Sunday, February 24, 2008

May all your Heresies be Dark

There is a new role playing game I’m very excited about. Besides being a great game in itself, there has been a lot of drama generated around the game.

The game is Dark Heresy. It is a science fiction game that feels very dark fantasy. It is not hard science fiction at all. The design goals seem to have been “fun, cool, and icky horror.” Forget realism. If you look at the world the game is set in, you find an inconsistent, impossible, and terribly silly world. Chainsaw swords, heretics pursuing the blasphemy of the scientific method, a 10,000 year old corpse emperor kept alive by 10,000 human sacrifices a day. Fun, cool, and icky.

But first, the drama surrounding Dark Heresy. The game, produced by Black Industries ( sold out in pre-orders. 24 hours and it was gone. Then, it, all its supplements, and its sister role playing game, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP), and even Black Industries itself, were canceled. Black Industries parent company, Games Workshop, pulled the plug on its role playing division.

However, I already had a copy of the game, and had fallen in love with it. So I found myself with an orphaned game, but still wanted to play it. However, it’s hard to get people to play a game without a publisher. Players wouldn’t be able to buy a copy of the game on their own. And this year, the mother and monster of all role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, from Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast, was due to release its fourth edition.

So why did I care? I’m a science fiction writer, reader, and fan. I’m a crazy gamer. And I’ve never found a science fiction pencil and paper role playing game I could really get into. Then I read Dark Heresy. Humans were spread through a hostile galaxy, propelled by technology they no longer even try to understand. Everywhere there are threats to life and sanity, threats that are put down by an inquisition. And the players are the inquisition. The catch phrase for the game is “Innocence proves nothing.” The demons of warp space are straight out of H. P. Lovecraft. Investigation and combat are easy and fun. Player can not only die, they can go insane, or get so corrupted they become the monsters they oppose. Fun, cool, and full of icky. I gushed on goodreads: (

So I tried out a sample game at my friendly local game shop, Guardian Games ( Every third Thursday is Beer and Pizza night. For $10, you get beer, pizza, and gaming. I brought Dark Heresy, and called out for players. No problem, I had to turn away players. Not bad for a game that was born dead.

We all had a blast. I got to see the face of a player who was all aglow at fighting a chainsword wielding mutant. My players got to shoot the place up and risk their lives for the emperor. Combat was fast and scary. Players played a jargon throwing kick-butt soldier, a sure footed assassin, a smarmy rogue, a licensed psychic, a hard boiled police woman, and a devious bureaucrat. All that, plus beer and pizza. Trying to game over people playing Rock Band was a bit much, but it was all good fun. Derek, who played the psychic, wrote it up on the Black Industries boards:

When I got home, I checked the gaming forums. The game was not dead. Dark Heresy had risen from the dead by Games Workshop selling the license to Fantasy Flight Games (

Which makes me a happy gamer. I am still having all sorts of fun playing the fantasy game, so I plan on returning to Guardian Games for each beer and pizza night and playing Dark Heresy as long as people want to play.

However, the games published so far take more than one evening to finish. Playing once a month, without being able to count on the same people each time, that won’t work. I need to complete an adventure in one night. The players must be given a task by their inquisitor, they must go forth and (hopefully) conquer, and it must wrap up by 10 PM. So I’m going to write my own “one shots.” Games that can be played in one sitting. With beer. And Rock Band. We’ll just have to see how that goes.

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