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Thursday, March 03, 2016

Age of Sigmar Mythbusting - Fluff Edition

These days there is a lot of silliness with regards to the new Age of Sigmar. Those upset at the changes seem to jump onto half-truths and assumptions spread on the online forums. I have collected a small number of these myths in an attempt to help balance the record. In a following post I will attempt to cover some of the main misconceptions about the rules.

The below points are in no way official. You may well find passages that contradict any of what I've written. There has always been contradiction in the Warhammer fluff for many reasons. Which is appropriate, because we are talking about a mythology here. Mythologies differ in interpretation depending on who you ask. The above is what you would get if you were to ask me.

If you are interested in learning more, the Black Library offers a free Age of Sigmar Primer ebook.






Stormcast Eternals


They can just die and come back without repercussions! 

Perhaps they thought that to start with, as the first casualties in the Realm Gate Wars were felt. However, it became apparent that those who have been reforged lose a little piece of themselves each time. We find out later that this is Nagash taking his dues from the Realm of Death. They are haunted by the death they have experienced, still remember the killing blow. Reforging itself is unspeakably painful.  They are not the same people as they were before. Some Stormcast have been reforged three or four times, changing each time. To what, we don't yet know. But what happens after the tenth time? The hundredth? While it seems great for Sigmar to maintain his armies numbers, we haven't seen the end of the repercussions of  Reforging.

They are just hollow suits of armour!

Actually they are flesh and blood, just infused with Celestial magic. They frequently take their helmets off in the stories, and bleed when they are cut.

They are basically just Space Marines!

I'ma let Josh Reynolds take this one:

Well, for starters, Space Marines are chosen as children, tortured by SCIENCE!, and then drafted into an eternity of being monastic murder machines whose sole purpose is to hold up the crumbling foundations of an omnicidal dystopia in the name of a rotting carcass that eats psykers like chiclets. They're emotionally stunted orphans who were brainwashed and weaponized before being unleashed on a galaxy where EVERYTHING is trying to kill them. They never even had a chance to be people before someone turned them into a gun instead. 
Stormcast, on the other hand, are dead heroes, chosen for their valour and faith, resurrected and sent to free the Mortal Realms from the abominations currently running the show, on behalf of a benevolent god-king. They're traumatized heroes who had lives, personalities and histories prior to being crammed into primary colored hulkbuster armor and filled full of lightning so that they could go save their descendants from the eldritch horrors of a nightmare dimension. They endure death after death, losing a bit more of their soul each time, in order to prevent anyone else from suffering the fate which befell them. 
One group are so far removed from humanity as to be utterly alien. The other group are so human it causes them pain. One group feels little in the way of emotion, the other group feels emotion as strongly as they did before death. One group hates and fears the alien. The other group allies regularly with space-lizards, skeletors and green monster-men. One group is the personification of the grim future in which they live. The other is a thing born of hope. 
The similarities are cosmetic: big guys in easily paintable armor sell better than little dudes with fiddly bits. But the context for those cosmetic similarities is quite different. Think of it this way...Space Marines are Batman and Stormcast are Captain America. Both are super-heroes, both wear costumes, both punch bad guys, both save people. But they ain't the same, are they?

They can just teleport everywhere!

In small numbers, yes - known as Thunderstrike Brotherhoods. Sigmar uses lightning (with help from Grungni) to shoot the Stormcast to the other Realms. And it's only a one-way trip. To bring great numbers to bear the Stormcast require the use of the Realm Gates. And to get back they need to either use the Realm Gate or die.

Karl Franz is the Celestant Prime!

The Prime was an unnamed King who died during the Allpoints War in the Age of Chaos. Karl Franz died in Altdorf. Now, it may be that they share an ancestry, or something more. See below.

Vlad von Carstein is Ionus Cryptborn

Ionus was Eonid van Denst, a noble who died in the Age of Chaos. They share many similar characteristics - see below.

All the humans died in the End Times!

Not everyone. Entire armies survived, and their descendants remain today. The souls of many who were lost manifested in some form or another in the Mortal Realms, as physical places (think Fiddler's Green from Gaiman's Sandman stories), or as formless spirits. The most powerful have seen life continue, though in a changed form. The Celestant Prime and Ionus Crpytborn were not heroes of the Old World reborn, though perhaps a part of them are. The story of the Old World is a cycle, and we will see vague familiarities as it continues.


Not just a hollow suit! Click for a zoom-in.


Chaos


Slaanesh is dead!

He is missing from his throne, yes. But not dead. He basically absorbed the souls of all the Elves when Ulthuan sank, which would make him very powerful indeed if he had time to recover. He has instead been captured by Tyrion and Malerion, who seek out the souls of the Aelves. Slaanesh will no doubt feature in the coming story arcs.

Slaanesh has been left out so he doesn't traumatise the kids!

Slaanesh's armies are still at large, either trying to replace him, seeking him, or just going around having fun. In one of the recent books there is a particularly nasty warband of the latter kind who's particular penchant is raping everything (s)he comes across. So no. The setting in general is often mistaken as being kid-friendly, but in actual fact some of the Khornate gore scenes and themes are worse than in the old setting.

But the good guys are winning! That's not Warhammer!

The good guys are definitely not winning. They've been beaten so bad for thousands of years that there are barely any non-Chaos-worshipping humans left. Most of them are in Sigmar's Realm, the only place to have escaped the devastation. The Stormcast assaults at the start of the Age of Sigmar are minimal in comparison to the scope of the task ahead. They are tactical incisions, designed to mobilise, encourage uprising. Unite the old pantheon of gods so that a resistance can be formed. Even this has been met with failure in some realms. Most of the Chaos armies still think the coming of the Stormcast is a myth. At the end of the most recent book, Archaon has turned up. The Stormcast are soundly beaten by him. It's not even close.

The Age of Sigmar is not the story of the defeat of Chaos. It merely the beginning of  the fight for the ability to resist, and then to reignite the old war. And so far it's not even going so well.




Fyreslayers


Slayers shouldn't be riding monsters!

The old concept doesn't apply. This is a different society. Those who worship Grimnir now have different priorities.

Grimnir is no longer trapped in the Realm of Chaos. In the new Realms, during the Age of Myth, he fought an epic battle with a massive magma drake, which destroyed both god and beast. The Fyreslayers ride the descendants of the beast that slew him out of respect and kinship. The culture around Grimnir is now an obsession with gathering his essence (ur-gold).

They are the new Chaos Dwarfs!

Well, Fyreslayers have the Order keyword, so they are not that chaotic. Some of the fluff early on intimated that they would fight for anyone. Maybe that's true, but so far they seem to abhor Chaos as much as anyone else. There is the odd cosmetic homage, but overall the Fyreslayers are their own faction. Descendent perhaps from the previous lore, but they are now something new. 




The Mortal Realms


Are they each planets? Countries? 

Each Realm is kind of like it's own plane of existence, manifested from each of the Winds of Magic after the cataclysm of the End Times. Think of them each like the Realm of Chaos, but with different flavours. There are no physical boundaries that we know of, and can only travel between them through the Realm Gates. The different races are spread throughout the realms. So there are Fyreslayers in the Realm of Death, for example, as well as the other Realms.

The Old World is dead!

Well, kinda. It still exists as a celestial orb known as Mallus. No-one lives on it, but Sigmar keeps in in the Realm of Azyr, mining its core for metal to use for his army of super soldiers. Sigmar is tied to Mallus - as it waxes and wanes so does Sigmar's power.

Mallus is reminiscent of Morrslieb. Begging the question - what was Morrslieb before it was the Chaos Moon?

In terms of the lands and people, technically they have ceased to be. But that's not to say that portions of it have not manifested somewhere in the Realms.

If everyone died, how come the races are in the new fluff?

There is a kind of 'currency of souls'. While the physical world was destroyed, the souls of all the inhabitants survived. The more powerful souls manifested as more or less themselves - like Nagash, Tyrion, Teclis. Some manifested in forms more appropriate to their essence - Like Malerion (who was Malekith). In the same way that the winds of Magic manifested physically, so did the souls of the World-That-Was.

Lesser souls manifested as places, or things. However, the background also states that entire armies survived. Protected by magic, or by one of the Old Deities perhaps (like Lileath during the End Times story arcs). Anyone in the Realm of Chaos survived. The Chaos Gods can do a lot of things with the souls of their servants. And, of course, the rest of the souls are in Nagash's domain. He can bring back anyone he wants to. After a fashion.

So - some people survived physically, some were reborn as new races. The current people of the Realms are descendants of both.

Where are the farmers? The commerce? Where is everyone?

There's not many people left outside Azyr. Those remnants of humanity that we have seen so far survive have been reduced to tribal society, forced to scavenge and more often than not, cannibalism to survive. However, there are entire nations and kingdoms we have not seen yet that are isolated enough to still be intact.





Pronunciation


You can choose to see the new spelling as IP protection. And it probably is. But in fluff terms, thousands and thousands of years have passed (aeons, according to some of the books). Language changes, and names for things change. It shouldn't be all that surprising.

You can honestly pronounce things however you want, but the exaggerated snarkiness with which I have heard with of these words prompted the following suggestions:

Aelf: It's still pronounced "elf". Honestly, this spelling  is closer to the origin of  'elf'. Just be thankful it's not iaelf, or aelfe.

Duardin: "dwar-den". Still pretty close. Go with "doo-ar-din" if you like, but if you're doing it to accentuate the difference, you needn't. It's good that they are moving away from 'dwarf' - while it's been a staple of fantasy for the last 100 years, there are inappropriate connotations.

Orruk: "ork". Who says the "u" isn't silent? Orcs can barely talk as it is. They've probably been orruks all along, you just haven't been able to tell.

Ogor: "oh-gurr". Probably a more correct spelling than the English word. You don't hear people referring to ogres as "oh-grees".