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)

Brother Chaplain Magister
Published: 3/5/2011 5:49:32 PM

 Something cruel came to my twisted mind: Imagine two groups of players with two GMs. One group playing the Chaos worshipping cultists and the other group playing the Acolites of an Inquisitor. Hard to do, but not impossible. Action and reaction, one group in chase of the other. The real PVP...

Published: 3/5/2011 3:13:34 PM


I can see how you could interpret  'rebirth' aspects into Nurgle. A lot of his appeal comes when faced with death and wish only to survive.  When Nurgle grants your wish it is the beginning of your new life is service to Nurgle.If fact you may have even died and get resurrected.  and of course you may begin your new life in a wonderous new form...

Besides, Nurgle has plenty of depth without adding in any new stuff, I don't think we're going to see Lion King - Nurgle mash-ups here.

Published: 3/5/2011 12:27:35 PM

Turning to Nurgle:  I used this as the background material for an adventure.  A Nurgle cult started when a man was attacked dropped into a hive hab septic tank.  Landing on a mountain of sh$% and breaking both legs, he was trapped for 7 days trying to survive on the bugs and refuse but slowly dying.  After praying for the Emperor to release him for days, he finally gave up and began begging any god, old or new, for help... of course, the voice he thought was only in his head was the jolly laughter of Grandfather Nurgle and desperation was better than death.


Published: 3/5/2011 9:43:53 AM

So far we have only seen the face of Chaos through the lens of the Imperium of man. I find it most intriguing (and gutsy) that FFG choose to release an RPG showing the other side of the coin. I have always believed that Chaos, for many, mostly meant freedom and a way out of an utterly oppressing and hopeless society. The monstrous facets we have been shown in Dark Heresy, Rogue trader and Deathwatch are the extremes of what chaos can be. For most chaos followers it will mean a way of life free from the clutches of tyranny and the dystopian soulgrinder that is the Imperium of man. I really look forward to this game and I applaude FFG for having the guts to release it.

Liu Jen Hao
Published: 3/5/2011 9:39:46 AM

I agree: Nurgle as "hope" is the hardest to swallow of the Gods.  I doubt the mother of the opening blurb's example is going to be terribly happy and grateful to "Papa Nurgle" when his idea of "saving" her baby is turning her into a mindless shambling and rotting zombie.

BUT I CAN buy Slanesh as desire for beauty and perfection, Tzeench as Knowledge and wisdom, and as a Martial Artist Myself, Khorne as Valor-Honor-and-Bravery.

Khorne is without a doubt the most (brutally) honest and honorable of the Chaos Gods.  What he promises, he gives; UNLIKE the Imperial Navy after all the taxes you break your back to pay them for.

I stand by the post in the last forum (when the game was just announced) that Khorne WILL give you the Strength and Courage to not only protect your loved ones from a Tyranid Attack, but drive them back, nay, FUCKING KILL THEM ALL so they will never hurt your children ever again.  The Imperium?  A few nukes and virus bombs and you'll be out of sight out of mind.

Paryers to the Emperor while your little girl literally goes up in nuclear-flames or watch her grow up and have children in exchange for loyalty to an honorable Warrior God? 

ANY father loves their children would chose the latter.

Published: 3/5/2011 7:33:27 AM

>After all, one of the fascinating things about the Warhammer 40,000 setting is there are no “good guys.”


Heretics. ;-)

Ignace Zane
Published: 3/5/2011 6:00:53 AM

 I can't look at a Korne's Berserkers and see honorable warriors. I can't even look at the "great unclean" and hope in some kind of rebirth.It is very difficult to see honour or hope in traitors.

Published: 3/5/2011 3:12:12 AM

Nurgle as a God of "Lifecycle" and "being reborn" is a little hard to stomach for me. I hope they did not forced anything into Uncle Nurkleth in this book "just because we neede a positive aspect in it". 

@What are the players going to do
Either they will get orders from there daemonic masters (GM-driven) or the GM will have to be really up to a challenge as (s)he has to come up with suiting scenarios for all the plans the pc come up with.

Alpharius Omegon
Published: 3/4/2011 10:30:20 PM

Moral ambiguity is the cornerstone of any really good, juicy drama and this promises to deliver it by the bucket load!  Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait.

@ Octus

Got a feeling once you get this book, the trouble will be which of a thousand ideas to use!


Published: 3/4/2011 10:13:47 PM


As I look at the image closer, I can see what you mean: I'd originally given it the once-over, and figured the debris-littered battlefield for nothing more than a pile of corpses (rather more Khorne-ite, you may agree :P). Better now. Getting there.

I was thrown off by the second picture, though, which wasn't illustrative of any of this post's points...and which has since vanished. Somewhere. Plotting by Tzeench minions, no doubt~

Published: 3/4/2011 9:30:50 PM

I was hoping for this level of sophistication in Black Crusade, and thus far it does not disappoint. 

In in all honesty though, it would have to be, in order for it to be a sellable product.



Published: 3/4/2011 8:06:37 PM

To be honest I am not sure about this one. With the other RPGs I quickly had ideas. As a player and as a GM. But this one does not seem to bring up ideas.

For me Dark Heresy represented the struggle between trying to do good and obeying an order. When is an action considered good? When do I become evil or chaotic? To root out evil is to know evil. To know is evil is a change you become evil.

Rogue Trader is the game of exploration and diplomacy. It has a strong StarTrek feel: to boldly go where no man has gone before. Try to find the lost strands of civilisation in a dangerous world. But it also a world of wonders.

Deathwatch is the only real game where you are a hero. In most games you start out as a nobody and end a hero. Here you begin as one. You are a warrior fighting against impossible odds and still get out the victor.

But what about Black Crusade? Is it a game of scheming and dealing. Will the team set up there own dark plans and try to bring chaos to the universe? Or will it end in a group of backstabbers where each character works for their own gains DH, RT and DW is all about working together and achieving a common goal, and to be honest thats what I like most about  RPGs.

I will buy the book, but more to use the information as GM in one of the others. I have not yet an idea for a game myself.


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