Lure of the Expanse
Arrival at Footfall
“Every Imperial port has its own special charm and appeal— Footfall’s seems to be its complete lack of either.”
–Hress Gort, Deckmaster on the Emperor’s Truth
The adventure begins with the Explorers arriving at Footfall. The GM can start the action at any point, from the Explorers’ vessel arriving in-system to the docking itself, drawing on the skills of various Explorers engaging in activities from convincing Footfall’s corrupt and trigger-happy gunnery crews not to fire upon their vessel to the tricky docking manoeuvre itself. However, the most cinematic introduction to Footfall (and the most engaging
way to kick off the adventure) is to describe the sight the Explorers are greeted with as they haul open the airlock and step onto the docking plates. If the GM wants to start things off like this, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
With an angry burst of venting gases, the armoured airlock portal swings outwards. As the swirling miasma clears, a thousand sights, sounds and smells assault your senses simultaneously. Stepping through, you find yourself in a huge, vaulted space, the walls made of roughly-hewn stone dripping with the corruption of ages. This is the Footfall longshore, and it is crowded with hundreds of void-farers, labourers, servitors, merchants, and scum—all swearing, grunting or calling out the values of their wares. If you expected a welcoming party, you’re disappointed— this is Footfall, where money and blood are the only currency. Are you ready to make your fortune?
Having described the sights, sounds and indeed smells that greet the Explorers, the GM can allow them to explore
Footfall at their leisure, using the gazetteer presented on pages 8-12. There are plenty of places for them to visit,
many of which can be used to set the scene and provide an introduction to this lawless, outlandish place. Provided
in the next few pages are a number of sample encounters that can be used to further events, and no doubt more will suggest themselves as the gaming session proceeds. There is no need to use all of these encounters if they are not all needed, but the last one is designed to provide a subtle foreshadowing of events yet to come to pass.
Eaters of the Dead (Optional Encounter)
Footfall is far removed from the rigid laws that govern the Imperium’s domains. One of the most jarring differences that will confront the Explorers is the fact that various alien races appear to be tolerated, even integrated, into what passes as society here. At some point in their visit to Footfall, just such a group will approach the Explorers.
A Challenging (+0) Forbidden Lore (Xenos) Test will reveal that the aliens are Kroot. Passing the test by one
degree of success will establish that the aliens are mercenaries from a far distant region of the galaxy, while two degrees of success will also dredge up rumours of their disturbing habit of eating the flesh of defeated enemies.
The profiles for Kroot Mercenaries are found on page 377 of the Rogue Trader Rulebook. There are four Kroot.
The Kroot, being mercenaries, are seeking employment, offering their services to those who would pay the highest
price. The best time and place for this encounter to occur is therefore soon after the Explorers’ arrival, and in the vicinity of the docks, as the Kroot take the opportunity to approach the newly arrived voidfarers. The Kroot will approach the Explorers, and one will attempt to address them.
How the GM chooses to game the encounter is up to them, and it could certainly prove entertaining to roleplay. The Kroot speak only rudimentary Low Gothic, their speech punctuated by all manner of bizarre hoots and whistles that betray their avian ancestry. The Explorers need to decipher what the aliens are saying, by way of a Ordinary (+10) Speak (Low Gothic) Test. Feel free to award positive modifiers to any players that attempt to mimic a Kroot accent!
Assuming both parties can make themselves understood, it will transpire that the Kroot are offering their services as bodyguards for the duration that the Explorers are on Footfall. They can also fulfil the role of guides, but only to a limited degree. There will follow a bartering session, in which the Kroot will request various items of equipment in return for their services, including weapons and ammunition. Either roleplay this exchange, resolve it by way of an Opposed Commerce Test, or combine the two, awarding bonuses for good roleplaying (and convincing Kroot accents!). The Explorers should not have any problem with the cost, as they will have most of the items stashed in the weapons lockers of their vessel. If the GM likes of course, this can be used as an excuse to get the party exploring, sending them off in search of the items the Kroot request.
At some point during, or perhaps soon after the negotiation, a group of six drunken Voidfarers (page 371 of Rogue Trader) will decide to pick a fight with the Explorers (or integrate this with the next encounter— Longshore Bullies—if preferred). If the Kroot have been hired on, they will attack the drunkards with ruthless savagery, slaying them in short order, with or without the Explorers’ aid. If the Kroot have not been hired, they soon get dragged into the fight as the entire area erupts in an anarchic brawl. When eventually the dust clears, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
As the last of the drunken voidfarers is put down, the Kroot leap forward. A great commotion goes up amongst the crowd that had gathered to watch the brief combat, with many stalking off while filling the air with disgusted curses, and others drawing in with morbid fascination. In a moment, you find out why. The Kroot are now squatted over those they have slain, and each is butchering his victim with a wickedly curved knife. Someone in the crowd vomits loudly, while others cheer as if watching some twisted bloodsport. As one, the Kroot let out a warbling cry, plunging their claws into the wounds they have cut. With the terrible sound of rending meat, the Kroot draw out the dripping organs of the defeated, and each takes a single bite of the still pulsing meat.
The Kroot are oblivious to the crowd’s reaction. If the Explorers hired, or go on to hire them, the aliens will simply take up positions behind them. If their services were not engaged, the Kroot simply nod to the Explorers, and wander off through the crowd, who mutter angrily but part before them nonetheless. In a disgusted tone, a member of the crowd spits out, “Welcome to the Expanse.”
Longshore Bullies (Optional Encounter)
Footfall’s docks are served by a staggering range of assorted scum, mind-slaved labourers, h-gauge servitors and those just plain down on their luck and out of options. As the Explorers make their way through the bustling longshore, they will be confronted with many such individuals. Most will recognise the Explorers’ obvious pedigree, for Rogue Traders and their companions generally comport themselves in such a manner that dock-scum give them a respectfully wide berth. There are always some, however, who will try their luck.
As the Explorers are negotiating a particularly crowded stretch of longshore, an area strewn with cargo containers and bustling with labourers, they are noticed by the leaders of the local ‘underground.’ These are recidivist scum, nominally overseers and supervisors of the other longshoremen, but in reality they boss the others around rather than do any work themselves. Instead, they keep an eye out for the main chance, skimming what they see as their fair share of cargoes passing through, imposing their own brand of taxation on other dock users, and generally extorting goods and funds wherever they can. The Explorers are clearly new in Footfall, and therefore ripe for the picking.
Have the party make a Difficult (–10) Awareness Test as they pass along the crowded longshore. A success means they become aware that they are being watched, while a failure means they will be taken by surprise when the scum make their move. There are three of the bullies in total; two have the profile given for Scum on page 371 of Rogue Trader. The leader is a mountain of a man and has the same profile, but with 12 Wounds.
As the Explorers draw near, the leader, who is leaning nonchalantly against a battered cargo crate, will make a seemingly casual, disparaging remark regarding the heritage and personal hygiene of one of the Explorers (the GM should consider using a highborn character, or an easily offended player!). The other two bullies snicker nastily, and the three wait to see what the Explorers’ reaction will be. If things go against the scum, the leader will be able to call upon a couple of nearby Servitor Drones—see page 375 of Rogue Trader. Like all bullies, however, if things start to go really wrong, the group are unlikely to stick around. If the leader is taken out, the other two will flee immediately.
Regardless of the outcome of this encounter, the GM might like to file it away for future use. Perhaps next time the Explorers pass through Footfall again, they find the longshoremen have an unreasonable dislike of them, or perhaps items of cargo go missing. Having the Explorers make a few enemies amongst Footfall’s lowborn criminal fraternity might prove useful in a future campaign, especially if the leader of the bullies later becomes a noted crime boss!
The Administratum Oeconomica Imperialis (Mandatory Encounter)
Footfall is an anarchic and lawless place, with very little in the way of an organised administration. Instead, it is effectually ruled by whichever faction is the strongest at that particular moment in time. Of course, the Explorers may not know this, allowing the unscrupulous to take advantage of them.
Soon after their arrival at Footfall, the Explorers are approached by a group of five individuals who appear to be local tithe officials. Each is wearing a high-collared, doublebreasted uniform, bedecked with epaulettes, gold piping and a vast array of rank insignia. Each has the profile of a Scum— see page 371 of Rogue Trader. An Explorer passing a Challenging (+0) Awareness Test or an Ordinary (+10) Common Lore (Imperial Navy) Test will notice that the uniforms are distinctly mismatched. Passing the test by one degree of success will reveal that the insignias each ‘officer’ wears are inconsistent. Passing the test by two or more degrees of success means that the Explorer has noticed that one of the men is wearing the epaulettes of a Grand Admiral of Battlefleet Calixis!
The bogus officials will request, politely, but firmly, that the Explorers accompany them to the offices of the “Administratum Oeconomica Imperialis.” In the unlikely event that the Explorers fall for this, the “Administratum” turns out to be a dark corner of a cargo staging area, conveniently away from any potential witnesses.
The bogus officials are used to getting their way by intimidation and trickery, so they won’t automatically resort to violence. If things don’t go their way, the fake officials will make all manner of threats, citing their contacts amongst the powers that run Footfall and threatening to make the Explorers’ lives very difficult indeed if they don’t pay their dues. Just what the fake officials demand is up to the GM, or it might be a case of seeing what the Explorers are willing to offer (if anything) and allow them to make a Challenging (+0) Fellowship Test to determine the officials’ response.
If the Explorers decide they aren’t having any of this, the officials will make one last, very serious threat, before making a break for it. Read aloud or paraphrase the following:
“You don’t want to mess with the likes of us, Rogue Trader. Just remember who controls the gunnery turrets. You’ll have to leave sometime, and when you do, we’ll be watching!”
With that, the bogus officials will flee. Make a note of the result of this encounter, as it will come back to haunt the Explorers when they eventually leave Footfall.
The Watcher (Mandatory Encounter)
This event should occur shortly after the Explorers’ arrival at Footfall and is actually less of an encounter and more
of a chance sighting. Have the Explorers make a Difficult (–10) Awareness Test. If they pass, they see a hooded figure watching them from across the bustling thoroughfare, before slipping away into the crowd. Passing the test by one or more degrees of success will reveal that the mysterious watcher may not be human. A successful Difficult (–10) Forbidden Lore (Xenos) Test will further reveal that the figure is an Eldar. Whatever happens, the Explorers will not be able to pick up the watcher’s trail, though the GM could of course lead them on a merry dance through the seedy underbelly of Footfall before they find that out.
“Lies, slander, and more damn lies. No one wants the truth, my friend, the truth is boring, and usually turns out to be a lie anyway…”
–Petre, Footfall Blathermonger
Having introduced the Explorers to Footfall, it will soon be time for them to go about the serious business of pursuing their fortune—that’s why they’re here after all! The Explorers are following up on the rumour of the Foretelling that has brought them to Footfall, an event they know has the potential to make them all very rich indeed. Hopefully, the players will know better than to simply blunder about asking unsubtle questions (if they don’t know better than to simply blunder about asking unsubtle questions, have a dozen or so Scum beset them, wanting to know why they’re sticking their noses in other peoples’ business). After all, they know that the Foretelling is a rare opportunity, and they won’t want to blab about it to potential rivals.
Objective: Learn the location and time of the Fortelling.
So, the Explorers need to find out about the Foretelling—where and when will it occur? What form will it take? They have scant information to go on, and will need some solid facts. The following presents a number of ways of providing this information, through the form of events and encounters. If the GM finds that the Explorers have all the information they need after only one or two such encounters, then feel free to proceed to the next phase— unless of course everyone’s enjoying the skulduggery!
A Formal Occasion (Mandatory Encounter)
Although Footfall is technically controlled by its “Liege,” one of the central tenets of the station is that it is
controlled by the most powerful Rogue Trader currently in residence. Of course, that control can be fairly tenuous,
and a Rogue Trader attempting to issue orders to most of Footfall’s established organisations will likely find himself
ignored or politely redirected—or, if weak enough, quietly eliminated. Even so, most Rogue Traders are afforded a certain amount of pomp and ceremony on arrival to the station, a tribute to their theoretical power.
Soon after the Explorers arrive, they will be approached by a servo-skull buzzing slowly through the main thoroughfares. The servo-skull has been keyed to recognise the Explorers’ images (though if they do anything to disguise themselves, it will not find them). When it spots them, it will approach, hover before them, and project a recording in front of them. Read or paraphrase the following:
The static-filled image resolves into a monstrous brute, a vaguely man-shaped creature consisting almost entirely of exquisitely crafted bionic augmentations. Even his face has been re-crafted into a stylised death’s head of chased silver, though the eyes remain disturbingly human. When he speaks, however, his voice is surprisingly soft.
“Greetings, honoured Rogue Traders. My name is Tanthus Moross, Liege of Footfall, and it gives me pleasure to welcome you here, amongst so many of your august companions. If you so desire, would you honour the nobility of Footfall with your presence at a small celebratory meal tonight?”
The occasion is hosted in the Liege’s Court (see page 9), and should take place several hours after the Explorers receive the invitation. When they arrive, armsmen with lasguns greet them and wave them through the large double doors to the Court. The Explorers’ identities are known throughout Footfall at this point.
The Explorers find themselves in a large atrium with massive, gothicarched viewports that provide a stunning (and properly shielded) view of Furibundus. They should be some of the last guests to arrive—the hall is full of the individuals that make up the elite of Footfall. Preacher Ywane, Vladaym Tocara, and the Provisor of the Tutors are amongst those who will be there, as will any number of criminals, merchant factors, pirates, fences, and other individuals. Any Explorer with a background in Imperial nobility will notice that most of those here attempt to mimic Imperial high fashion and finery, with varying degrees of success. In general, most are unable to disguise that they are dangerous and barbaric, though welldressed, individuals.
There are also likely to be several Rogue Traders present at the dinner, and these may include some of the
Explorer’s future rivals (see pages 24-29). It is up to the GM which individuals he wants to introduce at this point,
although none of them will reveal why they have come to Footfall, and will discretely deflect any queries about the Foretelling. Tanthus Moross is holding court at one end of the room, resting on a palanquin carried by
four servitors and surrounded by concubines. If approached by the Explorers, he will be polite and respectful, though he will deny any knowledge of a Foretelling. Moross may know more than he lets on, but he should come off as a figurehead ruler, with little authority and less sense. Eventually, he will announce the beginning of the meal, and those present will be summoned into an adjoining banquet hall.
The meal is where the Explorers are most likely to pick up useful information. The GM can play up the inherent
queasiness of this encounter as much or as little as seems appropriate, but the main reason for it is to introduce the Explorers to some of the more “highborn” (in the loosest sense of the word) inhabitants of Footfall. To demonstrate culture and refinement in a place that knows little of either, these individuals cultivate bizarre tastes; the stranger they are, the more “refined” an individual must be. The bizarre food is really just for show, and it’s doubtful whether anyone actually enjoys eating it. However, during their stay (however brief ) the Explorers will have the chance of overhearing various snippets of information, or coaxing information out of the other guests. Have them make a Very Hard (–30) Inquiry Test, and consult Table 1–1. The test can be repeated, and is modified based on how outlandish the dish the Explorers consume. This is because their actions impress the other guests, who themselves will try to show off their own status by bragging even louder. Table 1–2 indicates the information
the Explorers will learn based on the total number of successes the Explorers’ Inquiry Tests earn (added amongst all the tests).
The Entrees list is in the maps page
the Eavesdropping at dinner list is in the maps page
A Knife in the Dark (Optional Encounter)
This encounter takes place during the night, or what passes for it on Footfall. At roughly twelve-hour intervals, the already dingy lighting gutters and fails almost entirely, leaving the stone chambers almost entirely wreathed in shadow. If the Explorers found the place threatening before, they should find Footfall crawling with the very worst kinds of scum once the lights go down. This encounter is perhaps best played as the Explorers are making their way from the banquet, perhaps slightly the worse for wear after whatever choice delicacies they indulged in.
As the Explorers pass down an especially dark and lonely thoroughfare, a Challenging (+0) Awareness Test (modified appropriately if any strong liquor has been imbibed) will reveal that the locals appear to have suddenly cleared out. It’s almost as if they know something’s about to happen…
A group of two Mutant Outcasts and three narco-gangers (use the profile for a Hired Gun, see page 370-372 of the
Rogue Trader Rulebook) appear from a side passage, and make a very obvious show of blocking the Explorers’ path. A moment later, four more narco-gangers appear from behind, and the Explorers find themselves surrounded.
The gangers have been hired to kill the Explorers, and have been paid quite well to do so. Since they are here on a mission of murder, the GM should consider equipping the Mutants with stub automatics or shotguns in addition to their clubs. If however, things get really nasty and the narco-gangers start dying, they are unlikely to throw their
lives away for coin. If half or more are slain, the rest will need to pass a Willpower Test or flee. If the Explorers outnumber the Mutants by two to one, the Mutants automatically flee.
Having defeated the narco-gangers, the Explorers will find that one ganger is still conscious, but bleeding heavily from his wounds. As they approach, the ganger coughs up a lungful of blood and curses the name of the God-Emperor. If it occurs to the Explorers to question the ganger, have them make an Interrogation Test against the ganger, modified according to the inventiveness of any threats the Explorers can come up with. Consult the following table to find out what the Mutant gives up before expiring.
Interrogating the Ganger
|Degrees of success||Details Revealed|
|Success||An auction is to take place tonight, at the obsidian Emporial|
|One||Many powerful figures are to attend|
|Two||One of those figures is trying to keep rivals at bay|
|Three||That figure is Krawkin Feckward, He has made a deal with narco gangs to kill some of the rivals|
|Four||As well as being a Rogue Trader,Feckward is a notorious slaver|
|Five (or more)||Feckward plants to offer ten thousand slave at the auction|
Never Trust a Blathermonger (Optional Encounter)
The Explorers are traversing a wide deck crowded with shabby market stalls. Anything can be bought here, from
green corpse-starch and potent liquor brewed from the run-off that drips from the roof, to the finest psy-spice to
heavy weaponry, for the right price and the understanding that nothing comes with a guarantee. The trading deck
is crowded with all manner of disreputable characters, and the Explorers would do well to keep an eye out for pickpockets.
Passing a stall selling what the trader proclaims to be the most rare and luxurious spine-firs the Death worlds of the Expanse have to offer, the Explorers are approached by one of Footfall’s blathermongers. The man is clothed in rags, and his body is twisted from what must have been a hideous beating at some earlier stage in his life. The man addresses the Explorers in unctuous tones—read aloud or paraphrase the following:
“Good sirs, good sirs! I’ve been looking for you for hours I have, been from one end of Footfall to the other. What? Yes, good sir, I was just coming to it. Yes, I have the information you’re seeking, I know where its happening, and how you can get in on it, yes sirs, that I do. I’m a merchant, if you catch my drift, a seller of information…”
If the Explorers decide to pursue the matter further, the blathermonger will bid the Explorers follow him, and then make off through the crowded trading deck. The blathermonger is setting the Explorers up, having made an educated guess as to what they are doing on Footfall and being in possession of a little knowledge about the Foretelling himself. The blathermonger, being an enterprising individual, has decided to dangle what little bait he has before the noses of the Explorers, and to see if they bite. The blathermonger heads off through the crowd and
stops by a side passage, waiting for the Explorers to catch up. As they do, he addresses them once more, saying he is happy to have their business and encouraging them to follow him to his home nearby.
The blathermonger then ducks into the side passage and disappears into the shadow. The blathermonger hopes to lead the Explorers back to his abode, where he has a few friends waiting. There he hopes to either force the Explorers to pay handsomely for the little information he knows, or simply rob them. However, the blathermonger has been too free with his tongue, and some of Footfall’s underworld have decided they want to pick the blathermonger’s brain for information.
If the Explorers decide to follow, they will find the blathermonger being accosted by a group of ten Scum (page 371 of Rogue Trader). If the Explorers expect a trap and decide not to follow, then a gut-wrenching scream goes up from the passage, the sound of the blathermonger being grabbed by the Scum.
If the Explorers take on and defeat the Scum, the blathermonger will be profoundly grateful, though it will soon be obvious to the Explorers that he did not have anywhere near as much information as he may have led them to believe. Nevertheless, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
“It’s the Witches, I’m hearing good sirs, they’re giving a reading of sorts. But you need to be at the Obsidian Emporial by last light tonight, that’s all I know, good sirs.”
The blathermonger will also be able to give the Explorers directions to the Obsidian Emporial, though he does not know much about the auction itself.
Using their Initiative
It is entirely possible of course that the players will want to go about formulating all manner of ways of finding out where and when the Foretelling is going to be held. This is to be encouraged, but don’t forget that Footfall is a den of thieves and murderers, and they will have to be very subtle indeed about asking questions. In all likelihood, anyone they ask, even if they pay for silence, will be selling the Explorers out within minutes, and pretty soon the entire criminal fraternity of Footfall (i.e., everyone) will know their business. In short, allow the Explorers to find out about the Foretelling using whatever entertaining methods they can come up with, but always ensure that there are plenty of potential confrontations and consequences whatever way they go about it.
No matter what manner the Explorers go about finding out the information, here are the pertinent facts:
*The Seven Witches of Footfall, powerful and terrifying seers, are holding a Foretelling.
- This Foretelling will happen soon, and will reveal the location of the Dread Pearl.
- The Foretelling is by invitation only, and to earn an invite one must place an acceptable bid at an auction held at the Obsidian Emporial. The first ten bids to be judged acceptable by the Obsidian Emporial’s authorities will earn a place at the foretelling.
- Nobody knows what bids the Obsidian Emporial will judge acceptable, but the general opinion is that if the Witches are involved, winning bids will be something very valuable, and not as boorish as mere money.
The following are the Achievement Points awarded for discovering the location of the Auction:
- 25 Achievement Points for discovering the Auction’s location.
- 10 Achievement Points for each potential opponent discovered before the Auction occurs.
- 10 Achievement Points for eating something truly disgusting at the ceremonial banquet and impressing the other diners.
“Everything has a price in Footfall, but if you have to ask you probably can’t afford it.”
–Wesla Graves, Curiosopher and Merchanteer
Once the Explorers have discovered that the Foretelling is an invitation-only event, they’ll need to get one. This is achieved by way of an auction—but this is no ordinary sale. The stakes are much higher than mere Thrones…
There are ten places available at the Foretelling, and these will go to the ten highest bidders. Dozens of bidders are present at the auction, and each will call out their bid to a mysterious and frankly bizarre individual called the Intercessor, one of the heads of the mysterious Obsidian Emporial. As each bid is called, the Intercessor will determine its relative worth, and accept or reject the bid accordingly. An unsuccessful bidder will be escorted from the Obsidian Emporial by armed guards, while a successful bid will be indicated by the hammering of the Intercessor’s gavel on his lectern. Each individual will only be able to make one bid! The ten bids the Intercessor judges most valuable will determine the ten winners awarded a place at the Foretelling.
The game mechanics for bidding are described later on in this section, on page 21.
The twist is that it is entirely up to the Intercessor to decide the value of any given bid. If the Explorers have any sense, they will sit back and watch to see what other bidders are prepared to offer before making an offer themselves. They will soon realise that some of the bids appear somewhat bizarre, and have very little in the way of monetary value. This is because the Intercessor is working on the behalf of the Seven Witches, who we will meet in the Foretelling itself. The Seven Witches judge the value of things differently than others, as the Explorers will soon discover. Passing a Challenging (+0) Commerce Test or a* Difficult (–10) Intelligence* Test near the beginning of proceedings will reveal this. Make the test easier if it is taken later on in proceedings, or allow it to be retaken at an easier level later on.
Objective: Win one of the invitations to the upcoming Foretelling
Themes: Criminal, Trade
The Obsidian Emporial
As already revealed, the auction is being held at the Obsidian Emporial. This is an old and decrepit chamber, used for deals and trades as long as anyone can remember. The Explorers should have little trouble finding the place, as most of the denizens of Footfall will have heard of it. The only risk in finding the Obsidian Emporial is in giving the game away to the Explorers’ rivals. Particularly unsubtle inquiries should be met with attacks by assorted Scum hired to keep competitors away.
Once the Explorers have located the Obsidian Emporial, the scene is set for the auction. Coming to the entrance, they will pass through the frame of a massive arched portal that seems to be carved from black stone. The doors, which appear to be made of adamantium hull-plating, are open. At either side of the portal stands a hideous Mutant Abomination (see page 372 of Rogue Trader). The two mutants are halting people as they approach the portal, using their great weapons to block the path. They look the prospective entrant over, before nodding, raising their great weapons and letting them past. The mutants are really only looking out for anyone obviously likely to cause trouble, or those carrying really heavy weaponry. It is expected on Footfall that everyone carries at least a sidearm, but attempting to carry a lascannon into the Obsidian Emporial will result in trouble. Unless the Explorers initiate a confrontation, or are carrying especially heavy weapons and refuse to surrender them, the mutants will allow them to pass.
Once within, the Explorers will see that the Obsidian Emporial itself is a large space, its vaulted ceiling veiled in darkness. The main source of illumination is provided by a score or so of servo-skulls hovering overhead, each of which is topped by a guttering, wax-dripping candle. The hall is strewn with all manner of technological junk, none of it of any worth. An* Easy (+30) Evaluate* Test will make it clear that the myriad items of wrecked machinery are of no more use than to provide convenient seating, which is what the two hundred or so people crowded into the Obsidian Emporial are using them for.
The place is already crowded with a wide range of people, from ragged beggars to resplendent Free Captains and their retinues. There are a couple of hundred people in the Obsidian Emporial at the time the Explorers arrive, and another hundred or so will enter over the next few minutes, until finally, the mutants at the door judge the place full, and the proceedings begin.
As the Obsidian Emporial fills, a silence settles upon the crowd, and expectant faces are turned towards a decaying wooden lectern that rears five metres into the air. The lectern is as yet unoccupied, but soon the Explorers spy a large, hunched figure shuffling across the floor towards it. Reaching the base of the lectern, the figure lifts back the hood of its ragged robes, to reveal a hideous face set with all manner of sockets, its flesh shrivelled and distended as if the underlying skull were somehow bovine in form rather than human. This is the Intercessor, and his is the task to act as auctioneer and determine who will earn themselves a place at the Foretelling of the Seven Witches.
Even as the Explorers look on, a dense, writhing cluster of cables and pipes descends from the dark ceiling above the Intercessor. Each cable moves as if under its own volition, its end seeking out a corresponding socket in the Intercessor’s skull, with which it couples quite obscenely. His head now haloed by a mass of pulsating tubes, the Intercessor is lifted into the air, to be carried by the cables to the pinnacle of the lectern, where he settles in with an animal grunt.
Drawing back the ragged fabric covering his arms, the Intercessor reveals that his limbs are mechanical, constructed of rusted iron. His left arm terminates in an oversized gavel, which he brings sharply down upon the lectern. With the resounding report of hammer on worm-eaten wood, the auction begins.
Let the Bidding Commence!
The instant the crack of the hammer fills the Obsidian Emporial, the crowd erupts into a raucous cacophony. Over the noise, a merchant-factor standing next to the Explorers shouts, “Ten thousand thrones!” The crowd goes silent, and all look first to the factor, and then to the Intercessor. After a brief moment filled with tension, the Intercessor shakes his head slowly, and the crowd begin yelling again. A couple of armed heavies (with the profiles of Scum, see Rogue Trader page 317) barge their way through the crowd, and roughly escort the merchant from the Obsidian Emporial.
Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
Exactly what the Explorers decide to bid is entirely up to them, but having heard the example bids given below they should be encouraged to be inventive. They should also be aware that if they are clever and bid well with an interesting or special item they may well lose less than if they simply offer more common but valuable goods. They might bid some artefact in their possession (perhaps secreted in a stasis hold in the ship for just such an occasion make one up!) or it could be a share in future ventures. It could be something the group has acquired in previous games, or even something they hope to acquire in the future. In game terms, the players are giving up at least 5 points of their Profit Factor (which is not negotiable) but may give up more to increase their chances of returns.
When it comes to them bidding, have one of the Explorers make a Very Hard (–30) Commerce Test, modified by the amount of Profit Factor they are prepared to stake (+10 to the roll for each point of profit beyond 5 they put up). If the Explorers have a Profit Factor of 60 or higher, then they only get a +5 bonus for every point of PF they put up for the bid. As previously stated, there is far more going on with this Auction than first appears, and in addition to seeking interesting bids, the Witches are very interested in those who are willing to risk grave losses to earn a place at the Foretelling.
The GM may award an additional bonus of +10 or +20 for a well thought out offer, rewarding creative thinking on the part of the players. If the test is passed then they will only lose half of the PF put up (representing canny bargaining skills and savvy business practices that compensate for losses). If it is failed, then their offer is still accepted, but they lose all PF put up.
For the next hour or so, dozens of similar bids are offered— currency and coinage in various forms, denominations, and values—but none are accepted, the crowd thinning as the guards eject the unsuccessful bidders. If the Explorers are tempted to make a bid during this period, have them make a Routine (+20) Commerce Test, or a Challenging (+0) Logic Test. Success will make it clear that the serious bids have yet to be made, and they should hold off making a bid themselves until the “chaff ” is cleared out. If the Explorers want to make a bid at this stage, they can do so. However, it had better be a bid that is both valuable and extremely creative on their part. Unless it is truly extraordinary, the GM should have the guards eject the Explorer making the bid (though his fellows may remain in the auction).
After about an hour, the Explorers detect a change in the pace of the bidding, as the first of the really serious attendants join in with proceedings. Below is a list of the bids that will be made, and whether or not they are accepted. An accepted bid will be indicated by the Intercessor slamming his gavel down upon his lectern. The Explorers can make their bid at any stage in the proceedings. They might decide to do so late, holding back to see what sort of bid is being accepted, and also risking the ten places at the Foretelling being used up. Or, they might like to risk an early bid. Again, the GM can call upon the Explorers to make a* Challenging (+0) Commerce* Test to suggest this information to them.
- The coordinates of the legendary Thirteenth Station of Passage—Lord-Admiral Bastille the Seventh (accepted).
- The hereditary rank of Colonel-in-Chief of the 37th Vaxanide Militia (rejected).
- The Outer Reaches of the Linead Belt (rejected).
- A 10% stake in the fortunes of Clan Hazkari (rejected).
- The third moon of Luggnum—Hadarak Fel (accepted).
- A daemonette’s toenail—Madam Charlabelle (accepted).
- A phial of five-century-old, triple-distilled essence of Brain Leaf—Lady Sun Lee (accepted).
- 10,000 blind slaves—Krawkin Feckward (accepted).
- The long-lost thighbone of Saint Arani (rejected).
- The Palace of Moonlight—Abel Gerrit (accepted).
- The Brotherhood of Shadow—Djanko Scourge (accepted).
- The Mykys Fief on Quaddis (rejected).
- The wreck of the battle cruiser Heart of Majesty (rejected).
- The mummified remains of the Priest-King Jhan’tak the Immortal—Jeremiah Blitz (accepted).
- 30,000 Sabre-Wolf pelts (rejected).
Don’t forget that if a rival from a previous campaign is to be introduced, one of the above rejected bids can ascribed to that individual, and accepted. Or, the GM could make up their own, perhaps using something of significance from a previous adventure.
Once a bid is accepted, the bidder is expected to leave their details with the Intercessor when the auction has ended (at which point the means of collecting the Explorers’ bid is hammered out. The Explorers will find that the Obsidian Emporial wants either the actual bid the Explorers’ made, or some guarantee of ownership, within the next day). At this point, the Explorers are informed of the time and the place of the Foretelling.
Other Ways of Getting In
There is a chance that the players will throw a spanner in the works, whether through mischief or incompetence, and somehow fail to make a bid. If this happens, the GM will need to find a way of getting the story back on track. This could be done by engineering a ‘second chance’, whereby no more acceptable bids are forthcoming, but there is still one place at the Foretelling left to fill. In that case, have the guards call the Explorers back into the Obsidian Emporial so they can try one last time. If things go really awry, it may be necessary to think up an entirely new way of getting the Explorers into the Foretelling—the best way might be to explain the gravity of the situation to them, and have the players suggest how they will do so. If they have a good idea, work out the details with them and wing it!
The Foretelling of the Seven Witches
“Seven mouths with one voice—that’s the Witches. And if you are lucky enough to hear them speak—be it for good or ill—you had best be listening.”
–Tabar, Dockshadow of the Kasballica Mission
Having successfully bid for a place at the Foretelling, the Explorers must now go before the Seven Witches and bear witness to their prophecy. But this is no simple reading of the Emperor’s Tarot, as the Explorers will soon find out.
The Appointed Hour
The Foretelling is to take place at midnight, on the day after the auction. That means the Explorers have a little time to explore the environs if they so wish, or get straight on to the business at hand if they would rather. The Foretelling is to take place in an otherwise abandoned area of Footfall, one shunned even by the assorted lowlifes that call the station home. This particular area is run down and crumbling, in such a state of disrepair that the stonework is decayed and the gravity prone to wild fluctuations. As the Explorers approach they will hear all manner of disturbing noises as the stone construction groans, grinds, and shifts and feel sudden and disturbing drops and rises in air pressure. Any Explorers with psychic talent will feel especially ill at ease.
The actual abode of the Seven Witches is known to the locals as “the cell,” for reasons that will soon become apparent. As the Explorers reach their destination, they will hear eerie voices, punctuated by piercing screams from up ahead. They reach a barred opening, within which lurk a number of guards.
Each guard is bedecked in off-white armour, which upon closer inspection is made of a padded fabric and is heavily soiled with blood, vomit, and other fluids. The guards (stocky males with shaved heads) maintain a resolute silence through the forthcoming event (this is because they have had their tongues surgically removed, though the Explorers have no way of knowing that, and the guards aren’t telling). In a heavily gloved hand, each guard bears a staff tipped with a copper orb, around which are coiled heavy cables attached to a power pack at the guard’s belt. The Explorers are expected, and they do not actually have to do anything to gain entrance to the cell.
Upon being granted entrance to the cell, the Explorers will feel an intense aura of “wrongness” as they cross the threshold. Read aloud or paraphrase the following:
As the lumbering, silent guards haul back the rusted gate, you step over the threshold and into what the locals ominously call “the cell.” You soon see why. You find yourself at one end of a long, wide corridor, the walls lined with cracked and tainted ceramic tiles. The floor is littered with detritus, including discarded, soiled bandages and broken and barely recognisable medical ephemera. The guards lead the way, and as you follow, you see a number of armoured doors to either side. Though you see nothing through the tiny peepholes set in each door, you just know that there’s someone, or something, beyond each.
The guards proceed down the corridor with a slow, deliberate stride. Reaching the far end, they haul open a second gate, and beckon you into the darkness within. As you step forward, you notice the guards do not enter with you.
With a resounding metallic clang, the last gate is closed behind you. Darkness engulfs you, and your senses become alert to all manner of out-of-place sounds. The temperature drops, and your skin feels clammy as the air takes on an unclean, moist characteristic.
The Explorers are in the inner sanctum of the Seven Witches, a place from which none who were not invited have ever set foot and returned. The area is seething with barelycontained psychic energies, so potentially unsettling that the Explorers must all take a Disturbing (+0) Fear Test (should any of the Explorers lose control of themselves as a result of failing this test, they will be roughly restrained by the guards until order is restored). Eventually, their eyes will adjust to the gloom, and the Explorers will see that they are standing in a wide, low-ceilinged chamber. A cold electric light flickers on, followed by in succession by a dozen or so more, the staccato flickering casting a cold, wan light over the scene. Read aloud or paraphrase the following:
Even as swirling, gibbering voices chatter incoherently in your ears, you begin to make out the scene before you. The inner sanctum of the Seven Witches is wreathed in shadows so deep they appear as wells of the stuff of the outer darkness. Against the flickering light of a dozen malfunctioning electro-lumens you can just make out the silhouettes of those others who are to bear to the Foretelling. But for now, it is the spectacle at the centre of the chamber that holds your attention…
“Welcome,” seven voices, each of a different pitch, say at once, “to our sanctuary.”
The source of the voices appears at first to be a shadowed, tangled mass at the centre of the room. Upon looking closer, however, you see that the mass is actually seven separate figures, each somehow intertwined with the next. Each Witch has the stature of a child, yet the wizened features of an impossibly ancient crone. Their teeth are blackened, and their eyes are rheumy. Their skin is gnarled as old leather, and their white hair lank and intertwined.
“Many have heard the call,” the Witches speak as one, their thin lips moving in unison. “Yet, how few shall reach the destination.”
The figures crowding the chamber shuffle uncomfortably as the Witches unleash a low, gurgling, and entirely mirthless laugh. “Hush now,” they croon. “You shall have what you paid for.”
At this, the Seven Witches join hands, raise their heads, look around the chamber one last time, and close their eyes. The temperature in the room drops once more, and the dampness in the air grows even more uncomfortable.
“We, who are more than Man, beyond the Emperor and unknown to gods, shall speak. You, who are born of flesh and beholden of dirt shall heed our words, and heed them well. We are that which stings the outstretched hand, the cry that defies love. We are known and unknown, standing before you, yet so far distant you may never reach us.”
And then, quite suddenly, the Seven Witches open their mouths as one. A distant moan emanates from the throat of each, a sound that does not come from them, but some terrible far-off place.
Cold dread engulfs you, and you see that many of the other witnesses are equally affected. One bends double and vomits across the floor, earning disgusted glares from those nearby. And then, the sound coming from the mouth of each witch reaches a discordant crescendo, each a different note forming an impossible chord, the pitch and tone of the damned as they wail and writhe in the benighted depths of the empyrean. Reality collapses, and you are cast into a world of pain.
All of those here to witness the Foretelling now enter a dreadful state of waking nightmare, their perceptions entirely in the thrall of the Seven Witches. Needless to say, this is a disturbing event, and any Explorer that wishes to resist it may attempt to do so, by taking a Very Hard (–30) Willpower Test. Passing the test will cause the Explorer to snap out of it, but then of course they won’t be privy to what is about to be revealed to the other witnesses. They will, however, avoid any further risk of mental damage. However, the Explorers are here to see the Foretelling, and if they wish to, they can choose not to resist the vision—forgoing the Willpower Test and witnessing the vision automatically. For the benefit of the rest of the group, read aloud or paraphrase the following vision, presented on the next page.
You are adrift upon the currents of a raging sea of boiling energy, liquid pain pressing in upon you and filling your mouth and lungs. The raw stuff of nightmare swirls all around, forming and reforming into nightmarish shapes suggestive of leering faces or screaming mouths. Your entire consciousness is subsumed amidst a mournful wailing so unbearably loud you cannot even form coherent thought.
For an indeterminate time you are sucked into eddies of despair and ejected through streams of desolation. You become slowly aware of the screaming all around taking on a new form, the voices coming together into seven separate strands to give voice to a single chord. The sound is not heard as mortal ears detect such things, but instead speaks directly to the soul, crystallising in the mind as hard, certain and terrible knowledge.
Into the memory of each of you is implanted a cipher, a time and a place. You see in your mind’s eye a raging, incandescent nebula, a storm in the depths of the Koronus Expanse. Even as you watch, or recall, this sight, the storm recedes to reveal an oval gemstone glittering against the black veil of space. You are consumed by an all encompassing desire to own this perfect gem, for you know with utter certainty that it keeps you safe from the touch of the boiling ocean of souls that still surrounds you.
And then, the perfect gem fades. You know now that you must own that gem, whatever the cost.
Without warning, reality crashes in upon your soul, and you awake with a start
Those Explorers who witnessed the Foretelling now awaken to find themselves back in the presence of the Seven Witches and the other witnesses. The Witches stand in silence, looking on coldly while the witnesses compose themselves following the shock of their experience. Each Explorer who witnessed the Foretelling gains 1 Insanity Point, as their minds rebel against the warp-spawned vision. This Insanity cannot be avoided.
There is one more effect of bearing witness to the Foretelling. Firstly, each witness will feel the vision they saw coalesce into something less abstract. They know that the gem represented a world, one engulfed in a warp storm that will soon lift. They know with utter certainty that the world in question is a treasure in itself, one they must possess even should they die in the attempt. All of the witnesses feel that they need only look upon a stellar map to know the location of this planet. The location and nature of the world they have witnessed is discussed in detail on page 97 and page 102.
As the witnesses to the Foretelling gather their wits and begin to depart, the Seven Witches make one last utterance. “It’s not a gem…it’s a pearl…a pretty, dread pearl!”
The following are the Achievement Points awarded for viewing the Foretelling:
- 100 Achievement Points for witnessing the Foretelling.
- 50 Achievement Points for succeeding on the Commerce Test during the Auction (only losing half of the Profit Factor they put up).
“A Rogue Trader never looks back, but always forward to fortune, glory and adventure.”
–Rogue Trader saying
The time has now come for the Explorers to take their leave of Footfall, and head off into the Koronus Expanse in search of their fortune. As already established, they don’t know the exact coordinates of the Dread Pearl, but an abstract idea of it was seeded in their mind during the Foretelling. With rivals for that fortune all around, the Explorers must return to their ship, set sail and make good their departure from Footfall, then set course for the Dread Pearl.
Objective: Leave Footfall and set course for the Dread Pearl.
Themes: Military, Criminal
The Administratum Oeconomica Returns!
Remember the bogus officials that tried to fleece the Explorers when they first arrived at Footfall? Well, depending on how the Explorers dealt with them, they are about to make good on their parting threat. The officials do have some influence in Footfall, and use this to pull in a few favours amongst the crews of the station’s defence turrets.
As the Explorers reach their vessel, before they man their stations, the gunnery crews open fire. The first the Explorers will know of this is when their vessel is rocked by explosions. The lights flicker and the crew rush for emergency stations, but no one would expect the ship to be engaged whilst still berthed at one of the station’s docking arms. That is, however, exactly what has happened.
Let the players find this out for themselves as they run to their bridge. Describe the scene as the Explorers desperately search their augur screens for some clue as to who is firing upon them, only to see that the sources of the attacks are the turrets mounted the length of the docking arm. As soon as the realisation hits, they receive the following transmission broadcast to the ship: “This is what you get for not paying your dues, Rogue Trader. Now leave, while you still can, and don’t come back this way again until you can pay!”
The turrets will continue to fire until the Explorers’ vessel is clear, but if they take much in the way of return fire they fall silent, the gunnery crews judging that their obligations fall short of dying. The vessel’s escape can be run as a starship combat (see page 212 of Rogue Trader), or the events can simply be described. While docked, the Explorers’ vessel is incapable of raising its shields, so whatever happens, some damage will have been caused by the attack. Only once the ship is at least 100 metres from the docking arm is it possible to raise the shields, at which point the vessel should be safe enough.
The battery of turrets is of little danger to a shielded void-ship. However, there are quite a few of them, making up in numbers what they lack in individual strength. They count as 4 Strength, 1d5+3 Damage macrobatteries with no Crit Rating, and may only target ships next to the docking arm. However, their crews are reasonably trained and have a BS of 40.
The Race is on
Once clear of Footfall, switch to narrative time to describe the short journey to the jump point, which should take no longer than a couple of days. However, don’t forget that the Explorers’ rivals are racing for that point too, and some may try to interfere with the Explorers’ efforts, especially if their vessel was damaged by the defence turrets and seems vulnerable.
Depending on how the GM wants to play each of the potential rivals, he can have one or more of them make an opportunistic attack against the Explorers, depending on the rivalries that may already have formed. The profiles for the rivals’ vessels can be found starting on page 135.
Alternately, the GM could use this phase to have the rivals engage in a little ship-to-ship bluster. Its easy, after all, to be confident when communicating across millions of kilometres of space, and such communications can be used to build up whatever rivalries might already have begun to develop.
Into the Warp
“The Expanse calls to those who care to listen.”
After several days sublight travel, and whatever mischief the GM decides to throw their way, the Explorers’ vessel will arrive at the periphery of the Footfall system, from which point it can enter the warp. Before they can do so, however, they will need to plot a course to the Dread Pearl. This is achieved by way of a Ritual of Astro-Navigation, which must be conducted by the vessel’s Navigator.
The Ritual of Astro-Navigation will involve all of the Explorers that witnessed the Foretelling, and will entail them entering a trance, guided by the Navigator, in order to decipher the coordinates of the planet they seek from amongst
the tangled strands of memory planted in their minds by the Seven Witches. This may well prove a traumatic event, as the Navigator will know, but is essential none-the-less.
The ritual is a great way to draw upon the skills of the group’s Navigator, and the imagination of the player that controls that character. If there is no player controlling a Navigator PC in the group, the GM will have to assume
the role of NPC, or could have one of the players do it. The Navigator character must gather the Explorers around an astrographics orrery, which the Navigator uses to plot the vessel’s course through the warp. Have the player then describe to the others just how his character perceives the warp. Each Navigator perceives the Empyrean in an entirely subjective manner, some imagining themselves as small fish darting through a predator-filled ocean, the sun above the sea representing the light of the Astronomican. Others see themselves as travellers passing along a narrow jungle path late at night, cruel eyes watching from the verges and the Astronomican taking the form of the illumination cast by a small sanctuary-shrine in a clearing up ahead. The Navigator should invite the other Explorers to join him in just such a journey, describing them setting out together, determining a heading, travelling, avoiding predators and finally arriving at their destination. Make a note of how entertaining and imaginative the player’s description was, because they may well earn themselves a bonus in a subsequent test.
Next, inform the players that the Explorers are now deeply submerged in the Navigator’s subjective perception of
the warp, and have them each make a Challenging (+0) Willpower Test. Make a note of the degrees of success or failure each achieves.
Lastly, drawing on the memories of each of the other witnesses to the Foretelling, the Navigator must make a Arduous (–40) Navigation (Warp) Test. The result is modified by the total degrees of success or failure determined in the previous step, adding 10 for each degree of success and subtracting 10 for each degree of failure. Furthermore, award a bonus for a good performance on the part of the Navigator player in describing his perception of the journey through the warp.
If the Navigator passes, he now discerns the location of the Dread Pearl and can locate this in the ship’s astrographics archives. Furthermore, the Navigator now knows the journey duration time, which will be used in the Navigation (Warp) Test to make the actual jump (see page 183 of Rogue Trader). This value is 50 days. If the test is failed, it can be attempted again, but tarrying overlong will have consequences, as the Explorers will soon find out.
Beat to Quarters!
The Explorers will only have time to attempt the ritual once before trouble comes knocking at their door. They will be summoned to the bridge by the wail of ward-sirens and the frantic activity of deck masters as they herd their charges to battle stations. Once they arrive, the Explorers will be able to call up images of the near void onto the bridge’s grand vista pict-panels. Read or paraphrase the following:
As your ship’s sensors sweep back and forth across the black they suddenly stop, the vista pict image locking onto the flash and flicker of battery fire, illuminating the void at the very edge of your sensor range. With a smooth motion, the image zooms in, giving you a clear image of an Imperial ship blazing away into the dark – at an apparently invisible enemy.
The Fel Hand is 100,000 kilometres (roughly 10 Void Units) to the Explorer’s port, and its attacker is currently a further 50,000 kilometres beyond (an additional 5 Void Units), hidden for the moment from the Explorers in the lee of the vessel it is attacking.
At the Explorers’ discretion, they can hail the vessel and negotiate some kind of assistance, or they can simply sail off into the void. If they choose to help, the GM can roleplay out the vox transmission between the rival (who will be none too pleased to have to ask for help) and the Explorers, giving them a chance to make a favourable deal or strike up a temporary alliance. This encounter can be made more interesting by choosing a rival that the Explorers have already had a run-in with. If the Explorers choose not to help, then they still come under attack—probably as they are preparing to make their warp transition. In this case, the GM should point out that their rival has escaped his own attacker and is moving off with obviously no intention of coming to their aid.
In either case, The Shard will flicker in and out of view, pounding its foes with weapons fire. Of course, it is only a raider, and its purpose is to harass the Imperials and test their strengths more than anything. Once it is apparent that the Explorers can fix its position or when it takes a hit or two that deals damage, it will withdraw (unless the Eldar think they might have the upper hand).
At this point, the Explorers will be able to make the warp jump, if they have the coordinates from the ritual, with the Navigator following the procedure described in Rogue Trader. If they have not yet successfully completed the ritual, the Navigator will have to repeat his test while the vessel is under attack, at an additional level of difficulty. Or, the ship’s master might decide to make an emergency jump and put the fate of his ship and all its crew in the hands of the Emperor. The choice is his.
If a hasty warp transition is ordered, ask the Rogue Trader player if he is absolutely sure he wants to take the risk. If the order stands, the Navigator must make a Hellish (–60) Navigation (Warp) Test. If this is passed, the vessel translates successfully, though its Gellar Field systems report disturbing readings for the rest of the voyage. If the test is failed, then the ship successfully translates, but suffer a partial Gellar Field failure at the moment of the jump. One Ebon Geist will materialise in a randomly determined section of the vessel, and a further one will appear in a different section for each degree of failure by which the test is failed. Hunting down and dealing with these horrific warp creatures might form an entire gaming session in itself.
- 25 Achievement Points for leaving Footfall.
- 50 Achievement Points for completing the Ritual of Astronavigation.
- 50 Achievement Points for each rival the Explorers establish as a solid ally.
- 25 Achievement Points for crippling or destroying the Shard of Dawn.
- –25 Achievement Points for each rival the Explorers establish as an implacable enemy.
- –50 Achievement Points for losing at least half of their ship’s Hull Integrity in any space combat.
Voyage to the Dread Pearl
“Finding a new world is like turning over a stone. You can never be sure what you’ll find crawling across its surface.”
—Master Explorator Hybros Kora
Having determined the coordinates of the Dread Pearl and made the jump to warp, the Explorers might imagine that their fortune is guaranteed. Any who countenanced such a foolish thought are about to be taught a lesson in the true nature of the Koronus Expense.
The journey to the Dread Pearl will see the Explorers traverse a great stretch of the Expanse, for their destination lies near the dark and mysterious Heathen Stars, beyond which lies the utter unknown. Needless to say, such a journey is not to be undertaken lightly, and is unlikely to pass without incident. What the Explorers do not know (and the GM should not tell them) is that they are not actually headed to the Dread Pearl. Their destination is merely the first step in a larger quest that will see them travel across the Koronus Expanse.
The voyage from Footfall to their destination is a long one, and the GM should instil this fact in the players, using narrative time and plenty of description. During such a voyage, the Explorers will not be sitting idly about playing regicide, as the demands placed on the vessel and its crew by the prevailing warp conditions will place a constant strain on all involved. On top of this background level of adversity, a number of specific events will occur, acting as high points in the long, arduous voyage.
The following are a number of events that can be used throughout this, or indeed any warp voyage across the Koronus Expanse. If the GM wants to get the voyage done in a single gaming session, then only a couple of these might be used, but more could conceivably play out, really giving the impression that the journey is long and fraught with peril. The last event should be used however, as it describes the end of the voyage and the arrival at the Explorers’ destination.
Objective: Reach what the Explorers think is the Dread Pearl (actually Quppa-Psi-12).
Themes: Exploration (the GM may add other themes to individual events where appropriate)
Many of these events draw on the particular specialist skills and abilities of a specific Explorer. If the group does
not include a particular character type, the GM can either skip that encounter, or assume the Explorers have an NPC crew member who can fill in.
Mutiny at Warp (Optional Encounter)
Rogue Trader vessels are massive ships with crews of many thousands. While a lot of the crew are loyal servants of the dynasty, following their forebears in serving the Rogue Trader House and doing so proudly, plenty more are pressganged scum. Petty criminals represent a large, cheap, and easily accessible source of unskilled labour. Needless to say, those press-ganged into service in this manner rarely display gratitude that their sentences have been commuted from death to service, and mutiny is far from uncommon.
This event represents just such an occurrence. By taking a Difficult (–10) Scrutiny Test, the Explorers will discern that various elements of the crew are showing signs of unrest. A rise in instances of insubordination has been reported, and there appear to have been far more fights than normal in the areas below decks where the bridge crew rarely venture. This state of affairs has reached a point where it must be dealt with, or the performance and safety of the entire vessel may suffer.
These reports are made to the group’s Arch-militant, as such characters are often seen by the crew chiefs as the master’s right hand man in matters of discipline and security (or may even be serving as the ship’s Master of Arms). If there is no Archmilitant, the reports are made to either the group’s Seneschal or another martially-oriented character. The player may choose to pass the matter up to the captain, or formulate a plan of action himself.
The threat facing the ship is as follows. A mutinous bilge-rat by the name of Krooker has been preaching rebellion amongst the plasma conduit crews for several days, and only a few hours ago murdered a crew chief and captured one of the ship’s Tech-Priests. Although this Tech-Priest is not irreplaceable, if word reached the Cult Mechanicus that one of their number had been abandoned to such as Krooker, the Explorers might find themselves bereft of the support of Adeptus Mechanicus, an extremely problematic situation. Furthermore, if the group includes an Explorator, this character may feel strongly that the captured Tech-Priest must be rescued.
Krooker demands the vessel return to Footfall immediately, and those crew wishing to depart be allowed to do so. He claims that the laws of the void have been broken in the vessel setting course for the limits of the Expanse, and that any obligations the press-ganged crew had to its master are now invalidated. Unless the mutineers’ demands are met, Krooker threatens to kill the Tech-Priest. To make matters more complicated, Krooker’s mutineers have also broken into a secondary arms locker, and have an assortment of weapons.
How the Explorers wish to proceed is entirely up to them and their way of doing things. They might be the type of
group that will simply grab a chainsword each and steam right in to rescue the captive and face down the mutineers. This is perfectly fine, and entirely appropriate! However, they might decide to employ other members of the crew to take part in a rescue, perhaps overwhelming the mutineers with loyal armsmen. They might prefer to engage Krooker in some form of negotiation, gauging his intentions before dealing with him. They might think of something entirely different, such as flooding the compartment in which Krooker is holed up in with roiling plasma or venting it to space (though doing so may be somewhat injurious to the Tech-Priest).
However the Explorers choose to face this problem, meet it at an appropriate level. If they choose to play the heroes and rescue the captive themselves, then they will probably be able to avoid the bulk of the mutineers and locate Krooker with a dozen or so compatriots. If they send in wave after wave of elite armsmen, then several hundred mutineers will be drawn out to face them, but the Explorers should be able to seek out Krooker amidst all the confusion and bloodshed. Whichever is the case, ensure that the final confrontation is played out between the Explorers and Krooker.
The rest of the mutineers have pump-action shotguns and use Krooker’s states, except the BS is 35.
Rewards and Consequences
Should the Explorers defeat Krooker and rescue the captive, then the immediate benefit is that their vessel will run smoothly again. In the longer term, however, the Cult Mechanicus may be beholden to the Explorers in some form or another. This depends on how important the GM deems the Tech-Priest was, and he can work this into the ongoing story of the campaign, or allow the players a bonus when dealing with the Mechanicus in the future.
If Krooker somehow escapes, he will continue to foment discord amongst the crew, taking refuge in the sumps or being sheltered by sympathizers. The Explorers’ vessel suffers a –5 penalty to Morale until he is dealt with.
- 25 Achievement Points if the Explorers resolve the mutiny without killing the Tech-Priest.
- –25 Achievement Points if Krooker escapes or the Tech- Priest is killed.
A Signal in the Dark (Optional Encounter)
This encounter takes place during one of the periodic drops into real space that all vessels must make when undertaking long or arduous journeys. Translating back into the material universe, the ship’s Navigator takes readings of nearby constellations, and more importantly, calibrates his position in the temporal sphere. Having completed this, the Explorers’ vessel is ready to resume its voyage once more, when the augurs detect a faint signal.
Tracking the source of the signal requires a Difficult (–10) Scrutiny+Detection Test. When the source is located, it will initially be unrecognizable. Only the ship’s Explorator will have any chance of identifying it, which will take a Very Hard (–30) Forbidden Lore (Adeptus Mechanicus) Test. For the results of this Test, consult Table
|Standard Success||The source of the signal is a vessel, of Adeptus Mechanicus origin|
|One||The vessel is impossibly ancient, its construction predating the discovery of the Koronus Expanse by several thousand years|
|Two||The vessel appears to be operational|
|Three||The vessel is in fact a probe|
|Four||The pattern of the probe was proscribed by order of Mars itself|
|Five (or more)||The proscription is still in effect, and further investigation would incur the ire of the higher orders of Mars. However, there are those who would pay the wealth of entire worlds for this probe, were it to be delivered to them|
The vessel is an ancient Adeptus Mechanicus probe, thrown thousands of light years off course. The probe’s pattern was proscribed many millennia ago, as its builders utilised levels of automation and machine intelligence found to be anathema to the Cult Mechanicus. Those who built the probe were excommunicated from the Mechanicus, and all known examples of their work destroyed. This then, is the last example of that forbidden pattern.
Assuming he has discerned the probe’s nature, the Explorator faces a conundrum. The most obvious course of action would be to attempt to destroy the probe, purge all records of it from the archives and resume the voyage. But then again, it might afford tremendous wealth, if it could be recovered. Be sure to explain this to the Explorator player, instilling an appropriate dilemma.
Should the Explorers decide to destroy the vessel, it fights back. Although the probe is only lightly armed, it is host to a machine spirit that has attained a degree of sentience entirely at odds with the mainstream dogma of the Cult Mechanicus, hence their dictates against its builders. Having got off a few shots and thus gained some measure of surprise, the probe will attempt to disengage attempting to vanish once more into the depths of interstellar space. The profile for the Probe can be found on page 134.
Should the Explorers decide to attempt to recover the probe, they may have more luck, so long as they do not open fire. The probe will allow itself to be approached by the Explorers, and the Explorator will be able to communicate with it by way of a Challenging (+0) Scholastic Lore (Archeotech) Test. If the test is failed, the probe will flee as described above, but if it is passed the Explorator will be able to order the machine spirit to hibernate. A further Challenging (+0) Tech-Use Test will allow the Explorator to take control of the probe’s systems, and to bring it on board, assuming the Explorers’ vessel has a cargo bay.
Once brought on board, the probe will be revealed as a stunningly rare example of archeotech. In fact, a Challenging (+0) Evaluate Test or a Difficult (–10) Scholastic Lore (Archeotech) Test will reveal it to be worth a staggering amount to the right buyer. Finding such a buyer is another adventure in itself, and one the Explorers could pursue upon returning to the Calixis Sector. Bear in mind, however, that should the Adeptus Mechanicus catch wind of the affair, the Explorator may well be excommunicated and the Explorers shunned.
However, there is one last twist to the tale. Soon after resuming the voyage, the probe’s machine spirit will reawaken, and enjoin itself with the systems of the Explorers’ vessel. The Explorer’s ship immediately gains the ‘Rebellious’ Machine Spirit Oddity (see page 197 of Rogue Trader). However, do not tell the players about this until the next time the vessel is engaged in a space combat. Even then, it will take a Hard (–20) Tech-Use Test to ascertain that the probe is responsible, and a Hellish (–60) Tech-Use Test to undo the effect. The Explorers may well decide to jettison the probe into space, and let it resume its millennia-long mission. If they do so, it will cease affecting their ship.
- 50 Achievement Points if the Explorers recover the probe (and do not jettison it later).
- –25 Achievement Points if the Mechanicus learns they possess the probe (–50 if they are excommunicated).
Pray for Those Lost in the Warp (Optional Encounter)
No journey through the warp is entirely free from some disturbing event or another, ranging from the ever-present
nightmares to the whispering voices that appear to emanate wherever the shadows gather. Although few ever become entirely at ease with this aspect of void faring, most seasoned voyagers are at least able to function despite it. Long voyages, however, can test even the most strong-willed voidfarer.
By around about the mid point of the voyage, the crew are experiencing all manner of waking nightmares, driving many to paranoid outbursts and interfering with the ship’s running. It is reported, via the crew chiefs, that should the situation continue, then the safe operation of the vessel may be compromised.
In such instances, it often falls to the representatives of the Imperial Creed to offer succour against the gibbering things of nightmare. If the group includes a Missionary, this is a job for him. The Missionary is approached by the crew chiefs of three components of the vessel (chosen by the GM, and the selections can be either Essential or Supplemental components). It is requested that the Missionary place a blessing upon the crew of each section, offering them peace and the Emperor’s protection. In game terms, all Manoeuvre, Shooting, or Extended Actions suffer a –5 modifier while the crew is gripped with this malaise. This will continue until the Missionary steps in to restore the crews’ spirits.
This is an opportunity for some entertaining roleplaying and an exploration of the Explorers’ own vessel. As the Missionary visits each of the sections, have him make a short speech, in the form of an invocation of the Emperor’s grace. Then, have him make a Challenging (+0) Charm or Intimidate Test, (which one depends on his approach to his pastoral responsibilities) modified as deemed appropriate if the player gives a good speech.
If the test is successful, the crew of that section are roused to a state of holy zeal and can go about their task with renewed fervour. Once all of the crews are assuaged in this manner, the –5 penalty described above will no longer apply. Furthermore, if a test is passed by two or more degrees of success, the ship will benefit from a +10 modifier when making any Manoeuvre, Shooting, or Extended Actions during the next battle it engages in. If the test is unsuccessful by two or more degrees, however, the crew are disenchanted with the Missionary’s hollow words. The –5 penalty described above is increased to –10 until the end of the current adventure.
- 10 Achievement Points for successfully resolving this encounter.
- -10 Achievement Points for unsuccessfully resolving this encounter.
Dire Straits (Optional Encounter)
The majority of the warp routes by which the Navies of the Imperium travel the voids are relatively well known, their dangers mapped so that void-farers might have some chance of traversing the perilous depths of interstellar space. Despite this, space is riven with stellar anomalies, many the remnants of the warp storms that engulfed the galaxy for thousands of years at a stretch in Mankind’s distant past. Others are entirely inexplicable, owing to phenomena for which the Cult Mechanicus and the great Navigator Houses can offer no explanation. Still more may be the result of the actions of long-since-destroyed alien civilisations, marking the sites of destruction on a scale so terrible that reality itself is scarred. The Koronus Expanse is host to a great many such dangers for those who would penetrate its depths, and the Explorers have just encountered one of the very worst.
This encounter will draw primarily upon the skills of the vessel’s Void-master, to whom the task will fall to traverse a perilous stellar anomaly.
It is during the third watch, that period of the vessel’s artificial day/night cycle when the bulk of the crew are below
decks grabbing what rest they can, that the ship cries out as if in pain, its metal structure groaning as titanic pressures are exerted upon it by the warp beyond the Gellar Field. The Navigator will know instantly that the vessel has encountered a previously undetected stellar anomaly. Thankfully, he sees that this is the warp shadow of the death of a star in real space, and not a peril born of the powers that lurk within the Empyrean. The Navigator will also know that the only way to save the vessel is to drop out of the warp immediately.
Translating to the real space in such a manner, in the grip of danger and with no prior preparation is a dangerous
manoeuvre. The Navigator must make a Very Hard (–30) Navigation (Warp) Test, or the vessel will suffer damage to its Gellar Field—knocking it out of action (and thus prohibiting warp travel) for 1d10 hours. But the danger isn’t Once in real space, the entire vessel will be shaken by titanic energies, as if the effects experienced in
the warp were a mere shadow of a storm raging here. The viewing port is filled with strobing, phosphorescent ghost lights so intense they obscure the black of the void. An Ordinary (+10) Detection+Scrutiny Test using the ships sensors will reveal that the extent of the anomaly is not great, and it can be escaped, but only with some seat of the pants flying on the part of the Void-master. over yet, as the Void-master must immediately wrestle control of the ship now it has entered real space.
In order to escape the anomaly, three Pilot (Space Craft)+Manoeuvrability Tests must be made, the first Challenging (+0), the second Difficult (–10), and the third Hard (–20)*. Each time a test is passed, the Void-master will have brought the vessel that much closer to safety. The first time it is failed however, the vessel will take 1 point of damage to its Hull Integrity, the second time 1d5, and the third time1d10. This damage is due to the severe shockwaves and gravitational fluxes, and ignores armour and void shields. Once the last test is passed (or failed), the raging energies of the dying star dissipate, and the glittering of stars on the black backdrop of the void becomes visible once more. The shaking will cease, and the Explorers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, and get back underway.
- –10 Achievement Points if the Explorer’s ship suffers 10 Hull Integrity damage or more.
Caravan in the Void (Mandatory Encounter)
The Explorers are nearing the end of their voyage to the Dread Pearl, and a renewed sense of purpose infuses the crew. The vessel translates back to real space, an operation carried out without incident. Each of the Explorers that witnessed the Foretelling are filled with a sense of excitement, knowing that they will soon set eyes upon the object of their desires – the Dread Pearl each witnessed in their vision.
The view through the bridge viewer comes as a shock then to each of the witnesses. The Explorers are fully expecting to see a raging warp storm, behind which sits the Dread Pearl, ready for the plucking. Yet all they see is the calm void and a small stellar system in front of them. Consulting the long range augurs, it soon becomes apparent that the vessel has arrived at the correct coordinates, yet there is no storm to be seen. This is obviously not the Dread Pearl.
At this stage, the Explorers may decide to conduct a more thorough survey of the system in which they have arrived. Passing an Ordinary (Perception Test using the ship’s augur arrays will show a planetary system with a small, unremarkable yellow star, a ragged asteroid belt, and a planet within the star’s primary biosphere. The scan also detects a number of vessels, travelling in a ragged convoy, only 500,000 kilometres from the Explorers’ position. The convoy is clearly making for the system’s jump point, near where the Explorers have just arrived.
|Standard Success||The Stryxis are a race of aliens found in the Expanse. They are not necessarily hostile to humans|
|One||They are nomads who travel in ship caravans and trade with those they come across|
|Two||They delight in trading, and will make deals with almost anyone. However, they are also treacherous and untrustworthy|
|Three||The Stryxis have a very different view on what is valuable and what is not. They often trade for bits and baubles|
|Four (or more)||The Stryxis hate the Eldar and will slay them if they can, and flee from them if they cannot|
If the Explorers decide to investigate the convoy, play the following encounter (if they ignore it, proceed to the next chapter). The convoy is a caravan of Stryxis (see page 354 of Rogue Trader). It will take a Difficult (–10) Forbidden Lore (Xenos) Test to identify the aliens. Use the degrees of success by which the test is passed to impart some information based on the table above. Should the Explorers hail the convoy, the response will be an invitation to parley, but if the Explorers do not do so, the Stryxis will hail them, and request a meeting.
The aliens ask the Explorers to come aboard their vessel, entailing a short shuttle journey (if the Explorers are fortunate enough to have access to a Teleportarium, that can also be used). If they have neither, the Stryxis dispatch a shuttle of their own to ferry the Explorers across, but they emphatically refuse to set foot upon the Explorers’ own ship.
Once the Explorers arrive upon the Stryxis vessel, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
Upon setting foot on the deck of the aliens’ vessel, the first thing that strikes you is its dilapidated condition. The lighting is low and sporadic as lumens flicker into life, gutter for a moment and then die, to be replaced by another source. What you can see of the bulkheads suggest that the vessel is constructed by a conglomeration of materials and components, each bolted or bound to the next in a disturbingly haphazard fashion. Every surface is festooned with trinkets and fetishes hung from a variety of hooks across the walls and ceiling, ranging from coins and jewels to unidentifiable and shrivelled body parts. The deck is strewn with litter, which crunches or squelches underfoot. The next thing that hits you is the smell. If ever you were to serve penal duty on a mortuary-barque, this is what you imagine it might smell like.
Stepping out of the shadows ahead comes what you assume to be a Stryxis. The alien is tall, garbed in a ragged, stained cloak and hood that obscures most of its body. All you can see of its face is a vile, blunt snout, akin to that of a canine, but furless, as if its skin had been flensed to reveal the raw muscle beneath. A suggestion of rapidly blinking eyes is to be seen in the shadows of the hood, but you cannot determine just how many of the beady orbs look back at you.
“Greetings bipeds, greetings to my home. It is unsafe to tarry in this place, but I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to aid you. I would treat with your leader, whichever of you that is.”
The alien pauses, and reaches its bony claw towards the ceiling, grasping one of the many small trinkets that hang
there from leather thongs, and begins to stroke the object in an obviously covetous manner. The Stryxis wishes to trade with the Explorers, but is in an obvious hurry to be gone from the system. It is only the race’s inherent greed that has caused the Stryxis to pause and not, counter to what it will claim, any concern for the Explorers’ safety. If asked for its name, the Stryxis lets loose a terrible gurgling sound as if it is choking on blood.
The Stryxis differ greatly from the bulk of humanity in what they consider valuable, as may be known to any of the
Explorers with knowledge of them. They are as likely to covet a dried twig as a golden statuette, but have no interest in money or shares in ventures, only in what they can grasp in their vile claws.
Should the Explorers wish to trade, fun can be had playing out a negotiation with the alien. As mentioned, it will have no interest in abstract wealth, but subject to a successful Opposed Fellowship Test, will accept any object offered that is judged appropriate. Suitable items in include charms, chronos, autoquills, ration packs, and (for no obvious reason) filtration plugs. The alien can offer in return any items of with a rarity of Very Rare or lower that the GM deems appropriate (though it will only trade individual items, never items in ‘bulk’). It will also provide information regarding the system in which the Explorers find themselves, which it will give at the conclusion of the dealings.
What’s Really Going On
In this chapter, the Explorers arrive at their destination, expecting their wildest dreams of wealth to be fulfilled
as the Dread Pearl is revealed to them. That, however, does not happen. The Explorers will quickly realise that
this is not the Dread Pearl as they make landfall and begin to explore (or perhaps even while they are in orbit). Instead of the treasure, they will discover an ancient star map that promises to point the way to their destination, but only after facing another, terrible foe. The Eldar have their own stake in this adventure, and their goal is to ensure no one reaches the Dread Pearl.