Ever felt that Star Trek wasn’t grim or dark enough, or needed more psychotic alien life forms and demonic possession? Look no further than Rogue Trader!
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
System: D100 Roll-under
As previously mentioned, Rogue Trader is like if the Warhammer 40,000 universe met Star Trek. Grand adventure across the universe await you, but dangerous xenos and horrifying demons may act against your interests. But hey, they don’t call it the “grim, dark” future of the 41st millennium for nothing!
Like other Fantasy Flight products, Rogue Trader has some truly incredible artwork within its pages. I just can’t get past the detail in these pictures! From the lines of text across parchment to the textures of the numerous icons on an Ork Warboss, the artwork in this book does not disappoint.
Character creation is a lengthy affair, but with it you create a truly unique character that you can call your own. Ability scores are generated by rolling 2d10 and adding 25 for each characteristic, or starting each score at 25 and spending points out of a pool of 100 to customize them yourself. You then get to choose your home world, birthright (upbringing), lure of the void (why you’re on this ship to begin with), trials and travails (bad parts of your past), motivation and chosen career. After all this, you’re given 500 starting experience points to customize your character further, and you’re ready to play! (You forgot about Roles. It’s an integral part of character creation, since it’s the first step
Ship creation is very different, but also an integral part of play. After all, how can you explore the galaxy if you don’t have a ship to travel in? After player characters have been created, you determine how many ship points you have to customize your ship with. Each ship must have a hull, engines, warp drive, and life support system, but after those have been determined you can go wild with ship customization options. Do you want a cruiser bristling with weapons? A transport for important dignitaries or prisoners? A simple trade vessel with hidden compartments for highly profitable contraband? If you can think of it, you can build it! There are endless combinations of pieces you can add to your ship, allowing you to create a vessel as unique as the Serenity or Enterprise.
The personal equipment section of the book is also hefty; forty three pages of weapons, tools and cybernetics with which to outfit your character. From the humble Lasgun to awe-inspiring plasma cannons, you can find just about every infantry weapon in the Imperium here. If your character loses a limb in combat, you can have it replaced with an expensive cybernetic implant that may well be better than your own flesh and blood. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of personal customization with weapons, so you’ll be encountering a lot of similar weapons in your adventures. As with other 40k games by Fantasy Flight, Rogue Trader uses a d100 roll-under system, accomplished by rolling a d10 and d100 to get a percentage roll. Your goal is to roll under your ability score—modified by skills and circumstances—to succeed, and for every 10 full points under your statistic you get an additional degree of success. This means you want to roll as low as possible!
Combat itself is as brutal as you’d expect from a universe that coined the term “grimdark”. The infamously low-powered Lasguns deal 1d10+3 damage, and when your average player character (described to be “a cut above” the rest of humanity) has between 8 and 12 wounds, you’ll find yourself shopping for some heavy duty protective gear. It keeps players on their toes, never getting too complacent or overconfident in their abilities, as one lucky shot to the arm from a skinny hive ganger could easily remove it.
While the system itself isn’t terribly difficult to get a grasp of, Rogue Trader has a similar problem as D&D 3.5 in that there are so many different skills and talents available in just the core book (to say nothing of the numerous supplements) that it can become hard for a GM to keep track of who is capable of what, and for players to remember everything they’re capable of doing. While the options do allow characters to truly make their character their own, rookie players might find the vast numbers of traits daunting. Starship combat itself is a different beast entirely, with various components of different ships to keep track of, adding even more things to keep track of.
Rogue Trader is a strong contender in the sci-fi RPG genre. It brings players into a brutal world filled with rampaging aliens, horrifying metaphysical threats, and tells them to go out there and make a profit from it. The ship to ship combat adds a deep new layer of gameplay, and there’s something everyone to do, whether you’re a brawler, a trader or a pilot. If your friends love the Warhammer universe and don’t mind the complexity, this is the perfect game for them. 9/10.
[Editor’s Note – Hairy Tarantula North carries a wide variety of Warhammer 40K products, RPG books from Fantasy Flight, as well as Miniatures from Games Workshop. Drop on by the store to also check our gaming tables for your mini or RPG games – Also starting this Fall Rogue Trader Store Campaign – date and times to be announced]