|Advance Your Abilities
An Only War: Shield of Humanity Designer Diary
|Only War | Published 18 February 2014|
In today’s preview, developer Max Brooke takes a closer look at Advanced Specialities in Shield of Humanity.
A Word from the Developer
We first explored Advanced Specialities in Hammer of the Emperor, the supplement focused on Guardsman Player Characters. In Shield of Humanity, we return to these rules for high-tier character advancement and introduce new Advanced Specialities for the archetypes featured in this book: Ratlings, Ogryns, Ministorum Priests, and Tech-Priests.
When the RPG team outlined the Advanced Specialities for Guardsman Player Characters in Hammer of the Emperor, we decided that they should be extremely open-ended and flexible, and that Guardsmen should not only have access to Advanced Specialities, but also to other core Guardsman Specialities. This let us reflect the fact that Imperial Guard troopers acquire many different sets of skills in the field, and also capture the idea that the idea of universal ranks does not apply within the Imperial Guard. Each Regiment is organised differently, and while some might have specialised titles for the soldiers charged with handling the demolition of enemy fortifications, others merely rely upon troopers who happen to have acquired relevant knowledge of explosives during their service. And, at the end of the day, while two different soldiers of the line might wage war in completely different ways, both are expected to fulfill roughly the same duties in most circumstances, and it is merely their approach to a problem that varies.
Obviously, the completely open-ended model we used for Guardsman PCs wasn't going to work for Support Specialists. By their nature, Support Specialist Player Characters fulfill unique, focused roles, taking on tasks that the rank-and-file soldiers around them are not trained to handle or not physically capable of completing. So instead of giving them a wide field of options for a character to choose from as he picks up the skills to survive another day in the meat grinder, each Advanced Speciality for Support Specialists instead represents a character growing more and more focused on one particular aspect of what already makes that character exceptional.
While a veteran Guardsman character likely possesses a broad base of abilities that let him be flexible in different circumstances, a highly experienced Support Specialist has become extremely proficient at his particular job, and executes it in a way nobody else can. Ogryns and Ratlings possess physical capabilities that surpass those of even the strongest or most sharp-eyed Imperial Guard trooper, and Ministorum Priests and Tech-Priests carry ancient, dread secrets of their respective orders that grant them powers that seem supernatural to the uninitiated observer.
To reflect this, each option had to feel unique, and help differentiate the character even further from the rank-and-file. The RPG team discussed how many options each Support Specialist PC should have, and we ultimately settled upon three to four for each one, depending on the particulars of the Speciality in question. This number gives players an interesting spread of choices for their characters from a mechanical standpoint, but doesn't spread the themes of a given Support Specialist too thin across the different options. When I sat down to develop a first draft of the rules for each Advanced Speciality in Shield of Humanity, I knew that the team's goal was to have each one to focus on one of the most iconic themes of the Support Specialist in question.
In the case of the Ratling, for example, this meant examining the idea of Ratlings and pulling out three of the major themes associated with these diminutive abhumans. Ratlings are obviously known as snipers, and while their base Speciality emphasizes this role, it seemed right to let a Ratling develop this talent even further with an Advanced Speciality (which we explore in the Longshooter). For many of the same reasons that they make good snipers (their natural stealth, their keen senses, and their ability to traverse rough terrain to reach the perfect spot), Ratlings are often used as scouts by the Imperial Guard. The Trailblazer focuses on this aspect of Ratlings, giving them the equipment to help them stay hidden and the dirty tricks they need to survive if they are caught behind enemy lines.
Finally, Ratlings are known for being socially adept (or, at least more so than many of their fellows in the trenches) and capable of scrounging, wheedling, and stealing supplies as necessary; the Fixer represents this side of Ratlings, and members of any squad that has access to a Ratling with this set of skills will be sure to have any equipment that they need to get the job done (but might find themselves missing other personal possessions at various times).
I'm looking forward to hearing the interesting stories that players and GMs create around their Crimson Exemplars, Ogryn Bulwarks, and their Incinerant Priests, as well as how they use all of the other exciting new resources in this book.
Thanks Max! Pre-order your copy of Shield of Humanity today, and prepare to hold the Spinward Front in the Emperor’s name! Then, keep checking back for more news and information related to Only War, and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplaying.
Only War is a Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of soldiers in the Imperial Guard, the galaxy-spanning armies of the God-Emperor. In the face of overwhelming opposition, Guardsmen fight against mankind’s many enemies for the very survival of humanity and the continuation of the Imperium’s dominance over space.