Friday, February 1, 2013

The Grande Review, Part III

(See also Part I, II and IV)

Chaos: For as long as there have been human settlements in the Old World, the North has been known as a dark and blighted wasteland, doomed under the pall of an insidious madness that originates somewhere deep in the northern interior. While the barren steppe is peopleless and empty—punctuated only by wild heaths, insurmountable morasses and the occasional inexplicable and alien cairns—this strange and foreboding wilderness produces a powerful allure for a few. Imperceptible to the vast majority of civilized people, this siren call nevertheless draws a steady stream of dream-tortured mortals from every walk of life, who abandon hearth and home for manic doom as they slip into greater psychosis. Nothing awaits these lost pilgrims. As they travel further north, the barriers of reality break down and they are confronted by impossible terrain and eventually the ebb and flow of pure chaos itself (the
radiation from which would reduce a deranged cultist to component atoms). At times when these reaches swell with the outpour of chaos, a deluge of unformed matter and intelligence permeates the North and drives the solitary mad denizens back south into settled lands. These insane reavers, blessed and crippled with mutations from the Stygian radiance of Chaos, reap a manic harvest of death before stalking back into shadowy Chaos lands. The forces of Chaos could not be thought of as an army in the traditional sense. They have no hordes of fighters, but rather are made up of small bands of champions and anti-heroes, each as powerful or more so than the leaders and heroes of the mortal races. The lower levels of Chaos characters make up the rank and file of heavy shock infantry and cavalry, and are gargantuan knights encased in thick plate armour and bristling with chaotic mutations. Lower
level initiates are made up of thugs, manic brawlers who have not yet guessed their fate. These thewy gangers sport brightly dyed mohawks, pistols and chains, and are the only fighters in Chaos warbands to have no more than a single Wound. Chaos warriors can be joined by the mutated Trolls that wander the outskirts of human lands, as well as by the beastmen and bloodthirsty minotaurs that stalk the woods of the Empire, performing profane rites eerily close to human settlements. Beastmasters can drive the chaos-mutated creatures of the wastes into war and warbands also often build grisly war altars out of the trophies of fallen foes. Being imbued with the raw stuff of Chaos itself, Chaos Wizards have limitless access to every form of sorcery, which also assists them in binding ethereal hosts and chaotic monstrosities. Among their dependable allies, Chaos generals can call on other chaotic warbands, Skaven, Dark Elves, Undead and Orcs and Goblins. With their plunder, they can also recruit mercenaries from the Giants, Hobgoblins, Ogres, Half Orcs and Orcs. While Chaos warbands lack strong missile and artillery support, their powerful infantry and cavalry can strike hard and wade through lesser combatants with grisly ease.

Skaven: In the early Renaissance age of the Old World, the meek and loathsome rat plays an important role. The flea-ridden rodents infest the growing cities, stealing food, carrying deadly plagues and chewing through building foundations to the point of collapse. They are also useful, either as implements of torture in the dungeon oubliettes of the powerful, or as emergency victuals for mariners lost at sea. As humanity begins to spread her arms: there too are lowly rats to be found under her shadow. Few would suspect, however, how important a role these ignoble creatures have yet to play in human history, for deep under the cities and roadworks of civilization, in the forlorn and half-collapsed passageways of the forgotten Dwarf empire of old, dangerous warpstone has spawned hideous rat beastmen. There, in the twilit gloom, these creatures–half-man and half-rat—have been tirelessly working, digging and expanding the tunnels of the underworld, and preparing for an inevitable day when they will rise like an
eschatological wave crashing over the doomed bulwarks of humanity. For now, however, the ratmen marshal their forces and gather the poisonous warpstone that powers their magic and machinery of war. The core of any Skaven army are the Clanrats of the numberless Warlord Clans, from the battle-scarred Stormvermin to the veteran Black Skaven and the common warriors. These light infantry swarm their foes in hordes, and are fast moving and quick to strike, but cowardly when the fight turns against them. Their ranks are further swelled by slave levies: ratmen and even above worlder prisoners captured in war, only to live out a bleak existence underground where the best hope is for a quick death in battle. Some of the more powerful clans have developed their own specialties as well, including Clan Eshin with its deadly scouts and assassins, Clan Pestilens with its blighted Plague Monks, Clan Moulder with its horrible monstrous creations, and Clan Skyre with its mastery over warpstone sorcery and technology. Although they lack artillery and missile troops, Clan Skyre Jezzailachis (large calibre warplock muskets) and warp-fire throwers (which hurl irradiated Chaos flames) provide powerful support to the ratmen hordes. The Skaven's service to Chaos grants them some access to Chaos magics as well as the ability to bind monstrous and chaotic hosts, but Chaos' touch has also mutated the Skaven throngs. When they break the surface to scourge the cities and towns of humanity, Skaven may call upon Orcs and Goblins, Dark Elves and Chaos allies.

Orcs & Goblins: Issuing forth from from the most forbidding mountain tops and impenetrable forests is the single most devastating natural force known to the Old World. While humanity is certainly pressed by calculating foes from without and corruption and incompetence from within, it is rather the disordered hordes of Orcs and Goblins—scattered in dens throughout the Old World—which regularly threatens humankind with near extinction. Collectively known as "Greenskins," these loathsome creatures descend in uncontrollable mobs from their lairs each year to fight not for conquest or religion, but simply to fight, as it is in their bloody humour to endlessly scrap and brawl. Greenskins are not particularly bright or longsighted, and when the enemy is not readily at hand, a gang from one tribe will quickly set about another until the entire warband is caught up in the fray. When
Orcs and Goblins do organize, usually under an exceptionally large and violent specimen of the species, fear and intimidation ranks a deeply hierarchical tribal structure—roughly organized by size, according to who could eat whom. When this happens, Greenskins are at their most dangerous, as they are able to accomplish short and violent campaigns into civilized lands before disorder and significant human sacrifice is able to break the tidal wave and send the scattered brutes wandering back to the deep and dark wilderness. Such an event, known as a "Waaargh!", is a devastating affair, as Orcs torch all structures and eat all prisoners and bystanders after battles in a massive feast, while the more deviously cunning Goblins delight in torturing captured souls or sacrificing them to unspeakable deities. While Greenskins swarm vast pits deep below Old World mountains or high at
their snowy summits, their main strongholds are in the Dark Lands, over the World's Edge Mountains, where they gather in such number that some philosophers speculate that the race's origins must be somewhere there to be found. Because of the sheer diversity of the race, Orc & Goblin armies can call upon a great range of warriors. The core of most warbands is made up of hardy Orc fighters, who ride boars as medium shock cavalry, drive chariots or march into battle as medium infantry and archers. The strongest Orcs are the elite "Big Uns," whose size indicates their experience (it is not known if Orcs ever stop growing, although most live a life short and brutal enough to make the question largely academic). Goblin raiders sweep across the battlefield on nearly-tamed war wolves and wolf-drawn chariots, while larger hordes of Goblin foot bring spears and bows to
overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers. Dangerous Goblin Fanatics, lunatic ball-and-chain swinging cultists hopped up on psychoactive brews, are hidden in some ranks of Goblins, only to be released with calamitous effect when the enemy draws near. Primitive Savage Orcs lack all but the crudest of weaponry, but make up for this by working themselves into a wild frenzy, while elite squads of highly-disciplined Black Orcs march out from the Dark Lands to whip their lesser cousins into fighting form. Orc & Goblin armies are further bolstered by scorned Half-Orcs, who are treated as inferior half-breeds by the other Greenskins, miniature Snotling runts and bands of Trolls, lured by the promise of dining on human-flesh. When the battle is brought to the human stronghold, Orc & Goblin generals make use of all manner of war machine to bring down the fortress walls, including Snotling Pump Wagons (a sort of chariot and ram), pilfered organ guns, "spear chukkas" (a type of ballista) and three calibers of stone throwers. While Orc & Goblin commanders try to maintain rank and file amongst their unruly army, archers and Goblins are sometimes allowed to adopt loose skirmish formation, particularly when they are seen as expendable or less important than the melee regiments. Due to their closer dealings with the dark arts, Goblin Shamans have better access to the different spheres of magic, and particularly to Daemonic sorcery, while Orc Shamans dabble enough to know only a few of the secrets. Orc & Goblin wizards can bind monstrous hosts from nearby their wild hideaways and Greenskin generals can summon the support of Fimir, Skaven and Chaos allies, as well as Giants, Ogres, Half Orcs, Orcs and Hobgoblin mercenaries.

Our final article will discuss the remaining armies of the Dwarfs, the Slann and the Undead.


  1. Don't know how to send a PM through blogger but I found another blog about using Warhammer v1 as an RPG. He talks about Forces of Fantasy a bit.

  2. Very cool, Forces of Fantasy is one of the booklets I haven't been able to get my hands on yet but it looks right up my alley. I've been making a mad mashup of Warhammer Quest/Heroquest and various editions of Warhammer. Between 1st and 6th edition, there seems to be a lot of possibilities for building a hybrid RPG campaign set of rules. I'm finishing off the final army review, and I will probably take a closer look at RPG aspects of the game after that (along with a general review of the rules, and perhaps a comparison to the most recent edition of the game for newer players).


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