This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.
The term “Realm of Chaos” can be traced back as far as the earliest Citadel box-set inserts. ‘The Quest for Chaos’ (August 1983) describes it as an unnatural realm on the edges of mortal lands:
The realm [sic] of Chaos is one of eternal mists and movement, the shifting, changing ground devoid of plants or life of any natural kind, the air swirling with impenetrable mists.
– op cit
Irysia and the Realm of Chaos, from ‘The Quest for Chaos’
It was, of course, also the title of Warhammer‘s Chaos supplement. WFB1 had contained several references to an unnamed future supplement covering Chaos attributes, demons and suchlike. An advertisement in the first Citadel Compendium (November 1983) gave the supplement its name.
Advertisement for Realm of Chaos in the first Citadel Compendium
It appears that work on the Realm of Chaos supplement had already progressed far by this point.
Realm of Chaos had been around for a number of years! In fact, I had the first version well underway in ’83 and we had a cover and everything – but in the end we decided to push ahead with WH2 instead and RoC had been written for WH1 – so we passed over it until we could get back to the idea.
– Rick Priestley, Realm of Chaos 80s
There are several pointers to Realm of Chaos’ state of development at this time.
First of all, the Citadel Compendium advertisement shown above includes a comprehensive list of the supplement’s contents:
- Chaos attributes;
- Chaos champions;
- Chaos gods, their followers, demons and creatures;
- rune weapons;
- demon swords and demon shields.
While not all of these sections were necessarily complete at the time, it seems likely that there was at least some idea of their likely contents.
Second, the cover art that Rick Priestley refers to above is surely John Sibbick’s from Slaves to Darkness. This and its preparatory sketch contain important clues. They feature a bloodletter and fleshhound (though not by name: the preparatory sketch just labels them as “demon of Khorne” and “hound of Khorne”). They also show Khorne’s head, his skull rune and a “Hellknife”.
John Sibbick’s cover for Slaves to Darkness and a preparatory sketch
Finally, there are extensive cross references to Realm of Chaos and its ideas in material from this period.
CHAOS CHAMPION and Followers. Generate as in Realm of Chaos supplement.
– ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ (November 1983)
CHAMPIONS OF CHAOS
Those who ally themselves with the dark forces of Chaos can gain great power, but as their affinity with Chaos increases, their very body and soul may be distorted, until eventually they are not even recognisable as human, [sic] this is simulated by gradually gaining Chaotic Attributes. More of this in a future article.
SPAWN OF CHAOS
Once a creature has more than 6 Chaotic Attributes, it will scarcely be recognisable as the species it once was. At the same time its mind and soul will have given themselves over entirely to their Chaos masters; it will not have a trace of sanity left.
Such sad beasts are the Chaos Spawn, [sic] they roam in packs with others of their kind at the bidding of the Chaos Gods.
– ‘The Mark of Chaos’, the first Citadel Compendium (November 1983)
Players wishing to general the Chaos Hordes will have to assemble their armies after generating their Champions, followers and appropriately weird Chaos Creatures, using the various charts contained in our arcane Realm of Chaos publication.
All troop types marked with an asterix [sic] have double normal chances of having Chaos Attributes, as per the ‘Mark of Chaos’ section of Realm of Chaos or the simplified system given in the First Citadel Compendium.
Demons and Demonic Beasts must be of an appropriate type for the Chaos God which the General worships. Chaos Generals who do not worship a documented God (Khorne, Slaaneesh [sic], Nurgle or Tzeentch) may summon a Demon or Demonic Beast of their own creation approved by the GM.
All Chaos Generals may summon a Balrog … or a randomly generated New Chaos Demon, as per Realm of Chaos….
Chaos Generals may choose to summon Chaos Hounds in preference to the Demonic Beast of their particular patron.
Chaos Hordes must always be commanded by a Champion of Chaos. Chaos Champions, and their entourages, are generated randomly using the system provided in Realm of Chaos….
Skeletons and Zombies … must be led by an Undead Chaos Champion, [sic] these may be generated randomly as per Realm of Chaos.
The Realm of Chaos supplement can be used to determine the type of the many strange Chaos Attributes that afflict some unfortunate creatures. … Extra points must be paid for these powers as detailed in Realm of Chaos.
– Forces of Fantasy, ‘Forces of Fantasy’, pp39-40 (March 1984)
From this evidence we can draw a number of inferences about how Realm of Chaos stood at the time.
It described a pantheon of Chaos gods. The exact nature of the pantheon is slightly unclear, however. At the time of the advertisement above (November 1983) the only Chaos gods to have been mentioned were Khorne and his retinue. Moreover, Sibbick’s art features only Khorne and his servants. It is possible, therefore, that at this stage the draft contained no mentions of Nurgle, Slaanesh or Tzeentch.
Yet only a few months later, Forces of Fantasy introduced the three remaining powers of Chaos. It may be that they were not fully described at this point. However, Bryan Ansell’s comments suggest all four Chaos powers were created around the same time. It also seems from Sibbick’s art that many details of Khorne’s later depiction had already taken shape at this early stage. Were all four gods fleshed out in one short burst of creativity? Was their evolution more protracted? I am inclined to assume that Khorne was initially more fully developed than the other gods, but the other gods followed rapidly. I cannot, though, be confident in that conclusion.
What is clearer, though, is that the Realm of Chaos draft contained rules for Chaos champions (including undead champions). These rules encompassed the random generation of champions, their retinue and their potential degeneration into Chaos Spawn. There were rules for “role-playing” Chaos champions, though given the scant detail in WFB1‘s role-playing rules, they may not have extended far beyond basic character advancement.
There was also treatment of Chaos attributes. This was an expanded version of the ‘Mark of Chaos’ article from the first Citadel Compendium. It seems at this stage Chaos attributes were considered to include both afflictions and special powers. There is no mention of a system for Chaos gifts, and I infer none probably existed at this point.
Various magic items were covered. Rune weapons were described. Ultimately they would not appear in Realm of Chaos, but in Forces of Fantasy. Hellblades of Khorne were included. But there were no Chaos weapons or armour. Instead there were demon weapons and demon shields. The latter had already appeared in ‘Chaos Marauders’ (August 1983):
A Demonshield must bear an accurate rendering of a particular demon, the demon’s name is then inscribed on the shield in a secret place and manner, and the shield will protect its bearer from sorcerous assault to some extent.
It is theoretically possible to manufacture one of these artifacts at any time, given a forge, a talented craftsman and the knowledge of the appearance and true name of a particular demon; the latter component is not too easy or safe to come by, however. Only one Demonshield can bear a particular demon’s features at any time.
It is said the shields bearing the name and features of Greater Demons and Demon Lords add even more to the protection of their bearer from magic, and that those of gods make the bearer invulnerable to all things sorcerous, but it is not clear who would ever dare to turn the attention of these dire beings upon himself by use of their regal features and true names.
– op cit
The Realm of Chaos draft also delivered on WFB1‘s promise of a supplement with expanded coverage of demons. The new demons fell into three categories:
“Randomly generated New Chaos Demons”. Balrogs sit at the pinnacle of the demonic hierarchy in WFB1. They are powerful creatures that occupy the same position as greater demons in later editions.
Alongside them the Realm of Chaos draft introduces “New Chaos Demons”. Unlike the other Realm of Chaos demons, these creatures are not described as being of specific types for each Chaos deity. Instead they are randomly generated. I also note that Sibbick’s artwork does not depict a bloodthirster, whereas it does depict the other two types of demon of Khorne. I infer somewhat speculatively that at this stage there may not have been equivalents of the later greater demons of Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and Slaanesh.
Demons. In contrast to balrogs “demons” are characterised in WFB1 as lesser creatures in the hierarchy of cosmic beings.
Demons are minor forms of the same sort of beings who make up Balrogs and other Powers, [sic] often they can take on various shapes.
– Warhammer, first edition, ‘Tabletop Battles’, p40
The example demon supplied in WFB1 is also relatively weak, comparable to the lesser demons of later rules.
I believe, therefore, that when Realm of Chaos promises to describe specific demons for the four named Chaos gods, the demons it refers to are what would later become lesser demons. Again, the presence of a bloodletter, and not a bloodthirster, in the Slaves to Darkness cover might support this.*
I conclude Realm of Chaos was to contain early versions of the lesser demons of the Chaos powers. John Sibbick’s artwork shows that Bloodletters were already close to their form in the published Realm of Chaos. Whether the demons of Slaanesh, Tzeentch and Nurgle were as close to their later incarnations depends on the extent to which work on Khorne had proceeded ahead of work on the other gods.
Demonic beasts. This was a new type of demonic creature that had not been present in WFB1. The supplement was to include specific demonic beasts for each of the documented Chaos gods. The appearance of the fleshhound in the cover art suggests that Khorne’s demonic beast had already reached its final form. If the other gods were as well developed, their demonic beasts may also have already been close to the final ones (except the beast of Nurgle, which we know was changed after 1986).
It is noteworthy that Chaos hounds could be substituted for demonic beasts in armies of Chaos. Citadel’s miniatures from the period show that Chaos hounds were mutated dogs, apparently inspired by Cerberus from Greek myth.
Chaos hounds in the second Citadel Compendium
Overall, one of the most remarkable aspects of Realm of Chaos at this time is how close many aspects seem to have been to their final forms. Much of Warhammer‘s concept of Chaos appears to have emerged in the space of just a few months in 1983-1984. In reality, though, I suspect many ideas already existed for some time in the private games of Bryan Ansell, Rick Priestley, Richard Halliwell, et al. I have highlighted before the Reaper scenario, ‘Attack of the Fungoid Trolls’ and Asgard’s small range of Chaotic miniatures as evidence of this.
What is surprising, though, is that, having come so far in such a short time, it would take another four years for Realm of Chaos to reach publication.
* There is a complication to accepting this view. WFB1 explicitly states that “demons” can be categorised as greater and lesser (though it does not explain or use the distinction):
There are many kinds of demon – greater and lesser.
– Warhammer, first edition, ‘Tabletop Battles’, p40
However, this sentence is immediately followed by the statement that such demons are less powerful than balrogs. I conclude therefore that lesser and greater demons are somewhat different from their later incarnations and both represent less powerful demons. Possibly they are equivalent to later demonic servants and lesser demons. WFB1‘s demonic hierarchy was therefore “lesser demons”, “greater demons”, then “balrogs and other powers”. The final category is perhaps the same as the demon lords mentioned in the article on demonshields.
In truth, though, it is difficult to reconcile the elements of WFB1‘s description of demons.
The discussion in the comments below has questioned whether I was correct in my assumption above that the original cover of Realm of Chaos was John Sibbick’s for Slaves to Darkness. The key points are:
1. There is no evidence that John Sibbick did any work for GW at this point.
2. All Sibbick’s other GW covers date from later: 1986-1987.
3. The first appearance of the Slaves to Darkness cover was in White Dwarf 83 in November 1986. Given that Citadel and GW regularly re-used art, it is unlikely it would have remained unused for three years.
4. John Sibbick’s GW paintings usually feature close copies of Citadel miniatures. The Slaves to Darkness cover features likenesses of two Citadel miniatures from a later date: Gladstone the Large (1986) and Daethskar (1985).
I think points 1 to 3 are persuasive evidence of a 1986 date for Sibbick’s picture. Point 4, however, is more-or-less conclusive. The Sibbick art in my view contains a clear copy of the Gladstone the Large miniature. See the image below:
I do not, however, think that the Daethskar miniature features in the Slaves to Darkness cover. There are too many substantial differences. Sibbick’s representations of miniatures were usually very accurate. Moreover, we do have another instance where Sibbick did clearly paint Daethskar. That was in the WFB3 cover and the image looks materially different from the Slaves to Darkness one. See the image below of the Daethskar miniature, the Slaves to Darkness image and the WFB3 image.
So, if the Realm of Chaos cover Rick Priestley mentions is not the Slaves to Darkness cover, what is it? The argument in point 3 above would suggest the image would have been used somewhere else. I believe Zhu Bajiee is correct in suggesting this image by John Blanche in the first Citadel Journal (p22) is the original cover:
The image is titled ‘Realm of Chaos’, contains room for a heading and has a date closer to the relevant period.
This, of course, invalidates all my arguments from the Slaves to Darkness cover and suggests (more plausibly) that Realm of Chaos was in a more inchoate state.
Thanks to J C, Wolf and Zhu Bajiee for putting me right on this point.
The next post in this series will cover Law.
Title art by John Sibbick. Internal art by Tony Ackland, John Sibbick and John Blanche. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.