Monday 1 September 2014

The End Times: I feel like you've just killed an old friend

(Okay, so I've totted up everything I want to discuss about the Nagash set and having got as far as page 125 it looks like this is going to be a theme week. Today: SPOILERS for the Twelfth Battle of La Maisontaal Abbey, so page 65-ish, and tomorrow we'll move on to other, less Bretonnian and consequently less interesting topics. Just kidding, this whole thing is fascinating).
How important was this character? He looks like THAT and
they still remade him in Finecast resin.
Let's talk about narrative collapse and Heinrich Kemmler.

I was fond of Heinrich Kemmler. Okay, the model had a very old school pose which lead me to know him as The Dodgy Watchseller Of Darkness but I rather liked him. I first encountered him in White Dwarf's Return Of The Lichemaster campaign where he was the villain for a fun little series of scenarios pitting him and his undead cohort against Bretonnians and Wood Elves as he plundered barrows near Athel Loren. My own Master Necromancer, Berenice Von Gallenberg, was very consciously designed with Kemmler as a template.

I especially loved that he was a villain with a sidekick: Krell, a Wight King who had been a Chaos Champion in life, bestowed on Kemmler by the Chaos Gods in exchange for his soul. Yes, being a Master Necromancer wasn't evil enough for Kemmler: he also sold his soul to Chaos. They were a fun little team and I was very pleased to see them back together when the Nagash book described the army Arkhan The Black was taking into Bretonnia.

Then, on page 65, Arkhan killed Kemmler.

Kemmler, by the way, is one of the oldest characters in Warhammer and he was introduced in the original Battle of La Maisontaal scenario, the very first narrative scenario written for the game. That's where he was killed, too, in the explosion that destroys the Abbey. Got to love a little circularity.

This is probably the point at which a lot of gamers start throwing their toys out of the pram that a character they love has been removed from the board. Not me. I loved it. I'll miss the greasy old bastard, as the title of the post over-dramatically suggests I have considerable affection for him, but I take it as a good sign.

If one of the oldest characters, created in the oldest scenario, meets his end here in The End Times that's a massive symbolic sacrifice. What we could be dealing with here is nothing less than a complete narrative collapse scenario for the Warhammer World: a threat not to the fictional world but the world of the fiction.

Time to declare a bias: I love narrative collapse stories! Part of this love is that the collapse has to be preventable but the cost of restoring order has to immense, traumatic and permanent in order for it to matter. Joss Whedon is probably the modern master of narrative collapse, just look at any Buffy season finale but my go to is Graduation Day. Buffy can save Angel's life, defeat Faith and survive the Mayor's Ascension but that's only possible if she pays the price for each of those victories: she saves Angel only for him to leave her; without Faith she returns to the loneliness of being the sole Chosen One; and she has to sacrifice the basic premise of the show, its high school setting, in order to take out the Mayor.

To bring this back to The End Times: in the opening stages of this collapse alone we've lost one of the game's oldest villains; countries have been destroyed; kings have fallen in battle; and there are more significant character deaths after the point I'm talking about.

And that's the collapse, we aren't anywhere close to seeing what the restoration of order is going to cost us.

This is a very exciting time to be playing Warhammer.  

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