Review – Honour the Chapter (Deathwatch RPG)

Honour the Chapter, for the Deathwatch RPG, serves as a sequel to First Founding, providing information on Space Marine Chapters that were created later in the Empire’s history. Like First Founding, it is a 144-page, full-color hardcover that retails for about $40 (although since I got mine along with a stack of other Deathwatch books at the 2013 FFG holiday sale, I wouldn’t be surprised if Honour the Chapter can be easily had for much less than that).

The Basics

The Deathwatch RPG (along with Dark HeresyRogue Trader, and Black Crusade) is set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe (motto: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”). Unlike the other product lines, there basically is only war in Deathwatch – the player characters take on the role of the Empire of Mankind’s elite, superhuman Space Marines. In particular, Space Marines who have been assigned to the elite Deathwatch organization, which includes marines from many different Chapters and concentrates on squad-level action against alien threats (thus setting up a party-sized group of marines, and letting players draw their characters from their favorite Chapters). The game, like these missions, are heavily combat focused.

Honour the Chapter self-identifies as a guidebook to the successor chapters (aka, any chapter not from the first founding). The book features write-ups of varying length on something like 29 chapters, advancements for a generic codex chapter, a section on the Legion of the Damned, over 50 pieces of chapter-specific wargear, and a short section on how a character’s chapter might influence his experience of the Deathwatch.

Layout/Graphics/Editing

Like the Deathwatch core book, First Founding has a beautiful layout, and I did not observe any layout errors. The graphics were plentiful (without overly limiting the text), and include both full-page spreads and well-placed insets. The art is consistent with the style and flavor of the graphic design. Editing overall was excellent.

Contents

The Emperor’s Finest (~90 pages) – As you can tell from the page count, this forms the bulk of the book, with 9 of the 11 chapters getting a full writeup (the Black Templars and Storm Wardens have been covered before, so there’s no repetition of that material, but they get new stuff here). For each of those chapters (Blood Ravens, Red Scorpions, Marines Errant, Flesh Eaters, Crimson Fists, Howling Griffons, Novamarines, Raptors, Carcharadons), Honour the Chapter presents background information such as history, homeworld, gene-see, philosophy, and combat doctrine, as well as mechanical elements such as a chapter-specific demeanour, pasts chart, chapter advancements, primarch’s curse, chapter-specific solo mode and squad mode, chapter-specific psychic powers, and trappings. The Black Templars and Storm Wardens get new veteran paths to go into at ranks 4 or 5. The Sword Brothers burn with hatred for the Xenos, while the Tempest Blades take a nihilistic outlook in their search for martial perfection.

Legacy of Glory (~25 pages) – The rest of the chapters get covered here in much shorter form. There is a generic “codex chapter” (with the usual advancements, curse, etc.) and then each of the chapters presented is either a derivation from the codex chapter or from one of the Blood Angels or Dark Angels. Each gets a half-page to a page of material. This chapter is also where the Legion of the Damned material can be found, with rules for one of your players getting to play a Legion member for part of a session if his or her character just got killed.

The Vault of Relics (~15 pages) – The wargear section, all chapter-specific.

The Chapter’s Due (~5 pages) – A brief section that talks about how space marines might feel tied together, rivalries or feuds that space marines from different chapters might bring to their Deathwatch service, a paragraph or two on the inquisition, and another few paragraphs on whether being in the Deathwatch is a punishment or a reward.

Opinions/Judgment Calls

Honour the Chapter is a solid entry into the WH40K roleplay line. Readers and fans of Warhammer 40,000 get interesting background and flavor on a whole mess of chapters, which are written well enough to keep them pretty disntinctive. Players get a lot of options, including the ability to use the codex chapter template to make up their own chapters. And, of course, GMs get to make NPCs out of that mess of chapters, if you wanted there to be a wider variety of Space Marine types for the PCs to interact with.

The secondary sections were less useful. The GM advice at the back of the book was too short and/or generic to be of much help, I think. The Legion of the Damned, while it makes for an interesting unit in the miniatures game, doesn’t serve much use here except as a possible random appearance to help the PCs in dire times – I do not consider the “opportunity” to briefly play as a member of the Legion to be much of a condolence if one’s character gets killed off, something that would transform a bad death to a good one, or something that would add much to one that was already good. But those are really short sections of the book.

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