Tag Archives: Lore

Counts-as Ideas

It can be really fun to think of counts-as armies and units for 40k.  There are so many great gems in the long-running background of the game that are crying out for imaginative modelling.  When I was younger I used to enjoy the wholesale invention of units and rules, but nowadays I prefer to work within the framework of the existing rules for a few reasons.

Firstly, it gives you more freedom to use your awesome counts-as force competitively or against someone you’ve never met without having to worry about balance or accusations of cheating.  Secondly, I find it hard to know when to stop modifying a system – at what point does it stop being Warhammer 40k and start being My Totally Awesome 40k-Derivative Sci-fi Wargame?  Counts-as solves all those problems, plus I find it fun to try to fit old or untreated ideas into the existing material.

So without further ado, here are a few counts-as ideas I’ve had.  Some are more original than others, and some are for units rather than armies.  I should probably add that they are all themed, not counts-as for the purposes of competitive play.  So there’s no Space Wolves as Ultramarines or anything like that.

Feel free to use any of these ideas or add your own, I know I’ll never get around to making any of them (probably): Continue reading

Heroes of Iybraesil

Farseer by Jes Goodwin, Rogue Trader era.


Balora rose from her spirit-trance and floated softly from the Wave Serpent, towards the tiny knot of Eldar warriors gathered below.  

The Seers of the other peoples wove delicate rune-lattices from wraithbone to bear the protective wards that they wore in battle.  But the Ancient Mothers of Iybraesil knew that the most primal and eldritch of ways were ways of blood and sacrifice.  Balora’s slim body had been marked by the handmaidens with runes of blood, wept from the living branches of the Tree of Woe that sulked in the heart of Iybraesil.  These were her Runes of Witnessing and Warding, turning aside weapons and evil intent with equal efficacy.  Her staff was wound with dark blossoms from the same tree.  Her cruel witchblade lurked in it’s charm-shackled sheath on her back.

To one of the brute races the Farseer and the Autarch would have looked much the same – both slender, ethereal waifs, quick and terrifying.  To Skaia’s eyes though the Ancient Mother was old, her movements almost imperceptibly slower and more syrupy than the young warrior’s own.  She watched as Balora removed the pitted wraithbone ghosthelm that held the spirits of many Ancient Mothers of legend.  Tangled snakes of white hair tumbled over the old Eldar’s shoulders, glued with divinatory blood at the tips.  The Farseer turned her yellow eyes on Skaia, and the Autarch bowed her head, unwilling to look into the primeaval past within.  Balora’s voice coalesced in her mind.

*Autarch.  The Ancient Mothers have revealed to me the true name of this world.  The oldest among us has been here . . . before.  You will open your mind to the pathfinder Illia-Khai, and he will guide you.  There will be death, and I will follow in it’s wake, to claim what is ours from the corrupted ones.*

Skaia dropped to one knee and bowed, smiling to herself.  Her dagger hummed at her side, resonating with her own desire for war.  Her ancient scorpion armour shivered on her skin, as though coming to life.  It was only narrowly that Skaia had avoided the fate of the Exarch.

“Control yourself Autarch.”  The Farseer admonished gently, using her own thin voice for emphasis.  “Your Path is first to bring us to victory, not to bring the enemy to peace.”

*Yes, Ancient Mother.*  Skaia silently returned.  She would not forget her Path.  The will of the Goddess would be done. 


I wrote this little bit to get myself in the mood for painting the first of my Eldar.  I’m really busy with everyday life at the moment (I’m trying to prepare a paper for my first academic conference in three weeks), and I’ve been spending a little more time than I’d like thinking and posting serious thoughts about the games industry, meta-gaming, etc.  Really, the actual hobby is the thing, so it’s time to get refocussed on that.

I guess I’m an RPGamer at heart, so I like to start with a character or two to get the inspiration going.  This story introduces the Farseer and Autarch of my Iybraesil Warhost.

Unseen Influences: Frank Herbert’s Dune

In a classic scene from David Lynch's 1984 film, Dune, Captain Picard oversees a duel between Sting and that dude from Sex and the City

Welcome to another Unseen Influences.  Today I’m going to talk a little about Frank Herbert’s Dune, and its influence on the background of 40k.

Dune is widely held to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, and is certainly one of the best-selling.  Unlike the very specific influence that Michael Moorcock had on the early development of Games Workshop’s lore, Dune’s influence was much wider and more diffuse.  This is because Dune is one of the first modern science fantasy stories, and the universe of Warhammer 40,000 is squarely within that genre.

These things are notoriously difficult to define, but a good working definition I think is that science fiction tells a story in a universe exactly like our own but with different technology, and science fantasy tells a fantasy story using the traditional trappings of science fiction (aliens, space, lasers, etc).  Basically, if it would make Asimov turn in his grave, it’s science fantasy. Read on . . .

Unseen Influences: Michael Moorcock

Michael Moorcock's Elric


No mortal nightmare could encompass such a terrible vision . . . Every so often, the ground heaved and erupted and any human beings unfortunate enough to be in the area were either engulfed and totally transformed or had their bodies warped in indescribable ways. The noise was dreadful, a blending of human voices and roaring Chaos sounds, devil’s wailing laughter, and quite often, the tortured scream of a human soul who had perhaps relented his choice of loyalty and now suffered madness. – Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer (1965)

The fictional universes created by Games Workshop are pretty amazing beasts.  They have grown from the quaint open settings of the 1970s and 80s to the unique visions people all over the world enjoy today.  It would be fair to say that the GW universes now have a strong influence on new fantasy and sci-fi, particularly the latter.  It is quite common to hear the sentiment that the best thing about the GW games is their rich and unique backgrounds.

In this new series of articles I’m going to briefly shed some light on some of the lesser known early influences that have helped to make GW’s lore so rich and diverse.  Of course, all creative work is informed by earlier stuff.  No-one creates in a vacuum and anyone who claims to have told a story that has never been told before is either naive or a liar.  I’m not accusing GW of being unoriginal, or suggesting that these works were the first of their kind and were somehow stolen – I just think it’s important to know where you’re coming from.

So, with the intro out of the way, let’s start with one of the most iconic of GW’s factions, the warriors of Chaos!  In Today’s Unseen Influences we are going to look at the early work of the British fantasy author Michael Moorcock. Continue reading

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