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 Post subject: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 10:44 am 
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So I'm debating something ambitious in the near future, which probably means three years down the line or so.

I spent the last couple years planning out a campaign and coming up with rules to effectively merge a couple different themes and utilize all the armies that all the players are bringing to the table (Tau, Imperial Guard, Sisters of Battle, Adeptas Mechanicus, Deathguard/Nurgle Daemons, and (of course) Tyranids).

A quick version of the campaign and then I'll get to the cult: Tau attack a shrine world where a cult is active. The cult isn't quite ready to "pop" just yet, but the added "biomass" is an opportunity to call in the hive ships.

Obviously, the Cult will play a huge roll until the rest of the hive shows up, so I began researching the house rules (and official rules) for the Cult. While some were good and others creative, they just didn't seem a real viable army for more than a one-off game; something that would look cool in a display case and probably stay there.

Listening to the news on the latest attacks in Pakistan and Iraq, it occurred to me that a Genestealer Cult would operate in a similar way to an insurgency. Hopefully this won't cause a tangent discussion, but it inspired a different way for the Cult to fight.

I came up with a couple ideas I wanted to toss by the community and see if it passes the "sniff test." Granted, some of these ideas are new and very different and not really supported by fluff (that I know of), but it just seems like the Cult would have more than just a few "limos."

HQ: The HQ choices would stay largely the same, with a couple minor changes.
- Patriarch: An upgraded version of a Broodlord. Maybe it would have more options, but it would be a little more formidable than a Broodlord.
- Magnus: Can't have a cult without this guy. Powerful psycher, able to use two psychic powers at once. Will need a couple unique powers.
- Priests: I think this is the first "new" unit. Think "commissar" and you're close. Someone that keeps the cult rolling and stops backsliding among low-morale troops. Don't count against total HQ choices.

Elite: A few new units here, this being probably the area where people will be most or least impressed.
- Choir: A less powerful group of psychers. They create a Shadow in the Warp and might have one offensive power or Leadership "demoralizer." This would be similar to the Imperial Guard's psychers, but probably 2:1 (two cultists equal one IG). This would make for a larger, less powerful mass - this is also the group that calls to the swarm.
- Fanatics: High LD, not subject to morale checks? Fearless? Low skills but 2 Attacks. 6+ SV. Relatively cheap.
- Sappers: Suicide bombers - are fleet, lightly armored (think save of 6+ or 5+ max), probably wouldn't carry a weapon outside the bomb. Explosion would be large, but not overly powerful (thinking STR 4 or 5, AP -).
- Spore Beast: Another weird one, this would essentially be a specialized mutant that the 'stealers are capable of producing. While not really a combat beast, they'd be able to create a less powerful version of a Venomthrope's cloud (maybe wouldn't cause damage, but would obscure). It would also allow for accurate deepstrikes to Tyranids (ie. Genestealers).

Troops:
- Genestealers (plus broodlord): They would gain deepstrike, as they would only be present in heavily-infested areas; this would symbolize them blowing out of the sewers, walls, alleys, etc. Too powerful?
- Cultists: High LD in presence of a Tyranid, low weapon and ballistic skills (2s?). Regular humans, so 2-3s across the board. CHEAP. 5+ SV?
- Hybrids: Low BS, higher WS (4?), everything else would be 3's. 6+ SV.
- Mutant Rabble: Stats are in official books, so I won't repeat them here.

Fast Attack:
- Slinkers: Might need a better name, but these guys can infiltrate and "deep strike" (having been hidden before the battle). Basically snipers.
- Hidden Bomb: A bomb that can deep strike in. Scatters 3d6? Basically a roadside bomb. Can come in one of two types: smaller, more powerful bomb (marine killer: Str 4, AP3); larger, weaker, cheaper bomb (large blast, Str 3, AP 5).

Heavy Support:
- Heavy Weapons Squad: Heavy stubber, heavy bolter, etc. Would probably be nearly identical to the Imperial Guard version. Lower Leadership, maybe.
- Mutant Brute: Similar to an Ogryn, but maybe missing the ripper gun. Maybe a little niddy, possessing extra arms or rending claws?
- Liberated Tank: 0-1, Leman Russ tank.

Dedicated Transport:
- Armored Truck: I'm not going to use "limo" no matter how much you want me to. Weaker vehicle, 11/10/10 or something. Maybe a heavy stubber. Fast.

Thoughts? Am I on the right track? Are these ideas stupid? Good? (b~_^)b or :roll: ?

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:32 pm 
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ok, this is ambitious, but people have tried before...

let's see what what 2 cents are.

First, it's Magus, not Magnus. They're not primarchs ;)
I'd probably rename priests to doomsayers, but that's my oppinion and taste.

The choir: nice idea, not sure if the game rules are good. Sounds like a cheap rip-off, and changing the number of people/power makes it looks like you know it too and try to cover it up. Rip offs need not be bad, but this sounds wrong somehow.

About the sappers: why not use the stats for a demo charge like the imperial guard has? Sounds like a suicide bombing device to me.
Spore beast - I'm not too much of a fan about that one. Doesn't sound as stealthy as a genestealer (or even the opposite - clouds of spores would attract some attention) and would thus not be able to hide in society until the time is right.

Hidden Bomb - use the rules for cluster mines that space marine bikers have, maybe? Sounds like the same idea you're trying to create.

Armoured truck - there's a truck in the game already, which is the ork Trukk. Why not use its stats (minus the ramshackle, maybe). Maybe build in bombs in here as well (ramming roadblocks with bomb-rigged trucks?)

Overall, I think there's some good ideas in here. The suicide bombers sound like just the thing for a cult. However, usually the strength of a suicide bomber is getting where it needs to be without being seen beforehand, and if it's just a unit walkign across the board it might not get into range to use the bomb. Having said that, there is a discrepancy here, even within your own list. Things like roadside bombs and suicide bombers are usually used in guerilla type warfare, where you prefer to remain hidden from the enemy and strike a debliating strike before you disappear again never to be found. Having psychic choirs, magus', patriarchs and genestealers running about is the exact opposite: The Sky Mother is near, and we're going to go all-out war to occupy you until she is ready to come down and receive us into Her bosom. At which point suicide bombers might or might not be effective, but roadside explosives are really rather too static.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:18 pm 
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Good points, Vonny.

I'm not sure why I always want to call them "Magnus." Force of habit, maybe. ;)

Doomsayers works as well as priests, I 'spose.

For the Choir, I always felt like there should be something like the choir - the fact that when they reach a critical mass, the hive fleets home in. Shadow in the Warp seems to be a good power for them, and maybe just stick with that, with the range dependent on numbers. Give them a pistol or something?

Sappers - demo charge? Good idea: why reinvent the wheel? I'll shift to that. I think giving them deep strike might be a good idea, too.

For the Spore Beast, I was trying to think of a unique homing beacon and one of the things I was going to try to go for was the fact that the genestealers do more than just create more genestealers (three generations down the line). On that thread, I was thinking that maybe, rarely, they create something that supplements their shock troops. Maybe don't have a concealing cloud, then? What if they were really small: something like rats? A swarm unit that's also a homing beacon for 'Stealers?

The Hidden Bomb was more the Cult saying: "Okay, they're coming to attack us. Quick! Plant this over there!" So the scatter would be pretty large, indicating that they wouldn't be too sure where the attackers would go, exactly. The idea wasn't to make it too effective, but scary enough to an enemy (and painful enough) that it if hit, it would hurt. Maybe have them deepstrike on terrain, shoving the opponent out into the open?

For the Armored Truck, I don't have the Ork codex, so I was kind of winging this one. Basically a nod to the limo. I REALLY like the idea of having bombs as an option.

The thought here, fluff-wise, was that this is a very mature cult. Maybe one that's already taken a planet or is very close to it. This is what the Inquisition would encounter on a heavily infested world, pre-hive fleet.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 6:06 am 
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Some goog ideas there :)

Anyways, there's things I like and things I don't like as much, but that's just me. Since I also don't have much time I'll cut it short.

- really like the basic idea of a choir !
- I don't like the classic 'limo' either
- liberated vehicle fits well
- go for a fearless/synapse army like tyranids, "every cultist thinks cult" (although they actually only think what papa wants them to think)
- I'd consider having Genestealers as an elite choice ... "Our 4-armed brothers shall be gods for us, for they resemble the Great Father"
- don't create too many new weapons, classical GW cults basically use indigenous tech and even that's a difficult thing to handle for them, since most of them are hybrids (who are are not that fond of technology)
- 'hidden bomb' as a 'fast attack' choice doesn't work for me - also think of what vonny wrote, hidden bombs fit terrorist warfare but not cult tactics. Enemy dead or alive, the skymother saves everyone,-man,-thing.


I, personally, always thought of a cult as a confused society of ('self-made' and born) misfits only fighting because and when they have to => to hide their secrets or protect their families and brethren.

...

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:02 am 
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I was thinking about going of a "slimmed down" version of the hivemind, with Ld split in two - one when in the presence of a genestealer/hybrid, and one when they're on their own.

For Fast Attack, I was really trying to figure out a way to implement some sort of deep-striking unit into the Cult. I suppose I could just use Genestealers in this slot, in which case they would have to deploy by deep-strike. I still like the idea of a bomb, but maybe I could rethink the mechanics a little. The Cult would need some way of dealing with armor and heavily armored troops (as their likely adversary will be Space Marines if the cult is discovered - genestealers are a bit too dangerous for your average Imperial Guardsman, as is the cult itself).

As for the Genestealers themselves, I debated bumping them up to the Elite spot, but wanted to give the option of more genestealers if the world were heavily infested. Of course, I suppose I could bump up the max number of models in the brood and that would solve that problem. You're right - they shouldn't be too common and most of the cult should be actual cultists.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:34 pm 
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you could have a genestealer brood act as a sort of 'army banner' for nearby troops. That is to say that troops within 12" may re-roll failed pinning and morale tests as they rally within the sight of the 'avatar' of their god(dess)

I think deep-striking suicide bombers doesn't have to be too bad. deepstrike as normal, give them a demo charge as equipment, and if they die or make an assault, then after assaukt moves are done (but before charge reactions) they blow up like a demo charge. maybe even a deployment method like Marbo/lictors, representing them not being identified as a threat until they actually throw the charge.This means they're easy to kill, but have to be killed or actually be able to do quite some damage. Not blowing up when being assaulted allows for close combat armies to deal with the problem as well.
I wonder though - why the need to use deep strike?

As for dealing with vehicles, that is a problem the nid codex already suffers from, and with their poor equipment I expect the cult to have the same problem. You might consider creating an alternative to the roadside bomb - anti-vehicle minefields. deploying a number of 'scenery' pieces 2" by 8", which hits tanks that drive over them with an AV total of more than 30 (so av 10-10-10 would still go over them unharmed, as they're too light to trigger the mines)

Genestealers should be in elite, but maybe you could also put them in fast attack and give them deepstrike there. So you could have 6 broods in total.

Also, you could consider giving most (if not all) of the army infiltrate (as they spring up from the general populace). Then again, forces like the space marines would have no compulsion about mowing down innocent populace if it means taking out the cult... (well, most chapters anyway).

Another thing to consider - we always go with ill-equipped cults. We should take into account that many people in the local PDF-forces (which resemble imperial guard quite a lot) could be cult members. Maybe not the hybrids, but those having received the kiss of the purii don't have any outer physical signs to differentiate them from humans, but they do carry genestealer dna and are fully impregnated with cult ideas. Often, it's a cult's job to infiltrate such pdf forces (and does so succesfully) so that they can practically fight the battle for the nids. This could mean more advanced equipment, though high-security equipment (such as plasma tanks, baneblades, titans, and other rare stuff) would still be off-limits, as would highly valuable things like aircraft and especially craft capable of leaving the atmosphere, as they're vital in spreading the cult.

just some more thought...

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:14 pm 
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For the deep-striking, that's more related them busting out of cover and chucking a demo-charge. So something similar to Lictors, but much less in the way off melee abilities (like....none; WS 2 or something - just a regular person).

I think I will go with the Fast Attack Genestealers and otherwise make them Elite. I like the idea of having more options for corrupted PDF troops. Maybe call them "Sympathizers" or something. And sure, toss Chimeras and whatever on there. So would that come with a point-bump or just limit the number in the army? Hmm....

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:56 pm 
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So I have a couple minutes here for break, here would be the modified list:

HQ:
Patriarch (buffed broodlord)
Magus (powerful psychic)
Doomsayer (priest)

Elite:
Genestealers (can upgrade one to a broodlord)
Choir (creates Shadow in the Warp, distance depends on numbers; other powers?)
Fanatics (Fearless, cheap, fleet, low-skill, 2 attacks, numerous)
Sapper (fleet, goes off as demo charge, 6+ save, low skills; can deploy separately)
Sporebeasts (swarm, low skills, 6+ save, allows accurate deep-strike within 6")

Troops:
Cultists (basically conscripts, but high LD when within site of a Tyranid, cheap)
Hybrids (low BS, higher WS (4?), otherwise normal person, 5+ save, cheap)
Mutant Rabble (documented in official books)
Sympathizers (IG platoon? would give access to heavier weapons, maybe limit the number available: 0-2)

Fast Attack:
Genestealers (gain ability to deepstrike into cover, like Ymgarl dormancy)
Slinkers (infiltrating snipers, stealth)
Liberated Sentinel (limited number, 0-1)
Hidden bomb (high scatter, comes in two types - high-powered small, low-powered large)

Heavy Support:
Sympathizer Heavy Weapons Squad (like IG one, but with that Ld rule)
Mutant Brute (Ogryn-sized assault critter, rending claws)
Liberated Tank (limited number, 0-1)

Dedicated Transport:
Liberated Chimera
Armored Truck (comes with a bomb/explodes! upgrade)

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:16 pm 
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Hi Snapdragon,
I like what you've done. It matches the classic idea of the cult (and mine too.) :D

I've been thinking about the cult for years. And I've had a go with the various army lists I've come across. (The 2nd ed codex army list; the 3rd ed Citadel Journal version; the Tempus Fugitives Second Tyrannic War campaign list; and The Bell of Lost Souls version.) This was just with my mates using proxied models.

All of them were fun, and all of them represented the common idea of the civilian uprising/insurgent/guerrilla army. But they fall over heavily in games of 40k. Part of the problem is limitations of the 40k rule set and the way codex armies are designed represent front-line full scale war armies. Here are a few of the ways it comes out (as I see it!) in games of 40k:
  • The elites of the cult aren't really a match for the elites of other armies. By the rulebook defines elites, pure-strain genestealers fit the bill perfectly for a cult. But they are outclassed by elites such as assault terminators, harlequins, dreadnoughts and the like.
  • The heavy support of the cult isn't heavy enough or supporty enough. (Yes, I watched too much Buffy) The hodge-podge nature of the cult means they should have limited access to the heavy gear the well equipped Imperial Guard (or PDF) can take for granted. This leaves the army severely lacking in heavy firepower and/or armour.
  • Being cheap isn't enough in 40k. One of the many quirks of the 40k ruleset is that is doesn't matter how cheap you make a unit, it needs to do something kind of well to be useful in the game. An example of this is the chimera and rhino. In the background the rhino is always described as the more advanced and all around better vehicle. And if there were enough to go around the Imperial Guard would love them. But the game developers had to make the hard choice of making the chimera the better vehicle in the 40k game. The Imperial Guard army needs some advantages to lever off to be a balance army against the other armies in the game.

How to overcome this? Well in friendly games we agreed to voluntarily tone down the enemy army. But forgoing many of their heavy support or elite choices. That worked well to represent the low-level war that the cult was likely to be involved in. But it isn't at all practical for pick up and play type games that 40k excels at. I can only really see two ways of balancing it:
  • Buffing up the power of the cult units. I love the idea of the underdog army, the human parents of the cult throwing themselves into combat with no skill or training but all the enthusiasm in the world. And backing them up genestealers and sympathetic elements of Imperial society who have every reason to support the cult and try and overthrow Imperial rule.
    Simply making cult units better is unsatisfying (to me). I only have a few ideas of how to try and give them a niche. I like the idea of large conscript like units (I figure a reluctant but well trained soldier is a rough 40k equivalent of a fanatical amateur) with access to multiple demo charges. That would give them a modicum of anti-tank ability and a chance to trade their lives for superior enemy units.
  • The other path is to reduce the effectiveness of the opposing army. I could see this as a saboteur style unit or ability.

Those are just the general cult ideas I have bouncing around my head and I hope you find them applicable, useful or at least food for though. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:44 pm 
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Hey Yaleling - thanks for the thoughts.

That's kind of where I'm getting stuck, too. I figure if you have enough mathhammer (shooting - I've noticed it falls apart in assault), you can win games with the 'ole Bucket 'O Dice, but even that makes things difficult. That's why I was thinking about the bomb, ways to make Genestealers deepstrike.

Another thought was this: Genestealer cults don't evolve out on an open battlefield, they spring up in areas of heavy population. Maybe limit the games to cityfight or Close Quarters Combat, or have a requirement of a lot of ruins/terrain?

Still working out the kinks.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:42 am 
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one way to increase power exponentially for low-cost troops is 'hidden' upgrades. Like the dreaded power-fist in a marine squad, we dread that power fist because we can't kill it due to the other guys taking the wounds for him. This is also a reason why our tyraid troop choices are often below-par from what you expect, and why the orks fare so much better with their power-klawed nob in there.

Now imagine a 20 or 30-strong cheap unit as 'ablative' wounds, who 'escort' some pure-strain genestealers. Or maybe even something better (with S6 power weapons or something). That would suddenly make these cheap units viable.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:33 am 
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What about the hybrids having rending claws? They wouldn't have the two attacks of a genestealer, or its huge weapon skill, but that ability to rend would suddenly make that mass of 50 meat shields a little more scary.

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:13 pm 
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This discussion is terrific and there are a great number of points that I have been considering myself for a GC army! There is one major difference though in our thinking: We are speaking in this case of an advanced infestation. That means they have been around for decades if not centuries! Over that kind of time a lot can be accomplished and I believe krak grenades could be stolen in huge numbers and stockpiled to be distributed when the fleet approaches.

To take it to the extreme, over the course of several centuries I suspect it would be possible to deliver the kiss of the purii, eliminate and replace, or even get cult members promoted to positions that are involved in the high-security areas, such as guards or machine (like scanners) operators. This could grant an opportunity to do the same to the Princeps of a titan or maybe even the entire crew! Obviously you can't bring this particular model into regular games, but if the possibility exists to do it to a titan then I don't see why a limited number of heavy weapons (auto-cannons, las-cannons, and melta) would be unreachable, right?

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:53 pm 
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I doubt a titan could be commandeered by the cult. There's certain positions you could never reach I think. With a titan, for example, crew applications are rather strict and heavily monitored, so you would have trouble getting 3 infected in at once (never mind killing all three previous ones). And you can't do it one at a time, because the other crew members would know through the manifold. Heck, maybe the titan's machine spirit would even reject them if you did get them there...

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 Post subject: Re: Rethinking the Cult.
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:22 pm 
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I was about to mention the machine spirit of a titan, Vonny - in the Eisenhorn trilogy, the simple act of a titan powering up (granted, chaos corrupted) crumpled a powerful psyker and his entire retinue to the ground. I think an AI that strong would detect an 'unclean' cult member.

It's a cool idea, still, but if cults could get titans, they wouldn't really need the swarm, right? :)

But a Leman Russ? Maybe a Basilisk or two? A Medusa? Chimera? Sure.

I definitely like the idea of a platoon or two of Guard soldiers as an option, including a heavy weapons squad. I think that's not just possible, but likely, even in a smaller, less mature cult.

My goal is to kind of come up with a definitive list, though: giving people the option to build a very young (1st or 2nd generation) cult all the way up to one that's ready to "pop" and call in the swarm. Actually, that's another point: I need to come up with a few different units per generation.

1st generation
- Basically Conscript stat-line with a MUCH higher Ld when in sight of a Tyranid. Maybe these could be the Fanatics?

2nd generation
- Would basically be animals and cannon fodder - the cult would have little regard for these mutants other than breeding stock to get to 3rd generation; they would be tougher than normal people, but less coordinated and wouldn't be able to use guns; WS 4, BS 0, S 3, T 4, W 1, I 2, A 2, Sv 5+?

3rd generation
- these would be the three-armed dudes we're used to seeing in conjunction with a cult; they'd be able to use guns and attack; would that claw be rending? It would make them a lot more scary, definitely. To compensate, give them one attack and a lower initiative; something like this: WS: 3, BS 2, S 3, T 3, W 1, I 3, A 1, Ld 7, Sv 5+

4th generation
- Basically a conscript statline. Maybe these could be the Choir? It would make sense, since the birth of the fourth generation would signal a world rich in biomass.

Hmm...I think I have enough to go on. The real question is, what can I include on statlines? Obviously any unit I make up I can post statlines for, but what about a Mutant Rabble? Or stats for a Lasgun? I take it I'd have to say: "Refer to pg [whatever]?"

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