Our long-running Dark Heresy campaign has deposited our mid-high tier characters naked and unarmed in a pit of despair, deep in the bowels of a steel labyrinth. The ‘facility’ is inhabited by pig-masked psychopathic brutes – operatives of the shady xenos-smuggling ring ‘The Beast House‘.
The campaign called for some low-level scrubs armed with a variety of enslaving equipment. It’s a cliché trope to have your characters wake up missing all their weapons and armour, but I firmly believed that if done well, it could add a fresh new perspective on the game. After consulting with some peers, the trope can work if:
- In medias res – don’t dwell on how they were captured, and definitely don’t play out an unwinnable capture scenario. You’re in a pit, naked, with only rocks and bones, and something wicked is howling down a tunnel towards you. Fight or die. Figure it out later.
- It’s only temporary – assure them their equipment is safe and recoverable. In this case, I seeded some choice equipment from their character sheets among sub-bosses responsible for their capture, and they discovered the rest is in a lockup held by the end-game boss. They’ll get it all back eventually, but for now – improvise.
- Started at the bottom – acquisition of new kit comes quite quickly if you’re cunning. By the end of our second session, every character had some patchwork armour, a useful melee weapon, at least one ranged weapon and a few bits of gear or tools.
So the Beast House operatives needed to be low-level thugs who relied on their charming demeanor and powerful musk to get their way, relying little on complex or deadly weapons and more on tools designed to hurt, entrap, ensnare and enslave.
To the bits box!
Cleaver? I hardly knew ‘er
The squad was assembled overwhelmingly from three main sources – old plastic Bretonnian Man-At-Arms bodies, Frostgrave Crewmen bits and Kolony Feral heads from Pig Iron productions. The bases were made by supergluing some mesh to a 28mm base and some plasticard strips over the top.
Snipping the Man-at-arms bodies off at the waist gave me more possibilities for leg and body swaps. I wanted them to look part butcher, part slaver – a huge hooked cleaver and a cloak made from flayed skin would complete this particularly dashing look.
Kill the beast
No group of beast herders would be complete without whips and torches, and I’m always looking for an excuse to use the lit torch from the Empire flagellants kit. A barbed whip from the dark eldar wyches sprue helped round off this guy.
Changing with the times
This guy was actually assembled almost a year before, originally with a Genestealer Cult head. Looking for something to do with all those Bretonnian bodies I hadn’t used, I toyed with the idea of a Genestealer Cult on a feudal world, but it never really got off the ground.
When I was sketching ideas together for the Beast House, a simple headswap was all I needed to give me the inspiration for the rest I had thought about swapping the hands out for something less claw-like, but figured that even the Beast House wouldn’t be that fussed about mutation so long as you were strong, cruel and got the job done.
At some point, the Beast House needed to escalate their efforts to contain the problem the players will inevitably become – that’s when they break out the automatic weapons. I didn’t my players getting their hands on an autogun too early, but they’re too great a staple for any low-life thug kill-squad that I couldn’t resist including them. This guy is also a little better amoured than his co-woerkers, and the bag of bones and body bits on his back keeps him themed with the others.
Crack that whip
Changing up the body parts, this little lady used an Empire flagellant as a base and a pair of dark eldar arms. I wanted a second whipper and that part was easy to source, but the only right arm that fit with the theme was another Dark Eldar one. Cue hacking apart a splinter rifle arm to fit a stub revolver to it. I had a mad plan to keep the stock and have a weird stubby revolver rifle thing and I think it worked quite well.
Add another flayed skin cloak, some severed heads and a pony tail and the freaky look is complete!
Can’t have slavers without a flail guy! I got a load of random Anvil bits a while back when they were selling bits bags, one of those bits was a set of running legs. Empire flagellant arms and a Neophyte Hybrid autopistol rounds this lad off nicely, with a miscellaneous shoulder pad to hide a particularly ugly join.
Polearm to meet you
The Man-at-arms sprue has lots of exciting-looking polearms with various hooky bits for pulling knights off their horses, or in this case enslaving alien beasts, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about the pose they come in. A quick root round found a set of Empire cannon-loader arms – replace the wadding with the end of a billhook and we’re away! One of the simpler conversions but I think it really adds to the overall feel that these guys regularly tackle stuff bigger and stronger than them as a day job.
Overall I’m very pleased with how the squad came out, and I’ll inevitably be adding to them as the campaign unfolds. They definitely need some kind of leadership or tame beasts, and with the release of the new Necromunda Book of Judgement, there are a WHOLE load of options for using these guys as criminal allies too. It’s never been a better day to be a slaver!