Meanwhile, aboard the Arrke…
I’ve stated before that interacting with other hobbyists in general and blogging in particular can offer many exciting hobby opportunities. Today, I would like to show you one particular project that only happened because of the exchange between various bloggers and hobbyists. It’s also one of the most exciting hobby opportunities I have ever had, but all in good time. Now, what is this about?
If you frequent the same, dark corners of the 40k blogosphere as me, you may have heard of the Arrke and the Yggdrasillium Pilgrimage (unnervingly, never to be spelled quite the same way twice 😉 ) — and if you haven’t, let me give you the gist of it: Some time ago, a group of players including, among others, PDH, Neil101, Fulgrim and none other than John Blanche himself, started playing a series of games set on the “Arrke”, a huge, derelict fusion of countless vessels drifting through space. This huge space hulk is home to many demented and strange people and creatures, yet it is also so ancient and so enormous that most of its denizens have forgotten that they are actually living on a spacefaring vessel in the first place: What remains of their original respective cultures and backgrounds has become as warped as their bodies and minds, and the ship itself has become a world unto itself, encompassing both a strange and unforgiving ecosystem as well as a sinister and unique society. The initial idea for this vessel came from John Blanche, and all of the events play out on the breathtaking “Yggdrasilium” table built by Neil101. I’d love to link you to Neil’s blog to give you a chance to learn more about this fantastic adventurescape, but alas, he has decided to delete it. You still can (and definitely should) check out his Dakka thread on the subject, though, along with Fulgrim’s blog and PDH’s thread, describing the gang of chaos misfits he built for the games aboard the Arrke.
Anyway, I learned of these games and the strange world they were set in through the various threads and blogs linked above, and I was fascinated by the whole project: These guys were basically using tweaked Necromunda rules for their games, yet they had come up with something entirely unique on both the narrative and modelling/painting side of things. So I gobbled up all that I could learn about the Arrke and its denizens and kept marveling at the sinister brilliance of it all.
Now, imagine my surprise when PDH contacted my with a very special proposal: He suggested that a couple of hobbyists (PDH himself, Tears of Envy, Migsula, Jakob Rune Nielsen, First Points of Aries, Kari and Mikko from Spiky Rat Pack and me) should each build and paint a character to be used in the next game set aboard the Arrke. We could come up with whatever character we wanted, provided it fit into the setting. And all of the models would be given to John Blanche as a gift after the game.
I think it’s quite obvious by now why an offer like that would have me very ecxited indeed.
Anyway, I was really honoured that PDH would include me in this, and I was quick to accept. The next days were spent pondering what kind of model I wanted to contribute. And I quickly realised that I wanted to do some kind of Adeptus Mechanicus character, or, at least, creature. And, given the background, the character would have to be really creepy and sinister. That was quite a challenge, because members of the Machine Cult can be scary enough on their best days, but I was gunning for something even more disturbing…
So I asked myself: Why would a priest of the Ommissiah board the Arrke in the first place? And what could go wrong if he did? Drawing inspiration from all kinds of sources, ranging from everything ever done by David Lynch to videogames like System Shock 2 and Bioshock and to the decidedly lowbrow, yet horribly visceral horror film Virus, I came up with the concept of a band of Adeptus Mechanicus explorators, boarding the Arrke in search of lost technology and being transformed into something …else.
And thus, Legion was born.
Here’s my initial concept for the character:
The creature known to the denizens of the Arrke as “Legion” is what remains of an enterprising group of Explorator Magi, sent out by the Tech Priests of Mars. The Magi were sure that the ancient vessel would house an unfathomable cache of lost technology and miracles from the Dark Age of Technology. They were right in this, yet the price for such knowledge would turn out to be far greater than they had envisioned.
A team of explorators, accompanied by their Skitarii retinue, came aboard the Arrke and began a quest to uncover the ancient ship’s technological secrets. Initially, the Magi were pleased, for there were many secrets uncovered, and much was learned. They were already considering themselves heroes of their order and imagining their triumphant return to Mars with their many discoveries in tow. Alas, it was not to be.
For the Arrke does not take kindly to strangers, and so the explorators found themselves beset on all sides by the vessel’s strange and demented denizens as well as by environmental hazards and the powers of the Warp. With their Skitarii bodyguard all but wiped out, and some of the Magi themselves succumbing to the hostile environment, the Tech Priests did the only logical thing: They pooled their resources, in order to protect the valuable technological knowledge they had acquired: Whenever one of them was critically wounded, his working remains would be integrated into another Magos’ brain and body, thus protecting the knowledge and strenghtening the survivors. The remaining Magi thus became walking treasure troves of knowledge. But something went wrong.
Maybe it was the taint of the Warp, maybe it was the desperate nature of the Tech Priests’ struggle, but their fusion turned out to be flawed and incomplete. Corruption slowly seeped into their neural engrams, and what would normally have been a standard procedure for the disciples of the Mechanicum slowly turned into a nightmare.
The resulting creature is a horrifying amalgamation of the explorators’ bodies and minds, malformed and insane, its mind fractured into countless shards, its body misshapen and terrifying, yet utterly deadly. Legion now eternally prowls the deepest reaches of the Arrke in its half-remembered quest to find a way back to the red star. But even though a wealth of technological information and scientific marvels still lies protected within the creature’s twisted shell and mind, one shudders to imagine what would happen if the erstwhile explorators would somehow manage to escape their eternal prison and be let loose upon the galaxy…
With this basic idea outlined, I thought about what I wanted Legion to look like. Like I said, tech priests are scary enough in any case, so I tried to come up with an even more strange and corrupted look exploring the fusion of organic and machine parts, with a generous helping of body horror ladeled on top. Here’s a – very early and horribly rough – sketch of Legion:
As you might be able to tell, I wanted to use the plastic Cairn Wraith as the base for this conversion, even at this early stage. Several people have used the model to great effect to convert disturbing AdMech characters, so I thought this was a good base. I would then add all kinds of technical bitz as well as two very creepy “tendrils”, secondary creatures serving as additional parts of Legion. All of the creature’s different components would have sinuous, serpentine bodies, the better to move and wiggle through the Arrke’s dark nooks and crannies.
Obviously, the first step was to get the plastic Cairn Wraith, so of course that was where everything started:
I just used the Cairn Wraith’s cloak, discarding the scythe, inner body, face and base. I used a 40k servo skull as a replacement head, and the remains of a lasher tendril from the Forgefiend kit served as the base of Legion’s serpentine body. In the picture above, you can see the first basic build, attached to a Terminator base with a lump of putty.
I then added more and more technical bitz and doodads to the main body, making it look more and more like something that had originally begun its existence as a tech priest. Here’s the finished main body:
The most obvious addition was that of a GK Psy-gun on the model’s back, both to give it some potential oomph on the table and to create a strange, malproportioned look. I also added a ghoul hand to give the model a clawlike, organic left hand, and a vestigial arm from the Dark Eldar Talos/Cronos kit for a wicked looking scalpel-like right hand. To represent the “neural network” created by several Magi being fused together within Legion’s body, I added an additional servo skull beneath the first one, as well as two more “regular” skulls. I imagine the actual body beneath the cloak to be a horrible cluster of skulls plugged into each other with cables, serving as what is, for all intents and purposes, the 40k version of a Local Area Network.
The next step was to build Legion’s secondary tendrils. Once again, I used leftover lasher tendril pieces for a serpentine lower body. The rest of the tendrils was built from different Zombie and undead parts, more vestigial Talos arms, a couple of cables and some Greenstuff.
Here’s a very early mockup of the first tendril:
While the look was there, I wanted the tendrils to be far more disturbing and horrible. So I tried my best to make the tendrils look even more malformed and disgusting. Here’s the same tendril, some time later:
I wanted Legion to look like its transformation and evolution had not been a well-planned process but had rather happened spontaneously and chaotically. So this tendril looks like the body of a Magos has been crudely grafted onto the serpentine body, with only one arm remaining. Greenstuff was used to create a crude seam between the organic and machine parts.
I wanted the other tendril to look more combative, so I added an additional arm, with two of the creature’s arms tipped in cruel claws and blades:
When it came to actually painting the model, I wanted to achieve a striking contrast between distressed flesh and cold, oily metal. I began with the tendrils, picking out the major areas in different colours:
A combination of different washes (mostly Ogryn Flesh, Leviathan Purple and Baal Red) was used to make the skin look bruised and sickly. The metal parts were heavily washed with GW Nuln Oil to give them a dark, oily look.
Legion’s main body was painted in a similar way, although I decided to paint his cloak a striking red, in order to make him more recognisable as a former member of the Mechanicum. I had originally planned to make the red look bleached out and dirty, but seeing the cloak after painting it with GW Mephiston Red, I realised that this kind of spot colour was just what I wanted:
Some washes were used in the recesses of the cloak, though, to at least make it look suitably dirty and grimy. As you can see, I also added a striking blue to the different bionic eyes to create a point of focus.
And in the picture below, you can see the additional skulls in Legion’s stomach region quite well:
I’ll be honest with you: It took ages until I was finally satisfied with the different parts of the model. But a challenge like this doesn’t happen every day, so I absolutely wanted to give it my best shot.
When all of Legion’s components were finally finished, I still had to build and paint a base and decide how the different parts of the model should be attached to it. In my initial drawing, I had planned for all tendrils to emerge from under the red cloak. But not only did that seem pretty hard to get right, but I also realised that it would potentially be far more creepy to have several tendrils emerge from the same hole in the ground, making it look like the three aspects of Legion were maybe just tendrils of a much larger creature…
One interesting option would have been to have the different parts of Legion on different bases. That would also have allowed for some pretty interesting rules options. In the end though, due to the time allotted for the project, I chose to rather go for one really cool base instead of three okayish ones. But if there had been more time (and if I hadn’t been so damn lazy), I might have put the different tendrils on multiple bases.
When it came to the one base I did want to build, I wanted it to blend into Neil’s fantastic Yggdrasillium board as well as possible, making it look like Legion was emerging from the very surroundings, not so much a character but rather an environmental hazard. I wanted to create some kind of opening or pipe for Legion to emerge from, so I built a basic construction from a Predator turret hatch and plasticard pieces I cut from an old phone card. Then I heavily coated the construction in wood glue to close all the gaps and create a bulgy, warped surface. And I added modelling sand and small pieces of cork on top to create dirt and gravel. Then the whole thing was undercoated black. Here’s a test fit of Legion’s body parts on the undercoated base:
When painting the base, I let myself be inspired by PDH’s fantastic scenic bases, trying to make it as rusty and grimy as I possibly could. I painted the whole construction a dark green, with the dirt and gravel picked out in brown. The whole base was then liberally washed in GW Agrax Earthshade. Then I used thinned down GW Vermin Brown as a wash, creating a rust effect. And finally, The edges were picked out in GW Boltgun metal to show scratches and nicks in the colour, with the metal appearing beneath. Here’s the finished base:
Probably the biggest part of the adventure was actually sending Legion to England. But the postal service didn’t let me down for once, so everything went well. Now, looking back on the model after having spent so long working on it and obsessing over every detail, I am not really sure how to feel about it. I am happy with the model, without a doubt, but will it hold up when stood alongside models from enormously talented artists such as PDH, JRN and the Spiky Rats? Don’t get me wrong, I am really happy with how Legion turned out, but all the small imperfections are also driving me up the wall at the same time 😉
Maybe it’s just the fact that I will actually have to let some very talented people take a firsthand look at this piece — so no hiding behind fuzzy photos this time! And, of course, I hope John Blanche himself will like the model. Oh well, there’s no crying over spilt milk, I guess…
In any case, what really surprises me is how close the finished model is to my inital sketch. I am also amazed by how much I found myself thinking about Legion as a character…or at least, as a creature: I have a very vivid (and actually quite unpleasant) image of Legion in my mind: a creepy and sinister figure, perpetually surrounded by disturbing whispers and bursts of corrupted code language as the remains of the integrated Magi are communicating and argueing, with some of them almost perfectly sane while others are completely mad, full of rage, or just spouting untintellegible gibberish (I don’t know if any of you are into videogames, but if you are, picture the different cores of GlaDOS in Portal, or the different voices of the dark goddess Xel’ lothat in Eternal Darkness, turned up to eleven, and you’re not too far off the mark).
One of the personalities could be ceaselessly reciting the Mechanicus main tenets. Another might still be sane enough to broadcast intelligible Imperial/Mechanicus distress signals (System Shock 2, anyone?). Still another might be constantly reciting all kinds of disturbing Madness Mantras (“We are many. We are one. We are many. We are one…” or “Make whole that which was shattered. Make whole that which was shattered. Make whole…”). Also, PDH came up with this disturbing image of some of the denizens of the Arrke hacking into some random cable or mechanical bit during their exploration of the ship, then hearing bellowed binary screams and see the cable retracting, only to be faced with one of Legion’s “tendril creatures”.
Then there’s also that idea I briefly outlined above: Maybe those three tendrils aren’t really the whole creature, but only points of interface with the outside world, not unlike the lure of an Anglerfish. Maybe they connect back to the lair of the actual creature: a subterranean cavern filled with cogitators and technical equipment, much like a dragon’s hoard. The real Legion resides within this cavern: a vast, entropic and incomprehensible creature…
So, in any case, I think the concept of Legion is really just as disturbing and creepy as I wanted it to be. Whether the actual model lives up to it is not for me to decide, yet of one thing I am sure: Legion makes for a fitting new denizen for the mysterious Arrke…
So, to wind this up, let me give you one more picture of Legion, along with a broken little nursery rhyme that I came up with — written in true Yggdrassilliumme style 😉
Oh, and should you wish to use Legion (or something like Legion) in your games of Necromunda, number cruncher and all around great guy PDH has you covered with some rules he cooked up:
In the bowels of the shippe
Dwells a being most unkynde
Knowledge wyll from metal strippe
Passage to the red starr fynde.
Legion, Legion, he is many.
Legion, Legion, they are one.
Weapons – Laser Blaster, Mechanical Claws
|0-8||8-24||+1||–||3||1||–||3+||Sustained Fire Dice|
Special: – Binary Scream (Fear), Immune to Psychology, Never Pinned
Fractured Psyche: At the beginning of each turn, roll on the following table to determine Legion’s actions
1-2: Flesh is weak. Purge the organic! – 50/50 chance of shooting or charging.
3-4: Obtain knowledge – Will move towards the nearest mechanical object/terrain and then spend the turn examining it.
5-6: To the red starr! – Will move as quickly as possible in a random direction. If Legion comes into contact with a model, it will count as charging but will break off from combat at the end of the turn, continuing to get away.
So yeah, I realise that was quite a post! I understand the game in question has already taken place earlier today, so there’ll be some quite a bit more information soon, I guess. Look forward to learning more about Legion in action, as well as about the fantastic entries from all the other hobbyists involved.
Until then, I’d be happy to hear any feedback you might have on Legion, so drop me a line or two in the comments section!
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!