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Meeple’s Eye View – Dark Heresy 2nd Edition

The Meeple’s Eye View is an in depth review of one of the many games in our board game library. As the Malted Meeple has become Northeast Ohio’s role playing game hotspot we have decided that it is time to start reviewing some of our favorite role playing systems as well!

In Dark Heresy 2nd Edition, published by Fantasy Flight Games, players are plummeted into the grim darkness of the 41st millennium. This Warhammer 40K role-playing game is set in a dark, dystopian future. Humanity has spread across the stars, and billions of humans serve the immortal emperor of mankind across a million worlds. Players take on the role of acolytes in service to the inquisition, an organization with limitless power and unquestioned authority. It is the sacred duty of these acolytes to find heresy where it lurks in the shadows, and destroy it with extreme prejudice. If they should fail or show mercy to those unworthy, whole star systems could fall into eternal darkness, never to return.

The Core Rule Book for Dark Heresy 2nd Edition gives players and game masters all of the tools and information they need to run a successful campaign. Contained within are all of the skills, talents, traits, equipment, and an arsenal of weaponry for destroying heresy. When a character creates his acolyte he will make three choices that will determine who his character is and how they best serve the inquisitor.

First, he must choose what planet his character came from. There are many different planet types in the Imperium and each of them serve the emperor in different ways. Some provide food to feed the starving masses. Others provide equipment, weapons, gear, or other mechanical goods. Some worlds have nothing to offer but the lives of their citizens in service to the emperor. A player’s choice of home world determines his starting characteristics and gives him one special Home World Bonus.

Second, the player must chose a background; this is a reflection of what the acolyte did before he joined the inquisition. There are many backgrounds in the Imperium to choose from and the choice is ultimately up to the player. Perhaps the character was a soldier in the Imperial Guard or perhaps he was a member of the mysterious Adeptus Mechanicus, or even an imperial outcast. A player’s choice of background determines his starting skills, talents, traits, equipment, and weapons.

Finally, the player selects his role. The player’s role reflects how the character serves the Inquisition. The player should consider how his character will seek out and destroy heresy. Is the character a knowledgeable sage? A relentless seeker? A deadly assassin? Or even a mysterious mystic? The role a player chooses determines his aptitudes and gives him a special bonus. These aptitudes will allow for him to spend experience at a discount to increase certain skills and talents. A player then gains 1000 experience to spend customizing his character.

Dark Heresy uses a percentile based system to determine success and failure. First the game master will determine the value of the characteristic or skill to be tested. Then, the player applies modifiers to the value. Modifiers represent the difficulty of the skill being tested, any advantages, or hindrances.  These modifiers can add to or subtract from the current total.  After the modifiers have been applied to the total value, the player rolls two ten sided dice. One will represent the tens place and one will represent the ones place.  For example, if a character with a ballistics skill of 40 is trying to shoot an enemy, without advantage or hindrance, he needs to roll 40 or below on his dice.

What I love about this system most is the setting. The Warhammer 40K universe is grim and gritty. In the 41st millennium heresy is everywhere. The characters can trust no one, and must rely on their skills and equipment to get the job done. The players are subjected to shades of moral ambiguity and must make tough choices. The characters might have to choose to condemn an entire world to destruction in order to protect the rest of the sector from corruption. It is entirely possible and common for characters to fall in service to the inquisition. Due to the secret nature of their work, no laurels will be placed on their graves. The players are also forced to confront terrifying ruinous forces at nearly every turn. If they should let down their guard even for an instant, they could end up serving the very forces they swore to defeat. The grim choices paired with the nightmarish setting of the Warhammer 40K universe is fertile ground for dynamic role-playing.

As with any system I run I have a few minor quibbles. Anyone who has talked to me at length about role-playing knows that I use the word “crunchy” when describing certain systems. Systems that I refer to as “crunchy” tend to be math heavy and require a lot of number crunching in order to play. Dark Heresy 2nd Edition definitely requires a lot of math, and keeping track of all the pluses and minuses from equipment, environment, and skills can be frustrating for players who are unfamiliar with crunching numbers in order to play. I myself still struggle with it from time to time. The learning curve is steep at first, but after a few sessions it begins to flow naturally.

I really enjoy Dark Heresy 2nd Edition. The Warhammer 40K universe is one of my favorite settings.  The players are forced to confront forces beyond their comprehension and may end up perishing due to their efforts. Character deaths are common and permanent in the 41st millennium. This forces the characters to consider their options carefully, because a wrong choice could be their last. Even with the inherent complexity built into the system I am still proud to give this system two bolt-pistols up!

Next time you are in The Malted Meeple, ask how you can join the warband in the fight against Dark Heresy!

Meeple Karington Hess - Small

Karington Hess is a lifelong gamer whose passions for hospitality and all things game-related led him to Ravenwood Castle, where he served as an Innkeeper before joining The Malted Meeple. When not pouring beers, crafting milkshakes, or teaching boardgames, Karington can be found behind the DM’s screen, weaving intricate stories for his fellow gamers.

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