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New GM w/ Questions About Retainers and Profit Factor

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Hi, I recently started a Rogue Trader game and this is the first time I am running a campaign (I have run multiple one-shots for Fantasy 2nd. Ed. and all the FFG 40k RPGs).

I know retainers (AKA valets, bodyguards, etc) will get formalized rules in Into the Storm but I have some problems with them right now. My party usually bring around twenty of them on exploration and I'm having trouble balancing them. At first I treated them like meatshields for the PCs but it's getting rediculous as the last encounter had the heroes taking down four carnosaurs and about six dusk stalkers (my PCs are Rank 1) with no retainer deaths.

I am the most knowledgable about 40k among my group but I still have very limited 40k knowledge (I'm mainly a WHFB guy and my 40k knowledge is mostly about the Inquisition). I have no idea if their retainer count is excessive. As we figured, if RTs have ships of 20,000 people at least twenty of them can be taken off-ship without consequence to ship operation. I am not trying to kill my players (hell, I almost did so twice due to unusual rolls) but at least one of my players feels my fights are too easy and now we are entering Rank 2.

 

My other question is how to make profit factor feel important. Most of the party has only acquired 2 or 3 items and they feel more or less "complete." For example, my gunbunny bought power armor with his initial purchase and a military-grade battery pack for it later (I had it as extremely rare like the armor) and he now only wants a power fist which I am really making him really hard work for. Everybody else has most of what they want from character creation. I would not feel like I did anything wrong if their starting PF was very high, but theirs is only a mere 40.

Thanks in advance for any responses.

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 Keep in mind that 25 armed people stomping through a jungle will attract a larger amount of attention than a group of five. Personally, I stole the Horde rules from Deathwatch. Cuts down on the paperwork and makes it easy for you to balance things. 

Your players are still thinking small-scale . Encourage them to think about bigger things they can do with their Profit Factor. Sure, they've got a personal armoury set up but that's nothing to their own orbital fortress designed in the likeness of their own face!

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It sounds like you are having a classic DM problem. RT is challenging to DM because it is just on a different scale than anything you have dealt with before.

As for combat encounters, your players are fine, as are the retainers. It sounds like you are having a hard time getting your head around the sheer scale of RT. They have the resources of a small civilization at their disposal and fly around a ship that can ruin continents. You say they are "only" rank 1. A rank 1 RT character is likely over 40 with DECADES of experience, one of the best of their fields. They are likely olympian/genius level in several stats (40's) and have had a long life of adventure before even becoming RTs. Power wise they are a peer of Inquisitors and Space Marine Chapter Masters.

Read over that last paragraph and tell me, are you suprised they were able to curb stomp four carnasaurs?

As for profit factor: Again, at PF 40 they have more resources at their disposal than many planets. On top of their resources they are increadably influential and dangerous individuals with decades of experience  haggling, trading, and finding items they want. They are a peer of the inquistion and astartes with all of the political clout and prestige that entails. Why would aquiring a single suit of power armor and a battery from a technologically advanced port or world be difficult?

You need to adjust your mental scale. Your traders don't fight random carnasaurs in the jungle, they fight wars, cults, gene stealer infestations, and entire pirate crews. Then, while the henchmen are fighting the mooks, something scary like a carnasaur or a demon is unleashed and the RTs take care of it personally. Or they are at a state dinner with no entourage and have to save the governor. Or the geller field drops and something pops out on the bridge. But don't expect your players to ever have a hard time dealing with a few random monsters if they are expecting trouble. They are powerful military commanders, wandering monsters are nothing to them.

And don't expect any problem in aquiring small quantities of almost ANY item that isn't near-unique. Your RTs profit factor really comes into play when they are trying to outfit companies of troops, starships, buy space stations, and put planets under economic embargo. The PF comes into play when they are trying to equip their entire entorage with power armor.

RT is difficult to DM not because of rules, but because of scale. Most of us can easily relate to D&D or Dark Heresy. It is small groups of people tackling small problems. But in RT it is powerful leaders of organizations tackling worlds and sectors. Space battles involve tens of thousands of individuals, ground actions usually involve at least dozens, sometimes hundreds. A 'mere' rank 1 rogue trader can tackle weak worlds with his organization, and even as an individual is a genius/olympian with decades of experience.

Finally, to answer your questions: As far as retainers, yes they have a ship of 20k+ people. But are they paying for troops? If not than the people in their 'entourage' are little more than under ship brutes. Their combat skills should be bad and their morale should be worse. Did they train them in weapons use? If not their attacks are cut in half (if their WP is 20 than their check is now 10). Did they pay for military weaponry? If not than all they have is crowbars and lead pipes. Now imagine you are one of these troops. You are a shipboard mechanic or plumber, perhaps never having left the ship in your life, when suddenly the captain drags you out into a dangerous jungle (we know most voidborn are agraphobic anyways). You are given a lead pipe (heck even a lasgun, which you have never used before and consider to be dark magic) and told you are to protect the captain. Then four carnivours come out. It sounds like you had those men act like paid military professionals instead of the blue collar civilians they are. Your party needs to PAY for solders. And THAT is where profit factor comes in.

Now, as for making PF feel right. Do they just want to BUY military personnel? Ok, consult the time to purchase chart. If they are having one of their retainers do all the searching and negotiating for them it could take weeks, or months. Ok then, what if they do it personally? Than they need to personally find an Imperial Guard commander and negotiate/grease palms/promise favours, which might be an endevor.

In conclusion, RTs are powerful individuals with vast resources. But part of the game is USING those resources. Don't just gloss over logistics and focus on combat, make them flex their political/economic muscles just as much as they have to flex their physical/intellectual ones. For most GMs it is a different mindset and it takes awhile to switch gears, but once you do you will have some amazing and epic games.

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To Errant:

I agree they need to think larger, but I tend to build around the players and I am hoping they eventually catch on to the fact that their "Motivation" choice of character creation is the extreme form of it. So far, only my Navigator (chose Pride) is the only one doing this as he is decked out in gold-plated carapace, trying to acquire psyker bodyguards with silver carapace armor, and purposely does not follow navigation maps in hopes of finding his own "Strait of Magellan."

My RT is part of a new dynasty and he wishes to take things slowly. He had the chance to hulk another RTs ship but did not want to be the "new money" known for shaking things up and earning the ire of the other powerful forces in the expanse.

To this end, I have made it clear the two major NPC rogue traders are much more famous and prestigious than them as one owns an entire solar system of five populated and highly successful planets and the other has been credited for bringing the Imperial Creed to the expanse.

 

To Rip:

I knew I would eventually run into the scale problem but I was clearly overconfident and did not expect it this soon. I was mainly using Rank 1 not to say they are not powerful, but that this scale problem happened early and will only get worse. As my group meets every other week (we all have jobs/school/girlfriend/spouses) I thought I would have time to iron out the bumps at least for Rank 1, but that clearly has not been the case. I believe my players are aware of their power because they requested Rogue Trader over Dark Heresy for the epic scale (earlier mentioned Navigator wanted DH for he felt I was better at it and it would be less overwhelming for me).

Concerning retainers, I am not saying you are wrong, but do you know their availability from the actual GW stories and assorted flavor, or is the way you suggested how you handle retainers? I am having the retainers act like military because from my understanding of 40k each ship is ridiculously valuable and war capable and that 40k has enough strife that the availability of trained soldier is abundant. Putting the two together it seems reasonable to me that each RT should have at least twenty (possibly hundreds) of military trained crewmen who have fought against xenos and death world creatures. Then again my 40k knowledge is primarily Inquisition based and really do hope the way you describe retainers is correct (would make my job designing encounters much easier). The RT and the arch-militant (previously mentioned gunbunny) both thought their retainers came with hellguns and frag grenades until I ruled they only had lasguns. Unless I have flavor to back it up, stripping their bodyguards down to lead pipes may prove very unpopular with my group.

 

Thank you both for your help. What I did not question this post will be incorporated into my future sessions.

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I can definitely relate to the power shock. In most games it doesn't hit you until your players get to the mid/upper levels. In RT it starts the first game. It is a challenging game to GM, and requires a lot of preperation.

Most of what I wrote is either implied or outright stated by the rule book. As written you have to buy everything for a ship except for basic crew. It doesn't come with weapons, an engine, a gellar field, or a 'competent' level crew, you have to pay for all of those things. The rule book talks at length about recruiting and equipping a personal military, and many of the aquisition test examples are based on this premise (equipping a platoon with las weapons was an example in the book, I believe).

You are correct that there are a lot of trained solders and mercenaries in the galaxy, and every RT SHOULD have at least a personal guard (20), and quite possible hundreds of troops. But then again, in a traditional RPG a warrior should have armor. That doesn't mean he doesn't have to buy it.

The RT book states that in most combat situation the crew locks themselves in their bunks. They expect the Rogue Trader to protect them, and they expect the Rogue Trader to provide the troops to do so. Most voidborn crew have been on the ship for generations, many have never seen the sky, let alone fought a xeno or cultist. Their families have survived because they know when to duck their heads and hide behind an airlock. Non-voidborn crew are usually depicted either as press gangs or hive world riff raff. The crew levels will give you a hint. If your traders really put out some money they can have a crack crew, but if they haven't put the money out than they likely have either competant or incompetant crew. And as a previous poster said on another topic, these men are not being paid to put their lives on the line in combat, and they didn't sign up for that. They are being paid to take care of a ship. Certainly a RT could pay them extra (though they would be untrained) or force them (though they would be unwilling, and thus likely to run or turn on the RT). But even then they aren't trained for that kind of thing.

The thing is, the Imperium is a Feudal society. The crew are the serfs, they work for their lord, but in return the lord is responsible for caring for them and providing protection. Certainly a lord can force his serfs to fight, but they are going to be of the poorest quality, and it is going to take a toll on morale.

The fact that you have to pay for a barracks and munitorium on your ship indicates they are not a given. Did they buy a munitorium? Then they have las guns for the crew, and even some heavy weapons. If not, pipes. Did they buy barracks? Then I would say they only have room to house a small personal guard (maybe 20 men). And even then they are only going to have standard weaponry. Hellguns for instance are super rare weapons typically reserved for elite troops. If they want stuff like that they need to purchase it. 

Basically I'm saying, if a ship doesn't come with a) guns b) life support c) engines d) weapons or e) a competent crew, why would it have a few hundred trained solders on board? If it has that automatically, why are there options for barracks and munitoriums? 

Regardless, it isn't going to be too difficult for them to requisition some basic guardsman (uncommon), or even hired thugs (common) and outfit them with basic weaponry. With a bit of effort I'm sure they can even get veteran troops. So if they wine about their crew not having las weapons just tell them that as the RT and lord of the ship it is their responsability to provide protection for the crew, otherwise they are going to have morale problems when the crew realizes they are expected to get in firefights, and remind them that they are increadibly wealthy and powerful individuals who shouldn't have ANY trouble getting ahold of some body guards.

 

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Thank you for the feudal world comparison; that was exactly what I was looking for. I'm very good at enforcing the worlds of the Imperium as feudal in mindset (and my brother, the group's explorator, helps with the feudal view of technology), but I kept wrongly thinking of the spaceships with an Age of Discovery mindset.

Ah, I remember my group's first case of GM power shock. It was D&D paragon tier (GM: "Wait you can jump HOW far?!").

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riplikash said:

I

You are correct that there are a lot of trained solders and mercenaries in the galaxy, and every RT SHOULD have at least a personal guard (20), and quite possible hundreds of troops. But then again, in a traditional RPG a warrior should have armor. That doesn't mean he doesn't have to buy it.

 

That´s the point - as a RT you CAN buy almost everything but you still have to DO so.

And another point one should keep in mind is the availability of goods and troops. While in densely populated imperial dominated space, recruiting a couple of hundred troops who know how to handle weapon is not really a problem - once the RT is in the Expanse, this can be quite a problem.

The available troops have to be human AND should know how to handle a lasgun... in some part of the Expanse this can be quite tough. Either the RT has to enlist some musquet (or even crossbow)-bearing rabble or even some strange xenos-mercenaries (whose loyalty could be even more fickle than that of human mercs).

If the RT is deep in the expanse he will surely encounter serious some serious challenges in replacing or re-equiping his troops.

 

 

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 I disagree about the necessity of acquiring troops to have any at all. Any Rogue Trader ship - well, any ship at all - will have a security force. Can you acquire a better one? Certainly. Can you upgrade their weaponry? Definitely. But even without that, you'll have quite a few men around who will know their way around with a weapon, in the same way that you don't have to acquire cooks but your men won't starve either.

And there's a simple way to know that: You can lead boarding actions without acquiring troops prior to that without suffering terrible penalties.

 

Of course, these men won't be trained soldiers for the most part and certainly will loose part of their effectivity in conditions they aren't trained for - like anything not happening within the tight quarters of a ship.

 

So all in all, I'd assume about 0,5% of a ship's men to be part of the security forces, with perhaps the same amount of men again who just happen to be good at shooting stuff without being specifically trained for it. They'll likely be armed with shotguns and stun batons.

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Cifer said:

 I disagree about the necessity of acquiring troops to have any at all. Any Rogue Trader ship - well, any ship at all - will have a security force. Can you acquire a better one? Certainly. Can you upgrade their weaponry? Definitely. But even without that, you'll have quite a few men around who will know their way around with a weapon, in the same way that you don't have to acquire cooks but your men won't starve either.

And there's a simple way to know that: You can lead boarding actions without acquiring troops prior to that without suffering terrible penalties.

 

Of course, these men won't be trained soldiers for the most part and certainly will loose part of their effectivity in conditions they aren't trained for - like anything not happening within the tight quarters of a ship.

 

So all in all, I'd assume about 0,5% of a ship's men to be part of the security forces, with perhaps the same amount of men again who just happen to be good at shooting stuff without being specifically trained for it. They'll likely be armed with shotguns and stun batons.

What percentage of that security force can leave the ship before the remaining security forces are unable to keep the rest of the crew behaving ?

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Cifer said:

What percentage of that security force can leave the ship before the remaining security forces are unable to keep the rest of the crew behaving ?

 

Depends on the crew morale. You usually don't need too many unless you've done something really stupid.

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 There is one other things about security forces.

Certainly the ship likely has some form of police, and the RTs could conceivably force them to accompany them on missions. But they should be largely ineffective at anything beyond the most simple and heavy handed tasks. Just because they have, on paper, 1000 armsmen does not mean they have 1000 henchmen to bring to bear, and they are in no way a substitute for investing in a military force to repel boarders/warp threats/riots. They aren't trained for military style combat so their morale and tactics will be weak. They don't have the proper chain of command or discipline, so they are going to be difficult to control, organize and command tactically. They don't have the proper logistics so transport and communications is going to be a nightmare.

For my groups I have commonly allowed 10-20 armsmen to accompany them without significant penalties, but these men aren't combat specialists, don't handle really dangerous situations well, break easily, and are difficult to coordinate in anything but mob tactics. An army, or even a unit, is more than just bodies. It is training, discipline, and experience. Ships armsmen have the bodies, but not the rest.

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jellyfish21 said:

 

 

Cifer said:

What percentage of that security force can leave the ship before the remaining security forces are unable to keep the rest of the crew behaving ?

 

 

Depends on the crew morale. You usually don't need too many unless you've done something really stupid.

I think there is a grand misconception about the "need" of security forces to maintain discipline in the crew. Most of these crew member are either void born (for older ships), hired hands, press ganged, swapped between other Rogue Trader ships (to prevent genetic defects), etc. 

Most also believe in the God Emperor of Mankind and follow the Ecclesiarchies belief system. They are used to the feudal society, and know their place in it. The only real NEED I see for a security force is during and after combat in which HORRIFIC casualties are accrued by the ship (the rules for this are well represented in the Ship Combat section). You might need a security force then to keep the peace amongst the crew...

... but I HIGHLY doubt that if you take 3/4 of the security force off of your ship to scout out the terrain of an unknown world that the crew will say, "Ah-HA! Now it's time to mutiny like we've been planning for the last several years. Yes yes, especially since we're educated and managed to rally enough of us together to convince the rest of the crew of this matter!!! ". 

Yes, there would be a force aboard to carry out Imperial Justice against criminal activities. There would be a force aboard to protect the ship and accompany the Rogue Traders on away-team missions, etc (the amount of this force depends on the Rogue Trader and how many armed men he wants).

I don not feel that there is a need to keep the force aboard JUST to keep the natives from tearing the ship apart. 

Just my 2 cents, pents, etc.

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