The men and women of the Imperial Guard sacrifice more and gain less than perhaps any other arm of the Imperial Armed Forces.
Only War is the upcoming[when?] fifth gameline to use the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay system, this time focusing on the common soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Players get put into the shoes of your average Imperial soldier, thrown into the hell of war and slaughter that defines the 41st millennium, with only your lasguns and faith in the Emperor to protect you and your squad. The Imperial Guard is just that, the common soldiers of the Imperium, the brunt of the Imperial forces, and the first to be sent to die in any conflict.
Needless to say, this RPG offers, perhaps more than any other RPG in the line, the ability to become Badass Normal characters, given that your characters are neither rich nor influentual like in Rogue Trader, superhuman Space Marines like in Deathwatch, nor have the power of the Inquisition in their hands like in Dark Heresy. Only War is also unique in that it is the only Warhammer 40000 RPG that focuses primarily on the part that made the franchise popular in the first place, the warfare.
- Abnormal Ammo: For low-caliber guns there's expander (hollow-point), dumdum, man-stopper (armor piercing) and bleeder (poisoned with anticoagulant) bullets. For shotguns, aside of the usual shot and slug loads, there are inferno shells (incendiary). Amputator shells (explosive shot) for either, though good luck finding them. Explosive arrow/quarrel and envenomed ones. And that's missing a lot of the best ammunition from Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader.
- Badass Normal: Emphasis on normal. Usually.
- Band of Brothers: To be expected in a war-themed RPG.
- Brain-Computer Interface: A full Mind Impulse Unit is mostly limited to Mechanicum and as such mostly seen on Tech-Priests and Operators . More limited MIU weapon interface or data interface port are nothing unusual.
- Cannon Fodder: What you and your squad basically are, at character creation, at least.
- Church Militant: The Ministorum Priest.
- Class and Level System: Levels are of "soft" type, like in Dark Heresy. For the obvious reason, this game focuses on Guardsman, so while others are present, most are subclasses of Guardsman. Since many Advancements are common and there are too many specialties for separate charts, Advancement costs are fine-tuned via Aptitudes. A character may switch speciality once in a while, but won't get the starting package of the new subclass for free.
- Guardsmen: Most soldiers.
- Weapon Specialist: The "typical" Guardsman. Get a lasgun or other weapon (including light support, like grenade launchers, etc), shoot at the Emperor's enemies, try to stay alive. Comrades may carry extra weapons, if more than one is used, but usually just blast away together.
- Heavy Gunner: Tough guys and gals who lug around Heavy weapons (including anti-air support). Comrades help to carry and load, mostly.
- Direct Fire Support: Autocannon / heavy bolter nests, heavy flamers.
- Anti-Armour: Tank-killing.
- Indirect Fire Support: Light mortars and grenade launchers.
- Medic: Someone has to run around with bandages and injectors. Under fire. Comrades are "nurses", they help to quickly bandage more people or run a proper field hospital.
- Operator: Vox-techs, auspex or jammer operators, drivers, field repair specialists and other tech-savvy people whose job mainly involves getting hands on buttons rather than on triggers. Comrades can be gunners (in case of a driver).
- Sergeant: NCO. Coordinates the squad, shouting as needed
so that there's no need to get Commissar involved. Runs drills for green recruits. Tend to have close combat gear like Commissar, but sometimes plays light support instead - e.g. the one who gets to carry a lasgun with underslung grenade launcher. Often is accompanied by a vox-tech (see above).
- Support Specialists: Not quite guardsmen, but part of the regiment and at least occasionally appear on the battlefield. Cannot switch to Guardsman's Advanced Specialities, but may have their own.
- Commissar: Political Officer with bolt pistol, chainsword and Nice Hat. Usually. Shoots the panicking soldiers. Also, tend to be the one who gets to cajole claustrophobic Ogryn into transport.
- Ministorum Priest: Inspires the troops with rhetoric, then destroy the enemies of the Emperor personally with Eviscerator or flamer.
- Ogryn: Hulkin', dull but loyal abhuman. Usually brandishes an automatic shotgun sturdy enough to crush someone's skull in case the wielder forgets it's not a club (which happens often). May become attached to "little 'uns" and fly into rage when they are hurt.
- Ratling: Wee folk, good at sniping and cooking. The increase in petty theft incidents is a pure coincidence, honest! Comrades they get are spotters, naturally.
- Sanctioned Psyker: Useful, but lonely except for handlers ready to shank him. Even if other Guardsmen aren't prejudiced (which is unlikely), nobody wants to sit in one foxhole with the guy who may spontaneously combust.
- Storm Troopers: Tough elite, and often resented for it. Usually are in their own assault infantry regiments anyway. If Storm Troopers are attached to a common unit, they may share some of their elite training with other soldiers while they are at it, or exercise faith in superiority of carapace armor, Taking the Bullet for someone.
And if one of them happens to be a classmate of your Commissar, the latter will have something to do other than breathing over your shoulder.
- Tech-Priest Enginseer: Someone has to repair all this stuff. Techpriest's "Comrades" are servitors. May learn to use servitor as a waldo when needs to repair something under fire. Or on fire.
- Advanced Specialities: Guardsman may take only Guardsman's. Support Specialists may take only the ones specifically applicable to their Speciality (except abhumans, who sometimes count as "Guardsman" - see below).
- Brawler (Guardsman): Melee combat specialists. Comrades may act as a wolf pack or Back-to-Back Badasses.
- Breacher (Guardsman): Specialists in demolition and booby traps.
- Commander (Guardsman): Leaders in the field. May be an officer, may be yet another NCO or just a veteran.
- Field Chirurgeon (Guardsman): Because sometimes "first aid" doesn't cut it.
- Master of Ordnance (Guardsman): Command the artillery and/or calls orbital strikes and other super-heavy fire support.
- Scout (Guardsman): The sneaks responsible for things like pathfinding, avoiding ambushes, laying ambushes, stabbing the enemy sentinels and so on.
- Sentry (Guardsman): Area denial and fire support specialists. Usually heavy gunners, but not always.
- Sharpshooter (Guardsman): One shot, one kill. Marksmen, snipers, anti-armor missile support (not wasting munitions is even more important when you can carry but a few shots). Comrades may be spotters.
- Tank Ace (Guardsman): Not only drivers, this applies to other crewmembers - shooting that cannon on the move isn't cakewalk either.
- Architectus Magna (Tech-Priest): Specializes in war machines - repair and driving thereof (with the help of MIU). Usually armored units, but may pop up just about anywhere, since scout vehicles and carriers are widespread.
- Crimson Exemplar (Tech-Priest): Specializes in personally blasting things. Usually form their own Secutor units and act as auxiliaries.
- Enginseer Prime (Tech-Priest): Specializes in field repair (yes, even more) and fortifications.
- Incinerant Priest (Ministorum Priest): A little too much into, uh, purifying stuff with holy promethium. May impress the followers with fireworks in process (if they are already in flamer range of an enemy, they probably need it).
- Praecentor of Penance (Ministorum Priest): Specializes in preaching and fixing morale problems... one way or another. Also, surrounded by the flock ready to swarm the enemies.
- Prelate-at-Arms (Ministorum Priest): Prefers to deliver the Emperor's wrath in a close and personal manner - rip and tear. As such, may inspire by example.
- Rector Erudite (Ministorum Priest): A priest-scholar. Expert on moral threats and history of the Imperium... which mostly is military history. Also maintains connections with the Ecclesiarchy, thus occasionally able to pull the strings and obtain Holy Hand Grenades beside the Departmento Munitorum, or help with requesting assistance from Sisters of Battle when there are too many heretics to shoot and the Guard is unable to provide reinforcements. It follows that many commanders like to keep one of these around.
- Bone 'ead (Ogryn): Being noticed as somewhat smarter than others, these were given brain boosts and assigned to command other Ogryn. Can count on fingers. May also expand the selection of weapons - that is, learn to not handle bolter like a club.
- Bulwark (Ogryn): Ogryn Smash!
- Gun Lugger (Ogryn): Likes blasting away with heavy weapons (Heavy to normal humans, that is).
- Fixer (Ratling): Is skilled at smoothing friction between Ratlings and Humans (who are leery at strange phenotypes even without Ratlings being so lucky to find all the small items they lost). As such, tend to be The Face of a Ratling unit and may or may not also happen to run gambling and cons.
- Longshooter (Ratling): A dedicated sniper (yes, even more).
- Trailblazer (Ratling): Very sneaky (yes, even more). And larcenous (yes, even more).
- Guardsmen: Most soldiers.
- Demihuman: Abhumans. They count as specific Support Specialists for basic human units, but in their own regiments count as both their respective Specialist class and Guardsman, and cannot be also Support Specialists.
- Design-It-Yourself Equipment: There are rules for variant patterns (for various gear), weapon modifications and personal customizations.
- Grappling Hook Pistol: Grapnel is a common item that can be a part of issued gear.
- Iconic Item: "Trademark Item" talent gives some advantages to the commander in possession of a recognizable (and as such probably non-regulation) signature item.
- "Join the Army," They Said
- Military Science Fiction
- Mounted Combat: Rough Riders. Usually on either heavily modified horses like those Krieg steeds with claws, other genetically and/or cybernetically modified beasts, or something else entirely, like Mukaali. The weapons are also beefed up. While mono spear is an option, and there are Poison and Shock tips for Hunting Lance, though usually it's employed as a pole bomb. Melta tip can make nice glowing hole through a tank.
- Old Soldier: The more experienced Guardsmen can pull impressive feats. Also, Veteran advances both have common prerequisites and special circumstances.
- Point Build System: Regiment Creation points to build custom units. A regiment must have origin/homeworld, basic type and commander personality, and may have up to two doctrines (Equipment or Training) - all this has varied point cost. Taking a drawback gives more points. Unspent points (converted 1:2) are added to the equipment points. Then equipment points are used to add items to regimental kit (beyond the basic kit plus what comes with the type and doctrines), improve the quality of an item already there or add extra Favoured Weapons.
- Poisoned Weapons: Install tox-dispenser on your war knife today!
- Prestige Class: Advanced Specialities.
- Shotguns Are Just Better: Upgrading lascarbine to combat shotgun in Standard Kit costs 10 points - for comparison, it 5 points to upgrade it to full lasgun (better rate of fire and slightly better range) or give every soldier a grapnel, and 10 give every squad a scanner. And worth it. There's also single-shot Auxiliary Shotgun, added to one's main weapon much the same way as an underslung grenade launcher. Ogryn ripper gun is large-bore full auto shotgun, raising the standard from "extra messy" to "extra extra messy".
- Naval shotcannon is a man-portable super-shotgun, but matters of shipboard fighting are mostly omitted in Only War.
- Short-Range Shotgun: Has the same range as most pistols. On the bright side, it's usually far enough for urban action and more than enough for boarding or similar scenario. Scatter weapons are nerfed compared to Dark Heresy (where a good hit gives extra hits) and now at long range damage is reduced and shotgun hit becomes weaker than autopistol (SMG). But at short range are easier to hit with, and at point-blank range damage increases - you're not going to take many opportunities for this in a row, of course, but combat shotgun is semi-auto, and that bonus to hit also raises the chance for multiple hits.
- The Squad: Enforced with the specialities you can choose for your guardsmen.
- Taking the Bullet: There's even "Guardian" talent for this. And one of Storm Trooper's squad abilities - their carapace armor makes it more survivable. Why someone other than Redemption cultists would prepare for that? Well, some are redemption cultists... and for others, whether they like someone or not, having a driver or other operator wounded or killed at a wrong moment can easily lead to TPK or mission failure, and they rarely wear heavy armor, or even full flak.
- Tank Goodness
- Weapon of Choice: A regiment has Favoured Weapons - normally one Basic (can be chosen by Weapon Specialist instead of lasgun, flamer or shotgun) and one Heavy (can be chosen by Heavy Gunner instead of missile launcher or heavy machinegun).
- possibly it's not that they make an exception as needed, but the other way around: someone legitimately tech savvy and deemed acceptable by Mechanicum will be assigned as an Operator