“The best mercenaries are those for whom war is part of their base nature: they understand instinctively the requirement for loyalty to one’s employer and the pointlessness of betrayal. Those who die at the hands of their own hirelings do not understand this fact.”
–remark attributed to Rogue Trader Hiarm Sult
The Kroot are a predatory, often mercenary, avian breed of alien who fight with ferocity and feed on the dead. The Kroot maintain a nomadic society strangely divided between feral savagery and proficient tech-use. Their homeworld is Pech and is fully part of the Tau Empire. However many Kroot fight for others as mercenaries, which is at odds with the Greater Good and something the Kroot seek to keep from the Tau. These mercenary kindreds will fight for anyone for the right price. They are thinly spread across the galaxy and cross the voids in imposing warspheres, yet they abandon almost all of their technology to live and fight in a feral fashion once set down upon a habitable world.
Most disturbingly, the Kroot eat the flesh of other species with an avid, selective hunger, and the ugly forms of their future generations take on some characteristics of the consumed. Much of their culture is driven by these unholy acts, carried out at the direction of their leaders, beasts known as Shapers. Every warsphere contains many branches of the Kroot breed, made diverse and often corrupt by their Shapers’ past choice of victims---some of which were clearly human. Marauding Kroot warspheres move across the Koronus Expanse very infrequently, though none can say from whence they came or what destination they see ahead. Some Rogue Traders have taken a handful of Kroot mercenaries into their employ where they have encountered them, but others exterminate them on sight, weary of so predacious a species gaining a foothold in the region.
The Kroot homeworld of Pech lies within the Ultima Segmentum, not far from the Tau Empire. On this world, massive evergreen forests of the hardy jagga tree cover most of the prime continent. The other regions of Pech that are not covered by forest are mainly inhospitable ranges of rock cliffs and jagged mountains. It is from Pech’s deep forests that the Kroot originated, and there, they live within arboreal colonies in family groups known as Kindreds, led by wise and ancient Kroot called Shapers. Most make their homes, nestled amongst the higher branches of the trees, from animal hides and regurgitated dead wood pulp.
The Kroot are a tall race, averaging two metres in height, and their lanky frames have a deceptively fragile appearance. In reality, Kroot musculature is composed of dense fiber spindles that are extremely efficient and powerful. This structure possesses a higher power to mass ratio than humans, and rapid muscle contractions create a whiplash effect---meaning that a Kroot can deliver a rapid series of powerful blows. Kroot can hop from tree to tree with great speed, and on the ground they move with a hopping, bounding gait that eats up distance. Kroot are clearly evolved from avian stock, possessing a light but strong bone structure, a quill-like “ruff,” and a beak.
The Kroot remain a primitive culture in many ways. They favor harnesses worked from animal hides and often adorn themselves with bones, handcrafted amulets, and circlets. Kroot culture reflects the savage environment of their origin---they are fierce and ruthless warriors with few scruples, but they possess many noble qualities as well. Kroot are courageous, tenacious, and often proud. They are well-known for honoring any agreement to the letter. Kroot are often confused by advanced technology, but they learn quickly and have adapted to many improvements made to gear that they are already familiar with, such as the enhanced ammunition and the Kroot rifles adapted to fire that ammunition, both provided by the Tau.
The most infamous habit of the Kroot is their preference for eating the flesh of the dead. Even in the midst of combat, Kroot will often ritually devour the corpses of those they have killed, and there is almost nothing beyond their tastes.
The Kroot digestive system is a marvel of efficiency, capable of breaking down almost any organic material into a form of energy stored in specialized organs called nymunes scattered throughout their bodies. By far, the strangest quirk of Kroot digestion is their ability to extract potentially useful strands of their food’s DNA. Much of the double-helix structure of the Kroot’s own DNA is somehow “blank,” used to separate those areas that do contain useful genetic information. The Kroot have inherited a unique mutation that gives them the ability to incorporate useful DNA codes into their own genetic structure. With guidance from the Shapers, successive generations of Kroot may exhibit special qualities of those gene-codes.
The presence of the Kroot in the Koronus Expanse is an intriguing mystery. Whilst the Shapers have not answered questions on the subject, it is rumored that a number of Kroot Warspheres entered the Expanse via a previously unknown warp gate---a gate that somehow links the Expanse to the vastly distant Eastern Fringe.
Like all aliens, Kroot differ from humanity in a number of ways---some obvious, others less so. The most evident differences are listed in their own sections: the Kroot’s avian characteristics, enhanced senses, unusual musculature, and unnatural hunger for the dead. Other, more subtle differences are noted below.
Kroot physiology is completely unlike that of any human. Because the use of the Medicae Skill is oriented primarily towards humans, treating a Xenos creature of any kind is a challenge. Any Medicae Tests used on a Kroot are automatically one degree harder in difficulty. Typically, human-made drugs have little to no effect upon a Kroot, although poisons and toxins have their normal effect. The GM should decide if a particular drug should effect a Kroot, and to what extent.
Bionics are completely unknown amongst the Kroot, and their unusual musculature and bone structure make bionic limbs nearly impossible to correctly install on a Kroot’s body. The GM may allow a Kroot to acquire certain bionics or cybernetic implants at his discretion, but such things should be considered unnatural to the Kroot, both physically and culturally. The GM should consider very carefully before he allows a Kroot character to gain any bionic or cybernetic implants.
Kroot and TechnologyEdit
Generally speaking, the Kroot are still a mostly primitive culture. The Kroot have learned how to operate some examples of advanced technology, including their Tau-adapted Kroot rifles and warsphere spacecraft, but a typical Kroot still lives as his ancestors did centuries ago. Kroot generally disdain any kind of heavy armor, preferring the range of motion their unique musculature and skeletal structures allow. Their unique shape and distinctive movements also render human armor thoroughly incompatible. Customizing equipment for a Kroot is an expensive process. Any human weapons, armor, or gear modified for a Kroot’s body increases its Rarity by one step, due to the effort involved.
An Alien MindEdit
Kroot differ from humanity in mind as well as in body. Apart from the Kroot’s interest in eating the dead and strengthening their race’s genetic makeup, Kroot have other significant psychological divergences that are listed below.
Kroot and Gender
While the Kroot do possess two genders, there are no real cultural differences between a male and a female Kroot. Physically, female Kroot are very difficult to distinguish from the males, and most observers find it nearly impossible to tell which is which. The Kroot’s unusual senses mean that the sexes are mostly distinct in ways unnoticeable to a human, and by the same token, most humans appear just as sexless to the Kroot! Kroot gain a +20 bonus to any attempt to resist seduction against a non-Kroot.
Kroot and Corruption
The temptations of the Ruinous Powers do not have the same lure for the Kroot as they do for other races. Kroot characters suffer Corruption Points as normal, but the effects of Corruption Points are slightly different. The GM should carefully consider the effects of a malignancy upon a Kroot character. Generally, corruption from the warp expresses itself in the Kroot as a regression towards their more feral, crude origins. A highly corrupt Kroot, for example, may have abandoned firearms entirely in favour of devouring other sentient beings with his bare hands---ripping them into bloody gobbets to be greedily swallowed down at the slightest provocation.
Kroot and Insanity
Like most other thinking creatures, Kroot possess a measurable level of sanity, and this may be affected by their environment and experiences much like the mind of a human. Kroot characters suffer Insanity Points as normal. The GM should carefully consider the applications of various disorders on a Kroot character. For example, a Kroot is unlikely to suffer a phobia of the dead.
Among the Kroot, a Kindred represents a combination of clan and tribe---a group of warriors serving the same Shaper (or Shaper council). They are brethren, fiercely loyal to each other and trained in the same beliefs and traditions since birth. A Kroot character must select one of the following Kindreds:
This Kroot was born into a Kindred that has selected prey possessing great courage. Many such Kindreds have feasted upon the apex predators of a dozen of worlds, passing on the gifts of increased bravery, excellent hand-eye coordination, and coolness under fire.
Benefits: The Kroot gains +5 BS, a +5 bonus to Wrangling Tests, and a +10 bonus to resist Fear or Pinning.
Upon entering the Koronus Expanse, the Kroot soon encountered the devious alien merchants known as the Stryxis. They were delicious. Shapers who have directed their Kindred to feed upon Stryxis notice a proclivity for cunning and deviousness in later generations of Kroot.
Benefits: The Kroot gains +10 Int, a +5 bonus to Barter and Deceive Tests, and a +1 bonus to Initiative.
The Kroot have battled against Orks for centuries, and it was during a major battle on their homeworld of Pech that the Kroot and Tau first formed an alliance. Many times since, the Orks have encountered Kroot mercenaries as both enemies and allies, and the Shapers have learned to strengthen their Kindred by devouring Ork flesh. Doing so produces a startling resilience in a Kroot’s frame.
Benefits: The Kroot gains +10 Toughness. This bonus is applied after calculating starting Wounds.
Certain Kindred of Kroot have fed upon the most poisonous creatures they could hunt. The resulting generations of Kroot are nearly impervious to all forms of poison and are capable of secreting a highly corrosive acid that burns the exposed flesh of their enemies.
Benefits: The Kroot automatically passes all Toughness Tests to resist toxins and weapons with the Toxic Quality. The Kroot’s beak loses the Primitive Quality and gains the Toxic Quality.
The predecessors of these Kroot habitually preyed upon chameleonic reptiles and other such creatures that blend into their surroundings. The resulting Kindred are incredibly stealthy, and their skin ripples with colors and patterns that make them nearly invisible when they wish to hide.
Benefits: The Kroot may make Concealment and Silent Move Tests as a Free Action and may do so even while being observed.
“The Kroot are bred for battle.”
–Teknar Krawk, Kroot Mercenary
The Tau Empire has entirely integrated the Kroot homeworld of Pech, but that is not to say that all Kroot fight for the Tau. In fact, many mercenary forces of Kroot can be found fighting alongside Eldar and human forces---and occasionally even amongst the ranks of foul Chaos renegades or the Ork hordes. Kroot mercenaries hold no prejudices against any particular race, and care only that they are well paid for their services. Naturally, such behavior is anathema to the Tau’s philosophy of the Greater Good. Thus, the Kroot hide their mercenary activities and avoid contact with Tau forces if at all possible. In the end, strengthening the Kroot’s genetic makeup is of paramount importance, and the Koronus Expanse is an opportunity the Kroot simply cannot ignore.
Like all Kroot, the mercenaries can interpret sensory information very quickly, and their senses are all finely tuned, linked through a series of ganglia that run the length of their crests. This makes it very difficult to hide from a Kroot, and some mercenaries have been known to track prey across hundreds of miles of inhospitable terrain in order to make the kill. Kroot mercenaries are also content to wait out their prey if necessary, and can initiate a state of hibernation at will---sustained by the energy stored in their nymunes.
Kroot are fearsome opponents in an assault, able to fight far more effectively at close quarters than most humans---this ability due in part to the Kroot’s sharp senses and superior corded musculature. However, unlike other soldiers who fight for what they believe in, secure in the knowledge that they are serving a higher purpose, Kroot fight solely for reward. This philosophy means that Kroot mercenaries fight harder and more tenaciously for greater payments, so their battlefield discipline is unpredictable at best. Many individuals in the Koronus Expanse who disobey Imperial prohibitions on xenos contact and would otherwise deal with xenos species will avoid arrangements with the Kroot for this very reason.
However, the vast wealth and resources of a Rogue Trader are a perfect fit for the Kroot Mercenary’s approach, and more than a few Rogue Traders who operate in the Koronus Expanse, such as the famous Madam Charabelle, are known to employ Kroot amongst their armsmen. Some particularly cunning or resourceful Kroot take their place amongst a Rogue Trader’s closest confidantes and advisors. In this capacity, Kroot serve as a bodyguard or chief warrior whilst providing the benefits of the Kroot’s superior senses and ferocity when trouble strikes.
Sometimes, Radical members of the Inquisition make use of Kroot mercenaries. In one of the only recorded instances of Kroot in the Calixis Sector in late 977.M41, one Inquisitor Forstav attended a conclave in the Tricorn Palace, attended by a bodyguard of three-dozen Kroot mercenaries. The response from Forstav’s fellow Inquisitors when he entered the great hall flanked by his savage companions was mixed, but a sizeable number of Puritans denounced him on the spot. Bloodshed followed, and a number of the denouncers were slain.
Unfortunately for Inquisitor Forstav, his Kroot bodyguards set to devouring the flesh of those they had slain, as is their species’ habit, a sight that proved too much for even the most liberal of Inquisitors attending the Conclave. Forstav was forced to fight his way out of the Tricorn Palace, a feat which, amazingly, he succeeded in, making it out, severely wounded, with a dozen of his bodyguard at his side. Inquisitor Forstav is thought to be at large somewhere in the Malfian Sub-sector, and a number of Inquisitors present that day are said to be seeking him still.
“Sharpen your knives, my kin. I will strengthen you, and the Kindred that come after.”
–Master Shaper Anghkor Prok
Shapers are leaders amongst the Kroot, often credited with ancient wisdom and shamanic powers of insight. A Shaper is usually an elder Kroot who has proven his ability to survive through battle and storm. Shapers are revered amongst Kroot culture, and few Kroot have the patience and inner strength required to achieve this lofty title.
Shapers possess a unique ability to analyze the content of their stomach and extract from it characteristics that may be of use to the Kroot genetic code. This task is performed rapidly and intuitively, meaning that a Shaper will know whether or not a meal will be beneficial to his Kindred within a few bites. Once a characteristic of the prey is identified, the Shaper directs members of the kindred to consume this particular prey animal. Afterwards, the Kindred’s breeding is controlled to ensure that those who have absorbed the chosen genetic morsel fix it as part of their own DNA. This rapidly advanced evolutionary eugenics program ensures that the Kroot remain the dominant species of Pech and continue to advance---none are certain what the upper limits of such evolution are, or even if such limits exist.
Each Shaper belongs to a single Kindred, and guides that Kindred along a slightly different path from the others, meaning that each Kindred possesses a fractionally different genetic code. This diversity is necessary, for the Kroot, like many lifeforms native to Pech, risk being trapped into a single DNA structure that is effectively a dead-end, with no more variety possible. There are a number of other, related creatures from Pech that have suffered this fate---Knarlocs, Krootoxen, and Kroot Hounds are just a few examples. These beings are all closely related to the Kroot, and may have, in fact, even been Kroot at some point in the distant past until they encountered an evolutionary roadblock.
In addition to their ability to guide the evolution of their Kindred, Shapers are distinct from other Kroot in a number of ways. First, Shapers are often larger than their kin, their frames packed with gnarled muscle and tough, leathery hide. Shapers also serve as spiritual leaders for their Kindred, and many are credited with prophetic dreams and a primal connection to the Kindred’s totem animals---often a creature from their homeworld, such as the widely revered Kroothawk.
Many Kindreds of Kroot have ventured into the Koronus Expanse, seeking new and different DNA to add to their genetic code---hopefully, to return in triumph to Pech, laden with trophies and wealth from a dozen distant worlds. As the Kroot came to the Expanse, so too did the Shapers, and the wisdom of the elders has led to a number of alliances between Kroot Kindreds and the Rogue Traders who operate within the region. Whilst some Rogue Traders are content to hire Kroot mercenaries to fill out their armed forces, others make a point of harnessing the wisdom, experience, and special abilities of the Shapers for the benefit of both groups.
Kroot Shaper is an elite advance that may be selected by a Kroot explorer.
Required Race: Kroot
Alternate Rank: Rank 3 or higher (10,000 XP)
Other Requirements: You must be the nominal leader for a number of Kroot (usually a group of ten or more) who are part of your Kindred.
Benefit: You gain the Instinctual Understanding and Shamanic Powers Traits.
“They may look like something you’d see on a muck-covered feral worlder, but their weapons are actually strangely advanced.”
The basic Kroot Rifle is simple and reliable, firing a charged pulse round. Rumor says that these are an upgraded version of their primitive native weapon, but no one knows who may have accomplished this upgrade, as the technology is unfamiliar even to Calixian Ordo Xenos scholars. Kroot Rifles are balanced to fit deadly combat blades, allowing them to function as a halberd in close combat, especially in the hands of a Kroot Warrior.
Basic, 110m, S/2/–, 1d10+5, E, PEN 1, Clip 6, RLD 2Full, WT 6kg, Extremely Rare
Often Kroot Mercenaries are seen using weapons far more advanced than their regular rifles, weapons that rival many of the finest Imperial devices. They refuse to reveal their origin, only saying mysteriously that they were given in payment for services “for the good of all.” These weapons are commonly referred to as Pulse Weapons, as they fire micro-pulses of accelerated plasma at high power and over great distance, comparable in effectiveness to Imperial Bolter weapons. The specialised Pulse Carbine variant sacrifices distance in order to incorporate an under-slung grenade launcher. Treat this as a Mezoa Pattern Grenade Launcher. The Pulse carbine may only fire either the grenade launcher or the carbine in a single turn. Most Pulse Carbines in the Expanse have been modified to fire the wide variety of human grenades available, although there are versions only designed to fire photon grenades.
Pulse Pistol: Pistol, 40m, S/2/-, 2d10+2, E, PEN 4, CLIP 16, RLD Half, Gyro-Stabilized, WT 3kg, Very Rare
Pulse Rifle: Basic, 150m, S/2/4, 2d10+3, E, PEN 4, CLIP 36, RLD Half, Gyro-Stabilized, WT 8kg, Very Rare
Pulse Carbine: Basic, 60m, S/-/3, 2d10+2, E, PEN 4,, CLIP 24, RLD Full, Gyro-Stabilized, WT 6kg, Very Rare