In many ways, ‘The Lathe Worlds’ is an essential book for all of the 40K-based RPGs, not just Dark Heresy. The Adeptus Mechanicus are well-deserving of their own book, given that there are a number of cultural, perceptual and even theological differences between those adherents of the Machine Cult and the rest of the Imperium of Man.
The developers for this product have done an excellent job in creating a resource which will see a lot of use at any table, with a clarity of writing, and clean layout which to which I have become accustomed when dealing with materials from FFG. Divided into four sections, the book covers in detail:
The history of the Adeptus Mechanicus, their hierarchy and how they are viewed by the general populace of the Imperium. It provides some interesting social norms about the role of machines and their appointed guardians and how this plays out in day-to-day life; which is invaluable for the GM, but also provides inspiration for players. It concludes with a section on tech-heresy, which firmly roots this book into the Inquisitorial ideology and provides a wealth of ideas for adventure design.
The second chapter is, by necessity, the rules-heavy section. IT deals with alternate career paths, skills and talents and the armoury (providing a host of new toys for your campaign). Overall, the quality of the Career Paths is high, and wargear section doesn’t contribute to an ‘arms race’ mentality which is rife in the 40K tabletop game, so this is a nice divergence for the tabletop RPG to take.
The penultimate chapter deals with the establishment of the Lathe Worlds, the power groups and planets. The planets in particular are given a lot of attention, and fleshed out quite well. The challenge in approaching a subject like mapping an entire system of planets is to balance the amount of detail. FFG handles this very well, providing enough information to spark the imagination and give a unique feel for each locale, but not so much that the reader becomes bored with the level of detail.
Lastly is ‘The Light of Reason’ an adventure which utilises the information and ideology of the book very well. It shows, in practical terms, how tech-heresy and the Doctrines of the Mechanicus are interpreted and what occurs when these teachings are blatantly ignored. Obviously, to get the best out of this adventure (and the book as a whole) you’ll need a Tech Priest in your party, but I can see this book of use to those who have yet to succumb to the lure of the Omnissiah too.
Overall, it is a fine work, capped off by a module which is thoughtfully written and offers a great experience at the table. I would have liked to see an Index included in this book, especially given the new content, but the information is generally well-laid-out, so FFG can be excused for this. The artwork continues to impress, with enough smatterings of established artists to aesthetically link the book back to the wargaming supplements. Whilst Mechanicus characters appear in a few Black Library books (such as the Shira Calpurnia novels) and audio dramas (most notably ‘Red and Black’), they do require a book like this to give them more defined substance. Given that Games Workshop is releasing Chaos equivalents of the Tech Marine for the new Codex, there is scope for this book to be used to develop adversaries as well.
I can see this becoming part of my ‘essentials’ for Dark Heresy and it is proof that sometimes the inner workings of the Imperium are far more strange and compelling than that which lurks on its edges.
[4 of 5 Stars!]