Hello again Rogue Trader fans!
Last week I talked about some of the background behind working on Rogue Trader . This week I want to continue that discussion, but broaden it a bit to also include some of the major influences on myself and the rest of the design team.
Ships of Wood and Steel
Naturally, some of the biggest influences on the design of Rogue Trader came from stories about thrilling voyages in space and on the sea. For instance, the crew dynamic of Mal Reynolds’ ship in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity influenced some of the decisions we made about character creation, and the fascinating loyalty and discipline of the Surprise captained by Jack Aubrey in the Patrick O’Brian novels had an impact on the ship roles.
From Horatio Hornblower to Shogun , the Conquistadors of Spain to the American Wild West, a number of stories, experiences, and settings made an impact on the overall design of Rogue Trader . Therefore, don’t be surprised if you find some familiar and timeless tropes within the book!
Into the Expanse
The Koronus Expanse is the core setting for Rogue Trader , a region beyond the Imperium on the rim of known space. The Expanse exists somewhere amongst the Halo Stars region, accessible through a (mostly) stable warp passage known as “the Maw.” In the Expanse, the Explorers can find numerous opportunities for both danger and profit!
When designing the Expanse, I knew we wanted to get the “feel” exactly right. It’s a bit of a mix of the Wild West with the “Darkest Africa” of many pulp adventures. It’s looking into a dark room from a well-lit hallway. The open door projects some light into the gloom (in this case, the door is the Maw), but the further one goes into the room, the surroundings become more uncertain and mysterious. The Expanse is a realm of legends, whispered stories of fortune and horror, and cryptic messages: “Here be dragons.”
Unlike the Calixis Sector in Dark Heresy , the Koronus Expanse is presented as a region not yet fully understood. There is plenty of uncharted territory ripe for a bold Rogue Trader to discover, and tons of unknown planets and systems. One region in the Expanse is known as the Hecaton Rift, an enormous nebula laced with bizarre flickers of warp-lightning. There are rumours of fantastic treasure within the Rift...but there are also uncounted stories of foolhardy captains who never returned from the Rift’s embrace.
I hope these tidbits have whetted your appetite for more information about the Koronus Expanse, because I plan to present an entire designer diary focused upon it in the near future.
Profit Factor and Endeavours
Another important issue that arose during the development of Rogue Trader is the concept of wealth on a grander scale. If a Rogue Trader owns a nearly-priceless starship, how do you handle whether or not he can afford a plasma pistol? How do you gauge the overall success of a Rogue Trader’s dynasty? How do you improve your status, and what are the pitfalls that can occur?
The answer to these questions lies in the system of Profit Factor and Endeavours. Profit Factor is a game mechanic that represents the Explorers’ wealth, power, influence and other resources. Profit Factor means that a Rogue Trader character doesn’t really need to track “pocket money.” The group’s Profit Factor determines their relative success, meaning that the players can track how far they have come, or discover how far they need to go to reach their goal. Naturally, the higher the group’s Profit Factor, the more resources at their disposal. Towards the higher end of the scale, the Rogue Trader dynasty may control a fleet of starships, own entire planets, or establish a legend that shall be remembered for millennia.
Now that I’ve given you an idea of what Profit Factor is, let’s talk briefly about Endeavours. Profit Factor can improve or suffer by degrees; but the most significant method to gain Profit Factor is to complete an Endeavour. An Endeavour represents a particular opportunity that the player characters can utilise to their advantage. Endeavours are very flexible elements in any particular campaign. They can be created by the players themselves if they choose!
Endeavours are broken down into two sections: the Requirements and the Objectives that must be achieved in order to complete it.
An example of a simple Endeavour might be: Recover the ancient space hulk Warspite from the Processional of the Damned.
Requirements: A chart of the Processional, access codes for the Warspite ’s machine spirit, a trained salvage crew.
Naturally, no Endeavour is complete without certain complications that arise! The capricious gravity tides of the Processional must be navigated, hostile xenos infesting the space hulk must be confronted and destroyed, and the Explorers must make some tough choices when they discover survivors trapped within a stasis field.
However, if the Explorers can overcome these obstacles, the rewards are truly worthwhile, encompassing not only a gain in experience points but also a large bonus of Profit Factor! The big advantage of the Endeavours is that the players themselves become the driving force of the campaign, selecting existing Endeavours presented by the Game Master or creating new ones of their own. I’ll talk more about Profit and Endeavours in a future design diary, so this taste will have to do for now!
Return to the Imperium
Well, I hope you have enjoyed your glimpse of the dark frontier! This designer diary turned out to be a lot more involved than I expected, but it was certainly fun to write. Stay tuned for further updates and designer diaries from the writers in the future!
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.