Tuesday, January 3, 2012

System Analysis: Dark Heresy - Overview

System Analysis is going to be another series that will, sporadically, be updated. The idea of it is to be something similar to "Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer"  blog's series called "Let's Study." My take on it is going to be a bit less about education on how the system works, though we will be going into that, and more on the design side of what it may mean for the games that you run. Also, anyone who hasn't done so should click those links above and let the Philipine Gamer school you some on how to run an RPG.

What Is Dark Heresy?
Dark Heresy is a D100 based table top RPG from the fine folks over at Fantasy Flight Games. It is a game designed to throw players into the dark, gritty, and war torn universe that is 'Warhammer 40k.' In the game, the players take up the roles of inquisitorial agents, working as the pawns and - at least to start - expendable resources that the inquisitors and inquisitor lords of the Holy Inquisition use to investigate and solve problems.

As the game progresses, the PCs will become more and more powerful and increase in rank. Later books such as "Dark Heresy: Ascension" then detail the ways to bring your game of acolytes and malefactors into the big fish pond of inquisitors and their direct crews of right hand men/women.

How Does It Work?
Aside from the simple mechanics, the game works as follows. The GM - or GM and players - choose an order of the Inquisition that the players are going to be working for. The choices can be Ordo Xenos, where the players deal with the alien threat to humanity; Ordo Maleficus, where the players deal with demon incursions and other denizens/forces of chaos; and/or Ordo Hereticus, where the players deal with the threats inside humanity and the people making pacts with aliens and demons. In the games I've been in, Ordo Hereticus has been a popular choice as it allows the GM to do pretty much anything. After all, most issues that are handled by Maleficus and Xenos can start with Hereticus investigations.

After the order is chosen, the players have their characters and get recruited into the inquisition. From there, they get thrown into jobs, do the jobs, accrue power, and gain enemies/allies. This gives the game a mission structure type format, but can also lead to more long running investigations if that is how the PCs and GMs want to go with it.

So it's interstellar cops and robbers?
In a way, yes. The PCs are generally above the law, but the 40k universe is one where that doesn't really matter as much. Still, the idea of a cops and robbers game does get a good idea of the games flexibility out there. GMs can do mission-to-mission formats, where the players are regularly sent off on jobs for the Inquisition; they can do a long-running investigation format where the players are working long term to take down one specific person and working their way up the food chain; or they can do a more action oriented game where the PCs get into fights and then arrest/execute folks afterwards.

What Does This Mean?
What does all this mean for you? Well, simply put it means that - provided you can be comfortable in the dark future of the 40k universe - that Dark Heresy is a game with a lot of flexibility for how it is used. It is theoretically possible, with a bit of GM prep, to even run it as a more Indiana Jones style adventure game. However, the darkness of the universe will turn some people off, and you need to know that. Still, as far as flexible starting points go, especially ones that gives the GM some built in IC ability to nudge the PCs in the right direction, you can't do much better.

Tomorrow we'll talk about the dice and char sheet mechanics. See you then. Also, as usual, any comments or questions? Sound off in the comments!

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