Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Pilgrym

I am shamefully late in blogging about my involvement in the Iron Sleet Pilgrym hobby project. For those of you who follow the INQ28/Blanchitsu trend in the blogosphere, this endeavour will need no introduction so you can skip the next paragraph.

Pilgrym was a 40K miniatures collaboration initiated by the esteemed Iron Sleet blog crew. They invited various friends to participate in an ambitious, audacious and down-right foolhardy adventure. It was an effort to build a narrative that spanned the breadth of the hobby - not just miniatures and terrain, but also worldbuilding, fiction, illustration and even iconography. The project explored the rotting underbelly of Holy Terra itself - a setting rarely talked about and only seen in its idealised form in Imperial propaganda. In this Sisyphean task we had a guiding light - John Blanche himself lead us into the verdigris-stained gloom with bespoke illustrations and, of course, a range of miniatures. Us intrepid explorers followed and in our wake we have left hundreds of miniatures and a gaming board the likes of which has rarely been seen before.

In this post I'm going to talk about my contribution. I also implore you to check out the Iron Sleet blog to see the everyone else's work.

 The Pilgrym crew in Warhammer World on the day of the main event.

In the early stages we discussed our ambitions and the factions which we might render in miniature form. Our Danish friends JRN and First Point of Aries were keen to explore what became known as the 'Bio-Pilgrymme' - a facet of the Magos Biologis with a dubious interest in the flora of Terra. I loved this idea and after a bit of a false start collaborated with a slightly less high-brow cast. I was keen to delve into the antipathy of what Terra stands for - the lowest of the low, the servile class of the dispossessed and oppressed who occupy the very bottom of the Terran artifice (both literally and metaphorically). I did this with two small groups - some toothless Agri Workers who tend the arboretum and Grubs, a set of humans broken and degraded by the machinery of the Imperium to the point of frightful cannibalism.

The Agri Workers are examples of the teeming hoards of illiterate, myopic humans who facilitate the rather more glamorous side of the Imperium we usually see. They have little concept of their own place in the universe, simply tilling the putrid earth of the arboretum and caring nothing for anything outside of their greenhouses. They have a rudimentary sense of the Ecclesiarchy and have conflated this with a certain sort of antediluvian folk-worship of the Green Man. For them the Emperor is the giver-of-life, the world spirit that keeps the greenery alive and must be appeased with rituals both benign and brutal. Alas, they have been infected by some kind of spore which has nestled in their lymph nodes to propagate. The fungus is steadily turning these poor souls mad. The Agri Workers are in the process of becoming blood-flecked frothing puppets to some evil design which not even the Magos Biologis fully understand.

 
Little is known about the Grubs, other than they were once human. Devoid of sight they are a terrifying pack of sniffing, loping carnivores which haunt the dank cloisters in the Terran underbelly. They are the bane of municipal servitors and have been known to use surprise and sheer numbers to overpower workers. Occasionally the nuisance they cause becomes so great a purge is warranted, and they are hunted by Enforcers. A canny Arbites will find the Grubs' burrow and exterminate a whole nest as they beasts huddle together to sleep. No one has had the stomach to pick through the charred rats-nest of limbs, teeth and hair to find out why these creatures continue to multiply.

I have to confess I wasn't that pleased with the Agri Workers. I was striving to channel a diverse set of references including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, The Wicker Man, mumming plays, hobby horses and foliate heads. While the plan to use a lot of older components from the Empire and Bretonnian ranges was sound, I don't think these fellows really capture the religious or archaeotechnical nature of the 41st millennium. The only one who came close was the piper, who carries a rusting amplifier on his back and is only just able to wedge the mouthpiece of his instrument through the jaws of his jaunty skull mask.

I was much happier with the Grubs. They were simple conversions of Ghouls and very quick to make. I think their crowning feature is their heads, which are the Ghoul ones shaved down and filled-in and made more bulbous with Green Stuff. Clearly Silent Hill, Goya, Hans Bellmer and Gollum are influences here.


I also produced a deck of narrative cards for the game. The development for these was quite drawn-out as I went back to them off and on over the period of some months. I incorporated several elements out of a dense idea-soup: neural networks (relating to the fungal infection of the brain, which also look like roots), obscure gothic sigils and three 'suit' icons based on some objective markers JRN had built. Alas I didn't spend as much time on the associated rules mechanics, and fellow Pilgrym PDH and I agreed in a cheerful discussion that the, frankly half-baked, system I came up with didn't really work out. Nonetheless the cards did foster some experiences and interactions for the players in the real world which I was pleased about. All too often games designers focus on rules mechanics and the strategy and balance associated with them, and not enough on the experience the game encourages amongst the players. My fellow Pilgrym members each took home their card and so I know the deck lives on as a memento of sorts.

I cannot begin to articulate the talent that was brought to bear on Pylgrim. You just have to see the results to believe them.

It's old news now but Warhammer World have kindly organised for the terrain and miniatures collections to be displayed in their halls from December 3rd – February 26th. Click here for all the details.

"The Greene Man Cometh!"
xPx

13 comments:

  1. Good to see the grubs. I think they are highly effective and evocative creations. The colours are lovely.

    I enjoyed the write up. Next time we'll work on "rules" or perhaps outcomes for the cards well in advance. They are stunning and mine is sitting inspiringly on my painting table.

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  2. Two excellent groups of warrior. The grubs are particularly great. I like how they were one of the few groups in the pilgrym game that did not have an overt goal pertaining to the Pilgrym. Their inclusion really helped make the setting, on the Steps believable. The cards you made were awesome, the designs really conveying fungal growth and neural dendrites.

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  3. Those Grubs are sublimely evocative! The colour palette and the design a just 'krasivaya'! ^^

    They put in mind the episode of The Green Death in the Doctor Who serial (with the giant maggots). :3

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  4. Thanks all and I totally agree Peter!
    @ Gretchin - yes, I am sure classic Who episodes are floating around in my unconscious to the extent they worm themselves into various projects.

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  5. I love the figures. Is, perhaps, the problem with the agri-workers a lack of technological and bionic pieces to place them firmly in the 41st millenium rather than a generic fantasy setting?

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  6. @R1 - yes, I think that's part of the problem. Also a bit of a lack of vision on my part. I'm just not sure they're bonkers enough! They should have shrines for heads and have made their fungal-infected-boils the centres of minute shrines dedicated to the Greene Man. Ah, next time...

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  7. Tammy, both groups are simply excellent. Simple yet effective conversions. I can follow the point about 40K-technology but I for one love the Agri Workers. They capture the folk lore references brilliantly. And they were wonderfully played during the game. The burning firebreather for instance.

    The cards were magnificent and I think they gave the first half of the game (until Lazaros the Kinderfetcher got that itching trigging finger!) some fun suspense and uncertainty. I mean, one of the cards probably saved Sverre in his battle against Lord Castor (who slipped down the steps, the sad git) during the end of the game. Helped by the cards!

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    1. Oh, I completely forgot: Green Man Cometh!

      :)

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  8. I think both miniature groups are great, as they explore what might be going on in the great depths of the Terran Hive.

    Those cards are very creepy, which is great for inducing a sense of impending doom... certainly the fate of most of the characters in the game!

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  9. I knew I spotted a familiar face in the Iron Sleet photos.

    Beautiful design on those cards; can you delve more into the system that went with them?

    I think the agri-workers work quite well as fantasy base figures, but I agree that they 're lacking the cybernetic element that differentiates the 40k flavor from the fantasy one. If it's any consolation, they're perfect for the Old World. It might also be as simple as adding some iconography to show what agro-combine they're indentured to, along with a minder/herder to order them around.

    The rotting skin tones tie the Agri-workers and Grubs together quite well; initially I thought they were from the same sump, and the former simply drove the latter around like a hunting pack.

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  10. I knew I spotted a familiar face in the Iron Sleet photos.

    Beautiful design on those cards; can you delve more into the system that went with them?

    I think the agri-workers work quite well as fantasy base figures, but I agree that they 're lacking the cybernetic element that differentiates the 40k flavor from the fantasy one. If it's any consolation, they're perfect for the Old World. It might also be as simple as adding some iconography to show what agro-combine they're indentured to, along with a minder/herder to order them around.

    The rotting skin tones tie the Agri-workers and Grubs together quite well; initially I thought they were from the same sump, and the former simply drove the latter around like a hunting pack.

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  11. Thanks all.

    @ #2501 - the cards' use was rudimentary. They had four regions of options, and the number of matches you got prompted other events and so forth. Alas the quantities were off so there were few results. But as FPOA points out, they did have one or two effects!

    @ FPOA - thanks! I had forgotten about the fate of the pyromaniac. He held the fuel for his brand in the skull, and would try to firebreathe opponents. It all went wrong and he dropped his reservoir and a conflagration resulted!

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