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Review of The Inquisitor's Handbook for Dark Heresy

 Post subject: Review of The Inquisitor's Handbook for Dark Heresy
PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:43 pm 
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Rogue-Psyker
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Black Industries has not been lying down on the job. The promised Inquisitor's Handbook and Purge the Unclean campaign book have been released. Since "disposable income" appears to be my middle name, I have them both. I have not had much time to look though Purge the Unclean, and I won't give any spoilers for it anyway since it is an adventure. I have digested the Inquisitor's Handbook however, and am prepared to offer the following review:


The Inquisitor's Handbook is billed as "The ultimate player's guide" on the cover, and it is pretty-much entirely devoted to character creation and customization. I'm very partial to high levels of character customization, so this looked good to me right from the start.

ORIGINS
The main book included four Origins: Feral World, Hive World, Imperial World and Void Born. This book adds four new ones: Forge World, Schola Progenium, Noble Born and Mind Cleansed. There are also six variant origins which are modified versions of the standard origins:
Battlefleet Calixus is a variant of the Void Born origin specific to the Imperial Navy.
Dusk is a Feral World origin for a haunted deathworld were the barrier between reality and the warp is unnaturally thin.
Gunmetal City - Scintilla is a Hive World origin for characters that come from that lawless and trigger-happy hive city.
Maccabeus Quintus is an Imperial World origin for a desolate shine world dominated by the Ecclesiarchy.
Sinophia is an Imperial World which was once the sector capitol but has since fallen into ruin, corruption and decay.
Volg Hive - Fenksworld is the most putrid, miserable and unwholesome spot in several sectors. Hive World variant.

Most of the alternate origins overlap with the standard ones to some extent. Even so, they are all distinctive enough in flavor that I would say you now have essentially 14 origins to work with. You also have a lot of examples if you wanted to build your own origins.

BACKGROUND PACKAGES
To further customize your character, there are 24 Background Packages (3 for each of the existing career paths). These represent specific events and organizations with the sector. A background package is similar to a variant origin, but it is limited by your career path and you pay for it with your starting XP. The XP you spend on the background package does not count as advancement so, if you take one, you will reach each new rank in your career path a little more slowly than normal. Background packages may give the character skills and traits that might otherwise not be available, modify attributes, and maybe add some corruption or insanity points too! For example:
- Adepts of the Void Commercia work for a branch of the Administratum that oversees interstellar trade. They have more skills related to trade and negotiation, but lose some combat ability.
- Arbitrators who survived The Red Vaults of Luggnum have been to Hell and back fighting the sector's most dangerous heretics. They have increased Willpower, the Jaded talent, and Insanity Points.
- A Psyker with A Shadow Over Thy Soul has somehow survived contact with an creature of the warp without anyone finding out. He now knows things about daemons that men should not know (forbidden lore), is more insane and corrupt, but resistant to further influence.
- When the Malygrisian Tech Heresy was put down 300 years ago, all its teachings were brutally suppressed. However, some Tech-Priests still secretly study this forbidden knowledge. If your character is one of them, he gains a list of forbidden skills, corruption and insanity. Best of all, the more conservative members of the Cult Mechanicus will hunt him down if they ever find out.

NEW CAREER PATH
There is one new full-length career Path in the book: Adeptus Sororitas. Since Sisters of Battle are merely Human, the game can accommodate them much better than Space Marines. This brings the total career paths to 9.

ALTERNATE CAREER RANKS
The horror of even more customization! There are also 15 Alternate Career Ranks included. An alternate career rank is a more specific job or field of study which is still generally compatible with your existing career path. With GM permission, you can swap one of your existing career path ranks with one of these. The alternate rank will give you a host of new advances that might not normally be available, and possibly a trait or other special ability. Examples:

The Blood Guild of Malfi is a powerful and ruthless order of bounty hunters that operates all over the sector. Its members are called the Malfian Bloodsworn and they have a well-deserved reputation of doing whatever it takes to get their man. Characters that take the oath to join the guild can take advances related to investigation, interrogation, tracking and security systems. Available to Assassin, Scum, Guardsmen and Arbitrators who can demonstrate that they have left Imperial service.

In many places, like starships and hive cities, technology is everywhere and there are not enough Tech-Priests or servitors to oversee everything. Reclaimators are people who work with technology without being proper members of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Often they are semi-skilled helpers of the local Tech-Priest who have been given enough basic training to perform routine maintenance tasks without offending the machine spirits. Others may be tinkerers with no official training, who would be hunted down for their blasphemy if a Tech-Priest ever caught them. In either case, displaying too much knowledge or inventiveness around a real Tech-Priest is a bad idea. Reclaimator is an alternate career rank for Scum characters with the Hive World, Forge World or Void Born origins.

Exactly how a character acquires an alternate career rank varies by the rank itself. A character can petition to join a public organization like the Malfian Bloodsworn or the Black Priests of Maccabeus. The PC's Inquisitor master might even want them to join in order to help with an investigation. Secret organizations like the Tyrantine Cabal must seek out the character, which must be worked out with the GM. Some other alternate ranks could be self-initiated by having too much knowledge and interest in a normally taboo subject. Calixian Xeno-Arcanist and Reclaimator fall in to this category. Some others may simply represent the character's background and can replace Rank 1 of the path. So, you can simply start the game as a Metallican Gunslinger, Warden of the Divisio Immoralis or Reclaimator.
Once you have the alternate rank, the advances remain available to your character for the rest of his career. This is a bit like multi-classing because some of these alternate jobs include serious changes. However, you may find that some of the normal advances you gave up in your normal rank are desirable too. These must be taken as Elite Advances and cost an extra 50 XP each, so choose the rank you replace wisely.

ELITE ADVANCE PACKAGES
Elite advances (which are in the core book) are how you take skills and traits that are not normally available for your career path or rank. Elite Advance Packages are a more complex way of handling major life-changing events that seriously alter the character. Basically they're a big package of elite advances and maybe some special rules that are all lumped together. The intention of these rules is that you make up your own, but they include three examples:

Cybernetic Resurrection is a package which might be taken by a dead character, or one that has become so badly crippled that he's ineffective. The Adeptus Mechanicus rebuilds the character as a cyborg. The changes involved are many, and typically include mental conditioning for loyalty to the Adeptus Mechanicus.

The Cult of the Red Redemption is a package which represents the character becoming an utterly fanatical Redemptionist. He gains some traits related to his utterly incorruptible fanatical zeal, but must also act accordingly... including burning all psykers and mutants, hiding his face, etc.

Most psykers manifest their talents when they are young, but this is not always the case. The Nascent Psyker package causes your PC to manifest psychic abilities... which he hasn't been trained to use. Does he try to survive as a rogue psyker? Petition for sanctioning? Or will a warp entity simply eat his brain? Like it says in the book, taking this advance will almost certainly result in the character becoming possessed, dead, or carried away by the black ships. But it does present some interesting roleplaying opportunities....

THE REST
That's the first 90 pages of the book. The next 100 or so pages is a combined wargear and fluff section which includes a very large assortment of different devices, from combat drugs to cyber-mastiffs. Human equipment is very well covered, though the game still lacks even common xenos technology.

There is a section of Ecclesiarchy-related fluff in the back, followed by a useful section called Life as An Acolyte. This goes in to greater detail concerning how an Inquisitor's agents do their jobs. It has rules on creating alternate identities and a detailed section of making and maintaining contacts. Other odds and ends in the back include expanded rules for skills, which clarifies some things and describes more specific things you can do with your skills.


As I mentioned at the beginning, I like games where you can make a really detailed an customized character. So, I like this book. Of course it is ridiculously expensive ($45 US) and you really don't need it to play the game. Even if you don't play the game but you just like reading 40K fluff, I'd say this book should appeal to you. There's a whole lot of interesting fluff mixed in amongst the rules, and it's good stuff. Nothing really struck me as violating the setting, and even when new things were added (like Reclaimators as unsanctioned technology users) I thought it fit in well. I only wish this book had come out during the winter so I wouldn't have spent a beautiful sunny day indoors reading it.
Unfortunately, not a good source for anyone looking for original artwork. I would guess that about 80% of the book's artwork is recycled.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:38 am 
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I concur completely. Except I spent like $65 for both books, including shipping...thank you reliable eBay sellers! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Review of The Inquisitor's Handbook for Dark Heresy
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:09 pm 
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Sergeant
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Venator wrote:
Human equipment is very well covered, though the game still lacks even common xenos technology.


I do think this is to discourage the use of xenos-tech amongst player characters. Having read through Purge the Unclean now, it's clear that the use of xeno-tech, no matter how mundane, will get you a bolt between the eyes very fast! Regardless, you'll be happy to know that there are a few profiles for some Dark Eldar weapons contained within one of the adventures within the book.

Overall, PtU was a fun read, whilst still being suitably dark for the 40K universe (just wait until you read the end of the 3rd adventure!). Things are left open-ended enough for players to not have to follow a linear script, but with enough cues for the GM to ensure that they don't get horribly off-track. And all three adventures do leave options open for further adventures, and introduce a huge potential organization/enemy to either constantly plague the PCs or be the main source of their investigation.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:17 pm 
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When the original book came out I had hoped that they would cover at least the most basic details of common xenos races. I know some groups are running campaigns that do involve xenos and are having to wing it. Though, as I have become more in-tune with the investigative theme the game attempts to follow, I don't mind the exclusion. Just the existance of xenos sympathizers, or finding a xenos artifact that none of the PCs would dare to operate is actually better than meeting a real alien.

The 40K universe is sufficiently vast that were's no need to cover it all in a half-assed manner in one book. I'm sure that there will eventually be a book which deals with xenos material in great depth. Then it will be easier to run those military-oriented campaigns were you fight xenos, or those non-imperial games where you might meet or play one. Until then, I think people will enjoy the campaign model that the game sets up.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 8:13 pm 
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Venator wrote:
The 40K universe is sufficiently vast that were's no need to cover it all in a half-assed manner in one book. I'm sure that there will eventually be a book which deals with xenos material in great depth. Then it will be easier to run those military-oriented campaigns were you fight xenos, or those non-imperial games where you might meet or play one. Until then, I think people will enjoy the campaign model that the game sets up.


We can only hope, anyway. I've heard nothing of any future books planned except the one that BI already had promised in September (which, like the others, will probably be late getting stateside again).

If you're really interested in some xenos/xenos gear, check out this site: http://www.darkreign40k.com/. While it's all fan-made, a lot of it is really good, or decent at worst. You'll need to make an account in order to download the PDFs and such, but it's worth the few minutes that it takes. Already they have stuff for Eldar/DE, Orks, Hrud, Genestealer Cults, and Necrons. There's also a ref chart that has all of the fan-made and DH weapons (excluding the content created for IH), which also includes Tau weapons (used as Pulse and Rail weapons). Even if you don't like the rules for any of that stuff, it's at least a good start as far as figuring out how to do them yourself, anyway.

Plus, having rules for Sisters of Silence and Marine characters, while overpowered, are still really cool, and not a bad place to go to when considering making either as one-off NPC allies.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:40 am 
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Whilst I too was hoping for some more xenos stuff to be included in the Inquisitor's Handbook, I am very pleased at the great amount of detail they've gone into to characterise a number of worlds.
Also, I love the Daily Prayers item. A prayer sheet you can eat! "Praise to the Emperor, nom, nom, nom..."

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