Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Khorne Trap.

A couple of things cropped up in a very interesting conversation I was having that got me thinking.

"Roleplay is important to playing Oldhammer".

Yep, hard to disagree with that. The rules are mad and inefficient, we play them not because they run more smoothly than other editions but rather to capture the spirit of the time.

 "Khorne should be all about the close combat then!".

Oh dear. This is also hard to disagree with, though I find it depressing.

Why? I have collected every army for both WHFB (3rd to 7th edition) and 40k (RT to 6th) but I have never gamed with a single Khorne unit on the table. They are just so monotonously predictable. How on earth to you get into the role of a Khorne champion? They are OCD about close combat, have no latitude to involve themselves in anything other than close combat and are left seeming utterly one dimensional and boring.

Take the Slaves to Darkness book. The Khorne mob doesn't even come close to the interesting nature of Slaanesh from a role play point of view. With Slaanesh you have a complex motivation (worship through sado-masochism) and you can unleash a storm of magic, a hail of arrows and a final, killing blow of close combat on your foes. Khorne? Just the hitting things with an axe, thanks.

It has gotten so bad that they even wrote out the ability to take anything other than close combat troops and wrote in a  frenzy rule to force you to do the only thing you could do anyway. It's insane.

I once pictured a Khorne champion who wandered the earth seeking glory, fame and earthly power by confronting powerful heroes of the age and challenging them to duels. He would be the 'Achilles' of the Warhammer world, a vainglorious and arrogant bully who cared nothing for those who sought him out to join him on his wanderings. Inside of course beat the heart of a coward, he had sought out Khorne for worship because he was tired of being afraid but despite his growing prowess the fear never really left him. He chooses only those he is sure of defeating and prefers to weaken them first with his minions. Once the opposing hero is defeated he cares nothing for the battle and slinks away, sated by the blood of a true warrior.

Now I just see the 'canonical' Khorne ethos as lazy and unimaginative. "Blood for the Blood God! Love me some more of that blood, yessiree, yum yum!"

If you are going to the Oldhammer weekend and are bringing a Khorne warband with you, I would love to know what attracted you to Khorne and how you intend to play them. I feel I have been missing out on something all this time and would love to hear the ideas of others.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. A very interesting post. You're thoughts remind me of a conversation I had with Tony Ackland. He described Khorne as the equivalent of WW2 wehrmacht and Malal as WW2 SS. This may have been the back of the minds of the design studio when the background to chaos was developed. Its seems that martial prowess and pride is at the core of Khorne rather than fanatical frenzy. Though you're champion's goal will be steered by the gifts he recieves.

    1. I remember that piece you did, it was very good. It is quite relevant too, wish I had remembered it sooner. I often play the bad guy in local historical wargames, unsurprisingly as my friends are staunchly pro-allied given their British, Polish and Canadian ancestry and I am a notorious, moustache-twirling villain. I love playing ze Germans because there is a fascinating depth and complexity to their motivations in WW2. I can see how this would apply to Khorne and make them much more interesting, the only concern is, would opponents 'get' that version of Khorne? You may have started something there, more thought required.

  2. Are you trying to psyke me out before the event? I am bringing a Khornate warband as I have played all the others, plus K&S are the preferred Gods for the event. Not sure how they will play, I am mainly coming for the fun aspect and will be perfroming predictable moves in the true Khorne style. I think Crixus from the Spartacus TV Show would more like a champion of Khorne he is bloodletting mad and constantly let's everyone know this.

    1. Yes, absolutely using psychological warfare. It's the Slaanesh way. Very disappointed at the lack of Khorne banter on the relevant Oldhammer BLOOD forum thread too.

      I get that just chopping people up is cool. To continue the Roman analogy, it was a great part of the Gladiator movie when Max went ape s**t and butchered folk. I kind of liked all the other layers of his personality too though and I struggle to reconcile Khorne with the same level of complexity. (I know, it's just a game and I am taking it waaaay too seriously). :)

  3. I see the warmongering and close-combat ethos of Khorne as a starting point on which to build rather than an end in itself. It needs dressing up, a narrative needs constructing, to bring it alive on the field of battle. The Eternal Champion mythos are a great source for building narrative around the 4 powers of chaos. Take the Hawkmoon stories - I've always loved the Orders of the Beast of Granbretan, and I think that would make for a very Khornate force.

    1. Great advice Steve. I see I have allowed myself to be cowed by GW's IP in the same way as those I crowingly mocked in the past. Khorne deserves an 80's makeover, I must think of a way to use the Oldhammer weekend as an opportunity to do just that. Thanks!

    2. Coming very late to this party - I agree with Steve re: Hawkmoon beast orders - among the many Beastmen realeased in the 80s there are a number which seem to fit that theory too.

      Really interesting discussion.

  4. I'm not sure how much this represents a unique vision of Khorne and his followers, but I have always dug these blurbs from the most excellent Liber Chaotica series:

    "But bloody Khorne...His grasp can reach for the heart of every soldier, every warrior, every life taker. He is the god of war and blood and violence, and all that fight in some way subscribe to his religion. When a noble knight of Bretonnia or a righteous templar of the Empire falls to his worship it is because he forgets why he kills. To change from killing for the common good to killing only because he wants to, because the act pleases him, is when a righteous man has fallen from his path. These are the champions that Khorne embraces, never to release...They do not come to the worship of Chaos merely because that is what is done or what is accepted. They have rebelled against the grain...They have killed, and enjoyed killing, when courted their masters' disapproval. And they have survived; survived the wrath of their allies, survived the blood soaked path to the shadowlands of their gods. They have purpose and ambition, they have a thirst that needs sating, and they are strong enough to have gone to extraordinary means to satisfy it."

    Sounds in keeping with your champion idea to me.

    Another one that colors a Khornate warband for me:

    "Fallen knights from Bretonnia, deconsecrated Templars from the Empire, savage mercenaries from Tilea, cruel bandits of the Border Princes, renegades of the Druchii, crazed dwarfs from beyond the Great Skull Land, these all answer the war shriek and stand together in the Khornate battleline."

    Food for thought, I hope!

  5. Definitely food for thought, that's some good fluff there, thanks. I haven't read the Liber Chaotica yet, I will have to track it down on Scribd. It seems there is scope for a deeper Khornate personality but somewhere between text and table it is getting lost. The fault of us gamers being lazy no doubt! Looking forward to the big day this August, can't wait to see how it pans out.