Hobgoblin produce some great models for you to 3D print at home, and although they started out as pure fantasy terrain, they’re starting to branch out into more genre-neutral sets. This is very bad for a sci-fi nerd like myself, as I no longer can continue to make excuses as to why I can’t pick up their sets for myself.
Spooky ghoul from Mantic games for scale here, as these pieces are the largest single-piece 3D printed models I’ve painted to date. I’ve no idea how long these would have taken to print, I just get the luxury of painting them without the headache of operating a 3D printer!
The archway in the middle was supplied in four parts admittedly, but they went together very easily and they form a single solid unit when assembled.
I’ve painted quite a few bits for Hobgoblin over the past year, but their most recent sets have been the closest thing to tempting me to getting a 3D printer for myself. This set in particular is perfect for the grimdark setting most of our games are set in.
I can just imagine an entire graveyard board scattered with ornate railings and broken gravestones and a big shootout between cultists (up to no good in a graveyard, obviously) and some Acolytes.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without pumpkins! I particularly liked the ‘carved’ pumpkin base, there’s lots of nice details on it, and the candles inside the jack o’ lanterns are particularly pleasing.
You couldn’t have a graveyard without gravestones could you? There’s a nice variety here, and the nice part about owning the kit is you can print off as many of each as you need, rather than being limited to the ones you buy. Although they look quite nice I wasn’t a fan of the broken headstone pieces, they were a bit too fiddly to paint (and I’m about 70% sure I lost a piece in the painting process).
I can see the appeal, but for me they’d be better off as part of a diorama or scatter piece, such as the pumpkins above or the open graves below.
Open graves! I think I had the most fun painting these. They tell a great story and wouldn’t look out of place in just about any different setting. If I had given myself a bit more time, I would want to experiment with some water effects pooling in the open grave and making the mounds of earth around it all soggy. I mean, when else is the best time to go gravedigging if not in the rain?
Oh yes, and it has another adorable feature;
Let there be light! There’s a hollow inside the lantern for an LED and button cell for extra spoopiness, or if you’re cheap like me, a phone light concealed under a sheet of A4.
And finally the Mausoleum kit. What a piece! Any doubts I’ve had in the past about 3D printing vs injection/cast moulded pieces have been dashed apart. This is a rather excellent construction that really lends itself to the 3d printing process.
It comes six parts – an upper and lower section of the building so you can remove the top to access minis inside without disturbing your scene, two doors and two hinge pieces (not pictured because I’m a doofus and lost them). The two hinge pieces are glued to the bottom of the door when it is assembled in the building so it doesn’t fall out of its socket.
I hear tell rumours in the tavern that the team might be building an insert for this building with a hex/square grid on it for proper roleplaying compatability, so watch this space for more!
I thoroughly enjoyed painting this kit, and outside of drying times took me far less time than other kits to get tabletop ready. A few choice washes and different coloured drybrushing can go a long way into getting your spooky quota up for your games.
High Marshall Werthing’s hard features showed signs of concern. There were a lot of resources going into this project, and very little to gain even with a perfect outcome.
“How is our subject, Magos?” She asked the person sharing the observation module with her. She knew his augmented audio receptors would pick up the quiver of trepidation in her voice, and hoped he was still human enough to ignore it.
Magos Byrdsong gestured at a nearby dataslate and the observation room was filled with dribbling green infostreams. His perfect gene-sculpted features pulled a number of exaggerated expressions and his luscious vat-grown hair billowed as though he was underwater. He had spent centuries sculpting his likeness into the perfect human form, but Werthing had never met anyone so unnervingly inhuman.
“In layman’s terms, the subject is exceeding simulated predictions.” The Magos spoke in lilting harmonies from several artificial voice boxes.
“What about non-layman’s terms?” Werthing responded.
He turned to look at her, tearing his eyes away from the subject in the adjacent conditioning theatre. She swore she made out his ice-blue eyes rotate and dial in on her like a camera lens.
“Tissue scrubbing protocols are at 97%. Electro-purification has been 82% effective and the visual and aural memories have been cleansed down to a tolerance of 1 in 32 pico-units. Frequency blockers have been installed, resulting in 44% less negative feedback from aetheric trauma. Mental conditioning is also at peak performance; will and resilience are up 14%, but this may come at a cost to the subject’s hazard perception.”
Magos Byrdsong gauged Werthing’s reaction, deeming her non-responsivity to such impressive figures as incomprehension. “The subject has been purged of taint and measures taken to improve resistances to it in the future. Without further field testing, we cannot say what long term effect this will have on their mental condition.”
Arcs of lightning dance around the conditioning theatre, striking a throne in the centre of the room. The observation module flashes a dark blue through the tinted windows in time to the rampant energy surges.
“What about physical condition?” The High Marshall continued her inquiries. She didn’t need to understand it, her rank only demands she know it.
The lightning cut out. Copper restraints snapped open and the subject collapsed from the throne into a smoking heap on the theatre floor. With a subtle gesture from Byrdsong, the conditioning theatre is flooded with amber warning lights. A pair of combat servitors rise from the floor of the theatre on hydraulic lifts.
With a second gesture, something small and metal tumbled from a repository in the ceiling – a rusty scalpel. With a shaky hand, the subject gingerly picked the scalpel up from the floor, blood and filth soaking their matted hair.
With a third gesture, the combat servitors powered up, their implanted weapons spinning and whining so loudly Werthing could hear it through the armoured observation screen. Byrdsong looked back at the High Marshall, a perfectly calculated grin of pleasure splashed across his immaculate features.
“This is the part I’m most proud of. Let me demonstrate.”
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.
You can find rules for submitting your own characters for Imperial Conditioning here.
Blackmail, extortion, smuggling and unadulterated violence are all part of everyday life for the unfortunates living in District XIII in Syracuse Magna. When corruption in planetary authorities runs all the way to the top, the only way to get what you need is at the barrel of a shotgun.
Next stop for our merry band of Acolytes is Syracuse, ‘the Grey Halo’, a tidally locked planet where only a thin band of habitability exists around its circumference, sandwiched between two extremes of temperature. A hive city exists in this habitable zone, a complete ring of urban sprawl that stretches from pole to pole. Unfortunately for our Acolytes, they’re not going to the nice part of town.
We’re off to Syracuse Magna, a semi-independent section at the bottom pole that for centuries has been in inexorable decline and decay. Corruption and dilapidation are the order of the day, the petty nobles bickering and squabbling over scraps while the rest of the citizenry band together to make the most of what little they have. One such band of economically-minded citizens are the Undertow, the city’s largest organised gang, and one of three factions taking part in the Syracuse Magna campaign.
Since catching the modelling bug for our campaigns (I honestly don’t know how it has taken me so long), Syracuse was always high on my list for having models for each of its factions. One of the exciting things (for me) is that these guys will provide an interesting change of pace for the players, as for the last two years we have fought servitors, assassins, heretek automata, xenos creatures, giant local fauna and genetic abominations.
The Undertow don’t have any fancy special powers, and their gear will barely be worth the rusty metal they’re forged from, but a combination of guerrilla tactics, ambushing, flanking, hidden snipers, punji pits, makeshift booby traps and lots and lots of firebombs will make for an interesting tactical challenge for our players.
I needed about a dozen, and the Kolony Feral models from Pig Iron miniatures fit the bill perfectly. They were ragged and grotty but not overwhelmingly chaotic or mutated, so you could still believe they were human underneath their protective rags.
I wanted them to look likely they were hanging out down at abandoned docks and near filth-strewn canals, so it was time to break out the balsa wood!
I enjoy a good urban sprawl base, but urban environments come in many shapes and sizes! The first challenge I noticed was that all the white metal minis had pre-cast bases, which presented a big issue if I wanted to mount them on balsa wood dockyards. I debated changing tack for something a little less woody, but decided in the end to commit to removing over a dozen pairs of boots from their pre-cast bases and filing them down to fit. Who needs fingertips anyway?
The second issue that I hadn’t foreseen was more of an aesthetic choice. As much as I love these minis for exactly what I wanted them to be, I was a little disappointed at the weapon sculpts. I had a very strong aesthetic in my head, and the (again, pre-cast) guns were very lacklustre, and nowhere remotely to the scrappy gutter-forged shotguns and rusty revolvers I had in mind.
With my fingertips barely recovered from de-basing all of them, I set about with pliers and files to forcibly remove the default weapons for all these poor minis, trying to leave as much of the original hands behind as possible.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit any weapons in there but I was very much committed at this point, I had to make it work somehow! Luckily a couple of the ‘Specialists’ models didn’t need any work doing to them, I quite liked the bandaged sniper rifle and the makeshift flamer (although the missile launcher thing and heavy machine gun absolutely had to go), and the ‘Feral Blades minis’ were pretty much good to go out of the box.
The launcher and heavy machine gun were snipped apart and the bits box was raided for something suitably shoddy. I wanted them to be simultaneously deadly but unappealing to players. Poor quality heavy weapons that when used correctly and/or in appropriate numbers can really wreak havoc, but are so unwieldy, unreliable or dangerous to operate that they would never bother looting them from the Undertow corpses.
The flintlock pistol of Quovandius from the 54mm Inquisitor range had this weird archaic strapped-together look that suited me just fine, so the launcher was hacked down to its supports, sanded down and the gun glued on.
The heavy machine gun was a lot of fun to build. I had nothing in my bits box that looked even remotely like what I envisioned in my head – something akin to the Crank Cannon from DH1ed’s Inquisitor’s Handbook. Something loud, rattly, shooty and, with any luck, killy. After hacking apart the poor gunner’s body to free him from his weird heavy weapon, the cannon was assembled from a heavily cut down Ork Shoota and the barrel of an Empire repeater handgun.
The rest were coming together rather nicely. The combination of raggedy bodies and scrappy wood bases were giving the rain-slicked, grimdark feel I was hoping to achieve already.
Once the models had been hacked apart, attaching the shotguns was surprisingly simple. I was immediately reminded why I prefer working in resin than white metal, as the shotguns were so pliable to my commands and made the minute adjustments required to make them fit into the empty hands oh-so much simpler.
The shotguns had a mix of straps and bayonets, so it took a bit of jiggling to work out which combinations of weapons fit best into which hands. Many of the minis were carrying machine pistol-type things, so their hands were very close together. I *think* I just about got away with it on examples like the one above, but in some cases I had to admit defeat and change up the formula.
I wanted a mix of weapons rather than just shotguns. Dark Heresy has a very versatile combat system, and not only did I want a range of weapon options to throw at the players, but incrementally bigger and badder weapons to upscale the difficulty as the campaign goes on.
The humble firebomb – cheap, lightweight, zero skill requirements to use and utterly devastating with the correct application. One firebomb can scatter a formation of battle hardened Acolytes, force them into cover or break their aim. Half a dozen firebombs tossed at Acolytes in quick succession can VERY quickly see people passing out, limbs cooking to a crisp and Fate Points being burned. It ignores armour, prevents you from doing anything while you’re on fire and regardless of any other effects, makes you slowly pass out from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, so you’re more likely to pass out first and then burn to death.Totally, utterly hilarious.
When it’s time to up the ante again, that’s when this launcher fellow will come into play. Very much like his firebomb-hurling brethren, he’s got a lovely big bag o’ bombs that he can lob up and over things from a very safe distance away, hopefully causing consternation among our Acolytes who might be getting a little cocky towards the end of the campaign.
With a trim of their bases and some choice head decisions, the gang was ready! I wasn’t a fan of their overly-hunched poses, so many of their heads were pinned back a little big, so their necks needed some filling with green stuff.
With them finished and basecoated, it was time to apply a lick o’ paint. I had challenged myself to use the JGIDD method of painting (Just Get It Done, Dickhead) for these guys, as although I love pouring dozens of hours into my models, I had 13 mooks to paint and finish before either of the other two factions turned up, another two dozen models potentially! I needed something lean, mean and green.
I already had the colour scheme in my head, they wore heavy green overcoats and muted tanned undergarments, so the hardest part (deciding on colours!) was over. I wanted them to look unified, as I’m a sucker for gang colours on fleek, but also subtly different from one another. Kinda like they all shop at the same dumpster, but add their own fashionable flair to their mook attire.
All the base colours were painted on – a dark green for the overcloaks, a tan leather for sleeves and face protectors, a pink flesh tone for any exposed hands, dark grey for the trousers/leg garments, a dark brown for the boots and a lighter grey for straps, bags and miscellaneous pouches. The guns were painted a dark rusted metal then stippled with a lighter metallic colour. The entire mini was then given a heavy brown wash and left to dry.
The overcoat was then drybrushed a mossy green with a final dainty drybrush around the hems and edges with a pale green. Every other colour was then simply highlighted again with the same colour used for the base.
Everything was done as quickly as possible to have them in a ‘ready’ state that I could come back to if I felt like it in the distant future. After the last debacle with getting models ready for game day, there’s nothing worse than spending the time to prep them, only to have it half finished for their big moment.
The bases were drybrushed a series of lighter browns and the shoes tidied up afterwards where I had got a bit overzealous with my brush. The bases were looking a little plain, so I got some of Games Workshop’s rather excellent blood effect paint and splashed it liberally about hither and thither with a combination of paintbrush and cocktail stick. Anyone with bayonets or blades got a little dab as well to help make the weapons pop a bit more.
The final part was to do something with the bases to make them look more like they were standing on the side of a dock rather than just on some scaffolding. Water is going to be a big theme for this campaign, so I needed my baddies to be suitably moist.
I picked up some Woodlands Scenics Water Effects to have an experiment. I am loathe to use resin, and I had tinkered a bit with PVA effects in the past, but I had read good things about this particular product. I wanted a semi-submerged look, and this one would apparently fit the bill.
Gosh, I was not prepared for how thick it would be. It was like spooning hair gel onto the bases, not the smooth flow that you get from PVA glue. Applying this substance to my models was a nightmare, as it went everywhere I didn’t want it to go, and it didn’t settle anywhere like water should, but rather stuck to all the raised areas I couldn’t get a pokey stick into.
After much swearing and sticky fingers (phrasing?) and leaving the first thin coat to dry, I was pleasantly surprised with how it came out. Surely fine to spoon another one on, right?
I don’t know if it was an inappropriate use of the product (I found a more pourable version after I had already bought and committed to this one…) or I wasn’t applying the layers thinly enough, but I’m a little annoyed that it didn’t dry as clear as I had expected. It’s not the end of the world, just a learning experience for next time.
All in all I’m very pleased with how they turned out! It’s very rare I get an entire project done in two sittings, and the painting (which normally takes me the longest) was done and dusted in about two evenings. Lessons learned, fun had, and models ready to kick some Acolyte ass!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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!
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,
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…
**Cheeky 2020 edit**
TJ Razor made his debut in the Gorgon Crystals campaign here: