Sunday, January 12, 2020

(WH40K: RT) Battlefleet Koronus

I believe I've mentioned before my weird and embarrassing dream of one day playing a perfectly executed rpg, one where the players fully embrace all of the narrative mechanics and/or tactical subsystems. Battlefleet Koronus has added one more layer to the overstuffed abomination I will one day inflict on my friends, after reading 300+ rpg books has made me snap and lose all perspective about what people find appealing about the medium.

Oh, it's not that the strategic combat and Warfare Endeavor systems in Battlefleet Koronus are bad. Quite the opposite. They're just good enough to tempt me to use them, but just complex enough that I'm virtually guaranteed to be the only person in my group who even knows what they are. The only way it could possibly work is if you were playing with a group of hardcore Rogue Trader fans.

Which pretty much sums up this book in a nutshell. It's not bad, but it definitely has a narrow range of appeal. Moreso even than the equivalent Star Wars book, because, while the various factions have their own distinct ship building style, within the factions, the ships wind up looking fairly homogeneous. The Imperium of Man is the worst offender here. Their Gothic-inspired ships have a lot of architectural detail, but wind up looking so busy that they all start to blur together. And since scale is relatively meaningless when it comes to isolated pictures, the ships' similar profiles make it hard to tell a Meritech Shrike-Class Raider from an Imperial Dictator-Class Cruiser. There are nuances, if you care to look, but like I said - who, beyond an obsessed mega-fan, will care?

On the other hand, the Stryxis have a ship design where it's one main ship dragging a bunch of salvaged hulls behind it on massive chains, so the setting still has the capacity to surprise.

The biggest thing that really stands out about this book is its reckless use of scale (no pun intended). A WH40k torpedo is 60 meters long. Which, according to my calculations, is bigger than the apartment building where I live (because this is the sort of detail that bugs me to estimate, I used Google Earth to check - I live in a building 45 meters long). It kind of makes sense in a world where the smallest interstellar ship in the Imperium is 0.95 km, but just thinking about it boggles the mind. The Kroot live in 9km metal eggs. The Eldar apparently have Craftworlds the size of small planets. How are these things moving around, and at astronomically significant speeds at that?

I guess it's just something you've got to buy into. I honestly like that about Rogue Trader. You're not just the captain of a starship, you're also the leader of a small city. Maybe the weird and alienating rpg I'm destined to run in the WH40K universe will go the other way with it - all of the adventures happen on a single starship and the PCs are destined to never even meet the bridge crew.

Finally, one minor gripe about this book. It makes the curious decision to not detail the highest of the high end WH40K technology. There are rules for a new Grand Cruiser hull size, but the book takes pains to mention that battleships are out of reach (you can't even fight them as NPCs). It tells you what happens if you turn your macrocannon batteries onto the surface of a planet to unleash widespread destruction, but it also says that you'll never gain access to virus bombs or cyclonic torpedos, the setting's real WMDs.

It feels a lot like they're rationing the setting, but Rogue Trader is never going to get a better place to put these things, so it ultimately feels more like a cruel tease. I suppose I should learn to limit my ambitions and be content with the cool things I do have access to, but . . .if that sort of restraint appealed to me, would I be playing Rogue Trader.

Ukss Contribution: Cloud mining. You can buy a ship that specializes in it, but it appeals to me as a more general concept. I like thinking about the nonsensical blue collar jobs of the future.

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