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Tabletop Game / Dark Heresy

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Innocence Proves Nothing.

"Basically you're fucked like in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, only instead of dying from blood poisoning caused by a dirty pitchfork you get to have your innards blown across the wall and then subsequently set on fire by a plasma gun (probably your own)."

Dark Heresy is a Warhammer 40,000 pen and paper roleplaying game published by Fantasy Flight Games using a mechanical system similar to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It has the players assume the role of Acolytes of the Holy Inquisition in the grim, dark future of the 41st millennium, rooting out heresy among the Imperium wherever it may be arise. Notable for having over five consecutive pages entirely filled with Critical Hit Charts.

Dark Heresy is also the basis for a series of novels written by Sandy Mitchell, of Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) fame. The novels star the "signature characters" used by the rulebook for its gameplay examples: former arbitrator Mordechai Horst, tech-priest Hybris Vex, sanctioned psyker Elyra Yivor, Redemptionist assassin Keira Sythree, and guardsmen Danuld Drake and Vos Kyrlock. So far Scourge the Heretic and Innocence Proves Nothing have been released.


A second edition of Dark Heresy was released which updated the rules to the version used in Only War. As with Only War Fantasy Flight Games released a fully playable "beta" version for purchase prior to the official release (with people who purchased the beta getting a discount on the digital version of the official release).

See also Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (its fantasy counterpart); Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade, and Only War (its sister games); and of course Warhammer 40,000, as Dark Heresy (unsurprisingly) shares a great number of tropes with its parent game. Also check out Adeptus Evangelion, a fan-made conversion for running games set in the Neon Genesis Evangelion universe. Also see Servants of the Imperium, a Gaming Webcomic based on this game.

As of February 2017, Fantasy Flight Games has lost the license to publish games based on Games Workshop's IP, leaving Dark Heresy and its sister games out of print, although digital copies will be made available on DriveThru RPG. As of August 2017, Ulisses-Spiele, the publishers of The Dark Eye, have gained the Warhammer 40k license and are creating an entirely new RPG, Wrath And Glory, which uses a different system (although thankfully they are still selling this game and its sister lines at this moment).


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    The game as a whole provides examples of 
  • Anyone Can Die: And everyone usually does.
  • Arm Cannon: The Integrated Weapons from The Lathe Worlds.
    • Also the Forearm Weapon Mounting modification for guns allows players to keep and fire a pistol on their arm, while leaving the hand free, to wield a two-handed weapon for example.
  • A-Team Firing: This is the case when any character who is not optimized for gun skills makes attacks with weapons firing on fully automatic. Surprisingly, this is actually one of the more effective combat strategies, as the application of More Dakka to intentionally suppress targets will give the opposing force penalties regardless of how much actual damage it does, allowing those characters in the party who are optimized for gun skills to take careful aim to finish off suppressed foes.
  • Badass Normal: All player characters besides Psykers and Tech-Priests.
    • Empowered Badass Normal: Some of the Ascended Career Paths in First Edition lead to this, such as the Inquisitor, the Sage, and (especially) the Vindicare Assassin.
  • BFG: It's Warhammer 40,000. Are you really surprised this is the case?
    • Made much more apparent in Dark Heresy, when discussing the much often cited Bolter. As mentioned on Deathwatch page, the Space Marine version of Bolter weapons is stronger in damage than the ones available to average humansnote . This is explained that the ones listed in Dark Heresy, are "scaled-down versions" to let anyone who A. Isn't abnormally strong or B. Has Bionic Arms, to actually use them. The human sized Heavy Bolter weighs a few kilograms more than a the real life M2 Browning Machine Gun does, without its Tri-Pod and ammo. Even an attempt to make it feasible for non-genetically/cybernetic/surgically enhanced humans to use, they still stay firmly rooted in BFG territory.
  • BFS: The Eviscerator from regular tabletop, is also in here. For those unfamiliar, the Imperium got bored one day, and decided to combine a greatsword with a chainsaw, and made this thing. It makes a mockery out of armor, can deal a hefty chunk of damage with each hit, and gains a bonus on each Critical Damage roll.
  • Black Magic: Chaos rituals and sorcery, as described (for First Edition) in Disciples Of The Dark Gods and The Radical's Handbook. Leads to Explosive Overclocking when combined with Psychic Powers.
  • Body Horror: Mutation is par for the course.
  • Body Snatcher: A disturbingly large number of the given antagonists are these.
  • Boring, but Practical: Lasguns, cheap and reliable, with lots of ammo about the place.
  • Brown Note: Tech Priests can learn Feedback Loop, which is like a microphone-on-speaker hiss, except it paralyzes nervous systems.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Although Imperial Guard issue flak armor is derided in the wider fandom as having the protective qualities of a t-shirt against military-grade weaponry, it is actually some of the better armor that an acolyte can start with. Further, it is common and inexpensive enough that a group pooling its resources should be able to afford to equip every member with at least this, it is light enough that even physically frail characters can comfortably wear it, and it provides fair protection across the entire body. Considering how deadly combat is in this game, almost everyone needs some fair protection. This tends to put it into Boring, but Practical territory.
    • Not to mention that full military-grade flak is so commonplace and Imperial culture so militaristic that the Acolytes can not only wear it in most situations without looking out of place, but they could even wear it as a disguise sometimes.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Any character from an Arbiter background who is played straight will necessarily be one. However, Imperial law tends to be pretty permissive about brutal enforcement as it is, "always err on the side of harshness" being a sanctioned policy. That said, Arbiters might take issue with some more Radical Inquisition operatives if those Radical options take them on the bad side of Imperial law.
  • Church Militant: In addition to the standard Cleric career path, the Inquisitor's Handbook offers Sisters of Battle as a character class option. The Blood of Martyrs sourcebook offers expanded options for both.
  • Cold Sniper: The Ascension splat book mentions that Vindicare Assassins tend to be very detached, methodical, and stoic thanks to their discipline and training, though they are known to sometimes express a very dry and fatalistic sense of humor.
  • Comically Inept Healing: Your own character can be this, if you attempt a Medicae check and roll poorly. You'll suffer an additional penalty for working on Xenos, unless they are Orks. With Orks you get a bonus, because they are so tough you can't possibly make the injury worse... Orks, expecting a mad-doc, will only seek medical treatment when they have no other choice.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The "Jaded" trait. Through either a lifetime of bad experiences, careful training, or just a callous nature, characters with this trait never have to take insanity checks from "mundane" sources of horror. Supernatural sources can still dredge up their fears though.
  • Continuity Nod: Two of the characters pictured in Ascension are easily recognizable to veteran Specialist Game fans as Inquisitor Covenant and 'Slick' Devlan, characters introduced in Dark Heresy's spiritual forefather Inquisitor. Ascension also finally attributes the "only the insane have strength enough to prosper" quote from the start of the Inquisitor rulebook to a specific individual: the rogue Inquisitor Felroth Gelt.
  • The Corruption: The Corruption Points mechanic.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted, being reduced to zero Wounds will not necessarily kill a character, but it will force a roll on the Critical Hit chart, which is always bad news. A low roll might just stun a character or scar them, but a really bad role there can be fatal in increasingly gruesome ways...
  • Critical Hit: Eight pages of blood-spurting, limb-severing, organ-cooking, bone-exploding charts, though generally these only apply once a character drops below zero Hit Points Wounds. Also includes the more traditional "extra damage on a good die roll" version as Righteous Fury: rolling a natural 10 on a damage die gives a player the chance to continue rolling damage dice until they stop rolling a 10.
    • 2nd Edition toned down the effects of Righteous Fury significantly. Gone is the exploding dice mechanic. Instead, if an attack that generated Righteous Fury caused any damage after reductions, it inflicts a critical damage effect to the struck body part. If it failed to inflict damage because of said damage reduction, it simply does a single point of damage to their remaining Wounds. Of course, read the first point of Critical Hits, and you know that even with the limit of what effect is rolled to the first half of the chart, at best it's "The next few rounds of your life are going to be rather miserable, and possibly short if it knocked you unconscious" to igniting a target on fire, or cause them suffer from constant blood loss until they're patched up.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Taking more than eight cumulative points of Critical Damage will kill you in some horrendously gruesome and awe-inspiring way. Such as, oh say, "Both head and body are blown into a mangled mess, instantly killing the target. In addition, if the target is carrying any ammunition it explodes dealing 1d10+ 5 Energy Damage to anything within 1d5 meters." And that's just at 7.
    "It has the best critical hit charts ever made. You don't even need the rest of the game (although it is all good, it's just a LOT). Just start a campaign, wing it, and whenever anyone gets a good hit, roll on the critical hit charts. Holy fucking hell, did boiling bone marrow just turn my femur into a frag grenade? Fuck."
  • Cult: Everybody, including the player characters. "The only cult that we do not abhor is that of the Emperor!"
  • Department of Redundancy Department: There is an Ascended Psychic Power called Malleus Hammerhand, which, of course, means Hammer Hammerhand.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Every character gets one "Reaction" move during their enemy's turn. Among other things, this can be used to parry an opponent's attack, or in gun fights used to dodge an enemy's shot. Of course, characters do only get one Reaction per round, which means it can be overcome by More Dakka on their enemy's part, unless that combat dodge is used to Take Cover!, which is the practical option when being shot at.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: A Feral Worlder character can have this as a superstition. As in, his/her weapon doesn't actually have this trait (hopefully: this is 40k, after all) but s/he believes it does.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Admit it, GMs, you're all waiting for an excuse to sic a Saurian Carnosaur or two on your hapless Acolytes.
  • Explosive Leash: Explosive collars are an available piece of equipment. If you play a Guardsman, you can elect to start with one still attached.
  • Generation Ships: Voidborn characters are the results of various Imperial warships and merchant crafts' centuries-long service along with their crews' family line.
  • Gorn: Just read the descriptions in the Critical Hit tables. Combat in this game is not only deadly, it is messy.
  • Hand Cannon: One of the handguns described in the game is literally referred to as a Hand Cannon. It's a solid-projectile firearm with recoil so powerful it requires a two-handed grip (or special gloves) to be used effectively. It is also the smallest pistol in the game that qualifies for this trope.
  • Heal It with Fire: Averted. You know the trope of lasers supposedly not causing bleeding because it cauterizes your wounds. It doesn't happen in this game. Getting badly hurt by almost any energy weapon means a living target will be geysering blood like a stuck pig. This applies to all the other 40K rpgs as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Encouraged in the Game Mastering section of the rulebook. The system is already pretty deadly, Player Characters have uncertain life-expectancy, and the GM is discouraged from softpeddling that, in order to underscore the brutality of the setting. However, the GM is encouraged to bend the rules a little when a character is facing certain death in order to make that death spectacular, with the explanation that a player should not be afraid of their character's death, but they should not feel like their character can expect to "die like a chump."
  • Heroic Willpower: The Inquisitor class gets the special ability "Indomitable Will of the Inquisition"; which allows them to pass a Willpower test perfectly once per session.
  • Holding the Floor: The "Blather" skill is primarily used for this, by a character who engages NPCs and holds their attention for an indeterminate amount of time by talking on and on. Having high ability with this skill enables such a character to guess effectively at what would get their attention and be able to go on about convincingly without tripping over their own words. The form this blathering takes will vary, from the Scum grifter hawking non-existent wares, to an Arbiter rattling off a list of convincing infractions someone has committed, to a Cleric going on quoting scripture and how it applies now.
  • Identity Amnesia: One of the possible character origins introduced with The Inquisitor's Handbook splat is that of a "mindwiped" character. This is generally done deliberately by the Inquisition for agents who have witnessed too many Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, but who have skills that would be wasted by the expedience of execution. While they are at it, the mindwipers add some Conditioning To Accept Horror and a few basic survival skills. However, such characters might be subject to unpleasant flashes of half-memories, and have a built-in Trigger Phrase to prevent them going rogue.
  • Kill the Host Body: If someone manages to kill the possessing daemon component of a daemonhost without killing the host body, the possessed individual can survive, albeit highly traumatized. Given that Daemons are Made of Iron and tend to possess Squishy Wizard Psykers, this is incredibly unlikely. A daemon can briefly survive the death of the host body, but will eventually have to abandon a dead host.
  • Knight Templar: The Inquisition's stock in trade.
  • Machine Worship: Tech-Priests.
  • Magic from Technology: Some of the "miracles of the Omnissiah" that Tech-Priests get access to.
  • Master Poisoner: Assassins and Tech-Priests can do well at this and Clerics can specialize in it, which is kind of worrying to think about.
  • Memory Gambit: The Ascension splat introduces options for character to enter trances when at the time they snap out of it, that character will forget everything that happened since the trance began. This forfeits any experience they might have gained during this time, but also allows them to confront Things Man Was Not Meant to Know or other such things that might cause them to Go Mad from the Revelation without suffering their permanent effects.
  • More Dakka: While this is Warhammer 40,000 we're talking about, because combat is quite a bit more in-depth and detailed, certain weapons get to demonstrate this better than they do in the regular wargame.
    • Any weapon with the Twin-Linked or Storm quality (such as the Storm Bolter) is automatically this from the get-go. Twin-Linked weapons use up more ammo, but gain a significant Ballistic Skill bonus when fired. And rolling well enough also adds on an additional hit from the Twin-Linked weapon. Storm doesn't grant an accuracy bonus, but does increase the number of hits scored.
  • Mushroom Samba: Hallucinogen grenades, whee!
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: All ranged attacks get a +30% to hit at point-blank range and weapons with the Scatter quality generate extra hits per degree of success at point-blank.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens when one scores high on a head critical hit chart. Scoring even higher leads to such pleasant outcomes as nearby combatants being showered with skull fragments and brain matter, the local area becoming difficult to walk through for all the gore on the ground, and the victim being killed so gruesomely that his friends must fight the urge to flee from his killer for a couple of Rounds.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Fate Points. You can start with 1 to 4 of them. Each Fate Point can be used to make a reroll once per session, and they can be permanently used up to avoid dying.
  • The Paladin: The Adepta Sororitas career introduced with The Inquisitor's Handbook. Each is an Action Girl, to varying degrees, and they can use Fate Points in unique ways to manifest "acts of faith." However, they lose these abilities if they gain more than a small amount of corruption points, and the very fact of who they are limits and dictates how they behave and what they do. For this reason, the book recommends limiting this class to experienced roleplayers.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Biomancers can do some... interesting things with their abilities. They also have a tendency to be huge party animals, as they can engage in gluttony and debauchery and still remain fit and healthy through use of their powers.
  • Properly Paranoid: Stands out as a games system where having paranoia is not a character flaw, but a purchasable Talent that grants bonuses (namely, +2 to initiative and the ability to make Awareness checks in situations normal people couldn't). A number of role-playing suggestions are given for people who take the Talent but nothing that mechanically impairs you in any way.
  • Psychic Powers: Psykers are available as a career path. They're powerful, but using psychic abilities has a chance of going horribly wrong if the Random Number God-Emperor does not smile upon you.
  • Religion Is Magic: The Blood of Martyrs supplement includes a lot of options of this nature.
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: An upgrade that removes a melee weapon's poor armor penetration against "modern" armor. In the second edition it's limited to edged weapons, but in the first it's not so you can technically have a mono-molecular staff or hammernote .
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Very much averted, especially when compared to equivalent weapons from the tabletop game. However, thanks to their special rules, shotguns are still most effective at point-blank range. Notably, weapons generally have no Arbitrary Maximum Range, just a range beyond which scoring a hit is extremely improbable.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous.
    • One in particular is a quote from a Vindicare Assassin designated LIIVI, who (probably just) shares a name with a character from one of 40K's most popular fanfics, Love Can Bloom.
      • A name and a target: The cover picture of the Ascension GM section has a Vindicare stalking a Farseer...
    • One example from the core rulebook is a quote from one "'Verbal' Boze", a Scum.
    • Who was the rogue trader who discovered the Calixis sector, and whose family line continues to cause trouble there to this day? Captain Haarlock.
    • We're on a mission from the God-Emperor.
    • Adept Grendel, a character from a /tg/ copypasta famous for one-shotting a Charnel Demon was featured on the Radical's Handbook preview.
    • The Skin Taker of Fedrid is an invisible monster that kills for no apparent reason and takes grisly trophies from its prey. Sound familiar? Curiously, while "technologically-advanced alien big game hunter" is implied as a possible identity for the Skin Taker in its description, neither of the two writeups provided for it take this form.
    • The writeup for the Menagerie takes strong inspiration from The King in Yellow.
    • From a quote for one of the Imperial Psyker Career Ranks: 'He says he's solved the riddle of steel, sire'.
    • Among the Daemon Hunter career options is "Agent of Reliquary 26".
    • The possible Forge World homeworlds include Heterodyne Station, a feudal world where the Adeptus Mechnicus has integrated the Machine Cult with a more primitive general populace.
    • Book of Judgment includes a quote from a villain lamenting that she could have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for those meddling Acolytes.
    • One of the "mental conditioning" backgrounds for Sanctioned Psykers in 1st edition gives mention of the character having a scarred right hand and lingering distrust of bald women.
    • The subtletly mechanism in DH 2nd edition explains a high subtlety rating with the words "Surprise is amongst the Acolytes' primary weapons."
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: The cover of The Inquisitor's Handbook splat features a Sister of Battle (unusually fully helmeted) carrying a boltgun so over-built that it looks like she would have difficulty lifting it without her Powered Armor.
  • Sniper Pistol: Easy and effective to set up. Red Dot sight (+10 to hit) and the Extreme Range talent (no penalty to shots up to double maximum effective range) mean you can take your hand cannon and start dealing with Heresy from any distance.
  • Space People: Voidborn, one of the "Homeworld" backgrounds for the PCs, are this trope due to being descended from crews who have served aboard the starships — many of which are large enough to hold a city-sized populace and cemented their status as Generation Ships — for centuries, if not millennium.
  • Splash Damage Abuse: An advantage of grenades is that they do not need to land at a target's feet to do their damage, they just need to land in the target's general area. This makes them ideal for cell members who lack combat specialization to still contribute in a fight. Chucking a grenade into the cover enemies are using will either significantly damage those enemies or flush them into the open for the thrower's more combat-skilled teammates to finish off.
  • Splat: The different character classes/career paths (Adepts, Arbiters, Assassins, Clerics, Guardsmen, Sanctioned Psykers, Scum, and Tech-Priests), as well as splats for world of origin (Feral, Imperial, Hive, or Void-Born). The Inquisitor's Handbook adds the Adepta Sororitas career path, rules for alternate homeworld types and specific homeworlds, and sub-splats (Background Packages, Alternate Career Ranks, and Elite Advances) dedicated to covering world-specific variants of the greater career paths and life-changing events in an acolyte's career. Ascension adds "ascended" versions of all the base classes (Sages, Judges, Death Cult / Vindicare Assassins, Hierophants, Storm Troopers, Primaris Psykers, Desperados, and Magi respectively, though there is some overlap), as well as the Crusader, Interrogator and Inquisitor ascended careers. And then there's The Radical's Handbook, which adds evil versions of a lot of these splats. Is your snowflake special enough yet?
  • Spy Catsuit: Appears as armor option referred to as an "armored bodyglove". The term "armored" is used rather loosely, as just about everything that has some armor penetration value will punch through it. But it is justified as a base layer of armor that can help provide protection to the limbs if they're lacking better armor pieces or if the top layer of armor should be damaged somehow. Or for those who prefer being stealthy, be it by not making a lot of noise or wearing highly visible armor or being able to conceal the fact they're wearing armor under regular attire.
  • State Sec: The Player Characters are members, ranking from an operative cell in the base book to high peers in Ascension.
  • Super Soldier: If the Vindicare Assassin wasn't enough, the Daemon Hunter supplement includes rules for Grey Knights, the most superior of the Imperium's Super Soldiers. At least until 8th Edition gave us Neo-Custodians... Deathwatch also includes suggestions for how to integrate Deathwatch Marines into games of Dark Heresy.
  • Take Cover!: Given how deadly combat in this game is, and how effective cover is at preventing a character from getting hit, this is practically a necessity against opponents with guns. Even well-armored characters will usually want to get into cover to prevent a Death of a Thousand Cuts from the little Scratch Damage that manages to get through their protection.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Ascension supplement, which allows players to become Inquisitors and Throne Agents a la Eisenhorn or Ravenor, is this for the entire line as a whole. Any character carried over from the stock leveling system will literally be taking a level in some variety of badass when they make the transition.
  • Torture Technician: You are. There are plenty of rules, skills, and guides to cover all the fun and interesting ways players can extract useful information. Unique among RPGs is that the Cleric has the abilities to best fill this role.
  • Trap Master: Acuitor Mech-Assassins are Techpriests who have been initiated into a secret society that destroys threats to the Priesthood of Mars. Fiddling with tech so that they become deadly to said enemies is the preferred method, and their universal Trait makes them very good at it.
  • Un-Cancelled: The unusual circumstances behind the game's cancellation and uncancellation, both within a month of its initial release, are explained more fully on that page.
  • Villain Protagonist: Seriously, if you play an inquisitor team faithfully and accurately to the background of this universe, you can rarely be anything BUT this.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Over the course of a campaign, you will bribe, torture, and murder. You may even set entire planets to the flame. You'll do it because everything you're up against is so much worse.

    Tropes specific to the First Edition and Calixis Sector 
  • Aliens are Bastards: The Slaugth are a race of brain-eating xenos native to the Calixia Sector who consider humans to be their favoured prey.
  • Arc Words: Not for the game as a whole, but the phrase "come and see" is obviously intended to be used as Arc Words in any storyline involving the Menagerie.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Plasma guns shoot miniature suns as ammunition. Unfortunately, the ones in the First Edition corebook are also hideously expensive, slow to reload, prone to disastrous overheating, require time to recharge between each shot, and (as of Errata 2.0) only do about as much damage as a bolter. This was gradually addressed as the game matured (the plasma weapons included in the Inquisitor's Handbook have a bit more bite to them, and Ascension introduces the rules for "military-grade" plasma weapons included in Rogue Trader), and is entirely averted in Second Edition.
    • If the GM is being stingy with the Thrones, even the iconic bolter can descend into Awesome, but Impractical territory in First Edition, since each individual bolt round costs the same as three hundred and twenty bullets — leaving the poor Guardsman to decide whether he wants to shoot the giant gribbly monster with his bolter, or eat for the next two weeks. And that's before you get to the fully-automatic heavy bolter. It costs four hundred and eighty Thrones to fire this gun for fifteen seconds. When the rulebook says that "a man might beggar himself to own one," it is not kidding. Again, averted for Second Edition, due to changes in how requisitioning gear works.
  • Anti-Villain: Ascension gives us Imperial Governor Malaki Vess of Zweihan’s World, one of the few hive worlds in the Imperium that isn't a Crapsack World. However, the Administratum is about to levy heavier tithes that will change all that, and so Vess plans to secede from the Imperium in a desperate attempt to keep his world from falling apart.
  • Battle Butler: On the feudal hell of Sepheris Secundus, potential uprisings are prevented by strict rules about who is allowed what military power. Only nobles of baronial rank are allowed household troops, and only the Royal Scourges reporting directly to the throne above them are allowed carapace armor and lasguns. Nobles of lesser rank are not allowed any military force. However, it is an open secret that lesser nobles tend to employ a disproportionately large number of servants who happen to have combat training and can turn something like a kitchen knife into a deadly weapon, should the household ever be threatened.
  • Brown Note: The appearance of Komus, the Tyrant Star, in a system has been known to drive entire planets insane.
  • Came Back Wrong: The Sarcosan Wave Generator a.k.a Anima Chorus is a Heretek device that originated in the Calixis sector and can bring the dead back to life. While the resurrected dead retains most of their old personality, the soul is gone so there's something off about the resurrected (though they do get superhuman strength and toughness in return). Additionally the resurrected depend on the unique energies provided by the Anima Chorus and if it gets disabled, they die again.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Pilgrims of Hayte, the iconic example of a Chaos cult in it For the Evulz.
  • Church of Happyology: One adventure includes a particular Cult of the Emperor called "The Joyous Choir" with a central dogma that the God-Emperor wants his subjects to be happy, and they can be happy by finding their true place in His plan. People are judged on how close they are to their place in the Emperor's will by use of an electronic scanning device, and based on the results of that scan they receive coaching from the cult's priests. Many young planetary nobles have joined, and have indeed enjoyed greater prosperity for themselves since joining. Of course, a rational-minded Inquisitor will point out that by forming various cooperative and trade agreements between nobles who are members, of course they will find their fortunes benefit. Said cult also has some records it would very much like to keep from public exposure...
  • Crapsack World: In addition to the general crapsackiness of the 40k universe as a whole, you have the feudal hell that is Sepheris Secundus; the "Scrivener's System" of Prol, where a civil war is literally brewing because they're running out of places to store all the paperwork); Klybo, where various settlement attempts have been so spectacularly unsuccessful that the planet's name has become the Calixian equivalent of "SNAFU"; and Hive Volg, a city-sized combination of sewage treatment plant, acidic swamp, and Polluted Wasteland filled with mutated monsters and murderous convicts— a place some consider to be the worst place in the Calixis Sector, which is saying something.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Par for the course among the Imperial nobility on more established worlds, but this is the particular hat of the hive world Malfi, who take it Up to Eleven. They are not necessarily all evil, but it is an environment in which one must lie, mislead, backstab, and maintain the courtly masquerade, or suffer long torments as those who do rip their rivals' houses apart over the course of years.
  • Death World: The Calixis Sector has its fair share.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The leaders of one of the Lathe Worlds decided that their task of ammunition production was beneath their status, so they petitioned the Mechanicus leadership to have it moved elsewhere to free up their factories and laboratories for a new great work. After this was done, it turned out they didn't actually have anything in mind so now the entire planet's assembly lines and labor force are standing idle while they try to think of something.
  • Dying Planet: The world of Sinophia at the edge of the Calixis Sector was the staging point for the Angevin Crusade that brought the sector into the Imperium millennia ago. At that time, Sinophia's infrastructure and economy were greatly expanded to support the crusade, and the world benefitted as immigrants arrived, industry flourished, and the planet became wealthy and influential. However, as the crusade wound down and the conquered worlds settled fully into the Imperium, the importance and influence of Siophia declined. These days, the world is slowly decaying, in a perpetual economic downturn, with a shrinking population, an unmaintained infrastructure, and various noble houses bickering among one another with none able to wield the influence to steer the planet to recovery.
  • Exact Words: Assod Morirr, the Big Bad of the Baron Hopes adventure, has made a pretty sweet deal with the Ruinous Powers. In exchange for his service, he was promised that he could only be hurt by the blood of his Arch-Enemy, Baron Ulbrexis. When said enemy falls in battle with no heirs or relatives around, Morirr is convinced that he has become invincible. And sure enough, the players can't do any sort of damage to him... unless they choose to soak their weapons in the Baron's blood.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Misericord, one of the Generation Ships in the sector, implemented a rigid caste system based on the occupations of the crews.
  • Feudal Future: In line with the wider setting, but Sepheris Secundus takes the cake. The gap between the nobility and the serfs is wide even by Imperial standards, the world is technologically barely above Medieval Stasis, and yet is tithed more heavily than most worlds in the sector, for its minerals are quite valuable. While most serious mining worlds in the Imperium use powered mining tools and explosives for excavation, Sepheris has to get by on hand tools and backbreaking labor. While most populated worlds give their population some Bread and Circuses, the serfs on Sepheris get more work. While other Imperial citizens get to go to temples to worship, the Sepheris serfs get yelled at by lay-preachers while they push heavy mining carts. While other Imperial commoners have some flexibility in how they choose to serve the God-Emperor, vocation on Sepheris is determined exclusively by birth. The one time a local noble did try to introduce more advanced mining techniques, education, and progressive social restructuring, he was brought down by other nobles who thought he was making a power-play.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: The end of The Apostasy Gambit involves the Acolytes entering a section of The Maze of Tzeentch that resembles a constantly shifting Hedge Maze. This is the domain of the Dei-Phage, a powerful daemon inhabiting the body of Saint Drusus who shelters there to perform a dread ritual that could tear that Calaxis Sector apart.
  • For Science!: The Logicians cult is perfectly happy to slaughter millions of people (at a time) in the name of returning humanity to its technological golden age.
  • Generation Ships: Misericord is one of these tropes due to its unending charter voyage from one planet to the next, which it stopped to replenish both supplies and crews (the latter needed to enrich its genepool).
  • Hazmat Suit: The Vile Savants, daemons of Nurgle responsible for one of his Zombie Apocalypse plagues, take the form of a walking hazmat suit filled to the brim with pestilent filth and diseased maggots. You can also buy a regular Hazmat suit used by sewer workers that gives you resistance against fire and acid, but it's not meant for combat so it has heavy penalties to Agility.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Unknown Heretic is an in-universe example of this — the only person in existence to be branded Excommunicate Traitoris by the Inquisition without anyone being certain he actually exists.
  • Honest Rolls Character: Very nearly. You get one reroll for your chosen stat, but stats must still be rolled and placed in order and there are no official rules for a Point Build System.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Creatures Anathema supplement gives us the Xothic Blood Locust, a literal case of this trope. Interstellar travelers may unknowingly carry their eggs on their clothes or in cargoes they pick up, which can lead to disastrous swarms when they hatch on some other world. Their name comes from their preference for draining blood from living creatures, which a swarm of them can do completely in a matter of seconds, though they will consume almost any organic fluid they can find. The same supplement also gives profiles for Genestealers and Lictors, which are the harbingers of alien locusts orders of magnitude worse...
  • Horror Hunger: An early side effect of the use of a Halo device (see below). It just gets uglier from there.
  • Immortality Immorality: Dark Pacts of Longevity, which involve selling your soul to a daemon, and the Halo Devices, which turn you into an inhumanly cruel, cannibalistic, immortal, insane, super strong, nigh invulnerable, lightning fast abomination against all sanity.
  • Knight Templar: The main villains of the Apostasy Gambit trilogy, Maledictor's Hand— i.e., the people who believe the Calixis sector is utterly corrupt and should be cleansed... and use the power of Tzeentch himself to bring this about. At least the Inquisitors have a relatively high smart-to-dumbass ratio. The Maledictor's Hand doesn't even have that excuse.
  • Medieval Stasis: While this is generally true of any world classified as "Feudal", the Calixis Sector has a few that stand out as especially strong and unusual examples:
    • Iocanthos is a world where a substantial portion of the population is composed of nomadic armies which wander the surface and clash with each other when they meet. These armies search for fields where the "Ghostfire Flower" grows, collecting them when they find them and turning them over to the Adepta as the planet's tithe. Because the pollen from these flowers can be refined into a variant of Frenzon, the tithe is quite valuable and the warlord of the army that gathers the most is considered the de facto ruler of the planet. The Ghostfire fields only seem to bloom in places where blood was spilled in great quantities, so farming it has proven ineffective, and it is generally in the Administratum's interest to keep the fighting there crude, so they accept the tithe and offer needed supplies, weapons, food, and fuel in return. With this external support, the economy can be focused entirely around mobilizing populations for war.
    • Sepheris Secundus is another example. See Feudal Future above for more detail on that. Suffice to say its mining techniques and infrastructure are all at pre-industrial levels, yet its tithe is so heavy it does not have room to back off and reinvest in better techniques. Even if it did, such a change in the way the society operated would threaten the careful system of hierarchical castes that benefit the ruling class immensely, and those with the power to modernize the planet have no political will to do so.
  • Mole in Charge: The Apostasy Gambit trilogy reveals that Arch Cardinal Ignato, the highest religious authority in the Calixis sector, is one of the founding and leading members of the Maledictor's Hand, a group of Imperial priests dedicated to cleansing the Calixis sector of all sinners in a great religious apocalypse. One of the splat books reveals his number two man is the head of the Temple Tendency, a completely unrelated religious conspiracy.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: The end result of a Halo Device's decades-long transformation is something that is barely human on the outside, has alien thought patterns, and can (according to legend) come back from certain death (as in "from total physical obliteration").
  • Mind-Control Device: Invoked with Oblivion Volitors, heretek brain implants that literally eat your soul.
  • Riddle for the Ages: There are quite a few of these, since lots of mysteries are set up as plot hooks to be resolved however the GM desires. The biggest one is the true nature of the Tyrant Star.
  • Title Drop: The High Gothic name for the Tyrant Star, Hereticus Tenebrae, is Dog Latin for "Dark Heresy."
  • Urban Segregation: Sepheris Secundus is a particularly extreme example of this, even by typical Warhammer 40,000 standards.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Logician cult. See For Science!, above.
  • Weird Sun: Given the liberal amounts of Eldritch Abominations that inhabit the galaxy, it's pretty much a given that some of them will mess with a planet's sun. Or sometimes be the sun. The Tyrant Star is a notable example.
  • The Worm That Walks: The alien Slaugth, masterminds behind the Amaranthine Syndicate.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Outbreaks of the walking dead are frightfully common in the Calixis Sector. There are a surprising number of varieties as well.

    Tropes specific to the Second Edition and Askellon Sector 
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Light Power Armor. It's the best armor available to Acolytes in the base rule book... for 1d5 hours of use at a time. Absolutely great if your warband is gearing up, then immediately hitting a target location that you expect will lead to a very violent fight. If however you're planning to do anything that may take longer than a few hours? Then well, hope you enjoy being on a rather strict time limit before having your very rare suit power down on you. It's also not exactly the most subtle armor to be wearing either if your warband is trying to keep a low profile. The meager advantage in protection value it holds over Carapace armor, and the minor Strength bonus, hardly justify the weakness of the power supply and increased chance of being hit in the first place.
      • In fact, it's much more cost-effective to take the Carapace armour and give it the Powered modification, and only activate it when needed.
    • Storm Bolters. They have have the Tearing and Storm qualities, meaning they can score extra hits, have a better chance at higher damage rolls, as well as Righteous Fury. The problem is, because they are extremely rare, and how requisitioning items works via Influence and Subtlety, just simply asking for ammo can draw unwanted attention to an acolyte or warband, and turn into a Luck-Based Mission unless they have plenty of Influence. The other option, is to choose to burn Influence, but the amount lost is random, and can be anything from minor, to a rather significant loss that can take several missions to recover. All just to acquire, and make sure the weapon has enough ammo to make the most use out of it.
  • Boring, but Practical: Because not every problem requires bolter rounds, seething plasma, or Exterminatus to end some plot against the Imperium:
    • Las weaponry in general. While most of them will struggle versus highly armored foes, they are among some the easiest to acquire weapons, have a large number of shots per power cell, and the lasgun, laspistol, and longlas sniper variants have a variable setting that can up their damage at the cost of some extra shots, as well as having the Reliable quality to them, meaning you have to have some really bad luck to have a weapon jam with them.
      • The longlas also comes with the Accurate quality to it, which means whenever someone using them spends just some, or all of one turn Aiming, the gun get's a massive boost to the BS check, and extra damage for each degree of success. And pistol, gun, and long las weapons, also have access to Hot-Shot charge packs which are one-shot packs that increase damage, and hefty boost to armor penetration, and grant the Tearing quality to that shot which helps improve the chances of a good damage roll.
      • The Hot-shot Laspistol and Lasgun (aka: Hellpistols or Hellguns that Imperial Storm Troopers use) are this, when it comes to the higher end weapons that one can get. While more difficult to get than most regular weapon, it's still much easier to get, and keep a healthy stock of ammo for than other high end weapons, such as Bolters, Plasma, and Melta weapons. They don't have any particular special traits, nor do they have any major drawbacks. They do however, pack enough Penetration rating for virtually anything short of the most monstrous and deadly of foes, while still packing very decent amounts of shots per power cell.
    • The Solid Projectile weapon class as well. Still pretty easy to acquire, hardly look out of place carrying any of the pistols, and even a few of the rifles and shotguns for investigations. The other reason they make for good choices, is the wide variety of special ammo they have access to, allowing an someone to tailor their ammo to specific threats. This also allows their usefulness to scale with the warband's influence: rather than replacing their proven weapons with ones they may be less familiar with, they can start loading them with rarer and more powerful forms of ammunition as their network builds.
      • The other reason for the Solid-Projectile weapons, is that Autopistols, Autoguns, and Heavy Stubbers all have access to a full-auto fire setting. Now combine that bit of info, with the above mentioned special ammo, and put it all in the hands of an Acolyte who's got some decent Ballistic Skill scores, and suddenly there will be a lot of lead on target. Put these in the hands of one of the less combat capable Acolytes, and congratulations! Your warband has just found itself its new dedicated support gunner to spam Suppressing Fire actions to force Pinning checks on enemies.
  • City of Adventure: While the whole of the Askellon Sector is available to investigate, most of the granular setting detail in the core book and early modules is Hive Desoleum, which is vast enough to contain several adventures of its own.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: The Grand Processional, a corridor of extremely stable and well-mapped warp space passing through Askellon, with a few "tributary" stable but shorter warp routes branching off of it. Given the relative ease with which it is traversed, all of Askellon's most important worlds lie along the Grand Processional, and most are directly supplied by worlds along their nearest tributaries. This makes Askellon an economic powerhouse of a sector... when the Pandemonium is not raging across it.
  • I Gave My Word: Characters originating on Hive Desoleum take the oaths they swear seriously, as the whole social system of it is based on the swearing and honoring of oaths (see Weird Currency below.) As a result, they gain willpower bonuses on any checks that directly involve fulfilling an oath they have previously sworn.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Characters from the Adepta Sororitas background are so devout and pure of faith that they never gain corruption points. However, in any situation where they would have gained corruption points, they gain an equivalent amount of insanity points instead.
    • Power Born of Madness: The Battle Sister elite advance (only available to characters from the Adepta Soroitas background) has several combat talents that require certain minimum levels of insanity to purchase, and only get more powerful the greater her insanity score becomes. For a Battle Sister, damage to her psyche manifests as increasingly insanely faithful zeal.
  • Nay-Theist: Frohrn the Slayer, chieftain of the Gwydrae, the nomad tribe living in the wasteland outside the Desoleum Hive, hates all forms of religion and spirituality, seeing them as a threat to his people's traditional way of life. The chieftain is notorious for his exceptional cruelty towards representatives of the Ecclesiarchy, but on the other hand he has no mercy for Chaos cultists fleeing from Imperial persecution and trying to hide in the desert.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: The Calixis Sector has a relatively large Inquisitorial presence, owing to (and sometimes the cause of) the many conspiracies and strange phenomena that take place there. By contrast, the nearby Askellon Sector has very little Inquisitorial interest, despite its reputation as a Wretched Hive of damnation. Some think it is too far gone to save, and that it is prophesied to fall, others believe it can be saved and redeemed. Plus the last time there was a major Inquisitorial presence there they ended up fighting amongst themselves and destroyed several planets. Consequently, any Inquisitorial cell there will find themselves isolated from institutional backup.
  • The Perfectionist: The hat of Forge World Selvanus Binary, run by High Fabricator Dinuum. They practice an extremely orthodox interpretation of the Universal Laws, and their attention to detail in manufacturing is second to none. Everything is built to extremely exacting tolerances, and anything that deviates even the most minor amount from these tolerances is grounds to discard the entire thing and start again. As a result, Selvanian products have a reputation for extreme quality, but their rate of production is so necessarily slow that their overall level of output is well below expectation for a Forge World of its kind. The Quorum Primus tries to argue that Selvanus Binary needs to balance its quality of production with quantity of production, but Dinuum rebuts that any intentional compromise in quality would be blasphemous to the Ommnisiah, a point they cannot in good theology disagree with.
  • Police are Useless: The Sanctionaries are the law enforcement force in Hive Desoleum, but their enforcement is almost strictly on making sure the oaths system is upheld, beating those who renege on fulfilling their oaths and ensuring counterfeiting or tampering with oath cogs goes punished. Unfortunately, this focus leaves them with less training or ability to investigate other issues. Those who can afford one will hire private investigators when they need to, and subversive or heretical elements can operate almost with impunity... until the Inquisition shows up.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The Pandemonium, a warp storm that comes and goes, shutting down warp travel and interstellar communication through and beyond the sector on a semi-regular, long cycle. However, each time The Pandemonium comes, it does so stronger than before, lasting longer and doing more human, economic, and moral damage to the sector than it did the previous times. In the "present day" of the game, portents, navigators, and psychic scrying show that The Pandemonium is approaching again, and this time with unprecedented fury. The greater danger in the sector at present is seen as a sign of its coming, and some believe that Askellon will not survive the coming period of darkness.
  • Weird Currency: Hive Desoleum uses sworn oaths as a form of currency, with the oaths that a person or institution owns recorded into fabulously complex clockwork devices with numerous tiny cogs. These oath cogs allow oaths to be transferred from one to another and are legal tender for public debts. The size of the oath cog is directly related to the wealth it can contain, so the lower class laborers typically have oath cogs the size of a wristwatch, a noble probably has one the size of a lantern, entire noble households and major institutions might have an entire room dedicated to housing one.


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