THE WFRP STORY XVII: REALM OF CHAOS

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

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.

Realm of Chaos.png

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”.

Slaves to Darkness

Slaves to Darkness Preliminary.jpg

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.

FOOTNOTE

* 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.

ADDENDUM

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.

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11 thoughts on “THE WFRP STORY XVII: REALM OF CHAOS

  1. Hmm … I’d be surprised if the John Sibbick cover had been done as early as that. I don’t think he was working for Games Workshop then (I could be wrong!), but there’s something else too. All of John SIbbick’s Warhammer illustrations tend to be heavily based on specific Citadel miniatures. For example, in the WHFRP cover you can see a couple of the Great Goblins range, one of the Jez Goodwin ogres and so on. The same is true of the WFB III cover, with its chaos goblins, chaos warrior and chaos sorcerer.

    And in the Slaves to Darkness cover, we see Gladstone the Large:

    http://www.solegends.com/citcat198704cja/c198704cjp0036-00.htm

    He was released in late 1986. Though the figure was obviously designed before that, I doubt it was more than a matter of months earlier.

    The chaos warrior at the very front of the cover bears a fair resemblance to Daethskar, who was released in 1985 and features more exactly on the cover of WFB III:

    I think it highly likely that the demon and hound of Khorne, along with the dog-beastmen, were sketched from the soon-to-be-released miniatures that accompanied the launch of Slaves of Darkness, rather than being finalised designs that were kept on hold for years. I don’t think John Sibbick did design sketches for Citadel miniatures; he always seems to have incorporated existing miniatures into his illustrations.

    There’s a clear John Blanche influence in that cover – specifically in the weird riding beast with its eyes on stalks and in the chaos sorcerer to the far left.

    Anyway, an interesting read as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did wonder whether a better explanation for the advanced state of development in the Sibbick art was just that it came later. There were two reasons why I thought the Sibbick cover might have been earlier. The first was that I have a strong recollection that the cover was published in White Dwarf or another GW source long before its use in Slaves to Darkness. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the article I am thinking of. In any case, I think the article was around 1985-6, so it would be consistent with your later date.

      The second reason was an argumentum ex silentio. I have found no other reference to the cover Rick Priestley mentions, so presumed it was probably Sibbick’s.

      Neither of these arguments, though, is very good (and were glossed over with a lazy “surely” in the post). Your miniatures evidence seems persuasive regarding Gladstone the Large (though I don’t believe the resemblance with Daethskar is nearly close enough), so I presume the Sibbick art is not the right piece. This raises the obvious question: what was the cover to the early draft of Realm of Chaos?

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      1. The White Dwarf article I was thinking of was Illuminations in White Dwarf 83 (November 1986), so later than I had thought and consistent with your comments on miniatures.

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      2. Yes, the pseudo-Daethskar isn’t a perfect fit. But he’s definitely in the style of the miniatures from that range (C35 chaos warriors from 1985) rather than any other. It’s there in the heavily ornamented armour and the close helm (as worn by Daethskar and Udkar) and in the conjoined horns and faces in the crest (see Daethskar, Ulrik Giblit, Jagglespur and Bezzlebound). I’m pretty sure Sibbick based that figure on models in that range. The axe he’s wielding is one used by an earlier chaos knight with an open-faced helm, though.

        Anyway, it looks like Zhu’s identified the actual cover. And with its advancing hordes, it looks like the prototype for both the Sibbick RoC covers.

        Great discussion!

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      3. Oops – just seen your addendum!

        Looking at the illustration again, I wonder if that chaos warrior at the front perhaps started life as Daethskar (or something like him) with the horns “reformatted” to avoid blocking the figures behind. I can’t think of a chaos warrior that actually has that sort of mitre shape to the horns.

        I might well be stretching this too far, but there’s something about that figure – the faces, the ribbed horns, the detail on the armour – that simply screams “Daethskar’s C35 range” to me!.

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  2. You make a persuasive case, but I am not sure about John Sibbick’s cover art as the cover for a 1983/4 version of RoC. There’s nothing else which suggests that Sibbick was working for GW that early, is there?

    WFB2 cover art was John Blanche. He appears to have been producing almost all cover art for big Warhammer commissions at this time (Forces of Fantasy, Tragedy of McDeat) though not Terror of the Lichemaster, but here it was Gary Chalk, who at the time was very closely linked to Warhammer and White Dwarf. In other words, they were still using artists from their own stable. It was later, as their ambition and professionalism grew, that they started hiring in independent artists.

    John Sibbick’s work covers all the big games of 1986 and 1987 – WFB 3, WFRP and 40k: Rogue Trader. RoC surely fits with this set of slightly later commissions? It looks like someone decided to give all their flagship games a consistent look. Presumably one of these covers must have come first, but which it was doesn’t seem to be something Sibbick has ever commented on. Would GW have had a cover hanging around for over three years unused (given GW’s tendency to heavily reuse and recycle any they had access to)? I’m not entrirely convinced.

    As for the lack of correct terminology for different demons, I’m not certain this tells us much. Sibbick was an artist not a gamer. He doubtless didn’t care very much if lesser demons should be called Bloodletters or not. He calls the Chaos Champion at the front a Chaos Knight (not a term I recall being employed elsewhere but my memory might be failing). There is no greater demon of Khorne but then they look like the main illustration of Khorne so perhaps it was felt it would be an unnecessary duplication of imagery.

    On the other hand, there is no Balrog either. Nor, as you point out, do the Chaos hounds look like the miniatures being produced at the time. This might easily argue that the illustration reflects the later development of ideas. I’d guess that this illustration is contemporary with the development of WFB2, 40k and WFRP – a year or two later (85or 86). Ideas weren’t entirely fixed but were still developing.

    Whatever, it’s still a great cover!

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      1. See my earlier comments in response to J C.

        I agree John Blanche is the most likely artist for the cover Rick Priestley mentions. Gary Chalk seems less probable to me. The Dever-Page-Chalk group seems to have been somewhat separate from the Ansell-Priestley-Halliwell-Blanche-Ackland one.

        GW and Citadel’s practice of reusing art was a reason I gave the argumentum ex silentio some credence. I cannot think of any other artwork that fits. (Whatever the piece is, though, it’s bound to be in WFB3 somewhere!)

        Of course, Rick Priestley might simply have made a mistake, but it seems more likely that he is correct.

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  3. The image intended for the original cover may have appeared in the Spring 85 Citadel Journal, by John Blanche, which is listed there as “Realm of Chaos”.

    There is also the front cover of that Journal, by Tony Ackland, and a black and white piece by John entitled ‘Chaos Warrior’ (IIRC a colour version of this appears in WFB3), which may have also been produced as candidate images.

    I do think the ‘Sorcerer of Khorne’ on the back cover is an indication that the Sibbick’s cover was produced before the contents were finalised, as such a character would be highly unusual according to the text, rather than an iconic type suitable for a cover image.

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