The Imperium of Man
Founded over 10,000 years ago, the human empire has stood as the single largest power in the galaxy since it began. The Imperium is a theocratic dictatorship run by the Lords of Terra, who represent the will of the divine Emperor of Mankind. They rule a vast bureaucracy known as the Adeptus Terra, which governs over hundreds of trillions of humans, across a million different worlds. Below the Adeptus Terra are dozens of political, military and religious forces, with often competing interests and spheres of influence. This ponderous bureaucracy is legendary for how slowly it responds to change, for example, entire fleets have been sent to fight wars that end decades or even centuries before they even arrive. Life on most Imperial planets is harsh and short for all but the most privileged few. Beset by war on all sides by horrific monsters and aliens, and being destroyed from within by traitors and heretics, this is not a place for the weak or merciful to survive. The average citizen is nothing more than a peasant-slave or soldier, with no power whatsoever over their own fate. But on the ragged edges of Imperial space, the strict laws and religious edicts of the core worlds are often ignored or forgotten by people who no long have a reason to care. Given such terrible conditions, and the monolithic size of the Imperium, crime, rebellion and religious heresy are widespread.
The Eastern Fringe
At the far corner of the galaxy lies the Eastern Fringe, a densely packed cluster of star systems incredibly remote from the rest of the Imperium. Imperial forces here once boasted mighty armies and naval fleets, and even a full chapter of the super-human Space Marines. But recent centuries have left the Imperials here in shambles, thanks to the constant attacks of alien races. Ork WHAAG crusades have always been a serious threat, and the upstart Tau Empire right in the heart of the Fringe managed to cut several key systems away from Imperial rule. While minor by comparison, reports of Necron attacks from supposedly dead worlds have become increasingly frequent. But worst of all were the two Tyranid Hive Fleet invasions, Kraken and Behemoth, that came from somewhere beyond the galaxy and nearly wiped out the entire region. Now, Imperial rule in much of the Eastern Fringe is a poor joke at best, and non-existent at worst. Criminal gangs, obscure cults and even some Rogue Trader corporations have begun stepping in and seizing power on dozens of poorly defended worlds. Typically, it will probably be decades or even centuries before Imperial bureaucracy notices, let alone sends a response.
The Imperium is divided into 5 Segmentum; vast regions of space encompassing many sectors and systems, and governed by a Segmentum Lord. The largest of these is Ultima Segmentum, covering almost half of the galaxy, including the Eastern Fringe. But given its remote position, the Fringe is very isolated from the rest of the galaxy, which can be a blessing and a curse all at once. Other than the people already living here, it is difficult for anyone save the Eldar, with their advanced Webway technology, to reach the Fringe in less than a year’s journey. Making matters worse are the frequent warp storms in the Mordant Zone, just west of the Fringe. Because all Imperial ships rely on the Warp for interstellar travel, the storms make getting in or out of the Fringe a dangerous and sometimes impossible proposition.
Rogue Traders are licensed merchants with the freedom to explore and trade where they please across the galaxy. Getting such a license is a dream for many Imperial citizens, and for good reason, given that some of the richest people in the galaxy happen to be Rogue Traders. Traders have been known to smuggle highly illegal or dangerous contraband by running Imperial blockades. Some examples include narcotics, alien technology, and warp-tainted items. However, some Traders are more sympathetic to the Imperium, and agents such as Inquisitors sometimes employ Rogue Traders when they require fast and stealthy transportation. The license also grants a writ from the Imperium, much like ancient privateers, to explore beyond the boundaries of Imperial Space. This writ passes down to descendants so that the Trader and his family, and the ships they command, are exempt from many laws and regulations, but still under Imperial scrutiny. Rogue traders that engage too heavily in alien trade, or other “heretical” practices could still be investigated and executed by the Inquisition. Acquiring such a license can be notoriously difficult and expensive, the only reliable means being immense political power or the black market. In remote places like the Eastern Fringe, Rogue Traders are sometimes the only source of trade and information that worlds have, so this can be a lucrative, if very dangerous area to work in.
The campaign will follow 4e DND rules, with a few conversions to better fit the theme. * All player characters are human. Any race you choose is a deviation of human resulting from mutation/cross-breed/genetic enhancement/demonic taint/cybernetics/etc etc. Given the incredible population size, technology and strange wonders of the galaxy, almost anything is possible. * Melee combat is just as common as ranged, so all such options here are fair game. All bows count as some form of gun. I will be adding a few new weapon categories like pistols, powerfists and heavy weapons. * All armour will be converted to 40k equivalent. For example, plate armour could count as some form of power armour suit. * I will be adding new gear to better match the environment. These will probably count as wondrous items or gear slots other than armour and weapons.
Magic exists in the 40k world, but it can be just as easily explained by other means. For example, technology has reached a near mystical status given that so few people know how it actually works, not to mention all the strange and powerful alien artifacts. Psychics are fairly common in the human race, making up probably 10 to 15% of the population. Divine magic also exists, and some characters draw their power from the Emperor, the Gods of Chaos or even other sources. There is also warp magic, which is chaotic and often demonic in nature and closely linked to psychic abilities. Converting certain things directly from DND can work if you justify why your character can do such a thing. For example, “primal” characters could be born and raised on planets that lost contact with the rest of humanity for millennia, and reverted to primitive levels as a result. If your character uses magic of some kind, consider carefully how to convert their abilities to this campaign world.
Here are a few example background ideas to fit your characters into the campaign.
given the hundreds of trillions of people in the galaxy, and the length of time and distances, mutants are now almost as common as any “normal” person. Everything from half-giant Ogryn to elf, dwarf and halfling like races can be found amongst the human species. Some mutant races are so different; they can hardly be called human at all. Attitudes vary on how mutants are treated depending on where you go, how common your mutation is and just how differently you look or act from a “regular” person.
Maybe you are a powerful psychic, hiding among the common masses. You might have received some form of training or just taught yourself as you went along. Regardless, one day you stepped beyond your bounds when a demon from the warp locked on to the psychic beacon of your soul and possessed you. Maybe you were exercised of your demonic taint by a priest, or managed to fight it off by willpower alone. Perhaps the demon still lives inside of you, subdued now but still whispering madness inside your head. Whatever the story, you now carry an aura of demonic taint, something you must constantly fight against and hide from others.
some mutations are so rare and strange, they change a person into something no longer human, and fearful legends often arise when they are known. Take for example the Pariahs, likely the rarest mutation in the human race. Pariahs are so named for a certain gene they possess that has turned them into “psychic black holes”. Around you, psychic powers and other “magic” seem to be negated or subdued, something that makes you a terrifying threat to anyone using such abilities. Stranger still is the fact that other people are naturally repulsed by Pariahs, and tend to avoid them as much as possible without ever knowing why. Rumours claim these things happen because a Pariah has no soul, but the truth of such things is unknown to you. Regardless, you have been an outcast since birth and what to make of your “soulless” nature is up to you.
Fate was kind to you by luck or hard work and you now possess some advantage to make your way in the universe. Perhaps you found a strange alien artifact, or maybe you were selected for genetic or cybernetic modification, that granted you special powers. You might have been born on a Space Marine recruiting world and chosen to receive the extensive physical and mental upgrades that turn these men into giant super-humans. Maybe the process had unforeseen consequences with you, and left you unfit, or unwanted by the Space Marine chapter. Whatever your circumstances, it has granted you some great advantage over regular people and you plan to make the best use of your good fortune that you can.