Designing Special Characters

Special Characters for 'Vanilla' Armies

The regiments developed by Games Workshop all have special characters who, while being points hogs, tend to illustrate the feel and character of the regiments they serve in. Sly Marbo and Col. "Iron Hand" Stracken make the case better than anything else in the Jungle Fighters Codex that Catachans are designed to be played like the heroes of every Vietnam War movie ever made. Gen. Uraskar Creed is a Patton-esque character that neatly sums up what a Cadian army should be like and the ever colorful Commissar Gaunt is the epitome of his Tanith First and Only.

Of course, if you aren't playing an off the shelf regiment, you might think you are stuck with nameless junior or senior officers for your army. Bullocks, says I! You are stuck with nothing of the sort. Granted, it makes little sense to make up your own characters burdened with special rules your opponents will never let you use but using the existing Codex and writing some interesting fluff you can create special characters every bit as interesting as those special heroes GW has created and just as effective in both adding to your chances of winning a game and illustrating your army without requiring any special consent from your opponent.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that the real purpose of special characters is not to bring special rules to the armies they serve in but rather to illustrate the appropriate attitude and approach that army brings to the field. In short, to personify the fluff of the army. Of course, in order to do this you have to have a clear idea of what the fluff of your army is in order to illustrate it.

Using my Ice River Guards as an example, we already know a great deal about the army from the decisions made in its construction - note these decisions were made before a single figure was acquired. See the article on Army Design for more information. We already know quite a bit about the cultural, religious, military and physical heritage of the regiment. The special characters I create for it will help determine a fair bit of the regiment's history and traditions.

I treat special characters like role-playing characters in that I want a detailed history for them - I want them to be three dimensional personas with sufficient background that they could be played as RPG characters. While it is a bit much to detail every trooper, every officer, commissar and a few enlisted personnel should be detailed. If nothing else, they should be given a name and a paragraph of description.


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