For the Gorgon Crystals Inquisitor campaign at Asgard Wargames, I’ve pulled together a few warbands from my own collection to count as ‘house’ warbands. These are for folks who want to play but don’t have the minis to dive straight in.
The mysterious wealthy benefactor “Diamond One” has taken a personal interest in the discovery of the strange xenos artifacts on the shores of Port Impetus. He has arrived on the fringes of Imperial space and found himself remarkably at ease with the criminal underworld there, allying himself with a guild of Chrono-gladiators called the Deathclocks to support and protect him on his adventures.
His motives are selfish – he wants the crystals for his own gain. There are rumours he is connected to the Precipice Dreadquill, a mass-produced serial literature portraying exaggerated, censored, or romanticized versions of events from across the sector. Although illegal to possess, it doesn’t stop the Dreadquill from finding its way into the hands of millions of labourers. Such a readership would be very interested in the story of the Gorgon Crystals…
Leader – Diamond One
Little is confirmed about Diamond One’s identity other than rumours (possible put about by himself). He is reputedly attached to the Precipice Dreadquill, perhaps in an informant or administrative role, and he shares many similarities with a scion of the Shultz household on Daphnia who went missing several years ago.
He has a clearly defined sense of right and wrong, and is very popular with the workers, labourers and underhivers. He has little time for discussions of lawfulness however, and is happy to break all manner of laws to achieve his goals.
Lightly armed and armoured, he relies on his wit and speed to see him out of a sticky situation. He carries an esoteric mix of equipment – an Eldar shuriken pistol and a hand-held archeotech device that operates like a (slightly) more controlled displacer field.
This acts as a regular displacer field that doesn’t activate in response to attacks, but is manually activated instead. The user can roll two scatter dice to pick the direction, so with some luck allows them to travel in the intended direction!
Aries is an ageing chrono-gladiator – a cybernetic pitfighter fitted with a device that will explode and kill him after a period of time. The only way to set back that timer is to kill, so a chrono-gladiator lives expressly to butcher others in bloodsport matches in an effort to stave off death for another day.
Aries’ history in the arenas has earned him many years of respite, but his clock still ticks. Diamond One’s proposal was too good to be true – in exchange for protection in an upcoming expedition, Diamond One would not only pay enough to retire on, but would perform the necessary surgery to permanently halt Aries’ deathclock so he could achieve the one thing no chrono-gladiator ever could: die of old age.
On the field, Aries is uncomplicated. His twin chain claws and combat drug injectors have felled larger opponents than him in the arenas of Mercy, and each claw is fitted with a small ranged weapon – just in case.
Guilder Romaan Fetch
Aries’ support staff and pit crew comprise of a collection of mechanics and labourers to keep his systems functioning (chain claws don’t have opposable thumbs), and Fetch is the smartest of the bunch.
He’s often tagging along closely behind his master patching up bullet wounds or blown power conduits, or persuading stubborn security spirits to allow access through doors or crates where brute force would be inappropriate.
His equipment is practical and reliable – a lasgun with underslung grenade launcher and a variety of grenades (photon flash, haywire and frag) to suit an ever-changing battlefield.
Guilder Max Rockatansky
Rockatansky is the other human element of the pit crew, able to provide a bit more muscle when rites of percussive maintenance are required. He specialises more on the ordnance side of things, and keeps the crew’s weapons firing true.
He mounts a chainblade under his lasgun for close encounters and a krak grenade for unscrewing really tight nuts.
Everyone needs a friendly piston-assisted clamping buddy for all your hauling and clampage needs. Clamps is mostly machine, with a pair of magnificent squeezers for carrying, lifting, bending and.. uh.. clamping.
Being lobotomised, he doesn’t suffer from such trivial things as fear or self-preservation, and his reinforced interior provides him excellent protection against cuts and scrapes.
“Beware the dead, even as you fear death. For the God-Emperor protects us after death, but that which slumbers eternal may rise again.”
-From the journal of Acolyte Mora ‘Darksight’ Valerius
For the attention of the conclave of Asgard
Dissent stirs on the fringes of civilised space. Mines have gone silent. Warp-infused artefacts have washed up on the shores of Port Impetus amid reports of madness and violence.
With so much conflicting information, the Holy Ordos have dispatched their finest agents to contain and control what they can, and to eliminate what they can not.
The Inquisition is not the only organisation to have interests here – members of the Adeptus Mechanicus, Rogue Traders and agents of the Arch Enemy have all been reported converging on the cursed system of Haimm, eager to find the source of the artefacts for their own purposes.
I have plenty of spare warbands for other players to run around with, so the intention is to get people into the game as quickly as possible without asking them to invest in a bunch of 54mm figures.
The campaign structure
The Gorgon Crystals campaign consists of three parts:
Prologue – Introductory games to set the scene across a 2-4 week period to give players time to build warbands.
The Investigation – Four scenarios played over two weeks (Wednesday and Friday evenings). Complete objectives and gather evidence to uncover the secrets of the Gorgon Crystals.
The Finale – One large game to determine the outcome of the campaign, played with warbands who complete the most objectives
Players don’t need any models or knowledge of the game to play. Pre-made warbands are available for those who want to take part in the campaign without investing in minis, and every game will allow players to drop in or out as they wish.
The narrative nature of Inquisitor requires a certain level of continuity, and although the campaign is designed so you don’t need to attend every scenario, it’s helpful for the GM to know who is likely to be playing in advance. It’s first come first serve, but priority will always be for those who build their own warband or book a slot in the scenario.
Two scenarios are played each week – a Primus and a Secundus. These scenarios are from the same stage of the investigation but from different theatres of conflict.
Each scenario has three objectives – one for each faction: Puritan, Radical and Selfish. Objectives are often conflicting (even with warbands of the same faction), but they can also overlap with other faction objectives, meaning it can be wise to seek impromptu alliances or backstab erstwhile colleagues to complete your goals.
Completing an objective gives you a boon you can utilise in your next game. Completing a Primus objective also earns you a piece of Vital Evidence – those warbands with the most Vital Evidence will play in the finale. Completing a Secundus objective will guarantee you a place in the next Primus scenario.
Would you like to know more?
Keep an eye on the Gorgon Crystals tag – there’ll be battle reports, scenarios and more as the campaign progresses. Hit up Dreadquill on social media and come say hi!
Proximity alarm! Augers detect plasma drive activation 8 VUs off starboard side and closing!
Last time our intrepid explorers translated safely into the Gallionic system and straight into an ambush at the hands of Captain Firmstep.
Captain Firmstep, flying the armoured Heimdall-class transport ‘Foregone Conclusion’ moves into weapons range, clearly signalling his hostile intentions while the crew of the Unbroken Resolve scramble to power up all defensive systems after translation.
The other vessel, the smaller and more nimble Viper-class raider ‘Sulphur Cutlass’ lurks on the peripheries on the battle.
As a side note, both vessels used the newly-developed (at the time) Grimdark Ship Name Generator as a naming tool. Some are great, some are odd, all are Grimdark.
While the Conclusion and the Cutlass drop countermeasures and graviton flares to baffle the Resolve’s sensors and targeting solutions, the Resolve respods with defensive measures of their own.
Thanks to the Expanded Space Combat Actions, there are now some extra options the crew can pursue in between moving, shooting and intimidating the crew to move faster and shoot better. One of those is Flak Storm.
Extended Action – Flak Storm
The point defence gunners receive the order to go weapons free, saturating all the space around the ship with a thick wall of gunfire – the storm of flak scattering debris and shattering asteroids, making it difficult for enemy gunners to draw a bead on the ship. This action is a desperate one, as the wanton and unsustainable waste of resources has a lasting effect on the crew.
Command or Intimidate: Impose a -5 to all enemy BS tests targeting your ship next turn, plus an additional -5 per Degree of Success. Reduce your own Morale by D5 each time you perform this Extended Action, regardless of the success of the test.
Crushing the cutlass
Astropath Gil utilises some extended actions from the Navis Primer, namely Control the Weak Mind. A powerful psychic technique that no Astropath should be without – with a Psyniscience -40 test he can target a nearby enemy vessel and telepathically control some of the gun crews to fire on erstwhile colleagues.
Not only do you pick an enemy’s weapon component and immediately resolve it against a target of your choice, but the weapon component can’t fire next turn as the crews are too busy reloading!
With the Cutlass’ void shields down (and it foolishly closing range), the Unbroken Resolve was free to open fire with its powerful close-range macrocannons. A disgustingly good round of shooting left the Cutlass crippled and most of its components unpowered or venting air into the void.
With very little left to contribute and the Resolve now engaged with the Conclusion at close range, the Sulphur Cutlass disengages and skulks away into the darkness.
Having lost both the shooting game and the numbers game, Captain Firmstep turns to his ship’s own speciality – prepare to board!
The Conclusion is only a transport, so not designed to threaten the players’ own ship very much in terms of armour or armament. It did pack an unpleasant surprise, however – a barracks full of void-hardened warriors, a Tenebro Maze arrangement of interior corridors and a talented Captain to buff the crew.
They got a +30 to any attempts to repel boarders, meaning the Captain would have to work extra hard to cause their crew concern.
Voidmaster Zill and Von Gunn lead a Hit and Run attack around the outside of the vessel, crippling their plasma drive. Gil gets spooky and summons a Dark Labyrinth, making their own ship’s interior impossibly complex to navigate to boarders, giving them a buff during boarding actions. It all seemed for naught after the first dice roll.
In the opposed test, the Captain rolled a critical success, the crew of the Conclusion rolling a critical fail. We did the numbers.
The Captain lead a boarding party that butchered over 15,000 crew in one hour of the boarding action. Down to the last ~200 or so crew, the unsurprisingly threw in the towel and surrendered to the gore-soaked boarding party of the Orthesian Dynasty.
After a rousing speech about how lucky they are to be shown mercy, the Captain orders the survivors to be absorbed into their own crew to bolster casualties. Captain Firmstep however, is nowhere to be found…
New ship sheets
This space battle prompted a discussion about ship character sheets. The rulebook rightly describes the ship as a character in its own right, shared between the players, but we felt the default ship sheet wasn’t nuanced enough to cover the myriad components, knick-knacks and acquisitions the players would come across.
So we made our own!
Removing the massive ship image and shuffling the tables round a bit gave us loads of extra room to play with. The reverse is a bunch of space for cargo and acquisitions – you don’t need to print it off double-sided, but we found that we used the reverse to track all the players’ booty anyway, so it just made sense.
After exploring the bloody remains of the Foregone Conclusion, the crew agree there isn’t much to be done about the vessel. Legally Firmstep is a pirate, so nobody would come looking for their ‘legitimate salvage’, but they didn’t have the manpower or inclination to tow it back to Mercy themselves.
They agreed to grab what they can (the Captain pinching Firmstep’s heraldry hauberk), make a few calls to Captain Acheron at Mercy and get on with the expedition.
Into the black
The Captain prefaces the unknown warp journey with another rousing speech to the crew, congratulating them on overcoming the heretic Captain Firmstep. The crew had taken a hit to Morale in the fight, and this was just the ticket to artificially inflate their sense of self-worth before their sacrifice on the altar of the unknown.
Set a course for Sigma-459!
We use our own warp travel rules, which is a blend of the core rules (too simple) and the Navis Primer rules (too complicated) with another dozen or so warp encounters added to the table. Take a look:
As the Navigator is played by an NPC, the players take it in turns to roll for warp travel, using Mahd’Naz’s Navigate (Warp) stat of 50. They are allowed to use their own Fate Points to re-roll, knowing full well the consequences of failure…
They make an accurate estimation of 35 days and as its a brand new warp route, roll ‘Indirect Path’ for the Route Stability, adding +1 day to the journey.
They successfully translates in, failing by less than a degree, and avoid all but the worst of the warp travel encounters (ie, they take a bunch of Insanity Points from seeing their dead relatives at the foot of their bunks, but that’s par for the course right?).
In it for the long haul
To spruce up long travel times, I’ve started writing in mini-encounters, moral quandaries or opportunities for advancement for some minions, often prompted by players’ desire for not-quite-as-shit scrubs. One such instance was when the Captain wanted to train up Felicity, one of the more proactive armsmen, personally training her to be an assassin.
The premise was simple – if the captain can pass a relevant check every week (Weapon Skill, for example), his personal tutelage has paid off and she can slightly bump her stats in that area. She won’t be wearing rags for long!
To help them claim ownership of their space, I’ve also started asking them to build the world in their image, starting with their quarters. The Captain described his quarters as a neat and tidy office space, filled with books of tactics of admirals of old. In the chaos of universe, this is his haven of stability. He also has an expanding trophy cabinet (Thanks, Firmstep!) and you could bounce a penny off the bedsheets. And, naturally, a glass of amasec is always ready on his desk.
For Voidmaster Zilla, he was presented with a conundrum involving his Xeno-arcanist:
The Dynasty’s paper-pushers have flagged up erroneous expenses with your cut of the profits. Several large purchases have been made under your name, more so than the usual Telasco’s bar tab, and after doing a little digging you discover your xenoarcanist “The Zoologist” has been making a number of covert purchases. When you confront them about this, you discover they have been building a library of proscribed, illegal or otherwise morally dubious books and tomes about xenology and alien culture.
If the Zoologist is allowed to continue his studies, he improves his Forbidden Lore (Xenos) to +20.
Unfortunately for our Voidmaster, he failed to locate any trace of what the Zoologist was spending his money on, so he assumed it was booze and/or space floozies. The mystery continues unsolved!
You have an interesting and somewhat valuable collection of something in your quarters, what is it? (One of them goes missing, a junior has pawned it for gambling)
The player tells me he has a collection of sketches made during meditative trances, most are strange but important to him. One of his Juniors tries lying to him (a bold strategy for a bunch of telepaths), which results in his gambling privileges revoked.
Still causing problems
For the Explorator:
A senior Engine Priest has reported some strange goings-on in some of the crawlspaces. Apparently some of your Engine Crew have made copies of the Cilice GinDistillery and have set up a bootleg still in some of the less-used areas of the ship. Not only is this a flagrant misuse of Dynasty property, but an incorrectly-assembled is an explosion waiting to happen, and encourages the most heinous crime of all amongst your underlings: innovation.
Freeman wastes no time in locating the secret Gin still, storming in with Engine Guard. He flogs everyone responsible, scrutinises the construction and takes it all apart. He decides to keep the details of the entire debacle to himself.
Everything filters upwards of course, and when the Captain inevitably finds out about an entire work gang being publicly flogged under orders from Master Freeman, he wants to know why. Freeman is inexplicably evasive about the entire situation, keeping the plans for himself, leaving everyone with a sour taste in their mouths.
I’m sure elements of trust between the crew and Freeman’s Secret Projects(tm) will never come up again…
Gil uses The Tower to find out about Factor Silica
Gold in them thar cargo holds
Finally, the Captain was presented with a (mild) moral quandary. After raiding the estates in the Golden Valleys of Cilice, the crew had found themselves with an awful lot of miscellaneous booty once belonging to faithful Imperial servants that Brother Espin would appreciate returned to him. Alternatively, Orthesian adepts on Mercy could slowly tap the reserve, laundering the goods through Mercy’s infamously untraceable markets and turn a few pennies for the Dynasty.
The Captain mulls it over and elects to pass – keep hoarding the loot. Don’t sell it, but don’t tell Espin we’ve got it. I’m sure he’ll never find out…
More Auction Intel
And finally, Gil tasked his new intelligence gatherer, The Tower, to scrounge up some more intelligence on some of the potential auction-goers. This time it was Factor Silica, emissary of Varnstrom Industries, the largest Adeptus Mechanicus conglomerate in the subsector.
Intel: Presiding mostly in Imperial space, Varnstrom Industries are the largest Adeptus Mechanicus conglomerate, owning more than half the ruling sects and having the controlling share of the forge world ‘Forlorn Hope’.
Reason for attending: They are staunch traditionalists and loathe to see Adeptus Mechanicus secrets being traded so carelessly between undesirables.
Not a lot to action at this point, but knowing that they’re going head-to-head with the biggest cog the Mechanicus can throw at the problem, they’ll need something extra special to win that ship.
With our journey coming to a close, it was time to make one final translation into realspace and arrive safely at our destination.
Last time we were mid-warp on our voyage to the unknown – the Void Sea. This had a small stop-off at Gallionic, an “entry point” to the Skylar’s Lie domain, catalogued as such due to its proximity to other systems and relatively calm warp currents.
Many Domains in the Nomad Stars have these entry points, and navigating across the sector is quicker (and usually safer) to hop from entry point to entry point. However…
An alarming turn of events
Beat to quarters! Boarding alarm! The canteen on Deck 7C has been breached!
It quickly becomes apparent from the horrified screams over the vox that there has been a daemon incursion in the canteen. Almost a dozen souls were lost before they were able to seal the bulk head.
Von Gunn wins the initiative roll (hah, sucker) and kicks the door down to the canteen. Inside they are faced with a canteen ablaze – flames lick the walls and in the centre are half a dozen crewmen wreathed in warpfire, forced to dance along to the awful sound created by a pair of writhing pink creatures – Pink Horrors of Tzeentch.
Despite their ever-shifting nature, they both seemed to be carrying music instruments that were creating the terrible noise, and as they flicked and twirled their rubbery fingers about, forced the terrified crewmen to dance along to their sadistic music.
The horrors hurl balls of iridescent warpfire at the opening, pinning many of the crew. Those who aren’t pinned return fire, the Astropath enjoying his new killer combination of magically guided aim and overcharged plasma pistol.
The captain issues his orders:
The Captain charges into glorious melee combat in a bid to break the impasse. He spits prayers of the Emperor’s Mercy as he strikes down the terrified crewmen, unable to control their own bodies moving to the foul music.
He then promptly catches fire.
Freeman blasts the Bongo Horror (new band name, I call dibs) and it melts into a puddle of warp-riddled goo, before changing hue and reforming into a pair of blue horrors. Gasp!
Horrors are some of my favourite lesser daemons because of their weird mechanic of spawning two slightly smaller variations of themselves on death. They are weaker and do slightly less damage, but now the number of targets has gone up…
Meanwhile, under the will of the pulsing music, the firedancing voidsmen charge the canteen opening and engage the retinue. To make them interesting enemies to fight, I used regular voidsmen stats but gave them Unnatural Toughness, a 20% forcefield and flaming melee attacks. Their objective was to gum up the players while the Horrors continued to lay down warpfire attacks, and it seemed to be working.
A few Brimstone Horrors crawl out of the flames of the perimeter of the canteen, eager to contribute to the weird dance party. They spit a few tiny fireballs and are extinguished pretty quickly by the crew.
With most of the Firedancers dealt with, there was the matter of the Burning Captain (new band name, I call dibs). Missionary Lyoness leaps into action, using her surprisingly impressive Strength of 50 for a 90-year-old to cover the distance, and helps put the Captain out while struggling with the final few Firedancers.
One of the Covenant, Beef Loaf (they’re all named after Ancient Terrain Hymn-writers) is killed by warpfire from the Horrors. Her name will be etched into a shrine when we’re done cleansing this horrid place.
The Captain is struggling from a few turns of fatigue from being on fire, so Lyoness (the closest thing to a healer the group has) stabs him in the neck with some stims to keep him awake. Once more into the fray!
Meanwhile Von Gunn has puts the killing blow on the Fiddler, who splits into two blue horrors. Freeman moves into position to try out his illegal plasma gun ‘salvaged’ from the Grin Estate on Cilice. It’s like a regular plasma gun, except it shoots it’s plasma in a 30 degree cone like a flamer, doing plasma gun damage over a flamer-wide area. Yikes.
Better not put anything beloved in the way of that!
After some heated discussion about whether a cone exists in three dimensions or not (GM’s note: it absolutely does), Freeman accidentally catches Seymour in the blast of the plasma-flamer while trying to obliterate the last two horrors, much to the gasps of horror from the rest of the team.
Seymour the dog catches fire, and the whole incident was put down to a gross miscalculation of angles, because surely there’s no way the Explorator would be callous enough to fire the weapon again, knowing the Captain’s cyber-mastiff is definitely in the blast radius.
Seymour is reduced to slag from the plasma blast, taking a considerable chunk out of the canteen and obliterating what was left of the horrors. The crew are genuinely stunned.
After heated discussion about what constitutes an accident, the Captain agrees to forgive Freeman’s transgressions (he did kill the final few daemons, after all), but he promises never to forget.
Licking their wounds, both emotional and physical, the crew return to the last few days of their warp journey.
Through the fire and the flames
Lyoness leads a team to consecrate the canteen. It’s beyond repair, so they replace it as a shrine to Saint Drah’Gunforz, the patron saint of fire and flames. They move an organ from the church deck down to the canteen and appoint someone to play hymns during the day, just to make double sure the daemons don’t return.
Out of the frying pan
You translate safely into the Gallionic system, your vessel adrift in a sea of rocks. Augers show high concentrations of atomic material contained in the asteroids
The yellow light of Gallionic’s sun fills the bridge with its warmth. The drifting sea of rocks and radioactive haze throws strange lights through viewports – An eerie yellow patina, like drowning in a jaundiced ocean.
Proximity alarm! Augers detect plasma drive activation 8 VUs off starboard side and closing!
Bridge officers raise void shields and order deck crews to battle stations. There is an incoming vox from the unidentified vessel:
“This is Captain Firmstep of the Foregone Conclusion. You have trespassed on a trade route that is legally mine and I consider your ship forefeit. Surrender it to us and we’ll let you live.”
The Captain, normally a beacon for diplomatic behaviour and etiquette during confrontation, takes the vox directly and responds:
“You caught us at a bad time. We had to flee our last engagement, we’ve had a bad warp jump and someone just shot my dog. Prepare to die.”
The roar of the crowds is electricity in your bones and the air is heavy with the smell of blood and recycled sweat.
You are in a private balcony overlooking the main Bazaar arena, a wide sandy pit several hundred metres across. High above is a great plexiglass dome, through which the statue of the god-emperor is haloed by the rippling fury of the Telos star.
The crowd encircling the arena is cheering on a cybernetically-enhanced gladiator as he twists the head off an Ambull, holding it up for all to see.
Chief Wrecker Davit holds up a hand at the spectacle and grins at you with golden teeth. A boy in silk pours more wine into your goblets.
”So what do you say? Do you want to play a game to win your ship parts, or perhaps you’re looking to sell? The arenas are always looking out for new and exotic attractions.”
Previously we left our intrepid heroes in the Mercy Bazaar Arenas to do battle over.. uh.. an arena. A Resolution Arena ship upgrade for the Unbroken Resolve, to be precise, and without the funds to acquire it at present, they agreed to do battle in one of the most infamous blood sport arenas outside of Imperial Space.
We open with Von Gunn, Gil and Freeman back-to-back in the sandy arena to the sounds of crowds baying for blood. They were facing three Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild, and they had particularly nasty statlines…
Chrono-gladiators of the Deathclocks Guild
Skills: Awareness, Intimidate +10
Talents: Ambidextrous and two-weapon talents, Autosanguine, Crushing Blow, Fearless, Swift Attack
Electro-flails: 1d10+12 I, Pen 0, Flexible, Shocking
Pneu-mattocks: 2d10+10 I, Pen 0, Primitive, Unbalanced, Unwieldy
Chain axes: 1d10+14 R, Pen 2, Tearing
Cutting claws: 1d10+10 R, Pen 0, Fast
Ticking clock: If a Chrono-gladiator kills, they gain +1 Unnatural Strength and become immune to Fatigue for d5 rounds. Any further kills increase the duration by d5 rounds. If after 5 rounds it does not kill again, it takes 1 level of Fatigue and d5 Explosive damage to the body ignoring Toughness and Armour. This happens every 5 rounds.
on with the show
Our heroes make the first move, with the Chrono-gladiators trailing in the initiative roll. A combination of Von Gunn’s bolt pistol prowess and Gil’s psychic guidance of his plasma pistol sees off the chrono-gladiator with the shield before it even takes a step forward. It drops to its knees, a smoking stump where its head should be.
Explorator Freeman makes a mad dash at the gladiator with chainsaws for hands, and everyone is stricken with a sense of awful deja-vu.
They exchange blows, parrying and rolling under each other’s deadly swings, but Freeman is caught across the face by one of the biting blades and drops to -2 Critical Damage.
While his combat-heavy comrades are distracted with their own problems, our Astropath is charged by the net-wielding gladiator. The combination of shock net and poison talons drops Gil to -2 Critical Damage. Unfortunately for the gladiator, that isn’t enough to stop him…
Gil unleashes a devastating psychic attack, overwhelming what little is left of net-guy’s brain and gaining total psychic domination over him. He forces him to run as far away from Gil as possible, and Von Gunn heroically plugs him in the back of the head with a twin shot from his bolt pistols. Go long!
Things don’t go quite so well for Freeman. He loses his battle with the Señor Chainsword as its whirling teeth pull two of his four legs clean from their sockets. He falls to the arena floor, burning a Fate Point to avoid death but is definitely out for the fight.
For those at the back keeping count, Freeman has now officially lost the most limbs in the party (3 in total).
As Chainsword Hands raises his arms to deliver the killing blow, Von Gunn explosively separates his arms from his shoulders with clinical precision. The final Chrono-gladiator falls to the ground and the crowd is beside itself with excitement.
After a quick patch-job on Freemen (he has a box of legs on the ship), Chief Wrecker Davit thanks for them for entertainment, and promises to uphold his end of the bargain. The Resolution Arena will be installed on the Unbroken Resolve.
Returning to Espin
You take a short shuttle ride from Mercy to Brother Espin’s vessel – a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold.
Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed. Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen .
The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation
An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard is sitting in a circle of cushions on the hangar floor, pouring tea. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. You know him as Brother Espin.
Brother Espin was thankful for their efforts, and payment was presented as promised for clearing out the space port on Cilice. The Captain had alternate plans – he negotiated for free rights to use the space port instead of payment, something that will sting their bottom line in the short term but will keep their hands free for gin-related shenanigans in the long run. Very cunning!
Espin also offered some new ship components. They could pick two from:
Good Quality Barracks (-1 Space, +1 Morale)
Good Quality Voidsman’s quarters (Raider size, -1 space, +1 Morale)
Best Quality Temple-shrine (+D5 Morale)
They opt for the Barracks and the Quarters, estimating two days to fit their fancy new digs. They beg their leave of the Brother and return to Mercy proper to begin the refit. The crew are particularly thankful to no longer be topping and tailing.
Dabbling in the background
I had learned from my mistakes regarding the Endeavours system in Rogue Trader – less is more. Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve had it work for your own groups, but it wasn’t a good fit for ours.
I still had another idea to try – Background Endeavours from Into the Storm. A formalisation of the Profit Factor acquisition process, but something that can be done once and forgotten about so the players can get on with the adventuring and swashbuckling while the proles do the legwork.
This was a perfect opportunity, the players wanted to rebuild the Cilice Gin distillery from afar and reap the rewards in the future. Time for some numbers!
Background endeavours are split into two parts: the Captain yells at some hirelings to do a job, and the GM calculating how well the job went. Broadly speaking, the players make a few dice rolls and forget about the Endeavour until the GM tells them enough time has passed for the project to have passed or failed.
The Endeavour is outlined by players and GM – what resources they’ll need and the quality of peon needed to perform the job. They already had the resources they needed (most of an abandoned distillery) and just needed a crew – they acquired Good Quality Hirelings, in this case Tavish Contractors.
The GM comes up with a rough time estimate – about 2 months in this case.
Players contribute supporting skills. Freeman provided a chemical analysis of samples found on Cilice (with a Chem Use test) to avoid the fairly obvious horrendous side effects and adds +3 Degrees of Success (DoS) to the Captain’s Command check. Zilla provided fly-by records of the valleys and space port, adding +1 DoS. Lyoness gave a stirring (if somewhat threatening) speech with an Intimidate test, adding +4 DoS to the overall pool.
The Captain makes a Command check to see how well the hirelings perform. He gets a bonus for all the skills his crew have contributed. He (unsurprisingly) succeeds with 8 Degrees of Success.
Retire and enjoy a glass of (currently) the last Cilice Gin in the universe.
Make a Success roll. This is a flat 50/50 chance, modified +/- by the Degrees of Success/failure of the Captain’s command roll and the quality of Hirelings. These rolls are done between games and noted down to bring up at a future session when Success or Failure can be reaped. In this case, I rolled a 10 (super success!).
Check how long it takes. Regardless of success or failure, you roll on a ‘time taken’ table to see how long it’s taken your hirelings to do the job. Sometimes successful endeavours can take much longer than estimated, while failed endeavours can be over very quickly. I rolled 73, meaning it took 125% of the estimated time. 75 days for the job to get done!
That’s it! When the time is up (day 216 shipboard time) I’ll let them know and they can add +2 Profit Factor to their character sheets.
The intention is to keep the story moving forwards while earning money in the background. We’ll come back to this in about.. ohh.. ten episodes time or so.
Auction on the horizon
Last time we also discovered the latest hot topic: an auction being held by the Obsidian Emporial for a rare class of light cruiser in a few months’ time. They had three bits of concrete intel:
Up for grabs was a Secutor-class Monitor Cruiser. A substantial upgrade from the current ship – oodles of space, plenty of weapon hard points and a good blend of defense and manoeuvrability. Perfect for longer, more dangerous voyages into the unknown!
The Obsidian Emporial auction house will not accept money alone, they are looking for something unique or priceless to win their interests.
There will be a number of other rivals vying for the ship – determining who they are and what they have to offer will help the team greatly in their run-up to the auction.
Whatever you want, Leo Getz
With the Auction at the forefront of their minds, the crew wanted some more intelligence on other organisations attending. Time to lean on their old pal, Leo Getz.
After another chastisement from filling their astropathic relay with reams of garbage, Astropath Gil finally gets the message through to Leo. It’s not his Juniors’ job to sift through his manic mountain of thoughts – edit them down!
Brain still aching from mental castigation, Leo comes up with the goods. Two Rivals, both with printed out contact cards so the party can keep some vague centralised notes on the myriad NPCs they’re encountering, and some additional information about them.
Each contact has some generic intelligence about their organisation, their reason for attending, what they intend to offer at the Auction, and additional (sometimes scandalous) information.
Each session I’ll be offering an opportunity for Leo to siphon a bit more for current or new contacts, drip-feeding the information rather than dumping it all at once.
Lord-Admiral Bastille VIII of the Bastille Dynasty
“A martial man, conducting the affairs of his House as though it were a private navy. There are dozens of sour rumours swirling around the circumstances of his inheritance of Warrant of Trade and his poor relationship with the Imperial Navy. “
The Herald of Fane, Fane Disciples
“Intensely secretive and uncommunicative sect of Adeptus Mechanicus, devoted to the works and discoveries of Magos-Illuminate Zeriander Fane.”
Next stop: Nowhere
We had a mission: Gather something unique for the auction.
We had a time frame: Several months.
We didn’t have a heading. The Captain addressed all the potential plot leads from previous sessions and decreed them to all be equally worthy, therefore unworthy of a unique offering to the Obsidian Emporial.
The Captain cast his gaze across a map of the Nomads. So many worlds already discovered.
He stabbed his finger in the centre, a minor warp storm called the Void Sea. He asked “What’s here?”. I referred to my notes – I had only written one line:
“Here there be monsters.”
That was enough for the Captain. He ordered an immediate survey to find an unexplored system of interest in the Void Sea and to chart a course to it. We had a heading!
The only thing remaining was to pick up any last-minute essentials from Mercy-mart for the voyage. The Captain acquired a Bullpup Cyber Mastiff (from Dark Heresy’s Book of Judgement) which is a bigger, meaner version of a cyber mastiff. Zilla acquired a single-shot grenade launcher to help deal with Really Big Problems.
Morale is high, plunder is in sight and with only one day to the warp point, everything seems to be going the Crew’s way! Nothing can dampen their spirits! All they need to do is a cheeky short hop to Gallionic, just a mere three days in warp, what could go wrong?
Last time on the Herald, our players landed an incursion force on the storm-wreathed world of Cilice Prime, stole a Taurox pulling the universe’s last known supply of Cilice Gin, leveled an estate with its guns and psychically commanded an army of cannibal abhumans to fight itself. They were left with a few more marks on the map, a full tank of gas and a compulsion to loot.
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past in your Taurox.
The ugly palace-fortress of the Glaw Estate begins to emerge from thick curtains of rain. A massive construction that was probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry.
The Grin Estate was now swarming with loyal armsmen and technomats brought down from the orbiting Unbroken Resolve on heavy halo barges. They were on hand to ruthlessly loot the estate of its worldly belongings and reinforce the Explorer’s immediate retinue.
The Missionary, Lyoness, hand picked a few more of her covenant to join her. She decided that her Covenant were named after ancient Terran saints, famed for their war-hymns. We are joined by Zeppelin, Ziggy, Iggy and Acey-Deecey.
We fill out the Taurox’s capacity with Master Zilla at the controls and Von Gunn on guns and thunder off into the rain.
The Glaw Estate
No messing about this time. With the Astropath firing off his psychic mind scan (much to the surprise and discomfort of everyone trapped in the little metal box with him) and ascertaining the resistance was next to none, the Captain gives the order to ram the front gates.
There is clearly nowhere near the level of intelligence as in the Grin Estate, and whatever wretches are still present in the estate scatter and flee at the big angry gunbuggy. The team slowly and cautiously make their way to the lower levels.
They discover tread marks and scraps of pilgrim robes around the Glaw Estate leading down to the vaults. There is also a lot of broken religious iconography around the place, unusual for a criminal organisation.
It’s dark, and the vaulted ceilings carry their voices out into the darkness. They occasionally spot more of the abhumans, but they always stay just out of sight and weapons range. The Explorers decide it’s best not to waste the ammunition.
They arrive at the vault, a similar size and makeup to the one from the Grin Estate. It is air tight and sealed from inside. Oggy-Bong fires up the lascutter. The players had had a sinking feeling since they arrived, and the “YOU HAVE ALERTED THE HORDE” noise was palatable. Oggy-Bong shouts over the gunfire it will take just over a minute for him to get the door open.
Liquid hunger pours from the darkness, dressed in rags and purple flesh.
This section it was time to play hard and fast with the rules. If they were able to beat a target’s TB of 3, they killed it. I put a little marker down on the board to represent a body, and the model gets brought on from another table edge in subsequent turns. Weight of numbers and the press of bodies in a confined space would be the main threat.
We had a few extra Armsmen in tow this game – this is just beyond the upper limit of how many player-controlled models I would prefer to have on the board to keep things flowing smoothly. The Astropath player’s actual real-life brother was in the area that day though, and rather than delay the game or leave him out while his brother rolled dice, I offered him a place in the session.
The wretches came in waves, crashing against the bulwark of the Orthesian Dynasty. Everyone played their part in sinking bullets and plasma into wasted flesh, dropping the wretches left and right. The bodies begin to pile up.
After a turn or two, it becomes apparent this might not be sustainable for six turns – they would either run out of luck or ammunition. Freeman decides the best course of action would be to plug his potentia coil into the operational lascutter and turn it up to 11.
Against tricky odds, he superjuices the lascutter, knocking a few turns off the clock as poor Oggy-Bong clings on for dear life.
The team spread out, trying to cover as many entrances as possible. Von Gunn and armsman Felicity cover the top left corridor. Felicity finds out she is entirely superfluous and there largely for moral support. The Captain and Thud guard the bottom left entrance. Astropath Gil and Voidmaster Zilla take up centre stage, using their ranged weapons to most effect. Lyoness and her Covenant of mad chainsaw-wielding warrior women lock down the uh.. everywhere.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the board:
Dedicated melee character Captain Orthesian discovers the hilarious repercussions of combining a low movement speed with a force field that teleports you randomly away from trouble whenever you are hit. The Captain spends most of this game charging into combat, getting fingered by some hungry schmuck with a pointy stick and his displacer field panics and throws him 2d10 inches in a random direction to repeat the process. I even had to add a new tile to the board just to encompass the distance moved.
Hearty chortles and slapped thighs all round, except the Captain.
It was coming up to the final turn, and things were turning sour. Ammunition was running low, the Captain was not in the melee enough to make his power sword’s presence felt, and the Covenant were looking battered and bruised.
Iggy falls to the wretches. They tear off her hand and begin to drag her into the darkness. Lyoness is having none of this nonsense and hurtles off to save her. Iggy’s life is saved, but she might NEED A HAND from now on.
The last few inches of vault door are carved apart by Oggy Bong. As the thick blast door slams inwards, internal lumens activate, blasting the darkness with holy light. A mighty Imperial Aquila, polished to within an inch of its life, is emblazoned on the opposite wall of the vault. Its blessed light shines through the darkness, the wretches recoiling in fear and awe at the sign of the God-Emperor. They had done it.
You head into the vault, down the stairs and underneath the shining Imperial Aquila. The air is stale and tastes of death.
In the vault proper you see a congregation of Imperial worshippers in a circle lying dead on the floor, each executed with a las round to the back of the head. There are no signs of a struggle.
A senior priest is propped up against a baroque mobile shrine on tank treads, a las wound through the side of his head and a laspistol in his hand. A hand-written note is placed neatly in front of him that simply reads “Without the dark there can be no light. Emperor forgive me.”
There was no doubt that this was the Imperial Mission that Brother Espin requested they find. They said a small prayer and got to the important task of looting the vault for everything it was worth.
Gold and jewels as far as the eye could see, painted chalices, stained glass windows and ornamented priestly robes – everything in the vault looked like it would have been donated to (or taken from) churches across Imperial space. The Missionary said a small prayer to the lost and opened her loot sack wide.
Standing proud of the jewels was a display case holding an arcane-looking weapon – a bolter with built-in stake thrower. A Condemnor-pattern boltgun (page 81 of Faith and Coin) with a crowssbow mechanism designed to fire holy bolts inscribed with runes of banishment and exorcism. Valuable in its own right, but in the hands of a daemon huntress…
The mobile shrine-canter had build-in loud-hailers and incense burners and a simple movement-slave module so it can trundle along behind its owner. It has a shrine on the front clearly meant to hold a large weapon, but was currently empty. A dusty book sits nearby, most of its pages missing or faded, but it talks of a lost relic – an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail…
Mount up, move out
The Captain calls in support, comfortable that his armsmen can strip it of all its worth now the Explorers have had their pick of the prize. He makes sure to instruct them to take the big shiny Aquila as well, it would look excellent above the desk in his quarters. They make tracks for third palace, the Fallaset Estate.
Some lore checks are rolled on the way over. The Fallaset dynasty still exists, unlike the owners of the other estates, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him.
They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport. I’m sure that information won’t be important.
The Fallaset estate is abandoned, the only sign life is the greenery growing around where the roofs have caved in. The front door is ajar.
Inside, they find remnants of wretches, most brutally torn apart. They come across large footprints, and eventually, a gaping hole through the floor of the estate leading all the way down to the vault level. The team gird their loins and carefully make their vaultward.
They see the vault in the distance – it has been brutally torn open from the inside. The Captain thinks he knows what did this, so he begins issuing orders to-
ROLL FOR INITIATIVE!
The rumbling beneath their feet crescendos in an explosion of sodden dirt and marble. Two massively built creatures burst from the floor, encased in insect-like armour with hugely oversized arms tipped with iron-hard claws. Ambulls!
Von Gunn: “Permission to freak out and shoot my nearest team-mate?”
Von Gunn: “Sorry sir, I failed my Fear check. Eat shit, Freeman” *blam blam blam*
I love the Fear tables, and the look of panic that washed across everyone’s face when Von Gunn (gun by name, gun by nature) failed his shock test so badly against the incoming creatures of the deep that he would be randomly assigning a target. The party’s greatest asset in a combat swiftly became their biggest threat. Another reminder to people that Willpower should not be your dump stat.
Luckily for Freeman, this was one of the statistically few times Von Gunn actually missed a target, much to my disappointment.
The team open fire, splitting their efforts against both Ambulls. One had popped up quite some distance from the group as I had openly rolled a random direction for the beasties to arrive. The Ambull are insanely powerful and distressingly fast for their size, and could comfortably splatter a player character in one round if the dice are in their favour. To counter this viciousness, I wanted it to seem as fair as possible as to who would get picked on. If someone died, it would be on the dice, and not me.
Lyoness and her Covenant (minus Iggy, who was back on the Resolve getting her hand seen to) opened up with their flamers, dousing the poor creature in so much hotsauce that practically takes it out of combat for the rest of the session. Lyoness jams her weapon from over-enthusiastic flaming, but the damage is done.
Her and her Covenant spend the remainder of the combat enthusiastically carving it up with chainswords, rarely dealing enough damage to hurt it properly, but enough to keep it busy.
Back on the other side, all the armsmen panic and open up, bouncing their lightweight shot and autopistol rounds off its hard carapace. With Von Gunn a gibbering wreck for a few turns, they would need some thrilling heroics to deal with this Ambull before it finally got its shit together and landed a hit on someone.
Freeman: “I roll Acrobatics to do a sick flip and land on its back like in Starship Troopers”
GM: “Well shit, that’s probably going to be super hard as you don’t have Acrobatics or-”
Freeman: “001. Critical pass”
So our spider-legged techpriest sails through the air with the greatest of ease, doing a sick flip and planting himself firmly on the beast’s back. He plunges his power axe into the thing’s neck and it screeches in pain, thick ichor dribbling out onto the floor.
The armsmen panic, and one of them accidentally shoots the Captain in the back while he’s trying to stab the Ambull.
Luckily the displacer field activates and teleports the captain a LONG way away. Good news for not getting shot, bad news if you’re a melee character trying to stab a giant alien beastie to death.
Von Gunn finally comes to his senses and blasts the first Ambull through the eyeholes. It screeches and collapses. Freeman massively flubs his Agility check to get out the way and is crushed by the corpse. The dice giveth, the dice taketh away…
Zilla and Gil have been contributing, but not in a noticeable way. Zilla’s fancy autogun doesn’t cut the mustard against brutes with a high Toughness Bonus, and Gil’s only chance is to use his plasma pistol on Maximal, only getting to fire every other round. Great IF he hits. Which he never did this combat.
Von Gunn turns to see a flaming wreck of a creature being carved up by angry ladies with chainswords. Lyoness has backed off and is shouting moral encouragement after realising just quite how much damage one of those fists do. (It’s 1d10+10 with Swift Attack) Von Gunn takes aim and uses double shot to crack its skull wide open.
With the sound of steam escaping from betwixt toasted carapace like a lobster in the soup, the final Ambull comes crashing to the ground. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief while doing a quick check on everyone’s health. The Captain sets his sight on the vault doors, wide open and inviting, and congratulates everyone on a good fight.
The Astropath uses the dying moments to use Sensory Deprivation on his brother who shot the captain in the back with Felicity. All’s fair in love and war, eh?
After last week’s initial incursion onto the surface of Cilice, Captain Orthesian is glad to have a full complement of players once again. With a second incursion planned, and some first hand intelligence gathered about the locals, the players board an Aquila Lander (with the Junior Astropath Fez, Alyss, Felicity, Thud and Oggy-bong) and make their way down to Port Van Arkiel once more.
The Captain also makes sure to install some of Freeman’s engine crew on Stiletto station with a vox and reclaimator tools to give remote access to the Occlusion Shields, and orders Kettlehead to prep an Arvus Lighter filled with armsmen to launch at a moment’s notice. Their plan was simple – have a small insertion team spearheaded by the senior officers, and ifwhen shit hits the fan, drop hell down on the heads of their enemies.
The Lander sets down on the rain-slick concourse of Port Van Arkiel and head inside to Butchers’ Bay, leaving a few armsmen guarding the Lander.
For this session, I had also mocked up a map that had been ‘drawn’ by Voidsman Zilla on his fly-by at the end of the last session. I enjoy making maps, and it’s handy for players to have their bearings when talking about multiple locations, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate.
Out of the storm
Port Van Arkiel is made up of the largest buildings built into the mountains, immediately off the space port concourse. Inside are vast warehouses, receiving rooms and cargo cranes long-since rusted over from inactivity. This seems to be once-proud shipping hub for the space port, known as Butchers’ Bay.
Detritus is strewn everywhere, garbage and torn rags. The rockrete floors have been stained dark from something you hope is engine oil.
A handful of bodies are scattered around – the remains of power-lifter servitors. Anything of value has been stripped from them, and most gruesomely of all, the pallid flesh-parts have also been flensed from its metal skeleton. The only evidence of its assailants are deep gouges left by crude tools, and the unmistakable shape of teeth marks, as though the servitor had been gnawed to the bone.
It was time for a little encounter, something to reinforce the desperate, primitive and resourceful nature of the inhabitants of Cilice.
You notice in the gloom ahead some kind of machinery turned over to form a plinth. The pinth is surrounded by detritus and aged garbage. Light filters in from a hole in the rockface high above and falls on the plinth, Something golden and glittery has been placed there, twinkling in the twilight.
Awareness -30 (sight): the garbage has been gathered specifically to disguise a huge, barbed net underneath the plinth. You think you can make out monofilament cables running from the net high into the rafters above.
The net is 10 metres in the air and Snares anyone in it. If activated, more Debased crawl out from behind crates and underneath hides made from refuse to try and kill anyone caught.
The item on the plinth is a tiara constructed of polished metal and glittery garbage. It’s nothing but a decoy.
Outcome: Sadly, the team immediately and unanimously recognised this as a trap and left it well alone. I’ll get you next time, Gadget.
As the crew ignore my not-obvious-at-all trap and proceed through Butchers’ Bay, they come across a side passage with a brass plaque reading “Shipping Archives”. Inside the room is scattered with papers and broken data-slates. It has clearly been ransacked, but the scavengers weren’t looking for any of the data.
Forbidden Lore (Pirates) +20 or Commerce -10: You notice irregularities in shipping logs and tithe payments. The residents here were importing vast amounts of food and exporting only Cilice Gin, but there were millions of tonnes of suspect shipments coming through the port every month. It appears the powers on Cilice were engaged in massive scale criminal enterprises and lining their own pockets with the Imperial Tithes.
Suddenly, the Captain felt less bad about murdering a bunch of them. They take some photos with their pict-capt devices and Zilla pockets some choice documents before proceeding downwards.
Protected by heavy metal doors, guard towers and atmo-generators, the Gin Distillery looks more like a military installation from the outside. It is built into the rock like the rest of Arrogance, but its design is much older than the rest.
It joins to Butcher’s Bay through a big heavy door, wide enough to fit a battle tank through. Riveted steel cranes and massive pulleys above your head suggest the distillery produced a lot of Gin for export through the space port
The thick metal door to the distillery is barred from the inside. You’d need something heavy duty to get through it.
Everyone turns to look at the armsman lugging around the las-cutter. He grins, showing all five of his teeth, and makes his way to the door. He uses a full complement of las-charges cutting a hole large enough for everyone to climb through, slams his spare clips into place and hops through to join everyone.
The distillery is huge and amazingly mostly intact. Great brass stills large enough to swallow a heavy lander line the walls, copper cabling spiralling off them.
Other machinery seems to have been smashed or pulled apart. There appears to be little of value lying around except a few dusty skeletons, picked clean with teeth and tool.
A brass plaque on the wall nearby suggests two other adjacent rooms – the mash room and the garage.
The monster mash
The team decide to check out the mash room first. Despite being aware for traps, the Captain fluffs an Awareness check and uses most of his Fate Points avoiding a particularly nasty pitfall trap laid in the corridor to the mash room.
The room is hewn from the stone with riveted steel buttresses and steel rafters high above your head. Much of the roof has collapsed revealing more of the distillery above. A strange green fungus covers the walls, originating from the huge piles of harvested fungus in vats and containers in the far end of the room.
A dozen or so of the wretched inhabitants wipe their mouths of fungus stains and gaze at you with panicked, hungry eyes.
With a snap of the fingers, Missionary Lyoness and Alyss step forward and torch the whole room. No dice needed to be rolled – nothing was going to survive that.
What’s in the box?
Finally it was on to the garage, to see what delights awaited them in there…
The door is electromagnetically sealed, with evidence of others trying to open it with crude tools to no avail. The nearby console has rusted over from a leaky still above it. The door needs to be cut or blown open.
Eyes fall back on our lascutter armsman again. He expends the last charge cutting the door open.
Inside is untouched by whatever catastrophe has befallen Cilice. Glow-lamps stutter and fail to ignite on whatever backup power is left. In the centre of the garage is something large and vehicle-shaped under a protective tarpaulin.
Hooked up to the vehicle is a trailer with a large reinforced metal tank that looks like it could contain almost a tonne of liquid. Stencilled on the side of the trailer is “Arkiel Gyn”.
The Captain gives it a tap, it sounds full. He calls for Lyoness to bring her emergency wine glasses out and they all sample some of the most expensive booze in the galaxy. The Explorator runs some tests on it with his mouthparts, while the Astropath catastrophically fails a Psyniscience test to see if it’s safe to consume and doesn’t have any mind-effecting warp presence.
What followed was perhaps my favourite bit of character interaction to date. They all loved the Gin for different reasons;
Captain: “This is really expensive!”
Missionary: “This is really good Gin!”
Voidmaster: “This is weighted well to be driven at high speeds!”
Astropath: “This is alive!”
Arch-Militant: “This is really explosive!”
Explorator: “This is really good fuel!”
It was time to see what was under the tarp.
Under the tarp is a mighty steed of a vehicle – a tightly packed, quad-tracked vehicle resembling an angry bull. A pair of autocannons sit atop its turret, gleaming in the half-light as though they were fresh off the assembly line.
Common Lore (War) +20: A common sight on the battlefield, this rugged castellan-pattern quad-track unit is a Taurox – an armoured personnel carrier praised by Imperial commanders for its speed and persevering machine spirit. Axial co-dampeners redistribute the weight of the vehicle across its four tracks as it moves, allowing jagged outcrops and unevenly piled rubble to be traversed at full throttle. It is equally at home on the open road, through the crumbling ruins of a hive city or the knotted jungles of a death world.
The Explorator gave the vehicle a once-over. All systems are good Captain! The Voidmaster checks the most important part, the hymn-vox. With an astoundingly critical Search check, it turns out the space-glove compartment is filled with ancient Terran hymn-discs!
Voidmaster Zilla slams on his favourite war hymn by Saint Sabbath the Black and routes it through the external vox. The shutters to the garage are down, but that doesn’t stop them.
With a roar of the engines, and with a tonne of the universe’s last supply of Cilice Gin in tow, the Orthesian crew tear through the flimsy shutters and out onto the rain-slick valley floor. They christen her ‘War Pig’ in honour of Saint Sabbath’s apocryphal works and gun it towards the Golden Valleys in search of the missing missionary.
The Golden valley estates
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. A highway of sorts has been constructed, now overgrown and cracked.
Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past.
Ugly palace-fortresses begin to emerge from the thick curtains of rain. Massive constructions that were probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. Many of the smaller ones have been leveled, now nothing but broken ruins being reclaimed by the rain.
As the crew near the nearest estate, the Grin Estate, warning runes flash across War Pig’s console. The targeting spirits of the automated weapons guarding the estate are still sharp as ever, but it seems they ran out of ammunition a long time ago.
The Captain gives the order to move in, so Zilla guns towards the estate.
On the approach, Von Gunn (in the gunner’s seat, naturally) picks up incoming small arms fire – someone in the estate is firing lasguns at the Taurox – and poorly at that. One shot in a hundred seems to be hitting, and with the heavy armour of a military-grade transport, there was no chance of being hurt.
Von Gunn: “Permission to return fire, captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
The Arch-Militant racks the autocannons and lets loose. A weapon designed to shoot down small craft and light vehicles opens up on the crumbling ruins of the Grin estate. Masonry explodes. Bodies fly from windows. Von Gunn rakes the middle section of the estate with high-velocity explosive-tipped rounds until huge plumes of smoke and tongues of fire erupt from the estate as the upper floors crash down, annihilating everything in the middle section.
A poor Estate of affairs
As the dust settled, the Astropath was quietly invoking in the back of the armoured transport. Before someone could point out the risks of the psyker throwing his powers around in the back of a metal coffin containing all the plot characters, he had launched a Mind Scan on the remains of the estate.
He reads over a hundred conscious minds, slightly more advanced than the ones they encountered on the Port Van Arkiel concourse. There seemed to be several ‘leaders’ of sorts inside, so he homed in on one who identified as ‘Rak’.
The rest of the party were beginning to look a bit panicked as the Astropath’s eyes had rolled back in his skull and was twitching uncontrollably in the back of the Taurox while Von Gunn was screaming with delight in the gunner’s seat, but there wasn’t much that could be done at this point. Gil was off on a magical psychic adventure in his head, and they just prayed it all went well.
The Mind Scan power allows you to single out an individual and communicate with them telepathically. Gil kept it simple – giving this ‘Rak’ character a straightforward command: OPEN THE DOOR.
It all went a bit quiet. They waited for a few minutes, and they could just about make out the crackle of small arms fire from inside the estate from their position about 50 or so metres out. The Captain gave the order to open fire on the estate again, which Von Gunn carried out with glee. “I get to roll how much damage?” (it’s 4d10+4, Pen 4, if you wanted to know. Dakka dakka dakka.)
This time Von Gunn scythes straight through the foundations of the right hand spire of the estate. With a thunderous noise, the entire spire collapses back in on the estate, as las fire can be seen spitting from the estate like faulty fireworks. The spire topples sideways into the estate defenses, crushing the outer wall and exposing the inner courtyard to the outside world.
Zilla: “Shall we go have a look Captain?”
Captain: “Carry on.”
They bring War Pig around, and inside the courtyard they can see a fierce laser battle unfolding between… well nobody was quite sure. The place was teeming with Cilice wretches wearing vaguely similar attire as each other, but they were all gunning each other down like their lives depended upon it.
Gil did another quick Mind Scan but in the melee couldn’t get quite as detailed information. Their numbers had dropped by half in a matter of minutes, and although he couldn’t communicate with Rak, he got the impression that Rak had thought he had been visited by a vision from the God Emperor and had decided to take up arms against his fellows. Just as planned, I guess?
They uncoupled the Gin trailer from War Pig and hit the gas, riding straight over the rubble and into the courtyard, shooting at anything that looked at them funny. Zilla rolled a critical for pulling off sick doughnuts while the passengers poked their weapons out firing ports and took pot shots at whatever they could see.
The Captain got on the loudhailer. “Primitive descendants of the Grin Estate, cease your pathetic attempts to overcome the Orthesian Dynasty!”
The remnants of the Grin wretches scattered to the hills, and after disabling the anti-air capacity of the estate so they could bring in reinforcements, set about looking for where a criminal family might keep all their valuables in an estate of this size.
Storm-ridden Cilice Prime is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Cilice’s jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Van Arkiel.
There are is very little life recorded as native to Cilice bar its simple fungal life used in the production of Cilice Gyn. Continual gales carry the harmless spores far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail.
This was to be our first game not at full party strength. The players for Von Gunn and Lyoness couldn’t make it this session, but they gave their blessing to go ahead and investigate the planet. Last session Von Gunn got pretty badly banged up, so we figured he would be back on the ship recuperating. Lyoness would be tending to his wounds and helping herself to the rubbing alcohol.
The Captain, unwilling to do too much without his bolt pistol-wielding murder-machine and ultimate anti-daemon tool, agreed that this would just be a ROUTINE CHECKUP on the planet.
With the decision made, the remainder of the party boarded an Aquila lander, along with a Junior Astropath called Fez, our two heroic armsmen from the Geist Incident Kettlehead and Felicity, plus three additional armsmen to make up the numbers.
Of course they needed names, so they were dubbed Cram, Thud and Oggy-Bong.
Zilla, Captain, Freeman, Gil + Junior, Kettlehead, Felicity and 3 armsmen – Crad, Thud and Oggy Bong. I had been assembling these guys between sessions, knowing we would need more armsmen reinforcements at some point. There’s a Meanwhile on the Bench article if you’re interested in their construction.
Port Van Arkiel
As you descend through the howling winds and driving rain, you make out a large cluster of structures on the equator of the planet, built into a mountain and across an natural arch rock formation high above a valley below. The structures resemble a space port and dotted evidence of industry – this must be the colony of Arrogance
Strangely, the surrounding golden valleys are also strewn with massive installations – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land. It’s clear that civilisation here flourished outside of the colony.
The constant storms imposed a -20 to any Pilot (Fliers) test that Zilla was required to do. It’s just as well they took the fancy ship rather than the hovering brick, as Zilla scraped a few passes on the way down.
The space port is built on a great arch of stone, whittled out of a mountain by the howling winds. You set down on one of a dozen landing platforms for heavy barge landers, suspended on carved columns of stone hundreds of feet in the air.
The buildings of the port are wide, squat affairs, hugging the ground like limpets against the tide. Rain blasts across the landing platforms and the wind sails underneath, threatening to hurtle you off to to the jagged valleys hundreds of feet below you.
The colony of arrogance is built into the mountain – its spires jutting from the rockface like snapped bones poking through broken flesh.
No sign of life
The crew disembark. There was no transponder handshake, no automated acknowledgement of their arrival, and no delegation waiting to welcome them to the port. Nothing but the rain.
As they squint through the deluge, Zilla notices what remains of heavy lander on one of the adjacent platforms – the only sign of machinery at all on the space port concourse. The Explorator also whips out his auspex and runs a few scans – the source of the emergency distress beacon was also present on the space port, pointing towards a conning tower in the opposite direction.
The Captain orders two armsmen to stay by the Aquila lander and begin marching towards the adjacent heavy drop ship.
On an adjacent landing platform is the skeleton of a heavy lander, designed to drop large amounts of supplies and people, stripped of paneling and moving parts. There is evidence of a surprising amount of ornamentation and Imperial iconography, although much of it has been torn off or defaced.
After some investigation, it seemed much of it was stripped by hand, and there was evidence of teeth marks around much of the paneling. It was in a similar state to the carcass of the Stiletto Station from the previous session.
The cockpit has been stripped back to its bones – anything of material or technological value has been ripped out in a crude manner unbefitting of such a noble workhorse of a machine. The ship’s logs indicate it arrived here a few months ago, approximately the same time Brother Espin suggested his missionaries would have arrived.
Freeman set about claiming whatever was left in the cockpit, and with some good Trade (Voidfarer) checks found the black box of the lander. It was the voice of someone unfamiliar:
“… leaving some of the mercenaries and able-bodied missionaries to guard the lander ….. No signs of the colonists … Missionary-Superior wants to investigate … palatial estates … answers there … waste of time … nothing here … no sin goes unpunished in the God Emperor’s eyes …”
The team conclude this must have belonged to the Missionary that Brother Espin asked them to find. Given the lack of signs of struggle, they weren’t going to find any more evidence here. It was time to check out the distress beacon.
The conning tower
You see a conning tower, sporting a wide metal dish and vox-spires at the far end of the space port, some 200 metres away across the rain-lashed concourse.
The building is a standard modular imperial hab-block, modified for environmental conditions. It, like every other building of Arrogance, looks like it has been here for decades.
The door is reinforced plasteel but its locks have been removed or forced a long time ago and now swings freely.
While some of the crew head inside, it was now our Astropath double-checked his Mind Scan ability, reminding everyone (including myself, damn his eyes!) that he can detect everything living within a kilometre radius. He rolls something disgusting and looks at me proudly.
Gil: “I see everything”
Well there goes the element of surprise I guess.
GM: “There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, of bestial minds closing in on you. Their thoughts are simple and primal, but you make out an absolute emotion that unifies them: hunger.”
While this was resolving itself, Freeman and Zilla were investigating the conning tower.
Inside is dark, lit only by the bunker-like windows looking out onto the space port landing platforms. It is a welcome relief from the storm outside.
Most of the vox-consoles have been ripped apart and stripped back – scavenged for Emperor-knows-what. The only thing remaining is an emergency transponder unit, crudely wired into the vox-spires and powered by a jury-rigged Imperial power pack.Behind it there are dozens more power packs, all burnt out. The one plugged in is new
Common Lore (Navy/War)+20 test revealed the serial codes match that of an Imperial heavy barge lander
Gil is about to alert the team to his brain-discovery, when their comm-beads crackle to life to the sound of a salt-of-the-earth armsman:
“My Lord! I swear I saw something moving in the rain… I… By the Emperor!”
As the sound of gunfire blossoms across the concourse I ask everyone to ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.
With the crew in the centre of the board investigating the conning tower, they realised they were being set upon from two sides by pale figures in the rain. With a sheer drop off the edge of the concourse, they were going to have to push through their assailants if they were to emerge victorious.
The rain imposed a -20 to all Ballistic Skill and Awareness tests, but that didn’t phase the crew much. They took up defensive positions and prepared to repel their attackers.
The figures in the rain are mostly human, although barely so. Their lean forms are emaciated sinew and lean muscle, stretched thin under leathery purple skin.
Their eyes have become wide and furtive under the darkened clouds and barely contain the gnawing, piercing hunger in their wretched souls. They wear torn clothes and heavy rags, some seem to be dock officials, others are dressed in the heavy boiler suits of labourers.
The armsmen, Freeman and Zilla all take one side, while the Captain, the Astropath and his Junior take the other. They open fire with a fusillade of shot and plasma, scoring hit after hit and blowing them apart in equal measure. These creatures were dogged, but they weren’t tough.
The problem became apparent during the second round. Plasma pistols can annihilate their target very easily on their Maximal setting, but leave you vulnerable the following round as they recharge. It was time to draw blades and engage!
Another thing became apparent very quickly – the models on the board were not the only enemies in play. As the horde was whittled down, more clambered over the lip of the concourse, or poured in from further away. Ammunition suddenly looked like it might become an issue.
The Astropath, try as he might, was struggling to hit anything after last game’s impressive fare. His Junior, on the other hand, was slotting fools left and right. At one point our Astropath was seriously considering casting Mind Cloud on his Junior just so he would stop showing him up.
The Captain picked up an extra sword on Mercy a few sessions ago, and this was his first opportunity to actually use them, much to his delight. He wasn’t present for the Geist Incident, and the servitors on Stiletto Station were always too far away for him to engage. With a blood-curdling cry he leapt into action, leaping into the biggest mob and cutting a few down.
With a laugh of victory, he cried “Let’s see them get past my parry!”
And then the third issue arose.
The first pathetic swipe from one of the wretches hit, but before you make a test to Dodge or Parry, you have to make your Forcefield check if you own one. The Captain does own one, a highly amusing one at that, which has not come into play for quite some time.
The Displacer field activates at the broken fingernails of a starving wretch, blipping him temporarily out of existence and reappearing somewhere else. This time slightly further away from everything…
This continued for much of the battle – the Captain attempting to engage multiple opponents, only for them to issue a combat cuddle and he would bloop away somewhere useless. Utterly hilarious for everyone except him.
Speaking of combat cuddles…
Explorator “Legs” Freeman sprints off with something ludicrous like a 40 metre charge range and engages some of the hungrybois. He mocks them with his 11 damage soak, practically impervious to their broken teeth and sharpened bits of metal. That is until…
“Can you give me an Opposed Strength check please?”
“A what now?”
Turns out a good way of taking out a character with a lot of soak is to drop lots of enemies on him and get grappling.
Combat cuddle engage! The more pile on him, the more Fatigue he gets, the harder it is for him to break out of the grapple. Fatigue doesn’t care about your 11 Soak. It wasn’t long before Freeman was unconscious on the floor, being dragged away by hungry hands.
In the background you can just about make out a few downed armsmen. Although the wretches numbers were dwindling, they had a few prizes and were trying to flee with them.
Unfortunately Freeman is super heavy, so Zilla and Felicity manage to blast enough away to make the rest flee. The Captain and the Junior see off their side of the combat and rush to save Kettlehead.
In the melee, some of the characters were too busy prioritising targets near them that poor Cram is downed and dragged off by the wretches. The Captain issues an immediate moment of silence, and despite the crew’s protests that he’s probably still okay and we should look for him, declares Cram dead and he died an honourable death (hopefully).
The rest of the wretches flee, leaving their prizes behind. Gil snags one of them with a Dominate power, strutting him back and slapping some zipties over his emaciated wrists. While the horrid thing thrashes round like Gollum with a rope round his neck, they all scratch their heads as to what they’re going to do with him.
They bundle everyone into the back of the Aquila, stabilising the wounded armsmen where they could. They wouldn’t return to the planet again without the rest of the party.
They throw the wretch in the Brig onboard the Unbroken Resolve, and Gil sets his Juniors on the task of Mind Probing him to break his primitive psyche wide open so we can have a good ol’ prod at it.
Meanwhile, the Captain issues a command to Zilla – hop in an Aquila and do a fly-by of the port and surrounding areas. He didn’t want to be blind next time they went down.
Zilla makes a pass of the colony, very very narrowly avoiding crashing in the storm by using ALL of his Fate Points. All of the wretches in the port had disbanded, and his flight augers (as blind as they were in the storm) weren’t picking up life signs.
He headed over towards the surrounding area, known as the Golden Valleys, where there were a number of large palatial estates constructed outside of the colony – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land.
On the approach, warning runes blared across his console. Automated AA turrets had picked him up and locked on! A stream of heavy bolter rounds whizzed past the cockpit, and although it was still too rainy to draw a bead on his assailant, he decided discretion was the better part of crashing in hungryboi town in the middle of a lightning storm and pulled away, returning to the Unbroken Resolve.
A mind is a precious thing to waste
By now, the Juniors had metaphorically peeled back the layers of the wretch’s mind and were having a good old poke around inside his psyche. It was primitive, bestial and above all, hungry. It would be dangerous to stay inside it too long, as such a mind so far from sanity would certainly have consequences to a “sane” individual over prolonged exposure.
They do glean some interesting insight though, the wretch was part of a band or group salvaging the port. Despite it’s apparent degradation, it still retained some semblance of conscious thought – an overwhelming sense of religious guilt about its actions, and its loyalty to a leader called Glaw.
With all the cards on the table, it was time to draw the session to a close. They would regroup, resupply and rest up for next game, bringing their A Game (and a full team) to the next brawl.
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.
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:
Adeptus Mechanicus Shrine-Altar, nestled among some wreckage
A strange energy signature among the wreckage of some ruined vessels
Cilice and an orbiting space station. Weak vox traffic is being transmitted across the system.
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.
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”
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*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As he begins fiddling, red runes flash across the console. Heavy stubber servitors on gravitic couplings descend silently from the ceiling.
Roll for initiative!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.