoiding a particularly nasty pitfall trap laid in the corridor to the mash room.
The room is hewn from the stone with riveted steel buttresses and steel rafters high above your head. Much of the roof has collapsed revealing more of the distillery above. A strange green fungus covers the walls, originating from the huge piles of harvested fungus in vats and containers in the far end of the room.
A dozen or so of the wretched inhabitants wipe their mouths of fungus stains and gaze at you with panicked, hungry eyes.
With a snap of the fingers, Missionary Lyoness and Alyss step forward and torch the whole room. No dice needed to be rolled – nothing was going to survive that.
What’s in the box?
Finally it was on to the garage, to see what delights awaited them in there…
The door is electromagnetically sealed, with evidence of others trying to open it with crude tools to no avail. The nearby console has rusted over from a leaky still above it. The door needs to be cut or blown open.
Eyes fall back on our lascutter armsman again. He expends the last charge cutting the door open.
Inside is untouched by whatever catastrophe has befallen Cilice. Glow-lamps stutter and fail to ignite on whatever backup power is left. In the centre of the garage is something large and vehicle-shaped under a protective tarpaulin.
Hooked up to the vehicle is a trailer with a large reinforced metal tank that looks like it could contain almost a tonne of liquid. Stencilled on the side of the trailer is “Arkiel Gyn”.
The Captain gives it a tap, it sounds full. He calls for Lyoness to bring her emergency wine glasses out and they all sample some of the most expensive booze in the galaxy. The Explorator runs some tests on it with his mouthparts, while the Astropath catastrophically fails a Psyniscience test to see if it’s safe to consume and doesn’t have any mind-effecting warp presence.
What followed was perhaps my favourite bit of character interaction to date. They all loved the Gin for different reasons;
Captain: “This is really expensive!”
Missionary: “This is really good Gin!”
Voidmaster: “This is weighted well to be driven at high speeds!”
Astropath: “This is alive!”
Arch-Militant: “This is really explosive!”
Explorator: “This is really good fuel!”
It was time to see what was under the tarp.
Under the tarp is a mighty steed of a vehicle – a tightly packed, quad-tracked vehicle resembling an angry bull. A pair of autocannons sit atop its turret, gleaming in the half-light as though they were fresh off the assembly line.
Common Lore (War) +20: A common sight on the battlefield, this rugged castellan-pattern quad-track unit is a Taurox – an armoured personnel carrier praised by Imperial commanders for its speed and persevering machine spirit. Axial co-dampeners redistribute the weight of the vehicle across its four tracks as it moves, allowing jagged outcrops and unevenly piled rubble to be traversed at full throttle. It is equally at home on the open road, through the crumbling ruins of a hive city or the knotted jungles of a death world.
The Explorator gave the vehicle a once-over. All systems are good Captain! The Voidmaster checks the most important part, the hymn-vox. With an astoundingly critical Search check, it turns out the space-glove compartment is filled with ancient Terran hymn-discs!
Voidmaster Zilla slams on his favourite war hymn by Saint Sabbath the Black and routes it through the external vox. The shutters to the garage are down, but that doesn’t stop them.
With a roar of the engines, and with a tonne of the universe’s last supply of Cilice Gin in tow, the Orthesian crew tear through the flimsy shutters and out onto the rain-slick valley floor. They christen her ‘War Pig’ in honour of Saint Sabbath’s apocryphal works and gun it towards the Golden Valleys in search of the missing missionary.
The Golden valley estates
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. A highway of sorts has been constructed, now overgrown and cracked.
Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past.
Ugly palace-fortresses begin to emerge from the thick curtains of rain. Massive constructions that were probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. Many of the smaller ones have been leveled, now nothing but broken ruins being reclaimed by the rain.
As the crew near the nearest estate, the Grin Estate, warning runes flash across War Pig’s console. The targeting spirits of the automated weapons guarding the estate are still sharp as ever, but it seems they ran out of ammunition a long time ago.
The Captain gives the order to move in, so Zilla guns towards the estate.
On the approach, Von Gunn (in the gunner’s seat, naturally) picks up incoming small arms fire – someone in the estate is firing lasguns at the Taurox – and poorly at that. One shot in a hundred seems to be hitting, and with the heavy armour of a military-grade transport, there was no chance of being hurt.
Von Gunn: “Permission to return fire, captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
The Arch-Militant racks the autocannons and lets loose. A weapon designed to shoot down small craft and light vehicles opens up on the crumbling ruins of the Grin estate. Masonry explodes. Bodies fly from windows. Von Gunn rakes the middle section of the estate with high-velocity explosive-tipped rounds until huge plumes of smoke and tongues of fire erupt from the estate as the upper floors crash down, annihilating everything in the middle section.
A poor Estate of affairs
As the dust settled, the Astropath was quietly invoking in the back of the armoured transport. Before someone could point out the risks of the psyker throwing his powers around in the back of a metal coffin containing all the plot characters, he had launched a Mind Scan on the remains of the estate.
He reads over a hundred conscious minds, slightly more advanced than the ones they encountered on the Port Van Arkiel concourse. There seemed to be several ‘leaders’ of sorts inside, so he homed in on one who identified as ‘Rak’.
The rest of the party were beginning to look a bit panicked as the Astropath’s eyes had rolled back in his skull and was twitching uncontrollably in the back of the Taurox while Von Gunn was screaming with delight in the gunner’s seat, but there wasn’t much that could be done at this point. Gil was off on a magical psychic adventure in his head, and they just prayed it all went well.
The Mind Scan power allows you to single out an individual and communicate with them telepathically. Gil kept it simple – giving this ‘Rak’ character a straightforward command: OPEN THE DOOR.
It all went a bit quiet. They waited for a few minutes, and they could just about make out the crackle of small arms fire from inside the estate from their position about 50 or so metres out. The Captain gave the order to open fire on the estate again, which Von Gunn carried out with glee. “I get to roll how much damage?” (it’s 4d10+4, Pen 4, if you wanted to know. Dakka dakka dakka.)
This time Von Gunn scythes straight through the foundations of the right hand spire of the estate. With a thunderous noise, the entire spire collapses back in on the estate, as las fire can be seen spitting from the estate like faulty fireworks. The spire topples sideways into the estate defenses, crushing the outer wall and exposing the inner courtyard to the outside world.
Zilla: “Shall we go have a look Captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
They bring War Pig around, and inside the courtyard they can see a fierce laser battle unfolding between… well nobody was quite sure. The place was teeming with Cilice wretches wearing vaguely similar attire as each other, but they were all gunning each other down like their lives depended upon it.
Gil did another quick Mind Scan but in the melee couldn’t get quite as detailed information. Their numbers had dropped by half in a matter of minutes, and although he couldn’t communicate with Rak, he got the impression that Rak had thought he had been visited by a vision from the God Emperor and had decided to take up arms against his fellows. Just as planned, I guess?
They uncoupled the Gin trailer from War Pig and hit the gas, riding straight over the rubble and into the courtyard, shooting at anything that looked at them funny. Zilla rolled a critical for pulling off sick doughnuts while the passengers poked their weapons out firing ports and took pot shots at whatever they could see.
The Captain got on the loudhailer. “Primitive descendants of the Grin Estate, cease your pathetic attempts to overcome the Orthesian Dynasty!”
The remnants of the Grin wretches scattered to the hills, and after disabling the anti-air capacity of the estate so they could bring in reinforcements, set about looking for where a criminal family might keep all their valuables in an estate of this size.
Storm-ridden Cilice Prime is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Cilice’s jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Van Arkiel.
There are is very little life recorded as native to Cilice bar its simple fungal life used in the production of Cilice Gyn. Continual gales carry the harmless spores far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail.
This was to be our first game not at full party strength. The players for Von Gunn and Lyoness couldn’t make it this session, but they gave their blessing to go ahead and investigate the planet. Last session Von Gunn got pretty badly banged up, so we figured he would be back on the ship recuperating. Lyoness would be tending to his wounds and helping herself to the rubbing alcohol.
The Captain, unwilling to do too much without his bolt pistol-wielding murder-machine and ultimate anti-daemon tool, agreed that this would just be a ROUTINE CHECKUP on the planet.
With the decision made, the remainder of the party boarded an Aquila lander, along with a Junior Astropath called Fez, our two heroic armsmen from the Geist Incident Kettlehead and Felicity, plus three additional armsmen to make up the numbers.
Of course they needed names, so they were dubbed Cram, Thud and Oggy-Bong.
Zilla, Captain, Freeman, Gil + Junior, Kettlehead, Felicity and 3 armsmen – Crad, Thud and Oggy Bong. I had been assembling these guys between sessions, knowing we would need more armsmen reinforcements at some point. There’s a Meanwhile on the Bench article if you’re interested in their construction.
Port Van Arkiel
As you descend through the howling winds and driving rain, you make out a large cluster of structures on the equator of the planet, built into a mountain and across an natural arch rock formation high above a valley below. The structures resemble a space port and dotted evidence of industry – this must be the colony of Arrogance
Strangely, the surrounding golden valleys are also strewn with massive installations – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land. It’s clear that civilisation here flourished outside of the colony.
The constant storms imposed a -20 to any Pilot (Fliers) test that Zilla was required to do. It’s just as well they took the fancy ship rather than the hovering brick, as Zilla scraped a few passes on the way down.
The space port is built on a great arch of stone, whittled out of a mountain by the howling winds. You set down on one of a dozen landing platforms for heavy barge landers, suspended on carved columns of stone hundreds of feet in the air.
The buildings of the port are wide, squat affairs, hugging the ground like limpets against the tide. Rain blasts across the landing platforms and the wind sails underneath, threatening to hurtle you off to to the jagged valleys hundreds of feet below you.
The colony of arrogance is built into the mountain – its spires jutting from the rockface like snapped bones poking through broken flesh.
No sign of life
The crew disembark. There was no transponder handshake, no automated acknowledgement of their arrival, and no delegation waiting to welcome them to the port. Nothing but the rain.
As they squint through the deluge, Zilla notices what remains of heavy lander on one of the adjacent platforms – the only sign of machinery at all on the space port concourse. The Explorator also whips out his auspex and runs a few scans – the source of the emergency distress beacon was also present on the space port, pointing towards a conning tower in the opposite direction.
The Captain orders two armsmen to stay by the Aquila lander and begin marching towards the adjacent heavy drop ship.
On an adjacent landing platform is the skeleton of a heavy lander, designed to drop large amounts of supplies and people, stripped of paneling and moving parts. There is evidence of a surprising amount of ornamentation and Imperial iconography, although much of it has been torn off or defaced.
After some investigation, it seemed much of it was stripped by hand, and there was evidence of teeth marks around much of the paneling. It was in a similar state to the carcass of the Stiletto Station from the previous session.
The cockpit has been stripped back to its bones – anything of material or technological value has been ripped out in a crude manner unbefitting of such a noble workhorse of a machine. The ship’s logs indicate it arrived here a few months ago, approximately the same time Brother Espin suggested his missionaries would have arrived.
Freeman set about claiming whatever was left in the cockpit, and with some good Trade (Voidfarer) checks found the black box of the lander. It was the voice of someone unfamiliar:
“… leaving some of the mercenaries and able-bodied missionaries to guard the lander ….. No signs of the colonists … Missionary-Superior wants to investigate … palatial estates … answers there … waste of time … nothing here … no sin goes unpunished in the God Emperor’s eyes …”
The team conclude this must have belonged to the Missionary that Brother Espin asked them to find. Given the lack of signs of struggle, they weren’t going to find any more evidence here. It was time to check out the distress beacon.
The conning tower
You see a conning tower, sporting a wide metal dish and vox-spires at the far end of the space port, some 200 metres away across the rain-lashed concourse.
The building is a standard modular imperial hab-block, modified for environmental conditions. It, like every other building of Arrogance, looks like it has been here for decades.
The door is reinforced plasteel but its locks have been removed or forced a long time ago and now swings freely.
While some of the crew head inside, it was now our Astropath double-checked his Mind Scan ability, reminding everyone (including myself, damn his eyes!) that he can detect everything living within a kilometre radius. He rolls something disgusting and looks at me proudly.
Gil: “I see everything”
Well there goes the element of surprise I guess.
GM: “There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, of bestial minds closing in on you. Their thoughts are simple and primal, but you make out an absolute emotion that unifies them: hunger.”
While this was resolving itself, Freeman and Zilla were investigating the conning tower.
Inside is dark, lit only by the bunker-like windows looking out onto the space port landing platforms. It is a welcome relief from the storm outside.
Most of the vox-consoles have been ripped apart and stripped back – scavenged for Emperor-knows-what. The only thing remaining is an emergency transponder unit, crudely wired into the vox-spires and powered by a jury-rigged Imperial power pack.Behind it there are dozens more power packs, all burnt out. The one plugged in is new
Common Lore (Navy/War)+20 test revealed the serial codes match that of an Imperial heavy barge lander
Gil is about to alert the team to his brain-discovery, when their comm-beads crackle to life to the sound of a salt-of-the-earth armsman:
“My Lord! I swear I saw something moving in the rain… I… By the Emperor!”
As the sound of gunfire blossoms across the concourse I ask everyone to ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.
With the crew in the centre of the board investigating the conning tower, they realised they were being set upon from two sides by pale figures in the rain. With a sheer drop off the edge of the concourse, they were going to have to push through their assailants if they were to emerge victorious.
The rain imposed a -20 to all Ballistic Skill and Awareness tests, but that didn’t phase the crew much. They took up defensive positions and prepared to repel their attackers.
The figures in the rain are mostly human, although barely so. Their lean forms are emaciated sinew and lean muscle, stretched thin under leathery purple skin.
Their eyes have become wide and furtive under the darkened clouds and barely contain the gnawing, piercing hunger in their wretched souls. They wear torn clothes and heavy rags, some seem to be dock officials, others are dressed in the heavy boiler suits of labourers.
The armsmen, Freeman and Zilla all take one side, while the Captain, the Astropath and his Junior take the other. They open fire with a fusillade of shot and plasma, scoring hit after hit and blowing them apart in equal measure. These creatures were dogged, but they weren’t tough.
The problem became apparent during the second round. Plasma pistols can annihilate their target very easily on their Maximal setting, but leave you vulnerable the following round as they recharge. It was time to draw blades and engage!
Another thing became apparent very quickly – the models on the board were not the only enemies in play. As the horde was whittled down, more clambered over the lip of the concourse, or poured in from further away. Ammunition suddenly looked like it might become an issue.
The Astropath, try as he might, was struggling to hit anything after last game’s impressive fare. His Junior, on the other hand, was slotting fools left and right. At one point our Astropath was seriously considering casting Mind Cloud on his Junior just so he would stop showing him up.
The Captain picked up an extra sword on Mercy a few sessions ago, and this was his first opportunity to actually use them, much to his delight. He wasn’t present for the Geist Incident, and the servitors on Stiletto Station were always too far away for him to engage. With a blood-curdling cry he leapt into action, leaping into the biggest mob and cutting a few down.
With a laugh of victory, he cried “Let’s see them get past my parry!”
And then the third issue arose.
The first pathetic swipe from one of the wretches hit, but before you make a test to Dodge or Parry, you have to make your Forcefield check if you own one. The Captain does own one, a highly amusing one at that, which has not come into play for quite some time.
The Displacer field activates at the broken fingernails of a starving wretch, blipping him temporarily out of existence and reappearing somewhere else. This time slightly further away from everything…
This continued for much of the battle – the Captain attempting to engage multiple opponents, only for them to issue a combat cuddle and he would bloop away somewhere useless. Utterly hilarious for everyone except him.
Speaking of combat cuddles…
Explorator “Legs” Freeman sprints off with something ludicrous like a 40 metre charge range and engages some of the hungrybois. He mocks them with his 11 damage soak, practically impervious to their broken teeth and sharpened bits of metal. That is until…
“Can you give me an Opposed Strength check please?”
“A what now?”
Turns out a good way of taking out a character with a lot of soak is to drop lots of enemies on him and get grappling.
Combat cuddle engage! The more pile on him, the more Fatigue he gets, the harder it is for him to break out of the grapple. Fatigue doesn’t care about your 11 Soak. It wasn’t long before Freeman was unconscious on the floor, being dragged away by hungry hands.
In the background you can just about make out a few downed armsmen. Although the wretches numbers were dwindling, they had a few prizes and were trying to flee with them.
Unfortunately Freeman is super heavy, so Zilla and Felicity manage to blast enough away to make the rest flee. The Captain and the Junior see off their side of the combat and rush to save Kettlehead.
In the melee, some of the characters were too busy prioritising targets near them that poor Cram is downed and dragged off by the wretches. The Captain issues an immediate moment of silence, and despite the crew’s protests that he’s probably still okay and we should look for him, declares Cram dead and he died an honourable death (hopefully).
The rest of the wretches flee, leaving their prizes behind. Gil snags one of them with a Dominate power, strutting him back and slapping some zipties over his emaciated wrists. While the horrid thing thrashes round like Gollum with a rope round his neck, they all scratch their heads as to what they’re going to do with him.
They bundle everyone into the back of the Aquila, stabilising the wounded armsmen where they could. They wouldn’t return to the planet again without the rest of the party.
They throw the wretch in the Brig onboard the Unbroken Resolve, and Gil sets his Juniors on the task of Mind Probing him to break his primitive psyche wide open so we can have a good ol’ prod at it.
Meanwhile, the Captain issues a command to Zilla – hop in an Aquila and do a fly-by of the port and surrounding areas. He didn’t want to be blind next time they went down.
Zilla makes a pass of the colony, very very narrowly avoiding crashing in the storm by using ALL of his Fate Points. All of the wretches in the port had disbanded, and his flight augers (as blind as they were in the storm) weren’t picking up life signs.
He headed over towards the surrounding area, known as the Golden Valleys, where there were a number of large palatial estates constructed outside of the colony – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land.
On the approach, warning runes blared across his console. Automated AA turrets had picked him up and locked on! A stream of heavy bolter rounds whizzed past the cockpit, and although it was still too rainy to draw a bead on his assailant, he decided discretion was the better part of crashing in hungryboi town in the middle of a lightning storm and pulled away, returning to the Unbroken Resolve.
A mind is a precious thing to waste
By now, the Juniors had metaphorically peeled back the layers of the wretch’s mind and were having a good old poke around inside his psyche. It was primitive, bestial and above all, hungry. It would be dangerous to stay inside it too long, as such a mind so far from sanity would certainly have consequences to a “sane” individual over prolonged exposure.
They do glean some interesting insight though, the wretch was part of a band or group salvaging the port. Despite it’s apparent degradation, it still retained some semblance of conscious thought – an overwhelming sense of religious guilt about its actions, and its loyalty to a leader called Glaw.
With all the cards on the table, it was time to draw the session to a close. They would regroup, resupply and rest up for next game, bringing their A Game (and a full team) to the next brawl.
Last time on the Orthesian Herald, our band of brave Explorers had fought off hordes of ravening Orks on the dead alien world of Gangue Prime to try and find the next piece of the map to the fabled treasure ship, the Righteous remit.
“As you enter the monolith’s interior chamber you are overcome by its grandeur and unsettling alien construction. It is like standing in the centre of a sea of light, and you are unable to tell where the floor, roof or walls begin and end. Most disconcerting is the air seems alive with images spinning and dancing around your heads. To read the information you must spend time focusing on the swirling images to make any sense of them.”
(This was a Willpower test or suffer D10 insanity points. They gained the information either way.)
“As you gaze into the mirror the images begin to merge and spin until you are engulfed by an ocean of stars and planets. Worlds slip through your fingers and the icy void brushes your skin as you peer like a celestial god across the whole of Gangue.
“With a little effort you realise you can move events forward and backward in time, watching the dying star slowly flare back to life and the worlds once more teem with activity. Finally, you find what you are looking for: the arrival of the Rightful Remit.
“Tumbling from a rent in the void you mark its passage until it clashes into a cluster of asteroids out among the Shard Halo. Moving time back to the present you can see it still; frozen and waiting beneath the ice.
“You know instinctively that you have the exact location of the Rightful Remit.”
Our Astropath, Gil, was the one ‘volunteered’ for the mission of reading the Star Chamber. There seemed to be some misunderstanding that because he was the psyker, he would naturally have the highest Willpower in the team.
Regardless, only a handful of insanity points later, he had the location of the treasure ship beamed into his mind from the alien construct.
Feeling quite good about proceedings, he suddenly feels a sharp stabbing pain in his head, and the sensation of someone going through his memories and ransacking it for loose change. At the entrance of the chamber he can see the reason why – Lady Ash, the psyker under the employ of Hadarak Fel, had waited until Gil was distracted and forced herself into his mind to steal the location of the Righteous Remit.
The chase was on! She fled as soon as she was identified, and the players heard the throaty roar of the stolen attack bike. The party was devastated – not only had she stolen the plot macguffin, but she’d stolen back their brand new bike after they stole it fair and square. Everything seemed lost, until the Explorator pointed out that he can sprint over 70 metres in a turn.
The chase was back on!
What followed was a foot/bike chase as the scampering spider-limbed Techpriest scampered after the rogue psyker as she gunned the attack bike across the Gangue dust bowl.
He caught up, punching his limbs through the back of the bike’s wheel well (much to Lady Ash’s surprise), rupturing oil lines and causing flying sparks from the grinding metal. They exchanged a terse, high-speed close-range gun battle that ultimately lead to Lady Ash using her powers to Compel the Explorator off the back of the bike, but not before the bike engulfs in flames and careens out of control, eventually coming to rest at the edge of the alien maze.
When the Explorator finally pulled himself back up and investigated the burning wreckage of the bike, there was no salvageable parts and no signs of Lady Ash. A bitter pill to swallow.
The beast with the broken back
Returning to the ship, they consoled themselves with the knowledge that they had the location – a tumble of asteroids in the Shard Halo of the Gangue system – and with a good wind could still arrive before Fel did. They set off, only one day’s travel with some good rolls from the Voidmaster.
Scattered across billions of km of space, the Shard Halo is Gangue’s glittering crown, a seemingly endless stretch of frozen rock and scattered vapour clouds.
You close within a few thousand kilometres of the icy asteroid where the Rightful Remit rests, and can scan its surface to identify the twisted wreck trapped inside. Drawing close, you see that the treasure ship is not alone and dozens of other craft seem to have been drawn here, creating an icy ship graveyard.
The team pull close to the icy asteroid and set off in an Arvus Lighter along with three of Lyoness’ Covenant, lead by their leader Alyss.
Now that you are closer, you can see the faded majesty of the ancient treasure ship. Once an impressive vessel, it has now fallen to ruin; its hull is stripped of ornamentation and its length is riddled with holes and scars.
Most terrible of all the damage is a mighty rent halfway down its hull where the ship has almost been broken in two. Taller than a hab block, the rend has exposed dozens of decks and looks like a likely way in.
The ship’s interior is somehow still powered, with powerful energy seals blocking off the lower decks of the vessel. The Explorator does some technomagic and figures out the power is being routed through the bridge – if they head there, they can shut it off.
With great caution, our band of heroes make their way to the bridge, picking their way through twisted corridors and broken arterials. They were becoming suspicious as to how easy it was so far…
The bridge of the rightful remit
The bridge is faintly lit with the pale radiance of Gangue’s star through the vista-panels of its observation gantry.
Under this cold light, you see a long semicircular chamber with the Lord-Captain’s throne at the far end. Down each side of the chamber are servitor pits, cold and dark and packed with ancient part-mechanical corpses.
The other two structures of note are a Navigator’s well rising from the centre of the chamber and the cogitator core vestibule just below the throne.
Everything is covered in a thick layer of glittering dust, smoothing lines and hiding the human remains that lay strewn about the deck.
The Explorator sets out examining the core cogitator vestibule, sticking his MIU where into a rusted socket and getting an unhealthy dose of insanity. Didn’t mamma ever tell you about sticking your MIU where it didn’t belong? The Captain explores the Navigator’s pulpit and finds an extra crispy Navigator with an identifying medallion – Daam’Samarra.
Zilla suddenly remembers he carries a backpack-sized voxcaster round with him wherever he goes, as it suddenly chirps into life with a Bridge Officer from the Resolve informing him that they’d picked up signs of an unidentified small craft making its way towards the Rightful Remit. They had sent a lander of Orthesian armsmen down to reinforce, hold fast!
It wasn’t coming fast enough – Zilla catches gunfire on the vox, the armsmen were locked in battle in the corpse of the old treasure ship with unknown assailants.
The Captain was anxious about the well-being of his men and heads up one of the exit ramps to the bridge. The heavy blast doors open, finding himself coming face to face with…
Fel Dynasty armsmen come pouring in through both doors onto the bridge, spearheaded by the rogue psyker encountered in Port Impetus – Lady Ash. She is joined by an angry servitor with chainblades for arms.
With the Explorator up first, his first action is to immediately shut one of the two doors the armsmen had come in through, stranding half of the armsmen on the wrong side of the door and leaving the combat servitor all by himself on one side of the map.
This action would turn out to be pretty decisive later on, as it helped the players take out the invading force piecemeal rather than take them all on at once.
Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone making ill-calculated decisions. While the rest of the Crew were engaging the armsmen coming in through the open door on the right, the Explorator moves to engage the combat servitor on the left. He blasts him with his hellgun as a free action and charges into combat.
Unfortunately, the ‘combat’ part of ‘combat servitor’ wasn’t just a meaningless title. After a bit of playful banter, the servitor carves the Explorator a set of new MIU sockets. Explorator Freeman hits the deck with -4 wounds and an entertaining amount of blood on the floor (how can a guy with no legs have so much blood(?!).
By now the first set of armsmen had been dealt with by the Captain, Astropath Gil and Lyoness and her Covenant. They swing round to deal with the servitor threat and the armsmen who had finally forced their way onto the bridge. They were also joined by Lady Ash, who had unfortunately got caught on the wrong side of the door and missed most of the fight too.
As they burst in, Voidmaster Zilla had been working his way into an advantageous position, trying to use the height advantage from the raised bridge to grenade the incoming armsmen. Lady Ash catches wind of this (damned telepaths! It’s like they can read minds or something) and Compels him to throw himself from the bridge.
Another helpful lesson in why Willpower shouldn’t be a dump stat.
With the Explorator taking a power nap and the Captain’s displacer field causing him grief, it was left to Gil and Lyoness to mop up what was remaining. Lady Ash read the room and figured it was time to dip, so she ordered the servitor to cover her retreat. With great glee it clanked and thumped all the way up to the Astropath, and my notes explicitly read “and fucks up Gil”.
The servitor is eventually carved apart by psychotic religious women with chainswords and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The word from the friendly armsmen on board – the Fel Dynasty had retreated and left the spoils to the players.
As the corpse-counters began their tallies and the players were dissecting the fight that happened, it was time to see what was in the holds of the treasure ship.
The holds are filled with the ancient wealth of plundered worlds that will plump your Dynasty coffers for quite some time. In addition, the lowest levels of the ship contain sealed vaults with impossibly valuable treasures, the likes of which you have never laid eyes on before.
This would be my first opportunity to use the rather splendid Treasure Generator from the Stars of Inequity book. Each player would get to roll a piece of loot, and then afterwards we could discuss who gets what.
Once the players had rolled their loot, I went away and fluffed up the loot a bit more, so rather than ‘chainsword +1’ it would feel more like a unique item.
Detailed here are all the pieces of loot the players received – the rolled results are written in italics, followed by a bit of background fluff, and finally the game effects in bullet points.
All in all an exciting, sight-seeing, bloody first adventure for our heroic crew! Let’s see where their whims take them next…
Archeotech Lunde-pattern plasma drive
(Ship component, plasma drive, ancient miracle, imposing, good quality, unpredictable, trusty)
Wrested from the broken remains of the Rightful Remit, the Lunde-pattern drive is an ancient and overwhelming testament to ages long past. In the late 31st Millennium, Plasmasmith Elicio Lunde was at the height of his craft, dedicating his many centuries of service to the production of high-end plasma drives for escort ships.
His plasma drives burned with an intensity far greater than normal for their size, modulating their plasma wash into a variety of vibrant hues of visible and invisible light. Exhaust conduits spaced evenly across the outer hull reduce internal space, and can be harmonised to vent in impressive warning displays.
This is a Good Quality plasma drive (same as is currently fitted) but takes up -1 Space
It provides a +10 to Command and Intimidate checks made on board the ship
Once per game, it can provide a +10 bonus to anything involving it
When it passes, it gains an extra Degree of Success. When it fails, it gains two extra Degrees of Failure
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first
Demiurg carapace armour
(armour, carapace chestplate, alien techn, remnant of the endless, poor quality, dogged)
The Demiurg are a race of short, semi-humanoid traders and miners who maintain cordial relations with several xeno cultures. They are known to avoid Imperial space, making them a very uncommon sight, but the increased sightings of Demiurg artifacts in the Nomad Stars might signal a resurgence.
They have a high level of ionic-based technology, which it is understood they gifted to the Tau Empire – their close allies. Their name means ‘artisan’ in ancient Terran, and despite this armour being clearly designed for a shorter and broader torso, does not stop it from being exceptionally effective.
6 Armour to the body, 7 kg
Wearer suffers -10 to all Agility tests
Whenever the wearer is hit with a Melee attack, the attacker must pass an Agility test or suffer 1d5+2 E damage with the Shocking trait
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Xenos) test first
(Melee weapon, razorchain, ancient miracle, indestructible, vanishing, zealous)
A lightweight sword composed of a number of interlocking blades joined by a cable. At a moment’s notice, these blades can be separated, turning a sword into a many-bladed lash. In the hands of a skilled wielder, these are almost impossible to parry and can be woven past almost any defence.
Despite bearing irrefutable evidence of human construction, the Nomad-pattern Razorchain bears a striking resemblance to a choice weapon of Dark Eldar reavers. These similarities are hand-waved either as coincidence or adoption of superior human technology by feeble xenos minds. This particular model is wrought from a strange metal alloy that never seems to lose its edge and seems impossible to mark or cut with any device.
Melee, 5m range, 1d5+4 R damage, 4 Penetration, Balanced (+10 to parry with), Flexible (cannot be parried), 2kg
Cannot be destroyed by natural means
It gains a +10 to Concealment checks to hide it about your person
You can never have a bonus greater than +30 or a penalty worse than -30 to use this weapon
House Kornallis Navis Prima Maxima
(gear, navis primer, ancient miracle, compact, unpredictable, dogged, house rule: +10 to Nav Stellar)
Navis Prima are perhaps some of the most valuable items an Explorer can possess, as they outline safe routes through the warp, or at least as safe as warp travel can get.
This is a rare example of an already extraordinary artifact – created by the Magisterial Navigator House of Kornallis, who have been around since the dawn of the Imperium of Man, and are said to have stood at the sides of those brave explorers who first ventured into the Nomad Stars. This small, unassuming leather book, marked only with a humble embossing of a stylised House Kornelius crest, can slip inside a pocket or kept out of sight.
When opened, an interactive holo-display is projected in front of the reader, affording them complex – if cryptic – knowledge of likely warp routes and stellar phenomena in the Nomad Stars.
It provides a +10 to all Navigate (Stellar) tests
Search tests to find this item on your person are at -30
During Step 1: Determine Duration of Passage in warp travel, you may re-roll the Route Stability before calculating.
If using the Navis Prima for Navigate (Stellar) tests, or to re-roll a Route Stability during warp travel, increase any Degrees of Success by 1, but increase any Degrees of Failure by 2.
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first
This chain axe is wrought of a dark iron, that despite bearing the hallmarks of human construction, still inspires a sense of dread when looked upon. Preliminary tests suggest that the iron used in construction been extracted from human haemoglobin, and that when the teeth of the weapon are in motion, look like the dark rays of a foreboding black sun.
Curiouser still is a hidden compartment in the axe head, that when activated from a rune on the hilt, fires a high-calibre shell straight and true at an unsuspecting target. These rounds are no different from common hand cannon ammunition, but something inside the weapon synthesizes a powerful venom to coat the ammunition before firing – something that is probably worth not looking too much into.
Melee, 1d10+2 R damage, 2 Penetration, Tearing
It can make a ranged attack as if it were a pistol – 30m range, S/-/-, 1d10+4 I damage, 4 Penetration, Clip 1, Full reload, Toxic
It provides a +5 to all Charm and Intimidate checks, but Search tests to find this item are at +30
Reclamation Crusade Sallett helm
(Armour, reinforced helm, finely wrought, best craftsmanship, potent, dogged)
Despite it’s archaic, clunky appearance, this ancient helm is light as incredibly light and wearing it is like donning a second skin. It is finely etched with murals of the Troubadous Reclamation in the 32nd Century, when the Saint-Admiral Troubadous (a prominent disciple of Saint Drusus) swept through the southern stars of the sector, bringing primitive human tribes to heel and re-forging the Imperium under a single banner. After seeing the Onus region begin to swell with settlers and piety, he cast his gaze southwards to the Nomad Stars, a time before the Great Warp Storms sealed off the throat.
Saint Troubadous went missing somewhere in the Nomad Stars, and thousands of official funerals were held in his honour, but not before carving a bloody path through heretic and xenos, seeding countless worlds with humans and the Imperial Creed. The capriciousness of the warp caught up with his ambition, however, and the passage through the Great Warp Storms (now known as the Throat) sealed up, and did not re-open for another 8 millennia.
Mankind is left to only speculate what happened to the Saint-Admiral, his final crusade, or the worlds he left behind…
8 Head armour, 4.5kg
One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
“As you near the water’s edge, the corpse-coloured province of Syracuse Magna looms in the distance. A thick, dark cloud hangs above it, and the iron-black sea reeks of stagnation and raw sewage. The omnipresent drizzle turns into thick gobbets of oily water falling from the sky. The sound of the heavy rain patters loudly off your driver’s metal hat.
You hug the coastline tightly, giving enough berth to the multi-storey hab blocks that loom uncomfortably outwards over the waters. She picks an entrance to the maze of waterways and crumbling tenements that make up the district and the motor-skiff ambles lazily into a sluggish canal. A thick film of oil and offal covers the surface of the canal, and everything here reeks of rot
Despite the dilapidation and flooded tenement blocks, there is a semblance of life here. Citizens and labourers shuffle around in the shadows and under the cover of overhanging buildings. You catch the glint of every pair of eyes following you as your motor-skiff chugs down the canal.”
With a brand new chapter of our Dark Heresy campaign about to begin, set in the decaying province of Syracuse Magna, it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream I’d had since I had been flicking through old issues of White Dwarf as a kid – having an awesome game board.
The idea of building a modular board grew organically from the premise. Syracuse Magna needed introducing in a bang – a three-way brawl between the players, some noble House Guard and some local scum.
The campaign book I’m basing the plot off has an interesting map in the beginning – something that looked like it would be really fun to set aside most of a session for a proper honest-to-Emperor dice-fest. It had at least a dozen guys on each side, with the implication of more ‘further away’, multiple levels, heavy weapons, firebombs and boats.
What started out as something that could be sketched on my wipe-clean hex map evolved as I started to plan the multiple levels. There needed to be guys shooting down from above, so I’d need to build walkways (obviously). Walkways would need something to connect to, so there would have to be buildings (obviously). Heck, the canal needs to be at a lower level from the rest.
At this point, it was becoming increasingly apparent that I was deluding myself into thinking I wasn’t going to build a game board. I had recently had a clear out of my old Elysian drop troopers, and that had freed up a dangerous amount of capital in the hobby fund.
The original plan was stuck to as closely as I could with the time I had given myself. Some parts fell by the wayside due to time constraints, such as the inlet board.
Originally I had wanted to go all-out and create full resin canals, but I couldn’t figure out how best to make those modular – I have no use for single-purpose terrain.
The game board from TTcombat would fit the bill – cheap and lightweight, it would be easy to store and I could get a lot of different configurations out of it. They should be stackable too, so I picked up some of the TTcombat venice plaza sections of different sizes to add a bit of height variance where appropriate.
I would pick up a bunch of different bits of scenery too, that way I’d have a tool kit of stuff that I could draw upon wherever and whenever my players decide to get into a fight. It could be an open dockside, a drowned slum or abandoned city block.
Assembly began in earnest. I love the TTCombat range for its detail and ease of assembly, and everything in this pack was no different. The broken factory and shipyard went together like a dream, and the containers would be to swell my container collection to a more healthy 9 in total.
I had also assembled some silos from pringles cans which would serve to boost the height significantly and provide more things to drape walkways off.
The crates were a bit fiddly to assemble but they came together in the end, and I made the conscious decision to glue them together in lumps rather than have dozens of loose crates scattered about my board. Where I would lose a tiny amount of customisation, I would gain massively in convenience. I’ve had loose bits of terrain floating around on boards before and the novelty wears off immediately after the first accidental nudge of the table.
As I was doing more research into scenery options, I naturally gravitated towards various Malifaux resources, including the sewers walkway and downtown walkway sets by Plascraft. I can knock rickety wooden walkways together with some PVA and balsa wood easy peasy, but I can’t knock together something that looks like it wasn’t, uh, knocked together. I picked them up off ebay for cheap, favouring the un-coloured plastic sets over the pre-painted ones.
They were an absolute pain in the ass to assemble – they were made of the kind of plastic that mocks every kind of adhesive except superglue. I went through four tubes of superglue and seventeen fingertips before everything was finally assembled, and it was only when it came to basecoating I realised I should have bathed the whole set in acid and set it on fire before starting, as it took three coats of base coat before the paint would stop pooling on the oils left on the plastic. Not cool.
When they were done they looked great – they fit in to the theme beautifully, they’re lightweight, sturdy and flexible enough so they can be knocked around a bit without any paint chipping or structural damage.
I was, however, putting off the longest, hardest (and as it turned out, most damaging to me personally) part of the project – the boards themselves.
foaming at the mouth
I had looked at dozens of different game boards, trying to decide how to design the ones I now had taking up space on my bed. There were plenty of Mordheim and Malifaux game boards on Pinterest and Google Images that tickled my fancy, but none that I could realistically achieve by myself in the time frame I had allotted.
My first attempts with glue and sand were pretty abysmal and not what I wanted at all. I wanted a cobbled/tiled/flagstone look, but the only textured plasticard I could find was expensive and sold by the A4 sheet, I needed something that could cover large areas for not very much money.
I came across some enterprising individual on a Mordheim forum who had used a biro on some thin polystyrene (the kind your supermarket pizza comes on) to draw on flagstones and cobbles. Perfect! All I need to do is find some in my local area and draw some on, right?
Turns out, nowhere sells such a thing, and I wasn’t about to buy and unwrap a dozen pizzas. I finally found some sheets of kids’ craft foam in my local book store and picked up two packs just to be sure. It was the perfect material – much tougher than polystyrene but that just meant I had to push a bit harder. Should take the strain of gaming more, right?
You have to press really really hard with a biro to get the indentation. I broke the ball out of four pens making these, and the ones that didn’t lose their ball will never write again due to weird internal rupturing of the ink cartridge.
By the end of the ordeal I couldn’t hold a pen for a few days afterwards. I had lost feeling in the end of my thumb from gripping the pen so tightly and I had a huge blister on my middle finger from where the pen rested. Over a month later I still don’t have very much feeling in my thumb any more, and the blister has turned into a huge callous. Yay hobbying!
Aside from that though, the sheets came out great. For what was essentially 25p a sheet, they were great value for money if you don’t value physical hand health that much. Time to stick them to things!
The sheets were carved up in accordance to the random scribbles I had made on the wooden boards. Harking back to my brief, I wanted them to be usable in pretty much any arrangement, so they needed to be (relatively) even all the way round.
I also wanted to have a conscious divide between cobbled areas and muddy paths where the roads have worn away decades ago. Making these tiled areas variable shapes and sizes meant depending on the arrangement of boards, you could get wide streets, tiny claustrophobic alleyways or snaking dog-legs between buildings.
A few of the boards went against the brief and I edged them with lollipop sticks as a boardwalk or dockside. I needed a dock in the first fight, and I didn’t have the time to figure out how to carve up one of these tiles and make an inlet. Perhaps a project for another time.
The mud was made with a nice big pot of polyfilla I had lying around in powder form at home. When mixed up in some old Chinese tupperware, you can apply it liberally with finger and spoon to create some weird shapes. Some tiles and sand pushed into it for texture helped finish it off.
With all the boards in strange primary colours, things were beginning to look a bit Legoland. I was happy that I had got this far and I was apprehensive about applying colour to them. If the paint didn’t take, I was out of options.
Duncan be praised
Well bugger me, they came out better than I’d ever dreamed they would. I killed off quite a few brain cells applying the black undercoat – I lost count of how many rattle cans I went through over the course of this project.
A light dusting of grey over the black helped break up the big chunks and would make painting easier down the line.
The wood sections would get a light dusting of brown spray and painted up the same way as the other wood sections of the map. The cobblestones were highlighted with a slightly lighter grey, and splodged liberally with brown and green washes applied with a spongy bit snipped out of a miniatures case.
A final highlight was drybrushed with Rotting Flesh. In all the descriptions of Magna it would be described as a decaying, unhealthy place, and everything from the wood to the stone to the metal would have a slightly unhealthy tinge to it.
The path sections would get a thick’n’heavy coat of brown. It was time to get muddy.
I picked up some water effect stuff to make bases for the Undertow and this was a great opportunity to use some more of it up. It is very thick, and used for creating water effects like splashing water, so it would be perfect for giving me an unpleasant moistness to my mud. It would also double as a sealant for the polyfilla, as I discovered very quickly that despite it looking great and being super easy to work with, it chips like a bitch.
I applied it liberally and smooshed it into the surface of my board. trying to let it pool in the crevices and get wiped off the raised areas so it would look more like standing water.
I had my concerns at this point that it would look more like a river or literal standing water rather than mud, then realised it didn’t matter. It could be used for either depending on what I might need!
The stuff was touch-dry in less than an hour, but I let it dry overnight just to be safe.
The test fit
When everything was dry, next day I pushed the boards together, sprinkled some terrain on it and set up my antagonists for a photo shoot. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
Yeah, I was pretty fuckin’ chuffed with how these came out. Everything just worked. I was utterly impressed by my ability to paint all the wood in the same dead fleshy colours, despite many of these projects being painted months apart and in some cases, very drunk. The multiple layers worked really well too, something I was going to revisit later on and finish off more of. Everything looked swell, and with only one night to go before the big day, it couldn’t have worked out better.
It was time to assemble the board ready for the final fight.
Death in magna
I stuck as close as I could to the original map, and made concessions for the areas that didn’t work. I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to make ANOTHER boat, so we used the nose section from a previous TTcombat purchase which actually turned out great.
The core structures were shuffled around too – the warehouse in the far corner didn’t fit on the tile I had put there and was better suited to being more central so it could be interacted with more. I commandeered some of my old 40k scatter terrain that was most fitting to the scene too – a few bits of ruined building that would stand in for, well, anything really. The one in the bottom left of the map would house a cheeky chappy with a hunting rifle that would just be a massive dick for the whole fight.
The rest of this post is just images, vaguely structured in the order they were taken. I lament not taking more pictures or documenting it better, but luckily many of my players took plenty of snaps on their phones.
So, for your pleasure, I present one of my life-long dreams achieved;
Our brave naval Acolytes eventually all managed to get off their sinking ship (hopefully not too heavy-handed a metaphor for future endeavours…) and brutally murder some starving poor people trying to feed their families see off the criminals and protect the shipment.
The day was won by the Acolytes, and they even won grudging thanks from the House Guard protecting the shipment. It sounded like everyone had as much fun playing as I had building, and we all learned some valuable lessons about the importance of having Willpower as your dump stat, why shotguns with the Scatter trait are so deadly, and just how long you can stay on a sinking ship before your team-mates start to try and bounce grenades off your head.
We are in Haimm, an ill-omened system on the edge of civilised space, far out to the galactic west of Holy Terra. Twin white suns blaze fiercely here, their titanic gravity wells doing battle over the shattered bones of celestial bodies from a bygone era.
You have been travelling for several months from another part of the galaxy to seek fortune and glory among the Nomad Stars, as part of the remit of your newly-inherited Warrant of Trade.
Captain Tassa Zacherie Aphesius Orthesian has gathered a crew over 20-thousand strong to pilot the flagship of the Orthesian Dynasty – the Unbroken Resolve – and a staff of five advisors, counselors and warriors to act as the Dynasty’s eyes, ears and fists. (See here for the full run-down of characters)
Your journey has been long, and although no warp jump could ever be considered simple, it has been relatively placid compared to the adventures that lie ahead.
Upon arriving in the system, your deck crew have set a course for the only inhabited body and safe harbour to resupply before venturing forth: Port Impetus.
You barely have time to warm up the plasma drive for several days of inter-system travel when a Vox Officer informs you of an incoming message, encrypted in your dynasty’s personal cypher. You hear an old man’s voice, cracked with age:
”My Lord, I am Aubrey Luther. You do not know me, but I have been waiting a long time for a member of your family to return. I bear a message and a gift from your Great Grandfather, Lord-Admiral Thaler Orthesian. I would meet with you as soon as possible in the Court of the Dead, the biggest market square in Port Impetus, at the coordinates encrypted within this message. It is a matter, I assure you, that promises great glory.”
Introducing the setting and characters
One of the trickiest parts of starting a new game is setting the tone for the universe and introducing the key elements (in this case, the characters and their roles on the ship) in as little effort on the players’ behalf as possible.
I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘you meet in a bar, introduce yourselves’, as although that’s handy for getting a mental image of your co-players, it’s mostly just reading the descriptions off you character sheet. A combination of stage fright and unfamiliarity with the game world can make this an unsatisfactory introduction for new and experienced players alike.
Instead of asking players to react to each other, I wanted to establish their roles as head honchos on a ship of thousands of faceless goons by asking them to react to ‘typical’ scenarios they might find aboard their ship. They would be unique to each character, reinforcing that character’s role aboard the Unbroken Resolve and help the players flesh out their personalities by providing them with mini crises.
Captain: On top of your regular Captainly duties, you are presented with a report of goings-on that are worthy of your attention. You cannot be everywhere at once so these have been delegated to your senior officers, but you do have enough time between your important administrative duties to oversee and assist up to two out of the five reports if you deem it necessary.
The Captain was given a handout of what the other players would be up to, and he could choose any two to assist. I wanted to reinforce the idea that the Captain was a powerful character that can pretty much do anything, but the challenge is in prioritising what you should be doing. He ended up assisting the Astropath and the Arch Militant, with varying degrees of success…
Voidmaster Zilla: The course charted by your deck officers is the safest but not necessarily the quickest. There are a few errant gravity wells of larger celestial shards between you and Port Impetus that could be used to slingshot you to your destination at a much greater speed, but a much greater risk.
Pilot+Manoeuvrability test, if failed, it would have done 1 Damage to the ship plus 1 per Degree of Failure (minus armour). As it was passed, the travel time to Port Impetus was reduced by 1 day and the senior officers got a temporary +5 boost to any interaction tests on Port Impetus as rumours of their daring approach reached the locals.
Explorator Freeman: The Unbroken Resolve is a resolute beast, not coyed by the superstitions of men or the predictable rotations of celestial matter around a binary system. She has many hidden reserves of strength, and in this relatively safe system, it would be a radiant display of her machine spirit’s strength to increase cruising speed and burn brightly through the heavens.
A fairly standard intro for the Techpriest of the group. They needed to pass a Tech Use test to decrease travel time by half a day and had the added bonus of increasing the ship’s morale by 1.
Missionary Lyoness:Haimm is an ill-omened place, spoken of by voidsmen in hushed whispers across the sector. Something about the light from two suns that turns folks mad. These whispers are beginning to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, and many crewmen are missing their daily prayers and break from their work schedules. They need a firm voice and presence to get them back in line and to reaffirm their faith in the Dynasty and the Emperor.
When presented with an opportunity to bolster the crew’s morale and steel them against the dark, the Missionary instead instructed her staff to round up a hundred of the most recalcitrant crew and dragged them into the chapel, calling an emergency sermon for the remainder of the voidsmen not on duty.
After spitting fire at her sermon and rallying the hearts and minds of those present, she flushed half of them out into space. This very quickly established a precedent of zero-tolerance attitudes to even the slightest whiff of insubordination.
Arch-militant Von Gun: A request for weapons-free has been submitted by both Battery Lords of the Prow and Dorsal macrocannon decks. It is no secret that they are in direct competition with one another for fastest reload and truest aim, and you suspect they are looking for the opportunity to blow off some steam after so many months of travel. The Dynasty’s macrocannon shells do not grow on trees, and they should be shown by example or by force that the pecking order exists for a reason.
What was intended to be a simple Intimidate test or playful shooting competition between the Arch-Militant and his subordinates turned into a pretty harrowing scene. The Arch-Militant wasted no time in immediately ordering both Battery Lords to be nailed to the macrocannon shells they wanted to use for target practice and were blasted out into space, accompanied by a dramatic speech from the Captain about getting ideas above one’s station.
Two terrified apprentices were promoted to Battery Lords in their masters’ absence, let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite them…
Astropath Gil:The Astropath Transcendent receives an emergency vox broadcast on a fine-band frequency. You are requested ASAP to the junior Astropath’s chambers. As you enter you recognise the shapes of your four juniors in a huddle around the Astropathic organ in the centre of the chamber, clearly in distress. They are holding one of their number in their arms, fear erupting from their soul and madness babbling from their lips. The other three sense you entering, and bow their heads in deference. They quickly explain that during her shift as receiver, she tried to push her mind’s eye too far into the Great Warp Storms to see what lay beyond. She will be dead within minutes, but perhaps there is something that a more powerful, dutiful Astropath may glean from her prying before she succumbs to insanity..
This was an opportunity to use some of the Astropath’s extra-curricular abilities, and encouraging the use of telepathy (specifically the Mind Probe power) to glean information from people you might not get access to otherwise.
After I slightly cocked up the rules for Mind Probe, the Astropath managed to squeeze every bit of cryptic fortelling out of the dying junior;
The journey through the Throat is surprisingly swift but utterly perilous should you stray from the path
Wolves lurk in the rest stops, awaiting wandering prey
Beyond the throat lies a flickering eye, that watches over the answers you seek
Underneath the flickering eye lies a maze of light and a chamber of stars
It is a map in the heavens to a veil of ice and a beast with a broken back
I’m sure none of that will come back to haunt him.
Perched on the very southern tip of the Onus Region, Port Impetus stands as the gateway to the Nomad Stars and the vast untamed void beyond.
This is a place of desperate hopes and vain dreams. Port Impetus teems with a transitory population of traders, spies, merchant factors, pilgrims and missionaries amongst which move Administratum functionaries and minions of the mechanicus, all feeding on the riches that flow from the realms beyond the warp storms in the Nomad Stars. This is the last place the Imperium resides, the last bastion of mankind where the rule of the Golden Throne keeps the horror and possibility of the unknown at bay..
As the crew gather their things, I put heavy emphasis on the official, protocol welcomes they receive from all manner of functionaries, authorities and peers. This is the last civilised place they will see for a very long time, and I wanted to make the contrast with their first stop in the Nomad Stars a particularly jarring one.
They make no bones about heading out to meet Luther, the Missionary riding a sedan chair carried by oiled servants. On the front of her chair is the relic she gained as part of her Origin Path, something that the faithful citizenry of Port Impetus take immediate interest in and swarm her trying to receive her blessing and touch the relic.
They meet up with Luther, a knackered old servant of the Dynasty who has been waiting almost a century in Port Impetus for another Orthesian family member to arrive so he can fulfil his duty. He regales them with his exposition dump and tantalises them with the tale of the Righteous Remit.
The riddle of the Rightful Remit
”In my youth I served as a deck officer aboard The Emperor’s Testament, a vessel belonging to Commander Karlorn and part of your great-grandfather’s fleet. During one terrible expedition we were caught in a violent warp storm and blown far off course.
”After we came to rest in a strange and uncharted system the ship’s astropath heard a faint message – a cry for salvation from a lost Imperial vessel.”
”At first we believed it was an old message (an echo in the warp, the Astropath called it), hundreds if not thousands of years old.”
”When we examined it, we discovered just what we had stumbled onto – an astropathic marker from the fabled treasure ship The Rightful Remit”
”The Rightful Remit is an ancient treasure ship long ago swallowed by the shifting tides of the warp, a ship reputed to hold the entire wealth of a plundered world.”
”The story goes that long ago, an Imperial warlord discovered an ancient colony of man that had fallen to heretical worship and it was put to the sword, sweeping away a thousand years of civilisation in three days of fire and blood.”
”When the killing was done and the corpse counters began gathering up the detritus of genocide, the warlord marvelled at the riches he had won.”
”He did not trust his fellow crusaders to carry it away, so he set about filling his flagship, the Rightful Remit, from stern to prow. He tore out gun decks and launch bays, marooned thousands of his crew and stripped away the vessel’s innards until she was bursting with plunder. The warlord then vanished into the warp and from the pages of history.
”Free-traders, adventurers and imperial servants have all tried to find its resting place to no success, until Commander Karlorn and The Emperor’s Testament stumbled upon it by pure chance.
”Karlorn chose not to pursue it there and then due to the damage sustained from the storm, but made a note of its location so he could return when his ship was at full strength. We returned to Port Impetus and left me here with the map for safekeeping while he went to find your great grandfather. He never returned.
“For a hundred years I’ve been keeping this memolith, waiting for one of the dynasty to return so I can fulfil my duty”
He hands them the plot macguffin memolith, but before they can pocket it, a cyber-hawk swoops down from the rafters above and knocks it into the crowd. Gunshots erupt around them, followed by a voice shouting “Stop them! Grab that memolith!”
A botched ambush
Roll for initiative! It was time to get our beaks wet with some fisticuffs. I’m a huge proponent of combat as early into a new game session as possible. It makes for good in medias res and helps players work out very quickly what their characters are good at.
The board was set up with lots of lovely laser-cut mdf scenery from TTcombat, arranged roughly to look like a busy market. The players were in the centre while the antagonist and her armsmen body guards dressed in fancy attire.
The fight served its purpose – to establish a hierarchy of combat prowess in relation to one another and introduce the pleasingly crunchy combat rules for Rogue Trader. It’s all well and good for your character sheet to have a pair of bolt pistols written on it, but with no previous knowledge of the universe or your place within it, it can be hard to grasp its importance.
When all your teammates are struggling to pin down opponents, placing shots between cover or grappling with foes in close combat, it’s easy see where your strengths lie when you can comfortably explode at least one enemy head per turn with your hand-held rapid fire rocket launcher pistols.
The combat went in our crew’s favour, despite the Captain sustaining a dangerous amount of damage from a fluffed Displacer Field check. The armsmen were only trying to pin down the players with grenades and suppressing fire so they could try and grab the memolith, which was working until the players figured out their plan and concentrated fire on anyone trying to dash for the memolith lying on the ground.
We were playing in a crowded market area, so there was an additional -30 imposed to any shooting actions for the first few rounds as the press of panicking bodies was so thick. I’d already decided that grievous misses would result in a poor bystander biting a bullet instead, mostly just a narrative device to help reinforce the reasons for the penalties.
What I hadn’t counted on was the Captain and the Astropath blasting away into the crowd with plasma pistols trying to get the foe that was scrabbling for the memolith on the floor. The half-incinerated bodies of “near misses” kept piling up. The port authorities weren’t impressed.
A brush with the law
The Boys in Blue arrived, cracking skulls with their shock mauls and ‘inviting’ the Rogue Trader and his crew to accompany them to see the Marshall. As a Rogue Trader, your fancy bit of paper works as a Get Out Of Jail Free card for most ‘minor’ crimes like manslaughter and destruction of property.
The slap on the wrist from the Precinct Marshall amounted to; “I could prosecute you, but that would involve a lot of paperwork on both our counts, so could you just bugger off and not do it again, ta.” Again, I wanted to enforce the rule of Imperial Law versus non-Imperial space (when we get there).
They also managed to learn the name of their attackers; the armsmen were under the employ of a Rogue Trader called Hadarak Fel – another reason the Marshall was keen not to get involved. Two Rogue Traders actively brawling on Imperial soil is an administrative nightmare.
So our gang of scallywags had a quest, a fight, a rival and adventure in their hearts and were ready cast off and fly out into the heavens.
One last thing before they went though – our resident quadruped techpriest decided to skitter away as everyone was boarding and find a quiet harbour console somewhere. It was being used, but he politely unplugged the poor servitor so he could engage HACKER MODE.
After a trawl through the files of ships at berth, he found a frigate called the Fel Hand. Without any other information available he couldn’t know for sure, but a Rogue Trader is definitely the kind of person who would call a ship a pun of his own name. With some techno-wizardry he changed the ship’s time slot for tomorrow, which would would have a knock-on effect on a whole bunch of logistics and delay the Fel Hand’s departure by several days. There are no rivalries like petty rivalries, eh?
And with that, the crew of the Unbroken Resolve sailed out into the inky void, ready to stare down the Throat and into the adventures that lay beyond.
From the viewport you can see Syracuse in the distance – a concentration of pinpricks of light in the infinite darkness. It draws vessels from far and wide like moths to a flame. The skies around the planet are polluted with starships of all sizes and classes, from the mighty warships of the Imperial Navy on patrol outside their home dock of Port Sempect, to the bloated Universe-class mega-haulers carrying a world’s wealth of resources and people, to the smaller system ships scuttling about carrying precious cargo between the planets.
Syracuse is a sight to behold. Visible long before you can make out its details, half the planet is shrouded in utter darkness, the other half in burning sunlight. Tidally locked, the planet orbits the Tangenian sun perfectly in time with its own axis spin. Only a thin strip of habitable space runs the equator of the planet from pole to pole, and every inch is covered with a sprawling hive cities
Haloing the planet is a broken ring of drydocks, ports, loading yards, warehouses, space stations and detritus. Syracuse once boasted a proud, unbroken run of orbital docks, but these days it is mostly abandoned, fractured and isolated, left to the devices of scavengers, pirates and reclaimators.
The Grey Halo
Our new Dark Heresy campaign begins in earnest, set on the twilight ringworld of Syracuse. As an oft-mentioned place and the capital planet of the Onus Region, Syracuse needed a map worthy of its stature – not just for this Dark Heresy game but also for any future games I choose to set on the planet. I needed a map that was not only informative, but robust enough to be used in the future with little or no editing.
The entire process was recorded and sped up, in the first illustration timelapse Dreadquill has produced to date. A lot was learned on the technical side of things, but the biggest one being: do a test recording before starting a four-hour drawing process. As a result, we get this weird artifact in the middle of the screen, so apologies for that.
From little acorns
The process started with a hastily scribbled map on some lined paper made on a late-night Megabus journey. I’m a big fan of the Total War series, and I drew a lot on my 300+ hours of Shogun 2, a strategy game set in the Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States period of Japanese history. I had a lovely framework to balance powerful households, civil strife and interesting factions without needing too much legwork up front.
The planet is covered in a strip of hive cities, joined together by fields of slums, so the whole map was only ever going to be a straight line rather than a series of continents, so that made the planning a little easier. I didn’t have too many requirements for what needed to be present either; I needed a ‘Province 13’ for setting the spooky campaign in and I needed a ‘Province Prime’ to introduce the planet at its most opulent, to meet the Inquisitor in, and to build the Kismet Palace – the seat of Inquisitorial power in the region.
I thought it would be interesting if the different major households had suzerain status over different provinces, swearing fealty to an independent province (Prime) where their Imperial overlords were set. This had the potential to set up lovely clandestine operations against different houses and cold wars bubbling over into direct border violence in the slum areas.
As a side note; the campaign is based loosely on one of the written campaigns and astute readers may pick it up, so please try not to spoil it for my players in the comments!
I also needed to emphasize the isolation of Province 13. It is one of the last independent provinces left on Syracuse, and slap bang in the middle of the destroyed, desolate and abandoned provinces ravaged by thousands of years of civil war and neglect.
Province 13, or Syracuse Magna, are fiercely independent despite having no exports or being capable of raising tithes or contributing to the planetary defense force. It is run by utterly corrupt, self-serving nobles who have ruled for generations, and there is no limit to how low they will stoop to claw on to whatever fleeting power and wealth they have left.
The concentration of the sprawl of slums between the provinces begins to thin out the closer you get to Syracuse Magna, roughly on the opposite side of the planet. I enjoy little details like this in maps, as it serves not only as wordless world-building, but also as a valid in-game reason as to why the players can’t just ‘pop out’ to get some help from nearby neighbours. Isolation is the theme of the campaign, after all!
I am very pleased with how the map turned out, and although I learned a lot from the timelapse process I think with all the technical difficulties I had assembling it, very few of them are noticeable in the final cut. Huge thanks to my old chum Frazer Merrick for the sound too, go check his stuff out and throw money at him.
Syracuse Magna has been my most ambitious project to date, with three factions planned for models (The Undertow, the Ash Garrison Enforcers and the at-time-of-writing-unseen Arbites) AND a gaming board, it’s going to be a busy few months for me!