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Extent of Rogue Trader Authority


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It depends on the Chapter, though. Even the Imperial Fists, a fairly traditionalist Chapter, have been shown operating as a bodyguard for an envoy sent to treat with the Tau. Outside of fanatics like the Black Templars, Marines don't necessarily operate on the logic of "kill every single xenos as soon as you see it".

That kind of thing would have been an offical Imperial diplomat though via the Imperial Household/ High Lords council. IF's are going to behave, though probably very twitchy. Even an Inquisitor would have less diplomatic authority in dealing with xenos diplomaticly than a ratified Terran envoy.

 

+EDIT+

 

This topic was a tangent discussion in the topic about how Space Marine Chapters prepare their battle-brothers for service with Rogue Traders that have xenos among their crew here. This topic deserves full discussion, but it's about the Rogue Traders and not the Space Marines, so I've placed it here in the forum where we discuss Rogue Traders.

Edited by Brother Tyler
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This seems to have become a he said she said, with each of us viewing it through our personal lens. Unless someone else has quotable material from canon resources, this discussion is just going to run in circles. We can thank GW for being very purposefully unspecific and contrary within their own universe for 30 years ... so as to allow each of us to use our imaginations and enjoy said universe with almost unlimited scope.
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It depends on the Chapter, though. Even the Imperial Fists, a fairly traditionalist Chapter, have been shown operating as a bodyguard for an envoy sent to treat with the Tau. Outside of fanatics like the Black Templars, Marines don't necessarily operate on the logic of "kill every single xenos as soon as you see it".

That kind of thing would have been an offical Imperial diplomat though via the Imperial Household/ High Lords council. IF's are going to behave, though probably very twitchy. Even an Inquisitor would have less diplomatic authority in dealing with xenos diplomaticly than a ratified Terran envoy.

 

 

That's literally what Rogue Traders are though. They're Imperial agents given holy mandate by the High Lords of Terra to work beyond the borders of the Imperium to expand said borders. Outside the Imperium, they have the authority of the Emperor Himself. They're not just "strange dude with a ship trading with xenos".

 

For a source, see the Rogue Trader rpg.

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It depends on the Chapter, though. Even the Imperial Fists, a fairly traditionalist Chapter, have been shown operating as a bodyguard for an envoy sent to treat with the Tau. Outside of fanatics like the Black Templars, Marines don't necessarily operate on the logic of "kill every single xenos as soon as you see it".

 

That kind of thing would have been an offical Imperial diplomat though via the Imperial Household/ High Lords council. IF's are going to behave, though probably very twitchy. Even an Inquisitor would have less diplomatic authority in dealing with xenos diplomaticly than a ratified Terran envoy.

 

That's literally what Rogue Traders are though. They're Imperial agents given holy mandate by the High Lords of Terra to work beyond the borders of the Imperium to expand said borders. Outside the Imperium, they have the authority of the Emperor Himself. They're not just "strange dude with a ship trading with xenos".

 

For a source, see the Rogue Trader rpg.

They are the strange dudes making deals with xenos though and can line their own pockets in doing so. OG rouge traders were Terrans given a privateer style contract from the Emperor or if they refused they got a visit from the custodes due to their precivdd threat to the Emperor's rule. They are not exactly staunch Imperials. The royal household and high lords would have to ratify anything of diplomatic importance, they dont have any obligation to honour any arrangements RT's make independently on their own without instruction.

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They are the strange dudes making deals with xenos though and can line their own pockets in doing so. OG rouge traders were Terrans given a privateer style contract from the Emperor or if they refused they got a visit from the custodes due to their precivdd threat to the Emperor's rule. They are not exactly staunch Imperials. The royal household and high lords would have to ratify anything of diplomatic importance, they dont have any obligation to honour any arrangements RT's make independently on their own without instruction.

 

 

Do you have a source for any of that? Given the speed of Imperial bureaucracy, do you really think everything relating to the Imperium done by any Rogue Trader needs to be ratified by the High Lords? Literally nothing would ever get done if that were the case. Same goes with Rogue Traders having to receive instruction. Even before the Great Rift, receiving notifications from the High Lords would have taken literally decades to go through the proper channels. There is nothing in fluff showing that this is how Rogue Traders operate.

 

Again, until you have actual sources backing it up, Rogue Traders are empowered with the authority of the Emperor Himself when operating outside Imperial borders. They are explicitly stated as having an authority equal to Chapter Masters and Inquisitors. Can they get rich in doing so? Sure. So can Inquisitors, Planetary Governors, or any other high-level Imperial positions.

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They are the strange dudes making deals with xenos though and can line their own pockets in doing so. OG rouge traders were Terrans given a privateer style contract from the Emperor or if they refused they got a visit from the custodes due to their precivdd threat to the Emperor's rule. They are not exactly staunch Imperials. The royal household and high lords would have to ratify anything of diplomatic importance, they dont have any obligation to honour any arrangements RT's make independently on their own without instruction.

 

 

Do you have a source for any of that? Given the speed of Imperial bureaucracy, do you really think everything relating to the Imperium done by any Rogue Trader needs to be ratified by the High Lords? Literally nothing would ever get done if that were the case. Same goes with Rogue Traders having to receive instruction. Even before the Great Rift, receiving notifications from the High Lords would have taken literally decades to go through the proper channels. There is nothing in fluff showing that this is how Rogue Traders operate.

 

Again, until you have actual sources backing it up, Rogue Traders are empowered with the authority of the Emperor Himself when operating outside Imperial borders. They are explicitly stated as having an authority equal to Chapter Masters and Inquisitors. Can they get rich in doing so? Sure. So can Inquisitors, Planetary Governors, or any other high-level Imperial positions.

So one deal rouge trader Bob the xenophile makes with a farseer from a craftworld for a ceasefire without being approved by the council of terra, you think is going to be honoured by the entire Imperium, inquisition etc? Why have the council bother dictating diplomacy when RT Bob and friends can just do it ? Also my source for OG RT's being of questionable loyalty is in the FW HH black books. Any inquisitor or chapter master could destroy a rouge trader dynasty for proven xenos collaborations, space marine chapters and the inquisition also have "authority of the Emperor himself", which dose not absolve or shield them from judgement from their peers or other organizations.

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So one deal rouge trader Bob the xenophile makes with a farseer from a craftworld for a ceasefire without being approved by the council of terra, you think is going to be honoured by the entire Imperium, inquisition etc? Why have the council bother dictating diplomacy when RT Bob and friends can just do it ? Also my source for OG RT's being of questionable loyalty is in the FW HH black books. Any inquisitor or chapter master could destroy a rouge trader dynasty for proven xenos collaborations, space marine chapters and the inquisition also have "authority of the Emperor himself", which dose not absolve or shield them from judgement from their peers or other organizations.

 

 

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"It's determents like us what built the British Empire!"

 

When looking at the lore IMHO the folks at GW and FFG were definitely thinking of the British Empire and how it was created. With the Rogue Traders in the place of organizations like the British East India Company. Which did indeed have a royal charter for trade on the Indian sub-continent; and was anything but unscrupulous an unethical in it's dealings with either Indian Princes or peasantry. Such that it resulted in the Sepoy Rebellion; which ended the company's holding in India, but added India to the British Empire.

 

And really, if you were a scandalous enough to say, start a war over the trade in opium; you might just give the British Empire a colony like Hong Kong?  Which wouldn't result in you being taken prisoner by Her Majesty's magistrate, but perhaps an OBE, if not an outright knighthood?

 

Hell, if  you added another colony to the empire, you might even get it named after you. After all Cecil Rhodes got naming rights for Rhodesia.

 

So whatever nefarious, underhanded, crooked, or even heretical deal a Rogue Trader makes with a xenos; if it results in one or more planetary systems being added to the Imperium of Man.

 

Well...

 

"Rule Imperium!

The Imperium rule the void

Mankind never, never, never shall be slaves!"

 

 

Suspicious Blue Mind

 

"Hat's On!" from The Man Who Would Be King

Rule Britannia

Edited by Suspicious Blue Mind
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They are the strange dudes making deals with xenos though and can line their own pockets in doing so. OG rouge traders were Terrans given a privateer style contract from the Emperor or if they refused they got a visit from the custodes due to their precivdd threat to the Emperor's rule. They are not exactly staunch Imperials. The royal household and high lords would have to ratify anything of diplomatic importance, they dont have any obligation to honour any arrangements RT's make independently on their own without instruction.

 

Do you have a source for any of that? Given the speed of Imperial bureaucracy, do you really think everything relating to the Imperium done by any Rogue Trader needs to be ratified by the High Lords? Literally nothing would ever get done if that were the case. Same goes with Rogue Traders having to receive instruction. Even before the Great Rift, receiving notifications from the High Lords would have taken literally decades to go through the proper channels. There is nothing in fluff showing that this is how Rogue Traders operate.

 

Again, until you have actual sources backing it up, Rogue Traders are empowered with the authority of the Emperor Himself when operating outside Imperial borders. They are explicitly stated as having an authority equal to Chapter Masters and Inquisitors. Can they get rich in doing so? Sure. So can Inquisitors, Planetary Governors, or any other high-level Imperial positions.

So one deal rouge trader Bob the xenophile makes with a farseer from a craftworld for a ceasefire without being approved by the council of terra, you think is going to be honoured by the entire Imperium, inquisition etc? Why have the council bother dictating diplomacy when RT Bob and friends can just do it ? Also my source for OG RT's being of questionable loyalty is in the FW HH black books. Any inquisitor or chapter master could destroy a rouge trader dynasty for proven xenos collaborations, space marine chapters and the inquisition also have "authority of the Emperor himself", which dose not absolve or shield them from judgement from their peers or other organizations.

Ok... firstly, that’s Heresy-era, not current. Secondly, what’s your point? You think every decision made by every Inquisitor/Chapter Master/Archmagos/planetary Governor is endorsed by the Council of Terra? No. That’s never been how anything works, so please stop acting like it has been. The Coucil doesn’t dictate diplomacy. They only deal in the most macro of terms. What, you think they’re going to rubber-stamp every potential request? “Wait guys, the Tau ambassador rejected that offer, better send work back to Terra, strap in for another 15 years of waiting for a response!”

 

Rogue Traders have absolute authority outside the Imperium’s borders, but the whole point about the Imperium is just about every major organization has absolute authority within their domains and oversees others. That’s how we got the Badab War. Planetary Governors and Chapter Masters arguing about whose absolute power was better.

 

Could an Ordo Xenos Inquisitor declare a Rogue Trader heretical for their dealings? Sure. Outside the Imperium, that Rogue Trader also has a fleet though, and people go missing all the time, and a bunch of other Rogue Traders probably won’t take kindly to Inquisitors trespassing on their absolute authority.

 

I’ve never said they’re immune. They have the authority of the Emperor when carrying out their duties. So do Inquisitors, Chapter Masters, Planetary Governors, Arbites Marshalls, the list goes on. If a Rogue Trader decides that dealing with Xenos is part of their duties, which their position explicitly exists to do so, then they’re on pretty firm legal standing. Do they get to dictate Imperium-wide policy? No. Like all major powers in the Imperium their authority lasts as long as until someone else with authority says no. They can certainly declare minor races a protectorate, or invoke limited alliances and trade deals. If another group comes along and breaks that, they’re probably equally as legally-invested to destroy the Xenos, and so the balance of power in the Imperium spins on.

 

Or do you assume that every Inquisitor committing Exterminatus needs the High Lords to ratify each of their major decisions too?

 

Again, the whole point of Rogue Traders is to deal with xenos to get the most benefit for the Imperium.

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When looking at the lore IMHO the folks at GW and FFG were definitely thinking of the British Empire and how it was created. With the Rogue Traders in the place of organizations like the British East India Company. Which did indeed have a royal charter for trade on the Indian sub-continent; and was anything but unscrupulous an unethical in it's dealings with either Indian Princes or peasantry. Such that it resulted in the Sepoy Rebellion; which ended the company's holding in India, but added India to the British Empire.

 

And really, if you were a scandalous enough to say, start a war over the trade in opium; you might just give the British Empire a colony like Hong Kong?  Which wouldn't result in you being taken prisoner by Her Majesty's magistrate, but perhaps an OBE, if not an outright knighthood?

 

I'm from Hong Kong.  I find myself completely agreeing with the above.  You steal an apple, you're a thief.  You steal a country, you're a hero.

 

I've also been playing since 1st ed, when the game was actually called Wh40k: ROGUE TRADER.  I never fully grasped the idea of Rogue Trader until you used this historical analogy.  Now I totally get this on a visceral level.  

 

 

+++++

 

 

Beyond that, I've been following this thread.  I love the idea on many levels.

 

Lore-wise, the tearing of the Great Rift leading to this era of the Dark Imperium makes these alliances-out-of-necessity.  We've seen entire Chapters cut off by warpstorms, and they might get a Torchbearer ship, but their only ongoing supply line might depend on daring Rogue Traders.  These Astartes probably would rather not deal with them, but the alternative is to let their Chapter starve from lack of resources.  (And this is all recent lore, I'm not even reaching back to 1st ed Wh40k: Rogue Trader.)

 

Narrative-wise, an Astartes and a Rogue Trader is like the ultimate odd couple/buddy cop dynamic.  Their shared story writes itself, I can totally imagine this exchange:

 

"We are Astartes, Captain.  We are the Emperor's angels of death.  We will not...cannot compromise."

 

"I'm not asking you to compromise.  I'm asking you to negotiate."

 

But within this relationship, I think there are a number of issues any Rogue Trader savvy enough to manage a partnership with Astartes would know to do.  The key litmus test of those would almost certainly deal with Xenos, especially as part of her crew.  So I agree with what was already said, but I'm actually seeing the issue from the Rogue Trader's side instead of the Astartes'.

 

The most obvious and probably best answer a Rogue Trader could give on Xenos would be...no answer.  She wouldn't even mention it, never let the Xenos be seen, never let them be known by the Astartes.  Rogue Traders, by their nature, know how to keep secrets; there are always (at least) 2 sets of books.  If pressed, she probably would have a carefully rehearsed answer with just the right amount of indignation, "If you're implying I have had dealings with Xenos, Astartes...of course I've had to trade with filthy aliens, in my role in the Emperor's grand design.  This is my burden."  She would wisely omit the detail where sometimes these deals are not for products but for services, and leave out the part that one or more such Xenos may be providing such services on a strictly temporary, contingent, contracted basis aboard her vessel right now.

 

For if there's a running trope in the grimdark far future, it's that ignorance isn't so much a defense as it is a shield that the Imperium has always leaned on.

 

Finally, I know this was a lore-related question, but to give a gameplay-wise perspective, this might be a great idea to use the Inquisition mini-dex, having a Rogue Trader figure represented by the one Inquisitor model you're allowed to bring without breaking Battle Doctrines.  I'm seriously thinking of what to convert now.

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My main point is a RT could not set a universal diplomatic action that applies to the entire Imperium and is binding without the High Lords saying so. Also RT origions still relevent because many RT's will always put their own intrests above the Imprrium if they can get away with it. Plus they would also likely know why they were asked to be RT in the first place for old dynasties.

 

Another example, good luck telling the RG they can't attack Tau because RT Steve made an alliance with the Septs, which was not ok'd or put into an offical edict by the Council of Terra.

Edited by MegaVolt87
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Going by the RPGs, Rogue Traders are still very much bound by Imperial Law whilst they're within the Imperium. Out on the frontier it's fair game. They absolutely would have (generally, anyway) great influence to swing around, but on paper they're still expected to follow it. I can't remember which book it is, but one of the supplements makes reference to having enemies within the Inquisition. Short of extremely damning proof - that would 'justify' their rivals having an excuse to go after them - an Inquisitor who wished to act against a Rogue Trader's crimes, perceived or otherwise, has pretty much no mandate on the frontier... however, as soon as that Rogue Trader returns to Imperial space, they can pounce if they actively break the Lex Imperialis whilst there.

Edited by Lord Marshal
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The potential of new worlds, alien civilisations and unimaginable resources has stimulated the growth of free-ranging imperial agents known as Rogue Traders. Licensed and equipped by the priesthood, the Rogue Trader is free to explore the far regions of the galaxy, the areas where the Astronomican does not reach, and those areas within its range as yet unvisisted. Rogue Traders have even attempted to cross the voids of inter-galactic space, but over such distances even the Astropaths' powers of communication are useless, and whether such missions have succeeded is unknown. Operating in isolation from the central authority of the Imperium, the Rogue Trader must decide how to react to alien cultures, new discoveries and threats. If he judges a race to be potentially dangerous he may attempt to destroy it, or gather as much information about it as he can so that others may do so. If he decides a race may be of use to humanity he may attempt to make contact and establish relations. If merely technologically or minerally rich, a planet may be plundered, and the Rogue Trader will return to Earth laden with the treasure of space; alien artifacts, rare and precious minerals and undreamed of technology.

The bearer of a sacred Warrant that empowers him to journey beyond the boundaries of the Imperium to trade, explore, and make war in the God-Emperor's name, a Rogue Trader is a unique figure in the grim darkness of the Imperium. He may be a newly entitled power on the rise or hail from a long lineage of nobles and voidfarers, but all bear their titles with pride, striking out into the unknown in search of fortune and glory. A Rogue Trader is a power unto himself in the dark voids, master of all he surveys at least as far as his force of arms and sharpness of wits can press the claim. A Rogue Trader can be many things but whether standing as diplomat before a planetary rule, cutting a shadowed deal in a station undercity, bellowing orders amidst an armed host set upon plunder, or striding the bridge of a mighty starship, they remain one thing above all - free.

...From the exploration of uncharted planets to wiping the xenos creatures from their surface to negotiating trade agreements with the survivors, Explorers will need every ounce of their abilities to emerge victorious and do honour to the family name...

 

[Note that the term "Explorers" is used in the Rogue Trader RPG to refer to all of the players, working under the control and authority of the Rogue Trader.]

I think that the reality is a middle ground between the two arguments that have been presented in replies so far.

 

There are times when a Rogue Trader will negotiate some relationship with a xenos species, sometimes after wiping out some segment of the population. Those times will be based on a perception that the species doesn't pose a threat to the Imperium. The negotiated relationship, however, is nothing more than a temporary cease-fire (between the forces under the Rogue Trader's command and the xenos) and will eventually reach the actual government of the Imperium (the High Lords and the Senatorum Imperialis) for further decision. Sometimes the Imperium's power structure ratifies whatever relationship the Rogue Trader may have negotiated with the xenos species, whether in full or a modification thereof. Sometimes the Imperium's power structure will veto the negotiation and a military force will be sent to deal with the xenos species. In addition, with the vastness of the Imperium and the difficulties of effective and efficient command and control, there are times when other elements of the Imperium will take matters into their own hands. The example that MegaVolt87 provided - that of a Raven Guard force deciding to attack a xenos species despite some treaty previously negotiated by a Rogue Trader - is accurate enough. However, it misses the point that it is very likely that the Raven Guard were made aware of the xenos as a result of the Rogue Trader's negotiations and subsequent communications. The most likely scenarios are that the Rogue Trader's "peace" was deliberately temporary and the Raven Guard arrived in force to deal with a threat that the Rogue Trader didn't have sufficient military power to deal with. Alternately, the Imperium's power structure decided that the threat posed by the xenos was too great (despite the recommendations of the Rogue Trader) and the Raven Guard were tasked with finishing the job. There are plenty of other scenarios.

 

In a way, Rogue Traders are like Peachy and Danny, but I think they are more like the explorers and conquistadors, but applying the concepts of exploring (and conquering) the New World to the vastness of the galaxy (and beyond).

 

 

 

 

 

Note that this topic was originally a tangent discussion in another discussion (in the Space Marines forum) about how Space Marine Chapters prepare their battle-brothers for service with Rogue Traders that have xenos among their crews. I've split it and moved it here because the discussion is worthwhile, but shouldn't be sidetracking another discussion.

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Rogue traders being a great way to get rid of ambitious or dangerous high lords and the like goes right back to the OG Rogue trader rulebook. I always saw them as a lot like Inquisitors in a way (In MO if not purpose) with some operating one ship and a tight knit team whilst others operate fleets, armies, even whole dynasties and mini empires. 

As for xenos, the British East India company is spot on but i think it might be a bit more xenophobic than them, the reason Rogue traders do the xenos trade is exactly so its at a remove from the official Imperium for deniability. Imperial Policy is always to exterminate xenos and seize their planets but on a practical level Rogue traders let you deal with some differently. Or at least build some trust and scout the ground a bit first ;) 

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Rogue Traders work a lot like the East India Trading Company or the Hudsons Bay Company historically did. They are chartered to conduct commerce, establish trade, negotiate peace, and declare war, with full authority of the Empire/Imperium at large, since they are ostensibly working to benefit the imperium at large, they also have tacit backing from the Imperium in terms of requesting military backing if they are influential enough. 

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My main point is a RT could not set a universal diplomatic action that applies to the entire Imperium and is binding without the High Lords saying so. Also RT origions still relevent because many RT's will always put their own intrests above the Imprrium if they can get away with it. Plus they would also likely know why they were asked to be RT in the first place for old dynasties.

 

Another example, good luck telling the RG they can't attack Tau because RT Steve made an alliance with the Septs, which was not ok'd or put into an offical edict by the Council of Terra.

 

And again, never said they could. Rogue Traders have universal authority to deal with the alien, and Astartes have universal authority to prosecute the foes of the Emperor, which includes the alien. Rogue Traders can trade as they see fit, I never said they could organize Imperium-wide peace-treaties with major Imperial foes.

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