MOTB: Warp Geists

In a previous episode of the Orthesian Herald, we had our band of noble scallywags have their first bad warp jump coincide with their first daemon encounter.

I wanted to make some Ebon Geists – an interesting warp predator from the back of the Rogue Trader core rulebook. They’re not affiliated with any of the four main Chaos gods, so I felt easy throwing them at the party without any of our 40k veterans being able to guess what they were up against.

They had a spooky introduction, as the crew were responding to a faulty life support conduit deep in the underdecks of their ship. When the wall of ice from a leaking pipe came to life and shredded an armsman like an egg slice, there was considerable panic.

They were assembled from some parts of spirit hosts I had from my bits box, as well as a healthy helping of weird Chaos tentacles and probably a Tyranid bit or two to bulk them out.

They were assembled in an evening with copious amounts of plastic glue, so it didn’t hugely matter if things didn’t line up.

They needed to be painted up super quick, as I was playing on the same day as I finished making them!

A white undercoat followed by a number of different washes did the job. Blue all over, with a black wash towards the extremities and a crimson wash in the centre.

They had a good going-over with a grey-blue drybrush with a very fine drybrush of white at the extremities and they were done! I painted the bases to match my other minis, and the black rim around the edge to tidy them up was still drying as I read the intro to the game. Close call!

In the game they were quite brutal – a combination of Phase and Warp Weapon meant they could move about quite freely and harass players at the back of the group who thought they’d be away from melee range.

They were the cause of our first limb-loss as well, with one of them pulling our Explorator’s arm clean out of its socket with an unexpectedly deadly strike.

All in all I’m very pleased with how they came out for a few hours of kitbashing and washing – our players got their first taste of the warp and I managed to satiate my GM’s bloodlust for a little longer!

I’ll definitely be making some more of these guys for future though, I don’t think two alone can threaten the party any more…

MOTB: Ogryn servitor WIP

Our Necromunda Callowdecks campaign has been great fun, and it’s presented me with a bunch of cool new modelling challenges too.

One of those challenges was to produce a ‘robot automata’ model as represented in the ‘Archeo-hunt’ scenario. Basically you use a big stompy robot that stands in the middle of the map and gangs have to fight for control over it, guiding it to a vault to break it open and steal the goodies inside.

It hilariously recommends using the Ambot model, recommending it as ideal to represent the automata. A bit dry, considering (at time of writing) they’ve not even announced the Ambot model (despite us knowing it exists from a grainy image in one of the Gang War books) let alone have it available for sale.

Official, yet unattainable

Additionally, one of the generic Brutes you can purchase is an Ogryn Servitor, complete with plasma hand for when you don’t just want to knead and punch something until the consistency of skittles is achieved, but you also want to set it on fire too.

Time to crack out the bits box.

This guy was going to stand in as both ‘generic automata’ and ‘Ogryn servitor’, so the weapons needed to be generic enough to represent whatever was on those stat lines. In this case, it was big hitty hand and melta gun/plasma cutter, so something suitably shooty in the other hand.

The base was the last plastic Ogre Kingdoms mini I had in my possession from the Bag o’ Doom and it was heavily soiled in thick paint. I’m lazy, so I just scratched most of it off with a knife. Finished, not perfect!

The face piece was from a plastic Lord of the Rings armoured troll helmet turned upside down, the belly plate from some Ork vehicle.

The arms came from a bunch of toys that were recycled from a friend’s old office space – they were going to be thrown out, so he harvested all their tech arms and donated them to my bits box. I couldn’t tell you where they were from – perhaps transformers? Regardless, they’ve been too big to use on most projects I’ve done so far, but they were the perfect size for this one.

Cables were made with trusty guitar wire, the thickest I could find. I’ve not tried bass guitar wire yet, but I’ve got a few more beep-boop projects ahead, so there’s still time!

The Ogre Kingdoms range come with adorable little Sinbad slippers, which wasn’t quite the aesthetic I was going for. I shaved the toes down and stick on some heavy shoulder pads from Anvil Industries to give them a reinforced look. A searchlight from an Imperial vehicle sprue finished off the Angry JCB look I was going for.

All told I’m very pleased with how he came out! Considering he was nothing but a bunch of weird bits and cables for a long time, I’m excited to slap some paint onto him. I’m not super excited about the prospect of painting so much yellow, though…

And he’s undercoated!

MOTB: Gun servitors

Finished product first!

Last week I built some friendly beep-boops out of odds and ends from my bits box, this week I got round to painting them.

Hellgun beep-boop

These guys were a cheap and cheerful colour scheme – undercoated black, base colours layered on and washes applied. The metal was simply Leadbelcher with a black wash followed by a brown wash – no extra highlights applied. It was particularly harrowing to not go back and highlight it, but it probably saved me an entire evening’s work.

Heavy bolter beep-boop

The heavy servitors were painted to look more ‘official’ – they would be Navy-issue battle servitors, so needed a uniform on the lower half, along with some heraldry to make them look a bit fancy. The paper was just a bone coloured paint with a sepia wash (really loving the sepia wash at the moment, might even start preferring it to Agrax…)

The final touch was the Mechanicus heraldry on the shield. The cogboys keep the servitors going, even if they’re loaning them out to others. I wanted something to visually tie it back to my tech gang 16th Law as well, so the red and white helped.

Heavy stubber beep-boop

For the more ‘civilian’ models I originally had them in dark grey, but quickly got bored of that as everything I paint is dark grey these days. One of my gaming circle had just finished painting up some Poxwalkers in Convict Orange, and I really liked the contasting colours, so tried to do something similar.

These were just an orange base, washed black and highlighted again with the same orange. I drew the line at highlighting more – finished, not perfect!

Heavy flamer beep-boop

Who doesn’t like fire? These servitors were my first experiment with multi toned flesh. Ironrach Skin was used as the base, washed with Athonian Camoshade to get a sickly hue and highlighted with Ironrach again.

Some crimson washes were dabbed liberally around painful areas where metal meets flesh, then another highlight of Ironrach on extreme edges. Quite pleased with how all that came out!

Very happy with how all my beep-boops came out. I don’t have any more Goliath bodies to make more big servitors, but I’ve got quite a few odds and ends to make little ones. Perhaps some combat servitors are on the distant horizon…

MOTB: Gun servitors WIP

Finished product first!

I use gun servitors a lot in our games of Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy and have always eyed up the old gun servitor models on offer on ebay, but could never justify forking out a tenner for a single model, given I would need quite a few.

The original beep boops

As our Callowdecks campaign has got into full swing, my own personal Orlock gang has been saving up its pennies to pick up one of the ‘Lugger’ Servitor Brutes that is available to them. 3+ armour save from the front, 3 Wounds, Toughness 5 and can move and shoot with a Heavy Bolter? Sign me up!

The brief had become clear – build me an army of robo-friends worthy of Mordor. They needed to be suitable for use across multiple systems, so different weapon configurations were a must, and one of them needed to have a heavy bolter. Easy peasy!

Automated construction

Assembling the smaller servitors was fun – the heads were from Pig Iron miniatures from an old Dark Heresy project I had lying around, suitably grotesque but with their faces largely covered. The bodies were from the Genestealer Neophytes kit, and the legs donated from some old plastic Space Marine scouts with the pouches shaved down.

 

This first lad was given a heavy stubber from the Orlock kit, which with a bit of random circular plastic I had lying in my bits box, made the perfect cowling to glue the weapon straight onto the arm socket.

Robots, so hot right now

The next one build used a piece I’ve had in my bits box since I first started the hobby waaaaay back in the 7th Century. I have a lot of weird sponson weapons from old plastic vehicle kits that never fit on anything other than vehicles, or in this case, boopy robo-friends.

Flamers are great fun and dangerous to PCs regardless of what system you’re using.

Laser-like focus

I also wanted to build some slightly larger servitors, partially for variety, partially because I’d run out of scout legs, partially because I’d seen someone make them out of Goliath parts and I happened to have to spare in my bits box. They would make good military-grade war-bots rather than your run-of-the-mill civilian grade, plus sticking a heavy bolter to the side of those Neophyte bodies would be hilarious but woefully lopsided.

I had some bits from a vehicle project I’m working on, the heavy fusion repeating hellgun hot-shot volley-gun thing from the side of a Taurox. It is helpfully completely absent from the 40kRPG lines regarding rules, and it’s still a (relatively) new addition to the traditional Imperial armoury, so its silhouette is not as recognisable as, say, a lascannon. This would give me free reign to upscale it or downscale it depending on the encounter without someone going “why is that shooting like a lascannon when it’s clearly a lasgun”

absolute unit

In awe of the size of this lad. The final servitor would be the one (hopefully) attached to my Orlock gang. They got some extra heraldry odds and ends to cover up the worst of the Goliath furnace plating and give them a bit of extra bulk.

This head was from the classic Space Marine tactical squad, the bionics made from a combination of Anvil Industry bionic parts and odds and ends from my bits box. The heavy bolter, again, from a weapon mount for a vehicle – this time the pintle heavy bolter from the sidecar of a Space Marine attack bike with the stand snipped off. Some little bits of guitar wire as cabling rounded them off quite nicely.

I’m very happy with how they’ve all turned out, to the point where I wished I’d made another 8 for a full gamut of robo-lads. I’ve been staring intently at some ebay lots going soon, but those kinds of projects will have to wait til after Christmas I think.

Sneak preview

And in a sneaky sneaky preview, here’s a quick snap of the lads all painted up. I’ll get some better pictures up once I’ve had an opportunity to snap them in daylight!

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!