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Rogue Trader will explore the far reaches of the Warhammer 40,000 universe

The team behind Pathfinder: Kingmaker aims to improve on exploration

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Image: Owlcat Games/Games Workshop
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Developers of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, the first CRPG based on the wildly popular Games Workshop franchise, are digging into the back catalog for inspiration. In an interview with Polygon, Owlcat Games creative director Alexander Gusev says his team was heavily inspired by a now out-of-print tabletop RPG called Rogue Trader, originally published by Fantasy Flight Games.

Released in 2008, Rogue Trader allowed players to create their own swashbuckling merchants and place them in the firmament of the 40K galaxy. It included rules for small unit ground battles as well as space combat, both of which will serve as a touchstone for the development team, according to Gusev. Where Owlcat will make its point of departure, however, is in expanding the universe’s potential for exploration.

“In Warhammer every planet is basically a graveyard to civilizations,” Gusev said. “In Warhammer, if you if you find a planet that is known to be cursed, it can actually be cursed. And so on. It makes this exploration far more interesting, in my opinion, and it gives you a lot more things that can happen — and that will happen.”

A gothic cathedral full of techno bits.
Concept art showing the Footfall spaceport.
Image: Owlcat Games

Another big selling point for fans of the grim, dark setting will be the ability to build a party of characters drawn from throughout the Warhammer 40,000 canon. Players will be able to party up with a Space Wolves Space Marine, a Sister of Battle, and an Eldar ranger, among others. But, for those who have played the original Rogue Trader, there will be a few cameos as well. They include rival rogue trader Calligos Winterscale and Vladaym Tocara, liege of the interstellar port of Footfall.

The challenge so far, Gusev said, is in making the turn-based game’s mechanics more approachable for newcomers. Owlcat’s previous CRPGs, based on the Pathfinder RPG, were a bit on the crunchy side.

“We really want to preserve the freedom of choice, basically, of Rogue Trader,” Gusev said, “and not the complexity.”

The Warhammer 40,000 tabletop role-playing license is no longer with Fantasy Flight Games. Cubicle 7 currently publishes content under that license, and has a huge library of new game materials available. Fans interested in starting a TTRPG set in the 41st millennium can get started with Wrath & Glory: Core Rules.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is being built for PC and currently has no release date. Pre-orders are available now and will grant access to an early build of the game at a later point in time.

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