Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Creating a Space Wolves Special Character, Part I: The Concept

When I get "into" something there's always something that inevitably happens to me - I start thinking of ways to improve it, change it and/or give it my own spin. It's one of those "What if.." daydreaming sort of things.. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, because I know that the rich background of the 41st millennium is also haunting you with ideas and inspirations.. 

So here I am, trying to create a Space Wolves Special Character. Rules. Stats. Fluff. Everything. The whole shebang. As we all know, the Space Wolves codex can be very inspiring with its unit entries, the "Herohammer" possibilites and the dudes shooting lightning from their ass. It's hard not to start thinking of various cool concepts to add to this already brilliant, perhaps too awesome codex. I've already written about the joys of running a generic HQ that feels like a Special Character both in price and deeds, but in the end of the day - is just your generic HQ. I still don't know why I haven't printed out a codex entry for Skarvald the Troll-faced and why it isn't sitting inside my book. After all for me he is just as great as Logan Grimnar and Njal! But I digress. Time to create a Special Character!

The Concept
For me, there are some very specific things in the Space Wolves codex that I love, as well as some elements from various other codices that I'd like to incorporate.
I. The "Herohammer" Factor - I want a character that rewards you for taking as many HQ's as possible. After all, the Space Wolves Force Organization Chart allows us to take FOUR HQ choices. Possibly by giving extra optional equipment or upgrading specific items in Wolf Lords, Wolf Guard Battle Leaders and even Lone Wolves. I think that having a bunch of strong characters in a game is very cool!
II. The "Underdog" Factor - It needs to be a Special Character based on a unit that doesn't already have its unique "beefy" character. Preferably one that doesn't see too much action in your "run of the mill" lists.
III. Uniqueness - Obviously, it needs to have some originality, right? I'm also planning on having this Special Character to be slightly customizable, as in making slight changes in equipment during deployment. You'll see what I mean by that..

So, lets see what the Space Wolves Codex already has in the Special Character deparment:
Wolf Lord - Logan Grimnar, Ragnar Blackmane
Wolf Guard Battle Leader - Arjac Rockfist
Blood Claws - Lukas the Trickster
Rune Priest - Njal Stormcaller
Wolf Priest - Ulrik the Slayer
Thunderwolf Cavalry/Fenrisian Wolves - Canis Wolfborn
Dreadnought - Bjorn the Fell-handed

This leaves the following entries in the Space Wolves Codex without a Special Character:
Iron Priest - The fact that he is not in Independent Character really hurts him, allowing for only a single "okay" build (x4 Cyberwolves, Thunderwolf Mount) and making Saga of the Iron Wolf useless. Very lame.
Wolf Scouts Pack
Lone Wolf
Grey Hunters Pack
Swiftclaw Biker Pack
Skyclaw Assault Pack
Long Fangs

With Feel No Pain and Eternal Warrior, Lone Wolves are already Special enough and each of them is basically a living legend. The Grey Hunters Pack and all of the Blood Claws-variants can already enjoy the company of many of the Special Characters and they really don't need a unique character of their own. Not to mention that Swiftclaws and Skyclaws wouldn't live long enough to be legendary. I can't really see how I could create a cool Long Fangs Special Character, because he'd have to sit in one place the entire game unless he grants Relentless.. which Logan Grimnar already does. Wolf Scouts could use one, but I can't think of anything..

So what's left is the Iron Priest.
In the Space Wolves codex, this Techmarine variant has several problematic factors:
Not an Independent Character: An Iron Priest can take a small retinue of up to four Cyberwolves and up to three Thrall-Servitors, but unlike the Grey Knight's Techmarine he is not an IC and cannot join other squads. This is very limiting, especially when you notice that he cannot take any dedicated transports, so he can only start the game inside a... Land Raider!? Of course you can get a Razorback for your Long Fangs and then embark it, but it is still annoying, especially when he needs to be inside a vehicle for Saga of the Iron Wolf to work.
Limited Options: He lacks Bolster Defenses, which officially removes him from the "Support" role of an Elites choice and with a single wound he is incredibly dependent on his "retinue". In a Rhino/Razorback with Multi-melta Thrall-Servitors he becomes an unreliable tank hunter and his T5 is wasted on a majority of T4 models in case his vehicle explodes. In this case, Saga of the Iron Wolf is okay, since it allows for a few extra inches, letting the squad take a bunker position with their weaponry.

Cyber Thunderwolf Build: Good on paper, but then you remember how many points it really is. 155 points for a cavalry unit with a total of 5 T5 wounds is not bad, but the Cyberwolves have a 4+ armor save and the Iron Priest strikes last with his 4 Thunder hammer and 1 Servo-arm attacks. 2+ save on his is nice and not being an IC means he is actually immune to being singled out. But.. for the same points you can almost run three different Thunderwolves with more survivability and more teeth to them...

What happened to the badass masters of the forge that go on pilgrims to the volcanic islands to prove themselves to the Gods of Iron by forging the "finest of swords within the mouth of the volcano"?

Vulkan He'stan immediately comes to mind. The Space Wolves do not need an Iron priest that hides behind bolstered ruins or fixes vehicles.... they need a weapon-smith with an arsenal of legendary weapons that only the best get to use in combat. So here's what I'm thinking of.. for now.

Iron Priest Special Character/HQ
- For extra points upgrades the Frost Blade/Axe weaponry of Wolf Lords, Wolf Guard Battle Leaders and Lone Wolves to a "Runic Frost Blade", adding two random abilities from a chart. Similar to a Daemonblade weapon from Codex Grey Knights... but with a Fenrisian twist to it.
- Mediocre stats, but doesn't have to roll to see which powers his Runic Frost Blade has. As the blacksmith he has a weapon for each occasion.

 - Because the Space Wolves' trademark Wolf Claws and Frost Weapons are so expensive, he picks a squad before deployment and makes its weapons master-crafted. Gives flexibility - one could choose to give this ability to cheap TDA Wolf Guard or to Thunderwolf Cavalry. Grey Hunters become amazing when combining this effect with the Wolf Banner, because they re-roll all 1's and a single failed To Hit roll.

That's it for now. If you have any ideas or suggestions, don't be afraid to comment below!

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