Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Zen Shrugs, Jan 22, 2018.
This thread is a gold mine.
Awesome read! Thanks.
Let me try to take a stab at 8th edition. First a disclaimer, I played a little bit of 6th edition, dropped out of the hobby, briefly considered playing 7th edition but I couldn’t find any one to play with. I resumed the hobby early in 8th edition. I became a well-known active poster and then a moderator on Lustria-Online beloved by all. I barely picked up a white dwarf but I logged on to L-O at least a few hours a week, so I kept up with stuff. I own all the 8th edition books and most of the 7th edition books.
I probably won’t be as in depth as Zen Shrugs. I promise to have more opinions and fewer facts. And of course since I'm describing events that most of the forum readership here was around, there will be more people to contradict me, but here goes.
One thing certainly did not change. 8th edition has a epic capacity... of 7! That's on a scale from one to five so that's a big number. If anything the epic increases over time.
Dwarfs and Wood Elves never got a 7th edition book. They had a huge fluff makeover between their 6th edition and 8th edition books. Most armies have a 7th edition and 8th edition army book. The fluff in the 7th edition and 8th books changed very little, some sections are essentially copy and pasted. On a casual read, the only difference you will see between a 7th edition and 8th edition army book is a couple edits to insert the new units into old fluff, so that they can pretend that the new units were always around. Barely anything else changes.
I’m going to cover something else related to new units. I read an opinion on many forums that I believe is reasonable, but I disagree with. The opinion states that when Games Workshop creates an entirely new model, they make the unit mechanics for that new model overpowered on purpose, so their old fan base has to buy the new models.
While the new models are more often than not overpowered, I believed there are enough exceptions to demonstrate that this was by accident not by design. There are Warhammer enthusiasts who love collecting models and never play a game. There are people who love table top playing but finding modeling and painting a chore and do the bare minimum or use proxies. There is every permutation in between and Lustria-Online welcomes all of you. I am a gamer who sometimes paints. I believe that the Games Workshop bigwigs during the 8th edition era decided that their best way to make money was to cater to painters who sometime play games. The new model releases follow those sensibilities.
After some re-reads I found a few subtle trends besides the retcon for the new units. In my opinion these changes are fairly common in the 7th to 8th edition transition. The first is that the editing is a little better, especially with the time lines between army books have fewer inconsistencies when you compare across books. The illustrations are on average better. The maps are certainly better.
Yes, Year one on the Imperial Calendar is when the Comet appears in the sky over Lustria and the Old World alike. Tehenhauin begins preaching the same year Sigmar is born.
The second thing is that the Forces of Order and Destruction are noticeably less fragmented. They aren't exactly BFFs but they fight less. There are a lot of mechanics that affect Order and Destruction units differently. Sixth edition didn’t have anything like that that I remember. The official fluff references to having the “Good Guys” fight “Good Guys” or “Bad Guys” fighting “Bad Guys” are fewer in number than previous edition’s fluff. Not only are they less frequent but generally covered in less detail. This is especially common with the Forces of Order. There is a lot of stories that go along the lines of “All seemed lost until the Exotic Order army came unbidden and destroyed their attackers. They came not to save the usually humans but because of some mystic thing threatened”
This trend became more pronounced as 8th edition matured. Tamurkhan one of the first written 8th edition campaign books has proportionally more interline fighting than the End Times series books, at least in my opinion. One cannot help but notice how factions are a bigger deal in Age of Sigmar than 8th edition and see more logical evolution. I do not believe this is coincidental. I do not believe that 8th edition gradually coalesced the teams because they were planning to do that for Age of Sigmar. I believe Age of Sigmar formed the teams because their creators were following the same trends. Pure speculation on my part.
I will admit that Triumph and Treachery went in the opposite direction, but as cool as those rules were, I never really saw T&T catch on and I am mildly saddened by this.
Another example. The End Times rules basically coalesced all (okay most) High Elves, and Dark Elves into one super army. I’m going to point out that before the End Times, the three Elf army books got most of their basic game mechanics made uniform across them. They have the same set of gods. They have overlapping magic lores. The fluff was intermingled a bit more than previous editions. That’s just one specific example how the convergence was shaping up.
Anyway, Lizardmen are what counts.
So in 8th edition we got some new magic. Skink Priests getting lore of Beasts seemed really natural to me. High Magic magic rocks and it blurs the lines between the Slann and High Elves. The fluff reflected this by 8th edition having the Slann boost their big vortex from afar.
We got Troglodons which have amazing fluff and beautiful models…and are probably our second weakest unit in 8th edition. Jungle Swarms are the worst unit we have in case you are wondering. All swarms took a beating with the nerf bat in 8th edition. The Troglodons either created or riding a fluff wave. We got a new mechanic, Predatory Fighter and Troglodons enhance that. The fluff likes to talk about the predatory ferocity of Lizardmen more than they used to, and Saurus are a bit more likely to take leadership roles in fluff than in the past.
We got Ripperdactyls and Bastiladons too, but I don’t think they had a very big impact on our fluff, but back to Predator Fighter. The rules are somewhat vague about whether Saurus and Kroxigor making supporting attacks get to apply Predatory Fighter to their supporting attacks. I and several others wrote Games Worked and begged them for an official answer. We never got one. We had some very long threads of competing arguments for both interpretations of this rule, and they grew out of control.
We had some people leave the realm of logical arguments who began making vicious and personal attacks and those they disagreed with. That is very unusual for Lustria-Online. We moderators had to step in and issue a lot of stern reprimands and delete a fair number of posts. These are not things we like doing. I have an opinion on which interpretation of the rules is correct, but if the tournament opponent or my gaming opponents I just went with their interpretation. The impact on the outcome of games was mathematically insignificant. My dad loved to steal Henry Kissinger’s quote who I don’t think coined the term either. “The fights are fierce because the stakes are so small.”
I mentioned that the Forces of Order are cooperating more in 8th edition than previous editions, or at the least fighting each other less. There is a lot less mention of human treasure hunters fighting Lizardmen than in the 5th edition book that’s for sure. That Dark Elf-Lizardmen rivalry is strengthened. I’d say a strong case can be made that Lizardmen are the number two foe for Dark Elves after High Elves and the Dark Elves are the number two foe for Lizardmen after Skaven though Daemons will always have a special place in my heart.
Lord Mazdamundi was really mean to El Cadavo on page 16 in the Lizardmen army book, but for the most part his attitude towards the Prodigal races softened. “Those younger races that would not join them against the common foe would be considered enemies.” (page 20). That’s harsh, but it is far less harsh than Mazdamundi’s old plan of forcibly evicting all Elves to Ulthuan, all Humans to the Old World, all Dwarfs to their original mountains and it at least implies that the Slann want to be on the same side of the Prodigal races, at least a little. And if you look hard enough you can find stories here and there of Lizardmen bailing out High Elves and Humans about to be overwhelmed.
Now in my own stories, I decided to make lemonade out of the lemons Games Workshop dealt me. In this case was the lemons of the various GW published works being inconsistent on the Slann’s attitudes towards the warm blooded Forces of Order. I decided in my fluff pieces the Slann cannot make up their minds and argue with each other on this. A couple other fluff writers on L-O have emulated this idea or independently came up with themselves.
The Southlands was more or less officially written off from a lesser Lizardmen holding into a former Lizardmen territory. The only official source of Southlands lore I known in 8th edition is in the bottom right corner of page 24 and a very tiny low detail map on page 25. Marhlect that! I’m developing the Southlands in my fluff just to spite you GW!
So fast forward to the End Times. I enjoyed the fluff in Nagash, and I really liked the addition of the Lore of Undeath. Basically I play Lore of Undeath in almost every 8th edition game I play now. The Lore of Undeath applies to all armies (well not Dwarfs). Mixing Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts into one mega army was nice for a guy with a fledgling Vampire Counts army. I do enjoy the Tomb Kings model line but not that much. Now I could justify dabbling just a bit.
No game mechanics change in the End Times has such a sweeping impact. They are pretty much all army specific, other than Khaine creating a super pan-Elf army none of the changes to individual armies were very big. By the time I read through Glottkin and Khaine, I was getting bored with the EPIC writing style with a hefty dose of clichés.
“Let’s not bother looking for Karl Franz’s body and just assume he’s dead!”
“What about his hammer, the most powerful magic weapon ever wielded by Order. Should we look for it?”
“Nah, it probably broke when it fell.”
“Should we kill his legendary mount Deathwing?”
“Nah, lets keep him alive as a grand trophy...but don’t bother posting too many guards around him.”
By the timeI got to Thanqol I basically practiced speed reading, until I got to the Lizardmen parts. My copy of Archaon is still in its original plastic wrap.
I was generally not happy with the quantity or quality of the Lizardmen parts. One, the writers have yet to figure out to give new characters non-silly sounding names. Even if it’s not a cheap pun, a giant collection of vowels that no one knows how to pronounce isn’t much better.
Beyond the names, I was disappointed. If you read the fluff in the 8th edition army book, two things stand out from previous editions. 1) Saurus leaders are more proactive than before. 2) Mazdamundi is awake and ready to kick butt! NOT!
Just when you think the Lizardmen are going to begin acting rather than reacting, the End Times sees most of the Slann fall into a stupor again. So it’s up to the Saurus and Skink leaders. Which is fine, we had some great stories on L-O when Lizardmen have to take charge while the Slann are away, but GW made these leaders even slower acting.
“Hey are those Skaven building exotic fortification within artillery range of our Temple City.”
“Nah, they are just barely out of artillery range. It’s not like these strange constructions we cannot understand will make the Skaven more deadly.”
“You sure you don’t want to send out the army to attack them before they finish their Mcguffin?”
“Nah, they are not attacking us, we are standing ready for if they attack us.”
“Do you think they are going to try something sneaky and unexpected?”
“Nah, we’ve been fighting the Skaven for thousands of years, when have they ever tried some sneaky and unexpected in lieu of a conventional attack?”
“Every single time, sir.”
“Well then they are about due to make a conventional attack just to throw us off. Hold positions!”
Just once, I want to see the Lizardmen do something other than defend themselves! Even the big spaceship temple event at the end of the End Times is a reaction, not an action.
I don’t much about Age of Sigmar Seraphon but there are two things I like. In a world with Grotts, Ogors, Gargants, Aelfs and the like, we finally got a non-stupid name. Seraphon. It’s an exotic name but it’s easy to pronounce. There is an obvious etymological link in the name to angels. If memory serves me, there is also an etymological link to “serpents.” We finally have a well-thought out name that reveals character. This is probably by accident, I'm betting the name "Seraphon" just barely won out against "Lizreds."
Can't really make a succinct summary of the state of fluff in Age of Sigmar because it is (in theory) still unfolding. As always, I state wherever you do not like official fluff, write something different!.
Or maybe "Lizzerds"!
So much great stuff here.
I can see how the shift from 5th to 6th would have big shift in this regard. I am used to the "deathworld" aspect myself, having come into the hobby in 6th edition.
This campaign sounds interesting, and they made a separate display for it?
This is something that I noticed when shifting between the two books, and has continued all the way through even Total War Warhammer 2. The "outer space" and extraterrestrial origins of the Lizardmen and their technology has become much more pronounced. Which is okay, but as someone who is a huge fan of Mayan culture (and not the history channel version ) I wish the realistic tone hadn't gone away.
So sad. Another huge portion of the map that never got really explored before the Old World was lost.
The blue was one of the first things that I ignored as I painted my lizardmen. My first exposure to the Lizardmen models (granted they were the 6th edition version) was a black and white photo. I went and bought green paints along with the box before realizing that blue was the studio recommended color. But I liked the color green to much , plus it always looked more "lizardy" than blue.
The making-of used to be on the GW website a long time ago, but the link I had has long since stopped working. Glad I saved the pictures.
Lastly, in reference to 8th edition:
I did enjoy the new maps. it was huge (a full page I think?) and lots of color. I love maps, so a highly detailed one for the continent was a real treat in the new book.
White Dwarf #206 had quite a few pics of the Battle for Antoch Plains, but they were a bit... er... Polaroid-ish.
The display was made for Games Day as a follow-up to the Complete 40K Ultramarines Chapter they'd done a bit earlier.
(It was a 'battle for the plains' rather than a proper siege scene because the Bretonnians are honourable/foolhardy types who insist on charging out to meet the enemy instead of cowering behind stone walls.)
As per usual back in the day, GW stores all over the UK and possibly beyond painted up the minis and sent them in. About four thousand miniatures all up. The 'Eavy Metal team did some vignettes too. I like the one with the Fay Enchantress facing off against a horde of Saurus Warriors and turning the front ranks into frogs.
There are hints in the White Dwarf article that making the display inspired GW to create the plastic Warhammer Fortress kit, which would have been hush-hush at the time (it came out later in 5th and stayed available until fairly recently).
I could only find one pic online, and it's a photo, not a scan, so the lighting is pretty bad:
My search did turn up one other page of #206 about the making of the 5th ed Lizzies, which may be of interest, particularly Alan Perry's comments:
Right, now a proper response to ye 8th edition fluffe reportage.
Sweet! All this 8th ed info is fascinating. Thanks.
All I knew about 8th (until now) was a) there were lots of really big plastic kits and b) there was some kind of supplement called Storm of Magic. Oh, and c) everything went hardback for some reason. Premium luxury product marketing, I suppose.
This is something that really stood out to me just looking back on 5th to 7th. I always assumed the epicness... epnotising... epnicity?... came out of nowhere in 8th, with rules to encourage huge units of troops. But it seems to have been a long build-up from 6th through 7th and 8th right through to the End Times and now Age of Sigmar. Everything not only grew supersized, but the magic/fantasy level kept rising too, until the planet just couldnae take it no more, Cap'n.
I have a couple of theories about this, but see below...
I seem to recall official statements around the time that support your view. There was an oft-quoted comment from a GW high-up about making most of their sales to collectors and painters. Many gamers objected to this. They pointed out that a gamer will buy multiple boxes of troops compared to a hypothetical collector, who presumably only wants one of each.
I'm sure many people here remember the debate better than I do, though.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Do I understand this correctly? They changed the Empire book, and the rest of the fluff, so that the comet appears in Year 1, when Sigmar is crowned Emperor? Not when he was born (the year -30)?
If so, that's a pretty big change to long-standing fluff. I'm shocked that they didn't tweak the Lizardmen fluff instead. Surely the Old World would take priority in GW's eyes?
Although... I'm not actually sure how far back the twin-tailed comet thing goes. I'd like to think it was around in the very early days (1st to 3rd edition), but I don't have any relevant resources to check.
I'll say. Even hearing you use the terms 'Forces of Order' and 'Forces of Destruction' sounds odd to me. Were those in common use in 8th, or are you retroactively applying them?
I only recall that sort of moniker being thrown around when a worldwide campaign was in the offing and GW needed to lump all the factions into two opposing sides. Otherwise, as far as I know, the Warhammer World was designed from the get-go to give everyone a reason to fight everyone else. It's one of the charmingly realistic things about it. They didn't need to constantly say "these guys are goodies" and "these guys are baddies".
You didn't kill Orcs because they were evil. You killed them because they were violent and warlike, had no fear of death, and would come over to your house and stab you and burn down your farm because it was fun and they wanted your stuff. Which all sounds pretty close to 'evil', I suppose... but could also describe quite a lot of actual human people throughout history who felt they were acting in a perfectly reasonable manner.
Hmm, now I'm wondering... A few GW writers moved over to WFB from Lord of the Rings in the mid-2000s. Some of them, again, controversial. And as we all know, LotR has a very strong and clear Good vs Evil divide, which was enshrined in the rules. Possibly some of the writers absorbed that worldview and, consciously or unconsciously, brought it with them into WFB?
Yeah, I've seen some of this around the forum. Clever stuff.
I agree that taking inconsistencies and figuring out how to resolve them can lead to really interesting results. Tolkien did the same with The Lord of the Rings when dealing with earlier editions of The Hobbit (the whole 'birthday present' thing).
I have my own crazy theories about Mazdamundi, but I'll keep them under wraps for now...
I hope there's a Tartessos somewhere on your Southlands map.
Source: Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water. Classic Japanese anime from 1990. Basically it's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea + Laputa + proto-Evangelion angst + Holy Ancient Atlantis Superscience, Batman! Intro is here if you've never heard of it.
Nagash is the one End Times book that seems to get consistently good reviews for fluff. The others seem more divisive.
It's also kind of pleasing that the Undead finally got the band back together at the very end of 8th edition, coming full circle from where they were in 4th (before the controversial Vampire Counts / Tomb Kings split).
How very dare you. Terrible punny names are the very essence of Lizardmanity. Have at you, sir.
(OK, OK, I admit that 'Xtinki' in the Dogs of War book was a little beyond the pale even for me.)
Ha! That Skaven riff made me laugh.
Don't they blow up the moon or something later on in the End Times? I have a problem with this. The problem is that Skaven aren't meant to actually succeed at their evil supervillain plans. They're supposed to get to Phase Three only to fail in hilarious yet devastating fashion. Like the time they accidentally caused the downfall of the Dwarf empire. At least until that was contradicted by the whole Slann-moving-continents thing. (One of the few really serious inconsistencies in 4th/5th ed fluff.)
As for the Lizzies actually doing something... hey, they once saved the world from Chaos by pulling off a Xanatos gambit (apologies for the TV Tropes reference, but c'mon, it even sounds like a Slann name) and stomping on an Old World city. Again, just why was the Siege of Antoch swept under the rug? Ooo eee ooo eee oooo...
I suspect there may have been some real-world reasons for Antoch and Crusades becoming slightly awkward topics, but I'm guessing here.
Now I'm tempted to chalk up every single natural disaster that's ever struck anybody in the whole Warhammer World to a sneaky Slann intervention. Including that one Dark Elf Black Ark that got sunk by a freak tidal wave off Cathay. It's like the Spaceprobe-that-collided-with-God in Futurama. "If you do things right, people won't notice you did anything at all."
OK, for what it's worth, here's my personal crackpot theory about the Age of Sigmar and the long buildup of huge collectors' centrepiece models leading up to it. (Er... can I sneak this into a fluff thread without going way off-topic? Hope so...)
A lot of people feel that blowing up the Warhammer World and replacing it with AoS was a marketing decision. WFB wasn't selling well enough, so they tossed it.
That may well have been part of the story. But I suspect that the move to AoS was also a design-led choice. I have a feeling that the designers were, frankly, a bit sick and tired of making Warhammer models after thirty-odd years and wanted the freedom to do something new.
*dons half-moon historian's spectacles* Ahem.
Up until the start of 5th edition, WFB was in a state of codification and expansion. The first army book range was still being published, and a lot of uncharted or at least vaguely defined territory was being filled in (Lustria, Tilea, etc.) Plenty of room for creativity. If you read the Alan Perry boxout in the White Dwarf page I posted above, he talks about how much fun it was to come up with what amounts to a new race.
But once they got a little way into 5th edition, the world was pretty much set. Articles in White Dwarf from the period talk about how the next step will be to release campaign packs (which they did)... maybe revise a couple of the oldest army books (which they did--High Elves and Chaos)... do some new stuff like mercenaries (which they did)... split up the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings (er, they did that too but didn't warn anybody beforehand, which ruffled a few feathers)... and then... um... well...
Like the fish at the end of Finding Nemo, it may have been a case of "Now what?"
Of course the rules and card-based magic were starting to cause issues and had to be revamped anyway, necessitating 6th. But from a fluff perspective, at least in my view, 5th edition feels more or less done. Finished. Sorted. After four editions of getting their act together, the Warhammer World had finally taken solid shape.
GW could have gone on to do the Southlands, Cathay, Nippon, the Chaos Dwarfs (the one faction that never really got a proper update), the Amazons... who knows? But I expect there were limits to the model ranges they could support at any one time.
In the end, 6th ed required the books to be redone, so the choice was made for them. But from that point on WFB was essentially recycling what had gone before. Occasionally there was room for something new, like Mordheim in 5th and Ogre Kingdoms in 6th, but most of the time it was a cycle of revise, rinse, repeat. New look, new angle, new art style, new gameplay tweaks... but basically the same old runaround.
Warhammer had become a well-defined setting without much room for creativity anymore. After a while it must have felt like working on a historical wargame. The fluff was pretty much set. Night Goblins are Night Goblins and do such and such things in the dark with squigs. High Elves have these troop types, Lizzies have those, Greeks have hoplites, Germans have walking spidertanks... waitaminnit.
The spidertank thing is what I think happened during the gradual increase in 'fantasticality level' from 5th up to 8th. People often assume that the marketing team (aka the Root of All Evil) forced the sculptors to make big expensive kits, presumably while laughing in maniacal fashion. But I've heard that those huge, imposing models like the Mortis Engine and the Cauldron of Blood were made simply because the designers wanted to make models they'd like to assemble and paint themselves. That's why they were often fragile and impractical for gaming with. I don't know if it's true. But it does feel as if the sculptors were straining at the limits of what the Warhammer setting allowed.
"Come on, I wanna do flying ships! Please? Flying steampunk Dwarf ships? What's wrong with that? Whaddayamean it doesn't fit with the fluff? They've got Gyrocopters. Why not Gyrogalleons? Well fine! We'll make our own new fluff! With blackjack! And Witch Elves!"
(This isn't an original argument by any means--I've seen similar sentiments on blogs and the like.)
The whole End Times / AoS thing reminds me a bit of Lego in the late 90s and early 2000s. At the time Lego was struggling to compete (or so it thought) with video games and other attention-grabbing toys. Marketing was definitely an issue at the time--Lego kits were becoming simpler and simpler because kids supposedly didn't have the patience to build complex models anymore. But another factor, I'm told, was the push by the designers to make what they wanted to make. Not what kids wanted to play with.
Take fire trucks. The early 90s Lego fire trucks look like fire trucks. The late 90s kits look like weird futuristic things. Cool and creative, yes, and a lot more interesting to design than the umpteenth version of a real-world vehicle if you're a Lego employee... but what are you meant to do if you're a kid who just likes fire trucks and trains and other real things?
Basically, I think AoS partly happened because the designers wanted free reign to be creative and the Warhammer World had grown too limited. So they popped the bubble. Now they can have their flying ships and whatever else they feel like. GW has always been a miniatures company first and foremost. The worlds and the games are meant to accommodate the figures, not the other way around.
It reminds me of the sf show Farscape in a way. (Another Austra-Lustrian triumph... that nobody Down Under actually watched despite its success overseas.) That was a design-led show--it started out as an excuse to show off the Henson Creature Shop's latest wacky aliens, which the plot would accommodate somehow. Yet Farscape eventually found its feet and became a strongly character-led drama without losing that 'make it up as you go along' feel. The Planescape setting for D&D managed something similar too. Here's hoping AoS can do the same.
...Whoops, looks like I let the opinions out again.
I like the more realistic take on the fluff too. The funny thing is, though, that original-original Lustria (back in 1st edition) was waaay more gonzo and crazy than 5th edition's low-key feel. Amazons had bolt pistols fer chrissakes, and the Goddess Rigg herself was available as a freakin' miniature. The 'old Slann' were far less mysterious than the Old Ones they became. Although it did somehow still preserve a certain everyday, grounded feel to the proceedings. More 'lost colony planet' science fiction than fantasy, come to think of it.
(I could segue here into a whole digression on WFB's origins in 70s science fantasy and its generally sf tone--see: warpstone fallout, Chaos mutation, the pseudo-scientific way that magic is described--but I'll spare you because it's late. )
How do you find the green colour scheme on jungle terrain? (If you play games on jungle terrain.) I always worry the Lizzies will camouflage so well I'll forget they're there...
Not really Lizzie-related, but... my favourite GW map is the two-page, full-colour Naggaroth map in the 4th ed Dark Elf book. (Not otherwise one of my favourite 90s army books.) It's by the same guy who did the map in the back of the 5th ed Lizardmen book, it's clear yet attractive, it's full of unexplained but tantalising placenames... and it depicts what is without a doubt The Most Metal Continent In The World. And I don't even like metal.
I am not retroactively applying this. This is one of the cornerstones the Big Red Rules book in 8th edition built the rules around and it bled into the fluff.
Officially Forces of Destruction in 8th edition are:
Orcs and Goblins, Dark Elves, Warriors, of Chaos, Beasts of Chaos, Daemons of Chaos, Vampire Counts, Skaven
Forces of Order
High Elves, Wood Elves, Brettonians, Empire, Lizardmen, Dwarfs.
Tomb Kings, Ogre Kingdoms
They sort of got an update. Forge World released a well written, very beautifully illustrated campaign book called Tamurkahn along with some well sculpted extremely expensive models. The unit rules are allowed in tournaments AND Tamurkahn has a little appendix in the back for playing a Chaos Dwarf army and Chaos Dwarfs armies were allowed in most official and unofficial tournaments. Tamurkhan is an expensive book, and the Chaos Dwarf set of models were not cheap either, but they were still officially army.
I covered fighting them here a long time ago.
I briefly thought about collecting Chaos Dwarfs myself, but I'm not made of money. I'm not sure how well they are doing in Age of Sigmar, but their forum was always active and friendly. Most people who have Chaos Dwarfs really like Chaos Dwarfs. I mainly collect Lizardmen but I also have Vampire Counts and Chaos Dwafs. I met few people that "also have Chaos Dwarfs."
The Chaos Dwarfs have respectable magic and infantry. Very powerful monsters and artillery, and generally a high points cost all around so they are always fighting outnumbered. That was actually part of the appeal for me, you get a 2500 point army assembled very fast. Hobgoblins fill the role of expendable chaff but most Chaos Dwarf players and opponents I talk to tell me that very few Chaos Dwarf players used them much. I mean you play Chaos Dwarfs to play Chaos Dwarfs, not to play their expendable flunkies.
Strategy is like this, you get an Iron Demon or K'daaii Destroyer (or both). Use your magic and shooting to soften up or kill anything that could theoretically put consistent wounds on your giant monsters. Then when your slow moving Dwarf infantry catch up to the monsters they can play clean up on the units remaining.
You reminded me of something I meant to include in my 8th edition summary. End Times had to fill five books with epic, but they couldn't just start wiping out giant swaths of the good guys left and right. So they needed these and these. They did by having the Forces of Destruction basically eradicated the civilized lands with minimal or zero model lines. So Estalia, Tilea, Kislev, The Borderlands plus a few I'm missing. This not only showed that the Forces of Destruction were not just playing around but it also simplified the narrative by removing bit players.
I will also mention that I noticed 5th to 6th, 6th to 7th, and 7th to 8th. Every single time, the lesser players became even less important. Maybe they didn't want to bother talking about people they didn't have models for. Maybe this was part of the epic thing because a smaller scale group is going to by necessity have smaller armies and smaller battles.
The exception is Ogres becoming a full army but Age of Sigmar took a step back and Ogors are not basically an elite group within the new group called Forces of Destruction. The Forces of Destruction used to hold 2/3 of the Warhammer world, now it's much smaller since the Faction of Death swooped up Vampire Counts and what was left of the Tomb Kings, Dark Elves are now part of Order, and Skaven are now part of Chaos.
Right, well, after my last stupendously long and ranty post (which is what happens when I post after midnight... don't feed Zen after midnight)... I have yet more old fluff 'n' junk pontificating to offer unto Sotek.
First a mea culpa: I mentioned in my 'Skaven fluff' post that the 5th ed Lizzies book doesn't name Quetza as their stronghold. This is what some of us like to call fake news. Or fake olds. Something like that. Anyway, it turns out that the Stillman book does mention Quetza. It's just in an earlier section (page 10, 'Ruined Temple-Cities'). D'oh. Don't ask me to interpret any sacred glyphs is all I can say.
Moving on... Although I've tracked the fluff development of the Liz-Rad Men of Lustria and the steampunk meeces for good measure, there's one corner of continental fluff I didn't pay much attention to.
Ze Vampire Coast!
*dramatic flash of lightning and stock thunder effect*
After a bit of rummaging in forgotten burial mounds, digging up the odd grave and poring over mouldering grimoires written in suspicious red ink, I can now bring you the first episode of The Life and Times of Luther Harkon, aka Survivor: Vampire Coast Edition. Which... doesn't amount to much, but does give me an excuse to rattle my bone-box about old-school Undead fluff. So pour yourself a cup of... wine... and settle in for a night of spine-chilling pedantry. I mean horror.
Once again, please bear in mind that my knowledge is mostly confined to a certain era--the 90s and early 2000s. 4th to 6th edition WFB, mainly. Don't believe anything I say about earlier or later editions.
Also, unlike the Lizzies, quite a lot of stuff has been written about Vampires in WFB outside of the army books. Black Library novels, special edition fluff books, roleplaying supplements, etc. I don't know anything much about that side of things and propose to deal with it by ignoring it. Feel free to correct this.
Now then. *rolls up sleeves to expose gleaming bone* The earliest reference to the Vampire Coast I've been able to find dates back to 1994. (If anyone knows of references in earlier material, e.g. 3rd edition WFB when the world was otherwise, please let me know.) It's a teensy mention in this dread book of nightmarish lore:
Warhammer Armies: Undead (4th edition)
I think that skeleton wants to eat the logo. Maybe he thinks it's a Toblerone.
For some reason I found this the most difficult 90s army book to track down. Several times I almost got hold of a copy only for the seller to change his mind or realise they didn't have it after all. I even heard a rumour that there's a later printing of this book that includes the special characters from the 'Circle of Blood' campaign pack, released in 1997. This amuses me because the book itself describes Necromancers as struggling to find genuine copies of forbidden lore. Often they end up with forgeries or mistranslated spells that get them killed. "Zombies, attack! No, the watchman, you fools, not me! Aaargh!" I'm not sure what would happen should I attempt to play a game using this book...
Aaaanyway... Warhammer Armies: Undead was written by Jervis Johnson and Bill King. Two names that echo down the decades. Two men that bestrode the earth as colossi. Ish.
Jervis is still with GW to the best of my knowledge. I presume they sweep up his ashes every now and then and sprinkle blood on them whenever they need a decent ruleset in a hurry. In fact, I have it on good authority (Tuomas Pirinen's AMA on Reddit... citation needed?) that Jervis wrote the Age of Sigmar rules. I can believe it. Jervis has long been a proponent of simple, elegant rulesets with tactical complexity hidden under the surface. Among his greatest hits are Blood Bowl, Epic 40,000 (actually that one went down like a brick submarine filled with cement, rather like the reaction to AoS in fact, but it really is a great set of rules) and Epic Armageddon (the next edition of Epic designed as a compromise between Jervis's preferences and those of the fans). I'm not entirely sure that 'simple, yet elegant' aptly describes the Undead of 4th ed, though...
Bill (William) King was and is a writer who worked on many of the early army books. Most of the big fluff pieces in the 4th ed books are his work, as well as those in many 2nd ed 40K codexes. They have a certain straightforward, uncluttered style best described as 'character muses on his/her/its life and role in the greater scheme of things' rather than 'ultraviolent battle scene #203'. He was also responsible for many early Black Library novels--most famously those about Gotrek and Felix, everyone's favourite doomed Dwarf and hapless-yet-competent Human companion.
The reason I'm spending so much time describing these two gentlemen is this: The fluff in the 4th ed Undead book is good. Really good. I say this only having read it for the first time about two years ago. I suspect that the History of the Undead section was mostly written by Bill King. I believe he also wrote the History section in the High Elves book. That says it all, really. Both are must-reads as far as bedrock Warhammer fluff goes.
We get the full and awesomely METAL history of Nagash--something I don't think was properly reprinted at any time during 5th or 6th edition apart from bare summaries. Partly because it got twisted up and retconned a bit by later developments... and partly because Nagash had a truly embarrassing official model GW never got around to resculpting for some inexplicable reason until the End Times. Imagine if the Sauron miniature from Lord of the Rings had been sculpted wearing a clown costume and you're just about there.
We also get the full rundown on the Vampire Counts of Sylvania. Another well-written and gripping tale probably also written by Bill King. This fluff piece will come back to haunt us later. Mwa ha ha, etc.
But wait, this is meant to be about Lustria, right?
The Undead in Lustria: 4th edition
The actual Vampire Coast reference turns up on page 31 in the Undead Timeline. It says pretty much what you'd expect. A Vampire named Luthor Harkon--note the spelling--was the innocent victim of a carry-your-mattress-out-to-sea-while-you're-sleeping prank worthy of a Japanese variety show. Upon awakening he was naturally miffed to find that his sarcophagus had been nicked from an Empire merchantman by a bunch of Norse raiders.
A resourceful and enterprising fellow, Harkon did what Vampires do best, which is Take Charge. He ended up marooned on the southeastern coast of Lustria with a bunch of slightly less alive Norse raiders to boss around. (Some were only enslaved rather than zombified.) There he created what the book calls an 'Undead empire'. Thenceforth the place became known as the Vampire Coast.
At this point Harkon is just a throwaway reference in the timeline, similar to Lord Melchin's adventures in the 6th ed Lizardmen book. There's no mention of shipwrecks, zombie pirates or any of that jazz. Also keep in mind that Lustria was in a state of limbo or timewarp waiting for 5th edition to rediscover it. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that Luthor Harkon is the only named Vampire in the 4th ed Undead book apart from the Von Carsteins. Guess that counts for something.
Above all, for anyone familiar with the Vampire Counts fluff from 5th and 6th edition--though perhaps not 7th or 8th, from what I gather--an immediate question presents itself: What bloodline is Harkon?
Well, er, none. At this stage the bloodlines concept and indeed the idea of 'Vampire Counts' as an army in their own right hadn't been introduced to Warhammer fluff. All Vampires were just Vampires. The Undead book throws them into the mix with Necromancers, Liches and Mummy Tomb Kings. Want an army of bony boys from Khemri with chariots and screaming-skull catapults? Want creepy ghosts and Nazgul ripoffs? Want ghouls and Hammer Horror evening gowns? It's all included in pick-and-mix form. Many of the 4th ed lists were like this. A great deal of freedom was given to the player--if they wanted to theme their army, it was up to them. (And if they wanted to max out the cheese, they could do that too.)
The Vampires themselves are more of a footnote than anything (except for Vlad, Mannfred and friends). Still, the basics are here. They hail from the city of Lahmia, whose rulers carried on experimenting with Nagash's life-prolonging elixir after his first defeat and eventually started to pronounce Ws as Vs. When Lahmia's neighbours caught wind of this and went full torch-and-pitchfork on the city, the Vampires fled north to Nagash's lair. He put them in charge of his Undead armies and sent them out to conquer Nehekhara. It didn't go well. Fearing his rage, the Vampires fled all over the world to confuse pursuit. And that was that.
The Undead book remained current throughout 4th edition and for much of 5th edition, until 1999. Five solid years. No wonder some people were cranky when it was replaced... er... diversified by the arrival of a new army book with a rather different take on things.
The Undead in Lustria: 5th edition
As mentioned in earlier posts, 5th edition WFB was a tidy-up rather than a reboot. All the old books stayed current, including the Undead book.
Early in 5th edition we of course had the Nigel Stillman Lizardmen book, which fleshed out (sorry I had to) the Vampire Coast. Here we learned about Harkon's cravings for Lizzie artefacts and especially mummified Slann, as well as his ransacking of Axotl (presumably a typo for Axlotl) and his defeat by one of several possible frogs whose names all start with X. Luther, meanwhile, had decided to start spelling his name with an 'e'. Good thing he didn't think of spelling it backward or we'd all be hopelessly fooled.
Other than that, the main point of skeletonised interest for the first couple of years was the release of the 'Circle of Blood' campaign pack. Several such packs were released, each containing a few card buildings and a set of linked scenarios for two opposing armies. In this case, the armies were Undead vs Bretonnians.
What does this have to do with Lustria? Not much. But in the month that 'Circle of Blood' was released, White Dwarf ran something of an Undead special. In issue #211 (UK) they repainted the Studio army in a striking black/red/bone scheme... and a small yet perfectly formed article appeared, entitled 'The Battle of the Vampire Coast'.
Check out that art. That's pure 90s Undeadery in all its glory right there. And all these years later, I finally bothered to Google 'stoater'. Now I'm even more confused than before.
This issue marks the one and only official reference to Luther Harkon in 5th edition apart from the Lizzies book. At least, the only one that I've been able to find. 'The Battle of the Vampire Coast' was written by Tuomas Pirinen (remember that name) and Andy Kettlewell (er... your choice). It features a WFB scenario pitting Harkon's Undead against High Elves.
Because it was based on the still-current Undead book--and used models from the Studio's newly repainted army for the photos--Harkon's force looked indistinguishable from your average Empire or Badlands deadies. Skeletal horsies all over the place. Harkon himself was represented by the (very cool) Red Duke model on a horse, originally designed for the Circle of Blood pack.
Perhaps to explain this oddity, the fluff for the scenario included a few quirky things. Apparently Harkon found burial mounds full of Wights and magical artefacts along the Lustrian coast. Who raised them? It's a mystery. We learn that Harkon raised watchtowers along the Vampire Coast to spot passing ships, and that as a master of Necromancy he controls the magical winds that draw vessels to their doom there.
We also learn that Harkon filled books 'full of blood and darkness' with his 'insane scribblings'. And so was sown the seed of a fluff idea that would bear dark and terrible fruit in years to come...
The scenario itself? Oh, that. It explains that the High Elves learned a High Elf dragonship, the Ingranion, was shipwrecked on the Vampire Coast while carrying a vital magical cargo of unspecified nature to the Citadel of Dusk at the southern tip of the continent. The Elves attempted an overland march all the way to the Citadel (brave lads), but Harkon intercepted them. The scenario adds that nobody knows what the outcome of the battle was (except for Harkon himself, obviously) and that it's up to the player to decide... then goes on to say that the magical cargo safely reached the Citadel. Erm. Yes. How mysterious.
Anyone interested should bear in mind that 'The Battle of the Vampire Coast' is quite a small article (two pages, much of it taken up by the scenario setup and army lists) and isn't what you'd call a must-have. For Harkon fans, though, it's worth checking out for completeness' sake.
And now I must adjourn for a brief interlude. Excuse me while I nip into my nice cosy coffin to sleep through the next two years.
*yawn, stretch, grab neck of nearest servant, bloodcurdling scream* Ah, that's better. Right, where was I?
Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (5th edition)
Buckle up, boys and girls. It's about to get complicated once again.
(And yes, that was really the largest cover picture I could find that wasn't a direct link to a big chunk o' copyright infringement.)
Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts was written by... drumroll... Tuomas Pirinen and Alessio Cavatore.
Who's Tuomas? The man who would go on to write 6th edition WFB. And Mordheim. These were big deals. Mark my words. These were large transactions indeed. (Also the updated Chaos book for 5th ed, among other things.)
Tuomas has a taste for the dark and brooding. He did a bang-up job on Realm of Chaos (fluffwise at least--I can't comment on the rules). And Mordheim--a skirmish game set in a devastated and haunted medieval city, for anyone who's been lying quiescent in a mausoleum for the last twenty years--is a thing of dark beauty that cannot be explained, only experienced. Like the Matrix, but with more mutants.
Alessio was apparently brought on board a bit later, and worked mainly on the rules. He did contribute some important fluff stories that we'll get to in a moment.
(Don't worry, we'll get back to Harkon and Lustria in due time. There's just a bit of foundation-laying to do first.)
Vampire Counts is an... interesting beast. Teeeechnically this wasn't a replacement for the old Undead book--I believe both were allowed at tournaments and the like. I don't know if the Undead book continued to be sold after the VC book hit the shelves, though.
As far as I can determine from the ancient scrolls at my disposal, what happened was this. GW decided to split the Undead into two more thematically cohesive armies: a) Vampire Counts, for the Undead of the Old World, and b) Tomb Kings of Khemri, for the Egyptian-style deadies of the desert. Two other hypothetical armies also existed: Necromancer-led forces (which got alternative army list suggestions in White Dwarf) and the legions of Nagash himself (which more or less vanished until... er... the End Times, I think.)
GW had already done something similar with Chaos. They had split an all-mixed-up 4e army list into three separate themes for 5th (Warriors, Beastmen and Daemons). However, in that case, all three lists were included in the same book. Undead players faced with the Vampire Counts book, on the other hand, effectively found that half their army choices had suddenly vanished into the land of 'we'll get around to it eventually'.
(As it happened, the Tomb Kings list was worked on by none other than Nigel Stillman... but he only got as far as a work-in-progress army list in White Dwarf before 6th edition arrived. I believe he left GW before he could finish it. The Tomb Kings project was passed from hand to hand until finally receiving a full army book and model range in mid-6th ed. I sometimes detect a hint of Stillmania in the flavour text of the Tomb Kings book.)
What the Vampire Counts book did do was introduce and establish the concept of bloodlines. Four are described in this book:
the Von Carsteins of Sylvania (carried over from 4th)
Lahmians (seductive lady vamps who fraternise with high society and pull strings behind the scenes)
Blood Dragons (brooding, fearsome and somewhat tragic warriors)
Necrarchs (cadaverous horrors like Count Orlok from Nosferatu who hide away in their towers to do Frankensteinian things).
Each of these bloodlines has its own associated powers and personality traits, and each is said to trace its ancestry back to the Vampires who fled Lahmia long ago.
Now here's where things get puzzling. The four named ancestor Vampires are Abhorash of the Blood, Vashanesh the King of Lahmia, Neferata Queen of Shadows and Ushoran the Lord of Masks. I think this is the first time any of these characters are mentioned in Warhammer fluff. The only one who gets any actual description in this book is Neferata, because she's a special character living under a mountain watching skellies dance to 'Walk Like an Egyptian'. Everyone else is just a name.
Evidence elsewhere in the book makes it clear that Neferata originated the Lahmian bloodline. You can probably guess that Abhorash kicked off the Blood Dragon line. That leaves Vashanesh and Ushoran. Well, hmm. Just going by the evidence in this book, I'd guess one begat the Von Carsteins and the other led to the Necrarchs. But which is which? Let's see... Vashanesh starts with a V... looks like a hint to me. So Ushoran must be our granddaddy Orlok. Right?
Hmm. But what's this oblique reference on page 8 to a 'Wsoran', the Father of Vampires? Not one of the four. Can't find him anywhere else in here...
Several other curious aspects of the Vampire Counts book are worth a mention. For a 4th/5th ed army book, it's strangely slim and light on fluff. We only get one-page descriptions of the four bloodlines--and much of that space is taken up by pictures. One large fluff section is thankfully reprinted from the Undead book: Bill King's history of the Von Carsteins, practically word for word (with the inevitable typo here and there). Bizarrely, there doesn't seem to be a timeline section in here either. A 4th/5th ed book without a timeline? Inconceivable! And the layout is... creative even by the increasingly flexible standards of 5th.
There are also a number of short flavour text sections that are surprisingly poorly written for 5th. Grammar and punctuation errors all over the place. (One of them also starts with the unintentionally hilarious line: ' "As you know, the hordes of undeath have invaded once again," said the king.' I can't help picture all his ministers sagging with Kif-esque sighs.) In hindsight this is a harbinger of the wobbly writing that will grace some of the 6th ed army books. All of this means that the book has a strangely rushed feel. It was the last army book released before the great revamp (ahaha) of 6th, which might have something to do with it.
On the other hand--and it's a big, big skeletal claw covered in disturbing runes--the 5th ed VC book is full of fantastic black and white art. No cartoony Herohammer here folks. I've never seen a Warhammer vampire look as fiendish as this before or since, nor a humble Zombie as terrifying. The 6th ed VC book is a wimp in comparison. Sadly I can't find a single example online. Honestly, it's worth picking up a copy just to admire the creep factor.
All this finally--finally--brings me back to Harkon. No, he doesn't get a direct mention. (No timeline, see?) But in the section on the Blood Dragon Vampires, we learn that these evil Knights were cursed with vampirism by one Walach Harkon. And the phrase 'Harkon Vampires' is used as a synonym for the Blood Dragons he created. (I wouldn't be surprised if the writers borrowed the surname Harkon from the earlier references to Luther, simply because it's a cool name.)
Aha! It's settled then. Luther Harkon must be a Blood Dragon. Right? Right?
Hmm. Hold on. I thought Abhorash was the guy who started off the Dragonboys. And how long ago did Walach take Blood Keep? 'Several centuries'? Luther arrived in Lustria a long time back... Dammit, why isn't there a timeline section?
Here's the root of the problem. After the 5th ed VC book came out, White Dwarf printed expanded background articles on the bloodlines over several issues, starting with #234. (Von Carsteins get stories only, because their background is already well-portrayed in the book.) These were also written by Tuomas, with accompanying fluff stories by Alessio. Why these weren't included in the VC book itself, I have no idea. No flippin' idea. It meant that anyone who missed those issues also missed out on vital aspects of the Vampires' backstories.*
*Don't panic! Want to read these expanded background sections? Can't get hold of all the old White Dwarfs? Do you happen to own a copy of the 6th ed VC book? The one shown below? Then rejoice! That book reprints Tuomas's fluff and Alessio's stories in the Lahmian, Necrarch and Blood Dragon sections with only very minor tweaks. (e.g. the Nicodemus and Nero story is slightly truncated.) Note that there's an earlier printing without the gold border--that's fine too.
(A useful resource for reprinted 5th ed Vampire stuff. But sadly lacking the classic Bill King version of the Von Carstein fluff.)
Crisis averted. Phew. Now, in these expanded sections, Abhorash's story is told in full and his connection to Walach Harkon made clear. For our purposes it's worth noting that:
a) Abhorash had several minions/disciples, of whom Walach was his favourite; and
b) Walach is described as 'of the house of Harkon'.
So it's his family name. A Lahmian family name. Meaning there could have been other Vampires named Harkon who didn't serve Abhorash at all. They could have served any of the other three Lords. Or one of the unnamed three (out of seven in total) who fled Lahmia.
Oops. Back to square one.
Other contradictions sneak in. Vashanesh the 'King of Lahmia' isn't mentioned in the expanded background. Neferata's husband is said to be Lahmizzash. But that's not necessarily an error. He sets himself up as King of Khemri, not Lahmia; he doesn't become a Vampire like his wife; and there's such a thing as remarriage. After all, the Queen is nothing if not long-lived...
Wsoran the 'Father of Vampires' also pops up again. He's said to be the primogenitor of the Necrarchs. Huh. So who the heck was Ushoran, then? What does he have to do with anything?
Years later, in 6th edition, a fifth bloodline was added to the roster: the Strigoi. Ushoran the Lord of Masks was given the job of kickstarting them. (This also involved a bit of retconning to old Nagash fluff about Morgheim/Mourkain, but it wasn't a huge deal.) I don't want to say much about all that here. It's just worth bearing in mind that based on the 5th ed text circa 1999 and nothing else, the situation seems quite confused.
If you read the 5th ed VC book without access to the White Dwarf articles, you could hardly be blamed for thinking Ushie was the Necrarch's patriarch and Wsoran was some random side character. Yet if you read the expanded articles, it's the other way around. Very strange.
It could be a holdover from early drafts. (In Tolkien criticism they call this sort of thing a 'shadow', appropriately enough.) Ushoran and Wsoran are suspiciously similar names, visually speaking, unlike all the other Lord names, which are impossible to mix up. One might be a revised version of the other. Or not. Again, it all feels a bit like the project was rushed out the door before it was quite ready.
If anyone can point out something obvious that I've missed, please go ahead. I managed not to notice Quetza in the Lizzies book, after all...
Wow. Okay. That strayed a bit too far from Lustria for my liking. Maybe I should post this over at Carpe Noctem as well?
In any case, I'll pause here for a breather. But soon I shall return! For vengeance and whatnot. And for some real proper actual Luther Harkon relevance in 6th edition. Trust me, it's gonna get weird.
*dissolves into cloud of bats, which dissolve into mist, which forms into bat shapes that arrange themselves in the likeness of a wolf*
I tried finding a better scan but nothing yet; just made a zoomed in picture:
It looks liked it was a beautiful piece when all set up together, you can see a sole stegadon in the lower left-hand corner of the map about to get charged by hundreds if not thousands of brightly painted knights. I am astounded to see so many Bretonnians all in one place!
The description in White Dwarf says that if you look at the board from one end (the view shown in the photo), it looks like the Brets outnumber the Lizzies by a zillion to one... but if you look at the board from the other end, the Brets look like they're surrounded and about to be wiped out.
Getting back to ze sons und daughters of ze night (as opposed to knight), and their doings in Lustria:
I can't talk about Vampire Counts without mentioning the intro sequence to Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which has nothing to do with Warhammer, but as far as I'm concerned showcases the definitive 'classic' take on a Vampire. (I'm lukewarm on the rest of the movie, but I will admit the ending is quite moving.)
I should also note one thing I forgot: In 5th edition, there was one other reference to the Vampire Coast. It turned up in the trusty Dogs of War army book. A very minor reference, true, but an interesting story...
Pirazzo's Lost Legion, one of the many mercenary regiments detailed in the book, went to Lustria in search of booty. Unfortunately, as soon as they disembarked, the sailors still on the ships snickered to one another and sailed off with the pay chests, leaving Pirazzo's men stranded. Nonetheless they pressed on into the jungle and engaged in the usual spot of temple-city looting. As they were leaving, the angry Lizardmen caught them on the causeway. But Pirazzo's troops were armed with a mixture of crossbows and pikes, which proved impossible for the Lizzies to easily overcome. A stalemate developed.
It occurred to Pirazzo--almost as if the thought had been planted in his mind by someone else--that giving back the Lizardmen their gold might not only get them out of there alive, but allow them to work for the Mage-Priests as mercenaries and get filthy rich without annoying any scaly people whatsoever.
Pirazzo's men left the stolen treasure on the causeway and retreated to the ruins. In the morning, they found that only the big plaques had been taken--the rest of the gold was still there. Not only that, but food and water had also been placed out for them. Saurus Warriors flanked the causeway, leaving only one way out. The mercenaries got the message and marched off in that direction.
On they marched for many weeks, with no idea where they were going. Until they ran into swampy territory and a whole lotta Zombies ambushed them. The Slann had sent Pirazzo's men to fight Harkon's deadies for them. All without a single word spoken. That's just how Stillman Lizzies roll.
We don't hear much about what happened there, just that they fought 'many battles'. But when they reached the sea, the men patched up a shipwrecked hulk and set sail. The hulk made it as far as Araby. From there they continued their mercenary career in fine style. Anyone who could cut a deal with the Lizzies *and* sail away from the Vampire Coast are bound to be in demand.
Und now ve move on vunce again...
Undead in Lustria: 6th edition
When 6th edition came out, one of the earliest revised army books to appear was Vampire Counts. This was partly because the 5th ed book had been the last one put out for the previous edition of the rules, so the model range was fairly new and wouldn't need much topping up. They did redo the Vampires, though.
As far as I can tell there's nothing about Luther Harkon in this book. No timeline section yet again. Madness, I tell you. However, as mentioned, it does include the all-important Tuomas Pirinen fluff stories from White Dwarf back in 5th ed. It also adds a fifth bloodline, the Strigoi, and tweaks some of the old Nagash fluff to make it fit.
Something else happened in early 6th edition of dire consequence. A new GW fluff writer rose from the crypt. A writer so controversial, so divisive, that his name would live in infamy for generations.
You all know who I'm talking about, don't you.
Yes, Space--his real name, it seems--was a new fluff writer who answered a job ad and contributed to several 6th ed books, including Orcs and Goblins, Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings. For example, the story of 'Zacharias the Everliving' (a new VC special character) was written by him. I suspect the Wurrzag story in the O&G book was also his work, although that's just a hunch on my part.
There's not much discussion of Space's writing on the web these days, but the little I've dredged up indicates that he aroused strong feelings. Some people *loved* his work while others utterly despised it.
I mention him here for two reasons.
First, he wrote a long two-part history of the Vampires for White Dwarf, which ran over two issues following the release of the 6th ed army book. This fluff piece included several odd ideas. For example, Vampires (or at least Neferata) were said to crave blood because they were possessed by daemons. In any other imaginary universe that would be an intriguing idea... but it contradicted a lot of established fluff, tripped a lot of people's 'NOT MY WARHAMSTER!' buttons and has been quietly ignored ever since.
Looking back, Space's writing seems not much different from that of many Black Library writers (especially in the early days) who didn't really 'get' the Warhammer or 40K universes the way a hardcore fan would, and so included what Richard Dawkins would call schoolboy howlers. In Space's case, though, he was contributing directly to the army books and White Dwarf. In those days such sources were considered more or less as canon, whereas BL stuff was regarded as a supplementary and sometimes silly bonus. It wasn't expected to carry the burden of fluffery to the extent that it does today. So it's understandable that some people got cranky.
Second reason for mentioning him: He's an interesting test case in view of certain later developments. After a couple of years Space quietly faded from view, Wraith-fashion, and presumably left GW to go his own way. This pattern was notably not followed by certain other controversial figures.
Elsewhere in 6th edition, the Lizzies army book by Anthony Reynolds gives a brief mention of the Vampire Coast in the timeline. This seems to be the first time drowned sailors are mentioned as the main source of Harkon's zombies. The entry speaks of 'ghostly ships in the fog' and a 'siren wail' that leads men to their doom. We're moving toward pirate territory here.
Which brings us to the moment you've all been waiting for.
Zombie Pirates of the Vampire Coast
After a little more research, I think the 'Conquest of the New World' supplement (the companion piece to the Lustria book) was released separately in the US, but included with White Dwarf in Australia. I'm not sure about other countries. In any case, my Aussie edition of White Dwarf #306 (4th ed Tyranid army book release) is an Ace Double of an issue with the Conquest material included.
Incidentally, a limited edition Marco Colombo metal miniature was released around this time. Nice sculpt, too. That's him in the centre of the cover up there, pointing dramatically at the scenery. "Hey! Isn't that skeleton on a wheel from the Studio's Mordheim terrain? Look sharp, men, something weird's going on..."
The Zombie Pirates actually turn up in two versions.
First, they appear as a mercenary regiment (yes really) that can accompany certain armies during the Conquest campaign. Apparently, Harkon has sent magical 'gilded ebony skulls' to various factions such as Dark Elves and the like. These can summon Zombie Pirates to fight on their behalf. Harkon hopes that the added power of the zombified minions will help the invaders to kill Lizzies and sack their cities--activities he approves of.
But where's Harkon? Does he get an official model? No. No he does not. Though he does get a converted unofficial one. And rules. And an army list of his very own, featuring the second version of the Zombie Pirates. And fluff. Quite peculiar fluff.
The Warhammer Chronicles article for my Aussie edition of #306 (which may or may not be part of the Conquest supplement proper) features the Zombie Pirates of the Vampire Coast. Shipwights! Bloated corpses! Scurvy Dogs! Zombie Deck Gunners! Giant undead sea creatures! A gigantic cannon (probably a Hell-Hammer cannon for those who recall the Man O' War game) called Queen Bess! Special items such as Moonshine and Lucky Levi's Hook Hand! It's impossible to read this section without feeling an irresistible urge to quote Jack Sparrow.
One of the troop types is 'Syreen'. To my disappointment, this does not in fact involve Betelgeuse, blue-skinned space babes, catchy music or double entendres. Instead a Syreen is a kind of spirit that lures ships to their doom. Like a Banshee, but damp. That would explain the 6th ed timeline entry, then.
But what about Luther Harkon himself? Sorry, Luthor Harkon. Yep, he's changed it back. The cunning devil.
Oh yes, we learn a lot about Harkon here. Yes indeedy. In fact, this humble article lays the foundations for the official Luthor Harkon canon from this point until the End Times.
And the writers?
Yes. About that. The writers of this article were Andy Hoare (he of the 7th ed Lizzies book) and... wait for it... Mat Ward.
*revenge of stock thunder effect*
It's not my intention to say much about Mat Ward's writing. Or rules for that matter. Let's just say that's been comprehensively covered elsewhere. At great length. And volume.
As a matter of fact, I've never read most of the stuff that made him such a controversial figure in both WFB and 40K, so it wouldn't be fair to comment. I can only talk about some of the bits and pieces he did for late 6th edition WFB and Lord of the Rings SBG.
Mat seems to have started out in much the same way as Space McQuirk years before: a junior member of staff contributing a fluff piece here, an alternative army list there, etc. In Mat's case he was a rules writer as well as a fluff writer--a crucial difference that would one day cause an almighty ruckus.
At this stage, though, his contributions were just starting to ramp up and I don't think anyone had much cause for concern. In fact I think he was flying under the radar. He did the Sylvania army for the 'Storm of Chaos' campaign. He worked on several Lord of the Rings army books. And he co-wrote the 6th ed Wood Elves book, released at around the same time as the Lustria supplement. All generally thought to be solid, I believe, if not necessarily inspired.
With hindsight, though, perhaps the Harkon fluff in #306 was a sign of things to come. Unless it was Andy H's work rather than Mat Ward's. I have no real idea.
What we learn:
Harkon's Norse-theft backstory remains the same.
He is 'of unknown heritage'. Argh! Still no bloodline info!
He incorporates shipwrecked sailors into his zombie hordes. (Previously this was only implied, and Harkon's forces looked indistinguishable from regular Old World Undead armies.)
The biggest change to his fluff, and the thing that will become his personal canon ever after:
At some unspecified date (presumably before 930), Harkon ventures to the ruined temple-city of Huatl. Apparently no Lizzies are hanging around there at the time... which is fair enough, as older fluff mentions Lizardmen periodically abandoning cities only to refound them later.
Harkon's minions excavate the ruins for three weeks and stumble (or shamble) upon a sealed chamber. Powerful glyphs seal it shut. Harkon tries again and again to get in. No use. His Zombies run out of juice every time they get too close to the door.
Finally the Vampire himself tries to magic it open. Big mistake. The glyphs counterattack by draining his magic and life force. With a great effort Harkon tears himself away and just manages to escape before the passageway collapses.
Unfortunately, the backlash 'shattered his mind and severed his connection to the Winds of Magic'. Can... can that happen?
As a result of this dubious catastrophe, Harkon's broken mind now contains several competing personalities. (There are rules for representing this in the game.)
He no longer has any magical abilities. Except for the power to control his Undead hordes. Which is a bit strange. I mean, controlling Undead hordes is basically Necromantic magic by definition, right? You don't get much more Necromantical than that.
He also now emanates an 'anti-magic' field. Erm. Sounds a bit D&Dish to me.
The only thing his various personalities can agree on is finding a cure for his condition. So he goes after Slann artefacts in the hope they'll do the trick. OK, now he has a motivation. We now understand why he's so obsessed with the things and why he ransacked Axlotl. But... hold on... wasn't he already looking for artefacts before he lost his mind? That's why he went to Huatl in the first place. Erm and um.
My personal reaction to the 6th ed Harkon fluff is... well...
I'll let the rat from the Horrible Histories TV show field this one:
Sadly, GW didn't agree. As far as I know, Harkon has remained the insane 'Arch Grand Commodore' ever since.
(I have nothing against Zombie Pirates, you understand. It's looney-tunes Harkon I don't much like.)
But wait! There's more! Scattered throughout the Conquest of the New World material are boxouts that seem to be excerpts from Harkon's diaries. Remember the diaries? The books 'full of blood and darkness' mentioned way back in WD #211? We get a couple of glimpses of them here and they are, indeed, insane. Here's a sample:
"Lizard-stone tremble, and dead grey-meat my supper, the names of the Eldest spill from my lips, my love. Axlotl. The City of Lizard no more. Its secret places' secrets abhorred. But now High-Lizard cares. Cares to curse. Curse him thrice in payment shall I..."
As to whether this sort of thing is a) entertainingly evocative or b) horrendously overwritten... YMMV.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that these bits were written by Mat Ward. The writing style reminds me of a certain fluff boxout in the 6th ed Wood Elves book--the Drycha quote on p73, to be precise, which makes her sound like Gollum for some reason. My opinion of the Drycha bit is... not high.
I have to admit I like the Harkon quotes, though. He does sound genuinely off his rocker.
Finally, in another article in the same Aussie issue entitled 'The Leaders of Itza', we get a small entry about Mage-Priest Xlotc. This is supposedly the Slann who defeated Harkon in 930. Gah. So now we have four names associated with that battle, who may or may not be the same Slann: Xltoc, Xltloc, Xltep and Xlotc. Thanks, GW proofreaders.
Anyway, this little section gets a few other things wrong. It says Harkon arrived in 888, for one thing. However, it does say that Xlotc used his sneaky telepathic abilities to convince the crazy Vampire that Oxyl contained tons of magical artefacts. In this way he drew Harkon into a trap, defeated his hordes and 'put paid to the Vampire Lord's plans for many centuries to come'. I wonder if the Pirates had to sweep up his ashes and carry them home in a bottle o' rum?
(While I'm here I'll just note that another Leader of Itza is mentioned: Ten-zlati, the Oracle of Lord Kroak. Ten-zlati turns up in the 7th ed book in a very small boxout. He's a Terradon rider. What the 7th ed book doesn't say--but this little 6th ed article does--is that his Terradon is called Zwup. I approve.)
The Undead in Lustria: 7th edition
Not much I can say from this point on due to overwhelming ignorance.
In the 7th ed Lizardmen army book, Luthor crops up in the timeline section again. And the battle in 930 is once again featured. Though this time the Slann responsible has reverted to Lord Xltep. Make up your minds, GW. I can't find anything else about him in here, though.
As for the history of the Vampire Counts as a whole... jeez, I'm not even going to touch that pit of vipers. By 7th edition I believe the Black Library had published a few interesting fluff books for the Vampire Counts. One of these was something called Liber Necris. There was also a Vampire-related supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Thanks to later BL writers 'not getting it', all this appears to have set off a whole chain of retcons and anti-retcons that carried on for years. Vashanesh was involved somehow. Don't ask me to explain it. I know nuffink.
I did turn up one other intriguing morsel of Harkonitis that occurred around this time. In 2008, a 'Sartosan' set of three miniatures was released in the Collectors' range. A pirate, a zombie pirate... and a 'Sartosan Vampire' who seems to have become the de facto Luthor Harkon mini. Here's a thread about them from the time of release.
As usual, I don't know what happened to ol' Luthor the Variably Sane in 8th edition. At some point someone must have figured out his origin story, though. Places like Warhammer Wiki claim that he was 'Lutr of the tribe Harkon', and that Walach of Blood Dragon fame was his cousin. Anyone know when this verdict was handed down?
I have my own theories on Harkon's bloodline based purely on 5th edition materials, but I'll keep them locked safely in my own tome of insane scribbling for now.
Great work as always @Zen Shrugs , let me carry the Vampire Coast across the finish line from 7th edition to Age of Sigmar.
I found a PDF of the American WD rules for that and I just had to use it. Since none of my lottery tickets win, I still have to work. So I don't have sufficient hobby time or skill to hand convert an entire army of nautical themed undead. So I wrote this into my fluff universe instead. I'm going to add a minor thing that was omitted (though it's easy to miss with all the wacky nautical nonsense). That is that Harkon cannot cast spells. The only magic he can wield is animating his minions. As a game balance thing, he has a vaguely Dwarf like ability of anti-magic. I'm not sure how to update it for 8th but it seemed to work for 6th edition.
My favorite part of Luther Harkon is that it's plot holes are self correcting.
Why would Luther Harkon decide to become a pirate (with no prior experience) rather than trying to return home? He's bat skyte insane.
Why would he bother to collect treasure when he can't spend it? He's bat skyte insane.
Why would he bother to collect magical artifacts that he cannot use? He's bat skyte insane.
I'm not sure if it's official but I ran with the crazy aspect and I gave them idea that he bestows imaginary personalities on his minions that are real to him. The idea was mine, but @spawning of Bob
helped me a lot with implementation. Enough self plugging.
So Games Workshop ignored Harkon except for a foot note here and there then came the End Times. Luther Harkon got a cameo in the End Times. He didn't get a model, he didn't get any new rules. None of the unique nautical themed undead got models, but Nagash did invite Luther Harkon into his undead version of the Legion of Doom, and Luther Harkon accepted eagerly because he apparently he is too insane to care about Nagash losing streak or not insane enough to want to piss off Nagash...you decide.
Grand Commodore Luther Harkon's contribution to Nagash was pretty small. Nagash was gathering forces to destroy or co-opt all the Tomb Kings and their armies. Harkon was late to the party because he had to sail across the World Pond to join the fun. Interesting that up into this point, I thought Harkon's fleet was not seaworthy enough to cross the World Pond and that he stuck to the Vampire Coast because he literally had no better options. I guess he could have returned to the Old World any time he wanted, but he didn't because you know, he's bat skyte insane.
Anyway Harkon basically was a minor distraction. He attacked Tomb Kings holding near the coast and stole their treasure. Didn't have a huge impact but he provided a useful distraction for Nagash's more useful lieutenants and their armies.
The Grand Commodore got one opportunity to shine. Mannfred Von Carstein was hemmed in by a Tomb King I never heard of called King Behedesh and Harkon go to swoop in and save him. There was nothing piratey about this. The scenario is spelled on page 80 of the Nagash rules book and basically the Nagash player has to split his army between a Mannfred and Harkon half. Harkon is represented by a vanilla vampire lore with the Flying Horror power plus whatever else the player chooses to add on per normal rules.
To my knowledge, that is the last we hear of Harkon in official fluff. If anyone actually finished Archaon, I'd be mildly interested if Luther Harkon survived the End Times. He's too interesting a character not to at least get some unofficial rules for Age of Sigmar. I certainly would be happy to see any L-O writer's take on Luther Harkon fluff, either in Age of Sigmar or Warhammer.
If my lottery ticket wins and I can retire at 35, I can spend my free time making beautiful miniature conversions rather than working and make an Age of Sigmar Death/8th edition Warhammer Undead legions army that is half-Lustrian themed, half-pirate themed and would be the envy of all....
Can I just say that the comprehensiveness of this cataloguing of ancient lore is truly a joy for my weary old heart. It is so satisfying to see that our Master of Records finally has a true equal with whom to double act. Moar moar moar.
I just want to add something real quick.
Anyone looking for Age of Sigmar fluff for the Lizardmen/Seraphon needs to read "Skaven Pestilens" by Josh Reynolds.
It's a Stormcast+Seraphon vs Skaven book, and features sections told from the perspective of multiple skinks, an oldblood, and even a slann!
While the battletome is incredibly vague how the Seraphon work, the book explains it really well.
In essence, the Seraphon exist independent of the Slann, but the Slann create them from their memories and put a piece of themselves in each one, like an author writing for a character. As an example, the Slann puts his rage and fury, the side of him that thirsts for the blood of his enemies into his oldblood, who as a result is a proud and noble warrior itching to crush his enemies. The Seraphon are not truly alive, but they are independent characters who think and feel and have emotions, such as said Oldblood's scorn that he has to work alongside the Stormcast per his Slann's desires.
Seraphon are also said to not be able to die for real, but each time they die it's a pain to their slann that never diminishes, as they perceive all of time and space as one, and the slann love their children and are incredibly empathic with everything around them. Seraphon dying may weaken the Slann's memory of them, the implications are not clear, but the seraphon do not seem to be able to be revived without the slann reshaping them into themselves out of their starstuff again.