The Foris Cluster – A Setting for Deathwatch

Foris ClusterIn a remote cluster of systems cut off from the Imperium, a Deathwatch Killteam becomes stranded. Without command, backup or support, they find themselves in a melting pot of political turmoil, xenos incursions and the mystery of age-old technology. A plethora of tasks awaits the Space Marines, some to be resolved with bolter and chainsword, others requiring the heavy impact of well-placed words.

The Past of the Foris Cluster
The Foris Cluster has always been a remote spot, in fact, „Foris“ is High Gothic for „remote“. This remoteness not only stems from the location of the Foris Cluster in the outer eastern arm of the galaxy, but also from the fact that there is – or at least was – only one stable but slow warp route to the constellation.

About 700 years ago, a severe warp storm swept across this one route and cut it off. The storm came as a surprise and all contact was lost without warning. It took the Imperium some time to notice, then some time again to check into the loss of connection and when all attempts to reach the Foris Cluster failed, the area was declared lost and soon forgotten.

For the people in the Foris Cluster, things were far more complicated. The warp storm did not hit the planets of the constellation itself, but the loss of contact was devastating in multiple ways. The Exkommunio, as the event was called, led to a loss of supplies and guidance. An ongoing war against an Ork infestation on Mora had to be called off and the planet was blockaded.

But the Cluster was not only threatened by the enemy without, but also from within. When the Ecclesiarchy used the events as pretext to challenge the local nobles, the resulting political turmoil severely disrupted the Imperial order. Not only was unrest provoked on the planets themselves, but also disobedience and confrontation between the noble families throughout the cluster became rampant. Finally, the Inquisition stepped in, subduing the Ecclesiarchy and forcing the noble families into making substantial concessions, effectively making the Inquisition a rivalling power.

While open conflict between the various pillars of Imperial power was abated, the unity of the cluster was permanently gone. With the calls of the minor systems in the cluster being ignored for decades and centuries while the higher nobles in the Troika systems, the Ecclesiarchy and the Inquisition were caught up in their powerplays, a political rift was only a question of time. The Foris Heresy saw a third of the cluster renouncing the established order and seeking a fate of its own.

With the unity of Mankind shattered, the xenos threat resurged. The blockade of Mora faltered, allowing the Orks to spread beyond the planet. Nearly unnoticed, the Tau have established a bridgehead and begun to turn disgruntled nobles to their cause. And on the brink of the cluster, the Tyranids raise their ugly heads.

Additionally, the presence of technological artifacts from the Dark Age of Technology – some of them lying dormant, some of them knowingly or unknowingly utilised – might be boon or bane for those getting involved with them.

Introducing the Killteam
The Killteam is dropped into this volatile situation, left on its own without backup for some time to come. A warp accident or a deep-space reconnaissance mission following up on rumors of the rediscovery of the Foris Cluster might lead the Killteam to Foris Servus, where it will find a space surveillance array and an abandoned watch fortress.

The still-functional servitors and machine spirits of the watch fortress may provide information about the political situation in the cluster, the Ork Waaagh! and a Tau fleet arriving some time ago, but are ignorant of the Tyranid presence on the fringes of the cluster. It is suggested to use our houserules on Mission Objectives and Requisistion for Killteams without supervision.

Even if in your entry scenario the Space Marines are not completely cut off, waiting for reinforcements is clearly not an option, action has to be taken immediately…

Foris Dominus and Foris Servus – The Pillars of the Cluster

Foris Dominus is a dying superstar surrounded by a dense cloud of debris sucked in or created when surrounding objects were destroyed. The superstar would normally be blindingly bright even lightyears away, but due to its cloud it creates only a simmering shine on the night skies of surrounding systems. The ultra-heavy object defines the Foris Cluster, as it forms the gravitational centre around which all stars of the cluster slowly rotate.

Foris Servus has no true planets and its brown dwarf star is nigh-invisible even from nearby systems. Two features make Foris Servus vital for the sector and for the Deathwatch: First, the only warp route known to mankind connecting to the Foris Cluster enters at Foris Servus. Second, one of the larger pieces of space debris in the Foris Servus system houses a large astrometric installation said to be a relic of the Dark Age of Technology. Originally designed to observe the superstar, it has been tuned by the Adeptus Mechanicus to now scan the whole cluster and surrounding space and also houses the local watch fortress.

The Troika Systems – Capital of the Foris Cluster
The Troika Systems are a group of three star systems circling a gravitational anomaly. The systems are less than a lightyear apart from each other and enveloped by a warp sink allowing nearly instant travel between them, effectively creating a super-system. There are a total of five habitable worlds within the three systems, Beatrice and Tacoma circling Troika A, Gallon circling Troika B and Myriad circling Troika C. Virgo, the fifth one is circling the gravitational anomaly.

Beatrice (Feudal World / Pleasure World) is the capital world of the Foris Cluster and covered by large palaces, surrounded by settlements housing staff, servants and bondsmen, surrounded again by even larger lands belonging to the noble houses. Beatrice was originally a typical Feudal World, but after the loss of Priscilla (see The Ork Waaagh!), it has taken on many aspects of a Pleasure World. The only settlement approaching a city is the Imperial Palace and its attached buildings and housing, from where the cluster is administrated.

Gallon (Resource World / Prison World) is a world extremely rich in resources and one of the reasons the Troika Systems and the Foris Cluster were originally settled. Despite centuries of exploitation, Gallon is still providing raw materials for most of the industry in nearby systems. The population of Gallon consists primarily of prisoners, as living conditions on the heaps of rubble left over after the excavations are not even considered acceptable by the poorest of the Foris Cluster.

Myriad (Hive World) is one of two Hive Worlds in the Troika Systems. What makes Myriad special is the role as space wharf it took over after the Exkommunio. While capable of producing only small vessels, it is nonetheless one of the most vital worlds of the constellation. A constant stream of commercial craft travels between Gallon and Myriad, carrying the needed raw materials, but also sneaking contraband and fugitives between these worlds.

Tacoma (Hive World) is the second Hive World in the Troika Systems, featuring most of the consumer goods production. Tacoma is basically a Hive World like any other and primarily used as a recruiting ground for menial workers for the factories and troopers for the loyalist armies, acolytes for the remnants of the Ecclesiarchy and enforcers for the Inquisition. Tacoma is also the main hub of organized crime in the Foris Cluster and with the many shortages after the Exkommunio the controllers of the black market are well-connected even to the higher nobility.

Virgo (Agri World) is the number one supplier of food to the whole Foris Cluster. With three comparably close stars shining on the world, it offers regular harvests. The whole planetary industry has been aimed at producing maximum yield and so far, Virgo delivers. Unknown to all but the Adeptus Mechanicus on Cox, Virgo is the real reason for their presence. Virgo is a massively terraformed world and might even have been artificially created. Virgo is actually too far away from the three stars to even have a life-sustaining atmosphere, the perfect conditions on Virgo are created by giant terraforming machinery hidden deep below the surface. Machinery which is slowly but constantly falling apart and due to the Exkommunio, the Mechanicum is running short on ways to keep Virgo going. Should the machinery fail catastrophically, famine would sweep large parts of the cluster.

Major Worlds of the Imperials
While the power of the loyalist nobles is concentrated in the Troika Systems, they control numerous further systems. Additionally, there are the worlds controlled by the local branch of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Inquisition.

Cox (Forge World) belongs to the local branch of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Adeptus in the Foris Cluster focuses on energy systems and is rumoured to conduct various experiments around Foris Dominus. In truth, The Ordo is primarily engaged in unravelling the mysteries of Virgo and keeping the world running. To protect its secrets and to stay out of the turmoils of the cluster, the Adeptus has declared Cox off-limits, but maintains friendly and open relationships with worlds throughout the Foris Cluster.

Fabiola (Fortress World) is the stronghold of the loyalists against any aggression by the heretics. Despite contrary propaganda, the heretics have shown no ambition to attack for centuries and Fabiola has slowly turned into an enormous R&D spot. Neighbouring Karel, Fabiola is in direct reach of the Inquisition, but even their strong arm has proven too weak to stop bored soldiers from seeking distractions.

Karel (Shrine World) was the stronghold of the Ecclesiarchy in the Foris Cluster and after the Inquisition subjugated the church, the planet became its official domain. The immediate neighbourhood to the Adeptus Mechanicus on Cox is deliberate – the Ecclesiarchy on Karel has always been especially headstrong and was not beyond evangelizing followers of the Omnissiah. In that regard, not much has changed. Shattering the Mechanicum‘s semi-independence and firmly establishing control over it has top priority on the Inquisition’s agenda.

Ruth (Feudal World) is covered by a storm-lashed ocean interrupted by small rocky islands. Population density on Ruth is pretty low and living conditions are harsh, but the warriors of Ruth are excellent. Many young nobles of Ruth have started to improve their families’ income by serving in the militias of the other planets and it is a symbol of status for many a noble in the Foris Cluster to have a small guard or command staff composed of Ruthians. Consequently, while the world remained loyal to the Imperium it is well-connected within all factions.

Tito (Hive World) is the only Hive World outside the Troika Systems. Tito once was a refugee world for Imperial citizens displaced in surrounding areas, and in time has grown to a megalopolis. The planet‘s history created a thorough mix of cultures and populations and Tito has been on the brink of civil war multiple times. Tito is considered an administrative nightmare and posting to Tito has always been considered a punishment. Only the Adeptus Arbites sees a deployment to Tito as a test of an Arbitrator‘s mettle and those who prove themselves here are considered the best of the best. Due to the fragmented nature of Tito‘s population it will not come as a surprise that the Tau have chosen this planet as a hidden base for their forays into the cluster.

Zulu (Resource World) is basically a mining world renowned for its fine crystals. There are numerous weapon producers on Zulu directly putting the products of the crystal industry to practical use and supplying the cluster with weapons. While Zulu is nominally still loyal to the Imperium, the steady supply of weapons to the heretics indicates that at least some of Zulu‘s manufacturers and traders are dealing with the enemy which is irritating the black market patrons on Tacoma as much as it does the Inquisition and Imperial high nobility elsewhere.

Major Worlds of the Heretics
The Foris Heresy saw about a third of the major worlds of the Foris Cluster split away from Imperial order and created a not-to-be-ignored power block. But with the Ork Waaagh! rolling through the cluster, the heretic movement is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Danzig (Fortress World) became the border fortress of the heretics after the Battle of Potomac (see below). While designed to be a Fortress World maintaining the army of about a dozen planets, the recent shifts to counter the Ork Waaagh! have effectively reduced the forces to Danzig‘s garrison plus a few forgotten units. Visitors of Danzig find a ghostly landscape of abandoned strongholds and barracks haunted by scavengers and black market traders trying to break into ammunition and supply storages left behind. The civil population of Danzig is also almost gone, after catering for decades to the needs of a military machinery, many decided to move with the units instead of building up from scratch.

Gotha (Feudal World / War World) has become a center of attention with the Ork Waaagh! taking off of Mora. The worlds taking part in the Foris Heresy are fearing Legia and Spiraea are already as good as lost and consequently have given up Prisicilla as well. (see The Ork Waaagh! for more info on those planets.) Gotha is preparing to become the stronghold against the Ork advance and has actively intercepted all relief efforts passing the system, diverting them instead to bolster its own defense. The influx of troops and attached baggage brings problems of its own, though. With the administration more worried about getting as many goods and people on the world as possible instead of what and whom, Gotha is already becoming an Eldorado of crime and corruption.

Potomac (Ex-War World) saw the first and only major battle between loyalists and heretics. When the Foris Heresy happened, loyalist forces tried to squash the rebellion with a coordinated assault. Bypassing the Fortress World of Danzig, they instead struck at Potomac, just to find that their plan had been betrayed. The loyalist forces landed right in a trap. Though fighting valiantly, they were driven off planet and had to retreat to Fabiola (see Major Worlds of the Imperials). Nonetheless, Potomac was seriously devastated by the fighting and the traces of interplanetary warfare are visible to this day.

The Ork Waaagh!
When the Orks finally realized the blockade of Mora was gone, they scrambled every craft remotely capable of going into space and began an invasion of neighbouring systems. But the Orks currently are neither an effective nor a unified force. The makeshift fleet is incapable of transporting a sizable force, the units already dropped on neighbouring planets are more interested in marauding than establishing a beachhead and the warbands waiting on Mora battle each other for space on the next trip.

Legia (Feudal World / War World) was once the leading planet of the Foris Heresy but is now facing the full force of the incoming Ork Waaagh!. So far, the Orkish invaders established only a few landing zones, but scouts have already reported the greenskins are retooling the factories conquered. Legia is fighting the Orks on its own as its fellow heretics are unwilling or incapable of sending help, the neighbouring system of Gotha (see Major Worlds of the Heretics) has even taken a stance of blocking all traffic passing through from or to Legia.

Mora (Xenos World) was infested by Orks already before the Exkommunio, with local forces waging a desperate war to keep the xenos at bay. When the Exkommunio led to a stop of reinforcements and supply from outside the cluster, the local forces had to withdraw from Mora and blockaded the planet. The blockade was kept in place until the Foris Heresy, but with the planets around Mora joining the traitorous independents, it simply faltered. It did take some time, but meanwhile the Orks on Mora realized their watchers were gone and immediately started to spread to neighbouring systems.

Priscilla (Pleasure World) was the only Pleasure World in the Foris Cluster and a popular vacation spot with the local nobility before the Foris Heresy. Isolated by the split, Priscilla had to cope on its own and suffered for it. With a heavy focus on service, entertainment and luxury goods, basic needs fell short and the workforce needed to effectively set up basic farming and industry was simply not available for multiple generations. Priscilla has recovered through the centuries, but its population is bitter for the fall from grace it suffered. Now Priscilla finds itself facing an Ork Waaagh! and is determined to make a stand against any and all external forces – including Imperial.

Spiraea (Resource World) is the one Resource World joining the Foris Heresy and as such vital to supplying the various rebellious worlds. Unfortunately, Spiraea is one of the primary targets of the Ork Waaagh! and is even less capable of defending itself than Legia. After the invasion began, the Spiraeans even send a delegation to the loyalists, asking for support against a common enemy and suggesting a return to Imperial rule, but the delegation disappeared into the cellars of the Inquisition.

Minor Worlds
The Foris Cluster has a few theoretically habitable planets which are either unsettled or do not have the necessary administration and infrastructure to be recognized as a political entity. Nonetheless, the shadows of these worlds might hide threats even more dangerous than Orks and heretics.

Ajax (Civilized World / Dead World), the world farthest away from Foris Servus has naturally been the stepchild of the Foris Cluster. Ajax was upgraded from Frontier World to Civilized World by the Administratum only a decade before the Exkommunio, and did not achieve much progress ever since. Right at the moment, Ajax is overrun by a small Tyranid fleet coming from beyond the cluster and is effectively lost already. Due to its remote position and lack of connection to the other worlds, the Tyranid invasion has remained unnoticed so far. As Ajax is in the shadow of Foris Dominus, seen from Foris Servus, not even the automated Deathwatch astrometry has noticed the arrival of the Tyranids.

Leocadia (Death World) has been declared a Death World shortly before the Exkommunio, due to its increasingly aggressive Flora and Fauna and has been mostly ignored afterwards. Unrealized by the Imperium, a vanguard of the Tyranids crashed on Leocadia even before the Exkommunio, causing an ongoing mutation in all native life. With the arrival of a full Tyranid fleet on Ajax, the issue of this presence has become a moot point anyway, although it could be interesting to be witness to the reunification of the hive fleet and its long-lost descendants.

Marghanna (Cemetery World) always was a Cemetery World as far as historic documents go back. Some of the graves and mausoleums may even date back to the Dark Age of Technology. The nobles of the Foris Cluster have adopted the habit to bury their more famous ancestors here as well, careful to not disturb the secrets older tombs may hide.

Nata (Frontier World) is an outlying world, covered by large deserts and savannahs. Neither fertile nor rich in resources nor offering the materials for large-scale building, the world remains undeveloped and a refugee for those who want to escape to a spot where they can build a life away from constant Imperial supervision. Nominally Nata is considered to belong to the loyalist faction, in reality, Nata was independent even before the Foris Heresy or the Exkommunio due to the fact that the world is largely ignored.

Nofretete (Dead World) is a barren, dead world. Only ruins pierce the endless oceans of cold rock deserts, with a merciless wind driving clouds of dust across the surface. The origin of the ruins is unknown, but it seems that a planetary catastrophe or a systematic cleansing of the planet destroyed all traces of life that once may have existed.

Goals and Missions
The first task at hand is pretty obvious. The Ork Waaagh! coming in from Mora is well known to all the factions in the Foris Cluster. Still in its early stages, the whole invasion may falter if the Waaagh! Bosses and their key commanders would be eliminated – a job the Deathwatch was literally made for. With only small warbands having landed on other planets so far, the Orks might even be permanently pushed back through a coordinated cleansing effort. That’s where the trouble begins. The Marines have to decide if they cooperate with the heretics to eliminate the Ork invaders immediately or if they first try to retake those worlds for the Emperor. The later goal cannot be achieved by all-out war, since the loyalists are incapable of providing the necessary forces. Should the Marines opt for a diplomatic approach, they will quickly realize the Foris Cluster is split not only in two, but multiple factions:

The Imperials are the loyal ancient noble families of the Foris Cluster. They see themselves as natural rulers of the region and as representatives of the Emperor. If they have amassed a certain amount of wealth, it is only to pay the centuries worth of tribute to the Emperor.

The Inquisition is currently headed by the most powermongering Inquisitor Lord in a line of powermongering Inquisitor Lords. The Inquisition sees itself as natural rulers of the region and as representatives of the Emperor. If they have started a quarrel for power with the local nobles and the Ecclesiarchy, then only to make sure they stay in line.

The Open Heretics have broken with the Imperials and the Inquisition and set up their own rule. They have deliberately broken with the Imperial order, assuming after the Exkommunio that the Imperium would not return for quite some time. Their secession is more motivated by conflict with the grand nobility on Beatrice and the Inquisition than actual deviation from the Imperial way, meaning they might take the hand offered by the Imperium – if it is offered.

The Hidden Heretics are intertwined with the other faction, consisting of nobles and popular leaders subverted by the Tau. The Tau have a small expeditionary force hiding in the Foris Cluster and are currently busy with converting locals to the “Greater Good”. While conquest is currently not their preferred modus operandi, they have enough military might to prove a challenge.

The Tyranid Invasion has one good thing about it, namely that it is small and slow. Ajax is lost, but it will take some time until the Tyranid fleet is ready to take off again. In the meantime, a daring team of Space Marines could try to nail down the Tyranids by systematically taking out its coordinating units and its space vessels, hopefully rendering the rest too chaotic to leave Ajax before a permanent solution becomes viable.

Other Threats might be hidden in the shadows of the various worlds. If the political chaos throughout the cluster, an Ork Waaagh!, a Tyranid Invasion and a Tau Incursion are not enough to keep the Killteam busy, Nofretete could easily house a Necron tomb cluster and the remnants of the Dark Age of Technology on Foris Servus, Marghanna and Virgo may provide their own nasty surprises. Finally, the Eldar and the Forces of Chaos are known to appear anywhere, anytime – usually when the Deathwatch has its hand full with other troubles…

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