Sep 26, 2016

Rogue Trader: What to buy?

I'm now into my third year of running a Rogue Trader campaign, and since I did a similar post for the Lord of the Rings card game, I realized I haven't posted anything about the various supplements Fantasy Flight Games sells - for the moment - for it. Here's my thoughts on what to buy and what to skip.

Definitely recommended:

Stars of Inequity

Unless you're running a really weird campaign where your players never visit an unexplored star system, I'd say this is the best single expansion in the whole game. The book is divided into four sections. The first gives you tools for randomly generating entire star systems from scratch, and it's actually quite good. It produces way too many habitable planets for my taste, and can be somewhat labor-intensive, but it's absolutely perfect for when you have no idea where to start. The second part is called Planetside Adventures, and is absolutely excellent. I don't think I've ever used the encounter tables straight up, but rather I've been inspired by them and lifted several mechanics from them and used them succesfully. There's also a treasure generator which lets you quickly create some very neat loot for your players. The third section details colony operations, and needed quite a bit of errata to fix, but still provides players with a way of generating profit factor in a way that's much more tangible than the infuriatingly vague "endeavours", and is a perfect hook for new adventures. Finally, the section with Koronus expanse fluff is mercifully short.

In my opinion, the slightly bizarrely named Stars of Inequity is the best value for money in Rogue Trader. To me at least, exploring uncharted star systems, lost colonies and what have you is the very essence of Rogue Trader, and the colony rules give you a living, breathing profit-generating empire to look after. If you only get one expansion, I would make it this one.

Buy this because: The various tables and generators will make your life so much easier.

Battlefleet Koronus

Sticking with value for money, Battlefleet Koronus is probably the second-best expansion you can get. For what it's worth, I like the space combat rules in Rogue Trader, as long as they're used like tabletop rules, not like a boardgame. Battlefleet Koronus expands those rules with torpedoes and attack craft, both of which I think are good additions. My players have been torpedoed a couple of times, and they haven't liked it! There are also lots of new ship hulls and components, and a craftsmanship system for the latter. There are also stats and rules for Ork, Eldar and Chaos ships, which give your players more interesting enemies to encounter, and are a good reference point for creating your own NPC starships. If your game involves starship combat at all, I think you'll find Battlefleet Koronus is worth buying.

Buy this because: New ship hulls and components, but especially torpedo and attack craft rules make space combat so much more interesting.

The Navis Primer

Given how important the Warp is to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the warp travel rules in the core book are disappointingly thin. The Navis Primer gives you some more detailed guidelines for navigating the warp, and also a bunch of new navigator and astropath powers. There are also some alternate career ranks, of which Awakened Psyker is undoubtedly the most interesting. This is another supplement which I wish would have had more useful content; there's a whole load of stuff on the different navigator houses of the Koronus Expanse, which is completely uninteresting if your campaign isn't set there. Still, if your campaign has any psykers in it, you'll probably want to get this. If anyone's interested in playing a rogue psyker, then this is a must-have for the Awakened Psyker alternate career rank and the Renegade psychic powers. After all, as long as the Inquisition doesn't notice...

Buy this because: The navigation rules, and lots of stuff for astropaths, navigators and, erm, other psykers.

Cautiously recommended:

Into the Storm

Into the Storm is the tabletop equivalent of a videogame that already has "extra" content on the disk when you buy it, but you need to pay for a separate DLC to activate it. The only actually new things here are alternate career ranks, Ork and Kroot player characters and vehicle rules; everything else just expands what was already in the core book. It also doesn't help that this is the most expensive supplement. Simply put, nothing in Into the Storm is particularly essential or even all that interesting. It only adds quantity. The only area where this is worth really bothering with is character creation. There's a whole host of new background options, including a whole new lineage row for the origin path. This wrecks the elegant simplicity of the core origin path system, but many of the options do provide useful and thematic additions to character creation. Having said that, I'm still not sure the whole is worth the price.

Buy this if: You want more character creation options. The other stuff's not really worth it.

The Koronus Bestiary

The Koronus Bestiary starts with a relatively uninspired Monster Manual lite of vaguely scifiy monsters, but the meat and potatoes here are the rules for Orks and Eldar, and the xenos generators. Whether to buy this or not really comes down to what kind of campaign you intend to run. If you're hell-bent on coming up with fairly detailed rules for a whole menagerie of xenos species, then this book is what you need. Similarly, if you absolutely have to know whether Warp Spiders or Striking Scorpions have a higher Weapon Skill, that's in here too. So basically if personal combat with aliens is going to be a big part of your campaign, then you'll want this. I'm actually pretty sure I could have done without it.

Buy this if: You want to create a whole bunch of alien species, and/or you want detailed rules for Orks and Eldar.

Hostile Acquisitions

While Hostile Acquisitions seems like a very promising expansion, it's unfortunately very heavy on mediocre Koronus Expanse fluff and light on useful gaming material. There's the usual smattering of equipment, but the only content worth noting are the alternate career ranks and the Nemesis system. The latter gives you an origin path of sorts for NPC villains, and can be used to personalize the bad guys. The alternate career ranks cover a variety of character types in, shall we say, some of the grey areas of Imperial law, like Cold Trade Broker and Manhunter, or well beyond it, like Reaver, Arch-Heretek and even Secessionist. If the alternate career ranks are something your players would be interested in, they're really the only reason to dish out money for this.

Buy this if: You want some of the alternate career ranks, or are really, really, really into fairly pedestrian fluff about the Koronus underworld. In either case, you'll probably feel a little disappointed.

The Soul Reaver

Most of the Soul Reaver is devoted to an adventure in which the players try to raid a Dark Eldar city. It didn't really appeal to me, but I didn't group this with the other adventure supplements because of the rules for Dark Eldar characters. There's a whole career path for Kabalite Warriors, and since there bizarrely isn't an Eldar Corsair player class anywhere, one could be improvised based on this. There's also Dark Eldar ships, weapons and whatnot, so if that appeals to you, then this is the supplement for you.

Buy this if: You want rules for the Dark Eldar, or someone wants to play an Eldar character.

Not recommended:

Game Master's Kit

Twenty bucks for a cardboard screen and a useless little pamphlet? Not worth it.

Faith and Coin

As a theologian, I was very disappointed in Faith and Coin. It contains practically no useful rules or mechanics; just a smattering of random artifacts and a whole bunch of uninteresting fluff about the Koronus Expanse. If, for some reason, you absolutely have your heart set on running a religion-focused campaign in the Koronus Expanse, you'll still be disappointed.

I also skipped all the campaign supplements like Lure of the Expanse and so forth. This is mostly because of a personal preference against running ready-made adventures, but also because frankly, I didn't think the adventures in the Rogue Trader products I do own were very good. The Koronus Expanse never struck me as particularly interesting, and to me, half the fun of running a game in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is the freedom of creating your own setting. So since I wasn't interested in these products, I don't have an informed opinion on them.


Finally, don't forget that if (when!) your player characters' corruption point totals start climbing, consider investing in a copy of Black Crusade.

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