For Profit and Headware
Unless the first test reveals the exact location (five or more degrees of success), the Explorers have to successfully complete the Exploration Challenge (see page 263 of the Rogue Trader Rulebook) listed in the second column of Table 2-1. The Challenges are easier the closer the Explorers are to the Nexus, and whether they succeed or fail on the Challenge, they find the Nexus…eventually. However, if they fail in the Exploration Challenge, they have taken so long in their search that they have attracted unwanted attention in the form of a band of wasteland scavengers and outcasts (see the third column of Table 2-1).
Each band is made up of around a dozen or so Scum or Mutant Outcasts (see Rogue Trader page 317). They attack the Explorers by default, as they see the Explorers as competitors for what little resources the wastes have to offer. The scavengers have little appetite for a real fight however, fleeing quickly if more than a few are killed.
Having faced down the denizens of the wastes, the Explorers eventually come upon a wide, jagged ravine. Read aloud, or paraphrase the following:
You stand at the lip of a mighty crack in the cratered wastes, a hot gust of wind sending dust and ash cascading into its black depths. In the midst of the shadows, you can just about make out a curved, bone-white structure, its construction very obviously akin to those you encountered in the fern-forests of Quppa-Psi-12. Checking your coordinates, you confirm that this is the Zayth Nexus, at which your Navigator may take a reading of the star map. The Explorers need to descend the steep walls of the ravine in order to reach the nexus. The descent requires an Ordinary (+10) Climb Test for each Explorer, and takes a half-hour to complete. The temple is easy to access, and the Explorers should find the starmap on the upper storey in short order. Once they do, a psyker needs to make the reading (see page 50 for more information). However, unknown to the Explorers within the ravine, they are about to have their first encounter with Zayth’s other denizens.
Unbeknownst to the Explorers (unless someone remained outside the ravine), the two land-ships spotted on the way down have accelerated and are headed towards the Explorer’s position. The two land-ships are unaware of the presence of the Nexus, and are in the area for other reasons (see War Without End). However, one happens to be bearing down on the ravine where the Explorers are located. This may mean the Explorers get closer to a land-ship than they’d like.
After 10 minutes of working, any Explorer can make a Difficult (-10) Awareness Test. Success means they notice a faint rumbling, more felt than heard, in the air. Every five minutes thereafter, the Explorers may test again, with the test becoming one step less difficult each time. After another ten minutes, the Explorers notice the very rocks shaking and small landslides along the sides of the ravine.
If the Explorers were canny enough to leave someone on the surface, they may make a Very Easy (+40) Awareness Test to notice that one of the two land-ships seen during the descent is getting rather close. In fact, it seems to be headed directly towards the ravine the Eldar Nexus is located in.
The land-ship is completely unaware of the Eldar Nexus. However, the ravine is narrow enough that land-ship is able to drive directly over it, something that could prove disastrous to anyone within. The land-ship altered course at the same time the Explorers began their decent, and takes roughly one hour to reach their location. This means the Explorers have time for three readings before the land-ship rolls over their position and they are likely buried beneath a deluge of rock.
If the Explorers try to climb out, it is unlikely they will beat the land-ship. However, they can decrease the time of their climb by making a Difficult (-10) Climb Test (rather than an Ordinary Test). Succeeding at this test means they can make the climb in just 10 minutes. Alternatively, if they follow the ravine bed, they can escape the land-shipfs efootprintf without problems.Being caught in the rockslides and partially collapsed ravine deals 4d10 Impact damage to the body (and possibly more, if the Explorers are partway up the ravine when they are hit and end up falling back to the bottom). The rockslides also crush the Nexus Point beyond use. After this, hopefully, the Explorers have one part of the coordinates that will eventually lead them to the Dread Pearl. However, the sudden arrival of the land-ship means some serious potential complications. Read aloud or paraphrase the following:
As you scramble clear of the partially-collapsed ravine, you find yourselves standing at the base of a titanic construction. This mobile behemoth of adamantium and ceramite cruises across the wasteland as if someone had taken a hive spire and given it legs and treads. Even as you watch, one of the immense weapons on the land-shipfs flank roars fire and smoke, and a titanic projectile cracks through the air at supersonic speeds. Though you are near deafened by the blast, you can still hear a thundering explosion in the distance, and see a mushroom cloud billowing up over the horizon.
The Explorers are about to encounter two of Zayth’s mighty land ships, which even now are trading fire with one another with macrocannons more suited for starship combat. The second landship is out of sight over the horizon, but it is quickly drawing too close for comfort. Soon, the wastes are filling with a swarm of ramshackle battle tanks and armoured carriers, and an all-out assault is developing. The Explorers find the path back to their vessel blocked by the arrival of an entire squadron of tanks and a whole company of heavy armed and armoured warriors. Read aloud, or paraphrase the following:
As explosions fill the sky and bullets scythe through the air, the trembling of the ground increases to a mighty quake. From over the horizon, you see the rearing form of another land-ship, cruising slowly but inexorably in your direction. Suddenly the air between the two bizarre structures is filled with hurtling shells, which explode across the unseen void shields surrounding each. The wastes are now swarming with two large bodies of warriors, heavily armed and armoured, though you cannot make out or recognize the patterns of the equipment they bear. The two opposing armies are converging on your position, and the entire area is rapidly becoming a very dangerous place to be.
At this stage, the Explorers had better start looking for cover, or the sheer weight of firepower being exchanged by the two forces is going to cause someone a serious injury.
The only place nearby they might take cover in is the wreck of a crashed shuttle not far away.
Unfortunately, itfs this wreck that the two land ships are fighting over. It only requires the Explorers to take an Ordinary (+10) Common Lore (Imperium) Test to determine that the crashed ship is of standard Imperium manufacture, and obviously not one belonging to the locals.
As they come upon the wreck, have one of the Explorers make an Easy (+20) Logic Test.
If passed (or if the players havenft worked it out already), it seems apparent that the shuttle, or something in it, must be highly desirable if the two opposing factions are prepared to go to such great lengths for its possession. The Explorers smell a profit to be made. The following is an optional adventure that draws on the Zayth Gazeteer presented earlier on. With the details presented throughout the adventure, the GM should have all of the setting information needed to play it through. Furthermore, the Endeavour is separate from the plotting of the Zayth Nexus, so that if desired it can be skipped or, conversely, used in an entirely unrelated adventure.
The Explorers find themselves upon a raging battlefield, trapped between two great armies, each battling for possession of a crashed shuttle that lies wrecked nearby. What do the belligerents want with the shuttle and, more importantly, how can the Explorers turn the situation to their advantage?
Objective 1: Discover the Secret of the Shuttle
In order to find out why the opposing factions are fighting so bitterly to claim the wreck of the shuttle, the Explorers need to reach it before anyone else. This is far from easy, as hundreds of the warriors of both sides are converging upon it even now. How the Explorers go about this very much depends upon their approach, but below are a number of possibilities and how the belligerents might respond.
The race against time:
So long as they do not waste time and are travelling reasonably light, the Explorers might well be able to gain the wreck before the warriors of either side. This entails a fair amount of dodging bullets and a good deal of running. Have each Explorer roll 1d10 and subtract their Ag Bonus. This is the number of rounds that come close enough to hit them, each one counting as a single shot from a bolter (1d10+5 X Dam, Pen 4, Tearing). Explorers may dodge these attacks as normal. Any hits are worked out as normal.
Doing it by force:
If the Explorers are accompanied by any armed guards they brought with them, they might try to force their way through, holding off both enemy factions long enough to secure the wreck. This is a major gamble however. Ultimately, the warring factions have a lot more firepower to bring to bear than the Explorers do. Nevertheless, fighting their way through and establishing a strong perimeter might work; if only long enough for the Explorers to discover what is inside the shuttle.The GM can run this as a pitched battle using the mass combat rules found page 292 of Rogue Trader. The Profiles for the Land-Ship Armsmen can be found on page 128 at the end of this adventure. For the purposes of combat, there should be a minimum of 100 men on each side, or more if the Explorers have a large military force.
Negotiations or bluff:
There is always a chance that the Explorers might attempt to impose their will upon one or both sides, opening communications and trying to establish some sort of dialogue. This is even more of a gamble than fighting their way through, and takes some very skilled diplomatic work, or some very good lying. Although the least likely tactic to work, give the PCs a chance of succeeding if they come up with a particularly good play, allowing them to make a Very Hard (-30) Charm Test.
When they do eventually come upon the wrecked shuttle, they find that it is indeed an Imperial pattern, and it has evidently been shot down whilst traversing the wastes. If they are working against the clock, it takes a Challenging (+0) Strength Test to force entry, as the bulkhead is so buckled and warped that the entry hatches are jammed tight. Having gained entry to the shuttle, the Explorers find that its interior is almost as wrecked as the outside. Every system has been consumed by fire, and loose machine components are strewn all about. They come across a number of ruined and decaying Servitors, their organic body parts shrivelled and burned. In the shuttlefs cramped cockpit, they come across a grim scene: the corpse of a long-dead tech-priest of the Adeptus Mechanicus, his shrivelled hand welded by fire to the side of his head.
Should the Explorers decide to search the corpse, have them make an Easy (+20) Search Test.
Success reveals a crystal data-arc protruding from a port mounted in the Tech-priest’s cranial augmetics. Evidently, the servant of the Machine God was engaged in manipulating the port in some way, even at the moment of his own death. As soon as the Explorers recover the data-arc, the enemy factions converge on the shuttle and they find themselves engulfed in outright war. This should be run fluidly by the GM, with the intention that the factions throw men at the Explorers until they withdraw. The result should be inevitable, however the GM should leave the Explorers several options for escape (fleeing through the wastes, stealing an enemy transport, or even a daring aerial extraction via shuttle or guncutter).
Reading the Data-Arc
Once clear of the immediate danger presented by the cauldron of war in which the Explorers find themselves, they will be able to access the data-arc by way of a Difficult (?10) Tech-use Test. Provide the players with the handout on page 64. The tech-priest was in fact an emissary from the Adeptus Mechanicus of the Lathes in the Calixis Sector, and he was engaged upon a clandestine mission to curry favour with the Gun-Masters of one of Zaythfs mighty land-ships. The emissaryfs orders were to offer the Gun-Masters some example of the Machine God’s beneficence, in return for the opportunity to study the Gun-Mastersf weaponry.
Furthermore, it is quite clear that the emissary was not acting on behalf of the duly appointed officers of the Cult Mechanicus, but was in fact representing a rogue element within that order seeking to gain an advantage over its rivals. The data-arc contains a message, which the emissary was to secretly present to the Gun-Masters without the knowledge of the Elder-Tacticians, in order to open negotiations. The message makes some astronomical promises, which it is doubtful the Adeptus Mechanicus would have kept were the Gun-Masters to have agreed to the deal.
The data-arc goes on to give the details of the emissary’s Gun-Master contact, as well as some damning evidence of the identity of the emissary’s masters.
50 Achievement Points for successfully retrieving the crystal data-arc.
-10 Achievement Points if the Explorers are required to employ large numbers of their own resources in extraction from the wreck (such as 100 or more Armsmen).
Objective 2: Turn Discovery to Advantage
Themes: Criminal, Trade, and/or Military
Having obtained the data-arc from the crashed Adeptus Mechanicus shuttle, the Explorers are now in a position to turn the information to their advantage. There are a number of ways in which they might do so, though the group may of course come up with even more:
- Usurp the deal that the Tech-priest was to broker, by posing as him and meeting with the Gun-Master detailed in the data-arc. Once the information is obtained, sell it to the renegade faction of the Mechanicus.
- Sell the Gun-Master out to the Elder-Tacticians.
- Sell the emissary out to the Adeptus Mechanicus.
The Zayth gazetteer presented on the previous pages should provide plenty of inspiration for the settings and events that might take place as the Explorers set about this objective. However, some details are provided if the Explorers decide to pursue the first two options (it is worth noting that the second and third options are in no way mutually exclusive).
The Gun-Master the Tech-priest was supposed to contact is named Baddor Hovic. He is aboard the nearer of the two land-ships, the Indestructible.
The Indestructible is an archetypical land-ship, following the descriptions in the gazetteer. It carries a surprisingly large population within its gut, almost all of whom are devoted to the continued operation of the land-ship and continued warfare on its neighbours.However, the Indestructible is beginning to fare the worse in its centuries-long engagement. Rumours run rife through its superstructure that within a few decades, the corpse of the Indestructible will be picked clean by other land-ships, and her complement left to rot in the wastes. The Elder-Tacticians, led by Senior Tactician Graves, are confident in their ability to steer the Indestructible through these tough times, and bring it back into victory. However, a group of Gun-Masters, led by Hovic, are convinced the only way to ensure their survival is to exchange whatever they can for outside aid.
The renegade Mechanicus agents previously wore out their welcome with Graves and the Elder-Tacticians when they attempted to infiltrate the Indestructiblefs Engine-Order and their agents were exposed. At the Engine-Orderfs insistence, Graves ordered the Mechanicus envoy banished from his ship under pain of death. The renegades later contacted Hovic, who was more open to their offers, making a deal that offered weapon-tech in exchange for favour and opportunities to study the Gun-Mastersf weapons. Unbeknownst to Hovic, the end-goal of the renegades was to use him as a proxy, stringing him along and using him to gain access to the deepest secrets of a Zayth land-ship.
Whatever the Explorersf plan, their first goal should be to gain access to the Indestructible (if they want to try broker some sort of deal with the opposing land-ship, the Bulwark, the GM can use the information given about the Indestructible, adapted as needed). The Explorers could attempt access through the shipfs lower hatches, gargantuan access-ways used to deploy the land-shipfs tattered ground forces. However, these are some of the most heavily-defended points on the land-ship, and the Gun-Masters and soldiers there are under strict orders to shoot any vehicle or individual who is not of the Indestructible.
The Explorers may have better luck arriving through the upper dust-glider hangers in a shuttle. Though Zayth has few visitors from off-world, they are not unheard of. Since a land- shipfs airpower is usually limited to dust-glider squadrons, true flyers or shuttles are usually assumed to be off-worlders and not fired on. If the Explorers arrive openly, they are greeted by gruff vox- traffic ordering them to identify themselves. If they identify themselves as off-worlders of any stripe, they are allowed to land in one of the forward hanger bays. They touch down amongst a flurry of activity as a squadron of dust-gliders is being prepped for launch, wing hard-points loaded down with missiles and bombs. The Explorers feel the deck shake beneath their feet as the battle rages on outside the land-ship. The Explorers are quickly escorted to meet with three Elder-Tacticians, who are sparing time from their war to speak with them. Graves is not be among them at this stage, however he meets with the Explorers if they insist, or provide good reason.
Hovic is currently directing fire of Macrobattery Port-3, however he has agents amongst the menials and bodyguards on the upper bridge decks. These spies report the actions of the Elder-Tacticians back to him.
Depending on how the Explorers accomplished Objective 1, the Elder-Tacticians may or may not know what the Explorers have in their possession. What follows is largely dependant on what course of action the Explorers have decided to pursue. If the Explorers have decided to deal with Elder-Tactician Graves, he is at once grateful to them and furious at his deceitful subordinate. Meanwhile, Hovic likely learns of this, and decides to launch an attempted coup in order to save his own skin (and avenge himself against the Explorers who gbetrayedh him). The Explorers may find themselves fighting to protect Graves and the Elder-Tacticians against a sudden attack of seditious Gun-Masters, or even assaulting Hovicfs fastness in Macrobattery Port-3. In these cases, the GM should create a pitched battle, with enough Gun-Masters and their minions (use the Hired Gun from page 370 of Rogue Trade) to make the battle challenging.
On the other hand, if the Explorers plan on working with Hovic, they may be able to conclude their business clandestinely, exchange information, and leave (with a bit of deception to avoid arousing the Elder-Tacticiansf suspicions). They may also want to follow through with the plans of the renegade Mechanicus faction, and inspire a coup. This may even see them fighting alongside Hovic to take control of the land-ship from the Elder-Tacticians (and possibly some of their Engine-Order allies).
Profiles for the Gun-Masters, Eldar-Tacticians and Engine-Orders can be found on pages 126-127 in the NPC Appendix. In either case, two likely locations for the action to occur are detailed below:
The land-ships bristle with gargantuan macro-cannons, and the Zaythians have achieved, or in truth retained a secret long lost in the Imperium, a high degree of automation. Where the gun deck of an Imperial starship is crowded with hundreds of straining shell-serfs, hauling on the vast chains that manoeuvre shells the size of tanks into the breeches of the cannon, the gun-decks of the land-ships are instead dominated by arcane and complex auto-loader systems. A gun-deck would make an ideal venue for the Explorers to meet the Gun-Masters, and an incredibly dangerous place to play out a confrontation. Consider the complications thrown up when a huge shell passes between two sides engaged in a gunfight, or the risk of an incautious character being picked up by vast mechanical claws and stuffed into the breech of a macro-cannon.
Few are ever allowed access to the bridge of a land-ship, especially those from off world. The Explorers are therefore highly honoured by the invitation to seal their deal in such a venue. The bridge is as large and intricate as that to be found on any Imperial starship, and is probably even more complex, for countless systems and stations have been grafted on and extended over the centuries. Where an Imperial bridge would employ servitors and tech-adepts to man each station, the Zaythians crew each station with an ancient and wizened technician-mystic, one who is able to commune directly with land-shipfs systems through the clarity and wisdom of his thoughts, and thus maintain its operation. What would happen if a gunfight were to occur in this most sacred of places, and the innocent technician-mystics were caught in the crossfire?
- 75 Achievement Points for selling the information to one side or another.
- 125 Achievement Points for aiding the side they allied with in the upcoming conflict (provided their chosen side is successful).
- -20 Achievement Points if the Explorers are required to employ large numbers of their own resources during the resulting combat (such as 100 or more Armsmen).
Objective 3: Establish a Long Term Profit
Themes: Criminal, Trade, and/or Military
The final objective of this Endeavour may also turn out to be the hardest?the Explorers must turn short-term gain into long-term profit. How they do this depends on what they did in Objective 2. There are several different possibilities. However, here are the most likely ones based on their previous actions.
If the Explorers allied with the Gun-Master Engine-Order and aided in overthrowing the Elder-Tacticians,
they have a man who controls a land-ship and is in their debt. Hovic, being a fairly uncomplicated individual, is more than happy to provide the Explorers with examples of Zaythian technology, especially if they provide him with weapons and other examples of Imperial technology in return. The Explorers could even provide him with melta-tech, something he desperately desires after having heard it described by the renegade Mechanicus faction. The sticking point of the situation is the Engine-Order, who are not inclined to make any deals with Hovic or the Explorers. If the Explorers compensate Hovic well (and perhaps offer him aid), he attacks the Engine-Order, killing some and taking others prisoner to interrogate and learn their secrets. The better the deal the Explorers offer, the more zealously he pursues this course of action.Once the Explorers have obtained as much information as possible, they can depart Zayth, and figure out how to turn the information to profit.
The renegade Mechanicus faction would be more than willing to pay for the information, though the Explorers might be able to broker a deal with the main Adpetus Mechanicus as well. All this requires locating Mechanicus representatives or presence, something that takes some time and should likely happen outside the scope of this adventure arc. Meanwhile, the Indestructible, with its Elder-Tacticians and Engine-Orders killed or held prisoner, is doomed to a slow death on Zayth. Despite Hovic’s beliefs, he finds himself unable to manage the command of a land-ship, and when the other land-ships learn of his dealings for off-world technology, they attack the Indestructible en masse, hoping to steal that technology for themselves.
Alternatively, if the Explorers dealt with the Elder-Tacticians, Graves is willing to offer them some technology examples for their aid, such as the secrets of auto-loader technology. However, he remains firm on the Engine-Orderfs secrets, and little the Explorers can do dissuades him. However, the Explorers do have an opportunity to establish trade with Zayth and the Indestructible. One of the few items the Zaythians are still able to craft (that are worth anything to the larger Imperium) are macroweapons. Their crafters have honed their trade for centuries, and the macrocannons of Zayth are some of the highest-quality starship-class weapons found in the Expanse. The Explorers need to offer Graves something in exchange to establish the trade. Raw materials (such as adamantium and ceramite alloys) are one possibility, as are stocks of servitors for manual labour. Food and promethium fuel are also scarce on Zayth.Alternatively, the Explorers may offer to wipe out some of the Indestructiblefs enemies with an orbital bombardment. This is riskier than it sounds, because the land-ships are tough, protected by multiple void shields, and have banks of macro-batteries. The Explorersf vessel must enter low orbit (well within 10,000 km or one Void Unit of the planet’s surface) to initiate a bombardment (essentially, it will have no Manoeuvre actions until it breaks orbit, and must remain stationary? except for changing orientation?every turn it conducts the bombardment).
A Zayth land-ship should count as a cruiser with Armour 16, 3 Void Shields, and 75 Hull Integrity. It also has the equivalent of two Mars Pattern Macrocannon broadsides, which?while designed for surface work?are easily capable of hitting a starship in low orbit. The land-ship has a Detection Rating of -10, and a Crack crew (Skills and Characteristics of 40). It will perform Extended Actions such as Focused Augury and Lock On.
Whatever the Explorers do, they also have the option of selling out the renegade Mechanicus faction to their masters on the Lathes (this trio of forge worlds are the most powerful Mechanicus bastions in the Calixis Sector). Again, this is fairly time-consuming, and should likely take place outside the arc of this adventure. If they set up a long-term trade agreement with the Indestructible, however, the land-ship benefits greatly from its off-world patronage, and slowly rise to a position of strength in the Big War on Zayth. The Explorers will also have a trusted ally on Zayth in Elder- Tactician Graves.
- 150 Achievement Points if the Explorers aid Hovic and learn the secrets of the Engine-Order to sell to the Mechanicus (either faction, but +25 if they sell it to the renegades, who are willing to pay dearly).
- 175 Achievement Points if the Explorers set up a long term trade arrangement with Graves.
- 50 Achievement Points for selling out the renegade Mechanicus faction to the standard Mechanicus.
- -25 Achievement Points if the Explorersf ship suffers 10 or more damage during any action against a Zaythian land-ship.
Some of the more time consuming aspects of this adventure, such as setting up a long-term trade arrangement with Graves, or selling technological secrets to the Mechanicus, can take place gbehind the scenesh if the GM and players prefer. They can have their minions do it, or have arrangements take place during downtime between sessions. So long as the players make arrangements or plans for the events to occur, the GM should award the Achievement Points.