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Some Rogue Trader Missgivings


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#1 Rolen

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 06:00 PM

   Warhammer 40K has always projected a sense of immenseness, where the individual is lost in the masses. The Imperium does not encourage individualism, so there are adventures a plenty, but not for an official agent of the Empire. The two exceptions to this rule are the Inquisitor, and the Rogue Trader.
  The original Warhammer 40K rulebook describes the Rogue Traders as follows;

 

    Rogue Traders are individuals who have reached a position of power within the Imperial hierarchy.

Then the book goes on in the same paragraph to say;

     Rogue Traders have a reputation as outcasts; many are people whom the priesthood deems better kept at a distance.

The section goes on to describe the equipping of a Rogue Traders as;

    Retinue. Rogue Traders do not take to the empty voids of space alone-each commands a small fleet, a contingent of warriors, settlers, and all manner of support personnel. With them go supplies to last for several years, vehicles, prefabricated research stations, housing, transport, weaponry, etc. Atypical retinue would be an entire company of space marines, (100 warriors,) plus two companies of ordinary imperial troops, all with standard vehicles, and auxiliary equipment. These can be generated in the normal manner, should you wish.

  In issue #19 of the Battlefleet Gothic Magazine, the vessels are described. Each Rogue Trader gets a "Rogue Trader Cruiser" as a flagship. The rest of the fleet consists of escort class vessels, which include armed freighters, auxiliary vessels, and recommissioned (stolen) Imperial vessels. Also included are vessels from races the Trader has encountered, referred to as xenos vessels.
This does not lend itself well to conventional role playing, where the characters start out as a group of hay seeds that just rolled off the turnip truck, and work their way up into heroes. It could be used as a basis for a game about lords, and generals. Such a game would be difficult for the average gamer. It would require less "roll" playing, and more "role" playing.
  The most important element of a game is independence of action of the player characters. In order for a Rogue Trader to have independence, is for them to have a ship. One of the problems with the ships is that they are MASSIVE! The humble little Cobra destroyer is tens of times bigger than the mighty Battlestar Galactica. The starship Enterprise, NCC-1701, could be carried as a shuttle craft. Only the Imperial Star Destroyer, from Star Wars is a vessel of comparable size.
  In most RPGs, there is what are referred to as "Adventure Class Starships." These are vessels that are small enough to be crewed by the player characters. Some examples of these are the Millennium Falcon, from Star Wars, the Serenity, from Firefly, and the Jupiter II, from Lost in Space. In Warhammer 40K, there is no real tradition of this kind of vehicle.
  From reading the sample adventure, "Forsaken Bounty," I sense that Fantasy Flight Games is changing the Warhammer 40K universe to fit the standard RPG universe. There are two points that lead me to this conclusion. First, adventures are referred to as "Endeavors," which sound like "Missions" to me. Second, the Rogue Trader had to get permission to salvage the Emperor's Bounty. The purpose of giving a Trader free reign is so the Imperium has the benefit of an element that is unpredictable. Having the Trader on a leash defeats that purpose.
 



#2 Lightbringer

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 10:33 PM

This is an issue that we've been chewing on for some time on the forum - check out the "Captain Han Solo vs Captain James T Kirk" thread. I actually agree with you: the scale of Imperial spacecraft dictates that the players will be the commanders of thousands of individuals on a ship the size of Manhattan.

Naturally, this is going to have a knock-on effect upon the type of game that is played. I think we're starting to see how FFG are going to deal with this: by shoehorning the senior command crew into unlikely situations where they are on their own.

Personally, I still think RT has the potential to work very well, but with a greater emphasis on ship combat and political style play. One would have thought the noble scion of a family bearing an ancient hereditary charter of trade is less likely to get into barroom brawls with mutants (though I could be wrong) but he's still going to get into Dune-style noble house political assasinations, Star Wars-style  vast ship battles and the like. 

All of the 40k roleplay games look like they come with some element not found in other RPGs: in Dark Heresy it is the fact that the players have an Inquisitor master. I remember similar concerns being expressed over that element: "My players aren't free, they're not in control, they're serfs etc etc."  Yet DH actually works well as a RPG if you accept the setting and just run with it.

The RT element is the vast spacecraft and thousands of crew. I think all the GMs who found ways to make the Player's Inquisitor work for them in DH will do the same with this starship element in RT, as they will for the military structure of the Marines in the forthcoming Deathwatch game. 

I understand your misgivings, but I have faith!   



#3 LuciusT

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 11:39 PM

Rolen said:

This does not lend itself well to conventional role playing, where the characters start out as a group of hay seeds that just rolled off the turnip truck, and work their way up into heroes. It could be used as a basis for a game about lords, and generals. Such a game would be difficult for the average gamer. It would require less "roll" playing, and more "role" playing.

Yes, Rogue Trader done right (as I'm betting FFG will do it) will definitely be a different sort of game. Characters start out powerful, with a strong base of operations and a large retinue under their command. It can be done. I've seen it done, in a game called Ars Magica. Such games do require a different way of thinking about things, both for the players and the GM. It takes some getting use to, but it can make for a really fun game.



#4 macd21

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 11:41 PM

I don't see it as an issue. The hayseed-to-hero style of gaming is just one style. RT should provide us with another. And no, the average gamer won't have a problem with it. Why would he? Just tell him "you are the captain of a starship" and he'll get it.

 

And will probably start rad-bombing planets.



#5 Lightbringer

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 11:46 PM

macd21 said:

And will probably start rad-bombing planets.

That's the spirit!



#6 Barl

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 12:07 AM

The only other rpg I personally can think of where you start out being powerful, is superhero rpgs. But most superhero rpgs dont deal with having political power, I am looking forward to this aspect of RT



#7 macd21

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 01:03 AM

Barl said:

The only other rpg I personally can think of where you start out being powerful, is superhero rpgs. But most superhero rpgs dont deal with having political power, I am looking forward to this aspect of RT

 

Birthright. You started off as the ruler of a kingdom, the head of a merchant guild, the leader of a religious sect or a mage with the ability to destroy nations or summon armies of monsters. System needed work, but was great fun :)



#8 Santiago

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 02:57 AM

The ship mentioned in the Published Adventure is approximately 5.5km and has a crew of 100.000
This is also the biggest ship available.

I'm hoping to be able to give my pc's a "small" 2.5km long ship with a crew of about 12.000 or so



#9 Graver

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:15 AM

Lightbringer said:

 

macd21 said:

 

And will probably start rad-bombing planets.

 

 

That's the spirit!

 

 

But would that be the profitable approach? ;-)

The more I think about the Endeavors, the more I actually think they were a small sliver of brilliance. Originally, I thought it was just a fancy formalized way of the GM asking the players "so, what are your plans now?" The more I think about them though, the more I realize that they will help with the freedom the game offers. Sure, the Rogue Trader could solve almost every problem tossed at him though high orbital bombardment, but would that be the most profitable solution?

Role playing games can encompass a lot more then just hitting bad guys in the head with what ever stick the character looted. Commanding fleets and building a powerful rogue trader dynasty is but one. Sure, there won't be much looting for cool sticks to hit guys in the head with (to be honest, they should be looting to the next level and loot planets for new big bombs to hit other planets with...), but there'll be heck of a lot of drama as the characters have to make the Big Decisions and worry about the Bottom Line and the best way to increase their profit margin in a given situation.



#10 Lightbringer

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:25 AM

True dat, Graver!

I think in many ways players will take to the Rogue Trader more easily than they did to DH. Not because there's anything wrong with DH, but because the (apparently) greedily acquisitive nature of RT fits more solidly with the traditional RPG model of "find it, kill it, steal its stuff."



#11 macd21

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 11:03 AM

Graver said:

But would that be the profitable approach? ;-)

 

Step One: Rad bomb planet.

Step Two: ...

Step Three: Profit!

 



#12 Psion

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 11:45 AM

Lightbringer said:

True dat, Graver!

I think in many ways players will take to the Rogue Trader more easily than they did to DH. Not because there's anything wrong with DH, but because the (apparently) greedily acquisitive nature of RT fits more solidly with the traditional RPG model of "find it, kill it, steal its stuff."

This is especially true if you're dealing with players who believe everything is a loot pinata... I've certainly had a few of those in my gaming career.

The main complaint I've noticed revolves around the relationship between the lore and the inherit smallness of an RPG troupe.  First of all, the lore was written for a wargame, and one that's had its backstory rewritten several times at that.  At one time, the Space Marines were penal troopers jacked up with chemicals, now look at them whether you hate them or not (some of us do and with justifible reason.)  Honestly, I didn't think the idea of a 40k RPG would get off the ground period.  To much focus on large scale battles, the "character" of nations and empires, and on massive armies throwing down for ultimately no real purpose.  There would not be much material for a GM to use for a group of four to six players.  Yet Dark Heresy managed to prove me wrong by presenting a side of the Imperium that's scary, claustrophobic, and has all the tightness a small group of people would expect from an RPG.  Still too early to see if Rogue Trader does the same but it might, I'm hopeful at least.

Another thing is this question of why a Rogue Trader and his retinue have to be the ones to go first....  Well, why has Star Trek gotten away with it for several decades?



#13 Graver

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 12:06 PM

Psion said:

Lightbringer said:

True dat, Graver!

 

I think in many ways players will take to the Rogue Trader more easily than they did to DH. Not because there's anything wrong with DH, but because the (apparently) greedily acquisitive nature of RT fits more solidly with the traditional RPG model of "find it, kill it, steal its stuff."

 

This is especially true if you're dealing with players who believe everything is a loot pinata... I've certainly had a few of those in my gaming career.

The main complaint I've noticed revolves around the relationship between the lore and the inherit smallness of an RPG troupe.  First of all, the lore was written for a wargame, and one that's had its backstory rewritten several times at that.  At one time, the Space Marines were penal troopers jacked up with chemicals, now look at them whether you hate them or not (some of us do and with justifible reason.)  Honestly, I didn't think the idea of a 40k RPG would get off the ground period.  To much focus on large scale battles, the "character" of nations and empires, and on massive armies throwing down for ultimately no real purpose.  There would not be much material for a GM to use for a group of four to six players.  Yet Dark Heresy managed to prove me wrong by presenting a side of the Imperium that's scary, claustrophobic, and has all the tightness a small group of people would expect from an RPG.  Still too early to see if Rogue Trader does the same but it might, I'm hopeful at least.

Another thing is this question of why a Rogue Trader and his retinue have to be the ones to go first....  Well, why has Star Trek gotten away with it for several decades?

 

I don't think a Rogue Trader or his closest few have to be the first to go in so to speak. The thing with Rogue Trader is the stories probably shouldn't be about how a group of 4 random fellas can single handedly take down the bad guy of the week. It would be more about how the Rogue Trader and his trusted few plus a crew of several hundred to several thousand can cope with situation X and make a profit or increase their reputation while dealing with it to boot.

They won't have to personally involve themselves with situation X, but they will have to call the shots on how it's dealt with, revise their plans if their first idea goes belly up, and, otherwise, survive through wits, ingenuity, and good resource management as opposed to guns, armour, and good fighting stats.

Take Forsaken Bounty for instance. If one were to disregard the whole captain setting foot aboard the salvage first, you would have a great open ended story with no definite or traditional way to resolve it. Though it still could be resolved the traditional PC's go in and kick butt way, but it dosn't need to be.

They would have to deal with losing men to the things in the salvage (that will hurt their profit) the possibilities of dragging the cursed salvage aboard their vessel and then having to deal with it there (one heck of a potential hit to the profit margins if they lose a lot of crew this way never mind losing a navigator...), hauling the cursed salvage. If they did manage to sell it off without ever finding or dealing with the halo device, well, then they might have inquisitor acolytes infiltrating their ship fallowing the halo devices path back to them. Suddenly you have a spy type story where some of the crew are actually covertly looking into the PC's for signs of xenos corruption...

It's just a shift in narrative focus, where the conflict comes from, and how to resolve said conflict. The conflict will still be there, it just won't be your standard man-against-the-world adventure styled conflict (well, at least not on the small scale it's usually played at).

 



#14 Psion

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 01:50 PM

Graver said:

Psion said:

 

Lightbringer said:

True dat, Graver!

 

I think in many ways players will take to the Rogue Trader more easily than they did to DH. Not because there's anything wrong with DH, but because the (apparently) greedily acquisitive nature of RT fits more solidly with the traditional RPG model of "find it, kill it, steal its stuff."

 

This is especially true if you're dealing with players who believe everything is a loot pinata... I've certainly had a few of those in my gaming career.

The main complaint I've noticed revolves around the relationship between the lore and the inherit smallness of an RPG troupe.  First of all, the lore was written for a wargame, and one that's had its backstory rewritten several times at that.  At one time, the Space Marines were penal troopers jacked up with chemicals, now look at them whether you hate them or not (some of us do and with justifible reason.)  Honestly, I didn't think the idea of a 40k RPG would get off the ground period.  To much focus on large scale battles, the "character" of nations and empires, and on massive armies throwing down for ultimately no real purpose.  There would not be much material for a GM to use for a group of four to six players.  Yet Dark Heresy managed to prove me wrong by presenting a side of the Imperium that's scary, claustrophobic, and has all the tightness a small group of people would expect from an RPG.  Still too early to see if Rogue Trader does the same but it might, I'm hopeful at least.

Another thing is this question of why a Rogue Trader and his retinue have to be the ones to go first....  Well, why has Star Trek gotten away with it for several decades?

 

 

 

I don't think a Rogue Trader or his closest few have to be the first to go in so to speak. The thing with Rogue Trader is the stories probably shouldn't be about how a group of 4 random fellas can single handedly take down the bad guy of the week. It would be more about how the Rogue Trader and his trusted few plus a crew of several hundred to several thousand can cope with situation X and make a profit or increase their reputation while dealing with it to boot.

They won't have to personally involve themselves with situation X, but they will have to call the shots on how it's dealt with, revise their plans if their first idea goes belly up, and, otherwise, survive through wits, ingenuity, and good resource management as opposed to guns, armour, and good fighting stats.

Take Forsaken Bounty for instance. If one were to disregard the whole captain setting foot aboard the salvage first, you would have a great open ended story with no definite or traditional way to resolve it. Though it still could be resolved the traditional PC's go in and kick butt way, but it dosn't need to be.

They would have to deal with losing men to the things in the salvage (that will hurt their profit) the possibilities of dragging the cursed salvage aboard their vessel and then having to deal with it there (one heck of a potential hit to the profit margins if they lose a lot of crew this way never mind losing a navigator...), hauling the cursed salvage. If they did manage to sell it off without ever finding or dealing with the halo device, well, then they might have inquisitor acolytes infiltrating their ship fallowing the halo devices path back to them. Suddenly you have a spy type story where some of the crew are actually covertly looking into the PC's for signs of xenos corruption...

It's just a shift in narrative focus, where the conflict comes from, and how to resolve said conflict. The conflict will still be there, it just won't be your standard man-against-the-world adventure styled conflict (well, at least not on the small scale it's usually played at).

Okay, you caught me there.  the Rogue Trader kind of scope I don't have any experience with but I digress.  You can play it that way or you can play it the "captain, his command staff, and a few red shirts go down" that Startrek got away with for what? Thirty years?  Eh, don't mind me.



#15 TalkingMuffin

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 03:52 PM

 As much as i near-loathe the system, Exalted...especially a Dragon-Blooded game...can be very much the level of RT. I'll never forget when I first ran Exalted and 3 starting PCs killed over 50 Realm troops in no time! I was shocked and frustrated, but then I realized I had to change my way of thinking about the game. Now, I'm all about word-ending plots with super-powerful PCs! 

As far as why the leaders do dangerous stuff? Because they can! Let those other panty-waste captains live lives of pampered cowardice! We will EARN our booty (yeah, pirate terms are way cool!) and march to glory on the ashes of each planet we burn to a cinder with our awesome! OK, that last part's a bit much, but you get the idea.



#16 Rolen

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:33 PM

First things first,
Lightbringer; I need to apologize, when I first saw your Solo/Kirk thread, I thought it was one of those "Who Can Beat Who in a Fist Fight" type threads. I have since read it, and found it very insightful. I especially like what Nullius said about "The 'rag-tag fugitive fleet' might arrive in-system and disgorge a veritable horde of small, intra-system vessels -be they prospectors, missionaries, profiteers, idealists, cultists, etc." I am going to give that idea a lot of thought.


Psion; "Loot Piñata" Just entered my vocabulary.


When I said, "a game about lords, and generals. Such a game would be difficult for the average gamer," I was thinking about an idea I've been working on as away to generate campaigns for the WH 40K miniature game. Each Rogue Trader would come from a different branch of the Imperium, and therefore have different assets. An Imperial Guard General would have ground combat advantages, A member of of the Ordos Hereticus would have Sisters of Battle, and other "Faith Based" (sorry for the term,) elements, an inquisitor of the Ordos Malleus would have daemon hunters, etc. There would also be what I would call "Rogue Traitors" who serve the Chaos powers. The eldar have their pirates, and the tau would have their own style of "Traders." The Blood Axe Orks could have some form of merchants, (What do you call an Ork Rogue Trader?-A green skin that's buying ammo.) Tyranid and Necron Traders are a hard to fit into the story line.


Each trader would have his own set of resources, and needs. There would also be a rating system for how hostile one group is to another. I see the whole thing as a game of cooperation, as well as conflict. The "winner" would be the player that can best work with his allies. The primary activity of the game would be negotiations, and planning. An activity that is as close to L.A.R.P. as you can get, without wearing a costume.


I'm still working on that idea, what do you think?

 

 



#17 MDMann

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 12:54 AM

Rolen said:

 

" The Blood Axe Orks could have some form of merchants, (What do you call an Ork Rogue Trader?-A green skin that's buying ammo).

 

An Ammo Shoper!



#18 Necrozius

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 02:56 AM

Simply due to the fact that I just don't have the number crunching skills and intellect to run a campaign in which one has to manage thousands of crew members, income, massive ship to ship battles and, to top it all off, some political intrigue... I will start off the campaign a little smaller scale.

Say, in the spirit of "Skies of Arcadia", in which the players have a ship about the size of a real world Destroyer, and in which they have to seek out potential crew members to hire while seeking out bounties to upgrade their vessel with better toys. Perhaps winning Rogue Trader "prizes" for stellar discoveries and charting maps of unknown sectors.



#19 Psion

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 08:00 AM

Rolen said:

Psion; "Loot Piñata" Just entered my vocabulary.

When I said, "a game about lords, and generals. Such a game would be difficult for the average gamer," I was thinking about an idea I've been working on as away to generate campaigns for the WH 40K miniature game. Each Rogue Trader would come from a different branch of the Imperium, and therefore have different assets. An Imperial Guard General would have ground combat advantages, A member of of the Ordos Hereticus would have Sisters of Battle, and other "Faith Based" (sorry for the term,) elements, an inquisitor of the Ordos Malleus would have daemon hunters, etc. There would also be what I would call "Rogue Traitors" who serve the Chaos powers. The eldar have their pirates, and the tau would have their own style of "Traders." The Blood Axe Orks could have some form of merchants, (What do you call an Ork Rogue Trader?-A green skin that's buying ammo.) Tyranid and Necron Traders are a hard to fit into the story line.


Each trader would have his own set of resources, and needs. There would also be a rating system for how hostile one group is to another. I see the whole thing as a game of cooperation, as well as conflict. The "winner" would be the player that can best work with his allies. The primary activity of the game would be negotiations, and planning. An activity that is as close to L.A.R.P. as you can get, without wearing a costume.


I'm still working on that idea, what do you think?

- For some reason all my problem players had this same hang-up, there couldn't NOT be something on the corpse of a freshly slain badguy or a warehouse/storeroom/cavern they just entered, it had to have some kind of loot.  And since there never appeared to be much in the way of organization, it felt like keeping little kids from fighting over the candy that spilled.... yeah I need to get back into the online PnP forums again.  This realworld face-to-face stuff just isn't for me.

- While it sounds like it might be fun, I have only played one game where the players could work in some kind of competition with one another and still be successful.  That game was called Paranoia and it worked because it changed the critera of a "successful game."  Still sounds like it might work though.



#20 Rolen

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 04:55 PM

All I ment is that I liked the term "Loot Piñata." I have been through so many "Slash, and grab" campains that I find them boring.






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