Marked out across its continents are innumerable feudal demesnes ruled by despot warlords, where armored nobles clash and the people suffer under an oppressive serfdom. Acreage was formerly ruled over by the High King of the Grand Realm of Ascandia, but is currently in the grip of long-running and bloody war of succession. The years of misrule and desolation are taking their toll, as the planet’s level of technology is starting to backslide from its high medieval zenith---a matter not helped by the merciless extraction of its Imperial tithe regardless of local conditions.
In the time of the Angevin Crusade, Saint Drusus led the great charge against the Twisted Kings on Acreage. Legend says that when the crusade came to Acreage its feudal kingdoms were struggling under the yoke of mutant kings and their hulking armies of brutes. Gathering together the Dirt Knights of Yorth, Drusus led a mighty army to the gates of the palace of the Twisted Kings and shattered their armies in a single bloody day of fighting.
Acreage does not receive much attention from the Calixis Sector. However, it is firmly under Imperial rule and provides its Imperial tithe in the form of raw materials and manpower. Sending ores to build the Emperor’s battleships and men to fill His armies. For most of the citizens of Acreage, the Emperor and the Imperium are merely another set of masters. The inhabitants would seldom think to raise their heads from their daily toil, whether it be in the gruel fields or the sky-mills, to contemplate what lies far beyond the bounds of their world. This is also due in part to religious reverence; on Acreage, the priests of the High King teach that the Emperor is the “King of the Sky”; sky-mill workers must keep there eyes averted from the heavens when they work high above the ground, lest they anger Him with their impudence. Villages often make “candle-balloons” in which to offer their prayers.
There is much superstition on Acreage, like most feudal realms, especially concerning the swamps. The planet is home to a series of swamps, the salt-fens, whose capacity for eating through non-protected footwear and flesh are well-known. Some rumors suggest that dead bodies get up and walk into the swamp, vanishing. A local swamp god known as the Horloc was once worshipped by an ancient tribe. The Imperium took notice and burned all those who could not escape, though they swore the Horloc would rise again to reclaim its ancestral home.
On Acreage, each noble is responsible for minting his own coins, with the value of each make of coin being directly tied to the fortunes of the lord or lady whose likeness it bears. The nobles themselves, a very dominating class (who often claim such titles on little more than strength of arms and poorly-forged documents) are constantly in conflict, both clandestinely and overtly, to rule the vast toiling masses. Power equals status on Acreage. The amount of land and people a noble commands directly equates to his standing with the High King, and it is the High King who carries the favor of the Imperium, the greatest master of all.
The Cathedral Mount Firestorm on Acreage is a crime believed to have been perpetrated by the alpha-plus rogue psyker known only as the Burning Princess. She slew the senior clergy of the planet along with more than ten thousand pilgrims, worshippers, and local citizens.
A War Most UncivilEdit
On Acreage, the High King’s realm, known as Ascandia, spans the majority of the northern landmass. Stretching for thousands of miles and encompassing hundreds of thousands of people, cultures and scores of lesser princes, kings and queens. It is a land of rugged mountains, dark icy forests and endless lonely plains, broken only by primitive villages and stinking greyish gruel fields or the precarious towering sky-mills.
For the last few years, however, the relative stability of this realm, and in fact most of Acreage, has been rent apart by a bloody civil war. The High King died without naming an heir, leaving his surviving children to bicker and fight amongst themselves for the title, in which thousands have already perished. This has been a prosperous time for the nobles, as each has taken the advantage of the mayhem of war to expand their domains or settle old scores. It has also drawn more off-world interest to Acreage, in the form of mercenaries and traders, seeking to make a profit through selling skills, training and advanced weapons.
One such noble taking advantage of these off-world visitors is Prince Orcan, lord of the City of Olrakan. Also known as the Floating City, Olrakan, sprawls along a section of the southern coast of Ascandia, where the fetid Chitin Swamps meet the dark waters of the Sea of Sorrows. The city is notable not only for its construction, standing atop countless rotting posts above the stinking waters of the swamp, but also for its proximity to one of Acreage’s few spaceports---Emperor’s Island, located several miles out to sea.
Prince Orcan has cultivated his position throughout the war by controlling much of the traffic to and from Emperor’s Island; brokering deals with other nobles for access to precious off-world cargos and skilled soldiers. Inevitably this monopoly has created a great deal of jealously amongst his nearest neighbors, and more than once, Olrankan has been besieged by the cannon-barges and musketmen of a rival lord. However, the same off-world weapons and soldiers that have sparked such attacks have also ensured Orcan’s victory every time thus far. His rivals, however, have not yet been deterred and continue to try periodically to take the city by force.
While the prince’s attentions have been focused on the enemies outside his walls, a far more dangerous group of individuals have infiltrated his domain---the Slaugth. Insidious and disturbing aliens, the Slaugth are carrion eaters who use their vile cunning to foment war and strife so that they may feed off the resulting carnage. Olrankan’s constant state of turmoil has proved the perfect nesting ground and they have secretly set themselves up within the city to feed on its inhabitants. Not content to simply devour the war dead, the Slaugth have also been harvesting corpses and spreading terror themselves. Every night they send out their alien pets---xeno predators selected for their aggression and horrific natures---to hunt the locals. These monsters kill indiscriminately and leave only tales of terror in their wake. So far, the prince has been too distracted by his foes outside the city’s walls to worry about these wild rumors---after all, amidst the flames of war what is one more horror?
The War of the RhozesEdit
The civil war on Acreage all started about five years ago and, like so many wars before, it could have easily been avoided. At the time, Gordanus was the High King of Ascandia. In the eyes of the Imperium therefore, he was also the Planetary Governor of Acreage. He had had a long and prosperous reign, under which the soul-crushing toil of his subjects had been perhaps marginally easier---or perhaps marginally harder---soul-crushing toil being much of a muchness to a peasant with a life expectancy of twenty-six. Finally, like all good kings, he died peacefully in his bed, or was possibly foully murdered---the inhabitants of Acreage are not big on autopsies or asking too many questions. This left his twin daughters Rhozena and Rhozeia in direct succession to the throne. Unfortunately, Gordanus failed to name either one as his successor before his death. So the girls turned to their ultimate lord and master, the Emperor of Mankind, to determine which of them was to take both the throne and title of Planetary Governor and rule over all of Acreage.
Tragically, an Administratum clerical error omitted the last two letters of the successor’s name from the reply, stating only that Rhoze was now officially recognized as the ruler of Acreage. Initially the girls were cordial with each other and sent a series of requests for clarification. However, these seemed to fall on deaf ears and no further responses were forthcoming. In fact, the Administratum scrivener responsible for the initial mistaken missive was keeping the whole thing quiet, no doubt for fear of getting a stern talking to over the matter.
With silence from the Imperium, it didn’t take long for Rhozena and Rhozeia to resort to violence to ensure that they, and they alone, would become the ruler of Ascandia. In a matter of weeks each had amassed the support of dozens of lesser nobles, each willing to swear to the validity of their chosen queen’s claim to the throne and prove it with the blood of their citizens. The resulting conflict has dragged on with neither of the Rhozes gaining much in the way of an advantage, due in equal parts to the primitive nature for their weapons (cannon, sword, and musket for the most part) and the treachery of their nobles (it is not uncommon for a lord’s allegiance to change several times a day, often in the midst of a battle).
Ironically, the state of strife on Acreage has actually increased its level of Imperial tithe as both Rhozes frantically try and outdo the other in their service to the Imperium, no doubt hopeful that they will finally receive support to oust the other. This state of affairs has also led directly to the Administratum department responsible for the misunderstanding to own up to their involvement. Claiming it was all part of a carefully devised plan, they have gone so far as to suggest that this kind of tithe boosting technique could be used on other worlds. In any case, as the war poses no threat or disruption to the planet’s role within the Imperium, it has for the most part been ignored.
Given all these factors, it seems unlikely that the situation on Acreage will resolve itself anytime soon, and the bloodshed and chaos will continue.
The War Within Edit
The war fought between the stabilizing influence of Amalathian Inquisitors and their foes, the Recongregator seekers of change, has been waged in the Calixis Sector since the sector was founded. It has been a long and bitter struggle in which the Amalathians have the upper hand at present. The conventional and change-resistant rule of Sector Governor Marius Hax and the relative stability of Imperial rule throughout the sector has smothered the potential for change. While many Recongregators focus on breaking Hax’s power base, others have focused on areas distant from Scintilla’s influence.
A key secret battlefield between agents of Recongregator Inquisitors and servants of their Amalathian rivals is the feudal world of Acreage. Lone agents and hidden Acolyte cells have thoroughly infiltrated the populace and slowly begun to spread new ideas. With the ground laid, they have begun to smuggle technology and weapons into the hands of elements resistant to the rule of the high king. In return for these manipulations, enforcement cadres trained by Amalathian Acolytes root out sympathizers of the new ideals and drag away rebellious elements---while the high king is watched over by bodyguards sent by Amalathians within the Ordos Calixis. Unknown to the Amalathians, though, is the fact that among their Acolytes in the king’s court are a few who wait the command of their Recongregator masters to remove the barriers to change and let the transformation of Acreage begin.
Icon of AcreageEdit
The barbed Aquila of Acreage is a relic that stood for centuries in the grand Cathedral of the Light Eternal in the city of Lord’s Hollow on the feudal world of Acreage. Beneath its shadow, each of the world’s High Kings and Queens received their coronation and right of rulership as handed down by the Administratum and the Imperial authority of Sector Lord Hax. Crafted from wrought iron said to have been smelted from deck plating taken from the first pilgrim vessel to reach the world, it was an icon of faith and Imperial power. All this changed however during the War of the Rozes when the city of Lord’s Hollow was infiltrated and almost overrun by an insidious pleasure cult. Led by some of the world’s most prominent nobles, the cult’s uprising culminated in their attempted summoning of a greater daemon within the very walls of the Cathedral of the Light Eternal. The cultists stormed the church and torn it apart, slaughtering almost all of its priests in an orgy of blood and debauchery.
What came next however was as miraculous an event as the world of Acreage has ever seen, as a lowly confessor, left for dead and glowing with the righteous anger of the God-Emperor himself, pulled himself from the bloody bodies of his brethren and took up the Icon where the cultists had cast it down upon the floor. In a heroic moment of defiance he then proceed to bludgeon, hack, and bash his way though the cultists, screaming the God-Emperor’s name, until he stove in the head of the cult magus, smashing his body apart upon the Imperial altar. In the aftermath of the confessor’s act of faith he succumbed to his wounds and the blood spattered Icon was carried away by the Ministorum as proof of the miracle which had occurred.
Some two meters in length, with a bladed aquila at one end and a haft covered in barbs, the Icon is a brutal if awkward weapon. It counts as a Great Weapon without the Primitive quality and with the Tearing quality added. Blows from it count as ‘holy’ attacks when used against daemons and other warp spawn. Wielding it however requires a character to grip the barbs and as they fight these will dig into their palms causing great pain.
The Icon of Acreage has two other special abilities. The first allows the wielder to wet the blade with his righteous blood to literally burn the enemies of the God-Emperor. At the start of any Turn the user may cut himself on the barbs as a Free Action, suffering a wound which cannot be reduced by either armor or Toughness, and let the blood flow down the Icon and onto the aquila. If he has the Pure Faith Talent this will cause the aquila to burst into flame. This adds an extra 1d10 Energy damage or an addition 2d10 Energy damage against daemons and warp spawn. Creatures struck by the flaming aquila also have a chance to catch fire (see Dark Heresy rulebook page 210) unless they can pass a Challenging (+0) Agility Test.
The second special ability of the Icon is that it acts as a conduit for the holy rage of the faithful and their righteous hatred of the enemies of the Emperor. This grants the bearer 1 free Fate Point each encounter which may only be spent on activating Faith Talents from the Emperor’s Wrath list. These free Fate Points may not be burnt.
A vast floating spaceport, Emperor’s Island is akin to a mighty oil rig or man-made island anchored just beyond sight of the mainland. It acts as a convenient staging point for merchants and mercenaries wishing to do business on Acreage, but also ensures that the Imperium can retain its control over traffic and goods on- and off-world.
Over the centuries the island has grown and expanded with the ebb and flow of commerce to the planet. Now, it is a monolithic mess of mingled structures and twisted architecture, where the salty smell of the sea mingles with the scent of rust, oil and human decay. Beyond the edges of the port stretches a heaving mass of structures not unlike a vast island of flotsam and jetsam. There is little thought or planning put into the zoning of the artificial island, but it does roughly comprise of four distinct areas.
The Landing Zones
This large central area comprises several large heat-blasted landing platforms for orbital craft and dozens of smaller ones for atmospheric vehicles. Each platform is suspended on a bed of constantly revolving stabilizers that counteract the rolling of the island. For those not used to the effect, it can be quite disorientating as the horizon rolls and pitches while their footing remains level. For anyone experiencing such a sensation for the first time, they must make an Easy (+30) Agility Test. Failure indicates they have embarrassingly fallen over and may only move at half their normal rate until they leave the platforms as they cautiously stagger around.
There is not a great deal to do in the landing zones unless you are either getting onto or off of a transport, and the authorities discourage people hanging about, and apart from the surly and grubby tech crews that scurry about the place, few people are interested in talking. The Landing Zones are the only place on Emperor's Island, and indeed much of Acreage, that an atmospheric craft can be piloted, as most of the planet is a no-fly zone, especially through areas of active conflict. Though there are some examples of older models of aircraft on the island, they are ancient and inoperative.
The Bilges are a random collection of gantries, cabins, corridors and decks that exist in the perpetual shadow of the landing platforms. Every inch of space here is given over either to some kind of personal abode or place of business. It is here that the bulk of the island’s several thousand strong population rub shoulders. Finding one’s way around can be tricky, as the lighting is certainly sub-par and there is no such thing as street signs. Anyone not well-versed in the area that is attempting to find a particular location, or trying to get to another part of the island, must make a successful Challenging Navigation Test. Failure indicates an hour of aimless wandering has passed, after which time they may Test again. A successful Ordinary (+10) Inquiry Test allows one to find a guide by the name of Tiplis who can be hired for 2 thrones an hour. As he leads them, Tiplis will chatter endlessly about the restorative properties of salt water and how it can be used for everything from cleaning valuable equipment to making babies grow up strong and mutation free (just a few spoonfuls a day!).
One can find most things for sale in the Bilges’ darkened nooks and crannies, as well as outlets for any number of vices. A few examples are:
Veto's Emporium of Aphemeral Delights - Probably the largest drinking and gambling den in the Bilges, Veto’s is a certified scum-hole. Its smoky interior sprawls haphazardly across several linked gantry-ways with dozens of hanging private booths for the more discerning customers. By the harsh red glow of hazard lights, one can tank themselves up on the local wyrm-brew (made from only finest kelp-serpent secretions, with a decidedly salty aftertaste) only 1 throne a bucket. Harder drugs are also available from a badly-scarred woman by the name of Salacious who is a regular at Veto’s. She only deals with those she trusts and a successful Charm or Deceive Skill Test is required to open a dialogue. She sells any drugs (provided they are not too rare or obscure) at twice the standard price. Finally there is Veto himself, a withered old man of questionable sanity who sometimes is given over to talking in riddles, but is nevertheless a good source of information. Anyone who talks to him long enough can learn all the rumors on the island.
The Grease Pits - With little else to do on the island, many locals and passers-through indulge in either gambling or fighting, or both at once. This is what the Grease Pits are for. A section of deck below one of the main landing platforms has been cleared and walled off. Here combatants can slug each other senseless to the constant whirl of the stabilizers overhead. Fights are always unarmed and usually last until one fighter is unconscious or gives up. Getting into a fight is easy: the fight organizer---a bald sneering fellow by the name of Remarus---happily signs newcomers up for a paltry fee of 10 thrones. A loss nets you nothing (besides the beating you took), while a win doubles your cash. Fighters are welcome to bet on themselves but cannot bet against themselves (any kind of dive-taking normally ends with the fighter getting tossed into the sea).
Sea Salvage and Stella Flotsam - Throughout the Bilges, there are dozens of people that make their way selling whatever junk and rubbish they can lay their hands on. Some even have “shops” where they invite customers to come in and peruse their wares. Most of the items on offer are indeed complete rubbish as anyone with eyes is able to ascertain quite quickly. As a general rule, only items of Average Availability or below are available. Items with the Primitive special quality are one step easier to find.
The Bilges is also the most likely spot for anyone to encounter trouble. At any point while wandering around, one risks the chance of running into some malcontents.
Krass and his Cronies - Krass and his companions have been stuck on the island for a long time. Having wasted most of their thrones upon arrival, and of dubious quality as mercenaries, they have neither been able to buy passage back into orbit or to the mainland. Understandably they are bored and spoiling for a fight. Anyone they have decided to bully may be able to talk their way out, though they need to pass a Test, using any Interaction skill, by at least two degrees of success to even get Krass talking. Otherwise, the mercs waste little time in throwing the first punch.
Krass and his buddies do not fight to the death (at least intentionally). If it looks like any of them are about to die, they make a run for it. If Krass runs, they all run. Likewise, they only draw weapons if their opponents do so first (or look like they are going to). If any firearms, explosives or obvious Psychic Powers are used, or, after about 10 Rounds of combat, a dozen port wardens arrive to break up the fight, arresting anyone who can’t get away. Anyone arrested by the wardens can either pay a fine of 100 thrones (double if they killed anyone), spend time in prison, or find some other means to escape punishment.
Imperial Port Authority
Located in the center of the island, the Imperial Port Authority is an enormous tower that reaches up hundreds of meters into the sky. Covered with vox-arrays and vista ports, it is from here that the Imperium keeps a keen eye on Emperor’s Island and all its comings and goings. It is also the most secure place on the whole island, protected at all times by the local Port Wardens. No civilians or visitors should have a reason to enter the Port Authority tower, unless they are in serious trouble. The tower itself is an omnipresent sight throughout the island, even able to be glimpsed through gaps in the landing platforms or through layers of gantries, always seemingly watching over the populace and keeping them in line.
The docks are located in the underbelly of the island, were the sea crashes and surges against its great supports. Just above the churning ocean, one can see dozens of boats of all sizes and makes hanging in launch cradles, waiting to be lowered into the churning water. The docks are a dangerous place, where people pack the swinging gantries awaiting a chance to board a ship and where captains and agents push through the crowds looking for the best fares. Most come here to charter a ship to take them to the mainland, but some come looking for trouble. The hazardous nature of the swinging gantries means that anyone involved in a combat here must make an Easy (+30) Agility Test each Round or fall down. Anyone that fails by more 3 or more degrees slip over the side and plummet into the sea below. Of course, without some quick thinking, this is likely a death sentence.
The easiest way to get onto a boat is to pay for it. Passage costs 50 thrones per person, though a Barter Test can reduce this as normal. Payment is in advance but, once they have paid, they can board up and be on their way. It is also possible to stow away on a ship by sneaking onto one, but this requires successful Concealment, Silent Move and Climb Tests as one works their way underneath the gantries and down the chains to the ship cradles. Stowing away at night makes these tests Ordinary (+10). If those looking to secure transport get violent at any stage, they are unlikely to get passage. At all times, there are at least two dozen port wardens lurking around the docks, and while they are not so bothered about the odd scuffle between passengers, attacks on captains or their crews meet with swift intervention. Likewise, attempts to force entry onto a ship will lead to violence, and possibly arrest or death.
The journey to the mainland takes about six hours, and in that time, there is little to do except squat or stand on the crowded decks or in the dingy holds amidst dozens of other people. The seas are far from calm and the ship pitches and rolls alarmingly as it makes it voyage. Anyone aboard must make a Routine (+20) Toughness Test, unless they have a good reason to be used to sailing. Failure means that they suffer a level of Fatigue as they are repeatedly sick (either onto the deck or over the side). This often usually results in someone losing their lunch, usually all over another passenger.
Olrankan, the Floating CityEdit
Olrankan is a haphazard collection of dark wooden buildings that sag and lean drunkenly against each other, all held above the putrid waters of the swamp by a forest of tiers and posts. At various places throughout this mass of structures, one can see crooked towers reaching up to the sky, their tops ringed with sails and fans, turning slowly in the wind. At the edge of the buildings, a ruined wall marks the barrier between city and swamp. From the direction of this wall you can see the flash of cannon fire and hear the screams of men carried on the wind. The city, like Emperor’s Island, is in no way a planned or ordered place. Its streets are little more than plank walkways between stilt-supported structures.
Getting into the City
The city of Olrankan is currently besieged by one of Prince Orcan’s many rivals, the Baroness Falatrish. This means that the swamps around its walls are filled with enemy encampments and its harbor is choked with cannon-barges. The besieging ships may take an interest in any vessels attempting to enter Olrankan, but if the vessel is fortunate, they may only be fined, as the captains of the cannon-barges are less than fanatical about their duties and have created a detailed toll system, accepting bribes from ships that want to enter and leave the city. Any who refuse payment or attempt to slip by, and anyone who tries to swim into the city, will be fired upon immediately. There is always the chance that a vessel might encounter a captain who actually understands the meaning of the word siege and they will be attacked regardless.
They may attempt to board or simply sink the vessel, but there is an alternative to sailing directly into the city wharf. The nearby swamp offers a chance to sneak into the city, a better alternative for any who are seeking to avoid direct combat, but no less hazardous. They will need to skulk through the stinking bogs and avoid enemy patrols and their encampments. Of course, as long as they are clever and quiet they should be fine, probably taking a swim with the leeches under the city to gain entrance.
This area is not so much a wharf or a dock but rather the seaward edge of the city. It is packed with vessels, many of which are propped up on posts and used as makeshift dwellings. Most of Olrankan’s trade also happens here, as vendors hawk their skills or wares to locals or travelers fresh from Emperor’s Island. Aside from travelers and off-worlders, the city is home to unwashed masses dressed in dark cloaks and coats, loose stained shirts and tightfitting caps with gauze veils (designed to keep the swamp’s biting insects from eyes and ears).
The local enforces are known as the Plumes due to their extravagant plumed hats. The Plumes are very well equipped and wear long flak cloaks and carry more modern-looking hunting rifles.
Along the wharf, one can indulge in drinking or gambling (the local brew is a grey marshmilk fermented from the entrails of the Furbog, a swamp predator). One can also buy equipment; though the siege means that everything is twice the normal price and Availability is two steps worse. In addition, finding anything that is not Primitive is practically impossible.
Recently, a series of deaths have occurred within the city of Olrankan, specifically along the wharf. The backward locals are full of tales of monsters and daemons, but evidence would suggest it is the work of some manner of death cult. Asking about the attacks at the wharfs will earn suspicious glares from most of the locals. One easily detect the heavy atmosphere of fear hanging over the people here. An Inquiry Test will bring some useful information: it seems that most of the attacks have taken place near the walls and they always happen at night. There are also stories of other bodies going missing, taken from homes or dug up from graves.
This is by far the largest part of the city, comprising of the bulk of its population. It is a depressing place where strangers will receive sullen stares from the locals and little else, apart from the possibility of trouble in the form of some local toughs looking for a fight (though even the inbred inhabitants of Olrankan will think twice about attacking anyone heavily armed), some enterprising parents looking for someone of good breeding to marry their “comely” son or daughter, or perhaps if there is a psyker in the area they might get approached by a blind old man pointing and crying “Witch!” attracting the attention of small and unfriendly mob.
The wall refers to any section of the city within a block or two of its edge. Most people have moved out of these areas due to the fighting and the ongoing siege. There is little to be found here apart from experiencing the war first hand. Generally, people are kept away from the walls by harried-looking Plumes. A successful Charm, Deceive or Intimidate Test on one of the Plumes will allow one to be directed to the site of the most recent attack, a section of wall that looks like it has seen its fair share of battle. At the base of the wall is a large bloodstain that looks only hours old. In the blood, the outline of several bodies and weird prints are visible. Any successful Search test reveals that bodies were dragged off after they were killed. In addition, there are spent casings from hunting rifles (like the ones the Plumes use) but only a few, and from their positions it looks like they were from wildfire. The footprints in the blood are not human. Anyone with the skill of Forbidden Lore: Xenos can make a test to identify the footprints as definitely those of a xeno-breed.
In addition, anyone passing a Search Test also detects xenos prints leading off into the city. Following the prints takes a good couple of hours and two successful Difficult (–10) Tracking Tests. If they only pass one Test, they lose the trail in the Fabricator’s district. Otherwise the tracks lead them to the Old Sky-Mill.
Located in the center of the city, this area is not really a hill but just a place where the buildings are taller and stand on higher posts. It is also where the prince and anyone who is either important or rich reside. The hill is ringed by its own wooden palisade, mostly for keeping out the riff-raff, but also as an added line of defense against attack. This barrier is guarded at all times by the most well-trained and competent Plumes. Unless they have a very good reason, citizens and visitors are not allowed inside.
The Fabricator's District
This area is a vast collection of warehouses and factories, mostly specializing in harvesting the various species of swamp weeds and edible insects, rendering them down into clothing or food products. In fact, it looks little different from the rest of the city, except perhaps the buildings are a bit bigger and a little less ordered (if such a thing is possible). The most distinctive feature of this place is the smell, which makes the rest of the city seem fragrant by comparison. The first time someone enters this area, they must make a Routine (+20) Toughness Test (with bonuses for wearing filter plugs or similar equipment). Anyone who fails suffers a –5 penalty on any Weapon Skill or Ballistic Skill Test until they leave as they struggle with bouts of nausea.
People are not as inclined to speak in this district than the others. Residents seem more resistant to questioning and constantly mutter about the trials of war and too much work to do. However, if one were to succeed on an Inquiry or Intimidation Test, or give a local a bribe of 10 thrones, they could learn about a couple of people who have been seen coming and going late at night carrying bulky bundles. Their informant even goes so far as to point out their place of business.
The Corpse Farmers
The corpse farmers’ warehouse is a pitiful affair squashed between two larger buildings. It hangs dangerously close to the swamp and looks as if it might collapse into the water at any time. Its interior is little more than a single large dank room filled with stinking wrapped bundles (corpses rolled up in dried swamp weed) with a small raised office at one end.
The corpse farmers, Smeed and Smoot, are two locals who have discovered that there is a living to be had gathering up the dead of city and selling them. The Slaugth, with an insatiable appetite for the dead, struck up a kind of deal with Smeed and Smoot after they ran into them dumping bodies near the old mill. In exchange for the bodies, the Slaugth leave the corpse farmers any possessions taken from the corpses. This happy partnership has continued for several weeks so far.
Smeed and Smoot are not the bravest of souls, but if they are Surprised they probably fight, at least until wounded or if it is obvious that they are outnumbered. Smeed is a thin wizened old man with a nervous air, almost as if he was guilty of something, while Smoot is slightly fatter but no less suspicious looking.
Assuming that at least one of the corpse farmers is taken alive, they can be interrogated and will quickly admit to the body-farming business. Neither man can tell very specific details beyond that they take bodies to the old sky-mill and then leave them to be collected. When they return, the bodies are gone and clothing, weapons and money are left in their place.
Unknown to Smoot and Smeed, however, the Slaugth have been keeping an eye on them and have two of their pets hiding in the warehouse. Initially the aliens do not take part in any fight, watching and waiting to see what will happen. However, if either Smoot or Smeed are captured, the xenos attack, intent on killing everyone.
A search of the warehouse uncovers half a dozen hunting rifles, 30 bullets, two serviceable flak cloaks and a pile of bloodstained clothing and personal items. There are also 137 thrones.
The Old Sky-Mill
This is where the Slaugth have made their base of operations on Acreage. This ancient, imposing structure stands precariously on the northern edge of the city where it catches the fetid wind blowing in from the swamp. Surrounded by dilapidated and decaying hovels, most of which look abandoned, the mill towers nearly two hundred meters in the air, casting a long shadow across part of the city. It is an impressive engineering feat for such a backwater world, or at least it would be if it didn’t look like it was going to fall down at any moment. High above, slowly rotating sails crown the top of the structure, audible even at this distance with their wet creaking.
Numerous crumbling holes in the base of the structure, as well as several large doors and windows which were no doubt once used for loading and unloading goods, are all good ways to enter the building. On approach of the entrances, one can smell the unmistakable odor of decaying flesh, in abundance it would seem. If the Slaugth are expecting trouble, they retreat to the sail deck to lay an ambush, leaving the bottom floor empty except for bodies. Otherwise, they would be found feeding, accompanied by a loud, wet chewing noise, as if meat were being fed into a grinder. There are three Slaugth in total, though only one remains on the bottom floor at any given time; the other two stand on the sail deck as lookouts.
The bottom floor is a truly grisly sight. It is a single room roughly sixty meters in diameter and is filled knee-deep with rotting bodies, many of which have been dismembered and partially consumed. Amidst the carnage of slippery and rotting flesh, slimy wooden gears grind and squelch, attached to sails high above. This sight immediately requires anyone to sees it to make a Fear Test.
The Slaugth, if present, hides until a character draws near, at which point it tears itself free from the bloated remains like a mound of living maggots. This is enough to trigger another Fear Test (–20). The Slaugth strikes. If overwhelmed, it retreats up the stairs to the sail deck. It also calls two of its pets to cover its retreat; foul xenos beasts used to kill locals.
The Sail Deck
A rotten set of stairs climbs up along the inside of the tower wall. This sagging approach leads up to the sail deck at the top of the mill. The climb is alarming, with each step sagging under the weight and the boards are riddled with holes. Truly, though, the stairs are quite safe---at least as safe as the feudal architecture of Acreage can be.
After a bit of testing, anyone should be able to ascertain this fact. However, this won’t stop the stairs from groaning and creaking under their weight. Because the stairs are far from level, characters wishing to charge or run on them must succeed on an Agility Test or fall down. If they fail by 3 or more degrees, they topple back into the heaps of swollen and green flesh at the bottom. While this is enough to break the fall, the bodies, filled with gas, burst, forcing the character to pass a Toughness Test or take a –10 penalty to all Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill Tests for the rest of this encounter, from the stench.
The stairs ascend almost one-hundred and fifty meters, with a small landing (about two meters square) every thirty meters up. The walls are also lined with hoists and winches, though none look very serviceable or safe. In the center of the chamber are several huge rotating pillars (the crank shafts attached to the various sails) just out of reach of the stairs. High above in the gloom, the slanted wooden floor of the sail deck can be seen.
If the Slaugth are ready for their attackers, things get really nasty. There are at least two (three, if the one below escaped up top or they knew trouble was coming) currently on the sail deck and at least a dozen of their xenos pets. If aware of the attackers, they wait for them to ascend the stairs, watching their progress through knot-holes in the floor, and looking for just the right time to strike. When they are approaching the sail deck, having ascended about a hundred meters or so, the Slaugth will send a few xenos creatures down the stairs to attack, while the Slaugth give covering fire from holes in the sail deck floor, about fifty meters above.
The sail deck is a huge domed room that houses half a dozen slowly turning shafts and vast cogs connected to broad wind sails attached to the outside of the structure. Small windows also ring the chamber looking out over the city, the sea and the swamp. Like the room below, this chamber is filled with bodies, closely packed and sorted into piles (this is where the Slaugth bring their favorite morsels). Characters do not need to make a Fear Test upon entering this chamber; it is not so horrifying the second time. The presence of bodies restricts movement and vision in this chamber considerably, so it is difficult for more than two people to attack an opponent at once, and there is always an abundance of cover, even if it is “ripe” cover.
If there are any Slaugth alive after a few vicious rounds of fighting, they flee out of one of the room’s windows and climb down the side of the sky-mill or lower themselves down with the winch, possibly leading to a dramatic combat on the outside of the building, with the xeno-hunters ducking sails whilst trying to keep their footing. In any case, none of the Slaugth let themselves be taken alive, jumping to their deaths if need be and escaping if at all possible. Once all the Slaugth are all killed, the remaining xenos (if any) flee into the city, no doubt to cause more havoc later.
The Slaugth, if they manage to escape, will seek to exit the city, possibly through the swamps. This would make them very difficult to track down. Their xenos pets aren't likely as intelligent, and would run amuck through the streets. Given the current siege, this could cause quite a situation as the people panic; it could even lead to the fall and sacking of the city as the garrison panics.
Class: Melee (Primitive)
Bucklers are small shields used to attain some degree of protection without sacrificing mobility. The buckler’s small size makes it inadequate for protecting against primitive ranged weapons such as arrows or crossbow bolts. However, it is effective for deflecting blows from hand-to-hand weapons. Some bucklers have a large barbed spike or point mounted on the outside and so can also be used offensively.
On Acreage, buckler-style weapons have developed with small metal spikes protruding from the shield’s edge, transforming a generally protective item into a deadly weapon. Acreage bucklers have identical stats to normal bucklers but may also be thrown with a range of 8-metres.
Melee, 1d5–2(+SB), I, PEN 0, Balanced, Primitive, WT 1kg, Cost 30, Common
Class: Exotic (Lightning Chain)
Acreage is the birthplace of the lightning chain, though this strange weapon has now spread to other worlds. At a glance, it appears to be a length of spiked chain measuring about one to one and a half meters. Closer inspection reveals that the chain is fashioned from a unique alloy found only on Acreage. It somehow “stores” kinetic energy, which is released in the form of blue-colored energy sparks when the chain moves with any kind of sharp, excessive force. When properly used in combat, victims of a lightning chain attack not only receive dreadful lacerations and broken bones, but also suffer burns from the writhing energy fields that “spark” when the chain is in motion.
So dangerous are these weapons that not even the wielders are safe from the arcing energy. To avoid burns on the hands, lightning chain users wear thick gloves made from the tough hides of grox-like animals found on Acreage. The durable leather provides some insulation from the energy generated by the chain’s movements.
Exotic, 1d10+1(+SB), I, PEN 0, Flexible, Primitive, Shocking, Two-Handed, WT 4kg, Cost 100, Very Rare
Class: Exotic (Lightning Gauntlets)
Made from the same metal alloys as the Acreage lightning chain, the gauntlets are much rarer as they require far more skill to create. As the gauntlets cannot be swung as fast as the lightning chain, the kinetic effect is lessened. Still, being struck in the face by a lightning gauntlet is likely to do some serious damage or even kill the unfortunate on the end of the punch. A layer of the same hides used by lightning chain wielders can be found inside the gauntlets affording the same kind of protection.
Exotic, 1d10(+SB), I, PEN 0, Primitive, Shocking, WT 2kg, Cost 80, Scarce
Chainmail is a staple defense on many feudal worlds throughout the Imperium and some of the finest examples of chainmail in the Calixis sector is the work of the artisans of Acreage. Far finer and lighter than common mail and entirely more comfortable, silkmail (as it is known) is favored by the nobility and highly prized by off-world collectors.
Arms, Body, Legs, AP 3, WT 5kg, Cost 150, Rare
There are a number of polluted environments within the Calixis Sector where the very soil itself is both destructive and toxic. Whether one has to trudge within the salt-fens of Acreage, over the acid storm wastes of Grangold, or through one of the deadly slime jungles of Vaxanide, the journey will be a short one if the ground itself eats away a traveller’s footwear directly exposing them to their surrounding’s toxicity---a common and frequently deadly occurrence for the unprepared. The destitute that live within such places cope as best they can, whilst the wealthy few acquire slither boots.
Slither boots are highly advanced footwear, incorporating a variety of materials including ceramite-woven leather and a circuitry embedded inner frame. Slither boots are designed to withstand the most hostile of environments, releasing chemicals to shield the wearer from acidic and alkaline environments. Slither boots do not slip; regardless of how tractionless a surface may seem, small tendrils emerge from the soles of the boots to help compensate for the movements of their wearer.
Slither boots provide a +10 bonus to Agility Tests made to maintain footing in treacherous or slick conditions and provide 6 AP (Legs) versus corrosives.
Legs, AP 3, WT 6kg, Cost 500, Rare
Must be ingested in food or drink for it to take effect. Taken from the pollen and ground-down petals of maidensfoil, a common hedge plant found on the feudal world of Acreage, the plant is exported by enterprising traders and has many medicinal as well as nefarious uses.
Cost 200ea, Average