Terrible Sights and Insanity

I’ve been working on a series of custom moves for Heresy World to be used when a character’s mental resolve is tested. When you’re greeted by a slobbering mutant, or a gruesome murder scene, or a daemon of the Warp, you must steel your mind to resist succumbing to your fear.

My first iteration of this mechanic used two moves, listed in this commit. The first is when you see something terrible:

Fight Your Fear v1.0

When you witness a terrible sight, roll+WIS. On a 10+ you steel yourself against the horrors you see, take +1 forward. On a 7-9 you maintain your resolve, but your mind is shaken – you take -1 forward. On a 6- you gain 1 insanity.

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Notes From Two Play Test Sessions

I just wrapped up my second session of Heresy World. Both sessions I’ve done were with people who are new relatively to Dungeon World and have no experience with Warhammer 40k. Both games used the Shattered Hope front and its enemies and went very well.

During this first playthrough both groups talked a bit to a blabbering survivor of the fighting in the mines, then talked to the Commissar and the Quartermaster. The blabbering survivor was tortured by the Arbitrator for information both times, and gave the players some idea of monsters and mutants attacking the Guardsmen and the rebels in the mines.

Neither group has advanced far enough into the mines to fight the Mutant Abomination or get near the Antithesis Stone, but they have both fought rebels and some mutants.

I’ve pasted some of my raw notes below, and described any changes they necessitated.

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Guardsman 1.0

Imperial Guard
By CrisM1A1 on DeviantArt

The first version of the Guardsman is now complete. This was made easier by my decision to include a master list of advanced moves that all classes can take, because I didn’t need as many for this class. The explosives stuff is probably enough, but I’d like to introduce some more social moves so this class isn’t limited to only fighting.


Your maximum HP is 10+Constitution.
Your base damage is d8.

Guardsman will likely be focused on fighting so I put his stats as pretty high.

Starting Moves

Grab Grenade

When you search your belt for a suitable grenade roll+WIS. Expend one use of your Grenade Belt and choose a grenade from this list:

  • Frag Grenade
  • Fire Bomb
  • Stun Grenade
  • Smoke Grenade
  • Krak Grenade

On a 10+ you also take +1 forward to Throw Grenade.
On a miss the GM will offer you a different grenade, or the one you were searching for at a cost.

This move hasn’t changed since I described it in this post about grenade moves, although Throw Grenade was changed to a basic move.

Explosives Expert

When you set up a triggered explosive say what materials on hand you’re using and choose your trigger: timed, remote, proximity. Roll+INT, on a 10+ choose 1, on a 7-9 choose 2, and on a miss choose 3:

  • It takes a bit longer to set up
  • You need to something extra to get it to work, the GM will tell you what
  • It will go off a little late (or a little early)
  • It isn’t as powerful as you wanted

I haven’t playtested this move yet but I like it a lot.

First Hand Experience

Your time with the Guard had you fighting a particular type of enemy of the Imperium – gain +1 to Spout Lore rolls that deal with them. Choose the type of enemy:

  • Mutants
  • Xenos
  • Chaos
  • Psykers

I think a small line requiring the player to describe their experience with the chosen group could help facilitate some character development.


Your load is 9+Str.
You start with flak armor (worn, 2 armor, 2 weight), grenade belt (3 uses, 1 weight), your trusty Lasgun (near, far, long, 4 uses, 2 weight, 2 proven) and a Box of Ammo (3 ammo, 1 weight). Choose your melee weapon: Short Sword, Axe, Mace (1 weight, close)

I started the Guardsman with a trusty Lasgun, which has the added tag of 2 proven. This is one of the new tags for Heresy World, it means that rolling below 2 damage counts as rolling 2 damage.

Advanced Moves for Levels 2+


When you charge towards the enemy, you and those you lead take +1 forward.

Stolen from Paladin.

Hold the Line

When you don’t fall back despite imminent danger you and your allies gain +1 armor as long as you don’t retreat.

I like the theme of this one. Holding the line seems very Imperial Guard to me. We’ll see how the mechanic works out.

Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer

You gain +1 to Spout Lore rolls about war.

I might make this a starting move instead just because of the name. Or maybe just change the names of this and First Hand Experience.

Battle Senses

You gain +1 to Discern Realities while in combat.

Stolen from the Fighter.


You ignore the clumsy tag on armor that you wear.

Shield of the Imperium

You always gain +1 hold when using Defend, even on a 6-.

Stolen from the Paladin.

Deadly Cover

When you get a 7-9 on Suppressing Fire you may choose to expend another use of your weapon to deal your damage. On a 10+ you may choose to expend another use of your weapon to deal +1d4 damage.

Baptised by Bullets

Whenever you run through enemy fire, take +1 to Defy Danger.

I like the name of this one.

There’s the Guardsman’s first go. I have a playtest session with a new group on Thursday, hopefully someone tries it out.

Advanced Moves For Everyone!

While making new moves I often felt bad limiting them to a single class. This was especially true when drawing inspiration from Dark Heresy talents. For example here is the advanced move Hatred that I created:


Your hatred for a particular enemy of the Imperium runs deep. Each time you take this move, select one of the groups below and describe how your hatred took root. You take +1d4 damage ongoing against them.

  • Xenos
  • Criminals
  • Daemons
  • Psykers
  • Mutants

I wanted everyone to be able to take this. I like the small addition of “describe how your hatred took root.” My hopes are that it will lead to people exploring their characters’s pasts and motivations more. To make it so anyone can use this move I’ve created a list of advanced moves that are available for all classes to take when they level up. Here are those new global advanced moves:

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Volley and Ammo Changes

I recently did a short play test with some friends and got together some notes. One thing that didn’t surprise me in the slightest was that I wasn’t entirely happy with how the clip/ammo/Volley/reload system worked, so I’ve made some changes. You can view the full changes in this commit on GitHub.

The first change was getting rid of the clip tag, and simply giving weapons uses. For example the Laspistol’s tag as of right now are near, far, 3 uses, 1 weight. Whenever you fire your Laspistol for a bit you mark off a use. An important thing to keep in mind is that one use of a weapon isn’t one shot, it’s a brief moment of you firing shots.

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Shattered Hope Enemies

In my previous post about this front I described the general setting of the mission and the front I created for it. Now it’s time to write up the baddies that the Acolytes will probably run in to.

Groups, Intelligent, Organized
d8 damage, 6 HP, 1 armor
Weapons: One of Laspistol/Stub Revolver, one of Crowbar/Pickaxe/Wrench
Instinct: To upset the order

The Rebel exists already in Dungeon World, but it’s a horde there and in this setting they work in smaller groups. I’ve changed it to a group which ups the damage from d6 to d8 and the hp from 3 to 6.

Mutant Rebel

Mutant Rebel
Groups, Intelligent, Organized
d8 damage, 10 HP, 1 armor
Weapons: One of Laspistol/Stub Revolver, one of Crowbar/Pickaxe/Wrench
Mutation, choose one: Extra eyes, large eyes, scaled flesh, tentacle appendages, monstrous mouth, extra limbs

These particular members of the rebellion have undergone strange physical transformations that make them a blasphemous sight, and often a more vicious foe. Instinct: To upset the order, to corrupt the flesh

The Mutant Rebel is pretty simple, I’ve just taken the common rebel and added 4HP, as well as a list of mutations to pull from to describe them.


Mutant Guardsman
Solitary, Hand
d10 damage, 12 HP, 1 armor
Weapons: fists

This man was once a member of the Imperial Guard, but has been terribly warped by the power of the Antithesis Stone. He feasts on the corpses he finds, and makes new ones when he can.
Instinct: to feast on the dead

The stats for the Guardsman are just those of a solitary monster as per the Dungeon World rules. I was going to add some of the extras (damage, hp, tags, moves, etc) but really it’s a pretty basic enemy and doesn’t need anything more.

Mutant Abomination
Solitary, Reach, Forceful
d10+2 damage, 16 HP, 1 armor
Weapon: Jagged claws, fangs
Moves: Toss aside

This creature been tainted so severely that it is nearly unrecognisable as a former human. Its impossibly long arms each end in a single large jagged claw. Tufts of coarse fur emerge at various points on its body, particularly near its lamprey mouth. Instinct: to revel in slaughter

In terms of numbers this guy is the Mutant Guardsman with +2 damage, +4 HP and +1 armor. The real threat comes from its long arms which give it a much bigger range and the forceful tag, letting it knock the Acolytes around a bit.

Weak Plaguebearer
Solitary, Terrifying, Close
d10+2 damage, 18 HP, 2 armor
Weapon: Barbed long sword
Moves: Spew vitriol

This writhing mass of decay and malaise is weaker than most Plaguebearers, as it has only been partially summoned, but it is no less repulsive. Instinct: To spread rot

In my previous post I mentioned that I would let the Chaos god that the cult worships be found out during play, and let that dictate what type of daemon they fight. That’s just classic feature creep right there, so I’ve cut that back so I only have to make the Plaguebearer.

I’ve also developed a custom move to go along with the Plaguebearer.

Move: Nurglenomics
When a Plaguebearer deals damage to you, roll+CON. On a hit your body fights off the diseased essence of Nurgle. On a 10+ you steel yourself against the Plaguebearer and are no longer affected by this move. On a 6-you begin vomiting immediately, becoming vulnerable, and gain the Sick debility.

According to my googling I’m the first person to use this genius pun online.

In the original adventure it also explains that destroying the Antithesis Stone will send the Plaguebearer back into the warp. I’ve created another custom move for that scenario.

Move: Damage the Stone
When you attack the Antithesis Stone, roll+DEX if using a ranged weapon or roll+STR if attacking in melee. On a 10+ you hit the stone and deal 1 point of damage. On a 7-9 the same, but at a cost – the GM will tell you what. When the Stone has suffered 3 damage it shatters, sending the Plaguebearer hurtling back into the warp and ending its foul presence in this part of the mines.

Possible costs: Use more ammo, suffer Nurglenomics, have the Stone attempt to mutate them again, draw the attention of the Plaguebearer, damage a melee weapon

This custom move isn’t meant to be read out loud to the players, rather is should be discovered if they try to destroy the stone.

I have two people who are new to RPGs and very new to Warhammer 40k who I have started playtesting this with. I’ll be writing up my findings and notes on that once they’ve played a bit more of this front.

Starting the First Front: Shattered Hope

Most Dark Heresy adventures are much more linear than Dungeon World fronts, and have a far richer background of information that is predetermined. When it comes to fronts I’m either going to have to find a way to keep a good balance or just tip the scales in one direction or the other. I suspect I won’t have even a clue if it’s good until I can play test.

For now I think I’ll replace some of the lore aspects of the mission with questions either to be asked of the players at the start of the mission, or to be found out by both the GM and the players as play progresses.

This first front that I’m creating for Heresy World is a conversion of the Shattered Hope free demo that you can find at Fantasy Flight Games. It tells the tale of a group of Acolytes sent to investigate a mine that was sealed off by the Imperial Guard. The Guard was on the planet to quell a rebellion but something led them to seal off the entrance to the mine and call for the Inquisition.

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Assassin 1.0

Grendal: Dark Heresy Warhammer 40k Assassin by David-Kegg
Source: David-Kegg on DeviantArt

The Assassin has now reached playable status. Hurray! I’ve made a couple changes to the starting and advanced moves and then added the looks, gear, alignments, stats, and bonds. I’ll start by explaining some of the changes I made to the moves and then go into the rest of the class info.

The full text of the Assassin at time of this writing is on GitHub here.

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Arbitrator 1.0

Arbitrator by Corbella
Source: Corbella on Deviant Art

I’ve completed the first playable version of the Arbitrator. The starting moves from this post and the advanced moves from this post remain unchanged. I’ve added the stats, bonds, looks, starting gear, and alignments. You can see the Arbitrator 1.0 over here on GitHub, but I’ll post the additions below.

Keep in mind that since I’m only shooting for levels 1-5 for the MVP (minimum viable product), there are no advanced moves for levels 6-10 for the Arbitrator yet.

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Moving the GitHub Repos

I had initially written here that I would be storing the game information in a GitHub repo that incorporated a NodeJS website for display game data and a separate game_data folder with JS files for declaring the actual text of the game.

Screw that.

I’ve since moved the entire codebase to a new GitHub repo which you can find here. The game text is now written in simple markdown, and can easily be read straight off of GitHub. Anyone reading this can feel free to make suggestions for the project by making their own pull request.

The other system could still be implemented down the line, as the tooltips and data structure are quite useful. For now though it’s just a hindrance to writing the game. I find writing markdown easier, and I can make changes directly on GitHub’s website.

I’ve already made further changes to the game after copying over what I’d written on this blog. You can see the changes in this list of commits, but I’ll be writing about them in detail in future posts.