Here’s a game I’ve been dying to get my hands on since it was announced. Those who are familiar with me and my preferences know that I’m a sucker for investigative “street level” games, and Imperium Maledictum fits that description perfectly.
For those new to my review format, The Let’s Study series is a multi-part examination of a corebook, covering subsystems with the occasional observation at the end of each article.
What is it?
Imperium Maledictum is the latest of Cubicle 7’s RPGs set in the popular Warhammer 40,000 universe. But instead of focusing on high-octane action found in Wrath & Glory, Imperium Maledictum is billed as “Grim and Treacherous Adventure in the 41st Millennium.”
The player characters are individuals taken from the countless citizens of the Imperium of Man, who have by by fate or fortune been selected to serve under a powerful Patron.
This service can take on many forms. From serving as investigators to hired thugs or perhaps even as militant missionaries sent to convert less enlightened places.
The introduction chapter doesn’t waste a lot of time before starting you off with all the things you need to know about the game, including a summary of the basic mechanic, which is a percentile system that should be very familiar to people who have played Dark Heresy or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
It wraps up with 8 beautifully illustrated pages with an in-character monologue of a Patron discussing the circumstances of the setting, and how one would view the player characters. It sets the tone of the game very well and neatly segues to the next chapter
One of the first (and most important) decisions a play group has to make is to build their Patron. As suggested by their name, Patrons are powerful individuals in the Imperium who wield power and authority greater than most.
They are the one who gathered the player characters together for a purpose, and the player characters are assumed to owe that Patron their loyalty. As such, Patron creation is a group exercise which involves all the players as well as the GM.
Patrons are created by making several decisions that define their Faction, Duty, Motivation, Demeanor, Boons, Liabilities, Background and Influence.
It’s a fairly easy process on paper, but I would heartily advise taking a full session to really go through what the players want out of their Patrons.
The options for the Patrons is staggering, which each of the NINE factions having at least two different Duties to select from. Each of the Duties are flavorful and interesting, and what makes it really stand out for me is that choosing a Patron defines what kind of investigative games you can end up running:
- A group of agents working for a Forge Lord of the Adeptus Mechanicus, for example, might end up going on missions to investigate and secure dangerous and poorly understood technologies from the vaults of a Rogue Trader.
- While agents of a Lord-Commissar might be sent out to investigate and deal with claims of corruption in the ranks of the Imperial Guard, particularly an officer who has close ties to the Planetary Governor.
- A third group of agents might serve an Arch-Confessor might be deployed to investigate claims of a miracle that might actually be heretical in nature.
The best part of this is that I’d be up to running any of these.
Of course, the Patrons aren’t perfect. They have their Liabilities, which serve to temper the kind of power they have with some complications ranging from annoying (there’s Incessant Updates, which means that your Patron is a micromanager who keeps badgering you for updates on your mission) to outright dangerous like Nemesis which means your Patron has an arch-enemy from outside the Imperium of Man.
In addition to all of this, is the Patron’s Influence. Influence is a very real thing in Imperium Maledictum, and how much (or little) Influence a Patron has changes how well you get along with the other factions.
I love that this exposes the fact that the Imperium of Man is a massive bureaucracy that is so utterly corrupt that it’s a miracle it hasn’t gone down the toilet sooner. The most common threats you’ll run into in this game won’t be Orks or Eldar, but other people.
Imperium Maledictum is as mind blowing as a bolter round to the face. Opening up with Patrons as the first choice puts the nature of the game squarely in the hands of the play group, and flexes the sheer diversity of street level stories you can run with it, each with a promise of a great time.
Next up we’ll be taking a look at Character Creation, by building a character from scratch using all the fun random rolling methods from the book.