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“It’s the brightest light of civilisation you’re likely to find in the Gulf, but that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it there.”  

Navigator Tertius Ernadine Ruhk

Though technically still classified as an Adeptus Mechanicus colony world, Serenhold is the most powerful Imperial-aligned world in the frontier space of the Morana Gulf. Aspiring to the status of Forge World, the ruling power of Serenhold would see their dominion rise as the premier political power in the Gulf, by any means necessary. For all its recent history, Serenhold has been ruled by the enigmatic Fabricator General Zero-One (stylised 01). The arch-magos has been shrewd in courting other powerful Imperial institutions, and most major political powers with interests in the reconquest of the Gulf have a presence in the system, including the Imperial Navy, the Order Dialogous and the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. 

The polluted soil of Serenhold itself has been declared holy territory of the machine cult, and 01 forbids most non-mechanicus personnel from setting foot there (though many suspect this has more to do with the fabricator general’s paranoia than with religious doctrine). As such, most other Imperial institutions maintain a significant orbital presence, or locate their infrastructure on Serenhold’s nameless icy moon. Elsewhere in the system is the planetoid Vode, a rich mining outpost which feeds Serenhold’s ravenous forges and doubles as a penal colony to which 01’s enemies may be exiled.

Locations

Serenhold System

Forge 01

“+WE WILL NOT BE DENIED+ WE WILL NOT BE DELAYED+ WE ARE THE OMNISSIAH’S GLORY+” 

01 delivers a proclamation

Forge 01 is the principal settlement and manufacturing installation on Serenhold. A glorious tangle of refineries, forges, manufactoria and data-crypts which stands as a living testament to the might of the Machine Cult and the their triumph over the hostile Gulf. Or so 01 would like it described. Though it does not yet boast the manufacturing base or sheer power of cities on more established forge worlds, Forge 01 benefits from being a relatively new settlement.  

Constructed in the decades following the end of the quarantine of the Gulf, Forge 01 benefits from the foresight and planning of the wrights who constructed it and operates with a level of efficiency that the tech-priests of established forge worlds can only dream of. This novelty also attracts a number of nonconformist sects who would be rejected by the mainstream of the Cult Mechanicus, but are more than willing to swear allegiance to 01’s cause in exchange for protection.

The “Os”

“Debris warning is in effect for orbital layers A through F due to the recent bombing of Autostat Eighteen. Landing vouchers are available for every decaton of debris recovered. Damage due to negligence will not be reimbursed.” 

Serenhold Orbital Control announcement

While Serenhold itself is forbidden to all but the most well-connected outsiders, the void around the planet is a more welcoming environment, as long as they have something of value they are willing to part with. Thousands of independently operated orbital habitats fill the skies around the nascent forge world, each paying a hefty license directly into 01’s coffers. The Os fulfill a diverse variety of functions, from luxurious residences and hotels for wealthy nobles and businesspeople, to seedy gambling dens, pit-fighting arenas and huge retail storehouses brimming with equipment for explorers and colonists.

Since Serenhold sits on one of the few known stable warp routes between the Morana Gulf and the nearby civilized Perios sector, the Os are a big draw for independent traders, smugglers and seekers after rarities and curios. For people daring to leave the sectors, the Os are a taste of the wild frontier. To the people returning from the outer Gulf, the Os represent safety and civilization.

Serenhold Orbit

Serenity Base

“Technological antedvancements really get me in the mood…” 

Archaeoxenan Agathon Neverdead proposes an expedition

Despite the narrative 01 attempts to establish as being the original motive force behind the development of Serenhold, they were not the first to claim dominion over the world. The Adeptus Mechanicus presence in the system was originally established by an Explorator named Yotta Seren, who first founded an outpost on Serenhold’s moon. This base became a springboard for Mechanicus expeditions into Morana, and in many ways served as the seeding grain around which the rest of Serenhold’s civilization has been able to flourish.

Outsiders are welcome to enjoy the comforts of Serenity, but only by invitation by one of the members of Explorator Seren’s expedition. Among the luminaries that hold honorary memberships in Seren’s centuries-old base one may find Imperial nobles, Rogue Traders, archaeoxenans, and a significant percentage of other explorers across the Gulf. These figures come together for secret auctions where a bidder might find brand new planetary surveys, exclusive warp charts, archaeotech, and other even rarer treasures.

Other locations

Vode: A dismal planetoid barely massive enough to hold on to its feeble atmosphere. Vode is rich in metals and pockets of rare elements and esoteric fluids. As Serenhold bootstraps its manufacturing capacity, Vode has grown from a gloomy penal colony to a thriving mining outpost.

Athenium Eschaton: One of the more distinguished orbitals among the thousands which throng the Serenhold system. The Athenium is a temple-vault of the Sororitas Dialogous Order of the Quill. The Ecclesiarchy has spared no expense in making the orbital the perfect place for study and contemplation. It boasts an extremely comprehensive librarium archive, as well as a number of hydroponic gardens, viewing galleries and observatories. The fact the Athenium is often the first destination of ancient and forbidden lore from the reclaimed worlds of the Gulf is of great interest to the Inquisition, among other parties.

Tobius Engine Yards: The only fully operational Imperial shipyard in the Morana Gulf, the engine yards at Serenhold are owned by Wray Industries and subcontracted to their subsidiary maintenance and salvage enterprise – the Tobius Company. The shipyard is equipped to perform repairs and refits of ships up to battlecruiser hulls and complete place-forging of escort vessels. In addition, a fleet of warp-capable salvage vessels stand by to collect wrecks across the Gulf with no questions asked.





Factions

The Prime Factors

“By the will of the Omnissiah I do swear my flesh, my will and the loyalty of my lineage to Zero-One for all eternity.” 

Magos Voronoi Kassus swears allegiance to Zero-One

01 would like to pretend that they alone control every aspect of life and economic activity in the Serenhold system. Everything from their choice of moniker to their habit of only appearing in public with a fluttering entourage of hundreds of neurolinked servo-creatures and cherubim slaved directly to their cortex seems calculated to support this idea. While an effective piece of propaganda, it is a falsehood, and the Fabricator-General relies on a carefully managed inner circle referred to informally as the Prime Factors. Arranged by rank according to their likely loyalty and the extent of their power, this inner circle is dominated by lesser Magi (codename 02, 05, 07 etc…), though there is space under Zero-One’s wing for those outside the cult of Mars, including the CEO of Tobius Company (Alias “13”)

As with all high courts the ranks of the Factors are riven with intrigue and minor power struggles. While presenting a united front, 01 is particularly adept at playing ambitious minions off against each other. In the last decade alone six Factors have perished to assassinations ordered by other Factors, and a few have even been personally executed by 01 after bungling plots of their own.

The Serenites

“Never before have I seen someone employ the Rite of Pure Thought to expunge everything but their greed and ambition.” 

Explorator Ashura laments Zero-One’s avarice

While many Imperial institutions enjoy 01’s largesse and happily enforce the status quo of Serenhold’s politics, there is a large minority of dissidents who view the Fabricator General as a false tyrant to be overthrown. The Serenite conspiracy is an open secret, a malcontent cabal organised mostly by Explorators using Serenity Base as a staging post for expeditions into the Gulf. In much the same way as Rogue Traders are a law unto themselves beyond the Imperium’s borders, powerful Explorators are often able to flout the norms of the Adeptus Mechanicus in pursuit of their mission.

With deep pockets and a motley collection of allies throughout the Gulf and nearby civilised space, the Serenites attempt to frustrate 01’s megalomaniac schemes without going so far as to declare open war. A magnet for opportunists, rabble-rousers and political radicals within the hierarchy of the Mechanicum, the Serenite cause also attracts a large number of former minions of 01 who have been burned by the Fabricator General’s machiavellian treachery.

Imperial Navy Colonial Administration (IN:CA)

“I have twelve ships at my disposal to patrol twenty systems, half of which are pirate dens or xenos havens. I am certain you understand the phrase ‘cost-benefit analysis’ Lady Orja. What is the Imperial Navy’s benefit in this enterprise?”

Commodore Darius Vessenquin of Navy Task Force Tiresias

Until the region can be officially annexed by a neighbouring sector or establish its own government, Imperial assets in the Gulf answer to the Imperial Navy’s Colonial Administration, headquartered at a massive waystation orbital at the outer edges of the Serenhold system. Although officially under Navy authority under Rear-Admiral Opther Blix, the day-to-day running of the Colonial Administration falls to a committee of seven lords and officers of the Adeptus Terra. These are assigned by the governors of nearby sectors, each posturing to gain the upper hand in the future of the Gulf.

The Colonial Administration is responsible for protecting reincorporated planets in the Morana Gulf, collecting tithes, and ensuring that those tithes are put to effective use. As a consequence, the IN:CA has a significant number of fresh Imperial Guard regiments under its command, but too few ships to maintain supply lines for hostile deployments. The two Imperial Navy task forces assigned to the region are small and spread thin, and thus the administration is forced to rely on Rogue Traders and Explorator fleets to pursue the reconquest of Morana.

Other Factions

House von Kroyer: As a last-ditch effort to protect his dynasty from a more powerful rival house, Rogue Trader Kennoch von Kroyer is said to have recently sworn his family to serve 01 “for all eternity”. Whether or not the Lord Captain was desperate enough to declare eternal fealty, the von Kroyers have recently been a recurring presence in the Serenhold system, and are rumoured to be running covert missions for the Fabricator General.

Huvillite Sect: Magos Huville would have enjoyed a modest legacy in the annals of the Adeptus Mechanicus for his hand in the design of the workhorse Aspis-class light starship. He instead became a legend by leading a massive expedition into the Morana Gulf millenia before its quarantine status was lifted. Not a single member of the expedition returned and no trace of it has been found to date. To the commoners and laity of the Adeptus Mechanicus of Serenhold he has become a messianic figure, and a cult has formed to preach of the day he will return and lead humanity into a new golden age of technology.

VOID Corps: The Vode Orbital Interdiction Division is a quasi-private paramilitary company which raises massive battalions of expendable troops from among the penal miners of Vode. Only occasionally deployed outside the Serenhold system, they are usually fielded en mass in suicidal boarding actions against orbital stations which have fallen out of favour with Serenhold and the voidcraft of pirates and smugglers bold enough to operate within 01’s expanding sphere of influence. 





Game Hooks

Dark Heresy

Introduction: At first glance Serenhold might sport all the traditional trappings of an Imperial system, but in truth it’s a den of crime and corruption masked behind a veneer of entrepreneurial enterprise and righteous colonial exploitation. The local authorities are so eager to accept the charade of legitimacy to justify their own profiteering that they grow lax in their policing of societal threats, and pay little heed to criminals that seek refuge beyond Imperial borders. The Inquisition is almost forgotten here, so it falls to the Acolytes to serve as a reminder that there is no place that is beyond the reach of the Holy Ordos.

A major civilian orbital recently cut off contact with the rest of the system and every party sent to investigate has failed to return. The last voidship to dock with the orbital has been impounded by the Navy and the acolytes have been tasked with interrogating the ship’s officers about the mysterious cargo they delivered to the station, before investigating the installation themselves and putting and end to whatever alien or daemonic force may have been unleashed there.

A gang involved in the cold trade in alien technology has recently become so brazen and powerful that they have begun to use alien weapons to openly attack their rivals. The Inquisition becomes suspicious after a number of bodies are found shredded almost to the point of liquefaction by a xenos monofilament weapon. Eager to disabuse the cold traders of the notion that they are untouchable the acolytes are dispatched to bring them to justice. The cold traders have powerful clients, including Rogue Traders and Explorators, who have an interest in keeping their suppliers hidden. Even if they can be tracked down to their hidden base, surviving the eldar Deathspinner they’ve been terrorising the underworld with is easier said than done.  



a number of bodies are found shredded almost to the point of liquefaction by a xenos monofilament weapon


The Aethenium Eschaton of the Order Dialogous contains many secret libraria in which are housed dangerous and forbidden texts detailing alien science and strange, un-imperial rituals. Evidence has recently come to light that one particular tome (the only one of its kind) is coveted by a heretic sorcerer who has long eluded capture by the Inquisition. Fearing the sorcerer may already have infiltrated the Aethenium, the acolytes’ Inquisitor has charged them with entering the librarium-orbital under assumed identities and stopping the heretic before she can find her forbidden prize. The acolytes must tread carefully, if the heretic suspects they are onto her she may strike at them with fell sorcery, or simply flee the system and continue to plague the Imperium even without the tome she desires. 

Only War

Introduction: The players are thrust into the mag-boots of the downtrodden and poorly equipped Void Corps penal battalions. Every assignment is a suicide mission, equipment is unreliable even by the standards of the Imperial Guard, and even if you survive the chance of a reprieve are minimal. Still, it’s more exciting than swinging a pick at moon rocks all day… 

Before they’re even organised into regiments, the convicts who have been volunteered for Void Corps must first pass “basic training”. This involves being assigned to squads, handed barely-functional small arms and excavation equipment and being dumped into barren mining tunnels devoid of atmosphere to fight to the death with a number of rival squads. Those that survive have the privilege of “graduating” to active service in the corps, and even more dangerous missions. 



being dumped into barren mining tunnels devoid of atmosphere to fight to the death with a number of rival squads


The owner of a large manufacturing orbital has recently fallen out of favour with Zero-One and the Void Corps has been tasked with evicting them without doing too much damage to valuable industrial infrastructure. The orbital’s owner is now fortified in the facility, protected by a large number of highly trained mercenaries. A plan has been devised where the Corpsmen will be smuggled in aboard a materials shipment from Vode. The manufactoria are still in operation, so the players must successfully navigate the large and deadly production floors to achieve their objectives.  

Following the capture of the industrial orbital, evidence suggests its former owner had been covertly backed by the Serenite faction operating from Serenhold’s nameless moon. By way of retaliation 01 would like some damage done to the private base of an upstart Explorator but is unwilling to commit any but the most expendable troops to the task. In addition to being located in a canyon on an icy moon with an almost non-existent atmosphere, the Explorator’s base is protected by several crack squads of skitarii. Destroying or capturing the base is likely out of the question, but the Corpsmen may be able to do some structural damage before they escape (or more likely, die in the attempt).

Rogue Trader

Introduction: Serenhold is the natural staging post for a crew of ambitious Rogue Traders. Whether it is the start of a new campaign or a new foothold in an ongoing one, the Explorers will find numerous factions and leads to explore here. The dynasty may be an existing fixture in the Gulf, or invited to the orbital offices of another Rogue Trader to discuss opportunities and partnerships.

Explorers who are eager to reclaim lost human worlds in the name of the Emperor will find eager supporters in the Colonial Administration’s chief committee. They have freshly-drafted regiments from the recently reconquered Vanshaya standing ready for deployment, but the IN:CA will demand a proof of ability before seconding a regiment to the Explorers. Commodore Vessenquin of the Imperial Navy recently reported a new pirate coalition forming at the rogues’ haven system known as Okhropir. If the Explorers can capture a few officers from this new organization and bring them back to the Imperial Navy for questioning, the Colonial Administration will be eager to lend them the manpower they need.

The system is abuzz with the rumour that a cache has been recovered from the ill-fated and mysteriously vanished Huville Expedition. Wild stories claim that it contains charts of stable warp routes through the Saintstorms, planetary surveys of yet unheard of human worlds in the Gulf, the trail of an STC, and even a recording of Magos Huville himself. Whatever the truth of the contents may be, one lucky group will know for certain after the auction on Serenity Base concludes. If the Explorers wish to have a chance to get their hands on the cache, they must get invitations to Serenity and win a bidding war that is certain to get hot – especially with Huville’s fanatical adherents so close by.



reliable auguries foretelling that a space hulk known as the Wandering Siren will break warp near the world Widald, not far from Serenhold


Eager to strike a deal with some ambitious newcomers, Wray Industries and the Tobius Salvaging Company have an endeavour that requires a capable and daring group. A Tobius executive will inform the Explorers that they have reliable auguries foretelling that a space hulk known as the Wandering Siren will break warp near the world Widald, not far from Serenhold. The hulk is known to be an amalgamation of Imperial hulls dating back to the Psyren Scourge and possibly as far back as the Reign of Blood. If the Explorers can catch the hulk, board it, and halt it, Tobius wish to break it up to salvage its rare hulls. Anything that is not part of a starship superstructure is free for the Explorers to loot, if they can pry it from the hands of whatever creatures dwell aboard the hulk…





Notes for GMs

Serenhold is a facade. Significant effort and investment has been made to sell the illusion that this domain is a part of the Imperium, and it is such an alluring lie that it’s easy to forget that Zero-One alone is lord and master here. In truth, this is how most Imperial colonial efforts operate and the local chapters of Imperial institutions know it well, but Serenhold attracts the types of people who thrive in the murky gray depths of false legitimacy. Adventures set at Serenhold should be a constant struggle against institutional corruption, two-facedness, and crime-by-other-names enduring simply because the criminals pay rent to 01.

Rogue Trader players should find this climate to be their ideal element: presence of familiar institutions to be leveraged, and the extra-territorial freedom to pursue any ambition. However, the players are not first on the scene and if they don’t make a quick name for themselves by ruthless cunning they are liable to become pawns in someone else’s web of schemes.

The authorities operating out of Serenhold are likely to be more pragmatic than their in-sector cousins, with fewer nepotistic quagmires to get stuck in. But those stationed out here are most likely to be either too incompetent or too ambitious for sector politics. It’s never going to be clear if an official at Serenhold is acting on Imperial interests or their own – Zero-One least of all.

If you are using Serenhold as a campaign hub, it’s an ideal place to make contact with the Ranamanda Syndicate, the Protectorate of Vanshaya, or the Rogue Trader dynasties of Vipinicus and von Kroyer. Once the players have made a name for themselves, they may even be roped into the Cesk Expedition.

Themes

  • The Last Bastion of Civilisation
  • The Thin Veneer of Civil Society
  • Abuse of Absolute Power




Aspis-class Corvette

Designed by the singular Magos Huville of the Forge World Morningstar in 994M36, the Aspis Corvette was made to serve as a convoy escort in the Perios sector, protecting valuable shipments from the predations of separatist raiders. Its small size and light armour makes the Aspis cheap and fast to manufacture, and it compensates its defenses with a set of Morningstar-pattern auxiliary void shield projectors.

Dimensions: 1.5 km long, 0.4 km abeam at fins approx.
Mass: 6.8 megatonnes approx.
Crew: 17,000 crew, approx.
Accel: 7.0 gravities max sustainable acceleration.

Speed: +5
Maneuverability: +20
Detection: +10
Hull Integrity: 30
Armour: 12
Turret Rating: 1
Space: 32
SP: 31
Weapon Capacity: Dorsal 1, Prow 1

Easy to Repair: When affecting long term repairs, this ship may repair an additional +2 Hull Integrity if the repairs succeed.

Integral Component: The Aspis always has one Huville-Pattern Auxiliary Shield Projector (already accounted for in the ship’s Space)

Huville-Pattern Auxiliary Shield Projector

The Huville-Pattern shield projector adds 1 void shield to a single facing of the ship. As a free action in combat, once per round, the shield can be redirected towards a different facing with a successful (+0) Tech-Use test.

“…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.

House Vipinicus

“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.

Dramatis Personae

Quisker Vipinicus

“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.

Galahad Vipinicus

“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.

Other notables

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.

Current Endeavors

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. 





Game Hooks

Rogue Trader

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.

Dark Heresy

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.

Only War

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)

“A word of advice my Lord Captain: Don’t start anything your descendents can’t finish” 

Famula Superior Aruna, Order of the Sacred Coin

Rogue Traders excel above all at excess. Their opulent holdings and grandiose acts inevitably dwarf those of the Imperium’s lesser nobility. To the little people they are as gods of the material realm; every word is a commandment, every deed is legend. Never is this more evident than when two Rogue Trader dynasties go to war.  

The origins of the feud are long forgotten, but the great houses of von Kroyer and Vipinicus have been embroiled in a slow war for generations. The game the two dynasties play has sprawled across civilised space and into the frontier regions of the Morana Gulf. Assassinations, smear campaigns and interplanetary wars have all been but minor moves. The worst excesses of the conflict have seen entire planetary civilisations derailed, unwise alliances struck and invincible enemies made. 

Now the conflict stands at a crossroads. Both sides have fought to a stalemate. An opportunity presents itself for outsider factions who may wish to profit from this ancient feud. A well placed finger on the fulcrum of power could decide how the next stage of the conflict will play out. 

House von Kroyer

“Omnis Mundi Est Scaena – All Worlds Are a Stage” 

Motto of House von Kroyer

The extended war with Vipinicus and a string of unrelated misfortunes have seen the power of the von Kroyer dynasty at a low ebb. This once-mighty house has been reduced to a single small fleet of raider-class ships (albeit fronted by the ancient and formidable Havoc the Star Wyvern), a few commercial transports and a cluster of business ventures in the safety of Imperial space. A recent and particularly humiliating blow to the dynasty was the assasination of its patriarch, the Lord Captain Magnus von Kroyer, on his own bridge by agents of House Vipinicus. Kennoch, a distant cousin of Magnus and seemingly the last heir to the von Kroyer warrant was quickly fetched from the pleasure world Eno to take up the mantle of command. 

Though eccentric, Kennoch has since been able to assemble a senior command crew of singular talent and ambition and begun a small number of profitable ventures to restore his house to its former glory. Perhaps fearing that such small steps will not be enough to keep Vipinicus from finally crushing his dynasty, Kennoch has also taken the controversial decision to form an alliance with the enigmatic Zero-One, Arch-Magos of Serenhold. This frontier tech-wizard is undeniably powerful and has absolute control over a nascent forge world, but Kennoch’s other allies fear that entering a pact with such a grey eminence represents a devil’s deal. The most cynical among them believe the dynasty has essentially consigned itself to become a vassal of the Adeptus Mechanicus for all eternity.  

Dramatis Personae

Star Wyvern bridge crew c998M41

Kennoch von Kroyer

“This very pleasing alliance will bring us many treasures and grand adventures. Now, let the dances be commenced!” 

A bargain is struck

Flamboyant, erratic and perhaps secretly a machiavellian strategist of rare genius, Lord Captain Kennoch von Kroyer is exactly what many expect of a rogue trader. Kennoch has never been seen in public without a mask, and travels everywhere with two identically masked and costumed companions. His bodyguard comprises a troupe of dancers and acrobats, as highly trained in the arts of performance as in the more subtle arts of killing. 

Everything the rogue trader does has an air of drama and pageantry about it, from his cryptic style of speech to his habit of subjecting business partners to impromptu dance recitals. Those who write him off as a decadent eccentric should be warned, Kennoch has a keen eye for talent and is as generous in courting the loyalty of his allies as he is scrupulous in vetting them for signs of treachery. 

Alise Barrow

“If you unjustly injure any one of my men, I will reduce every city on this planet to rubble.” 

Triumphant address to the people of Vanshaya

Born into service to the dynasty aboard their flagship the Star Wyvern, Barrow advanced up the ranks from deck gang enforcer to sergeant of the ship’s watch, before rising to become Lord Kennoch’s trusted second. She regards the crew of the Wyvern her family and stops at nothing to punish those who threaten them. Barrow leads the armsmen and troops of the dynasty with equal parts inspired loyalty and ruthless terror, and is known to take great glee out of inventing cruel punishments for traitors and saboteurs.

Given authority to execute the strategies of the dynasty, Barrow has championed the restoration of the von Kroyer House Cohorts and orchestrated several planetary invasions to secure the house’s means of exacting vengeance on the Vipinicus. While Alise trusts her underlings to get most jobs done, she is not one to lead from the back. She is a champion street fighter and fencer, often first through the breach on boarding actions, and legends abound that she once bested the space marine Mihu Metal-Teeth in single combat.

Piers Vypus

“I am an honourable man. If it falls to me to atone for the crimes of my so-called cousins then I will do everything in my power to set things right” 

Count Vypus cuts ties with the Vipinicus dynasty

A recent addition to the von Kroyer inner circle, Count Piers Liupold Xenon Vypus is the head of his minor noble family who has pledged the services of his own house to the dynasty in exchange for protection. Although publicly the alliance was a mutual business transaction, in truth house Vypus is a cadet branch of the Vipinicus family. Weary of Vipinicus’ treachery and fearing the dynasty may be standing at a precipice, Count Vypus has quietly defected to the von Kroyers. 

In exchange for fealty and information about key strategic weaknesses in Vipinicus’ empire, Lord Kennoch has granted Piers the command of the raider Black Star and a considerable stake in the dynasty. The urbane and good-natured Count Vypus appears to have placed absolute trust in Kennoch and his house, and has fought and negotiated alongside them in a number of key endeavors. 

Other notables

Mobius Oblidus: Lord Kennoch’s taciturn Astropath Transcendent is a telepath and telekine of frightening power. Unbeknownst to the dynasty, he is also an undercover mole reporting regularly to the Inquisition. Oblidus is a zealous devotee of the Imperium and follows a peculiar heterodox creed combining worship of the Emperor with that of the Omnissiah. Despite his ulterior allegiance, in public he has never shown anything but complete loyalty to the von Kroyer dynasty. 

Myrrine Ruhk: A scion of a disgraced navigator house. Navigatrix Ruhk’s previous career steering for an infamous fleet of corporatist pirates saw her serving time on a maximum security penal asteroid before the dynasty had her released into their service. Though a Navigator of singular talent, Ruhk is capricious, avaricious and almost pathologically reckless. Though she is currently loyal to the dynasty (and to Barrow, of whom she is particularly fond), the promise of greater excitement and profit could lure her into the employment of another house. 

Valtyr: The grave and serious Explorator, cognomen “Valtyr-137” is the dynasty’s most senior enginseer, and their primary contact with the mechanicus. A specialist in ancient voidcraft, Valtyr sees his placement on the venerable Star Wyvern as a sacred duty and rarely leaves the ship. As an independent Explorator with allies elsewhere in the Mechanicum, Valtyr has no great love for Zero-One, and deeply regrets the alliance Lord Kennoch has struck with the egomaniacal magos. 

Current Endeavors

The Ranamanda Syndicate

After delivering several senior executives of an up and coming industrial cartel to inspect an ork-infested mine, the von Kroyers were able to leverage the threat of an imminent greenskin attack to negotiate a partnership in the Ranamanda Syndicate. Although the presence of a Rogue Trader among the syndicate’s membership brings some extremely useful perks, some senior partners are not happy with the prospect of their cartel being hijacked and have begun to plot against the dynasty in secret.

Simia Saltatores

Named for its “dancing” binary stars, the Saltatores system was discovered and claimed by the von Kroyer dynasty while exploring somewhat aimlessly in the Redstorm Reach. Surprisingly for a binary system, Saltatores hosts life-supporting worlds: Saltatores V, an ice world home to some primitive jelly-like organisms, and Saltatores IV aka Simia, named for the large variety of massive ape-like beasts which fill the role of apex predators on five of its seven continents. The dynasty is now working to establish a colony, hoping to profit from giant ape safaris and from the abundance of uranic elements beneath the planet’s crust. 

Reconquest of Sovortana

Sovortana was a rarity: a civilised non-Imperial frontier world which was extremely friendly to the Imperium, even actively pursuing political integration in order to protect itself from hostile neighbors. Alas, integration did not come soon enough to save Sovortana from invasion by another interstellar human kingdom, one which is far from keen on a close relationship with the Imperium. In order to drum up public support and attract a zealous rabble to their cause, the von Kroyers have blamed the fall of Sovortana on historical interference and treachery by house Vipinicus and launched a media blitz to gather resources for a grand reconquest. Since their accusations are not entirely baseless they have won some modest support for their people’s crusade, including the endorsement of several subsector governments and even the blessing of Cardinal Skommosa of Diadoch Primus.  





Game Hooks

Rogue Trader

Lord Kennoch has approached the explorers’ own dynasty with a proposition of alliance, acting as a silent partner to elude the wrath of Vipinicus. If the explorers assist the von Kroyers with their endeavors they will receive a hefty share of the profits and a possible senior partnership in the Ranamanda syndicate. 

The von Kroyers have identified several colony worlds in the gulf in which Vipinicus have a significant stake. Under the guise of a benign trade or supply mission, the explorers could covertly sabotage these colonies to ensure Vipinicus never collect on their investment. Depending on their preferences and strengths, this could take the form of physical damage to infrastructure, fostering rebellion among the colonists, cunningly diverting colonists to their own projects, or even bringing the worlds to the attention of other factions who might make it difficult for Vipinicus to turn a profit. The von Kroyers will pay handsomely for every colony sabotaged. 



They have asked the explorers’ dynasty to offer up one of their own (perhaps even one of the explorers) as the prospective bride or groom.


The von Kroyers have promised another noble ally of theirs a politically advantageous marriage in exchange for hefty investment in their endeavors. They have asked the explorers’ dynasty to offer up one of their own (perhaps even one of the explorers) as the prospective bride or groom. Once the engagement is made, a suitably lavish wedding will need to be organised, wealthy and powerful guests persuaded to attend, and the ceremony will need to be protected from the interference of house Vipinicus. Even if the ceremony goes off without a hitch, the newlywed may have some outrageous demands of their own. 

Confident that their new ally is reliable and trustworthy, the von Kroyers have issued the explorers’ dynasty with an official letter of marque. This document is endorsed by their allies in nearby sector governments, and authorises the explorers to freely raid and plunder Vipinicus shipping convoys travelling outside Imperial borders. The convoys are usually extremely well defended, but they might be tricked, outmaneuvered or otherwise induced to lower their defenses. Any loot, ships and hostages seized will belong to the explorers. 

Dark Heresy

Working through the same network of shady back-channels and Inquisitorial task-groups to which the astropath Mobius reports, a frontier Inquisitor has recruited your cell to operate from deep cover within the von Kroyer dynasty. As long as the goals of the dynasty align with those of your handlers you have been ordered to covertly assist them, but occasionally your missions may involve sabotage, assassination and the leaking of dynasty secrets…



The acolytes’ handlers are convinced she has intelligence which could lead to the capture of several heretics wanted for crimes against the Imperium.


The dynasty’s Navigatrix Primus was previously a chronic recidivist with an extensive network of underworld contacts across the sector. The acolytes’ handlers are convinced she has intelligence which could lead to the capture of several heretics wanted for crimes against the Imperium. Sneaking into the navigator spire and rifling through her belongings is an option, but like most of her kind, Navigatrix Ruhk is fairly paranoid and formidably powerful. Her fondness for illicit substances and high-stakes gambling is another possible approach, or she may respond to being approached directly. If asked openly for the information there is almost no chance she will part with it for free, and will likely ask the acolytes to perform some fairly strange and dangerous errands herself.  

An acolyte of a rival, ideologically opposed Inquisitor has evaded capture by your handlers’ own faction and has gone to ground on Serenhold, the Adeptus Mechanicus holy world ruled by the dynasty’s ally Zero-One. Under normal circumstances outsiders are not permitted to tread on Serenhold’s soil, but an exception has been made for Lord Kennoch’s servants. The acolytes are to use any means necessary to get themselves assigned to the next away mission to Serenhold and use the short time available to them to track down and capture (or at least kill) the rogue acolyte. The acolytes’ handlers would prefer they also complete their assigned away-mission task so as to maintain their good standing with the dynasty. 

The von Kroyers have made overtures to certain parties indicating they are interested in hiring a specialist in assassination and undercover work to be retained indefinitely. The acolytes are to put forward one of their own as a candidate to be recruited, but they should expect a gruelling trial against the best operatives in the region. Under the dynasty’s trademark twisted blend of theatrics and brutal efficiency, the acolytes must put their candidate through an undercover battle royale against a dozen deadly rivals aboard the Star Wyvern. Success will mean the end of the acolytes’ previous mission with the dynasty, and the start of a career as double agents.

Only War

The Guardsmen are either soldiers of the private von Kroyer Cohorts, mercenaries or a Guard regiment sworn to the service of the dynasty through a pact with the Munitorum. They have been placed under the direct command of Arch-Militant Barrow and her subordinate, Colonel Albus Hion to see that the dynasty’s military objectives are met. 

Lord Kennoch has insisted on personally inspecting a number of industrial sites, natural wonders and other points of interest on a planet known to be crawling with dangerous partisans openly funded by House Vipinicus. As a security measure a number of dummy tours with fake Kennochs have also been organised. The guardsmen have been assigned as a security detail for one of these jaunts but have not been informed whether their charge is the real Lord Captain. One or more guerilla ambushes and assasination attempts are all but assured, and should any harm come to the VIP (even if it’s a decoy) Barrow has promised to personally neuter the entire security detail to prevent them inflicting their ineptitude on future generations. There is also a very real risk that the Lord Kennoch the guardsmen are escorting will get bored on the road and insist they take part in some kind of eccentric game or daredevil test of skill for his amusement. 

In an attempt to drum up interest in their fledgling colony in the Saltatores system, the dynasty have concocted a scheme to capture one or more giant apes from the planet surface to display to wealthy patrons in civilised space. Big game hunters have had some success killing the animals for sport but some serious manpower will be needed to capture them alive. The guardsmen are given nonlethal weaponry and the unenviable task of tracking, subduing and restraining a six meter tall alien ape. The mission is complicated by the other hostile fauna on the planet, and a faction of renegade colonists who have begun worshipping the savage beasts. 



With no friendly ships currently in orbit able to provide support, it falls to the guardsmen to quickly fortify the pleasure-palace and repel the military attempt on their employer’s life.


Plans have gone awry and the von Kroyers have provoked Vipinicus into a truly reckless attack. Lord Kennoch is vacationing at his palatial estate on the pleasure world Eno when word reaches him that a large land force of Vipinicus troops and vehicles are rapidly inbound. With no friendly ships currently in orbit able to provide support, it falls to the guardsmen to quickly fortify the pleasure-palace and repel the military attempt on their employer’s life. The Lord Captain would also appreciate it if this could be accomplished without damaging too many priceless artworks, heirlooms and sentimental souvenirs, or disturbing the intimate party he’s throwing for his two hundred closest friends.   





Notes for GMs

How the von Kroyer dynasty and its various allies and agents should be portrayed in your games depends entirely on whether the players are the dynasty’s allies or enemies. When dealing with allies the von Kroyers will be generous, often lavishing them with gifts and assisting with any endeavors or missions the players might have. If the players take this generosity for granted however, it may be swiftly withdrawn (usually at the worst possible time). Enemies of the dynasty will be treated to a dizzying array of shock and awe tactics, including a hefty dose of trickery, false flag attacks and theatrical misdirection. In the political sphere, the von Kroyers will use intelligence-gathering, blackmail and extortion to attack the players’ allies and undermine their position. 

In void-based battles the von Kroyers field a small fleet of raiders led by the Star Wyvern, a Havoc class raider. Though fragile, the Wyvern has powerful weapons and is extensively outfitted for stealth and silent running. Enemies engaging the dynasty in space will find it very difficult to pin down their fleet as it constantly darts in and out of range, attempting flanking maneuvers, daredevil turns and making full use of debris fields and nearby planetoids to spring ambushes. If the fleet is horribly outgunned or outmaneuvered there is a strong chance that Navigatrix Ruhk will attempt an insanely risky warp translation, possibly pulling the dynasty’s enemies into the immaterium unprepared. 

Backgrounds

Only War

The Von Kroyer Cohorts

“If you desert down there, you better pray I don’t find you – because I will drag you back into orbit and then kick you out the airlock myself. You ligann blivits will not betray me for a planet.” 

Alise Barrow addressing soldiers preparing for shore leave

Life for soldiers in the private employ of the von Kroyer dynasty can be very comfortable compared to that of the rank and file in the Imperial Guard. Their equipment and rations are often better, their uniforms more flashy and their personal freedoms while off-duty are unparalleled. The glaring downside of the arrangement is that the chain of command is short, and at the top is a whimsical aristocrat who is equal parts gangster, pirate and theatrical director. 

The von Kroyer cohorts comprise a small private army of variable quality. Some of its members are transfers from the Imperial guard, or the veterans of mercenary companies bought outright by the dynasty, and comport themselves with dignity and professionalism. Others are criminals and no-hopers who had the misfortune of being blackout drunk when the dynasty’s recruiters kicked down the door of the spaceport’s saloon.  The latter group soon learn that failure is often met with a swift kick out of the nearest airlock. 

The Von Kroyer 2nd Light Recon

Characteristic Modifiers: +3 Ballistic Skill, +3 Fellowship, +3 Perception, -3 Willpower

Starting Skills: Awareness, Commerce, Scrutiny

Starting Talents: Combat sense, Die Hard, Pick one; Street Fighting, Sure Strike or Takedown. 

Private Enterprise: Mercenary regiments are able to concentrate their resources for maximum impact. Characters from mercenary regiments start with an additional 10 logistics rating. Unfortunately the profit motive of the mercenaries makes them less likely to risk life and limb in battle. Any command tests to convince characters from a mercenary regiment to risk life and limb take a-10 penalty.

Commander: Col. Albus Hion (Sanguine)

Regimental Doctrine: Reconnaissance Regiment

Equipment Doctrine: Demolitions – The regiment gains a +10 bonus on all Logistics Tests made to obtain grenades, missiles, explosives, and special tank ammunition.

Wounds: Standard

Standard Regimental Kit: One M36 lasgun and four charge packs per Player Character (Main Weapon), two frag grenades and one krak grenade per Player Character, 1 suit of light carapace armour, 1 set of best quality field gear (Fancy uniform, high-tog cold weather gear, bandolier, rucksack, set of well-machined basic tools, mess kit, water canteen and hip flask, comfortable blankets and sleep bag, rechargeable lamp pack, fine grooming kit, set of ident tags, 1 copy of Ye Dynastia von Kroyer, 2 weeks tasty rations), one opulent parade uniform per player character, one flask of Chateux von Kroyer amasec per player character, One Sentinel Scout Walker per Squad, and one set of magnoculars per Player Character.

Favoured weapons: Bolter, Multilaser

The 2nd cohort pull double-duty for the dynasty. Their primary mission is rapid recon and sabotage on frontier worlds and facilities controlled by the dynasty’s rivals. Whenever not engaged in the theater of war they are expected to look dashing in parades arranged in the dynasty’s honour, and to act as escorts for the Lord Captain’s motorcade. 

New Regimental Origin: Mercenary

Cost: 3

Characteristic Modifiers: +3 to any two of the following characteristics – Ballistic Skill, Toughness, Fellowship

Skills: All mercenary characters start with Commerce and Scrutiny

Private Enterprise: Mercenary regiments are able to concentrate their resources for maximum impact. Characters from mercenary regiments start with an additional 10 logistics rating. Unfortunately the profit motive of the mercenaries makes them less likely to risk life and limb in battle. Any command tests to convince characters from a mercenary regiment to risk life and limb take a -10 penalty.

A Motley Crew: Mercenaries often hail from a variety of backgrounds, united only by a common aptitude for violence. Characters from mercenary regiments may choose one of the following talents – Street Fighting, Sure Strike or Takedown

Starting Wounds: Mercenary characters generate starting wounds normally. 

“Numberless were her cattle, her slaves, her concubines. Indestructible her star-ships and her biomyrmidons. Her dynasty’s name will be worshipped even unto the darkening of the stars”   

Epitaph found in the tomb of Sumaserakh XII, Gene-Lord of Oruk

The region of space now known as the Morana Gulf was once a prosperous Imperial sector, until the coming of the Enslavers. Known as the Psyren Scourge to Imperial scholars, the enigmatic and deadly warp entities brought entire worlds under their thrall and wreaked apocalyptic damage upon a score of star systems. The Imperium acted from cruel necessity; a quarantine lasting several thousand years was enacted, and the once-thriving worlds of the Gulf were left to die. Forsaken by their empire, isolated and beset from all sides by horrors which defied human comprehension, some worlds refused to succumb…

Oruk was one such world. Their origins are forgotten, but one fateful day the Gene Lords became the masters of the backwater Agri-World. Free of the ideological fetters and closed-minded prescriptions of the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus, the ruling elite of the planet became masters of the strange and dismal science of genetic manipulation. Using their dark sciences to protect themselves from the Psyren Scourge, the Gene Lords ruled as living gods for a millennium or more. The true history of these events has been reduced to mere myth; stories passed on in hushed tones by refugees who were somehow able to slip past Imperial blockades and nightmares of the region’s collective unconscious. Equally mysterious is the Gene Lords’ fate, all that is known is that they no longer hold dominion over Oruk. All that survives of their ancient reign are scattered tribes of degenerate mutants and the forbidding ruins of ancient palaces, forts and tombs. 

Oruk has recently attracted the attention of an alliance of cults serving the Ruinous Powers, a state of affairs which will not go unopposed by the vanguard forces of the Inquisition.

Locations

Oruk System

Tombs of the Gene-Lords

“The ratings have been jumpy since the Sergeant-at-arms was liquified, Lady-Captain. They believe the tombs to be cursed.” 

Flavius Rexana, Seneschal to Rogue Trader Moliel Va’ash

Even with their unequaled mastery over flesh and data, the Gene-lords could not escape death. When their ambitions for ever grander tombs began to test the limits of what was possible to construct within a gravity-well, their architects began to look to the void. 

Numerous beyond counting, the mausolea of the Gene-Lords crowd the inner asteroid belts and rocky moons of the Oruk system with their vast tomb complexes and city-sized catacombs. Most have already been plundered of their treasures by the brave and foolhardy. Some yet remain, well hidden or well protected by lethal traps and dormant but still-functional security systems.

The Jungles of Oruk

“Three stinking weeks out here. No slaughter, no trophies, just digging. The drekkin bugs have spilled more blood than we have” 

Vakaar the Pain Worm, Khornate Heretic

In ancient times perhaps it was not so, but now almost the entire surface of Oruk is covered in impenetrable toxic jungle. Twisted into new forms by the Gene-Lords dead science, the plant and animal life in this hellish morass is strange and hostile.

Iridescent swarming insects have a sting which can drive a man to psychedelic madness, birds mimic human speech to lure the unwary into bogs so the flock can feast, fragrant trees bear a fruit so sweet that the poor fools who eat it do not seem to mind that it is also fatally toxic. The sole masters of the jungle are the mutant natives, descendents of the Gene-Lords’ chattel and experiments, or perhaps even devolved descendants of the masters themselves. Secretive and elusive, the native tribes prefer to avoid contact with outsiders, and will tend to flee unless their hidden settlements are threatened.

The hostility of Oruk’s environment is rivaled only by Death Worlds like Catachan and Benediction, but beneath the jungle canopy and the very earth below, lies the promise of knowledge and power beyond mortal understanding.

The Ziggurats

“You who violate my sanctum, the very air is ripe with my curse. Your lineage will live in frailty and pain unto the thousandth generation.”

Inscription found inside the ziggurat of Themet III

If scholars ever came to Oruk they would argue over the function of the ubiquitous ziggurats which litter the surface. Were they palaces, fortresses, laboratoria? Even accounting for the hostility of Oruk’s environment, investigating these monumental stone structures has proved difficult. Some ziggurats are visible from orbit and aerial reconnaissance but seem to vanish when viewed at ground level, and vice versa. Some appear hollow to auspex, only to be revealed as solid piles of stone when their gates are finally breached. 

A rare few of these structures connect to seemingly boundless networks of subterranean tunnels, ancient Gene-Lord facilities where they practised their dismal arts. These pitch-black halls are crowded with grotesque engravings and eerie statues depicting various Gene-Lords’ triumphs over the scourge of the Enslavers, other stellar kingdoms, and their local rivals. Cavernous chambers house serried ranks of statues in the shape of tentacled warriors (whose hollow forms conceal degraded genetic material of uncertain provenance). Those who brave the darkness and penetrate the abyssal depths of the facility may find that the most potent creations of the Gene-Lords are not dead, merely waiting…

Other locations

Altevad’s Bastion: Time-worn charts of the Oruk system dredged from ancient Imperial archives note the presence of a truly formidable star fort in stellar orbit between the fourth and fifth planets of the system, its orbit has likely drifted over aeons. If the Bastion can be found and reactivated it represents an ancient and formidable weapon. Anyone who boards this relic should beware though, a Gene-Lord bioweapon of apocalyptic power is still active within its accursed bulkheads.  

Oceans of Oruk: The waters of Oruk do not teem with hostile life as do the jungles, but the oceans did not escape the attentions of the Gene-Lords. The creatures found beneath the waves are often strange and unnatural, and deep subsurface auguries conducted by previous expeditions have detected the presence of cyclopean structures in the abyssal depths which may not be strictly natural.

Valley of Sin: This sweltering and relatively dry valley was chosen as a landing site by Magos Agment at the start of their ill-fated expedition almost 200 years ago. No survivors were reported, but some traces of the Adeptus Mechanicus mission may still remain which might shed light on its fate.





Factions

The Gene-Lords

“Their horrors and wonders both are the stuff of fairytales on a hundred worlds. Perhaps they could live again in us, if we could only match the purity of their brilliance… and their cruelty  

Genetor Ioumanns, Inquisitorial Acolyte [excommunicate traitoris]

While the term Gene Lords may imply a single faction of godlike rulers, in truth it is simply a catchall term employed by Imperial scholars to refer to the ruling classes of Oruk over the period of the quarantine. Non-Imperial civilisation on Oruk spanned at least a thousand years, and by some estimates as long as three millennia. Across this period numerous Gene Lord dynasties rose and fell, at times the world was unified under a single god-king, at others it was ravaged by war as numerous pretenders struggled for supremacy. What unites the Gene Lords across their history is their unquestioned mastery of the mysteries biologis and the cruelty and arrogance with which they ruled. Perhaps this arrogance was earned, by their might and technological prowess alone were the Psyren kept at bay. 

Although they are long dead and gone, the Gene Lord’s influence still lingers over the system. The descendents of their experiments and their bio-thralls still stalk the jungles they cultivated. Within ancient tombs and facilities, ancient security systems still remain active on seemingly inexhaustible power reserves. The disgraced survivors of previous Imperial expeditions to the surface of Oruk have even expounded wild theories that the Gene Lords are not dead at all, they have simply used their dark sciences to transform themselves into more durable forms, against the day they reawaken and recapitulate their ancient reign of terror.

The Keepers of the Mysteries

“P̮̱̻͇̰͕i̘̣̼̖͜t̴ị͚̺͔̫͚͓f͓̲u̜̳̘̮͡l̼͟ͅ ͙c͖̺͎̕r̖͇̩̻̪̝͙e̵͎͖͍ͅa͙̰͙t̛u̮̜̫r̪͎͓͕̼e̦̟̝͎s̷̭̬͓̞̼.͓.̞́. ̶̹ẁo̞̱͇̜͙̗̭u͇̻ļ̥͕d̬͎̗̼̝̣̻s̺̪̞̼͍̼̳t̮͍͍ ̯t̮͖̟̣͟h̩̞͈͍͈o̯̞̞͜u̸̬̼̗ ̛͚̲̯͍̻̗m̫̭̫͖ḙ̻͍͈e̩͉̟͠t ͓̭͎t͏̬h̀e͈͖͡ ͚̫ͅK҉̗͓e̶͇͕͔̪͓͕͚ẹ͎̲̮͉̩͝ͅp̯e̼̪̳̲͓̖̱r̵̙̮̲s̯̠̖̰̗?̘͖̟” 

CORE KERNEL ERROR MESSAGE

When the Horus Heresy split the Imperium asunder, so too did the Adeptus Mechanicus divide. The vile magi who sided with the Ruinous Powers over ten thousand years ago sired countless heretical splinter factions of the Cult of Mars collectively known as the Dark Mechanicus. The Keepers of the Mysteries are one such. 

Unconcerned with the mundane laws which constrain their uncorrupted brothers, the dark ships of the Keepers glide through the lawless spaces beyond the borders of the Imperium in search of heinous and forbidden knowledge. Any who oppose them in the void will find their ship’s systems infested with daemonic scrapcode while the dark magi whisper secrets over vox to drive even the strongest minds mad. While many who have faced the Keepers have been defeated before they could fire a single shell, the dark magi are single-minded in their pursuit of forbidden lore and have been known to ignore vessels which neither interest nor oppose them.

The Keepers and their allies among the servants of Chaos have recently turned their attention to Oruk and the dark lore of the Gene Lords. Should the Dark Mechanicum succeed in uncovering the vile sciences which allowed the Gene Lords to survive the Psyren Scourge they would pose an intolerable threat to the safety of the Imperium.

The Inheritors

“Form ranks and open veins, time for the daily bleedin’!”

Sergeant Orgus the Brass Beast

Allies of the Keepers from among the ranks of followers of the Ruinous Powers. The Inheritors are worshippers of the Blood God, but they are no mindless berzerkers. Motivated by an ancient prophesy, the Inheritors seek to conquer and maim in the belief that one day soon a bloody messiah will arise who will lead them to glorious dominion over the local stellar cluster. Where some chaos cults field vast rabbles of frothing fanatics and gibbering mutants, the Inheritors have organised themselves as a disciplined and professional military force with a well-delineated command structure and a gruelling regimen of training. This backbone of professional soldiering is supplemented by the twisted murder-machines provided by their allies in the Dark Mechanicum, and the intercession of khornate daemons summoned by their brutally efficient slaughter. 

The Inheritors have landed on Oruk at the behest of the Keepers and have established a fortified base camp from which they intend to excavate a jungle canyon they believe contains a secret entrance to the otherwise impenetrable ziggurat known as the Hollow Palace. Occasional hunting parties dispatched into the jungle have been able to kill and enslave a number of mutants, which they are using to assist with the excavation, and in bloody sacrifices to their dark god.

Other Factions

Mutants: The degenerate descendents of the Gene Lords’ thralls live as hunter-gatherers in isolated and well-hidden villages and seem to have no interest in contact with offworlders. Unlike most feral-worlders they are not impressed or cowed when confronted with high technology, though they inevitably retreat if attacked with firearms. No expedition has so far been able to decipher their spoken language, which seems to lack any relationship to known forms of low or high gothic. If enslaved they work without much complaint as long as they are closely watched, but their unwillingness to learn complex tasks makes them worthless for all but the most menial labours. They will attempt escape at every opportunity.

The Cesk Expedition: On receiving word from a routine scout patrol that forces of the ruinous powers had been sighted in the Oruk system, Inquisitor Hieronima Cesk rapidly set to action. Calling in favours, she has fast-tracked and commandeered an expedition to the world originally funded by the Organicist Magi of the forge world Gjanisborg. Cesk is an independent Inquisitor with decades of experience stalking the lawless fringes of Imperial space, and has secured the services of both the Imperial Guard and a powerful Rogue Trader dynasty to bolster her own forces.

Gjanisborg:  Hailing from a Forge world specialising in vat-grown organics and genetic lore, the magi of Gjanisborg were eagerly organising an expedition to plunder Oruk’s secrets when Inquisitor Cesk stepped in. The genetors still maintain a major presence on her expedition, but are none too pleased at having been demoted to junior partners in service of Cesk’s personal crusade against the ruinous powers.





Game Hooks

The following adventure hooks can all be tied together into a single narrative which involves characters appropriate for Dark Heresy, Only War and Rogue Trader all pursuing parallel goals on a military expedition to Oruk. Each adventure can be tweaked to stand alone, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, they could be tied together into a single epic excursion.

Rogue Trader

Introduction: Through bribery, blackmail, or calling in an old favour Inquisitor Hieronima Cesk has roped the Explorers’ dynasty into a dangerous expedition to Oruk. A small naval recon wing sent to scout the system reports enemy vessels of unknown strength currently patrolling the inner system around Oruk itself and the Inquisitor has wisely decided to recruit some muscle before attempting a run on the planet.

On arrival in the system, the Explorers will need to defeat, delay or trick a detachment of starships belonging to the Keepers of the Mysteries in order to deliver Cesk and her Guard regiments to the surface of Oruk. Beware, the Dark Magi employ strange and powerful weapons which represent a hideous perversion of the Omnissiah’s sacred gifts. A head-on battle with the Keepers is unlikely to go smoothly.



the Inquisitor has promised your dynasty a free pass to loot the orbital tombs scattered around the system


Once Cesk and her expedition are conveyed to the surface of Oruk, the Inquisitor has promised your dynasty a free pass to loot the orbital tombs scattered around the system. Though most have been picked bare or never contained anything of value a few may have gone unnoticed, and those already plundered may have secret chambers. While any technology that has survived will be of obvious value, some of the cultural items found in the tombs (statues, murals, tapestries, funerary urns and the like) may be of interest to wealthy collectors in civilised space. Of course, demand will be higher if the Explorers can encourage a fad for all things Oruk in Imperial high society. 

Provided Cesk and her Guardsmen can drive off the forces of chaos, the tech-priests of Gjanisborg are keen to turn the expedition back to its original purpose. Geneuch Alekosbreed, the dynasty’s contact among the mechanicus contingent of the expedition, has offered a substantial reward for any specimen of Oruk life which can be delivered alive and in one piece back to Gjanisborg. Of particular interest are the chattering Orphaner Shrike, Neverdead’s Panther and the toxic and elusive Cnidomorph.

Dark Heresy

Introduction: You are part of, or have been transferred to, Inquisitor Cesk’s investigative team for the expedition to Oruk. Your mistress is a cold, distant figure, constantly busy coordinating the expedition and its many moving parts. Orders are relayed via subordinate interrogators or coded missives and are expected to be followed with minimal clarification. While the expedition is well-equipped, supplies are finite and rare and powerful gear is not lightly bestowed on mere acolytes. 

Following a major engagement with the spacefleet of the Keepers in the outer system, the Inquisitor fears one or more of the escort vessels in the expedition fleet may have been infected with a malefic cogitator routine. The Acolytes must locate and purge this sentient technological horror, and any crewmembers it may have covertly subverted to its cause by inhuman cunning or outright assimilation.



…surgically altered at the hands of the Gjanisborgi techpriests to physically resemble the local mutants employed by the Inheritors as slave labour


Having made planetfall and established a secure basecamp in the jungle near the Hollow Palace, the Inquisitor immediately orders a hazardous deep-cover mission. The acolytes are to be stripped of all but the most discrete wargear and surgically altered at the hands of the Gjanisborgi techpriests to physically resemble the local mutants employed by the Inheritors as slave labour. Using their disguises to infiltrate the heavily-defended Inheritor camp, the acolytes are to gather and relay as much information as possible about the enemy’s composition, and identify their leadership. The acolytes’ report will be the immediate precursor to a beheading strike, and they are encouraged to sabotage everything they can on the way out.

Intelligence suggests that the Keepers and Inheritors have breached the Hollow Palace and are now closer to their heinous goal, whatever it may be. Under cover of a massive diversionary attack by the expedition’s Guard and Skitarii, the acolytes are to slip past the Inheritor forces and enter the Gene Lord ziggurat. If the acolytes are unable to keep whatever dark technology lies in the sepulchral warrens out of the hands of the enemy they must find and disable whatever is sustaining the facility’s seemingly impenetrable void shield so the Inquisitor’s flagship can level the site from orbit. If they have performed well up to this point, Cesk may even allow the acolytes a few minutes to try to escape.

Only War

Introduction: You are an Imperial Guard regiment sworn to serve Inquisitor Cesk in her holy endeavours on Oruk. You are not cleared to know or share crucial information about your opposition, and surviving an engagement is rewarded with hours of invasive screening back at base. Whenever not on deployment, the only danger to your life is the entire rest of the planet’s evil biosphere.



Losses against the Blood-god’s elite soldiers and the Dark Mechanicum’s death-engines are expected to be significant.


Orbital insertion is one of the most dangerous parts of interplanetary warfare, often left to the likes of Space Marines. Deploying onto hostile territory with no supply train, little air support, and danger-close orbital artillery, the guardsmen must occupy enemy positions and establish a beachhead. Losses against the Blood-god’s elite soldiers and the Dark Mechanicum’s death-engines are expected to be significant.

As part of a multi-pronged operation, the guardsmen are attached to one of the Inquisitor’s top interrogators on a mission to hunt down, kill, and “hear” several officers of the Inheritors. As the mission progresses, the guardsmen become more and more uncertain of the Interrogator’s own purity. Where do the guardsmen draw the line? Reading entrails? Speaking the memories of consumed minds? Human sacrifice? Do the ends justify all means?

A Gjanisborgi excursion into a nearby gene-lord ruin found more than they bargained for. An insidious and dangerously intelligent organism hides among the bio-enhanced skitarii, spreading throughout and subverting the bio-constructs like a spiteful contagion. The Inquisitor dispatches the guardsmen to contain the Mechanicus expedition, and to make certain that no trace of the infection can be allowed to spread.





Notes for GMs

Oruk is a setting completely beyond the limits of Imperial influence, a world of isolation, dread and the lingering echoes of ancient crimes. Any adventures here should emphasise the horror and cold, alien gravity of what the Gene Lords did during their long reign. Opportunities should also be taken to compare and contrast the Gene Lords with the Imperium; with whom they share a belief in survival at any cost, and the Keepers of the Mysteries, who mirror their thirst for dangerous and forbidden knowledge. 

Adventures in Gene Lord tombs and ziggurats can more closely resemble certain classic fantasy role playing games than the average 40krp adventure, but resist the urge to run them as simple dungeon crawls with a monster around every corner. Ancient security systems, bioweapons and the mechanical monstrosities of the Keepers should be treated more as mysteries or puzzles to solve, or narrative threats to be evaded by lateral thinking and ingenuity. Adventures in the jungles of Oruk will be similar to those on other famous death worlds like Catachan with the difference that the biological horrors of Oruk were designed. Plant and animal life can be as outlandish, bizarre and cruel as you like. If you can imagine it, you can bet the Gene Lords did as well, and they’d probably take just as much glee in springing their latest creation on the players as you do.

Themes

  • Forbidden Knowledge
  • Survival at any costs
  • Paranoia and isolation
  • Ancient crimes against nature

Touchstones

Classic tales of extraterrestrial body horror like the Alien franchise, The Thing and Annihilation will serve as excellent references for the lingering creations and bioweapons of the Gene Lords. The Lords themselves are of course inspired by the rulers of ancient civilisations of the fertile crescent: Ashurbanipal, Gilgamesh and the Pharaohs of Old Kingdom Egypt. When imagining the Keepers of the Mysteries, think one part Borg, one part Victor Frankenstein and one part Hannibal Lecter. While their militant allies the Inheritors are a spicy blend of religious fundamentalism and every right wing militia power-fantasy.





Plundering Gene Lord Tombs

Looting expeditions into the tombs and fortresses of the Gene Lords will, as standard, yield a large number of mundane artifacts and tomb goods: statues, bas-reliefs, jewellry, tapestries, dusty scroll cases and the like which may hold some value if the Explorers are willing to find specialist buyers or drum up general interest. Anything more unusual or valuable will require an arduous search, the bypassing of ancient security measures, or a treasure hunt following various narrative clues. Consult the table below for some possible treasures waiting to be uncovered, or use them as a baseline to create your own Gene Lord treasures. 

Spelunking these ancient tombs is not without risk, and the longer the Explorers choose to keep searching for riches the more difficult the challenge should become, and the more they or their lackeys should be exposed to sinister traps and the viral “curses” left behind by the Gene Lords.

Gene Lord Tomb Findings

D100 rollResult
01-04A small stone sarcophagus containing the mummified remains of a favourite pet
05-09A secret compartment contains the skeletal remains of hundreds of conjoined twins
10-14A sleek metal case holds twelve stoppered glass vials half filled with dusty sediment
15-19The immaculately preserved skin of a bio-engineered feline warbeast. If properly handled it could be fashioned into a suit of armour for a single person. (Count as a suit of best-quality xeno-mesh)
20-24A wickedly sharp ritual dagger which appears to have been grown from dental enamel (counts as best quality mono knife)
25-29A sophisticated crystal glass aquarium biohabitat contains only muck and the bones of long-dead fish. Water filtration, aeration, heating and auto-feeding still function on backup power. 
30-34A locket amulet opens to display a human fetus preserved in amber
35-39An exquisitely-wrought set of surgical devices appear to have been artificially grown from mother-of-pearl. If supplemented with gauze and other perishable supplies they will function as a best-quality medkit.
40-44A feasting table and seats for fifty guests are shaped from the contorted forms of naked human slaves infused with durable resin. Their anguished expressions suggest the resin was injected pre-mortem.
45-49An exquisite statue of a powerful Gene Lord is crafted from petrified wood. The absence of tool marks suggests it was grown, not carved. It stands at over two and a half meters tall – life size.
50-54The skeletal remains of twenty-six of the Gene Lord’s bodyguards lie on slabs clad in suits of fantastically ornamented carapace armour. Their dead fingers clutch working M35 pattern Bolters, though the unorthodox ammunition appears to have rotted away.
55-59An urn full of seeds that look like beads of black glass. If planted, they will grow an incredibly invasive strain of corn, inedible to normal humans. The corn consumes other plants, insects, and small vermin.
60-64A miniature stasis unit houses a tiny, immaculate tree. The miniature tree may be of interest only to a collector, but the stasis unit is undoubtedly archaeotech.
65-69What appears to be a canopic jar is in fact an elaborate life support unit containing a Gene Lord’s favourite concubine suspended in amniotic fluid. The occupant is extraordinarily beautiful, but if removed from the jar they will dissolve into a mass of putrid black slime within minutes.
70-74A throne of force-grown ivory is padded with synthetic muscle tissue. If carefully rehydrated and fed with sugar-rich solution the muscles will gently massage the back and buttocks of the occupant. A pleasant experience, if one doesn’t think about it too much.
75-78A metal sarcophagus produces an impossibly fast-grown clone of a single person, once, before falling silent for eternity. The clone has no memories, a full set of healthy organs, but is short one finger and one soul.
79-82An archaeotech tox-wand that can take a genetic sample and within 1d5 hours produce a vial of poison deadly to anyone descended from the sampled individual.
83-86A crotalid-hide scroll case contains a perfectly preserved warp navigation chart of the local stellar region dating back at least two thousand years. If a Navigator is able to decipher it they will find most, but not all, of the ancient routes are no longer viable. 
87-90A briefcase-sized metal box houses a dormant vore-weapon and several vials of pheromone dust which can be used to wake and direct the biomechanical killing machine.  
91-93Six glass ampoules of a drug which, when ingested, grants the user unnatural intelligence (4) for 1d5 days and inflicts 5 insanity points. Each dose taken after the first immediately inflicts a further 5 insanity points and causes any mental disorder the character has to become Acute. If they have no mental disorders or all their current disorders are acute, they develop a new severe disorder instead.  
94-96Among some other trinkets found in the ashen remains heaped inside a Gene Lord’s sarcophagus is a still-functional personal conversion field generator
97-98Among more mundane and ceremonial weapons, an archeotech hellpistol whose unusual power cell is fitted with an intravenous line. If drained of power the cell can be recharged by feeding it fresh human blood (donor takes one level of fatigue)
99In lieu of a casket a dessicated Gene Lord mummy lies interred in a fantastically ornamented Mk. I Aquila Lander. The sterile environment of the tomb has left it perfectly preserved and fully functional once refuelled. The exterior is plated with jewels and precious metal and the interior is luxuriously appointed in fragrant jungle timbers and the hides of rare beasts.
100Tucked into an innocuous corner of a colossal tomb complex, behind numerous discrete security systems and dummy chambers filled with lesser loot, an elaborate life-support device hums quietly. It contains a single genetically enhanced humanoid brain suspended in fluid and appears to be dormant, but alive. Theoretically it could be communicated with or implanted into an artificial body. Would such an action be wise? The Gene Lords were hardly human to begin with, and this one has been dead-dreaming for thousands of years…




Author’s Notes

Between the Keepers infecting comms systems with malignant viruses and Untouchable abominations hunting you in pitch black tombs, Oruk is a place full of fresh horrors. It’s saying something when the Khornate daemon-summoning army is the most mundane threat you’ll face in this system.

In our Rogue Trader campaign we spent long sessions fumbling around in the depths of the forgotten laboratory-mausoleums of the gene-lords on Oruk, after having snuck in disguised as Inheritors and their local slave chattel. I’m not sure we recovered much of value from that part of the adventure, but the assorted crap we hauled out of the system’s orbital tombs were enough to let us throw some really great theme parties back in civilized space.

“The High Protector wants ten million barrels of crude by next week. All hail the new boss, same as the old boss.”  

Ny Thoko, Oilfield Overseer

Vanshaya lies in a region of space which was, until recently, subject to a quarantine order by the Imperium due to a massive outbreak of deadly warp entities known as Enslavers. While originally a colony of the Imperium, millennia of isolation saw the planet diverge from Imperial customs and culture. Miraculously weathering the Enslaver scourge, civilisation flourished on Vanshaya and the world was eventually united under a federated global government and began limited exploitation of resources in their star system. A small but well-maintained fleet of raider-class vessels stationed in-system before the quarantine allowed the Vanshayans to protect themselves from pirates and opportunistic xenos. These ships also allowed them to engage in limited trade with nearby civilised worlds and human colonies, making short, unreliable hops through the warp without Navigators. 

This peaceful status quo would be shattered with the arrival of the Imperium in the form of the von Kroyer Rogue Trader dynasty. Using an incoming fleet of chaos reavers as justification, the dynasty engaged in some literal gunboat diplomacy,  using their guile and superior firepower to force the Consul of the Vanshayan federation to sign away his world’s sovereignty and establish an Imperial Protectorate. The independently-minded Vanshayan people were appalled at this cowardly capitulation, but the deed had been done. Within weeks, Imperial Guard regiments friendly to the von Kroyer dynasty had landed and seized control of spaceports and other strategic locations and the Consul was swiftly deposed (later assassinated) and replaced with a “High Protector” loyal to the Imperium.

Ultimately, the incoming reaver fleet was defeated long before they were able to reach Vanshaya, but the world’s fate was already sealed. Taking note of the planet’s vast reserves of promethium and robust tech-base and civilian infrastructure, Imperial authorities elected to maintain direct control over the world, buying the von Kroyer dynasty’s rights over the planet surface in exchange for a monopoly on void-based trade in the system. Vanshaya is now in the grip of interstellar culture shock. Open resistance to Imperial rule grows by the day, but the Emperor’s Law has come to Vanshaya, and the black gold beneath the planet’s surface ensures that it’s there to stay.

Locations

Daksina Jagaha

“Citizens are reminded that refusal to address officials in Gothic is grounds for revocation of free movement privileges”

Public bulletin, Protector’s Square

Once a bustling city of more than twenty million people, the Imperial Protectorate has divided the the planetary capital into a number of security zones in order to render the resentful populace more compliant. Rolling curfews are in effect, and interminable checkpoints manned by the Imperial Guard and Adeptus Arbites have left the streets alternately deserted and gridlocked. Imperial officials are keen to restore a profitable and stable status quo as quickly as possible, but the situation continues to deteriorate, with rebels now fully committed to a campaign of terror and assassination against those they see as brutal foreign overlords. 

Despite an increasingly low standard of public order, the city maintains a level of technology approximately equal to the average Imperial world, and the Protectorate authorities have seen to it that all the products and comforts they are accustomed to are available to them. The south-eastern part of the city is home to a sprawling network of docks and refineries, still busily engaged in distilling the world’s abundant crude oil into promethium: the Imperium’s life-blood. Elsewhere in the city, ancient stone buildings share a skyline with modern plascrete constructions and the boxy shapes of prefabricated Imperial architecture hastily erected to house the Protectorate’s instruments of power

The Trans-Continental

“We are sorry to announce that the scheduled service to *Hogenbruck* has been delayed by *forty-six hours*: This is due to unexpected rebel activity near Sternpoint”

Service announcement, Daksina Central Station

One of the crowning achievements of the Vanshayan civilisation, the Transcontinental rail girdles almost the entire width of the planet’s inhabited landmass and links most of its major population centers. Far more than a single track, the trans-continental is a locomotive super-highway, carrying everything from ultra-heavy traction-tankers to high-speed luxury maglev shuttles for the planet’s business elite. 

The Imperial authorities are naturally eager to continue to exploit this vital trade route, and have directed most of their occupation forces to protect strategic depots and interchanges to keep the promethium flowing from the oilfields to the shuttleports at Daksina Jahaga and Korburg. Alas, defending almost twenty-thousand kilometers of track is no easy feat, and sections of the line are regularly sabotaged or seized by rebel forces.

Hogenbruck

“They levelled my family’s hab for nothing. The footage didn’t even make it into the extended cut!” 

Anto Mattyahu, refinery worker

Once the most prosperous city on Vanshaya and a founding partner to the previous federal system, the city of Handigarh was a metropolis of ten million before House von Kroyer arrived. Disappointed with the lacklustre opposition offered by the Consulate’s forces, Kennoch von Kroyer turned the city into the set of a staged war to demonstrate his dynasty’s military prowess. Holo-vids of Imperial Knights demolishing armoured columns and insurgent forces terrorizing hab-blocks were forged here to espouse the von Kroyer triumph, and as a statement to the rest of Vanshaya: Resistance is futile.

Now renamed Hogenbruck, the city is being brutally redeveloped in Imperial fashion. Lucrative reconstruction contracts offered to allies of the High Protector and an influx of pilgrim colonists has turned the area into a burgeoning bastion of gothic culture. The Imperial Knights of House Faresi remain stationed out of Hogenbruck, awaiting their next contract from the von Kroyers or a more honorable employer. Until then they provide B-reel for war documentaries.

Other locations

Eksa: When Vanshaya was cut off from the Imperium they were not cut off from their faith. The Cult of the Emperor persisted as the world’s dominant religion and Eksa has always been its traditional centre. Owing to its holy status, this small city has been spared the violence meted out against the rest of the planet. Its ancient and spectacular temples are lively with the sound of votive drums and the ecumenical debates of Imperial missionaries who have come to disabuse the locals of a number of doctrinal misinterpretations.

Vanguard Starbase: Vanshaya’s formidable orbital starbase is a relic of the Imperium from before the planet was cut off by the quarantine protocol. Vanguard is a sprawling and well-defended facility comprising dozens of shuttle bays and berth for interstellar carriers and their escorts preparing to ship Vanshaya’s precious promethium out of the system. Since the occupation the starbase has played host to an increasingly colourful collection of guests as traders flock to the newly open market from across Imperial space.

Wilderness Zone:  An unbearably hot, humid and malarial rainforest occupies the equatorial lowlands far from the world’s major population centers. A favourite hiding place for rebel forces, the von Kroyer dynasty released a tribe of Kroot mercenaries under their employ into the jungle to root out the resistance. The Dynasty have since lost interest in the planet, but the xenos have not re-emerged, leading some to suspect the tribe and their Warsphere may still be hidden somewhere in the untamed depths…





Factions

The Vanshayan Protectorate

“Hmm, the rate of civilian casualties is a concern, certainly, but the Lord Governor is very pleased with the way we’re meeting the production quotas. If we can hold the insurrection off for a year I see promotions in our futures!” 

Count Altuidus Bleen, High Protector of Vanshaya

Within weeks of the von Kroyer coup, the Imperium dispatched a veritable legion of administrators, fixers, career politicians and other lackeys to begin bringing Vanshaya to heel. Headquartering in the sprawling Consular Complex at the heart of Daksina Jagaha, the offices of the Vanshayan Protectorate immediately began issuing edicts and unilateral decrees: the adjustment period was over, Imperial rule was to be the new status quo and industrial production was to escalate indefinitely to feed the ever-expanding Imperial war machine. 

At the head of the Protectorate administration is one Count Aluidus Procopius Jax-Hellene Bleen, a nobleman and unsuccessful career politician reassigned to the Vanshaya project following a string of ignominious postings at the head of various Adeptus Administratum divisions on the hive world Diadoch Primus. As befits the newly-minted despot of an occupied world, Bleen is vainglorious, paranoid and rules without regard or sensitivity for the conquered people under his charge. The administration beneath him is a viper’s pit of cronies, charlatans and disgraced Imperial officials reassigned to frontier space as a punishment. The shambolic Protectorate survives because it is backed by the hammer of the Imperial Guard and the seemingly endless resources certain interested parties are willing to invest to bring Vanshaya fully under Imperial control.

Vanshayan Free People’s Liberation Army

“They burn our ships. They bomb our cities. They steal our people for their wars between the stars. And they call me the monster? Then a monster I shall become, and monsters you will be alongside me!” 

Modisahrsa, Rebel Icon

When Vanshaya was annexed, more than half of its standing army was forced into penal regiments to fight and die on battlefields many lightyears away to atone for the sins of their homeworld. Of the remainder, many scattered and fled the cities, emptying armouries and ordnance stores.  

Forming independent partisan bands and guerilla forces, these rebel factions can now be found lurking in forgotten defensive networks across the planet. The Protectorate considers them a leaderless rabble and counts them as closer to vermin than a legitimate threat, but this fails to account for the many agents of Vanshaya’s Clandestine Service who evaded capture during the slipshod von Kroyer occupation.

Imperial analysts believe that these highly effective operatives are behind the enigmatic leader known as Modisahrsa, an agitator who broadcasts inflammatory speeches from an unknown location, urging the population to rise up against the Imperial occupation. Reports from interrogations of captured rebels suggest that Modisahrsa may be much more than that. They say that Modisahrsa walks among their people, that they guide the rebellion with cool patience and a clear vision, and that they alone control a third of Vanshaya’s missing stockpile of tactical ordnance.

The Ia’Sothan Peacekeepers

“An iron peace is better than a golden war” 

Ia’Sothan Proverb

Hailing from the culturally isolated mountain world of Ia’Sothos, the Peacekeepers are an Imperial Guard regiment frequently used as occupation forces on rebellious human worlds. Ritually tattooed and devoted to their own peculiar culture, the Ia’Sothans come from a highly ordered and spiritualistic society and are not given to fraternising with locals or chasing glory. Though these qualities leave them well-equipped for the task of maintaining order on Vanshaya, the Peacekeepers number less than two million active combatants on a world of almost three billion inhabitants. 

The Peacekeepers are commanded by Lady-General Farra Chi’Nwendu, a plain speaking and taciturn veteran of several successful occupations. Although on paper she answers directly to the High Protector, in practise the General takes her orders directly from the High Command of her home sector, and more often directs her guardsmen under her own initiative. Thus removed from the profit-seeking and politicking of the Protectorate, the senior officers of the Peacekeepers primarily aim to bring stability and order to the world, no matter the cost. If prometheum yields must fall or an unpopular truce must be struck with one of the less overtly terroristic rebel groups to ensure a stable future for Vanshaya in the name of the Emperor, the Peacekeepers consider it a price worth paying.

Other Factions

Knight House Faresi: When she was employed by the von Kroyer dynasty, Zazyria Faresi was promised a righteous war against xenos and the arch-enemies of humanity. Instead she and her family were abandoned on a fringe planet to maintain a symbolic occupation. As much as House Faresi enjoy stomping out insurgents, their god-machines cry for worthy opponents.

Iri Maerse: The tech-priests of Vanshaya did not turn away from the doctrines of the Cult of Mars during the long quarantine, though the millennia of separation did lead to the development of a culture most tech-priests would consider strange. The Iri Maerse or “Priests of Mars” in the local language, are a divided house. Around a third of the sect viciously oppose the Imperial invasion and have sided with various rebel groups, while the remainder of the cult see the arrival of the Imperium as a long-promised return to the fold of galactic society and a chance to reconnect with the true faith of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Ranamanda Syndicate:  An industrial cartel consisting of a number of powerful Imperial noble families, business concerns and even Rogue Traders, the Syndicate has begun to expand its activities beyond the mining colony from which it takes its name. It has identified the recently conquered Vanshaya as an investment opportunity and begun aggressively bidding on reconstruction and infrastructure contracts offered by the Protectorate.





Game Hooks

Dark Heresy

Introduction: The opening up of a civilized world untouched by the Imperium for so long is a rare occurrence. Much rarer is to find a world that has faced an Enslaver plague and survived. With no extant resources on the planet, the Inquisition must establish a fresh foothold on Vanshaya. This means securing resources, recruiting informants, and infiltrating local institutions. The acolytes are entrusted by their Inquisitor to set up this brand new network under the cover of a wealthy monastic order in Eksa.

A government in flux is a prime opportunity to develop assets. A director of the Trans-Continental has expensive habits and significant debts. A rebel organizer has a secret family in Imperial-controlled territory. An Imperial Guard general is suffering a crisis of faith over the treatment of the locals. Turn these people into agents of the Inquisition, willing or not.

A senior member of the Protectorate administration is either dangerously incompetent or in the pocket of a hostile, anti-Imperial faction from off-world. She can not be allowed to continue to negatively influence the stability of Vanshaya but her elevated position means she must be disposed of covertly. Framing the rebels or even tricking them into assassinating her are both options. There may be yet more subtle solutions.

The Enslaver outbreak which prompted the quarantine of this region killed billions of people and all but ended civilisation on a score of worlds, but somehow Vanshaya remained prosperous and untouched. How did they survive? Why do Vanshaya’s history books make no mention of the crisis? Why have no psykers been born on the planet in recorded memory? Do the answers lie in the blank space found on every Vanshayan map, beyond the Sleeping Saints mountain range?

Flipping the script: You are cast in the roles of agents for Vanshaya’s defunct Clandestine Service, now in deep cover and working covertly to resist Imperial control. Espionage, assassination and terror are your weapons, and you have the home field advantage. Identify key Imperial personnel and facilities, plan your assault, then strike from the shadows, for Vanshaya!



Provide good opportunities for footage with high propaganda value


Only War

Introduction: Guardsmen of the Ia’Sothan Peacekeepers have been deployed to Vanshaya as an occupying force. Famed for their incorruptibility and just treatment of conquered people (provided they are Emperor-fearing humans) the guardsmen from Ia’Sothos are tasked with maintaining order for a corrupt and self-interested Protectorate government. 

The guardsmen are sent on a round trip of minor settlements across the Anzalia plains. In addition to rooting out rebel strongholds and securing key strategic sites (fuel depots, transmission masts etc.) they have also been tasked with citizen outreach: rendering what assistance they can to the locals in an attempt to convince them of the benefits of submitting to Imperial rule.  These tasks could be anything from repairing a tractor, to helping settle a decade-long blood feud between rival villages.

For reasons that shall forever remain a mystery, command has attached a war correspondent to the guardsmen’s unit. It is the squad’s duty to ensure the remebrancer’s safety, despite the fact that they keep asking stupid questions and walking directly into danger. The guardsmen must also provide good opportunities for footage with high propaganda value. 

The guardsmen are sent into the jungles of the Wilderness Zone to rescue a Protectorate official held hostage by a rebel faction. After finding the rebels skinned and ritualistically mutilated, the guardsmen must evade and survive the elite xenos terror that lurks in the dense jungle. Only the greatest warriors can enjoy the honour of being ingested by the kroot kindred.

Flipping the script: You are battle-hardened soldiers in the Vanshayan Free People’s Liberation army, currently operating from a hidden base in the jungles of the Wilderness Zone. Your orders come from the secret rebel command half a world away: intercept Imperial supply convoys, disrupt infrastructure, make an example of collaborators. If you succeed, melt back into the jungle and await further orders. If you fail, better you die with honour than in an Imperial torture chamber.

Rogue Trader

Introduction: Vanshaya is a wealthy world, and technically still beyond the borders of the Imperium, for now. With the von Kroyer dynasty apparently too distracted to manage their latest acquisition, an opportunity has presented itself for your own dynasty to make some coin…

The von Kroyers have managed to negotiate total control over void trade in the Vanshaya system, but they have largely lost interest in the planet itself. If goods could somehow find their way to the surface without going through official shuttle ports some hefty profit could be made. Or, if the Explorers don’t feel like smuggling, new industries and services could be developed on the planet, as long as they can navigate the turbulent political landscape.

When Vanshaya was invaded the von Kroyers arrived with allies including a tribe of mercenary Kroot operating from a Warsphere – a formidable superheavy voidcraft. Some time during the invasion the Warsphere landed in the jungles of the Wilderness Zone and the xenos have not been seen since. Orbital scans have not been able to locate anything through the thick forest canopy. If the Explorers can brave the sweltering, rebel-infested jungles and locate the Warsphere they may be able to engage the services of the xenos themselves, or purge the vile aliens and collect a handsome bounty from the Imperial administration. 

The Explorers are contacted by a representative of Vanshaya’s Consul-in-exile (whereabouts unknown) with an intriguing proposition: If the Protectorate were undermined and Vanshaya regained its status as an independent colony outside Imperial borders, the reinstated Consul would grant the Explorers’ dynasty total control of all incoming and outgoing trade. If they accept the offer, the Explorers will have to be extraordinarily cunning and subtle to topple the Protectorate without arousing suspicion, but if they manage to pull it off the rewards would be vast beyond their wildest dreams.





Notes for GMs

The central tension on Vanshaya comes from three major factions with conflicting goals. The Protectorate administration wants to extract as much profit as possible from the planet before moving on to new pastures, the Imperial Guard Peacekeeper forces are attempting to end the bitter civil war and negotiate some kind of status quo, while the rebels simply want all occupying forces off the planet.

The players can be encouraged to empathise with the rebels by playing up similarities between Vanshaya and modern-day Earth, after all, the planet has a fairly high level of technology and has managed to exist for millennia mostly untouched by the grim darkness unfolding around it.

Unlike in many games set in the 41st millennium, the enemy are not hostile aliens or frothing chaos cultists, but ordinary people with legitimate grievances against the Imperium. If the players wish to side with the rebels and retake the world from the Imperium this may be possible, but the road will be hard, the consequences for failure will be dire beyond imagining, and at best it will be a temporary reprieve. The Imperium will always return.

Themes

  • Resistance to occupation
  • Transitional government
  • Colonialism

Touchstones

Media centering around modern wars and their aftermath should be the primary inspiration for games set on Vanshaya. The paranoid and worn-out atmosphere in the divided capital city could be reminiscent of The Third Man, while urban rebel groups will largely use the same tactics as the French Resistance during the German occupation of World War 2. The conflict between Imperial forces and insurgents in the provinces is more like to be the kind of gritty, harrowing affair portrayed in films like The Hurt Locker, Green Zone and 13 Hours.





Backgrounds

Only War

Ia’Sothos 2280th Peacekeeper Regiment

“We understand your anger, but you must come to realise that your world is the Emperor’s now. Struggle for a thousand years, you will never again be free”

– Col. Nitha Sh’Rea addresses Vanshayan civilians

The Peacekeepers are considered an ideal occupying force due to their discipline and aloofness from the locals they have been ordered to subjugate. However, much to the dismay of self-interested Protectorate administrators, the imported Ia’Sothan regiments seem more interested in keeping order on the planet than in acting as Protector Bleen’s private army. Ia’Sothan culture values determination, mental discipline and serenity; traits which have earned the 2280th Mechanised the grudging respect of even the most bitter rebels.

Characteristic Modifiers: +3 Agility, +3 Intelligence, +3 Willpower, -3 Perception

Starting Skills: Climb, Common Lore (Imperial Creed), Common Lore (Imperium), Linguistics (Low Gothic), Operate: Surface, Trade: Tattooist

Starting Talents: Foresight, Rapid Reload

Blessed Ignorance: –5 penalty on all Forbidden Lore (Int) Tests

No Secrets Among Brothers: By ancient custom the people of Ia’Sothos are tattooed with their entire life histories: the place of their birth, their educational accomplishments, acts of valour, crimes. Because each Guardsman’s triumphs and failures are written on their skins, it is difficult for them to hold secrets from each other. Ia’Sothan characters suffer a -10 penalty to Deceive and Intimidate tests when interacting with other Ia’sothans. However, this openness breeds trust: Charm and Inquiry tests with others of their homeworld have a +10 bonus. 

Respectful Distance: The openness the Ia’Sothans have with each other is inverted when dealing with outsiders. Even with those they admire and respect, Ia’Sothans are guarded, aloof and certainly not quick to fraternise with the locals. Ia’Sothan characters suffer a -10 penalty to Charm and Inquiry tests when interacting with characters not of their homeworld. This guardedness can sometimes be an advantage, and confers a +10 bonus to Deceive and Intimidate tests with non-Ia’sothans.  

Sure-footed, clear-sighted: The majority of the surface of Ia’Sothos is covered in rugged mountains, which has bred a rugged resilience in her children. Ia’Sothan characters start with the Climb skill and gain a +10 bonus to survival tests in mountainous environments.

Regimental Doctrine: Mechanised Infantry

Iron Discipline: Starting Aptitude – Willpower 

Wounds: Standard

Standard Regimental Kit: One M36 lasgun and four charge packs per PC (Main Weapon), one suit of Imperial Guard flak armour per PC, two frag grenades and two krak grenades per PC, one Chimera Armoured Transport per Squad. One pict recorder per PC, one microbead per PC, one Autopistol and two clips per PC, one smoke grenade per PC, one clip/drop harness per PC.

Rogue Trader

House Faresi Knight-Scion

“Where I tread is the Emperor’s domain. I am the Border-bearer, the Conqueror in His name.”

House Faresi Oath

The scions of the esteemed Knight House Faresi have been operating on the fringes of Imperial space since the days of the Great Crusade, regularly entering into compacts with Rogue Trader dynasties and other colonial authorities. Due to a string of disastrous losses over the past few centuries Faresi have been reduced to a mere three Knights, piloted by the sisters Zazyria and Megaera and their brother Umukoro. But the family is much larger than this: the three Knights are accompanied by a dozen cousins aspiring to become the next champions of the house. Due to the lack of available god-machines, House Faresi encourage their aspirant scions to seek positions aboard starships to hunt for new knight armours out in the wilderness of space.

Knight-Scion is a special career that follows the career progression of either the Arch-Militant or the Void-Master, but replaces the starting skills, talents, and equipment of the chosen career. The Knight-Scion also comes with its own career special ability that replaces those of the Arch-Militant and Void-Master.

Starting Skills: Tech-Use, Common Lore (War), Pilot (Walker), Scholastic Lore (Heraldry), Scholastic Lore (Tactica Imperialis), Speak Language (Low Gothic), Speak Language (High Gothic)

Starting Talents: Melee Weapon Training (Universal), Pistol Weapon Training (Universal), Good Reputation (Adeptus Mechanicus), Peer (Imperial Knights)

Starting Equipment: Bolt pistol or duelling laspistol, best-craftsmanship mono-sword or common-craftsmanship power sword, armored synskin body suit, MIU Implants, micro-bead, House Faresi colours, fine clothes, 1d5 house attendants

Special Trait: Knight Aspirant: +10 to Willpower tests when attempting to link with powerful machine spirits (Super-Heavy Vehicles, Star-Ships, Facilities etc), difficulties for Pilot tests to control walkers are never worse than -20

Knight-Scion Special Ability

Adamantium Steeds: +10 to Acquisition rolls made to acquire ground vehicles and vehicle components.





Author’s Notes

The von Kroyers were here!

What a mess they left behind, huh? Yeah, things didn’t get quite this bad when we ran Vanshaya, but it probably should have! We certainly didn’t care about the planet, and we really did plan on staging a fake war for propaganda purposes.

We were trying to drum up support for our crusade and wanted to bring back some holo-reels that showed what happened when someone stood in the way of our dynasty. But we got side-tracked by adventures on much, much creepier worlds…

“You can’t grow nothing, can’t eat the wildlife, can’t drink the water. It’s a perfect market!” 

August Aquifer of August Aquifer’s Honorable Water Purification Co.

Ramananda Magna is a fledgling mining world with a rapidly expanding population beyond the current borders of Imperial space. Originally settled by clans of freeholders, the planet has more recently come under the control of a ruthless cartel of Imperial business concerns and noble families calling themselves the Ranamanda Syndicate. 

Ranamanda’s mineral wealth exists mostly in the form of copper, nickel, cobalt and other heavy metals, which are so abundant that the majority of the land is stained blue and green. This abundance of metals has the unfortunate effect of rendering the environment barren and toxic. What indigenous life exists is hardy and well-adapted to these chemical conditions, but these adaptations render these organisms inedible so the planet relies entirely on trade to feed its swelling population. 

A remnant of historical waves of invasion, the upland areas of the planet are infested with orks, who constantly raid frontier mining settlements and eagerly inhabit any abandoned mines and fortifications they happen to stumble across. The Syndicate throw just enough military power at the greenskins to keep their numbers in check, but have not yet seen value in exterminating the menace. Periodically, the xenos will rally under one banner and launch massed assaults which leave great swathes of the planet surface littered with the remains of burned settlements and wrecked vehicles, picked over by scavengers and salvage crews looking to earn a little coin.

As the Syndicate’s influence grows, free colonists and prospectors find themselves pushed into these increasingly toxic and lawless badlands, while the inhabitants of the growing industrial settlements are herded by the thousands into dangerous refineries and manufactoria to swell their masters’ coffers.

Locations

Click for full scale map

Cobalt Hill

“That’s two day’s wages for one day’s worth of food! Keep squeezing your workers like this and see how it ends for you.”

Radka Mateo, labour agitator

The de facto capital of the Ranamanda colonial administration, Cobalt Hill is a rapidly growing settlement and the hub of economic activity on the planet. The city consists of a shuttle port, a colonial fortress housing the Syndicate’s representatives and their military forces, an expanding industrial district and a sprawling network of ramshackle dwellings, worker barracks and shanty towns. 

The city is the only place on the planet where one can access the full range of goods and services usually found on an Imperial colony, including access to Astropathic communication and servicing of high-tech equipment such as auspexes and bolt weapons. In recent months the city has been shaken by increasingly frequent strikes and worker riots, even as each new shuttle brings in hundreds of fortune-seeking colonists. Throne Gelt is highly valued as most employers pay their workers in scrip which is only redeemable in Syndicate-owned company stores.

Cypri Fields

“This is a robbery! Hand over the water or you’ll be the one leaking!”

‘Kid’ Kabelo, Outlaw

Representing the true frontier of Ranamanda, Cypri Fields is a sprawling lowland region home to scattered enclaves of self-reliant colonists, free prospectors and ambitious hydroponic farmers. The area is largely free from Syndicate interference because it has been chosen by the Adeptus Mechanicus as a testbed for various terraforming and detoxification efforts which might be used to make the planet more hospitable to human habitation. While the lack of Syndicate oversight is a boon to the free-spirited, the Adeptus Mechanicus have no interest in enforcing order among the plebians, so banditry and opportunism are rife. 

The only settlement of any size in the region is the Mechanicus-controlled Dimness: Little more than a cluster of prefabricated laboratories and hydroponics bays, ringed with the shanties of settlers drawn by the improved local infrastructure and the promise that the Cypri Fields will one day be fertile farmland. Food and water is a little easier to come by here than elsewhere on the planet, but all other supplies are reserved for the Cult of Mars and its enigmatic projects. Baptisms in oil are offered to those desperate enough to sell their soul to the Machine God.

Other locations

Thruport: The former site of the planetary spaceport, Thruport was abandoned as the colonial capital following an Ork attack, but remains an important shipping route and a haven for smugglers and cut-throats.

Vainsteel: The second largest industrial city, Vainsteel is wholly owned by Syndicate partner Wray Industries, who are using the influx of settlers to further their plans to corner the local market in las weaponry.

Fort Brennan: Formerly the fortress of an Imperial Guard expeditionary force, “Fort Burnan” is now the power centre of the most powerful and populous tribe of Orks on the planet under Boss Bruzgob Big-Burna.





Factions

Wray Industries

“If you have a problem with the terms, you can take it up with Mr. Wray. He is currently on a pilgrimage to Mars and is expected back on Diadoch Primus some time within the next five to ten years.”

Hennig Zelpha, Regional Manager

A major economic player across the stellar region. Wray manufacture billions of lasguns for both the Imperial Guard and the civilian market. Their operations on Ranamanda are a negligible part of their industrial empire, but the abundance of certain elements makes it a valuable investment.

The most publicly visible member of the Syndicate, Wray are rapidly moving to establish monopolies over heavy manufacturing and construction, leveraging a close relationship with the Adeptus Mechanicus to leave their rivals in the toxic dust. 

The Blue Bastard Mercenary Corps

“Watch your mouth. I don’t shoot people in the back for money, I do it for sport!

Don “Drekker” Dexter

This unscrupulous cadre of mercenaries consists mostly of defectors from Imperial Guard expeditionary forces and other veterans of the Ork Wars. Using the uncivilised nature of Ranamanda to evade justice, the Blue Bastards revel in their unsavoury reputation, and are happy to fight for anyone who can keep them well supplied with ammunition and strong drink. They have most recently been employed by the Syndicate as strike-breakers at Cobalt Hill. This earned them the enmity, not only of the workers, but also of the Syndicate’s standing private military, who they undercut when the contract was put out to tender. 

Worker’s Unions 

“It’s awful convenient when they all chain themselves up outside the factory like this.”

Lt. Lombar Ines, Syndicate Incorporate First

The exploitative practises of the Syndicate and allied robber barons have not gone unnoticed or unopposed by the increasingly downtrodden colonists. Despite brutal crackdowns and underhanded tactics by the powers that be, increasing numbers flock to the cause of organised labour. Mostly clustered around the major manufacturing settlements, the fledgling unions run the gamut from well-resourced and fair-dealing organisations, to corrupt cabals with close ties to organised crime. Dark rumours abound of heretical notions spreading through labour networks, including democracy, “human rights” and even collaboration with xenos. Whether there is truth to these accusations or if they are simply baseless smears promulgated by the Syndicate remains to be seen.

Other Factions

Robber Barons: Often descendents of the first colonists, these uncouth individuals have local monopolies on various goods and services and will stoop to anything to maintain their petty advantages. 

Imperial Guard: Though Imperial authorities have mostly ceded responsibility for the defense of the colony to the Syndicate, a few scattered remnants of a combined expeditionary force remain on the world. Morale is low and mutiny is a constant risk.

Planetary Ecologists: Tech-priests of the eccentric Ecognostic sect have set themselves the unenviable challenge of rendering the planet fit for long-term human habitation. Operating from geodesic research outposts, small teams of ecognostors can occasionally be encountered in the wilderness, engaged in peculiar, furtive projects. 





Game Hooks



Rumours abound that the leaders of the uprising have allied with sinister forces “for the greater good”


Dark Heresy

Introduction: An agent going by the codename ‘Verdigris’ has been emplaced in Cobalt Hill, operating from a cover identity as owner of a general store. They are concerned with the situation on the planet and are preparing to assemble a team of local assets. 

A number of suspicious deaths in Thruport imply the involvement of a well-resourced smuggling ring whose crimes may go beyond simply what is forbidden by the laws of man. 

A renegade Inquisitorial acolyte is suspected to have made planetfall at Cobalt Hill recently. They must be rooted out and captured before they can reveal compromising secrets about the Inquisition’s activities. If flushed out of hiding, the traitor may attempt to flee to the frontier.  

Workers in Vainsteel have begun a campaign of sabotage and murder in an attempt to resist Syndicate influence. Rumours abound that the leaders of the uprising have allied with sinister forces “for the greater good”.

Only War

Introduction: The players can be Syndicate soldiers, mercenaries, or Imperial guardsmen from the expeditionary forces stationed on Ranamanda to advance the interests of the Colonial Authority.

A worker’s collective have seized the means of production and hired mercenaries to protect themselves from reprisal while they sell the fruits of their labour on the black market. The guardsmen must retake the industrial facility without excessive collateral damage.

Adeptus Mechanicus supply convoys bound for Cypri Fields are being attacked and looted by unknown assailants. Bandits, Orks, or something worse? The guardsmen are assigned to escort detail and must keep the cargo safe at all costs.

Scouts report that the Orks of Fort Burnan are preparing to mobilise for a major assault. The guardsmen are dispatched on a desperate mission to infiltrate the mountain stronghold and stop or delay their assault by any means necessary. Failure could result in a direct attack by the greenskins on Cobalt Hill.

Rogue Trader

Introduction: The Explorers are approached by a member of the Syndicate (A noble house, private company, or even another Rogue Trader dynasty). In exchange for helping advance their endeavors, the Explorers will be given a stake in the Syndicate and its operations on Ranamanda. 

The dynasty’s allies want another partner destroyed, discredited, or at least forced out of the Syndicate. They are not fussy about how this is accomplished, as long as it doesn’t hurt the profitability of the colony as a whole. The Syndicate represents a tangled web of alliances, feuds and (sometimes literal) marriages of convenience which the Explorers must carefully navigate to achieve their goal.

The Syndicate wishes to diversify their portfolio in the Ranamanda system and invite the dynasty to start a profitable new venture (Anything besides mining and heavy manufacturing). This may involve shipping in hardware and infrastructure from other colonies, sourcing water and food, establishing new trade routes, or finding new ways to exploit the influx of colonists. 

Deep void scouting missions report a massive fleet of Ork ships moving rapidly towards the Ranamanda system, a WAAGH! The Explorers must quickly muster defenses, enlist allies and prepare the system for a massive greenskin invasion. If they don’t feel like saving the colony, they can at least try to recoup their investments before the Orks arrive. 





Notes for GMs

Ranamanda as a setting is intended to represent a clash between the values of the frontier colonists; freedom, self-determination and pride, with the worst excesses of the Imperium’s endless drive to expand, embodied in the Syndicate. While the frontier settlers and colonial labourers who toil in the Syndicate’s manufactoria may fight their hardest to preserve their way of life and secure decent living standards, they are ultimately doomed to fail as the Imperial machine crushes them beneath its treads. 

These themes can be incorporated into your games by showing your players both sides of each conflict. The Inquisitorial Acolytes may believe that Imperial interests should come before the wishes of factory workers, but will their beliefs stand firm when the Imperial officials of the Syndicate reveal themselves to be greedy, callous opportunists? Would a profit-seeking Rogue Trader be moved by the plight of families of colonists being forced out into the hostile wasteland by his expanding industrial operation? Guardsmen ordered to open fire on striking labourers may think twice then they realise they have more in common with the strikers than with their own commanders. 

NPCs at all levels should be shrewd hustlers looking out for their own interests; the weak and gullible don’t last long on the frontier. On a colony world outside Imperial borders, laws are difficult to enforce and almost any goods or services might be available, but always at a steep price. In the confines of Syndicate-controlled settlements, open violence and other behaviour which threatens order and profit will be dealt with by company enforcers. On the true frontier, there is no law but the law of the gun. 

Themes

  • Greed and exploitation
  • Frontier isolation and self-reliance
  • Hostile, corrosive wilderness

Touchstones

Games taking place on Ranamanda should have the feel of gritty westerns like A Fistful of Dollars and Deadwood. The bandit and ork-infested frontiers should evoke the high-octane post-apocalyptic feeling of Mad Max, while interactions with the Syndicate and local Robber Barons should be informed by the amoral capitalist excesses of the likes of There Will Be Blood and Robocop.





Backgrounds

Characters from Ranamanda can use the Imperial World, Frontier World or Mining World homeworld options, depending on their social standing and where exactly they hail from on the planet. Additionally, the following special backgrounds are available:

Dark Heresy

Syndicate Negotiator (300xp)

As with most Imperial organizations, the Ranamanda Syndicate can’t help but style itself after the dizzying bureaucracy of the Administratum. The cost of employing a dozen citizens to negotiate a 10% cut on the cost of a shipment is negligible when those citizens have nowhere to spend their salaries other than the company stores.

Careers: Adept

Bonus Skills: Barter, Evaluate

Bonus Equipment: Ranamanda Syndicate Employee Manual – A well-thumbed pamphlet outlining the regulations of the Syndicate and conduct expected for employees and freelancers.

In The Hole: Start with 100 thrones worth of extra equipment, but you owe 150 thrones in debt to the Syndicate and you have 1d5 months to repay it before an enforcer is sent to collect.

Just Sign Here: When making a roll to negotiate the terms of a contract, roll twice and pick the better result.

Syndicate Mercenary (300xp)

The Syndicate is quick to identify expendable colonists with a penchant for violence, loan them some high-end equipment, and put them to work as private security or strike-breakers. The lifespans of such individuals are usually short, especially if they aren’t able to pay off their debts, but a lucky few can “graduate” into permanent Syndicate employees, or else important figures in organised crime. 

Careers: Assassin, Arbitrator, Guardsman

Bonus Skills: Barter, Gamble

Bonus Equipment: Ranamanda Syndicate Employee Manual – A well-thumbed pamphlet outlining the regulations of the Syndicate and conduct expected for employees and freelancers.

In The Hole: Start with 100 thrones worth of extra equipment, but you owe 150 thrones in debt to the Syndicate and you have 1d5 months to repay it before an enforcer is sent to collect.

Worth Your Weight in Water: When negotiating price for buying or selling services of mercenaries, roll twice and pick the better result. 

Labour Agitator (200xp)

A disenfranchised factory worker, you have vented your rage against the corporate overlords and lived to tell about it, for now. 

Careers: Scum, Guardsman

Bonus Skills:  Intimidate, Trade: (pick one) armourer, miner, smith, scrimshawer, technomat or wright

Bonus Equipment: You start with 3 home-made firebombs and a crowbar (counts as club)

Bonus Talents: Hatred (Enforcers) 

“I’ve Had Worse”: +10 bonus to Toughness tests to avoid being stunned by physical attacks. 

Only War

2nd Incorporate Syndicate Regiment

“Bought my las from the company store, gotta frag a whole army to settle my score!” 

– 2nd Regiment marching song

The Sluggin’ Second comprise the bulk of the Syndicate’s private force of line infantry and are deployed across the planet across a variety of theatres, from massed field battles with orks, tunnel fights with rebellious miners, and brutal street brawls with striking workers. The concentrated resources of the syndicate mean they are often better equipped than genuine Imperial Guardsmen, but these guns for hire lack the devotion and discipline of their more pious brothers in arms.

Characteristic Modifiers: +3 BS, +3 Agility, +3 Strength, +2 WS, -3 Intelligence

Starting Skills: Athletics, Awareness, Command, Linguistics (Low Gothic), Navigate (Surface), Survival

Starting Talents: Combat Sense or Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Street Fighting

Independent Operation: The Comrades of a frontier world character count as being within Cohesion so long as they are within 15 metres of their Player Character.

Distrustful of Authority: –20 penalty to Interaction Skill Tests made to interact with unfamiliar figures of authority and vice versa.

Regimental Doctrine: Line Infantry

Survivalist Doctrine: Starting aptitude: Agility, re-roll failed Survival tests in deserts.

Hardened Fighters Doctrine: Starting combat knife replaced with sword. 

Wounds: Standard

Drawback: Incompetent Leadership –10 penalty to Command Tests made during combat Routine (+20) Command or Intimidate Tests as part of any Comrade Order that does not already require a Command Test

Standard Regimental Kit: One M36 lasgun and four charge packs per Player Character (Main Weapon), two frag grenades and two krak grenades per Player Character, 1 suit of light carapace armour, 1 sword, 1 hotshot laspistol and four charge packs, 1 microbead, 1 set of field gear (uniform, cold weather gear, bandolier, rucksack, set of basic tools, mess kit and water canteen, blanket and sleep bag, rechargeable lamp pack, grooming kit, set of ident tags, 1 Ranamanda Syndicate Employee Manual, 2 weeks rations)

Favoured weapons: Hellgun, Heavy Bolter

Other Syndicate Regiments

The Fightin’ First – Guerilla regiment composed mostly of Ork War veterans recruited from miner’s militias

The Third – Mechanised infantry regiment mostly used by Wray Industries as security detail for shipments

Special Company – An elite and extremely deniable black ops force employed for industrial sabotage of the Syndicate’s rivals





Author’s Notes

Ranamanda was the first endeavour our Rogue Trader dynasty (the von Kroyers, expect to see them crop up as NPCs) took on when the campaign started in 2013. Some nobles in the Syndicate wanted a lift to the planet to inspect the damage after an Ork raid, to see if it was still worth continued investments.

The tone of the whole campaign was set when the Orks attacked the capital and we promptly informed our passengers that they had been safely delivered, and we were leaving. The “Cobalt Hill Bargain” would forever live on in infamy as the desperate Syndicate representatives offered us partnership in the Syndicate and orbital rights to the system in exchange for fighting the Orks. And from there on it was a wild ride of war, drama, and backstabbing which eventually ended with our dynasty usurping control over the Ranamanda Syndicate.

Our very own salty westworld would serve as the springboard to countless future endavours, but more about them some other time.

Hello traveller!

If you found this site, you’re probably a fan of the range of roleplaying games released for the Warhammer 40k universe.

We’re a small group of nerds who have been roleplaying in the 40k universe for way too long. Along the way, we’ve made our own homebrew region of space that we call the Nimbus Trident. The Trident is comprised of three sectors: Perios, Salanid, and Harald; as well as two colonial expanses: the Morana Gulf and the Galvix Cluster.

All together, these sectors and expanses contain something like 200 unique worlds, with their own history, factions, infamous characters, and intrigue.

The aim of this project is to make the Nimbus Trident available to you.

We will try to go through our old notes and maps and brainstorming ideas and present you the Nimbus Trident as a place you can set your own games in – or to lift our materials and slot them into your own home game.

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