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Tabletop Game / Only War

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Die standing.

''Men, we are the first, last and often only line of defence the Imperium has against what is out there. You and that fine piece of Imperial weaponry you hold in your hands is all that is keeping humanity alive. Most of you will probably not live to see your second year in the Guard and most of you will probably never see your homeworlds again, but I can guarantee you that when you do fall, with a prayer to the most high and mighty God-Emperor on your lips, you will have earned the right to call yourself a man!”
Staff Sergeant Vermak, 12th Cadian Shock Regiment

Only War is the fifth gameline to use the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay system, this time focusing on the common soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Players get put into the shoes of your average Imperial soldier, thrown into the endless meat-grinder of war and slaughter that defines the 41st millennium, with only your lasguns, flak-armor and faith in the Emperor to protect you and your squad. The Imperial Guard are the common soldiers of the Imperium, the brunt of the Imperial forces, and the first to be sent to die in any conflict.

Needless to say, this RPG offers — perhaps more than any other RPG in the line — the ability to become truly Badass Normal; because your characters aren't rich and/or influential like in Rogue Trader, superhuman Space Marines like in Deathwatch, 'blessed' by Chaos like in Black Crusade, or have the backing of the Inquisition like in Dark Heresy. Only War is also unique in that it is the only Warhammer 40,000 RPG that focuses primarily on the part that made the franchise popular in the first place — the warfare.

The game was released December 17, 2012. Now (as of 2017) out of print, with Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop ending their partnership (and thus FFG losing the Warhammer licensing).

See also Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch and Black Crusade for its sister Warhammer 40,000 RPG gamelines.

This game provides examples of:

  • Ace Custom: Downplayed with regard to weapons. Weapons which are standard issue or regimental favored can be modified and customized for their users. Gun Accessories are obvious, but many more subtle changes can be made, such as custom ergonomics on grips and stocks, weight reductions, structural reinforcements, alterations to the trigger, action, or magazine fittings, etc. Often these will give minor bonuses to the user for which it is customized, while incurring minor penalties if anyone else tries to use it (due to unfamiliarity with the changes from the stock model.)
  • Ace Pilot: The Operator speciality is a general driver/pilot class that could be this, combine this with a drop troop regiment and you have a player that can drop his fellow players right in the fight, then soar off and help gun down enemies high in the sky.
  • Action Duo:
    • The Comrade system where characters of most specialisations have a NPC soldier tagging along. Players can give orders to their Comrades to add benefits for that turn, such as telling them to fire with the player at a target, increasing the chance for the player to hit said target. Players can even buy specialisation-unique orders for XP.
    • Notably averted with Commissars and Storm Troopers, who for various IC professional/OOC balance reasons fight alone. Commissars have a set of advances that relate to how they deal with other characters' Comrades, however, whereas Storm Troopers can basically become a second Comrade to the rest of their squad through their advances.
  • Amazonian Beauty: The character art for the Heavy Gunner class shows a towering Catachan woman wielding a large backpack-fed flamer. Given that people from Catachan are all tall, have Heroic Builds, and wear tanktops that bare their arms and shoulders, including the women, this is presumably true of any female character from a Catachan regiment.
  • Ammunition Backpack: A common attachment to many military grade weapons. Given that the characters are in the military, this is much more frequently available in Only War compared to most of the other Warhammer 40,000 role playing games. The obvious exception is the Devastator of the Deathwatch, since their heavy bolters chew up ammo of such individual cartridge size that they more or less require an ammunition backpack.
  • Amusing Injuries: The description of the Gorn in the Critical Damage table and the following pages is played for Black Comedy ("The target is very dead.").
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Penal Legion regiments. Also, there's a Doctrine that puts extra emphasis on the "Thieves" part.
  • Ascended Extra: One option that Game Masters sometimes use in the event a Player Character gets killed off is to take their comrade and Promote Them To Player Character Status, with the player of the killed character taking control of them. This has the advantage of the character already being established within the group, and the fact that they worked with the other player character within their group role means they can step up and take that role themselves without much difficulty.
  • Ascended Meme: The meme of "Commissar Dan"note  is given a nod in the Enemies of the Imperium supplement with a quote by one "Commissar Daniel Sterne" ordering a Basilisk artillery platform to ram the enemy.note 
  • The Atoner: Penitent regiments (not to be confused with Penal Legions) are often these.
  • Authority Tropes: It's easier to simply point you to the military section than link them all individually. This is because (in addition to the Sergeant specialty covering all related tropes) nearly all of them are roughly options in the regiment creation rules, where the players can pick what kind of CO they have for a variety of effects.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Enforced by the Logistics system. There are plenty of powerful weapons, vehicles, and armor that a regiment can potentially use, but whether they can actually keep them operational after any length of action or just get them on time in the first place is another matter entirely.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Want your squad to roll around in a Chimera? Mounted regiments get one per squad for free. Heck, even squads that are not normally mounted may be issued one on occasion if they have reason to go on a detached mission that requires moderately swift travel.
  • Badass Normal: Emphasis on normal. Except for Sanctioned Psykers and the abhumans, anyway.
  • The Bait: An Order available for purchase in Hammer of the Emperor allows a particularly ruthless Player Character to order his Comrade to serve as bait. Said order explicitly only works if the Comrade is outside of cohesion with the Player Character, and therefore far more vulnerable to harm than he would be if he were in cohesion.
  • Band of Brothers: To be expected in a war-themed RPG.
  • Beta Test: An interesting non-Video Game version. Several months before its official release, Fantasy Flight Games released a near-complete, fully-playable .pdf version of the Only War core rulebook through online vendors such as, and collected feedback from those who purchased the game regarding rules balance and other issues. These suggestions were then incorporated into the final revision of the game released in December 2012.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: In an odd twist for this universe, this trope is actually somewhat subverted-the Imperial Guard is presented very sympathetically and with a great emphasis on True Companions, about as close to white as this game gets. The other guys still range from "off-black" to "black hole"; about the nicest threat in the core setting is the Kroot, with the rest being conned by a complete bastard (Severan Dominate); Dark Eldar and all that implies; and Orks. With the occasional splash of curious Chaos reavers.
  • Black Comedy: Some of the flavor quotes:
    This ain't training, trooper, this is the real thing. Those are real bullets and real bombs. This is war. If you want to make it through the next few hours alive, you better do exactly as I say and exactly as I do.
    Sargent Rince Klebb, Baraspian 3rd Rifles, shortly before being devoured by a xenos horror

    That's right, I'm the best shot in the platoon. I could shoot the pipe from an officer's mouth at 300 meters. Don't believe me?
    Guardsman Varrant, six minutes before his execution
  • Bling of War: One of the non-XP reward options is a series of medals that can be earned by a player, the unit as a whole, or as part of a campaign. All of them give the entire squad benefits, so in general the more the better (although sometimes earning them can be costly).
  • Boring, but Practical: Josef Stalin famously said "quantity has a quality all its own" and that goes for The Squad's equipment. Often the most effective squads are those that can do amazing things with the most accessible of equipment. There is a reason the Imperial Guard uses so many easily manufactured lasguns and flak armor, and the Logistics system reflects that some things grunts in the field just have more dependable access to.
    • Weapon Specialists are your standard no-frills Guardsman characters with decent HP, good Comrade advances and access to good starting weapons including the humble lasgun, the flamer, the shotgun, more exotic fare like the meltagun and the grenade launcher, and close combat weapons too. Any squad from any kind of army would find a Weapons Specialist valuable.
    • Heavy Stubbers. Though they don't have the sheer power of Autocannons or Heavy Bolters, they can still threaten infantry and light vehicles, laying down a withering hail of high-calibre shots while being relatively light and easy to maintain. They can be mounted atop the pintle-mounts of tanks or carried by foot troops (even survive being handled by Ogyrns), and produced by planets with only very limited production infrastructure and technical expertise. And best of all, it is functionally no different from contemporary heavy machine guns of our time — in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, John Browning's genius only aged like fine wine.
  • The Brigadier: The regiment's commanding officer fills this role, though exactly how straight they play it will depend on what their temperament is. The specifics will have a strong effect on the practices and attitude of the regiment as a whole.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Imperial flak armour shines through again, especially when a war-themed RPG being more likely to put you in harms way. Also very easy to start with if the group creates/choose the right regiment. It's very inexpensive to upgrade your regiment's armor to Good Craftsmanship (and Best Craftsmanship is even somewhat reasonable).
  • Cannon Fodder: What you and your squad basically are, at character creation, at least. It is up to the party to prove themselves Surprisingly Elite.
  • Chain of Deals: As With This Herring below details, sometimes the equipment and supplies the players get are not the equipment and supplies they actually need. Hence the time-honored military tradition of swapping and bartering to get what they want comes into play, and savvy characters will be able to exploit this. Just make sure that the CO and local Commissars are willing to look the other way or unaware that these deals are happening, since implying that the God-Emperor is not providing adequately for the needs of His Guardsmen is technically heresy, though an understandable one among the chaos of war...
  • Chicken Walker: Want your entire company to go around in Sentinels? That is a perfectly possible option.
  • Church Militant: Only War expands on some Dark Heresy fluff material by introducing the Maccabian Janissaries, an Imperial Guard regiment raised from the Shrine World of Maccabeus Quintus, obsessed with the worship of Saint Drusus, the hero of the Angevin Crusades that founded the Calixis Sector. They are explicitly described as primarily consisting of pilgrims who came to Maccabeus out of religious fervour, couldn't afford the transit fees home, and chose to band together as a formal Guard regiment and take holy Drusus's fight to the stars. Although they use the same ranks and terminology as the rest of the Guard, they stand out even amongst the Imperium as being particularly keen on the whole holy war thing.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Happens often when the squad needs certain skills and has trouble finding a good match among the members. It applies double to bad logistics rolls. The squad will rarely get everything they want, but they will be expected to make do and find a way to make what they do have work. One example would be using an Operator specialist as a technical expert: while an Enginseer might be more appropriate, an Operator might have enough necessary familiarity with common tech-rites to take a stab at technical problems.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Ogryn who are not organized into their own squads will usually have one squad member attached to them as their minders to keep them from breaking things accidentally off the battlefield and keep them pointed at the enemy during battle. The Ogryn usually become obsessively loyal to their "little 'un" companion.
  • Continuity Nod: Several, mostly to Dark Heresy and Deathwatch, but a few others slip in besides:
    • The Death Korps of Kreig regiments on the Spinward Front are a recent arrival, having been diverted from the relatively nearby Siege of Vraks (a conflict elaborated on in the Forgeworld-published Imperial Armour books, volumes 5, 6, and 7.)
    • The Enemies Of the Imperium supplement begins a section on mutants and heretics with a short speech from Eliphas The Inheritor from Dark Crusade.
    • The description of Kasrkin regiments in Hammer of the Emperor includes a synopsis of the Lorn V campaign from Dawn of War: Winter Assault.
    • Hammer of the Emperor also contains builds for playing a few of the more famous specific Imperial Guard regiments in the fiction:
  • Cool Horse: Hammer of the Emperor includes options for Rough Riders, the Imperial Guard's cavalry. Included among those options are mounts that aren't exactly horses.
  • Covered in Scars: Brontian Longknives come from a prize world settled long ago by retiring Guard regiments, and they maintain their memory of this by engaging in tradition of ceremonial mock-warfare conducted exclusively with blades where a fighter is "out" at first blood. Scars on the front of the body are considered a sign of valor and a source of pride, scars on the back are considered a sign of cowardice and a source of shame. Many Brontians intentionally wear little to no clothes over their torsos to better show these off.
  • Critical Hit: Dark Heresy's love of the Chunky Salsa Rule is carried over here to the surprise of no one, but now there's also Stuff Blowing Up thanks to a matching series of charts for vehicles. You do NOT want to be in a tank's turret when it reaches 10 Critical Wounds, unless you wanted your ashes spread through the stratosphere.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: Hammer of the Emperor declares the Eldar ending in Dawn of War: Winter Assault as the canon one. General Sturnn and his 412nd Cadians were betrayed and slain by the perfidious aliens and the survivors had to flee, leaving the Titan to be destroyed.
  • Death from Above: Artillery regiments who sling shells down on their enemies, or drop regiments who have their infantry descend on the enemy from above. The Master of Ordinance advanced specialization in Hammer of the Emperor is all about this.
  • Demolitions Expert: The Breacher advanced specialization in Hammer of the Emperor is for characters who want to focus on this.
  • Dragon Rider: The Orks assaulting Cuyavale have been attempting to tame the aggressive, predatory Drakons native to the planet. At least some have seen some success, and have been spotted riding one of the flying beasts as a form of aerial transport.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Exists in the form of the Never Die talent, which literally means that your character will basically shrug off even the worst injuries and keep on fighting until all the enemies are gone, critical effects be damned. This allows him to fight at full capacity when by all respects he should be almost entirely incapacitated and give him it all even when he's just an inch away from death, literally enforcing these moments.
  • Egopolis: The Severan Dominate, a secessionist group of systems in the Spinward Front ruled over by Duke Severus XIII, the vengeful descendant of a Rogue Trader whose attempts to set up an Egopolis in what's now the Calixis Sector were thwarted by St. Drusus. Yeah.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous:
    • Storm Troopers. Although it's an odd PC squad that contains more than one of these, given that they are, like all others, simply a Specialty (class) that a character can choose.
    • With Hammer, Cadia's famed Kasrkin regiments are playable in full rather than being an optional refluff for Storm Troopers attached to other Cadian regiments.
  • Emotionless Reptile: The Sslyth, snakelike alien mercenaries who serve the Dark Eldar, are described as existing in a sort of profound emotional lethargy, serving their masters more out of habit than for any particular loyalty or passion, and fighting with blank, hollow-eyed expressions that do not seem to acknowledge any life, including their own.
  • Enemy Civil War: Iris is a jungle world home to both primitive humans and feral Orks, who war ceaselessly against one another. When the planet was invaded by Waaagh! Grimtoof, the spacefaring Orks expected the locals to be easily recruited into their ranks. Instead, the feral Orks deeply resented these newcomers butting in, stomping all over their turf and trying to order them about, resulting in a vicious three-way war between the humans, the local Orks, and the offworlders.
  • Evil Counterpart: The recommendation for fielding Severan Dominate forces in a game is to reuse the NPC stats for loyal Imperial Guard, as they are explicitly mentioned to retain much of their previous armaments and organisation. This could, per the GM's discretion, extend to any number of Traitor Guard forces.
  • Expansion Pack World: While the other 40k RPGs all have their own distinct settings, Only War is just slightly to the "north" from the Calixis Sector, with Kulth (the Severan Dominate's homeworld) being visible on the main sector map. This is appropriate, since the game began development as a supplement for Dark Heresy.
  • Expospeak Gag: An exceptionally long-winded and detailed description for pens exists in the Tools section. Yes, pens;
    Typically a gripped cylinder with a reservoir or staining liquid, the device has also been manufactured successfully on primitive worlds such as Iocanthos using soft breaking metal or fissionable residue encased in a strain resistant substance, usually milled on site. When a staining liquid is used, it can be manufactured from a variety of substances found throughout the Calixis Sector including, but not limited to, flora/fauna compression, animal excretion harvesting, or synthetic means. This source can often affect the hue of the staining liquid.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Severan Dominate's military is distinguished from loyalist Imperial forces by their heavy use of Roman aesthetics, even compared to the Imperium itself. Dominate troops wear flak armor variants that incorporate features commonly associated with Roman armor, such as leather pteruges and galea plumes, and their officers go further with muscle-sculpted cuirasses. The Dominate's color scheme is also primarily red, a color strongly associated with the legions of the Roman Empire.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Severian counterpoint to Commissars, Ducal Legates, are a lot more polite and friendly than their counterparts. They are also just as ruthless and far less brave, leading safely from the back as opposed to the Commissars in the thick of the action.
  • Foreign Queasine: The Attilan Rough Riders have a unique trait that allows them to increase their survival time absent proper ration resupply so long as they have access to their mounts. The fluff for this is that they are able to make a kind of cooked slurry porridge. The ingredients are various kinds of gathered herbs and grains... and small amounts of blood siphoned carefully from their horses.
  • Footnote Fever: One Sergeant Natalia Talwar got her hands on the copy of The Infantryman's Guide to the Spinward Front in Enemies of the Imperium, and wrote a few corrections (and sarcasm) for whoever inherited it from her.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: All characters mustered into a regiment are from the same homeworld. However, they will be joined by other auxiliary personnel who are likely from other homeworlds, such as commissars, abhumans, engineseers, or certain consulting specialists. Regardless, all characters who join the regiment are considered to have the same homeworld as the core regiment where game-mechanics are concerned, even if they are still distinct in-story. The rule book Handwaves this as auxiliary personnel tending to adopt customs and attitudes of the regiments they attach to (though it does not explain things like the homeworld attribute modifiers which are mostly physical rather than cultural). This is mitigated somewhat by the rules for Mixed Regiments introduced in Hammer of the Emperor.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Death Korps of Krieg regiments operating in the Spinward Front, which means potentially the players if they play as part of a Krieg regiment. The Krieg deliberately invoke this trope through their training and doctrine, so that the soldiers are stripped of any individual identity, their faces perpetually hidden behind their masks, and even forbidden from using any names, relying on their serial numbers and rank/position to refer to each other.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Highborn regiments may gain a bonus to Intelligence, Lore, and Tactics, leading to this. Lampshaded in the overview, which explicitly spells out that many Highborn regiments are training grounds for the Guard's future officer staff.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: The Sanctioned Psyker's comrade is charged with monitoring them for potential Demonic Possession, and is sanctioned to execute them if necessary. But more commonly, if the psyker is being overcome by the powers they are invoking then the comrade will deliberately inflict an injury on them which can help snap them back to their material senses. Mechnically, this trades some of the psyker's wounds for a re-roll on the Perils of the Warp chart.
  • Gigantic Adults, Tiny Babies: The Drakons of Cuyavale can reach or exceed 250-metre wingspans as adults. When newly-hatched, they're only about a metre long.
  • Glory Seeker: The Sanguine commander type is looking to push their regiment to heroism, giving optimistic Rousing Speeches. However, their willingness to put their troops In Harm's Way may be to their detriment, and they need to struggle hard to survive what they are thrown into.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: The Dark Eldar Kabal "Children of Thorns" has been aiding Duke Severus in return for being allowed to raid some of his more "unimportant" worlds for pain-slaves. However, the Children of Thorns seem to be extracting their own toll outside of the small circle of outlying worlds promised to them, occasionally attacking other more "important" planets. Normally this would seem like typical Dark Eldar behavior, except that they keep attacking the same several worlds in a particular pattern that suggests they know something about these locations that others do not...
  • Hobbits: Ratling snipers are a playable character choice. Shield of Humanity gives plenty more splats for detailing various other roles Ratlings might play besides snipers, be that scouts, "acquisition specialists", or even small bruisers.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The Kroot's Eater of the Dead rule allows them to, once per encounter, gorge on flesh to instantly restore hit points.
  • It's Raining Men: The Elysian Drop Troopers are an example regiment, and the regiment creation rules include drop troopers as an option.
  • The Jeeves: Most Scintillian Fusiliers, including infantrymen, are accompanied by a valet on the battlefield. Whether they tend to be more thuggish or more clever than the one they accompany will depend on the noble in question, but given this is the Imperial Guard, they almost always qualify as some variety of Battle Butler.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: A lot of flavor text, especially in sections describing the foes fought by the Guard, consist of a character rallying troops or dismissing a particular threat but being killed by some enemy soldier or alien horror before finishing their sentence.
    "Hold steady, troopers. Keep firing. Nothing can move fast enough to close a gap like that before we ki-"
    Lieutenant Korgein, final words before being killed by a Dark Eldar Succubus
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Flamers of any kind are commonly available, though some regiments favor them more than others.
    • The Incinerant Priest specialization from Shield of Humanity takes this up to eleven and mixes it with generous helpings of Church Militant.
    • The Hellhound combines it with Tank Goodness.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Debatable, as everyone starts with a laser weapon. As with Black Crusade, this trope is somewhat less prominent in this game due to inclusion of variable power settings on most basic las weaponry and changes to the rules for burst and automatic fire. Outright averted in long campaigns with a bad supply chain: Lasguns are more robust than today's AK-47. Their battery packs hold a lot more charges than slugthrower magazines and can be recharged at any suitable electrical outlet — or failing that, can derive charges from sunlight and heat. For a quick recharge in bad situations, they can even be placed in a campfire, though this technique (informally called "Catachan Reloading") isn't exactly safe.
  • The Klutz: Ogryns have a habit of breaking anything remotely delicate they interact with, or knocking over anything in a confined space (doubly so because their racial claustrophobia will likely make them jumpy.) There is even a trait for certain pieces of equipment designating them as "Ogryn-proof" and thus less likely to fall apart under the clumsy operation of an ogryn.
  • Last of His Kind: The Hammer of the Emperor supplement allows players to play guardsmen from the Tanith First-And-Only.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The core rulebook has a sidebar describing in Broad Strokes a major event that takes place during The Apostasy Gambit official adventure for Dark Heresy. Said event has considerably effects on the Calixis sector and has a serious impact on the strategic situation, so whether to include it or not is an important decision for the GM to make, but the description can spoil readers who are intending to play The Apostasy Gambit later.
  • Lava Adds Awesome: During a certain mission in the Final Testament adventure book, the player team is ordered to destroy a subterranean enemy camp located in mining tunnels beneath the planet's surface. One of the options is to carefully plant explosive devices and have it consumed by a river of lava.
  • Long-Range Fighter: The Sharpshooter specialization in Hammer of the Emperor is for characters who want to focus on this.
  • Machine Worship: Tech-Priests, and to a lesser extent regiments mustered from Forge Worlds. Also a general component in every Imperial citizen's life due to the concept of the machine-spirit and the Imperium's rather esoteric approach to technology.
  • Martyrdom Culture: Penitent regiments are so set on atoning with their lives / showing their courage / overcome with zeal / etc. that they have to pass a willpower test in order to voluntarily retreat from a combat engagement, even if doing so would be tactically prudent.
  • Mauve Shirt: Comrades, who lack the mechanical detail of Player Characters and can be killed off either by circumstance or for pathos without compromising the overall path of the story, yet also have their own names, personalities, and relationships with player characters.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The conflict in the Periphery sub-sector is comprised of the Imperium, the Severan Dominate, an Ork waaagh, and Dark Eldar raiders, plus whatever opportunists show up to join the fighting (Chaos revers from the Screaming Vortex, mercenaries come to ply their trade, etc.) While technically the Severan Dominate has a clandestine alliance with the Dark Eldar, even that involved attacking the Dominate itself, but with the situation collapsing it is hard to say if the Dark Eldar even respect the deal they made anymore.
  • Metaplot: The game plot itself takes place after several campaigns presented in Dark Heresy, and in fact Duke Severus wouldn't have been so quick to kick off his rebellion if not for the events that occur in The Apostasy Gambit trilogy. This in itself can cause some spoilers for players who also are running Dark Heresy, but have not yet gotten the opportunity to play through The Apostasy Gambit.
  • Military Maverick: A possible commander type, who often rubs their peers and commanding officers the wrong way, but earns the respect and loyalty of their own subordinates who will follow them even into the most horrific conditions without fear.
  • Military Science Fiction: Topping even Deathwatch, the previous best example of this from the Warhammer 40,000 RPGs. While Deathwatch may operate at a higher power level than Only War, the astartes of the Deathwatch are much more ritualistic and independent than the Guard, existing as a separate order of warriors apart from the normal military. In contrast, players in Only War are part of the Imperium's primary military command structure and engage in more conventional and normal military operations on continual basis.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The Drakons of Cuyavale are actively cannibalistic. One of their primary population checks is that, although their clutches hatch into enormous swarms of hatchlings, most of the newborns will end up eating each other before reaching maturity.
  • Mundane Luxury: As common here as in any military setting in a war zone. Guardsmen are rationed a certain amount of things like extra food, smokes, and alcohol, not to mention more specific fare like certain kinds of recaf or treats from home. However, since such are only ever issued in limited supply and tend to be consumed, their value tends to remain constant and thus they become a kind of impromptu currency for Guardsmen to barter with.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ghenghiz Grimtoof the Git-Slaver.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, but only just. Enemies of the Imperium contains a sample regiment from the Severan Dominate, for those player groups who would rather fight against Imperial authority. However, virtually all official material beyond this assumes the player characters are in a loyalist regiment.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Shotguns are most effective at short range, Ogryns love this with their Ripper Gun, a full auto combat shotgun on steroids. Furthermore all ranged attacks get a +30% to hit at point blank range.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Cuyavale is home to Drakons, flying reptilian predators firmly at the top of the local food chain. They lay enormous clutches of eggs at a time, which hatch into swarms of ravenous newborns that swarm into the global forests, eating everything that they can catch (and also one another). After a horde of Orks invaded the planet, the greenskins have taken to trying to tame the beasts as flying mounts.
  • Outside Ride: A common option for Player Character squads with mixed classes who are in a ground vehicle centered regiment. For example, a tank company might practice tank desant, with infantry riding on the tank and then disembarking to support it once enemy contact is imminent. This is a particularly good idea if the squad contains an ogryn, as ogryn... tend not to do very well in the dark, claustrophobic confines of a vehicle hull.
  • Plausible Deniability: Duke Severus's deal with the Dark Eldar of the Children of Thorns Kabal is not something he can freely admit to, obviously. Thus, there is very little direct contact between them. If the Dark Eldar provide aid to him militarily, it is always done indirectly, hitting Imperial targets at just the right time to royally screw up action they see against the Dominate's regular forces. In turn, they raid some of the Dominate's less strategically critical worlds, which Severus again denies and publicly decries, despite condoning it. For the Dark Eldar's part, they find this of no bother, the politics of Commorragh having gotten them used to much worse.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The "Ogryn-proof ripper gun" actually has a second statline dedicated to melee.
  • The Political Officer:
    • Commissar is a character option, with all the You Have Failed Me morale-boosting you'd expect.
    • Ducal Legates are the political officers enforcing the ideals of the Severan Dominate.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Duke Severus was the scion of a generation-spanning grudge against the Administratum for "cheating" his family out of control of the Periphery sub-sector, but he also knew open secession from the Imperium was almost guaranteed to backfire on anyone who tried. Thus he planned to consolidate control of the sub-sector by working within the system, and proved quite good at it. However, when the Orks invaded and he could not repel them, he had to call to the wider Imperium for aid lest the green tide sweep away all his hard-won gains. Unfortunately for him, the amount of central control he had been gathering was both obvious and unacceptable and would have resulted in his removal. His actual formal declaration of independence was an act of desperation on his part.
  • Percussive Maintenance: The "Technical Knock" talent, which allows characters to clear weapon jams with quick and precise smacks to the weapon's frame to dislodge whatever is obstructing the mechanism.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • As in Dark Heresy, Paranoia is a purchasable talent that grants bonuses on awareness rolls and the chance to spot threats that you normally wouldn't notice.
    • The Bilious commander type, who is ill-tempered and expects betrayal and treachery from everyone. Soldiers under their command will have to be especially vigilant and watchful.
  • Psycho for Hire: Severus made his power play for an independent fiefdom by making deals with Dark Eldar. He let them raid some unimportant outlying colonies for pain-slaves while under-equipping their defenders and delaying relief forces, and in turn they provided him discrete assassins and saboteurs to quietly dispose of his political enemies. The Ork invasion of the region forced him to move his plans forward ahead of schedule and declare open rebellion. Now the Dark Eldar escalate to hitting Imperial military targets to give Severus's forces a battlefield advantage, but in turn they no longer limit themselves to raiding just the Dominate's fringes as they follow their own inscrutable motives.
  • Radio Silence: An easy way for a GM to keep The Squad isolated from backup when on a detached mission is to place them under standing orders to minimize vox transmission. Recon missions or missions behind enemy lines are especially fitting for this kind of condition since keeping the enemy from discovering their position is already a priority. The introductory mission included with the GM's screen uses it in this way.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Common with penal legions, not to mention the mixed regiments option in Hammer of the Emperor.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: Much emphasis is placed on the pomp and the glory of a Regimental Founding, as colourfully illustrated by a series of IC diary entries in the opening chapter of the rulebook. It is a great honour for any Imperial citizen to be called to serve in the Guard. However, the reality of service is a lot... more miserable than most of the poor bastards expect. Regiments raised from agri-worlds are even more vulnerable to this than normal, as they tend to be hopelessly naive hayseeds and thus more prone to succumbing to deception and the horrific realities of the galaxy.
  • The Reliable One: The Phlegmatic commander type, who speaks little, only gives a few carefully considered orders, and is not given to vainglory, paranoia, or excessive heroic gestures. They may be seem unremarkable, but their proven success record demonstrates solid competence.
  • Schizo Tech: Want your Guard regiment to pack longbows and plain steel swords to go with their laser pistols and modern body armor? Go for it!
  • Sedgwick Speech:
    • One quote of flavor text is from a Guard officer warning a fresh recruit that he's on a real battlefield now, with real weapons and enemies, and that he'd better do what he does and says if he wants to get back home alive. The officer is then immediately devoured by an alien horror.
    • A quote given at the start of the Dark Eldar section in Enemies of the Imperium is from a colonel of the Guard giving an impassioned speech to his troops in order to rally them against the foe, before being abruptly Killed Mid-Sentence just as he's saying that no force can take their fortress while they're guarding it.
  • Shout-Out: One of the new Orders available in Hammer of the Emperor, in which the Player Character calls for his Comrade(s) to stagger an opponent through sheer weight of lasgun fire, is called Five Rounds Rapid. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart would be proud.
    • The Breacher advanced specialisation in Hammer of the Emperor has, as a flavour quote, a paraphrase of the Demoman. It's a bit of a stretch, but does this Vostroyan remind anyone else of the Pyro?
    • Colonel Regina Kasteen of the Valhallan 597th provides the flavour quote for Valhallan regiments. Enemies of the Imperium uses the cover of Death or Glory for the opening of its fourth chapter.
    • The Ork pilot who provides the flavor quote for the Deff Dread entry in Enemies of the Imperium has a phonetically similar name to Ramba Ral, and said quote is an Orkified version of the famous "No Zaku!" line.
    • Another from the "Hammer of the Emperor", Sergeant Lee of the 78th Catachan Jungle Fighters has a rather inspiring speech about what to do if the enemy adapts to certain weapons for the flavor quote of the Commander.
    • In Enemies of the Imperium, Blood Axes are said to use tactics when carrying out "a kunnin' plan".
  • Signature Team Transport: Any mounted or vehicle squad will usually have one vehicle assigned to the squadron as a whole, whether that be a Chimera Armored Transport for an infantry squad or a Leman Russ for a tank crew. In some cases, such as with Sentinel scout squadrons, each member will get their own version of the vehicle.
  • Space Romans:
    • The Severan Dominate have this as something of a motif, with the flak armor of the Dominate legionaries having Romanesque helmet fringes and pteruges hung from their hips.
    • The Scintillan Fusiliers are comprised primarily of local elites and are essentially a futuristic version of 17th-18th century Italy, particularly Venice, at its most decadent. Look-wise, however, they evoke Napoleonic soldiers.
    • As their name imply, the Maccabian Janissaries are futuristic Ottoman Janissaries, down to their great religious faith towards the Emperor.
  • Spock Speak: The description for the Calixian Infantryman's Portable Communications Transcription Device. It's a fountain pen.
  • Staged Populist Uprising: The Severan Dominate has genuine populist support among its citizens, but the entire situation that got them to the point of pressing for succession was an engineered crisis pushed along with astroturfing to drive the population in that direction.
  • Stealth Expert: The Scout specialization in Hammer of the Emperor is for characters who want to focus on this.
  • Stone Wall: The Severan Dominate has adopted this as a strategic doctrine, with Dominate forces directed to dig-in and fortify the most defensible position they can find. They adopt this strategy because they know that there is no way they can compete with the Imperium's immense resource advantage, but given the threats the Imperium faces on nearby fronts they may be able to hold out by wearing down the local Imperial forces long enough for the Imperial higher-ups to decide there are higher priorities to fight. This does mean that the Dominate sacrifices much of its offensive initiative, but also means any Dominate forces The Squad is likely to run into will be in a position of defensive strength.
  • Storming the Castle: The Lycurgos Star Fort, a huge and heavily armed ancient Space Station orbiting one of the Severan Dominate's primary agri-worlds, is located at a strategic position on several warp lanes and is one of the only facilities in the Spinward Front capable of servicing and refitting what limited naval assets the Dominate has. Control of this station is essential to control of the world below it and both are a boon to the supply-lines for whichever power controls it. The adventure No Surrender focuses on the Imperial Guard attempting to storm and capture this space-born fortress.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Duke Severus is a master of the fine art of lying his pants off about his political positions to get the Dominate to go along with his schemes. In reality, the entire rebellion was born out of his own familial grudge and jealousy of the High Lords of Terra.
  • Taking the Bullet: A possible Advance for the Storm Trooper, and an available Talent in Hammer of the Emperor.
  • Tank Goodness: Entirely possible. The vehicle system has been redone since Rogue Trader, and playing a Mechanised or Armoured Regiment are readily available options at the start of play.
  • Treetop World: Cuyavale is covered in temperate rainforests of kilometer-tall trees, divided between the sunlit canopy, which secondary ecosystems of their own, and the dark understory and ground level, which enjoy a fairly stable climate due to the trees absorbing the brunt of seasonal fluctuations in weather and temperature. The local humans are divided into two populations with almost no contact: one living high up in the canopies that never descends to the forest floor, and the other living mostly underground, amidst cavern systems left behind by ancient, long-since rotted away tree roots. The Kroot of the Oathbreakers Kindred, contracted by the Severian Dominate to fight off an Ork invasion, have found the planet's immense rainforests to be very compatible with their own preferences as a species of ancestrally arboreal predators and consider it something of a promised land.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Highborn regiments allow an entire squad of them. As of the latest errata, Highborn characters don't even properly have the Linguistics (Low Gothic) skill, meaning they can communicate with the lower-born but cannot actually read or write the common language of the Imperium. The Scintillan Fusiliers, described in Hammer of the Emperor, are a textbook example.
  • Universal Driver's License: The Hotshot Pilot talent can grant your character this at the basic level, though any further skill increases will have to specialize by vehicle type.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Duke Severus, within his own domain at least. He spent decades carefully pruning out people of influence who would not be receptive to him, while inserting figures he could count on as confidants. Using this network of influence, he was able to control what information went in and out of the Periphery. He slowly began increasing levies on worlds under the guise of increased Imperial tithes, while simultaneously blocking critical imports from coming in from outside the subsector, and making a pact for the Dark Eldar to begin attacking in a False Flag Operation with no relief to come. When the predictable civil unrest started, he blamed the Imperium for demanding too much of these worlds while giving back too little and failing to defend them. He brought back all the supplies he had carefully secreted away, being seen as a hero for using effective emergency measures. It was not much from there to AstroTurf the worlds into supporting secession from the Imperium, with Severus himself as the obvious choice of "benevolent" leader. Little do his own citizens know that he was the one who nearly brought their worlds to ruin for his own power, the additional freedoms they were promised are largely an illusion, and the promises he made to other powers to secure their support for the revolution would leave the region economically devastated for millennia to come.
  • War Is Glorious: A value promoted by the Imperium and put in all their propaganda. Commissars are in charge of enforcing this view, preachers are in charge of backing it up with faith, and for many in the upper echelons of the war effort this is quite true. For the rest though, this leads to...
  • With This Herring: A squad will generally be assigned a mission-specific set of gear beyond the standard and specialist kit, but when you start out it is very likely you will not be able to acquire all of it, and may in fact fail to acquire ANY of it or acquire in its place something completely useless and hilarious.
    • As stated in the book however, savvier characters can take advantage of the unreliable bureaucracy by stockpiling items in the event of major logisticial blunders and/or even use them to trade with other squads.
    • Even then, a savvy squad or character can make great use of certain items. As mentioned, there's the obvious trade value of items such as a crate of hundreds of packets of cigarettes or bottles of decent alcohol, but what if you get "assigned" a barrel full of promethium, a drum of concentrated acid, a crate full of grenades, or a box of demolition charges? Oh the possibilities!
    • On the other hand, a duffle bag full of dirty fatigues is completely useless. And thankfully, highly improbable (requires a negative roll).
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The forces of the Severan Dominate are nominally still faithful to the Emperor, some even fanatically so. However, they have been lead to believe (via Severus's Propaganda Machine and Cult of Personality) that Severus is rightfully entitled to the fiefdom of those worlds they claim, and the Administratum claims dominance of them illegitimately. Of course to the High Lords of Terra, rebellion against the Administratum is rebellion against the Emperor, something to which the Dominate forces violently disagree.