Monday, 26 September 2011

Rogue Trader Timeslides

For the sake of the universe I couldn’t allow these books to touch. Never cross the streams.

I recently won an Amazon voucher and decided to pick up Fantasy Flight Games’ Warhammer 40K RPG, Rogue Trader. At a quick read through it looks pretty good. Percentile characteristic tests the standard resolution mechanic, this should be a game that is pretty easy to pick up and play. And to, hopefully, GM without reference to the rulebook more than a few times a session. Or, hoping against the odds, to persuade someone else to GM.

As well as a nifty way of abstractly dealing with the resources that a Rogue Trader can draw on – do keeping track of the exchange rate between Galactic Groats and Plutonian Pesos – FFG’s Rogue Trader also contains a set of simple rules for ship-level space combat. Now, while I am wary of using miniatures too heavily in RPGs – I sympathise with the argument that they break the suspension of disbelief and pull players from their much more vivid imaginations – I also do love miniatures. If we do play Rogue Trader the RPG I have an excuse to buy and paint up some cool sci-fi miniatures, both characters and spaceships.

Just an aside, doing a bit of wishlist browsing I found these guys at Alternative Armies – were these the centrepiece of a regular advert in late 1980s/early 1990s Dragon Magazine or White Dwarf? Or has my memory been operating in non-linear time again.

But what will certainly get some sci-fi miniatures onto the painting table is to schedule a game of Rogue Trader (1987). I’ve always been enamoured with the very book – the one in the photo is an eBay purchase, only Tzeentch knows where my original copy now resides. Before the Warhammer 40K universe became so organised and catalogued it seemed to be a crazy, gonzo but still, grimdark (right from the start the ‘heroes’ are space Nazis who worship a corpse-king sustained by mass human sacrifice) game infused with a 2000AD aesthetic.

Over at Tales From the Maelstrom there is an interview with Rick Priestley, which is well worth a read. Together with Andy’s take on what the Old School Revival in miniature gaming should mean, we have a set of ideas that I would like to put into action, even if, in weakness, I might fall back on ‘1500 points, by the book’ – not for a desire for competitive, tournament-style play, but simply in order to get a game up and running with little fuss. However, if you need an account of this philosophy in action, check out one of their well illustrated battle reports, and envy.


  1. Right.

    I liked Rogue Trader when I ran it, although it was slightly too complicated a ruleset for me to really engage with it; I prefer something with fewer moving parts. It's of the same relative complexity as D&D3, I'd say, and much more fiddly than WFRP2, although they share DNA.

    The starship combat system is a simplified Battlefleet Gothic as far as I can tell, and is pretty good, although you need a lot of space if you're going to do it with miniatures. I never got a chance to use it as the players always ran from space battles.

    Otherwise it's a good fun game and one I miss playing.

  2. Can I tone down the fiddliness of the rule system by just getting things wrong, accidentally or on purpose, and reverting to percentile-based tests? Or when I get into the book properly, will I find the fiddly a necessary evil?

  3. Yes, I ignored most of the fiddly bits to be honest. Like D&D3 there's a basic resolution system and then lots of detail on how to use it; there may be someone out there who plays zero-gravity combat by the book, but I imagine most people don't.

    If you're happy to ignore stuff, then you should be okay.

    Oh, another annoyance is that the psychic system is completely different to that of Dark Heresy -- which was more or less the WFRP2 system -- but if you're playing Rogue Trader on its own, this shouldn't be a problem.

    I would also suggest that you make sure one player chooses to be the Trader; I thought it would be best to take that choice from my players and have him be an NPC, so there wouldn't be conflict within the team if they wanted to do one thing and the Trader disagreed. In hindsight, I think the campaign would have been better with that conflict built in.

  4. *Puts hand up to shotgun the Trader character*