Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Big Game Hunting - Rogue Trader

Published by Fantasy Flight, Rogue Trader and its supplements (plus its predecessor Dark Heresy and its supplements, plus various subsequent sister-RPGs) are an entertaining and often hilarious sci-fi game where mayhem ensues, out amongst the stats. Or, perhaps, it’s just the campaign I’m involved in…

Background: Rogue Trader is an ‘offshoot’ of sorts of Warhammer 40K, which is a popular tabletop war gaming game. I can’t think of a roleplayer that I know that hasn’t played one of Games Workshop’s games, even unwittingly, so the background is pretty much immersed in gaming pop culture. Rogue Trader takes an element of that – specifically the ‘little guy’ concept and sticks you out amongst the stars, against the backdrop of the history as your GM knows and interprets it.

As to whether it’s important – if you want to play a space game, no. The background is only important to understand why it’s difficult to get your hands on tech (which can be accepted at face value) and why there are things that you really need to watch out for (but again, geek and gaming pop culture covers most of that). Background DOES make it richer, especially if you’re using character types from the expansion books.

Mechanics: Character generation isn’t complicated – it’s dice rolling (d100 aka 2 x d10) and applying those rolls to a basic set of stats, then designing your character - which increases or decreases your stats, gives you talents, etc. My favourite part of it is there’s a map of sorts that takes you to your ultimate role in the game – so there’s only certain things the Rogue Trader can have versus what the Astropath has. It’s interesting enough that you weigh stuff off. Then, your GM gives you XP and you put customisations onto your character, again, based on your overall character. What it gives is robust characters that can do what they need to – but it does also lead to a bit of a character ‘lock’ of sorts.

The add-on books and sister-RPGs (and there are lots of them – including Death Watch) add additional character types, extra levelling ‘stuff’ and more background. Along with all new ways for your GM to really insert the proverbial chainsword.

Gameplay: Overall, I’d say Rogue trader is a great game. I’ve really enjoyed it so far. We’re in the middle of the second iteration of a very long term campaign. It’s not so restrictive that you can’t do what you want and respond to something in your own way, but it’s not so open that you can completely wreck your chances of survival – most of the time. There are some really irritating aspects of the game, but I think most of it is personal preference.

While Rogue Trader isn’t where I started playing this version of the games (I’ve played Dark Heresy), I have to say that Rogue Trader is the one that really stands out for me. I’ve got a wonderful GM (my other half), and I think that’s really made the difference to the game.

This week... Kai screwed up. Book is running late and she’s really not enjoying being an author. She has a plan though (and next week she’s reviewing Battlestar Galactica).

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