Orthesian Herald 10 – Storm-wreathed sins

In the last exciting installment of the Orthesian Herald our band of dashing explorers had just seen off a minor warp incursion in the underdecks of the ship, assisted by the courageous actions of a few humble armsmen. What better time for a spicy meme.

They only had a few days left in the journey to the Cilice system, where they were to locate Brother Espin’s missing missionaries and assess the condition of the colony.

With a minor hiccup in translating back to realspace (oooh the map goes this way up), the Dynasty find themselves in the star-blushed system of Cilice.

Lay of the land

The light of Cilice washes over you. 

Fresh, clean sunshine bleeds through the viewports as the heavy warp shutters roll back up and the bold light of the Cilice star washes over you. You get the sensation of a tide having just gone out, revealing new sands and strange flotsam from the waters.

On the bridge, a nervous clapping of backs and thankful nods are exchanged between the petty officers. On the rest of the ship voidsmen utter prayers of thanks as they begin their first shift of the new day.

A passive sweep of the system is underway but you don’t need augurs to note the incredible cosmic phenomenon in the skies ahead – a beautiful plume of cobalt blue fills the void above the sun, a brilliant smear of light.

It is a gas giant in the outer reaches that is slowly losing its essence to the void. It paints a vibrant blue trail of glittering star stuff across the Cilice skies as it travels its orbit. That must be the Teardrop, and its brilliance lights up the voids. You must be the first humans to set eyes on this in tens, if not hundreds, of years.

 

Less is more

Cilice gave me a lot of introspection to do.

I really enjoyed writing the content for the Cilice system and the encounters that would unfold. What I hadn’t taken into account is whether that content would be any fun to actually play. Although I got a taste of it early on, it wasn’t until we had played a few sessions in Cilice that my lack of content editing skills were becoming more apparent – there was simply too much stuff. Too many distractions, too many side encounters – all theoretically serving the purpose of giving the players things to do between ‘big’ encounters, but in actuality only watering down the proper encounters and bogging down the momentum of the game.

This was also my first big realisation that the current method we had for creating endeavours wasn’t viable for our group. I pride myself on coming up with new ways to entertain, trying out new mechanics and shifting gear up or down to see what works. I can also hold my hand up and say that much of it doesn’t work very often, and this was one of those times.

There was just simply too much.

The full endeavour sheet

On paper (aha) everything seemed fine – there was a checklist of things and the rewards garnered for doing so. I’ve had success with this system with a different (and smaller) group, and they liked the nitty gritty of additional sub-objectives and balancing Achievement Point losses and gains across different endeavours. Not so much here. With more cooks in the kitchen, decisions are made slower, and much of the “to-do” list is left by the wayside in favour of accomplishing the main goal.

I’m not bent out of shape about having to discard content for the game. I can always re-use the content later, after all. I’m upset that I didn’t see how obvious it was from the start, and I should have pared this mission down to its core essentials – six players easily come up with filler and activities by themselves, I don’t need to demand they jump through six additional hoops per objective.

Humble pie was served with a healthy dollop of modesty custard.

Exploration and scanning

Tucked away in the rulebook is some light rules for dealing with scanning systems. Your ship’s augers can reveal hella information. It takes D5 hours upon successful translation to run a passive auger sweep, which would reveal the following:

Outer reaches

  • The Teardrop
  • Adeptus Mechanicus Shrine-Altar, nestled among some wreckage
  • A strange energy signature among the wreckage of some ruined vessels

Primary biosphere

  • Cilice and an orbiting space station. Weak vox traffic is being transmitted across the system.

Inner cauldron

  • A trio of small planets in a tight orbit around the sun

With a Scrutiny+Detection test, you can further refine the results to give you clearer information. With ol’ Keen-Eye Gil, this test was smashed, revealing additional information about the system features.

Teardrop: Low harmful emissions and radiation, safe to approach, needs focussed augury to determine true nature

Shrine-Altar: Presence of active void shields

Energy signature: Similar to a plasma drive signature but without any atomic decay or fluctuation in emissions. Defies classification

Cilice and station: Vox signal originates from surface of Cilice, no response traffic. Void in augur results of surface – malfunction or interference? Active voids on station. Clear signs of life on Cilice.

Pearls: Extreme temperatures on planets’ surfaces, chances of life are negligible. Appears to be evidence of plasma drive activation, but temperatures make further data scrying impossible, would need to get within active range.

The crew picked up some plasma drive emissions in the inner cauldron of the system – a modified frigate engine typically found on warships and an adeptus-mechanicus pattern transport. The extreme heat of the solar zone prevented any further readings.

The decision was made to head straight to Cilice, swinging by the Pearls for a quick drive-by auger sweep.

Company

A trio of small planets locked in a tight orbit around the white Cilice star in the inner cauldron. Initial augur readings suggest they contain the only obvious mineral wealth in the system, but surface temperatures are registering at over three hundred degrees on each.

The extreme temperatures have made long range auger sweeps of this solar zone difficult, but as you near you pick up the distinctive plasma drive emissions from a pair of vessels. The frigate is flying a souped up drive most commonly utilised by Navy escort vessels. The other ship, the transport, bears the tell-tale markings of the Adeptus Mechanicus

Your long-range vox burbles into life.

“Unknown Imperial vessel, this is Captain Lydia Avag of the warship Scream Claw, under contract from Blackbriar Corps. Identify yourselves or we will be forced to intercept”

The Pearls of Cilice

This was intended to be an interaction encounter. I had stats for both ships in case things got a bit fist-fighty (players, amirite?) but I was anticipating some peaceful resolution, perhaps ending on amicable terms, splitting the contract or even hiring Captain Avag to assist with their own mission.

Captain Orthesian opens a return vox: “If you would like to survey the system go right ahead. We’re going about our business and you can’t stop us. Orthesian out.”

*tears out several pages of notes*

Celestial bones

 

The team decide they’ve had enough of exploring this overpopulated system and go straight for Cilice, stopping off at Stiletto Station en-route.

The long, spindly station lurks in high orbit above the storm-wracked world of Cilice, hanging like in the air an executioner’s blade, poised to fall on a word.

According to your logs this was once the staging ground for all traffic on and off-world, but now it is utterly silent save for an ice-blue miasma that still flickers around it.

A Common Lore (Tech) or Trade (Voidfarer) test revealed additional information about the weird forcefield surrounding the station:

This looks like void shield tech, but being projected from the station to the surface below. This also seems to be the focal point for whatever is baffling auger sweeps of the planet below. These are definitely the Occlusion shields that Brother Espin spoke of.

They pile into an Arvus Lighter to investigate, bringing along Alyss, an extra Covenant, two engine adepts, Felicity and Kettlehead.

Arvus Lighter (Dahagaz – Deviantart)

The station is visibly fragile, huge chunks are missing, but seemingly not from weapons fire. There are no lumens active around the station and it is producing no vox traffic. The only thing that seems to be active are the occlusion shields.

You stand in wretched darkness, the only illumination provided by the waning daylight filtering into the outermost areas through frosted viewports. The grav-plates appear to be operating normally and although there is pressure in the hull, the oxygen content is not suitable for unaided breathing.

Stiletto Station
Investigating the shield

Freeman sets his Engine Adepts to work immediately. They seek out a working console and inload as much data as they can about the station. The whole thing has been gutted, the only remaining systems are the shield emitters and a generator at the centre of the station. Onwards!

The station is hollow, fragile eggshell, much of its interior has been gutted for parts. All that remains is a fractured hull straining to maintain pressure and a cobweb of corridors and walkways that were once part of a bustling trade hub, now stand alone and isolated from the floors they connected to. It is eerie seeing a station in this condition – it is like a corpse that has had the flesh picked cleanly from its bones.

You have to traverse a hollowed-out area to reach the shield generator, perhaps a floor or two above you and at least 50 metres away. The station continues up high above your head, disappearing into darkness criss-crossed by the bones of corridors. Below you are more disparate walkways, ending with the floor of a warehouse several storeys below.

This was intended to be a semi-teamworking encounter, working out the platforms would get weaker the more they crossed it, so trying to organise the best sequence of Explorers to cross the chasm.

Of course this was very quickly abandoned once everyone remembered the abundance of gear everyone carried, and the Explorator’s ability to traverse sheer surfaces with ease. Ah well. Here’s the Encounter anyway:

Crossing the chasm

As you carefully make your way across the precarious walkways, the metal arounds you groans and quivers with every footfall.

Unstable structure; Roll initiative – everybody needs to make a Navigate (Surface), Climb or Agility test to navigate the brittle internal structure of the station. Add +1 to the table for every player to have crossed the hollow already. Fail to pass one of the above tests, consult the chart:

1-3 DoF: Dust falls slowly from the walkway above as it creaks ominously, but the structure holds

4 DoF: A section of metal piping clatters to the deck, the sound of its impact echoing down the tunnel

5 DoF: The walkway beneath your feet buckles as you stumble, weakening it but not causing a collapse

6 DoF: You crash to the deck as a section of plate gives way! You fall 1d10 metres (1d10+distance Impact damage ignoring armour) onto a walkway below

7 DoF: The walkway crumples underfoot with disastrous effect, pitching you down several floors into a gutted section below – 2d10 metres

8+ DoF: With a sudden tremor and whine of metal, the entire stretch of deck gives way, tearing like wet tissue paper and dropping you straight down into the hollow. The tremor ripples down the walkway and threatens to take others with it! Two people either side of the player have to take an Agility check at -20 or -10 or also tumble downwards 2d10 metres (roll separately)

Accessing the shield room

The Explorator zipped across the gap, firing a zipline back for the rest of the team to traverse. There were some close calls (The Explorator used 2 Fate Points in the process) but all the team got across with no issue. The Captain commanded Kettlehead and Felicity to stay behind and guard the Arvus. Lyoness makes the executive decision that she’s Too Old For This Shit and stays on the safe side of the chasm with Alyss and her extra Covenant cultist. They pop open the emergency wine and send the others on their way.

The door to the Generatorium is made of heavy materials, designed to withstand a generator explosion. The only way through is to hack (or blow up) the keypad. The port on the keypad is degraded and plugging in risks feedback damage. Freeman commands his Adept to get to it, he suffers massive feedback damage and burns out his MIU link.

Freeman:

 

Automatons in the heights

The door hisses and chugs, but slides obligingly open. Inside a handful of emergency lumens give the cathedral-like space an blood-red glow. In the centre of the space is a huge, rumbling arcane Generatorium that spits lightning to arc coils high above. As you take in the spectacle, one of you feels something crunch underfoot.

A dozen or so skeletons, their clothes and flesh long-gone. Some of them look like they have been blown apart.

As they pick through the massacre, Gil spots something out the corner of his lack-of-eyes:

Two gun servitors on long pneumatic arms extend from the walls of the generatorium and take aim.

Everyone scrabbles for weaponry and dive for cover, wondering why they hadn’t been shot at yet.

You barely make out the sound of heavy weaponry failing to cycle. These defenses ran out of ammunition a long time ago.

*Nervous laughter*

You see a console bank is on a raised pulpit above the generatorium, cables and wires snaking away from it through the air.

Freeman: “I love corroded ports. 11/10 would stick my MIU in.”

Freeman and Zill ahead up the pulpit to have a good ol’ fiddle while the rest of the gang spread out in the Generatorium examining the walls and ceiling and generally looking busy.

Meanwhile Freeman:

1337 h4xx0r

As he begins fiddling, red runes flash across the console. Heavy stubber servitors on gravitic couplings descend silently from the ceiling.

Roll for initiative!

Two maps in one! Top map is Lyoness and Co. on the other side of the chasm

The battle begins in earnest. The Explorator calculates he needs to acquire 20 Degrees of Success on Tech Use tests to deactivate the security systems. In the mean time, everyone get killing servitors!

D3 would arrive at the beginning of every turn, as rolled randomly by a different player.

As the first servitors descend (as represented by the weaponless plastic guys in the highly professional maps photographed) the Astropath opens up with his shiny new plasma pistol, entirely slagging the first one within reach. Von Gunn gets busy with his bolt pistols, shooting the leg off one as it descends, but not stopping it from cranking up its heavy stubber and sending a stream of angry, inaccurate lead towards our heroes.

Gun servitors from the skies!

 

 

While the team in the Generatorium do their best to lay the hurt on the descending servitors, Alyss and her cultists find their wine time RUDELY interrupted by angry gunbois from the darkness above them. She cranksup her flamer from Medium Rare to Well Done and lets loose while her Covenant pile into the nearest servitor with tooth and chainsword.

When flamers don’t work, bust out the chainswords…

 

The team in the Generatorium were doing well too. Von Gunn was racking up his expected kill-count and even the Astropath had put away a surprising number of defence servitors. There was even a little pool of angry molten gun-bot forming in front of him where they kept descending and he kept slotting them.

Gil’s death puddle

The Captain, on the other hand, was very much struggling. The map was about 100 metres across, so he could only move about 5 ‘lines’ of paper per turn. For a character who specialises in Melee, he struggled not being able to slice things up a lot, and was constantly off-set by his Refractor field activating at awkward times and resetting any progress he had made towards an aggressor.

By now, Freeman was only a turn or two away from shutting them down and the servitors were threatening to overwhelm them. The team had killed everything within close range, and although the servitors were inaccurate, all it would take was one or two Heavy Stubber rounds and a character could be taken out of action dangerously quickly.

Von Gunn finishes off the last few in his corner of the map that his bolt pistols can reach, then decides its time for some thrilling heroics.

He grabs one of the gravitic coupling lines dangling from the ceiling and heroically swing across the map!

*TARZAN YELL*

As he does so, one of the servitors pulls a 001 out of the bag and clips Von Gunn. This was an awful reminder for many people about Von Gunn’s staying power – he’s a murder machine but super fragile if things go poorly. He falls to the ground in a mess of Critical Damage.

The Explorator plugs the final codes into console and all the servitors power down, mid-stride and mid-swipe in close combat. The players are not buying any of my bullshit – while Von Gunn is receiving emergency first aid, they double-tap every single standing servitor. “I’ve seen enough spooky films to know where this is going” *BLAM*

Wrap-up

The console allows unfettered access to the Generatorium’s controls. You can activate, deactivate or modulate the occlusion field from here. Turning it off would allow auger scans of the areas it protects, but would render those areas vulnerable to the ravages of Cilice’s storms.

After some discussion, the Captain decides to send a standard introduction vox to anyone listening on the planet’s surface, and warns them that they will be turning off the shield for a few minutes to scan the colony with the Unbroken Resolve’s augers.

As they don’t receive any vox message back asking them not to, the Captain gives the order to Freeman to Press The Button.

+++++++

Next: Session 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Previous: Session 9 – Claws in the Dark

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Elysian Commission part 2

In what is increasingly sounding like another unwanted Jason Bourne sequel, the Elysian commission is taking shape. Two ten-man squads have been assembled and painted, with only another two ten-man squads left.

Tiny fiddly resin friends

This batch has been a weird milestone for me. Not only because this is the first time I’ve painted Elysians in almost ten years, nor about how much of a pain these kits are to assemble (you darn kids and your Easy Fit models! *shakes walking stick*), it was absorbing the news that Forgeworld is discontinuing the range. A strange feeling of simultaneously opening and closing a door on a past life playing 500 point battles of Warhammer 40k with my schoolyard chums in the shed at the bottom of my garden.

Regarding Forgeworld’s business practises though, who knows! Internet rumours are whirling (naturally), people seem to be split between “They don’t make enough money so are being canned” to “GW are doing plastic Elysians! Tell your friends!”.

All I know is these tiny resin bloodsuckers (RIP my fingertips) suddenly became way more valuable overnight. Damn my eagerness to sell a few months ago!

Nothing much else to add about Batch 2 other than roll on with the album. Batch 3 will have photos of the whole commission, but for now enjoy these guys.

Squad 1

Squad 2

Squad 1 and 2

Orthesian Herald 9 – Claws in the Dark

Last week our Explorers received an icy reception down in the underdecks of the ship…

The Underdecks

It is dark and deathly cold – your breath crystalises in the air and the tears freeze in your eyes. Frost has rimed on the walls. The source of the leak is 50m ahead through a tangle of tight corridors.

Your corridor is blocked by a frozen fountain of ice spilling from a ruptured water line. An armsman moves forwards to turn off the valve and stem the flow.

The ice comes to life!

Frozen claws shoot from the wall of ice and snatch the hapless armsman. They pull him back into the ice wall, eviscerating him as the hooked hands pass through his body like an egg slicer and back into the wall.

Roll for initiative!

An Ebon Geist materialises through the wall of the access corridor, our party’s first encounter with daemons and the debut appearance of our first armsmen models. The Captain, Astropath and Voidmaster were all absent, as the Captain figured this Routine Checkup could be handled by the Missionary, Arch-Militant and Explorator so I padded the numbers out with a few armsmen minis so those players would have something to do in the brawl.

Rather than let them be nameless mooks, the players do the one thing you should never do with The Help – name them. Meet Krud, Felicity and Kettlehead.

From left to right; Felicity, Kettlehead and Krud

This turned out to be an ill-fated debut, as the first thing that everyone was required to do after rolling Initiative was make a few Fear 2 checks…

All according to plan

Kettlehead and Felicity immediately collapse in puddles of their own vomit, taking them out of action for a few turns. Krud decides discretion is the better part of valour and flees the map. We cross our fingers for him, but he consistently fails Willpower checks and is never seen again. Sorry, Astropath player – I guess you’re sitting this fight out after all.

Von Gunn is ahead of the party at this point, as he spotted another of the geists in a chamber at the end of the corridor, following a trail of blood and ice.

They’ve gotta pass those Willpower checks to Snap Out Of It some time, right?

Freeman waves his power axe around at the frozen geist, discovering that power weapons are really, really good against unarmoured targets, but might as well be farting into the wind when it comes to dealing with denizens of the warp.

The geist then performs its party trick again – dematerialising and fading back into the wall, popping out further up the map.

Unfortunately for the daemon, Von Gunn’s twin bolt pistols don’t care for the anarchic un-laws of the immaterium and when it poked its shifting face of madness and misreality through the bulkhead, Von Gunn neatly slotted it in what presumably the face would be, destroying its grip on realspace and banishing it back to the warp.

Rallied and ready to take down the final abomination

Freeman, Lyoness and the two armsmen finally rally and join Von Gunn in the end chamber as the final geist phases through the bulkhead guarding the conduit.

This geist is cursed with a streak of excellent dodge rolls, and survives Von Gunn’s banishment bullets. Lyoness gives it a lick from her flamer but it shakes off the worst of the damage. The armsmen bounce some rounds off its daemonic skin, and everyone makes a note to give them a participation trophy when we get back to the main decks.

In the final showdown, Freeman charges the foul warp-spawned abomination, and Kettlehead plucks up the courage to join him. Nothing says ‘back to the hell-pocalypse from whence you came’ like a club and a huge pair of brass balls.

Give the man a hand!

Eyes suddenly widen around the table when the Ebon Geist quite comfortably pulls the Explorator’s arm clean out of its socket (NB: Toxic and Warp Weapon are brutal combinations). Kettlehead keeps contributing, but the geist is eventually put down by Von Gunn now his firing line was clear.

With all the geists cleared up, the way is clear for a repair crew to come down and de-ice the life support conduit. Freeman is bundled away to a discrete med-bay where his arm is glued back on.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to patching up the ship and each other. The final few days of warp are blessedly free of incident and Freeman’s turbo-constitution gets him healed up in a few days. Krud, unfortunately, is declared too insane for active duty and is carted off to the brig.

A few days later, the translation alarms sound across the ship. It was time for the most welcome (and most dangerous) part of the journey – returning to realspace.

cairn

The system of Cairn is deadly still, like the eye of a storm. Long-range augers show nothing except a single ball of rock orbiting the guttering star. After less than a day’s stellar travel, you can see the slate-grey planet of Cairn through the viewport of the bridge.

Your scans all come up empty – there is no atmosphere and no signs of life – it is totally sterile. Gravity is slightly higher than that of normal and there are low levels of radiation, but a sealed void suit would provide adequate protection.

At the north pole of the planet is a bizarre multi-coloured mountain that your sensors do not read as a natural formation. 

It is a mountain of ancient flags, totems, standards, keepsakes, votive icons and other trinkets, piled on top of one another over the millennia

The oldest have been bleached by the sun – slate-grey and sheet-white, scattered around the base of the mountain. As you look further up, they become more colourful as the ravages of time have had not affected them as much yet.

IMAGE: EDDIE BAUER ALPINISTS ADRIAN BALLINGER & CORY RICHARDS

Inspired by stories of the top of Mount Everest littered with the detritus of past conquests, what if we took that to 11? A planet having nothing but flags, trinkets and tokens of devotion that after almost a millennia of travelers visiting the system has become an actual mountain.

What started as a friendly rivalry between two early explorers in the early years of the Nomad Stars, each returning to the worthless rock to ‘reclaim’ it from the other, quickly spiraled into myth and legend.

Now it is used as the most common entry point into the Hatchling Worlds, and all travelers and explorers since then have planted flags or left memorabilia on the surface of Cairn as a good luck charm to help them ward off the surging currents.

a mountain of flags

This was intended to be a quick stop-off on their way to Cilice to build a bit of the universe and provide a quick skills-based detour. The crew were going to scramble to the top of the flag-mountain and plant the Orthesian flag for good luck. This transpired as a couple of different encounters they needed to overcome, knitted together with some narrative of clambering up a mountain made of effigies and pennants.

Here are some of the notes I used to run the encounter;

  • Take a Climb +30 test to climb the mountain or hot-drop from a lander with an Agility test to get to a suitable planting point. If failed, the character takes D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure, ignoring armour. This gets you ‘close enough’ up the mountain to plant your flag. (I suspected ‘close enough’ wouldn’t be good enough, so on with the more dangerous encounters…)
  • To get to the summit requires a Climb test. It is more treacherous than the base, as the flags and standards have had less time to settle and lie scattered and loose on the surface.
  • Awareness (sight): You spot some unexploded munitions on a plateau ahead – some kind of anti-personnel mine. Disarming them requires a Demolitions -20 or BS -40 test. Failure on either causes it to explode. Could go around the plateau, but it is a treacherous climb around the base of what seems to be a set of huge metal fingers the size of a hab-block
  • Explosion damage: 2d10+4 X damage and everyone must test Agility or be caught in the avalanche and take 2D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure

It started well, with Lyoness falling out of the lander onto the Explorator. Off to a flying start, they both decide to stay at the bottom of the mountain with the astropath, sipping on Lyoness’ personal stash.

princess bride have fun storming the castle gif

The Captain decides to turn this into a propaganda exercise and tasks Zilla with getting some heroic aerial images from the lander.

Meanwhile Von Gunn has spotted some of the mines and decides the best course of action is Use [GUN] on [MINE]. Explosions go everywhere and a mini-avalanche threatens to bury our crew, but they hide under an overhang and the mines tumble past them.

The Captain struggles with the final leg of the journey, suffering more falling damage and vowing to put some points into Climb when they get back to safety. He tasks the Explorator with getting to the summit first so he can film the Captain getting their first. It’s good for crew morale, see.

They discover another flag at the top of the mountain but toss it to one side for the glorious Orthesian Dynasty flag instead. They all pose heroically in front of it while the Explorator’s servo-skull takes some action shots.

They all agree they will add in the sunbathers at the bottom of the mountain into the photo during post-production. Von Gunn also suggests to add punching some Space Yetis and biting the fuses off personnel mines with their teeth for added drama.

They head back to the ship, and the Captain is faced with the choice to have his falling damage treated by either a drunk preacher or a one-armed mechanic.

Orthesian Communications Guild

As they begin their travel back to the warp point for their final short hop to Cilice, discussions turn with how best to broadcast this work of art the crew have produced.

The formation of some kind of propaganda machine is in order, and already I can think of a few posters I want to mock up that might be found plastered to walls in the crew quarters or found around Mercy Longshore for recruitment. I also definitely want to have that over-dramatised image of the crew punching space yetis and eating explosives on the top of a mountain of flags with the Orthesian crest behind them. Would that I had the time and/or skill to do that. Perhaps it’s time to call in reinforcements…

+++++++

Next: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Previous: Session 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Explorator Eutropius

Finished product first!

On last week’s MOTB we had a look at Arch-Militant Hyde, the first of Lord-Captain Patroneus’ crew and the rivals of the plucky Orthesian Dynasty. This week we’re looking at the second crewman, Explorator Eutropius.

The crew in grey
How to build a techpriest

The first thing that struck me during this project is that, despite my passion for all things Adeptus Mechanicus, I had never assembled anything Admech-related in 28mm.

This was partially due to never having any parts – AdMech legs and torsos aren’t easy to come by unless you have a stash of them already. Luckily for me, one of our players had picked up a bunch of second-hand Skitarii rangers to use in the construction of his own Explorator. Using second hand bits that were originally intended for a PC to construct the PC’s rival? How delicious.

The easiest part was the head. I’d picked up some medieval helmets from Anvil a while ago and I still had one with the bionic eye, which was perfectly suited. The previous owner of the Skitarii had been quite enthusiastic with the ol’ plastic glue, so there was a bit of damage around the neck that needed patching up with green stuff.

Armament was quite tricky, I went through a number of different variations figuring out the ‘best’ combination. They all seemed so cool!

I opted for using some arms from the Tempestus Scions in the end, partially because I wanted to use that rad plasma gun and partially because it gave the model a bit more armoured bulk that the Skitarii rangers otherwise lacked. It went quite nicely with the medieval helmet as well, and I could already envision lots of lovely gold trim around the edges.

The melee weapon was the trickiest thing to settle on, again mostly due to the glut of options available for an Explorator. I wanted something deadly but also not necessary typical – something from the bottom of the AdMech cupboard of secret technology that doesn’t get much outing. After flicking through the 40k Codex for the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus, I found a pleasingly harrowing weapon:

Transonic blades emit a low, insistent buzz that makes stomachs turn and eyes vibrate in their sockets. When they strike armour, these weapons will adjust their hostile sonic field to match its resonant frequency, quickly slicing right through it and turning muscle, bone and fat to jelly.

These brutal weapons don’t have any official rules for the 40k RPG line, but luckily for me some enterprising individual on the internet has already made some homebrew rules for them. I present the Transonic blade:

Melee, 1d10+4 R, Pen 4, Balanced, Transonic.

Transonic: On the first round of combat, the weapon has the Razor Sharp trait. On subsequent strikes, it counts as having Pen 12.

Colours of mars

Unlike the conversion, the paint went on this guy with zero fuss. Bizarrely, as this was a straight-up loyalist Techpriest of Mars, his colour scheme was extremely easy to sort out. No mess, no fuss – bright red cloak, dark grey fatigues and a mixture of dulled silvers and ornate brasswork for the armour. In fact, the hardest part was the cog motif on the cloak (freehand can go suck an egg), which I didn’t handle brilliantly but hey – it’s finished!

Pretty much the whole model was painted to my lazy tabletop standard – a flat base coat colour followed by a heavy wash of something (mostly Nuln Oil in this case) and highlighting back up with the same base coat colour. If I’m feeling saucy they might get an edge highlight (like the red cloak) but usually that’ll be enough.

Picked out a nice bright green for the optics and screens and a lovely lightning blue for the plasma gun and transonic blade and he was done.

Orthesian Herald 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

The Explorers are in Telasco’s. It is early evening, and the din of the day shift has died down and the burble of the night-goers has begun.

You are in a red velvet booth sharing a bottle of Blood Sands wine from Imperial space. Through the iron lattice-work floor you can see the bustle of the Pit several storeys below you, the heat and odours of a day’s hard commerce wafting up beneath your feet, but drowned out by the perfumed finery of the rich and powerful who swan about the central dancefloor of Telasco’s

Telasco’s is unusually busy for this time of the evening, and the usual coiffured, amasec-swilling regulars who prop up the bar have been ushered away to their own booths.

It is the last day of repairs on the Unbroken Resolve, and your tech-crews report ready to cast off at first shift – they are good to go whenever you give the order.

Mercy – (FFG)
Dramatis Personae

We started the session in a booth in Telasco’s, the place to be on Mercy if you have the coin and/or status. This was the first session I started by stating where everybody was, relevant to where we left off rather than simply saying “You’re all still kind of mingling around, what is everyone up to?”. There were no issues from the other players, and it helped set a scene immediately.

I thought there might have been some backlash, perhaps people wishing they were doing something else instead or had other errands to run, but instead everyone seemed content to kick off in the hip-hop-happenin’ place to be, and we got some great roleplay out of it as a result.

I had written a few characters to expose to the players, a handful from different factions so they could put faces to names. It was an opportunity to do some interaction and sow a bit of intrigue.

Lord-Captain Aoife Patroneus – (FFG)

The two most obvious characters were in the middle of one of the dance floors, surrounded by bodyguards and keeping the other punters away.

The first was a naval-looking woman with a wiry build and cropped white hair. Careful rejuvenat treatments had left her looking young, it is only when studied closer her true nature is revealed – the scars left from decades of conflict and a gaze backed by a hundred years of experience. Complete with Xenos power sword on her hip, this ticked all the boxes for Captain Orthesian’s blood to boil.

This was Lord-Captain Aoife Patroneus, head of the Patroneus Dynasty and direct rival in both power and standing to our own dynasty.

Lady Sun Lee Chosokabe – (FFG)

Her conversational partner was a stately-looking woman in ornate power armour of a striking jade hue, a colour repeated the uniforms of of bodyguards surrounding her. She too carried a beautiful power sword on her hip, and both seemed to be deep in friendly discussion.

This was Lady Sun Lee Chosokabe, the head of one of the Great Houses of Syracuse. She represented one of the most powerful noble families in the Onus Region, although this information eluded our Explorers at this time.

They were both surrounded by bodyguards from both their retinues, forming  a perimeter around them on the dance floor.

Baroness Ravenula

A third of Telasco’s had been cordoned off for a private function, filled with revelers and religious sycophants buzzing about a central figure, a woman with a venomous smirk and dressed in Ecclesiastical finery.

This was the Baroness of House Ravenula, the rival household of Missionary Lyoness. House Ravenula directly compete with House Lyoness over power within the Ecclesiarchy, and they have hundreds of family members in positions of authority all across Imperial space. Emperor knows what she was doing this far out of her ivory towers.

Brigadier Grantham – (FFG)

The last new character was a man in the corner with a straight back, stiff upper lip and a well-kept scarlet uniform. He was keeping to himself in a corner, idly watching proceedings.

This was Brigadier Grantham of Blackbriar Corps, an umbrella organisation comprising of dozens of different mercenary groups, and he was here looking out for job opportunities.

Also present was Free-Captain Acheron, Voidsman Zilla’s acquaintance from the High Jink, keeping to himself at the bar.

Pressing the flesh

Our Explorers set upon these new opportunities with the usual tact and gusto you would expect from player characters.

Explorator Freeman hit the dance floor like a pro, casting off his servo skull to start eavesdropping. Excitingly, this went wrong almost immediately, and the servo-skull got caught up in the iron lattice chandelier above their heads.

Trying to play it cool, he pulled off some fly dressage dance moves with his four mechanical legs. This had the unfortunate side effect of upsetting the maintenance servitors who had been following him around trying to buff the divots out the dance floor from his heavy clodhopping.

After failing to drop some eaves on their surrounding area, the Captain and Von Gunn made a beeline for the Baroness. Captain Orthesian made a big show of ignoring Lord-Captain Patroneus and her mystery friend. After all, what’s the point of ignoring someone if they don’t know you’re ignoring them?

Heading over to the Baroness’ private booth, they noticed she was surrounded by religious hangers-on, drinking jovially and making awful forced laughter around each other. When they see the Captain and his bolt-pistol-displaying Arch-Militant approaching, they gather in front of their Baroness, shoulder to shoulder, trying to look intimidating.

They demand to know who these interlopers on their private party are, and what business they have with Baroness Ravenula, who is looking on with dry amusement.

Von Gunn doesn’t fuck about with pleasantries. Bolt pistols drawn, he gets a critcal pass on his Intimidate check for “I part the crowd”.

With several of the Baroness’ toadies tumbling to the floor, the Captain picks his way through the heap of drunken lackeys to address the Baroness.

There is a terse exchange as the Captain sizes her up. She is apparently in the Nomad Stars to get involved with Brother Espin’s crusade as well, presumably to increase her standing in the Ecclesiarchy. She is tight-lipped about her immediate plans, and as the conversation begins to wind down, a tipsy Lyoness comes barging through.

With the exchange of pleasantries over, Lyoness had decided it was time for an exchange of insults. Very few subjects were off limits, and after a productive few rounds of abuse and humiliation, the Baroness gathers her minions and vacates Telasco’s. The Captain orders another round for a job well done.

whatever you want, leo gets

With the Captain, Lyoness and Von Gunn out nurturing positive relations and the Explorator kicking holes in the dance floor, Zilla and Gil were back at the booth having a conversation with Free-Captain Acheron.

He and his Carrack-class transport, The Silver Blade, were on the look out for work. It turns out I don’t come up with particularly creative ship names on the spot.

Gil hands over his contact details so Acheron can contact them at any time. These Astropathic business cards are small mementos or tokens impregnated with the psychic location data of the Astropath – readable by any other psyker so that they may telepathically communicate over vast gulfs of space. These psychic mementos are usually highly decorated, or made of a valuable substance to denote the rank and status of the Astropath they represent.

Gil pushes a soggy beer mat across the table with a waggle of his eyebrows.

After bidding Acheron farewell and buying him another drink, Zilla and Gil notice a commotion at the entrance of the bar. An fast, irritating, squeaky voice pierces the thumping basslines, and with a sigh Gil realises who is here to see them.

“Hey it’s me! Leo! Leo Getz! Remember? Whatever you want, Leo gets! Get it? Guys? Leo Getz!”

Gil lets the carapace-armoured bouncers know that he’s with them, and Leo comes storming across the dancefloor like a man with a purpose.

As requested, he had been chasing down leads on the Fel Dynasty, who are apparently up to some mischief in the Tenebrose system. Hadarak Fel has been recruiting wrights and builders, apparently to rebuild an astropathic relay known as the Beacon that was destroyed last year by pirates.

The information was useful, but not enough to act on. Gil instructed Leo to keep an ear open for updates, and set him another mischievous task. Hit up all the bars on Mercy while they’re gone and spread false rumours about the Orthesian Dynasty. If Leo is moving in the kinds of circles to pick up these kinds of rumours, he can certainly start to monger his own:

The Void Sea – neither empty nor a sea

“The Orthesians are searching for treasure around the Void Sea.”

Buoyed up with his mission and his newfound usefulness, Leo leaves Telasco’s with a spring in his step. Gil breathes a sigh of relief (as I take a VERY big chug of water from doing a terrible imitation of him for almost 20 minutes).

The last thing on their agenda was to talk to the mustachioed man in the corner. With excellent diction, the man introduces himself as Brigadier Grantham – a recruiter of sorts with a pair of vessels under his command. One is currently out on-mission at the moment, but he made it very clear he was available for hire should the Explorers needed it.

They saw no value in this proposition at the moment, but Gil gave him his customary soggy beer mat, winked and made the “Call me” sign with his hands.

By now the evening was winding down. Chosokabe and Patroneus had both vacated with their dozen armoured goons, and there was nobody left in Telasco’s save a few perfumed bar flies. It was time to head back to the ship and sleep off their hangover for casting off.

Hatchling-bound and down – (FFG)
The Hatchling Worlds

The Unbroken Resolve had cast off, making for the exit point of the Telos system and running some warp calculations for their intended journey.

Their destination was Cilice, deep within the Hatchling Worlds Domain.

The Hatchling Worlds are described as a cursed place of sudden warp storms, temporal distortion and strange stellar phenomena. The Domain is littered with the corpses of a thousand failed attempts to colonise or tame its riches.

Even the known routes in this region are prone to sudden, violent warp storms, and so the Hatchling Worlds are often given wide berth, despite their proximity to the Throat. These worlds play host to a myriad of strange and unique phenomena, time and space twisting because of the whirl of the nearby Great Warp Storms.

The intended route from Mercy to Cilice, stopping at Cairn on the way

It was to be 32 days to Cairn, and another few on the other side to Cilice. Cairn is what is known as Entry Point – a system near the borders of a Domain that has some warp significance. Many of the Domains are perilous to jump straight into, or have all manner of strange warp phenomena across them that makes exploration only suitable for tooled-up vessels.

Entry points are systems that are known by many explorers and traders as ‘safer’ ways into a Domain or a stepping stone between Domains. They usually have calmer tides or shorter routes to and from them, making them ideal stopping points.

This was also the longest warp jump the Explorers had undertaken so far, and with half a dozen potential warp encounters, tensions were high as we rolled on the Expanded Warp Encounter table

Ghost ship: The Bridge Officers alert the captain to warnings on the augers. Another vessel had been detected only a handful of VUs from the Resolve. It could be a ghost reading or an anomaly in the sensors, but careful fiddling from Freeman shored up the results: they were definitely not alone.

The crew did their best to scan the other ship – its drive signature matched that of a known missing transport called the Lady Malachite. Further scans indicated its Gellar Field had long since given up, and with that the order was immediately given: Get Us Out Of Here Dot Jaypeg.

Despite the Navigator gunning it to outrun the warp-riddled ship, the Resolve still got a healthy dose of corruption points from the encounter. The Morale of the crew wavered as bouts of madness and panic gripped them and Freeman got his first malignancy – becoming irrationally nauseous around clocks.

Lyoness responds in typically stoic fashion by almost spilling her wine.

Pinhole weakness: The next encounter was the discovery of a pinhole-sized weakness in the Gellar Field. It was patched almost immediately, but didn’t prevent the crew from getting another lashing of warp madness.

Everybody seemed fine from this however, with only Von Gunn failing a willpower test and fainting dead away in the confines of his quarters. From this moment on, Von Gunn swears revenge by finally putting some points into Willpower.

 

All’s Well!: A whoop of excitement from the Explorers as the next five days will be incident free.

Soul Sickness: This one turned out to be the worst of them all – a permanent Fatigue point for the duration of the warp journey and for a few days after leaving the warp, let’s hope there isn’t going to be any more encounters requiring any skill te-

Warp Shoals!: Oh no! An encounter requiring a skill test! The ship threatened to beach itself on some warp rocks, but some quick thinking and judicious use of Fate Points towards the end of the session from Zilla and Lyoness gets the ship to safety in one piece.

All’s Well!: The final encounter was a sigh of relief from the crew. The last few days would be plain sailing.

Something wicked this way comes

 

While the crew making the final few checks for translating back into realspace, the Explorator receives reports of life support malfunctioning in the lower decks; 3 Crew Population perished overnight, frozen to death in their bunks.

With some savvy scrutinising of the problem, Freeman identifies a coolant leak in Underdeck 2, Section 3. Freeman, Lyoness, Vonn Gunn and 3 armsmen go down to check out the problem, the Captain confident they can handle a Routine Checkup(tm).

The Underdecks

It is dark and deathly cold – your breath crystalises in the air and the tears freeze in your eyes. Frost has rimed on the walls. The source of the leak is 50m ahead through a tangle of tight corridors.

Your corridor is blocked by a frozen fountain of ice spilling from a ruptured water line. An armsman moves forwards to turn off the valve and stem the flow.

The ice comes to life!

Frozen claws shoot from the wall of ice and snatch the hapless armsman. They pull him back into the ice wall, eviscerating him as the hooked hands pass through his body like an egg slicer and back into the wall.

Roll for initiative!

+++++++

Next: Session 9 – Claws in the Dark

Previous: Session 7 – A Brother’s Calling

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Lord-Militant Assamar Hyde

Finished article first!

As our Orthesian Rogue Trader game gathers momentum, my eyes have been cast to counterparts of our seemingly unstoppable group of Explorers.

Where many of our players already have personal rivalries, either due to their backstories or in-game run-ins that have developed into feuds, none of them will have the same resources as a full-blown rival Rogue Trader Dynasty – House Patroneus.

A few weeks back I found myself dry-fitting odd parts of my bits box that didn’t have any other home – half a Commissar Gaunt, the overcoat from the Scions box set, that sort of thing. House Patroneus had already been established as rivals in name only by this point, why not add some flesh to those bones?

Fight fire with fire

The characters began to form as the models did. This MOTB is looking at the first to be painted, Lord-Militant Assamar Hyde, but the rest of the Patroneus crew is here.

It takes a Rogue Trader to stop a Rogue Trader

Each will get their own MOTB in turn, but this should serve as an appetite-whetter. I may add a few more in turn, as currently they are outnumbered by player characters anyway. Perhaps Lady Ash might find her way onto the crew… we shall see!

Assembling the Lord-militant

As you can see from the WIP shots, this guy really was cobbled together from random parts I found. I still had a bunch of part-painted Cadians from the Box o’ Bits and I found one with no hands or head who would serve as my shop mannequin.

I have lots of esoteric guns in my bits box, and when my internal brief is “The Gary Oak to our Arch-Militant”, it didn’t take me long to fish out a weapon.

This combi-melta is from some Space Marine kit (Blood Angels maybe?) and still had the hands attached. I suffer from a chronic lack of shootin’ hands (for this very reason) but rather than go rooting around for some poor schmuck to liberate a pair of hands from, I thought I would stick with the Astartes hands. It gave him this cool Iron Man vibe that made him seem real fancy.

The head was probably the hardest part to choose, as I have SO MANY cool heads that fit the 40k universe. Lots of old-school Warhammer Empire and Bretonnian heads always fit the bill, and I pulled out one with the fanciest plumage I could find.

He was starting to feel more and more like The Hound as a character, and this particular head nailed the aesthetic I was grasping at.

He needed accessories, but I didn’t want to go overboard. He could have had a fancy power sword or a big axe but that didn’t feel right. I settled on a few grenades and a whip that I decided would be some kind of vicious shock whip that he’d save for mutineers and traitors.

A great big animal cape (that I had immediately decided to try and paint some freehand wild animal patterns on FOR SOME HORRIBLE REASON) indicated he was a man of the stars and a trophy hunter. It balanced the model out quite nicely too, as with the massive gun it was starting to be very forward-heavy.

Trying some techniques

I had three colour techniques I wanted to incorporate in the model somehow. First was colonial British uniforms – very vibrant colours with white trim. Next was a deep brass colour I had found on t’internets that involved two (?!) washes over a metallic brass. Finally was some kind of freehand on the cape, which I’m still not sure why I thought would be a good idea.

First colours layered and washes applied. Looking good so far!

It was quite a broad colour palette, and using three kinds of metallics on the same colour scheme can be quite tricky not to make it look gaudy. Luckily, gaudy was what I was going for here, and after all the washes were applied over the base colours, I was very happy with how it had turned out.

One of the great things about doing these weird kitbashes is I get to utilise colours and techniques I wouldn’t normally experiment with if I was building something to a brief or commission.

Then the tricky part. With references in-hand, I set about attempting a leopard-print pattern and was pleasantly surprised with how simple it was to do and how effective the technique turned out to be!

First I painted the cape an orangey-brown, giving it a brown wash and highlighting it back up again with a lighter brown to bring out the fur texture.

Then I splodged a dark brown on using an old brush that doesn’t hold its point much any more. They were arranged roughly symmetrically, but it didn’t hugely matter.

When that was done, I painted little black brackets round each brown dot, trying to leave a bit of gap and ensure some variance in line thickness.

What this meant was the quicker and lazier I painted my brackets, the better it turned out. This is my kinda freehand.

With everything in place, it was just a case of painting on my highlights and picking out smaller details and it was done!

Trooping the colours

The armour was Scorpion Brass with a Nuln Oil wash followed by an Athonian Camoshade wash, and edge highlighted with Scorpion Brass again.

The tunic was Screamer Pink with a Carroburg Crimson wash and highlighted with Screamer Pink again.

And he was completed! A great mini to assemble and I really enjoyed painting him. Expect to see the rest of his crew on MOTB in the coming weeks, and I think I’ll be starting a new Irregulars segment with some of the stat lines for these guys too but for now, watch this space…

An Interrogator Calls: Tales of Onus

Lightning bleaches the purple sky a milky white. The squat iron domes of Complex Priscilla weather the storm outside. The Administration of Kreato sit around a conference table, overlooking the Complex from on high. None of them look at the spectacle of nature ravaging their facility – their eyes are on the outsider who stands at the head of the table.

His face is a patchwork of scars and burns, his hair is long and plaited, looped and fastened around an epaulette on his shoulder. His uniform is dust-choked and his boots still bear the filth from his last expedition. On a simple chain around his neck hangs his master’s rosette – a symbol marking him out as an Interrogator of the Inquisition.

Flanking him are his two most trusted allies. One is terrifically tall, his features obscured by a heavy cloak, his hands and feet masked with wrappings. The other wears a ten gallon hat and snakeskin jacket, thumbing ammunition into a large-calibre rifle. They sit by the entrance to the room, uninterested in the proceedings.

The scarred man checks the last item off a list on his dataslate. The rulers of Kreato squirm in their seats.

“And finally the last item on our agenda.” He speaks slowly and purposefully, a world-weary voice that doesn’t like to repeat itself. “The discovery made by one of my teams at a location of religious significance here on Kreato.”

Although he spoke in vagaries, all those present knew exactly what he said. General Tullius mops his brow. Director Sangreer tries to summon words to her defense. Overseer Thralle is silent. Commander Karabardak stares around in disbelief. The Interrogator continues.

“Let me be abundantly clear. This is not the two thousand year old Titan your survey teams have told you, nor is it the second coming of your saint. Any rumours to the contrary are spoken only by traitors and will be made an example of. It is not a sign of the end times, nor is it a sign to celebrate. The status quo will be maintained at all cost, such is the ruling of my master. To facilitate this, I will be replacing some of the Director’s staff with my own to-”

Director Sangreer is on her feet. “My Lord, I must protest! I think-” She is met with the sound of a shotgun racking a shell into place. She sheepishly returns to her place. The Interrogator continues again.

“-to prevent any administrative oversight that might have occurred in the past. In exchange for your loyalty, your cooperation and your resources, my master will ensure that none this affair will reach the ears of the High Lords of Terra.”

The table mutters with forced platitudes.

“As for the abysmal planetary defenses that allowed an unmarked guncutter to arrive and leave unchallenged while the entire defense force was chasing a decoy, carrying with it survivors of the cabal that escaped my team’s purge, there will need to be some considerable restructuring.”

General Tullius stammers into action, wiping the sweat from his moustache and putting on a veneer of outrage. “And what of the resources you promised us, Interrogator? You promised a relief force and I have yet to see a single troop ship or support vessel! How are we to accept your proposal when you cannot hold up your end of the bargain?”

The two figures in the back are now stood by their master’s side clutching their weapons. The man in the snakeskin jacket spits a toothpick onto the floor. The Interrogator fixes his gaze on Tullius, who shrinks back into his seat.

“Relief force? General, you’re looking at it.”

Orthesian Herald: session 7 – A Brother’s Calling

Laden with loot and buoyed up from their first successful adventure, our Explorers cast their gaze back to the stars to determine their next heading.

My God-Emperor… it’s full of stars…

They had a treasure ship filled with plunder, and although they could make off with the most valuable items by hand, there was a good lot of salvage that needed specialist equipment to remove, and a whole plasma drive that needed something larger than a little 10-man shuttle to shift. So, it was with a heavy heart that they concluded that they needed to once again contact the obnoxiously happy Lombar the Architect.

They sent an Astropathic message to the Mayweather Choir, using the contact details provided to them by Lombar. They would offer unfettered access and survey results of Gangue Prime in exchange for Lombar salvaging the wreck of the Rightful Remit for the Orthesian Dynasty. A few hours later came the response – he’d take three weeks to arrive with a salvage fleet.

I’d be lost in space without youuu – (FFG)
What about those other balls of rock

With three weeks to kill, the crew decide to investigate the other two planets – Gangue Minor and Gangue Secondus – both outside the Goldilocks zone. By chance or cunning, they headed straight for the Plot Planet when they arrived in-system, and although weren’t expecting to find anything on these outliers, thought it prudent to double check.

Gangue Minor was first, a burnt-up cinder of a planet orbiting close to the dying sun and bathed in radiation. As they closed, they got their first taste of a solar radiation hazard.

Radiation bursts

  • Fluctuations happen every D10 days and can be detected in advance with a Scrutiny+Detection+10 test.
  • They can be avoided by leaving the zone, sheltering behind a celestial body, or insulating the ship’s augers with a Tech Use -20 test.
  • Any ship caught unprotected suffers a Sensors Damaged critical result and cannot send or receive vox messages. This cannot be fixed for D5 days after the surge due to the lingering presence of the radiation.

They arrived at Gangue Minor and had their sensors immediately blasted by radiation, preventing them from scanning the planet and rendering them more vulnerable to radiation. A very quick about-face ensues.

It’s a week’s travel to Gangue Secundus, where they find a frozen rainforest in the far reaches of the voids. It all looks idyllic and ripe for adventure until the scans come back.

Hazardous frozen spores you say?”

Beautiful but deadly. The crew have had their fill of deadliness recently. (Crytek)

The Captain makes the executive decision to stay nice and safe on board the ship and perform some extended repairs while we wait for Lombar to arrive. There might be adventure waiting for them on the surface, or there might be horrible spore-related death and injury. (GM’s note: it was horrible spore-related death and injury)

Lombar shows up after a few weeks in repairs in high orbit. He is predictably ecstatic and can’t thank them enough for the opportunity before they hang up on him. All their salvage and the plasma drive will be returned to Mercy in two months, held in a safe warehouse in Mayweather Mooring.

With pleasantries cut short and a heading chosen, it was time to plot the next warp jump back to Mercy.

Return to the sea of souls

It was 5 days in warp back to Mercy, which meant I would only get one roll on the expanded warp encounters table we drew up a few sessions ago. I’ll get them next time…

We got the Visitation encounter;

“Your officers report the crew have become unsettled, and during your rest periods you find yourselves visited by shades of lost comrades and family. These have a Fear 2 rating, but if you pass you may ask a single question of the shades about your future.”

Astropath Gil was visited by the ghosts of people he left behind on the penal world. They weren’t particularly helpful with regards to his interrogations about Fel.

The Captain was visited by Great Grandpappy Orthesian, who promised the usual shtick of fame and glory. The Captain was unimpressed by his unhelpful prophesizing.

Von Gunn was visited by the spirits of all those he’d lost in battle.

Missionary Lyoness and Voidsmaster Zilla somehow managed to sleep through the whole debacle. Strong wine in the sermons, we assumed.

Explorator Freeman was visited by the ghost of his legs, doing a merry little jig on his home planet without him. Exploration is a hell of a drug.

The rest of the journey was without incident, and barring a few near-fluffed Navigate (Warp) tests, the ship translated back into the Telos system.

A brother’s calling

The moment they entered Telos, they received a vox message stamped with Imperial codes. A missionary named Brother Espin requested to meet the Captain on board his vessel, the Sword of Saint Troubadous for a very special task.

Miss me with that quest shit. A shopping spree is calling!

The return to Mercy – (FFG)

The Explorers disembark and head to their various areas of interest in Mercy. Gil was the first to be approached with some exposition.

“Rumours travel quick in Mercy. During one of your visits to the seedier parts of Longshore, Gil is approached by a short, greasy man with thinning hair and a pot belly poking out from underneath a battered flak vest. His sleeves are rolled up, displaying a host of underdecks and penal tattoos, one of which you immediately recognise as your own penal colony you escaped from.”

The individual introduces himself as Leo Getz (no relation) because “whatever you want, Leo gets!”

I heard about some funny individuals trying to break into Telascos, and one of them matching your description, I couldn’t believe my luck! We convicts have to stick together.”

His proposition was simple: “I can be your eyes and ears! You look like you could do with more eyes and ears!” 

Gil stares back with burnt-out cinders for eye sockets.

Girl Virgant – painted by Dan Taylor

“Uh, metaphorically speaking of course. No offense intended…”

The proposition seemed fair enough – he would keep an ear to the ground in Mercy for rumours, in exchange for scraps from the Masters’ tables. Gil set him about looking up information about Lady Ash and the Fel Dynasty.

I could sense a rivalry starting…

Highjinks

Voidsmaster Zilla had a special request – are there any bars specifically for pilots? Well, not in my notes so probably n-

Oh, you’ve aced the Search check. I guess there is! Welcome to the High Jink. A revolving bar set in a spire high above Mercy Longshore. It gives great views of all the voidships moored here, and operates a strict ‘Pilots Only’ policy. Great for hobnobbing with other ship jockeys!

There he meets Free-Captain Acheron, a chartist captain looking for work after he was usurped from his contracted routes by thugs. They share drinks and talk shop.

Lyoness chats up the barkeep in Telasco’s, attempting to buy their most expensive alcohol and settling for their second-most expensive alcohol.

Freeman visits Guilder Parvik to pay for repairs in Archeotech as promised last time they were on Mercy. He instead hands over a suit of Xenos Demiurg armour. Parvik is apparently none too bright and takes it as Archeotech. This will definitely not come back to haunt them. Nope.

Chartist Captain Acheron – (1977manda, deviantart)
Sword of saint troubadous

They could put off meeting with their quest-giver no longer. The Explorers picked up a lander from their ship and headed over to see Brother Espin.

The Sword of Saint Troubadous is a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.

Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen

The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation.

They land in the hangar bay and troop out, waving flags and tooting their Dynasty trumpets. Freeman had even perfected a little dressage with his robo-legs.

An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard steps forwards. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. He would be utterly inconsequential and totally indistinguishable from the other pilgrims on this ship were it not for the dozens of hangers-on that follow in his wake.

Standard-bearers, weepers, singers, tall women dressed in ornate power-armour and strange-looking warriors carrying bizarre weaponry from far-flung parts of the galaxy all stand in his shadow.

He introduces himself as Brother Espin, and gestures for some hessian pillows to be brought over so they can sit down in the hangar and enjoy tea.

Any resemblances are purely coincidental and Espin definitely does *not* share the same Machiavellian aspirations, no sir.

He opens up about his reasons for contacting Captain Orthesian.

“I Looking to build a portfolio of pious individuals in the Nomads he can trust – the God-Emperor rewards the faithful, and the Orthesian Dynasty comes highly recommended

“There is a colony on a planet called Cilice, now long-abandoned after it fell to impiety. I know very little of the history other than its reputation of being a place that fell to sin. I sent an exploratory Mission six months ago to the largest colony on the planet, Arrogance, but I have heard nothing from them.

“My advisors tell me it was once a place of wealth and decadence until warp storms cut off their supplies. The colony withered and died, and nobody heard from them again. The warp storms subsided not too long ago, and there has been considerable interest in discovering what happened to the colony and, in some cases, looking to reclaim its riches.

“If the Imperial Creed is to spread to the Nomad Stars, it needs more footholds. If my advisors are correct, the colony of Arrogance once held a mighty shrine to the God-Emperor, and would make an ideal pilgrimage and foothold.

“I need a person of faith to travel to the Cilice system and scout it for potential hazards. Establish a beachhead on Arrogance and, if possible, find my missing missionaries.

“I have legions of the faithful to set up all the necessary infrastructure for the shrine, so do not worry about busywork that would be beneath your Warrant’s holy remit. Simply ensure it is safe enough for our approach and report your success back to me. The God-Emperor has seen fit to furnish me with much material wealth that our holy work has no need for, save to grease the wheels of progress. Serve Him by serving me, and I shall see you are handsomely rewarded.

“You are not the only ones concerned about Cilice’s spiritual wealth, there are others looking to reclaim its material wealth as well. Be wary, and be swift.”

I hear the weather’s lovely on Cilice – (unknown)

As the Captain was taking it all in (and the players were frantically scribbling notes), Brother Espin makes one final gesture. He wheels out a cart with two dozen sets of plate crusader armour and some weapons, in case the crew happened to have any pious ultra-zealots on board that could do with a bit of protection.

The Captain asked a few probing questions about the planet of Cilice, but Brother Espin professed to know very little, which is why he was requesting the services of a Rogue Trader. After all, if anyone would know anything about plying the unknown, it would be them.

They bid adieu and headed back to Mercy. They were going to need to do some preparation work – this expedition would take them the furthest into the unknown they had been so far.

+++++++

Next: Session 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

Previous: Session 6 – The Beast with the Broken Back

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Orthesian Reinforcements

Reinforcements, m’lud!

Our Rogue Trader games have been going down really well, and the handful of armsmen I assembled for a warp incursion session went down a storm. The bits worked so well together, they were thematic and, most importantly, colour coordinated with the rest of the Dynasty. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough!

As our team of brave Explorers are regularly taking trips in their Aquila Lander or their recently acquired pimped-out Taurox (keep your eyes peeled on the Orthesian Herald for updates on that one), they always have slightly more than three armsmen in tow. Plus I had a few more Genestealer Neophyte bits kicking about, and it would be rude not to use them up on my favourite kitbash to date…

(re)assembling the horde

The process was much swifter this time round. I had already settled on the design, so the only thing I needed to tinker with was weapon configurations and head options.

I’ll give ’em a taste of Imperial fyceline, m’lord!

First up was this rather handsome toothy chap. I’d picked this weapon configuration out for the first batch but was umm-ing and ahh-ing over whether to include the explosives or not. A few sessions later, given our high turnover rate of armsmen, a few extra explosives would certainly make things easier.

He’s a blast to be around

This guy had a tricky join – the shotgun wouldn’t sit at a reasonable angle with the holstered pistol, so much shaving of both parts needed to be done to let it sit comfortably. I also did a fair bit of damage to the front of the leg carving off the Genestealer Cult icons, which would be filled in later with green stuff.

Anyone need clubbing, m’lord?

Second on the bench is this piece of eye-candy, snaggle-tooth and all. I knew from the off I wanted another guy with a club ‘n’ pistol combo so the other chap would look less like a sergeant. The autopistol was pinched from the Necromunda Orlock box set, as you only get the one autopistol with the Neophytes box set.

You there! Being crushed by Imperial munitions is a punishable offence!

Armsmen are military police first and foremost, protecting the crew from insurrection and mutiny by breaking skulls at the slightest whiff of insubordination. I particularly liked the policemanofficer vibe this guy gives off – it’s some combination of heavy gloves, flappy trenchcoat and hat with a little shield on it.

[angry laser noises]
Perhaps my favourite conversion? I love love love the Bretonnian heads – I don’t think this project would have worked without them. Despite them being a 20+ year old plastic kit, and the body/leg combos are monopose and pretty dull, the heads are jam-packed with character I’ve not seen on another plastic kit since. They’re just so ugly. If I could have anything I’d like some ugly lady heads in there too, but a man can dream right?

A lot of fiddling was needed to reduce his arms down from 3 to Imperial-regulation 2

The gang needed a utility guy – someone who could painstakingly cut open a bulkhead while the players are fending off waves and waves of angry space denizens. It’s an important job, but pretty dull for a player, so best delegated to a loyal armsman with a big chunky backback. Guaranteed to only jam only at moments of extreme peril!

I had assembled a fourth chap as well, an adorable little mushroom-headed armsman whose neck is pretty well shrunk into his chest. For some reason I didn’t take any WIP photos of him, but he’s painted up all nice.

Trooping the colours

First is my squashed button-mushroom guy. I really liked the head on the Bretonnian sprue, but in my endeavour to shave it down to fit, accidentally removed more of the overall height than I’d anticipated. He looks like he’s receding into his gorget like someone with a scarf against the cold. That, or he was hit on the head by a particularly large piece of falling bulkhead and his spine has never really been the same since.

Did I mention how much I love the Bretonnian heads? Well I also love the accessories that come with the sprue too. I’m still trying to justify why there would be pheasants running around the Orthesian flagship just so I can use a few of them hanging off people’s belts.

I had the weirdest sense of deja vu working on this guy though, I couldn’t help but feel like I had painted exactly the same head before, just way bigger.

Yeah! Explosions! We’ve not currently had any explosive mishaps involving armsmen, but it’s surely only a matter of time. The belt accessories were pinched from the Escher box set – their strange gas grenade thing was pressed into service as a holder for more blasting charges by painting the interior tube section red.

I could have spent hours detailing the lascutter, there were loads of cool little bits and bobs that would have suited elaborate heat damage or object source lighting effects, but I persevered with my 2018 mantra of ‘finished not perfect’ so I could get these guys on the table. I particularly like the little axe and pouch (again, from the Bretonnian kit) on his belt. If the lascutter fails…

Squad goals

And finally, some group photos of the whole gang headed up by Lord-Captain Orthesian himself, painted by Dan Taylor. The Captain will get his own article soon, for now though, enjoy these guys looking like they’re about to drop the hottest war hymn album of the 41st millennium.