Monday, 26 April 2010

This year, Salute happened to happen again!

This last weekend, Salute happened to happen.

As usual (or as usually as I can manage) I prodded along with a friend and walked around... and around.... and around.... and around! After a few hours, sore feet, a sore wallet and a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge grin!

You see... I am not into Wargammes. I have tried a couple of them and I feel most of them are just glorified sets of chess and soooooooo slooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww to advance I can alsmost feel the years getting heavier as the game progresses. Also I don't have the patience (or the talent!) to painstakingly paint all the figurines and create all the diorams. So wargames have little to offer me.

So why do I go, you'll ask.... No?... you weren't wondering?.... Oh well.. I'll tell you anyway.

Until this year there were two reasons. This year, there are three!

The main one is that I LOVE the atmosphere. Most of the people there are true profesional anoraks and mega geeks with few hours of sun exposure, a distinct disregard for champoo and glasses that should be in a museum for the retro lover. In short, their appeareance could do with a make over so radical Ken Wok would die to attempt. Quite frankly there were a few that, if I had seen them sitting on a bench in a park, I would have thought they were homeless.

Yet, it is the friendliest and kindest atmosphere one can think of. Make the slightest comment and people will be only so happy to chat to you. Surprisingly enough, though, if you talk to them, they actually listen!

Also love to see the dedication and conraderie in their gaming associations. It is amazing how they get together, set up the games, paint together, play together (monkey business or otherwise!) and in general have a rich and fulfilling social life that plenty of people in the "real world" who snear at us for being gamers would envy. As a people observer, for me it is a true feast.

Second reason are the traders. Although there is the internet shopping experience and now we have a couple of shops in Brighton that sell games and are getting better and better stocked all the time, it is great to have so many traders and see games I didn't know existed, or just be able to grab the box and feel it. Maybe even make use of the previously mentioned atmosphere and friendliness to ask someone about the game and get an opinion. Makes for a much better shopping time alltogether!

The third reason I have found this year is the second hand counter. Some 30 feet of tables full of goodies people want to sell at prices that are extremelly affordable. Bought a game, still sealed, at 1/2 price and if I had had more money, I would have spent even more in more games (maybe a good thing I didn't have more money!). All and all, I am one game short of my board gaming budget for the year ahead. As soon as I get Horus Heresy, I will have enough games to keep me busy until Xmas.

So for all those reasons I loved Salute.

Now.. is Salute a great show?.... err... no.....

Sorry guys.

Salute is a show made by amateurs and for amateurs. That has its charm, no doubt, and it is remakable that it is bigger than GenCon ever was in the UK, but it doesn't make for a good show. The distinctive lack of big sponsors is heavy on the pocket to buy tickets. £11 is a lot of money that would be better spent in a game. For the amount of traders they have, I would expect to pay £5 to get in. Funnily enough, if WOTC, Games Workshop, Paizo and people like that were present, I would be happier to pay more money.

Also it is a one day show, which means you have to be VERY careful with what you spend your time doing. Choose the wrong game to play (wrong in the sense that you'll end up not liking it) and you'll have wasted hours (one or two maybe) you could have spent playing something you'd enjoy. So not enough time to play enough games.

Would making the show a two day event make sense?.... well.... yes if you're going to play games. If not, no point. Would I pay £22 to get in during the weekend?.. indeed not! There are train and tube tickets to add to that too!

I guess they need to diversify a bit. Bringing more CCGs (I mean some!) would be a good thing to attract more public. Maybe more RPGs too... but then, we have Dragonmeet for that, I guess. Maybe something to tell them at some point!

Still. A very well spent day and a worthy trade show that left everyone excited by the end of the day (and that was measured by the faces I saw and conversations I heard in the train...).

Next year, more please!!!!!!


Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Ministry of Blades : The Pyramids of Hertfordshire, episode 1

Curruthers meets a detective; Marsh trips over a corpse.


11th March 2010.

Dramatis Personae

Lady Antonia deVore - a Heavily-armed Aristocrat.
Miss Constantina Spit - a Rebellious Debutante.
Captain Benson Curruthers - a Military Policeman.
Jack Prentiss - a Dodgy Pedestrian.
Miss April Sharpe - a Self-taught Inventor.
Rodney Marsh - a Partially-reformed Thief.
Mr Erasmus Rooke - the Boss;
Mr Hinton Waldrist - a Ministry Observer.
Detective Alton Barnes - of the Yard.
A Carriage Driver.
A Corpse.


Fresh from their triumph over the Highbury Horror, the team were briefed for a new mission that would take them out of London. Rooke tasked them with investigating some strange events taking place in and around the village of Aldermansford in Hertfordshire. A series of strange lights and glows had been seen above the woods to the north of the community, usually accompanied by low frequency vibrations. Occasionally, when the lights were quite bright, human figures were seen moving through the mist between the trees.

The team were to meet to catch the noon train from Euston to Berkhamsted. Marsh arrived late and they only just caught the train. As the train entered rural Hertfordshire, Marsh began to claim that the whole place smelt funny.

Arriving in Berkhamsted, they rode a carriage to Aldermansford itself, a small village built around a millpond and set under a forested hill. On the way into the village, they passed Avery Manor, the residence of Sir Upton Scudamore, Bt., and noted the presence what appeared to be a half-built pyramid behind it. The driver commented that Sir Upton was a bit eccentric, but very generous to the village.

Having scared off the local children by attempting to talk to them, the invstigators took up residence in the four rooms they had booked in the Hangman's Dance, the local coaching inn. While everyone else got settled in, Prentiss and Curruthers decided to visit the local Ministry observer, Hinton Waldrist, who filled them in on the details of the mystery. The weird phenomena consisted primarily of bright blue and green glows in the night sky to the north of the Manor. Those living or walking in the area had reported a low throbbing noise that sounded like the “chanting of the sacraments at the church of a Sunday morning, as heard from several hundred yards away”. Bright lights had been seen shining out of the woods covering the hills in the north of the estate, broken by shadowy figures moving about within them. Waldrist had a number of theories as to their origin, mostly revolving around ancient ruins that may have been associated with fairies.

They also learnt about the recent murders of Ansty Coombe, one of the estate gamekeepers found near the pyramid, Maggie Burton, a young local woman who appeared to have died gathering flowers in the woods, the Reverend Harold Norris, a visiting clergyman staying at the Parsonage and found in the Manor's ornamental lake, and Coney Furlong, a poacher found in a ditch in the woods. All had been beaten to death with a couple of heavy blows within the last couple of weeks. Scotland Yard had sent a detective to investigate.

Marsh and Miss Sharpe, meanwhile, descended to the bar where Marsh became aware of the presence of Detective Alton Barnes of the Yard, the man who had finally ended his criminal career. Knowing that Barnes had wanted to see him hang, Marsh decided to try to avoid him. Curruthers and Prentiss rejoined the group for dinner, filling them in on their discoveries. Curruthers decided to have a brief chat with Barnes, policeman to policeman but learnt nothing new: Barnes was investigating the murders and considered the lights to be a local fairy tale.

Later that evening, the team headed out to see what they could find and in the hope that the lights might decide to manifest. Trudging up into the woods at around 10 pm, they encountered a thickening fog and Marsh, attempting to move quietly away from the rest of the team in case of an ambush, became separated from them. They only became aware of his location when he tripped over a corpse and screamed. Gathering around, they noted that the corpse looked like it had been buried in a coffin for several months (being relatively dry, with little sign of insects) and was wearing good boots and a suit, implying it had had a funeral. Once he had finished bringing up his dinner, Marsh mused over the possibility of taking them, but decided they were a little too rotten.

The investigators looked around for drag marks and found none, but did note a single set of boot prints leading up the hill from the graveyard. Following them back, they found a grave that looked like it had been opened from the inside. Lady Antonia decided to inform the verger, in spite of the time, that one of his graves had been robbed.


The mystery begins!

This was a very talky session, setting the scene for the later investigations and (I hope) horrors. Aldermansford is supposed to resemble one of those Miss Marple-type murder locations and is deliberately set on the edge of the ‘Avengers Triangle’. The lights in the woods are inspired by those torch and aliens scenes in the X-Files.

Marsh's connection with Barnes was not planned, but was one of those spur-of-the-moment ideas that just seemed to make sense. Tripping over the corpse was the result of yet another fumbled roll.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Rogue Trader Session 10: Death Space Doom


Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Mordecai the Cautious, newly-promoted weapons monkey. (David)
Maximillius XVIII, tough-as-nails technician from a death world. (Ben F)
Octavius Sol, seneschal and quartermaster. (An NPC this week, as Stuart F was off trying to solve the Greek debt crisis)
Triptych, mutant navigator and his harem. (Ric R)

Last time, the crew of the Banshee had investigated a strange complex hidden beneath the surface of the rocky methane-rich world of Zeesol Sextus. Finding all manner of weird gribbly stuff down in the tombs, for tombs they seemed to be, the team decided to touch nothing, and return to the ship to plan their next move. Having slept on it, they returned the next morning to continue their investigations.

Triptych's affinity for the Warp, a result of centuries of selective breeding, led to him discovering that the entire complex was shifting and changing at a level beyond normal human perception; reality itself seemed fluid, which explained why they had often found themselves going around in circles the previous day. With a firmer grasp of how to get around the place, the team set about recording and collecting the contents of the tombs. They tested the strange portal a few more times, and considered the potential danger in sending a volunteer through, before deciding on the safer option of sealing a camera inside a spare void suit helmet, and sending that through instead. The helmet returned, encrusted in a thick frost, but otherwise unharmed, and the team sat down to watch the resulting film, a sanity-shaking experience that reminded Triptych of looking into the Warp itself.

Moving on, the team decided to try to claim the strange alien spear they'd discovered and, fearing that the skeleton through which the spear was thrust would jump up and attack them (as if!), they first turned their flamers on the room, immolating everything except the spear itself, which remained not only unharmed, but also at the exact same temperature at which it had been before the flame-happy priest decided to "purify" the chamber. The spear was lodged deep in the ground, and the whole team pitched in to tug it free, before handing it to Triptych. Wielding the spear made him feel fast, agile and powerful, but lacking skill with such weaponry, he passed it to Sol, who took it without comment.

Heading to the wraithbone room, they took a small sample, and returned to the Banshee. There, the wraithbone seemed to have a strange effect on their astropath, Ezekiel, driving him into a paranoid rage in which he threatened them a number of times and more or less turned into a bearded, paraplegic Gollum. Now, Ezekiel is not the friendliest of folks at the best of times, but this was enough to spook them, and the team returned to Zeesol Sextus and put the wraithbone sample straight back where it came from. Dissatisfied with what they had discovered thus far, and convinced that there was something else hidden in the star system, they decided to split up.

Aphesius, Mordecai and Maximillius stayed behind on the planet with a work crew, intent on scavenging the strange alien metal they found throughout the tomb complex, while Triptych took the Banshee on a mission to scout the other worlds in the system. Sol went along without comment.

The scanning mission turned up nothing of interest, but the workers on the planet were quite industrious, pulling down the massive alien structures, clearing the wraithbone from their hollow cores, and getting the metal frames ready for transport. They also ran into something in the tombs, something fast and stealthy. Then a couple of soldiers went missing. Now very spooked indeed, all personnel were pulled out of the underground chambers, and explosives were set off, collapsing the entrance under tonnes of rubble.

Which is when a psychic scream erupted from within the planet, causing headaches and nosebleeds among the crew at the site.

Ten minutes later, the scream hit the Banshee, with similar effects.

It took three days for the ship to return to Zeesol Sextus, by which time the crew camped out on the surface were jumping at every shadow, and were convinced that something was moving about underground. On their return to the ship, it was discovered that something was moving about in one of the storage bays, the one in which they were keeping the alien skeleton they'd found on a previous occasion. Sure enough, upon opening the bay, out came a shambolic monstrosity, a shapeless pile of bones with apparent murderous intent, but after a round of fast shooting, and a bizarre mêlée charge from Sol and his new alien spear, the creature fell back into its component pieces.

(What happened here was that I pulled a fast one on the players, and put them through James Raggi's excellent scenario Death Frost Doom, which is technically for D&D, but has too many good ideas for me to ignore. Now, I did modify it quite a bit, and there's as much of Hamilton's The Reality Dysfunction and Russo's Ship of Fools in there as there is the original adventure, but there's enough that I should give credit where it is due.)

Their Rogue Trader called for a meeting to discuss recent events, while Maximillius busied himself with turning the alien metal into armour plating for their Rhino APC, as well as suits of light but strong armour for the group. It was decided that they would get in contact with Jameson's Hollow before they chose their next move, and their astropath received an ominous message from the void station, claiming that the dead had risen, and that urgent assistance was required.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Ministry of Blades : The Highbury Horror

Marsh provokes a brawl; April gains a stalker.


25th February 2010.

Dramatis Personae

Lady Antonia deVore - a Heavily-armed Aristocrat.
Miss Constantina Spit - a Rebellious Debutante.
Captain Benson Curruthers - a Military Policeman.
Jack Prentiss - a Dodgy Pedestrian.
Miss April Sharpe - a Self-taught Inventor.
Rodney Marsh - a Partially-reformed Thief.
Mr Erasmus Rooke - the Boss;
A Large Gentleman.
Another Large Gentleman with a Short Temper.
Assorted Pub-goers.


It was three months after the case of the Temple Vampire. Following a dressing-down over their precipitous conclusion to the case, Professor Wyntermere and Doctor Crabb had temporarily withdrawn from active service, leaving Marsh and Lady Antonia to babysit a quartet of junior agents through a series of basic surveillance and information-gathering tasks.

Their latest mission took them out to Highbury, where there had been reports of a brutal individual of great stature terrorising the local inhabitants. Several women had gone missing and the Metropolitan Police, as usual, were at a loss to stop the attacks. The Ministry was taking an interest because the descriptions of the attacker bore a great resemblance to the perpetrator of the Hyde Attacks a couple of years before. The team were assigned to survey the situation, gather intelligence on the attacks and, if possible, identify the attacker so that a task force could remove him from the public arena.

After briefly exploring the area, the team decided to try asking the locals what they knew. Spotting a public drinking establishment on a nearby corner, they divided into two teams: Miss Sharp, Prentiss and Marsh would enter the bar, while Miss Spit and Captain Curruthers would ask questions in the more genteel surroundings of the lounge. Lady Antonia decided this was not the place for an aristocrat and remained outside, prepared for trouble. Things went well for half an hour or so: buying the occasional drink, Curruthers, Miss Sharpe and Prentiss spoke to a number of the clientele, while Miss Spit rapidly found herself at the centre of a group of admirers. Marsh toyed with starting a game of chance, then decided on a more direct approach, asking if any large ugly types had been seen in the area: at this point, it all went downhill, as he found himself standing next to a large ugly gentleman.

Lady Antonia was briefly shocked by the sound of breaking glass, then realised that Marsh had joined her in the street. The rest of the team decided discretion was the greater part of valour and they met up to compare notes. Four attacks had taken place in an area a quarter of a mile square, all but one fatally; the lady in question was in shock and seeing no-one, but had spoken of being grabbed by a large, well-dressed man with calloused hands. All attacks had taken place late at night and had involved individuals, except in one case where a couple was murdered.

The team decided to try to lure the attacker out to see if they could identify him and divided into three teams: Miss Spit and Curruthers, Miss Sharpe and Prentiss and Lady Antonia and Marsh. In each case, the female member walked apparently alone while her colleague followed at a discrete distance. The plan worked: Miss Sharpe was promptly grabbed from within a shadowed alley by a huge figure. She screamed for help and pulled out her pistol as Prentiss rushed to the rescue; the others, all operating on nearby streets, also raced to the scene. Miss Sharpe was finding that her pistol was having little effect, the bullets getting lost in her attacker's voluminous cloak, while Prentiss began trying to club him over the head. Marsh arrived and laid into him with his knives, before Curruthers and Lady Antonia were able to take potshots with their own weapons.

The attacker proved to be incredibly tough, but eventually they brought him down through sheer persistence, drugged and cuffed him and then dragged him back to the Ministry. By the time they had arrived, the attacker had mysteriously shrunk and was now a scrawny young man. Prentiss remarked that he had seen something similar before and Mr Rooke confirmed that there had been a small number of sightings of creatures bearing similar abilities and appearance to the mysterious Mr Hyde of several years previous. The monster was taken away for examination and the team commended for their success, before being asked to return the following morning for their next briefing.


This mission was intended to perform the same role as the battle with the rat-men at the beginning of the Temple Vampire: shake-down the new characters and give the new players a chance to get used to the combat system. The investigation seemed to get a little involved as I was expecting the team to explore the streets first and just get attacked, but the final version allowed for another classic Marsh foot-in-mouth incident so was a definite improvement. The new characters got a chance to show what they were made of and establish their personalities, but as usual, the fight went on slightly too long, partly because I forgot the monster was an Extra, rather than a Wild Card, and gave it too many wounds.

I'm getting better at this, though!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Rogue Trader Session 09: These Are My Investigating Feet


Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Mordecai the Cautious, newly-promoted weapons monkey. (David)
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)

Yep, a full house. Yay!

Ever since the explorers stole the star charts from Jameson's Hollow, the Zeesol system had been calling to them. It had been sealed by order of the Inquisition, and the explorers assumed that the whole sector had been declared off limits for a thousand years as a result of the discoveries made there. That's the kind of thing that really messes with a player's head, as they are simultaneously torn between investigating the big blinking plot hook, and leaving it well alone for fear of losing their character to some blobby alien thing.

It perhaps did not help that I suggested they all watch Alien before the session.

Nice place for a picnic.

The session began with the team, the Rogue Trader Horatio Locke, the Probably-an-Inquisitor Zarak and his ogryn henchman, and twenty hand-picked guards packed into a couple of shuttles and dropping into the methane-based atmosphere of the planet, where they found their craft buffeted by storms, although the vessels suffered only light damage. Reaching the surface, they had the increasingly-fragile Locke do his I-claim-this-planet thing, before packing him back into a shuttle and sending him back to the mothership. Their sensors had indicated that most of the planet was barren, with the exception of one large structure, shaped like thorns or talons bursting through the surface of the world, and surrounded by a ring of smaller structures.

These smaller bits turned out to be flat slabs of rock, each carved with a sequential number. Guessing that they had discovered gravestones, the explorers dug up the earth nearby and, sure enough, discovered a skeleton laid out with respect, but little ceremony. While pondering all this, the explorers were surprised by a figure stumbling out of the storm, creaking and wrapped in rags. If one of these shambled out of the mist at you, would you gun it down without mercy?Taking charge of the guardsmen, Mordecai fired warning shots at the shambling thing, and ordered it to stay back. Perhaps it did not hear, did not understand, or did not care, as the shape stumbled on, and the team this time fired at it, and when it still came on, they shot it into tiny little bits, then turned a flamethrower onto the twitching remains for luck. When the no-longer-shambling thing had cooled down enough for the player-characters to investigate, they discovered that what they'd killed was an Imperial servitor bearing the markings of the Inquisition, and that it was thousands of years old. Pondering its value (negligible after their onslaught) and significance (plenty), they headed to the "claws" looming over the site, and discovered that between them was a large hole in the ground, and a path spiralling into the darkness.

"It's a dungeon!" said one of the players, I think Manoj, and how right he was. The explorers discovered a labyrinthine complex below the surface of the planet, some sort of crypt filled with the bones of sentient species, all shelved and arranged with meticulous precision. They also discovered some sort of dark chapel complete with skulls hanging from iron chains and odd murals depicting the torture and murder of various beings; the way the murals shifted in the torchlight had a profound effect on some of the group, and they felt their sanity being chipped away.

The first casualties of the expedition occurred as the explorers discovered a room containing some sort of pit. Triptych used his Warp sense to detect a strange taint surrounding the pit, and concluded that it was some sort of tunnel through the Warp itself, although this discovery was too late for the two guardsmen who'd already blundered into it, drawn by an eerie psychic presence. Still desperate for whizz-bang teleport technology, the group pondered the possibility of harnessing/stealing the warp-pit's powers, but not even the combined knowledge of Maximillius and Triptych could begin to figure out how to transport a literal hole in reality to their ship, so they moved on.

After picking their way through more bone collections, they discovered a locked chamber containing a single skeleton pinned to the ground by a large iron spear. The spear was alien in design, and the worldly and knowledgeable Octavius Sol guessed that it was of Eldar origin; the spear was hot to the touch, even through the thick padded gauntlets of their void suits, and seemed to cause a buzzing, whining sensation in the minds of those who held it. There was a bit of disagreement here among the group as some wanted to take the spear and others wanted to leave it where it was, mainly because they were worried that it was pinning the skeleton down for a reason. In the end, the cautious members of the crew won out, and the group moved on once more.

As they started to reach the end of their reserves of oxygen and battery power, the explorers found a large chamber filled with a bone-like honeycomb substance, which Sol identified as wraithbone, a psychic building material, and proof positive that the whole place was some kind of Eldar temple. Triptych's Warp sight was employed once more, to discover that the Warp taint felt throughout the entire complex originated from the wraithbone in the room, and all present noticed that Zarak, the creepy official they'd brought with them from Jameson's Hollow, and whom they all were convinced was an Inquisitor in disguise, was taken aback by what he was seeing, his impassive attitude dropped for the first time since they'd met him.

Convinced that there was more to be discovered, but wary of their depleted supplies, the team decided to head back to The Banshee to plan their next move, and that's where we left it.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Ministry of Blades

The Movie Pitch

Steed and Mrs Peel meet Dracula.

The Elevator Speech

Agents of a secret government agency use magic, gadgets and fisticuffs to battle the forces of darkness in the fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London.


Pulp horror, with strong helpings of fisticuffs, weird science and stiff upper lips.


Savage Worlds.

Player Character Roles

Junior agents of the Ministry of Blades, officially known as the Esoteric Research Office. Agents are drawn from all walks of British society, but all have been exposed to the horrors of the night and have not only survived, but have shown courage in fighting back.


Distorted products of twisted science.
Sinister criminal-types.
Fiendish foreign agents.


Assorted evil-infested locations across London and the British Isles, including:
Dimly-lit streets.
Museums, cathedrals and other historic buildings.
Occasional forays into the wider Empire and world.

Appendix N

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (comics rather than the movie).
Sherlock Holmes.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The works of Edgar Allan Poe.
The Avengers (television).
Adam Adamant.
Doctor Who.
Castle Falkenstein.
The Brothers Grimm.

The initial idea for this came from an organisation briefly described in the Victorian Age Vampire Storyteller's Handbook, but rapidly evolved into a Victorian-era cross between the Avengers, James Bond and Dracula. I prefer it that way (they probably ship the emotionally-damaged off to a small village in North Wales)... The game style itself is very cinematic, I'm trying to encourage over-the-top action (players will not be penalised if they fail to achieve something spectacular) and ridiculous coincidences (the players can use Bennies to adjust the plot - although not at this stage of the campaign). Rules additions are coming from Rippers, the Savage Worlds Victorian horror campaign, and Thrilling Tales, Adamant Entertainment's pulp supplement. I'm not sure whether this counts as "Gaslight Fantasy" or "Steampunk" but I'm happy with either appellation; I'm terming it "SteamPulp" as that seems to reflect the more action-oriented approach I'm taking.

The format of this summary was inspired by posts on I waste the Buddha with my Crossbow.

The Story So Far

The details of the team's first mission and their encounter with the Temple Vampire can be found on the links below:

Welcome to the Ministry
A brief introduction to the Ministry of Blades, as delivered by Major Keithley.

The Temple Vampire, episode 1
Lady Antonia has a bite; Dr Crabb meets a new patient.

The Temple Vampire , episode 2
Professor Wyntermere and Dr Crabb go for a coffee; Marsh meets a lady of the night.

The Temple Vampire, episode 3
Professor Wyntermere catches some ruffians; Lady Antonia blows them away.

The Temple Vampire, episode 4
Dr Crabb conducts an interview; Marsh plays the mime.

The Temple Vampire, episode 5
Marsh tracks a vampire; Curruthers sets it alight.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Rogue Trader Session 08: Gothic Shopping


Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Mordecai the Cautious, newly-promoted weapons monkey. (David)
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. (relegated to NPC status, as Ric R was unavailable)

In the previous session, the navigator had some trouble getting the starship Banshee through the Warp, and a journey which should have only taken a few days instead took almost a year in real time. So when the characters returned to the Imperial base of Jameson's Hollow, they found that much had changed in their absence, and they became the subject of a fair bit of staring and muttering. Their bruised and battered Rogue Trader, Horatio Locke, took them aside and gave them ominous instructions that sounded somewhat like a set of final requests. He wanted them to come up with plans to deal with the rival Trader Appollonius Gil, the chief suspect in the numerous assassination attempts they'd survived, and he also requested that they keep a closer eye on his son Telemachus, as he was now the key to the survival of the Locke dynasty.

At Jameson's Hollow, the crew tied up some final bits of business, then went shopping; In the grim darkness of the 41st Millenium, there is mainly shopping...the side-effect of making Profit a primary game statistic is that whole chunks of play become about buying and selling stuff. This is fine, as it's quite easy on the GM, but we had a new player this session, and I was worried that it would be a bit baffling for him, a fear which turned out to be unfounded. It certainly doesn't help that the acquisition rules are spread across three different pages in three different parts of the book; again, Fantasy Flight Games need to tighten up their editing and proofreading. The player-characters again attempted to secure a teleportarium, but the rare technology remained beyond their grasp, so they bought a host of baubles and trinkets instead. They also picked up the astropaths they'd requested, three junior psykers who were rather wet behind the ears. A flurry of paranoia broke out as the crew pondered whether they had in fact ordered two telepaths rather than three, and whether the third might be yet another assassin attempting to worm their way onto the ship, but the purchase orders couldn't be found, and they decided to let it go, which is of course exactly the kind of opening a GM relishes. In the time they had been lost in the Warp, the three astropaths had been looked after by the station's priest, a jocular fellow named Menelaeus, and in return, he asked the player-characters to look into the disappearance of the Rogue Trader Caxton van Meenan; while no friend of the Trader, Menelaeus informed them that van Meenan was a fellow man of the church, and so he felt it was his duty to discover his fate.

They met up with the Jameson's Hollow astropath, in a bid to discover whether he could be persuaded to put aside at least some of his loyalties to the Empire and let them in on some of the private communications passing through the station (in Warhammer 40,000, interstellar communication is conducted via psychic contact, as it's the only reliable faster-than-light medium); the discussions ended on an ambiguous note, although the player-characters felt that he could be eventually persuaded, and did get him to agree to training one of their new astropaths.

The player-characters then went to visit the station commander, Kruger, to catch up on the latest news. Kruger's joy at seeing them alive seemed genuine, and he updated them on the current political landscape in the Kasterbourous sector, while also acknowledging their latest claims. They discovered that Caxton van Meenan had headed off into the unexplored northern half of the sector, and that the station received a psychic message from the Trader a few weeks before, a distress signal claiming that his ship was being destroyed by an unknown force. Van Meenan's last reported position was a system with an orange star, and the player characters identified a few potential candidates based on the starmaps they'd stolen from Jameson's Hollow. There followed a brief discussion in which the crew pondered searching for van Meenan, but decided that there was nothing in it for them, and chose instead to head for the Zeesol system; this had been marked on their charts as being sealed by the Inquisition, and they suspected that whatever was discovered there was the cause of the whole sector being abandoned thousands of years beforehand. Players being players, they headed there almost immediately.