So where was I? Ah, yes... Book 2, Equipment. I am not going to cover every weapon, type of armour, or piece of tech. This is more of an overview and I will point of some of the surprises and highlight things that seem very 'Rogue Trader' to me. This chapter will run several weeks, starting with an overview of equipment in general.
The first thing I want to cover is Tech Level. It is interesting to note that unlike some RPG's (Traveller) Tech Level does not refer to the manufacture of of equipment, but rather it's level of difficulty to properly use the item. I covered this briefly way back in part two when I mentioned all models in the game had an Intelligence stat. The main use for this stat was to limit access to advanced equipment. In Rogue Trader all weapons and gear had a tech level and a creature required an Intelligence equal to or greater than the tech level of an item to be able to use it properly. First of all, let's look at some of the Intelligence scores for standard creatures (heroes may be higher)...
Imperial Guard 7
Space Marine 8
Looking at weapons, there are very few beyond the grasp of an Ork. For example, under Basic Weapons, only Needlers and Shuriken Catapults are Tech Level 7. There are a couple of weapons beyond the lowly Guardsman which include the D-Cannon and Haywire Grenades at Tech Level 8. Moving beyond weapons, there is very little presented above Tech Level 6. A typical Dreadnought suit is Tech Level 8, though random suits may generated as low as Tech Level 7. Under miscellaneous equipment, many scanners are Tech Level 7, as are Bombots, Medi-packs, Phase and Power Field Generators, Targeters, and Teleporters (more on the last in a later post). Few pieces of gear are Tech Level 8 or higher and most have little use on the game table.
There is even an optional rule to learn to use unfamiliar equipment, though the character's Intelligence must still be equal to or higher than the tech level. The book doesn't suggest what 'unfamiliar equipment' might be. Gear that isn't standard to the model's unit? Alien tech? Anyway, a GM could easily define this for their own table, but the rule as written seems unpractical for the game table. The reason is it takes one full turn of uninterrupted study PER TECH LEVEL of an item, at the end of which time the character may test vs Intelligence with 2d6. A successful test means the character can now use the item proficiently and even teach others to use it in one turn with a +1 bonus to their Intelligence test. A failed test simply means trying again the next turn, though if the character is interrupted (moving, shooting, etc) the time is reset to zero! That's neat, but considering a crossbow is Tech Level 5 and other weapons range as high as Tech Level 8 it seems like many games would be over before the rule could be applied in any useful fashion. I could maybe see designing a scenario around a single piece gear that means success of a mission (figure out how to use a transporter to evacuate a facility under siege, for example), but for general use the rule seems of little use - maybe that's why it's optional.
I guess to conclude this post, I love the concept of these rules, but the end result seems to be very little is beyond the use of most armies as even Ork Major Heroes can rise to an Intelligence stat of 8. I can see why Tech Levels disappeared from later versions of the game as it was easier to use army lists to set limits on equipment available.
Over the next few posts, I'll look at few pieces of gear in more detail...