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Saturday 19 February 2022

Future War is Hell

Rogue Trooper
is a standalone supplement for Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD. Published by En Publishing it is based on the 2000 AD comic strip of the same name, set in the far future. Two great empires, the Greater Nordland Republic and the Southern Cross Confederacy constantly clash, in particular on Nu Earth. In the past fifty years, this has become a world war, the planet divided between the two factions, known as the Norts and the Southers, and turned in a nuclear, biological, and chemical ravaged wasteland. In order to break the stalemate, Milli-Com of the Southern Cross Confederacy develops elite clones known as G.I.s or Genetic Infantry. When they are deployed in the year ’86, most of the G.I.s are killed in the Quartz Zone Massacre. There would be only one survivor, Rogue, who accompanied by his former squad mates, Bagman, Gunnar, and Helm, downloaded onto biochips and slotted into his gear, would ultimately unmask the traitor responsible for the massacre. With obvious parallels between with the American Civil War, but also drawing on other modern conflicts, especially the First World War the Vietnam War, Rogue Trooper has been running as an ongoing if irregular series since 1981 and been developed into a board game from Games Workshop and a computer game. Like many series that appear in the pages of 2000 AD, there is an element of satire to many of the stories, though not as strong as that found within the Judge Dredd stories, and the humour in the stories veers towards the gallows. Rogue Trooper from En Publishing is the first roleplaying treatment of it and enables the players to take the roles of Genetic Infantry or ordinary conscripts and get shipped down to Nu Earth as part of the war effort. The blue-skinned G.I.s are designed to survive in the toxic landscape of Nu Earth. Anyone else will need to wear a chemsuit…

After an overview and introduction, the Rogue Trooper supplement begins with ‘Prior Service and Future Careers’, a guide to character types for the setting. Several options are given, most obviously G.I. Clones and Humans. The first of the others includes the Strigoi, the result of genetic manipulation by the Nordland Republic to create enhanced super soldiers, the strain for which escaped into broader Nort society, enhancing some, whilst others tend towards cruelty and murderous madness. Most carry a minor cosmetic mutation, but those suffering from severe mutations are hunted down by the Office of Genetic Purity. ‘Doll’ G.I. Clones are different to G.I. Clones and have to contend with Milli-Com’s sexist attitude and have only recently been assigned military missions. Blue Mooners are an early Souther genetic experiment, a hardy, short species typically used as cheap labour in mining operations, whilst some have joined travelling bands of entertainers. Semi-Mooners are the offspring of both Humans and Blue Mooners, whilst Sims are the result of another Nort genetic programme, this time creating a simian species typically used as trackers or expendable troops. Robots are also an option and are fully detailed in the Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD core rules, though The Robot Wars may also be of use. Each of these species comes with their own Exploits and skill choices as per the core rules.

Character creation in Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD involves a player selecting five Careers for his characters and Rogue Trooper includes new Origins, such as Military Brat, Orphan, Survivor, and War Droid, and a variety of Careers to choose from after the Origins. Most of these Careers are Military in nature, so Boot Camp, Fifth-Columnist, Officer, Snow Trooper, Space Marine, and more, but there is the odd Civilian and Criminal Careers too, like the Bounty Hunter and the Marauder. The Explosives Expert, Guerrilla, Medic, Priest, Prisoner, and others fall under the ‘varied’ category and can be civilian or military Careers. There are suggestions too on the Careers from Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD which can be used in Rogue Trooper. G.I. characters have their own Careers, starting with G.I. Cadet or G.I. ‘Doll’ Cadet and going on Milli-Com Advanced G.I. Programs such as Basic Mechanics, Combat Range, G.I. Officer Training, Martial Arts, and Trauma First Aid. Notably, the included ‘Rest And Recuperation’ Career enforces the sexist attitude of Milli-Com towards ‘Doll’ G.I. Clones and a gaming group may want to discuss whether it wants to include this aspect of their setting in their campaign.

As a military Science Fiction setting, Rogue Trooper comes with a lengthy equipment chapter which details the huge range of equipment seen in the comic series and fielded by the Norts and the Southers, and the others. The most notable of these are the G.I. rifle, G.I. helmet, and G.I. backpack used by Rogue himself as well as the Biochips—and related technologies—whose personality matrices can be used to store the personality of a biochipped individual. Little all of the equipment, weapons, and vehicles are illustrated, and whilst this is disappointing, obviously, both Game Master and players will need to refer to the comics to get an idea of what they look like—and that is no bad thing in itself. Plus, illustrating all of that would have greatly increased the size of the book.

Where Rogue Trooper begins to feel a little underwritten is in its description of Nu Earth. From the Ab-Yss crevasses caused by subterranean atomic-biological weaponry, Acid Pools, and Chem-Jungles to Pueblo Pyramids, Prisoner of War Camps, and Refugee Camps, the supplement has to cover a lot, but does not always do so in detail. The degree of detail here depends upon the level of detail in the source material, and some entries are accompanied by suggestions as to how the Game Master might use them in play, sometimes more than the actual description. The same applies to specific locations, whether on Nu Earth or beyond, thus Cinnabar ‘The City of Dreams’ is described in some detail, whilst Fort Ant, a Southern outpost which suffered an outbreak of a plague is accorded a single sentence (but actually accompanied by a whole paragraph on how to use it in play). In general, the specific locations are given more attention then the generic, and the same applies to the locations beyond Nu Earth too. There is a timeline here as well, and it is surprising just how short this. Again, that is down to the source material rather than the authors.

In terms of campaign, Rogue Trooper understandably focuses on military campaigns and possible variants. Primarily this is as G.I. Clones, and this has several advantages. One is that such Player Characters can fight unencumbered by armour—unlike other forces on Nu Earth, and the capacity to download a Player Character’s to a Biochip provides a form of immortality. A scenario or even a small campaign could be run with several Player Characters actually surviving as Biochips, though this does have it limitations in terms of character agency. This is supported by Exploits such as ‘All Chip Together’ which enables a G.I. and his Chipped buddies to share LUC pools, and particular features of the backpack, helmet, and rifle which come into play when a Biochip with a personality is slotted into it. Also discussed is how to involve Nort characters in a campaign as Player Characters and the possibility of taking a campaign of Nu Earth or even into other dimensions, such as a crossover with Strontium Dog. All of this is supported by tables for generating military missions, encounters on and off Nu Earth, and rules for asphyxiation—the atmosphere of Nu Earth being toxic—and Nu Earth madness, the long-term reaction to serving on the hellhole that is Nu Earth.

Rogue Trooper comes with not only a short campaign, but two scenarios and a set of mission dossiers. ‘All Hell On The Dix-I Front’ is a detailed campaign outline based on the Rogue Trooper story of the same name and can be played with or without Rogue’s involvement. Over the course of its twelve episodes, the Player Characters attempt to prevent and then survive a surprise attack on the city of Nu-Atlanta by Nort forces. As with other supplements for Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD, such as The Robot Wars or Lunar-1, each episode includes a synopsis of the actual story for the comic and then several suggestions as to how to run for the Player Characters. The mission dossiers several detailed outlines, as well as a full scenario, ‘The Perils of Bucky Aurora’ suitable for beginning Player Characters, who are tasked with rescuing an actor who is currently starring in a new and reimagined series based on a beloved space opera video series and who has been kidnapped. Options are included for running it with different groups and set-ups, such as bounty hunters, and the Game Master should definitely let the Player Characters wonder if the actor, Rab Custer, has actually been kidnapped or this is just a new episode being staged for his benefit… The two mission dossiers set off Nu Earth are also fairly detailed. ‘Spy In The Citadel’ is actually based on The 86ers comic strip, which though set in the same universe, is not about Rogue, and involves the Norts rather than the Southers. The mission involves extracting a spy from a Souther space station and requires fewer combat skills than other missions. The set-up, especially using Nort Player Characters, makes this scenario more difficult to use than others, but the Game Master could adapt it if need be. The other scenario, ‘Hunted By Nu-Oktober’, similarly involves fewer combat and more technical skills as the Player Characters are the crew or passengers aboard a Souther scoutship which is targeted by a Nort warship. This has the tension and claustrophobia of a submarine film and should make for a welcome change of pace. Lastly, Rogue Trooper comes with write-ups of the main characters from the comic series. Not just Rogue and his Biochip buddies, but also Brass and Bland, the battlefield scavengers, Major Magnam, the G.I. Officer who hunts Rogue, the Traitor General, and more, whilst an appendix has a glossary of the various terms from the comic.

Physically, Rogue Trooper is decently presented. It uses a lot of artwork from the comic and is in general, an easy book to read. In places it feels underwritten, but that is due to the lack of source material more than anything else. It does feel as if more of the background should have been upfront rather than necessarily leaping straight in with characters and careers, and so on, just to give a little more context for the reader.

Rogue Trooper provides everything that a gaming group would want to play a campaign set in the milieu of the 2000 AD comic strip. From Careers and Exploits to Allies and Enemies via details of both equipment and Nu Earth plus scenarios, Rogue Trooper is a comprehensive guide to taking your players and their characters to war on Nu Earth.


  1. I ended up having a look at this on DriveThru due to your review (thank you!) - it looks like the publisher only has the 2000ad license till the end of March (after which I think it'll all be pulled?) Anyway as a result the physical books are all at half price on the publishers website and all of the rule & adventure books are on a bundle of Holding for the next 15 days

  2. And currently on Bundle of holding https://bundleofholding.com/presents/2000AD