Dark Heresy or Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay is a role-playing game sharing the same dark, gothic background as the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniatures game. Though the game was intended to eventually spawn two other core rulebooks covering different areas of the 40K universe, the initial releases concentrate on humanity, specifically agents of the Inquisition. Sequel RPGs had the working titles of Rogue Trader - which would have covered interstellar travel, traders, and Xenos - and Deathwatch - which would have allowed players to create Space Marines. However, with Games Workshop's decision to shut down Black Industries and transfer the rights for Dark Heresy to Fantasy Flight Games the future of the line may change and has yet to be announced.

Black Industries chose to set the game in a previously undefined sector of space, Calixis Sector, within the Segmentum Obscurus. This sector lies adjacent to Scarus Sector, famed setting of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy.


In Dark Heresy, the players assume the role of a group of Acolytes working for an Inquisitor who sends them on various missions. Depending on the type of mission, the gameplay can involve investigation, combat, intrigue, or a number of other genres. Therefore, the Game Master can tailor his campaign to suit his player group. As the players work for an Inquisitor, most missions involve rooting out heresies or matters relating to them, but the bredth of the game allows for many other other missions, including wiping out dangerous gangs, gathering evidence of corruption, or eliminating rogue psykers.


Unlike many RPGs, Dark Heresy uses only 10-sided dice, each player requiring at least 2, which can be read as percentile dice, used individually, or added together. No other dice are required, although occasionally a player may need to roll more than 2d10, such as when rolling a large amount of damage.

Characters have 9 statistics;

  • Weapon Skill (WS)
  • Ballistic Skill (BS)
  • Strength (Str)
  • Toughness (T)
  • Agility (Ag)
  • Intelligence (Int)
  • Perception (Per)
  • Will Power (WP)
  • Fellowship (Fel)

The values for these attributes range from 1 to 100, although achieving a score higher than 70 is almost impossible for a normal character with the published rules thus far. Differing by a factor of 10 from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame, average humans possess characteristic scores averaging 30 - 40 is notable, and 50 is a very strong attribute. Player characters' characteristics statistically average 31, although that can differ due to a number of mechanics, notably the character's homeworld and background. For example, a character from a hive world has a higher Fellowship, but a lower Toughness.

Any given action, such as firing a weapon or using a skill, uses the following basic mechanic:

  • Roll percentile dice
  • Add bonuses or penalties associated with the action
  • Compare the result to the appropriate characteristic; equal to or lower indicates success; greater than the characteristic indicates failure.

With some actions, the amount by which you succeed or fail can determine degrees of success or failure, allowing the GM to further detail the result.

Career Paths

In Dark Heresy, the players pick a career path for their character which is similar to a class from other RPG systems such as D&D. There are 8 career paths in the core rulebook, with a further career path added in the Inquisitors Handbook sourcebook, they are;

  • Adept - A career path devoted to knowledge, logic, and analysis, though they are not very effective in combat and not always good in social inteaction
  • Arbitrator - Members of the Adeptus Arbites are effective both in investigative skills and combat.
  • Assassin - These skilled killers excel in both combat and stealth skills
  • Cleric - Clergymen of the Ecclesiarchy train in a wide range of abilities but excel at motivation and leadership
  • Guardsman - Although this class usually brings to mind members of the Imperial Guard, it also applies to mercenaries and other soldiers; they are skilled warriors who can also operate vehicles
  • Imperial Psyker - This class represents an individual with psychic powers, able to channel the warp to accomplish a wide variety of things.
  • Scum - Criminals, outcasts, thieves, and other miscreants, this class has a variety of useful skills involving stealth and infiltration
  • Tech-Priest - Skilled with machines and technology, they are members of the Cult Mechanicus
  • Adepta Sororitas - Commonly known as the Sisters of Battle, this career path was introduced in the Inquisitors Handbook and is recommended for veteran players due to the roleplaying challenges involved. While superficially similar to clerics, they are even more rigid in their mindset and can perform faith talents

To advance in their career path, a player earns experience points (XP) and spends it to gain skills and talents or improve their characteristics. The skills and talents available depend on the Career and the level - or rank - within that path. Once a character has spent the requisite amount of XP , they advance to the next rank of the career, which unlocks new skills and talents for purchase. Each career path also several option for certain ranks, each path specializing in a different branch of the career. Skills cost either 100 XP, 200 XP or 300 XP to purchase, with more powerful or unusual skills having higher costs. The core rulebook recommends players receive 200 XP for every four hours of play, so players can usually purchase a new skill or two after each session.


  • Dark Heresy - Core Rulebook
  • Game Masters Kit - A game masters screen for Dark Heresy and a 32 page booklet that includes a pre-written adventure, xenos generator and new rules for poisons and toxins
  • Character Folio - A notebook designed to be a combined character sheet and journal
  • Inquisitors Handbook - Supplement, introduces the Adepta Sororitas career path as well as new home world types and expanded rule system for the original home worlds, expanded armoury and expanded skill rules
  • Purge The Unclean - An adventure anthology containing three adventures, each focusing on a different genre or play style
  • Shattered Hope - A free preview adventure available for download on the Black Industries web site


Black Industries, the role-playing game imprint of BL Publishing, which is itself a part of Games Workshop, initially fielded out the development of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay to Green Ronin, the same company that created the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WHFRP2), before bringing development back in house. Fantasy Flight Games will now take over development of future products since acquiring the license for the game. A collector's edition of Dark Heresy, the first release of the game, went on sale on Monday the 10th of December 2007 at 16:00 GMT. The 200 copies of the game, individually numbered with an accompanying 'signature' of an in-game Inquisitor, sold out in six minutes[1]. The regular edition was released on the 25th of January 2008[2], and a demo booklet was distributed at GenCon 2007.[3] The game itself shares many design features with WHFRP2.

On the 28th of January, 2008 Games Workshop announced that it would close Black Industries - consequently discontinuing Dark Heresy and all the other games published the subsidiary - to allow them to focus on the commercial success of their novels and core business. [4]

On the 22nd February 2008 they announced that all Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 RPG, CCG and select board game rights were being transferred to Fantasy Flight Games who would continue to publish Dark Heresy. [5]


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