Worldbuilding for Blades of the Inquisition

Date : July 2, 2017

Life has kept me busy lately, but I’m getting back into roleplaying with a game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. John Harper’s Blades in the Dark provides tools to run a butt-kicking Inquisition campaign. This way I won’t have to rely on the complexities of the out-of-print Dark Heresy RPG.

Toth, the iconic Inquisitor from the original Dawn of War computer game.

I’m utilizing a fan hack for Blades in the Dark by RoosterEma, titled Blades of the Inquisition. I want to give my players a fiction-first roleplaying experience in the grim dark future, a space opera with a strong crime and conspiracy element. Participants will take the roles of Inquisition acolytes in the dark gothic space opera of Warhammer 40k. The campaign will borrow the Calixis Sector setting of the old game Dark Heresy but with simpler rules. The unique ruleset of Blades in the Dark gives useful tools for players to do mission planning and faction management.

Who are the Blades of the Inquisition?

Like in Dark Heresy, players will create characters following these archetypes:

  • Adept : A master of knowledge
  • Arbitrator : An enforcer of the law
  • Assassin : A stealthy killer
  • Cleric : An inspiring preacher
  • Guardsman : A skilled veteran soldier
  • Imperial Psyker : A wielder of psychic powers
  • Scum : A streetwise criminal
  • Tech-Priest : A cybernetic keeper of technological secrets

Worldbuilding for Blades of the Inquisition

Think more Janelle Monae. Afrofuturism, ho!

The Warhammer 40k universe theoretically encompasses all of human culture, but in practice the humans end up looking more pink-skinned than anything else. The 41st Millennium draws heavily upon Europe’s Dark Age and Medieval iconography, and I thought to balance this out with a world influenced by Ethiopian feudalism and church imagery. Same baroque state religion, but this time through an Afrofuturist lens. I can also map the Imperial Cult of Warhammer 40k to something akin to the messiah-worship of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

A kinder, gentler portrayal of the Emperor’s Angels of Death?

Ethiopian church iconography is known for the “reversal gaze” in depicting saints and angels – with powerful round eyes that stare into your soul.

A world of ice, with fires below.

I’m currently working on a fiction framework for the campaign planet, Tigranya, settled by Imperial Guard regiments from a Segmentum Solar world descended from some far-future neo-Ethiopian culture. Or whatever excuse gets me to where I want to go. I figured on a world of underground cities and raging ice storms, contrasted by fiery geothermal depths. This makes Tigranya superficially similar to the canonical mining planet Sepheris Secundus, but there will be some major differences. Somewhat less oppressive society, more Imperial Cults, more access to guns, higher levels of technology.
Yeah. I think this will be a different angle on 40k, and with a fun system to boot. Looking forward to running it.