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“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…

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