Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heresy, I Tell You

So, I got a copy of Dark Heresy (the 40k RPG) a couple days before my birthday. I love it, but it's not without flaws.

Bad Stuff:
  • Mostly, I regret the change to character classes. The new system is well thought-out and leaves plenty of area for personal development, but I was really fond of the old WHFRP system. While I can see that system was open for abuse, it was nothing that couldn't be solved by just getting rid of the "pay 200 to go to any class" clause. For the record, I don't buy the argument of "people have less freedom for social mobility in the 40k universe" - not only was there little such opportunity in medieval Europe (and thus the setting of WHFRP), but the default PCs of Dark Heresy are the henchmen of the Inquisition - if anyone has opportunities for crosstraining and social advancement it's these PCs.
  • Bolters seem a touch underpowered (compared to things like autoguns that they should outclass by a greater margin). But that's a minor nitpick, and may prove unjustified once I see them in combat and get a feel for the actual powerlevel of "Penetration 4".
  • Xenos v Hereticus v Malleus. That is, you have a game that rather than allowing for all of the 40k Universe just focuses on the Inquisition. So far, so good. But then to require the party as a whole to be further focused on just 1/3 of the Inquisition's purviews could really limit story options. I realize it matches the setting, but it seems ill-considered. Especially since the main book gave stats for precious few Xenos. When I run it, that thirding/Ordos distinction will be mostly lip-service, with the PCs having to investigate all sorts of situations.
  • The GM needs a good handle on the difficulty system - if you're not applying modifiers to 3/4 of the rolls, the PCs will never accomplish anything and it'll all feel pretty random. Once everyone's got the hang of it, it'll be cool, but the learning curve may prove troublesome.
  • There's a lot of charts and oddball rules - the drug "Spook" gives one of thirty-or-so random psyker powers for d5 hours! On the one hand these are part of the charm, on the other hand, it's kinda overwhelming. It'll take a really good GM to make this flow smoothly. At least it's mitigated by perhaps the best index/table-of-contents in the history of gaming.
  • Certain omissions. It's an Inquisitor game but you can't play a Grey Knight. Digital Lasers and most other wargear cards are missing from the equipment section. The xenos/antagonists section doesn't have Genestealers or even just Hybrids. This would all be a minor quibble if the game had promised long-support, but instead they've pulled the plug. As a result, this is incredibly frustrating. Heresy, I tell you.
So, I said I intend this site to not be just another place where some random curmudgeon bitches about the state of the world. When I hit a wall, I intend to brainstorm ways over, around, under and through it. So, expect some efforts in said directions in the near future.

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