You have to go back more than a quarter of a century to find my first visit to a Games Workshop. It wasn’t to buy anything for Warhammer, but a box of plastic Daleks and Cybermen. I still have memories of a dark and dingy place; something of a cave of wonders, filled with dozens of different games and hundreds upon hundreds of miniatures. Have you seen that Bugs Bunny film where Daffy Duck finds Ali Baba’s treasure cave? Well, it felt a bit like that. I think there was even a Nazgul on Winged Beast behind the till. Not actually serving behind the till, of course. That task fell to two men of indeterminate age who were fighting a losing battle against the till roll. Funny the things that stay with you. If the pair are still with the company, they’re probably quite senior by now.
Needless to say, the Daleks and Cybermen were only the first of many purchases. My first real Warhammer miniatures consisted of a pack of five Beastmen and a Keeper of Secrets (the one from the Combat Card) which I managed to stick together using Humbrol polystyrene cement. Goodness knows how. I’d bought them to use in Heroquest but, of course, it never stops there. By the time 4th edition Warhammer rolled around, I had a combined force of Skaven, Chaos & Undead, but the thing I’d always wanted was a Wood Elf army. I’m not sure why. Legolas was always my favourite member of the Fellowship, so perhaps it was that. With one thing and another, it was years until I finally bought that Wood Elf army (which had the distinction of being the first army I actually painted). I still have it now, battered and bruised after years of gaming and playtesting.
Why mention this? Well, several times during the closing passages of Warhammer: Khaine, I thought back to those long-vanished versions of myself. If I could have told them what I was working on, what would they have thought? Probably they wouldn’t have listened, truth be told – they never were much for listening to other people (I think that’s the main reason time travellers don’t visit younger versions of themselves. It’s not the Blinovitch Limitation Effect; they’d just spend the whole time trying, and failing, to shake some sense into their younger incarnations). Nevertheless, once the concept of ‘you’ll spend ten years writing for Games Workshop’ had set in, I think they’d be proud – but who knows?
A copy of Khaine is at last in my hands (thanks to the good fellows at Acme Games). This book marks a significant watershed in my time writing for GW. Just as Siege of Gondor was the first book I saw through from beginning to end, Warhammer: Khaine is the last. That’s not to say it’s the last one I wrote (there’s one to go yet), but it is the final book upon which I worked closely with the artists, designers, rules writers and so on.
I think the first thing that strikes me is just how gorgeous Khaine is. Nagash looked good, but this one, I think, looks even better. It stands as a testament to the effort put in by a small group of people – if you’re reading this, you know who you are, and I hope you’re proud. The art, the design, the photography, the miniatures painted for this book – they’re all awesome.
The words? Well, it’s not for me to judge. I do know that this was my favourite book to work on during my time at Games Workshop. And no, not because of the body count – as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like killing characters off, and this applies doubly to characters that I didn’t create to begin with. It’s a sentiment that goes all the way back to when I read the Star Wars expanded universe novel Darksaber, in which General Crix Madine (briefly seen in Return of the Jedi) was killed off in a manner distinctly reminiscent of a Star Trek redshirt. Dreadful though Darksaber was, it did teach me that a character’s death should always have meaning, even if that’s not what it meant to do. While it was fun to torment one of my colleagues with the prospect of Sea Lord Aislinn’s death in the elf army books (hi Adam), General Madine’s fate ensured I was never going to kill him off for trivial reasons…
No, I think Khaine was my favourite to write because it brings together so much from the histories of the three elven races – not least, a fantastic, sprawling cast of characters, hip-deep in their own agendas. There’s a challenge to that, and also a sense of satisfaction when all the pieces come together, as they did here. The scale also plays a part as well, I think. To date, the End Times have concerned themselves with the fate of realms, but Khaine determines the fate of a continent! It’s been a very long time since anything so tumultuous has come to Warhammer, and I’m both proud (and a wee bit terrified, even now) that I was able to shape those events.
As to the question – which comes up occasionally – did the writer put himself in the book? The answer’s a definite ‘sort of’. While I’ve no deliberate avatar in the story of Khaine, there is one character whose path and philosophy showed definite signs of converging with mine. As to which one, that’s a story for another time. It’s not Malekith, I’ll say that much. While I empathise with the chap, he’s still a hard man to like.
Who amongst Khaine’s cast were my favourites? Well, all of them, really. I’ve spent so much time writing in one elf kingdom or another that it’d be hard to give any other answer. If I had to choose, I’d lean more towards the supporting characters, rather than the big guns (because I always do). Kouran and Korhil are definitely on that list, as is Shadowblade. Morathi’s schemes are always a blast to write, and it was great to bring Eldyra’s story to its conclusion (or should that be ‘its beginning’?) And, of course, that nameless Beast of Nurgle.
It’s impossible not to love a Beast of Nurgle.