Today we’re going to take a look at two of the key elements of the Necromunda set-up I’ve been working on; my Goliath gang boss Korak Kingbreaker and his old stomping ground, the territory of Ironhouse. Be warned, I ramble on a lot!
Let’s talk about Korak first. Developing the personalities and backgrounds of our gangers and charting their exploits on the tabletop is right at the heart of everything Necromunda fans love about the setting. I’m a huge fan of the orks but with 70 boys in my army I can’t pretend that any of them stand out to me as individuals. Pick out a random skeleton warrior and ask its owner who it was before it died and your likely to get a very long-suffering look at best. Inquire about the backstory of an Orlock juve on the other hand and prepare yourself for a lengthy explanation of how they came to join the gang, their goals and aspirations and the adventures they have taken part in so far.
Now of course it hardly needs to be said that I encourage getting to know the characters in any army, the extra depth that develops as a result is quite unparalleled. However whilst you may well write pages and pages of notes on the life history of your Chapter Master only the most dedicated of hobbyists would dream of doing something similar for every tactical marine (if that’s you by the way I salute you, you are a hero to me). Nonetheless I would argue that beyond the world of Inq28 you will never find gamers who get to know their characters as well as those of us who dwell in the Underhive.
Despite this some characters will inevitably end up being more influential than others. As the leader of my gang Korak shapes the direction that the whole crew end up taking. His story is the story of the Irondogs, stamped indelibly upon the gang, their rivals and their territories. It all begins with the soon to be infamous atrocity know as the Feast of Khorg…
Before we get into all that however that take a look at Korak himself. That way if you’re finding all this rabbiting on terribly dull you can skip the rest, having at least seen what is hopefully a nicely imposing miniature!
Incidentally I’m aware that I’ve made a poxy job of drilling out the barrels on his gun, best to salve my ego by not mentioning it eh? At some point it will begin to annoy me so much that I replace it, I do have a few spares of that gun kicking around.
If you plan on surviving long in the Underhive you’re going to need plenty of willpower and determination. Korak is a survivor. He has battled the worst that the Underhive can throw at him, pulling himself up by the bootstraps and crawling over the corpses of friends and rivals alike. Naturally, as a Goliath, he’s also gifted with phenomenal strength married to a willingness to indulge in act of supreme violence at the drop of a hat. This doesn’t mean he’s stupid however. There is a pernicious rumour going around which states that the Goliaths are all a bit thick (I blame the Eschers personally). Often they find themselves conflated with the Orks, on the grounds that the two are muscular, violent and love big, loud guns. However I would go so far as to suggest that they actually have as much, if not more, in common with the Dwarves. They are a proud and stubborn people, they are skilled smiths and metal workers, they are hardy and – most of all – they are exceptionally practical. If a tool can double as a weapon then that’s one less thing to carry. Why kill with flair or flourish when the main thing is making sure your enemy is dead? When a Van Saar’s fancy gun jams on Underhive filth, or an Escher’s stiletto snaps against furnace plate a Goliath’s fists will be more than enough to keep him alive. You might not catch a Goliath reading poetry (although if called upon to do so he might beat you around the head with the hardback edition) but offer him a book on tactics or advanced furnace maintenance and – assuming he’s learnt to read, hardly a given in the Underhive – he’ll be a happy man. Korak then is an intelligent, cunning and at times almost political, character. However this doesn’t mean that he is any less ruthless when he needs to be. He may have a good friend in Ugly Gabe (more on him soon!) but the Goliaths are a recalcitrant bunch. They respect strength above all because a weak leader is a death sentence in the Underhive. It’s nothing personal, they may even like him as a man, but if he can’t demonstrate ruthless authority when he needs to then he has to go. Most of the gangers would love to be leader someday and Bosrak in particular is an unhinged maniac, his brain turned to porridge by too many combat stims. On a bad day he’d beat up his own shadow on a bulkhead wall. So long as Korak’s authority remains absolute however Bosrak serves willingly as his most fearsome enforcer and attack dog (even more frightening than Snuggles – more on her below).
Those of you who’ve stock with me as far (well done by the way) may well be wondering who the aforementioned Khorg was, what happened at his feast and what kind of place is Ironhouse? Well I’m so glad you asked! Having found out a little about Korak let’s take a look at his old boss Khorg.
For those living in the lower reaches of Hive Araneus Khorg’s word was law and his influence absolute. His was the iron fist that had claimed a great swath of territory, covering hundreds of levels, dozens of domes and manufactora and thousands of kilometres of rusting corridors. Countless overseers feared him over their own house lords and countless more workers toiled in terror of the coming of his enforcers. In time his holdings spread from the toxic depths at the hive core to the ash shantys beyond the walls and up, creeping like a cancer closing its fist around a heart, towards the spires of the Hive itself. One after another, Goliath gangs bent the knee to him whilst his rivals were swept aside and so his forces grew into a true army, fiercely loyal and – to those seeking to maintain the status quo especially – desperately dangerous. Few dared challenge him openly and of those who did none survived long. High above, in the filtered air and well-lit chambers of the spires, his name was being spoken with increasing loathing. His ambitions where plain and all the Hive Lords knew that in time he would seek first to claim a place among them then to see each deposed until only he remained. Even amongst the lords of House Goliath such a thing was intolerable, for when it comes to their rivals a shared bloodline offers no safety and the thought of a pretender gang-lord taking a seat at their table was more than they were willing to suffer even to further the goals of their House. Who can say what pacts were struck among them but the men and women who rule Necromunda are like sharks that swim in black water, predators without compassion and ruthless in defence of their power.
In a grand display of strength Khorg called his army together. Many hundreds of Goliaths gathered for a festival of feasting, gladiatorial combat and feats of strength. It was a show of power intended to rival the greatest excesses of the spires, and to remind those dwelling in the lower reaches that Khorg and not Helmawr ruled here. Some even believed that Khorg intended to conclude with a declaration of war and send his troops rampaging upwards through pre-mapped tunnels and shafts to tear the head from hive governance in a single strike. If he had been so foolish he would have been sorely disappointed, the roads into the spires are well guarded, built to withstand a frontal assault and patrolled by legions of ruthless house veterans. As it is more subtle agents were in play, and the Hive Lords also wished to use the Feast as an opportunity to display their power and displeasure to all who might harbour thoughts of sedition.
Who, now, can truly say what Khorg might have planned? At the height of the Feast an explosion raged through the hall, bringing down the roof and crushing Khorg and his army beneath a tidal torrent of rubble. Of Khorg’s senior lieutenants Korak was one of the few to survive, pulled from the wreckage by his old gang-mate Ugly Gabe. With most of their gang-mates lost the two decided to return to their old territory in Ironhouse, from which to consolidate their turf and do what they could to survive the coming storm.
By setting things in the aftermath of the Feast we find the depths of the hive in a state of turmoil. A power vacuum has suddenly opened up and an enterprising gang can seize prime turf and, if they can hold onto it, make a name for themselves. Ironhouse is one such territory, a settlement crammed with the thousands of sweating workers that are needed to maintain the ancient machines of the Halcyon Gate, packed alongside the destitute and the desperate. It is a gateway in its own right, a half-hidden back door by which illicit goods may enter the Hive, and in the days of Khorg’s reign was a Goliath stronghold ruled by Korak as Khorg’s vassal. Now Korak intends to hold it for his own, but that won’t be easy. His gang now has only a fraction of their former numbers whilst covetous enemies are muscling in on their turf. Both Orlock and Cawdor have large and influential presences in the local area and could easily decide to stamp out the Goliaths once and for all. More pressingly however a gang from House Escher calling themselves the Ladykillers are moving in whilst whispers of sedition run through the local populace like rot through a sack of corpse starch. For a long time the workers have been oppressed by the boot of House Goliath and there are those who say there shall never be a better time to be rid of them, even if calling for the strength to do so accrues a bloody debt to be paid to sinister allies from beyond the veil. Perhaps most pressing of all are the local ash-crust miners. Having armed themselves to defend against raiders now they’re seizing territory from the more established houses. Rumours that they harbour strange mutants amongst their number remain unsubstantiated however.
If Korak intend to hold off these rivals he needs support. He has put out a call to other survivors of Khorg’s army to gather beneath his banner, although as yet very few have done so. Furthermore in all of the confusion his beloved pet Snuggles has vanished into the flooded corridors beneath Ironhouse. Time to gather the boys and lure her out again.
Inventing a detailed background for both Korak, his gang and his turf had got me really excited about this project again. I’ve already started doodling maps of the territories around Ironhouse that will soon be echoing to the sound of gunfire as the gangs set to carve out a home for themselves from the corpse of Khorg’s empire. First order of business will be painting up Ugly Gabe as he’s right at the core of the gang as well, then I’ll start on some of the other characters I’ve been inspired to create.