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Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader dev trained team with TTRPGs

Developer Owlcat Games is releasing tales from the team’s pen and paper 40k RPG campaigns - executive producer Anatoly Shestov explains how crucial they were.

Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader CRPG devs played TTRPGs to prepare - a Rogue Trader in opulent robes stands on the bridge of his starship, flanked by advisers and aides.

Owlcat Games, creator of the upcoming Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader CRPG, is sharing stories via Twitter of tabletop RPG campaigns staff in the studio ran while working on the game. Earlier this year Wargamer spoke to executive producer Anatoly Shestov and learnt just how important classic 40k RPGs like Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader were to development.

“As hardcore Warhammer 40k fans, the core of the creative team that pitched [Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader] internally has been playing pen and paper Rogue Trader for several years – the tabletop RPG from Fantasy Flight Games”, Shestov says. “We are huge fans of all their Warhammer 40k RPGs – we played Dark Crusade, we played all the supplements that were published, but as a core we always preferred Rogue Trader”.

Shestov says that this love of the tabletop game is “why we pitched Rogue Trader specifically – we discussed with Games Workshop that we wanted to do Rogue Trader and not any other line”.

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The team incorporated the pen and paper RPG into the videogame’s development process. “When we started development, we made part of the working process – inside work hours – time for people to play pen and paper RPGs so they can perceive different sides of the mechanics, aesthetics, to feel what it’s like to interact with each other and the world of the Koronus expanse and the Rogue Traders there”.

Owlcat is now releasing stories from those tabletop campaigns via its Twitter account. On Thursday it shared a tale from Brand Manager Alexander Evmenchikov, about a Dark Heresy party narrowly avoiding total wipeout caused by a daemonic invasion and one character’s ill-timed panic attack. Shestov says that all the team leaders ran games for about a year and a half, for “three to five hours every week depending on teams”.

Shestov says it was an incredibly effective way to introduce team members to the intricacies of the Imperium of Man and the many Warhammer 40k factions. “You can’t make precise and lengthy specifications for every small bit of the game, you need to believe in your colleagues, you need to delegate things to them. And the only way to ensure that process works is to have people whom you can trust as professionals – we’ve got an amazing team, they are brilliant – and you need for them to feel the setting. And I don’t know a better way to do it than playing pen and paper RPGs”.

While some producers might wince at the idea of three hour freeform gaming sessions to communicate “vibes” to a team, Shestov says it put leaders on the spot to communicate the most exciting and vibrant parts of the setting: “When they ask you to explain a cogitator, or the cog symbol of the Adeptus Mechanicus, or the bolter, either you’re respecting their time and you try to tell them something that sparks this interest inside them, to be with you in in the process, or you’re just having a bad time”.

The Rogue Trader release date is December 7 on PC. Owlcat Games has previously developed the Pathfinder CRPGs Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous: those games had rocky launches, something we discussed with Shestov in an earlier interview. Our Rogue Trader alpha impressions found the game was already in a great state, and a recent interview with narrative lead Olga Kellner left us confident that Rogue Trader gets 40k factions right.