Orthesian Herald 14 – Voidbound Anew

Last time on the Herald our bold team of Explorers were raiding the untouched treasure vaults of the Golden Valley Estates on the storm-wracked Cilice Prime. They had found the Missionary they had come here to find, all that was left was to tidy things up and plot the next course into the void…

risk and reward

We picked up where we left off, with the crew dragging what loot from the Estate’s vaults they could find. I had tailored each estate with baddies and loot themed to the Estate’s original owners, and each vault would also contain a plot seed for locations further into the Nomad Stars for future adventures.

Glaw Estate:  The Glaw Household is a house in decline who make money wherever they can – extortion, slavery and blackmail are their specialities. They have a strange penchant for acquiring religious iconography – whether for some illicit trade or forlorn sense of guilt for their black history, none can say.

  • The missing missionary and associated plot
  • A Condemnor Boltgun (with silver stake-thrower for purging daemons)
  • a few vials of holy flamer fuel
  • Seed:  A dusty book that talks of a lost relic, an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail.

Grin Estate: House Grin no longer exist, but once upon a time they were the name in black market weaponry – anything they couldn’t manufacture they could acquire for you, at great cost

  • Several crates of counterfeit xenos weapons
  • Plasma gun with (illegal) starflare vents (which turns it into a flamer)
  • Seed: A stasis-vault containing a trade agreement between House Grin and the Gunmongers of Fane. The agreement states the bearer is entitled to contract the gunmongers to manufacture weapons, on the condition the bearer provides a working prototype. The stasis-vault also contains a memolith with the coordinates for a Gunmonger facility in the system of Chital

Fallaset Estate:  The Fallaset dynasty still exists, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him. They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport.

  • Dozens of Good Quality Beast Cages in various shapes and sizes, from tiny rodent-sized cages to gargantuan cages designed to hold creatures of terrifying bulk .
  • Shocknets, shock collars and other beast-catching equipment
  • a Solo-pattern Boltgun
  • Seed: Two of the largest cages appear to have lost power and been torn open from within. Their data-plaque is damaged, but it reads something about “breeding pair from Gallionic. Client; Beast House”

Beefington Estate:  The Beefington fortune is built on one thing: muscle. Both from vat-grown meat from their huge farms to chem-hanced thugs drawn from penal colonies and feral worlds. Now they make their money above board, servicing military contracts across the subsector for anyone who needs a blunt weapon to solve a problem.

  • 80 crates of Rad Missiles (p51 HA)
  • hundreds of crates of Barrage (p66 HA)
  • Seed: Coordinates to a secret Beefington drugs laboratory on a hidden moon near Seldon’s Folly in Skylar’s Lie

There was only one estate left on the map that the team had yet to venture to – the Beefington Estate, sworn enemies of the Arch Militant’s family, the Von Gunn Household.

Too much of a good thing

At the beginning of the Cilice adventure I reflected on what I got wrong, and it was no more apparent that at this moment. Writing all this stuff was so much fun, it never occurred to me that it might not be so much fun to actually grind your way through it all and suddenly remember half a dozen new names and places. As a writer, I am in desperate need of an editor.

As we started the session, I could tell there wasn’t great enthusiasm for clearing out another Estate – we had spent four sessions in and around Cilice for what was really supposed to be just a minor errand. It was time to clear the decks and get back to the fun stuff.

I was honest with my group at this stage, pretty much telling them all of the above. Rather than retcon anything, I suggested we handle the final estate like a boarding action – a hundred or so armsmen had now been landed on the planet following the Captain’s orders, and were ready to storm the poorly-defended final estate.

Three minutes and a few dice rolls later, they had won the day and ‘completed’ the planet so they could move on to other things. I handled the estate narratively, explaining the debased here were slow, imperceptive and incredibly vicious when roused, with clear evidence of decades of drug abuse. Linking that to House Beefington’s penchant for illegal drug manufacture gave the Arch Militant some socio-political ammunition to fire at them later on.

With all the objectives out the way and tedious paperwork abandoned, it was time to reassess and plan our next moves.

Those who fall behind are left behind

I mentioned that the crew had been on their feet for more than 30 hours – it was time to return to the Rightful Remit. Not only was this mechanically correct (I track time because I’m a masochist) but provided a good excuse to have an in-character discussion about our next moves.

In preparation for this discussion, I drew up a star chart with some ‘known’ warp routes that Navigator Mahd’Naz would have under his belt. I stressed they weren’t all the known warp routes, but the ones that would be relevant to the upcoming journey.

Known warp routes from Cilice

The problem arose again. There were some mildly interesting places to go, but in this circumstance you couldn’t just split the party or pop in for a quick adventure – warp travel is arduous and dangerous. Nobody at this stage could justify several months of travel to head to an unknown place with an unknown agenda.

The Captain made the call – we’re heading back to Mercy to hand the quest in and reassess from there.

Tidying up

Astropath Gil calculates they’re too far to send an astropathic message to Brother Espin without inviting daemons to a pool party in his skull, and Cairn was the nearest possible communication point. It seemed that was the direction to head.

I swept the map of Cilice of any additional ‘encounters’, saying the mysterious energy signature had disappeared. We’d had enough of this, and I was already working on plans to re-use these encounters later on in the campaign to give them proper gravitas.

While the crew were discussing their next move and drawing up plans for the distillery, I used this opportunity to feed them some intel.

With so much Intrigue™ happening, I didn’t want to limit plot revelations to whole plot episodes. I had quickly learned from my mistakes that dumps of too much good stuff can be bad. Instead I leaned on a character I had previously set up, a rumourmonger called Getz with shady connections, to feed Gil information as and when it cropped up. This would hopefully keep players up to date with happenings and make the universe feel like a larger place around them. They were making ripples, and they were learning their actions had far reaching consequences.

“Name’s Leo Getz, ’cause whatever you want, Leo gets! Get it?”
We need a spam filter

Leo is eager to impress. He was sending so much garbage through the astropathic relay that the juniors were all working overtime and had to draft in extra scribes to deal with all his nonsense. Gil send a stern brain-ache message back while they deciphered anything useful from the spam.

I asked for a Search check, with degrees of success granting additional bits of information. He aced the check, and got all five handouts:

+++ Deciphered intelligence #1 from Informant Getz, day 119 shipboard time of Nomad Stars Expedition +++

1. Fel is hiring skilled miners and prospectors for a contract somewhere in Skylar’s Lie

2. Lady Ash has not been seen or heard from since the Rightful Remit

3. Baroness Ravenula has publicly announced the discovery of a new civilisation of humans and has departed to convert them to the Imperial Creed

4. Lord-Captain Patroneus and Lady Chosokabe have set sail on a joint expedition deep into the Nomads

5. The Obsidian Emporial auction house on Mercy has come into possession of something very valuable and intends to put it in front of bidders as quickly as possible

+++ Messages end +++

None of it was actionable, but it helped the players feel like they were part of something bigger.

Much ado about ambull

We still had a question mark hanging over our heads about the colony of ambull underneath the Fallaset Estate. The (presumably) parents had been offed, but there could easily be more of them living in the warrens deep beneath the earth. Nobody fancied an underground expedition, so turned to Freeman for some WMD expertise.

Cue montage!

Finally getting to utilise his Chem Use skills, Freeman whips up some anti-Ambull toxin from samples of the creatures he took from the nest and some rad missiles pinched from the Glaw Estate.

By his reckoning, it could easily wipe out the nest, the Ambull and any margin of error for a few kilometres around. The downside was that it would render the Fallaset Estate uninhabitable for a really long time. The Captain did not consider this a downside and gave the order.

Not willing to risk their own necks delivering the payload, they stopped off at Stiletto station where they knew there were a bunch of servitors just hanging around and pressed them into service. With some minor tweaks to their pathfinding abilities, Freeman strapped the Ambull nukes to their chests, said a prayer and pushed them out the back of an Arvus Lighter.

via GIPHY

The Captain gave a short speech to the technomats who were sad to see their newest friends leave, saying they “were all going to go live on a farm”.

To everyone’s surprise everything goes to plan, and they watch the Fallaset Estate become a hellish, radioactive crater from orbit. Good work team!

The hatchling keepers

Contact!

Three new plasma signatures are detected on long-range augers in the outer reaches of the system. The Voidmaster identifies them as a merciless pack of Chaos pirates called the Hatchling Keepers, leader by the dreaded Captain Moloch. They are an infamous pack of hit-and-run pirates who can tackle vessels and fleets many times their own size, and as their name suggests, prowl the Hatchling Worlds domain for prey.

Shortly after detecting them, the signatures disappeared from augers. They were a week away from their current position, so the threat was not immediate, but still concerning. The crew deduced they had likely gone into silent running and moving to engage.

They notice Captain Avag and her charge were also moving to the jump point of the system, changing course after the Chaos raiders entered the system. The Captain pulled some pretty agonising faces trying to justify picking a fight with them, but in the end decided discretion was the better part of valour and made the order to flee the system.

As an aside, this was my Deus Ex Machina for keeping the game running and moving the players on from this system. They were done here, and were starting to grow tired of all the excess crap I had piled on them. This was my unsubtle way of agreeing with them.

I had, however, run the numbers for the potential conflict. If the players could steal the initiative and have Avag’s Frigate and the mechanicus vessel on side, it would be a close fight, but tipped in the players’ favour. The Captain worked much of this out, but his character’s pride forbid him from asking for help from Avag, and his Naval background pointed out the chances of getting the drop on a trio of experienced raiders in silent running required more resources than they had available to them.

I’ve never seen a player so twisted up in conflict and I fuggin’ lapped it up.

Carry on

With the Captain still nursing his pride, the team plot a course and make the first jump. The 3 days to Cairn are uneventful, and the astropath uses the few hours between warp jumps to send a brain-message to Espin.

“We have secured Cilice, located the missionary and returning the bodies PS upon leaving we found Chaos lol thx bye”

The route to Mercy was (poorly) estimated by Mahd’Naz at 4 weeks, and barring a minor gellar field fluctuation and a generous helping of corruption points, the Unbroken Resolve arrive in the Telos system intact in little under 2 weeks. A round of gin for everyone!

Welcome home

The first order of the day was contacting Brother Espin and Free-Captain Acheron that they had returned. They returned to his bloated pilgrim boat, The Sword of Saint Troubadous, to hand the quest in.

From space it looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.

Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen

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

He pays them their reward and thanks them for their service. The team leave out a lot of what they considered need-to-know information, pocket the gold and turn to leave. Before they do so, however, he wheels out a huge cart jangling with arms and armour.

Turns out Ol’ Espy had been hoarding some crusader armour – about a dozen suits of plasteel plate (Armour Value 6 – I counted it as fancy carapace armour) with some swords, shields, bolters and flamers, dressed to the nines with religious iconography and purity paraphernalia. If only someone in the party had a bunch of religious wackos following her around who could do with a bit of extra equipment…

They bundle it into the back of their lander and take off before he changes his mind.

it is I, Lombar the archaeologist!

Back on Mercy Actual, the team head to Mayweather Mooring to find Lombar and pick up the loot they had tasked him with recovering from the bridge of the Rightful Remit.

“It is I, friends! Lombar the Archaeologist!”

They had some questions that needed answers. This time though, they decided not to mentally peel his psyche open like a brain banana and peer inside with space magic, but rather do it the old fashioned way. Get him reet proper pished. To Telasco’s!

It doesn’t take them long to get him suitably drunk. He sobs into his expensive wine while blubbing incoherently about Lynn, his bodyguard ogryn, who lost her family and he is all she has left. They continue prodding him for information, primarily about Captain Avag and the mystery mechanicus ship in Cilice, but he doesn’t have much more than they already know.

He does, however, drop a little tidbit about Brother Espin, which they weren’t anticipating. Ol’ Espy tipped off Baroness Ravenula about the Unbroken Resolve heading to the Void Sea, a rumour that the crew themselves started when they left Mercy last time.

Although they weren’t quite sure what to make of this revelation, the Intrigue™ had thickened.

Follow the free man

Explorator Freeman, as is his wont, did not attend the Plot Party but instead set about his usual tech-shenanigans.

I felt this was a suitably important moment – the first proper refitting of their first ship. I had a particular image in my mind that I couldn’t shake, so I blew the dust off my drawing tablet and set to work.

I need to work on my concept art a lot, but I was pretty pleased with how it came out for a few hours’ work.

Finally, Freeman goes looking for a Resolution Arena in the markets of Mercy. He wants to go all Battlestar Galactica and have a punch-up palace in the underdecks, but he fluffs his Acquisition check and doesn’t have the right change on him at the time.

A strange man sidles up to him, identifying himself as Chief Wrecker Davit of the Pale Wreckers. He overheard Freeman looking for something he has, and he is happy for Freeman to take it off his hands on one condition.

“All you have to do is fight for it in the Bazaar Arena tonight.”

An arena for an arena? I think we all know how the next session will start…

 

+++++++

Previous: Session 13- The Glaw Estate

Orthesian Herald 13 – The Glaw Estate

Last time on the Herald, our players landed an incursion force on the storm-wreathed world of Cilice Prime, stole a Taurox pulling the universe’s last known supply of Cilice Gin, leveled an estate with its guns and psychically commanded an army of cannibal abhumans to fight itself. They were left with a few more marks on the map, a full tank of gas and a compulsion to loot.

Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past in your Taurox. 

The ugly palace-fortress of the Glaw Estate begins to emerge from thick curtains of rain. A massive construction that was probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. 

Saddling up

The Grin Estate was now swarming with loyal armsmen and technomats brought down from the orbiting Unbroken Resolve on heavy halo barges. They were on hand to ruthlessly loot the estate of its worldly belongings and reinforce the Explorer’s immediate retinue.

The Missionary, Lyoness, hand picked a few more of her covenant to join her. She decided that her Covenant were named after ancient Terran saints, famed for their war-hymns. We are joined by Zeppelin, Ziggy, Iggy and Acey-Deecey.

The commandeered Taurox, dubbed “War Pig”.

We fill out the Taurox’s capacity with Master Zilla at the controls and Von Gunn on guns and thunder off into the rain.

The Glaw Estate

No messing about this time. With the Astropath firing off his psychic mind scan (much to the surprise and discomfort of everyone trapped in the little metal box with him) and ascertaining the resistance was next to none, the Captain gives the order to ram the front gates.

Knock knock, bitches

There is clearly nowhere near the level of intelligence as in the Grin Estate, and whatever wretches are still present in the estate scatter and flee at the big angry gunbuggy. The team slowly and cautiously make their way to the lower levels.

They discover tread marks and scraps of pilgrim robes around the Glaw Estate leading down to the vaults. There is also a lot of broken religious iconography around the place, unusual for a criminal organisation.

It’s dark, and the vaulted ceilings carry their voices out into the darkness. They occasionally spot more of the abhumans, but they always stay just out of sight and weapons range. The Explorers decide it’s best not to waste the ammunition.

“Oi am weldin’ this doo-ah”

They arrive at the vault, a similar size and makeup to the one from the Grin Estate. It is air tight and sealed from inside. Oggy-Bong fires up the lascutter. The players had had a sinking feeling since they arrived, and the “YOU HAVE ALERTED THE HORDE” noise was palatable. Oggy-Bong shouts over the gunfire it will take just over a minute for him to get the door open.

Liquid hunger pours from the darkness, dressed in rags and purple flesh.

“Abhumans m’lud! Thaasands of ’em!”

This section it was time to play hard and fast with the rules. If they were able to beat a target’s TB of 3, they killed it. I put a little marker down on the board to represent a body, and the model gets brought on from another table edge in subsequent turns. Weight of numbers and the press of bodies in a confined space would be the main threat.

We had a few extra Armsmen in tow this game – this is just beyond the upper limit of how many player-controlled models I would prefer to have on the board to keep things flowing smoothly. The Astropath player’s actual real-life brother was in the area that day though, and rather than delay the game or leave him out while his brother rolled dice, I offered him a place in the session.

The Covenant were played by my mad green techno-monks

The wretches came in waves, crashing against the bulwark of the Orthesian Dynasty. Everyone played their part in sinking bullets and plasma into wasted flesh, dropping the wretches left and right. The bodies begin to pile up.

After a turn or two, it becomes apparent this might not be sustainable for six turns – they would either run out of luck or ammunition. Freeman decides the best course of action would be to plug his potentia coil into the operational lascutter and turn it up to 11.

Against tricky odds, he superjuices the lascutter, knocking a few turns off the clock as poor Oggy-Bong clings on for dear life.

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

The team spread out, trying to cover as many entrances as possible. Von Gunn and armsman Felicity cover the top left corridor. Felicity finds out she is entirely superfluous and there largely for moral support. The Captain and Thud guard the bottom left entrance. Astropath Gil and Voidmaster Zilla take up centre stage, using their ranged weapons to most effect. Lyoness and her Covenant of mad chainsaw-wielding warrior women lock down the uh.. everywhere.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the board:

BLOOP

Dedicated melee character Captain Orthesian discovers the hilarious repercussions of combining a low movement speed with a force field that teleports you randomly away from trouble whenever you are hit. The Captain spends most of this game charging into combat, getting fingered by some hungry schmuck with a pointy stick and his displacer field panics and throws him 2d10 inches in a random direction to repeat the process. I even had to add a new tile to the board just to encompass the distance moved.

Hearty chortles and slapped thighs all round, except the Captain.

It was coming up to the final turn, and things were turning sour. Ammunition was running low, the Captain was not in the melee enough to make his power sword’s presence felt, and the Covenant were looking battered and bruised.

Tell my storyyyyy

Iggy falls to the wretches. They tear off her hand and begin to drag her into the darkness. Lyoness is having none of this nonsense and hurtles off to save her. Iggy’s life is saved, but she might NEED A HAND from now on.

The last few inches of vault door are carved apart by Oggy Bong. As the thick blast door slams inwards, internal lumens activate, blasting the darkness with holy light. A mighty Imperial Aquila, polished to within an inch of its life, is emblazoned on the opposite wall of the vault. Its blessed light shines through the darkness, the wretches recoiling in fear and awe at the sign of the God-Emperor. They had done it.

Vault-dwellers

You head into the vault, down the stairs and underneath the shining Imperial Aquila. The air is stale and tastes of death.

In the vault proper you see a congregation of Imperial worshippers in a circle lying dead on the floor, each executed with a las round to the back of the head. There are no signs of a struggle.

A senior priest is propped up against a baroque mobile shrine on tank treads, a las wound through the side of his head and a laspistol in his hand. A hand-written note is placed neatly in front of him that simply reads “Without the dark there can be no light. Emperor forgive me.”

There was no doubt that this was the Imperial Mission that Brother Espin requested they find. They said a small prayer and got to the important task of looting the vault for everything it was worth.

Gold and jewels as far as the eye could see, painted chalices, stained glass windows and ornamented priestly robes – everything in the vault looked like it would have been donated to (or taken from) churches across Imperial space. The Missionary said a small prayer to the lost and opened her loot sack wide.

Standing proud of the jewels was a display case holding an arcane-looking weapon – a bolter with built-in stake thrower. A Condemnor-pattern boltgun (page 81 of Faith and Coin) with a crowssbow mechanism designed to fire holy bolts inscribed with runes of banishment and exorcism. Valuable in its own right, but in the hands of a daemon huntress…

The mobile shrine-canter had build-in loud-hailers and incense burners and a simple movement-slave module so it can trundle along behind its owner. It has a shrine on the front clearly meant to hold a large weapon, but was currently empty. A dusty book sits nearby, most of its pages missing or faded, but it talks of a lost relic – an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail…

Mount up, move out

The Captain calls in support, comfortable that his armsmen can strip it of all its worth now the Explorers have had their pick of the prize. He makes sure to instruct them to take the big shiny Aquila as well, it would look excellent above the desk in his quarters. They make tracks for third palace, the Fallaset Estate.

Some lore checks are rolled on the way over. The Fallaset dynasty still exists, unlike the owners of the other estates, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him. 

They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport. I’m sure that information won’t be important.

The Fallaset estate is abandoned, the only sign life is the greenery growing around where the roofs have caved in. The front door is ajar.

Inside, they find remnants of wretches, most brutally torn apart. They come across large footprints, and eventually, a gaping hole through the floor of the estate leading all the way down to the vault level. The team gird their loins and carefully make their vaultward.

They see the vault in the distance – it has been brutally torn open from the inside. The Captain thinks he knows what did this, so he begins issuing orders to-

REEEEEEEEE

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE!

The rumbling beneath their feet crescendos in an explosion of sodden dirt and marble. Two massively built creatures burst from the floor, encased in insect-like armour with hugely oversized arms tipped with iron-hard claws. Ambulls!

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

This could get ugly REAL quick

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

Captain: “Denied”

Von Gunn: “Sorry sir, I failed my Fear check. Eat shit, Freeman” *blam blam blam*

I love the Fear tables, and the look of panic that washed across everyone’s face when Von Gunn (gun by name, gun by nature) failed his shock test so badly against the incoming creatures of the deep that he would be randomly assigning a target. The party’s greatest asset in a combat swiftly became their biggest threat. Another reminder to people that Willpower should not be your dump stat.

Luckily for Freeman, this was one of the statistically few times Von Gunn actually missed a target, much to my disappointment.

“Uh guys? Help?”

The team open fire, splitting their efforts against both Ambulls. One had popped up quite some distance from the group as I had openly rolled a random direction for the beasties to arrive. The Ambull are insanely powerful and distressingly fast for their size, and could comfortably splatter a player character in one round if the dice are in their favour. To counter this viciousness, I wanted it to seem as fair as possible as to who would get picked on. If someone died, it would be on the dice, and not me.

Lyoness and her Covenant (minus Iggy, who was back on the Resolve getting her hand seen to) opened up with their flamers, dousing the poor creature in so much hotsauce that practically takes it out of combat for the rest of the session. Lyoness jams her weapon from over-enthusiastic flaming, but the damage is done.

Her and her Covenant spend the remainder of the combat enthusiastically carving it up with chainswords, rarely dealing enough damage to hurt it properly, but enough to keep it busy.

Back on the other side, all the armsmen panic and open up, bouncing their lightweight shot and autopistol rounds off its hard carapace. With Von Gunn a gibbering wreck for a few turns, they would need some thrilling heroics to deal with this Ambull before it finally got its shit together and landed a hit on someone.

ENTER FREEMAN.

Freeman: “I roll Acrobatics to do a sick flip and land on its back like in Starship Troopers”

GM: “Well shit, that’s probably going to be super hard as you don’t have Acrobatics or-”

Freeman: “001. Critical pass”

YEAH GET SOME

So our spider-legged techpriest sails through the air with the greatest of ease, doing a sick flip and planting himself firmly on the beast’s back. He plunges his power axe into the thing’s neck and it screeches in pain, thick ichor dribbling out onto the floor.

The armsmen panic, and one of them accidentally shoots the Captain in the back while he’s trying to stab the Ambull.

Luckily the displacer field activates and teleports the captain a LONG way away. Good news for not getting shot, bad news if you’re a melee character trying to stab a giant alien beastie to death.

Von Gunn finally comes to his senses and blasts the first Ambull through the eyeholes. It screeches and collapses. Freeman massively flubs his Agility check to get out the way and is crushed by the corpse. The dice giveth, the dice taketh away…

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

Zilla and Gil have been contributing, but not in a noticeable way. Zilla’s fancy autogun doesn’t cut the mustard against brutes with a high Toughness Bonus, and Gil’s only chance is to use his plasma pistol on Maximal, only getting to fire every other round. Great IF he hits. Which he never did this combat.

Von Gunn turns to see a flaming wreck of a creature being carved up by angry ladies with chainswords. Lyoness has backed off and is shouting moral encouragement after realising just quite how much damage one of those fists do. (It’s 1d10+10 with Swift Attack) Von Gunn takes aim and uses double shot to crack its skull wide open.

With the sound of steam escaping from betwixt toasted carapace like a lobster in the soup, the final Ambull comes crashing to the ground. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief while doing a quick check on everyone’s health. The Captain sets his sight on the vault doors, wide open and inviting, and congratulates everyone on a good fight.

The Astropath uses the dying moments to use Sensory Deprivation on his brother who shot the captain in the back with Felicity. All’s fair in love and war, eh?

+++++++

Next: Session 14 – Voidbound Anew

Previous: Session 12 – Blood and Gin

MOTB: Ambull of the Golden Valleys

Finished product first!

As the daring deeds of the Orthesian Herald unfold, our heroic band of explorers find themselves in the Golden Valleys of Cilice, a foreboding place filled with forgotten sins and terrible secrets.

One such secret belongs to an estate overrun with escaped creatures, a perfect opportunity to visit a classic Rogue Trader adversary, the Ambull.

A modern rendition from FFG’s Creatures’ Anathema

There was no way I was going to shell out for a pair of classic metal Ambulls from the 80s, and even if I did, the scale creep of models over the past 30 years would have left them looking very meek relative to the terrifying stat block they have. An alternative was needed.

Cue a quick dabble into the DnD universe for some splendid (and cheap!) pre-built Umber Hulk minis from Noble Knight games. They aren’t perfect, but they’re big, mean and look damn close enough. Plus they were hella cheap, and picked both up from ebay for less than a tenner – a selling point indeed!

The incredible hulks

They arrived quickly, and I was immediately impressed.

These are big bois

I had never got my hands on pre-primed models before, having been skeptical about the quality of such a thing. Given that these were to be my Villains Of The Week, I wasn’t fussed about quality.

Potato quality picture

I had done some reading about the quality of such minis, some people recommending you remove the primer and add your own, others recommend painting straight over the primer, others suggested priming over the top. The last seemed the least hassle for me, and as I was planning on experimenting with paint techniques on these guys anyway, it made most sense.

Upon having a hands-on with the minis, I also discovered some pretty heinous mould lines running across large sections of armour. They would have to be scraped off – a pretty straightforward job considering it was quite soft plastic, but it meant they definitely would need re-priming.

Footloose

They were hunched over quite a bit, and I wasn’t keen on the pre-moulded base they came supplied with. A bit of snipwork with my pinchy-grabbers and they were free. Time to build some custom bases!

Custom bases with my poor attempt at rivets

Using some big bases, presumably lifted from an old Sentinel kit, I wanted them to look like they were lurking in the sumps of an underhive somewhere. At the time of construction, Ambulls were only rumoured to be returning to Necromunda, so I had built this in anticipation of using them in other systems. Of course, now we know about the Am-Bot, which will be an exciting encounter in its own right later on…

Standing tall

The soft plastic took to pinning rather nicely, and I tried to lean them back on their bases a bit to give them more height. They’re described as hunched and gorilla-like in stature, but the amount of stoop the original models had meant their mandibles were basically scraping along the floor. Leaning them back has given them almost an inch worth of height.

Being careful to put at least one pin through a thicker section of base

Rivets were attempted by snipping up lengths of goblin spear. They came out weird and misshapen, so for the purposes of ‘Finished Not Perfect’ it’ll do, but I’ll have to readdress my tactic for doing rivets in the future.

We’re going to need a bigger net…

With both Ambulls pinned, mould lines cleared and bases prepped, they just needed to be undercoated ready for a a different painting technique I was excited to try out.

Ombre Hulks
REEEEEEEEE

These guys were painted in record time and I had a blast doing it. They were undercoated in grey, a daring new technique (for me at least) I premiered with my Escher gang, and then attacked them with washes.

The brief I gave myself was; can you paint a big beasty using only washes and drybrushing? The answer was: ABSOLUTELY

About to drop the hottest rap album this century

I divided the model into roughly three sections, scientifically referring to them as ‘fleshy bits’, ‘armoury bits’ and ‘other bits’. Fleshy bits got two washes of Reikland Fleshshade, armoured bits got two washes of Athonian Camoshade for that dirty green look, and other bits got a thorough going-over with some Nuln Oil.

A quick drybrush of Rotting Flesh across basically everything, with some more Reikland Fleshshade dabbed onto the armour in corners and creases, and the whole weird, disgusting look was complete. Applying the washes took about 15 minutes tops, with the only timesink being drying times.

Closeup of the hand details

I picked out the eyes with a nice evil-looking red. Evil beasties always have red eyes, right? I broke my one rule (only a little bit though) and did an edge highlight on the claws and mandibles in Elf Flesh, if only to draw attention to the sharp pointiness of them.

Fissures and cracks in the armour plating were dabbed with Reikland Flesh

The base was done with a liberal application of Tamiya Clear Green, my favourite underhive gunk paint, and splashed a bit up the legs for authenticity. I could spend ages edge highlighting all the armour plates or adding additional shades to the flesh, but it was now Finished, Not Perfect and I was dead happy with them.

You’ll get to see them in action during this week’s Orthesian Herald, but I couldn’t resist doing a little photoshoot with them anyway. Enjoy!

Orthesian Herald 12 – Blood and Gin

After last week’s initial incursion onto the surface of Cilice, Captain Orthesian is glad to have a full complement of players once again. With a second incursion planned, and some first hand intelligence gathered about the locals, the players board an Aquila Lander (with the Junior Astropath Fez, Alyss, Felicity, Thud and Oggy-bong) and  make their way down to Port Van Arkiel once more.

The Captain also makes sure to install some of Freeman’s engine crew on Stiletto station with a vox and reclaimator tools to give remote access to the Occlusion Shields, and orders Kettlehead to prep an Arvus Lighter filled with armsmen to launch at a moment’s notice. Their plan was simple – have a small insertion team spearheaded by the senior officers, and if when shit hits the fan, drop hell down on the heads of their enemies.

The Lander sets down on the rain-slick concourse of Port Van Arkiel and head inside to Butchers’ Bay, leaving a few armsmen guarding the Lander.

For this session, I had also mocked up a map that had been ‘drawn’ by Voidsman Zilla on his fly-by at the end of the last session. I enjoy making maps, and it’s handy for players to have their bearings when talking about multiple locations, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate.

Out of the storm

Port Van Arkiel is made up of the largest buildings built into the mountains, immediately off the space port concourse. Inside are vast warehouses, receiving rooms and cargo cranes long-since rusted over from inactivity. This seems to be once-proud shipping hub for the space port, known as Butchers’ Bay.

Detritus is strewn everywhere, garbage and torn rags. The rockrete floors have been stained dark from something you hope is engine oil.

A handful of bodies are scattered around – the remains of power-lifter servitors. Anything of value has been stripped from them, and most gruesomely of all, the pallid flesh-parts have also been flensed from its metal skeleton. The only evidence of its assailants are deep gouges left by crude tools, and the unmistakable shape of teeth marks, as though the servitor had been gnawed to the bone.

It was time for a little encounter, something to reinforce the desperate, primitive and resourceful nature of the inhabitants of Cilice.

The Tiara

You notice in the gloom ahead some kind of machinery turned over to form a plinth. The pinth is surrounded by detritus and aged garbage. Light filters in from a hole in the rockface high above and falls on the plinth, Something golden and glittery has been placed there, twinkling in the twilight.

Awareness -30 (sight): the garbage has been gathered specifically to disguise a huge, barbed net underneath the plinth. You think you can make out monofilament cables running from the net high into the rafters above.

The net is 10 metres in the air and Snares anyone in it. If activated, more Debased crawl out from behind crates and underneath hides made from refuse to try and kill anyone caught.

The item on the plinth is a tiara constructed of polished metal and glittery garbage. It’s nothing but a decoy.

Outcome: Sadly, the team immediately and unanimously recognised this as a trap and left it well alone. I’ll get you next time, Gadget.

Shipping archives

As the crew ignore my not-obvious-at-all trap and proceed through Butchers’ Bay, they come across a side passage with a brass plaque reading “Shipping Archives”. Inside the room is scattered with papers and broken data-slates. It has clearly been ransacked, but the scavengers weren’t looking for any of the data.

Forbidden Lore (Pirates) +20 or Commerce -10: You notice irregularities in shipping logs and tithe payments. The residents here were importing vast amounts of food and exporting only Cilice Gin, but there were millions of tonnes of suspect shipments coming through the port every month. It appears the powers on Cilice were engaged in massive scale criminal enterprises and lining their own pockets with the Imperial Tithes.

Suddenly, the Captain felt less bad about murdering a bunch of them. They take some photos with their pict-capt devices and Zilla pockets some choice documents before proceeding downwards.

The distillery

Protected by heavy metal doors, guard towers and atmo-generators, the Gin Distillery looks more like a military installation from the outside. It is built into the rock like the rest of Arrogance, but its design is much older than the rest.

It joins to Butcher’s Bay through a big heavy door, wide enough to fit a battle tank through. Riveted steel cranes and massive pulleys above your head suggest the distillery produced a lot of Gin for export through the space port

The thick metal door to the distillery is barred from the inside. You’d need something heavy duty to get through it.

The total complement of armsmen built so far

Everyone turns to look at the armsman lugging around the las-cutter. He grins, showing all five of his teeth, and makes his way to the door. He uses a full complement of las-charges cutting a hole large enough for everyone to climb through, slams his spare clips into place and hops through to join everyone.

The distillery is huge and amazingly mostly intact. Great brass stills large enough to swallow a heavy lander line the walls, copper cabling spiralling off them.

Other machinery seems to have been smashed or pulled apart. There appears to be little of value lying around except a few dusty skeletons, picked clean with teeth and tool.

A brass plaque on the wall nearby suggests two other adjacent rooms – the mash room and the garage.

The monster mash

The team decide to check out the mash room first. Despite being aware for traps, the Captain fluffs an Awareness check and uses most of his Fate Points avoiding a particularly nasty pitfall trap laid in the corridor to the mash room.

The room is hewn from the stone with riveted steel buttresses and steel rafters high above your head. Much of the roof has collapsed revealing more of the distillery above. A strange green fungus covers the walls, originating from the huge piles of harvested fungus in vats and containers in the far end of the room.

A dozen or so of the wretched inhabitants wipe their mouths of fungus stains and gaze at you with panicked, hungry eyes.

With a snap of the fingers, Missionary Lyoness and Alyss step forward and torch the whole room. No dice needed to be rolled – nothing was going to survive that.

What’s in the box?

Finally it was on to the garage, to see what delights awaited them in there…

The door is electromagnetically sealed, with evidence of others trying to open it with crude tools to no avail. The nearby console has rusted over from a leaky still above it. The door needs to be cut or blown open.

Eyes fall back on our lascutter armsman again. He expends the last charge cutting the door open.

Inside is untouched by whatever catastrophe has befallen Cilice. Glow-lamps stutter and fail to ignite on whatever backup power is left. In the centre of the garage is something large and vehicle-shaped under a protective tarpaulin.

Hooked up to the vehicle is a trailer with a large reinforced metal tank that looks like it could contain almost a tonne of liquid. Stencilled on the side of the trailer is “Arkiel Gyn”.

The Captain gives it a tap, it sounds full. He calls for Lyoness to bring her emergency wine glasses out and they all sample some of the most expensive booze in the galaxy. The Explorator runs some tests on it with his mouthparts, while the Astropath catastrophically fails a Psyniscience test to see if it’s safe to consume and doesn’t have any mind-effecting warp presence.

What followed was perhaps my favourite bit of character interaction to date. They all loved the Gin for different reasons;

Captain: “This is really expensive!”

Missionary: “This is really good Gin!”

Voidmaster: “This is weighted well to be driven at high speeds!”

Astropath: “This is alive!”

Arch-Militant: “This is really explosive!”

Explorator: “This is really good fuel!”

It was time to see what was under the tarp.

Under the tarp is a mighty steed of a vehicle – a tightly packed, quad-tracked vehicle resembling an angry bull. A pair of autocannons sit atop its turret, gleaming in the half-light as though they were fresh off the assembly line.

Common Lore (War) +20: A common sight on the battlefield, this rugged castellan-pattern quad-track unit is a Taurox – an armoured personnel carrier praised by Imperial commanders for its speed and persevering machine spirit. Axial co-dampeners redistribute the weight of the vehicle across its four tracks as it moves, allowing jagged outcrops and unevenly piled rubble to be traversed at full throttle. It is equally at home on the open road, through the crumbling ruins of a hive city or the knotted jungles of a death world.

(Painted by Awaken Realms)

The Explorator gave the vehicle a once-over. All systems are good Captain! The Voidmaster checks the most important part, the hymn-vox. With an astoundingly critical Search check, it turns out the space-glove compartment is filled with ancient Terran hymn-discs!

Voidmaster Zilla slams on his favourite war hymn by Saint Sabbath the Black and routes it through the external vox. The shutters to the garage are down, but that doesn’t stop them.

With a roar of the engines, and with a tonne of the universe’s last supply of Cilice Gin in tow, the Orthesian crew tear through the flimsy shutters and out onto the rain-slick valley floor. They christen her ‘War Pig’ in honour of Saint Sabbath’s apocryphal works and gun it towards the Golden Valleys in search of the missing missionary.

The Golden valley estates

Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. A highway of sorts has been constructed, now overgrown and cracked.

Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past.

Ugly palace-fortresses begin to emerge from the thick curtains of rain. Massive constructions that were probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. Many of the smaller ones have been leveled, now nothing but broken ruins being reclaimed by the rain.

As the crew near the nearest estate, the Grin Estate, warning runes flash across War Pig’s console. The targeting spirits of the automated weapons guarding the estate are still sharp as ever, but it seems they ran out of ammunition a long time ago.

The Captain gives the order to move in, so Zilla guns towards the estate.

On the approach, Von Gunn (in the gunner’s seat, naturally) picks up incoming small arms fire – someone in the estate is firing lasguns at the Taurox – and poorly at that. One shot in a hundred seems to be hitting, and with the heavy armour of a military-grade transport, there was no chance of being hurt.

Von Gunn: “Permission to return fire, captain?”

Captain: “Carry on.”

C R Y   S O M E   M O R E

The Arch-Militant racks the autocannons and lets loose. A weapon designed to shoot down small craft and light vehicles opens up on the crumbling ruins of the Grin estate. Masonry explodes. Bodies fly from windows. Von Gunn rakes the middle section of the estate with high-velocity explosive-tipped rounds until huge plumes of smoke and tongues of fire erupt from the estate as the upper floors crash down, annihilating everything in the middle section.

A poor Estate of affairs

As the dust settled, the Astropath was quietly invoking in the back of the armoured transport. Before someone could point out the risks of the psyker throwing his powers around in the back of a metal coffin containing all the plot characters, he had launched a Mind Scan on the remains of the estate.

He reads over a hundred conscious minds, slightly more advanced than the ones they encountered on the Port Van Arkiel concourse. There seemed to be several ‘leaders’ of sorts inside, so he homed in on one who identified as ‘Rak’.

The rest of the party were beginning to look a bit panicked as the Astropath’s eyes had rolled back in his skull and was twitching uncontrollably in the back of the Taurox while Von Gunn was screaming with delight in the gunner’s seat, but there wasn’t much that could be done at this point. Gil was off on a magical psychic adventure in his head, and they just prayed it all went well.

The Mind Scan power allows you to single out an individual and communicate with them telepathically. Gil kept it simple – giving this ‘Rak’ character a straightforward command: OPEN THE DOOR.

Girl Virgant – painted by Dan Taylor (our Captain)

It all went a bit quiet. They waited for a few minutes, and they could just about make out the crackle of small arms fire from inside the estate from their position about 50 or so metres out. The Captain gave the order to open fire on the estate again, which Von Gunn carried out with glee. “I get to roll how much damage?” (it’s 4d10+4, Pen 4, if you wanted to know. Dakka dakka dakka.)

This time Von Gunn scythes straight through the foundations of the right hand spire of the estate. With a thunderous noise, the entire spire collapses back in on the estate, as las fire can be seen spitting from the estate like faulty fireworks. The spire topples sideways into the estate defenses, crushing the outer wall and exposing the inner courtyard to the outside world.

Zilla: “Shall we go have a look Captain?”

Captain: “Carry on.”

Party crashers

They bring War Pig around, and inside the courtyard they can see a fierce laser battle unfolding between… well nobody was quite sure. The place was teeming with Cilice wretches wearing vaguely similar attire as each other, but they were all gunning each other down like their lives depended upon it.

Gil did another quick Mind Scan but in the melee couldn’t get quite as detailed information. Their numbers had dropped by half in a matter of minutes, and although he couldn’t communicate with Rak, he got the impression that Rak had thought he had been visited by a vision from the God Emperor and had decided to take up arms against his fellows. Just as planned, I guess?

They uncoupled the Gin trailer from War Pig and hit the gas, riding straight over the rubble and into the courtyard, shooting at anything that looked at them funny. Zilla rolled a critical for pulling off sick doughnuts while the passengers poked their weapons out firing ports and took pot shots at whatever they could see.

The Captain got on the loudhailer. “Primitive descendants of the Grin Estate, cease your pathetic attempts to overcome the Orthesian Dynasty!”

The remnants of the Grin wretches scattered to the hills, and after disabling the anti-air capacity of the estate so they could bring in reinforcements, set about looking for where a criminal family might keep all their valuables in an estate of this size.

+++++++

Previous: Session 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Orthesian Herald 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Storm-ridden Cilice Prime is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Cilice’s jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Van Arkiel.

There are is very little life recorded as native to Cilice bar its simple fungal life used in the production of Cilice Gyn. Continual gales carry the harmless spores far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail.

Landscape of Cilice – (artist Emanshiu)

This was to be our first game not at full party strength. The players for Von Gunn and Lyoness couldn’t make it this session, but they gave their blessing to go ahead and investigate the planet. Last session Von Gunn got pretty badly banged up, so we figured he would be back on the ship recuperating. Lyoness would be tending to his wounds and helping herself to the rubbing alcohol.

The Captain, unwilling to do too much without his bolt pistol-wielding murder-machine and ultimate anti-daemon tool, agreed that this would just be a ROUTINE CHECKUP on the planet.

With the decision made, the remainder of the party boarded an Aquila lander, along with a Junior Astropath called Fez, our two heroic armsmen from the Geist Incident Kettlehead and Felicity, plus three additional armsmen to make up the numbers.

Of course they needed names, so they were dubbed Cram, Thud and Oggy-Bong.

Zilla, Captain, Freeman, Gil + Junior, Kettlehead, Felicity and 3 armsmen – Crad, Thud and Oggy Bong. I had been assembling these guys between sessions, knowing we would need more armsmen reinforcements at some point. There’s a Meanwhile on the Bench article if you’re interested in their construction.

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

As you descend through the howling winds and driving rain, you make out a large cluster of structures on the equator of the planet, built into a mountain and across an natural arch rock formation high above a valley below. The structures resemble a space port and dotted evidence of industry – this must be the colony of Arrogance

Strangely, the surrounding golden valleys are also strewn with massive installations – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land. It’s clear that civilisation here flourished outside of the colony.

The constant storms imposed a -20 to any Pilot (Fliers) test that Zilla was required to do. It’s just as well they took the fancy ship rather than the hovering brick, as Zilla scraped a few passes on the way down.

The space port is built on a great arch of stone, whittled out of a mountain by the howling winds. You set down on one of a dozen landing platforms for heavy barge landers, suspended on carved columns of stone hundreds of feet in the air.

The buildings of the port are wide, squat affairs, hugging the ground like limpets against the tide. Rain blasts across the landing platforms and the wind sails underneath, threatening to hurtle you off to to the jagged valleys hundreds of feet below you.

The colony of arrogance is built into the mountain – its spires jutting from the rockface like snapped bones poking through broken flesh.

Port Van Arkiel
No sign of life

The crew disembark. There was no transponder handshake, no automated acknowledgement of their arrival, and no delegation waiting to welcome them to the port. Nothing but the rain.

As they squint through the deluge, Zilla notices what remains of heavy lander on one of the adjacent platforms – the only sign of machinery at all on the space port concourse. The Explorator also whips out his auspex and runs a few scans – the source of the emergency distress beacon was also present on the space port, pointing towards a conning tower in the opposite direction.

The Captain orders two armsmen to stay by the Aquila lander and begin marching towards the adjacent heavy drop ship.

On an adjacent landing platform is the skeleton of a heavy lander, designed to drop large amounts of supplies and people, stripped of paneling and moving partsThere is evidence of a surprising amount of ornamentation and Imperial iconography, although much of it has been torn off or defaced.

After some investigation, it seemed much of it was stripped by hand, and there was evidence of teeth marks around much of the paneling. It was in a similar state to the carcass of the Stiletto Station from the previous session.

The cockpit has been stripped back to its bones – anything of material or technological value has been ripped out in a crude manner unbefitting of such a noble workhorse of a machine. The ship’s logs indicate it arrived here a few months ago, approximately the same time Brother Espin suggested his missionaries would have arrived.

Freeman set about claiming whatever was left in the cockpit, and with some good Trade (Voidfarer) checks found the black box of the lander. It was the voice of someone unfamiliar:

“… leaving some of the mercenaries and able-bodied missionaries to guard the lander ….. No signs of the colonists … Missionary-Superior wants to investigate … palatial estates … answers there … waste of time … nothing here … no sin goes unpunished in the God Emperor’s eyes …”

ThisSeemsFine.jpg

The team conclude this must have belonged to the Missionary that Brother Espin asked them to find. Given the lack of signs of struggle, they weren’t going to find any more evidence here. It was time to check out the distress beacon.

Cilice is not a place to forget your umbrella
The conning tower

You see a conning tower, sporting a wide metal dish and vox-spires at the far end of the space port, some 200 metres away across the rain-lashed concourse.

The building is a standard modular imperial hab-block, modified for environmental conditions. It, like every other building of Arrogance, looks like it has been here for decades.

The door is reinforced plasteel but its locks have been removed or forced a long time ago and now swings freely.

While some of the crew head inside, it was now our Astropath double-checked his Mind Scan ability, reminding everyone (including myself, damn his eyes!) that he can detect everything living within a kilometre radius. He rolls something disgusting and looks at me proudly.

Gil: “I see everything”

Well there goes the element of surprise I guess.

GM: “There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, of bestial minds closing in on you. Their thoughts are simple and primal, but you make out an absolute emotion that unifies them: hunger.”

Gil: “Huh.”

While this was resolving itself, Freeman and Zilla were investigating the conning tower.

Inside is dark, lit only by the bunker-like windows looking out onto the space port landing platforms. It is a welcome relief from the storm outside. 

Most of the vox-consoles have been ripped apart and stripped back – scavenged for Emperor-knows-what. The only thing remaining is an emergency transponder unit, crudely wired into the vox-spires and powered by a jury-rigged Imperial power pack. Behind it there are dozens more power packs, all burnt out. The one plugged in is new

Common Lore (Navy/War) +20 test revealed the serial codes match that of an Imperial heavy barge lander

Gil is about to alert the team to his brain-discovery, when their comm-beads crackle to life to the sound of a salt-of-the-earth armsman:

“My Lord! I swear I saw something moving in the rain… I… By the Emperor!”

As the sound of gunfire blossoms across the concourse I ask everyone to ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.

Ambush!

With the crew in the centre of the board investigating the conning tower, they realised they were being set upon from two sides by pale figures in the rain. With a sheer drop off the edge of the concourse, they were going to have to push through their assailants if they were to emerge victorious.

The rain imposed a -20 to all Ballistic Skill and Awareness tests, but that didn’t phase the crew much. They took up defensive positions and prepared to repel their attackers.

The figures in the rain are mostly human, although barely so. Their lean forms are emaciated sinew and lean muscle, stretched thin under leathery purple skin.

Their eyes have become wide and furtive under the darkened clouds and barely contain the gnawing, piercing hunger in their wretched souls. They wear torn clothes and heavy rags, some seem to be dock officials, others are dressed in the heavy boiler suits of labourers.

The debased of Cilice – (FFG)

The armsmen, Freeman and Zilla all take one side, while the Captain, the Astropath and his Junior take the other. They open fire with a fusillade of shot and plasma, scoring hit after hit and blowing them apart in equal measure. These creatures were dogged, but they weren’t tough.

The problem became apparent during the second round. Plasma pistols can annihilate their target very easily on their Maximal setting, but leave you vulnerable the following round as they recharge. It was time to draw blades and engage!

Another thing became apparent very quickly – the models on the board were not the only enemies in play. As the horde was whittled down, more clambered over the lip of the concourse, or poured in from further away. Ammunition suddenly looked like it might become an issue.

The Astropath, try as he might, was struggling to hit anything after last game’s impressive fare. His Junior, on the other hand, was slotting fools left and right. At one point our Astropath was seriously considering casting Mind Cloud on his Junior just so he would stop showing him up.

For the Dynasty and the Emperor!

The Captain picked up an extra sword on Mercy a few sessions ago, and this was his first opportunity to actually use them, much to his delight. He wasn’t present for the Geist Incident, and the servitors on Stiletto Station were always too far away for him to engage. With a blood-curdling cry he leapt into action, leaping into the biggest mob and cutting a few down.

With a laugh of victory, he cried “Let’s see them get past my parry!”

And then the third issue arose.

The first pathetic swipe from one of the wretches hit, but before you make a test to Dodge or Parry, you have to make your Forcefield check if you own one. The Captain does own one, a highly amusing one at that, which has not come into play for quite some time.

The Displacer field activates at the broken fingernails of a starving wretch, blipping him temporarily out of existence and reappearing somewhere else. This time slightly further away from everything…

This continued for much of the battle – the Captain attempting to engage multiple opponents, only for them to issue a combat cuddle and he would bloop away somewhere useless. Utterly hilarious for everyone except him.

Speaking of combat cuddles…

Freeman runs into a spot of bother

Explorator “Legs” Freeman sprints off with something ludicrous like a 40 metre charge range and engages some of the hungrybois. He mocks them with his 11 damage soak, practically impervious to their broken teeth and sharpened bits of metal. That is until…

“Can you give me an Opposed Strength check please?”

“A what now?”

Turns out a good way of taking out a character with a lot of soak is to drop lots of enemies on him and get grappling.

This combat is unfolding not necessarily in my favour

Combat cuddle engage! The more pile on him, the more Fatigue he gets, the harder it is for him to break out of the grapple. Fatigue doesn’t care about your 11 Soak. It wasn’t long before Freeman was unconscious on the floor, being dragged away by hungry hands.

In the background you can just about make out a few downed armsmen. Although the wretches numbers were dwindling, they had a few prizes and were trying to flee with them.

Unfortunately Freeman is super heavy, so Zilla and Felicity manage to blast enough away to make the rest flee. The Captain and the Junior see off their side of the combat and rush to save Kettlehead.

R I P in pieces

In the melee, some of the characters were too busy prioritising targets near them that poor Cram is downed and dragged off by the wretches. The Captain issues an immediate moment of silence, and despite the crew’s protests that he’s probably still okay and we should look for him, declares Cram dead and he died an honourable death (hopefully).

The rest of the wretches flee, leaving their prizes behind. Gil snags one of them with a Dominate power, strutting him back and slapping some zipties over his emaciated wrists. While the horrid thing thrashes round like Gollum with a rope round his neck, they all scratch their heads as to what they’re going to do with him.

They bundle everyone into the back of the Aquila, stabilising the wounded armsmen where they could. They wouldn’t return to the planet again without the rest of the party.

Now what?

They throw the wretch in the Brig onboard the Unbroken Resolve, and Gil sets his Juniors on the task of Mind Probing him to break his primitive psyche wide open so we can have a good ol’ prod at it.

Meanwhile, the Captain issues a command to Zilla – hop in an Aquila and do a fly-by of the port and surrounding areas. He didn’t want to be blind next time they went down.

Zilla makes a pass of the colony, very very narrowly avoiding crashing in the storm by using ALL of his Fate Points. All of the wretches in the port had disbanded, and his flight augers (as blind as they were in the storm) weren’t picking up life signs.

He headed over towards the surrounding area, known as the Golden Valleys, where there were a number of large palatial estates constructed outside of the colony – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land.

On the approach, warning runes blared across his console. Automated AA turrets had picked him up and locked on! A stream of heavy bolter rounds whizzed past the cockpit, and although it was still too rainy to draw a bead on his assailant, he decided discretion was the better part of crashing in hungryboi town in the middle of a lightning storm and pulled away, returning to the Unbroken Resolve.

A mind is a precious thing to waste

By now, the Juniors had metaphorically peeled back the layers of the wretch’s mind and were having a good old poke around inside his psyche. It was primitive, bestial and above all, hungry. It would be dangerous to stay inside it too long, as such a mind so far from sanity would certainly have consequences to a “sane” individual over prolonged exposure.

They do glean some interesting insight though, the wretch was part of a band or group salvaging the port. Despite it’s apparent degradation, it still retained some semblance of conscious thought – an overwhelming sense of religious guilt about its actions, and its loyalty to a leader called Glaw.

With all the cards on the table, it was time to draw the session to a close. They would regroup, resupply and rest up for next game, bringing their A Game (and a full team) to the next brawl.

+++++++

Next: Session 12 – Blood and Gin

Previous: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Battery Lord Kimbal

Finished product first!

This week’s MOTB is the third party member of House Patroneus’ elite staff, after Lord-Militant Hyde and Explorator Eutropius. They form the senior officers, advisors and bastard-hard combat group for Aoife Patroneus, the head of the rival Rogue Trader family to our own Orthesian Dynasty.

This is Battery Lord Kimbal, Master of Ordnance on board the flagship of House Patroneus, the Banshee. Although he has the highest honorific of Master of Ordnance and controls every weapon on the ship, he prefers his old title of Battery Lord from his time serving as master of a single battery of macrocannon.

I was putting off painting him as I found him the least interesting of the four characters, but I wanted to finish on a high with the Rogue Trader herself. I stopped dragging my feet and got to work.

Building a battery lord

As with the others, Kimbal started out life as nothing but some random scraps of purposeless plastic. I knew I wanted to use the coat that comes with the Tempestus Scions, but for some inexplicable reason I decided it would be really fun to not use the specifically-designed torso to fit into that fiddly overcoat, but to use a totally unrelated torso and somehow make it fit.

I had a few parts I definitely wanted to utilise, but not all the missing pieces of the puzzle. I found the head very quickly – after how pleased I was with Hyde I knew I wanted another Oldhammer Empire head, I believe it’s the Champion from the Empire Pistoliers set (read Freeguild if you’re coming to the hobby from Age of Sigmar).

The second part I wanted was the Imperial Guard hand holding the rangefinder from the heavy weapons team sprue. This guy was going to be more of a support character – while the Arch-Militant would be in charge of  actually shooting people, this guy would be marking targets and commanding orbital bombardments. I wasn’t sure how it would work in-game, but who cares! We’d cross that bridge if we came to it.

The rest of the parts were filler. Plastic Space Marine Scout legs and an old Space Marine torso fit the bill (with LOTS of cutting – there was barely half the torso left by the end).

I wanted a regal weapon in his off-hand – a bolt pistol seemed too crass. I have plenty of Space Marine plasma pistols in my bits box but not an awful lot of human-sized right hands. When I held it in place to test the fit it was too perfect. I didn’t fancy rooting around for another hand when I could quite easily say he had a bionic right arm. Sorted!

After some filler work on the coat he was good to paint.

The colour of gun

It was tricky coming up with a colour scheme for Kimbal. It sounds wanky I know, but sometimes you get a good feeling for a colour scheme before you start, and sometimes you are utterly uninspired and you just keep trying out different colours until something passes your “Yeah that’ll do” margin.

Unfortunately for this guy, it was the latter. I tried at least half a dozen different armour colours but they all ended up making him look like a beardy space marine.

I also wanted to keep him looking vaguely different to the others to emphasize his individuality, so I avoided doing anything particularly flamboyant with his overcoat. That, and the overcoat covers more than half the body, and I didn’t fancy freehanding something huge across his back for a model that might get one, maybe two outings.

For want of a better tenuous metaphor, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other with colours. Alternating lights and darks, keeping the palette from being too busy, deciding on a spot colour at the last minute.

He’s done and I can move on – 2018 is the year of Finished, Not Perfect after all!

Orthesian Herald 10 – Storm-wreathed sins

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

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

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

Lay of the land

The light of Cilice washes over you. 

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

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

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

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

 

Less is more

Cilice gave me a lot of introspection to do.

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

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

There was just simply too much.

The full endeavour sheet

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

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

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

Exploration and scanning

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

Outer reaches

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

Primary biosphere

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

Inner cauldron

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

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

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

Shrine-Altar: Presence of active void shields

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

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

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

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

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

Company

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

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

Your long-range vox burbles into life.

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

The Pearls of Cilice

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

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

*tears out several pages of notes*

Celestial bones

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arvus Lighter (Dahagaz – Deviantart)

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

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

Stiletto Station
Investigating the shield

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing the chasm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessing the shield room

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

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

Freeman:

 

Automatons in the heights

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Nervous laughter*

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

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

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

Meanwhile Freeman:

1337 h4xx0r

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

Roll for initiative!

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

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

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

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

Gun servitors from the skies!

 

 

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

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

 

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

Gil’s death puddle

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

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

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

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

*TARZAN YELL*

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

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

Wrap-up

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

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

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

+++++++

Next: Session 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Previous: Session 9 – Claws in the Dark

Orthesian Herald 9 – Claws in the Dark

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

The Underdecks

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

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

The ice comes to life!

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

Roll for initiative!

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

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

From left to right; Felicity, Kettlehead and Krud

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

All according to plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rallied and ready to take down the final abomination

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

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

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

Give the man a hand!

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

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

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

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

cairn

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE: EDDIE BAUER ALPINISTS ADRIAN BALLINGER & CORY RICHARDS

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

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

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

a mountain of flags

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

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

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

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

princess bride have fun storming the castle gif

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthesian Communications Guild

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

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

+++++++

Next: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Previous: Session 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Explorator Eutropius

Finished product first!

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

The crew in grey
How to build a techpriest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colours of mars

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

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

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

Orthesian Herald 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

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

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

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

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

Mercy – (FFG)
Dramatis Personae

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

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

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

Lord-Captain Aoife Patroneus – (FFG)

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

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

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

Lady Sun Lee Chosokabe – (FFG)

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

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

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

Baroness Ravenula

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

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

Brigadier Grantham – (FFG)

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

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

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

Pressing the flesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

whatever you want, leo gets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Void Sea – neither empty nor a sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Something wicked this way comes

 

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

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

The Underdecks

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

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

The ice comes to life!

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

Roll for initiative!

+++++++

Next: Session 9 – Claws in the Dark

Previous: Session 7 – A Brother’s Calling