Monday, 11 April 2011

The Cobalt Cobras of Hogintu

The new miniatures in the Warhammer Tomb Kings range haven't been universally well received. Again, technically superb models have arguably less than superb concepts.

There's a flavour here at Subject to Stupidity of the case against, and also in potentially offensive language here at FightingFantasist. At Musings of a Smurf, here, there's an argument against even the detail on the latest GW minis, or maybe against the major games in their current form. CounterFett is doing his best here to find uses for the new parts in 40K, and Dark Future Games here has Thousand Sons space marines in mind.

I want to help too, and I have something in mind for the necropolis knight build, i.e. the cobra-like snakes with skeleton riders. By doing as little as removing the rider, there's something to work with. Filing off or filling in detail would also make them less obviously ancient Earth culture and more fantastical or alien. The heads are not very snake-like, but that could be fixed with greenstuff, and a compromise would be keeping the basic head structure and going wide and flat over it. They are pretty good giant serpents all in.

But I'll assume you don't want to make too many changes. Here's a possible use almost as is, riffing off the silliness and references, with one or two more thrown in; no prizes for guessing. I've statted them for Humanspace Empires by The Drune at ix with ideas from this post and inspiration from Mutant Future. The idea isn't aimed specifically at the Humanspace setting, but should suit generic pulp sci-fi or fantasy.

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The Cobalt Cobras of Hogintu

The planet of Hogintu was settled during the second great wave of expansion, one of the few so-called desert worlds with a surface akin to the arid expanses of Old Earth.

The early colonies were beset by difficulties, but the cobalt in the dunes grew in value enough to help in brushing these aside. The rapid development brought conflict, and in turn still harsher codices, now backed by outside interests. Frustrations festered, a desperate pride blossomed, and the world grew into a centre of humanity, albeit with pretensions all too easily drawn from the riches of Old Earth culture. Flaming pyromids were built, kitsch sphinctoids were set sprawling on the sands and giant nekrobras bearing the visages of the great and good were released into windblown reservations.

When demand for cobalt vanished as quickly as it had come, on Hogintu the knives finally flashed and the true suffering began. Sunderings, ejections, destruction of the vistas that once drew the highest-paying tourists from all through its region of space. When the giant sulphur bombs were finally fired, the sense of their destructive power and the value of life had already been lost. The winds scraped away the passivating oxides of the surface, the sulphur released the cobalt and all the world turned blue. Few and little could survive. But out in the wastes the nekrobras went deep, and found other means of staying alive, fathomless reservoirs, gas pockets and sumps and who knows what else.

Now Hogintu lies desolate. Trade routes pass the system by and the monitor worlds shrink. Inhabitants hang on in the ruins, perhaps even outnumbered by the brave or idiotic fortune hunters drawn to the riches lying beneath the blue dunes.

The giant serpents with the faces of men hunt.

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No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Move: 240' (80' / 120')
Armour Class: 3
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1D12 + poison
Morale: 10

The nekrobra, known offworld as the cobalt cobra, is a timid creature when not hunting. It is most often encountered in the deep desert, but when its mysterious primary food source fails it may enter ruins and can burrow to find deep paths into closed complexes.

If disturbed, it will raise its forward third off the ground and flare its hood as a warning. Should it be approached, it will eject venom from its fangs up to 100' a maximum of 1D3 times, forcing a save vs. poison if a shot finds its mark to avoid blindness and sickness lasting 1D6+4 days; a roll of 6 indicates a 50% chance of permanent loss of sight.

The first move into a new combat will always be a strike, reflected by the higher of the two encounter movements, and this requires a save vs. death be made to avoid crushing damage of 1D6. A successful attack also injects venom, and a failure to save means the loss of 1 HP per bite inflicted every 1D3 turns, rolling once, until the venom is removed.

The skin and teeth of the creature are of great value offworld, but on Hogintu powerful symbols of survival and renewal; to kill a nekrobra is seen there as near blasphemous.

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For far better ideas and much more on Humanspace Empires itself, check out ix. For more on Ancient Egypt as a source of inspiration, take a look at Sara McCabe's blog.


CounterFett said...

I think the problem is almost not with the models, but with the mindset. They are beautiful sculpts, but they are pricey, and for an army that seems to not have much of a following.

Plus, even in the case of conversions, that's a lot of detail to scrape if you want it to fit in your force

I think I might buy a box of Sepulchral Stalkers to make some one (well, three) of a kind wraiths, and call it a day.

netherwerks said...

Beautiful miniatures. Way expensive, though. Your statting them up for Humanspace Empires is interesting. Hope GW doesn't get testy about it. They do have a history...

Porky said...

@ CounterFett - Pricey is right. I'm not convinced by them as a whole, and not even in Warhammer, but the models will certainly be useful. The modelling might not be quick, but for skirmish and roleplaying games, a trio is more than enough, and if you leave the ancient Earth link and faces in, as here, there's no conversion at all.

@ NetherWerks - There's nothing here that belongs to GW. Not cobras, not snakes with faces, not even Ancient Egypt, and the whole a different beast entire. This kind of thing just brings more eyes to the miniatures and may even encourage sales to a wider audience. Look at your reaction - I ought to ask for commission..! And if, or more likely when, GW moves to free electronic sourcebooks, sales of their miniatures will be even more important than they are now. That could be partly why prices are rising so fast.

Chris Kutalik said...

I am going to steal some of these suckers for my next Humanspace romp. Thanks for posting.

Justin S. Davis said...

I've never played Warhammer in my life, but the original Tomb Kings made me want to start playing so very, very badly (I couldn't decide on them or the Lizardmen, and just gave up). So I realize I'm in no way the target demographic, but I think the snake-things and sphinx are pretty groovy.

And did someone say cobalt cobras...?

Porky said...

@ ckutalik - Cool! They worry me. My advice to the explorers is just to find another way round..!

@ Justin S. Davis - The use of 'cobalt' is the amazing thing. I wanted a more alien desert colour, but went with cobalt only for the wordplay, and that could be the key. 'Cobra' works with 'cobalt', whatever the later justifications we give, whether reaction with sulphur or radiation.

It worries me though that there might be limits on the possible, especially through language, or expectation, and maybe so little to go around in the grand scheme; that even when we create new, it could just be old. It's a challenge set to do better, think weirder.

As for that back catalogue, there can't be many strange beasties you haven't covered. How you keep coming up with new I don't know, and some of the most recent are tip-top concepts. And now there are two of you..!

The Tomb Kings branch of the old undead was one of my two or three favourite factions too. The John Blanche artwork from the first army book got me especially excited, and I'm glad to see those influences are still there, not least on the new cover.

Justin S. Davis said...

I certainly hope you don't think I was busting your, er, chops. I was just commenting on the wordplay, as cobalt is such an evocative word...especially for SPACE SNAKES.

Besides, what else could you use? Cerulean Serpent is far more apt for a Golden Age supervillain, and sapphidian sounds saucy.

Hurm. Oh, my...I may just have to use that.

Rex Radium Vs. the Savage, Seductive Sapphidians of Sin-Sector 7 DEMANDS to be written.

Porky said...

Far better chops than loin..! This week too the same Lear poem was used in two different places, once at ix and once here. That was even more impressive a coincidence. I'm starting to doubt myself. Either of those two adjectives would do just fine, better than fine in the sense that more seeking out the lesser spotted will be needed if we want to avoid turning out material of such a similar hue.