Deathwatch (RPG)

From 1d4chan

NOTICE:: As of 9/9/16, FFG announced that the contract with GW has "expired" and they will no longer be producing anymore 40K or WFB products. We've got until Feb. 28 of '17 to stock up, and then all of their products with GW's IP will be removed from the catalogues. It seems that the 40K RPG lines are currently and officially dead until/unless GW finds a new contract to carry on the legacy or builds an in-house team to do it.

ADDENDUM: The 40k RPG license has since been acquired by Cubicle 7. The new 40k RPG, Wrath And Glory, released in 2018.

Deathwatch Cover.jpeg
RPG published by
Fantasy Flight Games
Rule System d%
No. of Players 3+
Session Time 10+ minutes
Authors Ross Watson, Jay Little, Sam Stewart
First Publication 2010
Essential Books Deathwatch Core Rulebook
  • The Game Master's Kit
  • The Emperor Protects
  • Rites of Battle
  • Mark of the Xenos
  • The Achilus Assault
  • First Founding
  • The Jericho Reach
  • Rising Tempest
  • Honour the Chapter
  • The Outer Reach
  • Ark of Lost Souls
  • The Emperor's Chosen

Not to be confused with the titular Deathwatch organization, though it is about them.

Deathwatch is the third Fantasy Flight Games Warhammer 40,000 Role-Playing Game, and the first to focus on Space Marines - specifically, the alien-hunting Deathwatch stationed in the Jericho Reach. It's pretty cool; /tg/ uses it to make custom chapters.


Identical to the companion games published by Fantasy Flight Games (see below under See Also), Deathwatch uses a roll-under-or-equal 1d100 system. Also unchanged are the 9 primary stats, similar in range to those in Warhammer 40,000, which you roll against when making tests. The lethal combat of the other 40K RPGs is preserved, but at a much higher scale; players may pick weapons that deal far more damage than human-standard ones, but enemies are now more powerful, cunning, and rules now exist for enemies to come in large Hordes capable of pulling down a Space Marine through sheer numbers.

The core rulebook states that Dark Heresy characters with 12000 XP are roughly equal to starting-level Deathwatch characters, but despite what the rulebooks say while this is fair based on the value of the Astartes inherent abilities granted from their gene-seed organs and power armour traits it is not necessarily equal, as such high-level human characters will have highly increased stats, talents and skills far outside of the reach of many Astartes players as well as gear appropriate to their level, so a human character at that amount of XP could run rings around a starting-level Space Marine character.

Weapons and gear are requisitioned in Deathwatch, rather than bought. Each mission assigned to the kill-team comes with a certain number of points for each marine, and each piece of the Deathwatch's armory (apart from their standard gear depending on their Specialization) comes with a points cost. At the end of the mission the requisitioned equipment is returned to the armory, and the players requisition new gear at the start of the next one. This is extremely helpful to the GM as he has less need to worry about players looting everything in sight either to keep for themselves or sell to break in-game economies as in most cases each player will have exactly the equipment they need to do their jobs which is likely better than their opponents, and can also choose to get a different loadout appropriate for each mission.

The game also promotes good team co-operation with the unique addition of Solo/Squad modes. Players in solo mode get a nice bonus (many based on their origin Chapter) as they can focus doing their jobs alone, but if the character joins Squad Mode they can collectively learn and use a range of tactical abilities that benefit the entire group, often in a much more significant way than Solo Mode abilities. As characters in the squad progress from experience, they can learn the unique tactical abilities of other members from other Chapters and benefit from them too, which is very much in the fluffy spirit of the Deathwatch.

Playable Chapters[edit]

The Chapters found in the PHB are:

Rites of Battle added:

First Founding brought in:

Honour the Chapter added a shitton of Chapters in the form of:

And the below chapters in Honour the Chapter are similar to the ones in Rites of Battle that they one or two paragraphs and some slight differences from their founding chapters:

Of course, you can play as any chapter you like or even make your own, thanks to the Space Marine Chapter Creation Tables from Rites of Battle.

List of Specialties[edit]

Deathwatch uses the term "specialty" to refer to what other games call "classes." The specialties available in the main rulebook are:

Rites of Battle, First Founding and Honour the Chapter contain "advanced specialties" that can be taken in addition to the normal ones:

  • Blackshield - effectively a Chapter rather than a Specialty; makes your chapter a seeeecret!
  • Champion - a hero-hunter.
  • Chaplain - buffing & "spiritual guidance".
  • Dreadnought - walking death-machine.
  • Epistolary - super-Librarian.
  • Forge Master - super-Techmarine.
  • Keeper - one part emissary, one part kill machine.
  • Kill-marine - solo operator, can squad mode with himself - This specialty is actually designed for use in Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader in the event your cell of Acolytes/crew of Space Bums don't want a Grey Knight Mary-Sue, but still want to have that one guy who makes all the GM's combat encounters into a lame joke.
  • Watch Captain - The Hero, and the guy who gets all the bitches.
  • First Company Veteran - All round badass who's seen it all and done it all.

First Founding provides Chapter-specific Specialties:

Honour the Chapter describes:

  • Sword Brethren - Black Templar version of the First Company Veteran, more close combat focused.
  • Emperor's Champion - A tougher Black Templar with a selection of mission-long buffs and a one-time upgrade that turns you into the toughest motherfucker on the Kill Team but it lasts only one mission and costs 500 xp that you are not getting back.
  • Tempest Blades - A special class exclusive to the Storm Wardens, who wield massive two-handed Power swords around on the battlefield dueling worthy enemies, which will eventually end in their deaths.

The Outer Reach has a single:

  • Dead Station Vigilant - Deathwatch servants of the Dead Cabal.

Core Rulebooks and Splatbooks[edit]

  • Core Rulebook - The Player's Handbook, which also contains everything that the DM will need.
  • The Game Master's Kit - Not the Dungeon Master's Guide, despite the name. Contains a prewritten adventure and a DM's screen.
  • Final Sanction/Oblivion's Edge - Free downloadable adventures with pre-made characters to immerse first-time players into what this game's all about.
  • The Emperor Protects- Pre-written adventure about Rogue Traders, traitors, and missing Inquisitors. Generally everything you'd expect.
  • Rites of Battle - /tg/'s favourite supplement, Rites of Battle is the biggest expansion to date, containing not only rules for creating your own chapter, the Imperial Fists, and advanced character creation, but also advanced Specialties and Distinctions, which are buffs earned for spending some xp doing something awesome.
  • Mark of the Xenos - Extra content on enemies and aliens.
  • The Achilus Assault - Gives a bunch of background fluff on the setting, Jericho Reach.
  • First Founding - Finally getting around to adding the remaining four First Founding Chapters and gives additional information about the other First Founding Chapters along with the Traitor Legions, along with ways to use the latter as antagonists.
  • The Jericho Reach - Another fluff book, this one focuses on notable Deathwatch kill-teams and their locations in the Reach. Also comes with a pre-written adventure as well.
  • Know No Fear - A History of the Jericho Reach - A free download that explains the history of the Jericho Reach in the context of the Imperium.
  • The Nemesis Incident - A free download that explains a critical part of the history of the Storm Wardens.
  • Rising Tempest - Interesting adventure book focusing on the Tau trying to weasel their way into Imperial space, and what will happen if the naive blueberry cunts do it.
  • Honour the Chapter - A shitton of new Successor Chapters from the later Foundings for players to use, as well as rules for Successors that don't know their parent chapter or aren't closely linked to them (such as the Blood Ravens).
  • The Outer Reaches- Extra content introducing the Eldar (Craftworld, Dark Eldar, and Harlequins), as well as the local Necron dynasty.
  • Ark of Lost Souls - Pre-written adventure book that takes place in a Space Hulk. Provides rules for generating your very own space hulk!
  • The Emperor's Chosen - Pretty much another Rites of Battle, with the first half being fluff on legendary missions and the latter half on playing and equipping 'inheritors' to those legends. Adds squad-level prestige classes/doctrines, allowing even more coordinated rape of the GM's plotline, and an adventure to try out said crunchy bits.

Things that rock[edit]

  • The Demeanor rules actually encourage roleplaying.
  • Lets you play as whatever Chapter you want.
  • The game can be exploited to do hilarious things, like caber-tossing Chaos Lords in Terminator armor almost 200 meters, or Assault Marines running at 276 km/h.
  • You can play as a Dreadnought!

Things that suck[edit]

  • The Ultramarines are once again shown to be the best Chapter ever at everything... sorta. Crunchwise, they're only really good as support, team leader, and "diplomat" characters--other Chapters are much, much better at combat, technology, and other roles. However, in the fluff, there's still a strong emphasis on how great the Codex Astartes is and how all real Chapters follow it to the letter (although, to be fair, that is what many Imperials actually believe).
    • For example: The Ultramarine sustained squad mode ability grants each member a flat bonus on ALL tests equal to his fellowship bonus and also grants one floating re-roll to the team every turn, which is so unbelievably handy it's almost broken. While this is normally only available to those who have learned the Ultramarines tactic, a Tactical Marine can attempt to confer his chapter squad mode ability onto the non-chapter members of the rest of his squad by passing a command test, which an Ultramarine Tactical Marine is just built for so that the squad should just have the ability switched on all the time.
  • Characters are overpowered compared to normal humans, making it very hard to use characters in the other 40k RPGs (But what did you expect from Space Marines?)
  • Critical Damage tables remain unchanged from the other 40k RPGs because FFG copypasted them, so take enough damage and you'll see your badass Space Marine start whimpering and acting in a very non-Space-Mariney way. E.G.- "...gasping in wretched pain." "Screaming incoherently, he twists about in agony for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground and dying." etc.
    • "A blast of energy envelopes the target’s head, burning his face and hair, and causing him to scream like a stuck Grox. In addition to losing his hair..." Very much copypasted, because everyone knows being bald is a requirement to be a space marine, hair-esy aside. No, this is complete rubbish, there are lots of Space Marines with hair. And besides, assuming your GM knows anything about the lore and isn't an arse/just reading straight from the flavor texts, they can prolly make your death a bit more heroic. Excuses, that doesn't change the fact it sounds incredibly Unstartes.
  • A fanmade Salamanders codex that hews closer to the spirit of the chapter than the FFG version.
  • A minor gripe but if it you're a dirty filthy pirate/a broke ass loser the only available pdf for Rites of Battle is either the scanned physical book which is kinda sloppy and includes a /tg/ joke page about stairs, or the official one one you can buy at drivethrurpg (because somehow Fantasy Flight ran out of supplies for a pdf...yeah, I don't get it either). You're not looking hard enough. Google is your friend. The Russians can get us ANYTHING, VK has ALL the 40k RPG books, ALL the 7th Ed Codices (Admittedly less useful now)And its for free.
  • Un-errata-ed, a few weapons are incredibly disproportionately overpowered to when you can acquire them. Bolters (in particular Heavy Bolters) are so insane that it requires some mathhammer to describe the extent of this cheese. Also, the FUCKING Breaching Auger.

The Heavy Bolter has a very impressive statline, clocking in at 3d10kh2+10 damage per shot with 6 pen. While this is a little bit silly, it is far from unforgivable. Every shot you hit will do an average of 23 wounds unmodified. Having the Mighty Shot talent adds 2 to the damage of each shot, raising the damage per shot to 3d10kh+12 and dealing a average of 25 wounds per shot.

What this doesn't factor in, however, is the single most silly thing to grace FFG RPGS: Righteous Fury. Your average Devastator has a BS of 50-60, full-auto gives a +20, being at close range, where most fire-fights occur, confers a +10, and no Devastator worth his power armor doesn't have a motion predictor, conferring another +10. A Devastator at this level would most likely have the Mighty Shot talent.

In your burst of 10 bolts, factoring in all these bonuses, you will hit 4-5 shots on average. Or, 15 dice, rolled 3 at a time, keeping the two highest each time. All of which have a one in ten chance of triggering righteous fury. Which, on account of one of the silliest mistakes to grace RPGs, DOES THE ENTIRE WEAPON'S PROFILE AGAIN (no it doesn't; see below). That means effectively your bolt just more than doubled its damage output, and there is a good chance that with tearing, the righteous fury will trigger more righteous fury, and you just one-shotted that daemon prince. If only table-top heavy bolters were anywhere near this strong, the humans would have won ages ago. From personal experience, I have seen a broadside one-shotted by a storm bolter, and two hammerheads shot in the front armor thoroughly wrecked in two turns. And the heavy bolter can be loaded with special ammunition, allowing it to eviscerate things quietly, turn marines into spaghetti, and much more.

A quick sanity injection here: the above reading of the rules requires the reader to be drunk, high, or preferably, both. Here's how combat actually works, assuming a BS 100 Heavy Bolter fired using Full Auto Burst, as claimed above, with the Mighty Shot talent:

    1. Roll 1d100 to hit; you will hit on a 93 down (on a 94+ your gun jams, due to Full Auto Burst).
    2. On average, you will roll a 50.5, which is, on average, 5.5 shots landing (i.e. 5-6), due to Full Auto Burst.
    3. For each shot, roll damage independently (3d10kh2+12). Each shot which has at least one die showing a 10 will trigger Righteous Fury, so you will trigger this at most the number of times you hit; on average you will have 1.4905 Righteous Furies go off, and at minimum, 0. Remember NOT to roll all 15 dice and keep the 10 highest. If you have no Furies, goto step 6. Do each hit in sequence to avoid confusion, since Righteous Fury makes your hits do more damage without adding actual additional hits, despite using an attack roll as an intermediate step.
    4. For each Righteous Fury, roll to hit again, but without Full Auto Burst allowing additional hits or causing gun jams (Righteous Fury copies the attack roll's modifiers but applies its own special rules). As you are now BS 100 with an unjammable gun, all of your Fury hits land without rolling (and rolling will not help, as you now lack the Full Auto ability to land multiple hits with one roll).
    5. For each R.F. that landed (which should be all of them), roll damage again (3d10kh2+12) and add it to the damage total of the hit that triggered the Fury. As these damage rolls can and will generate more Furies, continue chaining your damage rolls for each hit until it finishes exploding.
    6. Doing the math for you, you should have generated a total of 2.045 Fury hits in the above steps, or a bit shy of half again as many as you would have without the rule. This means you should have dealt, approximately, 7.545 "hits" worth of damage spread across 5.5 actual hits (which matters for dealing with toughness and armor and so on).

In fact, psykers have no greater enemy then a cheesetator with witch bolts; every hit will do damage, and every hit that does damage will drop the poor psyker's psy rating by 1. This means that destroying entire tyranid hordes is as easy as making one devastator fill the hive tyrant with witch bolts, which is highly likely to kill the tyrant, and if it doesn't kill it it will turn off the synapse. Also, you could theoretically turn Eldrad or Ahriman into swiss cheese with this combination. The only thing that murders harder than a heavy bolter at range is an assault cannon, but you can't have those at the beginning of the game and it has less useful special ammunition. And can't be dual-wielded unless your DM wants to let you take two ranged mounts on your terminator armor. Which he shouldn't.

This, makes the devastator objectively the second-best class in the game, by a significant margin. Second best to the Techmarine, the cheesiest cheese to grace the earth.

Most Techmarines have the strength (if not the Talent) to do the heavy bolter/lascannon spam almost as well as Devastator, and also has the privilege to not only have incredibly useful utility skills and pimping gear, but the best melee potential in the system. Yes, better than the dedicated assault class.

The Techmarine also has EXCLUSIVE access to the best melee weapon in the game, and can get it so early that your powergamer techmarine player will be raping things just as hard at level one as he will at level 8. To clarify that point, I present to you, the one, the only: Breaching Auger. Khorne WISHES his sword were as destructive as this monster. The Breaching Auger does 4d10+3 damage with tearing, unwieldy, and power field. And it has 7 pen.

Your highest space marine starting strength is 50 and that can be raised to 70. A Storm Warder Marine has a addition 5 strength, and can take the Tempest Amulet Amulet of Might trapping, which increases the stength by a further 2 and taking the Gene Seed Anomaly can be used to add another 3 strength, rsulting in a total of 80, giving a strength bonus of 18 (146 basic +2 power armor) doing 4d10+21 damage, with tearing. 5 dice that are very likely to trigger righteous fury. That when triggered, will do 4d10+21 damage with 7 pen AGAIN. With five more dice. To trigger it again. And thanks to the special rule of the weapon, all righteous fury damage is doubled (essentially meaning TRIPLE damage) If you are an Iron Priest or a Blood Angel, the dice pool ups to 6 dice per hit with the easy to get and obligatory talent Flesh Render (it's still 4d10 damage, you just throw away the two lowest). And then comes the servo arm. Which, as a reaction, grants an extra 2d10+28 hit with pen 10. That can also righteous fury. And also counts as having 75 strength for lifting shit and confers +10 to tech-use tests. Also, if you have the general space marine talent combat formation, you can replace your agility bonus for your intelligence bonus for purposes of initiative. So not only are you moving first, but not even Kaldor Draigo is going to be able to stop your cheesemarine from turning everything in front of it into fondue. Having the Crushing Blow talent will add two to the damage, meaning that the damage is now 4d10+23, and if a ten is rolled, then you get 4d10+23 damage doubled. Also forgot to mention that you can dual wield this shit. For two 4d10+23 hits that get to reroll two dice, with ANY result of a ten does 4d10+23 doubled again... Khorne is very pleased. It also only costs 18 requisition, or a little more than a power sword. And has no Renown requirement to speak of.

And, with the ability to get artificer armor early in the game, you can have an armor set with 12 everywhere and two history rolls to boot. You then can buy arm mounts, so while you are killing everything with your inexpensive space drills you can have meltaguns strapped to your arms.

And if you take the Forge-Master advanced specialty, you can "suppress" the Breaching Auger's unwieldly quality, meaning you can parry with your space drills and you get access to Artificer Bionics, which give an additional +10 bonus to any bionics you might have.

The simple counter to this of course is for the GM to just stop giving you as much requisition each mission, if all you do is Munchkin with it he's obviously being too generous, and since characters only gain a few Signature Wargear talents they have to decide exactly which items to get.


Warhammer 40,000 Role-playing games made by Fantasy Flight Games
Dark Heresy - Rogue Trader - Deathwatch - Black Crusade - Only War - Dark Heresy Second Edition