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Preview available for Dark Heresy (Warhammer 40K RPG)

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:37 pm 
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Truckler wrote:
Actually it seems very Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play to me, which is sustantially different from D&D. I'm not sure how faithful/similar it is to the old WFRP rules that I used to GM in high school, but its seems like a more or less straight conversion with some hindsight.
Of course. It's literally WFRP adapted to 40K. I said it's similar to Dungeons and Dragons in a roundabout way. Mainly in that you start out as pond scum, you have what amount to classes and levels, and the combat system is a joke, that in no way tries to make sense. From what I can see, the big difference is that in Dark Heresy you don't ever really advance higher than the power equivalent of what might be level 5 in Dungeons and Dragons.

In some ways I think the rules are even worse than Dungeons and Dragons.
There are no rules at all for changing your career. If you're a Guardsman, or an Arbite, or a Cleric when you're recruited by an Inquisitor and removed from your job to go gallivanting about the galaxy, you will remain a Guardsman, or an Arbite, or a Cleric to the day you die, despite having been, to one degree or another, completely separated from that position and given a new job to do.
There is no way to reconcile that with common sense, other than it being horrendously gamist.

Truckler wrote:
In those long ago games of WFRP many moons ago the characters never became overly powerful, no one PC hacking his way through 100+ one hit dice creatures type stuff. Though under my GMing we never really focused on shooting up levels, but I always felt the system was more rooted in realism than heroism.
So far, my impression has been that it is rooted in being a game, rife with artificial balance that both prevents it from being realistic and prevents you from being heroic.

Truckler wrote:
RobbieBuckshotLaFunk wrote:
It's not even a serviceable generic 40K RPG, more like Cthulhu in space.


I think that's a safe bet. No one should be buying this game for anything but use as a 40K rpg.
I think you must have misread what I said.
As it comes, Dark Heresy is specifically geared towards being the game of playing a low ranking pack of disposable Inquisitorial agents, who rarely if ever actually interact with an Inquisitor. Essentially, Cthulhu in space. If you want to run any other type of 40K RPG, you've got a lot of house-ruling to do. The 400 page book doesn't contain a single stat line for any significant 40K race other than humans, not even Space Marines.

Truckler wrote:
I have seen the book and thumbed through it. It seems as though they have done a great job with the book. I don't buy White Dwarf regularly, nor do I read many 40K novels and I don't own any 40K universe books or suppliments. So I like having a book dense with fluff. Of course I know all the basics about the 40K universe. One of the things that make role-playing suppliments great is the great background and fluff in them. I know of few dedicated role-players (and others besides) who don't love to simply read well written background material. From what I have heard and seen, Dark Heresy contains new fluff about the regular imperium populated by normal folks and not the same tired old fluff about epic mega battles and special characters. That alone is worth the price of admission.
One minor complaint I've heard, is that while it portrays the Imperium as a place populated by people, rather than some perpetual war machine, it doesn't really go into much detail on the matter. Not to an extent that would actually be useful to role-players.

One of the moronic aspects that I particularly dislike is the perpetuation of the George Lucas-esque homogeneous planet.
Planets have one single purpose and/or one single ecosystem covering their entire surface.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:35 pm 
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RobbieBuckshotLaFunk wrote:
So far, my impression has been that it is rooted in being a game, rife with artificial balance that both prevents it from being realistic and prevents you from being heroic.

"GW Heroic" is a whole beast of its own. I'm glad that they stayed clear of anything nearly so epic. I consider that a supremely positive aspect of the game.


RobbieBuckshotLaFunk wrote:
As it comes, Dark Heresy is specifically geared towards being the game of playing a low ranking pack of disposable Inquisitorial agents, who rarely if ever actually interact with an Inquisitor. Essentially, Cthulhu in space. If you want to run any other type of 40K RPG, you've got a lot of house-ruling to do. The 400 page book doesn't contain a single stat line for any significant 40K race other than humans, not even Space Marines.

RobbieBuckshotLaFunk wrote:
One minor complaint I've heard, is that while it portrays the Imperium as a place populated by people, rather than some perpetual war machine, it doesn't really go into much detail on the matter. Not to an extent that would actually be useful to role-players.

It would be a bit of a let down if the background material fails to illuminate the portions of the 40K setting that one would hope for in a role-playing game. Fortunately this is a role-playing game and any role-player worth their salt will be able to fill in the such details. After all, its not as though there is a shortage of history and things written about the 40K universe.

Though I am left wondering, if the fluff in the book misses the mark, then what exactly does it concern itself with? During my brief perusal through a copy of the book at Aero Hobbies I noticed some seemingly interesting biographical portraits. One such portrait (not sure what to call it) regarded some evil bloated inquisitor or planetary govern type fellow. He was wantonly obese and seemed to have his arms and legs replaced with mechanical limbs. He had a very Baron Harkonen feel to him. I immediately wanted to make a miniature inspired by this character.


RobbieBuckshotLaFunk wrote:
One of the moronic aspects that I particularly dislike is the perpetuation of the George Lucas-esque homogeneous planet.
Planets have one single purpose and/or one single ecosystem covering their entire surface.

Yes, Venator spoke to this earlier, just bad uninspired writing. :(

Truckler

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Venator wrote:
The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:05 am 
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Well, I received my copy of Dark Heresy and have had a chance to scan through it.

A character's formative years are summed up by their World of Origin (Feral, Hive, Imperial or Void Born). This grants them certain strengths and weaknesses, as well as affecting what skills they know. Void Born characters were born and raised in deep space or in the warp instead of on a planet.

There are nine Characteristics, generated randomly using 2d10+20. You can reroll your lowest roll. The characteristic is the basis of % skill checks. In addition, 10% of a characteristic (rounded down) is your Characteristic Bonus. The characteristic bonus is a bit hard to explain because it does different things for each characteristic. For example, your Strength Characteristic Bonus adds to your damage in hand-to-hand, while your Agility Characteristic Bonus modifies Initiative.

Career Paths are the "classes" of Dark Heresy. There are actually very few abilities that are unique to any of the career paths. What makes each path unique is the cost of each ability and when it becomes available. For example, a Cleric (pretty-much a "people person") pays 100 points for his first Fellowship increase. A Guardsman pays 500 points for the same increase. Techpriests, who only really care about machines, cannot raise their Fellowship characteristic at all. Likewise, the skill "Pistol Training (Bolt)" is available to an Arbitrator or Guardsman at rank 4 at a cost of 100 points. An Adept must wait until rank 5 and pay 200 points. If you want your scholarly Administratum Adept to run around packing a bolter and going Rambo on traitors and heretics, you can. It will just cost you a lot of points that would go further if you took more mainstream choices. The characters with the most unique abilities are the Imperial Psyker and Tech-Priests. Both can do some pretty fantastic things.

A side-note on advancement: In a typical RPG with levels, you accumulate XP until you reach a certain threshold and then "poof!" you gain a whole new set of abilities. In Dark Heresy you can spend your XP as soon as you have enough for your desired upgrade. So, your abilities progress at a fairly steady rate without unnatural growth spurts. You reach a new rank when you have spent a certain amount of XP on advances. Reaching a new rank doesn't actually do anything to your character, it just gives you a new list of advances you can choose from. You are still free to go back and take the advances from the previous rank. A starting character begins with 400 free XP to spend on advances.

There are 48 Skills which pretty-much cover the usual things you might expect from RPG skills. 20 of the skills are "basic" and anyone can use them. The other 28 are "advanced" and you can't even try it if you have not taken the skill as part of your advancement. Much like trained/untrained skill use in D&D. A skill roll is a percentile roll against a skill plus its link characteristic.
If you have the skill but no bonuses (which is what starting characters will often have to work with), it's a straight roll against the attribute (typically 31%). This seems like a pretty bad chance, though the GM does have the freedom to adjust the difficulty of a test if the task attempted is unusually easy or difficult. There are also rules for degrees of success or failure.

Talents cover all those little things that are not really skills. Similar to Perks in Fallout or Feats in a d20 game. There are well over 100 traits although many are limited to specific career paths or have very steep characteristic requirements so that only a high level character or a specialist can get them. Psychic powers are not talents; they have their own section.

Equipment and Money takes up 33 pages and covers all sorts of human equipment across all technology levels. Almost nothing concerning xenos equipment though. As you might expect in a setting where technology levels differ widely between planets and much high technology has been forgotten, equipment has availability ratings.

I have not read through the combat chapter very carefully, though it does have 16 different critical hit tables. These are not random tables you roll on, they are just organized as tables for easy reading. Basically, you take the hit location, damage type (energy, impact, explosive or rending) and the amount of critical damage suffered, and the charts tell you what sort of horrible injuries are inflicted. Approximately half of the results leave the injured party dead or permanently disfigured, so you really don't want to suffer a critical hit.

Fear, Insanity and Corruption are all game mechanics which reflect just what a bad place the dark future can be. Fear is mostly limited to short term effects, though badly failing a Fear test (Willpower) can result in lasting Insanity or Corruption which are tracked as points the character accumulates. There are some guidelines for how much a particular event might derange or corrupt a character, but I cannot say how long it might take to drive a typical character off the deep end.
- Insanity is normally gained by witnessing horrible events. You add your insanity points to your willpower tests to resist. So the more insane you are, the less likely you will be to succumb to each new horror. You can also become completely immune to some "lesser" horrors the more insane you become. I suspect that most characters eventually level off unless the GM keeps throwing more and more horrible things at them. When you hit 40 Insanity Points you begin to manifest mental disorders, and it just gets worse from there.
- Corruption can be gained through various means including physical contact with warp entities, acts of evil, knowledge of blasphemous lore, or just listening to the words/arguments of daemons or chaotic preachers. Accumulating as few as 10 Corruption Points may cause the character to manifest "malignancies" which are minor physical or metal flaws. 30 or more points may cause full-blown mutations.

There is a section on just exactly what the Ruinous Powers can do for you, and what it costs. Dark pacts come in many shapes and sizes. Player characters could explore this avenue if the GM is so inclined, but it is typically used for NPC villains.

After that is the fluff section of the book, which I have not had time to digest. In general, I think Dark Heresy is a fairly solid and playable game system. Character creation is more random than I like, but I'm not a fan of random.
Most role playing games track the progress of the characters from humble beginnings to awesome power and ability as they gain levels and loot. Dark Heresy characters may end up pretty seriously screwed up due to injury, insanity or corruption before they burn out completely. Of course a GM could decided to take it easy on the characters and have them survive mostly intact, but I think the hard way is more in keeping with the 40K setting.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:15 am 
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Ven, I don't think that I could've done that better. You pretty much covered everything important.

I skimmed the combat section myself; if you've played D&D or pretty much any d20 system game, then you'll know what to do. There are a few different actions you can take, but that's about it.

I just started reading the fluff section myself; a good portion of it is stuff that most people who know a lot about 40K already know, like the Imperial hierarchy. The stuff that's sector-specific may be of interest, though.

It's worth noting that antagonist profiles are included, but most are either Daemon, human, or beast...no Xenos at all! :( Also, there is a sample adventure in the end of the book, different from the one posted on the BI website.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:13 am 
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It's worth noting that the penalty for attempting a basic skill untrained is pretty steep. Half rounded down of the relevant characteristic.

And a lot of the time you don't have many skills either!

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:14 pm 
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fen wrote:
It's worth noting that the penalty for attempting a basic skill untrained is pretty steep. Half rounded down of the relevant characteristic.

And a lot of the time you don't have many skills either!


Hopefully it'll encourage multiple players to have diverse characters. But having generated a number of characters for use as possible NPCs, I can say that it's really easy to pick up a lot of those basic skills, depending on what career you take.

Of course, the GM could decide to be nice to players and modify the "rules" if it makes sense. Say, for instance, that a character that couldn't normally take "Swim" has it in their background that they grew up on a world with many bodies of water (hopefully non-polluted ones!); I think it'd be fair to just give them "Swim" from the start, even if it wouldn't normally be on the character's career track choices. Hopefully it'll also encourage players to be more detailed in their character backgrounds and such; I've always awarded bonuses of sorts (depending on the game system) for things like that, creating portraits and "soundtracks" for your character, etc.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 4:07 pm 
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mafiacheese wrote:
Of course, the GM could decide to be nice to players and modify the "rules" if it makes sense. Say, for instance, that a character that couldn't normally take "Swim" has it in their background that they grew up on a world with many bodies of water (hopefully non-polluted ones!); I think it'd be fair to just give them "Swim" from the start, even if it wouldn't normally be on the character's career track choices.
Taking an advance which is not available in your career path (or taking it early) is called an Elite Advance (Page 229 of the Dark Heresy book). The book cautions against using this option too freely, but it is there if the story calls for it or if someone has a character concept that needs it. I was making an Adept character and wanted him to have the Forbidden Lore (Xenos) skill. The GM and I determined that he had worked in the department were records of xeno activity were filed, and he took the skill as an elite advance during character creation.

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