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.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Orthesian Dynasty Armsmen

Prepare to repel boarders!

With our Orthesian Dynasty Rogue Trader game well underway, the time had finally come to stop putting off making any cool models.

We had reached a juncture at the end of one session just before rolling initiative, and half the party were not present. They were being backed up by some NPC armsmen as I knew combat was coming and I didn’t want any players to sit out of dice rolling, so it was a perfect opportunity to assemble a few navybois for the upcoming session.

I’ve made a few different armsmen and House Guard in the past for different Dynasties – the Serafin House Guard are well-equipped, well-trained nobleborn soldiers with a stick up their ass, and the Zini armsmen are renegades with cobbled-together void suits. When those games fizzled out the models were repurposed as NPCs, so I needed something with a different flavour for the Orthesian Dynasty.


Through service comes loyalty

With the Captain being ex-Navy, the Orthesian Dynasty is laced with Imperial Navy traditions and carry-overs, and this was a perfect time to build some naval armsmen as the God Emperor intended.

I wanted them to look roughshod and beaten up, vaguely uniform as though they had been given their equipment but expected to upkeep it themselves. I wanted a very traditional armsmen look – literal Men-at-Arms IN SPAAAACE – which meant hunting around for the right bits.

I picked up a Bretonnian Men-at-Arms kit last year with the express plan of doing something cool with them. 40k lends itself to weird mashups of archaic and futuristic, and the Bretonnian heads and bodies were the perfect combination of detailed and ancient. I had dry fit the heads to a few different bodies over the months but I was uninspired by any of the combinations, so the projects kept getting shelved.

It wasn’t until I joined the INQ28 group on Facebook that I realised the versatility of the Genestealer Neophytes set. A dangerous plan was formulating, and after picking up a box and dry-fitting combinations for HOURS, eventually decided on this combination.

Whaddya lookin’ at? Back ta work!

The Neophyte legs needed a little bit of handy scalpel work to remove the Genestealer Cult icons and quite a lot of shaving down at the hip join so they would fit flush with the Cadian flak armoured torso.

Despite having so many different combinations of legs, bodies and arms, the Neophytes kit has slightly contoured edges where parts are supposed to fit together. It works fine for the kit, but for enterprising individuals who want to bash it together with some other plastic bits, it needs a little bit of work to make fit.

Shaving the Bretonnian heads down was agonising. Not because it was physically difficult – the plastic was actually much softer than modern sets – but spiritually taxing. They don’t make these any more so I can’t afford to make mistakes and ruin a piece!

Luckily the pieces came together better than I’d ever imagined. I had to stop myself from building another half a dozen, knowing I could easily do it, but I have to limit myself on the number of new models I can build until I finish painting some previous unfinished projects.

The whole combination worked brilliantly, and giving them a quick undercoat pulled the whole model together. Unfortunately, the easy bit was now finished.

I call this the ‘black canvas panic’
Coat of armsmen

I knew what I wanted them to look like, but I didn’t quite know how I wanted to do it. I had a very strong, vague image in my head – a cross of Alien-style space suit and medieval men-at-arms, displaying their allegiances to their lord in any way they can afford to. These would not be wealthy individuals, but be given decent arms and armour to carry out their job of policing the ship and performing boarding actions.

I went through a few different colour scheme ideas, and was one of the rare occasions I had to bust out the drawing tablet and sketch some ideas before committing them to paint.

I tried out a few different ideas within the same scope

Luckily I had some colours to work with – dark grey and dark blue were Navy standard colours, but I also had pastel blue, orange and white as part of the Dynasty heraldry. My spot colours were chosen for me, I just needed to work out how to implement them.

You can see from the image above how I reworked the colour scheme until I got something I liked the look of. I actually started painting after number 5, as I was pretty convinced those were the colours I wanted. It wasn’t until I started putting paint on the model I realised I didn’t like the blue for the armour, and the tabard/waist cloth didn’t match the material of the gloves. I was also scratching me head about how to do the various wrappings, armbands and bindings that covered the other models. The neophytes kit is great because it’s so varied, which is a problem when trying to create a uniform colour scheme.

It was then it dawned on me – flags! These guys would do anything to show their allegiance to their Dynasty and their home, so tattered bits of heraldry here and there were perfect. I also remembered a reference from an old Kal Jericho comic about gang brawls in the underhive – everyone fighting everyone looks totally the same except for the coloured armbands everyone wears. Made sense to me – you really want to be able to tell friend from foe in the dark, brutal meatgrinder of ship-to-ship combat, so you’d want to splash those colours across you wherever you could!

And so it came together, part planning and part luck. I couldn’t be more happy with how they’d come out, and I’m doing everything in my power to avoid building more of them. Maybe one with a lascutter for opening sealed doors? Ooh! I need a few guys with boarding shields obviously. Perhaps some with demolition charges, some more with melee weapons…

And one final one, because I couldn’t resist

Orthesian Herald: session 4 – Welcome to the Nomads

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

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

Mercy from space – courtesy of FFG
Bathed in light

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

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

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

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

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

A wretched hive of scum and villainy

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

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

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

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

An angry beaky boi – courtesy of FFG

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

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

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

hammers and nails

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

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

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

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

Mercy Longshore – courtesy of FFG
The pit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The futility of gambling with telepaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lombar the Archi-something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Orthesian Herald: session 3 – Into the Throat

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

Moments before translation, the ship comes to life.

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

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

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

Taming the void

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The horrors of the warp

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

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

1. Determine duration of passage

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

2. Locate the Astronomican

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

3. Consult the instruments

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

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

4. Translate and steer the vessel

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

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

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

5. Leave the warp

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

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

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

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

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

Wolves in the darkness

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

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

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

It’s a trap!

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

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

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

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


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

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

It gets pretty messy at this range
Battered and bloody

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

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

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

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

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

Cargo cult

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

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

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

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

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

Orthesian Herald: session 2 – The Last Bastion of Mankind

We are in Haimm, an ill-omened system on the edge of civilised space, far out to the galactic west of Holy Terra. Twin white suns blaze fiercely here, their titanic gravity wells doing battle over the shattered bones of celestial bodies from a bygone era.

You have been travelling for several months from another part of the galaxy to seek fortune and glory among the Nomad Stars, as part of the remit of your newly-inherited Warrant of Trade.

Captain Tassa Zacherie Aphesius Orthesian has gathered a crew over 20-thousand strong to pilot the flagship of the Orthesian Dynasty – the Unbroken Resolve – and a staff of five advisors, counselors and warriors to act as the Dynasty’s eyes, ears and fists. (See here for the full run-down of characters)

Your journey has been long, and although no warp jump could ever be considered simple, it has been relatively placid compared to the adventures that lie ahead.

Upon arriving in the system, your deck crew have set a course for the only inhabited body and safe harbour to resupply before venturing forth: Port Impetus.

You barely have time to warm up the plasma drive for several days of inter-system travel when a Vox Officer informs you of an incoming message, encrypted in your dynasty’s personal cypher. You hear an old man’s voice, cracked with age:

”My Lord, I am Aubrey Luther. You do not know me, but I have been waiting a long time for a member of your family to return. I bear a message and a gift from your Great Grandfather, Lord-Admiral Thaler Orthesian. I would meet with you as soon as possible in the Court of the Dead, the biggest market square in Port Impetus, at the coordinates encrypted within this message. It is a matter, I assure you, that promises great glory.”

The ill-omened system of Haimm
Introducing the setting and characters

One of the trickiest parts of starting a new game is setting the tone for the universe and introducing the key elements (in this case, the characters and their roles on the ship) in as little effort on the players’ behalf as possible.

I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘you meet in a bar, introduce yourselves’, as although that’s handy for getting a mental image of your co-players, it’s mostly just reading the descriptions off you character sheet. A combination of stage fright and unfamiliarity with the game world can make this an unsatisfactory introduction for new and experienced players alike.

Instead of asking players to react to each other, I wanted to establish their roles as head honchos on a ship of thousands of faceless goons by asking them to react to ‘typical’ scenarios they might find aboard their ship. They would be unique to each character, reinforcing that character’s role aboard the Unbroken Resolve and help the players flesh out their personalities by providing them with mini crises.

Captain: On top of your regular Captainly duties, you are presented with a report of goings-on that are worthy of your attention. You cannot be everywhere at once so these have been delegated to your senior officers, but you do have enough time between your important administrative duties to oversee and assist up to two out of the five reports if you deem it necessary.

The Captain was given a handout of what the other players would be up to, and he could choose any two to assist. I wanted to reinforce the idea that the Captain was a powerful character that can pretty much do anything, but the challenge is in prioritising what you should be doing. He ended up assisting the Astropath and the Arch Militant, with varying degrees of success…

Voidmaster Zilla: The course charted by your deck officers is the safest but not necessarily the quickest. There are a few errant gravity wells of larger celestial shards between you and Port Impetus that could be used to slingshot you to your destination at a much greater speed, but a much greater risk.

Pilot+Manoeuvrability test, if failed, it would have done 1 Damage to the ship plus 1 per Degree of Failure (minus armour). As it was passed, the travel time to Port Impetus was reduced by 1 day and the senior officers got a temporary +5 boost to any interaction tests on Port Impetus as rumours of their daring approach reached the locals.

Explorator Freeman: The Unbroken Resolve is a resolute beast, not coyed by the superstitions of men or the predictable rotations of celestial matter around a binary system. She has many hidden reserves of strength, and in this relatively safe system, it would be a radiant display of her machine spirit’s strength to increase cruising speed and burn brightly through the heavens.

A fairly standard intro for the Techpriest of the group. They needed to pass a Tech Use test to decrease travel time by half a day and had the added bonus of increasing the ship’s morale by 1.

Missionary Lyoness: Haimm is an ill-omened place, spoken of by voidsmen in hushed whispers across the sector. Something about the light from two suns that turns folks mad. These whispers are beginning to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, and many crewmen are missing their daily prayers and break from their work schedules. They need a firm voice and presence to get them back in line and to reaffirm their faith in the Dynasty and the Emperor. 

When presented with an opportunity to bolster the crew’s morale and steel them against the dark, the Missionary instead instructed her staff to round up a hundred of the most recalcitrant crew and dragged them into the chapel, calling an emergency sermon for the remainder of the voidsmen not on duty.

After spitting fire at her sermon and rallying the hearts and minds of those present, she flushed half of them out into space. This very quickly established a precedent of zero-tolerance attitudes to even the slightest whiff of insubordination.

Arch-militant Von Gun: A request for weapons-free has been submitted by both Battery Lords of the Prow and Dorsal macrocannon decks. It is no secret that they are in direct competition with one another for fastest reload and truest aim, and you suspect they are looking for the opportunity to blow off some steam after so many months of travel. The Dynasty’s macrocannon shells do not grow on trees, and they should be shown by example or by force that the pecking order exists for a reason.

What was intended to be a simple Intimidate test or playful shooting competition between the Arch-Militant and his subordinates turned into a pretty harrowing scene. The Arch-Militant wasted no time in immediately ordering both Battery Lords to be nailed to the macrocannon shells they wanted to use for target practice and were blasted out into space, accompanied by a dramatic speech from the Captain about getting ideas above one’s station.

Two terrified apprentices were promoted to Battery Lords in their masters’ absence, let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite them…

Astropath Gil: The Astropath Transcendent receives an emergency vox broadcast on a fine-band frequency. You are requested ASAP to the junior Astropath’s chambers. As you enter you recognise the shapes of your four juniors in a huddle around the Astropathic organ in the centre of the chamber, clearly in distress. They are holding one of their number in their arms, fear erupting from their soul and madness babbling from their lips. The other three sense you entering, and bow their heads in deference. They quickly explain that during her shift as receiver, she tried to push her mind’s eye too far into the Great Warp Storms to see what lay beyond. She will be dead within minutes, but perhaps there is something that a more powerful, dutiful Astropath may glean from her prying before she succumbs to insanity..

This was an opportunity to use some of the Astropath’s extra-curricular abilities, and encouraging the use of telepathy (specifically the Mind Probe power) to glean information from people you might not get access to otherwise.

After I slightly cocked up the rules for Mind Probe, the Astropath managed to squeeze every bit of cryptic fortelling out of the dying junior;

Pass The journey through the Throat is surprisingly swift but utterly perilous should you stray from the path
1 DoS Wolves lurk in the rest stops, awaiting wandering prey
2 DoS Beyond the throat lies a flickering eye, that watches over the answers you seek
3 DoS Underneath the flickering eye lies a maze of light and a chamber of stars
4+ DoS It is a map in the heavens to a veil of ice and a beast with a broken back
I’m sure none of that will come back to haunt him.
Port Impetus – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games
Port Impetus

Perched on the very southern tip of the Onus Region, Port Impetus stands as the gateway to the Nomad Stars and the vast untamed void beyond.

This is a place of desperate hopes and vain dreams. Port Impetus teems with a transitory population of traders, spies, merchant factors, pilgrims and missionaries amongst which move Administratum functionaries and minions of the mechanicus, all feeding on the riches that flow from the realms beyond the warp storms in the Nomad Stars. This is the last place the Imperium resides, the last bastion of mankind where the rule of the Golden Throne keeps the horror and possibility of the unknown at bay..

As the crew gather their things, I put heavy emphasis on the official, protocol welcomes they receive from all manner of functionaries, authorities and peers. This is the last civilised place they will see for a very long time, and I wanted to make the contrast with their first stop in the Nomad Stars a particularly jarring one.

They make no bones about heading out to meet Luther, the Missionary riding a sedan chair carried by oiled servants. On the front of her chair is the relic she gained as part of her Origin Path, something that the faithful citizenry of Port Impetus take immediate interest in and swarm her trying to receive her blessing and touch the relic.

They meet up with Luther, a knackered old servant of the Dynasty who has been waiting almost a century in Port Impetus for another Orthesian family member to arrive so he can fulfil his duty. He regales them with his exposition dump and tantalises them with the tale of the Righteous Remit.

Port Impetus interior – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games
The riddle of the Righteous Remit

”In my youth I served as a deck officer aboard The Emperor’s Testament, a vessel belonging to Commander Karlorn and part of your great-grandfather’s fleet. During one terrible expedition we were caught in a violent warp storm and blown far off course.

”After we came to rest in a strange and uncharted system the ship’s astropath heard a faint message – a cry for salvation from a lost Imperial vessel.”

”At first we believed it was an old message (an echo in the warp, the Astropath called it), hundreds if not thousands of years old.”

”When we examined it, we discovered just what we had stumbled onto – an astropathic marker from the fabled treasure ship The Rightful Remit”

The Rightful Remit is an ancient treasure ship long ago swallowed by the shifting tides of the warp, a ship reputed to hold the entire wealth of a plundered world.”

”The story goes that long ago, an Imperial warlord discovered an ancient colony of man that had fallen to heretical worship and it was put to the sword, sweeping away a thousand years of civilisation in three days of fire and blood.”

”When the killing was done and the corpse counters began gathering up the detritus of genocide, the warlord marvelled at the riches he had won.”

”He did not trust his fellow crusaders to carry it away, so he set about filling his flagship, the Rightful Remit, from stern to prow. He tore out gun decks and launch bays, marooned thousands of his crew and stripped away the vessel’s innards until she was bursting with plunder. The warlord then vanished into the warp and from the pages of history.

”Free-traders, adventurers and imperial servants have all tried to find its resting place to no success, until Commander Karlorn and The Emperor’s Testament stumbled upon it by pure chance.

”Karlorn chose not to pursue it there and then due to the damage sustained from the storm, but made a note of its location so he could return when his ship was at full strength. We returned to Port Impetus and left me here with the map for safekeeping while he went to find your great grandfather. He never returned.

“For a hundred years I’ve been keeping this memolith, waiting for one of the dynasty to return so I can fulfil my duty”

He hands them the plot macguffin memolith, but before they can pocket it, a cyber-hawk swoops down from the rafters above and knocks it into the crowd. Gunshots erupt around them, followed by a voice shouting “Stop them! Grab that memolith!”

A botched ambush

Roll for initiative! It was time to get our beaks wet with some fisticuffs. I’m a huge proponent of combat as early into a new game session as possible. It makes for good in medias res and helps players work out very quickly what their characters are good at.

Not pictured: dozens of citizens fleeing for their lives

The board was set up with lots of lovely laser-cut mdf scenery from TTcombat, arranged roughly to look like a busy market. The players were in the centre while the antagonist and her armsmen body guards dressed in fancy attire.

The fight served its purpose – to establish a hierarchy of combat prowess in relation to one another and introduce the pleasingly crunchy combat rules for Rogue Trader. It’s all well and good for your character sheet to have a pair of bolt pistols written on it, but with no previous knowledge of the universe or your place within it, it can be hard to grasp its importance.

When all your teammates are struggling to pin down opponents, placing shots between cover or grappling with foes in close combat, it’s easy see where your strengths lie when you can comfortably explode at least one enemy head per turn with your hand-held rapid fire rocket launcher pistols.

Lady Ash and her cadre of fancy armsmen

The combat went in our crew’s favour, despite the Captain sustaining a dangerous amount of damage from a fluffed Displacer Field check. The armsmen were only trying to pin down the players with grenades and suppressing fire so they could try and grab the memolith, which was working until the players figured out their plan and concentrated fire on anyone trying to dash for the memolith lying on the ground.

We were playing in a crowded market area, so there was an additional -30 imposed to any shooting actions for the first few rounds as the press of panicking bodies was so thick. I’d already decided that grievous misses would result in a poor bystander biting a bullet instead, mostly just a narrative device to help reinforce the reasons for the penalties.

What I hadn’t counted on was the Captain and the Astropath blasting away into the crowd with plasma pistols trying to get the foe that was scrabbling for the memolith on the floor. The half-incinerated bodies of “near misses” kept piling up. The port authorities weren’t impressed.

Another angle of Lady Ash – an Escher ganger model as a base
A brush with the law

The Boys in Blue arrived, cracking skulls with their shock mauls and ‘inviting’ the Rogue Trader and his crew to accompany them to see the Marshall. As a Rogue Trader, your fancy bit of paper works as a Get Out Of Jail Free card for most ‘minor’ crimes like manslaughter and destruction of property.

A typical Adeptus Arbites officer – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games

The slap on the wrist from the Precinct Marshall amounted to; “I could prosecute you, but that would involve a lot of paperwork on both our counts, so could you just bugger off and not do it again, ta.” Again, I wanted to enforce the rule of Imperial Law versus non-Imperial space (when we get there).

They also managed to learn the name of their attackers; the armsmen were under the employ of a Rogue Trader called Hadarak Fel – another reason the Marshall was keen not to get involved. Two Rogue Traders actively brawling on Imperial soil is an administrative nightmare.

Cast off

So our gang of scallywags had a quest, a fight, a rival and adventure in their hearts and were ready cast off and fly out into the heavens.

One last thing before they went though – our resident quadruped techpriest decided to skitter away as everyone was boarding and find a quiet harbour console somewhere. It was being used, but he politely unplugged the poor servitor so he could engage HACKER MODE.

After a trawl through the files of ships at berth, he found a frigate called the Fel Hand. Without any other information available he couldn’t know for sure, but a Rogue Trader is definitely the kind of person who would call a ship a pun of his own name. With some techno-wizardry he changed the ship’s time slot for tomorrow, which would would have a knock-on effect on a whole bunch of logistics and delay the Fel Hand’s departure by several days. There are no rivalries like petty rivalries, eh?

And with that, the crew of the Unbroken Resolve sailed out into the inky void, ready to stare down the Throat and into the adventures that lay beyond.

Orthesian Herald: session 1 – The Unbroken Resolve and All Those Who Sail Therein

Welcome to the Orthesian Herald, a new segment on Dreadquill dedicated to a brand new Rogue Trader group sailing under the banner of the Orthesian Dynasty. The games are played fairly frequently, and these articles are going to debrief and dissect after each session – sharing some highs, lows, learning points and handouts produced for the game.

This will be the fourth Rogue Trader group I’ve started over two-ish years, so I’m looking forward to utilising what I’ve learned early on to try and deliver a kick-ass game.

The players

Players were given free reign with what characters to pick. Players that were new to the lore and system were gently steered away from some of the more input-intensive characters like the Navigator or Astropath, which can add a whole load of extra rules on top of everything else.

In addition, each player was given 2500 experience to spend, starting them on Rank 2 with 7000 experience ‘spent’.

Lord-Captain Tassa Zacharie Aphesius Orthesian “Notch” (Rogue Trader) – Dan

With a background in the Battlefleet, the Captain was very set on running the ship and crew as an ex-commander might, with military precision and demanding unwavering loyalty. The player had also experienced a previous Rogue Trader game as an Arch-Militant very much playing at the other end of the legal spectrum, so wanted to try being the one giving orders rather than taking them.

The Lord-Captain’s stats are all over the shop; after XP spent he has a Weapon Skill and Fellowship of 51 and 50 respectively, very useful for a Rogue Trader. Unfortunately, even after a bump, his Toughness leaves much to be desired at 32, meaning our Rogue Trader will be starting the grand tour of the Nomad Stars with a whopping 9 wounds.

For his free Acquisition he picked up a displacer field, hoping that will activate enough to keep him alive…

Enginseer Xander Freeman (Explorator) – Hammond

Hammond is a long-standing regular in our games but rarely gets to play the Tech character, so jumped at the opportunity to make a really weird character off the bat. His first request was for his Acquisition to be four robo-legs so he can crawl across ceilings and gallop like a spider-horse, and for the free bionic implant he chose an MIU link with his hellgun, so he can fire it freely while hoofing it across strange alien worlds and brandishing his shiny power axe.

The character comes from an under-resourced manufactory Hive World where he was the Top Dog of running the show. When the Captain was looking to put together a crew, he picked Freeman for his administrative talents of doing a lot with very little under awful conditions. This means that although Freeman is the Enginseer rather than the Explorator, his role on the ship will still be a very familiar one.

Stats rolled were fairly average across the board, the only thing of note was a decent Agility and a Fellowship of 40 – the two skills an Explorator definitely needs. A bunch of XP was pumped into Intelligence and Tech Use, so now the Explorator is testing Tech Use on an 81. Here’s hoping he doesn’t break anything…

Gunther Von Gun (Arch Militant) – Dave

Von Gun is this player’s first foray into Rogue Trader and 40k in any big way as well, so we thought we would start off with one of the easier character archetypes to get to grips with; the Arch-Militant. A cursory glance over the character sheet reveals that Von Gun’s weight, height, age, gender and description are all “GUN”, so I think he’s really gripped the nuances of 40k lore.

Von Gun is rocking the twin bolt pistol look, and rolled above average on every stat. After plugging a few points into Ballistic Skill, he’s sitting comfortable on a 69 to hit (heh) with his bolt pistols, which is great for an experienced character, let along a starting character! This is fortunate, as with this surprisingly frail group, the Arch-Militant will be in serious demand during combat situations…

Gil Virgant (Astropath Transcendant) – Jez

The Astropath career is, in my opinion, the wildcard of the various careers because of the terrifying power and risk they can wield on a regular basis. Whole sessions can be derailed from one failed Perils test as a dinner party with bigwigs goes awry when daemons pour from the psyker’s mouth and try to eat the faces of the other party guests. It’s comforting then, to re-read my notes I made on the character’s backstory during a conversation with Jez:

“Born on a penal world, but not intrinsically criminal. Taken as a child and tortured for the guards’ personal gain – IN HERETICAL WAYS. The more they beat him, the more he became closer to the warp. He reached out to some voices in the warp to help him. These were Definitely Not Chaos.”

So that will be fine then. Most excitingly, even after purchasing two advances, he has nearly the lowest Willpower in the group. He did take a plasma pistol as his free Acquisition though, so at least he can be unstable and unpredictable in two ways.

Xandra Lyoness (Missionary) – Alex

Another player fresh to the group and to the lore, Alex was drawn to the Missionary career as being roughly analogous to clerics and healers from other systems. While not incorrect, the analogy breaks down when you notice the Missionary is also the group’s spiritual compass, daemon hunter, exorcist, interrogator, witch-finder, fiery demagogue and diplomat.

My concerns that a new player might not take to the universe was immediately quashed when she asked “Can I be carried round in a sedan chair and have flamethrowers on everything I own?”. Yes. Yes you can.

Lyoness is a 90-something year old screeching noble-born harridan who is obscenely strong, tough and perceptive. She modus operandi is to be carried round bearing relics from her previous escapades while whipping nearby pilgrims into a religious frenzy (literally and figuratively) with her trusty Neural Whip.

Marai Zilla (Voidmaster) – Andy

The final entrant is the only non-new character – Zilla is being brought over from a previous gaming group that collapsed under logistical problems. As a result Zilla is a slightly higher level than the others, but this will prove to be an absolute necessity as nobody else can fly the ship particularly well…

Zilla’s background is one of service to powerful Dynasties, and gets reassigned as Master of Space as the work calls. He’s an excellent pilot in both voidships and small craft and carries a bolt pistol as a hefty side arm. He also totes a fancy gold autogun wrenched from the bodyguard of a secessionist king in a previous life which has already served him well.

He’s a good all-round character who fills a few vital roles, and when not filling those roles has a good spread of skills to contribute to interaction or combat challenges.

The Dynasty

The Orthesian Dynasty is still in its early stage of conception, and will inevitably warrant a followup post about its trials, tribulations, colours and banners. During our pre-game sessions we did come up with some ground lore for the Dynasty, giving us as much detail as we needed to get stuck into the game while leaving it open-ended enough to fill in any blanks later on.

The Dynasty is a new Rogue Trader lineage, although the warrant itself is quite old. During his time in the Imperial Navy, Tassa Orthesian earned the reputation for being a conqueror and commander without peer, leading reclamation crusades in far-flung corners of the galaxy. These selfless acts of bravery were earning him more favour with the upper echelons of his House, and were earning him what centuries of bickering and political wrangling could not earn them. They did the only sensible thing to remove him from the picture: promote him.

Backs were scratched and brown envelopes were passed between the Powers That Be and a Warrant of Trade was eventually conjured up and “awarded” to Tassa Orthesian in recognition of his accomplishments so far. Such an honour cannot really be turned down, so the now Lord-Captain Orthesian was given the smallest warp-capable ship in the Orthesian garage and sent far, far away across the galaxy to a spit of space called ‘The Nomad Stars’.

The requirements of the Warrant state the Lord-Captain is to being the Nomads to heel, and reneging on that requirement will see assets reclaimed and resources cut off. They expect him to die out in the Nomads, ridding him from that pesky do-gooder once and for all. The Lord-Captain, on the other hand, has other ideas…

The Ship

So with some characters and Dynasty fluff out the way, it was on with building the ship. Our Lord-Captain cast the dice of fate and we began play with a 50 Profit Factor and 40 Ship Points – not a particularly stellar amount of spending power, but we were determined we were going to start at the bottom and work our way up!

For reference, most Raiders (the smallest class of the ship in the game) are around 30 SP to purchase, and the next class up, Frigates, start in the late 30s. If we wanted to fly a frigate, we’d barely be able to put any guns on it to start out with – not a great look for a freshly-minted Rogue Trader looking to cut his teeth on some Nomads xenos scum.

We also agreed to roll the Machine Spirit Oddities and Past Histories before picking the ship. Knowing what additional traits the hull would have would help inform a decision, and perhaps help play to their strengths a bit more. We rolled Resolute and Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, granting us a slight Speed hit in favour of more Hull and easier repairs, and having disguised components and extra sneaky hidey-holes around the ship in case the authorities come snooping at out goods. Nothing overly exciting but nothing particularly crippling either. The +10 to Repair tests will certainly come in handy!

We settled on the Shrike Raider in the end, as it was the perfect balance of speed and power (and to be honest the Shrike so massively outclasses the other ships in the Raider category that it renders any lengthy discussion pointless – it’s a very powerful ship for its class).


We’ll also be playing with the community-vetted Mathhammer rules for ship battles. The simplest tl;dr is that ship combat favours massive alpha strikes over fights of attrition. You can spend forever trying to break armour, only for one lucky roll to slag a vessel in one hit.

The fix is simple: reduce all ship armour by 12, but don’t compound Macrobattery attacks into one lot of damage – calculate every hit against armour as you would for shooting attacks.

After playing extensively with both, I can say that I much prefer how Mathhammer works for space battles, and we’ll be taking it forwards. Whenever you see a ship armour value on Dreadquill, the number in brackets will be the original un-hammered stat.

The Unbroken resolve

Type: Shrike-class Raider           Speed: 9

Manoeuvrability: +25                  Detection: +25

Turret Rating: 2                              Shields: 1

Crew Rating: 30                             Weapon capacity: 1 Dorsal, 1 Prow

Armour: 4 (16)                                  Hull integrity: 33

Essential components: 

  • Jovian Class 2 Plasma Drive
  • Strelov 1 Warp Engine
  • Emergency Gellar Field
  • Command Bridge
  • M1.r Life Sustainer
  • Voidsmen Quarters
  • M201.b Auger Array

Supplementary components:

  • Cargo hold/lighter bay
  • Brig
  • Mars-pattern Macrocannon (Dorsal slot)
  • Mars-pattern Macrocannon (Prow slot)

We have 2 space and 2 power left over but no Ship Points remaining to purchase anything! I suspect additional components will be high on the Acquisition shopping list when we get rolling, but for now it’s fine.

The Unbroken Resolve shaped up to be a good all-round ship – practical weaponry, good speed and manoeuverability, even a decent defence for a raider! We even managed to squeeze a cargo hold onto her and have some space left over for tweaks later on. We could kit her out from the first port we stop off at, but as a new group (and a handful of those new players completely) we agreed it would be more useful to get a few fights under our belt so we know what she’s capable of and what she’s lacking.

The adventure begins

So what’s next? Our group all live near to each other, and we’ve found a night that is mutually agreeable for all of us. The only thing to do is organise the first game and get Rogue Trading!

We’ll be running a heavily edited version of the sample campaign from the core rulebook – I like the simplicity of it, and if my 2 years and 4 games of running Rogue Trader are anything to go by, the simpler the plot you can put in front of your players the better!

The game will begin with the Explorers getting a very enticing message, encrypted in the Dynasty’s official codes…


Meanwhile, on the Bench: Chrono-gladiators

The station-complex of Mercy holds many secrets, accommodates many factions and houses many attractions to the denizens of the Nomad Stars. One such attraction is the infamous Bazaar Arenas, home to all manner of blood sports and high-octane races round its treacherous circuits.

In addition to xenos-beasts, execution victims and gangers trying to prove their worth, the arena fights are dominated by merciless Chrono-gladiators of the Death Clocks guild – cybernetic pit fighters with implanted weapons, vat-enhanced muscles and injectors filled with cocktails of lethal combat drugs. All have a death switch installed – a ticking time bomb attached to the heart that is only set back by the act of slaughter.

For a Chrono-gladiator, death is life.

With an imminent new Rogue Trader game starting up, and a number of games already set on Mercy, I wanted to assemble some members of the notorious Death Clocks guild. Partly to swell the numbers of interesting villains to throw at parties when they go dredging through Mercy, partly because I wanted an excuse to make some super-weird kit bashes.

I didn’t have any goal in mind other than to make half a dozen Chrono-gladiators with unique weapon sets that both highlight their martial prowess and their penchant for style over substance. They’re deadly killers for show, but what use are your showmen if they’re too good at killing?

I also had a strict ‘no new parts’ rule (which I think I’m going to need to start enforcing a LOT more in the new year…), so everything was assembled from bits I already had lying around in my box.

I had quite a few Dark Eldar weapons kicking about from boxes of Warriors and Wyches from assembling my Blood Bowl team, many of them looking suitably bizarre, gladiatorial or downright nasty – perfect for a bunch of cyber-goons.

This first chap was assembled with Wych legs, an old school Space Marine torso, an Ork left arm, a Dark Elf shield and a long chain-whip-sword-flail thing from the Wych box set. It was all finished off with a Skitarii captain’s head to give it a lovely tech-feel.

The bionic arm is actually a bionic leg from Anvil Industry. The current pack I bought is at time of writing no longer available, it seems they are undergoing a bunch of revamps to their old stock. Exciting news! There’s definitely going to be an order put in again next year.

This guy needs some filler work, and some small odds and ends to blend the parts together, but overall I’m pretty happy with how he turned out.

This guy was very much an exercise in answering the age-old bits-box-rummaging question; “What the hell can I use *this* part for?”. I had a collection of Khemri bits from Emperor-knows-where and have been looking for an excuse to use them for some time now. I’m a big fan of their Egyptian aesthetic, and find it suspicious that they’ve dropped off the Age of Sigmar radar entirely…

The body and legs were from a plastic Chaos marauder, bionic arms and legs from the Anvil bionics pack again, and a head from a Skitarii. I love how the power khopesh came out, and I think he’s a firm favourite. A bit of blending work to be done, but considerably less than the first chap.

This bundle of joy is perhaps my favourite pose, using a hooked net from the Wych box set and an original metal Necron Flayed One hand (or it might be from a Necron Lord, not sure…). The legs are from the Wych set again, with a Catachan body and another Skitarii head.

I’m looking forward to releasing this guy on my players the most, as a combination of a stunning, entangling net and poisoned armour-piercing claws sounds like a truly horrifying combination for any poor sod who gets in its way.

For the last angryboi in this batch I wanted something a little less dynamic, a little less subtle. Sometimes you just need a guy with a skull for a head and chainsaws for hands, y’know?

There’s nothing particularly exotic about this build – Space Marine torso, Ork arms and snipped-down Ork choppas for hands, Chaos Marauder legs, an Anvil bionic foot and the skull is from a banner topper.

I like how they all came out, and despite the varying appearances I think they will work well by themselves or as a group. We’ve already had a trial game with the Khemri shield and he was suitably brutal, so I’m looking forward to tidying these guys up and adding them to the painting queue.

Meanwhile, on the bench: Zini Dynasty Armsmen

Our games of Rogue Trader often involve group brawls with up to a dozen armed crewmen from our own vessel repelling whatever the eldritch horror of the day has snuck on board and is sucking down our crew like capri-suns. Our captain also has a penchant for giving them names, which never bodes well for redshirts. Rather than use dice as placeholders, I ordered some minis from the very excellent  anvilindustry using their awesome 3d build-a-regiment out of all their parts combos.

The parts arrived quickly, assembled like a dream and had little to no flash on them at all. I picked up some lady heads from Statuesque Miniatures too, as despite all the praise I can heap on Anvil, they don’t include lady heads as part of their regiment builder. C’mon guys, it’s the 41st millennium here – women are equally expendable as men are.

I didn’t have any real plan in mind for assembly other than I wanted to have a good range of weapon and equipment options so I had a good selection of models to choose from when I needed to improvise something. For example, the Anvil specialist squad I ordered came with a variety of odds and ends, including a banner, medkit and bugle (!). Try as I did, I couldn’t make the bugle work with the scheme. In space, nobody can hear you toot.

This guy stands in as the generic medic – if we have a player go down, he/she will pop up and try and patch them up. Because of the heroic running pose, I figured they would also stand in for any macguffin-carrying NPC who needs to hotfoot the death star plans through the ship.

It paired quite nicely with this other specialist, who is carrying a kind of kit bag/satchel charge looking device in one hand, and converted to hold a 40k auspex in the other. I picked one of the Medieval Helmets with a bionic eye to give them an extra techy look and slung a rifle over one shoulder. A little bit of putty for the strap, and this little guy can stand in for any scenario that calls for a specialist, scanner, technical support officer, you name it!

The decision was made quite early on that the armsmen would use las weaponry rather than conventional solid projectile weapons. Firstly, las weaponry would be more robust in harsh void environments – they work just as well in a vacuum as they do in low or zero-G situations, and the ammunition can be recharged theoretically infinitely. Secondly, the Dynasty once made a lot of its money from arms deals with a once-powerful faction of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so the weapons they equipped their troops with generations ago are still functioning just as well (if not better than) modern equipment that would be within a reasonable budget. Why fix what isn’t broken, eh?

The parts went together with no trouble at all, and there was a huge variety of poses (including a left-handed rifle pose!) that really add to the individuality of the models, despite them wearing 90% the same outfit. It also came with a two-handed pistol pose, which I initially thought was too Operator for our gang of hardened space pirates, but after dry fitting it, realised it was too cool to leave out. A putty strap on the rifle helps cement the model as a ‘rifleman’ class, rather than one of the melee characters.

Speaking of melee characters, I also knew I needed a few models that bucked the trend of ‘fashionable space rapscallions’, and given the propensity for boarding actions and angry claw-armed gribblies, we needed a few ruffians in the collection.

I never saw boarding actions as pretty things, but rather grim battles of attrition in tight corridors in hazardous conditions, often with little or no air, gravity or light, so their weapons would need to facilitate that. I was sorely tempted by chain weapons or swords, but settled on some brutish clubs and maces in the end. They didn’t need upkeep or sharpening – a blunt mace is just as effective as a sharp one, and in tricky conditions you don’t want something that you need space to wield (like a sword).

I had enough parts left to build a single armsman, and I was at odds with what to build. My mind wandered back to the idea of the Space Bugler (toot toot) who had some kind of vox receiver built into the instrument and wired into the vox network of all the other armsmen, so they could literally toot in space, but there wasn’t anything in the lore (so far) to back that up yet, and I wanted to cover all my necessary bases before adding new things. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy more minis down the line if I still want to pursue it…

It was a toss up between a leader/sergeant type character and a standard bearer. I hate freehand painting designs onto things, and try and avoid projects that force me to do that to make the most of the minis, so standard bearer was lowest on my priority list. However, I didn’t like the idea of a sergeant for this group, as I wanted leaders to emerge organically rather than be forced upon the crew, or allow the players to nominate anyone they felt was worthy of a position of command rather than the model saying which was in charge.

So, alas, the standard bearer was born.


The first test model was completed after much pain and anguish. The Captain of our game picked out the colours and symbols and I did my best to incorporate them into a design.

I wanted a House that had been impoverished until recently, so their House Guard are still utilising old armoured space suits that they have tried to repaint and retrofit as a uniform of sorts. The teal armband with the upside down moon is the colour and symbol of the Dynasty, and the red/white kneepad with the teal chevron represents the renewed pact with an old ally, an arms-dealing Adeptus Mechanicus faction.

In their pockets on their backpack they carry handfuls of dirt from their recently reclaimed homeworld, which they scatter on the floor before a boarding action – never again will they allow the Dynasty to lose ground!

Meanwhile, on the bench: Serafin House Guard

This is the first of a new weekly segment, Meanwhile on the Bench (or MOTB as it will inevitably be shortened to), a section looking at the many conversions and unfinished projects lying around (read: being worked on) the Dreadquill studio. Rather than shy away from public attention and treat my growing to-do list with shame and disappointment, it’s instead time to revel in the bits and pieces that go on underneath the layers of paint and swearing that make up the Dreadquill minis.

This week we introduce the first plucky bunch of Serafin House Guard, “the Glailwroth Few”, for use in our games of Rogue Trader. They are highly trained and educated field troops adapted to the brutal confines of boarding actions and void conflicts of the Serafin Dynasty fleet. They are few and far between, an elite cadre of warriors sworn to protect the Dynasty and its interests.

I am currently involved in running two separate Rogue Trader campaigns, the Serafin Dynasty and the Zini Dynasty – the former being a more political/creed/religious game, the latter being a more exploration/piracy game. In the latter, we discovered our love for playing with minis rather than tokens (bottle caps, euros, scatter dice…) and as the Captain would drag as many merry men with her as she could to every encounter, it necessitated some armsmen models.

They were great fun to build (and a pain in the ass to paint), but it left us feeling that our Serafin game was also sorely missing out on some noble cannon fodder to escort our brave Lord-Captain with her on dangerous away missions. We already had some stats for them, we had built them using the Only War regiment builder, so it was just a case of finding some models that fit the bill.

The brief was, in quintessential Captain Serafin style, brief. They were noble-born, well-equipped and well trained. They belonged to quite an old Dynasty that prides itself on artisan weaponry, and ply the space-lanes in a strange old vessel that’s even older than the Dynasty itself. Pomp and circumstance was the order of the day, and the hunt for miniatures began.

My first port of call was the same supplier I got my other armsmen off, Anvil Industry. They have an incredible range of 28mm sci fi/modern parts that you can chop and change to create unique regiments of fighters, and even a neat 3d model builder so you can preview what the parts you ordered look like. Although there were some neat combinations, none of it screamed ‘fancy-ass toffs who could kick your ass’. The hunt continued.

Many other suppliers were discounted – I needed something ideally in resin or plastic to give me the conversion opportunities I would need, and none of them had that high-tech archaic look I was going for, and somehow I ended up coming full circle round to Forge World and their incredible Solar Auxilia range. I fell in love with the Lasrifle Section, I really dig the Space Colonists vibe they have going for them, which perfectly encapsulated the feeling I wanted for the House Guard. Unfortunately, common sense won out in the end, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t justify the price tag. Another project for another time, maybe.

I was about to bin the whole idea when I was in my local Games Workshop eyeing up the Tempestus Scions. They were neat, but not quite what I was going for, and th-OH MY GOD THEY COME WITH MOUSTACHE HEADS. Instant purchase. Turns out in my haste to overlook ‘normal’ Games Workshop models, I didn’t realise that the Scions also come with these dope-ass berets and hard-nut heads. To the bench!

The first guy assembled was the least converted. I wanted to get a feel for the kit before I started mucking about with it. I also had quite a strict equipment list to adhere to, most of which was only sparsely represented on the sprue, so I knew a lot of converting guns was going to have to happen. For this chap, I did a simple gun swap on his left hand. The straight arm was attached to a plasma pistol, not something I wanted on his loadout, and the regular laspistol arm was bent at an angle that didn’t work well with the pose.

Everything else was just adding gubbins from my bits box. I had a bunch of Adeptus Mechanicus backpacks from another project and they fitted perfectly. They further the House Guard from the original Scions models and add that extra element of techy-weirdness that I wanted to get across. The addition of the incense burners and other religious iconography helped further the idea that I wanted these guys to be devoted to their duty and to the God Emperor, so I went overboard on reliquaries, prayer tokens and purity seals. More is more, right?

Quite content with how he turned out, I moved on to a slightly more ambitious task: how does one make a Best Quality lasgun?

Shouty telephone man was born! I needed a vox operator as the regiment specialises in electro-vox warfare, and I couldn’t bring myself to convert one just for the sake of being different from the box version. After completion, it struck me how presidential he looked, but I couldn’t figure out why. With his right side completed, I just had to figure out how to make him hold what would become an awesome-looking Serafin las rifle.

One of my inspirations was the Vostroyan Firstborn, and after having a rifle through my bits box discovered a bunch of Empire Handgunner rifles. With a bit of careful chopping of the iconic lasgun parts (the muzzle, the charge pack), some careful gluing and filling with green stuff, the look was complete. Long, ornate, form-over-function kinda feeling. It even has a wheel lock on it, which excites me because I can’t for the life of me think why you would have that on there other than to add unnecessary parts to clean.

With the “look” of the lasgun down pat, I felt comfortable knowing I could recreate it on further models. Next guy I wanted to do was a generic “guy  shooting at something” pose. Holding a rifle in one hand is easy to convert, manipulating the arms and rifle butt to fit snugly into a shouldered firing position might be a bit trickier.

Yep, this was much trickier. In a strange flip-turn of events, the camera here actually hides the damage to the hands, wrists and right arm far better than you can see in person. The muzzle and charge pack swap were straight forward, but the left hand needed to be hollowed out completely to fit further up the rifle to make room for the charge pack in the same place as the first one I made. D’oy.

The right arm also needed a complete remodelling. The default hellgun stock looked radically different from the artisan wooden stock of the Empire handgun, and I’d lose a massive amount of the charm if I had to chop off the rifle grip and hand guard in favour of the easier hellgun option. Essentially both the rifle and the arm had massive amounts of painstaking scalpel work to shave each section down so they joined together as seamlessly as possible. Luckily after spraying, you didn’t notice the join at all, which I was quite chuffed with.

Oh yes, and it was at this point that I realised how fucking fragile the radio masts are on the Scion bodies, note the paperclip replacement.

Next I needed some ‘utility’ guys to round off my selection. I wasn’t sure what models I would need until we played some games, so I wanted to have as large a spread of options to choose from (and I didn’t want to convert up any more of those rifles unless I absolutely needed to).

This guy was straightforward – two arms straight off the sprue. He’s the medic, but would also double up as “House Guard NPC carrying the plot maguffin”. I love the weird Gears of War-esque pistol-chainblade thing he has. Although chainblades aren’t rare in 40k, I’ve never seen one on a pistol before, and I couldn’t quite place what kind of weapon it was. It has the middle and rear of a hellpistol, but not the barrel or muzzle. Who knows, it looked cool. Easy conversion, onto the last guy!

In my dismay I realised that electro-vox warfare also covered the use of scanners and auspexes, so I would need to convert someone holding one. The left arm was a straightforward lift from the sprues, and I evaded converting another rifle by using one of the holstered guns from the box set as well, just changing the stock to make it look a bit more appropriate. The Auspex was hard though, I couldn’t find any ‘open’ right hands, they were all taken up with holding weapons in some way or another. I made a note to look online to order some more to fill my ranks, but that wouldn’t help me in the short term!

Luckily from a previous Anvil order I had picked up a load of bionic limbs, and one of them was an open bionic left hand for holding rifles. A little thumb realignment surgery and (I think) cunningly hiding it behind the auspex was all I needed to convince the casual looker that he was holding an auspex with his thumb on the correct side. Result!

All in all I was very happy with how they came out. I had been given a vague colour scheme to work with – white, gold and ice blue, and I could visualise those working with the esoteric mix of high-tech and religious iconography that these guys are draped in, but that would be another job for another time.

If you wanted to use the Glailwroth Few in your own games, or you just fancied having a look, you can check out the stats, equipment and backstory for them here.


Expanded Warp Travel Encounters table released

We’ve all been there -you’ve been playing Rogue Trader and your crew is getting semi-decent at warp jumps and dealing with the harsh penalties the wild expanse throws at them. Either a jump goes off without a hitch, or you’ve played out the scant few encounters in the core rulebook so many times that translating into hell and madness becomes routine, and you’re often so busy juggling the rest of the game that improvising another new warp encounter is off the cards. Time to change that!

Here is an expanded table of 20 different warp encounters, appropriately balanced to the vagaries of the warp and definitely deadly if the dice gods are not smiling favourably that day. It will help keep your players on their toes whenever they’re traversing the Sea of Souls, and make them think twice about saying the fateful words “Oh that’s fine, it’s only one warp jump away.”

You can get the full table here.