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Warhammer 40k RPGs, what's wrong with them?
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 4:34 am    Post subject: Warhammer 40k RPGs, what's wrong with them? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've spent several months lurking here, and finally decided to bite the bullet and ask about a system of games I've been playing a few years which I've seen referred to as garbage in different threads that I've read through.

I've been unable to find one detailing why these games are bad though, so I want to know what the problems are with the games?
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John Magnum
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

There's a lot of clunky rules, and because there's like five separate W40k RPGs there's a lot of rules that are almost but not quite the same across versions. Some of it's pretty big, like the psionics system getting entirely rewritten, sometimes it's smaller like the effects of Full Auto vs Semi Auto, but there's a whole lot of very slight changes. Overall attention to detail and consistency is not super great either, there's examples that don't match rules text and stuff like that.

But beyond that a lot of them are just... The progression system is really weird and fiddly, the games want to create parties where one guy can be "a starship captain" and another can be "an accountant" but struggles to actually do so, the d100 roll-under means you will be failing a lot on core competencies of your character...

I find them modestly charming and I've played and ran a few games of Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch but the rules quality is really not very high.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's mostly the d100 system and the wound/armor system. Other things add to the sense of failure, but played straight (without a lot of behind the screen fudging), you're facing the statistical likelihood of a long string of constant failures accompanied at least one death every session or two.

Which is fine for a single evening session and you're playing for the laughs of seeing how horribly shit turns out. But as extended campaign it's amazing how shit even the imperium's finest are.

Part of the problem is it uses a tweaked version of the table top rules. A lot of the average d100 scores your supposed to start with are based on the percentages the stats yield in d6 system... Except worse. You have to level up to hit 50% of the time like a basic guardsman. The war machine/hordes RPG has a similar problem. They use the war gaming system pretty much unaltered, and don't grasp that the fuck off and die method of casualty removal useful in a war game is fucking horrendous when dealing with characters as protagonists.


Basically it's like chaosium's call of Cthulhu system, but you're expected to be fighting constantly, which is really fucking terrible for surviability.


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Wiseman
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

We really could do with an Anatomy of Failed Design on WH40K as a whole.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Firstly, d100 roll under is strictly inferior to d100 roll over. Fortunately, it is super easy to convert from one to another.

Secondly, the books list a routine challenge as having a +20 bonus, and a starting character is going to have maybe 45-55% in most of their areas of expertise, which means someone whose actual job is to do [thing] will be unable to perform routine [thing] tasks 25% of the time in an optimistic scenario. Moving the difficulty labels around so that the numbers are the same but Routine tasks give you a +40 bonus and a regular old +0 task is Hard would be less than ideal, because GMs will still default to a +0 task as being the norm even if the book specifically tells them not to, but at least in that case the problem would be the system failing to adapt to the average GM's low levels of competence rather than the system directly advising people to use terrible difficulty bonuses.

Thirdly, even with the difficulties corrected and converted to d100 rollover, a d100 system is a terrible idea for 40k. 40k is one of the only settings not designed specifically for a tabletop (or computer) RPG that actually goes through the same kind of absurd power scaling as D&D does. A 40k RPG needs to be able to model hive scum, Guardsmen, elite stormtroopers, space marines, and bloodthirsters. No matter which one of those tiers the PCs occupy, you might reasonably encounter characters from all of them in virtually any 40k game except maybe a Necromunda RPG.

Each of those tiers is so much more powerful than the ones to either side of it that they should barely be on the same RNG with one another. The actual length of the RNG is about 25% (characters are basically never lower than 25% in things they are the best at, even if they're the most throwaway of mooks) to 99% (even the most devastatingly powerful greater daemons do not have stats higher than 99%), which is barely large enough to contain one such span. FFG has tried to kludge in a fix with unnatural characteristics and that is better than nothing, but it's still true that what you actually want is a system where your bonuses range from 0 to at least 300, probably closer to 400 (and you can shift that to being 25% to 425% if that looks nicer to you, in a rollover system it doesn't matter so much what the RNG's floor is, especially since with d100 you are either rolling electronically or doing it wrong). Having a 400 point RNG is gonzo. Converting it down to d20 (which I bring up not because it's necessarily the best fit, but because you can convert d100 to d20 by just dividing everything by 5) would shrink that down to an 80 point scale, and would also mean that people start with scores of about 0-5 if they're terrible hive scum mooks and start getting into the 80s if they're bloodthirster tier. Add 10 to all of that and you get hive scum tier occurring between 10 and 20, with stuff below 10 reserved for children and house cats and so on, and greater daemon tier is up in the 90s, and you have a 0 to 100 scale that actually works for the setting. Remembering that 60 is 60% of the way from the bottom to the top is much easier than remember where 250 is on a scale from 25 to 430.

The wound system is also a poor fit for the game, although I could see it doing better with a companion program to automate it. The critical damage resulting in spectacular maiming and killing of defeated enemies is certainly appropriate, but it drastically slows down resolution speed and that makes it difficult to have fights with large mobs of enemies. 40k absolutely needs to be able to model five space marines taking on fifty orks, and having a not-quite-Battletech level of complexity to the combat system makes that excruciating.

There's also some flaws that were patched later, but still mar older books in the line, and since nothing but Dark Heresy ever got a second edition, that means that, for example, Rogue Trader and Deathwatch are stuck with atrocious skill lists and character advancement systems forever, and Black Crusade's advancement system is Chaos-specific which means talents from that system cannot be taken by characters in other systems because the XP cost is determined by the manner in which you worship Chaos.
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maglag
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:

Thirdly, even with the difficulties corrected and converted to d100 rollover, a d100 system is a terrible idea for 40k. 40k is one of the only settings not designed specifically for a tabletop (or computer) RPG that actually goes through the same kind of absurd power scaling as D&D does. A 40k RPG needs to be able to model hive scum, Guardsmen, elite stormtroopers, space marines, and bloodthirsters. No matter which one of those tiers the PCs occupy, you might reasonably encounter characters from all of them in virtually any 40k game except maybe a Necromunda RPG.

Each of those tiers is so much more powerful than the ones to either side of it that they should barely be on the same RNG with one another. The actual length of the RNG is about 25% (characters are basically never lower than 25% in things they are the best at, even if they're the most throwaway of mooks) to 99% (even the most devastatingly powerful greater daemons do not have stats higher than 99%), which is barely large enough to contain one such span. FFG has tried to kludge in a fix with unnatural characteristics and that is better than nothing, but it's still true that what you actually want is a system where your bonuses range from 0 to at least 300, probably closer to 400 (and you can shift that to being 25% to 425% if that looks nicer to you, in a rollover system it doesn't matter so much what the RNG's floor is, especially since with d100 you are either rolling electronically or doing it wrong). Having a 400 point RNG is gonzo. Converting it down to d20 (which I bring up not because it's necessarily the best fit, but because you can convert d100 to d20 by just dividing everything by 5) would shrink that down to an 80 point scale, and would also mean that people start with scores of about 0-5 if they're terrible hive scum mooks and start getting into the 80s if they're bloodthirster tier. Add 10 to all of that and you get hive scum tier occurring between 10 and 20, with stuff below 10 reserved for children and house cats and so on, and greater daemon tier is up in the 90s, and you have a 0 to 100 scale that actually works for the setting. Remembering that 60 is 60% of the way from the bottom to the top is much easier than remember where 250 is on a scale from 25 to 430.


In case you missed the memo, a Bloodthirster still goes down just fine if you throw enough guardsmen/ork boyz/gaunts at it. Armies win battles and wars in 40K, not solo super units. Even spech merines work in squads.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

was it the fantasy flight RPG's or the old inquisitor game where space marines shrug off metlagun shots to their bare face.

Yeah getting the power levels just right is something the FF RPG's have a hard time doing, part of it is from all involved not having a clear idea of the mechanics.

You're better off just using Mordheim/Necromunda rules, just give named characters more wounds.
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

maglag wrote:

In case you missed the memo, a Bloodthirster still goes down just fine if you throw enough guardsmen/ork boyz/gaunts at it.


This is literally true, but you can flip a coin as to whether the fluff admits this on any given day. Sometimes they do talk about an endless tide of [weak unit] covering the landscape, crawling all over a [powerful individual] and bringing it to its knees. Or about how a single lucky guardsman finds the weak spot in a Space Marine's armour and kills him with a lasgun. Or kids put gravel in the vents of grav-tanks but we don't talk about that. Other times they talk about one Space Marine killing every [weak unit] on a planet without taking a scratch.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thanks for giving me a more in-depth explanation, most of these are definitely problems I've seen and had to house rule for the games I've run. I do like the wound system myself , but it definitely has had problems with mass combat and keeping characters alive.

Although I have to ask, what makes roll-under inferior to roll-over?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Although I have to ask, what makes roll-under inferior to roll-over?


Roll-under is the THAC0 to roll-over's BAB. When you roll over, the TN is always 100 and if you roll at least 100 you succeeded. 100-109 is always one degree of success, 110-119 is always two, 120-129 is always three, and so on. Contrast that to doing double-digit subtraction to find degrees of success on roll-under. This seems like a trivial slowdown if you only think of doing it one time, but this is the primary game mechanic. Across a four hour session, you are losing in the neighborhood of probably about 10-20 minutes of game time to spending 5-10 seconds figuring out degrees of success on every roll where it matters (which is most of them). You can actually convert the 40k RPGs as-written to roll-over just by adding all bonuses to your characteristic/skill, not the TN, and then rolling a d100 and adding your total bonus to the roll, using the fixed TN of 100.

You don't have to be on the RNG to crit seek. One standard guardsman is still a throwaway trash mob who shouldn't stand any chance against a bloodthirster, a space marine, and barely have a chance of winning against a stormtrooper elite high enough to be worth measuring.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Okay, thanks for the clarification, that would be a lot simpler than roll under. Which raises the question why roll under is even used in games like Eclipse Phase and these.

Far as the fluff argument goes and the coin-flipping, I prefer the stories of weaker grunts taking out more powerful opponents than the 'space marine takes over entire world, no scratch', because there's no struggle in the latter. Also because I've seen it used way to many times by people arguing that the Space Marines should and could take over the entire Imperium in a single year, or to argue that Space Marines should have maximum stats for the grunt tactical marine in any of the games.
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Roll-under is used in games for one of two reasons:
1. It sounds simplest in the elevator pitch. As in "You have a number. Roll less than that to win." sounds really simple. As long as there are no modifiers, opposed rolls, or degrees of success/failure, of course.

2. Because AD&D 2Ed. Old-school mouth-breathers hate anything newer than iron, and when AD&D used a d100 for anything other than a jolly random table of possible things, it did roll-under and they will throw a fit if you do something newer and more elegant and better. (See: new games being made where a low AC is good.)
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

From what I've been reading, it sounds like the entire RPG industry is paying for the sins of 2nd edition.
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Heaven's Thunder Hammer
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I own all the Rogue Trader books as I love the fluff. The rules leave something to be desired.

People have already spoke to the skill list, wounds, skill system... In RT in particular the ship combat system is commonly house ruled to make more sense. If you go over to Fantasy Flight's forums you can find lists of house rules to make the game dramatically more playable and fun.

Unfortunately it seems with FF's products one of the biggest issues is simple lack of play testing of the rules.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Heaven's Thunder Hammer wrote:
I own all the Rogue Trader books as I love the fluff. The rules leave something to be desired.

People have already spoke to the skill list, wounds, skill system... In RT in particular the ship combat system is commonly house ruled to make more sense. If you go over to Fantasy Flight's forums you can find lists of house rules to make the game dramatically more playable and fun.

Unfortunately it seems with FF's products one of the biggest issues is simple lack of play testing of the rules.


Rogue Trader was probably my favorite because it had more a swashbuckling tone than the others, and also the most freedom. In RT, your already near the to of the ladder, only needing to pay lip service if at all to the Imperium. Definitely the best as fluff goes.

Black Crusade also does a good job when it comes to Player Agency as well, although it comes with a lot of built-in problems.


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Voss
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lack of play testing isn't the problem. I've met guys who play tested FFG's 40k books. Lack of play testing wasn't the problem (as they were obsessive 40k fans that ignored everything to play games), the problem was that they were slack-jawed yokels that didn't comprehend the rules and made up shit instead. There were no useful guidelines or a helpful process for play testing

I heard impassioned rants about the space marines vs. mobs rules. Then a month later I mentioned to the guy that people were defending the rules online. And the response was, 'yeah, see, it turns out I read it wrong.'

As it happens they also sent the same guy some chapters to edit . Bricks


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Heaven's Thunder Hammer
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:
Lack of play testing isn't the problem. I've met guys who play tested FFG's 40k books. Lack of play testing wasn't the problem (as they were obsessive 40k fans that ignored everything to play games), the problem was that they were slack-jawed yokels that didn't comprehend the rules and made up shit instead. There were no useful guidelines or a helpful process for play testing

I heard impassioned rants about the space marines vs. mobs rules. Then a month later I mentioned to the guy that people were defending the rules online. And the response was, 'yeah, see, it turns out I read it wrong.'

As it happens they also sent the same guy some chapters to edit . Bricks


Welp that explains a lot.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Now that I've had some time to think them over, here's some thoughts I had on the game and how they could have fixed some of the issues

1. Complexity of Combat: Brought up by Chamomile, I think the game could have benefited from making different rules for combat for the games that focused on larger combat (Only War, Deathwatch), and kept the more complex rules for the more combat-lite games (Black Crusade, Rogue Trader, Dark Heresy). Well, not so much combat-lite as more focused and with less combatants.

Doing this would allow the games that the complex combat makes longer go faster, while keeping the good elements of the current system for other games. Crit tables in particular, which are hilarious/awesome tables that add a lot of depth and give a sense of permanent injury. Besides, I love turning femurs into hand grenades.

2. Wounds and Armor: I actually do like this system, but there are way too few wounds for characters to survive for long. Works better versus lower-level weapons, I.E. Autoguns, since a decent TB, armor, and cover will negate a lot of damage from them, not counting Dodge as a way to get out of the way. It's really when weapons such as Plasma, Melta, and Bolters, and eventually heavy weapons, that Armor, Wounds, and TB cannot keep up with the continuous escalation of damage and penetration.

3. Skill Lists: No defense for these abominations, every game I've played has had them cut down by consensus. Why Stealth needed to be split into three different Skills I will never know.

Any thoughts on how the Influence/PF/Infamy system was implemented? I thought it was a decent way to represent getting equipment without dealing with the bookeeping of each individual throne or getting past certain organizations having no reason to use thrones (Black Crusade, Deathwatch)
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I ran a massive dark heresy campaign for 2 years.

The system is way, way, way too fiddly for combat.

Assemble a metric assload of modifiers of plus this and minus that, add to your BS (snicker) score, roll under. If you hit, reverse the number to look up damage location.

Blah blah blah. 2 years of playing almost weekly and my players never got the hang of combat. It was always clunky as hell.

It's just not a good system. The original beta for 2nd edition looked... actually looked kind of interesting. But then the fanboys all bitched and complained that their 1st edition books weren't mechanically compatible so they went back and released 2nd edition as basically an errata'd version of 1st edition's mechanics and issued a new, kind of boring setting.

At that point I got so pissed off at FFG for pulling that shit (I bought 2nd edition expecting it to be like the playable beta and... it wasn't.) that I boycotted them for years.

Honestly, you could probably take Shadowrun 4th, strip out the matrix, and paint it over as Warhammer 40k and have an infinitely better game mechanically.
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Ghremdal
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I ran a few sessions of 40k and had a great time, though it involved a one click character generator and a excel for critical hits table. The players went through 3 to 6 characters per session, but there were several hilarious moments including when a character fell into a fire pit, got the critical effect that ammo explodes and wiped out everyone in a 20 m radius.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Okay, number bloat does happen a lot as well. Probably should have cut down on the equipment bonuses, because that's where the majority of them come from if I remember correctly.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

As the question of complexity is already covered in the thread, I'd like to bring another problem.

Derp Heresy supposedly emulates books where your average named Inquisitorial acolyte can blast his way through considerable numbers of heretic mooks and common criminals, action-movie style, and campaign plots are regularly concerned with fates of whole star sectors. Never mind the fact that actual Inquisitors are either main characters or important parts of the ensemble cast.

Yet the book, not even its second edition, does not deliver anywhere near that. Your characters are just random schmucks recruited to serve as expendable pawns or deal with low-priority shit, and whatever the Inquisitor who pressed you into service does, he's probably nowhere near your party. You can easily be gunned down by random thugs. To play an actual Inquisitor, and generally be a badass (without using psyker powers to break the system), you need to use a special supplement that adds enough extra complexity to the game to essentially make it uplayable.


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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

To be fair once you hit about the halfway point you technically qualify as an avowed agent of the Inquisition and get a Rosette and stuff.

But yes, it's mentioned in like... one paragraph. It needs some elaboration.
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maglag
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
maglag wrote:

In case you missed the memo, a Bloodthirster still goes down just fine if you throw enough guardsmen/ork boyz/gaunts at it.


This is literally true, but you can flip a coin as to whether the fluff admits this on any given day. Sometimes they do talk about an endless tide of [weak unit] covering the landscape, crawling all over a [powerful individual] and bringing it to its knees. Or about how a single lucky guardsman finds the weak spot in a Space Marine's armour and kills him with a lasgun. Or kids put gravel in the vents of grav-tanks but we don't talk about that. Other times they talk about one Space Marine killing every [weak unit] on a planet without taking a scratch.


Heh, reminds me of that IG novel where a squad of expendable guardsmen meets a solo chaos marine that hunts them for half the book yet fails to kill a single one of them despite said guardsmen squad taking several losses to regular cultists.

There was that story where a Grey Knight gets taken out by a normal arrow to the knee from a feral warrior. Plague marines have been taken out by crossbows.

There's also Commissar Yarrick, that as a normal humie defeats a ork warboss in solo combat. And that's only the start of his story.

To put that in perspective, the closest time the emprah himself came to dying was when he got in melee with an ork warboss.

A normal humie with enough luck can take out the kind of enemy that could in turn challenge the Imperium's mightiest character. It's part of the core fluff, with some of the most well known names on the setting.

Also termies dying to guardsmen happens all the time, in particular when they're chaos termies. Just look at Fall of Cadia.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And in the original fluff, a "normal" guardsman made the chink in Horus' Armor that allowed the Emprah Victory.
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