News for March 2011
Men of Low Character 49
A look at Black Crusade, an upcoming Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game
Black Crusade | Published 18 March 2011

“The act of creation is only accomplished by exerting one’s will upon the universe; forcing it to obey your whims."
      – Dark Mechanicus Magos Osbourne Thayne

Black Crusade, an upcoming roleplaying game that offers players a new perspective on the conflict between the Imperium of Man and the forces of Chaos, will be corrupting players this summer. In this exciting new addition to FFG’s Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay line, players have the unprecedented opportunity to play as a Disciple of the Dark Gods, whether as a Chaos Space Marine or a human Servant of Chaos. But how does a player go about creating a Heretic, a role that rejects the rigid categories of life within the Imperium? This week, we’re pleased to offer a look at character creation in Black Crusade from contributing writer John Dunn.

Greetings, Heretics! By way of introduction, my first experience with the Warhammer 40,000 universe came back in the early nineties, when I picked up a copy of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader at my local bookshop. It was only when I got back to my dorm room to start creating characters for a campaign that I realized it was a tabletop miniatures game and not a roleplaying game. Yes, apparently, I’m that guy. In spite of my misinterpretation, I soon came to love the setting and have thoroughly enjoyed playing its many flavours since then. Now, on to Black Crusade:

Balance Within Chaos

When it comes to RPG development, Character Creation is a balancing act. Players should have the flexibility to create the character they wish to portray, but they also need some framework that establishes the tone for a setting and a campaign. To balance these two objectives meant looking at the game’s design from a variety of different angles. We had to establish a creation system that reflected the best of the prior Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay products, but we also had to make certain that players could create characters who had eagerly embraced the paths of the Ruinous Powers.

The Black Crusade development team felt that one of the most crucial elements for designing followers of Chaos was that these characters be granted a tremendous degree of flexibility; attempts to narrowly pigeonhole Heretics could lead to a path of utter ruination. Just as the player characters embraced the fickle and diverse ways of the Warp, players should be able to take their characters in whatever direction they chose so that they might best answer the siren songs of the Ruinous Powers.

So, I spent many hours reviewing and mapping out the Advancement Tables in those books about playing bootlicking Imperial loyalists. I studied the ways that they had been assembled, how selections were prioritized, how different Advances were priced, and how the merits of various skill options were assigned to character levels.

Then we threw them out, agreeing that trying to tie the advancement paths of a Player Character to a particular hierarchy of skills and talents felt wrong. Unlike Deathwatch Space Marines or Dark Heresy Acolytes, the worshippers of the Dark Gods are a diverse bunch of renegades who have been charting their own path, not bound up in some larger hidebound organization. Everyone agreed; Career Paths were out for Black Crusade.

New Directions

Not surprisingly, that had a few repercussions. Because Advancement Tables were eliminated, that meant that identifying characters by Careers just was not appropriate any more. These have been renamed “Archetypes,” which offer a starting package of Skills, Talents, Gear, and a Special Ability. Players have no further restrictions or obligations to select specific future Advances for their Heretics (and we'll see a few specific examples of Archetypes in a future preview).

Rather than creating a chart that tied into a character’s class and level, Black Crusade offers a hierarchy of straightforward prerequisites for all of the Talent Advances. Skill and Characteristic Advances remain completely open. These selections are not restricted by the Heretic’s Archetype, nor are they limited by the character’s Level—oh, that’s right; Black Crusade has eliminated Levels.

This provides players the opportunity to specialize their characters at a far earlier stage. As there are no level-associated Advancement Tables, a player has the option to take all three Advances in a particular Skill consecutively. Similarly, a player who wishes to take an Advance that is not typically associated with their starting Archetype has the option to do so. Talent Advances are slightly trickier, as many have prerequisites. However, even with those restrictions, a focused Heretic may develop a heightened level of expertise surprisingly quickly.

Bound to Dark Powers

The second major difference is that certain Characteristics, Skills, and Talents have an Alignment. For example, Strength and Frenzy are both Aligned with Khorne, while Medicae, Intimidate, and True Grit are Aligned with Nurgle, and Psy Rating, Weapon Skill, and Ballistic Skill are unaligned, not associated with any God.

As characters buy these Aligned advances, they increase their allegience to the God in question. If they buy too many advances tied to one God without others to balance things out, they become Aligned themselves, which has benefits and drawbacks. Aligned advances become cheaper, but other advances become more costly. So, for example a Heretic who is Aligned to Nurgle may find it cheaper to purchase Intimidate, but more costly to purchase Charm (which is Aligned with Slaanesh). Of course this might be just what the player wants!

With this system, players have the option of selecting Advances that tie their Heretics to a particular deity to earn a discount on future development. Alternatively, they can deliberately select Advances from a variety of paths, so that they are never penalized with an increased experience point cost. This provides a way for players to directly link the roleplaying options of their character with the way he develops over the course of a campaign.

Throughout a character’s career, flexible options continue to be available. Players may always select Advances from any of the Chaos Gods’ paths. The winds of fate might even dictate that a character break ways with the path upon which he had trod, selecting the patronage of another Dark God or choosing the unaligned path.

Unfortunately for such a character, the Dark Gods are a fickle and jealous lot. Those who attempt to shift their devotion may find that these choices and actions displease their master. While currying the favour of a Ruinous Power is a dangerous process, turning against such a master can lead to a destiny far worse than any which haunt the nightmares of mortals. These Heretics may be punished in hideous ways that mark them as having drawn the ire of the Ruinous Powers.

Black Crusade is a roleplaying game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, a setting in the grim darkness of the far future. Players take on the roles of Disciples of the Dark Gods, working against the rule of the galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man and in pursuit of personal glory.

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Comments (49)

Published: 5/23/2011 8:08:47 PM

I wonder if the archetype system and advance system is similar to the ones of warhammer fantasy roleplay? It almost seems the same if you ask me.

Published: 4/7/2011 11:02:16 AM

Very interesting. I wonder how it will work with Chaos Space Marines as they not only follow certain Gods they are a part of a Legion. A Plague Marine of Nurgle wouldn't  change what Legion it is in and who it follows just because they want to be a Khorne Berserker. If it is possible then I wonder what the Nurgle would impose on the CSM.

Chaos Spawn maybe.

I can't wait until it comes out.

Magnus Grendel
Published: 3/26/2011 10:00:25 AM

Sounds interesting. The fact that you can take literally anything is good - it helps blur the line between "space marine""not space marine" in a way that individuals with chaos marks should (think Maggard from the Horus Heresy series).

Published: 3/24/2011 10:01:50 AM


If you read between the lines, it sounds like this is what FFG wanted to do all along, but couldn't. And seriously, how complex can you make a level-less system? "This is advance x, you can get it for y XP, unless you're aligned toagainst chaos god a, in which case it'll cost z xp less/more."


Regarding psy ratings, I'd assume that Tzeentch will have an advantage when it comes to support talents. Also, I'm not too sure about Khorne - he may detest battle psykers, but I don't think all of his Daemons are summoned by Undivided sorcerors. And this is before considering all the Daemon weaponswar machines, a lot of which will probably be aligned to him.

Published: 3/23/2011 7:46:29 PM

My plan is to combine DH,deathwatch and Black Crusade. Using the corruption system, I intend to make a game that will finally appeal to all my gamers. I am psyched and ready for Black Crusade. Bing on the Dark Gods!

Published: 3/23/2011 12:47:35 PM

Lol vindicare's head changed :)

I thought it was strange that vindicare is about to throw a meltabomb at sisters of battle, but they could be Heretik!

Published: 3/22/2011 8:56:59 PM

 Wait a moment, 

did the vindicare assassin's head just change?

Published: 3/22/2011 3:33:35 PM

I thin Psy Rating should be unaligned overall. A no no for Khorne, a 2 or 3 limit for Nurgle and Slaanessh and unlimited for Tzeentch. However, currently we know it is unaligned as stated in this article. However, we do not know what individual Psy-Powers, Psy-Talents, Psy-Skills and Psy-Disciplines are aligned or what. 

Published: 3/22/2011 3:22:58 PM

A little sad to see that psy rating is unaligned. I understand that it is a decision for game balancing purposes but it still feels like it should be under the purview of Tzneentch.

Published: 3/21/2011 3:25:16 PM

To be frank, I was never into chaos, and when I saw BC I wanted to pass it. But after reading the article I decided that I'll buy the book. Maybe I'll never play it but I think some ideas there can be fitted into existing rules.

Published: 3/21/2011 2:55:47 PM

I know I criticized this announcement for its radical departure but I have to ask why such the negative reaction to Deathwatch changes?

I will freely admit that there were radical changes made in Deathwatch but in my opinion they were entirely appropriate considering the nature of the characters.  No longer are players dealing with the Acolytes and Explorers of Homo sapiens but rather Space Marines of a type of Homo superior that was designed on the genetic level for the sole purpose of war and I think the rule changes reflected that rather well.

What I don't understand about the rule changes with Black Crusade is why isn't FFG using the rules for Acolytes and Explorers as a blueprint for Heretics and Space Marines as a blueprint for Chaos Space Marines?  The rules don't and shouldn't be identical (I mean we are talking about Chaos here) but my question is why force players to have to learn an entire new system and one that doesn't look like it'll mesh well with the previous game rules at all?

I agree with those who say there is absolutely no need for a 2nd ed. because IMHO I honestly don't want to give Fantasy Flight Studios a chance to completely screw up the system (like for example by making it into some freakish RPG/trading card game abomination like they did with Warhammer Fantasy "Roleplay").

Mr. Grimace
Published: 3/21/2011 1:37:56 PM

 A 2nd edition? That would suck.... 

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