Voyages of the Iron Duchess, Chapter I: A Meeting on Hesperus

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a write up of the first few sessions of the Rogue Trader campaign I am running. Over the next few months/weeks, I am going to be posting regular after-session recaps of what my adventurers have been up to, and what sort of trouble they have been getting themselves into. Enjoy!

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Batrep #6: Descent of Angels- Drukhari vs Blood Angels

c. Games Workshop Ltd.

Veteran Sergeant Amadeo leaned down and grabbed Tyrio by the wrist, hauling the Neophyte over the edge of the ruined hab’s second storey. Tyrio was always lagging behind his brothers, Amadeo noted, always falling to the rear in any operation or training session. For some reason, the young Astartes simply lacked the confidence his brothers found so natural, and this was an almost fatal flaw in a Space Marine. Tyrio must have been conscious of his Sergeant’s silent judgement, as Amadeo saw second-long flicker of humiliation cross the young man’s face before he hung his head and hurried over to the edge of the ruined windowsill, taking up an overwatch position on the grey ruins below. The roof to this place had long ago been torn open by Drukhari bombings, and filthy rainwater pattered down on them from the polluted sky above, spattering against Amadeo’s bare head unpleasantly.

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Rogue Trader- The Kerberus Sector and its worlds

(Above image by Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop)


So I’ve decided to take the time to write about the sector of space that my upcoming Rogue Trader campaign is going to take place in. While all of the planets and regions listed below are big points of interest, they are not by any means exclusive, and there are dozens of other such planets and locations that my party may yet stumble upon…

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An upcoming Rogue Trader campaign, and the perils of GMing

(Art by Games Workshop & Fantasy Flight Games)

So, one thing I’ve recently decided to do on this blog is post summaries and anecdotes of RPG sessions I’ve been involved in. This decision comes too late for the last campaign I was in, sadly, because when I started the blog it was already a third of the way through, and I didn’t want to have to rely on my faulty memory to backtrack and explain who the characters were, what had happened so far, etc etc. Which is a pity, because the campaign in question was absolutely hilarious (essentially a Rifts campaign set in the multiverse of Rick and Morty).*

The next campaign for my group, however, is one I’m going to run. Now, I am no stranger to GMing: my first effort was several years ago, and was essentially using the Aberrant rules to the setting of the Marvel Universe (at the time I didn’t know of, or have access to, the official Marvel RPG rules, and unfortunately even if I wanted to switch over now it would screw over the legacy characters). The group was essentially “Omega Flight,” the Canadian government’s more hush-hush version of Alpha Flight, and I had them facing off against an ongoing conspiracy involving mutation-inducing flowers and extradimensional robots. It was a bit of a clunky mess, as it was my first time GMing, and often I found myself stumbling quite a bit in trying to get the players from plot point A to plot point B (especially at one point when the party obsessed minor detail that was of no relevance to the plot). It didn’t help that I found it difficult to create villains who could actually threaten the party, since one of my players had min-maxed his character to become a nigh-unstoppable battering ram.

Still, it was a fun experience, my party enjoyed themselves, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to GM properly. This led to a sequel campaign a few years later, and while it had its own clunky moments, I like to think that, story-wise, it actually turned out a lot better. If there were any issues I had looking back at that campaign, it was that I found myself turning into a bit of a control freak and railroading players far too often– something that I have since tried to be aware of.

My last campaign, though, was about two years ago, and was a much more daring (and flawed) undertaking: a Rifts campaign set in the Fallout universe (in particular, in post-apocalyptic Canada). I had a blast setting up this campaign: I wanted the experience to emulate the Fallout games as much as possible, rather than just be another Rifts game, and to that end, I set about creating my own set of house rules that included rules for radiation, character/race rules for Super Mutants and Ghouls, and above all, perks. In addition, I spent a huge amount deciding what post-apocalyptic Southern Ontario was like.  Aside from the ruined city of Ronto (which is canon in Fallout), I had a blast renaming certain locations in Ontario (Markham and Huntsville became Arkham and Hunter’s Vale, for instance), and creating things like major environmental/geological hazards, new mutated creatures, and outlining the various factions and individuals vying for power in this region (including the Peacekeepers of Ronto, the Enclave remnants and the Ojibwe Confederacy). Above all, I tried to stick to as much of a pseudo-1960s feel as possible, even to the point of making a playlist of thematic 50s and 60s songs to play on Youtube while the party was travelling in-game.

Unfortunately, at this time, I was also studying for a major HR certification exam that was a major source of worry and stress for me. To make matters worse, work was a constant and time-consuming factor for me, and I would often arrive home too mentally and physically exhausted to devise things for the next weekend session. To make matters worse, I just could not figure out the Rifts rules, no matter how much I tried, and so frequently throughout the session I was faced with difficult questions and, even worse, annoyance from players who knew the system better than me. All of these factors resulted in the campaign becoming clunky and haphazard, and there was more than one occasion when I found myself getting frustrated in-session. It didn’t help that I had no clear idea of where I wanted the campaign to ultimately go, and soon my lack of direction and vision was becoming evident.

It was about midway through where I had originally wanted to end that we reached a good break point. At this point, my party suggested we end here for now, as my stress and anxiety were not only becoming evident, but were also having a visibly detrimental effect on the campaign. And so, my Fallout campaign came to an end as a clunky, poorly-executed mess, and to date, we still have not gone back to it. In part, this is because I no longer know how it will end, or indeed, what the major plot point of it is even supposed to be anymore. This campaign remains a major source of disappointment for me, as I had really wanted to do right by the setting, and feel that I ultimately was not able to do it justice or make it fun for my party.

It goes without saying that this time around, I am hoping to do much better. This time around I will be running a Rogue Trader campaign, and though this is another system that I had to learn from scratch, I am a little more confident this time. Partly, it is because my life feels a little less chaotic right now, but also it is because there were a huge number of player and GM aids printed for Rogue Trader before Games Workshop pulled its license away from Fantasy Flight Games (something that I am still annoyed about, because FFG’s 40k roleplaying books were amazing). More importantly, Warhammer 40k is a setting that I know the background of intimately, and Rogue Trader featured plenty of campaign books that I intend to borrow a lot of elements from. And best of all, Rogue Trader is a campaign where, if nothing else is coming to mind, I can simply trust my players to follow an endeavour, and see what randomness space decides to throw their way.

I hope to post more on my upcoming campaign soon– the characters, the background, and above all, the weekly sessions as soon as it begins. Wish me luck, internet!


*If anyone DOES want me to share what happened in Rifts and Morty (as the GM has called it), please let me know.

Thoughts: The return of Jean-Luc Picard and the current state of Star Trek

(Photo: CBS/Getty)


So, I wanted to share my thoughts, as a lifelong Trekkie, on the news of Sir Patrick Stewart returning to Star Trek. As has been reported by a million and a half news outlets now (here it is on The Verge, just for your edification),  Sir Patrick has signed on to a new Star Trek series in the works that will explore ““the next chapter of Picard’s life.” As someone who practically grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, my initial reaction, of course, was giddy excitement, a lot of jumping up and down and indecipherable whooping noise, but once the initial excitement settled down, I pondered, and became a little more perturbed on the issue. At the moment, my opinions on the return of Jean-Luc Picard are somewhat mixed.

I say this for a number of reasons. On the one hand, as I mentioned before, this is very exciting news for a fan of TNG. Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard was the face of the show, the moral and ethical centre that held together a crew of scientists, engineers, and occasional philosophers. While Picard was not a perfect captain by any stretch of the imagination (there are lengthy debates among Trekkies over how selective Picard was in his adherance to the Prime Directive), Stewart delivered his lines with such gravitas that it was impossible not to pay attention to him– I recall one commentator saying that Stewart could read a grocery list and make it sound compelling. A plethora of endlessly quotable lines  (“Engage,” “Make it so,” and any time he called Commander Riker “Number One”) and admittedly quite powerful speeches simply cemented Picard’s status as, arguably, the pillar upon which the show rested.

However, as far as anyone knows, Picard’s return will be a solo one, without any of his old crew there with him. As of this time, there has been no confirmation of any of the other old TNG cast returning for this show. On the one hand, I am fine with this, as I don’t want to see them try to make “TNG: Part 2.” However, the fact that Picard’s return is a solitary one, happening in a storyline that (presumably) takes place years after the events of TNG, feels strangely jarring to me. In my opinion, the season finale of TNG and the movies rounded off TNG and gave it….maybe not a satisfactory ending (Star Trek: Nemesis was anything but that), but a sense of closure all the same. To suddenly bring Picard back after years of TNG being off the air, after I had long accepted that his story was done, feels strange to me and disrupts this feeling of closure. I had always worked under the assumption that if I ever wanted to look at Picard’s post-TNG years, that I should turn to the various novels, comics, etc that the franchise has churned out. Now that they are actually answering this question with an actual show, I’m wondering if those said books and comics will be nullified from canon, much as the expanded universe of Star Wars was when the newer batch of movies came out.

Then there’s the nagging feeling that pulling Picard back into Star Trek is in and of itself an act of desperation. The last time an old character was brought on as major character on a Star Trek show, it was when they brought Worf onto Deep Space Nine…and that was a transparent attempt to bring back viewers. This feels like the exact same thing: “Hey, we know you have all have mixed feelings on Discovery, but hey, Picard is coming back! Exciting, huh?” Some may argue, though, that adding Worf to the show did in fact boost its ratings, and his presence did a lot to bolster the storyline by bringing in an entire Klingon subplot and cast of side characters (including Martok, the greatest Klingon to ever grace the screen), and I will admit that Deep Space Nine, especially in its later seasons, competes fiercely with The Next Generation as my favourite Star Trek show. Even so, Worf’s presence on the show, lengthy as it was, never felt any less forced or artificial for me. Perhaps the new Picard series may be just what Star Trek needs as an alternative to Discovery.

Speaking of Discovery, the current writing and directorial team in charge of the franchise leaves me feeling uneasy (despite the fact that Michael Chabon apparently is on the writing team for the new Picard series). I won’t hesitate to say that my enthusiasm for Discovery went cold pretty quickly, and while it is not a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination, it is not one that managed to sustain my interest either. Between horribly transparent plot twists, a protagonist I fell out of love with fairly quickly, a central plot that wasn’t sure what it wanted to do and a cast I really didn’t care too much about (barring one or two characters), Discovery brought nothing new to the table while at the same time doing nothing to give me a reason to stay. Of course, maybe the show just needed a season to find its feet, and will improve with time. Maybe they will apply the lessons they learned to the new Picard show. Maybe.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed, of course, and hopefully, whoever will be writing the new show will know what to do with the bestest captain ever (I will fight anyone who says otherwise). But until then, I can’t even be cautiously optimistic. Just cautious.