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Hogor – the High Orcs

“I spit on the peace treaty with the dwarves!”

“I am of the Hogor, an Orcish tribe with few allies save our own kind and that is how it should remain. Of the many tribes in this land, we are the fiercest and most powerful. While we trade with the humans for their superior steel, sometimes, and allow the ogres and trolls to join our ranks for battle, sometimes, we should look to our own kind for strong alliances, especially as we face so many enemies. It is a strong alliance we need, to fight the elves who seem to be all around us, to take revenge against the Formorians to the south, with their monstrous beasts, who attack and murder our hunting parties. To the west? The Fallen with their foul ways, skewering their enemies on sharpened poles along the roads, leaving them to rot in the warmth of the sun. They leave us alone and we like it that way, they nave nothing we want. The North? A place filled with Sun Elves, despicable, fragile things who seem to hate everyone for no reason. They live to hate. When an Orc holds hatred in his heart, it is for a reason, a purpose. Beyond them is the land of cold winds ruled by our Goriath cousins. They are strong and many in number but they will not join us against the others…yet.

I spit on the peace treaty which ties our hands! Orcs under my leadership will never trust dwarves, those landgrabbing destroyers, stunted freaks who leech the mountains dry of all their treasures and give nothing in return. No offerings or sacrifices to satisfy the hunger of the mountain god, nothing! The dwarves, who dwell beneath our feet and share their homes with worms, have not changed with the signing of a single piece of parchment and i shall continue to tell this truth at the gatherings under the solid moon.

In their haste to end the dwarf wars, tired of the battles which never came to an end, of an enemy who turned and ran back to the safety of their groundholes every time the tide turned against them, the elders gave too much. They drew up the peace treaty and commanded the gathered clan warchiefs to keep the peace. In turn, we pierced our thumbs and marked the treaty, all the while knowing that we must grow strong, build up stores, hoard the precious steel in our secret meeting places, and wait. The elders would eventually realize their mistake and we would be ready. Ready to take up arms again against the dwarves!

Our weaponsmiths work within the secret fortress of Omaghed with the quality steel even now, forging new blades, new weapons. The warchiefs will not suffer the peace forever and word of “the storm” is out. The Warlocks foretell a conflict on the horizon, a conflict the mystics have named the storm. At the last gathering, as the clans sat around the great fire which sparked and flared, the story was told again and again. The story of an impeding conflict in which our warbands would clear the land of the dwarves forever and would be restored as the warrior kings of this world, taking back our mountain kingdoms. As we listened, each telling grew in passion and fervor until it was as if we were listening to one long story told by many orcs. No matter how they arrived at the conclusion, it was always the return of the warrior kings and the death of all dwarves…and anyone foolish enough to ally themselves with the stunted ones.

The storm is coming!”

Hogor – the High Orcs

The Hogor tribe is seen as the most advanced of all Orcs and has had dealings with practically every other race at one time or another. although this had led to the occasional unnatural alliance, i.e. their temporary team up with a group of Humans at the battle of Gujek during the third dwarf war, for example, they usually follow party lines. The Hogor are ruled by a high council of respected leaders, consisting of great chieftains chosen by the old method of “promotion by combat”. All laws and commands are issued from the most high office. Internal disputes between clans are listened to and ruled upon by all the others involved. Simple and final – no clan would ever oppose the will of the high council for approval and permission, as thoughtless ambitions of the individual can end up dragging all the other clans into expensive wars. A prime example of this is the case of Urul Urgran, leader of the severed claw clan. His arrogance and unwillingness to listen to advisors led his forces into countless unnecesary battles and he was deemed personally responsible for the third and final dwarf war. Following the end of this costly and exceedingly bloody bwar, the various Orc clans within the Hogor tribe held a secret meeting – excluding Urul – and it was decided that he should be executed for the good of the Orcish people. his teeth, with their distinctively large tusks, were then fashioned into a elaborate necklace and presented as a goodwill gift to the dwarves at the signing of the peace accord.

Orcs are an aggressive race and like the challenge of a fight. Fighting is good. If there is not battle to fight or war to wage, they will probably end up fighting each other just to keep practise. They generally prefer hand-to-hand combat, believing that you do not enjoy the power of really inflicting terror until you have held an opponent’s throat in your fist, but they accept that missile weapons are important to the successful and triumphant resolution of many a battle. Smaller Orcs within the tribe, the Runts, are taught the ways of archery thereby allowing them to distinguish themselves in battle despite their smaller stature.

As with practically all elements of Orc life, Clan leaders advance by combat, pitting successful challenges against existing leaders. They then maintain their positions by surrounding themselves with dedicated bodyguards who protect their leader’s life at any cost. Providing the second-in-command from amongst their members for most orc leaders, the elite are extremely well trained warriors who will protect their leades – all the while waiting for an opportunity of their own to advance. The primary mounted troops of the Hogor Orcs are the Boar Riders, a rugged troupe guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents as they come bellowing into the fray. While they can be armored, most boars have only minimal covering so as to not diminish their speed. The riders on the other hand are usually well armored, to say the least. Boars are replaceable, skilled riders are not.

While Orc contingents will use Goblin or Nightling scouts, occassionally Orcs assume this responsibility. These are usually the smaller Orcs who don’t quite fit into the fighter/warrior mould and/or are useless with a bow!

The Hogor Warlords are constantly on the prowl, looking to take the best aspects of their foe’s forces and make it their own. The giant boar cavalry, an Orc tradition for centuries, has become strongly influenced by the armor worn by Eszmerian Knights. Also, the adoption of full plate mail armor by Hogor Warriors has led to them considering themselves as the noble race amongst the orcs.

Hogor Orc Warlords should try to pin the enemy with skirmishers or the main battle line troops while they attack the flank or rear with a thunderous charge of Orc Tuskers. Hogor Orcs have recently added War Engines to their forces, a new technology “acquired” from the Gnomes.

Practising a form of magic which appears anachronistic to most other races, Orc magic relies heavily on a variety of components. For example to perform a spell of any power an Orc magic user might need the eye from a bat, three oak leaves, a right front kneecap from a goat and a handful of quartz dust. This makes a magic user reasonably easy to spot on the battlefield as they are the ones with three or four assistants carrying bags of “things”. They also have their fair share of bodyguards so although they can be spotted, they cannot always be reached by the enemy.

Hogor Orcs support no permanent alliances at this time although they do, of course, maintain a close kinship with the Orcs of Goriath. They will ally with some Goblins and Nightlings. They tolerate Humans and even Dwarves but harbour a strong antagonism against the Sun Elves for many different reasons.

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What is a Collectible Card Game?

This special kind of the card game genre emerged in 1993 when Magic: The Gathering first appeared in the local games and hobby stores. This game was originally developed by Richard Garfield and was the first of it’s kind, spawning a whole generation of collectible card games, trading card games or customizable card games that are still popular until today.

As diverse as CCGs / TCGs are, they have several things in common that include the use of a starter deck or introductory deck that features a basic inventory of cards used to learn and play the game. Then, each player is able to expand his or her card collection and therefore the play deck as well, using new cards from booster packs. The cards packaged in those booster packs have varying rarity levels and the packs contain a random assortment of those cards, usually between 8 and 15 cards. Typical for this rarity system is the fact, that rarer cards have a much higher gameplay value than cards of lower rarity. With enough cards, players can create new decks and strategies from scratch.

The founding father Magic: The Gathering dominated the whole scene with it’s presence, but several other CCGs have come and gone. Among them popular IPs as well as smaller background worlds and scenarios with more or less varying rule sets: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, Legend of the Five Rings, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are very popular examples.

As the internet continues to change our lifestyles, it also has big influence on the way collectible card games are played. With the emergence of Hearthstone, digital collectible card games gained massive popularity. Those game do not make use of physical cards and instead use digital representations, with the newer ones foregoing card images altogether by using icons or avatars. Digital card games also allow for a much more complicated rules set and more subtle ways of distribution and monetization with expansions, custom card backs, layered rarity levels, campaigns and so on.

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What is a Social RPG?

The rise of “Social RPGs” begun with mobile phones running Android and iOS systems, as well as tablet computers – and are therefore to be classified as a mobile phenomenon. But this genre also has it’s niche on desktop computer systems as well. The birthplace of this genre is Japan and the additive “Social” also origins from there (despite being an english word). Im not sure if the tag “Social RPG” will be enforced or replaced by “Casual RPG”, “Mobile RPG” or any other combination later on, but Im quite used to the term already and stick to it.

The premise of this article is that you already know what a “RPG” is and have a good knowledge about the genre. So we take all the basics like a characters, enemies, maps, progression via a leveling system, inventories, items, abilities and magic for granted.

But the “Social” part of the name tag is not that obvious and should not be confused with its literal meaning. Instead it originates from another genre: “Social Games”. This kind of games became very popular as browser games in the past, distributed via social networks like Facebook. Social Games are usually free-to-play and can be played endlessly, similar to MMOs (for example building up a farm or managing a city). Social Games usually provide only light multiplayer aspects, as they are casual by nature (so no fixed raid times and lenghty dungeon runs or such). Most of the social interaction comes from showing off your work to others, competing with other players and climb up the ranking ladder. The times when these games where distributed via social networks is almost over, but Social Games continued to exist elsewhere until today – for example in the AppStores and Steam.

The Japanese are renown for unique game concepts and a individual way of mashing two genres together. It did not take long until casual game concepts (like Puzzle games) where mixed with certain RPG aspects and light multiplayer feature to create this new genre. In terms of labels, the american trend leans towards mashing two game titles together (like “Metroidvania”), while the Japanese simply combine two genre titles to create a new genre label. This way, the term “Social RPG” was born.

Social RPGs often actually only feature very light social elements. Limited to a fighting with or against friends, joining a guild or clan, inviting friends from outside the App for bonus points and so on. These social aspects have not changed much since the invention of the genre, but their presence is one of its defining elements. This fact makes the label a bit hard to understand, if you are confronted with it for the first time. But, the label “arcade game” has not much in common with “Arcades” anymore as well and every now and then we see tags like these pop-up and stick around forever (like “roguelike”).

So, what defines a Social RPG? Like with most genre labels there is no perfect definition for the term as the individual games can vary a lot. But here is a list of common concepts that helps to nail the corner posts down:

  • A single, repetitive core mechanic (like a combat system)
  • Micromanagement of game objects (like teams) to complement the core loop.
  • Leveling up through experience for both the account and game objects
  • Features increasingly difficult, short single-player challenges (combat etc.).
  • The focus is on challenges rather than exploration or story
  • Light multiplayer features like a friendlist, fighting with or against friends
  • A wide array of game objects to collect and use
  • Loot is gained via a random lotto mechanic termed “gacha”
  • Game Objects are tiered according to power and rarity
  • Game Objects can be evolved or increased in rank
  • Hard cap on all inventories to force players to invest resources to lift the cap
  • Rare premium currency that is used for a variety of purposes
  • Free-to-Play with optional in App buys of premium currency
  • Puts a limit on game sessions via a stamina meter (or energy meter)
  • The main battle mechanic can draw from a variety of other genres such as action, puzzle etc.

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What is a casual MMO?

MMOs have come a long way since the humble beginnings of their ancestors like Meridian59 and Ultima Online (with several others even preceding those). We have seen whole generations of development in regards of graphics, gameplay and usability. But MMOs are also bound to the time players spend in the game, this means all MMO games run in “synchronous” mode – where enough player have to be online in order to raise the gameplay experience to an enjoyable level.

With the rise of mobile devices, more and more casual Massively Multiplayer Online games see the light of day. The usual definitions for these types of games are: Easy to learn, intuitive design, fast gameplay in short intervals and quick results. But casual games also have the “asynchronous” gameplay in common. That means players are not forced to be online at the same time in order to fully enjoy the game.

In a world with many different timezones, increasing workloads and stress levels and so many different ways of life – casual games hit the nail right on the head. How do you benefit from a large player base if the major amount of players must be online in order to enjoy raids, dungeons, battlefields and guild wars together? In a casual MMO, every player has the freedom to participate whenever there is time – and is still able to enjoy, progress and contribute to the game for the full gameplay experience.

So, casual MMOs feature all the typical keypoints we know and love about traditional MMO games. This includes character generation, character development, acquiring, collecting and upgrading items, finishing quests and progressing through the story and the overall game. But casual MMOs cut out the fat (like having to stay online for 3 or 4 hour shifts in order to participate in a dungeon raid) and streamline the gameplay to the most enjoyable parts. Of course this also cuts out some of the meat we used to enjoy in past (offline) games like Final Fantasy and others. But after walking from Location A to Location B for the third time, the excitement of this process like begins to fade away and is something we are more than willing to resign.

I don’t say this removes repetition from the game, as most casual MMOs rely strongly on reptitive behavior (“grind”) like fulfilling daily quests, completing daily challenges or fighting the same bunch of monsters/enemies on a daily base. This kind of grind is very common to almost all casual MMO games and increases repetition, while on the other side many repititive factors are simply removed. This phenomenon goes hand in hand with “content stretching” as most casual MMOs try to deliver the same content (map, stage, level etc.) over and over again to the player (with varying degrees of difficulties and rewards). This is done in order to spread the existing, prefabricated content (that is always expensive to produce) out like butter. But also to slow down player progress as much as possible with the ultimate goal to make the player stick as long to the game as possible. In a single player game, you usually finish the main storyline in something between 25 and 50 hours – a MMO on the other hand must be able to keep it’s players around for month’s, if not years!

This all being said, the casual side of MMOs is not bad at all. Okay, lets put aside some of the more P2W aspects some of them try to sell to the players as features. But besides these capitalistic developments, casual MMOs are quite enjoyable for a very long time and are able to maintain large player bases. But on the other hand, this type of MMOs is also not as innovative as many developers/publishers want them to be, its just another variation of the genre, wrapped up in shiny new clothes and then sold to the masses. If you look for a revolution in the MMO genre, better look elsewhere. But if you are looking for an enjoyable Massively Multiplayer Online experience that does not force you to lengthy game sessions every day – “casual” is the way to go!

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What is a Gacha Mechanic?

Gachas (also Gashapon) are basically lottery style mechanics found in many modern game concepts, mostly in mobile games. In fact, this style of “random reward” is part in RPGs since their earliest days – in the form of random loot drops and loot tables. Even the very first pen-and-paper RPGs featured a Gacha Mechanic of some sorts, represented by treasure tables and random treasure rolls. In itself, such a mechanic is nothing bad – as it adds the excitement of uncertainty through a luck factor to the game. My CGE project will also feature such a Gacha Mechanic, in form of loot drops, loot crates, treasure tables and random treasure. But, the modern interpretation of Gacha goes much further, blurring the line between game and gambling.

The word Gacha originates from the sound that japanese toy machines make, when you turn the handle. These machines are quite common all over japan and we have seen them as well in the US and europe during the late 90s. Usually, those machines contain collectible figures in a small plastic egg. Receiving such a miniature requires money and a turn of the machines handle. The delivered figure pops out of the machine at random and is always part of a larger set. One of the main factors is that players try to collect the whole set of available miniatures.

Exactly this kind of mechanic has been transferred to free-to-play mobile games. It first appeared in japan, but is nowadays common in almost all F2P titles – also from Europe and the USA – in addition to Japan, China and Korea where this concept is widely accepted since years.

One of the core mechanics within the Gacha Mechanic is, that some of the miniatures mentioned above are rarer than others. This requires the player to play the Gacha game multiple times in order to get the right figure and complete his or her set. As each use of the Gacha requires money (either ingame or real currency), the Gacha Mechanic is a real money-sink but also one of the main motivational drives for a F2P game.

So we have defined two main aspects of the Gacha, that add a strong monetization feature to any F2P game: Randomisation & Rarity as well as Set Completion. Especially rarity – when cleverly designed – can get the most out of the Gacha, as it adds the mystery and intrigue to the user-experience. Among the many on-par or sub-par miniatures a player will get, a super-rare figure every now and then rewards the player even more and is very satisfactory.

Nowadays there is more to the good old Gacha, as design studios do their best to get the most out of the mechanic. The so called “Kompu Gacha” (Complete Gacha) is one example, where set collection relies on multiply Gacha completions in order to get the grand-prize (I can recommend this article if you want to get some more information about it).

As said earlier: Gachas blur the line between gaming and gambling. The Kompu Gacha has even been banned in Japan for some time. Personally Im strictly against any kind of gambling mechanics in games, but cleverly used, Gachas add a lot to it (in form of the good old loot tables). I would like to add, that gambling in my country is only legal to people of 18 years and above. But games are generally available to kids and adults alike. There is a lot to be deserved as our state simply sits in indolence while gambling mechanics are sweeping the app stores and with them, the potential risk of addiction to mechanics like Gacha.

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What is Click-and-Wait?

Click-and-Wait is a lesser known term to describe a very popular feature found in nowadays games. The feature originates from traditional browser-games and is ever since popular in almost all F2P games, especially mobile games. The term “click and wait” describes a typical time based process where the player first initiates an action per mouse-click and then waits for a certain period in order for the task to finish.

At first, this kind of system sound silly and obsolete – some players even hate click-and-wait implementations in games – but systems like this are quite important to the flow of the game. Thats because click and wait mechanics interlock with concepts like Session Pacing, Content Stretching and Energy Systems. All of these systems have been developed in order to prevent players from blazing through game content too fast. Furthermore, the delayed reward represented after a timer ticks down, is a incentive to make players come back later. It should be noted that this system makes its sole appearance in multiplayer and/or free-to-play games (understandable as it would not make sense in a single-player-environment, or is at least a very rare sight).

The basic definition of Click-and-Wait is quite simple: The player “clicks” a game object in order to start an action and then “waits” until that action is finished. One of the more common implementations is for example the build system as seen in games like Clash of Clans. As a player you first have to save up the amount of resources required and then, when you are allowed to buy the building, that said building must be built first. This building period delays the reward the player excepts for his spending, due to various reasons (as explained below). But there are less obvious click and wait systems as well: When you take a close look, the energy systems found in most F2P mobile games is nothing else but a clever interpretation of click-and-wait. First you spend energy by performing certain activities (“click”) and after spending your energy resource, it takes a while for it to regenerate again (“wait”).

So, lets look at the reasons for implementing such a system:

First of all, mobile games are played in short time intervals of only a few minutes. Instead of a single, lengthy game session as for example on a desktop PC based game, players log back into their mobile game several times a day. This creates a series of short timed gameplay intervals, distributed across all times of the day. If you (as a game designer) want to support these short timed intervals, a energy system is the right mechanic for that. It allows your players to play the game in short bursts, forces them to rest for a while and makes the players come back again after a certain period of time passed.

Another, important reason is content pacing and content stretching. In a single player RPG (for example Baldurs Gate) it is quite possible for a player to complete the whole game within one (or 2-3) long game session(s). Thats totally OK for a shelf title with a estimate 30 hours of gameplay. A F2P game on the other hand must be seen as a “service” and tries to bind the player for weeks, if not months or years. Utilizing the click-and-wait mechanic, you (the designer) are able to increase the amount of time spent on the game (or off – with regular returns). It also helps to pace the game, as your players simply cannot blaze through the content in one go. This is even more helpful (and important) in a multiplayer environment where you always have the risk of a “runaway leader” syndrome.

Furthermore, packaging the game into small chunks (and enforcing this chunked consume behavior via timers and energy systems) prevents player burnout. This chunked pieces of gameplay can be seen as entries on a to-do-list and give the player the feeling of accomplishment. Additionally, in-game rewards can be added to these entries – players can add a “check” on their mental checklist and know that in a couple of hours a reward is waiting for them as well. All in all, click-and-wait style games give the players of mobile games exactly what they expect: the maximum amount of fun in the minimum amount of time (per gameplay session that is).

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Mongrelfolk – the Beastmen

“There is no waste after a battle. He is finished with his fine boots, isn’t he? He has no need for them now and I can use them to barter with, at one of the many stalls in the Zandu marketplace. They have a trade value and I want something fancy to eat. The harshness of the sands has exhausted me and I refuse to eat any more cactus flowers! They are all I have eaten for days and they stick in my gullet, the mere thought of their texture makes me retch. I want some ale and some real food, some meat for now and a haunch to carry with me.

There is safety in numbers and our herd is large, but we have to keep moving. The battle has ravaged this land, the food is gone and our leaders say that the south is where we should go. Our herd numbers in the many hundreds and we can eat anything but sometimes there is nothing. When the threat of starvation hangs over our heads, then we serve the Formorians as we do now. They feed us and our families and we survive another season, but it is not all good. We are forced to fight in the front ranks and we are the first to fall. I accept that it is as it should be. If we are destined to fall then we shall fall but why was it ordained that my clanbrothers should die on the first day of the Khalsastra campaign? I continued alone, my anger stronger than ever before and the axe in my hands turned into a death machine. I survived my clanbrothers to avenge their death’s, one life at a time, but victory did not erease this loss I felt. I feel that still.

I run with the pack, alone and strong with no brothers and no family. I am strong and I live, I roam the world with my pack and my life is in the killing of those who would confront us. There will come a time when we will have a homeland of our own, when we can create a new history for our people, but for now, we fight for the reptiles and my family eats.”

Mongrelfolk – the Beastmen

Beastmen were created by the Formorians to serve as slave labour and to function as mindless mercenaries. While some function in this capacity within the realm of the Formorians, many broke away from their despotic rulers and made the desert their home. These nomadic outcasts now wander the land, bitter and resentful, fighting for food and survival and attacking the Formorians at every opportunity. They are most angered by the fact that they have no realm to call their own and no land to lay down their roots despite a tiny enclave in Marmundi, a harsh scrubland in the northern part of the continent Voran. The Hadab avoid this part of the continent, as it is a inhospitable place without any resources worth to exploit. Mongrelfolk especially despise the Ratkin, laying them blame for their creation and exploitation firmly at their feet. While the Ratkin had nothing to do with it – as it was their accidental creation which led the Formorians trying again and the Beastmen know this.

A visual mishmash of horrible half-beasts, covered in the armor of history’s fallen, their scavenging is second in scope only to the Ratkin and their armories feature weapons and tools from every known race. Although vicious and deadly, Mongrelfolk warriors never really become attached to any specific weapon, preferring to have skills in many different types. For this reason, it is difficult to gauge what to expect, or which style of combat to prepare for, when you confront a contingent of these mongrels. They will steal weapons from the dead, swapping their maces and axes for polished steel, if they think it will improve their chances in the next battle.

Mongrelfolk Warfare
Since the days of their slave revolt and escape from the clutches of the Formorian, the Mongrels have been looking for a fighting style which suits their physical build and state of mind. Function tends to follow form and in this way, the Centaurs used by the Formorians as beasts of burden have become the Mongrelfolk army’s mobile force. The prsence of a Minotaur, the powerhouse of a Beastman force, on the battlefield will inspire and motivate heroes and champions to follow them. Mongrelfolk warriors are fast and vicious but will not stand up well to a long fight. This has been compensated for in recent times with the training of new legions who fight in deeper formations with the added sting that they throw javelins into the oncoming contingent just before contact. Mongrelfolk Berserkers, who have lost all sense of reason and now exist just to fight, are herded into units for use as shock troops. These Fanatics almost always die in the attempt to demoralize the opponent army, but not without taking a dozen of their enemies with them. It is said that those Berserks kill themselves after their bloody rampage if they run out of targets.

Mongrelfolk Military
To come across a battlefield after it has been gone over by victorious Beastmen is a gory and disturbing sight. Any piece of intact clothing or footwear and all weapons and shields are gone, stripped from the corpses. While it disgusts the other races, angry as they are that the Mongrels show their dead no respect, the Beastmen themselves have no qualms about ransacking the losers – or even eating them on some occasions. It is not an evil act to them but rather a logical progression of their belief that it was their victim’s time to die and that the dead have no further need of equipment, clothing or gold.

Occasionally, a Mongrel will emerge from the ranks who is considerably sharper than his comrades and it is this intelligence which pushes them into the role of a leader. They realize that the better they are at commanding their forces, and the more successful their skirmishes and battles, the more they will be rewarded. Consequently, Leaders will do almost anything to remain at the top and will amply reward those who follow them. Large tribes will only gather if they have a particularly strong and charismatic leader. These gatherings rarely last, though, and while you will see tribes numbering in the thousands, it will be very rare indeed to find an army composed entirely of Beastmen.

In the past, Minotaurs more often than not were solitary creatures who kept to themselves, hating even the company of their own kind. When the Mongrelfolk appeared in their world, they were encouraged by the opportunities to bully and control them. They gradually came out of their shell, as it were, as they realised that they could use the easily manipulated Beastmen to their own advantage. Being excellent fighters themselves, the Minotaurs discovered that they were very effective in combat and with a little help, the Mongrels were too.

The only problem was that their style of fighting didn’t lend itself to military tactics. A tactic they developed in early battles which they still utilize is the so-called Horns tactic. Basically, a main mass of Mongrels in a centre field of battle would slowly march towards the enemy. To each side of this main block would either be Boar Riders or Centaurs. The idea being that the main block would engage and swarm into the enemy and the flanks – the Horns – would close in about the rear. While the tactic worked, it was not a tactic they could use repeatedly and they are continually developing their military skills.

Wizardry & Religion
Fatalism, the Mongrelfolk religion is a dark, clouded subject and is never discussed or openly practised outside their own ranks. They believe that all events are predetermined and controlled and that the individual can do nothing to change it’s destiny. This belief structure makes them formidable opponents as they do not panic if a campaign goes wrong, or a battle is lost, and they waste almost no time on grief for fallen comrades. They just keep thundering on. The fact that they are a created race, and they know it, probably has a lot to do with their choice of faith.

Although from the opposite side of the battlefield, they might appear to be allied with the Formorians, they have no allies and desire none. They will serve as mercenaries for the duration of the campaign, the ones paying them are their allies. However once the battle is concluded, so is the alliance…until the next time.

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Norlon – the Shadow Elves

“Yes, it’s true. I am a first order scout of the southern reaches and I wear the black rose cluster. I took my first token of flesh at the battle of Areon plains and I wear it still, encased in silver around my left wrist as it is the fashion. They call me Imuril Derabel and the Zanimar labyrinth is my home, as it was my father’s and his before him. The markings you see on the wall, the intricate patterns and outlines, tell the story of when we first made these caves and others like them our home. This is our history, as place of beauty we have shared with the earth spirits for a thousand years. Do not believe this forest dweller, the pale-skinned wild elf, when he tells you that we were cast out of the forest. Hah! We were not cast out, we left by choice, stifled by the woods and leaves and animals! We knew that if we stayed with them we would never advance, never be a true power, so we headed out on our own to write our own destiny. A destiny of accomplishment and adventure! What hope did they have? Hiding in the trees, afraid of their own shadows and talking to men made of wood. Were we wrong to desire a more structured life, a world surrounded by the strength of impenetrable stone, a world of glorious darkness? I think not.

And their magic users, the Naru? What can they do if they have no wood to play with, no leaves from wich to make their poultices? Nothing! Our sorcerers can strip the flesh from a man’s bones and then reduce the bones to powder, all with a sideways glance and a flick of the wrist! They are nothing and we are everything!

You want to hear of our victories? They are many – have you the time? During the battle of Mal Yei we fought the Orcs of Goriath for the first time. That was a welcome challenge. The caves below Kirek ran bright scarlet that autumn morning, the ice and snow stained with orc blood, so we now wear a crimson crest upon our shields. That morning was like no other and while I feel great pride in having been there, our losses were great. I am positive that the Goriath knew we were coming! There is no other way they could have surprised us on the beach like that as we emerged from the cave mouth. If we ever find out who sold us over, they will feel a wrath like no other they have every experienced. But I cannot dwell on that. There is Voran to consider and we only have a few days to prepare. We are to accompany Lord Azarfar on what is referred to as a “diplomatic” mission. The mere thought of diplomacy is distasteful to my clique but we shall honor the assignment, riding the hidden, underground river to the meeting place so that no spies may report on our progress. There, Lord Azarfar will work on strengthening our alliance with the Hadab, supportend them in their fight against the Sun Elves. Although we appear to have similar goals, I still don’t fully trust them. They seem overly friendly and I feel they may have something up their sleeves. Or on those carpets their Sorcerers ride through the air. They spook me with their silent approach and I shall keep my hands near the hilt of my blade throughout the meeting.

I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with these recent overtures at “friendship” with other races. We do not need them, they do not appreciate or respect us, so where do we go with this? It is better that we stay as we are, sequestered in our places of strength. Let them come to us, that’s what.”

Norlon – the Shadow Elves

With harsh features and a reputation to match, Shadow Elves are a particularly nasty race who believe that they are the only true elves. They do not see themselves as nasty or evil, their view is simply that it’s the other races which have strayed from the right path. A popular Shadow Elf saying which succinctly explains their philosophy is “those who allow others to pass will soon be left behind”. Suffice it to say that Shadow Elves are continually pushing forward.

The Norlon despise Humans and their ways and feel that the other elvish races are far too Human in their outlook, at times ignoring their elven heritage. This statement is actually not true, in any sense of the word, but that doesn’t stop the Shadow Elves from believing it. It is rumored that they cut the tips off the ears of elves they capture, “humanising” their appearance to match their actions, but this is believed to be apocryphal. While it is true that there are subtle and not-so-subtle color variations in the skin tone of every race, there are none so extreme as the difference between the Norlon of the south and those who live in the northern regions. Southern earldoms have deep-red skin like the color of molten lava while those of the north have blue skin and often dark-blue or purple hair. There is no clear reason for this regional difference but it is believed to date back to the time of the first age. No record exists which details what happened back then, but cave drawings and pictographs deep in the Zanimar cave system, as yet undeciphered, may hold the key.

When actively engaged in war, they enjoy inflicting as much terror and death as possible in their efforts to rout the enemy. Their Sacrificers follow them on every campagin to ensure regular offerings to the gods of war. They have been known to torture captured scouts and slaves en masse before a battle, using their terrified screams and agonising wails as the precursor to a disturbing battle chant of howls and shrieks. This caterwauling is sure to strike a nerve in even the most battle-hardened opponent.

Although they would better be classified as sadistic torturers, Shadow Elf scouts are very successful at finding out information from the other side, by whatever means necessary. They don’t bother to disguise their profession and will often have various implements of pain-infliction hanging from their belts, dangling from their saddles, or attached to an captive. Their arrogance is perceived to be one of their strengths as they exhibit no fear or dread regardless of the severity of the situation. They wear blackened chainmail and dulled partial plate, often adorned with bright red or blue flashes, and carry blackened scimitars and longbows. Norlon are proficient with a variety of contact poisons and paralyzing agents and their herbalists will pay highly for new plants and grains from distant places, hoping to create unique new potions of liquid wickedness.

Although Shadow Elves are known to use many different animals for their mounted troops, they tend to shy away from horses in favor of giant reptilian creatures manipulated and changed by their sorcerers. These beasts have been bred with a craving for human flesh and once they enter a battlefield, human opponents have as much to fear from the mounts as from the riders. Sorcery is a powerful element of Norlon culture and the several sects are highly revered. Witchcraft, although rare, is also practised by Shadow Elves, their Sorceresses and Witches are exceedingly beautiful, their spells making them irrestibile to males of all races, with two notable exceptions: Eszmerian Knight Templars and Undead.

As with all elven races, the strategies and tactics of the Norlon forces have been tried and tested over many centuries of constant war with most of the races which make up the world of Ascendallion. Thier standard formation will include a wall of warriors mixed with crossbowmen who fire home the charge when an enemy becomes disorganized. Labyrinth Guard will often leave their underground posts to either lay in ambush or to seize a dominant terrain feature. Beast Riders and Sacrificers are normally held in reserve and used to finish off a broken opponent.

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Unari – the Sea Elves

The deep ocean empire of the Unari was established many thousands of years ago, before the inhospitable surface world was fully formed. The old Sea Elf empire pre-dates the histories of all the surface dwelling races and the very existance of the oldest land based creatures. Indeed, the Unari have not been part of history until now!

The foreboding of the Fall – the great cataclysm changed many weak minded Sea Elven citizens, while others benefit from expanded consciousness. As large parts of the Unari civilisation descended downwards to Unthrowor – the Abyss, others worshipped the Meteor like lunatics praising the moon. The result was a rift that tore the Sea Elven culture apart and ended in a terrible underwater war, for which the Unari where ill prepared. Brother fighting Brother, the once so great underwater empire was overturned and the underwater civilisation of the Unari collapsed before anybody had a chance to take notice of it.

What remained of the Sea Elven princes and nobles, hid themselves in deep ocean trenches, protected from the outside world with what remained of their elemental magics. As the ages passed, the Unari established small princedoms and provinces in secret places on the ocean beds beyond the minds or imagination of any surface dweller or even their tainted brothers – who became known as the Cerulean.

The Sea Elves remained a small race, never again to achieve the greatness of the old ocean empire. As the aftermath of the Fall ravaged the surface world the Unari were ever vigilant and made every effort to protect the ocean floor and keep their presence in the world a secret. For milenia the Sea Elves were successful in their endeavours and they lived peacefully, learning to work in alliance with ocean creatures and in unison with the natrual ways of the deep. The Unier nurtured a symbiotic relationship with the marine life around them and together they shared the fruits of the seas and the protection that many.

Long the Unari lived in peace but the Cerulean Horde had not forgotten the sea dwellers and their first underwater wars. Lesser Froglok and Cerulean heralds were sent hither and tigher and were ever intent on searching out the hidden people of the ocean world. Thanks to the Sirens who sensed the turn of evil, some of the Unari leaders were saved before their final underwater enclave was discovered and the Cerulean unleashed their living war-machines. The tectonic plates parted under the pressure and the Unari homeworld was torn asunder by submarine quakes, devastating currents and grotesque underwater deamons intent on reaping their foul God’s will.

The deep had become uninhabitable, the Unari had no choice but to find safe dwellings in shallower coastal waters, their survival depended on it. It was inevitable that the Sea Elves would come into contact with the surface dwellers.

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