“…and in their wickedness shall be revealed unto them the Retribution of Angels”Inscription on memorial stone on Retribution (Formerly Vipinicix Magna)
Observers may wonder why the lopsided vendetta between the Vipinicus and von Kroyer dynasties has continued for so long. Until recently the von Kroyer dynasty could muster only three starships and held no colonies, while the stellar empire of the Vipinicus commands resources beyond the wildest dreams of most Imperial nobles. The truth of the matter is that House Vipinicus have been embroiled in a much more deadly conflict. A private war against nothing less than the Emperor’s Angels of Death: The Astartes of the Knights Atomic.
Shortly after the quarantine was lifted from the Morana Gulf, the dynasty began a series of endeavors under the leadership of Lord Captain Oriel Vipinicus. Chief among these was the conquest of Sovortana, an industrial world with a high tech base far from the Imperium’s borders. Since their defences were more than a match for the Rogue Trader’s forces, he enlisted the aid of the Knights Atomic. Surrender came after a devastating campaign, but in the aftermath it became clear that Vipinicus had acted in bad faith. Sovortana had already been visited by officials of the Administratum and had submitted willingly to Terran authority and the Imperial Creed. Realising they had been duped into attacking loyal Imperial subjects, the Knights Atomic opened fire on Vipinicus’ ships, captured his daughter in a brutal boarding action and withdrew to plan their vengeance. A month later, Vipinicus’ prized colony world was subjected to a brutal and sustained assault by the Astartes; not a single stone was left resting upon another.
For decades since, Vipinicus has been embroiled in a private war against the Imperium’s foremost warriors. The Knights Atomic, unflinching in their persecution of mankind’s foes, have better things to occupy them than a duplicitous rogue trader, but still inflict crippling losses on Vipinicus forces when the opportunity presents itself to enact their vendetta. For their part the dynasty simply weathers these losses and defends their investments as best they can. They yet remain a formidable power, with many allies (particularly among those who disapprove of the Knights Atomic and their brutal disregard for the wishes of mere mortals). There is a certain power in being at the head of a dynasty which has warred with Space Marines and yet survives.
“Nemo me Impune Lacessit – No One Assails me With Impunity”Motto of House Vipinicus
By many estimations, House Vipinicus is the premier power of the Gulf. Even in their weakened state they are the masters of dozens of hidden colonies, and their investments through shell companies and blind trusts grant them a large stake in many others. Though they have recently made many unwise enemies, Vipinicus count both the Imperial Navy and the Ecclesiarchy among their allies.
Junior members of the dynasty often complete a tour of duty in one of the the Nimbus Trident’s three battlefleets before assuming their birthright, learning valuable skills in void combat and command, while also being shielded from vengeful astartes: even the iconoclast Knights Atomic would not stoop to attacking the Imperial Navy.
The dynasty’s close relationship with the Ecclesiarchy is predicated largely on substantial sums left in the proverbial collection plate. Many a temple roof has been repaired thanks to Vipinicus’ largesse, and not a few pleasure-palaces frequented by the region’s Cardinals.
“It might not be Imperial yet, but when it is I want to make damn sure it’s my arms emblazoned on all the banners!”Lord Captain Quisker discusses his ambitions for the Morana Gulf
A man without shame or honour according to many, Quisker Vipinicus is a cruel, imperious presence. Many know him only for the open secret that is the Private War with the Knights Atomic, and admire a man that can contend with Astartes and still turn a profit. But those more intimately acquainted with Lord Captain know him as a man of seemingly bottomless arrogance and ambition. Though his ego has cost the dynasty dear in recent times, Quisker’s strategic genius and calculating avarice should not be underestimated.
Reluctant to extend his neck beyond Imperial borders while his conflict with the Knights Atomic lasts, Quisker can often be found at his estate “Heart Grove” on the pleasure world Eno, playing the game of high-stakes politics. Conveniently enough, on Eno you are rarely more than a stone’s throw away from a member of society with a weakness to exploit.
Void-Mistress Sebela Indri
“Ooh, my knee is acting up! The starboard gravity pump must be misaligned. Be a dear and throw the maintenance crew in the oubliette, make sure it doesn’t happen again.”Mistress Sebela diagnoses a system fault
A truly ancient woman of diminutive stature and stooped posture; many have underestimated Indri, to their cost. Having outlived every other serving member of the Vipinicus dynasty, there is no-one left who can speak to the void-mistress’ origins: she was already serving as XO of the flagship Silverheart when Quisker became head of the family.
Over a century of service has left Indri with an encyclopedic knowledge of every ship and officer in the gulf, and by her iron will is the dynasty’s battlefleet maintained as the envy of every rogue trader. Though she is ruthlessly pragmatic and far from merciful, those who serve under her come to develop a nostalgic fondness for “Auntie”. Since the dynasty often freely trades officers with the Imperial Navy, Sebela is never without plentiful allies in the local battlefleets.
“A masterstroke of a plan uncle Quisker, truly inspired. I like it even more today than when I suggested it yesterday.”Galahad formulates a stratagem
One of the dynasty’s many ambitious second-cousins, Galahad was able to distinguish himself in terms of amoral cunning and was chosen by Quisker to serve as his Seneschal aboard the Silverheart. Having had the benefit of the finest education available at the renowned collegia of Aurochs IV, Galahad served briefly in the Imperial Navy before a mysterious illness saw him discharged days before his battlegroup was assigned to fight the Orks of WAAAGH!! Morgakz.
Following his miraculous recovery, Galahad was free to wage a machiavellian shadow war against his siblings and cousins in the dynasty, taking his destined place at Quisker’s right hand at the tender age of twenty-four Solar years. For now, the pushy young buck is content to consolidate his already considerable power, lending narcissistic charm and sociopathic cunning to the family cause. Many who know the dynasty well are already wondering privately when his ambitious gaze will turn to his uncle’s Warrant of Trade.
Captain Blackthorne: A distinguished officer of the Imperial Navy’s skeleton presence in the lawless fringes of the Morana Gulf, serving from the cruiser Ironeyes. Blackthorne was mentored by Mistress Sebela as part of an exchange program in his youth and remains a staunch ally of the dynasty. A hard, belligerent man, Blackthorne has been known to use his authority as an officer of the Navy to persecute the dynasty’s enemies on their behalf.
Frer Nitrous: The leader of the dynasty’s vassal death cult, the Church of the Final Detonation. Nitrous leads a band of steely-eyed zealots descended from an Imperial Guard demolitions team abandoned on a frontier planet centuries ago and now suffering from several generations worth of mission creep. The cult were rescued from the fringes by Quisker’s father, and they now believe the dynasty will deliver them to their prophesied target, so they might bring about the Final Detonation and win their place at the Emperor’s right hand.
The Hollow Spear Kindred: Though the dynasty prefers to use the Navy to do their dirty work when possible, more hazardous or morally suspect assignments are left to the Kroot mercenaries of the Hollow Spear. Led by the ancient shaper Vraakis Krahw, the kindred has lately specialised in fighting and consuming Orks which threaten their employer’s investments. This diet has left the kindred green, mean and even more impulsive than is usual for their kind.
The Private War
With both sides unwilling to parlay or compromise, the grinding war between the dynasty and the redoubtable Knights Atomic shows no sign of ending. Though they rarely deviate from their divine purpose of slaying mankind’s foes, the astartes strike at Vipinicus assets and allies whenever easy opportunities present themselves.
For their part, the dynasty has adapted its strategy, frequently hiding behind Imperial institutions such as the Navy and Ecclesiarchy, and arming their elite troops with special weapons such as meltas and plasma cannon. While attempting hostile action against the Space Marines themselves would be suicide, Vipinicus has seen some success in attacking lesser factions with whom the Knights Atomic have friendly dealings. Such was the case when the Vipinicus massacred the Navigators of House Tolovinius, who had employed the Knights Atomic as bodyguards.
Siege of Vipinica Ultima
Though its isolated location protected the colony world of Vipinica Ultima from the wrath of vengeful astartes, it also made it an easy target for the depredations of Orks spilling from the Devil’s Maw nebula. Although the planet remains a productive and profitable industrial colony, the dynasty is now required to pour increasing resources into defending the world’s infrastructure. Ork attacks are now almost constant, with fresh Kroozers and Roks arriving in-system on a weekly basis. Many fear that this single-minded assault may be a precursor to a massive WAAAGH!!
Reconquest of Sovortana
Despite their underhanded betrayal of the world, Vipinicus were still able to profit in the aftermath of the Sovortana treachery and assumed a majority stake in many of the world’s industries and trade routes. Unfortunately this happy status quo was recently ended when the decimated defense forces of Sovortana fell to an invasion by another non-Imperial human faction from the technologically advanced Nanech system. To make matters worse, the dynasty’s sworn rivals the von Kroyers are mustering a crusade to retake the world for the Imperium in their own name. Vipinicus are currently scrambling to assemble their own invasion force with which to retake their investment from the Nanechi Kingdom, but ultimately they care more about saving face than taking the planet, and they would burn Sovortana a second time before letting their rivals claim it.
Introduction: Though they are undoubtedly one of the most powerful factions in the gulf, the Vipinicus dynasty have currently spread themselves across too many fronts and are badly in need of allies. Quisker has contacted the explorers through an intermediary, offering them a silent partnership. By secretly assisting Vipinicus with their endeavors they will be spared the wrath of the Knights Atomic, and the dynasty will pay generously for every mission the explorers successfully complete.
The explorers must be prepared to be interdicted by the Knights Atomic strike cruiser Teleotys, carrying the 5th Company led by the terrifying Captain Cyvarax, who favors a “launch nukes first, ask questions later” approach
The conflict with the Knights Atomic has made Vipinicus hesitant to deploy their own fleet. Although the Astartes tend to restrain themselves from attacking non-combatant vessels, they consider any Vipinicus warship a valid target. The explorers are contracted to escort a convoy of war materiel to Vipinica Ultima, an endeavour which would be hazardous with the Orks alone. The explorers must be prepared to be interdicted by the Knights Atomic strike cruiser Teleotys, carrying the 5th Company led by the terrifying Captain Cyvarax, who favors a “launch nukes first, ask questions later” approach to negotiations.
In the aftermath of the Sovortana Treachery, the Knights Atomic abducted Quisker Vipinicus’ sister Kornelia and have been holding her hostage ever since in a secret location. The Vipinicus dynasty have at last obtained a lead on her whereabouts: a notorious pirate claims to have seen a woman matching her description while lying low in the fortified asteroid temple of an eccentric faction of warrior-priests. Quisker has hired the explorers merely to meet with this pirate and learn the location of the fortress, but were they to take matters into their own hands and rescue Kornelia themselves, they would have the undying gratitude of the Vipinicus (or a powerful bargaining chip to use against them). Beware, the Knights Atomic are unlikely to take kindly to outsiders interfering in their private war.
The loss of Sovortana to the frontier forge-kingdom of Nanech has become the fulcrum of the von Kroyers’ public admonishment of Vipinicus. They have curried enough political favour to organize a military expedition to retake the world, but they have distracted themselves with using their army to further their own ambitions. Vipinicus is desperate to beat their rivals to Sovortana – whether that means sending an advance expedition to the planet or actively sabotaging the von Kroyer effort.
Introduction: Due to their exceptional legal status outside the Imperium’s borders, Rogue Traders are always of supreme interest to the Inquisition. Vipinicus, with their strong alliances to both the Navy and the Ecclesiarchy, are a particularly frustrating challenge for the Inquisition, almost to the point of being untouchable. For this reason, the Holy Ordos have empowered an elite cell with exceptional privileges and a mission to operate independently in the Gulf to investigate the dynasty and further the Inquisition’s interests in the Great Game being played across the lawless frontier.
The Ordos suspect that a Vipinicus death squad looted a cache of extremely rare, classified star charts following the assassination of the Novator Tolovinius. The acolytes must track the death squad back to the Vipinicus fleet, and contend with a rival cell of operatives from a shadowy Navis Nobilite cabal calling themselves the Nocturnal. If the charts can not be safely delivered to the Inquisition, they should be covertly destroyed.
Posing as an unknown ensign from a distant sector and his or her attendants, the acolytes must gain the trust of the Vipinicus command and identify any key personnel who might be persuaded or coerced into becoming agents of the Inquisition.
The Inquisition desperately need a covert operative aboard the Vipinicus flagship Silverheart, but have thus far been thwarted by the ruthless cunning of Mistress Indri and Galahad Vipinicus. A new window of opportunity will shortly open when Vipinicus take on a fresh batch of junior officers from the Naval academy. Posing as an unknown ensign from a distant sector and his or her attendants, the acolytes must gain the trust of the Vipinicus command and identify any key personnel who might be persuaded or coerced into becoming agents of the Inquisition.
Together with powerful factions in the region, the acolytes’ Inquisitor has decided to make forceful preparations against a vast alien threat from beyond the galaxy. If the Astartes and the Rogue Traders are killing each other, it means fewer men and weapons to leverage against the Tyranids. The acolytes must find a way to end the Private War, and the feud between the dynasties if possible – be it by truce, reconciliation, or capitulation.
Introduction: A Rogue Trader can always find use for professional soldiers, be it their own house troops or Imperial Guardsmen called in with a favour. While the officers of the Imperial Navy find serving with the Vipinicus a privilege, to footsoldiers it is the worst punishment detail imaginable. The dynasty’s ground holdings are currently under occupation by Orks and technologically advanced human factions, and the Knights Atomic are quick to attack anyone who declares for Vipinicus.
An outlying mining settlement on Vipinica Ultima has proved a strategic liability and the dynasty has decided it should be abandoned. As a massive wave of Orks descends from orbit, the guardsmen must oversee the evacuation of civilian personnel and valuable materiel, destroy any equipment which can not be salvaged and collapse the mines. Once these objectives are complete, they finally have permission to retreat to safe ground as the greenskins rampage across the countryside.
Sovortana has evolved into a true quagmire, with battles raging planet-wide between no less than five factions, all with constantly shifting allegiances.
In a mad scramble by the Vipinicus to beat the von Kroyers to the reconquest of Sovortana, the dynasty has managed to covertly drop a few platoons of troops onto the surface of the occupied planet. The guardsmen must scout strategic sites across the world while ideally evading detection. The Nanechi invaders are an independent forge-kingdom with a technological base comparable to that of the Adeptus Mechanicus, while the native Sovortanans are mounting a tenacious resistance against the invaders. Guardsmen intending to ally themselves with the native partisans should beware, if it becomes obvious they serve the Vipinicus the Sovortanans will attack them on sight.
The Reconquest of Sovortana has evolved into a true quagmire, with battles raging planet-wide between a half-dozen factions, all with constantly shifting allegiances. The guardsmen are stationed at a provincial fortress in a district currently occupied by Vipinicus coalition forces when advance warning comes of an enemy assault inbound. The guardsmen have a few hours to prepare a defense before a lethal complication becomes apparent: The Sovortanan partisan forces are backed up by a space marine of the Knights Atomic. If the guardsmen flee at the sight of the Angel of Death they will have to fight their way through the rest of the Vipinicus forces. The marine will show no mercy should the guardsmen try to surrender. Perhaps the only honourable course is to go down fighting? Who knows, perhaps the guardsmen will succeed in bringing down a space marine? (Note: They won’t, but it’ll be fun to watch them try)
Notes for GMs
Players allying themselves with the Vipinicus will find the relationship to be rather transactional. Confident in their superior position, the Vipinicus will only provide resources or favours if they have something of equal or greater value to gain themselves. Their enemies, however, will find themselves attacked on all fronts, with the dynasty deploying political, military and covert tactics to neutralise their rivals. That said, unless the players make a particular effort to wound Quisker’s pride or show themselves to be a clear and present threat to the dynasty, the Vipinicus may simply forget about the players as they scramble to contain the crises developing across their multiple fronts.
In void-based battles the Vipinicus model themselves after their allies in the Imperial Navy, fielding heavy cruisers armed with devastating broadsides and protecting them with small groups of escorts. A potent combination, but their rigid formations may be vulnerable to unorthodox tactics.
In the political theater, Vipinicus will often call on their allies in the Navy to engage in surprise “inspections” of rival Rogue Trader ships. They may also pull strings with their allies in the ecclesiarchy to arrange for the player characters to be excommunicated or made the subject of witch hunts (a particularly favoured tactic of theirs when dealing with unwanted attention from the Inquisition)