Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay

Dark Heresy
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay
Cover of Dark Heresy
Designer(s) Owen Barnes, Kate Flack, Mike Mason
Publisher(s) Black Industries / Fantasy Flight Games
Publication date 25th January, 2008
Genre(s) Gothic science fantasy

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay is a series of role-playing games with a common system, sharing the same dark, gothic background as the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniatures game. The first game, Dark Heresy, concentrates on agents of the Inquisition; Rogue Trader, which covers interstellar travel, traders, and xenos; and Deathwatch, which allows players to create Space Marines. With Games Workshop's decision to shut down Black Industries and transfer the rights for all of Black Industries' RPGs to Fantasy Flight Games the future of the line was in doubt, but Fantasy Flight has released Rogue Trader and Deathwatch to complete Black Industries' original vision for the line. A fourth game in the line, Black Crusade, was announced in February 2011.

Black Industries chose to set the game in a previously undescribed sector of space, Calixis Sector, within the Segmentum Obscurus. This sector lies adjacent to Scarus Sector, setting of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy.



In Dark Heresy, the players assume the role of a group of Acolytes working for an Inquisitor, who sends them on various missions. Depending on the type of mission, the gameplay can involve investigation, combat, intrigue, or a number of other genres. Therefore, the Game Master can tailor his campaign to suit his player group. As the players work for an Inquisitor, most missions involve rooting out heresies or matters relating to them, but the breadth of the game allows for many other missions, including wiping out dangerous gangs, gathering evidence of corruption, dealing with alien threats or eliminating rogue psykers.[1]

In Rogue Trader, players take the role of a Rogue Trader and his or her crew as they operate outside the boundaries of the Imperium. The book provides, among other things, rules for interplanetary commerce and spaceship operation, travel, combat, and customization. [2]

In Deathwatch, players take the role of Space Marines from one of six chapters: Black Templars, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Storm Wardens or Ultramarines. These specialized groups are tasked with defending the Imperium from its darkest threats, namely hostile xenos, internal heresy and daemonic menaces from the warp. [3]

In Black Crusade, according to this webpage, players will be able to play as Chaos-corrupted characters. Black Crusade, in a nutshell, will be the corrupted version of previously mentioned Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games, thus players will assume the role of villains, causing evil.


All three games use 10-sided dice (d10) exclusively, with each player requiring at least 2. They can be read as percentile dice, individually, or added together.

Characters have 9 statistics;

  • Weapon Skill (WS)
  • Ballistic Skill (BS)
  • Strength (Str)
  • Toughness (T)
  • Agility (Ag)
  • Intelligence (Int)
  • Perception (Per)
  • Will Power (WP)
  • Fellowship (Fel)

The values for these attributes typically range from 1 to 100, although achieving a score higher than 70 is almost impossible for a normal character with the published rules thus far. Differing by a factor of 10 from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame, average humans possess characteristic scores averaging 30; 40 is notable, and 50 is a very strong attribute. Player characters' characteristics statistically average 31 at character creation, although that can differ due to a number of mechanics, notably the character's homeworld and background. For example, a character from a hive world has a higher Fellowship, but a lower Toughness.

Any given action, such as firing a weapon or using a skill, uses the following basic mechanic:

  • Roll percentile dice
  • Add bonuses or penalties associated with the action
  • Compare the result to the appropriate characteristic; equal to or lower indicates success; greater than the characteristic indicates failure.

With some actions, the amount by which you succeed or fail can determine degrees of success or failure, allowing the GM to further detail the result.

Career Paths

In Dark Heresy, each player can pick a career path for his character, which is similar to a class from other RPG systems such as D&D. There are 8 career paths in the core rulebook, with a further career path added in both the Inquisitors Handbook and Blood of Martyrs sourcebooks. They are:

  • Adept - A career path devoted to knowledge, logic, and analysis, though they are not very effective in combat and not always good in social interaction.
  • Arbitrator - Members of the Adeptus Arbites, the elite Imperial Law upholding organisation, are effective both in investigative skills and combat.
  • Assassin - These skilled killers excel in both combat and stealth skills
  • Cleric - Clergy of the Ecclesiarchy train in a wide range of abilities, but excel at motivation and leadership
  • Guardsman - Although the name of this class usually brings to mind members of the Imperial Guard, it also applies to mercenaries and other soldiers; they are skilled warriors who can also operate vehicles
  • Imperial Psyker - This class represents an individual with psychic powers, able to channel the warp to accomplish a wide variety of things.
  • Scum - Criminals, outcasts, thieves, and other miscreants, this class has a variety of useful skills involving stealth, infiltration and social interaction with less-honest members of Imperial society.
  • Tech-Priest - Skilled with machines and technology, they are members of the Cult Mechanicus
  • Adepta Sororitas - Commonly known as the Sisters of Battle, this career path was introduced in the Inquisitors Handbook and is recommended for veteran players due to the roleplaying challenges involved. While superficially similar to clerics, they are even more rigid in their mindset and can perform faith talents
  • Battle Sisters - This new career is added in Blood of Martyrs, it differs from the Adepta Sororitas as income has been modified and it allows characters to start with the common Sister of Battle weapons and armour.

In Rogue Trader, one player typically takes the Rogue Trader career path, representing a ship captain who has been granted a warrant to explore and trade outside the limits of the Imperium of Man. The other players act as members of his crew. Other career paths include

  • Arch-Militant - A combat expert.
  • Astropath Transcendent - Like the Psyker, someone with psychic powers, using them to communicate over interstellar distances.
  • Explorator - A Tech-Priest tasked by the Adeptus Mechanicus to rediscover lost science and technology.
  • Missionary - A cleric of the God-Emperor, spreading the word of his religion into the dark corners of the Galaxy.
  • Navigator - Another psychic, but one whose skills lie in directing the ship itself on interstellar voyages, relying on the psionic beacon at the heart of the Imperium.
  • Seneschal - The Rogue Trader's right-hand man, running his trading enterprise.
  • Void-master - Expert in running a space ship.
  • Kroot Mercenary - from the Into the Storm sourcebook.
  • Ork Freebooter - from the Into the Storm sourcebook.

In Deathwatch, Space Marines are divided into groups based upon their individual abilities. In most campaigns the Squad Leader is either chosen by one of the players or is an NPC controlled by the GM.

  • Apothecary - Combat medic of marine forces. Has a stim glove that allows him to distribute pain killers and extract gene seeds from fallen Space Marines.
  • Assault Marine - Close combat expert usually equipped with a jet pack. This marine type normally employs close range and hand to hand during combat.
  • Devastator Marine - Heavy weapons expert. This is the squad's heavy weapon support expert and is normally armed with a heavy weapon like a lascannon or heavy bolter.
  • Librarian - Space Marine psyker. This is normally an individual who would qualify as a sanctioned psyker and also meets the indoctrination requirements for a specific marine chapter.
  • Tactical Marine - The Space Marine "leaders". Specifically hones squad leadership abilities and is normally the marine in charge.
  • Tech Marine - Space Marine that can communicate with the machine spirits of the Imperium. The Tech Marine spends 30 years with the machine cult after completing Space Marine training. Responsible for maintaining all equipment within the Deathwatch to include dreadnaughts, power armor, terminator armor, and weapons.

To advance in his career path, a player character earns experience points (XP) and spends them to gain skills and talents or improve his characteristics. The skills and talents available depend on the Career and the level - or rank - within that path. Once a character has spent the requisite amount of XP, he advances to the next rank of the career, which unlocks new skills and talents for purchase. Each career path also has several options for certain ranks, each path specializing in a different branch of the career. Skills cost 100 XP, 200 XP, or 300 XP to purchase, with more powerful or unusual skills having higher costs. The core rulebook recommends players receive 200 XP for every four hours of play, so players can usually purchase a new skill or two after each session.


  • Dark Heresy - Core Rulebook, including a pre-written adventure
    • The Game Master's Kit - A game master's screen for Dark Heresy and a 32-page booklet that includes a pre-written adventure, xenos generator, and new rules for poisons and toxins
    • Character Folio - A notebook designed to be a combined character sheet and journal
    • Inquisitor's Handbook - Supplement, introduces the Adepta Sororitas career path and new home world types as well as an expanded rule system for the original home worlds, expanded armoury, and expanded skill rules
    • Purge the Unclean - An adventure anthology containing three adventures, each focusing on a different genre or play style
    • Shattered Hope - A free preview adventure available for download on the Black Industries web site
    • Edge of Darkness - A free preview adventure by Alan Bligh (and others) available for download on the Fantasy Flight Games web site
    • Disciples of the Dark Gods - Supplement, information detailing cults and other various threats within the game setting. Includes a Full Length Adventure.
    • Creatures Anathema - Supplement, a "Bestiary of Aliens, Beasts, and Daemons" for use as enemies
    • The Radical's Handbook - Supplement, introduces means of playing Radical (Heretical) character types as well as new gear and advances.
    • Ascension - Supplement, introduces advanced career paths enabling players to become Throne Agents; high-powered acolytes who bridge the power gap between Dark Heresy acolytes and Rogue Trader characters.
    • Tattered Fates: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 1 - Part 1 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • Damned Cities: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 2 - Part 2 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • Dead Stars: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 3 - Part 3 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • Blood of Martyrs - Supplement, includes new rules, backgrounds, alternate careers and equipment for playing servants of the Adeptus Ministorum, the church of the Imperium
    • The Black Sepulchre: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 1 - Part 1 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • The Church of the Damned: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 2 - Part 2 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • The Chaos Commandment: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 3 - Part 3 of a 3 part adventure campaign
    • Daemon Hunter - Supplement, expanding on the inquisitors of Ordo Malleus and the Grey Knight chapter of space marines.
  • Rogue Trader - Core Rulebook, including a pre-written adventure
    • The Game Master's Kit - A game master's screen for Rogue Trader and a booklet that includes a pre-written adventure, an NPC starship generator and a star system generator
    • Lure of the Expanse - A sourcebook containing three adventures
    • Forsaken Bounty - A free preview adventure available for download on the Fantasy Flight Games web site
    • Dark Frontier - A free preview adventure available for download on the Fantasy Flight Games web site
    • Into the Storm - A sourcebook containing rules about creating alien ("xenos") player characters (Kroot and Ork species), vehicles and gear
    • Edge of the Abyss - A sourcebook containing descriptions of the worlds of the Koronus expanse, Rogue Trader's main setting
    • The Frozen Reaches - Part 1 of the 3 part The Warpstorm Trilogy campaign
    • Battlefleet Koronus - A sourcebook covering starships, including the history of the Imperial Navy
  • Deathwatch - Core Rulebook, including a pre-written adventure
    • The Game Master's Kit - A game master's screen for Deathwatch and a booklet that includes a pre-written adventure, and additional NPCs and antagonists
    • The Emperor Protects - An adventure anthology containing three adventures
    • Rites of Battle - A sourcebook including new character options, advanced specialties such as Chaplain, Chapter creation rules, weapons, armour and vehicle rules
    • Mark of the Xenos - A sourcebook of aliens, heretics, and daemons for use as foes.
    • The Achilus Assault - A sourcebook covering the details of the Jericho Reach campaign area, the default setting for the Deathwatch RPG. The book provides extensive information for any Warhammer 40,000 RPG type campaign, leaning toward covering Deathwatch aspects.


Black Industries, the role-playing game imprint of BL Publishing, which is itself a part of Games Workshop, initially farmed out the development of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay to Green Ronin, the same company that created the 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WHFRP2), before bringing development back in house. Fantasy Flight Games took over development of future products since acquiring the license for the game in 2008.

A collector's edition of Dark Heresy - the first release of the game - went on sale on Monday, 10th December, 2007, at 16:00 GMT. The 200 copies of the game, individually numbered with an accompanying 'signature' of an in-game Inquisitor, sold out in six minutes[4]. The regular edition was released on 25th January, 2008[5], and a demo booklet was distributed at Gen Con 2007.[6] The game itself shares many design features with WHFRP2.

On 28th January, 2008, Games Workshop announced that it would close Black Industries - thereby discontinuing Dark Heresy and all the other games published the subsidiary - to allow them to focus on the commercial success of their novels and core business. [7]

On 22nd February, 2008, Black Industries announced that all Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 RPG, CCG, and select board game rights were being transferred to Fantasy Flight Games, who would continue to publish Dark Heresy. [8]

During late 2008 and 2009, Fantasy Flight started releasing autonomously-developed material for the Dark Heresy game: a collection of heretical factions to pit the player characters against titled Disciples of the Dark Gods; a monster manual called Creatures Anathema; and a mini-campaign in three parts dubbed The Haarlock Legacy.

Fantasy Flight also announced a manual on "radical" inquisitors (covering the most extreme factions, their tactics, equipments, and most prominent figures) and a major expansion allowing players to take their characters to the rank of interrogator, bestowed with an inquisitorial rosette, enjoying augmented prestige and able to summon more powerful allies.

On 20th February, 2009, Fantasy Flight Games announced Rogue Trader, an addition to the WH40K roleplaying milieu. The initial limited release sold out at the Gen Con 2009 event before a wider release to stores in October 2009.

Deathwatch, the third Fantasy Flight RPG based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe was officially announced on 26th February, 2010.[9]


External links

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