Friday, January 25, 2013

A Legacy of Brootality

Some folks may have noticed that I really go in for old school British fantasy stuff -- although I'm nothing like an Anglophile -- particularly the Fiend Folio and the stuff I used to read in classic issues of White Dwarf. Lately, I've been reading a lot of issues of WD, going back to the beginnings of the magazine and working my way up. I'm currently on WD #44 and I just discovered something that I thought was terribly interesting. But first, there are two facts that I need to settle.

I have still never played this
First, I have never actually played RuneQuest. While I played the hell out of Call of Cthulhu, I never knew very much about RQ, BRP or any of that. In fact, I'm not even sure when I learned that the BRP game engine existed and that games other than CoC were powered by it. I'm honestly pretty sure that the realization that all of these games used the same engine only occurred to me a few years ago.

Second, my gaming style stuck to "class & level" far too long, possibly because my personal gaming history really only began somewhere in the late 80's. And by that, I mean serious personal gaming history. Sure, I'd owned books before then, but I hadn't done much with them. Even then, my class & level gaming went beyond the normal D&D stuff into the Palladium games and stuff like that. I didn't make the jump to a skill-based game engine until the 90's and the World of Darkness and Call of Cthulhu.

So, not only did I not play RQ, I really wasn't interested in the whole skill-based system until the inevitable teenage angstery that fueled the popularity of the WoD.

[I'll throw in a note now that I did play a bit of Shadowrun, & Mythus, too and that Earthdawn (a sort of hybrid skill & level system) all made regular appearances at my gaming table.]

And thus, it was that I had no idea that the Broo ever existed until just now when I was reading WD #43.

I had always assumed that goat man beast men formed by Chaos were just a Games Workshop/Citadel thing. And then I saw it: in the same issue where WD reviews Warhammer for the first time (then published by Citadel, which was not a part of GW at the time), there were miniatures that I've come to know as beastmen or Gor, but wearing the name of Broo in an ad for Gloranthan minis.

Woah, this is a very different story than the one I've been telling myself for the past however many years.

Suddenly, goat men were older even than their involvement in the WH-verse. Suddenly, they were no longer the Gor, they were the Broo. It was time to do some research.

The earliest copy of RQ that I have is a 1980 RQII rulebook. There, on page 76 is the following:

"Human-bodied and goat-headed, the broos (or goatkin) are tied irrevocably with the Rune of chaos. They are given to atrocities and foul practices, and carry numerous loathsome diseases.

"They will hire out for pay, but tusk riders are more desired as mercenaries, and that is saying something. They are immune to all poisons and diseases.

"Their usual armor is generally cuirboilli, though they will wear metal if they can scrounge or steal it. Human and dwarf smiths will not sell them armor or weapons."

Citadel style, RQ substance
While being relatively terse and not telling us much about the Broo as a people, it does let us know that, as early as 1980 (and probably earlier, I just can't prove it right now), the Broo were being slain by RQers in the US & England and that Citadel miniatures were licensed in the UK to make some really nice-looking minis (see right).

So, apparently, as the Warhammer line expanded to include new beast men of Chaos figure lines, while many of these figures were new sculpts of beastly animal men of various descriptions, Citadel also sneaked some of their goatkin sculpts that had previously served as Broo. In fact, in 1985, Citadel released a "Beastmen of Chaos" where all of the models were goat man-style beast men, primarily because they could no longer produce official RQ minis as they'd lost that license. Citadel may have lost the Broo, but WH had gained the Gor.

In RQ, Broos are listed as just one sort of beast men, ostensibly among many; this is pretty much the same way that WH uses them, at least initially.

So, what does all of this have to do with Kickassistan?

Simple. I've wanted to use goat-like beast men in Kickassistan for awhile, particularly since I identified a niche for them. I've been looking for a militaristic beast men breed that I can throw against the Game of Taps crew in my conversion of Keep on the Borderlands, Keep on Kickassistan. I need a replacement for the hobgoblins, and so I've been thinking that a goat man would be perfect for the role. I had been afraid that a goat man might make the thing all sorts of Warhammery and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I don't want folks to look at this and my oft-avowed love of the Fiend Folio and think that I'm just trying to build a more sword & sorcery version of the Old World because really, it ain't like that. I just happen to like weird and goat dudes and the FF have that in spades. So, goat men being not a WH invention, but rather one of an old school game that I have a ton of respect for (even though I'm just now starting to learn about it) means that I'm not skating on the thin ice of grot-worshippery but rather following in a grand tradition of goat people that goes back to the good ol' days.

The more I think about this origin of goat men, I realize that all of DCC's beast men have the same origin. I modeled my beastmen initially after +Harley Stroh's beast men in Sailors on the Starless Sea. From the feeling that I get from Mr. Stroh's initial work, I'd say that his work was informed by a prior tradition of beast men (though I can't think of any literary references; everything I've got involves rpgs in one way or another) that goes back to the days when rpgs were young and not everyone was interested in pastiching Tolkein and Leiber together. So, by a long chain of influence, I have my goat men by way of the Gor, but really initially inspired by the Broo.

The extra good news is that this has made me think long and hard about the nature of beast men in Kickassistan and you should be seeing more about them from me very, very soon.

A huge thank you goes out to wardy-la of Level 2 ( and this amazing article he wrote that I had to rip off a lot of info from.