Warhammer 40,000: Wrath & Glory Interview with Ross Watson

For anyone who has been itching for a fresh iteration of the Warhammer 40K franchise in the form of a tabletop RPG, we hope you’re ready for Wrath and Glory! Developed by Ulisses North America, it sounds like it’s shaking up to be something that even newcomers can dive right into.

We were fortunate enough to interview Ross Watson, lead designer on Warhammer 40,000: Wrath & Glory. We’ve tried to pry as much information from him as we could. Find the interview below! 

Q: Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Ulisses? How long have you been working on Wrath and Glory?

 A: Sure! I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, starting at age 8 in 1983 with the “Red Box” of D&D. I’ve been working in the gaming industry since 2000, and I’ve won some awards on various things I’ve worked on. I’ve worked for several companies along the way, such as Fantasy Flight Games, Games Workshop, Evil Beagle Games, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and Ulisses North America. Starting in 2017, I was hired to become the lead designer and Product Line Manager for a new edition of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay—a game that we’ve named Wrath & Glory.

Q: Does this game/game system resemble any that currently exist? How would you describe Wrath and Glory to someone who is totally unfamiliar with it?

A: Wrath & Glory has DNA in it from several of my favorite RPGs—I think it would not be hard to spot some elements similar to West End D6, D&D 5e, and Torg: Eternity, for example. If I was to describe the game to someone wholly unfamiliar with it, I would say that: “It uses dice pools of d6’s to resolve success and has a few narrative elements to enhance storytelling and character development. It is designed for ease of play, low- to medium- complexity, and avoids book-keeping and looking things up as much as we could.”

Q: Might we be able to see anything further on character creation? Personally, this is a major pull for me as a player as I love knowing what I have to work with when weaving characters together. I have seen there is a design diary touching on it already but are you able to share perhaps a little more information?

A: I’ve been discussing elements of character creation in my designer diaries on Ulissesnorthamerica.com – check there every month for more info on Wrath & Glory! I can tell you that the character creation process was built to be robust and mostly free-form (once you’ve selected the game’s framework and your character’s species and archetype). Many of my playtesters are creating characters in about 20 minutes. In the core rulebook, we have 4 different species and 32 different archetypes to choose from, plus backgrounds, talents, and other cool ways to customize your character. One of my favorite bits is a big chart of cool random trinkets that your character can begin play with – minor items that add just a little bit more story to your character.

Q: I see in the character creation diary that you guys are lending to a keyword system for characters. Might this be somewhat inspired by the usage of keywords in Warhammer 40K 8th Edition? Could many similarities be drawn between the two? Could you perhaps give an example of how they factor into a gameplay encounter?

A: Yes, absolutely the idea of keywords was inspired by Warhammer 40,000 8th edition. There are quite a few similarities in how they work—some abilities only affect characters with the correct keywords, for example. Keywords can also be situational—the GM might grant you a bonus to a Persuasion skill test if you share a keyword with your target. In addition, keywords come into play when you want to acquire things; for example, if you don’t have the “Adeptus Astartes” keyword, trying to buy a heavy bolt pistol (one of the weapons of the Primaris Space Marines) is going to be extremely difficult if not impossible.

Q: Are you able to talk about character statlines/characteristics and what they are? Be they NPC or player. Could you let us know what characteristics characters have in Wrath and Glory and some brief examples of their use within the game?

A: The main attributes for each player character are Strength, Agility, Toughness, Intellect, Willpower, Fellowship, and Initiative. In the game, you have a rating assigned to these attributes. When making a skill test, you add the rating of the skill to the linked attribute. For example, to make an Intimidation test, you would add your Willpower rating and the rating of your Intimidation skill (if any) to build your dice pool that you’ll roll to determine the outcome.

Q: Further more on character creation, in what way are players able to determine what factions or races they can play as? Are Chaos an option for player characters? Is there anything to stop my players running as a party of Ork Kommandos looking to sneak their way into an Imperial fortress?

A: First comes the framework—what kind of game do you want to play? What Tier is it? The players and the Game Master work together to determine this, and decide what kinds of archetypes are appropriate. If your framework was about playing Chaos renegades, for example, and you chose Tier 3, you could include any of the archetypes that possess the Chaos keyword. This would rule out playing Orks and Eldar, but humans and Chaos Space Marines would both be appropriate species. Then you’d pick your archetype—say, a Cultist, or a Rogue Psyker—and then you’d buy your skills and Talents.

You’d select a background, and go through the other finishing touches for your character—such as determining any objectives (specific goals your character wants to achieve during the game that represent their personality). If you want to do a party of Ork Kommandos, the book supports that! (And it sounds like a ton of fun!)

Q: How much lore or story support will there be at launch? Additional reading material would obviously prove useful for both GMs and players. Not that Warhammer is a license lacking in written publications, of course!

A: The core rulebook provides background on the setting and the universe, plus some basics for a particular region in the Dark Imperium to use as a place for your adventures. Plus, we have an adventure anthology titled Dark Tides (more on this later) that takes an in-depth look at one of these worlds. We also have some really cool fiction focusing on a warband written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden!

Q: Will there be supplements or additional physical items such as a GM screen or written supplements/adventures? Maybe at launch or further down the line?

A: Yes, definitely! We have a GM screen planned, plus plenty more supplements. We are launching the first of our “Wrath & Glory Campaigns”—a set of four books focusing on an individual region and framework—later in 2018, titled “The Imperium Nihilus.”

Q: Will there be preset/prebuilt adventures for first-time players to ease them in at launch? Can we maybe have a tease of what to expect or a bitesize chunk of a synopsis, if available?

 A: Yes, there is a Beginner’s Box that includes pre-generated characters, the basic ruleset, and an introductory adventure. We also have an adventure anthology called Dark Tides, that contains a number of linked adventures looking at the threats to an ocean world named Charybdion. This planet is plagued by murder and nightmares in the wake of the Great Rift—and it is up to your warband to discover the true cause and root it out!

Kaiser of Eagle Ordinary has even illustrated an example play session of Wrath & Glory. It’s a spectacular way to show how the game works in situ!

Q: Might we be able to see what a character sheet will look like sometime in the near future?

A: Yes, absolutely. We will definitely have one to show in an upcoming designer diary, plus there will be some pre-generated characters for our Free RPG Day quick-start.

Q: When I think RPGs, I think D20s, d100s, d4s, etc. What was the main reasoning behind designing a system reliant, seemingly solely, on D6s?

A: I wanted to design a system that incorporated a dice pool, and I had an idea that interested me in building a dice pool-resolution system that had multiple axes of results. Not just “did you succeed or fail, and how well or badly?” but also including a curve that could result in some truly impressive results (if you’re lucky!), plus some narrative results like “Yes, but…” or “No, and…” I was not really interested in making a dice pool that used unusual or unique dice, so d6’s just seemed like a natural fit. One of my writers, Wendelyn Reischl, tried very hard to convince me to use d8’s instead (she argued that 8 was a more Chaos-y number!).

Q: Would you describe Wrath and Glory as accessible for those new to table top role-playing games?

A: Yes, definitely in comparison to the FFG 40K RPG lines. We are building a special product just for new players, the Beginner’s Box.

Q: Any chance of some unique models or physical products releasing alongside the game to celebrate the launch? Maybe some special dice for example?

A: Stay tuned to ulissesnorthamerica.com for more on that in the near future! I would definitely not rule it out!

Q: Are you able to discuss this “Glory resource” mentioned briefly in the web comic we’ve seen? What is its core purpose? How is it attained? How versatile are they in their usage?

A:  “Wrath” is a player’s personal resource that helps them; “Glory” is a group resource that can help anyone in the warband. The core purpose of Glory is to have a resource that supports teamwork. You primarily gain Glory through rolling a 6 on the Wrath Dice during a test—you can also gain Glory through certain Campaign Cards and other abilities. Glory can be spent to help someone in the warband reinforce success—adding dice to the effect or even damage—and can also be spent to adjust Initiative for your side in combat. You can make a Critical Hit even more deadly by spending Glory to increase its severity.

Q: How will you handle the potential balance differences between character types? For instance, one player character is a Space Marine and one an Imperial guard. Will there be a way to ensure the Space Marine player isn’t overly-dominating enemies in combat leaving the Guard player with very little do to?

A: I’ve written an entire designer diary about this very thing! We use a term for the power level of your game’s framework, called a “Tier.” Archetypes of that Tier and below are appropriate to play in that game, whilst archetypes with a higher Tier rating are not. Lower Tier archetypes can use a mechanic called Ascending to build up their abilities and equipment to fit into a higher-Tier game.

Q: Will there be any in-built systems or rules for inter-faction variants? For instance, Space Marines from differing chapters? Will Ultramarine player characters be at all different from Raven Guard marines? Or are things like this being left to the players themselves to work on?

A: Of course! The core rulebook includes rules for playing as Space Marines from the First Founding Chapters (Ultramarines, Iron Hands, White Scars, Raven Guard, Salamanders, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Imperial Fists, Blood Angels).

Q: Warhammer 40,000 is of course a very violent setting. Will players who wish to play characters more honed for social interactions feel left out? Is there anything you’re doing to ensure this isn’t a “run‘n’gun fest” despite the nature of the IP?

A: We have definitely put in plenty of support for “face” characters (one of my personal favorite things to play), investigations, and social encounters. There are plenty of opportunities (and I would say “need”) for diplomacy and discussion in the Dark Imperium—worlds under threat from Chaos and other dangers need all the help they can get!

Q: When can we expect Wrath and Glory to launch and how can people get their hands on it?

A: Our goal is to launch at Gen Con 2018! As always, the latest news can be found at ulissesnorthamerica.com.

Phew, that was quite a beefy interview! We are, of course, very thankful for Ross’ time and eagerly await more information on Wrath & Glory.

As always, stick with us at Tabletop Games UK for more on the latest happenings within the tabletop and wargaming scene. Find us on Facebook and follow us for more as we get it!

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