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“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

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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.

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