Ross Watson, lead developer on Warhammer 40k: Wrath and Glory, shares insights on the past and future of his career


Ross Watson, whether you know it or not, has been a major force in the RPG world for quite some time. His storied career with Fantasy Flight, Games Workshop, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and many others has brought his vision to life in many of our tables. Recently he was lead developer for Dark Heresy, as well as the lead designer for Rogue Trader and Deathwatch, but now that Warhammer has changed hands he has been given much more leeway to work his magic for the newest RPG for the Warhammer Universe: Wrath and Glory. Recently he spoke with Gamingtrend about some of his plans for the future of the line, as well as the many experiences it took to get him where he is now.

Below are some small excerpts from the interview, but for more information on any of these points I encourage you to listen to the full discussion. Other topics we discussed are some ideas for the game, differences between the games now as opposed to under Fantasy Flight, some of his many other projects (including his own setting Accursed), and many other things.

How is development on Wrath and Glory going so far?

…This is actually the first time I’ve gotten to write a game from the ground up, to design every aspect of it from the ground up, so I’m just excited as hell and progress is moving along very rapidly. Our goal is to have the core book and the beginner’s box available at Gencon at 2018.

One of the press releases mentioned that xenos would be a part of the setting, which makes sense because if they are cut off they would need more help. Are there any other changes you see that would have a big impact on the game?

Well story wise, the Dark Imperium is a place where desperate allies come together. It is a place where you can see some very nonstandard groups of people working together to fight back against this wave of chaos and disorder and threats that have sprung up in the Dark Imperium, so if you want to play a Rogue Trader standing next to an Eldar Ranger standing next to an Inquisitor standing next to a Space Marine, that is the Dark Imperium…We’re taking a magnifying glass to all of the new stuff that has happened in the lore and you are going to be able to get a new perspective on what’s been happening in the grim darkness of the far future.

…Other than that, this is a brand new system. We aren’t using the percentile system from the previous editions of the game. This is a modern design….we are incorporating a lot of elements from TORG Eternity. I have been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition.

Something you said that I’m sure will make a lot of people’s ears perk up is mixed parties. How are you foreseeing balance work in a game where Space Marines might be right alongside Inquisitors?

That’s really important to us. Having worked on Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, Only War, and Black Crusade, those games were at very different power levels. We were trying to make those experiences work together in a larger sense but there were a lot of rough edges and things just didn’t come together the way that we wanted them to. So looking at Wrath and Glory we are starting very very early with this idea that you should be able to play the type of campaign that you want. That means that the archetypes that you play are appropriate for that type of game experience…

We have this idea that we are working on that there are these tiers of play…a Space Marine is kind of a tier 3 type character… in a tier 3 type game you would be dealing with tier 3 type character dealing with tier 3 type challenges.

…Obviously a tier 1 guardsman would not be appropriate for that experience, so we are gonna have a system in place so that you can take that guardsman and take him up to the level where he can be at the same level as a Space Marine. He’ll be a cigar chewing, scarred veteran with like, dozens of years of experience under his belt. He’ll have a power fist and a melta gun and he’s gonna have a bad attitude and he’s gonna be an excellent addition to that group…

How do you see the game proceeding from the core book and beginner’s box?

We have some stuff already planned. We’re gonna build campaigns that we’re gonna build on the core foundation experience, and it’s gonna give you more setting information, more character options, a detailed series of linked adventures that’s gonna take you from one place and end you up someplace very different…

The first one’s called the Imperium Nihilus Campaign which focuses very sharply on the Dark Imperium specifically and it’s kind of an Imperium centric campaign…

[T]he one that comes after that is called The Doom of the Eldar….you play Eldar doing Eldar things and once again we have a very focused campaign. We’re gonna reveal a kickass suite of writers soon, you’re gonna be excited.

How does one conceive of becoming a professional game designer?

I have been exceptionally blessed and lucky throughout my career. I have been employed as a full time game designer at three different times…There’s literally more astronauts than there are full time RPG designers…

Working in the industry is something that doesn’t happen to anyone typically. My story would be very different from Rob Schwaib’s story, it would be very different from Own Casey Stevens…everybody’s got kind of a different story of how they got there.

Fantasy Flight is pretty big right now. You could probably get an internship there and probably get hired on as a producer for board games or even video games…Paizo I’m sure has lots of opportunities. They have RPG Rockstar, an adventure contest that gets people in the spotlight. So you can work up to it but I just got really lucky in the d20 boom back in the day.

…Citizen Games back in the day was looking for a d20 line editor and I happened to be a nutbar for 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons. [I started working for them] as a d20 line editor…we made a lot of products and I was able to take that resume…and get a lot more freelancer work with Fantasy Flight, AEG and kept freelancing. I spent 8 years freelancing with Games Workshop. Then 2008 rolls around and Fantasy Flight says they wanted to work on 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons…I sent them my resume and reminded them that I helped them win an Ennie for Dawnforge…They came back to me a few weeks later and said “Okay, we aren’t doing Dungeons and Dragons anymore but we are doing Warhammer 40k roleplay and it says here you worked at Game’s Workshop. Would you like to help us with that?”

And the rest is a proud history. I hope you can listen to the full discussion, and that I was able to satisfy those of you who couldn’t. For more information, you can check out Wrath & Glory’s official page or Ross Watson’s personal blog, and make sure to stay tuned to for more coverage.

Senior Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

John Farrell is an attorney working to create affordable housing, living in West Chester Pennsylvania. You can listen to him travel the weird west as Carrie A. Nation in the Joker's Wild podcast at: or follow him on Bluesky @johnofhearts

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