Sunday, 21 February 2010

Rogue Trader Session 03: God is Dead

Characters:

Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Alfonso de la Creme, weedy and nervous priest-in-training. (also Manoj A)
Maximillius XVIII, tough-as-nails technician from a death world. (Ben F)
Octavius Sol, seneschal and quartermaster. (Stuart F)
Triptych, mutant navigator and his harem. (Ric R)



Well, we didn't use the battlemat. Everyone seemed more keen on keeping the game in our imagination, and one of the players confessed that it was something of a reaction to all the D&D4 we've been playing of late, which more or less requires battlemaps. I came up with a hybrid solution; behind the screen, I had a small-scale map which I was going to transfer to the battlemat, but in the end I just marked the positions of players and opponents on this mini-map, which was enough to let me visualise the action for the players, without the confusion of last time.

As it was, the main thrust of the session were the negotiations with Clarius, all of which were contained within one room. There were a couple of players outside Clarius' temple with shuttles full of troops at the ready, but the fighting in the streets was all done in abstract, based on a little mass combat system I devised myself, after discovering that Rogue Trader's was rubbish; I consider this somewhat ironic given the game's origins. I'm going to give the system a polish and post it here a bit later on, as it's essentially system neutral and should work with any rpg with a combat system (which is everything except the He-Man rpg).

Topical!

So they arrived to discover that the duplicitous mechanoid had brought most of the children of the city into the temple, to act as human shields and make a direct attack much more difficult. There's nothing like a bit of NPC peril to force the players into roleplaying! The negotiations went well, and they even got Clarius to soften his antagonistic "get off my planet" stance, and agree to something more reasonable. I was interested to see where this compromise might go, but once again, a fight broke out.

The human shields were supposed to make the fight tougher on the players, but Ben's explorator had whipped up some grenades which would disrupt the robots' circuitry; I didn't want to call these "EMP grenades" because that's too high-tech for the setting, but it turns out that they used to exist in the wargame, as "haywire" bombs, so that's fine. These, combined with good attack rolls by the players, and atrocious rolls by the robot priests, led to the fight coming to an end pretty quickly. At one point, one of the guys outside turned their shuttle's lascannons on the temple doors, sending shards of molten metal spinning into the panicked crowd. Ric asked to burn a Fate Point here to avoid civilian deaths; by the rules-as-written, burned Fate Points are used to save the player-character from certain death, but I ruled that this would also be a suitable use, if uncharacteristically heroic for the 40K universe.

As the smoke cleared, the team secured the disabled robots, calmed the crowd, and investigated the temple, discovering that underneath the stone construction, there was an ancient machine, some sort of atmosphere processor, explaining how the area around the city remained fertile despite the arid conditions on the rest of the world. They failed to discover any control mechanism for the robots, so the source of their heresy remained unknown. "Clarius" turned out to be identical to the other robots, and the explorator conducted a holy rite to access the robots' memories, discovering that they took it in turns to be the high priest, adding to the mystery of just who exactly was in charge.

After leaving a garrison of troops to maintain order, and some of the crew to maintain the processor, and if possible expand its abilities, the players moved on. They sent an astropathic message to the explorator's Machine Cult to let them know about the robots, which combined with everything else they'd achieved, was enough to complete an endeavour (a profit-based sidequest in the RT system), so they collected three Profit points to add to their stash. Players being players, they're already thinking of horrible game-unbalancing things on which to spend this wealth.

They decided to head to Mianded, a system at the heart of a network of warp routes, and so a handy trade hub if it could be secured for their dynasty. The warp travel was difficult, and the navigator was visited by the spectres of his dead parents, killed years before by a chaotic warband. They were pleasant enough for ghosts, chatting to him as if everything was just dandy, despite looking just as they did when he discovered the bodies. Upon arrival at the system, the ship didn't want to leave the warp, or perhaps the warp didn't want to let go of the ship, resulting in a rough re-entry into normal space somewhere in the Mianded system. The crew breathed a sigh of relief, but then the ship was rocked by a massive explosion, setting off all sorts of alerts and alarms, and the bridge crew reported that something had crashed into the Banshee...

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