Wednesday, 26 August 2015

[review] Skorne Empire

So if you have ever caught Mike and myself ever talking about the Iron Kingdoms, and Warmachine and Hordes, you will get the hint that we are massive fans of the Skorne. There is something out them that is somewhat unique, or at least, refreshing when compared to traditional, Tolkien, fantasy races.

What do we know about the Skorne already?

This strange race of humanoids comes from the far east of Immorean, past the Storm Lands and deserts, and past the Abyss. They are an ancient race, with an equally age old enmity with the Elves. They are a warrior race, with a society that focuses on slavery, torment, pain and torture. Their design and look is clearly inspired by aspects of Japanese Samurai culture, and ancient Persia. And as for their physical form, they are pale, with bony rigged foreheads, and pointed ears.

On face value alone they could be considered the equivalent of Dark Elves from that other wargaming company, but then you would be wrong.

The Skorne Empire book really lifts the lid off this ancient empire. We learn of their rise from a nomadic culture around the time the ancient Elven empire was destroyed, and their warring between city states, and the eventual formation of a unified empire, first under the exiled king, Vinter Raelthorne of Cygnar, and then under the Supreme Archdomina Makeda.

The Skorne, unlike all other races in the Iron Kingdoms, have no religion that focuses on a creator god. That is not to say that a god did not create them, but that the Skorne neither know, nor care, if this is the case. Death does not lead to the after life, and instead Skorne souls are left to be consume by the Void. However, the Skorne culture survives despite these metaphysical hindrances. They are a race that is focused inwardly on self ascension and exaltation. Pain, torment, war and suffering are all things that allow Skorne to grow and become stronger and more powerful. They are also a culture that is focused on ancestor worship, especially having learnt how to save those important Skorne souls from the Void, trapping essences in gems, which in turn can speak, teach, an even animate stone statues.

On reading the Skorne book you can be forgiven if you think that playing a game where you are all Skorne is one about being evil slavers, foul torturers, and nothing more than Saw the rpg. But a game playing as the Skorne is more about a certain point of view. For them, life a fleeting thing, that also contains much power, and which must be dominated in order to obtain a form of immortality. The Skorne do not conduct torture or inflict pain for fun, or for pleasure. These are all tools, as part of their philosophy, for controlling the world. For the Skorne willingly inflict pain and torture upon themselves in order to become stronger. For the Skorne are all capable of magic (they all have a ARC stat!), and thus can all learn Morthitheurgy - a form of magic powered by blood, flesh and pain. In many aspects the Skorne a mix of Eastern philosophies. They a have a warriors code, they have a understanding that life is short and they must create things of meaning for the after life offers no redemption, they worship their ancestors, and they practice magic that focuses on the flow of life essence and relies on asceticism.

They are simply evil, from a human perspective. In some respects that's a bit like playing a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle......

Of course the book provides ample information on their empire in the east and how to run various campaigns for different mixes of characters. Of course the Skorne make excellent enemies in existing games (hint hint - the Witchfire Trilogy).

The real show stoppers are the slew of new careers, such as Beast Handlers, Extollers, Bloodrunner, Cataphract, Chirurgeon, Chymist (Skorne have their own Alchemy!), and more.

And of course there are all the Skorne warbeasts, and more from the eastern deserts. We also get a nice look at the upcoming gargantuan beast for Hordes, the Desert Hydra.

Overall this is an excellent book, filled with content and art to the level we expect from Privateer Press.

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