For Profit and Headware
The Dross Nexus is located in an equatorial zone dominated by the world’s rock stacks. As the Explorers approach the world, they immediately see the storms raging around it, and extend into nearby space, even to the extent of engulfing the world’s three small satellites.
A Hard (-20) Common Lore (Koronus Expanse) Test reveals only one explorer Rogue Trader Nejo Skylax is known to have ever returned from the world’s surface, but many others have apparently perished in the attempt. In order for the Explorers’ Navigator to take a reading at the Dross Nexus, the Explorers must brave its storms and descend to the surface. Teleportation cannot penetrate the storms. As the Explorers’ vessel approaches Dross, the augurs report all manner of unconventional energies engulfing the world. The storms appear like scattered roiling clouds, shot through with fierce lightning and the occasional glow of brilliant gold light.
To penetrate the storms using the ship’s augers, an Explorer have to make a Punishing (-50) Scrutiny + Detection Test. Success reveals the traces of scattered metal returns from a solid surface, indicating possible wrecks. Anything else simply reveals that there is a planet beneath the storm. The Dross Nexus is automatically detectable by any scan, successful or not.
Nexus and Profit
This Adventure is indelibly tied to the Explorersf attempts to reach the Dross Nexus. If the Explorers simply reach the Nexus, scan it, and leave, they will not receive many Achievement Points. However, if they take the opportunity to make a profit while they are there, they will be able to gain additional Achievement Points (as described on page 87).
Objective 1: Penetrate the Storms of Dross
The descent to the surface of Dross is extremely perilous-more so than the Explorers can possibly know until they begin their planetfall. Once committed, the pilot discovers that his vessel’s guidance systems are becoming increasingly unreliable, and he is forced to rely more and more upon his own skills. But it’s too late to turn back now! Soon, the vessel’s augurs begin to fail, until after a while, little more than the most basic avionic data is available to him. He can rely upon little beyond what he can see through the cockpit canopy.
The shuttle’s pilot must make a Arduous (-40) Pilot (Space Craft) Test to navigate the storm successfully. However, this roll can be modified with help from other Explorers:
Navigate by Eye: If an Explorer passes a Difficult (-10) Navigation (Surface or Stellar) Test, add 0) Tech-use Test, add 0) Evaluate Test ,add +10 to the Pilot’s roll. Note that if this test is failed, the GM may wish to have the Explorer throw out something of value by mistake
Pray to the Emperor: If an Explorer passes a Difficult (-10) Charm Test, he confidently recites a prayer covering this exact situation. The prayer boosts everyone’s faith and raises hopes they may make it alive, ultimately adding +10 to the Pilot’s roll.Each of these tests may only be attempted once by a single Explorer chosen by the group. Once the test is made, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
Your shuttle screams as you struggle with the nonresponsive controls, illuminated by strobe-flashes of lightning. Suddenly, the roiling clouds part and the surface of Dross appears below. Your vessel is only scant kilometres from the surface, which is arid and dominated by mighty rock formations that rear hundreds of metres into the air as if massive, dead trees or ancient stalagmites.
If the pilot succeeded on his Test, the shuttle makes a rough but serviceable landing. If he fails, he crash-lands, instead. The shuttle digs a massive furrow across the ground, before coming to rest as a crumpled wreck. All those inside must make a Challenging (+0) Toughness Test or take 2d10 damage (not reduced by armour) from the crash.
75 Achievement Points for reaching the planetfs surface.
-25 Achievement Points for crashing the shuttle.
For this objective, the Explorers cannot gain Achievement Point bonuses from any source not currently present on the planetfs surface.
Objective 2: Salvage and First Contact
Keywords: Exploration, Trade, and/or Military
Upon finally landing among the rock stacks, the Explorers immediately discover the extent of wreckage scattered about the area. A successful Challenging (+10) Evaluate Test reveals many of the fragments strewn across the area in which they have landed present the possibility of substantial amounts of salvage.
The Explorers landed fifty kilometres from the Dross Nexus, and given the state their vessel is likely to be in following its landing, they would be well advised not to push their luck by attempting to fly to its location.
If the players decide to risk the short flight, they need to make a Very Hard (-30) Pilot (Space Craft) Test or crash. As they explore the area, the Explorers come upon more and more wrecks. Some are little more than debris fields scattered across a wide area, while others represent intact vessels almost entirely submerged between the shifting sands at the feet of the rock stacks. Some are long-decayed skeletons, while others are almost perfectly preserved.
Although the majority of the wrecks appear to of human vessels, the Explorers soon come across xenos wrecks. Although an Ork wreck is hard to identify (or even tell if it’s destroyed or not), Eldar wrecks are obvious-with great, shattered void-sails rearing from the sands and rocks, broken wraithbone scattered all about. Still more wrecks are of indeterminate origin, some appearing to be solid, jet black stone, while at least one other appears to be a gigantic portion of a truly immense sphere. If the GM wants to, he can have the Explorers come across pieces of xenos gear, although these should not be intact. As they explore, they begin to encounter wrecks that have unintelligible runes scrawled in dried blood across their flanks, whilst others are surrounded by painstakingly-arranged human bones.
As the Explorers progress, they attract the attentions of the natives. A Very Hard (-30) Awareness Test allows the Explorers to notice they are being followed. Unless they pull off something truly cunning, the Explorers are attacked by a group of ten tribesmen (plus five for each degree of failure with the Awareness Test). The Explorers could attempt to reason with the natives, establishing contact by way of a Charm Test, with bonuses for good roleplaying applied. In the end, the success of this should be determined by whether or not the Explorers succeeded on their test, and whether or not they interfered with any wrecks that the tribes know about. If they did interfere, no amount of reasoning placates the tribesf religious fervour. The profile for the Dross Tribesmen can be found on page 125.
Having defeated or fled from the tribesmen, allow the Explorers to take a Difficult (-10) Logic Test. Success indicates the savages appeared to be fighting not simply to inflict injury on the Explorers, but to drive them away from the last wreck they encountered.
Passing the test by one degree of success suggests that the wrecks might be valuable to the tribesmen, while passing it by three or more degrees of success reveals that the wrecks must be of religious significance to the natives.
Eventually, Asira Storm-Speaker appears. The High Priestess of the Sky-Father has taken it upon herself to gauge the identity of these strangers, and whether or not they have the blessing of her peoples’ god. She approaches at the head of several dozen of her best warriors, and awaits the Explorers’ response.
What happens next is really up to the players. They might attempt to communicate with the High Priestess, or they might prefer to fight her. The former results in Asira requesting the Explorers’ aid against the enemies of her tribe, while the latter sees her unleashing her formidable powers on them.
Aiding the Natives
If the Explorers want to aid Asira, she explains in broken and halting Low Gothic that she wants the Explorers to wage war on her enemies. Asira willingly admits she believes she is destined to unite the tribes and end the storms that surround her planet. This has mostly to do with her success at waging war on them thus far, but even a warrior-psyker of her prowess cannot hope to win the religious war alone. She believes the Explorers can provide her with the aid she needs, however.
The Explorers are most likely far better armed than any natives on the planet. However, even they cannot wage war against an entire planet (unless they have brought a large contingent of armed troops to the surface, which is unlikely given the circumstances). If the Explorers want to try aiding Asira directly, the GM should oblige them. In fact, the GM could create some objectives that a small and well-armed group could accomplish, such as visibly and violently taking over a prominent shrine to overawe the other tribes, or infiltrating a tribal fortress during the night to unlock the gates and allow Asira’s tribe access. However, it should eventually become obvious to the players that they are fighting a losing battle.
The more successful Asira is, the more the other tribes unite against her. On their own, the Explorers cannot help her accomplish her goals. There are several ways to do so, however. These are discussed in the next objective.
100 Achievement Points for establishing peaceful relations with Asira and gaining her assistance.
50 Achievement Points for doing something definite towards defeating Asira’s enemies, such as directly taking action against them.
-100 Achievement Points for gaining Asira’s enmity.
For this objective, the Explorers cannot gain Achievement Point bonuses from any source not currently present on the planetfs surface.
Objective 3: Escape the Storms of Dross
Keywords: Creed and/or Military
Eventually, the Explorers come to the Dross nexus. Here the Navigator can take his reading, as described on page 50. However, in the course of making the reading, the Navigator should also learn that the storms are linked to the psychic dissonance generated from the partially malfunctioning Nexus (page 83).
Furthermore, a powerful enough psyker should be able to wrestle with the Nexus and be able to bring the roiling energies under control?for a short time at least. At this point, the Explorers have several options. Unless one of the Explorers wishes to stay behind on Dross while the others leave, they need to enlist the aid of another psyker?Asira is the obvious choice. How they proceed with this determines whether or not they are able to wrest any profit from their ventures.
The Explorers may choose to level with Asira and explain the situation. If the Explorers explain the situation to Asira, she graciously offers to operate the Nexus and allow the Explorers to leave. In fact, she positively encourages them to do so. Asirafs clever mind realises almost immediately that with the Explorers gone and her control over the storms that shroud her world, she can realise the prophecy of the Sky-Fatherfs return. Once the Explorers have left, she can present herself as the Sky-Fatherfs high priestess and with her ability to briefly part the storms, hopefully the tribes unite under her leadership voluntarily.
However, with the Nexus under her control, she sees no reason to treat with the Explorers further. She refuses to part the skies for them to return, and if they do so via shuttle, she effectively holds them hostage on the planet until they agree to leave. Needless to say, she will not allow the Explorers any salvage, and the Explorers will not be able to earn any further Achievement Points on the planet.
Another option for the Explorers is to present themselves as the Sky-Father’s emissaries, who have traveled to the planet secretly to bestow Asira with the power to quell the storms. This requires some deceitful behavior, however it does have a reasonable chance of succeeding. As Asira is a priestess of a faith that worships technological relics, it does not seem impossible to her that off-worlders bearing wondrous weapons and devices are emissaries of her deity. The Explorers may even offer to return with gifts of weaponry and even soldiers to help Asira conquer the planet.
If the Explorers are successful in this charade, they can convince Asira to quell the storms long enough for them to return with multiple landers and shuttles. They may also be able to convince Asira to let them salvage the myriad wrecked ships for valuable archeotech and xenostech.
The return Journey
If the Explorers have been able to secure Asira’s aid, they find the return journey far lass perilous than the planetfall. As they launch, read aloud or paraphrase the following:
As you lift off in your shuttle, the roiling aetheric clouds above become still. As you gain altitude, the part of the storm towards which you are flying parts, forming a tunnel through the storm. The edges of the tunnel churn with celestial energies, but they are somehow being held in check, forced back by the workings of the nexus and Asira’s prodigious psychic powers. As you pass through the tunnel, the black of the void is discernible up ahead, and after a while you are through, the blessedly welcome sight of your vessel looming ahead. Behind you, the tunnel collapses in upon itself, and Dross is lost to your sight and your sensors.
Returning without the Sky-talker’s aid requires the same Pilot (Space Craft) Test as landing (see page 85), which may of course be modified by the actions of the other Explorers.
25 Achievement Points for getting off-world.
150 Achievement Points for convincing Asira to allow them future salvage operations.
-100 Achievement Points for leaving without guaranteeing future salvage operations.
-10 Achievement Points for not securing Asira’s aid in controlling the Nexus and leaving the planet.
If the Explorers establish themselves as emissaries of the Sky- Father and subsequently aid Asira in uniting the planet-they also find their deception has long-term benefits. Dross will be extremely favourable to the Explorers in the future, which could allow them to establish Endeavours on the planet in the future under extremely agreeable terms. Of course, the Ecclesiarchy may not look on their actions favourably, which could cause problems in the future.
The Explorers may even set up a longer-term salvage operation, involving their minions and spanning several years or even decades. Provided they arrange the initial deal with Asira, and make some other arrangements, the GM can feel free to award the Explorers with additional Achievement Points, or even 1 or 2 points of Profit Factor.