Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fly Spaceships, Get Money, Cleanse Xenos: Getting to know Rogue Trader.

Before I started writing for Fantasy Flight, I'd never given the 40K setting much thought. Not for lack of interest, because there was a lot about the setting that I liked, but because it was a miniatures game and the last thing I needed was another expensive hobby. Well, that and I can't paint worth a damn. Anyway, I always observed 40K from the outside, enjoying the art in the books and the over the top, no holds barred feel of the setting, but never really getting that far into it. So when Ross from Fantasy Flight contacted me to do some work for Rogue Trader I had some serious catching up to do. Apparently I needed to know more than what I'd gleaned from my friends over the years, i.e. Squats Suck, Space Marines are Awesome and Red Onez Go Fasta.

Now, let me back up a little. Ever since I started playing EVE Online I've been fascinated with navies. Blue water navies, brown water navies, black water (space) navies, as long as there were ships and Marines I was happy. I've mentioned before that when I started writing Robotech, I approached Macross as essentially a carrier drama, and I went off the deep end reading and researching modern navies and naval organization. Hell, I even picked up two copies of The Bluejacket's Manual, one modern and one from 1943. Aside from the work reading I was doing, my friend and colleague Wayne Smith got me hooked on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin Series, a long series of books featuring a Royal Navy captain and his surgeon/intelligence officer set in the Napoleonic Wars. I was ship crazy, especially spaceship crazy, so when the opportunity to write for a game that's essentially the age of sail, in space, with lance batteries, well, I wasn't going to say no.

To say I had a little bit of a run-up to get up to speed on the current state of the 40K universe is an understatement. When my work copy of Rogue Trader showed up, a beautifully produced 400 page hardback that weighs about a hundred pounds, I was a little overwhelmed. There was so much information packed into this book, and I had to absorb as much of it as I could in as short a time as possible if I had any hope of meeting my deadline. As I read through the setting info and the well imagined careers (Rogue Trader, Void-Master, Explorator, etc.), and became more familiar with the elegantly simple ruleset that FFG has, it occurred to me that my introduction to Rogue Trader couldn't have come at a better time. See, for months I'd been wanting to run a game for my friends either set in or based on the Aubrey-Maturin books with lots of exploring and fleet actions and political intrigue. Problem was, I couldn't figure out a good way to do it with the systems I knew. A friend and I had been discussing making something of our own, but we'd stalled trying to figure out how to make a navy game that a party could play. Once I found Rogue Trader though, I knew I'd found the answer. I could run my navy game and do work research at the same time! You can't argue with that.

Fast forward to today where I have the perfect storm of opportunity. I'm well into my second assignment for Rogue Trader, one or more of the games I currently play in shows every indication of ending hilariously in fire with the loss of all characters and I've got a group of pro players, most of whom are 40K fanatics. We're in the planning stages right now, discussing character concepts and figuring out who wants to do what. The depth of the setting, along with the huge potential for sheer mayhem, fits our play style very well. We tend to play more sandbox style games, where the GM is there to provide background, NPCs and some plot hooks and the players make trouble and advance the story as they see fit. One thing you absolutely need in a game like this, though, is a strong player in the Rogue Trader role. Someone you can trust to keep the ball rolling and the trouble coming. Every one of my players has the potential to be a great Rogue Trader, the trick will be getting someone to take on the responsibility. I'll keep you up to date, gentle readers, on the progression of the game. I may even do something crazy like live tweet our sessions or something. Stay tuned.

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