Processional Adventure

Nexus

The next point on the star map at which the Explorers Navigator must take a reading is not on the surface of a planet, but another one that is to be found in the depths of space. Upon arriving at the correct coordinates however, the Explorers discover that instead of an ancient structure floating in space, they are confronted with a shimmering warp portal.

An Ordinary (+10) Psyniscience Test reveals that some power of staggering proportion has twisted and distorted the strand of fate that leads to this place, drawing the nexus away, through the portal, to another place entirely. If the Explorers are to take the reading and thereby gain another vital part of the coordinates that lead them to the Dread Pearl, they must take their ship through the portal. The portal appears as a small point (only a few kilometres in diameter) of violet-hued light framed by gleaming wraithbone shards, wide enough for a ship. Navigating the ship into and through the portal taxes the abilities of the helmsman, but the Explorers have no choice if they are to locate the nexus and stand a chance of reaching the Dread Pearl before their competitors.

Passing though the portal requires an Ordinary (+10) Pilot (Space Craft) + Manoeuvrability Test.

Failure simply means the ship misses its mark, and must make another pass as the helmsman endures the stifled chuckles of his fellow crew. However, the GM can make this situation tenser by having the Explorers ambushed by an Aconite Frigate or even one of their competitors as they approach the portal.The transition is instantaneous, then the Explorers are confronted with a spectacle that few have ever witnessed?the Processional, in all its glory. The portal emerges at the very fringes of the celestial graveyard, but even at this distance, the pulsing singularity is detectable, as is the dark halo of dead vessels that shrouds it. So dense is the cloud, at this distance the Explorersf augurs cannot discern individual vessels?just a mass reverberating with eerie signals and ghostly sensor returns.

Almost immediately upon their arrival, the Explorers are struck with a sense of deep-seated dread. The temperature on the bridge of their vessel drops inexplicably and a thin skein of jagged frost creeps across the vista-panels, their breath clouding as they breathe. The vox-channels come to life; a low, burbling static laced with half-heard whispers filling the bridge.

The most immediate task Explorers are faced with is determining the location of the nexus. Locating this takes a Ordinary (+10) Scrutiny + Detection Test, and reveals the now-familiar Eldar structure floating in the void in the region known as the Inner Sea. (In fact, it shows up on the auger displays strangely clearly, considering that it’s surrounded by a sea of debris millions of kilometres across. This has no further relevance to the adventure, but the GM should be sure to play up this point, adding to the sense of ’wrongness.’)

Unfortunately, the Explorers must pilot their vessel into the debris field in order to reach the Nexus, which is far beyond the range of smaller vessels such as guncutters or lighters.Before the Explorers can reach the Processional Nexus, they must negotiate the perilous debris fields. This brings them into contact with a number of the Carrion, and trigger the Processional adventure described below.

Nexus & Adventure

This adventure is entwined with the Explorers attempting to reach the Nexus, allowing them to make a profit on the way.

Objective 1: Meet the Carrion
Keywords: Exploration

Reaching the location of the nexus requires the Explorers to navigate their vessel through the Fragmented Cloud. At least one Difficult (-10) Pilot (Space Craft) + Manoeuvrability Test is required to avoid taking impact hits (2d10+5 points of damage) from slow moving debris which ignore void shields. The GM may wish to make this test harder, or require more than one test if the Explorers wish to travel at more than a crawl or spend any length of time exploring the cloud.

As the vessel eventually clears the cloud, the bridge crew reports activity amongst the wrecks, within only a couple of hundred thousand kilometres. Have them make a Hard (-20) Scrutiny + Detection Test to determine the nature of the disturbance, and describe how a number of bridge officers show signs of tension; making the sign of the aquila, fingering charms, and muttering imprecations against the perils of the void. The degree of success by which the test is passed determines the range at which the disturbance is detected; while failure means that it is not detected until the danger is right on top the Explorers’ vessel.

The activity in amongst the wreckage is in fact a group of Hollow Men, stalking the Explorersf vessel through the debris field. Each is wearing an armoured suit, and so presents no more than a miniscule target that barely registers on the Explorersf fire control augurs. Depending on the result of the test described above, the Explores have little or no warning that anything is awry, and even if they do detect the presence of the Hollow Men, they have no way of knowing what they are facing. The Hollow Men make for the Explorersf vessel, and swarm all over its hull, cutting at components as if it were one of the wrecks of the Processional. Although the Hollow Men do not inflict any cataclysmic damage (unless left to their own devices for a long time), their activities soon begin to interfere with the vesselfs augurs, communications and other such systems.
In the event that the Explorers detect the Hollow Men as they close on the vessel, any shots they may take with shipboard weapons suffer a penalty of -40 to hit. Any shot that hits reduces 1d5 Hollow Men to atoms.

How the Explorers choose to deal with the Hollow Men is up to them, but they have to decide soon, before real damage is inflicted upon their vessel. The most obvious solution would be to don void-suits and confront the Hollow Men face to face, in which case the Explorers need to call upon a number of their servants to aid them, for there are a great many Hollow Men. The players might concoct a more unconventional plan, in which case they should be allowed to let their imaginations run riot. There are 50 Hollow Men in total, and they disperse as they swarm over the outer hull, meaning they can be confronted one-on-one if the Explorers decide to do so.

Should the Explorers ignore the Hollow Men, or take too long to deal with them they inevitably begin to damage their vessel as they tear off outer workings and even burrow into the hull itself. Every 15 minutes of game time that the Explorersf vessel is under attack the GM should total up the number of surviving Hollow Men and roll percentile dice, as if making a characteristic test. If the score is equal or less than the number of Hollow Men remaining then a vital system has been damaged. Randomly choose a ship component (either an essential component or supplemental component) that has some external presence, such as an auspex array or weapon battery. This component has been damaged (see page 222 in the Rogue Trader Rulebook), and must be repaired. If the GM rolls a 05 or less, the Hollow Men cut open some vital bit of the hull, and destroy one point of hull integrity instead.

Should the Explorers manage to slay half of the Hollow Men, the remainder disengage and melt into the surrounding debris field. They are impossible to track once in amongst the junk, and augur scans pick up nothing more than an odd movement or flickering energy return.

The Hollow Men having been driven off, the Explorers may well decide to carry on with their search for the Processional Nexus. First, however, a transmission comes over the vox:

Unknown vessel, repeat, hailing unknown vessel. Requesting permission to board, do you read us. Please, do you read us?

The voice sounds distinctly tense, as if the speaker is terrified that he might be overheard. The speaker is one of the Carrion, but unlike his fellows who are entirely in the thrall of the evil place they inhabit, this individual and his comrades are not. Instead, they are a hunted minority, living a life of terror in which they must hide not only from the evils of the Processional but from their own people as well. Having detected the Explorers vessel, these outcasts see a potential escape.

If the Explorers take too long in deciding what to do, the Hollow Men return, zeroing in on a nearby wreck. This is the location of the outcasts who have contacted the Explorers, and unless they can drive the Hollow Men away, the outcasts are likely to be slain before the charactersf very eyes.

If the Explorers agree to let the outcasts come on board, the outcasts emerge from their hiding place in a small, decrepit lighter, which is barely able to limp the short distance to the Explorersf ship and is visibly venting gases into space. Confronting the outcasts, the Explorers find a ragged bunch of grizzled void-farers, carrying a motley collection of wargear scavenged from the wrecks on the outer fringes of the Processional. Most notable about the group is the haunted expression in their eyes, a glimmer of something dark, as if each has seen such things as would drive most men to madness. In quiet tones, the outcasts explain about the descendents of Wrathfs crew, and that they themselves represent a small, outcast, and hunted faction that can take no more of the Processional and desire to leave, at any cost.

The outcasts are scattered throughout the system, each group ubsiding as best it can whilst avoiding the Carrion and the other perils of the Processional. Each group is little more than an extended family grouping, and is vastly outnumbered by the Carrion. Within little more than a decade, the outcasts explain, they will be hunted to extinction.
There follows a chance to negotiate with the outcasts. They ask that their kin be picked up and safely transported to Footfall. In return, the outcasts are willing to serve on the Explorersf crew for two years and a day.

A Challenging (+0) Evaluate Test reveals the outcasts are hardened fighters and appear trustworthy-employing them as a boarding crew or as armsmen would add a great deal to the Explorersf ship-borne resources. Rescuing them may also boost a Rogue Traderfs reputation as a proven individual in the Expanse.

Rewards
50 Achievement Points for rescuing the outcasts.
25 Achievement Points for locating the Nexus.
-25 Achievement Points for every Component the Hollow Men damage.

Objective 2: Gathering the Outcasts
Keywords: Exploration and/or Military

The few hundred or so outcasts wishing to leave the Processional are scattered throughout the system, in a number of groups living in the wrecks of a variety of dead spacecraft. Each group must be located and transferred to the Explorersf vessel. There is one group in each of the major regions of the Processional, and the Explorers face a different set of challenges in recovering each, as described below:

Blight: The second group of outcasts the Explorers must rescue are occupying a wrecked Sword-class frigate that is lodged deep within the twisting tunnels of Blight. Although the tunnels are in the main large enough to permit the passage of the Explorersf vessel, this is an extremely dangerous task that could go horribly wrong and result in the Explorers being marooned along with the Carrion. It is far safer to take a lighter into the hollow planetoid. Doing so requires actually taking a void-walk (see page 76) through the micro-gravity and hard vacuum of the pitch black tunnels?and possibly running into prowling Hollow Men.

Outer Sea of Space Hulks: The Sea of Space Hulks is so thick with wrecks the Explorers must keep their turrets busy at all times, lest they suffer damage from drifting debris. The Sea also decreases the efficiency of the shipfs augurs, requiring a Difficult (-10) Scrutiny + Detection Test (tried once an hour) to locate the group of outcasts dwelling in this area of the Processional. For every hour including the first that they remain in the Outer Sea of Space Hulks one Explorer can roll a Ballistic Skill Test with the shipfs guns. Success means they keep the worst of the debris at bay. Failure indicates a sizable impact, inflicting 2d10+2 points of damage and ignoring void shields.

Decay: The next group of outcasts are stranded on a wreck drifting perilously close to Decay, the home of the Hollow Men. Detecting the wreck requires a Hard (-20) Scrutiny+Detection Test (which may be retried each hour). However, here the Explorers could be attacked at any moment. Each hour after the first, there is a 50% chance of attack by 4d10 Hollow Men. If the Explorers are still rescuing the outcasts, the Hollow Men attack the outcastfs wreck. If they are on board the Explorersf vessel (or being brought on it), they attack that ship in the same manner as on page 92.

Inner Sea of Space Hulks: The Inner Sea marks the extent of the regions in which the Carrion make their homes, though here it is only on the very edges. This last small group of outcasts is living on board an ancient space hulk dating back to the earliest days of the Imperium. So old is the vessel that the Explorers may well be tempted to tarry awhile and explore it for archeotech. The Inner Sea is also the location of the Processional Nexus, which appears to be drifting ever closer to the writhing darkness at the heart of the system.The Explorers now have to conduct the reading of the nexus, requiring the Navigator to suit up and make a void-walk (see page 76), whilst the last of the Outcasts are rescued. If the Explorers have decided to investigate the ancient vessel housing the last group of outcasts, they find a number of interesting looking techno-relics to pocket and investigate later.

Rewards
50 Achievement Points for each group of outcasts rescued.
75 Achievement Points for looting wrecked ships.
-25 Achievement Points for every Component the Hollow Men damage.

Objective 3: Escape with their Lives!
Keywords: Military

The last part of the Endeavour sounds simple, but may in fact prove the most hazardous. As the Explorers depart the Inner Sea, they pick up several ship returns moving towards them, powered vessels on an intercept course. The larger faction of the Carrion, which wants nothing to do with the Imperium or any other outside group, has finally caught up with the Explorers.

The main group of Carrion have at their disposal three vessels analogous to Wolfpack Raiders (see Rogue Trader page 209) as well as a dozen smaller gunships. These converge on the Explorersf vessel as the breakaway Carrion are coming aboard. The Explorers are forced to fight their way clear of the main group of Carrion and the debris field, and escape. Once the Explorers are clear of the Inner Sea, the Carrion continue to pursue them, taking every possible opportunity to ensure the outcasts do not escape. Run this last Objective as a series of Scrutiny+Detection Tests and Manoeuvre+Piloting Tests, representing a combination of cat-and-mouse pursuit and outright flight. The GM may also use any or all of the rules in this adventure for dealing with the danger of debris, especially if travelling at speed. If the enemy attempts a boarding action the outcasts muster to the defence of the Explorersf vessel (adding +10 in the ensuing boarding action) as they bitterly fight their erstwhile kin.

Rewards
75 Achievement Points for escaping the Processional.
-50 Achievement Points if they escape the Processional and their ship has less than half its Hull Integrity remaining.

Outcome
At last, the Explorers reach the warp portal and escape. The Carrion do not pursue the Explorers through what they call gthe Damned Gateway,h but are certainly prepared for any more strangers attempting to use it to invade their accursed domain. The outcasts are most grateful to have escaped the hated place, and all too willing to pay the price agreed upon they remain with the vessel for two years and a day. Their ship gains a +1 bonus to Crew Population for every group they rescue, and their fanatical loyalty to their saviours means the ship gains a permanent +1d5 bonus to Morale.

Hollow Men
No one appears to know exactly where, or how, the Hollow Men survive amongst the vast debris field of the Processional of the Damned. They are encountered near large space hulks and in the hollow interiors of massive asteroids, but they are seen operating any kind of spaceship. Instead, they wear large suits of battered, scrap-built exo-armour with jury-rigged thruster packs, making them loom larger than a man. They swarm over wrecks, as well as any living vessel they are able to catch, stripping it from the outside in. Once they get their claws into a disabled vessel, its crew are as good as dead, for they slowly peel back its armoured panels, strip its systems, and pierce its metal skin. It is almost as if the Hollow Men are unaware of the living within such vessels, for they ignore the crews so long as they do not attempt to stop them. Such crews are ultimately doomed, however?as their vessel is dismantled around them they soon suffer the cold embrace of the void.

The Hollow Men are extremely well armed and armoured, although all of their equipment serves as much as tools as weapons. Short-range fusion beamers are just as useful for dismantling a wreck as disabling an enemy. To date, none have seen what lurks within the exo-armour, for the wreckersf face panels are as black as the singularity at the heart of the Processional. According to legend, their suits disintegrate into dust and ash the instant the creature within perishes. Other tales suggest there is nothing inside the suits at all, other than a malicious incarnation of the evils of the Processional. Profiles for Hollow Men are on page 128.

Ongoing Threats
Throughout the exploration of the Processional and the gathering of the outcasts, be sure to remind the players that this place is saturated with evil and dread. Describe the half-heard whispers at the edge of hearing, and the ghostly figures that flicker in the periphery of their vision. Have the Augurs constantly returning false signals, and just as the players get used to the tension, have something unexpected happen. Such events could range from a wreck drifting across the vesselfs course as if thrown at them, necessitating a test to avoid damage, to another attack by the dreaded Hollow Men. The key is to maintain dynamic the expectation that something really unpleasant is about to happencany minutecnowc

Processional Adventure

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