Sunday, September 9, 2012

Magic Users for Dark Heresy

One of the things that always disappointed me about WH40K Dark Heresy was that they'd more or less squeezed out the arcane magic that had been part of the Warhammer Fantasy universe, leaving only the eternal war between the forces of Law and the forces of Chaos.

In the process, mages got turned into psychics (a.k.a. "psykers") with the ability to draw upon "The Warp" which was more or less shorthand for power of elemental Chaos. Gone was any discussion of the Winds of Magic and their various colors, the factions of mages dedicated to particular kinds of magic, and other elements of magic in the fantasy setting.

A couple of years ago, I set out to address that issue. I spend a lot of time over several weeks writing up a sorcerer class for Dark Heresy, and adding back into the WH40K universe the sorts of things that I actually like about magic. Psykers, to me, were too flat and boring. They just happened to have dangerous powers, but there was no real sense that they had much more depth than that. Yes, of course one can play a psyker character, and it can be an interesting character. However (and this is a problem with the Dark Heresy world in general), they can only exist within relatively narrow boundaries.

I guess another reason I decided to do this was to throw something at my characters they hadn't seen before, and to really fuck with them a bit. My sorcerers are dangerous, both to themselves and others. I also wrote this material in the pursuit of creating a new area of heresy in which the acolytes could become embroiled. Sorcerers of a new type? No, sorcerers who have hidden from view for millenia, passing down their occult knowledge to apprentices, always in secret. Until now. Now, they've been exposed as a great new threat to the Empire. This threat is both in the powers of the sorcerers and in the temptation that non-psychic magic could provide to Inquisitorial acolytes looking to enchance their ability to serve the Emperor. It is the sort of thing that could provoke civil war between the Puritan and Radical factions of the Inquisition. At least this was what I hoped might happen. And it has to some extent. Finally, I also wanted to provide my acolytes with a new challenge, one that was potentially deadly to them, and an array of new NPCs who could become the sorts of legendary villains that recur in any good epic tale.

They are called witches, warlocks, magi, and sorcerers, among other things. But whatever you call them, sorcerers are very, very dangerous enemies of the Empire, heretical traffickers with Daemons and all manner of foul Warp creatures, cultists, and heretical filth. The best way to deal with one of these foes is a good flamer, according to many Puritan members of the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition. However, for Radical inquisitors and acolytes, Arcane Magic could be a way to control, and ultimately to dominate (in the Emperor's Holy Name), The Warp itself. More importantly, even non-psykers can perform magic if they have the spark. It might be best that the Inquisitor and his acolytes destroy those magi not attached to the Holy Ordos, but save their knowledge in service of the Light. 

The full document is here:

This document is for illustrative purposes only. Please to not distribute it.