Only War

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Only War
Only-war.jpg
RPG published by
Fantasy Flight Games
Rule System d%
No. of Players 3+
Session Time 10+ minutes (because you might die in 10 min)
Authors Andrew Fischer, Mack Martin, Sam Stewart
First Publication 2012
Essential Books Only War Core Rulebook
  • The Game Master's Kit
  • Final Testament
  • Hammer of the Emperor
  • Enemies of the Imperium
  • Shield of Humanity

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 Ulisses North America. The new 40k RPG, Wrath And Glory, is due for release in 2018.

"...in the grim, dark future, only war there is."
- Yoda

“How come we play war and not peace?"
"Too few role models.”
- Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

The last first edition entry in Fantasy Flight Games's Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay product line, in which players take the role of Imperial Guardsmen. The first edition of the core rulebook, and two splats have been released (Hammer of the Emperor which gives new regiments and rough rider rules, and Enemies of the Imperium, which gives more information about the various foes Guardman are likely to face and information on how to make a regiment that serves the traitorous Severan Dominate).

Players create Guardsmen from different disciplines within the Guard - heavy weapons specialists, pilots/drivers, techpriests, Commissars, and so on. Each player also gets one or more background NPC helpers, referred to as Comrades. These Comrades serve as extra hands, ablative wounds or even something for the Commissar to BLAM. Don't get too attached to your Comrades. They. Will. Die.

That aside, beside the trolls who like to post about how the mehrines are unappreciated, /tg/ has always been in love the idea of an anonymous everyman fighting in the 41st millennium. You know, the one who signed up to go fight in a big galaxy, where one needs to be pretty ballsy just to step off his homeplanet and into a festering, flaming hell where one will likely get swatted into a paste by an indifferent carnifex, axed in the spine by a guffawing ork, or have your legs liquefied into drugs that a Slaaneshi cultist will hope to snort off of some daemonette's ass while you watch. The one armed only with his flashlight and his faith in the Emperor to fend off the grim darkness of the galaxy. Some fa/tg/uys are probably all over this one already.

As a bonus, Only War has a large amount of high quality female guardsmen artwork. So if you ever wanted to fap to a female Vostroyan First-Born or Mordian Iron Guardsman, this is your chance.

/tg/ has since created a fan regiment called the 1st Membranes using the regiment creation rules. They are made primarily from Psyker stock, and as a result are a regiment of gibbering, schizophrenic and/or awesome troopers who, when confronted with Orks, will either scream at the things coming out of the walls or mow down hordes of greenskins with mind bullets.

Ruleset[edit]

Like Black Crusade, Only War uses a level-free system of improving your characters, making all options free from the beginning as long as certain prerequisite skills/talents have already been bought and that there is enough XP available to buy the option.

That means you can quite quickly get back-flipping Ogryns, Ratling wrestlers, ninja enginseers (in power armour) and any other combination of bizarre skills that your players want to have for their characters, only hindered by their stats and the cost of the upgrade; which is dependent upon the "aptitudes" that the PC has which are determined by class and by their regiment. So players will find upgrading certain things about their characters more easily (such as Ratling Snipers) but that does not necessarily prevent them from taking other options.

Players can also change their character's class (and therefore their aptitudes) at certain milestones in their career, keeping everything they earned up until that point and giving them an easier time of buying different options if they prefer. This would be like changing alignment in Black Crusade, just without any downsides, though it can only be performed at the set milestones, and it also changes your character's standard issue gear in order to perform his new chosen role more effectively. So your Heavy Gunner has to give up that Missile Launcher if he wants to become a Tank Ace.

While talking about gear, Only War has one of the most convoluted systems of acquiring gear amongst all of the FFG settings: Like the Deathwatch (RPG) you receive your issued gear prior to the start of a mission, though in this case, your mission load-out is preset by your commanding officer, who expects you to go collect your gear from the army quartermaster... this is where it becomes a ball-ache courtesy of the bureaucratic clusterfuck that is the Department Munitorum. Your group has a collective logistics rating depending upon their rank and veteran status, which can modify how much the quartermaster likes you, so he can mess up your order and give you a stack of cigarettes instead of smoke grenades, for example, or give you everything you were meant to get plus relic gear that he "found in the back". This is also the time to make any special requests too, so the group can attempt to get any gear from the book using their logistics rating. All modified by the state of the warzone and how well the army is doing, which itself depends on your GM's mood. So if you're always getting shitty jobs in losing warzones, don't expect to get any nice gear - or even all of your standard issue gear if you're especially unlucky. You could try to trade for gear with others in your regiment, but if the Commissar finds out you can expect to be on the business end of his bolt pistol. On the other hand, sometimes you might accidentally get given gear you technically aren't supposed to have - and due to Departmento Munitorum incompetence, they don't know it was ever given out to you, so you can keep it.

Regiment Creation[edit]

You start with 12 points, spend wisely. This can be raised up to a maximum of 19 (see below).

Why you suck[edit]

You can take 0-1 Regimental Drawbacks, which grant extra points for regimental creation at the expense of a variety of penalties. Generally, the more points the drawback grants, the more crippling the penalties will be - having a ton of new points to spend on gear doesn't really help you when you can't burn Fate Points to survive fatal injuries. You can choose from:

    • Regimental Rivalry (This regiment and another regiment really hate each other)
    • Cloud of Suspicion (An organization such as the Inquisition or Arbites don't like them. Expect them to come down hard when they fuck up)
    • Cult of Chivalry (People in the regiment are honest and have trouble telling or detecting lies)
    • Dishonored (The regiment got BTFO in the past and everyone is real bothered about it)
    • Mistrusted (Everyone related to the Guard knows that these guys are douchebags)
    • Conscripts (Members of your regiment really don't want to be here. Even less than normal that is.)
    • Iconoclasts (This regiment has an odd way of showing its love for the Emperor. The Ecclesiarchy is not amused.)
    • Tainted (Corruption is drawn to the regiment like tech-priests to archeotech)
    • Honor Bound (The people of your regiment brook no insult)
    • Scarred By Loss (Everyone has PTSD)
    • Poorly Provisioned (The regiment doesn't get as much ammo or food. Pretty boring)
    • Warp-Delayed (The regiment was, you guessed it, delayed in the Warp. Logistical problems are the most obvious effect, but probably the least of your worries)
    • The Few (The regiment has manpower problems. Take care of comrades)
    • Incompetent Leadership (Self-explanatory. Makes it harder to play a face since everyone in a leadership role is assumed to be incompetent)
    • Lost Homeworld (Their homeworld is gone. Mechanically functions as a mix of The Few and Scarred by Loss)
    • Primitive (Has trouble using or maintaining weapons that aren't Low-Tech)
    • Traitors (For playing campaigns as Severan Dominate or Lost and the Damned)
    • Condemned (Mistrusted turned up to 11. People in the Imperial Guard want you dead at least as much as the enemy)
    • Doomed (You can't burn fate to avoid death. Don't take this)

Who you are[edit]

Choose exactly one Homeworld and exactly one Commander.

Homeworld[edit]
    • Imperial
    • Penal Colony
    • Agri
    • Death
    • Feudal
    • Fortress
    • Highborn (Nobles)
    • Hive
    • Penitent
    • Post-cataclysmic
    • Ratling
    • Shrine
    • Mining Colony
    • Schola Progenium
    • Void-born
    • Feral
    • Forge
    • Frontier
    • Lathe
    • Ogryn
Commander[edit]
    • Fixed ("Just keep moving.")
    • Phlegmatic ("Tell alpha they should face NW and expect overwhelming fire.")
    • Supine ("These are our orders, have faith!")
    • Bilious ("You would have been dead if I had been an enemy. Commissar, execute this stuttering fool!")
    • Choleric ("Drive me closer, for the EMPRAH!")
    • Circumspect ("There, see how they wait to advance!")
    • Maverick ("I can't very well tell you to do something I wouldn't do myself.")
    • Melancholic ("Oh, um, well...")
    • Sanguine ("It's up to us, men!")

What you do[edit]

Next you get to choose your Regiment Type and Doctrines. You must have exactly one Regiment Type, and can have 0-2 Doctrines.

Regiment Types[edit]
    • Line Infantry (the basic infantry-based regiment)
    • Siege Infantry (think the Death Korps)
    • Light Infantry (lightly equipped skirmishers)
    • Reconnaissance Regiment (scouts, obviously)
    • Drop Troops (like the Elysian Drop Troops)
    • Hunter-Killers (light vehicle specialists who can begin with a Hellhound in the squad)
    • Mechanized Infantry (infantry that emphasizes the use of Chimeras)
    • Close Assault Regiment (close-quarters fighters and melee experts)
    • Mechanized Reconnaissance Regiment (squad gets a free Salamander recon tank)
    • Salvage and Recovery Regiment (good at fixing broken vehicles and squads start with an Atlas recovery tank)
    • Armored Regiment (every squad begins with a Leman Russ)
    • Artillery Regiment (a free Basilisk for every squad or a mortar for every two players)
    • Guerrilla (sneaky and good at ambushes)
    • Grenadiers (better armor, as well as plenty of grenades and grenade launchers)
    • Rough Rider Regiments (focuses on mounted combat like the Attilan Rough Riders)
    • Super-Heavy Armored Regiment (BANEBLADES!)
    • Heavy Reconnaissance Regiment (everyone in the squad gets a Sentinel)
    • Rapid Reconnaissance Regiment (everyone in the squad gets a Tauros)
Regiment Doctrines[edit]

These come in two types - Training Doctrines and Special Equipment Doctrines.

Training Doctrines[edit]
    • Close Order Drill
    • Hardened Fighters
    • Snipers
    • Defenders of the Faith
    • Die Hard
    • Iron Discipline
    • Favored Foe
    • Sappers
    • Crusaders
    • Defenders of the Omnissiah
    • Anti-Aircraft
    • Anti-Armor
    • Demolitionists
    • Infiltrators
    • Sharpshooters
    • Skirmishers
    • Survivalists
    • Close Quarter Battles
    • Heavy Lancers
Special Equipment Doctrines[edit]
    • Ogryn Weapons
    • Reliquary
    • Automated Artillery
    • Augmetics
    • Breachers
    • Combat Drugs
    • Servitor Accompaniment
    • Bonded to The Machine Cult
    • Chameleonine
    • Cyber-enhanced
    • Demolitions
    • Sabre Batteries
    • Scavengers
    • Warrior Weapons
    • Well Provisioned
    • Electro-Vox Warfare
    • Forward Observation
    • Cavalry Mounts
    • Covert Strike
    • Vanguard

Universal Standard Kit[edit]

Any remaining points can be spent giving your regiment extra stuff!

Everybody knows that every guardsman gets the same regulation toiletries, utensils, and blankets; however, each regiment has thirty points worth of extra items (with two extra for each unused Regiment Creation point), from a piping hot cup of Recaf to a Refractor Field, to give to each of their guardsman as a part of their Universal Standard Kit. I'm sorry, did I just hear you say I can give a Refractor Field to EVERY guardsman in my regiment? Because that seems a little bananas. That's right kiddies, at the GM's discretion you can almost make your IG regiment almost noblebright by equipping every guardsman in that regiment with three Poor Craftsmanship Disposable Krak Missile Launchers, a salvo of which will fuck the day of just about anything if they don't just explode in your face. Of course, getting the GM to actually agree to it is another story. Also the fact that the weapon's profile is VEHICLE might be a small impediment to most Infantry based regiments (i.e. the vast majority of them since being a vehicle-based regiment means you wouldn't have enough points to get the missiles in the first place).

Classes[edit]

Guardsmen[edit]

Guardsmen are normal soldiers and have access to comrades. They start off with double the starting XP of Support Specialties.

  • Heavy Gunner - Big, strong, and tough, these Guardsmen wield any heavy weapons that are given to the Squad.
  • Medic - Dodging deadly weapons-fire and explosions, these Guardsmen risk everything to keep their squad-mates alive.
  • Operator - A bit less leery of the strange technology that the Imperial Guard often employs than their compatriots, these Guardsmen are often entrusted with piloting the Squad’s transport or other vehicles. They also die very, very easily.
  • Sergeant - Every Squad needs a strong commander to lead the charge into combat. The Sergeant keeps his men motivated and coordinated through the toughest battles.
  • Weapon Specialist - The “average” Guardsman, these men and women perfect the use of the lasgun or other weapons, bringing death to the enemies of the Imperium.

Specialists[edit]

Most specialists are tied to specific roles. Some do not have access to comrades.

  • Commissar - These men and women enforce morale over the rank-and-file troops with an iron fist and the occasional summary execution. Fortunately, the latter is reserved for Comrades and not other PCs. At least, not without good reason.
  • Ministorum Priest - Bringing the light of the God-Emperor to the battlefield, Ministorum Priests inspire the troops around them, not just with their preaching, but by fighting their foes with their massive Evicerator chainswords.
  • Ogryn - These immense Abhumans are built like rocks (and are about as intelligent as rocks too), and act as some of the Imperial Guard’s most effective shock troops and will obey their superiors with doglike devotion. Just don't expect them to get into a Chimera- they're claustrophobic. Try to get your DM to let you buy "ogryn-proof" versions of other weapons at higher levels, or you'll be stuck using the same Mono two-handed weapon for the rest of the game. Also good for a drop regiment so he can use a RPG or autocannon, assuming you can convince him to get into the Valkyrie. Hammer of the Emperor has the rules you need to make any ranged or melee weapon Ogryn-proof, under 'variant equipment patterns'.
    • The other way to make an Ogryn is to be a Guardsman from an Ogryn world, allowing you to play an Ogryn with a Guardsmen class.
  • Ratling - Short and rotund, these small abhumans are used as infiltrators and snipers. They're also notorious for their sticky fingers, so don't bring anything valuable with you if one's assigned to your squad.
    • The other way to make a Ratling is to be a Guardsman from a Ratling world, allowing you to play a Ratling with a Guardsmen class.
  • Sanctioned Psyker - Feared by their enemies and allies alike, the Psykers of the Imperium are capable of bending the roiling power of the Warp to their will - until that power breaks them.
  • Storm Trooper - The best part about being an OPERATOR isn't operating operationally. It's showing all those pesky grunts you did, and how bad they're at it in comparison.
  • Tech-priest Enginseer - Enginseers wade into battle clad in thick armour, tending to the machine spirits of the Imperial Guard’s many war machines. Gets the most Aptitudes and is able to get his hands on some of the most effective gear the game has to offer before it even starts, so one can make a fair case for this buckethead being the most powerful of the bunch (though the Psyker might mutter some words of dissent into his non-existent beard once he's made it through the first couple of sessions).

Advanced Specialties[edit]

Added with the Hammer of the Emperor splatbook, advanced specialties allow characters to expand their abilities, or simply add more dakka. Guardsmen may also switch from one Guardsmen class to another (e.g. from Heavy Gunner to Sergeant, though not to Ratling). Alternately, characters can stick to their current class and gain a +5 bonus to a characteristic they have a matching aptitude for. The book suggests making this option available to players once for every 2500 XP their characters earn.

Guardsmen Advanced Specialties[edit]

  • Brawler - A melee fighter, for players who are sick of being told Guardsmen can only beat Fire Warriors in close combat.
  • Breacher - An explosives specialist, the recommended class for black Scottish cyclopes. Seriously, they even paraphrased the demoman right under the word "Breacher" on the class page. Great for blowing up any-and-everything.
  • Commander - A Sergeant on steroids, Commanders are leaders forged in combat. They can take up to four additional comrades and use them (and the rest of the squad's comrades) to maximum effect, essentially acting as a one-man party.
  • Field Chirurgeon - When keeping your squad mates "alive" simply won't cut it, Field Chirurgeons are soldiers who are meant to keep men fighting. Not quite as medically skillful as a true medic, but better than trying to tape your own arm back on.
  • Master of Ordnance - This class gives your comrade a mortar and gives you the responsibility of calling targets. Also allows for artillery strikes from orbital ships or basilisks once per encounter. Very useful if you're not in a building or voidship. Just try not to call it down too close to your position.
  • Scout - Guardsmen who navigate dangerous terrain, operate where they can't be seen, and act as... well, scouts. Scouts also make for silent knife kills of sentries.
  • Sentry - When not being stabbed by scouts, sentries are masters of defense. Effectively a one man heavy weapon squad, sentries dig in and can hold against hordes of enemies that would wipe out a less entrenched position.
  • Sharpshooter - Snipers without being Ratlings, Sharpshooters are masters of fighting at extreme ranges.
  • Tank Ace - Effectively a Sergeant for tank crews, Tank Aces can turn a Leman Russ into even more of a killing machine.

Specialist Advanced Specialties[edit]

Do note that while Support Specialists are technically eligible to switch to an advanced specialty as well, Hammer of the Emperor only contained options for Guardsman-class characters. Shield of Humanity changed this by adding the following exclusive options for Tech-Priests, Ogryns, Ratlings, and Priests. Commissars, Storm Troopers, and Sanctioned Psykers can go fuck themselves, apparently.

  • Enginseer
    • Architectus Magnus - A techpriest treadhead, specializes in driving, repairing and boosting an armoured vehicle.
    • Crimson Exemplar - An elite Mechanicus warrior with a shit-ton of integrated weapons. Just in case the regular techpriest wasn't broken enough for you.
    • Enginseer Prime - Lazy fucks that fight by proxy through a horde of servitors.
  • Ogryn
    • Bone'ead - Ogryn sergeant, not really a fine strategist but good enough to impress his fellow lunkheads. Gets to use smaller basic weapons without the Ogryn-Proof trait, making him a very versatile soldier.
    • Bulwark - The closest you'll ever come to playing an ogre barbarian in Only War.
    • Gun Lugger - The closest you'll ever come to playing the Heavy from Team Fortress in Only War. Gets to use Heavy weapons without the Ogryn-Proof trait, turning him into a one man killing machine with the right weapon.
  • Ratling
    • Fixer - Obligatory 'face' class, a smug as fuck space halfling with a silver tongue and loads of friends. Pair him up with a Commissar to ensure hilarity.
    • Longshooter - Specialized sniper, because if you're playing a ratling you might as well fit the stereotype to an S.
    • Trailblazer - Ratling infiltrator and survivalist. By that I of course mean 'thieving bastard'.
  • Priest
    • Incinerant Priest - Scourge and Purge your guts! You are a heretic! That means your guts are unclean! Scourge and Purge!
    • Preceptor of Penance - Zealous preacher always accompanied by a mob of meatshields penitents in search of absolution.
    • Prelate-at-Arms - The classic paladin with charisma out of the ass and intelligence as a dump stat, now in Future Middle Ages flavour.
    • Rector Erudite - A scholar that wandered on the battlefield by mistake. While he's at it he can help the squad with his formal education and wealth of knowledge.

Splatbooks[edit]

  • The Game Master's Kit - Pretty standard GM kit, comes with a GM screen that has Only War art on one side, and useful bit of info on the other.
  • Final Testament - A hundred-ish page mini-campaign adventure splat that takes the IG to a planet named Hevara to bring the planet back into the light of the Imperium, only to fight Orks and traitors for one of the legendary Ordinatus superweapons. The non-combat sections are at least as dangerous as the combat sections.
  • Hammer of the Emperor - Only War's first actual supplement, it has all types of new things for OW players. It includes rules for new regiment creation and mixed regiments, and features some of the finest of the IG, including the Attilan Rough Riders and the Tanith First-and-Only. Also has new advanced specialties and more armoury options.
  • Enemies of the Imperium - OW's monster book, lists all the worst enemies of the Imperium that call the Spinward Front their home. Has rules for formations, which enhance squad-level combat, and more resources for characters that have to stand against these beasties. Also has information on how to play as a Severan Dominate regiment, for people who want to play as treasonous filth without going full Chaos in the process.
  • No Surrender - Hundred-ish page mini-campaign. Centers around the IG going to take back the Lycurgos star fort from filthy Severan Dominate secessionists. Remember, nothing nice ever happens to the Imperium.
  • Shield of Humanity - A player supplement. Adds new options for specialists (Ratlings, Ogryns, Enginseers and Ministorum Priests), as well as new regiment options and advancement options, mostly support specialist advancements.
  • Eleventh Hour - small adventure. Released for free for Free RPG day and free download on their website. "I can assure you that almost all units of the Scintillan 17th have been withdrawn from the target zones and we will be ready to commence orbital strikes on the Ork vanguard shortly. I also realize that significant elements of the Catachan 223rd have not reached the safe zone. This was always an anticipated risk, and I think I speak for many here when I say: really, who will miss them?” –Commander-General Pailus, Scintillan 4th Army Group. Are you a bad enough dude to escape the blast zone?

Your Adventures in Only War[edit]

The characteristics benchmark table from Dark Heresy, which sadly isn't included in Only War.
  • The Line Infantry Campaign - This is probably the first thing your GM is going to be able to think of while staring lovingly at his IG minis before the group shows up. Expect to stand around volleying fire with enemies for a while until he invariably runs out of ways to describe "and that guy got shot and is dead now". The game will almost invariably quickly evolve into...
  • The Scout Campaign - Ah, this is the stuff. Scouting missions are ideal fodder for adventures because they're about as close as a logical military unit (or the Imperial Guard) will get to stock heroics. Just make sure you're reasonably far away from whatever you're scouting before you send the coordinates to that Scintillan Master of Ordinance that seemed to be sneering at you all through the briefing.
  • The Armored Campaign - You get to drive a Leman Russ. If that concept or the mere structure of the sentence doesn't cause your proverbial meltagun to warm up, why are you playing this? Entertainingly this can rapidly become somehow more tedious than the line infantry campaign because now everyone except the driver is just shooting without even having to think about cover. Luckily there's a lot more variety of things you can tackle while driving the Emperor's Ridged Cock on Treads over foot-slogging. Make sure to name your new chariot something fittingly badass or, failing that, name it after a member of the GM's family for plot protection. In a disturbing yet characteristic turn of events, each squad is only issued one Leman Russ so there's a very good chance some-to-all of your comrades are going to be jogging. For added fun, work your GM on the cohesion rules until you have comrades throwing themselves in front of small arms fire to protect the paint job. Just don't squander all the little buggers because you will eventually end up having to get out of it for some stupid bunker assault. It's like a law or something.
  • The Roughrider Campaign - Pretty much the armored campaign with slightly more places you can bring your gimmick. The rulebook that added roughriders also added rules for riding a grox into battle and the chance to ride a lizard-cow in the name of the Emperor should not be squandered. Bring a pair of coconut halves for a joke that the GM will find funny once and infuriating forever after.
  • The Siege Campaign - The line infantry campaign's identical twin. Stand around, get shot. Every siege campaign ends with rushing a wall to plant a bomb on it. Every. Campaign.
  • The Paratrooper Campaign - Literally just drop them into the fight at the beginning of the campaign and use it as an excuse for why they can't get anything bigger than a lasgun. Be prepared for arguments over how much cybernetics weigh, and whether or not Sentinels use the same grav-chute units as Guardsmen.
  • The Mechanized Campaign - Your best bet for a campaign with some variety. Use the chimera or other transport to jump from setpiece to setpiece and let your players get the occasional enjoyment of an armored campaign by crashing through walls and using mounted weaponry. You can spontaneously move them from offense to defense, defense to raiding, and raiding to sieging all within the space of a single session if you want. If you get tired of the PCs running the chimera through walls or decide you want them to actually clear the building rather than just ventilating it with the mounted autocannon, just have a landmine destroy one of the treads and make'em walk.

See Also[edit]

  • Character Folio - Keep track of all your shiz, yo
  • The Trisdekan Primer - A splatbook made by fa/tg/uys. Includes rules for bagpipers, more Psyker and Commissar variants and expanded chargen and gear options.
  • The All Guardsmen Party - A storytime which starts with an impressive Only War session
Warhammer 40,000 Role-playing games made by Fantasy Flight Games
Dark Heresy - Rogue Trader - Deathwatch - Black Crusade - Only War - Dark Heresy Second Edition