Like I argued in my recent post, Rogue Trader was one of those games where it really only reached its full potential over the course of the supplement line. Since a Bundle of Holding containing all this material cannot be too far off, given the recent Dark Heresy bundles, it seems timely to look over the support line now.
Into the Storm
This is your generic “pile of additional stuff” supplement, the sort of major general-purpose release that followed the lead of The Inquisitor’s Handbook that most of the early run of the 40K RPGs got. (From Black Crusade onwards the sort of material which was found here got distributed among themed supplements, like the Ordo-specific books for 2nd edition Dark Heresy or the God-specific supplements for Black Crusade.) You get a host of new character generation options, new equipment, vehicle rules, more starship stuff, more psychic powers, and so on. Perhaps the most exciting addition are career paths for playing ork and kroot mercenaries, adding that gonzo “aliens in the crew” element that the core book was missing, but I also quite like the new background paths that apply the character path idea to the backstory of your starship or Warrant of Trade.
This is to Rogue Trader as The Radical’s Handbook was to Dark Heresy – a handy supplement giving all sorts of extra options and stuff for those who want to go truly rogue and do flat-out criminal stuff that’ll get the Imperial authorities annoyed at them (and I suspect any particular Rogue Trader crew that is at all interesting will be at least tempted at points to do this). There’s also the lowdown on the various enforcement options the Imperium has, as well as a nice career path-based system for making a suitable nemesis for the player characters.
Faith and Coin
This is the missionary-themed supplement, but – perhaps because Blood of Martyrs over in the Dark Heresy line had slightly stolen its thunder – it seems a bit thin to me. It has much less widely-applicable, general-purpose religion stuff than I expected, and way more in the way of Koronus Expanse-specific stuff, with a bunch of details mostly revolving around one Imperial Saint’s story and the missionaries that followed them. It’s OK, but if you aren’t using the Expanse it’s of somewhat more limited utility.
The Navis Primer
This digs into the various extranormal human player character options available – both psyker Astropaths and the mutant Navigators, with particularly welcome details of the various Navigator houses. The expanded discussion of how Warp travel actually works from the Navigator’s perspective is especially welcome.
This is your big fat expanded shipbuilding book, including a bunch of Imperial Navy ships and the sort of ships they end up tangling against and some setting detail on the Imperial navy.
Edge of the Abyss
This is a largely fluff-focused book which attempts to flesh out the Koronus Expanse, though for me it’s too little, too late – it still fails to provide me with a really distinctive hook that makes me sit up, pay attention, and really get excited about the setting.
Stars of Iniquity
This is the sandbox support that the game had badly needed. As well as tables to help you generate your own homebrewed star systems, it also includes a welcome discussion of planetside adventures, as well as the process of setting up Imperial colonies and using them as part of your nascent fiefdom. Arriving in 2012 it was among the last books put out for Rogue Trader (Faith and Coin was the only one to come out in 2013 and then that was it), and I can’t help but feel that the game line badly needed it much, much earlier.
The Koronus Bestiary
Unlike the monster book for Dark Heresy (Creatures Anathema), this includes more details on more iconic Warhammer 40,000 aliens like Orks and Eldar. You’ll ideally want Battlefleet Koronus to get the full variety of alien ships too.
The usual screen (with portrait-orientation panels instead of landscape orientation, ugh), the usual disposable adventure, plus a rules snippet. The rules snippet provides some random tables for star system generation (made redundant by the much more detailed material in Stars of Iniquity) and for random enemy ship encounters.
As with Dark Heresy, I wasn’t too taken with most of the adventure material for Rogue Trader. Forsaken Bounty, the Free RPG Day adventure, is nothing to write home about (particularly given the space required to explain the system in the first place). Lure of the Expanse relies on too much railroading, with a frustrating outcome that relies on the main thing the characters have been striving for being arbitrarily snatched away from them; I ran it when it came out because I didn’t have time to develop something more homebrewed at the time, but I modified it extensively. The Warpstorm Trilogy follows the lead of the various adventure trilogies in Dark Heresy, and is as uninspiring as they are.
The major exception is The Soul Reaver, which involves the PCs in an audacious plot to infiltrate the Nexus of Shadows, a Dark Eldar trading port in the webway where they welcome all-comers – provided that those visit show sufficient grit and strength to not just get immediately enslaved – in order to steal the unique ship that exists at his heart in support of a coup attempt.
Part of what I like about it is the Nexus of Shadows itself. Whilst most adventures Fantasy Flight put out for the various 40K RPGs followed the lead of the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen in providing a mini-gazetteer of the main location of the adventure, but compared to Bögenhafen these tend to be rather slim. I think the reason I like the equivalent here is that the Nexus of Shadows is consciously designed as a location that PCs might return to later on, and so is described with sufficient extra depth for that purpose, plus it’s a very different location from what we are used to. Most particularly, it’s a melting pot setting ruled over by a non-Imperial, non-human species, which is the sort of thing which Rogue Trader absolutely cries out for. You had this sort of Mos Eisley-esque place in the original 1980s Rogue Trader iteration of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and it’s nice to have one here. Another useful factor is that the adventure gives the players an enormous amount of freedom in how they meet their goals, with any particular approach being supported and not too much space wasted on prescripted encounters which might never happen or wouldn’t follow the script even if they did happen.
The best thing about the adventure, though, is the mini-supplement that takes up the last third or so of the book that gives you all you need to play a Dark Eldar warrior in Rogue Trader. Astonishingly, Fantasy Flight never did the Eldar supplement that fans were crying out for, but they did bother to provide this.
The main issue with The Soul Reaver is that it really screams out for a group who’ll be down for working with a Dark Eldar Kabal leader to get into the plot. Oh, sure, there’s suggestions for how they could be blackmailed into it – but PCs have this remarkable tendency to say “Fuck you, do your worst” in such situations. Plus given that it’s Dark Eldar a certain amount of mutual trust between group members will be needed to avoid the game drifting unwanted into “Magical Realm“-type let’s-play-my-fetishes territory. (I mean, check out that cover.)
Still, for a sufficiently renegade Rogue Trader it’s a delightful opportunity. Even though the ending is yet another “the main thing you were after gets denied to you” twist, odds are the PCs leave with a major stake in the future of the Nexus, which is a decidedly worthwhile consolation prize and may actually be better than owning an extra ship anyway.