“Captain, this factory cannot fall. It is more important than you, your troops, or the population of this planet. Expend every available resource to keep it from the enemy.”
–Planetary Overgovernor Worthington Derrymore

Enemies of the Imperium , the upcoming supplement for Only War , takes a closer look at the myriad threats to the Imperium that must be rooted out and destroyed by the Imperial Guard. Throughout the Spinward Front, terrible foes like Ork Squiggoths, the Dark Eldar, and the dreaded Chaos Space Marines aim to destroy the Imperium. It is the task of the Imperial Guard to stand firm against these, and all enemies, and with new rules for Formations in this supplement, Guardsmen have new options for squad-level combat. However, the Enemies of the Imperium are numerous, and the threats to mankind must be constantly warded off. In the following Designer Diary, contributing writer John Dunn discusses the traitorous Duke Severus the Thirteenth, leader of the Severan Dominate in the Spinward Front.

Enemies of the Imperium is divided into different sections that focus upon the different threats to Imperial security located throughout the Spinward Front. Some of the foes are clearly monsters, unrepentant enemies who can only be dealt with via the massed weapons of the Imperial Guard. I was fortunate enough to work on the Severan Dominate, an organisation whose motivations and actions are more relatable for the Player Characters. Put simply, this is because the Severan Dominate has fallen prey to the same foibles of Imperial infrastructure and callous politics that often hurl the Player Characters into desperate or seemingly hopeless situations.

A Traitor's Domain

I thought that it was important to focus a portion of the attention on Duke Severus the Thirteenth himself. His domain faces insurmountable challenges, but these issues were present and recognisable at the time he began his secession. It is easy to believe that the only reason the Severan Dominate exists is because Duke Severus is a deluded megalomaniac. After all, he absolutely fits that mould. In spite of his pride and unfaltering belief in his right to an empire, however, he has demonstrated unexpected competency. His forces are simultaneously fighting two wars, even as the Duke maintains a fledgling domain, negotiates treaties with treacherous xenos, and keeps his population deluded about the core reasons for their secession. This would be a nearly unbelievable feat of political savvy for a person who had a firmer grasp upon reality. That the troubled Duke to has managed all of these crises indicates that he is either truly talented or amazingly lucky.

Explaining how this luck or skill interacted with his plans and his particular areas of expertise became a central focus of this section of the book. The Severan Dominate's existence is based upon the philosophical beliefs that Duke Severus the Thirteenth put into place. In order to launch the secession, he had to rely upon deception, and to sustain it, his lies have had to become ever more grandiose. At the same time, very practical matters such as equipping and supplying a competent fighting force, maintaining adequate supplies to keep his people fed, and satisfying the needs of a population who remain loyal to the Emperor—though not His servants—are ongoing concerns. Every time one element falters, it risks toppling the others. The Duke has had to constantly maintain a careful balancing act so that the population remain satisfied without exposing his lies.

The section I wrote explores worlds of the Severan Dominate, as well as the people who inhabit them. Throughout these materials, the issues of how the different worlds interact, and how the Duke must maintain his delicate balance remain a central theme. It is clear that as things stand, the centre cannot hold indefinitely. However, if the Duke can somehow turn his enemies against one another, then it is possible that he could stave off the inevitable for a very long time. He has already proven his willingness to strike dark bargains to undermine his foes, and who can say what measures the Duke will undertake to maintain his grip upon the realm he has sacrificed so much to forge.

Thanks, John! Prepare to wage war against new threats to the Imperium in this upcoming supplement for Only War . In the meantime, take a sneak peek inside the supplement with the following pages (pdf, 565 KB), excerpted from Enemies of the Imperium , coming in the third quarter. Then, get ready for the fight of your life!


Only War is a Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of soldiers in the Imperial Guard, the galaxy-spanning armies of the God-Emperor. In the face of overwhelming opposition, Guardsmen fight against mankind’s many enemies for the very survival of humanity and the continuation of the Imperium’s dominance over space.

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