Rogue Trader

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Ambition knows no bounds.


The name Rogue Trader refers to two different games associated with the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

  • The original Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987) was the first edition of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game.
  • The second Rogue Trader (2009) is the second game of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay series.

Tropes for the former can be found on the main Warhammer 40,000 page; this page is for the latter.

It's a game of exploration, adventure, and the horrors of the unknown, following one of the eponymous Rogue Traders and his crew as they explore the uncharted depths of space for gold, glory and the God-Emperor. See also Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, and Black Crusade, Rogue Trader's sister games.

Tropes used in Rogue Trader include:
  • Abnormal Ammo: Even more so than in other WH 40k lines. Such as acid shells (degrading the target's armour). Or snare shells (to shoot sticky webber stuff from shotgun), or mono-edged flechette loads (and the poisoned variety). Microburst flasks that stop Overheating and increase range of plasma weapons (but don't allow Maximal mode). Or flamer cans laced with nephium (stuff that makes promethium even more napalm-y). Or micro-blast needles that instead of being made of poison are made of explosives - almost as messy as bolter, plus all the perks of needle guns themselves, but still no good against armor.
  • Ace Pilot: One of the possible archetypes for Void Master characters (the others being Ace Helmsman, Ace Gunner, and Ace Sensor Officer). The Flight Marshal elite advance that Void Masters can take is unambiguously this.
    • Oddly enough, the core rule book has no rules for anything those piloting skills are useful for.
  • Ancestral Weapon: An option for your character at creation, actually.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Not only are the player characters the ones that run the ship, they're all but inevitably the most powerful, well-trained warriors on the ship as well.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Averted by plasma weapons, which now work a lot better than they did in Dark Heresy.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Bolt weapons. Also, archeotech ship components, which use less space and power while being slightly better than normal components.
  • Background-Based System: "Origin Path" (that can be traversed from either end, of course): Homeworld/Origin - Birthright - Lure of the Void - Trials and Travails - Motivation - Career, with each step giving 2-3 choices depending on the previous node, including Career (character class). Navigator has more options from the Navigator House. Later sourcebooks added variants. Then they added backgrounds for your background, so you can generate background for your generated background, that is introduced "Nemesis Path" for opposing NPCs and "Ship and Warrant Path" for the Rogue Trader dynasty (see sets of paths for PC and ship here).
  • Badass: If your character isn't this, you're doing it terribly wrong.
  • Balance of Power: Aspyce Chorda and Calligos Winterscale, the two strongest Rogue Traders in the Expanse are on a brink of war. They are so evenly matched that neither is guaranteed victory.
  • Battle Butler: The Seneschal career path is essentially this, mixed with a bit of The Spymaster and a whole lotta merchant.
  • Beam Spam: Various beam batteries, the Eldar and Rak'Gol lances.
  • BFG: Your ship has guns that take a good seventy men to operate, fired in salvos of hundreds. The big guns need over a thousand.
  • Big Bad: Karrad Vall the Faceless Lord, and Morgash Kulgraz, Kaptin of Da Wurldbreaka are both strong contenders for being the ultimate Big Bads of the Koronus Expanse.
  • Bigger Is Better: A literal case with Ork equipment. As the quality of the craftsmanship goes up, so does the size and mass of the piece of equipment. With human manufactured items, the opposite tends to be true.
  • Car Fu: The Into The Storm supplement finally introduces official rules for vehicles and vehicular combat into the 40k roleplaying system.
  • Class and Level System:
    • Rogue Trader - Lord Captain. Focus on leadership, trade and politics, Jack of All Trades in other abilities. Special Ability: Exceptional Leader (can motivate an ally for a bonus on any Test).
    • Arch-militant - warrior, with abilities focused in choppy and shooty areas. Special Ability: Weapon Master (bonuses for attacking with the favoured class of weapons).
    • Astropath Transcendent - psyker. Special Abilities: Soul-Bound to the Emperor (protected from daemons), See Without Eyes (unaffected by bright light, but can't see an Untouchable), Psychic Powers.
    • Explorator - Tech-priest (specializations may vary wildly). Special Ability: Explorator Implants.
    • Missionary - priest. Special Ability: starts with Pure Faith.
    • Navigator - slightly mutated Warp guide.
    • Seneschal - trade agent and/or spy. Special Ability: Seeker of Lore (bonus on Commerce/Inquiry/Evaluate, can automatically pass any Ciphers (!), Lore, or Logic Test for a Fate point).
    • Void-master - ship/vehicle oriented class, helmsman/gunner/etc. Special Ability (one of): Mastery of Space, Mastery of Gunnery, Mastery of Augurs, Mastery of Small Craft (re-roll all failed Tests involving spaceship Manoeuvre actions, shooting ship weapons, Detection or using small craft, respectively).
    • Later alien Careers were added: Ork (Freebooter or Weirdboy), Kroot Mercenary, Dark Eldar (Kabalite Warrior or Wych).
    • Prestige Class: Alternate Ranks give specialized sets of advances.
ACR for Careers from Sourcebook what it's about
Acquisitionist Seneschal Into the Storm It would be rude to say "Black Marketeer", but good at finding things that… fell off the back of a shuttle.
Augmenticist any Human except Explorator and Missionary Into the Storm "Every implant exalts you…"
Calixian Privateer Rogue Trader Into the Storm Have a Letter of Marque, will yarr plunder.
Drusian Adherent any Human except Astropath and Explorator Into the Storm Follower of an Imperial Saint who was a general; have a flamer, will crusade.
Flight Marshal Void Master Into the Storm Ace Pilot. It's always Wing Commander time.
Genetor Explorator Into the Storm Someone has to watch for mutants and study Xenos anatomy, looks like jobs for Mechanicus Biologis. Also, having a good surgeon on the ship helps.
Gland Warrior Arch-Militant Into the Storm An experimental augmented soldier.
Kroot Shaper Kroot Into the Storm
Legend of the Expanse any Into the Storm
Navis Scion Navigator, starting only Into the Storm Doesn't have mutations, as such trained to represent the Navis House.
Ork Kommando Ork Into the Storm Dead sneaky. Have a choppa, will WAAGH!
Ork Mekboy Ork Into the Storm Have gubbinz… ya know the drill, yez?
Transubstantial Initiate Astropath, starting only Into the Storm A member of Astropath sect seeing Soul-Binding to the Emprah as a religious revelation.
Torchbearer Missionary Into the Storm A missionary trained for feral worlds.
Xenographer any Human Into the Storm
Arch Heretek any Human except Navigators, Astropaths, Missionaries Hostile Aquisitions Defies Mechanicus.
Cold Trade Broker any Hostile Aquisitions trader in proscribed alien artefacts
Drusian Charlatan any Human except Explorator Hostile Aquisitions peddler of fake relics and/or religious services; naturally gets Enemy (Ecclesiarchy) if didn't already have it
House Operative any Human except Rogue Trader Hostile Aquisitions Agent of a political body — overseer, diplomat and/or spymaster.
Manhunter any Hostile Aquisitions hitman or bounty hunter
Reaver any Human Hostile Aquisitions other humans are prey
Swashbuckler any Hostile Aquisitions
Secessionist any Hostile Aquisitions demagogue; obviously not liked by any loyalists
Acolyte of Abraxas Explorator The Navis Primer heretek messing with psychically active devices
Awakened Psyker any Human except Navigators and Astropaths The Navis Primer "I totally was going to board the next Black Ship we meet, honest!"
Bonetrader any, except Astropath, Navigator and Weirdboy The Navis Primer trader of terribly illegal psy-active xenos artifacts
Colchite Servo-Master any The Navis Primer controls servitors via alien implant
Defender of the Fourth Cipher Missionary or Arch-Militant The Navis Primer dedicated overseer of psykers
Elutrian Devotee Navigator The Navis Primer "we are awesome, psykers are unworthy and untrustworthy"; being overenthusiastic helps with Navis powers but it doesn't sit well with Astropath and Inquisition
Psylakis Warder any except Navigator, Astropath or Ork The Navis Primer psy-linked bodyguard for Navigators or Astropaths
Witness of Dusk Astropath The Navis Primer member of an Astropath cabal, distrusted by Inquisition and disliked by the rest of Astropaths for rocking the boat
Beastmaster any Faith and Coin trains and wrangles beast minions, and considering what sort of beasts you can meet in 40k RP…
Witch Finder any non-psyker Faith and Coin
Reliquarist Rogue Trader, Explorator, Missionary, Seneschal, Void-master Faith and Coin specialist in history and relics; natural enemy of a Drusian Charlatan
Adherent of Aleynikov any Human Faith and Coin follower of an Imperial Saint focused on healing and never giving up
Red Consecrator any Human, except Explorator, Astropath, Navigator Faith and Coin member of a martial sect
Order of the Hammer Initiate any Human Faith and Coin member of a sect focused on knowledge and hard work
    • …then there are Elite Advance packages bolted on top, with XP cost.
  • Cool Starship: Naturally. If their ventures are profitable, the player characters may eventually find themselves in command of a Cool Fleet.
  • Costume Porn: Rogue Traders are expected to wear clothing that would make Chairman Kaga raise an eyebrow.
  • Cyborg: Various prosthetics, augmetics and interface ports are fairly common in general. Tech-Priests always have the special Mechanicus set ("True Flesh"). There are some other character types such as Augmenticists, who don't necessarily share their faith, but share excessive enthusiasm about it. And servitors on the mostly-mindless side of the spectrum.
    • Killer Robot: Battle Servitors in general tend to have problems with friend-or-foe recognition. Specialized boarding units are called simply and aptly "murder servitors". They aren't used to repel boarders - at least, normally.
    • Rak'Gol again.
  • Fiction 500: With the power of an interplanetary trade dynasty at their back, Rogue Traders can routinely purchase things like centuries-old Powered Armor, private mercenary armies, and starships that cost more than a small planet. At first level. Some of the expanded rules given in Into The Storm, which introduce consequences for making Acquisition rolls, are specifically designed to stop the Explorers from solving every problem by throwing money at it.
  • Force Field Door: Lathe-Pattern Landing Bay. It's slightly more compact than the variety with airlocks, and even no more power-hungry (those are huge airlocks, after all). Of course, if it ever loses power, it's also instantly depressurized - and you probably want to close the real door before entering the Warp, too.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Mekboy elite advance available to Ork Freebootaz allows them to tap into their Genetic Memory and gain an intuitive understanding of Ork "manufacturing", letting them cobble together amazing if clunky devices. To quote the rule book:

"The Ork has an innate and instinctive skill with machinery, allowing him to perform feats of engineering that defy logic, cobbling together random lumps of wrecked technology and scrap metal into something bizarre and startlingly effective."

  • Genius Bruiser: The Seneschal career path (though based on their initial skill set and starting equipment, it's more like Genius Ninja).
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Warp. There's only one Navigator power that all of them share. It's called The Lidless Stare, and it basically lets them open their third eye (and that's a literal one, not some wishy-washy metaphor...) - if anyone looks into it, they see the Warp. This can be detrimental to your health.
    • This also applies to the narration for a lot of the more remote planets in the books, which contain many examples of Lovecraftian horror.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The Stryxis are an amusing variant. They are also compulsive hagglers and their idea of values doesn't always coincide with humans'. This being 40k, they also are opportunistic slavers.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Surprisingly, not the Tyranids but the Rak'Gol, a new canon addition. Don't strip-mine planets, but suddenly come in near-unstoppable waves, kill everyone on their way, grab what they want and leave, for their own reasons.
  • Improvised Armour: Aside of monstrous hides, reinforced void suits, power loader and heavy Hazmat Suit used for working with engines also see some combat use.
  • Insanity Immunity: "Cold Soul" talent - the character has a huge bonus to resist all sorts of talks and torture, cancels all Mental Disorders and is immune to any further Mental Trauma. Due to already being a murderous psychopath not very moved by pretty much anything (it's an advance of the Reaver, and requires some more Insanity). Naturally, reducing Insanity score becomes harder.
  • Kicked Upstairs: A possible (and apparently quite frequent) explanation for how a particular Rogue Trader got his Warrant of Trade: some very powerful people wanted him out of the way, but he himself was too powerful to just kill, so they gave him the Warrant to get him to take his interests elsewhere.
  • Large and In Charge: Ork Warbosses, particularly the aforementioned Morgash Kulgraz. Also Calligos Winterscale, probably the most powerful Rogue Trader in Koronus Expanse at moment.
  • Lighter and Softer: than the other Warhammer 40,000 games, at least. There is sense of adventure, discovery and making lasting changes in a wide-open sandbox area of the galaxy that is free from large-scale wars or plots and conspiracies threatening to bring everything crashing down.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Rak'Gol, again. They are surprisingly fast, hit very hard, and can take more punishment than an Ork.
  • Living Legend: There are several options involving character's reputation (good or bad), including "Legendary" Talent that improves successful Interactions and gives Fear in combat. Also, there's NPC Trait "The Man... the Legend", used exclusively for Calligos Winterscale, which allows him to automatically succeed on pretty much any tests (spending a Fate point, but still) - he is more a force of Nature than a normal character.
  • Machine Empathy: Cog Whisperer (Elite Advance Package).
  • Machine Worship: The Machine Cult of Mars, represented here by the Explorator career path.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: The Rogue Trader must walk on a thing to claim it, so to some degree it's expected.
    • Mostly averted, in that there are not just PCs and faceless Crew Population. While not core rules, Into the Storm introduced ship roles - explicitly listed 4 top ranks in the hierarchy. That's 22 officer positions total, which encourages using proper NPCs, in that gaming groups of such size are quite rare. For each it's defined what this officer is supposed to do, what Careers are usual and/or eligible, what are requirements to do this job right (2 to 4 skills on Trained level, plus practice), mechanical benefits of doing it competently (usually +5 to +20 bonus on a fairly important Test, sometimes new or improved Actions), and who the immediate subordinates are.
  • Magitek: Wards. "Cursed" items. Also, there are psy-active devices, including implants made or adapted by some hereteks; Rak'Gol use certain Yu'Vath artefacts for this purpose.
  • Master of None: A few weapons and ship hulls.
    • Among the ships, Light Cruisers: unlike in Battlefleet Gothic, they suffer from turning limitations of Cruisers and cost almost as much, while not being as tough or upgradeable, so they end up neither here nor there, with a few exceptions. They have slightly better Manoeuvrability than Cruisers, but not enough to make them much better at the tasks that require it. Also, beyond the size the classes blurred together: core rules hulls had Speed 7 vs. 5, Manoeuvrability +15 vs. +10 and Detection +20 vs. +10, but with later additions 5…7 / +12…15 / +15…20 vs. 4…5 / +5…12 / +10…18.
    • Among the small craft, Gun-cutter: it's a wide class of armed shuttles used as landers in hostile areas, as close air support or in a pinch for short interplanetary travel. The example type (illustration shows a heavily refitted Thunderhawk) has carrying capacity much less than a barge shuttle of its size - comparable to an assault boat, but it has no heavy breacher to get through the hull. Weapons enough to put up a fight - comparable to defensive armament of a bomber, but no equivalent of bombardment weapons, or long-range weapons of a fighter, nor extra weapon pylons of an atmospheric gunship. Manoeuvrability better than that of a bomber or assault boat, but worse than a fighter. Armor only slightly worse than on assault boat (which is to say, front armor like on Leman Russ MBT) and better than anything else, and tactical speed better only than assault boat. The result is that it got a lot of potential (a swarm of them would be obviously capable of at least intercepting torpedoes and boarding damaged ships, and there's more than enough space for a forcefield generator), but it's excluded from the simplified squadron system, as there was no simple way to fit it.
  • Military Science Fiction: The Battlefleet Koronus supplement includes expanded rules for starship combat and rules for large-scale ground warfare, allowing the game as a whole to take on more of this flavor.
  • Mobile Factory: There's ship equipment allowing various forms of resource mining, as well as plain Manufactorum and Pharmacia.
  • More Dakka: Aside of da Orkz, the Rak'Gol with their Howler Cannons.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Rank 1 Rogue Trader characters are significantly more powerful than Rank 1 Dark Heresy characters; in fact, they're explicitly the equivalent of Rank 5 Dark Heresy characters (of 8 max).
    • Theoretically, at least. However, in practice, using Dark Heresy characters in Rogue Trader is a bit unbalanced. Well-built DH characters quickly out-scale RT characters because of cheaper advances (usually 100 to 300 xp vs. 200 to 500 for skills, and 100 to 300 vs. 500 or 1000 for talents), a larger variety of options, and the fact that while RT characters start with 5 more points in all their characteristics, they only have 4 characteristic advances, whereas DH characters have 6 total (with Ascension).
  • Punch Clock Hero: The Into The Storm Splat gives us the Kroot mercenary as a career option. Rogue Traders are one of the few Imperial servants who have sanction to deal with xenos, and that includes hiring of services. The Kroot are excellent trackers, spies, and close-quarters combatants, but their help is strictly mercenary. They can be trusted to uphold their word, but how determined they are to see their task through is heavily dependant on the renumerations they expect to recieve, to the point that they can resist fear and pinning better if their current venture is potentially profitable enough.
  • Psycho for Hire: A perfectly valid career option, as the game's supplements allow the game to pick some alternate career options that turn the characters into this, including the Reaver - explicitly a psychopath preying on humans. And then The Soul Reaver introduces a full career path that makes all of these look heroic by comparison, namely the Dark Eldar Kabalite Warrior. With game mechanics reflecting how the Dark Eldar literally feed on pain of everyone around.
  • Recycled in Space: Nearly all the game mechanics are recycled from Dark Heresy.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Ork weapons are Unreliable for everyone else. Most of the Ork ship cannons on every attack roll random Strength - i.e. how many guns in the battery actually have fired this time.
  • Robot Master: Not quite "robots", but tech-priests control servo-skulls and servitors, as does Colchite Servo-Master (if you don't mind shifty xenos implanting stuff into your skull, that is).
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Oh, dear. There are a lot of attempts to use "more zeroes". Starting with VU and strange relations between velocities, distance and time. Also, some things (like crew and money) are given in abstract/relative scale, and then subjected to adjustments that must be absolute to make any sense. Hull Space units are used both as absolute (bigger hulls have more, and most components like cannons/holds/whatever has fixed values) and as hard-linked with relative parameters (Components such as Crew Quarters and Arboreum).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Rogue Traders are allowed to get around a great deal of the regulations of the Imperium, essentially because they're some of the most wealthy and powerful individuals in the galaxy (emphasis on individuals).
    • In the lore, this is the entire point of licensing Rogue Traders. On the frontier they are much more effective than more official operatives.
    • In the crunch, your starting character is either going to start with lots of money or a frakking big ship. So either this or Screw The Rules I Have A Kilometers Long Starfaring Battle Cathedral.
    • And that the monies aren't really counted doesn't improve the situation.
  • Sarvus Trask Is About To Shoot You: The cover for the Hostile Acquisitions supplement.
  • Shout-Out: The description of the Endurance Motivation ("You seek to endure, and, in enduring, grow stronger") refers to a line spoken by Dak'kon from Planescape: Torment.
    • Death World characters start with training in primitive melee weapons as a bonus, to represent their experience fighting terrifying monsters with improvised or underpowered weaponry. The trait is named "If It Bleeds, I Can Kill It".
    • The Hostile Acquisitions sourcebook brings us the "Reaver" career option, raiders who have lived too long on the edge of space and now live only for pillage and slaughter. The accompanying illustration includes a rather familiar brown duster. This may be the only thing ever to become Lighter and Softer when translated into the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
  • Space Is an Ocean: There are 4 firing arcs on a plane. And Space Friction.
  • Space Is Cold and Literally Shattered Lives: A major danger of void exposure is your corpse freezing solid and becoming fragile within a minute of death. Inherited from Dark Heresy, though given the activities of Rogue Trader characters it's a more common danger for them.
  • Space Pirates: A common threat to Rogue Traders and Imperial shipping in general. Come in human, Eldar, and Ork flavors.
    • There are two types of human flavour: Organic Vanilla (they're in it for the money) and Mutant Octopus (Chaos pirates- they're in it For the Evulz). Oh, and some Rogue Traders do this, too.
    • The Into The Storm expansion turns the Ork Freebooter into a playable character class (they're in it CUZ ORKZ IZ MADE FOR FIGHIN' AN WINNIN').
  • Too Dumb to Fool: A particularly messy variant. If a Navigator takes The Lidless Stare up to Master level, anyone who looks into their Warp Eye has to pass a Toughness test or die immediately- unless their Intelligence is less than 20. As a comparison, the minimum starting human Intelligence is 27...
  • Wave Motion Gun: Nova Cannons hit everything in the same square and within one from it.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Often.
    • Reforged Into a Minion: "Reclamation" of the fallen crew as servitors can apply to even more damaged bodies, but this naturally has a bad effect on morale.
  • White Collar Crime: In 40k it's often hard to tell where it starts or ends. Still, there's "Legitimate Businessman" reputation option in Hostile Acquisitions - it can be awarded specifically for completing a major Criminal Endeavour using a legitimate enterprise for Plausible Deniability.
  • Worthy Opponent: This can quite easily happen in-game between PCs and other Rogue Traders, since while most of them are rivals, very few are outright enemies as Koronus is filled with forces that are openly hostile to all humans. The supplement Edge of Abyss actively encourages GMs to have their groups develop rivalries with, and seek to surpass the existing canonical NPCs.
  • You Lose At Zero Trust: If your crew ever hits zero morale they will turn against you entirely and attack any authority figure they can find. Considering that even a "small" Imperial craft has a crew numbering in the thousands this means that the players will at least lose their ship, if not their lives. The only other solution is to execute the entire crew... and you can't run anything without them.