Diving into the lore of Total War: Warhammer with Loremaster Sotek

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In the next part of our coverage of the Total War: Warhammer series, we are diving into the lore and setting side of the game. For this task, we called upon an experienced voice in this field, Loremaster of Sotek. Sotek is a leading voice in the Lore side of this fantasy world and has years of YouTube videos to support it. When we wanted to talk about the work put into the game by Creative Assembly, finding a personality with the name “Lore Master” seemed like a great place to start. 

Gunum: Hey Sotek, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. For those readers who are unfamiliar, can you please fill us in on who you are, what was the springboard for the passion you’ve shown for the Lore of this universe, and how do you feel Total War: Warhammer has been able to bring these stories to life? 

Hello there! I suppose the best way to describe myself is that I am someone who grew up with Warhammer Fantasy as my personal obsession! I was introduced to the series at the young age of 9 and have spent countless nights over the last 20 years staying up way too late poring over my ever-expanding library. The many stories found within the pages describing this wondrous world had a dramatic impact on my life and somehow I’ve been blessed enough to build a life around that same passion. I think what ultimately lured me into the setting all those years ago was that I had always been fascinated by history, but also desperately loved dragons and wanted them to be real! So here comes a universe where the premise is that it is our earth, the very world we all live in, and its history, but viewed through a lens where many fantastical and horrifying things such as magic and monsters exist.

As for Total War: Warhammer itself, it has proven without a doubt to be the most faithful and beautiful recreation of the world anyone could have imagined. From seeing all the beloved tabletop models brought to life to hearing the wealth of sounds I imagined such creatures would make while tearing through lines of infantry. My favorite thing though has been seeing all the legendary characters who I came to love (or love to hate) through the novels and army books, who are given just amazing voices and get to unleash their unique powers upon the battlefield. Creative Assembly has done such a wonderful job lovingly bringing this world to life that it has inspired hundreds of thousands of new fans who even now are seeking out the stories to learn all about their favorite character or race that they encounter in this virtual masterpiece. So to stop myself from rambling I would say I feel that Total War: Warhammer has been a rousing success at breathing new life into Warhammer Fantasy.

Gunum: I’m glad you brought up Creative Assembly’s attention to world-building! When we are looking at that from the campaign map, do you feel there are any locations that new players or fans of the setting should be on the lookout for? Karak Eight Peaks and Vaul’s Anvil being two standouts for myself.

Oh, there are certainly quite a few places worth visiting on the Mortal Empires map that contains some exciting nuggets of lore and unique structures to build! The Dwarfs, Skaven, and Greenskins will find Karak Eight Peaks a must-visit and of course, you mentioned Vaul’s Anvil over on the island continent of Ulthuan for the Elves. I think my favorite locations currently in the game are Itza, the First City which can be found in southern Lustria and has excellent buildings for all races but especially for the Lizardmen and Skaven. Another massive one is the dark and mysterious ruins of Nagashizzar found in the southeast, it’s a harrowing journey to that cursed city but if one can take it they’ll find immense power awaiting them! Bonus points to Azhag the Slaughterer, Arkhan the Black, or the Vampire Counts should they claim that foreboding place. The Black Pyramid of Nagash in Nehekhara is a related place of great significance, if you’re able to claim both of these haunts that once belonged to the Great Necromancer, Nagash, you’ll find unlimited winds of magic at your disposal! (So long as you don’t mind all the vampiric corruption you may unintentionally be releasing)

Beyond that, I would say keep an eye out for any settlement that has a little, yellow obelisk next to its name! That icon means the race you’re playing has some kind of unique structure that can be built if you claim that city, which of course means you should take it at all costs! Perhaps you’ll discover a powerful unique building that will have a delightful lore blurb alongside it!

Gunum: One very important aspect of the game is how magic is used throughout the battles, the Winds of Magic themselves being a primary plot point in the End Times, do you have any thoughts about how the Lores themselves are portrayed in the game? I’ve felt the Lore of Metal was really well done, including some awesome spells from the tabletop like Gehenna’s Golden Hounds. 

The way magic has been interpreted so that it might function in Total War is actually a surprisingly deep topic, as it has gone through quite a number of changes from the original tabletop interpretations. For instance, there’s no Dispel system currently in the game, as wizards in Fantasy traditionally are constantly hurling around counterspells or trying to disrupt the winds of magic to thwart enemy casters! I would say of all the lores in the game, the one that has been interpreted the most faithfully would have to be the Lore of Fire I think. Each one of those spells has maintained its overall design when making that absurd leap from turn-based tabletop rules to fully animated real-time 3d combat!

All of the other lores have had slight changes but keep the intended spirit intact, for instance, the Lore of Metal actually had its most deadly and powerful spell, the Dreaded Final Transmutation, changed quite a bit! In Total War, it deals significant damage to Single-Entity units (meaning loners like monsters or characters) but essentially just depletes some health. While in tabletop, it was a terrifying spell that would target an entire unit, each model instantly dying and turning to gold on a 33% chance!! And then their allies would have to test to resist the urge to go loot the golden corpses of their once-allies with a Stupidity check! Hilarious.

I would say overall they’ve been well implemented, though there are certainly a few questionable alterations. But without a Dispel system to allow countering it’s important that many of the wildly powerful spells from the lore/tabletop be toned down appropriately.

The Black Pyramid – Creative Assembly

Gunum: With the Tomb Kings expansion, we were introduced to big characters like Settra the Imperishable and Arkhan the Black, is there something here that you were really happy to see? Something that was missed? 

Oh man, there was so much that I was happy to see! From the breathtaking animations of the Tomb Scorpion to Arkhan the Black having his infamous chariot which flies through the air on dark sorcery, it was so amazing to see it all. I think if I had to pick one thing my absolute favorite was finally seeing an official model for the monstrous Hierotitan! That was one of a handful of creatures that Games Workshop never got around to even having artwork of and Creative Assembly’s version fit in flawlessly with the rest of the Tomb King range.

The only thing missing that I think really bothered me was the notable absence of the Liche High Priest. I am a strong proponent that every race needs at least a combat-focused lord AND a magic-focused lord so hopefully, that’ll be amended in the future at some point! Especially as in the lore these powerful wizards were the ones responsible for keeping those undead legions shambling onwards!

Gunum: What about the other expansions or Free-LC characters? Any standouts or even surprise lords that may have caught you off guard? I know “The Vampire Coast” was a wild ride for some old hats, as they barely had any model support on the tabletop. 

Haha, to say I’ve been caught off guard a handful of times would be an understatement. Sometimes a rather obscure and lesser-known character will pop up as a Free-LC Lord like the nefarious Tretch Craventail, who I wouldn’t have bet on being in the game at all. Most have been amazing additions (except Helman Ghorst, I will despise that horrid cretin from the first, experimental Lord pack as long as I live) and I’m always overjoyed to see some of my favorites like Lord Kroak or Vlad von Carstein come charging into war.

This may surprise some, but I would actually say the most unexpected inclusion for me was actually the Norscan DLC. Vampire Coast was certainly obscure and Creative Assembly pulled some very clever tricks to expand their roster significantly by using various expansions, but Norsca was an excellent surprise. Instead of keeping that famous realm of marauders and warlords as just some basic troops for the Warriors of Chaos, they instead were given a massive face-lift and armed with some truly amazing monsters like the Chaos War Mammoths!

Speaking of FLC characters though, probably the biggest ones worth mentioning are the legendary icons of Grombrindal, the White Dwarf, and the dynamic duo of Gotrek & Felix. The White Dwarf is actually the name of a monthly magazine publication by Games Workshop that has been running at least since the 90’s, so it was an awesome reveal to have that mythical character put into the game as a Legendary Lord for the Dwarfs that’s free for everyone to enjoy! He’s absurdly powerful and ruthlessly…Scottish? I’m terrible with accents so forgive me if that’s wrong. Anyway, then there’s Gotrek & Felix who were the GW sponsored characters for Warhammer 2! Gotrek Gurnisson is the greatest Slayer to ever live, which are Dwarfs who have suffered a terrible shame so deep that they sunder themselves from their previous lives as if dead and seek out their doom. Should they die in combat against some immense horde of foes or a colossal terror, then they’ll earn redemption and be welcomed into the Halls of the Ancestors. Felix Jaeger, on the other hand, is a humble poet from the Empire’s capital of Altdorf who on a fateful night drunkenly declared that he would follow the Slayer to record his epic tale and tell the world of how the mighty warrior meets his doom! The two have been virtually inseparable ever since, wandering the Warhammer world to seek out towering monsters and indescribable terrors so that Gotrek might find his death in battle and Felix hopefully escape to tell the tale! But in over 20 years of adventuring they just keep coming out on top, much to the despair of both heroes! But now you can recruit them in Total War: Warhammer as a Lord/Hero combination that is stunningly voice-acted with many references to their various adventures and they are a powerful ally to to acquire (or dangerous foe to battle). They’re available to anyone playing an Empire, Dwarf, or Bretonnian faction!

Gunum: Since we are on the topic of factions here, is there a faction you feel like stands out of the most for CA’s attentiveness to a faction, really bringing it to life? I personally feel Vampire Counts were just supremely well done. Their Vampire units feel so powerful, from the Von Carsteins to the Blood Knights.

One of the things that I probably spend the MOST time working on behind the scenes is crafting various video essays/proposals about things I really hope to see added to all of the different races in-game. All of them are missing a particular unit, special character, or feature that they just don’t feel complete without….all except one that is!

The Vampire Coast is quite frankly a perfect faction. You get every. Single. Thing. That could be even remotely associated with that race and then a bunch of sprinkles on top. While all of the factions were obviously crafted with love and care by people who have a good handle on the ideas behind them, the Vampire Coast is truly special. So many monsters and creatures were adapted from a side-expansion to Warhammer Fantasy known as the Monstrous Arcanum and cleaned up to fit perfectly within that undead-pirate mold. Probably my favorite alteration was the Necrofex Colossus, which was already a giant ship-construct packed full of corpses and other horrific features, by Creative Assembly giving it an absurd four-cannon rotating gun arm like some sort of demented mecha! I just absolutely loved the creativity and inspired decisions made with how to expand an admittedly slim original roster into something unmatched thus far. Not to mention their campaign features and story-based Vortex campaign are just a delight to play. Just a masterclass in design.

Gunum: So with all these game questions out of the way, what are some places or resources people can use to maybe get more involved in the more casual, fluff side of things? Are there any communities we should be looking into?

Thankfully Games Workshop and their publishing partner, the Black Library, have been doing excellent work in the last year or so for consolidating various content that allows people to start their journeys into the lore of Warhammer Fantasy. The best place to start for those completely unfamiliar with the universe would be the Gotrek & Felix series! They’re well organized into 5 omnibuses that tell an amazing action-packed series taking the reader all over the world to give an excellent perspective on so many things. For those seeking more of an audio or video format, I’ll shamelessly shill here for a moment to say that is what I’ve built my career around! Gathering and collecting the lore from all sorts of different sources to craft videos which tell a cohesive and complete story on the topic in question, not to mention tons of Q&A’s about the lore itself! But there are quite a few wonderful Warhammer fantasy communities that have cropped up in recent years so I’d encourage exploring Youtube to find someone whose style you really enjoy! Virtually all of the youtube creators, like myself, also have discord communities folks can join if they’d like to hang out with other fans of the setting.

Of course like I stated earlier, you can always go check out the Black Library as well if you’d like to try and find a novel, omnibus, or short story on your favorite race/faction but its not as large of a selection as it once was. Sadly much of the Fantasy lore is no longer in print after the End Times led to the destruction of the Warhammer Fantasy world itself!

Gunum: Games Workshop has announced there will be a return to Warhammer Fantasy on the tabletop in the next couple of years. Being the Loremaster, I’m sure you’ve had quite a bit of experience with the tabletop game. How do those experiences reflect on your approach to a Total War game like this one? 

I actually played in the pro-leagues down in Texas back when Warhammer Fantasy 7th and 8th editions were in full swing! I do miss the days of taking my Lizardmen models out to the local hobby stores to throw some dice and curb stomp any who stood across from me! I’m actually really glad to have had this experience for a myriad of reasons, but when it comes to the Total War game I’m always excited to see how they interpret those old tabletop rules. I do find that it has been a useful background to have, as I already have a strong understanding of how a unit or ability is likely to function based on how it performed on the table. It has become quite clear the developers at Creative Assembly work hard to put those rules into the game and interpret them into the Total War framework as faithfully as possible. This actually gave me quite the edge when I played in the first three Everchosen MP tournaments as the competitors had so little time to get used to all the new toys while I already knew how they’d likely function!

Gotrek and Felix, heroes of many novels. – Creative Assembly and the books by William King.

Gunum: Man, there’s so much in this game I’m really happy we’ve been able to cover just this small amount.  Thank you for taking all this time to speak to us about how in-depth this game can get. Besides picking Total War: Warhammer on Steam, where else can people find a depth of lore knowledge to immerse themselves in the story? (Like, I don’t know, your YouTube channel.) 

I already plugged myself, so to keep what little dignity I still have I would instead recommend checking out the Total War subreddit and of course the discord community for your favorite Warhammer lore creator! You can find all sorts of amazingly helpful folks in those communities or you can always shoot me a message on Twitter and I’m happy to help where I can! It has been such a blessing to see so many people constantly wanting to know more about the world behind the game, especially after having to watch the fantasy world I love die once already in the disastrous End Times. It’s an awesome community and we’re happy to have anyone come by who wants to know more or begin their journey into the lore!

Gunum: We had some Goonhammer staff who wanted to ask some quick questions if that’s alright!

Is the Fay Enchantress an elf? Is the Lady an elf?!

Haha, this question is surprisingly rough because Games Workshop themselves have been bizarrely inconsistent on the answer (welcome to Warhammer lore!) That being said here’s the summarized version…

The Fay Enchantress is indeed an elf. The Lady of the Lake is, in reality, the Elven Goddess Ladrielle, the Lady of the Mists, who is actually another form of Lileath, the Elven Goddess of Prophecy! It’s a WHOLE thing I don’t have the time to explain here, haha.

Who is the biggest dork in Warhammer Fantasy and why is it Tyrion?

If we’re defining dork as a lovable goofball, then I’m sorry but the true answer has to be none other than the magnificent Grey Seer Thanquol! Who never lose-fails and is the best-greatest being in all of Skavendom! (Ignore all of those false-lie tales of any supposed failures detailed in his trilogy which is currently sold as a single omnibus titled Thanquol & Boneripper)

(Tyrion is pretty amazing though and has an excellent book series featuring himself and his twin brother Teclis! Has a bit of a nasty temper due to the cursed blood of Aenarion running in his veins though!)

What the heck happened to Karl Franz in the end times?

In one of the more (but certainly not the most) bizarre moments that happened during the infamous series of books known as the End Times, Karl Franz went through a series of misadventures that had him climatically returning to the capital of the Empire, Altdorf, during its last stand against the diseased legions of Nurgle. Here he would duel the Chaos Lord named Otto Glott, the leader of the three repulsive creatures that made up the horrific entity known as the Glottkin. Franz put up a hell of a fight but ultimately was mortally wounded by his opponent and fell back upon his throne where he died with his last words being a prayer to his God, Sigmar. Then an immense twin-tailed comet of heavenly light came crashing into his body and the ACTUAL Sigmar, the god himself, possessed the corpse of Karl Franz and proceeded to absolutely destroy the Glottkin. He would go on to masquerade as the deceased Emperor so people wouldn’t freak out until his true identity was revealed in the final book of the End Times just before he went on to confront Archaon. Which was a dang shame, but like I said the End Times were weird.

Is it true that Mazdamundi, the God Frog, can blow up whole cities with his brain powers?

Yes! Fun fact, he actually had the human port-city of El Cadavo torn apart TWICE because they kept disturbing his naps by intruding too close to Hexoatl and just being a general nuisance. On the third time,he was awoken due to their antics, the Lord of the Solar City was particularly irate as this had all occurred within a single century, which to the immortal Slann is an eye blink. So on the third occasion, he marched out on his Ancient Stegadon, Zlaaq, and summoned an immense earthquake that obliterated the entire city and killed everyone inside. It was not rebuilt after that.

Gunum: Any final thoughts? I want to give you a huge thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and give us a deeper look into the world of Warhammer!

I just want to thank you all very much for having me by for a bit! Nothing brings me more joy than being able to share my passion with others and, thanks to Total War: Warhammer, that’s quite an in-demand skill set these days. I can’t wait to see what lies on the horizon with Warhammer 3 creeping closer with each passing day. I’ll end with anyone who’s looking to get into the various aspects of the hobby, now is a perfect time! Feel free to look me up if you have any questions and stay safe out there!

Wrap-up

Well that’s it, and what a ride that was. So much effort and work jammed into this game. Thanks for swinging by and taking the time to read the views of our guest Loremaster Sotek! As always, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or if you just want to reach out and talk to us about how awesome Total War: Warhammer is, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com

 

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