Jan 16, 2024

The Tellian Sector: The Empty Synod

The Empty Synod looks around at the Imperium, at the galaxy, at its brutality and cruelty and waste and stupidity, and says "None of this is necessary. Everything could different. We can make it so." It embodies the forces of hope in a universe otherwise bereft of it.

What Does the Empty Synod Want?

The Empty Synod wants to overthrow the Imperium and replace it with a more just and effective society. It wants to liberate all the mutants and psykers from Imperial oppression and turn their talents to the benefits of all. It wants to genetically engineer and cognitive condition humanity to incorporate the best aspects of xenos and alternate forms of humanity while leaving behind its worst traits. It wants peace with all xenos where it is possible, and to incorporate their technology, insights, and worldviews into a greater galactic society. It wants to restart technological progress and unleash the power of artificial intelligences, human cognitive development, and cybernetic augmentation to exceed the height of humanity's powers during the Age of Technology. It wants to develop the human race's capacities to the point where it can ascend psychically en masse, master the warp, and challenge the gods. 

The Empty Synod works on projects designed to further all of these goals, but its primary focus is on the overthrow of Imperial, Ecclesiarchical, and Mechanicus authorities in order to sweep away the forces that are mostly able to interfere with the rest of its agenda. Despite standing against the Ecclesiarchy, the Empty Synod avoids taking an official position on the deification of the Emperor, and it is not against leveraging the power of religious belief in its favour.

Who Are They?

The leaders of the Empty Synod are known only by the collective title of the Eisholoi, "Those who move into wholeness" in High Gothic. Many are or were human, but some never were. Some may never even have lived. They are never seen in person. They can communicate with their key agents through mysterious, impossible means, and they muster strange and unknown powers to see their will is done.

Under them are the Epistatai (sing. Epistates) and Taxiarchs, the senior divisional leaders of the organisation. The Epistatai are usually embedded within the Adepta Terra or in remote locations within the Halo Stars. They lead research projects, divert Imperial resources and powers to the service of the Empty Synod, and collect intelligence to pass on. Taxiarchs are given broad geographic areas (usually at least one entire system) in which they are expected to undermine and attack the Imperium. These are the only ranks who communicate directly with the Eisholoi.

Each Taxiarch and Epistates is served by teams of agents who execute operations on their behalf, with the key division being those who know they work for for the Empty Synod (the minority) and those who do not. The former are known as "Hetaroi" ("Companions") while the latter are known as "Pseudophores" ("Lie-carriers") or simply as "assets".

So What's the Plan?

The Noctis Aeterna has catalysed the Empty Synod into activating its Taxiarchs in the Cinders and the Wisp. With the severe degradation of the astropathic network and interstellar trade, there is a unique opportunity to break planets and systems off from the Imperium and use them as bases for future expansion. The Empty Synod has been expanding its control of Chartist shipping aggressively, trying to monopolize interstellar shipping in the Cinders so that when a few key systems fall to their influence, the rest will be forced to join up or be deprived of essential resources and the capacity to defend themselves.

Notable Activities

Exploring the Webway: Many of the worlds of the Tellian sector had or have active gates to the Webway, the ancient Aeldari network for superluminal travel. The Empty Synod seeks to discover the locations of these gates, as well as the means to activate them, in order to use them for their own ends, both to circumvent eventual Imperial blockades, as well as to evacuate the populations of planets they will eventually control should the Imperium try to exterminate them. To aid with this, the Empty Synod actively seeks out items and sites of cultural or strategic importance to the Eldar, and returns them in exchange for knowledge of the Webway and the xenos' permission to use it.

Technical Power: Archaeotech, xenotech, heretek, the Tellian sector is rich in all three, and the Empty Synod wants to discover and control as much of it as possible. They actively have teams scouting out old Varosi and other ancient sites; negotiating with Rogue Traders and xenos; and researching new avenues of development. They are particularly interested in technology that could fundamentally transform the balance of power between them and the Imperium.

Solomar Holdings: Solomar Holdings is one of several front groups the Empty Synod has created in order to create the financial support they require, while inserting themselves into the vital arteries of the Imperium. Solomar is notionally a confederation of Chartist Captains (most have no idea they work for the Empty Synod) who trade across two dozen systems in the Cinders, with a focus on bulk staples (promethium, food, metals), weapons, and vehicles. While most other Chartist fleets have seen significant degradation of their transit capabilities since the end of the Astronomican, Solomar has not, and it has been using this advantage to aggressively grow. Its main rival across most of the Cinders is the Pratik Fleet, a Rogue Trader dynasty that is highly corrupt and unorthodox, but only in pursuit of its own power and wealth.

Mutant Militias: The Empty Synod seeks to recruit, train, and arm extensive military forces from mutants, underhivers, heretical cults, and other outcastes in order to challenge the Imperium's military might. These groups are rarely under the direct control of Taxiarchs, but are supported and steered away from falling under the control of Chaos outright.

Allies and Enemies

Chaos: The Empty Synod is not opposed to Chaos per se, but it sees it as simply the obverse side of the Imperium, each cultivating and reacting to the worst tendencies in the other. It discourages, but does not prevent, its operatives from drawing on Chaotic powers, and it periodically temporarily aligns with Chaotic movements but does not incorporate them into itself. The two Chaos-aligned groups the Empty Synod deals with regularly are the Black Dawn, a Nurgle cult, and the Joyous Ascent, a rogue psychic ascendance cult, but it is as likely to be fighting both groups as working with them.

Xenos: The two most common xenos for the Empty Synod to deal with are the Mzod and the Aeldari, and it is widely believed that representatives of both species sit on the Eisholoi. The Empty Synod primarily deals with non-Craftworld Eldar, either Exodites who dwell on Maiden Worlds or the groups that continually inhabit the Webway itself. The Empty Synod studies Orks, and has occasionally considered weaponising them, but considers it too probable that they will escape control. It has occasional, often profitable, exchange with another two dozen more obscure species out amongst the Halo Stars. The Empty Synod is attempting to initiate contact with the Zul-Kan, but this has been unsuccessful so far.

Heretical Cults: The Empty Synod supports and encourages deviant versions of the Imperial Creed, especially versions that soften the anti-mutant, psyker, and xenos positions associated with the baseline doctrine. It recruits extensively from such cults, and often provides them with secret support to help them undermine the Ecclesiarchy.

The Adeptus Mechanicus: There is a vibrant, if secretive, backdoor trade of technical artifacts with the Adeptus Mechanicus through various front groups, combined with kidnappings, assassinations, and other subversions to obtain their technical expertise and move their attention away from the Empty Synod. If the Mechanicus found out that the Empty Synod uses silica animi, it would provoke a war between the two groups, a war the Empty Synod does not yet feel it is ready to wage. Instead, the Empty Synod uses the backdoor trade to win the Mechanicus' good will for their various fronts.

The Inquisition: The Inquisition is aware of the "Conventus Vanitas", but the vast majority of its membership who are aware of them have been led to believe they are relatively mundane criminals and political reformers more suitably dealt with by planetary officials. The Empty Synod seeks to subvert a handful of the most radical Inquisitors to use their power on its behalf. A recent setback has been two Monodominant Inquisitors who have discovered the Empty Synod's existence and have formed an "Ordo Vanitas" to investigate further. Their working understanding is that it is some form of Chaos cult.

Infractionists: Infractionists are often great recruits for the Empty Synod, though most don't go beyond being "Pseudophoroi", deniable assets. A handful of famous and highly skilled criminals are recruited to become Taxiarchs, where their skills at evading Imperial power are put to good use. Criminal gangs are an extremely common kind of front group for the Empty Synod to establish as a first approach to a new system.

Rogue Traders: The Empty Synod is known to Rogue Traders as some sort of xeno confederation active in the Halo Stars, though the two groups primarily deal with one another through third-party intermediaries.

An Empty Synod Patron: Raskol Might, Taxiarch

Raskol Might is a former arch-criminal who is currently living under the false identity of "Samson Phunic", guildmaster of Solomar Holdings for the Bhadra system. He is the Empty Synod's Taxiarch for Bhadra, responsible for the subversion and eventual overthrow of Imperial governance of the system.

Might is legendary amongst infractionists for a series of high-profile frauds and heists two centuries ago that stripped hundreds of millions of gelt from the Globe subsector's nobility and clergy and diverted them to hundreds of thousands of underhivers. "The Great Nuust Giveaway", "the Qurmizi Ship Swap", and "the Hubris of Namar Pratik" are still studied by auditors and enforcers looking to piece together how he pulled them off. Many of his targets were later revealed to have gained their wealth through means so foul that the Inquisition was called in to punish them, the investigations sparked by Might's thefts.

Since that burst of activity, Might has periodically reappeared to groups of infractionists, offering them leads, plans, and resources to conduct some amazing heist or con themselves, though he quickly vanishes after the initial support, leaving the successful execution up to the groups he has aided. Many fail for their own reasons, but the few who succeed contribute to the legend of Raskol Might.

In his "Samson Phunic" identity, Might spends his days using his analytical skills to advance Solomar Holdings' interests in the Bhadra system. He has been in place for nearly a decade, slowly recruiting agents, calling in favours, and summoning old allies and proteges to gather around him, all while strategising about how to overthrow the system. 

Recently, he received a communique: The time has come for Bhadra to fall.

Faction: Infractionist (The Empty Synod)
Duty: Guildmaster (Might lives as the senior executive "Samson Phunic" at Solomar Holdings)
Motivation: Conflict (Might's goal is to undermine Imperial rule on Kangyur)
Duty Boon: Registered Trader (Might can secure trade records, passage on Solomar Holdings Chartist vessels, and can acquire anything for his agents from the Armoury section of the rulebook at a 30% discount)

Forger: Might can, with a bit of time, create almost any document or authorisation needed.

Tentative Alliance: Might is constantly favour trading via Solomar Holdings with various mid-level members of the Adepta; PCs can choose a faction before each mission and gain +1 patron influence with them.

Demands Discretion: Might's name, and therefore patron influence, should only be invoked in front of people who are opposed to the Imperium's rule; Solomar Holdings's involvement should be kept far away from anti-Imperial activities.

Impostor: "Samson Phunic" is a fake identity, Might is wanted in a score of star-systems under his own name. Avoiding connection between the two identities is highly important.

Overextended: Might spends most of his days managing a business empire stretching across multiple planets and with interests in a dozen systems. He gives his teams a great deal of freedom and discretion, but also can't spend much time supporting them in the field.

(Raskol Might is the PCs' patron)

Jan 11, 2024

RIP: Jennell Jacquays

Just publicly expressing my condolences to her family and friends on the recent passing of Jennell Jacquays, who wrote one of my favourite RPG campaign settings of all time: Griffin Mountain, in addition to a massive body of other work that very much laid out best practices in adventure, and specifically dungeon, design decades and decades ago. She had an incredibly ability to work through the intricacies of material in a way that made it tremendously concrete and practical without being overwhelming, one of my favourite examples being the various treasure maps, including fake treasure maps, that the caravan trader in Griffin Mountain can give the PCs. 

That's just one example from a truly massive and influential set of work that sprawls across properties and media-types, and that would be almost impossible to summarise effectively. She was one of the giants of this hobby, and it is worse off for having lost her.

Jan 9, 2024

The Tellian Sector: Bhadra System

The Bhadra System: Overview

The Bhadra system is a K-type orange dwarf located in the Cinders subsector of the Tellian Sector. It has three main planets and an asteroid belt. Kangyur is a highly-geologically-active temperate agri-world orbiting around 0.77 AU from Bhadra, while Kailasa is a geologically-dead colder hive world located 2.2 AU from the star. Bhadra Tertius is an uninhabited gas giant located outside of the asteroid belt.

Bhadra is a former Varosi system that was pacified in late M38 by the Imperial Fleet. At the end of pacification, the entire population of Kangyur and the system's central government was removed through the use of atomic bombardment, while Kailasa's government was replaced with Imperial collaborators drawn from collaborators amongst the traditional elites.

An Explorator Fleet was sent to investigate the post-atomic state of the world, and discovered the dranj fungus, which had flourished in the absence of human civilisation. This led to the chartering of several large corporations to fully exploit its potential, the same corporations that now rule the planet.


Population: 110 million (counting 3 million in orbital facilities)
Leader: Planetary Castellan Timon Arceaga
Government: Autonomous megacorporate protectorates under Imperial coordination
Capital: Vajra Station (orbital)
Stability: 80%

Holo-Illumination of Kangyur (Bhadra Secundus)

Kangyur is classified as an agri-world, but unlike most agri-worlds it produces very little food. Instead, the planet is dedicated to cultivating the dranj fungus and its promethium output. 

Dranj is of unknown origin, though it is believed to be of archaeotech rootstock, perhaps mutated by radiation. In the presence of sufficient heat energy, the fungus converts carbon dioxide and salt water into large amounts of promethium (and several waste products that are easily removed during refining). After the extraction of promethium, older, less productive fungus deposits can be easily milled into a low-quality bioplastic feedstock suitable for civilian manufactures. 

Dranj means that Kangyur alone produces hundreds of giga-tons of promethium per Terran year, at a lower cost than almost any other source, and can do so renewably for millennia to come, so long as water-ice comets are regularly diverted from Bhadra's Oort Cloud to replenish its oceans. This incredibly level of production is possible despite only 40% of all land area given over to it, though there is incredible pressure to expand production further into more marginal and dangerous areas.

The vast majority of dranj farms and promethium transportation infrastructure are owned by a handful of megacorporations who employ the bulk of the planetary population. Dranj farms are typically underground boreholes cut into the sides of the once-spectacular canyons and gorges that cover the planet, both to take advantage of cheap geothermal energy and to protect against the radioactive winds.

Key Locations

Dhawala: Kangyur's largest continent, its northern highlands are the centre of dranj production while its southern reaches are a radioactive wasteland primarily inhabited by small religious groups and ash waste nomads fleeing corporate rule.

Nyengchen: The new gold rush is for territory in Nyengchen, Kangyur's southern continent. Previously unexploited due to geological instability and heavy radiation, the Imperial government has decided to resolve both issues by simply bombarding the landscape with comets, burying the problems under billions of tons of meteoric dirt and selling new stakes. Nyengchen's coastal settlements, home to many of the small, independent mining guilds and combines, are deeply opposed to this plan, while the megacorps are engaged in a range war further inland.

Varosi Ruins: Most of Varosi civilisation's traces have been wiped out on Kangyur, but two ruined megacities remain, one on each of the two smaller continents. The ruins sprawl for thousands of kilometres, and at their highest points are over 5km tall, even in their ruined state. Dozens of small prospecting combines brave the radiation, toxic waste, and robotic defenders in exchange for lucrative contracts from the Adeptus Mechanicus, hoping to strike it rich by returning with still intact Varosi artifacts.

Vajra Station & Anchor Point: The two ends of Kangyur's space elevator. Vajra Station is the "buckle" of the Glass Belt ring-garden encircling Kangyur's orbital equator. It is a large tiered conical structure with dozens of ships docked with it on any given day, sucking millions of tons of promethium into their holds. Planetary Castellan Timon Arceaga, as well as most of the Imperial bureaucracy and the military authorities, are based here, well-off planet.

Vajra Anchor Point is the heart of the planet's promethium infrastructure and its largest settlement (30 million). Built as a sprawling concrete and metal maze, it is split into concentric circles arrayed around the glittering black pillar of the elevator. The megacorporations and their shared institutions are headquartered here, and there is a decorum that keeps the open violence of the range war out of the city. It is the only truly urban zone on the planet, and many smaller businesses who serve the needs of the megacorps are based here.

The Glass Belt: A set of linked cylindrical glass garden-stations that encircle Kangyur's equator, the Glass Belt grows almost all food eaten on Kangyur, and as much as 0.2% of the food Kailasa's hives require. It is a smuggler's dream, allowing all sorts of shuttles and ships to dock on the other side of the planet from the prying eyes of the Imperium at Vajra Station.

Major Institutions and Personnel

Political: The Kailasan nobility want Kangyur as their own private colony to maximize their profits, while the Administratum just wants brutal efficiency and every ounce of promethium obtained as cheaply as possible. This puts Castellan Timon Arceaga, representing Kailasa's rulers, House Bagh-Nam, at odds with Magistrate Octavia Prex, Tithe Prefectus of the Administratum. She controls the Imperial Bank of Kangyur and the tithe-inspection system, while he dominates the Corporate Parliament through his control of the Kangyur Stock Exchange which assigns their votes. Arch-Warden Kelsang Rowd of the Adeptus Arbites serves as the third pillar of political control, using his arbiters to brutally suppress worker uprisings whenever the underpaid and under-equipped corporate enforcer squads find themselves unequal to the task.

Economic: There are three main megacorps who operate autonomous protectorates under Imperial license and dominate the planetary Corporate Parliament, then a band of approximately one hundred smaller companies who supply goods and services to them and have at least one representative in the Corporate Parliament, and then roughly two thousand small combines, guilds, contractors, and other economic production groupings that lack representation and survive providing services that larger companies ignore.

The megacorps are:

Stilgon Mining Enterprises: House Bagh-Nam's state-owned enterprise, and the largest company on the planet. It subcontracts out dranj farming in its territory to small players in order to control the transportation infrastructure for promethium and set the bench prices at Anchor Point. It has extensive holdings in Dhawala, Gangschen, and Nyengchen.

Ranthar Nutritional Developments: A front company for the Pratik Fleet, the most powerful Rogue Trader dynasty in the Cinders. The Pratiks ship in slaves and servitors from across their vast world-holdings to farm dranj on Kangyur, and are one of the few entities in the system powerful enough to challenge House Bagh-Nam. They are the primary offenders in the corporate range war, with corporate enforcers backed by the fleet's armsmen killing and intimidating the many small players to sell out to Ranthar.

Yan-Mesmer Industries: The two smaller noble houses on Kailasa united to form a joint-venture, and then paid an obscene sum to have the Adeptus Mechanicus grant them access to cloning vats and genetic alterations. Most of Yan-Mesmer's dranj farmers are tailored clone-types only a blood sample away from being declared abhumans, and they kept on massive plantations in the hinterlands that they are forbidden to leave. The upper ranks are all "real" humans, mostly from Kailasa, as are their enforcer squads. Yan-Mesmer operates the largest water-based navy on Kangyur to ship its promethium, attempting to avoid Stilgon Mining's pipeline charges whenever possible.

Two other notable companies are considered to be contenders for a possible fourth megacorp:

Amalthean Logistics: The Kailasan Ecclesiarchy's attempt to stick their nose in the trough that is Kangyur. Amalthean Logistics reinvests the tithes of the faithful of Kailasa and Kangyur into "rehabilitation" facilities for those undergoing periods of "spiritual struggle". In practice, this means they run dranj farms that are vast prison camps full of Kailasan underhivers rounded up in mass exactions. Amalthean Logistics also sells its services at neuro-conditioning, hypno-control and "faith-responsive pharmacological compliance" (addicting workers to drugs to better control them) to other corps.

Solomar Holdings: A group of chartist captains who ship promethium off-world, Solomar Holdings is also a major importer of advanced technology that Kangyur cannot build itself, both from Kailasa and elsewhere. In practice, this means the vast majority of weapons more advanced than a stubber or grenade launcher come from their holds. They have also made some investments into mercenary companies as the corporate war has heated up. It's widely believed that Solomar is angling for an Imperial license so it can establish its own bench price for promethium, instead of having to deal with Castellan Arceaga's whims. Solomar's main representative on Kangyur is Factor Raskol Might.

(Solomar Holdings is a front for the Empty Synod. It's the PCs' notional employer, and Raskol Might is their patron)

Religious: Kangyur's churches are the dumping ground for the Kailasan Ecclesiarchy's unwanted. incompetent, or unlucky priests. Arch-Deacon Theophilus Manutius runs Amalthean Logistics and has de facto control over the religious authorities on planet, though he is more fixated on making money than saving souls. This focus has led to the flourishing of numerous radical cults in the radioactive wastes of southern Dhawala, energized by a set of prophecies that the Cardinal of Bhadra has condemned. Confessor Argus Boateng has been sent out to investigate rumours that abhumans, mutants, and rogue psykers are being inducted into these cults, and to stamp them out if this turns out to be true.

Military: The Planetary Defense Forces is a procurement scheme to divert tithes and taxes into the megacorps' corporate enforcers, of whom there are between five hundred thousand and a million at a time. Most enforcers are nothing more than Kailasan underhiver who volunteered to avoid being drafted into more unpleasant duties and handed stubbers, clubs, and helmets. These are supplemented by up to a million mercenaries, mostly outsystemers, most of whom are engaged in the corporate war or mutant suppression actions. Should the planet come under serious threat, the Kailasan 3rd Reserve Army (a professional combined arms force of 10 million) would be moved onto the planet from their bases in Hive Chuan, supplemented by at least one of the Imperial Knight houses. Vajra Station with its valuable personnel, is protected by a regiment of ten thousand chem-mamluks provided by House Bagh-Nam and a further thousand or so arbiters. 


The Gasrunners: The biggest smuggling outfit on Kangyur, bringing in illegal goods, rogue psykers fleeing the Black Ships, and anyone or anything else who can pay. They are considered a necessary evil by most of the megacorps, who use their services themselves to gain an advantage over their rivals. They are led by Yusufa One, an escapee from the penal world of Last Woe.

(The PCs will be a cell of the Empty Synod deployed to Kangyur with the goal of liberating it from Imperial rule).


Population: 95 billion
Leader: Dame Soraya of Bagh-Nam, 43rd of her name, Countess of Bhadra, Marquessa of Kailasa
Government: Aristocratic autocracy
Capital: Hive Mei
Stability: 85%

Holo-Illumination of Kailasa (Bhadra Tertius)

Kailasa is a hive world, one of only a few in the Cinders, and just as importantly, it was one of the few Varosi worlds captured with the majority of its industrial base intact. This has blessed it with both extensive defenses and made it a major manufacturing hub for the subsector. While the Noctis Aeterna has brought a great deal of misery to the rest of the sector and the Imperium, Kailasa has profited off the misery of others. Its chem-mamluks, knight walkers, and soldiers go out to defend the Imperium, accompanied by usurers and war-profiteers ready to sell the products of its manufactoriums and the valuable promethium of Kangyur. The unpopular but powerful rulers of Kailasa, House Bagh-Nam, are rumoured to have struck dark bargains with shadowy forces to secure the safety and prosperity of their world while the rest of the Imperium burns.

Most of Kailasa's population lives in three great hives, Mei, Chuan, and Peng, that date back to the Varosi era, and are cut deep into three sweeping mountain ranges arrayed around the planet. In between the hives, another four billion citizens live in scattered freeholds associated with Imperial knight families, and serve to produce and maintain these famous weapons of war. The Adeptus Mechanicus also maintain a single protectorate deep under Kailasa's main ocean, in a vast crystalline dome known as the "Benthic Technika" where they help maintain Kailasa's comparatively sophisticated technological base.

Kailasa was recently rocked by the discovery and purge of a widespread Nurgle cult known as the "Black Dawn" that had built up a significant following in Hives Mei and Peng. While most traces of the cult were purged, at least two knight freeholds were corrupted, and their knights and manufactories removed from the planet before House Bagh-Nam could stop them. This has catalysed houses Yan and Mesmer-Inderio, its greatest rivals, to lodge complaints with the subsector governor on Nuust, hoping that it will lead to one of them becoming the new planetary governor.

(Kailasa won't be the main theatre of the campaign to start but will be lurking in the background as a problem to be dealt with.)

A Quick Answer: The Statisticians of Certainty

 A couple of comments asked about the Statisticians of Certainty that I mentioned in the previous post, and why they wanted to travel to the future. Since they won't feature directly in the current campaign, it's easy for me to answer.

A bit of background: Between 2009 and 2012, I ran a series of linked campaigns using Dark Heresy 1e, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch which were all set in the Tellian sector. The Statisticians of Certainty, a Dark Mechanicus cult focused on time travel, were one of the main antagonists of all three campaigns, along with a Nurgle cult called "The Black Dawn", a psyker named "Nebruzon" who could copy his mind into other people to create a hive mind, and a guy named "Valentine Illst" who was essentially the last surviving Man of Gold and a perpetual, endlessly revived and sent to wage terroristic guerilla war against the Imperium by a rogue AI (my one-sentence write-up of his initial idea was "The Joker but a Cylon").

The first campaign was about the Statisticians getting ahold of a transmission they called the "Navigator of Possibility" (recorded on a big crystal that was dug out of the ground on an obscure planet) that would allow them to create and open up a portal to various possible futures. They wanted to open one up to a future in which the Omnissiah had returned and the goal of total knowledge of the universe had been obtained. The Navigator was a trap, of course. It had been sent back in time from a future in which humanity ascended as a race of psychic vampires, consumed all other sentient life in the universe, and was slowly starving to death as the universe wound down. The plan? Come back in time and cannibalize the past to keep on living.

The Dark Heresy campaign started off with a missing Black Ship that had been resdiscovered, now unresponsive to hails. The PCs were sent over to board it and investigate, and long story short, one of the Statisticians had taken over the ship and had harnessed six alpha-level psykers in storage as a battery to test-fire the gate. Many explosions ensued, a few psychic vampire escaped into our universe, but things ended up more or less safe for a while.

The Rogue Trader campaign focused on the Statisticians' second go at it, when they travelled to Black Atlantis (a giant psychically-active Dyson sphere) and tried to tap into the psychic potential guy of a guy trapped in a tomb for millions of years who my notes describe as "Nyarlathotep but 40K'd" to blast open the gate, this time thinking they'd try a different possible future. The Rogue Trader came in, blew up a bunch of their apparatus, and instead the gate they opened led to a post-universe where the Big Crunch was just completing, creating a black hole that sucked their entire fleet in (the RT crew got away in the nick of time). That was essentially the end of the Statisticians - sucked forward beyond time as we know it, to become raw mass for a future universe.

The third campaign was a Deathwatch campaign that mainly dealt with their allies' reactions to losing them. Valentine Illst in the second campaign had helped the SoC build the apparatus and find Black Atlantis so they could use it. The Deathwatch campaign had them hunting him down and _not_ killing him, because so long as they didn't kill him or allow him to kill himself, he couldn't reappear somewhere else, safe and sound and ready to cause more trouble. It was OK as a campaign, but I was kind of getting sick of how the core system struggled to represent characters as powerful as space marines, and I basically had to write macros of tactics for complex villains to make sure I would be able to challenge them.

I ended up stopping playing the d100 FFG 40K RPGs at that point, though I briefly toyed with running a Black Crusade campaign whose premise would be "You rescue Valentine Illst so he can get back to causing trouble".

Anyhow, so that's their deal. I threw a mention of them into the Tellian Sector write-up mainly as a shout out to all those campaigns and the many PCs in them. Great job guys: You prevented the psychic cannibalisation of the universe from happening, and contributed to the birth of a new one!

Jan 6, 2024

The Tellian Sector in M42

I'm launching an Imperium Maledictum campaign to try it out before I review it. Overall, doing the background work for the campaign so far, it's been pretty easy, and basically feels like a cleaned up and simplified Dark Heresy. I'm setting the new campaign in the Tellian Sector, but now updated to the 42nd millennium. This is a background document for the campaign.

The Tellian Sector: Overview

The Tellian sector is located at the furthest reaches of human galactic civilization, out on the cusp where the old Astronomican met the Halo Stars, far behind the Eye of Terror. With the division of the galaxy by the Great Rift at the end of M41 it is one of the darkest and loneliest sections of Imperium Nihilus.

The Tellian sector is a relatively new and small sector. It comprises only about a thousand settled systems under Imperial control, with all but the oldest and most developed systems dating about only to M38, about three and a half thousand years ago, and the majority of the smaller extractive colonies and agri-worlds settled within the past five hundred years. Explorator fleets from the Mechanicus continue to aggressively probe for new systems, while the major hive planets export billions of workers each year to scrape out their resources.

Despite its remoteness, the Tellian sector is of great interest to the Imperium because of the relative abundance of archaeotechnology, and though few would admit it, because of the abundance of xenotechnology that comes in through the Cold Trade. The Tellian sector is considered one of the best candidates to host an operational STC, the holy grail of the Adeptus Mechanicus.


The Tellian Sector is broken into four major subsectors that are stacked into a cube roughly 1000 LY x 1000 LY x 1000 LY. These subsectors are:

The Globe (Rising Spinward): A globular cluster that became the core of the Tellian sector, it was settled during the Great Crusade, nearly seven thousand years before the rest of the sector. The sector's highest levels of political and military authority emanate from it, along with power and wealth amongst the nobility. The most notable locations include the sector capital, Tellian Secundus, as well as the ancient Dyson Sphere called "Black Atlantis" of unknown manufacture. Approximately 40% of all of the sector's Imperial systems are in this subsector.

The Fog (Rising Trailing): Named after the nebular drifts found throughout this area, this section was a frontier of the Globe brought into Imperial Compliance in M38. The majority of the hundred or so Aeldari Maiden Worlds remaining in the sector are concentrated here, backed by the power of Craftworld Som-Daven. The Imperium mostly ignores them to focus on the Zul-Kan, a hostile xenos empire, with the Tertius crusade fleet of the Brazen Spears chapter (descended from the Black Templars) leading the fight. The Fog is also home to the first world with extensive archaeotech ruins discovered in the sector, Ildonth, which has become a penal world where slaves, rad-mutants, and servitors dig amongst endless fields of mud for glimmers of a former age's wonders.

The Wisp (Sinking Spinward): A thin smattering of ancient stars stuffed full of tombs and ruins, the Wisp was only settled between M38 and M40. Nearly 5% of the Imperial worlds here are Forge Worlds, and nearly a third of the subsector's other worlds feed their resources solely into them. Levi's Iris is a vast ringworld from the Dark Age of Technology built around a black hole that serves as the administrative centre for the sector's tech-priests. The Dour Guard space marine chapter (descended from the Iron Fists), the second of only two chapters operating in the entire sector, stand by at The Glare of Sebastus fortress-world.

The Cinders (Sinking Trailing): The trailing spinward sector. It is full of renegades, heretical cults, hereteks, psychic cabals, prospectors, infractionists, xenophiles, twist-lovers, Rogue Traders, profiteers, abominable intelligences, malign xenos, and other scum. Only about half of the 120 known worlds in this subsector are in the possession of the Imperium, and most were brought in during M41. Notable locations include the Yellow City, a vast stellar gantry run as a freeport for xenos and humans alike by mutants; Bhadra, where a recently discovered archaeotech fungus allows a single agri-world to produce 7% of the entire sector's promethium supply; and Qurmizi, a system lost entirely to the forces of the Black Dawn chaos cult.

(The Cinders is where our campaign will be set)

Touchpoints of History

The Silver Banner Asuras: A group of abominable intelligences wiped out by the Raven Guard space marine legion during M30 at the Battle of the Hollow Mind where their Matryoshka Cog-Moon was destroyed. Known for harvesting humanity and other species' neural mass to provide themselves with processing power and using the bodies as war-servitors. Many ancient space hulks are the results of their work.

The World Rush: The period between M38 and early M41 when most of the modern Tellian sector was conquered and colonized. This was driven by the discovery of the ruins of an ancient plasma reactor on the world of Ildonth that showed signs of being a first-generation STC product. In the course of three thousand years, nearly seven hundred worlds were brought into the Imperium, though most only became simple extractive colonies, research bases, or industrial worlds. Though a STC has never been discovered, a great deal of other archaeotech fragments have been, as have several Knight Worlds.  

The Zul-Kan Crusades: The Zul-Kan are a xenos race resembling a cross between owls and octopuses who control dozens of worlds at the border of the Tellian sector. Masters of gravitational manipulation, they appear able to hide many of their worlds from direct observation, and their home world has never been identified. Since late M38, the Imperium has been engaged in a series of inconclusive wars to find and eliminate their planetary holdings. Since the failure of the Astronomican, the latest crusade has been foundering and the Zul-Kan have taken the strategic initiative.

The Varosi Empire: The Varosi were a rare survival from the Dark Age of Technology, forming a powerful human empire that was only brought into Imperial Compliance in M38. Much of the empire's former territory was incorporated into the Cinders and Wisp subsectors, and the root populations of these regions, including the nobility, are mostly converted Varosi.

The Cardinals' War: The most significant religious conflict in the Tellian sector, this civil war between factions of the Ecclesiarchy was notionally about whether the Emperor had ever shed a tear without conscious intent, and practically about the supremacy of two cardinals for control of the sector's faithful and tithes. The conflict saw at more than a hundred minor sects declared heretical or schismatic across M40, but many escaped being purged and fled to the Cinders and beyond. Since the Noctis Aeterna and the weakening of the Imperium, many of these sectarians have been seeing explosive growth and are preparing to overthrow and replace the current Ecclesiarchy. 

The Mzod Purges: Originally declared a sub-sentient species of jellyfish-analogues, the Mzod are found on almost every world in the sector with large amounts of water. In mid-M40, they were discovered to be not only sentient, but powerful psykers and genetors. This led several planetary governors to try to eliminate them, but the Mzod released hidden caches of Ork spores that quickly led to the planets being overrun by rampaging hordes. The Mzod are still hunted by the authorities, but much more carefully, and their "strandtech" biotools are perhaps the most common kind of xenostech circulating through the sector.

The Statisticians of Certainty: A heretical sect of the Mechanicus who delved into temporal technology in mid-M41. They sought to travel to the future and return with advanced knowledge. They were discovered and destroyed by the Inquisition while operating in the Halo Stars just beyond the edge of the sector, but much of their forbidden knowledge is believed to remain scattered throughout datavaults in the Tellian sector. Many of the hereteks in the Wisp and Cinders derive from small remnants who escaped the purge. 

The Great Rift: The massive chaos rift opened twenty years ago and Imperial control of the sector has been in decline since. While the Astronomican was always dim and faded in the Tellian sector due to its position, its complete absence has led to a resurgence of the enemies of the Imperium. Through heroic efforts, the Administratum managed to prevent more than two dozen worlds from apocalyptic collapses from disruptions to vital trade. After about a decade of chaos, contact has recently been restored with the rest of the Imperium and word has come to the authorities of an "Indomitus Crusade" that is being launched to reconnect the lost sectors back to Holy Terra

The Empty Synod: Only recently identified by the Inquisition, the newest threat to the soon-to-be-resurgent Imperium is the "Empty Synod" or "Conventus Vanitas", a group of political malcontents, religious radicals, progress cult hereteks, psyker and mutant liberationists, and xenophiles who are infiltrating worlds and undermining Imperial control. High level reports claim that they are secretly run or supported by abominable intelligences, rogue psykers, and xenos of unknown origins, though it is unclear if the group is a Chaos cult or something even more nefarious at this point. The leadership of the group is believed to be based on a fleet hiding somewhere in the void between the stars in the Cinders. The Inquisition has formed a working group, the Ordo Vanitas, to stamp them out.

(The PCs are members of the Empty Synod)