News for March 2011
Shades of Grey 41
A look at Black Crusade, an upcoming Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game
Black Crusade | Published 04 March 2011

“We live for Chaos so that we may die for ourselves.”
     —Grand Marshall Angelica Benoit of the Free Systems Coalition

Last week we announced the upcoming release of Black Crusade, a remarkable roleplaying game that offers players a new perspective on the conflict between the Imperium of Man and the forces of Chaos. In this exciting new addition to FFG’s Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay line, players have the unprecedented opportunity to play as a Disciple of the Dark Gods, whether as a Chaos Space Marine or a human Servant of Chaos.

Chaotic Morality

Players will find that Black Crusade brilliantly lends itself to the creation of deep, dynamic characters with complex motivations. After all, one of the fascinating things about the Warhammer 40,000 setting is there are no “good guys.”

There are, of course, good individuals: lone heroes fighting against an unjust and uncaring universe, striving to make a difference. But in the grand scheme of things, there are no virtuous and ethical organizations. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is a cruel, lonely place where any faction or race finds itself alone, beset by a host of enemies. Even those with the best intentions may frequently find themselves compromising their ideals to survive. The Imperium of Man, the galaxy-spanning human empire, is one of the most brutal and totalitarian regimes ever known. It sacrifices thousands to feed its Undying God-Emperor, uncountable millions in its unceasing industry, and trillions in its endless wars. It conducts bloody purges of any other races it can find, while its faith preaches a creed of righteous hatred of all that is not human.

In past games, you’ve been able to play those who work within the Imperium. Whether as an Acolyte of the Inquisition, a Rogue Trader, or a Deathwatch Space Marine, you’ve operated within the auspices and strictures of the Imperium of Man. You very well might have been one of those lone heroes, fighting from within to make your little corner of the galaxy a better place. Or you might have been a loyal servant of the Imperium, seeing the acts done in the God-Emperor’s name as one more necessary evil so that humanity could survive against its myriad enemies. But always you worked within, aligned at least on some level with the Imperium of Man.

Now, Black Crusade provides the chance to leave that servitude behind. As a Heretic in Black Crusade, you are beholden to no one but yourself. You can taste true freedom: the freedom to travel where you will, become whom you choose, and destroy the crumbling monolith that once crushed you beneath its oppressive weight. The freedom of Chaos.

The Devil in the Details

From the perspective of those within the Imperium, the forces of Chaos are terrible, bloodthirsty monsters, defined by the Gods they swear allegiance to. Those who fight for Khorne, the Lord of Skulls, are blood-crazed killers who slaughter all they come across. Devotees of Slaanesh, the Dark Prince, are debauched degenerates who indulge in the most hideous perversions imaginable. The Disciples of Nurgle are disgusting, filth-soaked creatures the presence of whom would cause immediate retching. Finally, the worshipers of Tzeentch are scheming plotters constantly conspiring to destroy.

Though these charges are undeniably true, they are only facets of a much more nuanced picture. Khorne is the God of bloody slaughter, but he is also the god of martial pride and honour, setting oneself against the most dangerous foes and winning against the odds. A devotee of Khorne is as likely to be an honourable champion in combat as a blood-crazed slaughterer.

Slaanesh is the God of hedonism and excess. But this is true in all things, not just carnal pleasures. Those who desire to indulge in the finest culinary delights, the most beautiful artworks, even the most sensual clothing, could all be amongst Slaanesh’s disciples. Just as importantly, Slaanesh is also the god of perfection. The singer striving for the most beautiful song or the warrior who seeks the perfect fighting techniques, both could be devotees of Slaanesh.

Nurgle is the god of death and decay, to be certain, but he is also the god of rebirth. After all, decay is simply one part of the cycle of life, without which no new life could grow. In the same way, Nurgle is also the god of perseverance and survival. While those who wish to spread decay and corruption are certainly amongst his followers, there also those who wish to endure, to become tough enough to handle the threats of an uncaring universe.

In many ways, Tzeentch is both the best and least understood of the Dark Gods. Almost everyone knows he is the God of Fate, plots, and schemes, as well as the god that exemplifies the ever-changing nature of the Warp. However, Tzeentch does not plot towards some end (at least none that can be comprehended); he schemes simply to scheme. He is constantly building, even as his devices unravel under their own complexity. At the same time, he is the god of knowledge and comprehension, and his devotees may be those who seek an understanding of an enigmatic universe.

The Road to Hell...

Suffice it to say, the motivations of the Disciples of the Dark Gods are as complex as the Ruinous Powers themselves, and cannot be distilled down to murder, destruction, and depravity. In fact, few characters in Black Crusade even see themselves as “evil.”

While it’s true that devotees to Chaos are out for personal glory, it is in their individual justifications that they are subtly defined. Characters may be ideologically attracted to Chaos, reasoning that it’s the natural state of the universe, and that the Imperium represents an unnatural state for mankind. In many cases, a character’s path to corruption may begin with noble intentions, as with a would-be ruler who believes he’ll remain benevolent and just. Some may even be fully aware of the temptations Chaos presents, but pridefully believe themselves morally strong enough to master its influence. Whatever the reason, these tragically deluded figures ultimately find themselves actively opposing their own kind.

Not that the universe’s alien races are much better. Whether ancient xenos that see humans little more than vermin, mindless species that see them as food, or upstart newcomers on the galactic scene that feel it’s their manifest destiny to rule the galaxy, humanity has no friends amongst the stars.

Black Crusade is a roleplaying game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, a setting in the grim darkness of the far future. Players take on the roles of Disciples of the Dark Gods, working against the rule of the galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man and in pursuit of personal glory.

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Comments (41)

Published: 3/17/2011 12:30:08 PM

 We know from the Horus Heresy novels that the Traitor Legions in particular are not all inherently marauding psychopaths - the Alpha Legion, for example, probably still think they are saving the Imperium the best way they can, and the Night Lords, as 40k novels like Night Hunter shows, might have a very legitimate grievance to pursue against the Imperium. The Word Bearers are a back stabbing bunch, but still disciplined. Can't honestly imagine many redeeming qualities for the four aligned Legions or the Black Legion, but would love to see this game try!

Night Lord
Published: 3/10/2011 9:22:43 PM

All I can say?

Give your souls to FFG because they now deserve and demand them.

Published: 3/10/2011 6:50:28 AM

Collectors edition, so wants!!!

Magnus Grendel
Published: 3/8/2011 3:59:39 PM

Here's hoping also for a somewhat paranoia-esque intra party rivalry; nothing is as entertaining for the GM as watching the players conspiring against one another in the process of completing their missions...

Published: 3/7/2011 12:36:22 PM

Looking forward to this product... wonder if it will be released at Gen Con 2011?  


Possibly with a delux (collectors edition) now that would be great to see - chaos encrusted tome... 

Published: 3/7/2011 9:50:07 AM


The so called 'pvp' game works quite well - i've done it with Warhammer Fantasy RP, the second edition mind - not FFG's.

You have your 'good' group made up of heroes and mercenaries who are hired on to solve a simple quest or plot, but uncover a grander conspiracy.

The 'evil' group begin as minions of a greater power who, whilst following orders to carry out parts of a scheme, plot to usurp control of the evil faction.

Throw in a couple of divergent plot points - such as whichever faction gets to a shrine first gets to claim an artifact which can be either be consecrated for 'good' bonuses or defiled for 'evil' bonuses . Add a couple of neutral NPCs to the mix that can be swung either way depending on who can convince/brainwash/kill them first.

Drop hints to each group of players. If the 'evil' team contains a beastman, then make reference to hoof-prints found at some murder sites the 'good' team investigate. If the 'good' team has an elven archer, reference how the 'evil' team's minions keep being struck down with unnerving accuracy from the shadows.

For the finale, using models if at all possible to help rules lawyering and arguments between the groups, invite both sides to the same gaming session and sit them down at opposite ends of the table, with you on one side (N.B. it can be incredibly useful to have a second, or assistant GM to help co-ordinate this grand melee).

I find it's useful to have a grasp of mass combat rules, or have abstracted your own method for such encounters, as true pvp, i.e. 5 players versus 5 players, can become boring fast - if it isn't over even faster! Having things like dragons, tanks or daemons in the mix for the players to focus on, whilst getting them to make occasional rolls for the general mooks on the field can help create a more cinematic fight.

Sorry to derail the comments here, but it's the first time i've noticed anyone express anyone interest in a 'pvp' style game.

Personally, i hope FFG target Black Crusade at ALL current levels of the 40k RPG franchise, cause if i have to purchase 3 books (DH/RT/DW) i won't be happy, or indeed parting with any money.

Published: 3/7/2011 7:53:53 AM

I'll be picking this one up.  I've really liked all of FFG's 40k games so far, and don't think this will be an exception. 

I also like how the text makes it sound like Chaos is no worse than anybody else, and emphasizes their virtuous aspects.  PCs need that kind of nuanced depth to make them something more than "kill, rape, infect, mutate" drones.  Of course, once the PCs conquer a world for Chaos and the daemons start driving everyone to kill, rape, infect, and mutate one another, the PCs will have to come up with new rationalizations for their actions.  "Yes, the people of Corixis V descended into orgies of cannibalistic sado-masochism.  But you should've seen the joy on their faces as they did it!  It was only then that I realized how generous the Joy Bringer is.  Even now I can hear their souls moaning and screaming in ecstasy beyond the Warp, beyond fear and want.  Just ever changing pains and pleasures for all eternity.  That is true freedom!"

(Next up: how joining the Genestealer Cult and embracing the Tyranid cause is the best hope for life in the galaxy)


Published: 3/6/2011 5:24:31 PM

The aspects of Nurgle mentioned are not new if anything Nurgle is the most nurturing of the powers he sees them all as his children.

the part i always find best about the powers is they overlap. As mentioned the warrior seeking perfection could easily be a follower of either Khorne or Slaanesh and nurgle is all about change.

Published: 3/6/2011 3:43:07 PM

@Liu Jen Hao

Tzeentch is hope, according to Liber Chaotica - the belief that things will change.

Nurgle is more of perseverance or acceptation of fate - the belief that as you can't alter the fate or reverse time, you should just go with it.


And Nurgle has always had the life giving aspect - the horns on Great Unclean One are the horns of Hathor, Cerunnos, Baphomet and other fertility gods. It's also the source of the story of him holding Isha in a cage - Slaanesh didn't get her because she always was an aspect of Nurgle.

Published: 3/6/2011 3:10:41 PM


Published: 3/6/2011 10:15:03 AM

Sounds interesting and will definitely require skilled roleplayers to capture these sorts of subtlelties. Of course, I think you will also find "less sophisticated" players who really do want to play undisputedly evil characters, which is part of the fun of getting to play the bad guyshowever much that may shock some people.

I also like the PVP idea or at least the notion of having someone who's a drop-in player roleplaying an occasional Chaos foe.  I hope the system is seamless with Deathwatchfor instance, all the monsters in the bestiary should be usable in Deathwatch and vice verse. I don't want to see different power levels of the same creatures this time. I should be able to use the two systems side-by-side, seamlessly...

Alpharius Omegon
Published: 3/6/2011 2:47:50 AM

Magister, that is indeed a brilliant idea!

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