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craigpearson81

How do you play your Rogue Trader?

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Our game has Lord Captain Anton Helsen, Scion of the Noble House Parol.

 

Helsen himself seems to be a descendant of Han Solo and Faceman but has a surprisingly sensible head on his shoulders. Luckily he has a psychopathic madman as an arch-militant and a learned but fanatically religious woman as his seneschal.

 

Intriguingly (and because the game was originally Dark heresy before it morphed into Rogue Trader) Helsen was once a guttersnipe trying to survive via his wits in the slums of Hive Sibellus on Scintilla. Recruited into the inquisition after pulling a con on an interrogator, he served with distinction in the Ordinatus Samson affair (in which the acolytes prevented a powerful group of heretics from laying their hands on a long lost ordinatus weapon) and was rewarded by his inquisitor with a warrant of trade. The generous gift was part reward but mostly an effort to infiltrate the rogue trader society that lurked in the expanse and fueled the cold trade. The inquisition wanted deep cover agents and so arranged to Helsen to "inherit" the warrant of long dead house Parol. They helped him acquired a delapitated cruiser off a heretical group (The Temple Tendency) and he was set.

 

Helsen is a generous man and looks after is crew, is willing to engage in dubious activities if he thinks his seneschal isn't looking and is most at home either putting the moves on the ladies or in the middle of a gunfight. Helsen treats his men well but brokes no disrespect or cowardice and has previously executed men for such.

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Lord Tiberius Flash-heart is a cross between Kirk / Blackadder / Flash-heart, he is usually well intentioned and likes to look after his crew. The only problems arise from the facts that he is a total abject Coward and that his libido can usually be counted on to overrule his head....

 The "Ask Questions Later..." is an aggressive and paranoid Dauntless Cruiser which is also haunted; the crew are used to seeing ghosts but are constantly slightly unnerved by the situation hence Flash-heart spends copious amounts of cash ensuring that whenever they hit leave, they always have a good time. This has given him the reputation as a good Ships Master, a reputation somewhat tempered by the occasional gaff - such as releasing the ships retinue of Kill Servitors after mistaking a 1000 yr old Transmission from an ancient battle as an attempt at boarding his ship... He is generally apologetic about this and does spend time among his crew, from the Command staff down he is well known and cared for, although he does not use Corporal punishment lightly he will indulge in it if it suits his needs, a fact of which the crew is painfully aware. Essentially, as a Captain he treats his people well but has a definite line he will not cross (unless it involves ladies, or personal danger of any kind...) and is willing to enforce this at the tip of a sword.

 As a Rogue Trader he can best be described as a "Popinjay", I love that old word! However, his trinkets, rings and costumary hide a number of Jokaero digital weapons and a sharp power sword that goes ting whenever its drawn - which is usually only when he's backed into a corner and has no real choice. He is actually a very proficient swordsman but would rather make love not war, usually repeatedly. He does, however, have 1 major quirk - if there is an audience other than his Command Crew (the PCs) he gets +10 to all WP rolls, etc regarding Fear or running away as he doesn't want to appear a coward. If, however, there is nobodly else about he gets -20 to the roll and is more likely to leg it.

 He is accompanied at most times by a Gunskull Camera which records his derring do and bravery, usually for later editing and distribution among the crew, local planets, starbases, etc and this has increased his reputation as a Square Jawed Hero and defender of the Imperium. Which, of course, he is anything but - he just spends a fortune on Good PR! Hololiths, Souvenirs and Memoirs litter the Calixis sector all lauding the Great Lord Flash-heart and his brave crew ; this is a double bonus as he earns a small profit on every item sold.

 He rarely "Orders" his Command Crew around, he usually just makes suggestions backed by sound (in his mind) judgements but as he is very charismatic he has not had to resort to making the Command official, yet. He does look after his Command staff well, replacing limbs, internal organs, etc with good quality implants where necessary - he makes it a point of pride that the replacement is at least as serviceable as the old 1, and preferably has a bit of bling as this always impresses the natives.

 His last Away team ended badly for the Astropath - they were investigating a long abandoned station when they came under attack by Eldar - they quickly dispatched the Eldar Warriors but came under fire from an Eldar Ranger, well hidden and deadly accurate. Flash-heart quickly deduced that the Eldar were attempting to encircle them and trap them so bravely led the relief efforts to hold the Shuttle bay - only sending the Seneschal ahead to ensure that there were no traps. He succeeded admirably, advancing to a more defensible position in the launch bays he even found time to send his condolences to the Astropath who was cut off and trapped by the Eldar, promising him that he would not be forgotten in the Annals of Flash-heart history. He briefly considered the foolish risk of attempting to rescue him but felt vindicated that ensuring the rest of the Command staff reached safety in the Shuttle was a more noble cause. He was the first to welcome the Astropath back to the safety of the containment bays when the Red Shirt Security sweep found him wounded and near death - the Eldar had captured him and Imprinted an Eldar Electoo sigil into his face, a clear warning to Flash-heart to stay away. Flash-heart only kept him in solitary for a mere month, ensuring the safety of the rest of the crew. Touched by the Astropaths dedication and Sacrifice Flash-heart commissioned a mask for him, to cover the Eldar Rune, even going so far as to have the mask created out of (semi) precious metals and inlaid with brass and the Flash-heart family crest! After all, the Astropath is blind anyway and didn't need eye slots...

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Heh, here's an interesting history for your perusal:

"I prefer to remain quiet and innocuous. Quite frankly, it makes it just that much more satisfying when my foes end up reaping a summary reward for the inevitable underestimating of my capabilites."

Lord-Captain Alexei Zhukov. Son of Nikolai Zhukov, born 999.M41, on the planet Krieg. The Zhukovs are a wealthy and influential noble family extending back several hundred years (some records, the majority likely fabricated, stretching back to before the Great Heresy and the Astartes Schism). Alexei, youngest of three brothers, was raised exceedingly well. Following the traditions of the Zhukov family, once he and his brothers reached a certain year of age, each of them was given a gift. The eldest brother, Yuri Zhukov asked to be accepted as lord and heir to the family name, and was kept on Krieg. The middle brother, Vasily Zhukov, asked for a commission as an officer in the Imperial Guard, and rapidly rose to the rank of Lord-Admiral. Alexei himself was obsessed with history and knowledge, and so asked for the least likely gift, being granted the (long-forgotten) Zhukov family’s Warrant of Trade, as well as a commissioned vessel and a crew of his own devising. Oddly enough, he debatably made the wisest choice, as an immense number of Zhukov colonies, trade routes, and buisnesses somehow ended up disappearing, destroyed, among other things, with no links whatsoever to the notorious House von Manstein, and House Zhukov's riches, prestige, and influence took an abrupt nosedive. Some say this contributed to house patriarch Nikolai's early death, dying at home surrounded by his family (a rarity in the Imperium). It was at this time that Alexei met with his two brothers on board the only real flagship the House still had, Alexei's personal vessel, the Angel of Vengeance. It was decided that, since Yuri was not ready yet to rule over the family without immense aid, each of the brothers would use what abilites they had to hold on to the fading remnants of their House. Yuri would consolidate the family holdings on Krieg, marshalling the main forces of the House and salvaging what he could from the House's former gains throughout the Imperium. Vasily would use his contacts in the Imperial Guard to stonewall any opportunistic scoundrels who might seek to profit from the fading of the once-great House, particularly the buzzards of House von Manstein, and scout for possible opportunities for the House to gain standing before the Imperium itself. Finally, Alexei would take his ship and what resources the House could spare, and seek systems in the newly discovered Koronus Expanse, places where the House could create influence, form new trade routes, bring loot and prestige back and put the star of House Zhukov once more in ascendance.

Alexei is, quite frankly, not the most intimidating of captains. Normally, he is a fairly quiet and introspective individual, given to walking the corridors of his ship musing and inspecting his crew. He even keeps a Librarium on board his vessel, spending much of his spare time simply reading old books and dataslates from years gone by. Matching that is his appearance, as the youngest son of House Zhukov (only 20!), he is slight of build, clean-shaven, and a slightly-crooked nose (the crew believes it came from a power-sword to the face, breaking and being set poorly, and he encourages this rumor...but in reality he simply once walked without paying attention into a bulkhead). What this appearance belies, however, is his wit and dry, sarcastic, almost cruel humor, a streak of ruthlessness that once condemned an entire cruiser to the Warp (the captain of said cruiser had attempted to kill him twice, and so Zhukov, quite calmly, personally oversaw the attachment of a timed explosive to his Gellar field generator shortly before the captain went into Warp. Afterwards, Zhukov simply returned to his bridge and drank a cup of peppermint tea.), and a cunning mind to match that ruthlessness (my campaign has had...several...moments of Magnificent Bastardry). His day-to-day uniform is a rather ornate greatcoat, slightly too large for him (but don't say that in his prescence) in the colors of House Zhukov (black and gold), with an impeccably immaculate uniform (also in black-and-gold). Hanging from his belt is a single, well-used bolt pistol, and, in a special scabbard, an aged and battered chainsword (rather than the customary power swords his brothers heft), an ancient blade bearing Crusade purity seals and kill-marks, supposedly used against dire xenos in the cleansing of the Drusus Marches. Supposedly this blade was also carried by Alexei's great-ancestor, Vladislav Dmitrovich Zhukov, the man who earned the family's Warrant of Trade. Alexei himself found this sword deep in the bowels of the Angel of Vengeance, in a darkhold forgotten by time and crew, seizing it from a mad servitor, whom he promptly decapitated.

Zhukov himself evokes mixed feelings in his crew. While, to a man, they respect his ability, his cold demeanor and reputation for ruthlessness does not evoke much in the way of loyalty. They serve him as a scion of House Zhukov, and they respect him, but they would not walk through fire for him. Yet. What is rather humorous in this situation, however, is that Zhukov is actually quite lenient to his crew, maintaining that "Ignorance can be cured by education, learning from mistakes. Stupidity can be cured with a bolter and a shovel. Did that happen from ignorance, or stupidity, crewman?" For the most part, Alexei is quite permissive of mistakes or errors, granting second or even third chances, and is a great proponent of mercy. However, he is absolutely merciless when it comes to certain crimes, like murder, ****, or mutiny, with a standing order for those particular three crimes that the perpetrators shall be released from an airlock...while in Warp transit. 

Heh, sort of rambled there. My inspiration for Alexei was a notable character from Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar saga, Arutha conDoin. Ruthless, cold, given to brooding, but infinitley able and clever when required, inspiring respect but not loyalty. At least, in the early going. I expect there will be character development here as Alexei realizes just how far his ruthlessness can go, with that consigning of the cruiser to the Warp being a major point of "did I really have to do that...or was I simply indulging my vindictiveness?". It doesn't help that my GM is a big fan of Tzeentch either...

EDIT: And I'd love to commission someone to do a really badass picture of him, if they could...anyone interested?

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We have had two Rogue Traders in the campaign I run, the first was horrible, the second fantastic, and I think both can be learned from.

The first was a..."great guy". A likable swashbuckler, a cross between Mal and Aladin (disney  version). His crew were like family to him, he was uncomfortable with the "darkness" in the imperium and determined to take "his people" out beyond its reaches and do right by the, and he meta gamed so as not to make the other players feel railroaded. His only real goal was "freedom", so no drive for profit, exploration, power building, etc. etc.

What this meant was he never made any decisions, always putting EVERYTHING up for vote and debate and wouldn't do ANYTHING that would make another players CHARACTER (not the PC themselves, their in character people) uncomfortable. "Well the missionary doesn't like option A, but the exporator doesn't like option B and the Arch Militant doesn't like option C". Queue hours of debate about and him never putting his foot down. All aliens were dealt with trust and respect, all humans dealt with as boarder line psychopaths. In character he had no interest in...anything that makes you a Rogue Trader, so it was very hard to get them to DO anything. He didn't like the church, the military, other Rogue Traders, etc. He left.

He was replaced by our second Rogue Trader. She decide to roll up a mix between Patten and Joan of Arc. Born to privilege, exceptionally gifted, with the kind of charisma that builds kingdoms and starts revolutions, and with that special kind of delusional crazy that only truly great leaders posses she knew from the time she was a child that the Emperor had personally called upon her to incite a new crusade to finally conquer the Koronus Expanse. A Zelot with delusions of grandur, she would be the new St. Drusius.

She has been very willing to make command decisions while delegating everything else. She has been slowly using her charisma and resources to secure a fanatically pious and loyal power base as she brings worlds back into the Imperium, establish alliances and trust, and gather more resources. Fully believing she has the favor of the Emporer she has a flair for the dramatic and has generated significant loyalty amongst the natives with her "miracles" (splitting mountains with skyfire, causing rain on desert worlds, and obliterating those who oppose the Emeror from orbit).

What you can take from this:

Great leaders need to be larger than life and have larger than life goals. It is time to not play yourself but instead roleplay a leader, with greater virtues and faults. A great captain give direction and flavor to the campaign. Making command decisions doesn't keep the other players from becoming involved, it creates OPPORTUNITY for them to become involved.

So come up with a CHARACTER, not yourself.
Make that character a GREAT LEADER, with equally grand virtues and faults
Come up with GRANDIOSE GOALS, don't drift.
LISTEN, COMMAND and DELEGATE, don't make everything a group discussion requiring a group consensus.
GET INTO THE FLUFF! Mixing in a bunch of modern sensibilities just messes up the fun. Crusade, conquer, be a fanatic, be devious, be chivilros, be honerable to a fault. Don't be a 20th century man/woman.

Again, in a game like Rogue Trader a leader must provide direction and flavor. You are doing no one any favors by making everything a group decision. Everyone will get more screen time, more heroic and tragic spotlight, if you will just do your job and let them do theirs.

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