Fantasy Flight Games followed up 2008’s Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy RPG with the very, very slightly more light-hearted Rogue Trader in 2009. This game allowed players to take on the role of a titular rogue trader and their crew of dark future dorks. They could go trading, exploring, and conquering space in cooperation with the Imperium. This game afforded players with much more freedom to do whatever the group desired and introduced more aliens and combat between the massive space church warships of the 40K universe.
Steve: I’ll be honest, dude, I’ve been waiting around to do this game for a long time.
Zack: Nice. Glad I could make your dreams come true.
Steve: I have an extremely serious adventure planned out and I am ready to go. Rogue Traders are like the most fun thing in Warhammer 40K. You get a giant spaceship, you get freedom to go wherever you want, and you have like a whole freaking army at your disposal.
Steve: Did you make your character?
Zack: Yep. Rogue Trader George Larrinicus Davidoff, born on the death world of Broke Lynn, destined for greatness, will be commanding his flagship the Emperor’s Undiminished Enthusiasm.
Steve: Well, that’s fine, but I’m not playing along with your game.
Zack: Oh, I am playing YOUR game, Steve!
Zack: Captain Davidoff does not suffer the heretic nor the fool to live. He is the most perceptive Rogue Trader to ever be granted an Imperial Charter. He says what he is thinking and has no time for the Imperium’s social mores.
Steve: Alright, that’s not bad.
Zack: Yeah, he’s pretty… pretty… pretty… pretty good.
Steve: Captain Davidoff is joined on the bridge of the Emperor’s Undiminished Enthusiasm by his Navigator, Sebastian Crinix, his gun-toting Arch Militant, Aileena Scourge, and his Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator friend Thesephius Grig.
Zack: I am not going to remember those names. It’s Sebastian, Elaine, and Greg.
Steve: You have just completed a modestly successful operation followed by a refitting and resupplying at an Imperial station. You stand before the command pulpit, your bridge teeming with the activity of more than a hundred officers and servitors. Your companions stand beside you, ready to begin whatever journey you command.
Zack: I step up to the command pulpit, surveying the majesty of this mighty cruiser. I look at the servitors and crewmen, the cherubs and servo skulls flitting about the gothic arches of my bridge. I activate the ship’s address and my voice booms out to the dozens of decks, to the ratings, the fighter bays, the gun crews, the engine seers, and the teeming thousands in the work gangs belowdecks, “Well, guys, I’m a rogue trader, so… it’s time to do some rogue trading. We’re going to do some trading. This is it. Standby.”
Steve: Thesephius approaches your command pulpit, his various mechanical claws and arms clicking and fidgeting as he gazes up with eight glowing red eyes. “Captain Davidoff, I have received a message from an Exploraor Station on the fringe of the Alenic Depths. They have sent a coded distress message.”
Zack: Am I supposed to know where that is?
Steve: It’s on the edge of the Koronus Expanse. It is known to be a dangerous part of space with frequent anomalies, pirate attacks, and rumors of xenos incursions of unknown origin.
Zack: I’ll pass. How about somewhere with parks, frozen yogurt, that sort of thing. I would like to buy oats from the oatworld and fly them to the dairy planet or something. Nice and safe.
Steve: Thesephius clicks urgently. “Captain, please, the station is very valuable to the Omnissiah. It was conducting experiments on the very fabric of the immaterium that could allow for faster and safer warp travel.”
Zack: “Set course for Oatworld.”
Steve: Aileena warns you that Oatworld has been virus bombed for heresy.
Zack: No more oats?
Steve: No more oats.
Zack: Steve, I’m feeling pretty railroaded here. But, okay, I get sort of a disgusted look on my face and my cyber parrot hisses angrily and then I tell Greg to give me what he knows about this facility and the distress message.
Steve: “It was transmitted by astropath four hours ago, captain. The station was under attack by unknown forces and the invaluable research of the explorators was in danger.”
Zack: This sounds more like a police issue.
Steve: The Adeptus Arbites and the Astra Militarum would not be helpful under the circumstances.
Zack: But me, the oat guy, would be?
Steve: Yes, my lord.
Zack: Oh, well, when you say “my lord” that changes things. Okay. What’s the name of the place we need to go?
Steve: Stygimatus Station. On the edges of a spacial anomaly called the Wound of Woe.
Zack: Oh, the Wound of Woe! Of course. I spent last summer there with the kids. Beautiful place to unwind.
Zack: Tapping my microphone on my space lectern thing and ordering, “Alright everybody, full power to the engines. We’re headed for the bad part of space town.”
Steve: Navigator Crinix says, “I shall plot a course to guide us through the immaterium, my lord.”
Zack: Bow and wave a handkerchief in thank you.
Steve: Armored shutters close over the stained glass windows of the bridge and you feel the thrum of the warp engine powering up beneath your feet. The vibration of the mighty engine reaches a peak and then, with a familiar lurch, the Emperor’s Undiminished Enthusiasm is propelled through a rift in the substance of space itself.
Zack: My favorite part is when our spaceship is surrounded by an endless cyclone of demons that want to rip our souls out.
Zack: A little too fancy for my taste.
Steve: It will take about a day of traveling through the warp for you to reach Stygimatus Station, which isn’t in a star system. It’s in deep space by itself.
Zack: But Wound of Woe adjacent. Keep that on the real estate listing.
Steve: The point is, you have a day to do whatever you want on the ship.
Zack: Whatever I want?
Steve: You’re the captain, so yep.
Zack: Building a massive temple to Slaanesh in the cargo hold.
Steve: You could probably get away with that but you’d have to kill a bunch of faithful people on your ship first.
Zack: I’m just testing my limits here, I don’t really want to do that. I mean, I spend all my time wearing the big hat, bossing people around. I’d like to just take some time off. Maybe declare it the captain’s birthday on the ship so everyone has to say “happy birthday” when they see me.
Zack: Free cake in the mess hall.
Steve: You are served extravagant meals in the captain’s private mess whenever you want.
Zack: I pictured Larrinicus as skinny, sort of whispy white hair, cyber eyes that give him an unnaturally keen look. But now I have to rethink that. He’d probably be extremely obese.
Steve: There are also exercise facilities.
Steve: A battle simulator?
Steve: They could build a different simulator for exercise for you.
Zack: How about one where I can run away from a friend’s kid’s bar mitzvah. Like I pretend to excuse myself to use the restroom and then I run.
Steve: Nobody knows what a bar mitzvah is in the 41st millennium so you get some weird looks.
Zack: I explain that it’s about giving checks and Mets merchandise to a 16 year old you barely know and eating bad chicken.
Steve: That only confuses them further.
Zack: How about like a running track?
Steve: “Easily done, my lord,” says the groveling techpriest.
Zack: That’s some nice groveling. *Leaning down to him to say* I really appreciate a good groveling. Well done. I’m promoting you.
Steve: “Thank you, my lord, but I can only be promoted by higher servants of the Adeptus Mechanicus.”
Zack: I mean I want to promote you, but my hands are tied by the Omnissiah. Would you like a better bathroom or something?
Steve: All of my bodily functions are maintained by the glory of my machine implants. I no longer require a bathroom.
Zack: Oh, now that’s nice. I must spend about 5% of my day in the bathroom, headed to the bathroom, leaving the bathroom, etc. It only gets worse as I get older too.
Steve: The longer I exist, the more I give my flesh over to the perfection of the Omnissiah.
Zack: Not a bad racket. What was your name?
Zack: Right. Okay. See you around the ship.
Zack: I smile as I back away and immediately forget his name or that I even told him to build me a running track.
Steve: So what are you doing?
Zack: Having an extravagant feast with Elaine and Jerry.
Steve: Do you mean Aileena Scourge and Thesephius Grig?
Zack: Oh, right, Elaine and Greg. Yeah, those two. I assume the navigator guy is busy.
Steve: Yes, navigating.
Zack: “So, what are you two up to?”
Steve: Elaine says, “Held a mass with the assembled armsmen brigades in the hopes of a safe journey.” Greg makes a bunch of mechanical wheezes and then says, “Overseeing the final rituals of activation for our void repair vehicles. They may be deployed for the upcoming operation if Stygimatus Station has sustained damage.”
Zack: That raises a good point! I’m a businessman and I want to get paid. Will the Adeptus Mechanicus pay me for saving these people?
Steve: Certainly there will be some reward if you are able to recover the prototype ward drives.
Zack: If the station is blown up I am salvaging everything I can and selling it.
Steve: The research is invaluable.
Zack: I’m sure somebody will find a value. What about Elaine’s soldiers are we going to be ready to whoop a little tuchas?
Steve: You have like 1,000 elite armsmen on your ship capable of boarding enemy vessels and that sort of thing, plus another 5,000 who have a little training and can be issued basic weapons like shotguns and sluggers to defend your ship.
Zack: How many people are on this ship?
Steve: Like 75,000 or so. You could give axes and pipes to another half of your ship for total cannon fodder. The rest of those people are basically slaves and would be just as likely to start killing your other crew if you armed them.
Zack: I, ehhh, didn’t plan on this whole system. I mean, I didn’t set it up. The first guy did. It’s the system we have.
Steve: The servers bring out tray after tray of steaming delicacies, rare meats, fruits, and wines, and desserts from the finest pastry chefs in the sector.
Zack: Don’t worry, I’ll find something to complain about.
Zack: “It’s so much and then you have all the parading with the trays. Just bring me a plate with a sandwich on it, a nice French dip maybe or a turkey on rye. This with the whole steaming delicacies? I don’t need it.”
Steve: “Of course, my lord,” agrees Greg. “I require only nutrient paste.”
Steve: Elaine seems to like the delicacies.
Zack: There’s a middle ground between nutrient paste and galactic cupcakes. That’s all I am saying.
Steve: Anything else other than eat and complain about eating?
Zack: And exercise.
Steve: Other than those three things?
Zack: Take in a show? With 75,000 people there has to be some sort of community theater.
Steve: There are the scalded brothers who work in the pipemass beneath the decks who perform their labor chants to honor those among their fraternity who have been scalded to death by the pipes.
Zack: I’ll pass on that.
Zack: Hard pass.
Steve: The Emperor’s Undiminished Enthusiasm bursts forth from the immaterium in a scarlet fissure in the very fabric of the void. The massive ship, with all its turrets, masts, and decorative gothic flourishes, passes from the warp to the physical world like a performer stepping from behind a curtain.
Zack: One of the scalded brothers.
Steve: You are watching from the bridge as the screens display empty space. Based on the ship’s stellar augers, you have arrived almost exactly where intended. There is no immediate sign of Stygimatus Station.
Zack: What about the Wound of Woe?
Steve: Curiously, your sensors can just barely detect the anomaly emitting faint radiation from the warp. It’s as if it has diminished to a tenth of its previous size.
Zack: Well, that’s not good. Is it? Maybe it is good. Let’s approach cautiously and scan for any life pods or whatever. Maybe the station was blown up.
Steve: “There are no transmissions from savior pods,” says Greg. “However, there are faint energy signatures and signs of a debris field.”
Zack: Send out those recovery vehicles Greg was talking about.
Steve: After a few minutes of preparations, you hear the crackling radio reports of the pilots of the recovery vehicles announce their launches. Tiny winking lights travel away from your vessel as a dozen of the small ships approach the debris field.
Zack: I order them to launch some fighters to provide escort for the recovery ships.
Steve: A few minutes later formations of void fighters streak out from your ship’s hangars and begin to circle around the debris field keeping watch over the recovery vessels.
Zack: The first man to find something valuable gets a space chicken or something.
Steve: “You honor them with your genorosity,” says Greg with a bow.
Zack: That’s me. Everyone likes me.
Steve: The recovery ships finds bits and pieces of debris, nothing very valuable, but it seems that whatever destroyed this station really blasted it to pieces. They do detect unusual amounts of radiation in the area, not coming from the anomaly and not in a profile that fits any known weapons that renegades or xenos might use.
Zack: Looks like more space chickens for me tonight.
Steve: After more than an hour of scanning and flitting around the debris, one of the recovery ships finally reports that they have found a survivor. Or something like a survivor. It’s a techpriest and seemingly all of his human flesh has been blasted away. However, his power source is still active and the head portion of him seems encased in cybernetics.
Zack: “Greg, you think you can fix that guy?”
Steve: “I will perform the rituals of repair and attempt to make him whole enough to speak.”
Zack: Good enough for me. The other repair ships can keep searching the debris while this guy gets worked on.
Steve: An hour or so later, you are standing in the mechanicus shrine on your ship. Greg, in his red robes, is snipping and soldering away with all his mechanical arms on what looks like part of a skeletal metal man trailing wires. Various servitors and lesser techpriests assist Greg in the operation while you, Elaine, and Sebastian, the navigator, stand around waiting.
Zack: I’m either coming, going, or waiting. 90% of my life. 5% bathrooms. 5% actually doing something.
Steve: “My lord, it awakens!” The half-skeleton sits up slowly, its eyes glowing with faint red light. It lets out a horrible screech of machine code which is answered by Greg. Its head slowly rotates to face you.
Zack: I peer carefully at it, moving my head around for different vantages.
Steve: “Greetings, Captain Davidoff,” it speaks in an unpleasant machine growl. “Thank you for assisting Stygimatus Station.”
Zack: “You mean the wreckage out there? It’s not a big deal. I mean, 75,000 guys flew through demon space to come help you. But… no big deal. What happened?”
Steve: Static crackles through his voice as he speaks, “Unknown xenos from the Alenic Depths arrived in three large vessels. Large cruiser class. Xenos did not communicate. Xenos attacked and boarded the station. Skitarii overpowered. Xenos took the experimental warp drives and destroyed the station with crude, but extremely powerful weapons.”
Steve: “Negative. Unidentified xenos.”
Zack: I mean, I am a space captain, I think I know most of the aliens.
Steve: A small lid snaps open on the chest of the techpriest and he projects a red holographic video. It’s only a few seconds long but it depicts a hunched, larged-mouth reptilian creature. It almost resembles picts you have seen of creatures from Hive Fleet Kraken, but this creature has armor, extensive cybernetics, and is using crude slug weapons.
Zack: “They’re gone, right?”
Steve: “Affirmative. The xenos attackers captured the experimental warp drives and destroyed the station. The left in the direction of the Alenic Depths.”
Zack: Which is?
Steve: You know it well. It is a murky-looking part of space where dark nebulae seem to writhe and blot out stars. It is supposedly cursed, few travelers survive entering it and it has defied charting. There are rumored to be riches within it, but many believe such tales are cruel jokes played on desperate rogue traders.
Zack: Captain Davidoff is not desperate. Did you see my enormous ship? It’s huge. It has like 75,000 people on it.
Steve: Rogue Traders are always a little bit desperate. Keeping a charter with the Imperium means you have to prove your family is doing something with it. Otherwise it will get revoked and you’ll just be another freighter captain hauling things around imperial space.
Zack: Hauling oats? Things like oats?
Zack: I get it, call to action and all that.
Steve: The skeletal techpriest lets out another screech of machine talk and then it says to you, “Xenos ships emitted unusual amounts of radiation from engines. Did not use conventional warp drive, was something like the Tau use, but less advanced. Not far into the Alenic Depths.”
Zack: “Greg, can you follow the trail these engines left behind?”
Steve: “My lord, it has already begun. The auspexes are being trained upon the region we suspect they escaped. If what K9X5 reported is true, it will be an easy task to determine their path and speed.”
Zack: So we can jump to their destination?
Steve: “If Greg’s calculations are correct, I can plot that course through the immaterium,” says Sebastian, your navigator.
Zack: Like an ambush then. I like it. But these guys had three ships. We need some backup.
Steve: The skeletal techpriest interjects, “No time. Must recover drives.”
Zack: Oh, one other thing. Why did the Wound of Woe anomaly get smaller?
Steve: There is a long silence, then the techpriest emits a bunch of machine code. Greg answers. It goes back and forth for more than a minute in an unpleasant screeching argument. Finally, Greg answers, “He will not give me the reason.”
Zack: Sure, that’s fine. I’m sure it’s unrelated.
Zack: Right, we aren’t going in without at least making a call for backup. Who is the nearest help?
Steve: The Ultramarines have a star citadel. It is the nearest help you could receive.
Zack: Here’s my plan: We are going to figure out where these guys heisted the warp drives to, we are going to put in a request for backup to the Ultramarines, and we are going to give them that as our location. Then we are going to warp there and try to beat these aliens to their destination.
Steve: Elaine speaks up, “We have no idea what foes we might face at this destination. This could be their homeworld.”
Zack: Well, then, Elaine, if that happens I guess you and your boys are going to have to conquer it in the name of the Davidoff family.
Steve: She is taken aback by your boldness.
Zack: To be honest, I want to be hauling oats, but this is what I do now apparently. So let’s do it.
Steve: Greg is able to calculate their destination to a faint, red star on the near edge of the Alenic Depths. It has a mechanicus identifier, XQ-453B-389, but no name.
Zack: That has a nice ring to it. Very memorable. But after I conquer it I am changing the name to Davidoff’s Glory.
Steve: Sebastian plots a jump that will take about eight hours in the warp and should allow you to arrive almost a day in advance of the xenos ships.
Zack: Perfect, relay all that information to the Ultramarines by astropath and tell them we are going in hoping for some help from the mighty blue assholes with the giant U on their shoulders. Then we’re entering the warp.
Steve: The message is sent. With dreams of profit and mighty conquest, the Emperor’s Undiminished Enthusiasm rends the fabric of space and slips into the swirling chaos of the warp. You are bound for XQ-453B-389 and almost certain battle.
Zack: For the glory of the Emperor? I guess? Eh.
Steve: NEXT TIME!