Dark Heresy is a tabletop role-playing game first published on January 25, 2008 by Black Industries that uses the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay system and is set within the same dark, Gothic universe as the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniatures game. Though the game eventually spawned four other core rulebooks covering different areas of the Warhammer 40,000 universe including Rogue Traders, the Deathwatch Space Marines, the Imperial Guard and the servants of Chaos, the initial releases concentrated on the Acolytes of the Inquisition.
Black Industries chose to set the game in a previously undefined sector of Imperial space, the Calixis Sector, within the Segmentum Obscurus. This sector lies adjacent to the Scarus Sector, the famed setting of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy. Subsequently, Fantasy Flight Games acquired the license for the game, and eventually expanded it with a short-lived Dark Heresy Second Edition which was set in the Askellon Sector before Games Workshop withdrew the license for all Warhammer 40,000 RPGs from the company in February 2017.
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 breadth of the game allows for many 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 character 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 Game Master to further detail the result.
In Dark Heresy, the players pick a career path for their character which is similar to a class from other RPG systems such as Dungeons & Dragons. There are 8 career paths in the core rulebook, with several further added in subsequent sourcebooks. They included:
- Adept - A career path devoted to knowledge, logic, and analysis within the Imperial bureaucracy of the Adeptus Terra, though they are not very effective in combat and not always good in social interaction.
- Arbitrator - Members of the Adeptus Arbites, the elite Imperial law enforcement organisation, are effective both at investigative skills and combat.
- Assassin - These skilled killers excel in both combat and stealth skills.
- Cleric - A Priest of the Ecclesiarchy trained in a wide range of abilities, but who excel at motivation and leadership.
- Guardsman - Although the name of this career usually brings to mind members of the Imperial Guard, it also applies to human mercenaries and other soldiers such as members of a Planetary Defence Force; they are skilled warriors who can also operate vehicles.
- Imperial Psyker - This career represents an individual with psychic powers, able to channel the power of the Warp to accomplish a wide variety of things.
- Scum - Criminals, outcasts, thieves, and other miscreants, this class of rogues has a variety of useful skills involving stealth, infiltration and social interaction with less-honest members of Imperial society.
- Tech-priest - Skilled with machines and technology, they are members of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Adepta Sororitas - Commonly known as the Sisters of Battle, this career path was introduced in the Inquisitor's Handbook and is recommended for veteran players due to the role-playing challenges involved. While superficially similar to clerics, they are even more rigid in their mindset and can perform faith talents.
- Battle Sisters - This career was added to the roster in Blood of Martyrs, it differs from the Adepta Sororitas as income has been modified and it allows characters to start with the common Sister of Battle weapons and armour.
- Grey Knight - This career was added in Daemon Hunter, and is recommended for veteran players. It was a compromise variant for a Dark Heresy/Deathwatch RPG crossover.
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 - The game's core rulebook, including a pre-written adventure.
- The Game Master's Kit - A game master's 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.
- Inquisitor's Handbook - Supplement, introduces the Adepta Sororitas career path and new homeworld types as well as an expanded rule system for the original homeworlds, 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 originally available for download on the Black Industries web site.
- Edge of Darkness - A free preview adventure by Alan Bligh (and others) available for download on the Fantasy Flight Games web site.
- Disciples of the Dark Gods - Supplement, information detailing Chaos Cults and other various threats within the Calixis Sector. Includes a full-length adventure.
- Creatures Anathema - Supplement, a "Bestiary of Aliens, Beasts, and Daemons" for use as enemies.
- The Radical's Handbook - Supplement, introduces means of playing Radical (Heretical) character types as well as new gear and career advances.
- Ascension - Supplement, introduces advanced career paths enabling players to become Inquisitors or Throne Agents, high-powered Acolytes who bridge the power gap between Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader characters.
- Tattered Fates: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 1 - Part 1 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- Damned Cities: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 2 - Part 2 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- Dead Stars: The Haarlock Legacy Volume 3 - Part 3 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- Blood of Martyrs - Supplement, includes new rules, backgrounds, alternate careers and equipment for playing servants of the Adeptus Ministorum, the state church of the Imperium of Man.
- The Black Sepulchre: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 1 - Part 1 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- The Church of the Damned: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 2 - Part 2 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- The Chaos Commandment: The Apostasy Gambit Volume 3 - Part 3 of a 3-part adventure campaign.
- Daemon Hunter - Supplement, expanding on the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus and the daemon-hunting Grey Knights Chapter of Space Marines.
- Book of Judgement - Supplement, expanding on the Adeptus Arbites and Scum of the Calixis Sector with new rules, backgrounds, alternate careers and equipment for playing servants or recidivists of the Adeptus Arbites, the law enforcers of the Imperium.
- The Lathe Worlds - Supplement, revealing the secret history of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Lathe Worlds, from the founding to the current struggles against tech-heresy. In the book there are alternate careers and equipment for players.
- Dark Heresy Core Rulebook (Second Edition) - Core rulebook for the Second Edition, changes some of the mechanics (particularly with regard to character creation) in line with other FFG publications such as Only War and includes a pre-made adventure. The setting is also changed from the Calixis Sector to the Askellon Sector.
- Forgotten Gods - Adventure, set in the newly-introduced Askellon Sector, it concerns the hunt for a xenotech cult and includes new homeworlds for player characters.
- Enemies Within - Supplement detailing the Inquisition's witch-hunting Ordo Hereticus, provides more character creation and advancement options including the Adepta Sororitas and mechanics for generating heretical cults and adventures.
- Enemies Without - Supplement detailing the Inquisition's alien-hunting Ordo Xenos, with new player options, statistics for aliens as both allies and enemies, expanded rules for flying vehicles and guidelines for running "explications" -- where Acolytes dissect aliens for clues.
- Enemies Beyond - Supplement detailing the Inquisition's daemon-hunting Ordo Malleus, with new character creation options, a full bestiary of daemons and rules for creating Daemon Weapons, binding Daemonhosts and summoning daemons.
A collector's edition of Dark Heresy -- the first release of the game -- went on sale on Monday, December 10, 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. The regular edition was released on January 25, 2008 and a demo booklet was distributed at Gen Con 2007.
The game itself shares many design features with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Second Edition.
On January 28, 2008, Games Workshop announced that it would close Black Industries -- thereby discontinuing Dark Heresy and all the other games published by the subsidiary -- to allow them to focus on the commercial success of their novels and core tabletop miniature wargame business.
On February 22, 2008, Black Industries announced that all Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 role-playing games, collectible card games, and select board game rights were being transferred to Fantasy Flight Games, who would continue to publish Dark Heresy.
During late 2008 and 2009, Fantasy Flight Games started releasing autonomously-developed material for the Dark Heresy role-playing game: a collection of Heretical factions to pit the player characters against titled Disciples of the Dark Gods, a monster manual called Creatures Anathema, and a mini-campaign in three parts dubbed The Haarlock Legacy.
Fantasy Flight Games also announced a manual on "Radical" Inquisitors (covering the most extreme factions, their tactics, equipment, and most prominent figures) and a major expansion allowing players to take their characters to the rank of interrogator, bestowed with an inquisitorial rosette, enjoying augmented prestige and able to summon more powerful allies.
On September 9, 2016 Fantasy Flight Games announced they would be ending their relationship with Games Workshop from February 28, 2017 for all shared products including Dark Heresy and all other Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 titles. The license for publication of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was subsequently transferred to Cubicle 7, Limited, and the license for all Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying properties was granted to Ulisses North America, the North American subsidiary of the German role-playing game company Ulisses Spiele, most famous for its publication of The Dark Eye fantasy RPG in Germany. On August 11, 2017, Ulisses North America announced that it would be releasing the next major Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game, entitled Wrath & Glory.
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG)
- Dark Heresy Second Edition official website
- Dark Heresy CE Sells Out in 6 minutes
- Dark Heresy hits the streets early!
- New Launch Date for Dark Heresy
- Black Industries Announcement
- Fantasy Flight/Black Industries press release