|Monsters on the Move
Creatures Anathema overview for Dark Heresy
|Dark Heresy | Published 09 January 2009|
by Ross Watson, Senior RPG Developer for Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader
Greetings Dark Heresy fans!
What we set out for with Creatures Anathema was to make the best “bad guy” resource book for Dark Heresy that we could. We knew that we didn’t want to simply present a Monster Manual-style reference of stat blocks; the Warhammer 40,000 universe is so rich and full of history stretching back over twenty years, we felt that it would be better to use this opportunity to create a comprehensive guide to the aliens, beasts, and daemons of the Calixis Sector, the setting for Dark Heresy.
To accomplish our goal, we knew that there were three things we would have to get right. First, we would have to present a collection of interesting new creatures to fight that felt right for the 41st Millennium AND we would need to include several of the iconic creatures found in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, such as Eldar, Orks, and Genestealers. Secondly, we would have to give this information to the reader in a new and interesting way that would tie things together into the already-existing immersive style of Dark Heresy. Third, the book would have to be more than just a collection of bad guys; it would need to be a truly valuable tome both for fans of the setting and the dedicated gamemaster looking for tools to enhance his campaign.
The first task was a challenge! Several interesting creatures had already been covered in the Dark Heresy books already, and we wanted to hit the ground running with a combination of new creatures specific to the Calixis Sector along with the classic denizens of Warhammer 40,000. For the first part, we recruited some writers who knew the setting well and had some very creative ideas for creatures appropriate to the Calixian extent. For the second, we scoured the Warhammer 40,000 setting for those creatures that were fan favorites (such as the Lictor and Genestealer), classic to the setting (such as the Ambull and Enslaver), and interesting to encounter beyond just another gunfight (the Eldar and the Orks, among others).
Once we had a handle on the horde of creatures we were going to fill the book with, the next step would be to tackle our second goal. Creatures Anathema needed an overall theme to tie it together, and we found the key to that theme in Inquisitor Felroth Gelt. This infamous Inquisitor was first described in Disciples of the Dark Gods, and he seemed perfect for the task—an old, experienced Inquisitor who had lost many Acolytes and allies throughout the sector during his centuries of service. Inquisitor Gelt would be the voice and the thread that bound the book together in the narrative. As an added bonus, the notes from the Inquisitor were perfect for gamemasters to photocopy out of the book and use as player handouts. Gelt’s advice and commentary were often useful to determine how to oppose and destroy the creatures he wrote about, but there are some creatures that confounded even the impressive intellect of this veteran Inquisitor.
Having secured the services of the redoubtable Inquisitor Gelt to guide the reader through our collection of monstrous beings, it was time to turn our attention to the final major goal for this book. Creatures Anathema would need to be more than just a collection of “bad guys.” The first solution came to us quickly; a very useful tool to a gamemaster is some means of introducing these very evocative and interesting creatures into his campaign. Thus, we gave each creature one or two adventure seeds to help give some ideas on how to bring the monster into the game…or how to bring the characters to the monster!
Next, one question came up: “what makes a good book about antagonists into a great book?” The answer that we felt fit best is this: “you add a chapter about how to use antagonists in the game!” The final chapter of Creatures Anathema is all about adversaries; when to bring out the boss and how to manage the faceless hordes, adding elements of horror and cinematics to your game’s conflicts, and some options on how to make an antagonist more powerful and interesting.
After taking all of the above into consideration, Creatures Anathema was a pretty ambitious undertaking! I’m exceptionally proud of the way this book turned out, and I am very much looking forward to hearing what Dark Heresy fans have to say about it. I think that the showcases of the Eldar and the Orks in addition to all the new Calixis Sector creatures will add a great deal of action, mystery, and flavor to any Dark Heresy game!