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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Game Master's Kit
by Roger (. L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2015 02:13:40

Nachdem ich vor nicht allzu langer Zeit das Grundregelwerk der neuen Edition des bekannten Spiels getestet habe, lasse ich es mir natürlich nicht nehmen, auch das erste Zusatzprodukt zu testen.

Eins vorweg: Das GM-Kit liegt momentan nur in englischer Sprache vor. Deshalb habe ich an manchen Stellen sinnvolle Übersetzungen gemacht, an anderen habe ich den englischen Wortlaut übernommen. Der Anglizismen abgeneigte Leser möge mir also verzeihen.

Inhalt

Im Set enthalten sind ein edler Spielleiterschirm und ein Zusatzheft, welches neben einem Abenteuer noch einen kleinen Zusatzteil enthält.

Blickdichtes Leiten

Als erstes wollen wir einmal den Schirm begutachten. Das große Artwork zieht sich über die komplette Breite der Vorderseite und zeigt das Panorama einer Makropole – einer imperialen Mega-Stadt. Was ich allerdings etwas schade finde ist, dass das Motiv im Vergleich zu den Illustrationen des Grundregelwerkes eher schlicht und mit sehr geringer Detailschärfe ausgeführt wurde. Hier kommen wir zum ernsthaften Problem der PDF-Version: Das Format – eine Art abgesägtes DIN A4 – macht es unmöglich, die entsprechenden Seiten auszudrucken und in einen Universal-Spielleiterschirm einzulegen. Zudem würde man dann ja auch die vollformatige Illustration zerstückeln. Die Referenztabellen auf der Rückseite hingegen leisten auch als PDF gute Dienste und enthalten Informationen zu wichtigen Regeln, möglichen Aktionen, Probeerschwernissen, Waffen, Rüstungen und vielem mehr.

In den Schatten der Makropole

„Sag mal Chef, was hast du dir für das Abenteuer eigentlich als Thema vorgestellt?“ „Pff, keine Ahnung... aber mach es düster!“ „Düster oder so richtig düster?“ „So richtig, die Leute sollen ja schließlich gleich wissen, mit was für einem Setting sie es zu tun haben.“ „Alles klar, gib mir eine Woche Zeit.“

So, oder so ähnlich, könnte die Teambesprechung zum beiliegenden Abenteuer ausgesehen haben, denn man kann den Autoren definitiv nicht vorwerfen, an dunklen Farben, Verzweiflung, Leichen und Körperflüssigkeiten gespart zu haben. Vorweg muss ich lobend erwähnen, dass das Abenteuer mit dem malerischen Titel „Desolation of the Dead“ perfekt an das Einstiegsabenteuer aus dem Grundregelwerk anknüpft, aber auch problemlos losgelöst davon gespielt werden kann. Ich möchte euch nun einen kurzen Überblick über das Abenteuer geben und bemühe mich, nicht zu spoilern.

Zu Beginn werden die Charaktere (hier Akolyten genannt) durch eine Nachricht ihres Inquisitors auf einen neuen Fall angesetzt. Es handelt sich um ein besonders grausames Gemetzel, in dessen Ablauf wohl ein Xenos-Artefakt verwickelt ist. Also macht sich die Truppe in die Makropole Desoleum auf, genauer gesagt in den Stadtteil Gallowsway, der sehr weit unten in dem gigantischen Moloch liegt. Und wer sich mit Makropolen auskennt, der weiß, dass weiter unten automatisch schlimmer bedeutet. So befindet sich dieses reizende Viertel am untersten zivilisierten Rand der gigantischen Stadt und dient als Auffangbecken für die tausenden Leichen, die jeden Tag anfallen. Die Leichen werden dabei nicht nur nach Wertgegenständen abgesucht, sondern auch weiterverarbeitet. Zu was, überlasse ich gerne eurer Fantasie.

Die Akolyten sammeln also im ersten Teil des Abenteuers Informationen zu dem Vorfall, haben erste kurze Begegnungen mit ihren Widersachern und können Kontakte zu verschiedenen Fraktionen knüpfen. Mit allen Fraktionen wird man aber nicht auskommen, da sie untereinander stellenweise verfeindet sind und es möglich ist, dass eine Gruppe durch Verbindungen zu einer anderen nichts mit den Charakteren zu tun haben will. Nach einem abwechslungsreichen, kleinen Showdown konnten sich die Akolyten ein ungefähres Bild davon machen, mit wem sie es zu tun haben. Für weitere Informationen müssen sie allerdings noch tiefer in die Makropole hinabsteigen. Hier ist keine Ordnung mehr erkennbar, alles zerfällt und es herrscht das Recht des Stärkeren. Hier kommt es auch zu Ermittlungen und Verhandlungen, gefolgt von einem größeren Kampf, der den Bösewicht endgültig offenbart. Nach einer kurzen Ruhephase macht man sich also auf, den Boss umzuhauen, was sich im Vergleich zu den anderen, abwechslungsreichen Kämpfen schon fast als fade herausstellt.

Auch wenn vielleicht ein anderer Eindruck entstanden ist: Ich mag das Abenteuer, ich finde nur, dass man stellenweise etwas zu großzügig mit Dunkelheit und Schmutz war. Es gibt nur wenige festgelegte Handlungspunkte, alles dazwischen wird mit optionalen Begegnungen abgebildet, was den Spielern großen Handlungsfreiraum lässt.

Der Bösewicht-Baukasten

Das Zusatzheft enthält neben dem Abenteuer noch ein weiteres Kapitel, das ich persönlich sehr interessant finde. Hier bekommt man nämlich Tipps für den „Bau“ einer Nemesis. Eine solche ist - im Gegensatz zu kleineren Bösewichten - eine mächtige, dunkle und treibende Macht im Hintergrund, derer sich die Spieler vielleicht gar nicht bewusst sind. So können zum Beispiel in mehreren Abenteuern kleine Hinweise versteckt sein, dass es noch irgendwas geben muss, das über das hinausgeht, was die Akolyten bis jetzt erkannt haben. Wer die Ravenor-Romane von Dan Abnett gelesen hat, kennt mit der „Cognitae“ ein Beispiel für solch eine Nemesis: Ein Kult aus bestens ausgebildeten Agenten des Chaos, die der Inquisition in Sachen Kapital und Kontakten durchaus gefährlich werden können. Der Einsatz einer Nemesis macht es also möglich, scheinbar zusammenhanglose Abenteuer in einen gemeinsamen Kontext zu setzen – eine großartige Möglichkeit, wie ich finde.

Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis

Der Preis für die „haptisch greifbare“ Version liegt zwar im Vergleich zu anderen Spielleiterschirmen an der oberen Grenze, ist meiner Meinung nach aber dennoch gerechtfertigt. Eher abraten würde ich vom Kauf der PDF-Version, denn der Preis ist für ein kurzes Abenteuer und ein paar Referenztabellen dann doch etwas zu hoch.

Erscheinungsbild

Meine Meinung zum Spielleiterschirm selbst habe ich bereits weiter oben erläutert. Was das Zusatzheft betrifft, bin ich vor allem von der Anzahl und Qualität der (meisten) Illustrationen angetan. Trotz dem hohen Anteil an Verzierungen bleiben die Texte übersichtlich, einzig der auf verwittert und schmutzig getrimmte Hintergrund belastet die Augen etwas mehr als nötig. Über die Papierqualität kann ich leider keine Aussagen machen, da mir das Set nur als PDF vorliegt.

Fazit

Der Spielleiterschirm selbst erfüllt, nicht zuletzt dank der übersichtlichen und vollständigen Tabellen, absolut seinen Zweck. Lediglich die Illustration der Vorderseite finde ich persönlich etwas langweilig. Deshalb würde ich auch davon abraten, das Produkt als PDF zu kaufen, denn die Seiten des Schirmes passen leider in keinen gängigen Universal-Spielleiterschirm. Das Abenteuer ist solide, wenn auch manchmal etwas überzogen.

Hier weiß vor allem die modulare Einteilung zu gefallen, die nerviges Railroading unnötig macht. Das Zusatzkapitel schließlich bietet interessante Möglichkeiten, einen wirklich denkwürdigen und einzigartigen Antagonisten für die Spieler zu erschaffen. Alles in allem bin ich bis auf Kleinigkeiten sehr zufrieden mit dem GM-Kit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Game Master's Kit
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Dark Heresy: Edge of Darkness (Quickstart)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/15/2015 08:52:13

Designed as a proper introduction to the Warhammer 40K setting of the Dark Heresy game, this can either be used as the opening adventure in a campaign with characters created using the core rulebook or as an extensive taster using the quickstart rules provided herein. It's not the short scenario so many offer, this is a full adventure that ought to take several sessions to complete. Both this adventure and the original demo adventure Shattered Hope, which was released in advance of the pulication of the core rulebook, work well to get a campaign going before playing the adventure in the core rulebook, Illuminations, or launching into your own scenarios. Indeed, it's possible to play both if you want.

It opens with some flavour text that gives an idea of the scale and style of the universe that is about to become your virtual reality, a sweep of rich grandeur with a hint of decay in which individuals do not matter - yet the actions of the Acolytes (the party) can make a profound difference. It sweeps swiftly on into the adventure introduction for the GM, noting that the adventure text contains plenty of hints and advice for novice GMs so that it should be easy to run for those new to GMing as well as to this particular game... and this is no idle boast, everything is explained clearly with tips on how to run the game as well as details of what is supposed to be going on.

The adventure itself comes in three parts, beginning with the Acolytes being instructed to investigate a murder... and whilst violent death is not unusual, bodies that show quite so much surgical tampering and illegal organ grafting are! The trick is to discover who is engaging in such heretical science without falling victim to them, of course. The Acolytes will have to delve into the dead man's life and past, and if successful their investigations will lead them to a confrontation with the rogue surgeon...

The main NPCs are introduced with neat pen-portraits that make it easy to play them, and the adventure itself is laid out clearly. Atmospheric descriptions abound, and - this being intended as an introduction to game mechanics as well as setting - opportunities to use the rules are signposted with notes on what needs to be done at each point. The investigation will lead them into an industrial 'hive' and the descriptions here paint a vivid picture of what the place is like, while the game notes allow the Acolytes to do pretty much whatever they please to further their investigation whilst giving the GM all the information he needs to accommodate their actions and provide them with the clues that they need. Again, once they find the villain's lair, it will be up to them how they deal with the situation. And, should they survive, there are notes on how best to further develop the adventure.

Appendices cover some quick-start rules for those who do not have the core rulebook, complete stats for all NPCs involved and a player handout. The rules are well explained, and this part could make a useful handout for new players who do not own the full rules. Six pre-generated characters are supposed to be available for download separately from the Fantasy Flight Games website - but if they were when this first came out in 2008 they aren't there now!

Overall, this gives an excellent impression of Dark Heresy and the adventure is a good one, mixing a lot of investigation with the opportunity for at least one good fight at the end. If pure combat is your thing you may find this a bit dull, but those who enjoy a mix of interaction and violence should be satisfied.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Edge of Darkness (Quickstart)
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Dark Heresy: The Lathe Worlds
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2015 08:40:01

Knowledge is a funny thing, especially in the 41st century. Much has been lost completely, other bits are deemed too dangerous to know... and a lot is kept firmly in the grip of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who regard technology in a sacred light as they worship the God-Emperor as the Omnissiah, the Perfect Sum of All Knowledge. Not for nothing are they called the Cult of the Machine God. Within the Calixis Sector, they are concentrated on the Lathe Worlds, and this book serves to convey a wealth of information about both the Adeptus Mechanicus and the three worlds on which they congregate.

Chapter 1: The Cult Mechanicus starts off by presenting their origins and history, with special emphasis on their role within the Calixis Sector. Going back to the earliest times it seems that Mars, in the Earth system, saw their very beginning and that it was here they established their first forges - for they control all production facilities for virtually all technology especially that of a warlike nature, and claim ownership of every discovery, be it new research or the finding of long-lost technological items from the distant past. It is said that they were established on Mars even before the God-Emperor came to prominence on Earth and were amongst the first to recognise his importance, if not divinity. Their hierarchy and organisation are covered before a discussion of their quest for knowledge and and their holdings in the Calixis Sector. Ritual is integral to everything that they do, and quite a good overview is given of that - as it underpins virtually all use of technology this is well worth understanding. Like any organisation, there are factions and sects amongst them, and some heresy as well.

Next, Chapter 2: Servants of the Omnissiah provides all the game mechanics necessary to creat characters (and, of course, NPCs) who are members of the Adeptus Mechanicus - a goodly array of new options, backgrounds, career ranks and more. This will enable you to model adherents of the different factions and bring much more depth to Adeptus Mechanicus characters wherever they are encountered in your game.

Then Chapter 3: Dominions of the Lathes looks at the Lathes system, reviewing the planets, artificial stations and indeed the vast array of holdings that the Adeptus Mechanicus has here. There's a lot of information in this section, and it will enable this area of space to come to life whenever the party happens to visit. There are even more sects and factions specific to the Lathes system for those who enjoy intrigue, and the whole chapter is liberally supplied with adventure seeds... not to mention it spawns quite a few just as you read through the information herein!

Finally Chapter 4: The Light of Reason is an adventure that will send Acolytes to investigate psychic disturbances in the Lathe System... who is dabbling in what dangerous areas and can they be stopped in time? They will have to pick their way through faction politics, explore the darker corners of the Lathes system, and perhaps may come to understand why the Adeptus Mechanicus thinks the way it does. There's plenty of support for the GM, from environmental hazards to atmospheric descriptions, and whilst linear in concept the adventure is constructed in such a way that the party will feel like they can find their own way through it to the ultimate climax.

With technology and the religious approach to it being so embedded in the Imperium, this is a useful book to have for general background: if you want the Adeptus Mechanicus to feature large in your adventures, you'll need it.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Lathe Worlds
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Android: Free Fall
by Mike K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/12/2015 19:52:33

I read this from the point of a GM trying to find out about the Android universe. I felt the story was engaging and enjoyed reading it.

It goes into some of the factions and how they relate to each other. It covers legal jurisdiction as the protagonist is a police force detective. It covers different types of equipment. It has a space elevator in parts of the story and goes into some detail on it. It did a little on hacking, but more about who would do it than a first person perspective. There is no magic. :)

The fact that there is no magic, really makes me want to see an Android RPG. I am really hoping that since this has been added to DriveThruRPG that a bunch of source books are coming. I like ShadowRun, but would like to see this genre without magic also.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Android: Free Fall
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Dark Heresy: Book of Judgement
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/12/2015 08:17:10

Interesting, this. So far in Dark Heresy the focus has been on maintaining religious purity rather than law and order, albeit the two get a bit blurred in an undemocratic empire where the head of state claims godhood. Here, however, is a glimpse of real law enforcement, and how it is conducted within the Imperium (or at least, in the Calixis Sector) by the Arbitrators of the Adeptus Arbites. If investigations and mysteries feature large in your games, this is a resource worth reading.

First up, Chapter 1: Calixian Law discusses the work of the Arbitrators in the Calixian Sector, including some of the notable individuals involved. Their role is to uphold and maintain Imperial Law - the galaxy-spanning Dictates Imperialis - which seems to serve the Imperium much more than it does its citizens. Meanwhile, local Enforcers attend to more mundane matters such as murders and theft according to the laws laid out by each individual planet. There's a lot here from recruitment and organisation to methods, quite enough to let you bring them alive whenever the party encounters them. The other side of the coin is here as well, the Calixian Underworld.

Then, Chapter 2: Bound to Law is full of character options on both sides of the law: Arbitrators and Scum. Useful for building NPCs as needed, it may also offer interesting side careers for existing characters or bring something unusual into the party.

Next, Chapter 3: Arbites Armoury is the 'gear chapter', with all the kit an Arbitrator might want as he goes about his business. Here you will find melee and ranged weapons, armour, utility items, cyber-mastiffs and servitors, along with drugs and cybernetics. The cyber-mastiffs and other creations are an invaluable aid to the dedicated enforcer of the law.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Investigation. Mainly intended for the GM, it explains how to create investigative adventures and run them to effect. It goes through the process in detail, from introducing the investigation into the game, the elements of an investigation, weaving events into the story, finding clues, bringing in complications, and the all-important wrapping it up at the end. It mixes ideas and concepts seamlessly with game mechanics, and provides a solid base upon which to construct your own adventures of this nature.

Chapter 5: Calixian Most Wanted then introduces a rogues gallery of notorious criminals and some of the crimes that they have committed. It also presents a dark settlement, Hive Subrique, currently languishing under martial rule - which is doing nothing to deter the criminal underbelly of the place, however!

Finally, Chapter 6: Jurisdiction is a complete ready-to-play adventure that will take a ready wit to unravel. When a smuggler and general rogue is allied with a Bishop, things tend to get messy...

This book puts a lot of context into the game, and is is worth reading as background to the rich panolply of the 41st century Imperium even if you are less enamoured of investigation-based adventures. If you do like them, waste no time in adding it to your shelves... and the adventure is fun and convoluted and may even convert those who normally avoid investigations into individuals with a keen nose for a mystery.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Book of Judgement
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Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/11/2015 08:42:31

To most citizens in the 41st century, daemons are to be feared - outsiders constantly attempting to force their way into their very minds summoned from the Warp by cultists and heretics. What of those who stand guard against them: the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus and Space Marines of the Grey Knights? This book seeks to tell you everything that you might want to know about them, including rules for playing them, and other ways of involving them in your game.

This being Dark Heresy, the main focus is of course on the Ordo Malleus, the Inquisitor-led body whose job it is to hunt down sorcerers and the daemons they would summon. In Chapter 1: The Ordo Malleus we can read a wealth of information about the history of the Ordo, about its holdings in Calixis sector, and even meet some of the notables amongst the leadership. Much of its history is shrouded, the nature of the threats they face being held so terrible that records are routinely destroyed. Being a pretty big organisation, it has various sub-groups which you can also read about. The threat may be universally acknowledged, how to deal with it has attracted many opinions, all held fervently by their adherents. Of course, there are frequent notes as to how to play certain individuals or where different facets of the Ordo may fit into your game - but just reading through this material spawns plenty of ideas.

Next, Chapter 2: Hunter Careers turns to more game mechanical material with new options for Acolytes including the Banisher career, individuals capable of battling daemons face to face. There are also new background packages and alternate career ranks, optional routes of progression which bring both benefits and disadvantages to an Acolyte wishing to pursue them. There are some fascinating options here.

To aid them we find the resources of Chapter 3: Malleus Armoury - a collection of ancient and powerful weapons and much more to support the fight against evil. This extensive catalogue includes ranged and melee weapons, armour, force fields, gear, tools, drugs and ammunition, as well as a select array of 'anointed weapons' - holy relics that have legendary status. However, there's detailed information on how to make them too.

Chapter 4: Daemonic Incursions looks at the minions of the Chaos Powers. It's a primer for the GM on how to harness them to good effect within a campaign, providing loads of advice and examples. There are plenty of adventure seeds here too - this is a chapter best left for the GM's eyes, or at least one that players need to keep separate from their in-character knowledge.

Finally, Chapter 5: The Grey Knights provides background information and the rules you'll need if you want to play one of the Emperor's chosen warriors, the Grey Knights Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. These are the guys you call in if the Ordo Malleus do not manage to contain a daemon threat, providing the overwhelming force necessary to prevent the destruction of an entire world - or more. Now, when the original concept of a role-playing game for Warhammer 40K was first proposed, a lot of people thought immediately of the iconic Space Marines and Dark Heresy must have been a bit of a surprise with its focus on Acolytes combatting heresy rather than Marines thumping anything that moved. Here at last are the secrets of those ultimate warriors, the Grey Knights, complete with information to create Grey Knight characters or NPCs. They are rare, but potent and deadly. It takes a special situation indeed for any Inquisitor to think of sending for one.

This all makes for a fascinating read, and empowers you to unleash the powers of darkness into your campaign. This, children, is why you never ever tamper with heresy... lest a daemon come, with the Ordo Malleus and possibly even a Grey Knight hot on its heels!



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Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter
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Dark Heresy: The Chaos Commandment
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/08/2015 08:26:32

This is the third and last part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy of adventures, pitting the Acolytes against a sector-wide plot to cause chaos with the aim of restoring religious purity through all-out holy war! It can, however, be run as a stand-alone scenario - you'll just have to explain some of the backstory so that they'll know just why Saint Drusus has apparently risen from the dead to muster an army with which he intends to sweep through the Calixis Sector, purifying it of sinners and heretics with fire and the sword, or indeed any weapon that comes to hand.

Unlike the preceeding episodes, which have combined investigation and combat, this adventure is primarily about combat, including psychic combat and battles of will as well as plenty of brawling. There still is scope for the less combat-orientated members of the party to play a role, but those who cannot take care of themselves will be at a disadvantage. Notes are provided on how to source new recruits should existing party members fall in battle or go completely insane.

The adventure is made up of four parts, beginning with the Acolytes leading a siege at the head of an element of the Canopus Heavy Foot Regiment, seeking to destroy armaments factories and root out senior cultists and Drusian followers. Assuming they survive that, there's a captive psyker to rescue and a daemonic assassin to evade before the climax in yet another Cathedral leads them to a visit to the Warp itself and a stand-off with a daemon...

Each stage is presented in detail, the scene set in vivid prose complete with detailed NPCs and everything you'll need to make it all come to exciting life during your game. There's also useful material for both you and your players: for example, in the first part there's a list of specific equipment for besieging to issue - including a book of tactics that can be used to pass on helpful advice to those unfamiliar with 41st century siege warfare - so that everyone can play a full part in events. By their very nature, some of the combat sections are fairly linear, but in other parts there are opportunities for the Acolytes to take the initiative and have more of a free rein - plenty of resources and options are provided to help you respond appropriately.

By the end of the adventure, the Acolytes will know that they've been in a fight! They also should (if all went well) have a real sense of achievement, that they have adverted a great danger to the Imperial Church and the entire Sector. They will have witnessed things nobody should see and ventured where no-one in his right mind would go, seen the Warp from the inside and hopefully survived to tell the tale. Again, a rich and heady sweep through dubious places provides stirring and memorable adventure, a worthy climax to an exciting trilogy.



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Dark Heresy: The Chaos Commandment
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Dark Heresy: Church of the Damned
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/01/2015 08:21:02

This adventure is the second part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy, which pits Acolytes against a conspiracy buried deep within the Imperial Church. If you have already played the first part, The Black Sepulcher, the Acolytes should have discovered that the next stage in uncovering this conspiracy is to investigate a very senior churchman, but if you haven't and do not intend to other ways of presenting them with the information that they need are provided. The adventure will take them to some fascinating (and, of course, dangerous) places, and involves both investigation and combat aplenty. They'll need to poke around a cathedral (another cathedral if you've already played The Black Sepulcher!), an underground complex and a spaceship out in the black before everything comes to a climax in a tomb...

The adventure breaks down into three phases. The first seems straightforwards enough, checking up on that senior clergyman by visiting his cathedral, ostensibly to look at relics. This bit is quite free-form, with the Acolytes able to explore the place as they see fit and hopefully gaining the information that they need.

Things then get a bit more hairy, as their investigations lead them to an underhive swarming with rival gangs. Bloodshed will be inevitable as they seek the person they need to speak with, although again this part of the adventure is free-form, letting the Acolytes handle the situation as they see fit as they roam the subterranean setting.

Once they have gleaned the final piece of information that they need, the final part of the adventure involves a space voyage to visit the tomb of a saint... and that's when all hell really breaks loose. The adventure is quite dangerous, so notes are provided on how to work replacement characters into the story at various points.

Throughout, evocative and atmospheric descriptions are provided for the places to be visited and the people to be encountered there, with many individuals receiving detailed write-ups so that you can play them convincingly as they interact with the Acolytes. The vivid richness of it all makes locations and inhabitants really come alive. There are also trouble-shooting notes to help you keep things on track - there's a lot for the Acolytes to find out including several crucial clues along the way that they need to discover to reach the next stage of the adventure, so hints as to how to deal with them missing them are useful! Likewise, events in the underhive culminate in a massive pitched battle and there is good guidance on how to control this and deal with all possible outcomes.

Overall, this is another exciting adventure that should grab your players' imaginations, thrusting their characters deep into the intrigues and violence that hover around the Imperial Church and the work of the Inquisition.



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Dark Heresy: Church of the Damned
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Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2015 08:44:33

This adventure is the first part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy, but it works quite well as a stand-alone adventure, although you might want to tweak the final revelations to suit whatever you will be doing next, as they lead into the next part, The Church of the Damned. As you can imagine from the names, it centres about evil lurking at the heart of religious institutions which the Acolytes will have to uncover and thwart if peace and order are to be maintained.

There's a good backstory to help the GM understand what is going on, suffice to say that like so many things, it all began with well-meaning but misguided individuals who wanted to save, rather than destroy, the Calixis Sector. The adventure itself breaks down into four major sections.

The first part sees the Acolytes involved in regular Inquisition activity, sent to raid the estate of a noble who has gone to the bad and amassed a whole load of dangerous texts and artefacts... one of which should lead them to realise that they need to visit a place called the Haematite Cathedral, where an even greater evil lurks and must be eradicated. It starts almost in media res, with little time for more than a quick visit to the armoury to gear up before the party finds itself leaping out of a Valkyrie transport with grav-chutes, crashing through a glass roof as the raid begins. Notes for scaling combat encounters are provided to accomodate various levels of characters, and other advice is provided as appropriate to help you keep things on track.

The rest of the adventure, which is fairly free-form in nature, covers the exploration of the Haematite Cathedral and investigation of what's actually happening there. It's set up so that the Acolytes can choose their own approach and route through the place, with plenty of activity, events and discoveries awaiting them whichever way they turn. Eventually, climactic events will ensue leading them to discover terrible dark secrets... secrets that leave death and destruction in their wake.

The adventure mixes investigation and combat well, with plenty of activity to keep the Acolytes on their toes. As well as the central theme of secrets to be discovered, it also deals with moral corruption, ill-advised alliances and sheer desperation. The discoveries to be made are spectacular and awe-inspiring if well-handled, and the resources provided should enable you to describe them appropriately.

There's an impressive Appendix of hand-outs and maps, although some are a bit jumbled and the page borders remain - these rather spoil the illusion and you may want to cut the various documents and maps out (if you are using print-outs from the PDF - just what you do with a print version is left up to you, most people don't like ripping pages out of a book).

Overall it is an exciting adventure from start to finish, one that should give the Acolytes a real sense of discovery, of making progress as they investigate... and a good lead-in to the next events you have in store for them.



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Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
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Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2015 09:00:54

If your objective is the prevention of heresy, it's worth while being sure about the truths you seek to protect. This work looks at the core faith of the Imperium: belief in the immortal God-Emperor. This is led by the Adeptus Ministorum, or Ecclesiarchy - the priests who minister to the faithful and spread the word across the galaxy. Whether you intend for the characters to interact with the faithful and their religious leaders or want to run a game in which they take on such positions themselves, there's a wealth of information here to get you started.

The first chapter, A Million Worlds, One Emperor, sets the scene. Starting with the basics, it discusses the Imperial Creed, looking at how it developed and how the faith operates today in the 41st century with particular attention to how it is organised in the Calixis Sector. In essence, it's quite reminiscent of the role played in mediaeval Europe by the Catholic church, not just providing a belief system but serving as a controlling force establishing order.

Next, Chapter 2: Paths of the Righteous provides the game mechanical information you'll need to run characters who are part of the Ecclesiarchy - everything from new homeworlds and backgrounds to new ranks to reflect the specialist careers available. There's more too, the different slants that various people take on the common faith and how they have formed factions and cults that each put their own spin on commonly-held beliefs.

Then Chapter 3: Brides of the Emperor presents the Adepta Sororitas, or Sisters of Battle. Some may have felt a lack of good opportunities for female characters so far in this game, here is a chance for them to come into their own. Here you can read about what they do, and find all the rules necessary to create a Sister character.

In Chapter 4: Faith and Fury there are rules and game mechanics aplenty to moderate how faith works within the game. For some people, you see, faith is so strong that it manifests itself in physical effects - in game terms, these individuals have the Pure Faith Talent and can access specific faith powers. There's overlap with material in other supplements, particularly The Inquisitor's Handbook, and if you are already using those you'll have to decide if you want to mix and match them with these rules, which have been designed as a stand-alone system. If you want both, don't worry, they willl work together.

Next, Chapter 5: Reliquary provides loads of weapons, armour and gear for Ecclesiarcy members... after all, they do say that when you go to preach, take a big cudgel! It's not just weapons, though there are some quite nasty ones, this section also has devotional books, religious trinkets and much more. Or perhaps a character wants his armour decorated with religious symbols? Then there are strange servitors and somewhat more normal retainers, and services that you may wish to purchase - such as a baptism or a blessing for a weapon or person. The chapter ends with a discussion of relics and their uses.

Finally, Chapter 6: Ecclesiarcy Campaigns has a wealth of information and ideas about how to weave Ecclesiarcy themes through your campaign, as well as several senior Ecclesiarcy figures in the Calixis Sector to use as allies or enemies to your party. Learn how to make faith an integral part of your game and devise encounters and adventures with a religious theme. Despite the game's name, there's more to it than chasing down heretics and beating off aliens!

A thought-provoking book that really brings home how pervasive faith is throughout the Imperium, it makes for good reading to understand the setting further, even if you do not choose to use the rules herein, preferring to stick to 'straight' Acolytes and Inquisitors.



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Dark Heresy: Ascension
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/27/2015 08:54:43

Describing itself as a book about power, it is really a book about ambition - and how to empower your characters to reach even more dizzying heights than even they might have dreamed about. For this book contains the tools you need to play full Inquisitors and sets the scene in which they operate: unbridled power and freedom to act, full of politics and intrigue... and the consequences that such responsibility brings. It's a mix of solid game mechanics and insights into how to play (and game master) characters at such exalted levels.

It starts off by presenting the necessary mechanics to take characters beyond the eighth rank in their chosen career and introduces a new system of Influence to model how characters at this level wield their authority. From here it moves through various other aspects covering the transition from Acolyte to Throne Agent and beyond - skills, new career paths, psychic powers and even a visit to the armoury. These chapters give you all the information you need to make this transition happen.

The second part of the book looks more at the 'what' of the transition to power, this ascension, than the 'why' that has already been covered. Key here is a chapter on 'Serving the Inquisition' that explores the very nature of the body in which characters are aspiring to take a leading role, and the ways in which such senior individuals can exert an influence.

As Acolytes, characters serve best by following orders (however much latitude they may have in interpreting those orders and figuring out just how to accomplish the tasks they've been given). As Throne Agents they are far more independent, empowered to initiate their own missions and give rather than receive orders, working alongside (and perhaps becoming) Inquisitors rather than serving them. The whole dynamic changes. In essence, the power now available to a Throne Agent is boundless, once a situation is assessed it is up to the individuals concerned how they deal with it... and you can forget any ideas of the rule of law or due process, even though some Inquisitors like to dress up their operations with a veneer of legality. Technically, they answer only to the High Lords of Terra and the Emperor Himself, but there are many whose rank in other branches of the administration place them at a similar level, and it may be politic or expedient to treat them with respect.

Ensuing chapters focus on the Game Master, with one on how to GM at this level and the sorts of games you can run, a good collection of appropriate adversaries and finally a complete adventure, The Red Wake, to test ascended characters' mettle.

This book marks a significant advancement, both as a vehicle for characters to progress further than hitherto possible and in developing further the exposition of the setting and in particular the operation of the Inquisition. Game Masters are advised to study it well in advance of their players being ready to elevate their characters to this level, it will provide potent opportunities for them to become true movers and shakers of the 41st century.



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Dark Heresy: Salvation Demands Sacrifice
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2015 08:01:30

If you haven't already been overwhelmed by the wealth of material in The Radical's Handbook, here are three more Radical Career Ranks to consider... there's a lot crammed into a mere eight pages and, given that this is a freebie, it is as well-presented as material you're expected to pay for - impressive detail and care here.

First up is the Demagogue. Any religion worth its salt has some of these: people who can sway an audience with words alone, so it's useful to know how to make one within the context of Dark Heresy... even if they are often regarded as dangerous characters that must be controlled and monitored. There's a lot of potential for some fun role-playing with one of these, especially for a player who enjoys holding forth themselves.

Next is the Infil-Traitor, an unfortunate who's been captured and mindwashed into becoming a 'sleeper' assassin, triggered by a codeword or event to become a merciless killing machine. Now you might ask, where's the fun in playing that - although it's something useful for the GM to tuck away for an NPC - but the neat thing is, if you pick this you play someone whose programming is flawed and get the chance to break out of it and regain complete control of your own mind. It's not something to force on a player, and should only be attempted with mature groups who can handle this level of intensity and potential conflict... but could result in some powerful role-play if handled well.

Finally, there's the Saboteur. This is possibly a polite word for a terrorist and you again might question the place for one within Acolyte ranks. Sometimes, however, dark and terrible things have to be done in the name of light - and the ability to blow things up and cause confusion and fear often comes in handy.

Some interesting stuff here, worthy of consideration for your game.



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Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2015 08:41:43

So, what's this? The Radical's Handbook is billed as being a sourcebook for both GMs and players, although the wise GM will make sure that he's read it first and has a chance to decide what, if any, parts the players will be allowed to read. (Ideally, that is: in the real world players can go to bookshops and may also be GMs themselves anyway!) Still, you will have to decide what is valid for your game. But I digress. Here is a wealth of character options - new origins, alternate career paths and all manner of goodies - to widen the choices available. The 'Radical' bit comes in because in fighting the evils that beset the Imperium, many Acolytes, however well-meaning, become corrupted by them or at least adopt the principle of 'fighting fire with fire' and stray somewhat from the straight and narrow path of pure devotion. There are plenty of options here for those who would model such heretical ideas in the development of their characters... and ideas, too, for the GM in laying snares for the unwary, devising NPCs and creating plots around such corruption. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, after all.

A brief Introduction is followed by a collection of flavour text pieces describing some of the dreadful things that can happen to Acolytes and others in the service of the Imperium. Perhaps this will inspire the GM, or maybe it's something the Acolytes will stumble across in some dusty archive... mysteries and discord where none should be, surely?

Next is Chapter 2: Falling From Grace. Here we find how Radicals are forged and twisted, the routes into such heresy and a whole collection of origins, background packages, alternate career ranks and elite advances for those who would follow such paths. For some it is a falling from grace, for others a gentle drift and some have always been this way, they've just proven adept at keeping their real opinions to themselves!

Chapter 3: Factions provides an array of different groups with a wealth of detail about what they believe and how they behave, whilst Chapter 4: The Shadow War is a primer on the tools and methodologies available to those who'd walk these shadowy paths and use the concepts of the enemy against them. Delve deep into the history of ideas, see how the factions evolved and decide which, if any, your character might choose. The process could provide for many an adventure in itself, so GMs may choose to limit access to this material until a given character has been seduced by a faction, then let them read more about what they have got themselves into...

Then Chapter 5: The Dark Arts provides information on sorcery and daemon weaponry - great powers indeed if you are prepared to risk your very soul by investigating and using them. All manner of dark technology here, discussed and provided with the necessary rule mechanics for those who dare to wield them. Again this is something that GMs may find useful, to use against the party or as lures to draw them astray. If that's not enough Chapter 6: The Lure of the Alien looks at the strange items and ideas that alien races bring, perhaps fledgling Radicals will find allies there even if it is just a little against the Imperial Creed to have dealings with them.

In the last part of the book, Chapter 7: The Radical Campaign looks at bringing Radical ideas into the game - perhaps the radicalisation process is one of the themes, or a bunch of Acolytes may find themselves serving a Radical Inquisitor - there's a whole host of ideas here that should set a GM's creative juices flowing. Finally, Chapter 8: Calixian Radicals presents some ready-made allies and adversaries, dangerous folk all who have crossed the line into heresy in some manner.

For the GM, Chapter 7 is essential reading if you have any thoughts about tempting your Acolytes into straying from the paths of righteousness. After all, in a game that is all about the evil that abounds in the setting, all characters should at least be at risk of being led astray - and some will want to stray without need of leading. An interesting read, plenty of food for thought as campaigns are devised - and providing the tools that you will need to put such machinations into action.



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Dark Heresy: Dead Stars: Haarlock Legacy III
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/21/2015 09:12:41

This is the final part of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign, and works best if you've already played through the preceeding two instalments. It can be run without, but you may find yourself doing an awful lot of explaining to get the Acolytes up to speed.

This adventure is quite different from the earlier ones, sending the Acolytes on a journey across the icy world Mara, delving deep into a derelict mining station and even deeper into the darkness that is Rogue Trader Haarlock's legacy with, of course, competing factions also after whatever there is to discover by those courageous (or foolhardy) enough to follow in his footsteps, and the future of the entire Calixis Sector hangs in the balance... Epic stuff indeed, a fitting climax to the entire campaign.

Fortunately, there's plenty of support to help you paint the sweeping images that will make the various places visited come alive in your players' minds as they battle in space, trek through icy wastes and steamy swamps and more in their quest: from suggestions and hints to 'read aloud' text, there are many resources at your fingertips. Like its predeeding adventures, this one will benefit from thorough study and preparation before you begin to play. It is also worth weaving in other material from the rest of your campaign, former enemies perhaps and other references to events in their past, thus making it more personal to the Acolytes.

The Introduction also provides a handy run-down of what the characters ought to already know about what is going on as well as providing other clues and lore about the Legacy that you may wish to provide to them. There's also advice on how to bring new characters in: the adventure is quite deadly and you may not finish it with the same cast that you began with! And of course, finally and for your eyes only, there is the explanation of what is really going on...

Next comes a succinct GM Briefing that lays out how the adventure should proceed. It comes in three main stages, but you will need to provide a suitable 'bridge' from whatever it is the Acolytes are doing immediately before the adventure begins (hints are provided to get things off to a flying start, however). This section also discusses the various rival factions and other adversaries that they will have to contend with... and other dangers, such as extreme cold, that they will encounter. Finally there is a detailed description of the ice station on Mara that they will have to explore.

The three sections of the adventure proper follow, each provided with copious detail to enable you to make it come alive for your players. Throughout, there is plenty going on to keep them occupied beginning with an unprecedentedly generous gift of equipment and a cinematic space battle before they even reach Mara. Once there, of course, things do not slacken off and there are artefacts to discover and secrets into which they must delve to find the answers that they seek. This is one adventure that will live on in memory far after the last die is rolled.

It is not an easy adventure to run or to play, there is so much going on, so much information to keep hold of, but it is this complexity that lends it a richness and vividness that makes it into something special... and throughout there are hints and tips to aid you in making it all happen in a coherent manner. Strange devices, warped realities, nothing will ever seem quite the same.

Those Acolytes who survive, never mind triumph - and both are possible if hard - will feel that they have really accomplished something, even if it is something they might find hard to recount to future generations. They will have earned their way to higher office, gained a formidable reputation... and their players will have enjoyed a game to remember!



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Dark Heresy: Damned Cities: Haarlock Legacy II
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/20/2015 08:23:42

This, the second part of the Haarlock's Legacy trilogy of adventures (although it can be played on its own if preferred), is a murder-mystery set in the city of Sinophia Magma on the planet Sinophia. A decaying corrupt city, the format is designed to allow the Acolytes to investigate when and where they like with other intrigues unfolding about their ears - these may or may not be connected with the task in hand. To this end, there's a detailed gazetteer of Sinophia Magna and loads of detail about local personalities and the intrigues they are involved in as well as all the necessary information to run the murder investigation, thus providing a rich setting with a lot going on... oh, and if they fail to solve the murders, it's likely the whole city will erupt into bitter civil war. And there's a trapped demon trying to get out as well. No pressure then.

The adventure itself is made up of three stages. The first introduces them to the city and the trail of gruesome murders they are tasked with investigating. In the second part, events swirl about them as they are caught up in growing conflict between the underworld and local law enforcement (the State Enforcers) - each seem as bad as the other - and in the final part matters come to a head and there are difficult choices to be made. Throughout, there are scheduled events and encounters which you can use as appropriate in response to the Acolytes' investigations and movements around the city.

There's plenty of advice for the GM, both in a specific section on running murder mysteries and throughout the entire module, as well as copious detail on the city itself and the people to be found there. If you enjoy hectic city-based adventures with a myriad of intersecting plot threads, this is worth considering for that alone. Clues are well signposted with suggestions on how to make them obvious to the Acolytes whilst letting them feel that they are rooting them out for themselves (always a challenge in an investigative adventure. This is definitely an adventure where prior preparation and thorough knowledge of the plot and setting will stand the GM in good stead - you can then let your players loose and react to whatever they decide to do seamlessly.

The gazetteer is a wonderful resource which will support future visits to Sinophia and spawns plenty more plot ideas as you read through it - it's something you may well want to come back to after this adventure has been completed. It's very atmospheric and provides plenty of tools to enable you to set the scene well for your players. To add to this, there is in-depth background material on the various factions and other factors at play within Sinophia Magna - even if there were no murders to investigate, there is plenty for the Acolytes to get involved in! There's a real feel of a living - albeit decrepit, corrupt and decaying - place here, it is no mere backdrop for the adventure's core plotline.

It all makes for a fascinating and memorable adventure that brings home the real nature of the Warhammer 40K setting, the air of grandeur and decay is all-pervasive; whilst the adventure itself is replete with twists and turns to keep the most avid dectective happy. Thoroughly enjoyable from both sides of the GM screen (at least, I think it would be fun to play... it certainly is a delight to run).



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