THE WFRP STORY XXXI: LICHEMASTER

This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.

A third WFB2 scenario pack appeared in January 1986. Terror of the Lichemaster (subtitled Village Pack Two) follows the template of the previous two. It is a boxed set with a 24-page scenario book, sixteen pages of card buildings, card counters, a colour poster map and a badge.

Terror of the Lichemaster

The scenario book, written by Rick Priestley, describes a campaign of three skirmishes: ‘The Assault on the Mine’, ‘Attack on Bogel’s Farm’ and ‘The Defence of Frugelhofen’. It was supplemented with a fourth scenario, ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’, in the third Citadel Journal (March 1986).

The scenarios provide another glimpse of the Old World taking shape. They take place in the remote region of Frugelhorn Valley.

The alpine village of Flugelhofen [sic] lies high up in the Black Mountains of the Old World. This is a wild and lawless land, the refuge of numberless bandits, the resting place of mercenary armies and the hide-out of outlaws from all over the Old World. But Frugelhofen is isolated from the incursions of outsiders by virtue of its position in an enclosed valley of the Frugelhorn Mountain.

– Rick Priestley, Terror of the Lichemaster, p6

Map from Terror of the Lichemaster

Very little is said in Terror of the Lichemaster about Frugelhorn Valley’s place in the Old World. ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’, however, provides an enlarged map of the region and some familiar places can be seen to emerge.

Map from ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’ (left) and the corresponding map in WFRP1 (right)

The map illustrates the border region between the Empire, Brettonia (sic) and the Princes. This is the first mention of the Princes. They are described as “a rough mountainous land of petty princedoms and bandit chiefs”, and are clearly the Border Princes under an earlier name.

The layout of the ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’ map is somewhat contorted in comparison with the later map, but the approximate topography and several specific places can be matched. Within the Empire we see Nuln and Helmgart reappear after their initial mentions in the Regiments of Renown (see part XXVII), though the latter is placed much further south than its later location (perhaps so that it could fit in a small map). In Brettonia (sic) Quenelles and Loren Forest appear in roughly their final locations. There is also a settlement called Jettez-lez Dix. This does not reappear, but might be an early name for Parravon, which occupies a similar location in later maps.

Other Old World places are mentioned in passing in the text. There is a first unexplained reference to Reikland, and one to Italia. Italia is presumably the name applied at this stage to the Tilean City States. There seems to have been some inconsistency about the name of this region. In WFB2 it is referred to as the Southern City States. However, WFB1 mentions an “Italian princess” (‘Characters’, p18), but it is not clear whether this refers to historical Italy or implies Italia was part of the early Warhammer world. If the latter, Italia is here a reversion to the earlier name (cf part VII).

The story of the campaign centres on the Lichemaster, a necromancer named Heinrich Kemler, who might be an allusion to the Nazi Heinrich Himmler, or perhaps the author of Malleus Maleficarum, Heinrich Kramer. Kemler was once a fearsome sorcerer, but his powers are now waning, and his emboldened enemies have pursued him across the Old World. However, on the slopes of Frugelhorn Mountain he stumbles upon the Mound of Krell, the ancient tomb of a Chaos warrior. There he uses the last of his energy to summon Krell and his undead followers, and enters into a pact that will restore his life and power. The terms of the bargain require Kemler to embark on a campaign of slaughter in the name of the gods of Chaos. Kemler therefore turns on Frugelhorn Valley with Krell’s horde at his side.

The first battle is ‘The Assault on the Mine’. In this the Lichemaster’s lieutenant, Ranlac the Black, leads a band of skeletons against a dwarf mine. It is a simple skirmish where the dwarfs’ objective is simply to hold out as long as possible, and, if possible, escape and warn the residents of Frugelhofen.

In the second scenario, ‘Attack on Bogel’s Farm’, a group of the Lichemaster’s zombie followers attack a farmstead in another last-stand battle. Warhammer silliness abounds. The leader of the zombies is Mikeal Jacsen, obviously inspired by the singer Michael Jackson.

In death Jacsen was a great dark skeleton, long and thin and with a skull that burned with an unnatural light, and from in between his huge dead teeth there issued a foul, thin shriek that few could listen too [sic] without sickening.

– Rick Priestley, Terror of the Lichemaster, p6

It seems Priestley was not a Michael Jackson fan. Jacsen’s flaming skull alludes to an incident in 1984 when Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming an advert for Pepsi.

The defenders of the farm are evidently inspired by well-known tales of American agrarian life. The names of John-Boy, Lorabeth, Corabell and Hunk seem to recall the characters John-Boy, Corabeth and Hank in The Waltons. In a nod to Little House on the Prairie, the farmers’ home is described as a “little house by the dairy”.

… In the true pioneering spirit the women-folk begin to load crossbows for the stern-faced men.

“Whatever happens,” Hunk whispers to his eldest son, “save the last two bolts for Corabell and your mother.”

John-Boy nods and gravely replies, “I knew you never liked them pa [sic].”

op cit, p12

The name of the halfling farmhand Samgaff seems to have been inspired by Sam Gamgee’s “gaffer” in The Lord of the Rings.

The third scenario, ‘The Defence of Frugelhofen’, sees Kemler unite his forces and attack Frugelhofen. The defenders of Frugelhofen include a sprinkling of interesting personalities. There is a “half Italian, half-Reiklander” called Antonio Epstein. Despite the similarity of this name with the British virologist Anthony Epstein, Graeme Davis and Rick Priestley have suggested that it was based on that of Citadel employee Tony “Ep” Epworth.

… The name is a skit on that of a friend of ours who was notorious for his amorous adventurism.

– Rick Priestley, comment on We are the Mutants

Grimwald Calaco is a Brettonian (sic) anarchist “from the lands to the west”, notably equipped with a bomb. Such explosive devices did not appear in Europe until the 15th century CE, implying a late mediaeval or early Renaissance setting. Other personalities include Riolta Snow, from the ‘Magnificent Sven’ scenario in WFB2; Gim Grundle, a halfling runaway from “the lands of the Empire to north”; and shopkeeper and former wrestler Albi Schutz. It is interesting that Schutz has a treasure trove of magical artefacts in his store: a shield and sword of adamantine, a ring of courage and power-spheres. They imply a greater incidence of magic than in some later versions of the setting.

Badge from Terror of the Lichemaster

The additional battle, ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’, continues the story. Kemler proceeds from Frugelhorn Valley to the nearby monastery of La Maisontaal, bent on exacting revenge on its “hierophantic leader” Bagrian. Bagrian is a former associate of the Lichemaster, who did not come to his aid during his decline from power.

La Maisontaal is described as “one of the major cult centres of the god Taal”. This is the first mention of Taal, but the description of the god extends no further than the name. The account of his worship is also scant, and notably depicts a cult quite different from the later nature cult. Bagrian is described as an “Illusionist Wizard”, and his followers are a mix of “warrior-monks” and “older, more academic wizard-monks”. It is interesting that once again WFB2 blurs the line between priests and wizards.

However, Kemler is not the only party attacking La Maisontaal. In their first appearance in Warhammer (see further part XXXIII), skaven are seeking to recover the Black Arc (sic) of the Covenant from the monastery. Bagrian has stolen the artefact from Skavenblight to advance his experiments to create artificial life. Such experiments are again very much inconsistent with Taal’s subsequent depiction as a nature god.

With the Arc Bagrian has constructed a “mechanical warrior” (which is clearly a Dalek*). This was not the last time GW would introduce this sort of absurdity in WFB2. Oxy O’Cetylene’s Tinman, clearly inspired by The Wizard of Oz (1939), was another fighting robot in ‘The Crude, the Mad and the Rusty’ in WD83 (November 1986).

Mechanical warrior from ‘Vengeance of the Lichemaster’ and Tinman from ‘The Crude, the Mad and Rusty’

Terror of the Lichemaster was reviewed positively in WD75 (March 1986) by Richard Vicary, who awarded it a score of 9/10.

Lichemaster Review

Review of Terror of the Lichemaster in White Dwarf 75 (March 1986)

As in the case of Blood on the Streets, the content of Terror of the Lichemaster subsequently reappeared in a number of places. The building templates were reprinted in Warhammer Townscape (1988). The campaign book formed the basis of Carl Sargent’s Lichemaster supplement (1989, also known as Return of the Lichemaster) for WFRP1. Heinrich Kemler also featured in later editions of WFB, from the fourth (Warhammer Armies: Undead, 1994) to the eighth (Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts, 2012). There was even a fleeting further mention of Bagrian and La Maisontaal in WFB4 (Warhammer Armies: Skaven, 1996).

FOOTNOTE

* At this time Citadel sold a range of licensed Doctor Who miniatures.

CHRONOLOGY

The following chart summarises the chronology of this post relative to others in this section of ‘The WFRP Story’.

Time Chart 31

The next post looks at The Tragedy of McDeath.

Title art by Ian Miller. Internal art by Gary Chalk et al. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

8 thoughts on “THE WFRP STORY XXXI: LICHEMASTER

  1. I’m actually trying to play through this scenario at the moment so it’s interesting to read your historical take on it.

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  2. Great post! The Hammer House of Horror vibes are strong with this one. Pure speculation on my part, I always imagined Maison Taal to be a reference to the Thal from Doctor Who, who are the original enemies of the Daleks.

    On a historical note, it might be worth noting that there is an earlier Warhammer outing for a “Mechanical Warrior” concept in the Mechanoids as described in an Citadel Arcane Ramblings Flyer for WFB1, probably 1984, again by Rick Priestly.

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  3. WFRP XXX…Disappointed, I was hoping for something else.

    Anyway, despite my disappointment, a great post!

    I suspect Kemler is an allusion to Himmler and have always thought that. Himmler was extremely interested in the occult and mysticism as well as being the overseer of the concentration camps, so probably made him a template for a chaos worshipping liche raising armies of the undead.

    One more point on this subject, I find it interesting that this is the first mention of the Reikland appearing at the time of this supplement with a villain called Heinrich Kemler.

    It’s clear now that the Old World is starting to take shape, with the major issue needing resolving being spelling. Loren is a clear Lord of the Rings rip off (so much they did twice with Laurelorn).

    It’s also nice [not sic] to see the Skaven appear. We also get a reference to Black Arc’s, albeit they’d later become giant floating fortresses towed/tugged by sea monsters.

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  4. Ramblings and thoughts from me which may be my own ideas or ones I’ve picked up from others over the years, I can’t tell any more.

    I’m struck by how SMALL some of the battles are. Eleven undead vs a family of five, a dog and a Halfling. Twenty skeletons plus a leader vs half a dozen dwarfs. Still very much character-driven, a blend of RPG and wargame.
    Bagrian as mad scientist, yes, and also inspired by cybermen with his adding mechanical components to himself? Looking at the front of the Citadel Journal 86, does he look a bit like a proto Adeptus Mechanicus priest? Red robes, mechanical hand, mechanical eye…?
    The lightning bolts going all over the place killing everyone must from Indiana Jones.
    Rick Priestley the archaeologist creating a scenario which starts at an ancient barrow.

    Mrdidz: let us know how it goes – i assume you’ll be designating and moving the figures as ‘skirmishers’, at least for the first 2 battles?

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  5. “Jettez-les Dix” means “throw the ten” in French, but is most likely intended to mean “throw the dice”—yet another little joke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did wonder about that myself. I wasn’t sure if it was bad French for “jetez les dés”, or, as you say, “jetez les dix” with there being some significance to throwing a 10, or something else entirely. I suspect the first explanation is most likely.

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