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Welcome to the front lines, Battle-Brother!

Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which you take on the role of a member of the Adeptus Astartes - the devout, bio-engineered super-soldiers also known as Space Marines. After many years of exemplary service within your own chapter, you have been singled out and selected to join one of the most unique and specialized collectives of Space Marines - the Deathwatch.

Only the most exceptional candidates from the fighting forces of the Adeptus Astartes are invited to join the mysterious Deathwatch; to take on a new oath to safeguard the Imperium from the darkest of threats. You will now be called into service to hunt down and destroy hostile xenos forces, to seek out and crush the root of heresy and sedition, and to continually fight against the foul daemon menace that crawls forth hungrily from beyond the Warp. You are at the fore of Mankind's war for survival against an extremely hostile universe.

Along with the other players, you will unite together as a Kill-team of Deathwatch Space Marines, but the challenges you will face are not all external. Since you have each been recruited from a separate Space Marine Chapter, you will be met with wildly differing traditions, beliefs, experiences and backgrounds. You must learn to work together with Space Marines who are strangers or even rivals.

As a Deathwatch Space Marine you have been selected as an exceptional candidate from amongst the warriors of your primary chapter, to bring your unique talents and abilities to the fight at the furthest fringes of Imperial space. United in this newly forged brotherhood, all Deathwatch Space Marines must learn to put aside their differences and work together to succeed in the most extraordinary of missions — or face the threat of total annihilation when confronted by implacable alien foes.

The Deathwatch RPG drops you and your group of fellow Space Marines squarely in the thick of the action, stationed at the heart of the Jericho Reach – a region of the Imperium long ago devastated by war, and now on the brink of destruction.

For centuries, the Deathwatch have maintained their silent vigil over the ancient ruins of the Reach, but now you find yourselves on the front lines of a grand Imperial Crusade that has been launched to reclaim this vast region of space from darkness and heresy.

The fate of billions rests in your hands!

Deathwatch offers a brand new roleplaying experience by focusing on elite, special-missions style action involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.

At the same time, there are exceptional roleplaying opportunities presented by the unique composition of the Deathwatch itself; the Space Marines who make up a Kill-team are a group of powerful and successful individuals, and often, it is the choice to go beyond that individual nature and sacrifice one’s pride in order to work together that will create the most drama and excitement in your Deathwatch games.

During a Deathwatch mission, you will earn renown, advance in experience and prestige, and garner special wargear only entrusted to the the most honoured and trustworthy battle-brothers. You will face extreme challenges, from the ravening horror of a Tyranid Hive Tyrant to the excruciating decision of whether an Imperial world’s population can be saved...or must be abandoned to their fate in the face of an encroaching alien menace.

While Deathwatch focuses on a different aspect of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the rule system is compatible with Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader. The Deathwatch core rulebook provides all the rules necessary to enjoy a complete roleplaying experience in the grim darkness of the far future.

Chapters of the Space Marines

A Chapter is a self-sufficient and largely autonomous force of Space Marines, usually made up of roughly a thousand Battle-brothers, each one a mighty hero and veteran warrior. There are roughly a thousand Chapters within the Imperium, and each Chapter possesses its own unique traditions, specialties, beliefs and practices. The core book covers six of these celebrated Chapters, including amongst their number some well-known and honoured names.


Deathwatch Kill-teams are formed of Space Marines drawn from a number of different Chapters from across the galaxy. These Space Marines are given special training and swear sacred oaths that not only safeguard the secrets of the Deathwatch—these oaths promise death to the alien foes of Man. Kill-teams keep an unceasing vigil over certain regions and worlds of the Imperium—dark places amongst the stars where ancient enemies slumber. They are called forth to do battle against evil beyond measure, battles that would be legends. However, these legends have remained untold—until now.

The Space Marines in a Deathwatch Kill-team represent an array of possible specialties in which they have a particular focus or gift.

In the Deathwatch RPG, you can take on one of these following roles:


“Yours is to serve, unto the last drop of your blood, that your brothers might live to fight on. Watch over them, heal them, offer up your very life should it extend theirs but a moment, and by your sacrifice the enemy be slain. And when the time comes that you must fulfil your most solemn oath, speak clearly, speak proudly, speed the bolt that brings his end and send him joyous to the Emperor’s side. Then do your duty, take that which is due, and know your mission is done.”
–Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse V, Chapter L (M40 Redaction)

Space Marine Apothecaries are charged with maintaining the bodily health of their battle brothers, whether this is monitoring their genetically engineered implants or administering emergency medical attention on the field of battle. Only the bravest of warriors are chosen for this honoured duty, for each must look first and foremost to the health of his companions, and consider his own life as secondary. Apothecaries are at once mighty warriors and selfless servants, and each would fight his way through hordes of vile enemies to reach a fallen battle brother and then transfuse the very last drop of his own blood to save the life of the wounded.

Deathwatch Apothecaries take on a number of additional duties over those performed in their parent Chapter. For a start, they must master the genetic inheritance not only of their own helix, but of a myriad of other Chapters too, so that they might monitor and maintain the implants of all their fellow Space Marines, each of which may be drawn from a different Chapter. In this matter, Deathwatch Apothecaries occupy a uniquely trusted position. Space Marine Chapters do not lightly share the details of their gene-seed, with its associated traits, variations, and even mutations. Deathwatch Apothecaries are sworn to maintain the secrets of each of the Chapters from which their fellows are drawn, an oath that carries the harshest of penalties should it ever be broken.

Assault Marine

“Look not behind you, brother. Know in your heart that your kin are there, offering their fire and their prayers. Look instead to your foe as you scream from the skies upon jets of white fire. Take but one instant to savour the fear in his eyes as he looks skywards, and there, in the keen edge of your blade, he sees his doom, delivered by your hand.”
–Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse I, Chapter VI

Assault Marines are specialists in the brutal art of close quarters combat. They carry a range of weaponry, usually a lethal combination of a pistol and a melee weapon, the most common being the iconic bolt pistol and chainsword. Many choose to take to the battlefield equipped with a jump pack, allowing them to close rapidly on their foes, often descending from above in a devastating charge.

A Deathwatch Assault Marine is likely to be a warrior who has mastered all of the methods of war, and discovered that he is most skilled at close combat. To serve as an Assault Marine is to go quite literally face to face with the most terrible of Humanity’s foes, and to have pitted wits against the vilest of beasts countless times, and won. An Assault Marine is a master with his chosen weapons combination, and he practices endlessly in their use. Many Assault Marines hone their skills in long duels with their brethren, perfectly willing to risk injury so that their abilities might be honed to perfection. As a result of their training, many Assault Marines suffer more scars than a veteran of centuries of warfare, and they bear them proudly as a sign of their calling.

Devastator Marine

“Look to your fore – there you shall see your foe. Blast him! With bolt, flame, and plasma, lay waste to his body and shrive his very soul. Do this so that your brothers may close upon their target, do it because their very lives depend upon your deeds, do it because they are your kin, and you are theirs, and you can never fail.”
–Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse I, Chapter V

Devastator Marines are those battle brothers tasked with manning the very heaviest and most powerful of portable weapons. In his parent Chapter, the Devastator Marine might recently have ascended from the 10th Scout Company, and therefore be undertaking a crucial stage in the process of mastering all of the arts of war. In the Deathwatch, however, it is more likely that the Devastator Marine has already served in his parent Chapter as a Devastator, Assault, and Tactical Marine, and is returning to the role he most excels in – the application of overwhelming firepower.

In battle, the Deathwatch Devastator Marine carries one of a wide range of heavy weapons, and his role is to provide fire support for the other members of the Kill-team. It is often the case that a concentrated burst of fire from a heavy weapon will force the enemy to seek cover, thus allowing the Kill-team to advance across otherwise perilous ground. Weapons such as the heavy bolter are ideal for this task, as they combine a high rate of fire with a powerful ammunition type. For this reason, the heavy bolter is the most common type of heavy weapon carried by Deathwatch Devastator Marines, but there are plenty more, chosen according to the nature of the mission and the enemy.

Deathwatch Librarian

“Your fate is to know that which may not be known, to look into those places of darkness and desolation and know that horrors look back upon you. Speak not to your brothers of such things, but use the gifts you have been given, by the Emperor himself, to blast and sear and rend and banish all those who would deny us our destiny.”
–Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse XXI, Chapter LXI (Appendix cii)

Librarians are those Space Marines born as psykers, able to wield the powers of the mind against the foes of Mankind. To be a Space Marine is to be one in a billion – a man judged strong, tough, and bold enough to stand against the horrors of the galaxy. To be also a psyker, judged capable of holding back the ravenous beings of the Warp and to wield his powers in combat, the Librarian is truly one of Mankind’s most exceptional warriors.

Most of the Librarians called to serve in the Deathwatch hold the rank of Lexicanium, the most junior of the four ranks of the Space Marines’ battlefield psykers. They are nonetheless warriors of fearsome ability and renown. However, a small number of higher ranked Librarians do serve – the most senior become the Watch Commanders’ most valued counsellors. Within their own Chapters, Librarians may have different titles and unique methods of utilizing their powers. Amongst the Space Wolves, for example, Librarians are known as Rune Priests, and manifest their powers through the casting of stone-engraved runes, manifesting spectral wolves of legend, and summoning violent thunderstorms.

Librarians fulfill a number of roles within the Deathwatch. Chief among them is that of the combat psyker. By focusing his prodigious psychic powers, the Librarian is able to unleash withering blasts of searing energy at his foe, reducing them to ashes with but a thought. Often, the energies are directed and multiplied through the blade of a specially crafted weapon such as a force sword or halberd, with which even the mightiest of foes might be cut down as wheat before the scythe. Death can be unleashed from afar as well, for the Librarian is able to project his powers at distant enemies, launching deadly bolts from a staff, an outstretched hand, or through his very gaze. Unlike conventional weapons, a Librarian’s wrath cannot be parried and does not run out of ammunition. The only limit on a Librarian’s powers is his own will, and this is as strong as any of the Imperium’s mightiest heroes.

Tactical Marine

“No place shall be denied to them, no enemy shall bar their way. They shall be proud of heart and stoic of spirit. They shall be measured and wise, yet their hatred shall burn with such heat that their enemies wither and die before them. They shall be masters of every weapon, every ploy, and every strategy, fierce in the attack and solid in the defense. They shall go where others fear to tread, and return victorious, that we all might live but one more day.”
   –Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse I, Chapter III

Tactical Marines are the most numerous of Space Marine warriors, and as their name suggests they are equipped and trained to fulfill the widest range of battlefield roles. Armed with the iconic boltgun, Tactical Marines provide the bulk of the Kill-team’s firepower, which they are able to lay down in a devastating fusillade even as they advance implacably towards their objective. Most battle brothers taking up service in the Deathwatch have advanced to the position of Tactical Marine in their parent Chapters, and so are veteran warriors well versed in the many disciplines of war. Truly, there are very few enemies that the Tactical Marine has not encountered and defeated, and no battlefield holds any terror for him.

The primary task of a Kill-team’s Tactical Marines is to engage the bulk of the foe, and to bring about the achievement of its objectives. Any specialists in the team, such as Devastator Marines and Assault Marines, are present mainly to support the Tactical Marines in their task. To this end, the Tactical Marines are masters of a wide range of combat tactics, and they are adept in the use of a variety of weapons and other equipment.

Deathwatch Techmarine

“Yours is to heed the machine as others heed their kin. Tend to the war spirits all about, but do so in the knowledge that you do the Emperor’s duty. Without your ministrations, no bolt may be fired, and no enemy slain.”
   –Extract from the Apocrypha of Eons, Verse III, Chapter CIV (fragment)

Techmarines are those brethren schooled in the forbidden knowledge of the Omnissiah – the Machine God. Those aspirants who display an affinity for the operation of machines undergo special trials and tests, to discern their suitability to receive additional training under the Adeptus Mechanicus. Upon their ascension to the status of battle brother, those judged worthy are dispatched to a Forge World of the Adeptus Mechanicus – perhaps even Mars itself, where they are inducted into the secrets of the Machine Cult. Upon his eventual return to his Chapter, the Space Marine has learned not only the operation of all manner of machinery, but also how to convene with the Machine Spirits themselves, how to undertake repairs of aggrieved or wounded machines, and even how to build new ones. This terrible knowledge weighs heavily upon the newly created Techmarine, and in many ways sets him apart from the ranks of his brothers. Yet, despite his induction into the most secret of arts, he is, and shall ever remain, a Space Marine.

Deathwatch Techmarines fulfill a number of roles within their parent Chapters, and continue these roles while in service to the Deathwatch. The most critical of their tasks is to operate, maintain, and, if necessary, repair the myriad of war machines used by the Space Marines. Every item of technology, from a simple round of ammunition to a battle barge, is revered as an instrument of the Emperor’s divine will, and the Techmarine knows that to neglect such equipment is akin to dereliction of duty and blasphemy. After all, a bolter not cleaned, oiled, blessed, and beseeched can scarcely be expected to be reliable in battle, and so a Space Marine’s life may depend upon how well such weapons are maintained. Techmarines oversee this process, guiding the battle brothers in the correct and proper rituals by which the war spirit of each and every weapon is appeased.

Your Watch Begins Now

Stand together with your Battle-brothers to safeguard the Imperium of Man against the alien threat. Earn glory and renown for you and your Chapter. Carve a legend amongst the war-torn stars and stand as heroes against unspeakable evil. You shall know no fear. You are the Deathwatch.

What Is Roleplaying?

In a roleplaying game (RPG), you create an alter ego, a fictional character that is your avatar within the game world. Perhaps you will create a stoic soldier, a wise scholar, or an inspiring leader. Next, you and your friends direct your characters through a series of adventures. Imagine a crime drama, adventure film, or war movie—except that instead of passively watching the story unfold, you control one of the characters, making his decisions, selecting his actions, and even speaking for him. The decisions of you and your fellow players directly affect the events of the story.

How can you affect these events? How do you decide what happens? That is the role of the game itself. Roleplaying games such as Deathwatch provide a framework of rules that describe how to design your character and operate him within the game. Rules can cover situations like shootouts, chase scenes, or investigating the records from a long-abandoned Watch Station. Often, the rules require you to roll dice when performing an action, with some results indicating success and others indicating failure. While the rules provide structure and guidelines in the game, dice add an element of chance. After all, success would not seem so sweet if t here were no risk of failure! Jumping from one cliff face to another becomes much more exciting when the slightest misstep (or bad dice roll!) may result in your character falling into the abyss below.

At first, RPGs like Deathwatch may appear to have a lot of rules. However, you will soon see that the rules are actually quite simple, easy to remember, and often very intuitive. To adjudicate these rules, each game has a Game Master (or GM). The GM is you, or one of your friends, chosen by the consensus of your group. He does not control a lone character during the game. Instead, the GM runs the game, presenting the story and the myriad situations that come with it. He controls the people your character meets in the game, controls the encounters and strange occurrences that shape your decisions as to your actions, and is basically both the game’s narrator and referee.

All of the other players control characters within the world around which the story revolves. These characters are known as the Player Characters (PCs). During the game, the players describe the intentions and actions of their characters to the GM, who then decides (based on the rules) whether those actions succeed or fail, and how the character’s words and deeds affect the game’s story.

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