A Knight, a Tech-Priest and a Map walk Into a Blog…

Today’s post is just a small update to show where some of my many work-in-progress projects are just now. Yes, as you might have guessed from the title (was it hard, uh? No? Oh, well…) I am talking of the Imperial Knight, of the Cairn Wraith conversion and of the map of Tyran Primus.

The Knight

Not very much to show here, as I have mostly tried (invain) to figure out ways to add more antennae, sensors and cablings. The only new component I have managed to fit, however, is the Land Speeder antenna.

The Knight with the Land Speeder Antenna

I think it fits nicely, and adds a welcome asimmetry making to the model, it visually heavier on the sword side. As for the realism, being shorter than the heavy stubber and rotating together with the torso, it wouldn’t be an hindrance for the Knight’s actions. Also, and this is a most important consideration, in that position it wouldn’t make the model more difficult to transport!

Two other details I added are a scroll-work on the heraldic shield…

Heraldic shield

… and a surveillance servoskull column on its base, recently installed by the Tech-Priests in no-man’s land to spy the enemy movements and alert them if someone gets too near the the defensive perimeter.

Surveillance Servo-skull

The Tech-Priest

I must admit that if I did not progress much with the knight is because of my Tech-Priests. It turned out that I was right when I decided to wait until the release of the new Skitarii kits before working any more on it, for these chests with the Opus Machina on them are pretty much what I wanted to use. (I only wish I had waited more to glue its head in place, as I really like what EdT from Bolter and Chainsword did on his conversion with a Sicarian’s mask, and I would have greatly preferred it to the Sanguinary Guard mask I had used.)

As you can see I have also added some Centurion’s cables to stand as mechadendrites (not glued yet, just dry-fitted), but I have not decided yet what kind of equipment or weapons to attach on them. Maybe I should wait for the release of the rumored Codex Cult Mechanicus to see which kind of options there will be for the eventual Tech-Priests that might be in there? I don’t know, if the wait turns out to be too long probably I will end up equipping and using it as a Horus Heresy Magos Dominus. We will see.

I know, I know, you are probably thinking “Hey, this is a Tech-Priest, he should have more cablings!”. I am, in fact, thinking of adding another cable (taken from the Imperial Knight’s battle cannon), but this time pointing to the rear, as I think that the model would be too unbalanced if that too was oriented to the front.

Another tweak I was considering is to cut its robe from that small rock that supports it and make it “float” on a flying stem light those included in the Eldar Jetbikes’ kit. I have not decided yet, so I am open to suggestions, if you have any.

The map

I finally managed to complete a new map for the Tyran Primus campaign that I plan to run someday. This one took me much more time than I thought, for it was really difficult to find the right balance between the earth-masses and the oceans. Since the second edition’s Codex Tyranids, Tyran Primus has always been described as an ocean world, where the seas cover the 80% of the planet (by comparison, on our Earth they cover 70% of the surface), and I wanted to stick to that, but after reaching the 72% it was really difficult to decide which islands to remove, where to split a continent in two or more and where to erode the coastline. In the end, however, I manage to do it (I think I might have reached the 82%), and I am really happy with the result. Maybe the equatorial deserts look a bit out of focus, but I do not think it is so obvious. Also, I am not a professional map-maker, but just a guy who wants to play a Warhammer 40,000 campaign with his friends, so I do not need to reach perfection (which would take me a really long time, time that I would rather spend on other activities), but just a good impression.

Tyran Primus - final map

And with a grid overlay, as if it was a computerised elaboration based on satellite data:

Tyran Primus with a grid overlay

Final Treat

As a final treat, I will show you two other works in progress, my first unit of Skitarii Rangers…

Skitarii Rangers

Notice that I chose to not give the Alpha a pistol, but to leave him his rifle. The Skitarii pistols’ ranges are too short, and I don’t plan to let my rangers be so near to the enemy that one of them would be useful. This forced me to have two models with the same rifle pose, but as they are cyborg that follow combat routines implanted in their brains, I think it would be normal for them to assume similar positions.

… and my second Castellax. I am still waiting for a replacement component to be sent me by Forge World, before assembling its other arm.

Castellax with multi-melta

Maps for Warhammer 40,000 Campaigns

Whenever I start planning a campaign, one the first steps, after deciding the general setting, is always setting a map of the place where the war will be fought. You can run wonderful campaigns without a map, but for me it is an essential source of inspiration: if I can “see” the battlefield, it is easier to come up with objectives, plot twists, special rules, narratives missions and the like. Also, generally players love to stand in front of a map to discuss about strategies, feeling like real generals. Isn’t that feeling one of the reasons why we all like war games, after all?

I like to draw all the maps that I use. There was a time when I used to surf the internet in search for suitable maps (also for RPGs), but I was never fully satisfied. A map drawn by someone else will never have all the elements you would like it to have. Your imagination will be forced to adapt to the map, and even if this can be a fun and rewarding exercise too, it is probably not what you really want. A campaign master wants to (and should) be in control of everything. He should be able to shape battlefield and fate to his slightest whim! Ok, maybe now I am exaggerating, but you got the point.

Another element that should not be underestimated is the style of the maps that you can find. There are a lot of maps out there, both real ones and fantastic ones, of battlefields, planets and star systems, each one drawn in the peculiar style of its artist. Even if you find a map with all the elements you were looking for, you cannot be sure that it will be drawn in a style suitable to your campaign. It would be weird for a general of the XLI millennium to prepare for war studying an XI century-style map, wouldn’t it? This is another reason I finally gave up the idea of drawing my maps with pencil and paper (as I used to do in when I was younger) and decided to embrace the opportunities offered us by the new technologies, even if my skills in the field of digital art are almost zero. I mean, I could download a picture from internet and edit it like that:

Calabi-Yau City

Calabi-Yau city seen from a long range scanner

Or add a hex grid to show where the armies are deployed, but not much more.

I only had to ask myself two questions: “Do I know how to use a computer?” and “Are there any noob-level mapping tutorials on the internet?”. I knew that the answer to the first one was yes, and I had no reason to believe otherwise on the second question. All I had to do was to surf the internet to find what I was looking for. And I was lucky, for I almost immediately stumbled in the tutorials section of the forum of Cartographers’ Guild website. If you want to draw a map, I strongly recommend you to go there, as it is a gold mine. There you can find tutorials about almost everything, from the most theoretical questions about the subtle art of world-building, to precise instructions on how to draw maps in different stiles with different software, from Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer to GIMP and Photoshop and even more professional tools.

I spent a lot of time going through most of the posts that were there, searching for a map style that I thought was adequate for Warhammer 40,000 and that didn’t require too much previous knowledge. But the result was worth both that time and the many hours spent effectively drawing, don’t you think?


My first map of a whole planet

This is the tutorial I followed, in case you were wondering. I want to stress again that I did not have any skill in digital art, and even tough I managed to do something like that. My intention is to use this map for a campaign set in the future, after the events of the Eye of Terror campaign run by GW in 2003, and to recreate an assault from the forces of Chaos on the Shrine World of Gathalamor (the planet where Bucharis started the Plague of Unbelief, Dolan Chirosius became a martyr and the Amalathian Cumclave was held), before the final confrontation on Terra. But this, as they say, is a story for another time. Here we are talking about maps.

One of the most amazing things I discovered among those tutorials is that turning a map like the one I drew into a proper planet was even easier than drawing the map in itself. If it took me days to complete the previous map, I only needed a few hours to transform it into this one:

Gathalamor planet

Not only something like that is amazing to see and will surely increase your players’ commitment to the campaign, but it also means that, if you want, you can easily create even maps of whole star systems. I still have not tried to do something like that, but I do have made some other experiment in the creation of planets. A good thing to consider when creating the map of a star system, is that the planets’ surfaces do not need to be as detailed as if you were drawing a world map, for it would not contribute to the final look in a significative way, and this will save you many hours of work. Look at the planet below. I only needed a couple of hours to complete it, and when shrinked to fit in the map of a star system, the result would be egregious.

Earth-style planet

The next planet, a deserted red orb, probably took me less than an hour. I did not draw the craters, nor I did surf the internet to find a suitable texture. I only took a detail from a picture of a lasagna and applied a colored filter over it. Et voilá! I could have done it in any other color, or used a picture from the Visible Earth NASA website as the base image, or added it a ring in the style of Saturn (yes, there are tutorials for this, too). The only limit is your imagination!

Martian-style planet

Now, as maybe you already know, I plan to run a campaign to recreate the first contact between the Imperium and the Tyranid race on Tyran Primus (and I am still more determined to do so, having seen the new Skitarii models!), so I started to draw a map:

Tyran Primus

The first draft of the map for Tyran Primus

As I have acquired some degree of experience, this map only took me seven hours to complete, despite being more detailed than Gathalamor (I finally understood how to properly use the gradient overlay!). Not bad for a first draft, I think. I am still unsure, however, if I will really use this map or if I will draw another one, as I am not fully satisfied. There are so many details that I could have done better.

The width of the world, for one. Sure, Tyran Primus is an Ocean World, so we can assume here we are only focusing on the main landmasses and overlooking the rest of the planet, but I feel that such an explanation is not enough. This looks like the map of a section of a planet, not of a whole world. I should add more water and more isles, and the isles that are already there should have been distanced more. Maybe even the main continent should be smaller. And maybe I should add a touch of ice on the poles. Ok, stop complaining. I will draw another map as soon as I will be able to find a bit of time to spare, I promise!

In the meantime I would be delighted to hear what do you think about these maps and how they could be improved. Please, feel free to share your maps too, if you have any, and your advice too!

Forging a Campaign: Experience

In the previous posts of the “Forging a Campaign” series, I proposed some home rules to integrate Heroes and the Serious Injuries that they can suffer in battle. Today, as promised in these occasions, I will try to give some guidelines about how Heroes can gain Experience from the battles they have fought in and how they can become stronger.

After each battle, determine the experience gained by each Hero using the following rules: Continue reading

Forging a Campaign: Serious Injuries

In the first post of this series I suggested some guidelines to incorporate heroes in a campaign, to define what (and who) they are, and to let them be the main characters of the story you are creating with your campaign. As I said in that same post, however, a Hero, to be worthy of the name, must struggle and overcome adversities becoming stronger. Today I shall talk about a specific kind of struggles: Serious Injuries, wounds so deep that they carry on from a battle to another. You can find some good rules for them on old Games Workshop Specialist Games like Necromunda, Mordheim or Gorkamorka. Those books where my main source of inspiration for these rules, but I had to alter them a lot to design something compatible with the main rules of the seventh edition of Warhammer 40,000.

Even if their actions will be preserved for the future generations and their deeds can shape the destiny of a galaxy, Heroes are not invulnerable. They bleed like every one of us, possibly even more, for they are able to withstand injuries that would kill a lesser being in an instant. When a Hero is removed from play as a casualty, either as a result of a special effect or because it lost its last Wound, you have to determine the real consequences of the tragic event.

Continue reading

Forging a Campaign: Heroes

What is a Warhammer 40,000 campaign? If you want a proper definition, a campaign is a linked series of games to achieve a final victory which is more important than victory in the single battles (you know, if you lose some battles it doesn’t mean that you are going to lose the war). If you want to hear my opinion, instead, a campaign is the most exciting and fun way of playing that could ever be devised.

We cannot make further generalizations, however, for beyond this family resemblance (so the philosopher Wittgenstein would have called it) there is an endless ocean of possible declinations. There are at least as many campaign types as there are people running a campaign, and surely even more, for most of us find it impossible to stuff all their ideas and themes in a single campaign. So, my posts on the subject will not try to give a proper, rational and schematic set of rules or suggestions, but rather offer an open toolbox from which to freely choose any element you like to modify and integrate it in your campaign.

Almost every campaign, be it node- or map-based, decision tree-like or narrative, has some degree of underlying story in it. I usually like campaigns where the players have a certain degree of freedom and can shape the events to come with their choices and actions, actually creating a narrative during the games and between them. No war story, however, is complete without a list of heroes, warriors who distinguished themselves for their actions, or from whom great deeds were expected. And no hero is truly an hero if he ends the story without struggling, growing and changing to achieve his objectives. In the last campaign I run, we used some set of rules to represent these basic archetypes. As their combined length would be way too much for a single post, I will split them in three. Today I’ll begin with the basic rules for heroes, while in the following posts of this series I will expand upon them with the rules for gaining experience and for serious injuries.
Continue reading