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Where to go to pressgang your crew...

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I just put this on the DH forum, so arguably I'm double posting, but I thought I might put this up here too, as it's relevant to Rogue Trader also... I wrote this up originally because I got thinking about precisely how a Rogue Trader might go about recruiting crew or colonists for .

I thought about the colonisation of Australia, and how the British used many convicts to assist in founding a successful colony which later became a valued part of the Empire.

I've stolen this archetype and adapted it for WH40k to come up with a Calixis sector prison planet where your Rogue Traders can go to collect an unwilling crew able to pull chains and shovel plutonium in the warp drive engine room of their Rogue Trader vessels before jetting off into the Halo Stars!



Segmentum: Obscurus

Sector: Calixis

Subsector: Hazeroth

System: Kommitzar: 5 planets (K-423 I, Kommitzar, K-423 III, K-423 IV and K-423 V, all uninhabited save Kommitzar)

Surveyed: The first recorded survey of the Kommitzar system was in M38 784, by the wealthy and successful Rogue Trader Camaruss Vene during the Calixian “Age of Plunder.”

Summary: Planets III and IV of the system are gas giants. Planet I is a barren rock and Planet V is a frozen ammonia world. The only world of interest is Planet II of the system, Kommitzar itself. This is a barely habitable “ribbon world” with a narrow band of territory capable of supporting human life.

Kommitzar (aka K-423 II)

Class: Penal world

Size: Equatorial radius 6,702km

Gravity: 1.15G

Population: The planet has a resident population of some 3.5 million, and a transient population of between 5 and 10 million prisoners.

Rotation speed: The Planet rotates, but in common with many other ribbon worlds does so at a rate of one revolution per Kommitzaran year (108 Terran days.) This ensures that the planet always has one face pointed towards the sun and one towards the darkness of outer space.

Orbit: Kommitzar orbits its Sun at an average distance of about 148 million kilometers every 108 Terran days.

Climate Classification: Cold & uninhabitable/barely habitable “ribbon” region/hot & uninhabitable

Tropospheric composition: 75% nitrogen, 19% oxygen, 0.9% argon, 0.5% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. The atmosphere is breathable without life support systems, but often choked by fine dust and sand, so breath filters are advised.

Climate: Extreme variance in planetary temperature between the “hot pole” (the equatorial region closest to the sun) and the “cold pole” (the opposite side of the planet in permanent darkness). Temperatures at the hot pole exceed 150°C and near the cold pole drop to -143°C. These variances create near constant winds between the two poles in the turgid planetary atmosphere.

Neither the hot or cold side of the planet are capable of sustaining life in any meaningful way, but the borderland between the two creates a 400-500 mile wide habitable zone that would be pleasant were it not for the high winds and constant dust storms. Temperature within the border zone varies depending upon proximity to the more extreme sides of the planet and the North/South poles.

Climactic Region: The Ribbon: This is the only inhabitable section of the planet. This region is a strip of land approximately 400-500 miles wide that runs from the north pole to the south pole on both sides of the planet. Approximately 45% of the surface area of the Ribbon is mountainous and uninhabitable, 20% is equatorial desert and 12% is covered in shallow man-made seas, leaving only a relatively small space capable of supporting subsistence agriculture.

There is tremendous diversity within this region, as the temperature varies a great deal from one side of the ribbon to the other. The entire zone is in a perpetual twilight, with the amount of light present being a rough guide to the temperature of the region.

On the “hot side” of the ribbon, temperatures approach 60°C, while on the “cold side” they can drop to -40°C. Such astonishing variations take place within a very short distance, but temperatures remain constant, and there are no “seasons” other than intermittent heavy winds and dust storms.

There is no precipitation on the planet in any meaningful sense, as water has only been present on the world since human habitation began just over 1,000 years ago.

Flora: The planet has no native flora at all, but many varieties of dwarf wheat, cabbage, tuber-root and other crops have been imported with some limited success.

Fauna: There are no native fauna, but grox are farmed successfully on Kommitzar. Rats, roaches and other vermin are relatively common, and a variety of human parasites (lice, skinworm etc) flourish on imported prisoners.

Economy: Kommitzar is a penal world, and a relatively unusual one. Most Penal Worlds (like Typha-IV, Sheol XVII or Panopticus) utilize imported prisoners to mine useful minerals from the world itself, but Kommitzar does not have anything worth mining or exporting.

Rather, it has, over time, become a central processing centre for Imperial prisoners and a transit hub for their reallocation to more useful duties within the Calixis Sector and beyond. Kommitzar’s economy is focused entirely upon transforming hardened malcontents and rebels into productive members of Imperial society.

It is helped in this role by very stable local warp conditions, which make it easy to visit by any warp capable vessel, and a large number of stable warp routes to major local hubs like Soryth, Clove, Samson IV, Guytoga and the Forge World of Idumca.

History: Every Imperial world has its share of malcontents, rebels, criminals and other assorted scum who, through their own heresy or criminal tendencies, squander their lives and add nothing to the value of the Imperium. Planetary Governors are empowered to deal with these individuals in any way they see fit. Most simply arrange for their immediate execution.

However, there are many tasks in the Imperium that must be done; tasks for which there are never going to be sufficient volunteers. One does not colonize a death world with volunteers. One does not mine plutonium on an airless moon with volunteers. One does not clear the endless minefields of war worlds with volunteers.

There is a constant need within the Imperium for a pool of disposable labour, and this need drives Sector Governors to allocate otherwise worthless worlds as penal worlds where the sector’s useless or rebellious elements can be forcibly made to repay their debt to the God Emperor.

Kommitzar was discovered early in the history of the Calixis sector, and earmarked for exploitation by Saint Drusus himself. However, the planet’s obvious topographical limitations and few natural resources prevented the early utilisation of the world.

In M39 004 the planetary governor of Samson IV, High Arvid Rames III, banished 2,000 political dissidents and their families to Kommitzar, a move which was roundly criticised at the time as overly forgiving. When a cabal of Idumcanite Techpriests visited the world 20 years later, they were surprised to discover many survivors, and petitioned Rames’ successor, High Arvid Radran I, for the rights to servitorise these heretics. A financial settlement was struck and permission granted.

Inspired by this lucrative deal, the High Arvid set up a regular trade route of dissidents and rebels from Samson IV to Kommitzar. Prisons were established on the harsh world, and an independent Planetary Governor was selected by the Lord Subsector to administer proceedings.

Within 200 years, half the worlds within the Hazeroth subsector were transferring their rebels to Kommitzar, and the Departmento Munitorum had established a dozen separate penal legion facilities. Numerous private prison facilities emerged, taking healthy prisoners of either sex and training them in specialist survival techniques to render them suitable as colonists or crew for Rogue Trader expeditions into the Halo Stars.

Such was the success of the planet that the then Lord Sector stepped in and placed the world under the direct fiefdom of the Adeptus Terra. The world now operates to facilitate Administratum objectives, and has become a vast factory, reprocessing useless traitors and scum into useful (if short lived) Imperial servants once more.

Society: There are three classes of people on Kommitzar: prisoners (who make up the bulk of the population), their keepers (the smallest but most influential and well armed group on the planet) and the colonists, surviving descendants of the Solomon IV outcasts exiled over 1,800 years ago. Whilst there is naturally a great deal of friction between the prisoners and their keepers, the local colonist population enjoy good relations with the Administratum and Departmento Munitorum workers based upon peaceful trading for foodstuffs.

Principle Imports: Prisoners, foodstuffs, finished goods.

Principle exports: manpower for the Adeptus Mechanicus in the form of new servitors, manpower for the Imperial Guard in the form of penal legionaries, manpower for the Imperial Navy in the form of trained ratings, manpower for private Rogue Traders in the form of colonists and ratings.

Food supply: The colonist population are excellent farmers, and easily capable of sustaining themselves with the grox and wheat they farm the Ribbon with. Were it not for the large prisoner population, the world would be self sustaining. Pending the expansion of the Kommitzari agrarian economy, food is imported from nearby Hilarion.

Settlement/Infrastructure: The planet boasts over 170 separate prison facilities, some of them truly vast. Incoming prisoners are dropped at the Starport and herded into the holding dorms, grim steel cages kilometres long. They are then sorted by the guards: the mentally deficient and insane are earmarked for servitorisation, the occasional unidentified psyker for the Black Ships, healthy female prisoners are automatically earmarked for colonial training and the remainder are divided up amongst naval, administratum and other, more sinister agencies.

This process can take weeks during heavy periods, and many prisoners are killed by their fellow inmates in the holding cells before being transported to their more permanent homes.

The planet also hosts secure facilities for Imperial Guard penal legionaries. Those who break the strict disciplinary rules of the Guard are usually executed on the spot by the Commissars, but some are “lucky” enough to be transported to one of Kommitzar’s “retraining” camps. Here, the punishment squads regard it as their sacred duty to wear down rebellious guardsmen and rebuild them as the fine, fanatically loyal soldiers they should have been in the first place. After a retraining period usually lasting 6 months, the guardsman joins a penal legionary regiment, is equipped with a loyalty collar and lasgun, and transported to the nearest Imperial warzone to take part in suicidally dangerous missions unsuitable for more valuable soldiers.

Some of the planet’s prisons are infamous across the sector. These include:-

-the Black pens, holding bays for unsanctioned psykers. Rumoured to be haunted by the souls of dozens of psychic suicides, these grim bunkers radiate madness and fear into the surrounding hills.

-the Vivisectionarium, the principle Adeptus Mechanicus facility on the planet. Actually known by the Techpriests as Servitor facility TX-4479, this is one of the most feared locations on the planet. Prisoners will do literally anything to avoid the living death of servitorisation, including murder and suicide. Usually only those prisoners with clear mental illness will be considered, as this tends to have little effect on the servitorisation process. However, guards across the planet always “know someone” within the vivisectionarium who will take on a particularly annoying or difficult prisoner…

Botany Brook – a deceptively pleasant name for a bleak place. This is a training facility for female colonists. These women, many of them murderesses or worse, (alongside the occasional unfortunate innocent) are trained to live on the harshest death worlds by members of the fanatical Adeptus Sororitas from the obscure order of the Green Bough. They are then packed off in the holds of Rogue Trader vessels to a grim fate alongside male prisoners in the hope of establishing colonies that within 2-3 generations may have tamed their world somewhat and civilised themselves from their rough origins.

Camp Hell – again, not its official name, this is the largest Departmento Munitorum facility on the planet. Here, disgraced Imperial Guardsmen are drilled endlessly by Commissars and Stormtrooper NCOs into the semblance of a valuable military force. Training is harsh and humiliating, designed to break down the psyche of the legionaries, and many do not survive to join a penal legion at the end of their training. Legionaries are made to feel the overwhelming guilt and shame their actions have brought upon the Guard, and heinous brainwashing and mental destabilisation techniques are practiced. It is not uncommon to see passing out parades with Legionaries in tears of joy at the promise of now certain death in the Emperor’s service.

Government: The planet, until M39 251, was run by a succession of low level Hazeroth aristocrats with good connections to the Lord Subsector,and had become a valued political sinecure. However, on that date, given the increasing value of the world to the wider Sector, the Lord Sector exercised his Mandate Imperialis and appointed a succession of skilled Administratium bureaucrats dedicated to achieving increased efficiency. The current planetary governor, titled the High Warden, is Makkran De Folay, a skilled and ruthlessly effective operator who places a very low value on human life indeed.

 Military data: Kommitzar has become a valuable resource for the Imperium, and it is well protected. More than 20 Provost Regiments of the Imperial Guard (Light infantry) from various planets across the sector and beyond act as the military backbone of the planet’s gaolers, ready to crush any rebellion or invasion. These are, on the whole, far from the best troops the Guard has to offer, but they are well equipped and numerous.

There is also a very large and well equipped Adeptus Arbites facility, equivalent in manpower (if not in quality of personnel) to a good sized civilised Imperial world.

The Imperial Navy has a small if dedicated force of about 2,000 Naval Armsmen and Pressgangers, together with a small force of Valkyrie transports used to track escaped prisoners. The Navy also operates heavily armoured and secure specialist prisoner transport shuttles and a large orbital prisoner processing facility, designed to dock with Bastille class prisoner transport ships.
( )

Finally, there are significant Adeptus Mechanicus, Commisariat and even Adeptus Sororitas forces on the world.


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I like the Prison Planet.  I'm going to use that.  Pressganging crews from a planet's prison population is fairly common though.  Makes sense that Planetary Governors are more than willing to ship their criminal elements off-planet.

What I want to know is where do you get experienced, skilled crew?  Officers and such.  Imperial Navy Depots?  Seedy bars on low-law planets?  Can a RT just commandeer them like an Inquisitor can?

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I love this idea. After searching around for information on Kommitzar I couldn't find any. So, I am using your data in my Dark Heresy game because I liked the idea. I am using it as a investigative style game that begins by tracking down where several corrupted servitors originated from. I figure that Kommitzar would be a very dark setting. Almost all prisoners being offered a death sentence no matter where they go. I also see this dark place as somewhere the Empire would send people to fulfill their terms and where Rogue Traders could buy their 'terms' at low cost. I see corruption being all over the place and could make a great setting for a Dark Heresy series of adventures.

Here are some of the things I have added:

1. Orbital defenses are all over the place. The only way on or off the planet is from the orbital reception and processing center. No one escapes Kommitzar from the surface, although there have been escapes by prisoners they will not last long in the storms and harsh climate of the planet. The Orbital Processing and Reception Station is where most of the 'higher' citizen live and is suited to serve Rogue Traders and anyone with power to purchase labor. Within the orbital station life is luxurious.

2. Each of the 170 prison fortresses is led by a Warden that reports to the Lord Warden who operates much like a planetary governor. Each fortress is specialized to a specific "rehabilitation" process. All have quotas that must be met in order to maintain the needs of ships that appear needing crew, picking up penal regiments or servitors.

3. If you look for corruption in a place like this, you will find it. The prison population is quick to resort to heresy in attempts to escape. The warp is stable in the area but that doesn't stop the occassional prisoner from starting small heretical uprisings from time to time. In a place like this, even the most resolute are tested. The penal complexes are filled with heresy.

4. The Wardens of the planet are exposed to many that operate outside the reach of even the Inquisition. The Rogue Traders heading to the Halo Stars stop off to fill crew, servitors and what they need here at Kommitzar.

5. The Kommitzar Orbital Reception Station is far more than just a station. It is a trading hub for Rogue Traders, especially those with some shady trades that use "picking up crew" as an alibi to meet. Because it takes a few days to gather necessary crew for trade ships there is down time. Because of the clients being Rogue Traders, this has led to more luxurious accomodations and entertainment. Gambling, partying and politics all have a place in the upper decks of the Reception Station.

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