Tag Archive for: Iron Kingdoms

Creature Feature

A brutal and unforgiving landscape, a caste system that dictates every facet of life, magic that draws on the powers of pain and death—the Skorne Empire is a harsh realm by any measure, testing every being who dwells there.

Outsiders who venture among the skorne also face an additional dimension of peril: the strange and lethal fauna of eastern Immoren. Ultimately, if the environment or the skorne themselves don’t kill you, the creatures will. To the skorne, though, these creatures are valuable resources to exploit, many capable of becoming powerful warbeasts.

The Skorne Empire relies upon a wide array of fearsome beasts in battle, drawn primarily from the wastelands of eastern Immoren. These monstrous creatures are extensively conditioned by the paingivers to forge a spiritual link that skorne warlocks can exploit. This conditioning is the most fundamental difference between warbeasts used by the skorne and those used by their western enemies. In many cases skorne warbeasts are formerly wild animals enslaved to the will of their masters through mortitheurgy, transformed by the expertise of beast handlers into living extensions of the warlock’s will.

Drawing from the various beasts hardy enough to survive in eastern Immoren, the skorne have access to many powerful and deadly subjects for their beast handlers. Parties roam the lands looking for feral herds, then goad the creatures into waiting nets and chains. Once beasts are captured and subdued, skorne paingivers bring them back to be either trained up for service to a warlock or placed into a breeding farm. It is only through an extended regimen of pain and conditioning that such creatures can be made pliable enough to serve as warbeasts.

To prepare a beast for obedience to a skorne warlock, the beast handlers must first alter its body and break its spirit. This is done with a combination of pain infliction, stress induction, and surgical modification, facilitated by potent drugs that keep the creature tractable and aware during the conditioning. The beast handlers’ knowledge of anatomy is instrumental in this conditioning process; the tremendously dangerous beasts of the skorne armies could not be mastered without it. Specialists among the beast handlers direct the modification and training of each species, tailoring the conditioning to the creature’s anatomy, capabilities, and temperament.

Beast handlers often specialize in a particular species, as each type of beast has unique conditioning requirements. Basilisks, for example, receive different modifications and training based on the sex of the creature. Male basilisks, known as drakes, are trained from birth to obey key commands, but they are also fitted with harnesses to ensure compliance even when not under the control of a warlock. Proper breaking of a female basilisk, or krea, may cost skorne lives and a great deal of resources, but the result is a living weapon that can hamstring an unwary foe. Permanently blinded by its handlers, kreas can be goaded into loosing a wave of energy that slows the advance of enemies and can even halt projectiles.

Now, having explored the terrain, adopted a caste, dabbled in mortitheurgy, and learned a bit about eastern beasts, the time has come to truly immerse yourself in the world of the skorne. So grab a copy of Iron Kingdoms Unleashed: Skorne Empire (along with Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Roleplaying Game: Core Rules, if you don’t already have it), conscript a few brave and durable companions, and proceed to fully indulge your taste for adventure!

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Pain is Magic

A harsh climate and rigid caste structure clearly shape the way the skorne see the world, but there is another aspect of their culture that sets this people apart: the singular magical tradition of mortitheurgy.

In a society that reveres martial skill and physical sacrifice, the skorne live, fight, and die amid unrelenting brutality. Skorne warriors are known to fight on despite mortal wounds, ignoring pain that should bring them to their knees if not incapacitate them outright. Slaves of the empire work far longer and harder than their bodies should allow, warbeasts shrug off deadly blows, and enemies fall to seemingly inconsequential injuries. All of this is possible through the skorne’s unique form of magic.

The magic practiced among the skorne is known as mortitheurgy. It is the study of the power that dwells within flesh, blood, and spirit as well as the practical application of such knowledge. This arcane art combines anatomical mastery with a deep metaphysical understanding of flesh and blood—the powers they hold in life and release in death. For some, mortitheurgy is a tool of control, granting power over life and death; to others, it is a weapon or a path to enlightenment.

Every skorne possesses the capability of using magic, but only those who dedicate their life to it can rise to places of true power. Unlike other Iron Kingdoms Unleashed characters, it is not only those skorne with the Gifted archetype who can wield magic and cast spells—others can walk a long road of study into the philosophies of mortitheurgy to unlock its powers.

Mortitheurges tap into arcane forces to reduce slaves’ pain and extend their lives so that tasks may be completed before death takes them. Captured warriors experience the full range of mortitheurgy as their spirits are broken and they are taught their new role in skorne society. A warlock incites agony to drive his warbeast to frenzy, at the same time blocking the effects of wounds that would otherwise kill the beast. Skorne warbeasts are unlike almost any others in Immoren.

Farrow and trollkin share a physical link with their warbeasts that enables them to bond and dominate. Others groups either carefully cultivate warbeasts from the natural world or mentally subjugate them through sheer willpower. But the skorne craft their warbeasts by manipulating flesh and inflicting pain. Anatomical modification and anguishing torment are the tools used to force open a conduit through which a warlock can exert his control over these living weapons.

The Skorne Empire’s warbeasts are drawn from the ferocious and powerful creatures native to eastern Immoren, which are then subjected to surgical alterations and painful conditioning by paingivers to unlock their full capabilities and ready their minds to be controlled by a warlock. Through the conduit of pain, the warlock can apply his specialized form of mortitheurgy to drive the warbeast and tap into its latent animus, siphoning off the fury of the beast to empower his spells and bolster his own speed and strength.

Next week, we explore the kinds of creatures the skorne can command and transform.

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The Rules for the Undercity are now live!

The rules for The Undercity are now live!

The Undercity rules (pdf 13mb)

Use these to help answer the questions found in our trivia contest hosted by Boardgamegeek.com!

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