Meanwhile, on the Bench: Hieronymous Vyle

Our Dark Heresy group was coming to the conclusion of an important chapter and the beginning of the end for the campaign. We had spent the best part of seven sessions on the planet of Brimstone, a planet of our own devising in our little patch of space, the Onus Region.

The planet was a planned stop-off for the Acolytes to tie up some loose ends from a previous mission, specifically tracking down and stopping the Arch-Heretek Hieronymous Vyle, from enacting any more atrocities against the Imperium of Man. He is a master geneticist, genius cryptographer and bitter rival of the Adeptus Mechanicus as an organisation, believing they are too short-sighted and wrapped up in bureaucracy to achieve any meaningful progress.

The finished product!

His plan was simple: flee the purge of the Kreato Affair to the quiet, technologically backwards planet of Brimstone – the last place the Inquisition would think of looking for a radical techpriest. There he would work on his Symbiote – his Magnum Opus – to strike back at the Adeptus Mechanicus for what the crimes he believed to be the most heinous; conservatism and myopia.

The Symbiote was a poor man’s take on the Obliterator Virus, and worked by fusing to flesh and metal, taking over the host body and forcing it to undergo transformations and binding it through synaptic link to its master. I’ll be doing a piece on Vyle’s Symbiote another time as it deserves its own article rather than being strung along with their boss.

The incredibly tidy work bench

Vyle never had any artwork for him, nor did he have much of a description when the players met him almost three years of real time ago, before he escaped and set up on Brimstone, so I had a blank canvas to work with. I had also developed a spin-off cult for a Necromunda gang called the Scions of Vyle, so I had a starting point for aesthetic – drab green robes and polished bronze.

I needed a suitably eerie, icky model to use as a base, and the ‘Tech Master Baltazar’ from Hitech Miniatures fitted the bill perfectly. I loved the idea of this eerie, decrepit lump of flesh being propelled along by these weird spidery legs and covered in mechadendrites. Time to blow the dust off some of my guitar cabling.

The kit arrived and I was pleasantly surprised with its quality, requiring very little trimming to remove flash or mould lines at all. My only gripe was that the back and base of the walking unit were flat and featureless, so the further off the base I wanted to pin it, the more obvious it would be that someone just stopped modelling anything underneath it. I also had my concerns about pinning the incredibly fiddly legs to the walker and to the base without damaging both. I build my minis to be played with, so they need to be sturdy.

A convenient raised lump to pin Vyle to

A fish around in my bits box turned up some more Cities of Death terrain tiles, and one had a very convenient raised skull in the centre. When mounted at a particular angle, I could have a single massive pin that ran from the body through the base, and raised just enough from the ground to give the appearance that it isn’t touching.

Dry fit, testing different angles
A better look at how he is angled slightly forward

After feeling confident in my massive pin job, I didn’t feel so bad about not pinning the legs. They weren’t structurally integral, so I thought I would do my fingers some favours and avoid pinning them, just a copious amount of superglue in the recesses.

Already looking like a PC’s worst nightmare

Another pleasing aspect of the model that I hadn’t noticed in the thumbnail on the website is that it has an odd number of legs – three on one side and two on the other. It gave it this wonderful lopsided look that to me, epitomises Adeptus Mechanicus high fashion.

Base was trimmed with heavy clippers and a sharp knife. Blood was shed.

I wasn’t sure what equipment I wanted to give him at this stage, rule of cool was going to guide my hand. The only thing I knew I wanted to definitely have was a big tank of horrid goo strapped to his back that he could squirt at foes – perhaps a kind of super-concentrated liquid Symbiote? Either way, it would be miserable to anyone who was caught up in it, doling out toxic damage, corruption points, infection and maybe even mutation. A GM can dream right?

A quick kitbash of the tank and the hose

I have a bunch of tanks lying around of flamers from various vehicle kits, I’m not sure exactly what this one was from – a sentinel perhaps? The nozzle and mechadendrite was from a Forgeworld Mechanicum servitor I had bits-ordered some time ago to pump up the amount of Mechanicus bits in my collection. This arm I tried to just bend with copious gentle rubbing between forefinger and thumb to built up a bit of heat. This was my second attempt, the first ended pretty snappily.

A dry fit of the backpack on the model

I positioned it on the back of the model to see how much it changed the silhouette, and I could already see my multi-limbed metal bastard coming together. I wouldn’t attach this just yet, as it would form the ‘outer’ rim of details, and would just be a pain in the ass to work around at this point. It gets to sit on the side while I work on other gribbly bits.

Trying to replicate the lopsided aesthetic

The first round of ‘inner’ mechadendrites was an exercise in patience and bending. There were a conspicuous number of ‘holes’ in the model where it looked like limbs could be attached to, and were already the perfect width of a paperclip, so pinning things into them was a dream. With one on the left side and two on the right, it seemed natural to fill them all with mechadendrites.

What magnificent squeezers

Dark Eldar Talos bits stand in, once again, for brilliant biomechanical parts for edgy AdMechs, and a couple of their pinchers would work very nicely to manipulators. Vyle’s real, original hands are too busy operating dataslates and poring over files and reports, he has all his other extendo-limbs to operate heavy machinery and backhand rude PCs who interrupt his Machiavellian schemes.

All the tools a growing boy needs

I debated over what ‘ends’ to give his mechadendrites, as I had many blades, saws, injectors and guns to choose from. Although he would be an able combatant, I wanted his tools to be just that – tools first. Manipulators and medical instruments would be fished out from various places, including more Forgeworld Mechanicum and Dark Eldar bits.

Custom made to fit the model’s “arm sockets”

The mechadendrites themselves were from the Inquisitor-scale Delphan Gruss model, of which I had a few tubes handy. Normally I prefer working with resin over white metal, but these had the malleability I was looking for to get plenty of bends without singeing my fingers with a hair dryer. A tip to budding Mechanicus modellers: always give your tentacles two bends at different angles to give them a more realistic feel – a bend along a single axis doesn’t look great.

Clank clank thump scrape

I couldn’t find anything else to add to the model without making it look too busy, so I started mounting the ‘outer’ layer of mechadendrites. These consisted of the goo-squirter I made earlier, and the heavy mechanical arm that came with the model. I wasn’t a particular fan of the big round claw it came with, so I wanted to change that out for something a bit more subtle. One of the power blade utensils from the Delphan Gruss kit fitted the bill perfectly.

His power blade extends quite a way from the model

Having the arm stick out to the far left was a dangerous move, as it had the potential of unbalancing the silhouette of the model too much. With the addition of the backpack and goo-squirter on the other side, it balanced very nicely.

The ‘outer’ layer of ‘dendrites work well#

I was quite proud of this, given it took me only half an evening. Normally I navel-gaze on large projects like this due to having too many options, but with the Big Day rapidly closing on me, time was not a luxury I had. He needed to be finished, primed and based in less than 24 hours!

Could’ve done with more bend in the resin one

There was still something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The backpack stuck out from the back of the model and didn’t sit particularly well. I figured it was so he could jettison it quickly if needs be, but just by itself didn’t look integrated into the rest of the model. A quick rummage through the Dark Eldar section of my bits box again pulled up one of the bio-injector spines from the Talos kit again, which fit far too well.

Ever looked at a model and thought “Now there’s a guy who needs more spine”?

It was ridiculous and over the top, but it had that back banner aesthetic that I’m very fond of in my 40k imagery. It also helped tie in the whole ‘weird science’ vibe I was going for, as I had planned on painting it a similar flesh tone to the rest of his body. Is it his spine? What are those weird injectors and vials for? Spo0oky.

Is it dumb? Yes. Is it perfect? Also yes.

I was dead happy with it at this point. It was suitably imposing (mounted on a 54mm base) so it was clearly a centrepiece, and had all the aesthetics to tie it in with the existing Vyle models while also standing out from them. I knew I wouldn’t get enough time to paint it up fully for the game, but I would have just enough time to base him and wash him, so at least he would be coloured for the Grand Finale.

You would need a lot of apples a day to keep this doctor away

Finally we have him standing next to one of his minions, a Scion of Vyle. His base is going to be populated heavily with these guys, along with some Symbiotes in various stages of maturity.

“Wow I really look forward to not dying in one game, how about you?”

Dead chuffed with how he turned out, and set a scary precedent for the concept of making models for all my bad guys. Scary because this particular bad guy was never intended to make it out alive, so I was hoping he put up a spectacular fight before going down!

Luckily he did, and the finale was epic and tense – a battle through an underground evil lair, culminating in a shoot out in a missile silo minutes from blast-off and a duel on a snow-spattered mountain top for control of the last ship off the mountain while the base undergoes a self destruct sequence in the background.

But that’s another story for another time.

Siege of Sky Stone Peak: Tales of Onus

Every morning a longhorn wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest panthera or it will be killed. Every morning a panthera wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest longhorn or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a longhorn or a panthera. When the sun comes up, you better start running.

It was an old proverb, but Imani knew it well. He wiped something hot and metallic out of his eyes. It could have been blood; his or a clansman, or it could have been whatever passes for blood among the Siad Ruh. It didn’t matter, he could see again, and he staggered to his feet with the help of his hunting spear.

It was dawn, and although it had been light for several hours, the sun was only just beginning to creep out from behind the jagged mountains ahead of them. The largest, Sky Stone Peak, and the fortress that dwelled beneath it, was their goal. The Siad Ruh came from here, and it was down to these few hundred souls to stop them.

Another lumbered towards him, its face a horrid, twisted death mask, leathered by the heat. It moved in a sickening fashion, like its leg was broken but couldn’t feel it. One arm was a wicked hook of metal and flesh, somehow growing from the elbow where its hand should have been.

Imani gulped down his exhaustion and hurled his spear. It sailed through the air, puncturing its brittle chest. The thing staggered but kept coming, hook held high, scrambling up the scree of the outcrop Imani stood on. He glanced at the flintlock in his other hand that the offworlders had given him. With all his faltering strength, he levelled the pistol at the charging abomination and yanked the trigger with two fingers.

For a fleeting moment, he held the power of a volcano in his hand. It bucked hard, wrenching from his grasp. A tongue of flame roared from the gun, accompanied by an explosion of light and smoke.

The shot punched through the Siad Ruh’s shoulder, exploding it like rotten fruit. A split second later, the ragged shards of dried flesh and metal bone ignited. The fire spread in an instant, immolating the unholy creature like wildfire. Fiery chunks sloughed from its frame like wax. The worst part was it’s utter silence, still as the grave, as it cremated in front of him. The only sound was the hissing and crackling of burning skin.

He gasped for air. The smell of rancid cooked flesh filled his nose and mouth. He looked around, trying to take stock of the carnage. He and several hundred others had marched the length of the capital heartland for this moment. A scant few hundred Thole clansmen from all across Brimstone, displaced and desperate, their families butchered and their homes burned by the Siad Ruh. Many of the enemy had taken the forms of those they had killed, but he knew it wasn’t them. Not any more.

They stood on the lip of a dried riverbank, the great, featureless steppes stretching out in front of them. The sun was low, but its heat could already be felt, and the long morning shadows were ebbing away under blood and sand. Between them and Sky Stone Peak was a carpet of Siad Ruh, tumbling from their rocky hiding places and pulling themselves out of the ground.

To the right, the King and his serpent-helmeted Royal Guard held a line, firing down into the morass in well-practised salvos that sounded like rolling thunder. To his left, dozens of armoured Panthera guard were advancing forwards in phalanx, shields locked, breaking only to strike out with their deadly claw-staffs. With Imani, in the centre, were the Thole faithful. Over a hundred clansmen from as many different clans, giving their all in defense of the Heartland.

Several Siad Ruh broke through the central line of the faithful and lumbered up the ridge towards him. Imani fought back the self-doubt that had been creeping, summoned all the courage he had remaining and bellowed a war cant in his clan tongue, followed by a rallying cry.

“Sons of the Dragon! We sing with fire!” He staggered down the loose rock as best he could, pistol raised. He was within striking distance of the nearest creature, let out another roar and squeezed the trigger.

It clicked impotently in his hand. He stared at it in disbelief. One of the beasts was on him now, a pair of sickle blades raised above its head. Imani raised his spear weakly in response.

The creature’s head separated from its body with enough force to toss it over the fighting and out of sight. One of Marshall Tusker’s Panthera Guard stepped into view, shoulder barging another back down the ridge where it was set upon by the faithful. The Panthera Guard was a mountain of a main, glistening in the dawn light with sweat and blood.

From behind his lion mask, he called out to Imani. “One shot, brother!”

As the lion-headed man returned to his shield wall, Imani looked about him in horror. They were less than half the number they were when they arrived, and the tide of Siad Ruh seemed to be only growing. Their task was never going to be easy, and he wasn’t sure he expected to return from it – lure the creatures from their lair so the offworlders can sneak in and destroy Sky Stone Peak. He prayed they were moving swiftly, and making good of every moment bought with Thole blood.

A thousand curses on the noble houses, this was their fight too! If only-

His thoughts were cut short. The shriek of a thousand banshees filled the air, followed by a thunderous blast and a tidal wave of flame. The sea of creatures in front of them turned to fire, as though a hundred volcanoes had erupted beneath them. The explosion was immense, knocking most of the faithful to the ground. Something had immolated legions of the Siad Ruh, and Imani was sure they were next. He looked around, panicked.

“It’s the lady of the shouting mountains!” He heard someone cheer. He spun about, trying to find this sorcerous woman the Panthera Guard were shouting about.

Stepping out of an adjacent riverbank came a hulking beast of blue metal, walking on two legs like a man, but five times as tall. A box on its back was smoking, half filled with red arrowheads. Its hands were weapons of steel from which fire and fury poured. It made the noise of the whole Royal Guard salvo with every heavy metal footfall.

“It doesn’t look much like a lady!” Imani shouted, a mix of relief and sheer terror.

“It’s a lady on the inside!” Someone shouted back. Imani paused. That didn’t make any sense either. Whatever the case, Imani redoubled the grip on his spear and watched the metal beast for its next move.

It hunkered down, and prefaced by the banshee wail, the rest of the arrowheads flew from their quiver, propelled through the sky by long trails of fire. When they struck the Siad Ruh horde, it swallowed hundreds of them in the conflagration.

The smoke slowly cleared. The Thole were coughing and spluttering from the sand and dust that had been thrown up. The lady of the shouting mountains was nowhere to be seen, but her throaty growls could be heard rolling across the ridge.

Imani looked out across the throng of dead and burning Siad Ruh that now littered the steppes. The Thole were regrouping, looking around for leadership. In the distance, Imani spotted a large, heavy figure standing on a column of stone. It was wide and its head set in the centre of its chest. Its body rippled, like it was changing while Imani watched it. It was moving its arms in erratic motions, but the shambling Siad Ruh were moving completely in time with it. It must be a leader of some sort – the head of the snake.

Although the numbers were still greatly in their favour, the Siad Ruh were disparate and scattered. Now was the time to strike.

He grasped his spear firmly in both hands, set his sights on the leader beast, and started running.

+++++++

Tales of Onus is a section for short stories from the Onus Region, a place our roleplaying games are set, including a 4+ year campaign of Dark Heresy. There are so many stories that don’t get told during the course of a gaming session, so a select few are written up to be enjoyed here.

This is a short piece to run parallel with an ongoing campaign on the planet of Brimstone. One day the GM’s campaign notes will get written up and/or its material disseminated here. This is not that day, however, so short stories and out-of-context snippets are the order of the day.

For a little more context, this is Lady Patience.

The Gelt Journal – Part 8: Waxy rags

Gossamer strands of smoke had snuck underneath the heavy doors of the chapel and probed the air like a tangle of grey vipers. The scent of burning solvents was heavy on the tongue.

“Fire!” Leora snapped into action, “Rebreathers, now!”

We scrambled for air purifiers while Crisis bundled the map up and stuffed it into one of his voluminous pouch. Mine was a form-fitting Arbites-issue rebreather with a backup tank, good for a few hours of light activity. Proteus had a pair of waxy rags that he stuffed up his nostrils, which I was later informed was charmingly known as a ‘hive-issue rebreather’.

Leora and Mur unbarred the massive door to the chapel while I instructed the rest of us to check our ammo. I flicked the activator on the lamp pack of my autorifle and signalled ready.

It opened with the groan of old iron. Smoke rolled in across the ceiling like a bubble had been burst. There was no change in heat, so the fire must have been some distance away. We filed into the East wing of the estate, the authoritative end of my autorifle leading the way.

It was a wide, straight corridor that lead directly from the chapel to the manse, liberally decorated with person-sized oil portraits and marble busts with noble brows and heroic jawlines. They all bore the same surname: Rauth.

I stopped to examine one of the paintings; perhaps there were clues or hidden signs of heresy in the lineage – even the best painters in the Imperium cannot completely conceal the degradation of mind and corruption of soul. Leora was making notes of names and faces, while Crisis and Mur took over navigation, the prisoner still slumped over his shoulder. I heard the soft click of a flick knife.

“Don’t bother,” Mur called back withoutbreaking stride, “the only person alive that painting’s valuable to is the one we’re going to capture, interrogate or kill. Preferably all three.”

I looked over my shoulder. Proteus was balanced on a marble bust, knife in hand, poised to cut a portrait from its frame. He sneered in grudging agreement and slid down from his vantage point to rejoin us.

We reached the end of the East wing, punctuated with a heavy panelled oak door inlaid with gold filigree in the shape of the Rauth family crest. Smoke poured from inelegant seams that had been warped by heat, and the brass orb handle was warm to the hold my hand near.

Those with rifles shouldered them and I signalled to Crisis to get the door. He wrapped a rag around a pollution-scarred hand and grasped the handle. With a gestured countdown he slammed the door with a might that belied his size and we slipped into hell.

First came the heat. It washed over us like a wave of fire, stealing our breath and watering our eyes. Every nerve screamed in protest and it was everything I could do to fight the base survival instinct to flee from such a primal terror. It singed our flesh and baked the sweat from our skin.

The manse was a roaring inferno. What was once a grand multi-storey entrance hall was now a cathedral of fire, flames licking across every balcony, pillar, marble gargoyle and self-aggrandizing statue. This great chamber would have been a monument to the family’s wealth, heritage and power, made from the rarest and privileged materials available to the lineage. Everything was being consumed. If Rauth was here, he was long gone now.

We fanned out to check corners and exits and quickly realised the futility. We were red-faced and bathed in sweat, desperate for a lead. Between the crackling of burning heritage and the tumbling of masonry, I could just made out the snap of gunfire through the open entrance of another hall to the west. I tapped my comm-bead twice for attention and jabbed with my arm towards the sound of conflict.

The next hall was equally impressive, a multi-tiered open-plan chamber strewn with collapsed pillars and broken marblery. A small squad of Latirian Guardsmen were sweeping through, blackened and bloody, laying down las-fire at a balcony on the second storey high above our heads. The returning fire was sporadic and inaccurate, but enough to keep the Guardsmens’ heads down.

One of them spotted us enter, and although their targets were obscured to us by the balcony above our heads, he cupped his mouth and bellowed “Take cover!”

I believe that’s what he was shouting. We couldn’t hear him over the sickening sound of structural integrity failing. With a series of cascading crunches and snaps, laced with the terrified screams of the falling, the entire balcony above gave way, taking at least half a dozen of Rauth’s House Guard with it. It fell to earth like a meteor, engulfing in a fireball and splashing flaming wreckage across the marble floor.

One of the burning wretches stumbled from the conflagration with the same high-pitched squealing as a crustacean in a crock pot, and the Latirian Guard took no pause to finish him off.

The fire roared on and as cinders fell about us, the lieutenant approached us with a black look, both figuratively and literally.

“That was the last of ’em in here!” He yelled, projecting his voice far above the hellscape around us, “Have you located the target yet?”

I shook my head. He rolled his eyes in exaggerated disbelief. “Get a fucking jog on will you? We charge by the hour!”

I will always be reminded of the priest from my Schola days, an ex-Guardsman doling out spiritual advice to the young officers and storm troopers. His favourite was “without the dark, there can be no light.” I always thought it was a poignant message about the necessity of sacrifice of men for mankind, or that we must sometimes do terrible things to preserve what is good and pure. Now I see he was simply referring to the Imperial Guard’s black sense of humour.

The Latirians filed out of the hall and I scanned the comm channels for chatter while looking up at the world burning around us. The Guard’s frequency was staccato bursts of shouting, it sounded like they had almost taken the courtyard. Time for a rallying speech.

I turned to address the cell. “FAN OUT! THERE M-”

I was interrupted by the sounds of desperate, hammering fists on a locked door near us, followed by a choked, despairing voice:

“Help! Help us please! By the Emperor, somebody save us!”

 

++++++

First – The Gelt Journal: Prelude

Meanwhile, on the bench: Zini Dynasty Armsmen

Our games of Rogue Trader often involve group brawls with up to a dozen armed crewmen from our own vessel repelling whatever the eldritch horror of the day has snuck on board and is sucking down our crew like capri-suns. Our captain also has a penchant for giving them names, which never bodes well for redshirts. Rather than use dice as placeholders, I ordered some minis from the very excellent  anvilindustry using their awesome 3d build-a-regiment out of all their parts combos.

The parts arrived quickly, assembled like a dream and had little to no flash on them at all. I picked up some lady heads from Statuesque Miniatures too, as despite all the praise I can heap on Anvil, they don’t include lady heads as part of their regiment builder. C’mon guys, it’s the 41st millennium here – women are equally expendable as men are.

I didn’t have any real plan in mind for assembly other than I wanted to have a good range of weapon and equipment options so I had a good selection of models to choose from when I needed to improvise something. For example, the Anvil specialist squad I ordered came with a variety of odds and ends, including a banner, medkit and bugle (!). Try as I did, I couldn’t make the bugle work with the scheme. In space, nobody can hear you toot.

This guy stands in as the generic medic – if we have a player go down, he/she will pop up and try and patch them up. Because of the heroic running pose, I figured they would also stand in for any macguffin-carrying NPC who needs to hotfoot the death star plans through the ship.

It paired quite nicely with this other specialist, who is carrying a kind of kit bag/satchel charge looking device in one hand, and converted to hold a 40k auspex in the other. I picked one of the Medieval Helmets with a bionic eye to give them an extra techy look and slung a rifle over one shoulder. A little bit of putty for the strap, and this little guy can stand in for any scenario that calls for a specialist, scanner, technical support officer, you name it!

The decision was made quite early on that the armsmen would use las weaponry rather than conventional solid projectile weapons. Firstly, las weaponry would be more robust in harsh void environments – they work just as well in a vacuum as they do in low or zero-G situations, and the ammunition can be recharged theoretically infinitely. Secondly, the Dynasty once made a lot of its money from arms deals with a once-powerful faction of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so the weapons they equipped their troops with generations ago are still functioning just as well (if not better than) modern equipment that would be within a reasonable budget. Why fix what isn’t broken, eh?


The parts went together with no trouble at all, and there was a huge variety of poses (including a left-handed rifle pose!) that really add to the individuality of the models, despite them wearing 90% the same outfit. It also came with a two-handed pistol pose, which I initially thought was too Operator for our gang of hardened space pirates, but after dry fitting it, realised it was too cool to leave out. A putty strap on the rifle helps cement the model as a ‘rifleman’ class, rather than one of the melee characters.

Speaking of melee characters, I also knew I needed a few models that bucked the trend of ‘fashionable space rapscallions’, and given the propensity for boarding actions and angry claw-armed gribblies, we needed a few ruffians in the collection.

I never saw boarding actions as pretty things, but rather grim battles of attrition in tight corridors in hazardous conditions, often with little or no air, gravity or light, so their weapons would need to facilitate that. I was sorely tempted by chain weapons or swords, but settled on some brutish clubs and maces in the end. They didn’t need upkeep or sharpening – a blunt mace is just as effective as a sharp one, and in tricky conditions you don’t want something that you need space to wield (like a sword).

I had enough parts left to build a single armsman, and I was at odds with what to build. My mind wandered back to the idea of the Space Bugler (toot toot) who had some kind of vox receiver built into the instrument and wired into the vox network of all the other armsmen, so they could literally toot in space, but there wasn’t anything in the lore (so far) to back that up yet, and I wanted to cover all my necessary bases before adding new things. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy more minis down the line if I still want to pursue it…

It was a toss up between a leader/sergeant type character and a standard bearer. I hate freehand painting designs onto things, and try and avoid projects that force me to do that to make the most of the minis, so standard bearer was lowest on my priority list. However, I didn’t like the idea of a sergeant for this group, as I wanted leaders to emerge organically rather than be forced upon the crew, or allow the players to nominate anyone they felt was worthy of a position of command rather than the model saying which was in charge.

So, alas, the standard bearer was born.

Painting

The first test model was completed after much pain and anguish. The Captain of our game picked out the colours and symbols and I did my best to incorporate them into a design.

I wanted a House that had been impoverished until recently, so their House Guard are still utilising old armoured space suits that they have tried to repaint and retrofit as a uniform of sorts. The teal armband with the upside down moon is the colour and symbol of the Dynasty, and the red/white kneepad with the teal chevron represents the renewed pact with an old ally, an arms-dealing Adeptus Mechanicus faction.

In their pockets on their backpack they carry handfuls of dirt from their recently reclaimed homeworld, which they scatter on the floor before a boarding action – never again will they allow the Dynasty to lose ground!

The Gelt Journal – Part 7: Scalp-caked kukri

Proteus squatted in front of the cowering prisoner, scalp-caked kukri in one hand, bloodied cleaning rag in the other. He fixed the wretched with a piercing jade gaze.

“And why haven’t we’s killed him?” He asked, as though the whimpering House Guard wasn’t curled into a ball inches from his face. Mur said nothing, but his subtle shift in eye line told me he wondered too.

“Humanity is imperfect,” I responded, glowering at the prisoner, “Some more than others, and imperfection begets rebuke. But if all rebuke ends in death, what of humanity would survive?”

Both killers looked back at me, somewhat dumbfounded by the foundations of Imperial law. I changed tack, picking something a little more relatable to their sensibilities.

“And besides, he’ll know where the rest of his comrades are so we won’t blunder into any ill-conceived ambushes. Isn’t that right?” I jabbed the House Guard with an armoured toe and he snivelled in assent.

I grabbed him by the scruff of his poorly-fitted uniform and forced his face into mine. It was creased with stress well beyond his years and his eyes were bagged and bloodshot.

“Where’s Rauth? Where’s your master?” I demanded, affecting a tone and volume that could shake fillings loose.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” He sobbed. I glanced back at Proteus, who had finished picking the last bloody clump of hair from his blade. He made a flourishing gesture that said ‘so we can kill him then?’

“You know something that will be useful to us,” I continued, “Who knows where Rauth would be? How many troops does he have left? Do you know how to access his chambers?”

“Th- th- th- the manse!” He stammered, acutely aware of an impending ramping up of interrogation techniques to knife-related persuasion, “there’s a few of his personal guard left in the manse to watch over the civilians. The quickest way is through the East wing! Look, I can show you!”

He began scrambling to his feet, clawing at the tiles to get traction on the marinade of blood and urine he was lying in. A steel-capped boot connected with his jaw, jerking his neck and spinning him round. He fell awkwardly, out cold.

Mur regained his footing and shrugged lightly. “I would prefer to carry him than to keep an eye on him.”

Proteus let out a mirthless laugh. I added another name to my mental list of people not to fall asleep around. There was a conspicuous throat-clearing behind us. By the Saints, can she move quietly in that plate armour.

“If you’re quite done ‘rebuking’, the Tech Adept and I have found a way in.”  Leora spoke softly but with a mettle I had never encountered before. Her voice carried the weight of a Drill Abbott and the honeyed velvet of a practiced diplomat.

The pair had unfurled the estate map on an overturned pew and we gathered round. Mur had shouldered the prisoner like an empty kit bag. Crisis barely looked up, muttering to himself and making meticulous shorthand notes around the periphery of the map. From his offhand wristguard sprang several slender auto-tools; protractors, measuring devices and other instruments I couldn’t hazard a guess at, and they danced their way across the map, sending calculations to his dataslate.

“The southern atrium will be most detrimentally impacted by crossfire,” Crisis said, addressing no-one in particular, “the risk of serious injury is too high for me to recommend that approach.” 

“Youse cogboys are trained in first aid right? Youse can patch us up if things get hairy.” Proteus chipped in, largely ignoring the map or accompanying discussion. Crisis’ beard bristled and his autotools flexed in visible vexation.

“My specialty is in industrial and agri-engines,” Crisis retorted, “I replace resistor modules larger than your head and reattach fuel couplings as wide as I am with only my teeth. If you enjoy the notion of me treating your considerably more fragile innards as I would a container of shorted spark plugs then by all means, let us take the southern atrium.”

“I believe what Crisis is saying is that the East wing is our best chance.” I interjected. Fury should be directed at our enemies, not each other.

Proteus threw his hands up in feigned surrender, “Got it, got it, upworlder! Youse say jump, yadda yadda. Say…” he interrupted himself, sniffing the air deeply through a wrinkled nose,

“…can any of youse smell burning?”

 

++++++

First – The Gelt Journal: Prelude

Next – Part 8: Waxy rags

Meanwhile, on the Bench: TJ Razor

This week’s theme is Space Thugs, and you don’t get much thuggier or spacier than TJ Razor. A man whom you could strip naked, beat bloody, interrogate for days in a cold brig-cube, finally turning your back only to find a knife stuck in it.

He’s a member of the Pursers Grim, a loose organisation of void-faring racketeers and shakedown artists, often used as a source of intelligence by organisations on both sides of the law if the coin is right. It is said there isn’t a ship in the sector that doesn’t have a Purser on board.

TJ relies on quick wits and quicker hands to stay one step ahead of his quarry, and always has a trick up his sleeve if he finds his back against the wall. That trick, however, is normally another knife. He’s a man of simple pleasures.

As with many of my Inquisitor projects, TJ started off as a totally different concept – an elegant swordsman in the employ of a fancy Inquisitor. What differed is that the parts remained almost completely unchanged while he languished on a shelf for 9 months, only adding the stick grenade and shoulder pad to complete the image.

It wasn’t until we had sunk quite a few hours into a new Rogue Trader campaign that the Pursers Grim faction became a little more fleshed out, and I wanted to have a 54mm representative for our games of Inquisitor. I had a dig through the Box of Shame and found this guy, so he was swiftly rebased onto something a little more space station-y to fit in with the other themed gangers I was building.

I was always a fan of the pose – Sergeant Stone’s legs are very dynamic but can be tricky to build a model that doesn’t look awkward with such a dramatic lunge. The arm reaching across his body to draw a blade gave the model oodles of character, and despite trying dozens of different permutations of sidearm, accessories, extra weapons and such, it was the simplicity of two knives that really worked for me.

NB: As an important pedantic note, I know he doesn’t have a sheath for the knife in his left hand. I couldn’t find one of a convincing size that would fit anywhere on the model and not detract from the flow or silhouette. Fight me. 

To my undying shame, this was the state he remained for another 5 months. I blocked out the colours and had a vague idea in my head of what I was going for. The orange jacket was going to be some sort of repurposed criminal fatigues from his penal colony days, and the shirt underneath was going to be a leather jacket or padded vest to keep him from freezing over in the chilly underbelly of voidships. The stripey trousers are from a classic piece of 40k artwork (that currently escapes me) with a Rogue Trader wearing striped trousers. I don’t know what it was about this image that screamed 18th Century sea faring and naval combat, but I had to replicate it. I knew I wanted him pale as well, from a life lived away from the sun but also covered in gang tattoos, the ridiculous OTT type that you see in buzzfeed articles that you aren’t convinced aren’t photoshopped.

I ran out of motivation at this point realising the sheer amount of hours I would need to apply in one sitting to get the freehand tattoos looking the way I wanted. I also noticed that I had assembled the model incorrectly, and sculpted the arm joins to look like they went underneath the vest rather than connect to it. Pretty harmless when there’s no paint on the model, but after some block colours went on I realised that his shirt has a deep v-neck, and to combine it with the fabric on his arms gives him a weird leather long-sleeve deep neck shirt thing that I couldn’t be bothered to strip, resculpt and fix.

Signing myself up to run an Inquisitor day, “Mother of Mercy” in November seemed to be the trick to get my unmotivated ass out of the gutter and start finishing some models. I blew the dust off him, touched up his base coats and gave him a good couple of washes while I looked up some interesting prison tattoos.

I had a hard time getting the stripes on his trousers straight, but I was quite pleased with how they came out overall. The skin tattoos were an absolute nightmare, built up with painstaking layer upon layer of slightly darker shades of skin colour. I didn’t realise how tricky it would be to get a convincing head tattoo without covering the whole head, nor did it work when I tried to do scribbles and squiggles to “look like” tattoos from a distance. I had to knuckle down and freehand tiny tattoos on his tiny knuckles.

After the agony of freehand, the rest was a joy to touch up, and I’m very pleased with how he came out in the end. As I was painting, I was trying to come up with an interesting edge for the tabletop. Things like the Blade Master special rule and a high Weapon Skill were a given, but I wanted something that set him apart from the stereotypical knife-wielding maniacs.

I borrowed the “Always Has Another Knife” rule from the Community Special Abilities page which seemed fitting, but wanted something to underline the voidbelly stab-or-be-stabbed mentality. I thought about an ability that allowed him to make a free throwing knife attack if he chooses to be pinned while being shot at, injuring or at least distracting the shooter long enough to make a getaway or get stuck into combat. I like the idea, but it needs a bit of playtesting before I’m happy to write it up here.

All in all I’m very happy with how he came out, and I’m looking forward to doing a few more gangers and thugs from our little spit of space. Now all he needs is a battle report to star in…

The Gelt Journal – Part 6: Errant appendage

The chapel was plunged into silence, not the tranquil kind but the awful, anxious, smothering silence of the eye of a passing storm.

My exhausted fury was subsiding and details were returning to my senses. I could hear spent rounds being ejected from weapons and new las-cartridges being slammed into place. The smell of cooked flesh hung in the air. I heard the soft crunch of glass underfoot as the others consolidated. Ripples of muffled gunfire could still be heard from outside, but more distant than before. There was a sniffling noise and the voice repeated itself from behind an overturned pew near the altar.

“Please, don’t shoot! I give up!” A pair of hands probed the air in surrender. Leora had already crossed the chapel and slammed a firm boot into the pew the last House Guard was hiding behind. It slid away, smearing blood from his downed comrade. He was curled into a foetal ball, empty hands above his head. Leora’s sword was already at his neck.

He was young, like the rest of them, and impossibly thin. Tanned skin hung from his bones like worn leather and he bore an aquila tattoo under his left eye. He made the most pitiful noises I’ve ever heard a man make.

I tossed some manacles to Leora and she applied them without question or hesitation, shackling the man’s bony wrists behind his back. He continued his pleas of mercy through hacking coughs and watery sobs.

“I didn’t know what was happening! It wasn’t my idea! I have a wife and children, please! I don’t want to die! I’ll-” he fell quiet, stiffening, convulsing slightly, then falling limp on the floor. I reholstered my humming shock maul. That was quite enough of his whimpering for now. We’ll wake him if we need him.

Leora remained stony-faced, she had spotted something behind me. She knelt down next to a bloodied body, dressed in the robes of a preacher. It was propped up against the altar at the head of the chapel, sat in a pool of its own chestnut blood that had cascaded down the marble risers, viscous enough to have glued the preacher’s robes to the floor. He had been dead for days, weeks maybe. I examined his missing arm, it had been torn from his body by a terrible force, leaving strings of ripped flesh and crushed bone behind. There was no sign of the errant appendage and judging by the pattern of blood, injury and death both occurred here as he bled out on the steps of his altar.

Leora let out a gasp. I looked up from the preacher’s matted habit to see Leora reading through the bloodstained sermon book with one hand over her mouth and disbelief in her eyes. I rose but maintained position; this might have been a trap. She quickly thumbed the pages back and forth, each turn growing her expression of incredulity.

“The sermons… they’re… polluted,” She started, “None of them are outright wrong, and if you sat through one of these sermons the average worshipper wouldn’t notice anything, but…” she trailed off. Mur had silently appeared at the base of the altar, rubbing the preacher’s blood between his fingers.

“He was poisoning his congregation!” Leora finally said, aghast.

“Then we burn it.” Mur spoke. I was taken aback, I don’t think I had heard him say anything up until that point. He gestured around the chapel with his rifle like it was an extension of his fingers. “All of it.”

“No, we can’t. Not yet anyway. This needs to be taken to our superiors, they will know what to do with it.” Leora responded, wrapping the blasphemous tome in a strip of hessian from her backpack.

“It is the only evidence we have uncovered of more than simple civil unrest.” I interjected, part in agreement, part as a reminder of our duties. Whatever did this is unlikely to be amicable to the idea of being captured alive – we would need all the evidence we could find..

Crisis produced a map from one of his many pouches and unfolded it carefully. He examined its contents while scratching his scraggly beard with an absent mind. I imagined this look was the last thing many agri-engines on his homeworld saw before having their recalcitrant machine spirits coaxed back to life. I didn’t think ordinary Tech Adepts grew beards, but I supposed this was no ordinary assignment.

The Rauth Estate was circular, embracing a courtyard in the centre filled with Rauth House Guard and Latirian Special Forces slugging it out over control of the grounds. To the west of the chapel was a large circular room titled ‘the menagerie’. Judging from the map there wasn’t likely to be much cover inside, a poor place to try and flush out heretics from, but an advantageous place to herd them into. To the north was the residence proper, a huge disorderly cluster of rooms, chambers, antechambers, corridors and halls. There could be hundreds of stragglers in there in just as many hiding places. Both connected with each other, so our choice was from which direction to sweep through.

Crisis was muttering something about escape tunnels when the sister strode over and stabbed a gauntleted finger square in the centre of the residences.

“He will be there,” she spoke with a conviction that nobody could challenge, “surrounded by his wealth and sycophants. Whatever other heresies this place is hiding will be present there too.”

“Did someone say wealth?” Proteus looked up from prying the fillings out of the leader’s broken head with a special claw-shaped blade, a strange twinkle in his eyes. We collectively chose to accept this as an agreement and moved swiftly on.

“Agreed,” I said, trying to commit the map to memory, “I will alert the Sergeant over vox and tell him to meet us at the menagerie when he’s finished pacifying the rabble outside. Whatever we flush out of the residences will be trapped between the hammer of the Imperial Guard and the anvil of the Inquisition. We will be the wildfire that purges this estate of its rotten limbs.”

Too much perhaps? I glanced over at the mutilated body of the preacher and his volume of profane sermons. No, whatever this is is the tip of something far greater and far fouler. Our resolve will be tested and our faith will be shaken.

We will need all the rousing speeches we can get.

 

++++++

First – The Gelt Journal: Prelude

Next – Part 7: Scalp-caked kukri

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Crimson Wake Reavers

Batten down the hatches, sharpen your boarding axes and say your prayers to the Emperor, the Crimson Wake Reavers have you in their sights…

This project was immense fun. The premise was simple; I need bad guys, and lots of them. From our games of Inquisitor to Dark Heresy to Rogue Trader, even making NPC appearances in the odd game of Necromunda, the Crimson Wake have generously given their lives time and time in the name of being good Bad Guys, and I felt I owed it to the little champs to immortalise them in paint and plastic.

This project is perhaps the first sizeable modelling project I’ve completed that had no parts purchased specifically for the job. I wanted around a dozen members of the void-prowling Chaos pirate group, the Crimson Wake, and I was fortunate late last year to get a few big plastic bags of decade-old tatty models that needed rehoming. The models were in pretty bad nick – outrageous plastic glue accidents, interesting conversion attempts, paint that looks like it was applied with a trowel, the works. The upside was the sheer quantity – if you were to buy those today you would easily be set back around a grand.

I cleaned up all the metal models, flogged them on ebay for some hobby funds, and set about salvaging whatever plastic I could from the mix; Imperial Guardsmen, fantasy beastmen, loads of classic Empire bits, Chaos models that I forgot existed. What could be saved was snipped apart and distributed among my bits boxes, ready for the grand assemblage.

I had eyeballed some parts that would fit together very nicely, and decided I was going to just dive straight in, randomly matching bodies, legs and heads together to make my Chaos Reavers. I only had one goal in mind; to make them as varied as I could to represent many different kinds of baddies that might pop up in campaigns; from bedraggled voidsmen barely showing any signs of Chaos taint that could be hanging around in spaceport bars holding valuable information, all the way up to Chaos pirate captains and bloodthirsty ultra-warriors kitted out in ancient armoured void suits from millennia ago.

Let’s have a little look at some of these goons.

This was one of the first guys I put together and still one of my favourites. He captures that haggard, salty seadog look with a bit of weirdness from the right knee downwards. Given the time, energy and money, I’d make a dozen more like this guy to populate the spaceports and rotgut taverns of the 41st millennium, but he’ll have to do for now.

The shotgun is from Victoria Miniatures, picked up for a massive Necromunda bits part order and I still had a bunch lying around.

This guy was another relatively normal-looking Reaver – I still wanted a few models that could just about pass as non-Chaos worshipping loonies. As I was assembling them, I realised that I was going to need some unifying features to make the motley lot look more like a motley crew than a motley mob, so I devised a rebreather system. Nothing says Space Man like a backpack with tubes on it, right?

Most of the backpacks were made from classic plastic Space Marine backpacks with some of the nozzles chopped off, and the rebreather mouthpieces were made from cut-down space marine heads, leaving just the front part of the mask. The head is from the Trench Irregular set from Anvil Industries. I rolled out some sausages of green stuff for the tubes, let them set for about 20 minutes, then rolled them across some corrugated plastic to produce the ribbing effect. Leave them for another 10/20 minutes and they were springy enough to keep their ribs, but pliable enough to be bent, cut and glued into shape.

Time to get weird! I started experimenting with plastic Chaos Space Marine parts. I liked the armoured aesthetic, but I didn’t want my Reavers to just look like space marines, I wanted them to have a flavour of their own, so this was my first foray into using just enough CSM parts to add that asymmetric weirdness without being overt.

It was also at this point I realised that the topless Chaos Marauder torsos would work just fine if I shaved the nipples off and painted it to look like armour. Parts for the parts god!

They were going to need some support weapons too, and I played with the idea of a rocket or grenade launcher for a while. The model looked very cool, but I couldn’t justify the use of long ranged anti-tank weaponry on close-quarters fighters. A nice Imperial Guard heavy flamer would fit the bill, and with an excess of weird pipes going into his rebreather and his ammo tank raises questions about what exactly is being fired from that flamer after all…

Moving on to some heavy hitters, this guy was assembled almost entirely out of classic fantasy Chaos warrior parts, with a heavy pistol from Anvil and a Nurgley-looking shoulder pad to complete the look. I really liked the idea that this ancient warrior of a thousand battles still has the best damn boots on the ship.

I was very much hoping at this point that a nice paint job would offset the goofiness of the whole crew, but that’s what Chaos is there for right?

This guy was actually one of my earlier experiments with a rebreather. I nailed the concept of the mouthpiece, but ran into a problem trying to attach the backpack – the shoulder pads I had selected for MAXIMUM 40K were overmaximum and nothing could fit on his back. I had a rummage round for something suitable, I think they are flamer tanks from some infantry kit? By this point I was really enjoying the mismatched void suit aesthetic – classic Chaos Warrior legs and left arm, Chaos Marauder torso and head, Khorne Berzerker right arm and a heavy caliber pistol from Anvil.

The felt I lacked diversity in the work force, and needed some more Definitely Chaos guys, rather than Suspiciously Chaos. I wanted someone who, when they arrived on the board, left no doubt as to their alignment. I had the flaming head from the Empire Flagellants that was kicking around my bits box begging for a body. Legs and torso were easy to assemble, but I wanted something weird and wacky for his armament. A Plaguebearer left arm was suitable gribbly, and there was quite tight competition for the right, eventually settling on the weird tentacle double arm from the plastic Chaos Spawn kit.

It was at this point that I decided I was going to have a Lot Of Fun(tm) painting fire, as I’d never done it before. Oh, my sweet summer child.

I had some Khorne Berzerker legs to hand from the Bag o’ Doom and wanted someone with a bit more momentum than the others I had assembled. Axe nice and high, bolt pistol from Anvil out front in a run ‘n’ gun pose, I really like this one for its simplicity. It was tricky to see the model come together with so many half-painted plastic bits, but I assured myself it would come together after they were sprayed. A horny head from the classic plastic Chaos Space Marines finished the ‘head first charge’ look I was going for.

One more ‘normal’ guy to round things off, as I had many armoured and voidsuited thugs who would not be out of place by the Captain’s side, but I needed another scummy-looking mutant who could skulk around in the underways and maintenance tunnels getting intel. I have a lot of possessed heads picked up over the years, so I was desperate to use a few of them up in this project, especially the weirder ones that would have no chance of being in anything outside of a Chaos group. A plastic Ork body, legs and arms from an ‘easy assemble’ kit suited the hunched mutie look I was going for. I shaved down some of the iconography, added a few pointy shoulder pads and a big double-barrelled shotgun and he was done!

And finally, the magnificent Captain of the group. I had originally never intended to make a leader, so my group would never associate the models with characters too much and make it easier to chop and change them about. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the Chaos Warrior legs with the Chaos Space Marine chainmail torso, I was already sold. The massive Berzerker head I’ve had in my bits box fit too well, and I was already reneging on my pledge to myself for the sake of a cool model. It didn’t matter, it came out far better than I’d hoped – a big bulky silhouette that should make players shudder when it thumps down onto the table top.

All in all I’m very happy with how they came out. I’ve had several games with them since, and they’ve never failed to threaten and entertain. There will be some painted pictures going up over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on us!

The Gelt Journal – Part 5: Blood-marbled grin

A curtain of force rattled the organs in my torso like a half-empty box of lho-sticks. A sulphurous light detonated in the chapel, disorientating even through clenched eyelids. A drizzle of stained glass rain pattered off my flak jacket, shook from its frames high above by the concussive blast. This was as good an opportunity as any.

I was on my feet in an instant, ears still ringing and sun spots dancing across my retinas. The stun grenade from Crisis had found its mark. One of the House Guard was clawing at his eyes. Another was stood still, blood dribbling from his ears. The Sister planted a plate metal boot on his chest and withdrew the massive sword she had sheathed in his gut. He slid from her sword into an unceremonious mess on the chapel floor.

I vaulted the pew, shock maul primed. It sprang to life in my hand, crackling with electric wrath. The servitor was within striking distance, its weapon erratically tracking false positives in the wake of the stun grenade. It didn’t register my presence until maul and head connected.

Lightning arced from the impact and charred skin was scraped from its metal chassis. The explosion of energy burst the visual augmetics in its head like ripe ploinfruit. It staggered briefly but superficially.

I struck again, jabbing the maul hard into its sternum, trying to cook off whatever passes for a heart in this wretched cadaver. Energy surged from the weapon in an awesome display of light and heat, enough to kill a man several times over. The smell of ozone and burning flesh was ineffable.

The power cell in the maul’s handle began to flash, its machine spirit faltering. Emperor’s teeth, how has this not stopped it!? I glanced up from grinding my maul into its chest, expecting a machiavellian sneer or a smug grimace of victory. Nothing. Blackened cheek flesh hung from its jaw with no iota of emotion. It stared through me with a single rheumy eye.

It brushed my hand away with a steel balled fist and sent a piston punch towards my gut. I backed off, holstering my maul and scrambling for my autogun. The servitor lunged forwards, tiles shattering beneath its armoured boot. I tried to raise my rifle in time but I was beaten to the draw by the glare of red-hot muzzle from the servitor’s implanted rifle. Without a second’s hesitation, it fired.

A pitiful click issued from its ammunition hopper. Emperor be praised! The servitor paused, beginning a complex hopper cycle. This blessed reprieve would be its undoing. I shouldered my rifle with practised ease, sighted its damaged augmetics and poured the Emperor’s fury into its skull.

Nothing was left save some mangled data cables and lumps of withered grey matter bound together by blackened sinew. It spasmed, death throes snapping its limbs to inhuman angles. It toppled backwards, leaving a crescent trail of smoke in the air from its severed neck. It had stopped moving before it hit the chapel floor, a viscous dark fluid pumping out onto the broken tiles and shards of glass.

I paused for breath. By the saints, I hope they don’t have any more of those.

I glanced behind me to assess the situation. The Cell had cleaned up. Crisis and Mur were keeping the last two cowering guards pinned down behind a makeshift barricade of broken pews, with a righteous Sister bearing down on them wailing war hymns. By another miracle, I even saw the bloodied Proteus returned to his feet. His chest was in tatters and his face looked like he’d had a wet shave with a chainsword. I was not sure that it wasn’t an improvement.

He noticed me and flashed a blood-marbled grin. In each hand he jangled a red stained coinpurse, both marked by the House Guard insignia, and he slipped them into his pocket, returning to a crouch to pat down the next body. Emperor preserve us, one must admire his conviction to his purpose at least. Remind me not to die before he does.

A scream from the front of the chapel refocused me. One of the last Guard, some kind of leader judging from his uniform, bore down on me with zeal in his eyes and steel in his hand. I turned the first blow aside with my rifle but he was fast, weaving around my clumsy, tired ripostes. He sent a flurry of slashes to my abdomen, but the blunting and bending of his blade made us simultaneously realise his masters had outfitted him with a sword that was more ceremonial than practical. He looked shocked, but not as much as he was about to be.

Three pips issued from the holster on my belt to tell me that we were fully charged. I made an opening with a sweep of my rifle and let out a primal, exhausted roar. In a ballet of fire and blood, my shock maul was in my hand, thumbed to maximum power and swept upwards into his chin. He exploded off his feet, his jaw shattered and fragments of teeth were propelled from his mouth by tongues of flame. He arced gracefully, landing on his neck with a snap. He lay unmoving, save for the flickering embers where his eyes used to be.

I was panting hard, squinting through someone else’s blood to discern any more threats. The chapel had gone quiet. The soft thumping of gunfire in the courtyard returned. Then, a broken, cowardly voice;

“No, please! Don’t shoot!”

 

++++++

First – The Gelt Journal: Prelude

Next – Part 6: Errant appendage

Meanwhile, on the bench: Sulphia “Sulph” Caliver, Naval Armsman

Sulphia Caliver, known simply as ‘Sulph’ to her comrades, is a veteran naval armsman sworn to serve the Yule Dynasty, an ancient and powerful Rogue Trader Household that has close ties with the Inquisition. She has served the Warrant Holder for many years, earning her trust and a place on her personal retinue when House Yule is called to serve the Emperor at the behest of the Inquisition.

She is a brute of a woman, decked out in heavy flak armour and carrying weapons that reflect who she is – vicious, reliable and heavy duty. In the confines of cramped voidship corridors and boarding gangways, you don’t need complex fighting styles or fancy weapons to win the day – simply cold steel and a strong fighting arm.

Some early WIP shots before she got her extra details added

The model started out life more as a guardsman, a simple kitbash with Sergeant Stone’s legs and Slick Devlan’s body. Back then she was a he, and he was equipped with a standard lasgun and the infamous shouty head of Sergeant Black. He was only bluetacked together, but there was something about the pose of a flak-armoured warrior barreling forwards that really appealed to me. There was a ‘leader’ assembled as well, reaching for a sword and wearing a very fancy bicorn hat, but that will be a MOTB for another time. I liked the momentum of the model, but I never had any motivation to do anything extra to him, and he sat in my Box of Shame for months.

Roll forward to the (relatively) present day, and this lot on ebay comes to my attention. It seems in my brief 54mm hiatus, 3D printing kicked off and suddenly my niche modelling hobby was being bolstered by fresh kits and awesome new weapons. You can get the full Dreadquill run-down of the kit here.

Fawning over the new weapons I was formulating all manner of impossible projects, when I surreptitiously pulled out a few old projects from the Box of Shame and dry-fitted some of the guns. The one that was eventually used is, to my understanding, intended to be a grenade launcher, but one of my friends asked if it was some kind of giant shotgun, and that turned the whole narrative on its head.

Shotcannons are described as much larger variants of a regular shotgun that fire a huge shell (nearly twice the normal size) and can lay waste to large hordes of attackers. They are considered ‘support’ weapons in boarding parties, and I couldn’t think of anything cooler or more appropriate for an Inquisitor character, someone who specialises in brutal boarding actions and carries a gun that can explode a man into a burst of shredded clothing and flesh. What more could a girl want?

With the new angle of ‘naval armsman’ rather than generic guardsman or bodyguard, the project motored ahead. First thing to change was the head, the shouty guardsman head wouldn’t cut it. I had an old open-faced head from the Lucretia Bravus model, one that I’ve never actually used in a model. I didn’t really like the silhouette, it was too sleek and elegant, a far cry from the chunky combat of the 41st millennium. It looked perfect on her though, and I imagined some kind of huge welding-mask-type shutter being propped open that she could slam down when it was Go Time.

The armour was a joy to sculpt. I’ve always been a fan of the Elysian Drop Troopers, and the padded fatigues on their arms and legs was an aesthetic I wanted to replicate. I tried to keep the size of the pads as close to the flak armour on the body to bring the parts of the model together to look a more coherent whole, like it was an actual uniform that had been repaired a number of times rather than a disparate series of armour plates slapped together.

All the accessories were umm’d and ahh’d over for quite some time. She needed at least one melee weapon, and I felt an axe or mace would be suitably savage. No fancy sword fighting nonsense here. I settled on a chaos marauder axe head and shaft, with the handle being replaced from a 40k power sword to give it a bit more of a futuristic feel, rather than wrapped leather.

There was a toss-up between backup weapons too, I felt compelled to try and give her a reload for her shotcannon but a) I couldn’t find a suitable part to represent a whole new drum mag and b) didn’t feel it was in her aesthetic to reload such a bulky weapon. I see her firing off as many rounds as she can before closing with the enemy, hurling the thing like an angry fire extinguisher and getting stuck in with axe and boot. A nice big revolver strapped to her thigh would fit the bill of backup weapon.

The last key element I wanted for her was a fully sealed combat suit. Her attire doesn’t scream ‘space suit’, but I wanted there to be some way of her surviving emergency decompression, low oxygen or chemical warfare. Her gear is primitive but robust, so she would need suitable breathing apparatus reflective of that. The original plan was to have a mouthpiece attached to her chest or breast, like Forest Whittaker’s character in Rogue One, so she could quickly mask up in the event of an emergency.

At this point though, her arms and gun were well attached to her body, and I could find no way of making a suitable mask to hang from that part of her without it looking cluttered and ugly. I had a root around in my bits box and salvaged an Imperial Guard flamer tank, some guitar wire and a heavily shaved-down 40k space marine helmet to form a rebreather. I figured she would unhook it from her belt and clip it into place underneath her boarding mask to form a fully sealed helmet. It won’t help you with any space walks, but it might just help you survive long enough in a pinch.

Then it was just adding gubbins – a few pouches here and there, a grenade on the belt and sculpting in some straps to attach it all together and she was done! The name is from an idea that on her ship of birth, the ship’s macrocannons were independently operated by different family units, each competing to who can have the faster loading solutions and fiercely protective of their family’s cannon. Each family unit would have names derived from ancient Terran warfare; Caliver, Bulletson, Sabot and Saker.

All that’s left is to come up with a colour scheme and mock up some stats for her. A full study will inevitably come along in the future, but my mind went wandering about how best to represent her signature weapon on the Inquisitor battlefield; the naval shotcannon.

Many among the Inquisitor community have adopted MarcoSkoll’s quite excellent Revised Inquisitor Armoury, as although the original rules are robust enough to play with ‘out of the box’, almost two decades of playtesting have brought up a few issues of variety and balance of weapons. Marco took it upon himself to rewrite the entire armoury with the benefit of hindsight, community feedback and oodles of weapon knowledge, so ranged weapons all have a distinctive flavour and punch to them.

Having a browse through, I noticed there was an absence of ‘stupid big shotgun designed to turn men into paté’, so I had a go at improvising rules for on one using the options that were available to me.

Naval Shotcannon

Using the stats of a full auto combat shotgun, with the large calibre and drum mag upgrades:

Type Range Firing mode Accuracy Damage Shots Reload Encumbrance Special Rarity
Basic E Sg/Sm(2/4) D6+2* 14 3 50 DM, Jam Prone UnCm

The special rules below have been factored into the statline above.

Scatter Shot (Common)

“A very standard loading, a standard shot shell fires a small cloud of lead projectiles at the target. They have poor armour defeating capabilities and the projectiles rapidly disperse, but the effect of multiple projectiles impacting in the same instant can be especially effective against un-armoured or lightly armoured targets”.

Range E; D6+1 damage

*Multiple hits (1 hit per Degree of Success up to a maximum of 3 hits, all to the same location)

Large Calibre

+1 Damage. Gains Considerable Recoil rule . +5 EncPump Action, Lever Action, Auxiliary and Dual Magazine shotgun magazine sizes reduced by 1. (-1 to both Magazines on the Dual Mag)Semi-Auto, Auto and Bullpup Auto Magazine sizes reduced by 2.

Drum Magazine (DM)

A very easy modification to fit, as it’s a simple magazine swap. Weapons which can take this modification are marked with “DM” under the Notes column.

The weapon’s magazine capacity is doubled, Enc is increased by +5, the Reload stat by +1 and the weapon gains the Jam Prone special rule.