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Vulkan He''stan

Trying to write my first Rogue Trader campaign and having writer's block

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Hello, everyone.  I'm a Gamemaster with some experience running short campaigns and one shots.  I want to run Rogue Trader but am running into a problem as how to structure my campaign.  I am having a difficult time figuring out how to design my campaign to play to the overall theme, but not overwhelm myself writing adventures that won't get played or being forced to railroad them onto something that does not interest them.  

 

I get my inspiration from a lot of places: Captain Harlock, One Piece, Firefly/Serenity, Pirates of the Caribbean, classic pirate stories, Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag, and many more.  Do you have any suggestions on how to write it the story in such a way to give the campaign the right balance between freedom and order? 

 

 

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It is really hard to keep order in Rogue Trader, because the theme of it is the players are free from the boundaries of the Imperium.

 

There are a couple of GM Tricks: Give your players a limited warrant (e.g. missions sanctioned by one of the major Imperial bodies, ventures that last no longer than a year, mandatory Inquisitorial oversight), or just accept that your players are going to try and steal everything in sight, and just make notes of what they do and periodically have rivals make some skill rolls to see if they uncover their underhanded dealings and have realistic consequences ensue.

 

Legend of the Expanse I find is actually a really good balance, because in theory it's an open-ended mission, but in reality they're being funneled into very specific questlines that advance the overall plot in set ways. Of course they're going to explore the Ancient battleship. Of course they're going to try to take over one of the Cities of Zayth etc.

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I think you mean Lure of the expanse. I just finished running my group through it and yes I quite liked it as an adventure path. One of the benefits was that it didn't throw too much detail down, assuming the players would take or be forced into certain paths, but instead gave generalizations and let the GM and players make up the specifics as they want.

 

My suggestions, pick a hub, say Footfall, and give them a few options A, B, or C to get them started and figure out how those paths would naturally lead into your plot line. Say your overall game is about pirates. Option A might be a military takeover of a small pirate outpost at the request of the navy, which obviously brings you to the attention of the pirates. Meanwhile B is helping a shipload of pilgrims establish a colony in return for a portion of their relatively pitiful earnings but also a favor from the Ministorum, along the way you need to protect them from a pirate attack, and presumably destroying or taking over the Pirate Ship winds up earning you an enemy. Once they've made the enemy they will probably want to put that enemy in the ground rather than have to defend themselves and their interests from attacks. And C might be a good old fashioned treasure hunt, along the way you find that Pirates know about the treasure too, if you beat them out you again wind up with an enemy.

PIrates are obviously a particularly good/easy antagonist to involve in such things. They can even be the tool of someone, and through winding up their enemy you can lead into the actual puppet master.

 

Feel like giving an overview of the plot so that suggestions might be offered.

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Who hates the RT dynasty ?

 

What does their warrant say ?

 

What shiny things are laying about the sub-sector ?

 

What evil crud-bags lurk in the asteroid belts nearby ?

 

What Imperial factions nearby need some brown-nosing ?

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I'm in the same boat. You can do what I do and create lots (and I mean lots) of background things. Dead empires, human or xenos, pirate fleets long gone, powerful people with grudges with each other, and so on. Just layer it on top of each other. 

 

Then, depending on what your group prefers (open-ended or a more strict approach) you'll have a menagerie of ideas to draw from. 

 

My own group is treading on, well I can't say because they read and lurk here, but it's a lot more than what meets the eye and they'll discover those layers as they peel back on it. Or not. 

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I find it helpful to play 1 or 2 really basic, self contained adventures with the group prior to designing the campaign unless your going for something very specific.  (Which, if you were, you'd know already.)  This basicly lets you get a feel for the nature of the characters and group dynamic and what kind of things they're going to be looking into.  Then you do what Marwynn posted.  

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First and foremost, I advise AGAINST writing "campaigns" for RT. What I would suggest is to write "Sandboxes" for this games.
Prepare planets to explore (perhaps only one or three solar Systems at a time), prepare somethign that is native there (local factions) and some other factions that get their with their own frigging ships (external factions).

In both cases, only have those painted in broad strokes. But have at least ONE larger stick to throw between the characters legs. A stick that will Keep them busy for two sessions. Why so? Well....

the characters head out into the unknown. Once the get the first "Augur readings" about the "playfield" and perhaps some sighting of the first "factions", they will start making plans on what to do next. Plans you never thought about. Player plans. When they set out to get their plans into Motion, THROUGH THAT FRIGGING STICK!

You Need time to prepare a Story that centres around THEIR plan. That works with that plan. How your Little sandbox might add playworthy Scenes, Scenarios and experiences to those plan of theirs. That is what the stick is for.

Oh...and it is no bad idea to have some further sticks there. Just in case. Marauding orcs, a hostile death cult onboard your RT´s ship, a returning, mighty daemonic entity that simply PESTERS the RT [Thing "Q" from Enterprise:NG but MUCH more malicious] are all wonderful "stick drawers". As are the Rak Al Gor (or how this cyber-reptiles are named), a rival RT or the like.

As a sandbox, the worlds mentioned in "Lure of the Expanse" might make a good start. Otherwise, just build your own.

If you are still found of having your own campaign, turn it into something that HAPPENS while the characters go about their own Thing in the sandbox. Think of different children building different sand Castles in different parts of the box. No matter how self-centred they are, sooner or later they might notice that others do something there, too. Of course the can decided not to bother... until  that other kid takes THEIR sand away... ;)

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I'm afraid I must distinctly disagree with you, Gregorius, there is nothing inherently more wrong with writing a campaign for Rogue Trader then there is for any other RPG.  A campaign is simply a story direction, a way to bring more "epic" into the game and give your players something more to work towards when oh, look, more money. doesn't have the same draw anymore.  For many on this forum, campaign has become oddly synonymous with stringed adventures on a rail-roaded plot, but that isn't the definition of a campaign.  A campaign can simply be a way to, instead of having a flat sandbox, putting it on the side of a hill and telling the players "hey look, the best stuff's at the top."  Making a campaign just means putting down a goal your players can attempt to accomplish.

 

I find it actually easier to build a campaign for Rogue Trader then for many others RPGs, particularly other 40k RPGs, because Rogue Traders are exactly the kind of people who get themselves involved in the strange out outlandish, and have the resources and force of personality to make a real effect on the sector or galaxy.  And at their heart, many Rogue Traders (thanks to their players) have a streak of Big **** Hero.

 

There's an old rule of adventure writing that says to make sure the players always have three ways to get what they need.  This holds true for entire Rogue Trader campaign, give them options, even if they don't know they're making a choice.  If they take an option you haven't thought of, work it in.  There are two big things in my opinion that turn adventure-strings into railroads and they're interconnected.  One is a lack of irrelevant missions, side quests or downtime.  An adventure can start feeling like a railroad if the players don't feel they can do anything but go forward along the plot.  The second is single tracking, it'll feel like a railroad if there seems to be only one course of action.

 

So for writing a campaign, I'd get a feeling for what kind of triumph your players like.  You may know this already if you game with them frequently.  Then move to the Villain's endgame:  Abaddon destroys Cadia and invades Segmentum Solar, a rival house establishes a monopoly on Promethium in the expanse, Sauron claims the ring and conquers middle earth.  Look at their first few adventures and character history and find a "why it has to be them", which can always be "right place at the wrong time" and start tossing carrots.

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I draw up the sandbox.  It doesn't matter where the party really goes, that's where they are going to find the sandbox.  The sandbox has a dozen systems already drawn up, complete with maps and anything they might find from initial sensor readings.  I don't get too detailed because I don't know what they're going to do with the sandbox.  That depends on the type of campaign they want to be in: commerce, colonizing, pirating, smuggling, militant, etc.

 

What I do get detailed about is the backdrop of NPCs.  People will oppose them whatever they do, and those people need character, so I write up a whole host of NPCs.  I don't get into detail about their stats sheets (sooo unimportant), just the power group they represent, that power group's relationships to other power groups, the major players in each power group, and a three word (or less) description of their personality.

 

I like consequences, provoked and unintended.  Everything my players do has consequences attached to it.  Without those consequences, power players like Winterscale make no sense.  Without consequences any RT dynasty can have a PF of 120+ in no time at all.  Consequences are important.

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I go with the Spend Money to Make Money idea, where grand endeavors sometimes take money to get going.

After the end of the Lure of the Expanse they managed to clear up the storm over Dross, granting them access to a vast ship graveyard. To exploit it they basically needed a salvage crew big enough to do work at a reasonable pace, at least one salvage ship to get stuff either into space or move large stuff around on planet, a hangar/repair facility on the land or a space dock to do work on the ships once they're voidside, some sort of defenses so somebody doesn't decide to come raid or take over their ridiculously lucrative venture, and enough infrastructure to support all of the above.

 

after spending 9 profit factor they're ready to get started. Having done a survey, brought in a temporary spacedock (which is mostly there to build the permanent one), contracted salvagers with their own salvage ship, a shipload of settlers, a couple of defense satellites, a regularly booked supply run, and enough palms greased that their writ of claim will be pushed through the Administratum in record speed (relatively speaking).

 

In the long run though they can recoup those losses and then some. They have their eye on the mostly intact hulls of a battlecruiser and two transports, figuring they'll turn the profit they make from other salvage into recommissioning those ships for their fleet.

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