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Hey guys long time no see!
I recently got my grubby mitts on a copy of Dark Heresy along with the Games Masters Kit (basically a GM screen plus an adventure and some extra rules for Poisions and Xenos creation)
I know alot of people are wondering whether its worth buying the Dark Herey now that Black Industries have made the.... ahem...'interesting' decision to stop publishing thier RPG's
So with that in mind here is a review of Dark Heresy including the Games Masters Kit.
Anyone who has played the new edition of Warhammer fantasy Roleplay will find themselves instantly familiar with Dark Heresy rules set.
Essentially you have a number of characteristics ranging from ones familiar to all Wh40K players such as Ws BS Strength and so on to new ones such as Intelligence (Int) and Perception (Per)
These characteristics are based on a scale of 1-100. Most dice rolls are % based.
To perform a particular action a character rolls off against his characteristic.
Characters also have skills, which essentially allow you to perform certain actions (if you have never seen a computer in your life an Int of 75 still isn't going to help you format the hard drive, you need the Tech Use skill)
Talents, These are special abilities, such as the ability to place your shots with more accuracy.
All fairly simple. There are plenty of skills and talents so the PC's can make very diverse characters and the GM has plenty of scope for NPC's.
Finally Dark Heresy uses the WFRP system of Fate Points. Essentially get out of jail free cards when a player dies. Except in the grim world of Wh40K they are more likely to be get out of jail mutilated cards.
Combat rules are fairly simple. Everyone can perform either one full Action or two Half actions a turn. These actions include moving, shooting, jumping performing a skill and so forth.
Combat is deadly. Potentially every weapon is one shot one kill. Arguably some of the higher spec weapons such as bolters should be slightly better but make no mistake neither PC's nor NPC's will be wading out into the open without fear (unless they have an appropriate insanity of course).
Strangly Melee weapons are actually more effective than ranged weapons, but on the other hand actually getting close to your target may be a problem.
Rules for long term and immedtiate injury are detailed enough to give variety but simple enough to be playable.
My only real gripe with the combat rules is that they could be explained slightly better in the book. Especially the point that you can only make one Attack Action per turn (in case your wondering there are various types of Attack Actions that take into account people able to strike opponents multiple times).
Baring in mind that there won't be many supplements for Dark Heresy the armoury section, while good for a starting rule book, is fairly sparse if a GM wanted to use the book as his only source book.
The only really good point is that there is a wide range of weapon types and effects detailed (right up to the rediculous man portable las-cannon)
The Games Masters Kit gives expanded rules for posions which is a plus. Though in my view the posions aren't nearly deadly enough given their descriptions (The poision used by Officio Assinorium has a hard time putting an average victim into a coma much less kill him)
All in all the armoury gives enough examples of weapons that a GM can easily make his own but in the same vein someone doesn't fork out £35 to make up their own rules.
Essentially the same is true of the Equipment section.
A big minus is that there are no or virtually no rules for vehicles which given the setting is inexcusable really.
The only mitigating circumstance is that there are free easily downloadable rules off the Black Industries web site which are fairly extensive.
Dark Heresy is not WH40K when it comes to psychic powers. It isn't trying to be balanced. Psykers are potent allys and lethal opponents in Dark Heresy. Equally however that power comes with a price and wierd effects from using too much power are a constant threat.
The rules themselves are easy to understand though in practice there is a lot of dice rolling.
Insanity and Corruption
Dark Heresy takes the rules in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for insanity and runs with them. I thought this section was well thought out and introduces the idea of the of the player also being twisted by the horrors they see through corruption.
Some may critisise the fact that the rules are somewhat cumbersome however I would argue while that is a fair point when it applies to combat rules which need to be slick the effects of insanity can be thought through at a slower pace between PC and GM.
There is also an unexpected bonus in the form of a Dark Pacts section with rules for how the players (or NPC's) can make hideous pacts with Deamons. Needless to say the corruption level of the PC's involved quickly soars.
The only playable race in Dark Heresy is human (and quite right too no need for any taint by Xenos scum)
PC's can gain some variety in character type through choosing their birth world. They can choose from Imperial World, Void Born, Hive World, Feral World
The different worlds give different traits and offer negatives and positives when rolling starting characteristics.
It also effects what career paths you can choose
Anyone who has played WFRP may be dismayed to see that the career system has been taken out of Dark Heresy. Instead the PC's can only choose basic career paths.
These are Adept, Psyker, Guardsman, Scum, Techpriest, Assassin, Cleric, Adeptes Arbites.
The career paths use a seemingly restrictive ranking system that seems very DnD. Not good.
However on closer inspection you realise that there is actually more flexibility within these paths than you first realise and indeed I suspect it may turn out that there is more flexibility in this system than in the present WFRP one.
Adepties Arbites for example can very easily incorporate a vast variety of law enforcement officials, bounty hunters, enforcers local police, Private detectives and bodyguards. The only thing that needs to be changed is taking away the Adepties Arbites ID in the initial starting gear.
Equally Scum covers all sorts of criminals, and Guardsmen all sorts of soldiers from Imperial troops to mercs.
Dark Heresy gives a good overview of the Imperium, particularly the way the different organisations work within the Imperium and the Imperium view of government.
Essentially the Imperium is only interested in the tithes each planet produces and ensuring the Emperor is worshipped (And even this is somewhat secondary). Even rebellion is tolerated as long as it is anti-government rebellion not anti Imperial.
The Inquisition is examined in some detail. No startling new revelations but its all good stuff. Particularly the way that the Inquisition works in practice. A lot of the leg work gets done by Acolytes in the employ of the Inquisitor.
Not much information about the different factions of Inquisitor which is a shame.
A fair amount of information is given about a sample sector the Calix sector and thew Inquisitorial conclave that is established there.
All in all Dark Heresy does well to establish the dark setting of the game without become too Emo.
Games Master Section
The Games Master section is fairly good. It gives a good overview of some plot hooks and themes to explore.
It also has a fairly extensive section on NPC stats for basic Imperial citizens (and malcontents such as mutants). On the other hand it is missing some vital characters such as space marines eldar orks and so on.
Normally not a problem but without supplements......
This is mitigated somewhat by the Games Masters Kit which has rules for developing your own Xenos race.
Some good rules on Deamons including very extensive rules on Deamon Hosts. If anyone has read Eisenhorn and unbound Deamon Host is easily as powerful as that book suggests.
The Games Master section also has a starting adventure. I was expecting it to be dross, the usual explaining how the rules work to the PC's kind of thing
I was surprised to find that it was pretty good. And wasn't trying to be easy on the Pc's either.
One of the last lines is "And of course if the PC's don't make it your next scenario could be detailing the investigation to find a missing group of acolytes"
The layout of Dark Heresy is very good. Its well produced/bound etc and the artwork is excellent. There are numerous quotes that we have come to expect from WH40K sources.
By itself as a Starting Rule Book I would give Dark Heresy 85%. A high score I know, but ultimatly a starting rulebook just needs to provide the essentials for play which Dark Heresy does and much more.
It loses marks for the lack of vehicle rules,
Because there are virtually no forthcoming supplements I will have to reduce the score to 70%
If you are willing to buy the Games Masters Kit then I think a score of 75% is appropriate.
Any questions about the game feel free to ask.
Great review, thanks a lot! I might just pick this up just to own it.
And from what I have heard, the two planned supplements are basically done and will actually be released as well, although I could be remembering that wrong...
Thanks for that Q! I thought I hadn't seen you around for a while.
I have been wondering about grabbing a copy of this. I had a flick through and it looks pretty awesome, especially the artwork.
But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.
And a copy have been ordered. Can't wait to get it.
Yeah I got the book along with the GM kit (Must have really) I enjoy it, but as a person with no real knowledge on how this works house rules could prove a problem down the road. Being set within an Imperial ship though vehicles won't be around for a while.
Good review Q, You are the coolest guy I know sporting a mullet and writing reviews. Feel special :happy:
I think marking Dark Heresy itself down for the unfortunate fact there won't be many supplements is a bit harsh. Three main books should be more than enough to run a long-lived campaign, and I personally wouldn't want things to have gone the World of Darkness route with more sourcebooks than you can actually carry to your games.
Blargh! Got an email from where I ordered it that said it was out of stock! Don't ask em why they labled it as "in stock" when I ordered it though...
Darn it! Now I'm not sure if I can get it at all...
Nice review. It seems that Black Industries have released a couple of mini supplements through their website, one of which being rules for vehicles.
So my humble Guardsman's fist is as strong as a blast from his laser rifle?
Managed to get my (filthy) hands on a copy of the Core rulebook today - woot! And I must say, what a book! I have just skimmed through it but it looks great. Will be a very intresting read.
Started a campaign two weeks ago.
I have my intrepid Pc's travelling across a Death World (an Ice Planet to be precise) to find an Inquisitorial contact.
The adventure should take them into the depths of a very nasty Hive City.
Working title: Fear and Loathing in Kri-Kren.