News for July 2011
Things Man Should Not Know 21
A preview of Black Crusade, the upcoming Warhammer 40,000 Roleplaying Game
Black Crusade | Published 07 July 2011

“The fool, the coward and the ignorant proclaim that the Warp is a realm of unknowable peril and indescribable terror, that it is the hell of countless ancient myths and legends. This is a lie, told by those whose authority is based on lies long forgotten, to keep the masses terrified of the unknown. The Warp is limitless in power and infinite in the secrets it contains; it is knowledge and strength, life and death, and the untapped potential to make and remake worlds. It takes only the discipline and the will to shape it; those who lack that clarity of purpose are liable to be shaped by it instead."
      –Ahzek Ahriman, Sorcerer of the Thousand Sons

Black Crusade, an upcoming roleplaying game that offers players a new perspective on the conflict between the Imperium of Man and the forces of Chaos, will be on store shelves in the third quarter of 2011. Today, we’re pleased to present a preview from Nathan Dowdell, one of the writers for Black Crusade. Among other contributions, Nathan wrote about the mechanics for Psychic Powers. Thanks, Nathan!

One of the defining factors of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is the Warp. Its presence shapes and informs much of the way the setting works, from the simple necessities of travel and communication across interstellar distances, to the abyssal horrors that dwell within the Immaterium, and the ravening power that a few can draw from it.

Such thoughts were foremost in our minds as we worked on one of Black Crusade thematic and interesting chapters, developing the latest iteration of the psychic power rules and other matters arcane and sorcerous.

The Power of the Warp

Psychic powers are an additional layer in any Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay game, requiring extra rules and abilities above and beyond those that non-psykers use. The system remains essentially the same as the versions in Rogue Trader and Deathwatch, however we took the chance to add some additional material and versatility.

One of the largest changes was the introduction of varying difficulties for powers. Some psychic powers are more or less difficult to wield than others—an element of Dark Heresy’s original psychic rules—so we chose to apply the range of standard difficulties to the Focus Power Tests needed to use different abilities. Added to that is another interesting concept: a variety of characteristics used for Focus Power Tests. Willpower is still king for most Psykers, but diviners may have a strong inclination towards Psyniscience, and some of the nastiest powers in the book are extensions of a tainted soul, powered by the Psyker’s accumulated Corruption.

Of course, the powers themselves are nothing without the means to employ them, and the Black Crusade team set out from the start to ensure that a variety of different techniques and styles were available to psykers in Black Crusade. The core rules don’t change for any of them, but through a variety of effects collectively known as Paths to Power (ranging from burning your own life away for power, to human sacrifice, to rites and ritualistic incantations), and the selection of background and alternative names given for each power, there should be sufficient tools and encouragement for a Psyker character to be unique and distinct.

The powers themselves are numerous, and Black Crusade contains an extensive and diverse collection of psychic powers, spread across three disciplines of generic powers (Telepathy, Telekinesis and Divination) and five alignments of Chaos-specific powers (Unaligned, Tzeentch, Nurgle, Slaanesh and Exalted – the latter being a small collection of dangerous, expensive powers for the mightiest of Unaligned Sorcerers). Some of these powers, such as the infamous Doombolt and deadly Bolt of Change, have long been staples of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. Others, such as the terrifying Primordial Annihilation, are newer fare. However, in either case, we strove to provide a psyker character with diverse, thematic, and even balanced psychic powers, whether those powers are re-imagined classics or something completely new.

To end the chapter, Black Crusade expands on concepts first developed in the other Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay lines—rituals. Rituals are a staple of chaos cultists across the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and Black Crusade allows players to create their own with some simple but customizable rules.

Thanks, Nathan! Keep checking back for more, and look for Black Crusade on store shelves later this quarter!

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 (21)

Published: 7/17/2011 6:57:11 PM

I only hope that Exalted powers arent only for unaligned sorcerors AND more powerful than the Tzeentch stuff. I dont want antoher hole i have to patch over for the tabletop crowd...


But since fluff states Tzeentch as the god of sorcery it shoueldnt happen, FFG is good with the fluff stuff.

Published: 7/16/2011 10:43:17 AM

I do hope that they do not limit the amount of powers a psyker can learn.  That would not only suck but suck an arbitrary rule would only hamper the feel of Black Crusade.  Besides with different paths to power and the alignment options indivudual psykers can be sufficientyly distinct without limiting the number of powers one can have.

Cynical Cat
Published: 7/14/2011 5:01:41 PM

It's likely that a sorcerer will be able to learn a lot of powers (in theory) although they will probably be quite expensive.

Published: 7/14/2011 3:10:39 PM

Librarian capped at 9 powers.  Then again those powers were pretty damn powerful.

Published: 7/14/2011 1:58:27 PM

 I wonder how many powers are available to an average psyker. A Rank 8 DH psyker had a whole boat-load of them while a DW librarian caps at... how many? 5? 7?

Published: 7/11/2011 7:41:04 PM

Oh yes I would have to agree.  Psykers in dark heresy are fucking god like once you get ascension level.  I had a psy rating 4 psyker and massive willpower to boot.  I could heal 1d10+6 health per turn, or regenerate 1d5+6 of my own health.  Not bad till unnatural willpower came into the picture and more willpower.  Even at psy rating of 4 I could do 1d10+16 healing, or 1d5+16 regeneration.  I was the heal bot of the team and my insane agility and +20 dodge skill with talent skill made me untouchable.  It got so crazy that the GM made us skip fights because we had force swords and a total of at least 2 psykers per team.

Now psykers are still powerful, but not as they were in dark heresy.  Putting the focus on psy rating helps balance out the game and unnatural willpower only enhance the roll with bonus successes, or reduce penalties.  It was not like we had a psyker who could do 1d10+42 with a pen of 42 with a psyker telekinese sword.

Cynical Cat
Published: 7/11/2011 4:34:13 PM

Well first of all in the DW and RT systems simply having a Psi Rating of 10 doesn't give you that kind of power.  It's powerful, don't get me wrong, but it isn't as insane as Unnatural Willpower, and Psy Rating 10 in DH and Ascension.  One of DH's core problems is that the baseline effects of a lot of powers runs of Willpower, so a high Unnatural Willpower completely breaks them, and the fettered/unfettered/push system modifies Psy Rating so combining the two just allows for even more game breaking min maxing.

Second, we don't know exactly how the BC ability purchasing system works but I'm willing to bet getting to Psy Rating 10 is neither cheap nor easy.  I'm not worried about Psy Rating 10 being damn powerful because, frankly, its going to cost enough that it should be damn powerful.  In the DW/RT system you buy your actual powers separately from your Psy Rating so if you want to be a titan of psychic power, you not only have to sink a lot of xp into Psy Rating, but into the powers themselves and they aren't cheap.  Being a titan of sorcerous death isn't game breaking if everyone else in the party is also heinously powerful.

Night Lord
Published: 7/11/2011 8:56:46 AM

well in Black Crusade you get the ability to just purchase whatever the heck skills and talents you want.  So why not just Psy Rating x10 as much as physically possible and then WHAM you're back in that same god-like power?

Cynical Cat
Published: 7/11/2011 5:55:57 AM

That's a purely DH problem.  RT and DW don't have that kind of craziness.  The fettered/unfettered/push problem with Ascension is a problem with porting part of the DW and RT psychic system to DH instead of changing the whole system.  DW and RT have a very different system that runs much more on Psy Rating that Willpower so having a sky high Unnatural Willpower is useful, not heinously broken.

Night Lord
Published: 7/11/2011 12:09:37 AM

I can't stress this enough...
The printer seems broken.  Maybe it can't handle all the forbidden information it has to print after years of making Dark Heresy, but it has not moved from "At the Printer" status in months.  Can you use some of the new rules for Rituals in this book to make it faster?  I know some souls I can sacrifice.  =D

On a more relevant note:  I am currently playing an Ascension Psyker gone Inquisitor.  With an obnoxious Willpower of 86 and Unnatural Willpower (x2) I am consistently abusing the psychic powers.  Holocaust does 16d10 damage (as it should at my level), while my Psychic Blade is just plain unfair for the enemy in boss fights.  Understandably, I put everything I had into my willpower and psychic potential FIRST when I spent xp.  This means I get to just cast almost every power in Fettered without regards to any consequences.  Granted it may seem like I might have overdone it, but once I have a plan, I stick to it.  I pray that there's some kind of potential mishap regardless or else the Chaos Marine Sorcerer is pretty much the catch-all "I'm-in-charge-because-I-can-break-physics-without-care-and-I'm-an-Astartes".

Cynical Cat
Published: 7/9/2011 1:36:29 PM

Oh I agree completely.   To rework the DH psychic powers system to be more like RT and DW means rewriting a lot of it.   As you've mentioned, the Fettered/Unfettered/Push system works poorly if bolted directly onto DH powers, in part because of how success is generated and in part because DH powers tend to run off Willpower and RT/DW run off Psy Rating.  That means each power has to reworked to fit into the new system, irregardless of how well they work in the old system. 

As an aside, I do love almost all your design work.  Running sensitivity based Divinations off of Psyniscience is one of those things that makes sense and I can picture similar arrangements with subtle persuasion charms and disease spells.  I'm quite interested to see how everything turns out.

Published: 7/9/2011 5:00:17 AM

As I mentioned in the designer diary, the system is essentially a developed/refined version of the systems found in Rogue Trader and Deathwatch.

As I've stated before, it's my firmly-held opinion that the power level system (Fettered/Unfettered/Push) doesn't work with the Dark Heresy powers as-is, because the system is intended to work with powers that scale by Psy Rating - consequently, using a power Fettered produces diminished effects in exchange for lesser risk, while Pushing a power increases potency and risk. Just applying the mechanic to the DH system as was done in Ascension, IMO, does not produce the desired effect, because there's essentially no drawback to Fettered powers for a Primaris Psyker.

As I've found, working on these rules, it's impossible to consider the distinct mechanics within the psychic power system separately; every element is interlinked, from the core rules to the individual powers and the abilities that feed into the system. Taking an element out removes it from the intended context and produces unintended effects.

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