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Five grimdark delights lurking in the new Warhammer 40k RPG

Warhammer 40k roleplay: Imperium Maledictum has finally arrived in print - here’s what the grimdark RPG has in store for 40k fans.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a skull, scrolls, and manacles, on a red book

After an early launch in PDF format, the new Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum has recently released as a weighty hardback tome, packed with rules and lore for running perilous investigations in the 41st millennium. We’ve been poring over a free sample provided by publisher Cubicle 7, and it’s packed with grimdark flavor.

Wargamer got to play Imperium Maledictum with senior producer Pádraig Murphy earlier this year, and found it to be a modern update of the D100 system used in the classic Warhammer 40k RPG Dark Heresy. We’re not ready to give it a full review yet, but these little touches we’ve found are too good not to share.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a preacher holding a chainsword and a huge book

Hatred, Ignorance, and Martyrdom are all character Talents

Characters in Imperium Maledictum can be drawn from almost any Warhammer 40k faction you can think of, from the Adeptus Mechanicus to the Ecclesiarchy; you might originate in a hive city, or a tribe on a feral world. These background elements will contribute to your characters’ starting abilities, equipment, skills, and unique Talents – the catch-all term for miscellaneous special abilities.

There’s plenty of standard RPG fare in the Talent list, like the ability to ‘Quickdraw’, or having a ‘Secret Identity’. But then there’s the 40k stuff, like ‘Hatred’, which makes you fearless and fight harder against whatever it is you despise, or ‘Ignorance is My Shield’, which you can only take if you’re really stupid, and gives massive bonuses to resist Chaos corruption and psychic powers.

And then there’s ‘Martyrdom’, which makes you fight harder when you’re carrying a potentially fatal injury. The Emperor expects, citizen.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a horde of incomprehensible daemons

Roll badly enough for your psychic powers and you could summon a Greater Daemon

Manifesting Psychic Powers will build up your 40k psyker’s Warp Charge, as they call on the power of the Warp and attract its malefic attention. Once you’ve exceeded your character’s safe threshold you need to start testing to resist the Perils of the Warp, and failure can have delightfully awful results.

The less severe results on the Perils table include taking Wounds as you bite your own tongue or grit your teeth ’til they crack, or permanently changing your hair color and height. The worse results include a horde of daemons attempting to use your body as a bridge into the physical world, or ripping a hole in reality big enough for a “Greater Daemon… or an ancient Space Hulk” to travel through.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a mysterious patron writes into a book, their single glowing orange light visible under a heavy cloak

You can be taxed into oblivion between missions

Between the missions that your characters undertake for their Patron, you’ll have downtime for your own endeavours… unless random events get in the way. Those events could be anything from an old friend calling in a favour, to riots, to a cryptic vision appearing in your prayers.

And then there’s the Crushing Tithe. The authorities raise taxes to pay for a war in a nearby star system, and you need to contribute. Just a modest amount – half of your total accumulated wealth. All for the Emperor, of course.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a guardsman prepares to interrogate a cultist

There are 60 possible critical injuries

Scoring a critical hit in combat, or inflicting more damage than a target has Wounds remaining, earns a roll on a Critical Injury table. There’s one Critical Injury table each for the body, head, legs, and arms, and the more excess damage an attack causes the worse the result will be.

At the shallow end of these tables is stuff like a black eye that impairs your vision and ranged accuracy, or a jolted wrist that knocks whatever you’re holding from your hand. Up in the higher echelons you get results like “the blow shatters your jaw and destroys your tongue, sending teeth flying”, or the ever classic “you are split in two”.

Grimdark secrets from Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum - a Chaos Corrupted ganger

Just seeing a daemon can corrupt your flesh and soul

Delving into mysteries will inevitably pit your characters against the influence of the 40k Chaos gods, and expose you to potential Corruption. Hanging around chaos worshippers or reading their naughty books risks you being exposed, and all a true daemon has to do is look at you to potentially taint your soul.

Your characters may resist that corruption for a while, but eventually it will manifest in the form of physical mutations or spiritual malignancies. Fancy an extra eye? Twisted horns? Memories of things that never happened? For everything you eat to taste of ash and blood? All possibilities. Glory to the Old Four!

We’re keen to give Imperium Maledictum some serious table time. Wrath and Glory has a place on our guide to the best tabletop RPGs, in part because it’s been the only widely available Warhammer 40k RPG for some time. But we’re extremely partial to the low power, high lethality, investigative and social gameplay style of Imperium Maledictum.

YouTuber Rephas compares Maledictum to the classic Dark Heresy if you’re interested in seeing how they match up.

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If you like all this talk of nasty horror horror but think this system sounds too crunchy, check out our guide to the best horror RPGs to look for an alternative system.