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I notice that quite a few people have comment about how they find making fluff up hard and how themeing a army is always a secondary activity to the painting and gaming, which to me is a huge shame because I find it possibly even more fun that the paint and converting of miniatures.

So I decided to write up a quick little article on the ways I do it and what the sort of pit falls are. Sorry if I use mainly use examples from the IG as that is thing I have had most experience with.

Note: this is quite a extensive method so if you want a quick fix this an't going to work. It's the one I use the most often because I have found it to be the most effective and the one that gives me the most satisfaction as a gamer. Ok here we go.

1. The first step I always do is to decide what miniatures I’m going to be using. Don’t even worry about the colour scheme yet just choose which type. The best example is the Imperial Guard - there are heaps of styles of miniature so it’s best to choose one you like and won’t get sick of painting them. I can’t stress this point enough you have to choose models that you are going to like and want to paint lots of, other wise you’ll lose interest and never finish it.

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2. Choose your influences. Most armies are influenced by something else one way or another. If you don’t have any thing in mind already take a look through history books and look at Regiments, battles etc. At this point you may have to rethink your Model choice. The historical influences don't all have to be form one part of history, you could like the Knights Templar's mindset but also really like the tatics employed by Attilla the Hun, no real reason why you couldn't use the two as inspirations for a pious Empire Knightly Order who specialise in horseback raiding.

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3. Pick a name. This is possibly the hardest part. I find the easiest way to do it is to look at a atlas. Look to your influences. If you want to portray a Desert Regiment I would look at Arabic names or places, if you were going for a Mountain Fighting one the “Something Ghurkhas” is always a good bet. As with all things make sure it is a name that you like, otherwise you aren’t going to stick with it. You should always go with your gut in this topic, if the name sounds ok (as a name) but doesn’t really fit then find a better one. It is very important to have a name which fit’s the army and you like.
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4. Now you get to the part which most people find the most scary. The history. If your anything like me you can’t just sit down and write a full Index Astartes article in one go. So what you do is work on it in stages.

4a. What sort of Army do you want it to be. Now with this I mean whats the character not their role on the battle field. Do you want them to be staunch traditionalists or rogues that steal everything not nailed down. This will effect their reactions to situations that they are forced to face. For example a Elder Craft-World that is mournful about the Fall will hold the line in respect for their forefathers while a Craft-World that that are attempting to reclaim their former glories will hold the line out of pride and belief. This is the usual level to which this stage affects the force however some people take it a bit far...

Now if you are going for a really fluffy army this will affect everything from Wargear choices for your characters to your Unit choices. For example a very pious Space Marine Character is likely to have a bolter and power sword etc while one that is a little like the Blood Angels is going to be tooled up with Lighting Claws etc. It can even effect the way some players play. For example not making sweeping advances when they could so that their tribal IG can mutilate their defeated foes corpes.

You can get this image again from history books and novels or simply going "what would I do if I was in this situation?" (or why did you make that decision in your last battle which llost you the game?). Then its as if every member of your force has a little fragment of you inside them, trually making them a unique force to you.

4b. From 4a you can build up a mental image of the sort of things your army would be doing - rear guard actions, insane charges, stoic defences. Their choice of actions if you will, the sort of the warfare they excell at. I find it easiest from there to right a sort of ‘incident report’ for one of their battles. A example is this

The Creiffdon regiment acquired the name of “Shadow-Dogs” in M39 when they were involved in the Tanyeta conflict. The company was required to take a bunker that guarded an access tunnel which would lead into the main enemy strong hold. This heavily guarded post was placed high in the alps in the northern land mass, three platoon of Creiffdon troops led by a young lieutenant by the name of Felix Wulf trekked through 13 kilometres of enemy held territory infested with pickets, snipers and low lying fog. Wulf’s goal was simple, take out the enemies isolated SAM sites by any means possible so that the rest of the regiment could land in comparative safety in their Valkyrie gun ships and take the entry position. They not only did this but they also managed to silently remove a key portion of the enemy internal strong points so that the post could be taken with minimal structural damage and therefore survived three enemy counter offensives from inside the tunnel and two airborne attacks from rebel Thunderbolt fighters. Three weeks later, the planet fell , Felix Wulf was awarded the Macharian Cross for his initiative and the Colonel Rangard Torfact commander of the Catachan 551st “Spirit Hounds”that was there fighting bestowed upon them the name “Shadow-Dogs” in recognition stealthy assault and capture of the bunker. This signalled the start of long lasting relationship between the two military forces that would bring them together in many war-zones to come.

A very simple example using the idea that Creiffdons don’t like to wantonly destroy buildings, think about the future and how to defend captured positions. In game terms this can mean not taking template weapons and taking the Light Infantry Doctrine. From there you can build it up just by writing more and more battle reports until you get a feel for the way your army operates.

4c. Now you can begin to make decisions on the world that the army came from (as that seems to be a large part of most Index Astartes). Work backwards - you want forces that are good in Jungle, then logically they come from a world that has a fair amount of bush on it. But you can also clarify what sort of bush. Is it temperate, wet etc. Also what sort of creatures live on the world. Companies or squads could be named after them or take them as mascots. Commanders could even wear their skins as a sign of rank. From here you can then move onto other areas like “Combat Policy” (write up fake Tatics reports like http://www.heresy-online.net/forums/showthread.php?t=1331) or the way they view their gods/ why they fight.


VERY IMPORTANT: I cannot stress this point enough - you must be in keeping with the rest of the 40k Universe. You may be a good writer in regards to the way you write but if the ideas and themes behind your writing are out of touch with the rest of the current canon nobody will like or agree with you. For example: A planet is very unlikely to win their freedom from the Imperium and as a mark of respect for such a good fight the Imperium allows it to set up its own little empire where everything is all happy clappy. The Imperium would bomb the hell out of any planet refusing to comply with its way of thinking, not shake its hand and let it go. I have come across that one or others like it many times. This is sometimes called:

“The Motherhood Statement “:

SF story which posits some profoundly unsettling threat to the human condition, explores the implications briefly, then hastily retreats to affirm the conventional social and humanistic pieties, I.e. apple pie and motherhood. Greg Egan once stated that the secret of truly effective SF was to deliberately "burn the motherhood statement."


I think that 40K writing is vulnerable to this to a certain degree: I’ve seen quite a few stories that dip a toe into the grim, violent, insane world of the 41st Millennium, stay there for a moment but quickly falls back into “but the Imperium is actually an OK place and lots of people there are nice and happy just like us”.”

That quote comes from something called “The Turkey City Lexicon.”, I would really recommend reading this as it opens your eyes to more pitfalls that I could ever list.

Link:

http://forum.blpublishing.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=2303

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5. When you have finished all that you can now get on to the fun bits. Colour Schemes and conversion plans. Use everything you can to give you a good idea of what your figures are going to turn out like. Test out multiple schemes before you make your choice. It goes without saying that if you are doing an army that uses camouflage then it should fit in with their home-world/role on the battle field. Below is a list of websites that have interactive painters on them.

http://us.games-workshop.com/games/40k/spacemarines/painting/sm_painter/default.htm

http://uk.games-workshop.com/imperialguard/flash-painter/1/

http://oz.games-workshop.com/games/40k/eldar/extras/painter/default.htm

http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/smp.php

One thing to note on the Games Workshop ones is that the black is not very good. However if you don’t select any colour at all when you first enter the browser and click on the areas you want to paint a better black comes up. However once you have selected a colour you cannot go back to the inky black.

Another thing I tend to do is draw up sketches for unit markings, flags etc. If I was actually any good at drawing I would draw up my ideas for conversions. However anybody can draw flags etc. Never ever through your sketches away. Quite often you will look back at previous sketches and see a idea which wasn’t that good at the time seems to fit perfectly with what you are doing now. Just when ever you are thinking about your new force just doodle down some images and then evolve them from there.

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6. Final Step. Once you have decided on your colour scheme and background material do your test mini up. If it looks good then get painting and if not then repeat step 5 and 6 untill you've got a scheme that your happy with.

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So thats it - hope its been a help.
 

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nice one mate thats really useful it's good to see how other people go about writing fluff, like you i really enjoy writing background for my army especially when i've played a memorable game it's cool to stick events in the game into your back ground ( for instance, why my marine commander has a bionic leg and the reason she became a captain in the first place.
 

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Very good advice. I've read some articles that rank right up there with the "Cheese" award. To stay within the confines of WH 40K and then to also be happy with what you've created is what this game is all about. I like the idea of remembering past battles and then using that in the background fluff.
 
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