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Greetings Rogue Trader fans!

This week I tapped Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Rogue Trader writer Sam Stewart to talk about designing the starships chapter. Naturally, starships play a big role in Rogue Trader —it's how the characters travel through the galaxy, it's a second home-away-from-home, it's a home base, trophy room, and mansion rolled into one.

Ever a dutiful servant of the Emperor, Sam agreed to provide his perspective on these powerful vessels.

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 Hi, I’m Sam Stewart, and in this designer diary I’d like to talk a little bit about starships in Rogue Trader .

Ever since watching the opening scene from Star Wars as a kid, I’ve been fascinated with spaceships and space combat. Games like Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic only served to whet my appetite, so naturally, getting a chance to work on the rules for spaceships in a game like Rogue Trader was a dream come true for me.

The challenge was to create a rules system that was compatible with the Rogue Trader rules and relatively simple, while at the same time doing justice to what spaceships and space combat are in Warhammer 40,000 . The smallest interstellar spacecraft in the Warhammer 40,000 universe are more than a kilometer long, with thousands of crew. Combat between two of these leviathans is a nightmare of megaton explosions, guns firing shells the size of cars, and energy beams that can destroy cities. This had to be portrayed in the starship rules.

Starships in Rogue Trader will be customizable through Components—which can be anything from plasma drives and macrobatteries to luxury passenger quarters and temple-shrines to the God-Emperor. By selecting the Components to install on their ship, a Rogue Trader can end up with anything from a combat-focused warship to a cargo-hauling trading vessel, or anything in between. However, we wanted to do more than just make starships equipment. We wanted starships to have unique ‘personalities’ all their own. That’s where Complications come in.

Complications can represent a starship’s sordid past, strange habits of its crew, or odd quirks of its machine spirit. The starships in Warhammer 40,000 are ancient vessels that have been modified and repaired over the millennia until no two are alike—and between Components and Complications, no two starships in Rogue Trader will be alike either. 

However, some people may be less interested in building their starship, and more interested in setting sail into the perilous void as quickly as possible. That is where quick-start ships come in.
The idea behind quick-start ships is to present players with several vessels that are complete and ready to play. There are several different quick-start ships, each with its own unique history, advantages and disadvantages, and specializations. One ship will enable players to trade cargos of valuable goods between star-systems (and have a few nasty surprises for would-be pirates), while another is better suited for exploring the dark reaches of the Koronus Expanse (the setting for Rogue Trader ) for years at a time. Whatever a group of would-be Rogue Traders wants to do, there should be a ship that can accommodate and facilitate their goals.

My personal favorite, however, is the Sovereign Venture . The Venture is a cruiser, a truly gigantic ship usually found amongst the ranks of the Imperial Navy. There are cities with a smaller population than the Venture . Needless to say, only the most affluent Rogue Traders will be able to afford her.

However, for those willing to commit the resources to own her, the Sovereign Venture will not disappoint. Her armoured prow and multiple void shields mean she is all but impervious to lesser foes, and her macrocannon broadsides can devastate an opponent in a few well-aimed salvoes. However, the Sovereign Venture is more than just a warship—she is a five plus kilometer long emissary of the Imperium to the Expanse. Her hull is covered in statues and engravings of the God-Emperor a hundred metres high, so that all who see her knows where her captain’s allegiance lies. Alongside her cargo holds are Ministorum temples and barracks capable of transporting an entire regiment. When the Sovereign Venture arrives over a heathen world, its rulers are left with a stark choice: submit to the rule of the Imperium, or be destroyed. 

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