Dark Heresy – the almost game…

19 09 2009

When I finally found somewhere to role-play again (something I’ve discussed at length before), the first game I was offered was Dark Heresy.

As my desire to role-play was so intense and as the game seemed based upon the Warhammer Fantasy RolePlaying game of which I was familiar, I jumped at the chance.

There is an old saying about fools rushing in.  I spent an evening with the GM and other players creating a character.  The day after I agonised about my decision and wondered if I’d chosen correctly.  I subsequently spent c. £120 (almost $200) on the Core Rulebook, The Inquisitor’s Handbook and Disciples of the Dark Gods. 

I then spent the next two weeks rolling this character and that one.  I took basic characters and  also added background packages.  After about 50 characters, I ended up with the one I really wanted.

I was an assassin, with a background of being a member of The Moritat.  I had a full background mapped out.  I knew my character backwards.  All I needed was a game to play in.  And that was the rub.  The game never materialised.

Meanwhile, I have 50 or so character sheets, three pristine rulebooks and nothing to do with them.  One day, I will GM the game – but not within the year.  Despite this, my love for rulebooks stops me from being too disheartened and when/if Rogue Trader gets published, I’ll be at the front of the queue to purchase a copy.

But what of Dark Heresy?  If you like the Warhammer mechanics and enjoy sci-fi you could do a lot worse than to pick up a copy of the game.

What do you need?

In theory you can get away with just the Core Rulebook.  Players can generate characters, you have all of the main rules and enough background to the ‘world’ to get underway.  The artwork is of excellent quality.  There are a fair few monochrome pictures within but even the colour ones tend to be dark.  It’s reflective of the game.  This mean, evil, dirty and violent.

Players can choose from a number of homeworlds but are essentially human.  Anything non-human is seen to be cannon-fodder.  Each homeworld gives different advantages e.g. Void Born PCs don’t suffer from space travel sickness and automatically know how to navigate and pilot spacecraft.

Next the characteristics are rolled.  The usual Warhammer fare are represented here (although there is no magic in the game – at least not legally).

Next the PC chooses a career path.  It is expected the player won’t switch classes often.  Choices include Clerics, Abritrators (space FBI), Guardsmen (warriors) and Psykers (instead of magic you can be a psionic).  Each career has associated bonuses and weaknesses e.g. Tech-Priests start with implants.

The player then spends XP on developing skills or improving characteristics (based upon what their career path allows).

The rest of the book discusses the definition of the skills, has an equipment guide, covers the core rules, has a GMs section and then gives a fairly detailed background to ‘Life in the Imperium’ and other background chapters.  There is also a full adventure to follow.

The basic premise of the game is that you live in the 41st Millenium.  There is a war against chaos, and your PC has been chosen as an Acolyte for the Inquisition.  Your task is to root out heretics, aliens and witches.  Combat is risky early on as most weapons do more damage than you have hit points. 

The Inquisitor’s Handbook is really a player’s guide.   It covers more advanced character creation.  In introduces four new worlds to originate from and explores some unique planets you could hail from. 

It also introduces background packages.  Rather than spend all of your starting points on skills, you can spend some on a background package that both develops a back-story and also gives some different skills.  Some really enhance your character, whereas others just make them fun to play.  Personally, I loved the option.

There are future career paths (rather like Prestige Classes) that you can aspire to.  I hoped to become a Moritat Reaper when I grew up! 

There is more equipment to choose from and a section on Religion and Superstition.  There is also a chapter on ‘Life as an Acolyte.’  Overall, this is a worthwhile addition to the Core Rulebook for players and GMs alike.

I also own the sourcebook Disciples of the Dark Gods.  It was billed as a, ‘collection of cults, secrets and conspiracies.’  It’s a solid book but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it until you’ve been playing for a while.

In terms of character creation (which is why I bought it) the additional material isn’t for the beginner.  It does add new Psychic Powers and offers the option of the ‘corrupting path of sorcery.’  This is a background book more than anything else as it talks about various cults – although it does contain another full adventure.  This is a GM’s book rather than a player’s book.

Overall, I like the game.  OK, I haven’t played it but I understand the mechanics because of Warhammer and I like the setting.  If you’ve ever played Warhammer 40k, you already know the world.

Some basic pluses are:

  • It’s similarity to the Warhammer system
  • The depth of the background material available
  • Building on the knowledge of the 40k world
  • The Core Rulebook is enough to play the game

My main gripes are:

  • If you don’t know 40k, it’s a lot of background learning for the GM (players can learn slowly by having a background that’s from a backward world)
  • If you don’t like Warhammer FRP, you won’t like the game mechanics
  • It can be too dark for some (but not me)

My overall review advice is, if you’re thinking about it – get it.

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2 responses

22 09 2009
Cyric

Mate, I have all the books in my rack but until now I never ever read them. I bought them because I love the Warhammer Fantasy RPG and thought one day I might play the Sci-Fi version, too.
Reading your blog entry really got me into the mood to grab and read them now. Thx for that.

Game on!

1 10 2009
akco

I know what you mean man.
i have spent a fortune on rules books i have neevr played. i find DH to be one of the best roleplay games going. Mainly because its system is nigh on perfect. though i dont really understand what your getting at with the simularitys to 40k.

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