Highlight Holoreel of Horror

This shall be an episodic retelling of a Deathwatch Campaign I ran last year. It also took place in Malthael, a system of my own creation, stuck inside a warp storm as referenced in my ‘Groundhog Gate’ Dark Heresy campaign.

Solar System
The Malthael Solar System. A poor paint representation…. don’t judge me!

Players –
Ultramarine Apothecary Iskandar Reas –
(Tried to build a mini-empire in Malthael, bless his smurf heart).
Imperial Fist Devastator Maxitar –
(Became more like an Iron Hand by replacing all limbs and some internal organs with augmetics, to fortify his body, I can see the logic).
Storm Warden Assault Dougal Alexander MacGregor –
(Focussed strength and was ridiculous, breaking the system with it; his normal carry weight according to rules was three metric tons).
Salamander Librarian Fuigus –
(Did not last long but managed to rack up quite a few kills due to mass flame psychic powers before he died)
Blood Angel Librarian Aatrox –
(Ended up defecting to Chaos because he thought they’d be the winning side).

Equipped
Obligatory marine being prepped for battle picture.

Episode #1, Rak and Ruin

The introductory mission for the players, boarding a Rak’Gol vessel before it can escape after it stole an unidentified device from an Adeptus Mechanicus research outpost. Secondary objectives were to cripple the vessel and eliminate its weapon systems.

They were fired in a boarding torpedo alongside a full spread of normal torpedoes in order to minimize chances of interception and hide the nature of their torpedo’s payload. The ruse worked. The Rak’Gol focussed on repairing damage from the other torpedoes, believing theirs to be a dud. Splitting into two assault groups (leaving Devastator Maxitar to fortify and defend the boarding torpedo), one to destroy the primary weapons and the other to seek out the device, they used the element of surprise to penetrate deep into the ship before the alarm was fully raised.

Rak'Gol_Render
Rak’Gol Renders. Yes that’s a chainsaw for an arm.

Librarian Aatrox lost a leg in the first round of combat with a Rak’Gol Render that was defending a vault door. For the rest of the mission he was assisted by Iskandar. Inside the vault, located by Alpha team, they found the device and some other equipment they decided to recover including a trophy suit of Mk.2 armour that used to belong to the Consecrators. They put quite a lot of effort into extracting that suit whilst under attack and in difficult circumstances, even though at points it was very useful mobile cover.

Bravo team suffered few setbacks apart from having to climb vertically up a lift shaft via magboots whilst fighting off Rak’Gol who deftly slithered up the walls (quite Cinematic I know). Both groups managed to fight their way back to the boarding torpedo and Maxitar who had been holding off probing attacks. Unfortunately they couldn’t just push off because the Rak’Gol ship (now knowing their location) would vaporise their torpedo with flak batteries before they could make their escape, so they had to wait for their own vessel to pull up alongside to cover their retreat.

Boarding Torp
Holding the line on five fronts. Hell.

Defence of the boarding torpedo became frantic (lasting 71 in game minutes) with wounded Aatrox strapped into the torpedo firing down into the chamber and Rak’Gol cutting new ways into their defensive zone (including dropping the entire floor underneath them) in order to reduce chokepoints and attack the party. Assault Marine Dougal was swamped and cut in half at the waist by Renders but fought his way free and proceeded to continue defending the torpedo by launching himself around via jetpack (he burnt a fate point to stay up fighting instead of going down safe, brave because if he had died again it would have been permanent). Eventually the group managed to extract and the mission was a success but at the heavy cost of three limbs; the Rak’Gol love krispy fried marine legs.

Episode #2, Pity the Worm

On Azmodan, traction cities had been attacked and damaged by a Giant Lava Worm (capable of surviving, thriving even, in the harsh environment of the subsurface), a species thought driven to extinction a century before. Their orders were to eliminate it with secondary objectives being to locate and destroy its lair, and to exterminate any other worms they came across.

Worm Kill
Deathwatch PSA: This is what happens when you don’t give your dog worm tablets.

The team dropped in to the area where the Worm attacked the city, keeping their Corvus Blackstar circling above to provide aerial support. Believing they needed a way to lure it to the surface, they commandeered local mining equipment and moved it in to attract the beast, activating it when it was in position. The lure worked. The worm breached the surface and attacked the equipment and the team used the opportunity to attack.

Whaling away against its armoured hide with everything they had; autocannon shells, assault cannon bursts (from the Corvus circling around) etc., seemed only to infuriate it, chipping small chunks of its armour off at a time but nowhere near enough to start reaching its flesh beneath (I treated its extremely armoured hide as cover, which had to be worn down over time). Whilst it appeared the group could not truly harm the worm, the worm was unable to catch or crush any of the party either. It was an ineffective slap fight.

That is, until Librarian Fuigus decided it was a good idea to, ‘’Hello Beastie’’, and charge straight into its open maw. First blood to the Worm (its jaws/teeth/consumption mechanism regularly and swiftly chew through rock and metals, a squishy marine in a suit was a delicacy (he burnt a fate point to survive unconscious in its belly)).

Hello Beastie
Fuigus, prior to his encounter with a digestive tract.

With a man down and no obvious progress being made, Assault Marine Dougal decides to find its ‘effluence pipe’, locating it with a quick flyby, before proceeding to force his heavy flamer fuel tank inside and detonating it in order to break open the ‘valve mechanism’ to grant him entry. Dougal clambered into the worm and crawled up the ‘tunnel’ inside, cutting anything and everything he could see until he reached the Librarian Fuigus. The Worm didn’t die until Dougal reached its brain (yes I felt sorry for the worm, what a horrible way to die!).

After that, everything was mostly mop-up – following the worm’s tunnels down to a lair (where they found eggs) and destroying the entire area and ensuring the species’ extinction with a lance strike from orbit.

Episode #3, Mutant Plague Zombies (how much worse could it get?!)

A Mutant city was located hidden under the surface of Cemetery world, Seraziel – I, and the PDF was sent to deal with the issue. Instead of risking life, limb and collateral damage in direct assaults, the PDF decided to flood the entire thing with Chlorine gas – using air circulation systems for the mausoleums to pump it into the mutant city. Things seemed to be going well until a few days later when Plague Zombies burst forth from the lower levels and broke through the PDF lines. The Deathwatch group was tasked to find the source of the Plague Zombies and stop it, with secondary objectives being; save PDF forces under siege at spaceport and restart the Chlorine gas pumps to ensure the elimination of the mutants.

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Death from the skies!

To start, the party flew down into the atmosphere in their Corvus, dropping a few marines into the centre of the Spaceport including Iskandar who started to organise a better PDF defence of the landing zone. The Corvus proceeded to circle the spaceport, constantly strafing the tide of Plague Zombies who were clambering up the walls. Whilst a valiant defence was attempted, in the end it was all for naught as the PDF was overwhelmed. The marines on the ground were evacuated at the last second with a few, lucky, PDF survivors who managed to dash into the Corvus with them.

Plague_Zombies
When Mutant Plague Zombies are the least of your issues, you know you’re having a rough day.

Proceeding on to the ‘city’, the party dropped down to one of the pumping stations with a plan to use those tunnels to enter the Mutant City. They found what they believed to be a holdout group of Guardsmen at the station but it turned out to be Mutant Spec Ops who had captured a Leman Russ and were using Guardsman gear; caught by surprise, Devastator Maxitar was hit by a Lascannon and lost his arm. After that those mutants were dealt with in quick order and without mercy.

The tunnels got them into the Mutant city and they split up in order to locate the plague zombie source. Navigating through the catacombs and mausoleums. Librarian Fuigus located a huge, sealed chamber crammed with around one thousand, desperate and terrified civilian mutants who had been using it as a survival shelter. He was cordial, verging on friendly, asking if they knew which way to the source of the zombies etc., before breaking open the doors and exposing them all to the Chlorine gas. (Some Salamander he was!).

GUOMutants
Another Monday!

Eventually the party regrouped and located what appeared to be the source; an underground reservoir the mutants had used as a water supply that was now foetid and turned to rot and waste. There they came across seven mutant psykers who were playing cards around a table. After talking with them, they learnt that the psykers had done this in an attempt to get revenge on the Imperium for slaughtering the mutants horribly with Chlorine gas. The deaths of tens of thousands of mutants from gas, the plague zombies and then the deaths of those seven psykers began the summoning of a Great Unclean One out of the swamp the reservoir had become. Fortunately the party managed to halt the summoning process with a liberal application of explosives that brought down the chamber itself, at the cost of Librarian Fuigus (Librarian Aatrox defected to chaos around this time so his character was replaced as well).

New Characters
(Rogue Trader Characters because no Deathwatch reinforcements due to being cut off in Malthael)
Explorator 3.142 –
(Big Genetor woman who basically juiced and matched marines in size).
Explorator Caladarius Cane –
(Attempted to skill into combat but could never match marines in capability).

Episode #4, MURDA ON DA SPESS EXPRESS!

An Ork Rok was observed under construction inside the asteroid belt but the Imperial Navy of Malthael lacks the strength to assault the position in order to take it out. Therefore the Deathwatch was sent in to destroy the Rok and kill the Waaaghboss to throw the Ork forces into disarray. The party managed to infiltrate the Rok pretty easily and began to make their way deeper into it with a plan to detonate the magazine to destroy the entire Rok in one go (and hopefully get the Waaghboss with it).

On Rok
The perfect place for a train track – aim for yonder moon!

The Kill team came across a pair of train tracks which they surmised went around the entire circumference of the Rok, and a Railway station where Orks would board trains to travel from the living areas to their locations of work. With stealth being of supreme importance, considering there would be no way for the party to survive an engagement with a million or more Orks, they made the obvious choice to spend about two hours, in game, excavating a tunnel to the Rok’s surface so that they could rearrange the train tracks to lead out into open space. They even waited to observe the first train to enter their trap and be flung out into the void.

After that entertaining diversion, they proceeded on with the mission and destroyed the Rok by following the tracks around to the Gun decks, using boxes to disguise themselves, and sneaking charges into the magazine by bluffing their way past guards.

Episode #5, Didn’t want that Fortress Moon anyway!

The Ork Waaaghboss hadn’t been on the Rok but was infuriated by the loss of it, causing him to strike out at the best location for a fight in the solar system; the Fortress Moon of Urzael-II that orbited the system Capital planet. This Waaagh was held in its tracks for a while but broke the stalemate with a Gargant and a Battle-Pyramid utilising terrifying weaponry. The Deathwatch was called to destroy those giant war machines and to find and slay the Warlord.

Great_Cave_Squig
Who’s a good Squig? You are!

They managed to find the Waaaghboss enjoying a bit of R&R at a jousting arena, riding Colossal Squigs, where challengers would try to take on the Warboss. Dougal challenged him and proceeded to joust the Warlord, eventually killing him in that fair tournament and capturing his steed – Dougal showed it who was boss and named it ‘Squigsely’, keeping it as his pet forever more. This led to a breakdown in the entire Waaagh and the Battle-Pyramid destroying the Gargant to establish its dominance, leaving the Battle-Pyramid as the largest threat the players had to deal with.

Battle Orks
When being too good at your job breaks a moon; sh*t happens!

The Battle-Pyramid had a Crystal at the peak that would lash out with a bolt of energy that could rip through any and all armour. Unbeknownst to my players this was a Yu’Vath Immaterium Energy-Arc (a ship based Yu’Vath weapon left over from the Angevin Crusade that draws power from the warp itself) and so they infiltrated the pyramid and sabotaged the Ork machinery to cause the weapon to overload in order to destroy the pyramid. The plan kinda worked; the Pyramid was reduced to slag but the overloaded weapon ripped open tears in reality, unleashing Daemons upon the world and forever contaminating it – the veil between reality and the warp had been irrevocably weakened. The party had to fight off dozens of Ebon Gheists but extracted from the area and claimed success in the end and whilst technically successful in disrupting the Ork Waaagh, the moon was lost in collateral damage. As much as was possible was evacuated and a quarantine was declared upon Urzael-II.

Episode #6, Bruul-eyed Marine

The Deathwatch vessel had been boarded during the missions against the Orks and whilst the Armsmen had repulsed them and declared the ship clear, Ork Kommandoes had been able to stay hidden on board.

Deciding to get revenge for their erstwhile commander, they tried to ambush Dougal in his quarters. At first they tried to tie him up before he awoke but when that failed and they were exposed to his full fury, they scarpered but dropped jars that broke open inside his room. The jars contained Bruul parasites.

Bruul_Parasite
Imagine these things trying to crawl into your head. Nasty.

The parasites all assaulted Dougal, sliming up him whilst he crushed them as fast as he could but he was unable to kill all of them before one reached his head. It invaded his skull and used him as a host.

The Kommandoes went after Iskandar next, who managed to kill them all before donning his armour and checking on his fellow marines. He suspected something was wrong with Dougal’s behaviour and demanded he be checked in the med-bay which Dougal refused. Iskandar tried to sedate Dougal but the parasite resisted and a fight broke out.

Bruul
His Arm? To Shreds, you say. What about his Brain? To Shreds, you say. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Dougal, sans armour or weapons, nearly beat Iskandar, who was fully armoured, to death with his bare hands. To protect himself, Iskandar was forced to rip Dougal’s arm off with a lightning claw in order to put him down. After which he dragged Dougal to the medbay, fixed him up and located the parasite on scanners before doing emergency brain surgery which had the side effect of reducing Dougal’s intelligence (Dougal had officially become dumber than was possible at character generation).

 

Episode #7, Kraken Eggs, Statues and Broken Things

A Space Hulk drifted in from the warp storms at the system’s edge and a grave threat, beyond the hulk itself, was identified. Deep inside the Hulk was a clutch of Kraken Eggs. The Deathwatch was sent in to primarily exterminate the eggs, eliminate any other potential threats and to recover any and all goodies.

The first vessel they landed upon and traversed through to get deeper into the Hulk was an ancient Pilgrim vessel. In a large dome chamber on board, with overgrown gardens at the centre and observatory windows all around, they came across ornate statues of all the loyalist Primarchs, standing almost twenty metres tall.

From then on they tried to navigate the changing environment of the Hulk, only figuring out the pattern after multiple in-game days (a few sessions out of character). During which time they found themselves hunted by the statues they had overlooked; the Primarch Statues were motile, acting like the beings they had been carved in imitation of (Corax was stealthy and used ambush tactics, Khan used hit and run tactics etc.) but desiring only to kill any and all lower lifeforms in their Space Hulk.

Statues
Much larger than this but you get the idea. Sanguinius was the first they encountered and was quite a pain to deal with.

The statues plagued the group for multiple days, even after they’d managed to locate and deal with the eggs. During this time they found out that an Adult Void Kraken lived inside this Space Hulk and was probably dormant after coming across a tentacle inside of an Emperor Class battleship infested with Genestealers (they decided to avoid this area forevermore).

Genestealer
Hillbilly Genestealers! (I accidentally gimped the Genestealer rules and forevermore they were treated as inbred versions from the boonies. My players even played banjo music.).

Eventually the statues forced an engagement, which was a zero-g fight, in an open cavern covered in ice inside the Space Hulk. After a long fight with Corvus and Sanguinus flying after Dougal, Vulkan attempting to rebuild his fellow primarch statues and Leman Russ howling at them in rage, the fight was won and the immediate threat eliminated.

Whilst trying to extricate themselves from the Hulk, Explorators 3.142 and Calaradius Cane ended up individually trapped (one after the other respectively) in the engine room of an ancient vessel that utilised a Singularity drive run by an Abominable Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence). Explorator 3.142 talked his way out, garnering his freedom with false promises yet Caladarius Cane panicked and attacked the singularity drive itself (As the GM, I told him this was a bad idea. I even allowed him to burn fate to reverse his actions after he decided to attack it the first time but he decided to do it a second time), damaging it and its containment field which began to release the singularity it held. Dougal managed to drag Cane out of there before containment fully collapsed and the entire party escaped from the Hulk.

Episode #8, Death or Exile

Watch_Commander_Mordigael2
“Your guilt has been determined. This is merely a sentencing hearing.”

Considering Caladarius Cane’s actions to have jeopardised the entire solar system by releasing a singularity which at that very moment was growing inside the Space Hulk, consuming it slowly and potentially getting enough mass to become self-sustaining, the group decided that Cane had to be punished.

At a sentencing trial held by the players, Cane was offered Death or Exile (Death would have been by Exile) to the Space Hulk. Cane chose Exile anyway.

He was stripped of his equipment, weapons and armour and placed inside a boarding torpedo with all controls disabled and no fuel or power for a return journey. He was given a wheel-lock pistol with one shot and a primitive sword. For the final nail in the coffin, screamer units were attached to the Boarding Torpedo, programmed to play the ice-cream-truck jingle, to ring the dinner-bell for the genestealers when he was fired into the infested Emperor Class battleship.

Wheellock
He couldn’t even kill himself with the Wheel-lock because of how weak it is. That’s how screwed he was.

Cane did not last long.

GM Epilogue

Whilst fun and exceedingly combat orientated (as you’d expect), it is very difficult to balance combat encounters in Deathwatch – it’s extremely polar because either enemies are no threat at all to these ridiculously overpowered marines OR they’re so powerful they can one hit the Marines. There’s no real granularity and at times it’s a struggle to keep even the semblance of an equal encounter.

I quite liked giving them backup Rogue Trader characters; it was a tangible punishment for losing a Deathwatch character yet didn’t eliminate them from the Campaign. Whilst they couldn’t hope to match the Marines in combat prowess, they brought utility and different solutions to problems.

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Bye Bye!

Groundhog Gate

To begin to tell this tale, I have to introduce the solar system it takes place in; a system of my own creation called Malthael in the Calixis sector. Malthael is rich in resources and habitable worlds and as such was being developed into a sub-sector capital before it became cut off by a warp storm and disappeared from public record forever. My campaign takes place 40 years later in the system after surviving the initial chaos and becoming self-sufficient. The party works for an Inquisitor, by the name of Olamide, who has been trapped in the system as well.

Solar System
The Malthael Solar System laid out with my brilliant paint skills. You’re envious.

Characters –
Arbitrator Serdar Philon – (Served among the Arbites on Urzael)
Guardsman Price Mktavish – (Served in the Guard in Malthael)
Naval Officer Damien Ibah-Rah – (Served aboard a trapped Heavy Frigate)
Tech-Priest Franky – (A female techpriest obsessed with beautiful augmetics)
Guardsman Colm – (An alcoholic Elysian veteran)

Groundhog Arc

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It’s like this… except with less skill, experience, equipment, training and coordination.

Everyone was shanghaied from their day jobs and brought together as a bunch of expendables for Olamide. The mission brief was as follows – Communications had been lost with a backwater planet (Belial) at the edge of the system and upon further inspection it was noted that it had halted in its orbit as well, yet orbital surveys/scans revealed life appearing to continue as normal on the surface. The Inquisitor sent two previous teams (An interrogator with her retinue and a Militarum Tempestus (Stromtrooper) squad) to ascertain the nature of the problem but lost contact with both. The party became the last effort, an expendable force, before declaring Exterminatus to solve the issue for good; my players were given a sixty-day deadline.

Belial City Map
Belial City Map (Based off of the map of Woodstock, where Groundhog Day was filmed)

 

Day 1:

Everything seemed normal upon approach including air traffic control which was directing them in until an EMP (the group later finds out that the EMP happens every four hours) caused a crash landing which everyone survived with light injuries. Price went to get medical attention at the spaceport hospital and ends up on the wrong end of a colonoscopy because he pestered a Nurse. The party then observed the Inquisitor’s Stormtroopers arrive via Valkyrie and attack the city’s primary comms tower yet when the party tried to make contact they found the Tempestus to be hostile. Due to this firefight, the PDF (Planetary Defence Force) ended up capturing the party and taking them to the PDF Headquarters. En-route they noticed the Interrogator flying over with her Gun Cutter and arriving at the Governor’s estate before being shot down. At the same time, local rebels attempted to use the Imperial disorder to their advantage and tried to seize the city. This causes the party to be questioned by a Commissar, who, after learning all he wanted, shot each of my players in the head because the risk of them being rebel sympathizers was too great.

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Welcome to Live, Die, Repeat!

This shocked and surprised my players until they woke up, after taking some insanity, at the moment of their crash landing upon the planet’s surface. They learnt that they were in a Groundhog Day/ Edge of Tomorrow situation. They began to record daily events in order to plan around them.

Timeline.png
The timeline. NOM are the Rebels (New Order of Malthael).

Day 2:

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I am afraid the Anti-Aircraft guns will be quite operational when your friends arrive!

The party decided to head to where they observed the Interrogator arriving. Taking care to avoid  any possible engagement with the Arbites, the Militarum Tempestus or the PDF. They managed to infiltrate the Governor’s estate and survived its defences in time to witness the Interrogator’s arrival and the Governor’s betrayal (the Governor’s AA destroyed her craft and he captured her). The party decided to attempt a rescue and broke into the mansion itself, ending up locating the Interrogator in a cell in the basement. She was totally insane and it was surmised that this was due to repeated deaths driving her mad. The party was unable to learn anything else that day because the guards found them and trapped them in the cell before dropping flashbangs in at the door. This caused two friendly fire incidents; Colm killed the interrogator by firing blindly and Price killed Colm by doing the same.

Day 3:

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Damnit Carl! It was the other beam! The other beam!

Deciding to investigate the potential rebel connection (the rebels claimed credit for the EMPs), the party assists the PDF in attacking rebel held positions in order to garner information. First they attacked a pub inside a shopping mall, where they managed to secure a prisoner who revealed the location of a local rebel stronghold under – extensive – questioning. Damien proceeded to use his rank to requisition aid from a PDF squad and the party assaulted the Stronghold (the city’s central library). So began a bloody engagement. Price died in the lobby due to grenades whilst under heavy bolter fire. Colm was crippled by a trip-mine on the stairs leading to the first floor and was left behind. Franky ordered a PDF trooper, with a missile launcher, to take out a support beam underneath the 2nd floor above, intending to take out the Heavy Bolter position, but made a mistake and targeted the wrong support. The missile hit its mark and dropped tons of rubble and material upon Franky and Serdar, killing them both. Damien was able to mop up, including giving the Emperor’s mercy to Colm who was now unconscious from blood loss. Their effort was rewarded with information of a rebel assault upon the local prison. Damien headed there and observed the entire day from that position until the reset at midnight.

Day 4:

Deciding to investigate their more immediate surroundings, they checked through the star-port in an effort to find the Governor’s personal hangar. After a hilarious interlude with rats moving about in the dark terrifying Colm and a staring contest between Serdar and a giant rat, they managed to break into the Governor’s hangar and found evidence of his complicity with the rebels but nothing more. After learning that the senior Astropath had been secured by the PDF at his residence, the group decided to go pay him a visit to see if there was anything he knew. It turned out that unlike every other resident on the planet, he was aware of the days resetting. Before they could learn more, Price insulted him and started a fight which ended embarrassingly on the residence’s front lawn; Price was killed by the first responding PDF troopers, Colm had his trousers down after having been given detox for being drunk and was gunned down by the PDF defending the house whilst trying to calm the situation, Serdar tried to escape by climbing a tree to get over the garden wall but fell due to his heavy carapace armour and was killed on the floor and Franky was gunned down by association.

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Colm, just before being gunned down.

Day 5:

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Damien, prior to learning that he was in fact wrong.

The party split up to head three different ways; Serdar joined the local Arbites and assisted in quelling a riot (he died whilst riding a motorbike through the crowd and crashing into a building). Damien was seized for questioning after trying to prove he knew what would happen during the day and was being tortured until Franky used his Admech status to gain an audience with the Magistrate, using the opportunity to plant a bucket full of Krak Grenades which blew off the top of the building in a rescue attempt for Damien. Both died in the effort. Price decides to investigate the far east of the map and ends up finding a hidden rebel encampment where he finds someone who was able to detect the source of the EMP, which was in the Marshes to the west.

Day 6:

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What are you doing in my swamp? Reeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The entire party heads towards the Marshes. Finding out that it had been surrounded and fortified because a Mutant City was hidden in it that the PDF hadn’t been able to deal with yet because of their more pressing Rebel issues. They forged their way into the zone with a priest for a guide, fighting off Mutant ambushes from their river boats as they headed deeper into the bayou. Eventually they decided to head over land, the direct route, engaging or avoiding Mutant patrols and defensive emplacements. They ended up building a raft to take them the last of the way across the water and nearly lost Price to a river crocodile; Serdar held onto him whilst the others shot it. Arriving at the location, they find an area sealed off by fences with signs indicating quarantine. Naturally they break into the area and find that it is entirely silent with no natural sounds such as insects or critters. At the centre of the area is a clearing and in this clearing, was sand. It was not normal sand and at their approach it revealed itself to be a monstrous creature that tried to swallow them (A Yu’Vath Sandslime). Eventually, with hardship, pain and suffering they defeated it and that revealed a purplish-black crystal circle, similar to a manhole, that had been hidden under it. They broke it open to reveal a sunken domed chamber underneath the clearing, skeletal corpses lined the walls hanging by black lightning. The group dropped down one by one, and one unlucky player landed on a spinning circlet of crystal (a Yu’vath Bone Conqueror Crown) that was hovering in the centre of the chamber. It awoke and began to deploy the skeletons from the walls to attack the party. Everyone died in the fight, two of them to gravity by moving towards the dome walls and falling off (the floor didn’t continue to the wall as it was a platform hovering in the middle).

Day 7:

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Despite all of the things I throw at my players during this campaign such as Daemons, Yu’Vath Constructs, Xeno horrors and unsanctioned Psykers… Gravity claimed the most player kills. Figures.

Knowing now where the threat/ source was the players headed back with a vengeance, requisitioning priest and PDF support, making record time in their trek through the swamp and in dealing with the Sandslime (which killed the last of their redshirts). They managed to defeat the Bone Conqueror and descended further into this Yu’Vath vault, losing party members along the way including Serdar and Damien to a combination of floating energy balls that gave off lighting (Yu’Vath Crystalwisps), and gravity (Serdar was trying to carry an unconscious Damien yet was knocked off the spiralling staircase by the Crystalwisps). Descending further and exploring wings of this Xeno dungeon, the surviving party member, Price, made it to what appeared to be the central nexus, defended by an enthralled human champion. Alone, he died quickly but not before learning more from the human (whilst defending the Yu’vath facility, the human guardian had freedom of speech).

Day 8:

Believing that today they would succeed and gathering the last of the supplies they believed necessary, the party decided to alter events by using their authority to notify organizations of upcoming events such as the Prison assault before heading back to the swamp. Repeating everything else they did the previous day, they fought their way back into the Yu’vath Vault and descended to the main Guardian, defeating him with a liberal application of Krak Grenades in a bucket. Breaking into the central nexus, they found what appeared to be a giant malfunctioning crystal – sporadically firing off lightning and spasming out. They destroyed it, stopping the EMPs and preventing the day from resetting. (The Yu’Vath facility was a giant survival bunker, built when the Yu’Vath were losing during the Angevin Crusade, in an effort to outlast humanity with temporal technology. That technology malfunctioned and hence the Groundhog day problem).

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Pictured are my players celebrating!


Groundhog Mop Up:

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As Agents of the Throne they now have the right to carry limited Rosettes.

After succeeding and safely extricating themselves from the vault and the swamp. They returned to a city where Imperial authority was being re-established due to the knowledge-bombs they had dropped earlier in the day. They re-established communications with their Inquisitor and briefly brought him up to speed before they were recovered and debriefed in full. The Yu’Vath vault was obliterated from orbit and the rebels soundly defeated. The party was officially recognized as Agents of the Throne, given expanded training and updated equipment, including a state of the art customized gun cutter… before being sent on the next mission.

Food Standards Agency (Mini-Arc):

Another mission for the party; something or someone is corrupting the food supply from the agricultural planet (Duriel) in the solar system. Tainted food causes people to turn into Chaos Spawn (MRRRGHghghghglgl). Their mission is to locate the source of the taint and prevent it. (They have 2 weeks before system-wide reserves are depleted).

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A Chaos Spawn — OH GOD NOOOOOOOOGLARBABLAHBALHABHLLL…

Travelling out to Duriel took a few days off of their allotted time, including a day they spent checking out a food distribution station. (As a GM, I must say something here; I now understand fully why Blizzard decided to restrict flying mounts in questing zones… Players avoid too much content and breeze through zones.) Tracing the food’s route back to a sorting/ packaging hub on the second continent, they took food samples (from before and after treatment/packaging) and tested them on prisoners they acquired from the local Arbites holding cells; spawnification happened in both sets of samples, proving that the food was contaminated prior to arriving at the hub.

Deciding to check the farmland itself, they made random spot tests across the continent and multiple farms and determined that the crops themselves were corrupted. Eventually finding out that the topsoil was contaminated as well (but not beyond a metre down). This led to a potential solution to the immediate problem but unless the source was dealt with, any treatment could be undone and so they headed to the Administratum centre to see if anything had changed within the previous year or two. Eventually they found out that a new fertilizer had been brought in by the Farmer’s guild in order to increase yield with less effort.

Approaching the main Baron in charge of the farms, they found out that he had been unaware of the damage he’d been causing and that he’d sourced the fertilizer from a Stryxis Black Market station within the Asteroid Belt. From there they learnt that the fertilizer had been supplied to the Stryxis by one of their customers which turned out to be Chaos aligned.

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We got a Gun Cutter Down. We got a Gun Cutter Down.

The Chaos group struck out again at the farms in an attempt to further reduce the food production in the system in order to destabilize the local government. The players reported what they’d learnt and how to restore the food supply (planet-wide topsoil should be removed and crops need to be seeded in fresh soil). After which, along with loyalist forces, the players brought their Gun Cutter to bear in an assault on a Chaos-held position but ended up getting shot down when they took a Plasma Cannon shot to the cockpit which stunned Colm and caused the vehicle to spin out. The crash was deadly and even with fate point burns, crippling in characteristic damage.

We had three rerolls –
Ogryn Brick – (Meat-shield for the party)
Penal Legionnaire Violet – (Cannon fodder for the party, offered Amnesty)
Sanctioned Psyker Asher Tiberius – (Gate-opener for the arc, offered retirement)

Stargate Arc

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No intellectual property infringement here! No sir!

A device called ‘Farnov’s Doorway’ (Dark Heresy 2nd Ed, Enemies Without, Pg.59), was located by the Inquisitor. This Doorway instantly connects to other Doorways in a network spread across the cosmos (totally not a Stargate rip-off) but requires Psykers to open it (at personal cost/ harm). Believing this to be a chance to save the system from its purgatory (or primarily himself), the Inquisitor set it up in an underground bunker facility (Gate Command) and decided to send the party through to map the network and make contact with the Imperium at large. The network itself was quite expansive and many adventures happened throughout and so I’ll probably miss a lot out and only recount the best moments.

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The Network Map. Green circles are where the players traveled. Pink Circles are Imperial Contact points. Red/Orange denotes risk. Blue is safe. Purple could go either way.

 

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Halo Artefacts eventually turn you into a Monster in exchange for prolonging your life.

An early yet important event in their travels was when Violet found an amulet at the ‘Crashed Ship’ and put it on. At first everything seemed normal but eventually it was found out to be a Halo Device which regenerated any lost limbs or wounds and prevented death at a cost. She became exceedingly efficient cannon fodder throughout this arc.

At one point they dropped out of the doorway into the middle of a giant arena, ‘Thyrrus Thunder Dome’, where the party was part of a grand free-for-all between captured monsters, daemons, Thyrrus Champions and other combat entities.

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The Thyrrus; eccentric Xenos who desire only to put on a grand show and care not for anything else, including inconvenient things such as Death.

The party did get split up but came out alright; Asher dominated one of the beasts and rode it, fighting like cavalry and even boarding a colossal worm that was being ridden by one of the Thyrrus Champions in order to duel on its back (that earned an instant replay by the Arena organizers). Violet sacrificed herself multiple times to protect other members of the party, who held the centre of the Arena in an effort to avoid the majority of the fighting around the edges. In the end it came down to a crowd vote between the party and an assassin (the crowd voted for the players (showing replays of their best moments)) and so they were declared victors and allowed to leave through the doorway.

Whilst exploring ‘Egarian A’, which mysteriously took them to ‘Egarian B’ (really confused my players, with different connecting gate locations), they came across an old Rogue Trader expedition from house Long. Recovering what they believed to be a ring, with a digi-weapon, named Lux Ignis. After leaving ‘Egarian B’ with the ring, they found themselves in a temple city in the middle of a jungle ‘Aztec Lizardmen’ and instantly under attack by monstrous dinosaurs with armour and primitive weapons. Whilst managing to hold against the tide for a while due to the Ogryn, Brick, blocking stairwells and corridors, the enemy numbers began to tell and my players were being overwhelmed.

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Imagine fighting one of these. Then imagine fighting a thousand.

Before the end, Violet, who had been the one to find Lux Ignis decided to fire it in a desperate last act which revealed it to be much more powerful than a standard digi-weapon – a beam roared out that vaporized a whole swathe of Lizardmen and the temple behind them (it was in fact an extremely miniaturised sunspear laser macrocannon (ship-class weaponry)). At the exact same moment all their electronic equipment failed but they had already cleared the majority of their opposition and were able to return to Malthael for repair, resupply and recuperation. Upon arrival at Malthael, the entirety of Gate Command was drained of all power (the party put two and two together and figured out the ring was draining everything in order to recharge after its blast).

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Rak’Gol; Reptilian Cyborg Psychopaths with a penchant for radioactive weaponry.

Having been attacked by the party previously, Rak’Gol forces used the window of vulnerability (defences down and facility drained) to assault Malthael through the doorway, entering the gate room and engaging the players and a defending group of Sisters. The fighting was long, bloody and brutal; Violet died so many times she started morphing into a monster that only wanted to feast on flesh until she was eventually evaporated by multiple Rak’Gol Rad Cannons (preventing any possible resurrection). Serdar and Colm managed to breach the doors, restart the main reactor and bring defences back online in order to repulse the Rak’Gol assault but it was too late to save the other party members in the gate-room.

Two re-rolls, one return –
Sororitas Medic Katherine Sanctus – (Last survivor of the Sororitas Gate-Room Guard)
Astropath Barry Scot – (Had come to Malthael aboard a vessel 40+ years previously)
Naval Officer Damien Ibah-Rah – ( Returned after rest and recuperation)

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“Why do you believe all Daemons are untrustworthy? You haven’t taken a large enough sample size to make such sweeping statements.”

Eventually after exploring about half of the network, they found themselves in what appeared to be a secure Imperial facility ‘Scintilla Lightless Vaults’ (A prison/reliquary for the Inquisition that holds dangerous or forbidden artefacts and entities). Specifically, they found themselves to be in a cryogenic prison wing, with null-lined armoured ceramite walls designed to be impervious to most Psychic or Physical attacks. They were forced to try and find the exit / guards / wardens in an effort to make contact. Throughout this they fought Daemon Engines, Cultists, Possessed Marines, Rogue Servitors and Automated Defences. They even encountered a ‘friendly’ Daemonhost who offered to help in exchange for his freedom.

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Ahhh, the unintended Moral Dilemma and team killing.. thank you dice, this was delicious.

A key source of conflict was an alpha level psyker (a little girl under 10 years old who couldn’t control her powers and was being burnt out by them). Interestingly, the little girl suffered from perils of the warp at one point and temporarily lost all her powers which left her vulnerable. Serdar and Colm thought they should kill her whilst they had the chance, Damien and Barry were against that because her powers weren’t her fault. Barry threatened Serdar and so Katherine killed him (conflict had been brewing for a while). Damien and Serdar came to blows during which the child tried to run away but was accidentally killed by Colm during overwatch, with a Lascannon, which he had set up to watch everyone’s back.

In the end after making it to the 2nd level and the main vault door to this prison wing, their rosette granted them clearance and they were able to make contact with the Imperium at large. Mission and Campaign success.

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Three original party characters survived to the end with Serdar becoming the next Inquisitor of Malthael (Olamide took the opportunity to bug out of dodge).

 

Nuclear Massacre – Survivor Accounts of the Destruction of the Fire-Drake Imperium

Preface (Out of Character)

I felt the urge to write up my latest gaming session from the point of view of the Xenos.
An empire of sentient Wow-esque Fey Dragons that resided in a mountain and after hearing about the Human Imperium, imitated it as much as they could. My players dropped a Nuclear bomb on them, looted as much as they could from the wreckage (whilst wearing power armour) and one of them specifically decided to go around skinning every Fey Dragon he could get his hands on in order to make shiny/shimmering clothes to sell. Enjoy!

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Meet the Fire-Drakes (Fey Dragons)

Introduction

The following is a collection of accounts from survivors of the Massacre, mine included, where our species may have narrowly avoided Xenocide. We all know what generally happened; a Nuclear Bomb was dropped on our glorious mountain civilization, millions died in an instant and our Imperium died with it. Hopefully these four choice accounts will shed more light on the less known and more personal details. Anyway, the first is my story.

First account by Librarian Martin, survivor of the Nuclear Massacre

I was an assistant to Master Librarian Methuselah, helping to keep our books in Alphabetical order, handling borrowing and returns etcetera, etcetera but on that specific day I was assisting him with his latest research project – a study on apple trees and their effects on the local fauna. As I was reading a particularly interesting treatise on Apple Variants a thunderous roar reverberated throughout the Library and the room began to oscillate and quake dramatically; bookshelves tumbled and masonry cracked causing dust and debris to shower down in rivulets. The vibrations seemed to intensify and whole sections of the ceiling caved in burying aisles, exits and frequenters alike.

In the aftermath, I helped poor old Methuselah who had fallen to the floor and then frantically attempted to rescue any survivors who were stuck under the rubble. Unfortunately everyone I dug out was already dead or dying. Not knowing what had happened we assumed it was a natural event, maybe an Earthquake, and believed that our Citizens and Soldiers would already be attempting to dig out survivors. We resolved to wait and whilst Methuselah settled down to read his book I began to return other books to their shelves and collected any damaged ones with a plan to restore them later on.

After a few hours we began to hear the sounds of digging and wreckage being moved above the ceiling and so our spirits soared for we believed rescue was here and it was faster than we had hoped. As light began to pour down through the new hole in the ceiling, it was swiftly obvious that whoever or whatever was digging down was not a rescue party; we could see massive armoured gauntlets the size of our chests ripping chunks of concrete from the ceiling and we could also hear the whine of huge servos as they took the weight of the rubble and moved it and so Methuselah and I took cover, hiding behind an aisle at the far end of the library. It was then that a figure dropped down into the library and it was massive; a hulking form five times the height of a Fire-Drake stretching the the ceiling of our tall library. This giant was clad in chunky power armour with limbs thicker than our bodies, it had four arms – two of which appeared to spring from its back clasping axes large enough to bisect us in a single swing. I don’t mind telling you, I was terrified.

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The Giant — but only with 2 extra arms, carrying power axes.

As the Colossus began to ransack our precious library, Methuselah ordered me to hide and then bravely sallied forth to confront it. As I shuffled under some rubble – pulling sections and flakes over myself, I heard Methuselah challenge the Leviathan and so I watched through the dust that hung in the air like a fog. Methuselah shuffled along with his walking stick, having long lost the ability to fly, and whilst he barely came up to this Ogre’s knee he appeared like a titan to me; steadfast and defiant in the face of this Behemoth.

I find it hard to talk or write about the following moments without tears of rage and frustration coming to my eyes but in Methuselah’s memory, I shall find the strength. The monstrosity brutally punched Methuselah’s frail form and killed him in an instant by shattering bone with a crack that broke my heart. The beast stepped forward and then slid out a knife the size of my arm with which he literally skinned Methuselah before my very eyes. I tried not to watch but the sounds were horrible enough; the sawing grate of metal through flesh and hair, the tearing slaps as hide was torn from muscles and bone and then the wet splatter of blood and viscera upon the cold, hard floor. I looked up at the end, seeing the shine of blood all over the floor and upon the arms of the monster who had slain my friend and mentor. In revulsion I saw that it was holding his dripping skin up and studying it like a scientist with a prize specimen. I will never forget that moment, the cold lifeless lenses of that vile fiend and the large, heavy bag into which Methuselah’s skin was stuffed, the way that the bag moved – as if it was nearly full. I shudder to think how many other skins that brute had harvested that day and how close I came to joining them.

When I finally raised the courage to leave I found the remnants of our glorious mountain strewn across the valley with bits of wreckage poking forth from boulders like the clawing hands of survivors begging to be rescued. A thick, clogging dust covered everything in a layer like icing on a cake and a sickly cloud hung overhead as if it was just begging to rain upon what remained of our civilization which I soon saw was virtually nothing apart from the odd survivor like myself and whatever personal treasures they carried with them. I remember thinking to myself that this was our extinction event, we would either survive and rebuild or die out and become a footnote in someone else’s history books.

Second Account by Empress Jamyl, survivor of the Nuclear Massacre

That day began like any other. I, Empress Jamyl, woke up and flew with my husband as we looked upon the bright beacon that was our Empire. Our people were happy, our borders were protected, the economy was flourishing and our species was in the height of a golden age of science and progress. Then those barbarians ruined it in an instant.

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Finally I have a reason to use this! Imagine a Fey Dragon armoured in gold, so kinda like this!

I was in the throne room at the time with my Lord husband the Emperor, who was greeting the daily petitioners, when a shadow crossed over the crystal skylights, dipping the room into darkness for a brief moment. I don’t know what caused the shadow but moments later the room became brighter than it ever had before, I closed my eyes and yet I could still see the room through my eyelids. The heat became unbearable and I screamed yet I couldn’t hear it, I couldn’t hear anything. I had been robbed of that sense by the screeching of the throne room’s void shields, a noise that I could feel vibrating in my bones. I don’t know what happened after that because I passed out, a mercy I think.

When I came to, the Throne room was a mess and the floor was settled at an odd angle as if the entire room had been knocked over like a toy. Sections of the walls and ceilings had fallen, crushing some petitioners and Custodes, our personal bodyguards. My husband, my Emperor, perched regally on the throne and declared that we were under attack. He ordered me to retreat to our quarters and followed soon after with a cadre of surviving Custodes. With access to our computers in our quarters we attempted to piece together what had happened which was not an easy feat with all of our networks cut and external cameras offline. It was quickly considered a lost cause because camera recordings weren’t stored on our personal computers and there was nothing we could do to re-establish connections to networks which may or may not have existed any more.

Not long after that, the Custodes reported that well armed and armoured foreign entities had breached the walls of wreckage and were as of that moment entering the throne room. My glorious husband at once ordered the majority of the Custodes to fall back to the main quarters and hold it against these invaders, he also ordered me to hide in our wardrobe and to stay there until he told it me it was safe to come out. I started hearing clashes of battle, sharp cracks of gunfire and the screams of our warriors. I thought the sounds of fighting was bad enough but somehow the silence afterwards was worse, not knowing what had happened and imagining all manners of horrors coming for me. Suddenly the door to my wardrobe was thrown open and a bipedal warrior stomped in. I held my head up high and closed my eyes, expecting to die.

Instead I became a prisoner and was treated abominably; I was tied up, questioned, disrespected and allowed no dignity whatsoever. As I was carried away I saw my husband, my Emperor, carried aloft by the celebrating marauders who trampled over the torn and battered bodies of our Custodes, scattering pieces of their armour and blood across the floor. All manner of horrible thoughts raced through my head. Was I to be kept as a trophy? Was I to be executed publicly? Would it have been better to kill myself?

I was carried to the surface and from my position on the Conqueror’s shoulder I saw what had become of my beautiful empire. There’s only one way to hurt a Fire-Drake who has nothing; give her back something broken. That’s exactly what my captor did, he gave me back my life and released me into the wasteland that had been my home. At the time I thought he was showing me mercy but now I know better. I wish he had killed me.

Since then I’ve been a beggar Empress, entreating other survivors for scraps or aid. I have cursed those destroyers every day since then and especially that one warrior for leaving me alive and struggling to simply survive. That is not a living for one such as me.

Third account by Captain Flavian, survivor of the Nuclear Massacre

I was in charge of an anti-armour wing patrolling the Northern border of our Empire, the two soldiers under my command being Titus and Vespian. We received reports of an invading force breaching the Western border and so Wing Commander Galba summoned the Northern patrols together, nine wings in total, in anticipation of relocation or engagement orders.

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Fire-Drake patrol wing.

The first contact reports from the West stated that the foes were heavily armed and armoured but were ground-based only. That was the last dispatch we received.

Within minutes four massive vessels screeched down through the cloud layer; an unexpected surprise that caught us all off guard. From our position we could see them streak down faster than anything we had ever seen before and I sympathise with our central patrols because whilst they valiantly attempted to intercept them, they simply weren’t fast enough. Within seconds of them appearing a bomb dropped from one of the jets and then all four rocketed back up and away into the clouds.

At the time, I felt sense of foreboding; it’s just one bomb I told myself, what can one bomb do? Somehow I knew I was wrong, maybe it was the way they dropped just one or the show of force by coming as a group of four but as each second passed and the cone dropped faster and faster towards home, my dread grew and grew.

The white flash burned my vision away and moments later as we reeled in the sky, a shock-wave smashed into us and scattered us. I remember hearing a scream from one of my wing-men and I think it was Vespian but I will never know. As I tried to right myself in the air, the heat hit and then there was only my own screams as my wings burned and my body seared. I hit the ground moments later and broke my left wing and arm, I still can’t use that arm and the wing hasn’t worked properly ever since.

I survived by crawling around, feeding on the only food source that I could find – the dead. I was reduced to a crippled, blind cannibal and even to this day I hate myself for what I had to do. For all I know, I may have even eaten one of my own men and that’s just something no-one should ever have to go through.

Fourth account by Civilian Tiria, survivor of the Nuclear Massacre

We didn’t know at the time what had happened, the mountain seemed to simply collapse around us and whole residential caverns caved in. Ours swiftly became swamped with refugees and survivors pulled from the wreckage of the surrounding caves, it had survived in quite good order due to being centrally placed beneath the reinforced hatchery.

Whilst caring for the wounded, we waited for rescue, knowing the Emperor and his forces wouldn’t leave us to die. We waited for three days but with the air growing foul and our provisions non-existent, we were forced to try and make our own way out.

In the end, we were able to clear a route into the hatchery but what we found there was beyond words. Each and every egg had been broken open and it wasn’t from wreckage, the reinforced roof had held against the collapse, they had been deliberately cracked open. We found the skinned bodies of the poor, poor younglings just dropped on the floor like so much rubbish. It shocked us and we couldn’t comprehend what was going on but it was our first clue as to what really happened, we hypothesized that some form of attack had brought our mountain low and that some unknown enemy wanted to annihilate us. Even then, there were holes in that theory for this obviously wasn’t just genocide otherwise they would have simply smashed the eggs. This savagery was something more. We never found the answer and probably never will.

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Not even the younglings survived!

Eventually we reached the surface and everything was gone. You can’t imagine it. It was a sea of steaming rubble covered with a dirty ash that swirled in the wind. So many bodies. We made our way down what remained of our mountain, our home, hoping against hope to find more survivors. For a while we thought we were the last ones alive.

Afterword

Our species is on the brink of extinction. Many of us suffer daily with residual radiation poisoning and burns or wounds suffered in that cataclysm, we also deal with growing cancers and birth defects among the newborns. There is a very real risk that we will be unable to rebuild and repopulate and in that case all that will remain of our society is what we can record and build now. Recording this, a history of our very worst day, may be of more importance than anything else we can leave behind. In the memory of those that were lost and to any who read this in the future, Never Forget.

 

 

Saint Dora, The Explorer

Saint Dora, The Explorer

This is a ‘brief’ summary of my first Rogue Trader Campaign.

As the ship was chosen and components were being selected (the most annoying of which for me as the GM, was the Teleporter/Murder Servitor combination), name ideas were thrown around and mostly disregarded among generous boos and insults. These names ranged from atrocities such as the, ‘Ganja Galleon’, to rather deadpan suggestions like, ‘Bob’. In the end someone asked, “What do we want to do with our ship?”, and after much deliberation the answer became Exploration. Maybe it was inevitable, maybe in each and every parallel universe imaginable the choice was preordained; all I know is that the following picture was shown and the name chosen ‘Saint Dora, The Explorer’. drai-0351_zakdesigns

Then we came to ship complications and the RNG gods chose that the St.Dora suffered from a Death Cult and within moments the Death Cult leader was called ‘Consuela’, another by-product of the accursed internet, oh and Family Guy, Family Guy is most definitely a culprit in this tale. Unbeknownst to my players their choice of ‘Consuela’, would play a grim and dark part in their travels to come. dora-the-explorer-40-years-later

Characters –
Rogue Trader/ Lord-Captain Devere
Arch-Militant Heinkel
Navigator Beta-7
Void Master Traq

To start, my players found themselves in the hands of the Inquisition, witnessing the execution of their previous Lord-Captain Devere by the Ordos Xenos for his blatant use of Xenotech. My Rogue Trader player, the inheriting Son, found to his chagrin that all of his Dynasty’s assets and Profit Factor had been confiscated by the Ordos Xenos, under the jurisdiction of Inquisitor Balthazar, and that he owed them 50 Profit Factor as well as payment for his father’s crimes.

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Apparently they do!

The new Lord-Captain Devere was
left a small frigate, the St.Dora (with non-functional weapons), so that he could perform missions in order to work off his debt. Rogue Trader Devere, brooking no insult, instantly declared Balthazar his enemy most vile and planned to kill him from day number one.

 

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Scottish Spess Mehreens

Lord-Captain Devere, grumbling the whole time and yet knowing he wasn’t ready to take on Balthazar, accepted his mission to investigate and render assistance if necessary to a Storm Warden Outpost that had been silent now for 2 years after operating for over 200. According to the information they were given, the Storm Wardens’ 8th Company and a Strike Cruiser, the ‘Ben Voyager’, was stationed there and had successfully purged multiple Xenos infestations from the surrounding sub-sector during their service.
So began their journey to the edge of the Calixis Sector, a journey they felt was rather quick and easy (a feeling I would work to dispel for the journey home). Having nearly arrived at the edge of the sub-sector, they received a rather unconventional distress call; all of their systems screamed out in static and a little girl appeared on their bridge saying, “Help Me”, before disappearing. 532c4ff6400f9025196a5c09e7172e08

Each attempt at communication was greeted with the girl appearing somewhere different on the bridge in a flash, saying, “Help Me”, and then disappearing again. In the end after ensuring that she wasn’t a warp phenomenon or Daemon they agreed to help and their screens lit up with spatial coordinates which they decided to follow; it led them to a solar system next to the outpost. Upon translation into real space they found that their engines wouldn’t work unless they were heading in a specific direction and after analysing their sensor data, they found that they were travelling towards a rather small Space Hulk. All attempts to halt their progress or change direction or translate into the warp was met with system failure, this quickly led them to believe that the ‘girl’, was an Artificial Intelligence and that it was inexorably drawing them in to something nasty.

After boarding the Hulk and removing a cylindrical core from a pearly white, perfectly clean and shiny section that inspired many theories,”It must be eldar!”, “No, it’s obviously from the Dark Age of Technology!”, “What if it’s from the future?”, the ‘girl’ was able to converse with them with a 4 year old’s vocabulary and warned them about a ‘bad AI’ trying to kill them. With her help they were able to eventually evacuate (after a harrowing session) from the Space Hulk and then strike back by teleporting volunteer Death Cultists armed with Melta Bombs into critical areas. With the destruction of the Space Hulk, the ‘girl’ was unlocked and upgraded into a woman calling herself ‘Alma’, who confirmed their theories that she was an AI and begged for her life in exchange for helping them with their teleporter and other electronic systems. Knowing that she already possessed the power to control their systems and could destroy them on a whim, they saw no choice other than to accept. So began 2nd Lieutenant Alma’s career on board the St.Dora as a junior officer.

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Vowing never to answer any distress call ever again, Rogue Trader Devere and his band of merry men travelled to the Outpost system and approached the planet. Two messages were being broadcast, one from the Storm Wardens’ base, “This planet is under Quarantine. Do not approach.”, and the other from the human auxiliary base, “Under attack. Requesting assistance. Xenos of unknown designation”. After going into orbit, the St.Dora was fired upon by automated defences, leading my players to drive-by teleport an expeditionary force of 12 men (upon questioning, my players claim to choose 12 men because it’s a good number for soldiers – 6 man combat squads, 3 man fire teams) led by Arch-Militant Heinkel. They decided to explore the Human base first, finding many signs of battle (empty flak suits etc) and a recorded message stating that the attack by formidable foes wiped out the base within an hour. With no other evidence forthcoming they moved up the valley to the Storm Wardens’ outpost. At the entrance of the outpost they started to come across damaged suits of dust filled space marine power armour with flaky paint, depleted power cells and seized joints. The fact that the armour looked a lot older than it should for an Outpost that went dark only 2 years before didn’t escape their attention, they decided to recover the power armour at the entrance and then analyse them in order to find out what they could.

Hrud, sentient swamp beasts with deadly weaponry and innate entropic fields that age everything around them. In a word – Run.

The suits contained recordings of each Space Marine’s final moments; revealing an attack by hideous creatures with weapons capable of punching through power armour with ease. None of them had studied forbidden lores, such as Xenology and were unable to identify them. Seeing how effectively these creatures were able to deal with Space Marines, it was decided that more troops were necessary leading to a deployment of 48 men (4 groups of 12), and 50 Murder Servitors. Thus, they began to explore the outpost. After splitting up to cover multiple corridors, the Arch-Militant and his forces came under attack from the Hrud which had used their contortionist and chameleonic abilities to literally hide flat against walls and floors. Having noticed an anomalous blip on his Auspex before the attack, Arch-Militant Heinkel abandoned his men and rushed to investigate the blip as they died. He found the blip to be a surviving Space Marine – shuffling along the corridor in armour that lacked paint and screeching with each step as dust cascaded from the joints. He noticed that in addition to this, the eye lenses weren’t lit up and his weapons were rusted and worn. Spending a few valuable moments trying to catch the Space Marine’s attention and failing, all the while with the music of weapons-fire and screaming emanating from down the corridor, Heinkel decided to emergency teleport away with his prize; the Space Marine, who he later found out was called Scoterto.

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“Ahoy there, welcome aboard matey!” – Lord-Captain Devere

Deciding to meet his honoured guest in the Teleportarium, Lord-Captain Devere made his way down and opened the door saying, “Ahoy there, welcome aboard matey!”. Scoterto the Space Marine booted him back through the door yelling, “ORK FREEBOOTERS” and broke a couple of the Rogue Trader’s ribs through his Carapace armour. It was only after that, that they realized that Scoterto saw each and every person as someone completely different according to first contact; the Void Master was a fellow Space Marine, the Rogue Trader was a Freebooter and the Arch-Militant was just a figment of his imagination. From then on, the Void Master Traq was the only one who liaised with Scoterto; being able to converse with him like a peer. After a physical exam their doctors reported that Scoterto was suffering from age-related problems being around 3,000 years old biologically due to the Hrud’s entropic field. The Arch-Militant and his surviving men had also aged during their brief sojourn among the Hrud, Heinkel personally gaining 20 years and most of his men (who had fought the Hrud) being dead or in their nineties.

After a brief discussion it was decided that they had enough information to go back and report what had occurred to the Outpost and to hand in what they retrieved; Scoterto and recovered Storm Wardens’ gear. During their return trip an explosion went off in the Warp Drive, throwing them off course – heading straight into a Warp Storm. Being unable Navigator.jpgto control the ship (their Techpriests needed a few weeks to effect repairs when they only had a few days before reaching the storm), they started to brainstorm how they would get through this catastrophe, concluding that if they flew straight into the heart of the storm it would be unlikely that they would survive. In the end, it was decided that they would use their Gellar Field to turn them (using an ingenious method of weakening it on one side of the ship and strengthening it on the other, creating a difference in resistance in the warp and therefore turning them), calculating that they would need to use this method for 30 minutes in order to avoid the heart of the storm. This Gellar Field weakening caused problems; they had prepared for most of them but unfortunately their Navigator, Beta-7, becoming possessed was a problem they hadn’t foreseen.

Bumping along in a warp storm with their warp drive offline, unable to control their movement without weakening their defences with a possessed Navigator inside the Navigator vault devouring the others. “We’re dead”. Fortunately enough for them, this was not the case – after fighting daemonic incursions, battling ethereal pestilences and putting down waves of insane crew members, they burst forth from the other side of the warp storm and began to fix their problems. Beta-7 was exorcized but agreed that his mutations (a by-product of the possession) were too great to allow him to live (mental regression and body deformations (think 5 great boobs, some with mouths, giggidy)) and so said that he should be put down but only after he returned the ship to Scintilla and so not long after that when the drive was fixed, he accomplished his final mission and was given his final peace.

During the journey back, the source of the explosion was found out to have been a bomb designed to kill them in the Warp and so began an investigation into who or what had placed it. Not long into their investigation, ‘Consuela’ and the Death Cultists reported they had found the culprit and then delivered him to the Rogue Trader, dead, along with a recording of his confession which detailed that he worked for an Inquisitor but could not say who. The saboteur himself had no fingerprints, scoured retinas and volitor implants. The Death Cultists, under ‘Consuela’, had drowned the saboteur in Lemon Pledge. From then on, the Death Cult was treated with a lot more respect and Balthazar was blamed for the bombing.

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Death by Lemon Pledge; at least the body didn’t smell bad.

Upon returning to Scintilla, Rogue Trader Devere reported his mission success to Inquisitor Balthazar but also reported the sabotage attempt (providing the body as evidence) to the Tricorn Palace along with a complaint about Balthazar performing duties belonging to the Ordo Hereticus. This prompted an investigation into Balthazar’s actions, revealing that the execution of old Captain Devere was not warranted and out of his jurisdiction to begin with. This ended up getting Balthazar chewed out for incompetence and potentially worse, forcing him to burn all of his favours and leverage all of his influence to keep himself an Inquisitor in name only. What remained of Lord-Captain Devere’s family assets was returned; a Grand Cruiser Hull, and his debt was cleared. Things were beginning to look up.

New Character to replace Navigator Beta-7 = Explorator Galvin (new recruit at Scintilla)

The Storm Wardens contacted Rogue Trader Devere and requested that he return to their outpost and search for their Strike Cruiser, the ‘Ben Voyager’, they would provide a squad of marines to assist and second Scoterto to the Rogue Trader’s entourage (my players took that as they hadn’t found a way to fix his mental problems and so wanted him out of the way). Fast Forwarding here, they arrived back at the Outpost to find themselves attacked by a Dark Mechanicus hunting pack (4 destroyers and a light cruiser) which they dealt with quite handily with the Teleportarium and Murder Servitor combination (I imagine a bunch of robotic zombies with melee weapons appearing on your ship to cut you up is quite terrifying). They went so far as to try and board the Light Cruiser (the lengths players will go to capture ships is quite ridiculous) as it attempted to escape into the warp, this ended up getting Arch-Militant Heinkel killed when he ended up trapped on board; suffice it to say, he didn’t go down without a fight. He and his retinue of 12 men, along with some

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RAWR

Murder Servitors claimed 888 cultists, summoning a pack of 8 Khorne Juggernauts. The fight was glorious but in the end they fell (I’m breezing over some details here but that’s the general gist of it). After their run in with the Dark Mechanicus, Devere returned to the Outpost and sent down troops, along with the Space marines to search for clues as to the Strike Cruiser’s whereabouts. Suffice it to say, they managed to retrieve the information they required but lost many men, including the Space Marines, in the process.

 

New Character to replace Arch-Militant Heinkel = Arch-Militant Marcel (new recruit who previously boarded at Scintilla)

 

As they were travelling to the last known position of the ‘Ben Voyager’, Inquisitor Balthazar chose his moment and attacked in the early hours! Blaming Rogue Trader Devere for his loss of standing, Balthazar had infiltrated aboard with the new recruits at Scintilla,

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Lord-Captain Devere, Pinata.

bringing with him his own entourage of Storm Troopers (Militarum Tempestus Scions you say? Feck off, says I) in an attempt to get his revenge. He nearly succeeded too; he managed to gouge out Devere’s eyes with his Lightning Claws, had him hung upside down
from his own Chandelier like a Pinata whilst beaten with shock batons and then dragged through the corridors on a leash. Balthazar’s reign of terror was ended when Marcel (who had come aboard as part of Balthazar’s retinue) turned on him and killed him. Blind and beaten, with more than just his ego bruised, Lord-Captain Devere was lucky to be alive. Explorator Galvin, seeing an opportunity to curry favour (and for other reasons), made a Servo-Skull out of Balthazar’s head and gifted it to Devere. One of the special attachments the Serv0-Skull had was a wine glass holder; a refined addition.

Fast Forwarding some more, upon arriving at the last known position of the ‘Ben Boyager’, these intrepid explorers came across a hitherto unknown Xenos Species and attempted to make first contact, choosing not to use the gunfire method. After working out how to communicate with this species, which took a lot of effort having learnt that they didn’t have eyes and didn’t perceive time in the same way as humans, they found out that the Strike Cruiser had been destroyed because it had acted aggressively. Devere, still blind (so he could sympathise with them) decided not to be aggressive and to trade with them instead, giving them Void Shield Technology in exchange for a full cargo-hold of Adamantium. As a gift, the aliens (now ironically named the Seers; my players and their naming conventions, sigh)  gave them a suit of armour that was tougher and more resistant than power armour that couldn’t be copied because it was made through metallurgical processes beyond that of the Imperium. This suit of armour, being entirely unique in the Universe, drew the attention of ‘Lord Ezekiel’, (fondly called ‘Zeke’ by my players) a Tzeentch Lord of Change. ‘Zeke’ attempted to bargain for the suit of armour on multiple occasions, offering unique items in trade and going so far as to gift each Officer with a bottle of the finest Bordeaux, of an extremely rare vintage (the last surviving bottles from a now dead world).

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What you got there?

New Player + Character = Missionary Mordecai

Upon returning to Scintilla, Rogue Trader Devere informed the Storm Wardens of what had befallen their Strike Cruiser and then had himself kitted out with the finest cybernetic eyes. It was at this moment, when they thought they were safe, that everything fell apart. Marcel agreed to trade the suit of armour to Ezekiel (without the Rogue Trader knowing) in exchange for a Warrant of Trade, Marcel then excitedly showed it to Devere saying, “I am now a Rogue Trader too and pledge myself to your service!”, but unbeknownst to him, it had been Devere’s Warrant of Trade, and so he was instantly challenged to a duel over this perceived affront.

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That’s my Warrant of Trade!

It was at this moment, with a duel unfolding on the bridge, where Explorator Galvin (having been a spy for the Adeptus Mechanicus from the start, placed aboard to investigate rumours of an AI) reported all he had learned to the Admech and then attempted to seize the bridge with gun servitors.Lord Ezekiel, who was not one to avoid a good show, decided to pop in as well to watch and change the game once in a while; preventing killing shots, firing random magical powers into the melee and generally enjoying the spectacle before leaving when he was engaged by Missionary Mordecai.

 

Somehow these fateful few managed to weather the Servitor assault and kill Explorator Galvin who was taken down by an Inferno Pistol shot by Void Master Traq. With the existence of the AI known to the Adeptus Mechanicus, and their ships rushing to intercept the St.Dora, it was decided that running was the only option left to them and so they fled for their lives.

They ended up in the Koronus Expanse, with Scoterto the Space Marine (having been released from his room by Zeke) in charge of the Death Cultists (who believed he was a living saint for perceiving the inner souls of each person he meets). After Death Cult assassinations became rampant on board, attributed to Scoterto’s random mumbling, Devere decided that it was time to get rid of the Death Cultists and so devised a plan to have them follow Scoterto onto a barren world, therefore cleansing his ship of their presence. Before commencing his plan, he stopped at Footfall to pick up some more crew and to restock on fuel and supplies, it was at this time that Marcel decided to jump ship (skipping some detail here but he left to become his own Rogue Trader).

New Character to replace Explorator Galvin = Arch-Militant Mace McDread
New Character to replace Arch-Militant Marcel = Dark Eldar Kale

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“If it’s good enuff for spess mehreens it’s good enuff for you! – Mace McDread

Arch-Militant Mace McDread was hired to improve the Armsmen aboard and he decided to do just that and being a Space Marine fanboy (this is in-character), put each new recruit through his own imagined Space Marine training course – killing over 4,000 of them and crippling around 2,000 more. After that he wasn’t allowed near the recruits again.
Missionary Mordecai decided to go and pray at the statue of the Emperor in footfall and having been lured into a trap by a kid saying, “My mummy says the Emperor doesn’t exist”,  started a fire in the middle of a residential asteroid that killed thousands. Having gotten lost in the chaos and then been approached by slavers, he incited the crowd in a market place to attack them which killed hundreds more when the gangs became involved. Eventually he made it back to the ship but having been spotted and then attributed to both events, was then banned from entering Footfall ever again.

 

Glossing over some more details but en route to a barren world the Death Cultists found out about Rogue Trader Devere’s plan to use the Living Saint Scoterto to abandon them and so they murdered him in his room; he was found on his bed with 12 syringes stuck into his body (they had injected litres of Lemon Pledge into him).

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An inglorious ending for poor Lord-Captain Devere.

Thus began duels for succession, leaving Void Master Traq in charge of the St.Dora. For a while it seemed like the Void Master would return the St.Dora to her days of glory but unfortunately he became possessed in the warp and died before he could be exorcized.

Thus began duels for succession Mk.2 which would have left the Dark Eldar Kale as Rogue Trader but for 2nd Lieutenant Alma, who couldn’t countenance a Dark Eldar being in charge no matter how friendly he seemed. So she voided him. It was then he revealed that he had hidden a fighter/bomber clamped to the hull and so he used it to strafe the St.Dora and causing enough damage to force 2nd Lieutenant Alma to commence an emergency warp translation (With the Gellar Field off (Dun Dun Duuuuuun)).

Who rung the dinner bell?

Within minutes, thousands upon thousands were dying to hoards of cackling demons and debilitating warp effects. The last remaining living officer, being Missionary Mordecai, was in the cargo bay and trying to make his way to the Gellar field to assist the Techpriests. It was not long before he was overwhelmed and so he detonated the containers of extra fuel that had been brought aboard at FootFall, killing himself and taking some Daemons with him. Even though the techpriests eventually managed to turn on the Gellar field and drop the St.Dora out of the warp, it was too late; tens of thousands had died meaning there wasn’t enough crew to operate the ship and fires were still raging aboard causing secondary detonations. 2nd Lieutenant Alma chose to vent the ship to save her own life.

The St.Dora is now a burnt out, de-pressurised, shredded husk with only an AI alive.
A space hulk, floating through the interstellar void.

End.