Share A Rogue Trader is a combination of freelance explorer, conquistador and merchant. They are Imperial servants, given a ship, a crew, a contingent of Marines or Guardsmen and carte blanche to roam the worlds beyond Imperial control. Many times Rogue Traders find isolated planets with a Human population which will be incorporated into the Imperium. Other times they find empty or alien-dominated planets ripe for colonization.
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Only a very small fraction of the incalculable worlds upon which the children of M an tread can truly be called self-sufficient. M ost rely on a brisk interstellar trade for a steady stream of foodstuffs and raw materials to maintain their productivity and way of life. A vast majority of Imperial worlds may go decades or even centuries without a single visit from an Imperial warship. On the other hand, the sight of ordinary passenger liners and cargo transports in an infinite variety of types and patterns are a common occurrence in even the most remote frontier worlds.
With the Navy constantly stretched thin defending its vast domain from grave threats from within, without and beyond, it falls to the slow, ill-equipped and poorly-armed merchant vessels to keep the lines of commerce and communication open in a vast, uncaring universe filled with many grave dangers to both the bodies and souls of M an. All merchant vessels are operated solely under the auspices and at the pleasure of the Imperial Navy, as it is rare indeed that the Navy lightly countenances private ownership of interstellar vessels.
However, the Navy is far too busy to relegate its trained officers and crews to operating such craft. While the Navy does maintain a number of transports for its exclusive use, the vast majority of transport vessels that ply the stellar main are civilian-operated.
This is expressed in the form of Charters, which grant varying rights and freedoms to the trade guilds, syndicates and merchant families that own and operate merchant vessels and fleets. These hereditary Charters are granted by the Administratum and registered through the Sgementum Fortress that holds authority over the vessels intended operating area.
Though they can be revoked at any time by Imperial authority, they are hereditary in nature and in some cases date back hundreds or even thousands of years. Nearly all of the more lucrative trade routes are also managed through route licenses, purchased by merchant vessel operators for unrestricted or even exclusive rights to handle shipping to a particular world, system or small group of systems.
The most valuable and expensive of these govern operation over long-established and highly profitable routes between primary worlds, and it is not uncommon for several competing consortia to operate simultaneously on the busiest routes.
Route Licenses and their attendant fees, while usually effective for a hundred years but in some cases for far longer and even in perpetuity , can be wildly exorbitant and firmly out of reach for many smaller operators. M ost are fortunate enough to acquire less profitable licenses to operate as Chartist Captains between the more sparsely populated 20 10 COMPENDIUM 70 secondary worlds of the many thousands of subsectors scattered throughout the stellar main.
Still other small corporations, mercantile families and individual Free Traders operate under charter but without a route license at all, forced to eke out a livelihood operating one, or at most a very small number of vessels for cargo manifests that come what may, heading to dangerous or remote locations in the hopes of generating enough income to recover the heady expenses of operating interstellar craft.
If that were not enough, Chartist Captains at any time may find their ship and its cargo conscripted by an Imperial Navy task force needing logistic support or an Inquisitor or other such notable needing conveyance, a passing inconvenience considering they may just as easily blunder into a rampaging pack of Ork brigands, Eldar corsairs, alien pirates or the foul minions of Chaos, never to be seen again, befalling fates far more terrible than the grim comfort of mere death There are a rare few however who after a time reject this meager existence, choosing instead to embark on grand quests through wilderness space to seek out new worlds ripe for colonization, to boldly go where no human has gone before.
While many of these intrepid adventurers are never heard from again, the annals of the Imperiums long history is replete with stories of merchant captains and their crews coming across worlds teeming with indescribable riches beyond compare, lush virgin prairie worlds suitable for agricultural harvest, or worlds inhabited by man lost to the Imperium for millennia, ripe for re-indoctrination into the Imperial Creed as a ready workforce of willing servants of the Emperor.
Still others bring back tales of encounters with alien races and strange new technology, rare and precious artefacts presented to the Adeptus M echanicus for bountiful reward. These brave souls with the courage and wherewithal to undertake such adventures and live to tell the tale are known as Rogue Traders. To limit the moral pollution caused by contact with alien and nonImperial human cultures in millennia past, the Adeptus Terra outlawed trade and dealings beyond the Imperium.
Typically these are awarded to retired Naval officers, scions of noble families and the like, sometimes on the condition that a mission of particular import be undertaken with the Warrant as its reward. Operating beyond Imperial control, they are a law unto themselves. Some are highly pious individuals, bringing the Emperors light beyond his beneficent rule. Others are nothing more than glorified pirates and scoundrels. Not all who claim to be Rogue Traders actually are; many Warrants of Trade are centuries old handed down through family generations, exchanged in high-stakes gambling dens, stolen from rightful owners or have otherwise fallen into the hands of those who might abuse the power they bestow.
Despite their generally well-deserved shady reputations and colorful personal histories, Rogue Traders as a whole have done much to advance the influence of the Imperium. Individually they have been known for various idiosyncrasies and excesses not normally tolerated by the more stringent Ordos. As they provide a priceless resource of information outside normal channels for agents of the Inquisition, these are normally tolerated to an extent, and in some cases even condoned by willingly blind eyes.
Rogue Traders exude confidence; they 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 much like an Inquisitor does, and this may contain alien warriors, mutants and other undesirables, which many Inquisitors would take to marking the Rogue Trader out as a heretic.
M any Rogue Traders have highly unstable personalities; some have been known to destroy worlds on a whim or experiment with alien species out of macabre curiosity.
They carry the best weapons and equipment they can acquire, including all manner of alien weapons and gadgets. Jokaero digital weapons are popular; miniature lasers and needlers that are worn as rings but contain the same power as a pistol. They might be carrying Ctan phase weapons that can bypass armor, HaKaidan neuro-stars, or one of a million other pieces of strange and bizarre wargear.
It is not uncommon for a Rogue Trader to have once been a high ranking member of the Adeptus Terra, perhaps ousted from power and falling back to trading and using his or her contacts to regain their position and authority. Such Rogue Traders often wear the finery of Imperial aristocracy mixed with garments from worlds beyond the Emperors rule, often sporting a weapon from military service such as a Naval cutlass or Officers sabre.
They might also carry ornate dueling pistols in lacquered holsters, ancient looking hunting rifles slung rakishly across the shoulder, or other such items that are as lavish to behold as they are deadly effective weapons.
Trader vessels are unique, exotic things, often exhibiting many signs of their colorful histories, subject to constant adornment, much of it ancient or even alien in origin. Though their business is their own, from time to time a Rogue Trader may be accompanied by, or even granted command of, an entire fleet at the behest of the Priesthood. On such missions a Rogue Traders authority is all, beyond the bounds of the Imperium where any could bring censure to them and in places so alien, so unknown that their uncanny leadership must be followed to the letter if any of their number hope to survive.
Likewise, though a Rogue Trader himself maintains no army, he may well be granted Imperial Guard or even Space M arine forces, if it is felt that his mission warrants it. On such occasions the Rogue Trader will turn his business to battle, leading the armies of the Emperor to worlds unknown, bringing war to the enemies of M ankind, even beyond the reach of the Imperium itself. Very few Rogue Traders do so altruistically however, for even in war or death a canny Rogue Trader will find profit and prize.
They must journey vast distances, and hence they are granted the right to maintain their own vessels, and on occasion entire fleets numbering up to several dozen or more starships.
As befits their maverick nature, Rogue Traders employ an incredible variety of vessels. Rights of Requisition allow Imperial Navy ships, while others use their vast wealth and power, and other dubious means, to acquire vessels from a variety of sources custom-built ships, refitted merchant vessels, captured ships or even craft acquired from non-Imperial worlds.
M ore often than not these run into trouble that is far above and beyond its worth, and little if any profit is made from the venture. Occasionally though such expeditions encounter unimaginably vast riches and opportunity for wealth, and even after the Navy and M echanicus assess exorbitant fees and charges for their support, a tidy sum still remains to be had. While such tales abound in history and lore, none is more spectacular than that of Lukurius Vanlessa. While leading a fleet of eleven ships, the heavy transport Santissima Terra captained by Ingio Portfell became separated in the warp and re-entered real space in an uncharted system on the Eastern Fringe.
A quick survey revealed a volcanic death world of absolutely incomparable riches near the M ercurial Zone, with fist-sized rough diamonds simply littering the surface along vast, exposed veins of gold, platinum and other treasures.
Over the course of four months, Portfell flew his cargo shuttles to destruction to fill his ship to capacity with gems and precious metals, resorting to cladding the exterior of his ship with gold and platinum when the holds were full. So in excess was the mass of this vast treasure that the ship required a week of successively higher orbital swings just to break free from the planets gravity. Afraid to send any message even by astropath, it was more than another two months before they were able to re-join their fleet, which had suffered badly during an encounter with Ork pirates.
Betrayed by traitors who made off in one of the fleets escorts, Lukurius Vanlessa led a valiant struggle over the course of four years to lead his ragtag, harried and always under-gunned fleet, sometimes remaining in hiding for weeks on end orbiting remote backwater worlds with all systems shut down to avoid detection from prowling renegades and pirates of every stripe.
Even an attempt to sanction aid from the Imperial Navy proved disastrous when a cruiser captain betrayed the flotilla in a play at capturing the Santissima Terra for himself. When the flotilla finally broke through to Terra, this time under heavy guard from every vessel that could be purchased or contracted by their guild house, Ingio Portfell still took no chances.
In an unbelievably daring move, he landed the heavy transport on the hereditary lands of the guild, nearly destroying part of a city despite effecting a soft landing that left most of the vessel intact. Even after all fines, fees and other recompense was made, the guild house was so enriched by the vast hoard recovered that its stature and wealth was elevated to that of even the greatest conglomerates in the entire Imperium, ranking even among those of the vital 20 10 COMPENDIUM 72 Corporate Sector.
It is said that to this day, buried somewhere among the sprawling cities of Vanlessa Hive on Terra, much of the hull structure of the original Santissima Terra remains. M any Rogue Traders that by chance or necessity acquire one or a small number of armed vessels find themselves now and again hired not for the capacity of their cargo ships but for the aim of their guns.
With the Navy stretched as thin at it is, it is not uncommon for more reputable Rogue Traders to be taken under contract to escort transport convoys through wilderness space, taking an escort squadron in tow detailed from regional fleet authority while freeing capital ships for more pressing duties. Others may function as privateers, operating with a Letter of M arquee to harass enemy shipping behind the lines, once again freeing regular Navy units for active combat operations.
Some Rogue Traders develop quite a knack for this kind of work, and a few rely almost exclusively on it to cover their expenses and earn a profit. Simonies Knocke was renowned for his loyalty and courage from the Eastern Fringe to the border worlds of Segmentum Obscurus, and after a short stint as an explorer and transport vessel operator, he amassed a vast fortune as a hired gun for the various trade guilds that operate the lucrative LaurentinaHeraklion route.
It has been speculated by some that he pre-arranged much of the Ork activity that harassed shipping lanes in the system along the route less than two years before he became renowned for his convoy escort services, though this is for the most part dismissed as little more than disparaging slander by envious competitors and guild houses unwilling or unable to meet the stiff fees for his services.
What brought him Inquisitorial attention however were not his activities in this regard, but his association with an alien race Ordo Xenos records identified as the Pthuxutl.
While aboard his light cruiser Knocke Boots, the Rogue Trader expedition he was accompanying was caught in a fierce warp storm near the Hell-Stars of the Garon Nebula in Segmentum Tempestus that foundered and destroyed most of the fleet.
After a valiant struggle that killed his best Navigator, his ship was tossed back into real space with only two transports, two of his own escorts and a single Firestorm frigate in attendance. They came upon a previously undiscovered system and blundered into a firefight between Ork raiders and an unidentified Xenos fleet of escort-class vessels. The battle was going poorly for the strange aliens, and the remains of Knockes fleet was in no condition for battle, but they were discovered by the Orks before they could make good their withdrawal.
With the only option for survival being in a hasty alliance at the end of a gun with the unknown Xenos and unable to even communicate his intent to them, he maneuvered his tattered flotilla behind the alien escorts and fired into the Ork fleet. Together they were able to defeat the Orks, and Knocke was able to forge the unlikely partnership into a lasting one. Continuing contact revealed this race to be called the Pthuxutl, a race of traders that while warp -capable, did not have any interest in extensive colonization and appeared content to subsist as nomadic traders.
In gratitude for his support, Knocke was welcomed to accompany them long enough to effect full repairs of all his remaining ships, and he invited the aliens to detach a number of their vessels to join his fleet. In successive decades, Knocke has expanded his fleet to include two full cruisers, all it is said from profits gained almost entirely on his various convoy escorting enterprises.
While he has a number of quite powerful ships at his disposal, it is extremely rare to ever see him abroad without at least two or three vessels of the Pthuxutl accompanying his starships.
On occasion these individuals will take on contracts to harass shipping not from competent authority, but from a rival shipping magnate or other interested party. While such operations are patently illegal, the floating debris of blasted hulks tell no tales, and it can be years or decades before such privations are brought to the attention of the Imperial Navy. Indeed, the best means by which to draw near their intended targets is in the faade of decency.
Roguish privateers may well and often do engage in sanctioned, lawful activity as the mood takes them, only to use the freedom of movement this gives them to expand their raiding activities.
The Tau in particular are masters of such duplicity, and many a human Rogue Trader has heeded well this lesson and taken it onboard for his or her own after furtive dealings with this mendacious Xenos race, taking on letters of marquee from them to attack, cripple and claim bounty from any vessel they can find for reward and protection from their so-called commerce protection fleets. However, many Imperial agents with little contact with the Tau behave little better, and outright piracy visited upon each other between merchant families and trade guilds is certainly no rare thing.
These activities can also be good for business; a carefully -orchestrated attack on merchant shipping interrupted by the timely arrival by a Rogue Trader cruiser with its guns blazing can do much to generate contracts for escort and protection by grateful transport guilds and vessel owners. The immeasurably vast, desolate void of space offers little to a pirate who chooses simply to wander blind through it in the hope of coming upon some potential target entirely unawares.
Such a pirate will almost certainly find nothing at all and be as unsuccessful as a lone predator in a barren wilderness. However, to simply prowl brazenly through the richest of hunting grounds the bejeweled docks and ports of the most vibrant trading regions would invite nothing more than swift destruction by the guns of the Imperial Navy.
So it is that like the foul Xenos raiders they emulate, pirates must be cunning and come upon their intended targets at their most vulnerable.
Sometimes the quest for profit and adventure takes a dark turn. On the opposite extreme of cunning rogues who engage in piracy only by contract or when the opportunity presents itself, there are the opportunistic wolfpacks who stalk cargo-laden merchant vessels at all the most vulnerable points of their journey.
There are recorded instances of Rogue Traders bending individual ships or even their whole fleets toward purposes that are not in the interest of M ankind. Casting off their sacred vows of duty and service to the Imperium, they freely hunt down and capture any hapless transport convoy that may come their way, sharks hungrily prowling well-traveled routes to plunder transports, keeping or selling off their cargoes and crews as booty, slaves or worse in a manner emulating such infamous Xenos pirate scum such as the inhuman Eldar raider Yriel or the notorious and savage Jolly Ork freebooter Grubsnikk.
Human pirates have an advantage over Xenos reavers in that they can easily emulate their prey, unlike the strange, alien forms Eldar vessels take or the cumbersome, rattletrap and easilyidentifiable attack ships favored by the Orks. Particularly unsavory characters hide under the guise of being Rogue Traders only as a ruse, assuming the title of such an august personage under dubious and typically illegal means simply as a cover for their primary trade.
Such Rogue Traders no longer deserve the title, subsisting solely as pirates and gathering around themselves a ragtag fleet and whatever Xenos they can ally themselves with. They are fiercely isolationist, and by nature they are extremely reclusive and prefer to completely shun contact with other races.
Despite this, they have made themselves known to the Imperium of M an, and it is only by subtlety, their relatively unimpressive level of technology and the limited threat they represent that they have managed to escape close Imperial scrutiny.
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