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LegendofOld

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 So. 

I have been eyeballing Rogue Trader for a while. I've only been able to briefly glance over the rules, and I was wondering if someone could give me an idea of how the system handles and what sort of adventures you can run with the system. 

The impression I've gotten is that its one of those systems thats great in concept, but not so great to play, like promethean the created. As the captain of a starship, you have thousands of little goons at your disposal to solve your problems, and if the game is to be playable at all, it suffers from the Star Trek syndrome, where the captain and his top officers are always going on missions, even though it makes little sense for them to do so. 

However, I've never played the system, nor am I super familiar with it. I'd like to know some more before I invest in it.

What do the rest of you think?

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Well, it depends on the style of game being run. 'Exploring strange new worlds' etcetera often results in the captain going straight into possibly (i.e. usually) dangerous situations. It's easy enough to explain as glory-seeking, who wouldn't want to make the first footsteps on a new world, or possibly a clause somewhere saying that the captain must personally inspect each world.

On the other hand, if the game is focusing on politics, trade or a simple mission gone wrong then it makes perfect sense for the captain to be present. In fact, if the captain was absent from delicate negoitations it might seem a bit strange.

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It only suffers from the Star Trek syndrome if you try to tell the wrong stories. The essence of an engaging story is drama and drama can happen anywhere there's people with goals that will breed conflict. Not all conflict is violent and not all violence needs to be solved personally by a Big **** Hero with a gun for the conflict to be meaningful and tense. All that is required is that the outcome of the conflict will effect the protagonists goals and have some impact of the protagonist.

In my game, I'm focusing on two different settings for drama: the ship's crew and personal enemies of the PC's. The PC's spend most of their time aboard a massive floating town that is their ship and while there is a vast mass of faceless goons aboard it, these goons have desires and outlooks of their own 9and a morale that must be looked after. This leads to many challenges in and of it's self as the PC's have to not only look outside the ship for their next conquest, but actually look after their men and their desires as well. The captain needs his crew and he needs them to fallow his orders when he gives them which means their morale needs to be high (the lower the morale goes the harder command checks become, the more likely mutiny is, and the less likely the crew will do or succeed at tasks set before them). If this is played up, the PC's will have to not only solve problems from without but figure out a way to do it that will also keep the crew happy or at least not mutinous. Toss into that mix various factions amongst the crew, such as the Ad-Mech, the Ecclessearchy, the Navigators, the Astropaths of the Astrotelepathica, the Underdeck Clans (for my PC's ship at least), that secret death cult of the aft deck, the Gun Families of the Spine, etc all of which would have different conflicting goals, wants and objectives and you have a recipe for endless drama without ever leaving the ship. Factor in things from outside the ship and, trust me, it doesn't matter how many armies the PC's have at their disposal, they will be up to their eyeballs in problems, drama, and sleepless nights.

Like I said, it's all in your approach to the setting and the stories you chose to tell. Stories in Rogue Trader tend to involve massive problems that encompass whole worlds. This isn't about rescuing Billies mom from that street gang over there, this is about finding the world Billies mom was taken to, getting her off of it alive, and waging a successful military campaign to destroy the population that kidnapped her after a naval engagement with their planetary defense forces. Just like you probably wouldn't set a story up in Call of Cthulhu which hinges on the PC's getting into a one-on-one running gun fight and car chase with Cthulhu himself and expect it to go well, you shouldn't set a story up in Rogue Trader which hinges on the PC's deciding to shoot a bunch of gangers personally so they can make 20 thrones. The problems the PC's face will be the kind that takes armies of men with a competent leader calling the shots to solve, not just one guy with a sword.

Rogue Trader is built to tell grand story epics which focus more on high-end politics as opposed to down and dirty personal conflicts and in that arena, it dose quite well.

 

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LegendofOld said:

Star Trek syndrome, where the captain and his top officers are always going on missions, even though it makes little sense for them to do so.

Thing is, within the Star Trek context, the main cast are very much the commanding officers and senior staff of the vessel. They exist within its chain of command, and they have a responsibility to the men and women subordinate to them.

That isn't necessarily the case with any given character in a Rogue Trader group. An Arch-Militant is as likely to be a bodyguard, mercenary or bounty hunter as he is a commander of men. A Missionary's job is to bring the Emperor's Light to far-flung and isolated pockets of humanity - he isn't the administrator in charge of the ship's church. An Explorator is charged with seeking out and rediscovering blessed knowledge, and while he may be senior to all the ship's Tech-Priests, he is also the most knowledgeable and best able to examine and interact with obscure technology in the field (because in the Mechanicus, knowledge and power and rank are all much the same thing). A Rogue Trader isn't just a starship captain... he's an explorer, a warrior, a negotiator and a commander of men, and so on. By and large, the ship within which a Rogue Trader group travels can keep running quite well on a day-to-day mundane basis without grand commands from on high - that's what the tens of thousands of crew are for. The PCs have the means and authority to command different parts of the ship's function when required, but that isn't the sum total of their job, and in most cases they have the freedom to determine what their job entails.

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 It is certainly possible to play grand and wonderful adventures with RT, but writing RT adventures is not easy and I say that as a GM with with 20+ years of continuous GMing experience.

The sample adventures so far have not really helped imo show how to write good RT adventures either, they tend toward the 'implausible pcs doing everything when they don't need too' model, or worse force the pcs into danger by means of thinly veiled plot-wagons (starting play trapped in a system, pc RT having to be first to set foot on a vessle to claim it as salvage etc). 

I think however, having said all that, if you can get your mindset round it, (and it took me a while), it is quite a new and radical pen and paper rpg genre to play a resource management rpg, where pcs don't face immediate personal danger on an hourly basis - yet do still control the thrust of the plot and make their own decisions. It makes for not just a different scale of play and inevitably a different scale of adventure, but a different philosophy of adventure writing - so far I've not seen much reflection of that in the published adventures (few that we've seen - and I've not yet seen the one from the gm screen).

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One way to stop the "Star Trek" problem is to remember you are not the bridge crew of a Federation starship. You play as some sort of cross between the British East India Company and Spanish Conquistadors.

 

You are out there to explore strange new worlds, and exploit them for resources. Discover new civilizations, and convert them to the Imperial Creed. To meet strange new life forms, and begin oppressing/exterminating them. And all this for riches and spoils of the galaxy, not for some naive sense of alien brotherhood.

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I've found RT games very difficult to contemplate and plan. They appear to need a very quick thinking and flexible GM for the setting and premise to really work to its full. The scope and scale of the game is simply gargantuan and I honestly couldn't begin to say whether 'it works well' or not.

 

With this in mind, and recognising that every GM isn't going to be 'fantastic' or necessarily brilliant, FFG could do with putting out *alot* of samples, quick-to-access PCs, odd samples of quirky rules and so forth. Not official, but it's the sort of thing which requires almost fractal detail.

On one hand your PCs could be intimidating a man in the middle of a bar fight, the next they be orchestrating a sector-wide takeover of a many-layered transplanetary corproration acting in concord with several million Adeptus. And then the third hand (they might more readily be a mutant in RT!) could see them being tasked by Orks who task them, and they shall have them! They'll chase them 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before they give him up!

And that could be only one or two gaming sessions in entirely the same vein...

Another trouble is that the Explorers won't always be acting as 'one group'. There's a huge amount of leeway for them to be being dispatched off on their own.

As I say, some degree of fractal detail is necessary as you can find yourself very quickly zooming in/out to a massive extent. Quite how to handle this other than with a bit of foresight, overplanning and ready mental agility...I don't know!

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For me the RT system is a great RP challenge. Normally most games end when the PC's have saved the Princess, slain the Dragon and get married inside the Royal Family. RT however starts at that point. You inherited the Kingdom, you are the big cheese now. What will be your next step? The possibilities are almost endless.

I would not recommend RT for the beginning GM or player group. But it is a nice change from what most of us are used to. Seriously worth a try in my opinion.

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Adam France said:

 It is certainly possible to play grand and wonderful adventures with RT, but writing RT adventures is not easy and I say that as a GM with with 20+ years of continuous GMing experience.

The sample adventures so far have not really helped imo show how to write good RT adventures either, they tend toward the 'implausible pcs doing everything when they don't need too' model, or worse force the pcs into danger by means of thinly veiled plot-wagons (starting play trapped in a system, pc RT having to be first to set foot on a vessle to claim it as salvage etc).

 

I thnk this makes perfect sense within the setting.

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The thing that must be remembered is that 40K is not Star Trek.

 

Star Trek is silly when sending the command crew to do the dirty work. The crew of a Starfleet vessel is full of highly educated, well trained, healthy, motivated individuals who could do the job, sometimes better than the command crew. In 40K the command crew may be the only capable people on board the ship. A RT’s crew consists of press ganged, indentured, slave, and hereditary servant humans and mutants. They are educated only so far as to know the Emperor protects and if the needle in the dial rotates to the red area the machine spirit is angry and you must turn the holy valve of pressure release one half turn left or you will feel the wrath of the machine spirits anger. The bulk of the crew is incapable, unhealthy, and unmotivated religious fanatics that fear everything. 

The RT and entourage are the only really capable non-specialists on board most ships. Most ships captains would be hesitant to carry more than a handful of truly capable, motivated and trusted individuals for fear of someone getting ideas in their head about being able to make more for themselves if they were in charge.

 

 

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Danger said:

Adam France said:

 

 It is certainly possible to play grand and wonderful adventures with RT, but writing RT adventures is not easy and I say that as a GM with with 20+ years of continuous GMing experience.

The sample adventures so far have not really helped imo show how to write good RT adventures either, they tend toward the 'implausible pcs doing everything when they don't need too' model, or worse force the pcs into danger by means of thinly veiled plot-wagons (starting play trapped in a system, pc RT having to be first to set foot on a vessle to claim it as salvage etc).

 

 

 

I thnk this makes perfect sense within the setting.

I certainly don't. An important commander rushing headfirst into a potentially hostile breach is realistically tantamount to suicide. That aside a) the rule doesn't make much sense in that it would presumably mean a lowly marine might become legally entitled to any wreck he's sent aboard to search, and b) it's so easy to get around it may as well not be included as it does not really work - for example what's to stop the RT stepping aboard the wreck then back off again to let his boarding parties scour the place?

It's just a silly bit of game-ist plot-track to enforce pc RTs to 'get their hands dirty' ... there are subtler and better ways to achieve that.

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LegendofOld said:

 

 So. 

I have been eyeballing Rogue Trader for a while. I've only been able to briefly glance over the rules, and I was wondering if someone could give me an idea of how the system handles and what sort of adventures you can run with the system. 

The impression I've gotten is that its one of those systems thats great in concept, but not so great to play, like promethean the created. As the captain of a starship, you have thousands of little goons at your disposal to solve your problems, and if the game is to be playable at all, it suffers from the Star Trek syndrome, where the captain and his top officers are always going on missions, even though it makes little sense for them to do so. 

However, I've never played the system, nor am I super familiar with it. I'd like to know some more before I invest in it.

What do the rest of you think?

 

 

I have to say that your suspicions are wrong in this regard (though to be fair, it's hard to get a correct assesment when you're just giving the game a glance gui%C3%B1o.gif)

The Star Trek syndrome will only present itself if you design the scenarios to suffer from them. We've played pre-written scenarios so far (and three who were invented by us) and not once did we ever encounter a situation where it didn't make sense for the Explorers themselves to go get things done.

Then there's the fact to consider that you're not playing a "captain" and a bunch of  "officers" in any military sense (in the sense that they are a part of a larger army where mass insubordination by lowly troops will certainly be punished swiftly and brutally), the Rogue Trader is only a captain in a more formal sense. He/she know it, the "officers" know it and the rest of the crew knows it.

And most ship ratings aren't drilled navymen, they're just unskilled labour with all what that entails. And when you're out plying the stars in the most fringe regions of the galaxy, the chain of command can eaily stagnate into a brittle, fragile and informal thing depending on what type of actions the original "officers" commit.

Quite simply, a Rogue Trader who can't command the respect and admiration (or fear) of his crew, will most likely find himself on the ass end of a mutiny sooner than you can blink. And with a crew of tens of thousands potential mutineers (what can I say, spaceships in the 40K settings are HUGE!), the odds will not be in the favor of the Rogue Trader and his intrepid band of Explorers.

Which means, that if you want to be respected by your crew, you can't spend all the time cooped up on the bridge and just say "send in the next wave of ratings" at every problem and danger that your dynasty face. Granted that the hired hands, mercenaries and ratings will most likely be the first line of defence of your ever endavour and will most likely be the ones taking the first blows of punishment from a harassing foe, you and your heroic Explorers will be the ones who has to solve the issue directly and not in the safety of the command bridge.

That's the most "Basic" reason for why Explorers has to do some of the most serious dirty work on their own, aside from the multitude of other reasons why their skills, smarts and muscle are better suited than any rating, mercenary or hired hand could ever be.

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Have you ever seen Master and Commander? You know the hapless junior officer who ends up being driven to suicide by the crew?

That's what happens to leaders who don't command the respect of their underlings in more "macho" cultures. And by respect, I mean genuine awe and fear. And if your underlings don't respect you, your peers won't even bother to spit on you if you're on fire.

Rogue Traders get involved in the dirty work because only they and their top staff have the gear and training to handle difficult situations. And that's thw way they like it. Because that is a huge basis of their power, much as the superior training, diet, and armor of a knight was the basis of feudal society.

To put things in perspective, according to the rules, situations that give fear and insanity points can outright kill or break the minds of "normal" people. Likewise, your Explorator or Seneschal is probably the only person on the ship who knows more about what Plasma is than "it's what makes the ship go." Even the lower-ranked Tech Adepts are likely to know little beyond about their jobs beyond the routines for maintenence and various well-known problems. 

If you give a Plasma Rifle to most crew members, they will do their best to steal it and bugger off, because it is worth more than they will make in their entire lifetime. That is assuming you actually pay them. Ideally, you want them to believe that the Omnisiah will strike down any worthless scum who rises above his station to even touch such a weapon, at least until such a time as you tithe them (because, to be clear, you own them) to the Imperial Guard.

20th century Western assumptions about power and leadership do not work in this setting.

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Hodgepodge said:

Rogue Traders get involved in the dirty work because only they and their top staff have the gear and training to handle difficult situations.

Exactly.  This hasn't been a big problem in my group as our Rogue Trader is a massive gloryhound, but they typically bring along a fair number of men as support.   Every single time a large number of these men wind up dieing horribly.  Indeed the main benefit of the extra men is to keep a some of the enemy busy killing them.  Sending in more men to kill a genestealer/bloodletter/War Boss will just result in more dead men.

Add to this the fact that it is very difficult to equip and train a large body of men.  The PC's can easily outfit themselves with bolters and carapace, but equiping the hundred plus armsmen is far more difficult.

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That line of thinking is rather endearing; I'm amazed I hadn't really thought about it yet.

Mortal Fuel is totally the new Red Shirt. Need more bodies? Stop by a planet and scoop some up. Life is cheap, this time red shirt isn't a tacked-on trope, it's a necessity.

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 Heh, heh, heh ,heh. 

Never have I been so happy to misunderstand a game. 

This sounds awesome. I look forward to the reckless slaughter of red shirts, and the unlimited hubris of the rogue trader and his staff. 

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MDMann said:

"Hey boss, glad I signed up and all.  Just one question, how come all our uniforms seem to be red, and is this a tear a see here..."

 

You signed up on a ship called the Crimson Carnation (the name my players chose), what colour did you expect the uniforms to be ?

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Uniform!  Uniform!  Sergeant, whip this man to death, on the spot.  Underlings don't need an expensive uniform to die in, whatever they happen to be already wearing is just fine.

Rogue Trader Lord-Captains are feudal princes in the warlord tradition;  everything they hold is by force of arms and a large body of religion and myth telling everyone else that it is ordained by 'god' (the Emperor, in this case) for him to rule and for them to serve, willingly, in whatever fashion is demanded.  The Rogue Trader's companions, of course, are persons of equally impressive personal power and character, they may or may not have been born to a noble line but they certainly expect unquestioning loyalty, even unto death, from their underlings and whilst they might do what the Rogue Trade commands, especially actually onboard his vessel(s) they are immune to his mythological status because they hold the same near-demigod status and can probably convince a large body of men to do what they say, in direct opposition to what the Rogue Trader said, if necessary.  This isn't Star Trek bridge crew, or anything remotely like it, though possibly Klingon warship command structures come closer, it's pretty much Conquistadors in Space, really and you could do worse than read up on the glory-hunting, fortune-making and nation-shattering feuding that they engaged in, for some background flavour.

 

It was pointed out, just the other night, that many Rank 1 Rogue Trader characters (those created with a martial bent) are the equal of an Adeptus Astartes "Space Marine" in terms of physical prowess and skill-at-arms, quite possibly just as physically imposing, too.  Your PCs are not 'first among equals' in command of a nominally peaceful starship, they are veritable "gods amongst men" in command of a huge body of men, many of whom are soldiers, with limitless authority outside the effective boundaries of the Imperium and commanding starships that are both massive and at least as much warship as merchantman.  Captain Picard would be appalled... at least for the thirty or so seconds he was alive before your Rogue Trader ordered his strangely configured Xeno vessel destroyed and the wreckage seized so that the Explorator can have a look.

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As has already been stated, RT needs a different approach to that taken with your average RPG, but it's none the worse for it.

In our game, for example, my (very green) RT has just had a valuable item snatched from under his nose by a rival, and you can just bet he wants blood in payment.  Am I going to leave it to minions to hunt him down, extract whatever information is there for the taking, then slaughter him as an example to others that would cross me?  Of course not!  I promised him I would have my revenge, and so I shall, personally.

So, just three games in, I already have a nemesis and a reason to be throwing myself fairly enthusiastically into whatever situations arise in my pursuit of this individual.  That's just one example of how your RT, and thus their crew, are going to be getting up close and personal with enemies.  We also have an Ork-hating Astropath and Arch-Militant, so once again, if the opportunity arises to get stuck into conflict with them, they'll seize it with both hands.

From my standpoint, it worked well to begin with an inexperienced RT just inheriting the warrant (given xp level and everyone's inexperience with the system), thus explaining why I don't necessarily know how everything works or make the best decisions.  I'd recommend that sort of approach to anyone else who's a bit nervous about diving in.  It can stifle your RP experience if you're really struggling with things your character would know and do, so you can always find a reason for them to acquire these things over time, as you pick them up yourself.

But there are myriad approaches!  I guess what this waffle boils down to is: if you have a capable GM and a group willing to put a little time and thought into a game that's a bit more involved than most, you'll probably have a whale of a time with this.

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