26 March 2008

Dark Heresy

So over the Easter weekend I had cause to play the Warhammer 40k RPG, Dark Heresy. The short version: it's WFRP with bigger guns, to no-ones surprise.

The long version would recount a very enjoyable long weekend of which two days were given over to gaming, but I can't be arsed; so instead the version presented is Condensed Random Thoughts Provoked by Playing. Bear in mind that I don't own the book, nor have I read it through. What I have done is glanced at bits that were pertinent to the game as played, and participated in several hours of actual play.

  • • WFRP with bigger guns - characters are similarly (in)competent, system works identically in play, etc. This is no bad thing; it immediately felt familiar and smooth, and of course similar themes abound, even if the tech level is ramped up.
  • • Get up close and personal. Especially with a shotgun. Jeez... the +30 to hit and extra hit per 2 degrees success at point blank were responsible for some fine spray mess.
  • • The career organization felt... whacky. For example Assassins need to be 3rd rank (1500+ XP) before they can learn to hide skillfully. WTF?
  • • Not allowing the same half action to be repeated caused some consternation to stand-and-shoot types. And monkey dancing. In a fez. Yes, you read that right, and I'm only slightly making it up.
  • • Psykers are interesting things to have around, not least for when they fuck up.
  • • Two 100s in a row is one hell of a way to burn a Fate Point, and what a game to roll it in. Low damn you dice. Low!
  • • Niche protection works, but my god if it didn't feel like the characters were one-trick ponies at low XP levels.
  • • Defaulting a whole sessions worth of Tech Use roles as a low int Void Born made for some interest. The skill splits definitely increase the need for balanced groups given the penalty for defaulting, and the basic/advanced differential.
  • • Jesus fuck why weren't tables etc done in a sensible order (alphabetised, maybe?)? It made finding things take far longer than it should and somewhat frustrating.
All in all it was a fun weekend, and everyone said they had enjoyed the game and would play again - though everyone agreed on some of the "slightly off" points above and felt some tweaking very much required in future.

I doubt I'll pick it up - if I were to run 40k inquisitors, I'd probably look first to a port of Dogs in the Vineyard - but I'm certainly glad to have played it and would do so again.



Paul said...

Yeah, I'd heard DH was a bit on the low-competence side - is that reasonable given the setting? I've never really got into 40K.

Would you play it again?

Graham said...

Reasonable? Yes. A lot is made of the incompetence of Warhmamer characters but in truth the system is designed to be used with frequent handing out of bonuses etc - and that is as true in DH as it is in WFRP.

Not being all that well versed in Sci-Fi generally, and 40k specifically not being super-competent is no deal breaker for me, though it does raise questions as to why the all-powerful Inquisition are using these no-hopers!

I would happily play again though; I like the atmosphere and the themes which are largely holdovers from WFRP anyway and the pitch is certainly an interesting one - investigative, but with the potential for a bucket of action (we ended up facing Chaos Space Marines without so much as a fatality) in a multitude of different locations and settings, and the system, when handled well, is smooth and quick, whilst allowing sensible play to rack up the bonuses to negate the "low" percentage base success.

But as I said, when it comes to running such a game, I'd put it very much in line with running a PC group made up of Witch Hunters in WFRP - tailor made for the "Ultimate Moral Authority" and greater importance of PCs to everyone else that underly Dogs in the Vineyard.