Playing D&D in the Warhammer 40,000 universe?

Originally published at: Playing D&D in the Warhammer 40,000 universe? | Boing Boing

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I love mixing up franchises in RPGs. I ended up having our squad of Rebels in a West End Star Wars RPG game encounter a party of Predators hunting Aliens. They ended up with some sweet tech to integrate into their gear.

Did Games Workshop ever make 40K RPG rules? I remember playing a game in the regular Warhammer universe and liking the game book my friend had.


Sort of a reverse Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, then… I’m still unclear just what kind of mash-up this was. A straight D&D game where the characters are shocked to find out they actually live in a high-tech world and that they’re secretly mutants, pyskers and chaos heretics (not wizards and whatnot), or more of a blending, using the mechanics (and some classes) from D&D fully within the context of a WH40K setting, possibly with things like guns bodged in. I’m assuming the latter, but the first has a perverse appeal too (I have a not entirely dissimilar game world written out).

I’m only aware of the various Fantasy Flight RPG books (of which there seem to be an excessive number). It’s kind of surprising, as the first edition Warhammer 40k - and that “Rogue Trader” subtitle - was very much set up to be RPG friendly, at least in terms of the focus. (Not so much emphasis on Space Marines, etc.) I always expected a 40K version of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG, but it never came.


Or go old-school with the B/X meets WFRP “Small but Vicious Dog

Or the even more pared-down OD&D vs WH “Ten Dead Rats” (author and friends just completed 2 year AP campaign)

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One of my favorite campaigns involved my D&D party crossing over to a Gamma World setting. Through a bizarre string of convolutions, the rogue super computer that ran the world used the Necronomicon as its OS. The “artefact” of the cymbal-crashing monkey figure was a key find.


Dark Heresy. Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade, and Only War.


Inquisitor is perhaps what you’re after - the rulebook is now available for free PDF download.
It used 54mm miniatures but they were expensive and frankly unnecessarily large, most folk play with the normal-sized ones and call it Inq28.

I used to run Games Workshop’s Inquisitor tournament games and having Dan Abnett, author of the Eisenhorn and Ravenor books and more, shouting “give me more cows!” so he could stampede a player’s characters into the mud was a highpoint.


Uh … isn’t that what the “WH40K: Rogue Trader” book was? An rpg ruleset for WH40K? That’s how it all started: much more an rpg with battle rules than a tabletop war game (although of course the combat was much more war game derived).

I loved that book: so much lore and great artwork …

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Huh, that one passed me by entirely. (Though honestly, I lost track of Games Workshop’s proliferating projects back in the 20th century.) I’ll have to check it out!

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It doesn’t strictly need miniatures to play either.
The three Ravenor books are good fun too if you want some Imperial and Inquisitorial background that isn’t more bloody Space Marines :wink:


Hah. Dan is great. I worked with him on the Traitor General soundtrack (which came with the deluxe edition of the book), That was such a cool project to work on. You can hear the results here:


Cool, thanks! That’ll kick off my painting soundtrack tomorrow.

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I love hearing about the unlikely mashups and pairings people create. Champions/HERO System is our favorite, because you can port almost anything into it and make it go.


There definitely was a Warhammer 40k roleplay series as well as a Warhammer fantasy roleplay (although I don’t think they are widely available now). I’d say that WH40k RP is closer to Call of Cthulhu than D&D, though. But WH40k isn’t exactly a universe that’s amenable to the classic Hero’s Journey narrative that D&D promotes.

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40K started with Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (RT), more of a skirmish game than an RPG. there’s an article by Ken Rolston somewhere in the early hundreds of Dragon Magazine that gave guidelines for roleplaying using RT on the basis that D&D started with two pages in the back of the Chainmail rule book. for years there was an expectation that Games Workshop would publish a proper 40K RPG as a companion to its acclaimed Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WHFRP), but RPGs don’t sell minis and that’s where GW makes its bread.

but twenty-odd years later in the mid-2000s Games Workshop published Dark Heresy (DH) through its Black Industries imprint. DH presented rules for playing members of an Inquisitor’s retinue a la the popular Eisenhorn and Ravenor novels, was loosely based on WHFRP and iirc developed for GW by Green Ronin, to whom GW had successfully outsourced development of WHFRP 2nd edition for the last few years. in a highly unexpected turn, on publishing the first wave of DH products – the rule book, a GM’s screen, and a single adventure compilation – GW immediately killed their RPG lines and licensed them to Fantasy Flight Games, bypassing Green Ronin entirely (to GR’s extreme displeasure). FFG subsequently flooded the market with four more extensively supported WH40K RPGs, each touching on a different, largely siloed-off aspect of the expansive 40K setting:

  • Rogue Trader: ne’er-do-wells plying the uncharted void in your ancient, gargantuan starship, bearing Imperial letters of marque and trade. see new worlds, meet new people, and exploit them
  • Deathwatch: veteran Imperial Space Marines, generically-engineered and surgically-enhanced monstrosities each the equivalent of a platoon of human soldiers, seconded from your home chapters to the court of last resort, artisans of mass murder in the defense of humanity, the Deathwatch
  • Black Crusade: Chaos heretics, freedom-loving party animals you’d actually want to hang with in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium…nah just kidding these guys suck too
  • Only War: Imperial infantry, the guys who get stomped before calling in the Space Marines

FFG also released a pricey, component-heavy third edition of WHFRP that met with mixed reviews. FFG lost the 40K license after a short run at Dark Heresy 2nd edition.

next, Cubicle 7 picked up the WHFRP license, released a critically-acclaimed 4th edition and is currently publishing an extensive revision and expansion of the Enemy Within campaign. at the same time, German publisher Ulisses Spiele got the 40K license and released Wrath & Glory, a new system that would allow for player characters of disparate power levels to more easily adventure together. but Ulisses Spiele’s first wave of releases for W&G were badly plagued with errors, and the license passed to C7, bringing both worlds back under one roof. C7 published a revised and corrected edition of W&G and has continued to release a narrow but steady stream of product for the game.

Wrath & Glory and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 4th edition can be found and purchased on Cubicle 7’s website or at your friendly local game store. Previous editions and games are available in PDF on DriveThru RPG.


I don’t know about WH40K, but Games Workshop did have Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I liked the world of Warhammer, but never really got into miniatures. My fave games at the time were Twilight:2000 and Traveller, and the closest I got to miniatures was playing Car Wars.

Nowadays I just use GURPS, and dial back the crunchiness to Bang!-level skills when tackling a cinematic setting. And WH40K is a very cinematic setting.


Yeah, you beat me to the punch. I do recall reading an article in White Dwarf (back when it was about RPG’s in general) about how little room the setting had for actual role playing, and what niches PC’s could occupy. But as I said above, by then I was more of a GDW and Steve Jackson Games player than a Games Workshop player. Except for Talisman. I still love the heck out of that game.

That is actualy a cool idea.

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… is that a real product?

goes and checks … huh. Guess WOTC needed another pallet of money.