Mercy Crier week 3: Mark the Maps

Unstoppable! Distilled Mayhem may have arrived late in the Turf War but have exploded into second position. The Cawdor gang holds firmly onto third place after a run-in with the Inheritors and 16th Law during the week.

This Cycle saw our first four-way gang brawl – 16th Law, Distilled Mayhem, Boom Slag Belles and Iron Rovers duking it out in a three-hour scenario of Escape the Pit. It’s a great mission for getting Rep quickly, as the Mayhem gang found out!

In another Callowdecks premier, Mayhem are the first gang to pick up a pet – Chaser the cyber mastiff has quickly earned himself a number of kills in as many games.

Glenfiddich and Chaser

In our last week before Respite, the event was ‘Mark the Maps’, increasing the chance of a gang gaining Turf at the end of each game.

Any game you had fighters still standing at the end, you had had a 3+ chance on a D6 to increase your Turf by 1. Any scenario that already had Turf as a reward meant you automatically confirmed to gain a Special Territory!

Turf Rush: As the Callowdecks are explored by daring souls and plucky Juves, its vastness becomes increasingly apparent – gangs will need more forward bases if they are to plunders its wealthiest depths.

  • If your gang is still on the board at the end of the game (ie does not Retreat and is not wiped out) roll a D6. On a 3+ increase your Turf Size by 1.
  • If the Scenario already includes Turf rewards, defer to those instead. However, during the Post Battle Sequence, you automatically pass the roll to generate a Special Territory, even if it wasn’t one to begin with.

Week 2 Juve of the Week nominations

Juve of the Week had some tough competition, unfortunately mostly from the same gang! The Order had two great entrants, but only one could be picked.

The narrow miss for nomination was a Juve dragging a loot crate to the extraction point in Escape the Pit, but taking a pot shot at the 16th Law Leader as he went, expecting nothing.

Instead he hit, wounded, and Out of Actioned the Leader with a permanent hand injury!

Hosanna ‘the Emasculator’ of the Boom Slag Belles

Hosanna won her nomination following the popular trend of Two Knives > Anything Else. After being blasted to bits, crawling through a duct into pure darkness and with two flesh wounds to her name, she still managed to find the Iron Rovers leader and administer a Humiliating Lasting Injury.

She figured “If I have to die, I’m whittling my name into this jerk’s unspeakables first…”

Renart the Fungal (RIP) of the Order of the Emperor’s Sole

Renart the Fungal‘s watch has finally ended. After heroically gunning down a 16th Law ganger and taking a bolt-shell for his teammate, he crawls to his Cardinal for aid.

First result: OUT OF ACTION. But wait, don’t you get an assist for his Leader being within 2 inches? Yes! Second result: OUT OF ACTION.

No matter, surely his Lasting Injury won’t be that ba-MEMORABLE DEATH.

Renard was (apparently) decreed to have performed with adequate valour, and the Cardinal carried out the Emperor’s Mercy upon him. With a chain glaive.

Truly a blessed relief we can all wish for in such tumultuous times.

Vote for your favourite Juve of the Week on both our regular vox channels:

Fashion Corner – Cardinal of the divine arch

This week is the Leader of the Order of the Emperor’s Sole – the Cardinal of the Divine Arch. Resplendent with a chainglave, grenades and a variety of ranged weapons, he’s a cheap and cheerful solution to a problem so many gangs of the Callowdecks are facing – having too many team-mates.

“Phew, it sure is a nice day to murder some under-performing Juves.”
Other highlights

The Order faced off against 16th Law and the Inheritors in one night, and later in the week was a four-way rumble between Iron Rovers, Boom Slag Belles, 16th Law and Distilled Mayhem.

16th Law vs The Order

In a bid to try out the Escape the Pit scenario, 16th Law and the Order agreed to give the scenario a bash with some of their fastest crew. Two teams versus each other versus the walls – what could possibly go wrong?

The pieces are set, the weird alien teleporter is our getaway
Clipper and Sue try to pin down the Order and secure a second crate
Aha! I’ve fallen for my own trap card!
The first Order fighter escapes with a crate
Clipper and Sue get introduced to the business end of the Purgation blunderbus
“Hello, my name is Bash-II, you killed my identical brother Bash-I, prepare to die”
*dead noises*
Shh shh shh, only dreams now
A cheeky Cawdor Juve takes a pop at the 16th Law leader who just wants to help his buddy
The final fighters – not much stress from the walls, and most people made it out safely
Four-way Escape the Pit
The green marker is the escape point – in the pitch black corridor and next to the crossroads of death. Fun!
Distilled Mayhem proved that a pitch black corridor is no handicap for ONE MILLION BOMBS
The Belles and Rovers skirmish through a tight corridor

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First Blood: Orlocks vs Van Saar battle report

The first of our Callowdecks battle reports is a brawl between an Orlock gang “16th Law” (my own gang) and a Van Saar gang “The Inheritors“. We agreed on the ‘Stand-Off’ scenario to test our gangs out, using all the default rules for deployment and battlefield setup.

We rolled a 1 for determining how much cover there was going to be, and it wasn’t pretty. This was going to be a bloodbath…

Correction: Mumps (bottom left) is a Juve, not a Ganger. Don’t let him get ideas above his station.

With custom gang deployment, we both secretly picked equal gang sizes. The Inheritors (top of the board) had two gangers, a juve, a leader and a champion. 16th Law had a leader, three gangers and a juve.

A tentative setup

Although we’d played a few times before this was the first campaign game we’d both played, so we were both very conscious about lasting repercussions. I didn’t really pay attention to the victory conditions of the scenario, which is one of the biggest learning points I took away from this game, so the outcome was more luck than tactics.

The dice fell for Priority and the game commenced.

TUrn 1

I use similar tactics for Necromunda as I do for video games – run forwards as fast as possible at get as much ground as you can early on. We House Ruled that the cover terrain would nearly always confer a better cover save than corners, so that was going to be my preferred sniping spot.

The 16th Law Leader snapped a shot off at the Van Saar twin plasma-pistol wielding Champion in the opening move and took him Out Of Action immediately. We both gained a new-found respect for bolt weapons.

Both gangs exchanged small arms fire, and both the Inheritors Leader with grav gun and my own ganger with a grenade launcher failing to find targets.

turn 2

A few small arms attacks hit home – the 16th Law grenade launcher finds himself Seriously Injured by a las carbine and his buddy is pinned. A 16th Law bolter ganger finds a mark on another Inheritors ganger but only manages to pin him.

Mumps decided to earn some hero points, opened his door and fired on the Van Saar leader to no avail. He got himself charged by the rival juve and we both became very excited. Two Juves Enter, One Juve Leaves.

Both juves failed to hit with any attacks.

From what was very promising opening turn, things had gone downhill quickly for 16th Law…

Turn 3

The Inheritors Leader lands a terrible blow with his grav gun, Seriously Injuring the bolter ganger in the middle of the map. To make matters worse, the Inheritors Juve sees off the 16th Law Juve, proving himself to be King Juve of this map.

The grenade launcher ganger was recovered in the previous turn by his helpful buddy, and all three remaining 16th Law fighters withdraw out of line of sight.

I could pretend it was a cunning feint to lure the Inheritors into a trap, but really I just didn’t want any more of my guys squished by the grav gun.

Turn 4

The Inheritors Juve moves to flank the remaining 16th Law fighters but finds himself eating frag grenade in an unprecedented useful shot from the grenadier.

The Inheritors leader follows the same path to get an easy flanking shot with his grav gun, and the other Inheritors gangers keep taking pot shots at whoever they can see.

In the final throes of the combat, the Seriously Injured bolter ganger crawls back to his buddies and they help him to his feet, narrowly helping him avoid rolling on the Lasting Injuries table.

At this point, I figured discretion was the better part of valour, and opted to withdraw my gang and concede victory to the Inheritors. I’d rather live to fight another day than risk anyone valuable getting ground into paste.

Wrap-up

A tense game but very enjoyable! It was only during the wrap-up that we worked out that the victory conditions were for taking out opponents and less about last-man-standing. We added up the points and it turned out to be a 3:1 victory to 16th Law!

After that totally intentional victory, we reflected on what had happened. Grav guns are great, bolters are great and juves are adorably sucky. Amusingly, Mumps was the only person to have any permanent injury – he got the “Humiliated” result on the Lasting Injuries table, so his opponent Job got the title “Job the Humiliator”. A title I hope comes back to bite him another day…

Roll on the next battle!

Orthesian Herald 13 – The Glaw Estate

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. 

Saddling up

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.

The commandeered Taurox, dubbed “War Pig”.

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.

Knock knock, bitches

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.

“Oi am weldin’ this doo-ah”

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.

“Abhumans m’lud! Thaasands of ’em!”

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 Covenant were played by my mad green techno-monks

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.

Lyoness (green-haired Escher) and her Covenant plunge into the fray

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:

BLOOP

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.

Tell my storyyyyy

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.

Vault-dwellers

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-

REEEEEEEEE

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!

(If you want to see how these guys were built, check out this week’s Meanwhile, On The Bench)

This could get ugly REAL quick

Von Gunn: “Permission to freak out and shoot my nearest team-mate?”

Captain: “Denied”

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.

“Uh guys? Help?”

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.

ENTER FREEMAN.

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”

YEAH GET SOME

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…

Friends! I have fallen and I can’t get up!

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?

+++++++

Next: Session 14 – Voidbound Anew

Previous: Session 12 – Blood and Gin

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Celestine Wharf game board

The Celestine Wharf of Syracuse Magna (courtesy of FFG)

It is 1pm in the afternoon on the Celestine Wharf. It is raining, and the river carries the strong sense of mould. This man-made dead end of foul-filmed water is shadowed by the close press of warehouses from which loading spars spill their rusting chains to water at high tide.

The docks here are long unused and its bays are crammed with rusted cargo barges, while its warehouses are reputedly the haunts of dregs and gangs.

You had spotted some scum unloading cargo from an armoured motor-skiff on the corner of one of the docks. Questions turned to threats, and when the team’s face draws a hold-out dueling pistol worth more Thrones than the entire cargo of the ship, avarice overcomes the thugs.

At the boiling point of the exchange, you hear a deep guttural roar from around the corner of a warehouse.

“WHO’S ASKING QUESTIONS ON MY WHARF?”

Finished product first!
an investigation on the wharf

Alongside the adventures of the Orthesian Dynasty, I also have a long-running game of Dark Heresy that meets up once every 6 weeks or so to continue a five-year-long campaign that has spanned multiple planets, systems and characters in an investigation into the cursed Samarra bloodline.

They are currently in the province of Syracuse Magna, a rotten, sodden place where the criminals act like nobles and the nobles act like criminals. You might have seen a previous session on the Canals of Syracuse Magna.

I have used scenery in Dark Heresy before, but this was the first time I’ve used a full-blown game board to represent our scraps. They probably taken an extra hour so to resolve (2-3 hours per fight), but as we get together for an 8-hour session every month or so, we think this is an acceptable use of the time. It’s a great scene-setter and we get to have wild fun swinging off the scenery and lobbing firebombs around.

The previous session ended on a “Roll for initiative!”, so we were launching straight into a combat. It gave me time to set up the board before people arrived, so I could get everything just so. It meant, however, I needed some more watery terrain tiles to better represent a wharf rather than the canals from the previous game.

The tiles in progress. Also a few other tiles for future brawls…
Building the wharf

Luckily a lot of my work was already done for the canals fight, so this would just be set dressing. I still had a lot of tiles from TTcombat left over, so I upon them with a coping saw to make some different levels of tile. I had lots of ‘plain’ boards, now I wanted some fancy piers, loading spars, rickety wooden structures, that sort of thing.

I cut a large U-shape out of the centre of this one so it would still tessellate with the other tiles, but would still be obviously a loading dock.

I picked up a bumper pack of balsa wood from ebay for a tenner a while back, and pressed a lot of it into service to make the docks. I really, really like working with balsa wood, and will likely find some more excuses in future to use them…

Less practical was my cobblestones. In a moment of panic before the first session I bought some foam and hand-carved the cobblestones with a bunch of broken biros. This had some pretty awful effects on my hands as I whinge about here, but I didn’t really have any alternative to continue the style for these new tiles.

Luckily there was way less coverage required as most of the tile were covered with loading bays or wooden decking, so I only had to do one A4 sheet rather than the five I did for the first project. I had also picked up some pricey textured plastic A4 sheets with cobblestones on, that I had originally planned on covering the entire boards with.

This, unsurprisingly, turned out woefully impractical and hella expensive, so it was used whenever I couldn’t be bothered to cover another small section of hand-drawn cobblestones and to add a bit of variety.

I also had a fewer smaller tiles that I had planned on using as risers, placing them on top of existing tiles to create height variance and all sorts. They weren’t appropriate for the dock, but I figured I might as well sort them out alongside everything else, as future Rob will inevitably have other bullshit to sort out at the last minute.

Then it was on to building docky bits!

I really enjoyed this part. There is/was a potential for combat to occur in the Sinks, a section of District 13 that is several metres underwater from flooding and mudslips, so the Sinks residents have rebuilt their shanties on top of the old town. I had a million and one large-scale projects I wanted to do for those, but I couldn’t justify it just yet as I wasn’t sure if the investigation would even go there at all.

As with everything I make, versatility is a must. I have too many large scale project ideas to allow myself to run away with something that will only get used once.

These dock parts were assembled entirely from PVA, balsa wood and wooden cocktail sticks for pinning. They needed to be both docks (for the Wharf fight I knew I had planned) and usable as other things in a pinch – rotten scaffolding around a large church or walkways on the submerged parts of town were just a few ideas I came up with.

These were painted in the same way as my other wooden sections to keep some semblance of uniformity. They were undercoated Black first, then given a dusting with a reddy-brown rattlecan. Everything was then given a drybrush with a light brown – I often forget what I used previously so this time it was Zandri Dust. The final highlight was a light edge drybrush with Rotting Flesh (which I’m not sure of the modern equivalent) – a very light brown with a greenish tinge.

Both the stone sections and wood sections were given a final light drybrush with Rotting Flesh instead of a light brown or white. The themes for Syracuse Magna are entropy and decay, so it was only fitting that everything was painted to look like it was dying.

All together I’ve got quite a haul! My favourite part is how compact it all becomes once its disassembled – way easier to store and with so many more permutations than a regular solid board.

Showdown on the wharf

It would be mean to not have some kind of battle report on this lovely set of scenery, wouldn’t it?

Although highly inaccurate, and based off more what I can remember from the pictures taken, here’s more or less how it went down.

Pictures vary in quality and subject matter because I asked my players to take photos too, as I always forget to do so about halfway through the game.

The scene is set, including some Blood Bowl goblins one of the players was dropping round for me.

The players will enter from the right. The Undertow thugs are already present on the Wharf, unloading their cargo from a motor-skiff. The players don’t know (or care) what’s in the cargo currently. Probably criminal stuff. Didn’t matter – it wasn’t pertinent to the investigation. It was time for beef.

Had some pretty harsh light streaming in through the one window. There were five thugs present on the Wharf already, and the roar came from the Wharf Boss who was coming in from the left top corner of the board (from around the warehouse) with another two thugs.

The party is investigating some brutal inhuman murders caused by some strange undead killers in bird masks, and a few leads pointed to there being some answers around Celestine Wharf.

The party had just stepped off a boat from further up river, where they had had to make a hasty retreat from a bar fight that went sour. The Cleric drowned someone under a table, the Adept got off her face drunk on mudder’s milk and the Arbitrator killed their only witness with a throwing axe.

The previous session ended with the scum spotting some criminal activity down the wharf – just some crims doing crim stuff. The Cleric was draped in the passed-out Adept and was till picking chunks of her vomit out of his beard when the Scum strolled straight up to the criminals and demanded to speak to the person in charge.

“Hello fellow criminals, what a good day for crime”

Being criminals, they were more than happy to roll on their boss in exchange for cash. The Scum was upset at that concept so drew his duelling pistol and repeated his question. The sound of players rolling eyes was audible.

Initiative was rolled. The Scum went first and, as a man of his own flexible word, plugged the first criminal clean in the head.

As the Wharf Boss took his turn, the gravity of the situation sunk in. He’s a Named Character with a big-ass axe. Better not let him… axe me a question.

The thugs here weren’t prepared for a brawl, so only had what they were carrying on them. A handful of autopistols and shotguns, one of them carrying firebombs as backup. Their plan was to pin and disrupt everyone until their Boss could get round to axing them to kindly leave.

The rest of the team were following up the rear. In the picture below, we have the Guardsman, the Arbitrator, the Techpriest (who was the Cell’s Primus – their elected leader), the Cleric (represented by fabulous cardboard cutout) and the Adept.

Take cover! Shots ripple across the Wharf as everyone takes their bearings. There was a lot of cover further up the board, but brings you closer to the Wharf Boss. The thugs closer to the water’s edge were squishier, but there was less cover.

The team fan out, taking shots with their lovingly-cared-for weapons and pinning/wounding in equal measure.

After the Scum plugged the first thug he was having a chinwag with, the other thug returned the favour. The Scum took a grazing hit and dived behind the nearby crates for cover.

The Arbitrator battles with his low Willpower and being constantly pinned, while trying to lay down covering fire of his own.

The battle lines are drawn, and nobody seems willing to break cover to close the gap. The Wharf Boss realises going across open ground would invite every single player who knows how Bosses work to concentrate fire and bring him down before he can get the opportunity to burn a few players’ Fate Points.

He doubles back behind the warehouse and heads up the ramp to go across the roof. His minions lay down covering fire.

Dice are used to represent people who are wounded. I don’t bother tracking anyone unless they’re hit, at which point they’re assigned a numbered dice and a number on my sheet.

I found this was a good compromise of personal book-keeping, ensuring some information was guarded from players to avoid metagaming, but also so players could see at a glance who had been hit. They might not know the severity of the hit unless they ask specifically (with suitable Awareness/Medicae checks), but they definitely know which baddies are bleeding.

The Boss’s minions take the high ground.

These guys aren’t stupid. Cover is their friend, and laying down suppressing fire helps out their mates on the front line.

The Guardsman had spotted something like a trench, so dived into it and pretty much stayed there for the remainder of the game, slotting fools with his Sollex-Pattern Deathlight Lasgun (tips for pros: this shit does 1d10+5 damage. It’s every las-weapon-lover’s wet dream).

The squishy Techpriest stayed back to administer military-grade combat drugs to get the Adept up and running again, and the Scum took up a position on the stairs to keep the pressure on any Undertow who got any funny ideas about melee combat.

The Arbitrator was spending much of his time pinned or behind cover (Willpower as a dump stat will keep you alive, but not contributing). She was still technically blackout drunk, but the cocktail of Adeptus Mechanicus combat drugs was keeping her coherent for about 20 rounds.

She then launched her coherent plan:

“I draw and throw as many firebombs as I’m allowed to”

We then discovered the exciting combination of having lots of grenades and having a Strength Bonus of only 2. We have an enthusiastic pyromaniac who can’t throw very far.

Cue one long-range missed firebomb later, and the first of the Undertow’s shipments has gone up in flames. Let’s hope there isn’t anything flammable in there…

Using the commotion as cover, the Wharf Boss uses the patented Gears of War roadie-run to cross the platform and make his way over the warehouse, hopefully getting a jump on someone.

The Adept, high on life, sprints across the board (now bottom right behind the cotton wool) to join the Guardsman in his new cover. Naturally, this meant it was time to lob more firebombs.

The poor Undertow thug who had been shot in the face in the first exchange was now on fire. He screams and rolls around for a bit, but ultimately decides to take a dip in the scum-lined waters.

The no-man’s land was now empty, and barring the efforts of the mad Adept, it had become a long-range shooting match which the Undertow were not convinced they would win. Time to cheat.

The Wharf Boss, “Massive” Masslow, injects his combat drugs and becomes subject to Frenzy. With a mighty bellow, he screams down the warehouse firing his massive revolver.

The revolver pings off some nearby cover, but the Arbitrator still decides that discretion is the better part of valour, and hopes that hiding behind the container will make the big bad guy go away.

The Wharf Boss charges down the ramp and takes a couple of huge swings with his Great Weapon. Everyone knew this could hurt, but when the dice came up as near maximum damage, the Arbitrator started sweating when 26 damage knocked him down to -3 health. Medic!

Now it was the Undertow’s time to respond. As all their assets were up in flames now anyway, collateral damage was not something that bothered them any more. They have firebombs of their own, and started blindly hurling them wherever they heard gunshots.

It was at this point that the crates were revealed to be packed with high-grade Obscura, and as the highly-illegal narcotic was wafting across the dock, several members of the party were succumbing to feelings of light headedness and pink elephants.

In a shockingly accurate toss, the firebomb lands between the Guardsman and the Adept, catching them both ablaze. The Guardsman prefers his chances in the toxic soup than with the flames, so goes for a paddle.

Not pictured, but entirely relevant, was the Adept also leaping into the water and clambering back out on a nearby dock, face to face with poor headshot-burning-guy from the first turn, who had taken a dip to cool off as well.

Both dripping with stagnant water, they face down. He grins. His pair of punch-daggers glinting in the half-light. The Adept grins. She draws her fishing wire (?!?) and shouts “I see you’ve played knifey-fish wire before!”.

I’m sure it would have been epic if it had been pulled off, but the Adept’s attempts to parry the pair of punch daggers with a length of wire Jackie Chan-style ended with her in negative hitpoints, just as the comedown of the combat drugs was hitting her and the effects of the Obscura were taking hold.

It was in everyone’s best interests, including hers, that she passes out for a bit.

At this point the Arbitrator is panicking as Masslow looks to take another swipe and finish the job. Luckily for our brave law-maker, our friendly neighbourhood criminal was on hand to make a placed shot into combat and literally explode the Wharf Boss’s head like a grape, pushing him into -12 damage.

As most of the remaining Undertow see their boss explode, they recognised it was time to make a move. The rest of them fleed, apart from one on the stairs who was looking for an opportunity to get some wholesome stabbing in before he had to run. Unfortunately the Guardsman snuck up behind him and critically bayonetted him in the butt, killing him instantly.

All in all a fantastic game which will no doubt be reminisced about in drinking halls for years to come. Here’s to the next one!

Orthesian Herald 11 – Secrets of Cilice

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.

Landscape of Cilice – (artist Emanshiu)

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.

From left to right: Crud, Thud and far right is Oggy-bong (las-cutter guy didn’t come)
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.

Port Van Arkiel
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 partsThere 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 …”

ThisSeemsFine.jpg

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.

Cilice is not a place to forget your umbrella
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.”

Gil: “Huh.”

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.

Ambush!

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 debased of Cilice – (FFG)

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.

For the Dynasty and the Emperor!

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…

Freeman runs into a spot of bother

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.

This combat is unfolding not necessarily in my favour

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.

R I P in pieces

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.

Now what?

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.

+++++++

Next: Session 12 – Blood and Gin

Previous: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Orthesian Herald 10 – Storm-wreathed sins

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

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

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

Lay of the land

The light of Cilice washes over you. 

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

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

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

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

 

Less is more

Cilice gave me a lot of introspection to do.

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

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

There was just simply too much.

The full endeavour sheet

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

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

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

Exploration and scanning

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

Outer reaches

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

Primary biosphere

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

Inner cauldron

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

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

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

Shrine-Altar: Presence of active void shields

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

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

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

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

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

Company

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

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

Your long-range vox burbles into life.

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

The Pearls of Cilice

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

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

*tears out several pages of notes*

Celestial bones

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arvus Lighter (Dahagaz – Deviantart)

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

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

Stiletto Station
Investigating the shield

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing the chasm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessing the shield room

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

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

Freeman:

 

Automatons in the heights

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Nervous laughter*

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

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

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

Meanwhile Freeman:

1337 h4xx0r

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

Roll for initiative!

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

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

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

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

Gun servitors from the skies!

 

 

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

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

 

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

Gil’s death puddle

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

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

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

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

*TARZAN YELL*

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

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

Wrap-up

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

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

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

+++++++

Next: Session 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Previous: Session 9 – Claws in the Dark

Orthesian Herald 9 – Claws in the Dark

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

The Underdecks

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

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

The ice comes to life!

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

Roll for initiative!

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

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

From left to right; Felicity, Kettlehead and Krud

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

All according to plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rallied and ready to take down the final abomination

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

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

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

Give the man a hand!

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

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

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

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

cairn

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE: EDDIE BAUER ALPINISTS ADRIAN BALLINGER & CORY RICHARDS

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

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

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

a mountain of flags

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

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

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

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

princess bride have fun storming the castle gif

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthesian Communications Guild

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

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

+++++++

Next: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Previous: Session 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

Orthesian Herald: session 6 – The Beast with the Broken Back

Last time on the Orthesian Herald, our band of brave Explorers had fought off hordes of ravening Orks on the dead alien world of Gangue Prime to try and find the next piece of the map to the fabled treasure ship, the Righteous remit.

The monolith in the centre of the ruins, but imagine the ruins expand across the continent. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)

“As you enter the monolith’s interior chamber you are overcome by its grandeur and unsettling alien construction. It is like standing in the centre of a sea of light, and you are unable to tell where the floor, roof or walls begin and end. Most disconcerting is the air seems alive with images spinning and dancing around your heads. To read the information you must spend time focusing on the swirling images to make any sense of them.”

(This was a Willpower test or suffer D10 insanity points. They gained the information either way.)

“As you gaze into the mirror the images begin to merge and spin until you are engulfed by an ocean of stars and planets. Worlds slip through your fingers and the icy void brushes your skin as you peer like a celestial god across the whole of Gangue.

“With a little effort you realise you can move events forward and backward in time, watching the dying star slowly flare back to life and the worlds once more teem with activity. Finally, you find what you are looking for: the arrival of the Rightful Remit.

“Tumbling from a rent in the void you mark its passage until it clashes into a cluster of asteroids out among the Shard Halo. Moving time back to the present you can see it still; frozen and waiting beneath the ice.

“You know instinctively that you have the exact location of the Rightful Remit.”

The chase

Our Astropath, Gil, was the one ‘volunteered’ for the mission of reading the Star Chamber. There seemed to be some misunderstanding that because he was the psyker, he would naturally have the highest Willpower in the team.

Regardless, only a handful of insanity points later, he had the location of the treasure ship beamed into his mind from the alien construct.

Feeling quite good about proceedings, he suddenly feels a sharp stabbing pain in his head, and the sensation of someone going through his memories and ransacking it for loose change. At the entrance of the chamber he can see the reason why – Lady Ash, the psyker under the employ of Hadarak Fel, had waited until Gil was distracted and forced herself into his mind to steal the location of the Righteous Remit.

I’ll get you next time, Gadget!

The chase was on! She fled as soon as she was identified, and the players heard the throaty roar of the stolen attack bike. The party was devastated – not only had she stolen the plot macguffin, but she’d stolen back their brand new bike after they stole it fair and square. Everything seemed lost, until the Explorator pointed out that he can sprint over 70 metres in a turn.

The chase was back on!

Like this, but with no Space Marines

What followed was a foot/bike chase as the scampering spider-limbed Techpriest scampered after the rogue psyker as she gunned the attack bike across the Gangue dust bowl.

He caught up, punching his limbs through the back of the bike’s wheel well (much to Lady Ash’s surprise), rupturing oil lines and causing flying sparks from the grinding metal. They exchanged a terse, high-speed close-range gun battle that ultimately lead to Lady Ash using her powers to Compel the Explorator off the back of the bike, but not before the bike engulfs in flames and careens out of control, eventually coming to rest at the edge of the alien maze.

When the Explorator finally pulled himself back up and investigated the burning wreckage of the bike, there was no salvageable parts and no signs of Lady Ash. A bitter pill to swallow.

The beast with the broken back

Returning to the ship, they consoled themselves with the knowledge that they had the location – a tumble of asteroids in the Shard Halo of the Gangue system – and with a good wind could still arrive before Fel did. They set off, only one day’s travel with some good rolls from the Voidmaster.

The Shard Halo (artist unknown, pinched from the internet)

Scattered across billions of km of space, the Shard Halo is Gangue’s glittering crown, a seemingly endless stretch of frozen rock and scattered vapour clouds.

You close within a few thousand kilometres of the icy asteroid where the Rightful Remit rests, and can scan its surface to identify the twisted wreck trapped inside. Drawing close, you see that the treasure ship is not alone and dozens of other craft seem to have been drawn here, creating an icy ship graveyard.

The team pull close to the icy asteroid and set off in an Arvus Lighter along with three of Lyoness’ Covenant, lead by their leader Alyss.

Now that you are closer, you can see the faded majesty of the ancient treasure ship. Once an impressive vessel, it has now fallen to ruin; its hull is stripped of ornamentation and its length is riddled with holes and scars.

Most terrible of all the damage is a mighty rent halfway down its hull where the ship has almost been broken in two. Taller than a hab block, the rend has exposed dozens of decks and looks like a likely way in.

The ship’s interior is somehow still powered, with powerful energy seals blocking off the lower decks of the vessel. The Explorator does some technomagic and figures out the power is being routed through the bridge – if they head there, they can shut it off.

With great caution, our band of heroes make their way to the bridge, picking their way through twisted corridors and broken arterials. They were becoming suspicious as to how easy it was so far…

The bridge of the rightful remit

The bridge is faintly lit with the pale radiance of Gangue’s star through the vista-panels of its observation gantry.

Under this cold light, you see a long semicircular chamber with the Lord-Captain’s throne at the far end. Down each side of the chamber are servitor pits, cold and dark and packed with ancient part-mechanical corpses.

The other two structures of note are a Navigator’s well rising from the centre of the chamber and the cogitator core vestibule just below the throne.

Everything is covered in a thick layer of glittering dust, smoothing lines and hiding the human remains that lay strewn about the deck.

Everyone gets suspicious when the battle map shows up

 

The Explorator sets out examining the core cogitator vestibule, sticking his MIU where into a rusted socket and getting an unhealthy dose of insanity. Didn’t mamma ever tell you about sticking your MIU where it didn’t belong? The Captain explores the Navigator’s pulpit and finds an extra crispy Navigator with an identifying medallion – Daam’Samarra.

Zilla suddenly remembers he carries a backpack-sized voxcaster round with him wherever he goes, as it suddenly chirps into life with a Bridge Officer from the Resolve informing him that they’d picked up signs of an unidentified small craft making its way towards the Rightful Remit. They had sent a lander of Orthesian armsmen down to reinforce, hold fast!

It wasn’t coming fast enough – Zilla catches gunfire on the vox, the armsmen were locked in battle in the corpse of the old treasure ship with unknown assailants.

The Captain was anxious about the well-being of his men and heads up one of the exit ramps to the bridge. The heavy blast doors open, finding himself coming face to face with…

Hello there.

Roll initiative!

Fel Dynasty armsmen come pouring in through both doors onto the bridge, spearheaded by the rogue psyker encountered in Port Impetus – Lady Ash. She is joined by an angry servitor with chainblades for arms.

With the Explorator up first, his first action is to immediately shut one of the two doors the armsmen had come in through, stranding half of the armsmen on the wrong side of the door and leaving the combat servitor all by himself on one side of the map.

This action would turn out to be pretty decisive later on, as it helped the players take out the invading force piecemeal rather than take them all on at once.

Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone making ill-calculated decisions. While the rest of the Crew were engaging the armsmen coming in through the open door on the right, the Explorator moves to engage the combat servitor on the left. He blasts him with his hellgun as a free action and charges into combat.

Unfortunately, the ‘combat’ part of ‘combat servitor’ wasn’t just a meaningless title. After a bit of playful banter, the servitor carves the Explorator a set of new MIU sockets. Explorator Freeman hits the deck with -4 wounds and an entertaining amount of blood on the floor (how can a guy with no legs have so much blood(?!).

By now the first set of armsmen had been dealt with by the Captain, Astropath Gil and Lyoness and her Covenant. They swing round to deal with the servitor threat and the armsmen who had finally forced their way onto the bridge. They were also joined by Lady Ash, who had unfortunately got caught on the wrong side of the door and missed most of the fight too.

The closing moves of the fight. Lady Ash retreats in the background. Zilla throws himself from the raised bridge. The Covenant slip-slide on all the Explorator’s blood.

 

As they burst in, Voidmaster Zilla had been working his way into an advantageous position, trying to use the height advantage from the raised bridge to grenade the incoming armsmen. Lady Ash catches wind of this (damned telepaths! It’s like they can read minds or something) and Compels him to throw himself from the bridge.

Another helpful lesson in why Willpower shouldn’t be a dump stat.

With the Explorator taking a power nap and the Captain’s displacer field causing him grief, it was left to Gil and Lyoness to mop up what was remaining. Lady Ash read the room and figured it was time to dip, so she ordered the servitor to cover her retreat. With great glee it clanked and thumped all the way up to the Astropath, and my notes explicitly read “and fucks up Gil”.

The servitor is eventually carved apart by psychotic religious women with chainswords and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The word from the friendly armsmen on board – the Fel Dynasty had retreated and left the spoils to the players.

As the corpse-counters began their tallies and the players were dissecting the fight that happened, it was time to see what was in the holds of the treasure ship.

sick lewt

The holds are filled with the ancient wealth of plundered worlds that will plump your Dynasty coffers for quite some time. In addition, the lowest levels of the ship contain sealed vaults with impossibly valuable treasures, the likes of which you have never laid eyes on before.

This would be my first opportunity to use the rather splendid Treasure Generator from the Stars of Inequity book. Each player would get to roll a piece of loot, and then afterwards we could discuss who gets what.

Once the players had rolled their loot, I went away and fluffed up the loot a bit more, so rather than ‘chainsword +1’ it would feel more like a unique item.

Detailed here are all the pieces of loot the players received – the rolled results are written in italics, followed by a bit of background fluff, and finally the game effects in bullet points.

All in all an exciting, sight-seeing, bloody first adventure for our heroic crew! Let’s see where their whims take them next…

 

Archeotech Lunde-pattern plasma drive

(Ship component, plasma drive, ancient miracle, imposing, good quality, unpredictable, trusty)

Wrested from the broken remains of the Rightful Remit, the Lunde-pattern drive is an ancient and overwhelming testament to ages long past. In the late 31st Millennium, Plasmasmith Elicio Lunde was at the height of his craft, dedicating his many centuries of service to the production of high-end plasma drives for escort ships.

His plasma drives burned with an intensity far greater than normal for their size, modulating their plasma wash into a variety of vibrant hues of visible and invisible light. Exhaust conduits spaced evenly across the outer hull reduce internal space, and can be harmonised to vent in impressive warning displays.

  • This is a Good Quality plasma drive (same as is currently fitted) but takes up -1 Space
  • It provides a +10 to Command and Intimidate checks made on board the ship
  • Once per game, it can provide a +10 bonus to anything involving it
  • When it passes, it gains an extra Degree of Success. When it fails, it gains two extra Degrees of Failure
  • Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first

 

Demiurg carapace armour

(armour, carapace chestplate, alien techn, remnant of the endless, poor quality, dogged)

The Demiurg are a race of short, semi-humanoid traders and miners who maintain cordial relations with several xeno cultures. They are known to avoid Imperial space, making them a very uncommon sight, but the increased sightings of Demiurg artifacts in the Nomad Stars might signal a resurgence.

They have a high level of ionic-based technology, which it is understood they gifted to the Tau Empire – their close allies. Their name means ‘artisan’ in ancient Terran, and despite this armour being clearly designed for a shorter and broader torso, does not stop it from being exceptionally effective.

  • 6 Armour to the body, 7 kg
  • Wearer suffers -10 to all Agility tests
  • Whenever the wearer is hit with a Melee attack, the attacker must pass an Agility test or suffer 1d5+2 E damage with the Shocking trait
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
  • Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Xenos) test first

 

Nomad-pattern Razorchain

(Melee weapon, razorchain, ancient miracle, indestructible, vanishing, zealous)

A lightweight sword composed of a number of interlocking blades joined by a cable. At a moment’s notice, these blades can be separated, turning a sword into a many-bladed lash. In the hands of a skilled wielder, these are almost impossible to parry and can be woven past almost any defence.

Despite bearing irrefutable evidence of human construction, the Nomad-pattern Razorchain bears a striking resemblance to a choice weapon of Dark Eldar reavers. These similarities are hand-waved either as coincidence or adoption of superior human technology by feeble xenos minds. This particular model is wrought from a strange metal alloy that never seems to lose its edge and seems impossible to mark or cut with any device.

  • Melee, 5m range, 1d5+4 R damage, 4 Penetration, Balanced (+10 to parry with), Flexible (cannot be parried), 2kg
  • Cannot be destroyed by natural means
  • It gains a +10 to Concealment checks to hide it about your person
  • You can never have a bonus greater than +30 or a penalty worse than -30 to use this weapon

 

House Kornallis Navis Prima Maxima

(gear, navis primer, ancient miracle, compact, unpredictable, dogged, house rule: +10 to Nav Stellar)

Navis Prima are perhaps some of the most valuable items an Explorer can possess, as they outline safe routes through the warp, or at least as safe as warp travel can get.

This is a rare example of an already extraordinary artifact – created by the Magisterial Navigator House of Kornallis, who have been around since the dawn of the Imperium of Man, and are said to have stood at the sides of those brave explorers who first ventured into the Nomad Stars. This small, unassuming leather book, marked only with a humble embossing of a stylised House Kornelius crest, can slip inside a pocket or kept out of sight.

When opened, an interactive holo-display is projected in front of the reader, affording them complex – if cryptic – knowledge of likely warp routes and stellar phenomena in the Nomad Stars.

  • It provides a +10 to all Navigate (Stellar) tests
  • Search tests to find this item on your person are at -30
  • During Step 1: Determine Duration of Passage in warp travel, you may re-roll the Route Stability before calculating.
  • If using the Navis Prima for Navigate (Stellar) tests, or to re-roll a Route Stability during warp travel, increase any Degrees of Success by 1, but increase any Degrees of Failure by 2.
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands

Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first

 

The Widower

(Melee weapon, chain axe, cursed, deceitful, resplendent)

This chain axe is wrought of a dark iron, that despite bearing the hallmarks of human construction, still inspires a sense of dread when looked upon. Preliminary tests suggest that the iron used in construction been extracted from human haemoglobin, and that when the teeth of the weapon are in motion, look like the dark rays of a foreboding black sun.

Curiouser still is a hidden compartment in the axe head, that when activated from a rune on the hilt, fires a high-calibre shell straight and true at an unsuspecting target. These rounds are no different from common hand cannon ammunition, but something inside the weapon synthesizes a powerful venom to coat the ammunition before firing – something that is probably worth not looking too much into.

  • Melee, 1d10+2 R damage, 2 Penetration, Tearing
  • It can make a ranged attack as if it were a pistol – 30m range, S/-/-, 1d10+4 I damage, 4 Penetration, Clip 1, Full reload, Toxic

It provides a +5 to all Charm and Intimidate checks, but Search tests to find this item are at +30

 

Reclamation Crusade Sallett helm

(Armour, reinforced helm, finely wrought, best craftsmanship, potent, dogged)

Despite it’s archaic, clunky appearance, this ancient helm is light as incredibly light and wearing it is like donning a second skin. It is finely etched with murals of the Troubadous Reclamation in the 32nd Century, when the Saint-Admiral Troubadous (a prominent disciple of Saint Drusus) swept through the southern stars of the sector, bringing primitive human tribes to heel and re-forging the Imperium under a single banner. After seeing the Onus region begin to swell with settlers and piety, he cast his gaze southwards to the Nomad Stars, a time before the Great Warp Storms sealed off the throat.

Saint Troubadous went missing somewhere in the Nomad Stars, and thousands of official funerals were held in his honour, but not before carving a bloody path through heretic and xenos, seeding countless worlds with humans and the Imperial Creed. The capriciousness of the warp caught up with his ambition, however, and the passage through the Great Warp Storms (now known as the Throat) sealed up, and did not re-open for another 8 millennia.

Mankind is left to only speculate what happened to the Saint-Admiral, his final crusade, or the worlds he left behind…

  • 8 Head armour, 4.5kg
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands

+++++++

Next: Session 7 – A Brother’s Calling

Previous: Session 5 – The Flickering Eye

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Canals of Syracuse Magna

“As you near the water’s edge, the corpse-coloured province of Syracuse Magna looms in the distance. A thick, dark cloud hangs above it, and the iron-black sea reeks of stagnation and raw sewage. The omnipresent drizzle turns into thick gobbets of oily water falling from the sky. The sound of the heavy rain patters loudly off your driver’s metal hat.

You hug the coastline tightly, giving enough berth to the multi-storey hab blocks that loom uncomfortably outwards over the waters.  She picks an entrance to the maze of waterways and crumbling tenements that make up the district and the motor-skiff ambles lazily into a sluggish canal. A thick film of oil and offal covers the surface of the canal, and everything here reeks of rot

Despite the dilapidation and flooded tenement blocks, there is a semblance of life here. Citizens and labourers shuffle around in the shadows and under the cover of overhanging buildings. You catch the glint of every pair of eyes following you as your motor-skiff chugs down the canal.”

”Welcome to Syracuse Magna. May the light of the golden throne shine on you! Now get off my boat!”
making plans

With a brand new chapter of our Dark Heresy campaign about to begin, set in the decaying province of Syracuse Magna, it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream I’d had since I had been flicking through old issues of White Dwarf as a kid – having an awesome game board.

The idea of building a modular board grew organically from the premise. Syracuse Magna needed introducing in a bang – a three-way brawl between the players, some noble House Guard and some local scum.

The campaign book I’m basing the plot off has an interesting map in the beginning – something that looked like it would be really fun to set aside most of a session for a proper honest-to-Emperor dice-fest. It had at least a dozen guys on each side, with the implication of more ‘further away’, multiple levels, heavy weapons, firebombs and boats.

The map from the book, courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games. The names have been obscured in a vain attempt to not tip off my players too much

What started out as something that could be sketched on my wipe-clean hex map evolved as I started to plan the multiple levels. There needed to be guys shooting down from above, so I’d need to build walkways (obviously). Walkways would need something to connect to, so there would have to be buildings (obviously). Heck, the canal needs to be at a lower level from the rest.

At this point, it was becoming increasingly apparent that I was deluding myself into thinking I wasn’t going to build a game board. I had recently had a clear out of my old Elysian drop troopers, and that had freed up a dangerous amount of capital in the hobby fund.

The best laid plans…

The original plan was stuck to as closely as I could with the time I had given myself. Some parts fell by the wayside due to time constraints, such as the inlet board.

Originally I had wanted to go all-out and create full resin canals, but I couldn’t figure out how best to make those modular – I have no use for single-purpose terrain.

That sweet, sweet smell of freshly-lasered MDF

The game board from TTcombat would fit the bill – cheap and lightweight, it would be easy to store and I could get a lot of different configurations out of it.  They should be stackable too, so I picked up some of the TTcombat venice plaza sections of different sizes to add a bit of height variance where appropriate.

I would pick up a bunch of different bits of scenery too, that way I’d have a tool kit of stuff that I could draw upon wherever and whenever my players decide to get into a fight. It could be an open dockside, a drowned slum or abandoned city block.

Just the right height – not impassably tall, but still an obstacle
world building

Assembly began in earnest. I love the TTCombat range for its detail and ease of assembly, and everything in this pack was no different. The broken factory and shipyard went together like a dream, and the containers would be to swell my container collection to a more healthy 9 in total.

I had also assembled some silos from pringles cans which would serve to boost the height significantly and provide more things to drape walkways off.

The crates were a bit fiddly to assemble but they came together in the end, and I made the conscious decision to glue them together in lumps rather than have dozens of loose crates scattered about my board. Where I would lose a tiny amount of customisation, I would gain massively in convenience. I’ve had loose bits of terrain floating around on boards before and the novelty wears off immediately after the first accidental nudge of the table.

Dry fitting the pieces. It’s looking like a board!

As I was doing more research into scenery options, I naturally gravitated towards various Malifaux resources, including the sewers walkway and downtown walkway sets by Plascraft. I can knock rickety wooden walkways together with some PVA and balsa wood easy peasy, but I can’t knock together something that looks like it wasn’t, uh, knocked together. I picked them up off ebay for cheap, favouring the un-coloured plastic sets over the pre-painted ones.

They were an absolute pain in the ass to assemble – they were made of the kind of plastic that mocks every kind of adhesive except superglue. I went through four tubes of superglue and seventeen fingertips before everything was finally assembled, and it was only when it came to basecoating I realised I should have bathed the whole set in acid and set it on fire before starting, as it took three coats of base coat before the paint would stop pooling on the oils left on the plastic. Not cool.

When they were done they looked great – they fit in to the theme beautifully, they’re lightweight, sturdy and flexible enough so they can be knocked around a bit without any paint chipping or structural damage.

I was, however, putting off the longest, hardest (and as it turned out, most damaging to me personally) part of the project – the boards themselves.

foaming at the mouth

I had looked at dozens of different game boards, trying to decide how to design the ones I now had taking up space on my bed. There were plenty of Mordheim and Malifaux game boards on Pinterest and Google Images that tickled my fancy, but none that I could realistically achieve by myself in the time frame I had allotted.

My first attempts with glue and sand were pretty abysmal and not what I wanted at all. I wanted a cobbled/tiled/flagstone look, but the only textured plasticard I could find was expensive and sold by the A4 sheet, I needed something that could cover large areas for not very much money.

I came across some enterprising individual on a Mordheim forum who had used a biro on some thin polystyrene (the kind your supermarket pizza comes on) to draw on flagstones and cobbles. Perfect! All I need to do is find some in my local area and draw some on, right?

My finger hurts just looking at this

Turns out, nowhere sells such a thing, and I wasn’t about to buy and unwrap a dozen pizzas. I finally found some sheets of kids’ craft foam in my local book store and picked up two packs just to be sure. It was the perfect material – much tougher than polystyrene but that just meant I had to push a bit harder. Should take the strain of gaming more, right?

Each one of these sheets took about two hours

You have to press really really hard with a biro to get the indentation. I broke the ball out of four pens making these, and the ones that didn’t lose their ball will never write again due to weird internal rupturing of the ink cartridge.

By the end of the ordeal I couldn’t hold a pen for a few days afterwards. I had lost feeling in the end of my thumb from gripping the pen so tightly and I had a huge blister on my middle finger from where the pen rested. Over a month later I still don’t have very much feeling in my thumb any more, and the blister has turned into a huge callous. Yay hobbying!

Aside from that though, the sheets came out great. For what was essentially 25p a sheet, they were great value for money if you don’t value physical hand health that much. Time to stick them to things!

This was a pleasingly messy project

The sheets were carved up in accordance to the random scribbles I had made on the wooden boards. Harking back to my brief, I wanted them to be usable in pretty much any arrangement, so they needed to be (relatively) even all the way round.

I also wanted to have a conscious divide between cobbled areas and muddy paths where the roads have worn away decades ago. Making these tiled areas variable shapes and sizes meant depending on the arrangement of boards, you could get wide streets, tiny claustrophobic alleyways or snaking dog-legs between buildings.

Two thicknesses of plasticard were used for the edging (black and white)

A few of the boards went against the brief and I edged them with lollipop sticks as a boardwalk or dockside. I needed a dock in the first fight, and I didn’t have the time to figure out how to carve up one of these tiles and make an inlet. Perhaps a project for another time.

The mud was made with a nice big pot of polyfilla I had lying around in powder form at home. When mixed up in some old Chinese tupperware, you can apply it liberally with finger and spoon to create some weird shapes. Some tiles and sand pushed into it for texture helped finish it off.

Dry faster, damn you!

With all the boards in strange primary colours,  things were beginning to look a bit Legoland. I was happy that I had got this far and I was apprehensive about applying colour to them. If the paint didn’t take, I was out of options.

Duncan be praised

Well bugger me, they came out better than I’d ever dreamed they would. I killed off quite a few brain cells applying the black undercoat – I lost count of how many rattle cans I went through over the course of this project.

A light dusting of grey over the black helped break up the big chunks and would make painting easier down the line.

I’ve been painting for 20 years and the power of an undercoat still amazes me

The wood sections would get a light dusting of brown spray and painted up the same way as the other wood sections of the map. The cobblestones were highlighted with a slightly lighter grey, and splodged liberally with brown and green washes applied with a spongy bit snipped out of a miniatures case.

A final highlight was drybrushed with Rotting Flesh. In all the descriptions of Magna it would be described as a decaying, unhealthy place, and everything from the wood to the stone to the metal would have a slightly unhealthy tinge to it.

The path sections would get a thick’n’heavy coat of brown. It was time to get muddy.

Hahahaha holy shit I really hope this dries clear ahahahaha

I picked up some water effect stuff to make bases for the Undertow and this was a great opportunity to use some more of it up. It is very thick, and used for creating water effects like splashing water, so it would be perfect for giving me an unpleasant moistness to my mud. It would also double as a sealant for the polyfilla, as I discovered very quickly that despite it looking great and being super easy to work with, it chips like a bitch.

I applied it liberally and smooshed it into the surface of my board. trying to let it pool in the crevices and get wiped off the raised areas so it would look more like standing water.

I had my concerns at this point that it would look more like a river or literal standing water rather than mud, then realised it didn’t matter. It could be used for either depending on what I might need!

The stuff was touch-dry in less than an hour, but I let it dry overnight just to be safe.

The test fit

When everything was dry, next day I pushed the boards together, sprinkled some terrain on it and set up my antagonists for a photo shoot. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Yeah, I was pretty fuckin’ chuffed with how these came out. Everything just worked. I was utterly impressed by my ability to paint all the wood in the same dead fleshy colours, despite many of these projects being painted months apart and in some cases, very drunk. The multiple layers worked really well too, something I was going to revisit later on and finish off more of. Everything looked swell, and with only one night to go before the big day, it couldn’t have worked out better.

It was time to assemble the board ready for the final fight.

The board was set up before the players arrived, I just needed to bring it in when the fight started
Some close-ups of the interior. The players will enter at the far end.
It was difficult to contain my excitement at this point. It had turned from random bits of wood and garbage plastic into a living, breathing dockside
Death in magna

I stuck as close as I could to the original map, and made concessions for the areas that didn’t work. I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to make ANOTHER boat, so we used the nose section from a previous TTcombat purchase  which actually turned out great.

The core structures were shuffled around too – the warehouse in the far corner didn’t fit on the tile I had put there and was better suited to being more central so it could be interacted with more. I commandeered some of my old 40k scatter terrain that was most fitting to the scene too – a few bits of ruined building that would stand in for, well, anything really. The one in the bottom left of the map would house a cheeky chappy with a hunting rifle that would just be a massive dick for the whole fight.

The rest of this post is just images, vaguely structured in the order they were taken. I lament not taking more pictures or documenting it better, but luckily many of my players took plenty of snaps on their phones.

So, for your pleasure, I present one of my life-long dreams achieved;

The acolytes approach, wary that they have entered an area with a fully 3D map and models
The noise of the manufactorum to their right drowned out the sound of gunfire until they were practically in the middle of the firefight
An armoured barge had been forced down a dead-end canal by raider boats, and the criminal crews spot a new ship entering, assume it’s enemy reinforcements and open fire
Keenly aware they are under fire, the Acolyte Primus jumps to shore and commands the others to do the same
A raider approaches, manned by an Undertow heavy gunner with a crank cannon. One of the Acolytes pops smoke to try and save them from becoming Swiss cheese
The Techpriest ices the first sniper on the silo, despite the rain imposing a -20 to hit
A lot of things happen except people leaving the boat. A mixture of poor Climb tests, failed Pinning tests and decisive inaction leads to them being rammed by the raider
The tiny Techpriest scampers up a silo to blast an Undertow sniper with her hellgun. Also pictured: the elusive Dreadquill GM
The mad Adept dives for cover and returns fire with any grenades she has to hand
Pop pop pop watching heretics drop
Things started to get a little capsizey

Our brave naval Acolytes eventually all managed to get off their sinking ship (hopefully not too heavy-handed a metaphor for future endeavours…) and brutally murder some starving poor people trying to feed their families see off the criminals and protect the shipment.

The day was won by the Acolytes, and they even won grudging thanks from the House Guard protecting the shipment. It sounded like everyone had as much fun playing as I had building, and we all learned some valuable lessons about the importance of having Willpower as your dump stat, why shotguns with the Scatter trait are so deadly, and just how long you can stay on a sinking ship before your team-mates start to try and bounce grenades off your head.

I’ll get you next time, Acolytes!

Orthesian Herald: session 5 – The Flickering Eye

Navigator Mahd’Naz sends the translation estimates back to the Captain – 8 days in the warp to the Gangue system through calm warp currents to find the fabled treasure ship, The Rightful Remit.

The warp shutters roll down over the viewports, emergency lumens wash the bridge with a crimson glow and everybody lights their incense. As the Unbroken resolve hits the warp translation point, it fires a single defiant salvo from its macrocannons as unreality opens up and swallows the little ship whole.

First steps into the Nomads
Pleasant tidings

This was to be the first, and likely last, of the quiet warp translations. During the week, only two Warp Encounters were rolled, both getting “All’s Well!” results. A little disappointing from a GM’s perspective but hey, not every warp journey can be a harrowing trip into the hell of hells.

During the transit, Explorator Freeman and Von Gunn decide to take the two newly-appointed Battery Lords, Brassfang and Falconet, on hunting patrols through the bowels of the ship. Since the battering at the hands of the Battlegrounds raiders there were a few decks on the keel of the ship that were considered unfit for duty and sealed off. Voidships in the 41st millennium are designed with plenty of obsolescences in mind, but they do have a habit of picking up vermin and stowaways, so they need to be checked every so often to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Freeman had divvied up the broken underdecks into sectors, and they would sweep a different sector of each underdeck each day while in the warp. Von Gunn would also use it as an opportunity to have a bit of friendly competition between the two Battery Lords and to encourage them to blow off steam this way, rather than getting antsy with the macrocannons.

It was just a minor point, but it was a neat little addition from the players to explore more of their home and stake out their claim on it.

Our journey to Gangue was over.

The system map for Gangu, detailing all the important celestial bodies
A dead race and a dying sun

The translation into the Gangue system was as painless as the journey. The crew had already acquired a system map before leaving Mercy, so all that remained to do was let the passive augurs sweep the system and report back.

Gangue is one of hundreds of systems visited, catalogued and passed over by explorers of the Nomad Stars. Since Skylar himself, it has remained mostly unexplored or unexploited, mostly due to little immediate interest: sun-blasted worlds to its frozen reaches, only a smattering of looted ruins and planets ill-suited to colonisation.

Flickering Eye: A stuttering pulsar, bathing the system in hard radiation from its death throes.

Gangue Minor: A sun-scorched world closest to the star and scoured clean of life by its fiery breath.

Gangue Prime: A dust choked graveyard littered with the alien ruins.

Gangue Secundus: An icy jungle moon covered in frozen spore-towers and cloaked in a toxic fog.

Shard Halo: A vast asteroid field billions of kilometres in length scattered across the outer reaches of the system.

The Flickering Eye of Gangue
The Flickering Eye of Gangue
the goldilocks zone

A brief discussion rippled across the crew – where to go first? The nearest planet to the outer reaches where we had translated into was the obvious choice, but would we expect to find anything there? Active augur sweeps told us Gangue Secundus was a frozen hellscape, and Gangue Minor was a scorched, radioactive hellscape.

The only hellscape that didn’t require excessive equipment was the planet in the Goldilocks Zone – not too hot, not too cold. Set a course for Gangue Prime!

After three days of intersystem travel, the Unbroken Resolve enters high orbit of the planet and runs a focused scan.

Gangue Prime is a desolate wasteland with a dirty grey surface choked by clouds and dust. From orbit, you detect vast maze-like ruins covering many parts of the surface but little else. 

You also clearly detect the presence of a great monolith standing proud from the surrounding ruins and wreathed in an invisible cloud of electromagnetic turbulence – the giant crystal structure is unmistakably something unique.

The maze-like hive spans much of the northern landmass, rising up above the great dust sea, with the black monolith at the centre like a precious jewel – Impossible to bring a craft within more than a few km of the mirror due to violent ionic and magnetic storm around it.

The monolith in the centre of the ruins, but imagine the ruins expand across the continent. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)
into the maze

Everyone was eager to step foot on their first alien world, so the crew piled into an Arvus lighter and dropped orbit. The fly-by of the monolith revealed it would be impossible to land anywhere near, its projected aura of electromagnetic turbulence causing problems to the lighter the closer it got. The crew set down a few kilometres out in a clearing and disembarked.

Atmosphere is thin here, you can survive unprotected for at least a few hours, though the caustic air will make breathing uncomfortable

The alien hive is eerily empty – a collection of labyrinthine trenches and open pits surrounding the mirror like the carvings of a giant madman. They glisten with rainbow light as though oily, even as they crack and crumble with age.

The passageways are cramped for humans, and the hive mazes are empty, as though the xenos and their works simply vanished overnight. The only sound is the moaning of the wind as it blows through enclosed maze-spaces and across desert outcrops.

An idea of the alien ruins from the inside. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)
Exploring the labyrinth

As the players explored the ruined maze, many of them made attempts to maintain bearings or create EM-breadcrumb trails so they could find their way back. Confoundingly, the maze seemed to reject any efforts to map it or tame it in any way.

There was no signs of life, no psychic signature or presence of warp fuckery – the construction of the maze by strange xenos minds was anathema to human pathfinding sensibilities. Players found themselves double-backing on themselves, becoming lost or somehow following the same path as they just left.

These were handled by a string of Logic, Navigate (Surface) and Scholastic Lore (Astromancy) checks, with Insanity Points being handed out for any particularly bad failures as the character’s minds began to fracture at the seemingly impossible construction of the maze. After ten hours of stumbling around, the Arch Militant smelled something familiar – the distinctive odour of burning aviation fuel and charred metal…

You come to a section of the maze that has been torn apart by some flying vehicle, plowing a smouldering furrow through the crystalline walls. Bits of smoking wreckage lie everywhere, and you can just about make out through the acrid black smoke a shortcut to the centre of the maze.

The wreckage is that of a heavy lander that must have crashed when it encountered the same ionic and magnetic storms caused by the central structure.

A Search or Awareness -20 check of the site revealed the following;

You notice a similar livery painted on the craft as displayed on the armsmen who ambushed you in Port ImpetusCharred and broken corpses are strewn everywhere, so twisted blackened you mistook them for detritus from the lander. A Willpower +20 check was required to resist another doling out of Insanity Points. It was at this point that some of the more physically-orientated characters began to understand the importance of not using Willpower as their dump stat.

The players were on edge. This was clearly a Fel Dynasty craft that was fouled by the electromagnetic storms around the monolith. What were they doing here?

As they pondered, the Explorator and Voidmaster uncovered something in the wreckage – a single drop-crate that survived the wreckage and encrypted with Fel Dynasty codes. It would take a little while to crack, so the crew decided to move on through the hole in the ruins that the lander had created. The Explorator insisted on staying behind to break it open, something he would later come to be very thankful for…

As you pick through the wreckage towards the great crystalline structure in the centre of the labyrinth you hear the sounds of gunfire and animalistic grunting. The snap of lasgun fire is unmistakeable, but there is a single noise that pierces the veil and sends a shiver down your spine. A single, howling, primal “WAAAAAAAGH!”

What’s that coming over the hill?
A run-in with the locals

The crew stood on a ridge overlooking the monolith in the centre of a vast dust bowl about 200 metres across. In the centre, a mob of a dozen or so feral Orks were bearing down on some Fel Dynasty armsmen behind a rocky outcrop.

As the crew took their bearings (and rolled for Initiative), they noticed a half dozen Orks lead by a huge brute break off from the pack and thunder across the open dust bowl towards them.

The crew had 100 metres and superior firepower on their side, but would that be enough to take them down before they got close? A few players had faced Orks in 40k RPGs before and knew they weren’t to be trifled with, and the players who didn’t have an intimate knowledge of the Green Menace’s infamous toughness knew that it would be a Bad Thing to let them close the gap.

As they were sizing up the potential killing power of the scattering of plasma pistols and flamers in the party, there was a gutteral roar from behind them of a powerful engine starting up. Screeching over the ridge behind them came Explorator Freeman on an Astartes-pattern Scout Bike and Zilla riding shotgun on the sidecar. Its twin bolters spewing hot explosive death into the ranks of the Orks, and the tide of battle became considerably more balanced.

Zilla and Freeman ride into battle on a broken Xbox battery pack

The fight was set up to introduce long range combat and to give the players a taste of fighting Orks in the lowest-threat way as possible – having them start a long way away with no ranged weapons!

The fight was set up as a 1cm:1m scale, so the Orks would be on the players in less than 10 turns. They knew that if even one got through, it would cause a world of hurt to whatever it touched. Two plasma pistols from the Captain and the Astropath (a convenient last-minute Acquisition from Mercy!) could put out reasonable damage when they hit, and the twin bolt pistol death from the Arch Militant made decent work of whatever he was aiming at. The Missionary was at a disadvantage of only having a flamer, so spent most of her time shouting profanities at the ravening xenos horde.

The twin bolters from the scout bike chewed up Orks like there was no tomorrow;

Twin-linked bolters

Front-facing, 90m range, Basic, s/2/4, 1d10+5, pen 4, Clip 48, Reload 3Full, Twin-linked, Tearing

(Twin linked: +20 to hit, uses twice as much ammunition, scores an additional hit if the attack roll gets 2+ degrees of success)

Dakka dakka dakka!

The Orks were only a few turns away from beating our heroic crew to death with their own severed arms and our players were starting to feel the heat. Arch Militant Von Gunn came up with a decisive Plan B – he had a bunch of demolition charges and an appetite for destruction. By setting all the charges around the ridge they were standing on, they had an opportunity for an explosive retreat if things went sideways.

In the final few nail-biting turns of the game, the bikers had thinned the Ork horde enough so the small-arms fire could cause some damage. They had identified the big Ork as some kind of leader and were focusing fire to try and take him down. They had worked out the rest of the Orks might break if he could be stopped.

They also discovered a nice little surprise the Green Tide had to hand – crude Stikkbombs they lobbed at the bike when it got close enough. In an utterly tragic cosmic coincidence, all the Orks carrying stikkbombs had been killed before they could get close enough to use them or even before the players had identified them as a threat. I’ll get you next time, gadget…

The Captain and the Astropath finally put down the Ork leader with repeated blasts of max-strength plasma pistol shots and the last two Orks began to waiver. Unfortunately for them, they had just (and FINALLY) strayed into flamer range of the Missionary, who had been lamenting not taking a long range weapon for the entire fight.

Tips for pros: fire kills Orks dead.

This is an amusing quirk of the system as to why fire is so effective. Orks have a naturally low Willpower because individually they’re a cowardly lot. Get a bunch of them together though and Orks get a +10 to their Willpower tests (for Fear and Pinning) for every other Ork within a close proximity. Lots of Orks don’t run from a fight.

When you are hit with a Flamer, two things happen. First you take the flamer’s damage, which at 1d10+4 isn’t going to upset an Ork who will soak most of that damage anyway. However, they then have to take an Agility test or catch fire. Orks have a terrible Agility, so they tend to catch alight quite often. Once on fire, you have to take an unmodified Willpower test or you are forced to do nothing except run around screaming. You don’t get your Mob Rule bonus for this, and Orks tend to fail unmodified Willpower checks quite a lot.

When you’re on fire, you take D10 damage per turn, ignoring armour. Again, this is unlikely to trouble an Ork who can shrug off at least 8 of that. However, fire also gives you 1 Fatigue per turn. Exceed your Toughness Bonus and you pass out from asphyxiation and burn to death. Each level of Fatigue also imposes a -10 to all your tests, making it harder and harder to put yourself out each turn.

So what you have is a bunch of flaming Orks running around screaming, unable to put themselves out until they all pass out and become sautéed mushrooms. Yay fire!

The aftermath

The final two Orks were toasted, and one of them turned to flee. The Missionary’s bodyguard Alyss leapt forwards and plunged her chainsword into the fleeing Ork, finishing him off.

The Captain surveyed the scene and emptied the plasma pistol canister into the mangled Ork boss, just in case. He’d heard about their regenerative abilities and figured he’d rather not risk it.

The team gathered their wits, reloaded their weapons and made straight for the Monolith.

+++++++

Next: Session 6 – The Beast with the Broken Back

Previous: Session 4 – Welcome to the Nomads