Warhammer 40K, Deathwatch, and Eclipse, Part II – Actual Characters

As so often happens, it looks like a direct translation of Space Marines into d20 is a mess; the different assumptions and rules underlying the two systems often turns important Deathwatch powers into d20 trivialities. The net result is tangled, bloated, and vastly overpriced.

So lets boil that down into an something that actually works properly in d20 and which produces equivalent results without actually trying to replicate mechanics and limitations which are ill-suited to the game system and setting. That’s a less direct, but far more sensible and MUCH cheaper, sort of conversion.

And that way they’ll be potentially usable in other settings as well – or at least the ones with high technology. I’ll call this template…

Mamluk (High-Efficiency 63 CP / +2 ECL Acquired Scifi Soldier Template)

  • Attribute Bonuses: First up we have the original generic +2 to every attribute. That didn’t make a lot of sense in the first place even in 40K (wiping most of your knowlege out of your head and adding in fanaticism makes you smarter how? Making you a walking death machine with built-in armor plating makes you a better singer how?) and – in d20, where most characters will be focusing on one or two key attributes – has a big cost for little actual benefit. That doesn’t suit the military at ALL. Ergo, +2 each to any two attributes (24 CP).
  • Canine Augmentation: “Dog” Modifications: Shapeshift, Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, Variants (Near-Human Appearance). Specialized: “Dog” Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP). This cheesy exploit provides a pile of physical bonuses on the cheap. I tend to allow it in the high-end sci-fi settings because, when a combat may involve tanks, mecha, fighters, power armor, and ultratech weaponry, physical bonuses just don’t mean what they used to. So this trick gets you Str +4, Dex +4, Con +4, +4 Natural Armor, 1d6 Natural Weapons, Scent, Tracking (Wilderness), Low-Light Vision, Jump +4, and Scent +4 for a low, low, cost. It’s also pretty much ideal for soldiers. You get pack loyalty, a tendency to obey command hierarchies, and well-organized combat groups as a part of the package. For fluff justification for including some canine tweaks look at the Space Wolves, who’s canine adaptions sometimes go entirely out of control.
  • Incredible Vitality: Mighty Grant of Aid with Spark of Life and +4 Bonus Uses (21 CP). This will prevent bleeding, counter poisons, diseases, and negative levels, greatly accelerate healing, allow the user to get back on his or her feet despite near-mortal wounds, and keep the user alive long after they should be dead – at least until they hit (negative hit points).
  • Bioengineered: Innate Enchantment: All functions (L1 Spell x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Caster Level One x .7 Personal Use Only (where relevant). 11,000 GP value (11,380 GP actually, but that’s well within the , Corrupted / counts against campaign limits on Innate Enchantment (8 CP).
    • Deep Trance: This is basically Feign Death – except that the user is totally unconscious, has no sensory input whatsoever, and has no way to terminate the effect except waiting for the spell to run out. 560 GP after an additional x.4 multiplier – “runs continuously once activated until the user receives hours of expert medical care to wake him or her up”.
    • Deep Breath (Spell Compendium): The target need not breathe. This pretty much covers resistance to inhaled gases, asphyxiation, and working under water (1400 GP).
    • Elemental Spittle (New Spell)  : x.8 modifier; restricted to acid only (1120 GP).
    • Endure Elements (SRD): The user is immune to normal weather extremes (1400 GP).
    • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter): +30′ on existing movement modes, +1 Attack when making a Full Attack (2000 GP).
    • Relieve Poison (Hedge Magic): Grants a +4 Enhancement Bonus on saves versus poison and a -2 on the attribute damage resulting from failed saves against poison (1400 GP)
    • Relieve Illness (Hedge Magic): Grants a +4 Enhancement Bonus on saves versus Illnesses and a -2 on the attribute damage resulting from failed saves against illnesses. There’s nothing about being resistant to illness in the original template, but there certainly seems like there OUGHT to be (1400 GP).
    • Sustenance (The Practical Enchanter): The user’s need to eat, sleep, drink, and breathe drops to one-quarter normal (1400 GP).
    • Shield Of Faith (SRD): x.5 Multiplier: only works to make up for AC penalty due to wearing large sized armor (700 GP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover their abilities in this template, 1 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Countermagic (Common/Minor/Epic (covers effects through level nine). Specialized in protecting innate enchantments only, Corrupted/only covers powers in this template (6 CP). This basically says “these are nonmagical (bio-engineered) abilities, not magic”.
  • Veritophage: Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (Works in minutes) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user must devour a portion of a creature with the needed skill or knowledge, the GM decides what the user gains, the effect lasts for a maximum of one day, and only skills and knowledges are eligible (4 CP).
  • Neural Augmentation: Adept: pays half price for Spot, Listen, and any two Martial Arts (at least one an unarmed style) (6 CP). Racial Bonuses: Spot +2, Listen +2, and their Unarmed Martial Art +8 (6 CP). +3 Skill Specialities: Scent/Taste Perception/Sense Poison, Survival/Track any creature that they’ve recently tasted part of, Spot/Listen/Resisting perception penalties from lack of sleep (3 CP).
  • Hulking Physique: Anime Master (6 CP). A Mamluk can use oversized weapons with ease.
  • Quick on the Trigger: May ready one-handed weapons as a free action (Reflex Training, 6 CP).
  • Fanatic Devotion: +2 on saves against Mind-Affecting Powers (Resistance, 3 CP).
  • Hey! These guys are expensive!: Immunity/Age (Uncommon, Severe, Minor, 4 CP). Creating a Mamluk is a pretty major project – and you don’t want your incredibly expensive super-soldiers retiring on you do you?

That comes to 95 CP – which is much more reasonable. Still, to make it even more reasonable…

  • Mamluk are always fanatically dedicated to a cause and forget much of their past otherwise; it’s a part of the process. They are always in active military service, and do not retire, refuse missions, or surrender. They are hulking killing machines, and are always major targets on the battlefield – and (since their creators were not totally stupid) they are incapable of using magical, psionic, or similar abilities of above the fourth level. Those drawbacks are sufficient to Corrupt the entire template, reducing the cost to 63 CP – just within the bounds of a +2 ECL acquired template.

Overall, the Mamluk are strong, tough, and fast, easily wield massive weapons, can survive some pretty harsh environments with little protection, and are pretty much ideal soldiers. Sadly, their built-in fanaticism pretty much makes them living weapons for whoever holds their loyalty – which can be either very, very, good or very, very, bad.

As for gear… since this is a (more or less) Scifi template, I’ll be defaulting to the Federation-Apocalypse setting rules.

  • Federation-Apocalypse Large Gyrojet (“Bolter”) Pistol: One-Handed Small Arm, Options of Increased Damage II, and Explosive I. A straightforward weapon; the slugs are miniature rockets (making the weapon inherently recoilless) that explode after impact. That would be 3d10, but making it large gives us 3d12 base damage. Crit 20/x2, 25 Shots (Clip), 8 Lb. Maximum rate of fire = number of attacks. They are cheap and highly reliable. Like most small arms, this would be a one-point gadget.


  • Astartes Bolt Pistol: 3d10 (keep best two) + 5 damage, Crit +1d10 (Standard in Deathwatch), 14 Shots, 12 Lb. Maximum rate of fire = 3. They are incredibly expensive and require complex maintenance.

The differing range systems give pretty similar short and maximum ranges, although d20 is concerned with targeting limitations versus individual targets while 40K focuses more on the maximum range at which a shot can be expected to inflict injury against an opposing army.

There’s a pattern here that – looking over the other Deathwatch weapons – seems to be fairly consistent. Federation-Apocalypse setting weapons are slightly superior to Deathwatch weapons (as well as being a LOT cheaper and far more reliable). Some FA weapons – such as a four-shot microfusion missile launcher (5d20 in a 10′ radius) – are more powerful than any normally available Deathwatch weapon, although a Conversion Beamer at long range comes fairly close. Basically, it comes down to “Federation-Apocalypse weapons are designed and customized by expert programs that understand exactly what they’re doing, are manufactured in advanced robotic factories to exacting precision, and are cheap, durable, and reliable” versus “40K weapons are made according to ill-understood traditional patterns using non-standardized materials by hand, they are somewhat clumsy, expensive, easily damaged, and rather touchy”.

Since it looks like we’ll be using FA weapons, it seems fair to look at FA power armor for a match.

  • Deathwatch Power Armor makes the user one size category larger, and provides +9 Armor (averaged from 10 to the body and 8 elsewhere), +8 Str, Dark Sight, protection against sensory overloads, +2 to Spot and Listen, environmental life support (including nutrient recycling), a built-in automedpack, communications links, biomonitoring, magnetic boots, recoil suppression, large size, and a -2 penalty on delicate tasks.

OK, F-A power armor is just upgraded sets of Smartclothes.

  • Smartclothes: Inductive Neural-Interface, Personal-Computer, Communications, Recording, and HUD functions, IR, UV, Low-Light, and Magnifying Vision, Flash Suppression (audio and visual), personal and environmental monitoring, ability to reconfigure and change coloration with no loss of function, and 12-hour life support. They are incidentally self-cleaning, capable of signaling for help if the wearer is in trouble, can interface with other computer systems, and have various minor functions. They come in three levels – Civilian, Military, and Special Forces (costing 3, 4, or 5 gadget points; the basic difference is +2, +4, or +6 bonuses). We’ll want the Special Forces Version (Armor +6, Damage Reduction 6/-, Energy Resistance 6 (this also covers heating and cooling for comfort in a wide range of environments), +6 to Climb, Disguise, Listen, Spot, Stealth, and Swim, and +4 to Saves (sensory overloads, toxins, and stabilizing while dying – the automatic medical functions)).

Yes, in the FA setting newborn babies are tucked in with smartclothes. What better way to keep them clean, safe, and well monitored?

Now we’ll need a few of the available upgrades.

  • Space Operations Upgrade: Extends the life support time to a week, provides gripping functions,
  • Growth Upgrade I: Large size, +8 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, +3 Natural Armor (for a total bonus of +9), -1 AC (this will be countered by the Template), and +30 HP. (Growth II and up turns your armor into a Mecha).
  • Sensor Upgrade I: Extend base range to 300′ for the various special senses, secure communications, etc.

This doesn’t include Recoil Suppression – but F-A weapons do not normally have recoil issues anyway.

This upgraded combat-armor version of Smartclothes is an eight-point gadget – a bit expensive for kids, but well within the range that a starting character can afford. Once again… it is also somewhat superior to Space Marine armor.

To get the armor bonus up even further add Medium Plating (+1 Gadget Point). This provides +2 AC, max Dex Bonus of +4, and Armor Check Modifier -2 – neatly covering the penalty on delicate tasks. If you add Heavy Plating (+4 AC) instead you’ll be basically getting the Exterminator armor bonuses.

If you’re looking to add the equivalent of a Force Shield, you’ll be wanting to add an Effector Module to generate force-constructs for you.

According to Deathwatch, a starting Space Marine has the equivalent of 12,000 XP – making them level five characters. Ergo, if you want to make a Deathwatch equivalent Mamluk, you’ll want to make a level three warrior-type with the Mamluk Template, for a net ECL of five. You’ll also want to invest in a martial art to upgrade your chance of hitting high-AC targets, a good base attack bonus, more bonus uses on your Grant of Aid, and so on – but that isn’t very complicated.

You will find that your character is somewhat more powerful than a 40K Space Marine – and can be expected to become FAR more powerful than that – but that’s simply because d20 player character power scales go far beyond 40K player character power scales and because FA technology is better than 40K technology.


One Response

  1. […] Thoth was asked for a Space Marines conversion. He developed his version from the Fantasy Flight Games DeathWatch book into d20, going back and using a baseline from the […]

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