So about a month ago I kind of had caffeine induced insomnia. I don’t drink coffee much, but I felt like I was in the zone writing at my favorite bagel place, where I went for breakfast and the coffee refills were free. That night I had an insomnia induced inspiration. I decided to jot some stuff down then come back to it to see if it’s was crazy. I will also add that I was re-watching Firefly episodes for the umpteenth time and that invaded my dreams while working on my lengthy attempt to mix noir detective style with Warhammer Fantasy. Then I had a crazy dream. A grizzled western anti-hero type character having a gun fight with a Chaos sorcerer on a flying steam train full of haggard western style extras who were beaten down by life so much that they lacked the will to intervene in the fight. I woke up and thought. YESSSSS!!! I got up and started typing my brainstorming for a Warhammer Western world. Then I vowed to revisit the concept later to make sure it’s not so stupid I shouldn’t post it. It wouldn’t be the first time I woke up, did some frenzied writing and decided in the light of day that what I wrote was garbage. Before I begin. I am not pretending I am the first person that ever thought of this on Lustria-Online. I will note that I am hardly the first person to put Warhammer characters into a Wild West setting, but they were generally standalone pieces and not part of a world building project. First off. It is my contention that if the universe/galaxy/world is not a Crapsack world, then it is not a Warhammer world. For reference, this is the TV tropes entry on Crapsack worlds. I thought about quoting the entry on the various Warhammer games, but it would be a really lengthy quote and I’d have to change a lot of written words are analogous to “mahrlect” and “skyte.” Warhammer is near the top on this link if you want to read the full salty description. So let’s figure out how to make a crapsack western setting. It could be adapting Lustria or Naggaroth or the nebulous middle ground in the World that Was or we could have a Wild West-like realm get separated from the continuum in Age of Sigmar. Alternatively one could create a Warhammer 40K world where a bunch of factions got stranded on an isolated planet and do to some big deus ex machina, they had to make due with a lot less advanced technology. But it’s easier to say Warhammer Wild West (Warhammer 1886?) should not be considered canon extension of either Oldhammer, AoS, or Warhammer 40K. It’s merely inspired by it. I am going to talk about the historical events that lead to the Wild West as we understand it. I’m going to probably over generalize and over simplify it. I’m going to talk about how fictionalized versions of these historical events get things right and get things wrong. DISCLAIMER History has horrible things happen in it. I’m going to talk about these horrible things. I am not condoning them, but I won’t pretend past atrocities never happened because that does it a disservice. And yes, since I’m trying to create a crapsack world. The Warhammer Wild West will also have past atrocities and for verisimilitude, these fictional atrocities and natural disasters should parallel real world historical events. By creating fictional events based on real world events, I’m not trying to cheapen history. When I make broad sweeping summaries of real world history, I’m not trying to cheapen history either. I’m going to talk about small pox, the Spanish Conquista, Manifest Destiny and the American Civil War. These are potentially emotionally loaded aspects of history, but they invariably shaped the foundations of what we know as the Wild West. To not include them would be a disservice. Okay, lets talk about the real and the legendary Wild West. Pre-Colombian Native Americans There are counter theories on how indigenous people got here even sooner, but the most commonly held notion is that the ancestors of what we think of as Native Americans today immigrated to the Americas from what is now known as Siberia crossing the Bering Land Bridge about 15,000 years ago, give or take a few millennia. They spread from the frozen north all the way down the lower reaches of South America. A lot of the Native American tribes were nomadic and tribal, but civilizations and building cultures did pop up, decline, and get replaced by new cultures. Jared Diamond’s excellent book Guns, Germs and Steel does a good job explaining how the Western hemisphere’s geographic features and biosphere resulted in smaller, less populous and less technological advanced civilizations than Europe, North Africa, and Asia produced. In the real world, Native Americans got largely displaced by Europeans. Early explorers introduced Eurasian diseases such as Small Pox devastated the Native American populations in both North and South America taking them to a fraction of their original pre-Colombian numbers. Most of the disease spreading was accidental. Sometimes, a few very evil expansion minded Europeans deliberately encouraged the spread of diseases. England and France colonists sometimes treated Natives fairly but on the whole one can say they used and abused Native Americans as proxies in their wars and commerce. Even to this day, the United States government still often treats Native American populations and nations unfairly. The Spanish Conquistadors did not see Native Americans as having the same human rights that Spaniards did. Interbreeding between Native Americans and Europeans was often not consensual. Racial mixing happened so much that now hundreds of millions of people have distinct cultures built around their mixed heritage essentially creating a new ethnic group. Now to fiction. Older western films sometimes showed Indians as brutal savages standing in the way of glorious Manifest Destiny. Their deaths are celebrated. Arguably, a lot of movies have Indian attacks and fights be almost casual nuisances. They aren’t a main aspect of the plot, almost like dealing with a troublesome animal attack. Sometimes you got films like Dances with Wolves and Avatar which show pure and noble Natives getting brutalized by callous and evil Westerners. Maverick was not about Native American interactions much but when it did include Native American characters, it was fairly sympathetic to them. A lot of media goes somewhere in between with lots of shades of grey. The Native Americans were not perfect, but they did not deserve the poor treatment they received. Sometimes the white people who killed or displaced them did so with the best of intentions and not out of malice. A lot of media depicts Indians as noble savages. This both elevates and belittles them at the same time. I don’t know how to deconstruct this further. The Spanish Conquistadors that toppled the Aztec Empire, did so with many things we would certainly call war crimes, but the Aztecs were brutal ironfisted conquerors to their neighbors before Europeans set foot in the Americas. Who are the allegorical Native Americans in Wild West Warhammer? Perhaps Lizardmen! If we want to use the one dimensional savages that are a roving menace. Warhammer has Orcs and Goblins with a possibly insulting feather and bow and arrow motif. Ogres, Skaven, various undead, Daemons and others can fill this niche. If you want to go dangerous noble savage, maybe borrow some of the Orc motifs from World of Warcraft where the Orcs are dangerous and savage but they have an element of honor and nobility in their own way. But really, Lizardmen are the Native Americans of Warhammer in the World That Was. At the very least they are the Aztecs of Warhammer if not the stand-in for all Native America. Since Warhammer Wild West is based off the Warhammer World that Was, let’s put Lizardmen in the role as of the Aztecs. Let’s call the Aztec Lizardmen Lustriecans. This doesn’t meant that Lizardmen should be the ONLY allegorical representation of Native Americans but they should certainly be one of them. Maybe have one Native American allegory for the victims of the Conquista and another for the victims of Manifest Destiny I’m going to run with this. So we are going to have the Lustriecans be a displaced people. Before the Conquistadors toppled the Aztec Empire, disease ravaged them brought on accidentally by Spanish explorers. In this case disease doesn’t come from germs, it comes from dark magic. So we could have Clan Pestilens depopulate Lustrieca taking out at least half the Lizards. This brings up the question “What happened to the Skaven afterwards?” Did the Skaven die out here or are they still around? If instead of Skaven plagues, it’s Nurgle Plagues, then it’s easier to hand wave away the ancient bad guys. They returned to the Chaos Realm after their big infection was done. Another alternative is that a Nagash-like figure depopulated Lustrieca with a necromancy fueled attempt at regional domination. As a nice twist to differentiate itself from Warhammer Original Recipe, would be to maybe have one or more Slann fall to the dark side and ruin everything with their necromancy or Chaos magic. So some kind of supernatural force weakened Lustrieca and then Lustrieca was destroyed by an allegory of the Conquista. Probably, it would be best to have the Lustriecans defeated by some faction of filthy ignorant humans, but it’s not required. They could have been conquered and/or displaced by Orcs, Elves, or something else and the effect is largely the same. The question one would ask, is are there are any Lustriecans left around? Today there are essentially no Aztecs, but there are millions of people with Aztec ancestors and aspects of Aztec culture remain a vibrant part of modern Mexico including its very flag. Beyond simply the Aztecs, there are far more mixed raced descendants of indigenous Americans than full ethnic indigenous Americans in both North and South America. It would be gross if the Lustriecans interbred with humans. Lizardmen are not Fimir. Gross. But we have had a lot of stories about Lizardmen influencing humans. They could have tried to influence humans in the distant past or as a failed response against their Conquista allegory. Even if the Lustriecans are gone, there could be warmblood cults worshipping the Old Ones existing in isolated pockets. Alternatively, some Lizardmen could still live. It would probably be good to divorce Lizardmen from spawning pools. If Lustriecans gave live birth or laid eggs, they could exist in isolated nomadic pockets that are self-sustaining. If they still need Spawning pools, the locations of spawning pools would have to very well-kept secrets which I find would hard to sustain in the face of any allegory to Manifest Destiny. When I first scribbled this out, I was thinking maybe a single epic Slann (or a group of Slann) helped evolve the Lizardmen with their dying act letting them lay eggs like mundane reptiles. But revisiting this, I have a new idea. What if instead of evolving the Lizardmen the Slann’s last act was to evolve the spawning pools into the sky itself? Rain dances are an important part of real world Native American culture and an important part of fictionalized portrayals of Native Americans. Especially since most Western settings are a bit on the arid side. The Lustriecans Skink Priests would be constantly reading portents and signs to find out where and when these sacred rains would fall. The moving locations of these spawning events would prevent an enemy of the Lustriecans from taking their spawning pools away maliciously (or accidentally if they water their horses at a spawning pool and drink it dry). What about Native allegories instead of or in addition Lizardmen? Lizards could be the allegorical Aztecs and maybe Incans or Mayans too, and someone else could be the allegorical for Great Plains Native Americans or Cherokee or some other northern tribal group. One could always use humans. There are thousands of books and online sources one could use to find information on real world tribes. It’s a little controversial to make a fictionalized human type. A long time ago Games Workshop introduced some extremely racist Warhammer pygmies in the Southlands that they tried to sweep under the rug. Native inspired Wood Elves could highlight the close to nature aspect. A more aggressive fantasy race such as Orcs or Ogres could help push the old school very un-PC cowboys versus Indians. Maybe we could create a Native American-like Skaven clan, but generally I think Skaven should remain an allegory for the dark side of civilization, not the dark side of nomadic tribalism. Narrative Idea: Open Spaces and Sparse Populations Both the real and mythological American Wild West had a lot of relatively empty space. Lots of different groups, but the region was relatively sparsely populated. If there was a miniatures game, it would look more like Mordheim than Age of Sigmar or 4OK. 8th edition had sixteen playable armies plus a bunch of places like Tilea, Estalia, Cathay that have big populations but no playable armies, maybe a limited addition unit or two. In Age of Sigmar, there are over 20 entries in the Forces of Order alone on the Games Workshop website. Warhammer Wildwest should not have this many groups. I’m thinking four or five broad groups at most (Order, Destruction, Death, etc). Twelve distinctive smaller cultures at most. Humans are kind of a given, but there is no guarantee we need Wild West Fantasy Elves or Wild West Fantasy Dwarves or Wild West Fantasy Orcs. We certainly don’t need Wild West Dark Elves, Wild West High Elves, and Wild West Wood Elves. Narrative Thought: The Wild West was actually pretty diverse One interesting fact about the western frontier, while it was sparsely populated it was diverse, especially for its time. A lot of early Western Movies were pretty white washed, but that wasn’t always the case. Again, a hypothetical Wild West Mordheim would allow unusually cosmopolitan units, so you could have an Orc enforcer in a Human dominated band without raising a lot of eyebrows. A lot of the historical cowboys, railroad workers, miners, and homesteaders were either ex-slaves or the first generation children of ex-slaves hoping to make a new life for themselves out West. A lot of veterans of the American Civil War, both those who fought for the union and those who fought for the Confederacy sought new lives for themselves out West. Ex-Confederate shoulders sometimes had to rub elbows with former slaves and with former Union soldiers for instance. You had predominantly Protestants rubbing elbows with Catholics. Native Americans and whites had to deal with each other. Mixed race children had to try to find a way to mix in with one or both groups as best they could. A few immigrants added to the mix as Chinese came in through the Pacific coast to work on the railroads. The era saw fresh off the boat immigrants coming directly from Europe the opposite direction. Some of these European immigrants went West. The West had third or fourth generation American born of European descent mixing with these immigrants. A fantasy version of the Wild West should probably have Lizardmen, Humans, Orcs, Elves, and whatnot a lot more intermixed with each other than you see in Warhammer Fantasy, Age of Sigmar, or Warhammer 40K. I’m not saying these groups would get along well, far from it, but not every time an Elf and Orc see other they are going to start shooting. Narrative Thought: Life in the West is hard. Life in a Warhammer World is hard. If life isn’t hard, it’s arguably not a Warhammer world. This fits with both real world and fictional representations of the Wild West. Out in the wide open spaces, you have to depend on yourself, your family, and if you are lucky, your community or you are dead. This is the literary synergy that made me want to write this. Magic, steam punk or historically inaccurate technology could have its imprint on a Warhammer Wild West, but only if it can be used violently. In other words, for every steam punk device that saves labor or enables transportation, there should be three or four steam punk devices used to inflict death on the enemy. I’m thinking Wild West era guns, steam powered machines, early Industrial era metal tools, horses and whatnot, but such a fantasy setting could (and probably should) be rife with historical inaccuracies. Just like in the Warhammer world that was, steam punk technology and magic cannot be used to make the life a struggling farmer or rancher any easier but it can allow for industrial scale slaughter. The universe of Warhammer 4OK also has far more futuristic weaponry than wondrous shelters, advanced medicine and other peaceful aspects of advancement. So magic and steampunk yes, but it should have a dark edge. Narrative Thought: Humans should probably be the dominant group. Most sci-fi and fantasy is based on the assumption that Humans are large and in charge. It’s not required, but things get more complicated if Humans are not the “default” race, and I don’t want to overcomplicate things. So Humans should be the plurality if not the majority of all sapient life. Narrative Thought: Chaos should probably grandfathered In. Wild West Chaos doesn’t necessarily have to include Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, Hashut, and the Horned Rat, but without some kind of nasty source of Chaos with a capital “C”, it’s not Warhammer, in my humble opinion. The mythical Wild West has people seeking law, seeking order, seeking stability, seeking honor, but they always seek these things in the face of a metaphorical headwind. Chaos is a perfect embodiment of this metaphor taken to 11 (on a scale of a possible 5). If you can convince me otherwise, I’m open to replacing Chaos with some other Bigger Bad. Narrative Thought: A fantasy/western hybrid should probably go light on magic It’s hard to not have Warhammer without magic, but this is a sticky situation with Western or neo-Western settings. RIPD, Cowboys and Aliens, and Jonah Hex all flopped. I liked Ghost Rider and the Western tie-in but I am a minority in the nerd community for actually liking Ghost Rider. This is just my opinion, but In any event my instincts tell that magic should be real and fairly common, but less powerful and readily available compared to Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 8th edition. 60/40 Western/Fantasy ratio. Maybe 70/30. Not 50/50. Manticore is attacking your herd. That’s no biggie, but using an enchanted Stetson hat to call down lightning bolts is a bit much. Narrative Thought: The American Civil War, I want to use an allegory for it. The American Civil War remains a contentious topic to some today. We are over 150 years past the end of the American Civil War and views on who was right and who was wrong still very much differ along geographic lines. I’m not saying the Union was perfect. There are certainly questionable things they did in the way they conducted their war, but I do not agree with the counter narrative that calls the American Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression.” I could go into my view in detail, but Lustria-Online is a forum for fantasy not politics or for historical revisionism. So why am I bringing up the Civil War at all. Because what we think of the Wild West era of American history, occurred immediately after the American Civil War. A lot of the people who sought out their fortunes out West were veterans of the War. Somewhere newly freed ex-slaves hoping to make a new life for themselves. Every adult in the old West at least remembered the War Between the States even if they didn’t participate in it. By most estimates more Americans died in the Civil War than WWII. About 600,000 casualties. This is a big deal objectively but its impact was magnified because there weren’t a whole lot of people in the United States in the 1860s. Very few people would not personally know at least one person who died during the Civil War. A lot of painful memories. And the tensions between the North and South were still pretty hot even though the fighting stopped. So my long winded point, is that both the real Wild West and the fictional depictions of the Wild West bear the imprint of the American Civil War. Lets look at Firefly, the greatest space western ever. What does the first couple minutes of the series show? A civil war of course! Now in this case the Browncoats are the allegory for the Confederacy and the Alliance is the allegory for the Union BUT the Alliance is the group that allows slavery and they are the group that is implied to have started the fight. That’s fine. I need an event similar to the American Civil War. Because Warhammer Wild West is a crapsack world, the outgunned losing side can also be the noble and just side because in a crapsack world the good guys usually lose. So I want to have my setting start shortly after a devastating civil war of some sort. Problem is I don’t have any developed culture yet, so I’m not sure who is fighting who or why. I am open to ideas on what the allegorical civil war should look like but I am going to make a caveat. The Warhammer Civil War allegorical should not be one side is Order and one side is Chaos, it should be a true civil war. Maybe, there could be a small Chaos group that helped fan the flames to start the Civil War (or fan the flames to keep the war going longer), but Chaos should not be the main drivers of this conflict. Narrative Thought: Civilization and the Frontier While the Wild West has influenced American cultural identity in many intangible ways, but at the time it wasn’t super important in the grand scheme of things. Collectively the western United States of the 1880s was only a few million people. A small fraction compared to what the United States as a whole held. A microscopic fraction compared to the populations of Europe, Asia, and Africa. For most denizens of the old West, Asia and Africa didn’t matter much. When someone referred to the rest of civilization they would often say out East to refer to both the more populous lands of the United States and Europe. While men were taming the wild west, much of what we think of as Western Civilization was experiencing the Victorian Era. If I want to make a coherent Warhammer Wild West setting I need to at least come up with a one or two paragraph description to cover what the allegorical stand-in for “back east” is. In order for this hypothetical Western setting to be wild, I need somewhere that is civilized to be a foil may it. Maybe Fantasy Civilization is tightly interconnected with the Fantasy Wild West. Maybe Civilization is far away and barely an afterthought. Maybe the denizens of this setting were isolated by a magical deus ex machina so there is no travel between Civilization and the Wild and all the main characters are essentially stranded in the Wild West. It doesn’t happen to be too lands west and east of each other either. Firefly had the “central planets” as the stand-in for the allegorical East and “the rim” for the allegorical Wild West I’m open to ideas. Once we figure out who or what the allegorical Civilization/”back east” is, it should make figuring out what the allegorical Civil War looks like. This should also help flesh out the next part. Narrative Thought: Manifest Destiny, I want an allegorical equivalent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny So for those not subject to basic public schooling the United States. Manifest Destiny is the idea that America was destined to expand from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, but it was and is controversial. Even at its time, not everyone agreed America should become an imperialist nation. Through the lens of history, Manifest Destiny is even more controversial because much of the United States’ westward expansion involved the displacement or outright murder of Native Americans. Manifest Destiny also related to the United States’ war with Mexico that led to the annexation of Texas and California, though the Mexican nation is the result of the Spaniards displacing and murdering a lot of Native Americans. I probably want to include a nod to Manifest Destiny somewhere. This connects to whatever the government “back east” looks like. Someone had to expand into whatever passes for the Wild West. The backstory of this setting requires figuring out who displaced whom. Also how, when, and why the displacing occurred. This will have a big impact on how the different groups respond to each other. Narrative Thought: Filling the Roster I’m open to suggestions and brainstorming on ANY aspect of Warhammer Wild West, but where I can really use the help of the L-O forumites chiming in is filling out the roster. A note on filling the roster. Just like Orcs and Goblins are part of the same group and that Lizardmen include Sauri, Skinks, and Kroxigors, just because a creature or person type exists doesn’t mean they have to exist as a stand alone faction. A human nation could have elf, dwarf, Halfling, and ogre minorities for instance. -I definitely want to have a dominant human culture. I don’t know if should be based on the Empire, or Great Britain, or the United States but there really needs to be a major, flawed but civilized power. -I definitely want to have at least two competing factions within this dominant culture. Maybe related to the recent civil war, maybe tied to something else. -I definitely want to have Lustriecans running around or at least a group that is carrying on their legacy as best they can. While it would be relatively easy to come up with interesting setting appropriate adaptations for Sauri, Skinks and Kroxigor, and the like, the harder part is figuring out what the Lustriecans actually want and what their relations to the others are. -I definitely want to have at least one REALLY evil faction that wants to destroy the world or take over the world. Chaos worshippers, genocidal Skaven, savage Beastmen, or some kind of more order driven evil like the Chaos Dwarfs or Dark Elves. It’s just not Warhammer without the specter of something unspeakably awful -I definitely want to have at least one sort of goofy evil faction. It could be a loose category of criminals spawning from the main human power or it could be a fantasy race like Orcs or Ogres. Basically I need someone to rob stage coaches, rustle cattle, and do general Western movie mischief. -I probably want to have some kind of undead faction. It doesn’t have to be based on Vampire Counts or Tomb Kings. I’m not sure what Western undead. -I probably want to have some sort of sneaky evil faction that operates like a secret cult hiding in plain sight withing the main Human power nation. -I probably want to incorporate the abolition of slavery into the backstory and create a subgroup made up of newly freed ex-slaves. Maybe they exist as their own group. Maybe they are a subculture within another faction. -I might want another Native American allegory race that is not the Lustriecans. Maybe one mostly good one, one mostly evil one. -I might want another human nation that either exists alongside or is competing with the main human power. -I probably want to include Dwarfs and/or Elves in here somewhere. I probably don’t want to include more than two kinds of Elves or two kinds of Dwarfs. If I want diversity among Elves and Dwarves, I could have competing subcultures within the Elf and Dwarf society but I don’t want something like the Dark Elves and the High Elves where the two elven factions are desperately trying to kill the other one. -I might want Halflings or Ogres somewhere. -I might want to radically reinvent the Beasts of Chaos. Minotaurs are very Greco-Roman things. Warhammer Wild West Beastmen should be based instead on animals actually found in the American West. I am a big fan of Native American legends. Mostly I’m familiar with Cherokee folklore, but there are hundreds of tribes and they all have their own legends. I know there are hundreds of strange and terrifying monsters in Native American folklore that would be great fits in Warhammer Wild West. Maybe they don’t have to be a faction, but are just a periodic supernatural hazard. Obviously I should have chupacaberas, but I probably don’t want to have organized chupacaberas. Anyway, if we can brainstorm a cohesive setting from this, we could have the building blocks for a lot of fun stories. MAYBE we could even homebrew some rules for a Wild West Minis game or at least convert or sculpt a representative model for funsies.