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WWGD – The Skaven Conundrum

October 6, 2010

As promised, I now present you with the recently dusted-off and re-purposed What Would Gaarawarr Do? in which I attempt to tackle the Skaven Conundrum.

What is the Skaven Conundrum you ask?

That is an excellent question, you’re very good at this.  ~puts a Gold Star by your name on the board~

What I’m referring to is the upcoming introduction of Skaven to WAR in which, based on early reports from Games Day UK, we will be seeing four types of Skaven that we can change into with our regular characters.  In this form, we gain the appearance and abilities of the type of Skaven we turn into, but the Experience/Renown/Influence/etc that are earned while in that form are applied to our actual characters and not the Skaven.  It has been said that the Skaven itself has zero progression.

The Conundrum, for me, lies in this lack of Skaven progression.  While I think they’ll be a fun diversion and will bring tactical utility to the new Open RvR changes, I think this lack of progression does this very interesting Army of Warhammer (not to mention their fans) a huge disservice.

So I did some digging in the Warhammer Rulebook and the Warhammer Armies: Skaven book and attempted to design a way in which what we currently know about the implementation of Skaven could be enhanced in such a way as to add lore-based, engaging progression without turning it into a full-fledged Race/Class system which would not be realistic for WAR currently.  I’m also going to do a little theory-crafting about what’s coming based on what I’ve found in the lore as well.

Those of you who are more lore-knowledgeable than I, feel free to read through and add your own comments/adjustments.  This is simply a framework from my viewpoint and is by no means a fully fleshed-out design. 🙂

Enjoy!

~Gaar

What Would Gaarawarr Do?: The Skaven Conundrum

I’m warning you all now:  this isn’t going to be a short post.  However, I’m going to break it up into segments in an attempt to make it easier to understand.

First, I’ll review the information that has been released by Bioware Mythic so far in regards to the Skaven.  Second, I’ll review some of the more basic, core information about Skaven as found in my reference material.  Third, I’ll theory-craft a bit about the recently released information about the new Skaven zone and how it might fit with what they’ve released about Skaven so far.  Finally, I’ll present my ideas on how to take what they’ve proposed and build it into a rich addition to the game that includes a form of progression and I’ll support my ideas with the lore and outline a possible back-story for this seemingly lore-crushing way of having Skaven working with both Realms that they’ve announced.

  1. Dev Info
  2. Basic Lore
  3. Theory-Crafting the Skaven Dungeon
  4. WWGD
  5. Summary

1.  Dev Info

So far, we have two main sources for information regarding how the Skaven will be implemented later this year and what their new zone will be like:  Games Day UK (Info sourced from here, here and here plus video here) and the Ten Ton Hammer podcast on 10/2 (Episode 22) with Carrie Gouskos (Recorded link here).  Here’s a quick review:

The Skaven

There will be four Classes that you will have access to: the Rat Ogre, the Packmaster, the Warlock Engineers and the Gutter Runners.  Your regular character “becomes” one of the Skaven Classes and you then play that Class for a limited time period.  All Experience/Renown/Influence/etc goes to your regular character but the Skaven itself has no progression.  When you take on the Skaven Class form, you have a new ability set based around that class.  Here’s the current breakdown of the Classes:

Rat Ogre – Very hard to kill, can’t be healed by anything other than a Packmaster, only thing other than a Ram that can damage a Keep Door, can charge enemies and knock them back, can toss allies onto Keep Walls

Packmaster – Can heal the Rat Ogre, provides buffs for combat, summons swarms of rats that debuff enemies, can Skitterleap to the nearest Rat Ogre

Warplock Engineer – Places warpstone nodes around Keeps that give AOE buffs, they can repair Siege Engines, wield a Warpstone Flamethrower (single-Skaven Warpfire Thrower I would assume)

Gutter Runner – Permanent stealth with 70% movement speed buff, extremely low damage output, can leap onto Keep Walls, can sabotage Siege Engines

Presumably, they’ll have more abilities than what is stated, but this is what we know so far.  In combination with regular forces assaulting/defending a Keep, the Skaven will definitely provide a tactical advantage for the Realm that can bring them into play effectively.

The Skaven Zone

The new Skaven zone is an RvR-based Dungeon instance that opens up during the Open RvR Campaign.  There will be some type of foreboding announcement and then the ground will open up and Skaven will start climbing out and into Open RvR.  Players who are RR65+ can enter the new zone and fight in an instanced 24v24 RvRvE Dungeon.  The winning Realm gains access to the new Skaven Classes.

This Dungeon is filled with legendary Skaven bosses along the lines of Throt the Unclean.  In the example given with Throt’s fight, both Realms will have the ultimate goal of being the side to kill Throt.  While he is a boss in and of his own right, he also has minions with him: Rat Ogres.  He calls forth two Rat Ogres and sends one to attack each Realm.  They announce the player they’re after and chase them down.  If they kill the player, they announce a new target and the bloodshed continues.  If you damage a Rat Ogre enough, they become disoriented and will instead attack the other Realm.  When a Rat Ogre is killed, Throt calls forth a new one and sends them back out into the fray.  This continues until Throt is downed.

So, like the new City Siege, there are NPCs to deal with.  However, unlike the City Sieges, these NPCs are pissed and will beat the crap out of you if you let them.  Unlike past iterations of this theme though, this time the NPCs sound like they’ll be attacking both sides equally and not just targeting whoever accidentally pulled them first.  At least in this example.  Keep in mind, this is only one of the bosses to be found in the Skaven zone.

2.  Basic Lore

(Image courtesy of Portraits of WAR)

So, there’s a lot of Skaven lore.  I’m not going to touch on all of it as I feel that would be counter-productive.  Instead, I’m going to hit on the points that are pertinent to their upcoming addition to the game, at least from my point of view.  That being said, there’s still a lot.  Let’s start with some generalities before we focus in on the four Classes and the new zone.

Skaven Society

Skaven live within an extremely tyrannical hierarchy.  Warlord clans make up the bulk of the population.  The clans are set up like a pyramid.  At the top of each clan is a Warlord (hence the name) and below them is an array of commanders, Chieftains and pack leaders followed by the warrior class made up of Clanrats and Stormvermin.  Finally, the bottom layer is made up of the worker-class: the Skavenslaves.  At every level of this pyramid, every individual will cheat, steal, scheme and stab each other in the back if it serves to make themselves look better and thus move up the pyramid.  Not only do they completely and utterly lack honor or scruples, the more devious, scheming and double-crossing a Skaven is, the more suited he is for leadership.

Above the Warlord clans are the Greater clans.  As big as some of the Warlord clans might be, each Greater clan is the equivalent of scores of Warlord clans put together when it comes to their overall power and influence.  In fact, for a Warlord to make his clan powerful, he must first strike deals with the Greater clans for the assistance they can provide in terms of weapons, equipment and beasts of war.  There are four Greater clans and each has its own specialized niche in Skaven society and the battlefield.  They are Clans Moulder, Skryre, Eshin and Pestilens.

Clan Moulder are masters of breeding, mutation and creation of monstrous beasts of war.  They sell their creations to the Warlord clans who then use the creations to further their own interests.  Clan Moulder is responsible for the creation of such infamous beasts as the Rat Ogre, the Giant Rats, and the shockingly unnatural Hell Pit Abomination.  It is also common for Clan Moulder to also provide trained Packmasters to accompany their beasts, however some clans cultivate their own.

Clan Skryre are masters at blending Skaven sorcery with their technological creations.  The infamous Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre have created many fearsome weapons for the field of battle including the Warpfire Thrower, the Ratling Gun and the awe-inspiring Doomwheel.

In a world of shadows and gloom, Clan Eshin are the silent stalkers of the Skaven race.  Their agents are scattered throughout the world and not only relay valuable information back to their leaders, but also eliminate any and all threats they may come across.  From the lone Assassin to death squads full of Gutter Runners, the use of Clan Eshin’s agents is highly sought after amongst the Warlord clans.

Clan Pestilens are known as the Plague Monks as they are the disciples of disease and decay.  Infected by their own diseases, they are walking weapons of war.  They do not sell their services for profit, instead they align themselves with any that may help further their cause of spreading pestilence and corruption in the name of the Great Horned Rat.  They are the feared creators of such vileness as the Oozing Eye Death, the Black Plague and the Red Pox.

Above all these clans lie the two final pieces of the puzzle that is Skaven Society:  The Council of Thirteen and the Grey Seers.

The Council of Thirteen is the ruling body of Skaven society.  It is made up of twelve of the Lords of Decay with the last seat being held symbolically by the Great Horned Rat himself.  Only his favoured can hold seats on the Council currently and as such each member is imbued with a dark aura of power, a blessing from their god.  As such, the current Council has remained unchanged for the last few hundred years as none have proven themselves powerful enough to defeat any of the members.

The Grey Seers are the supreme Skaven sorcerers.  They make up their own small, yet powerful, clan of 169 members.  They are known as both the Prophets of the Great Horned Rat and the Grand Intermediaries to the Council of Thirteen.  Their pure white or grey fur and their distinctive horns mark them from birth as different from the rest.  Ultimately, they are the master manipulators of Skaven society.  Presumably on behalf of the Great Horned Rat, they devise schemes so devious and far-reaching that they may take hundreds of generations to come to fruition.  Their long-term goal is the utter ruination of the world and they will go to any length to achieve their goal and bring forth the return of their god.

The Black Hunger

Skaven have an extremely over-active metabolism which accounts for their quick reflexes and infamous speed.  However, such expenditures of energy come at a great cost.  To continue to function, Skaven must gorge themselves after any prolonged exertion.  This phenomenon is known as the Black Hunger and can even drive Skaven to feast on the fallen after a battle, regardless of which side they belonged to.  If a Skaven falls under the pangs of the Black Hunger and is unable to replenish his energy supply, he will quickly weaken and die.

Warpstone

The physical manifestion of raw magic, this is the single most sought-after resource in Skaven society.  It is the key ingredient in the mutating agents used to create their beasts of war, it is added to their metals and poisons, it is the power supply for their technological creations and it is a basis for their sorcery.  It is even used in their society as currency in the form of warptokens.  It has been the sole reason Skaven have gone to war against others on many occasions, including the war against the Great Necromancer Nagash (you remember him.  he cast the spell that brought forth the undead and the Tomb Kings, not to mention his role in the creation of the Vampires) which lasted over a century and resulted in his being hacked to pieces and destroyed (save for his hand which escaped and allowed for his return).

As such, it should be noted that there isn’t much Skaven aren’t willing to do if there’s enough Warpstone to gain from it.

Rat Ogres

Literally stitched together from the pieces of many other beasts, Rat Ogres have the speed of a Skaven and the strength of an Ogre.  They are ravenous creatures, always hungry to the point that they’ll even take bites of their own flesh if nothing else is available.  These near-mindless brutes are good for only one thing: killing.  There are many types of Rat Ogres as their creators are constantly playing around with them and adding extra arms, appendages from other deadly beasts, or simply attempting to make them even larger and more powerful than might seem prudent.  In fact, one exceptionally large Rat Ogre variant referred to as a Bonebreaker is used as a mount by some Warlords.

Packmasters

Packmasters are cagey and fierce warriors trained to goad into battle the beasts of war made by Clan Moulder.  They favor weapons such as the Whip or Things-catcher and will wade into the fray of battle with their beasts as it is often-times required since otherwise the beasts may not obey.  Master Moulders, a rank above the Packmaster, often go into battle alongside both beasts and Packmasters to inspect their performance as well as instill greater control and discipline over the pack.

Warlock Engineers

The artificers of Skaven society, they blend sorcery with technology to grand effect.  Some are actually sorcerers and can cast and channel Skaven magic while also manipulating their machinery.  It is common to see them replace their own body parts with machine versions that work better than the originals.  They often go to war with many devices from the infamous poisoned wind globe to the warplock musket.

Gutter Runners

These are the black-clad death squads of Clan Eshin.  They are used to soften up armies before a battle begins.  They are tasked with elimination of siege weapons, ambushing exposed flanks and picking off vulnerable units in battle.  They are masters of stealth and can sneak up on even the most wary of opponents.  They are routinely hired out to up-and-coming Warlord clans and also work on behalf of the Council of Thirteen.  They spy, instigate warfare, sabotage, and constantly steal or destroy records related to Skaven existence.  Teams of Gutter Runners are often led by a Deathrunner, which is merely the name for the one of them that is the most promising assassin-adept.  It is the goal of a Gutter Runner to one day become a trained Assassin.

The Under-Empire

The Under-Empire of the Skaven is the single largest of the known realms.  It quite literally stretches beneath the world, spreading outward from the center of Skaven society: Skavenblight.  Skaven cities, many of which are built beneath some of the largest human cities, are connected by a vast network of tunnels known as the Under-way.  These tunnels allow the Skaven unhindered access to just about anywhere they wish to go and new tunnels are added all the time.  To date, only Ulthuan is free of the tunnels, but the tenacious Skaven are always looking for a way to change that.

Hell Pit

The breeding pit for Clan Moulder, Hell Pit is made up of labyrinthine tunnels spiraling in nine expansive circles.  Filled with slaves, captured creatures and the abominable creations of the Master Moulders, it is a very dangerous place to come across.  The circles of Hell Pit are filled with laboratories, breeding pits, flesh distilleries, combat arenas and skin forges which all allow Clan Moulder to create their abominations.  While Hell Pit has been attacked by outsiders on numerous occasions, they were foolhardy expeditions of which the most successful only penetrated the first three circles before they were utterly decimated.

As you can see, there’s a lot to the Skaven lore and this is only what I feel is pertinent to our discussion.  I’m sure there’s more out there.  😉

———-

Note: Disclaimer time:  Everything from this point on is pure theory-crafting on my part (i.e. utterly and completely made up).  The basis for everything I talk about from here on is what I’ve presented and referenced above along with the history of WAR’s development up to now.  Again, all publicly available knowledge. Any similarity to what actually happens with the release of the upcoming content is purely coincidental.  I have zero inside information in regards to what is coming.  Everything I know is from publicly available announcements/interviews.

3.  Theory-Crafting the Skaven Dungeon

OK, so we know the new Skaven area is a 24v24 instanced Dungeon with PvE mixed in for flavor.  We were told by Carrie that the opening of the area would happen “randomly” during the Tier 4 Campaign and would be gated to RR65+ players.  From what was described, the opening will be heralded to all and Skaven will pour out of the ground and enter the fray in some way.  This sounds strikingly like the Skaven are using the Under-way that they have created as part of their Under-Empire to access the battlefields.  Since we’re not having these instanced fights above-ground based on what has been presented, it can only be left for us to assume one of two things:  either we’re battling in the Under-way itself or we’re using the Under-way like the Skaven do to attack various Skaven Lairs/Strongholds.  Either way, underground 24v24 skirmishes while also having to manage the attacks of some notorious Skaven sounds like a good deal of fun to me.  Mixing PvE and RvR isn’t new to WAR, nor to online games in general, but it already sounds a bit more like the upgraded City Sieges than their previous boring counterparts.

To truly theory-craft accurately about where we’re fighting, we have to look at who we might possibly be fighting.  Throt the Unclean was the boss used as an example in the podcast, and used with extreme detail.  Which leads me to believe he will, in fact, be one of our opponents.  If we accept that as fact, we can use it to predict a handful of other possible bosses.  In fact, since Throt is one of the named Skaven in the Armies book, let’s just assume the other named Skaven in the Bestiary are our other opponents.  There are a total of eight named Skaven in the Bestiary, each with an interesting story and a valid reason to be seen as a difficult opponent for a warband of warriors, not to mention two warbands fighting around them.  Let’s take a look at each one and how they might be implemented.

Throt the Unclean:  We already know how this fight is generally set up, but let’s look at why it turned out that way and use that to determine the other seven fights.  Throt is named as one of the most ingenious and twisted Master Moulders in Clan Moulder and is referred to as one of the nine Lords of Hell Pit.  He’s responsible for creating some of the most twisted beasts of war in Skaven history, including the infamous Hell Pit Abomination.  He is also classified as a Master Controller, so he doesn’t just create monsters, he also directs them better than most Master Moulders.  He has a third arm jutting from his back and is missing his left eye, but has replaced it with a shard of warpstone hammered straight into his brain.  His personal Black Hunger is even more ravenous than most due to his own self-experiments and he eats four times his own body weight in food daily.  In combat, he wields a blade and a special Creature-killer that he can use to control even the largest Rat Ogres.  In his third hand, he wields a special whip that generates fear in even the most mutated abominations.  In short, he’s a tough fight even without his Rat Ogres, not to mention 24 members of the opposite Realm fighting you at the same time.  This is looking to be a very interesting fight.

Ikit Claw:  In a clan full of ingenious engineers, Ikit is the Warlock Engineer supreme.  He has traveled the world studying every form of technology and sorcery he can find so as to create even more ingenious devices of his own.  He was the driving force behind the building of the massively upgraded warpforges in Skavenblight in his role as lead emissary for Clan Skryre.  He has heavily modified his own body to cover up the damage he has done to himself over time from failed experiments.  He wears an intricate iron mask over his head and face, he has built a special exo-skeleton out of iron that is powered by a warp generator and enhances his strength and defensive capability and, if that wasn’t enough, he added a portable warpfire projector to it just for fun.  On top of this, he wields a halberd named Storm Daemon that is wrapped in copper coils and set with warpstone that he uses to hurl warp lightning at his opponents.  Expect this to be one hell of a fight against all manner of mechanical contrivances.  Warlock Engineers have developed such cunning devices as Ratling Guns (exactly what it sounds like), Warplock Jezzails (long-rifles), Doom-flayers (tunnel/close-quarters combat machines), and the infamous Doomwheel.  Who knows what Bioware Mythic would have in store for us in this fight, but it looks like a promising premise for a good time.

Skweel Gnawtooth:  While Skweel might not look like much, as he was born a runt, he is considered to be the most successful Packmaster in Hell Pit.  He has a natural affinity for the beasts he works alongside, not controlling them with a lash he instead seems to simply guide them forward by manipulating their desire to do his bidding.  He has no problem controlling even the greatest breeds from Clan Moulder, but is unable to control the Hell Pit Abomination.  Wherever he goes, he is accompanied by a veritable horde of smaller vermin.  In combat, he wields a Warp-lash that does incredible damage and at times conveys bonuses from Regeneration to Poisoned Attacks to the pack he controls.  If Skweel is one of the bosses we face, expect to fight some seriously savage beasts, not to mention his vermin horde bodyguard, along with Skweel himself.

Queek Headtaker:  Queek, the Headtaker and the Dwarf-smiter, is a Warlord in Clan Mors, which while not one of the Greater clans, does hold a seat on the Council of Thirteen.  He is said to have an immense ego, a vitriolic temper and a vicious streak that are legendary even for a Skaven.  Which, of course, means he’s greatly admired.  While the grand ruler of his clan relies on him to bring victory to his clan, he also frequently hires Assassins to try to kill him to prevent an attempted coup.  It is said he’s respected by Orcs, feared by Goblins and greatly hated by the Dwarfs as indicated by his name frequently appearing in the Book of Grudges.  He is often accompanied into battle by scarlet-armoured Stormvermin and carries with him the severed heads of his latest opponents on a trophy rack.  In combat he wears Warp-shard armour and wields both a barbed sword and the vicous maul called Dwarf Gouger that can punch right through steel plate.  Expect a very challenging battle against Queek who will most likely be accompanied by some vicious Stormvermin.

Tretch Craventail:  Among a society known for duplicity, it is said that Tretch is a master of fighting dirty.  Not only is he said to be extremely underhanded, but he’s also famously lucky when it comes to escaping death, or blame which could be said to be the same thing in this society.  Many times he has left his own troops to die and narrowly escaped defeat only to reappear on the battlefield and accomplish something astounding.  Of interest to us in this is that he was recently given the title Grand Chieftain of the Deep Warrens by disguising himself as a stalactite and dropping from a cavern ceiling to kill the previous title-holder.  He now commands a small army of troops and is often assigned what are seen to be suicide missions or impossible tasks from which he continues to succeed/escape.  If we fight Tretch, expect every dirty trick in the book to be thrown at us, along with a few invented along the way for good measure.

Lord Skrolk:  Skrolk is a Plaguelord of Clan Pestilens, one of their rulers underneath the Arch-Plaguelord Nurglitch who sits on the Council of Thirteen.  He is truly a walking disease, having lived longer than even the most long-lived of his Race.  It is said that plants whither and die where he treads.  His love of corruption and decay is so passionate that he ripped his own eyes from their sockets at the sight of the Arch-Plaguelord as he deemed his corruption to be perfection and wanted it to be the last thing he saw.  And yet, he seems to see with a magical sight deemed a gift from the Great Horned Rat himself and has amazing reflexes.  He fights at the front of the battle lines, leading by example.  While he is surrounded by an aura of pestilence which can be said to be a devastating weapon in its own right, he also wields the Rod of Corruption and occasionally bears one of the volumes of the Liber Bubonicus, the toxic tome of ultimate disease.  If we battle Lord Skrolk, expect liberal use of AOE clouds/dots along with focused disease.

Deathmaster Snikch:  In a clan full of Assassin’s, Snikch is the most deadly and holds the title Grand Nightlord of Clan Eshin.  He is so feared, deaths whose nature can’t be ascertained are accredited to him even when he couldn’t possibly have been there.  He is adept at spreading terror where the Council or his Clan wishes and is one of their greatest tools.  Heavily fortified strongholds and locked towers are no match for Snikch as once he is unleashed, he never fails to kill his target.  In battle he is a mere shadow in the corner of your eye, appearing where he wants at will.  He is outfitted with multiple Weeping Blades that he weaves in a blur of movement, including one held in his tail that he uses like a whip.  He is also said to wear the Cloak of Shadows which both silences and conceals him from even the most observant foes.  Expect fighting Snikch to be like fighting a teleporting uber-ninja version of Master Splinter.  😉

Thanquol & Boneripper:  Unlike the other bosses mentioned here, Thanquol isn’t one of the usual clan members.  He is, in fact, a Grey Seer who happens to be a favoured agent of the Council of Thirteen.  He is a master manipulator that has commanded entire armies on behalf of the Council.  He is a frequent user of warpstone to the point where it has given him a sixth-sense for danger and as such is able to escape certain death at the last moment…leaving another Skaven to die in his place.  Sneaky sneaky.  He has spent his life studying humans and devising ways to manipulate them either through straight corruption or copious bribes and has a network of informers and agents in many of the human cities.  He is accompanied into battle by his mutant Rat Ogre bodyguard, Boneripper, who was a gift from the Council of Thirteen.  It is killed often, but is always regrown/rebuilt into a new, improved version.  In battle he wields the Staff of the Horned One, granting him access to a wide array of spells and is known to liberally consume Warpstone to help increase the potency of his spells.  Boneripper can only function when in close proximity to his master but has had an arm replaced with a Warpfire Thrower allowing him to be both a melee and ranged threat.  A fight with these two is sure to be interesting considering the dual threat offered by Boneripper, not to mention the sheer power of a god-favoured Grey Seer.

Considering the nature of the above foes and their lore, it could easily be that we run into them when we venture into the Under-way since they are known to be sent out into the world to do the bidding of the Council of Thirteen when need arises.  We’ll talk more about what that need might be in a moment.  First, though, we must consider that while these bosses are truly legendary amongst the Skaven, they may not be who we fight and the Under-way may not be where we fight.

Another option to consider based off the mention of Throt the Unclean is that our battles may occur in Hell Pit itself.  Throt is said to be just one of nine Lords of Hell Pit.  Nine separate bosses, each with their own cadre of mutated beasts of war would make for furious fights indeed.  Especially if one were to include the infamous Hell Pit Abomination itself.  The spiralling, concentric circles of Hell Pit would make for a very traditional dungeon-like progressive experience.  However, while that would make for a fabulous traditional PvE dungeon, I don’t know that it would suit the 24v24 RvRvE-based experience we’ve had explained to us.  Only time will tell, but I’m heavily leaning towards the Under-way as our battle location.

As for the purpose of our fight, it can only be to obtain as much precious Warpstone as possible, most likely in the form of Warp-tokens.  Seeing as how the playable Skaven “skin” has been likened to hiring out mercenaries to do our bidding, the gaining of Warp-tokens to use as the form of payment seems the obvious choice.  In fact, the creation of this type of token-generating content could be used to purchase everything from the use of the four Skaven Classes to various items and other gear.  In fact, as the names of the new RR90 and RR100 armour sets was revealed to be “Doomflayer” and “Warpforged”, the idea that they may be purchased via the tokens earned in this dungeon has quickly moved to the top of my list as the method of entry for these items.  In fact, with the themes of “Power”, “Progression” and “Personality” for the new RvR packs, the idea that you would use these tokens to buy the items unlocked from these packs seems a perfect fit.  It also allows for the easy addition of both future weapons/armor/etc as well as more powerful siege equipment along the lines of Plague Furnaces and Plagueclaw Catapults to the Screaming Bell itself which has already been hinted about as being part of the RvR packs.  In fact, let’s take a look at the Screaming Bell since it was hinted at coming as well.

The Screaming Bell:  This colossal bell sits atop a wheeled carriage pushed forth by a retinue of hulking Rat Ogres.  It is from their unholy perch atop the bell that Grey Seers preach the coming doom of the world.  The bell itself is cast out of bronze in the warpforges of Skavenblight and laced with pure warpstone in a 13-day process of which both Warlock Engineers and Grey Seers work together to complete.  As the casting cools, Grey Seers chant while coating it in sacrificial blood.  Good times.  In battle, each toll of the bell grows louder and louder into a cacophony that is unable to be described adequately with mere words. It’s abilities in battle include both buffs to its surrounding troops, random spell-casting and both debuffs and damage to its opponents within range.

Such a siege weapon could easily be a much-desired centerpiece of an attack on a Keep, regardless of its cost in Warptokens.  Given its lore, it could either convey huge bonuses to the attackers or greatly debuff the Keep and its defenders in some way.  Regardless, it would quickly become the target of the defenders if they wished their defense to be successful.

With the new placement rules for Siege, any new devices like this or the other Skaven machines could be placed just about anywhere they were desired on a battlefield to turn the tide of war.  And since they’re Warptoken-purchased consumables, they could be very powerful without creating imbalance issues in the long-term.

Oh what I wouldn’t give to see a Doomwheel randomly careening around the battlefield…   ~giggle~

In terms of the apparent limited-duration of the Skaven mercenaries, it could be explained as the effect of the Black Hunger wearing them down over time, effectively causing them to fall in battle.  It could even be part of their mechanic that they have to either be involved in the killing of opponents to stay active, like some of the other buffs in the game work.  Failure to do so results in loss of the Skaven.

As you can see, with the rich lore of the Skaven and what we have been told about the upcoming content, there is no limit to what can be possible in the future.  In fact, it is the very fact that there are so many possible options that make theory-crafting about this so difficult.  However, in the most basic sense of what Bioware Mythic has shown us they are capable of producing in the past, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll see something along the lines of what I’ve presented above.  The use of the Under-way as a battleground, the legendary Skaven bosses from the Armies book and the use of Warp-tokens as a form of currency for Skaven-themed “stores” unlocked with the purchase of the RvR packs seems to be a foregone conclusion to me at this point.

In as much as the lore is concerned regarding Skaven getting involved on both sides of a conflict like this, I can see where it can be seen as a touchy issue.  There are definitely reasons why the various Races on both Order and Destruction side of the game to not want to work with the Skaven.  However, from the Skaven’s point of view, their ultimate goal is the utter destruction of the other Races and the resultant domination of the world by the Skaven.  Add into that the fact that they’re getting paid in the precious, so precious, Warpstone to do what they’d do anyway (which is kill their enemy and members of their own race, which can be said to be the same thing at times) and you have some very motivated Skaven.

As for the other Races motivation to work with the Skaven, well, it’s war.  Neither side is above hiring mercenaries to help their side in this scale of war.  Whether each individual player is willing to buy that or not is up to them in a role-play sense ultimately.  That is what the decision comes down to.  Would my character, if it were real as I’ve imagined him, agree to fight alongside Skaven?  That is a personal, RP-based decision a player needs to make, but it has no overall effect on the grand campaign of the game itself.  The Order Races are fighting for their very existence against Destruction.  When it comes down to it, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  If the Skaven that approach them are willing to give life and limb to further their cause, even in battle against their own Race, then an alliance will be formed, however tentatively.  As for Destruction, the very fact that the Skaven are willing to fight on both sides of the battle has Chaos written all over it.  On the Realm level, neither side would put themselves at a disadvantage by saying no to an offer of aid of this magnitude, especially when the other side has been given the same offer.

However, while that is all well and good and looks to be a lot of fun, it still doesn’t address the Conundrum that caused me to write this post in the first place:  the lack of progression as a Skaven in the proposed content.

4.  What Would Gaarawarr Do?

So, the addition of a Skaven-themed RvRvE 24v24 dungeon instance and playable Skaven mercenaries wreaking havoc on the battlefield for Warpstone token payment is all fine and dandy, as is the Experience/Renown/Influence/Loot/etc I earn during my time as a Skaven going to the character I “rented” him with.  However, with the scheming, duplicitous, ladder-climbing nature of the Skaven, the lack of any progression for them at all seems to be the single unworkable affront to the lore as I’ve read it.  While there are reasons why Skaven would fight alongside both sides of a battle on this grand of a scale and there are reasons each Realm would accept their help, albeit tentatively, there is absolutely no lore-based reason to explain why your Skaven skin-skin thing-thing would fight for you.  Yes, he’s earning Warp-tokens, but you can bet his clan will be taking those as payment for his services, thank you very much.  So why would the Skaven do it?  There is only one reason a Skaven does anything:  to gain influence and move up in his clan.  Even the earning of Warp-tokens is done with that goal in mind.  So, given the Classes we know are being added, what would a viable progression-system for them in their role as temporary mercenaries look like?

At its core, due to the very nature of Skaven society, it would have to be temporary and fleeting progression that is kept only via as constant a presence as possible on the battlefield.  In Skaven society, daily life is marked by a constant shifting and jostling for power where yesterday’s hero is today’s meal.  That means we’d have to use a constantly decaying influence-like system based on your actions in Skaven-form on the battlefield.  In fact, since there are different Classes of Skaven that you can hire, each one would need its own form of earning influence that speaks to its role on the battlefield and confers benefits specific to it.  In this way, you both encourage the mastery of Skaven forms so as to have them be more impactful on the battlefield as well as enhance each distinct playstyle that is offered.  Let’s look at how it might work.

How to Earn Influence

Each individual Skaven has a role to fulfill on the battlefield.  As such, they should earn Influence by fulfilling their role and not just gain it generically in battle like one does with Experience and Renown.  Let’s look at each Class and see how they might gain Influence in their clan.

Rat Ogre:  A hulking, powerful brute, their purpose on the battlefield is to do damage.  Beating on opponents, especially opposing Skaven, as well as Keep Doors, should be the straightforward way in which this Class earns influence.  Additionally, given Skaven’s duplicitous, back-stabbing nature and the Rat Ogres ability to hurl allies onto Keep Walls, granting bonus renown for tossing higher-ranked Skaven allies to their deaths on said Wall may be an ingeniously lore-rich way of earning Influence.  ~giggle~

Packmaster:  Seeing as only Packmasters are going to be able to heal Rat Ogres, it follows that their primary source of Influence should come from keeping their Rat Ogre allies alive while they do damage to things.  Additionally, the liberal use of their summoned rat swarms and just their flat out ability to stay alive via strategic use of Skitterleap should be seen as possible ways to gain Influence.

Warlock Engineer:  The tactical placement of Warpstone nodes (buffing/debuffing a large number of players), repairing of Siege Engines and straight-out damage from their Flamethrower can all be ways a Warlock Engineer earns himself Influence on the battlefield.

Gutter Runner:  Their prime job on the battlefield seems to be the destruction of Siege Engines.  As such, their doing so should be their primary way to earn Influence.  Until more is known about their abilities, secondary sources of Influence are hard to theory-craft.  It is said they’ll do very little damage, so that seems to be ruled out as an Influence source.

How the Classes Progress

While it is very easy to figure out ways to earn Influence in battle, there needs to be a reason to do so.  Again, each Class is different so each form of progression should be as well.

Rat Ogre:  These beasts are constantly being tinkered with by their creators to be more powerful.  Titled stages of influence could be the following:  Rat Ogre > Mutated Rat Ogre > Hyper-gland Rat Ogre > Black-rage Rat Ogre > Master-bred Rat Ogre.

Packmaster:  This Class progresses in a way that helps to greater enhance the abilities of the pack it leads.  The titled stages could be as follows:  Packmaster Trainee > Packmaster > Apprentice Moulder > Master Moulder > Master Mutator.

Warlock Engineer: Progression here should be based around access to/invention of new, more powerful technologies.  Titled stages could progress as follows:  Warlock Trainee > Apprentice Engineer > Warlock Engineer > Master Inventor > Grandmaster Engineer.

Gutter Runner:  These Skaven are motivated by the desire to gain more skill.  As such, they could move up in titled stages as follows:  Night Runner > Nightleader > Gutter Runner > Deathrunner > Assassin.

Tracking Influence Gain and the Decay of Progression

As opposed to building in some new form of decaying Influence monitor system, progression for these Classes could be done in as simple a way as reworking things that are already functioning well in-game currently.

In terms of the Influence-tracking system, the current Live Event system could be tweaked to track Influence gain and expenditure on a recurring 7-day cycle.  A Skaven-Herald could be created that rewards different items that buff your Skaven-form in relation to their stage of progression or are possibly even equipped by your Skaven-form.  The bonuses inferred are different based on the Class and the level of progression in their hierarchy that they have obtained.  Rat Ogres could gain more powerful mutations.  Packmasters would have their buffs enhanced and maybe even be able to confer mutations on the Rat Ogres they oversee.  Warlock Engineers could gain access to more devastating weapons and modifications.  Gutter Runners could have their abilities enhanced as well as gain access to fun toys to use on the battlefield.

These items could use the standard Live Event timer that counts down from the moment the Event goes live so as to facilitate a hard reset of the system each week.  In this way, all players have the ability to progress to the upper echelon, but those that invest more time in the process get to spend more time at that level before the system resets.  The hard reset is in keeping with the lore of the short-term memory of heroic feats that marks the lower levels of Skaven society.

5.  Summary

What was the point of all this again?  I forget…  ~giggle~

As you can (hopefully) see, the proposed Skaven changes are both rich in possibilities and actually keep to the lore in a manner befitting all sides, even if it is a little bit of a stretch on a player-based role-playing level at times.  The information Bioware Mythic has announced so far lends itself to what appears to be a fairly straightforward method of integrating the different themes of the upcoming RvR packs with the planned changes to Open RvR.  It also points to what looks like a very fun and varied instanced battlefield for high RR players to clash against each other while earning some much-desired items.  Have you see the proposed Armor Sets yet?  Good lord, they’re wild!  If the other items introduced with the RvR packs are anything like these, people will finally have a very strong motivation to up their Renown Rank and buy the RvR packs.  :p

As for the Skaven Conundrum, by “skinning” a system like the one I proposed over the top of the proposed implementation of the Skaven Classes, you would take care of the issue of lack of progression while making sure that players don’t just “max out” each of their Skaven and then forget about them.  This system requires frequent use to maintain a good balance between progression and power and does so in a manner befitting the lore.

Speaking of the lore, and going off on a completely unannounced tangent (imagine that), the introduction of something of this scale screams unique Live Event.  Following with the Skaven-form idea and mixing it with the lore about the machinations of the Grey Seers, I leave you with one possible storyline for a Live Event introducing Skaven to WAR.  But first, until next time…

Have fun!

~Gaar

————-

“Great times are upon us!” squeaked Seerlord Kritislik, rubbing his paws together fervently.  As First Seat on the Council of Thirteen, he was rarely as excited as he was on this day.

As he exited the Great Temple of the Horned Rat, he turned and his gaze climbed slowly up the Shattered Tower until it was drawn instinctively to Morrslieb, hanging so low in the sky so as to seem almost alongside the Tower.  It had risen there, full and sickly, thirteen days before at a time when every Grey Seer had happened to be in Skavenblight.  The annual feast of Vermintide was upon them and the portent meant only one thing:  the time had come for the next phase of the Great Horned Rat’s plan to go into motion.

It had taken an unprecedented level of scheming and machinations, not to mention liberal use of Clan Eshin, to get the rest of the Council of Thirteen to approve this phase as it meant lifting the veil of secrecy they had shrouded themselves with for centuries.  It was well worth the cost though, as the chaos this would create in the world would leave it more vulnerable than it had ever been and would set the stage for the return of the Great Horned Rat himself.

First things first though, the Clan Mors and Clan Rictus were to be sent out into the world and, with the support of the Greater clans, they would weave a deception unlike any attempted before.  One would attack the Forces of Destruction, the other the Forces of Order.  Each would do their best to appear to be working in tandem with the opposing Realm while messengers would approach the king-things of the Forces and offer up their assistance as mercenaries in the war to help counter the efforts of what would be said to be a “fractious, wholly unsupported group of Skaven” in exchange for payment in warpstone.

Fighting alongside both the Forces of Order and Destruction, the two Clans would work to assure the ultimate mutual annihilation of both sides at which point the rest of the Skaven clans could rise up against both sides at once and finally complete their long-awaited plans of world-wide domination.  With the Great Horned Rat’s blessing, they wouldn’t suspect a thing.  The Seerlord eyes sparkled.

“Yes-yes…your doom is coming…”

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2010 11:04 am

    Dude, that is a truly EPIC post. Well researched, well thought out, and well done. You’ve inspired me to be more excited about this than I initially was.

    I agree that we’ll most likely be fighting this whole thing in the Underway. How long to you envision the fighting to last down there? If there are to be seven bosses to fight it could take quite a while. But it would be pretty sweet and a lot of fun.

    • October 6, 2010 3:13 pm

      Hard to say on duration as they could have gone a few ways with it.

      1. A time limited instance, like the cities, where you have to progress as far as possible before the timer runs out.
      2. A “normal” dungeon with no time limit and you go until it’s cleared.
      3. A single-boss instance that you leave once the boss is done, then zone into a new one with a different boss.
      4. A single-boss instance that is random and you only fight one boss each time the dungeon is available with some bosses being rarer fights than others.

      There’s really no way to know until they reveal the details as all of these options are possible in theory.

  2. shadowwar permalink
    October 6, 2010 5:41 pm

    One interesting possibility to think about that might be a possibility for the implementation of the various dungeons: 9 campaign zones, 9 lords of hell pit, means potentially a different boss fight for each zone, which would be aces.

    • October 6, 2010 10:54 pm

      That was a point in favor of Hell Pit being the location of the fights, I just forgot to list it. :/ However, I would take issue with the fixed nature of that since some pairings seem to be the focus of fighting and others get ignored. It effectively locks you out of enjoying content.

  3. GSF permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:32 pm

    Greetings!

    How do you see this new Skaven aspect of the game fitting in with the current design of three realms battling and the LotD? It seems to me that the Skaven aspect would fit like the LotD in that it is another opportuinity for the two sides to play against each other without taking away from the capstone event of capturing capitol cities.

    Yet, I am concerned about the/your idea that the new RR90 and RR100 armour sets are Skaven made. It strikes me as counterintuitive that the Skaven would make better armor than the Elder Races and that anyone but Skaven would wear it. I’m not looking to argue with your thinking rather get a little more of your perspective.

    Thanks!

    • October 6, 2010 11:05 pm

      First, I’m not sure what you mean as there are only two Realms fighting in this game, not three. It’s just Order vs. Destruction.

      As to LotD, I don’t feel this is anything like that. LotD is something that you can technically stay in indefinitely if you either always control it or never get killed. The new dungeon is an instance and thus your time there will always be limited. This makes it much less of a burden on the overall progression of the campaign than LotD is. However, you’ll still see those capable of going to the new dungeon leave the campaign for it when it opens, much like people left for LotD. However, BOTH sides will have this happen which helps to balance it out unlike with LotD.

      I didn’t actually say the sets/items would be Skaven-made, but I’ll grant that it’s implied. However, if this is an issue for you, then a lot of other Armor Sets in the game would have to be a problem for you as well. Redeye, Darkpromise, Bloodlord, Tyrant, hell, even Sovereign should raise the same issues if you’re going to argue that way. Ultimately, it’s merely a method of entry for the Armor Set. I pointed out the names to show that, like other sets in the game, they seem linked to a specific Dungeon or manner of earning them.

      However, if you truly want to get into the role-play aspect of the argument, there’s truly no reason to think that Skaven couldn’t fuse warpstone with the scavenged pieces of legendary armor they’ve collected off their foes in battle to ultimately make it more powerful than it was before. That’s what Skaven do and they’re very good at it. 😉

  4. October 7, 2010 8:24 am

    I’m excited about Skaven, but I want to sit on the fence to see how the RvR packs pan out

  5. Sancralaïs permalink
    October 8, 2010 7:03 am

    Thanks for that, it’s a great work you’ve done for us all. I’m discovering that I really love skaven background, it’s excellent.

  6. October 12, 2010 5:42 am

    Nice post! As for the dungeon, it seems very likely that those will be the bosses. The Dungeon itself is called Thanquol’s Incursion (TI) leaving me to believe its the underground tunnels beneath the zone you were fighting in rather than in the Skaven area. As for the fights, I believe Thanquol will be the final fight and that when he is almost killed he (true to the lore) runs off in some way. Meaning we won’t actually get to defeat him just yet.

    As to the loot, I figure each boss will either drop set items or be dropping a (or some) tokens which you can use to buy the new armor with (perhaps at the new blacksmith npc I mentioned?). The latter would actually make more sense as it’s a 24 instance and having non usable loot drops would be quite harsh.

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