The star of the Telos system is a huge and primal stellar mass, far brighter and more energetic than any star should be. Its fires rage so fiercely that the cataclysmic energies unleashed within cause vast bulges of burning plasma to distend Telos’ form, writhing as though immense beasts fight within.
At a (relatively) safe distance away is a network of hundreds of stone structures floating in Telos’ voids, tethered into a clutch of asteroids by huge chains and protected from Telos’ fury by layers of void shields. This is the first and last port of call for anyone venturing into the Nomad Stars – Mercy – where the mighty rule by force of arms and the weak scrabble to survive.
Bathed in light
This was to be our players’ first introduction to Mercy (heavily based off Footfall from the Rogue Trader books), the nexus for plot, factions and shopping opportunities for the foreseeable future.
This would be the closest to a ‘neutral’ zone they would encounter – a friendly, safe port is rare in the Nomad Stars, the nearest thing many have access to is an unfriendly port where everyone has mutually agreed not to openly murder each other too much.
Unfortunately for our players, their trip to Mercy was not without incident. A slightly botched Navigate (Warp) test when translating back to realspace landed them dangerously close to the Telos star, giving the ship a massive dose of radiation. Hundreds died instantly on board, with practically another third of the crew dying slowly from radiation poisoning.
Quick thinking from the crew saved most of their lives, but they would need several weeks, if not months, of recuperation before they would be fighting fit again.
With their tails firmly between legs, they limped to Mercy, ready to restock, repair and refuel and try to avoid attracting attention from the locals.
A wretched hive of scum and villainy
With an angry burst of venting gases, the armoured airlock portal swings outwards. As the swirling miasma clears, a thousand sights, sounds and smells assault your senses simultaneously. Stepping in, you find yourself in a huge, vaulted space, the walls made of roughly-hewn stone dripping with the corruption of ages.
This is the Mercy Longshore, and it is crowded with hundreds of void-farers, labourers, servitors, merchants, and scum — all swearing, grunting or calling out the values of their wares. If you expected a welcoming party, you’re disappointed — this is Mercy, where blood and strength are the only currency.
Standing in Longshore, I wanted to make sure their first introduction to Mercy was a stark contrast to any kind of Imperial port they had ever been in. My favourite introduction to Mercy in previous games has always been an encounter I lifted from one of the adventure books – the Eaters of the Dead.
The players are approached by half a dozen strange, avian-looking bipeds with a head full of quills and a penchant for bargaining with new visitors to Mercy. 40k nerds might have recognised these xenos as Kroot, for other players it was simply their first introduction to an alien full stop, and the lack of immediate reaction from the humans around them suggested they were in a place a very, very long way away from home.
They offered bodyguard services in exchange for… well… we never really got that far. The captain laid down the law – the Orthesian Dynasty does not truck with xenos. It would have been inappropriate to kill them there and then, so he let their existence slide.
Unfortunately for them, standing around too long in Longshore began to draw some attention, and some drunken voidfarers decided to pick a fight with a few of the richer-looking players. One even made a lunge for the Arch-Militant’s bolt pistol.
Several exploded heads and a vaporised torso later, the remaining drunken locals were set upon by the ravenous Kroot, carving their twitching bodies apart and feasting on their organs in the middle of Longshore. Bystanders swear and curse, but this is general day-to-day activity for them. One of them spits on the ground and mutters the titular, sarcastic statement to highlight the point; “Welcome to the Nomads.”
hammers and nails
In preparation for ‘hub’ sessions like Mercy, I often have a list of names for guilds, gangs, organisations and individuals that can be brought up at a moment’s notice, sometimes giving players a choice between two names that serves no real purpose other than to judge an organisation on name alone. That helps me flesh out any organisations that players return to, without having to do a bunch of legwork up front for people and places that never get seen.
Captain Orthesian had begun to step into his role as head honcho, and was beginning to issue commands to players on what he expected them to achieve on Mercy. This was helpful to me as a GM and contributed positively to group cohesion – everyone knew what they needed to be doing, and not because I told them to do it.
Explorator Freeman had been given the task of commissioning repairs for the ship. He found a Guilder called Parvik from a repair gang called Monotask, who agreed to fully repair the ship (with some absolutely flukey Acquisition rolls…) for a reduced cost, so long as the Explorator fulfilled the vague promise of providing Parvik with what he desired – some Archeotech. Freeman weighed up the pros and cons of this, and decided the terms were vague enough to commit to. Potential arguments down the line were a price worth paying for cheaper repairs in the short term.
Notes are furiously scribbled in my pad for “this will definitely not come back to bite them in the ass”.
The major marketplace in Mercy is the Pit – the central plaza of a huge domed arena at the core of Mercy – and where most business is conducted. The Pit has a few permanent but unhoused traders, mostly it caters to merchants, captains and factors looking for bargains and selling their wares. Oftentimes a captain will bring a sample of his wares here and invite potential buyers to sample these wares before agreeing to purchases on a much bigger scale. Due to the nature of the Nomad Stars, pretty much anything can be found in the Pit, if one is present on the correct day.
Voidmaster Zilla and Astropath Gil had been issued the task of acquiring maps to the Gangue system, and set about trawling the market stalls. They had decent luck, getting hold of some detailed maps of the system that would help them out with the inevitable warp jump later on. Zilla was angling for some new support craft to fly about in, but after some eyebrows were raised at the difficulties of acquiring vehicles, he just picked up a spare copy of “What Landing Craft” magazine and quietly retired back to the ship.
As they made to leave, they were approached by a strange cluster of servo skulls that appeared to be carrying a crude-looking brass holo-projector.
The holo-projector crackled into life, creating a lime green display of a young man’s head, rotating slowly, suspended between the cloud of skulls. The man appeared to be laughing at an unseen joke. The voxcasters let out a tinny fanfare.
”Salutations friends! Welcome to Mercy. I am Frederick Lombar, known as Lombar the Archeologist to many. If adventure be your pleasure, I have just the job for you! Meet me at the Mayweather Mooring during second rotation and ask for me by name. Here’s to a long and fruitful friendship! Imperator Benedicte!”
And with that, the vox cut out sharply and the rotating head thinned to a single prick of light on the holo-projector. The skulls clicked and whirred before lazily bumbling away into the crowded market.
The pair looked at each other, shrugged and said “Eh, that’ll not come up again.”
“this is why we speak high gothic where i come from”
The rest of the crew were on a fact-finding mission – head to the fanciest bar in Mercy and start to shmooze your way up the social pecking order.
The Captain, Missionary Lyoness and Arch-Militant Von Gun all headed to a bar known as Telasco’s – an incredibly high-status establishment that hangs a long way above the Pit, protected by a shimmering conversion field. The crew were met with a frustrating irony – the fly-as-fuck Missionary dressed down for her first trip to Mercy as she didn’t want to stand out among the plebians, but now was at risk of being turned away from Telasco’s for looking like a scrub. Some smooth talking with the bouncers and they were let off with a warning and allowed entrance.
Telasco himself is a lush, dandy, gossip who runs his saloon for wealthy and respected clients above the toil of the common folk. Prices here comfortably exclude any but the very rich and those that dine, relax or politick here do so mostly on account of its exalted status.
The Arch-Militant stood guard, keeping an eye out for any trouble-makers, while the Captain and Missionary began Operation Shmooze. This was an excitingly unpredictable turn of affairs, as it transpired that the Missionary has a number of penalties from her Origin Path that penalise her in charming situations, plus the hefty penalties for failing a Carouse check also lead to a few space-insults being hurled.
The Captain managed to pick up some gossip about a crusade being planned by a certain Brother Espin – a name that was dropped last session by the pilgrims rescued from the Penitent Traveller. Apparently he was looking for a suitable figurehead for his ship – you can’t go blasting heathens from space without looking incredibly important while doing so.
There was a bit of commotion outside at this point – the Voidmaster and Astropath were trying to gain entrance to Telasco’s to meet up with the rest of their crew and discuss their findings. The black-carapaced bouncers were having none of it – they looked like scrubs, and Telasco’s operates a strict Zero Scrub policy.
Several botched persuasion attempts culminated in the Astropath getting very hot under the collar, about to unleash who-knows-what from their mind, when one of them realised everyone had micro-beads. They buzzed the Captain, who came to the door and told the bouncers “They’re with me.”
Red faces and fist-shaking all round. Drinks were had, shmoozing was done, but very little else was learned. The objective was achieved – get your foot on the first rung of the social ladder.
The futility of gambling with telepaths
While all this was going on, the Explorator had kicked back for three weeks, letting Monotask get about with the chore of repairing the ship. He decided to pass the time by playing cards with some of the crew. The exchange between players was quite revelatory:
Explorator: “Astropath, do you have any ground rules for your Juniors? Like, what they can and can’t do while you’re away?”
Astropath: “Nah, I let them do what they want.”
Explorator: “Okay, I teach them to play cards and gamble with them for the entire time we’re at port.”
Astropath: “Hmm. I need some ground rules for these Juniors.”
All that remained of this session was to find this mysterious Lombar and find out what he wanted.
Lombar the Archi-something
The Mayweather Mooring is a jumble of quays and hangars abuzz with the industry of raw mineral wealth. Huge carts of ore are being hauled about by thick-set reptilian beasts of burden and gangs of hundreds of grimy crewmen are clustered around rota-servitors as they receive their assignments.
The main hangar is filled with a Goliath factory ship, and by the looks of the wealth of activity around it, has just returned from a lucrative long haul.
Lombar wears a grey reinforced lab coat and crevatte, with reading spectacles are perched on the bridge of his nose. He is flicking through information on a dataslate and conversing with a crewman in a strange language.
Aat his side is a hulking ogryn carrying a weapon that looks like it shoots shells the size of your head. You can see that it looks to have been made to wear a battered crevatte as well. It notices you approach and grunts loudly, raising a hand.
Lombar stops his conversation and turns round, eyeing you all with pleasant surprise.
”Salutations friends! I am Lombar the Archeologist, I don’t recognize you, so you must have received my message yes?”
He was offering what appeared to be a very simple exchange – if they Explorers found any abandoned ruins in their travels, he would pay handsomely for coordinates. The more the explored of the ruins, the more detailed maps they made, and the more pitfalls/hazards they identified – the more he would pay.
The more I introduced him, the more I forgot his profession, so he became Lombar the Architect, Arcanist, Archeotech, Archeologist and Arcanine. Unintentional, but I was tired and a little drunk.
The deal seemed too good to be true, and the Explorator kept drilling Lombar for more information – who his employer was, what the catch was etc. He was (perhaps wisely) unwilling to accept this individual would just hand out cash for something as simple as merely discovering things.
Hands were shook, and the crew of the Unbroken Resolve went on its way. The Arch-Militant stopped off to pick up some supplies of Inferno Shells for his bolt pistols, because there’s only one thing better than a pair of rapid-firing rocket propelled grenade-launching pistols, and that’s a pair of rapid-firing rocket propelled grenade-launching pistols that also set things on fire.
So our heroes gathered their things, bid farewell to Mercy and cast off into the inky-black yonder, ready for their first adventure into the Nomad Stars.