Friday, December 31, 2010

Rogue Trader, Part 2

Back when I was in high school, in the dark ages f the mid-90s, I got into playing the miniatures wargame, Warhammer 40,000. A science-fiction wargame set int he grim darkness of the far future, there were any number of factions to play. Nominally on the good guys side were the Imperial Guard, the standard human armies of the tens of thousands of Imperial human worlds, and the Space Marines, essentially super-powered monk-knights with power armor, the elite of the elite, the warriors sent into the toughest fights to face the most terrifying foes. I was always fond of the Eldar, the 'space elves', looking to outrun the reach of the gods of Chaos and survive as a race.

Rogue Trader is one of three tabletop games set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe; the first was Dark Heresy, about acolytes of an Imperial Inquisitor doing their master's grunt work, trying to save the Imperium of humanity from heresy, aliens, and other assorted mischief. The third is Deathwatch, where you play part of a squad of the aforementioned Space Marines, committing commando raids and secretive operations into dangerous territory for the good of the Emperor. Rogue Trader, however, is a different animal altogether.

While the human Imperium in the 40k universe is generally portrayed as superstitious, xenophobic, and sometimes fanatical, Rogue Trader is the one of these that is not like the others. Rogue Traders are privileged traders, merchants, privateers and such that are given special Warrants - signed by the Emperor himself, supposedly - to go beyond the bounds of the Imperium, looking for ways to expand the grasp of humanity - and make themselves rich in the process. Think of Rogue Trader as Star Trek - but the ships are kilometers long, with crews in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and while Rogue Traders do boldly go where no others have gone before, they don't do so just for the joy of exploration - they do so to make money. And because of their Warrant, they have carte blanche to do what they want - they can associate with proscribed alien races, attack planets, and defy the authority of other Imperium officials in pursuit of their job. This makes Rogue Traders, for the most part, a more free-wheeling, liberal group than other human of the Imperium - though that's not saying much.

Even the standard character types conform to the types of officers and characters you'd expect to see on a Star Trek bridge crew. FIrst, you have the Rogue Trader - head of the crew, the captain of the ship, bearer of the Warrant - the big cheese. Then you have the Arch-Militant - head of the ship's security forces, master of arms, general security officer and soldier. The Navigator - the man whose special talents allow him to navigate the hellish Warp, which allows mankind to travel between stars - is the navigation officer. The Astropath - who blinds himself to augment his psychic ability, which allows him to communicate at intergalactic distances - is the communications officer. The Explorator, a tech-priest who worships the Omnissiah, a technologically divine version of the Emperor, harbors all the secret and divine knowledge of forbidden technology - making him the equivalent of the science officer. The Seneschal, who handles logistics, commercial operations, and is generally the Rogue Trader's right hand, is the first officer. The Void Master, who has mastered one or more of the ship's systems, such as gunnery, the helm, the ship's sensors, or smaller craft, fills a number of roles.

In one of their newer supplements, they added options for players of Rogue Trader to play one of two alien species - a big deal in the 40k universe, since most humans fear anyone non-human, and even those humans who have been mutated by radiation or other problems. The Kroot are a race of alien mercenaries, who consume to corpses of their fallen foes - and who can use the DNA of their foes to alter future generations of Kroot. Though primitive, the Kroot are effective mercenaries, but the real surprise is the inclusion of Orks. In the 40k universe, Orks are the closest thing to a universal plague - they are born from fungi, grow larger through combat and confrontation, and fear nothing. They live to fight - and are something like a cross between an English soccer hooligan and a Terminator. Some can be pacified for short times with promises of combat, or transport to combat, or things to help them in combat, but they have no other joy in life but to fight.

Personally, I'm hoping that, in the future, Rogue Trader supplements add Eldar to the races that can ride along with a Rogue Trader - mostly because I always liked the Eldar, they were an interesting take on the whole idea of elves. I like Rogue Trader, even if I never get a chance to play it, because of the atmosphere of the 40k universe, the idea of being the command crew for a ship big enough to house a small city, and the way to game looks like it would run. Personally, I've always been fond of playing characters who hit, shoot, or otherwise destroy their enemies, but I could see myself getting into playing an Explorator Tech-Priest, or maybe a Void Master gunner or pilot. Any game that tempts me into playing outside my standard character type is one that I want to play, and Rogue Trader is pretty high up on that list.

No comments:

Post a Comment