Taking a Look at 40K RPG Wrath & Glory
After only a couple hours with the quickstart guide, it’s clear that Wrath & Glory is something completely different to Fantasy Flight’s range of Warhammer 40k RPGs. The rules are smoother and are definitely closer to the sweet-spot between grim depression and wild power fantasy that is the series’ hallmark, though there’s a definite lack of polish that really needs to be worked out before the core books hit the shelves.
Grumbling about typos may not be the most exciting thing to write about, but it’s important to mention because Wrath & Glory looks to have a chance of being a pretty solid game. The rules are complex enough to make for crunchy combat and skill challenges, but not so abstract or dense that you have to stop play every few rounds to look up a ruling or roll on a table.
It’s not quite clear how the adventures will be framed yet, but from the quickstart it seems that the party is acting as an inquisitorial warband – a handful of skilled specialists dispatched throughout the galaxy on the orders of shadowy overseers. The short adventure included in the sat, Blessings Unheralded, also made a passing reference to the enigmatic Rogue Traders, which may suggest some slightly looser romps around the galaxy.
However, at some point in the adventures you’re going to need to overcome some obstacles, whether they’re locked doors or monstrous orks. Fortunately, both are treated in much the same way in Wrath & Glory.
The core mechanic is based around building up a dice pool from your raw stats and skills – shooting the ork would combine your ballistic skill rating and your agility, while hacking the lock control would need tech and intelligence – and then using them to generate a number of successes (or ‘idols’) determined by the GM. The quickstart is based around using regular d6s, with a result of 4-5 producing one success and a 6 giving two, but when the core set comes out it will doubtless come with custom dice.
If the roll produces any ‘spare’ 6’s they can be spent on bonus effects, such as extra damage on an attack or pumping a few more nuggets of information from an informant during an interrogation. Alternatively, they can be dumped into a communal pool that the heroes can use further down the line.
This will probably all feel very familiar to people who have played games with similar dice pool mechanics, such as Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures, but Wrath & Glory has a few tricks up its sleeves. For one, just because you hit a target doesn’t mean you actually hurt it. Every character and creature has a ‘resilience’ rating, and if the damage caused by an attack is under this value then the bullet, knife or fist simply bounces off the target’s armour.
This has some interesting effects when it comes to highlighting some of the quirks of the 40k universe. A power-armoured space marine, for example, is virtually immune to the damage caused by the standard-issue lasgun used by regular human troops. The only way to actually inflict any wounds with it is with a called shot, or by using extra skills or traits to deal a few extra points of damage.
While this may sound unbalanced or even game-breaking, it all seems to work when you get to the table. If nothing else it makes truly powerful opponents seem all the more dangerous, and having your lone guardswoman successfully take the perfect shot to catch them in the eye produces one of the fist-pumping moments of triumph that make roleplaying games so satisfying.
As it happens, the reason we know the stats of a space marine in the first place is that the list of pre-gen characters don’t just include veteran soldiers and frothing priests, but also one of the superpowered poster-boys of the franchise.
This is interesting because so many games set in the 40K universe try to avoid sticking the iconic warriors into the fray with mere mortals for fear of them overshadowing the rest of the party. But if the party we’re presented with in the quickstart is supposed to be typical, things are probably going to be a little more high-powered that you might expect.
All these little nuggets of information and potential stories have set the anticipation levels high, with the only worrying cloud on the horizon being the generally unpolished state of the quickstart guide.
Normally you wouldn’t raise too many complaints over a few errant vowels or misplaced commas, but Blessings Unheralded has a worrying amount of errors littered throughout the text. Weapons have abilities that aren’t listed in the text, NPC names change from paragraph to paragraph and rules mentioned in the adventure text seem to be at odds with those in the quickstart rules.
At the same time, the adventure itself has some good ideas and is well-structured, but has some odd design choices. The text calls for check to see if the characters work out something the players have probably already twigged and offers up penalties on a failure, and some of the friendly NPCs seem so bad at spotting clues that the party can’t help but be suspicious of them (“so the monsters attacking you are dressed as patients, and match the number of people who recently died, but you never thought to check the morgue?”)
Still, while these are certainly issues that need to be overcome, Wrath & Glory has all the signs of being a solid 40k RPG, and perhaps the most accessible one released so far.
The full version of the game is set to be released around September. You can download Blessings Unheralded from DrivethruRPG here, and developers Ulisses are free download codes on their social media channels throughout July.