Power Metal Album Covers
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Power Metal Album Covers
Black Crusade is a weird as hell game. It's a complete and total mess (what in 40k hasn't been) where you play as one of the worst parts of either Warhammer setting, the forces of Chaos. It is also occasionally totally rad, despite this. You see, the core book is all about how you'll maybe spend a little time in Power Metal Hell gaining fame and fortune but then will go out and fuck up the Imperium of Man, except that the supplemental material and fan reaction make it clear that most groups just stay in Power Metal Hell, rocking out and kicking other Chaos guys in the teeth. Black Crusade PCs are probably the most powerful PCs in the entire Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay line. It is also the only game in the line where you can play a mixed party of humans and Marines (no aliens, of course). Somehow, this sort of works out, because EVERYONE is crazy in Black Crusade. Everyone.
It is also, weirdly, the most focused game in the line. You have a clear start point, clear character progression milestones, and a very clear end point; your Corruption is going to tick up (and empower and mutate you) as you go, and when it hits 100 you check if you've earned enough Infamy (The game's Profit Factor/influence stat) to become a Chaos Lord or Demon Prince and then if you didn't, it's tentacle town for you, make a new PC. Having a distinct pass-fail point at the end of character progression is an interesting idea clumsily implemented; there isn't a lot of, say, places where you could take on Corruption by choice and it mostly just ticks up automatically, spiking up if you fail at anything and your masters get snippity with you. Also, you lose your PC either way, at least until later books bring in the ability to play a Demon Prince. Still, a campaign has a very set start and end point baked into the system.
Your goal in Black Crusade is to gain personal fame and power in pursuit of your goals as a powerful arch-heretic. You aren't playing as minor hive-cultists; you're renegade generals, fallen Inquisitors, veterans of the Horus Heresy and other mighty, powerful Chaos leaders. From the word go, you are significantly stronger even as a human PC than you would have been in, say, Rogue Trader. Your party is a warband of these powerful agents who have sworn to actually work together in order to gain the might and fame necessary to lead their own Black Crusade, eventually attacking the Imperium of Man with millions of screaming heretics and fallen spacecraft so that the Space Marines can heroically defeat you and then spout some fascist bullshit about duty and honor and death. It is thus unsurprising that most parties never actually bother with the Black Crusade; the bit about losing to the Marines isn't a part of the books but the scale of action of an actual serious attack on the Imperium of Man that threatens whole sectors tends to get past what's easy to represent in an RPG. You usually don't get time, anyway, as the needed Infamy will take a long time to accrue and goes above and beyond what's needed to succeed in your personal apotheosis.
We start out with a bunch of fluff about Chaos but it's all stuff we already know from the previous books and Fantasy. It's surprising how little difference there is in the description of the Gods between the two different settings. The game is also very quick to remind us that the Gods don't care about you at all, except for how they're personally scrutinizing your every move and will mechanically punish you RAW if you step outside your rigid role as a follower of X by dumping extra Corruption on you. Chaos's whole weird 'We don't care! Do as you please, mortal, you are nothing to- HEY WAIT NO DO WHAT I SAID AND ONLY WHAT I SAID!' streak is something I wish the authors of Warhammer (both) would acknowledge because it could be turned into a weird compulsion or contradiction of the Gods rather than just being incongruous. There is an important change compared to Fantasy, though: Slaanesh is the newest God because Slaanesh was created by the Eldar and reflects the worst of them. Slaanesh also actually owns all Eldar souls and many of their schemes are their attempts to stay out of her clutches. Knowing that a species turning to darkness can actually create a new God does open some interesting possibilities for truly insanely ambitious heretics, after all.
We also get a more interesting description of the Imperium, because it's the Imperium as renegades and rebels see it. A crumbling, hateful edifice that clings to power. An entire galactic empire nailed to the rotting corpse of its would-be universal tyrant. Living on oppression, fear, and despair to ensure its people never question their station or look for something better. It would rather blow up a planet and kill billions of people than risk the possibility that any human community could thrive without it, for fear that it might let others realize they don't need to pay the tithes or live in terror all the time. A world is only protected from such things by being too economically or strategically vital; no mercy stays the sword of the Inquisition. You can just feel the authors' relief at getting to finally trash the giant fucking fascist space nazi empire they've had to breathlessly praise for the last three games. All the great edifices of the Imperium get to be described as monolithic, inhuman instruments of tyranny and the uncaring gears of galactic tyranny crush its citizens. Marines are described as the jackbooted stormtroopers of an oppressive regime, murderous man-children who glory in their power and who rely on terror to quell the Imperium's enemies. It's all good stuff to start the book off with. They even point out how insane it is that an Inquisitor has absolutely no oversight and pretty much unlimited formal authority!
Because it all has the benefit of being true. It is legitimately pretty great to see the FFG authors get to talk about the Imperium of Man without having to hold it up as the good guys that you're playing as. Chaos is absolutely no better, obviously; they're every bit as oppressive, normative, and murderous. But if you want to give players good ideas for why they're playing as people who said 'fuck this' to the Imperium, this is a great start to the book.
Next Time: The Servants of Chaos, who never actually question why they're always defined by servitude despite constantly insisting they're agents of freedom.
Legions of the Damned
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Legions of the Damned
We all know where the Imperium came from. Empy shows up and united earth, makes his space babies, Chaos portal steals his space babies, Empy goes to find the space babies and generally beats all of them at their color-coded amazing trait or resolves their plot (except Angron, who he totally fucked over then expected to follow him like a dog because the Emperor can't imagine someone not doing as he says), then sends them out to go commit genocide and make fancy speeches and take over the galaxy for him. We do get a twist: Before going looking for them Empy first looked into 'Could I just make new ones and declare that lot dead? That would be simpler. Dang, I don't have enough plot juice to do this again.' Instead he took a bunch of young boys to implant geneseed into and make into the actual-Marines to replace the original proto-marines he'd used to take over the earth. All of the 'Thunder Warriors', the original first-run genetically enhanced soldiers of the Emperor, were intentionally hunted and killed, mostly because he was done with them. The Chaos Book is happy to point this uncomfortable plot point out as justification for plenty of the Traitor Marines, who will cite that they turned on the Emperor in his moment of victory during the Horus Heresy out of a sense of pattern recognition.
One thing I do legitimately like is that absolutely none of the stuff Chaos is saying about the Imperium in this book is actually wrong. This is all taking and emphasizing uncomfortable but existent plot points from the other books in the line; Empy slaughtered everyone who handed him the earth and may well have planned to do the same to his own sons. Chaos didn't really need to lie to Horus when it showed him a galaxy of endless tyranny ruled over by his father; that's what his father was going for. Empy was always a piece of shit. Similarly, the book points out a lot of the hostility alien species feel for humankind really does come from the Great Crusade, when the humans were ascendant and their official policy was 'Exterminate'. Why shouldn't most aliens hate and fear humanity when the human policy hasn't changed at all? The only thing that keeps the Imperium from killing you is being too powerful for them to manage. The Imperium implanted its own traditions and agents in place of any local tradition on the worlds it conquered; your judges replaced by Arbites, your scientists killed and replaced with the sanctioned Techpriests of Mars.
Naturally Chaos blows all this by claiming it was a noble force for trying to undo all of this by getting Horus to turn on daddy due to his desire to do whatever someone tells him would make him a hero. I sort of don't blame the first run heretics; they didn't know how awful Chaos was because Empy had made sure none of them knew a damn thing about it because the stupid bastard thought he could kill it by not talking about it. So suddenly Horus, the Emperor's favored son, is already sulking because his father has returned from the war to go experiment with new FTL methods and cut the Warp out of everything. For some reason, he never explained this to his extremely-in-need-of-constant-validation son, which led him to think the Legions of Marines were being abandoned. Which led him to being receptive to Chaos showing him visions of how he could be the hero of the universe if he turned on Empy.
So, just as he was going to be hero of the universe by exterminating everything for his father, he immediately turned around and went whole hog on being the champion of Chaos. Also, as he was Warmaster and overall supreme commander of allied forces, a lot of them followed him. To this day, the Imperium is terrified of giving anyone such authority or self-sufficient forces because *that* could happen again. Empy also refused to believe the betrayal had happened, even when he was directly warned of it. This, uh, made things a lot worse, especially because the civil war was originally seen as a political struggle rather than Return of the Space Devil. Empy finally ordered his soldiers to go and kill Horus at Istvaan, which you might remember from the lunatic Istvannian faction of the Inquisition. Of the seven Legions he sent, four turned out to be on Horus' side and killed much of the other three. The war would turn on the Emperor and he would only be stopped by the defeat of Horus (and himself) in the battle of Terra, as Chaos panicked with its chosen champion dead and ran off into the shadows, like Chaos usually does when it gets punched in the mouth.
We get a bit on the Traitor Legions, because of course even in Chaos the Space Marines are the main characters.
The World Eaters are the warriors of Angron, who is angry. We don't get anything on their Primarch here, but let's just say he had good reasons to turn on his father after his father left all the fellow slaves he'd convinced to rebel for their freedom to die since he only wanted his son. World Eaters are the stereotypical Khornate: They hate everyone and they want to hit everyone with an axe while screaming "LET THE GALAXY BURN".
The Death Guard are the Nurglite Legion, following their Primarch Mortarion over the Emperor. When his men were afflicted with a terrible plague none could cure, Mortarion begged Chaos for aid rather than let his men die, and now they're Nurglites. It's the usual Nurgle bait and switch; you get 'em with the plague, then you give them 'mercy' and tell them they just gotta pass it on.
The Thousand Sons were originally all space wizards, until the Emperor banned space wizardry. Their space wizard Primarch Magnus tried to warn Empy of the betrayal and was ignored, and Empy also sent the Space Wolves to kill him for trying to use space wizardry to do it. He was then surprised they betrayed him. They are all dust and robots serving Tzeentch now, except a few favored wizards.
The Emperor's Children were highly vain artists following their spoiled, prissy lord Fulgrim and oh just guess which God they ended up with. Now they're spoiled, prissy Marines with lots of Hellraiser shit implanted into their armor who serve Slaanesh. Hilarious moment: The Eldar tried to pick a Primarch to warn about what was coming. They picked Fulgrim, after he'd already decided to turn. Nice prophesying there, space elves.
The Night Lords are edgelord Marines who try to out Dark Eldar the Dark Eldar. They like terror tactics and stealth and wearing stupid looking helmets with bat wings on them. Their Primarch, KONRAD CRUZE THE NIGHT HAUNTER, probably let himself be assassinated after the Heresy while claiming that meant he was right and death and terror were the only forces in the universe.
The Alpha Legion are space spies despite being 8 foot tall power armored potato men. No, I don't know how they do it either (official fluff says they recruit a lot of human agents). They might secretly be loyalists or something, everything about them is a mystery. They had two Primarchs and no-one is sure which was which.
The Iron Warriors are brutal siege troops and engineers who were given the worst jobs and most dangerous work at every step of the Crusade. They turned because their primarch, Peturbo, was fucking sick of being told to get shot at while digging ditches so that Ultramarines could look good for the pict-cameras. This is a surprisingly down to earth reason to betray your former generals. Chaos likes to get them shot at while digging ditches so that the Black Legion and other flashier warbands can look good for the pict-cameras. Oh dear.
The Word Bearers actually believe in Chaos sincerely. They aren't in it for the power or some petty betrayal; their primarch, Lorgar is actually probably more an architect of the Heresy than Horus. Lorgar wanted a religion, and began to worship the Emperor. Empy didn't like this and so had his cathedral-worlds burned while admonishing him for wasting time with religious ceremony. Lorgar fell into deep depression and then Chaos was like "Hey, so, we really like being worshiped and we're totally real gods." at which point he was 100% on board. He would then start introducing these ideas to Horus and oh dear.
The Black Legion are what's left of Horus' guys, and the most powerful remaining legion. In all the talk about how mighty they are they forget to actually give them a personality or hook besides being Undivided in their loyalty to Chaos (they don't worship individual Gods, but Chaos itself, or so they say). They keep trying to beat the Imperium as an institution because they believe it will prove Horus could have won.
Next Time: The Human Servants of Chaos, because unlike most of GW's material this game remembers they have those.
If you're not with us, you're Chaos
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
If you're not with us, you're Chaos
Herein Chaos tries to claim that absolutely any opposition to the Imperium of Man must, by nature, be supported by and reliant upon Chaos, while dressing it up in the idea that Chaos is the spirit of freedom and noble rebellion. Again, I like this; Chaos tries to pull the same thing in Fantasy, as does the more oppressive side of the Empire. The idea that the Imperium labeling everyone who resists it a Heretic leads a bunch of them to actual heresy out of thinking it's the only way to resist the insane fascist theocracy attacking them is good. This gives you space to have actual rebels and idealists and things in your party rather than just psychopaths screaming BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD LET THE GALAXY BURN like Chaos usually does. It's also interesting because it's a lie both Chaos and the Imperium profit from too much to ever stop telling it. Chaos and the Imperium both want to get the chain around your neck by pointing to the other guy and going 'Well if he's that bad, we've got to be better, right?'
Many of your human PCs will be people who have never been Imperials. Whole planets live inside the Screaming Vortex and they're full of people, same as outside in Realspace. Just because it's a swirling metal album hell realm doesn't mean there aren't farmers and technicians and 'normal' people who would normally get by saying a few prayers to the Dark Gods and paying off the Warbands. You might also be from outside the Imperium in Realspace; maybe your home was recently rediscovered by murderous, colonizing Rogue Traders and you've gone looking for help. Maybe you come from a world that had a government the Imperium didn't like when it arrived. Maybe you used to trade and work with aliens. Maybe you used to be a Wizard King or something that *really* didn't want to get on the Black Ships. The Imperium's oppressive and monolithic policies make sure that plenty of the people who meet it for the first time will be willing to listen to its biggest enemy.
Other PCs will have been Imperials who ran afoul of the regime. You might have been the fall-guy for a big military defeat to spare a political climber like Tetarchus over in Jericho. Maybe you're an Inquisitor with a radical theory that things need to change or the Imperium is going to slowly die. Maybe you're a Rogue Trader that went too rogue to ever actually go back. The Imperium's love of punishing subordinates to protect the truly mighty creates a lot of very angry people who don't want to die. Similarly, plenty of legitimate failures and losers will flee rather than sit back and die; if you're a noble who failed to take over your house, it might be better to run for wilderness space or the Vortex rather than sit there and wait for your victorious sibling to have you shoved in a cryotank or tortured to death. With a brutal and ill-run regime like the Imperium of Man, the reasons for rebellion or flight are endless.
Within the Imperium, characters are often driven to Chaos by the oppression of the Imperium. Political parties agitating for reform find themselves attacked by the Inquisition as heretics, and may find their only protection from actual heretics. Labor organizers are crushed for trying to act 'above their station' and may end up asking for help from things they don't totally understand because the other option is being tortured to death. Mutants don't get any other choice; at best, the Imperium will put them into forced labor camps or drive them into underhives. Chaos often lies to these people about what it is until they no longer have a choice, because things have already gone too far. This is good stuff; this is bringing in some of the best bits from the Fantasy Tome of Corruption, where trying to oppress your way out of Chaos only makes the problem worse. The difference is where the Empire had lots of hope of reform and impetus to do so (with things like the slow professionalization of the Witch Hunters) here you've got the Imperial Inquisition, who never met a problem they didn't like making worse. But it's still one of the better dynamics for Chaos and a nice, subtle indictment of the crazy 'burn a thousand innocents to get one heretic' Imperial doctrine. It also opens you up to playing characters with understandable reasons to get involved with heresy beyond just desiring personal power, and if you want a more serious game PCs struggling to keep some of the ideals that drove them to rebellion as Chaos tries to wear them down is actually fun to do.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned before, some PCs just come from the Screaming Vortex. Billions of people live in the Warp. It would be a nightmarish and chaotic existence to people from outside, but when you grew up farming screaming eye-stalks from the soul-wheat and squeezing fresh water out of the blood river I imagine it can seem downright normal. Some of these folk will be called to take up the gun and try to win greater glory and maybe see Realspace some day. Some may even aspire to impress the Traitor Legions and be recruited into being a Chaos Space Marine, much like the Kurgan, Hung, and Norse in Fantasy are sometimes called to become Chaos Warriors. Being from a weird nightmare realm where you can literally jump to another planet when the stars are right isn't that bad.
Also, a wise organizational thing to talk about quickly: Right after all this background the game immediately goes into the basics of how the dice system works, what the stats are, etc well before you get to character creation. They moved it all to chapter 1 instead of chapter 7. It's also here that we get the goal of the game: Get 100 Infamy before you get 100 Corruption. You'll need to work hard at it: The way Corruption and Infamy gains are balanced out, you need to be completing big objectives and winning adventures consistently to get the extra Infamy you'll need to get yourself over the 100 line before you hit 100 Corruption. Also, you lose your PC at either threshold. Corruption and Infamy is an interesting idea that would be better if Corruption was more interactive, and if there were more ways to, say, take Corruption in the short term to set up Infamy gains in the long term. Also, many Infamy gains are directly tied to Corruption gains, which seems like a mistake.
Next Time: Making a Heretic
Bad Ideas Ahoy
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Bad Ideas Ahoy
There is no Career system in BC. The Career system is dead. BC will be the first of two attempts to replace it in a way that supposedly allows for more flexible, varied PCs. Neither of them works. The one in BC is also actually directly linked to which God you follow; all PCs start out as Undivided RAW and then, if you have 5 more advances in advances linked to a God when you hit various Corruption thresholds you switch over to being aligned to that god. There is a reason one of the most common houserules you'll see on SA BC games is 'Fuck that, just say what God you follow'. In Black Crusade, all advances are available at 8 'o clock, day one. You don't need to hit an experience level to buy Mighty Shot or Bolt Proficiency (Also, weapon proficiencies for Pistol/Basic/whatever are gone now. You just learn 'Weapons: Las' and that's good for all lasguns), those things are now gated by being Tier 1, 2, or 3, which affects cost. Your alignment also affects cost. For instance, Khornates can buy Swift Attack (Tier 2) and Lightning Attack (Tier 3) at a lower rate rather than a Slaaneshi, who is opposed to Khorne and thus pays the highest possible price for those. Meanwhile the Khornate can't buy ranks of the Dodge skill (Skills can be bought up to +30 now, at increasing costs at each step) without paying through the nose. To max out an 'opposed' skill is 2500 EXP. To max out a True (aligned to your God) skill is 1300, about half that. Stat advances have been brought back down to original Dark Heresy costs while skills and talents are generally more expensive. Some talents and skills are themselves Unaligned and will always have medium costs for any PC.
The Alignment dance goes: Slaanesh is okay with Tzeentch and hates Nurgle and Khorne. Khorne is okay with Nurgle but hates Tzeentch and Slaanesh. Tzeentch is a cardboard cutout with 'clever' written on it and also 'fuck Nurgle and Khorne'. Nurgle is okay with Khorne but mildly disapproves of Slaanesh and Tzeentch. All of them think Chaos Undivided is boring (If you're Unaligned you get moderate costs for everything in the game, which really adds up and will screw you over quite a bit.)
Also, remember how they for some reason refuse to let PCs get very many Wounds? Yeah, well, buying individual wounds is 200 EXP if you're Nurglite (Reasonable), 300 if Khornate or Unaligned (Eh), and 400 (so you just don't buy them) for anyone else, plus every Wound moves you closer to Nurgle, AND there's a cap on Wounds of 'Your Toughness Bonus'. So you're paying a bunch of EXP for each individual hitpoint, it fucks with your alignment (unless you're Nurglite, in which case it helps you assure it more easily) and you can't actually buy enough to protect you from our Good Friend Lascannon. Note that Dodge is a Slaaneshi skill, too, and Slaanesh and Nurgle don't get along, so your Nurglite is going to have to pay a hefty tax to avoid death by Lascannon.
In theory this is all supposed to allow for diverse PCs. In practice, it acts like Cross Class skills in D&D: It's a waste of your goddamn time to try to break type. All mechanical incentives point towards buying as few 'tax' powers and talents from Gods you aren't with as you can get away with, because you could buy multiple talents or high tier talents for your actual God for the same resources. Also, everyone having access to all the best talents right away tends to lead to everyone buying those talents immediately, because why the hell wouldn't you? In practice, this system homogenizes the HELL out of PCs. You're never going to meet a Khornate who doesn't focus on melee, because being able to master melee is like, what Khorne's got going for him. Every Slaaneshi is going to be a graceful social wizard, because that's what Slaanesh gives you. Tzeentch guys are all going to be space wizards because he is the God of Space Wizard. Nurglites all get obliterated by a lascannon because nothing he gives you actually makes you meaningfully tough enough to survive direct heavy weapons hits but in theory they're all going to be tough tanks. And Unaligned will all be gimped next to their allies because they're paying a general 50% EXP tax while also getting fucked by the Reward/Mutation system, which we'll get to later. To put it succinctly, the Reward/Mutation system makes it really clear you are *not supposed to stay Unaligned* since the Unaligned only ever gain Mutations, never Rewards of Chaos.
Oh, yeah, and if you buy 20 advances for your God and have 5 more in that God than any other God besides Unaligned, you get the Mark of Chaos automatically. Nurgle's Mark makes you suffer nothing from Critical Hits unless they kill you or blow off a limb and gives +1 Unnatural Toughness. Khorne's Mark gives +2 Unnatural Strength, +3 to damage on Charges, and resistance to psychic powers. Slaanesh's gives +2 Unnatural Fellowship and Heightened Senses (All), so effectively +10 to Perception tests. Tzeentch's gives +1 Psy Rating and makes you a Psyker if you weren't, plus gives +1 Unnatural Willpower. You want a God Mark, and you get it by specializing your PC and playing to your strict type. This is going to be a theme with Chaos. Speaking of, Unnaturals are now '+X' instead of 'Multiple by X'. So Marines have Unnatural Str 4 and Tough 4, but it won't multiply their Str and Toughness advances anymore.
The first choice in PC creation is Human or Marine. Marines get a bunch of Marine training like Deathwatch Marines, and automatically start with their power armor and a bolter or bolt pistol. They also get base 30 for all stats, like a DW Marine. They get 500 starting EXP to spend and will gain fewer Rewards/Mutations than a human. Humans only get a paltry couple Common Lores and know a Trade (Useless) but get a very helpful base +2 to Initiative (Humans know they gotta be quick on the draw to survive in Marine Town), get more Mutations/Rewards, and generally have more skills and things attached to their archetypes (starting packages) than Marines. Unfortunately they get 25s in their stats to start. Humans are meant to be more of quick skillmonkeys and tricky folk who rely on skill and precision, while Marines just face-tank their way through life. You roll stats exactly like you have in all the other games: 25+2d10 down the line or 30+2d10 if you're a Marine. Then you pick your Archetype.
The Legion Champion is a Chaos Marine officer. They get some minor command and social skills on top of their Marine training, 15+d5 Wounds, some command talents, and a power sword to indicate they're an officer. They also get the ability to let other players spend Infamy points (Fate) as if they were the Champion's Alignment and Corruption, which is a mostly meh special ability (Fate is now limited some by how Corrupt you are and which God you follow). These are the squad leaders of the Chaos Legions, brutal warriors who know a little about motivating people as well as hitting people with a sword. Most Champions are trying to climb the ranks by executing daring raids and planning clever betrayals. They get involved with a party because a bunch of highly trained, talented individuals can make their leader look even better. Most tend to assume they're the group's leader.
Legion Chosen don't give a shit about rank. These are professional Space Marine killers, mercenaries and raiders who fight mostly to gain the means to keep fighting. They know Stealth and they can dodge and parry pretty well (Parrying is an actual Skill now). They're quick on the draw and can choose to be precise with a melee weapon or a gun, and get d5+16 Wounds. Whenever they inflict Zealous Hatred (It can't be Righteous Fury) they can roll it twice and pick the roll they want to choose; Zealous Hatred no longer causes cascading, exploding damage dice but rather immediately inflicts a d5 Crit Result. This is a way better special ability. Since Chosen don't tend to care about their own advancement or who their allies happen to be so long as they can keep practicing their trade of war, they fit in well in a mixed group; if the humans can hire a Marine to come along, the Marine will be fine with coming along as long as he or she has plenty of enemies to fight and shinier guns and swords to use.
Forsaken are Marines who have left their Legion, or who never had a Legion to begin with, being renegade Imperial Marines. These are the 'skill' Marine, coming with some ability to do business with others and some ability to survive and sneak on their own. They also get 15+d5 Wounds and +10 on checks against their Infamy to buy expensive gear, since they know how to make contacts and have had to do their own logistics work. The core of a Forsaken's character is obviously going to be 'why are you a hobo Marine', and the range of answers you can give means you can make a lot of different sorts of Forsaken. Their fluff specifically points out they're the most likely to be found in a mixed Warband, because without other Marines to back them up they tend to be used to working with regular humans.
Sorcerers are basically weaker Librarians; they are evil space wizards who are also Space Marines. They start with relatively few Psy powers and only Psy 2, and they start 'bound', meaning they can't take as big of risks with their magic but it's a bit safer. They're deceptive and tricky people with a bit of forbidden knowledge, and they also get to start with a Force Weapon just like a Librarian, so they have one of the best melee weapon types in the game from the getgo. Note that you cannot align to Khorne if you are a Sorcerer, or rather if you do you cannot use your magic until you unalign from him; Khorne despises all weavers of the black arts. So being exceptional with that melee weapon is going to be tough. Sorcerers usually think of themselves as expert plotters and especially favored wizards. They like to join a Warband as an 'advisor' while assuming they control it from the shadows. They also get 15+d5 Wounds.
Now, the humans. Humans can actually hang with the Marines pretty well! They get actual stat bonuses from their Archetype (But not enough to make up for the +5 to everything the Marine gets) but more importantly, humans can be subtle, clever, and skillful. Marines are a bull in the china shop.
Apostates are former Inquisitors, demagogues, Rogue Traders, religious leaders, etc who have fallen into Chaos. They might also be native preachers or social climbers from the Vortex. They are the absolute masters of social manipulation, coming with a bunch of social skills and some of them already at +10. They also get a native +5 Fellowship and d5+9 Wounds. They also get some good leader talents, and can start with a minion (a bit like Leadership in D&D, getting them a minor NPC that gets replaced if they die). Their special ability lets them sow the seeds of their reputation with an outside organization once per session, making a Charm or Deceive test to temporarily give themselves the Peer (+10 to Interaction tests with that faction) talent with that group (which also, I believe, erases any bad reputation with that group for the session). If they have a 55+ Base Fellowship, they get Peer (2) for +20 instead. The ability to work the field a little and get ready to diplomat can be *really* helpful. Most Apostates had or have a position of some authority and a lot of experience with people. They join a warband because while they aren't great warriors, everyone can use a talented diplomat who can pull multiple fractious factions together behind the scenes.
The Heretek is a Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay Techpriest, so you know they're going to be a total badass. They bring 12+d5 Wounds, +5 Int, and a ton of tech skills and cybernetics to the table, as they always have. They make robots much more loyal minions. They get 2 Good Cybernetics and the Mechanicus Implants trait. Also note they are now completely able to, say, align to Khorne while juicing themselves up with crazy cybertech and warptech, at which point they can elbow-drop space marines from orbit or whatever lunatic stuff Techpriests get up to or run around one-handing autocannons. This is the Techpriest after 3 whole games of FFG slowly turning them into angry action machine Gods, and this is the Techpriest with all the brakes specifically removed; you know it's gonna get crazy. They either grew up in the Vortex and were always mad scientists, or they were mad scientists who were driven out of the Imperium and are now on a quest to show all the fools back home the true power of technology. Fools-showing is an important part of Mad Science.
The Renegade is the human fighter, and surprisingly enough they're actually really good. They come with a lot of wide weapon training and neat dirty fighting tricks, and they tend to be good commanders and better at dealing with people and doing non-fight stuff than Marines. These are the cunning normal human that uses the Gifts of Chaos and years of experience and skill to beat a Marine's raw power, in theory. In practice it can take them a little while to get going, but their special ability of +1 DoS with any checks of a stat of their choice (usually BS or WS or Agi) is actually really, really great. They get +3 BS and WS and 10+d5 Wounds. These are fallen Imperial heroes, stormtroopers, guard officers, etc. Alternately, these are the most talented local warriors from human warbands; pirate heroes, princes of daemonic feudal worlds, or just really experienced, professional killers. Don't let their lack of implants fool you: Renegades still kick a lot of ass.
The Psyker doesn't care that they aren't a Marine. The Psyker has it where it counts, starting at Psy 3 instead of 2 and being equipped with stronger raw power and warp senses than the Sorcerer at the start. They have a piddly d5+8 Wounds and gain +5 Willpower. They can choose to pour even more power into their abilities, at greater risk, than the Marine version can. Psykers have all kinds of reasons to join Chaos but the biggest one is 'The Imperium wanted to take you away and then torture you for years to break you into a pliable instrument of their will and/or feed you to the Emperor'. They tend to be somewhat unstable individuals but their mighty space wizardry means they can get away with being eccentric.
After Archetype, you roll for or pick your Pride, your Disgrace, and your Motive for being here. These all have significant mechanical effects. By the end of them, you'll have the skeleton of a backstory and concept and you might have stats minmaxed to the moon. These are things like priding yourself on being Logical (+5 Int, -5 Per) or feeling Disgraced by your HUBRIS (+2 starting Infamy, -4 Int). Once these are done, you spend your 500 EXP if a Marine, 1000 if a human, and you've got your Heretic.
Next: Making an actual Heretic
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
To examine the general power levels of the two, we'll be making a Marine Chosen and Human Renegade. You'll note there's no selecting for homeworld; there's a sidebar that talks about how such things have long since stopped mattering to followers of Chaos.
The Marine starts with 30 in everything, and after rolling (and one reroll for a bad stat) is WS 37, BS 43, S 36, T 48, Agi 34, Int 42, Per 37, WP 45, Fel 34. He rerolls Strength and gets Str 48. So, fit, but clumsy Space Marine with poor eyesight and little personality. He then adds in his Legion training: As a Marine, he already has Athletics, Awareness, Common Lore (WAR), Dodge, Forbidden Lore (Astartes, Horus Heresy, The Long War), Linguistics (Low Gothic), Navigate (Surface), Operate (Surface), and Parry. He also starts with the Talents: Ambidextrous, Bulging Biceps (Can use heavy weapons like rifles), Legion Weapons Training, Heightened Senses (Hearing, Sight), Nerves of Steel, Quick Draw, Resistance (Cold, Heat, Poison), and Unarmed Warrior. You will note they have less abilities than a loyalist Marine in Deathwatch; this is in keeping with normal 40k, where they make a big deal about Chaos Marines but they're generally kind of shittier than Loyalists with worse gear until they get some Gifts in 'em. He also gets Unnatural Strength (4) and Toughness (4), plus his power armor and a bolter and combat knife. As a Chosen, he adds in Stealth, Dodge+10, and Intimidate. He also gets a choice of Quick Draw or Rapid Reload, but, uh, already has Quick Draw so he gets Rapid Reload. He'll take Double Team to be able to team up on people over Disarm, to make up for his poor melee skill. He gets Lightning Reflexes, so he'll reroll Init and take best. He'll take Deadeye Shot to be able to make called Bolt shots. Finally, he grabs his free spare pistol and chainsword for being Chosen and rolls for Wounds: He's got 20.
For his Pride, he rolls an unusual one: Craftsmanship. He gets +3 Intelligence and Agility, -3 to both combat skills, and gets 1 point of starting Infamy. His disgrace is his terrible HUBRIS at -4 Intelligence and +2 Infamy. Finally, his goal is Immortality, wanting to live forever. It has a hefty -5 to Weapon Skill and +2 Wounds; he has a 29 base WS after all this *as a Space Marine*. Good thing he's a decent shot. So there you have it, a prideful, boastful Space Marine mercenary who takes pleasure in his professionalism and trade but who is worse with a sword than the average starting DH character. He spends his EXP on a BS and Toughness advance for 250 each. This also moves him 1 point towards Nurgle, the poor, stupid bastard (Nurgle gets even more shafted later in the book). He rolls for starting Infamy which isn't written until late in the book (d5+19+Modifiers) and gets a 1 on the d5: He's got 23 Infamy. Infamy's 10s stat is also your fate point equivalent here, so for now he has 2 Infamy Points.
The human Renegade, on the other hand, starts as WS 36, BS 36, S 36, T 39, Agi 38, Int 37, Per 32, WP 42, Fel 45. She is exceptionally slightly above average except that WP and Fel. She rerolls Per since it's the only poor stat she has and it raises to 42. She is strong-willed, perceptive, and exceptionally persuasive while being merely competent physically and mentally. As a human, she picks up Common Lore (Imperium and Ecclesiarchy), Trade (Armorer), and Linguistics (Low Gothic). Note that all these heretics are assumed to be able to read now. She also gets an inherent +2 Initiative for being human. As a Renegade, her WS and BS raise up to 39. She then gains Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Parry, Common Lore (War), Scholastic Lore (Tactica Imperialis), Operate (Aircraft) (She gets to choose one), Intimidate OR Command (She picks Command), Dodge+10 OR Parry+10 (She picks Dodge), Survival OR Stealth (She picks Stealth), Tech Use OR Medicae (She picks Medicae). Having someone with Medicae around is *really goddamn helpful* I should add. For Talents, she gets Jaded (No Fear for mundane violence), Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Heavy Weapon Training, Weapon Training (Primary, Chain, Las, SP, Flame and Bolt), Catfall OR Combat Sense (Takes Combat Sense to use her good Perception for Init), Surestrike OR Deadeye Shot OR Marksman (Takes Marksman because no range penalties ever), Double Team OR Disarm OR Takedown (Takes Double Team), Ambidextrous OR Hip Shooting (Takes Ambidextrous). She also starts with a Best Chainsword OR a Power Mace, and takes the Chainsword. She gets carapace armor, a bolt pistol, and a Good Bolter. She also takes Ballistic Skill as her Adroit stat (+1 DoS with Ballistic Skill tests). She also gets 15 Wounds.
Now she rolls motives. Her pride is in her Charm, giving her +5 Fellowship and -5 to Toughness, making her insanely good with people. Her disgrace is her Greed, giving her +4 Corruption at start and a -10 to use the Commerce skill since she wants everything. Her motive is Perfection, and this character could not be more Slaaneshi if she tried. This lets her pick a stat and give it +5 at the cost of picking two stats to have -3, so she takes -3 to WS and WP for +5 to Fellowship, again. If she was an Apostate she could easily be starting with a 70+ Fellowship. Instead she'll spend her EXP: Charm and Deceive for 200 each, then +5 to Fellowship and Ballistic Skill for 250 each, with 100 in the bank. She rolls Infamy and gets a 5, but has no modifiers: She starts with 4 Corruption and 24 Infamy. She also starts with 3 Slaanesh advances, so only needs to buy 2 more before 10 Corruption to Align as fast as possible. And you want to align, if only so you might actually get bonuses from the Gods instead of just mutations.
So there you have it: A giant brick in armor with a very big gun and an incurious, clumsy demeanor and a graceful, charming, perceptive gunslinger. Humans and Marines feel very different mechanically, but they feel on roughly the same level and they'll hang together well as long as you don't send the Marines to blend in or do anything subtle. If I had to pick, I'd much rather GM for an all-Human party than an all-Marine one, though. You'll also note the Passions radically alter a character and that rolling for them randomly can screw you. Some of them are also extremely purely negative, which is odd. For instance, the motive Violence gives +5 Corruption and -3 Intelligence with no benefit. The motive Nihilism is the same, but with -3 Willpower. I'm not sure why some of these purely negative ones exist; they screw a character some mechanically if you're rolling and if you're not, who would pick them?
Next Time: Whatever needs to be said about Skills and Talents.
Additional Heresy: Khorne Flavored
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Additional Heresy: Khorne Flavored
So, I found my extra books at last and thus will be detouring to cover the additional starting PC types that you can play as based upon the books of the Gods. One thing I dislike: All of these classes are markedly more powerful than the base classes and designed to represent a sort of 'advanced start' or prestige class in a system that doesn't actually have strict classes. This power comes in the form of higher base stats (which, recall, means their maxed out stats will be higher), better starting skills and talents, and having an average of 2 Special Abilities instead of one, with those special abilities usually being more powerful than the base classes and more specialized. This is not the kind of advantage you can truly make up for by just granting extra EXP to PCs who wanted to play normal classes and while everyone will be hilariously overpowered eventually, it's sort of unfair that the person who wants to play a Forsaken is going to be worse than the Alpha Legionnaire.
I don't know WHY they went that route, as it is. It would have been fine to just have variant abilities on the various special classes but balance them against the normal base classes. The specialist classes all start with extra Corruption, true, but also with extra Infamy.
The Khorne Berserker is a Space Marine, likely from the World Eaters legion, who likes killing things to a degree that makes other Space Marines uncomfortable. The Berserker is even better in melee than a standard Marine, and can come with a Chain Axe instead of Chain Sword if they wish. They get a big +5 to Str and WS, +9 Infamy, +15 Corruption, 16+d5 Wounds, and start Aligned to Khorne. If they ever lose this alignment, they lose all class abilities and -8 to all stats as Khorne pitches a fit. Their special abilities let them spend Infamy to make all enemies make a -10 WP test or suffer -20 to shoot at the Berserker for a turn, or the ability to spend Infamy to make a Str test to negate an enemy Parry OR ignore being murdered. The Khorne Berserker can just make a Toughness test and spend an Infamy Point to say 'I am too angry to be murdered' and continue as they were. There isn't really much to be said for them fluff-wise. They're angry murderers whose only passion in life is murder. If you looked up Khornate in a dictionary these guys would be the picture.
The Night Lords Space Marine is from the terrorist batman Legion of edgy 90s grimdark comic characters. They also like wearing stupid bat-hats. They get a boost of 5 to Strength and Willpower, 15 Corruption, 9 Infamy, 16+d5 Wounds, and some infiltration and intimidation skills on top of normal Marine stuff. They're also good with jet-packs but don't actually start with one, confusingly. They increase the bonuses to Stealth checks or penalties to shoot at them based on visual distortion (like smoke grenades or attacking at night) by 20. They can also spend time being spooky and preparing an enemy for the inevitable spooky assault of the Night Lord. If they do, they spend 2 Infamy and 2 days prep time per point of Fear they want to give their entire party, then make an Intimidate-20 test against the group they're trying to scare. If successful, they grant the whole party a Fear rating against that enemy. Their legion was run by a guy who was also violence batman and now they spend all their time hanging people from lighting fixtures and leaving them for the others to find, then popping out of the shadows and being scary. They are Unaligned.
The Xurant Frost Father is warrior-shaman of Khorne from a specific feral world within the Vortex. They are known as great war-leaders and hunters of mighty beasts, and the best go to the stars to continue to serve Baphtar (their name for Khorne) once they can no longer find challenges on their homeworld of Xur. They get +5 WS and Str, +3 Fel and WP, and +9 Infamy and +15 Corruption, plus 11+d5 Wounds. They're exceptional athletes, survivors, and melee fighters, as you'd expect. They also get a giant crab-lizard to ride. Also noted: Despite the name they can be men or women. Their specials are that they get bonuses to the Command skill after they accomplish mighty deeds (tests of -20 difficulty or harder) and gain a bonus Infamy point to spend like Fate if they do so without using Infamy. They can also spend Infamy to go berserk with the Frenzy talent (which doesn't suck like in Fantasy, it only gives bonuses now) and do so at an extra +5 WS, T, S, and WP. They have to slay a worthy opponent every now and then or they take penalties to Int, Fel, and Per. The opponent must be someone who can actually put up a fight; no slaughtering the weak for these warriors. They're aligned to Khorne, obviously.
The Chem Hunter of Messia is a crazy warboy from a post-apocalyptic hell planet hopped up on a variety of crazy pollutants from their homeland. They get +5 WS OR BS, +5 Str OR Tough, and +5 Per, plus the customary +9 Infamy +15 Corruption, and have 12+d5 Wounds. They're a lot like the Renegade in that they're the sort of professional dirty fighter archetype with a lot of skill to back it up; they know all sorts of streetfighting tricks but lack the wide range of weapon proficiency from Renegade. Their starting gear also sucks; just an assault rifle or lasgun and a chain weapon, with no armor. They make up for this by getting extra bonuses out of using combat drugs; any drug that provides a skill bonus provides them an extra +10, any that improves a stat provides an extra +1 Unnatural, but they take a -10 to tests against Addiction because we gotta have addiction rules for drugs, it's tradition. They can also make their own unique combat drug mixture (easy to get, 1 hour to prepare each dose) to remind them of home, and when inhaled the pollutants give +1 Unnatural Str and Toughness per dose taken for 2d10 minutes. If two doses are taken, it also grants them Frenzy and a +20 Toughness test to avoid taking d10 damage (reduced by TB but not armor). They can take as many doses at once as they like; each additional one makes the Tough test -10 harder. The drug mix also poisons the hell out of non-Chem-Hunters, inflicting 2d10 damage and Toxic 3 (Tough at -30 or take d10 unreducable damage) if they inhale it.
Next: Slaaneshi and the Power of Rock
Additional Heresy, Slaaneshi Edition
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Additional Heresy, Slaaneshi Edition
Before I get into the Slaaneshi classes, I'd like to point out something about the Slaanesh book, Tome of Excess: There is basically no sexual menace or violence anywhere in the book. There's some creepy Hellraiser stuff about the love of all sensation, including pain, but there's no dwelling on or implication of rape and sexual menace. There's maybe an implication Slaaneshi like to fuck in addition to the other stuff they get up to in a 'sex drugs and rock n' roll' way, but it's never dwelled on nor given any sort of game rules. The focus of the Tome of Excess is on new ways to use your unseemly high Fellowship to screw with people by embarrassing them in dance/insult fights in front of the court of darkness, new magic drugs to get crazy bonuses from, new styles of groupies who can fix your ego when you're feeling down after losing an insult fight, and ways to explode people with the power of rock.
So yes, Fantasy Flight Games wrote a Slaaneshi book full of rules you can actually use at a normal gaming table. There's still creepy devil stuff but it's more in line with "Slaanesh is the devil. Like, the one who buys souls in return for granting wishes." rather than "Rape Monsters." They made it possible to play a Slaaneshi without being creepy as hell and this is one of the reasons that I still regard them as a good developer despite all the glaring mechanical faults.
Noise Marines like it loud. These demonic rockers literally melt faces with solos played on massive amps and 'sonic cannons' that look like giant electric guitars. Marines don't feel many of the normal desires that humans do, or at least not in the ways humans do, so Slaaneshi Marines tend to go all in on the extremes of sensation instead. These Marines have exceptionally powerful senses, but are so inured to most things that only the most powerful metal stirs their hearts any longer. They get +5 Perception, +5 Ballistic Skill, and I'm going to stop listing the +9 Infamy/+15 Corruption because every Advanced Class has it, plus d5+16 Wounds. They're great shots and trained with their exotic Sonic Blasters, and have exceptional sensory abilities even for a Marine. Sadly, they only get the basic Sonic Blaster, which is pretty much a Bolter But With Full Auto, and will need to acquire the much cooler multi-mode Blastmaster (it can do HMG or explosive rocket launcher type stuff depending on if you're strumming fast or going for an explosive chord) or the doom-siren sound-flamer later to trick out their rig. They get +2 to Toughness, Fear, and Pinning tests (tests, not the stat) for every combatant in a battle (up to 12) as the noise makes it much better for them. They also get an inherent +20 to any test involving hearing. Finally, they can spend an Infamy point once per battle to either cause everyone within 50m to make a WP-20 save or gain d5 Fatigue, get Stunned for 2 rounds, or suffer Fear 2. Alternatively, they can spend it to increase the Pen and Damage of any Sonic weapon by their Perception bonus as they play the best goddamn solo they can muster. They are, naturally, Slaaneshi.
The Dark Apostle doesn't have anything to do with Slaanesh directly, outside of the fact that these Word Bearer Space Marines worship all 4 Gods of Chaos and use a lot of social rules for what they do. These are the true believers, the missionaries and leaders of Chaos who turn to the masses and tell them to rise up and offer themselves before the Eight Pointed Star. They are truly, genuinely loyal to Chaos, believing it to be the truth of the universe and believing Demonic Ascension to be the only worthwhile goal of existence. They get +5 Fellowship and Willpower, and their skills are much more socially oriented than most Marines, with lots of Charm and Command. They also come equipped wholly for demagoguery and missionary work in their talents; none of their class-specific talents are combat related, all are about moving big crowds of people. They have the special ability to convert people who are already favorable disposed to them to their flock, making them much more loyal, and they can use Interaction skills on much larger crowds than most characters with a single test. They can also consecrate ground in the name of the Gods, making ritual sites and unholy, corrupted places that aid in performing the most powerful of rites for an Infamy point and some time and tests spent to build the shrine. They're Unaligned, and honestly with their fluff it might get a little awkward if they Aligned.
The Pirate Prince of the Ragged Helix is our first Slaaneshi Human and they are evil(er) rogue traders who are even more extravagant and vain. These are the kings and queens of the pirates who via with one another in a constant competition to be the most radical man (woman) in this radical land. Any and all Pirate Princes have access to their own starship. Most of them worship Slaanesh because Slaanesh rewards outlandish showiness and vanity, and also because Slaanesh understands their constant desire for more wealth when they're already richer than anyone would ever need to be. They get +5 Intelligence, Fellowship, and Agility, d5+10 Wounds, and their skills and talents are basically what a Rogue Trader's should have been to get across what Rogue Traders were supposed to be: They can swashbuckle, charm, pilot their ship, shoot reasonably well, and talk their way out of danger. When making a Prince (or Princess) you choose something that is your specialty: Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, or Operate (Any One). Any time you spend an Infamy point for +10 to a test involving that specialty, you get an extra +10, for +20. However, if you fail, you make a WP-20 test or else you *must try again* as soon as possible. If you cannot try again or cannot succeed, you suffer -10 to Willpower and should complain about how it wasn't fair and they cheated or whatever until the end of the session. Princes are also better able to acquire Good or Best items, and have their own starship, which they get +10 to tests with; the party won't need to barter for transport, they can go in style aboard the Prince's flying space hell cathedral of luxury! They are aligned to Slaanesh.
The Flesh Shaper of Melancholia is *broken as hell*. These people come from a grey world of utter boredom where the servants of Slaanesh use this boredom to spur the locals to incredible desire. Some of them want things so much that they gain the ability to reshape their own flesh and that of others in order to seek some kind of excitement, and these gifted Shapers are taken up to orbit to begin initiation into the ways of Slaanesh. They seek to form for themselves and others bodies that no longer have limits, bodies that can change into whatever they need or want at the moment. They get a massive +10 Intelligence, +5 Fellowship, and +5 perception and 10+d5 Wounds, and skills relating to medicine, biology, evil occult knowledge, and interrogation. They're also surprisingly resilient with their Talents, having things like stun resistance or easier healing. Their special abilities and the Rite of Fleshmoulding are where they get nuts. A Flesh Shaper can spend Infamy and make a Medicae-10 test. If they succeed, for every DoS on the test they can grant themselves 1 point of an Unnatural stat (up to 4), Natural Armor, deadly natural weapons, and all kinds of other monster abilities. This lasts for an hour and then after that they have to make WP tests to avoid turning back to 'human'. They can also perform surgery on their minions to change their stats around.
The Rite of Fleshmoulding is the big one, though. They get some sacrificial victims and a subject (they can be their own subject) and then make a -20 Medicae or -0 Occult test over several hours. If they succeed, the subject gains from a variety of useful monster abilities like Regeneration or Unnatural Stats. Unnatural Stats or stats like Natural Armor gain a value equal to the DoS on the ritual test (up to 6, the holy number of Slaanesh). For each sacrificial victim used for the grafting and surgery, the subject gets one trait, up to 6 victims. So, sacrifice 6 cultists, roll high, and now you've got Unnatural Str and Toughness and Agility 6, 6 Natural Armor, Regeneration 6, and oh, why not, Unnatural Ballistic Skill or Size 6 or something. You can take a man or Marine and make them into an angry god, and this is *permanent*. If you fail the test the subject suffers a d10 +1 per DoF Rending critical effect and probably dies. But think of the power!
So yes, these are the guys who can take a person and make them into a better-than-space-marine or take a Marine and make them 50% more Space Marine than before. All it takes is a couple dead cultists and really, this is Chaos, those are a renewable resource. Oh, and they can still shapeshift after doing that to themselves.
Next Time: Tzeentch and a tricky race of space marines who like to steal
No, you cannot be a robot, and we are poorer for it
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
No, you cannot be a robot, and we are poorer for it
The first of our Tzeentch chaps is obviously the Thousand Sons Sorcerer, one of the few Thousand Sons Marines not turned into a hollow egyptian robot full of soul-dust. The Thousand Sons Sorcerer is really one of the most dull of the Advanced Classes because it's just the Marine Sorcerer but better, with +1 Psy Rating at the start, +5 Fellowship, and +5 Willpower, plus Unnatural Willpower (2) (So 2 point higher WPB and +1 DoS on WP tests, which is all psychic stuff for the most part) and 15+d5 Wounds. They don't even get anything cool like a Rubric Marine minion or something; they're just more powerful psykers with an added, really useful Unnatural. There is absolutely nothing interesting to say about them except 'Big fighty space wizard in armor, slightly more evil, massively more powerful'. They also get some Perils of the Warp manipulation abilities where they get extra protection from blowing themselves up. They're aligned to Tzeentch, which is really only a benefit for a Psyker. They don't even have any interesting fluff, just lots about how subtle and cunning they are while exploding peoples' heads with space hell power and how they love books.
The Alpha Legion Marine is more interesting. They're like an upgraded Forsaken, mechanically; as befits the tricky Space Marines who like to steal and spy, they're surprisingly good with people and very intelligent. They get +5 Int and Per, and start with only 15+d5 Wounds, but come with Deceive+30 and a bunch of stealth and social abilities compared to the average Marine. Their Talents aren't great for fighting, either, though being a Marine their base talents will take care of that. They start with a bunch of extra stealth gear, but their Specials are what's really interesting. First, for purposes of buying services from others, they can use Deceive, the skill, instead of their actual Infamy stat once per session. This represents the Marine putting on a fake top-knot and pretending to be Abbadon the Despoiler or something; they credibly pretend to be a much more important Chaos Lord and get some lackies moving without realizing they in fact serve the Alpha Legion. This is, as you might imagine, really well combined with them starting with Deceive turbo-maxed for when you wish to steal someone's realm or something. Secondly, the Marine can make a Scrutiny check at +0 to go 'I know a guy' once per session and point out a previously made contact or informant (which the Marine and GM make up on the spot) that can help the party out with something. These abilities are great! You can scam and schmooze your way across power metal hell as a giant eight foot spy. 'Ahah! He was working for me all along!' as a class ability really gets at the core of the tricky Alpha Legion and sounds genuinely fun to play. They are Unaligned.
The Q'Sal Magister Immaterial is a mighty wizard from the wizard planet of Q'Sal, where the world is a beautiful shining paradise of knowledge and crystal spires fed by literal soul-engines and the sacrifice of the poor and/or captives and bought slaves. These are the various shining wizard kings of wizard planet, and their power is mighty. You get +5 Int, WP, and Fel, 8+d5 Wounds, and start out as Psy 4. They're good at dealing with people and sussing out plots, or making their own plots, plus get extra skills based on which wizard country they're from back home. They also know how to use the evil crystal guns and daggers of their homeworld. Their real dickery is in Magus Supremus, their special ability. Unless they cause actual Perils of the Warp, they are immune to all of their own psychic phenomena miscasts and can pick and choose which allies and enemies are affected by them. They can also spend an Infamy point to reroll Phenomena, presumably if they got Perils and did not want to do so. They are a superior breed of crystal spire wizard dick and begin aligned to Tzeentch.
The Idolatrix Magos of Forge Polix represents a hideous melding of two of the most powerful and favored forces in FFG 40k: A Techpriest and a Wizard. If they were also a Space Marine (Find a Flesh Shaper to fix this!) they would probably destroy the universe with their might. Forge Polix is a Dark Mechanicus Forge in eternal war with another evil forge over what kinds of mad science are best. Forge Polix leans towards warp science and magitek. The Idolatrix Magos gets +10 Intelligence, +5 Willpower, 13+d5 Wounds, and are the weakest psyker in the game at Psy 1. However, they ARE a Psyker and thus can buy Psy stuff, use Force weapons, etc. They also have all sorts of knowledge and Mechanicus stuff like other Hereteks. They don't get any unique special abilities, they just have the Heretek one, but are also wizards with higher stats and more occult knowledge. They're also Unaligned; they don't have to go Tzeentch. So yes, a Techpriest who can learn magic without necessarily going Tzeentch is really goddamn powerful on its own.
Next Time: Cannibal Priest Massacre
Nurgle is, unfortunately, shit
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Nurgle is, unfortunately, shit
Let's talk Nurgle a little before we get to the classes.
Nurgle is going to suffer in these games for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one has to do with his gifts, the opposed Alignment system, and a little thing hidden in the section on Infamy. Remember, you get the tens digit of your Infamy stat as Fate Points (confusingly called Infamy Points, though you aren't actually spending permanent Infamy when you use one) in this game. They also decided it would be flavorful to have the various Gods alter what you can do with Infamy. For instance, a Khornate can spend Infamy to automatically get a low-success hit on an attack (1 DoS), but recovers fewer HP when spending Infamy to regain HP. Nurglites regain max HP when spending Infamy to heal, but they cannot spend Infamy to reroll tests
. Yes, that's right, the absolute CORE MECHANIC of Fate Points is denied to Nurglites.
Let's also talk another problem for Nurglites: Sound Constitution is reasonably priced for them at 200 EXP a wound, about on par with Dark Heresy 1e. This sounds good, right? Naw, you can only buy Wounds equal to your Toughness Bonus. Ever. Yes, your TB will increase as a Nurglite (You get a Good Toughness Advance, after all). This is going to especially fuck over Human Nurglites. A Human Khornate can get by on all the crazy skill stuff humans do, but a Nurglite Human is going to have a much harder time hitting the level of durability necessary to make tanking actual matter in this game (until they're hit with a couple heavy weapons anyway) unless they play a Techpriest. Nurgle's gifts give 'massive' bonuses like making you Size 6 (Enormous, +20 to hit you) and unable to Run (so you can't move hardly at all in combat; 2xAgility Bonus movement is not going to help you much in a game with 400m weapon ranges) in return for a whole 5 Wounds. His other gifts can give you a total of +3 Unnatural Toughness and let you ignore critical effects that don't outright blow off a limb, but again, those would more way more helpful on a Marine who already started with Unnatural T 4 and who can now buy an appreciable number of Sound Cons. Alternately, Nurglites want to be friends with a Slaaneshi Flesh Crafter because everyone does because that Fleshmoulding rite is that brokenly powerful.
So yeah, Nurglites are meant to be massive meatwalls and buff tanks, in a game where dodge-tanking is usually king.
Strangely, Nurgle gets 3 character specials per PC race. Somehow Nurgle has more special classes than the others.
We start off with the Plague Marine. I'm sure everyone expected the Plague Marine, and they're exactly what you expected: A gross sack of shit stuffed into a suit of decaying power armor that gets -10 Agility (Unique in getting a penalty, and to one of the best stats in the game), +10 Toughness, +5 Willpower, and 18+d5 Wounds. They know how to use awful toxic knives and they're very good with their bolters, and they're good at scaring people. Their specials are simple: They're completely immune to all drugs, toxins, and diseases unless they choose to be affected. Instead of trying to Dodge or Parry, they can make a Toughness test at -10 to reduce incoming damage by their DoS, gaining a Fear rating if this causes the attack to cause no damage; this is extremely situational. In most cases, the only reason to use this ability is if you know you're likely to take 0 damage even if you fuck up; the boost in damage mitigation won't stop 'serious' weapons. They can also expose their horrible toxic miasma to the world for an Infamy point, causing an aura of plague that does d10 Damage with no armor reduction (unless the armor is sealed) and Toxic (So if anyone is wounded by it they have to make a Toughness test or take d10 more damage) for d5+1 rounds that hits anyone within 10m. Friend or foe. So, you get a mostly not that useful tanking ability that still requires a difficult stat test you can't boost with skills, an actually useful Toxin immunity, and something likely to kill your partymates. Sounds like a fun class.
The Veteran of the Long War has nothing to do with Nurgle and is basically just an improved Chosen in every way. This is a Marine who fought in the Horus Heresy. Due to a mixture of warp-time fuckery and the gifts of Chaos, they're still around and still doing their thing. They get +5 WS or BS, +5 Willpower, and 15+d5 Wounds. They generally have an enormous number of Lore skills because they've been around, they come with a rep (Peer with some of the other forces of Chaos), and are generally pretty skilled soldiers. You don't kill people for 10,000 years without getting decent at it. They get to pick what Alignment they hold when they begin the game, then pick a special ability from any one other Chaos Marine class that matches that alignment. So they could take any of the core Marine ones, or if Unaligned, any of the Unaligned abilities (So you could have, say, the Alpha Legion tricky Marine power, or technically pick up the Sorcerer's Psyker ability, etc). Secondly, whenever they kill an enemy they have a Hatred talent for, they make an Infamy+10 roll. If they succeed, they gain Fear (2) against that kind of enemy and +1 Damage against that kind of enemy for the rest of the fight. This is actually a really powerful class, in that it's kind of 'choose your own, but also get some nice veteran abilities on top'.
Warpsmiths are a fusion of two powerful forces: The FFG Techpriest and the Space Marine. That's their selling point: You're a Chaos TechMarine. Remember how crazy TechMarines were before? Now take away the old Career system and let them buy whatevs when they want to. They get +5 Int, +5 WP, and 15+d5 Wounds. They are, as you imagine, good with technical skills and making and repairing weaponry. They also know how to use Mechadendrites (extra cybernetic tentacle limbs) and get 2 Good Craftsmanship cybernetics to start, like most Techpriests. They also get tremendous bonuses when building giant robots to power with hell demons, because that's a thing Chaos Techpriests do regularly. They make any robitic minions more loyal. And they can curse other peoples' technological devices. Honestly they didn't need a single Special Ability; 'You are a Techpriest but Also A Space Marine' is already going to be one of the most powerful classes possible in the same way 'You are a Techpriest but ALSO a Psyker' was in the Tzeentch stuff. They're Unaligned.
The Writhing World Sorcerer King is our first human, and you can tell they're's going to be good because they got King right in the name. They come from a horrible body-horror meat planet ruled by mighty Biomancer kings. They get +5 to Toughness, Intelligence, and Willpower, and 8+d5 Wounds. They start out aligned to Nurgle, and as Psy 3 Psykers who get a bonus of Nurglite and Biomancy powers to start off. They're reasonably good at kinging and sorcery, which makes sense for a sorcerer-king, and they get +1 Psy Rating when invoking Nurglite powers, which is quite handy. They can also summon their own hideous worm parasites out of their body into a minion swarm that kills people for them with a Willpower-10 Test and a Full Action. Other than that, they're kind of dull. They're just your standard wizard who is a little better at shit magic than other magic.
The Death Priest of Mire is a crazy berserker with a giant scythe who eats people. They need to eat other peoples' flesh in order to feed the many horrible parasites they've acquired and again: Nurgle not sounding like the best deal at the moment. They get +5 Strength, +5 Perception OR Weapon Skill, and +5 Toughness and 12+d5 Wounds, so they're good on building towards a melee powerhouse. They're good at stealth and dodging and parrying and surviving in a hell-realm, and they're also really, really good at Melee talents right off the bat. Their special abilities revolve around poisoning their weapons with a Survival+10 test and a full action, making their weapon either eat off enemy armor with Corrosive, do extra HP damage with Toxic, or cause Toughness damage with Irradiated. They may also spend a full round to eat a dead body and gain Unnatural Toughness (+d5) until the end of the current encounter. And any time they take a melee hit, they can spend an Infamy point to make their blood so vile it eats through and destroys the enemy's weapon. They're gross, but the Death Priest is kind of a badass who will put in some good work as a melee hero. They are obviously aligned to Nurgle.
The Plaguemeister is an evil biowarfare scientist. They represent Nurgle's mortal tallymen, the evil forces that love to catalogue how awful all of these various diseases get. Plaguemeisters are, surprisingly, amazing medics who get +10 Intelligence, +5 Toughness, and 10+d5 Wounds. They are excellent at Medicae and knowledge skills, and talented in a mishmash of tech affairs and melee. For specials, they get a total immunity to any Nurglite creatures' or daemons' fear ratings and an encyclopedic knowledge of plagues and lore related to their god. They can also choose to heal allies by +Int Bonus when using Medicae for an Infamy point, as well as instantly curing any Critical Effects. If they do, the target rolls Toughness. If they fail, they suffer a 'gift' of Nurgle ranging from harmless poxes to diseases to possession by a Nurglite demon to a permanent +d5-3 (min 0) Toughness to making them hyper-toxic for a few hours. I'm not sure why you'd want a Nurglite for your team doctor, but if you do, there they are. I suppose it's better than leaving it to the Slaaneshi?
So yes, those are all the classes at last. As you can see, the add-on book classes are simply more powerful than the base book ones, intended to be 'advanced' starts but with no real way to make up for the additional base stats and unique special abilities they get. The base classes are already crazy; then you introduce the dual-class Techpriests, the Flesh-Shaper, the crazy cannibal priest, and the trick-marines and go wild. Black Crusade is not a game for 'low power' adventures.
Next Time: The Armory of the Damned, since Skills and Talents are mostly already covered
13 flavors of broken
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
13 flavors of broken
You've long put up with my gripes about WH40KRP's gear system. Black Crusade offers an endless variety of ways to make your equipment even more powerful, to the point that you begin to hit a point where the game mechanics don't matter that much anymore. Firstly, we've got an array of excellent heavy weapons like the M41 Multilaser, usually seen as the main gun on Imperial Chimera IFVs, but now cut down to a level where any heretic with Bulging Biceps can use it as a 2d10+10 Pen2 assault rifle. Let's compare this to a human-scale heavy bolter for an illustrative example of something 40kRP has never seemed to 'get'. The human scale heavy bolter is d10+8 Pen5 Tearing. It and the multilaser have similar rates of fire and range, the multilaser has Reliable and a larger magazine. The multilaser is a better weapon in absolutely every way. Yes, it lacks Tearing, but you know what's better than Tearing? Rolling 2 dice *and keeping both*. Similarly, you'd think the higher Pen on the heavy bolter would help it out, but with 2d10+10 base damage, you're always going to 'make up' for the lower pen with raw damage, which is in every way better than penetration.
There has never, I think, been an acknowledgement that raw damage is simply the best thing on a weapon. There's simply no reason for a PC to ever use a human heavy bolter (outside of some marginally useful specialist ammunition) when the multilaser exists. They're even exactly as hard to get and you're *more* likely to know Las Weapons than Bolt Weapons. Similarly, once you have Bulging Biceps, there's really relatively little reason not to stick to heavy weapons except for carrying a couple pistols for when you need to conceal your weaponry, which comes up significantly less often in power metal hell land.
Also, for those who feel the M34 Autocannon is queen of the battlefield, let me introduce the Emperor of murder: The Reaper Autocannon. The Reaper is an M34 in all ways, except it's Twin Linked and fires an extra shot on Semiauto. 3d10+8 Pen6, long range, and Twin Linked is *awesome*. Twin Linked gives a weapon an inherent +10 to hit OR an automatic additional hit per burst (or single shot) if you choose at the cost of using 2 shots a shot, but the Reaper has twice the magazine of the M34. So this is a giant cannon you can potentially score 5 hits with per round. Or you can just settle for an inherent accuracy bonus. Or the ability to hit twice on single shot. It's also technically a Space Marine weapon but it lacks the actual explicit Legion tag, so technically any buff enough human can wield it. It turns out the only thing better than an autocannon is two autocannons strapped together and given a scary demon face on the barrel. We also get a note that any human using either Recoil Gloves or with Unnatural Str 4 from other sources can now freely wield Marine weapons.
Were you tired of only having Chainswords and Chainaxes? We've got Chain Greatswords! Chain Daggers! Chain Wristblades! Chain everything! All with minor variations in their stats! We've also got a million different power weapons, all of which come out to 'hits really hard and breaks non-power weapons' outside of the Chainfist (which is a chainsword mounted on a power fist for Terminators), the Power Fist (which still does 2d10+2xSB) which mostly just kill whoever they punch. We've got exotic devil rapiers that eat your own life force but can't be parried and hit like a truck. We've got Hellblades fresh from a Bloodletter that do massive damage and gain +2 damage *per kill* per fight (no adjudication on if this includes horde kills, or else these weapons will hit harder than a lascannon after you go through some mooks). I should also note melee got a huge change: Swift and Lightning attack are no longer additional attack rolls. Instead, they act like Semiauto and Full Auto rates of fire for melee attacks. This makes a character significantly more likely to land more blows, but less likely to land at least one blow; with the huge number of bonuses and talents and powers BC characters have, this generally works out in favor of making a true melee specialist insanely powerful. Also why the Renegade's '+1 DoS with a stat of their choice' can be so vicious with melee characters.
Armor is much the same as it's always been, because there's never been as many fiddly variables they can add to armor to sell sourcebooks. The only real difference is that many of the secondary systems on a suit of power armor are likely to be non-functional. In return, power armor has customizations, like having horns that make your Charge attacks unable to be parried or chain bandoleers that shatter non-power weapons that hit your armor.
Cybernetics are where we get some more crazy. You'll recall the FLESH IS WEAK talent that gave Techpriests natural armor and made them count as mechanical? Anyone can take that, now. It's a buyable item. It's Extremely Rare for non-techpriests, Rare for Techpriests, and it can be stacked infinitely. In practice, spending all your time buying more cybernetics for yourself probably won't be allowed by your GM, but this is a theoretical source of unlimited extra armor points that stack with worn armor. Many of the old Techpriest talents that used to cost EXP are now buyable augmetics. You can also instantly get Bulging Biceps (and be able to use heavy weapons like they were rifles) by just buying Skeletal Reinforcement. All manner of extraordinary cyber-powers are one Acquisition test away; some are limited to people with Mechanicus Implants, of course.
But that's still not the meat of the crazy: The real crazy comes in the new, enhanced weapon options you can get from this book and Tome of Blood. The core book makes note of 'Legacy Weapons', but they don't show up until the Khorne expansion. What we have first is Daemon Weapons. Daemon Weapons are weapons infused with a very angry daemon who is very unhappy to be in there, exactly the same as in Fantasy. However, unlike Fantasy, they are extremely powerful and extremely worth using. Any Daemon Weapon gains a bonus to base Pen and Damage equal to bound demon's Willpower Bonus. They never run out of ammunition, jam, or break. However, as with everything Chaos, they hate you. Your daemon weapon forces a WP vs. WP test to try to enslave you, with a penalty to the daemon's WP based on the Binding Strength of the weapon (-5% per Binding Strength). A stronger Binding makes it easier to control, but will also limit the weapon's power. Similarly, a weaker willed daemon is easier to control (You only have to beat it when you first wield the weapon, and then any time you lose consciousness in combat, etc thereafter) but won't provide nearly the same bonuses.
Your daemon weapon ALSO gets special abilities like it was a Fantasy Chaos Weapon. You get 1 special ability per point of Willpower Bonus for the bound demon, -1 per point of Binding Strength. This means, for instance, a Daemon Weapon made of a mighty Willpower 71 Daemon Prince at Binding Strength 1 is going to have 6 abilities, but is also going to be hard as hell to control. And remember: The daemon in your weapon hates you. Hates you a lot
. They don't like being stuffed into weapons. The abilities for your weapon are rolled on a mixture of several tables, one for whatever God it was devoted to before it became a power source, and one for Unaligned that's open to any weapon. You may choose to add the Daemon's Infamy stat to any of these rolls; this is why the table has abilities beyond 100. These 100+ abilities can do things like '+d10 damage and Felling 4'. Or 'Warp Weapon (ignores all non-sanctified armor'. Daemon Weapons also have a complex ritual subsystem for creating them and a pile of example Daemon Weapons for PCs to find. Other abilities you could get range from 'can make a an opposed WP test with the daemon's WP to cause massive damage like a Force Weapon' over in Tzeentch town, 'Gain Unnatural Fel and/or Agility equal to 1/2 Daemon's WPB' in Slaanesh country, 'Vomit horror all over the enemy' in Nurgle village, or 'you can never put it away without a WP test and it forces you to Frenzy every combat and oh actually this kind of sucks why didn't I roll heal d10 Wounds per kill' in Khorne land.
So Daemon Weapons are crazy. Can it get more crazy? It can. Let's talk Legacy Weapons. Legacy Weapons are a cool idea! And broken as hell! Which is really the theme of all of Black Crusade. You have to commit to a Legacy Weapon, making it your only signature ranged or melee weapon. If your legacy weapon is Melee, congratulations, you can use any gun you want. If you picked a ranged one, you can use whatever melee weapon you want. As it's more likely you'll only want one super powerful melee weapon but might want to use a bunch of different guns, this tends to make melee Legacy Weapons easier to handle. This weapon's story is entwined with your own. It instantly gains 1 step better Craftsmanship. It gets harder to break. It gets +1/2 your Infamy Bonus to Damage and Pen, which will increase as your own legend increases. It loses Primitive if it had it. If you ever use another weapon of the same type (melee or ranged) you will need to test vs. Infamy or you could sully the Legacy of your kickass signature weapon. Again: If the Legacy Weapon is your melee weapon it is so likely to be your best melee weapon for the whole campaign that this won't come up unless it gets stolen or something.
You can also just start with a Legacy Weapon, unlike a Daemon Weapon. You may pick any non-Heavy starting weapon from your heretic's gear and make that your Legacy. You may also roll an Acquisition test at the start to start out with a Legacy Weapon not on your normal list, at -10 per 'powerful' quality the weapon has like Power Weapon, Accurate, Felling, Blast, Force Weapon, etc. Similarly, if you chose a starting item you already had, taking an Accurate or whatever Legacy Weapon eats one of your starting Acquisitions per trait. This biases Legacy Gear towards simple bolters, chainswords, etc which is the whole intent of the rule; it's there so that a simple non-powered sword that your character wielded for ages on their Feral home planet can slowly grow with their legend and become an epic relic of Chaos. Which rules! That idea totally rules. If you didn't start with one but have grown attached to a weapon over time, you can Elevate it as a Legacy weapon with an Infamy test modified by its craftsmanship and powerful qualities. Your weapon then immediately gets a backstory power (Stuff like +2 damage against enemies you Hate, or +1 DoS on Weapon or Ballistic skill tests with this weapon), rolled on a d10 table.
Moreover, your weapon keeps growing with you. It gains an additional Legacy ability at each 20 Corruption you gain, regardless of your Alignment or Infamy. You choose a Pattern for your weapon that represents its available table of abilities, then roll a d10 on that table. Patterns are Bellicose (Smashy and loud), Vigilant (Defensive and tough), Artful (Fancy and duelist), Merciless (Kills Hordes. A lot), or Versatile (Skillful and generalist). Pattern abilities are things like 'Weapon gains Devastating (X) where X is 1/2 the user's Infamy Bonus'. Devastating is 'An X of a horde die per hit against hordes'. Combine that with the new 'Lightning Attack is melee Full Auto'. Or 'Gains Concussive (X), where X is 1/2 Infamy Bonus'. Concussive is a Stun Chance per hit, with the value of the stat penalizing the enemy save by 10 per point. Legacy Abilities aren't quite as crazy as daemonic abilities, but they're still very powerful and the stupid thing won't try to kill you.
Finally, you can actually have a matched set of Legacy Weapons if you want to do Two Weapon Fighting. Dual pistols, a chainsword and chainaxe combo, whatever. This is permissable. Also, technically, you may put a daemon into a Legacy Weapon and have both sets of buffs. The rules warn 'this may get a little insane' and that's a hell of an understatement. If you have a Legacy Daemon Weapon that you can control, I genuinely question why you're still rolling dice in combat instead of just describing how you kill whatever you were attacking, because very little is going to challenge such a PC outside of Greater Demons.
In concept, though? Legacy Weapons are a great way to keep a character using a 'humble' Lasgun or chainsword relevant.
Next Time: A sampling of witchery.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
My experience with BC is wholly on the GM side. I'd run a campaign for about a year and saw the PCs reach the 70s for Infamy, so while they didn't hit the endgames of "100 Infamy = Win" or "run an actual Black Crusade" we still got quite a bit of mileage out of the system. Part of my GMing style is that I'm fully on board with the PCs getting overpowered - so long as they're a consistent power level I can scale any challenges to match them and provide suitable rewards. So as a group we ended up finding most of the really good stuff.
First off, weapons. Night10194 noted correctly that the most important thing on a weapon is how much damage it can do by various means, and only slightly secondary to this is how accurate you can be with it. This is part of why Twin-Linked is good in BC but even better in the other game lines - BC gives you a choice of +10 to hit or
+1 hit if you do, while usually it's instead +20 to hit and
+1 hit. So everything on this list, well, does boatloads of damage for one reason or another:
- The Lascannon. 5d10+10, Pen 10, will chew through most things that aren't heavy tanks/greater daemons/the party's heretek.
- Autocannons don't do quite as much damage per hit but get to be semi-auto (as above) and in general are among the few SP weapons that aren't just awful. Though I dunno why they're called autocannons because they are neither automatic nor cannons (the distinction is about explosive shells versus solid bullets/shot) in a game that features the heavy bolter (which fits both requirements).
- Force weapons, at least in the hands of someone with a Psy Rating. +1 damage/Pen per point PR plus an easy shot at extra d10s that pierce damage reduction hurts.
- Anything that uses the Power Fist rules. BC was the first game that in the process of changing Unnaturals altered Power Fists from pretty good to just monstrous, because adding double your Strength bonus to damage gets really wild if suddenly all your implant/XP/power armor boosts apply to this. BC only features this in the form of the Power Fist and Chainfist, but notably DH2E decided to publish a collection of hammers that use the Power Fist rules in addition to being force weapons. Yeah. When someone got their hands on that crazy thing in a separate DH2E campaign of mine they managed some ludicrous overkill on just one hit.
- Tome of Fate features the Warpstaff. Unlike everything else here this doesn't do a lot of damage directly. Instead it removes any chance for a psyker to get Phenomena when using a power Unfettered, so they don't have to worry about the risk/reward tradeoff of Fettered (half PR) + no bad shit versus Unfettered (full PR) + maybe bad shit. (Push [even more PR] + definitely bad shit is still around but matters a lot less if the choice is between that and full PR + no bad shit.)
- Tome of Excess gave us the Clarion Cannon, which is basically a flamethrower but tuned up to the point of being a tankbuster. The usual check on Spray weapons, since you automatically hit an area and can even prevent your enemies from dodging if you're firing in a corridor and they can't move far enough away, is that the damage is usually not top-tier or even high-tier. More often it's comparable to heavy bolters at best, something like 1d10+8 or 1d10+12. The Clarion Cannon, in contrast, does 6d10 damage/Pen 6 with Melta and Concussive. In a 40m cone. And it can overcharge to increase its chances of stunning your enemies. Somehow it's merely Very Rare.
- Finally there are Necron weapons. Just about all of them do absolutely silly amounts of damage, especially the melee ones which have bonkers statlines like 1d10+25 for a shield (that is also a very good force field to no-sell attacks) or the Gauntlet of Fire which is either a Pistol-sized Legion Flamer or 1d10+6/Pen 5 with an additional +10 to hit (on top of the usual bonus for Best Craftsmanship) in melee. And if you really, really, really need to make something die then you can poke it with a Tachyon Arrow. Tachyon Arrows only get one shot per acquisition, but they deal 10d10/Pen 20/Concussive (6) per hit. There is only one weapon I've seen in the entire line which does more damage in its statline, and it's mounted on a specialized superheavy tank as a gun to destroy fortresses. Necron gear unfortunately does have the massive downside of only being made by Necrons, who probably hate your guts on an existential level. So even if you can theoretically make the -90 test to attempt getting them, you have to get your foot in the door first.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't use any other weapons in BC, because there's a lot of stuff that is still high-tier in one way or another. Tome of Fate, for instance, has a Lightning Khopesh that can't be parried and a Heavy Khopesh that instead has a chance to stun. (Both are easier to get than the core book's Power Swords.) The core book features Hallucinogen Grenades that if they work will force your target to roll on a black comedy chart of status effects, and unless your target is a Great Unclean One or a Nurglite daemon prince they probably will succeed. But the above list will definitely outclass everything that isn't on it if you're looking to be just a little more nuts.
As for other types of equipment, generally the cutoff between good or mediocre is in how much it enables you, particularly in ways that push around the action economy or that give you outright new capabilities. This would seem obvious, but the pricing structure for gear in the 40K TRPGs can often get schizophrenic. Also I may be forgetting everything that Night10194 mentioned, so if I repeat something let me know.
- Stealth tends to be very good in games that enable it, and picking up a Cameleoline Cloak to get +20 to this is no exception. It's even better for snipers, who also get -30 to be hit at range if they're stationary. Other items that boost Stealth include the Synskin (+10 and invisible to Dark Sight, a common trait among more potent enemies like daemons) and Stummers (+30 to Stealth, and while they do need an hour of charging after 20 minutes of use you can just get four and hook them up in sequence to a portable power supply like a power suit).
- Recoil Gloves remove the penalty for using two-handed Pistol or Basic weapons. Really good weapons also let human PCs use Legion weapons with less of a penalty, but honestly none of the Legion weapons are that different from their human counterparts. Even the mighty Power Fist gets a mere +1 Pen when upsizing it, and everywhere else this comes up it's another minor bonus like this; at most you might get +4 damage on mid-tier stuff like bolters or plasma guns.
- Suspensors are yet another way to get around needing to brace Heavy weapons. In this case they're a weapon upgrade rather than a talent or an implant.
- Several of the drugs out there provide nifty effects, even if you have to roll for addiction or other side effects. Blue Fire lets a psyker reroll Focus Power tests (its side effect of treating Fettered casting as Unfettered is blocked by the nifty Warpstaff), D-Dust can get you Warp Weapon (ignore most armor!) if you roll well on a WP test, Frenzon gets you Frenzy and immunity to fear, Rez gives you -2d10 to Phenomena/Perils tests, Rose gives you +20 to anything Perception-related (so the Awareness/Psyniscience skills or Divination powers) and Dark Sight, Slaught gives +3 to Agility/Perception bonuses (which mostly applies to movement and initiative), Spur blocks Stun and Fatigue, Barrage gives Unnatural Strength/Toughness (5), Cursewine gives +30 to performing Curses (rituals that are normally vicious if they hit, but hard to pull off without massive preparation), Manic gives +30 to WP tests (which includes most psychic powers!) among other things and is merely Average, Spook gives a random power and +2 PR to psykers, Sweep outright removes addictions other than to itself (and it's also Average, so who cares about that?), and De-Tox removes any other ongoing drug effects you might care about without triggering addiction. Generally the other drugs I haven't mentioned are less about power and more about being narratively interesting, such as Sweetmeats which are fried Space Marine glands.
- An auspex is essential to any party, as it gives +20 to Awareness (one of the four best skills in the game, alongside Dodge/Stealth/Tech-Use) and allows you to find weird stuff with Tech-Use.
- Pick up a Combi-Tool; +10 to Tech-Use never hurts.
- An Eclipse Pulsator isn't cheap, but being able to knock out force fields for a short while is worth it.
- A Lascutter will get you through nearly any door and later repair the damage.
- Medicae isn't as amazing as the Big Four, but someone should still have it to patch up wounds and a Medi-Kit helps with this.
- Null Rods won't outright stop psykers, but they will allay such enemies.
- By default, melee movement is very short compared to gun range limits, so getting a Jump Pack to outright double your speed helps.
- Something subtle about the Mechanicus Assimilation implant is that it gives you the Machine trait. While this can make you vulnerable to the Haywire tag, it also makes you immune to mental psychic powers and blunts ongoing damage from being on fire.
- A Collar of Khorne is an even better version of the Null Rod, as it blunts all effects of the Force tag against you. Just don't be an idiot and use it while being a psyker, or else you have to burn a bit of Infamy to avoid death.
- The Icon of Endless War gives Khornates +10 to WS/BS tests and lets them Frenzy instantly. Normally it's a Full Action to do so.
- The Venic Noose gives you +10 to summon or bind a daemon in a ritual, which you're probably doing if you want to make a daemon weapon or if someone is voluntarily being possessed.
- Tome of Decay has a few MI-only implants that give you even more attacks and side benefits to boot.
- The Undead Heart gives you Regeneration (1d5) and Stuff of Nightmares, granting a host of immunities to physical debuffs. Just make sure it's installed correctly.
- Pain Vents are an armor upgrade that give you the Fear trait (ie, you scare other people) whenever you attack.
- A Beguiling Gem is a hilarious way to stunlock someone else in melee, as they need to make a WP-10 test to be able to do anything beyond Reactions. (This is rolled every round, but stops working if your target passes the test.)
- A Ritual Kit gives +10 to any ritual, or +20 to Focus Power if it uses profane symbols.
- Shimmering Robes are an oddball force field with a variable rating, equal to 9x your PR. As if psykers needed even more toys to go nuts.
- Like the Golden Eye of Tzeentch, which if held lets a Tzeentchian roll WP every round for +10 to Evasion or opposed Stealth (so, Dodge or Stealth at all) per DoS.
- The Q'Sal Crystal Spire is yet another item that makes rituals easier.
- A Tarnor Mimic-Mask gives +20 to various social tests if you're a psyker, so it's best in the hands of someone focused on Telepathy.
- Naturally Necron gear is just as ludicrous as their weapons. Mindshackle Scarabs can impose control on another, a Phylactery will heal people with Machine (3+) and also remove Corruption (!)*, and a Tesseract Labyrinth lets you imprison just about anything in melee range after some difficult tests.
And there's one last wacky category of "gear" you can get - services. The core book has some mundane ones in the back, but those in Tome of Excess are stranger and wonderfully flavorful.
- Abaddon's Approval is literally that. There's no mechanical benefit to it, but I love it nonetheless.
- An Asteroid Stronghold gets you a base in the Ragged Helix.
- A Coterie of Sycophants is so delightfully Slaaneshi.
- An Arch-Weapon of a Corrupted Magos can be just about any superweapon you can think of. It might not work, but who cares if you can still threaten to fire it?
- A Fief in the Ragged Helix lets you add onto your Asteroid Stronghold.
- Want people to recognize you? Get yourself a Personal Sigil.
- If you need a message sent somewhere, capture a Ravaged Astropath. Each DoS lets you send one message before they die from exhaustion or the "persuasions" of Chaos.
- If you need overkill then look for the Services of a Chaos Titan.
- When (not if, when) you want to fuck around with Imperials you can wave around your Skull of an Imperial Saint and chant "neener, neener" at them.
- But my personal favorite is Quelled Population, which lets you cow a populace just by virtue of reputation. You can even cow an entire world if you roll against a Unique rarity, which is hard but not impossible. (And by not impossible, I mean that my group pulled this off on a lark right before an invasion attempt.)
*Necron Phylacteries are by far the safest way to remove Corruption in BC, but also the most difficult to acquire.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
As you might imagine, Chaos is a lot more comfortable with sorcery than the Imperium. Most of this is the same as it was in the other books, so we'll be going over the differences, how Nurglites get screwed (again), and some of the fluff rather than going into detail on the basic magic system. Psykers are some of the only PCs I'd say are unequivocally better off with Chaos than they were with the Imperium, fluff wise. You're in roughly the same amount of danger; it's not like you couldn't get possessed or exploded by your powers as an Imperial Psyker. At the same time, people see your abilities as something to treat with respect, sometimes even deference, which is a nice change from everyone muttering under their breath about how much they wish they had a good excuse to shoot you in the head back in the Imperium.
One interesting mechanic is 'Paths of Power'. Psykers can come from many different traditions and they provide ways for alternate occult traditions to empower your magic. Hell, the fact that I consistently call it magic is pointed out as one of the traditions: Seeing it as arcane spells and formulae rather than mental will-working. This is Blasphemous Incantations, a Path to Power that gives you the option of spending an extra half action to add incantations to your spell, helping you focus your thought patterns and move them in the direction that will get the Warp to do what you want. This is the source of much of the chanting and ritual of Chaos; it isn't that the chanting actually invokes the Demon or whatever, it's that chanting just like that and putting yourself in that exact state of mind helps you resonate with the Warp. If you do this, you get +1 to your Psy Rating for the spell, regardless of what level of power you cast it at. However, if you invoke Phenomena when using an Incantation you add +20 to the roll, making Perils much more likely. Similarly, if you roll the spell test with a 91+, you not only fail automatically but instantly invoke Perils. So a little extra time for some extra power and extra danger.
If you have the talent, you may use Corpus Conversion, adding extra DoS to your Focus Power Test after you've already succeeded. You can add DoS equal to your Toughness Bonus, but for each DoS you take a whopping d10 Toughness damage. Ability damage heals slowly and running out of Toughness entirely will kill you. Also, Marines cannot use this Path to Power. Their various implants won't permit it and stop them from sacrificing their own health to the Warp to gain more strength.
Profane Symbols is kind of cool, but it takes too long to be used in combat. You carve sigils into the flesh or armor of an ally (or enemy) or on the ground. It takes 6 rounds to do this, but it can grant an ally a 'self only' spell. You also take -10 to your Focus Power test to cast the spell, -20 if you're setting up an area of ground with your power. The six round time period and the fact that it can't actually be delayed (the power always goes off as soon as you finish the carving) combined with the not-inconsiderable penalties makes this really awkward to use. Still, as a way of throwing Warp Time (A spell that grants 1/2 Psy Rating in Unnatural Agi, BS, and WS, greatly buffing your ability to multihit and dodge) on your Renegade if you can buy the time for it I suppose it has a use.
Sacrifice is honestly too slow and clunky to be worth it. You need to find an intelligent victim, you need to spend 2d5 minutes preparing them for murder, a full round murdering them, a Forbidden Lore (Warp)-10 test to discover if you murdered them properly, and when it's done you get +5 to a spell per DoS you got on that first roll. Also any Perils, etc are directed through the now-dead sacrificial victim instead of you. Ritual sacrifice is kind of a waste of time, which is unintentionally really funny.
Sometimes, your spells will be cast with your Corruption instead of your Willpower. As you might expect, these become more reliable as the campaign goes and Corruption increases. These spells tend to be really powerful. You still get the +5% per effective Psy Rating used casting the power but cannot cast Corruption powers with a Fettered strength level. You'll always be taking a risk with these.
Another interesting note: All Psykers can learn Unaligned powers at all times, then powers for their God (Nurgle, Slaanesh, or Tzeentch). However, there's an additional class of powers, called Exalted Powers, that require a very high psy rating and a lot of investment, and demand you be Unaligned. So, some of the mightiest spells in the game would demand you not engage with the Alignment system and gimp your PC advancement and deny yourself access to the Rewards of Chaos. Yay. You can also learn spells from Telepathy, Divination, and Telekinesis, but these are partly presented to be used as spells by sanctionites you're exploding in wizard's duels. Also, I'm not kidding about Exalted Powers being crazy: The basic Exalted Attack Spell is a Blast Radius spell with Psy Rating meters' radius, 3d10+Psy damage, Pen 10, Tearing, and Flame. If you have Exalted powers, that is your *basic attack spell*. Your BIG one shatters reality like it was breaking glass and does PRxd10 with Warp and Flame to every living creature within PRx10 Meters. Your other big one is called Shattertime. It shatters time (surprise) and lets you slip in and out of reality while granting Unnatural WS, BS, and Agi equal to your PR. Exalted powers are no goddamn joke.
The magic is much as you expect for the various Gods: Tzeentch has tricks and mutation, Slaanesh has stuns and mind control, Nurgle has shitstorms. Nurglites, however, get screwed really hard as Sorcerers. See, Slaaneshi are at least 'Aligned' with Tzeentch. They can buy Willpower at a moderate cost and it isn't opposed to their God. Nurgle and Tzeentch hate each other, and Nurglite spells still use WP. Tzeentch's advance tree also has many of the good sorcery talents. Obviously, Tzeentch Wizard is the expected default and the easiest to play, with Unaligned Wizard having those Exalted powers to look forward to as a capstone (Hell, the basic Exalted attack spell only requires Psy 5! You can get there quick enough if you started as a human.) Slaaneshi will do okay, and Nurglites just get screwed.
Also, consider a Space Marine Sorcerer with that Shattertime power I mentioned and the new multiattack rules. Oh, I should also mention: Crushing Blow and Mighty Shot now grant 1/2 WS or BS Bonus as their bonus damage instead of a flat +2. Also you can get a Talent (Whirlwind of Death) that lets you deal 1/2 your WS Bonus in damage to Hordes per hit. Combine that spell (or even just its weaker version, Warp Time) and that talent, maybe get a Merciless Legacy Weapon, and I kind of wonder exactly how many people you can kill in one coked up time-breaking round of Horde slaughtering.
Next Time: We skip over the Combat section because it works the same and get to how they advise a GM
Stick together you idiots!
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Stick together you idiots!
This is one of those chapters where you can really feel how differently the game was conceived versus how it ended up being played. There's a lot of implied assumption that you'll be spending most of your game fighting and sneaking in the Imperium as you work to bring it down from within in the GMing chapter. Lots of warnings that your PCs will have to keep their amazing abilities under wraps lest the Inquisition get all over them, or admonitions that you'll need to work together to survive the terrible threat of the loyalist Astartes. There's a lot about how you'll be hunted to the ends of the galaxy by the 'heroic' PC types from the other games (this is not going to happen; the games are just different enough from one another to make converting and crossplay really annoying).
This is not at all how the game ended up being played, either in games I've run or games I've witnessed, and I think I know why. First: One of the points they keep emphasizing is how you'll have to be careful. Tell me, when you've read over my descriptions of the various character types and what you do in this game, has 'being careful' or 'restrained' or 'sane' ever sounded like something they'd do? Does it sound like it'd be fun
to do? This game is your chance to get out from under the jackboot of structured Imperial life and be a crazy Chaos Lord. Most players aren't going to want to spend all their time hiding. Second: Most players don't like playing straight bad guys. People are okay with playing amoral or edgy or dark characters all the time, but no-one wants to be just the bad guy in someone else's story. We've had 3 games focusing hard on the Imperium! This is a chance to get away from it all and rock out on epic quests across weird planets in space hell. And the best part about being in Chaos Space Hell solving weird hell mysteries and fighting in struggles between Warbands? They're all crazy violent lunatics like you. Kicking Chaos in the teeth as Chaos is fun
, and it's something Chaos does to itself all the time in the fluff anyway.
The other reason I think the game didn't turn out how it was originally conceived of is that it demands you be well over 100 Infamy to lead a Black Crusade by uniting the denizens of the Screaming Vortex. First of all, this implies you'll spend a hell of a lot of time in the Vortex, doing the uniting. Secondly, by that point, your campaign is basically over. And the scale of conflict necessary to significantly affect the Imperium of Man is a little difficult to show in an RPG about 3-5 lunatics. Also, fairly early in the campaign your PCs are going to start mutating and it's going to become hard to hide that you're Chaos Worshipers. And what if you have a Chaos Marine in the party? You can't exactly spraypaint them loyalist colors and pretend, unless you're Alpha Legion. All of these factors point to a game where you're not going to be worrying about the Inquisition finding your tentative Chaos rebellion. The game can talk about how you might play a game where you scavenge for supplies and stay in the shadows, but the default volume of Black Crusade is at 11 and in all subsequent work on the line they noticed it and leaned into it.
One thing they really should have covered more: This is the kind of game where stuff can get creepy. Tome of Corruption had definite problems with creepy shit when it came to Slaaneshi, for instance. You're playing a bunch of lunatic power metal space satanists, this game really needed some time on its GMing device dedicated to 'let's make sure everyone is comfortable with the game's direction, and let's make sure anyone who isn't comfortable feels safe speaking up.' No warning is going to stop that sort of thing coming up with some groups, but having an explicit section saying 'Hey, do this' is important because it gives groups a heads up that that might be a problem.
Also, a lot of the general GMing advice is copy-pasted from previous games in the series, but then copy-pasting large portions of each game is a long tradition of FFG WH40kRP. Hell, some parts in Dark Heresy were copy-pasted with minimal changes from WHFRP2e
. One bit of advice I appreciate is to keep hammering home that you, as the PCs, should be smart enough to work together as a party. Yes, your Khornate and Slaaneshi might snipe at one another. Your Nurglite might lecture the Tzeentch worshiper on all the glory of entropy and decay they'[re missing out on. But at the end of the day you stand out by not
backstabbing one another at every opportunity.
Now, one of the other interesting bits is that the GM actually sets the amount of Infamy you need to win. 100 is actually a 'hard' level to reach, for campaigns that want to emphasize that very few PCs make it to Demonhood. 75 is suggested if you want to make it relatively easy for the PCs to 'win'. Now, effectively, you lose your PC either way (unless you go with the add-on rules for playing as a Demon Prince), and it's a little weird to have a long-term RPG end in success or failure based on getting a single character attribute high enough, but I appreciate the variable difficulty. 140 is the level required to lead an actual Black Crusade, according to the books, because at that point your Infamy is as high as Abbadon the Despoiler and you might even knock him off as Warmaster of Chaos and take over. It is really goddamn hard to reach 140 Infamy before 100 Corruption, since most actions that raise Infamy also raise Corruption. Much of Infamy/Corruption gain is somewhat randomized. With a little more thought put into gaining Infamy and Corruption I think I'd feel better about the idea of it being a win/lose condition and having a Bonus Objective where you take over the forces of Chaos and become the canon main villain, but I appreciate the thought put into 'Yeah, the PCs can become the main setting villain if they do well enough'.
What I don't appreciate is the tiny sidebar on 'The Endgame' of running a Black Crusade. It isn't detailed enough to be satisfying in the least. 'Roll a Command test to see if your forces pillage a world in your name!' is hardly the epic conflict I'd expect if I managed to become the scourge of the Imperium. A better suggestion they give is to end the campaign with the launching of the Black Crusade and start a new one playing as rising champions in the employ of the old PCs; maybe elevating minions or characters the players liked to be PCs themselves. They also mention this as a good time to rotate GMs. Still, for something that takes so much effort to get rolling there's surprisingly little to do in an actual Black Crusade. Another reason no-one really bothers playing the anti-Imperial game, I suppose. More fun to have a self-contained story in the Vortex.
Oh, hey, look, it's our required FFG Victory Points System in the form of Compacts! And for once it doesn't completely suck! BC is a highly player driven game, and players decide on overarching objectives they want to work on in the form of Compacts. The PCs come up with a scheme, pick a PC to take the lead for this scheme, designate objectives for themselves, pick a God to dedicate the scheme to, and then try to accomplish the scheme. If you dedicate the Compact to a God, you gain more Infamy when you achieve it. You also take more Corruption if you fail; you called the Gods' attention to your striving, and they don't have much patience for people who don't deliver. If you dedicate to Khorne, every PC gets +5 WS or BS for the duration of the scheme. Dedicating to Nurgle gives +5 Tough. Dedicating to Slaanesh +5 Fel. Dedicating to Tzeentch is misprinted as +5 to WP or Intelligence bonus
rather than stat. This is fixed in errata. Completing your Primary Goal gets you Infamy and EXP as determined by the GM, completing your Secondary Goals gets you +2 Infamy, and completing targets of opportunity and things that come up during the Compact get you an extra d5. If you dedicated, you get +d5 Corruption and Infamy for success, and lose d5 Infamy while *also* gaining d5 Corruption if you fail. You'll also likely gain other rewards via completing a Compact; say you were seeking an ancient treasure, you might now have that ancient treasure to use in the future. Compacts work fine; they're mostly a minor formalization of what your PCs are going to be doing anyway. They aren't nearly as obtrusive as Rogue Trader Victory Points.
We also get a section on how to keep the peace between Marines and Humans, and pointing out why humans are no slouches and Marines aren't the kings of the story. I've already gone over most of that back in character creation; suffice to say Marines look more impressive than they end up being. Then we get into the vestigial Disposition and Interaction system no-one ever uses, the Fear system (no Insanity because every BC PC already has 100 points), and a big section on how to convert old rules into Black Crusade and how to have it interact with other games, whether by using it to keep playing PCs who hit 100 Corruption/Insanity in other games, or to use it to generate villains for DH, RT, and DW characters to fight. There's nothing all that special to that section.
Next: Corruption and Infamy: The Rewards of Khayoss
Why the hell would you do that
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Why the hell would you do that
So! Infamy and Corruption. One thing I love about Black Crusade is that Insanity is out and Corruption doesn't suck. We're also going to be spending some time on the big new options you get in Tome of Decay, namely Possession and Daemonhood, and plenty on mutation and Rewards of Chaos. Corruption is a milestone marker for the PC, showing the progress of the campaign and ticking down how long you have before your characters' final fate as heretics is revealed. The milestone marker function is nice; you check alignment every 10 points of Corruption. This is also another place Humans stand out compared to Marines. Humans check for Reward or Mutation at 10, 20, 40, 60, and 80 Corruption. Marines check at 10, 30, 60, and 90. So a Marine can only ever get 4 Mutations or Rewards, while Humans get 5 and get them earlier. If you're lucky, this means a Human can (if they go hard on their path and earn the Mark for pure devotion in buying advances) actually get all 6 Rewards of their God. No Marine can achieve this.
What I'm not as fond of is how Corruption and Infamy are used as a direct win-loss state, and tuned so that if you use the default Infamy level for winning (100) you are most likely to lose. More importantly, you're most likely to know
you're going to lose as you hit high Corruption. Do you think it's fun to play the latter fifth or so of your campaign knowing you're going to hit the arbitrary Tentacle Barrier and your PC is just declared to have lost at everything because you didn't get one number higher than the other number in time? Maybe this is partly just me, but one of the problems of playable Chaos has always been that Chaos dicks its followers over at every turn. You feel like kind of an idiot for ever working with them given that you're much more likely to end up a mindless ball of tentacles than actually get anywhere in the long run. 'Chaos always screws over its own followers personally and with great gusto' feels like something that has more of a place in a game where you're fighting Chaos rather than the game where you are playing Chaos. Worse, I've harped on this before but your PC is done either way. Daemon Princes are just as finished with the campaign as Chaos Spawn, RAW. There's no middle-ground. No place where you stay on as a Chaos Champion who will never reach daemonhood but who doesn't become a Spawn. A direct win-loss mechanic at the end of a long campaign progression feels weird
More importantly, it's also surprisingly non-interactive. Most actions that gain you Infamy also gain you Corruption, and gain you both in, say, d5 increments. Or d3 Infamy and d5 Corruption, more commonly. This is because you tend to start with 0-8 Corruption but 20-24 Infamy. By parceling out Corruption at just slightly higher rates than Infamy, you make it so that head start doesn't make it as likely you'll reach Daemonhood. But the rate of gain being based wholly on dice rolls also means it isn't really down to decisions players make whether or not they're going to get screwed or become demigods at the end of the campaign. The Compact system described last chapter has a few options to let you be more ambitious to gain more Infamy if you win at the cost of extra Corruption if you fail, and that sort of thing should have been a bigger part of the system.
Another baffling decision is the way your Corruption determines what you can do with Fate Points, as does your Alignment. You gain Infamy Points instead of Fate, which is confusing since an Infamy Point is different from a point of Infamy. I'd have called them something else. Anyway, you have 1 per session per 10 points of Infamy. They function exactly like Fate, except for two big differences. First, you cannot burn one to survive being killed; instead, you lose 8+d10 Infamy to survive going down and remain in play that session (where you can be killed again) or 10+d10 Infamy to be dropped out of the session and come back next session (which seems kind of shitty if it happens early in the session). You also gain d10 Corruption immediately for doing this. This essentially means if you ever have to Burn Fate in Black Crusade your character is probably fucked long-term.
Secondly, what you can do with Infamy Points is decided by your Corruption level and Alignment, as mentioned. At 0-20 Corruption, spending an Infamy point can get you +10 on a single test before rolling, d5 Wounds+any Critical Damage (but not Critical Effects) healed, or immediately remove all Fatigue. Do you see what's absent in this list? It would be the CORE FUCKING MECHANIC of Fate Points and their equivalent, namely letting you reroll a test. So for the first fifth of a campaign, when your PCs have their lowest stats, least amount of Fate Point equivalents, and need it most, they cannot spend Infamy Points to reroll. This is awful. 21-60 you gain the ability to add +1 DoS to a successful test, reroll a test, or heal d5+1 HP. 61-100, you gain the ability to spend Infamy Points to recover from Stun (note that being Stunned for multiple rounds in this game may as well mean you're dead, since you cannot attack back and cannot Dodge or Parry
while Stunned), heal d10 Wounds, or immediately count as rolling max on Initiative. Gating some of the core functions of Fate Points to the last 2/5th of a campaign is just stupid. Similarly, you change up what you can and cannot do by God. A Khornate can spend Infamy to automatically hit with an attack at 1 DoS, but heals 2 less wounds when healing with Infamy, minimum 1. A Nurglite always heals max wounds when spending Infamy, but can never reroll failed tests. A Slaaneshi can spend Infamy at 21-60 to avoid the effects of a Critical Hit outside of limb destruction, death, or stunning (you know, the important ones) but can never spend Infamy to break Stuns. A Tzeentchian can always spend Infamy to add +1 DoS to a test; they don't have to wait for 21-60. At 21-60, this becomes 'add d5 DoS to the test'. They may never spend Infamy for +10 to a test before rolling. So Khorne and Tzeentch get great abilities, Nurgle gets shafted, and Slaaneshi are meh.
Infamy is also used to buy things, exactly like Profit Factor, expect you're strongly encouraged to explain how your fame and dark glory factored into you getting or not getting an item. You don't just roll to buy something; you say you're rolling to see if your knowledge of the dark prophecies of a reborn Drusus allow you to trade them to a fallen Inquisitor for an antique Inferno Pistol, with the implication being that if you fail the Infamy test you've now got someone who refused to deal with you for your heretic to punish for their insolence. Or they offer you a sidequest to get what you wanted. Or in granting you what you wished, you now have the respect of an ancient tribe that gave you their 'magic' (Power) sword and you can reward their devotion or not. Adding a little fluff to your attempts to roll to acquire items and services helps make the process more fun, and the idea of 'I can't just buy things, I have to rely on my reputation and power to get them as gifts or trades' makes more sense in the Chaos context.
You also test Infamy (d100, roll under Infamy to succeed) when you hit your Corruption thresholds to see if you gain a mutation or a Reward, and only if the Corruption that reached the threshold came from a 'positive' source. See, you gain Corruption both for successes and failures (usually more for failures). This is also how the Gods aggressively enforce their desired norms. Say you're a Khornate and you decide to spare a worthy adversary so you may fight them again, or you just straight lose a duel: You gain Corruption and it counts as a Failing, so if it puts you over a threshold you do not test Infamy
and instead immediately gain a Mutation. Same for a Slaaneshi turning down the chance to try something new or indulge to excess, etc. The Gods will enforce their box on you and it has mechanical weight. If you don't want to be in a box and wish to remain Unaligned, your reward is that you cannot gain Rewards
and always gain a Mutation, you just get to roll twice and pick your choice of Mutation.
I really wish it was acknowledged how aggressive normative Chaos is, just the norms are skulls and spikes. Naturally, most GMs will ease up on this stuff a little and let their players play around more, especially if you have a heavily mixed party where you've got multiple Gods all hanging out together. But the Gods are supposed to directly, mechanically enforce you staying in the box, and trying to play a character outside of the box generally mechanically weakens you.
Next: Mutation and Reward, in detail
Hatred: Everyone. Enemy: Everyone. The true essence of Khorne.
Original SA post
Warhammer 40k Roleplay: Black Crusade
Hatred: Everyone. Enemy: Everyone. The true essence of Khorne.
Alright, we're going to start out with the actual Rewards of the Gods. If you hit a Corruption breakpoint, you roll d100 vs. your Infamy. If you roll under your Infamy, you get an actual Reward instead of a Mutation. Note this only happens if you're Aligned (I know I've hammered on this a lot, but outside of Psykers going for Exalted powers you get punished hard for staying Undivided). Each God has six Rewards, though for all of them two of them are 'A Daemon Weapon' and 'A Daemonic Name, in preparation for eventual Ascension'. A Daemon Weapon granted by one of the Gods will be a weapon of the player's choice, infested with one of the minor mook daemons like a daemonette or bloodletter. Nothing spectacular, but any daemonic weapon is going to be extremely powerful (if it doesn't possess you) so that's nice. The name is a minor +d5 Infamy bonus, at the cost of giving enemies who learn your name a Fate Point to use against you.
Slaanesh's first unique reward (the book starts with Slaanesh) is the Face of Slaanesh. You gain some of the unnerving, insane perfection of your God and those who look upon you suffer Fear 2 (Or your prior Fear+1, if that would make you scarier) in the face of your beauty. You also gain Peer (Mortal Followers of Slaanesh) for +10 to interaction tests with other Slaaneshi.
The second is Hermaphrodite, and it doesn't mean what you think it means. Rather, anyone looking at you will see the masculine or feminine (or anything else) that they most hope to see emphasized in your features, a subtle illusion of Slaaneshi magic. Whatever you say or do will tend to be interpreted in the way someone most hopes it will be. You are now everything to all people all the time and come to represent their hopes and desires perfectly. In game, this doubles your Degrees of Success on any Interaction tests. Note those are usually opposed tests, where your opponent has to beat your DoS, and that Slaaneshi are already insanely good at diplomacy. This is the sort of power where a Slaaneshi walks into an Inquisitoral Conclave, addresses the gathering for an hour, and leaves elected Inquisitor Lord.
The Mark of Slaanesh does the same thing it does if you earn it by buying 20 Slaaneshi advances and having 5 more Slaaneshi than any other Advance at a Corruption breakpoint. If you already have it the game isn't clear but I believe you simply roll again and take a different Gift. You gain Unnatural Fellowship 2 (So +1 DoS on Fel tests, +2 Fellowship Bonus) and Heightened Senses (All) (So effectively +10 to all Perception tests). Simple, effective, and thematically fitting.
Finally, you can gain One Thousand and One Senses, whereby Slaanesh agrees that your old senses were getting boring and makes up new ones to add to them. With your enormous new array of sensory powers, you can experience the entire universe anew and praise your God in ways that your brain previously couldn't even imagine, which is kind of a cool way of doing that reward. You gain doubled DoS on any Awareness test, which makes you very hard to sneak up on because you have senses people didn't even know they needed to conceal themselves from.
Nurgle starts you off with Corpulent Immensity, where he makes you extremely fat. Nurgle likes things big; you become Size 6 (compared to normal humans being Size 4 and Marines Size 5, this is a size usually used for light armored vehicles, which gives +20 to hit you) and gain +5 Wounds. You also can't Run. Oh good, five hitpoints in return for being more easily hit with a lascannon and even more unable to maneuver. You shouldn't have, Grandfather Nurgle.
The Face of Nurgle mechanically does the exact same thing as the Face of Slaanesh. All the Face talents do. It makes you look more like Nurgle: Rotting and bloated, but always smiling. It puts a spring in your step and brings joy to your life, infectious joy.
The Mark of Nurgle makes you immune to critical hit effects unless they are caused by a psyker or a holy weapon. Anything effect won't kill you outright just bounces off: Stunning, vacuum, bleeding, poison, breathing, all these things can no longer affect you. You also get +1 to your Unnatural Toughness. Being effectively immune to status effects and stuns is actually very helpful, and Unnatural T is always welcome.
Nurgle's Rot lets you spend a full action and roll d100 vs. your Corruption stat. If you succeed, all non-Nurglites within meters equal to your Corruption Bonus (tens digit of your Corruption) take d10+Corruption Bonus damage that ignores non-sealed armor. It's also Toxic (4), so Tough-40 or suffer d10 more unsavable wounds. This is you exuding your aura of horrible corruption and fast-acting flesh-eating diseases.
Nurgling Infestation is a simple trick whereby you pop out Nurglings (extremely minor demons of Nurgle) equal to your Toughness Bonus once per battle to scurry around and give you outnumber bonuses or whatever.
Khorne has the Collar of Khorne, where he gives you a 'totally metal' brass collar that he absolutely didn't buy at a garage sale. This gives you a talent that normally lets you make WP tests to negate incoming warp powers, except you don't need to make the WP test. You are, in effect, able to shut down any Psychic power aimed at you with your collar if you spend an hour at some point during the session doing a minor ritual of contempt for all weavers of the black arts and spend 1 Infamy Point.
The Face of Khorne makes your eyes glow with the spookiness of hate and makes you snort out black smoke 'from the endless funeral pyres'. I'm not kidding. This has the same mechanical effect as the other Faces.
A Flesh Fused Weapon picks one of the player's arms, and one of their weapons, and combines the two. You can no longer use that arm or hand, but may use that weapon one handed, and it becomes instantly Best Craftsmanship and will never run out of ammunition or break. This is our first mention of Legacy Weapons, despite them not coming up until the Khorne Book: Any Flesh Fused Weapon can be nominated as a Legacy Weapon automatically.
THE HAND OF KHORNE makes one of your arms and hands super buff and turns it into a 2d10+SB Pen8 punching fist. It also turns red. So you get a shittier power fist. You can still use the hand normally, though, and punching a guy's head off is the essence of Khorne. Or would be if it weren't for...
Purity of Aggression, a Reward that gives you Enemy (-20 to Interaction Tests) (EVERYONE) and Hatred (EVERYONE). You get +10 WS against everyone in the universe because you hate them all, you hate the way they're alive and exist and haven't been punched in their stupid faces yet.
The Mark of Khorne is mechanically very powerful, granting +2 Unnatural Str, a trait that gives a big damage bonus when you Charge, and Resistance to Psy. Khorne only really does melee, but Khorne is really good at melee.
Tzeentch is weird, starting with a simple 'Reroll all your Mutations, take the new ones' as Changer of Ways. This isn't really good or bad, just annoying, most likely. If you don't have any Mutations yet, reroll this Gift.
Ecstatic Duplication is almost totally useless. If you die or Burn Infamy, you split apart into a couple minor Tzeentch demons, who will eventually come back together into you if you Burned Infamy. Yay? It would be better to have things that help you avoid dying than a weak demon summon if you die.
Face of Tzeentch makes your face and features constantly shift, so that you never look alike twice. Same mechanical effect as the other Faces.
FLAMING ARM gives you a magic wizard flamethrower arm, which is cool. It shoots wizard fire whenever you want it to, over a 10m radius like a flamethrower, doing d10+Corruption Bonus+Intelligence Bonus that ignores non-blessed armor. The arm can still be used normally, too!
Massive Intellect was extremely great in Fantasy and extremely lame here. It makes you able to make massive conspiracy walls full of red string and hold them all together in your head, doubling your DoS on Logic skill checks. Kind of a lame skill to have a doubled DoS talent attached to because Logic's effects on success are very nebulous and it isn't usually an Opposed skill like Awareness or interaction stuff. In Fantasy it would've given you an awesome +2d10 Int, but here it's mostly a wasted Gift.
The Mark of Tzeentch gives you +1 Unnatural Willpower and +1 Psy Rating, and if you weren't a Psyker before you are now. Simple, effective, and it is legitimate to worship the annoying bird-god of conspiracy theorists in hopes of being made a wizard.
Warpsmith just straight gives you +2 Psy Rating and makes you a Psyker if you weren't before you got it. Combined with the Mark, this can get you incredible psychic might as a Tzeentch worshiper, though you'll be giving up all the best Powers by aligning to a God.
Next Time: 'Rewards' of Chaos
God I am just done with the Imperium of Man
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
God I am just done with the Imperium of Man
You know, one of the worst parts about 40k is how you can't escape the goddamn Imperium. Even the game that isn't supposed to revolve around them ends up devoting a hell of a lot of its page space to them and originally assumed your main goal was to go and invade them some day. I mention this because our setting section starts with yet another long description of all the various organs of the Imperium and having seen these things time after time after time in every book in this goddamn line, I am fucking sick of the Administratum, the Arbites, etc. I suspect half the reason that BC ended up being 'let's stay in hell and have rad adventures' is just to get away from the smothering, all-consuming pervasiveness of the Imperium in this goddamn setting and gameline.
I'm gonna go off on a bit of a tangent here: One of 40k's problems has always been that it has a main character. Half of the armies in the setting are Imperials. *All* of the game books for the RPG are either about Imperials, or ostensibly are about fighting Imperials. Every alien race, every enemy, all of them are all assumed to constantly revolve around the Imperium. For a setting that's supposed to be so goddamn big and full of 'do whatever you want in 40k!' it sure seems like 'whatever you want' better include the fascist super-space empire at some point or another or you're not going to have much support for it. Even Chaos, usually a writer's pet in its own right, is generally defined entirely in opposition to and contrast to the Imperium of Man. Look at this gameline: Of the 6 mainline games (DH, RT, DW, OW, BC, and DH2e) five
are entirely about Imperials and the sixth was originally designed to be about fighting them.
So rather than go over a slightly modified description of 80 different fictional brutal bureaucratic nightmares again, why don't I just assume that by this point you all know more than any of us could ever want to know about the fucking Imperium and we get right to space hell?
Oh, right, you also get some little sections on using BC to cross-over/play in the other settings, but every 40kRP game is juuuuust different enough mechanically from the ones before it that actually doing crossplay is a huge pain in the ass and generally not worth it. The big changes to how Unnaturals and fire rates and the entire melee system work in BC also makes it hard to make BC PCs into 'main villains' for the other lines like you could do with Tome of Corruption Chaos Lords in Fantasy.
We also get a short section on how the Eldar accidentally caused Slaanesh by being way too into high elven torture opera way back in the day, but we've already been over that old story, too.
Now, then, on to the Screaming Vortex, where you'll be doing most of your crazy guitar solos and head explosions. The Vortex is a spatial anomaly and warp-hell that has been around for at least 10,000 years. It exists so that we don't need to use the Eye of Terror and can make up our own space hell instead of having to tie together 80 badly written Black Library tie-in novels or however many of them actually talk about the Eye. Ages ago, this section of space was unusually full of paradise worlds; the whole region was cultivated by the Eldar as a crucible to produce child-species in for their own amusement. However, after awhile, the Eldar left the region and the surviving child-species who had migrated into the area were thrown into plague and war. Most of them fled along with their masters, but those who didn't began a long, painstaking process of slowly rebuilding their ancient heaven. Right on the cusp of succeeding, Slaanesh was born due to events far from the region that would be the Vortex and everything exploded, ruining all the hard work of generations. All the various non-human child species were annihilated in an instant, and the Screaming part of the Vortex is their endless psychic agony at what a contrived grimdark dick move this whole mess had turned out to be.
The screaming is literal, by the way. Everyone in the Vortex learns to tune it out eventually, but there is no escaping a low-level, constant screaming in the back of your mind the whole time you're there.
Later on, people would find it or worlds on the edge would slip into it when a cult managed to perform the correct rites to 'ascend' their planet and instead got it pulled into a shitty hell realm, because again: No-one wins with canon Chaos. No-one has ever been able to penetrate the true center of the Vortex and ensure that all the many non-human species have been properly written out of the setting to give more time to the humans. The Vortex is full of chaos and demon worlds, though, and it has the potential to be as great a threat as the Eye of Terror, should it ever gain a warlord as powerful and cunning as Abbadon the Despoiler
Those of you familiar with the setting are now laughing, because by God is that a low bar. Abbadon is pretty famous for his model's inability to keep its arms on, his idiot topknot, and being a screaming saturday morning cartoon villain.
Next Time: Worlds and Peoples of the Vortex
Robodragons and cunning gnomes
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Robodragons and cunning gnomes
We start pretty standard with our first major Vortex world. You might recognize Xurant from the Xur Frost Father Khornate hyper-class. Xurant isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's kind of cool; it's your usual post-apocalyptic world that has returned to savagery and nomadic herder-tribes, just what they herd are giant dragon-like war-mounts called Xurush. Xurush are insanely dangerous creatures and most Xur warfare revolves around them, with a man (or woman, there is no distinction among the Xur) being just as likely to dedicate an epic poem to the strength and skill of their mount as they would be to laud their own deeds. Despite being Khornates (they worship him in an aspect known as Baphtar) the Xur absolutely love their murder-lizards, with prized and successful lizards being bedecked with jewels and pampered by their doting owners as they're put out to stud.
In addition to their lizards, the locals also really love war. I don't know why the setting keeps pointing out how warlike everyone is and how much they love war, because it's so goddamn uniform in 40k that you might well point out when someone doesn't
and otherwise just assume everyone else is some flavor of the fiercest warrior ever really we insist unlike all those other fiercest bestest fighters we just finished talking about. They'll sometimes stop their wars to go and worship at the thrones of Baphtar, where tribes contest among themselves (which is basically just more war, really. It's very warhammer to take a break from war for some nice, refreshing war) to be worthy of his blessings. Sometimes, a tribe will be fierce enough that the 'iron ships' of the God will descend and pick the best among them to take a stab at either becoming Chaos Marines or just picking up an assault rifle and becoming space warriors.
Meanwhile, among the broken and ancient cities, a race of tiny gnomes lives in the subways. The Svartlings are devoted to Tzeentch, and no-one knows if they're mutated humans or something else. They build cool giant robot dragons that menace the Xur in order to scare them away from the golden palaces of underground gnome wizards, though. The Xur are terrified of these 'Onir' beasts and generally leave the cities alone, save the occasional heretic against Baphtar who goes to seek out the gnome-wizards and learn their subtle ways.
Xurant is pretty standard 40k fare, but it's got a nice set of plot hooks and places where your PCs can show up and tip the balance in its weird gnome-war. The Xurush are mean as hell and if your PCs can befriend the Xur, getting a couple cool rideable dragon-dinosaur lizard horrors that can shrug off bolter fire is a good get.
Q'sal is a beautiful, gleaming paradise of order and peace within the Vortex. It is full of tall, gleaming spires, and the average citizen lives at ease, watched over by the benevolent and wise sorcerer-kings and their technomancers. Naturally this is all bullshit and it's run entirely on damned souls and evil. Literally the entire economy runs on souls. They will trade all manner of powerful wealth for souls brought in by raiders and slavers, which they convert into fantastic devices, energy, and food. Also they have three evil cities that all hate each other and constantly intrigue against one another because they're Tzeentch Town. There's a lot of words about the various superstitions and all of the three very interchangeable cities, but really the core hook here is just an evil wizard planet that looks nicer than it is. Your PCs will probably get involved in intrigue or trade in souls or something.
Berin and Asphodel are a pair of newly sucked-in planets, one full of orks, one full of kroot. They fight. Both can be recruited to join your chaos army if you'll get them off the bloody hellholes they've found themselves in. When the planets get close enough they engage in planetary boarding actions against one another.
The Hollows I've mentioned elsewhere, but it's a planet of mad wizard scientists locked in wizard wars over wizard science. Wars that have caused the planet to mostly stop rotating, which is making it slowly flatten and spin-out like pottery clay. This is the planet where the original wizard-king-scientist accidentally (or maybe intentionally) animated an entire city as a daemon engine and then vanished, and now Forge Pollox and Forge Castir fight over his legacy and the planet's terrible secrets. If you need wizards who are also techpriests, or really big guns, or robots with demons in them, come kill some people for one side or the other and get paid in techloots.
The Writhing World is a meat planet made of meat. It is a worm-planet full of continents of flesh that shift and scamper and scurry all over the place. Mighty wizard biomancers control entire walking cities of flesh and lead primitive tribes across its surface. There isn't much given for the region besides 'worm planet'.
Kurse is a former Dark Age of Technology colony that went crazy when it got sucked into space-hell, as you do. They then proceeded to blow themselves up like everyone in 40k does, eventually resulting in a planet that is 'a guttering ember of a world' and mostly serves as a port of call and gathering place for devil pirates. Most activity is in the orbital habitats built by the Magi of Forge Castir, where the main industry is gladiatorial killing because this is Chaos. The surface is still full of lost tech for adventurers to loot, while the habitats are some of the more 'normal' and livable parts of the Vortex, providing Chaos armies with people and laborers in between big gladiatorial games.
Malignia is a temperate, forested planet whose name should probably give you a clue that it's actually a murderous death-world whose life hates everything. These are a dime a dozen in 40k and I don't know why people keep trying to live on them. There is a past warlord who supposedly built an enormous pleasure dome somewhere on this planet, full of 'concubine-witches and mighty treasures' and defended by guns and the local wildlife, if your PCs feel like having a standard D&D dungeon crawl. Otherwise, this is a bog standard Death World that could be anywhere in the setting.
Much more interesting is the Anathema: There's a small globe of Reality that is holding out against the Warp, somewhere in the Vortex. None of the evil powers of the place have managed to get inside of it, and they have no idea what might be within. Whatever it is, it freaks the locals out to no end that there's a little Reality tumor in their hell-plane, and most who witness it make worried prayers for protection to the Gods of the Warp at the sight of a stellar phenomena that makes the Warp recoil so.
Sacgrave was a major pirate port full of pirate fortifications until it pissed off enough Eldar. At that point we get a long and boring description of how many ships the Eldar sent against them to crush them, and how even worse than the Eldar, the Eldar had ACTUAL MAIN CHARACTERS (Space Marines, from the Grey Knights Demonhunters) with them so their victory was assured. The pirates were slaughtered, and now the planet is a pirate grave full of rumors (but no actual substance, as of yet) of hidden, ancient pirate treasure. This takes the book like 3 pages to get across.
Messia is a Mad Max Planet full of drugged up mercenary warboys, as you'll recall from the Chem Hunter of Messia hyperclass. Great road-fortresses fight over water and drilling rigs, biker gangs battle each other, and we've seen this a thousand times. Mutant biker hordes fighting in the ruins of a destroyed civilization over precious resources and all that.
Guess who makes a surprise appearance from Dark Heresy! It's the Scarystar! I mean, ahem, it is Dread Koumos, THE TYRANT STAR
. It shows up in the Vortex, too, and does exactly what it does in Calixis: Make people go a little weird for awhile and then leave. The difference is the people of the Vortex regard this as a little blase rather than a sign of the apocalypse. A local curiosity, nothing more.
Finally, you have the Cat's Cradle, a series of many worlds you're mostly left to invent existing in a huge spatial anamoly with the curious feature that people can walk between the worlds. Literally. You can, at the right time, just jump interstellar distances under normal human power and land on another world. You cannot get into the deeper inner ring of the Vortex without passing through this region, and it is full of evil wizards who seek to trick you with the black arts if you should trespass their wizardly domains.
Next Time: The Inner Rings.
Avast, tis Cthulhu
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
Avast, tis Cthulhu
The Inner Worlds are supposedly a little weirder because they are more infused with the Warp, but there really isn't much of a qualitative difference between them and the outer worlds described previously.
We start out with Aphexis, the planet of the boring. I'm not being critical or hyperbolic there; it's a grey world where there is neither day nor night, and where a large population drudges their way through joyless, neutral lives. Warlords occasionally come in and take over Aphexis, but they discover the people neither resist enough to be interesting, nor work hard enough to be worthwhile; no amount of mass slaughter, torture, or anything can get the Aphexians to do anything more than the bare minimum on anything. Eventually, every warlord gets bored and gives up. So yes, this is an entire planet that has learned that if you just ignore all the screaming toddler-like warlords of Chaos they'll get distracted by something else and go away.
Next is Melancholia, which you might remember from the hyperclass the Flesh Shaper. Melancholia is another dull, grey planet of mind-numbing drudgery and boredom, except it has a purpose. The planet is set up like this to breed the most insane and complex internal lives of wild desire possible among its repressed, joyless inhabitants while the followers of Slaanesh watch from above, scanning for particularly amusing and blessed deviants to take up to space and introduce to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. These liberated turbo-puritans have incredible insight into the ways of the Prince of Pleasure and come up with the best schemes and masquerades and capers, as well as being able to master that tremendous evil shapeshifting magic from the special class. So yes, Slaanesh maintains an entire planet of horribly repressed, joyless puritans so he can unleash their pent up desires and introduce them to a world of color to see what happens.
Mire is a swamp planet full of crazy eyed cannibal survivalist priests, who you might remember from the Death Priest of Mire. It gets like, one paragraph in the book. There's nothing else to say about it. It has a silly description where whole tribes will fight wars over a potato, I guess, which begs the question of how there are entire tribes on the planet at all, but warhams logic.
Gee, do you think the planet of MAMMON might have to do with THE SIN OF GREED? It totally does. It's a resource-less rock with a divided population that each suspect the other side has all the treasure and fight each other over it. They are, of course, described as 'some of the most warlike and aggressive people in the galaxy' because really guys, this time it's exceptional, I swear. Rather than just being the boilerplate default for absolutely everyone in the damn setting. Oh, they also all still think they're Imperials despite being trapped in space hell.
Furia is an ocean planet full of mad max pirates who live in terror of the Cthulhus below. It is unusual for being entirely an ocean; there are absolutely no dry parts of Furia and every settlement is a floating set of boats and flotsam lashed together, with a couple autocannons and missile launchers if they're lucky. The people have no sources of fresh water besides evaporation and the blood of the sea life they catch and eat, which pleases Khorne. Thirst and desperate poverty drive great moisture wars among the people, but they have to be careful not to make too much noise, or they'll attract a Leviathan. Let me just give you the Wounds, Armor, and TB of a Leviathan: 500 Wounds, 13 TB, Armor 14. Also, you can't actually reduce them below 300 Wounds unless you can attack them underwater. The Leviathans hate the scrap towns and will, if they realize one is there, track it across hundreds of miles to attack. They will withdraw if they take hits from a melta weapon or anything that can actually hurt them, though, so the towns fight endlessly over the wreckage of ancient scoutships and the means to drive off the roving monsters. The planet is also the graveyard of plenty of ancient ships, giving your PCs a reason to come here. Furia is a-okay.
The Flaming Tomb is a fire planet that is on fire and produces fire wizards. That's...about it. It's a planet where everything is lava.
The Lower Vortex is the region that is actually, fully space hell. Beyond the Inner Ring lies the regions where the Warp has full sway and all is madness. To enter, you must pass the tests of (or destroy) Greater Demons that guard the passage into the true heart of madness.
Crucible is a planet into which the Dark Gods poured all the malice and sorrow of the extinguished races of the original Heaven Worlds, the first created Demon World of the Vortex. The presence of such complete and total agony makes it valuable to all four Gods, and their demons fight an endless war over who shall be ascendant in control of this planet. The entrapped souls and agonized victims of the planet experience different flavors of eternal suffering, shifting as the various Gods take control of the world and enact their standard business: Khorne raises them up to slaughter them again every day, Slaanesh gets all Hellraiser on them while telling them it's got to be fun, Nurgle lets them die and rot and be reborn again and again while assuring them he loves them, and Tzeentch is still just a cardboard cutout or a random number generator with 'clever plan' written on it so he spooks them by making no sense at all. Four flavors of completely conventional Chaos Hell!
Contrition is basically just Hell. It's a city-planet of demons who are, again, constantly burning down and rebuilding the city depending on who rules the planet right now, while meeting up to focus test their latest lies, temptations, and schemes while enjoying torturing the mortals who fell for last quarter's most successful lies, temptations, and schemes.
Finally, we have the Frozen Heart of the Vortex. This is the icy center of Hell, where Satan sits and chews on Judas and- Oh, right. Wrong Hell. It's a totally unknown planet that has some pretty disappointing adventures in the Nurgle book where you get killed by an infinite boss fight and then judged by Chaos based on how many waves of infinite enemies they cleared (or if they won and the GM got bored and declared they all died anyway). The fluff in the main book instead focuses on how if the Heart could be explored and calmed, you could open the way for truly enormous fleets and armies to escape the Vortex rather than raiding bands, letting you make it equal to the Eye of Terror and launch your crusade. This is far better than it containing an old guy who asks you what you want and then summons an unwinnable boss fight based on it.
And there you have it, the Screaming Vortex. What really stands out about the outer worlds is that when I think on it, they just sound like normal Imperial planets for the most part. Just with more skulls in. I'd remembered it being more...imaginative? There are certainly hooks, and some of the planets are fine, but like all things Chaos it's surprisingly tame when you get down to it.
Next Time: A brief delve into the enemies you can face, and why Necrons suck
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Black Crusade
One thing I'll note in favor in BC: It has the most complete Adversaries section of any of the core books outside of maybe Dark Heresy 1e. You get enough enemies and monsters to provide some actual variety, and some of the big names and heavy hitters are right in the core book. You want a Lord of Change for some reason? Bird dude is right here in the main book. Don't know why the Bloodthirster is in the Khorne book instead, but he is. He's also mechanically almost impossible to defeat because he has 99% WS, may attack in a way that cannot be active defended, and does enough damage to instantly gib almost any PC (3d10+25 Pen 10 Felling 2) but you know, Bloodthirster. They were basically impossible to beat outside of a very lucky Bret Knight with Virtue of Heroism or a battery of cannon back in WHFRP, too. (The solution here is to have multiple lascannons and shoot him before he gets into melee)
Even nicer, they actually have whole tiers of human enemies, Imperial enemies, and multiple xeno races to fight. The basic enemy list is actually full enough that I can't go through it all in detail like I could with, say, Deathwatch. You get everything from insane assassin droids to enemy human heretic heroes/warlords to Chaos Marines to Grey Knights among the various human/Marine enemies. Guardsmen, cultists, skilled bounty hunters, an example Inquisitor who looks like Carmen San Diego with a plasma pistol, you name it, you've got it. On the whole, this is fantastic.
Or rather it would be if the game mechanics mattered much. Most of these enemies will still get vaporized in one or two rounds of solid combat and combats are going to come down to rocket tag and initiative rolls, for the most part. Bigger foes will often have hundreds of Wounds to try to stop that happening. Later human enemies will often be given 70-100 Wounds in the later sourcebooks, because they finally figured out that the damage in their system was completely out of control. This will not be extended to PCs.
You also get the Grey Knights. These are instead your run of the mill turbo paladin 'more Marine than Marine' Grey Knights from the old Codex: Daemonhunters, who hate all forces of Chaos so much that they will often be found buddying up with space elves or in other unusual places so long as it lets them hurt demons. They are a Chapter made entirely of Psykers, recruited from the Black Ships and sequestered on Titan in the Sol system until they're needed, then sent out in their holy warp-resistant armor with their Force halberds to go cut infinite demons in half. They are somehow actually more Original Marine: Do Not Steal special character types than Ultramarines, and are herein presented as being a massive threat to your heretics given they all have Force Weapons, a hands-free stormbolter, better than Marine average stats, and Terminator Armor (Not being able to dodge renders them vulnerable to our good friend Lascannon, though). They are also known for once having killed a whole bunch of uncorrupted Sisters and smeared their 'holy blood' all over themselves so they could steal a daemon weapon once.
We also get Eldar Harlequins, the Kill Clowns. These are Eldar performers who worship their Trickster God, Ceogarach, who tricks Slaanesh out of their souls. They go around fighting Chaos and carrying messages between the torture-pirate elves, the normal pirate elves, and the craftworld elves while performing elaborate interpretive dances that tell the history of their people, including the story of the Fall. They are extremely fast dodge tanks who have 2 Dodges a turn at 77% and reroll failed Dodges once, while doing a lot of damage at high skill and having insanely high movement; inadvertently Eldar are actually the ideal character for the Warhammer 40k Roleplay system. The second they fail one of those dodges they're dead, though. They're often led by an illusionist wizard with Psy 8 who can mess with your mind and who is even better at fighting than their Harlequins. You also get Dark Eldar, who like to make deals with Chaos and then backstab it, or get together to enjoy torture piracy together, and like the Harlequins they're fast dodge tanks who do a lot of damage and usually go first.
We get the various Demon enemies, who are all really scaled up from how relatively weak they were in DH: No more Primitive for any of these guys. Bloodletters, for instance, have been upgraded to d10+13 Pen 10 +2 damage per kill they get in a fight foes who hit like a truck (but still can't take being hit back). Daemonettes still kind of suck and mostly exist to get blended like fodder, though. Horrors and Plaguebearers are nasty enough, too; it's really only Daemonettes of Slaanesh that stand out as shitty fodder that will have trouble even hurting a human PC in solid armor. We also get an example Slaaneshi Daemon Princess, who is made out of a solipsistic noblewoman who managed to get her world dragged into hell mostly by accident; she was taught how to summon a Keeper of Secrets and take it into herself so as to destroy her as a cunning scheme by a court sorcerer. Instead, she was so strong-willed and self-obsessed that she kind of just ate the demon. And then summoned a few others and did the same, ascending to demonhood and dragging her world into hell. No, I'm not sure how that worked either. She's a taste of what 'boss' level enemies look like: Massive, massive stats like 14 TB, 8 AV, 105 Wounds, 81 Agility and Dodge+10, that sort of thing. Also a powerful psyker and has a +20 WP test or be unable to attack her, with people who fail by 20 or more turning to her side. Will still die to multiple lascannon hits.
And finally we get the Necrons. I believe these Necrons predate the full Tomb Kings in Space reboot, but they're as boring as they ever were. They're an unstoppable force that you can't hurt or defeat that runs around doing inscrutable things and blowing up Chaos Lords. Mechanically, they absolutely suck to fight; they get to inflict Zealous Hatred like PCs with their Gauss rifles. They do it on a 9+, too. The ones contained in the core book are basically slower, tougher Space Marines who walk forward critting you repeatedly with their lightning-gauss gun while saying nothing and possessing no actual personality. The Tzeentch book adds in their Reanimation Protocols, giving every downed Necron a Toughness test each turn to get back up with Wounds equal to their Regeneration trait. If they fail it by 30 they actually die. Gee, you know what sounds more fun than fighting a bunch of slow-moving tanks with powerful rifles that cause status effects all the time? Doing it when they keep getting back up. That's certainly an interesting challenge and not just a way to make fighting an already dull and annoying enemy even moreso.
Horde rules exist but function exactly as they did in Deathwatch, so no need to go back over them.
With that, we have now finished the mechanics and fluff of Black Crusade.
Next Time: A wrapup of BC and 40k
An end to endless war
Original SA post
Warhammer 40,00 Roleplay: Black Crusade
An end to endless war
Black Crusade is a very weird game. It can be fun to play, but we all know that's no real measure of a game's fitness as an RPG. You will eventually hit a point (probably sooner rather than later) where you're operating at such high power that the basic mechanics of the system become completely irrelevant to the proceedings. There isn't even a semblance of balance. Everyone is turned up as loud as possible and you go on turbo adventures in space hell where you rip the devil in half while rocking out; this can be really fun to do with the right group.
But like I said, the mechanics become irrelevant at a point, yet there's so goddamn many of them! The game ends up getting played in a narrative fashion, while having reams of tiny bonuses, penalties, and fiddly bits to mess with. All they end up doing is dragging your game down. The actual game system
completely stops bringing anything good to the table, and it had stopped way back in Deathwatch when the PCs were so powerful that despite having a bunch of interesting tools most groups would never need to use them. To me, this represents one of the consistent failings of the 40k Roleplay system: If you're having a good time, it probably isn't because the actual rules are enabling it and working with you to produce interesting mechanics that will help you do so. It can be fun, on some level, to say 'With my Unnatural WS 8 from Warp Time and 99% to hit, I strike him 10 times for 2d10+45 damage!', it's also pretty impossible to balance, because anything that can withstand that is now immune to the vast majority of the rest of the game. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself why you're slowing everything down with all these rules in the first place.
40kRP never managed to address its most serious issues: Out of control damage/gear porn, and an inability to find a balance between PCs feeling like useless chumps who take thousands of EXP to be able to do their basic job (DH) and becoming invincible turbo gods who render the system itself mostly irrelevant (DW, BC). You end up with a system where if people are playing honestly (And I suspect many, many 40kRP groups do not; this seems like the kind of game that promotes a lot of dice fudging) you can very quickly lose a PC who takes quite a bit of time to make. Worse, the game-line's idea of difficulty is to throw 'Investigation Check at -20' at you. The rules themselves just never really add to the game; they're at once too complicated and too unnecessary.
To be fair to FFG, the initial system was not good, either. I played WHFRP2e years after I started Warhammer Roleplaying stuff with Dark Heresy, and the weirdest thing is how WHFRP2e feels
like an updated, fixed version of Dark Heresy's rules system, despite being made years before it. Gear is useful but not wholly character defining. PCs start out competent at their job with a lot of room to grow. You can take a few hits or have a few things go wrong without everything exploding. The designers of the original system made some serious mistakes and to this day I can't think of a single system that I think genuinely works better in DH rather than its predecessor outside of the Initiative system. That is on Black Industries. As is the original fluff and the terrible dullness of the Calixis sector; Dark Heresy was their game.
FFG continued to publish and produce for a game with a flawed system they never even really tried to fix. They tried to work on everything around it, but never addressed the core issues with rocket tag, unbalanced advancement, or the issues that come out of a system that assumes low base chance but abundant modifiers rather than a system with a more solid base-chance-to-succeed number like WHFRP2e. They made a real, good faith effort to write better 40k fluff. They even made a very good faith effort to make 40k more inclusive with later games, being sure to include women and people of color and pouring a lot of effort into presentation. They also loved the copy-paste key, though that's more of a function of how much of the fluff and base gameplay is repeated between games despite them being new gamelines, since they're all about playing as human PCs. They did the best they could with the setting and system they had, and I sure as hell don't blame them for closing the door on it and heading off to focus on Star Wars and other properties instead.
One of the other core issues they faced is that 40k just isn't a great setting, especially for small scale roleplaying. Look at how they had to have a separate gameline for each type of Imperial Human Character because even mixing those up is a bloody jumble in setting, let alone adding in characters from other factions. The whole setting can't escape being about the Imperium of Man, and the Imperium is like a straitjacket on everything about it. 40k is very concerned with limiting your options in canon, even as it tries to claim it can do 'anything'. It reminds me of the OGL, except for setting writing, and like the OGL, it causes a lot of heartbreakers and shovelware as fiction. Some of the pieces of the disjointed mess that is Warhammer 40k look kind of cool, or interesting, but when you put them together, it's you doing it while 40k tries to take the credit. It's not worth your time; just write your own setting, it's already pretty much going to ask you to do that anyway.
And really, that's just my final assessment of the line. It tried hard, but it's just not worth the time or money you'd put into it by buying and playing the games. The mechanics are a mess that don't end up adding anything, you'll mostly have to write the setting yourself, and the books are full of holes. They're beautiful books, with great art and presentation, that don't have much to them once you're through all that; in that, they reflect Warhammer 40k really, really well.
Next Time: Realms of Sorcery! Or maybe Tome of Salvation.