Populate a Universe
Preview the NPCs within Dark Heresy Second Edition
“Look upon the crowd below and know this – for each honest and Emperor-fearing citizen, another harbours discontent and the seed of treachery in his heart. For every two such malcontents, a third plots against his betters. Out of each hundred such plotters, one has the resolve to act. Now realise this – Hive Desoleum is home to billions. How many, then, are there all around us, ready to drag this place into oblivion?” –Overheard along a midhive habway, from persons unknown
Your investigations as an Acolyte in Dark Heresy Second Edition inevitably bring you into close contact with dozens of strange and exotic beings, ranging from loyal citizens of the Imperium to the blackest spawn of the Warp. Some of these may aid you towards your goals, but others will certainly oppose you with all their might.
Today, contributing writer Tim Cox brings you deeper into the corruption of Hive Desoleum as he describes the exotic people and horrid beasts you may encounter in your adventures across the Askellon sector.
Tim Cox on NPCs in Dark Heresy Second Edition
One of the most exciting things about working on Dark Heresy Second Edition was the opportunity to explore Imperial society. Far from the brutal battlefields of the 41st millennium, strange and bizarre denizens fill the worlds and cities of the Imperium. Each of the Imperium’s million and more worlds is unique, and possesses its own defining characteristics. After all, many worlds were settled before the Age of Strife, and their civilisations developed over tens of thousands of years. When we created the cast of NPCs and adversaries for Dark Heresy, we wanted to highlight the uniqueness of every world and its inhabitants.
Natives of Desoleum
Rather than offering generic NPCs painted in broad strokes, the NPC and Adversary chapter of Dark Heresy primarily focuses on the inhabitants of a single city – Hive Desoleum. In Hive Desoleum, society is dominated by the oath system. Oaths determine social ranking, servitude, and status for every member of the city, from the youngest child in the slums to Lady Desoleum herself. Because the oaths are such an enormous part of life in Hive Desoleum, we worked very hard to incorporate this into the NPCs and adversaries the Acolytes may face in Desoleum.
Although many of the characters described in this chapter are specific to Hive Desoleum, GMs will still find these characters useful for adventures set in other locales. I knew while developing this chapter that the most important thing was to maximize its usefulness to GMs. For me, this meant creating complete game profiles to help GMs run encounters and writing in-depth background descriptions to provide GMs with ideas for fitting these NPCs into other adventures.
To help a GM use these NPCs in any adventure, I endeavoured to make them flexible, while keeping them anchored in the strange and macabre environment of Hive Desoleum. Some NPCs, particularly the members of the Imperial Adeptus such as Astropaths and Tech-Priests, are representative of individuals found on many Imperial worlds. Other characters are more firmly entrenched in the culture of Hive Desoleum. The Involute Cadre Trooper and Officer, for example, represent the military of Desoleum, but GMs can easily modify their profiles or use them as they are to represent the soldiery of another world.
Dread Creatures Await
In addition to the human residents of Hive Desoleum, the NPCs and Adversaries chapter includes several dangerous flora and fauna from across the Askellon Sector. These allow GMs to present their Acolytes with very different types of challenges. Gunfights with cultists are one thing, but how does one fight a plant that drives nearby sentients into homicidal psychosis, or a mind-influencing spoor that exists in reality and the Warp simultaneously? Developing this section was a lot of fun, as it gave me the opportunity to explore the life forms found across the sector and revisit classic beasts like the common grox.
One of my favorite NPCs from the whole chapter – the smelt-rat – appears in this section. An artificial environment like Hive Desoleum is bound to be home to some highly exotic life forms, such as the smelt-rats, cybernetic vermin of unknown origin. Smelt-rats are no simple pests, though. These beasts are drawn to technological systems, infesting them and posing great threats to the hive’s ancient systems. They are also dangerous to any individuals with cybernetic limbs or implants, as smelt-rats are drawn to tech like normal vermin to food. The mere sight of a bionic limb drives smelt-rats into a ravenous feeding frenzy. Even more frightening are the rumoured smelt-rat kings, composed of many individual smelt-rats fused together and displaying a higher intelligence. Springing these beasts on unwary Acolytes reminds them that the lower reaches of Hive Desoleum are just as dangerous as any unexplored planet.
Finally, this chapter explores a few of the foul xenos and denizens of the Warp that the Acolytes might confront. Rather than a random grab-bag of unrelated aliens and Daemons, we focused on distinct groups. This way, GMs find a range of NPCs within each group, including numerous Troops, Elites, and Masters. Within this chapter, you’ll find profiles for the Eldar of Craftworld Miandrothe and the putrescent servitors of Nurgle, opening the way for an array of encounters.
I hope the NPCs and adversaries of the Dark Heresy Second Edition Core Rulebook provide excitement and adventure to players over many campaigns, and that these strange characters and creatures might even inspire GMs to create new adventures!
Start Your Adventure
Whether you encounter terrifying xenos, confront the spawn of Nurgle, or battle smugglers and cultists within the Imperium, you’ll need a guide to the strange and unknowable ways of your enemies. In the Dark Heresy Second Edition Core Rulebook, GMs find the tools they need to populate the universe of Warhammer 40,000.
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