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PencilBoy99

Advice re Starting Rogue Trader

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I'm thinking that I'll run Rogue Trader as my next campaign. I've run Dark Heresy v1 before.

 

Given the current state of the rules (e.g., Only War, Dark Heresy), are there any conversions you recommend? (e.g., running it using Only War character creation).

 

I'd like players to be able to be awesome with their "signature move/weapon" like they are in the fiction. Even though, realistically, a powerful weapon on autofire is much better than an individual's pistol, it would be sweet if I could somehow allow a player with their special Mark Z special-pattern Laspistol that they got from their grandfather to be equally effective. Is there a straightforward rules hack (or something I just don't know about) that would let me do that? A series of talents?

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Use the RT character creation system - the Origins plus higher starting characteristics tends to make RT characters feel exceptionally powerful as compared to other humans from other 40K systems.  If you want your players to be more powerful from jump, give them more xp to spend - i.e. start them at rank 2.  Given that most of the rank 1 skills/talents from the tree are stuff you get free from your class, most of the xp spent in rank 1 ends up being on characteristic advances.  Thus, you could easily have a character begin the campaign with something over 60.  That REALLY powerful considering bonuses and the such could make tests vs. that characteristic almost an auto-pass.

 

As for gear... you're the GM.  Do what you want.  You want your characters to be extra special unique snowflakes with Dark Age of Technology, crotch-mounted quad-lascannon turrets... go for it. 

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Traejun's suggestion is good, and I have a couple more.

 

1) Set up a system for Elite advances and stick with it.  Eventually, and probably sooner than later, one of your players is going to want a skill or talent thats not on their chart.  Scrutiny or Navigate Surface, for example.  If your elite advance system is not to punitive, it goes a long way to fixing the railroaded nature of the careers.  

 

2) Hordes, as stolen from Deathwatch or Dark Crusade, are your friend.  Otherwise it requires massive amounts of dice to challenge your party with weak little minions.  And that takes a lot of time for you as the GM to roll.  And that's boring.

 

3) Bias to CQB.  When your characters are leading their personal army, its a good time to take the battle to range, but when your characters are acting like bridge crew from the USS Enterprise, try to keep them in places where they'll start fairly close to their opponents, like twisting ship corridors or dense jungle.  This allows the classic pistol & sword wielder to shine.  Engagements that start at 400m are for unnamed line infantry.

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Traejun's suggestion is good, and I have a couple more.

 

1) Set up a system for Elite advances and stick with it.  Eventually, and probably sooner than later, one of your players is going to want a skill or talent thats not on their chart.  Scrutiny or Navigate Surface, for example.  If your elite advance system is not to punitive, it goes a long way to fixing the railroaded nature of the careers.  

 

2) Hordes, as stolen from Deathwatch or Dark Crusade, are your friend.  Otherwise it requires massive amounts of dice to challenge your party with weak little minions.  And that takes a lot of time for you as the GM to roll.  And that's boring.

 

3) Bias to CQB.  When your characters are leading their personal army, its a good time to take the battle to range, but when your characters are acting like bridge crew from the USS Enterprise, try to keep them in places where they'll start fairly close to their opponents, like twisting ship corridors or dense jungle.  This allows the classic pistol & sword wielder to shine.  Engagements that start at 400m are for unnamed line infantry.

 

Lots of great advice there.  I especially like the bolded part in #3.  Stand up fights at that range are where bullet-catchers redshirts shine... and by shine, I mean die in massive droves.  Nothing to worry to much about.

 

As for #2, I just want to add that if you do want your characters to start out geared to the 9's and with more quantifiable power (in terms of stats/skills/talents, etc...) then you need to make their opposition equally more powerful.  A group of rank 1 RT characters with little more than basic gear can make short of work of most things, especially with the ability to support their actions with 100's or 1000's of armsmen/infantry/redshirts/bullet-catchers.

 

In order to make winning combat something other than a foregone conclusion, you need to tune your encounters to match the relative strength of the PCs.  Generally, that's done over time - your bad guys become increasingly powerful over the course of the campaign (i.e. start fighting kroot or other humans, end up double-tapping daemons and Rak'Gol).  If you want to start them powerful, your combat will end up being a shock to people... and mostly likely under- or over-tuned.  Don't be surprised, or let down, if your first encounter is a joke for your players to emerge from.  And equally don't be surprised if the first fight ends up with fate points burned and lost limbs.

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Oh, also on Hordes, it's a great way to deal with the 'retainers' a lot of Rogue Trader groups like to take with them.  In this way, 10-50 troops can be clumped into a single unit that the RT or AM can roll for.

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In order to make winning combat something other than a foregone conclusion, you need to tune your encounters to match the relative strength of the PCs.  Generally, that's done over time - your bad guys become increasingly powerful over the course of the campaign (i.e. start fighting kroot or other humans, end up double-tapping daemons and Rak'Gol).  If you want to start them powerful, your combat will end up being a shock to people... and mostly likely under- or over-tuned.  Don't be surprised, or let down, if your first encounter is a joke for your players to emerge from.  And equally don't be surprised if the first fight ends up with fate points burned and lost limbs.

 

For the fun of discussing this, lets have an example; it can always help to have something concrete to compare to. How is this well doable with some of the crap you will encounter? When you fight your RT group against an NPC RT group, it stands to reason that they, too, will have some cool gear, but you've spelunked ancient tombs, ruins where no man, sane or otherwise has dared tread for ages, and spent world's economies worth of money to get your stuff; how are many of your enemies supposed to "magically" have that access? Other than "and so they have even more bodies." I'm only bringing this up because plenty of fights will be against Ork mini-mobs, or ganger thugs in the back allies of Footfall. Some fights can certainly be throwaways to break up the monotony of walking, talking, and making money, but minus a few fights with other bigwigs, their associates and underlings, and such, I would think that your greed for the best, plus access to the funds, should keep you with better gear, and more XP spent to be badass, while they are just tools. Thanks, and I hope this made at least partial sense.

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Other RT's are always the perfect match - in theory - for the PCs.  Similar mindset, access to stuff and general set of goals (i.e. get rich or die trying).  But that's not the only thing that the PCs are supposed to be concerned about.

 

Rak'gol, Eldar Corsairs, Dark Eldar slave raiders, Orks, Reavers/Pirates, Imperial personnel not keen on the PCs' penchant for making deals with [insert heretic/xeno here] and any number of other antagonists.  Again, other RTs make excellent opponents, and even better big bads that persist over long periods of game time - the classic "rival."  But that is a FAR cry from saying that they are amongst the few types of bads that can accomplish the goal.

 

As for the big about "magical access" - if your PCs did it, then their enemies could have as well.

 

As for the big about ork mini-mobs and gangers - that's not something RT PCs should be dealing with often, or ever.  It's beneath them.

 

And of course, lets not underestimate the power of numbers.  You go onto a world held by orks, expect to be HEAVILY outnumbered... almost to the point of hopelessness.  Some of that comes down to letting players hang themselves, some of it is simply the way it should be.

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I've been considering making some sort of 'Heirloom' tag for equipment so that a Rogue Trader with the Archotech laspistol of his grandfather can spend xp to make it more effective. Some way of making starting equipment worth sticking with rather than something be be discarded once you've got a better profit factor and can afford that best quality storm bolter (or whatever).

 

I haven't quite worked it out yet but something like making the equipment more easily able to be modified (IE modular scopes that can be swapped out at will and the like) and allowing a player to spend 100xp to add one to the weapon's proven quality. It is still a work in progress at the moment.

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Actually mini-mob of orks isn't bad for an early encounter.  Even better if you start with a couple, and have more around the corner to "join in the fighn'", allowing you to bump up the numbers (or not) based on how well the party is doing.  An ork's (un)natural toughness and good strength make them solid, but not overwhelming, enemies.  As an added GM bonus, they're gear is all but useless to the PCs, reducing loot issues.

 

Don't be afraid to use "narrative background combat".  Have the PCs fight a Nob and a half-dozen orks, while their regiment of redshirts fight the Tide of greenskins in the background.

 

When fighting organized militaries, heavy weapons and combined fire can go a long way to even the odds, as any Imperial Guard Astra Millitarum player can tell you.  Your players will (and should) be outnumbered when dealing with minion enemies, then occasionally fight a big-bad of the 41st Millenium, of which they're are plenty of every power level.  (Eldar Autarchs, Ork Kaptans & Warbosses, Chaos Space Marines, even the lowly Ogryn)

 

My biggest advice for balancing combats, is to first look at what 'average' PC weapon needs to roll to hurt the enemy, and what the 'average' enemy weapon needs to roll to hurt a PC.  2nd, don't be afraid to have enemies do something less helpful - like move to different cover, reload their weapon, hug cover, attempt to close to melee to avenge their brother, or break and run.  You can often freehand adjust the effective difficulty of an encounter by making the enemies act more 'naturaly' and less 'statistically appropriately'

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Weedy,  (your post wasn't up when I started my last response.)

 

You could also consider allowing them to 'upgrade' the weapon with an Acquisition test representing things like "replacing that midgrade lens grand-dad repaired it with" or "payed the arch-magi Lumus of Lathe to tune up the focusing alignment"

 

This would allow the weapon to stay in the acquisition system and not eat up precious xp (which equipment otherwise never does in RT)

 

If you want to use xp to make it better, consider porting over something akin to a couple of the Deathwatch talents that give the person various types of bonus with the use of a 'particular' weapon, like:

 

[Weaponmaster: Accurate]:  You've spent so much time training yourself on the intricacies of one weapon (chosen when this bonus is taken) you may add accurate to it's list of qualities.

Edited by Quicksilver

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Also use the Mathhammer rules for starship combat!

Mainly to treat all ship armour ratings as 12 lower than listed, but macro-cannons roll to hit per battery, no massed fire. Broadsides are given the Storm trait and Lances the Tearing trait (or allow lances to to score extra hits per 2 degrees, and the Starflare for every 1 degree of success up to their strength.

 

This makes starship combat more than just sitting at range and massed firing your macro-cannons and makes a ship with a combination of guns, lances and torpedoes/launch-bays/nova-cannon far more threatening as they should be.

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I've been considering making some sort of 'Heirloom' tag for equipment so that a Rogue Trader with the Archotech laspistol of his grandfather can spend xp to make it more effective. Some way of making starting equipment worth sticking with rather than something be be discarded once you've got a better profit factor and can afford that best quality storm bolter (or whatever).

 

I haven't quite worked it out yet but something like making the equipment more easily able to be modified (IE modular scopes that can be swapped out at will and the like) and allowing a player to spend 100xp to add one to the weapon's proven quality. It is still a work in progress at the moment.

 

First, I'll just say be careful with making starting gear too good.  Aside from trivializing your content/combat, you must keep in mind that getting new/sexy gear is part of the fun of the game.  If my "heirloom" laspistol is better than almost anything I'll ever find, why bother looking.  It removes a really cool/fun aspect of the game.

 

Do yourself a favor... let them start with only the basic stuff.  You want to sexy it up a little, just make it good or best craftsmanship.

 

As for how to modify stuff by hand, that's easy.  A little more damage, a little more pen, a cool special quality, etc...

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Actually, I disagree (a bit) with you Trea on that one.  But so long as it's used judicially.  Take Great(x15)-grand dad's Bolt-pistol.  Just because i'm not replacing that pistol, ever, doesn't mean I can't look for a new sword, or better armor, or a shield, or even special bolt ammunition for it.  Some day I might even buy an Inferno pistol to use when I have to take out a tank, or a full size plasma rifle to use for longer-range engagements.  As long as they don't have "relic Pistol, Relic Sword, Relic Rifle and Relic Armor" there is still plenty for them to try and buy/find/ask around for as the game goes along.

 

On the other side, don't be afraid of giving characters an heirloom weapon that isn't the "best they'll get."  One of my Captain-characters (Rogue Traderish Black Crusade) had a Heirloom Best Quality dueling pistol.  It's an ok weapon, but not a great one by any metric.  The character quickly picked up a bolter to use for "normal" combat.  But his "family Pistol" was always on him anyway.  And when he really wanted to make a point, or when it was personal, he'd draw that special pistol and use a lasround to execute them.  Point being, an item can be "signature" even if it's only rarely used.

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longer-range engagements

 

 

Heresy.  Rogue Traders don't do that.  The only acceptable response to enemies that are far away is to shout:

 

Fly me closer, I want to hit them with my chainsword Best-craftsmanship power sword of instant obedience +6 that the Emperor one's personally spanked Lorgar with when he mouthed off about gods and stuff.

Edited by Traejun
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For making heirloom/special/signature weapons/armor/other equipment, and rules mechanics to look at, I'd say (1) look at Only War's weapon customization/personalization and the variant pattern mechanics, (2) look at RT: Stars of Inequity treasure generator, and/or (3) Black Crusade's Legacy Weapon system. And, of course, the weapon mods from the various lines - possibly add in one or two of them for free.

Oh, and equipment quality, upgrade stuff by a level or two for free.

 

And, of course, there's the old "it's a magic daemon weapon".

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I think that Quicksilver is on the right path, where they can get an heirloom weapon that isn't top tier. The customization options in Only War are a nice little boost that usually isn't too powerful though.

 

If someone goes out of their way to fight with an heirloom weapon when there are better options I'd probably be more likely to award them a fate point in combat, not that my players would know that. Nor would they do that.

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A houserule i like to use is that shooting once adds a +10 to hit. Which is I believe official rules from Only War. This applying to any attack made once.

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First, I'll just say be careful with making starting gear too good.  Aside from trivializing your content/combat, you must keep in mind that getting new/sexy gear is part of the fun of the game.  If my "heirloom" laspistol is better than almost anything I'll ever find, why bother looking.  It removes a really cool/fun aspect of the game.

 

Do yourself a favor... let them start with only the basic stuff.  You want to sexy it up a little, just make it good or best craftsmanship.

 

As for how to modify stuff by hand, that's easy.  A little more damage, a little more pen, a cool special quality, etc...

 

 

Yes I don't want to make the starting gear so good that it should be used in all situations. That is why I like the proven quality. It doesn't add any more damage or penetration it just means that you'll being doing damage more reliably. Those bigger, newer, fancier weapons still have a higher maximum damage capacity but the heirloom item will never roll poorly and do no damage.

 

I wanted to make it an xp tax to make it better but perhaps as profit factor is what the game is all about then I could as Quicksilver suggested just make it a single skill (cost yet to be decided) that gives that one weapon a proven quality equal to the explorers BS bonus... or something like that.

 

That doesn't mean they can't do other things to upgrade it using their profit factor. It just will usually be more efficient to get a better weapon instead but if they want to stick with the heirloom weapon then sure take the profit factor test for the thrice blessed capacitors of the patron saint of las weaponry.

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On the other hand, some cool things that your players want to start with might end up being an interesting part of their character.

 

I know that the reason I'm not trading in my dueling pistols has nothing to do with them being better than any alternatives (they're really good laspistols, but they're hardly the best pistols ever).

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Yeah, Rogue Traders and retinues are all about pomp, and remembrance; they want, along with everything, to literally write their name in the stars, for everyone to read, and even after they are long dead, and their successors have either raised their place in the scheme of things to even higher planes, or screwed up, and burned it all down, to be THE member of their Dynasty remembered. Winterscale's Realm has grown vast, and many have borne the Warrant, but Sebastian Winterscale is still the one remembered.

 

To the point, a signature piece of gear can help to remind people who they are. Marneus Calgar might be a great and powerful Astartes, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, and a riveting tactician, but I, at least, always first remember the dual powerfists. One of my RT story characters, Aedan Qel-Drake, is famous for carrying an inferno pistol; he actually almost never uses it; why would he need to, most of the time, where he goes, but such a rare, iconic item is easily recalled, and can be hard to duplicate, should someone want to impersonate Qel-Drake. Like the Dragon's Ire, such a set of dueling pistols, or some similar item, might be handed down as an emblem, to the next Trader, sort of as proof, like an Inquisitor's rosette. It's actual use can be minor; in a game of D&D I played, my character was the heir to a throne, and the proof was a broken sword he carried. It certainly wasn't usable, and wasn't repairable, either, but it was a sign that he was who he claimed to be.

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You were Aragorn Elessar Telcontar, Called Strider, Chief of the Dunidain, son of Arathorn, heir to the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, Last of the line of Numinorian Kings?

 

(also, I totally agree with your point.)

Edited by Quicksilver

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Well, Aragorn got on with more Eldar than Qel-Drake did, at one, much to Aedan's chagrin, but he does have a cool power sword with an awesome story (IMO) to show for it, and no "space-herpes", which, with Narsil-->Anduril, I guess is again a point shared with Aragorn. Luckily for the wily Qel-Drake, he's not quite so reserved as Strider is, or he'd be terminally bored.

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