Wrath & Glory and Other Warhammer 40,000 RPGs Disappear From DriveThruRPG

Despite its first wave of products coming out and its core rules being pretty solid as far as I was concerned, there’s been a concerning silence about Wrath & Glory. Aside from a few mentions in interviews, there wasn’t much emerging from the design team with respect to details of future products. The game’s standalone website was still up, though it’s a singularly crap effort – there’s no link to buy the game from, only the starter set is detailed, and the social media links go through to WordPress defaults – and all mention of the game seemed conspicuously absent from Ulisses North America’s front page. Rumours floated around about poor sales, though sales figures in the RPG industry are incredibly difficult to pin down.

Now, though, a much more concrete sign of trouble has emerged: without warning, all Wrath & Glory products have been pulled from DriveThruRPG, along with all the PDFs of the Fantasy Flight Games-era 40K RPGs which Ulisses Spiele had been given the rights to sell as part of their deal with Games Workshop. The products are still available in your library if you’ve purchased them already, and they still show up on searches – but you get an error if you click on those search results, so it’s no longer possible to buy the products on DriveThru if you haven’t already.

On doing further checks, other Ulisses North America game lines like The Dark Eye and Torg are unaffected, so it doesn’t look like this is a shift in policy on their part to shun DriveThruRPG (a bizarre choice since it’d mean walking out of the biggest shopfront in the market). Likewise, Rough Nights and Hard Days – the new supplement for WFRP – is still available on DriveThruRPG (and is doing pretty well in the sales rankings at that), so it seems unlikely that Games Workshop has abruptly decided to cancel all their RPG offerings or ban their licensees from using DriveThru. (Such a move would be a bit out of character for Games Workshop these days anyway, since under their new CEO they seem much more reasonable and gamer-friendly than they’ve been for a long while.)

On the whole, the situation stinks of a licensing issue between Games Workshop and Ulisses – extending, possibly, to a full-on cancellation or freezing of the licence. Why this would be the case I do not know; a lot hinges on what termination clauses and measures were written into the licence, and as a result it’s possible that this was initiated by Games Workshop, or by Ulisses, or by both.

It’s difficult to speculate what could have prompted this, but if I had to put bets on it, I’d say that some sort of acrimonious disagreement is involved. Compare this to the situation where Fantasy Flight gave up the licence voluntarily, and were able to declare as much to give customers a chance to make a last few purchases before the clock ran down. I can’t see that either Ulisses or Games Workshop would have wanted it to go down this way if they had a choice about it.

Possibly it’s just a momentary argument about royalties due from PDF sales or something of that nature, and PDF sales will be restored in due course… but it feels more likely that Wrath & Glory is dead in the water. Whether this came down to Ulisses tossing the 40K licence away (perhaps due to poor sales making it no longer worth their time, or their arrangement with Games Workshop constraining them from making other deals they thought would be more worthwhile), or down to Games Workshop slapping the franchise out of Ulisses’ hands, we don’t know. We can only hope that sooner or later someone else will step up to the plate to handle the grim darkness of the far future in tabletop RPG format.

UPDATE: It’s been announced that Ulisses are turning over development of Wrath & Glory to Cubicle 7. Cubicle 7 press release here, Ulisses statement here.

Despite Ulisses putting a brave face on this, I feel like this is mostly good news for Cubicle 7 and Games Workshop, and a bad sign for Ulisses North America. UNA lose a major brand, Games Workshop greatly simplify their oversight workload on the RPG front, and Cubicle 7 get all the Warhams RPGs under their banner. I have to suspect that Ulisses Spiele may feel that UNA has overextended itself and have decided to prune back their American branch accordingly.

Cubicle 7 confirm that there’ll be a revised printing of the core book, which I actually welcome – as much as I like the new system, the production values on the core book could do with a little Cubicle 7 magic, and folding in the errata would be a nice move.

Supplemental Trade

Like I argued in my recent postRogue Trader was one of those games where it really only reached its full potential over the course of the supplement line. Since a Bundle of Holding containing all this material cannot be too far off, given the recent Dark Heresy bundles, it seems timely to look over the support line now.

Into the Storm

This is your generic “pile of additional stuff” supplement, the sort of major general-purpose release that followed the lead of The Inquisitor’s Handbook that most of the early run of the 40K RPGs got. (From Black Crusade onwards the sort of material which was found here got distributed among themed supplements, like the Ordo-specific books for 2nd edition Dark Heresy or the God-specific supplements for Black Crusade.) You get a host of new character generation options, new equipment, vehicle rules, more starship stuff, more psychic powers, and so on. Perhaps the most exciting addition are career paths for playing ork and kroot mercenaries, adding that gonzo “aliens in the crew” element that the core book was missing, but I also quite like the new background paths that apply the character path idea to the backstory of your starship or Warrant of Trade.

Hostile Acquisitions

This is to Rogue Trader as The Radical’s Handbook was to Dark Heresy – a handy supplement giving all sorts of extra options and stuff for those who want to go truly rogue and do flat-out criminal stuff that’ll get the Imperial authorities annoyed at them (and I suspect any particular Rogue Trader crew that is at all interesting will be at least tempted at points to do this). There’s also the lowdown on the various enforcement options the Imperium has, as well as a nice career path-based system for making a suitable nemesis for the player characters.

Faith and Coin

This is the missionary-themed supplement, but – perhaps because Blood of Martyrs over in the Dark Heresy line had slightly stolen its thunder – it seems a bit thin to me. It has much less widely-applicable, general-purpose religion stuff than I expected, and way more in the way of Koronus Expanse-specific stuff, with a bunch of details mostly revolving around one Imperial Saint’s story and the missionaries that followed them. It’s OK, but if you aren’t using the Expanse it’s of somewhat more limited utility.

The Navis Primer

This digs into the various extranormal human player character options available – both psyker Astropaths and the mutant Navigators, with particularly welcome details of the various Navigator houses. The expanded discussion of how Warp travel actually works from the Navigator’s perspective is especially welcome.

Battlefleet Koronus

This is your big fat expanded shipbuilding book, including a bunch of Imperial Navy ships and the sort of ships they end up tangling against and some setting detail on the Imperial navy.

Edge of the Abyss

This is a largely fluff-focused book which attempts to flesh out the Koronus Expanse, though for me it’s too little, too late – it still fails to provide me with a really distinctive hook that makes me sit up, pay attention, and really get excited about the setting.

Stars of Inequity

This is the sandbox support that the game had badly needed. As well as tables to help you generate your own homebrewed star systems, it also includes a welcome discussion of planetside adventures, as well as the process of setting up Imperial colonies and using them as part of your nascent fiefdom. Arriving in 2012 it was among the last books put out for Rogue Trader (Faith and Coin was the only one to come out in 2013 and then that was it), and I can’t help but feel that the game line badly needed it much, much earlier.

The Koronus Bestiary

Unlike the monster book for Dark Heresy (Creatures Anathema), this includes more details on more iconic Warhammer 40,000 aliens like Orks and Eldar. You’ll ideally want Battlefleet Koronus to get the full variety of alien ships too.

GM Kit

The usual screen (with portrait-orientation panels instead of landscape orientation, ugh), the usual disposable adventure, plus a rules snippet. The rules snippet provides some random tables for star system generation (made redundant by the much more detailed material in Stars of Inequity) and for random enemy ship encounters.


As with Dark Heresy, I wasn’t too taken with most of the adventure material for Rogue TraderForsaken Bounty, the Free RPG Day adventure, is nothing to write home about (particularly given the space required to explain the system in the first place). Lure of the Expanse relies on too much railroading, with a frustrating outcome that relies on the main thing the characters have been striving for being arbitrarily snatched away from them; I ran it when it came out because I didn’t have time to develop something more homebrewed at the time, but I modified it extensively. The Warpstorm Trilogy follows the lead of the various adventure trilogies in Dark Heresy, and is as uninspiring as they are.

The major exception is The Soul Reaver, which involves the PCs in an audacious plot to infiltrate the Nexus of Shadows, a Dark Eldar trading port in the webway where they welcome all-comers – provided that those visit show sufficient grit and strength to not just get immediately enslaved – in order to steal the unique ship that exists at his heart in support of a coup attempt.

Part of what I like about it is the Nexus of Shadows itself. Whilst most adventures Fantasy Flight put out for the various 40K RPGs followed the lead of the original Shadows Over Bögenhafen in providing a mini-gazetteer of the main location of the adventure, but compared to Bögenhafen these tend to be rather slim. I think the reason I like the equivalent here is that the Nexus of Shadows is consciously designed as a location that PCs might return to later on, and so is described with sufficient extra depth for that purpose, plus it’s a very different location from what we are used to. Most particularly, it’s a melting pot setting ruled over by a non-Imperial, non-human species, which is the sort of thing which Rogue Trader absolutely cries out for. You had this sort of Mos Eisley-esque place in the original 1980s Rogue Trader iteration of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and it’s nice to have one here. Another useful factor is that the adventure gives the players an enormous amount of freedom in how they meet their goals, with any particular approach being supported and not too much space wasted on prescripted encounters which might never happen or wouldn’t follow the script even if they did happen.

The best thing about the adventure, though, is the mini-supplement that takes up the last third or so of the book that gives you all you need to play a Dark Eldar warrior in Rogue Trader. Astonishingly, Fantasy Flight never did the Eldar supplement that fans were crying out for, but they did bother to provide this.

The main issue with The Soul Reaver is that it really screams out for a group who’ll be down for working with a Dark Eldar Kabal leader to get into the plot. Oh, sure, there’s suggestions for how they could be blackmailed into it – but PCs have this remarkable tendency to say “Fuck you, do your worst” in such situations. Plus given that it’s Dark Eldar a certain amount of mutual trust between group members will be needed to avoid the game drifting unwanted into “Magical Realm“-type let’s-play-my-fetishes territory. (I mean, check out that cover.)

Still, for a sufficiently renegade Rogue Trader it’s a delightful opportunity. Even though the ending is yet another “the main thing you were after gets denied to you” twist, odds are the PCs leave with a major stake in the future of the Nexus, which is a decidedly worthwhile consolation prize and may actually be better than owning an extra ship anyway.

The Little Trader That Could

It sometimes seems like Rogue Trader is the runt of the litter as far as the Fantasy Flight Games-published run of Warhammer 40.000 RPGs goes. Only War got a distressingly thin support line, sure, but it at least has a decent number of adherents and fans. Dark Heresy got the first-mover advantage, Black Crusade has the advantage of being the only game in the line that isn’t primarily focused on Imperial characters, and Deathwatch has Space Marines. All have their fans.

Rogue Trader, on the other hand, seems to have won over less people than it really deserved to. Perhaps part of the issue was that it’s harder to do a railroaded, linear story in Rogue Trader – when the party has their own starship, they’re rather in charge of the train (and if they don’t feel like they are in charge of the train then that will be frustrating in a way it isn’t in a low-powered Dark Heresy campaign where they expect to be told what to do by their Inquisitor a lot). I get the impression that a lot of people weren’t sure what you were meant to do with it. Sure, the whole “mirror universe Star Trek where you seek out new life and new civilisations and conquer and exterminate them for the glory of the Imperium” thing is a great elevator pitch – but somehow it doesn’t seem to have been communicated brilliantly to gamers, because I see a lot of people saying that they didn’t get it until someone made that comparison with them.

Continue reading “The Little Trader That Could”