Meanwhile, on the Bench: completed Longshore Brassnecks

I’ve had a lot of fun painting these guys. Normally, muscle-bound knuckle-draggers aren’t my jam – I swerve from barbarians and fighter-types in any roleplaying game – so I didn’t think the Goliaths from Necromunda would appeal to me.

Boy was I wrong.

I got the Necromunda set for Christmas and I had such a great time assembling the two gangs that I couldn’t wait to get stuck in to the painting. I knew I wanted them to be multi-role, usable both in  Necromunda and as goons for our games of Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader.

The Longshore Brassnecks were the result – beefy gangers who show off their prowess by hauling cargo around without the need for lifting equipment, and running security for the point defense guns of Mercy. I liked the idea that they made their furnace plate armour out of spent shell casings from macrocannons (if there is such a thing…), so the armour would be painted to look like battered copper.

I think they came out rather well, and I left two models back for the inevitable campaign amendments or new recruits. As much as I’d LOVE to buy another box set of these guys, holding two back for spares seemed like the more prudent idea. Plus, I fancied trying my hand at a lady Goliath, but that’s a project for another time…

squad goals

First up is the leader, Musgrave. He’s armed with a power hammer, stub cannon and a fighting knife for those delicious extra dice in combat. Sure you have to split your attacks between the weapons this way, but I reasoned it was better to roll more dice at a problem and increase my chances of hitting with the hammer in the first place.

I picked the bulkiest armour, head and shoulder pads for him too so that he would stand out, and slung a stub cannon on his back to make use of that 3+ Ballistic Skill. I did a little conversion work on the power hammer too, swapping the head for the Renderizer gave it the heft I was looking for.

Next is Zastava, a Juve armed with a stub pistol and a spud jacker. As one of two Juves in the gang, his job is very simple – run around and be generally irritating.

He originally had a knife rather than a pistol, but there were so many moments in our test games when he found himself behind cover not able to do very much. Even with a 5+ Ballistic Skill it’s better than nothing, and opens up his tactical options a little bit. I’d rather get one shot at 5+ than no shots at all.

The pistol is from Zinge Industries, as the core Goliath box set sees fit to only furnish you with two stub pistols…

The other Juve is Gat, wielding a brute cleaver rather than a spudjacker but his role in the gang is still the same as Zastava’s. His stub pistol is from Zinge again.

Next up is Roth, armed with a Renderizer and a stub pistol. He had a little conversion work done to him too – swapping the head round with Musgrave’s power hammer so it’s slung over the shoulder instead of wielded two handed. The pistol had to be swapped round with the combi-plasma pistol arm too.

Considering the work that went into him, he’s not actually played in any games yet, he tends to get left on the sideline. Poor Roth.

Next up is my boy Sturm, the Champion of the Brassnecks and very dear to my heart. I’m not sure why the rivet cannon gets such a bad rap among the community, it’s been a pleasant surprise in every game we’ve played so far. Granted, the 9″ range can totally hamstring your plans, but Sturm is a Champion armed with a spud-jacker – he’s got two Strength 5 WS 3+ attacks he can throw out if you think charging him is a good idea.

Opponents tend to underestimate the Goliath ‘heavies’ into thinking that just because they have a heavy weapon they’ll be a pushover in close combat – something Sturm has used to his advantage more than once.

Attaching the spud-jacker was easy enough – the hand that was holding it was carved away with a craft knife. I tried my hand at a bit of object source lighting on the rivet cannon and although I’m not super pleased with how it came out, I’m glad I tried it!

This is Vektor, the cheekiest of the Brassnecks, known for his tendencies to pull off trick shots with his grenade launcher or bounce missed shots round corners much to the frustration of opponents.

He comes with an axe and stub gun too (in a holster on his back), as we’ve played enough original Necromunda to know the importance of a backup weapon if you’re the heavy.


Up next is the dark horse, Pounder. When we were making the gangs as a group, we didn’t really know how silly the combat shotguns were until one of did a double-take on the character sheet halfway through the test game and pulled out the flamer template.

He’s great for in support for keeping a whole bunch of people pinned, and every now and then one of those Strength 2 shredder shots actually does something!

He has a stub gun as well, because let’s be honest – why look excited about one weapon when you can look excited about two?

Finally we have Ruger, a humble support ganger with a stub cannon and fighting knife. The theme for this gang was BIG GUNS, as my aforementioned aversion to muscly brutes hitting stuff meant I decided to take them in a different direction. Their job was to haul big munitions to use in even bigger guns, so it was only reasonable they took a liking to big guns themselves.

After running a game or two, I’ve realised just quite *how* much I like the stub cannon, and there will be several more gangers being equipped with them after this!

Orthesian Herald: session 4 – Welcome to the Nomads

The star of the Telos system is a huge and primal stellar mass, far brighter and more energetic than any star should be. Its fires rage so fiercely that the cataclysmic energies unleashed within cause vast bulges of burning plasma to distend Telos’ form, writhing as though immense beasts fight within.

At a (relatively) safe distance away is a network of hundreds of stone structures floating in Telos’ voids, tethered into a clutch of asteroids by huge chains and protected from Telos’ fury by layers of void shields. This is the first and last port of call for anyone venturing into the Nomad Stars – Mercy – where the mighty rule by force of arms and the weak scrabble to survive.

Mercy from space – courtesy of FFG
Bathed in light

This was to be our players’ first introduction to Mercy (heavily based off Footfall from the Rogue Trader books), the nexus for plot, factions and shopping opportunities for the foreseeable future.

This would be the closest to a ‘neutral’ zone they would encounter – a friendly, safe port is rare in the Nomad Stars, the nearest thing many have access to is an unfriendly port where everyone has mutually agreed not to openly murder each other too much.

Unfortunately for our players, their trip to Mercy was not without incident. A slightly botched Navigate (Warp) test when translating back to realspace landed them dangerously close to the Telos star, giving the ship a massive dose of radiation. Hundreds died instantly on board, with practically another third of the crew dying slowly from radiation poisoning.

Quick thinking from the crew saved most of their lives, but they would need several weeks, if not months, of recuperation before they would be fighting fit again.

With their tails firmly between legs, they limped to Mercy, ready to restock, repair and refuel and try to avoid attracting attention from the locals.

A wretched hive of scum and villainy

With an angry burst of venting gases, the armoured airlock portal swings outwards. As the swirling miasma clears, a thousand sights, sounds and smells assault your senses simultaneously. Stepping in, you find yourself in a huge, vaulted space, the walls made of roughly-hewn stone dripping with the corruption of ages.

This is the Mercy Longshore, and it is crowded with hundreds of void-farers, labourers, servitors, merchants, and scum — all swearing, grunting or calling out the values of their wares. If you expected a welcoming party, you’re disappointed — this is Mercy, where blood and strength are the only currency.

Standing in Longshore, I wanted to make sure their first introduction to Mercy was a stark contrast to any kind of Imperial port they had ever been in. My favourite introduction to Mercy in previous games has always been an encounter I lifted from one of the adventure books – the Eaters of the Dead.

The players are approached by half a dozen strange, avian-looking bipeds with a head full of quills and a penchant for bargaining with new visitors to Mercy. 40k nerds might have recognised these xenos as Kroot, for other players it was simply their first introduction to an alien full stop, and the lack of immediate reaction from the humans around them suggested they were in a place a very, very long way away from home.

An angry beaky boi – courtesy of FFG

They offered bodyguard services in exchange for… well… we never really got that far. The captain laid down the law – the Orthesian Dynasty does not truck with xenos. It would have been inappropriate to kill them there and then, so he let their existence slide.

Unfortunately for them, standing around too long in Longshore began to draw some attention, and some drunken voidfarers decided to pick a fight with a few of the richer-looking players. One even made a lunge for the Arch-Militant’s bolt pistol.

Several exploded heads and a vaporised torso later, the remaining drunken locals were set upon by the ravenous Kroot, carving their twitching bodies apart and feasting on their organs in the middle of Longshore. Bystanders swear and curse, but this is general day-to-day activity for them. One of them spits on the ground and mutters the titular, sarcastic statement to highlight the point; “Welcome to the Nomads.”

hammers and nails

In preparation for ‘hub’ sessions like Mercy, I often have a list of names for guilds, gangs, organisations and individuals that can be brought up at a moment’s notice, sometimes giving players a choice between two names that serves no real purpose other than to judge an organisation on name alone. That helps me flesh out any organisations that players return to, without having to do a bunch of legwork up front for people and places that never get seen.

Captain Orthesian had begun to step into his role as head honcho, and was beginning to issue commands to players on what he expected them to achieve on Mercy. This was helpful to me as a GM and contributed positively to group cohesion – everyone knew what they needed to be doing, and not because I told them to do it.

Explorator Freeman had been given the task of commissioning repairs for the ship. He found a Guilder called Parvik from a repair gang called Monotask, who agreed to fully repair the ship (with some absolutely flukey Acquisition rolls…) for a reduced cost, so long as the Explorator fulfilled the vague promise of providing Parvik with what he desired – some Archeotech. Freeman weighed up the pros and cons of this, and decided the terms were vague enough to commit to. Potential arguments down the line were a price worth paying for cheaper repairs in the short term.

Notes are furiously scribbled in my pad for “this will definitely not come back to bite them in the ass”.

Mercy Longshore – courtesy of FFG
The pit

The major marketplace in Mercy is the Pit – the central plaza of a huge domed arena at the core of Mercy – and where most business is conducted. The Pit has a few permanent but unhoused traders, mostly it caters to merchants, captains and factors looking for bargains and selling their wares.  Oftentimes a captain will bring a sample of his wares here and invite potential buyers to sample these wares before agreeing to purchases on a much bigger scale. Due to the nature of the Nomad Stars, pretty much anything can be found in the Pit, if one is present on the correct day.

Voidmaster Zilla and Astropath Gil had been issued the task of acquiring maps to the Gangue system, and set about trawling the market stalls. They had decent luck, getting hold of some detailed maps of the system that would help them out with the inevitable warp jump later on. Zilla was angling for some new support craft to fly about in, but after some eyebrows were raised at the difficulties of acquiring vehicles, he just picked up a spare copy of “What Landing Craft” magazine and quietly retired back to the ship.

As they made to leave, they were approached by a strange cluster of servo skulls that appeared to be carrying a crude-looking brass holo-projector.

The holo-projector crackled into life, creating a lime green display of a young man’s head, rotating slowly, suspended between the cloud of skulls. The man appeared to be laughing at an unseen joke. The voxcasters let out a tinny fanfare.

”Salutations friends! Welcome to Mercy. I am Frederick Lombar, known as Lombar the Archeologist to many. If adventure be your pleasure, I have just the job for you! Meet me at the Mayweather Mooring during second rotation and ask for me by name. Here’s to a long and fruitful friendship! Imperator Benedicte!”

And with that, the vox cut out sharply and the rotating head thinned to a single prick of light on the holo-projector. The skulls clicked and whirred before lazily bumbling away into the crowded market.

The pair looked at each other, shrugged and said “Eh, that’ll not come up again.”

“this is why we speak high gothic where i come from”

The rest of the crew were on a fact-finding mission – head to the fanciest bar in Mercy and start to shmooze your way up the social pecking order.

The Captain, Missionary Lyoness and Arch-Militant Von Gun all headed to a bar known as Telasco’s – an incredibly high-status establishment that hangs a long way above the Pit, protected by a shimmering conversion field. The crew were met with a frustrating irony – the fly-as-fuck Missionary dressed down for her first trip to Mercy as she didn’t want to stand out among the plebians, but now was at risk of being turned away from Telasco’s for looking like a scrub. Some smooth talking with the bouncers and they were let off with a warning and allowed entrance.

Telasco himself is a lush, dandy, gossip who runs his saloon for wealthy and respected clients above the toil of the common folk. Prices here comfortably exclude any but the very rich and those that dine, relax or politick here do so mostly on account of its exalted status.

The Arch-Militant stood guard, keeping an eye out for any trouble-makers, while the Captain and Missionary began Operation Shmooze. This was an excitingly unpredictable turn of affairs, as it transpired that the Missionary has a number of penalties from her Origin Path that penalise her in charming situations, plus the hefty penalties for failing a Carouse check also lead to a few space-insults being hurled.

The Captain managed to pick up some gossip about a crusade being planned by a certain Brother Espin – a name that was dropped last session by the pilgrims rescued from the Penitent Traveller. Apparently he was looking for a suitable figurehead for his ship – you can’t go blasting heathens from space without looking incredibly important while doing so.

There was a bit of commotion outside at this point – the Voidmaster and Astropath were trying to gain entrance to Telasco’s to meet up with the rest of their crew and discuss their findings. The black-carapaced bouncers were having none of it – they looked like scrubs, and Telasco’s operates a strict Zero Scrub policy.

Several botched persuasion attempts culminated in the Astropath getting very hot under the collar, about to unleash who-knows-what from their mind, when one of them realised everyone had micro-beads. They buzzed the Captain, who came to the door and told the bouncers “They’re with me.”

Red faces and fist-shaking all round. Drinks were had, shmoozing was done, but very little else was learned. The objective was achieved – get your foot on the first rung of the social ladder.

The futility of gambling with telepaths

While all this was going on, the Explorator had kicked back for three weeks, letting Monotask get about with the chore of repairing the ship. He decided to pass the time by playing cards with some of the crew. The exchange between players was quite revelatory:

Explorator: “Astropath, do you have any ground rules for your Juniors? Like, what they can and can’t do while you’re away?”

Astropath: “Nah, I let them do what they want.”

Explorator: “Okay, I teach them to play cards and gamble with them for the entire time we’re at port.”

Astropath: “Hmm. I need some ground rules for these Juniors.”

All that remained of this session was to find this mysterious Lombar and find out what he wanted.

Lombar the Archi-something

The Mayweather Mooring is a jumble of quays and hangars abuzz with the industry of raw mineral wealth. Huge carts of ore are being hauled about by thick-set reptilian beasts of burden and gangs of hundreds of grimy crewmen are clustered around rota-servitors as they receive their assignments.

The main hangar is filled with a Goliath factory ship, and by the looks of the wealth of activity around it, has just returned from a lucrative long haul.

Lombar wears a grey reinforced lab coat and crevatte, with reading spectacles are perched on the bridge of his nose. He is flicking through information on a dataslate and conversing with a crewman in a strange language.

Aat his side is a hulking ogryn carrying a weapon that looks like it shoots shells the size of your head. You can see that it looks to have been made to wear a battered crevatte as well. It notices you approach and grunts loudly, raising a hand.

Lombar stops his conversation and turns round, eyeing you all with pleasant surprise.

”Salutations friends! I am Lombar the Archeologist, I don’t recognize you, so you must have received my message yes?”

He was offering what appeared to be a very simple exchange – if they Explorers found any abandoned ruins in their travels, he would pay handsomely for coordinates. The more the explored of the ruins, the more detailed maps they made, and the more pitfalls/hazards they identified – the more he would pay.

The more I introduced him, the more I forgot his profession, so he became Lombar the Architect, Arcanist, Archeotech, Archeologist and Arcanine. Unintentional, but I was tired and a little drunk.

The deal seemed too good to be true, and the Explorator kept drilling Lombar for more information – who his employer was, what the catch was etc. He was (perhaps wisely) unwilling to accept this individual would just hand out cash for something as simple as merely discovering things.

Hands were shook, and the crew of the Unbroken Resolve went on its way. The Arch-Militant stopped off to pick up some supplies of Inferno Shells for his bolt pistols, because there’s only one thing better than a pair of rapid-firing rocket propelled grenade-launching pistols, and that’s a pair of rapid-firing rocket propelled grenade-launching pistols that also set things on fire.

So our heroes gathered their things, bid farewell to Mercy and cast off into the inky-black yonder, ready for their first adventure into the Nomad Stars.

+++++++

Next: Session 5 – The Flickering Eye

Previous: Session 3 – Into the Throat

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Pringle Silos

Finished articles first!

We had just finished our first proper session of the Orthesian Dynasty Rogue Trader game, and one thing I’m keen to encourage is the bringing of food and snacks to the table in exchange for bonus XP.

After said session, during the tallying of corpses and clearup operation, I discovered we had managed to get through two and a half tubes of Pringles. As I was idly finishing the remaining point five of a tube of Pringles, the thought struck me – I owned NO terrain that used Pringles tubes as a base.

Scandalous! I had used them in the past for various projects as a nipper, but never brought any of them with me or kept around after house moves or purges. I knew what had to be done. I had a spare weekend, some lollipop sticks and a whole box of paint.

It begins
Once you pop

Construction began with the core concept – Some tall structures that (probably) once had a purpose, perhaps grain silos or fuel depots, that have now fallen into disuse and now their only function is as watchtowers or vantage points. Verticality was the name of the game.

The original concept was to build some kind of ladder arrangement with lollipop sticks. That concept went up in a puff of smoke when I got to grips with each tube and realised there was a perfect spiral seam where the packaging was glued on that runs from top to bottom of each tube.

No mini-milks were harmed in the production of this terrain

This acted as a pre-drawn guideline for my new spiral staircase idea: snip the ends off a bunch of lollipop sticks, stab a hole into the tube with a craft knife and shove the stick through. Apply PVA glue liberally to both sides – I needed to dribble it from on high like a master chocolatier to reach the lower sticks inside the tube. I wanted to make sure it was well-stuck to avoid any accidental wobbly stairs later on.

Detailing

I didn’t want them fancy, but I also recognise the importance for a few key details to tell the story of a piece. It would also serve to break up the large flat surfaces of the Pringles tubes when it came to painting.

Starting to look like towers now

Platforms were constructed at the top of each staircase to give it a landing instead of a sheer drop off the tower. A big circle of balsa wood was cut out and glued into the ‘bottom’ of the tubes. I wanted to keep the ‘tops’ of the tubes (now the bottom of the towers) open in case I needed to perform emergency repairs or add weights to it at a later date.

Banana-coloured man for scale

Some long strips of balsa wood helped give it more of a ‘container’ vibe and I added some steel mesh around half of each rim, supported by three wooden pillars. Holy hell, that steel mesh cut my hands up something awful.

They look kinda like giant metal daisies from directly above/below

Some final details were added in the form of plastic pipework and a bit of plastic support strut for the larger of the three silos, all from the ubiquitous chemical plant terrain set.

By this point I was damn happy with how they were looking. It had been a very, very long time since I’d created scenery from junk, and following my 2018 hobby mantra of “finished, not perfect” I figured they were good enough to hit the rattlecans and get a lovely undercoat on them to start painting.

Ready salted

A quick blast of own-brand black car primer spray later and they look a much more coherent whole. Unfortunately, the busyness of the Pringles packaging distracted me from what it really was – a big, flat smooth surface on every side.

That’s a whole lot of flat surface to cover

I wasn’t mad, just a little annoyed at the oversight. Given more time I might have added some panels or more pipes and tubes to help break up those big featureless expanses.

No matter, the deed was done, and they just needed to be finished. Onwards to dusting!

They’ve got a great silo-huette AHAHA

I can’t remember when or why I started using this technique but it has a been a flipping life-saver. I’m sure I’ll use it more once I have consistent access to an airbrush, but for now cheapo rattlecans serve my purposes just fine.

It’s pretty simple – over a hard black undercoat, give it a light dusting from one angle with a colour of choice. It’ll retain much of the black underneath, but provide a time-friendly alternative to blocking out all the colours by hand and following up with a million drybrushes.

The metal was painted on with a thick, stiff brush – I found an old metallic acrylic paint that had a super weird consistency, but once I mixed it with the dregs of a Dwarf Bronze I had lying about in my paint box, it produced this neat off-silver colour that was great for slapping onto flat surfaces.

I was going to weather it a LOT later on to help break up the shapes too, so it didn’t need to be perfect. A second drybrush of a lighter metallic colour (horizontally rather than vertically this time) helped produce a pleasing brushed metal look.

Flat colours are not pretty to look at

I wanted some signage on them too – large identifying marks that would help players differentiate them on the table top and give the models a spot colour to again, help break up those big flat shapes.

I liked the idea of something really simple, A B and C stencilled onto opposite sides of the silos. I set about making a stencil for them, hand cut from heavyweight cartridge paper.

It was at this point after an hour of stencil-making I realised I didn’t have a white rattlecan to spray through the stencil, so I opted to just apply paint over the stencil with a brush. What could go wrong?

Lots, apparently. The paint was great at getting under the stencil edges and made a big horrendous mess, like someone had tried to paint it on with their bumcheeks with surprisingly little success.

I ended up using the stencil to trace a stencil shape onto the silos with a pencil, then painting each stencil design on by hand. Ah well, it’s the time-saving thoughts that count, right?

Breaking them in

I really enjoy weathering techniques – they’re always really easy to do and add so much character to a model, especially scenery. They give it a really lived-in feel, and as I’m super lazy time-efficient I have a number of weathering tricks that make this part fly by.

90% done, just needs another final edge highlight on the wood to make it pop

The technique couldn’t be easier – stipple some brown paint onto your metal in random patches with a big flat brush. The cheaper your brush, the better the effect.

After that, bust out a nice vibrant orange colour. With a slightly smaller brush, stipple on some equally random patches of orange, but try to concentrate them in the middle of large brown areas. You’ll get this great two-tone effect that looks like the outer layer of metal has flaked away to reveal different layers of rust underneath. Neato.

I use only high-quality paints for my projects, such as this budget brown acrylic paint picked up from my local bric-a-brac store for about a quid. Only the finest for Dreadquill.

Pop!

For a very final detail I did a fine highlight on the edges of the wood sections with a pale skin tone to really make them stand out.

from snacks to stacks

And with that, they were all finished! It took two evenings to finish these off, and I have to be honest and say I admired them for a very long time after i finished them. They came out way better than I had anticipated, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had such a feeling of accomplishment after completing such a relatively simple project.

I pulled out some of the antagonists from our upcoming Syracuse Magna campaign and set them up for a mini photoshoot. The colours worked just wonderfully.

I’ll be putting together some walkways out of long bits of balsa wood so I can string these guys together over long distances, but for now I’m just super stoked to play with them!

Orthesian Herald: session 3 – Into the Throat

You near the warp translation point and notice a distinct change in attitude among the crew. They become hushed and pensive, going about their business without a word. Lit candles appear on the shrines at every corridor junction, and fresh wax appears dribbled across the Aquilas on all the airlocks. Red-robed Technomats scrutinise bulkheads and paneling with scanner-skulls for faults invisible to the un-augmented eye and morose war-hymns drift through the air-recyc vents across the ship.

Moments before translation, the ship comes to life.

Petty Officers on the bridge begin issuing orders to Deck Chiefs across the vessel, their consoles filling with green runes as deck crews report ready. The vessel shudders as massive adamantium shutters unfurl across all viewing ports across the ship, sealing up the guns and gracefully sliding down over the great observation windows of the bridge.

As the last light of Haimm’s baleful suns is shut out, emergency floor lights wash the bridge in a deep crimson. Tech adepts intoning in binary light candles and incense around the captain’s pulpit, flocked by clusters of illumination servo-skulls. Ministorum priests chanting hymns of salvation move up and down the rows of crews at their stations, their heads bowed in prayer.

The timbre of the plasma engine shifts up several octaves as power is sucked from the rest of the vessel and channeled into the arcane and impossibly powerful warp drive. You feel the collective psyche of every void-hardened crewman, rating, armsman and officer take a physical breath in. They hang on your word, Lord-Captain.

Taming the void

Our third session picked up exactly where we left our valiant crew; boldly sailing towards the warp point of the system of Haimm, ready to make their first proper warp translation into the Throat and the Nomad Stars beyond.

As everything was being explained about warp transit, I also posed the question about what might constitute a ‘good luck’ gesture on board the ship. All captains observe some kind of pre-warp ritual, be it excessive hymns, confiscating any items of chance from the crew (like cards or dice) or even blood sacrifice.

It was fairly quickly decided that the ‘good luck’ ritual would involve a massive salvo from the macrocannons and blaring out war-songs from the multi-band broadcasters out into space – not to pray to the Saints for luck or hope that the warp might grant them safe passage, but to angrily and loudly warn anything that exists beyond the veil of reality that the Unbroken Resolve was coming through, and you’d best get out of its way.

Just a normal warp jump, nothing to see here – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games

The energies of a thousand suns are expelled from the warp drive with a terrifying ethereal screech, tearing a hole in reality and hurtling the vessel through it.

The whole ship issues a guttural, primal roar as the impossible forces of the Empyrean bear down upon it. Millennia of human ship-building and the thin skin of the Gellar Field are all that protect every soul aboard the ship from being torn apart in a fraction of a second by the raw unholy energies of the warp.

You feel as though a bucket of ice water has been dumped over you, soaking you to the skin, and you can feel the tell-tale scratching at the corner of your consciousness as the malefic entities of the warp probe this new intruder into their realm.

The ship settles into its route, navigation of the vessel becomes re-routed from the controls on bridge through to the navigator’s chambers. Translation into the warp is complete.

The horrors of the warp

I wanted to play up the terrifying, unknowable nature of warp travel – it’s closer to 17th century sailing than Star Wars hyperspace or Star Trek warp speed. Every moment spent before, during and after such transits are fraught with peril, and no matter how much preparation you do, nothing can prepare you for one really bad warp transit roll.

We have a slightly homebrewed version of warp transit, partly from the Core Rulebook and partly from the expanded rules in the Navis Primer. The Core rules were a little too simple, and the Navis Primer too complex, so we compromised in a middle ground. We use the following;

1. Determine duration of passage

GM comes up with a duration, Navigator makes a Navigate (Warp) test to get a close estimate. A Detailed chart (either made by the players or purchased separately) provides a +20 bonus, a Basic chart gives +10.

2. Locate the Astronomican

Awareness +10 test, every DoS adds +10 to any further Navigate (Warp) tests and vice versa. 3+ Degrees of Failure indicate the Astronomican cannot be found, imposing a -60 on the Navigate (Warp) test for ‘Chart the course’.

3. Consult the instruments

For players: cross your fingers. This shit is a secret GM roll.

For the GM: Navigate (Warp) +10 test to detect any phenomena or turbulence on the journey ahead, granting a +20 bonus to any rolls on the Warp Travel Encounters table during the ‘Translate and steer the vessel’ stage if successful.

4. Translate and steer the vessel

Navigate (Warp) test (-60 if the Astronomican cannot be located) with modifiers for Route Stability.

If the test is failed and a ‘9’ is rolled on either dice, the GM fucks with their final destination.

Roll once on the ‘Warp Encounters’ table for each 5 (3) days in the warp. +20 on each roll if ‘Chart the course’ was successful.

5. Leave the warp

Navigate (Warp) -20 test. Failure indicates the ship is off-target and could land dangerously close to a planetary body or the incorrect side of the system.

We also use an expanded warp encounters table, growing it from a potential dozen to a more meaty 20 potential encounters. I’m a sucker for a good random encounter table, and it’s available on Dreadquill here.

As we don’t have a Navigator player character, we have an NPC navigator called Mahd’Naz, who has Navigate (Warp) and Awareness at 55. We agreed that as players we will take it in turns to roll for the hapless NPC rather than let the GM decide, as not only can the players use their Fate Points for a more favourable roll, but it’s way more fun to put the players’ fates in the players’ hands rather than me making a bunch of rolls in secret and telling everyone how much trouble they’re in.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whose side you’re on) their first translation resulted in only a minor Gellar Field breach, causing mass hallucinations for a fraction of a moment and earning all the players a bunch of Corruption and Insanity points. This would serve as a convenient introduction to the warp, and make players wary about willy-nilly warp jumps in the future.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, and they were instructed that they were going to make a routine stop a few days into transit at one of the many rest stops in the Throat called the Battleground – a stretch of void with no significance other than its relative warp stability and its massive collection of battered warship corpses from a long-forgotten war, picked clean and floating adrift in a great cloud of jagged debris.

Wolves in the darkness

At this point, our prescient Astropath was tugging on the Captain’s shirt sleeves and reminding him of one of his visions – “Wolves lurk in the rest stops”. The Captain agreed to take it under advisement, just in time for a Bridge Officer to report a distress beacon coming from a nearby wreckage cloud.

It was a standard automated distress message from a verified pilgrim transport called the Penitent Traveller. Our Missionary, Lyoness, had heard of such a transport from her Ecclesiarchy days, and confirmed that it was likely a truthful distress beacon.

They were totally unresponsive to vox hails and knowing it would be a trap, the Captain gave the order to take the Resolve in slowly, keeping a very close eye on the long-range augers.

It’s a trap!

In a shocking display of salience, the augers pick up the energy signatures of two Raider-class plasma drives flaring into life. Although it was clearly a trap, our canny Captain and his band of eagle-eyed auger-monkeys managed to spot danger before it dropped onto their heads. It was time to roll for initiative and begin GLORIOUS SPACE BATTLE.

As this was everyone’s first foray into space combat, things would be a little slow as everyone gets to grips with how it works; it is at once familiar to ground combat yet very different. The turn order is the same – everyone takes turns based on Initiative order and can perform a limited number of actions (called Extended Actions in space combat) in their turn. The big kicker is that everyone on the ship will go ‘at the same time’ (each turn in space combat is about half an hour in-game time rather than the 10-ish seconds per turn in ground combat), so the team have to get to grips with what they’re good at and what they can do to help.

In this scenario, the teacakes were playing the part of particularly dense clusters of ship wreckage – very dangerous to fly through but extremely delicious. Not all the scenery made it to the end of the battle.

Ships must always move (even if just a little bit) and they cannot come to a complete standstill, as they’re massive megatonnes of ceramite and plasteel hurtling through space – that momentum can only really be redirected, never stopped. Part of space combat I enjoy is the pirouetting of vessels around one another as they try and manoeuvre into the perfect position to take advantage of their weapons or evade an enemy’s firing arc.

Mathhammer

We are also using the community-driven changes to ship combat called MathHammer. The tl;dr is that ship armour now counts against each macrocannon hit, but armour is reduced by 12 to account for the change.

This means that combat is less reliant on a single massive alpha strike that glasses an enemy ship in an instant, and more on battles of attrition. It makes it easier for lesser ships to do progressive amounts of damage on larger ships, and allows players to better estimate how well a combat is going.

It gets pretty messy at this range
Battered and bloody

The battle started with both raiders heading directly towards the Unbroken Resolve, blasting away as soon as they got within range. This initial salvo from the Wolfpack raiders caused the most damage to the Resolve during the fight, and immediately reigned in any bravado anyone might have been feeling at that point.

One raider swept round trying to get behind the Resolve, the other going toe-to-toe. This turned out to be a bad move, as a combination of point blank macrocannon volleys from the Arch Militant and a particularly well executed hit and run from the Captain and Voidmaster left the raider crippled and its plasma drive on fire. It limped away into the debris field as the second ship swung in for the kill.

After seeing off the first Raider, attentions were now drawn to the mystery third party on the field: a small blip on the augers that had, up until now, been unidentified. It had been following the Resolve steadily and relentlessly, but wasn’t big enough to appear as a manned vessel.

After some panicked last-minute scanning, it was revealed to be a homemade Leech Mine from the Raiders – designed to follow specific plasma drive signatures and latch onto them, draining them of power. After realising it would be too small to reasonably shoot (and there was a more pressing target), the Enginseer fashioned a decoy out of obsolete parts he found in the cargo hold, programmed it with the plasma drive signature of their ship and fired it out into space. The gambit worked, distracting and neutralising the leech mine and allowing them to concentrate on the final raider.

Some fancy shooting and scary psychic powers from the Astropath damaged the second raider enough for it to withdraw, and with the Resolve sitting at less than 30% Hull remaining, the Captain decided not to pursue. It was time to see what the Penitent Traveller had in store.

Cargo cult

They discover a few hundred pilgrims on board the broken transport ship, left alive by the pirates but starving and desperate for rescue. They had been heading to the Nomad Stars to answer the call of a crusade called by someone called Brother Espin. There used to be almost ten thousand when they arrived, the pirate raiders butchered them down to the bare minimum to appear as life forms on a prey-ship’s augers if they scanned the Traveller.

They agreed to join the crew of the ship, buffering the worst of the damage to the Resolve’s crew population and earning the crew a few brownie points with any members of the Ecclesiarchy they might bump into later on.

The best fighters among them pledged their swords to the Missionary, the person responsible for encouraging them to join on a new ‘crusade’ of sorts, kickstarting her retinue and giving her a dozen maniacs with chainswords to call to her service should she need them in future…

There was nothing left to loot from the Penitent Traveller, as anything of value had already been stripped by the pirates.

Satisfied there was nothing else they could do in the Battleground, the Captain gave the order to finish the jump to the Nomad Stars. They would not be arriving in the greatest of conditions to make another warp jump straight out to Gangue, so there was going to be a slight diversion to the nearest port to repair and resupply – Mercy.

+++++++

Next: Session 4 – Welcome to the Nomads

Previous: Session 2 – The Last Bastion of Mankind