News for September 2009
With Great Power... 9
Scope, Scale, and Resources in Rogue Trader
Rogue Trader | Published 18 September 2009

By Rogue Trader Developer Sam Stewart

Hello, Rogue Trader fans!

Today, I’d like to talk about the scope and scale of Rogue Trader, and the resources available to its players. In many ways, Rogue Trader offers an experience unlike most roleplaying games, and I’d like to take a few minutes to go over several of them.

A Question of Scale

One of the underlying tenets of the universe in the 41st Millennium is that everything is big, and I mean really big. On countless worlds across the infinite star systems in the galaxy, vast armies comprised of countless warriors wage eternal war. In the Imperium, cities can be vast structures that cover hundreds or thousands of square kilometers, and reach into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The monolithic bureaucracy of the Imperial Administratum keeps track of so much information, a simple error of a decimal placement can doom entire sectors to slow starvation. And lets not forget the many thousands of crewmembers it takes to run a single spaceship.

Into this universe step your characters, the Rogue Trader and his loyal cadre of trusted companions. Rogue Traders are supposed to be famous (or infamous) individuals, whose name is known on hundreds of worlds, and whose power and influence can be felt across entire sectors. Even a weaker Rogue Trader can rival an Imperial Planetary Governor in terms of power and wealth. 

In practical terms, this means players in Rogue Trader have access to some frankly unprecedented levels of resources. Lets take a quick look at some of them.

The Gear

A Rogue Trader and his companions have access to vast wealth, and with that comes access to powerful items and equipment. The Profit Factor mechanic means that instead of a Rogue Trader asking “should I buy one lasgun,” he’s asking “should I buy one thousand lasguns? Or maybe ten thousand? Or maybe that noble’s heirloom plasma pistol, instead?”

Characters in Rogue Trader can afford to possess only the best in arms and equipment. Power sword? Sure! Inferno pistol? I’ll take two, thank you! Best-craftsmanship power armour? Why not? This ability to buy all sorts of exiting items means characters can worry less about their gear, and more about heroic (or infamous) deeds and exciting adventures. Of course, it also means their GM can send them up against ever-more perilous encounters—or throw them into situations better solved by quick thinking than quick shooting.

The Ship

First amongst the Rogue Trader and his companions’ possessions is their starship. Even the smallest vessel available to a Rogue Trader has immensely powerful weapons and a crew of thousands who are subservient to the players’ characters. These can drastically change the way in which players resolve conflicts and solve problems. Players may bombard a planet in order to ‘persuade’ the local ruler to acquiesce to their requests, or forego exploring a dangerous ruin themselves by sending 100 of their crew instead.

In Rogue Trader, these are both perfectly valid tactics. After all, what’s the point of having minions if you don’t get to order them around, or commanding a city-sized starship if you don’t get to show off? If that’s the way the players want to play, the GM should be willing to embrace it. Of course, a Rogue Trader with a reputation for hiding on his ship is quickly going to lose respect and influence among his peers. Besides, most players aren’t going to want to sit idly by while faceless minions earn all the glory!

The Glory

Powerful weapons, huge starships, and legions of followers all give the players plenty of power. Therefore, it’s up the GM to make their adventures equally challenging, and the rewards correspondingly grand. A Rogue Trader wouldn’t be satisfied with killing a monster and looting its treasure trove. Instead, he would slay a monster himself, to show his crew ‘how it’s done.’ Then, he’d turn his minions loose on the entire planet to hunt down the rest of the indigenous life, then set up a vast mining operation to get at the vast admantium deposits under the surface.

Likewise, a Rogue Trader wouldn’t fight off a band of marauding Orks threatening a settlement. However, he might rally a fleet of fellow Rogue Traders to engage a mighty Ork WAAAGH! that threatens a hive world, destroying their ships in orbit, then meeting the greenskin’s Warboss on the battlefield in single combat. As a reward for his victory? Perhaps the world he saved would build a cruiser in his honor. Or maybe a simple planetary governorship would suffice.

Of course, one of the maxims of the 41st Millenium is that no matter how strong you are, you can always run into something stronger. That’s something players and GMs alike should keep in mind when they plot their first voyages into the dark depths of the Koronus Expanse.

Rogue Trader is a roleplaying game set in dark gothic far future of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. Players take on the roles of explorers aboard a Rogue Trader's ship, searching for profit and adventure while discovering new alien cultures and threats in the uncharted regions of space.

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Comments (9)

Alluvian Est-Endrati
Published: 9/21/2009 9:39:07 AM

Very nice. While it was easy to speculate that Rogue Trader would exist at this scale, it is nice to see that it will actually be the case. I have not been this excited to get my hands on a RPG book in a while, not since Dark Heresy itself I think.

Published: 9/21/2009 8:47:31 AM

 PS - Rajak, I think something that will have to emphasised by DMs is the massive amount of power they wield, and get players addicted to it. One starship? What about a fleet! One planet? What about a sector! etc. Plus, there's *always* equipment which is rarer/fancier etc than what they already have. Best-quality force-sword made from lathe-metal perhaps? C'tan phase-sword? Horus' other power-claw? etc. It will be a bit harder to use gear as a motivator, but not impossible.

Published: 9/21/2009 8:40:18 AM

[drools, wipes keyboard, begins typing]

How to merge DH and Rogue trader? Does anybody here think it merely coincidence that the major release of pre-planned adventures for DH - the Haarlock legacy trilogy - is about a Rogue Trader, just at the time (well, within the same year, which is pretty much simultaneous given publishing timescales) of Rogue Trader coming out? I'd be very surprised if the final event in the final adventure doesn't involve Haarlock returning and dying, probably by the acolytes killing him. Or at least it won't end with the acolytes and Haarlock voyaging off in the direction of Sol holding hands and gazing into eachothers eyes. By this time, and given the power levels, the acolytes should have completed their career paths with 15k experience (pity FFG couldn't wrangle it so that you needed 40k experience to finish a career - oh well) and be at a nice powerful level with plenty of gear and a now-vacant Rogue trader warrant...

In hindsight, they've matched the two very nicely indeed. [back to drooling...]

Published: 9/20/2009 2:04:51 AM

 My worry with the scale is that in DH you start with so little. The Good gear is the reward for gaining power and rank. If it is just given to you what is there to drive the need? What is the reward that will not retire the character. And how do you merge RT and DH when the scale is so vast?

Published: 9/18/2009 6:21:47 PM

I hope that there are rules for what you can do with a planet if you earned the right to govern it. I hope its not just Profit +7 :) 

Published: 9/18/2009 5:24:15 PM

Very nice article, really helps to bring in the focus of the game. As I plan to run my current Dark Heresy characters into Inquisition sponsored Rogue Traders, what else would you expect from a scion of the Haarlocks?

Published: 9/18/2009 5:12:44 PM

 I'm starting to like it more and more, and I already loved it...I NEED THAT BOOK!!!

Published: 9/18/2009 4:10:44 PM

"One of the underlying tenants of the universe"

That should be "tenets". Tenants of the universe are the people renting out the underhive.


Published: 9/18/2009 3:49:48 PM

 When is this coming ouuuuuut? :D

Oh right the article... well every one of these makes me more and more anxious to get my copy in! Looks so amazing! But I'm guessing you already knew that. ;)

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