News for May 2009
The Mind is Mightier than the Sword 6
The Astropath Transcendent
Rogue Trader | Published 08 May 2009

Greetings Rogue Trader fans!

I’d like to introduce a new member of the Rogue Trader Design Team, the brains behind the new psychic powers system for Rogue Trader, John Ivicek.

I asked John to prepare some thoughts for this week’s designer diary about the work he did on the new psychic Career for the Rogue Trader core rulebook: the Astropath Transcendent.

The Astropath Transcendent

The Astropath Transcendent is a rare individual, indeed, a psyker whose powers and very essence has been touched by the light of the God-Emperor himself and who is able to form a lifeline of communication across the limitless gulfs of space, his soul armoured against the gnawing taint of the warp beyond. Each year, uncounted millions of psykers are born across the vast breadth of the Imperium. Most are detected and interred until collected by one of the fearsome Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. These vessels travel the galaxy in great circuits, their stygian holds inexorably filling with nascent psykers with each stop they make. The fate of the vast majority of the psykers is to fuel the insatiable fires of the Astronomican so that the Imperium might be held together for another day. Of those allowed to live, a tiny fraction are judged strong enough to undergo tutorage and go on to serve the Imperium in a staggering array of capacities, from Inquisitor to Battle Psyker.

Those chosen to become Astropaths undergo the ritual of Soul Binding, in which the body and soul are scoured clean of the taint of the warp by the searing purity of the Emperor’s beneficence. After months of fasting, prayer, and ritual preparation, the psykers are brought into the very depths of the Emperor’s Palace in processions of a hundred at a time, there to undergo a ritual that will kill them, drive them insane, or bind them for all eternity to the Emperor. So intense is the ritual that the supplicants’ sensory organs are almost totally overloaded—leaving them blinded by the experience—with many suffering further nerve damage, incurring loss of smell, touch, or hearing.

Relying as heavily as the Imperium does on the warp for galactic communication, it has a great demand for Astropaths, and each newly created Astropath who survives the Soul Binding is inducted into the ranks of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. There he learns to send his thoughts singing across the galaxy via the medium of the warp, adding his psychic voice to entire choirs of his fellows, and communicating with others of his kind on planets light years distant.

It is a rare Astropath indeed who rises beyond his given duties and responsibilities in the ranks of the psychic choirs. Of those few who do so, most are placed in charge of Astropathic facilities and relay stations dotted across Imperial space. Those with the sharpest wits become itinerant emissaries or officials of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica itself or serve on the staff of Inquisitors or Lord Militants. Some of the most self-aware and strong-willed of their kind serve their vigils alongside Rogue Traders, casting their thoughts out far beyond the realms of Man into the great voids beyond the Emperor’s Domains.

The Writer Speaks
So with all the above in mind, John was given the task to come up with how the psychic abilities work for such an unusual psyker character in the game. Having achieved this goal with flying colours, here are his own words:

Hi, my name is John and I’m a Warhammer 40,000 addict. Okay, wrong venue, but the sentiment still holds. So when Ross asked me to work on Rogue Trader, I picked up my jaw, and then I said yes of course. I should have left it on the ground, because he then asked if I wanted to take a crack at the psychic powers section. Oh boy.

The first thing I decided on was that I wanted to try and get as close to the Warhammer 40,000 novels from the Black Library as I could get while still keeping it clean and simple. A whole lot of ideas came and went, but eventually it came down to several key elements: variable psychic strength, powers coupled with techniques, and a difference between psykers who have gone through Imperial sanctioning, and those who have not.

Eisenhorn and Ravenor were fairly instrumental in convincing me that in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, it seemed like you could draw on your powers just a little and nothing outward would happen. No hoar frost, no howling winds, and no bleeding walls. Conversely, when a psyker really pushes his strength, you know it. All of the stuff mentioned before (and a bunch of stuff much worse) pops out of the woodwork. From there was born the concept of psychic strength. The new system would give an Astropath Transcendent more options; the psyker could minimize his footprint in the warp, but it would mean that his powers would be a lot weaker than normal. He could push his limits to gain greater power, but the downsides will be familiar to any Dark Heresy player: Insanity, possession, loss of gravity, and so forth.

With that handled, I took a long look at the way our favorite fictional psykers use their powers, and in general, it seems like they have a power or two, but they figure out different ways to use those powers. This resulted in a tiered system called Psychic Techniques that allow an Astropath Transcendent to grow in versatility and power as he rises in rank. This is probably my favorite part of the new system, and I hope people will enjoy the techniques themselves. From direct application of force, to serving as the mental switchboard for your party, the technique system opens up a wide range of possibilities for Astropaths in Rogue Trader.

The last goal was to differentiate between those sworn to the Emperor’s service, and those who foolishly turn from his grace and drink deep of the warp. Creating two separate types of psyker solved the last problem, and ensured that both had their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Sure, you might be able to channel more raw power without all that pesky soul-binding, but your chance of becoming a sentient pile of goo also rises dramatically.

Mind Over Matter
Thanks John, for your insight into your work. I am sure many of the fans will be chomping at the bit to find out more about the way that psychic powers work for the Astropath Transcendent... keep your eyes on this space, Rogue Trader fans! I have more updates and words from the writers coming next week. Until then, keep your hellgun handy when you’re out in the dark frontier.

Rogue Trader is a roleplaying game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the grim darkness of the far future. Players take on the roles of Explorers aboard a Rogue Trader's ship, searching for profit and adventure in the uncharted regions of space.

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Comments (6)

Published: 7/20/2009 3:43:43 PM

I like this. I wonder if the turn-from-the-Emperor psyker will be portrayed as tainted (e.g. gain corruption with power use perhaps) or 'merely' unstable (Yum! says the daemon)? I hope this doesn't take the place of sorcery though - but it looks like the DH sorcery rules could be dragged straight into Rogue Trader. Or the other way around... :-)

Published: 5/15/2009 4:10:07 PM

 Most likely as they have said in earlier news RT will be compatible with DH...kind of but im sure with a little tweaking you can turn your millitant psyker into a warp screaming cannon across the void lol.

Published: 5/9/2009 11:46:03 AM

Okay, now I HAVE to have it! 


Dalnor Surloc
Published: 5/8/2009 2:56:17 PM

The real thing I hope is that you folks are moving away from the minor powers standing a surprising risk of being eaten by the warp or becoming a daemonhost.  What really never made sense was that telepathic powers stood the same chance as pyro-kinetic or even weird warp power of causing problems.

Published: 5/8/2009 2:53:59 PM


The first thing I decided on was that I wanted to try and get as close to the Warhammer 40,000 novels from the Black Library as I could get while still keeping it clean and simple.


Nice challenge... but all seems to be in good hands!

Published: 5/8/2009 2:43:08 PM

Now this is very interesting!  Will this replace the existing telepathic powers in DH?  In other words, will I be able to take this piece out of RT and use it for the Imperial Psykers in DH?  Now I'm extremely interested in seeing RT.

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