One of the first decisions you will have to make when you start a new game in Rogue Trader is what difficulty you want to play on, and whether you should customize it at all. While you can change the difficulty settings at any point during the game, it is better to get it right the first time, so this guide will help you decide what difficulty would be best for you, as well as what settings you might want to adjust for a more tailored experience.
As the name implies, the Story difficulty is intended for those who are interested in experiencing the story and choices of Rogue Trader, but don’t want the challenging combat to hamper their experience. There are still some tactics required by the late game, but overall Story difficulty’s default sliders should make for an extremely manageable experience to let you enjoy the game at your own pace.
If you want to adjust some sliders to get a more authentic roleplay experience, these are what we would recommend:
Skill test difficulty modifier: Those playing Rogue Trader for its story and choices probably want to focus on the roleplaying aspect of the game, which ties heavily into Skill Checks. However, default Story sliders adjust the difficulty of Skill Checks to add 20% to your checks, making them too easy for RP-centered playthroughs. If you are playing Rogue Trader to make choices, specialize, and experience the story as intended, bump this back to 10% or even 0%.
Enemy hit points percent modifier: While Story mode does exist to make combat as easy as possible, this is the one setting that might be notched too far down. Between all the various settings, combat will still be relatively easy even if you move the reduction up from -60% to something more like -40% or -30%, and will give you a better sense of scale for the enemies you are fighting, which can inform roleplay.
Normal difficulty, in Rogue Trader, is more similar to “Easy” in other games. It is the lowest difficulty not intended for a narrative-focused experience, where combat can still be somewhat of a challenge with bad positioning and planning but is, overall, manageable even with suboptimal upgrades and loadouts. This is a good choice for players getting to grips with the complicated systems of Rogue Trader, but might be a bit too easy once you feel comfortable with the game.
If you want to adjust some sliders to get a more balanced game while keeping things relatively simple, these are what we would recommend:
Party momentum gain modifier: Momentum is an extremely powerful tool in Rogue Trader, since it is what allows you to make use of your heroic acts. These abilities are extremely powerful, and are what allow you to even the odds against brutal opponents. But, a +20% modifier to gaining momentum means that you will be able to activate these powers every turn, and for longer combats it can even mean that you will start running out of characters to activate heroic acts for. This is a bit too much, even for this difficulty, and so we would adjust it down to +10% or 0%.
NPC characteristic modifier: Having all enemies reduce all of their characteristics – the core stats in the game, by -20% is pretty drastic, so we would bump them up to a more fair -10%. You’ll still have the edge, but not quite as much.
Enemy hit points percent modifier: By default, having enemies lose 40% of their HP at the start of combat is the most impactful change in the players’ favor, to the point of it being unfun. We would recommend buffing this slider from -40% to -30% or -20%.
Space combat difficulty: Though the system is fun, space combat isn’t as well balanced as ground combat. While ‘Normal’ difficulty might be manageable with some struggle for the larger combats, players who want to make sure they can take on space combat without having to come back later might want to shift this down a step to ‘Easy’.
Daring is the comfortable middle-ground difficulty, ideal for the average player who grasps the basics of the game, but doesn’t want to a punishing experience through it. Players here will have to play tactically, but not perfectly, if they want to live. Players who want a challenging experience and are already familiar with tactical RPGs or the tabletop games Rogue Trader is inspired by (like Imperium Maledictum) will likely want to play on this difficulty.
As the middle-of-the-road option, Daring is the best balanced difficulty, and has the fewest recommended changes. That said, there is one:
Space combat difficulty: Though the system is fun, space combat isn’t as well balanced as ground combat. ‘Daring’ difficulty can prove more difficult than intended, forcing players to “come back later” to combats when they appear, which slows the game down more than making it difficult.
Hard difficulty in Rogue Trader is… well… hard. They aren’t joking about the name. This setting will make sure you have to stay on your toes, plan your party composition and upgrades, and optimize your odds in combat if you want to come out ahead. While there really isn’t anything impossible about this difficulty (aside from maybe space combat), it will be difficult enough that you will likely need to take several attempts to beat some of the harder encounters. While some players can probably handle this setting right away, we recommend saving it for a second playthrough, or until you decide to respec during your first playthrough.
While Hard is intended to be challenging, there are a couple recommended changes we would make for a more fun experience:
Skill test modifier: Skill tests in dialogue are balanced around the same advancement regardless of difficulty, and don’t actually make the game more difficult as they do make it more punishing. Modifiers are already applied to more difficult dialogue checks, and so it makes sense to preserve the intended balance by bumping the -10% here to 0%, which also has the added impact of not turning most of the late-game into a bunch of “0% Chance” checks (which is more frustrating than challenging).
Number of rounds before a fresh wound becomes an old wound: The wound system can already be somewhat cumbersome, but healing is enough of a challenge in Rogue Trader without also making it difficult to prevent Old Wounds. Moving this from 2 to 3 or 4 will give you a chance to make use of Medicae to create a more tactical, rather than a more desperate, experience.
Space combat difficulty: This is a trend, but “Hard” space combat can make for essentially unwinnable battles until you come back to much earlier combats with a vastly upgraded ship. Most “Hard” settings still let you feel like a Rogue Trader, except for ship combat. Your immense Rogue Trader Starship should be a dominant force, and so bumping the Space Combat from “Hard” to “Normal” actually feels more in-line with the fiction.
Full disclosure, I had to give up on trying to complete Unfair difficulty by the end of chapter 1, when it’s impact starts to be fully felt. This difficulty is truly hard, and required basically perfect gameplay (and still some luck) to manage. Unfair difficulty is balanced to be just barely doable, and should only really be attempted once players have a mastery of the game mechanics, including the more “fiddly” stuff like Resolve and Veil Degradation. This is the difficulty for people who want the hardest the game reasonable has to offer.
While this difficulty is meant to be unfair and is balanced as such, there are a couple things you might still want to adjust.
Party momentum gain modifier: Momentum is a tricky mechanic, and necessary to activate heroic acts, which might be required in order to survive the most difficult combat the game has to offer. At -30%, though, you are in the roughest shape, where you will be gaining at about the rate you’ll be losing the momentum to character downs. This does make it more challenging, but if you want to actually use your heroic acts, you should probably bump this up to -20%. Alternatively, if you want to rely more on desperate measures, bringing this number down to -40% or lower can also be an option, recreating desperate moments.
Skill test modifier: Skill tests in dialogue are balanced around the same advancement regardless of difficulty, and don’t actually make the game more difficult as they do make it more punishing. Modifiers are already applied to more difficult dialogue checks, and so it makes sense to preserve the intended balance by bumping the -20% here to 0%, which also has the added impact of not turning most of the late-game into a bunch of “0% Chance” checks (which is more frustrating than challenging).
Number of rounds before a fresh wound becomes an old wound: The wound system can already be somewhat cumbersome, but healing is enough of a challenge in Rogue Trader without also making it difficult to prevent Old Wounds. Moving this from 1 to 2 or 3 will give you a chance to make use of Medicae to create a more tactical and give you more choice on the battlefield, without being so beneficial as to nullify the high difficulty.
Show skill test DC in dialogue: While the other dialog settings just provide you with helpful and necessary information, and the game isn’t really made harder without their inclusion, not showing the difficulty of skill tests in dialogue is something which can truly make the dialogue system challenging and complex, adding a layer of depth to dialogue where you have to carefully consider your abilities before committing to something. This is a much more interesting ramp up of dialogue difficulty than simply reducing the skill test, and we would recommend it instead.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you commit to how difficult of a road you will walk as a Rogue Trader. But, if not, at least you can always adjust the difficulty in the settings. Not that you’ll need to; I’m sure you’ll handle Unfair difficulty just fine.
Share this article:
Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.