an eccentric Briton writes about things

40K: Takeshi’s Castle – army inspirations, Rogue Trader and female Necrons

Now and then, I’ve been known to flick through the old Rogue Trader books on the train.  One of them – the Book of the Astronomican – has this little old campaign called ‘The Wolf Time’, in which a tattered band of Space Wolves are trying to bring down an Ork warlord who’s all sealed away in his castle.  They have a set list of forces to divide among three skirmishes, each of which represents an assault on one of the generators powering Warlord Kulo’s castle.  They have to win at least one of these skirmishes in order to make their assault – winning two or three reduces the final defences further.  Once those three games are over, the surviving Marines collect together to make their attack on Kulo.  If it takes too long to play out one of the skirmishes, the Marines from that battle arrive late, and the target generator will still be contributing to the Ork defences until they arrive.

capped by Von from GW's Book of the Astronomican

The other day I was thinking about how much sense the attack-the-generators-to-enable-the-final-strike scenario would work for an assault on a Necron tomb world (the context in which I’m most likely to play it).  That set me to thinking about Dawn of War, in which the Necrons operate by building generators to bring their Monoliths online… so that gives us a final scenario in which the Monolith replaces the Castle.

Anyway, I was thinking about names too – ‘Kulo’ is not a name that inspires me, ‘crons-wise – and all of a sudden Takeshi’s Castle popped into my head as an appropriately Oldhammery name for a Monolith.  Takeshi… Takeshi… that’s not a bad name for a Necron general, although it sounds strangely feminine.  I think it’s that final vowel sound.

A female Phaeron would be an interesting echo for all those fantastic female Egyptian rulers – sort of a Hatshepsut/Nitocris figure, playing up the inherent gender obscurities and visibilities of the 40K-verse by being on the outside of Necrontyr history despite her capabilities but rising and rising in death through a series of elaborate tricks that eliminated her Phaeronic peer group.  If they’re going to be Ancient Egyptian Death Robots In Space, might as well run with the source material. The community doesn’t seem intrinsically opposed to the idea, either – at least, it can be floated and not hated upon unilaterally (showing here, here and here, though opinion is, as might be expected, divided).  And that set me off on matters of scale.

See, my army has one of the previous generation of Lords (the rather elegant one with the outstretched, taloned fingers), and four Pariahs that I’d like to do something with, and… well, thence is derived the thought of a Phaeron who still has at least some hints of femininity about her, and surrounds herself with an imposing, oversculpted, hypermasculinised Court as a kind of morbid echo of her former self.

It works for me, in the same sort of way that Master Necrotech Mortenebra or GLaDOS work for me; as a cold, alien metal creature which nevertheless maintains a feminine form and self-image, or perhaps the shreds of one.  I might not go quite as far as to curve the model up and slap bewbs on it – might just rely on relative scale and pose and decorations to do the job.

Have I taken leave of my senses?  You be the judge.

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7 responses

  1. Takeshi was a bloke in the original TV programme, but I see where you’re coming from with the -i name, it’s from our vague half-sense of Latin vowel-endings.

    Also, the picture is of a Necron ‘Lordess???’ We haff vord for zat een our kultur. ‘Lady,’ surely? I’ve often found female foes in the gaming and fiction I peruse to be colder and more logical than male ones – SHODAN (System Shock) also springs to mind as a notable AI example.

    Good blog by the way; it’s good to see your writing again after so long. We’re all grown up now…

    Tuesday 13th December, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    • Von

      Yeah, I’d realised he was a chap when I looked him up.

      I believe, old sprout, that the artist’s notes on that picture explain the choice of ‘Lordess’ to an extent (they didn’t have nice gender-ambiguous rank titles like ‘Phaeron’ or ‘Nemesor’ until quite recently).

      Cold, but slightly… one doesn’t want to say caring, but ‘invested’, maybe. Consider GLaDOS. She doesn’t just want you dead, she wants to see if and how you die. Less hot-blooded, certainly. I want to flag up the trope of the icy, dehumanised female villain as Problematic in some way, but it’s too early in the morning; my social justice nodes need tea and background reading before they fire up properly.

      Glad you’re enjoying it. Oh, and technically, I make half my living as a writer these days! Using stuff I learned in my degrees, no less. Ambition achieved? Not exactly, but it’s a hell of a lot better than other things I could be doing.

      Tuesday 13th December, 2011 at 6:10 AM

  2. loquacious

    I’m a big fan of Lady Leader types of all kinds on the tabletop, in nearly any setting. I do kind of have a problem with the “cold, calculating” trope; mostly because it seems to imply that ladies exist within certain conscripts and not as persons with legitimate reasons for warring. (Ladies as a rule tend to get boxed up far more than dudes, which is consequently maddening.)

    Necrons as girls? I don’t have a problem with it, except… they’re……………..ROBOTS (non-gendered, right?)…. Neat concept that I’ve not yet completely grokked.

    Wednesday 14th December, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    • Von

      With ref: the cold and calculating box: yes, I follow that. I’m falling foul of Most Writers Are Male and Men Can’t Write Women here, if we’re going to talk tropes: I had about four different goes at characteristing Takeshi in three or four words and every single one was limiting in some way (although I did like ‘whimsical and morbidly curious’ and I sort of wish I’d gone with that one). Trying something longer just resulted in some rather stagnant fanfiction. I think she’ll need to emerge from some sustained narrative thinking/campaign play rather than be built in advance; that should result in something a little more nuanced.

      Robots that used to be people (albeit alien people). That’s the idea to hang on to. The Royal Courts in particular retain some sense of their former selves. Takeshi essentially remembers being gendered out of her rightful place in the dynasty and has manipulated her way back in since dying. She still recalls being a she, still acts a bit like one, but her legitimacy as Phaeron comes from her having ceased to physically be one (and encouraging the competition to wipe each other out). I think the argument is ‘gender isn’t sex’, unless it goes the other way around – see also Hatshepsut (for an example of ‘passing’ as a male Pharoah) or Nitocris (for an example of the devious inheritance-by-exclusion behaviour).

      If i were more serious I’d probably name her Nitocrys or something like that, but unfortunately I can’t pass up the opportunity to give generals silly names (I did once run a Tomb King named Bhak’gamon the Almost Indestructible, after all). Maybe I’ll give her a full and extremely complicated name a la Hatshepsut that manages to incorporate all the sources and her Necron title…

      Wednesday 14th December, 2011 at 5:55 AM

  3. James S

    This would be a great modeling project. I’m sure you can find a slender, female-attributed robot in one of the lines of models from the many anime-themed TT games.

    Isn’t there a rapper called Nitocris?

    Thursday 15th December, 2011 at 7:04 AM

  4. Pingback: 40K.6 and Cautious Optimism « GAME OVER

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