In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.
Today however it’s a little bit more lively as I’m starting the first post of a new blog series: Warhammer 40k D&D 5e!
Before you throw your hands up in the air and cry out that this is heresy, hear me out–I got to work on Black Crusade, it is one of several awesome Warhammer 40k RPGs, and I loved the opportunity to be a part of Tome of Decay, but it’s not always easy to sell your group on trying out a new system. The hacks in this series are a way to crack the door open for Dark Heresy or any of the other awesome tabletop RPGs set in the grimdark future. By all means please go to Mire and fight the Lutomorbus rocking your d100s (and d10s, and tell me about how it went!), but if you have players reticent to pick up Only War or what have you, try breaking them in with the material found here.
Besides–it gives us something to enjoy while we all spin our wheels waiting for Wrath & Glory to come out, and when it *does* hit the table your D&D group will be raring to go! 😀
What’s in this post:
- general rules
- Corruption ability score
- new skills
- a hit selection system
- character backgrounds
- the psyker feat
If you’ve got a space marine around I recommend at least keeping them 1 level lower (maybe 2 levels lower) than other PCs. They are really, really powerful, even with the different race stuff and reduced backgrounds and even if they aren’t wielding extremis weapons–they kind of have to be or we’re not going to have the right feel for Warhammer 40k. I’m sure there’s a balance we could strike by amping up non-space marines and just assuming a higher average party level when calculating CR (by 1 or 2 or whatever) but I’d rather have somebody playing a space marine feel like a freaking monster on the battlefield.
Furthermore, if one character gets power armor, they should all get power armor (or at the very least a void shield; come back next week) because now everything is going to need upped by at least 1 CR.
THE FIRST POST
This is a complicated project so I’ve mapped out how I’m doing it all–to give the God-Emperor and his universe due justice, one post won’t do it. After this we’ve got ~19 more to fill in equipment, specific class roles, and various monsters. We’re tackling player options first.
Players and GMs are in for a very narrative experience. There’s simulation to be had (obviously; see Corruption below) but everyone at the table should be ready to reinterpret the “fluff” of a class or racial feature to be the result of Mechanicum augmentations, specialized training, and the like. Focusing on the nuances of the Ministorum might be a fun thought experiment, but in play the drudgery of a dystopian bureaucracy probably won’t be very exciting.
Want a badass daemon from the Warp? There are bajillions of them. Take any appropriately CR’d monster from the book, figure on a new description, and roll with it. Specific daemons of the various Ruinous Powers will appear in later blog posts.
If it gets magic, you are either playing a psyker archetype (librarian SM paladin, grey knight SM warlock, agent of the Inquisition warlock, psyker sorcerer) or you aren’t playing it (or at the very least, not getting access to the magic bits). Pretty simple. There’s archetypes for virtually every class coming down the line so don’t panic and if you can’t wait, play a fighter. :p
A creature’s Corruption score starts at 0 and is increased when it indulges in the dark powers or suffers exposure to the Warp. When a creature’s Corruption ability score reaches 30, it transforms into chaos spawn (use the statistics for a gibbering mouther).
- When exercising power in a cruel way or using the Intimidation skill, a creature may make a Corruption ability check (instead of a Charisma check or other check). Doing this more than once in a week increases its Corruption by 1.
- Instead of making a regular saving throw, a creature may make a Corruption saving throw to resist being influenced through deception or magic, increasing its Corruption by 1.
- The use of various abilities and features (like evil spells from the Evil Primer) may cause a creature to increase its Corruption. Generally speaking, if it’s a spell that deals any type of damage other than cold, fire, force, lightning, radiant, or thunder, the GM may ask for a Corruption saving throw (DC 12 + spell level) or the creature’s Corruption increases by 1.
- Aside from sanctified holy relics (which are rare indeed), all magic items are either corrupted things of the Warp (frequently intelligent) or not actually magic items and just misunderstood technology (see the Cog-Born background below).
For every day a magic item that grants a permanent bonus is in a creature’s possession, the creature makes an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throw (whichever is lowest) against a DC equal to 5 + 1 per day they have possessed the item. On a failure the creature’s Corruption increases by 1 and the base DC is doubled.
Whenever a creature activates a magic item, it makes an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throw (whichever is lowest) against a DC equal to 5 + 1 per previous use. On a failure the creature’s Corruption increases by 1 and the base DC is doubled.
Warp Mutations. Gaining too much Corruption at once can cause a creature to mutate. Whenever your Corruption score increases by more than 1 in the same day, any further saving throws made to resist Corruption have disadvantage and on a failure your body mutates. These mutations should vary widely and generally grant one benefit (typically based around what the mutation is; an extra eyeball would grant improved vision, an extra ear better hearing, dead flesh extra hit points) and two negatives (one should always be a heavy social penalty, the other reflective of the mutation; an extra eyeball might make the creature susceptible to nausea, an extra ear vulnerability to thunder damage, dead flesh a decrease to carrying limit).
NEW SKILL – Science (Intelligence)
You’re familiar with the actual practical application of science—collecting samples, performing experiments, realizing hypothetical designs, finding vox frequencies, understanding the nuances of and handling scientific materials, and so on.
Bards, monks, rogues, rangers, and wizards add Science to the list of skills they may pick from during character creation. The following Backgrounds may exchange one of their offered skills for Science: Guild Artisan, Hermit, Noble, and Sage.
NEW SKILL – Technology (Intelligence)
You can understand how a device unknown to you functions, locate vox frequencies, and anything else that falls under “hit the keys to make things happen” that doesn’t qualify as music. The majority of checks using this skill are either against a DC determined by the GM (such as hacking a messaging cable), or as an opposed check against an opponent who also has the Technology skill (such as a technician overseeing a functioning system).
Bards, fighters, rogues, sorcerers, and wizards add Technology to the list of skills they may pick from during character creation. The following Backgrounds may exchange one of their offered skills for Technology: Charlatan, Criminal, Entertainer, Guild Artisan, Noble, Sage, Sailor, and Soldier.
Hit Selection and Headshots
It wouldn’t be Warhammer 40,000 if you didn’t get to explode people’s heads. It is strongly, strongly, strongly recommended that only PCs and major NPCs get to use hit selection, and that certain targets may not be viable for it (such as dreadnaughts or a Chosen of Nurgle). At the GM’s discretion, a helmet may negate instant death from a headshot and other parts of power armor may absorb the effects of a selected hit, though this always disables the piece of armament until it can be repaired later (if it can be repaired at all).
ATTACK ROLL = AC → REGULAR HIT
Good for you.
ATTACK ROLL = AC + 2 → TORSO HIT
You hit the target’s torso. The creature takes a cumulative -1 penalty to Constitution saving throws until the damage from torso hits is healed.
ATTACK ROLL = AC + 4 → LEG HIT
You hit the target’s leg. The creature takes a cumulative -1 penalty to Strength saving throws and a -5 ft. penalty to speed until the damage from leg hits is healed.
ATTACK ROLL = AC + 6 → ARM HIT
You hit the target’s arm. The creature takes a cumulative -1 penalty to Dexterity saving throws and a -1 penalty to attack rolls until the damage from arts hits is healed.
ATTACK ROLL = AC + 8 or more → HEADSHOT
You hit the target directly in the skull. Your attack is a critical hit that deals maximum damage. The creature makes a Constitution saving throw against a DC equal to the attack’s damage. On a success it is blinded for 1 round per 10 points of damage (minimum 1 round). On a failure it is dead. If you rolled a natural 20 on the attack roll, the creature dies instantly.
To strike a balance between space marines and all the inferior lessers among them in Warhammer 40k, we’re going to take the standard races and give them each some oomph–principally the Touch of Fate feature. It should be noted that inside of Imperium Space, anything other than humans, ogryns, and squats are kill-on-sight.
Touch of Fate. Either the God-Emperor has spared you a thought or a dark entity of the Warp has touched your soul. Regardless of the reason, the universe itself protects as bolter shells and other extremis weapons have a tendency to miss you. A creature proficient with an extremis weapon (usually a space marine) has disadvantage on attack rolls using it when targeting you. While you possess this feature, you cannot wield extremis weapons without a class feature granting their use. In addition, once per short rest you can spend your reaction to have advantage on an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, or choose to make a creature reroll a successful attack roll that targeted you.
Play an elf or for a dark eldar, the following as your subrace features: +1 Charisma, elf weapon training, learn 1 wizard cantrip. In addition, you gain the following:
- You have resistance to psychic damage.
- You have advantage on sight-based Wisdom (Perception) checks.
- You gain the Touch of Fate feature.
- You have a number of temporary hit points equal to our Intelligence or Charisma modifier (whichever is higher). When these hit points are depleted, they replenish after 1 minute or immediately upon spending an action focusing your mind.
- You do not require the Psyker feat to take a psyker archetype.
A rank and file Planetary Defense Force soldier, a jockeying bureaucrat at the Ministorum, the depraved lackey of a cult leader, or a low-ranking cog-jockey is going to die quickly in any Warhammer 40k game, D&D 5e hack or otherwise. You gain the following benefits:
- All of your ability scores increase by 1.
- You gain 1 feat.
- You gain proficiency in 1 skill of your choice.
- You gain the Touch of Fate feature.
Lol sorry nope (if you think space marines or orcs are tough–and you will–oy…)
Use the statistics for a half-orc with the following changes:
- Your size is Large.
- You gain natural armor that increases your AC by 2.
- Your speed is 35 feet. When wearing red armor, clothing, or paint, your speed increases by 5 feet.
- Your Strength score increases by 3, your Constitution increases by 2, and the maximum for both increases to 22.
- Your Intelligence and Wisdom scores are both reduced by 3.
- You gain immunity to poisoned damage, the poisoned condition, and all diseases.
- You gain proficiency in Athletics.
- You regenerate 1 hit point at the end of each round until you are decapitated or obliterated. Whenever your proficiency bonus increases to an even number (+4, +6) your regeneration increases by 1.
- Your unarmed strikes deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
- When you pick up a broken weapon, you can treat it as though it were not broken. If the weapon you are wielding is red, you gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with it.
- If you have Volo’s Guide to Monsters you can use the rules for an Orc with only the following of the above features: natural armor, increased speed, poison & disease immunities, Athletics proficiency, regeneration, unarmed strikes, and broken/red weapons.
These biologically augmented warriors are the apotheosis of humanity, perfect soldiers encased in suits of power armor that make them the bane of xenos across the universe. You gain the following benefits (and are otherwise human, though you gain no benefits from that distinction):
- Your size is Large. GMs that prefer them to be Medium (most space marines are ~7 feet tall) can give them the following feature instead:
- Bigger. You are treated as one size Larger for grapples and when determining carrying capacity.
- Your speed is 40 feet.
- Your Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores increase by 2, and their maximums increase by 2. Your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores increase by 1.
- You have resistance to poison damage.
- You have advantage on saving throws against diseases and poison.
- You gain proficiency in Athletics and Perception.
- You have advantage on sight- and sound-based Wisdom (Perception) checks (increasing your passive Perception by 5) and on checks made to identify a chemical substance.
- Whenever you take damage, you ignore 1 point of damage.
- You regenerate 1 hit point every minute. When reduced to 0 hit points you automatically stabilize unless you have suffered a mortal wound (such as instant death from decapitation, evisceration, or massive damage). While at 0 hit points you remain conscious but are incapacitated.
- Instantly killing you requires twice as much damage as normal. At the GM’s discretion, you may not even truly die in such an instance (sustained instead by the sus-an membrane putting your body into a state of suspended animation for as long as hundreds of years)
- You do not need to eat food or drink water. You require only 4 hours of sleep to gain the benefits of a long rest and while sleeping you remain conscious. You can go 2 weeks without sleep.
- You still need to breathe air, but you are able to sustain yourself on far less of it (as little as 5% oxygen content) and can hold your breath for 10 times as long as normal.
- You are able to absorb genetic material by consuming blood or flesh, the omophagea inside your body transmitting the gained information to your brain as a set of memories or experiences. What this can reveal is at the discretion of the GM.
- Your unarmed strikes deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
- You produce a blinding spittle able to temporarily deprive foes of their vision. As a bonus action, you spit your corrosive saliva at a creature within 15 feet. It makes a Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier) or is blind until the end of your next turn.
- You gain proficiency with simple, martial, and extremis weapons as well as all armor and shields.
I know they aren’t really a major thing in the IP anymore but I love me some space dwarves. Use the regular statistics for dwarves, adding these additional benefits:
- Your Intelligence score increases by 2 and your maximum increases to 22.
- You gain proficiency with Technology and have advantage on checks made to analyze, build, engineer, repair, and sabotage technological devices.
- You gain proficiency with technological vehicles (be they for air, land, outer space, or water).
- You gain the Touch of Fate feature.
The tau are a race of technologically-advanced xenos from the fringes of space, an entire empire devoted to the Greater Good. GMs with a party that have more than one tau should create subtypes to represent various societal casts, but otherwise treat them as (fire tau that are statistically identical to) regular humans with the following benefits:
- You gain proficiency with Technology.
- You have advantage on saving throws against spells.
- You gain the Touch of Fate feature.
- You barely register in the Warp and cannot take the Psyker feat or any psyker archetypes.
For kroot, genestealers, and other xenos, consult your GM and beware the Inquisition!
All humans should use the backgrounds available to regular characters as well as those found in the Book of Exalted Darkness (including that free Evil Primer PDF particularly for chaos folks!), Hypercorps 2099 5E, and 2099 Wasteland as appropriate. If you dig around on my website, you will little bits scattered here and there. If your character is already all about the Warp, make sure to twist your background into something appropriately maddening and evil. Otherwise a human should probably be either very much pragmatic (PS: got a Pragmatist background in Mists of Akuma 😉 ) or very devout. If you are xenos, chances are good you’ll have the best luck in 2099 Wasteland although again, with a bit of tweaking many of the standard backgrounds should suit you fine.
As mentioned above, space marines are going to overshadow unaugmented characters so for any PC that isn’t a space marine, an ork, or taking the Cog-Born background, give out two character backgrounds to help even out the playing field a bit.
Either identified from scholam in your youth and brought into the fold of the Mechanicum, saved from slavery in the hold of a chaos warship, chosen by the Dark Mechanicums probability machines, trained by xenos scientists, or otherwise led to learning how to assuage the spirits of the machine (or if you’re a stout, you know, understanding how machines work).
Skill Proficiencies: Science, Technology
Tool Proficiencies: Alchemist’s supplies, thieves’ tools, tinker’s tools
Equipment: Alchemist’s supplies, thieves’ tools, tinker’s tools
Feature: Coax the Machine Spirit. You have learned enough about the workings of technology that you can improvise the use of items even when they are not intended for you. You ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the use of technology (except for extremis weapons and power armors).
Space Marine Backgrounds
You only get a single proficiency or feature because you’ve got enough goodies already. :p
Also for whatever godawful reason, Games Workshops doesn’t have lady space marines. I say f#%^ that–if you want to play a female Adeptus Astartes, do it. Assume that the Lost Primarchs are DAUGHTERS instead of sons (! my word!) and that they have been in deep space, written from history for fear of the singular ability that sets them apart from their male kin: reproducing Adeptus Astartes far more rapidly than any chapter of battle brothers ever could. One chapter is oriented towards Chaos and the other chapter remains true to the Imperium. As an extra f#@$-you to misogynists, you get proficiency in one skill and two tool kits of your choice for playing a lady space marine.
CHAOS SPACE MARINE BACKGROUNDS
- Alpha Legion: Deception proficiency
- Death Guard: poison immunity
- Emperor’s Children: thunder resistance
- Iron Warriors: Investigation proficiency
- Night Lords: Stealth proficiency
- Sons of Horus: Persuasion proficiency
- Thousand Sons: Arcana proficiency
- Word Bearers: Religion proficiency
- World Eaters: Intimidation proficiency
IMPERIUM SPACE MARINE BACKGROUNDS
- Blood Angels: natural weapon bite attack (1d4)
- Dark Angels: Survival proficiency
- Imperial Fists: Insight proficiency
- Iron Hands: Technology proficiency
- Raven Guard: Stealth proficiency
- Salamanders: deal an additional 1 point of damage per die when dealing fire damage
- Space Wolves: Advantage on smell-based Perception checks
- Ultramarines: History proficiency
- White Scars: Vehicle (land) proficiency
Prerequisites: Wisdom 16 or Charisma 16
You are able to call upon the powers of the Warp. Whether through training by Imperium-sanctioned psykers or through the manipulations of daemons, you wield what some call sorcery or magic, using it to perform tasks that defy belief.
- You are able to take a psyker archetype.
- You have advantage on checks and saving throws to resist increasing your Corruption score.
- You learn one cantrip from any spell list, using either your Wisdom or Charisma (whichever is highest) as your spellcasting ability score.
- You learn one 1st-level spell from any spell list, using either your Wisdom or Charisma (whichever is highest) as your spellcasting ability score. You are able to cast this spell a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus before requiring a short rest to recharge the use of this feature.
CHAOS CLASS ARCHETYPES
In the months to come there are going to be a lot of archetypes, almost all of which are focused on playing as a faithful servant of the Imperium of Mankind. At the GM’s discretion, these can be tweaked and modified for playing a character devoted to the Warp instead, gaining dark gifts of Chaos that work the same way as the written ability but represented by a gruesome mutation or unholy relic rather than Imperial training or advanced technology.
END OF HACK #1
There’s more ground to be covered yet but this should be enough to take the given core rules of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition into the grim, dark future of Warhammer 40,000.
In the next post I’m going to dig into weapons, power armor, and other equipment. Then it’s onto class archetypes where each post will have an option for space marines and something for non-space marines (for 7 posts), and after that there’ll be 9 paired monsters posts.
For the 20th post (because Enuncia is close to my heart and deserves a post of its own, mostly because I can’t think of a specific one it ought to be with–and I can drop in the random sidebar-esque material in there) I’ll share the big google document where all the content is efficiently organized, improved via feedback from folks, and super accessible.
Thanks for checking this out! 😀
(MIKE WHAT ABOUT STARFINDER — I just got my dev copy and am gleefully reading it. That hack will definitely include the Starfinder conversion of Hyper Score so I need some time to work it out. Don’t worry, it’ll get here. 😀 )