Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading Rogue Trader, Part Twelve

It's been a very long time since I managed to post one of these, but I thought it was time to dive back into one of my favorite wargame books of all time.

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)...

Ogryn 4
Ork 6
Imperial Guard 7
Space Marine 8
Eldar 9
Jokaero 10

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...


  1. Those rules really are good evidence of RTs RPG background. As you note they were dropped in second edition when the game moved away entirely from any connection to RPG type games. Pity really.

  2. I do use them on occasion. In fact today I ran a RT battle where tech-level and Intelligence Tests came into play for the key characters to win the game.

  3. It is an interesting tool for certain scenarios; but as you have identified it only really features in games where I am trying to add a real RPG vibe.

  4. A nice piece on one of the often overlooked details.

    For me one of the main features of the Rogue Trader universe is that it is full of Feral and Medieval worlds (something that is missing from Newhammer versions) where high Tech Level equipment doesn't exist. It's a bit of a theme through Blakes 7, Doctor Who and a whole range of british sci-fi that Rogue Trader is based on. Also look at Ewoks vs. Stormtroopers from Return of the Jedi, the Slayers in Krull, Blackwolfs mutants vs the fairies in Wizards... all great examples of how Tech Level can be seen in action. Can an Ewok try and use a captured speederbike? Tech Level gives the GM a mechanic to work that out, although 1 turn per tech-level is a bit much, TL - Int turns should be more than enough.

    Now I don't know if it's BtB or my own house rules, but I have it that differences in Tech Level cause Fear. A squad of Space Marines landing on an 11th C. farm shooting with blasters is going to be a terrifying experience for the peasants, and we can also model that effect nicely using TL.