“Innocence proves nothing”, the tagline bellows, painting a picture of an uncompromising tome to fulfill the two-decade-long wait for a roleplaying game in the world of Warhammer 40’000. Put simply, Dark Heresy is everything the fans wanted.
The book sufficiently condenses the scope of 40K to present it in a single book. You’re given a single region of space, the Calixis Sector, and you can only play an Acolyte, a low-ranking servant of an Imperial Inquisitor. Your job is to seek out heresy, alien incursion and mutant corruption, more than likely laying your life down to serve the Emperor. Because of the heavy theme, I feel this is surprisingly close to the concept-heavy roleplaying of the likes of Call Of Cthulhu, much more so than the Warhammer 40K tabletop game. Even the introductory adventure is very likely to result in the deaths of all of the players’ Acolytes.
The game system is very old-fashioned, but lovingly crafted. You get randomized tables for everything you might want, including naming your character. Combat is so brutal that wise Acolytes will steer away from it whenever possible. Despite being a relatively rules-heavy system, it’s all streamlined intelligently to keep dice rolling to a minimum and everything in a logical fashion.
There are some things you might find lacking, like the very sparse information on demons and aliens. 40K’s iconic Space Marines are not within the scope of this book, although the armory is extensive enough to cover the military-grade. Vehicle rules are not included, but they’re a free download away.
What the book excels in is the quality of the atmosphere setting. They have used the Warhammer novelists to good effect, easing the reader into the mindset of an Imperial citizen and that of an Inquisitor. You will be quoting Imperial wisdom in no time and have a good grasp of how an Imperial thinks like, even though much of the day to day details are vague.
Black Industries, the book-publishing division of Games Workshop, decided to discontinue all of their roleplaying lines on the week of Dark Herery’s release. Considering that Dark Heresy’s first printing sold out on preorders alone, this is unfortunate. It’s well worth tracking down now that it’s still probably not too expensive.
I do hope they licence it out to someone, as Dark Heresy is a great start and deserves to be expanded upon in future releases. Most importantly, the game lights that ol’ spark to create characters and get down to playing the game.