|Part One: The Imperium of Man
by Mike Mason
|Dark Heresy | Published 31 October 2008|
Mike Mason: If Warhammer 40,000 is about anything at all, it is about the struggle of mankind in the dark distant future. It is the story of man's fight for survival against a galaxy of horror, shadow and corruption. Where better to set a roleplaying game?
Those familiar with Warhammer 40,000 will know that in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, mankind stands against a tide of foes from within and from without; be they vile aliens, mutant abominations or the unknown terrors of the warp. We wanted to ensure that Dark Heresy would encompass as much of the majesty and spectacle that is Warhammer 40,000, drawing together as much of the flavour of the setting as possible. We also had to ensure that Dark Heresy, being a game, was eminently playable.
A key concern was to be able to offer a game that could be played to support differing playing styles, whether it be fast-paced, deadly combat, political intrigue and hidden conspiracy, or the slow-creep of horror. Whilst most gaming groups might turn to different game systems for a 'change of pace', swapping rules and books in order to change the mood of their games, we wanted Dark Heresy to be able to accommodate them all. Thus you'll find deadly combat rules, mechanics for investigating gossip and knowledge and procedures for Fear, Insanity and Corruption.
Back to the setting. Why the Inquisition? Well, who better to delve into the things that hide in the shadows, confront the alien and heretic, and purge the unclean? Of all of the many organisations that comprise the Imperium of Man, the Inquisition alone has the power, authority and imperative to travel between worlds, seek out trouble and deal with heresy wherever it is found. Inquisitorial agents are not bound by the ties that hold the rest of the populace down, able to draw upon resources unthinkable to most; finding and fighting the enemies of the Imperium is their job. In some cases, acolytes of the Inquisition might have even more freedom than their Inquisitor masters, able to go undercover and infiltrate under-hive gangs, cults and criminal organisations in order to pursue their master's agenda.
Keeping to our original tenet of wanting to include as much of the flavour of Warhammer 40,000 as we could, we wanted to cover some of the iconic Warhammer 40,000 careers; giving players the opportunity to not only play hive gangers and Guardsmen, but also arbitrators, tech-priests, adepts, psykers, assassins and members of the Ecclesiarchy. Whilst we envisaged that most gaming groups would comprise of a mix of these careers, we also knew that there would be Game Masters and players alike who have long dreamt of running a hive-scum campaign or a game based upon a close-knit cadre of PDF troopers or the like. Whilst the official setting does presume that player characters will be acolytes of the Ordos Calixis, the rules are flexible, enabling GMs to take their game-stories in tangent directions. I think GMs intending to do this very thing will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to mould the game into whatever they want it to be. Newer GMs and players will, of course, have everything they need to start roleplaying from the get-go.