Forsaken Bounty

“The Maw. That is what they call the gateway to the Koronus Expanse; an apt name given its history. As long as I have sat the captain’s throne, I have seen countless ships, and souls, vanish down its gullet. Of course they still come, for the Maw leads to a belly full of riches.”

–Lord-Captain Ezekiel Pengalia

This is a short introductory adventure intended to give players a chance to experience the ROGUE TRADER game. The adventure follows the PCs’ efforts to find and salvage the Emperor’s Bounty, a vessel lost in the Maw, and encapsulates the core themes of the game – profit and exploration. It will also provide both players and GMs alike with a starting point for further adventures in the dark and perilous Warhammer 40,000 universe.

GETTING STARTED

All of the information required to run this adventure has been provided in this booklet, including basic rules for the players. Some background information on the setting has also been presented; however, FORSAKEN BOUNTY has been designed as a self-contained scenario and does not require any detailed understanding of the setting. The adventure begins with the Rogue Trader and his crew having ventured into the Maw in search of a lost vessel and the fortune and glory it promises. The Rogue Trader is aboard his ship, the PC ship. Of course, of most importance to the Rogue Trader and his crew are its deep holds and the wealth they can store.

A SALVAGEABLE SITUATION

The focus of this scenario is the salvage of a vessel known as the Emperor’s Bounty. In ROGUE TRADER, this kind of mission is known as an Endeavour. The GM should explain to the players that their purpose in finding and recovering the Bounty is to successfully complete this Endeavour, thus increasing their wealth and adding to the glory of their dynasty. As well as outlining the Endeavour, the GM should also give the players a bit of background on how they came into the information leading to the wreck and the other requirements they had to fulfi l before beginning their mission. In a normal Endeavour, the PCs would be required to secure these requirements themselves during play; however, for the purposes of this adventure they are considered to have already been secured. The requirements for this Endeavour and how the PCs have acquired them are:

The Location of the Vessel: Recently an Imperial Naval scout detected the Salvation Beacon of the Emperor’s Bounty in the Battleground, a blighted section of space in the Maw. This information found its way into the lower echelons of the Battlefleet Calixis command staff, where it was disregarded until an enterprising young officer sold it, along with the vox frequency to detect the beacon, to the Rogue Trader and his crew.

A Writ of Claim: On behalf of the Rogue Trader, Tsanthos made the appropriate supplications and entreaties to the Administratum, receiving (eventually) a Writ of Claim pertaining to the recovery and salvage of the Emperor’s Bounty. Under the conditions of this claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set boots on board the derelict vessel.

Salvage Equipment and Crew: Using a measure of his capital, the Rogue Trader has taken on a crew of junkers, or salvage men, from Port Wander.

For the purposes of this adventure, the final amount of Profit the PCs garner from their actions makes a good benchmark for their overall success or failure. The GM should impress upon the players that, whatever else they achieve, their ultimate goal is the recovery of the Emperor’s Bounty and the Profi t its salvage will bring. Read or paraphrase the following:

Recently, an Imperial scout vessel detected the Salvation Beacon of the Emperor’s Bounty in the Battleground, a blighted section of space in the Maw. The Maw is a dangerous warp passage that links the Calixis Sector to the mostly-uncharted Koronus Expanse, an area of space that lies beyond Imperial rule.

Nathin Tsanthos, a scholar of the Expanse, knows that the Emperor’s Bounty is a Lathe-class Light Cruiser, a rich prize indeed if it can be salvaged. On behalf of the Rogue Trader, Tsanthos made the appropriate supplications and entreaties to the Administratum, eventually receiving a Writ of Claim pertaining to the recovery and salvage of the Emperor’s Bounty. under the conditions of the claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set boots upon the derelict vessel. To that end, you have set forth upon the Sovereign Venture, a massive and powerful cruiser owned by the the Rogue Trader dynasty for centuries.

HOW ENDEAVOURS WORK

In ROGUE TRADER, a primary goal for the PCs is the acquisition of Profit. Profit is a measure of the PCs wealth, both materially and on paper. More than simply what the Lord-Captain keeps stowed in his private chambers, it represents a real scale for the PCs’ success, as well as allowing them to expand their dynasty and acquire and maintain vastly expensive things such as starships, mercenary armies, and space stations. Part of most things the PCs do will be tied to increasing or maintaining their Profit.

An Endeavour is a specific mission (in the case of this adventure, a salvage operation) that if successful will provide the PCs with a significant bonus to their Profit. Each Endeavour is different and has a set list of requirements (the things the PCs need before they can start it) as well as a level of reward (Profit) when it is completed.

THE BATTLEGROUND

The scenario begins with the PC’s ship having just entered the Battleground. Read or paraphrase the following:

It is several days since you embarked from Port Wander into the darkness and peril of the Maw. In that time, your vessel has been buffeted and battered by the violent warp tides of the passage, and you have had to translate into real space numerous times to maintain your heading. The Sovereign Venture’s Gellar Field—the energy halo that protects all Imperial ships from the baleful entities of the warp—has also been strained by the intense nature of the passage and the volatile nature of the Maw. Now, finally, your ship has arrived at the cursed place known as the Battleground, a forsaken stretch of void scattered with the debris of ancient warships. Somewhere here lies the Emperor’s Bounty and the salvage you have come to collect.

Having reached the Battleground, the Explorers will need to begin their search for the Bounty. This search should take several hours at best and perhaps even a few days (the Battleground is a truly vast place). This is a good point for the PCs to describe themselves to each other and to gain more understanding of their roles aboard the vessel. The GM can also use this brief introduction to impress upon the players the lonely desolate nature of the Battleground and its unnatural eeriness. When the GM is ready, he can have the PCs detect the weak vox signal from the Bounty’s Salvation Beacon, leading them to its resting place.

A GLORIOUS BOUNTY

Reaching the Bounty, however, is easier said than done, as it lies deep within the heart of a massive debris field some 300,000 kilometres in diameter. As the PCs’ vessel approaches the field, read or paraphrase the following:

Through the vista panels of your vessel, you begin to make out a massive glittering cloud scattered across the void. As you get closer, you can faintly discern the blasted shells of vessels, desiccated and corroded by centuries of unprotected exposure to hard vacuum and solar radiation. It looks like long ago a great engagement took place here that left behind the twisted remains of assault vessels, ordnance, and other detritus of war. Even as you watch, the cloud moves like a sluggish whirlpool of junk, fragments smashing into each other and breaking into showers of debris and dust. You can just make out the weak flicker of a plasma drive as it leaks a feeble glow out into space near the centre of the chaotic mass of broken vessels and blackened hulks.

Once in close proximity to the cloud of debris, the ship’s sensors register all manner of hazards, from fluctuating radioactive wrecks to hidden unexploded ordnance. In fact, the Bounty itself seems to have suffered serious damage when it drifted into the field several months ago, and both the PCs’ helmsman and Navigator will warn them that taking the vessel into the cloud would be a very bad idea indeed. A smaller craft, however, could make the journey unscathed. Sensor sweeps of the Bounty will also reveal that the ship’s Gellar Field is partially active, though weak and fluctuating—the reason for which the PCs will discover later…

NAVIGATING THE FIELD

At this point, the PCs will need to figure out the best way to free the trapped vessel from its junk-filled grave. It should be made clear to them that taking their own vessel in would not be advisable; even should they reach the Bounty alive, the damage they would sustain would negate any real profit from the endeavour. Piloting the Bounty out or at least getting to it and ferrying out its most valuable components are their best options for obtaining their prize. The most obvious way to reach the Bounty is by using a small agile craft such as a Guncutter (the PCs have such a craft on board for planetary landing and the like). Such a craft could avoid the worst of the debris and would be too small to trigger any hidden ordnance like mines or torpedoes.

However, any efforts to navigate the field in a small craft are not without danger and will require a Challenging (+0) Piloting Test. Failing this Test will result in some damage to the craft, as it strikes debris or sets off ancient ordnance, though the craft will still be able to reach the vessel, albeit a little worse for wear. Clever PCs might have the idea of blasting a path through the field with their ship’s guns, making it easier for a small vessel to pass. If the PCs had the presence of mind to do this before embarking, then all the Piloting Tests become Easy (+30).

THE GUNCUTTER

The term “Guncutter,” refers to a variety of armed and armoured spacecraft that can be used for in-system space travel, orbit-to-ground transport, hostile landings, or even dogfighting.

The Explorers’ particular guncutter is crewed by one or two pilots, one or two gunners, and an engineer. The craft has several weapon systems, crew quarters for six, and a cargo hold large enough to transport about 30 people or the equivalent in cargo). There are six void-suits on board.

SALVAGING THE CLOUD

The PCs might also have the idea of searching the rest of the cloud for useful salvage. While most of the debris has either long since been stripped of useful components or wrecked beyond recognition, time and effort could yield some profit. If the PCs think of undertaking this search, they can make a Challenging (+0) Tech-Use Test (as long as they are aboard their vessel with access to its sensors). If they are successful, then they have identified some potentially valuable debris in the cloud and can pass on the information to their salvage teams, adding to their Profit (see rewards).

BOARDING THE BOUNTY

As the PCs approach the Bounty, read or paraphrase the following:

Up close, the Emperor’s Bounty is in bad shape indeed; large rents score its hull, and its bastions and bulkheads are pitted and worn by months of unshielded exposure to the void. There are, however, a faint glow from the drives and a shadow of light spilling from the vista dome of the bridge, indicating that the vessel’s plasma reactors have not gone completely cold.

The PCs will be able to find a void-lock without too much difficulty, either near the bridge or along the hull, and make a hard seal against the hull. Faint amber runes indicate that there is still an atmosphere within the ship, and the PCs can proceed without full void suits, though they may benefit from void-breathers (see running out of air, later). When the seal is broken, a blast of stale dusty air streams into the lock, carrying with it the dry taste of old death. At this point, the PCs are free to search the vessel, and as they wander its dust-fi lled corridors, a few things should become apparent to them:

Warren of Shadows: While the plasma reactor must still be active, the whole ship is on minimal power. This means that the galley-lamps along the corridors cast only a dim light, leaving most chambers and walkways in shadow. Many portals, reactive plating, and internal auspex devices are not functioning, and all intervox systems are inactive. A Routine (+10) Tech-Use Test will reveal, however, that some conduit lines, namely those leading to the bridge, do seem to be drawing full power.

Corpses and Dust: Scattered throughout the vessel are the dusty, shrivelled bodies of crew members and servitors sprawled on the decks and slumped over controls. With weapons still holstered and no signs of violence, the corpses don’t readily reveal just what killed them. A Challenging (+0) Medicae Test will reveal that they probably died of asphyxiation.

Locks and Seals: As they explore, the PCs will also discover that much of the vessel is sealed off by imposing pressure doors, including most of the lower decks and reactor levels. These doors are encrusted with dust and glowing with scarlet runes, indicating toxic atmospheres or vacuum beyond. Cutting through the doors or restoring atmosphere to the chambers beyond will take time and it will be far easier to open them from the bridge.

Whatever the PCs decide to do, they will eventually need to get to the bridge to try to gain control of the vessel and restore power to its systems. The GM can either suggest this to the players, or if they have brought any NPCs with them, they will make the suggestion. Alternatively, their exploration may just lead them there in due course.

Extra Muscle

It is possible that the PCs might decide to bring along some extra crew members to help. Though the PC’s ship has a massive crew, they are not soldiers, and most of them are essential to the running of the vessel. Of the three extra places available in the guncutter, the PCs can either take some salvagemen or are few of their less important crewmen. Assume that crewmen or salvagemen have all Characteristics of 25 and always go last in the Initiative order. They will be all armed with stub automatics (30m; S/3/–; 1d10+3, Pen 0, Clip 8, Reload Full).

PCs might also decide to send others in their stead aboard the Guncutter. If this happens, the GM should let the player controlling the Rogue Trader know that under the clauses of the Writ of Claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set foot on the object of salvage for it to be valid in the eyes of the Administratum, not to mention that no true Rogue Trader would refuse the glory of claiming such a prize personally.

HALO DEVICES

Halo Devices are xeno artefacts discovered amidst the ruins of ancient alien worlds in the Halo Stars. Possessed of strange and potent properties, they can fetch high prices within the Imperium where collectors covet their ability to empower the human form and defeat even mortality itself. Needless to say, possession of such dangerous xeno archeotech is highly heretical.

THE PSYCHARUS WORM

Long before the coming of man, the Halo Stars and the Expanse were home to strange and terrible xeno empires. Occasionally, artefacts from these lost civilisations are found by traders, explorers and smugglers and filter back into the Imperium. The Psycharus Worm is one such device. Appearing like a tarnished brass maggot some six inches in length, the worm is cold and greasy to the touch and on first inspection appears to be nothing more than a macabre curio. However, when linked to the warp it possesses a terrible intelligence and the power to animate the dead and the never-living into vile warp puppets.

THE TALE OF THE EMPEROR’S BOUNTY

The Emperor’s Bounty fell afoul of a deadly Halo Device known as a Psycharus Worm, brought on board by its unsuspecting captain, Janrak Spargan, while travelling the Expanse. The device remained inactive in the care of Janrak for much of the return journey to the Calixis Sector until it was examined by his Navigator, Orden Hyort. A Navigator from House Benetek, Orden was a loyal member of Janrak’s crew and had served with him for many years. He was, however, singularly unprepared to deal with the Psycharus Worm and its ancient evil. No sooner had he touched the cursed artefact than it clawed its way onto his face and latched over his third eye, forcing it open. Drinking deep from the link to the warp, the Worm infused Orden with unnatural power and dark alien desires. Compelled by the Worm, the Navigator vented much of the ship atmosphere into space, killing hundreds of the crew. He then attempted to take control of the vessel using the Worm’s powers to animate the corpses of those killed to aid him. A bitter and bloody struggle ensured in which most of the remaining crew, including Janrak, were killed. Though the few survivors were not able to kill Orden or destroy the Worm, they did manage to scuttle the vessel, preventing him from taking control. Thwarted, Orden now waits for another chance to escape.

THE JAWS CLOSE

The bridge of the Bounty is a disquieting sight, littered with bodies and blanketed in dust. Unlike in the rest of the vessel, there are signs of conflict here. Bulkheads bear las burns and bolt shell impacts, corpses are twisted in violent death, and spent casings are scattered across the deck. Exploring the bridge, the PCs will quickly discover the epicentre of the combat. Read or paraphrase the following:

Stepping over the fallen corpses of the ships crew, you ascend to the command plinth and the foot of the Lord-Captain’s throne. At the base of the throne lies what must be the remains of the captain himself, broken and contorted, wires and tubes roughly severed or torn free from their housings. In his place atop the throne, a man in the robes of a Navigator sits, his head bowed, apparently dead. Curiously, the man’s hood is thrown back, revealing a strange metallic worm-like device attached to his forehead where his third eye would be. Suddenly the Navigator’s head snaps up, and he regards you with empty dead eyes.

Orden immediately sees the PCs, and their functioning starship, as an opportunity to escape his prison; of course they are only useful to him dead. The first thing that happens is all of the portals to the bridge seal, crashing down with pressurised hisses. Then a baleful crimson glow begins to build around the Worm as it gathers its power. All of this only takes a few seconds, during which time the PCs may decide to either attack Orden or talk to him. Such efforts, however, are futile, as he does not respond to questions and is protected by a powerful psy-shield that causes all but the most powerful bolts and blasts to arc off and melee attacks to glance aside. It should become immediately apparent that the device on the Navigator’s head is somehow protecting him from harm (see Fighting Orden below).

As soon as the bridge is sealed, twisting cords of warp energy writhe out from the device on the Navigator’s forehead to dance among the dead. A second later, the corpses begin to stir. At first, only a few lurch clumsily to their feet and stagger toward the PCs with murderous intent, but soon dozens are pushing themselves up from the dusty floor. A motley collection of crewmen and servitors (some hauling themselves up from the control pits, others tearing themselves free of their stations) converge on the characters in a shambling mass. The GM should start by having six human or servitor Warp Puppets attack. These start several metres from the PCs, giving the players some time to react. After 2 rounds, six more join the fight and then after 5 rounds, another 12. In addition to animating the Warp Puppets, as soon as he awakens, Orden begins to purge the bridge’s atmosphere, causing streams of dust to flow toward the vents. From that point, the Running out of Air rules apply. Note that during this fight Orden will not attack the PCs himself, preferring to first gauge their abilities. If physically harmed himself, he will flee.

FIGHTING ORDEN

With the power of the Worm protecting him, it will be almost impossible for the PCs to harm him directly. The GM should make it clear to any PCs that direct attacks against the Navigator that their blows or blasts are being stopped by some kind of shimmering crimson shield. Characters with Scholastic Lore pertaining to legends, the occult, or the Tactica Imperialis can make a Challenging (+0) Test to recognise this as a powerful psy shield. The shield does ficker, however, and does not seem to be completely substantial. This instability is a result of the intermittent power surges from the Gellar Field interfering with the power of the Worm. The Game Master should encourage the Player Characters to make Challenging (+0) Logic Tests to make the connection (most spacefarers, the void-born especially, can tell when the Gellar Field is raised or lowered from the way their skin crawls). The fluctuations do not, however, affect the shield’s strength, and it is practically impossible for the PCs to breach it (see Orden’s Profile). There are, however, other ways for them to hurt Orden. The GM should allow the PCs a Challenging (+0) Awareness Test to notice the cracked vista panels or exposed power conduits leading to the captain’s throne tipping them off to these options:

A Sizable Explosion: If the PCs can cause a sizable explosion, possibly using salvage charges or making a Difficult (–10) Tech-Use Test to overload the power cisterns within the captain’s throne, then Orden will be visibly hurt and retreat into the Navigator’s Oculus (using the Warp Puppets to cover his escape), barring the way behind him.

Breaching the Hull: Using explosives or any weapons with a Pen of 4 or more, the PCs can blow out the bridge’s vista panels and plunge the chamber into hard vacuum. This will force Orden to retreat (as above) lest he be dragged into the void. Any PC not wearing a void suit will immediately suffer 2d10 Damage, not reduced for armour, and begin to suffocate (see Running out of Air).

ESCAPING THE BRIDGE

Regardless of whether or not the PCs can drive off Orden, they will need to escape the bridge before it empties of air or they are overwhelmed by Warp Puppets as they rise again and again. There are a couple of ways for the PCs to get off the bridge:

Breaching the Portals: If they brought extra men or equipment with them, they might have the firepower or tools to cut through one of the portals. This is not an easy task and will take three men working in concert for 3 rounds, during which they must be protected. Alternatively, a PC can make a Hard (–20) Tech-Use Test to manually open a portal from one of the main control panels. This process requires the PC to work undisturbed for 3 rounds.

Down the Vents: As a Full Action, a PC can blast open one of the air vents and leap down into the dark. Finding a vent that leads somewhere other than a rapidly spinning fan requires a Challenging (+0) Search Test. If multiple characters attempt this Test, only one needs to succeed. If the PCs fail or if they simply choose a vent at random, the PCs have run afoul of some grinding machinery, plummeting drop, or similar peril and must make a Challenging (+0) Agility Test or suffer 1d10+4 Damage. At the GM’s discretion, he can expand on this section, having the characters scrambling for their lives while Warp Puppets clamber down the vents behind them (possibly meeting messy ends in fans).

WARP PUPPETS

These disgusting parodies of life are animated bodies under theWorm’s control. Sluggish and clumsy, they offer no real danger singly, though in numbers they can be deadly.

ORDEN, THRALL OF THE PSYCHARUS WORM

Little of Orden now remains, his mind hollowed out by the Psycharus Worm. What he does remember comes only to him briefly as flashes of human memory amidst alien images and the desires of the Worm.

THE EMPEROR’S GHOSTS

Once the PCs have escaped the bridge, their two main goals will no doubt be to contact their vessel and get back to their guncutter. Unfortunately, they have been cut off from both. Vox signals are only answered with static, and the routes back to the void-seal they entered through have been sealed and purged of atmosphere. Attempts to reach their vessel are met with packs of Warp Puppets (at fi rst a few, but then more) as well as the perils of trying to pass through airless chambers. The GM should play up the fact that the PCs are trapped, allowing them to cut through doors or find alternative paths only to run into impassable obstacles. All the while they will be stumbling into groups of Warp Puppets and be forced to retreat or engage in brief fire fights, possibly using up precious ammunition. After a few attempts to reach their ship, they should come across Erart, one of the few survivors of the Bounty.

A bedraggled and filthy man in an ancient shipsuit approaches from the shadows, holding out his hands and asking the PCs not to shoot. If they comply, he approaches and tells them his name is Erart and he knows a safe place they can hide. If the PCs want to question him, he tells them it is not safe to talk where they are and offers to tell them all he knows when they are below decks. If he has to, he pleads with them to follow, but ultimately if they wish to stay, he will leave them alone. If they do follow him, he leads them into a series of code-locked service tunnels and down into the bowels of the ship, explaining that the Worm’s powers are weaker near the reactor. In this disgusting warren of corridors, they come across the other survivors, emaciated scavengers, ironically more horrific looking than the Warp Puppets.

Initially distrustful of the PCs, the survivors will need to be convinced the PCs are there to help. This convincing can be roleplayed out with the PCs presenting reasons to the survivors’ leader Erart. Depending on his choice of a method of persuasion a PC can make a Routine (+20) Charm, Deceive, or Intimidate Test, but as long as the PCs agree to try to destroy Orden and get them off the vessel and out of the Battleground, they eventually offer their help. Erart then tells them the Tale of the Emperor’s Bounty and what he knows about the Halo Device (which he calls the Worm). He tells them of the attempt to kill Orden and their ill-fated battle on the bridge. It was during that battle that they realised the true power of the device and its abilities. They also came to the conclusion that the device was somehow drawing its power from Orden and preventing them from killing him.

There is hope, however. Before he died, the captain surmised that the device must somehow draw power from the warp, as it only became active in the presence of Orden and his third eye. It also remained inert when the ship was in transit, shielded from the warp by its Gellar Field. Erart believes that if the Gellar Field could be brought to full strength it might sever the device’s power supply and allow them to kill Orden. Of course, this idea remains only a theory as one of the first things Orden did when he killed the crew was deactivate the Core Cogitator and purge its machine spirit, allowing the Worm free reign over the ship’s systems. Without the Cogitator and the machine spirit, the Gellar Field cannot be fully raised.

At this point, Erart tries to convince the PCs they should be the ones to travel to the Core and awaken the machine spirit. If the PCs ask him why they have never done this themselves, he tells them that he has never been able to get the Cogitator to respond to him (the truth is, however, that all of the survivors are too terrified to leave the safety of their tunnels and too weak to then try to kill Orden).

If the PCs choose not to try to awaken the machine spirit, then they will have to wait for rescue.

AWAKENING THE MACHINE SPIRIT

To reach the Core Cogitator, the PCs must pass though a substantial portion of the ship. While this journey should be harrowing—taking them past heavily damaged hull passages, debris-filled cargo holds, and leaking gravity pumps— the PCs should be able to make it without serious problems. Once they reach the Core, read or paraphrase the following:

You crawl out into a vast cylindrical chamber with energy feeds and fluid interchangers spiralling both up and down into the darkness. Suspended amid the chaos of tubes and wires is a collection of massive brass spheres surrounded by inactive servitors. You have reached the Core Cogitator.

To awaken the machine spirit, the PCs must first enact the correct rituals and supplications. This will not require any Tests, so long as they follow instructions given to them by Erart, though it will take the better part of an hour as they set off rune-cascades and fill fluid reserves bringing the ancient machine back to life. Alternatively (if the group did not accompany Erart or wish to do this themselves), a successful Ordinaty (+10) Tech-Use Test can awaken the machine spirit. Once active, the machine spirit’s interface, the leathery head and torso of a servitor, addresses them, asking them to identify themselves. The GM should play the machine spirit as a coldly logical personality, remembering that it is not truly alive. It is up to the PCs to satisfactorily answer the machine spirit’s following questions and then convince it to raise the Gellar Field:

Who are you?: Only if one of the PCs identifies himself as the captain will the machine spirit become responsive. If the PCs have forgotten the captain’s name (told to them by Erart during his story), allow them an Easy (+30) Intelligence Test to remember.
Why is there a time discrepancy in the Core Cogitator?: The PCs cannot merely explain that the machine spirit has been offline, as it does not understand this concept (having been designed to stand eternal vigil over its vessel). Instead they must come up with a story; if they blame warp transition or similar phenomena, the spirit will be appeased.
The machine spirit continues to ask these questions until they are answered. After satisfactorily answering the questions, the PCs are free to ask the Core Cogitator their own questions. Regarding the state of the vessel, they will be able to learn little more than they already know. If they ask it to raise the Gellar Field, it will tell them that this is not required as they are not in transition. If they explain about Orden and the Halo device, it will fail to understand. To convince the machine spirit to raise the field, the PCs can use the following arguments:

  • The captain wants to test the field
  • The ship is approaching a warp rift, and the Gellar Fieldis needed to strengthen the Void Shielding
  • The vessel is preparing for a transition and the Navigator wants the field raised early
  • A warp entity has invaded the ship and must be purged

Other logical arguments may also work at the GM’s discretion. Note, however, that it is not possible for the ship to enter the warp (it has suffered too much damage), a fact known to the machine spirit. If the PCs get stuck, the GM can allow one of them to make a Challenging (+0) Logic Test to work out one of these likely tactics.

CONFRONTING THE WORM

Once the machine spirit is awakened and the Gellar Field active, the PCs are now ready to return to the bridge and kill Orden. The Worm will try to impede their progress, either throwing Warp Puppets in their way or trying to vent sections of the ship. Clever PCs should be able to get to the bridge with stealth, taking advantage of information provided by the machine spirit. The GM should allow the PCs to come up with a plan to reach the bridge and avoid the bulk of the Warp Puppets and, as long as it sounds reasonable, should allow it to work. Once they reach the bridge, though, they are in for a fight. Orden now stands before the throne in a ring of 12 Warp Puppets, and as soon as he detects the PCs, he attacks, his fists haloed in energy. Fortunately for the PCs, his psy-shield is down, and he can be more easily harmed by their weapons. In addition, without its link to the warp, the Worm cannot regenerate him.

CONCLUSION

Once Orden is dead, the Psycharus Worm once again becomes inert, little more than a cold alien object, and any surviving Warp Puppets fall where they stand. The PCs might try to destroy the device, but it will resist damage from any kind of personal weapon. Even in the presence of psykers, it remains dead and inactive. What the PCs do with the device is up to them, but whatever they decide, it will surely spell trouble in the future. It is also up to the PCs to decide what to do with the survivors. Kindhearted PCs may ferry them back to the Calixis Sector or even offer them service, though it is also possible to sell them off or flush them out an airlock should the Rogue Trader so choose. The PCs can now continue with their salvage operation unhindered and are free to return to their vessel and leave the Battleground behind.

REWARDS

For their efforts aboard the Bounty each character should receive 500xp. They will also have completed the Endeavour to salvage the Emperor’s Bounty, adding a bonus of +5 to the PCs’ Profit as operations slowly strip the vessel down. This bonus is modified depending on the actions of the PCs during the adventure:

  • If they successfully scanned the debris field: +2
  • If their Gun-cutter was damaged: –1
  • If they managed to move the vessel outside the cloud, making the salvage easier: +5
  • If the Bounty suffered serious damage, from ship to ship weapons or the like: –3
  • If the PCs decided to enlist the help of the survivors in the salvage: +2
  • If their own vessel tried to enter the cloud: –8_“The Maw. That is what they call the gateway to the Koronus Expanse; an apt name given its history. As long as I have sat the captain’s throne, I have seen countless ships, and souls, vanish down its gullet. Of course they still come, for the Maw leads to a belly full of riches.”_

–Lord-Captain Ezekiel Pengalia

This is a short introductory adventure intended to give players a chance to experience the ROGUE TRADER game. The adventure follows the PCs’ efforts to find and salvage the Emperor’s Bounty, a vessel lost in the Maw, and encapsulates the core themes of the game – profit and exploration. It will also provide both players and GMs alike with a starting point for further adventures in the dark and perilous Warhammer 40,000 universe.

GETTING STARTED

All of the information required to run this adventure has been provided in this booklet, including basic rules for the players. Some background information on the setting has also been presented; however, FORSAKEN BOUNTY has been designed as a self-contained scenario and does not require any detailed understanding of the setting. The adventure begins with the Rogue Trader and his crew having ventured into the Maw in search of a lost vessel and the fortune and glory it promises. The Rogue Trader is aboard his ship, the PC ship. Of course, of most importance to the Rogue Trader and his crew are its deep holds and the wealth they can store.

A SALVAGEABLE SITUATION

The focus of this scenario is the salvage of a vessel known as the Emperor’s Bounty. In ROGUE TRADER, this kind of mission is known as an Endeavour. The GM should explain to the players that their purpose in finding and recovering the Bounty is to successfully complete this Endeavour, thus increasing their wealth and adding to the glory of their dynasty. As well as outlining the Endeavour, the GM should also give the players a bit of background on how they came into the information leading to the wreck and the other requirements they had to fulfi l before beginning their mission. In a normal Endeavour, the PCs would be required to secure these requirements themselves during play; however, for the purposes of this adventure they are considered to have already been secured. The requirements for this Endeavour and how the PCs have acquired them are:

The Location of the Vessel: Recently an Imperial Naval scout detected the Salvation Beacon of the Emperor’s Bounty in the Battleground, a blighted section of space in the Maw. This information found its way into the lower echelons of the Battlefleet Calixis command staff, where it was disregarded until an enterprising young officer sold it, along with the vox frequency to detect the beacon, to the Rogue Trader and his crew.

A Writ of Claim: On behalf of the Rogue Trader, Tsanthos made the appropriate supplications and entreaties to the Administratum, receiving (eventually) a Writ of Claim pertaining to the recovery and salvage of the Emperor’s Bounty. Under the conditions of this claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set boots on board the derelict vessel.

Salvage Equipment and Crew: Using a measure of his capital, the Rogue Trader has taken on a crew of junkers, or salvage men, from Port Wander.

For the purposes of this adventure, the final amount of Profit the PCs garner from their actions makes a good benchmark for their overall success or failure. The GM should impress upon the players that, whatever else they achieve, their ultimate goal is the recovery of the Emperor’s Bounty and the Profi t its salvage will bring. Read or paraphrase the following:

Recently, an Imperial scout vessel detected the Salvation Beacon of the Emperor’s Bounty in the Battleground, a blighted section of space in the Maw. The Maw is a dangerous warp passage that links the Calixis Sector to the mostly-uncharted Koronus Expanse, an area of space that lies beyond Imperial rule.

Nathin Tsanthos, a scholar of the Expanse, knows that the Emperor’s Bounty is a Lathe-class Light Cruiser, a rich prize indeed if it can be salvaged. On behalf of the Rogue Trader, Tsanthos made the appropriate supplications and entreaties to the Administratum, eventually receiving a Writ of Claim pertaining to the recovery and salvage of the Emperor’s Bounty. under the conditions of the claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set boots upon the derelict vessel. To that end, you have set forth upon the Sovereign Venture, a massive and powerful cruiser owned by the the Rogue Trader dynasty for centuries.

HOW ENDEAVOURS WORK

In ROGUE TRADER, a primary goal for the PCs is the acquisition of Profit. Profit is a measure of the PCs wealth, both materially and on paper. More than simply what the Lord-Captain keeps stowed in his private chambers, it represents a real scale for the PCs’ success, as well as allowing them to expand their dynasty and acquire and maintain vastly expensive things such as starships, mercenary armies, and space stations. Part of most things the PCs do will be tied to increasing or maintaining their Profit.

An Endeavour is a specific mission (in the case of this adventure, a salvage operation) that if successful will provide the PCs with a significant bonus to their Profit. Each Endeavour is different and has a set list of requirements (the things the PCs need before they can start it) as well as a level of reward (Profit) when it is completed.

THE BATTLEGROUND

The scenario begins with the PC’s ship having just entered the Battleground. Read or paraphrase the following:

It is several days since you embarked from Port Wander into the darkness and peril of the Maw. In that time, your vessel has been buffeted and battered by the violent warp tides of the passage, and you have had to translate into real space numerous times to maintain your heading. The Sovereign Venture’s Gellar Field—the energy halo that protects all Imperial ships from the baleful entities of the warp—has also been strained by the intense nature of the passage and the volatile nature of the Maw. Now, finally, your ship has arrived at the cursed place known as the Battleground, a forsaken stretch of void scattered with the debris of ancient warships. Somewhere here lies the Emperor’s Bounty and the salvage you have come to collect.

Having reached the Battleground, the Explorers will need to begin their search for the Bounty. This search should take several hours at best and perhaps even a few days (the Battleground is a truly vast place). This is a good point for the PCs to describe themselves to each other and to gain more understanding of their roles aboard the vessel. The GM can also use this brief introduction to impress upon the players the lonely desolate nature of the Battleground and its unnatural eeriness. When the GM is ready, he can have the PCs detect the weak vox signal from the Bounty’s Salvation Beacon, leading them to its resting place.

A GLORIOUS BOUNTY

Reaching the Bounty, however, is easier said than done, as it lies deep within the heart of a massive debris field some 300,000 kilometres in diameter. As the PCs’ vessel approaches the field, read or paraphrase the following:

Through the vista panels of your vessel, you begin to make out a massive glittering cloud scattered across the void. As you get closer, you can faintly discern the blasted shells of vessels, desiccated and corroded by centuries of unprotected exposure to hard vacuum and solar radiation. It looks like long ago a great engagement took place here that left behind the twisted remains of assault vessels, ordnance, and other detritus of war. Even as you watch, the cloud moves like a sluggish whirlpool of junk, fragments smashing into each other and breaking into showers of debris and dust. You can just make out the weak flicker of a plasma drive as it leaks a feeble glow out into space near the centre of the chaotic mass of broken vessels and blackened hulks.

Once in close proximity to the cloud of debris, the ship’s sensors register all manner of hazards, from fluctuating radioactive wrecks to hidden unexploded ordnance. In fact, the Bounty itself seems to have suffered serious damage when it drifted into the field several months ago, and both the PCs’ helmsman and Navigator will warn them that taking the vessel into the cloud would be a very bad idea indeed. A smaller craft, however, could make the journey unscathed. Sensor sweeps of the Bounty will also reveal that the ship’s Gellar Field is partially active, though weak and fluctuating—the reason for which the PCs will discover later…

NAVIGATING THE FIELD

At this point, the PCs will need to figure out the best way to free the trapped vessel from its junk-filled grave. It should be made clear to them that taking their own vessel in would not be advisable; even should they reach the Bounty alive, the damage they would sustain would negate any real profit from the endeavour. Piloting the Bounty out or at least getting to it and ferrying out its most valuable components are their best options for obtaining their prize. The most obvious way to reach the Bounty is by using a small agile craft such as a Guncutter (the PCs have such a craft on board for planetary landing and the like). Such a craft could avoid the worst of the debris and would be too small to trigger any hidden ordnance like mines or torpedoes.

However, any efforts to navigate the field in a small craft are not without danger and will require a Challenging (+0) Piloting Test. Failing this Test will result in some damage to the craft, as it strikes debris or sets off ancient ordnance, though the craft will still be able to reach the vessel, albeit a little worse for wear. Clever PCs might have the idea of blasting a path through the field with their ship’s guns, making it easier for a small vessel to pass. If the PCs had the presence of mind to do this before embarking, then all the Piloting Tests become Easy (+30).

THE GUNCUTTER

The term “Guncutter,” refers to a variety of armed and armoured spacecraft that can be used for in-system space travel, orbit-to-ground transport, hostile landings, or even dogfighting.

The Explorers’ particular guncutter is crewed by one or two pilots, one or two gunners, and an engineer. The craft has several weapon systems, crew quarters for six, and a cargo hold large enough to transport about 30 people or the equivalent in cargo). There are six void-suits on board.

SALVAGING THE CLOUD

The PCs might also have the idea of searching the rest of the cloud for useful salvage. While most of the debris has either long since been stripped of useful components or wrecked beyond recognition, time and effort could yield some profit. If the PCs think of undertaking this search, they can make a Challenging (+0) Tech-Use Test (as long as they are aboard their vessel with access to its sensors). If they are successful, then they have identified some potentially valuable debris in the cloud and can pass on the information to their salvage teams, adding to their Profit (see rewards).

BOARDING THE BOUNTY

As the PCs approach the Bounty, read or paraphrase the following:

Up close, the Emperor’s Bounty is in bad shape indeed; large rents score its hull, and its bastions and bulkheads are pitted and worn by months of unshielded exposure to the void. There are, however, a faint glow from the drives and a shadow of light spilling from the vista dome of the bridge, indicating that the vessel’s plasma reactors have not gone completely cold.

The PCs will be able to find a void-lock without too much difficulty, either near the bridge or along the hull, and make a hard seal against the hull. Faint amber runes indicate that there is still an atmosphere within the ship, and the PCs can proceed without full void suits, though they may benefit from void-breathers (see running out of air, later). When the seal is broken, a blast of stale dusty air streams into the lock, carrying with it the dry taste of old death. At this point, the PCs are free to search the vessel, and as they wander its dust-fi lled corridors, a few things should become apparent to them:

Warren of Shadows: While the plasma reactor must still be active, the whole ship is on minimal power. This means that the galley-lamps along the corridors cast only a dim light, leaving most chambers and walkways in shadow. Many portals, reactive plating, and internal auspex devices are not functioning, and all intervox systems are inactive. A Routine (+10) Tech-Use Test will reveal, however, that some conduit lines, namely those leading to the bridge, do seem to be drawing full power.

Corpses and Dust: Scattered throughout the vessel are the dusty, shrivelled bodies of crew members and servitors sprawled on the decks and slumped over controls. With weapons still holstered and no signs of violence, the corpses don’t readily reveal just what killed them. A Challenging (+0) Medicae Test will reveal that they probably died of asphyxiation.

Locks and Seals: As they explore, the PCs will also discover that much of the vessel is sealed off by imposing pressure doors, including most of the lower decks and reactor levels. These doors are encrusted with dust and glowing with scarlet runes, indicating toxic atmospheres or vacuum beyond. Cutting through the doors or restoring atmosphere to the chambers beyond will take time and it will be far easier to open them from the bridge.

Whatever the PCs decide to do, they will eventually need to get to the bridge to try to gain control of the vessel and restore power to its systems. The GM can either suggest this to the players, or if they have brought any NPCs with them, they will make the suggestion. Alternatively, their exploration may just lead them there in due course.

Extra Muscle

It is possible that the PCs might decide to bring along some extra crew members to help. Though the PC’s ship has a massive crew, they are not soldiers, and most of them are essential to the running of the vessel. Of the three extra places available in the guncutter, the PCs can either take some salvagemen or are few of their less important crewmen. Assume that crewmen or salvagemen have all Characteristics of 25 and always go last in the Initiative order. They will be all armed with stub automatics (30m; S/3/–; 1d10+3, Pen 0, Clip 8, Reload Full).

PCs might also decide to send others in their stead aboard the Guncutter. If this happens, the GM should let the player controlling the Rogue Trader know that under the clauses of the Writ of Claim, the Rogue Trader himself must be the first to set foot on the object of salvage for it to be valid in the eyes of the Administratum, not to mention that no true Rogue Trader would refuse the glory of claiming such a prize personally.

HALO DEVICES

Halo Devices are xeno artefacts discovered amidst the ruins of ancient alien worlds in the Halo Stars. Possessed of strange and potent properties, they can fetch high prices within the Imperium where collectors covet their ability to empower the human form and defeat even mortality itself. Needless to say, possession of such dangerous xeno archeotech is highly heretical.

THE PSYCHARUS WORM

Long before the coming of man, the Halo Stars and the Expanse were home to strange and terrible xeno empires. Occasionally, artefacts from these lost civilisations are found by traders, explorers and smugglers and filter back into the Imperium. The Psycharus Worm is one such device. Appearing like a tarnished brass maggot some six inches in length, the worm is cold and greasy to the touch and on first inspection appears to be nothing more than a macabre curio. However, when linked to the warp it possesses a terrible intelligence and the power to animate the dead and the never-living into vile warp puppets.

THE TALE OF THE EMPEROR’S BOUNTY

The Emperor’s Bounty fell afoul of a deadly Halo Device known as a Psycharus Worm, brought on board by its unsuspecting captain, Janrak Spargan, while travelling the Expanse. The device remained inactive in the care of Janrak for much of the return journey to the Calixis Sector until it was examined by his Navigator, Orden Hyort. A Navigator from House Benetek, Orden was a loyal member of Janrak’s crew and had served with him for many years. He was, however, singularly unprepared to deal with the Psycharus Worm and its ancient evil. No sooner had he touched the cursed artefact than it clawed its way onto his face and latched over his third eye, forcing it open. Drinking deep from the link to the warp, the Worm infused Orden with unnatural power and dark alien desires. Compelled by the Worm, the Navigator vented much of the ship atmosphere into space, killing hundreds of the crew. He then attempted to take control of the vessel using the Worm’s powers to animate the corpses of those killed to aid him. A bitter and bloody struggle ensured in which most of the remaining crew, including Janrak, were killed. Though the few survivors were not able to kill Orden or destroy the Worm, they did manage to scuttle the vessel, preventing him from taking control. Thwarted, Orden now waits for another chance to escape.

THE JAWS CLOSE

The bridge of the Bounty is a disquieting sight, littered with bodies and blanketed in dust. Unlike in the rest of the vessel, there are signs of conflict here. Bulkheads bear las burns and bolt shell impacts, corpses are twisted in violent death, and spent casings are scattered across the deck. Exploring the bridge, the PCs will quickly discover the epicentre of the combat. Read or paraphrase the following:

Stepping over the fallen corpses of the ships crew, you ascend to the command plinth and the foot of the Lord-Captain’s throne. At the base of the throne lies what must be the remains of the captain himself, broken and contorted, wires and tubes roughly severed or torn free from their housings. In his place atop the throne, a man in the robes of a Navigator sits, his head bowed, apparently dead. Curiously, the man’s hood is thrown back, revealing a strange metallic worm-like device attached to his forehead where his third eye would be. Suddenly the Navigator’s head snaps up, and he regards you with empty dead eyes.

Orden immediately sees the PCs, and their functioning starship, as an opportunity to escape his prison; of course they are only useful to him dead. The first thing that happens is all of the portals to the bridge seal, crashing down with pressurised hisses. Then a baleful crimson glow begins to build around the Worm as it gathers its power. All of this only takes a few seconds, during which time the PCs may decide to either attack Orden or talk to him. Such efforts, however, are futile, as he does not respond to questions and is protected by a powerful psy-shield that causes all but the most powerful bolts and blasts to arc off and melee attacks to glance aside. It should become immediately apparent that the device on the Navigator’s head is somehow protecting him from harm (see Fighting Orden below).

As soon as the bridge is sealed, twisting cords of warp energy writhe out from the device on the Navigator’s forehead to dance among the dead. A second later, the corpses begin to stir. At first, only a few lurch clumsily to their feet and stagger toward the PCs with murderous intent, but soon dozens are pushing themselves up from the dusty floor. A motley collection of crewmen and servitors (some hauling themselves up from the control pits, others tearing themselves free of their stations) converge on the characters in a shambling mass. The GM should start by having six human or servitor Warp Puppets attack. These start several metres from the PCs, giving the players some time to react. After 2 rounds, six more join the fight and then after 5 rounds, another 12. In addition to animating the Warp Puppets, as soon as he awakens, Orden begins to purge the bridge’s atmosphere, causing streams of dust to flow toward the vents. From that point, the Running out of Air rules apply. Note that during this fight Orden will not attack the PCs himself, preferring to first gauge their abilities. If physically harmed himself, he will flee.

FIGHTING ORDEN

With the power of the Worm protecting him, it will be almost impossible for the PCs to harm him directly. The GM should make it clear to any PCs that direct attacks against the Navigator that their blows or blasts are being stopped by some kind of shimmering crimson shield. Characters with Scholastic Lore pertaining to legends, the occult, or the Tactica Imperialis can make a Challenging (+0) Test to recognise this as a powerful psy shield. The shield does ficker, however, and does not seem to be completely substantial. This instability is a result of the intermittent power surges from the Gellar Field interfering with the power of the Worm. The Game Master should encourage the Player Characters to make Challenging (+0) Logic Tests to make the connection (most spacefarers, the void-born especially, can tell when the Gellar Field is raised or lowered from the way their skin crawls). The fluctuations do not, however, affect the shield’s strength, and it is practically impossible for the PCs to breach it (see Orden’s Profile). There are, however, other ways for them to hurt Orden. The GM should allow the PCs a Challenging (+0) Awareness Test to notice the cracked vista panels or exposed power conduits leading to the captain’s throne tipping them off to these options:

A Sizable Explosion: If the PCs can cause a sizable explosion, possibly using salvage charges or making a Difficult (–10) Tech-Use Test to overload the power cisterns within the captain’s throne, then Orden will be visibly hurt and retreat into the Navigator’s Oculus (using the Warp Puppets to cover his escape), barring the way behind him.

Breaching the Hull: Using explosives or any weapons with a Pen of 4 or more, the PCs can blow out the bridge’s vista panels and plunge the chamber into hard vacuum. This will force Orden to retreat (as above) lest he be dragged into the void. Any PC not wearing a void suit will immediately suffer 2d10 Damage, not reduced for armour, and begin to suffocate (see Running out of Air).

ESCAPING THE BRIDGE

Regardless of whether or not the PCs can drive off Orden, they will need to escape the bridge before it empties of air or they are overwhelmed by Warp Puppets as they rise again and again. There are a couple of ways for the PCs to get off the bridge:

Breaching the Portals: If they brought extra men or equipment with them, they might have the firepower or tools to cut through one of the portals. This is not an easy task and will take three men working in concert for 3 rounds, during which they must be protected. Alternatively, a PC can make a Hard (–20) Tech-Use Test to manually open a portal from one of the main control panels. This process requires the PC to work undisturbed for 3 rounds.

Down the Vents: As a Full Action, a PC can blast open one of the air vents and leap down into the dark. Finding a vent that leads somewhere other than a rapidly spinning fan requires a Challenging (+0) Search Test. If multiple characters attempt this Test, only one needs to succeed. If the PCs fail or if they simply choose a vent at random, the PCs have run afoul of some grinding machinery, plummeting drop, or similar peril and must make a Challenging (+0) Agility Test or suffer 1d10+4 Damage. At the GM’s discretion, he can expand on this section, having the characters scrambling for their lives while Warp Puppets clamber down the vents behind them (possibly meeting messy ends in fans).

WARP PUPPETS

These disgusting parodies of life are animated bodies under theWorm’s control. Sluggish and clumsy, they offer no real danger singly, though in numbers they can be deadly.

ORDEN, THRALL OF THE PSYCHARUS WORM

Little of Orden now remains, his mind hollowed out by the Psycharus Worm. What he does remember comes only to him briefly as flashes of human memory amidst alien images and the desires of the Worm.

THE EMPEROR’S GHOSTS

Once the PCs have escaped the bridge, their two main goals will no doubt be to contact their vessel and get back to their guncutter. Unfortunately, they have been cut off from both. Vox signals are only answered with static, and the routes back to the void-seal they entered through have been sealed and purged of atmosphere. Attempts to reach their vessel are met with packs of Warp Puppets (at fi rst a few, but then more) as well as the perils of trying to pass through airless chambers. The GM should play up the fact that the PCs are trapped, allowing them to cut through doors or find alternative paths only to run into impassable obstacles. All the while they will be stumbling into groups of Warp Puppets and be forced to retreat or engage in brief fire fights, possibly using up precious ammunition. After a few attempts to reach their ship, they should come across Erart, one of the few survivors of the Bounty.

A bedraggled and filthy man in an ancient shipsuit approaches from the shadows, holding out his hands and asking the PCs not to shoot. If they comply, he approaches and tells them his name is Erart and he knows a safe place they can hide. If the PCs want to question him, he tells them it is not safe to talk where they are and offers to tell them all he knows when they are below decks. If he has to, he pleads with them to follow, but ultimately if they wish to stay, he will leave them alone. If they do follow him, he leads them into a series of code-locked service tunnels and down into the bowels of the ship, explaining that the Worm’s powers are weaker near the reactor. In this disgusting warren of corridors, they come across the other survivors, emaciated scavengers, ironically more horrific looking than the Warp Puppets.

Initially distrustful of the PCs, the survivors will need to be convinced the PCs are there to help. This convincing can be roleplayed out with the PCs presenting reasons to the survivors’ leader Erart. Depending on his choice of a method of persuasion a PC can make a Routine (+20) Charm, Deceive, or Intimidate Test, but as long as the PCs agree to try to destroy Orden and get them off the vessel and out of the Battleground, they eventually offer their help. Erart then tells them the Tale of the Emperor’s Bounty and what he knows about the Halo Device (which he calls the Worm). He tells them of the attempt to kill Orden and their ill-fated battle on the bridge. It was during that battle that they realised the true power of the device and its abilities. They also came to the conclusion that the device was somehow drawing its power from Orden and preventing them from killing him.

There is hope, however. Before he died, the captain surmised that the device must somehow draw power from the warp, as it only became active in the presence of Orden and his third eye. It also remained inert when the ship was in transit, shielded from the warp by its Gellar Field. Erart believes that if the Gellar Field could be brought to full strength it might sever the device’s power supply and allow them to kill Orden. Of course, this idea remains only a theory as one of the first things Orden did when he killed the crew was deactivate the Core Cogitator and purge its machine spirit, allowing the Worm free reign over the ship’s systems. Without the Cogitator and the machine spirit, the Gellar Field cannot be fully raised.

At this point, Erart tries to convince the PCs they should be the ones to travel to the Core and awaken the machine spirit. If the PCs ask him why they have never done this themselves, he tells them that he has never been able to get the Cogitator to respond to him (the truth is, however, that all of the survivors are too terrified to leave the safety of their tunnels and too weak to then try to kill Orden).

If the PCs choose not to try to awaken the machine spirit, then they will have to wait for rescue.

AWAKENING THE MACHINE SPIRIT

To reach the Core Cogitator, the PCs must pass though a substantial portion of the ship. While this journey should be harrowing—taking them past heavily damaged hull passages, debris-filled cargo holds, and leaking gravity pumps— the PCs should be able to make it without serious problems. Once they reach the Core, read or paraphrase the following:

You crawl out into a vast cylindrical chamber with energy feeds and fluid interchangers spiralling both up and down into the darkness. Suspended amid the chaos of tubes and wires is a collection of massive brass spheres surrounded by inactive servitors. You have reached the Core Cogitator.

To awaken the machine spirit, the PCs must first enact the correct rituals and supplications. This will not require any Tests, so long as they follow instructions given to them by Erart, though it will take the better part of an hour as they set off rune-cascades and fill fluid reserves bringing the ancient machine back to life. Alternatively (if the group did not accompany Erart or wish to do this themselves), a successful Ordinaty (+10) Tech-Use Test can awaken the machine spirit. Once active, the machine spirit’s interface, the leathery head and torso of a servitor, addresses them, asking them to identify themselves. The GM should play the machine spirit as a coldly logical personality, remembering that it is not truly alive. It is up to the PCs to satisfactorily answer the machine spirit’s following questions and then convince it to raise the Gellar Field:

Who are you?: Only if one of the PCs identifies himself as the captain will the machine spirit become responsive. If the PCs have forgotten the captain’s name (told to them by Erart during his story), allow them an Easy (+30) Intelligence Test to remember.
Why is there a time discrepancy in the Core Cogitator?: The PCs cannot merely explain that the machine spirit has been offline, as it does not understand this concept (having been designed to stand eternal vigil over its vessel). Instead they must come up with a story; if they blame warp transition or similar phenomena, the spirit will be appeased.
The machine spirit continues to ask these questions until they are answered. After satisfactorily answering the questions, the PCs are free to ask the Core Cogitator their own questions. Regarding the state of the vessel, they will be able to learn little more than they already know. If they ask it to raise the Gellar Field, it will tell them that this is not required as they are not in transition. If they explain about Orden and the Halo device, it will fail to understand. To convince the machine spirit to raise the field, the PCs can use the following arguments:

  • The captain wants to test the field
  • The ship is approaching a warp rift, and the Gellar Fieldis needed to strengthen the Void Shielding
  • The vessel is preparing for a transition and the Navigator wants the field raised early
  • A warp entity has invaded the ship and must be purged

Other logical arguments may also work at the GM’s discretion. Note, however, that it is not possible for the ship to enter the warp (it has suffered too much damage), a fact known to the machine spirit. If the PCs get stuck, the GM can allow one of them to make a Challenging (+0) Logic Test to work out one of these likely tactics.

CONFRONTING THE WORM

Once the machine spirit is awakened and the Gellar Field active, the PCs are now ready to return to the bridge and kill Orden. The Worm will try to impede their progress, either throwing Warp Puppets in their way or trying to vent sections of the ship. Clever PCs should be able to get to the bridge with stealth, taking advantage of information provided by the machine spirit. The GM should allow the PCs to come up with a plan to reach the bridge and avoid the bulk of the Warp Puppets and, as long as it sounds reasonable, should allow it to work. Once they reach the bridge, though, they are in for a fight. Orden now stands before the throne in a ring of 12 Warp Puppets, and as soon as he detects the PCs, he attacks, his fists haloed in energy. Fortunately for the PCs, his psy-shield is down, and he can be more easily harmed by their weapons. In addition, without its link to the warp, the Worm cannot regenerate him.

CONCLUSION

Once Orden is dead, the Psycharus Worm once again becomes inert, little more than a cold alien object, and any surviving Warp Puppets fall where they stand. The PCs might try to destroy the device, but it will resist damage from any kind of personal weapon. Even in the presence of psykers, it remains dead and inactive. What the PCs do with the device is up to them, but whatever they decide, it will surely spell trouble in the future. It is also up to the PCs to decide what to do with the survivors. Kindhearted PCs may ferry them back to the Calixis Sector or even offer them service, though it is also possible to sell them off or flush them out an airlock should the Rogue Trader so choose. The PCs can now continue with their salvage operation unhindered and are free to return to their vessel and leave the Battleground behind.

REWARDS

For their efforts aboard the Bounty each character should receive 500xp. They will also have completed the Endeavour to salvage the Emperor’s Bounty, adding a bonus of +5 to the PCs’ Profit as operations slowly strip the vessel down. This bonus is modified depending on the actions of the PCs during the adventure:

  • If they successfully scanned the debris field: +2
  • If their Gun-cutter was damaged: –1
  • If they managed to move the vessel outside the cloud, making the salvage easier: +5
  • If the Bounty suffered serious damage, from ship to ship weapons or the like: –3
  • If the PCs decided to enlist the help of the survivors in the salvage: +2
  • If their own vessel tried to enter the cloud: –8

Forsaken Bounty

Rogue Trader DMParagon