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"Give me one thousand men fool enough o' want to conquer hell...
                          and we'll conquer hell!"
                                               - Warmaster Solon

Welcome, traveller. Come, step out of your starship, explore the spaceport and read about the world of the far future, where mankind lives among the stars beset by alien races on all sides. Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) is a tactical tabletop game produced by Games Workshop, set in the far future, where the Imperium of mankind is under attack from all sides and, as if that weren't bad enough, threatening to come apart from the inside. The Eldar stage seemingly random attacks on planets of the Imperium for reasons unknown, the Orks seek to overcome all planets they come across in the green tide, Tyranid hive fleets ravage the Imperium for fresh genetic stock and Chaos oozes insidiously from the vents in reality known as the Maelstrom and the Eye of Terror. Against this backdrop mankind struggles to come to terms with it's own evolution as a psychic race, equally under attack by Chaos from within, every psyker a possible doorway for the demonic denizens of the Warp to invade reality.

This same, strong background is also the setting for many a home-brewed WH40K roleplaying game. Games Workshop and their roleplaying imprint Black Industries, finally published an official one, Dark Heresy. When Black Industries was now shut down, the game was carried on under license by Fantasy Flight Games in 2008, with rules similar to WFRP second edition (WFRP2). This is one of a set of WH40K RPGs that were subsequently released, the others being Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade and Only War. In Dark Heresy you play low-level characters, agents of the Inquisition, investigating the hidden threats that hide in civilised Imperial space (a little like WFRP in space, or Call of Cthulhu). Rogue Trader is a higher power-level game, playing the Rogue Traders who explore the uncharted edges of the galaxy in pursuit of power and profit. Deathwatch is a higher power-level again, and focuses on Space Marines. You play the chosen few Space Marines who serve in the elite Deathwatch company. All three games are related to each other in that the remote Calixis Sector of Dark Heresy (on the edge of Segmentum Obscuras) borders the uncharted Koronus Expanse of Rogue Trader, both of whose fates are connected to that of the Jericho Reach where Deathwatch is set. Black Crusade portrays Chaos Marines, and Only War focusses on the Imperial Guard. All three games also use basically the same rules such that elements of them are in many ways interoperable. I like the low power levels and investigative style of Dark Heresy, while Rogue Trader and Deathwatch step up the power level. Between the three games there's probably something for whatever flavour of WH40K roleplaying you like.

Sadly, in what seems to be a pattern for Games Workshop licenses, Fantasy Flight no longer have the license as of 9th September 2016. The announcement says sale of that content will stop as of 28th February 2017, but as I write this in December 2016 the PDFs are no longer on DriveThruRPG, they cannot be purchased on the FFG site, and what's left that they seem to be selling is the physical (hardback) books - many of which are not available perhaps from being now both out of stock and out of print. This is on the back of FFG stopping production of supplements for WFRP3 in 2014.

So it's back to familar territory for the Games Workshops RPGs - out of print limbo. The PDFs are no longer (legally) available and the physical books will likely soon be unavailable at reasonable prices. Some Google Fu will likely provide bootleg copies of the PDFs - but I do not condone illegal file sharing and you seek out those illegal files at your own technical and legal risk.

As far as the scope of home-brew rules on this, Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader were/are most comparable and have proved popular. Indeed, Dark Heresy went into a second edition, while homebrew WH40K rules have largely disappeared. In response to this, and in view of the fact the version of the 40K roleplay here previously on this site was based heavily on WFRP first edition (now long out of print), the rules and background presented here is proverbially between a rock and a hard place. WFRP and WFRP2 are out of print and now so is Dark Heresy and the FFG stable of official 40K RPGs. That means little point in converting it to WFRP2, and arguably also little point in converting it to Dark Heresy.

If you're new to this site and interested in a 40K roleplaying game, I still currently recommend the Dark Heresy / Rogue Trader books if you can find them.

The old rules files here, based on WFRP1, which I will henceforth refer to as the 'Kaos' rules, became largely superseded when Dark Heresy was released, and later Dark Astral. Being amendments of the WFRP1 rule base, the Kaos rules are mostly useless to anyone without a copy of the (even older and more out of print) WFRP1. Fortunately now, PDFs of the WFRP1 books are here on DTRPG. The Kaos rules based on this can be found here.

One possibility here is is to consider adapting Mutant Chronicles by Modiphius Entertainment, that is now in its third edition, and appears to be a space opera with significant parts similar to Warhammer 40,000. A galaxy in war, Traitor LegionsDark Legions, ChaosDark Symmetry, etc. From a casual reading, if you file off the serial numbers and make the galactic government just a little more fascist, it could be 40K. (Funnily enough, I believe like 40000, it also sprang from a miniatures wargame.)

Personally, though, I'm looking forward to Zweihander. This is a ruleset for grim and perilous games that was crowd-funded, with clear heavy influence from WFRP 1 and 2. It is also clear that a Dark Astral extension of this (now available as a chapbook) will be geared towards grim and perilous space opera games, such as Warhammer 40,000 RPGs. My plan currently is to convert the game mechanic elements of the 40,000 background here (stat blocks, weapon profiles, etc.) to Zweihander eventually (after it goes on general release), and perhaps also to Dark Heresy second edition for those people still with copies of this.

In August 2017, after FFG lost the 40K license, Ulisses Spiele has gained the license. More info and an FAQ here. This will be a new ruleset, based on D6's (a use for that mountain of Games Workshop D6's maybe!) whose background will be concurrent with the new 40,000 Dark Imperium (with the big warpstorm splitting the galaxy and the return of the Primarchs - though Roboute Guilleman will no doubt be far too busy to have anything to do with the PCs). The game will be "broad and inclusive" according to a Gencon 2017 panel (the 40K part starts at 29 minutes and 47 seconds in to the video). A free intro PDF is here on DTRPG.

Here are the files:

Background and History

Maps and Miscellaneous


Kaos Ruleset

Bear in mind that not all chapters are done yet, and those that are available are not necessarily finished yet. You can click the following link for files of some Provisional Versions of unfinished chapters, as well as unfinished and not yet officially released provisional versions of some chapters named in the contents list above.

A zip file (463 Kb) is available containing the text of all these files.

Check out the Games Workshop pages on Warhammer 40,000 and Inquisitor. Click here for Dark Heresy at the Fantasy Flight Games site.

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