"The endless dark of the universe is yours, if you but reach out to take it. Yield nothing -- the void respects only strength."
- — Serren Travius, Rogue Trader
Rogue Traders, originally called Rogue Traders Militant during the era of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, are unique and powerful Human individuals who serve as a combination freelance explorer, conquistador and interstellar merchant for the Imperium of Man.
They are hereditary Imperial servants and nobles, given a starship, a crew, and sometimes a contingent of Space Marines (in very rare cases) or troops of the Astra Militarum and carte blanche to roam those worlds of the galaxy that still lie beyond Imperial control or knowledge.
In their task of exploring and exploiting the still-uncharted regions of the galaxy for Mankind, Rogue Traders might come across worlds harbouring long-forgotten Human civilisations which will be later incorporated into the Imperium by official Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleets and expeditions of the Imperial Navy and Astra Militarum.
Other times they find empty or alien-dominated planets ripe for colonisation, conquest or exploitation by the Imperium -- and themselves.
The bearer of a sacred Warrant of Trade that empowers them to journey beyond the boundaries of the Imperium to trade, explore, and make war in the God-Emperor's name, a Rogue Trader is a unique figure in the grim darkness of the Imperium.
They may be a newly entitled power on the rise or hail from a long lineage of nobles and voidfarers, but all bear their titles with pride, striking out into the unknown in search of fortune and glory.
A Rogue Trader is a power unto themselves in the dark voids, master of all they survey -- at least as far as their force of arms and sharpness of wits can press the claim.
A Rogue Trader can be many things but whether standing as diplomat before a planetary ruler, cutting a shadowed deal in a void station undercity, bellowing orders amidst an armed host set upon plunder, or striding the bridge of a mighty starship, they remain one thing above all -- free.
Often, Rogue Traders come from a dynasty of great leaders and visionary commanders, with a renowned (or darkly infamous) lineage stretching back standard millennia. Other times, they are from younger, more dynamic families, often coming from the ranks of the Adeptus Terra, the Imperial Navy, or the Astra Militarum.
Whatever their origins, all Rogue Traders are first and foremost masters of their own fates, and upon their shoulders can rest the success or failure not only of their endeavours and their bloodlines, but of countless future generations and, often, the fortunes of entire worlds.
Despite the fact that the weight of such responsibility is theirs to bear alone, a Rogue Trader invariably surrounds themself with a coterie of allies and retainers. No Rogue Trader can undertake their mission alone, for no man or woman can be master of every single aspect of trade, exploration, exploitation, and war.
As a result, all of the most successful Rogue Traders have the ingrained ability to recognise the value of others and their motivations and, as a leader, are able to utilise every weapon and ability in the Human arsenal to their full potential.
Though they must rely on others for the most specialised of skills (not to mention certain needful resources), it falls to the Rogue Trader to know how and when to exercise their own judgement and how to delegate where needed.
They may not steer the helm of their void cruiser, nor fire and aim every Macrocannon in person, but the Rogue Trader selects and commands those who do and it is their orders that are obeyed.
Likewise they may know little of the arcane rites of the Augury and Auspex, but it is ultimately their decision whether or not to trust the word of the Explorator who claims it safe to breathe the air of a newly discovered world.
Rogue Traders must always look to their own abilities and protection, regardless of the power of their allies, for there will always be those envious of their power and station, and countless rivals to their goals. As a result, most have a penchant for the very finest personal weapons and equipment their fortunes can acquire -- for even friends can soon become enemies when a world's ransom is at stake.
Some never leave their bridge without donning an ancient and revered suit of Artificer Armour, while others secret fiendishly cunning personal force field generators of alien manufacture beneath a gaudy uniform. None are ever unarmed, bearing, even aboard their own vessels, minute Digital Weapons and other implements of destruction.
However they outwardly comport themselves, Rogue Traders must be supremely confident in their own abilities, and able to walk away from even the most desperate situation somehow having profited from their perilous adventure, even if that profit must be counted purely by survival.
- 1 History
- 2 Imperial Legal Status
- 3 Origins
- 4 Warrant of Trade
- 4.1 Granting of a Warrant of Trade
- 4.2 Conditions of a Warrant of Trade
- 4.3 Compliance With the Terms of the Warrant of Trade
- 4.4 Lineage
- 4.5 Revocation and Forfeiture of a Warrant of Trade
- 4.6 Rewards
- 5 Rogue Trader Archetypes
- 6 Trappings of Power
- 7 Waging War
- 8 Footfallen
- 9 Notable Rogue Traders
- 10 Notable Rogue Trader Equipment
- 11 Videos
- 12 Sources
- 13 Gallery
"I claim this world in the name of the Emperor of Man and His Imperium. I bring justice and truth for the loyal, punishment and death for the guilty, and the spoils I take by my own hand."
- — Ansellion Aquairre, Lord Captain of the Caelestis Imperium
The Imperium of Man is a vast, scattered realm, extending over almost the entire galaxy, impinging itself upon the more compact areas of alien-settled space. The million or more Human-inhabited worlds the Imperium controls are but a tiny fraction of the galactic whole.
Then there are the fringes and Halo Zones, remote areas where the Astronomican does not reach, and where the only Human settlers are Renegades or pioneering groups whose ancestors were forgotten by the Emperor's servants millennia ago. Most of the Milky Way Galaxy remains unexplored, unknown, and extremely dangerous, even in the late 41st Millennium.
The potential of new worlds, alien civilisations, and unimaginable resources made necessary a class of free-ranging Imperial agents known as Rogue Traders. Licensed and often equipped by the Adeptus Terra, the Rogue Trader is free to explore the far regions of the galaxy, the areas where the Astronomican does not reach, and those areas within its reach as yet unvisited by Humanity.
Rogue Traders have even attempted to cross the great starless voids of intergalactic space, but over such distances even astropaths' powers of psychic communication are useless, and whether such missions have succeeded is unknown.
Operating in isolation from the central authority of the Imperium, the Rogue Trader must decide for themselves how to react to alien cultures, new discoveries, and threats. If they judge an intelligent xenos race to be potentially dangerous, they may attempt to destroy it or to gather as much information as they can so that others may do so.
If they decide a xenos race may be of use to Humanity, they may attempt to make contact and establish relations.
If merely rich in technology or minerals, a planet may be plundered, and the Rogue Trader will return to Terra laden with the treasures of space -- alien artefacts, rare and precious minerals, and undreamed-of technologies.
Needless to say, the Rogue Trader requires a considerable resource in spacecraft, troops and other staff if they are to complete their mission. Their total responsibility may extend to dozens of voidcraft, often huge, lumbering cargo vessels crammed with a small army, a full crew of technicians, and volunteer settlers to establish colonies on new worlds.
Most important, however, are the fighting troops, for it is they who will have to deal with any potential threat.
Many Rogue Traders are individuals who have reached a position of power within the Imperium's governing hierarchy. These individuals are drawn from the ranks of the Adeptus Terra, the Imperial Navy and Astra Militarum, or even the Inquisition. A few are influential civilians, amongst whom the Navigators are the most famous.
Politics sometimes obliges this course, for free of Imperial command the Rogue Trader is also conveniently out of the way, beyond the centre of real power in the Emperor's realm. Rogue Traders have a reputation as outcasts; many are people whom the high-ranking officials of the Adeptus Terra's myriad branches deem better kept at a safe distance from the Throneworld.
Operating beyond Imperial control, Rogue Traders are a law unto themselves. Some are highly pious individuals, bringing the God-Emperor's light beyond the edges of His rule; others are nothing more than glorified pirates and scoundrels. Many Rogue Traders exude confidence and are highly charismatic, often charming and roguish, skilled diplomats (some would say confidence tricksters) and hardened killers when the situation demands.
Rogue Traders will often gather an entourage of hangers-on and companions, and this may contain alien warriors, mutants, and other undesirables unacceptable in polite Imperial society. Many Puritans in the Inquisition would take to marking the Rogue Trader out as a Heretic. Many Rogue Traders have highly unstable personalities: some destroy worlds on a whim or experiment with alien species out of macabre curiosity.
All Rogue Traders are highly exceptional individuals who are driven to success beyond the dreams of the ordinary men and women of the Imperium of Man even though these exceptional people often have extreme character quirks themselves; some destroy entire worlds for the slightest reason, or include alien warriors and mutants among their entourage in direct violation of Imperial orthodoxy.
Some are highly pious servants of the God-Emperor while others are no more than legitimised pirates. The most infamous Rogue Trader was Jan van Yastobaal, who became little more than an officially-sanctioned desperado, plundering whatever world he came upon.
Rogue Traders are often flamboyant individuals, commonly dressed in the most extravagant finery they can acquire. However, each Rogue Trader is a unique individual from a particular background. Some newly-created Rogue Traders come from origins in the Astra Militarum, the Imperial Navy, the Merchant Fleets, the Administratum or even the Imperial Inquisition where they will have developed unique outlooks, skills and approaches to different situations.
Some Rogue Traders are relatively poor, possessing a single ancient and dilapidated starship. Others are incredibly wealthy and powerful and have whole fleets of warships and entire private armies at their disposal.
Certain favoured individuals may even call upon detachments of Space Marines, having entered mutually beneficial pacts with individual Chapters. Some Rogue Traders operate as mercenaries, renting the service of their ship(s) to the highest bidder, including pirates, other Rogue Traders or an Imperial organisation like the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Astra Militarum or the Inquisition.
The Rogue Traders had their origins in the demands of the early days of the Great Crusade of the late 30th Millennium. Driven by the will of the Emperor, the first expeditionary fleets of the crusade pushed outwards into the galaxy.
Preceding each great expeditionary fleet of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vessels often ranged smaller contingents of independent flotillas led by a class of martial leader that would become known as the "Rogue Traders Militant." Many of these individuals were former rulers of the numerous realms the Emperor had cast down first during the Unification Wars on Terra and later, as the Great Crusade spread, formerly independent Human worlds.
They were offered a stark choice--bend the knee before the Emperor and swear service to the Great Crusade, or die by His hand. Though many set pride before what they regarded as slavery, others chose service and took up the Emperor's Warrant of Trade. There was a price, however. The Rogue Traders Militant were expected to scout ahead of the leading edge of the Great Crusade, accompanied by their own armies as well as whatever assets had been ceded them by the Emperor.
Operating so far ahead of the Emperor's crusading armies, the Rogue Traders Militant could expect little or no aid should they encounter foes too powerful for them to overcome. After several solar decades penetrating the inky black of the void, Rogue Trader Militant fleets often appeared as ramshackle vagabonds, many of their starships taken from defeated enemies, sometimes including xenos vessels of entirely novel or esoteric form.
They were forbidden to return to Terra, for in His wisdom the Emperor sought not to just rid Himself of powerful rivals, but to ensure that even in their deaths they might serve Mankind. Many vanished alone and unheralded; slain, consumed or enslaved by nameless xenos abominations far from the light of Terra.
The summons bore the seal of Roboute Guilliman, the resurrected primarch of the Ultramarines, lord commander of the Imperium and Imperial Regent, and thus was an honour no one in the Imperium could refuse. From this magnificent beginning would stem a truly hellish journey.
It had been many thousands of Terran years since so many Rogue Traders were gathered in one location. It was rare enough for a handful to meet. Many of the assembled Rogue Traders had guessed the purpose of the quorum by the time they had arrived, for Ultramar had been ravaged by war.
The sovereign domain of the Ultramarines Chapter -- once thought inviolable given its peerless infrastructure and many-layered defences -- had been broken open and brought to ruin on a dozen fronts by the Daemon Primarch Mortarion and his Death Guard during the conflicts known as the Plague Wars.
Though Guilliman had returned following the end of the Indomitus Crusade to lead a masterful defence of his realm, the aftermath would take solar decades, if not standard centuries, to resolve.
Many of the Rogue Traders genuflected as the primarch entered the halls, but Guilliman bid them stand. He spoke to them as equals, as was his way. The primarch claimed that the Imperium was not just being invaded, but locked in a struggle for its spirit as much as its body.
The Realm of Ultramar had been afflicted with plagues, each supernatural in origin and voracious in its spread. Before the invading forces of Chaos had been driven back to the Scourge Stars, a trio of conquered Imperial star systems, many of the moons and planets under Guilliman's rule had been wracked by the spoor of Nurgle -- the Dark God that Mortarion and his fallen Traitor Legion called lord and master.
During the Indomitus Crusade, Guilliman had travelled across the war-riven galaxy and seen his father's empire in flames. He knew every resource would be needed to save Mankind, and even as he took the fight to Humanity's enemies, his statesman-like mind dwelled on how the Imperium would recover from its losses. To this end, he knew the Rogue Traders would be vital.
The Rogue Traders that Guilliman had selected were to fight for the Imperium's future -- not as warriors or bureaucrats, but as pioneers. The front line upon which they would face their destiny was not that of the battlefield, but of deep and uncharted space.
They were to find new worlds to conquer in the name of the Emperor, fresh lands upon which Mankind could settle and thrive. While Warp Storms had cut off much of the galaxy in the wake of the Cicatrix Maledictum's birth, they had also opened up never before explored routes upon the fringes of Imperial space.
There could be found opportunity, hope -- and such danger that meant many of the Rogue Traders would never return.
Guilliman gave those gathered at the symposium on Macragge the opportunity to leave, to walk away without a stain on their honour, for it was a perilous task he proposed -- since the opening of the Great Rift, the Astronomican had been occluded more than ever, and the creatures of the Warp seemed to haunt every space lane and distant moon.
Yet not one of those assembled took a backward step. Some remained out of pride, some out of duty, some out of a sense of adventure -- but all were to find themselves set on a new path that would see them meet either victory or inglorious damnation.
Within solar days, the fleets of the Rogue Traders had left the Realm of Ultramar, bound for the yawning reaches of space beyond the Eastern Fringe and the extremities of the Ultima Segmentum's spiral arm. Most carried in their holds large populations of Ultramaran colonists kept in cryogenic hyper-freeze seeking a new and better life somewhere else.
Out there were the youngest stars in the galaxy -- those most likely to have untouched planets in their orbits, and therefore most likely to have habitable lands. That all hoped to find territories unspoilt by the ravages of Chaos was an unspoken truth.
Each Rogue Trader fleet took a different heading, their Navigators guiding them through the Warp towards destinations unknown. They all underwent challenges upon the way, and some found nothing but cruel and violent ends.
Imperial Legal Status
The most valuable possession of a Rogue Trader is his or her Imperial Warrant of Trade; an ancient legal document which describes and sanctions the accepted limits of a Rogue Trader and his descendants' operations across the galaxy.
These charters are hereditary and thus create an entire Rogue Trader dynasty when they are issued. These dynasties are granted a personal coat of arms identifying their members amongst the Imperial nobility. Rogue Traders are empowered with the authority by the High Lords of Terra to travel freely within the Imperium and beyond.
This allows them to legally interact with cultures which normal Imperial citizens are forbidden contact with because they are non-Imperial Human worlds or xenos-controlled planets. Not only that, but Rogue Traders are granted the permission and freedom to deal with these cultures as they see fit, so long as it is judged to be in the interests of the Imperium.
Having said that, it can be assumed that a Renegade Rogue Trader guilty of heresy or treason will be severely prosecuted by the Inquisition if discovered and captured. His punishment will be that much more severe if he is deemed undeserving of the Emperor's extraordinary trust in his family.
Rogue Traders usually return to Imperial space every few Terran years, to unload their exotic wares and re-supply, recruit, and rest until the next foray into the darkness of unknown space. During these periods they may come into conflict with members of the Adeptus Terra or the Inquisition.
Rogue Traders wield incredible power, and it is easy for them to forget that once back within the Imperium, they do not have free rein to act as they wish. This strident attitude will draw attention from the authorities.
Many Rogue Traders dispute the right of the Imperium to exercise authority over them. As individuals who have wandered amongst alien stars and conversed with all manner of cultures, Rogue Traders are viewed as susceptible to all kinds of heresies, from wayward philosophies to infection by alien creatures or possession by Warp entities that live in the darkness between stars.
All of these factors can lead to violent confrontation, particularly if the Rogue Trader has knowledge or an artefact that others within the Imperial hierarchy of equal or greater power covet.
No two Rogue Traders are exactly alike, but all are exceptional individuals with a drive and personal ambition that sets them far above the teeming ranks of Humanity.
They come from a wide range of backgrounds, but all appear fêted, or cursed, by the title they bear.
A great many Rogue Traders have served in the Imperial Navy. This is hardly surprising, as they are expected to command entire armadas of voidships, and few would wish to delegate such responsibility to a subordinate. As a consequence, many Rogue Traders are exceptionally skilled captains of their vessels and admirals of their fleets, able, even keen, to take on enemies the likes of which may never have been encountered by the Imperium, and emerge victorious.
Many would have been considered mavericks by their contemporaries in the Imperial Navy, for their methods and tactics might run contrary to the doctrines of space combat taught at the Segmentum Fortresses. Those whose ideas genuinely are too extreme tend not to survive long, though the manner of their death might form the basis of legend and rumour for many Terran centuries to come.
Those with a genuine talent, even one based on ideas the Imperial Navy could never fully endorse, might go on to achieve great things once released from the service of the notoriously conservative Imperial military establishment.
Many Rogue Traders who once served in the Imperial Navy maintain a network of contacts across the sector in which they served, and beyond. As such, they might be able to call upon old friends, perhaps individuals they served beside as officer cadets.
Such contacts can provide all manner of aid when really needed, from emergency supplies to official Imperial help against pirate or alien attack. Most Rogue Traders prefer to get by on their own skills and only call in such favours when things get desperate.
Many prefer not to call in a favour from an old contact recently made a commodore when that same individual might one day be a high admiral and therefore able to provide even greater aid.
Rogue Traders from a naval background often maintain the trappings of their former rank, ornamented with all manner of additional finery. Thus, a Rogue Trader might wear a formal dress coat similar to that worn by a high admiral (even if he had never attained such rank himself), complete with rows of medals and awards, gold-braided epaulettes, and metres of elaborate piping.
Yet, he might wear his hair braided in the fashion of some Feral World tribe, or facial tattoos in the style of an anarchic hive city gang. Alongside a treasured Imperial Navy cutlass he might carry a sword of unknown, yet unmistakably xenos manufacture, or bear other weapons traded with or stolen from any one of a hundred bizarre societies.
The Astra Militarum is another Imperial institution from which Rogue Traders may be drawn. Those who have risen above service in a single regiment to lead the vast, diverse armies of the Imperial Guard might be granted a Warrant of Trade to take their crusade beyond the borders of the Imperium's space and out into the great unknown.
These individuals are not only masters of ground-based combat, but gifted in the arts of strategy. Some become great admirals as well as great generals, while others have the foresight to delegate command of their vessels to underlings, concentrating their own prodigious skills on the bigger strategic picture.
Rogue Traders from such a background often amass huge ground forces and use their fleets to bring these to bear in devastating planetary assaults. Beyond the reach of the Imperium, such individuals will be forced to husband their forces in a manner they may be unused to, lest they exhaust their finite resources with little or no hope of recruiting fresh troops.
Should the ground forces suffer high losses, the Rogue Trader will be forced to recruit from those worlds they have conquered. In the case of Human societies re-discovered after generations of isolation from the broader galaxy, they may establish a system of feudal duty, whereby the planet is required to send its warriors to serve in the Rogue Trader's fleets, or they may be forced to demand or coerce service in their armies.
Some Rogue Traders have even resorted to recruiting the services of alien mercenaries or auxiliaries, a practice highly frowned upon by the authorities of the Imperium. Out beyond the fringes, however, Rogue Traders are a power entirely unto themselves -- who knows what bizarre forces roam the Halo Zones ostensibly in the service of the Imperium?
In appearance, these militant Rogue Traders vary hugely. Many wear the trappings of the regiment from which they were originally drawn, which, unlike the formalised uniforms of the Imperial Navy, is often specific to the culture of the regimental homeworld. They may also wear elements of the uniforms of the Imperial General Staff, including a long, elaborate coat, or peaked cap.
The many who prefer to lead their conquests from the frontline mix such dress in a manner more appropriate to their warrior background, combining a dress uniform with Carapace Armour or even power armour modified to fit a normal-sized Human.
As with other types of Rogue Trader, these individuals carry all manner of unusual weaponry, including exotic sensor and force field devices normally only available to the upper echelons of the Inquisition or Officio Assassinorum.
While the weapons carried by a Rogue Trader of an Imperial Navy background might be considered for show, those carried by one from an Astra Militarum background are generally more practical and far more devastating, having been hand-crafted for them and covered in elegant engravings, or recovered from the body of a defeated foe and kept not only as a trophy but valued for some uniquely destructive capability it possesses.
Through their long and varied careers, some officers of the Administratum might amass considerable personal power, holding sway over a small empire of divisions and departments with responsibilities across dozens of planetary systems. Invariably, these men and women will be ruthless, calculating individuals who have worked their way to the very top by any means possible, crushing their foes and thwarting endless assassination attempts to stay in power.
Many of these officials will have been assigned to such tasks as the suppression of a rebellious sector, or enforcing the Imperium's rule on Human enclaves recently re-discovered and brought back into fold. These individuals will be masters in the precise application of power, able to bring to bear any weapon at their disposal, from the military might of the Space Marines to the secret arts of political manipulation.
As such, some make ideal Rogue Trader material. An administrator given command of a Rogue Trader fleet will be a politician first and a leader second, though the most successful will combine both roles or switch between the two with masterful skill. They will amass their resources and appoint leadership of the various arms of their fleet to those they not only trust, but can also destroy should they challenge the Rogue Trader in any way.
They will keep their underlings in perpetual competition against one another, encouraging them to seek their patronage and approval at the expense of their rivals. Unlike Rogue Traders of a more martial background, these men and women rarely engage in overt displays of their personal prowess, preferring instead to exert their power by way of an assassin's knife in the dark rather than crass displays of military might.
In appearance, these machiavellian princelings often prefer to remain comparatively inconspicuous. They might wear the vestments of their former positions, such as the monkish robes of the scribe. Others wear more ornate dress, but keep the colours dark and subdued, lending them a brooding, menacing aspect and hinting at the foolishness of crossing them.
They tend not to wear conspicuous weaponry, yet only a fool would assume that such an individual would be unable to defend themselves. These Rogue Traders always carry small, yet deadly weapons such as Digital-lasers or concealed Power Blades, and invariably some form of personal force field that will protect from the attacks of an enemy in battle or a treacherous underling at court.
Most of the cultures of the Imperium's worlds remain comparatively isolated, with only a handful of a planet's population ever undertaking a journey to another star system. Yet despite this parochialism, most Imperial worlds rely on trade with those in the nearby stellar vicinity for many of their needs to be met.
Weapons and other items of advanced technology must be imported from those worlds with the expertise and capacity to produce them, while such centres of industry may require rare natural resources, which must be imported. In addition, the aristocratic ruling classes of many worlds crave the exotic, often paying outrageous sums for goods imported from distant locales.
Clothes, foodstuffs, jewellery, and art are all highly desirable to those who wish to make a display of their wealth and influence, whether real, imagined, or feigned in the interests of fashion. An entire Imperial class has grown up over the millennia existing solely to meet the demands of interplanetary commerce.
The merchant interests of the Imperium take many forms, from cartels to federations and small concerns to mighty, galaxy-spanning corporations. Most centre their efforts on a relatively small group of worlds or a stretch of a lucrative trade route, for the fragmented and feudal nature of the Imperium does not facilitate a stable, galaxy-wide economy.
For many of these merchants, trade and war are one and the same. They must protect their interests by any means possible -- for some, that means maintaining small private armies or sponsoring mercenaries for just such a purpose. These very literal trade wars might be fought against competitors or other parties that threaten their interests, from pirates to aliens.
It should come as no surprise that the most accomplished of Imperial merchant leaders are as capable generals as they are traders, applying the same doctrines to both pursuits. These persons make ideal Rogue Traders.
Rogue Traders from a merchant background are often the most astute and successful, equally at home facing an opponent across the negotiating table as on the field of battle -- though sometimes the two are one and the same. The armies and fleets they employ might be drawn from their own substantial holdings, or they might be able call upon a complex network of obligation, drawing upon mercenaries and trading partners from across a broad spectrum of their trade.
Mercantile Rogue Traders often dress in the manner of opulent heads of state, bedecking themselves in fine jewellery, most of which is in fact some hidden weapon, force field, or sensor. They surround themselves with individuals indentured to their service before birth, drawing on familial connections that stretch back in time for many generations.
Their vessels often take on the appearance of space-going palaces crammed with all manner of outrageous ostentation. Yet it is a foolish opponent indeed who writes off such a Rogue Trader as a fop or dilettante. Many in fact cultivate such an air, treating it as just one more weapon in a not inconsiderable arsenal.
Imperial Commanders (Planetary Governors)
While most Imperial Commanders occupy a hereditary seat of power only relinquished and passed on in the event of their own death, there are those who do pass beyond even such a lofty position and take to the stars as Rogue Traders. The most common cause for such a change in career is that the governor has been replaced or deposed in some manner, yet remained of use to the Adeptus Terra.
Perhaps an Imperial Commander has lost their world to alien invasion, yet has retained a measure of their assets, such as their own Planetary Defence Forces and fleets. Some such individuals may be appointed to Rogue Trader status and given the opportunity to conquer for themselves, and for the Imperium, a new planet.
These Rogue Traders may well be motivated by the need to re-establish all that they may have lost. They are commonly highly charismatic, commanding the loyalties of their dispossessed subjects. Their fleets are massive conglomerations of whatever vessels escaped the destruction of their planet, accompanied by whatever assets the Imperium might assign to them.
The subjects often fight all the harder than the followers of other types of Rogue Trader, for they are driven by their loss and motivated by the need to claim for themselves some manner of recompense. Those not able to fight form a cadre of colonists, each with an assigned role in the society they dream of one day establishing.
Such Rogue Traders vary enormously in appearance and personality, but they often come to embody the culture of their lost homeworld. Local modes of fashion are exaggerated far beyond their original form, and dialects and customs are held dearly lest they be forgotten forever.
Although rare, there are recorded cases of an Inquisitor being granted the Warrant of Trade and taking up the rank of Rogue Trader. The most likely reason this might occur is as a result of political manoeuvring within the Inquisition itself, perhaps resulting in the outmanoeuvred individual being offered the Warrant as an alternative to a far less desirable outcome.
Upon being granted the Warrant, the Inquisitor will understand that they have no alternative but to accept. As it is most often members of the alien-hunting Ordo Xenos who find themselves being appointed as Rogue Traders, these individuals will be well equipped for their new career. Although no longer able to call on the nigh-limitless resources of the Inquisition, the Rogue Trader will still wield considerable powers and influence.
The main difference between their old and new roles is the context -- rather than hunting out corruption and treachery within the populace of the Imperium, they will be seeking such threats out amongst alien stars, and will no doubt prosecute their new duty with as much vigour as they did their old.
It is not only fully appointed Inquisitors who may become Rogue Traders, for their many and varied servants and Acolytes might end up in such a position too.
Those servants of lower rank would consider themselves fortunate indeed to be made a Rogue Trader, for the alternatives are often too terrible to dwell upon should the true price for whatever deed has earned their elevation be exacted.
Warrant of Trade
It should be noted that although Rogue Traders are shipmasters who travel the vastness of space, their authority to do so comes not from a Merchant Charter as usually granted by the Administratum to the Chartist Captains of the Imperial Merchant Fleets, but rather a letter of appointment known as a Warrant of Trade that elevates them to a level of Imperial authority and status equaling that held by Space Marine Chapter Masters, Inquisitors and Imperial planetary governors.
Some of the more ancient Warrants are dated from the very beginnings of the Imperium, and some were even signed by the Emperor Himself. Others were signed by the primarchs or other leaders of the Great Crusade. These charters are very valuable and give their owners great leeway. They are tailor-made and unique.
A Rogue Trader's authority cannot be appealed since it comes directly from the Emperor, as according to Imperial law and Imperial religious dogma no one is empowered to overrule those persons who have received the God-Emperor's direct sanction.
Certain powerful lords of the Adeptus Terra offer Warrants of Trade as a bribe to their rivals. The rival simply walks away into a life of adventure and wealth and no longer causes trouble for their political opponents in the various Imperial organisations.
Letters of Marque are similar documents to Warrants of Trade that have been issued more recently by the Imperium to less powerful individuals, though their bearers are still called Rogue Traders. The Letters of Marque are rather restricted in some aspects and controlled more effectively by Imperial authorities.
These restrictions may be of geographical nature (e.g.: the Rogue Trader is restricted to operating in a single sector) or something similar. The more recent Letters of Marque are also not hereditary; hopeful heirs must return and reapply to the High Lords of Terra through the Administratum for a new charter.
Though a Warrant of Trade or a Letter of Marque grants extraordinary freedoms within the Imperium, they also invariably contain particular conditions; sometimes Rogue Traders will be required to make regular visits to certain troublesome Imperial worlds, or sent to enact military action on worlds which do not require the full force of the Imperial Navy's segmentum and sector battlefleets.
More often, however, Rogue Traders will be required to travel outside the established territories of the Imperium in the name of settlement or exploration of new worlds that do not yet know the blessings of the God-Emperor.
Granting of a Warrant of Trade
The Warrant of Trade is the instrument by which a Rogue Trader is granted their lofty position and the legal method by which they exercises their considerable powers. New Warrants are granted on the highest of authorities, usually by the office of the High Lords of Terra themselves -- and by extension, the Emperor.
The issuing of a Warrant is an occasion of great significance, marked by extravagant pomp and ceremony, for it marks the establishment of a new noble line that, should the recipient prove successful, might conquer and rule entire regions of space in the name of the Imperium, thus expanding Mankind's domains.
Warrants are issued for many reasons. Some are granted in recognition of a great service done to the Imperium, while others are created for entirely political ends.
Rogue Trader Warrants are hereditary. Once one is issued, it will be passed down from one generation to the next, at least for as long as there are heirs extant to receive it.
Many Rogue Trader lines die out and yet more are created to replace them, ensuring a constant supply of individuals driven to expand the Imperium's holdings. The reasons for the granting of a Warrant of Trade include the following.
One of the most common circumstances under which a Warrant of Trade is offered is in recognition of military service to the Imperium. In a galaxy at war on a thousand different fronts, lord generals and high admirals lead dozens of mighty Imperial Crusades to re-take entire regions lost to rebellion or alien invasion.
Such mighty leaders have under their command millions of warriors and hundreds of warships, and over the course of a crusade lasting solar decades they might claim dozens of planets in the name of the Emperor.
Those individuals who succeed will be honoured at the very highest levels, decorated with a multitude of medals, have victory parades, high days and celebrations held in their name and even have whole planets named after them.
Such men and women rarely retire having completed their life's work, however, and they are often restless and uncomfortable in non-military circles.
The boundless and untamable energies of such leaders are best put to good use, and appointment to the rank of Rogue Trader comes to many as a welcome outlet that can benefit the Imperium.
Just as some servants of the Imperium are granted the Warrant of Trade in genuine thanks and recognition for their services to Mankind, others are granted the rank because the alternative would be far worse.
Throughout history, men and women granted leadership over a crusade fleet have conquered in the name of the Imperium, only to establish themselves as rulers of the new realms. Sometimes these leaders have maintained at least a semblance of fealty to the Imperium, with the Adeptus Terra accepting the new regime so long as tithes are paid and other obligations met.
Yet, on many other occasions, these rulers have become so accustomed to absolute power that they desire to hold onto it for all time, rejecting their Imperial masters and setting themselves up as total rulers of the regions they have fought so hard to conquer. The only recourse in such a situation is yet another Imperial Crusade to dislodge the pretender.
Far better, then, to avoid the situation entirely by keeping the conqueror distracted with yet more regions to conquer, leaving the administrators of the Adeptus Terra to complete the pacification in their wake.
Many a Warrant of Trade has been granted in order that a Lord Militant might simply conquer region after region until they have expended their forces and are no longer a political threat, real or potential, to the wider Imperium.
To have risen to a position of influence and power within the labyrinthine structures of the Imperium's bureaucracy, an individual must, by the force of their own personality, be exceptionally driven. Just to be noticed amongst the teeming billions of the Imperium, one must be willing to promote oneself with ruthless efficiency.
The types of people that attain such lofty stations might be noble and self-sacrificing, but it is just as likely they are ignoble and self-serving. For those of rank, a multitude of ways exists to attain every conceivable personal ambition, and for some the Warrant of Trade is that ultimate goal.
Just why a highly placed official would desire the Warrant of Trade will depend on their own particular, sometimes flawed, personality, and the manner in which they attain it will depend on their circumstance, or on situations they can engineer.
More than likely, it will involve prodigious bribes at the very highest of levels, or on calling in outstanding debts and favours from every possible source.
Once the Warrant is granted to such a person, they will be keen to use it to attain their every ambition. Some will desire to carve small stellar empires beyond the reach of the Imperium, while others may want to establish the foundations of a mighty noble lineage, even if they themselves will not be around to see how future generations prosper.
It has often been noted that many Rogue Traders are vain and egotistical, and that many more are simply venal and megalomaniacal.
Some individuals, by means fair and foul, attain high rank in the service of the Imperium by politicking or murdering their way to the very top. Over the course of a lifetime -- extended far beyond the natural span of Human years by rare and expensive rejuvenation procedures -- such a person will have come into conflict with all manner of political opponents, earning the bitter enmity of the few others he can count as peers.
It may come to pass that such an individual stands at the very brink of the culmination of a lifetime's political manoeuvring, and an appointment to sector governor or even High Lord of Terra is the only remaining rung on the ladder left to climb.
At such times, it may be that an individual's many political rivals mobilise against them, drawing on every shred of their own influence to rid themselves of their enemy once and for all. Yet, being too powerful to oust, some in this position find a Warrant of Trade foisted upon them as a convenient way of getting rid of them once and for all.
Such an honour cannot be refused, and the newly appointed Rogue Trader has no choice but to accept their fate, demurring politely as speeches are made in honour of all the great deeds they will perform in this, their ultimate service to the Imperium that appreciates them so.
For these Rogue Traders, the Warrant of Trade is a bitter reward, for it signals the victory of their political opponents.
Despite the unwanted nature of the Warrant, these Rogue Traders do often go on to achieve great success, reaving across the stars, conquering dozens of planets, and amassing personal fortune far in excess of what they might have attained otherwise.
Some of these individuals return solar decades later to enact their revenge on their erstwhile opponents, perhaps waiting until the key conspirators have retired to some private Garden World paradise before dispatching an assassin, or indeed a private army, to settle the matter once and for all.
Conditions of a Warrant of Trade
Of course, the powers and trappings of a Warrant of Trade do not come without a cost. A Rogue Trader fleet might be a significant military force, and the Warrant will often come with a number of conditions attached to it.
In fact, it would be a sure sign that an individual is being virtually exiled if no conditions were attached, the authorities clearly hoping the recipient will go and get himself killed somewhere beyond their concern.
Conditions attached to a Warrant may take many forms, but invariably involve some form of military service or intervention. The most common types of conditions attached to a Warrant of Trade are discussed below.
Trooping the Colours
A common condition under which a Warrant is granted is that a particular world be "visited" by the Rogue Trader and their fleet. The world may have been isolated for some time, or, for whatever reason, simply not visited by any authority of the Imperium in a generation.
Perhaps the tithes have been short or slow to be rendered, and the Imperium's bureaucracy has finally decided to investigate matters. If such a world is distant and other, more pressing concerns have diverted attention, then it may not be practical to task an Administratum mission or Imperial Navy squadron to press home the matter.
Instead, a newly appointed Rogue Trader might very well be required to make a brief layover at the troublesome world.
In all likelihood, contact with the planet in question will have been sporadic or non-existent, or concerning and fragmentary communications might be all that have been logged. The Rogue Trader will be tasked with undertaking the equivalent of a state visit, complete with all the regal pomp and circumstance of a visiting Imperial noble.
Dress uniforms and badges of office will be flaunted, retinues and honour guards deployed, bands assembled, and flags waved. This is all for show, of course, and is intended to remind the world's leadership in a very real fashion that the Imperium still exists, and has not forgotten about them or the tithes they owe.
The Rogue Trader will be expected to attend state banquets and high-level talks, acting in essence as a diplomat, even an ambassador of the Imperium. The Imperial Commander of most backwater planets will be sufficiently cowed by such a display, particularly with a small fleet of warships in geo-synchronous orbit over their seat of power.
The Rogue Trader will be wined and dined and treated as royalty, and given every assurance that any shortfall in the tithe is clearly a minor inconvenience and entirely innocent, and asked to convey the governor's personal assurances that all will be made right as soon as possible.
Some Imperial planetary governors do not welcome the Rogue Trader's visit however, either showing overt resistance or displaying obvious reluctance to comply. In such cases, the Rogue Trader is required to launch a punitive strike to "encourage" the recalcitrant world's cooperation.
In cases where a flag-waving mission has proved unsuccessful, or a world has openly rejected the rule of the Imperium, the Rogue Trader will have no option but to use force.
Few newly-appointed Rogue Traders want to squander their resources on the first bush war they encounter, so a hard-hitting show of force is often used to demonstrate the futility of further resistance.
A Lance strike from orbit often proves the Rogue Trader means business, particularly if aimed at key infrastructure targets, thus weakening the Imperial governor's ability to rule their planet.
Alternatively, a strike against a location particularly valued by the Imperial Commander might change his stance: the destruction of a luxurious winter palace or rural hunting lodge, for example.
In the unlikely event that this initial show of force does not prove sufficient, then a more protracted campaign may be required. No Rogue Trader wishes to become embroiled in such a war, but sometimes it simply cannot be avoided.
If the Rogue Trader's remit extends to actually dethroning the planetary governor in question, then many will proceed to such a course as soon as possible. This usually ends the matter in short order, a more compliant replacement being selected according to whatever political system put them in power in the first place.
Settlement of new worlds in the name of the God-Emperor of Mankind may be a condition placed on a Warrant of Trade. The Explorator fleets of the Adeptus Mechanicus are ever investigating the wonders of the galaxy, relentlessly recording and cataloguing celestial phenomena and stellar bodies.
A report of a habitable world will be dispatched to the Administratum, along with whatever data can be gathered on it by preliminary investigation by an Explorator team. If the world proves of no great interest to the Tech-priests, perhaps because it harbours no resources or life forms of immediate use to them, then its details will be transmitted and filed away for future generations to follow up as they will.
The Imperium's bureaucracy being as it is, the report may progress through the data-mills of the Administratum for many standard years, even centuries, before finally crossing the desk of a clerk tasked with dispatching settlement missions to such worlds to claim them in the name of Mankind.
In the span of time between an exploration being logged and a settlement mission being dispatched, any number of fates might have befallen the planet. The ebb and flow of galactic war might have reduced its surface to radioactive dust, or aliens might have claimed it for their own ends. It is not unknown for a Rogue Trader to arrive in orbit over such a world only to find it utterly uninhabitable, or in fact incorrectly categorised in the first place.
They will then have a colony ship and some thousands of settlers to dispose of, and it is not uncommon for a particularly callous individual to insist the colonists carry out their mission regardless, landing the prefabricated colony units wherever they can, or else.
Very few colonies established under such circumstances last more than a standard year, while a very small minority may somehow survive against all the odds, alone in the darkness out beyond the fringes of Imperial rule.
Every year, unrecorded numbers of the Imperium's worlds fall to rebellion, alien invasion, or natural disaster. A common condition of the granting of a Warrant is that such worlds be brought back into the fold by the application of overt military power.
Such missions are never what could be described as diplomatic, unless a transmission demanding immediate surrender can be counted as an ambassadorial communiqué.
Intelligence on such lost worlds might be incomplete or compromised, based on accounts long out of date or deliberately covered up. The Rogue Trader will be operating on the level of a lord militant leading an Imperial Crusade, and for such missions additional military forces might be seconded to their command.
In some cases, the Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes might accompany the fleet, usually for a short time only, but occasionally for extended periods. Though they may well act as a figurehead, the Rogue Trader will not be in direct command of such units, and an administrative body will be formed, often titled a "crusader council."
Strategy and political issues will be debated until the best use of the fleet's assets is agreed upon, calling on all the diplomatic skills of the Rogue Trader. Each of the seats on such a council is occupied by an individual of considerable power, and no Imperial Navy admiral, Astra Militarum general, or Space Marine Chapter Master would agree to a course of action that squandered their own resources.
The degree of the Rogue Trader's involvement over the course of such a crusade will depend very much on their own background. An individual of a militant disposition may closely oversee the deployment of the fleet's military forces, while a particularly belligerent one may actually take a hand in the fighting.
Those of a more bureaucratic nature are more likely to delegate such matters to their military advisors. There are those Rogue Traders for whom the entire crusade will represent a massive inconvenience, and these will deal with the situation in their own unique manner, seeking to extricate themselves and their ships from the mission of the crusade so that they can continue on their way for their own ends.
Exploration is the essential mission of all Rogue Traders, yet occasionally they will be tasked with exploring a particular region of the galaxy at the behest of the Imperium's authorities.
There are a lot of reasons such a situation might come about, and many Rogue Traders will be particularly resentful, as it may be specified that they themselves will not receive the exploitation rights they normally enjoy over the regions they explore.
This onerous duty might be the result of the Imperium being in possession of fragmentary knowledge of an unexplored region, which, although incomplete, suggests the presence of some natural resource or otherwise desirable asset that might be of strategic value to an entire segmentum.
A long-lost archival record might suggest that a region is populated by isolated Human worlds or a space-faring alien culture. Perhaps something far more sinister lurks in the black spaces on the map -- alien Tomb Worlds pre-dating the evolution of Humanity, esoteric stellar phenomena that challenge the understanding of the most learned of Tech-priests, or planet-sized super-weapons placed as silent sentinels by long-extinct civilisations.
Compliance With the Terms of the Warrant of Trade
It may seem at first glance that some newly appointed Rogue Traders might be tempted to simply sail away into the great unknown without undertaking any of their obligations to the Imperium.
Indeed, many are so tempted, and some do try to escape. These individuals soon find out that the Imperium is not so foolish as to allow the Rogue Trader to get away without first putting in place at least one contingency plan.
The most common method of ensuring a Rogue Trader complies with the conditions of their Warrant of Trade is to ensure there are very powerful representatives of the Imperium on hand to remind them of their obligations.
This might be an Administratum Prefect, but it might also be an agent of a more obscure division, perhaps even of the Inquisition. On occasion, the Rogue Trader might find their flotilla accompanied by one or more Space Marine vessels, and sometimes these will be serving as much as a reminder of the conditions of their Warrant as to enforce the power of the Imperium on its enemies.
Sometimes the Rogue Trader's compliance might be guaranteed by more subtle means, such as the promise of further powers or the granting of additional assets at various stages in a voyage. If a Rogue Trader has to make a number of diversions and fulfil a number of tasks before even reaching the fringes, then they may be reliant on the Imperium to replenish their forces before they leave Imperial space.
There might also be more insidious contingencies put in place. Members of a ship's crew could be agents of the Imperium, and it is not unknown for actual Assassins to be emplaced aboard a Rogue Trader's flagship as insurance against non-compliance or betrayal.
There are two broad classifications of Rogue Trader: those personally granted the Warrant of Trade, and those who have inherited it from a forebear. The granting of a Warrant of Trade has the potential to establish a hugely powerful noble line, which, if successful, can grow over the generations to become equal to the most ancient of Navigator clans and merchant houses.
Many of the scions of these houses will hold the title Rogue Trader and wield the authority of the Warrant, yet in the main these powers reside predominantly with the line's titular head. Such individuals must bear the weight of tradition and expectation, and are in the main every bit as driven and able as the ancestor first granted the Warrant.
On their shoulders rests the duty of maintaining the Warrant and their family line's continued existence, driving them to continue the mission of the Rogue Trader, exploring the benighted regions beyond the fringes and returning with unimagined riches and glory.
Some Rogue Trader houses become split with internal strife, the various scions competing with one another for power and the favour of the line's head. In houses where the head exercises complete control, the various members with a chance of inheriting leadership might squabble and manoeuvre against one another, some even resorting to intimidation or assassination to ensure it is they, and not an older sibling, who inherits the Warrant at the head's passing.
Though some Rogue Trader houses may become riven with internecine civil war, most will invariably maintain an outward appearance of respectable propriety -- lest their competitors sense weakness and move against them.
It takes a powerful head of house indeed to maintain order amongst competing offspring while also furthering the interests of their house and containing any collateral damage.
Even in the face of outright rebellion against the Imperium, many heads of Rogue Trader houses will support their offspring.
Scions of the Rogue Trader Houses
So that the sons and daughters of the oldest of Rogue Trader lines do not fall victim to a life of idle luxury and thus weaken the bloodline, many such scions are ordered by their sires to "do their time," undertaking a career in one of the Imperium’s great institutions until such time as they are judged worthy of returning, or duty calls them back.
Many serve in the Imperial Navy, a career that affords them many of the skills they will one day need to command a Rogue Trader fleet. Others spend time on the General Staff of the Astra Militarum, or in other divisions such as the Administratum.
Such individuals are often reviled by their peers within the Imperial hierarchy, who view them merely as treading water until their privileged birthright recalls them, but many do indeed learn vital skills that will one day serve them -- and their house -- well.
Revocation and Forfeiture of a Warrant of Trade
Some Rogue Traders become so powerful that their interests come into conflict with those of the Imperium. Considering the enormous freedom granted by the Warrant of Trade, it takes a great deal for a Rogue Trader's actions to be considered beyond the legal scope of their powers.
The authorities often overlook even the most questionable actions of many Rogue Traders, even if word does get back to Terra, so long as the Imperium's best interests are served.
Yet there are circumstances that have in the past led to the revocation of the Warrant of Trade and the forfeiture of the great powers associated with it.
Revocation means the effective death of a Rogue Trader line, its powers and privileges lost for all time. Some houses have continued in a much diminished state, slowly rebuilding what fortunes they have clung to.
Throughout the ages, some notable Rogue Trader houses have amassed such powers that they have become small stellar empires, controlling entire regions beyond the fringes of the Imperium. This in itself is not contrary to the terms of the granting of the Warrant of Trade, so long as fealty is paid in the form of due tithes to the Imperium.
Such is Human nature, however, that hubris and greed has got the better of some, and they have determined to take total power of the realms they have conquered.
Although it may be some time before reports of the actions of such individuals reach Terra, and more time yet before they are acted upon, such Traitors will invariably suffer the wrath of the Imperium, with an Imperial Crusade fleet, sometimes even one led by a newly appointed Rogue Trader, being dispatched to crush them.
Acting Against the Imperium
Being free to deal with alien cultures, many Rogue Traders deal or ally themselves with the xenos in the course of their missions. It is not unknown for some individuals to become embroiled in local wars, and on occasions these have been against the Imperium.
Perhaps the Rogue Trader was acting to protect their own trade interests, moving against a competitor with lethal force. If the interests are aliens, and the competitors Human, then the Rogue Trader may well find themselves on the wrong side in a war that soon escalates far and above a trade dispute.
Furthermore, many Rogue Traders actually enjoy the vicious cut-and-thrust of competitive trade, immersing themselves in the politics of interstellar commerce. While most are highly accomplished at such games, even a Rogue Trader can become mired in a bad deal or find himself double-bluffed and outmanoeuvred by a competitor.
Before they know it, the Rogue Trader is forced to act against the interests of the Imperium -- and finds themself the target of the Emperor's retribution.
Consorting with the Xenos Terribilus
Although the proscriptions that bar most Human contact with aliens do not apply to Rogue Traders, there are those xenos pronounced so dangerous, vile, or otherwise undesirable that not even a Rogue Trader is permitted contact with them.
Entire star systems are declared Perdita, their outer limits marked by sentinel-buoys that transmit warnings to vessels to turn back, on the authority of the Segmentum High Command or even the Inquisition.
Few know what horrors lurk on the worlds beyond the sentinels or what detestable alien life forms call them home.
Many a Rogue Trader has allowed their curiosity to get the better of them, and those few that have survived contact with the proscribed xenos have later faced the wrath of the Inquisition and forfeiture of their Warrant of Trade.
Overstepping the Bounds
It is worth remembering that a Rogue Trader flotilla is a sizable military force in its own right, certainly carrying sufficient firepower to raze to ashes many of the Imperium's worlds. While a single vessel making a return to the Imperium will rarely cause concern, an entire fleet often will.
Combine this with the fact that many of the Imperium's institutions have good reason to be distrustful of Rogue Traders, and a potential flashpoint emerges. To the Imperial Navy, a large fleet appearing at the borders of a sector without warning will be sufficient to scramble a large force to ascertain its intentions and ensure it does not initiate hostile actions.
The annals of the Imperium contain many unfortunate incidents in which a Rogue Trader fleet, returning victorious from a decades-long expedition, has returned unheralded to the Imperium only to become embroiled with an Imperial Navy battlegroup.
Such incidents might be cause to forfeit the Warrant, if the Rogue Trader is still alive at the end.
The rewards a Rogue Trader's Warrant of Trade can bring are exceptional, and often quite beyond those attainable by any other legitimate means within Imperial space. The greatest reward is fortune, obtained by trade or conquest. Often the two are one and the same.
Quite aside from the financial gain, many Rogue Traders seek the fame and glory success can bring. Few individuals in the 41st Millennium can ever hope that their name will be spoken of beyond the limits of their birth world or the span of their own lifetime.
For many, the most valuable reward is the opportunity to establish a lineage, with themselves as the primogenitors, of an Imperial noble house that will endure throughout the ages.
Rogue Trader Archetypes
Whatever the background of any given Rogue Trader, he or she will be possessed of a quite exceptional drive to succeed and to prosper. These men and women stand above the teeming masses of the Imperium, the sheer force of their personality propelling them to achieve great things in service to the Imperium and themselves. Often these personality tropes are intrinsically linked to the Rogue Trader's background, but not always. Sometimes a Rogue Trader will transcend his roots, defying his background and only displaying his true nature once out amongst the unexplored regions of space.
Scoundrel - The "Rogue" Trader
"I'm sorry, Senior Arbitrator, you must have me confused with someone else. I'm no petty criminal, I'm a legitimate businessman with legitimate business interests, and if you doubt me, I have a certain document to show you."
- — Rogue Trader and suspected smuggler Havelock Blackheel
Many Rogue Traders are scoundrels of the worst order, despite all the trappings of power they display. Such individuals carry themselves with swaggering self-assurance, and through long practice are able to bluff their way into the courts of kings and the bedchambers of princesses with equal panache. The scoundrel looks to turn every possible situation to his own personal advantage, and will often take risks others would find reckless, gambling with his own life and those of all his servants. Violence is rarely the first option for such Rogue Traders, and they often maintain a mask of self-effacing amiability. Beneath this façade lurks a keen mind and a skilled warrior able to take on most enemies and win.
Some Rogue Traders of this type combine bravado with daring, often leading expeditions to newly discovered worlds in person. Leading a small retinue of trusted associates, such Rogue Traders get themselves into all manner of entanglements, but always seem to escape relatively unharmed, invariably carrying some priceless artefact that will seal their fortune. Others turn their vessels into privateers, enjoying a career as a buccaneer preying on the shipping of alien empires -- and Human rivals.
Merchant Prince Rogue Traders are entirely consumed by the quest for riches, gained not by the crude application of threats or violence, but the shrewdly negotiated contract. The Merchant Prince seeks to establish the most lucrative of trading contracts, ensuring that the other party benefits from the deal, but not nearly so much as he does. Merchant Rogue Traders will go to great lengths to avoid military action, believing it a waste of resources. Yet they have no qualms about employing the trappings of military power as an aid to negotiations when necessary. Furthermore, no Rogue Trader would be so foolish as to neglect the defence of his assets, and the Merchant Prince understands the value of his resources better than most. He will as such take great steps to protect his investments against competitors and pirates and maintain the very best personal guards.
The merchant Rogue Trader seeks to establish vast networks of profit, negotiating exclusive trading rights throughout the regions he explores. This has on occasion landed such individuals in conflict with the Imperium's authorities, as the Rogue Trader deals with aliens he should destroy, or allows long-lost Human civilisations to remain lost to all bar him so that he has exclusive access to the archeotech that is so valued by the Adeptus Mechanicus and coveted by the idle rich of the Imperium's noble houses.
There are plenty of Rogue Traders for whom the greatest drive is the simple joy of pushing back the boundaries of the Imperium, filling in the blank spaces on the maps. These men and women are ceaselessly inquisitive and often highly intelligent, a combination of traits not generally encouraged in the Imperium's servants. Yet such a combination often proves ideal in a Rogue Trader and those few who attain such rank often prove highly successful recipients of the Warrant of Trade.
To the explorer, the most hostile of environments is a challenge to be faced head-on, and the most fearsome of slavering alien beasts is a fascinating opportunity for study and interaction (or sometimes autopsy). The explorer is ever keen to don an envirosuit and plunge headlong into the most dangerous or bizarre of alien landscapes. Despite the risks they take, often without even realising the danger, many of these explorers appear to be watched over by the Emperor Himself. They somehow survive encounters in nightmare-infested Death World jungles or haunted alien Tomb Worlds when others would have fled screaming.
Rogue Traders of this type often delegate the less stimulating aspects of their rank to their underlings or associates. The Master at Arms of such a Rogue Trader may find himself exasperated as he time and again finds himself rescuing the Rogue Trader from danger, while the ship's Factotum will have to carry the burden of maintaining the Rogue Trader's fortune. The explorer is often far more concerned with following some obscure archival reference to a lost world of alien wonders than he is with the responsibilities that come with being the head of a largely mercantile Rogue Trader house.
The missionary believes in the literal truth of the Imperial Creed when it states that Mankind is the sole inheritor of the galaxy and that all other intelligent races are merely squatters on worlds that belong to the Imperium as a result of this divinely-inspired manifest destiny. He seeks out lost Human colonies to bring to them the word of the Imperial Truth, and he goes to great lengths to convert, often forcibly, those he sees as benighted by ignorance of the God-Emperor.
Rogue Traders of this ilk are often granted the Warrant of Trade to conquer regions that have resisted the attentions of the Missionaria Galaxia -- the arm of the Adeptus Ministorum tasked with the propagation of the Imperial Creed. Yet they are more than ranting demagogues, and what sets them above the itinerant preachers of the Missionarius is a drive to profit as well as to preach. They see the establishment of profitable commerce with re-contacted Human societies as part of the great scheme put in motion when the Emperor first went out into the stars 10,000 standard years ago during the Great Crusade and found Human societies lost for millennia from a prior age of exploration and settlement. It is his mission to bring such people back into the fold, and the establishment of the Imperial Creed is the first, essential step in that process.
The missionary Rogue Trader suffers the xenos poorly, seeing little or no value in establishing profitable trading relationships with alien worlds. More likely, he will seek to suppress such cultures and limit their influence, ensuring their alien creeds do not spread to taint the hearts of men. Such Rogue Traders are often accompanied on their voyages by an army of Ecclesiarchy representatives, who he will make every effort to establish on any lost Human worlds he discovers.
The diplomat seeks to spread the influence of the Imperium wherever he may, expanding its power to encompass the entirety of navigable space. He is a pragmatist, knowing that some alien species must be tolerated, even supported, while others must be crushed. The tools of his trade are words as well as weapons, and he is adept at negotiating with even the most belligerent societies, whether Human or alien, he might encounter amongst the stars.
Such Rogue Traders often find themselves in conflict with other Imperial interests, particularly those who condemn xenos as worthy only of annihilation. Yet he believes that it is he and he alone who sees the wider truth, knowing that Mankind is assailed by countless foes and that some alliances must be made if the Imperium is to prevail in an ultimately hostile universe. It is the diplomat who is able to gain the confidence of the inscrutable Eldar, earning such trust as to be allowed to set foot on their Craftworlds. It is he who may turn the path of alien invasion, negotiating a truce that allows both parties to extricate themselves from a war neither would ultimately stand to gain from.
Despite his skill with words, the diplomat has an innate understanding of when they will serve no purpose and when weapons must be used instead. He has the instinctive ability to size up his foes, often upon first contact, gauging the true intention behind their words and actions. When necessary, he will open fire first and open negotiations later -- and that is, ultimately, the secret to his success.
Some individuals are little more than madmen, creatures of instinct and slaves to their own desires. Some would claim that any man who has attained such high rank as to be awarded the Warrant of Trade must harbour within himself something of this trait. Regardless of his background or personality type, any Rogue Trader could be called upon to order the extermination of an entire race or the destruction of an entire world. All such men, it is sometimes said, must be psychopathic to a greater or lesser degree, regardless of the façade behind which such a trait is hidden.
Some Rogue Traders surrender themselves entirely to their inner darkness, dispensing their own personal brand of Imperial justice and retribution as they penetrate the outer darkness. They deal with those they come into contact with according to their own shattered moral compass. They are as likely to take personal control over a rediscovered Human society as they are to devastate it from orbit, and are often capricious and unpredictable, with a habit of dismissing subordinates for the slightest of misdeeds, whether real or imagined. Many such underlings are invited to make their own way back to Imperial territory, the lucky ones in a lifeboat, the unlucky ones on foot via an airlock.
Many of these wild and murderous individuals are highly idiosyncratic in their methods and the style in which they interpret and enact their mission amongst the stars. They might style themselves after figures of legend, some even comparing themselves to the Emperor's Primarchs and seeking to emulate the deeds of the Great Crusade in which the Imperium was forged 10,000 standard years ago. Some give themselves and their vessels ridiculously grand titles, such as Grand Conqueror, Emperor's Light or Scourge of Xenos. With wanton enthusiasm, they wage war on any and all they consider to be an enemy of the Imperium. Some spend a lifetime out beyond the fringes, laying waste to Emperor-knows how many worlds, while others return periodically to the Imperium, announcing their deeds and expecting all manner of grand receptions and official ceremonies. Many take on one foe too many, and simply disappear from the annals of the Imperium's history.
The Warrant of Trade is a potent document, not only allowing Rogue Traders to trade beyond the bounds of the Imperium and operate beyond Imperial oversight, but also make war in the Emperor's name. While many Rogue Traders make use of a minor war or conflict at some point in their careers, some favour war over all other endeavours. These bloodthirsty Rogue Traders are commonly known by the general populace of the Imperium as Traders Militant, and their Warrant is often referred to by their fellows as a "Warlord Warrant."
These Traders Militant behave in a similar fashion as a senior Imperial military commander. Their Warrant sanctions them to conscript and equip great numbers of men, to maintain these men under arms in addition to their private house troops, to contract with mercenary corps, and even enlist the aid of Astra Militarum, Imperial Navy or Adeptus Astartes units, and the average Trader Militant makes good use of these capabilities. A true Trader Militant is a rare breed, however. Though their Warrants may technically allow them the right to requisition troops, the reality is many Imperial Governors and senior members of the Imperial Adepta have the political and military power to resist these requests.
Therefore, Traders Militant tend to be either Rogue Traders who already possess great wealth and political power of their own, or proven and reliable former servants of the Imperium such as high-ranking Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy officers granted a Warrant of Trade for their deeds.
Trappings of Power
Along with the warrant to act outside of the Imperium's laws, the Warrant of Trade often comes with a great many trappings attached to it. While many Rogue Traders have significant resources of their own to call upon, they are usually given command over an entire fleet and ground forces to aid them in their mission beyond the fringes. If he is not already in possession of a voidship by dint of current rank, a newly appointed Rogue Trader may be given a flagship, often a Cruiser. Every vessel in the Imperium's registry is a precious asset and capital ships are not squandered, for they take solar decades, even entire Terran centuries to construct in the Mechanicus' orbital shipyards and can tie up the equivalent of many years' worth of planetary industrial output. Nonetheless, the appointment of a Rogue Trader is an event of great import, and the Imperial authorities would not (or not often) wish a new recipient of the Warrant to fall to pirate attack the instant he or she sets out. The Imperium expects great things of its Rogue Traders and will make every effort to ensure that they are equipped for the dangerous mission they will face.
Alongside a flagship, a Rogue Trader may be accompanied by frigates and other Escorts, as well as a multitude of cargo vessels, tenders, processing or refining vessels, and many more auxiliaries. If the Rogue Trader is not already versed in the skills needed to command a fleet and has not appointed a servant who is, then the authorities will find one qualified to handle the day-to-day running of the flotilla. Most Rogue Traders are the sort of people who want to take total, personal command of their fleets, and will soon learn the skills needed to do so. Those who do not tend not to live very long in the perilous regions of the galaxy beyond the fringes of Imperial rule.
Other significant assets gifted to a Rogue Trader may include ground troops. Entire Imperial Guard regiments may be seconded to them, along with all the auxiliary support units needed to maintain them and advisors to aide in their use and deployment. Though such gifts are considered temporary attachments, in reality it is likely to prove permanent. Rogue Traders are expected to meet any threat that waits in the dark, and the Imperial Guard is often at the sharp end of such conflicts and so unlikely to be returned to serve elsewhere even if the soldiers survive such service. Some Rogue Traders issue such troops uniforms of their own design, and it is not uncommon for attached Imperial Guard units to wear a tabard or sash over their regular uniforms, bearing the colours and heraldry of their new lord and master.
In addition to military forces, a Rogue Trader may be provided with a vast army of bureaucrats, administrators, clerks, artisans, and advisors drawn from the ranks of the Administratum. These are intended to serve the needs of administrating any worlds conquered in the course of the fleet's travels. Plenty of Rogue Trader fleets are furthermore accompanied by entire populations of colonists, volunteers or otherwise, who will settle newly discovered worlds so that the Imperium's borders are expanded from one generation to the next. In some cases the Rogue Trader will install relatives or trusted followers as a new ruling class, ensuring the new colony owes fealty to him, as well as to the Imperium.
Rogue Trader Dynasties
A Rogue Trader and his team are more than merely a ship's captain and his crew; they are a grand legacy, which often stretches back hundreds or even thousands of standard years. The first Rogue Traders in the days of the Great Crusade were given mandates to ply the stars and expand the control and reach of the Emperor, and in exchange, they could harvest the wealth such freedom would bring.
Today's Rogue Traders are the descendants of these first Rogue Traders and the many that have come after. All of those that serve in the Rogue Trader's crew, not just the Rogue Trader, will be part of this dynasty. This legacy is important for crewmembers to remember, as they need to know that they are more than the ordinary Imperial citizen -- they are rare individuals, chosen for greatness, who possess power to shape the very destiny of the Imperium itself. It is also a source of great pride for those members of a Rogue Trader's crew to know that they are a cut above the average citizen, gifted with special rights and blessed with a favoured role in the Emperor's grand designs.
Part of this status that all the crewmembers share also means that to a degree they are all equally important. Though ultimately, the Rogue Trader controls the ship and the main decisions that affect the entirety of the ship and its course into the void, it is his crew that are equally essential in playing a role in the destiny of the Rogue Trader's dynasty.
Child of Dynasty
Within the Imperium of Man there are those who sit at the pinnacle of power -- the nobility and the ruling elite. As the Imperium is structured as a feudal society, it stands to reason that within it exist many types of noble houses, including planetary rulers, military lords, and the Rogue Traders. Over time, once the Warrant of Trade has been given, a Rogue Trader may find that his empire is growing. The dynasty now has fleets of starships, planetary fiefdoms, and thousands of house soldiers to call upon. As time goes on and the family continues to grow, it develops into a Rogue Trader Dynasty -- able to command scores of voidcraft and countless troops. This legacy spans the Imperium and beyond.
To ensure that this legacy continues, the lords and ladies of the dynasty designate an heir-apparent in whatever fashion is deemed appropriate by their customs. These sons and daughters may find themselves struggling for the favour of their dynastic leaders in an effort to be worthy of succession. Oftentimes in Imperial noble families, the second, third, and even fourth child finds themselves with little option but to go out and make a name for themselves, or simply languish in obscurity, hoping that circumstances arise to change their fate. However, this is not the case in Rogue Trader families, where all are expected to work and prove themselves. It is oftentimes that these noble scions end up plotting and scheming for ways to manoeuvre into a position where the family leader has little choice but to name them heir.
Life as a Child of Dynasty
The children of the Rogue Trader houses are instructed in all manner of subjects mundane and esoteric. They are assigned the best tutors and mentors the clan can afford, and by the time the child enters adolescence, they are capable enough to be sent out into the wider galaxy (typically with bodyguard entourage in tow). They have been afforded every advantage, as the future of their house rests upon their shoulders.
Not every heir-apparent turns out to be the best choice for the family, however. Some are lazy, shiftless souls who do nothing more than squander the family fortunes and pass their days in decadence and perversion. In such cases, the leaders of these dynasties often select more than one heir to the throne; it is a gamble they make to ensure that at least one of them survives to continue the dynasty. Rogue Trader heirs are often assigned one of the family's void ships under the command of one of their most capable captains or a family scion that has more days behind him than ahead. They are then given a stipend and sent to learn about the unforgiving galaxy. If along the way they make gains for the house, so much the better. Some return upon their majority to assume the title they have been ordained for; others are never seen or heard from again.
Oftentimes, a rival family member covets the throne of the house at the expense of all else. These miserable sods plot and scheme the downfall of their siblings and relatives. They may arrange an accident to befall other heirs so that they alone remain to assume the family's leadership. Thus, many heirs (especially from the larger dynasties) are taught to be wary and look out for such plots. Many surround themselves with capable allies and protectors, but in the end survival often comes down to their own wits and instincts. Many learn not only the intricacies of political longevity, but martial arts and other forms of combat as well. This is by far the best means to ensure they live long enough to return home and assume the privileges and rank that they have been groomed all their lives for.
"War is the natural state of man, for it is in battle that he has made his greatest achievements. It is at the heart of every endeavour, and those who claim otherwise are doomed to die on the same swords they decry."
- — Attributed to St. Drusus
The ability to successfully wage war is crucial to the survival of a Rogue Trader as surely as are his skills in business, diplomacy, and voidfaring. It is the strong arm and the implicit threat of violence that lend weight to a man's words in the Imperium. Indeed, in a place as lawless and God-Emperor-forsaken as the Koronus Expanse, a Rogue Trader's martial prowess is often the only measure by which others judge him. Knowing this, a wise Rogue Trader studies war with the same fervour as he studies markets and currencies. He knows the value of war to the nearest Throne, understanding that the true cost of war is reflected in more than banking ledgers and casualty lists. A Rogue Trader must be able to weigh every factor in war, from costs and benefits to the social and political ramifications. This is what sets a Rogue Trader apart from a common Chartist Captain or business concern. He has the ability to raise an army and a fleet of ships to carry it, and the legal, moral, and ethical backing of the Administratum that allows him to use them as he sees fit. This makes him unique among his peers.
Unique and dangerous, for the rights and responsibilities granted in a Warrant of Trade, especially those pertaining to waging war in the name of the God-Emperor, can be so easily, and so tragically, misused. Warfare is an intricate dance full of ever shifting alliances and uncertain futures, and is not to be entered into lightly. When committed, a Rogue Trader must pursue it with all of the strength, courage, and violence that he can muster. Only then will he see the fruits of his violent labours. Taking part in a war, whether as a belligerent or simply an interested party, is expensive, risky, deadly, and has brought ruin to more Rogue Trader houses than can be counted. Why, then, do so many pursue it? The answers to these questions are as varied, and as telling, as the men and women who give them. There is no constant, no prescribed list of conditions that can decide when waging a war is prudent or not.
One thing is for certain, though. While the benefits of waging war can be truly staggering, and may make a man a king, the cost of failure is always death (whether true death or the myriad of little deaths like humiliation, loss of power, loss of wealth, or even enslavement). These are all important issues to keep in mind when approaching war, though they are by no means the only ones, and it is a fool who disregards their importance.
Reasons for War
Wars have been fought throughout the aeons for any number of reasons, and in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium this is especially true. Whether for conquest, faith, or simply business, there are any number of reasons to pursue war.
- War of Conquest - Wars of conquest are military endeavours wherein the attacker seeks to subjugate an enemy through sheer force of arms. They are waged mainly to acquire some sort of prize, typically land and natural resources, but often times also slaves, or some other form of wealth held by the defenders. Since the goal is the occupation of enemy lands, the subjugation of its people, and the exploitation of their resources, wars of conquest are infinitely complex. They require better planning, larger and longer-term commitments, and perhaps more finesse than wholesale slaughter. They also have a permanency about them, for once an invading force enters a land for conquest, they are typically there to stay. Rogue Traders rarely take part in wars of conquest, at least not as the conqueror. Wars of this type tend to tie a man to a single place and make him responsible for a whole lot of sedentary, ground-based activities like reconstruction, defence, and subjugation. As this is anathema to many free-wheeling Rogue Traders, who typically prefer the bridge of a voidship to the halls of government, they tend to take ancillary roles in other peoples' wars of conquest. Supplying weapons and materiel, providing monetary or temporary military backing in the form of voidships and house troops, establishing logistics chains, and smuggling have made many a fortune during a larger conflict.
- War of Faith - By far the single most common reason to wage war throughout the Imperium of Man, the religious war is perhaps also the easiest to justify. The opening salvo of many a bloody campaign has come on the tail of the phrase, "the God-Emperor wills it." Indeed, it could be said that the justification for all wars the Imperium embarks on are, at their heart, fuelled by zealous piety -- or at the least draped in its trappings. These are "just wars," wars based on Ecclesiarchical doctrine whose atrocities and crimes are justified, even called for, by the God-Emperor Himself. The reasons behind them rarely matter, even to the generals and admirals commanding the vast Imperial military forces. For them it is enough that the God-Emperor wills it, and so it shall be done. Due to the nature of the Imperial Creed, wars of faith may be waged against any who oppose the rightful rule of the Imperium of Man, be they alien, Heretic, or rebel. However, the Imperium reserves a special hatred for one foe -- the forces of the Ruinous Powers. These wars can be faster and more intense than other wars (although this is by no means a guarantee), since their goal is simply destruction more than conquest. They usually end when the aggressor has either wiped out the heathens and Heretics, converted them, or taught them a sufficiently hard lesson. Afterwards, the aggressor will leave behind some religious officials and missionaries to see that their work stuck and that their new converts remain on the narrow path. Garrisons of troops may be left behind as well to keep peace and enforce new doctrines, but the majority of the invading forces will be withdrawn to their bases, leaving the rest of the work to the priests and Adepts. Due to their relative quickness, high potential for gain, and the ease with which a person can get an enemy labelled a Heretic in the Imperium, religious wars are quite popular among Rogue Traders. Whether based on true religious fervour or simply used as a convenient excuse, many a Rogue Trader has waged war with conspicuous displays of prayer and breast-beating. Unlike wars of conquest, in which they tend to take secondary roles, Rogue Traders often take a very active and enthusiastic role in religious wars. What better way is there to prove your piety than by killing the enemies of the God-Emperor? Indeed, many Warrants of Trade specifically call for the wielder to make war amongst the Heretics and bring His holy light to the godless heathens at the furthest reaches of space.
- Xenocide - Xenocide, similar in theory to its cousin genocide, is the act of waging war for the sole purpose of completely eradicating an intelligent alien species. To the Imperium, xenocide is accepted and even advocated as a religious imperative of Humanity, and is yet another common mandate dictated to Rogue Traders by their Warrants of Trade. While not all Rogue Traders are compelled to pursue campaigns of xenocide in their Warrants, nearly all are expected to assist Imperial forces in campaigns against xenos. While all Rogue Traders tacitly agree to this upon receipt of their Warrants, in practice it is a different matter altogether. Away from the watchful eyes of the Imperium, many a pragmatic Rogue Trader has turned his back on Human settlements besieged by xenos when the cost of assisting outweighed the benefits of leaving their fellow Humans to their fates.
- Defensive War - A true defensive war is waged in answer to an aggressor's attack. Of course, many warmongers would have it believed that their wars are defensive wars. They justify their aggression by real or imagined threats, but their wars are predicated on a desire for wealth, land, and power. A true defensive war is fought to deny the enemy territory, or resources, and often there is little reward save the preservation of what one already possesses. The ongoing defence of the Cadian Gate in the Cadian Sector against the Black Crusades of Chaos is one example of a defensive war, as is the recent war fought on the world of Damaris against the Ork invaders. While those fighting a defensive war are typically caught flat-footed in the early stages of the conflict, they will have certain advantages over their attackers due to fighting on familiar ground, being closer to supply lines, and even the knowledge that they must win or perish. Due to the smaller potential profits of a defensive war, it is not something Rogue Traders get involved with often. However, the potential rewards (in both finances and reputation) for coming to the aid of an embattled people should never be overlooked. The reputation of the Esme Chorda changed from pirate and blackguard to hero of the Imperium almost overnight after that Rogue Trader participated in the destruction of the Space Hulk Cauldron of Savagery in 673.M40.
- War as Distraction - What better way to cover illicit activities and shady dealings than with a bloody armed conflict? As heinous as it may sound to some, inciting war for purposes of misdirection and obfuscation can be a perfectly legitimate, if perhaps slightly underhanded, business practice. A war pursued by way of distraction is often fought by proxies. Thanks to their usual business dealings, Rogue Traders often have a ready supply of mercenaries and hired thugs that they can call upon for just such an occasion. While the hirelings sow discord and fomenting armed conflict, the Rogue Trader can go about their business. This is war by proxy. Sometimes, a Rogue Trader must wage a war, but cannot be seen to have done so. When a Rogue Trader needs some dirty work done and it is either inconvenient or impolitic to get dirt on his own hands, there are plenty of private military organisations in Imperial space more than willing to do it for him -- including other Rogue Traders. War by proxy is a war fought on behalf of one party, typically unknown to the actual combatants and hired through numerous cutouts and front organisations, by professional mercenaries or other agents. While it can be a clean and expedient way to wage war, the risks of doing so should not be underestimated. Without direct control of events, such wars have a way of spiralling out of control, possibly hampering the very goals they were supposed to obtain.
- War Profiteering - Sometimes it is more profitable to supply a war than it is to fight it. War profiteering is as old as the act of war itself, and, much like war, is both lauded and detested. War profiteers are individuals or groups who make their profits by selling important materiel to belligerents in an armed conflict, and can range from a Guardsman selling the Lasgun of a dead comrade to the manufactoria of the Calixis Sector such as the Merovech Combine, Loi Metalworks, and Lindwyrm Armoury. Although war profiteering is typically thought of as the selling of weapons, fighting vehicles and other wartime impedimenta, the need for any valuable commodity can be exploited for profit in times of war. Medical supplies, foodstuffs, and raw materials all tend to be in high demand in a warzone. It is not unheard of for a canny war profiteer to sell his wares to both sides of a conflict. There have even been cases of war profiteers instigating armed conflicts for the sole purpose of supplying arms and resources to the belligerents involved -- at wartime prices, of course. Rogue Traders are adept at war profiteering. They are well-placed to buy commodities low, ship them to willing war zones, and sell them for a tidy profit to all comers. In fact, the business of making war a business is many a Rogue Trader dynasty's core dealings.
Almost anything can be bought for the right amount of Thrones, including everything a military-minded entrepreneur needs to wage war. When a Rogue Trader goes about the business of raising troops for war he has three options: raise the troops and form units himself, hire established mercenary groups, or officially acquire forces of the Imperium's military through the exercise of his Warrant. Each has costs and benefits which must be carefully weighed before a Rogue Trader can gather men to his flag.
Forming units from the ground up gives a Rogue Trader complete control over the composition of his forces, but is costly and time consuming. The Rogue Trader must enlist or draft the troops, then procure their weapons, armour, vehicles, equipment, food, uniforms, and shelter. This process can take months or even years, and thus is usually undertaken only by the wealthy. Hiring mercenaries is simpler, especially in the Koronus Expanse where plenty of individual warriors or mercenary bands can be bought. Money spent on mercenaries is money spent on a known quantity. Mercenary companies get work by reputation and word of mouth, so a prospective employer typically knows what he is getting for his Thrones.
Unfortunately, reliable mercenaries are seldom cheap. Finally, some Rogue Trader Warrants allow the bearer to requisition units of the Imperial Guard. Though this may seem appealing, such concepts often work better in theory than in practice. Units are often unavailable for one reason or another, and a local Imperial Governor may find it convenient to ignore a Rogue Trader's request rather than give up well-trained and well-equipped soldiers. As Imperial Governors are as politically powerful as many Rogue Traders, this obstacle can prove insurmountable, no matter what their Warrant says.
The Battle-Brothers of the Adeptus Astartes are arguably the finest warriors in the galaxy. While ancient treaties compel them to aid the Imperium in times of need, few such treaties exist between the Adeptus Astartes and Rogue Traders in such far-flung regions of the galaxy as the Koronus Expanse. That being said, it is not unheard of for Space Marine Chapters to assist Rogue Traders in times of war, especially when the need is great or their goals are aligned.
Once the units are assembled, the second step of going to war involves equipping them. While hired mercenaries and Imperial Guard units blessedly come with their own weapons, vehicles, and other materiel, when a Rogue Trader raises a unit from scratch he will find himself acting as both warlord and supply officer. Troops need a dizzying array of supplies to operate effectively. Along with weapons, vehicles and armour, units also need food, medical supplies, tools, field equipment, uniforms, and all manner of accoutrement to keep them in top shape. This represents a massive outlay of Thrones, typically more than was spent to hire the men. Rogue Traders outfitting troops have two options available to them to keep costs down: purchasing in bulk or lowering quality.
A soldier is only as effective as the equipment he is issued. While some military scholars will argue otherwise, claiming that superior training can overcome inferior equipment, it does not matter how good an infantryman's training has been if his Lasgun will not shoot and his armour is in tatters. Unfortunately, sacrifices often need to be made when outfitting large units, and soldiers usually have to make do with what they have been given.
Transporting and Deploying Forces
"To war, to death, and to the God-Emperor!"
- — A traditional toast among mercenary forces
Once a force has been mustered and equipped, all that is left is to move it where it is needed and deploy it to the battlefield. This will involve specially configured voidships to transport all the men and materiel, Escorts to protect them, and shuttles, landing craft or Drop Pods to ferry everything from orbit to a planetary surface. Once on the surface, units are assumed to have with them the appropriate vehicles, such as tanks, fighter craft, or riding beasts, as fits their unit as these were acquired during the outfitting stage.
If the Rogue Trader's troops do not have the necessary ships and aircraft on hand, or cannot acquire them easily from their dynasty, they will need to contract for their force's passage. A Rogue Trader's best choice would be an ally or colleague Rogue Trader or Chartist Captain who specialises in hauling troops. Their ships will already be configured as troop carriers, they are trustworthy, and can typically be had for the price of some favours.
Failing that, a Rogue Trader's next best bet is a private military company specialising in what is known in the business as "voidlift work," the profession of transporting men and materiel from war zone to war zone. It is important to note that the Imperial Navy may or may not be willing to aid in void transport. This usually depends on a Rogue Trader's Warrant and relations with the Navy -- as an Admiral is more likely to aid a respected Rogue Trader than one who is practically a pirate. However, Rogue Traders are noble peers of the Imperium, and their ability to requisition aid includes the Imperial Navy. However, the Navy is unlikely to transport non-Imperial or xenos forces.
The term "Footfallen" refers to those who hail from the settlements of the Koronus Expanse -- especially places like Footfall. The people who live on these worlds and settlements truck with all manner of blasphemers, from Renegade psykers and xenos, to Heretics and Chaos Cultists. A Footfallen lives in a den of iniquity, and has learned to be cunning, and devious, organising deals and a web of contacts across the Expanse. In the Koronus Expanse, the few waystations and habitations established by Humans have become hubs for exploration. They also serve as critical connections that link the scattered Human settlements and enterprises in the greater Koronus Expanse beyond. There are many such outposts, but the most famous is the void-station of Footfall, which has in turn given those who live in such places their name: the Footfallen.
The Footfallen are often referred to as "the true children of the Expanse." These men and women, descended from the settlers and Rogue Trader vassals who came to this region long ago, have spent the majority of their lives interacting with all manner of denizens within the Koronus Expanse. Whatever their birthplace, they all tend to have similar outlooks and mannerisms, and are used to dealing with all manner of individuals: religious fanatics, cultists, recidivists, spies, assassins, narco-tribesmen, nomads, fugitives from Imperial justice, merchants, xenos, renegade psykers, Rogue Traders and their crew, and even worshipers of the Ruinous Powers. These worlds are giant melting pots of cultures and beliefs, and only through them can one get useful information on the Koronus Expanse.
Recently, there is something else that sets the Footfallen apart, even from other denizens of the Expanse who have grown up in the same circumstances. Over the last few decades, a disturbing trend has emerged amongst some of those born in the Expanse. A number of them have been known to exhibit a strange "sixth-sense" which, while not a true psychic ability, quite possibly stems from the Warp.
Notable Rogue Traders
- Naj Amardi - Naj is the twelfth person to hold the Warrant of Trade for House Amardi, which was issued less than a century ago. The House has holdings in the Scintilla Sector and has made inroads on several worlds of the Koronus Expanse. However, their Rogue Traders have had an astronomical mortality rate, and almost all have died under improbable circumstances. After holding his Warrant for six years, Naj Amardi became the most experienced Rogue Trader in his House for twenty-five years. In that time, he is the seventh person to inherit the Warrant. A committed expansionist of the Imperium, in his brief time as the Warrant Holder, Naj has focused his House’s efforts on establishing Human colonies within the Expanse. All three of the colonies he has sponsored were on worlds occupied by xenos. In each case, he has deliberately conducted genocide to cleanse the planets of xenos taint prior to bringing in colonists. Rogue Trader Amardi is enthusiastic about any opportunities to kill heretics and xenos.
- Lord-Captain Aristide Anzaforr - The Rogue Trader Anzaforr is equally charming and intimidating, a master of diplomacy as much as naval strategy. Aristide Anzaforr is a mystery even to his own vassals and servants. A man whose personal piety was never central to his concerns, he has all but converted his personal flagship, the Oath Unspoken, into a pilgrim transport. Many of the longest-serving retainers of the venerable family have become more and more despondent in recent times as other Rogue Trader families have moved in on new trade openings while, as they see it, Aristide has taken to shuttling lice-ridden fanatics and mystics from one world to the next.
- Madam Charlabelle Armelan - The Rogue Trader Madam Charlabelle is the daughter of the infamous Lord-Captain Armelan, whose fortunes were dashed when an Ork invasion overwhelmed his clan’s home system of Adrianni-Spinward. Armelan threw himself and the fortunes of his house into the war effort, knowing that if he did not, the bulk of his interests would be lost and centuries of tradition and honour defiled. Armelan committed his entire fleet to the effort, rushing an endless stream of reinforcements and materiel to the defence. Unfortunately, Armelan’s actions were as rash as honourable, and all save a handful of his vessels were destroyed as the Ork fleet crushed the system’s defences. House of Armelan was left with a single warp-capable transport The Grace of Sopha and a dozen or so inter-system vessels. The clan’s fortunes crumbled and Armelan was forced to divest himself of what resources remained outside of Adrianni-Spinward. His health and sanity failing him, Armelan retreated to his last sanctuary, a now dilapidated manse on Malfi, where he quietly sunk into a amsec-fuelled fantasy world. The only hope of House Armelan lies with its last remaining scion, Madam Charlabelle. A striking and determined woman, Charlabelle seeks to maintain the deception that her clan is still strong. She does this by projecting a thoroughly convincing illusion of wealth and sophistication. However, her resources are now running dangerously low. In appearance, Madam Charlabelle is every inch the intelligent sophisticate, well versed in proper manners and tradition. Yet she is no willowy daughter of privilege, despite appearances, and long ago learned how to get things done herself. To this end, she has mastered, somewhat unusually for one of her station, the deadly Eldar weapon known as the Harlequin's Kiss. Many a rival has fallen to its deadly touch, after underestimating the wielder. Striking out on her own aboard The Grace of Sopha, Madam Charlabelle has come to the Koronus Expanse to seek some remedy to the dire straits of her House. Unable to draw upon the resources other Rogues Traders can, she has employed the services of a large band of Kroot Mercenaries to aid her in whatever travails await.
- Aoife Armengarde - Aoife Armengarde comes from a Rogue Trader dynasty whose familial lore claims the house's Warrant of Trade predates the founding of the Calixis Sector, and may even be as ancient as the commissions of such famed Rogue Trader houses as those of Stavos and Haarlock. Armengardes fought alongside the Imperium during the Angevin Crusade, plumbed the depths of the Hazeroth Abyss, traversed the Drusus Marches, and when the Koronus Passage was opened, were amongst the flood of Rogue Traders who set out into the Koronus Expanse. For millennia, House Armengarde has been a solid and dependable presence amongst the ranks of Rogue Traders in the Expanse. Tradition and heritage, for the Armengardes, was something to be prized and embraced, until Aoife inherited the Warrant. Her actions since adopting the mantle of Rogue Trader would likely have shocked her ancestors just as much as they shock the Imperial noble circles her family travels in. However, she is also the first Armengarde since the Angevin Crusade to become truly renowned. Aoife has elevated the name of Armengarde to new heights. Her exploits are extensive and varied, to the point that it has grown difficult to tell truth from fiction.
- Lord-Admiral Bastille the Seventh - Bastille is the scion of an ancient Rogue Trader House, yet he was never expected to bear its Warrant of Trade. In fact, he was so far from the position of patriarch that his family purchased a commission in the Imperial Navy when he came of age, assuming that such a career would hold more opportunity than the minor role he might otherwise play in the fortunes of the House Bastille. None were prepared for the nigh-complete destruction of that ancient line, due to a cataclysmic, freak vortex torpedo malfunction during a conference of its most senior members. None, perhaps, except Lord-Admiral Bastille, who resigned his commission immediately and claimed his birthright. For several years after this event, Bastille’s rivals in the Imperial Navy spread a number of vicious rumours, though no outright accusations were made. Eventually things came to a head. Bastille came into open conflict with a number of senior navy officers. What started out as a disagreement soon escalated, and what followed was a small but vicious war between isolated elements of the Imperial Navy and the House Bastille. Thanks to the actions of several Naval staff officers sympathetic to Bastille, the conflict remained contained, and Segmentum Command at Cypra Mundi never learned of the particulars. However, Bastille has worn out his welcome in the Imperium. Lord-Admiral Bastille the Seventh conducts the affairs of his House as if it were a private navy, which in many respects, it is. House Bastille’s existing interests are maintained by naval force, and expanded in the same manner, each conquest being exploited by the sizable merchant fleet the House maintains. The Lord-Admiral leads these actions from the bridge of his flagship, the cruiser Colossus, and commands a sizable flotilla of lesser warships.
- Jeremiah Blitz - Jeremiah Blitz is a charming rogue and a notorious scoundrel, a man not truly given to the rarefied manners of polite society, but more at home in unsavoury drinking dens and back-street bordellos. Jeremiah Blitz is only newly come to his Warrant of Trade, and is no highborn scion born into a life of nobility. The manner in which Jeremiah earned his Warrant is entirely typical of the man—he won it in a game of chance. Most versions of the story agree that Blitz, formerly a dealer in dubious and xenos art objects, landed himself a place at a very high-stakes game attended by a Sector Lord of the Adeptus Terra. Over the course of the game, Blitz lost heavily, until he staked all on the turn of the last card and won a favour from that Sector Lord. Blitz demanded the Lord grant him the Warrant of Trade, and reluctantly, he agreed. A year and a day later, Jeremiah Blitz was granted his warrant and the cruiser Ordained Destiny, and was soon set for wilderness space and whatever adventures it could offer. In his short career to date as a Rogue Trader, Jeremiah Blitz has carved his name across a dozen regions. He has yet to settle into the serious business of establishing a dynasty, though he has no doubt sowed many illegitimate seeds throughout the courts of several ruling houses. Most of Jeremiah’s adventures have been somewhat shady, often involving dubious deals with less-than-reputable characters. Where most Rogue Traders look to nurture investments and establish interests, Jeremiah is, at this stage, more interested in short-term gain. To this end, he has continued his erstwhile dealings in the Cold Trade, bringing in vast sums for alien artefacts from beyond the rim.
- Valerius Borodin - Valerius Borodin is very typical of the Rogue Traders sent into the uncharted wilderness of uncharted space. Borodin was given a seven-year mission; charged with exploring the sector that lies beyond the Gideon Confluence in the Third Quadrant. En route, he was required to perform numerous minor duties, including conducting a policing visit to the rebellious Horne's World in the Claw Nebula, and an investigation of the lost world of Diarack, inaccessible for nearly three generations because of Warp Storms. The Administratum was keen to establish the genetic purity of the world's population, and Borodin was given authorisation to take any necessary action. Thus, Borodin had to deal with two entire planets before even leaving Imperial space. He was well-provided with voidships, equipment and troops for his mission, which included the command of an entire company of Space Marines and a company of the Imperial Guard, as well as their attendant staff and equipment. He was also accompanied by an entourage of bureaucrats from the Administratum and Tech-priests from the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Aspyce Chorda - Aspyce Chorda, the third of six children and only daughter of Rogue Trader Hamish Chorda, hails from a long line of influential voidfarers and star captains, to the infamous privateer Esme Chorda, who helped defeat the Space Hulk Cauldron of Savagery in 673.M40. Her father, a gregarious rake of expansive size, tastes and personality, was the latest scion of the only Chorda family line to carry an Imperial Warrant of Trade. He was a charitable spendthrift and habitual philanderer with dozens of legitimate and illegitimate children on both sides of the Maw, rapidly squandering the dynasty's wealth. Aspyce resigned her commission in the Imperial Navy and immediately set about putting her family's ailing fortunes to rights. Her first point of order was to reduce the house's financial obligations, and to that end she employed mercenaries and assassins to hunt down and eliminate all of her father's mistresses and bastard children. Then she expanded her operations into the Koronus Expanse. Today, Lord-Captain Aspyce Chorda is one of the wealthier and more influential Rogue Traders operating in the Koronus Expanse. She is a hard and dangerous woman who believes that might makes right, and she will stop at nothing to fulfill her desires for wealth, power and acclaim.
- Admiral Dallactarius IV - A Rogue Trader by the name of Admiral Dallactarius IV became embroiled in the ongoing pacification of the world of 47 Kapella in the Drusus Marches sub-sector of the Calixis Sector. In 482.M41 the aid of his fleet was requested when Dallactarius was en route to the Koronus Expanse. The Admiral was known as a particularly belligerent individual and was noted for his impatient nature. The Admiral readily agreed to lend his aid to Imperial forces, yet soon became caught up in what would become a twelve-year long war of attrition. By the end of the first decade the Admiral's not inconsiderable forces had been reduced to only a few dozen warriors of his household guard, yet he battled on regardless, determined to succeed in the face of insurmountable odds. The last recorded sighting of Admiral Dallactarius IV was at the Battle of Hill 44427, reportedly leading an assault on an enemy bunker. A decade later he was finally declared dead, yet those of his household that survived claim to this day that he lives still, punishing the enemies of the Emperor. The Admiral never did reach the Koronus Expanse, his diversion proving somewhat more permanent than he, and his now penniless backers, had intended.
- Kinker Drub - In the closing months of the 40th Millennium, Rogue Trader Kinker Drub received the Warrant of Trade, and along with it the obligation to reclaim Colony XK-119, a small facility on a satellite of an unnamed gas giant several weeks' travel into the Koronus Expanse. The world was of little real value to the Imperium, but it had been won from an alien race that had been discovered there, and Human blood had been spilt upon its soil. Therefore, when the previously assumed extinct aliens returned in force and retook the world, Drub was tasked with crushing them once and for all. Attached to Drub's own forces was a composite Adeptus Astartes task force, consisting of a dozen squads drawn from as many different Space Marine Chapters. Drub had the authority to determine where the Space Marines would fight -- the Astartes themselves would determine how. Arriving at XK-119, the flotilla was immediately attacked by the alien vessels -- which, having never been encountered before, made for a formidable enemy. Drub's vessels suffered some damage, but during the fight the Astartes were able to close on what was assumed to be the xenos flagship and affect a boarding action. The aliens were unable to repel the boarders, and the entire xenos command cadre was slaughtered, causing the remaining alien vessels to disengage and withdraw. Drub then accompanied the Space Marines to the colony itself and discovered there a scene from nightmare. The colony, it transpired, had been built within the crumbling ruins of an alien city, and the colonists had uncovered, and attempted to operate, items of alien technology. Evidently, the former alien residents of the world had not been the last of their race, and others of their kind had somehow been summoned by the colonists' tampering and had proceeded to slaughter the colonists. Drub determined to track down these xenos, reasoning that they were possessed of highly advanced technology that would be of great value to certain groups within the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Space Marines agreed to track down and destroy the aliens to maintain the honour of the Imperium, thereby punishing those who would dispute Humanity's right to dominate the stars. Drub and his task force of Astartes were never seen by any Human again.
- Salgut Falk - In 298.M41 a Rogue Trader named Salgut Falkin entered the Koronus Expanse and set sail for the uncharted regions beyond. He had but one task to perform before he was free to make his fortune however he saw fit -- 30,000 colonists accompanied his fleet, individuals judged surplus to the requirements of the Hive World of Clove in the Calixis Sector. Falkin was eager to be rid of his unwelcome passengers and quickly located a world that seemed ideal for their uses, a verdant planet of tropical islands and warm azure seas. Stopping only long enough to oversee the deployment of the colonists' prefabricated hab-domes, Falkin continued on his voyage. Twelve standard years later, the Rogue Trader returned to the world, now dubbed New Clove by the colonists. His adventures had seen his fleet decimated and his fortunes in tatters following a series of encounters with the Asuryani. He paused on his return journey, to discover that the colony he had left over a decade before was now a thriving community, populated by happy, healthy, and prosperous colonists. Falkin immediately set himself up as Imperial Commander of New Clove, hoping to enjoy a life of luxury. Unfortunately for New Clove, the Asuryani had tracked Falkin across the expanse and discovered what was to them a long-lost Maiden World. The Craftworld Aeldari demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Humans from New Clove, and when Falkin refused they invaded, forcibly ejecting the intruders once and for all with great loss of Human life. Falkin and the remainder of his flotilla disappeared into the Expanse once more, never to be heard from again.
- Krawkin Feckward - Many consider Feckward’s holding of a Warrant of Trade to be extremely dubious in and of itself, for his lineage is highly questionable, and many consider him nothing more than a criminal overlord. The fortunes of the Feckward line are built upon the twin and equally despicable cold and slave trades. Over the decades of his rule of the line, Krawkin Feckward has led many expeditions to locate new sources of both xenos artefacts and slaves, bringing examples of his wares into the courts of Imperial Commanders across the Calixis Sector and beyond. Feckward has broken countless laws in his dealings, and it is only his Warrant of Trade that keeps him from prosecution. He continues to remain just distant enough from heresy to avoid the ire of the Inquisition.
- Lord Galfit - Rogue Trader Lord Galfit was the leader of House Magnum. Prior to his appointment as a Rogue Trader, Lord Galfit had served on the Imperial General Staff for five decades, and had made countless powerful enemies amongst the Calixis Sector High Command. These enemies had engineered Galfit's appointment as a Rogue Trader, fully expecting him to overstep his authority and afford them the revenge they had long awaited. Three years after Galfit's flotilla penetrated the Koronus Expanse, he claimed a newly discovered world for his personal domain, and quietly disposed of all of the Imperial servants accompanying him who he felt would not support his claim. Contact with Galfit's fleet was soon lost, and nothing was heard for a decade. It was only when an Adeptus Mechanicus survey fleet passed through the system that Galfit's fate was discovered. The Rogue Trader's vessel was found in orbit above the world he had claimed, but it was crewed only by shrivelled corpses. The survey teams discovered Galfit's body seated upright in the command throne of his bridge. Subsequent post-mortems determined that a lethal poison had been released into the vessel's environmental systems, and the entire crew had been slain within minutes. Although it was recorded that a single lifeboat had been jettisoned soon after the incident, no clue whatsoever was discovered to suggest the identity of the assassin.
- Abel Gerrit - Abel Gerrit is a scion of the House Arcadius, an ancient clan of Rogue Traders whose traditional area of operation has for several thousand years been the Imperium’s Eastern Rim. Recently, however, the clan’s head has determined it wise to branch out into other stretches of the galaxy. As a result, many branches of the clan have been tasked with expanding the fortunes of the Arcadius. Abel Gerrit is just such a distant cousin of the rulers of the House Arcadius. Although he does not bear his clan’s Warrant of Trade himself, and is far down the line of succession, Abel is nonetheless empowered to act in the interests of his House. To this end, Abel has his own vessel, the heavy raider Maxim’s Gambit, and not-inconsiderable resources. He had been tasked with seeking out opportunities in Segmentum Obscurus, and has followed rumours of the treasure planet, arriving at Footfall along with the other witnesses to the Foretelling. Abel is a highly capable individual, who takes enormous pride in bearing the Gerrit name and claiming membership in the House Arcadius. He is as competent as a ship’s master as he is a duellist, and is known to have taken the lives of many foes in both arenas. Despite his skills, Abel is not a braggart, and prefers to deal with potentially dangerous situations as a reasonable individual, but will not shirk from conflict if the other fellow refuses to reciprocate.
- Erasmus Haarlock - Erasmus Haarlock was a Rogue Trader and master of the vast power of the ancient and infamous Haarlock family on the world of Quaddis located in the Calixis Sector. The Rogue Trader House of Haarlock is an ancient one, far predating the Calixis Sector, which it helped to found. For thousands of standard years, the Haarlock Warrant of Trade gave the Haarlocks license to travel far beyond the Imperium and to bring death and war to anything they deemed a threat to Mankind’s place in the cosmos. Over their centuries of conquest, they put whole worlds to the sword and plundered the tombs of xenos races passed to dust. They acquired terrible secrets and amassed dark lore, weapons, and trinkets enough to found a dozen empires of their own and condemn them in the eyes of the Imperium a thousand times over if it were not for the legal protection afforded by the Warrant and the secrecy with which they guarded their affairs within the Imperium. Ever a fractious line, the Haarlocks were prone to betrayal and internecine warfare. Erasmus lost his beloved wife and only daughter to a vicious war between the members of the Haarlock line as they fought for the inheritance of the Haarlock Rogue Trader Warrant of Trade. There is one thing that Erasmus Haarlock desired after the death of his wife and daughter; to undo what happened, return them both to life, and return to the life that he led before they were slain. Haarlock was willing to pursue any means to this end. He later hunted down and killed every member of his family and their families, friends, allies, and associates. After slaughtering his blood kin, he unified the dark lore that his line had amassed over the millennia, and willed them to a single purpose, a terrifying project that spanned a dozen worlds and brought into play art and sciences forbidden since elder days. Then, at the height of his labours with all in preparation but for the final piece of the puzzle, Erasmus Haarlock vanished. The last of his line, centuries later, he is presumed deceased. The huge wealth of his house is locked in legal dispute in the Courts of Solomon on his former homeworld. Though some whisper that scions of the Haarlock line may still exist, they have proven reticent to come forward to claim the great prize of Haarlock's legacy.
- Baxilik Kim - Rogue Trader Baxilik Kim was granted his Warrant on the condition that he would be accompanied by an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet for the first three years of his mission. Kim was at first skeptical, until he got the measure of his companions. He soon discovered that the attentions of the Explorators who accompanied him were entirely fixated on the acquisition of pre-Imperial Human artefacts, and that they would often ignore or reject items of alien origin. Kim collected the Explorator's leavings, and over the course of three standard years amassed a sizable haul of xenos artefacts. Returning to the Imperium, he found a ready market amongst collectors of such proscribed items and earned himself a tidy fortune. Having divested himself of his initial haul, Baxilik Kim returned to the Koronus Expanse, this time with substantial private backing, to track down the Explorators and resume his harvest of their cast-offs. It is assumed that he is out there still, beyond the fringe, collecting the next haul and counting the fortunes he will no doubt amass upon his return.
- Lady Sun Lee - When the Rogue Trader Lady Sun Lee was granted her Warrant in 538.M41, it was on the condition that she put in at the Mining World of Dalthus in the Hazaroth Abyss sub-sector. The mining interests that ruled the world had been tardy in paying their dues, and the Calixis Sector's authorities wished to apply a little pressure to its Imperial Commander. Lady Sun Lee arrived in-system and immediately commenced a continuous Vox broadcast extolling the glory of the Imperium and the great honour the mining clans were soon to enjoy by receiving her state visit. The planet's rulers were sent into a panic, believing themselves about to be paid a visit by a senior delegation of Adeptus Terra representatives expecting to receive the tithe. Throughout the week it took for Sun Lee's flotilla to reach the inner system, the planet's Prefect Majoris launched a desperate round of tithe-raising amongst his subjects. By the time the lady Rogue Trader arrived at Dalthus, a cargo vessel's worth of the dainty trinkets for which the world is known had been readied for her. The prefect received Sun Lee in what passed for luxury on the Mining World, showering her and her retinue with gifts. Three weeks later, the Rogue Trader made her excuses, having loaded up her vessel with the gifts the prefect had offered, admonishing him sweetly to remember to pay the tithe when the Emperor's counting boat arrived in a year's time. By all accounts the prefect's face was a picture. He disappeared soon after, unable to meet the coming tithe having opened his vaults to the Rogue Trader Lady Sun Lee.
- Lady-Captain Hesiah Luftius - Rogue Trader Hesiah Luftius is a frequent visitor to Hive Desoleum of the Desoleum Hive World. In expectation of a visitation by the Lady-Captain, speculation becomes a popular pastime amongst the nobility, primarily as to the wondrous artefacts that are a hallmark of Luftius’ return. She maintains a number of holdings in the Apex, and business arrangements with many Consortium members. Luftius additionally has a number of allies amongst the Apex nobility, and is no stranger to Lady Desoleum’s court. Nor is she out of place, for Hesiah Luftius makes every effort in her appearance, always presenting a noble and well-coiffed bearing. Despite the time she spends exploring Wilderness Space beyond the bounds of the Askellon Sector, she never fails to display the most incredible and impressive styles on her return. Desoleum is one of the most productive manufacturing worlds in the sector, yet some question that this is enough to draw such attention from a Rogue Trader. Though most are content to point to Desoleum’s age and the Luftius Dynasty’s ancient holdings on the world, some senior Arbitrators and Inquisitors suspect a darker motive, perhaps connected to the ancient xenos ruins to be found in the planet’s desolate wastes.
- Jonquin Saul - The House of Saul comes from a long proud lineage that bears a Warrant of Trade older than Port Wander. The House of Saul has been pursuing business interests in the Koronus Expanse since the earliest years of the 41st Millennium. They have slowly built their immense fortune on a foundation of solid business practices, conservative investing and a fine, detailed understanding of the markets within the Expanse, the Calixis Sector, and beyond. The current head is the dashing, charismatic Rogue Trader Jonquin Saul, who holds the ostentatious and self-ascribed title of Trade-Admiral. After years of guiding his family’s vast commercial empire through both fortune and famine, Trade-Admiral Saul has enviable investments, a long list of impressive achievements, and can count more people among his friends than his enemies. His shrewd business acumen and preternatural abilities at deal-making and negotiating have not only increased his fortunes, but have done the same for numerous allies and business partners throughout the Expanse. Indeed, more than one Chartist Captain or mercantile-minded Rogue Trader owes at least some portion of their success to a favourable business venture sponsored by the House of Saul.
- Baron Djanko Scourge - Djanko Scourge has been described by some of his many rivals and detractors as having the “psychopathic tendencies of a Fenksworld Pit Thing, but only half the charm.” Some have gone so far as to say this is a terrible slur on the Pit Thing. Djanko’s Warrant of Trade was granted to his great-great-grandfather, Lord-General Khako “the Scourge”, following the prosecution of the highly destructive Jade Reach Suppression. During that decade-long campaign, Khako is said to have razed a dozen worlds, a record his descendent is determined to match. Djanko has continued the family tradition of profiting from war and destruction. His particular method is to seek out lost Human worlds rich in natural resources and claim them for himself (in the name of the Imperium of course). Furthermore, Djanko often takes it upon himself to "civilise" those heathen worlds he defeats in battle. Having entirely defeated a culture, he imposes his own, total rule upon it, installing his own administrators with himself as ultimate head of state. Djanko is a bull of a man, well built if somewhat running to fat. He prides himself on the traditions established by his sire, and at all times maintains what he imagines to be a suitably martial bearing. To this end, he attires himself in full military dress uniform, adorned with all manner of medals, each of which celebrates his achievement in subjugating a world. At his belt, Djanko bears the gold-plated plasma pistol that once belonged to old Khako, a family heirloom that has seen a great deal of use over the years.
- Sarvus Trask - Sarvus Trask hails from a Rogue Trader house that had fallen to petty corruption and self-centred hedonism, a small and easily dismissed family with few prospects and fewer aspirations beyond minor politics on the fringes of Imperial society. The Trask Warrant of Trade was first awarded to Godwyn Trask during the Age of Apostasy, an act that (according to some records) was intended to take the influential Godwyn away from the shifting tides of Imperial politics. In the 39th Millennium, the Trask dynasty relocated to the Calixis Sector on the frontier of the Imperium, placing the house's ailing fortunes into a long, slow decline. Only recently has the name of Trask regained meaning and significance amongst the powers of the Imperium and other Rogue Traders -- due entirely to the actions and efforts of its newest scion: Sarvus Trask. Trask's dynasty has risen swiftly upon the back of fortuitous ventures in exploration and founding trade routes into the Unbeholden Reaches of the Koronus Expanse. Along the way, Sarvus has laid claim to some extremely valuable finds. Known by his peers as a man with unbridled ambition, Trask sees every setback as an opportunity for the advancement of his dynasty. He has left the Imperium far behind and now considers the Expanse to be his true home.
- Wrath Umboldt - Wrath Umboldt has plied the Koronus Expanse for years, often coming up empty-handed. This would madden most Rogue Traders but Umboldt has taken this sad experience and instead refined it into a sober view of reality, hoping one day to make sense of all that fate had handed him. His journeys of late have been low risk and reaped paltry rewards, but also hazard less the horrors of the void so that he may spend more of his valuable time reflecting on past misfortunes and the lessons taken from them. His frugal aesthetic and sombre disposition remind those who know him of the most pious and humble of the Emperor's faithful, yet his years upon his vessel, the Righteous Crusader, have withered his soul to but a few bare threads. Umboldt hails from the bustling Calixis Sector Hive World of Barsapine. The unlikely heir to his family's Warrant of Trade, he laboured studiously under the tutelage of his uncle Luthin Umboldt, expecting to inherit a Cogitator factorium. Since his escape from Barsapine, Umboldt has travelled the width and breadth of the Koronus Expanse, if only having encountered a small fraction of what it had to offer. He made significant profits in his early years and gathered knowledge that would serve him well during his later trials. However, as time passed he suffered setbacks including dead end missions, heavy crew losses, and a mutiny he barely survived. Amongst the denizens of Port Wander, when discussing the exploits of the rich and powerful, none speak ill of Umboldt Wrath, and under no circumstances make light of his misfortunes. This pervasive sentiment expresses a superstitious dread felt by the port's citizens. Many believe Umboldt to have a curse of sorts, perhaps issued from the God-Emperor as a test of will, a moulding of character, or a punishment for some hitherto undisclosed sin. To insult or scoff at him might offend the Saints.
- Tanak Valcetti - Tanak Valcetti presents himself as a man of refinement for whom the vicissitudes of expeditions into the dangerous Expanse are something one simply does not speak of. A noble must show himself uncaring of danger, possessed of a savant’s knowledge, and be far above the crude urges that beset lesser individuals. This, at least, is the philosophy of the Valcetti lineage. To date it is has served them well: centuries of cultured, arms-length politeness and a mildly acknowledged respect for the endeavours of others have ensured that Tanak Valcetti has few enemies. Behind the mask of noble courtesy is courageous, capable man with a genuine love for the finer things in life, and one who expects the best from his retainers. The wealth of the Valcetti family is presently maintained through the steady exploitation of the worlds within the Expanse and large investments in the trade between the Scarus and Calixis Sectors. Tanak Valcetti and his sons depart into the Koronus Expanse for years at a time, leaving his seneschal to manage his armoured estate and investments upon Port Wander.
- Duke von Castellan - Duke von Castellan is the scion of wealthy family on Xarxis Plethis. Having inherited the von Castellan hereditary trade license, he sold the family estates to buy a starship in order to start out as a merchant. His travels took him further and further towards the Southern rim and he encountered no less than four non-Imperial worlds, with which he opened exclusive trade negotiations. It was at this point that Inquisitor Covenant caught up with him. In return for not being punished for failing to disclose the whereabouts of aliens, the Duke signed an agreement pledging himself and his ship to Covenant, and has subsequently answered the Inquisitor's call on several occasions. Von Castellan has little sense of honour or duty, but is scared of reprisals should he renege on his oath.
- Calligos Winterscale - Calligos Winterscale comes from a storied line of powerful Rogue Traders that has waged wars, conquered planets, and written its name across the Koronus Expanses' very stars. The friends and resources of House Winterscale are legion, but so are its foes -- for if there is one thing a Winterscale loves more than profit, it is a worthy enemy. Ever since Purity Lathimon charted safe passage through the Maw and the stars beyond opened to exploration, there has been a Winterscale in the Koronus Expanse. Centuries later, Calligos Winterscale is the latest of his dynasty to inherit the now famous Winterscale Warrant of Trade. In the years since his ancestor, Sebastian Winterscale, died, the power of the Winterscales has only expanded, and Calligos Winterscale has proven unwilling to rest on his family's laurels. In the last half-century, he has proven himself as capable as his ancestor Sebastian, and now the name Calligos Winterscale is spoken with fear and awe throughout the Expanse.
- Abdul Goldberg - Abdul Goldberg is a Rogue Trader infamous for his treachery and double-dealing across the galaxy. His habit of betraying criminal elements of the Imperium in order to seize their ill-gotten gains for himself has made Goldberg many enemies. As such, his forces are often the target of vengeance-driven ambushes and attacks when they are out on the Imperial frontier, far from the Emperor's justice.
Notable Rogue Trader Equipment
"A fortune in priceless technology, and yet I would almost trade it all for a grapnel, or a good length of rope."
- — Scrawled on the walls of pit alongside the skeletal remains of Rogue Trader Arcturas Irden
To be a Rogue Trader is to travel the paths that other, more cowardly and saner individuals fear to tread. Be it some foul xenos warren, dilapidated Space Hulk, or nameless planet, countless light years away from the nearest safe haven, the canny Rogue Trader and his crew can always find a way to take it for all that it is worth, for profit and glory. But for every explorer making the long trip to port with a hold full of priceless specimens and ancient technology, ten more fade away into insignificance, caught within the teeth of their own ambitions. The dangers facing them are nigh-infinite, and require the greatest care and preparation, should these proud men and women of the Imperium ever hope to overcome them and enjoy the spoils of their efforts.
The equipment detailed below is meant to augment the already considerable resources available to explorers looking to plumb the harshest and most obscure environments in the galaxy in relative safety:
- Delphis Mark II "Prensio" Lifter Armour - Using a combination of additional reinforcement, gyroscopic balancing Cogitators, and mechanical arm and leg supports, these heavily specialised armoured suits can ensure that even the most unwieldy cargo can be safely transferred through the most dangerous environments. Unsurprisingly, these suits have found great popularity among the more exploration-minded Rogue Traders, who find its use in the otherwise extraordinarily time-consuming and dangerous business of excavating and retrieving priceless artefacts invaluable. With the proper auxiliary equipment, it can also be used for tearing apart the bulkheads of ancient wrecks floating in the void, speed-clearing vast swaths of forest, or even assisting in rapid installation of key facilities in an Imperial Colony. The armour comes equipped with a built-in Auspex, chrono, Vox, microbead, and rebreather, all contained within the helmet. As long as the wearer keeps the helmet on, the suit also counts as a sealed environment and a void suit. It has also been modified for long-term heavy use, and the power cells arrayed along its back can last for up to 24 hours of continuous full operation before the wearer must recharge it, a process that usually takes about a day. Getting in and out of the armour takes at least 30 minutes (or 15 minutes with the dedicated attention of Servitors or other aid).
- Resciscum Exploration Suit - In exploring the furthest reaches of the Imperium and beyond, it is often the case that standard, sealed exploration suits just are not capable of providing the full range of protection and collection required of them. That is why, for the truly enterprising (or truly paranoid) explorer, the venerable Resciscum Exploration Suit offers the most intricate, durable environmental examination and protection that money can buy. Meant for especially dangerous environments, the Resciscum has built-in fail-safes to stop all but the largest breaches. Incredibly sensitive sampling instruments crafted through ancient and ritebound techno-science allow the wearer to collect and analyse any material with which the sensor portions of the suit come into contact. Dedicated equipment located in the suit's helmet automatically stores the data-tracks that the suit records. In addition to these features, these arcane suits includes a built-in Auspex, Vox system, rebreather, and microbead. In general, all of these systems can remain fully operational for up to a week of continuous use before a day of recharging is required. In the case of a power failure, the suit puts priority on the rebreather and sealing systems to keep the wearer safe for as long as possible. However, all of this extraordinary instrumentation makes for a much heavier suit than the standard sealed environmental unit, and attempting combat is not recommended.
- Melta-drill - An ancient and forgotten tool, rediscovered alongside the Delphis Mark II "Prensio" Lifter Armour, the Melta-drill is a remarkably efficient, if cumbersome, excavation tool. Its original design was pieced together from fragmented archeotech descriptions of an attempt to create a Melta melee weapon. The result is a device capable of continuous, short-ranged Melta energy emissions, permanently connected to a hefty, backpack-mounted fuel source. This makes the Melta-drill excellent for fast, reasonably safe excavation into all but the hardest of materials. Cogitators built into the handle allow for variations in the dimensions of the emissions, from as small as 10 centimetre to as large as 1 metre in diameter. It can bore into all but the hardest of materials, cutting through at a maximum rate of 1 metre per second. It is safe enough (albeit a bit warm) to move into such an opening. However, while quite useful for excavation, the sheer size and weight of the Melta-drill makes it difficult to use for any great period of time and quite unwieldy in combat situations. A Melta-drill always requires both hands to use.
- Planetary Codex - A somewhat dubious counterpart to the eternally sought-after charts used by Navigators, Planetary Codices are archeotech data remnants, left over from the Dark Age of Technology. While appearing unremarkable to the eyes of the unenlightened, in the hands of one able to identify them, a Planetary Codex is a priceless data storage device, capable of providing a near limitless wealth of information about a single, specific planet. Accessing this data, however, is an art unto itself, and the Codices seem to have an almost malicious tendency to mislead those unfit to delve into their secrets.
- Light-Bringer Torch - Imposing, ornate devices, Light-bringer Torches are pieces of archeotech first rediscovered on the world of Uth, deep within Winterscale's Realm in the Koronus Expanse. Seen by the missionary who stumbled upon them as a sure sign of the Emperor's blessing to delve into the unknown depths carrying His light, the torches have since been scattered across the Koronus Expanse. Many have been lost among the deadly worlds of the Expanse, and sit now amidst ancient ruins or in forgotten caves, waiting to be reignited by the flames of piety. A Light-bringer Torch provides a substantial amount of illumination, burning the Promethium that powers it with an efficiency that alone clearly roots its creation in the Dark Age of Technology. It can burn for months without being refuelled, and is easily activated or deactivated by their holder. These torches are also an awe-inspiring sign, especially when backed by fiery rhetoric.
- Mezoa-Pattern Long-Distance Extendable Retraction Rod - Amongst those who regularly wander into ancient ruins, time-lost cities, and other barrows of terror, the commonly held belief is that an explorer would be hard-pressed to find a single piece of equipment more useful than the long distance extendable retraction rod. An otherwise nondescript, hard, 30-centimetre-long metal rod with a handle, the extendable retraction rod is capable of telescopically extending outwards up to a total length of 4 metres at the press of an activation rune. Given reliable anchor points, it has a maximum load capacity of 150 kilograms that it can bear without bending or other signs of stress. To the clever explorer, its uses are truly infinite. Those of good and best craftsmanship increase the range by 1 meter each, and increase the load limit to 175 and 200 kilograms, respectively. In its retracted, 30 centimetre form, it can also be used as a hefty club.
- Portable Gravity Adjustment Panels - Using technology similar to the potent gravity generators present on voidships throughout the Imperium, portable gravity adjustment panels allow for limited control of the forces of gravity within a chosen area. Their original purpose is unknown, but they have been adapted to an extraordinary variety of uses, including specimen entrapment, criminal imprisonment, transportation of sensitive substances, and even combat. Though their sheer weight limits their usefulness in more delicate or time-sensitive situations, the devices make them popular for countless different uses across the Koronus Expanse. Each panel affects a 1 metre by 1 metre square of space that extends 10 meters above the panel, and can be remotely activated to manipulate gravity within the zone to anywhere between 0.1 and 10x standard Terran gravity. A single remote can be keyed to affect either a single panel, or up to ten panels at the same time. Once activated, a panel requires several minutes to warm up, and creates an audible whining noise as it measures and adjusts itself to the ambient gravitic force.
- Tenvis-Pattern Hydromotion Boots - A marvel of lost techno-rites, Hydromotion Boots use dedicated Cogitator units and low-energy gravity manipulation technology to allow for safe travel over liquid surfaces. When worn, each (rather oversized) pair automatically adjusts to comfortably fit virtually any size foot, and can support up to 250 kilograms over liquid surfaces. However, such motion is still subject to the waves and currents acting on the liquid, and walking over even a stilled surface can be dangerous. While walking on a liquid, any explorer wishing to move faster must be careful when doing so, for if the wearer fails by more than two degrees it causes the explorer to fall, likely requiring some rather desperate flailing to get back upright, and failure by more than four degrees causes the wearer to lose his balance so badly that he may find himself inverted, his entire body submerged, with the bottoms of his boots the only things touching the surface of the liquid he was just recently walking across. In addition, these boots are rather large and heavy while not on a liquid, making it difficult to move stealthily while wearing them. Heat-, cold-, and chemical-resistant variants exist, but have the availability of such variants are very rare. Such pairs should be able to withstand even the most extreme environments, even if the Explorer sporting them cannot.
- Grapplewhip - A tool popular amongst some of the (usually short-lived) brand of Rogue Traders who fancy themselves "adventurers," a grapplewhip is like a standard Groxwhip. Though these devices can be dangerous to inexperienced users, lashing back and cutting gashes across an unprepared wielder, they are still popular with certain contingents in the Koronus Expanse. A user can latche the grapplewhip onto a protruding object within 5 metres. The grapplewhip can then retract, albeit not as quickly as it can extend, pulling the object to the person (or the person to the object). If a user without the appropriate training to wield a grapplewhip attempts to lash out at a target with an attack and misses, it snaps back, striking him instead of his intended target.
- Joint Reconfiguration Augmetics - A particularly brave explorer can choose to undergo a painful and costly techno-surgical process to enhance the range of motion his limbs are capable of achieving. This set of microsurgeries, performed only by a select set of Malateks in the Koronus Expanse, increases the pliability of all major joints within the subject's body, allowing the Explorer to manipulate and contort his body through much smaller spaces. It also reworks the target's major joints to be completely reversible and able to rotate up to 360 degrees. Besides being an amazing and rather disgusting trick for a Rogue Trader to use at stuffy social obligations, this enhancement can be very useful for one who dares to explore the darkened and abandoned corners of the Koronus Expanse.
- Synford Pattern Rapid Deployment Shelter - Though there are countless variants on the concept of the portable structure scattered across the yawning width of the Koronus Expanse, the Synford Pattern Rapid Deployment Shelter is particularly renowned for its rugged durability. These devices of rockcrete and plasteel, which range in size from a metre across to much larger constructions, allow unaugmented Humans to survive some of the worst weather, rad-storms, and even small-scale bombardments that the Koronus Expanse and other frontier regions can throw at them. They are popular amongst Rogue Traders as both short-term bases of operation in hostile environments and as cramped housing for colonists on planets with regular rad-storms or other predictable hazards. The Synford Pattern Rapid Deployment Shelter, in its compact form, appears to be a plank roughly a metre thick and several metres long and wide. Once activated, however, it begins to unfold, internal servo-motors cranking it into a rough shape, usually rectangular. While the solid rockrete slabs provide a good deal of the protection this device offers, it also features a number of other, more potent defences. Thrice-blessed rad-scrubbers built into the walls hiss and whir in the secret cant of the Omnissiah, granting his august protection from the most ravaging effects of wide-spread regional radiation and cleansing this taint from those inside the shelter. The slabs of rockrete are also veined by sacred technology that allows the shelter to generate its own defensively charged zone for a few brief moments at a time in response to the rage of storms or artillery. Of course, the Machine Spirits that govern this protection are often fickle, and respond best to the ministrations of the Priests of Mars themselves. A Synford Pattern Rapid Deployment Shelter can go from flattened to assembled in the span of a half-hour, if activated and left to its own devices. Alternatively, a user can guide it through this process, in which case the assembly time is greatly reduced.
- Dark Heresy: Forgotten Gods (2nd Edition) (RPG), pg. 103
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (2nd Edition) (RPG), pg. 399
- Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pg. 137
- Inquisitor (Sourcebook), pg. 107
- Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 40-43, 211, 290, 321-334, 362
- Rogue Trader: Game Master's Kit (RPG), pp. 4-5, 9, 11
- Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 10, 17-18, 20-30, 47, 51, 56-63, 67-68, 79, 83, 94-95, 100, 103, 107-110, 118-121, 124, 126-131, 133, 137, 139
- Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss (RPG), pp. 100-117
- Rogue Trader: Fallen Suns (RPG), pg. 36
- Rogue Trader: Forsaken Bounty (RPG), pp. 2-3, 14-15, 17
- Rogue Trader: Hostile Acquisitions (RPG), pp. 4, 7-11, 15-16, 18-27, 31, 38-39
- Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (RPG), pp. 10, 14-15, 35-36, 40-44, 72, 74, 76, 78, 81, 85-86, 88, 90, 97, 100-101, 103-104, 107, 165-168
- Rogue Trader: Stars of Inequity (RPG), pp. 93-96
- The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh , pp. 14-16, 19
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh , pp. 22, 76-77, 106, 110, 150, 155, 255
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, pg. 166
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader - Book of the Astronomican, pp. 47, 77-84
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 141, 146, 407
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 94
- Eye of Terror (Novel) by Barrington J. Bayley, pg. 41
- Legacy (Novel) by Matthew Farrer, pg. 37
- Rogue Star (Novel) by Andy Hoare
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pp. 240, 243, 246
- For the Emperor (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell, Ch. 14
- Kill-Team - Rogue Trader (Specialty Game), "To Reach for Paradise," pp. 10-11