News for May 2009
The Emperor's Ferrymen 7
Navigators in Rogue Trader
Rogue Trader | Published 22 May 2009

Greetings Rogue Trader fans!

This week I am proud to introduce a designer diary from Owen Barnes, a name long associated with Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay. Owen has done some fantastic work for Rogue Trader, and I asked him to give the fans some perspective on his efforts towards the mysterious Navigators — and the challenge he faced in making them into a player character Career!

Owen’s Words
As part of my work for Rogue Trader I found myself with the interesting task of designing the powers and abilities for Navigators. Now throughout the ongoing evolution of the 40k background, and the creation of a multitude of games, books and other products, Navigators have been presented in numerous ways — from sociopathic shut-ins, locked away in ship-vaults to be peddled out to point the way across the stars, to free-wheeling, bandana wearing pirates who work on warp-ships in their free time. What hasn’t changed however is the concept that Navigators are a corner stone of what makes the Imperium possible — ever since the Navigator Gene was first isolated and successfully bred they have been the sole reason that a galactic civilisation of such scope and breadth has be able to prosper and endure.

So this was the point I returned to when I started out to created a set of abilities for them, using this core principle to define them within Rogue Trader. It was also an opportunity to pull back the curtain on the Navis Nobilite and show it for the fractious, decadent and Machiavellian organisation it was—grown rich and inbred from millennia of monopolised trade and petty infighting.

This leads me neatly into Lineages — the first thing a player needs to decide when creating his Navigator character. Lineage is essentially the origins of his family line and the purity of his Navigator Gene. For this purpose the myriad of Navigator Houses are grouped into four categories:

Core Houses: The most powerful of the Navis Nobilite houses, often with vast palaces on Terra itself.

Rim Houses: Former Core Houses that have moved out to the edges of the Imperium in search of greater wealth.

Void Houses: Gypsy houses that live in space and move constantly seeking out new contracts and opportunities.

Renegade Houses: Those that have rejected the edicts of the Paternova (the Lord of the Navis Nobilite) and embarked on dangerous breeding programs in the hopes of enhancing the Navigator Gene in their children.

A Navigator’s choice of House influences which powers they can use, their susceptibility to mutation and their social standing with the Imperium — after all a planetary governor is far more likely to grant an audience to a Navigator of a respected Core House than to one from a known Renegade House.

Once the player has chosen his Lineage he can then select his powers. My key goal when creating rules for their powers was that they should be able to hold their own in the company of silver-tongued traders, augmented Imperial warriors and reality bending psykers — bringing a set of unique abilities and skills to the table. They should also have a feel that was all of their own and most importantly be fun to play!

Without giving too much away, a Navigator’s powers are keyed to the warp allowing them an intuitive understanding of its nature and movement. Unlike a psyker who has a long list of powers and disciplines they can learn though training — tapping into the power of the immaterium — a Navigator has a limited list of innate abilities that they can learn and then use at will. Many of these abilities are tied to their perception of the warp — like the ability to track void-ships by the trail of their warp drives, or learn a psyker’s identity from the warp-signature left by his work. Others however are more overt and call upon the Navigator’s limited control over the near immaterium, influencing the flow of power between the two universes — even cutting off a psyker from his power for a short time if they are skilled enough. Finally no set of Navigator powers would be complete without a host of Third Eye abilities, ranging from looking into a man’s soul for signs of possession or taint to killing or sending insane all those who meet the Navigator’s gaze.

In addition to powers Navigators also gain mutations — the inevitable side effect of their Navigator Gene. While all Navigators have the Third-Eye mutation may others are possible — and as a Navigator grows in power and develops his gifts he is at constant risk from these. Unlike other characters however Navigators have their own mutation table — many of which a both beneficial as well as detrimental.

Well I hope that whets your appetite for playing Navigators in Rogue Trader and gives you some idea of what they are going to be capable of, beyond just guiding ships though the warp (oh, by the way, there are a bunch of rules for that too!)


Rogue Trader is a roleplaying game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the grim darkness of the far future. Players take on the roles of Explorers aboard a Rogue Trader's ship, searching for profit and adventure in the uncharted regions of space.

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Comments (7)

Published: 5/27/2009 8:02:49 AM

Hey it's the 41st millenium. Being blinded isn't the disability it used to be. And besides:  bring it on..... Blind, sensorily depleted or otherwise sub-normal characters are just the kinda diverse challenge that can bring out the best RP from the players. (eg. Think about gaming Ravenor level disability!!). Admittedly though I have the questionable privilage of a veteran gaming group and severe starting disabilities not always recommended for the newly initiated player/gm.

I'm fully excited about these Navigators adding literally a whole extra dimension or 4, to the games as a party gains the autonomy to warp navigate.

The background's of familys and linage sounds well thought out. The precious gene with it's own warped advantages and disadvantages within the prevalent violent, corrupted, ancient, political, social and hierarchal systems.... all I could have wished for and more.... and I havn't even seen it yet!


Published: 5/26/2009 10:03:09 AM

Rogue Trader is the game I'm looking forward to the most right about now.  Every dev diary reinforces that.  Good job FFG good job

Published: 5/25/2009 6:27:02 AM

@ Lord_Boofhead

Whilst I concur with your assesment that it is fact Astropaths that Rapier was mistaken with, I call poppycock on the Draco Novels as being the evidence of misinformation particularly so with your thoughts they are non-cannon.

These novels in their unadulterated form (prior to retconning of the squat Grimm replaced as a AdMech rep (which I believe in the most recent editions has been reverted) and the removal of certain scenes of debauchery concerning a certain inquisitional representative  with another Callidus trained female type) reveal the Navigator, Googol Vitali as every inch a novigator as observed in the current fluff. These novel were also rich in background at a time when background was very slim pickin's.

Additionally this was a time when most writers for GW wrote under psuedonyms to avoid any connection with a media that was particularly contentious for its time, but not our Ian Watson!

As a final point of fact I'm sure if its printed by GW (or printed by ROC THEN printed by GW (and reprinted!)) you can be assured it is in fact cannon... denial is part of the grieving process, Lord_Boofhead... soon will come acceptance.

Published: 5/23/2009 7:12:19 AM

Actualy Raiper, thats Astropaths you're talking about. There is a lot of stupid fanboy BS out there about the Navigatos, most of it incorect or from the mostly non-cannon Draco Novels.

Can you give some references for your statement? Note I'll only accept Rouge Trader Editon 40K, 2nd-5th ed 40K, The Inquisitor or BFG games or Black Library books writen recently.

Published: 5/23/2009 7:00:51 AM

 They will probably have the blindness one of their mutations on the navigator table as mentioned above

Published: 5/22/2009 8:18:28 PM

 What I really want to know is how the rules handle the fluff  "most of the navigators go blind," is this little tidbit being dropped? Or is it going to be the case that player characters are the rare few who didn't go blind for conveience sake?

Published: 5/22/2009 12:11:20 PM

You have my attention again with these, very nice.

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