Hints For Homebrew: Troops

So you want to make a new army, eh? Good for you, I encourage it. But chances are you too will fall before the Uniqueness Dilemna, especially if you're doing a C3. It's all well and good to have new Chapter Tactics (I will drill into your heads that C3 is a Custom Chapter Codex), but if it's not unique enough it's not worth it, and you'd be better off doing a character.

I fell into that trap with the Angels of Secrecy. The scary thing is, I knew it. I jokingly referred to them as Power Armoured Dire Avengers. Because that's what they were. In the same way, Mindless were Thousand Sons that exhanged magic for actual options.

Nailing the Troop is a key part to creating a unique army. Here, have some tips(mainly for non-Marines bearing in mind what I just said):

1) Inversions are your friend: This is possibly the easiest way to add uniqueness. Like I said in the last article, the Troop has three components, rules, stats, weapon. Reversing the order in which things are done, creating an odd statline, that sort of thing.

Example 1: The Ork Boy. Very few things in this game have natural T better than S. Nurgle does it, but mainly by artificial Marks.

Example 2: You have an army that excels at range. Rather than boost range like every other army, why not invert the Rapid Fire gun and have 2 stationary shots at max range and 1 at 12" if you move?

2) Weapon Design: Your basic weapon gets half its flavour from fluff. Use abnormal ammo, new material, etc. Avoid S4, AP5 at all costs. Try and use a different sort of gun as a template, or bring old stuff into fashion again. GW is phasing out the Hellgun. That's a decent, uncopied statline right there for use (Lasblaster is assault, so doesn't count).

Strength shouldn't go above 5 or below 2. If it's that low, be sure to give it more shots. For higher S stuff, remember there are few basic 1-shot non-pistol weapons. Making it rapid-fire would seem too much like the Tau.

For pistols, avoid the same statline as above and don't go overboard with fancy stuff. The emphasis should be on the CCW. Unless you're a dual-pistol Troop, which hasn't been done (hint hint) and is heartily encouraged if you think you can pull it off.

3) Special Rules: No more than 2-3 non-situational rules per Troop is a good standard. Any more, and you're looking at Elites-that-can-be-Troops territory. Avoid 'mainstream' stuff like Feel No Pain, with the exception of Infiltrate or Scouts, which can contribute to something better overall. Invulnerable Saves should also be included in this limit. 3 really powerful rules is a no-go.

Example: The Wych has Fleet (1), Power from Pain (2), Night Vision (situational) and Dodge (3). Because Dodge only works in combat, it's not overkill. General 4++ would be.

4) Rule of Two: The modern Codex generally only has 2-3 Troops plus unlockables. Any more and it begins to look crowded. Try to differentiate between them. Two similar Troops is acceptable when two of them are 'palette swaps' that fulfil two roles but are the same in fluff. Four Troops is harder to pull off, but it can be done in some cases.

Example 1: The Kabalite Warrior and Wych. One is an all-purpose range attacker, the other a tarpit combat unit. The Wrack is a tough home-unit (optional I know, but hardly ever Elite and it fits well)

Example 2: The Tactical Squad and Scouts. One is an all purpose range attacker, the other a home unit with support fire (snipers), or a close up supporter (others).

Example 3: Daemons pull off the trinity quite well. One is a close up combat brute (Bloodletters), one is ranged support (Horrors) and one is a home unit (Plaguebearers). Daemonettes are like a palette swap of Bloodletters that exchanges power for speed.

5) Does it kill stuff?: Consider the article picture. Uniqueness is good, but if it dies without doing anything, then it's useless. Don't worry about making it slightly more dull to make it work in practise. Just ensure you maintain the flavour.

Example: You design a gEQ (Grot equivalent) squad of ten men with cool guns and no transport. Yes, it's unique and this is 'Meh, 4+' Cover edition, but could use a numbers buff.

Time for the practical part. Using the first three principles, here's a unique Troop.

"I cannot say who I am, who I represent, nor anything to put us at risk. Who is us? That's a secret, I'm afraid. Now hurry, we have to escape before the Blessing collapses and we all die."
-???, ??? of the ???

A Disciple Squad is a Troops choice in a ??? army.

Cost: 12 per model.

R: Indicates Repeat Save, which must be re-rolled if passed the first time.
*: Indicates Invulnerable Save

Unit: 6-12 Disciples

Unit Type: Infantry

Wargear: Shortshot rifle with Light Scope, Volt Knife, Flash Grenades, Plated Robes with First Blessing.

Shortshot Rifle: Range 18", S3, AP5, Assault 1

Light Scope: Is used at the same time as the weapon it is attached to (think of it as a co-axial weapon for infantry). It either improves BS by 1 or fires a Strength 1 shot that ignores every type of save with the same range as the main weapon.

Volt Knife: Range 6", S3, AP5, Pistol. Fired in the Assault Phase after charging but before attacks are made, even if another weapon was fired in the Shooting Phase.

Flash Grenades: Offensive and defensive grenades.

Plated Robes: Confers a save of R3+

First Blessing: Confers an invulnerable save of R6+

Special Rules: Skychildren, Retrieve Knife

Skychildren: Disciples are devoted to their mission as holy envoys and do not falter easily. They may re-roll failed Leadership tests, however on the second attempt they test at Ld7.

Retrieve Knife: Disciples never leave their knives in the still-breathing flesh of the Land-Devout for long. Make a note of how many saved wounds are caused by a Knife attack. At the end of that round of combat, before resolution the enemy squad takes that many S2 hits with their save reduced by 1. Only one wound per living Disciple can be taken by this method.

It'll have weapon options and options for an attached Caliph Leader one day. It has a transport option that I haven't written yet.

First impression is this: this is Bryss going overboard. It looks like a lot, but contains many of the above principles.

1: Inversions are present and accounted for. A gun you fire in the Assault Phase? Reverse Master-Crafting? Both follow this and come from my desire for point-blank shooting and more armour types.

2: The main gun is flexible. It uses the rare single shot (I've got more shots elsewhere) plus the all-new Light Scope, which busts cover (it's not solid) or acts as a marker. It's also S1, an odd choice but it still wounds Marines on 6s without being powerful enough to shut down Princes.

3: 2 good rules. plus the Inv. It's more of a character thing than a lifesaver. Think of the stories where bullets are stopped by a Bible in the breast pocket. This is that save.

Overall army fluff will based in Christianity and what I know of Islam, and covered later.

Hopefully this works as an article. If it does, I may do the same for other areas like vehicles, HQs, etc.


Having read a few articles... I can see myself being a regular visitor. Since my own game design skills are not exactly to the par, good advice I have already found around here will be more than welcome.
Atrotos said…
This is an excellent post Bryss. I've had quite a few ideas for articles these past weeks but if you keep raising the bar like this I'll never get it done!
Master Bryss said…
I still say I learned it all from you and just developed a personal (read: very spontaneous) style along the way. My main challenge is mainly my natural brevity, trying to do in 500 what others do with 750.

I think I'll be pushing forward with the Disciples at this rate, among other things (exam season...hrrr...).
Atrotos said…
Also I want to address the comment you made about the rules being a little overwhelming. You shouldn't sell yourself short. These rule aren't truly more complicated than say "And They Shall Know No Fear." Working with custom rules we've always lived by the creed that less is more since our rules are in direct competition with GW's but the game is already full of rules that require consideration (see: counting) when being applied.
Master Bryss said…
Fair point. I made that point because I'm essentially creating the foundations of a new army in a paragraph, rather than in a longer format.
Having read a few articles... I can see myself being a regular visitor. Since my own game design skills are not exactly to the par, good advice I have already found around here will be more than welcome.
sabreu said…
This is a great article detailing how to go about creating good rules for unique troop units. Despite dabbling in mucking with rules design for quite a while, I find many interesting ideas presented here I have never considered - perhaps due to conditioning from GW or reading too many DiY rule sets that tend to mimic current precedents. 

One critique I can offer is that when designing any unit (be it troops, hq, whatever) it is very important to keep the narrative in mind when doing so. Too many times I have seen a good rule mechanics gone to waste to a badly conceived unit. In the above case it is clear that the unit was derived from a strong narrative idea and thus the special rules and unit composition flow seamlessly together. It's very important in my opinion to convey that to other DiY rule designers to have a clear focus and description of their idea before writing down the mechanics of how they operate.