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.
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!"